Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The stupid. It burns

Yaakov Menken:
[In his Forward article Abbot] Katz proceeds to point out that the Charedi community represents the traditional form of Jewish practice... Who could argue that an Orthodox synagogue with a 4-foot tall Mechitzah (divider) and an open parking lot on Shabbos is at one with Jewish tradition, while a traditional shteibl is a departure?
Ok, let's document the atrocities:

1 - Where is there an Orthodox synagogue, by which I mean a synagouge affiliated with either the OU or the NCYI, that keeps its parking lot open on shabbos? I've never seen or heard of such a thing, and I challenge Mencken to show me one.

2 - There is nothing uniquely authentic about Charedi Judaism! Moshe didn't wear a hat. Rabbi Akiva didn't give his son an upshurin. The Geonim didn't run from secular wisdom, and the Rambam didn't embrace crazy segulot. Charedi Judaism, with its unique positives and pathologies, emerged less than 200 years ago. Before Reform, and Haskolah, and industrialization, and all the other forces that brought Charedism into the world, Judaism was different. Not less observant. Not less pious. Not more or less legitimate. Just different.

The idea of Jewish authenticity is a chimera. Every Judaism, in every time and place, is different in ways large and small. The only test for authenticity is this: Do you keep the commandments and fear God? To the exten that you do your flavor of Judaism has a claim on authenticity that's every bit as valid as any other. [Sorry Reformers, but I think the whole point of your movement is that you're something new under the Jewish sun.]

3 - The so-called traditional shtieble IS a departure. They became popular in Eastern Europe as Hasidut spread. In other parts of Europe, Jews went to big shuls, and big shuls have been discovered in Israel by archaeologists. This is not an argument against shteiblach - enjoy them if you must - but don't distort our history and insult our ancestors by pretending the big, beautiful shuls they attended and cherished were "inauthentic."

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