Major Problems Facing the Jewish People – 2008 and 2013

This post is from 11/18/2008. From the comments back then it looks like we’re facing many of the same problems. Which is not so surprising, since 5 years is not really a long time from a Jewish History point of view.

What are the Major Problems Facing the Jewish People?

Choose up to 3 and list your own.

A greater than 50% intermarriage rate in the US.

The threat of nuclear Iran.

A focus on materialism.

The tuition crisis.

Assimilated Jewry.

Inadequate education facilities.

Ignorance about Judaism.

Apathy about Judaism.

Potential curtailing of religious freedoms.

The anti-Israel sentiment on American campuses.

Islamic terrorism.

The division between observant and non observant Jews.

Anti-semitism.

A fractured Orthodoxy.

89 comments on “Major Problems Facing the Jewish People – 2008 and 2013

  1. For those interested in a fascinating example of Hirhurei Teshuvah ala Franz Rosensweig see this linkhttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/magazine/david-mamet-talks-about-his-shift-to-the-right.html?_r=2&ref=magazine

  2. Charnie, I’ve thought about you these past few days and I think I haven’t apologized properly for lashing out at you. My mistake wasn’t “innocent”, it was stupid at best. Please forgive me.

    BTW, rabosai, I’ve learned the alphabet soup of labels right here on this website (boy, have you guys given me an edJEWcation!). Judging by previous posts, I thought you find it simply convenient to group people by ABCs. Maybe I’ve used them incorrectly. Maybe I shouldn’t have used them at all. What I meant was simply “more modern” vs. “less modern” along the spectrum of Orthodoxy.

  3. well, i am impressed that over 80 people (so far) have responded to this. but, that is not good. the jewish world is a great place to be. be optimistic.

    tzedakah and hessed will win out.

    now, do a post about “good things about the jewish people” – and if you get 80 responses, then i know that the world will be ok.

    arnie draiman
    http://www.draimanconsulting.com

  4. FFB is overgeneralizing about where MO people stand. Anyone close to any (!!) Jewish group can point to its assortment of subgroups. Outsiders often miss these distinctions.

  5. There are quite a number of people who participate on this site who I know personally. Very few of them are MO.

    But if there’s one lesson that is readily obvious in light of this past week’s events, is let’s get past the labels and learn to have achdus for one another.

    Earlier, FFB had asked what we could learn from MO. Here’s an idea – how to be an observant Jew in the workplace (not all of us work for frum companies), and how to live a proper life when one is outside the Yeshiva Velt. And understanding that not each and every young man should be sitting and learning fulltime – some will make a greater contribution to the K’al by becoming B’al Tzedakah through their business acumen.

  6. Sorry, Charnie. Thanks for understanding my mistake as innocent. I should learn from you to be dan l’chaf z’chus.

    I’m sure BTs are compassionate about the entire K’lal, but judging by this website (my only exposure to the MO world), its commissions as well as its ommissions, I daresay MO is as far removed from RWUO as RWUO is from Reform, Conservative, and unaffiliated Jews. Just my impression. I may be wrong.

  7. FFB, you made the innocent mistake of misunderstanding why I mentioned the Agudath convention, at which my husband’s (and therefore, my) Rebbe was a keynote speaker. My reason for mentioning the convention was because of a thirst to hear how our Gedolim understood the lessons yet to be learned and to get comfort from their wisdom. Surely many speakers had to drop their planned program in order to address this most horrible tragedy.

    There are probably few Jews who are as compassionate about the entire K’al in all its incarnations then BT’s. After all, in many cases, these Reform, Conservative, and unaffiliated Jews are not only our family members, including parents, but also old friends. Don’t confuse criticism of a movement with feeling anything negative about its adherents.

  8. The people criticized have to be able to distinguish true criticism from false and have to be able to see past the emotion. This is hard to do. Obviously, the critics need to show proper restraint if they really want good results.

    Anyway, the issue is not specifically criticism directed at the “less frum”, since, over time, it comes from every conceivable direction.

  9. Bob, do you think strong criticism of those who you *perceive* as less frum than you is the path to growth? It’s not my understanding of the path to rebuke or improvement but perhaps you have different sources.

    I think constructive criticism is important, but it depends very much on its content and tone. We’ve never been fans of the “I’m holier than you” attitude and I don’t think that adds to growth, but we have allowed those comments nonetheless.

  10. We may be at the point where the typical Jewish subgroup takes ALL outside criticism as a malicious slam. Unfortunately, this attitude does not promote internal efforts at improvement.

  11. I want to grow, give and learn as much as any BT, but if every benign issue is turned into anti-UO rhetoric and any suggestion of UO observance is used for mud-slinging instead of growth, I’m afraid this is called stagnation at best and a forum for attacking Yiddishkeit at worst. I really appreciate your site and I’ll continue to enjoy the great old posts, but I’m afraid this is not my place to comment anymore.

    Hatzlacha with your continued growth. I question the propriety of espousing such strong anti-MO rhetoric here, and I take issue with your exaggerated negative depiction of the discussions taking place.

    We all need to get past the labels and try to see the people, then perhaps we can fulfill the dictum of Pirkei Avos – Who is wise, he (or she) who learns from *every* person.

  12. Correction: Where I mentioned “chassidim” (in India) in my comment I meant Chassidim other than Lubavicher. (I suppose I should say more to the right, like Satmar). Thank you.

  13. Thanks, yy, I’ve been following your advice. I had decided that if I’m a קול קורא במדבר (lonely voice in the dessert) with nobody getting my point it’s just not worth my time, so now I’m responding only b/c of your comment. This will be way too long for a comment, but my last one, bli neder.

