Clueless at The New Republic

Marty Peretz’s diatribe against R Ovadia Yosef and fundamentalist Jewish oppression of women is not worth reading, save to remind us that even very bright people write very silly things when they comment about areas they know nothing about. Unfortunately, because it is so common for people to do this (even people like Peretz whose devotion to the Jewish people is beyond cavil), it places a bit more responsibility upon the rest of us to ask ourselves how our actions and words are going to be processed by others.

Herschel Ginsburg’s calm, convincing and well-reasoned response in the combox (Ginzy, at 8/28 7:03 is full of Kiddush Hashem (even if he often relies on chardal and dati-leumi behavior to rescue the totality of Orthodoxy), and a good example of how articulate Westerners can do a great job as ambassadors of Torah.

[Thanks to Dr. Barry Simon for the tip.]

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21 Responses

  1. Tal Benschar says:

    Peretz gives away his true motive when he writes: “There are ongoing efforts to open women to the idea that they need not tremble before the Lord. But the government knows its limits. . . . After all, they are kept from meeting men without the presence of their husbands; there are all kinds of rules about ritual bathing, clothing and hairlessness to which they must adhere, etc. ”

    This is a full frontal assault on the Torah itself, not a criticsim of this or that Rabbi. That’s the message: the Torah oppresses women, and the power of the State must be brought to bear to change it.

    Sorry, I cannot excuse this as a well-meaning but ignorant comment. Fear of God — Yiras Shomayim — is basic to Torah life for both men and women.

    (But someone should tell Peretz that the Zionist State already tried this in the 1950s and lost. Does he want to rewage that war?)

  2. L. Oberstein says:

    Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef is 89. Is there anyone who has the respect in the Sephardic community to maintain the strength of his party – Shas? Shas is a counter weight to the other religious parties, much more popular with the masses and more committed to the State of Israel , the army, working for a living, even education for a career. As someone who only hears what Rav Ovadia says via Haaretz, I have to discount the vitriol against him. I think that secular reporters are playing “gotcha”,they do to hear something different and then blow it out of all proportion. i have a lot of respect for what Shas has done for the religiosity of the average Sephardi. When I visit Eilat, I see more kosher restaurants, more kipot and more respect for religion than I did 30 years ago. The Sephardim are doing a lot for klal yisrael all over the world and they are fortunate to have one undisputed leader, may he live and be well.

  3. Raymond says:

    Maybe I am missing something here. I am trying to understand how Martin Peretz could possibly compare Orthodox Jews to the Taliban. In fact, I am so puzzled by this, that I hardly even know what to say here.

    To my simple mind, the two groups have nothing whatsoever in common. For one thing, Martin Peretz is apparently suggesting that, when it comes to treatment of women, that most humane and most barbaric of our planet’s major religions are indistinguishable from one another. Such a statement is so absurd, that it hardly even deserves a response. Of course there are ways that women are not treated as equals to men in Judaism, if not in Jewish law then in practice, and this most definitely needs to be corrected, but it can hardly be compared to the unspeakably horrific way women are treated in the islamic world, where they are treated worse than dogs.

    But even if such a point would be debatable, last time I checked, Israel is not a religious State. Perhaps it should be, but meanwhile, its government is not only secular, but overwhelmingly run by socialists who are ignorant or hostile toward the Torah. Nobody with any real political power is forcing anybody to be a religious Jew. Any Jewish woman living in the world of Orthodox Judaism is doing so out of choice, and can leave any time she likes. This is in sharp contrast to the islamic world, where there is no division between mosque and state, where governments enforce policies against women that are so horrific that I would rather not even spell those ways out here in polite company.

    Perhaps Martin Peretz meant something completely different from what I have interpreted him to say, but my simple mind simply has not yet grasped what that is.

  4. dr. bill says:

    Rabbi Oberstein, Sephardim have one undisputed political leader. However, the jews of Yemen and Morocco and others had/have their own rabbinic leadership. They are as clannish as us ashkenazim with polish, litvish, hungarian, chassidic, etc. sects and multiple leaders. Much of the credit for acculturization into Israeli society and the CONTINUED religious adherence of many of these communities is not (just) the work of Shas.

