Rabbi Wein Says It All
As a member of the editorial board of Klal Perspectives klalperspectives.org, reading this article by Rabbi Wein (Jerusalem Post, Nov.25) was a source of strength. He lays bare the problems facing our community, pulling no punches, even while maintaining a respectful demeanor towards those he criticizes.
One problem he does not mention is the inability of people to speak their minds – perhaps because he is one of the very few with both the courage and the standing to be able to. The rest of us can live vicariously through him.
I think that one of the more difficult situations that exists in the Jewish world of today, especially, in my humble opinion, in the Diaspora, is the widening disconnect between the vast bulk of the population and the rabbinic leadership. While there are many rabbinic pronouncements on the minutiae of Jewish law, customs and observance there is very little that is said and heard about the major problems that face the Jewish world – the security of the Jewish state, the dire financial situation that threatens the entire system of Jewish education, the astounding rate of poverty and unemployment (voluntary and involuntary) in religious Jewish society, children at risk because of one-size-fits-all educational institutions, growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction, an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage, growing anti-Semitism and a seemingly unstoppable rate of assimilation, secularization and intermarriage that guarantees a shrinking Jewish population in a few generations.
Rather than address these terribly difficult issues, Jewish leadership is engaged in fighting over – again – the battles that destroyed the Jewish world of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whether we like it or not, whether it is theologically acceptable to us or not, the State of Israel is a reality where six million Jews live. The predictions by many Jewish leaders made in the 1950s that the state would not survive for twenty, thirty or fifty years have all proven to have been incorrect.
We have no choice but to support the state with all of our might, prayers, talents and resources. So why don’t we hear that call from our leadership, whether it be from any grouping of the Jewish people? The disconnect from reality is truly astounding!
The tuition rates for attending Jewish schools are rapidly reaching the breaking point. A small percentage of parents – those who pay full or almost full tuition at schools – are subsidizing the rest of the parent body who cannot afford the astronomical amounts that are termed full tuition. But that group of people – those who can and do pay full tuition – is a rapidly diminishing breed. Instead of addressing this problem – the true time bomb that threatens the future of Torah education – we spread our wealth so thin that we are unable to help the situation.
It may be important to help a father of a daughter to raise many thousands of dollars to buy an apartment for her and her prospective husband in Israel but it certainly is more important to provide for Jewish education to one’s own children and for one’s own community. This is part of the current disconnect – the inability to view the forest and remain fixated on the trees or even the bushes.
The fact that there is an enormous proliferation of small yeshivot, all of which are basically similar in curriculum, method and purpose is not only very inefficient and enormously costly but it has yet to prove that its educational accomplishments and scholarship are in any way superior to a large institution that would prove much less costly per student to maintain. Part of the problem is that there is such a surplus of kollel “graduates” who have no other employment potential except for yeshiva teaching so that somehow there have to be many such institutions simply to absorb some of this surplus of talent and scholarship. This is also part of the disconnect that exists in our world.
Having just recently completed the production of a documentary film about the Jewish world of the 1930’s, I am very concerned about the similarities of the anti-Semitic mood of the present decade to that past decade. It is much more insidious today because this anti-Semitism is encased in the pious cloak of anti-Israel rhetoric and policy. And unfortunately there are many Jews who are themselves entrapped in this self-destructive dance. And many of these Jews live in Israel!
But again all voices against this threat are muted and very little leadership is exhibited to address the problem. This is not merely a matter for the Anti-Defamation League to fight. We are all in a precarious and vulnerable position. Our leadership should warn us about this situation.
Again, silence is a great example of the disconnect that afflicts us. We should demand more from those that claim the ability and knowledge to lead us. Connection to the true large problems that face us is and should be a basic requirement of leadership and serious opinion.
Rabbi Wein’s courageous comments should be mandatory reading by all.
I think the answer to the problem of the cost of Jewish education is for Jews to come home to Eretz Yisrael. Today with the economy in America tanking and Israel prospering, this is the time. This is the one place where educating your kids Jewishly is affordable. That offsets almost anything else. Be a Zionist or don’t be a Zionist. Choose your stream of school. As more Jews from America make aliya the choices will get better. Have the least bit of vision and take the plunge. Regardless of your ideology it seems clear that the Land of Israel is alive and producing fruit, the keitz meguleh, and if we all get behind education and kiruv in the one place in the world where Jewish population is expanding, we will have a Torah government and a true Jewish stare sooner or later. Then we will have done our part and Hashem will do His.
