Seeking Jewish Intellectual Leadership

David Klinghoffer writes on HirHurim: Yes, R. Sacks comes closest to the sort of outlook and impact I had in mind. There’s no one quite like him in the Jewish world–not in Israel or America. But he’s singular in another sense, which is why I didn’t mention him. Despite his august office, as far as I’m aware he’s not known as a builder of institutions, alliances, or acolytes. He’s more like a very impressive and influential shul rabbi. A lone figure.

Neuhaus’s impact will live on after him because of the magazine he created, the alliances he forged, the movement he created. I absolutely mean no disrespect to any of the rabbis mentioned in this thread. Every one of them happens to be someone I admire greatly. But the combination of gifts we saw in Neuhaus remains without a parallel in the Jewish context, to our and the rest of the world’s detriment.

I should emphasize that the fault, if any, lies not with rabbis but with us laymen. We are interested primarily in being either flattered or led like children. If another Hirsch came along today, he would struggle to find support from our Orthodox community.

A last note about the idea, expressed by some in this discussion, that Jews are too few in number compared to Catholics to make an impact on religious and moral thought. Imagine if I told you, Jews are too few to have an impact on the movie industry. On physics. On literature. On finance. On violin-playing. Remember that despite being few in number, we gave the Western world its basic religious-moral framework in the first place.

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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