    ROY has outlived most of his contemporaies and his memory is beyond comprehension. His seforim on psak are legendary for their adherence to custom and mastery of associated rabbinic texts. His interaction with his contemporaries in Sephardic rabbinic circles is rather complex topic.

    That said, while I find Peretz off the wall with his comparisons and haaretz a paper with a clear agenda, ROY is recorded and what he says about hurricanes, secular jewish teachers, or even his latest pronouncements are a matter of record not reporting. One can agree or disagree, but haaretz has little need to amplify in this case.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Keep in mind that liberalism has its own dogmas that are often incompatible with Judaism. The New Republic’s religion is liberalism.

  6. The Contarian says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein

    Two comments

    Thera are Charedim and there are charedim. The internet savy American ones have no clue to what lengths other Charedim go to in order to cut off their wonmen-folk from the outside world.

    I would not go as far as comparing them to the Taliban – nore like SaudI Arabians.

    As the intefaith spokesman for your group, how are you going to defend Rav Yosef’s alleged “intemperate” words about Abu Mazen and company.

    kesiva vecahsima tova

    [YA – No one is going to ask.]

  7. Reb Yid says:

    But all of this, even these comments, miss the basic point: why no rebuttal to Ovadia Yosef from the religious community?

    Let’s leave the motives of Peretz out of this; even if he were a virulent anti-Semite it doesn’t change what was said.

    Let’s deal with what Rav Yosef said.

  8. Steve Ehrlich says:

    The fact is that there are certain Taliban like trends in Orthodoxy today that scare the bejeebies out of me. Not long ago I went to the banquet of my daughter’s girl’s high school. One of the honorees was a woman who had done much for the school. When it came time to give the award, they had her son-in-law accept it on her behalf. They wouldnt let her speak, because she is a she. What do you call that? What do you call the recent trends of banning pictures of women from Charedi newspapers? Or absolutely minimizing any public role of women whatsoever? For example, when was the last time you saw a women bench gomel in public? Most assuredely, we are not *them*. But in some circles the treatment of women is, uhm, a serious cause of concern.

  9. Uri Gordon says:

    H. Ginzburg, and others, have given Martin Peretz more to chew on than he, for the present, seems able to handle.

    That said, we may well still need to reflect.

    On our currency, in America, is found the phrase “In God We Trust”. I believe it is the rough equivalent of “Shivisi Hashem L’negdi Tamid.” especially when the issue is (the alternative god of) Mammon. Similarly, the singing of the National Anthem before a sporting event, itself a potentially very religious endeavor (for related discussions, see A. Bartlett Giamatti, “Take Time For Paradise; Americans and their Games”) is akin to the reciting of a bracha before the undertaking of something so extraordinary (i.e. among other reasons, the freedom of assembly), even/especially as we take it for granted. When else and where else in history were dozens of gatherings of 50,000 or more people not perceived by a ruling class as a cause for concern? And yet, were these not in existence – neither “In God We Trust”, nor the National Anthem – were they to be introduced into the public sphere, neither would likely would stand against the howls of protest.

    And in our own Jewish world, what of “Shfoch Chamascha . . .” said at the seder? We say it, and I, for one, love that part – it touches a deep chord of belief and hope and yearning for a universe focused on the glory of God and His ways. And yet, imagine the uproar were that not in existence, and only now introduced.

    We may trust that we take it for granted that we are asking something of God, and we do not mean it in any way akin to the wars of mankind, and in this, there is no hishtdalus to be embarked upon in any negative way. That would be beyond anathema to us. And yet, we no longer live in the ghetto, and the butterfly effect is more easily discernible. It may not be legal gerama at all, and certainly no civil responsibility adheres, and nutcases will be nutcases, and yes, at some point we have to stop being concerned about someone’s pretzel-like misconstruing of our remarks . . . but . . . but . . . but . . .

