6/30/2006

Spinning Edah’s Demise

As is now well-known, Edah is closing up shop. The question is, why? I’ve heard, read, and thought up a number of possible and/or partial reasons. They are listed in ascending order of cogency:

  • Samuel Heilman, quoted in the article linked above, thinks that it’s another symptom of the haredization of American Orthodoxy. What a shocker. When you’ve got a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

  • Discrediting of persons associated with the organization for various reasons, like R’ Berman’s ties to Marc Gafni or the publication of Yitz Greenberg’s new book, which further marginalizes him as a serious Orthodox thinker.

  • R’ Berman himself (in the JW article linked above) alluded to the fact that basically, Edah’s voice is no longer as unique as it once was (which is pretty much the opposite of what Heilman says). Like B’nei Akiva in North America, or, le-havdil, the Communist Party Leadership, Edah’s greatest success would mean that they cease to be necessary.

  • Edah’s goal was to be completely lay-driven. Ultimately, that just can’t work within Orthodoxy. After a while, it will dawn on people that laypeople need Rabbis, just as much as Rabbis need laypeople. As much as folks would like to ignore either side of that truth, it remains true. See my reading of the relationship between Yannai Malka and Shimon Ben Shetach (still one of my favorite posts) and also my very first post.

  • Similar to what R’ Berman contends, Edah, which was founded as a reaction to the perception that YU was neglecting its role as Modern Orthodoxy’s flagship, would naturally be superseded in its efforts by an internal transformation within YU. With Mr. Joel ascendancy to the Presidency and the creation of the Center for the Jewish Future, the perception that YU is reasserting its role has cost Edah much of its original momentum. The CJF has already absorbed the Orthodox Caucus, and it seems to now have stolen Edah’s thunder. YCT should sleep with one eye open.

  • Edah was not a well-run organization. Their conferences were becoming less and less well-attended. Their website and its digital audio and reading material has become a smaller and small proportion of online Torah resources, and their journal is, well, just another journal of Jewish thought. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and Edah simply didn’t stay ahead of the curve.
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