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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Hashkafa Differences and Jewish Survival

Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

Rabbi Yehoshua Weber
Photo Credit: Jewish Tribune

I am impressed by Rabbi Yehoshua Weber. I never met the man, but I did read a column by him in Mishpacha Magazine (Yes, I know I’ve referenced Mishpacha a lot lately – but each mention was worthy.)

That column was written as a sort of epiphany about the concept of uniting all of observant Jewry – realizing that what unites us all is far greater than what divides us. This is a theme I have written about many times. I call it Achdus.

Now before I get accused of not including non observant Jewry under the tent of Achdus, I want to clearly state that I do indeed include them. We are all Jews and are treated equally in the eyes of God. The God of mercy judges us all in the context of our circumstances. So that given a similar set of circumstances God may view the behavior of a non observant Jew or even a non Jew more favorably than the behavior of an observant Jew. But I do believe that observant Jews have observance of Halacha as a uniting factor that binds us as a group.

And yet there is an attitude superiority among some of our observant subgroups. It is an attitude of ‘We are more religious than you… and therefore we are better than you’. I see it all the time here on this blog – almost every day in fact – where both right wing and left wing Jews express not only sense of superiority but a sense of triumphalism. A triumphalism that would prefer just cutting off anyone that does not agree with them. They will even vilify observant Jews for not measuring up to the standards of their community. They would rather just draw a sharp dividing line between ‘us and them’ and just let the other side fall off the cliff they are chasing.

Where do they get this attitude? I can only surmise that this is the kind of Chinuch they get. They are indeed told from the earliest ages that their approach to the Torah is the best approach… and that the approach of others is at best B’Dieved and at worst completely illegitimate. Just to cite one tragic example of this, the Hirschean philosophy of Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE) that Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch felt was the ideal way to observe Judaism is seen by the right as B’Dieved at best and a philosophy that should not be followed.

No one has a monopoly on the truth. All we can do is try and seek it. The best way to find that truth is to listen to what others have to say… and not close our minds to it. This is why for example I respect both Rav Kook’s views about the legitimacy of Zionism and the Satmar Rebbe’s views about the illegitimacy of it. Both have legitimate sources in the Torah upon which to base their views. And both views should be respected. It’s called Elu V’Elu.

(My issues with the Satmar Rebbe are not based on his views on that subject, but on the way he expresses them and on the vilification of Rav Kook – which is the inspiration for the disgusting anti Israel rhetoric on the part of his philosophical heirs, and the extremism one finds in the streets of Jerusalem – and elsewhere – in opposition to the government. But I digress.)

Getting back to Rabbi Weber… I think he did in fact see the light at a reception he hosted at his home in Toronto for Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel. It included rabbis from all segments of Orthodoxy. Rabbi Weber marveled at Rabbi Lau’s ability to speak with one voice which resonated with all the assembled. The rabbis there spanned the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy in that city, from Left Wing Modern Orthodox to Charedi.

His epiphany occurred when Rabbi Lau started talking about the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) from the perspective of a Jew who survived the Holocaust. That study, said Rabbi Weber, had some bright spots. It noted that if 100 Charedim that have 6.72 children per family and a low intermarriage rate, it will produce 3,401 Jewish descendants after 4 generations. 100 Centrists with their average 3.39 children per family and equally low intermarriage rate will produce 434 Jewish descendants in that time.

Sadly, 100 Conservative Jews with their average 1.74 children per family and 32% intermarriage rate will only produce 29 Jewish descendants. Reform Jews with their 1.36 children per family and intermarriage rate of 46% will produce 10 Jewish descendants; and secular Jews with their 1.29 children per family and their 49% intermarriage rate will produce only 7 Jewish descendants.

Now I don’t know how accurate these numbers are. Nor do I necessarily believe in linear projections – since trends can change for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is an increasing dropout rate among observant Jewry. But I do think that in a general way, it is a fair assumption that Judaism will mostly survive in increasing numbers and percentages via those of us who are observant.

I don’t mean to sound triumphalist. I am not and am in fact saddened that so many Jews will be lost after only 4 generations. But I mention this statistic for the same reason Rabbi Weber does. We have a responsibility to unite and to try and change that trend. When it comes to Jewish survival all of our Hashkafic differences are trivial and irrelevant, says Rabbi Weber. I could not agree more. Furthermore we can all learn from each other. Every community has its strengths and weaknesses. I only wish that message would enter the hearts of the dividers.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

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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3 Responses to “Hashkafa Differences and Jewish Survival”

  1. It is sad however that you do not understand that there are non-Orthodox Jews that are as thoughtful about Jewish life as Orthodox Jews are. Do you not think that non-Orthodox scholars and thinkers such as Rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mordechai Kaplan are as worthy of inclusion as the anti-Zionist Satmar Rebbe?
    Ephraim Yisrael Rubinger

  2. Ronny Mol says:

    Speaking about Achdus, there is a new political party forming called Jews1stNOW. Why a new political party? None of the parties in the Knesset address the fact that agreements do not work if they are one sided. There are NO palestinians. Before the advent of TV, their were no palestinians, no history of palestinian Kings or ancient cities. It is a BIG lie of the generation and none of the parties address this fact. No other country in the world that I know of, releases murderers as a gesture. In fact, they execute terrorists when found guilty of their crimes. If you want to add to this platform, email Jews1stnow@gmail.com Everyone is welcome to join. No demonstrations, no violence. Help make this party a reality and change the political landscape. The other parties have failed. Shas abstained when the vote for Gush Katif was taken. Labor gives up land for peace but as long as it is not their home for peace. Likud bounces rightward to center to left as long as it gets votes. We need a party that says no and will not compromise on its principals. We live in a world that values our inventions but hate us just the same. It is time for Jews1stnow. Jewish blood is NOT cheap.

  3. Roy Neal Grissom says:

    'Achdut, huh? Does that include Qorach, Datan, and 'Aviram? How about the man the "right wing extremist" Pinechas killed?

    Is mere political unity really the most important thing?

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