The Lessons of Outremont

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17 Responses

  1. Nachum says:

    Unfortunately, you contradict yourself. You speak about self-examination in Montreal and then, moving on to Israel, write:

    “and get outsiders to see the community as comprised of a diverse group of individuals”

    Really? That’s it? Charedim don’t have to change anything, they just have to present themselves better? This is a deep, deep flaw: The belief that the Charedi world is perfect (apart from some easily condemned “fanatics”) and just have to do a better PR job.

    Every other group of Jews can find fault with themselves and try to improve. Why can’t Charedim? Is belief in perfection so ingrained in their philosophy? Because that’s not healthy.

  2. DF says:

    “We are too easy on ourselves when we keep repeating mantras like, “Esav hates Yaakov” or “an am ha’aretz hates a talmid chacham“, as an excuse to do nothing.”

    So true. This is part of the fatalistic mindset so common in our religious community that God Himself decries: מַה-תִּצְעַק אֵלָי; דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִסָּעוּ Moreover, if we are honest, the opposite of the above mantras are also true, and these positions are so ancient that it is both unknowable and irelevant as to which provokved which.

    The Outremont example is outstanding. There are many, simple ways in which we can be better neighbors, which will in turn make us better people. It is the natural responsibility of the shul rabbinate to create such meetings, and then, most importantly, actively use the pulpit to spread the message. I must have heard more than a thousand (1,000) sermons and derashos all focused on urging more “learning.” I cannot recall a single speech devoted to concrete suggestions (eg, get out of the street on shabbos) towards our outward relationships.

  3. dave says:

    This article is right on the mark. It is just unfortunate that we in the Torah community, be it in Montreal or Eretz Yisrael or anywhere, need to be forced to behave in this manner because we face opposition from suspicious neighbors and fellow Jews.

    Pirkei Avos is quite clear about greeting our neighbors with kind faces. We have all heard the little maysalach of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky about how they interacted with everyone, Jew and gentile alike, with manners and respect. So why should this be a big chiddush now?

    The problems the Torah community faces right now are directly related to our failure to interact with our neighbors who are not yet part of the Torah community. We are many years, even generations, behind in this aspect of Torah Judaism – the idea of always striving to create a kiddush Hashem – living by the Torah impact study model that JR so correctly asserts. Let’s start with a smile and a warm handshake. We can change how other people think if we change the way we act and look at the “others” as brothers.

  4. ben dov says:

    “Really? That’s it? Charedim don’t have to change anything, they just have to present themselves better?”

    Nachum, did you read this part?

    “Efforts to change public perceptions of chareidim will be part of the mix, but only part.”

  5. Jewish Observer says:

    “our failure to interact with our neighbors who are not yet part of the Torah community”

    – it is patronizing and arrogant to view non from as “not yet part”. This not so subtle ad for kiruv also has nothing to do with the point being discussed

  6. CJ Srullowitz says:


    How do “efforts to change public perceptions” – particularly efforts based on being “mekabeil es kol ha’adam beseiver panim yafos” – presuppose “the belief that the Chareidi world is perfect”?

    Jewish Observer,

    How is the phrase “not yet” patronizing or arrogant? I find it inclusive. Apparently, you do too if you recognize it as an “ad for kiruv” – literally, “bringing close.”

  7. Mr. Cohen says:

    Maybe G_d is telling the Jews of Outremont to make aliyah.

  8. Ben Waxman says:

    Such is the nature of decentralized, entrepreneurial models.

    This model will have a head-on collision with the current model of askanim and Da’as Torah.

  9. Shades of Gray says:

    “The more space we take up, the more visible we become and the more we must interact with our neighbors. It’s hard for those living around us, within such close quarters, when they aren’t greeted or acknowledged.”

    The Outremont article was a positive example of attempting to ameliorate a social problem. The part of the Mishpacha article that puzzled me, however, was the paragraph after the one quoted above, where an activist quoted a community dayan who told him that,

    “it is absolutely no problem initiating a hello or a thank you. Most Chassidim do that, but those who don’t should realize that they are hurting the entire community.”

    Why would anyone(“those who don’t should realize…”) have a havah aminah that there is a halachic issue involved? This brings to mind a story about RSZA quoted in an article by R. Henoch Plotnik of Chicago(Mishpacha, 1/2/13):

    “Someone once approached Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l with a halachic inquiry. A non-Jew was lost and needed directions. In light of the prohibition of “lo sechoneim,” is one permitted to give directions?

    “I know one thing,” replied Rav Shlomo Zalman. “If a person is lost and needs directions, you give him directions.” It is yashrus, decent behavior. Rav Shlomo Zalman thus gently rebuked the questioner that not only is there no question of lo sechoneim, but to ask such a question shows a lack of human decency.”

    “How is the phrase “not yet” patronizing or arrogant? I find it inclusive. Apparently, you do too if you recognize it as an “ad for kiruv” – literally, “bringing close.”

