Megagiving, Jewish Loyalty, and New Roles for the Orthodox

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Among the Jewish super-rich, philanthropy is alive and well. A decreasing share of it, according to a recent issue of Lifestyles magazine, stays within the community. The upshot of this is not so much about funding institutions as another sign that the Orthodox are going to have to take on a greater share of community responsibility. No one else will

Not so long ago, Orthodox institutions heavily depended upon non-Orthodox largesse to stay afloat. Some of that money had guilt written all over it; money was a form of atonement for not living an observant lifestyle. Some of it came with a bit of smugness attached: “You many have surprised us by lasting longer than we thought, but it ought to be perfectly clear that you couldn’t survive without the rest of us.” They counted on Orthodoxy to guarantee the Jewish future, but they saw themselves as the necessary financial guarantors of Orthodoxy.

As a new generation moved ever more distant from observance while Orthodoxy grew by leaps and bounds, the unpredicted happened. Orthodoxy developed its own funding sources – however imperfectly – and weaned itself away from financial dependence upon the non-Orthodox. The latter continued its stewardship of Jewish institutions unconnected to the world of religious practice: political advocacy on behalf of Israel, building hospitals, supporting Jewish culture. We Orthodox often told ourselves that, with so many of our own institutions to worry about, the rest of the fixtures of Jewish communal living – even the ones we approved of – would have to be someone else’s worry.

If recent trends in megagiving are an indication, the worriers are part of a shrinking population.

Lifestyles reports that the last ten years alone have produced a 19% rise in the number of charitable foundations. But of the $5.3 billion in gifts by the wealthiest Jews between 1995 and 2000, only 6% went to Jewish institutions. Why are so many looking elsewhere, and not making Jewish institutions their beneficiary of choice? It is hard to resist an apparent explanation. As Jews become further estranged from tradition, they follow a predictable trajectory, over the space of four or five generations. First, they abandon observance. Next they eschew traditional Jewish values. After that, they give up on Jewish families, and embrace intermarriage as an attractive alternative. Last to go are their reasons to value strong affiliation with the community itself. In time, they too succumb.

Money is not the main issue. Community responsibility is. We have been getting a free ride from the non-Orthodox, and we may have reached the end of the road. Ten years ago, we imagined that as long as Jews survived in America, those that remained would broadcast their support for Israel loud and clear. We saw that support as crucial bederech hateva (by natural means) in keeping the relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv strong and vibrant. We worried about a waning number of Jews, not about waning Jewish interest in Israel, which we imagined was the strongest common denominator of transdenominational Jewish interest.

We were wrong. As the AJC’s blockbuster publication “Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Antisemitism” demonstrated, a growing number of vocal Jewish thinkers is questioning Israel’s very right to exist.

The internecine battle about how to interpret this phenomenon is huge. Outside of genuine self-loathers like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, I am not convinced that others like Tony Kushner or even Tony Judt should be considered self-hating antisemites. I don’t believe that we need an explanation that drastic to account for them. I do know that they are far, far from the Judaism that kept their ancestors within the fold, even when they could have walked out. They may not hate Jews or Judaism, but they know nothing of loyalty to a Jewish collective that has come under fire.

A non-Orthodox acquaintance works for the Israeli Consulate here as a marvelously devoted, tireless Jewish public servant. A few months ago, she was called upon to address a group of hand-picked Jewish collegiate stars, participating in an elite leadership internship. As she began speaking about how to effectively defend the State of Israel from hostile verbal attacks, she was interrupted by some of the students. “First you are going to have to convince us that Israel is worth defending.” I have had the experience myself. Several times recently, I have been asked to speak for kiruv organizations that have brought groups of non-observant collegiates to Los Angeles. I knew that I couldn’t speak about a topic too overtly “religious;” I asked the leaders whether speaking about Israel advocacy would work. Each time, they turned it down – it simply could not be assumed that these young people had any interest at all in the Jewish State.

