How the Charedi and Modern Worlds Can Learn to Appreciate Each Other

When our children were young, we would buy their Shabbos clothes in Willamsburg. As we entered the neighborhood, I was amazed at the number of chesed activities that were being conducted by the children and the posters for shiurim, drashos and commuity events of interest. For many years, we have also attended simchos in Williamsburg. Once, we left around 10:00 P.M. We started driving home and I noticed a tremendous number of Chassidishe Yidden on their way to shul for Maariv. Likewise, the renaissance of the observance of Shatnez began in Williamsburg after WW2. In a similar vein, anyone who has had a relative hospitalized in a hospital in New York City will always see a Satmar Bikur Cholim bus parked nearby. Likewise, Hatzalah’s members are always at any hospital’s emergency room. There is no doubt that all of these wonderful acts of chesed began in the heartland of the Charedi world and have spread to other Orthodox communities.

Now, let’s look at some other Charedi/yeshivishe communities. My favorite is an “out of town” community-the Park Heights section of Baltimore. One finds a community devoted to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim on a 24/7 basis. It is also a community that interacts with the secular Jewish establishment in a very positive manner. Yet, as in any major frum community, the issues of chinuch, kids at risk, shidduchim and the next generation’s economic wherewithal are present.

Switch to any major MO community. You will see many Bnei Torah of a different levush who learn on a regular basis, attend minyanim and give much tzedaka to many yeshivos and tzedakos that afffect their community. There is also a focus on Israel not just in the sense of “Eretz Yisrael” but as expressing some spector of the beginning of the fullfillment of a long cherished dream as defined by Chazal. The yeshivos in these communities range from completely co-ed to completely separate. They tend to offer a state of the art secular program. These schools and the parent body view a year or two in Israel as a means for a child to grow spiritually. This community views secular education and material success as important and many of its next generation do not feel an impetus to marry at a young age. Many of the members of its next generation return from EY ready to move to a more spiritually coherent existence, whether in EY or in the US. Others are at risk of losing their connection to Torah either on the college campus or in extended singlehood.

The overwhelming majority of the Charedi and yeshiva worlds look askance at certain individuals and groups who demonstrate against Israel at venues such as anti-Israel rallies, etc. While the former groups may not say a formal prayer for the IDF or the State of Israel, they pray and learn for its welfare at least in the same way as any MO Jew who recites a formal tefillah for the State or the IDF. The latest outbreak of an external threat to EY has created a sense of achdus via Torah,Tefillah, Teshuvah and Chesed. Each of the various groups is doing its share via the means that its members can best accomplish on a group or individual level.

The Teshuvah movement is a great engine for religious change that transcends all communal boundaries. While there are differences in emphasis, etc, kiruv is viewed as an important objective in the Charedi, yeshivish and MO worlds.

It goes without saying that Talmud Torah is a key in all of these communities. The quantity and quality of Torah literature in almost every niche of Torah has mushroomed. Many of the great works of the Rishonim and Acharonim have been republished in accordance with the most accurate manuscripts. Seforim ranging from the Talmud to the Mishnah Brurah have been vowelized or translated into English. Except for a few who refuse to utilize a sefer that has been published by a source that may receive some funds from the State of Israel, these seforim are used in almost every Beis Medrash across the religious spectrum. Daf Yomi, and especially the ArtScroll Shas, has reopened the Talmud to many who last learned on a serious level when they were in yeshiva-across the hashkafic spectrums.

So much for the good news. We also know that there are hashkafic differences. I will not revisit these, but they do exist and have been analyzed, IMO, almost to the point of overkill. I think that there are some legitimate hashkafic issues, but there are some simple ground rules that IMO would create some sense of achdus and hakaras hatov. Here are a few:

1) We all adhere to the same Torah and mitzvos, with some hashkafic and a few halachic differences. OTOH, we all have to realize that not every young man or woman is either cut out to be a kollelnik, support a kollelnik or enter a profession, etc or support a professional. The notion that either of these choices is the only authentic way of being a Shomer Torah Umitzvos cannot be squared with many views in Chazal, Rishonim, etc.

2) Gdolim exist in each of these sectors.Last year, R N Scherman gave a mussar shmuess in the main Beis Medrash of RIETS. I have been told that he was so impressed with the quantity of serious talmidim in the Beis Medrash. Last fall, R A Z Weiss spent Shabbos as a Scholar in Residence in a major MO community. Last spring, R M Salomon, R A Schechter and R A Feldman spoke in a major MO community to a capacity crowd. Gdolim such as RHS and RM Willig should also be invited to major Charedi communities. Simply stated, we need more halachic and hashkafic interaction.

3) We need to recognize that there are many ways of kiruv. No one path has been 100% successful, despite its many success stories.

4) We all need to realize that one cannot judge a yeshiva until one has at least walked in and spent some time learning there. Having spent an afternoon and part of an evening inside Mir Yerushalayim, I was bowled over by the quantity and mesiras nefesh for Torah Lishmah exhibited by the young and not so young men there. I am positive that I would have had the same reaction if I had visited Ner Yisrael or Lakewood.

OTOH, when I see a packed RIETS Beis Medrash and its RY and RK being in constant demand for shiurim, psak, etc, I rejoice as well. Likewise, the demand for the Torah of RYBS is incessant .So many of these young men structure their secular classes around their sedarim and not vice versa. The Kolleleit here have especially given up on any chance for a megabucks secular career to become Talmidei Chachamim. In all of RIETS, there is no such thing as a country club shiur. The time has come for those of us who resort to old myths, urban stereotypes, etc , about either top flight Litvishe or chasidishe yeshivos or RIETS to mentally and emotionally discard the same as mental refuse unworthy of a Ben or Bas Torah.

5) One has to be literate in all legitimate Torah hashkafa within the Mesorah. IMO, it is a sign of breadth that one has Gdolim of all streams in one’s library and that they have had a positive impact on your Avodas HaShem. IOW, one should be familiar with Musar, Chasidus, Machshavah and their exponents -regardless of one’s own personal orientation and favorites. Similarly, while one must respect the madregah of the Avos, Imahos , Moshe Rabbeinu and Dovid Hamelech, it can be argued based upon many sources within Chazal and Rishonim, that Chazal and Rishonim never failed to analyze their behavior and subject them to very strong critiques.

6) In the present matzav, one sees Chesed from both sectors that goes beyond the purely spriritual and that identifies with the residents of EY who are in the hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, bomb shelters, IDF units or the soldiers as a whole. One need not say a formal tefillah for the IDF or the State to see that all of Torah Jewry has recognized the potentially existential threat to EY posed by Hezbollah and its backers.

7) The experience of the Baltimore community is that one can live in a yeshivishe community, participate in secular Jewish affairs and enhance Kavod Shamayim. Although the MO world has participated in the secular Jewish world as well, perhaps the Chareidi world as a whole could gain far more respect for its views by working from the inside position, as opposed to the

These are a few simple ways that IMO can only enhance unity and reduce disunity within our respective hashkafic environments.

Originally Published Oct 19, 2006

113 comments on “How the Charedi and Modern Worlds Can Learn to Appreciate Each Other

  1. There is no question that the Gedolim in Europe were wrong before WWII. Here is a description of a letter that R’ Aharon Kotler sent to R’ Gedalya Schorr after R’ Aharon found out that R’ Schorr was going back to America. This letter was written in the summer of 1939. (source Hamodia magazine Parshas Chukas))
    “…he could calmly remain in Kletzk and that he did not have to worry about a war in the near future” (see for more)

    WWII broke out less then 2 months later and if R’ Schorr had followed R’ Aharon’s advice he most probably would not have survived.

    The Belzer Rebbe’s brother gave a famous drasha in 1944 to the Belzer Chasidim where he made the following statements to assuage the Chasidim who were upset that teh Rebbe and his brother seemed to be running away to Israel
    “… the tzadik sees that rest and tranquility will descend upon the inhabitants of this land (e.g. Hungaery), “that it was good”, that the tzaddik sees good and all good and only good and grace will befall our Jewish brethren the inhabitants of this land.” (this part of the speech has been censored in the Charedi world)

    Unfortunately, 2 months later the Nazis occupied Hungary and a short time later the mass deportations of Hungarian Jews to extermination camps started.

  2. Ron Coleman asked a great question-I am a great fan of his home town of Passaic, which has great Talmidei Chahcamim URabbani, wonderful shuls and Baale Batin who are a real cross spectrum of all yeshivos from RIETS to Lakewood, as well as a great community of BTS and FFBs.

  3. Hi. I found this thread on the “most-commented” threads list. Thought I’d post a comment, just to bring it back to our attention. it seems relevant to the “Rift within Orthodoxy” thread. Feel free to post further here, if anyone wishes to. Thanks.

