by Akiva Paths
In the past I wrote about my Air Force Daughter. Since that time she has now been joined by Infantry Son.
Being ultra-orthodox, charedi if you will, we were not willing to throw our son into cultural morass of the Israeli Defense Forces at their whims. Since the IDF has been “preparing” for ultra-orthodox recruits, we targeted him at the ultra-orthodox infrantry program – Nachal Charedi / Netzach Yehuda – The Mighty Men of Judah infrantry combat unit.
Our son contacted a friend, a former yeshiva student in yeshiva with him, who was now a training sergeant in Nachal Charedi. He couldn’t help, letting us know “the battalion is full”. The battalion is full??? What if you’re ultra-orthodox and you want to fight in the army?
Next, by hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence), I was being picked up from the train station and was asked for a ride by someone from synagogue I recognized…in an army officers uniform. Turns out he’s an army chaplain and a captain. We asked him if he could help and he was able to put us in touch with Nachal Charedi’s battalion rabbi. The rabbi was able to get our son on the list.
We breathed a sigh of religious relief, if not parental worry. Our son was going to be in a proper religious environment, while putting his life on the line to defend all the Jewish people and non-Jewish citizens living here.
Two and a half weeks before his enlistment date we got a harbinger of things to come. I received call… “hello, is this (Reb Akiva’s son’s father)? Your son has to report for basic training tomorrow”. “What??? His orders say 2 1/2 weeks from now. We haven’t prepared him (done the preliminary army supply shopping), it’s not what his orders say.” “He has to report tomorrow, the orders are changed by this call. He should report to (normal Jerusalem enlistment point A).”
What can you do? I took off work, ran home, grabbed my boy and headed to the mall. Why? As we learned with Air Force Daughter, there are things your child needs for army service that the army doesn’t provide. Some are obvious (a cell phone to call home), some less so (a durable watch with a timer function). We also had feedback from her on what’s a waste of money (like dirty laundry bags) and what’s good to have (boot polish).
Enlistment day is a big deal in Israel. It’s normal for a number of family members to join the enlistee in going to the enlistment point. But everyone was ready for that in 2 1/2 weeks…so he lost out.
That evening we got a call… “your son has to report to (unusual Jerusalem enlistment point B) tomorrow.” “What, we were told (normal enlistment point A).” “The orders are changed by this call, (click).” I didn’t even know where enlistment point B was!
He made the point, we said goodbye and off he went to be a soldier.
Continue reading → Nachal Charedi – Reality Check
by Dovid Landesman
Last week, my wife and I had the distinct pleasure of attending the induction ceremony of the Netzach Yehudah [a.k.a. Nachal Chareidi] brigade. Our youngest son is the brigade’s sergeant major and as such, was in charge of the event. This was no little boy playing soldier. My wife and I witnessed a mature, trained and dedicated chayal, cognizant of his responsibilities as an NCO and a ben-Torah, leading those under his command with the authority and presence that is a manifestation of the interdependence of those roles. We also attended in loco parentis for a young man from the US who is living with us and was one of the inductees.
The ceremony itself was typical of the IDF’s disdain for pomp and order; I can only imagine how your typical American drill sergeants would have reacted seeing the inability of the soldiers to march in even – let alone perfect – groups. Nonetheless, I was greatly moved and there were a number of elements that gave me much to reflect upon.
The main speaker was the commander of the I.D.F.’s Kfir division; Netzach Yehudah is a unit within that group. Although he was not … Read More >>
by Philip Lefkowitz
It was the 1960s, a tumultuous time for the civil rights movement in the United States. Cities were burning, race riots where breaking out everywhere. In New York City, Mayor John Lindsey was doing his utmost to placate the simmering anger boiling over in the Black community. And I, a young Rabbi of 23, was the Rabbi of the Beis Medrash Machzekie Rav, better known as the 31st Street Talmud Torah in the heart of Coney Island.
For years Coney Island had a significant and active Jewish community. In the 60s that community had largely disappeared. Yet from Stillwell Avenue to Seagate there were still several Synagogues, most with part-time Rabbis. The majority of the population of Coney Island was African American and Puerto Rican. It was the hood – a tough ghetto style neighborhood.
