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

Posts Tagged ‘too’

When Good Children Go OTD

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The problem seems to be far worse than anyone thinks. We may even be at an epidemic level. Everywhere I turn these days it seems, I find a family where at least one child has gone OTD (Off the Derech–away from the religious path). Or at least does not follow the Hashkafic path laid out by their parents.

Many of them are all from fine families. Exemplars of great parenting. Nothing dysfunctional about them. The parents have many children all the rest of which are the obvious results child rearing by 2 great parents. Most of their children do fine in the Hashkafic milieu in which they were raised and in which they live. And yet it seem to be increasingly the case that at least one child has no interest in towing the family religious line.

In the families that I know about it seems the problems tend to begin in mid to late elementary school or early high school.

The question is why is this happening? What is it that is driving this OTD phenomenon in good families? It is very understandable when this happens in dysfunctional families where physical or mental abuse exists either between parents; between a parent and child; or both. It does not take rocket science to see why a child associates their strife their parent’s lifestyle. If they are a religious family, then religion is associated with that strife.

But what about the good families with good children where one of them does not want to have anything to do with their family’s religious way of life? Unfortunately I know of far too many situations like these. Hashkafos don’t seem to matter that much. I know families with an OTD child that are very right wing, moderate Charedi, and right wing Modern Orthodox. None of them are so strict as to warrant the kind of rebellion they have experienced from at least one child.

I have no real explanation. But I suspect it has something to do with the current pressure that schools and thereby parents put on their children to excel in their religiosity, Limudei Kodesh or Limudei Chol. I am constantly hearing about how schools of all Hashkafos are ‘rasining’ their standards. That is impacted negatively by the times in which we live. By that I mean the great distractions that now exists that did not exist in the past. Distractions that expose children to a much easier lifestyle than their parents insist upon. Distractions that take away from their study time. Distractions that cause them to question matters of faith. These are distractions that those of us over the age of 30 never had when we were growing up.

The internet, its ease of use and availability, and the ability to easily hide one’s involvement with it puts pressure on young people now – as never before. No matter how much we try to discourage it, limit it, or ban it, it is so pervasive that it is impossible to avoid the influence it has on children. Children can access anything they want as quickly as they can delete it from a screen. A child now has an unprecedented and unfettered window to the entire world. A little curiosity about a taboo subject will beget websites and images that can easily pull a child away from their parents’ influences. It is amazing that there aren’t even more OTD children than there are.

Coupled with this is the increased pressure put upon children in our day to be more religious and be better students than ever before.

The pressure to excel and adopt ever increasing Churmos into our lives has become so ingrained that not conform to these new standards is unacceptable.For example violating a Chumra is as painful to a family as violating a Halacha. I know one family that feels great pain that a child now uses non Chalav Yisroel products. I hasten to add that they are a very loving family – accepting of that child and allowing her to bring non Chalav Yisroel products into the home and use them freely. But it still pains them internally.

And how can any self respecting parent not want their child to excel in school? So with every increase in the amount of material to be mastered, there is a parental motive to see to it that their child measures up. Whether it is the Charedi standard of Limudei Kodesh or the MO academic standard. And in many cases – both.

If you combine the two phenomenon of increased pressure (whether religious or in the level of study)in the home and in school with the ubiquity of the internet – I think one can understand why the OTD phenomenon even in good homes might be near epidemic levels.

I would add that the fact that as the religious population increases, so too do the number of children going OTD – even if the percentages may be the same. But if I had to guess the percentages have increases too and not only the numbers.

I don’t know how to solve any of these problems. But I do have a few thoughts about it. First we ought to be aware of the problems and to recognize that we live in unprecedented times. One cannot for example ignore the internet. Nor can it be successfully banned. But one should do the best they can to set up parental controls, rules, and guidelines about its use. And avoid giving very young children hand held devices.

Of course the most important factor is to love our children unconditionally. Even – and perhaps especially – if they are at risk or OTD. They must know that they will always be loved; part of the family; and welcomed in the homes. Even if they are Mechalel Shabbos, and eat Treif. A bare headed son or daughter whose modesty does not measure up to family or community standards must be accepted. No matter what others in your community think! That may not bring them back. But it will for sure not push them away should they ever want to come back.

