Monday, April 23, 2018

Way Off Base

Hesder Boys
YCT trained Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz who self identifies as Open Orthodox - is a man with a sense of high ethics and morality. He has in fact dedicated his life to those ideals. And founded many organizations along those lines.

I am told by one Orthodox rabbi who was one of Shmuly’s mentors when he was a student here in Chicago that he has always been like that. He had a good heart and sought to fulfill the Torah’s mandate of ‘Justice, Justice you shall pursue!’

He has in fact been doing that ever since. That being said, I have some profound differences with him how he has carried out that mission. He is in fact guilty of the same type of thing he accuses Religious Zionists of in a recent article. He characterizes much of Religious Zionism to be an ‘ultra-nationalistic, land-idolatry’. I actually agree with him about this in certain Religious Zionist circles. But has he not done exactly the same thing worshiping social justice as an idolatry of sorts?

He has practically made a religion out of it. In that vein he has managed to trample just about any aspect of Judaism he believes gets in the way of that.  No matter how traditional that aspect may be. Even when there is universal Orthodox rejection of his interpretation and implementation of social justice. Tradition doesn’t matter to him. It is to be abandoned to the greater good of social justice.

In a recent Arutz Sheva oped - this is what troubles him about Religious Zionism. He says it is...
‘fundamentally flawed, directionless, and even broken in many ways’ (and) ‘no longer the model for social justice and lacks a culture of tolerance, diversity’
This is what he says alienates liberal non-Orthodox diaspora Jews: 
Lamentably, we are rapidly losing young American Jews to the allure of anti-Zionist movements on college campuses. 
This is true. But not for the reasons he attributes it too, a Religious Zionist attitude that says:
 “Good riddance to those liberals in the Diaspora. What does it matter what they think?” 
That is not the reason. It is because of a complete lack of knowledge by today's Jewish youth about Jewish history and their Jewish heritage. It has nothing to do with the attitude of Religious Zionists about them. They don’t care about a right wing Religious Zionism they believe subjects indigenous Arabs to an ‘oppressive occupying military force’. They have been influenced by Left leaning Academics that have made heroes and martyrs of Palestinians suffering under Israeli rule. They are fed this garbage day and day out on university campuses all over the US by Palestinian academics and their Left Wing sympathizing colleagues.

He says that ‘The progressive philosophy that built modern Israel is rapidly being forgotten’. I say good riddance to that. Ever since Israel loosened the reins of their socialist ideology and allowed a little more freedom to their people, Israel has prospered.

I agree that social justice, should be a feature of any ideology that is based on Judaism. Religious Zionism included. But that cannot alone be its definition anymore than land is. We should not allow that to become the new ‘Avodah Zara’ that replaces the old ‘Avodah Zara’ of land worship. While both the land of Israel and social justice are integral to Judaism, they are only a part of it. Neither should alone be considered the sum and substance of it. 

That being said, Shumly was way off base in his analysis of Religious Zionism anyway. There was an excellent rebuttal to his views written by Rochel Sylvetsky, a woman whose son is in a Hesder Yeshiva. Hesder is a Religious Zionist program which allows soldiers to alternate Torah study with military service. It is well known that Hesder boys are among the bravest soldiers serving in the army – often taking on the most dangerous assignments in groups.  Is it not the ultimate Tikun Olam to protect your own citizens – citizens of all persuasions including those living in Meah Shearim and even Israeli Arabs?

She refutes his charge that Religious Zionism has lost its moral way by listing the many Religious Zionist organizations in Israel that do exactly what Shmuly says is missing 

While I do not agree with her entirely, she clearly makes the case that Shmuly is way off base. It is well worth reading her rebuttal in its entirely.

Bottom line is that Shmuly has a good heart. But his zeal in applying his principles has blinded him to the fact that the idealism he believes has been lost  in the Religious Zionist world is still very much alive and well.