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Sectors of American Judaism: Reform, Orthodoxy, Conservatism, and Reconstructionism

By Jacob Neusner | Go to book overview

Part VI
SECTORS OF AMERICAN JUDAISM

(2) Orthodoxy

FOREWORD

In our study of the education of rabbis, we read papers by Rabbis Fasman and Berkovits which raise the most serious philosophical and theological questions facing American Orthodoxy. No less than the self-criticism exhibited by Professors Petuchowski and Fein and Rabbi Levy, the profound self-searching, the questioning of Orthodox institutions and practices revealed by Rabbis Fasman and Berkovits testify to the vitality and strength of Orthodoxy. Now we turn back to consider the primary intellectual, social, and institutional traits of Orthodox Judaism in America.

Rabbi Agus describes the components of theology important in American Orthodoxy. While of European origin, each element in Orthodox theology has taken root in America. Professor Liebman, as earlier, then gives an account of the social characteristics of Orthodoxy. He leads us through the maze of those "sects" which stand on the fringes, particularly to the right, of the Orthodoxy expressed through middle-class synagogues and other conventional institutions with counterparts in Conservative and Reform Judaism. This "sectarian" Orthodoxy possesses considerable power, both practical and intellectual, for while the numbers may be few, their prestige and influence are substantial. Accordingly, the smaller groups which he describes set the standard for many Jews, not all of them Orthodox, outside their narrow circles. Finally, Rabbi Rackman introduces a statement of an issue of central critical importance to contemporary Orthodoxy. It turns out to be pretty much the same issue that concerns Rabbis Fasman and Berkovits, but with the important difference that while they speak about rabbinical education, Rabbi Rackman speaks about Judaism in the

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