Rabbi Chaim Vital asks a fascinating question: Why does the Torah not specifically command us to avoid negative middos like anger or to develop those associated with the talmidim of Avraham Avinu (Avos 5:19) – a good eye, humble spirit, and restrained soul? He answers that these middos precede the Torah itself, for without them one cannot truly be an acceptor of the Torah.
The above-cited Mishnah in Avos states that the distinction between those who enjoy the fruits of this world and inherit the world to come depends on whether they are the students of Avraham Avinu or Bilaam. And that depends on the possession of the three middos enumerated in the Mishnah. In other words, even one who is meticulous in the observance of every mitzvah in the Torah, will inherit Gehinnom and descend into a pit of destruction if he is lacking the three qualities mentioned, for he has not truly accepted the Torah.
Rabbeinu Yonah in his commentary to Avos describes the three positive middos mentioned in the Mishnah as the essence of all good middos. Their presence makes possible the interrelatedness of all beings in the world in the way that Hashem intended; and … Read More >>
An important new poll of Palestinian opinion was released last week to minimum fanfare. The poll confirmed what no one wants to hear: the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza is far from being ready to accept Israel’s existence or to conclude a peace treaty based on two states for two peoples.
Nearly two-thirds (66%) of the Palestinians polled said that a two-state solution should at most be an interim stage on the path to a unitary Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The poll showed an almost total absence of ability to empathize in any way with Israelis. Ninety-two percent of the Palestinians, for instance, said that Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state only. When asked whether they agreed with the famous hadith attributed to Mohammed and cited in the Hamas Charter, that at the end of time, even inanimate trees and rocks will call out, “There is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him,” 73% answered in the affirmative. In other findings, 72% denied any Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem; 62% supported the kidnapping and holding hostage of Gilad Shalit and other Jewish soldiers; and 53% … Read More >>
Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party massive victory in the recent Canadian elections and the virtual disappearance of the Liberal Party, which has dominated Canadian politics for seventy years, was accompanied by sea change in Canadian Jewish voting patterns. That change already began between 2006 and 2008. In the handful of ridings in the country in which Jews are a substantial minority, the shift from the Liberal Party to the Conservative in those years was six to twelve times that of the national average.
The most recent election witnessed the first Jew ever elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP. Liberal MP Ken Dryden, a Canadian icon as goalie of the Stanley Cup winning Montreal Canadians (and a strong supporter of Israel) went down to defeat in a riding with a significant Jewish minority. Even Irwin Cotler, a former attorney general and one of Israel’s most articulate defenders in the international arena, barely squeezed back into office. He was first elected in 1999 with 91% of the vote. An internationally renowned human rights attorney, Cotler found himself accused of being soft on Israel because he attended the first Durban Conference, where he had gone to combat – unsuccessfully — the hijacking … Read More >>
About twenty years ago, I publicly debated a rabbi associated with the circles around Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook at the Orthodox Union’s Israel Center, on the topic “Vengeance – Divine or Human?” As the debate went on, I found myself increasingly shocked by his willingness to rely on quotations pulled from the aggadata sections of the Torah to reach legal conclusions, which, if implemented, would have immense implications for Jews around the world, and his confidence that we live in an era in which Jews can say and do whatever they want in the Land of Israel without fear of how those words and actions will be received by the gentile world.
I have not read Torat Hamelech, and cannot comment on its contents. But Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, the most prominent living halachic decisor, has condemned the work on for reasons similar to those that shocked me in that long ago debate – it places Jews around the world in danger. And Rabbi Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, the son-in-law of the late halachic giant Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, withdrew his letter of approbation from the book because of “certain conclusions that are not halachically correct” and others that defy … Read More >>
Recently, I rejoined a morning shiur that I had attended for many years. The primary attraction was that the shiur had just started Mesillas Yesharim [Path of the Just] for the mussar [ethics] segment. Though I have learned Mesillas Yesharim (or at least the opening chapters) many times, the chance to learn it with this particular maggid shiur was irresistible, for he is a walking Mesillas Yesharim.
I have not been disappointed. His inferences from a close reading of every word (after all, the Vilna Gaon famously said that there is not an extra word in the first eleven chapters), his palpable excitement in sharing the insights of the Ramchal, and the model that he provides of what a Torah Jew can aspire to be leave me feeling genuinely uplifted at the beginning of each day.
