The Ten Percent Solution

[To my recollection, which might be errant, I have never asked that anything I have written be circulated. The following is an exception, for reasons that I hope will be obvious.]

The latest issue of the Jewish Review of Books, a quarterly publication that has contained much good material, is quite nasty toward the Orthodox. The starting point is a polemic regarding the election of Israel’s Chief Rabbis, with particularly harsh words directed at Rav Ovadia Yosef, ztl, who was seriously ill when the piece was published. In that article and elsewhere there is the familiar usage, “ultra Orthodox,” a usage that does not become less offensive because it is employed by many who write about Jewish life. No other ethnic group, including those that have many dozens more adherents than the Orthodox and have engaged in extreme violence, merit the term. We Orthodox are the Chosen People among the Chosen People.

The greater offense is an illustration of Rav Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira together with a nun. They had no contact with each other. She lived considerably before he did and presumably she died in bed. He was murdered Al Kiddush HaShem.

Perhaps worse of all, is an excerpt from the writings of Solomon Maimon, a name that he adopted and which was entirely inappropriate for him. Here is an example of his lunacy as he describes his experience with his teacher in cheder. “This man was every young person’s nightmare, the scourge of G-d. He handled his charges with an unheard of brutality, whipping them for the slightest offense until the blood flowed, and not infrequently tearing off ears and gouging out eyes. And when the parents of his unfortunate victims came to complain, he would hurl at them rocks or whatever was at hand; who the parents were didn’t matter.”

The editor introduces this passage with the comment that Maimon engaged in “occasional exaggeration.”

My point is not that we Orthodox are without sin. But we should not be used as cannon fodder by the Jewish intelligentsia. In view of the Pew findings that the Orthodox are about ten percent of American Jewry, I propose adoption of a “ten percent solution.” Our publications will be limited to demonizing the Orthodox in no more than ten percent of their space.

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16 Responses

  1. dovid eisenberger says:

    TO summarise Dr Schick’s post in light of his other recent postings:
    “If only these left wing publications would treat us orthodox with the same accuracy ,fairness and lack of bias that they treat those far right tea parties.”

  2. Jacob Alperin-Sheriff says:

    The relevant number is not the % of US Jewry, it’s the percentage of those identifiable Jews making the news for chillulei Hashem who are Orthodox.

  3. Raymond says:

    Any publication that demonizes Orthodox Jews like that, does not deserve even one penny of my money. I am glad I never renewed my subscription to the magazine in question.

    Having said that, I myself use the phrase ultra-Orthodox, when I want to contrast them to the Modern Orthodox. I mean no offense by that, just using it descriptively, as I do not know a more accurate English phrase for the more Yeshivish type of Orthodox Jew. Calling them Torah Jews does not work, either, as it implies that the Modern Orthodox do not venerate our Torah. Calling them Traditional Jews makes them sound wishy-washy about their religious practices, which is obviously false.

  4. Ben Waxman says:

    I wish that Yated (English) would limit their attacks on the non-Chareidi world to 10% of their editorials.

  5. ben dov says:

    “Haredi” is a preferred alternative to “ultra-orthodox.” Especially since the word is used self-referentially.

  6. David says:

    The big problem with both Chareidi and Ultra-Orthodox is than secular publications tend to use that term to describe any Orthodox Jew who does not beleive in female rabbis etc. The Forward or NY Times will use this term to describe pretty much anybody to the right of YCT and I don’t think all of those people would call themselves such.

  7. DF says:

    Whatever the merits of a 10% orthodox bashing quota, the Jewish Review of Books is no place to address it. It’s founder and editor, Abe Socher, is a friend, neighbor, and former chavrusah, whose kids all go or have gone to local yeshivahs. To accuse him or any organ under his leadership of “orthodox bashing” is laughable, and the examples cited by Dr. Shick are hardly evidence of such. [I agree that “ultra-orthodox” is offensive and outdated, but it doesnt mean writers still using it intend anything offensive.] To the contrary, the broader orthodox community owes Dr. Socher a hearty yasher koach, as his magazine has put orthodox issues squarely on the map, for many people who woudld otherwise have no exposre to it. It features orthodox writers as often as not, and discuses Torah scholarship seriously, not as just a end-pages token nod, or worse, to be mocked. He is doing great things to make people see the full breadth and range of the orthodox world.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    Ben Waxman-The Yated has far more favorable coverage, including pictures, of RIETS RY than the secular Jewish media, and merely has relied on what has been written here and elswewhere about the questionnable aims and tactics of YCT.

