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Posts Tagged ‘Charedi’

Keeping Haredim Excited About Torah

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Many of us have heard about the books and stories coming from those who grew up haredi (ultra-orthodox), but have since adopted a modern lifestyle. But while we are rightfully concerned when these tales make headlines, in order to change the situation for the better, it is in our best interest to find new ways to infuse life and vitality into observant life; a vitality that is enduring unlike the fleeting temporarily of secular experience.

A Purim Tale

Being both highly sensitive and introverted has made living in major cities challenging. But while each and every outdoor adventure is a “stethoscope to the world” experience, this challenge also carries great potential.

It is because of this sensitivity that a story from Shushan Purim a few weeks back stuck with me. It occurred not long after my family and I moved into an apartment in Jerusalem.

The Happy Collector

When I arrived to pray and hear the megillah Shushan Purim morning, there was a collector there that stood out because of his exuberance. It is a mitzvah to give charity to the poor on Purim* day, so there he was with his basket in hand ready to collect. But there were two things different about this gentleman. The first, as mentioned, was that he was in a happy, exuberant mood. The second was that he was exclaiming that giving charity to him was an ultra-fulfillment of the mitzvah.

Now you can imagine the thought that came to mind: It is a mitzvah to give to anyone who is needy. So how exactly would giving to him be any better?

Then during prayer I received my answer. There he was again, still exuberant as ever, running around with his charity basket and … his son in tow.

That morning a father had two options. Either he could go to synagogue and collect quietly, perhaps even leaving his son at home so he shouldn’t remember Purim as the time when his father asks for charity all day. Or he could inject a healthy dose of folly, a holy spirit of folly, and make sure that even though he still had to collect, Purim should still remain an enjoyable one for him and his son.

Non-Obligatory Novelties

The thought then occurred to me: While technically giving charity to this man fulfilled the obligation like any Jewish person in need, something extra special did come from his happy behavior. That even in the face of adversity and challenge, he found a way to both remain happy himself and bring enjoyment to his son on Purim.

According to the Avnei Nezer, a child who does not know how to perform the hidur (beautification) of a mitzvah is not required to do so. For instance, whereas a child is not obligated to perform the hidur of shaking the lulav (the mitzvah is to hold it); nevertheless it is praiseworthy to teach the child to shake in order to appreciate the inner (non-obligated) life and soul of the mitzvah (see the full explanation here).

While giving charity to this father was legally the same as giving to any other person in need, through his decision to make the day happy for himself and his son, we learn a great lesson in education. Thinking back to that Purim day, his son will remember the fact that he and his father managed to enjoy a Purim during those difficult times, not whether the reasons his father gave were rational.

Teaching Novelty in Education

We started this article on how to market Torah to haredim with this story because it captures the life and exuberance that every educator should have when instructing a classroom of students.

We brought an extreme case to show that even marketing tactics can be praiseworthy under certain pressing circumstances. How much more so then in the case of an established hidur, whereby we teach it (e.g., to shake the lulav) to the child even though he is not yet obligated.

But the life of the mitzvot change from generation to generation. Therefore, a true educator has to be attuned to the new hidurim that give life and exuberance to the act of learning and performing these mitzvot.

For instance, in our generation we have been given the opportunity to learn Torah with its mathematics, the triangles and squares in the Torah. This imparts a tremendous sense of fun and enjoyment to learning Torah. Like a hidur (e.g., shaking the lulav) not knowing the Torah’s math doesn’t detract from the mitzvah of learning Torah. The child could make do with just learning the Mishnah and Talmud.

If the Torah’s math is not learnt in a particular cheder or yeshivah, they don’t have to do strange things in order to introduce it, but it’s certainly too bad, because the hidur, this way of learning, is what gives a lot of life and novelty to the learning, (for example, see our mathematical analysis of the Haggadah song, Who Knows One?).

Difference between Haredi and other Jewish Schools

Presumably both haredi and modern Jewish schools would be interested in learning the mathematics behind the Torah. What then is the difference between the two?

