Klal Perspectives

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A new journal was born today, and many fervent prayers attended the blessed event. Klal Perspectives will BE”H provide a forum for the presentation of ideas on meeting the many challenges facing us as an Orthodox community. Downloads and subscriptions are free.

A few years ago, a group of concerned individuals converged on one city to spend a day trading ideas in an informal think-tank. Their backgrounds were diverse. They included roshei yeshiva, rabbonim and laypeople. They had spend their learning years (all of them had spent years learning) in places ranging from YU to chassidishe yeshivos. Remarkably, all it took to get them to devote an entire day to a series of roundtable discussions was the opportunity to do so. This was something that ordinarily just didn’t happen, and it was too good to pass up. If they had anything in common, it was their frustration at not seeing fruitful discussion about the troubles that plague us. The mood was humble, rather than boisterous. No prima donnas attended. No one argued that he had great answers, even though every one if the room had a track record of somewhat out-of-the-box thinking. People were at once cognizant of the achievements of our community, disappointed about the absence of creative solutions, and exhilarated to be in the company of creative frum Jews who cared deeply about the Jewish future.

Several ideas about continuing the process took root. One seemed eminently realizable – a continuation and broadening of the discussion in the form of the published essay. An editorial board gelled and bonded. Limited funding was secured. Many, many meetings and email exchanges later, the new journal began to take shape. Be-chasdei Hashem, Klal Perspectives was rolled out a few hours ago.

Please don’t judge it – and certainly don’t dismiss it – without reading the mission statement, and sampling the essays. None of us believe that this journal will solve the problems we all face. We do believe, however, that a necessary and fruitful first step in problem solving is discussion, especially among people who do not think alike, and can sharpen each other’s thinking through a dialectic encounter. We hope to offer at least as much disagreement as agreement, and to bring together people who usually do not interact. Our first issue includes contributions by leadership of both Agudah and the OU. We think that this is significant.

Too many people have abandoned even the attempt at looking for solutions. Perhaps too much time has gone by in which individuals felt incapable of speaking up. We hope we can remedy that by providing a place where people will listen. Minimally, we hope that we can reignite a bit of optimism among readers, when they become acquainted with the significant talent and creativity our community possesses. Moreover, exposure to intelligent people worrying about the Big Picture, rather than just local issues, will hopefully be contagious, inviting an ever greater number of participants with the passage of time.

The first issue was modeled after the famous decade issue of Commentary Magazine. Once every ten years, Commentary organizes a symposium on the State of the Jewish People. The results are always fascinating. We thought that this would be a good idea for our maiden issue, even though we would be faulted for providing too many words, and too few practical ideas. We weren’t looking for the practical as much as getting our feet wet on the beach of communal responsibility. BE”H, the practical will soon follow.

Rav Kook zt”l famously deflected criticism of the sorry spiritual state of the New Yishuv. He argued that Klal Yisrael had impressively survived hundreds of years of galus, but it had lost the concept of the Jewish Nation along the way. Each community in the past had to deal with its own problems and find its own solutions. It would take time – a long time, argued Rav Kook – to recover the ability to think of ourselves as a single nation. In the meantime, he said, people should not be so harsh in their condemnation of the obvious failures along the way. We hope that readers will similarly be patient with this modest attempt to make a small contribution to our tzibbur once again thinking about the Big Picture.

Hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky said it best. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” We will either succeed or fail in our attempt. Certainly, though, we will not get very far if we don’t make any attempt at all. We invite all of you to help us make our little project a success, rather than a failure.

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22 Responses

  1. Aviva says:

    I don’t believe that members of the editorial board would not fully welcome a woman. We want to make sure, however, that such membership will not be a barrier to the participation of people in certain institutions who might find that a dealbreaker. We are testing the waters.

    That is a real shame. I think that it is important to have female representation regardless of the knee jerk reaction of people in “certain institutions”. If the female writer is a God fearing Jew and respects the boundaries of Halacha she will cede to the authority of Halacha. The perspectives and contributions of our women are important and should be acknowledged and part of the greater discussion.

  2. DF says:

    You say the background of the founders was “diverse” and included “laymen”. Yet other than the lone piece by the editor, every single one of the essays were written by rabbis. As rabbis are always the public face of orthodox Judaism, all problems and solutions are ultimately caused and rectified by them, in part or in whole. Accordingly, if you wish to face the problems of the community head-on, you must come to terms with critique of the rabbinate (certainly this can be done sensitively.) For that, you need to recruit some courageous ballei-battim. Anything short of that might provide fodder for some temporary internet chatter, but will have no long term impact.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      Simply not true.

