Thursday, January 04, 2007

Walking a tightrope

A guest post by MoChassid

To his credit, Dovbear has been linking over the past few months to a number of important articles written by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz (RYH). Most recently, he linked to two posts on RYH's website addressing child abuse in Chareidi circles and, yesterday, an extremely important article on chinuch (that originally appeared in last week's Mishpacha Magazine, a progressive chareidi weekly).

Before I go on, full disclosure: RYH is my first cousin, my father's (ZL) sister's son. I have known him all his life and consider one of the nicest and most decent people I know. And, by the way, he is an expert mimic and a VERY funny guy. (That last bit may be more than RYH would have wanted me to say, but it's true).

The posts about RYH's abuse articles gave rise to many comments, many complimentary of RYH, many cynical and skeptical, and some outright over-the-top. To wit, some commentors accused RYH of latching on to the child abuse issue as a means of fundraising for his organization.

The comments to the post about chinuch were generally more favorable, in part, I suppose, because there was no request for funding attached to the chinuch article.

Another aside: I will not dignify the comments about RYH's alleged fundraising tactics with a reply. To the extent people thought it just didn't look good, RYH himself is considering those comments.

My main point is this: I don't think people are considering sufficiently the difficulties faced by moderate or progressive Chareidim in bucking the sysytem and publicly espousing views that are controversial or, indeed, radical, within those circles.

For a well-regarded leader to publicly acknowledge that there is a serious child abuse problem in that world, when everyone else seems to be sweeping it under the rug, is nothing short of radical. For a well-regarded educator to state mefurash that at least 5 to 15% of kids in their system go off the derech and predict that the problem is likely to get much worse, when everyone else is ignoring the issue, is radical. To suggest that the Chareidi world is circling the wagons about modern technology rather than addressing the issue head on is radical.

RYH does this, in my opinion, at great personal risk. There is a fine line in the Chareidi world between being accepted as an innovative, respected educator on the one hand and being banned as a troublemaker on the other. RYH walks a tightrope every time he goes public with these issues.

And yet, if you continue to follow the articles that RYH intends to publish in Mishpacha (and his website), you will see that he is not backing off. He deserves our thanks, not our scorn.

[DB: I agree 100 percent]

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