Monday, October 02, 2017

Practical Charedim

Charedim will look more like attorney and Agudah  head, Chaim Dovid Zweibel
Rav Ahron Soloveichik said Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut. He also believed in the importance of studying secular subjects. Which should not surprise anyone since he had a law degree from NYU. I bring this up now in light of an article in Cross Currents  by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, a kindred spirit. Therein he discusses the contributions of another kindred spirit, Heshy Zelcer, founder and editor of Hakirah, a journal of Jewish thought.

Both R’ Yitzchok and R’ Heshy are kindred spirits to me in the sense that they both advocate for the same things I do - considering 2 things to be of vital importance to Judaism: secular studies and support of the State of Israel. Both of which are controversial in certain Charedi circles: 

I don’t know R’ Heshy, but I believe he sees the future of the Torah world the same  way I do. As it pertains to Israel, he has actually submitted a couple of posts here advocating that Charedim begin to support for the Israel financially. 

The old issues that generated the battles between religious Zionists and Charedim  are hardly relevant today. Especially now that Charedim benefit from the state at unprecedented levels and Torah study flourishes in greater numbers than at any time in history.

It is no secret that I believe the future belongs to Charedim.  Although Charedim often think I bash them, that is not what I do. What my goals are in discussing issues that might seem to bash them is beyond the scope of this post.

What both R’ Heshy and R’ Yitzchok see is a future comprise of what Heshy calls practical Charedim. I call them sociological centrists. As R’ Yitzchok puts it: 
Heshy Zelcer coined a new phrase – Practical Haredim – to describe what he felt were the predominant group in Flatbush. They gave their kids a haredi education through high school and seminary, but then favored secular education in approved programs like Touro for purely practical purposes. They were supportive of Israel without overtly identifying with it. They were community-minded, supporting a host of important organizations. 
These are the people that will comprise the mainstream Torah world of the future, in my view (as well as in R’ Heshy and R’Yitzchok’s view, if I understand them correctly). The Charedi world will continue to have Charedi values but they have and will continue to adopt some of the modalities of modern Orthodoxy so that they can better support their families. This is why one can now find more Charedim than ever in the professions (Law, Medicine and even Academia). 

They still fit right in with the ‘black hat’community from which they come, but so too will they fit in with philosophical Centrists like me. Not that they will agree with me. They still have a basic Charedi Hashkafa. But they will live a similar lifestyle and be far more integrated as a community that they have been in the past. A much smaller part of this future mainstream will be sociological Centrists. Smaller because we are currently outnumbered by them (probably by orders of magnitude – if not yet – someday soon). And the fact that Charedim will have families that are typically a bit larger than a philosophical Centrists. But we will share the same basic values and live the same basic lives.

I wish I could take credit for this observation and prediction. But I have to give credit where credit is due. And I give it to a giant of a man, Rabbi Berel Wein who had written an essay about this phenomenon well before I did. When I first read it, it really resonated with me. After he mentioned it, I took a good look at what was happening in the world of Orthodoxy and saw just how right he is. It’s happening and will continue to happen as people like Rabbi Wein, R’ Heshy and R’ Yitzchok are around promoting and supporting it.

This does not mean that all religious Jews will be sociological centrists. Far from it. There are still some hard core Charedim that refuse to recognize Israel as anything other than the creation of Satan with devil as its leader who will continue to bash that leader and his Knesset helpers as though they were trying to destroy authentic Judaism.  This is especially true among the more right wing Chasidim like Satmar, whose numbers will continue to increase even beyond the Yeshivishe Charedim. They will still be a force to reckon with.

But the Yeshivshe Charedim who are increasingly becoming more moderate and tolerant of philosophical Centrists will be a large and unified force of the future. (At least in America. Israeli Charedim are ‘a horse of an entirely different color’ and beyond the subject of this post.)

This will take some tweaking as there are counter forces at work in the Yeshiva world that are not moderate and are becoming more extreme – following the Israeli Charedi example of reducing or eliminating secular studies altogether.  But  somehow believe that at the end of the day, moderation will win. It has to in order for the world of observant Judaism to survive.

Where does this leave the left? They are certainly not mainstream even by their own definition. I do not see a future for them in Orthodoxy if they continue to go in their current direction - which is rejected by all serious mainstream Poskim – from YU to Lakewood. (Why that is the case is also beyond the scope of the post.) They may grow into their own new movement, but they are not the future of Orthodoxy.

I think that pretty much sums up my reaction to the Rabbi Adlerstein’s Cross Currents post. Kudos to him and R' Heshy Zelcer for seeing things much the way I do and helping to perpetuate the direction in which they see Orthodoxy going.