The Agudah Dinner – The More Important Issue

Great attention has been paid to the recent Agudah Dinner, an unusual circumstance arising from the publicity given to the speech of the Novominsker Rebbe and the failure – if that is an appropriate term – of Mayor de Blasio to respond to the Rebbe’s criticism of Open Orthodoxy and the non-Orthodox movements.  We have been treated to a barrage of anti-charedi bigotry, beginning with The Forward and continuing more importantly to Michael Powell of the New York Times who with regularity utilizes his column as a vehicle to attack religious Jews.

There are good reasons to protest Powell’s bigotry, starting with his frequent use of the term “ultra-Orthodox,” a term that I believe is both sociologically inaccurate and fraught with hostility.  It is of note that in writing about other ethnic and religious groups, a number of which have front and center adherents whose extremism dwarfs by a great deal anything that can be found among the Orthodox, the term “ultra” is never applied.  We are once more the chosen people in the New York Times and elsewhere, chosen for contempt and even worse.

But for all of the understandable discussion of what happened or did not happen … Read More >>

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A Follow-Up to My Post on Gay Rights

The comments on my previous post on this subject make a number of useful points.  In the aggregate, however, they do not deal with what I am getting at, namely that the gay rights movement is different, both in its rapidity and its impact, than other major social movements that this country has experienced and that the consequences for religious Jewish life may be serious.  A number of comments refer to intermarriage and how Orthodox life has proceeded without being impeded by the avalanche of intermarriage experienced by American Jewry.  Apart from the not inconsequential matter that from a halachic standpoint homosexuality is a more serious violation than intermarriage, the reality is that the gay rights movement means to change not only how individuals may behave – that is people should be free to determine who they marry – it means to radically change how people deal with gay rights and SSM.

The point is made in Ross Douthat’s terrific piece in Monday’s NY Times.  Its title, “The Terms of Our Surrender,” is what I am getting at.  Douthat begins by recognizing that the battle against gay marriage is lost and then wonders what the terms … Read More >>

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Is There a Way to Deal with Gay Rights?

The Times Book Review of this past Sunday has a terrific piece by Fareed Zakaria on George F. Kennan’s diaries.  In 1994, when Kennan was ninety, he noted America’s “pathological preoccupation with sex and violence” and then commented on “the weird efforts to claim for homosexuality the status of a proud, noble and promising way of life.”

Some revolutions come quickly and are unanticipated, even though they have long been in the womb of time.  This is true, as we learn with regularity, of political revolutions and of the wonders wrought by technology.  Social revolutions generally move much more slowly, witness in this country the far from complete war on poverty and, perhaps more tellingly, the creeping pace at which the civil rights movement now proceeds.  This makes the extraordinary achievements of the gay rights movement even more spectacular.  This is a social revolution that is breathtaking in the speed at which critical goals, primarily gay marriage, have been achieved.  I cannot think of a parallel situation in all of American history.

One explanation, which tells much of the story, is the reality that gay rights advocacy has been primarily the mission of haves while most … Read More >>

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American Paranoia

A strong paranoid streak has been embedded in the American psyche from nearly the first arrival of Europeans on these shores.  We need only think of the Salem Witch Trials and much else that followed in the past three-hundred years.  The staying power of American paranoia was documented by Richard Hofstadter, one of the country’s leading historians, and by other writers.  In fact, this phenomenon does not require scholarly detection, as there is evidence of its existence in our daily lives.

We encounter American paranoia at the airport, including the lunatic requirement that we take off our shoes and the equally inane requirement that we discard bottles of liquid before we board.  On top of all of this, there are the machines that photograph our bodies and the excessive pat-downs that have become so routine that one wonders whether Transportation Security Administration employees are trained in sexual perversion.

Ever since 9/11, things have gotten much worse and in the same way that the paranoid streak is embedded in our collective psyche, gratuitous invasions of our privacy are also being tolerated.  We seem to be sold on the notion that without invasive measures, the security of this country will be … Read More >>

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Have We Lost Our Senses?

The following is the concluding paragraph of an article in the current issue of Mishpacha:

“The failure of American Jewry during the Holocaust pales beside that of American Jewry today. By virtue of its unshakable adulation of Obama, American Jewry has watched calmly as he placed 6 million Jews in Israel under threat of extinction from an Iranian nuclear bomb.”

