Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Judge Korman’s Dilemma

Shortly before the latest rulings by Chief Judge Edward R. Korman of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn in the Holocaust Victim Assets litigation, an ad in this and other newspapers stated that food packages were being provided for 250,000 needy Jewish seniors in 2,734 cities and villages throughout the former Soviet Union. Whatever we may think of the accuracy of these figures, the ad sheds light on the issue that is before Judge Korman.

The litigation arises out of the settlement that required major Swiss banks to pay $1.25 billion in recompense for their looting of the accounts of Nazi victims. That agreement, now in its fourth year, was largely brokered by Judge Korman who exerted enormous pressure on the banks. He evidently regards his role in the litigation as a sacred obligation, as a way to do justice for some survivors and for the heirs of the great many who did not survive. He also regards the litigation as an opportunity to establish a record of the perfidy of Swiss banks.

By the time that the settlement was reached, it was not possible to reconstruct anything approaching a full record of what had transpired, nor was it possible to locate a sufficient number of survivors or heirs whose claims could be verified, even through tangential evidence. In February, Judge Korman provided a lucid roadmap detailing the sordid actions of the banks as they transferred assets, destroyed records, closed accounts and set up roadblocks in a systematic effort to thwart recovery. This opinion deserves wide circulation.

Judge Korman may yet compel the banks to establish a data base for all 1933-45 accounts and to publish a list of “possibly” looted accounts, measures that they have resisted. If it is within his authority, he should hold them in contempt for their delaying tactics. At the end of the day, though, only a relatively small portion of the funds will go to those whose claims have been affirmed, probably no more than $200-$250 million. More has been spent on lawyers, accountants, experts, advisors and others for whom settlement accounts are a feeding opportunities. Major accounting firms have apparently pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars – far more than account holders or their heirs have received – for work on behalf of the Volker Committee, a body that for all of the prestige of its chairman did not acquit itself well. I understand that the accounting fees have been paid by the banks, which is to say that the looters have in turn been victimized.

Judge Korman’s task is to determine what to do with the excess funds. He has already authorized significant distributions to certain survivors, but there is quite a bit left over and this has inevitably provoked greed and internecine Jewish warfare. Mainly out of public view, there is a global Jewish civil war going on, with some who aren’t Jewish thrown in for good measure. Israel is asserting that as the Jewish state it should receive the lion’s share of these funds.

How to balance the competing demands is Judge Korman’s dilemma. His decision is to distribute these funds according to a comparative needs assessment of Nazi victims in the U.S., Israel and the FSU, an exercise that has resulted in his giving ten percent to non-Jewish survivors and three-quarters of the remaining ninety percent to Jews in the FSU. He reasons that there is widespread poverty among these Jews and their situation is exacerbated because there is no public or communal safety net to assist them, while there are safety nets in Israel and the U.S.

I do not intend any disrespect in suggesting that Judge Korman is wrong in placing substantial emphasis on perceptions of economic need. Need assessments are nearly always problematic because of a tendency to exaggerate; besides, as he notes, “A comparison of needy survivors is by definition an odious process.” I believe that he relies too heavily on limited and, at times, questionable data, including from a team of deservedly respected scholars at Brandeis University who themselves note repeatedly that the data they are providing does not give a complete picture. Furthermore, he fails to sufficiently consider factors that might result in a different allocation scheme, a subject that I shall address in my next article.

It is true, of course, that FSU Jews are worse off than Jews elsewhere, a situation that arises largely from comparative standards of living and this isn’t going to change even if all of the excess funds and then some are sent to the FSU. But FSU Jews are not, in the aggregate, destitute. If they were, there would be widespread starvation and many thousands of deaths throughout Russia and Ukraine among the 99+ % of the population that isn’t Jewish because their situation is significantly worse than the situation of the 1% who are Jewish.

Judge Korman gives us the following from Dovid Katz, a professor at the University of Vilnius: “The last elderly Jews of Eastern Europe, whose lives were ruined by the Holocaust, and who choose to live out their days in the towns of their ancestors, are suffering acutely from malnutrition, poverty and lack of medicine, while the millions (or billions) from Germany, Switzerland and the great American Jewish organizations pass them by.”