I have a two part reaction to this. One is, invoking the controversial name of Rabbi Natan Slifkin. I did not really follow all the details, nor do I understand the full magnitude, of the controversy that surrounded him some years ago, so I can hardly take sides in what went on with that. What I do know, is that when I read his books on the Torah portion, I enjoyed every minute of it unlike I think I have ever enjoyed reading any of the countless Torah commentaries in English out there. At the time when I read those books I had no idea that he was a controversial figure. All I knew in reading those works, was that finally there was a Rabbi out there tackling some of the most important, needed-to-be discussed issues both of our time and for all times. I think we need much more of that, as we are supposedly members of a Jewish tradition that is not afraid to ask the tough questions in life. Our second most sacred book, namely the Talmud, is filled with almost nothing but questions. Nobody should ever be able to accuse us of mindlessly following orders or going through life without a novel thought in our heads.
The other reaction is in regard to education. Again, I speak from a place of near ignorance, but my understanding of the deal that Rabbi Yochanan made with the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, is that Jewish education is so important, that it is better to literally give up control over our Jewish sovereignty over Israel, than to sacrifice our yeshivot. As passionately pro-Israel as I am, I have to wholeheartedly agree with Rabbi Yochanan. There is simply nothing more important for our people than a traditional Torah education; if there is any naturalistic key to our miraculous survival, it is precisely Jewish education. We survived thousands of years without Israel, but would not survive a single generation without Jewish education. And so I have to agree with Rabbi Wein that paying for Jewish education is even more important than having an expensive apartment in Jerusalem.
At the same time, however, in my admittedly limited understanding of the Rambam, he says that it is considered to be almost a crime for any Jew to demand that his Torah learning be supported by the hard work and charity of others. Even the most capable of potential Torah scholars, should try to be as economically self-reliant as one can be. And indeed, the great sages of the Talmud all seemed to somehow make a living, even if that meant having as humble of a job as a stone cutter. Not just from an economic perspective should this be the case, but psychologically as well, as one has only a limited understanding of the world if one confines oneself to nothing but studying, whether it be the secular professor or pious clergyman. One needs to get out in the real world, experiencing it with their five physical senses, to truly understand it. Then again, before anybody jumps on me for seeming to oppose the idea of a Kollel, let me just say that I am much too much of a nobody, to have such a deviant opinion.
Although Rabbi Wein highlights some of the issues, he merely scratches the surface and stays on a macro level. His main premise is the disconnect between the Rabbinic leadership and facts-on-the-ground. The question is whether that is the problem or merely a symptom.
Focusing on that, how did it become that way? One obvious culprit is a creation called Askanim. Ma rabu maasecha Hashem! These are the gatekeepers and social engineers who are both the diagnosticians of the ills of our community as well as the technicians who deliver the therapy. They know what is best for the masses and exploit the name recognition of great people, filtering information in both directions. Believe it or not, here was a time in history when great Rabbinic luminaries answered their own phones, opened their own mail, read newspaper, and penned their own signatures after carefully reading the paragraphs above it. But, more importantly, they lived in the communities for whom they led, paskened for, and inspired. (It would make a great doctoral dissertation to pinpoint the year and place when the period of the Acharonim transitioned into the era of the Askanim.) While we have some great Poskim with encyclopedic minds covering the breadth and depth of Torah, they are prevented from developing the other main attribute of previous Gedolei Hador, which is “getting it”. As a result, we have a disconnect that spans not only across oceans but also across the street within one’s neighborhood. It is certainly possible to have Kavod Hatorah, while at the same time stipulating that thanks to the Askanim, many of the Torah giants should be seen in more limited roles.
Rabbi Wein mentions the proliferation of seemingly redundant institutions. This phenomenon is a testament to the glut of the graduates of existing institutions having nowhere else to go. After all, having a “plan” shows a lack of bitachon, college is assur, and learning a trade is beneath one’s dignity (although shnorring for money is somehow not a busha). When there is no longer a sense of community, no one has any reservations in convincing others of the need for yet another Yeshiva–with its overhead and management hierarchy. Furthermore, one can easily spin “Kinas sofrim tarbeh chachma”, when he himself, his son/son-in-law (or any of the other male relatives enumerated in Maseches Yevamos) are the “Sofrim”. In legal texts, this is referred to as conflict of interest. This, in turn, leads to a self-fulfilling prophesy of a child being seen as a fit only for one of two niche schools, to the exclusion of all others. Throw some elitism into the mix and we are left with segmented communities and struggling educational institutions (some new and some old) desperate for every fundraising dollar out there. Consequently, instead of the whole block sending their kids to a single Yeshiva in the community, the families on the block now have to somehow collectively support 10 institutions in 2 or 3 different countries.
Given Rabbi Wein’s sense of Jewish History, I am wondering whether a historical correction is on the horizon. I suspect that this is not meant-to-be in the near future, as the prevalent solution seems to be to raise money in emergency campaigns and throw it at the problem.