What precedes these lines is of a similar nature, including the comparison of the interim understanding regarding Iran to the 1938 Munich Agreement entered into by Hitler and Chamberlain. We are told, however, that “the comparison of Obama to Neville Chamberlain is unfair to the latter.” How charming.

If the article was written by an obscure figure in Jewish life, concern about its extremism would be ameliorated by the acknowledgement that the writer was speaking his own mind and few would pay heed. The author of the Mishpacha piece is Jonathan Rosenblum, deservedly a respected writer, and the sentiments that he expresses are shared by a great many in the Orthodox community. This adds both to the impact of the article and to the obligation to call the writer to task for his indulgence in paranoia and worse. … Read More >>

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The Ten Percent Solution

[To my recollection, which might be errant, I have never asked that anything I have written be circulated. The following is an exception, for reasons that I hope will be obvious.]

The latest issue of the Jewish Review of Books, a quarterly publication that has contained much good material, is quite nasty toward the Orthodox. The starting point is a polemic regarding the election of Israel’s Chief Rabbis, with particularly harsh words directed at Rav Ovadia Yosef, ztl, who was seriously ill when the piece was published. In that article and elsewhere there is the familiar usage, “ultra Orthodox,” a usage that does not become less offensive because it is employed by many who write about Jewish life. No other ethnic group, including those that have many dozens more adherents than the Orthodox and have engaged in extreme violence, merit the term. We Orthodox are the Chosen People among the Chosen People.

The greater offense is an illustration of Rav Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira together with a nun. They had no contact with each other. She lived considerably before he did and presumably she died in bed. He was murdered Al Kiddush HaShem.

Perhaps worse of all, is … Read More >>

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Not Going Off the Rail

My previous post which had nearly an identical title has generated a batch of nice comments, including a number that do not like what I wrote.  That’s fine.  For the record, nearly all of my close friends are quite conservative in politics, I voted for Ronald Reagan as president and intend to vote for Lhota in a couple of weeks.  What I am getting at is that being conservative need not serve as license to embrace the far right and certainly not to distort.

I stand by what I posted previously about the poison that is being fed to too many in our community.  This is a dynamic process that needs to be challenged.  I have no illusions about the efficacy of the challenge that comes from me.  Just the same, it is necessary to speak up, to insist that we be truthful.

There is a departure from the truth in writing about President Obama and Iran.  As I noted and as should be obvious but alas isn’t to too many of us, thanks to the position taken by his administration powerful sanctions have been placed on Iran.  Nothing remotely like this occurred during either of the Bush administrations.   … Read More >>

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Going Off the Rail

We English-speaking Orthodox are blessed with an abundance of attractive publications ranging from a daily newspaper to weekly magazines and newspapers.  There is much good writing and useful information in these publications and although it is at times a struggle to keep up with the flow and still spend sufficient time on Torah study and other vital needs, it is good to know that our community has reached this stage of development.

What we cannot – or ought not – be proud of is some of the content of these publications.  There is too much writing that embraces far right-wing ideology and has reckless disregard of the truth.  What I am referring to is not the embrace of conservatism, whether on social or economic issues.  Rather, I am referring to writers who seem to regard Rush Limbaugh as their “Rebbe” and who think that the halachic requirement to respect the leaders of our country is something that they can disregard.  Here are two recent examples:

“The American president cannot be convinced of the truth; instead he empowers tyrants such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar Assad and, most recently, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani.”  (Matzav.com)

“Well, let’s check … Read More >>

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Serious Questions About the Pew Report on American Jews

The Pew Research Center has become the gold standard for demographic research in the United States. Its just-issued report on American Jews has already attracted much attention and the discussion is certain to increase in the coming weeks and months. It is at one level remarkable that Pew was able to produce this comprehensive study in a little more than a blink of an eye, while the last National Jewish Population Survey took more than a year to conduct and then was a mess.

There is much to be admired in the document produced by Pew. But there are also question marks, many specifically relating to the Orthodox. We are told that we constitute ten percent of American Jews. Almost amazingly, this statistic hasn’t changed much over the past thirty-forty years. The explanation given is the high attrition rate among the Orthodox, an explanation that was valid in 1970 but certainly is no longer valid. The figure is certainly higher than ten percent, especially when we consider fertility rates and what I have reported re enrollment in yeshivas and day schools.

