Sunday, November 06, 2022

Following the Example of the Netziv

Lee Zeldin meeting with assorted Orthodox rabbinic leaders (YWN)
I thought I had seen the full extent of the Orthodox Jewish community’s opposition to NYSED (New York State Education Department). They are claiming unprecedented government interference by NYSED to Jewish education. But I was wrong. The outrage is even stronger than I had imagined.

It came in the form of what is called a Kol Korei which is the announced public view of rabbis claiming that their view is the exclusive Torah view to the exclusion of all others. 

I saw the Kol Korei in what I assume was a paid ad in Mishpacha Magazine. I’m sure this ‘ad’ was published in just about all Charedi publications. The purpose of which was to endorse Republican Lee Zeldin for governor of New York - urging all Orthodox Jews to vote for him.

Now there is nothing wrong with a group of rabbis endorsing a political candidate. What upset me was their reason - and more importantly the urgency with they made it.

Please understand, this is not to say I support or reject Zeldin. It is only about the level of outrage that generated this endorsement. It is the same reason that another group of Orthodox Rabbis made the same endorsement. From YWN

New York gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin picked up a major and highly coveted endorsement on Sunday as the influential Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition (FJCC) threw its support behind the surging Republican’s campaign.

The endorsement was made official at a meeting in Flatbush between Rep. Zeldin, Rabbonim, FJCC leaders and community members and activists including Rabbi Avrohom Fruchtandler, President Yehivah Chaim Berlin and others, some who had until now avoided entry into the thorny field of political endorsements. The meeting took place at the home of Rabbi Yisroel Reisman shlita, Rosh Yeshiva Torah Vodath.

The FJCC’s endorsement of Zeldin was made under the clear guidance of Daas Torah who feel that his unwavering pro-yeshiva position and public support made him a worthy candidate. 

That the vast majority of Orthodox leadership consider this Daas Torah has been made abundantly clear from the get  go. Their relentless opposition to  NYSED’s decision to enforce their Limudei Chol (secular subjects) requirements has been characterized as an attack on their religious freedom.  There is near unanimous agreement among Orthodox leaders about that belief. Something I categorically reject no no matter how many times I hear them say so - or how strongly.

To briefly repeat my views, the idea that insisting that the Limudei Chol the vast majority of Orthodox day schools and Yeshiva high schools offer hardly merits being called inference in religious rights. It amazes me that they continue down this road - and that is by and large ‘bought’ by the Charedi populace. 

But this Kol Korei takes the cake. One particularly egregious paragraph agued that not only will teaching any secular subject take time away from Limudei Kodesh – it opens the door to the state forcing them to teach Kefira. Which in our day pretty much means denial of the Torah and God’s very existence.  

They claim that Daas Torah requires all of New York’s Orthodox Jews to vote for Zeldin because he has made clear his strong support for the Orthodox position on NYSED. The implication of this Kol Korei is that one violates Daas Torah if they don‘t vote for him!  (Ironically, Satmar of Kiryas Joel has endorsed Governor Hochul’s relelection claiming that regardless of her lack of clarity on the subject - the governor has no control over what NYSED does anyway.)

This kind of strong opposition to NYSED seems to be equivalent to the the Charedi narrative about  the Netziv. According to that narrative the Netziv’s opposition to attempts by Czarist Russia to force a  secular studies curriculm upon his Yeshiva, Volozhin, cuased him to shut it down rather than submit to the Czar’s will. He thought it a ploy by the Czar to eventually destroy observant Judaism. 

This Kol Korei and the unprecedented urging Orthodox Jews to vote for a specific candidate seems to echo the fears of the Netziv. That they apparently do not see the difference between what NYSED wants and what an antisemitic Czar wanted is mind boggling. Especially in light of the fact that what NYSED is demanding is already in place in the vast majority of Orthodox day schools and Yeshiva high schools. Which has been the case for decades.

Well if this is how Daas Torah sees it, them I expect the Yeshivos that continue to refuse to offer any Limudei Chol to do the honorable thing and permanently shut down their Yeshivos. Same as the Netziv did to Volozhin.

This may actually be the best outcome of all. Because then their students will be forced to attend Yehivos that do offer a secular curriculum. And then everybody wins. Except for ignorance