Orthodoxy In The Future

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I just got back from the 2011 OU Convention. I only attended two sessions but they were quite thought-provoking. The second, the last one of the day, was a panel discussion on the Orthodox role in the Jewish community of tomorrow. The panel was chaired by R. Steven Weil and consisted of R. Steven Burg, R. Efrem Goldberg, R. Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, Jerry Silverman and Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike. With the Orthodox community quickly growing as a percentage of the Jewish community and particularly the affiliated portion, what must the Orthodox do to help fill its proper role in the community of the future?

The panel intelligently and eloquently discussed this and other questions. But running through my mind was the question whether the underlying assumption is correct. While the Orthodox community has grown in proportion within the larger Jewish community, will that continue over the next ten to twenty years? Or will defections of disinterested youth, wandering twenty-somethings and frustrated thirty-somethings combine with a break-away left wing to reduce the Orthodox back to a small percentage of the Jewish community?

Some of the panelists indirectly addressed this. Two suggested variations on energizing youth by encouraging them to reach out to unaffiliated Jews, thereby strengthening their own commitments. In other words, we can do inreach by doing outreach. Since this not realistically going to happen on a wide scale any time soon, we are left with the problem of uninspired and easily repelled young Jews. Is Orthodoxy about to hemorrhage Jews?

After the session, I spoke with R. Steven Pruzansky and he thought I’m overly pessimistic. He remembers an Orthodoxy with a defection rate of 30%. Today, he estimates, it must be 15% or lower. While Orthodoxy will lose members, perhaps at a higher rate than in recent history, it will continue to grow at a quick pace and become a much larger proportion of the Jewish community.

What do the thoughtful commenters here think? Is Orthodoxy going to continue growing as a proportion of the community or begin shrinking?

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

121 comments

  1. Certainly we are seeing other traditional parts of the American Jewish community (the 20th century Reform and Conservative movements) shrinking significantly. Modern liberal (chaburot) and egalitarian traditional (Hadar) are certainly growing, though we’ll see if they grow faster than Orthodoxy.

    Certainly Orthodoxy will never be thought of as a dying movement as it was 50 years.

    I do worry if Orthodoxy is up to the task of leading the general Jewish community. For example, the JCC in Passaic is closing down, despite of (or because of?) the tremendous growth in the frum community there.

    The other dynamic is that many of our best and brightest make aliyah; while I admire all who choose to live if Eretz Yisrael, one cannot deny that Israel’s gain is out loss.

  2. Maybe look at the latest Baltimore area statistics who add to the discussion about Orthodoxy, as they’re a “growing” part of the community, but what does it mean?; resigning or sincerely Orthodox will be aging and remain affiliating, young people will be coming and going, etc;
    http://www.jewishtimes.com/index.php/jewishtimes/news/jt/cover_story/jewish_baltimores_stunning_new_demographic_stats/

    Some posts I’d done that were based on earlier demographic data, including drift from orthodoxy over time;

    http://harherem.blogspot.com/2010/01/blog-post.html

    http://harherem.blogspot.com/2010/10/addenda-to-people-are-leaving-in-droves.html

    If we take seriously the argument that we are in a spiritual holocaust where more Jews have been lost to apathy and assimilation than in the Holocaust, it affects how we view those who defect; will we consider them coerced or ‘non-culpable’ as we do the many Survivors? If the formerly-Orthodox still identify as Jewish, will we still identify them as “really Jews” (as it seems people do with formerly-Observant Survivors), more than those who were born unaffiliated or assimilated?

    http://harherem.blogspot.com/2006/11/numbering-israel-some-parts-of-this.html

    what about disaffected gerim? I’ve known those who’ve left, after time in this flummoxed community – a tiny percentage of Jews, but still, they take they’re experiences with them when they leave.

  3. I wasn’t at the session, but I am surprised at the assertion that “the Orthodox community has grown in proportion within the larger Jewish community” after the Brandeis study came out a few weeks ago. See slide 9 of http://tinyurl.com/38lfjto. Despite the higher birth rate and all the kiruv work, self-identification as Orthodox appears to have suffered a 17% attrition rate in the aggregate. The Brandeis study shows that all denominations are losing affiliation; the grown is in “Just Jewish”.

    It is also not clear that there will be something called “the Orthodox community”. The issue of the role of women that we explored on this site recently, as well as the fissure point of the organ donation brouhaha illustrate a likely bifurcation between Modern (or LW) Orthodoxy and Centrist (or RW) Orthodoxy. As Rabbi Brill articulates in his 2005 Edah paper, “As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah.”

  4. I should add the Brandeis study also demonstrates the self-identified Jewish population in the aggregate tracks the overall US population growth statistics, so the notion that Orthodox is losing affiliation, but becoming a much larger proportion of the Jewish community is demonstrably false.

  5. slide 9 doesnt’ break down by age, and therefore doesn’t tell us too much…

  6. I think another important component to this equation is whether as a whole, it is the educated and rationally oriented Jews who are staying frum or becoming baal teshuva, or more so the uneducated ones. This could effect Orthdoxy’s future ability to lead

  7. the orthodox community will only grow in Israel

  8. Um, I took a look at the stats, and while a 17% loss is certainly not good, it’s much better than the steep attrition rate suffered by the Conservative and “Others”. The only guys doing slightly better is Reform. So we may or may not be increasing as a proportion of the Jewish community overall, but I’d say we’re growing as part of the affiliated/denominational/organized community.

    Also, I’d be interested in knowing if this attrition rate is the same country-wide, or whether attrition is worse in certain spots (smaller/larger communities, more frum/less frum).

    As for what we can do for the broader Jewish community, that requires having a purpose beyond self-preservation (which is what we’ve been singularly focused on until now).

  9. Reuven Spolter

    Young people already do kiruv through NCSY. The most committed serve as the attraction (or at least the glue) for those that are just catching on. I wonder though, what affect they have on their less-frun peers, and what affect their peers have on them? Whose to say that they’re at all ready to affect others? How do we train them to be “mekarev” if they haven’t got a set of concrete beliefs themselves?

  10. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Reuven Spolter wrote:

    > How do we train them to be “mekarev” if they haven’t got a set of concrete beliefs themselves?

    From what I hear, Rabbi Hershel Schachter has expressed his concerns on teens who goofed around for twelve years of Jewish day school, found G-d halfway through their year in Israel, and are now suddenly amazingly ready to do kiruv. “The Rambam describes all sorts of categories of Tzedaka; this is a new one: giving that which you don’t have!”

  11. Personally I think people should start focusing more on adult Jewish education (20s-30s), since this is where we really start to mature faithwise. This is especially in light of the fact that people that age will become parents, and will thus go a long way towards strengthening the “in-home” education of the next generation.

    As far as “outreach” is concerned, I think we should limit our goals to being open to others – like opening the doors of community kollelim (and shuls) to all Jews – male and female. Send more Orthodox speakers to events like Limmud.

    In my opinion, success should not be gagued by how many people become frum (1 to 100), but how many people become more Jewishly involved and educated. You’ll be surprised how many more people you can be mehazek as opposed to mekarev.

  12. I’d just say that imo, I strongly suspect the weak link would be the quality of education that occurs in day schools and yeshivas. Not that they don’t really learn skills, but they often never learn the reasons behind the things they are doing. They know how to keep shabbos, but not why (beyond hashem said so) and get little inspiration to stay committed if their families are not especially dedicated to providing these inspirations. I have many friends that went through either system who end up not particularly religious, or go off the derech before they can come back. The secular education as well was often done with the lowest quality of teachers, or rabbis who didn’t want to teach the subject in the first place. Various factors come together to cause these issues so that the kids who don’t do anything strange are the rare ones.