There is no acknowledgement in the Pew report of the hyper-insularity of chassidim and many other … Read More >>

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Days of Awe

For more than forty years my office was located in Manhattan near City Hall, most of the time at 350 Broadway.  One by one, the old office buildings are being vacated, as they are being converted into luxury residential apartments.  I was the last tenant to leave. 

I am now in Borough Park where I have lived for seventy years.  My office is at the site right in the heart of the neighborhood on 13th Avenue and 50th Street where Yeshiva Etz Chaim once stood.  There are benefits to being here, including being close to my home and close to every kind of store that I might need.  There are also minor drawbacks, such as an abundance of street noise arising from much honking and other environmental circumstances common in Orthodox neighborhoods. 

There is also the experience that I had yesterday.  Sound trucks went by frequently, blaring out their messages in Yiddish.  Invariably, each message began with the proclamation that “Gedolei Torah say that it is a sacred obligation [chov kadosh] to…”  When the messages began, I thought that since we are in the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Great Rabbis were … Read More >>

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Trash Talk in Shul

After davening the other day and not in the main shul, a couple of fellows — one of them a medical doctor — asked whether I shared their assessment that President Obama is 1) a die-hard fundamentalist Muslim, 2) an anti-Semite and 3) obviously a hater of Israel whose policies are aimed at destroying the Jewish State. They were shocked that I did not share their view. I was not shocked to hear what they had to say because, sadly, such sentiments are increasingly heard within the Orthodox community. We are in the grip of heavy doses of paranoia and heavy doses of hatred. What makes the reality worse is that both the paranoia and the hatred are dynamic. What is being expressed today is more extreme than what had been expressed previously and what is being expressed today is likely to be mild by comparison with what will be said tomorrow.

What I am referring to is not the taking of conservative positions on a host of public issues. It is understandable and, from my perspective, correct that on a range of social issues, religious Jews do not accept liberal positions. It is also understandable, even though I … Read More >>

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A Question of Tuition

The post a week ago called “A Question of Aliya” evoked a substantial response, all of it to the point.  If there is a need for further comment on my part, it is limited to the observation that I am full of admiration and at least a bit envious of those who took the path not taken by me and who made aliya.  My point simply was to raise a question that in my experience has not been sufficiently addressed, it being how the Israeli pattern of basic education often results in a serious challenge to families with young children that have made aliya.

There is a related issue, perhaps not closely related but still fairly relevant, that is suggested by the title of this post.  High tuition in the United States is a catalyst to an increased number of younger families considering and making aliya.  If the pattern of Israeli basic education may be a disincentive to some families, high tuition is an incentive and, as is true of many decisions that people make, the economic factor is the critical determinant.  I trust it need not be noted that there obviously are younger families, more than a few, … Read More >>

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A Question About Aliya

I am writing this from Israel near the end of perhaps my one-hundredth trip.  The first was in 1959.  As a rule, I am here three times a year.  We have an apartment in Jerusalem and I have a relationship with the Avi Chai Foundation which is nearby.  However, we are not considering aliya, primarily because our children and grandchildren are in the U.S. and my primary communal responsibilities are also there.

We once did consider aliya, at least at one or two levels of seriousness, including looking at an apartment.  That was forty-three years ago, when we came with two young children and I taught at Bar Ilan.  Although my feelings about Israel are powerful, I cannot say that I regret that we did not take advantage of the opportunity that was present in 1970.

Why?  For all of its diversity, American Orthodoxy ranges across a continuum.  There are the most charedi at one pole and the ultra-Modern Orthodox at the other pole, with much variety in-between.  There is also much fluidity and movement and there is no socio-psychological compulsion to embrace either extreme.  Charedi life in the U.S. is for many charedim not like charedi life in … Read More >>

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The NY Times and the Siyum of Daf Yomi

In his pre-Siyum Hashas post which reprises his wonderful op ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein makes reference to the coverage of the last Siyum, including a front page article in the New York Times. Alas, although this year’s event was much larger and although learning Daf Hayomi has become a much larger phenomenon, the New York Times did not see fit to give what occurred last night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey comparable prominence.