    The issues we’ve been discussing were brought into sharp focus by a disturbing incident on black, black Friday.

    A BT friend of ours, a wonderful, kind and gentle man whom I would categorize (if I had to) as MO, dropped in at my house on that terrible day. Since we have no radio, I asked him right away, “Any news from India?” He wondered why I’m so anxious. “You have any friends there?”

    I was flabbergasted. All I managed to say was, “Every Jew is my friend.”

    Taken together with some comments here, this incident got me thinking. I hate to say it, I’m afraid to say it out loud, but maybe, just maybe, MOs or BTs just don’t comprehend the tremendous love we have for every Jew no matter where he holds in Yiddishkeit, as long as he is not included in those about whom Dovid Hamelech said הלא משנאיך ה’ אשנא? Could it be that you have to grow up with frum parents and/or mentors and see them krechtz and shed tears over every tragedy that befalls any Yid anywhere in order to absorb the depth and heat of the “mother bear” love we have for every Jew?

    I remember my grandfather turning pale when he heard about the death of a young woman he never met. You may only have heard about the Satmar Rebbe’s anti-Zionism, but I have absorbed the stories about the many tears he shed over the innocent boys who fell in battle, and how he used to help his worst enemies.

    Maybe it’s too difficult for a Modern Jew to understand that while we vigorously attack and will never validate his shitas, we will go to the ends of the world for him. I guess it’s similar to a childless person trying to understand how a mother can love her child while chastising him.

    But I’ll give it one more try.

    When you MOs decry the evils of Conservatism, Reform or secularism, do you hate or look down on the individuals holding these views? Are you disenfranchising them as Jews? I’m sure you don’t. Well, neither do we when we decry the evils of MO. We respect, appreciate, and validate you as people and as Jews. We do not and will not respect, appreciate, or validate many, if not most, of your views.

    Steve, I agree that MO’s recognition of UO’s strong points is far more beneficial than purporting to give musar about its weaknesses. But please explain, how can recognition of MO’s strong points be beneficial for UO? Does MO surpass UO in any of its strong points? If it does, what do we tell our kids? That we appreciate your excellence in whatever? If so, why shouldn’t they think MO is OK? I know you do, and I know it vexes you no end that we use “chas v’shalom” when contemplating our kids going MO. But like it or not, for UO parents it’s a tragedy to have their kids ignore the gidrei tznius and kedusha we took such pains to teach them. Here’s what Yonason Rosenblum wrote:

    “But it is an open secret that wherever men and women meet freely, female chastity is at risk and the average age of marriage rises sharply. Thus we find in the Israeli national religious world symposia on the use of the mikveh by unmarried women. And the modern Orthodox dating scene of the Upper West Side has come increasingly to resemble its secular counterpart.”

    Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to expose our sheltered children to that alone? What about TV, movies, filthy novels – do you expect us to confuse our kids by telling them good Jews do it too?

    Do you respect Conservative rabbis for their learning? No, because they don’t accept the validity of Halacha. Well, that’s mainstream Conservatism, but their RW is closer to LWMO than to LW Conservatism. Still they fall under the same umbrella. By the same token, you as a RWMO are probably closer to LWUO than to LWMO, but by insisting that your way is just as good, if not better, than UO, you have placed yourself in the MO camp which includes the elements described by Rosenblum.

    One more word, Steve. There’s a Yiddish proverb: “Frum only is a priest; good only is a fool; smart only is an apikorus; a Yid has to be all three.” Interestingly, this corresponds to TAG: Torah = smart; Avoda = frum; Gemilus chessed = good. Since each one of the three pillars is equally important, we need all three equally to function as Jews. It is in this context that I defend frumkeit as a virtue.

    Charnie, how dare you cast aspersions on Agudah’s Ahavas Yisroel? Being Satmar, I’m definitely to the right of both Agudah and Chabad, and far be it from me to agree with their ideologies. But I’m absolutely sure that every Agudist felt nothing but the greatest horror, compassion, and personal bereavement upon hearing the tragic news. I know I did.

    But how did you MOs feel about the tragedy of the Chassidishe men who lost their lives in Mumbai? When I opened this website I was thankful to find the names of the kedoshim Hy”d so I could pray for them. But what about R’ Leibush Teitelbaum Hy”d, a talmid chacham and choshuver Yid, son of Volover Rav, SIL of Toldos Avrom Yitzchak Rebbe, father of 8 orphans, who was found over a gemora Brachos which was soaked in blood? NOT A SINGLE WORD ABOUT HIM, or about the Bobover chassid, father of three.

    Today I opened Aish. Heartrending article about the Chabad couple. About the chassidim? NOT A SINGLE WORD! Talk about disenfranchising Jews! And then comes Charnie and manages to turn this tragic issue into an anti-UO party, chastising Agudah for crimes they haven’t done yet. For shame!

    But this is not my main point, Mark. My point is that NOBODY SPOKE UP to defend the honor of thousands of fellow Jews. Am I the last of the Mohicans?

    Mark, I want to grow, give and learn as much as any BT, but if every benign issue is turned into anti-UO rhetoric and any suggestion of UO observance is used for mud-slinging instead of growth, I’m afraid this is called stagnation at best and a forum for attacking Yiddishkeit at worst. I really appreciate your site and I’ll continue to enjoy the great old posts, but I’m afraid this is not my place to comment anymore.

  14. If you want it in a nutshell, my vote for Major Problems, based on the above, would be:

    1)Internet addiction to “kosher” sites

    2)The battle to disenfranchise those Jews we percieve to be disenfranchisers, as opposed to ENGAGING them and truly learn WITH them about H’s rules for who’s “in”, when and why.