  13. I think that there are trends pulling in opposite direction. The economic crisis is both pulling people towards faith as they seek meaning beyond the possibility of career but is also outlining the ridiculously high cost of Orthodoxy relative to other forms of religion. My sense is that Open Orthodoxy will become a very large movement as it can promise both career and commitment, while at the same time expressing the one world zeitgiest that is attractive to youth. If handled properly, it will gain adherents from Conservadoxy and will step into the shoes voided by Modern Orthodoxy when they made the decision to bow down to the Charedim.

  14. I am not really sure what the point is here. It seems there are trends that all acknowledge and the only question is how great a trend will be. Is that predictable, even by an expert let alone a layman? Does it matter?

    Well, I suppose percentages are important, especially if one falls within a subgroup affected by the percentage but doesn’t really change the story … at least at the level we are talking about here. Why is it particularly relevant if 17% (basically 1 in 5) or 30% (basically 1 in 3) leave Orthodoxy after their parents will spend $240K in grade school and high school per child beggaring the family for Orthodoxy? Either way, these are not respectable stats from a body that claims to be spreading an emet that can somehow be rationally demonstrated. Or should at least be demonstrating that the Torah way of life is a most pleasant one and therefore desirable. Both 17% and 30% indicate a failed education system; the only question is how failed.

    And of course it doesn’t say who is staying and who is leaving. If the smartest and brightest are leaving … for Israel then perhaps in a few generations Orthodoxy will be at its greatest height. But if they are leaving for the wider world, then I suppose we can say the failure is somehow worse then if the less inquisitive students sticking around.

    And if you are really concerned with growth vs. shrinkage (whether in Orthodoxy as a whole or within its various subgroups) – a 20%-30% failure rate can still lead to a growing Orthodoxy if the birth rate is robust enough.

    Further, evolutionarily speaking if entire groups leave then it is harder to re-establish them amongst those that remain. If the LW leaves Orthodoxy (which Gil fears yet somehow I think he means they are “kicked out”) then the beliefs of the left will be considered forbidden by an Orthodox person, even if now acceptable, and MO as then defined will be different and narrower then now. And Orthodoxy will be narrower then Orthodoxy now. Again, whether narrower isn’t necessarily bad. It could, for instance, portend stability. I am sure there are at least one or two rabbonim leading the MO community who would welcome a more narrow Orthodoxy ideologically speaking. Personally I think that would lead to further stagnation, leading to instability and greater irrelevancy and be tragic.

  15. Look at it this way-I think that the analysis of this subject also requires considering the Motzaeoi Shabbos session which we attended after spending Shabbos with former long time neigbhors and dear friends who moved from KGH to Teaneck, the issues and audience responses thereat re the cost of living in any Orthodox community today. I personally was sympathetic to all of the responses from the audience, but I do think that R E Buchwald hit the nail on the head in targeting the issue as one of a community, both Orthodoz and heterodox, that has extraordinarily confused priorities. I would also agree with RHS that the assumption that a suddenly turned on young man or woman can engage in kiruv after viewing Limdudei Kodesh for 12 years as mere coursework to obtain a good passing grade in the average centrist or MO school setting may not be based in reality.

    I would argue that seriously committed young men and women who are committed to Harbatzas Torah should be at least one goal of a committed centrist centrist or MO education, along with the “nachas page” of Ivy League acceptances. Something is definitely rotten in Denmark, when many Charedim, MO and their children have zero concept or dangerously close to it, of the hashkafic reasons for being a Shomer Shabbos either than where their family lives or that “my family is observant.”

  16. “Certainly Orthodoxy will never be thought of as a dying movement as it was 50 years”

    Was Orthodoxy really considered dying 50 years ago?
    Life Magazine cover about Orthodoxy with then young mother on cover (1955)-were there more or less schuls affiliated with the OU 50 years ago?-an answer I don’t know but Gil I’m sure can find the answer. Certainly,according to Geller’s list there were far more Orthodox schuls in Metro NY-50-60-70 years ago than there are today.

    “many of our best and brightest make aliyah; while I admire all who choose to live if Eretz Yisrael, one cannot deny that Israel’s gain is out loss”
    there has been on average less than 3000 Jews from NA making aliyah any year. NBN once stated at a meeting that about 70% of families making aliyah are Orthodox, while 70% of singles are not Orthodox. Thus roughly 2000 Orthodox make aliyah a year. It is no secret thatthere are a lot ofOrthodox yordim in the US which will take away from that figure. Thus, the number is not a large percentage of overall American Jewry.

  17. IH-I have been and remain a skeptic about many demographic studies because many of the profilers have an agenda which takes a big concept of Jewish identity, however the same is utilized, and tend to write off and fail to consider major Orthodox communities, both Charedi and MO,in their studies .

  18. “it is the educated and rationally oriented Jews who are staying frum or becoming baal teshuva, or more so the uneducated ones.”

    If the uneducated ones are not inheritors of fortunes no one would be interested in them-thus it must be the eductated ones whohave money who are kiruv organizations salivate over.

    “the orthodox community will only grow in Israel”

    How much has it grown in Israel?-Compare the percentage of members who belong to religious parties in the first Knesset to the present Knesset.

    “Either way, these are not respectable stats from a body that claims to be spreading an emet that can somehow be rationally demonstrated”

    Obviously, no religion can be rationally demonstrated-if it could be it would be science not religion.

  19. Obviously, no religion can be rationally demonstrated-if it could be it would be science not religion.

    When did rationality become a synonym for science? Before modern scientific theory there was rationality.

  20. Mycroft wrote in response to this post:

    ““it is the educated and rationally oriented Jews who are staying frum or becoming baal teshuva, or more so the uneducated ones.”

    If the uneducated ones are not inheritors of fortunes no one would be interested in them-thus it must be the eductated ones whohave money who are kiruv organizations salivate over.”

    Proof please? Many BT by no means approximate this economic standard. FWIW, there are many BTs who have taken many entry ports into becoming a Shomer Torah Umitzos in an often unwilling or unappreciative FFB world ( both MO and Charedi.) Halevai that the demographic profilers of doom would devote a study to this real social trend.

  21. The RCA volte-face on the brain-stem death issue illustrates that the right-wing Centrists are not as powerful as they thought.

    If “Orthodoxy” embraces the full spectrum of self-identified halachic Jews, then the future will be positive. If Hashkafa continues to be used divisively by the YU/OU establishment then the future for “Orthodoxy” will be negative.

  22. Steve — unless you believe in the neo-Charedi “Daas Torah” one should think critically about all summaries irrespective of the source (secular or religious).

    I have many questions about the Brandeis study, but if you read through all the charts (and the background in the article which pointed to it) there is good reason to think it is a reflection of emes. There are other interesting slides in the deck, such at #12 on Hebrew Comprehension which is relevant to any discussion about education.

    But, there is a huge difference between being sceptical and burying one’s head in the sand.

  23. I don’t see the RCA’s most recent statement as a volte face. After all prior thereto, had the RCA ever catedgorically adopted or rejected brain death or even set forth a position paper on the various shitos? WADR to the many critics of the postition paper, I really sense a lack of Kavod HaTorah to the very eminent Talmidei Chachamim who authored and contributed to the paper in question, many of whom are prominent Talmidei Chachamim , authors and sought after as Scholars in Residence throughout the YU/OU world and the greater Orthodox world, and , who have been inapprpropriately accused, of stifling other views, when in fact the proponents of brain death or brain stem death, have continously attacked the legitimacy of any other POV.

