What Are Some of the Biggest Problems Facing the Jewish Community?

What Are some of the biggest problems facing the Jewish community (both frum and non-frum)?

Let’s continue this thread from last week and highlight some other issues:

Economics of Yeshiva and Family Support?

The Hashkafic Divide Between Israel and America?

Lack of Unity?

Lack of Jewish Knowledge?

Lack of connection to Hashem?

Islamic Fundamentalism?

74 comments on “What Are Some of the Biggest Problems Facing the Jewish Community?

  1. The biggest problem facing the American Jewish community today is amply demonstrated in this thread, by the total disinterest in what Gary (at comment #40) had to say.

    To elaborate a bit on Gary’s excellent comment: many rabbonim believe that all of American Jewry’s socio-religious problems are as a result of the fact that we are living in the time period of Chevlei Mashiach (labor pains of Moshiach). Chazal have stated that this era would be so terrible, that they would prefer not to be alive in our generation. Rampant chutzpah (arrogance), fragmented families, lack of respect for the law, failure of leadership…all of these (and more) mark the generation of Chevlei Mashiach; all of these (and more) are clearly reflected by the many problems, neigh disasters, that have befallen the frum community in golus-America (and, indeed, the golus communities of many other countries as well).

    The Gemara — beginning on Megillah 17b — discusses that the middle brachas of the Shemoneh Esrei are in chronological order. The 15th Bracha — “Malchus Bais Dovid” — is, of course, the Bracha for Mashiach. Therefore, that the bracha for the building of the final Bais HaMikdash — “Avodah” — is number 17, indicates that this will not occur until after the arrival of Mashiach. Perforce, brachas numbered 9 through 14 will PRECEDE Maschiach, and are therefore associated with that era we call Chevlai Mashiach and Iikvesa d’Meshicha (footsteps of Mashiach). And so it is that the Malbim wrote: “the redemption will unfold gradually…and the resettlement of the Land of Israel will precede the coming of Mashiach.”

    So, how do we know at which time preceding Mashiach that the time to return to the land has arrived? Well, as Gary alluded above: “Shame on me, and on us, if we delay our ascent to a time when we have to do so, or even worse, find that a time has arrived when we are no longer able to do so.” Gary’s comment, in light of what the Malbim wrote, brings us to understand that the Ribbono Shel Olam will “gradually” increase the labor pains of Mashiach — the trials and tribulations of life in golus — until the last remnant goes out screaming for their lives. As Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit”a put it not too long ago: “Those who don’t come to Israel while they still can may be lucky to escape from the USA with a plastic bag and a pair of pajamas.”

    I have written on Beyond Teshuva before — to considerable criticism and sometimes even vilification — that we must heed the warning of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l, that too many disapora Jews stay there voluntarily, and will be answerable before the Bais Din Shel Ma’alah for their failure to embrace the mitzvah of Yishuv Ha’Aretz. And he said this shortly after the turn of the 20th century, when living in Eretz Yisrael was an incredible hardship compared to today. Therefore, this, to me, is the greatest problem of our generation: a golus mentality that reflects an unnatural (and un-Toradik) love affair that Jews have with golus-America, their obsessing about ways to make life even better there with the expectation of being there for the long haul, and their concomitant failure to recognize that their increasing “problems” are signs from Hashem that it’s time to leave. As the Moshav Band sings: “I hear my homeland calling me, come back to me now!” American Jews are just not listening.

  2. Teaching Torah, being on call 24/7, and learning Torah in kollel as intended (Talmud Torah k’neged kulam) should be paid professions. No one expects a dedicated doctor who idealistically took the Hippocratic oath to be available voluntarily to perform the chesed of healing. However, dime-a-dozen mekubalim who promise miracle cures while taking hundreds of dollars should not only not be paid, they should be exposed for the charlatans they are. They’ve taken a lot of advantage of desparate people willing to turn to anyone for a promised cure.

  3. I was told that in Syria, only the Chief Rabbi was supported financially by the community. All the other Rabbis of Syria has jobs or ran businesses.

  4. Any man who chooses to be a ‘rabbi’ (‘true teacher’ of Torah) or a ‘dayan’ (‘judge’), or a ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

    If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be heading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called ‘earning a living’.

    Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the ‘rabbis’ have turned the Torah into their ‘Profession’, from which they earn money.