  9. Toby Katz says:

    “I wish that Yated (English) would limit their attacks on the non-Chareidi world to 10% of their editorials.”

    The problem isn’t that the NY Review of Books, the NY Times, et. al. “attack” charedi Jews more than x percent of the time — if their attacks consisted of legitimate criticism, we wouldn’t count percentages. The problem is that the negative stuff they write about us is based on truth 5% of the time, grossly exaggerated ten percent of the time, and totally false the other 85% of the time.

  10. Dovid Eliezrie says:

    While Haridie is a valid description, few in Kansas know what it means. A better descriptive term would be “Traditional Orthodox”. It is not offensive. “Ultra” was created by liberal Jewish journalists to degrade observant Jews as extreme and beyond the pale. Orthodox Jews should demand that this term be terminated.

  11. lawrence kaplan says:

    Dr. Schick: Here is what Yehudah Mirsky says about Rav Ovadyah Yosef Zt”l, in his article. One has to remember that he wrote it before Rav Ovadya’a last sickness. Mirsky writes:

    Rabbi Yosef, in turn, issued scathing attacks on [Rav] Stav [a leading candidate for the post of Ashkenzi Chief Rabbi], at one point calling him “wicked.” This was the latest in a series of sad moments in the career of Rav Ovadia (as he is known), who is now ninety-two. Had he never entered politics he would have gone down in history as a staggeringly erudite, intellectually nimble, and compassionate halakhist. His refusal to ascribe redemptive significance to the State of Israel while at the same time declining to join his Ashkenazi haredi counterparts in condemning it as the devil’s handiwork also seemed to hold out the possibility of societal compromise. But this is not how things turned out.

    In leading Shas, which is a Sephardi social movement and network of institutions as well as a political party, Rav Ovadia may have become the most powerful rabbi in Jewish history. He has also become the leader of a party with a well-deserved reputation for corruption. The emblematic figure here is Aryeh Deri, who recently returned to politics after serving twenty-two months in prison on bribery charges a decade ago. When asked about Rav Ovadia’s description of Stav, Deri helpfully explained that it wasn’t defamatory, it was just that Stav’s actions fit the halakhic criteria of “wickedness.” He should know. Machiavellian though he may be, nobody ever said Deri was dumb. And on election day, he proved his skill.

    End of Citation:

    For you, Dr. Schick, to speak of the “particularly harsh words” the article directs against Rav Yosef (itself a highly debatable characterization), without mentioning the article’s words of high praise of Rav Yosef, is, with all respect, misleading. Mirsky’s article is available in its entirety on-line. I ask all readers of CC to read it in full and then say whether they agree with Dr. Schick that the article can be called anti-Orthodox. In truth, it is clear as day that Mirsky identifies with and has the highest praise for the Tzohar type of Israeli Orthodoxy, as represented by Rav Stav. That Mirsky should be sharply critical of Rav Yosef for calling Rav Stav a “rasha,” shortly after he did so, is not, in my book, a sign of anti-Orthodoxy.

  12. Barry says:

    I just spent a few minutes perusing the JQR articles – specifically reading the article on the Piacsezner (review of the translation of Chovos Hatalmidim) and the article by Yehudah Mirsky on the election fo the chief rabbinate. While it requires additional time – my initial impression is not the same as Dr. Schick. The election of the Chief Rabbinate was tainted and smacks of cronyism and back door deal making – the article didn’t seem so far off to me. The recent elections brought no glory to Rabbis, the Chief Rabbinate, or Orthodoxy as a whole. It did (possibly) accomplish the “chareidi” world’s desire to diminish its stature and control aspects of it (and the money and control that are inherent to it).