  4. Last night, we ( as well as Mark also-I didn’t see his wife) were at a Chasunah in Williamsburg. I saw RY from RIETS ( Rav Willig, Rav Cohen and Rav Goldvicht), the Manahel of Ner Yisrael (R S Neuberger) and Rav Oelbaum, a Nitra Chasid and a Talmid Chacham and Gadol Atzum all involved in various aspects of the Chupah VKiddushin and dancing enthusiastically with the chasan, his father and father in law together with the chasan’s friends, the guests of both families and Chasidim . Little moments like that and an evening of shiurim with a RIETS RY and R Oelbaum in R Oelbaum in his shul on Motzaei Shabbos , Erev Slichos, as a means of helping is realize the meaning of BMotzaie Shabbos Kidamcha Techilah help enhance mutual appreciation and underscore the fact that the Torah is that which defines us a a people.

  5. I saw this news item and thought it could be mentioned here even though it’s not about chareidi-M.O. it’s about different groups within the Orthodox world appreciating one another:

    a recent news item:

    October 31st, 2006
    This evening (Tuesday) at 7:00PM in the Satmar Bais Medrash located at 14 Hooper Street (Williamsburg) R’ Malkiel Kotler Shlita (Rosh Yeshivas Lakewood) will deliver a Shiur on Mesechta Sukkah in honor of the Satmar Kollel finishing Mesechta Sukah.

  6. Double Yawn

    Steve I reiterate: Please expand FWIW and RAL. Also is there an online way to obtain the 9.23.06 issue of the Commentator?

    Charedi Leumi. (#80) Re: My Iraq analogy : No less an opinion-holder than YOUSSEF IBRAHIM, Arab columnist for the New York Sun and consistent opponent of pan=Arabism and Islamic fundamentalism wrote this column in Yesterday’s Sun:

    What do you want from me? I wrote: “The politics described above are not those of this poster. They are for illustrative purposes only

    As far as your dire predictions for the future of American Charedism (The future is now!) A) Reports of Israeli Charedism’s death have been greatly exaggerated. B) I don’t believe that the socio-economic and political conditions that have contributed to Israeli Charedism’s dire economic straits exist in America. True there is not much higher secular education going on in either culture but IMO both economic opportunities and the option of not pursuing Kollel study for a lifetime make it highly unlikely that the bubble will be bursting in America anytime soon.

    whether you call it “Torah U’mdada” or just concede that Mada is necessary to sustain Torah in the big picture doesn’t make much of a difference..

    Boruch Mechaye HaMaitim! After all the talk about decent intellectual burials it sounds like you are making an eloquent argument for the resurrection of TIDE. I think that the proliferation of Touros, SYRIT and OT,PT,ST programs on the American Charedi scene has been quietly effecting this resurrection (absent a seminal work by a new intellectual Giant Ideologue.)

  7. Dear DK,
    I don’t think the participants in this blog, generally, are interested in argument as a recreational activity. You didn’t merely write that Torah leaders were fallable. You wrote: “To my charedi brethren: Stop hating YU, accept they were right about America, the charedim were wrong. Look within and accept your leaders terrible failure.”
    It is clear that you have serious bad feelings and pain from your experience with Charedi kiruv organizations. I wish you much hatzlacha in finding a suitable path and helping others to do the same, if that is your desire. I do not agree with you regarding Charedim. It is not a question of “looking within” which I and others have done amply. Please don’t write in a way that is so presumpious and grating. Let us try to respect and tolerate each other. OK?

  8. YH,

    It isn’t denigration outside of narrow B’nai Torah and chassidic leaders to say Jewish leaders are NOT infallible, or even that they made mistakes, and to say why this is the case. It just isn’t.

  9. DK – you ask “what is my argument”

    I did not post to argue. I will repeat what I wrote earlier:

    I felt it was up to someone to be “MOCHE” (protest) your DENIGRATION of our TORAH LEADERS.

  10. Steve, you said,

    “I have always believed that RIETS RY are the best recruiters for YU-not the Top Fifty mantra that is an AZ for certain adminsitrators, alumni and students.”

    If you seek to remake YU into a monnolithically RWMO institution instead of a flagship general MO institution, then you are correct, and you should absolutely stop worrying about academic standing.

  11. I would like to refocus this discussion back to the point of my post-I by no means expect the Charedi and MO worlds to engage in some form of mutual approval of each other in the near future. However, I do think that there are areas of mutual appreciation that should be recognized as reality in the form of Hakaras HaTov, a basic Torah value and just ala “half a loaf is better than none.” That remains my POV, regardless of all the negatives that so many can conjure up about each other.

  12. DK-I have always believed that RIETS RY are th best recruiters for YU-not the Top Fifty mantra that is an AZ for certain adminsitrators, alumni and students.The RY attract talmidim who would otherwise be attending Charedi yeshivos or the Ivies.

    Even with a huge 100M gift, YU cannot and should not compete with the Ivies,etc, because it has a different mission-creating Bnei Torah and Talmidei Chachamim who have a first rate college education who understand their goal first and always is to be loyal to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. AFAIK, the Ivies, etc never have been known for instilling any kind of moral campus or values.

  13. Chava,

    YU wasn’t YU yet — the yeshiva he attended was only through high school, then, and was one of very few. Most went to cheder at most. If there had been more it might have been a stronger base. It certainly would have been a broader one.

    YU developed over time. It wasn’t YU then. A little day school and yeshiva could not single handedly stand up to the tide of secularism, or to the yiush (despair) that the European charedim cast upon the “treifa medina.”

    The secularists, the Conservative Movement, and the European charedim all worked very well together to stunt the growth of an American Orthodox Jewish community.

  14. DK – serious question here. If the YU ‘proto-yeshiva’ that your great-grandfather attended was the bastion of successful American ‘yiddishkeit’, why did you have to become a BT? In case I’m not being clear, my point is that the reason that few of us who had relatives that came to America prior to WW II are FFB (and I include myself in that group) is their poor record on inspiring and transmitting Torah Judaism to the next generation.

  15. Bob,

    Jews were huge in the labor movement, and made a lot of changes a hundred years ago. And don’t call me a Marxist. This is fact, and the need to work on shbbos issue is very much related to labor issues. If there had been strong leadership and the support of a significant portion of the Jewish population, things may not have been to your liking, but it would have been different.

  16. Using an analogy to a later time and situation, statements were made that Jews had the clout to transform American society to our liking some 100 years ago.

    Someone might call such speculation factual, but I call it a stretch that needs far more justification before it sees the light of day..

  17. Not that this has much to do with this original post, but let’s not be so naïve as to believe that back in Europe, all our ancestors were chuckling (sic) away in the Beis Medrash. Being able to work in a factory in America for many proved to be a vast improvement over an impoverished life with no employment and pograms; Shomer Shabbos or otherwise. The greatest period of immigration occurred from approximately 1880 through the 1920’s. Many in Europe were no part of the yeshiva world. It was exactly that sense of exclusion that gave birth to the Chassidic movement, and “the enlightenment”. ITOH, for the first time, with the creation of YU, Jews had an opportunity to learn the necessary skills they’d need to food their families in a truly Jewish environment. Was it better that hundreds upon thousands of Jews “went off the derech” when they entered the secular college system back then? Slowly the European style yeshivas came to existence in the USA, but they weren’t then, nor are they today, for everyone.

    That’s your basic American Jewish history lesson for today. And to any newcomers here, please see references to previous posts about the pros and cons of college.

  18. YH, you wrote,

    “A quick check with google showed me that the blue laws covering virtually all selling is still in force in Bergen County, N.J.”

    Wow! I guess no Jews live in Bergen County, then. Oh, wait…

    “How successful was the “Rabbis March” on Washington, to convince Roosevelt to do something about the annihilation of European Jewry?”

    It wasn’t. I know! Let’s use that as an excuse to go on food stamps and wic!

    One was foreign policy, one was domestic, even local policy.

    Do you really think it was an easier life in Poland and Russia? Is that what you are arguing? That poverty was worse here for Orthodox Jews? Just explain what you are saying. Are you saying that a shomer shabbos Jew would have a harder time finding work because of blue laws than in Eastern Europe? Or are you saying what most imply — it could be done, but people would choose not to do it?

    Which is your argument? That it couldn’t be done, or that it wouldn’t be done? If it’s the former, this is incorrect. It was done. IT could have been done on a larger scale. If it’s the latter, then you should concede Rabbi Kosman is correct, the rabbis should have been here to lead the Jews religiously.


    Which statements aren’t factual? That child labor laws were changed? That the secular Jewish community helps out the Modern Orthodox and even the charedim? Which statements?

