web analytics
December 23, 2014 / 1 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Best of Times, Worst of Times

As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.
charles-dickens

At the same time, mainstream Orthodox schools, including those that are centrist and modern in their orientation, enroll fewer students from marginally observant homes than used to be the case. The Orthodox day schools that for decades served as an effective instrumentality for outreach and kiruv are forfeiting that mission.

This decline is, in turn, mirrored by the weakened condition of the kiruv movement. While of course each individual who returns to Judaism represents a wonderful achievement, in the aggregate the number of those who embrace religious life has declined. Far more than we may be willing to acknowledge, kiruv is enveloped in an excess of publicity and claims, while the reality is in the other direction. This said, I acknowledge the devotion of those kiruv workers who toil with meager resources and against considerable odds to bring Torah into Jewish homes.

* * * * *

Our being on the losing or defensive side on public issues that are critical to our belief system and the wellbeing of our community seems not to have affected the mindset of our community or, for that matter, our leadership. Especially during election seasons, we act as if candidates for major office are our best friends, when in fact on the major issues that count for us they do not support our positions. This is true of gay rights, it is true of government aid to parochial schools and, at least by their silence, it is true of just about every other public issue that is important to us.

Nonetheless, our organizations play-act as if they are best friends with top officials and members of Congress, with meetings and press releases proclaiming what are termed to be great achievements. As sure as we have yomim tovim on our yearly calendar, the two main Orthodox organizations have their macher trips to Washington, meeting with congressmen and senators who tell them what they want to hear and then do nothing. Photo-ops and press releases are lame surrogates for meaningful achievements.

During election time, candidates invariably have their Orthodox groupies around them, men who dutifully smile and jump around as if they are on display. Chassidic Rebbes, including some who scarcely have a following, host candidates and act as if somehow our community derives benefits from these encounters. Our lay leaders routinely endorse candidates who routinely endorse positions that are anathema to us.

Before elections, in places like Boro Park and Flatbush, there are pronouncements signed by a long list of individuals identified as rabbis and community leaders saying that it is a sacred obligation to support a particular candidate. Invariably, there is an equally impressive list signed by persons identified as rabbis and community leaders declaring that it is a sacred obligation to support the opposing candidates. What we can be sure of is that we have an excess of presumed leaders who have very few followers.

What is evident at election time is indicative of a more serious deficit. We are bereft of leadership. We have no transcendent rabbinic leaders, which explains why on just about every critical issue of a halachic or hashkafic nature confronting our community there is a turn to Israeli rabbinic leaders for guidance. I wonder whether in all of our glorious history there has been a community of similar or even somewhat smaller size that has had the leadership deficit American Orthodoxy is now experiencing.

On the lay side, the story is similar. We are blessed with lay persons of enormous wealth, some of whom are generous in their charitable giving. But we have no lay leadership, no person with eloquence or ideas. We have check-writers. Less than two generations ago, during a period when we had great Torah giants, including Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Satmar Rebbe, we also had lay persons with ideas who were willing to do more than write or sign checks. They were determined to lead and they led. They spoke for our community and took positions on contemporary issues, doing so with the clear approval of Torah leaders.

So it seems that, at least in some respects, this isn’t the best of times for religious Jews. I might point out that it certainly isn’t the best of times for the Orthodox in Israel, although there is a greater tendency in Israel for rabbinic leaders in particular to keep their eye on what is important for our community.

About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years. He can be contacted at mschick@mindspring.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Best of Times, Worst of Times”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
What happened to the Internet access? (illustrative)
Plot Thickens in Sony Pictures North Korea Hack Attack Saga
Latest Indepth Stories
Hanukiyah created world famous Venetian Glass Blower
Maestro Gianni Toso

Let us become modern day Maccabees and seize the day. Embrace the challenge. Fight for Hashem.

Motta Gur overlooks the Old City with his troops during the Six Day War

Har HaBayit is still Biyadein; Through our actions, its fate is in our hands


What does the way we count the days of Chanukah come to teach us about living in the present?

Knesset and Menorah

Israel projects global material illumination not always the light of “morality” meant by the Navi

“Mr. Prime Minister, declare a unilateral ceasefire! Remember, Blessed is the peacemaker!”

“D-e-t-e-r-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n!”

Hamas is continuing to prepare its next war against Israel instead of improving conditions in Gaza

If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Marvin Schick

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

Front-Page-090514

Although I was not a Zionist, like most others I knew in Agudath Israel in which I was active, I was zionistic.

We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.

Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.

As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.

As we commemorate the fiftieth yahrzeit this Friday, the second day of Kislev, of Rav Aaron Kotler – the greatest Jew, in the opinion of even many of his fellow Torah luminaries, ever to set foot on North American soil – we are obligated to reflect on his achievements and the lessons he taught.

A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.

There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/best-of-times-worst-of-times/2013/09/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: