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December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Secular’

Pushing the Boundaries of Outreach

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

One of the most difficult challenges of the 21st century was made very clear by the recent Pew study on American Jews. The fact is that except for Orthodoxy – Jewry is shrinking. I need not go into the statistics. They have been discussed ad infinitum by just about everyone. The shrinkage is due to a combination of factors mostly having to do with the lack of any significant meaning attributed to Judaism by those devoid of a religious education. Young Jews even with the highest of ethical values see no value in the religion of their forefathers. They see themselves as ethical human beings – same as anyone else with ethical values. They see all religious ritual adding nothing to their sense of ethics.

The question arises – what do we do about that? As Orthodox Jews who understand the value of the Torah and the importance of following Halacha – how can we change this new secular Jewish paradigm?

There are those who would answer: Nothing! There is nothing we can do to significantly change the attrition away from Judaism the masses are undergoing… that there has been attrition one way or another in every generation. Although they might wish things were different, they say it is virtually impossible to influence the minds of the vast majority of Jews whose secular – even ethical values were formed by a society devoid of Torah.

They will therefore say that we Orthodox should instead turn inward and work on ourselves and that the future of Judaism rests with us. While I understand that mentality and would certainly agree that we all need to work on our ourselves – I strongly disagree that we ought to ignore the rest of Jewry. We are not talking about a few Jewish souls here. We are talking about the vast majority of them. Fully 90% of all American Jewry is not Orthodox. Are we simply to just write them off? I don’t think so.

Thankfully neither do all the outreach organizations. They have had much success in reaching out to our secular brethren. But it is still a drop in the bucket. We Orthodox remain only 10% of the total. We may be growing, but a lot of that is internal because of our higher birth rate. The amount of successful outreach is still relatively small.

One way to reach more people is by interdenominational interaction. The problem with that is that some of the greatest religious leaders of the 20th century – including Rav Soloveitchik – have forbidden doing that. They forbade religious interaction of any kind because it would grant them tacit recognition. We cannot be seen to recognize movements that legitimize heretical thought. I understand and appreciate that.

Which is why the actions of the well intentioned Yeshiva Chovevei Torah are so problematic. Outreach is what motivated them to host leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism at a round table discussion during the installation of their new president, Rabbi Asher Lopatin. That certainly does seem to legitimize them. Both in the eyes of the leaders themselves and in the eyes of those who attended the session. While I support YCT’s intentions, I believe they have crossed a line here. As much as I would love to see cooperation between the denominations towards the goal of outreach that we all share – it cannot be at the expense of undermining our theology.

I know that YCT argues that such interactions do not validate heterodox movements. But it is impossible for those who attend to not see it that way – watching them all discuss their religious views as equals at the same table.So even though I agree with their motives, I disagree with what they did. That leaves the problem unsolved.

But there are other ways that we can participate with them and at the same time not be seen to recognize them. One way was when Yosef Reinman, a right wing Orthodox Rabbi from Lakewood, co-wrote a book with Amiel Hirsch, a Reform rabbi he had befriended… and then went on a book tour with him.

He was immediately – roundly criticized by the Agudah Moetzes for violating the ban on interacting with heterodox rabbis. They asked him to stop the tour and withdraw his book. He acceded to their requests but lamented the fact that he was now impeded from making the inroads he had started making with Reform Jews he would have otherwise never met.

Images of ‘the Other’

Monday, September 30th, 2013
Once again I find myself on a plane flying back from yet another wonderful Yom Tov experience in Israel. As I have said in the past, the community in Ramat Bet Shemesh where I spend time with my family is physically and spiritually beautiful… and so are all the people I encountered there.
But I was disappointed at the way the Charedim there see Chilonim (secular Israelis).  And by the same token I am aware of the fact that many Chilonim have an entirely negative attitude about Charedim. A young Charedi teenager I spoke to told me that whenever he passes though a secuar neighborhood, he gets stares and whispers. This young man would not hurt a fly. All he is interested in is studying Torah in his Yeshiva.
Why is this the case?
Images of ‘the other’ are heavily biased by what the media report about them. When the secular media report on the vile actions of extremist Charedim – that is how all Charedim are perceived.  They don’t know about the relatively peaceful nature of the vast majority of Charedim. They only see what the media reports. They see screaming, rabbinic leaders and politicians. They see rock throwers spitters.  The media does not report  about the peaceful lives and good deeds of this community because that isn’t news. Rock throwing and spitting is. Even if it is only done by the few, that is how the Charedim are seen as a whole.
I am reminded of a story I read in one of the Charedi magazines. I do not recall the details but a Charedi woman saw a void in how patients are treated and filled it with tons of Chesed. She does so without discrimination – giving of herself to anyone in need regardless of how religious or secular they are
One time when she was serving a Chiloni woman , she was thanked and then was asked a ‘favor’: “Would she mind telling her people to stop throwing rocks at her?”
The Charedi woman took umbrage at that since she had never thrown so much as a pebble at anyone in her life.  I can understand why she felt that way. But she should have asked herself, why do they hate us so much? And what can be done to change attitudes?
In my view, the problem is that the two communities do not interact with each other. They therefore have no clue what the other side is really like. Their perceptions are driven by a secular media whose job it is to present hard news and not fluff pieces…. And by the rhetoric of by which the Cheredi media characterizes the Chiloni world. Each side rejects thee other and will have nothing to do with each other.
Jonathan Rosenblum had an article in the Sukkos edition of Mishpacha Magazine wherein he tried to make this point. He quoted a Drasha that explains each of the Daled Minim (Lulav and Esrog etc.) as the four segments of Jewry, The Esrog represents those Jews who have both Torah and Mitzvos; The Lulav –those with Torah alone, The Hadassim – Mitzvos alone; and the Aravos – those with neither Torah nor Mitzvos. While this is certainly an oversimplification of reality – one might say that the Aravos apply to the Chiloni world. But God tells us to combine all four Minim for the Mitzvah to be properly fulfilled.
The point is that all segments of the Klal are needed to fulfill the Mitzvah of The Daled Minim.  And this should be the attitude of us all. We all need each other. We ought to interact with each other and get to what we all are really like. We can discuss the issue that divide us and hopefully come to a resolution that will be acceptable to all. But even if we don’t we will have accomplished a very big step toward Achdus.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

France: “Secularism Charter” in Every School

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

“Nothing could be worse than posting a secularism charter on the wall and then the students see around them that what actually happens in school life is the exact opposite of what we tell them.” — Philippe Tournier, Secretary General, French Teachers Union.

The French government has announced a plan to post a “secularism charter” in all public schools in France by the end of September.

The document — which is to appear in a prominent location in all of the 55,000 public schools in France — would serve to remind students and teachers of a list of secular principles underpinning the separation of mosque and state.

Although the initiative has enjoyed a generally positive reception, many observers are saying they doubt the Socialist government of French President François Hollande will have the political willpower actually to enforce secular principles in French schools — with or without a charter.

This skepticism stems from the fact that Muslim children constitute an increasingly large proportion of the 10 million students in the French public school system — and because Muslim parents make up an increasingly important voting bloc in French politics. Muslims, in fact, cast the deciding vote that thrust Hollande into the Elysée Palace in May 2012.

French Education Minister Vincent Peillon, who announced the plan in an interview with the French daily newspaper L’Est Républicain on August 26, said, “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not to dispute lessons or to skip classes [for religious reasons]. The charter will be a reminder of [secular] principles. It will be posted in all schools in late September. The law provides for a moral and civic education that promotes freedom from judgment, the capacity to emancipate, and rights and duties. I want to see the return of those values of the [French] Republic in schools in 2013.”

Although the final content of the charter will not be made public until the middle of September, a draft of the list which contains a total of 17 paragraphs has been circulating since July 11.

