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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Charedi’

Why Modern Orthodoxy?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I don’t know anything about Republican candidate for the New York State Senate, Mindy Meyer. But an article in Tablet Magazine uses her candidacy as a springboard to demonstrate one of the reasons Modern Orthodoxy has so much to offer religious Jews.

One of the criticisms I get here is that I do not focus enough on the good side of Modern Orthodoxy… that I focus too much on the ‘evils’ of the Charedi world.

First let me state that I do not in any way consider Charedim to be evil. God forbid. The vast majority of them are sincere, God fearing Jews who want nothing more than to serve God in the best way they possibly can. They are Chareid L’Dvar HaShem – as their name implies. They tremble at the word of God.

My issues are not with mainstream Charedim. They are with the bad apples among them. The ones that get all the media coverage. Unfortunately there have been far too many incidences of evil being done by members of that community over the last few years that have gotten media attention – and therefore mine.

Otherwise my posts on the Charedi world generally involve defining our differences – and occasionally questioning the decisions of some of their leaders on various issues.

But I do admit not talking enough about the positive side of Modern Orthdodxy. Or worse not enough about its negative side.

Yes there is a negative side to Modern Orthodoxy.  Immersing oneself in the general culture even where Halacha permits it has its dangers. One can easily be enticed to ‘cross that line’ between the permissible and impermissible.  And it can be a fast and slippery slope from there. Just like the isolationists in the Charedi world are vulnerable to going OTD by being unprepared for their inevitable exposure to the outside world, so too can the Modern Orthodox Jew go OTD by being over exposed to it.

But I am not going to discuss here which way is the safer way to retain one’s Yiddishkeit. For purposes of this article let us assume the risks are equal. I am going to discuss the positive side of Modern Orthodoxy. Nowhere is this illustrated better than in the above mentioned article.

Using the candidacy of Mindy Meyer as a springboard to understanding the differences between Charedim and Modern Orthodox Jews – especially where women are concerned – Tablet shows just how poorly even the most seasoned reporters really understand those differences.  I could not agree more.

The truth is that Orthodox Jews are all lumped together as having the same attitudes in life. So that for example a Chasidic Jew in Williamsburg will be treated the same way a Modern Orthodox Jew in Teaneck. They are both seen as Orthodox and their worldviews are more or less seen to be the same: decidedly anti-modern. Quoting from the blog Jezebel, Tablet demonstrates this:

“That no woman has emerged as a political candidate [in New York], despite the Orthodox community’s growing size and political sway, is largely a result of women in the community being relegated or elevated, depending on one’s perspective, to a domestic role—expected to dress modestly, live quietly, and draw little attention to themselves in the outside world. Some women won’t shake the hands of men,”… “Others refuse to speak in gender-mixed company, be photographed, or wear a color as flashy as pink.”

This is definitely the way much of the Charedi world sees the role of a Jewish woman. While some of those descriptions apply to all Jewish women (e.g. dressing modesty) the Modern Orthodox woman will fully participate along with her secular sisters in all walks of American life. And they will seek the kind of education and opportunities that will enable them to do so. Tablet then illustrates this point by citing numerous examples of highly successful Modern Orthodox women, such as best selling author Faye Kellerman and Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, the dean of students at Columbia Law School.

The more open and actively modern attitude with respect to secular education and western culture not only enables the MO woman to participate at these levels, it encourages them to do so, if they so chose.

This is not to say that Charedi women can’t or don’t achieve great successes like these. Tablet mentions Ami Magazine’s Rechy Frankfurter who is the successful senior editor of that magazine.  And she is not the only Charedi woman who has achieved high level success in the modern world.

As the Pendulum Swings – Ever Rightward

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/as-pendulum-swings-ever-rightward.html

I am beginning to wonder whether Modern Orthodoxy (MO) is already a thing of the past. At least in Israel. Although MO schools in America are not exactly the same thing as Dati Leumi (DL) or Religious Zionist (RZ) schools in Israel, they are in many ways similar.

