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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Modern Orthodox’

A Kosher Supermarket is About to Close and the Question is Why

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

The announcement by the 75-year old Crown Market in West Hartford, Connecticut, that it would be closing sent shock waves through the Jewish community.

Mark Bakeoff, who bought the market five years ago, said tough economic conditions and increasing competition have made things difficult, but the biggest blow came with “one of the worst winters on record in a decade.” Despite attempts to save the market, the owner is not optimistic. Sources told Kosher Today that the store did not cater to the community’s small but growing Orthodox community.

Mark Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Hartford, explains that one of the reasons Crown Market is closing  is because “the Ultra-Orthodox did not believe the market was kosher enough and refused to patronize it.” Silk goes on to explain that modern Judaism has seen a decline among what he terms the “Modern Orthodox” and an increase in the number of Ultras. Rabbi Ilana Garber, a Conservative rabbi and a loyal Crown customer, is leading the efforts to save the supermarket.

The announcement of the pending closure resulted in some soul searching by many Jews in the community. One blogger wrote: “I chose to shop at the new neighborhood Wal-Mart because we wanted to save money. What I realize now, much too late, is that if I had shopped at Crown and paid a little bit more, I would have been supporting this important part of the Jewish community that we cherish and love. And now, with a heavy heart, I admit I was wrong. I apologize. I know that isn’t enough. I wish it were. I wish I could promise to shop there for now on. I wish I could get 500 families to pledge to do the same. I wish I had known they were in trouble so I could have done something, anything.”

Other bloggers also shed tears and one vacationer in Turks and Cacos even placed an order long distance. Many markets and even restaurants have opened because of a pledge of community support only to close when the support was not forthcoming. The upscale Le Masada Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency in Chicago was one such case in the late ‘90’s.

Insularity or Engagement?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Many of my critics ask me why I don’t focus on the problems in the Modern Orthodox community. In particular the charge is made about my posts dealing with Off the Derech (OTD) children. (I dislike that term as it automatically casts these young people in a negative light. But I use it for lack of a better term.)

The truth is that there probably are a lot more young people who go OTD in Modern Orthodoxy(MO). I don’t know the percentages, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were huge. It is an unfortunate fact that far too many people in this community focus far too much on the ‘modern’ and not enough on the ‘Orthodox’.

By contrast it would seem that Charedim fare far better in this department. They focus entirely on the ‘Orthodox’ and have complete disdain for the ‘modern’.  Again, I don’t know the numbers but my guess is that compared to MO, their rate of OTD is comparatively low. On the surface it should not be too surprising. If one is raised in an environment that goes to great lengths to insulate their children from all outside influences, then of course there will be less attrition than from a community that not only allows outside influences, but actually encourages it if it doesn’t violate Halacha. And it is sometimes hard to draw a line between what violates actual Halacha and what doesn’t.

Once we engage with the outside culture crossing lines can easily occur. There are also a lot of grey areas that may be permissible but violate the spirit of Halacha. This can foster a slippery slope climate into becoming OTD.

It is also true that there are a lot of Modern Orthodox Jews who are observant for social rather than ideological makes. Which makes it more conducive for a child to go OTD when exposed to the general culture in large doses.

But before the Charedi world can pat itself on the back, I noticed a very disturbing statistic about one of the most Charedi and isolated cities in the world. From Marty Bluke’s blog, The Jewish Worker:

10% of the Charedi teenagers in Bnei Brak are OTD.  So says Mishpacha (Hebrew Edition) in an interview with people who work for the city of Bnei Brak in this area. What is sad is that they say that many times the kids not only go OTD but become criminals, addicts, etc. and that their efforts are not to bring back the kids to religion but to turn them into functioning members of society.

How could this be? How do people that are so insulated end up with one in ten children going OTD? If the average family has ten children, that means that every family has one OTD child. Perhaps one can begin to explain this by an excerpt from an article by Jonathan Rosenblum:

EVEN ON THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL, I’m not convinced that more mixed communities do not offer their own advantages. A friend of mine once commented to me, “I raised half my children in Tel Aviv and half in Bnei Brak, and on average, I have to say that those raised in Tel Aviv turned out better. In Tel Aviv, I raised them; in Bnei Brak the street raised them.” What he meant – at least in part – was that in a mixed community, the children had to work on their identity and figure who and what they were. In the all chareidi community, everything was just assumed, without ever being thought about. The former produces people whose first question is, “What does Hashem want from me?;” the latter those who ask, “What will the neighbors say?”