    We are commanded in the Shema to:
    ‘LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.’

    ‘VE’AHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha.’ (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

    Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give ‘lovely’ shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

    The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

    Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or rav’s pocket – his pocket and position will always prevail.

    Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
    “Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah she’ein imah melacha sofa betailah ve’goreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim……”

    “Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven………”

  5. It seems that we are given the most invasive, most irreversible options as defaults. Such is the case with the proposed NYS organ donation law, and such is the case with software that pries into facebook accounts, and such is the case with onerous fees for overdrafts and the like. Whether it’s your body, your money or your life’s intimate details, you have to be on guard to make sure that your choice is the one on file!

  6. Agudath Israel framed their organ donation argument in terms that could appeal to Americans. That’s what advocates in our society do. Regardless, it’s pretty sick for a government in a republic to decree that organ donation is the default. The person who doesn’t realize he has to opt out will likely have an outcome he never dreamed of.

    There is no limit to the ambitions of elitist social engineers at all levels of government, who always believe they know what’s best for us all.

  7. We just saw another example today of ideas antithetical to Torah having an impact within our society: Agudath Israel complained that a proposal to assume that New York residents were ok with being organ donors after death “would effectively abandon the entire concept of personal autonomy.” The problem is there is no such concept in the Torah.

  8. Judgementalism, and the shidduch system. Both of these create an environment of holier-than-thouism and dishonesty. It keeps some people running scared and not dealing with important issues for fear of what the neighbors may think, and not getting the best boy in Lakewood (how many people are married to that guy by now?). It makes people practice the antithesis of chesed and midos by not allowing their children to play with other children who may not come from a namebrand family. It also subsequently sends precious neshomos seeking answers in a camp other than our own.

  9. I would like to indicate my complete agreement with the mention of Rabbi Weiss and Rabbi Dr. Lander z’tz’l as people who have tried to do things about the problems.

    A comment about each: Rabbi Weiss not only was largely responsible for depopulating the heterodox synagogues in Riverdale and bringing hundreds of families to Torah observance, he has helped to create a community where you can’t tell the FFBs from the BTs from the converts. And that wonderful situation has now spilled over to the other synagogues in Riverdale as well.

    Rabbi Dr. Lander z’tz’l created Touro with a different mission from that of my employer, Yeshiva University. Touro is now much larger, with many more programs. Most frum Jews have no idea that many rabbis attended university in Europe between the 15th and 18th centuries, and I’ve seen no rabbinic objection prior to the 19th century. But there are indeed social and hashkafic challenges in a secular university environment and Rabbi Dr. Lander deserves credit for making a safe academic environment available to more Jews.

  10. Bob Miller asked,

    ‘Charlie Hall mentioned “…the fear that ideas we think antithetical to Torah could have an impact within our society.” Is this impact only hypothetical?’

    I would have to say “No, it is not just hypothetical.” I know far too many observant Jews who think that free market economics trumps Torah values.

  11. The late Dr. Bernard Lander, the founder of Touro College who was niftar recently at the age of 94, wanted to create solutions. Touro College was founded, not to be a general liberal arts institution like Harvard, but to enable Orthodox Jews to gain the skills and education to earn a decent parnasa. Those young men and women who deemed secular college or trade school problematic for many reasons (incompatible academic calendar, hostile professors) were able to attend Touro College and go on to professional school or career. Touro continues to expand its course offerings to accommodate the needs of busy adult learners with certificate programs.

    This is the “teach a man to fish” solution to poverty, but it requires brains and hard work. For those afflicted by mental and physical challenges who are unable to gain a trade and get out of poverty, there have to be other solutions. Back when they were more cohesive and internally unified, Chasidic groups used their political clout to sponsor affordable housing initiatives. Give people help with the cost of the basics, housing and food, and then community social services organizations could work with poor families to identify how they could be best helped.

    Sephardic Jewish groups put in considerable effort to help those within their own community who were struggling financially. Of course we are talking about a smaller and more tightly knit subgroup within the larger Jewish population, less likely to be assimilated or to donate to non-Jewish causes. Here the “teach a man to fish” solution expressed itself in interest-free loans to Sephardic breadwinners to start businesses, and in Sephardic residences for the elderly.