  19. YH, don’t use the Bergen county “Blue Laws” as proof for anything. They no longer have anything to do with religion and have been consistantly voted in by a majority of Bergen County’s voters, including Jews.

  20. Your lack of understanding of the conditions of that time (turn of the century and beyond) and concomitant denigration of the Jewish leaders of the time is most disturbing.

    A quick check with google showed me that the blue laws covering virtually all selling is still in force in Bergen County, N.J.

    “Paramus, whose four major shopping malls account for a significant proportion of the over $5 billion in annual retail sales generated in the borough, more than any other ZIP Code in the United States[4], has blue laws that are even more restrictive than those imposed in the rest of the County. Bergen County has significant Jewish and Muslim populations whose observant members would not be celebrating their Sabbath on Sunday with most of their Christian brethren. The substantial Orthodox Jewish minority is placed in the position of being unable to shop either on Sunday (due to the blue laws) or on Saturday (due to religious observance).”

    The reality was that even BEFORE arriving and looking for work, many Jews left Yiddishkeit behind in Europe as they sailed off for America. To many Jews, leaving Europe was synonymous was dropping Shabbos and tefillin observance.

    To suggest that the poverty-stricken and persecuted Jews of Europe led by their beleaguered gedolim should have created a revolution in America is quite astonishing.

    How successful was the “Rabbis March” on Washington, to convince Roosevelt to do something about the annihilation of European Jewry?

    I understand that this is not the topic of discussion here but I felt it was up to someone to be “moche” (protest) the denigration of our Torah leaders.

  21. If there would have been a traditional force of any stature, that would have changed. The same could be said about factories that hired children and boarded up fire escapes. These were terrible problems, but the U.S. laws are responsive to social pressure. It could have been worked through. It wasn’t until there was a traditional group who pushed for change. Additionally, like after the war, if there were traditional forces pressuring for accomodation, the secular Jewish community would have also helped them in terms of building factories that accomodated shomer shabbos workers. Additionally, there were jobs outside of factory work, which is why so many Jews were peddlars out of pushcarts.

  22. Let’s remember that, in nearly all cases in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, American workers were expected to show up on Saturday or be fired. How was the rabbinate supposed to prepare immigrants for that?

  23. No, YH, not what he said, not what he meant.

    They should have seen that the Jews were coming to America, and set up shop. Saying “don’t go there” was not the proper or helpful response. Can we accept that the U.S. is not the treifa medina? That it was never a “treifa medina.” That this was not a proper understanding or policy of the U.S.A?

    Or does that ruffle feathers even now?

    If so, too bad. I do not apologize for insisting the U.S. is NOT a “treifa mednia.”

  24. DK Hmmm, so R’ Kosman analyzed the situation and has concluded that the European rabbis blew it. They should have known that a madman would come to power in the most enlightened country in the world and with the world’s complicity would exterminate millions upon millions of Jews. Gotcha.

  25. Chaim,

    Interesting use of the Iraq analogy. Of course we won’t really know the value of the Iraq invasion for many years to come. The political analysis you used is a very short-sighted view. If only we could glimpse the future. Of course the chareidim in America can glimpse the future by observing the chareidim in Israel.

    There you have a system that is on the verge of economic and socialogical collapse. They can’t survive without welfare from the state they despise. They are being both terrorized and grossly misled by a small but growing minority of zealots who could give the Taliban a run for their money.

    The upshot of this is a slow but noticable realization that Torah alone doesn’t cut it, certainly not for everyone. That you need some “Mada” thrown in to keep the economic system alive and maintain some rationality.

    Once the economic wealth bubble in the US chareidi world bursts by an unsustainable demand on resources, Torah U’mada in some form won’t look quite as evil. You see, whether you call it “Torah U’mdada” or just concede that Mada is necessary to sustain Torah in the big picture doesn’t make much of a difference.

    I’m hoping that the future will bring us back to a rational middle ground that will be secure enough to include the whole three ring circus. (One last tent analogy. :)

  26. This thread has gone from “How the Charedi and Modern Worlds Can Learn to Appreciate Each Other” to “How RWMO and LWMO don’t appreciate each other”.

    DK mentioned the “large tent” of YU that houses both LW and RW MO. I think if this is extrapolated to MO in general it will take us back to the original intent of Steve’s article as it applies to these intra-MO issues.

    A few people here have taken jabs at the LI-type LWMO community. We can look at them pessimistically as some have or we can view MO as an ideology that allows this type of diversity yet manages to keep them in the orthodox “camp”.

    There are just some people who are not cut out for the strictest level of observance in every area. For whatever reason they can’t learn, dress, daven, etc. the way more “mainstream” orthodox Jews do. Should we cut them loose and send them to Conservative? Can you imagine what we’d lose if we had tznius police hanging out at all these shuls handing shawls to all the women? Or if we sent minyan police to wake up all the men at 6:00 a.m.?

    Wouldn’t we rather have a tent under which everyone has a kosher Marriage, kosher divorce (if need be), kosher Britim, kosher tahara. A tent where most women go to the mikvah, most children go to orthodox day schools, where most kids spend a year or more learning in Israel.

    We may choose not to daven in shuls or live in communities that don’t reflect our particular hashkafa or level of observance, but I, for one, am proud to be under a tent that is so inclusive. A tent that keeps as many as possible within the Mesora.

  27. Chaim G,

    I already said TuM is a useful myth, but a theoretical impossiblity in terms of unity. What do you want?

  28. E) I humbly suggest we all check out and comment on -“Four Top Misconceptions People Have About Judaism” and “A Succos Reawakening”. They are really good posts.

  29. A) YAWN! BUUUT… so as not to be accused of being and old stick in the mud, and, I believe, with Marks permission and encouragement, I will join the fray!

    B) Steve please expand FWIW and RAL. Also is there an online way to obtain the 9.23.06 issue of the Commentator?

    C) DK the real issue is not this or that specific policy, but the reality that YU teaches secular course on the same campus as Torah. This is their real issue. The open respect for secular knowledge, as an ends in itself.

    Very true. What you may not know (or at least haven’t written about here) is that Charedi polemicists use the specific policies as a litmus test for the wrong-headedness and misdirection of the entire TuM weltanschauung. They (I’ll be honest WE) view TuM as a distorted (although not manifestly so) Hashqafa whose compelling logic concludes with some of the outrageous specific policies and events that are more overtly anti-Torah.

    Two weeks after the invasion of Iraq as Sadaam’s statue is getting toppled it’s hard to criticize Bush’s foreign policy. 4+ years later with over 1000 GIs dead, countless thousands of Iraqis dead and maimed, the country awash in blood vendettas and civil war and no end in sight, many fair minded individuals are retroactively recognizing the wisdom of those who opposed the war from the get-go. It is only the most ideologically entrenched, those who obstinately refuse to let facts on the ground upset their meticulously crafted organization of reality who still decline to concede their ideological opponents point. (The politics described above are not those of this poster. They are for illustrative purposes only).

    Similarly the Charedim who have been arguing in abstract terms with both RW and LW proponents of TuM for over 50 years have of late, ironically, become empiricists vis a vis this debate. By attacking specific events and policies that RWMO MUST concede are anti-Torah, they are allowing the living laboratory of history to prove their theories about the innate illegitimacy of TuM.

    D) Steve said that Rav Schwab gave TIDE a decent intellectual burial. DK, I beseech you to stop wasting your passion and talent in the quixotic pursuit of rebuilding an ideological New Orleans. Instead, as the veritable anti-disingenuousness Pinchos of our blog, who relentlessly attacks tortured pseudo-proofs and self-serving rationalizations and apologetics, would you be kind enough to do the same for TuM? It sure looks like a Mais Mitzvah to me!

  30. YH,

    As Rabbi Moshe Kosman has noted, the greater fault was not emulating the precedant of Bavel, where the rabbis understood the Jews would come to Bavel, so set up shop in preparation of their mass exodus from the Land of Israel, which according to some opinions, is even more holy than Poland and Hungary.

  31. DK wrote in post #41: “To my charedi brethren: Stop hating YU, accept they were right about America, the charedim were wrong. Look within and accept your leaders terrible failure.”

    So you think that the fact that the vast majority of Jews who left Europe for America and abandoned their yiddishkeit in the treifene medina is a myth, hmmmm. Millions and millions of Jews, some of whose descendents might still be named “Cohen” but are not only not “cohanim” but aren’t even Jewish!

    How about admitting that the gedolim in Europe were right instead of maligning them?

  32. And my great-granfather went to the proto-school, Aitz Chayim/Yeshivas Yizcah Elchonan. I was reclaiming my true mesorah, traditional Judaism, B’nai Torah untra-Orthodoxy, after slowly figuring out that it was not charedi as my rabbis at B’nai Torah insitutions had falsely insisted it was, as they insisted it was for all Jews. They were Orthodox, but they were not charedi. That’s why my great-grandfather went to YU’s proto school. That’s why my great-great-grandparents came to the “treife medina.”

