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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘growth’

Will Observant Judaism of the Future Look Like Satmar?

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

A friend of mine (by way of the internet – I never met him personally) once told me never to predict the future based on linear projections. That was a very wise observation.

One of the things that many people seem to believe is that the exponential rate of growth of the Charedi community is so vastly greater than the growth of any other segment – that ultimately the future will be theirs. Meaning that the rest of Orthodoxy will either be absorbed by them, or will become so small in comparison that it will become either irrelevant, or extinct altogether.

I am one of those people. The Charedim have won. By their growth and sheer determination they are the wave of the future. But I have a modified version of that prediction. Moderate Charedim will populate the the new mainstream majority. It will also contain those I have called RWMO (right wing Modern Orthodox). And evolve into a sociological demographic I call the New Centrists. Rabbi Berel Wein was first made note of this phenomenon. And it is already in progress.

In brief  what is happening is that both communities have adopted modalities of the other. So that even if our Hashkafos are somewhat different, our lifestyles are not. Moderate Charedim and RWMO are both generally are well educated in Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol. Both generally have solid careers where many are professionals.

We are both Koveiah Itim (establish fixed times for Torah study); Daven in the same Shuls; send our children to similar – and occasionally the same schools; are very often good friends, trust each other’s Kashrus; and our families  interact socially each other. It is not that uncommon to find a Chavrusa  beween a moderate Charedi and a RWMO learning together at night in a community Kollel. Our differing Hashkafos are not a divisive issue socially. The extremes on both the right and left may continue to exist, but in my view will at best be marginalized.

Nothing new here.  I have mentioned all this before. Many times. But what I have not mentioned in this context is another demographic that is perhaps the fastest growing demographic of all. One that has absolutely nothing to do with the above phenomenon.  The exponential growth of Satmar and like minded Chasidim. Does that mean that I believe that Satmar is the wave of the future… that eventually they will overtake the rest of Orthodoxy by their sheer population size?  Based on linear projections, one might say that will indeed happen. But I don’t think so, despite their continuing and phenomenally rapid growth.

Currently Satmar Chasidim live in their own world and prefer to keep it that way. The same is true of other Chasidic sects like Skvere.  They will not ‘assimilate’ into any new grouping.  Their values are not the same as the New Centrists at all. They live in a world apart from the rest of observant Jewry.

They are not well educated in Limudei Chol. And although they do work, they generally do not work as professionals. They do not attend colleges and universities. They work at jobs that often do not pay a living wage. Certainly not for a family of 12 or 13 is which is a very common family size. So a great many of them live in poverty…. isolated from the rest of the world.

While it is true that there are some very wealthy Satmar type Chasidim in trades like the diamond industry, construction, and other businesses (like the wildly successful B&H) – they are the exception and not the rule.  Most Satmar Chasidim barely eke out a living and more often than not have to be aided by free loan societies.

There is an article in the Forward by a Frimet Goldberger. She was raised in the world of Satmar. Ms. Goldberger describes  Satmar Chasidim as not only living isolated lives, but as living very religiously demanding lives. More than any other religious demographic. Lives that are stricter now than at any time in the history of Satmar. They have taken upon themselves Chumros that that did not even exist during the life of their founding Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum. And he was pretty Machmir  requiring the rejection of the outside world in its totality.

His purpose was to insulate his Chasidim form the slightest taint of non Jewish culture.  His method was to not only live in a tightly knit neighborhood  - but to be as different from the rest of the world as possible. That would make it virtually impossible to see any commonlaity and thereby assimilate.  That – combined with their extreme Tznius measures makes them culturally incompatible with -  not only the secular world, but even   the moderate Charedi world. Not to mention the Modern Orthodox world.

Here is how Ms. Goldbeger describes it:

(The Satmar Rebbe) had railed against married women growing their hair underneath the turbans and wigs. After his death, most Hasidic women finally adhered to this rule – many out of fear of the severe ramifications of defiance. It is now the acceptable practice in Satmar to expel children from school if their mothers do not shave their heads. The Satmar Rebbe also decried the thin stockings and uncovered sheitels worn in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Now, most Satmar women wear thick, seamed stockings.

The latest Chumra is the blurring out faces of little girls in their photos. Which did not exist when the Satmar Rebbe was alive. She calls such radicalization alarming and not to be ignored.

In my view, all of these factors are the reason that we should not project a victory for the Satmar way of life. This lifestyle is not the wave of the future. Despite their rapid exponential growth. Insuring the isolation that has kept this demographic together and intact, is no longer possible. The internet has just about assured that. Especially now that one can access it in the palm of one hand.  Bans of technological advances like I-phones no matter how harsh the consequences simply are probably honored more in the breach than in adherence.

