America’s Got Chillul Hashem

by Dan Butler

The various news and social media have been crowing about the “modern Orthodox” 12-year-old who appeared last night on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT. This little caricature of the caricature “Jacob”-a painfully embarrassing and seldom funny woman playing a bar mitzvah boy on Saturday Night Live-told a few foul “jokes” to the utter delight( tinged with shock) of the crowd. By any objective standard, neither the kid’s delivery nor his material would have made the grade if he were not a 12-year-old wearing a KIPA. Getting prominent play for how supportive they are, his father- also sporting a yarmulke on stage, and his mother, who could not have appeared more delighted if she were at her son’s medical school graduation, were just so obviously proud. It would have been a cringe- worthy display under any circumstances.
But, assuming that they are not just very savvy Gentiles(and bad parents), who just used the device of a yarmulke to get a leg up on the competition, I find their identification as “modern Orthodox” appalling.

I am modern Orthodox.

Want to know what that means in my world? It means we adhere to an age-old tradition with as little compromise as is humanly possible. In fact, if you sat down and talked to us there are just a few things that make us different from the so-called “chareidi”Jew s-easily identified by their sartorial fascination with the color black:

1) We attribute theological significance to the birth, growth, survival, and success of the State of Israel

2) We view the female half of our culture as intellectually equal, and worthy of equal treatment in education and in cultivation of their leadership potential.

3) We believe that education in almost any subject is a worthwhile pursuit without apology.

4) And perhaps most significantly, we believe that our children can be taught to discern good from bad and need not live in a sanitized environment with a bag over their heads. Sometimes we let them watch television. And then we try to be around to point out that many aspects of our dominant culture do not reflect our values.

In that vast area across the Hudson River known as America, those of us who identify as Orthodox have a certain sensibility derived of our constant awareness that we represent something very large and very significant. In our area, in Pittsburgh, that theme resonates throughout our society. During the sports segment one recent night on our local news they interviewed Stephon Tuitt, the newly signed defensive end on the Pittsburgh Steelers, who spoke of the tremendous responsibility he now bears having been assigned number 91, a number last worn by the great defensive end Aaron Smith. L’HAVDIL.

When I arrived in Family Court today, lawyers, court personnel, even sheriffs, who have formed an impression of me over the years by my demeanor and speech, evinced shock at what they had seen on TV of a child whom they identify with me and my belief system because of his choice and that of his parents to put a beanie on his head. Ordinarily, some of these people actually apologize if they have occasion to say something inappropriate and I am present. Out of respect for what they perceive me to be. But this kid, and of course his parents, dragged me down with them.

Make no mistake; I believe that in America this child’s parents have every right to parade him like JonBenet Ramsey before millions on TV. But this level of Chillul Hashem- desecration of God’s name- resulting from a child mouthing foul potty humor before an audience of millions with that kipa on his head, shocks the conscience. This isn’t about rights. It’s about responsibility.

By those parents shepherding their child into that particular manure pile, they have besmirched all of us who share that identification by others with a Judaism that does not abide stealing, lying, cheating, racism, vulgarity, bullying, Shabbat violation, or desecration of God’s name. They have a right to do it, but we have a right to be sickened by it and to cry out against it.

To those Jews whose open view of the world impels them to congratulate this child or his parents, ask yourself what your limits are….what if the kid had mooned the audience?. Even the judges, who clearly do not share our values (like the traditional Jewish value of good parenting) might have felt that a line had been crossed.

So kid, as you go on to Vegas, or wherever AGT takes you next, do a big favor to those of us who’ve spent our lives trying for kiddush Hashem-sanctification of God’s name. TAKE OFF YOUR YARMULKE. Just like your father did in 2011, when he told the same jokes at a comedy club.(taken off YouTube within the last few days.)

Of course then-unlike America’s Got Talent- there was not a million dollar prize at stake.
Or, if you insist on adherence to this lesser of our traditions, wear a Yankees cap, so that our Torah, our faith, and our tradition don’t have to viewed in the public eye on the same level as the sewage you are spewing.

