Thursday, April 17, 2014

Will It Change Anything?

This doesnt have to be the image of the future for secular and Charedi Jews 
Mishpacha Magazine has commissioned a poll to determine the real attitude by secular Jews in Israel towards Charedim. Of course they didn’t have to do that. They could have just asked me and saved the expense of a professional poll.

The results were pretty much what I would have expected them to be. But they came as a shock to the Rabbi Moshe Grylak, editor if that magazine. 

The bottom line is that as a rule secular Israelis do not hate Charedim at all. They actually have a favorable attitude to them. So much so that most feel that the IDF should fully accommodate the needs of Charedi recruits.  (And yes they do feel Charedim do not contribute enough to general society.)

A lot of her assumptions made by Charedim about secular attitudes towards them are based on rumor or anecdotal evidence.  And they have been perpetuated, by Charedi politicians and the Charedi media. Well if this survey is anywhere near accurate, those myths have been exploded.

None of this is surprising to me. There have been other polls that suggested these results.  Like the fact that most secular Israelis observe at least some religious rituals such as fasting on Yom Kipur. But again… it was surprising to Rabbi Grylak. Here in part was his response to this poll From Cross Currents:
“To admit the truth, we were stunned. If this poll is correct, we have been living all the time with a mistake. We were sure that the average secular Israeli despised us. Not only that, but we in the Haredi media in partnership with the Haredi politicians, spread this feeling and spoke about it over and over, all the time. And behold, this beautiful structure falls apart
Behold, it has become clear, that the truth is different: Most and close to all don’t hate. An elite minority, perhaps, hates, but this is not the lot of the majority. The majority has no interest in us at all. They don’t have hatred, they don’t have love, they are simply indifferent. We are a black hole. They pass Bnei Brak and have zero curiosity to enter its streets, our kitchens, our living rooms, or our Torah institutions.
What does this say to us and about us? Why are we not a source of inspiration? What is flawed about us in that which we are not succeeding to spread to the greater society? We must change approaches and the way we look at one another. We must stop fortifying ourselves behind mistaken walls and change paths. We must feel a sense of ‘shlichut, messengers to Israeli society….simply because this is the Jewish way: To be a model and example.”
Other’s have already commented on this. Among them was R’Yitzchok Adlerstein, and MK R’ Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid.

This is a positive development. They now know something that they did not know before. Knowledge is power. As  Rabbi Grylak indicates, the Charedi community should stop putting up walls between the secular  world and themselves. It’s time to stop being isolated and start integrating into society at large. Instead of always assuming the worst and constantly cursing the secular world… instead of being afraid of outside influences, Charedim should be trying to be a light unto the secular world. Being a light unto the nations is an important mandate. But our first priority is to be a light unto our own people.

Instead of being judgmental one should be Dan L’Kaf Zechus to a fellow Jew and not assume  he is your enemy out to spoil your children with his secular anti Torah values. Assume instead that he is actually interested in knowing more about Judaism. Even if one is not successful in bringing a fellow secular Jew closer to Mitzvah observance, the positive attitude towards them will certainly improve the relationship in positive ways. Love thy neighbor-  is not just a slogan.

Kol Yisroel Arevim Zeh LaZeh. We are all responsible for each other, both in our physical well being and our spiritual welfare. That is a mandate that Charedim have yet to live up to with respect to their secular brothers.  Rabbi Grylak has noted that the opposite has been the case. He’s right.

Insulation causes isolation. It’s ‘them’ and ‘us’ and we are worlds apart. The goal was to keep it that way by living as separately as possible. Perhaps this new poll will open a few more Charedi eyes besides those of Rabbi Grylak. And action will follow words. That would cause a sea change In Israel in the most positive of ways that would benefit everybody.  If only Charedi leaders seize this opportunity!

But I’m skeptical. Their fear of assimilation will outweigh any desire to reach out. So they will continue to advocate for less rather them more integration.

I understand the appeal of living in a totally religious environment. I must admit it is a great feeling to walk out of your house on a Shabbos and not see a single car driving by. Children play in the streets as though they were playgrounds. Shabbos mornings see people going to one Shul or another. Almost everyone is dressed up in their Shabbos clothing.

Restaurants are all Kosher. There are Shuls are all over the place with many Shiurim... the atmosphere feels totally observant. If you are a religious Jew, it is a wonderful feeling to be amongst your own. But the price for that is too high. By creating a community that is totally religious you end up ignoring fellow Jews that may in fact hunger for more Judaism than they are currently involved with.

In my view seeing a car pass by on your street on Shabbos is a small price to pay for the opportunity to get out there and reach out to a fellow Jew that otherwise may never come your way.

So even though I am pessimistic about change, I hope I am wrong. I hope this will not be a wasted opportunity. Sacrifice a little… and gain a lot. That will end up in a far better world for all of us.