As explained in “When Torah Goes Viral” the marketing for modern environments is to explain the unification that is taking place between the Torah and the wisdom of the world (in our case, mathematics). So whereas the way to market Torah mathematics to haredi schools is to explain this concept of a non-obligatory hidur mitzvah, for more modern environments, the selling point is the unification taking place between these two seemingly disparate worlds.

For example, so far there are over 9,000 views of this class given at a modern orthodox high school on Torah and mathematics. Notice that during the class, Rabbi Ginsburgh assumes that the students already know what algebraic expressions are. The novelty that we present to these children then is that the Torah relates to the algebra, geometry, etc… that they have already been learning. So too, when marketing to modern audiences outside the classroom, we continue along this path by asking whether they would like to know the Torah behind E=MC2, Pythagorean Triples, Pi, Euler’s Theorem, Golden Ratio, and so on …

But haredi audiences don’t know what any of these things are. For example, instead of the Fibonacci sequence, we can begin by calling it by its more accurate name (the “love series of numbers”). While the content is the same, what changes is the approach.

A Call to These “Wayward” Youth

For instance, now that these formerly haredi youths have entered the modern world it may be more appropriate to reach out to them with unifications instead of hidurim. As mentioned, teaching hidurim should begin from a young age, even before they are obligated. But now that this child has presumably entered or passed adolescence, and has studied something in university or from popular books, we should now reach out to them with the second approach.

*For simplicity, I will continue to refer to the day of the story as Purim, even though this was Shushan Purim, the day when the megillah is read in Jerusalem.

Images of ‘the Other’

Monday, September 30th, 2013
Once again I find myself on a plane flying back from yet another wonderful Yom Tov experience in Israel. As I have said in the past, the community in Ramat Bet Shemesh where I spend time with my family is physically and spiritually beautiful… and so are all the people I encountered there.
But I was disappointed at the way the Charedim there see Chilonim (secular Israelis).  And by the same token I am aware of the fact that many Chilonim have an entirely negative attitude about Charedim. A young Charedi teenager I spoke to told me that whenever he passes though a secuar neighborhood, he gets stares and whispers. This young man would not hurt a fly. All he is interested in is studying Torah in his Yeshiva.
Why is this the case?
Images of ‘the other’ are heavily biased by what the media report about them. When the secular media report on the vile actions of extremist Charedim – that is how all Charedim are perceived.  They don’t know about the relatively peaceful nature of the vast majority of Charedim. They only see what the media reports. They see screaming, rabbinic leaders and politicians. They see rock throwers spitters.  The media does not report  about the peaceful lives and good deeds of this community because that isn’t news. Rock throwing and spitting is. Even if it is only done by the few, that is how the Charedim are seen as a whole.
I am reminded of a story I read in one of the Charedi magazines. I do not recall the details but a Charedi woman saw a void in how patients are treated and filled it with tons of Chesed. She does so without discrimination – giving of herself to anyone in need regardless of how religious or secular they are
One time when she was serving a Chiloni woman , she was thanked and then was asked a ‘favor’: “Would she mind telling her people to stop throwing rocks at her?”
The Charedi woman took umbrage at that since she had never thrown so much as a pebble at anyone in her life.  I can understand why she felt that way. But she should have asked herself, why do they hate us so much? And what can be done to change attitudes?
In my view, the problem is that the two communities do not interact with each other. They therefore have no clue what the other side is really like. Their perceptions are driven by a secular media whose job it is to present hard news and not fluff pieces…. And by the rhetoric of by which the Cheredi media characterizes the Chiloni world. Each side rejects thee other and will have nothing to do with each other.
Jonathan Rosenblum had an article in the Sukkos edition of Mishpacha Magazine wherein he tried to make this point. He quoted a Drasha that explains each of the Daled Minim (Lulav and Esrog etc.) as the four segments of Jewry, The Esrog represents those Jews who have both Torah and Mitzvos; The Lulav –those with Torah alone, The Hadassim – Mitzvos alone; and the Aravos – those with neither Torah nor Mitzvos. While this is certainly an oversimplification of reality – one might say that the Aravos apply to the Chiloni world. But God tells us to combine all four Minim for the Mitzvah to be properly fulfilled.
The point is that all segments of the Klal are needed to fulfill the Mitzvah of The Daled Minim.  And this should be the attitude of us all. We all need each other. We ought to interact with each other and get to what we all are really like. We can discuss the issue that divide us and hopefully come to a resolution that will be acceptable to all. But even if we don’t we will have accomplished a very big step toward Achdus.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Whose Values Do They Represent?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

I don’t see how anyone can claim that they are extremists who are an exception to the rule – amounting to only a small handful of Haredim. I am talking about people who are constantly degrading the values of those they disagree with by acting in truly disgusting ways.

