Sinai and Jewish Unity

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Of all the many sterling qualities of the chareidi community in Israel, I suspect no one would list public relations acumen near the top. And of the many public relations failures of the community none looms larger than the widespread perception that chareidim are indifferent to the fate of their fellow Jews and feel no connection to them.

That perception is not only wrong, but demonstrably so. Chareidim founded most of Israel’s largest volunteer organizations: Yad Sarah, the country’s biggest volunteer organization; Ezer M’Tzion, which maintains, inter alia, the largest Jewish blood registry in the world; Ezra L’Marpeh, a world class medical referral service, directed by Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer; Zaka; Chesed v’Zimra, founded by the grandson of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, which brings a little bit of music and joy to those confined to mental instititutions; and a host of organizations serving childhood cancer patients and their families.

As the late Jerusalem Post columnist Sam Orbaum once wrote, “the charity, social consciousness, good deeds, communal welfare, and human kindness [of the chareidim] may be unparalleled among the communities of this country.” He was not just referring to intra-communal chesed. Orbaum’ paean was triggered by a group of yeshiva students who rushed to donate blood when they learned of his need and a chareidi health fund clerk who rushed vials of Orbaum’s blood after hours to a downtown laboratory to expedite the receipt of vital test results.

Nor is the chareidi involvement confined to chesed activities. Tens of millions of dollars are spent annually on efforts to enrich the Jewish knowledge of Israelis who would describe themselves as secular or traditional. The SHUVU school system serving children from Russian-speaking homes is one example; the Hidabrut television programming is another. There are dozens of organizations reaching out to different segments of the Israeli population: those in pre-army mechinot, university students, young girls and boys likely to find themselves victimized in some way. If there were no feelings of a common bond, there would be no reason to reach out.

The failure of haredi yeshiva students to do army service is most responsible for the perception of chareidi detachment and indifference. But even here, the inference is wrong. charedim do not claim that they have no responsibilities to their fellow Jews in Israel (though they are far more likely to frame those duties as owed to the Jewish People than to the state of Israel.) Rather they believe that their Torah learning is a vital component not only of national security but of national prosperity. Given Israel’s remarkable achievements in both the military and economic spheres, those claims cannot be rejected out-of-hand.

Those who do not share the chareidi belief in the power of Torah learning to arouse Divine favor will not be convinced that chareidi students are pulling their weight, and they may argue that chareidim should not be allowed to determine what form their national service will take. But still those cavils are very far from establishing chareidi indifference or detachment from the fate of their Jewish brethren.

INDEED IT WOULD BE SURPRISING if chareidim lacked any feeling of common bonds with their fellow Jews or of responsibility towards them. Just the opposite should be the case. The more intensely one relates to the giving of Torah at Sinai (which we celebrate this upcoming Shavuos) as an actual historical event, the easier it will be to articulate a common bond between Jews: We received the Torah as one people – as one person with one heart – and, as the recipients of the Torah, we were given joint responsibility for revealing G-d to the world.

Chareidim inhabit a Judeocentric universe, in what Jews do and what happens to them is the prime moving force of human history. Every chareidi child learns from an early age that the fate of the entire universe hinged on whether the Jews would accept the Torah on the sixth day of Sivan (Rashi to Genesis 1:31). Had they refused, the world would have returned to its original tohu ve’vohu.

Discussing the Splitting of the Sea, the great medieval commentator Nachmanides writes that G-d only performs open miracles on behalf of the Jewish people. In a typical passage in Nefesh HaChaim, viewed as the single most important statement of the worldview upon which the Lithuanian yeshivos were built, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, writes that G-d’s entire connection to the created world is dependent on His chosen nation’s Torah learning, mitzvah observance and prayers, but for which it would cease to exist.

Such ideas are foreign, even anathema to most Jews today; they appear to fly in the face of the universalism and egalitarianism to which they subscribe. But they do lead to a greater identification with one’s fellow Jews and greater concern over what happens to them.

THE IMPACT OF WORLDVIEW can be readily ascertained by contrasting attitudes of Orthodox and non-Orthodox American Jews during the Holocaust and towards Israel today. Historian Raul Hilberg, in The Destruction of European Jewry, describes the response of mainstream American Jewish organizations during the Holocaust as one of “complete paralysis.” David Wyman’s The Abandonment of the Jews details how American Zionist organizations could not put aside their internecine battles to focus on rescue and relief for Europe’s trapped Jewish population. The topic was barely discussed at the major conferences of American Jewish organizations in 1942 and 1943.