  15. As promised, I’m working on choosing my battles. I came back here only b/c of the need to get more thoughtful info on the awful scene in Mumbai (H’ Yishmor).

    In the meantime, as I like to visit whenever I pass by… I find the recent development here extremely significant.

    First – let me be clear to FFB about the addiction issue. The net is banned and warned about by many chashuva rabbonim for very good reasons. Those who intend to be here for kosher reasons had better by VERY clear of the cross currents pulling in the other direction. And I don’t mean just in terms of obvious aveiras. Time and other parameters of reality get very blurred around here til you keep convincing yourself that “just one more hit”….

    Next, hashkafically speaking, I add my vote to those indicating a profoundly frustrating sense of futility to this and related blogs.

    This is NOT a put-down, Mark, for your tirelessly well-meaning labor to provide this format for so many who are thirsty for such a thing. I just find, or perhaps I should use that great disclaimer “IMHO”, that the nature of this beast is very questionably Kasherable.

    Please don’t misunderstand: the slogans of “learning, growing, giving” and “unity” and “beyond the schisms” are wonderful. Really. I can’t hear them enough. But at some point we’ve got to confront the realistic direction that this battle is taking and how it jibes with bona fide Torah, al tahara ha’koidesh. Conversely, we must question our motives.

    Is it because we somehow feel less than whole in our Judaism and want to reduce the pressure from those “extremists” whose existence keep forcing us to reevaluate if we are doing our best to get there?

    Is it because we knee-jerkingly feel anything “ultra” just doesn’t jibe with our American sense of egalitarianism?

    Is it b/c we just want to be heard???

    FFB said: “The problem is not chumras – it’s middos.”

    Well now – that’s quite a claim, no? Before anyone quickly jumps over to push a few keys in response, I suggest we think it over very thoroughly. And then add to the chullent the question of how to get such formats to REALLY keep us focused on midda development, lshem shomaym.

    Please believe me, chevreh. I include myself in the need.

    Mark said: “part of the growth process concerns understanding, accepting and getting past those who disenfranchise other Jews either intentionally or unintentionally.”

    This was a very interesting Parsha for mentioning this. Wasn’t this precisely the issue between Yitzchak and the rest of his family re. Esaav? There is a bottom line. Inclusiveness is a wonderful ideal to be striven for but not a mantra to be idolized.

    A tremendous eye-opener I’ve recently discovered is that that seemingly most inclusive and light-hearted holyday of this month, Chanukah, is actually rooted, historically, in marking the most SEVERE lines of distinction that our holy nation have ever been forced to do.

    Learning, growing and giving as JEWS – yes. As Hellenists – no!

  16. The admin of this site have always been so skilled in eloquently avoiding machlochis (sic), when some of us get a little “hot headed”, as Jews of all stripes and prone to do.

    I’m visiting this site after spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure our what’s going on with the Yidden in Mumbai. And I mention this to drive the point home as I have in (link# as Bob Miller puts it) many times before – we’ve got to learn how to coexisit if we want to be zochur to see Moshiach. If you’re “uncomfortable” with the way someone’s holding, fine, you don’t have to eat in their house. But respect for all Jews is absolutely a must!

    Given the events of the past 48 hours, it will be very interesting to hear about how the Agudath Convention reacted to this situation. Again, this is an opportunity for the entire K’al to put aside their differences.

  17. FFB, this website it targeted for those who want to learn, give, and grow and thank G-d we’ve found thousands of BTs, FFBs and non observant Jews who fall into this category.

    For many BTs, part of the growth process concerns understanding, accepting and getting past those who disenfranchise other Jews either intentionally or unintentionally.

    Feeling disenfranchised is unfortunately a common painful problem across the entire spectrum of the Jewish People, including of course the 10 million plus non observant Jews who G-d also loves dearly.

    We hope you’ll travel together with us on our path of getting closer and helping others get closer to Hashem.

  18. FFB-Thanks for your 3:12 post. That’s exactly the difference between mutual recognition and approval that I always come back to. Like it or not, the MO and Charedi worlds should have realized a long time ago that mutual recognition of each group’s strong points is far more beneficial than purporting to give musar about the other’s weaknesses.

  19. FFB, if your point is that people who agree with you are becoming less eager to state their case again and again in response to lies and misrepresentations, you may be right.

    However, there is a possible cure. If each past article and individual comment could be properly indexed and accessed using an ID#, people could just comment “see ID# xxxx” (shown as a link) and not have to reinvent the wheel each time damage control is needed.

  20. Still too vague, Bob. I’m just not getting what’s petty and what’s important here.

    Admin, I love polemics to the point of addiction and I’m having a GREAT day. (Sorry, I read the first version of your comment. I wish I had the privilege to edit my comments too!)

    Did I ever say there are no pitfalls with chumras? Of course there are, especially when a BT goes too far too fast, which I encounter often with the few BTs who somehow end up in my very frum, non-kiruv-active, chassidish circle. I said frum is not a dirty word and “Fiel Rishus Veinig Mitzvos” is not a pasuk chumash but an expression coined by someone who was probably not very synpathetic to frumkeit. If it was used by ehrliche yidden, it was definitely not meant as a blanket putdown on frumkeit (they all consider themselves frumme yidden, of course), but as a pithy description of those individuals who are short on bein adam l’chaveiro and long on bein adam l’makom. The problem is not chumras – it’s middos.

    I also countered the statement that frumkeit, piety, chumras, and not validating competing shitas are symptoms of apathy to Judaism and one of the major problems(!) facing the Jewish people. And I was the only one who spoke up here against this senseless attack on UO. And I wondered why. And now I’m not wondering anymore.

    “and there are many posts here that testify to that.”

