Interesting Dialogue in Dialogue

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27 Responses

  1. eli nadoff says:

    R adlerstein, this is a beautiful, tactful, clever critique of an essay that you recognize does in fact contain a lot of truth. I’m floored. I’m encouraged with the prospective of respectfull disagreement.

  2. Moshe says:

    Is there any doubt that more would be drawn to follow us if we projected an image of exuberance for Torah life, exhilaration in observance, personal satisfaction with our lots, familial stability, communal peace and tranquility, and love for all Jews? Isn’t the name of the game at the moment – and for quite a while previous to this moment – the marketing of allegiance to Hashem and His Torah? And have we not failed miserably when the non-observant Israeli can point to many of us and note, with some justice internecine struggles, widespread poverty, under-education, a soaring dropout rate, abuse and its cover-up, the imposition of a stifling uniformity, a march of stories of monetary corruption in the professional rabbinate, and the apparent non-participation in the issues and debates that concern all other Israelis?

    Well, we have a control group with which to test the thesis here: the Religious Zionists. Are more secular Israelis flocking to undertake their brand of Judaism than to the black-hatters? I don’t think so.

    [YA – Puhleese! Do you think we couldn’t take the laundry list of shortcomings and easily substitute one tailor-made for the RZ community? You’re invited to make substitutions. The point is, we have seen the enemy, and he is us – not the ghost of Ben-Gurion.]

  3. Doron Beckerman says:

    I’ve shared this here once before, now I’ll do it in translation.

    Uri Zohar in an interview just before Pesach:

    “Parents come to us [in Lev LeAchim] describing a situation they cannot bear; the manner of speech and behaviour of the children at home. They turn to us en masse and plead with us. They turn to us, we don’t even need to reach them. We don’t publicize these things. We are taking about thousands, may they so increase. We, at Lev LeAchim, enroll four to five thousand children per year in Torah-oriented schools, without any special activity. Their feet lead them to us. I don’t know if people know about this, but next year more than half of Jewish children in the State will be in religious frameworks. Granted, not all in Charedi ones, but religious ones! People are just running away from darkness to light…

    Every Lev L’achim coordinator can recount and testify about thousands of reponses per month of people joining Torah study with Avreichim. Lev LeAchim is active in one hundred centers throughout the country. There are public places where there are Avrechim who get in touch with distant Jews and join them up with a Chavrusa. They are at the Kosel, in Kever Rachel, they see distant Jews, approach them and make the suggestion. The result is immediate. Within 24 hours of the Jew’s consent, it begins, they start to learn. They have a connection to Torah, whether through a Shiur in the person’s area, by phone, or if necessary, the Avreich shows up to learn with him.”

    Side note: The head of Lev Le’Achim (Rabbi Sorotzkin) will occupy the number 8 slot on the Charedi Yahadut HaTorah list.

    [YA – And I’ve said it before as well. You measure the impact of a community’s behavior on kiruv not by who shows up, but by who doesn’t]

  4. Bob Miller says:

    Many secular Jews are negatively conditioned against Judaism by their environment, upbringing, education, mass media—and by direct encounters with some of “us”, rabbis and lay people! Not all encounters with us are so uplifting. That’s where we as a group have much work to do.

  5. SoMeHoW Frum says:

    The sad part is that Dialogue is now only published once a year and although they now have a web presence , their articles are not available online.

  6. Gershon says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    That was such a classy way you respectfully disagreed with Rav Feldman.

    Years ago I drank the Koolaid that religious matters are black and white. It’s so easy to win arguments that way. But then over time people learn stuff and those pat answers create more questions than answers. People eventually discover the grey areas that were ignored. It’s not all about those bad, evil payos cutting secularists against us. There were plenty of non-evil, well meaning people who had a different attitude. And of course there were some talmidei chachomim who also part of the building of the State.

    To live a nuanced life is much more challenging and has the potential to be very uplifting with all of its struggles.

    Was that the Rosh Yeshiva’s message? It sure wasn’t. But I thank you for saying it!

  7. Moshe says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, my point is that you’re being oversimplistic in attributing this to any issue of any particular sector. Seculars don’t get in the morning and say, “Oh, I would be Charedi, but they’re all X. And I would be Dati Leumi, but they’re all Y.”

    (a) The left-wing media bias is not summed up in “HaAretz” any more than in the US it is summed up in “The NY Times.” Left-wing viewpoints dominate. Proof: Ariel Sharon’s hard left turn and the term “esrog” becoming a verb meaning media protection of a criminal if he is someone to our liking, i.e., a peace-nik liberal. And it doesn’t end with attitude toward the Palestinians, but an overall liberal-democratic viewpoint. Witness Bennett’s recent media grilling as suffering from homophobia because he opposes that type of marriage.

