Thursday, August 01, 2013

The End of the J-Blogosphere

Emes Ve-Emunah. Baal Habos. Wolfish Musings. Garnel Ironheart. On the Main Line. XGH, Godol Hador, Modern Orthoprax, and the other incarnations. Rationalist Judaism. Achas L'Malaa V'Sheva L'Matta. Pravda Ne'eman. Daas Hedyot. The Curious Jew. Voice From the Wilderness. SerandEz. The Second Son.

Those are just some of the blogs I used to visit regularly or semi-regularly. I became frum in mid-2005, but from somewhere in 2006 to 2011, I was involved in the J-blogosphere, and myself blogged throughout much of this time. 

I have a project in the works on the world of Jewish blogging. While I can't do too much with it right now since I'm mainly focused on searching for work, I have written the first chapter and called up folks who were involved for some preliminary discussions. Almost everybody tells me they've migrated almost entirely to social media. They might read a blog here or there, but they usually come to it via Facebook link. People seem to have solidified their positions and don't see a need for the sort of lengthy discourse we had in the 00's; a brief, predictable, and boring status update on facebook will do...and if I'm too lazy to write out a status, a meme. The old conversations have become stale as we have solidified our epistemologies and understood where folks with differing ones are coming from. The challenges to Judaism in the 21st century are clear. The apologetics and emotional answers, respectively, are also known. It's become clear to us Internet denizens that there is nothing new under the sun. So it's felt for awhile that J-blogging has had its day. Oh, there are exceptions, Rabbi Fink's blog came on the scene late in the game, but he has managed to build a respectable brand. Emes Ve-Emunah carries on as if nothing's changed, still expressing Rabbi Maryles's thoughts on the issues of the day. And while others have come and gone, DovBear is left standing victorious.

I might not have come to read any of these blogs though if it wasn't for the first one I encountered, Hirhurim. Hirhurim's been a mainstay of the J-blogosphere for years. Back in 2006 or 2007, I managed to get the rabbis at my old yeshiva to make sure it wasn't one of the sites "blocked" by their computers. Rabbi Gil Student leans right-wing, but I was haredi, and I was fascinated by the discussion he was starting. As a naive baal teshuvah making my way into harediism, I didn't understand how a right-leaning rabbi could publish Slifkin's books, go against Our Daas Torah, act like halachic matters were up for discussion when really the answers just lied with the Gedolim...and still be called 'rabbi' by his haredi peers! Wasn't deferring to the decision of the biggest Gedolei Hador mandatory? How could this rabbi reject the dictate of our Sages and still be referred to as Orthodox? Then there were these other guys that wrote comments or were referred to...Lawrence Kaplan and Marc Shapiro didn't seem stupid, how come they didn't have MY theology? And something was wrong about the haredi world I was in...why did they ignore or falsify aspects of Jewish history if our theology was so obviously correct? Why did they seem so afraid of this Slifkin guy that Gil was publishing? I was and I am a katan, a nobody, but I am a nobody with thoughts. Blogs allowed me to take those thoughts and engage in a conversation that otherwise would've been shut to me.

Today, Hirhurim announced the shuttering of its' doors, as Gil prepares for a new venture. It feels that with this announcement, while some important blogs that deserve our reading are still around (e.g. DovBear, FinkorSwim, etc.), the J-Blogosphere per done. I was part, a very small part, of a conversation that Gil started. His blog helped me get started in my personal journey of thinking deeper, more critically, etc. And for all the disagreements those of us to the left of him may have, I appreciated that conversation.

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