DL schools generally reflect a more modern outlook similar to MO schools in the US. Mamlachti Dati government supported religious schools are part of the overall educational system in Israel with the same educational standards as their secular schools.

Graduates tend to do army service – some going into Hesder programs; then they go into the work force; and blend quite seamlessly into the culture while remaining religious.  By the same token MO Jews in America tend to be religious Zionists as well – many of whom end up making Aliyah.

According to an article in the Times of Israel, RZ schools are about to adopt Tznius standards that mimic those of the most right wing Charedi schools in Israel. From the article:

According to a Maariv report on Monday, six-year-old girls must wear shirts that cover their elbows “even when raising their hands” and skirts that cover their knees “even when sitting.” The little girls must also wear long and loose pants during physical education classes. Girls with long hair must tie it back, while their fathers’ haircuts must abide by the “spirit of the school.” Boys and girls, who are ordinarily learn in gender-segregated classes starting in elementary school, are reportedly now required to remain segregated during recess and after school. Parents applying to have their children enroll in several religious Zionist schools in Israel have reportedly been asked to fill out questionnaires concerning their personal level of religious observance, the level of religious observance in the home, and the presence of a television or Internet connection in the home.

The article goes on to say that this phenomenon is only reflective of a minority of RZ schools. I would add that this is certainly not the case in any Modern Orthodox schools in the US. I don’t think that even most Charedi schools – at least moderate ones – require this standard. Yet. But as has been the case for decades now the move to the right continues unabated.

Why is this happening? I’m not exactly sure. But let us examine the facts as I understand them.

There is a group of Religious Zionist Jews in Israel called Chardalim. These are RZs who retain the overall ideals of Religious Zionism. Which primarily means supporting the State, serving in the army, and settling the land. Otherwise they have adopted most if not all of the strictures of Charedim. Hence the name Chardalim. Which combines the word Charedi with the letters ‘D’ and ‘L’ – the initials of Dati Leumi. Coincidently the word Chardal (singular form of the word Chardalim) means mustard seed, which has nothing to do with their Hashkafos as far as I can tell.

Chardalim feel they must chase down all the Chumros of the right. I tend to believe that the Chardal influence is behind these new rules.  I also expect this trend to continue and to spread. Before you know it, “Chardalism” will become the defining mode of Religious Zionism. Modern Orthdodxy as we know it will become obsolete in Israel.

Religious Zionist parents who do not want to adopt these strictures will be marginalized – ultimately not having any place to send their children for a religious education! I know that is not the case now. But the way things seem to be going – who knows?!

One might argue that becoming “more religious” is a good thing. Why complain about a movement trying to adopt stricter standards of observance?

Fact is there is of course nothing wrong with raising standards of religious observance. As long as it is voluntary. But when schools start making new demands along those lines, they completely ignore individual choice. Being Machmir should be an individual choice and not forced upon anyone. These strictrures have nothing to do with basic Halacha. They have to do with image.

I can’t prove it, but I can’t help believing that much of this “move to the right” is being done for that reason. Serious RZs are tired of being looked down upon by the right (i.e. Charedim) for not being Frum enough. That Charedim look down on DL is a fact. I think it’s because there are many DLs that are comparable to what I have called MO-Lite. Meaning their observance is more peer and lifestyle directed than it is religion directed.

The Wrong Stuff of the Right

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/the-wrong-stuff-of-right.html

I recently saw a picture of the first Agudah convention taken almost 100 years ago. What struck me was what the attendees looked like as compared to those who attended the Interent Asifa a few moths ago.

The look at the Asifa was literally a sea of black hats along with the pro forma accompanying white shirts and black pants and jacket. That is the “look” of our day! (The recent Agudah Siyum that had a variety of “looks” is an exception since it was attended by many non Charedim which was in fact encouraged by the Siyum organizers.)

