Among the many things that characterize modern Orthodox Jews: religious Zionism; engaging with the secular world; commitment to expanding religious opportunities for women within the context of halakha; perhaps the most-defining is our embrace of the Talmudic maxim hokhma bagoyim ta’amin: if someone tells you that there is knowledge and wisdom among the nations, believe them. We seek to encounter the wisdom of the broader world, with the conviction that our Torah learning and lives as Jews will be strengthened, rather than threatened, thereby. And yet, right now, a great deal of the nominally Modern Orthodox community, its laity and its leadership, is afraid of, and threatened by, this encounter. Not of addressing Torah and science: we’re perfectly to happy to talk about stem cell research, or cloning, or brain death, and its implications for halakha and Jewish ethics. But when it comes to the insights and approaches that have been at the heart of the academic enterprise in the social sciences and humanities for the last generation–approaches which question the unitary and ascertainable nature of the truth and challenge claims of authority and objectivity–sometimes loosely (and not entirely accurately) grouped under the heading of postmodernism, we lose our nerve. This fear extends beyond the Orthodox world–it is certainly apparent in the broader communal conversation about Israel, particularly on college campuses–but it strikes at the ideological heart of Modern Orthodoxy.
Rivka Press Schwartz, “What Are We So Afraid Of?: The Challenge of Torah U’Madda for Our Time”, Tacit Knowledge (5 January 2017) [https://rpschwartz.com/2017/01/05/what-are-we-so-afraid-of-the-challenge-of-torah-umadda-for-our-time]