Anybody is welcome to watch you on YouTube. I have chosen not to specify the content of the “jokes” because I want my kids (who are grown-ups and, I think, by now may have watched the clip) to see that it embarrasses me.

Dan Butler, a former judge, divides his time between legal practice and inspirational speaking, He claims to be the only person in America to have spoken for Satmar (Hamaspik), Camp Simcha, NCSY, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is a Regional Vice President of the OU, and is on Camp HASC’s Executive Board. You can find more of him at

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37 Responses

  1. Benshaul says:

    While we can quibble over your interpretation of what charedi stands for, thank you for standing up for the “modern orthodox” and not letting it be a synonym for a lack of adherence to our common values and the Shulchan Aruch.

  2. Yitzchak Vitale says:

    Thank you for standing up for both parts of the term “modern orthodox”. Much appreciated.

    By the way, I heard Dan Butler speak in Borehamwood (Great Britain) a year or two ago, and he is amazing. If you are looking for a speaker I highly recommend him.

  3. Avraham Marks says:

    “But, assuming that they are not just very savvy Gentiles(and bad parents), who just used the device of a yarmulke to get a leg up on the competition”

    Do you mean to imply that Josh may be a non-Jew simply dressing the part for better ratings? That is clearly not the case. His school (Westchester Day School) has even gone so far as to make a wishy-washy statement about how his performance “was entirely contrary to the Modern Orthodox values taught and lived at WDS.”

    More to your point: Modern Orthodoxy as espoused on paper and as practiced in the trenches have sadly diverged. Thinking back on my modern orthodox friends from high school and college (and those were over a decade ago), that a “modern orthodox” person would make such remarks does not seem especially shocking (though my old classmates would have had the forbearance to make jokes in private and not on national television). Sadly, in the vernacular usage, the term “Modern Orthodox” has come to mean “shomer shabbos and shomer kashrus” without much else. This should serve as a wake-up call for Modern Orthodox institutions to look at their laity critically and ask how they can make sure the orthodoxy is given the same weight as the modernity.

  4. BR says:

    It would have been good if it was just “potty humor.” At least that is juvenile. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    The author was doing great until he veered off into his purported differentiation between modern and charedi. It’s a pity, because he was and is making an excellent point, and this needlessly detracted from what could have been a constructive (and unifying) post. Does he imagine the rest of his post would be irrelevant to a charedi lawyer? Minus the four items it was great.

    But to claim that to “view the female half of our culture as intellectually equal, and worthy of equal treatment in education and in cultivation of their leadership potential” differentiates modern Orthodoxy means that either (a) he aligns himself with those in or near “Open Orthodoxy” who believe that in order to acknowledge women’s intellect requires women’s ordination, or (b) he simply doesn’t understand the charedi world or its approach.

    The larger issue, though, is his item #4. When I wrote about this AGT clip, I saw no reason to point out how unimaginable it was that a charedi father would proudly watch his charedi son go out on stage and do something like this. The average Modern Orthodox family is, as Mr. Butler correctly implies, nowhere near doing anything like this either. But it is also definitely true that the more “sanitized” the environment, the less likely this is to happen. And so if the writer is going to bring up this particular difference between Charedi and Modern, in this of all contexts, a bit more reflection and a bit less condescension certainly appears to be in order.

    How could it be that a Torah-observant family, living in a Torah-observant environment and educating their children in Torah-observant schools, would proudly send their son out on stage to do this? Where did the system fail?

    Here’s the issue: we are supposed to sanitize our environment. As Mrs. Fleksher just quoted from Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch, a Jewish couple should “found a home into every room of which G-d may enter” — a place of Kedushah, of holiness. And part of that is in order that “a younger generation be trained up” — to inculcate in our impressionable children a focus upon HaShem and his Torah. I’d rather my son be less excited about the Orioles than he is, although there’s nothing wrong with listening to (or watching) an Orioles game. It’s just a matter of focus.

