Fraying Bonds

letter-447577_1280

by Rabbi Elchonon Oberstien

Haaretz, the newspaper of Israel’s Ashkenazi elite, is worried about the future of Kibbutz Mizra. What is so special about Mizra? Kibbutz Mizra’s meat processing plant is famous for its high-quality pork products. Now, the future of pig raising in Israel is in doubt because Arcady Gaydamak, the Russian Jewish billionaire, has decided to purchase the Tiv Taam supermarket chain and make it Kosher. Tiv Taam owns 75% of Maadaney Mizra meat products. Thus, the kibbutz may no longer have an easy outlet to sell its pork products.

“I believe that in a Jewish State, in which there is a large Muslim minority, selling pork is a provocation,” the Russian-Israeli billionaire told Army Radio. To quote the article in the Haaretz Internet Edition entitled “Will Mizra still be able to bring home the bacon?” by Eli Ashkenazi:

Exactly 50 years ago, Kibbutz Mizra founded a meat processing plant. Over the years it became identified with high-quality pork products, although it produced other meats as well. For the secular public, Maadaney Mizra’s stores were the only place to buy non-kosher meat. For the religious, it became a symbol of impurity and the casting aside of religious tradition.

Feelings ran especially high in 1990 during Yitzhak Shamir’s right-wing government, when it attempted to pass a law prohibiting the sale of pork. At Mizra, they remember a televised debate between an Agudat Yisrael MK and a kibbutz member: the MK said the kibbutznik not only sold pig, he acted like one.

This controversy brought back memories of my own childhood and of an American and Israeli Judaism that is fast disappearing. As a young boy growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, I never ate pork and I never even wanted to put a cheeseburger into my mouth. Like many other Jews of my generation, I was not always 100% kosher out of the house, but there were certain things that simply were repulsive because I was brought up in a Kosher home.

You may recall that there used to be non kosher camps and resorts that used non kosher meat and had only one set of dishes, but served what they euphemistically called a “Jewish American” menu. That meant that it tasted kosher, even if it wasn’t. In the past generation, lots of Jewish homes were Kosher, even if the people ate treif out of the house. Many otherwise non observant Jews bought Kosher meat and didn’t mix meat and milk out of habit This was certainly true in Israel as well. I recall visiting a family in Gedera, which was near Kerem B’Yavne, when I studied there in 1965-66. The family was secular, they did not go to shul on shabbat, their children went to secular public schools, yet their house was strictly Kosher.

This is not a minor matter. As long as Jews ate Jewish style food, they ethnically and tribally identified with the Jewish People. Kashrut was not necessarily a religious practice based on belief as much as a tradition handed down from mother to daughter. Yet, it had the effect of making the home more “Jewish.” I am talking about people who cooked on Shabbos, ate without a blessing and didn’t wear a head covering (we called it a yarmulke back in the day).

That world is largely gone. When I would say to a non religious Jew that as a child eating a non-Kosher hamburger (without my parents’ knowledge) didn’t bother me but eating a cheeseburger was an impossibility, they would invariably answer, “Try it rabbi, you’ll like it.” Today this vestige of “Yiddishkeit” in the generic way is gone. Jews eat cheeseburgers in America and at McDonald’s in Israel with no tinge of guilt. Those who keep Kosher really keep Kosher and those who don’t, really don’t. The middle has disappeared.

A famous saying of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik is that all Jews have a “Brit Goral”, “A Covenant of Fate” which is separate from a Covenant of Faith. I remember talking to a Polish Jew who had become a Conservative rabbi in America and telling him that I had heard that a large percentage of the Jews of Poland between the wars were no longer frum. He answered me very succinctly, “But they were Yiddish.” By this he meant that they had a strong bond with the Jewish People and were attached to Klal Yisroel in ways other than strict observance of the religion. Of course he was talking about a generation that still remembered Jewish observance from their own youth, even if they had thrown off the yoke of Heaven.

