Fine Fiction at Yediot

From the Yediot Achronot, we learn that “We yeshiva students barely study.” According to their report, an unidentified kollel student showed up in their offices and proceeded to spend an hour or two ragging on his peers, delivering such gems along the way as “You don’t study much Gemara,” “It’s mostly a social framework,” and, of course, that when we talk about “frum” and “frei” (religious and “free”, or secular), we mean that the secular are “freier,” suckers, for paying those ridiculous yeshiva stipends.

If you want to attempt to separate truth from fiction, just take note of his claim that “there is no poverty in the haredi society,” and move the entire article to “Trash” where it belongs. No contrary opinion, no fact-checking, no verification… just “hey, we have this guy here ready to badmouth the yeshivos, let’s give him space.”

The icing on the cake is Yediot’s characterization of an anonymous diatribe as a “courageous monologue.” Courageous? He’s no more courageous than an anonymous blogger — and, for that matter, no more truthful. Apparently, if you are working at Yediot, “courage” has nothing to do with an actual backbone, only whether you’re ready to play Benedict Arnold against the Orthodox.

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47 comments to Fine Fiction at Yediot

  • Miriam

    Check out Bechadrei – he called them this morning to recant.

    http://www.bhol.co.il/news_read.asp?id=20834&cat_id=1

  • Bob Miller

    This Benedict Arnold may also be a fiction himself. It’s pretty easy for “journalists” to invent nameless sources.

  • Rivky

    Clearly it was bad jouralism for Yediot (and Ynet, etc.) to publish this article, which was based entirely on one unnamed source, but are there any redeeming parts of this article at all? Any criticisms of the community you agree with?

  • Chochom b'mah nishtaneh

    It is amazing how such a obviously false article is the focus of “one of the blogging elite” (so described by one of the writers on this esteemed forum)who says “he has no reason not to believe this”. This is the problem with and blogs bloggers, that even those who believe they are the elite are so eager to accept fallacy as truth if it supports and furthers their poorly devloped preconceptions.

    A quote “As a religious Jew he has a Chezkas Kashrus – a presumption of integrity and therefore Ne’emanus.” How ill concieved a premise. This unidentified, most likely made up individual has more ne’emanus to this blogger, than thousands of kollel yungerliet toiling away long hours. More than the 8 hours in a standard work day. Interesting how an elite blogger defines “emes” or “emunah” for that matter (“ne’emanus” being the combination of both those).

  • Miriam

    Rivky – it isn’t worth trying to cull constructive criticism from a fellow who himself admits to be an under-performer in his community and accuses the majority of those around him of the same. For more intelligent and useful ideas about revising the kollel-fits-all approach, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum has many articles archived on this very site.

  • Yaakov Menken

    Chochom — he said what? Anyone who read the Yediot article and found it believable is “elite” only in ignorance or in his ability to write (and blog?) without noticeable grey matter between the ears.

    According to Bechadrei Chadorim (thank you Miriam), the miscreant himself called them up full of regret for the damage he caused with obvious falsehoods. “I told jokes about the Kollelim, I said things that were not serious. Any intelligent person understands that the things that I said are not correct.” In this one area, I agree with him. Any intelligent person understands that the things he said are not correct, with obvious implications for anyone who said that he found the story “believable.”

    Rivky, there is a famous story of a Rosh Yeshivah, I believe it was R’ Moshe zt”l, who was forced to expel a student from his yeshiva, and the ex-student stood on the sidewalk as he waited for his ride, saying in as loud as voice as possible every bad thing he could think of saying about the Rosh Kollel — who stood by the second-floor window, listening carefully. When asked why he was listening to such a foolish diatribe, he said essentially the same thing that you just did — he was listening to find if there were any true criticisms, any areas where he might improve.

    But that was because he was the person being spoken about. If I were a Kollel student and I’d been slacking off, I would feel compelled to better demonstrate how false this criticism was by studying harder. However, none of us are the people he was speaking about, and for us, to believe this account is to be mekabel Hotza’as Shem Ra, to accept slander as truth. It is not for us to believe one line of this nonsense. As Miriam said, you can find articles on Cross-Currents concerning the important topics of Charedi Kollelim and economics on this website, from one much closer to the scene, who writes with both accuracy and respect.

  • Dr. E

    Despite any violations of journalistic protocol, I’m not quite sure why this story would be so unbelievable. It merely chronicles what has already been admitted by even Chareidim who are intellectually honest. When a system has been created in which the only socially acceptable index of success is full-time, indefinite learning within an insular anti-eveyone else environment, this is totally within the realm of reality.

    Isn’t this merely another symptom of the reality that the Rabbi from Williamsburg was critical about about the other night?

    Perhaps, it’s just a matter of not wanting to hear outsiders point out where the chinks in the armor are.