Other than those Jews who lived in the City’s middle class housing project on Surf Avenue, across the street from the Brooklyn Hebrew Home and Hospital for the Aged, the former Half Moon Hotel, and attended the Young Israel of Coney Island, its Rabbi now Rosh Bet Din of the Igud Harabonim, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock shlit”a, … Read More >>
from Roberta Chester
Judge Yosef Shapira accepted a settlement on Tuesday between American-Israeli authors Naomi Ragen and Sarah Shapiro, whereby Ragen was ordered to pay Shapiro 233,000 NIS (over $62,500) for copyright infringement, representing an unprecedented amount in a plagiarism case in Israel.
The agreement followed a verdict issued December 11 determining that Ragen, the defendant, committed plagiarism in her novel “Sotah,” and had stolen both text and ideas from Shapiro’s autobiographical memoir of her life as a young orthodox mother, “Growing With My Children.” The court ruled that in writing “Sotah,” the fictional account of a young woman living in Jerusalem’s Haredi community and accused of committing adultery, Ragen had committed “theft, negligence, and a violation of copyright.”
In her defense, Ragen claimed that she “accidentally” copied Shapiro’s work, a claim the court rejected as being “unthinkable, unlikely, and unbelievable.” Following the December verdict, the court recommended that the two sides settle upon an exact amount. In addition, all phrases and sentences which violated Shapiro’s copyright will have to be eliminated from new editions of “Sotah.” [UPDATED: previous version stated in error that the material will not have to be removed.]
By Shaul Gold
[Editors’ note: We received a large volume of comments, which were held up in the queue until Rabbi Gold could pen a response to their general drift. We have still not determined why so many of our readers assumed that “trembling before Rashi” is somehow the equivalent of granting Rashi veto power over interpreting pesukim. Rabbi Gold wrote nothing of the sort. Clearly, many rishonim disagree with many other rishonim; many disagree with Rashi. Rabbi Gold commented upon the tendency of many (and I have heard this myself many times - YA) to be dismissive of Rashi as hopelessly stuck in a primitive, literalist mode that is beneath enlightened moderns, chas v’shalom. Rabbi Gold argued that whether accepting his pshat (from which we always have something to learn, or preferring another, Rashi (as well as other Rishonim, but especially Rashi considering the centrality of his work on Chumash in the life of so much parshanut that followed) must always be approached with reverence. We will let Rabbi Gold explain in his own words.]
I would like to address some of the comments that Purim prevented me from addressing. I was, and yet remain, confused as to … Read More >>
Young Writers Submission by Daniel Weiss
One of the claims that Haman leveled against the Jews was that they were “separate and scattered,” that they lacked togetherness. Of all the negative characteristics he could have singled out, he chose this as the defining feature with which to describe us to the King. The Midrash states that this is precisely what made the Jews vulnerable to annihilation, what opened the door to a decree of our death. It was significant then and it is still very much a reality today due to the diversity that is present across the Jewish spectrum. Yet, we were purposely born as a nation with twelve tribes because diversity has its benefits, benefits which are worth understanding.
In social psychology there is a concept called group polarization. The basic idea is that when members of a group have similar opinions about an issue, discussion within that group does not balance out their opinions but rather makes their opinions more extreme than they were going in. For example, if before going into the jury room, members of a jury all believe that an individual is guilty, then they will come out feeling even more strongly … Read More >>
By Shaul Gold
One of the defining moments in the development of my hashkafas hachaim (outlook on life) occurred during a Shiur Klali (weekly lecture) I attended as a talmid in Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim.
The Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Nochum Partzovitz, ZT”L, was a son-in-law of Rav Chaim Schmuelevitz, ZT”L, and one of the preeminent Maggidei Shiur that emerged after the War. He was one of the famed Mirrer talmidim from Shanghai and a talmid of R’ Boruch Ber Levovitz (Rosh Yeshivah in Kamenitz and a Talmid Muvhak of R’ Chaim Soloveitchik). R’ Nochum’s awe and reverence of R’ Boruch Ber and R’ Chaim Brisker was well known.