    . . . like it or not, we are in an age where the boundaries of time and place are forever blurred (and sadly, often rendered invisible) and responsibility beckons. Even if a” (hypotheitcal) nut-job were to have done something vile, regardless of words piped into the public arena. Perhaps hizharu b’divreichem applies just as much, if not more, than anytime previous. And, lulei d’mistafina, is this not a situation about which to consider if “ein cholkin kavod l’rav” applies?

  10. lacosta says:

    >even if he often relies on chardal and dati-leumi behavior to rescue the totality of Orthodoxy <

    dear rYA–

    i think one must acknowledge that in many cases, to make a non 'extremist' case for haredism, one must precisely rely on just such [ not exactly pure-as-driven-snow-ideologically] factions, and the educated BT class, to cover up the deficits of everyone else. as the permissible knowledge base for haredim is coned down [ see ,at least for males. the educational content at beyond bar mitzva accross the yeshivish-hassidic-chabad spectrum] , the eventual goal would seem to be to limit whole swaths of professional activity ; the BT, already PhD'd or secularly acculturated, may bring skills, knowledge bases , and positive hasbara points that your standard [ and the charedi leadership would seem to hope for such universal uniformity] cookie cutter chossid or yungerman would neither be expected, nor allowed , to possess…..

    let's hope that the next generation of haredi hasbara will have the occaisional sacrificial lamb [ in the sense of was muttar to him what is assur to everyone else] , as articulate and knowledgable as RYA……

  11. L. Oberstein says:

    I have expressed my own opinions on the disturbing trends that forbid women’s pictures,etc. Today I was told that now there are two wedding albums one for the men without even a facial picture of the bride and another for the women. I respect the Sephardim because even the less observant are believers and their hearts are in the right place. By no means do I share their worldview on mysticism, and those aspects of religion that may be considered superstitious. But, and this is a big but, the Ashkenazim are getting worse every day with their beliefs in segulas. All in all, more of the Sephardim in Israel and elsewhere honor kashrut and even taharat hamishpacha and they don’t have the same sinat hadat that one sees among secular Israelis who don’t even keep from eating chametz on Pesach. So, Rav ovadiah has his way of expressing himself, but he has accomplished a lot, so I will overlook his terminology.

  12. tzippi says:

    No scratching the head emoticon here, but I have a hard time believing that people actually get two albums. Videos, yes, one of the women dancing, one of the men. The extra expense is worth it, IMO (and I hope I sing this song when I’m paying for it one day) and nothing oppressive in it that I can tell. Unless… I’ve already been suborned by the dark forces….

  13. davidf15x says:

    Reb Yid–you will see no rebuttal here of Rabbi Yosef’s quip because we agree and sympathize with what he has said. This is precisely because it is in our prayers every day, in translation: “as for those who design evil against me, speedily nullify their counsel and disrupt their design. Act for your name’s sake. Act for your right hand’s sake; act for your sanctity’s sake; act for your Torah’s sake. That your beloved ones may be given rest; let your right hand save and respond to me.”

    That is to say regarding both the evil plans and the fervent prayers of the Arabs to have us destroyed, we pray that the Almighty will use his right hand to destroy THEM instead– the evil ones among the Arabs, including Abu Mazen. No doubt this was precisely the “gotcha moment” described by L. Oberstein–in public prayer, Rabbi Yosef let this slip. But it is precisely our prayer. For us as Jews, it is Hashem who will take action on this matter–which is the opposite of the Arab side which straps bombs on themselves, not teffilin, to actualize their intent.

    Thankfully, self-defense is a moral imperative for the Jew–but it seems Marty Peretz and Reb Yid do not agree and Bibi Netanyahu was too quick to agree with the US State Dept. and avoided a “teachable moment.”

  14. Bob Miller says:

    The type of assistance we request from HaShem in our prayers for deliverance from these enemies is something that only He can provide, not Peretz, Reb Yid, or Netanyahu.

