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August 26, 2016 / 22 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘modern’

What is Modern Orthodoxy?

Monday, May 16th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah}

This is one of those instances where I have to say, ‘You’re both right’. But not entirely.  I’m talking about a recent article by Rabbi Yitz Greenberg  in the Jewish Week – and Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer’s response to it in Cross Currents.

Rabbi Greenberg, who is certainly in the most left wing of Modern Orthodoxy has written a rather lengthy lament about what has happened to Modern Orthodoxy in the last 50 years or so. It has moved to the right. And in some cases, lamentably so. I agree with him.

Just to mention examples cited or alluded to by Rabbi Greenberg: The fact that mixed seating at weddings is becoming harder to find; the ArtScroll phenomenon that puts a decidedly Charedi spin on biographies and history; the fact that a lot of MO schools have turned to Charedi Rabbis as their Mechanchim (for lack of finding enough Modern Orthodox Mechanchim); and the fact that many of the ‘gap year’ Yeshivos in Israel that are Charedi recruit in MO Yeshivos.

This has indeed resulted in many young people raised in Modern Orthodox homes becoming Charedi themselves – sending their own children to Charedi schools where they are taught values that are anathema to most Modern Orthodox Jews. Like the very negative view they take of the State of Israel, its leaders and founders; the view that Herzl is looked at as a rasha instead of an instrument God used to return the land of Israel into Jewish hands after 2000 years of exile; the view that the Israeli army is a cauldron of anti-religious assimilation instead of viewing it as Israel’s defense system;  the increasing devaluation of  secular studies and values; and the idea that insularity is the lifestyle of choice in order to avoid being influenced by those values. I could go on. But I think I have made my point.

Where I part company with Rabbi Greenberg is exactly the same place that Rabbi Gordimer does. Rabbi Greenberg believes that an important feature of Modern Orthodoxy should be to embrace the spirit of the times at the expense of traditional Orthodox values. Instead of lamenting the things I mentioned and trying to restore them as the legitimate values in Orthodoxy, he suggests that we return to a system that tolerated violations of Halacha as a means of retaining nominally Orthodox Jews that were not observant.

He further suggests we embrace innovations based on the spirit of the times in order to retain observant Jews that might seek membership elsewhere if their views are not incorporated in to the system.

This includes acceptance of organizations like PORAT that question the Divine authorship of the Torah. This is not Modern Orthodoxy. This is revisionist Judaism and not Orthodoxy – not all that different than the origins of the Conservative movement. It seems that Rabbi Greenberg’s motives are the same as the founders of that movement. He  wants to ‘conserve’ Judaism. But you can’t conserve something by changing it into something unrecognizable.

Modern Orthodoxy – like Charedi Orhtodoxy is not some sort of malleable religion  where traditions can be discarded and its values re-shaped to fit the times. Trying to incorporate ideologies that contradict Jewish norms is not the way to conserve Judaism. It is the way to turn it into something unrecognizable. Embracing the conclusions of modern scholarship of the bible is a break from the fundamental tenets of Judaism. If Rabbi Greenberg wants to know where acceptance of his view will lead- let him look at the Conservative Movement. They –  like Rabbi Greenberg had good intentions. They wanted to conserve Judaism, too.

There is one thing that Rabbi Greenberg seems to misstate, that Rabbi Gordimer catches: that Rav Soloveitchik’s successors have not followed in his footsteps.  That is not true. Yes, it seems that Rav Soloveitchik (the Rav) placed a much greater emphasis on secular studies and culture than his successors at Yeshiva University seem to. And it is also true that the majority of the members of the RCA have taken a more right wing stance on certain issues.

It is true that the RCA has turned rightward in the sense that they embrace a more traditional worldview which is closer to the Charedi worldview of their predecessors. But they have not rejected the values I lamented above – which have changed.

What about the Rav’s positive attitude about secular studies which Rabbi Greenberg’s says is no longer the case in the revised version of Modern Orthodoxy which he labels Charedi lite? Let us look at one of the Rav’s greatest students, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, ZTL. I hardly think Rav Lichtenstein’s PhD from Harvard in English Literature and his clear embrace of what he studied there shows any less appreciation for it than Rav Soloveitchik’s.