My point is a simple one. With waning Jewish loyalty even among remaining Jews, we in the Orthodox community have to begin taking responsibility, and taking up the slack. It can no longer wait for the indeterminate future. Meltdown is upon us now. We used to be able to depend on others to do the political machinations, to speak for the community, to represent us to our non-Jewish neighbors. We can’t anymore. We need to train ourselves and our children to step into these roles.

I am not the first to suggest this. Three years ago, Rabbi Shmuel Bloom said at an Agudah convention that Orthodox Jews may have to take on new responsibilities in the general Jewish community that we had previously shunned.

I think he is right on the money.

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30 Responses

  1. Aryeh says:

    Ori, I would like to add a different sample of my former kollel acquaintances:
    Became a computer programmer (1)
    Became a IT technician (2)
    Became an accountant (1)
    Went to law school (1)
    Opened a store (1)
    Manages Real Estate (3)
    Became a rabbi of a schul and a Jewish studies teacher in a kiruv school (2)

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    Hatzalah is a very necessary community service because it has a faster response time than its public and private competitors, is sensitive to halachic needs and is available on Shabbos whenever it is summoned. The notion that it came on the scene ala JDL to protect Jews in urban areas is pure myth.

  3. hp says:

    Ori,

    Both your synopsis and assessment accurately represents the situation in the U.S.

  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Let me condense hp’s report about career choices of former Kollel students:

    Jewish education – 6
    Therapy (mostly of children) – 4
    Management – 4

    To translate this into career counseling terms: While a Kollel education does not provide one with the technical education necessary for engineering jobs (for example), it does provide one with a good work ethic, and good people skills. Those qualities enable kollel graduates to become good therapists or manage a business.

    I’ve never been in kollel. Is this a fair assessment? Is it a fair assessment of the situation in the US, but not in Israel? Is it harder for Israeli kollelniks to move into the regular economy because of a different in the kollels, or because the Israeli economy isn’t as good as the US economy?

  5. Jay says:

    I’ll jump in and say, that I’ll agree with ” Kollel Man”, we are witnessing a plethora of Israeli Charity orgs. based in Israel, this is severely taxing local needs. Moreover, I personally feel that in general, and please don’t jump all over me, I’m talikng in General, Israeli orthodox yeshivish Families, are just too used to keeping their hands out and expect us to continuously foot the bill. To suggest that maybe they work a few hours a day in a Kodesh Job, is shocking to them,
    I visit Israel often, they (for the most part) live a very good life, no tuition, no synagogue membership, certainly no constant badgering of meshulochim,
    the amount of people we get who start off by saying “i”m not a schnorrer…but my son/daughter is getting married and I only bought them a cheap apt. in Kiryas sefer…” Why do WE have to pay for a wedding and an Apt. when Rebbeim in our Schools are not being paid on time?
    Yes. every washed out Kollel yungerman who was not trained (or motivated) with any marketable skill just opens up another worthy org. and becomes a fundraiser. Asking again and again the same open hearted donors. he’s 100% right! There ARE worthy orgs. but its just getting out of hand, and the local communities do end up suffering.

  6. Yaakov Menken says:

    Reb Yid’s comment is well taken in one respect — I agree that my statement that the Orthodox are the “last” to flee agreed with his statement that the Orthodox remained longer in urban areas.

    Yet he went on to say that “many Orthodox have fled as well to higher income areas in the suburbs with fine municipal services—yet Hatzolah continues to function.” He thus implies that the Orthodox eventually left the neighborhoods where Hatzalah was formed, and this is simply untrue. The Orthodox have never fled areas where Hatzalah existed — such as the Boro Park, Flatbush, and Williamsburg neighborhoods of Brooklyn. All three have more Orthodox, not fewer, than they did when Hatzalah was founded. Extreme Orthodox population growth and skyrocketing real estate costs have indeed caused many younger couples to buy in the suburbs, but those real estate costs merely reflect how desirable those neighborhoods remain. The very opposite of “flight” is taking place.

    It is also true that his comment mentioned “the incredibly good/useful role of Hatzola on Shabbat.” My comment in response reflected “the incredibly good/useful role of Hatzola on Tuesday.” In fact, I am honestly mystified as to why he is convinced Hatzalah plays a special role on Shabbos or Yom Tov, more than any other day.

