On December 12th, well-known political commentator Ben Shapiro published an article in the Jewish Press entitled “Modern Orthodoxy’s Moral Failure.” Its opening paragraph reads, “Modern Orthodoxy is in a state of crisis. It is in a state of crisis because its leadership has, in large measure, abandoned its central principles in favor of political expedience, surrendering long-term interests for short-term tactical maneuvering.”
While it’s unfair to summarize a reasonably long article in just a few words, Ben Shapiro focuses on what he sees as the weak-kneed response of numerous Modern Orthodox institutions to the challenges posed by secular morality – and, in particular, the acceptance of LGBTQ+ identities as inherent and definitional. He writes, “The conflict between Jewish identity – rooted in halachic observance, a belief in the morality of the Torah, and a deep-seated sense of free will – and the secular worldview has reached its apex with the rise of the LGBTQ+ movement. That movement reduces identity to sexual desire – the most powerful feeling human beings supposedly have – and then demands that society’s institutions celebrate all of its claimed identities. The movement goes even further, demanding that society’s institutions celebrate identities that run directly counter to biological fact by giving credence to men identifying as women, and the like.”
Shapiro’s article garnered significant comment in the Orthodox world, and many have wondered if his characterization of Modern Orthodoxy, as well as Orthodoxy’s response to the challenges he outlines, misses the mark. Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Sinensky, who wrote a response that was published in the Jewish Press on December 21, spoke with Scott about the points with which he takes issue in Ben Shapiro’s article, where he thinks that Shapiro is correct, and what practical steps are necessary to move forward from here.
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