This is the same reason it worked for a while in America. There was a collective memory of how mama cooked, of the tastes and smells of their childhood. I would contend that this was the underlying reason for the fantastic success of Conservative Judaism in the 1950s. Now, statistics show that very few Conservative-affiliated Jews keep kosher even at home. The younger generation has no problem consuming shellfish, and all manner of dishes that contain meat and milk cooked together. In fact, in a class I teach at an Assisted Living Community that caters to rich old Jews, one of my students, whose Foundation has given millions to Conservative causes, disagreed with me when I said that Conservative Judaism believes in Kashrut. She said that she doesn’t know anyone who keeps Kosher and it simply couldn’t be true. She was 93 and may be forgiven for not realizing that although no one she knows keeps Kosher, certainly not at the Country Club which was her second home, her synagogue’s kitchen was indeed Kosher.

I am writing to make what I think is a very important point. The bonds that bind all Jews are loosening and this is a tragedy. When we have gone away to a Disney Hotel on Pesach in Orlando, we invariably hear Israelis who are on vacation over the Pesach holiday eating chametz around the pool, speaking Hebrew. To me, even a secular Jew should feel solidarity with Jewish History enough to not completely ignore Pesach. Speaking Hebrew but having no sense of tradition is not the way to preserve Israel, not just as a Jewish State, but even its existence. Those who feel alienated from our past will just as easily give up on our future.

The rise in pork selling in Israel owes a lot to the hundreds of thousands of Russians who came to Israel with no memory of dietary laws. They couldn’t keep Kosher in the USSR even if they knew how. The fact that there were real fights in places like Beit Shemesh between Moroccan Jews who opposed allowing the selling of pork in the town and Russians who liked to eat pork is only part of the story. The Haaretz type Jews, the Yossie Beilin Jews, who used to be a little traditional but are now totally secular is an even greater problem. The common destiny based on the common history, the brit goral, is just not enough any more. “We Are One” is no longer even bandied about as a slogan, it is hollow.

The question I leave you with is, can there be a future for a Judaism based on anything other than belief in the truth of the Torah? Are there collective elements which bind us together over the long run? The corollary to this question is, what possible alternative is there for Jews who feel very Jewish and love the Jewish People, but simply don’t believe in orthodox Judaism? If Orthodoxy is the only way, then how can we possibly keep Israel secure as a Jewish State and keep American Jewry from just disappearing in this Golden Golus that accepts us and absorbs us?

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33 Responses

  1. Matt Rosenblatt says:

    “There was a collective memory of how mama cooked, of the tastes and smells of their childhood.”

    Yes, there was. A collective memory of the taste and smell of the cholent. Rabbi Kahane noticed it, too, thirty years ago, in his book, “Why Be Jewish?”:

    “Were I a Talmudic sage I might phrase it: ‘On two things does the modern Jew stand – on goyim and on cholent.’ . . .

    “For millions of Jews who had left the Judaism of tradition and Torah, becoming members of the New Judaism, the intellectual contradictions and objections were muted by cholent. I do not speak of cholent that cooked away all Friday night in the oven and that emerged with its potatoes and beans, hot and more than filling. I am speaking of all the cholent that remained as warm nostalgic memories in the minds of countless Jews. I speak of the nostalgia that passed for Judaism and that kept the Jewish dreamers from breaking with their people.
    “Millions of Jews remained Jews because they were raised in truly Jewish homes. Imbedded in their memories were their own experiences and early lives. They had seen and lived a real Sabbath in their parents’ or grandparents’ homes; they remembered the Kiddush wine cup and the two challas; they remembered the real Passover Seder; they remembered the packed Orthodox shul where people went to daven, not to ‘pray’; they remembered the Jewishness of the Old Judaism and so they moved on to New Judaism, but could never bring themselves to face the contradictions and absurdities that would force them to drop it entirely. They had to remain Jews because of the grip that nostalgia had upon them. Because of cholent.” (p. 87, 88)

    “The American Jew, product of the goy and of cholent, whose Judaism is nostalgia, ethics, the memory of the Holocaust, and the UJA. But what of his child? What of Bernie? . . .