  24. “““it is the educated and rationally oriented Jews who are staying “frum or becoming baal teshuva, or more so the uneducated ones.”

    If the uneducated ones are not inheritors of fortunes no one would be interested in them-thus it must be the eductated ones whohave money who are kiruv organizations salivate over.””

    Proof-observation-notice how kiruv organizations always highlight the Physician, Wall Street lawyer, that become frum. Show me an example of where a kiruv organization showed pictures of a BT who was a sanitation worker, Starbucks employee etc.

    Proof please?

  25. Was Orthodoxy really considered dying 50 years ago?
    ==================================
    Read divrei harav for a picture of the 1940’s, R’YBS’s charge to the 1943 chag hasmicha is a masterpiece of a general rallying his troops in the face of tremendous adversity.
    KT

  26. Time for my episodic screed on our community’s lack of desire to really survey itself in an honest manner (imho we’re afraid to look in the mirror). ” Would some power the gift to gie us to see ourselves as others see us” has been replaced by “what we don’t know can’t hurt us”.

    KT

  27. “The RCA volte-face on the brain-stem death issue illustrates that the right-wing Centrists are not as powerful as they thought.”

    See the following from Prof Waxman:

    “The data which I just
    reported demonstrated conclusively that a clear majority,
    approximately three quarters, of American Orthodox
    Jews have higher education, are committed to the larger
    Jewish community, affirm the value of tiqqun olam, and
    strongly believe that Israel is the spiritual center of the
    Jewish People. In other words, they are Modern
    Orthodox!
    7 This may, in part, help explain the perception of the “move to the right.” It may well be that Modern Orthodox rabbis,
    including those ordained at RIETS in the latter part of the twentieth century, were considerably more to the right
    than were their predecessors. In other words, the move to the right may have been within the RIETS semikhah (ordination)
    program, under the influence of a revisionist approach to the thinking of its revered head, the late Rabbi Joseph
    B. Soloveitchik (“the Rav”), rather than within Orthodoxy as a whole, but is so glaring because rabbis are much more
    visible than the laity. On revisionism with respect to the Rav, see Lawrence Kaplan, “Revisionism and the Rav: The
    Struggle for the Soul of Modern Orthodoxy,” Judaism 48,3 (Summer 1999): 290-311.”

    Prof Waxman wasreferring to a study in Metropolitan NYC area. To some extentthe so called change to the right has been Rabbinic led-as the older talmidim of the Rav have retired and gone on to the olam haemet-they are being replaced by those who are a dor shelo yada et Yoseph. The average Jew has not changed that much-it has been a change in RIETS.

  28. IH-Sorry, I think that Ratzon HaTorah is an item of Hashkafa that requires a great deal of strengthening in MO. We are trained to be skeptical in understanding a blatt Gemorah, and the positions of Rishonim and Acharonim and understanding Mfarshim on Tanach, as opposed to questionning the veracity of Ikarie HaDaas and eternal relevance of TSBP and the Baalei Mesorah as our guides on Halacha and Hashkafa.

    I saw Slide 2 in the Brandeis study, What does Hebrew comprehension mean to the authors of the study-literacy in Israeli newspapers, reading bus signs in Jerusalem, being able to exchange dollars for NIS and order in a restaurant from the Hebrew side of a menu, literacy in modern academic Israeli works, being able to speak Hebrew fluently or complete textual literacy in any work rooted in Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim? I think that the definition is critical, as are all definitions in demographically based studies.

  29. IH-Sorry, I think that Ratzon HaTorah is an item of Hashkafa that requires a great deal of strengthening in MO. We are trained to be skeptical in understanding a blatt Gemorah, and the positions of Rishonim and Acharonim and understanding Mfarshim on Tanach, as opposed to questionning the veracity of Ikarie HaDaas and eternal relevance of TSBP and the Baalei Mesorah as our guides on Halacha and Hashkafa.

    I saw Slide 2 in the Brandeis study, What does Hebrew comprehension mean to the authors of the study-literacy in Israeli newspapers, reading bus signs in Jerusalem, being able to exchange dollars for NIS and order in a restaurant from the Hebrew side of a menu, literacy in modern academic Israeli works, being able to speak Hebrew fluently or complete textual literacy in any work rooted in Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim? I think that the definition is critical, as are all definitions in demographically based studies.

  30. IH-Sorry, I think that Ratzon HaTorah is an item of Hashkafa that requires a great deal of strengthening in MO. We are trained to be skeptical in understanding a blatt Gemorah, and the positions of Rishonim and Acharonim and understanding Mfarshim on Tanach, as opposed to questionning the veracity of Ikarie HaDaas and eternal relevance of TSBP and the Baalei Mesorah as our guides on Halacha and Hashkafa.

    I saw Slide 2 in the Brandeis study, What does Hebrew comprehension mean to the authors of the study-literacy in Israeli newspapers, reading bus signs in Jerusalem, being able to exchange dollars for NIS and order in a restaurant from the Hebrew side of a menu, literacy in modern academic Israeli works, being able to speak Hebrew fluently or complete textual literacy in any work rooted in Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim? I think that the definition is critical, as are all definitions in demographically based studies.

  31. IH-Sorry, I think that Ratzon HaTorah is an item of Hashkafa that requires a great deal of strengthening in MO. We are trained to be skeptical in understanding a blatt Gemorah, and the positions of Rishonim and Acharonim and understanding Mfarshim on Tanach, as opposed to questionning the veracity of Ikarie HaDaas and eternal relevance of TSBP and the Baalei Mesorah as our guides on Halacha and Hashkafa.

    I saw Slide 2 in the Brandeis study, What does Hebrew comprehension mean to the authors of the study-literacy in Israeli newspapers, reading bus signs in Jerusalem, being able to exchange dollars for NIS and order in a restaurant from the Hebrew side of a menu, literacy in modern academic Israeli works, being able to speak Hebrew fluently or complete textual literacy in any work rooted in Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim? I think that the definition is critical, as are all definitions in demographically based studies.

  32. From first hand experience, it is hard for me to accept the 17% attrition rate. Why?

    Because attrition in chassidic and yeshivish and black hat communities it at most 5% (and even that is really high). This means attrition to non-orthodox, not not hasidic or not yeshivish.

    Also I grew up in a black hat community, sure there are kids that are no religious today, but of all of the people I knew, and grew up with, its more like 1-2%, not 17%. And I knew allot of people from allot of different walks of life.

    Assuming that hasidic and black hat communities make up 50% of school age kids, then you have an attrition rate of like close to 30%, in Modern Orthodox Schools, which isnt there either.

    Unless orthodox is really really losely defined, as anyone who is somewhat affiliated with the orthodox movement, then I don’t see how the 17% is realistic. It must include schools like Ramaz (I don’t mean to say anything wrong with Ramaz, only the facts), where a significant portion of the school is not shomer shabbos, nor ever was, but I guess these people are considered orthodox, and no longer are orthodox.

    There definitly, is a problem, but not as big as its being made out to be. I would factor to guess that the biggest problem is orthodox jews on college campuses and the actual temptation of not being frum any more.

    It has nothing to do with how good our schools are, and it has much less to do with sexual freedoms, but rather the taavos of shabbos, kashrus, and being able to do what you want, are right there and VERY hard for anyone to resist, no matter how many years of torah, and day school one has.

