Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Secular Yeshiva? Oxymoronic or About Time?

This picture is not just a plug for HODS - Though you should check them out.

Hat Tip to Esther at Jewlicious for breaking this out first.

According to an Article in YNet! A new Secular Yeshiva is opening up in Tel Aviv. It's being pushed by an organization called Bina. I'll let you guys read the article on your own. I'll just bring up what will certainly be the big debate, especially in the many circles where any Torah learning outside the classical Lithuanian framework is opposed vehemently and seen as destructive and perversion. Namely, there will be those who argue that any "Yeshiva" operating outside the classical orthodox framework is: a.) Not a Yeshiva, and b.) A negative development that is to be condemned and invalidated.

Now, while I wish to preference my remarks by stating that I would never personally attend a Yeshiva not founded on a commitment to Halacha and the Halachic Process as classically defined. I strongly believe that institutions such as this are vital to our current Jewish community and the survival of our people. As such I fully support its creation, and look forward to seeing what kind of students it produces.

Why is it vital? Simple. There are many, many, many, of our brothers and sisters out there who simply have no connection to the larger community. Our un-affiliated Jews. They are the Rov HaAm, the majority. And, largely, the unfortunate reality is that they are unreachable by the community at large. Unreachable by all denominations, by all sects, and by all organizations. They are the Sh'Lo Yodeah Lishol of our Passover Hagada (The son who doesn't even know what question to ask), or worse, they are what the Lubavature Rebbe described as the 5th son, not mentioned in the Haggada because he isn't even present at the Seder (Passover Meal). These are the people that we need to find a way to re-connect in a stigma free, pressure free, warm, loving, and welcoming environment. These are the people that need us to come to them. To meet them at their level. To extend a hand and bond of friendship.

That, to me, is what this new Yeshiva can be. B'Ezrat Hashem (With G-d's Help) it will be a place that the many lost and wondering souls will be able to find serenity. Where they can explore themselves, and our collective history, traditions, and teachings. Even if they themselves are not affected to become active, observant, and passionate members of our community, the mere fact that they are no longer fully ignorant brings hope for the next generation.

(Just as a side note: While I was attending the NCSY Staff Training Conference last week, one of the things that was discussed was the continued expansion of the divide between the orthodox world and the rest of the Jewish nation, especially the unaffiliated portions of the population. It was sort of a consensus on the part of the Rabbinic leadership that something needed to be done, and that we, as the NCSY advisors and as modern orthodox individuals, served the vital role as the bridge between the two worlds.)

This venture and vision is of course not without hesitation. It is very important that what is taught be authentic. In my mind, there is a huge difference between this proposed secular yeshiva, and other streams and movements looking to provide their own substance and direction. The key to the success of this institution is going to be in it's commitment to study the classic texts. To involve themselves in the 2000+ year traditions of our people. To be presented with the unaltered, truth and beauty of our Torah. The exposure is what's important. What they do once exposed is their personal journey.

I am comforted by the fact that among the teachers the article mentions is Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, head of the Religious Kibbutz Yeshiva on Ein Tzurim and who also happens to be on the advisory board for my own Yeshiva (YCT). He's been involved in the starting of many wonderful centers of Torah learning, including Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush). And hopefully, his influence will keep this new endeavor on the right path.

[The Yeshiva's Overview by Bina]
[Another Article on the Secular Yeshiva]
[And Another Article on the Secular Yeshiva]

On to the Update of my father (Baruch Matan HaLevi ben Miriam), we're still waiting. I'm going to be heading Upstate tomorrow for a NCSY conference/convention and will B'Ezrat Hashem get to see him and find out more what the latest is. I think at this point we're waiting either on the Insurance company or a test result. (Or both.)

Anyway, I thank everyone for their continued prayers on his behalf.

1 comment:

Esther Kustanowitz said...

Refuah shlemah for your father. And yes, we'll have to see what transpires. Although I have to admit that even though I don't consider myself Orthodox per se, it's hard for me to envision a strictly studious environment that doesn't have some sort of halachic sensibility. I'm sure there will be vociferous critics. All we have to do is wait.