  • dr. bill

    When a member of a relatively closed society confirms what some others outside have observed, albeit anecdotally, it is telling. The one item mentioned in your post about “no poverty,” comes from a sentence with the word “If” at the beginning. I think that word omitted could cause one to suspect bias on your part? And calling an unknown individual a “miscreant!” me thinks you are protesting a tad too much!

    It would be nice if all these issues can be addressed calmly and with facts; reality is that the political process does not work that way.

    i remain hopeful that Israeli political leaders are preparing a “safety net” for those who choose to enter the workforce; they appear more than concerned about a situation out of control by almost all accounts.

  • Joe Hill

    “Chochom — he said what? Anyone who read the Yediot article and found it believable is “elite” only in ignorance or in his ability to write (and blog?) without noticeable grey matter between the ears.”

    Rabbi Menkin –

    I could not agree with you more on your characterization of the blogger who wrote what Chochom quoted!

  • Yaakov Menken

    Both Doctors are mistaken in this instance. Anyone who denied that there are slackers in kollel would be as truthful as those who deny there are slackers working for the Federal government in either the US or Israel. I would like to think that, on average, those working for a mere kollel stipend put in a lot more effort than those working for full-time government salaries. So Dr. E is mistaken — anyone who is intellectually honest reports that there are far more serious learners then there are slackers.

    As for Dr. Bill, he would have a point if he were right. But he’s not. The full sentence regarding poverty reads: “By the way, there is no poverty in the haredi society.” There is no “if,” neither there nor in the “pull quote” used as a caption underneath the picture at the beginning of the article. If it would reflect bias to omit a word like that, it quite obviously reflects bias to manufacture conditional statements which don’t exist.

    The “member of a relatively closed society” scored points with Yediot by confirming anti-Orthodox stereotypes. That doesn’t make him truthful, and what is telling is that “Dr. Bill” gives his lies credence even after he has come forward to recant his foolish nonsense. As for the term miscreant, he pretty much describes himself that way, according to Chadrei Chadorim. “Miscreant, noun, a wrongdoer or villain.” Dr. Bill would make a lousy shoe salesman; it’s rare to find a fit quite that good.

    Joe — no comment on that one. I hadn’t even read the end of “Chochom’s” comment to discern who the writer might have been, when I reacted. Now that I do know — well, it would demonstrate intellectual honesty were he to take down the post and/or apologize…

  • Harry Maryles

    Mr. Menken – You ought to read my post before you comment on what I wrote. It’s interesting that you are guilty of the very same thing you accuse Ynet of. You rely on the word of one commenter and then proceed to insult me.It is also quite revealing that you resort to a term like ‘ragging’. This is a derogatory term referring to how women often feel during their menstruation period. ‘Ragging’ refers to the rag that was used before certain feminine hygine products were invented.

    You don’t want to belive this guy? That’s fine. But he’s not the only one who has testified to the fact that their are many ‘Avrecihim’ who barely do any learning. I have spoken to former Avreichim who have told me the same thing. Are they the majority? No. Do they exist in significant numbers. If you don’t think so then maybe you are the one without noticeable grey matter between the ears.

    If you should decide to delete this comment… don’t worry. It will soon be appearing on my blog!

  • YM

    A few months ago, I heard the Israel counsel from Boston speak. His speech sort of sickened me. “Economic productivity” was what he was proudest of. I find an echo of this in Dr. Bill’s comment that “i remain hopeful that Israeli political leaders are preparing a “safety net” for those who choose to enter the workforce; they appear more than concerned about a situation out of control by almost all accounts.”. So, it is “out of control” for a society to allow some men to choose to pursue scholarship, even when it doesn’t pay very much? It seems like Israel is doing fine economically, despite the number of men in Kollel.

  • dr. bill

    he said in the article : “If there is no financial hardship the community doesn’t approve of going out to work” HIS DEFINITION OF POVERTY IS “NO ONE UNFED”. not what povety means in normal use. both the paper and you are being unfair.

    DO YOU HAVE STATISTICS OF PEOPLE UNFED? (excluding those abused, of course.) fortunately there are charity organizations! the problem is always the next generation.

    and if the only shoe that fits is calling him a miscreant – i would choose to go barefoot. i could think of a dozen more apt terms! try misguided, biased, bitter, forlorn, seeking attention, etc.

  • Yaakov Menken

    Had Mr. Maryles bothered to ask me, I would have told him the honest truth — I responded to what “Chochom” said without knowing whom he was speaking about. As I said before, “I hadn’t even read the end of ‘Chochom’s’ comment to discern who the writer might have been, when I reacted.” What I said was true anyway, as I spoke in general terms about anyone who believed the “Avreich” as quoted by the Yediot. As the “Avreich” said himself: “any intelligent person understands that the things that [he] said are not correct.”

