We Centrists already know this. And we engage with the world. The left wing of Orthodoxy has made an art of this – taking it to dangerous extremes in my view. But the right wing has taken the other extreme by increasing its insularity to the point of not even wanting to identify its buildings in English. This may seem trivial. But I agree with R’ Yaakov. This is a symptom of the dangerous path referred to by British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.
And what was the response to Rabbi Sacks? He was blasted by the right for even suggesting it by Agudath Israel. They denied this to be the case by saying how involved they are in public affairs via their lobby in Washington. They accused him of wanting to undermine their protective layer of insularity and disparaging the Yeshiva world and disparaging the Charedi Torah for it as being dangerous to Judaism
But as I said the few community activists that are involved in such lobbying are few. The majority of their number are told to insulate as much as possible. And this is reinforced subliminally by insular innovations like no longer having English identifiers on their new buildings.
I am glad that R’ Yaakov has learned the truth about the world outside of ‘Lakewood’. He has learned from experience which is a lot better than learning from lectures given by the insular mentors he had in Lakewood… mentors that are still there and whose message is becoming increasingly more insular.
And yet, I fear that R’ Yaakov, and Chief Rabbi Sacks are waging an uphill battle. The tide against them is too great to overcome. They have both experienced the real world and have come to a similar conclusion. But how many people who attend Lakewood will ever be able to have the ‘hands-on’ experiences that will teach them the truth? The only truth the vast majority of Lakewood students will see is the truth they hear from their mentors in Lakewood. And that means that the fastest growing segment of Judaism will have the least amount of influence upon the culture that will define the country. And as Chief Sacks so accurately pointed out, we do so at our own peril.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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