    “What happens when a child is born free and unencumbered with memories? . . .
    “And what happens when a young Jew arises who does not know cholent? Who comes from a home where Judaism lives only in the nostalgic mind of the parents but which is never practiced? Who never saw the shul but only knows the mausoleum that passes for a temple? Who never tasted the Kiddush wine or searched for chametz on Passover eve? Who never saw a sukkah and never danced on Simchas Torah? Who never smelled the cholent! He has no nostalgia; he remembers nothing warm and tender that pricks his conscience and makes him ashamed of letting go. He has no cholent to make him forego the shiksa. And when has neither goyim to beat him and force him to be Jewish nor cholent to prod him into nostalgic reminiscences, he has no reason to be Jewish and so he leaves.
    “He leaves and runs to Bridget and there is nothing to stop him.” (p. 92f)

  2. YM says:

    There is a big difference between being committed to mitzvoth observance and messing up, and, l’havdil, deciding, davka, against certain mitzvoths.

  3. Loberstein says:

    There are more agnostic Jews than many would care to admit. Many of them go to shul and are part of the community. This is done out of a desire to affiliate with living Judaism. Have you not noticed men who come to shul Shabbios morning very late and then talk instead of davening. Why do they come? Probbably because their frum wives make them, maybe not to shame their children who need shiduchim. We live in a secular society and we are also post-holocaust. If you took a survey and people told you what they really believed deep down, you would see that the desire to be a part of klal yisroel, our brit goral – is a major factor. Also, the rhythem of the Jewish life cycle is very comforting and gives one a sense of belonging to a caring community.
    Only the really really orthodox are more motivated by G-d belief. This emphasis on stricture, prohibitions on everything, ostracising those who believe in Evolutuion may be based on a desire to quell the inner demons of those whose belief can’t stand rational challenges.
    That being said, I think most Jewish agnostics are believers in Hashem deep down and their relationship with Hashem is through His People, not just the Shulchan ZAruch , which is constantly being made more difficult from day to day inthe frum world.
    One caveat, I am not speaking about myself, but about what I perceive to be the true state of Jewish belilef .

  4. a k says:

    Comment by Charles — June 18, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

    “If it is easier for you to believe that serious non-O Jews are simply lazy or willfully ignorant, I am quite certain there is no way to convince you otherwise so I will not try.”

    How many ‘serious non-O Jews’ would you estimate are left?
    Sadly, it seems that the percentage is negligible, even if you count only those who identify themselves as Conservative Jews.

    “I will say that my congregants are not likely to be persuaded to be more observant by such accusations.”

    Do you find anything that persuades your congregents to be more observant?
    Sadly, it seems that most are rushing to less observance.

    I hope I’m wrong. What do you think?

    AK

  5. JZ says:

    Mr. Shulman- Fasting on Taanit Esther and davening Maariv predate the Chassam Sofer. They’re encoded in the Shulchan Aruch.

  6. YM says:

    It is a subtle thing that Hashem wants of us: to use our brains to analyze and appreciate the world around us, but not to worship our own intellects and to realize that we are very biased in favor of our own comforts and desires.

  7. YM says:

    Charles, if you really think that your lack of halachic observance is a result of conviction, not laziness or desires, why not pretend to be orthodox for six months, give up the things you would have to give up, attend an orthodox shul, study talmud every day, etc and then decide after the six months is over what you truly believe?

  8. Rudy Wagner says:

    JZ, YM, Hillel,

    Don’t get excited, Charles is just teasing us…

  9. Gary Shulman says:

    There is a middle ground. One can be Orthodox, be meticulous in trying not to violate a negative commandment lo taaseh, but perhaps be somewhat lax in Rabbinical commandments, such as eating on the Fast of Esther or not davening Maariv or not davening with a minyan that often. The all or nothing approach is the approach of the Chasom Sofer. That approach was used in the 19th century to quell the rise of the Reform movement.Even people wearing black suits and hats occasionaly violate even Torah commandments such as loshon horaizing. These people are considered Orthodox, so how about your lazy Jews?

  10. Tal Benschar says:

    To my mind, the bottom line is that a Judaism based on nostalgia — on a “Jewish feel” devoid of any firm foundation, like “kosher style” food — is doomed to whither as soon as the generation experiencing the nostalgic feelings passes away. Nostalgia can be a strong feeling, but it is almost impossible to pass on to the next generation. That is essentially the history of non-Orthodox Judaism in America in the last half of the 20th century — nostalgia-Judaism being practiced for a while and then forgotten as the next generation comes to the fore.

