A very interesting observation presented by Shmuel Rosner. I have heard this idea for over 12 years. American institutions have not been able to create unique thinkers. Part of this results from the diversity of the country. Another reason has to do with the clutter life has to offer today. Rosner makes the point that all the great ones of the past generation were all European born. What he fails to mention is that all of the innovative thinkers of the past generation were educated in an entirely different methodology than today. There was an element of individuality and creativity which has been lost.
For me, the most specific area to comment on is the Modern Orthodox community. There is not a single rabbinic figure who can be universally accepted throughout the American modern Orthodox community. We have brilliant Rabbis and rabbis who are activists, but none who would be able to begin reaching the intellectual heights of their rabbi, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Part of the problem is that anything in the theology or philosophic realm tries to begin with Rabbi Soloveitchik instead of rethinking and reconceptualizing Judaism for the 21st century.
I think another element is that any Modern Orthodox thinker who does have a unique opinion cannot transcend the Orthodox spectrum to be universally accepted due to the diversification of American Orthodoxy. The truth is, however, that American Judaism has always been fragmented, though certain social and historical events caused many to cross boundaries. Today, the only way to potentially cross boundaries is in the realm of pastoral counseling, in which all denominations have come together, reluctantly I might add, under one rubric. Of course, that doesn’t create great rabbis. And this leads us back to the original problem.
I happen to believe that we will have to wait for another generation or two before we see greats again, as long as those who are potentially giants don’t just migrate to Israel at the earliest convenience.