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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Charedi’

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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Is This Man a Charedi Hater?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

In its most recent edition, Ami Magazine has accused Professor Samuel Heilman – a distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College of hating Charedim. I am all too familiar with accusations like this as I am often accused of being a Charedi hater myself. But the truth is that neither I nor Professor Heilman are such a thing.

Professor Heilman was interviewed for the article by Yossi Krausz and despite a fairly peasant encounter where no animus was shown towards anyone Charedi the conclusion was that Professor Heilman nonetheless still hates Charedim.

Mr. Krausz bases that accusation on the fact in his many books and articles on the subject Professor Heilman makes note of the problems in the Charedi world and attempts to explain them from a sociological perspective that is unflattering to them.

But as an expert in the field he certainly has a right to analyze them in ways that he believes to be accurate. Does that make him a Charedi hater – as the blurb on the front page of the magazine would have you believe?

I don’t think so. In fact it is completely unfair to characterize him that way. Professor Heilman is an Orthodox Jew. He is observant of the Mitzvos and is even Koveah Itim – setting aside time daily to learn Torah. What he has done is study the behavior of certain segments of Jewry and drawn conclusions as to why they behave in a certain way and sometimes cause a Chilul HaShem.

The fact is that there are such Jews among Charedim – as there are among all segments of Jewry. There are bad Jews everywhere that make us all look bad. Charedim cannot be left out of the equation just because they claim to be more religious than any other segment. The fact is that the more religious they claim to be the greater the stain of sin is seen upon them.

Whether that stain is in cheating on your taxes, or laundering money, or protecting sex abusers or any other evil – when a Charedi Jew does it, the negative statement made by them is magnified. So indeed they deserve more scrutiny and greater criticism. The damage to the reputation of the Jewish people by the most visibly religious among us is much greater and so too is the Chilul HaShem.

Professor Heilman has suggested sociological explanations for such behavior based on his studies and analyses – using his professional expertise in doing so. That does not make him a Charedi hater. It makes him an honest evaluator of the people he studies.

Even if he errs occasionally in his perceptions and assessments, that too does not make him a hater. Everybody is entitled to be wrong once in a while. That does not mean he hates anyone.

Does he have biases when he makes these evaluations? I’m sure he does. We all bring our biases into anything we say and do, including in the case of Professor Heilman – a sociological analyses of a group of people. But as an acknowledged expert in the field, his views should be valued far more than any lay person’s evaluation. And he should certainly not be accused of being a hater… even if it can be pointed out that he erred in some of those evaluations.

This is what Ami did. They took some of his statements and showed where he was wrong. A mistranslation here – a misreading there. Over reliance on others who weren’t as qualified as he is in studying and evaluating the group. But you can’t dismiss the totality of his work and claim an anti Charedi bias when the facts often speak for themselves. One need not go any further than this blog to see multiple instances of the kinds of problems cited by Professor Heilman in his books… and explanations that run the same way in many cases.

Just to cite one example the article makes mention of the dual way that the Chasidic community relates to their own people and outsiders. They point to a misreading of an ad that promises a 3 million dollar distribution of funds from a Pesach campaign to the poor of Williamsburg while the English translation says it is less than half that amount. Ami points out an error in interpreting the Yiddish and when examined closely the sign reads exactly the same way in both languages.

While that may have been a particular error in that case, I have personally experienced such duality in that neighborhood. One may recall my mentioning in a previous post about reading a sign on the door of a clothing shop in Wiliamsburg’s shopping district on Lee street that said “Closed” in English and “Open” in Yiddish! The duality is there –even if the particular example used by Professor Heilman was mistaken.

I understand the umbrage taken by Charedim at Professor Heilman’s statements. No one likes to be criticized, especially when some of the criticisms are seen as inaccurate. But if they would look in the mirror they might just see a bit of what Professor Heilman saw. These are things which are obvious to everyone but themselves. There is a lot of good about the Charedi world of places like Williamsburg. But it is not all good.