    It is interesting that the Chofetz Chaim, writing ninety years ago, advocated that communities and even individuals should set up free loan funds. The Chofetz Chaim saw this as a positive solution to help combat the widespread poverty among Eastern European Jews.

  12. there is only one rabbi I know of who uses his pulpit and his community role to every degree possible to actually address the problems which come into his awareness. his name is Rabbi Avi Weiss. Lots of people say they wish rabbis or other leaders would do something, anything, any form of public process or event. he does actually try to do that..

  13. Our people’s behavior is known to have global and cosmic effects. This is all the more reason to get our act together. The rapid, voluminous “communication” in today’s world may have made all problems, including ours, seem too humongous for mortals to tackle.

    But apparent gridlock in the higher echelons does not have to be fatal. This is the time for local initiatives to address problems the local Jews face. Local rabbonim and laypeople can start their own Jewish initiatives without waiting fruitlessly for universal approval or for green lights and funding from higher headquarters. If one mini-initiative works, it can be copied. If it doesn’t, not much has been lost, so…try something else.

  14. Abe: You said it, “we are somehow in this generation unable to deal productively with problems, to find a way to move forward, to move on to some resolution, however imperfect it may be.”

    There’s actually a learning disability called “Executive Functioning Disorder” (feel free to Google it).

    I find, as I read blogs, that we (myself included) are more apt to rant about what’s wrong than to come up with viable real world solutions.

    It use to be that if you had a problem with an organization, then you tried to get on the board.

    Looking back at the list on top and my comment (#2), I think that I’ll mention to my wife that I don’t feel as connected to Hashem as I should and also try to get to shul a bit earlier so that I can start my davening without feeling so rushed.

  15. I would like to bring back something Bob said early on in the discussion — “lack of focus on even small solutions”. We have all listed dozens and dozens of valid problems that deserve our attention, but I think there is a meta-problem here — that we are somehow in this generation unable to deal productively with problems, to find a way to move forward, to move on to some resolution, however imperfect it may be. Everything seems deadlocked, problems stagnate. Not just in the Jewish world, but in Congress and world politics, in science and the arts — is this just an artifact of a global financial recession? Is the world situation a reflection somehow of something we are doing wrong?

  16. Charlie, excellent link. thanks.

    Judy, the Jewish community bears some portion of the responsibility for the problems which are going on structurally.

  17. “If the US, for example, was founded on Judeo-Xtian principles”

    It wasn’t. The values expressed in the Declaration of Independence are far removed from Torah values. “Pursuit of happiness?”

    Besides, there is no such thing as “Judeo-Christian principles”. Judaism and Christianity are very different religions.

    “The solution to Jewish poverty is Siyata D’Shamaya, coming down in the form of free-market economics.”

    Free market economics is also contrary to Torah principles. Chazal decreed that prospective converts are taught about leket, peah, shich’chah and maaser oni. Shmitah and yovel further confirm this, as do the laws against price gouging and the permission for communal authorities to restrain trade.

  18. #33: “Work on the next generation of affluent young Jews who will be heading the major philanthropies in twenty or thirty years.”

    Sadly, I fear that there will be no such generation. Today’s affluent Jews support the opera, the art museum, and Save the Whales because they identify with those institutions. Some of the big donors who fund birthright, or Yad Vashem, or the 92st Y are themselves not observant, but they retain some tribal bond, or some guilt, or some nostalgia for Bubbe and Zeyde. They themselves do not identify with yeshivot and day schools, and their children, who attend elite prep schools, are even less likely to. The children and grandchildren of today’s donors are more likely to be happily intermarried, culturally assimilated, and have no pressing sense of responsibility for Jewish communal needs.

    The Jewish world cannot rely solely on philanthropy. The solution to Jewish poverty is Siyata D’Shamaya, coming down in the form of free-market economics. There are simply not enough government handouts, or tzedakah dollars, or wealthy parents to go around. A system of education that discourages men from entering the workforce can sustain itself, and a growing population, for only so long. Not every Issachar has a Zebulun to support him. The kollel was orignally reserved for only the best and brightest scholars. It was never intended be to be a way of life for entire communities. Rambam, himself a practicing physician, wrote in Hilchot Talmud Torah that among the Gedolei Torah of Israel were wood choppers and water drawers who combined Torah study with earning a living. Eventually, men have to leave the yeshiva and earn a parnassah, if only from sheer need. In Israel, there is already a tiny, but steadily increasing, stream of haredi men who are joining the Army, where they acquire job skills and social integration skills that prepare them for life outside the kollel. If there is anything that our Rebbeim can do to help, it is to combine Torah teaching with some Margaret Thatcher-style economic tough love, even if this means relinquishing control of the students.

