“Turbulent times” – Zurich style

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11 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    Interesting counterpoint to R’YA’s preceding post – perhaps R’JR should collaborate wiyh him in a presentation to the leaders of the society discussed in R’ YA’s post?


  2. sima ir kodesh says:

    “There are no neighborhoods that are primarily chareidi – not even many blocks or even apartment buildings. Everywhere a Jewish child looks he sees the larger non-Jewish society. Yet this too has a positive side”.
    Sounds like a dream society, are the only Jews that live in Zurich belong to the Chareidi fold, are there non observing Jews also?, any kiruv going on?, any Israeli organizations? sounds very black and white with loads of leisure and wholesome activities..

  3. Rachel W says:

    You also did not mention the school calendar. No long 10 week summer vacation. Instead there are two shorter breaks – one in summer, one in winter (besides for the YOmim Tovim) in which most families go to the mountains (as mentioned). So there are no down times in which kids go crazy with boredom and get into situations that could have been avoided.

    Also, with such a relatively small community, they don’t have a “holier than thou” attitude. Every one is appreciated for the contribution he makes.

    One more point: There is a tremendous feeling of “Kavod Rabbonim” that surely filters down to the children. At the “Hachtara” (Induction ceremony?) of the new Rav of the “Yekke Shul” there was a tremendous turn-out of all factions of the community – from Chassidish to more modern types. This attitude can only be good for the kids to imbibe. It certainly makes them less cynical about Yiddishkeit. Something for all of us to consider – My Rav doesn’t feel superior to your Rav – no matter who he is. Why should I give my kids the feeling that the Rav we follow (if we are lucky enough to have a Rav we are close to) is better than any other Rav. An attitude like that does not improve anyone’s outlook or Hashkafos.

  4. Neok says:

    Thank you for echoing my sentiments from when I visited Zurich. I was even more surprised by an identical situation (albeit on quite smaller scale) in the smaller community of Basel, Switzerland, where the Shuhl (IRG) and its school are a beautiful harmonious blend of Frankfurt Yekkes and all kinds of Chassidic and Litvish individuals – and also living in cooperative harmony with the larger Gemeinde Shuhl and its institutions. Truly a role-model for other communities.

  5. ClooJew says:

    It’s great to see positive news for a change on the J-blogosphere.

    I have always believed, lulei demistafina, that US Jews face certain problems because they are Americans. (The same can probably be said about Israel/Israelis.) For example, the concept of community is attenuated by a society that worships individualism.

  6. L Oberstein says:

    Zurich may be similar to other communities that I have observed. The story starts with one orthodox shul and one day school. Many kids from non frum homes influence their parents to become more frum, to become part of the shomer shabbos community. In time, the orthodox community grows and then there is a split. There is a “Torah” Day School because the Hebrew day School doesn’t have the right mix of students, then there is a “Torah” High School because the other one has boys and girls together, kids who are not completely frum,etc. So, you have a frum community that grows and another community that no longer has the hashpaah of those students and parents in their school. Then the next stage is that the “Centrists” rebel and want a zionist modern orthodox school and shul as the one shul is too full of “crazy baal teshuvas” who don’t say the prayer for the Medina, although many of them make aliyah in greater numbers than do the sophisticated and worldly Centrists. So, i nstead of one community, you have several and they are at odds with one another. Can you picture this scene, I have seen it in more than one communtiy and I really think that there is no way to prevent it from happening. There is a growing divide within orthodoxy and the one size fits all shul and school is becoming extinct.

  7. Sarah Elias says:

    Sima, you can relax. There are Jews of all stripes in Zurich. There’s a kiruv organization that reaches out to the not-yet-frum, which include lots of Israelis. There are those who work with youth from marginally observant families. There’s Chabad, too – and the great thing about Zurich is that everyone gets along and no one shuns other groups, regardless of their level of Torah observance.

    L Oberstein, why do you say that Zurich is like other communities you’ve observed? What makes you so sure it’s going to split the way you describe? The trend you note of some people becoming more observant is about 50 years old in Zurich and so far the community has managed to stay together.

  8. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “There is a growing divide within orthodoxy and the one size fits all shul and school is becoming extinct.” (Comment by L Oberstein — July 24, 2008 @ 2:05 pm).

    Rabbi Oberstein, divisions between Jews is not a recent phenomonon. “Five Jews, five views” has always been true, and although not necessarily always hashkafa-based, has caused divisions nonetheless. My aunt’s father came from a tiny “shtetl” in Lithuania that had twenty-five Jewish families and two shuls!

  9. LOberstein says:

    I have no knowledge of Zurich , so I never claimed to be describing that community. It is possible that there is something about European Jewry or Switzerland that is unique and that the USA culture is different. For example, Rabbi Wein said on a tape that he once spoke in South Africa and there were 1,500 people in shul Friday night and 28 on Shabbos morning. Everyone belonged to the orthodox shul and went Friday night but were not really that strict. Here in the USA, these same people would have been Conservative, but there they were orthodox.

    An officer of one of the shuls I belong to bemoaned to me that many people in our neighborhood daven in the large shul during the week but don’t belong or financially support the shul because they prefer to go to smaller shuls (shibels). He said that it would be wonderful if we could all support the one kehila and thus pay our bills. I told him that this is the way it is and I dont see anything we can do about it, anybody can open up a shul in his rec room and serve chulent and get a bunch of people who then don’t contribute the operating expenses of the large community shul. It’s the way it is and I don’t see anything we can do about it.

  10. DF says:

    Most big cities, which is where most observant Jews live, have what you called “kosher” activities within an hour of their homes, usually far less. There are parks and hiking areas everywhere. But for some strange reason – probably worth an essay of its own – many frum Jews dont take advantage of them.

    It’s very odd. Lots of frum Jews I know go to baseball and basketball games for recreation. Many go to theme parks, go-kart tracks, ski-ball emporiums, bowling, or things like that. But comparatively few go boating, go on hikes, nature trails, berry picking, and things like that. There’s a lot of going to man-made recreation [often which are pretty costly] but it seems to me a lot less experiencing Gods beauty, [many of which is free]. One would think in a religious community it would be exactly the opposite. Somthing to think about.

  11. Sarah Elias says:

    So in Zurich that’s less of a problem, because everyone belongs (or is supposed to belong) to one of the three official kehillos – one for the yekkes, one for the “Poilishe” and one for everyone else who identifies as a Jew (i.e. the kehilla is Orthodox, but most of the members are not shomrei Shabbos – like in South Africa, it seems.) You can’t be forced to join a kehilla but if you don’t and you have the misfortune to die, then you can’t be buried in any Jewish cemetery in Zurich. By law, the kehillos can tax their members based on their income, and they do. The frummer kehillos are still not rolling in gelt because their members are mostly not so rich, but there is some money there.

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