    But for that matter, how did HM know that I didn’t read his blog, though he happened to be right? Reading his post makes matters worse, not better. He has seen with his own eyes what goes on in the Mirrer Yeshiva, and rightly calls it “one of the most inspiring sights in Israel.” But instead of distinguishing truth from falsehood, he then tries to balance what he has seen with the “testimony” of this “courageous” individual who has “seen the truth” and now “spills the beans about what really goes on.”

    Now whom do you think he might side with, when this cowardly, anonymous paragon of courage is clearly contradicted by Maryles’ own eyes? Why, the slanderer, of course! Maryles decides that it must be because what he sees in the Mir “is mostly pre-Kollel” — but what the Yediot’s “Charedi Avreich” has “witnessed”, well, he “should be believed.” Afrah L’Pumei.

    The “Avreich” did not simply tell Yediot that “their [sic] are many ‘Avreicihim’ [sic] who barely do any learning.” Had HM waited a few moments before his hasty reply, he’d have seen that I am well aware that there are slackers in every Yeshiva, even the best. But while HM writes here that he knows they are not the majority, that’s nowhere in evidence on his blog, nor is that at all what the Yediot article implies.

    He even takes me to task for the term “ragging.” If he’d done a bit of research, as I just did, he would have learned that the slang about a woman’s menstruation is not at all the same as the completely respectable synonym for mocking, which has been in use since the 18th Century CE. In fact, as the slang definition refers only to menstruation itself (there are a series of even more vulgar meanings, as I discovered on the only site I found carrying HM’s definition), it could not possibly apply to the way I used the word (“ragging on his peers”).

    Please, enough silliness. The Avreich himself says that the press took his jokes and printed them as serious statements, and has expressed regret for every word. Will Mr. Maryles demonstrate the intellectual honesty necessary to follow suit?

  • Yaakov Menken

    Dr. Bill is not being honest. First he wrote that “The one item mentioned in your post about ‘no poverty,’ comes from a sentence with the word ‘If’ at the beginning.” I called him on this, and he now points to a sentence that does indeed begin with the word “if,” and which appears eighteen paragraphs earlier than the line asserting that there is “no poverty.”

    To ensure that we all got his point, he states in all caps that “his definition of poverty is ‘no one unfed.'” while capitalization may give the appearance of shouting, it does nothing to enhance accuracy.

    And while I am repeating myself, he would have a point if he were right. But he’s not. Here’s the full quote: “By the way, there is no poverty in the haredi society. There is poverty when it comes to luxuries, but no one is hungry, everyone has food and drinks.” I don’t think any reader of the Yediot categorizes a pair of hole-free socks as a “luxury.”

    Terms like misguided, biased, bitter, forlorn, and attention-seeking also describe the woman who falsely accused three Duke Lacrosse players of rape, not to mention the Unabomber. But you tend not to use such generous terms when the person has done incredible damage.

  • saul

    Would this ‘so called fictitious letter’ have made such a turmoil, if the Knesset was not currently debating funds for married Yeshiva/University students? Was it the timing of the interview—-or the interview itself that was so destructive with its inaccuracies?

  • Guest

    >only whether you’re ready to play Benedict Arnold against the Orthodox.

    Ultra-Orthodox. Don’t make it seem like Israeli Charedim are representative of Orthodoxy or that all of Orthodoxy approves of the Israeli Chareidi predicament/ lifestyle.

  • dr. bill

    Thank you for your evaluation of my honesty. I will let those who know us judge. the “If” was the first reference to economics in the article; i take his definition of poverty as you quote it – hungry i.e. unfed. In that sense he may be correct, i have seen no statistics on hunger in Israel or among its population of avreichim and their families.

    i hope you and i are not judged as harshly as you judge this individual; i stand by my terms “misguided, biased, bitter, forlorn, and attention-seeking.” Though often tempted, i would not call someone i do not know a miscreant; a tad judgemental in my book.

    YM, a built in 6% unemployment (Fisher’s number) rate is not “some men.” it is an out-of-control trainwreck in the making! i am happy the problem is being addressed across the political spectrum the last few months have seen a number of positive first steps. That was my point. And although I did not refer to it, i am very proud of Israel’s economic/technological/academic prowess(and i would hope all of us are).

  • Joe Hill

    . >only whether you’re ready to play Benedict Arnold against the Orthodox.

    Ultra-Orthodox. Don’t make it seem like Israeli Charedim are representative of Orthodoxy or that all of Orthodoxy approves of the Israeli Chareidi predicament/ lifestyle.

    The Chareidim represent a growing majority of Orthodoxy, so the distinction is moot.