    The idea that Hatzalah “was meant to help defend and rally mostly poor and Orthodox Jews in these decaying areas” is ludicrous, much less the implication that it is no longer needed. Hatzalah was meant to help save lives that otherwise could easily have been lost, and it still serves that function today wherever it is found.

  7. hp says:

    Ori,

    Here’s a sampling from some of my acquaintances:

    1. Opened a rehab clinic, hired the best professionals (1).
    2. Went to school, received an MA in SLP, now a wanted therapist in boys Yeshivot (2).
    3. Became a Rebbe for elementary grade (4).
    4. Opened a contract agency for home-health services (1).
    5. Went to school, received an MSW, now part of established practice (1).
    6. Became a Rebbe for high school grade (2).
    7. Established a household goods shop (1).
    8. Took special Kriah courses, tutors children with reading difficulty- (very successful, well paid) (1).
    9. Investment manager (1).

    There are many more- people and positions. Hardworking, creative, and still make time to learn in early mornings or late evenings.

  8. Reb Yid says:

    Yaakov:

    With all due respect, you are flat out misreading my posts. In my post 8, I said explicitly that Orthodox Jews were staying in urban areas longer than other Jews, yet your post 16 assumes that I am saying davka the opposite.

    Also in my post 8, I specifically mentioned that I have experienced firsthand the incredibly good/useful role of Hatzola on Shabbat (it was my son who needed this emergency attention, which thankfully did not require any further action), yet your final paragraph in post 21 assumes the opposite.

    I have explicitly mentioned that there are special circumstances such as Shabbat/Yom Tov where having a version of Hatzola in place is warranted. But as a general everyday rule in more and more suburban locations–that is a different story.

    As we all seem to agree, Jewish hospitals (and indeed a whole slew of parallel Jewish institutions) were established during certain historical periods where Jews were not allowed to fully integrate into American society….and now that historical circumstances have changed, the institutions have rightfully disappeared as “Jewish” institutions. Due to their sheer size, they were unable to move and often serve as historical “markers” of the old Jewish neighborhood.

    Like it or not, Hatzolah came about during a period of urban crisis and it–like SSSJ and JDL during the same period–was meant to help defend and rally mostly poor and Orthodox Jews in these decaying areas who felt as though they were being abandoned. Times have changed–while there are certainly Orthodox poor, there is also growing Orthodox affluence and suburbanization.

  9. Yaakov Menken says:

    Baruch, the people behind the Baltimore effort are deliberately keeping it out of the papers. I thought twice before mentioning it in the comment, but thought it appropriate.

    Is there, in fact, Hatzalah in Teaneck? On http://www.hatzolahtalk.com/ you can read a discussion which includes the following quote: “Teaneck has a great Volunteer ambulance. Why would Hatzolah start in an area that doesn’t require it?”

    Apparently, the Teaneck volunteer squad has many frum Jews aboard. Those contemplating a Teaneck Hatzalah squad provide various reasons why it might be needed in any case.

    So once again, there is compelling evidence that Hatzalah squads are created when necessary, and save lives rather than squandering resources. If Reb Yid doesn’t want to donate to Hatzalah that’s his right… but when it’s his relative who needs urgent care in a Hatzalah neighborhood, I very much doubt he’ll practice as he preaches.

  10. Reb Yid says:

    Yaakov:

    I would certainly not call myself clueless about Hatzolah. I am also well aware that this service is available to all.

    My issue is not with Hatzolah in the urban areas that you reference. The issue is more with the need in areas like Woodmere, Cedarhurst, Teaneck, etc. where Orthodox have been moving to in droves in recent decades. Can one honestly say that the quality of services in those areas is so low and overtaxed as to warrant a separate entity?

    This is particularly problematic given the growing tensions that already exist between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox/non-Jewish populations in these suburban areas. While it is one thing to separate oneself from the broader community in terms of going to yeshivot instead of the local public schools, there is no need to exacerbate tensions by setting up parallel services where objectively speaking the need may not exist.

