Notes From Johannesburg

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15 Responses

  1. mb says:


  2. Steve Brizel says:

    Fascinating trip!

  3. Alex says:

    [S]ome of the less pleasant aspects of haredi life in large East Coast population centers. There is far less pressure to conform to strongly imposed communal norms that do not directly reside within halacha. There is far more openness to ideas coming from beyond a very narrow few overseen by assumed Protectors of the Faith. Secular studies are far better than in some cities we know. Traditional civility (which used to be part of what is called derech eretz) is very much evident.

    Rabbi Adlerstein –
    I would say that this issue is unfortunately much more pronounced in Israel than the US. It doesn’t seem like Torah Im Derech Eretz really exists in Israel. Much of Hareidi society is adamant against even some kind of Sheirut Leumi (National Service) or secular studies, and the percentage of working men is extremely low. And many Dati Leumi consider combat service in Tzahal to be non-negotiable, regardless of the harmful consequences to one’s ruchnius (even Rav Eliezer Melamed, a pre-eminent Dati Leumi posek, has written of his concerns in Arutz Sheva). When I looked into aliyah, finding a community sort of modeled on the Poalei Agudat Yisroel philosophy does not exist (appreciate the positive vision of building up the land, contribute to the State, but have an uncompromising commitment to halacha and poskim). However, if you find a Torah Im Derech Eretz community in Israel can you let the readers know?
    The Northeast communities I am aware of have a mixture of many different kinds of Jews who shop together, men and women work in all the professions (and have a serious commitment to learning), and get along with others even if they have varied hashkafos. A few kanoim exist that the media loves to highlight.

    • rkz says:

      Maybe you should try the yishuv Matityahu

      • Alex says:

        Yes, but it is basically a one-sbul town, and thsre is no bousing avIlBle Nyway. At least when we investigated several years ago. Hashkafi ally it is very much along the American model.

      • Y Borow says:

        not sure exactly what you’re looking for, but some Israeli communities are geared towards a Dati-Leumi-Torani approach – Nof Ayalon, Peduel. then there are more hard-core Mercaz-Har Hamor communities like נווה, Kiryat Moshe in J-m next to Mercaz HaRav

  4. Raymond says:

    I am sorry to have to do this, but I have to be honest. While I realize that it is really none of my business, I find myself just not liking the idea of Rabbi Adlerstein visiting places like Germany and South Africa. I already commented elsewhere on here about his recent trip to Germany, so I will not go into all that again, but as for South Africa, I have heard that since it has become no longer an apartheid government, that it has been transformed into one of the most dangerously violent countries on the entire planet to live in or even visit. I am frankly surprised that there is a thriving religious Jewish community there, not only because South Africa post-apartheid is quite hostile to Israel, but also because I would think that Jewish lives would be in particular danger of being violently attacked by the majority rule there. My younger sister lives in Baltimore, which is also very high in violent crime and has demographics somewhat resembling that of South Africa, and I am worried about her, too, wondering how there can be a thriving religious Jewish community there as well. I am wondering if maybe in his future travels, Rabbi Adlerstein might consider going to places that are safer to be in, and where he would not be met with hostility toward our Jewish land of Israel. oh wait…that describes probably less than 1% of the inhabitable land on our planet.

    • dr. bill says:

      I wonder if the elegant lives lived by Jews in South Africa makes them less than willing to acknowledge the dangers inherent in their choice. While analogies abound, I have faith that the existence of a Jewish state provides a credible escape route.

  5. mycroft says:

    “A few kanoim exist that the media loves to highlight.”
    They are widely known due to blogs. My Israeli brother has commented tome how he is shocked by the ad hominem attacks on various blogs. In Israel one can also find all sorts working together.
    In general both in Israel and US they are not marrying each other.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      This blog is free of ad hominems but a welcome place for respectful debate and challenges to accepted shibboleths within the Charedi and MO worlds. As President Truman once noted if you cant take the heat you should stay outt of tbe kitchen.freedom.of speech does not and svould never be equated with freedom from criticidm ir the desire for an unchallenged echo chamber.

  6. Reb Yid says:

    Some of what is described here precedes the BT growth by many decades.

    Of the many, many South African Jews I have met over the decades (since the 1970s) who now live here in US or elsewhere, they are all communally minded. Their levels of personal religious observance may vary, but they all belong to a synagogue, contribute to the local Federation and support Israel. The main difference is that in the US many (certainly not all) belong to Conservative or Reform congregations, while in South Africa the culture is different although in a more progressive environment like Cape Town they have more options than in Jo’burg.

    The South African Jewish community has shrunk considerably so those who remain have “circled the wagons”, so to speak. One way is to turn inward from a religious perspective. Another is to literally gate oneself in–you did not speak of the physical barriers Jews have now erected where they now live.

    As for Limmud….it is spreading to more and more places around the world. It is exposing more and more Jews who thirst for Jewish experiences and Jewish knowledge who up until this point may not have had that opportunity. Consider it a marketplace. For those involved in kiruv–Limmud is doing all of the grunt work for you by assembling everyone in a single place. If you believe you have a product that is worthy to pitch, you should come and be a vendor. You will be welcomed with open arms by organizers and participants. And you might even learn something yourself, as well.

  7. DF says:

    “Cynics will point to….”

    Cynics???! Rabbi, all of human history tells us that the moment the persecuted gain power, the become the persecutors themselves. South Africa is only a few short years away from becoming Zimbabwe.

  8. KCE says:

    Kilojoules, I love them, especially at simchas.

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    If a South African Jewish family wanted to make aliya does anyone know what if any financial restrictions would be placed on them ny the current South African government? Think of how Cuban Jews and those lucky go either escape or survive the Holicaust had little economic capital when they arrived in the US or Israel.

  10. mycroft says:

    From ElAl website “Effective from 29 October 2018 we will have 5 flights per week, Johannesburg / Tel Aviv / Johannesburg”

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