And yet what has been the focus of so much discussion here on Cross-Currents in recent weeks? A bracha? Okay, I know we all think (creatively?) about how this bracha and one’s approach to it is the hill to die on for what it represents but, really, in the face of “b’rumo shel olam” challenges identified by Rabbi Wein and validated by RYA, why do we spend precious and yet inordinate energy on distractions? Let us trust our own commitment to Torah, and indeed others’, and read posts that challenge us and our leaders to courageously bring to the fore and lead in addressing the above-mentioned:
• security of the Jewish state,
• the dire financial situation that threatens the entire system of Jewish education,
• the astounding rate of poverty and unemployment (voluntary and involuntary) in religious Jewish society,
• children at risk because of one-size-fits-all educational institutions,
• growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction,
• an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage, (wholly and thoroughly unrelated to an internalized “she’lo asani isha?)
• growing anti-Semitism and a seemingly unstoppable rate of assimilation, secularization and intermarriage that guarantees a shrinking Jewish population in a few generations.
[YA – Why? Because all solutions in the end must be consistent with Torah values, and the campaign of the FL endangers the survival of those values. There is enough energy around to work on both sets of problems.]
That was a very good article. Rabbi Wein is one of my heroes, and has been for a long time, and this kind of plain common sense is the reason why. I guess I have nothing to add except to repeat Rabbi Alderstein’s title – Rabbi Wein really says it all!
Now that the spade has been called a spade, repeatedly, what is the action program to correct the imbalances and reverse the wrong turns and where is the clout to push the plan home? We shouldn’t feel so great about knowing a bitter truth if no one can can step up now and point us in a practical direction.
Klal Yisrael – especially the edah of those loyal to His Torah – have always survived, and always will. This is not because we have the answers, but because He wants us to, and (excuse the expression) is a Great Clutch Hitter. Solutions don’t come when and where we would want them to, but they do come. We have to face both the present and the future with optimism.
This does not excuse us from fighting to find solutions to the best of our individual and collective powers. I can’t offer much, other than two observations. The first stages in bringing about change are within our grasp. Those stages are 1) to openly acknowledge the problems, and 2) to allow a free exchange of ideas of those people who can think creatively. I think that far more people are at stage 1 today than they were a decade ago. I am hopeful that efforts like the publication of Klal Perspectives can move us closer to stage 2.
Rabbi Wein says it like it is. I find him to always be on the mark and cannot recall every disagreeing with anything he writes.
1. The battle about Zionism is based on ideology and somehow that trumps common sense. As Rabbi Wein has recounted in his lectures, everyone was overwhelmed with joy and gratiude to the One Above when Israel became a stae in 1948. The current anti-zionism is of the same strand that has overtaken much of the yeshiva world, the ones who invented Brisker Payos for non Chassidim, who oppose high school for boys who are not able to learn all day and who have made many other major changes in what was the derech of our revered Roshei Yeshiva of yesteryear.They have also revised history to fit their ideology.
2.tuition is making a churban for many families. It causes sholom bayis problems, kids off the derech and much agmas nefesh to the average parent. I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and it is a cause for much worry. I feel it myself and see it all the time.
3.Our yeshivos have inspired many of our finest young people to learn for many years and then they find out that there are no jobs out there. The job market for Torah scholars is beyond saturated.
Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Halevi Ruderman told me personally that the reason he allowed college at Ner Israel was because an alumnus came to him with a complaint. He said that “you told me to sit and learn and I listened and now I can’t support my family because I have no career training.” The Rosh Hayeshiva felt that it was wrong to mislead students and that college nowadays is “teaching your son a trade”. He emphasized that Torah was the ikar but gaining the ability to earn a living is not to be taken lightly. Only because he was recognized as a true Gaon could he get away with it. Today, if someone in that part of the Olom Hatorah wanted to be mechadesh a heter for college, he would not get away with it. Does anyone disagree with that assessment?
4. There is one more issue that bothers me that Rabbi Wein did not mention but I think he would agree.
Why are the normal people afraid of the extremists? Why have we succumbed to chumros and practices taht never existed in Lita . Why have we erased women’s pictures without a wimper of protest?
Baruch Cohen is on the mark….but full disclosure should be required. V’hamavin yavin
It’s an interesting sociological issue – what R’ Wein states has been stated by many commenters on this blog- the real difference is that he is considered somewhat “an insider” with “stature”. It is very hard for most of us to internalize the Rambam’s exhortation to take the truth from wherever it comes.
why isn’t there more home-schooling in the orthodox and haredi world, or families getting together and splitting up the duties for homeschooling (or is that effectively happening with the proflieration of family-owned schools?)