If one wants to truly define Modern Orthodoxy they should read the works of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, ZTL and Yibadel L’Chaim, Rav Aharon Rakeffet.  These two great students of the Rav knew him best. And their values reflect his.

At the end of the day, there are three things that seem pretty clear to me:

One: The Rav would have never embraced the values Rabbi Greenberg is promoting here.

Two: Expanding the boundaries of Orthodoxy in order to save it will ultimately have the same effect it did when the Conservative Movement did it.

Three: An Orthodoxy that embraces both modernity and tradition is the Modern Orthodoxy of the future. If it even has a future.

Harry Maryles

Modern Liberalism and the Death of Civilization

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

The Nihilism (involving moral relativism) that contaminated higher education in America begins with the early 20th century flood of European philosophy in American academia. Most influential was Germany’s (or Hegel’s) historical relativism, which contradicts the biblical narrative, as did England’s (or Hume’s) atheistic empiricism. Both dominate higher education to this day, even in the “Jewish” state of Israel.

As Leo Strauss has shown, the father of modern liberalism is none other than Spinoza. Spinoza is also the father of biblical criticism. This made Spinoza the darling of Germany, of the nineteenth-century German school of Bible Critics.

Spinoza must therefore have encouraged the European-educated John Stuart Mill, whose mid-nineteenth essay On Liberty made him the world’s leading exponent of unfettered freedom of speech, hence of the free speech Liberalism that continues to predominate the mentality of American law schools and judicial institutions.

Paradoxically, however, free speech Liberalism is now eviscerating academic freedom in the United States. American colleges and universities have succumbed to the virtual totalitarianism underlying the prohibition of what is called “hate speech,” speech that offends the sentiments, above all the religious beliefs of Muslims, The ban on “hate speech” means the end of the liberal dogma of unfettered freedom of speech. The ban on “hate speech” may readily be construed as indistinguishable from speech involving, however remotely the character of other human beings.

What irony! The unrestrained permissiveness of Liberalism regarded obscenity as a protected form of speech by the American Supreme Court. This ruling at least denied the existence of truth and of evil, hence of that which denies the existence of a rational God, as well as the distinction between the human and the subhuman.

That denial can readily undermine the distinction between the polite speech appropriate in the company of woman and the obscene speech typical among vile men. This involves a degradation of language. The foulness of language violates the language of Holy Writ, which utterly avoids obscenity and employs only euphemisms to avoid any degradation of the human body, the creation of God.

This lofty attitude toward speech or language was overruled by Israel’s ultra-Liberal Supreme Court president, Judge Aharon Barak, who nullified a law permitting the Film Censorship Board to ban pornographic movies by ruling that nothing can actually be declared pornography, “as one man’s pornography is another man’s art” (Station Film Company v. Film Censorship Board, 1997).

As a free speech Liberal, Barak seems to have been very much influenced by the academic doctrine of moral-cum-cultural relativism. Moral-cum-cultural relativism was, and effectively still is, the ruling dogma of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The most famous and influential intellectual founder of this university was the German-educated Martin Buber. Buber, who renounced Judaism to the extent of marrying a Gentile, propagated the anti-Jewish Hegelian doctrine of Historical Relativism (or moral pluralism). Buber’s book, Two Kinds of Faith, happens to provide a philosophical basis of the “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Buber wrote Two Kinds of Faith to justify by his marriage to a Gentile, a convenient academic justification for a Jew-turned cultural relativist!

Epilogue

The free speech Liberalism underlying American as well as Israeli law has sanctified public obscenity and even pornography, which are rooted in atheism.

The denial of God, evident in contemporary Liberal education, engenders the denial of all moral distinctions.

An important set of moral distinctions is related to men and women. The ascendency of free speech Liberalism, of unfettered freedom of speech, diminishes the differences in the language used in speaking to and about men and women.