The first section of the draft list is entitled “The Republic is Secular,” and consists of six rather straightforward paragraphs that mostly echo the French Constitution. Paragraph 2 of the draft, for example, states that, “France is a republic that is indivisible, secular, democratic and social. It ensures equality before the law, on the whole of its territory, for all citizens. It respects all creeds.”

According to Paragraph 3, “The secular Republic is based upon the separation of religion and state. The state is neutral with regard to religious or spiritual beliefs. There is no state religion.” Paragraph 4 states that “Secularism guarantees freedom of conscience for all. Everyone is free to believe or not to believe. It allows the free expression of his beliefs, respecting those of others within the limits of public order.” And so on.

The second section of the list, entitled “The School is Secular,” changes tack by directly confronting Muslim students who take to disrupting classes whenever they do not agree with their teachers on certain subjects.

Paragraph 14 states: “Lessons are secular. To ensure that students are as objectively open as possible to the diversity of worldviews as well as to the extent and accuracy of knowledge, no subject is a priori excluded from scientific and educational inquiry.”

According to Paragraph 15, “No student may invoke religious or political convictions to challenge and/or to prevent a teacher from teaching certain parts of the curriculum.” Paragraph 16 states that “the wearing of conspicuous symbols or dress by pupils as relates to their religious affiliation is prohibited in public schools.”

The draft charter also states that “the secular school offers students the conditions to forge their own personality, exercise their free will and learn about citizenship. It protects them from proselytizing and from any pressure that prevents them from making their own choices.”

Reactions to the announcement have been mixed, with some questioning if or how the measure will be enforced.

The Secretary General of the French Teachers Union, Philippe Tournier, told Radio Europe 1 that while he welcomed the secularism charter in principle, he worried about its implementation. “The intentions are quite positive, but the essential thing still remains: putting into force what [the charter] affirms,” he said. “Nothing could be worse than posting a secularism charter on the wall, and then the students see around them that what actually happens in school life is the exact opposite of what we tell them.”

A Step in the Right Direction

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

It’s like being a little bit pregnant. There is no such thing. Either you’re pregnant or you’re not.  Just because you are not showing yet, doesn’t mean you are not going to go full term and have a baby.

According to an article in the Jewish Press – it seems the Charedi wall of opposition to implementing a core curriculum of Limudei Chol (secular studies) into their schools has been breached by its Chasidic faction. Chidushei HaRim, a Yeshiva operated by Ger, has agreed to implement a full curriculum of Limudei Chol into its high school. Thus qualifying it for full government funding on par with government schools. The same thing is true about another school, Nadvorna, located in a city that one can say without fear of contradiction is the epicenter of the Charedi world, Bnei Brak.

Bnei Brak is the home of several Charedi rabbinic leaders, including Rav Aharon Leib Steinman. He is quoted in this article as being in the forefront of opposition to implementing any secular studies at all. He is dedicated to the current and decades long paradigm of pure Torah study to the exclusion of all else.  He believes it should remain intact without the ‘contamination’ of secular subjects.

I understand the mentality. But as I have said repeatedly here (far too many times to count) a policy of universal rejection of secular subjects in all of its schools is harmful to the material welfare of its people. Which in turn can easily make it harmful to its spiritual welfare.  While the claim is constantly made by their rabbinic leadership, their politicians, and their media – that a core secular curriculum would destroy the Torah world – the fact that the virtually all American Charedi schools have one gives lie to that rhetoric.

As I have also said so many times, it should be obvious to anyone with eyes that will see and ears that will hear that the Israeli government is not Czarist Russia. They do not want to destroy Judaism, Not even Charedi Judaism. They are doing the opposite. They are trying to save it. They are helping it survive into the future by creating a mechanism via education to better itself materially and thus spiritually. The Mishnaic dictum of Ein Kemech Ein Torah is alive and well in Charedi circles as the oppressive poverty one often finds there is the cause of tremendous Shalom Bayis and OTD issues. You’re not going to get much spirituality under conditions like these.