The shiur got me thinking. I am nearly sixty years old. I was privileged to spend many years in yeshivah and kollel, and through my biographies and other work I have spent much time with great Torah scholars, both living and no longer living. And yet this twenty minutes of mussar every morning with a rebbi who has perfected his middos to an … Read More >>
One of the first pieces of advice given to investigative journalists is: Follow the money trail. That dossier has now been prepared for J Street, which bills itself as a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization.
For years J Street denied any connection to billionaire financier George Soros, whose contempt for Israel has never been disguised, only to eventually admit that Soros and family were its principal early backers. Soros, it turns out, is but the best known of J Street’s interesting friends. Another is Genevieve Lynch, a director of NIAC (National Iranian-American Council), whose D.C. lobbying efforts dovetail neatly with those of the Iranian government. She has given over $10,000 per year to J Street and sits on its finance committee. Another repeated contributor is Turkish-American businessman Mehmet Celeb, the producer of the Turkish film Valley of the Wolves, described by the Wall Street Journal as a cross between American Psycho in uniform and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
A 2010 J Street visit to Israel was partially sponsored by Churches for Peace in the Middle East, a group supportive of the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement. J Street maintains close ties with the Arab-American Institute, whose president … Read More >>
Two weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion for a group of post-university students from the U.S. and Canada who are contemplating aliyah. The topic was “State and Religion in Israel,” and the panel included an activist from the Reform movement and a Modern Orthodox educator.
I returned home after two and a half hours completely drenched, wondering why I had gone and whether anything positive could possibly come from such a debate.
I doubt most readers can even imagine the chasm between traditionally Orthodox and secular North American Jews. We barely have a common language or any shared assumptions. For us, “Who is a Jew” is determined by very specific halachic criteria, and the question of “What are the obligations of a Jew?” can only be answered by recourse to the Written and Oral Torah.
For them, a Jew is anyone with Jewish blood who “feels Jewish,” and the concept of obligations is foreign. Instead they prefer such vagaries as “raising a Jewish family” or “living Jewishly,” defined by each individual Jew for him or herself. For reasons that I will not detail, I have never felt so intensely the truth of the Chazon … Read More >>
After a recent speech on chinuch banim (child-rearing) in Lawrence, someone approached me and asked, “Your children are all matzliach, all in learning?” I suppose I could have let slide the implied assumption of the question – success is exclusively determined by whether, and how long, one stays in learning. But I decided not to.
“Yes, Baruch Hashem, my children are successful,” I told him. “But I do not view my son who learns in kollel in the morning and repairs major appliances afternoons and evenings as any less successful.” My response probably took my questioner aback a moment, but I was still not done: “True, this son will probably not be as big a talmid chacham as his brothers. But I do not see him as less of an eved Hashem – not in the way he davens or his dikduk in mitzvos. And I can always count on him to say a dvar Torah at the Shabbos table.”
I was still not done enumerating the reasons I’m so proud of this particular son. Chief among them is the way he took responsibility when it became clear that the money was simply not there to put food on … Read More >>
In his June 24 2002 Rose Garden speech, President George W. Bush made clear that the purpose of Oslo was not the creation of a Palestinian state, but peace. He disabused the Palestinians of the notion that a Palestinian state is inevitable, and let them know that it must be earned. That state would have to be based on governmental financial transparency, freedom of citizens to criticize the government without fear of repercussions, the rule of law, and division of governmental power. He made clear that a Palestinian state would not be born from terrorism.
Bush was not refuting a straw man, but rather the traditional position of the EU. Western Europe has long viewed the very creation of Israel as, at best, a mistake creating myriad unnecessary headaches with the Arab world, and, at worst, a grave injustice inflicted on the hapless Palestinians. For the Europeans the formation of a Palestinian state has long been the central goal of the peace process. Israel is always called upon to take brave steps for peace, and criticized for failing to do so, whereas the Palestinians are given a complete pass when they fail to live up to their own commitments.
… Read More >>
Carl Schramm’s graduation speech to Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business was pretty much what one would expect from one of America’s leading students of entrepreneurship: a paean to American freedom of the individual and the economic freedom on which it is grounded. In the middle of Schramm’s celebration of American capitalism, there appeared a sentence that caught my attention: “The per capita rate of business formation in the U.S. is higher than in any industrialized society except Israel.”