R’ Nochum suffered from arterial sclerosis and, when I arrived at the Yeshivah, was already confined to a wheelchair. He gave a daily shiur, a chaburah on Thursday nights, and a preview of the Shiur Klali on Motza’i Shabbos. The preview shiur was unique in that, while it was ostensibly a small gathering in his apartment, it was, in fact, attended by hundreds of talmidim from other Yeshivos that gathered in the hallway and stairway to hear the shiur. The shiur was a great strain for R’ Nochum physically, but was an … Read More >>
by Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt
Your book, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots, touched a lot of nerves and unsettled a lot of hearts in the Orthodox Jewish community. It is not every day that a Satmar woman divorces her husband, moves to Manhattan and writes a tell-all book about the experience. It is not every day that a Satmar woman writes about her Chassidic experience with derision and her sexual relations without inhibition.
My wife’s family is from Satmar, too. Her great-great grandfather was the shochet and chazzan in Satmar, Hungary, serving Grand Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum before WWII. Her great-grandfather left Satmar in the 1930s and moved to Portsmouth, England where he served as the Orthodox pulpit rabbi of a less than observant congregation. His wife wanted to raise their children in a more modern environment and he went along with that decision. He never trimmed his beard or payos in Satmar but did so in Portsmouth. His wife shaved her hair in Satmar but didn’t do so in Portsmouth.
They didn’t write a book about the ordeal, as you did. They respected their parents’ insular ways even if they couldn’t follow the path themselves. … Read More >>
by Daniel Adler [A Young Writer Submission]
How is it that over the past few decades, Yeshivos all over the United States have produced students that are “un-Jewish” (to use a Hirschian phrase)? By that I mean that, after twelve years of a Jewish education, many of them are not committed to Judaism at all. Not until after high school, when students learn in Bais Medrash/Seminary for a year or two (often in Israel), do they become committed to a Torah lifestyle. A second problem that presents itself comes as a result of the Yeshiva day school system naturally feeding into a kollel lifestyle. This lifestyle has become automatic for many Yeshiva/Bais Yaakov graduates: they do not decide as individuals whether or not a kollel lifestyle is appropriate for them. These two problems not only afflict the Yeshiva world; they also affect the insular Chassidish world.
Based on my own experiences in Yeshiva and upon anecdotal evidence heard from neighbors and friends, I can list a number of reasons why these problems exist. These include: Appearances (some parents force their children to fit into a “Yeshivish lifestyle” regardless of their child (ren)’s personality and leanings); Peer Pressure (both students … Read More >>
by Dov Krulwich
On September 6 I became an activist.
Parents at the Orot school in Beit Shemesh were complaining about Chareidi zealots demonstrating against the school, and commenting that their kids were afraid. My response was one of disbelief. I knew people living in the buildings near Orot, and I davened and learned often in Batei Midrash in nearby Chareidi neighborhoods. It simply couldn’t be, I said, that the situation warranted schoolkids being afraid for their well-being. We’re talking about religious girls with skirts and elbow-length sleeves! The response was simple: If you don’t believe it, come and see. I went the next day, and was shocked at the kanayus that I saw – cursing, yelling, spitting, shoving, intimidating – all with looks of sheer hatred.
In the months that followed, I spent time virtually every day trying to confront the kanayim, document the kanayus in order to have it dealt with by Rabbonim and by the police, and protect the kids from the 10-15 kanayim that waged a steady war against the school. My videos of kanayim with hatred in their eyes were viewed tens of thousands of times, I became well-known by the kanayim and their … Read More >>
by Etana Hecht
[Editor’s Note: Contributing to this blog, I know full well that editors must sometimes – often – pull the plug on discussion after fruitful exchange gets to the point of diminishing returns. From the feedback I get from irate readers, I also know of the frustration they feel when some points of view never see the light of day because discussion has been cut off. I can understand and accept the decision of my friends the Frankfurters of ending Ami’s coverage of the Beit Shemesh debacle and moving on. Blogs have a bit more flexibility; we can provide an outlet where print media cannot. I know Etana and her family, and think it worthwhile for the public to read her contribution.]
As most of you have probably seen in the media, Bet Shemesh has been having problems with a group of thugs who call themselves Chareidi who have been causing much trouble and pain to many of the citizens of Bet Shemesh. In a series of articles on this issue, Ami Magazine interviewed Mayor Moshe Abutbol to answer some questions about the situation. In his responses, there were a few false statements, as well as some … Read More >>
by Michael Freund
This past Sunday I got a first-hand glimpse of one of the hottest phenomena in American pop culture and sports.
The venue was Metlife Stadium in New Jersey, the occasion was the first round of the National Football League playoffs.
