Sunday, May 06, 2012

Yom Ha’atzmaut Through Charedi Eyes

Guest Post by Menachem Lipkin

One of my more or less regular ‘reads’ every Shabbos is Ami Magazine.  Knowing full well it is a Charedi publication; I read it with that understanding in mind.  Most of the time I enjoy reading their perspective even when I don’t agree with them.  Although more often than not - I do.

To their credit they have featured positive articles on individuals that are more Centrist in their perspective that would ordinarily not appear in a Charedi magazine like this.  To the best of my knowledge the Yated and Hamodia never had such articles although Mishpacha - a magazine that is very similar to Ami has. Among those Ami had done stories on or interviews with are Rav Hershel Shachter and Rav Ahron Soloveichik.

However, their last issue had an editorial about Yom Ha’atzmaut that was very troubling. It was more than about disagreement. In my view the anti State bias colored any fair treatment of the issue. What is even more troubling is that lacked any Hakaras HaTov to a government that has done more to enable Torah learning in Israel than any other single entity.

By creating a modern infrastructure it enables even the poorest Charedim to live a more or less middle class lifestyle. They have thus attracted middle class Charedi Jews from the West that might never have considered moving to a country where there were relatively primitive living conditions.  

The State provides military strength that protects every single resident of that country, including the over 60,000 full time Yeshiva and Kollel students.

They are also the single biggest financial contributor to their cause. And yet, there is hardly a word of Hakaras HaTov expressed to the State - only how anti Frum they are.

The following is a guest post By Menachem Lipkin. I think he pretty much says it all.

Ami’s CEO and Editor In Chief, Rabbi Yizchok Frankfurter, penned an editorial that was very troubling.  It represents much that is wrong with this type of publication today. Make no mistake, while Ami pretends to be an opened-minded publication, throwing out a few bones here and there to unsuspecting readers, at its core, as proven by this editorial and the fact that they won’t publish pictures of women among other things, they are solidly in the Chareidi camp. (Not there’s anything wrong with that, per se.)

The editorial starts off with a bald-faced factual error. Rabbi Frankfurter states, “It [Yom Ha’atzmaut] was celebrated last week throughout the world by countless Jewish people, though not by many in the Orthodox Jewish community.” (Note: This analysis assumes that all Chareidim are non or anti-Zionist, which, of course, is not the case.)

Now Rabbi Frankfurter may have a different definition of “many” than the rest of us. But, between the US, were a majority of orthodox Jews do not self-identify as Chareidim, and Israel, where the Religious Zionist community represents about 12% of the population, there were easily well over 1 million Orthodox Jews celebrating the holiday.  Now, maybe that’s not “many” relative to the users of facebook, but relative to the number of Jews, and certainly Orthodox Jews, in the world, that’s a a lot of people.

In the very next sentence Frankfurter digs his hole of misinformation even deeper when he states, “Yom Ha’atzmaut is generally either ignored or treated with disdain by most Orthodox Jews”. Well, if it wasn’t clear from the information above let me spell it out for you. 

The US has about 600,000 orthodox Jews, though the Chareidi population is increasing, non-Chareidim still remain the majority. But for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s close. Well, it’s not close in Israel where about 8% of the population is Chareidi and about 12-15% of the population is Religious Zionist. But that doesn’t even tell the whole story.  The term “Orthodox” has a much less well defined meaning in Israel. Thus another, approximately 30%, of the population is “traditional” and many of them would definitely fall on a spectrum of orthodox observance. I think the point is clear now.

Rabbi Frankfurter's outlook represents a kind of arrogance that’s born of living in both a religious and psychological ghetto. When you look out your window and all you see are people who dress and think like you, you develop a false sense of grandeur. It’s bad enough when this afflicts regular folk, but when involves the editor of a widely read periodical, it’s much more menacing.

Another egregious error is Rabbi Frankfurter’s misrepresentation of Rav Soloveitchik’s position on Zionism. First of all, the very idea that you can, in one sentence, represent the Rav’s complex thinking on such an intricate issue is simply absurd. But then, to attempt to utilize one small aspect of this complexity to somehow use the Rav to support an anti-Zionist essay demonstrates an ignorance that complexity. 

In my view  Ami represents itself as “mainstream”, by, for example, attempting to invoke the thinking of a Gadol Hador and beacon of modern orthodoxy, in the cause of a purely Chareidi agenda. (And on an issue on which, no less, that the Rav specifically parted ways from the Chareidi world.)

Rabbi Frankfurter then throws out another simplistic and misleading statement, “Most gedolei Yisrael have opposed the Zionist idea since its very inception.” Again, through black and white glasses, this may seem true to him, but anyone who has analyzed the breadth of opinions on this issue would never make say anything like this.

The continuum of thought on this issue is as deep as it is broad. And, of course, one can’t help but wonder if Rabbi Frankfurter’s lenses would even permit him to see such giants as Rav Soloveichik, Rav Kook, Rav Lichtenstein, and countless Zionist Roshei Yeshiva in Israel as “Gedolim”.

I’ve merely scratched the surface of this “tour de force”.  I suggest you read it for yourself.

Please understand, this is not an attack on Chareidi Judaism or even the validity of their position visa vis the state. There is much room for a fair treatment of this issue. This, however, was not example such a work.  This editorial should act as a wake up call for everyone who brings this magazine into their home. 

It’s not my place to tell you not to read it. Like most periodicals both Jewish and secular, there is good and bad.  However, as with having the internet in your home, carefully monitor what and how your family reads such a publication and make sure they understand the hidden messages buried therein.