Of course, we should have no claim on where articles are to be placed in the publication that for American Jews is our newspaper of record. But we should expect respectful treatment. Today’s article in the Times is anything but. Written by Sharon Otterman, it is a negative piece and in many ways nasty. The title is “Orthodox Jews Celebrate Cycle of Talmudic Study,” but what appears in print tells us very little about the celebration of the completion of the study of the Talmud by tens of thousands of Jews around the world. What we get starting with the opening paragraph is a complaint about the place of women, both at the stadium and … Read More >>

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When Homer Nodded

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is widely admired and for many good reasons. I am a member of the chorus and almost always sings his praise. If this piece had been written two days earlier, the qualifying “almost” would not have appeared. Alas, Homer has nodded meaning that a truly wise man has slipped up with his submission, “A New, Ugly Wrinkle in the Tuition Crisis.” We are presented with a scenario of class warfare, the combatants being middle class religious Jews who send their kids to yeshivas and day schools on one side and rabbis, teachers, kollel members and who knows who else on the other side. For sure, there is a tuition crisis and for sure there are people who are angry. But there is no class warfare. There are serious issues that do not have ready solutions and the proof of the pudding is that they have gotten more serious with the passage of time. Here are some thoughts:

There are parents who believe that while they are paying the full tariff there are other parents who are getting off easy. Overwhelmingly, the complaints are directed at individuals who aren’t rabbis or teachers or kollel members but … Read More >>

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The Jewish Week and the Modern Orthodox

Those of us who read the Jewish Week of New York are certainly familiar with the controversy that has arisen over Gary Rosenblatt’s article three weeks ago strongly attacking Rabbi Aharon Bina, the Rosh Yeshiva of Netiv Aryeh, a Jerusalem yeshiva that caters primarily to students who have graduated Modern Orthodox high schools and have come to Israel to study for a year or two. Rosenblatt’s article has resulted in what apparently is an unprecedented response. In his words, there have been “literally hundreds of comments posted online on our website,” amounting to more than fifty-five printed pages – and that was about a week ago. Here is how I view this matter:

1. The Bina article is but one more example of Rosenblatt’s obsessive bigotry and hatred toward the Orthodox community. There is scarcely an issue of the Jewish Week that does not contain in one way or another at least one or two attacks against Orthodoxy. In the issue in which Rosenblatt describes the Bina controversy there are two other articles hostile to Orthodoxy plus an editorial.

2. When I began to write what became a paid for column in The Jewish Week, I said that … Read More >>

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A New Low at the Jewish Week

As the Kletzky family began the shiva period and Jews everywhere joined in their mourning, and as millions of persons who are not Jewish felt the pain, there was one notable exception to the universal grief over the murder of young Leiby. That exception was the Jewish Week of New York, a community newspaper that over the years has specialized in targeting Orthodox Jews, depicting us as engulfed in wrongdoing, notably of a financial or sexual nature.

I write a column that is published in the Jewish Week. It is sponsored, meaning that it is paid for, not by me but by persons who believe that my views should have a forum. Admittedly, this is a highly unusual arrangement. In the first column years ago, I explained that my aim was to counteract the flow of negative writing about the Orthodox. Not that I believe that wrongdoing by religious Jews should be defended or covered up; to the contrary, it is obligatory that we do not justify or excuse such wrongdoing or simply act as, “we see no evil.” But it is also wrong to indulge in group libel, to take a community that is enveloped in so much … Read More >>

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The Internet and Rabbinic Bans

Unlike other of our handiwork that may have ethical implications – medical advances and design of clothing come to mind – technological innovations inherently are ethically neutral. Much of what we now take for granted is little more than tiny chips that have the capacity to contain an astounding amount of information or to perform complicated tasks in no more than the blink of an eye. How technology is used is another matter.

As a rule, technology that is utilized for visual purposes poses a greater challenge to religious sensibilities than technology that is aural. The ready explanation is that what the eye sees has a significantly greater impact on behavior and attitudes than what is merely heard. This is akin to the familiar Talmudic principle, lo t’hei shmiah gedolah mi-re’ah. Hearing is less reliable than seeing.

This may explain why certain innovations that may be problematic from a religious Jewish standpoint do not evoke strong negative reactions. The cell phone, which is now indispensable to most of us is also a frequent instrumentality for improper midos, as when it interrupts tefila. It is addictive and results in the enormous waste of time or bitul and (along with conventional telephones), it is a great catalyst for lashon hara. However, rabbinical hackles were raised only when cell phones became Internet accessible. Continue reading → The Internet and Rabbinic Bans

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Another Low for Haaretz

As most of us know, Professor Robert Aumann received the Nobel Prize in Economics several days ago. The headline of Haaretz’s story covering the event was: “School told Nobel Prize Winner in economics ‘you’re no good in math, try auto mechanics.’” The first line of the article repeats the point, the only change being that it begins, “at the yeshiva high school where he studied….”

