Without trying to write a discourse about what makes someone extreme or moderate – which would probably take a book like many of the subjects I discuss here – I think we can say that at least at the polar ends of the spectrum we can tell who is extreme and who is moderate. I happen to believe that the vast majority of Charedim fall into the moderate category.
One of the things I have been saying is that the wave of the future belongs to moderate Charedim who along with the less populous right wing Modern Orthodox community will (and perhaps already does) comprise the largest and most unified segment of Orthodox Jewry.
An example of how this type of Charedi Jew might be seen in the person of 36 year old Shraga Zatlzman of London, England. Mr. Zaltzman attended the very Charedi Gateshead Yeshiva (where Rav Matisyahu Salomon was once the Mashgiach) and then Yeshivas Mir in Yeurshalyim. Thus firmly establishing his Charedi orientation. But Mr. Zaltzman did something else. He attended Bar Ilan University and received a master’s degree in business.
In 2007 he was hired by a Charedi Tzedaka organization that helps people find jobs. The people he helps are not only Charedi Jews, but any Jew in search of employment. In fact in one instance he helped a Muslim eager to study in a modest environment.
80% of the people in an internship program they run are not even religious. The organization does not charge for its basic services and unlike other placement services that tend to operate from the employer’s perspective, this one operates from the job seeker’s perspective.
What is the environment like in this organization? From a JTA article by Miriam Shaviv:
(D)espite the religious distance between the organization and many of its beneficiaries, Zaltzman says there has never been friction with the people who walk through its doors.
This is a win/win for everyone. Charedim who have not been prepared for the workplace because of the rigorous Talmud study programs in Yeshiva (at the expense of any education or preparation at all for careers in the outside world) can now be brought up to speed. Many will get on the job training and otherwise learn how the marketplace of careers and jobs work.
It fosters an environment of tolerance and appreciation on both sides of the Hashkafic spectrum. It teaches those who have been sheltered from the outside world how to better deal with it. It teaches that there are other religious Jews in the world who are fine and decent people – God fearing just like them. And it teaches that non religious Jews are fine and decent people too as well as non Jews. Even Muslims.
It also teaches Modern Orthodox Jews, non religious Jews, and even non Jews that the Charedi world consists mostly of fine and decent people too, unlike the miscreant extremists we constantly read about in the media. Mr. Zaltzman is a moderate Charedi who can be a role model for all of us.
This does not mean by any stretch that the poverty that is rampant and increasing in the Charedi world has been solved. That will only happen when there is a paradigm shift in education that will allow for more Parnassa preparation.
The organization which Mr. Zaltzman heads is a huge boost for Charedim. More than that it helps find jobs for anyone who needs one and applies. People of all religious backgrounds. But perhaps its biggest achievement is in fostering what I believe to be an unprecedented climate of tolerance and Achdus.