You write “One problem he does not mention is the inability of people to speak their minds…” If you were sincere in wanting open discussion and allowing for a pluralism of ideas you would not be conducting a campaign to expel the left/ far left of Orthodoxy, as if YCT and Mahrits are the most serious problem facing the community. If everytime someone says something outside the charedi comfort zone he is in danger of being thrown out, of course all you are going to get are timid and repetitive comments. Similarly Rabbi Wien after pointing out substantive problems in the charedi world that are not being adressed by the gedolim, turns on a dime and says those Isrtaelis who oppose the occupation of the West Bank are anti-Semitic, and because of this element in Israeli political life “we are all in a precarious and dangerous position.” He does not explain how Peace Now and the other NGO’S are so dangerous, presumably it is a form of being stabbed in the back by traitors. In any event the Kenesset has been busy all summer trying to pass bills curtailing freedon of dissent, and what the gedolim have to add is not at all clear. But they should speak up, as if they don’t have enough on their plate.
“You write “One problem he does not mention is the inability of people to speak their minds…” If you were sincere in wanting open discussion and allowing for a pluralism of ideas you would not be conducting a campaign to expel the left/ far left of Orthodoxy, as if YCT and Mahrits are the most serious problem facing the community”
Maybe they are a more serious problem than you believe. Maybe that’s why we opened discussion about them, and handed the mic to my dear friend Rabbi Broyde. And maybe, just maybe, people who want to way the seriousness of an issue should stop and consult with serious talmidei chachamim, instead of playing the autonomy card.
“We have to face both the present and the future with optimism.”
Just a minor quibble but with major overtones.
Perhaps you should use the word hope rather than optimism.
Often a theme of CR Lord Sacks, and he repeated it this week.
“The key word is hope. Hope is often confused with another idea, namely optimism. They sound similar, but they are actually quite different. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to hope. The great prophet Isaiah was not an optimist, but he was the poet laureate of hope?”
Rabbi Adlerstein… you are a serious talmid chacham, unlike myself, and you consult with serous talmidei chachamin, and your contribution to the issues raised by Rabbi Wein is that soloutions will come because He “(excuse the expression) is a Great Clutch Hitter.”I point out, most/a majority of East European and Sefardi Orthodox Jews lived in deep poverty without the benefit of a secular education for hundreds of years, generation after generation, subject to endless taxes and restrictions into the mid nineteenth century.
I don’t want to spar with you, and I do much appreciate your posting my remark. I’ll make one final comment and out of respect for you and this blog won’t come back, whatever you say. My contribution to your calling for “a free exchange of ideas ” is that both you and Rabbi Wien see the problems coming at you from the outside ..the political left and the religious left. It is precisely this attitude of “don’t think until you consult with the gedolim and until they voice an opinion,” that is the cause of many of these problems. For whatever reason, perhaps unwittingly, what Rabbi Wien described as “the dire financial situation that threatens the entire system of Jewish education, the astounding rate of poverty and unemployment (voluntary and involuntary) in religious Jewish society, children at risk because of one-size-fits-all educational institutions, growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction, an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage” was caused to a large part by the same gedolim you are asking to speak up. Kolel for everyone, college for noone, only Talmud curriculums, extreme separation of the sexes and the shiduchim system are problems caused by the teachings of gedolei yisroal, not YCT or Peace Now. The Left have all favored college education and work, the creation of vocational schools, mixing of the sexes during adolescence and later, dating without a shadchan. They might be wrong on each and every point, but why would you shut them up, describe their views as playing the autonomy card and expel them from Orthodoxy?
[YA – You have a deal. We won’t spar. I will also leave it with a brief articulation of an answer.
If I am a serious talmid chacham, Torah has even greater problems than you think. I will claim to be serious enough about learning, however, that I can tell the difference between a serious talmid chacham and a neophyte – or a fraud. And I do have access, BH, to serious talmidei chachamim
It is vastly unfair to claim that the Gedolim created these problems. The problems were created by the amazing expansion and growth, b’chasdie Hashem, of the Torah community. Solutions that worked in the first years of that growth have perhaps outlived their usefulness in some cases, or at least require midcourse corrections. The solutions – greater participation in learning, upgrading halachic observance – were good ones. They need some tweaking. In sharp contradistinction, the answers endemic to the Far Left are by their nature foreign to the ruach ha-Torah that everyone in the Center and the Right (the places where the serious talmidei chachamim reside) accepts. Mixing of the sexes for adolescents? You must be kidding -or have never taught in a Modern Orthodox high school (as I do), or learned the meaning of the tefilin date. (Please don’t follow up with some challenge like “What about Rabbi X? If you do, it is only because we have different definitions of the serious talmid chacham. I can’t think of a single counterexample. Fine rabbonim with experience in halachic texts – granted. But that is not what I am talking about.)
If there is a problem it is that we are not getting enough hands-on leadership from Torah personalities here in the US who are also planted firmly in the realities of the community. There are reasons for that, some good, some bad. Abandoning Torah leadership is not the answer.