    That’s why I love reading the old posts and the lively give & take between the left and right. But look at the recent posts. Every issue is twisted around in the comments into an attack against UO, sometimes with outragous claims, brazen lies and misrepresentations – ואין פוצה פה ומצפצף. Why? It seems the right is sick and tired of being spit at and humbly begging to differ.

    I’m getting tired too. So I’ll continue to enjoy the good old posts and keep my mouth shut. I hope.

  21. I was saying that pettiness has no place here, but I was not calling any specific person petty. It just seems as if we often go ballistic about the less important stuff.

  22. FFB – I think your accusations are unjust and false and there are many posts here that testify to that.

    We’ll try to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume something else is bothering you.

    There are some/many who feel that there are pitfalls with chumras and those topics seem to be logical points of discussion.

  23. Thanks, yy, for your advice. I got so caught up by the fantastic old posts I didn’t realize what direction this website was taking. Once the old guard is too sick and tired of dealing with tirades about holy pre-WW America and the evils of frumkeit, this has become a forum for attacking Yiddishkeit with no counter-attack in sight. Great chizuk for BTs. Gevaldige inspiration for FFBs. Know what? I’ll continue to enjoy the good old posts and keep my mouth shut. I hope.

    Bob, I’m trying to understand what you’re saying. Please explain.

  24. FFB – get off before its too late! You’re too bright and sincere to let this stuff addict you. I too am easing off, soon to make a big break, iy”H.

    A good Jew must choose his battles wisely.

  25. Another thing I wanted to get off my chest is the impression I got after reading those old posts and comments (by now I’m addicted to this website). I’ve noticed this phenomenon on almost every level, across the continuum of observance: The left is spitting venom while the right is humbly begging to differ. WHY?

    But I promised to keep quiet so I’ll shut up now.

  26. OK Steve, I read your post about appreciation between MO and UO and all the comments, and what I was left with was a lot of questions. I did get one answer though to something that really puzzled me: I now understand why I was practically the only one on this thread arguing with you. So I’ll take the hint from the more seasoned commentators here and keep quiet. Just one point for the benefit of other readers, since I know you will stand by your opinions anyway (to which you are fully entitled, of course).

    In your post you try to differentiate between appreciation and approval. Let me try to clarify my POV.

    If I appreciate you as a person, Jew, BT (which I do, very much so), it’s not necessarily approval.

    If I appreciate your *right* to hold any shita within the basic parameters of halacha, it’s not necessarily approval.

    If I appreciate your *shita*, I’m validating it, which is almost synonymous with approval. And that ain’t gonna happen. I have nothing but the greatest respect and appreciation for each and every BT and ger, no matter where they’re holding, for their tremendous mesiras nefesh, and I’m dan l’chaf zchus those ffbs who were raised MO, but if they insist that their shitas are just as valid as UO’s, I will disagree for many reasons, some of which were already explained by commentators in that thread.

    But I promised to keep quiet. Hmmm.

  27. Michoel-One should never confuse being proud with being a Torah observant Jew with assuming that which is not applicable to one’s spiritual and educational levels in life.

  28. Michoel-I haven’t the foggiest idea of what you mean by being impressed by scientists, liberals and others. However, if one confuses Torah and Halacha with being no different than being a believer in scientism, liberalism or any other ism defined and created by man, I would agree with you.

  29. Hello Baruch,
    I agree that they are important. However, Bnei Brak has the highest life expectancy of any city in Israel. So if frum Jews and not taking care of themselves, they are compensating in other ways.

  30. At least in the frum world, a major problem is lack of exercise and poor nutrition. I’m serious. These things are important.

  31. This reminds me of a little story. The Satmar rebbe ztl was invited to give a shiur (or maybe a drosha) in Torah Vodaas. He said to the bochuruim, all clean-shaven and in modern clothing, “In my kehila I always stress the importance of tocho k’varo (i.e. behaving as befits the chassidishe levush). Here I should say the opposite: may your ‘baro’ match your ‘tocho’.”

    This was no doubt intended as a compliment, but Rebetzin V. Kaplan a”h of BY used this anecdote to mussar her girls about tznius.

  32. Carrying oneself as befits a Jew is not putting on airs. If the reality is lagging a bit behind the image, that is cause to work on the reality, not to cheapen the image.

  33. Thanks, Michoel, I had included a similar idea in my comment, but I had deleted it before pressing “submit” for fear of being labeled a “yehorah’d” FFB. Let me just add to “Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu” ויגבה לבו בדרכי השם.
    Steve, I’ll bl”n try to read your post today. Thanks.

  34. A major problem (perhaps THE major problem) for Klal Yisroel today is insufficient “yehora”. We are way too down on other Yidden, down on Talmidei Chachamim, lacking pride in the uniqueness of the Torah Hakedosha. We need a complete attitude change about ourselves and the greatness of our mission. We are overly impressed by the opinions of scientists, liberals and others. We are way to fast to blame frum Jews first. How could any Jew, who realizes what he is, even consider marrying a gentile? What ever happened to “Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu!”?

    I am not writing this just to start a fight with Steve, as much fun as that might be :-). We need to carry ourselves with sense of pride in who we are. If our co-workers are not ashamed to go by their ethnic names, or with names that were literally made up by their parents, why should we be ashamed to use our names that were handed down from the Avos? If they are not afraid to go with very “inventive” hair cuts which were thought up by some designer or entertainer, why should we be ashamed to go with a beard and peyos which is a true reflection of Torah observance?

  35. FFB-WADR, If you read my posts on the issue of the relationship between the Charedi and MO worlds, you would have seen that I advocate mutual appreciation. However, for every Am HaAretz to act or give the impression that he or she is a Talmid Chacham or Tzadedkes is an attitude that is rampant and knows no hashkafic boundaries. We need far less Yehorah Mamash and Mechzei KYehora in both the MO and Charedi worlds and far more Ehrlichkeit.