I am not saying that young people will drop out in significant numbers. Although going OTD  is a growing problem for them like it is for every other religious demographic. But I do think that they will gradually see what the rest of the even Frum world has to offer and many will seek it out. The poverty and strictures particular to this community will accelerate that process. They will see that it is possible to be religious and not be as isolated as they have been in the past. Modernity will catch up to them. Their increasing poverty that their current lifestyle practically guarantees them will motivate many of them to try another way.

They will see a growing new Centrism and realize that there other legitimate ways to practice Judaism. I am not saying that they will all eventually become new Centrists. Although not likley – it is not out of the realm of possibility once they start seeking to better their lives materially. More likely is a scenario to create their own version of a centrist society – rebelling against that part of their culture that keeps them poor – by seeking a better education and pulling back a bit on their radically different appearances… like the insistence that all their married women must save their heads.

I can’t predict the future. But what I think I can predict is that this demographic is not the wave of the future as they are currently constructed.

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Chauncey Gardner Is Alive and Well and Living in Foggy Bottom

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

On Monday, December 10, 2012, State Dept. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland, during her regular Daily Press Briefing, started sounding like Jerzy Kosinski’s memorable character in Being There, Chance the Gardener, immortalized by Peter Sellers in the 1979 movie by the same name.

Here’s a short scene from the movie:

President: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?

Chance: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.

President: In the garden.

Chance: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again. President: Spring and summer.

Chance: Yes. President: Then fall and winter.

Chance: Yes.

Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.

Chance: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

Benjamin Rand: Hmm!

Chance: Hmm!

President: Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time. … I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

And here’s yesterday’s exchange over the Quartet meeting in Brussels this coming Wednesday, dealing with the “peace process”:

MS. NULAND: We continue to work with Congress to make the case that continued U.S. support for the Palestinian people is in our national interest, is in the interest of the peace process. But again, there are a lot of views in the Congress, particularly in light of the move at the UN.

QUESTION: Just on this, there’s a Quartet meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, envoy level. Do you expect anything substantial or significant to come out of this, or is this just kind of a stock-taking exercise in looking at how dismal the chances are to get the peace process started again?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think it’s been a while since David Hale has met with his Quartet counterparts, so I think it’s an opportunity to look at where we are and if and when we might be able to be in a position to get these parties back to the table, obviously, in light of all of the factors. So it’s – let’s say that at this stage, it is gardening, but it is important gardening.

QUESTION: Gardening. You mean like weeding?

MS. NULAND: No, it’s nurturing of the soil. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are they actually planting? Are they –

MS. NULAND: Nurturing of the soil.

QUESTION: Are they planting any seeds? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: They’re always trying to plant seeds, as you know.

QUESTION: There’s more gardening? (Laughter.)

And here’s the rest of Monday’s exchange regarding freezing settlements as the surefire way of bringing peace and brotherly love to the region, which preceded the above botanical discussion:

QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated today that he, in fact, called for the resumption of direct negotiations with Israel from the point where they were last and during the last negotiation session, and – provided that all settlement activity be frozen for the time being. Do you support such a call, or is that – you consider that to be conditional?

MS. NULAND: As the President has said all the way along, as the Secretary has said, we are prepared to be full partners in supporting negotiations if and when the parties are ready to enter into direct negotiations. So it always takes two to tango, as we say. So – and we’ve also called for both sides to come to the table without preconditions.

QUESTION: Do you consider it reasonable to call for resumption of negotiations from the point where they ended?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we support any scenario in which the parties can get back to direct talks, because it’s going to be the only way to settle all of the longstanding issues between them. It’s the only way to get to the two states living next to each other in peace that we all seek.

Microsoft CEO: Israel Is the High-Tech Country

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

1. “[Australia’s] $30BN Woodside Petroleum is looking at taking an interest in the giant Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel…. The Leviathan field, discovered in 2010, has an estimated 17 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas, making the biggest deep water gas discovery of the past ten years. 50-75% of the gas is slated for export….  Woodside Petroleum Ltd. bids for 30% of the rights to the Leviathan licenses. It is 50% higher than their market value. Woodside is one of the finalists in the licensees’ choice for a strategic partner.