  19. Goldman Sachs and the Congressional inquiry into its dealings are not a problem for the Jewish community. GS has made the argument that it dealt with the “big boys.” These aren’t elderly folks being defrauded out of their life savings by Gordon Gekko selling worthless penny stocks out of a boiler room. GS bundled together bonds backed by mortgages into Collateralized Debt Obligations, which were sold to large financial institutions. Hedge funds bet against these CDO’s by buying credit default swaps. Blame the underlying rotten mortgages, many fraudulent, for the huge losses that the players in the game incurred. And don’t forget that the rule on Wall Street is “no risk, no gain.” Traders aren’t paid millions of dollars to park money in 2.5% Treasury bills. As many Jewish newspapers have pointed out, greed was all over the place and not just with Jews. Think of Enron and Worldcom and of the many players involved in those financial scandals, most of whom were not Jewish.

  20. The subprime programs were the basis for many, but not necessarily all, derivatives and other instruments

  21. Bob,

    As the great amount of media coverage has made extremely clear, the problems from Goldman Sachs arose from their continuous marketing of meaningless financial instruments which produced no economic benefit whatsoever. that had little to do with any homeownership programs, as far as I know.

  22. Steve M,

    1. Despite being badgered by the very government that caused the subprime loan crisis, Goldman Sachs is still innocent until proven guilty.

    2. Government policies aimed to increase minority homeownership regardless of the new homowners’ inability to repay. Financial institutions were put under considerable pressure by government agencies and allied shakedown artists (e.g., ACORN) to go along with the expanded lending mandate. Financial institutions, which would have otherwise turned down the iffy loans, then realized this was a profit opportunity guaranteed or at least backed by quasi-governmental agencies. Thus, problems related to subprime loans and derivatives flowed from the original bad policy decision in Washington. This does not excuse all private sector groups involved but it gives some context.

    See, for example,
    http://ridgeliner7.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/examining-the-causes-of-the-credit-crisis-of-2008/
    http://biggovernment.com/mvadum/2010/04/26/the-irresponsible-center-for-responsible-lending/

  23. the breakdown of the financial system, due to misconduct by investment firms like Goldman Sachs.

  24. Gary #45: Great idea. So how do we convince billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt and Mike Bloomberg and Bruce Kovner to avail themselves of some Jewish education?

  25. DK-don’t kid yourself-the more visibly Jewish ( and Orthodox) a person is, the greater the chance that his or her career wil hit a glass ceiling and an old boy network in some, but not all professions. Moreover, the notion that secular and liberal Jews are “tolerant” is correct, but the notion of tolerance curiously is applied to the secular and Gentile world, but, in many instances not to an Orthodox Jew. Yes, as Neil Harris pointed out today, we need to have a lot more respect for the secular Jew above and beyond being a potential BT, but tolerance is a two way street.

  26. Judy wrote in # 33:

    “The Number One priority should be Jewish education: our struggling Yeshivos, Bais Yaakovs and Day Schools… How do we change [priorities to reflect] this? Work on the next generation of affluent young Jews who will be heading the major philanthropies in twenty or thirty years.”

    Judy, we should encourage the major Jewish financiers of the future not only to fund Jewish education, but to avail themselves of it as well.

  27. I think a very large problem for BTs especially is the lack of a support network. What an awe-inspiring yet awkward and unique transition, and it’s usually done alone. The community should really join together to support BTs a little more. Chabad is pretty good about it, but even with Chabad there is room for improvement. I can’t speak for any other movements or groups, but let’s step it up!

  28. I have not only “considered” moving, in the form of Aliyah; I strongly desire to do so.

    Oh, I wish you great and immediate success, so you can escape this terrible country!

  29. Glass ceilings and good-old-boy networks still restrict Jewish advancement in many professions.

    No, they don’t. So please cite proofs of present examples of this so-called discrimination, thanks.