In fact, since the collapse of Communism fifteen years ago, there has been an extraordinary influx of Jewish philanthropic funds, including from the Israeli government, to assist FSU Jews. This commitment runs into the many hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are some very needy Jews in the FSU. I also know from personal experience that the medical services available to the Jewish elderly and the rest of the population are generally primitive. Philanthropy has a role to play in this regard. But it is a different matter whether it is justified to allocate nearly all of the excess funds to the FSU.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Social Promotion, Social Demotion

The thing about education is how we readily associate it with failure. Judges get reversed, lawyers lose cases and doctors lose patients, investment advisors give rotten advice and investors make silly decisions, parents make mistakes in raising children and all of this is understood as an inherent element of the story of mankind that began with Adam’s great mistake. While wrongful actions and outcomes are not necessarily overlooked in other areas of human endeavor – litigation is a main feature of contemporary life – it seems that we are routinely harsher on education.

Education is different because it involves children whose failures become society’s burdens. We have come to accept that because the stakes are high in education, failure exacts a substantial toll and because of this we are hard on teachers and on those who administer schools.

This attitude breeds endless waves of reform, efforts to challenge and change arrangements that because they are the status quo must be held responsible for low test scores, drop out rates and Johnny’s inability to read. We scarcely acknowledge that circumstances beyond the reach of schools and educators may contribute handsomely to educational failure, that such things as the breakdown of family or drugs or promiscuity may have an important bearing on educational outcomes. It is easier to blame administrators and teachers than the fellow who is peddling drugs to young children or the television dreckmeisters who feed children a steady diet of images and sounds that undermine interest in reading and study.

Schools everywhere are limiting or banning altogether sweets and soda in their facilities because the guardians of nutritional well-being have determined that schoolchildren are being harmed. Whatever we think of this crusade, why do we not have a crusade against the junk and poison fed daily to children by popular culture? Is it so difficult to see that the educational prospect of children is affected by the television they watch, the movies they see, the music they listen to? When young Blacks are turned on by music that often consists of Black men grunting as they grab at their crotches, there is an element of racism in the entertainment that far exceeds in inappropriateness Aunt Jemima and Amos and Andy. We hear no protests against music that is racist, television shows that are racist and movies that are racist, as they portray Blacks in a demeaning fashion.

There is additionally the misogyny that informs how women are often portrayed and this, too, must have an impact on children.

In too many public schools, teachers face long odds as they try to reach the minds and hearts of children. Instead of seeking remedies in the breeding places of educational failure, we blame teachers. At long last, let us recognize that television, movies and popular music are far more responsible for educational failure than all of the rotten teachers in America.

Although some of the fervor has gone out of the testing craze, we still are in the throes of an attitude that enriches educational entrepreneurs even as student self-esteem is being eroded. In the current debate over testing and how to handle students who are at the lower end of the spectrum, each side is sincere and has powerful arguments. We need to recognize that there are no easy answers or quick fixes.

Regrettably, in a display of haughtiness befitting a multi-billionaire, Mayor Bloomberg rode roughshod over his own appointees and other thoughtful critics of the newly announced promotion policy. He claims to have been elected on a platform to improve education and has a mandate to do whatever he pleases. Apart from the arrogance, the claim is bunk. He was elected because he spent out of his own money more than 3,000,000 times more on his campaign than Peter Stuyvesant spent to purchase Manhattan. I hope that Mr. Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein will be proven right and I expect that they will because substantial sums will be targeted toward the thousands who are left back. But this will not help third graders who still can’t make it. Are they to be left back each year? Can we confidently justify the social demotion of students in order to satisfy Messrs. Bloomberg and Klein. To put the question in an unfair way, why was Joel Klein a lot softer on the multi-millionaire and billionaire monopolists of Microsoft than he is on eight-year old kids and teachers?

Social promotion – the term is deliberately denigratory and misleading – is on thin ice because it sets a blanket policy for students of varying ability, effort and home situations. For the very same reason, social demotion is wrong. The standard in education must be what we are taught in Proverbs: Educate a young person according to the ways that best promote his advancement. I am puzzled why the Mayor prefers a blanket policy of leaving back all who fail over a more nuanced approach that includes teacher assessment and other elements. I am also puzzled why he thinks that a demoralized teaching staff is more likely to produce better teaching.

