Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Yeshiva as a Political Institution


This insular approach mirrored the greater Haredi world and its strict binary opposition of tradition and modernity. The newer model of the yeshiva, however, not only challenged secular hegemony but also sought to reshape Orthodoxy into a community responding proactively to the secular critique of religion. Yeshivas following this model became political institutions — political because they sought to transform the Jewish world by direct action and presented a religious alternative to the hegemony of secular political forces. The founding of Tomchei Tmimim in 1897,3 the first political yeshiva in imperial Russia, was an attempt to create a shift in the constantly retreating battle of Orthodoxy with secularization and assimilation. In the late 19th century, the relationship of Jewish communities with the Imperial regime had drastically deteriorated, giving particular urgency to an emerging discourse about Jewish secularism and nationalism.4 Initial attempts at forming a constructive Orthodox response in the political arena were a major failure.5 Reforms in Jewish religious education reached into primary schools, vocational training, and post-secondary education.

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