    You can’t just put someone in a place where it is 100% natural for someone to want not to be religious anymore, and say, “but he was in day school for 14 years, it should be good enough.” Its not. From first hand experience as well, thats where I think the real (high) attrition rate comes from (as well from the calculating, non shomer shabbos as orthodox).

  33. “joel rich on January 17, 2011 at 10:49 am
    Was Orthodoxy really considered dying 50 years ago?
    ==================================
    Read divrei harav for a picture of the 1940′s, R’YBS’s charge to the 1943 chag hasmicha is a masterpiece of a general rallying his troops in the face of tremendous adversity.”

    lets compare the Boston of 1943 to the metro Boston area of today. There were far more schuls, far more Rabbis in the 40s in Boston serving schulesthat had a large attendace. The Rav in Boston had just recently had the Kashrut fight with Rabbi Savitsky, tHe Rav was either just finished or in the process of an investigation of him bythe MassAG-the RAv passed it in flying colors-which could easily have colored the Ravs viewpoint.

    For a reverse exaggeration see bottom of page 107 Life magazine June 13, 1955-available on line-google and ye shall find “The Orthodox movement (Union of Orthodox Congregations of America,National Council of Young Israel, Yeshiva University Synagogue Council)has an estimated 2000 congregations and approximately 2 million members”

  34. Mycroft-I would off the following observation with respect to the view of Professor Waxman as quoted by Larry Kaplan-Perhaps, one can argue that RYBS’s stances on numerous issues such as separate seating and interfaith ecumenical theological dialogue and principled stance on the division between Klapei Chutz and Klapei Pnim oriented communal issues ,and rejection of the feminist critique of Halacha and TSBP, especially in the wake of the social and cultural changes in the US in the 1960s, as opposed to his philosophically oriented writings, were a greater influence on his Talmidim Muvhaklim in RIETS.

  35. “joel rich on January 17, 2011 at 10:52 am
    Time for my episodic screed on our community’s lack of desire to really survey itself in an honest manner (imho we’re afraid to look in the mirror). ” Would some power the gift to gie us to see ourselves as others see us” has been replaced by “what we don’t know can’t hurt us”.”

    I have at times suggested that it would be worthwhile to take yearbooks of Yeshivot day schools from 20-60 years ago and try and determine what per cent stayed frum. I don’t believ we would get cooperation from the schools.
    There are many famous Americans who have nothing to do with Yahadus whose fathers went to minyan in the morning.

  36. Ira: you wrote:
    “It has nothing to do with how good our schools are, and it has much less to do with sexual freedoms, but rather the taavos of shabbos, kashrus, and being able to do what you want, are right there and VERY hard for anyone to resist, no matter how many years of torah, and day school one has.”

    for most young men the biggest temptation on a college campus is the good looking girl in his biology (or history, or psychology or whatever) class. He decides to go to a party on friday night to see her, and decides to eat some non-kosher food to be with her, not the other way around.

  37. Mycroft wrote in part:

    “lets compare the Boston of 1943 to the metro Boston area of today. There were far more schuls, far more Rabbis in the 40s in Boston serving schulesthat had a large attendace. The Rav in Boston had just recently had the Kashrut fight with Rabbi Savitsky, tHe Rav was either just finished or in the process of an investigation of him bythe MassAG-the RAv passed it in flying colors-which could easily have colored the Ravs viewpoint.”

    Once again, one forgets that CJ was attracting in the 1940s and 1950s the educated and traditionally oriented American Jewish families and that RIETS had no small exodus of musmachim to CJ, as did other yeshivos and that many YC grads were attending JTS. I do not think that the Kashrus fight in Boston can be viewed as the basis of reference for any of the drashos in Divrei HaRav.

    Viewing shuls with members as a sign of a strong Orthodoxy misses the poin. Shuls with members whose committment was to a shul or a rav without a sound educational background and committment cannot be compared to an educated and observant community in large shuls, both MO and Charedi.

  38. MYCROFT:

    “Was Orthodoxy really considered dying 50 years ago?”

    this was the conventional academic wisdom. e.g., see the classic study “conservative judaism” by sociologist marshall sklare.

    regarding your comment on NBN: yes, from a strict numbers standpoint they are completely irrelevant to the future of american orthodoxy (but they have great marketing which makes many think otherwise). however, the point some make is that while NBN attracts only a tiny percentage of ortho jews, they attract many of our brightest and most committed who would otherwise be the leaders and pillars of the community had they remained. this loss, it is argued, can’t be quantified.

  39. “Mycroft-I would off the following observation with respect to the view of Professor Waxman as quoted by Larry Kaplan-”
    I am not an expert in prof Kaplans works but I don’t recall him quoting Prof Waxman-in general they deal with different issues.
    They are both very accurate in their descriptions.

    “Perhaps, one can argue that RYBS’s stances on numerous issues such as separate seating and interfaith ecumenical theological dialogue and principled stance on the division between Klapei Chutz and Klapei Pnim oriented communal issues ,and rejection of the feminist critique of Halacha and TSBP, especially in the wake of the social and cultural changes in the US in the 1960s, as opposed to his philosophically oriented writings, were a greater influence on his Talmidim Muvhaklim in RIETS.”

    There is probably a difference in general between those who stay within the confines of the Yeshiva and those who go outside-probably some self selecting manner.

  40. I think this conversation is assuming a definition of Orthodoxy that, in itself, is vague (the panelists seem to me to represent a pretty specific subset of “Orthodox Judaism”), and that also may not serve as a useful term in 20 years.

    From where I’m sitting, it seems to me that the importance of smaller-scale, local community leadership is on the rise. Maybe it’s just the zeitgeist, or what have you, but I think there is a sense that (rightly or wrongly) I and others share that large, unwieldy institutions have not recently served our society well (both in a Jewish sense and a larger, secular sense). Combined with the growing availability of textual resources (sometimes even with good translation) to individual Jews, and increasing familiarity with their contents, this might lead to the decreased ability of large institutions to set communal policies. YU may be an exception to this (because it’s still useful as a yeshiva and university), but when I imagine Orthodoxy in, say, 30 years, I don’t really see much of a role for organizations like OU or Young Israel, etc.

    Or I could be completely wrong 🙂

  41. they attract many of our brightest and most committed who would otherwise be the leaders and pillars of the community had they remained. this loss, it is argued, can’t be quantified
    ========================
    Which has always been the issue with zionist movements in the US
    KT

  42. “I do not think that the Kashrus fight in Boston can be viewed as the basis of reference for any of the drashos in Divrei HaRav. ”

    Why NOT? The fight fundamentally affected the Rav. Certainly, a speech during that time period.

    “however, the point some make is that while NBN attracts only a tiny percentage of ortho jews, they attract many of our brightest and most committed who would otherwise be the leaders and pillars of the community had they remained. ”
    But also plausible is what Steve Savitaky stated a few years ago about the nature of olim-he apollogiozed for it-but it certainly reflects a certain percentage.

  43. Mycroft wrote:

    “Why NOT? The fight fundamentally affected the Rav. Certainly, a speech during that time period.”

    True. Yet, the fiery rhetoric in the drashos mentioned by RJR in Divrei HaRav seemed IMO more directed against the challenge posed by CJ and JTS, as opposed to R Savitsky.

  44. ““the orthodox community will only grow in Israel”

    How much has it grown in Israel?-Compare the percentage of members who belong to religious parties in the first Knesset to the present Knesset”

    I’m orthodox and I vote Likud, so counting the seats of Charedi members in Knesset is pointless.