  36. “there you go again engaging in stereotypes.”

    Steve, that was not at all my point. Your black velvet kipah may appear like yehora to srugies just as a shtreimel, or not using an eruv, may appear to others. My point is that this does not make it wrong, and certainly not one of the major problems facing the Jewish people, even if you don’t know the reason, and even if you’d really rather wear a srugie or go bareheaded, as long as you do it leshem shomayim, and this includes wanting to feel comfortable in a group where you can shteig to their darga.
    Someone asked the Satmar rebbe ztl whether he should wear a shtreimel though his father didn’t, since it can appear as yehora. The rebbe said, “In these spiritually difficult times, any geder is praiseworthy.”

    But let’s go back to your original comment:

    2) apathy about Judaism in the sense of never really developing a sense of competing legitimate halachic and hashkafic perspectives and viewing “frum” ( an abbreviation in Yiddish for “Fier Rishus ueino Mitzvos”) as a substitute for “ehrlich”.

    Gevald, at a time when half of our people intermarry r”l you call THIS “apathy about Judaism”? At worst, it’s apathy about less stringent shitas of Judaism, and the guilty ones are usually UNapathetic about Judaism to a fault.

    At a time when we’re surrounded by enemies, both inside and out, you call THIS “one of the major problems facing the Jewish people”?

    If more modern observant Jews feel “yehora’ed” by frummer yidden (I will stand by the positive connotation of the word frummer, as in “more pious”), maybe they can strive to learn from them. Modern Jews pride themselves on having positive contact with the secular world and learning a great deal from its values. How about the same for interactions with the frummer world instead of mouthing “Fiel Rishus Veinig Mitzvos”? Don’t we love them at least as much as the secular world does? Don’t we deserve at least as much respect?

    Sorry for lashing out. I write this after reading the older posts and comments and noticing a lot of self-righteousness in the MO camp and disrespect towards the Chareidi world. Being new to this site, I may be wrong. Please correct me if I am.

  37. FFB-Whoops-The second sentence of my last post should read:

    “I always wear a black velvet kipah with a cap for davening Mincha and Maariv to satisfy the halachic requirement of Ituf and a black Bors on Shabbos,YT and Simchos.”

  38. FFB-there you go again, engaging in stereotypes. I wear a black velvet kipah ( with a Bors) on Shabbos, YT and Simchos. Yehora has nothing to do with someone who is not yet observant, but with whether one has adoptedchumros and minhagim that are partially or even worse, completely at variance with his or her level of observance and knowledgh.

  39. Ummm, displaying list of the “major problems” facing the Jewish People seems to me a bit problematic. it lends itself to over-generalization, as by definition this will not focus on one specific issue, but rather on a whole list and variety of divergent, possibly unrelated issues.

    it also lends itself to continual questioning of each other’s premises and modalities, since no one issue can claim to be the main object of this posting. so everyone is free to continually questions each others’ frame of reference, set of assumptions, and entire approach. i feel this is, to some degree, evidenced above.

    I have my own extremely specific views on the major problems facing the Jewish people. they are issues to some degree, and also come cultural and thematic ones as well. i’m a bit hesitant to post my ideas here, out of concern that no matter what i said its relevance, scope and validity could be legitimately questioned by anyone who feels the problems lie in entirely different areas.

    I do appreciate your posting this, and all of the ideas expressed here. just wanted to post my own sense of the direction and discussion of this topic, for all those actually deakling with this and other issues, in hopes my comments might be somewhat relevant. Thanks.

  40. the number one problem facing the Jewish People today is the lack of commitment toward Aliyah. If we were all looking toward Israel and when we would all live there all the other issues would be solved

  41. Is yehora one of the major problems facing the Jewish people? Halevai.

    Your srugie, if you wear one, probably appears like yehora to the bareheaded. Does that make it wrong?

  42. FFB-look at it this way-One cam engage in conduct that either appears like Yehorah or is definitely Yehorah.

  43. FFB-I have always posted under my real name, but as far as I knwow, we are not related to the famous Yerushalmi family.

  44. As they say, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but to list this problem as one of the major ones facing the Jewish people is, ahem, a little strange. In Yiddish we would say, “Nor azelche tsuris.”

    BTW if Brizel is your real name, are you of the famous Yerushalmi family Brizel? We might be related.

  45. FFB-RHS is Rav Herschel Shachter, Rosh Kollel and RY of RIETS. I am amazed that you don’t have access to Torahweb. I seriously think that blindly accepting and undertaking any chumra that you don’t understand simply because others who are greater follow such a stringency which is a Midas Chasidus for a Baal Nefesh ( as opposed to what is required MeIkar HaDin) is IMO a particularly egregious example of self righteousness that masks itself as “piety”.

  46. There’s another issue that takes the assimilation/ambivalence issue a step further, with many possible negative ramifications for the future of the Jewish people.

    For many of us, even before we became Shomer Mitzvos, we were still “culturally Jewish”. For better or for worse, we were very aware of the Holocaust, and extremely proud of Israel’s growth and accomplishments.

    Now we have a generation, especially on college campuses that are ignorant of what for us was recent history. And even worse, they have succumbed to the lies that Israel is an apartheid country, ala South Africa. With the result that they support “the oppressed Palestinians” and, therefore, are not even connected via Zionistic pride. This is a generation of, in Haggadah parlance, obstinate sons.

    If these young people, many with “Jewish” last names are our future business and political leaders, it will greatly change the face of America’s attitude to all things Jewish and/or Israeli.

