Haredim Are Not The Big, Bad Volf

Sometimes, you have to step out of the ring to get the best view of the fight.

An article in The New Republic http://www.tnr.com/article/world/100135/tk-haredim is probably the most level-headed and balanced piece you are going to see on Life After Beit Shemesh. It has plenty of blame for all parties, but treats the haredi world much more fairly than others. It even ends on an optimistic note.

Perhaps most significantly, the piece was sent to us by an important figure in the DL community in Beit Shemesh, simply in the pursuit of truth and accuracy. That’s something we need to see more of!

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8 comments to Haredim Are Not The Big, Bad Volf

  • E. Fink

    Good article. Although it is hardly reassuring that we need not fear Charidism because many of their own are escaping the community. That’s a problem or symptom of a problem, not a solution.

  • Eric Leibman

    While you are right that the author has many positive things to say, I am troubled by some of the undercurrents in some of his statements. He appears to think that Charedim abandoning their world is a good thing and that balances the scales. In other words, don’t worry, wink, wink, you don’t have to fear being overwhelmed by these people because their kids are defecting to the secular world.

    I have spent many years doing what I can to help the state of Israel generally and the towns of Judea and Samaria in particular. But I understand the Charedi antipathy towards the concept of secular and/or pre-Messianic nationalism and statehood. They have grounds for their positions on the issue. Including those who lived in Israel before 1948, they never asked for, and never wanted, to be part of the state. It is the state that has attempted to impose itself on them. And it is the state that has loudly and consistently proclaimed decade after decade that it doesn’t like the reality of the Charedi community’s existence and that they hope the endless thudding impact of non-Jewish culture will lead to their demise. The author appears to want the Charedim to be part of the state and participate more fully in the national life and culture, whether they like it or not, whether they want to or not. Yet I repeat. The Charedim never asked for or wanted the state. It is, in a certain sense, like forcing American Indians to become American citizens whether they want to or not, in the hope their immersion in the white world will simply cause everything that makes them who and what they are fade away. The author wants “good Charedim” the way the Indian boarding schools of the Old West wanted “good Indians.” That is, Indians who were as Indian as the whites who feared them wanted them to be, according to the white man’s definition of what appropriate and acceptable examples of “Indianness” were, which had virtually nothing to do with how the Indians saw or wanted to see themselves.

  • Raymond

    Personally, I think that both the Secular Left and the Ultra-Orthodox do not have both oars in the water. Both sides suffer from excessive narrow-mindedness, with the Secular Left suffering from a bit less depth of thought while the Ultra-Orthodox may be a bit less in touch with the reality of everyday existence. I think that the right approach to life is a reconciliation of these two extremes, the way Rav Hirsch did so, never compromising Jewish values while refusing to be ignorant of what the finest in secular culture has to offer. The Rambam himself would undoubtedly advocate such a Middle-of-the-Road approach; I would hope that most Jews would not be so arrogant as to presume knowing their Judaism better than the Rambam did.

  • cvmay

    “Including those who lived in Israel before 1948, they never asked for, and never wanted, to be part of the state. It is the state that has attempted to impose itself on them”

    What you have written in an accurate statement YET is it true? Even in 1948 was there a majority or minority of Jewish residents that did not embrace the founding of the Jewish State? If so, would they agree or be pleased with turning back the clock? Not all residents of Israel pre-1948 were of the Charedei Yishuv HaYashan persuasion. (check out the Rivlin, Kook, etc. families)

    [YA - check old newsreels of May 14, 1948 for the joining in by Yishuv ha-Yashan types in the animated simcha and dancing upon declaration of the State. And who it was that made the bracha of Shehechiyanu in the room that the Declaration of Independence was signed by that small group of signatories. (Not Ben-Gurion. He did so at the public announcement of the declaration, timed on that Erev Shabbos so that there would not be chilul Shabbos in the announcement.]

  • dr. bill

    Raymond, I agree. however, finding the shvil hazahav takes time and leadership helps. said otherwise, only modern orthodoxy, i.e. an orthodoxy that operates in the present, survives. (if u read rav hirsch’s attacks on ramabam, there is a lesson on how accommodation by (an eternal) Torah with (changing) modernity operates.) if it is YU, YCT, the programmers/web designers from lakewood or bnai brak, the DL, the sephardi model, the chassidic business men, the grey hats of cross-currents or some yet newer models, only time will tell. it is much easier to say what it will not be than what it will be. despite current extremism, i remain hopeful.

  • cvmay

    Thank you, YA for “honest reporting”.

    Erics of the world need to know the truth and realize that this “Treife State (sarcastic)” is a newer idiom embraced by many.
    Rav YC Sonnenfeld allowed chilul shabbos in order to buy properties/homes/real estate from Arabs and Goyim to increase yishuv b’eretz.

  • Joe Hill

    There certainly was opposition by segments of Jewry residing in Palestine pre-48 against the establishment of the medina. In fact, it was so strong that they petitioned the United Nations against calling for a Jewish state. Archives from these petitions by Orthodox Jewish groups in Palestine from the 40’s and 50’s are today available on the official U.N. website.

    [YA - A good source on the historical background to these petitions remains the Artscroll biography of R Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Guardian Of Jerusalem.]

  • Baruch Gitlin

    A very good article. I think the article’s conclusion should be studied carefully:

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could secure a second term with a more solid majority if he produced a new civic covenant between haredim and Israeli society. But Netanyahu will have to stop acting like a Chicago alderman and start acting like a national leader. Rather than tending his coalition above all else, he must take risks. He should leverage the generous subsidies the haredim currently enjoy to force the rabbis to control the bullies and accept more responsibilities as Israeli citizens. Needed reforms include teaching a core curriculum of general subjects in schools that receive state funding, limiting the number of army exemptions, and increasing vocational training. In return, Netanyahu should pass legislation guaranteeing haredim a separate school system and particular exemptions, so their every benefit is not perennially in doubt. And Netanyahu must move all Israelis beyond classical Zionism’s monolithic, tanned, bronzed secular “New Jews” finding unity in uniformity; today’s multicultural Israelis should celebrate diversity while sharing common civic commitments.

    I totally agree with this conclusion, but I just want to point out that whenever the government has attempted to implement such steps as requiring that the core curriculum to be taught and limiting the number of army exemptions, the haredi world, through its politicians and media outlets, has cried bloody murder, and accused the government of anti-semitism and attempting to destory Judaism. I’m not going to go to the trouble of finding links to support my statement – I lived in a haredi city when these things were being proposed, read Yated Neeman and other haredi publications, and feel confident that the way I just characterized the reaction is accurate. These are the same proposals that people like Rabbi Amselem of Shas have made, and he has been ostricized for making these proposals. They are good proposals, both the former and the latter, but to paraphrase what people often ask in another context, does the Israeli government have a real partner to dialogue with?

    If this new civic covenant is to happen, I think it will have to happen by means of a secular government, without haredi partners, imposing it on an unwilling haredi public, accompanied by a massive outcry by the Israeli haredi media and politicians. I hope those that support it now will continue to support it if and when these haredi spokesmen try to paint it as an attempt to destroy yiddishkeit, as they have done in the past, and do so in the names of the “gedolim,” also as they have done in the past.