If it is any consolation, I agree that the Right should be open to listening to other voices. From the FL, it should gain greater understanding of problems affecting the greater Jewish community. From the Center, it might even pick up a few solutions. For better or worse, I am a fan of the get-togethers of singles around a Shabbos table, in the presence of a married couple, as has been quietly advocated by some of the roshei Yeshiva in YU for years. Actually, the first place I saw it done was right here in LA, by a chassidishe couple 30 years ago.]
The proliferation of Yeshivos and the financial burden this development entails is a new issue I have never really seen addressed. It seems that almost every exit of the Garden State Parkway north of Lakewood has its own Yeshiva (or had one that is now closed). Realistically, I wonder what the economies of scale might be if we were to see a major consolidation.
There are so many things about this article that trouble that I hardly know where to begin but here are a few:
“there is very little that is said and heard about the major problems that face the Jewish world – the security of the Jewish state,”
Exactly what sort of pronouncement would Rabbi Wein like gedolim to issue on this point? Should they inform us of the latest going-on’s that we can all read in the papers? Should they insist that we all must pray for the welfare of the State of Israel? Ooops – they did that already five years ago and in many shuls this practice is still followed.
“the dire financial situation that threatens the entire system of Jewish education,”
Again – what would he like them to do? Insist that it’s a problem when we all know that already? Should they devote a session at the Agudah Convention to this topic? Oooops – they just did. Thursday afternoon there was a large session devoted to this problem.
“the astounding rate of poverty and unemployment (voluntary and involuntary) in religious Jewish society,”
What would Rabbi Wein have them do? Should they create a job agency to help people who are out-of-work? They did that already. The Agudah has been running PCS for years and helped thousands find jobs. What more would he like them to do?
“children at risk because of one-size-fits-all educational institutions”
Later on in this article Rabbi Wein decries the multitude of institutions but here he’s claiming that they’re all on-size-fits-all. That’s patently false. The reason there are so many institutions is because since the JO with Rabbi Horowitz sounded the battle cry about children at risk, dozens of new schools opened to cater to them. These schools are not inexpensive to run and serve various niches. Entire Agudah conventions have been devoted to this subject as have hundreds of other communal lectures and articles. Rabbi Wein cannot claim that this hasn’t received sufficient attention – if anything, it’s received too much.
“growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction”
Is this indeed a fact? Where are the numbers?
“an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage”
Says who? What’s unhealthy about the system? What system would he propose we adopt? I’ve heard many of his talks and I’ve never heard him suggest an alternative. Furhtermore, the alleged Shidduch Crisis [if there is one] has been the subject of ceaseless talk and countless lectures and public addresses. It’s definitely not a forgotten problem.
“growing anti-Semitism and a seemingly unstoppable rate of assimilation, secularization and intermarriage that guarantees a shrinking Jewish population in a few generations.”
I know that Rabbi Wein is well aware of the Kiruv movement that has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Who spearheaded these movements? I honestly don’t begin to get where he’s coming from. Tremendous resources have been poured into this field both in the US and EY and these efforts have received strong backing from the gedolim. What else would he like them to do?
Rabbi Wein is one of the most articulate and erudite people I know and I have enormous respect for him, but this article is sorely lacking both in accuracy and in anything of practical value. I’d love to hear solutions from him instead of reading what can easily be picked up on any number of blogs.
I live in Israel so I cannot really comment on what is happening outside of Eretz yisroel. I will try to answer David F. Yes – there are conferences that discuss issues , but when that conference ends the issue is no longer on the public agenda
I see that the dangers of the media and the internet are not on Rabbi Wein’s list. – Agudah conference
The problem imho here and abroad is that instead of dealing with issues and changing the paradigm – attempts are made just to try and control how people live – how they dress, what they wear , read, which cell phones , and no internet , chinuch = no outside interference – taharas ha’kodesh
instead of focusing on the person – how we can help kids and people to be more intrinsically motivated, enjoy learning, take responsibility for their lives and supporting their families, making ‘bigger people ‘, putting relationships first especially between teachers and kids and kids and their parents and between kids – our schools becomming caring learning communities – , we focus on ‘ doing to them ‘ instead of working with them , try to control them is the agenda.
As far as poverty – the paradigm is live on Tzedaka – In the olden days – kids used to go to night school and work during the day to help support their families. Today – they get married , stay in learning and ask for tzedaka
instead of focusing on midos and chesed – helping a woman with her kids on a bus , standing up for an older person -even if you paid for a ticket on a bus from Yerushalyim to Bnei Brak – we get seperating families from each other, sha’alos – should I stand up for someone on a crowded bus , I will end up being pushed and my body touching a woman. ?