    According to Rabbi Meir Goldberg of Rutgers Jewish Experience, upwards of 25% of those who go from Modern Orthodox homes into a co-ed, four-year college abandon a Torah lifestyle by the time they graduate. How well is the idea that “children can be taught to discern good from bad” without a “sanitized environment” working out in practice?

  6. Aaron says:

    There are a lot of misguided people out there who think this was a kiddush Hashem, namely acting and being ‘cool’ just like the rest of the world.

  7. Benshaul says:

    Rabbi Menken, I fear that your critique of the four points of distinction will create a new source of contention and debate on this forum, one that we could do without at this point. Even though i agree with some of your critique, knowing the author – he enjoys baiting all affiliations, and is best left alone on this one.

  8. YEA says:

    I often disagree with Rabbi Menken’s point of view, but I think he really hit the nail on the head in his comment here.

  9. jbs says:

    I am modern orthodox as well and I was appalled as well by the AGT clip but I agree with Rabbi Menken that it was not necessary(esepcially on this site) to bring a condescending distinction between Chareidim and Modern Orthodox. I’ve seen the same condescending distinctions coming from Chareidim as well and I find it disrespectful when done by either side. I think both communities offer a lot to the orthodox jewish community and they both influence each other for the positive and quite frankly both communities need each other.
    With regards to living a santiized environment, I believe both extremes are wrong. We have to clearly limit the exposure of our children to American culture, but to live in a bunker mentality when Chareidim only make up .001 of the world population is also wrong. Sometimes we have to be part of the world in order to influence it. I believe there is a middle ground and many American Orthodox Jews do have a hybrid approach to this. We can bring examples from both sides as to the problems of living on the extremes. This AGT story is one of them.

  10. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    Thanks for referencing the R’Hirsch quote in this context, Rabbi Menken. Beautifully applied.

  11. dr. bill says:

    When I (carefully) read Judge Butler’s very precise wording on differences between modern and chareidi orthodox streams, particularly with respect to women and secular culture, I was impressed. (I saw neither an endorsement of so-called open orthodoxy nor an unqualified supporter of TV.) Now I see that my impressions were not universal.

  12. A yid says:

    Rabbi Menken is in the right here. All movements and streams must continually evaluate whether their model is producing results that fit its aspirations. The simple fact that it is unimaginable that any charedi family would have produced the scene in question should prompt those of the modern velt to question the viability of the synthesis they espouse. As worthy as the model may be as a theoretical construct, the practical outcome must be the measuring stick for any large scale movement.

  13. Yehoshua Mandelcorn says:

    “this child’s parents have every right to parade him like JonBenet Ramsey before millions on TV.”
    I disagree.

  14. Cvmay says:

    Again & again!

    Like a Venn Diagram, compare & contrast and shared values of both MO & CHARD. Most groups are entirely heterogeneous – an MO can fit in CHARD circles (in the Venn Dia) & vise versa. MO send to CHARD SCHOOLS & on occasion CHARD send to MO school depending on curriculum, neighborhood, and students’ needs. To define or differentiate bt both groups is a waste of time & falls into generalizations & stereotypes.

    This kid and his parents acted & behaved like idiots on TV & brought a stain on American Jewry. Actions that occur in CHARD areas by so-called Charedim bring the same bloody stain to the forefront. Neither group is the winning choice in global embarrassment.

    Spend time davening, learning, doing Chesed & just being nice one to another! In the end ” WE ARE ONE” & need each other since the rest of the world is ready to destroy & dump us in the sea!

  15. David says:

    Danny thanks for brilliantly articulating what we were all feeling.