And from yet another article by Jonathan in this past week’s Mishpacha Magazine:

I do remember being told by one of the world’s most prominent marbitzei Torah, as we chatted on a transatlantic flight, that the most insular and tightly controlled Torah communities have the highest incidence of dropouts. And when I mentioned this observation a few hours later to another equally prominent Torah figure, as we waited for our baggage, he looked at me as if to ask why I was taking up his time with something so obvious. (Emphasis mine.)

If one combines this with Rabbi Moshe Grylak’s series of editorials about Charedi parents abandoning their OTD children to the streets, this adds up to a shocking situation. My guess is that even if more MO children go OTD, very few are abandoned by their parents like that.

All of this raises some obvious questions. Among them the following. Is it in fact better to be raised in the type of insular community that is typical of the Charedi world? Should parents seek to avoid any contact with the outside world because of its negative influences? Or is it better to follow the path of Modern Orthodoxy with its philosophy of controlled engagement with the outside world? If the latter is the case, then what about all of those MO children who go OTD… and there are many?

I think the answer is not in the numbers as much as it is in the actual philosophies of the two worlds.  One that views insularity as the ideal and the other who views interaction as the ideal.  There are actually two worlds in Modern Orthodoxy. One is the social world which is very large. And the other is the philosophical world which includes its own right and left and is probably a lot smaller.

When I speak of Modrn Orthodoxy as being the better of the two options, I am speaking about the Hashkafa of Modern Orthodoxy. If it that were the guiding principle of all Modern Orthodox Jews, there would be a lot fewer dropouts. Why? Because  Modern Orthodoxy believes that engagement with the culture is a good thing.

The benefits of that are twofold. One is that we can appreciate God’s world in its larger context (outside the halls of the Synagogue, study hall and focus on pure ritual) and enjoy what the surrounding culture has to offer in the realm of the Halachicly permissible. But perhaps more important is that inoculation works better than insularity.

If properly raised to honor God and his Torah and observe his commandments, then being exposed to the culture in that context will enable parents to teach their children how to enjoy the permissible while avoiding the impermissible. From the perspective of Modern Orthodoxy, doing God’s will by following Halacha is number one. Once a child  is imbued with Yiras Shomyim, he can be taught by his parents how to engage the world and to better deal with any challenge that may come up.

While this is not foolproof, I think it should be obvious by the statistics and anecdotal evidence quoted by Jonathan Rosenblum, and Rabbi Grylak that a philosophy of controlled exposure to the culture that is one of the hallmarks of Modern Orthodoxy clearly trumps the almost total insularity of the Charedi world.  The only reason that many MO children dropout is not due to its philosophy but due to the fact in all too many MO families – observance is more social than ideological.

I recently saw a Modern Orthodox Bat Mitzvah video where there was very little ‘Mitzvah’ and a lot of culture that was anathema to Judaism. The girls were dressed immodestly and they were all dancing to the sexually suggestive music being played by a disc jockey they hired. Unfortunately these people had little interest in following the letter of the law, let alone the spirit of the law. There was nothing Jewish in that video at all. And I’m sure that most of those young people come from observant homes – socially observant homes.

I believe that a lot of MO Jews are like this. I don’t know the numbers, but I fear they may even be the majority. It would not surprise me if more than a few of those kids went OTD at some point in their lives. But that does not speak to the validity of Modern Orthodoxy as a Hashkafa.

It is my belief that those of us who are serious about the Hashkafa have the fewest dropout of all. A lesson that the Charerdi world should learn from us – if it isn’t too late.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Mother and Fighter for Religious Tolerance Quits Beit Shemesh

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Two years ago, Hadassa Margolese became a symbol of resistance to Haredi Orthodox domination after she allowed her 8-year-old daughter to tell an Israeli reporter how religious men had spit on her as she walked to school.

The report made headlines around the world and cast Margolese into the spotlight as a defender of the rights and values of the Modern Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh, a city of approximately 75,000 just off the main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with a growing Haredi population.

Now Margolese has departed Beit Shemesh — driven out not by the Haredim with whom she once clashed but by members of her own modern Orthodox community.

In May, Margolese published a column on the website of the Israeli daily Maariv detailing the degrading treatment she had endured during her monthly visits to a public mikveh, or ritual bath, a practice required by religious laws on marital intimacy. But rather than rally around her as it did in 2011, some in the modern Orthodox community turned on Margolese, subjecting her to a steady stream of online vitriol.