  45. “The average Jew has not changed that much-it has been a change in RIETS.”

    Mycroft, I agree. This strengthens my and Ruvie’s points in recent discussions about relevancy. Rabbi Student, in contrast, echoed the RIETS view that the (YU) elite should not yield to the (shul-going) masses. This is why I found Rabbi Brill’s statements in his Edah article so compelling: “…the shift from Modern Orthodoxy to Centrist Orthodoxy that has occurred over the last thirty years. […] As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah.”

    In other words, there is an increasing chasm between the YU/OU establishment and deeply torah-educated halachic Jews who do not accept the philosophic underpinning of Centrist Orthodoxy. The brain-stem death issues demonstrates the chasm is growing regarding the halacihc response to technology, but I still think the primary forcing issue is the halachic response to the revolutionary change in the societal role of women in the past 100 years (e.g. Rabbi Sperber, Rabbi A. Weiss and Rabbis Tucker/Rosenberg who each represent points in the continuum of halachic responses to permit that which can be permitted).

  46. The fuller quotation from Rabbi Brill’s 2005 Edah paper is:

    “R. Lichtenstein’s essays reflect the shift from Modern Orthodoxy to Centrist Orthodoxy that has occurred over the last thirty years. This transformation involved the transfer of authority to roshei yeshivah from pulpit rabbis, the adoption of a pan-halakhic approach to Judaism, an effacing of a self-conscious need to deal with modernity, an increased emphasis on Torah study, especially in the fashionable conceptual manner, and a shifting of the focus of Judaism to the life of a yeshiva student. As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah. These changes from Modern Orthodoxy to Centrist Orthodoxy deserve their own separate study. However I must state categorically at the outset that it is not a question of a change from left to right or from acculturated to sectarian. Each period and group of thinkers develops its own centripetal and centrifugal forces.”

    If there was a followup “separate study” I would be indebted for the reference.

  47. “How much has it grown in Israel?-Compare the percentage of members who belong to religious parties in the first Knesset to the present Knesset”

    I’m orthodox and I vote Likud, so counting the seats of Charedi members in Knesset is pointless”

    There have always been Orthodox Jews who have voted for other parties. I’m comparing apples with apples.

  48. I see but one way forward, and that is to address the reality of the diversity of religious desires. The only way to do that is with competition.

    You see, in any given population religious demand is fairly predictable. It tends to range over a bell shaped curve with some some people wanting a whole lot of religion in their lives and some people wanting little if any. The majority in the middle want something in between.

    Orthodoxy can cater to this.

    But its various sub sections need to stop acting like little monopolies. You see, if you’re in a very insular community and your community’s standards and beliefs are presented as the only acceptable form of Judaism, there will be a defection rate that is greater than need be.

    You see, there’s no competition. Or the only perceived competition is between the secular society and the particular brand of orthodoxy they have been given.

    However, if it were easier for various orthodox communities to compete with one another for adherents, and if there was less pressure to stay within one’s own subset of orthodoxy rather than defect to a different strain, I believe the OTD rate would decline somewhat.

    Rodney Stark discusses the market theory of religion. I believe that in religion, as well as in economics, free markets will give superior results.

  49. How many people went to mivke in Boston (or NY) today and how many in the 40’s?
    what percentage of members of Orthodox synagogues were shomer shabbos?

    you get the idea..

  50. Ira

    >Also I grew up in a black hat community, sure there are kids that are no religious today, but of all of the people I knew, and grew up with, its more like 1-2%, not 17%. And I knew allot of people from allot of different walks of life.

    Are you really up to speed on the latest doings of all the people you knew growing up? I find that unlikely. Even having tracked someone down 5 years ago won’t necessarily tell you what you think you know.

  51. “Was Orthodoxy really considered dying 50 years ago?”

    this was the conventional academic wisdom. e.g., see the classic study “conservative judaism” by sociologist marshall sklare”
    To get a fair balance of viewpoints one must read Charles Liebman’s”Orthodoxy in Jewish Life” from the 1965 American Jewish Year Book-by then already “It is hoped that the reader will find here some appreciation of the vitality of American Orthodoxy. Earlier predictions of the demise of Orthodox Judaism in the United States have been premature, to say the least. Orthodoxy is on the upsurge. Its inner core is growing in numbers and financial strength. It is experiencing a greater sense of confidence and
    purpose, but its ultimate direction and form are still undetermined.”
    “Thus there is an estimated total of 205,640 men afEliated with the
    1,603 known Orthodox synagogues in the United States.”
    In 1965-are there really more men affiliated today?

    Note of course, that at least in 1955 besides the OU and YI one had the Yeshiva University Synagogue Council.

  52. “Moshe Shoshan on January 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm
    How many people went to mivke in Boston (or NY) today and how many in the 40′s?what percentage of members of Orthodox synagogues were shomer shabbos?”

    Obviously even decades later the percentage who went to Mikve was not high to put it mildly. A personal story which since it is a few decades ago will illustrate how even much later mikve use was rare.
    During the time of Peoples Express-since then who would spend the money to fly a couple of hundred miles to Boston-my wife and I were flying to Boston one evening,it was a night that she had to go the mikve, so my wife telephones the only mikve in Boston-which includes for this purpose Newton, Brookline etc-I believe Sharon had amikve but that is half way to Providence. They tell her that they have to know in advance-not because if they are open they demand an appointment but rather if they are not expecting anybody they don’t bother to open the mikve. We are talking a weekday-and we are not discussing the 1940s. Sadly, shmiras hamitzvot outside of the Yeshiva world may not be as large as expected.

  53. Jerry wrote in part:

    “From where I’m sitting, it seems to me that the importance of smaller-scale, local community leadership is on the rise. Maybe it’s just the zeitgeist, or what have you, but I think there is a sense that (rightly or wrongly) I and others share that large, unwieldy institutions have not recently served our society well (both in a Jewish sense and a larger, secular sense). Combined with the growing availability of textual resources (sometimes even with good translation) to individual Jews, and increasing familiarity with their contents, this might lead to the decreased ability of large institutions to set communal policies. YU may be an exception to this (because it’s still useful as a yeshiva and university), but when I imagine Orthodoxy in, say, 30 years, I don’t really see much of a role for organizations like OU or Young Israel, etc”

    When one thinks about Kashrus, Synagogue services and kiruv/chizuk in the US on a long term basis outside any major O community, I would challenge the notion that the need for OU or community kollelim would decrease in the the next 20 to 30 years.

  54. Mycroft-when relatives of ours moved to a certain MO community in the late 1980s or early 1990s, which had a day school, but no mikveh, which they became very involved in the building, when they asked their friends about the location of the nearest mikveh, the responses that they received made them wonder what planet they had moved to, as opposed to which community.

  55. Mycroft wrote:

    “Proof-observation-notice how kiruv organizations always highlight the Physician, Wall Street lawyer, that become frum. Show me an example of where a kiruv organization showed pictures of a BT who was a sanitation worker, Starbucks employee etc”

    Take a look at NCSY’s alumni. You would be surprised at the wide range of occupations of its alumni.

  56. Mycroft wrote :

    “Note of course, that at least in 1955 besides the OU and YI one had the Yeshiva University Synagogue Council.”

    Just curious-how many of the members of the YU Synagogue Council had either separate seating or a mechitzah in 1955 and how many of its members’ children went on to attend either YU or SCW at any point in the 1950s? Any information at your fingertips other than R V Geller’s recollections?