The problem is that people are living in ‘ dosi-land ‘ not the reality. Frumkeit can help us survive difficult times , krumkeit not
David F.’s reaction to Rabbi Wein’s article is off-the-mark. The Op-Ed was merely a macro-level set of observations of what exists in the Jewish community today. The intent was not to cite chapter and verse for the phenomena that he identifies. The reality is that probably 99% of the CC readership agree with what Rabbi Wein talks about, especially those who confront the consequences of systemic failure on a daily basis.
The point by point critique of Rabbi Wein’s piece has a common thread. They are all reactive in nature, and given the facts-on-the-ground, they have been too little too late. The approach is akin to trying to filter water which has been leaking out of a barrel to make it suitable for human consumption, rather than addressing why the barrel sprung the leak in the first place. Kol Korehs, sessions and pronouncements at conventions, takanos, lectures, and Tehillim gatherings are no replacement for proactive/strategic and practical approaches to problems. By definition, being proactive implies a limited window of opportunity, and once the opportunity is missed, it’s gone forever. The disconnect of leadership that Rabbi Wein identifies is the proverbial chickens coming home to roost. This has emanated from a trend that began about 25 or 30 years ago in areas such as Kollel, dating and marriage, attitudes towards secular studies, and (in Israel) a separatist mentality to the country’s security and infrastructure. The genie is out of the bottle and some are trying to stuff it back in. We have reached a point where there is way too much at stake on an institutional level (politically and financially) to allow for voluntary introspection and change. Rabbi Wein’s observations are equally pertinent in Israel and America. With his experience in both spheres and his sense of history, it allows him to astutely conclude that the trend and its results are unprecedented.
Whether it is dating and Shalom Bayis, employment, or education, it would be too easy to point out what is too obvious, where each of David’s defensive “solutions” have fallen short. The institutions within our community were hijacked more than a generation ago. Despite the numbers of adherents which creates a quantitative sense of self-validation and triumphalism, the resulting system is unaffordable, unsustainable, and therefore dysfunctional.
Do you really know what proportion of newer yeshivos are oriented toward “children at risk”?
The reason there are so many institutions is because since the JO with Rabbi Horowitz sounded the battle cry about children at risk, dozens of new schools opened to cater to them.
David: I don’t think Rabbi Wein was referring to the institutions created to deal with the “children at risk”. I think what he meant was that the one-size-fits-all yeshivos have resulted (in addition to other factors) in children at risk.
‘If there is a problem it is that we are not getting enough hands-on leadership from Torah personalities here in the US who are also planted firmly in the realities of the community. There are reasons for that, some good, some bad’
RYA , care to elucidate those reasons?
[YA – Nope. Cross-Currents doesn’t allow submissions under screen names. You weren’t really suggesting that I use my real name and do that, were you?]
2.“growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction”
Is this indeed a fact? Where are the numbers?
— is there data for -anything- in O life?
3.I think what he meant was that the one-size-fits-all yeshivos have resulted (in addition to other factors) in children at risk.
—-see last week’s Mishpacha for such a lifestory –dad , the talmud chacham wannabee , pushed the below-avg-intelligence son thru the top-of-line yeshiva wringer…read the results….
I would add one more issue that no one seems to want to address. The lack of financial transparency with our Mosdos Hatorah. Why is this such a secretive issue when the entire community is being asked to support these Mosdos? Do they not have an obligation to share the financial issues with community that is providing the funds?
That is because few want to open up that can of worms. In addition to financial, there are the areas of personnel, and institutional policy/decisions which also cry out for a greater sense of transparency to the community. You are correct in that if they are truly community and nonprofit, then they should be held accountable in each of these areas to more of a sniff-test than might be required by secular law. After all, monies raised from the community are in a sense considered tzedaka and hekdeish, and as such are subject to parameters long codified in Halacha.
Consequently, I think that your concern was implied in Rabbi Wein’s piece. Given the limited number of jobs available within the existing mosdos, could it be that new institutions are founded as a means of job creation for family members (or in some cases, existing ones taken over by a chosen few to accomplish this objective)? The result is at best-an innocuous wink-wink reaction, better-a cynical one, and at worst-a distrustful one that fundraisers have come to find to be quite challenging. While there might be a concept of Serara and yerusha, the application of those principles is quite limited and would not likely be Halachically relevant to the way that institutions are structured today.
The truth is that it takes two to tango. Many parents who seek tuition reductions lack a sense of self-prioritization of spending. Then again, the level of transparency being demanded of them is far beyond that which those who seek it are willing to grant.
Does it say anything that an article by Rabbi Wein – an educated lawyer and former businessman – receives so much respect and agreement, whereas the kol koreh’s set forth by those referred to as Gedolim do not?
I would like to hear someone directly address David F.’s rebuttal. Rabbi Wein has accused Chareidi Rabbinic leadership of disconnect when in fact Agudas Yisroel and their conventions-the loudspeaker of the American Rabbinic Leadership – has in fact addressed and made in-roads towards ameliorating (solving is too strong a word) these many of these problems.
