Not long after arriving in the U.S. in 1932 and becoming the rabbi of Boston’s Orthodox community, Joseph B. Soloveitchik gave an interview to a reporter from the Boston Herald—presumably in Yiddish or German—which she then translated for publication. In it, Soloveitchik speaks of the “difficult problem” of trying to blend “two hostile educational systems,” namely the religious and the secular:
The study of the Jewish religion—of the Talmud and Jewish law—represents a complete culture in itself. The modern secular educational system is another. Jewish religious culture and the modern educational culture have no conflicts [in and of themselves, but only in the received approaches to teaching them]. They belong side by side; instead, they are separated by a so-called Chinese wall. To penetrate the wall between these two entirely different kinds of culture—to combine them into an ideal oneness—is the problem Orthodox Jews [face]. . .
The Talmud and the Torah once demanded one’s mind and attention entirely. The new educational system demands time and attention also. One of the two systems must suffer. Obviously, it is religious study.
The problem, then, is to give our generation of growing boys and girls an all-embracing, well-balanced education, one that will include the complete Jewish spiritual education as well as modern secular training, both to meet side by side on an equal footing, neither one to suffer because of the other. . . .
To bridge this gap between the old Jewish culture and the modern culture is not an easy task. It is a task for the generations.