  • Dov

    It doesn’t matter whether this guy’s deal is, anyone in or around the Chareidi world knows that there are plenty of guys in full-time learning who really don’t fit full-time learning. I talked a few years ago with several young chassidic guys who were moving their families back to the States because over there they could work respectably.

    It’s not clear to me that there’s any kavod LaTorah in building a society that considers men failuires if they do anything besides learn, or considers women failures if they don’t marry a kollel guy and support their families single-handedly. And one is not against learning to say that learning should be only those who can really succeed at it.

    Lastly, regarding the comment that chareidim are a “growing majority,” according to a recent Deah veDibur article the non-chareidi religious population in Israel is 35-40% more than the chareidi popuilation. And the “traditional” population is higher than both.

  • David

    This thread has gotten way out of hand. I think Rabbi Menken and all the commenters agree that:

    1) Talmud Torah is a great thing
    2) There is a lot of high-level, intense learning going on in many yeshivos through Israel and the world, and this is a wonderful thing
    3) There is a problem of kollel guys who receive stipends but do not learn enough to justify it; the precise extent of this phenomenon is not entire clear, though the problem definitely exists
    4) Ynet was engaging in journalistic sensationalism by building an article around stories told by one out of thousands upon thousands of yeshiva students, and this is wrong.

    What, then, is everyone here bickering about?

  • Harry Maryles

    You didn’t know ‘Chochom’ he was referrring to? He practically spelled out my name! He puts my blog tilte ‘emes’ and ‘emunah’ in quotes in his comment and you didn’t realize he was talking about me? I find that very hard to swallow.
    And then you have the gall to say I ‘sided’ with this guy and that I did not mention anywhere in my post that I wasn’t talking about the majority. If I said that I never saw a single ‘faker’ in the Mir thousands of students of both pre and post marriage age – that doesn]t provide a clue to what I think most Yesshiva students are like?

    He was descrobing what HIS experiece was. And I believe him. I have anecdoatl testimony from others that describe the same scenario in various Kollelim. I NEVER said or meant to imply that most Avreichim are like that. But a significant numner are. That this fellow later recanted doesn’t mean he lied the first time. He proabbaly had Charata that he spilled ANY beans at all. I’m sure that his friends and peers recognized his rant in Ynet and ‘let him have it’. I’m sure that his Kollel has AVreichi like those I described in the Mir… probably most. But I’m equally sure that there are significant numbers who are faking it… and learn very little.

    You seem to constantly doubt any negative news about the Charedi world and accuse the media reporting it of anti Frum Bias. You lose credibilty when you do that.

    And what pray tell does a rag have to do with the etimology of the term ragging as you understand its source?

  • Guest

    >The Chareidim represent a growing majority of Orthodoxy, so the distinction is moot.

    The distinction will be moot if or when Orthodoxy is Chareidoxy. Until then, R. Mencken’s particular contribution to this sort of religious imperialism, by pretending that other wings of Orthodoxy do not exist so as to create facts and associations will be noted to make it that much harder. Frankly, given C-C’s moderation policy I commend him for posting that comment, as I would this one if it is posted.

  • Tal Benschar

    of course, that when we talk about “frum” and “frei” (religious and “free”, or secular), we mean that the secular are “freier,” suckers, for paying those ridiculous yeshiva stipends.

    This line shows just how dishonest this person was. In Yiddish (which most of the Charedi world speaks), the word “freier” means someone who is free of obligations, i.e. a porek ‘ol mitzvos or in some contexts, the equivalent of a “free-thinker” in English. “Frei” thus means the opposite of “frum,” or pious. The best translation of “freier” in Modern Hebrew is “chiloni.” (Parenthetically, there was a militantly secular organization in Israel which called themselves “Am Chofshi,” i.e. free of Torah. A “chofshi” in Yiddish is a “freier.”)

    In Modern Hebrew slang, the yiddish word “freier” has come to mean a “sucker,” i.e. an overly naive person who is easily cheated.

    I doubt that most Charedim even know the modern Hebrew slang, and even if they do, when they use “freier” in contradistinction to “frum,” they clearly mean secular, not a sucker.

    That this person imputed such a meaning to Charedim is reminiscent of anti-semitic propaganda.

  • Guest

    >This line shows just how dishonest this person was

    Please, he was just doing drushy folk etymology. Next time a baal mussar explains that America is an “am reka,” I’m sure you’ll tell him that he’s dishonest, right?

  • Yaakov Menken

    David is right, of course, and Tal’s comment helps to answer David’s question.

    As Rabbi Shafran pointed out in an article last month, anti-Semitism doesn’t start out with an outright lie. Instead, it takes a problem, and magnifies it. It generalizes, and seeks to define all Jews by the outrageous actions of the few. Bernie Madoff, Michael Milken, and Ivan Boesky “prove” that all Jewish bankers are bent on swindling the Gentiles and controlling the US economy. “The anti-Semite’s art is gathering up Jewish bad apples and presenting the basketful as representative of the tree that produced them.”