I’m not saying that Professor Heilman is always right. But he isn’t always wrong either. When someone his stature of points out some problems, instead of being so defensive they ought to take note of them and try to fix them. Certainly calling him a Charedi hater solves nothing.

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Reflections on My Trip to Israel

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

I’m on my way back to Chicago. Unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to post anything today except for this short note. I left Israel shortly after Yom Tov Sheni ended. I will not be arriving in Chicago until Wednesday afternoon.

It was great spending Yom Tov with my son, daughter in law, and 7 Israeli grandchildren.

Ramat Bet Shemesh A is a great place to visit and to live. I met all kinds of people there on all sides of the Hashkafic spectrum and every single one of them welcomed me as if I were one of their own.

Despite some of my early negative observations – it still seemed like there was a tremendous sense of Achdus in many respects. The Shul I davened at was very Charedi and yet a great number of regular attendees there are Dati Leumi – Kipa Seruga, no jacket or hat. Even an occasional Israeli solider in full uniform can be found  catching a Minyan there. All are welcome.

There are Hashkafic differences that have led to some of the things I described in an earlier post. But at the same time there is what I just now described. Hard to explain it but that’s the way it seems to be there.

I guess if you avoid talking Hashkafa or politics with your ideological opponents, you can get along marvelously. Is that enough? Not sure.

Gotta go. Next new post: Thursday.

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The Downside of Religious Idealism

Friday, October 5th, 2012

After thinking about yesterday’s post, I realized that there is a method to this madness. Why is there so much animosity between Charedi and DL/RZ (Dati Leumi/Religious Zionist) factions? I can’t fully answer the question. But I do have some thoughts about it. I think it is because Israelis are far more idealistic about their religious values – especially those who make Aliyah.

Moving to Israel is not easy. No matter how much of a religious Zionist one is or how committed a Charedi is to learning in an Israeli Yeshiva – leaving the culture one grew up in is difficult. I don’t think most people even realize just how ingrained that culture is in them until they leave. It becomes virtually a part of one’s identity. But even if they do realize it, the sincerely committed make Aliyah anyway – difficult though it may be to pick up and move to a distant land where the culture and way of life is so different.

They do it because the values most important to them over-ride all that ingrained culture. They believe that being a Jew in the fullest sense of the word can best be fulfilled only in the holy land. They are defined mostly by those religious ideals.

It is one thing to be a die-hard Cub’s fan. But compared to living in Eretz Yisroel being a Cub’s fan is almost meaningless. Oh… one may still be interested in whether his hometown sports team is doing well. But on the scale of things important, it is way down on the list.

This is true for those with the Dati Leumi Hashkafos as well as those with Charedi Hashkafos.

The religious way of life for Charedim in Israel is a far superior to that of America. Yom Tov in one of the many religious enclaves like Ramat Bet Shemesh is filled with Limud HaTorah. I have observed that there are Shiurim given daily on Chol HaMoed by various Roshei Yeshiva and other religious personalities daily in one Shul after another. One can walk into a Shul Beis HaMedrash on any given Chol HaMoed morning and find it packed with young people – mostly Charedim – learning B’Chavrusa till the earliest Mincha at about 12:30 PM.

Teffila B’Tzibur in most places is taken far more seriously… and takes longer on the average than most American Shuls. This is true for both communities. On Chol HaMoed afternoons, many parks, zoos, and other leisure type areas are filled with huge numbers of Charedi families enjoying the facilities. You can tell it is Yom Tov all over the land. In other words the lifestyle of a Jew is lived far more fully in Israel than in most communities in America. Even Boro Park.

The problem lies in the Hashkafic values of these two dedicated groups and the intensity of adherence to them. The Hashkafos do not coincide. Although there is some overlap since both communities are observant after all – there is apparently not enough for any kind of harmonious relationship. The values end up clashing. Each side feels their values are the correct ones and the values of other religious Jews are actually detrimental to their goals. It is because both camps are so idealistic that they are so uncompromising.

To a religious Zionist, making Aliyah is an important focus of his life. Once in Israel supporting the Medina, protecting and defending it via military service is a part of it. As is being a materially productive member of the society.

