Sunday, May 18, 2008

Who’s Really Calling the Shots?

I have called this man a hero. And with good reason. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is unafraid. He is an ‘insider’ at Agudah, whose views on many of the issues discussed on this blog are very similar to my own. He is a man who by the power of pen and personality has tried mightily to change hearts and minds in the Torah world. And I believe that he is succeeding to the extent that he can. There is still a lot of work to be done on all fronts. But he is not alone.

Writers like Jonathan Rosenblum are right up there with him – working from the inside trying to change things. I am also aware of others who do so so quietly and do not want their names to be made public because that will reduce their effectiveness. There are even members of the Moetzes that want to see change.

Change is slow and there is a lot of resistance by certain elements in the world Agudah. And by Agudah, I don’t just mean card carrying members. I mean those who buy into the philosophy of Agudah on a wide variety of issues. Those who are in the forefront of resisting change are very zealous to protect and project their agenda as the exclusive one. The fallout of all this is grist for the Emes Ve-Emunah mill. And whenever I write about these issues, I get my share of comments from their sympathizers. That’s fine. I encourage debate on all issues.

What is not fine however is what happened to Rabbi Horowitz last week. I didn’t see the original article at Yeshiva World News, but I did see some of the comments that were allowed to pass. To YWN’s credit they deleted the offensive comments and then the entire post. But if one wants to see the kind of venom that’s out there Serandez via Wolfish Musings has some of the most egregious attacks against a prominent Charedi Rav and hero I’ve ever seen. I’ve had a few people who have used such rhetoric on me. But very few - and that’s one of the reasons all comments are now moderated.

One must remember, that Rabbi Horowitz is not a left wing modern Orthodox rabbi. He is not even a right wing modern Orthodox rabbi. He is a Kapoteh wearing bearded Charedi Rav, a Menahel of a Charedi Yeshiva Ketana in Monsey and the founder and head of ‘Project Yes’ which is part of Agudah’s attempt to combat the ‘kids at risk’ phenomenon. He is also a sought after scholar in residence at right wing institutions - as he was here a short while ago at the Chicago Community Kollel (Lakewood).

But because he speaks out on issues that do not fit in with the agenda of those Charedi Kannoim who are also part of the world of Agudah, they have vilified him.

Here are just two example of what that element thinks about him. A vebatim quote:

…the guy is a “VELTS” MALSHIN!

A Velt’s Malshin is basically a world class violator of Lashon Hara. Another poster virtually called him a heretic:

He kiseder writes total kefira. Period.

These are the people that Agudah leadership are afraid of. They will stop at nothing to assure that their Charedi world view is the only acceptable Charedi world view. And if that means destroying the reputation of one of their own because he doesn’t agree with their agenda, so be it.

I have been told that many Gedoim don’t speak out on certain issues because they fear these people. Who can blame them? But as I have said in the past, this is what leadership is all about. There is no point to catering to these people. These are not the Charedim of the future. There is no need to cater to them. Nothing is gained - and much is lost.

Not that one should discard their Hashkafos. Just those people who push that agenda in the vicious ways evidenced by the above comments. Those who have the unmitigated gall – the Chutzpah - to say the kinds of things said about Rabbi Horowitz ought to be purged, not catered to. There is no purpose to letting them say these kinds of things. Or allowing the kinds of things done by those who were responsible for a phony ban on all concerts!

How can they allow one of their finest to be personally attacked like this? Why do they not speak out against these people in a unified voice? Why do they place any value on them?

If a man like Rabbi Horowitz cannot be stood up for by rabbinic leaders, what good is that leadership? It isn’t enough that YWN removed a post when they saw what kind of comments were being posted. These people will not be discouraged. The very next opportunity they will do the same thing.

They must be publicly purged and put in their place – which is outside the pale of Torah Judiasm where extremist Kannoim like this belong. It must be made clear that this kind of rhetoric will not be tolerated and those who use it will be rejected in a very public way. I mean - who really has control here? The Kannoim? Or the Moetzes?