      Two of the articles were written by laypeople. One of them has a rabbi title, but is a legitimate layperson

  3. David F. says:

    I agree that letters is the better policy for now.

    One thing that I think is critical if this is to have any real effect is to define the terms that are used very precisely because otherwise nothing will have meaning. For example, the word Haredi as it is found on the internet means almost nothing because it is used alternatively to describe Chassidim, Meah Shearim types, Lakewood, Yeshivish BaaleiBatim etc. Anyone who knows anything about these groups knows that other than the color black, they are vastly different from one another.
    The term “Modern Orthodox” is similarly useless because there are too many kinds of MO and so on and so forth. Problems that affect one community heavily don’t affect another. For example the so-called “Shidduch-crisis” is not a crisis across the board. The chassidic and MO communities hardly have this problem [if it is one indeed.] The problem of outrageously high day school tuitions is a non-issue in Yeshivish communities where tuitions are only 1/4 of what they are in more modern communities. Thus it would be inaccurate to describe it as a problem that affects the “entire community” when it certainly doesn’t.
    Another point that is critical is that if it is open season on the Jewish community and KlalPerspectives is going to be really straightforward and open in its critique of the community, I sincerely hope it will not treat one segment of the community different than others. It would a major shame if there are certain communities or groups that cannot be accurately critiqued because of politics of PC considerations. I sincerely hope that this won’t be the case.

  4. Bob Miller says:

    I was impressed by the articles in this first issue and hope there will be active follow-through to further define and then implement the main suggestions.

    Instead of someone trying to drive a comprehensive global solution without the clout to push it through, I’d like to see local experiments with halachically permitted innovations that could solve pressing communal problems. If something works, word will get around with stunning speed. What can be done globally, though, is to make us all realize that solutions are possible and desirable, and that artificial barriers to success can be overcome.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    I thought that the underlying tone of the journal was one of mutual appreciation on a very realistic basis, without any “third-rail” type demands rooted in mutual recognition that would jeopardize further issues. All in all, an impressive and long overdue first issue.

  6. YM says:

    I thought the comments about Kehillos from several contributors was an interesting idea. There is probably no other way (in the US) to reduce costs unless communities come togeter under a unified Kehilla structure, decide on priorities, and spread the costs equitably. Is this possible? We need to make the histadlus.

  7. Noah Katz says:

    With respect to the commenters, there does not need to be a quota system imposed upon the editors and contributors of articles. This is not a federally funded university program that must bend over backwards to prove a lack of bias.

    This new initiative seems intended to inspire thought, consideration, and (if we are lucky) action by the readers. I would hope that we will read what they say without limiting our acceptance of it based on the names listed in the masthead.

  8. Noam stadlan says:

    The discussion of women on the editorial board is actually a very good example of how different segments of orthodoxy prioritize halachic values. Some would say that since Halacha does not forbid women from serving on the board, it is discrimination and a form of affliction to bar them from those positions. Others appear to be willing to sacrifice the rights of women to full expression of their potential(within the parameters of Halacha) in return for the benefit of greater inclusion, showing that they value the rights of women less than they value being able to include people who do not agree with them on this issue. In other words, the women are thrown under the bus of achdut. The final group I guess claim that tzniut(can’t imagine the issue is serarah) prevents women the ability to serve on such a board, thus placing the maximalization of the bein adam l’Makom tzniut above the bein adam l’chavero value of not placing barriers to peoples aspirations and potential to accomplish. My guess is that the concept of nachat l’nashim may also have a place

  9. David F. says:

    R’ Yitzchak,

    This looks like a wonderful initiative and I look forward to reading it – especially the articles that make me uncomfortable. One thing I couldn’t figure out though – will it allow comments? If yes, will it be very selective or will it be more of the CC type of comments where I can more or less predict what every single regular commenter will say long before they actually type it? I hope it’s the former because if it’s the latter, it’ll basically be an echo chamber.

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      At the moment, the policy is “letters,” but not general comments. We will have to see what the load is – and what we can bear.