  16. Raymond says:

    One of the reasons why I do not wear a yarmulke in my everyday activities (of course I do wear one in shul as well as when I am invited to private, religious homes for Jewish holiday meals) is precisely because of the danger of me desecrating G-d’s Name. I have not seen the act of the boy in question, nor do I have any desire to, but I get the feeling that I do not quite talk the way he does in that act that his parents are embarrassingly so proud of. Still, I know I am so very far from perfect, and I do not want my words or behavior to give gentiles any excuse for hating our Jewish people even more. And so I do not ordinarily wear a yarmulke. If only the boy in question had done the same, and if only he had not even pretended to be a religious Jew, it would have saved our people so much unnecessary shame.

    As for the Modern Orthodox aspect of this, I wrestle with this all the time, particularly regarding its openness to secular studies. There are very interesting and important things to learn from studying secular books, but every moment that one spends time studying them, one can instead of studying the ultimate book, namely the Torah. Plus, great secular authors and people shine for a while, and then fade away, while the Torah remains Eternal. And yet having a Torah-Only approach, can easily lead to both material poverty as well as narrow-minded fanaticism, plus we do live in America and not in some shtebl. I do not know whether the Modern Orthodox or Chareidi approach to life is the better one, but these are just some of the thoughts I have on that subject that seems to have no perfect solution.

  17. Noam Stadlan says:

    I think that R. Menken protests too much. He brings no proof for his statements, just accusations. If he read R. Aharon Feldman for example he would see that for that Chareidi Gadol women are intellectually inferior. If he read Oz v’Hadar Levusha by Rav Falk he would find that women are not supposed to display their knowledge in public. I could list many many more sources. R. Menken can of course disavow these positions, but the truth is that the Judge has accurately described the standard Chareidi position. The other descriptions are also accurate in my opinion. Regarding #4: Can one imagine a frum person defrauding the government? Unfortunately there are a significant number of Chareidim in jail for these sorts of crimes. It obviously is horrible for any Jew to act poorly. But it is just as easy to blame fraud on being Chareidi as it is to blame this kid’s jokes on being Modern Orthodox. I suggest we do neither.

  18. Meir Goldberg says:

    R’ Menken, unfortunately, the reality on campus is that 50% of Modern Orthodox HS grads in secular universities (such as Rutgers Binghamton, etc. Not sure what the story is at city U’s such as Brooklyn or Queens College) are not keeping shabbos. This is from an unpublished study quoted by R’ Pruzansky and every campus Rabbi in the country knows this to be true empirically.

    The thing is, many of these students weren’t really shomer shabbos coming into university. Many of the parents of Modox Yeshiva HS students that I interact with won’t drive to work on Shabbos, but will turn on a TV, use some electricity, etc. Many will eat in non Kosher restaurants (one student told me that his mother let him eat in Mcdonalds when in Las Vegas – I guess what happened in Vegas didn’t stay there) and not eat meat.

    It seems like there are two streams within modern orthodoxy. One – Modox machmir, who basically adhere to what the Judge is writing about. The other is left wing modern Orthodoxy which is hemorrhaging badly. Our kiruv responsibilities have gotten a whole lot bigger. Those in the Yeshiva world and in the Modox machmir world need to reach out with bonds of love to our left wing Modox brethren and draw them back to what Yiddishkeit is supposed to be. Or else they will likely not be frum within a generation.

  19. Mr. Cohen says:

    Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat, page 33A:
    Obscene language causes calamities to increase and new harsh decrees against Jews and the men of Israel die young, and orphans and widows cry out and are not answered.

  20. Nachum says:

    Yaakov Menken, here is the reason: On an ostensibly charedi site, you have had, thus far, four posts devoted to this horror. That means that either your attempts to shield your world from such things is failing, making Mr. Butler’s point about not hiding from them all the more true, or that you’ve decided to devote an inordinate amount of time condemning others (while ignoring the beam within your own eye) simply because it’s easy and they are “others.” Now, the latter can’t be true, can it?

  21. Tuvia Berman says:

    Meir Goldberg, do you know how we can view the study you sighted?