It has happened again. From Israel Hayom:

Shear Yashuv residents inflamed to find haredi tourists bathing in a memorial fountain near the town, which was dedicated to 73 IDF soldiers who lost their lives in a terrible 1997 helicopter accident • Haredi tourists: “Memorials constitute idolatry.”

This kind of thing happens so frequently and in so many different places, it cannot possibly be attributed to a bunch of extremists that are not representative of Haredi values. And yet every time something like this gets reported in the media, there is always a Haredi apologist out there somewhere telling us we shouldn’t judge all Haredim by the actions of a few.

I of course agree with that in principle. And as I have said many times, most Haredim don’t do these kinds of things. Certainly not moderate Haredim but even right wing Haredim. They realize it is a Chilul HaShem. However – as I’ve said many times – the behavior though not approved of actually occurs precisely because of the Haredi values exemplified by the above response of those Chareid tourists.

Is there anyone who thinks that the sentiment expressed by them isn’t believed by them? It expresses a value of the majority of Haredi community.

I don’t know that the majority of the Haredi world actually considers such memorials to be idolatry. But I think it’s safe to say that they do completely characterize such memorials at the very least as un-Jewish. And something we ought not recognize in any way. The only difference between those Haredi bathers and the media apologists is that the apologists realize that disrespecting the memorial will be seen by the entire rest of the world as disrespecting the dead being memorialized.

So Rebbeim in Yeshivos advise their students never do anything that will be seen to dishonor lost loved ones in public. That would be considered a Chilul HaShem.

But those tourists probably think it is a Chilul HaShem – NOT to stand up for the truth. They therefore acted the way they did  with pride – having no problem desecrating that memorial by bathing in it.

The idea of showing one face to the public and another one internally was illustrated recently when a  Rosh Yeshiva or Rebbe described what he tells his students about how to act when sirens sound on Yom HaZikaron. He said when the sirens sound while they are in the confines of the Yeshiva, they are to be ignored. When they are out in public, they should stand silently along with the rest of the country. Why? Because it is not a Jewish way to memorialize the dead. Doing so in private therefore has no meaning to them. In public, however, they are to ‘play along’.

One may ask, what’s so terrible about that? What’s wrong with teaching students about the proper Jewish way to mourn the dead? There is of course nothing wrong and everything right about that.

What is wrong here is that it is more than about teaching proper Jewish thought.They aren’t just teaching their students how to properly mourn the dead. They are teaching them that Israel is run by a bunch of Apikurism (heretics) who ‘ape the Goyim’. Students are taught to disrespect everything about the government of Israel and Israeli society. Israel is constantly being vilified to Haredi students by their Haredi teachers.

The smarter ones also realize that there should be no public displays of disrespect to the Israeli populace. For example in how they mourn their dead. That would be a Chilul HaShem. Nonetheless the lesson constantly taught and heard over and over again by students is that Israel is evil and if not for the Chilul HaShem it is indeed correct to dishonor the ‘Goyishe way’ in which Israel does everything. Including the way in which the dead are memorialized.

There are of course some Mechanchim who do not make those caveats to their students. Especially in places like Meah Shearim. Is it any wonder then that there are Haredim who feel free to desecrate a memorial in the way these Haredim did? They are merely expressing their true Hashkafos – oblivious to the Chilul HaShem – thinking that it is a Kiddush HaShem!

