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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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What Is the Biggest Problem Facing Judaism?

My own view of things is that there is a tremendous amount of disillusionment in the Orthodox world.
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But I do not agree that anecdotal experiences ought to be ignored. I don’t think Dr. Fried would say that either. I think what he is saying is that it ought not be the determining factor in what is the most important problem plaguing our society today. I think he would include anecdotal evidence in his study. How much weight he would give it is another question. But I don’t think he would ignore it. At least I don’t think he should.

In my view, just about all the responses had merit. I have discussed these issue many times right here on this blog. While I agree that they all need further study, I also believe they are essential problems facing us. I think any study would corroborate that. Which ones are greater or lesser is what study would tell us.

My own view of things is that there is a tremendous amount of disillusionment in the Orthodox world. For a multiplicity of reasons. I see it very often in the comments section of my blog. I attribute most of it to a failure of the educational system in just about every category mentioned by the respondents. Every single issue can – and should be dealt with by parents and educators. First in the home and then in school. And often it is not.

I do not believe that there is a single school in the entirety of Orthodoxy that has it completely right. There are tremendous failings in Jewish education that I think can be boiled down to 2 issues.

One is the failure to implement the dictum of Proverbs (Mishlei 22:6) Chanoch L’Naar Al Pi Darko – educate the child in his own way. Whether it is in the Charedi world of Torah only or in the Modern Orthodox world of academic pressure to get your child into the best universities. There is a lack of focus on those children that are either incapable or uninterested in those goals. To that extent they can become very disillusioned with the version of Orthodoxy they are part of.

Part of Chanoch L’Naar Al Pi Darko is the ability to effectively deal with some of the more serious questions of faith that young people are increasingly experiencing in the near instant exposure they get to information outside the classroom. Information that leads to difficult questions of faith. Leaving dysfunctional families and sex abuse aside – if I had to pick one thing that can hurt Judaism the most that would be it.

The other is something along the lines Jonathan Rosenblum mentioned. Young people are simply not inculcated with a sense of the importance of Kiddush Hashem versus Chilul HaShem. Although there are exceptions, there have been far too many instances in some communities that are oblivious to it. Which results in behavior that is a Chilul HaShem. One that they are not even aware they are doing until they get caught. The fact is that these kinds of ethics are not being taught in some schools.

Of course dysfunctional families and the way sex abuse is treated are both highly contributory to the fabric of Judaism too. In both cases, it ought to be a primary function of all of observant Jewry to rid these two maladies from our lives.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address Rabbi Weil’s concerns. Assimilation to the point of non-observance and even intermarriage is a huge problem that ought not to be ignored. Thankfully there are outreach organizations doing wonderful work in that department. Not the least of which is the OU’s own NCSY. Although by far there is not enough outreach in general to attack the enormity of the problem. How to change that paradigm is the topic of another post.

But before we try and change the world, we must first put our own house in order. Because if we don’t there will be a lot more assimilation and intermarriage happening. And it will be happening to us.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

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.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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