The mission of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership is to model and foster a vision of fully committed halakhic Judaism that
The Center carries out its mission through the following programs:
1) The Summer Beit Midrash
The Summer Beit Midrash (SBM) seeks to develop Jews, and particularly Orthodox Jewish leaders, of high scholarly attainment, unimpeachable integrity, and great moral and intellectual courage. To that end, the Summer Beit Midrash(SBM) will create learning environments, and solicit funds to enable the creation of environments, in which Talmud, Jewish Law (Halakhah), and other aspects of Judaism will be studied with openness to intellectual challenges from other disciplines, both immediately and distantly related, and to moral challenges originating both within and outside Orthodox Judaism. These environments will particularly encourage the integration of Talmudic learning, Halakhic decision-making, and moral reflection. The SBM will also provide formal leadership training to potential Orthodox leaders sharing its ideals. The SBM will also provide community education programs both within and outside the Orthodox Jewish community to build connections between future leaders and communities, to build communities receptive to leaders with its ideals, and to express its appreciation for community support.
Intellectual FoundationThe major intellectual premises guiding the Summer Beit Midrash are: 1. Modern Orthodox ideology must find concrete expression in Modern Orthodox halakhah 2. Modern Orthodox halakhah can only emerge from a Modern Orthodox approach to halakhah 3. In a Modern Orthodox approach to halakhah, legal truth is not determined merely by internal conceptual coherence and correspondence with the textual interpretations of a preselected group of tradents; rather, correspondence with perceived moral, factual, and historical truth also play major roles 4.That extra-tradtional sources legitimately and significantly affect our perceptions of moral, factual, and historical truth.
The major intellectual premises guiding the Summer Beit Midrash are:
1. Modern Orthodox ideology must find concrete expression in Modern Orthodox halakhah 2. Modern Orthodox halakhah can only emerge from a Modern Orthodox approach to halakhah 3. In a Modern Orthodox approach to halakhah, legal truth is not determined merely by internal conceptual coherence and correspondence with the textual interpretations of a preselected group of tradents; rather, correspondence with perceived moral, factual, and historical truth also play major roles 4.That extra-tradtional sources legitimately and significantly affect our perceptions of moral, factual, and historical truth.
An example of the way these premises guide the program is that the central shiur builds toward the writing of a teshuvah rather than a test, and that the fact-pattern about which students write is chosen to emphasize the systemic and moral implications of the material studied.
2) The Campus Education Institute
Growing out of Rabbi Klapper’s decade of experience as Orthodox Adviser at Harvard Hillel, the Campus Education Institute runs programs that enable college students to see and utilize their university experience as catalysts for religious growth and Jewish commitment. Our core program, The Boston Intercampus Yom Iyyun Program began this year with 3 four-hour programs on Sundays that attracted over 25 students from Harvard, MIT, Brandeis University, Boston University, Wellesley and Lesley Colleges to discuss maintaining faith on a secular campus,Orthodoxy in a pluralistic setting, and the relationship between kashrut and ethics. Last year, the Summer Beit Midrash was administered by Akiva Herzfeld, incoming Orthodox Rabbinic Adviser at Harvard Hillel. Other programs included a lecture at Columbia University Hillel on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a lecture at Wellesley Hillel on halakhic labor ethics, and a Shabbat lunch discussion about faith and science with the MIT Orthodox community.
3) The Rabbis and Educators Professional Development Institute
Our first major program, a conference for rabbis and educators on the dynamics of halakhic decision making, took place on August 15-16 and succeeded spectacularly. Coordinated by Rabbi David Jaffe, the conference brought together over 20 invited congregational rabbis, day school educators, yoatzot halakhah, and others to discuss the roles of personal autonomy, judicial discretion, and thevalues of both the shoeil and the meishiv in the creation of binding halakhic decisions. Conference attendees expressed strong desire to create an ongoing and expanding community of discussion, andplans for followup Shabbat programs, in-service seminars, and one-day localconferences are well underway.
A second major project is to develop a workshop series for day school educators that will develop their capacity to address broad philosophic or systemic issues in their classrooms through traditional Jewish texts.
4) The Curriculum Institute
The Curriculum Institute develops resources and provides consulting services to institutions, day schools and educators, particularly with regard to the integration of ethics andtraditional text study. Specific pastprojects include the development of a sourcesheet on the Jewish obligation toprevent genocide for Edah and consultations with educators at numerous day schools across the country.
5) Acharayut Ketuvah
Acharayut Ketuvah will be a biannual journal discussing all the issues relevant to the Center’s mission. The Center has published two well-received collections of responsa from the Summer Beit Midrash, and we anticipate that such responsa, with comments and discussion from outside scholars, will be the core of one issue each year, with the second issue to build off conferencepresentations. We are currently indiscussions with candidates for the editorship.
6) Website: WWW.Summerbeitmidrash.org
The Center’s website has been an effective curricular resource for rabbis and educators for many years. Over the past several years we added audio and essays to make it an educational resource for the broader community aswell, but the organization needs improvement and the materials need to bepresented in better and more standardized formats. The site is in the middle of a technologicaloverhaul, and we anticipate a major redesign within the next year.
7. The Community Education Institute
The Center offers public lecture series each summer at various local synagogues as well as public classes during the academic year, andpartnered with Maayan and CJP for other public access programs. We also began an interactive online class
8. The Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer Fellowship
Projected to begin in September 2009,this year long fellowship will become the heart of the Center. A group of 12-16 graduate and rabbinic students from Israel and the United States will gather for full-time study of a challenging contemporary issue with the aim of developing their character,scholarship, and capacity for leadership and of producing articles and materials that will be influential with and useful to rabbis and educators.
Click here to see the proposed new institution