    I also read the book review by Rabbi Dr. Gottlieb. Sorry, but I wasn’t offended by the picture. The reveiw sited St. Thérèse of Lisieux and contrasted her philosphy with that of the Rebbe. The picture just superimposed an image of both of them. Big deal.

    I echo the commentator who suggested we focus on having the ultra orthodox write civilly about other Jews, including the Modern Orthodox, or less fervently orthodox. We can afterwards turn our attention to the JQR.

    We have plenty of work ourselves to get to a point when the behaviour of our “ultra” orthodox community (which on the surface, I am one of) demonstrates civil discourse and noble behaviour. Perhaps it will rub off on others. Right now they see dueling Rabbis, yeshivas warring, Rabbis arrested, etc. – let’s focus on what we are doing and improve the discourse in our neck of the woods.

  13. Raymond says:

    Okay, then I think that from now on, I should call ultra-Orthodox Jews Chareidim. Calling them Torah Jews is an insult to Modern Orthodox Jews, calling them Traditional Jews creates the false impression of them being wishy-washy, calling them right-wing Jews is obviously pejorative, but calling them ultra-Orthodox is demeaning as well. My one hesitation in calling them Chareidim, is that the term is in Hebrew, and thus the mere mention of the word automatically brings out the response from gentiles, “What is that?” And yet it will just have to be the word to settle for, much as we do not call Tefillin Phylacteries, even though gentiles automatically respond to the word Tefillin by asking what that means. All in all, there is a limitation in language going on here.

    Personally, I consider any form of Judaism to be legitimate, just as long as it is some form of Orthodox Judaism, from Modern Orthodox to Centrist to Chareidi to Sephardic to Chassidic to Satmer to Religious Zionism and to any other form of Orthodoxy that I unintentionally failed to mention here. I get the feeling that the one who got this the most right was Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch.

  14. mycroft says:

    I just read the article by Yehuda Mirsky- assuming his facts are accurate what should be discussed is that a history lack of ethics does not prevent “success” in the Rabbinical field.
    If the facts in the “polemic” are true that is the problem-not the tone of the accusations.

  15. hindy frishman says:

    Perhaps we should stop doing negative things, rather than blaming the reporters who report those negative things.
    The latest elections in Israel are a case in point. In Bet Shemesh, one side showed concentration camps imagery and begged voters to vote for their candidate to avoid it, one side had their candidate fined for campaign irregularities, one side was issuing letters saying it was against the Torah to choose the candidate you prefer, and members of one group were ARRESTED on election day with a pile of fake IDs in a plot to take to the polls. Guess which group had school principals investigated for telling students who to vote for (illegal) – a black hat school, a modern Orthodox school, or a chiloni school?
    Guess if the one side I just described was the charedi candidate and his supporters/voters or the chiloni candidate and his dati supporters.
    And guess what? I am yeshivish, not dati. But I can’t help seeing the TRUTH. And the reporters, while they should not twist/distort/over-report negative stories, are being given plenty to report by the Charedim or whatever you like to call them.

  16. lawrence kaplan says:

    Toby Katz: Did you read Yehudah Mirsky’s article on the elections for the positions of Chief Rabbi? Had you done so, you would have seen that he is exceptionally knowledgeable, and certainly it would be laughable and absurd to refer to at least his views as exaggerated 10% of the time and totally false 85% of the time.

    I suggest that both Dr. Schick and Toby Katz, and, indeed, readers of CC, read Mirsky’s many past articles from the now defunct Jewish Ideas Daily. They will see that Mirsky is one of the most knowledgeable, sensitive, and discerning commentators on the Israeli religious and cultural scene. Sorry Dr. Schik, but you are totally off on this one.

    Let me also second Barry’s comment with respect to the review of Hovat ha-Talmidim. It is a favorable and appreciative review written by a well known modern Orthodox educator. I, unlike Barry, feel the cartoon was not in good taste, but for Dr. Schick to ignore the review to which it was atached is really inexcusable.

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