A conversation between Miri Freud-Kandel from the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, renown Bible scholar James Kugel, and former president of the United Synagogue Simon Hochhauser, during Jewish Book Week in 2013.
The discussion starts off with attempts to frame Modern Orthodoxy historically and ideologically. James Kugel makes some helpful observations about the development of Modern Orthodoxy in Germany and in the United States, before allowing Simon Hochhauser to comment on the values which govern the movement: a sense of steadfast allegiance to halakha combined with a commitment to modernism. Miri Freud-Kandel completed these responses with insights into the philosophies of leading figures in the history of Modern Orthodoxy, highlighting the differences between Samson Raphael Hirsch’s torah im derekh erets, 20th century American versions of torah umadah, and Chief Rabbi Sacks’s torah vehokhmah.
The speakers moved on to the issues of the boundaries of Modern Orthodoxy, rabbinic authority versus individual autonomy, and the different advantages and limitations which arise from placing labels on religious ideologies. Finally, they discussed the political context in which debates surrounding Modern Orthodoxy take place.
In the last ten minutes, the panel answered questions from the audience.
The conversation was highly stimulating, addressing some critical questions raised over the past years in the Orthodox world.