    When anti-Semites say that about Jews, we call a spade a spade. But Charedim are and remain “the Jew’s Jews,” and even too many Orthodox Jews fall into this trap — along with not a few Charedi malcontents. When it comes to the Charedi world, all too many people are willing to say that until there are no more Bernie Madoffs, then we must first address the “real problem” of Jewish criminals before responding to the anti-Semitic attacks. And that, David, is why this thread has gone on for entirely too long.

    The piece in Yediot was, as Tal said, anti-Charedi drivel, a political editorial masquerading as a news article. Any serious journalist would have, at the very least, sought comment from the young man’s Rosh Kollel, or, failing that, a few of his peers. He might even have, imagine this, hopped a bus driven over (unlike Kollel students, reporters can afford cars) and paid an uninvited visit to the Kollel, to see how many seats are empty at 4 PM. None of that happened, and my post simply underscored the obvious.

    What then happened is an exact duplicate of what happened when I posted about the Reform movement meddling in Charedi education. “Rabbi Menken obviously believes that there are no Bernie Madoffs in the world! Why won’t he focus on the real issue? Doesn’t he know that the Aryan Nation report was built on a real problem?”

    Commenting upon unnecessary Reform meddling in the Orthodox education does not mean that there are no problems in Orthodox education. Commenting upon a ridiculous diatribe asserting that the average yeshiva student is a slacker is not claiming that there are no slackers in yeshiva. The claim that I must think all Yeshiva students are true masmidim has all the veracity of the claim that since I used the word “Orthodox” (correctly, since it remains true that the Yediot has an anti-Orthodox bias, not merely an anti-Charedi or anti-Yeshiva bias), I am “pretending that other wings of Orthodoxy do not exist”.

    Harry is absolutely right — had I read to the end of “Chochom’s” comment before I decided upon my response, I would’ve known who he was talking about. As it was, I only discovered the author by looking around. None of this changes the fact that to me, at least, his post gives ridiculous credibility to the Yediot article. While I am happy to hear that Harry does not believe the majority of Kollel students are “like that,” the fact remains that he did not make this at all clear in a post concerning an article entitled “we yeshiva students barely study.” On the contrary, he goes out of his way to explain why the Mir must be the exception rather than the rule:

    How does one explain his testimony in light of what I have personally witnessed every single time I visit the Mir? I’m not sure except to say that a Yeshiva is not a Kollel. It is mostly pre-Kollel. Most of those learning in the Mir are either young and unmarried or early in their marriage. Nor does the sight I see in the Mir take into account those who are ‘enrolled’ but never show up. Or show up very little. And there are other Yeshivos where the scene at the Mir does not exist.

    [I am pleased to note that Harry's own readers apparently educated him concerning the correct age and etymology of the term "ragging," which, as I said, dates to an era when coarse slang was not used by the literate.]

    I have never heard a Kollel student claim that the average yungerman in his Kollel is or was a slacker, collecting a stipend while hanging out on the street corner or browsing the Internet. Oh no, in his yeshiva it’s a miut d’lo chashivi, an insignificant minority, no way it’s even 5% of his guys. It’s always about those guys over there, in that {Modern|Charedi|Zionist|anti-Zionist|Chardal|Litvish|Chassidische|Sephardi|Ashkenazi|Yerushalmi|Temani} “kollel” where all the guys just show up to pick up their checks. If they are responsible for our ongoing lack of a Beis HaMikdash, so are all those who quote them as truthful or reliable. A person who’s not cut out for Kollel needs a venue to go out, earn a living, and feel like a productive Ben Torah, and in Israel there are many obstacles in the way of that right now. That doesn’t mean the Yediot report is accurate, nearly accurate, or even cognizant of the real problem.

    I don’t see any identifying information in the Yediot article whatsoever, to justify Harry’s conjecture that this fellow recanted because his friends “let him have it.” On the contrary, any honest person would want to know what yeshiva he was talking about, and pay a visit and have a look — before granting the Yediot any credibility, certainly in light of what he then said in Chadrei Chadorim.

    Sorry, but my efforts to highlight anti-Semitism as directed against Charedim do not mean I “doubt any negative news about the Charedi world,” any more than rejecting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as fake means we deny the existence of Bernie Madoff. if Harry doesn’t recognize the anti-Frum bias of Israel’s secular and American Jewish reporters, then I refer back to my initial and immediate response to Chochom.

  • Tal Benschar

    “Please, he was just doing drushy folk etymology. Next time a baal mussar explains that America is an “am reka,” I’m sure you’ll tell him that he’s dishonest, right?”