Whatever reforms are instituted and whatever resources are committed for remediation and counteracting educational failure, schools and classrooms are organically related to the society they serve. Social dysfunction and pathology on the outside have a direct impact on educational performance. When the incidence of crime and drug abuse is reduced, there is a corresponding increase in student success. But when popular culture aims its messages at the young and these messages are saturated with stimulants that impel children away from reading and study, there is less room for educators to challenge and stimulate their students.

Of course, we need to have better teachers and educational accountability. At least as much, we need to have education conducted in a socio-psychological environment that encourages learning.

Monday, March 15, 2004

The Culture of Prosecutorial Abuse

Chaim Berger died last week in a prison hospital in North Carolina. He was a good and caring man who out of mistaken zeal to help his community misappropriated federal funds, a crime that was compounded by the foolish decision to flee to Israel. By the time that he was caught and returned to the U.S., it was too late for his overlong sentence to be commuted, as President Clinton had appropriately done for his co-defendants. Chaim Berger was nearly 80 when he succumbed to cancer, with pleas that he be released near the end of his life turned down by officials and prosecutors who were more adept at cruelty than he was at crime. If you ask me who committed the greater wrong, Berger or those who prosecuted him and persecuted his community, the guardians of the law win hands down. His crimes involved money; their moral crimes were inspired by cruelty that bordered on sadism.

I do not mean to defend or condone criminal acts, nor am I advocating that America go soft on crime. In our determination to be tough on wrong-doers, we have come to tolerate questionable practices that though they may be legal, scarcely pass an ethics smell test. These include entrapment, the piling on of charges in an indictment in order to intimidate the accused, and the excessive reliance on those who are surely guilty to purchase leniency, after being abundantly threatened and then abundantly coached by prosecutors, by testifying against higher-ups who otherwise could not be charged because the evidence is too thin.

That’s just the tip of a putrid iceberg. There is the expanding tendency of prosecutors, some publicity-mad and/or driven by ambition, to utilize tragedies as the springboard for criminal charges against those who have suffered loss. In Utah, a mother of three has been jailed for two months and accused of murder because, in the words of the Times, “she refused a Caesarean section that might have saved her unborn twin.” Far more prevalent is the deliberate withholding of possibly exculpatory evidence. Worse yet, is the fabrication of evidence. There have been shocking disclosures about FBI and other forensic laboratories which not for naught have been referred to as crime laboratories since they have been places where crimes have been committed.

We know that many innocent persons have been convicted of crimes that they did not commit and some were deliberately railroaded. In the short period since DNA testing has been in vogue, dozens who were convicted of serious crimes have been proven innocent. Some were the victim of honest mistakes, which scarcely reduces the pain of those who have been wrongly accused. In Illinois, the Governor commuted the sentences of all inmates in Death Row because of powerful evidence of trumped up convictions. We also have the sordid story of Tulia in Texas where thirty-eight innocent people were framed by the sheriff and prosecutor and convicted on phony drug charges.

In this still brief century, there have been hundreds of reports of serious prosecutorial abuse. We can be certain that there have been at least as many cases that have not been documented. There is, in short, an epidemic of prosecutorial wrong-doing, yet each new disclosure is treated as an isolated incident that does not indicate the existence of a prosecutorial culture in which serious abuses are tolerated and even encouraged.

I wonder how prosecutors are recruited and trained. Apart from those who come by the way of patronage and connections, are the successful applicants picked because they have shown a cruel streak? In the apprentice period when new prosecutors learn the ropes is it drilled into them that it is their responsibility to protect the innocent? Are they instructed in the wiles of entrapment and in the techniques of distorting evidence? Do they learn about the utility of piling on charges and the legitimacy of lying a little bit? Are they taught that the end justifies the means?

Instead of our national conscience being shocked by revelations of serious prosecutorial abuse, we seem to revel in cruelty. We mouth the ideal that accused persons are innocent until proven guilty and yet we allow prosecutors to indulge in perp walks and exercises whose primary function is to afflict additional pain on the accused and their families. Without shame we allow prosecutors to argue their cases in public in advance of a trial, as they seek to color public opinion against the accused. The media lap up the swill and give us lurid stories that are devoid of concern for the rights of accused persons.