Professor Aumann studied at the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, was outstanding in math, graduated from the high school, continued in the Beth Medrash, and in interviews and speeches he has given credit to the yeshiva for his interest in math. It is nothing short of outrageous that Haaretz could not get this right, although I suspect that its willingness to print something so patently false arose in some measure from its antipathy to yeshivas.

If it is not known, I have been president of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School for thirty-three years, and this is a voluntary position.

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Are We Still Am Echad?

Four days ago, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the Reform movement, gave what he called a sermon to the delegates attending the General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism. This was a long speech and it has already attracted considerable comment because of a connection he makes between opposition to gay marriage and Hitler’s opposition to gays. Much of the speech deals with intermarriage, specifically the need to welcome non-Jewish spouses, perhaps through a “formal ceremony of recognition” that might occur during “a dramatic point in the liturgical cycle.” And then we get the following:

“Rabbi Janet Marder asks non-Jewish spouses to come to the bimah on Yom Kippur morning and then has the congregation stand as she blesses them with the Birkat Kohanim.”

How much longer are we going to play the Am Echad game? Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch established the austritt community on far, far less provocation.

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Satmar v. Satmar

There is a potential for conflict in all social relations, and it exists not because people are selfish or foolish or have other shortcomings — although these are factors — but because it is natural for people to look at the world they are in through their pair of eyes and no one else’s and in terms of their own interests. The negation of self-interest may strike us as moral and often it is, yet it is not what we ought to expect and it is not always the moral thing to do. While it is generally preferable to avoid conflict, at times the preference should be in the other direction.

Since conflict is inherent in human relations, with proximity enhancing the prospect of its appearance, the crucial question is how disagreements are handled, whether with a sense of restraint or in a no-holds barred fashion, with the goal being to defeat the other side. Societies invest much in conflict resolution, and for good reason, because there is always the danger that disputes will turn violent or exact other serious costs.

That religious groups are not immune from internal discord and personal disputes is a proposition too obvious to need explication. The added ingredient of ideology or theology to self-interest increases the prospect of serious intra-group and inter-group conflict. This prospect increases in turn the obligation of those who lead religious groups to be careful about the rhetoric they use and the actions they endorse, lest religious and ideological conflict get out of control as true believers believe that their mission is sacred and they must prevail.

The dangers of religious conflict are sadly on display in Williamsburg within the Satmar chassidic group, as followers of rival claimants for dynastic succession are battling it out in synagogue, court and wherever else their twain meets. There has been violence and arrests, and because neither side is particularly blessed with a sense of restraint, what lies ahead is frightening. Continue reading → Satmar v. Satmar

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Day School Advocacy Campaign

(In line with the suggestion made by one of its readers, I am posting the following from the RJJ Newsletter just out. )

There is at long last heightened awareness of the tuition crises confronting a great and growing number of religious families. After years of silence about the subject, despite powerful evidence that constantly rising tuition begets enormous pain, there is talk that something needs to be done. This is good news, yet before we start celebrating we need to recognize that we are far from being out of the woods, that any effort to provide meaningful relief to families that deserve relief faces long odds.

I have raised the tuition issue for nearly the entirety of my one-third of a century as RJJ’s president. As much as I may want to think or claim otherwise, my advocacy has essentially failed. Torah Umesorah – the National Society of Hebrew Day Schools has been extremely negligent in this area and its once glorious record has been tarnished. Roshei Yeshiva have been occupied with other causes and other issues. Over the years I have been a lone voice protesting against the wrongness of an attitude that makes yeshiva education into a consumer product and the wrongness of an attitude that results in stress and pain in some of the best families that we have.

As this newsletter is being written, I am at the halfway point in a campaign, expressed through a series of full-page messages that are appearing in the Jewish Press that aim to challenge the prevailing notion that basic Torah education is not a communal responsibility. It is telling that Hamodia and Yated Ne’eman, the English-language weeklies that serve the yeshiva world and certain chasidic sectors, turned down these messages because they did not want to go into controversial territory. What we need, in fact, is more discussion and debate and not only about tuition but about a wide range of issues affecting American Orthodoxy.