    And WADR to the writer, the “famous saying of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik is that all Jews have a “Brit Goral”, “A Covenant of Fate” which is separate from a Covenant of Faith” has nothing to do with the nostalgia-Judaism whose loss he is lamenting. Rav Soloveichik was discussing an obligation to the well-being of the Jewish people, whereever they may be and whatever befalls them, regardless of commonality of rememberance of “how mama cooked.” To cite one obvious example, the Sephardic Jews and others of the Edot ha Mizrach were and are culturally very different from the Jews of Poland, but we share a common destiny as klal yisroel.

  11. Mark says:

    “I’ll try to be less provocative in the future but I thought this part of the blog was about sharing opinions. If certain ones aren’t welcome, it should be posted at the top.”

    Dear Garnel,

    I am not the Baal HaBlog and I don’t control who posts here. I, like you, only shared my opinion about yours. Perhaps I wasn’t clear in what I was trying to say but this is a nice blog and one of the things that makes it stand out from the rest is that it’s not an incessant bashfest of those horrible child-eating, fire-breathing “Hareidim”. For that you can go elsewhere. I’ve seen a only a few of your comments and somehow your sentiments about black hatters come out loud and clear each time, regardless of the subject. I for one, am tired of that nonsense and I sense that many others are as well. That’s just my opinion however, and you’re free to do as you wish. From whatever I’ve read of yours not related to the B”H’er’s you sound like a person whose opinions would be worth reading.

  12. Garnel Ironheart says:

    Dear YM,

    >I am really insulted by the comment of Garnel Ironheart that seems to equate non-observance but having a religious background with Baalei Teshuva who do the best they can, not having a mesorah to learn from.

    I’m truly sorry to have offended you. Certainly such was not my intention. I also didn’t mean to give the impression I am equating the two groups, only that in addition to the group mentioned in the article, there is another one with other issues.

    Dear Mark,

    I’ll try to be less provocative in the future but I thought this part of the blog was about sharing opinions. If certain ones aren’t welcome, it should be posted at the top.

    G.I.

  13. Bob Miller says:

    He seems to be backing out of the deal, unless that’s just a tactic.

  14. JZ says:

    Charles-

    Cutting to the chase:

    If you don’t believe G-d dictated the Torah why on earth don’t you eat shrimp and go shopping on Shabbat?

    What tells you those aren’t from the “made-up” sections of the Torah?

    Was it your heart or your analysis that led you to conclude that this is what G-d wants?

  15. YM says:

    Ori, Hashem revealed himself to Avraham as soon as, and only when, Avraham realized that hashem was G-d. It was Avraham who took the first step. It can’t only be about kiruv – we all have free choice and the information is out there.

  16. L Oberstein says:

    A friend sent me this comment which is very true.
    ” On a similar note, I heard Jonathan Rosenblum tell of an interview with Salah Tamari, a Palestinian terrorist who had been imprisoned in Israel and who had come to believe that the Palestinians would not be able to ever gain their independence. One Pesach, while in prison, he noticed that his Jewish warder was eating a pita sandwich. Shocked, Tamari asked him how he could eat pita on his Passover. The Jewish warden responded, “I feel no obligation to events that took place over 2000 years ago. I have no connection to that.” Tamari said that that evening he had a transformation, and he realized that if the Jews were so disconnected to their past, then indeed, the Palestinians could achieve all of their goals. From that moment, he determined to fight for everything–not a percentage…but for everything–because opposing us, he said, is a nation that has no connection to its roots, which are no longer of interest to it. A nation with no connection to its roots will not long survive. “

  17. sarah elias says:

    ralphie – although he is Russian-born, Arkady Gaydamek happens to live in Israel and is an Israeli citizen.

  18. ralphie says:

    I recognize the reality here, but isn’t it sad that someone outside of Israel has to buy an Israeli grocery chain in order to make it kosher? I pray for the day when the opposite holds true.