    Sorry, your attempt at defending falls off the mark. This was a Charedi person telling a secular newspaper that Charedim all think the secular are “freiers,” i.e suckers, for paying kollel stipends. Acc. to him, this is what Charedim mean when they use that term, and that is how the newspaper reported it. That is patently dishonest.

    When a Baal Mussar make such a derasha, everyone understands what he is doing and why he is doing it.

  • JewishAtheist

    You have a lot of chutzpah saying that other people aren’t courageous when you won’t even publish comments that oppose your beliefs.

    [JewishAthiest, too, would have a point if he were right. We are not offering a forum to debate principles of Torah, but to require that a comment be on-topic is not at all the same as saying the comment must agree. --YM]

  • Bob Miller

    It’s possible for underperformers to exist in kollelim at the same time that articles about them make claims that are sensationalist, unbalanced, and poorly supported.

  • cvmay

    “The Chareidim represent a growing majority of Orthodoxy, so the distinction is moot”

    Again and again the word Chareidim is used to represent someone, yet who are those people?
    1. American and Israeli Chareidim are as different as NIGHT and DAY
    2. “In Yiddish (which most of the Charedi world speaks)” – HUH??? Are u talking about Williamsburg, Boro Park, New Square or Charedi communities of Flatbush, Lakewood, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Toronto and numerous other neighborhoods.
    3. Tal, hang out abit in Telse Stone, Har Nof, Bayit Vegan, Rova and Arza–you will hear many modern hebrew slang used by the kids and young adults. Freir is used for “suckers” by Charedim also.
    4. Are you still a member of the Charedei society if you decided to pursue higher education/join Nachal Charedi or open a business before the age of 35???

    Generalizations and stereotypes, from one side to the other, WHEN WILL IT EVER END?

  • Tal Benschar

    2. “In Yiddish (which most of the Charedi world speaks)” – HUH??? Are u talking about Williamsburg, Boro Park, New Square or Charedi communities of Flatbush, Lakewood, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Toronto and numerous other neighborhoods.
    3. Tal, hang out abit in Telse Stone, Har Nof, Bayit Vegan, Rova and Arza–you will hear many modern hebrew slang used by the kids and young adults. Freir is used for “suckers” by Charedim also.

    Response:

    2. Even if they do not use it as their mother tongue, most of the Charedi world does speak Yiddish. Most shiurim in the Charedi world, for example, are given in Yiddish. That is certainly the case in Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak. (We are talking about EY, not America. And, even in America many yeshivos give shiurim in Yiddish. Drop by Lakewood some time.) So when a Charedi Kollel man talks about what he and his friends say, they certainly know enough Yiddish to know what it means.

    3. So some Charedim in some parts of EY have picked up Israeli slang? So what? That does not mean that the term frei, when applied to secular jews, in contradistinction to the term “frum” means anything other than secular.

  • L. Oberstein

    Over 30 comments so far. You picked a good topic. In 1970, I went to learn in Israel at the Mir in Chodesh Elul. In those far bygone days the Mir Bais Medrash was not full and there were few foreigners per capita than now. I was distressed to see a number of Yerushalmim smoking in the hall and basicly not learning that much. I asked a member of the Finkel family, I can’t remember whom, how Elul in Mir was so blase when in Ner Yisroel in Rav Dovid Kronglass’s time even a new bochur could feel the “aimas hadin” the awe of the Days of Awe. He told me the following.”You Americans know that you will learn for a period of years and then you will leave the yeshiva, so you have a reason to learn with zeal. This fellow who arises your ire will learn his whole life, as did his father before him and his son after him. What would motivate him to learn today, when he has no end time and will be here forever?” I left the Mir and learned in a smaller yeshiva with much more motivated students. Today, my son is a masmid in the Mir for the past 11 years and the yeshiva is a mokom where hasmada is the norm. I wonder however, if one of the reasons they sepetated the Americans from the Yerushalmim is the fact that one will truly “shter” the other because one is there for a time and the other has a lifetime to sit and learn with no further goal.

  • YM

    Dr. Bill, I am not proud of Israel’s technological and economic prowess; the purpose of the Jewish people is to glorify and praise Hashem, not to be “normal” or like the other nations. Meanwhile, think about how it is that Israel can be doing so well economically with so many men learning in Kollel – it seems a little super-natural to me.

  • dr. bill

    YM, Pls read The Lonely man of faith and the roles of Adam I and Adam II. The primacy of an ethical Torah lifestyle, does not in any way diminish one’s ability to celebrate one’s secular achievements. Torah commands us to live in this world and sanctfy it. While some can withdraw, and indeed should, and lived within the walls of the Beit Midrash, it has never been how all but a few yichidai segulah were destined to behave.