This unrestrained Liberalism encourages not only homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage. By its denial of truth it generates nihilism which in turn undermines any normative understanding of Islamic terrorism, as is evident in President Barack Obama’s attitude toward that savagery.

Same sex marriage, like Islamic terrorism, is a rejection of Western Civilization. Women (hence children) will be the first victims of this Liberalism, beginning, as mentioned, with our attitude toward Language. Since language distinguishes the human from the subhuman, its degradation in obscenity cannot but degrade human life. This is also the consequence of Islamic terrorism which, consistent with Islamic theology, substitutes the primacy of force over the primacy of reason.

Summing up: Free speech Liberalism – with its denial of truth – is actually a negation of rational speech, hence of God’s gift to man. Unfettered freedom of speech, the tendency of modern Liberalism, and implicit in the above-mentioned decision of Judge Aharon Barak, signals the death of rational speech, hence of civilization.

With Barak-type Liberals laying down the law concerning what was traditionally known as distinctively human, and therefore hence of what is decent and indecent, the word “terrorism” will become as meaningless as the term “marriage.”

Small wonder that neither Israelis nor Americans know where they are going, although there are signs that their ultimate destination is the grave.

Paul Eidelberg

Pesach’s Message for Modern Times

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

It’s the festival we have all grown to know and love. Some say Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur are the pinnacle holidays, but I believe Pesach truly defines us.

Pesach is about the Jews’ plight to freedom from the clutches of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The story is famous, but not just amongst ourselves. It was that moment in history that we unified as a people and walked towards the acceptance of the Torah and its laws.

Throughout the ages, persecution has been a recurring theme for our religion. Be it expulsion, pogroms, holocausts or mass-murder, new faces have risen to direct hatred toward us. Many have tried to rid the world of each and every one of us, but not once have they managed to succeed.

When I sat down for this year’s seder, surrounded by family, we discussed the story in detail. We spoke about our forefathers; the inhumane work they were forced to do, the murder of newborn babies and the heinous attacks they received. Yet, putting things into a modern-day perspective, we could have been reviewing the events of the past century.

Times may have changed, yet the oppression continues on.

Admittedly, there are some stories through our history that are difficult to envisage. For instance, the flood that destroyed the world besides for Noah and his children; it’s easy to understand the concept, but to imagine it actually taking place is hard. Or the idea that Lott’s wife, after turning around to watch the destruction of their city, changed into a pillar of salt. However, I don’t think anyone can deny how simple it is to comprehend the grief our ancestors had for hundreds of years. It’s relatable because it’s repeated so frequently.

The struggle faced in Egypt became the past. It may have happened millenniums ago but the message of endurance is still applicable. We are not in slavery but symbolically, we are bound together through a different type of chains.

So what should we understand that we can take into our lives in the 21st century?

When the tribes first went down to Egypt, Yosef was an important figure. His father and brothers settled comfortably and started to adapt to their changed surroundings. Food and water were in abundance in contrast to what they had just come from. Easily, their trust grew in this new country and its leader because their means and day-to-day existence became better and more relaxed.

Generation after generation continued to settle there, steadfast in the knowledge that they were welcomed like royalty decades before. Over time, Yosef and his brothers passed away, leaving behind their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a land that was never going to be their real home.

A new king rose to power, decidedly ignorant to why the Jews deserved any right to be treated well. They became complacent and thought that this is where they belonged. Little did they know what trauma was awaiting them in the future.

This is the original story of our survival. The reason why this tale is so famous is because it shows that G-d is always there, forever in the background, no matter how cloudy it may seem.

If you changed the details to concentration camps, Nazis and Europe, surely the resemblance is more than apparent?

It doesn’t matter what they dress up as or what they’re called, the original Pharaoh and his henchmen are still here. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Nazis have all been defeated, but this story remains the essence of our identity because it serves as a harrowing reminder.

I used to think to myself; why is the constant theme of seder night Leshana Haba’ah Benai Chorin (Next year we hope to be free) or Leshana Haba’ah B’Yerushalyim (Next year we hope to be in Jerusalem). Surely, with our passports and technology, we are finally have our freedom?