“I was airing our own dirty laundry as opposed to before, when I was airing another community’s dirty laundry,” she said. “I hear from so many women about their negative experiences [at the mikveh]. I thought people would say, ‘Yes, let’s change this.’ ”

Margolese, 32, is something of a reluctant activist. Unlike many Israeli social reformers, who aggressively seek media attention and speak in confident tones, Margolese is quiet and unassuming, cautious of offending friends and guarded when it comes to her personal life.

She assumed the protest mantle two years ago, she says, mainly out of necessity. And from the time that conflict died down until the mikveh column, she largely retreated into private life, visiting Beit Shemesh’s Haredi neighborhoods only when necessary.

“I really have very mixed feelings about it because I want to make whatever changes I can possibly make, but on the other hand, being a public figure isn’t so simple,” she said. “Really the only way to change things is by being public. If you’re not public, nobody cares what you have to say.”

Born in Los Angeles, Margolese came to Israel at the age of 2. A self-identified feminist, Margolese says inequalities between men and women in Judaism have bothered her since she was a child, when she began to question why Orthodox men bless God each morning for not making them women. She apparently did not know or did not accept modern orthodox explanations that the blessing is not anti-feminist and in fact is an expression of thanks by men that they can perform mitzvahs that women are not required to keep.

Margoles now is living a more tranquil life in a town of secular and modern Orthodox families she prefers not to name. She plans to continue to be active on the mikveh issue, though in a more circumscribed way, conducting low-key meetings with activists and politicians, and confining her writing to her blog.

“I’d like to be a social activist,” she said. “I don’t think I have a thick enough skin to be a politician.”

In her mikveh column, Margolese described the way mikveh supervisors would question her Jewish observance and stare at her as she entered and left the water naked. An attendant would interrogate her about how thoroughly she cleaned herself and demand that she return to the sink for another wash.

“I’m supposed to feel clean after the mikveh,” Margolese wrote, “but instead I feel degraded and dirty.”

Soon after the column was published, Margolese was at a meeting of the Knesset Caucus for the Advancement of Women. She planned to stay afterward to meet politicians sympathetic to her cause, but shaken by a stream of negative comments being posted to her Facebook wall — some of them by friends — she left early.

“The humiliation I felt from these individuals was worse than all of my negative mikveh experiences all put together,” Margolese wrote on her blog. “I knew about the gossip going on around me. I cried for days. I couldn’t breathe. I stopped leaving my house other than to go to work. I decided that it is time to move.”

New Republic Article on Feminism from Zion Is All About the Stakes

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The new issue of The New Republic cover story (The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism) is about us. It is about Haredim, modern Orthodox, and women. These are things we discuss regularly online and at our Shabbos tables, and in our coffee rooms. The story is remarkably accurate and balanced, displaying a very deep understanding of the issues in Israel today. I recommend reading the article immediately.

Imagine a spectrum of religious fundamentalism in the orthodox Jewish community. On one end you have extreme Haredi sects and on the other end you have completely secular Israelis. On most things and for most of time the people in the middle, let’s call them modern orthodox, skewed their allegiences toward the Haredi side. Orthodoxy is the great uniter. The assumption is that any two orthodox people will have more common interests than an orthodox and a secular Jew. This is how things were.

In essence, the article argues that while naturally aligned with their fellow orthodox Jews, women from the modern orthodox community in Israel are finding themselves aligned with secular feminist Jews in Israel. The collective pain that is felt due to the oppressiveness toward women in the extreme and not so extreme Haredi world is taking a toll. Women have been attacked physically, verbally, and psychologically for a long time and it is starting to create a negative reaction.

Several times the article mentions signs that tell women how to dress. We have become accustomed to these signs. But the women in the article argue that the signs give license to thugs who want to make a statement to women. To them, the signs mean much more than “Please be sensitive to our religious beliefs.” Part of that is because these standards are entering the public sphere and are no longer just limited to the private insular neighborhoods. But the other part of it is that the signs are somehow justifying the negativity and violence toward women.

What has happened is that women who feel hurt and abused are turning to secular and Reform Jews for salvation. Feminism is a dirty word in many orthodox communities, even in some places within the modern orthodox community. But it’s becoming a necessary evil for modern orthodox women who are not feminists at all to ask for help from feminists. It’s odd when orthodox people are funding they have more in common with secular and very liberal Jews than fellow orthodox Jews. But that is what is happening.

