Rosenblum’s Rule Revisited
Long-time readers are by now familiar with Rosenblum’s Rule: Where Torah Jews are in the majority their attention to issues of Kiddush Hashem declines; when they are in the minority, especially a small minority their intrapersonal behavior improves. I first formulated this rule many years ago while observing a group of kindergarten age kids in Boro Park rush out of class and promptly block all traffic on the street adjacent to their cheder. That was their turf, and they were not going to be deterred by the honking of a line of irritated drivers.
One of the research projects I’d like to see the newly formed Center for Jewish Reseach and Communication undertake is a comparative study of the attitudes of those raised in all-chareidi environments to those raised in religiously mixed cities and towns. Until then, Rosenblum’s Rule remains only a hypothesis based on anecdotal observation.
But further anecdotal evidence of the positive side of the rule came last Erev Shabbos. My wife and I were in the Galilee for around 24 hours, and decided to visit the Torah community in Carmiel, where I know exactly one person, the son-in-law of a close friend. When I was a kid, my mother’s always insisted on checking out every campus of a reasonably good college within a thirty mile radius on our family car trips, just in case one of her sons might one day wish to apply. And I have taken the same tack with respect to far-flung Torah communities: With today’s skyrocketing apartment prices, you never know where your children may end up living.
We found our way to the home of my acquaintance just as his family was crowding into their car to drive to Jerusalem for Shabbos. I asked him if he could direct us to the beis medrash of the main kollel, and he agreed. The beis medrash is nestled in a tree-filled park, and I took the first available parking spot.
My guide immediately ran over horrified. I had unwittingly parked at the end of the walkway coming out of the forest in an illegal spot. Even though the area was virtually empty and my car was not likely to block anyone, my guide instructed me to repark a few meters away. He explained that in Carmiel the community is extremely meticulous to obey all traffic laws – e.g., not parking on sidewalks – and to respect the well-manicured parks that make the city so attractive.
He mentioned that they have other practices that can only strike a visitor from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem as weird. For instance, because of the relatively low percentage of religious residents Sephardim, national religious, and yeshivish actually run on one ticket in municipal elections.
The previous evening, we had stayed in Yavneel, a quaint village set up by Baron Rothschild in 1901, about fifteen minutes drive from Tiveria. Shmuel and Chana Veffer, old friends from Har Nof, moved a few years ago to the rustic setting, where they run Villa Rimona Zimmers for those looking for a break. The ratio of secular to religious Jews in Yavneel is about 60:40.
Shmuel told me that the rav of the local community shul established the official nusach over 40 years ago to use modern Hebrew pronounciation so that the local community would feel comfortable, even though he and his family are Chasidish. The difference may be slight, but the head of the kehillah is determined to make everyone feel part of the community no matter what their background.
Similarly in the Breslav kehillah, where I davened, they are strict that all the Chassidim greet every Jew they meet on the street on Shabbos with a warm “Shabbat Shalom.”
That sensitivity reminded me of a friend in the United States who established a Lakewood Kollel in a large Modern Orthodox shul. He once told me that when he first went to Lakewood to interview avreichim, he told each candidate, “I don’t have time to faher you, but there is one rule that I insist on for anyone who joins the Kollel: You must smile and greet every person you meet in shul or on the street. Can you do that?”
Finally, my guess is that those who live in completely insular communities might be more inclined to stifle the impulse to share, in the name of “speaking the truth,” their negative opinion of other groups, if they ever had to look in the faces of those injured by their “divrei emes” and see the hurt in their eyes.