Although it is often posited by the right that the harsh poverty conditions under which the Israeli Charedim live is voluntary in service of God in its purest form, Limud HaTorah, (I’m sure that’s true in many cases) there are plenty  of families that are being crushed by it!

But now it seems that at least the Chasidim who attend these two high schools will have a shot at living close to normal middle class Chasidic lives via the preparation they will get in those schools.

Have these schools now capitulated to the devil? Would Rav Steinman feel the battle for authentic Judaism has been lost? I hope not. I hope that this venerable sage will adapt to the new reality and realize that it is not Shmad – but a simple adjustment in their lives for the better. Hopefully he will adapt and then advocate a Limudei Chol curriculum in consonance with Charedi values. Similar to the Charedi high schools in America.

The moderate Charedi world that I often talk about as the future of mainstream American Orthodoxy – is a beneficiary of such a high school curriculum. It has enabled many of them to have the educational tools needed to eventually attend professional schools and training programs. And then get decent jobs as lawyers and accountants; doctors and dentists; or becomes skilled technicians in any given field. And yet they all remain true to their Charedi principles – many of them having learned in Kollel for many years before turning to their professions, trades, and careers.

On the one hand I am a bit surprised that it is the Chasdim who have capitulated first here. They are the most insulated segment of Orthodox Jewry. Higher education is anathema to them in most cases (There are occasional  exceptions.) So that their entry into the workforce is done at a mostly uneducated and unskilled level.

On the other hand, unlike their Lithuanian influenced Yeshivishe counterparts Chasidim are not urged en masse to learn in  Yeshivos and Kollelim for as long as possible. Although they too have Kollelim – the time spent there is limited. Most young Chasidim are encouraged to eventually go to work and support their families. Although Chasdim are some of the poorest Jews in all of Orthodoxy, that’s mostly because their leaders eschew higher education. In Israel it would take a tremendous act of rebellion, and willingness to overcome their grossly deficient education in Limudei Chol to succeed at the training required for better jobs.

But now – in at least for the graduates of these two schools – that will no longer be the case. Even though I’m sure that higher education will still be discouraged or even banned – it may eventually be honored more in the breach than in adherence.  That will produce a two-fold benefit. It will enable better incomes. And it will also break the isolation they live in which in my opinion is one of the biggest problems they have. Isolation breeds the uncivilized behavior that some of them are guilty of when they protest things they don’t like. I suppose there will still be a small core of uncivilized extremists. But the sympathy and quiet support they get from the rest of their populace will surely fade by the greater exposure to the outside world.

So now that the wall of opposition has been broken. So too has the ice been broken. I’m sure there will be plenty of public outrage and opposition to these two schools by Charedi rabbinic leaders, politicians and media. But hopefully these schools will not be deterred.

If they succeed at overcoming that pressure, it won’t be long before other schools follow suit. They will surely see the full funding those thriving schools get from the government – while their schools starve and start closing doors. That will have an impact. Decisions will have to be made between closing down and introducing a core curriculum. When that finally happens and Charedim start bettering their lives, they can turn to Yair Lapid and his two Charedi members of his party, Rabbis Shai Piron and Dov Lipman and say thank you! Because Hakaras HaTov will surely be in order.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

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.

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

Is Hatred for Haredim Due to Media Bias?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I am a huge fan of Rabbi Emanuel Feldman. I rarely disagree with him. The former editor of Tradition Magazine and vice president of the RCA who led a shul in Atlanta, Georgia, is a gifted speaker and is one of the most talented and fair-minded writers on the Orthodox scene I have ever read. His educational history speaks to his broadminded approach to issues of the day. He attended Yeshivas Haim Belrin and Ner Israel where he received smicha (certification as a rabbi) and then went on to get his bachelors and masters degrees from Johns Hopkins and a doctorate in religion from Emory University.