Another much harder thing to accomplish is to change the current penchant of religious schools to demand ever increasing religious standards for – not only their students but their parents.

The same thing is to be said with the ever increasing academic standards; or Torah study standards. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be top schools in an area of study in either Limudei Kodesh or Limudei Chol. But they should be special schools reserved for the very best, brightest and most highly motivated students among us. Putting a child that does not have those qualifications into schools like those will almost certainly set up them up for failure. And failure should never be an option.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Chief Rabbis & Politics

Monday, August 5th, 2013

I have never been a fan of chief rabbis. Anyone appointed by committees, politicians, or bureaucrats is suspect in my eyes. Perhaps my antipathy is rooted in the days when both Napoleon and the czar appointed state chief rabbis whom they approved of because they were likely to support their agendas. I can say with confidence that, in general, the greatest rabbis, whether intellectually or spiritually, have never been interested in public appointments.

I don’t mean to say that all chief rabbis have been duds. Israel’s Chief Rabbis Abraham Isaac Kook, Isaac Herzog, and Uziel were great men by any criteria. Chief Rabbi Goren was a dynamic overachiever and a fearless innovator. Some, like Ovadiah Yosef, have been great scholars but poor spokesmen. But there have been too many others who were undiplomatic, corrupt, or ineffective. The reason can simply be put down to politics. When appointments are made by groups of political appointees (or self-appointed grandees) they invariably make the wrong decisions. Neither is public acclaim a reliable test of the best person for the job. Those who seek or need public recognition are rarely willing or able to take the tough and controversial stands that are the mark of genuine leadership.

Israel recently appointed two chief rabbis, both the sons of previous chief rabbis. I do not know either of them. But remarks I have seen attributed to them leave me deeply depressed that they will reflect a xenophobic, narrow perspective and shrink from trying to humanize the rabbinate. The political maneuvering, the arm twisting, the deals behind closed doors all point to a corrupt system. And once gain the innovative, the exciting have lost out. If a good man ever emerges it is despite the system not because of it. Nepotism is a poor way of producing great leaders. Yet throughout Jewish religious institutions nepotism is the norm rather than the exception. Yeshivot nowadays are often big family businesses (as indeed are most Chasidic dynasties).

Israel has two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi. This in itself is evidence of how flawed the system is, that in a small religion such as ours religious leadership cannot work together. In addition, in Israel, there is a huge disconnect between the religious leadership and the common person, between the state rabbinate and the Charedi world, which has its own authorities. Indeed the Charedi world always rubbished and abused the state rabbinate until, in the desperate search for jobs for the boys and power, it began to infiltrate and then take much of it over. Once again it has ensured that its candidates have got the jobs.

One of the first words in Ivrit I learnt was “protektsia” (yes, I know it comes from Russian). “Vitamin P” meant you could not get anywhere in Israeli life, from top to bottom, religious or secular, without knowing someone or having someone pull strings in your behalf. So it was and so it largely remains. When this disease infects religion, it loses its moral authority.

But surely, you will say, Judaism requires one to respect one’s religious leaders. In theory this is so. The Torah commands respect for princes and scholars. Our liturgy is full of references to their importance. But there are two very distinct types of leadership in our tradition. The prophet and the judge emerged through merit. That’s probably why there were women judges and prophets. Rabbis as a rule were the result of meritocracy (the rabbinic dynasties that began with Hillel wanted to have their cake and eat it). On the other hand, the priesthood and the monarchy were both hereditary, and both failed. Most of the Jewish kings were idolatrous, evil men, and most priests showed more interest in money and power than Divine service.

Moshe typified the meritocracy. This was why he always defended himself by referring to his spotless record. It is true we say that in each generation we must accept the leader, Jephtah in his generation as the equivalent of Samuel in his. But I believe that has another meaning, of the need to accept the best we can get.

“Pray for the welfare of the ruling powers because otherwise humans would swallow each other up,” says the Mishna. That very Hobbesian idea underpins our modern secular states. But as Locke argued, if the king failed to do his job, you could and should get rid of him. This is why we pray for the State wherever we live, even as we may try our best to vote out whoever the current prime minister is. We in the West have recently experienced the irrational hysteria over a royal baby. I have no interest in ordinary people being elevated to positions of power or even symbolic authority simply on the basis of birth. There are enough inequalities in life of rank and wealth. I like the fact that we can vote people out of office as much as in. If I choose to respect someone, it is on the basis of the respect he or she earns, not the position they have been given. The diploma should be greater than the diaper.