  11. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The newly-formed Baltimore Hatzalah works together with the overloaded city EMS; whereas Hatzalah volunteers routinely arrive within two minutes of dispatch, the city medics are often unable to arrive for fifteen minutes or more.”

    This is the first that I’m hearing about the Baltimore Hatzolah, and I’m wondering if it has been written up anywhere, such as in “Where What When”. I understood that the fact that the Baltimore community is spread over a larger area made it harder to organize, so I am happy that a Hatzolah chapter was finally formed.

  12. YH ben P says:

    If this is the trend, which it appears to be, then orthodox Jewish education will have to revolutionize or reinvent itself to equipe our children to carry the load and to interact with the “outside” world. Thus far, we have done a good job of insulating and protecting ourselves from the prevalent culture. However, we can’t continue to train all of our boys to only learn in kollel. Based on my observations and from what I hear, many of those in beis midrash and kollel are wasting their time and not learning, but are there because that is the place to be. Moreover, girls are being taught that the most desireable boys are the learners. They need to be taught that all of our boys are desireable. The fact is that not all boys are cut out for full time learning, and those that aren’t should be encouraged to make time to learn of course, but to earn a parnasa and to be socially active with the “outside” world. They would have the previlege of being in a position to do kiddush HaShem on a daily basis by interacting and conducting themselves as menches and benei Torah with the world at large. Our roshei yeshivos and rebbes have been putting their efforts in making all of our boys into “Issachars.” They now need to weed out the learners from the non-learners in order to develop “Zevuluns” to partner with our “Issachars.”

  13. Ori Pomerantz says:

    hp & former long time kollel member, what do most kollel graduates do for Parnassah?

  14. Yaakov Menken says:

    Anyone even remotely familiar with Hatzalah operations — not to mention Orthodox demographics — knows that the comments of Reb Yid could generously be described as clueless. Hatzalah is not set up needlessly in suburban areas with “fine municipal services,” but in response to critical need. The newly-formed Baltimore Hatzalah works together with the overloaded city EMS; whereas Hatzalah volunteers routinely arrive within two minutes of dispatch, the city medics are often unable to arrive for fifteen minutes or more.

    Through no fault of the dedicated medics of the Baltimore Fire Department, they are simply too overtaxed to respond in a timely manner. In a life-threatening situation, the contribution of Hatzalah can easily be defined as the difference between life and death — and what Reb Yid advises is nothing less than letting people die.

    In New York, the contribution of Hatzalah volunteers is so profound that city police routinely call upon them. During the World Trade Center terrorist attack, Hatzalah ambulances and EMS responded from all five boroughs, working side by side with the NYFD. Hatzalah served as the predominant ambulance service on the South end of the Towers, and transported police officers, fire fighters, and the Chief Medical Examiner to area hospitals.

    Furthermore, the workers of Hatzalah are all, as mentioned, volunteers — the entire Baltimore budget is dwarfed by the Associated Jewish Charities’ contribution to Sinai Hospital (though Sinai, along with Northwest General Hospital, Levindale’s nursing home, and other institutions, is part of the non-sectarian LifeBridge Health System). What sum of money is allegedly being “wasted” on Hatzalah?

    And a final reflection: the Orthodox are the last to “flee” urban areas. It is the Conservative synagogues and Reform Temples that have left the Park Heights corridor for the suburbs; in one notable recent case, the Temple building was purchased by a Jewish school. Whatever adjective one might apply to the Orthodox population of Boro Park, Flatbush, or Williamsburg, “shrinking” would assuredly be among the worst possible choices.

    It is absolutely true that the Orthodox must step forward to serve a larger role in general Jewish giving — but to suggest that they abandon Hatzalah and other “sectarian” success stories is foolhardy at best, and life-threatening at worst.

  15. former long time kollel member says:

    hp (6:13pm):

    Interesting that all the tzedakos you mention in your rebuttal of my argument established organizations providing money for poor and sick people. So you are saying that you understood my post to be about money for poor people?

