Educational and Lay Leaders Gather to Discuss Strategy

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein (right) and Rabbi Perry Tirschwell (left)

Mar 15, 2007 — More than 120 professional and lay leaders from across North America gathered in New Jersey in March for the annual Leadership Shabbaton of the Association of Modern Orthodox Day Schools and Yeshiva High Schools (AMODS), a division of Yeshiva University’s (YU) Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).

Addressing “Professional Development in Action” over the course of three days, participants devised strategies to incorporate the numerous resources available through AMODS, YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, and throughout the University to support the educational efforts of participating institutions. Among the many critical issues discussed was the impact that their educators’ serious professional growth might have on their schools and local communities.

In addition to hearing innovative speakers offer creative ideas and tackle numerous educational challenges, attendees had the opportunity to converse with prominent rabbis and leaders,including Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, Rosh Kollel of YU’s Gruss Kollel in Jerusalem and Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Har Etzion. Rav Lichtenstein addressed questions about the value of a secular education as well as hashkafa-related questions.

Rather than render any definitive and binding Jewish legal decisions (responsa), Rav Lichtenstein chose to offer guidelines that would allow the questioners to arrive at their own determinations.

When asked about secular reading materials for day school students, Rav Lichtenstein noted that “the kind of spiritual diet you want to present [students] cannot be dealt with without some consideration of who you’re feeding.” In general, he avoided using categories such as permitted and prohibited. Rav Lichtenstein suggested that high-quality literature, such as that published in the Great Books series, has value because it is “inspirational, deals with fundamental issues of human nature, human destiny, of one’s relationship to the world, the Ribono Shel Olam and oneself.”

On the subject of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s view of high school coeducation, Rav Lichtenstein said “it would be foolish of me to discuss its permissibility.” Instead, he recommended that each community determine for itself which approach would yield the best results in terms of students attaining greater spirituality and a deeper level of Torah learning: “When a community is confronted with [the issue of] having a co-ed school or no school at all because of financial constraints, the fiscal viability of the sponsoring community warrants careful consideration.”

He also stated that the “decision to have separate-gender education should not disenfranchise one or the other of the genders, and that “there is a lot of good work being done within [coeducational schools] and a lot of good students coming out of them and I appreciate and admire all that’s being done by the mekhankhim and administration in those schools.”

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