The Orthodox were the outlier. Only the Agudath Israel-affiliated groups broke a British boycott of Nazi-held territory to send food packages to starving and typhus-ridden Jews in Polish ghettos. The Vaad Hatzalah and Agudath Israel ignored wartime currency restrictions to finance rescue operations in Europe; employed diplomatic pouches to expedite the receipt of information; purchased fraudulent South American passports, which were recognized by the Nazis, ym”sh. Mainstream Jewish groups would not dirty their hands.

The Revisionists alone among the Zionist groups put aside everything else to concentrate on rescue. They pushed for the creation of the War Refugee Board (WRB), which, in Wyman’s estimate, resulted in saving the lives of between 200,000-400,000 European Jews. And the Revisionists only allies were the Orthodox. The 1943 march of 400 rabbis on Washington, two days before Yom Kippur, helped galvanize congressional support for a rescue resolution in Congress, which caused FDR to agree to the creation of the WRB.

Revisionist leader Hillel Kook, a nephew of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, told Wyman: “The Orthodox rabbis [were] more courageous . . . . [They] were simply more responsive, more – more Jewish in a sense. They were more sensitive to the issue, and less affected by the environment. They operated on the old Jewish theological concept of ‘He who saves one soul, saves the entire world.'”

Those same patterns prevail today. In a 2007 study by sociologists Stephen Cohen and Ari Kelman, over half of non-Orthodox American Jews under 35 responded that they would not view the destruction of the state of Israel as a “personal tragedy.” Almost 60% of American Jews have never visited Israel, according to a recent American Jewish Committee study. Well under 10% of American Jews say that policy towards Israel or the Iranian nuclear program will be the most important issue in determining whom to vote for in November.

By contrast, 80% of Orthodox Jews have visited Israel, and more than half of those have done so three or more times. I would be confident that Israel’s security will be uppermost on the minds of minimally 70-80% of American Orthodox Jews when they cast their votes for president.

AMBASSADOR MICHAEL OREN gave an unusually frank address to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in Detroit two weeks ago. “Sometimes it seems to me that we, Israeli and American Jews, not only inhabit different countries, but different universes, different realities,” Oren said, referring to recent calls by Peter Beinart for a Jewish boycott of the “settlements.”

Oren did not focus, as Israeli ambassadors to the U.S. might once have done, on Israel’s need for the political or even economic support of American Jews. Rather he expressed his chief concerns as ones over the ongoing “unity of the Jewish people.”

His point was an important one. But to in order to understand the phenomenon that he is describing, Oren would have to do no more than visit a few temples, synagogues and shuls on Shavuos. The former will be sparsely attended; the latter will be filled, including with Jews learning the entire Shavuos night.

For Torah Jews, Shavuos celebrates the central event in human history: the acceptance of the Torah by the Jewish people. But for most non-Orthodox Jews, Shavuos is the literally unknown holiday. Nor is that surprising. They do not believe in the giving of the Torah as a historical event. They observe few of the Torah’s commandments. Of the wisdom of the Torah they no little or nothing.

Yet without a belief in Sinai, it is hard to fashion a coherent account of the Jewish historical mission or even to articulate why the continued existence of the Jewish people, and by extension the State of Israel, matters. Yes, most Jews continue to care to some degree about their fellow Jews, and it is good that they do. But that concern diminishes with each passing generation, a vestigal holdover from ancestors who had an entirely different view of the role of every Jew in world history.

Until the importance of Sinai is appreciated, Ambassador Oren is merely identifying symptoms, not addressing their causes or providing cures.

Chag Sameach

This article also appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

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29 Responses

  1. Tzvi says:

    Dovid2,

    You are basing your opinion of the actual relative quality of the learning in the different types of yeshivos on a theory. The reality is much different. The focus in the better hesder yeshivos is just as much on limmud hatorah as in the yeshivas you mentioned. There is a focus on yishuv ha’aretz, ahavas yisroel, and other mitzvos as well. Lilmod al m’nas la’asos is the only way your limmud is miskayem. If you think that is a chisaron then that’s a problem.