  15. Reb Yid says:

    To davidf15X:

    You write about “the Arabs” as if every single one was out to murder Jews. Just as many on this blog rightfully kvetch when the collective (Orthodox or Haredi Jews are blamed) is smeared, we need to apply this across the board.

    Do you really want all Palestinians to believe that ALL Jews, or all Orthodox Jews, want to see Abbas murdered? If so, why should they trust Israel for one second? Perhaps this is what you desire…to see the distrust mount on both sides so that progress can never be achieved.

    It is easy for anyone on either side to point out provocations (or far worse) being committed by the other. If you are committed to working out some kind of agreement, it is imperative to look beyond that–because it will never go away completely….it’s far easier to point fingers than to work with the other, view perspectives from his/her side, and try to address.

    As one who says the prayers you mention, I (and many others I daven with) find it deeply troubling, to say the least, that you justify your statement against Abbas upon them. It is a perversion of Judaism.

  16. Davidf15x says:

    Reb Yid–I said plainly “the evil ones among the Arabs” and you reply, ignoring my words, that I speak about “the Arabs as if every single one was out to murder the Jews.” This is called arguing in bad faith.

    Perhaps you are ignorant concerning Abu Mazen and the blood he has on his hands. Indeed, I would argue that an Arab Palestinian leader that follows Arafat without blood on his hands cannot be the leader which is why, as you scrupulously weigh and balance trust on “each side”–there is a chance for such trust *when* an Arab leader has the same level of peaceful intent as an Israeli leader. Concerning the evil ones, they would not simply be the murderers of the innocents on the road to Hebron recently but all those who celebrated their deaths all over the territories. Yes, it is the precise intent of our prayer that we pray to Heaven that there is some divine retribution against them and such a message must be known to every Arab–especially Abbas. Please consider his resume as one even you would not wish to hold as honorable. It is plain that Jews believe there will be a divine accounting, in a way we do not know or can predict. Such a sentiment delivered to the Arab side would bring great progress towards the path of peace and a violent ideology such as Islam which celebrates and promotes the death of Jews as positive actions stands as a direct contrast between the two sides. One that celebrates innocent Jewish blood in the streets with some supposed justification in their sick, twisted way–vs. our prayer that the evil ones among the general population feel the wrath of Hashem. Might it reflect a bit badly on the cause for peace that so many Arabs celebrate the death of a innocents, including a pregant woman–under the cry of Allah hu Akbar? Do you worry at all, Reb Yid about how such actions might inpinge on your hopes for mutual trust and respect between the parties? Perhaps for only a second.

    Instead, you maintain the lasting damage is from Jews who merely wish that Hashem is good to his word and that evil will get its due. Yet, saying that is no “perversion of Judaism”–it is foundational justice and such justice in the world holds a place for man to act as well. It is not good to run cover for a man like Abbas who was active in the Munich murders at the Olympics, studied Holocaust denial while he was in college and authorized terror attacks against Israel.

    No Jew has ever called for the murder of Abbas–especially Rabbi Yosef. We are merely expressing a prayer, having hope that all evil will be met with His right hand. The contrast, especially in light of the recent violence, could not be more clear. Arabs incite each other to violence while Jews do not. You would never want to “point fingers”–excuse me–I will.

    They are the ones inciting violence. Trying to alter what Rabbi Yosef has said is a lame plan to point fingers at *us* and I am here to protest such an attempt. And no–I am not committed to “working out some kind of agreement”–I am committed to our people living safely in secure borders under a peace agreement that holds some hope for success. You seem to indicate you want an even-handed deal and this kind of focus fails to serve the cause of peace or the future lives of the Jewish people in Israel.

  17. cvmay says:

    Right on Davidf15x

    Great title CLUELESS. Currently a majority of Journalists who report about Torah Judaism and or Israeli religious life are totally CLUELESS and it seems to be a prerequisite. Incidentally, more often than not….Writers surmise/assume/take for granted superficial information or observations as Mt. Sinai truths.
    I recall reading articles about the residents & communities of Gush Katif by those who never visited/spoke or knew individuals from the area, op ed pieces about Sefardic discrimination while never interviewing or asking a Sefardic family, or the pros/cons of Kollel life without meeting or experiencing the life style. Sort of like….HELLO!!!