    People who use “not yet Frum” mean well–it’s seen as better than “non-Frum”. However, R. Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, in “Not-Yet-Frum”, posted recently to the Ner LeELef kiruv resource website, argued as follows:

    “Where does it say that everyone will become Frum in our lifetime?… if what we really mean when we refer to our brethren as ‘not-yet-frum’ is an expression of the hope that when the Messiah arrives everyone will return, then why just refer to non-frum-Jews as ‘not-yet-frum’? How about referring to our deceased relatives as ‘not-yet-resurrected-Jews’?!…Would anyone of ‘us’ feel good if we found out that Satmar Chassidim refer to us as ‘not-yet-Satmar’? Would you appreciate it if a Modern Orthodox Jew (whatever that is) would refer to you as: “My not-yet-Modern Orthodox” Chareidi cousin?…None of us would be happy if a member of another religion would refer to Jews as ‘not-yet-Christians or Moslems?’”

  10. Bob Miller says:

    Ben Waxman wrote above, “This model will have a head-on collision with the current model of askanim and Da’as Torah.”

    Is the authoritarian model inherently inferior for managing communal affairs, or does the model fail only with current personnel in the current situation?

  11. S. says:

    “How is the phrase “not yet” patronizing or arrogant?”

    It wouldn’t be arrogant, or obnoxious, if people referred to Chareidim as “not yet Chilonim”?

  12. Nachum says:

    “or does the model fail only with current personnel in the current situation”

    This has been the excuse of authoritarian apologists throughout the ages, e.g., “Communism is fine, it was just the people who were running the show who were bad.” No: Authoritarianism breeds bad leadership, and always fails.

    “It wouldn’t be arrogant, or obnoxious, if people referred to Chareidim as “not yet Chilonim”?”

    Of course, such arguments don’t work with those convinced that theirs is the one true path.

  13. Michael Halberstam says:

    I think it should be obvious that the intent of this article was to stress that all of us need to rethink what we say and do in view of the fact that we are not here by ourselves, and that nobody can claim to know what HKBH wants. To this extent his points are well taken. Those of the respondents who choose to pick on a stray phrase here or there have clearly missed the point. Wake up guys. No body is going to say ” we know you are right, and have been all along.” If that is what you are waiting for, go home. We all need to grow up. This means everyone.

  14. dave says:

    My use of the term “not yet” was quite deliberate and certainly not meant to offend. My point was that the Torah community (note I did not use the term frum, nor did I differentiate between different styles of Torah communities such as chasidim or MO or whatever)has failed miserably to date in its responsibility to behave in such a manner that those who do not adhere to the Torah might say “Hinei Ma Tov Uma Na’im”. That in turn would lead to a time of “Sheves Achim Gam Yachad”.

    To be more clear – the term “not yet” points to a lost opportunity that is decades in the making. Maybe my approach is pie in the sky, and certainly I would not expect all non-religious Jews to come marching atrance like some zombie army into our warm embrace. But if we were sweeter, we surely would attract more bees to our honey.

    And to dear Mr. S., again I made no mention of “chareidim”, but if you feel that our ultimate purpose as a nation is to be “chilonim”, that is unfortunate. I happen to believe that our purpose is to follow the Torah and forge a close relationship to Hashem. And our hope is that every Jew will one day feel that way (pace R. Eisenman). Whether that day is tomorrow or 100 years from now, we can only do what we should do. And the very minimum is the passive kiruv of being a mentch and creating kiddush Hashem.

  15. Jewish Observer says:


    You are 100% correct. Non frum is only a pejorative in the eyes of someone who looks down upon them. But it surely is presumptuous and opportunistic to view a non from person as a kiruv target before we view them as a person

  16. Zadok says:

    Without disagreeing with anything written above one question remains.Why are American secular Jewish newspapers so hostile?They can’t possibly blame their issues on Israeli Chareidim or negative personal impact from frum people.

    Ami magazine once had a article about gratuitous hostility to Chareidim in the secular Jewish press. Astoundingly one of the newspapers they discussed wasn’t even willing to pay lip service to claiming otherwise.Both the magazine staff in general and one of their more hostile writers absolutely refused to discuss the issue with Ami after repeated requests for their point of view.And that writer once acknowledged privately, to someone I know, that she personally never once had any type of bad experience with a frum person.

  17. Ariel says:

    Do you live in Montreal? I do.
    Those efforts have had almost zero impact, because despite a few token gestures, the main issues that some have with the community here remain. Make no mistake – the principal noise-makers are quite petty and are looking for every single little thing to make the chassidim look bad.

    However, no amount of token gestures will change the fact that the Outremont chassidim have been bypassing zoning bylaws for decades and then presenting the neighborhood with the facts on the ground. That is not the way to do things in a neighborly way and will continue to breed resentment that has nothing to do with the typical xenophobia and anti semitism of certain elements of the francophone community here.

    The fact is, the chassidish leadership here has point blank admitted that they used to “resolve” issues by appealing directly to the elected officials and “smoothing things out” in a way not consistent with the legal process.

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