That chance reference to Israel together with the United States set me thinking about one of the nearly open miracles of Israel’s history: The only country in the world in which popular support for Israel is consistently high also happens to be the richest and most powerful nation in history, the one indispensable ally.
American support for Israel has little to do with the wealth or influence of the Jewish community. Many of Israel’s staunchest political supporters in the United States represent states or districts with few Jewish voters. (The same pattern exists in Canada, whose prime minister, Stephen Harper, is by far the most forceful advocate for Israel among current world leaders. The traditional base of Harper’s Conservative Party … Read More >>
Given all the attention focused on Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines (known colloquially and erroneously as the 1967 borders), one would never know how irrelevant they are to Israeli withdrawal from land captured in 1967. From his first day in office, President Obama seized on the settlements as the crucial issue in Palestinian-Israel peace process, as a means of signaling to the larger Muslim world that they have a friend in the White House. In so doing, he only succeeded in hardening Palestinian positions and convincing them that there was no need to negotiate with Israel because the United States will pressure Israel into withdrawal to the “1967 borders” with minor adjustments.
For many American Jews too, the settlements have taken on a role far out of proportion to any actual impact on peace. The settlements allow American Jews to indulge their Jewish guilt over the failure to achieve peace and to engage in a particularly Jewish form of hubris – the feeling that everything depends on us and that if were only better, more magnanimous, peace would be at hand.
No Israeli government will ever be able to evacuate a quarter of a million Jews from … Read More >>
So far Arab Spring has done little to increase Israelis’ optimism. According to the latest Pew survey, a solid majority of Egyptians support abrogation of the peace treaty with Israel; the Egyptian-Israeli gas pipeline has already been sabotaged twice; and Egyptian efforts to interdict weapons smuggling into Gaza have been abandoned altogether.
Does the possibility of the Assad dynasty falling in Syria offer some compensation? Opinion is divided. Writing in National Review, CIA veteran Michael Scheuer notes that since 1973, the Syrians have maintained quiet along the border with Israel. After killing 20,000 or more civilians in the Moslem Brotherhood stronghold of Hama in 1982, Hafez al-Assad embarked on determined effort to placate the Islamists, building thousands of mosques and opening Sharia schools. As a consequence, argues Scheuer, in the event Bashar Assad’s regime falls, Islamists are likely to play a major role in whatever follows.
Yet for the very same reason, the ever astute Barry Rubin, argues that Islamists have played no role in the current street demonstrations: the Assads, father and son, have pursued a nearly ideal Islamist foreign policy. Syria is, after Iran, the largest international supporter of terrorists, including Hizbullah; it has allowed anti-American fighters … Read More >>
In recent weeks, we have been contemplating the pressure and intimidation experienced by Jewish students on university campuses in North America from anti-Israel propaganda. In Part I, we discussed the diverse nature of the intimidation – anti-apartheid weeks, departments of Middle East studies funded by Arab petrodollars – and the potential impact on the Jewish identity of students put in the cross-hairs of political correctness by virtue of their identification with Israel. In Part II, we discussed how poorly served Jewish students have been by precisely those Jewish “defense” organizations from which support might have been expected, and the ways in which the cowed behavior of students in the face of attacks on Israel increasingly mirrors that of mainstream Jewish organizations.
Compounding the tragedy is the fact that the case for Israel is today clearer and easier to make than ever before. Arab Spring, for instance, has exploded one of the central myths advanced by the so-called “realists,” like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer — i.e., that the Arab-Israeli conflict lies at the center of all the deformities of the Middle East. The turmoil currently roiling the entire Middle East has focused attention on the freedom deficit in Arab … Read More >>
Over the last five years, Gallup has interviewed hundreds of thousands of Americans about their lives. On the basis of those interviews, Gallup constructed a “well-being index.” Religious people typically ranked higher than secular, and religious Jews highest of all. Gallup even composed a composite of the happiest man in America – an Oriental living in Hawaii of above average height, over 62, married and with children, earning over $120,000 per year, and, oh yes, an Orthodox Jew. Alvin Wong, an Orthodox convert living in Hawaii, fit the portrait.