“Woodside’s bid reflects a value of $7.5 billion, compared with analysts’ estimates of $4.7-5.5 billion for the gas field…. ‘Petroleum Intelligence Weekly’ reported that [Russia’s] GazpromWoodside and apparently South Korea’s Korea Gas Corporation (Kogas), are finalists in the Leviathan process…. [The Houston-based] Noble Energy [which controls 39.66% of Leviathan] prefers a Western partner for Leviathan.

“Woodside would fit the bill for Noble Energy: it is a veteran company with deep water expertise as well as building liquefied natural gas facilities for gas exports from its fields off Australia’s northwest coast. This area is considered the most developed in the world, attracting hundreds of billions of dollars in investment in onshore and floating LNG facilities” (Globes Business Daily, October 22, 2012).

2. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO 4th visit to Israel: “I’ve arrived to Israel, the high-tech country…. The integration between Microsoft and Israel is natural, because Israel’s high-tech industries are among the global leaders…. I’m energized and inspired by Israel’s innovative capabilities, which have made Israel an important arena for Microsoft….” (Globes, November 2).

3. Intel Corp. CEO Paul Otellini is in Israel: “We are perhaps the largest private employer in Israel (about 8,000 employees in the company’s development and production centers), and most of those employees have technological know-how. Some of our most sophisticated engineering efforts are carried out in Israel…. We have been in Israel for 40 years and we have done many things. We’re here for the long term and we will decide next year regarding our next factory.”

Otellini visits Israel in order to launch the company’s $5 million investment in Israeli high schools over the next four years, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. The project’s aim is to double the number of high school students completing their science and technology matriculation certificate (Globes, November 2).

4. According to the $56BN Swiss bank, UBS – which is currently expanding its Israel wealth management operations - Israel is among the top five promising economies with the highest growth potential.

5. “The UK law firm Berwin, Leighton Paisner (BLP) LLP, Britain’s fifth largest, with 1,000 attorneys worldwide, is expanding to Israel, opening an office in Tel Aviv as part of the expansion of its international operations. The firm’s customers include 59 companies on the Global Fortune 500 list. Its decision is a vote of confidence in Israeli economic growth…. ‘We’re here because the Israeli business world is heading in directions which we see as markets of the future, like China and the Far East…. BLP sees the steady business growth of Israeli companies’ activity in international markets….(Globes, Oct. 30).’”

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Israel GDP Expected to Grow More than US’s in Next 50 Years

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Israel’s gross domestic product is expected to grow at a much higher annual rate than the United States for the next 48 years, according to a report by the OECD.

In the report “Looking to 2060: Long-Term Global Growth Prospects”, the OECD predicted that Israel’s average annual rate of growth between now and 2060 would be approximately 2.6% – the US growth is expected to grow at 2.1% in the next 50 years.

The report showed that India and China would grow by leaps and bounds – 5.1% and 4.1% respectively.

Our Best To The President

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

We salute President Obama on his solid reelection victory. Though we were highly critical of his performance these past four years in a variety of areas, we hope he succeeds in his second term, as his success is America’s success.

The challenges of the next four years will be the same had Mr. Romney prevailed. We have an economy headed toward disaster with out of control spending, spiraling deficits, limited growth and high unemployment. Iran’s threat to peace and international security continues, as do the provocations of terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanon and other parts of the world.

We hope the president will focus on these fundamental bread and butter problems and eschew any grand, Pollyannaish visions of changing the world. Only a strong and resilient America with its own house in order can reach out to help others.

Investing In Your Relationship

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

I often share with my clients a simple yet powerful analogy: think about your relationship as you do about your bank account. That’s because investing in your relationship is similar to saving money; the more you put into your bank account or relationship, the more you can take out when necessary.

The way to develop your emotional wealth is to invest as much equity as possible, so when the going gets tough, you can dig into your savings and avoid going into the red.

Investing in your relationship takes time and effort and is a challenge for all couples. In my own life, for example, I believe my relationship is so important that my wife and I try to schedule time alone together at least once a week to focus on our relationship. Despite the pressures of our busy lives, we try to creatively make sure we are investing in our marriage. Sometimes we go out to a restaurant to eat or just take a walk down the block together. Other times, we go grocery shopping or head to the local convenience store in order to enjoy a few minutes alone just schmoozing about our day. When life goes into overdrive and time is limited, we take a “time out” for ourselves, and spend a few minutes in a quiet and secluded room in the home just talking to one another.

It really doesn’t matter what you do or what you talk about during your private times together. What matters most is to give your spouse the feeling that he or she is the most important person in the world.