One of his greatest achievements was taking a pulpit in a shul where only two out of 40 families were Shomer Shabbos and which had no mechitza (barrier between men and women for prayer). A couple of years after he became the rabbi there, he managed to install one. His courage in putting his job on the line after the mechitza was removed – insisting that he would not continue as their Rabbi if it were not re-installed has made him a hero of mine…  It should have served as an example to many traditional rabbis who took non-mechitza shuls. While I cannot judge them as a whole, I think more than a few simply did not have the courage to do what Rabbi Feldman did. I have to believe that at least in some cases they could have done so without losing their jobs. But I digress.

Rabbi Feldman (who is the brother of R’ Aharon Feldman, Rosh Hayeshiva of Ner Israel) has written a critical article in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine about media bias against Haredim in Israel. His focus was on their reportage of Haredim ignoring the solemnity of Yom HaShoah – Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

There is hardly a family in Israel that has not lost a relative in the Holocaust. It is a solemn day in Israel. There are no picnics or barbecues on that day. There are instead many events that deal with the pain of loss. One of the things they do on that day is turn on a siren. Most of entire country stops at that moment. People driving their cars stop many get out and stand in silences while the siren sounds as a sign of respect for the dead.

While there is some criticism from the right about the “Jewishness” of this custom, there ought not be nay question about what to do during that time. Nor should there be any question about whether to join in the day’s solemnity by not holding any ‘fun’ parties or picnics.

Rabbi Feldman is very clear in his condemnation of the Haredim who ignore this day in spite! – having picnics and barbecues in the park while the rest of the country mourns. Whatever their complaints about the government or when and how such days are observed, the fact that some Haredim are so callous that they treat it like the fourth of July is like spitting at the survivors and their families.

Rabbi Feldman’s problem is that the same media that rightly objects to the way some Haredim behave on this day, does little to report on the reverse when it happens:

[D]o the ever-vigilant secular watchdogs get into similar high dudgeon when non-religious Israelis display their own brand of insensitivity toward sacred religious days? On Tisha B’Av, the historic day of national Jewish mourning for the sacking o Jerusalem and the Holy Temples, do the media scour the countryside in search of Israelis who carry on normally: shopping, going on outings, attending pork-serving restaurants and pubs? …And on Rosh Hashanah, when millions of Jews are in synagogue returning to God and praying for a good year for everyone, is there editorial indignation at those secular Israelis who spend the day at the beach, or fly off to the garden spots of Europe?

I do not see this as the same thing at all. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Feldman answers his own question?

Granted, such people are a tiny minority who don’t know any better, and the vast majority of Israelis do honor the High Holidays.

But then he hedges:

But then again, the [H]areidi disrespecters of Yom HaShoah were also a tiny minority — which did not prevent bitter condemnation of all [H]areidim.

Is the Chief Rabbinate to Blame?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I don’t know who Rabbi Gideon D. Sylvester is. Never met him or heard about him until now. A quick search on the internet informs me that he lives in Jerusalem, is a human rights activist, and a member in good standing of Britain’s United Synagogue. That is the umbrella organization of Britain’s non Hassidic Orthodox Jewish establishment that Lord Jonathan Sacks heads. I have no clue what Rabbi Sylvester’s Hashkafos are. But on this subject I am one with him.

Rabbi Sylvester has penned an article in Ha’aretz that I believe highlights one of the biggest reasons why so many secular Jews in Israel reject observant Judaism. He blames the Israeli Chief Rabbinate for it. This may be an over-simplification but I think he is on to something. It is the very same thing I talk about quite often here. The religious right.

By example he tells the story of a secular Jewish Israeli who refused to wear a Kipa under the hupah at his own wedding. When asked why and told that even British Royalty wear a Kipa when entering a synagogue as a sign of respect , his answer was that as a Jew he had a right to practice Judaism as he saw fit. It is one thing for a non Jew to show signs of respect. He saw wearing a Kipa – something he does not believe in – as a form of religious coercion.