Commentors who responded that gedolim are part of the problem–not the solution– are not joining the conversation that Rabbi Wein has initiated here. They are shouting from the peanut gallery.
Also, although I agree that many charges are on-target, I really don’t understand the charges of
an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage,
MAybe I’m out of the loop, but maybe Rabbi Wein is falling victim to extreme stereotypes on this one.
And what about growing anti-Semitism and a seemingly unstoppable rate of assimilation, secularization and intermarriage that guarantees a shrinking Jewish population in a few generations.
As someone already pointed out–Chareidi institutions have an excellent track record of kiruv and pro-Israel advocacy. I don’t know where the failure is. It is merely because the numbers still don’t look good? But I thought we ought not do the kiruv numbers game and focus on the individual?
“I will try to answer David F. Yes – there are conferences that discuss issues , but when that conference ends the issue is no longer on the public agenda”
Patently untrue. Many conferences end up as nothing more than talk, but many result in positive action. Project Yes and PCS are just two examples of many that come to my mind immediately. If Rabbi Wein wishes to claim that the rabbinic leadership have their heads in the sand he’ll have to do a much better job of laying his claim because the facts on the ground show otherwise.
Do you really know what proportion of newer yeshivos are oriented toward “children at risk”?”
No, I don’t have exact figures but I do know that as a child growing up in NY, I did not know of a single special-ed program in a yeshivah, let alone a yeshivah dedicated to that segment of the population. Now, there are dozens of schools in NY and many in out-of-town communities as well that are dedicated to children who are not mainstream learners.
“David: I don’t think Rabbi Wein was referring to the institutions created to deal with the “children at risk”. I think what he meant was that the one-size-fits-all yeshivos have resulted (in addition to other factors) in children at risk.”
If so, then he disproved his own point because the proliferation of new yeshivos which he decries is a direct result of rabbinic leadership advocating for change. They’ve been very far ahead on this subject.
“David F.’s reaction to Rabbi Wein’s article is off-the-mark. The Op-Ed was merely a macro-level set of observations of what exists in the Jewish community today. The intent was not to cite chapter and verse for the phenomena that he identifies. The reality is that probably 99% of the CC readership agree with what Rabbi Wein talks about, especially those who confront the consequences of systemic failure on a daily basis.”
If it was merely a macro-level set of observations, as you claim, then he lent nothing to a conversation that’s been had by thousands of others who are far less erudite and prestigious. Rabbi Adlerstein claimed that this article accomplished something that others before it hadn’t and you’re claiming that it’s common knowledge to all. Which is it?
As far as 99% of CC commenters agreeing with him, that’s not exactly a surprise. I assume an equal number of commenters on Yeshivah World would disagree with him and that too, would mean little to me.
The bottom line is that his claim that rabbinic leadership has not responded to current and real problems is simply untrue. They have responded. Perhaps not to the degree that he would like, perhaps he disagrees with some of the solutions and that’s well within his right, but then he ought to offer some of his own. To date, I haven’t seen him do so.
That would be true leadership and add something to the conversation, but unfortunately Rabbi Wein has come up well short here.
A large part of Rabbi Wein’s article is about financial pressures the frum community faces.As an accountant working in a non-Jewish firm and with a private practice in the frum community I would like to make the following extremely unpopular observation. Unfortunately for financial reasons many people are better off not getting an education or entering the work force.A person with a few children who is incapable of being in the top ten percent of American wage earners would be much, much better off financially staying on government assistance.This may be a terrible option but it is reality. I know people who sincerely would love to go work but they can’t afford to.We can’t just scream at them “Go to college”, “don’t be lazy”etc.
I’m guessing that the majority of CC readers are in the top ten percent of American wage earners.What advice is there for someone who does not have that talent who want’s to work but feels he can’t because of the increasing socialist government set up.PLEASE No Musser or warnings about how programs will be eventually be cut. Just practical advice.
The coming financial decline in 2012 will really weaken Orthodox institutions. What is the Orthodox leadership planning?
You have hit on exactly what the issue is. When you refer to the Agudah and its conventions as the “loudspeaker of American Rabbinic Leadership”, it is just that, a loudspeaker with the volume turned way up. Very little by way of programmatic or strategy. (One can of course quibble whether the Agudah and certainly its convention speakers are truly representative of that entity, as they are based on the political considerations for who is chosen to speak.)
As for dating and marriage, he is probably referring to (the stereotype of) a system that is no longer based on a social relationship (like my 9th Grade Rebbe, I will carefully not use the “L” word), and has become one that is characterized by externals, business negotiations, and background checks. Agents of young men who are by objective standards of mediocre acumen and character with limited income potential are now propped up on pedestals; young women are lined up in a queue or have to enter a lottery for a chance to meet these young men. Oh yes, the system works for many of the elite, but the number of older single young women out there who have been subject to mixed messages by mentors along the way, would lead one to more of a conclusion of disillusionment than triumphalism.