But archival picture which boasted attendance by some of the greatest Gedolim of that era including the Chafetz Chaim had people in all manner of dress: light suits, dark suits, vests… some had hats, some caps, some just plain Kipot. Many clean shaven, few with peyos… All were there and all were the equivalent of the Charedi world we have today. This was the Agudah of Yesteryear.

What has happened in our day is a sad commentary about the value placed on irrelevant externals like the black hat. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in an article in The Jewish Press by Penina Scheiner.

Mrs. Scheiner describes what it was like for her to move from an environment that valued those externals as she did into one that couldn’t care less about them. She does not say where she moved but from the context it sounds like a small community where religious Jews did not buy into any of these things.

She at first seemed horrified that her children picked up the town values (or more precisely the lack of her external home town values). For one thing her sons did want to not wear black hats. Nor did they want to wear the pro forma Kipa of the right – the velvelt one. They preferred to wear what their classmates were wearing – the suede Kipa.

Mrs. Scheiner couldn’t believe that the “values” she grew up with were being destroyed! She felt that they only moved to this town so they could influence the community. Instead her own children were being influenced by them!

She goes on to describe other symbols of the Charedi lifestyle that her children discarded – at first to her great dismay. But she has long ago come to terms with it and now quite properly understands how irelavant those things are. They are nothing more artificial artifacts of outward appearance whose sole purpose is to divide rather than to unite.

It is of course easy for those of us outside the camp of Charedism to understand that. But in the world of the Charedim, they see these things as definitive to Judaism. As incredulous as that sounds, here’s the money quote from the article that illustrates that:

Then it was time for shidduchim. Everything seemed to be going well until I mentioned to the shadchan that my son did not wear a black hat. She inhaled deeply. “Oh,” she said. “Then he does not have yiras Shamayim.”

…He also answered “no” to a different well-meaning shadchan who advised him to wear a black hat – just on the first date. ‘But everyone does it for the first date,” she said. “It will make a good impression.” My son refused. “How about just putting a black hat in the back window of your car?”

As if that weren’t bad enough she tells the story of an earlier time when she was still worried about her son losing the external values she grew up with. She was at the time thrilled that this would now be corrected by the Charedi Yeshiva her son was accepted to. Here’s how that went:

Our son noticed some un-yeshivish behavior at this school and told me about it. I was concerned, and also a little naïve. I called the administration, expecting the matter to be resolved quietly. Instead, our son was taken from the dorm that very night in full view of the other boys and asked what he had seen. When my son returned from the interrogation, the boys believed him to be an informer and ostracized him. They vandalized his belongings and threatened him. One Erev Shabbos, my son called to wish us a quick good Shabbos. “I’m not sure if I will survive over Shabbos,“ he whispered and hung up the phone. What an anxious Shabbos that was! My fourteen-year-old could not understand why the boys were acting menacingly to him and was very unhappy.

This – along with other examples is what the world of the right has become. This is the house they have built!

Eytan Kobre’s Anti-Religious Rant

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Once again I am disappointed at the Charedi reaction to a possible draft in Israel. This time it is attorney Eytan Kobre, who reacted in his weekly Mishpacha Magazine column Text Messages. And that’s all it is. A reflexive knee-jerk reaction. It is not any kind of rational argument to make his case that Charedim in Israel should not be drafted.

Unless you consider “Because the Gedolim say so” to be a rational argument. This of course assumes that there is universal opposition by rabbinic leaders to a draft. That would be false – since Religious Zionist leaders are in favor of it. Nonetheless his rabbinic leadership assumes that a universal draft will change the Charedi paradigm of learning full time. Which they consider a Yehoreg V’Al Yaavor.

First, I do not concede that this is a foregone conclusion.  Secondly, I don’t think that is a bad thing if it is done the right way – a position I’ve explained many times in the past but beyond the scope of this post.

My problem with Mr. Kobre is his assumption that anyone who is in favor of a universal draft is out to ‘get him.’  By ‘him’, I mean Charedim.  What motivates those of us who favor equalizing the draft, he says, is our distinct mission to destroy Torah Judaism. That is how he frames the issue.