  19. Charles says:

    YM:

    If it is easier for you to believe that serious non-O Jews are simply lazy or willfully ignorant, I am quite certain there is no way to convince you otherwise so I will not try. I will say that my congregants are not likely to be persuaded to be more observant by such accusations. If I was looking for an easy way out I would not be Conservative. I was raised non-observant and would be happy to be able to eat shrimp and go shopping on Shabbat, but I do not do so because I believe that the Conservative halachic lifestyle I follow is the closest approximation I can arrive at of what God wants of me.

    I do not think I have greater halachic knowledge than RMF z”l. I do believe that some of my teachers such as Rabbis Roth, Novak, Halivni, Reisner have sufficient halachic knowledge to rely on them. But the difference is more one of methodology. IOW I do not believe in yeridat ha-dorot, period. RMF cannot pasken shailas anymore. The methodologies available to earlier generations are available to us.

    I know that men and women of greater intellect than I accept the Divine Dictation Theory of the origin of the Torah. The evidence available to me simply tells me otherwise. You call it a matter of choice. I don’t agree. Analysis, perhaps, but not choice.

  20. HILLEL says:

    CHARLES:

    You have described the normal process of attrition when non-authentic Judaism is offered to the younger generation.

    Young people want THE REAL THING. Don’t be afraid to give it to them!

  21. Ori Pomerantz says:

    YM: Ori, it only rings hollow to them because they have been raised in the “American” religion (including secular Israeli’s, BTW), which emphisizes comfort, financial success, being entertained, not often or ever crticially thinking about ones fundamental philosophies, being “happy”, etc.

    Ori: That may be the case. However, they have been raised as they have been raised. It you want to reach them, you have to do so at their level in a way that they will understand.

    If I understand things correctly, even the Torah does that. For example, Bereshit 18:1 says that G-d “shows Himself to” Abraham (וירא אליו). G-d is incorporal, so it can’t mean what it would mean if you said that a person would “show himself to”. However, the Torah speaks in a language that people understand.

  22. Mark says:

    YM,
    “I am really insulted by the comment of Garnel Ironheart that seems to equate non-observance but having a religious background with Baalei Teshuva who do the best they can, not having a mesorah to learn from.”

    Whatever you do, please don’t be insulted by dear old Garnel’s words. Firstly, I doubt he was referring to BT’s. His primary target seems to be “Black-hat Yeshivish”. For whatever reason, they cause him a serious bit of discomfort and he’s rather quick to insert that wherever he finds a blank space.
    Second, please note that this blog has been around for some time and no one has the time/inclination to respond to each of his provocations which more or less are rants against those he perceives to be too frum. His comment is so off the mark, it’s not really worthy of a response, let alone, getting insulted over.

  23. YM says:

    Charles: I believe the Torah is “true” but I do not believe that it was dictated by God. Nor do I believe that yeridat ha-dorot leaves us unable to find viable halachic solutions to serious problems. I cannot possibly be an Orthodox Jew – Why? Do you think your analysis of these questions is better than R. Moshe Feinsteins? Or do you just not want to give something up? Also, what serious problems are you talking about?

    I do have a number of congregants who are thoughtful and knowledgable and they, too, feel that at least for them Orthodoxy is intellectually untenable. Again, intellectually untenable? Or are they unwilling to give up their lifestyles? Some of the greatest intellects in the history of the world believed in Torah. Orthodoxy is a matter of belief applied to evidence. The evidence is there, a person can choose to believe or not believe.

  24. Sabba Hillel says:

    They know all the rules and live their lives religiously by them (forgive the pun) but there’s something lacking to them, something “Yiddish” that’s missing. They’ll hold the cup on Friday night for kiddush a certain way because the Artscroll book told them to while the older traditional folks held it that way because “papa” did.

    However, their children will indeed hold it not only, because Rabbi Art Scroll told them to do it but because abba or tattie did it that way. Many of them will also hold it “that” way because they actually learned the reason behind the custom.

  25. YM says:

    I look at the halacha like the foundation and frame of a house. If you were to just set up sheetrock and you don’t build a frame, the walls will almost certainly fall down with very little force applied against them. A person needs to develop the frame and foundation in their minds, hearts and limbs; it takes years and a full-fledged committment.