Just prior to the start of the game between the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons, after the Giants had come onto the field, eight of their players headed toward the end zone, where they did something entirely unexpected.
These hulking and intimidating behemoths, who make their living by strapping on layers of protective body gear and pummelling their opponents, each knelt down on one knee, bowed their heads, and offered a silent prayer.
This act has come to be known as “Tebowing,” after Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, whose signature prayerful genuflections have become a popular and internet sensation.
Tebow, who has led his team to some stunning comeback victories, including this past weekend when he tossed an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to defeat the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers, is an unabashed fan of his Christian faith. He talks about it in interviews and does not shy away from publicly thanking … Read More >>
by Dovid Kornreich
There is a recurrent theme that I’ve read on Jblogs and newspapers, and it has two parts:
1) Chareidi society somehow engenders extremism and these incidents in Beit Shemesh are its bitter fruit.
2) Neglect by the rest of Chareidi leadership to publicly condemn the extreme acts is a form of acquiescence by silence.
The response to the first charge is that your average chareidi individual living in, let’s say Bayit Vegan or Har Nof, shares very little of the *cultural* values and norms of Mea She’arim Chareidim. The sad reality is that Chareidim are an extremely factionalized and subdivided group, and the divisions are deep and operate on many different levels of which outsiders simply have no appreciation.
True, on religious and political issues vis-a-vis non-Chareidim and especially the non-religious, most Chareidim seem to rally together as a unified group to oppose a common threat. But socially, there is very little meaningful contact between Mea Shea’rim Charedim (and their RBS offshoots) and the rest of the Chareidi population.
So one can’t credibly say that “Chareidi society” engenders violence, extremism, intolerance etc. There is very little *culturally* that unites all Chareidim. And it is the uniquely … Read More >>
by Michael Freund
What a remarkable breath of fresh air.
For the first time in recent memory, a prominent American politician has had the courage to speak some unvarnished truths about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In video footage released on December 9, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told the Jewish Channel, a cable TV network, that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”
“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state – it was part of the Ottoman Empire,” the former speaker of the House of Representatives said.
“I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community,” Gingrich declared.
Whatever one might think of Gingrich’s stance on various other political matters, in this case there can be no disputing the historicity of his remarks.
Palestine and the Palestinians are in fact a modern invention, a fiction created with the aim of dismantling Israel and undermining its claim to its ancient patrimony.
Indeed, prior to the 1947 UN partition plan, even Palestinian Arab leaders openly affirmed this to be the case.
Take, for example, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, who testified in 1937 before the Peel Commission, which was established by the British government to investigate the outbreak of Arab violence in British-ruled Palestine. Abdul-Hadi told the commission, that, “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”
A decade later, in May 1947, the representative of the Arab Higher Committee told the UN General Assembly much the same.
Palestinian nationalism only gained steam in subsequent decades, as the Arab states found it to be a useful proxy tool in their ongoing war against the Jewish state. They cultivated a Palestinian national consciousness and identity in order to create a narrative of Arab victimhood and Israeli aggression, which suited their political agenda.
Continue reading → The Invention of Palestine
by William Kolbrener
An alert reader, who goes by the moniker “S.” in the comments, pointed out this article, which appeared on the personal blog of Professor William Kolbrener, of the Department of English at Bar-Ilan University. We thank Prof. Kolbrener for his permission to republish.
Three days ago, on December 11, Judge Joseph Shapira of the Jerusalem District Court ruled, after a four-year legal drama, that Naomi Ragen in her novel Sotah knowingly copied from the work of the author Sarah Shapiro, Growing with My Children.
Though not publicized, I was the literary expert for Sarah Shapiro, the plaintiff, and I provided extensive written testimony which was then subject to cross-examination by Ragen’s lawyers in the Jerusalem court.
In the now widely-publicized decision of ninety-two pages, Justice Shapira wrote according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “that the plagiarism was ‘tantamount to a premeditated act,’ saying that Ragen acted knowingly and copied work created by the plaintiff.”