Part of the explanation of the higher levels of general “well-being” experienced by Torah Jews lies in the scientific research we cited before Pesach contrasting the long-range impact on physical health and mental acuity of “fun” activities versus that of a general feeling of purpose and fulfillment.
The pursuit of happiness in the form of hedonistic pleasures is like the pursuit of kavod (honor): the more one pursues it, the faster it recedes before one. As society increasingly turns towards the pursuit of hedonic pleasures, so have rates of depression risen. The reasons are not hard to discern. At most, moments of fun consist of a sudden jolt from … Read More >>
I’d don’t know what made Richard Goldstone issue his mealy-mouthed retraction of the central finding of the eponymously named Goldstone Report, just as I don’t know what led the respected jurist, with a Zionist background, to put a Jewish imprimatur on an investigation of Israel’s actions in Operation Cast Lead by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Goldstone admits in his Washington Post retraction that the UNHRC is undeniably biased against Israel, and that the commission’s original mandate assumed, prior to investigation, that Israel had committed war crimes. Each of Goldstone’s fellow panelists had long records of anti-Israel statements and at least one of them had publicly condemned Israeli “war crimes” prior to the investigation.
But one thing I know for sure: The answer to the first question is not, as Goldstone claims, that he suddenly discovered new evidence proving that Israel did not “deliberately [engage in] disproportionate attacks designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize [Gaza's] civilian population.” Goldstone cites Israel’s 400 investigations of alleged operational misconduct in Gaza as important new information. But if he once believed Israel capable of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians in Gaza, why should he put any faith in Israel’s investigations of its soldiers’ … Read More >>
At the beginning of Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert speculates on the essential difference between human beings and animals. He conclusion: Only humans plan for the future. No animal ever delayed gratification in anticipation of some future benefit.
Gilbert’s insight was preceded by our Sages. At the beginning of parashas Tazria, the Midrash quotes a verse from Tehillim: Achor ve’kedem tzartani. . . (Tehillim139:5). Reish Lakish interprets achor to refer to the last day – yom acharon – ve’kedem to refer to the first day. Even the animals have a first day, but only human beings have a yom acharon, a future to which they are striving.
Everything that an animal will ever be is included in its initial genetic material, whereas a human being has the potential to change his nature according to his capacity to reflect on the purpose of his life.
ALL HUMAN BEINGS have this capacity to set future goals and strive towards them. But the Jewish people have a unique future orientation, despite possessing the richest past of any people. Our Sages divide human history into three parts. The first period is referred to as the two thousand years of tohu ve’vohu … Read More >>
The failure of the mainstream Jewish organizations with respect to Jewish students on campus is twofold. First is the failure to aggressively defend students from physical and verbal intimidation, especially when they identify with Israel. Second is the failure to provide them with the information they need to defend Israel and to fend off a type of Stockholm Syndrome.
Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser draw an interesting parallel to an incident that took place at the University of California-San Diego in 2009. A noose – presumably a symbol of lynching – was found on campus and students occupied the chancellor’s office in response. Everyone from the governor on down condemned the incident, and the university quickly established a task force on minority hiring and a commission to address declining black admissions. (The noose, it turned out, had been placed by a minority student.)
Yet, write Jacobs and Goldwasser, when Jewish students and Jewish buildings are attacked and defaced, “Jewish leaders sit on their hands. No one calls for sensitivity training for Muslim and leftist students about the history of blood libels. . . .”
Students who fight back aggressively usually do so independently or with the assistance of little … Read More >>
A friend of mine received a call the other night for a telephone survey of senior citizens. The interviewer wanted to know about his physical and emotional health – “Do you have any trouble picking up objects off the floor?”; “Do you suffer from depression?”; “Do you find yourself frequently bored?” The last question asked him to categorize himself according to religious observance.
Instead of answering, my friend asked the interviewer to guess. Until that point there had been nothing in the interview relating directly to religion. The survey focused exclusively on questions about the interviewee’s general state of heath. And my friend had not peppered his answers with “Baruch Hashem”. Nevertheless, the interviewer guessed correctly that he was religiously observant.