  22. Y. Ben-David says:

    I am sorry to be the one to be the bearer of bad tidings for American Orthodox Jewry but the phenomenon of this boy-entertainer does not surprise me in the least. The fact is as follows: The United States and Western Europe are in terminal moral and social decline and this will inevitably affect their economic situations as well. We made aliyah to Israel almost 28 years ago from Southern California so I am not in day-to-day contact with contemporary American but from what I see and what I read in two vitally important books: Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” and David Goldstein’s (aka “Spengler”) book on the fall of civilizations there is no hope for America’s long-term future. The country is morally sick. Almost 50% of all children born in the US are born to single-mothers so they are growing up without a stable family environment. It is even forbidden to say there is anything wrong with this. States are falling over themselves to legalize marijuana. Homosexual “marriage” is so sacrosact it is even forbidden to express any reservations over it and all the non-Orthodox Jewish movements have fallen in line in addition to almost all the major non-Jewish religious groups in the US.
    Traditional Jewish teachings show that these are very negative phenomena and ultimately lead to societal collpase. However, even modern historical research such as Goldman shows in his book shows the same thing! Yet, the American Orthodox community puts its head in the sand, tries to build the ghetto wall higher and pretends that it is not affected by this degeneration. Yet, as this child-comedian shows, these destructive values penetrate into the very heart of the the Orthdox community, both Modern and Haredi. One commentor on the thread regarding the Aguda convention which discussed the Mayor’s role in the convention stated that “homosexual ‘marriage’ is a fact and thus the Haredi community must move on because there are more important issues”. My question is “move on to where?”.
    Is simply getting more budgets from the state the most important thing?
    I note that much of the recent critical comment about Israel and Zionism flows from the fact that religous and secular Jews live cheek-by-jowl in Israel so the Orthodox community can not ignore them, whereas in New York, which is the world capital of the all negative values I listed above, religious Jews ignore the large number of non-religious Jews in that city and the rest of the US and pretend they don’t exist and they some try to compare unfavorable the mixed secular-religous population of Israel is to the supposedly totally pious New York/American religious community.
    It is time for American Orthodox Jewry to wake up and take a long, hard look at the larger society they live in and prepare to take action in order to save the communities they are part of from the INEVITABLE degeneration that lays in store.

  23. lawrence kaplan says:

    Meir: There was no such study. Indeed, Rabbi Pruzansky when questioned about his claim admitted there was no such study, and what he said was based on an informal conversation with an unnamed sociologist. The informal impressions of Campus rabbis are a rather poor basis to draw such far-reaching conclusions.

    Rabbi Menken: Indeed, many of us MO and, I dare say, even many disaffected Haredim do not understand why Haredi newspapers and magazines refuse to print any pictures of women, why, increasingly, fathers and immediate male family members are excluded from their daughters’ Beth Jacob graduations, etc.

  24. c-l,c says:

    “ostensibly a chareidi site”
    Might that be a form of moving of the goalposts?

  25. Yaakov Menken says:

    As I said in my earlier comment, “I saw no reason to point out how unimaginable it was that a charedi father would proudly watch his charedi son go out on stage and do something like this. The average Modern Orthodox family is, as Mr. Butler correctly implies, nowhere near doing anything like this either.” Neither I nor Rabbi Adlerstein said or expressed any division between Josh and ourselves, as what he did reflected on what it means to be a frum Jew, not merely Modern Orthodox. [And as I mentioned before, Rav Adlerstein wrote his post after mine, but without having seen it, and I added the story about Andrew Dice Clay because the protagonist of that story (who would surely call himself Modern Orthodox) fully agreed with me that it’s an excellent coda.] But now, in the wake of Judge Butler’s guest post, in which he lays out differences between himself and the Charedim, Nachum insists it is I, and this “charedi site,” that is focusing upon Josh not as one of us, but as “the other.” Nachum, can you find, in any of either my or Rabbi Adlerstein’s posts on the topic, even one word that justifies your statement? Or are you objecting to the fact that we accepted for publication, also on this topic, a Guest Contributor post from a Modern Orthodox lawyer and judge?

