[Avodah] Coeducational

Joseph Kaplan jkaplan at tenzerlunin.com
Sun Jul 18 06:52:53 PDT 2021

Obviously, I read the Rav’s letters to R. Rosenfeld very differently than you.  Since they’re now publicly available everyone can read them and draw their own conclusions. Similarly, my understanding of his attitude towards the Maimonides School is very different from yours. Unfortunately, the Rav never wrote the article about teaching Torah to females that he mentioned in his letter so we’ll never know for sure. 

I was very friendly with R. Rosenfeld’s so I’m upset that I never knew of his correspondence with the Rav during his lifetime. I would so much have loved to discuss it with him. 

One correction and two additions. Correction: R. Rosenfeld did not run HILI. He was simply a member of its Board of Education. It’s principal who ran the school was R. Dr. Harold I Leiman — the father of Prof. Shnayer Leiman and a scholar and highly regarded educator in his own right. 

Addition #1: What I always find fascinating about this exchange of correspondence is that it had absolutely no impact on HILI‘s limudei kodesh curriculum. Through fifth grade all classes were coed so, of course, boys and girls learned the exact same materials. But in sixth grade, the Hebrew (though not secular studies) classes were split by sex, with the girls learning just mishna and the boys learning both mishna and gemorah. Interestingly, that’s when they stopped teaching ivris b’ivris because it was supposedly too difficult to teach Gemara in Hebrew. 

Addition #2: While the Rav’s letters were in English, interestingly R. Rosenfeld’s letter to him was in Hebrew. Although it did not make it into R. Helfgott’s book, I happen to have a copy of it. 


Sent from my iPhone

> On Jul 18, 2021, at 8:27 AM, Micha Berger <micha at aishdas.org> wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 16, 2021 at 08:47:19PM +0000, Joseph Kaplan via Avodah wrote:
>> Many say that RYBS, in starting Maimonides, did not agree, and, in fact,
>> did argue it was a lechatchila and desirable in elementary and high
>> school. I understand that some say he too believed it was a bedieved,
>> but there's lots of scholarship for the lechatchila side...
> FWIW, my own take after reading his two letters to Rabbi Leonard Rosenfeld
> (who at the time ran HILI) found in R Nati Helfgott's Community, Covenant
> and Comittment is that RYBS believed it was a lekhat-chillah response
> to a bedi'eved situation.
> He would have been happier had the need not come up, but since it did,
> avoiding making Maimonides co-ed would have been a mistake.
> (There is such an approach to RYBS's attitude toward Modernity in general:
> Judaism was stronger and superior in Brisk. But remaining there isn't
> an option. If we are forced to deal with the outside world, confronting
> it and the resulting dialectic head-on is superior to trying to stay in
> a bubble.)
> This is aside from RYBS strongly objecting to the proposal that YU save
> money by combining YC's and Stern's campuses. Even though I presume he
> realized this would cost the women of Stern in terms of depth of their
> Jewish education.
> -Micha
> -- 
> Micha Berger                 Zion will be redeemed through justice,
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