That is why when these bathing tourists were asked about it, they responded the way they did. It is the same kind of thinking had by Haredim who held a barbecue in a public park this past Yom HaZikaron while the rest of Israel was somberly mourning soldiers killed in action. ‘It’s not the Jewish way to mourn this way – and by golly we’re going to teach these ‘evil’- or at best ignorant Jews by example what we really think of it!’

It’s the same kind of thinking that goes on when a woman get’s spat upon because the spitter does not approve of the way she dresses. This too happened recently in the city of Ashdod recently. From Ynet:

A, a 15-year-old girl and her mother complained that a haredi man asked the girl not to walk by a yeshiva located in the city center, and even spat on her because of the way she was dressed.

The girl was walking along the street Monday, as she does everyday, to pick up her 6-year-old little sister from kindergarten. At a distance of a kilometer and a half away from her home, the girl – who wore a tank top and a skirt – was approached by a haredi man who yelled at her: “Walk behind the parking lot’s wall”

At first, A., did not understand what he was talking about, and asked the man “Why?” to which he replied “Because you’re immodest, there are people studying Torah here.”

A., who did not want to confront the man picked up her pace and defiantly told him “I’m not going to,” to which he answered “Why are you so stubborn?” and then spat on her.

This is becoming so common it almost as though it were the norm in Haredi circles. I can understand why a Haredi man concerned with the Kedusha of his Yeshiva would be upset at a woman wearing a tank top passing by. And even though I would disagree with him doing it since she has the right to dress as any she chooses in public – I would understand if he politely asked if she would in the future dress more modestly around the Yeshiva.

But when he demands it and then spits on her when she doesn’t comply, that is a Chilul HaShem even though in his own mind he thinks it is a Kiddush HaShem . As would all the spitters, screamers, and haters all over the world who would act the same way under similar circumstances.

As if that weren’t enough let us not forget about the bus ‘bombers’. No… not the Islamist  suicide bombers. The Haredi ones in Bet Shemesh who yesterday smashed the windsheild of a bus and broke other windows with a hammer after after a woman refused to sit apart from men. They later attacked two other buses by ‘bombing’ them with stones and breaking their windows.

So the next time you hear a Haredi spokesman say that these people do not represent them, I would take that with a huge grain of salt.

Update
The woman who was asked to move to the back of the bus was interviewed by a religious radio station in Israel. She described the situation as follows. As a new immigrant unfamiliar with sex segregated buses in her new community she sat down at the front of the bus with her young children and all the packages she was carrying.

She was then immediately but politely asked to move to the back by one of the Haredi women who came up to her. At first she refused because of all the packages and her children. She was offered help with all that and she then agreed to move. The bus driver became irate when he saw this and decided to call the police. That is apparently when all hell broke loose.

In my view, this changes little except the precipitating event caused by the bus driver. The bus driver may have been foolish and impetuous in making that call when the situations seemed to be taking care of itself.

But the rioting Haredim that responded by damaging that bus and other buses nearby is what ought to be focused on here. This is not a civilized response to a grievance against what a bus driver did. And although the bus driver should have perhaps not exacerbated the situation, clearly he too acted out of his indignation at what he thought was wrong.

If one will say that I too am being apologetic, I would only ask that you compare how the bus driver reacted to what he saw as an injustice – to how these Haredim reacted to what they saw as an injustice. Had those Haredim reacted in a similarly civilized manner, there would be no story. And no Chilul HaShem.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

God’s Army

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

You might think the army is the single most effective tool for bringing everyone together in Israel. It is a brilliantly successful citizen’s army designed to protect the nation, an army of the people, by the people, for the people. After all, the struggle to survive is the most primordial of human motivations. Surely we can all agree that we need to ensure survival? But no, sadly, we cannot.

Many religious Israelis strongly believe that sitting and studying Torah all the time is the best possible defense against our enemies and that there is no need for an army because God will protect us.

Others believe there might be a need for an army, but let other people endure the hardships, risks and time, while they pursue a scholar’s life, regardless.

Some agree to a compromise; genuine scholars ought to be granted the privilege of devoting their lives to study but less motivated young men might do well to have some army training and enhanced prospects of getting a job.