  10. J. says:

    R. Adlerstein – I wish you the best of luck with this endeavor; but do you really believe that it is possible to set about solving things such as the economic problems enveloping the charedi community when many gedolim view this as a desirable state of affairs? To quote Rav Shteinman, as published on the Shema Yisrael website:

    “One should definitely not look for solutions that might cause avreichim to leave learning, G-d forbid.
    I was asked if it would be a good idea to open offices for chareidi men in the large chareidi cities so that they could work in an appropriate atmosphere. It is obvious that the idea is a bad one though the intentions are good. The fact that the workplaces would be especially suited to the needs of chareidi men, and set up by chareidi people, might encourage people in difficult financial situations to leave learning. It is a spiritual stumbling block for the community at large. It would be terrible even if it would cause just one man to leave full-time learning. . . .
    What are the effects of poverty? The answer is that it is better to be poor than to be rich, as Torah comes forth from the poor; they are the ones that become talmidei chachomim.”

    If this is what the gedolim want – and solutions will only be sought under their ‘guidance’ – what gives?

  11. cvmay says:

    Sounds like a fascinating project and one that you, Rabbi Adlerstein, have waited a long time for its birth.

    To reiterate two of the above comments, a Sephardi voice is a must since we are reporting and writing for the Jewish nation, and the Sephardic kehilla is a large percentage of our holy nation. Women have already reached more than 50% of our chasuva & holy nation, a voice, opinion, view point, expertise of the female personage has to be available (perhaps its time to tell the deal-breakers to take a hike!!)

  12. Shades of Gray says:

    Looks interesting !

    R. Zwiebel wrote, “The data base, one senses, is there – but we need to gather it together and study it properly…However, there is no organization today that has the resources or expertise to engage in the type of comprehensive empirical study necessary to correctly understand the root causes”

    The OU did a professional online study regarding marriage satisfaction a few years ago; perhaps it’s more ambitous in this case to construct a study that would survey mechanchim, professionals, and the relevant subjects themselves. R. A.M. Gluck of Project Yes wrote in 2006 about the need for understanding causes (“Book Review: Off the Derech”) ,”it is my strong feeling that the painful process of reflection is vital and long overdue. Part of this process must include a no holds barred discussion, seeking answers to the critical question of why too many of our precious children are leaving yiddishkeit.”

  13. Michoel says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    Hatzlacha Raba! It looks very promising. You urgently need to get a Sefardi voice on board before you go any further.

  14. joel rich says:

    1.The tone and attitude of the journal will always be one of deference to gedolei Torah, the unquestioned leaders of our community. It is our belief that constructive thought and initiative from within our communities can help shed valuable light for our decision-makers

    2.Finally, we recognize that empirical information that would have an important bearing on the discussion is rarely available, leaving many at a loss in their efforts to pursue sorely needed solutions. It is our goal to point the direction for relevant empirical research, and hopefully at some future date to publicize the findings of such research.
    ================================
    Questions
    Does 1 imply that “gedolei torah” (TBD) are the final decision makers on all community decisions? (and that this is a requirement to be within Klal’s big tent?)

    IMHO 2. is of interest, but the community already knows many issues for which data would be useful, but we seem to refuse to try and get it (e.g. OTD causes and cures, % success for mishkav zachar therapy, child abuse…). Perhaps trying to understand the resistance would be a better starting point.
    GCT

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      Reb Joel,

      I don’t understand your first question. The passage you cite deals with the expected tone of contributions to the journal. Your question is a very good one – and I expect that contributors will give varied answers to it – but it has nothing to do with the passage. I also don’t see Klal Perspectives defining its own Big Tent. Here i am certain that contributors to the first issue do in fact disagree, given the quandry about what to do about the Far Left, and how different people have come down on different sides of that issue.

      The question about hard data was not meant theoretically. Some people within the founding group very much want to see such research, but have to create some popular interest and buzz before that happens.

  15. mycroft says:

    Yasher Koach. I read all the posts- they are all worth reading. I incorporate by reference Joel Rich’s 508 AM comments.

  16. no name says:

    One thing jumps out about what looks like a positive initiative: no women on the editorial board or as contributors. Accidental or deliberate?

    • Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

      I don’t believe that members of the editorial board would not fully welcome a woman. We want to make sure, however, that such membership will not be a barrier to the participation of people in certain institutions who might find that a dealbreaker. We are testing the waters.

  17. L. Oberstein says:

    Yasher Koach. What amazes me is how nowadays one can make a magazine entirely on the internet without the expensees of printing, mailing, handling subscriptions, etc. The world has certainly changed rapidly in so many ways. I hope you can find solutions because we sure have the problems.

  18. joel rich says:

    are we doreish smuchim (learn from proximity) in cross currents? Interesting juxtaposition of r’ya posts
    -I suppose we’ll see how diverse diverse is.( Each issue will consist of a symposium in which a diverse group of rabbinic and lay leaders )
    Look forward to reading it
    GCT