My friend asked the interviewer how he had known. “Well, you seem like a pretty optimistic fellow,” the interviewer said. “And I find religious people are generally more optimistic.” The interviewer’s response turns out to be based on solid empirical evidence. A recent Gallup-Healthways survey of 372,000 people found that American Jews ranked highest of any religious group on the well-being index, based on such factors as health, happiness, and access to basic needs. And among American Jews, … Read More >>
Jewish college students find themselves increasingly under attack on campuses around the world. The seventh annual Israel Apartheid Week just took place on 55 campuses world-wide. Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney rightly described such events seeking to “promote Palestinian human rights” as “accompanied by anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and bullying.” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper lamented that the “anti-Israel mob” is frequently “allowed to prevail.” And opposition leader, Michael Ignatieff described the anti-Israel events as a “cocktail of ignorance and intolerance.” At Ottawa’s Carlton University, a non-Jewish supporter of Israel and his Israeli roommate were surrounded and then chased by an Arabic-speaking mob, one of whose members swung a machete that missed the head of the non-Jew by inches.
The demonization of Israel to which young Jews are exposed begins long before university studies; the campuses are merely the venue for the most intense exposure. British journalist Melanie Phillips described on Israel TV this week the “demonization, dehumanization, and delegitimization” of Israeli Jews that has become the daily fare of the mainstream British media, and which she documents in nauseating detail in her new book The World Turned Upside Down. Channel Four recently broadcast the four-part historical fiction, The Promise, … Read More >>
One of my wittier friends commented that my recent exchange with Avi Shafran on President Obama’s Israel policy struck him as a mental health issue. “I mean its not like you and Avi are major players in the American foreign policy establishment, whose views are likely to have any impact of the Obama adminstration’s Israel policy,” he remarked.
I will confess I did not find any of the points made by defenders of the president’s foreign policy to be compelling or even very interesting — the defenders seemed far more eager to attribute low motivations to the president’s critics than to offer their own substantive defense. And I’m genuinely surprised that there were those who learned something new from Avi that they did not already know about Obama’s stance towards Israel. But I’m nevertheless delighted to find that the president has his defenders and that Orthodox Jews are not the victims of thought control or quite the automatons that we are caricacturized as being. Hopefully some of that independence of thought and multiplicity of viewpoints will reflect itself in communal debates, and not just in areas where our voices are not likely to have a major impact. In … Read More >>
Every columnist aspires to write — at least occasionally — something of such originality that he will be quickly distinguished from the common herd of scriveners. In that respect, “Our Not-So-Humble Opinions” by my erstwhile colleague and long-time friend Rabbi Avi Shafran, in which he attempts to defend the Middle East policies of the Obama administration, is a homerun.
The danger, however, of swinging for the fences is that one is more likely to strikeout. Sometimes the source of one’s originality lies in having said something so strikingly wrong that no one ever thought of it before. That, I will argue, is the case with Rabbi Shafran’s piece. Not that I expect to convince Avi, since I’m reasonably confident that he has read dozens of previous pieces of mine on this topic, without falling sway to the power of my arguments.
Indeed I suspect that I fall into the category of “intelligent and otherwise well-informed frum folks,” whom he considers somewhat deranged on the subject of the Obama administration’s policy to Israel. In that regard, I can only respond that at least I am in sync with the overwhelming majority of my fellow Israeli Jews, about 10% of … Read More >>
WikiLeaks continues to be a big story more than two weeks after the latest batch of State Department documents were released. What has so far been poorly understood, however, are the motivations of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Most people assume that Assange is either a fierce proponent of government transparency, which he is promoting via WikiLeaks or that he is driven by opposition to aspects of American foreign policy, such as the war in Afghanistan.
As it happens, Mr. Assange wrote two essays in 2006 setting forth his philosophy. He is an anarchist, who does not just oppose particular American policies, but American power as such. He told Time Magazine the week of the most recent release that his goal was not the creation of a more transparent society, but a more just society. And more just means, first and foremost, a neutered America.
In his view, the American government is “an authoritarian conspiracy,” which he seeks to make less effective by reducing the ability of various “conspirators” to exchange information and talk to one another. Exposing American government communications, from this perspective, is only a means to the end of rendering the American government smaller, slower, and stupider, … Read More >>
The recent Emmanuel litigation revealed a major flaw in Israel’s judicial system. In most suits against governmental authorities, the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice (BaGaTZ), is a court of original jurisdiction. Yet the petitions to BaGaTZ often turn on complex factual issues, which the Supreme Court is unequipped to weigh or evaluate. The Supreme Court is not a trial court, and has no means at its disposal to examine witnesses or properly evaluate evidence.