And there are, of course, other completely committed religious Jews willingly serve, and they do remarkably well, too. Increasingly, the elite soldiers are coming from the religious nationalist sector of the community, committed ideologically to defending the land, the religion, and the ancient borders promised by the Bible.

Don’t think that secular Israelis are not just as divided.

Some are eager to join the army for its camaraderie and training that in some areas equips them to be captains of industry and internet entrepreneurs.

Many argue that the army is an important tool of education and socialization and the reason that Israel has done better than any other state in integrating such a huge proportion of new immigrants from such diverse languages, backgrounds, and cultures.

Others think it imposes a simplistic, false ideological sense of militarism that conflicts with their sense of morality.

Some refuse to serve because they prefer to spend their time on sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Some are cowards.

And some oppose occupation and object to settlements. They do not wish to serve in what they see as the armed wing of corrupt politicians or of governments whose political position they find offensive.

Some Israelis think it intolerable that all Charedi men do not serve in the army and play their part in defending their land.

Others think it’s a jolly good thing they don’t because we all know what happens when fanatics get hold of guns. And no army can allow its officers to be dictated to by rabbis. And it would affect the current role of women in the army. Besides, many of them are simply not army material.

Some argue that an elite voluntary force would be better than forcing people into conscription. Modern warfare needs fewer bodies in boots on the ground and more technical brain power. Others say that brain power is the key nowadays and Talmudic academies are well known for increasing brain power.

And we should not forget that there is a middle option of community service. After all, a similar divide over women serving in the first place was resolved by allowing Orthodox girls to serve in more protected and homogeneous groups.

In addition to the variety of opinions, misinformation and mistrust abounds. Many secular Israelis believe that no religious Jews serve in the army altogether. 30% currently do. Most religious Jews think all secular Jews are Godless atheists. Each side tells lies about the other, and each side’s press churns out half-truths and false rumors about the other. The more one side pushes back, the more aggressive the other gets.

This past week we have read about Charedi soldiers being attacked when they returned to their communities wearing army uniform instead of black hats. There was a story about Charedi protesting against other Charedi young men attending a military passing out parade. On the other hand, there are stories about secular commanders making life difficult for religious conscripts: refusing to address their religious concerns and victimizing them. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. This inter-community tension has always been a significant feature of Israeli life.

Whether one agrees with one side or the other, there is a genuine cultural conflict of values and attitudes. Secular Israelis have a value system closer to Hollywood than Jerusalem. Charedi youngsters are brought up segregated and protected enclaves. Their leadership fears that if they are suddenly throw then into a mixed secular environment only the strongest would be able to resist the seduction of a liberal society. But of course one could ask why are there so many brought up within the walls of the Charedi ghettos who still succumb to temptation even without going into the army.

A Haredi Role Model

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

I often distinguish between moderate Haredim and extremist Haredim. But the truth is that there is probably a continuum between the two extremes that contains an entire spectrum of Haredi behavior. It is therefore difficult to find the cutoff line between the extreme and the moderate.

Without trying to write a discourse about what makes someone extreme or moderate – which would probably take a book like many of the subjects I discuss here – I think we can say that at least at the polar ends of the spectrum we can tell who is extreme and who is moderate. I happen to believe that the vast majority of Haredim fall into the moderate category.

One of the things I have been saying is that the wave of the future belongs to moderate Haredim who along with the less populous right wing Modern Orthodox community will (and perhaps already does) comprise the largest and most unified segment of Orthodox Jewry.

An example of how this type of Haredi Jew might be seen in the person of 36 year old Shraga Zatlzman of London, England. Mr. Zaltzman attended the very Haredi Gateshead Yeshiva (where Rav Matisyahu Salomon was once the Mashgiach) and then Yeshivas Mir in Yeurshalyim. Thus firmly establishing his Haredi orientation. But Mr. Zaltzman did something else. He attended Bar Ilan University and received a master’s degree in business.

In 2007 he was hired by a Haredi Tzedaka organization that helps people find jobs. The people he helps are not only Haredi Jews, but any Jew in search of employment. In fact in one instance he helped a Muslim eager to study in a modest environment.

