The Greening of American Orthodox Judaism: Yavneh in the 1960s

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The Greening of American Orthodox Judaism: Yavneh in the 1960s
By Benny Kraut

Hebrew Union College Press
Cincinnati, 2011
178 pages

 

Professor Benny Kraut’s delightful history of the Yavneh student organization shows how college students can and have permanently altered the Jewish world. Kraut catalogs the life of the organization, from its beginning in the early 1960s to its demise in 1981. At its inception, Orthodox Jewish college students could not find accommodations in any of the main campuses, whether kosher food, formal or informal classes on Judaism, or even permission to miss classes and exams on Jewish holidays. The Jewish establishment generally neglected the needs of these Orthodox students. Therefore, the students bound together across campuses to provide and advocate for their own needs—with stunning results. Their energy, creativity and fearlessness yielded incredible success. As Kraut describes, the Yavneh organization began the first year-in-Israel program, joining initially with Mercaz HaRav. Yavneh held classes and conferences on cutting-edge topics in Jewish intellectual thought, publishing significant papers written by students. It generated excitement among college students to remain, or even become, Orthodox, to push boundaries and to break new ground. Eventually, those students became the leaders of the Modern Orthodox community, helping to remake that community in their own image. This book describes not only a college student organization but the maturation of the Modern Orthodox community, as initiated by college students.

Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and blogs at TorahMusings.com.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Winter 2012.

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