In an article yesterday in the Jerusalem Post, Ragen, who is a columnist for the paper, accuses Sarah Shapiro of “working out of a desire to silence my criticism of the Haredi [ultra-orthodox] community’s treatment of women, … Read More >>
By Karen Greenberg [A Young Writer Submission]
When I first decided to become an English major, I didn’t really anticipate any problems that would involve my Judaism. This is not a common choice for Orthodox college women, but I chose a different path because I knew what I loved and I was confident that I could land some sort of job with an English degree. Throughout my young adult life, I have read books that both complimented my Torah worldview and contradicted it. There were no problems with those books that were complimentary, but then I would pick up an Ayn Rand, for example, and I would have to learn to separate my aesthetic enjoyment of the work from the parts of the books that contended with my Jewish perspective on life. If I disagreed with what I read, there was no one to actively argue for the book’s point of view. In a debate between myself and a work of literature, I always won; and so I thought my college literature classes would be in the same vein. I would continue reading and writing, as I had always loved to do, and would simply filter out anything that … Read More >>
by Dovid Kornreich
I was waiting until the passing of her Sheloshim to see what the blogworld would have to say about Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky’s life and unique impact on the Chareidi world before I ventured to speak my mind. To my surprise, there was nothing on the web beyond the regular online Jewish news outlet coverage and obituary-type blogposts.
Well, perhaps it is too premature to evaluate the Rebbetzin’s historical impact on Chareidi society so soon after her sudden passing, and perhaps it is inappropriate to first discuss sociology and not first express the depth of the loss of such a woman to us.
But in light of the raging blog-controversy over Open Orthodoxy’s feminist agenda, it seems that a post on the subject is timely, relevant, and important.
It is too important to let the moment pass without taking the opportunity to highlight the deep contrast in the different Orthodox societies’ responses to feminism — which the late Rebbetzin brought subtly into focus.
It is my hope that this seemingly aloof analysis of Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s unique position in Jewish society will be a catalyst to further admiration of Chareidi society, dispel harmful myths, and … Read More >>
By Robert Lebovits
I wonder if the creators of Cross Currents ever imagined that it would be such a vital forum for addressing the critical issues facing the Orthodox world. The present dialogue on the form and trajectory of Modern Orthodoxy – and the broad range of comments that have been put forward – are a testament to the success of this venue. Perhaps most impressive of all is the tenor of the discussion. Rabbis Adlerstein and Broyde have shown us all how to have discourse without disrespect, leaving polemics and acrimony by the wayside. There are some thoughts and ideas of my own that I would offer for consideration.
R. Broyde has identified the core dispute to be the question of whether the “Far Left” (FL) is or is not “seeking to leave the halachic community”. He states they are not and avers “the crux of the issue [is] they steadfastly refuse to defer to the judgments of the gedolim who dominate the community that Rabbi Adlerstein comes from and instead either put forward their own gedolim or deny the need for sanction from gedolim to make the changes they recommend”. I would suggest R. Broyde understates the … Read More >>
By Dovid Goldman
Rabbi Broyde’s article is an important contribution to an important conversation. So far, however, it only strengthen’s Rabbi Adlerstein’s points, which were almost all completely sidestepped (when a response ignores all your important points and picks on one sidebar, you know you are on to something).
Here is Rabbi Adlerstein’s main point: “The far left of Modern Orthodoxy seems to be intent on continuing an unrelenting drive to push the envelope and change the way people lead an Orthodox life… Rabbi Avi Weiss has unfortunately become the charismatic leader of what is now a movement.”
He is not focused on a list of questionable halachos being proposed and how our community ought to view them. If that were the case, Rabbi Broyde’s response might have been appropriate. But that misses the entire thrust of Rabbi Adlerstein’s argument.
Characterizing the Far Left as a “movement” that seeks to “[change] the way people lead an Orthodox life” is a far more serious charge than complaining that they’ve crossed a few lines in the case of specific halachos. This charge suggests that the Far Left represents a foreign value system – not simply that they are introducing specific foreign … Read More >>
By Yehuda L. Oppenheimer
It is not every day that I agree with the Pope.
After all, to say the least, we have several non-trivial theological differences. There is also the matter of the history of the Church, and its relationship with our people, and frankly, many more matters than I can list in this essay.
Today, however, I must say that I stand firmly with the Pope in a position that he took last week.
