Sunday, August 07, 2016

Another 'Home Run' for Jonathan Rosenblum

Jonathan Rosenblum (Honest Reporting)
I believe that it’s safe to say that Charedi columnist, Jonathan Rosenbulm is one of the most articulate and well informed spokesman the Charedi world has. He is intelligent and well read on many subjects. He was educated at two of the finest universities in the world, the University of Chicago and Yale. It is also safe to say that he is a clear thinker, that brings much knowledge and experience to bear in his commentaries on both the world at large and his own Charedi world. 

Jonathan was not born into the Charedi world. In fact he was not even born into the Orthodox world. He attended a public high school in Highland Park, Illinois and was not Shomer Shabbos. He is what is commonly known as a Baal Teshuva... becoming observant well after high school.

I recall hearing him speak about his trek to observant Judaism about 15 years ago. He began via the Modern Orthodox world, where he was welcomed with open arms. Eventually he found his way to the Charedi world. And spent many years in a Charedi Kollel after that. Now he is an accomplished Charedi author and columnist that is widely respected in both worlds

I mention all this to point out the fact that no one can accuse him of having lived a sheltered life. No one can say about him that he is not knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects - both religious and secular. Which makes him pretty qualified to comment on those subjects in their various manifestations.

Which brings me to yet another article of his in Mishpacha Magazine where he expresses views that take courage to articulate in the world in which he lives. Views that have had the benefit of his intelligence and the wide range of knowledge mentioned above.  Which makes them hard to dispute.

His point is that nostalgia is overrated both in the secular and in the religious world. In the secular world the idea of ‘making America great again’ expresses a desire to have an America that once was. Meaning for example that manufacturing jobs should return to the US instead of exporting them to foreign countries where labor is cheap. 

By forcing American companies to hire American workers with some sort of tax on products produced in foreign countries it removes the advantage of cheap labor there. Thus it would disincentivize them from setting up shop there and incentivize them to set up shop here – creating jobs for American workers. 

The ‘dirty little secret’ about such initiatives is that a it would substantially increase the cost of making those products which would be passed on to the consumer. Which would decrease demand; causing a decrease supply. Thus workers would be laid off anyway. Not to mention the fact that it would spike inflation, making any increase in income offset by lower buying power of that income.

The same thing is true about raising the minimum wage. That will increase the cost of products or services by companies  paying that wage which would be passed on to the consumer. 

The same thing is true about  creating government jobs like rebuilding our infrastructure (needed though it may be). That would increase the budget without any offsetting revenue. Unless taxes are raised. Which will stifle consumer spending.

And yet both the Republican and Democratic candidates want to do exactly that. There is no way to create manufacturing jobs; raise the minimum wage; or create public works jobs without passing on the costs to the consumer.  That is not a prescription for a successful economy.

Jonathan makes the same point with respect to  nostalgia in the Charedi world. He essentially makes the argument I have made many times. And implies that Charedi rabbinic leaders are victims of that mentality comparing their level of leadership to the biblical Yiftach. A leader whose short comings are spelled out in the Gemarah. (Yet a leader of his generation no less, says the Gemarah).

Today’s leaders cannot just seek to imitate the past. Today’s world does not in any way resemble the world of the Chazan Ish. We live in a different time, says Jonathan. The Charedi world in Israel of that time consisted of a few hundred families. They were overwhelmed by a national philosophy that promoted a ‘new Jew’. One that was everything the Charedi world was against. So they had to isolate themselves from what they saw a threat to their very existence.

David Ben Gurion granted a draft deferral for Charedi Jews. He saw it as a concession without any future consequence – believing that this small segment of Jewry would soon be extinct.

Ben Gurion was obviously very wrong. Charedim are now 10%of the population and growing exponentially. It is far from clear, says Johnathan that this community can sustain itself in ‘splendid isolation’ – even if it were permitted to do so! Certainly with modern technology permeating those walls so easily.

The Chazon Ish’s task to rebuild the Charedi world destroyed by the Holocaust has been achieved many times over. ‘The Charedi community cannot be destroyed, at least not from the outside.’ Nor is there an ‘ideological enemy seeking to free itself from the shackles of Jewish tradition, as there once was.’

Then there is the fact of diversity among Charedim.  Today’s nearly one million souls is not just that of the ‘1950s writ large’ says Jonathan. The Charedim of the Chazon Ish’s day were highly ideological and highly motivated… dedicated to uphold the Charedi banner. Not so in today’s highly diverse Charedi world.  Unlike the Chazon Ish’s time - today’s Charedi world has a variety of different talents; spiritual levels, and intellectual capacities.

Says Jonathan - the Charedi leadership that commands so much respect and awe from their constituents need to rise to the occasion and not try and relive the past. Nostalgia is not a strategy. They need to meet the challenges of today if they want their core values to be maintained. 

I could not agree more. It takes a lot for courage for a Charedi insider to criticize his leaders. Leaders that are viewed as the truest expositors of Torah (to the exclusion of all others) by their constituents. But this is what Jonathan has done here. And for that he deserves the support of all Orthodox Jewry. Let me be among the first to do so.