Ami Magazine, which has been the subject of a couple pretty harsh blog posts on this blog, has a lovely interview with Julius Berman. I confess to not knowing the name Julius Berman before I read the interview and I am certain that most non-YU people that are around my age have not heard of him either.
It’s a shame, because Julius Berman should be celebrated as a hero of American orthodox Judaism in the yeshiva world as well. He is a great example of what a good Torah Jew should strive to be. I know that I do.
I am very glad that Ami wrote the article and I am very glad I had a chance to read it. Everyone should read the full article.
There are a few things that I took away from the article that were beneath the surface of its substance.
1) There are not a lot of people like Julius Berman. But the likelihood of another Julius Berman is becoming more remote. He is a man who has traversed the worlds of YU, the yeshiva world, and had genuine interaction with chasidic leaders. Those three worlds are become so much more independent and autonomous as time goes on. It will be difficult for younger people to follow Berman’s example.
2) I love how he didn’t want to write a kvitel. Over the last 25 years chasidus has mainstreamed to the point that most people would not think twice about writing a kvitel. Berman believed in his non-chasidic convictions enough to try to refuse a kvitel. That impressed me.
3) My one critique is how the interview tried to blame the division between modern Orthodoxy and more right wing orthodoxy on the term Modern Orthodox and then blame the terminology on the modern Orthodox community. Let’s be real here, for better or for worse, the modern Orthodox community reveres, and relies on the right wing orthodox community. Not the other way around. It’s hard to pin the divisiveness on any one side, but certainly it is more of a stretch to pin it on the modern Orthodox community.
Overall the article was good. Kudos to Ami for taking the modern Orthodox plunge. It does not exonerate them for their prior sins (the ones we discussed on this blog are far from the only problems I am aware of…), but I am happy to see that they are trying to increase visibility for an important part of Klal Yisrael. I hope that this will help bridge the gaps that we have created for ourselves. At the very least, the right wing orthodox community will see a nice article that is a classic case of modern Orthodoxy presented in a positive light. Thank you for that.
Read the article. It’s good. Click the link for a link to a PDF of the article.