  2. dovid2 says:

    Zvi,
    It appears to me that the difference between the hesder and Lithuanian yeshivos is one of ideologies and priorities. It appears to me that hesder yeshivos’ focus and priority are yishuv ha’aretz, everything else, Talmud Torah included, being subordinate to this objective. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, when talking about drafting the charedim, was quoted the other day: “The army is our common denominator and we mustn’t lose this.” If you carry out his thought to its logical conclusion, what you ultimately get is Hebrew-speaking Palestinians, engaged in a turf war with their Syrian, Egyptian, and other Middle Eastern neighbors, Hebrew-speaking Palestinians being some Jews, non-Jewish Russians, and Ukrainians, possibly even Arab speaking Palestinians. I am convinced this is not what he had in mind, but how can he avoid this from happening? In charedi yeshivos, the Torah has been regarded as being our national glue that kept us together for the past 3000 years. In the Lithuanian yeshivos, Talmud Torah reins supreme more than anywhere else. Kinat sofrim is encouraged. The author of a good kashe is the hero of the day. The eyes of the magid shiur light up at hearing a gutte kashe. “Ehr fregt a gutte kashe”, that’s the highest form of praise. In such an environment, it’s inevitable that learning is at the highest level and that good learners all over flock to Lithuanian yeshivos.

  3. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Dovid2, you kinda missed my point. You *may* be able to say that there is greater “hashgacha pratis over all the Jews which manifests itself in several ways, two of which are sh’mirah from enemies and material prosperity.” However, what you cannot say, in the absence of a direct TWO-WAY line to God, is “Their [Mir,etc.] learning contributes to a substantially greater degree to the nation’s defense and prosperity than the learning of hesder yeshivah bachurim.” Even if learning provides such benefits you have no way have knowing how its efficacy is “measured” by God.

  4. David F. says:

    Orit,

    “You can’t shelter your kids from the real world.”

    Untrue. I certainly can and have done so. My kids are far less exposed to the “real world” than their frum cousins who live in Eizabeth, NJ, and have been allowed to watch cable TV, explore the internet with unfettered access, read anything they desire and attend a co-ed school. The chassidishe children who live not too far away are even less exposed than my children. One certainly can shelter children if one makes a concerted effort to do so. I grew up relatively sheltered as did most of those in my social circle.

    “If they can’t handle modern O Jews, what will happen if they ever work with goyim?”

    Just as I did when I had to enter the “real world”, they will learn to adjust and interact with them normally and treat them with great respect as human beings and in the case of MO, as frum Jews with whom they have some hashkafic differences. I have many friends who identify as MO and we get along just fine, but our hashkafic differences are present and we work around them. I and they are mature enough to handle them and neither side feels judged or pressured to change. We’re all adults, confident in our positions, and cognizant of the fact that not everyone agrees on all points. This confidence, however, stems from having been raised with a clear understanding of who we are and what we believe and stand for. This gave us all a firm foundation to build upon and eventually open our minds to alternative perspectives without fear of being confused by every new life path that we are introduced to.
    Similarly with non-Jews, I was raised to treat every person with respect as a Tzelem Elokim and I’ve raised my children to do likewise. There is no need to expose them to the “real world” as children in order to ensure that they respect others.

  5. Tzvi says:

    Dovid2,

    The reason you don’t see a demand for hesder yeshivos from the groups you cite is because people assume (as you do) that they are inferior. There are definitely inferior hesder yeshivos, but there are very good ones too. Shachris at my son’s hesder yeshiva is at 6:30; night seder ends at 11:00. Some nights they have chabura till 12:00. I don’t necessarily agree with that approach (especially when I talk to him on the phone and he sounds tired) but I don’t recall having a schedule anywhere close to that at the Mir.

  6. Jewish Observer says:

    Dear RLE –

    Thanks for your response. My comments …

    “Where are leaders of the calibre of Rav Herzog, who believed in Mizrachi and was a recognized Godol BaTorah by all elements of the religious community”

    – Not sure whose “fault” it is that R Aharon Lichtenstein is not recognized that way by haredim.

    “Who are the gedolim who believe in the Heter Mechira and can defend it like Rav Kook?”