  30. Bob, # 38,

    I don’t reject the support of all non-Jews for Israel. Many support Israel because they feel it is a worthy thing to do on behalf of a democratic nation founded and sustained on honorable principles. I have volunteered with a number of such people in Israel, and I am proud to maintain personal friendships with them.

    To borrow a phrase from Thomaas Jefferson, I propose that we avoid entangling alliances with those who have ulterior motives, such as missionary activities or setting the stage for a non-Jewish concept of Messianic Redemption.

  31. Q – If the US, for example, was founded on Judeo-Xtian principles, why have we been excluded from so many institutions

    Like what, exactly?

    A – Medical schools, law schools, country clubs, and communities with restrictive covenants are past institutional examples. Glass ceilings and good-old-boy networks still restrict Jewish advancement in many professions. Blatant discrimination has changed its face to the demonization of people and organizations connected with Israel and Zionism. Calls abound for boycotts of Israeli products, and the exclusion of academics and professionals who are associated with Israel.

    Q – Why was Leo Frank lynched

    Are you serious? How well do you know the issues surrounding Leo Frank? And how long do you hold a grudge against a nation for a mob from 1913?

    A – Yes, I am serious.

    The Leo Frank case — the trial and the lynching — was condemned at that time as a miscarriage of justice, and historians today hold the same view. It is but one example of scapegoating. The “Judeo-Christian” community of Georgia, when looking for an outsider, chose a Jew.

    I don’t hold a grudge against the nation for what happened in 1913, but the blaming of Jews, and the commission of crimes against us, have not gone away. Scapegoating is a wide-spread sentiment in this country. It has been acted upon against different “others” with more frequency than it has against Jews. It’s not right for those acts to be carried out against anyone. We should join in speaking and acting on behalf of any group that is the victim of hate-crimes. We should not draw any solace from the fact that the number of actual incidents against us is, at least in recent times, lower than those against others.

    Q – You sound very upset with this country. Have you considered moving?

    A – I am more upset with myself and my fellow Jews for our complacency about life in a land that is not our own. We Jews are a somewhat-accepted, somewhat-tolerated, somewhat-appreciated minority that has contributed much to this country. We have reaped tremendous benefits in this country, which has been the best of our “host” countries. The welcome in our host countries, over millennia, has never been a permanent one. Our integration into American society has been cyclical, and for many reasons, we are in a declining portion of that cycle with long-term implications.

    I and members of my family are proud of our contributions to the US and grateful for the benefits that we have received. Members of my family have contributed by service in two world wars, with one fatality, and a number of family members have had careers in public service or helping professions.

    I have not only “considered” moving, in the form of Aliyah; I strongly desire to do so. I am not satisfied with my own actions to make that desire a reality. Shame on me, and on us, for squandering the opportunity to ascend to Israel when we can do so because we want to do so. Shame on me, and on us, if we delay our ascent to a time when we have to do so, or even worse, find that a time has arrived when we are no longer able to do so.

    We do not serve ourselves, or others, by appending our identity to that of another group with a hyphen. The hyphen is a symbol of assimilation and loss of identity. We best complete our mission as Jews when we maintain a distinct identity. The optimal venue for carrying out that mission is in a land of our own.

  32. Gary wondered, “Why do we draw inspiration to support Israel from non-Jewish ‘Zionists’ quoting scripture, knowing full well that their scripture uses our success as a stepping-stone for the achievement of their messianic expectations?”

    1. It’s helpful if any category of non-Jew is willing to support and not oppose Israel.

    2. They do have ulterior motivations. Should Israel reject anyone whose motivations are not pure?

    3. Even if support is accepted, missionary activities targeting Jews should be vigorously opposed. Missionary organizations should not be allowed to buy our silence about this.

    4. They will see the falsity of their expectations in due course.

  33. Looking at the big picture, we only have 230 years to go max before Mashiach comes. That’s not so many generations. 230 years ago was 1770, and my grandmother recently told me about her grandmother who was born in the 1820s. Blink of an eye! So we should look at the most pressing issues first (I’m not suggesting what these are, but I have my own personal ideas like everyone else.)

  34. If the US, for example, was founded on Judeo-Xtian principles, why have we been excluded from so many institutions

    Like what, exactly?