We have become afraid of controversy, even afraid of disagreement. In my youth, at the Agudah conventions and elsewhere, Gedolei Torah often disagreed with one another and they did not shy away from dealing with subjects that might breed dissent. They also had no problem with laymen taking positions on key issues, including those that were controversial. Without advocacy that is accompanied by a good dose of passion, there is scant prospect that the tuition situation will be improved. Continue reading → Day School Advocacy Campaign

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Satmar v. Satmar

I have a question regarding the disgraceful goings-on within Satmar, including but not limited to the violence that occurred on Simchas Torah when the two rival factions desecrated G-D’s name in the main Satmar shul in Williamsburg. My question is whether I should write about this incident and related matters in my regular Jewish Week column.

The argument against writing is that it is wrong to hang out our dirty linen in public, particularly when every bit of Orthodox wrongdoing is pounced on by those who hate our religion and presented as evidence of Orthodox decadence. On the other hand, writing may – and I admit that this might be a longshot – cause some within Satmar to contemplate changing the way their disputes are handled. As a collateral point, not writing may be regarded as turning a blind eye to something that is substantially wrong.

I hope that those who look at this comment will share their views with me, hopefully in a measured way. I might note that if I do write I will also touch on the wrongfulness of Satmar going to secular courts to settle this and other disputes.

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Should We Give Up On American Jewry?

Jack Wertheimer, provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary, has written a terrific, must-read article for the latest issue of Commentary. “Jews and the Jewish Birthrate” is chock full of ideas and data that add up to a pessimistic view of the American Jewish prospect. While intermarriage inescapably contributes to this pessimism, Jack’s primary focus is on fertility and related demographic factors. He notes that our median age is “seven years older than other Americans” and that “among Americans of all kinds … Jews have the fewest number of siblings, the smallest household size, and the second lowest number of children under eighteen at home.”

Furthermore, too many of us do not marry. Those who do, as often as not, marry non-Jews. We also marry later and have fewer children than other white Gentiles. In short, as Jews have become more appreciated by their fellow Americans and have made distinctive contributions, we also are moving in the direction of becoming extinct. Since we are certainly among the most avid readers of the New York Times and, I suspect, pay inordinate attention to obituary notices, we should have a good sense of what is happening at that end of the life-cycle. Many more of us are exiting than are entering and with the exception of the Orthodox, the new arrivals are far less likely to be Jewishly connected than those who have departed.

The “cumulative effect” of these developments, Jack writes, “is now being felt and will only become amplified as time goes by. In a community that has long since ceased to replace its natural losses, continued low fertility rates mean that the number of children in the communal pipeline will soon drop sharply, causing a decline over the next decade in enrollments in Jewish schools and other institutions for the young.” He quotes sociologist Bruce Phillips that soon “there will be fewer practitioners of Judaism in the U.S.,” a development that “will at some point become evident in the number and/or size of synagogues and other Jewish institutions.”

The article explores the socio-psychological, behavioral and ideological factors that contribute to the disturbing fertility pattern which is in contrast to the high fertility of the Orthodox. Although separately Reform and Conservative affiliation outnumbers by huge margins the number of Orthodox Jews, “among synagogue-affiliated Jews, the Orthodox sector contains more children than either of the other two.”

Apart from the Orthodox whose ranks will continue to grow, although aliyah and abandonment by some of a religious life will limit the gains, is it time to face reality and say that there is little to be done to avoid the inevitable loss of nearly all non-Orthodox Jews? Is it time to throw in the towel, perhaps by deciding that our resources should be directed toward helping Israel? Continue reading → Should We Give Up On American Jewry?

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Forty Years Ago

The title of this piece will be echoed in other writing. Forty years ago to this day, on September 15, 1965, Rabbi Moshe Sherer of blessed memory and I went out to Staten Island to meet with Reuben Gross of blessed memory, a noted Orthodox attorney. We discussed the growing independence of Orthodox Jewry and the need to establish a mechanism to give voice to our differences with the mainstream organizations that purported to represent American Jews. Out of this meeting came the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, or COLPA. I was its first president.

COLPA is no more and that is a loss, yet the greater loss by far is in the abandonment of the attitudes and strategies that motivated those of us who were working on behalf of Orthodox Jewry. We were advocates, even fighters, and we weren’t afraid to be militant or unpopular. Our approach was reflected in an article that I wrote called “The New Style of Orthodox Jewry” that was published in the January 1966 issue of Jewish Life, then the publication of the Orthodox Union. We weren’t satisfied with photo ops or visits to the White House or meaningless … Read More >>

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