    – Does the fact that a Rav aligns with DL world imply that he must agree halachically with heter mechirah. I would like to think that DL rabbis have no less halachoc integrity than haredim and it is not for us to “exoect” what their conclusions should be.

  7. L. Oberstein says:

    what is your basis of saying this re: the Dati Leumi?
    With all due respect, I suspect you don’t realize that the reason we have a conversion crisis, a takeover of the rabbanut by non Zionist chareidim, the vast increase in kasharut supervision by the anti state Eidah Hacharfeidis to the detriment of the Rabbanut hashgacha are just 3 examples of the poverty of leadership in the Zionist Religious community. Where are leaders of the calibreof Rav Herzog, who believed in Mizrachi and was a recognized Godol BaTorah by all elements of the religious community. Thde Zionist Orthodox are split between those who have reduced the Torah to settlements and nothing else and those who are so given to infighting that they allowed a once great movement to disintigrate. Who are the gedolim who believe in the Heter Mechira and can defend it like Rav Kook?
    Even the politicians are of a lower level, Dr Burg was a great man, who is great among them today?
    This is not to say that the Agudah is better, it is just to answer your question.

  8. Orit says:

    David F.
    I went to school all my life with people both more and less religious than me.
    I have friends of all types – more modern, more right-wing. We’re all frum Jews.
    You can’t shelter your kids from the real world. If they can’t handle modern O Jews, what will happen if they ever work with goyim?

  9. dovid2 says:

    ZVI: “If you think … that is your opinion, but don’t tell those of us who are familiar with both worlds what we think. That would be both condescending and factually wrong.”

    For one, I meant no offense.
    Second, I don’t second guess or tell what the other thinks. If in doubt, re-read my comment. As such, what I wrote is not condescending. BTW, even if a statement were factually wrong (which is not the case in my comment), it would not inherently be condescending as you suggest.
    Third, it’s an established fact that if one wants to learn and he has what it takes, he goes to one of the top Lithuanian yeshivos, whether he is Chasidish, Lithuanian, Yekke, or Sephardi. If in doubt, swing by any of the yeshivos I named above and take a close look at the student population. You don’t see this kind of demand for Mizrachi, Chassidishe, or Sephardi yeshivos from groups not associated with them. As a case in point, Mir is the world’s largest chassidishe yeshiva and one of the largest Sephardi yeshivos. It’s not a matter of IQ, but willpower, stamina, and priorities to sit for 12 hours in the beis midrash and not to let go of a sugyiah until you know it inside out, forward and backward. For the record, I didn’t learn in any of the four yeshivos I named above. I didn’t qualify.

  10. dovid2 says:

    Menachem Lipkin writes: “And saying …. indicates you have some direct line to God. And if so, can you tell me now who’s going to win the World Series?”

    Menachem, your sarcasm is uncalled for. My direct line to Hashem is yours as well. There is no need to talk or prove the primacy of Talmud Torah as being ratzon Hashem in the Torah hashkafah that you and I subscribe to. That being the case, the better one carry out that particular mitzvah that’s dearest to Hashem, the greater the hashgacha pratis over all the Jews which manifests itself in several ways, two of which are sh’mirah from enemies and material prosperity.

    “the Hesdar students unquestionably have more Kavanah in this area knowing full well that that their chavarim are out physically defending the country while they are in the Beis.”

    Unfortunately this is true. The exhortations of R’ Yecheskel Levenstein, Chaim Shmulewitz, and Israel Zeev Gustman to daven and say tehilim for the safety of our soldiers did not get much traction.

    ” … significant number of Yeshiva students, who are pummeled from birth with anti-state ideology”

    I don’t have much to do with these groups.

  11. Jewish Observer says:

    “Charedim and the Dati Leumi groups suffer from a dearth of visionary leadership”

    – what is your basis of saying this re: the Dati Leumi?

  12. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Dovid2, it may or may not be empirically true that learning contributes to the defense and prosperity of Israel, however that is not the claim Rosenblum made. He said, “Rather they believe that their Torah learning is a vital component not only of national security but of national prosperity.” You’d have to prove to me that any significant number of Yeshiva students, who are pummeled from birth with anti-state ideology, have a Kavanah for this “belief”.