80% of the people in an internship program they run are not even religious. The organization does not charge for its basic services and unlike other placement services that tend to operate from the employer’s perspective, this one operates from the job seeker’s perspective.

What is the environment like in this organization? From a JTA article by Miriam Shaviv:

[D]espite the religious distance between the organization and many of its beneficiaries, Zaltzman says there has never been friction with the people who walk through its doors.

This is a win/win for everyone. Haredim who have not been prepared for the workplace because of the rigorous Talmud study programs in Yeshiva (at the expense of any education or preparation at all for careers in the outside world) can now be brought up to speed. Many will get on the job training and otherwise learn how the marketplace of careers and jobs work.

It fosters an environment of tolerance and appreciation on both sides of the Hashkafic spectrum. It teaches those who have been sheltered from the outside world how to better deal with it. It teaches that there are other religious Jews in the world who are fine and decent people – God fearing just like them. And it teaches that non religious Jews are fine and decent people too as well as non Jews. Even Muslims.

It also teaches Modern Orthodox Jews, non religious Jews, and even non-Jews that the Haredi world consists mostly of fine and decent people too, unlike the miscreant extremists we constantly read about in the media. Mr. Zaltzman is a moderate Haredi who can be a role model for all of us.

This does not mean by any stretch that the poverty that is rampant and increasing in the Haredi world has been solved. That will only happen when there is a paradigm shift in education that will allow for more Parnassa preparation.

The organization which Mr. Zaltzman heads is a huge boost for Haredim. More than that it helps find jobs for anyone who needs one and applies. People of all religious backgrounds. But perhaps its biggest achievement is in fostering what I believe to be an unprecedented climate of tolerance and Achdus.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

More Religious? Or Going Off the Deep End?

Monday, October 29th, 2012

They want to have total isolation from the rest of the world? I think perhaps we should finally give it to them. It pains me to say so but based on what I am reading in their very own media, going off the deep end is not an exaggeration. It may even be an understatement! It is a wonder that they do not have a bigger OTD problem than they already do. I guess that their system works very well for them that way.

First the good news. In the extremist enclaves of both Chasidic world and non-Chasidic Yeshiva world, there are very positive things that we can all look up to. Their community is very warm and loving. It is almost like having one very big extended family. They learn and promote the values of the Torah as they understand them.

Although it is true for both worlds, the Chasidic communities emphasize things like Chesed programs while in the Yeshiva world there is a stronger emphasis on Torah study. Their community is saturated with a system of family values unlike any other. They get married young and have lots of children. And have a rather effective educational system for their purposes. Chasidim even encourage working for a living albeit without the benefits of a higher education in most cases. (There are exceptions.)

They celebrate life-cycle events with great joy as they do Shabbos and Yom Tov. They live their daily lives with fervent religious devotion. But there is a negative side. A very negative side.

Theirs is a formula that combines all of the above with isolation. There is a complete break from the rest of the world by living their lives in ways that make it difficult if not impossible to participate in anything outside of their own Daled Amos.

Among Chasidim this formula is greatly enhanced by their manner of dress, their pejorative attitude towards non Jews, and their extremely negative attitude about secular education – treating the native tongue (English) as if it were spiritually unclean – as opposed to the ‘spiritually clean’ language of Yiddish. They learn English only as a second language for purposes of survival in a non Jewish culture. I can’t imagine anyone trying to escape it without major difficulty. Although the Yeshiva world does not go that far, there is no shortage of those who desire to catch up with them.

Sliding to the right doesn’t even begin to explain how far off the deep end some of these ridiculous extremes go.

How far? An article has been published by a bold and courageous women who lives in one of these enclaves. Mrs. Tzipi Caton wrote the cover story in last week’s Family First. This is the weekly woman’s supplement that accompanies Mishpacha Magazine. (Yes, I do sometimes read women’s magazines.)

Mrs. Caton is a decidedly Charedi woman. Her Shtreimal wearing Chasidic husband learns full time in a Kollel. They live in a very large Charedi neighborhood that has many exclusive Charedi schools to choose from.