  33. To get a degree and yeshiva credits, and move from charedism into Modern Orthodoxy. Believe me, I wasn’t the first BT to go there for all of the above, and I wasn’t the last.

  34. It’s the non-Orthodox, quasi-Marxist outlook that treats all religious policy positions as manifestations of economic/political motivations and power relationships. We should be above that.

  35. Just thought I’d stop by, see “what’s doin’ ” before calling it a night. Bob, I share your Mets pain… and am still looking for a suitable analogy in Torah to their bats fading out.

    Had a funny occurance today that reminded me not just of the view here, ie, how do Charedi view MO, but a glimpse from the other direction. Attended a simcha where I saw some people I hadn’t seen in years. Several commented when asked where I now live, “isn’t that a really frummy place?” And several derogatory comments about separate seating at simchas (not the case at this aforementioned simcha which was veddy LWMO, ouch) followed. It was weird, as I haven’t experienced that outlook in quite some time. So see, guys, the problem is that everyone is far too busy looking down at the next camp. Whether they looking from right to left, or left to right.

  36. Bob,

    You have to understand the divisions at YU. It isn’t as simple as a regular yeshiva, and YU houses a large tent comprising both LWMO and RWMO. Hence, many of the college students identify with a Judaism unlike the rabbis who run the seminary program or even the more right-wing rabbis in the bais medresh program, because it is no more appropriate in terms of hashkafa than LWUO rabbis are appropriate for RWMO students. It is for this reason why all rabbis in the Beis Medresh of the college have the title of Rosh Yeshiva. To allow for numerous hashkafas, and a large tent.


    It may be an ongoing debate, but now the RWMO are really gaining power. And what bothers me is that you are not only interested in doing what you feel is right, but what will make the school less unacceptable to the LWUO.

    That’s a problem. I don’t really think the RWMO all believe that an Art History course is truly devoid of value. And what bothers me more is that I feel these pressure are originating from outside, and from those who have no interest in YU anyway.

    In your eagerness to please the LWUO, who you will never truly appease, and you know that, you are losing the LWMO, particularly the most gifted ones. And that is not good for YU, Steve. Even if you have a lot of issues with the LWMO, they add a lot to the reputation of the school, and frankly, its funding. They are disproportionately diverse in terms of vocational pursuits.

    You are trading Columbia, Penn, and NYU students in the hopes of attracting Touro students. Bad, bad trade, Steve. Be smart.

  37. What’s this, a student’s shot across the bow, warning rabbis to stay off his educational turf? How does this attitude square with any flavor of Orthodoxy?

  38. DK-Mazel tov and welcome to the party!The conversation over whether the yeshiva or the university is the tale that wags the dog in YU has been an ongoing discussion and subject of heated debate for decades. However, I certainly am of the POV that the future Talmidie Chachamim and Gdolim who live in Muss Hall have as much right not to take these courses as you do to take such a course.The lack of respect for their POV by a current YU official was IMO very disturbing, Our respective views can be seen in almost every issue of the Commentator’s archives. WADr, while you may have enjoyed art history, others viewed it as Yehareg Val Yaavor. That’s the issue in a nutshell.As far as TuM is concerned-I agree with you. Despite his amazing abilities as a fund-raiser and speaker, IMHO, R D Lamm’s vision of TuM was ” a bridge too far.”

  39. Steve, you said,

    “Those of of us with older memories would be hard pressed to find such a meeting taking place by RHS during the previous administration.”

    Yes, those were the days! A proper division of power. Something shmeks of possible consideration of future capitulation. Gotta be honest, Steve, no one in my small circle of YU friends has ever told me they wish they hadn’t had to take that infamous art history class. Crazy as it sounds, they feel they actually got something out of it. Some of us are not very happy about Riets and the Muss boys deciding what secular curriculum is kosher enough to continue. Liberal Arts is not your focus. We don’t want to be Touro 2 or Landman College Senior Campus. Back off.

    “FWIW, RYBS never spoke in favor of TuM but viewed Torah and secular studies as two different areas of knowledge that were not always reconcilable or capable of being reconciled.”

    I agree. No reconciliation necessary. TuM for all practical purposes has really meant (despite Dr. Lamm’s histrionics) Let there be conflict, but let’s study both anyway. Which is certainly in accordance to the way the Rav lived, now, isn’t it? And at YU, no less.

    “The botom line and IMO irrefutable proof is that TuM advocates fail to realize that while while the dropping of a Sefer Torah, any Sefer or the entry of a Gadol BaTorah generates a halachic response, no similar action is generated by the dropping of a book or the entry of a learned secular professor, (except possibly a brachah as to that scholar’s secular wisdom).”

    Stick with the Sefer Hatorah itself, let’s not get sidetracked by the gedeolim issue. Obviously, one is holy, one is secular. So what? We have to treat belief differently than knowledge. We don’t need to kiss a math book in order to remind ourselves of math’s importance.

  40. DK-Take a look at the 9.23.06 issue of the Commentator, the student newspaper of Yeshiva College. I applaud the fact that the new dean, who YU imported from Pinceton, met with RHS. Those of us with older memories would be hard pressed to find such a meeting taking place by RHS during the previous administration. I do not recall RYBS discussing these issues with YU officials, but I invite others with more recollection to post on this issue.(FWIW, RYBS never spoke in favor of TuM but viewed Torah and secular studies as two different areas of knowledge that were not always reconcilable or capable of being reconciled.RYBS always felt that the best graduate of YU should be a competent professional and able to learn Torah on a very high level.) I also noted a wonderful op ed student by a smicha student ( Dovi Bergman) in defense of ten students who who had gone to YU afer a year learning but decided to go elsewhere. One cannot discuss this issue intelligently without reading the summary of the meeting between RHS and the Dean and the op ed article.

    I think that using political or sociological terminology such as liberal, conservative, left or right sheds little, if any, light on the issue. Likewise, even quoting RAL’s 1963 article on TuM is of little help.RAL now views MO as being besotted in some communities with Torah and Taavah for all of the Gashmius of the Golden Galus of the US at the expense of growing in Avodas HaShem.

    I am fond of saying that any and all Torah related hashkafas can only supplement but never supplant Torah. The botom line and IMO irrefutable proof is that TuM advocates fail to realize that while while the dropping of a Sefer Torah, any Sefer or the entry of a Gadol BaTorah generates a halachic response, no similar action is generated by the dropping of a book or the entry of a learned secular professor, (except possibly a brachah as to that scholar’s secular wisdom). While secular study and disciplines may enhance Torah, they simply are not a Chetzah Shel Torah that requires one to recite a Birkas HaMitzvah because of their innate kedusha.In fact,as RHS pointed out, much of what is called classical literature falls within the three cardinal transgressions. RAL’s article presents a nice contrast, but one which I wonder really inspires or has much impact on the average student. While I am a loyal and critical YU alumnus and talmid/chasid of the RY and RK of RIETS, IMO, the above distinction between Torah and Madah seems quite irrefutable.

  41. I just wanted to add that this debate is not about appreciation or lack there of between MO and Charedi only, but also about concern among the LWMO that Steve Brizel and the RWMO are being used by charedim in their goal of diminishing, even destroying, the charecter of YU.

    I realize that sounds harsh — but if you look at the attacks by charedim to the RWMO, they attack specific instances and specific policies of YU. But among themselves –and I know this from my own experience, even from LWUO clergy–the real issue is not this or that specific policy, but the reality that YU teaches secular course on the same campus as Torah. This is their real issue. The open respect for secular knowledge, as an ends in itself.

    So why aren’t the charedi critics open about their real issue?

    Because the RWMO won’t be responsive to this complaint.

    But as the RWMO power has grown since the Rav got sick (and it has grown tremendously), there has been a shift in terms of seeking to appease the charedi critics on many specific issues they criticize. And I would remind the RWMO that private funding for YU does not come from the charedim. In fact, it has mostly always come from secular Jewry. This is no secret.

    Steve, don’t be fooled. Many of YU’s charedi critics are not out to make YU a better place. They are out to earn concession after concession, and still they will condemn. Because you take secular studies seriously. You teach them on the same campus as Talmud. YU will always be treif to the core.

    Let the charedim build their own insitutions. They will never go to yours anyway.

    So when it comes to their vision of YU — don’t be useful to them.

  42. I was horrified to read this from DK: “Has anyone else noticed that it has increasingly surfaced that Bob Miller is funny?”

    Come on DK, whoever you are! I wanted to hold my head up among the many profound thinkers over here, and now look what you’ve done. First my Mets are gone, and now this. I shall have to sulk.