    Why was Leo Frank lynched

    Are you serious? How well do you know the issues surrounding Leo Frank? And how long do you hold a grudge against a nation for a mob from 1913?

    You sound very upset with this country. Have you considered moving?

  35. The biggest, or at least a very big problem,is our mindset that Judaism is a western religion, and that the U.S. and other nations have a Judeo-Xtian background. We are not western in our theological roots, nor are we linked to any other belief by a hyphen.

    If the US, for example, was founded on Judeo-Xtian principles, why have we been excluded from so many institutions despite our contributions to the nation’s founding and continued existence? Why was Leo Frank lynched when a blood-thirsty mob sought to scapegoat an “other?”

    The excluders and scapegoaters of the moment may be from the left, but those on the right are far from extinct.

    The anti-Semites of the right have switched from acts of overt hostility to killing us with kindness.

    Why do we draw inspiration to support Israel from non-Jewish “Zionists” quoting scripture, knowing full well that their scripture uses our success as a stepping-stone for the achievement of their messianic expectations?

  36. To Charlie Hall #28: I’m not a nativist, and I agree with you that immigration is not a problem facing the Jewish community. Illiteracy and innumeracy, accompanied by other mental and physical disabilities, are causing problems within the Jewish community, and these conditions are occurring among those who are multi-generation born in the U.S.A. If the only way up out of poverty is through hard work, brains, and a solid secular education, then those individual Jews with cognitive disabilities seem condemned to poverty.

  37. Money is spent basically wherever the big donors say it should go. The Number One priority should be Jewish education: our struggling Yeshivos, Bais Yaakovs and Day Schools. However, the gvirim choose to donate their millions to other causes such as Birthright or Yad VaShem or the 92nd Street YM-YWHA. There’s nothing wrong with those three causes, only that they should come after our yeshivos, not before. How do we change this? Work on the next generation of affluent young Jews who will be heading the major philanthropies in twenty or thirty years.

  38. Lack of affordable decent day care for Jewish working mothers. I get particularly riled when the XYZ Organization makes a big deal out of its day care centers for working mothers, but if you actually call up those day care centers nobody knows anything about XYZ Organization (and no Jewish working moms use those centers). I have omitted the real name of XYZ Organization because I don’t want to get sued by people whom I hate so much (for the enormous gap between what they claim to be doing for the community and what they actually are doing for the community)

  39. I see the lack of any ability to set priorities for spending or use of resources. Both on household and on a community level. When people put camp above health care on the list of what to spend money on there is a problem.

    We need to look at what we can afford as a community and what we want and have to find a way to make them coexist without going broke. This *WILL* involve some very hard choices.

  40. Charlie Hall mentioned “…the fear that ideas we think antithetical to Torah could have an impact within our society.” Is this impact only hypothetical?

  41. I see lack of faith in HaShem as the most important problem. The fear of innovation, the fear that ideas we think antithetical to Torah could have an impact within our society, and the fear of outside movements that are hostile to us are all manifestations of that.

  42. Immigration is NOT a problem facing the Jewish community, at least in the United States. I can’t believe that someone would promote nativism on a Jewish blog.

  43. Judy, do you think the Jewish poor who could benefit from a study of their situation would resist being studied, because the findings and conclusions could threaten to change their overall way of life?

  44. I wish that there were more peer-reviewed studies and statistics regarding these problems, maybe then the numbers would open up people’s eyes and lead to increased efforts toward finding solutions.

    Rabbi Meir Kahane zl wrote years ago in his best-known book Never Again that Jews constituted (at that time, the early nineteen-seventies) the third largest poverty group in New York City, after Blacks and Latinos. Unfortunately, he didn’t cite the source of this information. Forty years ago, Jewish poverty was mostly among elderly Jews, particularly Holocaust survivors, living alone in crime-ridden areas of the city. Today Jewish poverty has increased among young families with unemployed and underemployed breadwinners, single mothers and new immigrants.

    It takes money to run studies. The irony is that of course you can’t cure Jewish poverty without money. There is also a big difference between how Jews of previous generations pulled themselves out of poverty and now. Years ago, poor Jewish parents scrimped and worked several jobs to put their children through college and then graduate school. The idea was to work hard, send kids to university and enable them to gain earning power in a high-paying profession. In this manner, poverty did not become entrenched and the next generation was solidly middle class.