She wanted her nursery school aged daughter, Dassa, to have the finest Charedi education she could provide. So Mrs. Caton applied to some of the more exclusive schools in her neighborhood. Long story short, after applying to six schools, she was rejected by them all. She is apparently not Frum enough for them. What were some of the issues? Let’s start with the contact Mrs. Caton had with the principal of one school. From the article:

She made no effort to hide the way she looked me over from sheitel to shoes. She asked exactly one question about my maiden name, and then sent me on my merry way.

Among the reasons that school rejected her daughter was the following:

(They) didn’t like that I went to an all inclusive Bais Yaakov high school. It didn’t look good for Bais Bina, a chassidish pre-school, to accept children whose mothers didn’t grow up wearing beige stockings.

Here are some of the questions on an application form of another school:

* What (bungalow) colony do you attend?
* Where is it located?
* Who owns the colony?
* List two references from said colony.
* How many times a year do you go up for Shabbos?
* (Is your daughter’s) maternal grandfather, preferred to be referred to as “Rabbi” or “Mister.”

A friend of Mrs. Caton who was granted an interview by one of those schools for her own daughter – something Mrs. Caton did not get. Here is what happened:

(T)he principal called me aside (and) said, “Mrs. Rosenberg, you are 98% of what we are looking for in a prospective parent. The 2% holding me back from full acceptance is a certain something about the way you look. If you would agree for me to take you shopping so that I can reevaluate your wardrobe and help you dress more to the manner that we find appropriate, I would be happy to allow your daughter into our nursery class.”

Another school Mrs. Caton applied to does not allow their parent mothers to chew gum. Or to use cell-phones.

Another school rejected them without any explanation simply saying that her family did not share the values of the school. What values? Keep reading:

This particular school did not allow their teachers to quote any litvish sources in their curriculum, including R’ Moshe Feinstein…

The last school she applied to ended up rejecting her because she had been rejected by so many other schools. How’s that for irony.

I have discussed this with a reliable source who lives in a community like this. Here is what I was told:

[T]he minute a school opens with the intention of being small and select, no matter what denomination they are, this is what happens.

Another thing- when one school in the neighborhood enforces a rule, all the other schools rush to copy it at the risk of seeming “less frum” than the others. So when one school told their parent body that their women were not allowed to wear “pony sheitels” the rest all sent out adjusted handbooks within the week. The same went for banning shoes that were any color but Navy or Black, and yeshivas requiring their boys wear velvet yarmulkas that are composed of “six” slices vs the more “modern” “four slice.” And now that the Chassidish schools in Monsey banned mothers from driving, the driving chassidim have to choose between a chinuch with their mesorah or being a mother who can independently shop for groceries…

Normally I might say live and let live. People have a right to choose any lifestyle they wish, no matter how ridiculous. But when it becomes the ideal of a community that considers itself to be the most religious among us, someone has to call them on it… and expose just exactly what they consider to be more religious.

To make matters even worse, it all comes with a price tag paid for in part by the government. Here is what my source told me:

All of these schools receive government funding because they “offer a service to the community.” Exactly what community are they offering services to? The non-driving community? The non-gum-chewing community? The community where they only wear white stockings on Shabbos and don’t wear earrings that hang below the earlobe? (I kid you not, these are all real examples of the rules) If the politicians knew where their community funding was going – would the schools continue to get those grants? I wonder.

Government funding?! These schools should not even be supported communally, let alone be supported by the government.

I think at this point, we ought to at least give them what they want. Complete isolation from the rest of the world. Including all normal Charedim!

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The Rabbi’s Daughter

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Rav Shlomo Aviner is one of the most revered Rabbonim in Religious Zionism. He is the Rosh HaYeshiva of Ateret Yerushalyim (formerly known as Ateret Cohanim) and the Rav of the city of Bet El. Although I have had some differences with him, I have also been in agreement with him on many issues. Most recently on his approach to modern technology.

But whether one agrees with his Hashkafos or not, there is not a scintilla of doubt that he is a great man. He is a Talmid Chacham, a Posek, and a leader that virtually everyone in the Religious Zionist movement looks up to. Religious Zionist Jews can easily point with pride to this man. That he is an Anav – humble in his ways; an Ehrliche Jew; and role model of leadership is an understatement. Even his Charedi detractors will I’m sure agree with that as will many secular Jews who have met him.

