|Images of an incident taken from the YWN website|
I received the following submission from Paul Shaviv, one of the most respected names in Orthodox education. As he notes it was in response to a challenge I issued to a commenter on how to fix the problem raised in a post. My only quibble is the following rejection of part of my answer:
Rabbis giving sermons is not the answer.
First in my defense, that response was a quick off the cuff one made to someone in a lengthy thread on the subject. I did not mean it to be the sine qua non solution to the exclusion of any other. It was part of other suggestions I made. I also qualified that portion of my answer by saying that those sermons have to be forceful condemnations of racism in all its forms. And I meant it as a unified wide spread effort on the part of all rabbis in every Orthodox Shul. Which I believe actually conforms in part to what Paul advocates. Other than that, I believe it is a valuable contribution to the discussion which should be read by everyone. And once again, I am proud to host it here. His words follow.
In the discussion about that ugly traffic-violation incident in Brooklyn, and what it shows about community values and behavior, “Commentator” asked “What is the answer?”
Harry replied “…better leadership, better education. Behavior like this needs very loud universal condemnation from all segments of Orthodoxy. Rabbis of all stripes need to have sermons forcefully condemning racism in all its forms.”
Then he turns it around to the questioner and asks ‘What do you think is the answer?’
Rabbis giving sermons is not the answer.
Here is a practical proposal:
We need an organized, active, campaigning movement across all streams of Orthodoxy dedicated to raising ‘menschlich’ ethical, civilized and honest standards in every area of individual, family and communal life. The movement has to be direct; loud; unafraid and uncompromising. It cannot concern itself with taking a stance on halachic arguments (eg women rabbis); but at the same time the foundations of its values would ensure that all points of view on that and (almost) any other subject would be received with civility and respect. It could certainly exert moral pressure on the protaganists of such issues to keep their conduct civil and respectful.
This organization cannot be theologically partisan. It cannot be an EDAH, or a PORAT. Its leadership has to come from EVERY stream. Black hats and shtreimels have to sit happily (and I mean happily) with kippot srugot; and sheitels and tichels with women who are observant but do not cover their hair. (And if your reaction is “Ah! But they aren’t observant if they don’t cover their hair!!!!” – then you won’t be joining any time soon.)
It has to be demonstrably and openly led by rabbis, laymen and women, who are prepared to stand up and be counted. No more ‘Rabbi X agrees with me but is afraid to speak out’. That approach is toxic to a civil society. For it to work, the rabbinic leadership has to be eminent, and respected.
The members of the movement have to be activist – and pro-active. It cannot be reactive-only. Members have to be prepared to stand up in their synagogues and organizations; to call in to radio shows; to write in Jewish (and non-Jewish) newspapers; to be active in social media; and to call for public accountability.
The movement will have a positive, purposeful PR / educational strategy, using whatever are deemed the most effective means. It will indeed shed a spotlight on what is taught in schools and yeshivot/seminaries, what is preached from pulpits, what is published in print and in media.
They (including the rabbis) will not be afraid.
Decisions, budgets and process will be transparent. They will champion the oppressed and the minorities within our community, in a responsible manner. They will respect the views of others, and may agree to disagree. They will include, not exclude, and try and make that the Jewish Orthodox norm. They will stand up for honesty and integrity, fiscal responsibility and openness, and vigorously oppose dishonesty, corruption and ‘Chillul Hashem’. The movement will promote standards of governance and best process. They will stand up for agunot and wives who are being disadvantaged in divorce proceedings; they will stand up for the victims of criminality, not the perpetrators.
And ten years’ later, the face of our community will be radically different – and better.
So – who is prepared to step forward?
Are there a dozen leading rabbis prepared NOW to associate with this movement – without waiting to see ‘who else is there’?
Are there 1,000 lay persons willing to do the same?
Should we put up a website and see the response? Can we, by determination and energy, establish new public standards for Orthodoxy? Can we create a moral force to be reckoned with?
*Suggestion for a name: ‘Arev’ – as in the beginning of shacharit – ‘Veha’arev na..’. “make the Torah sweet..” It also has echoes of ‘mutual responsibility.. guarantee…’ .