  26. YM says:

    Ori, it only rings hollow to them because they have been raised in the “American” religion (including secular Israeli’s, BTW), which emphisizes comfort, financial success, being entertained, not often or ever crticially thinking about ones fundamental philosophies, being “happy”, etc. The answer which you attribute to Orthodoxy is the truth, whether we like it or not. It is incomplete, however. How about: “There is a way to live in harmony with the world, and that is the “derech hashem”, living in relationship with the creator of the world, who created the world for a reason and gave us a way of life so that we can be successful participants in the relationship. Halacha means path or way; it is a way of developing oneself so that once can experience expanded consciousness. In order to start on the derech hashem, one has to commit to learning torah, following halacha, relating to the creator, and thinking about what one has learned, every day. It is not a quick fix, it is not easy, but it is better than wasting ones life purpose.

  27. YM says:

    I am really insulted by the comment of Garnel Ironheart that seems to equate non-observance but having a religious background with Baalei Teshuva who do the best they can, not having a mesorah to learn from. There is no comparison. Also, it is likely that over many years, as someone lives in the frum community, he or she experiences many minhagim and decides on something fitting for him/her.

  28. Charles says:

    Rabbi Oberstein is the wisest commentator on Cross Currents.

    I am a Conservative rabbi and what I see around me gives me concern. I think sociologically Rabbi Oberstein’s comments about Conservative Judaism circa 1950 are correct. You had primarily children of immigrants whose Jewishness was self-evident to them. They wanted a Judaism that looked familiar but was also American enough not to be embarrassing or overly burdensome.

    The people in my shul who are the most active and involved, for the most part, either come from very strong backgrounds or are converts or perhaps spouses of converts — their spouse’s enthusiasm brought them along. But as fewer and fewer of us have memories of Yiddish-speaking grandparents, Judaism as ethnicity attenuates. For the most part, the adult children of my active congregants are either nonobservant or have become Orthodox. I am pretty confident my shul will survive until I am ready to retire but if I were ten or fifteen years younger I would be very concerned about having a job until retirement.

    I do feel that the future of Judaism in America has to be Judaism qua religion, not qua ethnicity. But there have to be at least two forms of religious Judaism. I believe the Torah is “true” but I do not believe that it was dictated by God. Nor do I believe that yeridat ha-dorot leaves us unable to find viable halachic solutions to serious problems. I cannot possibly be an Orthodox Jew — though I can live in an Orthodox community, and have done so, as Rabbi Menken and Rabbi Oberstein both know.

    I do have a number of congregants who are thoughtful and knowledgable and they, too, feel that at least for them Orthodoxy is intellectually untenable.

    The theological spadework for a viable but non-Orthodox, religious Judaism is being done by people like David Ellenson, Arnie Eisen, David Hartman and Moshe Halbertal — all of whom I will be learning from, IY”H, this summer.

    The disappearance of heterodoxy would be tremendously harmful to the American Jewish community. It is still a fact that vast sums are given to Orthodox institutions, and to general Jewish institutions which serve Orthodox Jews, by the non-Orthodox. If the choice for me was Orthodoxy or nothing I would be part of an Orthodox community, keep my mouth shut, and listen selectively to my rabbi’s sermons. Many of my congregants would simply disappear as Jews.

    The cause of kiruv would be well served by more rabbis like Rabbi Oberstein.

  29. Tziona C. says:

    Perhaps I have an admittedly unique perspective – a 50-something becoming baal teshuva whose kids are in a Conservative day school – but I don’t see the middle as in quite the dire straits as has been presented. The numbers are definitely thinned out – and I see it as a serious situation – but there are certainly strongly committed Conservative Jews and so-called “modern Orthodox” Jews who keep kosher to some degree and there are those who are shomer shabbos as well. I think that what’s happened is that as the Jewish community has bifurcated, these people have become invisible to the more frum community, so the assumption is that they flat out don’t exist.

    I also believe “kiruv” to be an overly simplistic answer – depending on exactly what one’s definition of it is. In reality, before one can officially reach out to others, one has to model open minded and non-judgmental behaviors routinely in one’s own daily life – which is a lot harder for most of us to do than extend an invitation for Shabbos dinner – but oh how many more people you can potentially reach that way. It’s very hard.