    Noam, your claim that I simply made “accusations” without “proof” is certainly an interesting take on my comment; I will simply trouble myself to dismiss your misquote of Rav Aharon Feldman (in which you simply made an accusation against Rav Feldman, without proof). And as the modern Orthodox have, to our mutual sadness, proven themselves equally adept at defrauding others when it’s their turn, I fail to see how that affects our obligation to create a more “sanitized” environment, to use Judge Butler’s term for what turns out to be Rav Hirsch’s ideal. [And thank you, Mrs. Fleksher, for the kudos, but you provided a perfectly relevant quote — and its value in this context was, in my opinion, obvious.]

    Finally, Lawrence Kaplan, I will repeat what I said in my reply to Judge Butler’s article: if you don’t understand the charedi approach, that doesn’t make it wrong. Now, in this case there are several “charedi approaches,” and what you have written applies only to some. I attended my daughter’s recent high school graduation (and given that she and several classmates are doing an internship at the NIH this summer, no one can question their intellectual gifts). Along the way, I have quite a few times thought how privileged I am to have become frum and been able to raise my daughter to go to a Bais Yaakov-style school where she develops her talents without “boy pressure.” That, to me, means a great deal more than the fact that I was permitted to attend her graduation ceremony.

    After a recent speaking engagement, I spoke with another father and his daughter (who has now also, presumably, just graduated), and this general topic came up. She told me that her school is more “mixed” than my daughter’s — and that she can clearly perceive the difference between those girls who go out with boys, and those who don’t. Those who date, she said, have a lower self-image and a lower image of the world around them, than those who wait until they are ready for marriage. At the worst, of course, this means a greater likelihood of self-destructive behaviors.

    In other words, in her opinion the Charedi track is demonstrably superior at helping a young woman develop her intellect, education, and leadership potential. Charedi society is supposed to be biased against women, but it’s the fathers who don’t get to attend the graduation ceremony at some schools — which, on its face, seems to have no bearing upon their daughters’ education and intellectual talents.

    I can’t really tell you about the Chassidic schools or how they operate. But as I said my daughter came out of her school ready for an internship at the NIH, and as we looked at seminaries, I was told more than once that that the New York schools reach an even higher level of learning in Jewish texts (which greatly outstrips that of the average newly-minted non-Orthodox Rabbi). No, it doesn’t make sense to me to claim that these schools aren’t appreciating girls as intellectual equals of the boys — none of the boys graduate Charedi high schools ready for an NIH internship.

    So, at the one extreme, you have Chassidic schools that don’t let fathers watch their daughters graduate [and yes, I grant you that it’s extreme]. At the other, you have co-education, which, according to recent studies, correlates with lower “achievement levels and enrollment persistence” vs. girls in girls-only classes — especially when it comes to the most intellectually-demanding math and science fields. Yet you’re looking to the former and saying they don’t appreciate (or cultivate) their daughters’ intellect, while leveling no similar charge at the culture that considers it normal to place girls in an environment in which their intellectual achievement and education are likely to be curtailed. Simply looking at this objectively, I don’t see how that makes sense.

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    Yasher Koach to Judge Butler ( one of NCSY’s greatest advisors) for an excellent article on how he understands MO, Yet, one cannot deny the facts as presented by R M Goldberg as to the future trends within MO.

    Larry Kaplan wrote in relevant part:

    “Meir: There was no such study. Indeed, Rabbi Pruzansky when questioned about his claim admitted there was no such study, and what he said was based on an informal conversation with an unnamed sociologist. The informal impressions of Campus rabbis are a rather poor basis to draw such far-reaching conclusions.”

    Why? Campus rabbis are witnesses to the facts on the ground-the tragedy of 12 years + of Jewish education and life going up in smoke-which are seemingly minimized and dismissed in more removed and rarefied sectors of the MO world.