That took me aback. In 2013 it is rare to find a Jew so far removed from observant Judaism that he will not don a Kipa in similar circumstances. I recall channel surfing a couple of months ago and stopping on one of those ‘bachelorette’ programs where a man gets to choose from a group of women who he will marry (or vise versa).

Personally I can’t stand this form of entertainment (…and I use the word entertainment loosely). That episode happened to be the season finale and the man and his chosen bride were getting married. I stopped on that program because I noticed that it was a Jewish wedding. How did I know that? Because the bridegroom was wearing a Kipa. There was nothing else on that show that was even remotely Jewish. The women he chose wasn’t even Jewish. The man officiating was not Jewish. The ceremony was civil. And yet the Jewish bridegroom still felt that wearing a Kipa was the right thing to do.

But the above mentioned Israeli would have no part of that. Why? I believe that Rabbi Sylvester quite correctly blames the way the Israeli Chief Rabbinate is perceived. It is perceived as coercive. I would add that the Israeli Rabbinate is but it one cog in that coercive wheel. The way the religious right has been acting lately reinforces the image of ‘Gimee mine and get lost’.

The religious right may believe that God is on their side… that they are fighting for a Torah way of life and that the current government wants to destroy it. I completely disagree with their take, but I can understand why they feel that way. Even if one would concede their point that does not mean they have to behave in such a negative off-putting manner. Doing so is what creates and perpetuates bridegrooms like that Israeli.

The irony – says Rabbi Sylvester is that secular Israelis like him are people that are ready to lay down their lives for their people. All of them including the religious right of both Haredim and extremist Religious Zionists. And yet he is so angered by their religious coercion and behavior that he refuses to have anything at all to do with any symbols of observant Judaism.

The question is – why are many non Jews so much more respectful of Judaism than this fellow is? Rabbi Sylvestor tells us about the relationship Margret Thatcher had with the former Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Immanuel Jakobovitz – and later with current Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. So enamored was she with Lord Jakobovitz that she was the one who had him placed in the House of Lords. He was her “favorite man of God.” Why? Well I can tell you one thing. It was not because of religious coercion. It was because he exemplified the best of Jewish values to the world:

Although she was a believing Christian leading a Christian country, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher held the British chief rabbi, Immanuel Jakobovitz, in the highest regard. She recognized in him a religious integrity which she felt was lacking in her church, so she consulted with him regularly…

Rabbi Jakobovitz, his successor, and other prominent Orthodox rabbis commanded similar respect. Those rabbis understood how to act like a Jew in public They understood Jewish ethics. They understood that acting the way they did was the Jewish way to act. And the result was a Kiddush HaShem. One that can bring justifiable pride in being a Jew even if one is not observant.

In Israel today, how many of our religious leaders instill pride in being Jewish into the secular public? There was a time where one could easily answer that question. Rabbis Haim Shmuelvitz, Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and Yisroel Zev Gustman come to mind. How many religious leaders act like they did in public? How many expressed the Hakoras HaTov to the army as did R’ Shmulevitz and R’ Gustman? How many expressed sensitivity to a secular Jew as did R’ Auerbach – by not embarrassing a secular woman on a bus because she was immodestly dressed. He got off at the next bus stop much sooner than he had to so she would not think he got up because of her. He walked an extra two blocks so as not to embarrass her.

Compare that to the harsh rhetoric of today. As Rabbi Sylvester clearly points out at the end of his excellent article:

While the Israeli rabbinate is full of excellent scholars and fine individuals, rabbinic voices of decency and integrity are too often drowned out by the shrill, wicked cries of the religious and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

Our Israeli religious leaders must be associated not only with a strong Israel, but also with ethical, caring and compassionate leadership. They must speak out for Israel’s majority, and also for its minorities, for those who are learned in the law and those who are not. Then, I imagine that wearing a kippa under the [h]uppah will be far less of an issue for our many of our fellow Jews.

I could not agree more.

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