    On a practical level, Israel’s success is barely diminished as yet by its support of what is a rather unnatural and highly non-traditional way of life. However, for reasons of demographics the issue must be addressed now, as most seem to be committed to doing. To do otherwise, would be a violation of “ain somchin al haNes” and the obligation to teach your son a profession.

    Undoubtedly, there is something leMaaleh min haTeva in Israel’s success. But to assume we understand why and attribute it to any particular cause, is contrary to our beliefs – ki lo makhshevosai makhshevosaikhem. The israeli economy needs more engineers and computer scientists; with God’s help this will provide a good profession without the need to outsource work to india and eastern europe as is now the case. hopefully, the sensitivity that is being demonstrated in many chiloni quarters in Israel will be seen in its proper light; one can only hope and pray.

  • dovid 2

    Dr. Bill: “I will let those who know us judge.”

    I won’t comment on you, Dr. Bill because I don’t know you. But I do know R. Yakov Menken. I hereby certify he is honest.
    Very truly yours,
    dovid2 aka dovid benjamin, monsey, ny

  • Joe Hill

    ” 2. “In Yiddish (which most of the Charedi world speaks)” – HUH??? Are u talking about Williamsburg, Boro Park, New Square or Charedi communities of Flatbush, Lakewood, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Toronto and numerous other neighborhoods.”

    There isn’t any differences of substance between any of those Chareidi Jews. They frequently marry each other Boro Park/Lakewood; Williamsburg/Los Angeles; New Square/Flatbush; etc.), are students in each others Yeshivos, daven in each others shul’s, and accept each others hashgochos to name a few of many examples.

  • YM

    “The israeli economy needs more engineers and computer scientists So somehow it is the patriotic duty of every Charedi kollel man to leave the world of Torah and work for “the Man” instead of “The Boss”?

    We are all familiar with the famous mishna of Rebbi Yishmael and Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochi. I would posit that in this day and age, it is not possible for most of us to pull off both working and Torah learning and achieve any significant level of success at both. How many people are able to put in a solid, uninturrupted four hours per day of Torah learning after working at a demanding full-time job? How many have been successful at setting themselves up to work part-time, leaving adequate time for the Beis Medresh? Most of the past few years I leared 1 1/2 hours every morning before work, and it is just not enough time to really get into any depth.

    If someone who is able to acheive this would come out and say that they think the Kollel system needs to be abolished, it would have more credibility that for someone who learns an hour in the evening two nights a week and thinks he knows something.

  • dovid 2

    My comment “dovid 2, October 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm” confirming R. YM’s honesty should not be construed as my questioning Dr. Bill’s integrity. It should be understood k’pshuto u’mashmauto.

  • Miriam

    Rabbi Menken your point about being too quick to condemn Charedim based on the bad apples as a variation of anti-Semitism is a valuable one. Something to think about on Tisha B’Av if not sooner….

    Dr. Bill Rav Soloveitchik’s writings are wonderful but Charedim don’t read them.

    I’m going to put in my vote for two little details about this questionable kollel-guy:

    (1) His recant was due to regret that he spoke so freely the extreme of his private opinions in a secular environment, not because he actually doesn’t believe them. He was interviewed on the radio and even if they aren’t kicking him out of kollel yet some people know who he is.

    (2) His connection to frei and friar was due to linguistic ignorance some people say it as a joke some believe it. As we all know most of these kollel guys have no schooling in language arts in any tongue.

    His mistakes are twofold (1) that a below-average kollel guy should attempt policy-making on behalf of his entire community, and (2) that he took his story outside the community.

    I think some of his perceptions are accurate – there are plenty of guys “trapped” in the kollel scene who would thrive far better if they could work during one or both daytime sedarim. But here in Israel they really do call you a loser, maybe not all the time but often enough. However this fellow hasn’t developed any element of leadership, and it’s leaders that we need to restore the respectability to working for a living.

    Otherwise yes we are stuck without safety nets, most kollel families get by daily just so long as everyone is healthy and the women don’t get PPD. They no longer even send out the sob story fundraiser envelopes the true and horrible stories have gotten so common. But that is a situation to be addressed internally. On another blog someone astutely commented that the more the secular politicians push Charedim – even in a direction we should try to go – the more we will davka resist it.

  • Miriam

    Forgot to mention – basic laws of shmirat halashon state that (unless he’s a big tzaddik) the guy doing the badmouthing is immediately suspect and loses his chezkas kashrus.

