It has been noted in the past, but the Jerusalem Post reported last week that the incidence of haredi volunteerism in Israel is extremely high, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Among Israelis who do volunteer work, haredim form the highest percentage of volunteers in the entire country: 36%. The next highest group are religious Israelis – datiim – who are not haredim, with 27%, followed by mesoratim/traditionally oriented Jews, with 14%. Thus, the religious community constitutes a far higher percentage – even without the traditional Jews – of volunteerism than any other sector of the Israeli population. What is most striking is that the datiim apparently do twice as much volunteer work as do the secularists, and haredim almost three times as much as the secularists.

Knowledgable Israelis greeted these latest stats with a yawn. It is very old hat, and not at all surprising. After all, we already know that the Orthodox give away a far greater portion of their income to charity than does any other part of the population, and that they open up their homes to guests on a regular basis , far beyond the norms of ordinary hospitality. To volunteer to help communal causes is merely another manifestation of this, and comes very naturally.

But once again this statistic turns on its head the canard about Orthodox self-centeredness, its exclusionary tendencies, its lack of concern for the other and for the community. “Parasites” is the insult-du-jour that is hurled at haredim. And it makes one wonder about the self-proclaimed tolerance, love for humanity, open-mindedness, and communal responsibility on which the secular, benign, non-parasitic community prides itself.

An obvious question: Why is it that religious Jews form such a high proportion among the ranks of the volunteers? Obvious answer: If in fact volunteerism is a manifestation of selflessness and concern for the other, could it be that the religious life of Torah inherently points a person away from himself and toward the other? Could it be that the constant reminders and awareness of God impact upon a person’s consciousness and make him/her aware that he is not the center of the universe around whom all else revolves? And certainly regular prayer to the Other imprints upon the soul the fact that there is an Other above me, and an other beside me.

We are justified not to be surprised at this new evidence of what we have known all along. The next time someone uses the word “parasites” about haredim, ask that person when was the last time he/she did some volunteer work for the community at large.

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Jewish Observer
9 years 6 months ago

“posters who deride the value of any chareidi volunteer efforts”

derision is never good, and all positi9ve efforts should be lauded. At the same time I think the point in question is to what degree one who is part of a society can unilaterally decide what his communal service shuold be, versus working within the parameters of the system. To use a wise guy example – I can make great efforts in sincerely praying for the welfare of my kids’ (charedi) school, but I am pretty sure they will want me to abide by their system and give them tuition money every month.

9 years 7 months ago

I wonder how many of the posters who deride the value of any chareidi volunteer efforts — done by men and women of all ages, from adolescents to the elderly — as long as their young men do not serve in the Israeli army — how many of those sanctimonious bigshots actually served in the Israeli army themselves, and how many live in America and are armchair critics?

Joel Rich
9 years 7 months ago

Bob, I understand the ideal and my clearly was a bit tongue in cheek but we live in a real not ideal world and I worry that the results of acting on this idealism could be negative – I hope my concerns are baseless.

Bob Miller
9 years 7 months ago

Joel, those who have not bought into Torah would not buy into an appeal based on Torah. The groups do not have a common language as to what “civic duties” comprises in today’s big picture. The commenters you were reacting to
were trying to express an ideal—what one would tell a caring, inclusive government—but would be highly
unlikely to move the current government. The current government is moved by fear of large countries and a
desire to add to its leaders’ individual power and money, as opposed to its own civic duties.

As for “clearly”, what is clear to you may not be clear to others.

joel rich
9 years 7 months ago

Interesting assumptions you’ve added Bob (though clearly moving further away from any parallel with the modern day State of Israel). But you didn’t answer my question, what would the ultimate result be bderech hateva?