Monday, November 21, 2011

The Responsa in English controversy of 1966.

Here's an interesting bit of letters in the October 1966 issue of the Jewish Observer.

Future-British Chief Rabbi Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits had written a book called called "Jewish Law Faces Modern Problems." Evidently the Jewish Observer had harsh words for the book in its review, and we can see what they are by Rabbi Jakobovits' reply.

He notes three points.

1. He is not responsible for the Forward by Dr. Leon Stitskin, which had obviously been criticized. His views and Dr. Stitskin's are obviously different.

2. The Jewish Observer had said that Jakobovits wrote that "there is no rabbinic authority opposing the [Manhattan] Eruv." I'm not too concerned about this reply.

3. This is the most interesting angle: the review had criticized the very fact of printing rabbinic responsa in English, because it presents a "grave danger" to the "ordinary reader." Rabbi Jakobovits makes several points, and also notes that in Israel where Hebrew is the vernacular, should the rabbis write their responsa in English or Latin?

Read his complete response, several other letters also criticizing this particular point, as well as defending Stitskin, and the editor, Rabbi Joseph Elias' response.

The format I'm posting it may be a little unwieldy, but it's very interesting and well worth reading.

Actually, just one more thing to point out: the following little box appears under Tziviah Donin's letter on the subject (yes, you read that name correctly):

A sign of the times.


  1. Nechama Leibowitz (7 volumes) - Donated by Ronnie and Marc Schlussel in memory of Tzivia Donin

  2. Was she Rabbi Hayim Donin's wife?


    To Be a Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life
    by Hayim Halevy Donin

  4. Yes

    We regret to inform you of the passing of

    Mrs. Tzivia Donin

    Beloved mother of Mrs. Haviva Peters

    The funeral will be held Monday, October 4, 2010 at 10:00AM at

    Eretz Hachayim Cemetery
    Beit Shemesh, Israel

    Shiva will be observed until Sunday Morning, October 10, 2010

    at the Donin residence:
    Rehov Nissenboim 22
    Apt 5
    Bnei Brak, Israel



    We regret to inform you of the passing of Tzivia Donin this past Sunday. The Donins were among the founders of Akiva and Rabbi Hayim Halevi Donin was its first President. Her funeral was this past Monday in Beit Shemesh. For information on the shiva please contact

  6. What is with with Austritt-Yekkes and eruvin? They had a problem with the eruv in Frankfurt, they are the standard bearers of anti-eruv sentiment in Manhattan ad hayom, and they fought it in London too. I can't imagine that it's attributable to a Litvishe Mishkenos Yaakov influence, so what is it?

  7. Didn't Tzivia and R Hayim Donin also have a son, David Donin, who is a CPA?

  8. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)12:12 PM, November 25, 2011

    J.: R' Schwab said fairly explicitly in Ma‘ayan Beit Hasho’eiva that the objection to eruvin in Manhattan is primarily a social concern -- without an eruv, it's easy to tell who "really keeps shabbos" and who "doesn't really keep shabbos" because the second group carry. Making it possible for everyone to carry would make it harder to identify the people in the community whose observance isn't "good enough".

  9. Do you still have access to this issue of JO? It has an article entitled "Modern Orthodoxy or Orthodox Modernity?" that I've been looking high and low for copy of. Thanks!



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