Edah is a grassroots movement founded in 1996 to refresh the spirit of the Orthodox Jewish community. Unlike ultra-Orthodoxy, which thrives in isolation from modern society, modern Orthodoxy integrates with and gains strength from its encounters with modernity. Edah entered the scene to promote an open minded and open-hearted Orthodoxy, passionately committed to Jewish Law while remaining receptive to general culture. Through education, leadership training, advocacy, and communications, Edah seeks to renew modern Orthodoxy and its lead institutions and to strengthen the ties between Orthodoxy and the Jewish people at large.

Led by Rabbi Saul Berman, a distinguished thinker and communal leader, Edah seeks to promote modern Orthodox positions relating to religious Zionism, secular education, advancement of women within halakhah (Jewish law), communal responsibility toward Agunot ("chained women", women bound to their husbands through the husband's refusal to grant a Jewish divorce), and respectful interaction with the non-Orthodox world. Toward this end, Edah has placed ads in newspapers around North America, explaining and advocating modern Orthodox positions on a variety of issues, including suggestions on "How to be Orthodox in 5758" and support for the groundbreaking work of the Ne'eman Commission. To encourage women to fulfill the mitzvah of zimmun when appropriate halakhically, Edah has published the first printed "Optional Women's Zimmun," together with an updated men's zimmun. Formulated and developed with the guidance of Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin, it is available either as part of a three-fold laminated bentcher or as a single-sheet adhesive label for insertion in existing birkonim.

Edah recognizes the critical role of future leaders and educators in strengthening modern Orthodoxy. For three years (1996-1999) Edah provided major seed money to launch the MeORoT (Modern Orthodox Rabbinic Training) Semikhah student fellowship and its companion program, the Torat Miriam fellowship, a program for women currently in graduate schools of Jewish Studies or already professionally engaged in Jewish education. Mentored by Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rabbi Saul Berman, and Rabbi Dov Linzer, the programs offer intensive study of ideological issues with an outstanding faculty drawn from the Orthodox Rabbinic and academic communities.

The Edah Institute was the first program to demonstrate Edah's ability to focus the community on the key issues facing the Jewish people. Presented on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in Spring 1998, the Institute was a six-week adult education program consisting of lectures by several recognized scholars on two major topics: The Conversion crisis in Israel and Agunot.

In February 1999, Edah's First International Conference, "Orthodoxy Encounters a Changing World", attracted over 1,500 people for two days of study and debate, an event which Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Dean of Ohr Torah Stone Institutions, said was the most important thing to happen within Modern Orthodoxy in twenty years. It was this conference that catapulted Edah to national prominence, capturing the attention of modern Orthodox Jews the world over.

The intellectual stimulation and shared camaraderie felt by participants at Edah's first Conference prompted Edah to seek ways to replicate this experience in other communities around the country. Edah has developed a module for regional conferences, where neighboring communities can gather at a central location to hear lectures and discuss issues in a small-scale setting. The first such attempt was the New Jersey Regional Conference in Springfield, NJ, which brought together members of several communities in the MetroWest region.

Edah plans similar events in other regions around North America. To provide appropriate lecturers for the regional conferences and for Scholar-in-Residence programs, Edah has created a Speakers Referral Service with close to sixty speakers from around the world. A guide to planning effective programs and requesting speakers is available both in print and via this web site.

Under the generous sponsorship of David S. Gottesman, Edah has begun publishing a series of articles aimed at bringing several of the key issues in modern Orthodoxy covered at Edah's conference to a broader forum. Edah has published two monographs highlighting lectures from Edah's First International Conference in February 1999; Modern Orthodoxy: In Quest of Holiness, based on Rabbi Berman's keynote address, and Preserving Modern Orthodoxy in Our Day Schools, an expanded version of Rabbi Jack Bieler's presentation on this topic. Upcoming monographs in this series will focus on the modern Orthodox approach to a wide range of philosophical issues and areas of public policy and will include both articles based on proceedings from conferences and original material.

Education, specifically day school education, is the lynchpin in Jewish continuity and the paramount avenue of engagement for the Jewish family. A comprehensive modern Orthodox education imbues students with a commitment to Jewish heritage, a love of fellow Jews, and receptivity to the world around us. Unfortunately, many modern Orthodox day schools are not yet properly equipped to transmit this ideology effectively. In May 2000, Edah brought together over 300 educators, parents, and lay leadership for a one-day conference to address the challenges of modern Orthodox education in a positive, constructive way. The conference, entitled Modern Orthodoxy Begins in the Classroom, included presentations, discussions, and workshops on a wide range of topics such as: Developing an integrated curriculum, Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations, and constructing a mission statement. Edah aims to continue the important work in this field through initiatives including:
  • Recruiting new Jewish educators using a program modeled on Teach for America.
  • Strengthening current educators through teacher training by master teachers
  • Developing effective board members and lay leadership through on-site training
The Summer 2000 launch of the Edah web site is the latest project designed to educate and empower the modern Orthodox community. Future plans for the site include expanding the level of interactivity, publishing an online journal, and generating new and timely educational material for the online modern Orthodox community.

Please feel free to contact Edah with any feedback, questions, or comments you may have at
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