    There are at least two organizations I know of that raise money to convince non frum (mostly) pregnant women in Israel to not have abortions. I also know that many of my friends struggle mightily to pay their tuition bills in spite of making what most would consider to be a pretty good living (I myself an not yet at this stage). I am sure that deep down I am undervaluing the value of life and all, but I think that in light of the tremedous burden that many many frumme families have to bear, the money raised by those mosdos would be better used given to a local mesivta. Note, I personally know one of the people who runs one of the mosdos I mention. He is a truly goodhearted man and is trying to do the right thing. But I think he is taking valuable $ out of the community for something that, although important, should not be anywhere near the top of our priority list given the shortage of funds of higher priority needs (like the mosdos you yourself mention, actually).

    Every other week, a rebbe is starting a new school for just XYZ type of student. Sometimes that type of school is so needed that it would surely justify the high overhead cost for running a new school with only 12 students. Other times, that rebbe just needs a parnassa to support his family, and working in someone else’s school won’t pay enough.

    At the end of the day, the part of my post about the new and perhaps unneeded tzedakas is nothing more than a statement like a previous poster’s comment about consolidating our resources and not wasting resources. I just tried to put that problem into perspective, to explain in part why it happens.

    I will say that I find your rebuttal, with its mention of well known mosdos that give money to poor people, to be indicative of the problem our community has receiving negative feedback. We tend to belittle the negative feedback, i.e., “oh he is against yad eliezer and tomchei shabbos, so he is pashoot a shoiteh…” just like “oh he said there is sexual-abuse in some yeshivas, he must be a disgrunteled off the derech chossid living in the Village with an axe to grind. We don’t have to listen to him…”

  16. hp says:

    “Moreover, as some of these people scramble later on in life to find a parnassa, they are forced into the only thing they can do: start your own tzedaka for some cause that should not be on anyone’s top list so that you can take the fundraiser salary. I am not chas veshalom saying they steal, but they are forced to (1) take out their living expenses out of tzedaka they collect (2) take $ out of the system for a cause that should not be a top priority for our community at this time

    AND I AM NOT SURE WHY NO ONE IS SAYING ANYTHING”

    Perhaps you are “not sure” because you are “not sure” of your facts?

    Sorry that your buddy is into this, but it doesn’t represent the general reality.

    If you find it burdensome to contribute to Ezer Mitzion, Tomchei Shabbos, Yad Eliezer, local Hachnosat Kallah drives led by your local Rabbanim, kindly refrain from besmirching the Tzedaka organizations around you. You should have learned at least this in all your former years in Kollel. COunt yourself fortunate that you don’t need them- if you did, you might be more careful in determining just what “top priority” is for the community. We have laws governing tzedakah, which dictate our giving.

    Allegations should be accompanied by supporting evidence.

  17. Reb Yid says:

    Bob:

    What I had in mind in connection with Hatzolah was simply for the O community to feel that it should use the regular municipal services/EMS, except in special circumstances like Shabbat where a Hatzolah-like system is in place. There’s no need for the O community to spend its precious resources on full-fledged emergency care.

    For that matter, while you may find JCCs completely “traif” do not discount the role they play in the general Jewish community. In addition, in more observant neighborhoods they also have special hours in the swimming pool for single sex swimming, etc. This was unheard of even as recent as 20-30 years ago.

    To even suggest that JCCs are somehow the “catalyst” for interdating or intermarriage is simply out of line. Most Jews don’t belong to any Jewish organization or synagogue, and those who do not are far more likely to intermarry than those who are involved in some formal way with organized, institutional Jewish life.

  18. long time killel member says:

    a k (3:04)

    You really don’t know what causes he is referring to??

    You really don’t understand the economic model he is questioning?

  19. a k says:

    Eastener.

    Which “hard-edged, often vitriolically-defended, haredi causes” are you referring to?

    Maybe, Yad Sarah (www.yadsarah.org), the largest voluntary organization in Israel, run by more than 6,000 volunteers,which serves everyone in Israel, regardless of religious affiliation?

    Maybe, Yad Eliezer (www.yadeliezer.org) who raised over 8 MILLION dollars with administrative expenses of 1.6% (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/search.summary/orgid/8823.htm)

    Maybe Zaka (www.zaka.org.il/en/)?

