Thursday, June 25, 2015

Let's be friends.. make ammends

As you know I strongly believe that there needs to be a reconciliation among the various sub sects of Orthodox Judaism. The differences between us, largely, come down to style, not substance. If we put aside our stupidities and hangups and allow ourselves to  coexist in the same communities and the same institutions - in much the same way that Catholics of all levels of sincerity and devotion can attend the same churches and schools- we'll realize economies of scale and increase our political might, but that's not all: Diversity makes us stronger, not weaker.

In a diverse community or institution you can't take things for granted. You have to to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort. Diversity forces you to think and to double check and second guess your original ideas, by exposing you to unexpected interpretations and approaches. 

I believe in diversity because I believe in pluralism- and not because I am liberal with hippy ideas about peace, love and understanding. My devotion to pluralism is based entirely on my own self-interest. I believe that every person's perception has something to offer every other's. This belief flies not in the face of Jewish tradition but of recent Jewish tradition. When the Sages "accepted the truth from wherever it came" they were acknowledging that no one system - not Rabbinic Judaism, nor any other - can explain everything, they were being pluralists.When they wrote that  קול ה' בכחו means that the voice of God reached each of us according to our own perceptions they were recognizing that each of us is a unique perceiving center, and that no subjective human is capable of capturing everything.

You approach the truth from your angle, I see it from mine, and what we see is forever incomplete, but if we put our perceptions together we both draw closer to the reality. This basic fact of human nature is why I hold that revision, criticism and dialogue are far more relevant to truth-seeking than conformity to dictation from above. This is why I write the sort of posts I write. This is why I invite such a mix of personalities to guest-blog. And this, finally, is why I read blogs.

In what follows, I provide my own modest recipe for reconciliation. Using the familiar "start,stop, continue" format of providing criticism, I offer some brief notes to each of the sub sects. To the extent possible, I have tried to identify the attitudes or behaviors that make reconciliation difficult, as well as those that make it possible, but the work is incomplete. Please fill in the blanks, or extend the exercise to other groups.

Modern Orthodox: [Teaneck, Brooklyn Young Israel, and Much of YU]

Stop: Looking down your nose at anyone who isn't un-reflectivly Zionist/Pro-Likud.

Start: Making it emphatically clear that you respect halacha as much as the other Orthodox sects

Continue: Giving huge sums of money to Hasidic and Yeshivish institutions.

Liberal Orthodox [UWS, Anywhere there’s egalitarian Orthodox, the rest of YU]

Stop: Mocking and attacking the sincerely held beliefs and superstitions of Jews who don't know any better.

Start: Making it emphatically clear that you respect halacha as much as as much as the other Orthodox sects

Continue: Leading the essential  conversation about the difference between ikkar and toful in Judaism

RW Yeshivish Orthodox[Lakewood, Bensonhurst, South Fallsburg]

Stop: Looking down your nose at anyone who doesn't dress like you and speak like you. You can begin by ceasing the bashing of the "modern" approaches from the front of your classrooms and your pulpits. #JB

Start: Preparing your children to live in the world, and outside of the kolel bubble.

Continue: Emphasizing the primary, non-negotiable importance of limud torah.

LW Yeshivish Orthodox [Flatbush, Monsey, Cedarhurst]

Stop: Running to copy and embrace everything Hasidic at the expense of everything else the tradition has to offer.

Start: Giving the religion of the head equal emphasis with the religion of the heart

Continue: ??

Hard-Core Hasidic [KJ, Willy, Boro Park]

Stop: Treating the rest of us, and by extension the rest of the tradition, in all its diversity and variety,  like its chazer treif.

Start: Alllowing your children to learn English and vocational skills.

Continue: ??

Soft-Core Hasidic [Anywhere there's a rebbelah with a shteible]

Stop - Everything?

Start: From scratch by joining up with any of the other groups

Continue:  ??

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