  43. Chaim G

    Personally, I think there were many new ideas on this thread and I thought Steve’s initial post added tremendously.

    From my readings in the Jewish blog world, there is much room for improvement in understanding and appreciation between the different paths within Orthodoxy. If this lack of unity, understanding and appreciation between Jews is a dead horse, then we are a dead people. So I for one am not ready to declare this horse dead yet.

    In my opinion, we must keep on striving for increased understanding and unity by recognizing each others strengths and working on our weaknesses. Which does not mean we shouldn’t respectfully discuss the respective strengths and weakensses.

    Seeing strengths of others leads to understanding and appreciation and improving our weaknesses is one of the primary goals of Torah. So overall what may superficially look like sniping and one-upmanship is in reality a worthwhile pursuit. And I think for the most part the dialog has been respectful.

    (Standard Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary.)

  44. Why not ghange the name of the blog to Beyond MO?

    I for one am

    a) getting bored to tears by a dead horse that has been beaten to a thousand deaths and

    b) fail to see how continued mutual sniping and one-upsmanship promotes anything worthwhile for new or veteran BTs in terms of advice, insight or inspiration.

  45. Steve, it’s hard to have “appreciation” for a community that is OK with the issues Moshe mentioned. Perhaps you mean Kovod Habriyos- that should always be a value, even if we don’t “appreciate”, let alone approve of, practices of some communities.

  46. Has anyone else noticed that it has increasingly surfaced that Bob Miller is funny? Interesting point as well about the hashkafa of our German brethren. I think I pegged you wrong, Bob, in earlier times. I would like to apologize for that.

    Now Moshe, let’s deal with your quest for perfection. There is no “perfect” in this world. The perfect men of Israel were not the greatest, and they didn’t live the safest.

    For many of us lowly creatures down here on planet earth, functionalism is more important that perfection. And it seems to us that those who insist on perfection all too often (for our tastes) end up getting a little help from the government instead of paying their own way.

    Menschkeit can demand a little imperfection. Menschkeit demands tuition bills be paid, and this thing called rent.

    And Steve, my good friend on the other extreme of YU alumni, I still think you should concede that YU’s academic program is suffering from not having a strong Left. You can insist that this is better frumkeit-wise, but you should concede it does hurt its academic standing. Checks and balances are necessary for conflict, and we both know conflict is better than unity and perfection. It is not in YU’s interest (or the Jewish world’s interest) to become monolithically RWMO. The college should not be held to Reits standards. You want YU to stay in the top 50 schools. You need a left for that who will stand up to the hats and tell them to stay out of the secular curriculum. You can always blame it on us and point your finger at us accusingly. We won’t mind. After all, we work together.

  47. LI Jew-I am well aware how some in the yeshivishe world view NIRC and YU and I agree with your assessment. Yet, I go back to my original point-we need to appreciate each other’s pluses and minsues before we can even think of approving of each other’s Derech HaChaim.As far as the community that you mentioned-wait until the inspired kids start getting married.Their parents who don’t live such a life will sooner or later have to ask themselves the following question-would I rather my kids be like me , worse or more frum than me? This is an issue that MO will have to deal with as its next generation either becomes more or less frum.

  48. Steve,

    Two things:

    Regarding RHS’s aceptance in Ner Yisrael, you are aware that Ner Yisrael is considered just right of YU in Yeshivishe circles in the US? When he speaks in Lakewood, that will confer acceptance.

    Also, I strongly disagree with your characterization of the MO community. I live in a major MO community in Long Island where learning is rare, spousal kissing is prevelant and the majority of inspired kids are the ones who became that way in the Yeshivos which don’t take YU seriously. Do I live in an Urban Myth?

  49. Moshe-I saw the ad. None of RIETS’ RY are speaking at this event. As Chareidi Leumi points out, look at the half of the glass that is full, not empty. So many young men enter YU and RIETS and emerge as Bnei Torah and Talmidie Chachamim. I consider that a major plus, despite the problems that are present there.

  50. “Look, a defetct is a defect and until it is addressed we can not have the unity we so long for.”

    I think this brings us full circle back to Steve’s original article. We need to focus on the “beautiful things” and not the “defects”. As we’ve shown above, we’re all very good at finding defects. We need to get better at overlooking them.

    Shavua Tov

  51. This gets interesting. TIDE was envisioned as the way to bring the contemporary, general derech eretz (radically different from the pre-emancipation derech eretz) into a proper relationship with Torah. That is, to put the aspects of actual life back under the control of Torah values.

    Now, of course, the 1800’s Central European derech eretz is as dead as a dodo. But if you would apply this actual TIDE principle in today’s context, instead of just replicating its specific 1800’s application, you could create something interesting and valuable today.

  52. Steve and DK – I know about all of the beautiful things you are talking about.

    My point is that this is unless there is also a “severance, or total and absolute non-recognition of any type of institutionalized heresy, minus or apikarsus” then there will not likley be unity – and that is unfortunate.

    And even though you say REITS is separate from YU, the RY’s are also listed under staff for YU on their web page. All of the other things that you are saying miss the point. A beautiful daimond with a defect – is still a beautiful diamond with a defect – I am asking who is the Gadol Hador is says that a “severance, or total and absolute non-recognition of any type of institutionalized heresy, minus or apikarsus” is not part of Torah Hashkafa. Why aren’t people objecting to YU co-sponsoring a Jewish Education evet this Sunday where the First Speaker is an Ordained Conservative Rabbi?

    Look, a defetct is a defect and until it is addressed we can not have the unity we so long for.

  53. DK-For lack of a better description, TIDE as a hashkafa was given a decent intellectual burial by none other than R Schwalb ZTL. It is now a Charedi community with Yekke minhagim-no more, no less. Its latest leader , R Y Gelley, is a wonderful Talmid Chacham andGateshead musmach but not exactly a talmid of RSRH’s derech.The Breuers’ community used to have a seminary for women whose head was rabidly anti YU and RIETS and who edited many works for ArtScroll. This same person also produced a “new” edition of The Nineteen Letters that many maintain watered down RSRH’s originakl intent and the prior translation. A comparison between those two editions would make for a nice journal article or PhD thesis, but IRRC, Jewish Action ran a debate on that issue a number of years ago. That seminary is now closed.In addition, the community is aging and its next generation is moving to Monsey and Paramus. However, one of R Gelley’s sons is a social worker in Lakewood who deals with avrechim who are making the transition from the Beis Medrash to secular professions.

  54. This tension–between secular and Orthodoxy–is what is actually so dynamic about YU. One of the things that is hurting is its current lack of a powerful Left, who all too frequently prefer the ivy league schools. Consequently, the liberal arts programs are constrained, instead of expansive.

    The problem with the Torah im’ derech eretz approach is that a frequent byproduct is mediocrity in that which is considered b’dieved.

    YU produces some serious players in the world. Where are their counterparts in the Torah im derech eretz world? Do they even produce leaders in the religious world? Do they even produce their own leaders, or do they have to recruit from outside their community?

    Perhaps B’dieved is contagious. Better to have naturally competitive, even hostile, camps who want dominance, but not to the point of invalidating the other.

    YU has no problem producing greatness in either aspect of life, secular and religious, because it insists on its fantasy that there is no conflict. But in reality, it is insisting on the benefits that can be acheived only through conflict.

  55. Moshe-First of all, we know of schools in E Europe in Telz and elsewhere that R Y Salanter’s talmidim established that also had secular learning .R Schwalb ZTL asked R B Ber ZTL whether TIDE was lchatchilah or bedieved. R B Ber ZTL answered that it was strictly bdieved. That anwser is evident in all of R Schwalb ZTL’s writings on the issue. “Elu v Elu” is simply apologetics to the Yeshiva world over how TIDE differs from TuM.

    Like it or not, RYBS was the Gadol HaDor to whom the MO world turned to on all of its critical issues. While RYBS never advocated TuM as it was envisioned by R D Belkin ZTL or Yivadleinu LChaim R D N Lamm, he certainly believed that YU and RIETS could and would develope college educated Talmidie Chachamim, as opposed to merely observant Baale Batim, which he observed in person in Germany in the 1920s.

  56. How did we go from appreciation to sparring again? Let’s return to the original theme. Every single poster has worthwhile things to say- if we say it in the spirit of appreciation, we can accomplish so much more.

  57. Rav Schwab is teaching us what TIDE stands for. TIDE is a Torah Hashkafa which have been develoveped and defined by Geolai Hador.

    American MO is not a Torah Haskafa which has been developed and Defined by Gedolai Hador.

    Perhaps you mighi meant TuM – is this a Torah Hashkafa wich has been developed and defined by Gedolai Hador?

    Rabbi Bronspiegal writes that the RAV never publicly discussed TuM on a idealogical level and he never heard the RAV speak specificaly about TuM.