  47. “the Yiddish Roshei Teivos of “Frum” has been quoted by many Talmidie Chachamim before and after the rise of Haskalah”

    BEFORE Haskala? Are you sure?

  48. Assimilation that has morphed beyond apathy to contempt for Jewishness and a pride in having virtually no values other than “do no harm, dude.”

    The rise of know-nothingism and a contempt for knowledge, logic and education among key sectors of the frum world.

    Not just materialism but utterly unselfconscious materialism.

  49. Steve, I tried to understand your comment w/o RHS’s (who is that, btw?), since I don’t have access to his website (I should ask Yeshivanet for it), but I just don’t get what you’re trying to say. What does apathy about Judaism have to do with “Fiel Rishus, Veinig Mitzvos”? How does your comment answer my question? Do you consider piety a vice? Is piety synonymous with self-rightousness? Is it wrong to accept a chumra that greater people than you held by b/c you don’t (yet) understand the reason for it? Is piety one of the major problems facing the Jewish people?

  50. FFB-take a look at RHS’s comments. Not every person is capable of distinguishing between what is a Midas Chasidus for Yechidei Segulah, a difficult chumra, a chumra that is worthy of being adopted,a Hiddur that has been accepted as opposed to a “Hiddur B’Alma”, etc, let alone on the madregah of adopting all such views as their personal practices. Let me give you a very easy example. We live in the one community where RMF personally approved of the eruv and wrote a Teshuvah in IM to that effect. While many use the eruv, many do not, but will resort to stratagems like waliking with a talis on and pushing a baby carriage, a view that RSZA did not approve of at all. I wonder how many of those who do not use an eruv can articulate the basis of not doing so beyond what the MB says in the Biur Halacha, which is only one reason. That being the case, if you can’t explain the basis of such a chumra, you really have a very questionnable basis for adopting it as your personal minhagm Bein Lchumra Lkulah.

  51. FFB-WADR, the Yiddish Roshei Teivos of “Frum” has been quoted by many Talmidie Chachamim before and after the rise of Haskalah in exactlty the sense that I used the term. In the strictlty colloquial yeshivishe sense of the word, “frum” has evolved to be viewed as the equivalent of pious. That being the case, I will stand by my usage of the term.

  52. Steve,

    Frum means pious and ehrlich means honest. There’s nothing wrong with being pious as long as you recognize that this includes mitzvos sh’bein adam l’chaveiro. The abbreviation, which is really “Fiel Rishus, Veinig Mitzvos” (lots of evil, few mitzvos) is, I’m afraid, a product of the Haskala, though people quote as if it was a pasuk chumash.

  53. Aviv,

    “By historic distinction, that’s very untrue.”

    During the Spanish inquisition and expulsion, half of the Spanish Jews converted to Christianity. During the Crusades, the Ashkenazic Jews went an masse al kiddush Hashem. Only a handful converted, and most repented right afterwards.

    There are many other examples. Look at the masses of sefardim that left Yiddishkeit thanks to the vicious Ashkenazic Leftist Zionists. The Jewries of Morroco, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Turkey, etc. were almost completely lost, while the frum Ashkenazim fought back bitterly. And you’re right, the wayward sefardim still believe in H’. Like I said, this nature, culture, attitude or whatever, has both pros and cons.

    “Most Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews believe in G-D deeply, even though perhaps some don’t observe much mitzvoth.”

    Exactly. That means being less religious *and* less anti-religious than Ashkenazim.

  54. I agree that the list is depressing and really wonder why we don’t see another list of major accomplishments, etc. Since the list is limited to the negatives-I would go with the following factors:
    1) ignorance of Judaism despite the presence of excellent English Judaica, being unable to distinguish between Pshat, Drush Remez, Lchathilah, Bdieved, Chumara, Kula, Bshas Hadchak, etc and a general confusion between Machmir, Meikil and Mdakdek
    2) apathy about Judaism in the sense of never really developing a sense of competing legitimate halachic and hashkafic perspectives and viewing “frum” ( an abbreviation in Yiddish for “Fier Rishus ueino Mitzvos”) as a substitute for “ehrlich”
    3) a fractured Orthodoxy that is underscored in all contemporary mainstream hashkafic groupings by a lack of mutual respect and overwhelming triumphalism

  55. FFB

    By historic distinction, that’s very untrue. Most Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews believe in G-D deeply, even though perhaps some don’t observe much mitzvoth. Southern Israel is good example. Moreover, I still think the process of westernisation that Ashkenazi Jews have been through coupled with the Shoah are responsible for many of these problems listed here. Hence, it is more or less indisputable that many of these problems are very much unique to the Ashkenazim, particularly in the US and Europe. Look at any Sephardi community outside of Israel and even the non-believing crowd are starlight years away from assimilation. Examples: Persians in LA and Syrians in NJ.

  56. The big challenge for us is removing ourselves from the spiritual/mental/physical galus to reach a greater closeness to HaShem. We can get numbed by the day-to-day if we don’t consciously reflect on every day’s newness and opportunity.

  57. This is a depressing, albeit, important topic.

    These are the main issues in my humble opinion. They are all interrelated:
    Assimilation
    Ambivalence
    Intermarriage

    These affect Jewry as a whole. Specific to the Orthodox community:
    Tuition crisis – which in today’s economy basically encompasses all tzedakahs
    Shidduchim
    Self Righteousness
    Materialism

    And ultimately, this can all be tied to being too comfortable in Galus.

  58. Ignorance of Torah and true purpose of Judaism is the root problem (Solve this and many problems will just sort themselves out).
    UNTIL then , materialism is a drug of addiction and Islamofascism is an increasing danger.