  57. The discussion about then/now reminded me of this passage I recently read in the late David Rudavsky’s 1979 Berhman edition of “Modern Jewish Religious Movements”:

    “It is simpler to explain the religious outlooks of the Orthodox Yeshivot than of sections of the Orthodox constituency. Membership in a traditional synagogue is not necessarily conclusive evidence of Orthodox leanings, for there are many instances of non-observant Jews joining or continuing their membership in Orthodox synagogues for other reasons. There are Orthodox congregations in which few except the rabbi adhere to the rigid requirements of Orthodox practice, though the official stamp, tenor, policy and affiliation of the group is traditionalist. Some join these congregations as a matter of sentiment, because their parents have been members or founders. This is particularly true in the smaller communities, where the individuals not infrequently retain an inactive association with an Orthodox synagogue and a more active affiliation with a liberal congregation at the same time”.

    Some thoughts:

    1. As synagogue membership has trended down, this impacts all the denominational affiliation percentages (as seen in the Brandeis study) including Orthodox.

    2. The old NJPS Orthodox share of 10% is almost certainly polluted with Orthodox-affiliated, but not observant Jews.

    3. On the other hand, there has been a huge increase in serious Jewish education since 1979; and adult women were finally enabled to learn Talmud institutionally. What is the correlation between Jewish learning, halachic observance and denominational affiliation?

    4. The huge increase in people identifying as “Just Jews” are the most interesting data in the Brandeis study and I would love to see a deeper level of data analysis to better understand the challenges and opportunities for halachic Judaism (in its broadest form).

  58. “When one thinks about Kashrus, Synagogue services and kiruv/chizuk in the US on a long term basis outside any major O community, I would challenge the notion that the need for OU or community kollelim would decrease in the next 20 to 30 years.”

    When one thinks of the endemic issue of O Jews caught committing fraud and even worse, or the anecdotal evidence of an increase in young Jews who go from O to OTD, I would challenge the notion that the O community is focusing on being truly shomer mitzvot.

  59. Just re: Israel, I’ve heard from a few reliable sources (and then confirmed with others) that over half the Knesset is fully observant. They may not show it (e.g., you wouldn’t really know to look at him that Avigdor Lieberman keeps Taryag Mitzvot), but it’s true, and food for thought.

  60. So, using Centrist standards, their wives cover the hair and go to the mikve regularly, they and their familie’s are shomer negiah and yichud, etc.???

  61. IH wrote:

    “When one thinks of the endemic issue of O Jews caught committing fraud and even worse, or the anecdotal evidence of an increase in young Jews who go from O to OTD, I would challenge the notion that the O community is focusing on being truly shomer mitzvot”

    Let’s take one issue at a time. I would hesitate to say that there is an “endemic issue” of O Jews caught committing fraud as opposed to claiming that any minority group’s members predominantly committ acts of violent crime, in many instances against fellow members of their own minority group. I would agree that CM, as opposed to any other area of Halacha, is simply not on the agenda, except for Lomdishe Chakiras based on a few blatt in Seder Nezikin, either in many yeshivos or via DY learned B
    Iyun. The bottom line is that violations of CM knows no hashkafic boundaries and that one can defendants who have either been convicted or pled guilty of the same from any community in any Federal penitentiary that deals with white criminal crime.

    As far as OTD is concerned, after all the studies and anecdotal evidence, I think that the bottom line remains the triage of the expectations and conduct of the family, educational establishment and community at play-regardless of hashkafic considerations.

  62. “halachic Judaism (in its broadest form).”

    What does this mean?

    Re: Knesset

    In 1949, there were 16 openly religious members of parliament (part of the United Religious Front). Even if we ‘grandfather in’ the Sefardic party and the Teimani party (as traditionals), that still leaves only 21 overall. There were no (as far as I know) religious MKs in the other parties.

    In 2009 (the present Knesset), in religious parties alone, Shas (11) Yehadut Hatorah (5) Habayit Hayehudi (3) Ihud Leumi (2 out of 4) = 21 MKs. That’s not including religious MKs in other parties such as Otniel Shneller (Kadima), Tzippi Hotoveli (Likud) &c. That’s without ‘grandfathering’ the traditionalists.

  63. “So, using Centrist standards, their wives cover the hair and go to the mikve regularly, they and their familie’s are shomer negiah and yichud, etc.???”

    IH,

    Let me reverse the question – what are the standards you would insist on?

  64. I would second Aiwac’s query to IH and a further element-how about being Shomer Shabbos ?

  65. Steve: “When one thinks about Kashrus, Synagogue services and kiruv/chizuk in the US on a long term basis outside any major O community, I would challenge the notion that the need for OU or community kollelim would decrease in the the next 20 to 30 years.”

    That’s exactly my point! In fact, I’d say that those things are rising in importance to the community…but at the same time the reputations of large, awkwardly complex institutions are in decline. So I see these things being operated on much smaller, localized scales.

    And as I said, as individual communities gain more members with better Torah educations, this becomes much easier to accomplish.

    I’m not opining on whether this is a good or bad thing. This is just where I see our community heading.

  66. “what are the standards you would insist on?”

    Aiwac, Steve: I am not trying to duck your question, but standards for what?

    In general, I think each adult halachic Jew should strive to live his life as he/she earnestly interprets halacha, getting guidance when he/she desires it. I do not believe in the gedolim da’as Torah philosophy: no one has a monopoly on interpreting halacha. And I do not believe in “tzisis checking” for adults. God will judge us for sins bein adam la’makom; it is our job to manage sins bein adam le’chavero.

    BTW, it’s funny that you tend to avoid serious engagement and focused on the flippant response I made to a hard-to-believe “I heard” comment.

    The point I was making was that the claim made by Nachum that “I’ve heard from a few reliable sources (and then confirmed with others) that over half the Knesset is fully observant.” is even more incredible if you applied the Centrist litmus test mitzvot to the “tzisis checking” test.

  67. I would also add that, personally, I am philophically opposed to chumras as people quickly mistake them for halacha (and then fall back on the formulaic minhag yisrael k’din who to revert to normality.

  68. Sorry: (and then fall back on the formulaic minhag yisrael k’din hu to to avoid reverting back to normality).

  69. “In general, I think each adult halachic Jew should strive to live his life as he/she earnestly interprets halacha, getting guidance when he/she desires it. I do not believe in the gedolim da’as Torah philosophy: no one has a monopoly on interpreting halacha. And I do not believe in “tzisis checking” for adults. God will judge us for sins bein adam la’makom; it is our job to manage sins bein adam le’chavero.”

    IH,

    I think we’re talking on two different planes, here. Plane number one is social policy (when and how to exclude). Here I happen to be on your side; I am against tzitzit checking, and I would welcome anyone who wishes to join in the prayer (or activities). I heartily endorse the “open-door” policies of Tzohar tefilot, for instance.

    Plane number two has to do with halacha. I agree that no-one has an absolute monopoly on halacha. In fact, I happen to fully support R. Cardozo’s call for more autonomy. However, with autonomy comes grave responsibility, including taking the chance that you may make serious mistakes (including ones which involve Karet, Mitat Bet Din &c)- for which you will have to answer come Judgement time.

    Like it or not, even the most liberal interpretation of halacha is going to run into boundaries and ground rules which cannot be violated. I would not condemn those who cross it for whatever reason – this is a matter between them and God. However, I draw the line at wholesale de jure endorsement of “subjective interpretation”, no matter how earnest.

