Yitzchok Adlerstein

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Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Born Jeffrey Adlerstein
1950
New York City
Residence Los Angeles, California
Nationality United States American
Education B.A
Queens College, City University of New York
Occupation Professor, teacher, and author
Employer Loyola Law School, Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Yeshiva of Los Angeles
Title Rabbi
Religion Orthodox Judaism
Spouse(s) Reena
Children Chaim Dov
Rachel Elisheva
Yehuda
Pesach
Yehonason
Aryeh Zev
Tzvi Aharon
Akiva
Parents Abraham & Trudy

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein (born 1950 in New York) is an Orthodox rabbi who has played an important role as spokesman, teacher, and writer on behalf of Orthodox Judaism as well as for the Baal teshuva movement in the United States. He is a leading exponent of the moderation of Haredi Judaism in relation to the outside world.

He writes prolifically for a wide spectrum of Orthodox Jews and his essays have been published in Jewish Action (the official magazine of the Orthodox Union); The Jewish Observer (the official magazine of Agudath Israel of America); the Torah u-Madda Journal (of Yeshiva University); Tradition journal (of the Rabbinical Council of America); the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, The Jewish Press (an English-language weekly with the largest circulation); in the publications of the National Council of Young Israel and in many other print and online forums. He is the co-founder and a featured writer on Cross-Currents,[1] an online journal of Orthodox Jewish thought published in blog format. He is on the editorial board of Klal Perspectives, and online journal of issues facing the Orthodox community

History[edit]

Over the years he has attained a number of key educational and Jewish communal position in the Orthodox establishment that has enabled him to propound his world view, in a style similar to Modern Orthodox Judaism's Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and Dennis Prager, two popular writers and talk show hosts.

Adlerstein served in an advisory and honorary position as one of the founding trusteees of the Association for Jewish Outreach Programs (AJOP, known at the time as The Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals) delivering lectures and workshops to Orthodox Jewish outreach rabbis entering into this new field of which he was, and still is, considered a leading exponent and pioneer.

Adlerstein studied and received his advanced rabbinical ordination (Yoreh Yoreh Yadin Yadin) from the Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim (Rabbinical Seminary of America) in New York, an institution that stresses the importance of Jewish outreach.[citation needed] He is a summa cum laude graduate of Queens College, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[citation needed]

Controversies[edit]

He has often been quoted or a participant in controversial debates that have relevance to Orthodox Jews and their world outlook:

In the days after the ban, Rabbi Slifkin's publisher and distributor dropped the three books mentioned in the open letter. He himself lost several speaking engagements and saw his own rabbi pressured to expel him from his synagogue. "He was crushed," said a friend, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, a professor of Jewish law and ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "Do you know what it's like to walk through the street and see posters branding you a heretic?"[2]
  • Rabbi Adlerstein is an outspoken opponent of the "Bible Code" and has both written articles[3] and given lectures[4] together with Barry Simon, another noted "Codes" opponent, on the topic.
  • In a public forum Adlerstein criticized the methods and notions behind the workings of the Kabbalah Centre:
But Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Project Next Step, warned of the dangers of polytheism within the Jewish faith. "God doesn’t like mistresses," he said. "Not that it matters to Him, but in our relationship with Him, which is what will give us happiness as Jews, putting our focus elsewhere is not going to cement our relationship with Him."... Adlerstein believes that this kind of dual citizenship is bad for the Jews. He placed the blame for it on a lazy approach toward religion resulting in pop spirituality. "Part of what we’re looking at are the same reason people turn to the Kabbalah Centre," Adlerstein said. "It’s like fast food spiritualism — getting it without the work, the counterculture part of it."[5]

He often writes on complex current events issues in respected journals:

  • On the make-up of the Supreme Court in Israel:
" In other words, it's an inside job. There are no open hearings, nor does the public have the opportunity to review the record and legal philosophy of the candidates. A liberal secular elite continues a self-serving tradition of choosing candidates from within its own ranks, to the consternation of much of the country."[6]
"If disbelief characterized your response to the stories about the controversial new history textbooks in Israel, pat yourself on the back. You were right to trust your instincts...If Israeli kids are going to continue believing in an inalienable right of the Jews to their land, they are going to have to sink roots in a history that goes back much further than ’48 or the travails of the Diaspora. For millennia, Jews predicated their tie to the Land upon confidence in the veracity of the Biblical narrative and their Divinely ordained mission to the world. Ironically, it may have to be religion that saves secular Zionism."[7]
"A Brave New World is coming soon to a medical genetics emporium in your neighborhood. And it will end life as we know it...Leon Kass always makes us think, but his latest contribution is downright painful. "The Moral Meaning of Genetic Technology" (Commentary, Sept. ’99) is not only enlightening, but humbling to many of us who have danced around the periphery of the problem. We discover that we have all missed the boat of sound thinking. The problems, he shows, are far more serious than we realized..."[8]
"We believe that there are truths to be discovered by exposure to general culture. We reject the notion that beyond the perimeters of our community is a vast cesspool. There is much depravity, to be sure, but there is also much good. We are grateful to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for having given us a Torah that provides us with the tools to make the proper selection. We have discerned in our own lives that the Torah has much to offer the rest of humanity, not just with the advent of Mashiach, but even today."[9]
"Some people, regrettably, are racist in the true sense of the word. Perhaps they should devote more study to the fullness of Torah concepts like tzelem Elokim - the image of God - and the robust nature of individuality. They should have another look at the Netziv's introduction to Bereishis, where he opines that it is called Sefer Hayashar - the Book of the Upright - because of Avraham's treatment of even the most despicable of his contemporaries. Despite his rejection of their ways, "he dealt with them with love, and was concerned for their well-being." For the true racists, the neshamos they should worry about are their own."