    (b) The Supreme Court. Nuff said.

    (c) Yes, there is still fifty percent of the country’s schoolkids who are fed an irreligious diet, many of whose parents would fight tooth and nail (in the media and Supreme Court naturally) against any change. That has no effect?

    (d) Religion in general mixing into seculars’ lives. What can you do – you are born, married, and die under a religious framework that too many people don’t like. Many people think chalitzah is arcane, mamzeirim are causes by rabbinic stubbornness, and non-Jews remain that way because rabbis think they should. Kiruv might be a whole lot easier if the State pulled out of personal affairs altogether – but there will be fewer Jews to be mekarev. As Tzippi Livni put it to Chief Rabbi Yosef – giyur is not your problem; it’s mine: my children go to school with non-Jews and yours don’t, so mine might intermarry. Chief Rabbi says there’s nothing to be done, and Judaism is the culprit.

    (e) A cloistered hundred year-old Rabbi determining anything for the public, let alone acting as political kingmaker, is rather off-putting to many people. (For that matter, having any Rabbis determine anything at all for the public is off-putting.) That isn’t changing.

    (f) Fear: of commanders like Ofer Winter; of ads that encourage making Kiddush on Shabbos; of having too many soccer clubs move their games to Thursday; and so on.

    Yes, we are far from perfect. Maybe we’re even bad. But chalking up those who don’t show up to any of the items on your list of problems, or all of them combined, is ignoring a fundamental issue: It isn’t only that Jews need to market themselves better, so does Judaism. And Judaism has powerful enemies in the halls of media and justice (ghosts of Ben Gurion indeed), a secular education to overcome, and issues that unavoidably conflict with a liberal mindset.

    [YA – Yes, many factors and fixtures of Israeli society conspire against people returning to their roots. Any yet many thousands have! Why? Because they were given an opportunity to examine Torah from up close, and something resonated. And then all the factors you point out didn’t quite mean so much to them. By now, everyone in Israeli society knows about the phenomenon of chozrim be-teshuvah – and has been treated to liberal doses of sometimes vicious push-back as well. In the final analysis, each individual has to sort out the claims of competing voices calling him/her to a religious lifestyle, or to one of no restrictions. I cannot see how adding layers and layers of tarnish to the image of the former voice does not mute its message. Kiruv workers here in the US have pointed this out as one of the reasons for a slowing of the rate of return: what looked attractive to outsiders in the halcyon days of kiruv in the ’70’s is now see as contemptible after too much media exposure of our faults. And altogether too many of those who did return decades ago tell us that if they would have known then what they know now about the community, they would not have become frum. How could negative imgagery NOT impede the rate of return?]

  8. Eliezer Eisenberg says:

    Thank you for your article. The denizens of the cafes in Tel Aviv are not Avraham Avinu, and cannot be expected to realize on their own what they’re missing. Speaking to a SF, Rav Feldman wisely said exactly what needed to be said; but when we look into the mirror, we would be wise to follow your advise and recognize that if things chas veshalom don’t change, it will have been our failure. As you say, it is vital that we realize that our problem is פןיש בכם שורש פורה ראש ולענה, not to point fingers at the הם and say פן יש בהם שורש פורה ראש ולענה.

  9. SA says:

    Rabbi Beckerman, if Lev Le’achim indeed enrolls four to five thousand children *per year* in Torah schools, and each Lev Le’achim coordinator can testify to thousands of responses *per month* of people joining Torah study with avreichim (how many avreichim are doing this, exactly?) then the religious-secular conflict should have been over long ago because everyone would be religious by now. And Lev Le’achim isn’t the only group making such claims.

    Of course the phenomenon described exists, but a grain of salt, probably a large one, is advised.

  10. lacosta says:

    >>>his handling of how we should relate compassionately to Jews with same-sex attractions, and how to regard hechsherim from meshichist rabbis.

    remind us kindly where to read these.

    2. i don’t think that haredi misbehaviour breeds lack of chazara bitshuva. it’s rather that overwhelming plurality of hilonim/non-O are completely content in their middle class lifestyle. tasty lobster overrides spiritual quests, in an era when the gashmi life ,even in many haimishe circles, is king….