While many of my co-coreligionists may not be aware of it, on October 27, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI invited some 300 religious leaders, and tellingly, some non-religious leaders, to the city of St. Francis to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of the signature achievements of his predecessor. John Paul II convened a “ World Day of Prayer for Peace” on Oct. 27, 1986; an event that was part of that pontiff’s historic opening to other faiths, the legacy of which is now known as the “Spirit of Assisi.” During that event one could witness, along with a traditional Catholic prayer, Zoroastrians tending a sacred fire, Buddhists chanting to the accompaniment of gongs and drums, and a Native American medicine man in traditional … Read More >>
by Steven Pruzansky
Paradoxically, I found myself in agreement with both Rav Adlerstein and Rav Broyde in their recent comments on Modern Orthodoxy and the limits of RCA tolerance. Rav Adlerstein lays down the gauntlet in terms of the importance of parameters for RCA inclusion, so we do not define ourselves into irrelevancy, or worse, become a tacit endorser of quasi-heretical notions. And Rav Broyde’s exposition of Modern Orthodoxy as “Always at a Crossroads” is, in many ways, right on point and underscores true areas of difference, especially in the danger of witch hunts and in mandating acceptance of the views of “gedolim” who do not generally share our hashkafat olam. Additionally, the challenge to the “Far Left” of maverick approaches to halacha and minhag that destroy the envelope after first pushing its ends should also engender some necessary soul-searching and perhaps re-visiting of some views.
Yet, if my admiration for Rav Broyde only grows each time he puts ink to paper (or the modern equivalent), I remain troubled by certain assumptions that are made that I believe undermine his overall argument. This is perhaps encapsulated in his summation that states, in pertinent part, that Modern Orthodoxy “incorporates two … Read More >>
By Michael Broyde
[Editor’s Note: Rabbi Broyde penned and submitted an eloquent reaction to my piece in Ami Magazine regarding the dilemma that Modern Orthodoxy faces in regard to the Far Left. It is a more than worthwhile read, for cogently capturing a very different point of view. Rabbi Broyde and I have been fast friends for years. Despite the fact that we very rarely agree about important matters, we both sense that we share far more than we disagree about. I do not regard him as a member of the Far Left, especially because of our shared passion for serious Torah learning – even though we frequently disagree about pshat in the passages before us. We are friends neither in spite of our differences, nor because of them. We are simply friends.
Needless to say, I disagree with both my friend’s analysis of the differences between the Far Left and mainstream Orthodoxy, as well as his recommendations for action. I am hoping that readers will do much of the heavy lifting in reacting to this piece, saving me from having to write a detailed response. - YA]
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein’s brilliantly written essay “Modern Orthodoxy at a Crossroads” is, like everything else Rabbi Adlerstein has written, full of his erudite insights into community. However, ultimately, both his diagnosis of the problem and his explanation of the solution are, I think, wrong: Modern Orthodoxy is always at the crossroads – no more now than yesterday or tomorrow. Furthermore, he fundamentally misunderstands the Modern Orthodox ethos and condition – Modern Orthodoxy will always be more embracing of all Orthodox Jews than many are comfortable with as our boundaries are determined more by the historical parameters of halacha than by current gedolim. Modern Orthodoxy will always be more open to all Orthodox Jews.
At its core, Rabbi Adlerstein’s essay is an attempt to delegitimize what he call the Orthodox “Far Left,” a term he does not define or characterize, but is used throughout in his essay. Allow me to give it a definition: the Orthodox “Far Left” is a group within the Orthodox community which is attempting to discard many aspects of minhag yisrael on matters of women’s issues and perhaps will come to adopt the same approach to other issues as well. Yet it seems that at least in intent (if not in effect, to borrow Lawrence Summer’s term), they are not seeking to leave the halachic community at all. They are, instead, seeking to expand the borders of customary practice with innovative readings of sources, some grounded in classical insights, some grounded in innovation and some grounded in social change that they perceive as present. Furthermore, and this might be the crux of the issue, they steadfastly refuse to defer to the judgments of the gedolim who dominate the community that Rabbi Adlerstein comes from and instead either put forward their own gedolim or deny the need for sanction from gedolim to make the changes they recommend.
Rabbi Adlerstein’s view is that the RCA must expel the “Far Left” and without such an expulsion, the cooperation with the Charedi community will be jeopardized. Both of these conclusions are wrong – indeed, I think that the RCA should welcome as members those whom Rabbi Adlerstein thinks is the “Far Left” with open hands; the Orthodox center and right are all better with the Orthodox “Far Left” present, and much more importantly, the Orthodox “Far Left” is better served in a community with the rest of Orthodoxy. Each will moderate and temper the other. The parts are weaker than the whole. Modern Orthodoxy has to be more embracing of all Orthodox Jews. Furthermore, if we exclude the halachic “Far Left” from our community, we will have no say in what they do and how they do it.