While most religious Zionists value learning Torah and are Koveah Itim (establish regular times for Torah learning) they firmly believe that most Jews should first support their families and be productive members of society. Not that they oppose learning Torah full time for the elite. They don’t. But they do not support it for the masses.

They therefore see the masses of Charedim not doing their part for the Medina and resent it. Especially when it is accompanied by disparagement of the Medina.

To the Charedi – learning Torah L’Shma is the best thing any Jew can do. It is the epitome of Judaism. They strive to learn Torah at great personal sacrifice… in most cases willing to live in poverty to achieve that end.

Unholy Behavior

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

The enmity I have observed between groups here in the holy land has been a source of great disappointment to me. Not that I didn’t know it exists. But I have encountered numerous instances of it I and did not realize the extent of it.

Some examples:

A young 17 year old Charedi girl I know who takes public transportation to her seminary in Jerusalem told me that she constantly gets unfriendly stares from secular Jews all the time. But there was one situation she described that really disgusted me. Over the summer she was a lifeguard instructor for other Charedi girls in her community. The organization she worked for rented a pool from a woman in a Dati Leumi (DL) neighborhood near her home.

One fine day that woman came out of her house and told her she was no longer going to continue renting her pool to them. Why? Because she was embarrassed by having so many Charedi girls hanging around her pool!

Just this morning I spoke to a young American woman who made Aliyah over 20 years ago and mentioned that very few of her fellow high school graduates made Aliyah. She mentioned a few names of those who did, and in the same breath she said that two of them became Charedi so they didn’t really count.

And then there is the Charedi fellow who I hear constantly putting down the DL community. Why? Because of the very thing I just described. And because he constantly hears them denigrating his lifestyle of learning Torah L’Shma full time. The anger I heard in his voice against DLs was palpable. And frightening!

These observations were made here in Ramat Bet Shemesh A. But this is not a local issue.

One need only recall the incident last year at that DL elementary school that borders Ramat Bet Shemesh B (RBS B). The taunting by Charedi extremists of 8 year old Na’ama Margolis is enough to make any normal person angry… and (right or wrong) hateful of all Charedim by extension.

It is hard to separate the extremists from the decent – even hard core Charedim like those in Ramat Bet Shemesh B when the protests and disavowals by the rest of the community and their leadership are as tepid as they have thus far been. Which – as I have mentioned in the past – tells me that they are secretly not all that unhappy with those extremists. They do after all share their goals if not their methods.

So of course there is DL enmity towards Charedim which understandably extends to even the moderate ones. Meanwhile the secular Jews see media reports of this kind of extremist garbage which serves only to increase their enmity towards Charedim.

It thus becomes a vicious cycle. Charedim, even the moderate ones do not appreciate their values being attacked. On the other hand DLs and secular Jews do not appreciate what they see as Charedi values increasingly being forced upon them.

There are two stories in the media that illustrate this unfortunate attitude quite clearly.

One story was written by my cousin, Elana Maryles Sztokman. She describes a beautiful park near her home that Charedim seem to take over during the holidays of Pesach and Sukkos. Although it bothers her that so many Charedim come to that park and monopolize it for themselves she also appreciates living in a country whose freedoms allow anyone to avail themselves of the best the state of Israel has to offer to the public.

What she does rightly object to, however, is that they do not only bring their bodies to the park, they bring their values and try and impose them on others. And they get away with it. That is wrong and of course it exacerbates the already existing enmity between the Charedim on the one hand and DLs and secular Jews on the other.

And then there is the following incident. Because Meah Shearim streets are so narrow residents have lately insisted on having separate sides of the the street for men and women during the busy holiday season.

This does not sit well with the secular public. Those sidewalks are public property and no one has a right to segregate different sides of the streets for gender separation purposes. So a group of secular Jews decided to challenge them – calling the police and bringing the media – and walking into that neighborhood on the ‘wrong’ sides of the street. The next thing you know rocks were flying and people were hurt.