I’ve grown to realize that the message of the Pesach story is in actual fact a warning against this feeling. When we start to feel accepted, that is when we should be worried. Our trials and tribulations strengthen our faith and unity. We are our strongest when we are united, and we are never more united than when we feel pain. We are not free, we never will be.

One day, eagle’s wings will approach, and with that, our redemption will at last be final.

Selena Myers

Seeing the Shifting Face of American Judaism at Hershey Park

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Most years on the first weekday of Chol HaMoed Sukkot, my wife and I take our four children to Hershey Park. The park, located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania., is closed to everyone but frum Jews on that day.

Lancaster is not known as a center of frumkeit – it is most decidedly “out of town – but on that day Hershey not only makes accommodations for the visitors but actually reconfigures the whole park to be frum friendly. The food stands, including the kettle corn that draws some of the longest lines, are all kosher. Placards advertise the times for minyanim, and hundreds of men converge to daven at prearranged times or, if they miss the large gatherings, come together in small minyanim abutting food stands or roller coasters.

In addition, the park has sukkot to enable visitors to fulfill the obligation of eating in the sukkah.

Hershey is not the only amusement park to accommodate frum Jews for Sukkot, but it may make the most effort. The two Disney parks, in Florida and California, also typically host Orthodox Jews on this day, though not exclusively, as in Hershey. Disney Orlando allows the local Chabad rabbi to build a sukkah on the premises, outside the ticket taking area. (At Hershey there are two sukkot on the inside of the park.)

Hershey on Chol HaMoed – aka #jewday on Twitter – is also popular because it is in the heart of the Northeast corridor that houses the bulk of the country’s Orthodox Jews. It is a manageable drive from Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and more specifically from Orthodox enclaves in Silver Spring, Potomac, and Reisterstown, Md.; Cherry Hill, Englewood, Teaneck, and Lakewood, N.J.; and of course, Brooklyn, the Five Towns, and Queens in N.Y.

The crowd, though nearly all frum, is nonetheless quite a diverse mix of the entire range of frumkeit, including haredi, chassidic, Modern, and barely. I delight in seeing chassidishe families, notable for their boys sporting long curly peyot and speaking rapid-fire Yiddish, standing on line next to modern jeans-clad teenagers hanging out in “coed clumps.” Though much is written about the divisions within the Modern and non-Orthodox camps, it seems as if Hershey Park, and similar parks around the country that sponsor or encourage special days for Orthodox Jews, have found the magic formula that will unite these oft-times contentious communities – namely, rides.

At Hershey Park, where strangers happily exchange the Yiddish greeting “a gut moed,” we see that despite differences in prayer books (ArtScroll vs Koren), pronunciation (taf vs. saf) and Zionism (silent vs pro), Orthodox Jews are just like everyone else. They are looking for a place they can enjoy a fun day with their families, where their restrictions – kosher food, the need for a minyan and to eat in a sukkah – do not prevent them from sharing in that enjoyment. You can almost sense the excitement kosher-keeping Jews feel at not having to bring their own food to a family fun outing.

Hershey Park helps tell another tale as well. Fifty years ago, American Orthodoxy was being demographically dismissed as a relevant force in American Jewish life; over the last two decades, however, Orthodoxy has grown from its nadir of about 5 percent of the nation’s Jewish population to somewhere between 10 and 15 percent, and the numbers are rising.

About 27 percent of Jews under 18 are Orthodox, in large part because Orthodox Jews tend to marry earlier, have more children and intermarry far less frequently than Conservative and Reform Jews. In addition, Orthodox parents are far more likely to send their children to Jewish day schools or yeshivot, which are key predictors of generational Jewish continuity.

This growing community is in the process of shifting the face of Judaism in America from a cultural, economic and political perspective. The crowd that gathers every year in Hershey is providing a preview of what that changed Jewish community could look like.