Of course, the way to build emotional equity in a marriage is to make as many deposits as possible. In general, positive statements like complimenting one another, sharing appreciations and speaking kind words are “deposits.” Every time you tell your spouse that you appreciate them, or their actions, you are building more emotional wealth. You can even think of a compliment as a dollar. Imagine how rich you could become if you increase the amount of times per hour you compliment your spouse!

And it’s not just complimenting that works; actions speak louder than words. Helping each other with daily tasks such as shopping for food or just cleaning the house are ways in which couples can increase their emotional equity. The point is that it doesn’t take a large budget, or a lot of time, to build a relationship. Even the simplest gestures can make a difference.

The opposite is also true. Couples will deplete their emotional savings by criticizing and exercising external control. Trying to force one another via manipulation or by insulting each other decreases emotional wealth, and can even put some relationships into bankruptcy.

At the end of each month, I suggest that couples take a look and see how their emotional savings account is developing. They should check how many deposits they’ve made and how much was withdrawn. The goal is to become aware of the overall growth of the relationship and to see if it is getting stronger, or needs more nurturing.

The Miraculous Bamboo Tree

One way to illustrate the need to invest in the long-term sustainability of your marriage is to look at the miraculous growth pattern of the Chinese bamboo tree.

It seems that this tree when planted, watered, and nurtured for an entire growing season doesn’t outwardly grow as much as an inch. Then, after the second growing season, a season in which the farmer takes extra care to water, fertilize and care for the bamboo tree, the tree still hasn’t sprouted. So it goes as the sun rises and sets for four solid years. The farmer and his wife have nothing tangible to show for all of their labor.

Then, along comes year five.

In the fifth year that Chinese bamboo tree seed finally sprouts and the bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet in just one growing season! Or so it seems….

Did the little tree lie dormant for four years only to grow exponentially in the fifth? Or, was the little tree growing underground, developing a root system strong enough to support its potential for outward growth in the fifth year and beyond? The answer, of course, is obvious. Had the tree not developed a strong unseen foundation it could not have sustained its life as it grew. The same principle is true for people.

I Want to have Your Baby, Sarah Silverman

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

For the record, I’m a huge fan of Sarah Silverman and have been following her career forever, watched her Jesus movie on Netflix, followed two seasons of her sitcom on Comedy Central, absolutely loved her bit on the Aristocrats movie, and caught her act whenever possible. Unlike, say, Jon Stewart, or Adam Sandler, whose entire Jewish thing is about making funny cheh sounds, and Jerry Seinfeld, whose Jewish thing is, basically, Presbyterian, I believe Silverman is on a par with the serious Jewish-American comics of the day, Larry David and Richard Lewis.

This is because all three comics have pain in their comedy, and they use it to make us laugh so hard, our kishkes get shpilkes in our shkolniks.

Jewish Author Shalom Aleichem was funny because he took the repression and poverty of life in the pale of settlement in Czarist Russia and turned them into hilarious scenes. We laugh because it’s so sad. That’s Jewish comedy.

When Larry David’s dad doesn’t invite him to his mom’s funeral because he didn’t want to bother him, he’s so busy – that’s Jewish pain. When Richard Lewis, clad in black, is fearful of life itself for the mean things it has in store for him – that’s Jewish pain. When Sarah Silverman depicts herself as a mega-narcissistic LA girl, bereft of empathy or even an awareness of others – that’s Jewish pain.

And so, to start, I believe Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt missed the point when he was attempting to counsel Sarah Silverman on how to become happy and fulfilled as a woman. Because if our comics had any idea at all, or the inclination, really, to be happy and fulfilled, they wouldn’t be exposing themselves on a bare stage with nothing but a mike and a cutting tongue to protect them from drunken hecklers at two in the morning.

I tried it one summer in New York, I have no idea if the good rabbi ever did. Believe me, I have good reasons to admire Sarah Silverman, but to expect her to be a happy mother is like expecting (insert funny noun) to be happy (insert inappropriate verb).

And although I agree that the You Tube clip attempting to seduce Billionaire Sheldon Adelson was offensive, it was also funny and angry and a legitimate political attack. What folks on the right should do is come up with equally funny and effective clips — may I suggest a certain aging Hollywood star who enjoys talking to empty chairs.

Having said that, let’s talk about motherhood and babies, because, soon enough, the 170 comments on Rabbi Rosenblatt’s article veered away from dealing with the gifted comic and settled on the idea of compulsory child bearing for modern American women.

Or at least that’s what you’d think Rosenblatt was advocating, to judge by those comments. Which, of course, he didn’t. He only suggested (I’m paraphrasing because it’s more fun that way) that women by nature are hard-wired to be married and bear children, which is why some young girls start planning their weddings at age 7 and have the albums to show for it.