There’s Still Something Wrong with this Picture

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

There is a new Charedi girls’ high school that has made a bold move to advance the education of Charedi girls in Israel. According to an article in Ha’aretz (republished at Failed Messiah) Darkei Sarah requires their students to take the standardized matriculation exams that all Israeli secular and National Religious high school students take in order to graduate.

While this doesn’t sound like much to those of us in America where the majority of even Charedi high schools have a relatively decent general studies department – it is nonetheless a step forward for Charedi Israel. Most Charedi girls’ high schools do not have those standards. Although they do teach a variety of secular subjects they have purposely avoided teaching the girls ‘too much’ so as to avoid the the “Michshol” (stumbling block) of university. They consider much of the subject matter taught there at best inappropriate and the environment to be anti Torah.

But at least the girls get some secular education. Charedi high school boys have none! They spend every educational minute on Torah – mostly Gemarah. Secular studies have little value to them. It is considered Bitul Torah (a waste of the precious “Torah learning” time) to study secular subjects.

Charedim may not agree with the Torah U’Mada principle that secular studies have intrinsic value – but what about the men preparing for Parnassa – earning a living?

Not necessary, they say. Their wives will be doing that. That’s why the girls have any secular education at all. So that they can eventually support their husbands! But even for the girls, they must not be taught too much lest they end up in college.

I guess necessity is the mother of change. Charedi schools like Darkei Sarah now realize that the Charedi family can no longer survive on the kinds of menial jobs women can get without a decent education. Here is how Sima Valess, the principal of Darkei Sarah put it:

“These girls will one day support their families [while their husbands study Torah and Talmud]…”

But in the same breath she adds:

“…in a way that could not possibly suggest that they will follow independent careers.”

As the article points out she had to add that they have not departed from the Charedi Hashkafos of not making career women out of Kollel wives.

I guess she wants to have her cake – and eat it too. I’m not sure what she means by a career. But these new standards are definitely designed to give Charedi families a better means of support. And that usually means a career in one of the fields studied at a university level.

I don’t know whether this will catch on in other schools. My guess is that it won’t. But there does seem to be some basic common sense among a few Charedim who can see the handwriting on their wall of increasing poverty… at least enough to enroll their daughters in that school.

Is the view of educating women so they can support their “Torah learning” husbands the right one for Judaism? I don’t think so. One of the most basic ideas expressed in both the written and oral law is the idea of a man earning a living: B’Zeyas Apecha Tochel Lechem – By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread – God tells Adam.

This theme is repeated throughout Shas. Ein Kemeach Ein Torah; Yaffa Torah im Derech Eretz. The Mishna in Avos tells us that if there is no income the end result will be Bitul Torah anyway. It is also obvious from the Gemarah the sages worked and supported their families. This too is the case with the Rishonim. Two of the greatest – the Rambam and the Ramban – were both doctors. That is how they supported themselves. There is no evidence that either of their wives worked.

So how did we get to the current Charedi paradigm of men not working at all? The idea stems from another concept mentioned in Shas: Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulam . Torah study is the most important Mitzvah one can do. All energies should therefore be put towards that goal. If one can find a way to learn full time, he must do so.

What about people of the past like the Rambam? Why not follow his example? As I recall, Rav Moshe Feinstein mentioned the reason for that. He says something along the lines that we have so much Torah to learn today as a result of the volumes written on Torah subjects throughout history – that even if we devoted our entire lives to it – every waking moment – we would still not be able to fully cover all of it. In our day it would therefore be impossible to learn all of the Torah properly – certainly if we had to put in a full day’s work. Says Rav Moshe – the Rambam’s example can therefore no longer be followed.

I am not one to argue with Rav Moshe. But I still have to ask, how can we ignore our own history? How can we just reject the values the Torah itself posits? And the example the sages and the Rishonom set for us? On the other hand, how can we ignore the rationale Rav Moshe gave us for putting all else aside – including Parnassa –so that we can learn as much as possible?

For me the answer is quite simple. Not everyone is capable of being “Rav Moshe.” One needs not only the high intelligence he had, but his determination and diligence. There not too many people who can fill that bill. For those who can become great in Torah knowledge, yes they should spend their full time in learning Torah.