    Maybe, Satmar Bikur Cholim, which runs a volunteer network in NYC hospitals that includes free scheduled bus service that picks up volunteers at designated bus stops so they can visit and comfort the sick, without regard to the religiosity of the patient.

    Maybe, Panim Meir, Chazon Yeshaya, Zichron Menachem, Chayeinu, Ezra L’Marpeh, Ezer Mi’Tzion, Haztoloh, Tomchei Shabbos, or dozens (if not hundreds) of more examples?

    Gimme a break

    Kol Tuv

    AK

  20. former long time kollel member says:

    Most people I know have no money left over once they are done with tuition. And this is people making 200K+ a year.

    Our community has chosen to allocate its resources to things like Kollelim and the like, leading (1)to more people who cannot contribute their fair share) AND (2) more importantly also less tzedaka money in the system for other things. Moreover, as some of these people scramble later on in life to find a parnassa, they are forced into the only thing they can do: start your own tzedaka for some cause that should not be on anyone’s top list so that you can take the fundraiser salary. I am not chas veshalom saying they steal, but they are forced to (1) take out their living expenses out of tzedaka they collect (2) take $ out of the system for a cause that should not be a top priority for our community at this time

    I see no end in sight for this problem, and I am not sure that the upcoming generation is going to be able to burden the tremendous load (in terms of cost of education and number of people without employable skills) that we have forced upon it.

    AND I AM NOT SURE WHY NO ONE IS SAYING ANYTHING

  21. Raymond says:

    I hope I am correctly understanding Rabbi Adlerstein’s main point, which is that it is ignorance of Judaism that is causing formerly reliable charitable sources, both Orthodox and non-Orthdox, to dry up. If this is his main point, I cannot help but draw a parallel to voting patterns in politics: The more knowledgeable a Jew is in Judaism, the more he is likely to vote for the candidate who is the stronger supporter of Israel. Unfortunately, because the vast majority of American Jews know nothing about their own heritage, Jews typically and overwhelmingly vote for the most anti-Israel candidate. The solution is so obvious and so simple: education! Education is the solution to many, if not most, problems. As to how to get more Jews to be interested in Judaism, I cannot answer that, because I do not understand why that would even need any urging. Even from a purely secular point of view, the Torah is the most fascinating, influential document in history; how could anybody simply pass it by?

  22. Bob Miller says:

    The general Jewish agencies that Reb Yid referred to above (February 21, 2007 @ 10:23 pm) in connection with Hatzolah are precisely the ones that Rabbi Adlerstein expects to come under Orthodox control over time.

    Regarding the typical JCC—
    The Judaism at these centers is highly slanted towards “phony substitutes for the real thing”. The Jewish film content, etc. is often objectionable to religious Jews. Immodest attire spills over from the pool and gym into all parts of the building. Center-sponsored activities outside the centers (and sometimes inside, too) often involve violations of kashrut and/or Shabbat.

    If half (or more) of the people in the building are not Jewish, as often happens, what ever became of the original goal, to create a space specifically for Jews to socialize? What we have now is a space that could just as easily lead to inter-dating.

  23. Reb Yid says:

    Bob:

    There are actually relatively few “Jewish” hospitals outside of the New York area. Most of those hospitals that you spoke of have since been privatized and no longer receive funds from Jewish federations as they once did.

    JCCs are a different issue since they are community building institutions. If anything, in recent decades they have become more consciously “Jewish”. A growing number now have “Judaica” staffers to handle related programming. For many who for a variety of reasons do not normally set foot inside a synagogue or temple, JCCs can help to expose them in a positive and non-threatening manner to Jewish culture and religion.

    There’s a different yet related issue here. Why should the Orthodox community continue to be so sectarian that it needs to continue to operate Hatzolah? The origins were legitimate enough–the decline of city services in decaying urban areas in the late 60s and early 70s, where Orthodox Jews tended to remain longer than others who had already fled these areas. But since then, many Orthodox have fled as well to higher income areas in the suburbs with fine municipal services–yet Hatzolah continues to function, contributing (needlessly, in my opinion) to further sectarianism. While I believe that Hatzolah does play an incredibly useful role on Shabbat/Yom Tov (and have experienced this first hand), in general there is truly no need to spend resources on sectarian Orthodox services like this where other public, private or more general Jewish agencies can more than adequately do the job.