II. Halacha First: A Modern Orthodox Credo
First and foremost, Rabbi Adlerstein’s plea for expulsion is completely unconvincing to me. Anyone who really understands what Modern Orthodoxy ought to be, understands that after we are finished expelling the “Far Left”, there will be a new far left to expel. In this regard, the Rav’s z.t.l approach to Rabbi Rackman was correct – wrong halachic ideas are criticized and sometimes even delegitimatized – but people are not normally expelled for advocating ideas that are within the halachic universe but simply not proper or normative.
(But this is not enough of a vision for the Modern Orthodox community – as we have to decide what idea and conduct are outside of these parameters. Our tent needs to have walls – otherwise, what kind of tent is it? More on this in the next section)
Second, and most importantly, Modern Orthodoxy is – as its name suggests – an attempt to meld the classical rabbinic tradition with the best of the modern world, and it requires, indeed even mandates, that the modern world be examined to determine what is in it that ought to be part of the Orthodox community. This can be found in the rabbinic idiom that “The best of the house of Yefet should reside in the house of Shem” – the best of western culture should be part of the Jewish community. Continue reading → Modern Orthodoxy is Always at the Crossroads
By: Etana Hecht
As many of you know, this past week in Bet Shemesh has not been a pleasant one. For those of you who have been hearing bits here and there, or reading articles in the press, I’d like to give my account as a Bet Shemesh resident.
I’m not an Orot parent (yet! hopefully next year), and I don’t even currently live in Sheinfeld (the Dati Leumi neighborhood across from the school), but I lived there for three years, hope to move back sometime soon and am a Bet Shemesh resident. I first came to Bet Shemesh eight years ago, and from the very beginning loved this city. The community of Sheinfeld is amazing, warm, and welcoming with terrific people and shuls. When we first moved in, the Ultra-orthodox community of RBS B was new, and expanding all the time. Slowly the buildings of RBS expanded until they were directly across from the border of Sheinfeld. Gezundeheit, welcome to the neighborhood.
When tensions started due to signs that were put up across the street demanding that women who walk through ‘their’ streets be dressed properly, some Sheinfeld people decided to try and diffuse the … Read More >>
by Chaskel Bennett
It was 1993 and today few remember the first attack on the World Trade Center when extremists detonated a bomb laden vehicle in the lower level of the underground garage. Though there was a tragic loss of life, minimal structural damage was sustained by the towers themselves, and few long- term safeguards were implemented at that time to protect and solidify the Twin Towers from future attack.
Fast forward a few short years to September 11 2001, when a small group of Islamic terrorists brazenly attacked the same World Trade Center, hijacking humanity and placing America on a war footing not seen since the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a veteran Hatzoloh first responder at Ground Zero whose personal safety was put in jeopardy on that fateful morning, I have been forever impacted by those events and wish to again publically thank Hashem for His kindness bestowed upon me and my fellow Hatzoloh members.
The terror attacks of 9/11 sent a shudder through the heart of the nation and brought downtown Manhattan, a symbol of American dominance, to a crashing halt. The collapse of the towers, in our own backyard, killed thousands of innocent people and … Read More >>
by Jonathan Sacks
It was the same city but it might have been a different planet. At the end of April, the eyes of the world were on London as a dashing prince and a radiant princess, William and Kate, rode in a horse-drawn carriage through streets lined with cheering crowds sharing a mood of joyous celebration. Less than four months later, the world was watching London again as hooded youths ran riot down high streets, smashing windows, looting shops, setting fire to cars, attacking passersby and throwing rocks at the police.
It looked like a scene from Cairo, Tunis or Tripoli earlier in the year. But this was no political uprising. People were breaking into shops and making off with clothes, shoes, electronic gadgets and flat-screen televisions. It was, as someone later called it, shopping with violence, consumerism run rampage, an explosion of lawlessness made possible by mobile phones as gangs discovered that by text messaging they could bring crowds onto the streets where they became, for a while, impossible to control.
Let us be clear. The numbers involved were relatively small. The lawkeepers vastly outnumbered the lawbreakers. People stepped in to rescue those attacked. Crowds appeared each … Read More >>