Past,present,future of the haredi sector

motzei Shabbat 27 b Tamuz

Just a short note to suggest two recent articles of interest on developments in the haredi world.
In Friday’s Haaretz Magazine (July 21) the reporter Shahar Ilan, who has covered the haredi beat for years and is usually antagonistic, wrote a neutral and comprehensive analysis of the haredi weekly, Hamishpacha, and the implications of its success. The article is appropriately titled In a Family Way. Here is a snippet.

Reporter: Why do you have almost no investigative reports that expose corruption?

Hamishpacha Publisher, Eli Paley: “In my opinion, even the series we did about road safety in the Haredi sector is an investigative report. On the subject of corruption there are quite a number of critical editorials that lash out mercilessly.”
Reporter: Mishpacha does frequently address social problems. It has published a series of articles about the shababniks – Haredi street youth – and a piece about violence in the family. It is also waging a battle against educational institutions’ discrimination against Mizrahim (Jews of North African or Middle Eastern origin) and the newly religious. But it brings up these problems without mentioning names, so nobody will be hurt.

Referring to the twelve page interview with Rav Osher Weiss, that appeared on Shavuot in the Hebrew Hamishpacha, and last week in the English edition:

Reporter: On the eve of the Shavuot festival, two leading rabbinical authorities were interviewed in Mishpacha. Five years ago, the idea that important rabbis would be interviewed in a newspaper, even a Haredi one, was a distant dream. But Mishpacha offers them a means to address one-third of the Haredi public and also to gain international exposure. In exchange, the publication gains legitimacy from the rabbis. The question is whether the independent Haredi press really strengthens such leading Torah scholars, or creates a freer public opinion and weakens them.
Would it not be correct to say that the stronger the Haredi press, the weaker the scholars are?

Paley: “What nonsense. Mishpacha serves as a platform that in my opinion not only treats the Torah scholars with respect, but causes the public to like them.”

There is much more in this article cum interview. Worth reading, especially since this particular reporter rarely writes something positive about the religious sector.

#2 The second article of interest is in the summer 5766 (2006) issue of the secular journal Azure and has the intriguing title The Haredim: A Defense. The author, Aharon Rose shows how academic experts and non-haredi historians who have analyzed the history of this sector, and have written prognostications, have missed the mark by a long shot.
Worth reading the entire, scholarly essay – including all 55 footnotes. It concludes on the following note:

Once, during a heated debate on the question of whether the Haredi community helps or hinders the future of the Jewish people, my teacher and rabbi Professor Shalom Rosenberg, a researcher of Jewish history, claimed that the Haredim are the “savings account” of the Jewish people. In contrast, the modern Jewish movement may be compared to “venture capital,” used to invest in bold political and ideological ventures. Surely, we can see the value in both. Indeed, there may come a time when the modern Jewish community will need to dip into its reserves. The resilience of the Haredi community assures us that these reserves will always be there.

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via

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7 Responses

  1. S. says:

    >The author, Aharon Rose shows how academic experts and non-haredi historians who have analyzed the history of this sector, and have written prognostications, have missed the mark by a long shot.

    Claims, IMHO, not shows.

    While I admire the piece and the idea behind it (Belzer chossid joins academia and does not go native) it does not demonstrate his claims of bias, which I agree exists. He simply says that the Haredi self conception is different from the various academic analyses, which is sort of a no-brainer, but isn’t proof of bias, unless disagreement is in itself bias.

    I wrote a piece about it here.

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    Aharon Rose’s piece is an excellent article that should be must reading for anyone who questions the long term viability of the Charedi world.As the author points out, the secrets of the Charedi world are chesed and a single minded devotion to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim-which can and should be admired by other groups within the Torah world.

    Mishpacha is a fascinating read. R Grylak provides the hard ideological edge which is softened by the column of R J Rosenblum. I think that Mishpacha was willing to push the edge of the envelope with its weekly serial on a young kollel couple who were not exactly a role model and its profiles of women leaders-even single women. I also like the fact that it is nowhere as anti RZ and MO as its competitors and will mention Gdolim of all sectors. I particularly liked the interview with R A Z Weiss.

  3. tzvee says:

    The subtitle is ‘How scholars have misunderstood the ultra-Orthodox’. But the article is vague and unfocused about which scholars and which ultras – and about what ‘misunderstood’ means. Overall though, the article is a polite polemic and is replete with many scholarly references and observations.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    Tzvee-Reread the article and the extensive footnotes. The article takes aim at many of the so-called “academic experts” on the Charedi scene and their biases and lack of understanding at what drives that community as well as their willingness to trot out Shababniks and Charedi Nachalniks as representative of the charedi world-which, in fact, they are far from at all.

  5. Baruch Horowitz says:

    I read the Haaretz link on Mishpacha. I have yet to find a perfect weekly newspaper or magazine, but since I don’t have time to start my own, I guess I will have to be satisfied with what is currently out there.

    Mishpacha Magazine deserves much credit, in my opinion, for satisfying as many people as possible. While in many ways it is a typical Charedi publication, it does highlight positive things among different communities in Klal Yisroel. There was a feature about a year ago about Rabbi Pinchas Stopler, formerly of the NCSY, and more recently, an interesting article before Shavuos about a gardener–if I recall correctly, he wasn’t from the Charedie community.

    As Steve said above, Rabbi Grylak does indeed provides a “hard ideological edge”. However, I am impressed that in my opinion at least , he often writes in a way that is sympathetic towards the RZ community, without sacrificing the core charedie ideology.

    I also like the fact that the magazine has sometimes stood up to the “hard line” approach, in the interest of a broader readership, or of broader concerns. I thought that they handled both the “Hearts of Gold” issue, and the article on the proposed parade in Jerusalem(let’s hope it is permanently cancelled) well. In the former case, Rabbi Grylak acknowledged the sincere concerns of those who felt that the series could negatively impact Kollel couples, but continued the series with a disclaimer, based on the magazine’s Rabbinic advice. In the latter case, a well-meaning letter-writer criticized the magazine for publishing a veiled and oblique article authored by Rabbi Grylak on the proposed gay parade in Yerushalayim. However, upon Rabbinic advice, the magazine did not bother responding. Apparently the necessity of publicly raising the issue, outweighs the parochial(although well-intended) concerns of this individual.

    I hope that the magazine will continue to add some diversity to the Charedi media, even as they follow their Rabbinic guidance.

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Baruch-Rabbi Grylack IMO spends far more time bashing RZ than acting sympathetic towards it. I almost fell off my chair when he approved of a joint RZ/Charedi protest against the toevah parade. You can probably count anything positive that he has written about RZ on about one finger of one hand.While his columns do indeed express a hard ideological edge, there are other columns and interviews in Mishpacha that compensate for R Grylak’s column.

  7. HILLEL says:

    Rabbi Grylak’s columns are a beacon of Torah Hashkafa applied to the modern-day context.

    The smashing success of Mishpacha magazine is the best indication that Rabbi Grylak has come up with the right formula for Hareidi community.

    P.s. As for the Religious-Zionist community, Hareidim–and I include myself in that description–love and respect their brothers, even if they disagree with them on many fundamental issues.

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