The article also talks about modern orthodox women who sympathize with the Women of the Wall. I wish they would be more vocal but i was heartened to hear it.

Last week I wrote about finding common ground and room for dialogue between modern orthodox and yeshivish Jews in America. (See:
Maybe Rabbi Birnbaum Has a Point: A Solution) I think what we are seeing in the article in TNR is what will happen if we can’t work together. If the people in the middle start to feel like the liberal and secular Jews are more sympathetic to their way of life, the great split that has been predicted for years, will finally happen. Modern orthodox Judaism will become an independent group.

Some might say, what’s so bad about that? Well there are plenty negative consequences to mention. But I will mention the two biggest issues. First, the Haredi institutions will fall without modern orthodox support. Some might say that’s not so bad either. I disagree. Their services are necessary, as is their trap door into engagement with society. On the other side, without a connection the Haredi community, the modern orthodox community will be hard pressed to support its own institutions for lack of qualified teachers and rabbis.

It’s not in our best interests to see a formal split. It might happen in Israel and it might happen in America. I think we should do everything we can to prevent it. The first thing we need to do, is get together and talk.

Visit Fink or Swim.

The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism

The Charleston Hashkafa

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Over the past ten months that we’ve lived in Charleston, SC, I’ve written about a number of reasons why we love living here: the beautiful downtown, the warm and embracing Jewish community, the amazing people we have met, and, of course, the dolphins.

Those are all true. But I’ve avoided writing about one reason, the main reason that I feel I’ve found a haven in this beautiful city: I rarely hear the words “modern Orthodox.” Nor do I hear the word “yeshivish.” People here do not know about, nor participate in what I non-affectionately call “the hashkafa (religious worldview) wars.”

I used to work in a school where the question often arose as to whether I am yeshivish or modern Orthodox. My students would analyze my practices to decide which camp I fall into. No TV – must be yeshivish. But she teaches oral law to women and loves learning halacha – modern Orthodox. Wears a sheitel without leaving out a lot of hair – yeshivish. Does not accept the concept that rabbis are infallible – modern Orthodox. Back and forth they would go, trying to neatly stack me and my husband in one of the two boxes that they knew.

I loved those kids, I loved the school, and I loved the community. And I would excuse these questions as coming from kids who have limited experience with different hashkafot. But the truth is, these questions are not limited to high school students. I’ve been asked by adults—very knowledgeable adults at that—from New York and from smaller communities, and even by friends. “I just don’t get you,” they’ll say, “What are you?”

And at moments like these, I feel bad for God.

Modern Orthodoxy is not a religion, although, quite honestly, I sometimes believe that people lose sight of what it’s all about and prioritize their hashkafa over God Himself. The words “modern Orthodoxy” mean, and should mean, something different to each person. There is no one modern Orthodox model, nor is there is one yeshivish model, and a person shouldn’t have to belong inside boxes.

The Talmud mentions a number of questions that God will ask us after 120 years. Among them are: Did you deal ethically in business? and Did you set aside time for Torah study?

I don’t profess to know it all, and I’ve never been dead before, but I can promise you: God will not ask if you stood rigorously on the principles of modern Orthodoxy. Nor will He ask if you followed the community’s standards of what is considered to be “yeshivish enough.”

We just enjoyed a fantastic Shavuot retreat in Charleston. Our committee worked incredibly hard on the program, ensuring that every detail would go well. The food, the decorations, the accommodations, the welcome bags… But what we realized is that there are two details (probably more) that you have no control over. The weather (which was, baruch Hashem, amazing) and the kind of people who attend your program. If people are complainers, or unfriendly, and refuse to mingle—you have a disaster of a program, no matter how well you planned.

When I first saw our participants on Friday night, I admit I was a little nervous. It was a real mix: some women wore sheitels and had husbands with beards, other couples appeared more “modern.” Would they mingle, I wondered, or stick to their hashkafa groups? Would our Charleston Jews see an example of the religious divide that often exists “up North?”

I feel so blessed to report that throughout the entire program, our participants were warm and friendly to each other and to our local Charlestonians (and amazingly, did not complain at all! Not only that, several sent donations and letters of appreciation!!!).

Hashkafa was not an issue. People mingled, they made new friends and it did not seem to matter if you came from Teaneck, Monsey or Los Angeles. It was fascinating, because while they came to absorb Charleston culture, they actually got a glimpse of what Charleston is all about without realizing it: there is no hashkafic divide in Charleston. There are no separate communities of yeshivish and modern Orthodox and shomer Shabbat and not-Shomer Shabbat. We are all one people.