    Taking your assumption of the protective powers of learning at face value, it is then irrelevant whether or not your assertion that, “hesder yeshivah bachurim cannot hold a candle to a regular bachur in Slobodka, Ponovitch, Mir, or Brisk in terms of both quality and quantity.” And saying “Their learning contributes to a substantially greater degree to the nation’s defense and prosperity than the learning of hesder yeshivah bachurim.” indicates you have some direct line to God. And if so, can you tell me now who’s going to win the World Series?

    Of course it’s absurd to say that one knows who’s learning defends better, but one thing is for sure, the Hesdar students unquestionably have more Kavanah in this area knowing full well that that their chavarim are out physically defending the country while they are in the Beis.

  13. Tzvi says:

    Dovid2,

    “Menachem, you know it as well as I that the hesder yeshivah bachurim cannot hold a candle to a regular bachur in Slobodka, Ponovitch, Mir, or Brisk in terms of both quality and quantity. Their learning contributes to a substantially greater degree to the nation’s defense and prosperity than the learning of hesder yeshivah bachurim.”

    My oldest son went to Mir (as did I), and another is currently attending a hesder yeshiva (as did I.) If you think that the average 20 year old Mir bochur knows how to learn better than the average Yerucham bochur, than that is your opinion, but don’t tell those of us who are familiar with both worlds what we think. That would be both condescending and factually wrong.

  14. dovid2 says:

    Menachem Lipkin writes: “… when wide swaths of the Chareidi world are outright antagonistic to the “nation” Rosenblum claims they’re defending.”
    and
    “Regardless, the dedication to defense and prosperity through learning AND army service of Hesdar Yeshiva students greatly weakens any such argument.”

    Talmud Torah in Israel and government’s support of the yeshivos which to a great degree goes unacknowledged, contribute to the defense and prosperity of Israel, regardless of whether a particular Charedi individual or group explicitly dedicates his learning to the wellbeing of the nation at large or not, unless he explicitly states that he does not want his learning to benefit Israel. I doubt there are many such individuals. It’s like a person who would rather not lift heavy things, but when he does, he builds up his muscles.

    Menachem, you know it as well as I that the hesder yeshivah bachurim cannot hold a candle to a regular bachur in Slobodka, Ponovitch, Mir, or Brisk in terms of both quality and quantity. Their learning contributes to a substantially greater degree to the nation’s defense and prosperity than the learning of hesder yeshivah bachurim.

    “While Chessed is desirable and beautiful, it has in it an inherit condescension as well.”

    There isn’t a drop of condescension in the chessed performed by Charedim. That’s just not true.

  15. David F. says:

    Orit,
    “Why? Because there is a fear of negative influences, not hatred, but even so, it leads to a lack of unity. Let’s not hide from the truth.”

    Would you allow your children to befriend kids who were using drugs? If you’re a half-decent parent [and I’m sure you’re far better than that] you certainly wouldn’t and you would worry about “unity” another time. Obviously someone who is MO is not in any comparable to a drug user but the point remains the same. MO children [at least in the USA] have access to material and media that I and many other Charedim feel is terribly harmful to our children. In one visit to our cousins in Elizabeth, NJ, my kids are exposed to far more than they are in six months in my own neighborhood. Perhaps that exposure doesn’t concern you, but it sure concerns me and I’m not willing to allow it under any circumstances. Unity is nice, but not at this price. Of course there are some MO in Israel who do not fit this description and if the only difference is in the kippa [per your description,] I have no objection to allowing my kids to befriend them. That, however, is not usually the case.

    cvmay,
    “This perception comes from Israeli politics where the Charedi parties in the Knesset are ONLY interested in fostering housing, social programs, funding, etc. for the CHAREDI COMMUNITY…and therefore indifferent to the fate of their fellow Jews while feeling no connection to them.”

    Mrs. May – can you cite any examples of Israeli politicians who are models of altruism? Last I checked, every single one of them is there to advocate for their communities/parties/partisan interests. I don’t recall any of them worrying about the fate of their fellow Jews either.

