When Orthodox Rabbis Step Into A Conservative Seminary

Marc B. Shapiro blogs:

* We see that Elitzur was in the United States at the time of the great fire at the Jewish Theological Seminary library in April 1966. From the passage we see that he would eat his breakfast at JTS.[1] It could mean that he brought his own breakfast with him, or it could also mean that he ate the breakfast in the Seminary cafeteria. If the latter, it could mean that he only ate the cornflakes or that he even ate cooked items. It is interesting that a text with such ambiguity, and thus liable to create “problems,” appeared in a haredi work. I therefore assume that the grandchildren who put the book together did not understand the significance of where the fire had taken place, namely, that it is not an Orthodox institution.[2]

Regarding Orthodox rabbis visiting the Jewish Theological Seminary, in R. Aharon Rakeffet-Rothkoff’s memoir, he tells the following story about R. Moshe Bick:

Meeting such a figure [R. Bick] in the Seminary library made me feel awkward. Utilizing the rabbinic aphorism, I asked the good rabbi: “What is a kohein doing in a cemetery?” . . . With a kindly smile embracing his face, the Bronx spiritual leader immediately responded: “If the Seminary possesses rare and invaluable rabbinic texts, they must also be available to all Torah scholars. The Seminary cannot withhold these treasures from Klal Yisrael.”[3]

In R. Pinchas Lifshitz, Peninei Hen (Monsey, 2000), pp. 99-100, there is a 1929 letter from R. Shimon Shkop to Cyrus Adler, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary. In this letter, R. Shkop mentions meeting Adler at his Seminary office, at which time he spoke to him about the difficult financial situation of his yeshiva, Sha’ar ha-Torah in Grodna.

Regarding the Seminary, Nochum Shmaryohu Zajac called my attention to this video. In his discussion with Dr. Dov Zlotnick, we see the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s positive attitude towards Saul Lieberman (which I already mentioned in Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox).[4] It appears, however, that the Rebbe was confusing Lieberman and Louis Finkelstein when he referred to Lieberman’s connection to Torat Kohanim, and that he wrote he’arot and mar’eh mekomot to it. Torat Kohanim, otherwise known as the Sifra, was in fact Finkelstein’s great project.

* Max Rowe represented the Rothschild Trust which awarded four monetary gifts to outstanding rabbinic scholars. Rowe turned to Lieberman for his recommendations on who should receive the awards. Although today everyone knows about the greatness of R. Hayyim Kanievsky, we see that Lieberman was aware of this fifty years ago, and recommended him for the grant. He even regarded R. Hayyim as greater than his father, the Steipler.

* Regarding the Seminary library (or any other Conservative institution), R. Moshe Feinstein was asked if one must return books to them, even if the books will not be used at the institution and the person who has them will learn from them. He replied that “it is forbidden for us to permit gezeilah or geneivah [theft].”

* In the days before hebrewbooks.org and Otzar ha-Hokhmah, I often visited the JTS library. It was common to see Orthodox Jews with impeccable standards of kashrut, who would not eat food served in a Conservative synagogue, eating in the Seminary cafeteria.

* Nachum commented to the last post that “‘slander’ is spoken and ‘libel’ is printed (or news, etc.).” While that is the technical definition, all you have to do is google “slanderous article” and you will see that “slander” is also generally used for printed material.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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