I am truly disappointed in one of my Charedi heroes, Jonathan Rosenblum. I can already hear my detractors saying ‘I told you so’ or saying that my beliefs about moderate Charedim are completely wrong.
But they are wrong. I still consider Jonathan one of my Charedi heroes. He has proven himself to be moderate more than once.But not this time. In an article in the Yated he has attacked the RCA for inviting Rabbi Dov Lipman to give a keynote address at their convention. He then goes about ripping Rabbi Lipman to shreds… describing him as a self promoter with ulterior motives who comprised his principles by joining a secular party. A party whose platform endorses a more secular government. One which would implement non Halachic innovations like civil marriages.As further proof that he is not an appropriate choice to keynote the RCA convention – he cites Rabbi Lipman’s approach to controversial issues facing Israel. Like his advocacy of lowering the Charedi standards of observance requirements for converts; his support for the Women of the Wall; and his argument that the Kotel is not a Beis HaKenesses and therefore does not require a Mechitza. (Hmmmm… that sounds familiar.)
It is fair to question Rabbi Lipman about his views from a Charedi perspective. But to deny him a platform to explain himself publicly to the primary Orthodox rabbinic organization in the United States because of these questions is just plain wrong, and unfair. Rabbi Lipman is not a Reform rabbi. He still considers himself to be not only Orthodox but Charedi. That he has reached a decidedly non Charedi approach to some issues, does not take away from that claim. I’m sure he still maintains many Charedi Hanhagos ( customs) like wearing a velvet Kipa and a black hat; using only Cholov Yisroel products; and not relying on the Heter Mechira for Shmitta years. He probably still sees Torah study as being of paramount importance – despite his advocacy of drafting Charedim into the military.
But even if he has somehow lost his credentials as a Charedi because of his controversial views, there is no question that he is Orthodox. To criticize the RCA for allowing Rabbi Lipman to speak is to say that opinions that are contrary to mainstream Charedi thinking in Israel are illegitimate and should not be heard.Of course Jonathan has said the reverse. That giving Rabbi Lipman a platform is tantamount to endorsing his ‘anti Charedi’ views. I do not see it that way at all. Although I might agree with Jonathan that along with Rabbi Lipman a speaker promoting the Charedi side of things might have been a more balanced thing for the RCA to do.
One of the arguments Jonathan makes is that we here in the United States ought to ‘not mix in’ to the issues affecting Charedim in Israel. (I assume he means even American Charedim. That would mean that even an endorsement of the Charedi position by American rabbinic leaders should not be made. It was of course made by Agudah. Jonathan did not complain then. But I digress.)He says that we are not familiar with the ‘nuances’ of Israeli life and we can’t possibly understand the opposition to reasonable change for Charedim. Certainly not when it comes to the draft. But even when it comes to inserting a minimal core secular curriculum in their schools.
The standards Rabbi Lipman wants to insert are far less than the requirements of his own Charedi Yeshiva in America, Ner Israel. Or even Philadelphia (Lakewood’s unofficial high school). Jonathan says that as an American Charedi Oleh (immigrant) of only ten years residency he does not understand the nuances of the Israeli paradigm of full time Torah study sans Limudei Chol.
I don’t know. It seems to me that 10 years is enough time to understand it. What Rabbi Lipman is saying is that it needs to change nonetheless. I agree with him. The RCA wants to hear him speak about these issues as a member of the Kenesset; as a Charedi; and as someone who has lived there for ten years and has observed both the positive and negative of this paradigm. What is Jonathan afraid of? Why does he see this as something bad? What happened to Elu V’Elu?
And what about Jonathan’s own education at Yale, which he personally values greatly – as he told me himself? Can he honestly say that what’s good for him is not good for Israeli Charedim? Why? Were he to do it over again, would he have rejected studying any Limudei Chol? Dov Lipman hasn’t even touched upon university education for Charedim. All he wants is for them is to know how to speak English… or know a bit about science, world history… or even Jewish history for that matter! Why is that so terrible?!
Is it because the Charedi leadership continues to reject it? Jonathan says that it is not so much that but about the fact that the program is being forced upon them. Really? Well, fine, let the Charedi leadership come up with their own alternative Limudei Chol program.There are two chances of that happening 1) slim… and 2) none! The fact that they haven’t tried on their own to do that in the past – since the very beginning of the state when the pressure wasn’t on – is indicative of how much interest they have in it.They are fighting this because they strongly believe that the evil secular government (and their willing accomplice – Dov Lipman) is imposing it on them. Is this how to deal with what they see as a problem? Even if I were to concede that this is a problem (which I of course do not), I don’t see this as the way to deal with it.Contrast the current Charedi approach to that of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, founder of the Eida HaCharedis. (You can’t get much more Charedi than that.) The following is a paraphrase form an ArtScroll (…it must be true if it’s ArtScroll) biography about him entitled, Guardian of Jerusalem. (21: 316 – 317).
Because of the dangers of the secular system attracting Frum parents to their schools, R’ Yaakov Rosenheim invited Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Auerbach to establish a secular curriculum in the Yeshivos of the Yishuv HaYoshon. Despite the ban on secular studies being taught – R’ Yosef Chaim expressed no opposition to the proposal that secular subjects commonly taught in the general schools (Arabic, Arithmetic, Science, History, Writing…) be taught for a couple of hours a day in the Yeshivos of the Yishuv HaYoshon.
One of Jonathan’s points is that Charedim were making progress in these areas already and that the only thing all this stuff has been doing is creating a backlash. Charedim already were increasingly getting training for the workplace in special programs designed for them.And perhaps more importantly some were increasingly interested in fulfilling their military obligations through Nachal Charedi and Shachar. The sight of a Charedi in uniform was become commonplace and accepted in and around Charedi enclaves. But with the government trying to force it on all of them, Charedim in uniform are being barred from certain shuls… and some have been physically attacked and vilified in wall posters!
Jonathan: Instead of blaming Dov Lipman for this kind of disgusting backlash, shouldn’t you be in the forefront of blaming those who generate the motives behind this backlash?
Jonathan’s problem with Rabbi Lipman is not the only complaint being heard by the Charedi leadership in Israel. They have also complained that they have not heard a word from the Chardalim… those on the religious right wing of Religious Zionism who has in recent times sympathized with Charedi complaints about government intrusion into their religious lives. Why have these Religious Zionist leaders have been silent on this issue?
Well maybe it’s because they are on the other side on this issue. Maybe its because their schools have good Limudei Chol programs. And more importantly, their constituents not only serve in the military but thier Hesder students are known to be the bravest members of it – often volunteering in groups for the most dangerous assignments. They have certainly had their share of deaths and injury in combat. Maybe… just maybe that’s why the Religious Zioinist camp has been so silent!
Not that they think that none of their students should be exempt from army service.Some are. Students in their flagship Yeshiva, Merkaz HaRav, do not serve. They study Torah full time. That should be the paradigm for Charedim too.
Maybe that’s the ultimate reason that the RCA has invited Rabbi Lipman to keynote their convention. It may very well be that they agree with him.
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