  16. Jewish Observer says:

    “We see this today in the Agudah’s close ideological cousin, Ezras Torah. Their interest is in giving to “klei kodesh”. Ordinarly working men rarely if ever see a dime of what they collect. Sad, but true”

    – I disagree with the implication that it is not a worthy cause to have a special focus on poor talmidei chachomim. Taking care of our prized assets is a time honored tradition. We need not disparage this initiative in order to simultaneously value choshuve baalei batim.

  17. L. Oberstein says:

    If indeed close to 50% of children in Israel are chareidim or Arabs, change is coming. In the USA and Britain, it is also evident that the more ethnically seperatist elements have more children and are rapidly growing while the modern groups suffer from tired blood. I assume that the feeling that the chareidim are under attack and must cicle the wagons is there for a reason. But, when a small minority gets to be significant in numbers, then a new approach should be used. Those of the contributors to this discussion who frame it as datgi leumi vs. chareidim must realize that the blame can be spread wide. If the Mizrachi would have been more effective, it would still exist as the largest religious party, and would be having an impact on Israeli society.Why do Israelis think of chareidim when they think of religious Jews and not the kipah seruga people they meet every day in every part of society.Why is the impact of the national religious so ineffective in the Teshuva Movement compared with the Charedi outreach efforts. I think both the Charedim and the Dati Leumi groups suffer from a dearth of visionary leadership . We can hope that “what sechel cannot accomplish, zman will”Time will inevitably bring change. There must be a way for intelligent people who are not afraid of technology can be religious. Religion is too important to belong only to the extremists, but if they do win, it is our fault, not theirs.

  18. A. Schreiber says:

    “Only the Agudath Israel-affiliated groups broke a British boycott of Nazi-held territory to send food packages to starving and typhus-ridden Jews in Polish ghettos.”

    You mean they sent food to RABBIS, YESHIVAHS, and their students and staff. We see this today in the Agudah’s close ideological cousin, Ezras Torah. Their interest is in giving to “klei kodesh”. Ordinarly working men rarely if ever see a dime of what they collect. Sad, but true.

  19. jo says:

    I sometimes wonder how things would be different today had the old yishuv participated in Rav Kook’s Degel Yerushalayim.

  20. Jewish Observer says:

    “The failure of haredi yeshiva students to do army service is most responsible for the perception of chareidi detachment and indifference”

    – It is hard to argue on that. Still, I think that there is a perception of a general attitude that army is not our thing that perhaps (at least in my fantasy world) could be addressed

    My crazy idea:

    Take 2 hours out of a bein hazmanim, 1 day each year and conduct a positive hafganah where chareidim / yeshiva bochurim offer a “groisse shkoyach” to Tzahal. My guess is that this really could not happen because the “good chareidim” would not want to break ranks with the hard liners who would be dead set against it. If my preduction were true and chareidim couldn’t even get it together for a simple thank you, then the chilonim’s (mis?) percedptions of chareidim are take legit, no?

  21. Phil says:

    As Reb Jonathan pointed out in a previous article, change is indeed coming but only because the sad economic realities are now undeniable, not because of the vision, support or actions of the charedi leadership. The tiny percentages of charedim who are in academic degree programs or in Nahal Haredi aren’t a demonstration of leadership since the charedi gedolim don’t support their choices and the charedi community looks down upon them and even shuns them.

    The real question now is if bottom-up change will come quickly enough!

  22. cvmay says:

    “widespread perception that chareidim are indifferent to the fate of their fellow Jews and feel no connection to them”

    This perception comes from Israeli politics where the Charedi parties in the Knesset are ONLY interested in fostering housing, social programs, funding, etc. for the CHAREDI COMMUNITY…and therefore indifferent to the fate of their fellow Jews while feeling no connection to them.

  23. Orit says:

    From the outside, people would call me Charedi – kids in Bais Yaakov etc – and I am in awe of many of the chessed programs of the Charedim – but EVEN SO – the truth, the harsh truth, is that many haredim do not feel that they are one with the modern Orthodox. They see a young man in a kippa. He may learn Torah all day, be 100% shomer every mitzva in the Torah, but would NEVER be considered a possible or acceptable friend for a young teenage Charedi teenager. Why? Because there is a fear of negative influences, not hatred, but even so, it leads to a lack of unity. Let’s not hide from the truth.