Next year, out-of-towners and in-towners alike should consider a visit to Hershey on Chol HaMoed to get a glimpse of the emerging future of American Orthodoxy. And then, when the eight days of chag are over, they can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to work.

Tevi Troy

The State of the Jew According to Pew

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Pew conducted a study of Jews in America and has released a comprehensive report based on its findings. Nearly 2800 religious Jewish people were interviewed and the results of those interviews make up the model for the results of the study. It’s difficult conduct a study like this and achieve meaningful results. I am not a statistician nor can I compare the sample sizes used in this study with others. To my untrained eye, it seems small.

There are many very interesting findings to discuss. I have three things I want to say about the study.

First, people will point to the staggering number of orthodox Jews who are no longer orthodox. That number is 52%. It seems impossible to believe. That means that over half of people raised orthodox are no longer orthodox. Think about the orthodox Jewish friends and family you know. Does it make sense to say that over half of them are no longer orthodox? I don’t think so.

If you drill down a bit you notice a couple of things. For starters, I know many people who say they were raised orthodox because they went to a yeshiva or modern orthodox school even if they weren’t frum at home. I went to school with several people like that. Those people certainly skew the numbers. After all, the study relied on self identification. There was no process to classify people into categories other than to ask them.

But the real key here what the numbers are for young people being raised in contemporary orthodoxy. Those numbers are impressive. 83% of people raised as orthodox Jews under the age of 30 stay. This is a huge success. It’s also a number that correlates with anecdotal evidence. So the people who were raised orthodox and no longer are orthodox are mostly older people. What does this mean?

It means one of two things or perhaps a hybrid of two. [It doesn’t mean that orthodox Jews leave the fold in their 30’s and 40’s at alarmingly high rates.] It could either mean that orthodoxy is much stronger today than it was 20 and 30 years ago. People get a better Jewish education, there is more insularity, and the shift to ultra orthodoxy which outnumbers modern orthodoxy by nearly 10:1 in this demographic is working to keep more orthodox Jews orthodox. Alternatively, it signifies a shift in who attends orthodox schools. In other words, 20-30 years ago it was far more likely for a family to send a child to an orthodox school and identify as orthodox even if they were not totally observant of halacha. There was more cross-pollination and there were fewer non-orthodox options. So you wind up with more people from previous generations identifying as being raised orthodox even though they weren’t truly orthodox through and through. This is rarer today because we are more insular and non-orthodox or unaffiliated Jews feel less comfortable in orthodox institutions. The truth is likely a combination of the two but the latter does concern me.

Also, very few middle aged and older people consider themselves ultra-orthodox. It’s a youth movement. Sure, some mellow out and switch affiliation. But it’s also a recent phenomena that is sweeping orthodoxy. It’s pretty compelling evidence that what is happening now for the under 40 orthodox Jew is different from what their parents and grandparents experienced. It’s a different kind of Judaism. The numbers bear it out.

Next, the non-orthodox denominations are falling apart. The numbers support the rumblings and rumors regarding the demise of Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism is dwindling as well. Some orthodox Jews like to cheer while these two denominations begin to disappear. Others view it as a sign that those Jews must be saved and brought into orthodox Judaism.

I think that it is important for Judaism that non-orthodox denominations are strong and vibrant. I think that orthodox Jews should be concerned and make efforts to help revive non-orthodox Judaism. This sounds controversial and heretical but it’s really not. Orthodox Judaism is not going to magically become the Judaism for the 89% of non-orthodox Jews. We can either wish them well and watch them disappear or we can try to keep them connected to their Jewish heritage. I think the latter choice is preferable. Now we can either keep them connected by “making them orthodox” as if that is even possible, or we can rely on strong non-orthodox denominations to keep them in the fold. I think the latter choice is preferable here too. It’s certainly the more likely option to achieve widespread success. While resources are precious in the orthodox community, I think strengthening the non-orthodox denominations is a worthy endeavor. They are also our brothers and sisters. If we value what we have, we should do whatever we can to help them stay somewhat connected to their Judaism. A little bit of a good thing is a whole lot better than nothing.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

‘You Murder the Children’: Rav Soloveitchik on Abortion

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

When one thinks of Modern Orthodoxy, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l soon comes to mind for his leadership thereof. In our time, however, Modern Orthodoxy has become a vague term with problematic tendencies. As Rabbi Steven Pruzansky–who has numerous shiurim on Yeshiva University’s Torah website–recently wrote, “Too often, one finds in the Modern Orthodox world grievances of one sort or another against this or that aspect of Torah, as if Jews get to sit in judgment of God and His Torah.”