There is not a single word addressing the question about the lack of equal sacrifice by all. No explanation about why all Charedim should be exempt. For Mr. Kobre it is all about ‘Good versus evil.’ The good guys being the Charedim - and the bad guys are anyone who would dare to suggest that Charedim should not be given an automatic exemption.

What makes matters worse is he impugns religious Jews as the worst among his detractors. He prefers that the opposition were coming from a secular or even anti-religious sources. That would of course make it easier for him to claim that this is all about anti-religious secular government.

His rhetoric is quite angry. He  accuses his detractors of false piety and lying about their motives. As though the true motive was to destroy the Torah!

What prompted Eytan’s rant was an interview in the previous issue of Mishpacha of Aviad Friedman, a Charedi member of the Plesner committee – charged with coming up with a proposal for a universal draft. Which they did.

Mr. Friedman who seems to have impeccable Charedi credentials supported drafting as many Charedim into the IDF as possible.  For this he was vilified and called a liar – applying to him the tired cliche of ‘showing his true colors.’  As if it is impossible to be Charedi and support the draft.

What was his lie? He said that he didn’t think that there is any real hatred of Charedim in Israel.  Really? That’s a lie? Yes – there may be some hatred by a few on the radical left, but for the most part, there is no mass secular hatred. Only a sense that an element of fairness is missing in the way the secular Jew is treated versus the way the Charedi Jew is treated – especially  when it comes to army service.

I take strong issue with Mr. Kobre’s description of religious Jews as the enemy just because they support a universal draft. That is a canard!

Just to be clear I will restate my own position on this issue. Israel should apply its conscription law equally to all demographic segments. Exemptions and deferrals should be applied equally to everyone.  If a solider needs to be put in harms way – every able-bodied citizen – no matter what segment they belong to should be subject to the that possibility. No entire segment should get and an automatic exemption from danger.

If the draft is going to be equally applied, religious sensitivities must be guaranteed to all. This means that the infrastructure must be created and enforced so that Charedim will be able to practice Judaism as they  best understand it.  The bottom line for me is that no Charedi mother should ever be faced by a Chiloni or Religious Zionist mother asking the question, “Why did my son have to die in battle while your son was safe in a Yeshiva?”

Conversions – The Supreme Court Decides?

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

One of the sadder chapters to be written about the State of Israel will be what is happening with regard to conversions.

To review the situation that led to this, the mass influx of Jews from Russia into Israel over the last few decades contained many people who were not Halachicly Jewish, even though they had been completely raised to think so. The reason for that is that they were products of an intermarriage where the mother was not Jewish, or products of a mother who was not converted according to Halacha.

There were so many of them coming into Israel and integrating with the country in every way including army service, that it was threatening to create a huge imbalance between Jews and non Jews. This presented a demographic challenge in maintaining Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.

The solution by the government was to set up special conversion courts to expedite conversions of Jews with this kind of problem. Rabbi Chaim Druckman was put in charge of this court and used various leniencies in converting thousands of these people.

The problem arose when the Charedi dominated Chief Rabbinate headed by Rabbi Avraham Sherman determined that all of Rabbi Druckman’s conversions were invalid because of insufficient observance of Halacha.

The debate still lives and involves one of the key components of conversion. And sides are being taken. The Charedi point of view is that the conversions were invalid because the requirement that a potential convert must accept Halacha as binding and promise to keep it.

They further hold that since most of the converts did not keep some of the basics showed that there was never any serious intent by these converts to follow Halacha. Hence the conversions were all invalid. And therefore the Dayan responsible for all of that, Rabbi Druckman loses his validity as a Dayan and thus invalidating all the conversion he was ever responsible for. Even if the convert the followed Halacha diligently!

