Sunday, May 01, 2011

They Did it Again!

Once again I am dismayed by the historical revisionism of the right. This time it is Hamodia.

This Charedi newspaper published a supplement to its Pesach issue that celebrated the centennial of its founding in 1910. It covers events of the hundred years that follow in both world history and Jewish history that shaped the world in which we live. Some were more important that others but all were memorable in the lives of those who witnessed or experienced them. Some events like the Holocaust impact us to this day even for those of us who did not directly experience it.

The articles were intelligent and well written. The graphic artistry was on par with the best publications of our day. Over-all it had a highly polished and professional look. I was truly impressed as I began reading it.

Its 146 pages spans the years 1910 to 2010. It was divided into segments of approximately 10 year periods. They took a two track approach – looking at world history on one track and Jewish history on the other.

On the world track they touched on most everything from the Wright brothers’ first flight; to the Holocaust; to the Nuremberg trials; to the founding of the State of Israel; to Jonas Salks’s discovery of polio vaccine; to the Kennedy assassination; to first man landing on the moon. All this and much much more was covered.

The Jewish track focused mostly on who and what shaped the Orthodox Jewish world as we know it today: The great Yeshivos of Europe; the founding of Agudah; and the post Holocaust immigration to the US that has transformed how Judaism is practiced in this country.

It is their description of building Torah in America that has gotten my ire up. While I basically agree with them on the influences of all the Torah leaders they mentioned as in the Lithuanian Roshei Yeshiva and the Yeshivos they built, the Poskim, and Chasidic Rebbes who came to this country to influence the direction of American Orthodoxy - they almost completely ignore Yeshiva University and more importantly Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

As I said I agree about the contributions made by the Gedolim they do mention. For example my view about Reb Sharga Feival Mendlowitz as perhaps the most important figure in the transformation of American Jewry into the observant society we have today. In fact I probably give him more credit for that than even Hamodia does. Nor can anyone doubt the contributions of Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and the Satmar Rebbe and the many others they mention. They are all major shapers of American and even world Jewry.

But to ignore Yeshiva University and the Rav is the height of Chutzpah. This glaring omission is tantamount to lying to their public. They ignore the truths of history by ignoring one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. His impact on vast numbers of Bnei Torah is undeniable.

During his tenure at YU thousands of his students drank from the waters of his knowledge and genius in Torah. So many of his students benefited from his sage guidance in so many areas – both religious and secular. His published works on both Torah and Jewish philosophy have exponentially multiplied his influence. He was a giant in Torah that many consider to be the Gadol HaDor of his time. Even his detractors begrudgingly admitted his genius in Torah.

Dozens of pictures of various Gedolei Yisroel and lay leaders of the past are published in this special issue and not a single one of the Rav. Except for mentioning the year of his death there is not one word mentioned about him. According to Hamodia, he is not even significant enough.It is as though he hardly existed. It is as though he never influenced a single student. It is as though his great genius contributed nothing to Torah Judaism.

That Hamodia does not even grant him the slightest recognition is more than an outrage. It is a lie of omission!

They do mention Dr. Bernard Revel in one blurb. It was a lukewarm statement about his founding of the first Yeshiva high school in 1916 to have both religious and secular studies. They also mention that Yeshiva College was created when it merged with Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) which became Yeshiva University.

That’s it! That is the sum and substance of Hamodia’s attention to YU. Dr. Revel too deserves more than an honorable mention. He was a builder of American Orthodoxy no less than many of the names they attribute that to. But he does not even rate a picture, while Mike Tress and Rabbi Moshe Sherer do. Now I think highly of these two men. They indeed were important figures that deserve the credit that Hamodia gives them. But why was Dr. Revel less deserving than they were?

Understating Dr. Revel’s contributions pales in comparison to the near complete omission of even the Rav’s name – forget about his picture!

Hamodia has tried to use modern journalistic standards to compete with successful magazines like Mishpacha (which to its great credit did a cover story on Rav Hershel Schachter and the Rav). Hamodia used intelligent and educated writers for this publication as well as sophisticated graphics. It was a beautiful layout. Very attractive physically. Very well written. But in my view it has failed miserably because of this omission. For this Hamodia does not deserve any accolades. Although I’m sure it will get plenty from its target readership.

What a shame. They had an opportunity to publish a beautiful and unifying issue reflecting on the contributions of all segments of Orthodoxy. But they blew it!

The last time I was upset like this was the obituary of Rav Soloveitchik in the Jewish Observer. That publication is now extinct. I think Hamodia deserves the same fate.