  • YM

    I went to public schools as a kid. I know quite a few friends who ended up as big-time druggies before the end of 12th grade. The Middle School-High School-College system works well for most, but certainly not all kids, yet no one says the system should be abolished…I was told by a prominent American-born mechanech that one of the reasons he chooses to educate his children in the Charedi system in Israel is because by age 20, most of the boys are baki (expert) in Shas (Talmud) and that the American system cannot compete…

  • Dov

    People quoting the gemorah seem to leave out the condition that is explicitly said: If Jews trying to learn are doing “retzono shel makom” then their work for parnasa will be done “al yedei acheirim.” If they’re not doing “retzono shel makom” then they’ll have to work.

    We see a situation before our eyes that 30 years ago in Israel people that were learning were able to be supported. Now this is not the case, the money isn’t there. Isn’t it straight pshat in the gemorah that if their parnasa is not being taken care of al yedei acheirim, then what they’re doing (the people learning) is not retzono shel makom?

  • YM

    Dov, if the money isn’t there, then the men will have to leave Kollel almost by definition – you need some money to live, correct? However, the money is there, at least at the present time.

  • L. Oberstein

    In former times when our ancestors lived in ghettos, the authorities had a lot of power to make people conform to communal norms. This is called a “coercive community”. Today’s frum world still operates on that model. If you deviate, your child will not get into the suitable school, if your son goes to the wrong school, your daughter will not get into the right school. If she doesn’t go to the right school, she won’t find a suitable shiduch. if you dress differently, express opinions that are non conformist, in many cases, if you have a job, you will be less than suitable. Once enough people break out of that ghetto, once enough men have jobs , once men who go into the nahal chereidi are more than a few losers, but include more suitable boys, then the dam will break. The coercive power is what is holding this community together. As far as money is concerned, they have more now then in the past generations. The Yerushalmim for yesteryear subsistted on far less than what poor people subsist on today. If the subsidies are cut, will they simply return to an earlier life style or while they look for a way out of the trap. Time will tell.

  • Dov

    YM, how many people have to be collecting door to door to make it clear that the money isn’t there? How many people have to be relying on food kitchens and other tzedaka organizations to make it clear that the money isn’t there?

    I have 20-30 people knocking on my door for tzedaka every week, and there are 4-5 people outside each of 30 stores every Erev Shabbos. And that’s just in my small town. Many of them are young enough and able enough, they just don’t have the money for food for Shabbos or they don’t have the money to marry off a kid. Less than a fifth of them have a heartbreaking story like illnesses or disabilities.

    I would love to give to everyone, but you know, I have debt too, and I am saving up to buy a house just like they want to help their kids buy apartments, and I have kids approaching marriage age just like theirs, and you know, my answer to all this is to work harder or save more, not to stick with a kollel stipend until it’s too late and then beg from others.

    Again, there’s a reason that Chazal told us to lilmod li’bno umnus BEFORE HE NEEDS IT.

    But note that all this is off the topic of the Yediot article. Let’s assume that everyone who possibly can learn should learn. That’s no reason to socially raise all chareidi men to consider themselves failures if they leave learning or even prepare for parnasa, and it’s no reason to socially raise all chareidi women to consider themselves failures if they don’t support guys in learning all all costs.

  • YM

    Dov, I guess enough people must be giving them money. But the bigger issue is that you and many others want to throw out the baby with the bathwater here. You should note that in America, many of us were/are socially raised to consider ourselves failures if we can’t earn a six figure salary or work in a certain list of respectable occupations. Why isn’t anyone campaigning to change THAT? Isn’t it better that societal pressure be for greatness in Torah learning rather than making money? When someone works in Hedge funds and Wall Street, we show them so much kavod, even though [HYPERBOLE ALERT] they are destroying our secular society, right?

    And lets see, how many out there are working all day and then learning for 3-4 hours straight after work? How many are working part-time so that they can put in a solid morning or afternood seder of limud? I don’t see too many hands raised.

  • Dov

    YM – nothing I wrote indicates what babies or bathwater I am or am not throwing out. And I certainly am only relating to life I see here in Israel, not in America where I know that things are very different.

    I’m the first to be in favor of working men being kovea itim, and I know many many people who do so by anyone’s standards. Just last night I went to a neighbor’s siyum, a guy who had gotten inspired last Pesach to learn more bekiyus and in a half a year was mesayem two mesechtos. I know balabatim learning issur veheter or other halacha be’iyun. Many people learning in the mornings before working “U.S. hours” jobs in the afternoon and evening. Many “evening kollel” or “kollel yom shishi” programs. There are lots of batei midrash here that are packed in the evenings and before/after shacharis in the mornings. And this is not to mention all the daf yomi and the like.

    Could many balabatim learn more than they do? Sure. But that doesn’t detract from the huge numbers of balabatim learning very respectably. And it doesn’t in any way detract from the discussion previously, of the problems caused by forcing whole groups of men to learn full time regardless of their own “netiyos” (tendencies) and regardless of other impacts on society.