The Religious Zionist perspective was that Halacha was followed in every single conversion albeit with leniencies not normally used because of the urgent nature of this issue that would affect the very nature of Israel as a Jewish state. What the leniencies were is irrelevant. The point is that both sides believed that they were L’Shma – doing the right thing in the eyes of God.

The problem of course is that if one side considers these converts Jewish and the other side does not, the converts remain in limbo. With the numbers being so great and multiplying via their offspring means that from the Charedi point of view it will require a Yichus registry.

It will therefore be almost impossible to get married a few generations from now without a thorough background check of Yichus. This is already happening. People making Aliyah that are not Orthodox are finding out that their Judaism is not being taken for granted. They now have to prove that they have Jewish lineage going back several generations! Something that is often impossible to do.

The new immigrants are now going to suffer even while many of their sons who ebleive they are fiully Jewish if not 100% observant are willing to die for their country putting themselves in harm’s way by joining the army. After several generations of suffering persecution for being Jews at the hands of the former Soviet Union, they now are suffering new indignities by their very own people.

The Israeli Supreme court has stepped in and ruled in favor of the Rabbi Druckman’s converts. The consider all of them fully Jewish and will be registered as such. There will be no discrimination between any of those converts and any other Jewish Israeli. Marriages will be performed in Israel for them will be fully recognized.

Rabbi Seth Farber who is Orthodox but not Charedi and who petitioned the courts on behalf of these converts was very gratified:

“We are pleased to see that the Supreme Court has upheld the petition we submitted and we hope this judgment will be a boost to all those who are in the midst of a conversion process, and those debating whether to enter it.” “It is hoped that the verdict will uproot the phenomenon of non-recognition of conversions, and end the ongoing injustice converts are faced with”

I’m pretty sure that was not the reaction of the Charedi side. They are L’Shma. They believe they are absolutely right and will continue to believe that The State of Israel just declared a bunch of non Jews – Jewish, despite the fact that they are not.

Even though its heart is in the right place – the Supreme Court is not a Halachic body and in my view has no business deciding issues of Halacha. So I’m not sure what was accomplished other than to further divide Charedim from Religious Zionists. Their actual status of these converts as Jews thus remains unchanged in the sense that the right still believes they are not Jews while the left believes they are.

Furthermore it gives these people a false sense of security in thinking that a secular court in Israel can declare them Jewish – end of story. They will find that they will not be accepted into the Charedi world as Jews at all.

One might retort, “So what?!” “Who cares what a bunch of religious fanatics think?!” “We know the truth and that is all that matters.”

Not so simple. Charedim are growing in numbers and in influence. And – right or wrong – the simple fact is that a huge portion of Klal Yisroel will reject these converts as Jews, and reject their sponsors as having no Halachic validity on this issue.

While they gain recognition by the secular state with all the rights and privileges that entails, they will not gain the peace of mind that would come with recognition by all. They will still therefore remain with an unsettling feeling.

In my view the answer lies in some sort of compromise. The idea of a wholesale invalidation is disgusting in my view – that should have never happened. Nor should Rabbi Druckman have been so dishonored! I would much rather see a unified response to this where no one gets anything shoved down their throats by either side – or even by the Supreme Court.

This article first appeared on the Emes v’Emunah blog.

Prioritizing Our Children’s Safety As We Approach The New School Year

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Prioritizing Our Children’s Safety As We Approach The New School Year Learning from FBI Reports on Child Molestation and the Law Suits Against The Boy Scouts of America and The Roman Catholic Church

Introduction – Why Now?

As the new school year begins, we parents must gain insight into one of the common causes of youth at risk — abuse and molestation. It is a highly sensitive issue generally deemed the domain of mental health professionals and community leaders, with a host of significant halachic ramifications, such as raglayim l’davor – meaning reasonable suspicion, which is the halachic threshold to permit reporting to authorities under the rules of mesira. While the abduction and brutal murder of Leiby Kletzky a”h, by someone in our community, was an extreme case of abuse, it highlighted the need of the lay community and parents to study child abuse prevention.