    People have the right to try as much as they can to follow halacha autonomously – however, there are wrong answers and decisions, and the fact that they were made earnestly doesn’t make them any less wrong. People who go the autonomous route must be aware of this when they do so. Halacha is not “whatever I want it to be”.

  70. aiwac. I agree. And the struggle becomes where to draw the line. Reasonable people may disagree on that, but when one won’t even listen (e.g. Rabbi Tucker being disinvited from YU) based on some unwritten set of criteria that no one seems able to articulate even after the fact, there is a problem.

  71. IH wrote in part:

    “In general, I think each adult halachic Jew should strive to live his life as he/she earnestly interprets halacha, getting guidance when he/she desires it. I do not believe in the gedolim da’as Torah philosophy: no one has a monopoly on interpreting halacha. And I do not believe in “tzisis checking” for adults. God will judge us for sins bein adam la’makom; it is our job to manage sins bein adam le’chavero.”

    I think that the above is illustrative of a DIY type of philosophy that denies the concept of a hierarchy of knowledge within Halacha and as applied from the borrowed concept and context of a secular political /legal system is anarchistic, to say the least.

    Would you refrain from paying taxes or observing a criminal code section that prohibits either the use of drugs or anti social conduct merely because you are an adult engaging in conduct with which you expect a reasonable amount of privacy?

    “Earnest interpretation” without the constant guidance of a rav or rebbe or thinking what would my rebbe say in this particular instance, is a DIY form of elevating the importance of the individual over his or her role as a member of the Jewish People. It is elevation of the subjective or what inspires or makes sense to me over compliance with the TSBP as understood by our Baalei Mesorah, whether in Chayvei Krisus, Lavin, Arayos. Issurei DRabbanon and long established Chazakos and Minhagim of Klal Yisrael.

    I think Tzitis checking is necessary for adults, even more so than adolescents, simply because all of us tend to rationalize those elements of our conduct that are halachically and hashkafically problematic and worse. We all tend to forget that we are all Karov Eztel Atzmo.

  72. Steve, please don’t be patronizing. You are representing the Centrist philosophy and I was raised in the more inclusive Modern Orthodoxy that preceded it. Rabbi Brill summarized the change far more eloquently than I could and I refer you back to the quote (and his whole article).

  73. OH-even R D CS recognized that what is perceived as a “chumra” may very well be required adherence MeIkar HaDin. I think that the phrase Minhag Yisrael Kdin is accurate, but far more so in Dinei Mamonos than in matters revolving around Heter VIssur. In any event, Rabbbeinu Tam , as quoted by the Baalei Tosfos in the first Perek, in Gittin points out that “Osiyos Minhag Ghenom”.

  74. Steve,

    1) What on earth is DIY?

    2) Why is a decision based on the sources of our halachic authorities and based on their principles “anarchistic”? Just because it doesn’t have a “Rabbi stamp”? There are plenty of “Jews who follow Rabbis” who play fast and loose with their religious commitments, I don’t see why this would be riskier.

    3) Who are our “our Baalei Mesorah”? Surely the traditional Jews that maintained halachic observance throughout the ages are part of this?

    4)
    “I think Tzitis checking is necessary for adults, even more so than adolescents, simply because all of us tend to rationalize those elements of our conduct that are halachically and hashkafically problematic and worse. We all tend to forget that we are all Karov Eztel Atzmo.”

    I think this is a disaster of an idea – one need only look at the Inquisition-style persecution that goes on in the Charedi community by self-styled defenders of the faith (who are generally kana’im or askanim and not Rabbis). Of course, they are the ones who, often arbitrarily decide what’s in and what’s out.

  75. Steve – you can be as machmir as you wish for yourself. But, don’t judge others on the basis of the chumra you have taken upon yourself.

  76. IH,

    I consider myself Centrist. I think Steve belongs more properly in what’s known as RWMO.

  77. IH-I read R Brill’s article. The MO that you champion may be inclusive, but a hashkafa that is a mile wide and an inch deep. The MO that you described, IMO, lacked the appreciation for the simple fact that knowing sweating the precise details of any area of Halacha , especially in our scientifically and technologically driven and oriented era, as opposed to either always being meikil or machmir, is the key to its observance.

    Such a philosophy, despite all of its noble intentions, could not help but view serious Talmud Torah in a view whereby the same suffered with secular and material advancements. That was the corrective that was applied by RYBS and all of his talmidim, who all appreciate Bnei Torah who work hard in their careers, but who are Kovea Itim LaTorah, as opposed to viewing anyone who is not in a kollel as deserving of nebuch-like pity.

    Claiming that we can observe Mitzvos in the same manner as the past and that which was always prohibited or permitted remains so despite ample evidence that an opposite conclusion may be warranted, is the ultimate means of freezing TSBP and placing it in an intellectual museum, to be only explored occassionally and without considering its eternally dynamic connection with the Jewish People as transmitted by the Baale Mesorah as the source of the covenant between HaShem and the Jewish People.

  78. Lawrence Kaplan

    DIY= Do it yourself.

  79. We’re drifting from the topic so some course correction:

    Let’s say we assume the maximal figure of 4.2 million Jews over the age of 18 who identify by religion.

    And let’s assume the maximal figure of 10% who identify as Orthodox.

    So, we’re talking about 420,000 adult Orthodox Jews.

    Of that, there’s a spectrum from Open Orthodoxy to Charedi/Chassidic. That’s already a pretty small number.

    Are there any metrics that can be used to identify the subset of that which identify with an Orthodox organization; or statistics on Orthodox synagogue membership?

  80. Steve – I understand your point of view, much as I profoundly disagree with it. You will not convince me; and I will not convince you. So, let’s keep the discussion focused on areas where we can work together.

  81. AIWAC asked and commented:
    ) What on earth is DIY?

    2) Why is a decision based on the sources of our halachic authorities and based on their principles “anarchistic”? Just because it doesn’t have a “Rabbi stamp”? There are plenty of “Jews who follow Rabbis” who play fast and loose with their religious commitments, I don’t see why this would be riskier.

    3) Who are our “our Baalei Mesorah”? Surely the traditional Jews that maintained halachic observance throughout the ages are part of this?

    4)“I think Tzitis checking is necessary for adults, even more so than adolescents, simply because all of us tend to rationalize those elements of our conduct that are halachically and hashkafically problematic and worse. We all tend to forget that we are all Karov Eztel Atzmo.”

    I think this is a disaster of an idea – one need only look at the Inquisition-style persecution that goes on in the Charedi community by self-styled defenders of the faith (who are generally kana’im or askanim and not Rabbis). Of course, they are the ones who, often arbitrarily decide what’s in and what’s out

    1) DIY=Do it yourself. See the Meshech Chachmah in Parshas Vayekhel and RYBS’s lectures on Korach and Gerus for the rejection of DIY Judaism after Matan Torah in the wake of the Maaaseh HaEgel and an analysis and critique of the same.

    2)Unless you are entitled to an opinion as a Chacham Shegiyah LHoraah, your sole and enormous privilege and right is to learn as much and as deeply as possible and then to find yourself a rav to eliminate doubts. The average MO and Charedi person simply lacks the intellectual firepower to do so.

    3)The Baalei Mesorah are the Talmidei Chachamim who are recognized as the address for such isssues.