  59. Major problems… Jewish people…

    Isn’t it obvious we’re talking about MY Yeitzer HaRa…

    and YOURS!

    Is anyone out there even ready to make this a top priority? To truly work at galvanizing our forces of education and inspiration and technical know-how to route out the enemy WITHIN…

    Just think if such a consciousness would really head the agenda of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Federation, OU, Aguda, Chabad, Yesha and the Medina!

  60. Aviv

    I’ve heard it said that Mizrachim were never as religious as Ashkenazim and never as anti-religious either. I think this is part of their nature and culture and it has both pros and cons.

  61. Peace cannot come at the expense of truth.

    הלא משנאיך ה’ אשנא ובתקוממך אתקוטט – Those who hate You, G-d, I will hate, and those who stand up against you I will fight (psalm 139).

    Does this include liberal, Reform, Conservative, atheist and anti-religious Jews or not?

  62. Another potential talking point would be if these issues are mainly unique or are dominant in Ashkenazi Jewry. As a Mizrahi Jew, although it is true there are lots of divisions, many of our children are proud of their roots and keep some kind of tangible link to Authentic Judaism. Could it be simply the historical circumstances by which Ashkenazi Jews have emerged from are therefore responsible for many of these nisayon, except those which are external-e.g.: Iran threat, Anti-Semitism, materialism etc?

  63. Rishona, remember what the Gadol Rav Hirsch said, ‘Peace can not come at the expense in truth’-I believe this was said in either 19 Letters or Horeb. Thats just one of the thousand reasons as to why Observant Jews cannot turn a blind eye to their Non-Observant brethen. By the way, can we consider it infighting anyhow, after all Reform is 75% Non-Jews and Conservative is 20% Non-Jews minimum, therefore it’s a real misnomer to speak about infighting, since any Dati Jew would see them outside of the parameters of Torah and Judaism.

  64. Can we do a post entitled “Major Advantages to Being Jewish” afterward? This is very depressing.

    Having said that, I have to agree with the commentators who said that secular Jews don’t care much about promiscuity. I’ve seen many who support and work for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, happily handing out birth control devices to high school students. My own upbringing was not out of sync with this attitude.

    Regarding marrying Jewish, this is also a tough trend. The liberalization of the secular Jew has certainly influenced the attitude of many to feel that, not only is it not important to marry Jewish, but it is a form of prejudice to narrow one’s field exclusively to Jews. This is what we are up against.

  65. Deterioration of the Jewish home
    Across ALL movements and types of Jews (and this takes into consideration the issues with materialism, lack of emuna, etc.). You see parents who care more about putting on a fancy chassuna than the quality of the mate their child is picking (or if they are even ready to get married). Of course among non-frum Jews, they are afraid or don’t care if their children marry out (which is often the result of lack of Jewish values being taught at home).

    Low Jewish self esteem
    Many Jews seem to have embraced a lot of negative stereotypes about Jews and Judaism. That Jews are meant to kvetch about everything; that Jewish women are high maintenance; that Jews are wary of others. I think there is nothing more sad than to see a BT or a ger embrace these (and many more) negative Jewish stereotypes in order to “fit in”. It is even more sad that the Jewish community tolerates this less than ideal behavior. A lot of this is tied to apathy for Judaism as well.

    Polarization, Intolerance and Division in Judaism
    This is kind of self-explanatory, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why the Jews, a nation that is so tiny, continues on with this ridiculous sinas chinam. I also am appalled with the “Jewish caste” system present within Orthodoxy (ties into the shidduch crisis I guess).

  66. Proper education could then be phrases as “desire for education that inculcates the parent’s values”, which again is general, not specific to Jews. Frankly, there is too much of a difference in the values that are important to the variouos Jewish denominations for me to be comfortable calling this the same thing.

    We’re going to have to differ on the issue of promiscuity. My experience, both growing up, and today with friends who have teenage children, is that the emphasis is on safe sex, not on abstinence.

    And I think we’ll have to differ again on intermarriage. There are difficulties, challenges, and conflicts inherent in all marriages. I just don’t see the emphasis on “marry another Jew” anywhere in my generation or the generation afterwards. Your mileage apparently differs.

    And while Jews certainly have historical reasons to be concerned with peaceful coexistence, even that is unfortunately not unique. Still, I will grant you that Jews tend to be more aware of the issue, with the caveat that perspectives vary wildly among Jewish denominations. I have had too many Orthodox Jews tell me earnestly that all non-Jews hated us and were out to kill us; a perspective that I simply have never seen in the heterodox sects.

  67. Mark, I totally disagree. If what you say is indeed true, then why do more than 70% of Jews marry Non-Jews in the US, I assume from where you are commenting from and end up living/dying with them. Non-Observant Jews, yes in Europe and Israel, care about Jewish education to some extent, but the mandate they seek does not inoculate Judaism very well in their children. However, in the US, this is not the case as I previously stated. Most US Non-Observant Jews are only too glad to be rid of Judaism and the absolute truth in one way or another. This is why many of them threw their tefillin in the bays of Ellis Island (R. Berel Wein-Triumph of Survival), because they simply worshiped the golden calf of the new world manifest destiny, which still exists and has replaced Torah as the identifying Jewish factor for these types. Sad, but true.

  68. Proper education is a Jewish issue when you factor in the desire to inculcate Jewish values.

    I disagree with your contention that secular educated parents are not concerned with promiscuity, my experience has show otherwise.

    Many younger Jews want a Jewish spouse because they understand the difficulties, challenges and conflicts inherent in intermarriage. Although it’s obviously not the same as the Shidduch Crisis, they do experience difficult finding appropriate Jewish partners.

