Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Charedi Draft – An Analysis by a Charedi Rav

Israeli Charedim in College - photo credit: David Bachar/Ha'aretz
I always love it when prominent Charedi rabbis agree with me even if they don’t make any reference to me personally. (Not that he necessarily should have made such reference - he may not even have read my recent post on this subject. The point is that he basically agrees with my positions.)

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and I often agree. That’s because he is a moderate Charedi thinker and not an extremist as is so often the case with prominent Charedi leaders. And it also helps that he is an American and sees the world through American Charedi eyes. Not Israeli ones.

Rabbi Adlerstein has written a thoughtful analysis in Cross-Currents about the current coalition plan for Charedim in Israel. 

The new coalition government there does not have any Charedi parties in it. And all the coalition members – no matter how disparate their views are along the right-left political spectrum – agree that Charedim have to ‘share the burden’. Meaning that no longer will all of them automatically be exempt from a draft.

Much the same way I do - Rabbi Adlerstein cautiously sees this situation as a net gain for Charedim.  And he goes into a bit of detail about why he thinks so.

I think his assessment is basically correct. I have written similar thoughts about how this actually bodes well for the future of Charedim in Israel. But I am not as optimistic about it as he is because of the stridency of the opposition to it by rabbinic leaders in Israel.

Comparing the draft of Charedim to a Shas HaShmad (an era of forced conversions) seems to be the clarion call by those rabbinic leaders. These are the leaders that the Charedi world looks up to as their “Daas Torah”. These leaders are not known for reversing their opinions on these matters. I do not see any one of them agreeing with his assessment.

In fact there was one moderate Charedi Rav in Israel who is a Musmach (ordained rabbi) from Ner Israel (R. Tzuriel If I recall correctly) who has ‘Paskined’ in his own Kol Korei that the government plan for drafting Charedim should be opposed and also considered it a Shas HaShmad (or something akin to that – I don’t recall his exact words - but I do recall their flavor). I have even seen article claiming that even Chardal Rabbanim have joined in common cause with Charedim opposing it.

If I had to guess, I would say that if any of these rabbinic leaders saw R’Adlerstein’s post – or mine – on the subject, we might both be cursed right along with Naftali Bennett for even suggesting there is anything good about it.

And even though R’ Adlerstein mentioned that privately a lot of Charedi Rabbonim agreed with him - my guess is that they remain quiet precisely because they do not want to oppose their rabbinic leaders and become ostracized.

Rabbi Adlerstein points out that Charedim are ‘voting with their feet’. The ranks of Charedim serving in the army are growing. Classes offering training to Charedim for good jobs in the work force are swelling. Some are even taking courses in college.

But as I said I am not optimistic that the official policy of “Daas Torah” in Israel will change. So we’re in sort of “an irresistible force meets and immovable object” phase right now.How this will eventually play out, therefore – remains to be seen.  But I am happy to see that thoughtful Charedi rabbis like Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein are basically on the same page with me – and on the right side of the issue.