01: The publication of the new prayer book for Orthodox Jews, the Koren-Sachs Siddur, is a significant attempt to wrest control of the Orthodox movement in the U.S. from the ultra-Orthodox wing of the movement.
Until the appearance of the new prayer book, the Artscroll Siddur was the main one in use in Orthodox synagogues, although it represented the traditionalist views and practices of the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox Jewish movement. In the last two decades, the Haredi movement has become an influential force in Judaism while the “modern Orthodox” movement has been reported to be in decline (demographically at least, since the Haredi have the larger families).
The new prayer book upholds the modern Orthodox approach in its proud embracing of Zionism (the Artscroll Siddur plays down the importance of Israel, showing the non-Zionist views of many Haredi) and its acceptance of women’s prayers and greater involvement in devotional life.
(Source: First Things, September/October)
02: Covenant University in Nigeria is a case study of how private—and often evangelical Christian—institutions are beginning to transform a university system founded on the “belief that government should be the sole provider of higher education, free of charge.”
The seven-year-old university was founded and is financed by Living Faith Church in Otta, said to be the largest church structure in the world. The university is expensive (at $2,000 per year) and beyond what most Nigerians can pay, yet the school’s facilities stand in contrast to the poor conditions of the country’s other universities, which are currently shut down in the aftermath of a three-month strike.
The frequent power outages and shortages of books and laboratory equipment are nowhere to be seen at Covenant, which “ranks as the country’s top private institution,” with a reputation for academic excellence, strict discipline and state-ofthe-art facilities. The campus atmosphere is strict, with religion playing a central role and chapel attendance strongly encouraged. Its strict policies, such as mandatory testing for HIV and pregnancy for incoming students, have, however, come under fire from health and human rights groups.
(Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 6)