    Peaceful coexistence is a bigger issue for Jews, because in general we have more adversaries and they have made it clear time and again that they mean business.

  69. While a desire for proper education is common across both Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, it is also common among non-Jews as well. I wouldn’t put this as a Jewish issue any more than I would put food and shelter.

    Many or most secular educated parents aren’t concerned with promiscuity per se. The concern is more one of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, and abusive relationships. That is not an issue of societal pressure. I think this is far too different from the conformity pressure in much of the Orthodox community to be lumped into the same category.

    And again, the notion of “an appropriate Jewish spouse” seems to be generational. There is little to no pressure to find a “Jewish spouse” in the secular community, and only slightly more in the Reform community. And I submit that there is again too much of a difference between, “finding a spouse” (note the lack of qualifier) and the Shidduch crisis to put them in the same category.

    And when we get to the last category, I think that most people desire peaceful coexistence. It’s something that isn’t unique to the Jewish people.

  70. The single largest problem, and it is the root of every other problem listed so far, and, I expect will continue to be listed throughout the day, is a lack of Emuna.

    I know that that answer is very simple, but that’s the thing. While Emuna is a subject as big as the universe, it is at the same time, utterly fundamental and simple. With Judaism, you have people, and people can and will act as they will. With Emuna, you have G-d, and there’s a world of difference. We’ve all seen Jews who were raised in the frummest of homes, acting in ways that are disgusting, and we’ve all seen new BT’s who, at moments, make the most beautiful Kiddush Hashem. The sole difference is Emuna.

  71. If we broaden our outlook, I think we do share common issues with our non observant brethren.

    Broaden
    – Yeshiva Tuition to proper education
    – Societal Pressure to the pressure to be promiscuous
    – Shiduch Crisis to finding an appropriate Jewish spouse
    – Chareidi/Chiloni to the desire for peaceful non-coercive coexistance

    Many non observant Jews I know strive to provide the right education for each child, would prefer that their children not act promiscuously, want a Jewish spouse for their children, and would like to co-exist with their coreligionists.

    The non-observant will accept a wider set of solutions and may have less resolve in combating the problems, but I think the issues share a common base.

  72. Division between Observant and Non-Observant Jews-since it contradicts our basic raison d’etat, which is the acceptance of the Torah as our consitution by all of us Israel.

    Apathy about Judaism: Jews who show apathy to Judaism and the attitude of extreme liberalism coupled with general atheism has created this ‘do what I like’ culture has already created a Shoah in the US.

    The Erev Rav confusing those who seeking out the truth about their Jewish existence.

    Inadequate education facilities: The instruction of Torah is Ikkar to our safety and atilah d’geula. Jews were always learned in Torah. Jewish Schools (all grades) which don’t teach Torah and it’s moral absolutist nature from a very young age, although are allied to a Beth Din, are unlikely to stay Observant, let alone Jewish. Examples include JFS (London) and many of the Kibbutz HaDati Schools.

    Nuclear Iran threat: An Observant Govt. which believed in it’s past, present and future would have surely dealt with issue whether through quiet diplomacy or full blown nuclear assault and achieved quick needed results. One would have thought that the Holocaust and Jewish History would be sufficient for even them to hit the red button and safeguard Jewish, as well, as Non-Jewish lives in the region. This can be linked to both apathy and materialism.

    Civil Marriage and it’s promotion-whatever a particular Jew believed in the past, he or she could never legally marry a Non-Jew and have it recognized by the host authorities. But then again, can Liberal reforms be overturned by a small minority called Observant Jews. Can the Rabbis stop Livni & Co. separating the wicker from the candle with her radical legalization of intermarriage for all in Israel? Probably, although the threat of a civil war followed by revolution and anarchy would probably occur, although the Orthodox Establishment could cement control. Although the problem is better solved through Kiruv rather than this type of mandate.

  73. I’m not sure that there is a major problem facing the Jewish People as a whole.

    There are problems that face parts of the Jewish People.

    Heterodox and Secular Jews aren’t affected by (and are likely not even aware of) divisions in Orthodox Judaism. The same goes for the cost of Yeshiva tuition, Shidduch Crisis, and the very strong societal pressures to conform. Those are all specific to Orthodox Judaism.

    Secular Jews are increasingly less likely care about intermarriage, and many Reform Jews are embracing intermarried couples.

    The Chareidi/Chiloni issues are primarily the concern of Israeli Jews, and to a lesser degree with Diaspora Jews with strong personal ties to Israel.

    I suppose the fact that there are no common issues could itself be considered an issue.

  74. Tyraniacal uniformity.

    Hopelessness about a better future, in particular giving up on the coming of Moshiach.

    Always fighting todays battles as if they were yesteryears.

  75. I can’t speak for “The Jewish People” as a whole, but those that are affecting me personally:

    Affecting my extended family:
    Assimilated Jewry. (which includes the high intermarriage one too)

    Affecting groups I’m involved with:
    The division between observant and non observant Jews.

    Looming on the horizon as my oldest just started Kindergarten:
    The tuition crisis.

  76. The division between observant and non observant Jews. (Which covers Apathy, Assimilation, and Ignorance)

    Inadequate education facilities. (Both in terms of not enough facilites, upkeep of facilities, and expanded curriculum focusing on middos, emunah, and hashkafa)

    A fractured Orthodoxy- more inline w/ Ezzie’s last item.

  77. Division btwn observant and nonobserant Jews.

    Assimilation among nonobservant Jews.

    Among observant Jews, pressure to conform and to maintain materialist standards and values.

  78. Ignorance about Judaism; ignorance about economics; lack of respect for views one does not share.

    I’m guessing that solving those would solve all those above that are internal; a more united Jewish nation would help us solve those which are external.

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