  27. Steve Brizel says:

    Noam Stadlan-AFAIK, R Falk’s book is by no means the only sefer on the subject, and especially, in Michlala, when our daughters were students for their year, was not considered an authoritative work on the halachos and minhagim of Tznius.Referring to R Falk is a red herring on this issue. For anyone interested, Mrs Abbby Lerner, whose course on Women in Jewish Law is mandatory for all seniors im YU’s Central HS, has developed a curriculum and mareh makomos that IMO deserved publication for a wider audience yars ago.

    Noam Stadlan wrote in part:

    “Regarding #4: Can one imagine a frum person defrauding the government? Unfortunately there are a significant number of Chareidim in jail for these sorts of crimes”

    Take a ride to Otisville, NY, the site of a Federal penitentiary with many serving time for white collar crimes. It is pure urban myth and stereotype to assert that there “are a significant number of Chareidim in jail for these sorts of crimes” without acknowledging that many MO are also in the same locale for the same violations, simply because violations of CM are not limited to any Hashkafic background simply because HaKesef Koneh es HaKol.

  28. Steve Brizel says:

    Let’s take Dan Butler’s definition of MO as a classical working definition of MO. Would not anyone who subscribes to such a definition acknowledge that the secular culture and milieu of today especially require a MO person to have more boundaries in his or personal life, as to what is considered appropriate elements of the surrounding culture and which require a person to eschew as incompatible with his or her Avodas HaShem? What MO needs to do is to realize the secular culture and milieu is far more permissive in how it views what the Torah prohibits, than how the same culture viewed such conduct until the mid to late 1960s. Viewing the secular world through the lens of the 1960s strikes me as a poor way of raising children. Popular music, TV and the movies of today should strike anyone who remembers the heleige days of the 1960s that the same are, in large part, unacceptable for anyone striving to grow in Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim.

  29. Y. Ben-David says:

    Steve Brizel-
    Regarding “white collar crimes”-I fail to see why the argument that “other people do these bad things too” is any sort of justification when you are dealing with people who come from a background that demands the HIGHEST level of ethical and moral behavior in addition to what people may consider “ritual” or what we may also call “bein adam l’makom” responsibilities.
    You are strengthening my point about the corrosive nature of American society, culture and values. As I said above, NO ONE is immune to its influence, no matter how high they may try to build the walls of the ghetto. Recent statistics show a fall-off of religious belief and involvement amonst ALL religions in the US and this includes the Christian fundamentalists who were growing in recent decades. They are losing a significant part of their youth as well to the siren-song of post-modernist values.
    I recently read an article about one of the most popular preachers in the US today who is an “Evangelical Lutheran” (I don’t know what they stand for) and who appears at her “religious services” wearing a tank-top, covered with tatoos and her preaching is liberally sprinkled with profanities and obscenities. Her message is that it is not important what you do as long as you get in touch with your innerself and know that you are loved. She is packing in the crowds and they include not only the “down-and-out” types who were her original clientele but also now nice, middle-class, straight people. This is the America and its values today.

  30. Meir Goldberg says:

    The study quoted by R Pruzansky can be found here

    Mr Kaplan, I don’t know anything about the study quoted. But since you seem to think otherwise, I suggest that you speak to campus Rabbis at universities frequented by modox students and see what they say. I have close friends who are Rabbis at NYU, Binghamton, U Maryland, Yale, etc and I know Rabbis at just about every major university with a large Jewish population. Ignore the warning at your own peril.

  31. c-l,c says:

    Y.Ben David,
    Is Israel really different in kind or just in degree?

    And for how much longer?