  11. Raymond says:

    Other than the Torah itself, Rabbi Aharon Feldman’s Juggler and the King just so happens to be my favorite book of all time. I also enjoyed reading his book of essays called Eye of the Storm. Nevertheless, I do take exception to anybody who rejects the Jewish State of Israel. How much moreso, when such rejection comes from the Orthodox Jewish world. I would think that part of being religious, involves showing appreciation for the fact that after almost 2,000 years of being in forced exile, that we have our Jewish land back.

    With the recent events in France, approximately 75% of the Jews living there, now wish to leave France. Well, where would they be able to go? Perhaps a few thousand would be let into the United States, but only Israel would take the majority of them, and would do so gladly. Isn’t it great that after almost 2,000 years, that we Jews have a place to run to, when the world inevitably turns against us? Isn’t it better that we now have Israel as a positive alternative to the gas ovens of Auschwitz? And isn’t it wonderful that after 2,000 years, we finally have the military means with which to defend the lives of our fellow Jews? The animosity to the Jewish State shown by too many Chareidim, only serve to push me away from that world. I do not think that I am alone in thinking this way.

  12. Aaron says:

    1) I don’t quite understand SFs question. 1.5 million hostile people living in one of the most densely populated areas of the world will pose a challenge to even the most capable Army. Insurgencies by the local indigenous populations have created havoc for the greatest armies of the world. Great Britain and France could not contain them neither could Russia or the USA. Israel is made out to be the aggressor because fighting in Gaza inevitably harms civilians. Many more Palestinians die than Israelis. Palestinians in Gaza live in poverty and squalor. Israel builds settlements which undermines Israels claim to want to reach a two state solution and therefore its moral superiority on this issue. Hence Palestinians made out to be the underdogs and Israel as the villains.

  13. Y. Ben-David says:

    Regarding Moshe’s claim that “secular Israelis are not flocking to Religious Zionism any more than to the Haredim” has not proven to be true. I see secular Israelis becoming RZ’s. I don’t know if I would call it “flocking” but it is important to remember that Hozrim B-teshuva to the RZ world quickly blend in with the FFB’s, unlike those joining the Haredi world who seem to remained marked as “different” even several generations AFTER the original generation of BT’s. Thus, they tend to stand out unlike those who become RZ’s. I have two close relatives in Israel who are children of RZ Hozrim B’teshuva who married into Israeli FFB rabbinical families which I understand would be close to Mission: Impossible in the Haredi world, which today is even dividing into separated sub-groups if the father works the children are marked and required to attend separate schools. SO naturally Haredi Hozrim B’teshuva stand out and can easily be noticed and counted.

  14. Doron Beckerman says:

    Of course the phenomenon described exists, but a grain of salt, probably a large one, is advised.

    Four to five thousand children per year in a system that includes approximately 1.5 million Jewish students does not have that dramatic an effect. As far as the adults, I too thought the numbers were off. So I called Lev LeAchim’s offices in Bnei Brak. They told me that they have about 1,000 people in the Gush Dan area doing the 1-1 Chavrusos. This is besides the Shiurim etc. to which groups come. They don’t have numbers for outside Gush Dan, but they did tell me that during the high season (Elul and Aseres Yemei Teshuvah) this year, they were contacted by about 10,000 people, who were directed to various Kiruv programs, not limited to those run by Lev LeAchim.

  15. Ben Waxman says:

    (e) A cloistered hundred year-old Rabbi determining anything for the public, let alone acting as political kingmaker, is rather off-putting to many people. (For that matter, having any Rabbis determine anything at all for the public is off-putting

    Not just for the secular part of Israel but for many of the dati’im, including rabbanim. See last week’s Olam Katan’s article on rabbis and politics.

  16. Kira says:

    About what is and is not taught in the “secular” public system in Israel, today:
    My daughter is currently serving as Sherut Leumi in Tverya. Her service is to provide Jewish educational content to the secular schools there. The program is called “Moreshet” and is staffed by Bnot Sherut, who are tasked with making the class not only informative, but also fun and memorable. The children look forward to her classes, and the teachers are pleased to host them. However – my daughter was surprised to find that the “secular” mamlachti schools teach Chumash, throughout elementary school. They teach Minhagei Yisrael about the holidays. They take the children to a Shul before Yom Kippur and have a rabbi speak with them. All this is part of the normal curriculum. Her role is to add to it – she taught them about the Beit HaMikdash for 10 BeTevet, and about Lashon Hara, and about the Rambam (who’s buried in Tverya), and about Shemitta. And yes, I can say with pride that she herself is a role model, that she presents the Torah through joy and also commitment, and that children all over Tverya stop her in the street.

