Rabbi Wein Says It All

letter-447577_1280

As a member of the editorial board of Klal Perspectives klalperspectives.org, reading this article by Rabbi Wein (Jerusalem Post, Nov.25) was a source of strength. He lays bare the problems facing our community, pulling no punches, even while maintaining a respectful demeanor towards those he criticizes.

One problem he does not mention is the inability of people to speak their minds – perhaps because he is one of the very few with both the courage and the standing to be able to. The rest of us can live vicariously through him.

I think that one of the more difficult situations that exists in the Jewish world of today, especially, in my humble opinion, in the Diaspora, is the widening disconnect between the vast bulk of the population and the rabbinic leadership. While there are many rabbinic pronouncements on the minutiae of Jewish law, customs and observance there is very little that is said and heard about the major problems that face the Jewish world – the security of the Jewish state, the dire financial situation that threatens the entire system of Jewish education, the astounding rate of poverty and unemployment (voluntary and involuntary) in religious Jewish society, children at risk because of one-size-fits-all educational institutions, growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction, an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage, growing anti-Semitism and a seemingly unstoppable rate of assimilation, secularization and intermarriage that guarantees a shrinking Jewish population in a few generations.

Rather than address these terribly difficult issues, Jewish leadership is engaged in fighting over – again – the battles that destroyed the Jewish world of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whether we like it or not, whether it is theologically acceptable to us or not, the State of Israel is a reality where six million Jews live. The predictions by many Jewish leaders made in the 1950s that the state would not survive for twenty, thirty or fifty years have all proven to have been incorrect.

We have no choice but to support the state with all of our might, prayers, talents and resources. So why don’t we hear that call from our leadership, whether it be from any grouping of the Jewish people? The disconnect from reality is truly astounding!

The tuition rates for attending Jewish schools are rapidly reaching the breaking point. A small percentage of parents – those who pay full or almost full tuition at schools – are subsidizing the rest of the parent body who cannot afford the astronomical amounts that are termed full tuition. But that group of people – those who can and do pay full tuition – is a rapidly diminishing breed. Instead of addressing this problem – the true time bomb that threatens the future of Torah education – we spread our wealth so thin that we are unable to help the situation.
It may be important to help a father of a daughter to raise many thousands of dollars to buy an apartment for her and her prospective husband in Israel but it certainly is more important to provide for Jewish education to one’s own children and for one’s own community. This is part of the current disconnect – the inability to view the forest and remain fixated on the trees or even the bushes.

The fact that there is an enormous proliferation of small yeshivot, all of which are basically similar in curriculum, method and purpose is not only very inefficient and enormously costly but it has yet to prove that its educational accomplishments and scholarship are in any way superior to a large institution that would prove much less costly per student to maintain. Part of the problem is that there is such a surplus of kollel “graduates” who have no other employment potential except for yeshiva teaching so that somehow there have to be many such institutions simply to absorb some of this surplus of talent and scholarship. This is also part of the disconnect that exists in our world.

Having just recently completed the production of a documentary film about the Jewish world of the 1930’s, I am very concerned about the similarities of the anti-Semitic mood of the present decade to that past decade. It is much more insidious today because this anti-Semitism is encased in the pious cloak of anti-Israel rhetoric and policy. And unfortunately there are many Jews who are themselves entrapped in this self-destructive dance. And many of these Jews live in Israel!

But again all voices against this threat are muted and very little leadership is exhibited to address the problem. This is not merely a matter for the Anti-Defamation League to fight. We are all in a precarious and vulnerable position. Our leadership should warn us about this situation.

Again, silence is a great example of the disconnect that afflicts us. We should demand more from those that claim the ability and knowledge to lead us. Connection to the true large problems that face us is and should be a basic requirement of leadership and serious opinion.

You may also like...

David F.
3 years 8 months ago

These are my favorite comments. Lodge nothing more than a few oft-repeated but barely substantiated all-encompassing accusations at the Orthodox community and you’ve got it made. We’re immediately placed in defense mode and anything we say, we run the risk of being accused of being ostrich’s with our heads in the sand, or of simply responding with knee-jerk defensive tactics. Instead, I’m going to try to go in the other direction. Let’s see how well Burned Out BT can defend her claims:

“but the knowledge that the quality of education has actually gotten worse with each passing year”

My children’s education far surpasses anything I received as a child in a mainstream yeshivah, but is BOBT claiming that the education in the Ortho world has gotten worse and that of the secular world has improved? Really? I dunno – study after study shows that the education system today is so much worse than it was years ago and that’s why it’s always on the table for discussion come election time. Is the education a reason to have remained secular?

“Disillusionment with the shidduch system”

I admit that shidduchim are hard, but is BOBT claiming that it’s better in the secular world? Really? I know so many BT’s that were driven to Orthodox Judaism precisely because of the dating scene in the secular world where just about anything goes. Would BOBT have preferred her children experience the secular dating system? Please respond in detail to this one, because this one really baffles me.