  32. Y. Ben-David says:


    You apparently are misinformed about the situation in Israel. Israel is a FAR, FAR more traditional society than the US. Religious life is strengthening in Israel. The birth rate of secular Israelis, against all demographic predictions is INCREASING, unlike similar secular populations in the US and Europe where it is far below replacement rate. In fact, Israel is the only country in the world where the Jewish population is increasing. Soon half of world Jewry will be living in Israel. I am sure you have heard of the recent PEW survey which showed that non-Orthodox American Jewry is fast vanishing. In Europe, many Jews are seriously considering fleeing.
    In the 28 years since we made aliyah, there has been a sea change in secular Israeli’s attitudes towards religious Jews, religious Jews have far more recognition of their rights by the government, IDF and society in general than existed in the past. There is a real renaissance of Jewish culture, if not religious observance in the general society.

    On the other hand, the US , and particularly New York is the world center of the decadent ideology that is eroding society throughout the West. I am particularly referring to the media which is spreading this dangerous philosophy around the world. The mayor, who is a welcome guest at religious Jewish conclaves himself advances these ideas. How can religious Jews live right in the heart of this malaise and think it won’t affect them.

    Finally, Eretz Israel is the spiritual as well as physical homeland of the Jewish people. It is here that the effort is being made to create a true Torah society and it is slowly succeeding. How can anyone think the Jewish people can truly be spiritually healthy in the Galut which ultimately means spritual if not physical death?

  33. Bob Miller says:

    A lot of what is said to be a confrontation with modernity is more of a surrender.

  34. Steve Brizel says:

    Y Ben David wrote in part:

    “Regarding “white collar crimes”-I fail to see why the argument that “other people do these bad things too” is any sort of justification when you are dealing with people who come from a background that demands the HIGHEST level of ethical and moral behavior in addition to what people may consider “ritual” or what we may also call “bein adam l’makom” responsibilities.”

    That was not my point-I emphasized that you can find both MO and Charedim in jail for white collar crimes. I note that no one has mentioned the role of a prominent MO person for his role in facilitating the Madoff scandal and its effect on numerous Jewish institutions and families.

  35. Robert Lebovits says:

    It is assur to speak disparagingly about Eretz Yisroel. Only recently we read the consequences to our nation owing to truths spoken in criticism of the land. Consequently it would be inappropriate to critique your harsh contrast of the US versus the State of Israel. What I believe is acceptable to say is that in the over forty years of living and subsequently visiting Israel – along with having children reside there for close to fifteen years – the trends in liberalism and loss of morality evident in the US have frequently been precursors of things to come in EY.

  36. Y. Ben-David says:

    Robert Lebovits-
    Of course negative trends coming out of the West affect Israel as well, but my point is that in Israel there are countervailing influences as well and they are gathering strength, unlike in the US where people, including the main religious establishments that provided the moral beacon of the country in the past are simply throwing up their hands, as one commentor in the thread about the Agudat Israel convention said, i.e. that the homosexual “marriage” issue is now lost and it is time to move on to “more important issues”. If the whole bedrock of society, the moral base of nation, is rotting away, how can those still standing on it go on with business as usual? The commentor is correct that that the issue is now lost. So does that mean that things can go an as before?
    The First World War which started exactly 100 years ago marked the collapse of European civilization that had existed for centuries. Europeans now had no problem slaughtering each other in the millions in their civil war. After that anything was possible. Many Jews, both religious and non-religious realized that Jews had no future in Europe and that the ground was burning under their feet. Others refused to acknowledge this and tried to convince everyone that things could go on as they had in the past. History decided the issue. Does contemporary American Jewry have the clarity to see what is going on in front of their noses as they see basic values demanded by the Torah of Jews and NON-JEWS alike thrown in the garbage can and to realize that American Jewry has no future, either?

  37. Yisrael Asper says:

    I don’t identify formally or informally as Modern Orthodox or Chareidi. I do identify as Jewish though, and the show which I did not see and am in no mood to see at least for now and probably a long time from now if not forever, should make me cringe. It is embarrassing to us all especially since the outside world just knows us as Jewish. The Three Weeks are coming and it should remind us that we are all harmed by the actions of every Jew like a body feeling pain from the stubbing of a toe.

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