    Also – it appears as if at the same time that the rest of Jews have been turning away from religion in large numbers, the frum Jews have been eschewing the value of a secular education – especially a high quality one (which could include liberal arts as well as the sciences). I still have not been provided with an adequate explanation of why a world class religious and secular education cannot reasonably co-exist. (I completely understand the part about dorm living on a college campus being an issue – I’m referring here to the classroom part) The attitude that secular education is to be feared (or at least not aspired to) is the number one reason why my husband cannot bring himself to join me on my spiritual journey, and by extension, why the gulf between various segments of Jewry threatens to widen, rather than diminish – because an important common ground is shrinking, because all of the good of the secular world is rejected outright with all of the bad – and the potential returnees sense it subconsciously and thus turn away.

  30. Ori Pomerantz says:

    With modern communication, mobility, and tolerance, people have a much greater ability to choose their own identities (or at least think they do). How would you answer a teenager who asks you “Why should I be Jewish?”

    Orthodoxy has one answer: “G-d told us to follow Halacha, and He’ll punish us if we do anything else – and anyway it’s better to live that way”. That answer rings hollow to people raised in a Chiloni or Heterodox environment. To keep people from a Heterodox background who are not (or not yet) willing to become Orthodox Ba’aley Tshuva Jewish, we need a different answer.

  31. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I share the sadness of Rabbi Oberstein, and, I believe, for similar reasons. There were those in the Conservative movement who made great efforts to teach kids in the religious schools, the USY youth movement and especially Camp Ramah, to love Judaism and to seek out more Jewish content than what there was in their homes. For some it paid off, and they and their children and grandchildren are frum today. Others continue to disappear through intermarriage, disaffiliation and plain failure to reproduce. As the Geula approaches the middle ground disappears because of “birurim”, clarifications, the fudge factor going up in smoke. Our answer has to be hard work on kiruv, including an openness to non-Jews who have been exposed to Jewish culture, but in such a case, culminating in a serious halachic conversion. The future of the Jewish people is only frum. The heterodox denominations will die out like the Saducees and other sectarians of the Second Temple period or cease to be Jewish like the early Christians. This is a dead serious situation. We must consider this a rescue and salvage operation, as if our brothers and sisters are trapped in a burning building or a mineshaft. We must get out of the comfort of our Orthodox shuls and go out to Jews wherever they are. Chabad does it, but every brand of kosher Judaism should be out there for real. The idealism which such an approach will generate will have many advantages. It will have fire and be attractive. It will also warn missionaries to back off. But most of all it will be the last chance to save the Cheeseburger Generation.

  32. Garnel Ironheart says:

    This is an excellent article that mentions one tragic trend but misses another.
    The one mentioned is the disappearance of the “Yiddish” Jew, the one who was traditional, came to shul on a semi-regular basis, knew how to put tefillin on even if he rarely did it, and wouldn’t touch pig or shellfish because “Jews don’t do that.” These folks are dying out with time and being replaced by their children who never got even that much Jewishness out of their parents.
    The other trend is the one going the other way – children raised in non-religious homes who suddenly become frum, “by the book”. These folks are the diametric opposite of the first group. They know all the rules and live their lives religiously by them (forgive the pun) but there’s something lacking to them, something “Yiddish” that’s missing. They’ll hold the cup on Friday night for kiddush a certain way because the Artscroll book told them to while the older traditional folks held it that way because “papa” did.
    Unfortunately, we live in a world where the golden mean no longer holds any importance. If you don’t take a side, you don’t seem to stand for anything. The folks in the middle are going because their kids either abandoned everything or went “black hat”. Is there a collective element holding all Jews together? A pessimist would say there isn’t, anymore.

    Me, I’m a pessimist.

  33. easterner says:

    good point. the majority of jews in US are now non zionist. non-O jews accept the palestinian narrative. haredi jews support eretz yisrael, though none of the Medina’s particular institutions. will israel be increasingly depicted of an occupying enclave supported by religious fundamentalists? it will be a risk if the non-O american clergy are influenced by the leftist line…….