Uninvited guest

3 b Menahem Av
Remember the party-crashing in the Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza episode? Well, I had my own experience last week.
Jonathan Rosenblum describes below what he would have told the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI).
In a quixotic gesture to share some insights from the haredi sector, I actually went there. I traveled from the hassidic neighborhood where I live in Netanya to the conference in Jerusalem. I sat quietly through two workshops, and then asked the organizers formally to participate in the conference. I was politely and firmly asked to leave -they claimed that this was only for professional planners. Even my informing them that I had a Master’s degree in Planning from the Technion did not sway them and I understood that they were not interested in hearing from that sector (the haredim) that arguably has had the most success in fighting assimilation.
If I could have stayed, I would have made four points. 1) Practice what you preach. If Jewish tradition is so precious, begin every session at such a conference with some relevant text from Jewish tradition. I brought with me the text of the midrash that I discussed below on July 10 (“People Population Policy Planning Palaver”) on the copper mirrors and their role in the Temple and post-Destruction era. (I even brought some actually copper mirrors!) 2) Use a business model. If I were a business owner and wanted to expand my business, I would emulate other businesses that are thriving. If I were a Martian and I were asked how to ensure the future of the Jews, I would examine closely what the centrist and haredi Orthodox have done and are doing, since it is there that we find negligible intermarriage, early marriage, large families, low divorce. 3) Use the ripple-and-trickle-down model. Allocate scarce resources to the involved core of Orthodox and committed non-Orthodox to increase their effectiveness rather than spreading resources on the indifferent periphery a mile wide and an inch deep. An empowered core will attract some of the assimilating periphery. Make Jewish day schools the highest priority of the Jewish community. 4) Go see what works. At the time the JPPPI was meeting there were at least two other conferences taking place in Jerusalem, both of Orthodox women — Binyan Shalem (4000 haredi dati leumi, hardal women) in Binyanei Haooma and Soferet (Orthodox women writers) in Har Nof.

One prominent speaker at the JPPPI conference engaged in verbal haredi bashing and spouted the usual canards about haredim. I am trying to locate him now and tell them that (a)although I disagree with him, I admire his passion, and (b) I would like to send a driver to bring him for a visit to Laniado hospital medical center founded and run by hard-working Sanz hassidim for the benefit of everyone in Netanya.

To paraphrase commentor #3 (Garnel Ironheart) on Jonathan’s posting below, the essential difference is that the JPPPI participants whom I knowhave discussions, while the Orthodox women I know have babies.

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 www.cross-currents.com.

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11 Responses

  1. ClooJew says:

    The essential difference is that the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute participants whom I know have discussions, while the Orthodox women I know have babies.

    Yes. And which of those two strategies is likely to have the greater impact in the decades to come? I think we all know the answer.

  2. cvmay says:

    Shira, I wish you could have spoken for all us Torah frum women and given them Torah-based solutions for many of the global problems.

  3. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Shira Schmidt, have you heard anything in the JPPPI that was not regurgitated, already known, and boring? I looked at their Web site, and I couldn’t see any great insights.

    Sorry, but I just can’t see what’s the big deal about the JPPPI, one way or another. It has a nice sounding name and the ability to get donations. Because it provides access to potential sources of campaign money, politicians come and give speeches that tell you their positions. Positions that we’ve all heard a thousand times before.

  4. Rav Yaakov B says:

    Very well written!! And more importantly, your willingness to get involved. The strength of the Torah community and our success in making our voice heard and influencing others will be if we undo ‘Kamtza’s mistake’ – if we have to show up uninvited to the party – we will do so!!
    I might add one more conference – 2600 Tanach teachers descended on Alon Shevut this week for three days of intensive Tanach study. V’KEN YIRBU!!

    Rav Yaakov

    And as for conf

  5. Garnel Ironheart says:

    Darn! I knew I should have taken out a patent on that phrase!

  6. HILLEL says:


    Don’t you realize that the sole purpose of the conference was to figure out how to have it THEIR OWN WAY–maintain the Jewish ethnicity, while living like a Goy!

    You were raining on their parade–an unwelcome presence.

  7. YM says:

    I found an interesting paper on their website (http://www.jpppi.org.il/JPPPI/SendFile.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&GID=446), which contained this amazing statement on page 7: “With a few exceptions, Jews (have) never had a forward looking geo-political vision of the world and their place in it.”

    Besides this, the paper is an interesting read – one take home lesson is that there ought to be Jewish communities outside the “western world”. I suppose that there are some, but certainly not many.

  8. Chaya says:

    The last sentence of the post does not, I think, mean what it literally says. That you can have either discussions, or babies, but not both. Taken as written, it sounds like a slap at the brains of Orthodox women, which I know is not what was intended.

  9. Garnel Ironheart says:

    No, obviously the last sentence of the post (I’m still checking into the patent thing) does not mean literally what it says. It means this:
    The average non-religious Jewish family has 1.5 kids or so. They attend these conferences which accomplish nothing. The average religious Jewish family has 4.9 kids or so. In addition to attending relevant conferences, they spend their time raising their children to observe Torah laws so that, conference or not, their children will continue the chain of tradition.

  10. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    We human beings have a tremendous yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination) to stick our noses into all sorts of things many of which are where they don’t belong. That’s why we sit up in the middle of the night blogging instead of sleeping, or blogging during working hours instead of getting work done. The truth is that we need to work on getting our act together and learning more Torah, doing our work to take care of our families, and mostly letting these characters fumble by themselves. If they won’t listen, why go out of our way to tragically struggle and waste our time? Shira, you made a point, but don’t do it too often. Leave the idiots to drown in their own egos.

  11. Avi Biti says:

    I spoke with someone who attended and he said that in the group that he was a part of, on Jewish Identity, there was very serious discussion of the extent to which the Orthodox community could serve as a model for all the others, and that one of the sessions was an intense conversation over whether it was possible at all to talk about Jewish existence and surivial without reference to God and transcendence. So we should maybe give this conference a little more credit?
    Also I heard an organizer of the conference say on the radio that while they think they could have done a better job, several invitations were in fact sent to Haredi educators and communal leaders who simply never answered.

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