A child who has been a victim of abuse and/or molestation has seen the dark side of humanity, invariably from a person he trusts, who is supposed to be a role model. Such a victim cannot reconcile that Hashem exists if the person who taught him about Hashem’s existence has violated him. It is incumbent upon us to prioritize our children’s safety and bravely confront child abuse prevention by educating ourselves.

In the aftermath of Leiby’s shocking murder, Ami Magazine interviewed Dr. Michael H. Stone, a forensic psychiatrist who stated that Levi Aron appears to be a pedophile even though it seems he did not act upon it in this instance. This made me wonder – what are the differences between a pedophile, a predator, and a molester? Is there a difference? I had no idea, yet I knew I must keep these types of people far away from my children and grandchildren. Furthermore, if Levi Aron is a pedophile, then we need to know the characteristics and modus operandi of pedophiles so we can identify them.

I did research into a legal definition of these terms and found the answer in the monograph entitled “Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis for Professionals Investigating the Sexual Exploitation of Children” by Kenneth V. Lanning, former supervisory special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and currently a consultant in the area of crimes committed against children. I thank Mr. Lanning for encouraging me to write this article and generously giving me his time, guidance and support. We had long conversations on child abduction and molestation, and on his experience in investigating thousands of child molestation cases during his tenure at the FBI, which spanned over thirty years. I initially disagreed with Mr. Lanning’s opinion that our community’s struggle with child molestation is analogous to the very same struggle across mainstream America. I argued that our community is devoutly religious and lives by a high standard of family values. Nevertheless, at the end of my research, I regretfully concurred with him: pedophilia effects our community like any other.

In Greek the words “pedo-phile” mean to love children. A pedophile has deviant fantasies, urges or behaviors that are recurrent, intense, and arousing and all of which involve children, generally ages 13 or younger; frequently pedophiles are men and their victims are boys. The pedophile’s preference for children usually begins to manifest itself in early adolescence. A pedophile can satisfy his urges without ever touching a child. He may be satisfied by just staring at children in places where they roam freely, as in the street or the park, teaching them in class, or interacting with them in shul or in the mikveh.

Conversely, a child molester is an older individual who engages in any type of forced physical activity with individuals legally defined as children (persons under the age of 18). Common definitions of “molest” are “to harm, to annoy, to interfere with, or bother.” A child molester does not necessarily love children; rather, he or she desires to control and often inflict pain. The child molester may prefer physical relationships with adults but will settle on children as they are more available, vulnerable and easy prey. Thus, a person can be either a pedophile or a molester or he can be both.

The term “predator,” which means “to prey, destroy or devour others,” has become increasingly popular when describing offenders. While many offenders are predatory in their behavior, using this term indiscriminately is counterproductive as it makes it more difficult to determine the accurate category of each offender. And the term has a very negative connotation, conjuring up an image of an evil, violent person – when in fact many offenders who victimize children are usually considered nice people and rarely, if ever, use violence.

Pedophiles invariably are “nice” guys and may be pillars of the community, who have earned the trust of parents, seem to be good with children and attract them. They typically seek employment where they can be in close proximity with children, even in highly respected fields, as doctors and therapists; or they may volunteer to work on projects helping children. That is a major reason they join organizations where they can help troubled children, volunteer to search for missing children or participate in “Safe Zones.” Many pedophiles spend their entire lives attempting to convince themselves and others that they are not perverts, but good guys who love and nurture children. Pedophiles have always been with us, and in Ancient Greece and Rome the relationship between men and young boys was respected among the upper class. While ancient civilizations may have condoned pedophilia, the modern world recognizes its damage and condemns and criminalizes it, thereby classifying pedophiles and molesters as “offenders.” If the FBI’s expert opinion is that dealing with pedophiles in our community is no different than in other communities, we need to learn how other communities have dealt with pedophiles.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/prioritizing-our-childrens-safety-as-we-approach-the-new-school-year/2011/09/28/

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