What Is Marc B. Shapiro’s Ideology?

He says he’s Modern Orthodox and he seems to me to be Modern Orthodox.

And I guess that’s the answer to the question in my headline.

I asked Marc about his ideology Saturday night and he essentially said he was just a scholar.

But he must have a distinct ideology to write things like this:

…[R. Menasheh] Klein’s negative views towards baalei teshuvah and women are also very troubling (although with regard to women, a knowledge of some of his difficult personal history adds some necessary context in this regard.) His attitude towards non-Jews is also shocking, so much so that one wonders whether Elie Wiesel, great humanitarian that he is, would be such a supporter of his institutions if he knew what was being taught there (Wiesel and Klein were in Buchenwald together). In a lecture at an Edah conference some years ago, a well known talmid hakham discussed if it proper for one to make use of poskim like R. Menasheh Klein for certain areas (e.g., hilkhot Shabbat), if one feels that their general worldview, in particular in areas of Jewish-Gentile relations, is diametrically opposed to one’s own values.

Why would a scholar such as Dr. Shapiro be troubled by a rabbi’s attitude towards any group? Isn’t Marc Shapiro just doing scholarship? If he’s just doing scholarship, then why give a hoot if a rabbi says things that offend modern sensibilities? If Shapiro’s going to be troubled by that, then how could he not be troubled by the Torah where God commands genocide and dozens of other horrible things? So why get selective with outrage over a rabbi’s negative comments about women and penitents?

Joe emails: "You are making an interesting point inadvertantly. The idea that rabbis, particularly rabbis who are not the community posek, ie, rabbis who give shiurim in a yeshiva, are infallible and to be followed blindly without question, is a new phenomenon of the Artscroll/Aish Hatorah mentality of the last twenty to thirty years in the US, and since R. Shach and "daas Torah" in Israel (so since around the 80s). Prior to that, Jews were rather sophisticated in choosing yeshivot, teachers, rebbeim, and chassidic courts based on ideology, levels of Torah knowledge, etc. Let’s not even begin to think about pre-war Lithuania, where there were actual ideological movements in competition within the yeshivot. This fetishization of contemporary rabbis as daas torah is a recent phenomenon and probably is a result of the distinct decrease of their intellectual and learning ability, with political force substituting for respect based on achievement."

About Luke Ford

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