Put aside sentiment and politics, let’s talk economics. Here are a few of the leading countries in the world in terms of real Gross Domestic Product growth annually.

There’s Argentina, with 8.8 real GDP growth rate, and 17.34 births per 1000, as opposed to 7.36 deaths per 1000.

I propose that Argentina’s astonishing growth economically has everything to do with the fact that it has three times more people being born than dying.

In Turkey, there’s 8.5 real GDP growth rate, with 17.58 births per 1000, with only 6.1 Deaths per 1000.

India is another great example: 7.8 real GDP growth rate, births per 1000: 20.6 Deaths: 7.43

Even Israel, with a very good 4.8 real GDP growth rate, shows the same healthy trend: with 18.97 births per 1000 and only 5.5 deaths. In fact, Israel’s situation is even better than most because of its excellent medical services. Also, Israel isn’t showing the same stunning growth rate as, say, India, because our economy here has been pretty fabulous for some time, and so we are higher up the bell curve.

Now check out some liberal Western democracies, with self-fulfilled, emancipated women who have better things to do than get married and pregnant:

Israel’s Credit Rating Reaffirmed

Friday, October 5th, 2012

1.  Israel’s credit rating has been reaffirmed at A+ by “Standard and Poor,” at a time when S&P lowers the credit rating of an increasing number of Western countries.  According to S&P:

the Israeli economy continues to generate solid economic growth and enjoy a net external asset position, even though the current account has temporarily turned negative. The stable outlook reflects our view that there is sufficient political will to prevent a sizable increase in the government’s debt burden, and that major security risks will be contained. 

S&P noted that “there has been fiscal slippage on account of lower government revenues,” but added, “recent austerity measures and current growth levels should ensure that debt ratios modestly improve in the medium term.

Referring to the most important economic development in Israel in recent times, the discovery of large offshore gas reserves, S&P said, “We forecast that by the middle of the decade domestic natural gas production should contribute to improved external and fiscal balances” (Globes Business Daily, September 30, 2012).

2.  Israel’s GDP grew by 3.4% during the 2nd quarter of 2012, compared with 3.1% and 3.2% during the 1st quarter of 2012 and the 4th quarter of 2011 (Globes, Sept. 20) . While unemployment trends upward towards 7% – which is significantly lower than OECD countries – housing demand peaked in August, to a 13 year record (Globes, Sept. 28).

Israel’s export is impacted by the global meltdown in general and Europe’s intensified economic crisis in particular.  However, while export to Europe declined by 21% during July-August, 2012, compared with July-August, 2011, export to the U.S. surged by 16% during the same period and by 31% compared with May-June, 2012.  Total export ($7.7BN) decreased by 3.5% during July-August, 2012 (Israel Hayom, Oct. 3).

3.  According to the 2012 OECD report, Education at Glance, Israel is ranked 2nd in the number of adults (25-64 year old) with academic degrees, trailing Canada, but ahead of all other OECD countries (Israel Hayom, Sept. 12).

4.  eBay CEO John Donahoe at Israel’s Advanced Technology Conference in Jerusalem (Bloomberg, Sept. 11):  the Israel R&D centers of eBay and its subsidiary PayPal will continue to help drive the company’s innovation in commerce and payment in the foreseeable future. Those centers are based largely on Israeli start-ups acquired by eBay, including Shopping.Com, The Gifts Project and Fraud Sciences. Those centers, employing 340 people, work on everything from EBay’s global social activities to cataloging and data to search mechanisms as well as security and risk management.  Donahoe is looking forward to partnering with more Israeli entrepreneurs to help further spur the future of retail and commerce.

5.  Cisco Systems, the Silicon Valley-based Greylock Partners and the Englewood, CO-based Liberty Global participated in the $24MN 5th round of private placement by Israel’s Celeno (Globes, Sept. 28).

Kazakhstan’s Kenges Rakishev invested $20MN in Israel’s Mobli.  Additional investors in Mobli are Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey McGuire and Serena Williams.

In August, Rakishev invested $5MN in Israel’s TriPlay (Globes, September 20). The Radnor, PA-based New Spring Capital, the Menlo Park, CA-based Menlo Ventures and the Palo Alto, CA-based Trident Capital participated in a $12MN 3rd round by Israel’s eXelate (Globes, Sept. 25). Switzerland’s ABB will invest $10MN in an Israeli solar project (Globes, Sept. 3). Motorola Solutions led a $4MN round by Israel’s AgentVi (Globes, Sept. 12).

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