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An Existential Analysis

If we are going to survive as a Jewish people, we must revise the system.

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If the crimes are related to sex abuse, the Chilul HaShem increases exponentially. Who wants to be part of a religion that thinks its OK to cheat the government as long as you don’t get caught? Who wants to be a member of a religion that defends convicted rapists and smears innocent victims? Who wants to be a member of a religion where religious (looking) Jews spit on reporters, call 8 year old girls whores, and embarrass us in a myriad of other ways? When religious leaders are involved in Chilul HaShems like these, it is definitely a great cause for existential alarm.

It is interesting to note that feminism scored the lowest amount of voters. 11 people (3%) said this was the biggest existential threat. There are many people who feel that this is the defining existential issue of our day. , Among the first to express this view was Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg ZTL, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel. Even though I disagree with him, I can certainly understand why he felt that way. It is almost impossible to argue against equality. That is what feminism is all about.

That other denominations are responding to this issue by altering their long held views barring women from various rituals and rabbinic positions is a fact. Orthodox Judaism by definition could never fully do that. Some Orthodox women caught by the spirit of the times are hard pressed to fully understand Orthdoxy’s apparent unequal treatment of women. For some – it is hard to understand why Halacha should supersede equality. It is in fact difficult to explain even among many Orthodox women – and men – with modern sensibilities about the equality of the sexes.

But it is not an existential threat. Judaism does not reject the feminist goal of equality of the sexes in areas outside of religion. Equal pay and mutual respect is something the Torah favors. With the right education, the different roles of men and women within the context of religion can be explained.

It is also interesting to note that what the right wing says is the greatest spiritual threat of our day – the internet – came in 2nd from last with only 13 votes. I understand why there are those who feel it is. But it is very obvious to me that the widespread use of the internet by virtually all Orthodox Jews tells me that it is not destroying us. Its responsible use is in fact aiding us in our daily lives. Although the dangers are real and have lead some people astray – for most of us that isn’t so.

Poverty got 7% of the vote. 22 people felt that poverty will destroy Judaism. I don’t think that’s true. It may however destroy the Charedi paradigm of full time Kollel for all men without preparing them for a future. But that’s a good thing. The vast majority of Charedim should be working – and being Koveiah Itim. Only the elite should be learning full time and supported.

Tuition is a real problem for almost all of Orthodox Jewry. Without a religious education it is highly unlikely that our children will become observant adults. Assimilation will almost certainly overwhelm their Yiddishkeit. The fact is that few if any parents are pulling their children out of day school because of high tuition. It may be breaking the backs of parents to pay tuition even with the partial scholarships. But most Orthodox Jews know the importance of sending their child to day school. They therefore bite the bullet and pay even while struggling to make ends meet.

That leaves the number one issue- Jewish education. Rightfully so. By far.

Our children are not getting what they need. Educator after educator has spoken about the need to instill a love of Judaism in their students and the failure in many instances to do so has led to ‘the ignorant Jew’. He may end up knowing how to learn a Blatt Gemarah but he won’t know a thing about the meaning of Judaism itself. There is an over emphasis on Gemerah or academics to the detriment of other subjects that are integral to our understanding meaning in Judaism. Without meaning we cannot expect anyone to be observant in anything but rote ways.

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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 hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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One Response to “An Existential Analysis”

  1. In the last paragraph, the word should be "role" models with an "e" at the end NOT "roll" like a "roll call" or the rolls that we eat. I am an expert proofreader and find mistakes very quickly.

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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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