Whether they should learn Mada or not is a separate issue. But even for those who say it isn’t necessary, they should admit that not every person who sits in front of a Gemarah will end up being a Rav Moshe – or even anything close to that. They will never cover all the Torah that Rav Moshe said we need to know. At best they will only scratch the surface.

That does not free people from trying. But in my view the majority of people who are not cut out for it should follow the directives of the Torah SheB’Ksav and Torah SheBal Peh… and get a job! And then try and learn Torah by establishing fixed times for it. What about producing Torah scholars lie Rav Moshe? The cream will rise to the top. Those who have the potential for greatness in Torah will do so. And they should be supported. A lot better than they are supported now. The rest should “by the sweat of their brow – eat bread”!

But that is not the current Charedi paradigm in Israel. There is no concept of preparing for a job. No matter how ill suited an individual is for the task of dedicating their lives to full time Torah study.

That is in fact increasingly becoming the paradigm in America as well. All Charedi men are encouraged to learn full time here too. Secular studies are discouraged – and even disparaged – becoming increasingly marginalized even in those Yeshivos that have them.

The burden of supporting a family has shifted to women. B’Zeyas Apecha Tochel Lechem has been transferred to them!

I’m glad that at least in one Charedi school women are being better educated. Maybe this trend will catch on. Who knows…? But that does not change what I see is an Olam HaHafuch – a world turned upside down from what the Torah itself intended. A world that existed from the beginning of time until the post Holocaust 20th century.

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The Emes Ve-Emunah People

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Frankly, I did not expect anywhere near the discussion that ensued here yesterday about my poll. Even though I asked for input as to why people responded as they did, I never expected a response like this.

The poll is now closed. There were are 352 people who responded. Based on my daily average of about 1000 unique visitors (not factoring in Shabbos and Yom Tov) that is about 1/3 of my readership. (Actually, it’s probably less because there are many people who visit this blog regularly but not daily – so they may have missed this poll.) But for purposes of analysis let us say that out of the one thousand people who visit my blog, about a 1/3 participated.

One of the biggest criticisms from some who responded was that my categories were inadequate for a variety of reasons. To an extent I concede the point. It is absolutely true that these categories are too broad. It was also pointed out that I did not list enough of them. Those I listed didn’t fit their definition of themselves.…or they straddle one or more of them. True again.

Some people said that these categories are no longer applicable and that entirely new categories should have been designed. Very possibly the case.

Others said they hate labels. I completely understand that. The argument has been made that labels can have a divisive effect. Without them we would all be in the same boat and get along much better. Not sure I entirely agree with that one. But let’s move on.

The biggest flaw in this poll is that I did not define each category well enough – or not at all. One poster referenced an Avi Chai segmentation as described by Professor Marvin Schick. It had an entirely different meaning for the term Modern Orthodox than I give it. Professor Schick defines it the way I define Left-Wing Modern Orthodox. Although he defined Centrist Orthodoxy in the same way I did- to me Centrism is really a part of Modern Orthodoxy too – the right wing of it.

There are also clearly identifiable groups – like Moderate Chasdim or Lubavitch – that did not have a category. In my defense, I meant to include the former into the category of Moderate Charedim and the latter into Charedi-Chasidic. But that may not fit them exactly either. In any case I didn’t specify any of that so it’s my fault.

Yet another difficulty here is the very unscientific nature of a poll like this. There are many things that can affect the results here so that in the end the numbers do not reflect the reality, thus skewing the numbers unfairly in favor of one demographic. Besides – even the most carefully designed polls have a margin of error. 352 people responding means that 648 people did not. Who knows what they really think?

So if one takes all of these criticisms in the aggregate, one has to wonder if there is any validity to this poll all!

That said, my gut feeling (and take that for whatever its worth) is that there probably is a degree of validity to these numbers. I believe that most people responded honestly and that it probably does reflect the proportions of each demographic I listed. Before I report those numbers, I am going to address some of the concerns expressed in the comments.