I look forward to Elijah’s arrival. I hope he will not try to reinstate the monarchy. But I am pretty sure he will not insist on two kings, one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi.

One of the reasons for so much disillusion with religion is precisely this disconnect between how its leaders too often behave and speak and their own purported religious values. The more we see how susceptible religious leadership is to money, power, and fame, the less good the religion they represent looks. I don’t care too much what politicians like Spitzer or Weiner get up to, and if people want to vote for them that’s their problem. But when religious leadership behaves like political leadership, something is very wrong.

America’s Real ‘Dangerous Slide’ to the Wrong Side

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Would you ever imagine that the leading American newspaper would openly advocate siding with radical Islamist forces in the Middle East against all of America’s allies and friends, and I mean with eyes wide open and with full awareness that it sought to overthrow them? Well, the day has come.

How has the argument for this strategy, which the Obama Administration is already pursuing being made?

A New York Times July 30th editorial entitled “Egypt’s Dangerous Slide” shows a real catastrophe for the United States. What is amazing is that it takes less than five minutes to deconstruct Obama Administration’s Middle East policy.

But be wary since if you do this—even once—you will be barred from 95 percent of mass media and academic jobs. [Note: What’s amazing about the previous sentence is that it is in fact accurate. That’s why the public debate is so bad.]
 
After all, we are at a moment when Israel-Palestinian talks haven’t even agreed on pre-conditions (a point which is usually reached before the two sides even begin talks) yet Secretary of State John Kerry predicts success within nine months (and the mass media quotes him without snickering).

“Deadly blundering by Egypt’s military rulers is making a bad situation much worse,” starts the editorial.

One of the most blatant, arrogant views of the American foreign policy establishment today is the frequency with which its members insist that leaders know nothing about their own countries. Thus, Obama, a man who has spent a few hours in Israel and has no empathy with it, can dare to say that he knows better what the country needs than does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Last weekend’s massacre of marchers supporting the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, will make national reconciliation and a return to democracy far more difficult.”

No kidding. First of all, there was never going to be conciliation. Second, the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t exactly eager to get national conciliation, a point  the editorial and the Obama Administration never mention.

Third, the military wants massacres because it seeks to intimidate the Brotherhood. That’s how things work in Egypt. In fact, that’s what happened last time, when the Brotherhood was crushed in the 1950s and 1960s, with its leaders sent to concentration camps, tortured, and hung. And that’s what the Brotherhood would be doing to its opposition if its regime had survived.The Brotherhood is portrayed simply as the victim.

In other words it is not Egypt’s leaders who don’t understand Egypt but rather America’s current leaders.

“The stakes are too high for any country to give up on the search for a peaceful resolution.”

No! Egyptians know that the stakes are too high not to give up on the search for a peaceful resolution. This is the Middle East. And this is true just like as with the Syrian civil war, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and every secular/nationalist/traditionalist versus give up on the search for a peaceful resolution Islamist battle in the region.But fourth the Brotherhood is also provoking a lot of violence which is neither reported or protested by the U.S. government. The Brotherhood is portrayed simply as the victim. That’s why millions of Egyptians now say they hate Americans. See here. And here. And a brutal murder of an anti-Mursj demonstrator here.

Al-Ahram writes: “The current misinformation campaign bears the hallmarks of a fully-fledged psychological warfare campaign aimed at deceiving the population.” Funny, it hasn’t fooled Egyptians but it has fooled the American elite.By the way, we should notice that Yusuf Qaradawi, the leading Sunni Islamist in the world, has just accused the military government of recruiting Egyptian Christians to kill helpless Muslims. Look for massacres of Christians in other Arab countries and Egypt. Perhaps the Obama Administration better worry about that. It is already happening.

In other words it is not Egypt’s leaders who don’t understand Egypt but rather America’s current leaders.

“Washington’s leverage has been limited, despite…its good intentions undermined by years of inconsistent American policies. President Obama urgently needs to rebuild that trust. And he cannot hope to do so by maintaining a cautious diplomatic silence while the Arab world’s most populous and most important country unravels.”