As for successes in Kiruv, I will leave that to others to comment on. But, I would say that the percentage of poorly-adjusted beneficiaries of Kiruv in our communities should be of concern.
Finally, you will have to explain exactly what is meant by the Agudah’s accomplishments in “pro-Israel advocacy” that are unique, as I either don’t subscribe to the same news outlets or have a different map of Israel.
To Dr. E:
it is just that, a loudspeaker with the volume turned way up. Very little by way of programmatic or strategy.
I referred to David F.’s first comment on Nivember 7 at 12:03, and I suggest that you read it more carefully to see how it refutes your assertions.
one that is characterized by externals, business negotiations, and background checks.
But what goes on during the dates? How do you know that the average dating couple is not deciding to actually marry based on a good prospective “social relationship”? You are citing the routine factors that lead to the first meeting. Not the courtship dynamic itself.
Agents of young men who are by objective standards of mediocre acumen and character with limited income potential are now propped up on pedestals;
Why shouldn’t an average young man seek the best advocacy possible? (Within ethical constraints) Don’t average young women do the same?
young women are lined up in a queue or have to enter a lottery for a chance to meet these young men.
If the complaint is simply that there are more women than men born in a given year, I’m afraid the blame for that lies with God-not the Chareidim. (God compensated for this by permitting polygamy, by the way, but to my knowledge, Chareidim don’t practice this–presumably because it could be abused to promote misogynistic tendencies…)
Finally, you will have to explain exactly what is meant by the Agudah’s accomplishments in “pro-Israel advocacy” that are unique, as I either don’t subscribe to the same news outlets or have a different map of Israel.
Please read my comment more carefully.
I wrote that Chareidi kiruv organizations excel in pro-Israel advocacy–not the Agudah.
I became a BT 35 years ago. I am now a grandmother of many, and all my children are frum. That said, I feel completely broken and disillusioned by the System. After so many years of financial sacrifice to put my children through the Orthodox day school system as well as yeshivos, I am left with complete dissatisfaction, and it’s made worse by the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness in the inability to not only be unable to change the system, but the knowledge that the quality of education has actually gotten worse with each passing year. Disillusionment with the shidduch system (and my kids are “success stories”) compounded my feelings of burnout. I am still a shomeres mitzvos but I have gradually disassociated myself from the frum community, to the point where I moved to a town without any Orthodox community whatsoever. I get nachas from my children and grandchildren, but seeing the long road ahead for them in what has become a totally corrupt and spiritually lacking lifestyle, I often wonder “what have I done?” I am happy that my family did not fall victim to assimilation and intermarriage but surely there are more reasons than this (other than than the obvious, that we are commanded to follow G-d’s Law) to live an Orthodox lifestyle within an Orthodox community.
These are my favorite comments. Lodge nothing more than a few oft-repeated but barely substantiated all-encompassing accusations at the Orthodox community and you’ve got it made. We’re immediately placed in defense mode and anything we say, we run the risk of being accused of being ostrich’s with our heads in the sand, or of simply responding with knee-jerk defensive tactics. Instead, I’m going to try to go in the other direction. Let’s see how well Burned Out BT can defend her claims:
“but the knowledge that the quality of education has actually gotten worse with each passing year”
My children’s education far surpasses anything I received as a child in a mainstream yeshivah, but is BOBT claiming that the education in the Ortho world has gotten worse and that of the secular world has improved? Really? I dunno – study after study shows that the education system today is so much worse than it was years ago and that’s why it’s always on the table for discussion come election time. Is the education a reason to have remained secular?
“Disillusionment with the shidduch system”
I admit that shidduchim are hard, but is BOBT claiming that it’s better in the secular world? Really? I know so many BT’s that were driven to Orthodox Judaism precisely because of the dating scene in the secular world where just about anything goes. Would BOBT have preferred her children experience the secular dating system? Please respond in detail to this one, because this one really baffles me.
“has become a totally corrupt and spiritually lacking lifestyle”
So BOBT, the Ortho world is totally corrupt and spiritually lacking? Really? I accept that there are some corrupt Ortho Jews and some that lack spirituality, but “totally?”
Furthermore, in the secular world you so admire and live in, what would you say the level of spirituality is? How about corruption? Are you aware of any of it in that world, or have you only discovered it in the Ortho world?
“I am happy that my family did not fall victim to assimilation and intermarriage”
Given what we now know about the Ortho world and how it’s “totally corrupt and spiritually lacking” why exactly are you happy that your kids didn’t assimilate into the secular world you so admire? Methinks that might have been their only hope to escape the rampant corruption, lousy education, and spiritual void found in the Ortho world, no? You’ve left me confused.