First – why the great big response (212 as of this writing)? I think the content of those comments themselves speak to that. They are in part an explanation for the success of this blog. People care passionately about their beliefs – or lack of them. Belief is one of the topics I explore here (although perhaps not often enough).

Given the opportunity to talk about them as this post did, enables people to actually put their beliefs down on paper (virtual paper at least) and organize their thoughts; to compare and contrast their own beliefs with those of others. It clarifies and refines those beliefs. This is the back and forth I noticed in some of the comment trails.

While labels can have a divisive effect, they also have a defining effect. By examining your beliefs against those of others it helps your understanding of who and what you are. I believe it enables one’s belief system to grow and mature. Even if one ends up finding that “none of the above” fits best.

As for the poll itself, I agree that thinking people are hard to peg. Thinking people tend to define who they are not by picking a pre-existing category, but by studying various ideas; accepting some and rejecting others; and then arriving at who they are. This usually means that they do not fit neatly into any one category. As more than one commenter said, they see themselves in X to a certain degree and in Y in another.Some people said that they grew up one way and still feel comfortable in that environment but that hashkafically find themselves in another category. In short, the most thoughtful people did not find an exact match. Some chose not to respond at all because of that. Others responded by picking the one closest to their beliefs but not really reflective of their views.

I am somewhat of an enigma myself in that respect. While I define myself ideologically as a Centrist (RWMO) I find that I am more comfortable socially in a moderate Charedi setting. In fact the community in which I live and the people I Daven with on Shabbos are mostly moderate Charedim. I should add (as one commenters said about himself) that in some areas I tend to be a bit more to the left and in others I tend to be bit more to the right of my Centrist colleagues.

Now to the numbers. 352 people responded. Here is the breakdown:

Charedi Chasidic – 21 (6%)
Charedi Yeshivish – 15 (4%)
Charedi moderate – 59 (16%)
MO Centrist – 132 (37%)
MO Left Wing – 36 (10%)
Orthoprax – 58 (16%)
Non Orthodox – 24 (6%)
Not Jewish – 7 (2%)

It seems like those who tend to fit into the Centrist camp comprise the largest percentage of my readership by more than double of any other segment. That should not be a surprise. We are all kindred spirits seeing the world in the same way and seeking the same goals – for the most part.

The next largest group is Moderate Charedim. Again no surprise, they too agree with many of my views. That is good to know. As I always say, these two groups are the wave of the future and have an almost identical lifestyle. I believe that they comprise the largest segment of Orthodox Jewry.

What surprised me is the number of Orthoprax that read this blog. The same percentage as Moderate Charedim at 16%. Not sure what to make of that. I hope it means that I am trusted to treat everyone fairly.

I am happy that Orthoprax Jews find value here. Their 16% translates to 160 Orthoprax Jews reading my blog on average every day. I am grateful that they respect the views expressed here enough to stick around and read the posts and – for at least some – the comments too.

10% of my readership is LWMO. Even though the issues that divide us are pretty “hotbutton” – our differences are far smaller than what we share as observant Jews. I think that in most cases they respect my views because I respect theirs.

I am also happy that non-Orthodox Jews read this blog. Especially since I am very critical of Heterodox movements. But they seem to forgive me and understand where I am coming from. At least I hope that’s the case. I honor them for that.

I also fully respect non-Jews that come here. At 2% that isn’t much. It means that about 20 non Jews read this blog on average daily. I welcome them and hope that I do my religion justice in their eyes and express our beliefs well.

Not too surprising at all is the number of Charedim and Chasidim who do not consider themselves moderate. A combined percentage of 10% of my readership is Charedi. That means about 100 Charedim on the average every day. Not too bad if you consider that so many of my posts are critical of their community or their leaders

I welcome them too… especially those among them who respond in the comments. The only thing I don’t welcome is the disparagement and ridicule of a few of them that occasionally accompanies a comment.

This pretty much sums up my analysis of the polling results- given space and time considerations. Of course there is a lot more to say, but I’ve already exceeded my usual post length. So I now turn it over to readers to make their own analysis – and if so inclined to post their views in the comment section.

Visit the Emes Ve-Emunah blog.

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