Present[edit]

Adlerstein is the director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He holds the Sydney M. Irmas Adjunct Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at Loyola Law School and teaches senior high school girls at Yeshiva of Los Angeles.

He writes regularly for the Cross-Currents[1] blog. He is frequently quoted by the Los Angeles Times and many other print and online publications as a voice of Haredi Judaism.[10]

In 2000, his elucidation of "Be'er Hagolah" (ISBN 1-57819-463-6) the classic defense of Rabbinic Judaism by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel (1525–1609) (known as the Maharal) was published by Mesorah Publications, a subsidiary of ArtScroll the leading publishers of English language Orthodox Judaica. In 2013, he published an English language adaptation of Nesivos Shalom of the Slonimer Rebbe.

He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Reena.

Interfaith work[edit]

Adlerstein participated in a 2005 "National Media Prayer Breakfast" represented by leaders of an interfaith group where it was noted:

"Atlanta Jewish Life magazine 'the go-to guy for the media . . . looking for a sane Orthodox voice for comment.' His reasoned approach to issues of faith and life qualify him to be the Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and of Project Next Step at Yeshiva of Los Angeles. He holds the Sydney M. Irmas Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at Loyola Law School, and serves as a faculty member at Yeshiva of Los Angeles in its secondary education...He lectures and writes on topics as diverse as the application of Jewish law to contemporary ethical dilemma and the use of computers in Jewish life. He is probably the most interviewed and quoted spokesperson for Torah issues in Southern California and has appeared on ABC's 20/20 and CBS News."[11]

He's also been written about by InFocus, "The Largest Muslim Newspaper in California" [1], the Los Angeles Jewish Journal [2], and Korean minister Rev. Yong-Soo Hyun [3] who published several books featuring Rabbi Adlerstein.

In 2009, he wrote an article in Newsweek on What the Pope Should Do To Reassure the World, after the controversy over the lifting of the excommunications on the bishops of Society of Saint Pius X.[12]

Publications[edit]

  • The Most Persecuted Religion, The Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2012 (with Abraham Cooper and John Huffman)
  • Warum Juden sich die Beschneidung niemals verbieten lassen werden, Die Zeit (German), August 16, 2012 (with Abraham Cooper)
  • Doing the 'Daf,' a Jewish Marathon, the Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2012
  • Theology and the Higher Law, Pepperdine Law Review 36:603
  • Lawyers, Faith, and Peacemaking: Jewish Perspectives on Peace, Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal 7:2
  • American Muslim Leaders Must Denounce Hamas Hatred, Washington Examiner, Feb. 11, 2009 (with Abraham Cooper)
  • On Racism, Its Costs And Its Causes, The Jewish Press, Dec. 10, 2008
  • Proud to Be a Hirschian, The Jewish Press, July 9, 2008
  • From Liberal Protestants, A Theology of Silence, The Jewish Press, Sept. 29, 2008 (with Abraham Cooper)
  • Heksher Tzedek’s Law Problem, The Forward, Sept. 25, 2008 (with Michael Broyde)
  • The Torah: With Ramban’s Commentary (2005 and ongoing) (editorial staff))
  • “Peacemaking and the Religious Practitioner,” Pepperdine Mediation Law Journal (forthcoming)
  • “Israel’s Next Battle: Labor Unions,” (with Abraham Cooper), Jewish World Review, January 4, 2007.
  • “Do Mainline Protestants Want to “Supersede” Israel?” (with Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman), Midstream, Nov. 1, 2005.
  • Be'er HaGolah: Maharal of Prague's Classic Defense of Rabbinic Judaism (2000)
  • “Scientific Advance and the Jewish Moral Conscience ,” The Torah u-Madda Journal, Sept. 2000.
  • “Redemption And The Power of Small Things: Rav Yosef Lipovitz's Ethical Refraction of Megilat Rut,” Jewish Action, Summer 1998.
  • Symposium: The Sea Change in American Orthodox Judaism,” Tradition, 32:4 (1998).
  • “Holy Alliance: Reflections on Contemporary Science From the Tents of Torah,” Jewish Action, Fall 1991 (Reprinted in The Jewish Action Reader, vol. 1, Orthodox Union, 1996).
  • “Revealer of Hidden Things,” Jewish Action, Summer 1993, pp. 88–91.
  • “The Power and Elegance of Aggada According to Maharal,” Jewish Action, Summer 1991.
  • “Price Controls and Consumer Advocacy,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 13 (1987)

References[edit]

External links[edit]