For all of our sincere faith in fairness and fundamental rights, Americans aren’t upset about disclosures of prosecutorial abuse. In the wake of 9/11 and Enron, WorldCom and other mega-financial scandals, there is little interest in reining in prosecutors. Congress has contributed handsomely to the mood through legislation that imposes Draconian sentences and strips away procedural protections. Legislators know that incumbents do not lose elections by posturing about being tough on criminals.
The judiciary has long been the main barrier against prosecutorial abuse, especially at the federal level. John Ashcroft’s Justice Department has done its best to curb an independent judiciary and to cow judges in criminal cases. Sadly, too many judges are being intimidated.

Primary responsibility for prosecutorial abuses lies in where they occur, in prosecutors’ offices and in the spread of a culture that accepts ambition as the defining characteristic of too many of these office holders. There is a widespread feeling that because most who face prosecutorial music do not have entirely clean hands, it is alright to tolerate abuse because at the end of the day the losers are mainly the bad guys who deserve what they are getting.

At the end of the day, in fact, the losers are too many who do not deserve to lose, as well as rights and liberties that are essential to our democratic system.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

In the Eye of the Gay Juggernaut

Those who are on the losing side of a revolution usually do not know what hit them. The world that they knew is gone or greatly altered and they are confused and angry, while those who have triumphed celebrate their victory and solidify their gains. For all, what has happened seemed improbable, maybe impossible, not long before.

We who strongly oppose gay marriage are on the losing side of a social revolution and we are stunned. Opponents of same-sex marriage will score some legal and political victories and also suffer defeats, but the key point is that a social revolution has taken place. In the blink of an eye, an arrangement that was regarded by most as beyond the moral and legal pale has taken strong root, without regard to public opinion or accepted convention or law. Any remaining doubt about the power of the Gay Rights movement should be gone. There isn’t an interest group in America that comes close to having its clout.

I doubt that gay righters will alter their rhetoric now that they have triumphed. Their claim of victimization and the identification of their cause as a civil right have served them well. People of high social-economic status and privilege have pulled off a public relations coup by claiming to be victims and they have gotten away with it because America’s informational and cultural elites are substantially in their corner – and that is only part of their power base. The New York Times which prints all the gay news that is fit to print (and much that isn’t) and others in the upper echelons of mediadom urgently trumpet the gay cause and have little interest anymore in the poor, exploited farm workers, Blacks and minorities, and the rest of America’s shockingly bloated ranks of the truly disadvantaged. The order of the day is to protect the privileged.

Unlike political revolutions, the losers in social revolutions keep their heads and freedom. Opponents of gay marriage can continue to oppose, although there aren’t any promising options. What lies ahead is much legal and political skirmishing, as well as status confusion arising from our Federal system. The redefinition of marriage is being accompanied by a fascinating switch in attitudes toward federalism, with gay marriage opponents calling for a national policy while proponents argue for states’ rights and the use of states as laboratories for social experimentation.

It is tempting for opponents to push for a constitutional amendment, if only because there is little else that they can do except to bemoan what is transpiring. It is too early to know whether President Bush’s advocacy of an amendment will reap political benefits or flop. My guess is that it will not figure in the November outcome. Anyway, the Constitution is not going to be amended to bar gay marriages and it shouldn’t be.

Probably the best that we opponents can do is to stick to our values and views and not be intimidated by the gay juggernaut. We must not be afraid to speak out, a point that needs to be underscored in the Jewish community because not surprisingly – although it continues to shock – in their wholesale abandonment of traditional teachings and practices, by a substantial margin American Jews favor – and many aggressively – same-sex marriage.

For all of their shock, revolutions are preceded by fundamental societal developments that pave the way. The notion of same-sex marriage is predicated on powerful social trends that have been fairly long in the making, as modernity has transformed the twinned institutions of marriage and family. More than court rulings, this fact has enormously complicated the challenge facing opponents who are left defending an ideal that may resonate in their lives but not in the lives of millions of Americans.

Marriage can be viewed as having two components, the sanctification and legitimization of a relationship and intimacy and, secondly, its service as a contract between two people who now have legal rights and obligations. While there have always been people who live together without being married, that relationship was not the norm. The norm was for people who lived together to be married, a circumstance that conveyed acceptance to the ensuing intimacy. Millions now live together outside of marriage without they or scarcely anyone else thinking that the arrangement is extraordinary. For persons in these relationships and for the greater number of people who aren’t but who have no problem with the arrangement, the legitimization of intimacy is established not by marriage but by the consensual act of living together. Marriage remains important for emotional, financial, legal or other reasons, yet it is not a precondition for intimacy, for acting as a couple or being accepted as a couple.

