By: Mordechai Fox (‘22)

On Monday, March 8th, talmidim in MTA’s Honors College program were privileged to hear from Rabbi Dov Lerner of Yeshiva University’s Strauss Center for Torah and Western Thought on the topic of the start of the Torah U’Madda movement. Rabbi Lerner began his presentation by giving a background on the history of Jews in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. He then discussed how Enlightenment values of equality and justice brought the status of Jews in Europe into question. While some supported allowing Jews to participate in their society, albeit degrading their moral stature, others maintained that Jews should remain isolated, separate from secular culture. Rabbi Lerner explained how this fundamental argument left many Jews of the time conflicted on what their relationship with the secular world should be. These debates eventually flourished into the roots of the Torah U’Madda movement, which sought to synthesize Torah with secular learning and culture. Rabbi Lerner’s address was part of the Honors College’s ongoing study of academia related to Torah U’Madda, especially concerning the founding of Yeshiva University and MTA itself. In the weeks leading up to the presentation, members read sections from Between Tradition and Modernity: A History of the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy, by Dr. Seth Taylor, longtime Principal of General Studies and History instructor at MTA. Members then met with their grade cohorts to discuss and debate the ideas outlined in the historical work. Rabbi Lerner’s presentation was incredibly intriguing and insightful and will serve as a springboard for further discussion on the topic. The Honors College looks forward to continuing its study of the history and philosophy of Torah U’Madda. An enriched academic program, the Honors College offers seminars with renowned speakers, cultural and religious experiences, the utilization of MTA’s location in NYC as an integral part of the classroom experience, and monthly programs and trips to enhance the understanding of religious, historical, artistic, and scientific issues. Another major component of the Honors College is a commitment to comprehensive academic mentoring, where talmidim are paired with a mentor, from either the MTA or YU faculty, who meet with them on a regular basis and help guide their academic growth. 

 

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