    If TuM was not developed and defined by the RAV – then what Gadol Hador did?

    That is why I say we need to continue to walk in the foosteps of the sheep – Tzai B’Ekei Hazone. Until Gedolai Hador arrive who will define TuM – meanwhile we have Rav Schwab going on record saying that TIDE must include Austritt and I have not see any Gadol Hador argue with with the statement I have quoted in my previous post.

  58. And you know what? The yekkish community is not a force like it was, but YU is still a very powerful force. Y’all backed the wrong horse, and your descendants don’t have the stomach for continuing a German-Jewish identity, and are being swept up by the LW yeshivish community. And you know, that probably isn’t so good. The yekkes had an interesting perspective. Not for me or for most ostjuden, but still, I can appreciate if not approve.

    But this all-too-frequent hating of YU — well, a calling out is deserved in order to move forward.

    My great-grandfather went to a proto-school for YU, so far back their archives don’t have such stuff. And I went there too, and maybe it isn’t a place for people like me who came pre-War (nevermind pre-WWI) anymore, but the way certain segments of the community want YU’s dismantling as much as they want Mashiach is disgusting. And I am being very nice with that word.

    Many of the chardim declared the U.S. the “Treifa medina,” and forbade their people to come here. YU was building its educational insitution to further traditioanl Jewish life in the U.S.

    YU was right. Rabbi Wasserman, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, and pretty much all the chassidic Rebbes were wrong. Accept it. The charedi gedoylim FAILED. YU was right. YU did a great job.

    To my charedi brethren: Stop hating YU, accept they were right about America, the charedim were wrong. Look within and accept your leaders terrible failure. All your anger towards YU only reveals your secret knowledge that the charedi camp failed the Jews of Europe.

    Make peace with your leaders past. It wasn’t YU’s fault they didn’t do the right thing, and succeeded where they forbade.

  59. Who would ever guess that thinkers from the Fatherland would not be as inclusive as the American MO? Clearly, if it wasn’t good enough for the German-Jews, it shouldn’t be good enough for the rest of us. And the division between the Yekkes and YU has nothing and never had anything to do with racism towards Eastern European Jews. Oh, no, not one bit. Purely ideological.

  60. Rav Schwab ZT”L wrote that:

    ” Rav Hirsch zatzal has inscribed two ebmlems on his banner. One is Torah in derech eretz and the other is the so-called “Austritt,” whic means severance, or total and absolute non-recognition of any type of institutionalized heresy, minus or apikarsus. This is also a resolution not to contribute to, participate in, or support any cause which accords validity to the disbelief in Hashem Yisbarach Shemo or to the denial of the authenticity of Torah Shebiksav or Torah Sheb’al Peh. In other words, “Austritt” states that the Torah is our sovereign ruler, and it makes us independent of all those who deny its Devine origin. There is no other definition for Judaism or the Jewish people than “Am Hashem” and “Am atorah.” Everything else is untrue.

    To Summarize, Torah im derech eretz without Austritt is considered triefe lechol hadaios!”

  61. Some Orthodox leaders in Europe favored secession (Austritt) only in cases where the legally constituted general community organization was being especially oppressive toward the Orthodox. This middle position was not so uncommon.

    Looking at any individual Gadol of that time, pay attention to the way his position on secession was influenced by the specific local conditions he was addressing.

  62. Also, remember that while Torah ‘im Derekh Eretz and Torah uMada‘ and Torah va‘Avoda are all “Modern Orthodox” movements, they are not identical with each other. So while the people at YU should definitely take notice of the TiDE co-ideal of Austritt, there’s no reason that TuM should also include Austritt as a cardinal principle.

  63. Hi Steve – I was just explaining how we could fix this problem, become truly united and address the issues that you would like addressed. Its just not going to happen until then, that’s just the reality.


  64. Moshe-Many Gdolim in Germany such as R D T Hoffman ZTL ( ShuT Mlamed Lhoiil and author of sefer on Vayikra that fought Biblical criticism) , R E Hildesheimer ZTL and R YY Weinberg ZTL did not approve of Austritt.

    Why should RIETS break its affiliation with YU? It is its prime source of students and future RY. The perception of YU and RIETS that you have posted is IMO part of the urban mythology that ails us.

  65. Austritt..
    “In 1876, Edward Lasker (a Jewish parliamentarian in the Prussian Landtag) introduced the “Secession Bill” (Austrittsgesetz), which would enable Jews to secede from a religious congregation without having to relinquish their religious status.”
    From this wiki entry:

    The reform movement in Germany became the “Jewish” reprentatives to the goverment. The Austritt bill basically allowed Rav Hirsh’s community (and all Orthodox communities) the ability to be an independant Jewish communmity outside of the “general Jewish community” headed by the reform movement.

    For more info and an excellent historical view, I strongly suggest the Artscroll bio on Rav Hirsch.

  66. Steve – I am all in favor of Achdus.

    I am afraid though until REITS breaks its affiliation with YU, its not going to happen. Until this happens it is be better to encourage us to follow the guidance of universally accepted gedolim. Halevei one day we can merit to sit all under one umbrella – it can happen even before Moshiach comes – as it has in the past.

  67. Moshe-FWIW, RIETS is an affiliate of YU with its own separate leadership and lay board.The RY, RK and Talmidim have zero to do with the events that you mentioned and hinted at. WADR, your view that “universally respected Gdolim” is problematic. First of all, it is a slight to Gdolim such as RYBS and his Talmidim Muvhakim such as RHS and RAL. Moreover, each community has its Gdolim-ranging from the Litvishe world to each Chasidish dynasty to RIETS. IMO, your comment perpetuates the stereotypes and urban myths that I was discussing.

    It is ironic that you quote R Schwalb ZTL, who cannot be considered a true talmid of RSRH in any fashion and especially when other major Gdolim disagreed with RSRH re Austritt and Chinuch.

  68. Perhaps what’s at issue here is that, even what we here on the blog see as MO, is really several very contrasting camps. There is very little difference between the REITS community, who consider themselves MO, and their Yeshvish counterparts. OTOH, those whom Jeff refers to are also standing under that same banner. Perhaps, eventually, we’ll end up with yet another label to join frum makpid and all the other descriptions that people use when they ret shidduchim. There definitely are a lot of people to whom issues such as tznius are “right wing”. Just recently I hosted a party at my house for a group of old friends from my single days, and was truly shocked at how many of them did not wash (and obviously, didn’t bench either). And these were mainly FFB LWMO. But is it fair to call both of these groups “MO”? The RWMO have a lot more in common with Charedim then they do with LWMO, other than similar feelings about Israel.

    When I first was introduced to the Orthodox world, my then boyfriend, who was from an illustrious yeshivisha family, told me it was considered “intermarriage” when someone from the Yeshivisha world married a Chassid. Have we come any further today (this being roughly 25+ years ago)?

    As stated numerous times by your truly in this blog, we’re only delaying the arrival of Moshiach with this obsession for labeling. It’s one thing to rely on a kashrus label for our food, but do we really need to “brand” people? I.E., despite the obvious differences in hashkafa and observance cited in the first paragraph here, we’ve all got to learn to live together and do a better job at Ahavas Yisroel!

  69. Jeff-Thanks for your response. Let me add this clarification:

    1)In response to both you and Menachem-My only intent is that we appreciate each other-both as individuals and groups,for our strengths and try to interact without expressing approval to work on our weaknesses. Approval requires moving away from urban myths and stereotypes which abound in both groups and which are our communities’ forms of institutionalized inertia. That requires a great deal more work than raising funds for a sefer which crosses group lines. OTOH, a group called Nefesh has a membership that crosses the full spectrum and whose members park their hashkafos at the door.

    2)I am not interested in “selling ” Satmar to RZ or how RYBS is viewed in the yeshiva world. I do know that my Avodas HaShem is incomplete without knowing all of these important streams of hashkafah.

    3)Last night, we had dinner with our daugthter and son in law for my birthday in their apartment which is directly across from the main Beis Medrash of RIETS. We went for Maariv at 9:00 PM and there were no empty seats. Once upon a time, that Beis Medrash could be called a “bowling alley” but not anymore.

  70. Hello and a Gutten Erev Shabbos,

    Above in a post it was written:

    By definition MO represents a more “open” approach, chareidi a more “closed” approach.

    I do not agree unless one is talking about Kafera. Reits is a wonderful yeshiva – but it is in YU and that is very critical point. Is YU open to Kefera? Do they partner with Kofrim? I have heard that there are plenty of incedents that can attest to this. There seems to be one this coming Sunday – YU is a co-sponsor of the Jewish Education Fair – where the first speaker is an ordained Conservative “Rabbi”.

