Tag: Edah

Adieu To Edah

Nine years ago Edah entered into the Modern Orthodox world with much fanfare and controversy. Touting the slogan “The Courage to be Modern and Orthodox,” Edah seemed poised to combat the perception of Orthodoxy moving increasingly “towards the right” with Yeshiva University leading the way.1 Those against Edah likened them to Korach or Conservative Judaism in breaking away from “the tradition.” Edah’s supporters felt they finally had a voice within the often stifling Orthodox world and optimism for effecting actual changes in their communities. The dissension was so great that there were even rumblings of a formal schism within Orthodoxy. Regardless of how one considered Edah, there was a near universal feeling that Edah was going to be significant.

Nine years later, we have the ingenious revelation that Edah is closing down its operations. For the past few years it seemed evident that Edah as an organization had been in a gradual decline. The initial lavish conventions held in eventually became glorified yimei iyyiun at the Skirball center. Aside from producing a consistently solid journal, Edah had been relatively quiet in terms of its programming and contributions in the Modern Orthodox world.
Considering all the hype which has followed Edah, its inconspicuous closing seems anticlimactic though not altogether unexpected. Today on YUTOPIA, we take a brief look back at our experiences with Edah and offer our take of what once the most controversial organization in Modern Orthodoxy.

Much Edah About Nothing

Last week was Edah’s 4th International Conference. The stated theme of this year’s conference focused on Modern Orthodoxy’s challenges and opportunities. No stranger to controversy, Edah had listed as a session, “The Legal Philosophy of Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Its Challenge to Orthodox Moderns.”
Most of the pre-conference buzz was devoted to guessing what this session would be like. The initial schedule did not list the presenters, so there were several theoretical possiblities. Most of the people I spoke with before the conference were concerned that this would simply be a “hatchet job” on Rav Schachter. Certainly Edah would have the motive to “bash Rav Schachter”, considering his positions on Edah and his recent controversial comments. Consequently, the opinions I had seen ranged from skepticism to outright pessimism.
By now, most of you will know that the lecture was given by my father, Rabbi Alan J. Yuter, and it was upon his request I didn’t enter into the pre-conference fray,1 and as such I had some insider information. First, the title of the session was not his, and it was eventually changed to the more neutral “The Legal Thought of Rabbi Hershel Schachter.” Second, I knew it wasn’t going to be the hatchet job people were expecting. Those who have heard and/or read my father’s academic presentations know that he doesn’t resort to personal attacks and any statement he makes will be supported.
As it turned out, after the conference, people were disappointed that my father didn’t take the shots at Rav Schachter that they were expecting. It appears that some just wanted to see someone give Rav Schachter his comeuppance or perhaps exact a measure of ideological revenge. For one example, when my father began by saying Rav Schachter is neither a fanatic nor a sexist, one friend of mine admitted tuning him out. What I find interesting is that this mentality justifies the skepticism levied upon the conference. Many didn’t give Edah the credit to present a critical analysis of Rav Schachter because of emotional reactions or personal biases. If some attendies had their way, the critics would have been right.
In truth, the nature of the presentation really speaks more to the skill of my father. There were criticisms of Rav Schachter in the session2, but it was done such that only those interested in first understanding Rav Schachter would notice. Those that were interested in a verbal smackdown left empty handed – no catchy sound bytes and no critical comprehension of what they had just heard.
For those who missed the session – either literally or figuratively – worry not. The presentation was a condensed version of a comprehensive fully footnoted article which is nearing completion.

1. My father’s position was that Edah would eventually publish the speaker’s list. He was more focused on preparing the actual session than dealing with the rampant online speculation.
2. Although I wasn’t there, I’ve discussed the topic with him enough to know approximately what he said.