As marriage is for a great many no longer the necessary license for intimacy, the marriage license itself provides diminishing assurance that intimacy will be maintained. Same-sex marriage proponents make much of the fact that an estimated half of all heterosexual marriages end in divorce. They argue that if Britney Spears can marry in a ceremony that is a travesty, why can’t two men or women who have lived together.

Increasingly, what is left of marriage in many instances is its contractual element. If a man and a woman can sign a contract, why can’t two men or two women? This critical social change has altered the playing field for same-sex proponents and opponents. It is noteworthy that gay marriage is more acceptable among younger people, they also being far more accepting of intimate relationships outside of marriage.

These developments do not make same-sex marriage any less repugnant to opponents like me. They do mean that there is slim prospect for a reversal in attitude, for a large-scale turn toward tradition. Being realistic about what we are experiencing is no reason why we who believe in traditional values should give them up or be intimidated by what is happening in the changed world in which we live.

Monday, March 01, 2004

One More Battle Over Law and Religion

When by a vote of 7-2 the Supreme Court rejects the argument that a state cannot deny scholarship assistance to a college student who wants to study for the ministry at a church-related institution and the majority opinion is written by Chief Justice Rehnquist, it’s a safe bet that the claim was on weak constitutional grounds. Last week’s ruling in a case from Washington State should not be much of a disappointment to those who like me advocate certain forms of governmental aid to religious schools. This was not a good case to hang our hats on.

Thus, the decision is not the end of the world for government aid advocates and it will not put an end to the religion wars that have occupied American courts and judges for more than half a century. We will soon have a decision in the Pledge of Allegiance case and while Justice Scalia has recused himself, the betting is that a majority will rule that the words “under God” in the Pledge do not constitute an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Whatever the outcome, courts will continue to be entangled in our religion wars, with each side scoring victories and suffering setbacks. This ambiguous scorecard may be functional and even preferable in view of the sharp divisions over the role of religion in what has been termed the public square. In a way, the availability of courts to serve as the arena for these disagreements is a safety valve which limits the intensity of the conflict.

While the New York Times commented that the latest ruling is “a setback for advocates of publicly funded school vouchers,” it remains that not long ago the Supreme Court approved voucher arrangements and it’s unlikely to retreat from that position. The Washington State decision means no more than that when a state is more prohibitive of support for religion than the Federal government, it is not in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. In his opinion, Chief Justice Rhenquist underscored, “there is no doubt that the state could, consistent with the Federal constitution,” provide scholarship assistance to students to “pursue a degree in devotional theology.” To employ a term favored by the majority, there is room for “play in the joints” and to permit the use of public funds for religious training and other religion-related activity. But this does not mean that government must fund any religious activity.

While the opposing sides keep on battling as if the stakes are high and legal defeat or victory makes a world of difference, what courts decide is often less significant than they and most of us assume. Of course, it is significant when judges order the removal of the Ten Commandments or sustain vouchers. Those who are directly affected have what to cheer or complain about. Yet, we tend to exaggerate the impact of judicial decisions. Most social transactions, including those involving state and religion, occur away from public attention and, at times, beyond the reach of legal institutions.

Irrespective of constitutional language mandating church-state separation, our governments do not operate as if religious activity occurs in a world apart. The First Amendment may proscribe entanglements between religion and government; society makes them inevitable. To an extent, this is the outcome of politics. Religious groups are, after all, interest groups and like other interest groups, political activity provides them with opportunities to benefit from government, a process that is advanced because candidates and officials understandably view religious groups as ripe for political wooing.

Let us suppose that politics is not a factor and that those in office are committed to strict church-state separation. Would this mean no faith-based initiatives, such as those espoused by President Bush? Would there then be a high wall of separation between church and state?

I doubt it, the reason being that in key areas of public responsibility, religious agencies - often acting in a religious capacity – have a vital role to play. This is true of child care, social services, hospitals and nursing, mental health and a great deal more. Our commitment to social justice and concern for those in need are quite frequently fulfilled through religious groups and activities that are to one extent or another funded by government. Because few want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, we have come to accept arrangements that might not pass constitutional muster if the standard of strict separation were used.

