Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Coddling of the Charedi Mind

Unprecedented English editorial in Der Yid (YWN)
Yet another column by Jonathan Rosenblum with which I agree. I wonder however, if Jonathan would admit that what he suggests is wrong with the culture in America today applies even more to the very Charedi world of which he is a part. Because clearly there are huge chunks of that community that are guilty of exactly what he is talking about.

He bases his views on a book entitled The Coddling of the American Mind, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt who argue: “safetyism” is rendering American young people ever more fragile and less resilient. 

Safteyism is now manifested by helicopter parents. Just as a helicopter hovers, so do helicopter parents ‘hover’ over their children in order to protect (or more accurately - overprotect) them from every possible hurt or perceived wrong – great or small.

Well intentioned though that may be, this level of over-protection does not allow the child to mature and learn how to deal with adversity. Because wherever adversity might show up, the helicopter parents will be right there to fix things for the child. They want to protect their children from every possible form of adversity. The problem is that children that are treated that way will end up as adults that have never developed any immunity to adversity and won’t be able to handle it if and when it happens. Parents will not always be around to protect them.

Universities are doing it too - depriving American youth the ability to think for themselves. The best way to describe this phenomenon is to use one of the examples Jonathan gives in his column. Like this one from his alma mater, Yale Law School. Paraphrasing:

Yale University Logo
The School’s Federalist Society had invited Kristen Waggoner to speak. She had successfully represented baker Jack Phillips before the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission - on behalf of a Christian legal organization called the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)

A bunch of other student groups immediately called for a boycott  – labeling the ADF a ‘hate group’. This was sent as an email to Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken demanding that sanctions be placed on students that worked with ADF.

She immediately complied and added that financial assistance would be denied if a student worked (as a means of support while a student) for an employer that considers “religious creed” or “gender identity” in hiring.

It should not be a surprise that a student studying under these conditions will not develop the ability to think for themselves. They will learn that there is only one side to any issue, the side that the school advocates.

What Jonathan does not do - is apply his criticism to his own community. If there was ever a community that does not allow its members to think for themselves, it is the Charedi community. At least those segments that are on the more extreme right wing of it. Such as the Chasidim of Satmar.  The more right wing, the stronger the safetyism or protectionism. Parents and schools do their best to insulate their children from anything other than their own way of thinking and culture. Even if that other culture is observant. 

This has been demonstrated by Agudah not allowing any of Yeshiva University’s (YU) Roshei Yeshiva to speak at their premiere event - the Siyum HaShas of the end of the Daf Yomi cycle. (Even though they advertise it as a unifying event!) 

I have been told by reliable people who are aware of the inner workings of Agudah (and if I recall correctly - an Agudah official himself) that the reason for this is that Chasidic leaders will not participate if a YU Rosh HaYeshiva speaks. God forbid their Hashkafos somehow influence their Chasidim. To the extent that there ever is any exposure - it is immediately slapped down as illegitimate. Much the same way Yale Law School Dean Gherkin did with views defended by the ADF.

That kind of protectionism goes well beyond not thinking for yourself. It affects their ability to fully function in the modern world. It even affects their health.

A good example of this is illustrated by YWN who noted that for the first time - because of the serious nature of measles outbreak in their community -  an editorial was published in English in Satmar’s Yiddish language newspaper, Der Yid

The good news is that it was a strong condemnation of anti-vaxxers. That it had to be stated at all shows just how serious the antivaxxer problem is in that community. A problem no doubt exacerbated by their severely limited secular education.

The bad news is how poorly that letter was written. The grammar was so atrocious that a fifth grader could have done a better job.  Anyone reading that  letter could only conclude that the fellow who wrote it, and the editors of Der Yid who published it are ignoramuses that should never be taken seriously. 

I have mentioned this before. But it bears repeating in this context. Part of the reason for such a poor command of the English language is the protectionist values that dominate this culture. Their leaders want to discourage as much as possible any interaction between their Chasidim and the rest of society whose influence is considered evil. Speaking English poorly helps discourage that. 

Additionally I have been told on good authority that among certain types of Chasidim - they consider the English language Chukas HaGoy – the ways of ‘idolaters’ - which the Torah teaches us to avoid! They do not forbid speaking it entirely  – since one needs to communicate in the language of the country wherein they live. But speaking it well is not necessary. This letter writer and the Der Yid publishers seem to corroborate that view. 

I don’t know if Jonathan would criticize the more extreme right wing of the Charedi world the same way he criticized criticized general society. But if he is to be consistent, he should. If you do not allow your people to think for themselves at all, you end up with a cult. Not a culture.