    Does that mean that they will stop driving on Shabbat? No, because keeping Shabbat is a very, very difficult thing to do. Besides, they already light candles and make Kiddush Friday night. Will they keep a kosher home? The vast majority already do (no lobsters in Tverya). Does more knowledge translate into more observance? Not always. Does it count? As YA said above, we do not know Ribbono shel Olam’s cheshbonot. We do know one thing. He is very, very unhappy with those who say Lashon Hara about His people. So when talking about “secular” schools, keep in mind that there, also, it is not 1950, and that not all of Israel is Ramat Aviv.

  17. Moshe says:

    How could negative imgagery NOT impede the rate of return

    I don’t know if it does or doesn’t, but it shouldn’t. Perceptive people recognize that it’s tarnish covering precious metal. If I were a kiruv person anticipating laundry lists, I would come armed, for example, with images of the Frankel, Shaer, and Yifrach families; of the Gross family (the ones who tragically lost two girls last year); of the Har Nof families; and so on. Their response to tragedy is an awe-inspiring monumental testimony to the power of a life imbued with Emunah, and it has no secular parallel. In each of these cases, even the jaded secular media could not help but be overwhelmed with such depth.

    [YA – If kiruv pitched emunah, of making HKBH part of one’s life, you might have a point. But it doesn’t, except by rare gifted individuals. Instead, the carrot we hold out in front of potential candidates implicitly includes joining a community – and the community (and its image) comes with quite a bit of baggage.]

  18. moshe shoshan says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    Yiysher koach.

    WRT secular israeli’s and RZ. recent studies show that an increasing number of Isrealis who do wear kippot or strictly observe halakha identify themselves with the religious zionist stream. The see them as advocating bfor both traditional Zionist and Jewish values in ways that no other sector is. This is a major change in Israeli society. The is more to influencing Israeli society than counting th enumber of baalei teshuva on can claim.

  19. Shlomo r. says:

    Firstly Rabbi Adlerstien’s post deserves to be studied as a paradigm on how to disagree and still maintain kavod haTorah.It amazes me that some posts here are claiming that outreach in Israel to chilonim is an overall successful endeavor. No padded numbers can negate the fact that most chareidim view chilonim primarily as “threats” instead of kiruv opportunities. Isn’t it obvious that a major part of the job description of any chareidi Mk should be positive pr for chareidim and kiruv of the chiloni mk’s and not just money extraction for our (worthy) causes?Sadly I dont think it ever dawned on them .

  20. DF says:

    I have posted something similar to this elsewhere, but to repeat: if the media did the same type of fact checking Doron Beckerman does here, we would have a field day. I realize this is an opinion piece, not a news report, but to take an organization’s claims at face value, especially when they don’t seem to align with reality? Years ago I saw a flyer from Lev L’achim claiming to have opened more than a thousand schools within a few years. I was incredulous. And this was in the 90s, when Lev L’achim was barely in existence. More than a thousand schools??? In a small country like Israel? Impossible. The same is true with another very similar organization, Yad L’Achim. By their claims, one would think Jews in Israel are under a barrage of a veritable army of missionaries, or that Jewish girls are everyday being carried off by Arab kidnappers looking for a spouse. It simply isn’t so.

    Bottom line: All organizations need money to pay salaries, and all of them have to promote a certain viewpoint to advance their agenda. We are rightly skeptical of left wing organizations and the propaganda they represent; religious organizations are absolutely no different. It’s sad and infuriating, because we naturally want to trust an organization that claims to represent the Torah, but the facts are otherwise. The Chafetz Chayim, among others, advise us to invest our tzedakah money like a business investment. I wouldn’t invest funds in something purely on the basis of the recipient’s word. Caveat Emptor. Or to paraphrase chazal in another context, כבדיהם וחשדיהם. Trust but verify. (From independent research, unbeholden to a cause or ideology.)

  21. SA says:

    Rabbi Beckerman:”Four to five thousand children per year in a system that includes approximately 1.5 million Jewish students does not have that dramatic an effect.”

    According to the Statistical abstract of Israel for 2014, published by the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2013-14 there were 1.19 million Jewish schoolchildren, 698,415 in grades 1-6, and 493,120 in grades 7-12. There were 249,222 Arab students in grades 1-6. There was no information about Arab secondary school students.

    The 1.19 million includes, of course, hundreds of thousands of children who already are in religious frameworks — the elementary school statistics INCLUDE Haredi schools.

