I’m enormously excited to announce that the Center for Modern Torah Leadership will be expanding dramatically.
In the 2014-15 academic year, you can expect to see the Center build on its existing programs by:
- Creating an SBM alumni network;
- Running multiple conferences and y’mei iyyun for rabbis and educators;
- Expanding the Center’s campus and synagogue presence nationally through lectures, Shabbatonim, and online classes and conversations;
- Publishing two issues of Acharayut Ketuvah and at least one book;
- Generating a steady stream of public commentary on issues such as day school tuition, proposed agunah solutions, the boundaries of normative halakhah, and the economic expectations we impose on our children;
- Creating ethical discussion circles for lawyers, doctors, and other professionals;
- Helping day schools create and teach curricula that simultaneously inspire commitment, provoke thought, and generate legitimate autonomy within Orthodoxy.
Within several years, CMTL will create semester and year beit midrash programs to nurture American-Israeli halakhic conversation and women’s creative halakhic contributions. And there will be much more.
As of September, I’ll be serving full-time as the Center’s Dean, with the mandate of expanding the Center’s impact on the Modern Orthodox community, the Jewish community, and the human community. I am honored by and grateful for your ongoing friendship and support
The Center is a superb investment in the development, dissemination and implementation of creative, sophisticated, and responsible Orthodox ideas. I look forward to our partnership in the years ahead,
P.S. The Center already plays a vital role in our community’s critical discussions of halakhah and public policy. Please see the next pages for some examples of contributions from the past month alone and for examples of the formal positions our alumni hold in the Jewish community.
THE CENTER FOR MODERN TORAH LEADERSHIP in 2014 Torah Conversations
Women and tefillin
The decisions by SAR and Ramaz to permit female students to wear tefillin generated a response by Rabbi Ethan Tucker. Rabbis Avraham Bronstein, Joshua Strulowitz, and Shlomo Brody – all Summer Beit Midrash alumni – each published principled, honest, and widely read treatments of separate aspects of the issue that genuinely advanced the conversation. In addition, Rabbi Klapper’s response to Rabbi Tucker was circulated on many listservs and generated at least two formal responses.
The Kashrut Industry
Rabbi Klapper posted a blog about products that are kosher only when not hekhshered. Within a week, the post had been read by nearly 11,000 people in 86 countries, and linked to on a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish sites.
Jewish Divorce and Agunot
SBM alum Rori Picker-Neiss published the op-ed “I Signed The Post-Nup. Why Haven’t You?” in the New York Jewish Week. Rabbi Klapper’s shiur at YU last Wednesday vigorously asserted the immorality of an Israeli rabbinic court’s refusal to tell a jailed and confessed pedophile that he was religiously obligated to free his wife from their marriage. The shiur was organized by SBM alum Tuvy Miller and attended by many alumni and their friends and chavrutot. The shiur will be posted soon on YUTORAH.
Academic Approaches to Studying Torah
The Iranian Talmud by SBM alum Dr. Shai Secunda sold out at the SOY Seforim Sale. An upcoming forum at Yeshiva on this issue will feature SBM alum Rabbi Jon Kelsen.
SBM alum Rabbi David Wolkenfeld published a wonderful post in his own right while facilitating the general conversation on Morethodoxy. SBM alum Jonathan Ziring made important points on his blog Shaashuim, while other SBM alums contributed significantly to discussions on various listservs. Rabbi Klapper also treated an aspect of the issue in his weekly essay.
Halakhah and Disability
CMTL’s announcement of the 2014 Summer Beit Midrash theme has generated immediate requests for access and participation from a variety of Jewish associations for the disabled.
Where are they now?
SBM alumni currently serve as:
- director of the Nishmat Yoetzet Halakhah program in America;
- as directors of Tikvah Foundation programs for high school students in America and for post—high school students in Israel;
- as rabbis of prominent congregations such as ASBI in Chicago and WSIS in New York;
- as Orthodox campus rabbi at Yale Hillel, Senior Educator at Berkeley Hillel, and Director of Southern California Jewish Student Services;
- as faculty at Yeshiva College, Drisha Institute, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Northwestern University Yeshivat HaKotel. Yeshivat Har Etzion, Mikhlelet Emunah v’Omanut, Migdal Oz, and many others
- as faculty and administration at schools such as Maayanot, SAR, Kohelet, Maimonides, Frankel Academy, and Yavneh Academy
- as directors of community education programs; as director of a rabbinic professional development program; as synagogue presidents; and much more
SBM alumni have also been instrumental in the founding of institutions such as Uri L’Tzedek and The Aspen Center for Social Values