Where to begin! First, American policies have not been undermined by inconsistent policies. Doesn’t anyone know Egyptian history?

1952-1956: America supported the Egyptian military coup and even saved the regime! Only when President Gamal Abdel Nasser behave aggressively—not so much toward Israel but by conservative Arab states–and allied with the USSR, did America turn against him.

1956-1973: An anti-American regime allied with the Soviet Union and aggressive against America’s friends was opposed.

1974-2011: The United States was allied with a moderate regime.

Get it? It must be hard for the current establishment to understand so let me capitalize it and put in bold:

IT WASN’T AMERICA’S FAULT U.S. POLICY WAS ‘INCONSISTENT”; IT WAS EGYPT’S.
 
As for “good intentions” may I remind you that Obama did not have good intentions at all. Just like any British or American imperialist in a previous century, Obama has sought to overthrow regimes and replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood and thus inevitably Sharia regime.
 
How’s that for “good intentions?”

And if Obama wanted to rebuild trust–as opposed to protecting the Br0therhood’s interests–he would rebuild trust with the Egyptian army and people by supporting the  new government rather than seek to empower an anti-Christian, anti-Western, antisemitic, anti-American, homophobic, genocidal, anti-woman totalitarian-destined regime.

The editorial continued:

“Whatever Egypt’s new military strongman, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, thought he was doing by summoning people to Tahrir Square last Friday to demand a `mandate’ to fight terrorism, the result was to undermine Egypt’s prospects for stability even further. Whatever self-described pro-democracy groups thought they were doing by endorsing his call, the result was to strengthen the military and inflame raw divisions between civilian parties.”

He knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted to build and mobilize a civilian support base. And the civilian parties weren’t “inflamed,” they hate each other and know they are engaged in a life-and-death struggle.

“And whatever the Muslim Brotherhood leaders thought they were doing by urging followers to challenge security forces, the result was to add to the bloodshed and give the military new excuses for repression.”

Same patronizing tone. The Brotherhood knows what it is doing, too: it doesn’t want conciliation; it wants revolution.

“And things are likely to get worse until the military can be persuaded to hand over power and return to the barracks.”

Wrong again. They will get worse if the military does hand over power. For every day—except a few disastrous weeks under Mursi—during the last 61 years the army basically held power even if it was in the barracks.

“Other Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia and its allied Persian Gulf emirates, are unlikely to help. They are more concerned with stamping out any potential political threat to their own autocratic rule at home than in encouraging democracy in Egypt.”

Of course because they understand Arab politics! And are they wrong? Listen to them. A Brotherhood takeover of Egypt would increase the political threat to them! Now you want to overthrow Saudi Arabia and any other remaining American friends in the Arab world?

“Israel has its own legitimate security concerns, mostly centered on preventing threats from Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula and Hamas-ruled Gaza.”

And in parallel you want to further undermine Israel’s security?

“That leaves the United States and the European Union.”

Right. If Egypt, the Arab states, and Israel don’t undermine their own security the United States and the EU will. People, think what you are saying here! Consider what insanity you are advocating!

In other words, the pro-Islamist forces are the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists (and in a sense the Taliban and al-Qaida) backed by the EU and United States, ([plus Turkey and Qatar along with Iran, Syria,  and Hizballah); while the anti-Islamist forces are the Arab countries and Israel?

Does that seem strange? .

“But Washington has been doing less than its share. Excessive concerns with maintaining good relations with Egypt’s generals and fears that a loosened military grip on Sinai and the Gaza border might throw off nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have wrongly muffled America’s public voice.”

I’m not believing this stuff. Let’s get tough with the generals, not the Islamists? And the best way to help peace talks is to return an Islamist regime in Egypt? That will surely quiet Hamas and the jihadists in Sinai and make Israel feel real secure. Oh by the way, the main threat to even the Palestinian Authority (PA) is Hamas! No doubt the PA will thank you, too.

“Most of all, President Obama needs to clarify what America stands for as Egypt struggles over its future.”
He sure does. By changing sides away from the Islamists and toward others, including Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/americas-real-dangerous-slide-to-the-wrong-side/2013/08/01/

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