    So moving four to five thousand children per year (implying this has been going on for a while) into religious frameworks would have a greater effect over time than you indicate. One would think, anyway.

    As for the adults, obviously you can only go by what the organization tells you, which cannot be independently verified. Those are nice numbers, but clearly Uri Zohar was exaggerating, so perhaps their office is, too.

    Some sodium is probably still in order.

  22. L. Oberstein says:

    I am impressed. You said it so well and yet with such sechel. Kol hakovid.

  23. HK says:

    How nice that Rabbi Feldman has developed a smug little answer for the irrational hatred of Jews, theophany and the problem of evil in the world — an answer that his 5-year-old grandchildren might possibly find gratifying. Presumably this also explains blood libels, the Inquisition, the Chmielnicki massacres, the Holocaust and all the other irrational hatred that the Jewish people have suffered over the last two thousand years. Of course! It’s those godless infidels who established the medina in 1948!

    Sorry, Rabbi Adlerstein. While I appreciate your nuanced article, I view the attempt to foist this stuff on an unsophisticated person based on an implicit claim to some prophetic understanding of HKBH’s plan to be disingenuous zeeuff hatorah.

    If nothing else, denigrating the “Zionists” who, in practice, support the chareidim financially and risk life and limb to protect them from our murderous enemies, represents a lack of elemental hakuras hatov that is plainly inconsistent with the Torah’s teaching.

    Finally, with regard to those who are trying to measure the effectiveness of the yishuv in Eretz Yisroel on Jewish survival, I’d suggest a thought experiment:

    Both the USA and Israel have about 6 million Jews today. Compare the number of people who will identify as Jews in each of these countries 200 years from now, based on recent trends. (i.e., the growing assimilation of Reform, Conservative and unaffiliated Jews in the USA vs the situation in Israel where the vast majority of Jews identify as Jews and practice at least some elemental aspects of religious observance).

  24. Moshe says:

    the carrot we hold out in front of potential candidates implicitly includes joining a community – and the community (and its image) comes with quite a bit of baggage

    Those families (and many more) don’t just project a one-dimensional Emunah character. Scratch a little deeper. They project a degree of wholesomeness and deep, polychromatic character that doesn’t (and couldn’t) jive with debilitating communal dysfunction.

    He is very, very unhappy with those who say Lashon Hara about His people. So when talking about “secular” schools, keep in mind that there, also, it is not 1950, and that not all of Israel is Ramat Aviv.

    Do secular schools teach their students to believe in Hashem and in Matan Torah or not? [By the way, does “His people” in your sentence include non-seculars as well? If I look around a bit, I might be able to find some Lashon Hara about them that may have escaped your notice.]

  25. Raymond says:

    Thank you, HK, for telling it like it is. I only wish that you had said even more than you did. Before I read your comments, I was beginning to think that I am the only one left who feels that way about the issue of Israel. It boggles my mind that apparently a very large number of Chareidim would be so antagonistic to our beloved Jewish State of Israel, that they (the Chareidim) sound a little too much like they are siding with our enemies. What may be the case here is that they are not representing Torah true values as they presume to be, but are rather experiencing the Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with our enemies.

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    It is facinating that noone in this exchange seems aware of what the IDF, B”H, accomplished in Gaza-eradicating many tunnels, the Iron Dome’s amazing results and the rooting out of sources of Hamas rooted terror-take a look at Commentary and Victor Davis Hanson’s columns. The notion that the IDF somehow was a loser last summer cannot be justified by the facts on the ground.

  27. Moshe K says:

    Thoughtful and nuanced article.

    “[YA – Puhleese! Do you think we couldn’t take the laundry list of shortcomings and easily substitute one tailor-made for the RZ community? You’re invited to make substitutions. The point is, we have seen the enemy, and he is us – not the ghost of Ben-Gurion.]”

    As i see it, your reasoning leaves us with two solutions. 1. All communities should be perfect. 2. A middle ground community should be formed. (O.K. the first solution is offered in jest). But will a middle ground community not have problems of its own? Isn’t that the nature of a community? Won’t we be more effective understanding the community better and articulating a more nuanced approach with more friendliness. “[ not the ghost of Ben-Gurion.]”

    [YA Not sure I am in a position to propose solutions to the larger problems. As to attitudes towards the State of Israel, however, I would propose simply following a Mishna: eizehu chacham? Ha-roeh es ha-nolad. Lots has changed since the early days. Not everything, but enough has changed that it is dangerous to live with assumptions that are no longer accurate.]

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