    Access to good quality secular education was seen by mainstream Jews as the key to ending Jewish poverty. Yeshiva education and large families were perceived as perpetuating poverty. A divide grew between those affluent non-observant Jews who objected to aiding the lifestyle of struggling observant Jews, despite the fact that there are non-observant Jews who live in poverty and observant Jews who are affluent.

    If there were well-regarded peer reviewed studies showing that X percent of Jews in America are living under the poverty line, including Y percent of children and Z percent of the elderly, that would help end misconceptions that there are no poor Jews or that Jewish poverty is an insignificant problem nowadays. In addition, peer reviewed studies about the level of illiteracy and innumeracy in the Jewish community could greatly help to secure increased federal funding for remedial programs under the “No Child Left Behind” Act, and possibly also encourage donors from major philanthropists toward improving Jewish education.

  45. Judy, your last two comments present a plausible scenario, but do we have any statistics to support it?

  46. Illiteracy, sub-literacy, innumeracy and other cognitive and mental functioning challenges are causing tremendous unacknowledged problems within the Jewish community. I wince when far too often I encounter adult Jews who cannot do simple math or write a sentence in English. This is not a matter of language, using Yiddish or Ivrit or Russki instead of English. This is a matter of poor quality disparaged secular education combined with a worldview that actually encourages being disabled because then one qualifies for government benefit programs such as SSI and welfare. Why be smart? There’s no point to brains or diplomas if men are just going to warm benches in the local Bais Medrash and women are just going to stay home with their children.

    I hate to sound like an eugenicist, but I wonder about the idea that everyone has to marry. Maybe those individuals with inheritable mental or physical challenges should choose to stay single? Are we destroying the Jewish gene pool in a manner that Dor Yeshorim will be unable to prevent? People with disabilities are actually favored for marriage and large families because they have a guaranteed income, the monthly disability check.

    There was an author who claimed years ago that Jews over centuries became smarter than average because intelligent poor non-Jews chose to become priests, monks or nuns, as the Church was the only occupation other than subsistence farming for the masses. As a result the non-Jewish gene pool over centuries lost many genius genes to elective celibacy. Smart poor Jewish boys, however, became rabbis, who could and did marry and procreate.

    The reverse could be happening nowadays. If in the outside world those who are smart and talented are favored for marriage and childbearing, while those who are challenged are not, positive genes are being perpetuated. However, if within our own community, those with challenges marry cousins and have large families, while the smart and talented stay single, there is the potential for more expression of harmful recessive genes and more negative total genetic effect.

  47. Jewish poverty. For a long time, Jews in the mainstream pretended it didn’t exist. Now all the organizations finally recognize that there are poor Jews, but still the largest donations from the biggest Jewish givers go to non-Jewish causes like the opera and Save the Whales. It should be donations of one hundred bucks to Save the Whales and ten million to Federation and not the other way around. The Masbia soup kitchens founded by Alexander Rappaport are an excellent example of some positive action being taken to solve the problem instead of just complaining about it. However, still more should to be done about creating additional subsidized and affordable housing for Jews (difficult to accomplish due to housing discrimination laws). Resolving Jewish poverty = free or low cost food plus low-rent apartments plus reduced tuition plus donated good quality clothing plus zero interest loans for parnasa training and/or starting a small business plus solid mentoring plus social services for the disabled and elderly plus revving up the will of the mainstream community to finally resolve Jewish poverty.

  48. DK is correct, ADL and the other so-called “defense organizations” IMO are still obsessed with anti Semitism as a RW phenomenon and have shown little, if any, inclinattion to address the issue where it is most prominent-the cultural, educational and media elites that are radical/liberal in their orientation. For example, the collective silence from all of these groups when the PM of Iran spoke at Columbia was appalling.

  49. DK, it’s remarkable how our so-called defense organizations are not so concerned about our physical safety, except if the threat is from militias. Domestic threats from Muslims and left-wing extremists, which have been increasing, don’t fit their paradigm and are, therefore, ignored.

  50. Islamic Fundamentalism?

    Good to see that referenced here. We CAN do something…we can lobby against HIAS and the ADL who falsely speak in our community’s name (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34665739/ns/us_news-life/) and in contrast, voice our preference to stop mass immigration of communities hostile both to our community specifically and the West generally.