    Rav Schwab TZ”L is on record as saying that Torah Im Derech Eretz can not be separated from “the Herschian battle cry against minus”.

    Sure – we all have our faults – but there are differences from weakness mostly contributed by fringe elements and those codifed as YU policy”

    In the long run I believe that truth will win out over falseness and light over darkness. Boy do we need Moshiach soon to show us the differnce – Meanwhile we should look to universally accepted (to the most degree that they are)Gedolim and follow their guidance. To say above that someone can be a gadol “no matter what your hashkafa is” is very surprising. Lets look to the majority of Gedolim of this generation and the previous as our Role Models for ourselves and our children. With this approach we are promised Siyata Deshmaya and continued success.

  71. Steve,

    1) You are making the distinction between approval and appreciation. I might understand you better if you could provide a working definition of appreiation that does not include approval.
    2) You speak of learning and davening with a cross-section of Jews and everyone appreciating your participation. I have been in similar situations and appreciate the positive feeling one gets from these settings and the hope it gives that we can some day get along. However, this experience unfortunately doesn’t relate at all to the way the various factions relate to each other. As individuals we usually do OK. As “camps,” less so.
    3) You gave as examples of legitimate philosophies “from Rambam to Ramban to Ramchal to Mussar and Chasidus or from the Satmar Rav ZTL to Rav Kook and RYBS ZTL.” Again I see this is out of touch with reality. In my experience you would have a hard time selling R.Kook to Satmars and vice versa. We won’t even get into R. Soloveitchik’s non-acceptance in the Yeshivish world.
    4) My undergraduate degree and Semicha are from YU and I unfortunately stand by my earlier comment. While it is by no means prevelant, it exists.
    5) I agree with Menachem’s comment and don’t really see where you answered it.
    6) I unfortunately also stand by my characterization of a significant part of the MO community. I have observed it in many major kehilot.

  72. Actually last year , walking with friends one cold winter night in the quaint city of Williamsburg and in kosher only mode , we asked some male religious looking folks all dressed in black chareidi glory, location specifics on kosher food places. And suprisingly, they were actually polite and helpful. I was actually impressed with that ,being that we were all female and dressed more like their new hipster neighbors than the bas yisroel sisters they grew up with.I almost asked them if they’d come to see the light with the help of beyondbt, but then I remembered the internet ban.

    So we found the kosher eatery and everyone was high on that ” love your neighbor like yourself “even if he’s cloaked in chareidism and she doesnt dress like you experience …… until the jumping roaches behind us on the food line got all antsy about the unexplained wait and smell and literally began jumping the line and the food.

    Then there was the question about pastrami covered roaches being kosher .Would it be equally ok to just not bother goin all the way across town and just eat not kosher but roach free sandwiches.I guess its 50/50 on the kosher status.Unless covered roaches are kosher.

  73. Sephardi Lady, you said that beautifully. Although in my experience, the average sincere observant Jew does not think of those less observant as “below” them, if even one person in Klal Yisrael thinks this way, it is one person too many.

    We each have our own Nekudah of Bechirah- specific point where we are faced with choices, and how we react to our own Nekudah is infinitely more significant than what our Nnekudah actually is.

    For some, it may be Shabbat observance. For another, it may be Lashon Hara, or deciding to use more formal titles than first names with office mates of the opposite gender, or refraining from non kosher food. Who but H-Shm can judge how much we have struggled, and the extent that we are trying to live our life L’Shem Shomayim?

    Steve, I reread your post, and still think it is a top notch presentation for unity.One point though- how I wish that we didn’t use these labels so much. They have come to be so loaded, and mean much more in a political sense than other identifying terms such as Sephardic, Ashkenaz, Chassidic, Yekke. Can’t we all be just frum, or observant, or growing in observance, each trying in our own way to go one step further in Avodat H-Shm? I know you didn’t use the terminology with negative connotations, yet the terms are so divisive… What is your opinion?

  74. Menachem-FWIW, I do know that RHS has given a shiur to chaburos in Ner Yisrael, has been provided a “mizrach vant” seat and has also given at least one shiur to a chaburah in the Mir. I think that appreciation as to RHS in those yeshivos is already “been there, done that”. R M Willig sought the halachic input from Gdolim within the Charedi world when he developed a Pre Nuptial Agreement that is now becoming adopted within the RIETS, YU and MO sectors. Therefore, there is appreciation in that regard as well. Halevai that the appreciation of Gdolim continues to be mutual.

  75. Steve,

    You wrote, “I neither explicitly nor implicitly called for either the MO or Charedi worlds to move towards each other…”

    Maybe I’m reading you wrong but just as an example looking at item 2 where you say, “Gdolim exist in each of these sectors.” Notwithstanding Ezzie’s really nice story above, the MO world already accepts the gedolim of the chareidi world but this is not reciprocated. Thus it would not be out of character, as you mention, to see an MO shul host a chareidi gadol. But it’s rare or non-existant to see an MO gadol invited to a chareidi institution. You admit this yourself when you say, “Gdolim such as RHS and RM Willig should also be invited to major Charedi communities.” They “should” be because they are not.

    This appears as implicit call for the chareidi world to “open” up and move “left” as I said above.

  76. DK-May I suggest that you reread my post? The key to my post is mutual appreciation, not mutual approval. The issue is admittedly complex. On one hand, we should all be striving upward and not being static in our committments. Yet, to borrow a football metaphor, the goalposts seem to some to being constantly moved backwards even as one makes progress in these goals. Given these facts of life, IMO, mutual appreciation is a goal that is far better and desirable than mutual approval. When I learn MB and daven in a Mincha minyan with all types of Jews, they appreciate my participation even if our POVs on any number of issues might vary.

  77. Thanks Bob. I was only using your comment to point out that even though the individual should not ever be satisfied with their level, that we should be able to recognize the commitment of others, even those who are “below us” and give those individuals our love for their commitment. (Sorry, hard to express in words).

    We’ve all heard the saying that everyone to the left of me is practically a boy and everyone to the right of me is a fanatic. While that statement is said in humor, it has a grain of truth to it and drives people further apart and drives people to become suspicious of each other to our detriment, I believe.

    One thing I hope to be able to pass onto our children is an appreciation for the observance of other people, even if the observance level is not up to the observance level in our household.

    One of the most hurtful comments I received was from a person of stature who commented that maybe someday I would be at a higher level re: kashrut and that I would keep chalav yisrael.

    I remember thinking at the time, why can’t you just realize what a commitment it is to keep kosher, rather than criticize that commitment.

  78. Regarding Comment #18:

    The context for the excerpt you quoted was the earlier discussion that some Jews are satisfied with their current level of behavior when they should be reaching higher. Certainly, BT’s who are reaching higher don’t fall into that category, regardless of their level today.

  79. On the other hand, consider how comprehensive and pervasive the Torah’s minimum requirements actually are! If we met these, our galut would end.

    We can quibble for pages about what “minimal standards” are. But, I think that if we took time to recognize the tremendous commitment of those who are not “up to par” observance wise (whatever that is), we would have a more positive outlook to our fellow observing Jew.

  80. I was a littel dissapointed by this post, not because it isn’t an issue that needs to be addressed, but because it seemed to me Steve Brizel is doing what the RWMO do all too often, insisting that they are really just as acceptably frum as the charedim.

    But that isn’t the only problem or even the biggest problem in the BT world. There is, last time I checked, sometimes a problem in the BT world in functioning to capacity as a member of society even after “becoming frum.”

    While many of us may prefer not to suggest that one camp is ever doing an objectively better job than the other, this really is still a critical area for examination, in the off-chance that certain sectors are proving difficult in terms of everyday living than others. For the MO to spend energies first and foremost courting charedi spiritual approval is setting a paradigm for evaluation that may be incomplete.

  81. Jeffrey Aftel-Welcome aboard. I read your post and IMO you missed my point-which was how the MO and Charedi worlds can appreciate each other, despite their disparate views on a range of issues.Contrary to Menachem Lipkin’s post, I neither explicitly nor implicitly called for either the MO or Charedi worlds to move towards each other, but to merely appreciate that each has something to offer the other, despite the problems that each faces both internally and the sometimes frustating messages that both send out to each other and Klal Yisrael.

    Unfortunately, IMO, Jeff trotted out too much in the way of urban myths and stereotypes.While I stand by my analysis, I would agree that we all areas in Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim to work on, regardless of whatever label is used to describe us.I will offer a working definition of legitimate Torah hashkafah-which IMO can range from Rambam to Ramban to Ramchal to Mussar and Chasidus or from the Satmar Rav ZTL to Rav Kook and RYBS ZTL, just to give a brief example of width and breadth. I agree that despite all of the many tools of learning that we have, we need to have more people across the board at least being Kovea Itim LaTorah for themselves and to set role models for their children in all sectors. There simply is no excuse in our generation for anyone not to be able to learn Torah regularly and steadily on some level.

