Inward vs. Outward Facing

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Jeff’s correspondent raises some interesting points. However, there are different definitions of “leaders in the community,” and I don’t think that those present here, much as they may be thinkers and commentators, are in a position to set policy — the gedolim, the Torah sages, don’t run blogs. And I don’t think anyone here would define him or herself as Chassidische, btw.

As the correspondent pointed out, there is no dearth of web sites discussing problems. I’m not sure what we could add in that area. At the same time, there’s no shortage here of self-reflective posts. Why are we not responding to the Sudan? Why are “charedi” circles not reaching out to Ethiopian and Chinese communities? [One correspondent argues that the answer is racism. Is he wrong?]

Jack wrote in response to my remarks on Rabbi Bradd Boxman:

And when you get back into the game, at least acknowledge we’re out there on the same ice.

If only people would really act like that was the case things would be better.

He’s right. The “right-wing, fervently Orthodox” leaders now demonstrate their willingness to work with and educate Jews regardless of their affiliation, by endorsing projects such as Lev L’Achim in Israel, where advanced Rabbinic students go out and study with families, and community kollelim and outreach centers here in the US. We can’t, to hint back to Dr. Schick’s question, endorse “liberal” Judaism — but that’s very different than learning with liberal Jews.

But we still see, on a frequent basis, people such as Rabbi Boxman claiming that the “ultra-Orthodox” view non-Orthodox as “goyim” [sic]. Doesn’t that show that some effort to present “the Orthodox world in relationship to the outside world” is, in fact, necessary?

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2 Responses

  1. Jack says:

    It is nice to see that some people are at least listening, still there is much work to be done as there is much misunderstanding on both sides.

  2. akatz says:

    This was the point raised:

    “This blog seems to concentrate on the Orthodox world in relationship to the outside world rather than on the internal dynamics of the Orthodox Jewish world.”

    You responded:
    “However, there are different definitions of “leaders in the community,” and I don’t think that those present here, much as they may be thinkers and commentators, are in a position to set policy – the gedolim, the Torah sages, don’t run blogs.”

    Don’t the gedolim have opinions about involvement in Sudan and response to Ethiopian Jewry? Of course they do – their opinions in these areas dominate the larger response, and the policy is translated into details by the “thinkers and commentators.” That group also reports (or reports to those who report) to the g’dolim and influence their opinions. This last is probably the most important function of the lay and (non-gedolim) rabbinic leadership.

    You write:. “And I don’t think anyone here would define him or herself as Chassidische, btw.”

    I explicitly wrote that despite the fact that the chassidiche dominate the personal blogs, the issues they raise resonate across the Orthodox spectrum. There are many yeshivish posters on the chassidic blogs, and there are growing number of oifgeklert blogs by ex-yeshiva types.

    You ask: “At the same time, there’s no shortage here of self-reflective posts. Why are we not responding to the Sudan? Why are “charedi” circles not reaching out to Ethiopian and Chinese communities? [One correspondent argues that the answer is racism. Is he wrong?]”

    By all means, go help out in the Sudan, but this is not what was meant by self-reflective. (The question of whether it’s racism sounds like ma’asering salt to me – the lack of response is due to our distance from the Sudan, and the real issue of aniyei ircha kodmim. Were O. Jews engaged by the crisis in ex-Yugoslavia? But if one looks for lurking racism, one doesn’t have time to look for worse flaws.)

    I see no excuse for the defensiveness about failure to address internal problems. Do our g’dolim in fact set policy in our communities? Does this mean that they think the mass kollel system couldn’t use reform? Is it in fact the best option for most people? Would it perhaps be time to think of long-term perhaps life in kollel for an elite, and a movement to secular education at a younger age and/or half-day learning for others? Do the gedolim really think that obsessive focus on tznius for young women is a good idea – or are they faced with charedi girls schools in which the dress code is increasingly rigid in ways that are not required by halacha, and find themselves unable to argue against “apple pie”? What do they think of nonJewish full time babysitters? What do they think of the dispiriting fact that there are no serious learning options in America for charedi women past seminary unless they are willing to attend MO institutions? We have increasing number of adult men and women who are disengaged from torah – have you, the lay leaders, actually asked g’dolim to write on these issues?

    I think the “thinkers and commenters” are entirely too smug and convinced that since “the gedolim” are setting policy, the charedi world must look, internally, as it should. In point of fact, the gedolim are mostly not setting policy directly; contemporary ba’alei mussar have a more direct effect than the gedolim, and many are not particularly noted for their torah scholarship or their wisdom.
    The second and third tiers of people involved at a daily level in the community are not alert to the problems that people discuss, on a daily basis, on blogs. The instinct to shut off comments here is very telling – it’s one more example of the leadership being unwilling to open themselves to challenge.

    Any perceptive observer of the Jewish community knows that contemporary gedolim are at most responding to changes that have already occured on the ground, not leading the changes. However, the challenges we face nowadays are lending themselves to some relatively radical “solutions” – and if the leadership doesn’t step up to the plate, the numbers of personal blogs of ex-charedim turned heretics are going to increase. Are you going to be happy then to say “but we wrote about the Sudan! That was self-reflective!”