    Prevention is the best medicine. And the Orthodox are the most visible targets. Look: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/29/hate-crimes-force-jews-out-of-malmo/

    When something threatens both community and country, should we not prioritize that political battle?

  51. Menachem, what are your community’s methods for standing up to them, and what have been the results?

  52. Assuming that we ourselves are not extremists, what can we do, Menachem, to reduce the level of extremism? Is there any way to carry on a dialogue or conversation with them?

  53. Fundamentalism/extremism. Actually, I think it’s the major problem humanity is facing today, but it’s certainly for Judaism. It’s not just one sub-group there are extreme secularists, leftists, orthodox, feminists, Zionists (religious and not). This extremism causes people to implode within their own way of thinking to the point where they lose consideration, or worse, of those around them. IMHO this is at the root of some of the other problems that have been mentioned.

  54. We need to YEARN for geulah. I think that is among the biggest problems we have to deal with now. We need to really want it

  55. I’m not looking for premature closure; I just find a lack of focus on even small solutions.

  56. Problems must continually be re-analyzed and re-thought out. It is a fallacy to think we have adequately looked at all sides of any issue. I think we need to continue continually discussing and thinking about the important problems we face. It seems obvious to me, so I’m probably missing something in Bob’s point of view.

  57. I had the pleasure of hosting Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller on Monday and during lunch I posed this question to her.

    She felt that lack of connection to Hashem in the “Living in the King’s Palace” type of awareness was the biggest problem.

  58. I think the biggest problem is people thinking there are easy solutions to complicated problems and not realizing that constant awareness and discussion of these problems is a good path to possible small breakthroughs.

  59. One part of our malaise is the prevalence of blog articles that re-revisit well-known, much-discussed problems as opposed to offering solutions.

  60. I am also going along with financial issues, real estate (a large reason why I live in Albany) and tuition (also cheaper here, but still a big burden.) paying premiums for food (it still makes me crazy when I see traif steak for $2 a pound) is tough but liveable.

    I haven’t personnally been affected by the shidduchim situation at this point, but have been close to many who are and it is definitely a top problem.

    If you go to the non-Frum community the problems are very different, for example, you might not consider shidduchim a problem if you are willing to marry gentiles.

  61. Lack of unity is an old issue, but one must remember that there are numerous hashkafic POVs within the Mesorah that appeal to different people. Lack of knowledge and connection to HaShem strike me as far more serious because one tends to substitute ersatz forms of Jewish identity and continuity when one is textually illiterate , unappreciative and unaware of the great merit that we have in standing before HaShem three times per day and in a far more intensive format on Shabbos, Yom Tov and the Yamim Noraim. Of course, anti Semitism, which eminates from the secular right and left,but which is largely today a phenomeneon that is quite evident among the secular, academic and cultural left, is on the increase and as Malcolm Hoenlein recentlty indicated,we are ignoring the same at our own peril and risk.

  62. How about a generalized sense of apathy and malaise that accounts for our tepid reaction to all of the above queries?

  63. Thinking that every child, high school student, yeshiva boy, seminary girl must fit into a mold. They must learn or act “THIS” way.

    Continuous rejection in shidduchim because afterall, “my son/daughter deserves ONLY the best!” (“We just won’t SETTLE”)

  64. There are dozens of answers to this question.

    My personal favorite is the lack of synagogue decorum [Kavod Beit HaKnesset] which seems to have become accepted as an institution, almost as much as the synagogues themselves.

    The lack of synagogue decorum includes:

    (1) abundant and loud talking during all parts of the synagogue services

    (2) refusal to stop or reduce talking, even after the Rabbis speaks against it

    (3) intense littering, few congregations could survive without paid cleaners

    (4) the prohibition against bringing disruptive youths to the synagogue is ignored; and many people do not know that this law exists, and mistakenly believe they are doing a good deed by bringing children and babies to the synagogue.

    I used to believe that we needed more Jews in shul and more shuls. Now I believe that we need fewer shuls and fewer Jews in shul.

  65. Intermarriage.
    The fact that most Jews don’t see intermarriage as an issue any more
    The cost of living Jewishly specifically tuition and the fact that most Jewish communities are in an expensive real estate market.
    The cost of living in general.

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