Next Year In… Milwaukee?

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

I finally went to the Orthodox Union’s annual Jewish Communities Fair. As a long-time pro-Aliyah activist, I had been curious about this event, and so while on tour in America, I joined the hungry Modern-Orthodox masses at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Pavilion as they searched for new communities and a new life in far flung locales like Jacksonville, Florida, Louisville, Kentucky, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin – but not Israel.

I expected to see a moderately attended event. But to my surprise, the venue was packed with over 1,300 people, exploring the forty-one different communities represented. There was so much noise, I had to stand close in order to hear community leaders make their pitches.

OU Flyer

You may wonder, as I did, why would Modern-Orthodox Jews want to leave the kosher conveniences of the NY area and move to remote places like Southfield, Michigan. It turns out, that first and foremost, the answer is affordability: cheaper housing, cheaper education, and getting more for your money. A high quality of life at an affordable price. And incentives. Some communities promise incentives like a $20,000 gift for a down-payment on your home, and free tuition from kindergarten through grade 12.

Josh Elbert, who flew in to represent Southfield, shared with me how he had come to this fair a few years ago and was skeptical when the Michigan people approached him. They said to him, “Don’t judge until you see it,” and indeed, when he saw it, he was smitten. “I am a success story of this event. Because of the connections we made here, we were able to provide a terrific opportunity for our family,” he told me. Because of the drop in real estate, he mentioned, one can buy a very large home for $115,000 in Southfield. Someone who makes forty-five thousand dollars a year can live next to a millionaire.

But there are other reasons to move to the American periphery – such as the opportunity to join a tight-knit community and make an impact on a growing shul, or aging congregation seeking new blood.

OU Community Fair Chesterfield & Crowd

I spoke with Rabbi Aaron Winter who came to Chesterfield, Missouri twenty two years ago to serve as their rabbi. He explained to me that Chesterfield is part of greater St. Louis, that they have a congregation of 80 Orthodox families, and their own mikvah and Chafetz Chaim Mesivta. He told me that his shul had succeeded in bringing many non-affiliated Jews closer to Torah. As he put it, “we are on the front lines of Orthodox Jewry in St. Louis.” Now, Chesterfield is looking to grow and they are offering up to five families a grant of twenty thousand dollars each towards the purchase of a home. “When you are an out-of-town community, even one family is gold. People appreciate you being here,” Rabbi Winter told me.

So cheaper housing, affordable education, a sense of community, and the promise of a better quality of life, are luring Jews to middle-America.

Understandable, reasonable, and respectable!

But what about the Israel option? Were any of the Modern Orthodox attendees at the OU’s Community Fair considering moving east of New York, to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? There was no way to really know because there were no tables representing emerging communities in the emerging Jewish state. Had there been a table for, let’s say, Efrat, Modiin, or Maale Adumim, then one could gauge how much action that table saw as compared with Portland. But alas, that option did not exist. The message of the fair was clear enough: If the Orthodox Union is going to help you find a new future – it is going to be in America.

That should come as no surprise. If you go to the OU’s website, you will see lots of pro-Israel links. But if you hover your mouse over the flag of Israel at the top of the site, a text pops up which reads: “Our ‘home away from home’ in Jerusalem, the OU Israel Center, annually welcomes over 100,000 visitors and residents.” The obvious implication is that Israel is a home away from home, but home is America. Another proof of this thinking was laid bare in the ‘Communities Guide’ which was given out at the fair. In it were page after page of US destinations for “Home & Job Relocation” with pictures, contact numbers, and websites. Yet on the back cover the full page glossy called on all to: “Join Us in Celebrating Israel’s 65th Birthday – March with the OU at the Celebrate Israel Parade.” Again, the message is clear: you can celebrate Israel and love Israel with the OU, but if you’re looking to move, consider Cleveland.

Stop Deriding Black Hatters!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

One of my many goals in life as a Jew is to contribute to the unity of the Jewish people. All Jews share the heritage of the Torah which is what defines us as Jews. That heritage belongs to all of us as was so eloquently stated by newly elected Knesset member Ruth Calderon when speaking about her love of the Talmud. For those who choose not to follow all – or even any Halacha they are nevertheless fully Jewish – af al pi she chotah, Yisroel hu (even though he sinned, he is still a Jew).