“has become a totally corrupt and spiritually lacking lifestyle”

So BOBT, the Ortho world is totally corrupt and spiritually lacking? Really? I accept that there are some corrupt Ortho Jews and some that lack spirituality, but “totally?”
Furthermore, in the secular world you so admire and live in, what would you say the level of spirituality is? How about corruption? Are you aware of any of it in that world, or have you only discovered it in the Ortho world?

“I am happy that my family did not fall victim to assimilation and intermarriage”

Given what we now know about the Ortho world and how it’s “totally corrupt and spiritually lacking” why exactly are you happy that your kids didn’t assimilate into the secular world you so admire? Methinks that might have been their only hope to escape the rampant corruption, lousy education, and spiritual void found in the Ortho world, no? You’ve left me confused.

burned out BT
3 years 8 months ago

I became a BT 35 years ago. I am now a grandmother of many, and all my children are frum. That said, I feel completely broken and disillusioned by the System. After so many years of financial sacrifice to put my children through the Orthodox day school system as well as yeshivos, I am left with complete dissatisfaction, and it’s made worse by the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness in the inability to not only be unable to change the system, but the knowledge that the quality of education has actually gotten worse with each passing year. Disillusionment with the shidduch system (and my kids are “success stories”) compounded my feelings of burnout. I am still a shomeres mitzvos but I have gradually disassociated myself from the frum community, to the point where I moved to a town without any Orthodox community whatsoever. I get nachas from my children and grandchildren, but seeing the long road ahead for them in what has become a totally corrupt and spiritually lacking lifestyle, I often wonder “what have I done?” I am happy that my family did not fall victim to assimilation and intermarriage but surely there are more reasons than this (other than than the obvious, that we are commanded to follow G-d’s Law) to live an Orthodox lifestyle within an Orthodox community.

Dovid Kornreich
3 years 8 months ago

To Dr. E:
it is just that, a loudspeaker with the volume turned way up. Very little by way of programmatic or strategy.

I referred to David F.’s first comment on Nivember 7 at 12:03, and I suggest that you read it more carefully to see how it refutes your assertions.

one that is characterized by externals, business negotiations, and background checks.

But what goes on during the dates? How do you know that the average dating couple is not deciding to actually marry based on a good prospective “social relationship”? You are citing the routine factors that lead to the first meeting. Not the courtship dynamic itself.

Agents of young men who are by objective standards of mediocre acumen and character with limited income potential are now propped up on pedestals;

Why shouldn’t an average young man seek the best advocacy possible? (Within ethical constraints) Don’t average young women do the same?

young women are lined up in a queue or have to enter a lottery for a chance to meet these young men.

If the complaint is simply that there are more women than men born in a given year, I’m afraid the blame for that lies with God-not the Chareidim. (God compensated for this by permitting polygamy, by the way, but to my knowledge, Chareidim don’t practice this–presumably because it could be abused to promote misogynistic tendencies…)

Finally, you will have to explain exactly what is meant by the Agudah’s accomplishments in “pro-Israel advocacy” that are unique, as I either don’t subscribe to the same news outlets or have a different map of Israel.

Please read my comment more carefully.
I wrote that Chareidi kiruv organizations excel in pro-Israel advocacy–not the Agudah.

Dr. E
3 years 8 months ago

Reb Dovid

You have hit on exactly what the issue is. When you refer to the Agudah and its conventions as the “loudspeaker of American Rabbinic Leadership”, it is just that, a loudspeaker with the volume turned way up. Very little by way of programmatic or strategy. (One can of course quibble whether the Agudah and certainly its convention speakers are truly representative of that entity, as they are based on the political considerations for who is chosen to speak.)

As for dating and marriage, he is probably referring to (the stereotype of) a system that is no longer based on a social relationship (like my 9th Grade Rebbe, I will carefully not use the “L” word), and has become one that is characterized by externals, business negotiations, and background checks. Agents of young men who are by objective standards of mediocre acumen and character with limited income potential are now propped up on pedestals; young women are lined up in a queue or have to enter a lottery for a chance to meet these young men. Oh yes, the system works for many of the elite, but the number of older single young women out there who have been subject to mixed messages by mentors along the way, would lead one to more of a conclusion of disillusionment than triumphalism.
As for successes in Kiruv, I will leave that to others to comment on. But, I would say that the percentage of poorly-adjusted beneficiaries of Kiruv in our communities should be of concern.

Finally, you will have to explain exactly what is meant by the Agudah’s accomplishments in “pro-Israel advocacy” that are unique, as I either don’t subscribe to the same news outlets or have a different map of Israel.

David J
3 years 8 months ago

The coming financial decline in 2012 will really weaken Orthodox institutions. What is the Orthodox leadership planning?