No issue might better crystallize the dissonance between Rav Soloveitchik’s Modern Orthodoxy and today’s than abortion. Let us consider the great man’s views.

During a shiur on Parashat Bo in 1975, Rav Soloveitchik stated that “to me it is something vulgar, this clamor of the liberals that abortion be permitted,” adding:

“I consider the society of today as insane…I read from the press that in Eretz Yisrael they permit abortions now! Sapir [probably Pinchas Sapir] comes to the US and asks that 60,000 boys and girls should leave the US and settle in Eretz Yisrael. When a child is born, it’s also immigration to Eretz Yisrael, and yet you murder the children.”

Rav Soloveitchik then predicted:

“And if you kill the fetus, a time will come when even infants will be killed…The mother will get frightened after the baby will be born…and the doctor will say her life depends upon the murder of the baby. And you have a word, mental hygiene, whatever you want you can subsume under mental hygiene…And there is now a tendency for rabbis in the US to march along with society, otherwise they’ll be looked upon as reactionaries.”

Similar remarks appear in Reflections of the Rav:

“If the dominant principle governing the logos [“thinking capacity”] is that abortion is morally permissible because only a mother has a right to decide whether she wishes to be a mother, then infants may similarly have their lives terminated after birth. What if the child interferes with the promising brilliant career of the mother?”

These words might be jarring for those who view Rav Soloveitchik as the mild-mannered author of philosophically oriented books like The Lonely Man of Faith. Equally if not more jarring might be Rav Soloveitchik’s statements on sexual morality, which I discussed a few months ago.

Specific to abortion, one might counter that Rav Soloveitchik permitted an unborn child with Tay-Sachs disease to be aborted through the sixth month, but this proves just the opposite, namely: 1) What does this narrow, tragic case indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s general view of abortion? 2) What does it indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s view of abortion after the sixth month even in the case of Tay-Sachs? And vis-à-vis those who claim a woman’s absolute right to “terminate a pregnancy” at any point, I doubt such an attempt to (mis)represent Rav Soloveitchik as a “moderate” on abortion would be received agreeably. In this regard, one of Rav Soloveitchik’s sons-in-law, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, shlita, has observed in the context of abortion:

“Even if we were to accept that indeed it is the woman’s own body, we totally reject the conception that she then can do with it as she pleases. This is a completely anti-halakhic perception [emphasis added]. It rests on a secular assumption that, as it were, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself’ (Yechezkel 29:3), as if we are the source of our own existence and therefore the masters of our own being. This is assuredly not the case.”

Rav Lichtenstein summarizes the worldview of that anti-halakhic perception as follows:

“The essence of modern secular culture is the notion of human sovereignty; individual man is master over himself, and collective man is master over his collective… From a religious point of view, of course, eilu va-eilu divrei avoda zara—both approaches are idolatrous. Here one establishes individual man as an idol, and the one idolizes, in humanistic terms, humanity as a whole. The basis of any religious perception of human existence is the sense that man is not a master: neither a master over the world around him, nor a master over himself.”

Yes, Rav Soloveitchik earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin (as likewise Rav Lichtenstein earned a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard). Yes, Rav Soloveitchik enjoyed classical music (especially Bach). And first and foremost, Rav Soloveitchik was a Torah Jew for whom Halachah was not some intellectual game or cultural style, rather an all-encompassing conviction with profound social implications. Thus his denunciations of abortion, which derived from the same worldview as these remarks in 1953:

Menachem Ben-Mordechai

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

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

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