In the Emmanuel case, for instance, the result hinged in large part on the intention of the defendants in setting up a special chassidic track within the Bais Yaakov. But the Supreme Court lacked the tools to evaluate that issue. Petitioners alleged that obstacles had been placed in front of Sephardi applicants to the chassidic track. That claim was contradicted by the report of Advocate Mordechai Bass, who was appointed by the Education Ministry to examine the school. Yet in the Court’s opinion the petitioners’ allegation was accepted as if it were a matter of fact.
The Supreme Court’s vast original jurisdiction not only gives it inordinate power to set the national agenda, compared to other supreme courts around the world, … Read More >>
Three weeks ago, I wrote about the quandary posed for Torah Jews by the bans on the wearing of the burqa being debated in Europe. Not surprisingly, the Orthodox world has spawned its own burqa wearers – mostly centered in Beit Shemesh. If modesty is a good thing, they apparently believe, the more the better. The Eidah Hachareidis, which has never been accused of nonchalance in matters of tznius, begs to differ. The Eidah intends to ban the burqa.
Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim, a senior Eidah leader, labeled the wearing of a burqa an unhealthy “obsession.” He went so far to say that whenever one finds such obsessions, far beyond the requirements of normative halacha, one must be wary of “severe transgressions.” (That prediction has already proven to be the case with respect to the leader of the burqa wearers.)
Indeed, I once heard from one of the generation’s leading ba’alei hashkafa that the extreme obsession with modesty among the Ishmaelites is a proof to Chazal’s statement that Yishmael inherited nine of the ten portions of licentiousness that came into the world – as is their picture of the world to come as a place of debauchery.
On … Read More >>
“Whatever happened to ahavas Yisrael?” an acquaintance recently demanded to know. While I sometimes doff my defender-of-the-faithful hat at the gym, I assumed he was talking about Emmanuel and dutifully trotted out all my proofs that no ethnic discrimination was involved. Though Emmanuel was — as I had guessed — the impetus for his question, the issue he raised was far larger than Emmanuel.
“When I grew up in Detroit,” Max told me, “there were barely enough kids from shomer Shabbos families to support one day school. We all went to school together. I remember Rabbi Avrohom Abba Freedman, a devoted disciple of Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, going from bed to bed in hospitals asking people if they were Jewish. If they were, he would beg them to send their children to Bais Yehudah. Many important talmidei chachamim from that era came from non-shomer Shabbos homes.”
As the frum community has grown, schools have become more and more selective. The emphasis today is on refining the criteria for exclusion, not bringing in as many Jewish children as possible. Rav Aharon Leib Steinman has quipped that Avrohom Avinu would not be accepted in our schools today because of his father, but Yishmael and Esav would be.
Much, of course, has changed from the 40s and ’50s. The average non-frum student of those days was more innocent than many students from Orthodox homes today. Schools can no longer simply employ an open-door policy. Internet and handheld devices are game-changers. One child with Internet access can corrupt an entire class.
(Nor is it always in the best interests of children of recent ba’alei teshuva or from weaker backgrounds to be integrated immediately with children from veteran religious families. In such circumstances, the recent ba’alei teshuva will often feel like second-class citizens, just because they are lacking so many basics their peers have absorbed at home.)
But our emphasis on tiny differences goes far beyond protecting our children against the ravages of internet. In both the United States and Israel, many schools look askance at any child whose father is not learning in kollel. Even children of English-speaking kolleleit are persona non grata is some Israeli schools. In a famous clip, a school principal boasts to Rav Steinman that the school employs someone with a special talent for ferreting out those who lack the proper signon (style).” Rav Steinman replies that what the principal calls signon is only ga’avah (conceit).
Community-wide schools for children from a variety of backgrounds have largely gone the way of the dodo bird – at least apart from smaller communities. Some of the reasons are valid; others less so: Like everything connected to chinuch, matters are complicated and the dividing lines thin. But we should at least have our eyes open about what has been lost. Continue reading → The Price of Exclusion