And yet he along with two other prominent Religious Zionist rabbis in Israel have fallen victim to the OTD (Off the Derech) phenomenon. Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rav David Bigman, and Rav Yoram Tzohar each have a daughter that has departed from the observant ways of their parents. So for those parents who have OTD children, you are not alone. There are some very prominent people who join you.

One may ask: How can I publicize something like this about such prominent leaders in Klal Yisroel, since it might be embarrassing to them? The answer is that they do not hide it. They willingly participated in a film that tells their story.

I watched the film. It is one of the most emotionally draining things I have ever watched. I saw lots of pain in this film. Not just the pain of the parents. But the pain of the three young women who are their daughters.

As Gil Student commented at the website where this film is located:

It took a lot of courage for the daughters to appear on this film. And a lot for the fathers and mothers, as well. Not too many rabbis would be willing to do that.

I think that is very true. I have read about such stories in the Charedi world. But they are always done anonymously. The embarrassment or fallout for them and the rest of their families must be too great for them to bear.

Most often when stories like this are told it is indeed the pain of the parents that is emphasized. But as I just pointed out I saw even greater pain in these 3 young women who rejected observance. The film does not go directly into why each one of them went OTD. Although in one case it is hinted that there were unanswered questions about the existence of God.

In all 3 cases, the free life they chose came at a price. They seemed to all love their families and even respect them. But they somehow did not buy into what they had been taught even though it seems like the rest of their siblings did.

I have to ask: Why? Why did they do it? Why have they left the faith? What compelled them to do so? Why them and not their siblings? It could hardly be dysfunction. The families did not look dysfunctional at all. If they were, some of their other siblings would surely have joined them.

It could hardly be what is commonly referred to as Prikas Ol – the desire to just be free of their Jewish responsibilities. There is too much pain in their eyes for that. They were each brought up in great homes, it seems. They were taught Halacha, Hashkafa, Jewish values, and ideology and they somehow just did not buy into it. So much so that they have openly chosen a non observant lifestyle.

During the course of the film one can see that the parents were not dismissive of them. The love was still there, the relationship still close, and there did not even seem to be any residual animus between parent and daughter.

That is what made it so sad for me: All that love. All that pain.

The parents must feel that they somehow failed the child. And the child feels that she has disappointed the parent.

These young women are not bad people. They do not seem to have troubled souls. Raised in a completely religious environment they somehow made a decision to live another lifestyle that does not include Mitzvah observance. Somehow the importance of that never attached to them. One can certainly not blame their home environment. It also seems from the film that these three leading Rabbonim were good parents.

One can speculate about some of the factors involved. The opening scene shows a video being played by Rav Aviner’s daughter, Tamar, that shows 2 animated figures walking in circles – one of whom is always in the shadow of the other.

Another segment deals with the pressure of being the daughter of a rabbinic leader – always trying to live up to the greater expectations of others because of who her father is. Maybe that kind of pressure was too much to endure. And after trying to live up to those higher standards expected of her she just gave up. I don’t know.

One thing I think I can glean from this film is that religious leadership has a price. One that a child may end up paying. The pressures that brings to bear on children can easily be underestimated and perhaps unaddressed by the parent. Going OTD can certainly be a result.

I have to give credit to both the parents and the children for allowing themselves to be exposed to the world. Perhaps we can all learn something about parenting – that is not immediately obvious even to the best of us.

I must also give additional credit to these parents for not letting go of their children. For still loving them and accepting them as they are. Not that they approve of their decisions. Of course they don’t. But that they can somehow live with it and perhaps even hope for a return to Torah and Mitzvos someday. They will also be able to have a positive relationship with their grandchildren and influence their lives in positive ways.

There is nothing to be gained by rejection. That will only cause estrangement and resentment. None of these young women are anti religious. One can, I think, detect a certain respect for it even though they have rejected it for themselves. Loving a child who went OTD can only benefit them. And you.

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