Among those of us who are observant – unity should be natural. There should be a very strong common bond no matter what our differing hashkafos are. I often say that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. We are all shomer Shabbos and Yom Tov. We all keep Kosher. And we all eat matzah and do not eat hametz on Pesach.

But if one were to look at the enmity between religious Jews of differing hashkafos one would think we live on different planets the residents of which are enemy alien creatures. Unity is the furthest thing from our minds.

Which brings me to a very poignant article by Yael Farzan published yesterday in The Observer – Yeshiva University’s student newspaper. Let me say at the outset that I agree with her. She laments the fact that there is so much bias against the “Black Hat” (Haredi) community by members of her own Modern Orthodox community.

What precipitated her article is an experience she had on a recent Friday night. During a conversation with a group of friends someone slipped a derogatory comment about Haredim that generated derisive laughter from the other members of the group. She cringed!

I for one am happy to see a natural reflex like that from a Modern Orthodox Jew. It shows me that there are people who indeed believe that what unites us is greater than what divides us. The laughter from others in her group is unfortunately a more common reaction. If not overtly then covertly. This is nothing but pure prejudice for no reason. Laughter is not criticism. It is a form of expressing one’s feeling of superiority over others. And it shows an attitude that is so ingrained that no one there – other than the author of this article – gave it a second thought. It is just a given – natural part of their worldview to look down at the Haredi world.

This is wrong. It is as biased as is being anti-black. Which as Ms. Farzan points out is the furthest thing from a Modern Orthodox Jew’s worldview. The typical Modern Orthodox Jew would be appalled (rightly so) if someone used a racial epithet against a black person. If a crude racist joke were made there would very likely be no laughter – but righteous indignation. As there should be.

But when it comes to one of our own, there is no such thing. Laughter is the appropriate response (unfortunately) to an anti-Haredi or anti-Hasid joke.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being Haredi or Hasidic. We can disagree with them on hashkafic issues or be critical of some of their choices. But we must never deride them or think less of them as human beings or Jews just because of hashkafic differences.

I criticize the Haredi and Hasdic world all the time. But it is not a criticism of their lifestyles or their Hashkafos. Even as I believe that my worldview is the correct one, I concede that there are others who see things differently than I do… seeing their own worldview as the correct one. In the spirit of “elu v’elu” (“these and those”) we should just agree to disagree and respect each other’s views and lifestyles as long as they do not impinge on the rights of others.

So if a Haredi has a large family, or wears a black hat, or sees the goal of Jewry expressed only in terms of Torah study, or does not see any value in the study of mada (secular studies), or even chooses to live his life in isolation, sheltered from all outside influences – that is his right. It should not detract from the sense of unity that observant Jews have. We are all believers in the Torah and the obligation to follow Halacha. And we all fail sometimes in those goals, whether it is bein adam l’makom (between man and God) or bein adam l’havero (between man and his fellow). Our commonality should supersede any differences between us. We should respect those differences even as we disagree with them.

Anyone of us who therefore smirks at derogatory Haredi or Hasidic comment or laughs at a derisive joke ought to be ashamed of themselves.

The only legitimate criticism of anyone should be in behavior that is a hilul HaShem (desecration of God’s name). It doesn’t matter what the hashkafa of that person is. Even if we speculate – as I sometimes do – about the reasons for some bad behavior stemming from what is perceived as a flaw in the way some hashkafos are carried out – that does not mean that an entire group should be looked down upon or that the entire hashkafa is wrong. Criticism should be looked at as a means of trying to rectify a flaw, not as a put-down of the entire group.

To the extent that some of my more critical posts generate comments that are sarcastic and contemptuous toward the entirety of Haredim or Hasidim I apologize. It has never been my intent to do that. My intent is to improve, not to deride. And yet some of those posts bring out the worst in us.

I should add that is not a one way street. The behavior of many Haredim and Hasidim towards Modern Orthodox Jews is just as bad. The exact same essay in The Observer could have been written about a group of Haredim in the ‘back of the Beis HaMedrash mocking Modern Orthodox Jews. The things being pointed to are different. As are the reasons for their sense of superiority. But the attitude is the same. And my critique would be exactly the same.

But I fault Modern Orthodox Jews more than I do Haredim. Not because our jokes are meaner. I have heard equally scornful comments from both groups about the other – albeit in different ways. But as Ms. Farzan points out – Modern Orthodox Jews are supposed to be the open minded ones. The tolerant ones. The ones who try and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It’s time we acted like that about our own.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

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