With few exceptions, strict separationists, including too many Jews, rarely kvetch about government funding of religious programs, that is if they are outside of the always passionate field of education. Education has been the main constitutional battlefield in the endless war over the First Amendment. But even here social realities mitigate the impact of judicial decisions. As an illustration, the Supreme Court’s validation of voucher arrangements has had little practical effect, despite the fervent cheers of voucher proponents and the intense fears of voucher opponents. On the other side of the ledger, rulings that curtail direct funding of religious schools have themselves been curtailed by the channeling of public funds to parents of religious-school children.

Again, this is not to say that what courts decide is of minor consequence, only that judicial rulings are not necessarily as final or as decisive as they appear to be at the time that they are made. Viewed from this perspective, America’s religion wars are fairly benign exercises and no side loses or wins it all. There is something comforting about this.

RJJ Newsletter - March 2004

I am once more surveying yeshivas and day schools in the United States, the aim being to get complete enrollment data and other useful information about these essential institutions. The previous census, conducted five years ago, included every known day school and many that were not listed, perhaps because some were small, even tiny. One key finding of the 1998-99 survey was that 40% of American Jewish day schools enrolled fewer than 100 students, a statistic that has enormous educational and financial implications, particularly for the yeshiva world of which we are a part.

Data from this year’s survey will not be available until later in the year. It’s evident already that the small school pattern has not been altered, except perhaps that there are now more than there were when I previously examined the subject.

To a significant extent, small schools are the inevitable outcome of our dispersal across a large continent. There are day schools in places where the Jewish population is small and getting smaller still and the number of parents who want a good religious education for their children is nearly miniscule. The struggle to maintain such schools is heroic and the outcome is, at times, sad because not all survive. There is, as one example, the day school in Lowell, Massachusetts, established in 1970 and affiliated with Torah Umesorah, that had 47 students five years ago and is now closed.

Another contributing factor to the small school phenomenon is denominational and ideological diversity, the obvious fact that although the overall American Jewish population is modest, we are divided into subgroups, each articulating a distinctive attitude toward religious practices. This begets separate schools and not merely, for example, under Orthodox and Conservative sponsorship, but separate schools for different Orthodox subgroups.

While we might lament the absence of Jewish unity, we can readily understand the determination of parents to seek educational settings that reflect their religious commitment. If, as a consequence, parents and others of a like mind are willing to provide the resources to sustain small schools, their decision must be respected.

Much the same can be said about parents who seek small schools because they believe that their children will do better in that environment. We do not need a scholarly study – although it’s useful to have the data - to know that the tendency to establish small schools is most pronounced at the boys high school or mesivta level. This reflects parental concern that in a larger setting their teenage sons may get lost in the shuffle or fall prey to baneful influences.

A corollary to this attitude is the practice of certain mesivtas, including ours, to limit high school enrollment to one class per grade level. While this inevitably results in greater financial hardship for the institution, the approach can be defended on educational grounds.

More problematic is the proliferation of small mesivtas that have been established by Torah scholars – they are usually young – who seek positions that satisfy their ambition and self-esteem. This is a delicate subject in the Torah world and it needs to be dealt with in a spirit of empathy for people who have studied Torah for many years and have much ability and promise and no suitable position awaiting them. As advanced Torah study has spread, there is an ever-expanding crop of young men who have spent years in yeshiva but who are stymied in the quest to teach at an appropriately high level. One possible outlet is, in a sense, to jump the gun by opening one’s own yeshiva. This factor accounts for more than a few mesivtas.

As the saying goes, this is a free country and so with perhaps few restrictions, individuals can open schools as they see fit. There is also the principle of L’hagdil Torah Ul’hadera. Yet, we should not be blind to the reality that the funds available to support yeshivas are not unlimited and as small institutions proliferate, other yeshivas are being hurt. This may not be a sufficient consideration to inhibit the ambition of those who establish schools, but it is certainly a communal concern.

It is also true, although there are important exceptions, that very small schools are usually weak educational institutions and this too is a factor that should be included in our reckoning. I would even argue that there are social considerations that ought not be ignored. It is, I believe, relevant that in the entire history of formal Torah study from the Talmudic period onward, greatness in Torah study has generally emerged in large institutions.