    Similarly, Chinuch and Rabbanus still are not viewed as “nice careers for Jewish boys” in many sectors of the MO world. In fact, I mentioned many examples including the future of MO’s next generation’s committment to Torah observance because of the problems entailed by extended singlehood.I don’t know which ChuL MO communities you have observed after shul, but even though I have seen it at a simcha or two, I never have seen the conduct that you described in any of the major MO kehilos that I have spent a Shabbos. More importantly, I don’t know if you are a RIETS musmach when, if ever, you attended RIETS or a talmid who gravitated elsewhere, but I stand by all of my comments with respect to RIETS today, all of its RY, RK, Kolleleit and Talmidim.

  82. Steve,
    Despite the mixed reviews, IMHO, this was a well needed and excellently written posting.

    “The Teshuvah movement is a great engine for religious change that transcends all communal boundaries. ” Great line.

  83. I’m not looking for a merger of the factions or a glossing over of their genuine differences. Just an appropriate level of mutual respect and joint activity by serious Orthodox Jews of all descriptions, in the common interest.

    As for those who aren’t serious, and just go through whichever Jewish motions represent the path of least resistance in their own neighborhoods, that’s a whole other issue, for many groups.

  84. It’s a very thoughtful post, and I really appreciate the sentiment, but I agree with a lot of what Jeff said. Steve’s itemized list of suggestions are really a call for the Chareidi community to move to the left.

    I’m not saying that these aren’t bad suggestions, but one has to see them from the proper perspective. It’s really very fundamental. By definition MO represents a more “open” approach, chareidi a more “closed” approach. To be able to co-exist more harmoniously those that are “closed” must “open” up a little. From the MO perspective this seems trivial, but being more “closed” is a basic element of chareidi hashkafa and thus it’s asking more of them than of the MO’s.

    What, IMHO, the Baltimore community represents is the application of your ideal in that you have you have a meeting ground between RWMO and LW chareidi. What you are really suggesting is the creation of a new hashkafic representation that embodies this middle ground. It’s what we already call here in Israel Chareidi Leumi. It works for me, and probably for a lot of people here on our blog, but you’ll have a tough sell out there in the “wings”.

  85. Bob, just to be clear, I wasn’t trying to say that “standard” mitzvoth observance is equal and equivalent to minimal mitzvoth obsrvance. Many MO’s that I know are extremely knowledgeable and exacting in their mitzvoth observance. Rather it is that between the “Thou shalls” and the “Thou shall nots” there is a huge area and the question is how one makes decsions in this area.

  86. Why can’t we all just get along? ;-)

    I don’t agree with this presentation.

    1) Steve downplays and skims over to an extreme degree some of the core issues that unfortunately divide our community.

    Quote: We all adhere to the same Torah and mitzvos, with some hashkafic and a few halachic differences.

    There aren’t some differences, there are many, and many of them form the core of the various communities’ belief systems. Exposure to secular culture is just one, and a huge one. The MO community by and large does not see it in any way as a goal to screen or filter their, or their children’s, exposure to secular culture.

    Israel is another.

    Quote: The overwhelming majority of the Chareidi and yeshiva worlds look askance at certain individuals and groups who demonstrate against Israel at venues such as anti-Israel rallies, etc. While the former groups may not say a formal prayer for the IDF or the State of Israel, they pray and learn for its welfare at least in the same way as any MO Jew who recites a formal tefillah for the State or the IDF.

    This is a complete lie (sorry to be so harsh, but I can’t think of any other way to say it). They never pray and learn for the welfare of the state, they pray and learn for the people living in that state. It’s a nice idea, it’s just not reality. And given the centrality that Israel plays in MO religious identification-it’s a major dividing point. Should it be? No. But it is. And this presentation doesn’t do the issue justice.

    2) Steve is clearly only describing the Chareidi community in America. In Israel, primarily due to the extremism of the Chareidi community, the issues are so much greater and harder to “smooth over” as Steve is trying to do.

    3) I believe that in his attempt to create a greater commonality in our community Steve is basically only describing the top 30-50% of the MO world. Unfortunately, there is a significant past of the MO world that does not come close to fitting his description. I’m talking about the part where it is still de riguer for a man to greet another man’s wife with a kiss on the cheek outside of shul. It may not be in Baltimore, but it sure as heck is in many other MO communities I’ve seen.

    4) Quote: One has to be literate in all legitimate Torah hashkafa within the Mesorah

    You’ve gotta be kidding! And exactly who defines “legitimate?”

    5) The entire article, while attempting to appear even handed and moderate is actually a call for the Chareidi community to come more towards the center. While I might agree, it is by no means a simple solution, and it puts the onus of responsibility disproportionately on the Chareidi community.

    6) Where is the call for the MO community to be more exacting w/tzniut? Where is the call to recognize that kids walking out of the MO educational institutions know next to nothing and need a few solid years in a yeshiva/seminary before being able to function properly as Jews in the world-especially one that embraces the rest of society more, as Steve advocates? Where is the call for the MO community to look more towards the Gedolim (MO or Chareidi) as models of behavior? How many MO people have someone they call their “Rebbe?” Not just the shul Rabbi, but Rebbe?

    7) Minor point – Quote: In all of RIETS, there is no such thing as a country club shiur. Wanna bet?

    I see this as an overly simplified attempt at fluffing over some of the core issues that define and divide our community. Steve does this by understating the depth of the issues and using the more moderate segments of the various sectors as definitions for the entire sector. I might agree with much of what Steve wants, but Yeshivish/YU (which is how I see myself, whatever that means) is not typical of either the MO or Chareidi worlds.

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

    Jeffrey Aftel, Beit Shemesh

  87. I don’t think any serious Jew really feels content to meet only what he/she considers to be minimum requirements.

    On the other hand, consider how comprehensive and pervasive the Torah’s minimum requirements actually are! If we met these, our galut would end.

  88. YM, I am not that knowledgeable enough, but can it really be that a group of people dedicated to H-Shm and His Torah DON’T consider every decision of life from a spiritual perspective? I’ll bet that the sincere in both groups see life through a “Torah lens”, even though the resultant decisions may lead to different paths. (Please don’t take this as putting your opinion down- I have gained much from your comments, especially the recent one in which you describe your process of growing in Tefilah.)

  89. I think the biggest difference between the two hashkofas is whether “standard” mitzvoth observance is the essence of what is required, or whether every single decision a person makes in life, big and small, is in fact a mitzvoth decison.

  90. I think the biggest difference between the two hashkofas is whether “standard” mitzvoth observance is all that is required, or whether every single decision a person makes in life, big and small, is in fact a mitzvoth decison.

  91. Thanks for that sorely needed post Steve.

    Regarding how this fits in to BTs. When a BT chooses a specific derech it needn’t be viewed as a negative commentary toward the ones not chosen.

  92. Thank you Steve, for the Achdus and love of Klal Yisrael that so obviously permeates your being. A focus of unity is vital, and very well presented in your article.

    Let us cease and desist from the divisive politics and talk of same, and come to the table together to increase our Avodas H-Shm.You have done a wonderful job of increasing my own appreciation for the diverse community of Klal Yisrael.

  93. Great post. (And, I didn’t realize through my feed reader that it was Steve Brizel until about 5 paragraphs in! :) )

    My Israeli, Charedi, cousin who is the Rosh Yeshiva of a small Charedi yeshiva near Geula – who learns with R’ Moshe Shapiro (just to establish his Charedi credentials) surprised me a few years ago. I was learning at OJ (Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim) and he asked me if I was coming to them for Shabbos. I responded that I wasn’t sure, because R’ Herschel Schachter (who I had not really heard of at that point) was coming to OJ for Shabbos. He then said “You are staying in OJ for Shabbos then. He is a huge gadol!” I was surprised to hear this from him, and asked him – “You think of him as a Gadol?” He said unequivocally that no matter what hashkafic differences he may have with YU or R’ Schachter, he is still one of the “top 2 or 3” people in the US in terms of halakhic knowledge and clearly a Gadol no matter what your hashkafa is.

    Unfortunately, we don’t see enough people saying this in a public way. More people (especially “big” people) – on both sides – speaking out like this would go a long way to sewing the rift between the communities.

  94. Ditto.

    This subject (Charedi/MO) has been explored just in this blog alone, time and time again, but you bring to the table a refreshing, open-minded spin from which we can all learn. And to those here who don’t know the contributor personally, I will go on record as saying that if he considers himself MO, then the MO world has much to be proud of having him (and his family) as “representatives”.

    Sometimes I wonder if the adminstrators like to post these subjects just because it gets a rise out of so many of us!

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