  24. easterner says:

    barring the miraculous, which i guess definitionally jews can’t, there is not increasing $ in the haredi world, but rather increasing poverty—-certainly in israel, and if the israeli haredi model of learn don’t earn spreads, it will get worse.

    we kinda need the kidness of [jewish ] strangers. chabad has built a multi billion dollar network out of it. but it will be harder to get the gentilized hebrew to contribute to hard-edged, often vitriolically-defended, haredi causes…..

  25. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Bob Miller, I agree with you. I don’t think that specifically Jewish community funds go to hospitals, since these days there is no need for Jews to have a separate hospital. Jewish community centers are a difference matter because they aren’t just a gym and a swimming pool (as if most US cities did not have enough of those). They also have specifically Jewish cultural activities, such as holiday celebrations or Jewish films.

    I’m not saying that we Jews shouldn’t donate money to our local hospitals or community centers. But we should do it as grateful residents of whatever town we live in, not as a specifically Jewish cause.

  26. Bob Miller says:

    Ori, once there were barriers preventing Jewish physicians from practicing in American non-Jewish hospitals.

    Since American Jewish hospitals serve Jews and non-Jews alike, as Jewish Community Centers do, why should specifically Jewish community funds go to these hospitals or centers at all?

  27. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Why should hospitals be specifically Jewish? Wouldn’t it make more sense for a hospital to serve the entire community, regardless of religion, and have chaplains for such issues as dietary requirements, medical ethics, and proper treatment of bodies when the hospital fails?

    Political advocacy for Israel is a different matter, but one that I suspect eventually Israel will have to handle on its own. With the Shoah fading out of living memory, and Jews in the US not really expecting to need a place of refuge, the state of Israel is not relevant enough for US Jews to be passionate about it.

    Whether it’s the charedi disdain for a secular Jewish state not founded on Torah, or the liberal disdain for a nation state that has to fight to survive, US Jews have reasons to dislike Israel. It would be irresponsible for Israel to assume continued support from a US Jewish lobby.

  28. Bob Miller says:

    When it comes to Israel advocacy, we Orthodox Jews also have many differences among ourselves. We don’t share one attitude toward the events of the 20th Century, to put it mildly. The idea of speaking to non-Jewish America about Israel with one voice is appealing, but we now have many conflicting voices. It will take a lot of hard work to build enough consensus to create a successful approach.

  29. Bob Miller says:

    This more direct and independent approach by the Orthodox to these matters is long overdue. It’s really the ideal of Rav SR Hirsch ZT”L and other great Rabbonim of the past. However, we will need to measure our aggregate community resources against our aggregate community needs.

    Inefficiencies that we were somewhat able to afford until now will need attention. For example, why does each private school need its own separate purchasing operation, when community financed cooperatives could get better pricing? Community financed departments for special education, enrichment for the gifted, etc., could service multiple schools in one area.

    Luxury spending will have to be reassessed and curtailed as needed.

    We will continue to deal with the fact that community organizations in the US are voluntary, and have no ability to levy “taxes”. Anyone who chooses can opt out of the formal community. The highly fragmented Orthodox communities will have to establish enough common ground to work together productively. It’s hard to submerge differences that are (or are thought to be) about matters of principle. We’ll need to understand which differences among ourselves really matter and which don’t.

  30. joel rich says:

    Generally well said. I’m reminded of chazal’s take on Numbers 11:28 where Eldad and Medad are prophesying within the camp, Joshua said to Moses, “Adoni Moshe kela’em – My Lord Moses, destroy them(shut them in according to the medrash?)” However IIRC the gemara in Sanhedrin tells us that this meant – place upon them the responsibilities of the community and they’ll stop soon enough (my free translation/recollection)

    It will be interesting to see how the entire orthodox community reprioritizes based on broader needs without proportionally greater resources.

    KT