  24. Nachum says:

    All over Israel, secular Israelis came to all-night learning, sometimes in a religious setting but often not. The newspapers and billboards were covered with ads for “secular” (or secular-friendly) learning. Those aren’t Americans, of course, but it should be pointed out.

  25. Mike S. says:

    It seems to me that, while Army service is a big contributor, it is not the only thing. The practice of trying to shelter chareidi children (and adults) not only from secular Israelis but even from the dati le’umi ones and even from other chareidim from families slightly less machmir (Think of Emmanuel even accepting the claim that the issue was religious ‘level’ rather than ethnicity at face value) surely contributes to the notion that chareidim do not feel a strong connection or responsibility for the society. So does the insistence that chareidim alone protect the state by their Torah learning, as though the Torah learning of other Israelis were worthless. So does the unwillingness of any chareidi leader of stature to publicly oppose the violent extremists in their midst.

  26. lacosta says:

    Jerusalem—-

    your scenario discounts hashgacha. Mashiach would have to come to save that helpless torah society [who probably would be rife with internal strife a la leadership crises in satmar,bobov, ponevezh, etc]

  27. lacosta says:

    >Rather they believe that their Torah learning is a vital component not only of national security but of national prosperity

    —- often touted, but the Lebanon War no 2, where the bloodshed messed up the vacation plans of these haredi ‘soldiers’ [in defiance of some of the haredi gdolim] puts a different light on this claim…

    >Chareidim inhabit a Judeocentric universe

    —and hilonim live in a zionocentric universe, in which your attitude to the State and its apparatus is all that matters. they dont CARE that haredim will do chessed , that is not an inherent zionist value. and concern manifested by conversion efforts would be seen as a net neegative…. if you dont want to join me, at least leave me alone; and stay ou of my neighborhood , like you want me out of yours….

    the problem of finding common language with the non-Torah based Jew becomes harder when the definition of Jew approaches Liberal– and increasingly the moral agenda of the secular [including jewish] Left is violently incompatable with a Torah society , and also it can’t tolerate an Apartheid religion-defined State [even if the majority behave like gentilized hebrews , as rav kahane used to say…..

  28. Menachem Lipkin says:

    While there is a kernel of truth in Jonathan’s piece, it’s also true that just as one can’t generalize the truly horrid behavior of small groups of Chareidim, one can’t generalize the wonderful philanthropy of another relatively small group. And yes, while orthodox Jews in general may be more Judeocentric, much of their benevolence toward their fellow hinges on who they consider to be within their orbit. For some this orbit is indeed broad, while for others it’s exceedingly and painfully narrow.

    It would be pure fantasy to believe that all, and maybe even a majority, of the tens of thousands of young men ensconced in full time learning are doing so with the intent of protecting national security and enhancing national prosperity. This, especially, when wide swaths of the Chareidi world are outright antagonistic to the “nation” Rosenblum claims they’re defending. Regardless, the dedication to defense and prosperity through learning AND army service of Hesdar Yeshiva students greatly weakens any such argument.

    While Chessed is desirable and beautiful, it has in it an inherit condescension as well. Just as Jonathan is beseeching the non-orthodox, and specifically the non-Chareidi, world to appreciate the contributions of their members, the denizens of this world must learn to appreciate the contributions and choices of their brethren. True Jewish unity will not be achieved while small groups remain cloistered in their ghetto communities and ideologically narrow Yeshivas. It’s the very mingling found in national defense and service, of which much of the Chareidi community is so deathly afraid, that would be the true catalyst for fostering this unity. I’m hopeful that the strength of our new government will nudge things in that direction.

  29. Jerusalem says:

    Change is coming — whether you like it or not. Your position is untenable — and unsustainable.

    According to the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, 48% of primary school pupils in 2008 were ultra-Orthodox or Israeli Arabs. That means in 20-something years Haredim and Arabs will be a majority of the population.

    If the status quo continues, Israel will collapse. When all the educated secular Israelis escape to Los Angeles, New York, Miami etc. — what will the Haredim do? They will be stuck in the Middle East surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arab Muslims, with no way to defend themselves, and there will no longer be handouts to freeloaders — there won’t be any money. There will be a Second Holocaust. The Muslims will massacre them. Haredim are not self-sufficient & they are incapable of defending themselves.

    If the ultra-Orthodox don’t get their act together they will pay dearly.