    Most Rosh Yeshivos, Rabbanim, Rebbes and Leaders speak and speak openly and unabashedly to their congregation. When their words are taken out of context, or even not, yet not understood by an outsider, there is outright confusion and misunderstanding. What sounds like ‘Taliban Talk’ to an alien is understood differently by an insider.. The Power of Words and their impact has the tendency to leave a trail of questions ????

  18. L. Oberstein says:

    I always get into trouble when my words are taken out of context, repeated to people who shouldnd’t be in the loop, etc. That is why chazal said “Wise men, be careful of your words.”. To defend the Chacham, I would say that his way of expressing himself is not geared to Western scular media sensitivities. I think that journalists stake out his motozei shabbat lectures and look for any snippet they can make into a news story. In the age of the 24 hour news cycle, no one is safe from being “exposed” for saying something to a small group that is taken out of context and made into a news story. I recall the NY Jewish Week making a big deal about something Rabbi Schachter said to some students in Israel . He thought he was talking to a few kids and wasn’t as careful as he would have been. The same thing happened with the rabbi of Gvul Yaavetz. Nobody would come out clean if we realized that everything we say is recorded and publicized. This is a good thought for Erev Rosh hashanah because that is sort of what we believe happens up in Heaven. later they play back the video and we are ashamed.

  19. Reb Yid says:

    Rabbi Oberstein:

    Thank you for your comment, but it is still no excuse. It is far from the first time that prominent rabbis in Israel have made inflammatory statements.

  20. Reb Yid says:

    A further clarification:

    One of the responsibilities of leadership is to be aware of the power of what one does and says. A rabbi who is in a communal, rabbinic or political leadership position needs to be held accountable as such.

    This is true of both Rav Ovadia and Rabbi Schachter…both have failed at meeting these important responsibilities.

  21. davidf15x says:

    Reb Yid, to distort and then ignore my appeal to you hardly adds credence to your aim to contradict Rabbi Adlerstein’s posting. There is truly no issue of “inflammatory” remarks from Israel’s Rabbis.

    But what *is* in evidence? On one side we have an Israeli electorate forever and endlessly interested in peace now very pessimistic it will ever happen, at least in the next 20 years. They are sick of intransigent Arab demands and they still feel both the aftershocks of the latest rounds of violence and the reality of continued failure of one peace-making venture after another such as the initiative in Gaza.

    On the other side, there is the expectation of a divided Jerusalem and a repatriation of millions of Arabs into Israel as a statement of “justice.”

    And from the US, we have an American President who is believed to be pro-Israel by only about 8% of the population who steps into the latest round of “negotiations” to try to get an Arab party to make gestures of peace and honors the same PC nonsense uttered reflexively by Clinton and even later by Condeleesa Rice, namely, that Arab attacks against innocent Jewish civilians are “political acts” designed to “undermine the peace process.” Yet, such violence is *only* the outcome that would be commonly and regularly made if not for the presence of Israeli security and reflects an active, continuing goal of much of the Arab Palestinian population against Jews.

    This plain desire for the spilling of Jewish blood might rationally be called a “provocation” but very few articulate it as such. No one comes forward to re-educate Obama on his error of the rationale behind such brutal murders and his words stand to give honor to high-brow intentions of the Arab side which cannot be justified by the facts.

    Therefore, we have very few in the Jewish world and certainly none in the wider media discussing the frustration of the Israeli electorate, few discussing the plain intent of the Arab politicians–Hamas and and the PA together–and no one correcting Obama on his flattering opinion that Arab killers of Jews are merely acting in a time-limited political context to be provocative against the larger supposedly peace-loving will of the majority.

    But we do have a lot of chat about how righteous Rabbis are distorting the image of Judaism by making “inflammatory” statements. It seems now more than ever is the right time to be better “ambassadors for Torah,” as Rabbi Adlerstein has challenged us to do.

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