    4)MO need not engage in any witch hunts. Rather, it should recognize that at times, a corrective from an excess in favor of modernity is needed, especially where modernity cannot be squared or rationalized with the demands of the Halacha. In a very profound sense, it is recognizing that despite one’s ability to function in the modern world, the committment to Torah , Halacha and Mesorah remains transcendent. In that vein, it requires a recognition that we have far more in common with Charedim than the heterodox world when it comes to how we view Halacha, Torah and Mitzvos, except for what RYBS defined as Klapei chutz.

  82. aiwac — when you say you consider yourself Centrist, does that mean (per R. Brill’s definition): “a pan-halakhic approach to Judaism, an effacing of a self-conscious need to deal with modernity, an increased emphasis on Torah study, especially in the fashionable conceptual manner, and a shifting of the focus of Judaism to the life of a yeshiva student. As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah.”

    While labels are always somewhat arbitrary, I think thats ome of the underlying tension in the LW vs RW camps is due to using the same words to mean different things. And a subset of the hidden doctrinal issues are very material to the future of “Orthodoxy”.

  83. “Are there any metrics that can be used to identify the subset of that which identify with an Orthodox organization; or statistics on Orthodox synagogue membership?”

    I think you could probably find good estimates for the highly organized sections (chasidim, for instance). The question, of course, whether such information would be volunteered and be cross-checked.

    I would ask whether “membership in a shul” is a good enough barometer. What about those who attend Orthodox shuls but do not identify themselves as such (instead traditional, culturally Jewish &c).

    Maybe a better thing to do, rather than check “identification” would be a questionaire on observance/hashkafot (personal) cross-checked with shul attendance/community (social). The results might be interesting.

  84. IH wrote:

    “Steve – you can be as machmir as you wish for yourself. But, don’t judge others on the basis of the chumra you have taken upon yourself”

    Like it or not, the role of Chumros can be found in the Talmud in many different instances ranging from Brachos to Rosh HaShanah to Nidah. In a similar vein, it is axiomatic that Safek D”Oraisa LChumrah. OTOH, viewing what is MeIkar HaDin as a chumra, does not necessarily add to how one properly observes any Mitzvah.

  85. IH,

    No, this is my definition:

    http://aiwac.blogspot.com/2009/11/musings-of-principled-centrist.html

    Call it the “baalebatish” hashkafa if you will. It has served me well.

  86. “Maybe a better thing to do, rather than check “identification” would be a questionnaire on observance/hashkafot (personal) cross-checked with shul attendance/community (social). The results might be interesting.”

    Agreed. But, my sense is that all the people in the field are working to a 20th century denominational worldview because that is their frame of reference (and their perceived constituency). My own interest is in understanding the independent/post-denominational demographic trends as that will, in my view, be a major factor in the future of Orthodoxy.

  87. “No, this is my definition”

    Love it, aiwac! But the discussion has to be based on some normalized labels. Sounds old-style MO to me.

    Professor Kaplan — are you aware of any normalized labels with clear definitions for the segmentation of “Orthodoxy” ideally with demographics?

  88. In the future, will there be mp3s of the convention made available, for those of us who couldn’t attend?

  89. Gil Scott Heron

    The convention will not be mp3ized.

  90. “I would hesitate to say that there is an “endemic issue” of O Jews caught committing fraud as”
    The issue is NOT “caught committing fraud” but committing fraud.

    “We all tend to forget that we are all Karov Eztel Atzmo”

    Sadly, Rabbonim, Batei Din and RY at times have forgotten that at times.

    “Just curious-how many of the members of the YU Synagogue Council had either separate seating or a mechitzah in 1955 and how many of its members’ children went on to attend either YU or SCW at any point in the 1950s? ”

    I don’t have data-but although I was around in 1955 I was not into those issues at the time-but since I certainly recall a few years later the answer to the schul that I attended was yes -how many in mid 50s I don’t know-but certainly quite a few to YU/SCW. If YU most went to JSP-the vast majority of those are still religious close to half a century later.

  91. “when relatives of ours moved to a certain MO community in the late 1980s or early 1990s, which had a day school, but no mikveh, which they became very involved in the building, when they asked their friends about the location of the nearest mikveh, the responses that they received made them wonder what planet they had moved to, as opposed to which community”

    Frankly in North America there are two different types of MO communities those that essentially all go to the mikveh and those that very few go to the mikveh.Paradoxically, often the communities where the MO go to the Mikveh are onesthat pseudo chareidi move into and then attack the yiddishkeit of those who are not chareidi but go to the mikvah.

  92. “There have always been Orthodox Jews who have voted for other parties. I’m comparing apples with apples.”

    Yes, with the decline and demise of mafdal as a unifying force in the d”l community, I think it is much more common now for religious people to vote for sucular parties. I suspect this is true in the chareidi world as well.

  93. “The convention will not be mp3ized.”

    In case you needed proof for why the OU is on the road to irrelevance…

  94. “In that vein, it requires a recognition that we have far more in common with Charedim than the heterodox world when it comes to how we view Halacha, Torah and Mitzvos,”

    Of course, for starters all Orthodox accept Halacha as binding.

  95. “And a subset of the hidden doctrinal issues are very material to the future of “Orthodoxy”.”
    Which “hidden doctrinal issues “

  96. “Yes, with the decline and demise of mafdal as a unifying force in the d”l community”

    Mafdal never got substantially all of d’l votes.

  97. I think Rabbi Brill’s article truly gets to the heart of the matter. “And a shifting of the focus of Judaism to the life of a yeshiva student”.

    Ultimately this is the outcome of a postwar strategy that suggested that the great Torah learning centers had been destroyed and needed to be rebuilt. It probably made some sense at the time, but at this time it is counterproductive to reduce Judaism to a monastic concept. Judaism has always rejected such a movement in the past but now the entire leadership comes from that world. They view that world as the only world and feel no need to make compromise with the majority of people who need to work for a living and provide for the community. It is an extremely elitist approach that will not be able to continue forever because it depended on the economic boom that made money free and easy. In other words, it is built on sand and lies.

  98. “Which “hidden doctrinal issues“

    The ones I have only seen called out in Rabbi Brill’s article: “a pan-halakhic approach to Judaism, an effacing of a self-conscious need to deal with modernity, an increased emphasis on Torah study, especially in the fashionable conceptual manner, and a shifting of the focus of Judaism to the life of a yeshiva student. As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah.”

    As per my previous request, I am keen to read any followup of his that more directly explores “These changes [over the past 35 years] from Modern Orthodoxy to Centrist Orthodoxy deserve their own separate study.”

  99. Gil Scott Heron & Skeptic: The recordings should be online in about a week.

  100. The ones I have only seen called out in Rabbi Brill’s article: “a pan-halakhic approach to Judaism, an effacing of a self-conscious need to deal with modernity, an increased emphasis on Torah study, especially in the fashionable conceptual manner, and a shifting of the focus of Judaism to the life of a yeshiva student. As an ideology, Centrist Orthodoxy is a clearly defined separate philosophy from Modern Orthodoxy, with clear lines of demarcation delineating who is in the mesorah.”

    IH,

    Forgive my ignorance, but didn’t old-fashioned MO also have clear lines of demarcation (at least for its own)? It sounds to me like the difference is more where the line is drawn (and whether you enforce it) rather than the existence of boundaries.

    In any event, I really do think it would be better to see how all this plays out in the real world – not just with people in yeshiva but also graduates. I’m reminded of Hanan Moses’ big study of RZ Orthodoxy, which in addition to finding out the Chardal and LW elements, discovered a large “bourgeois Dati component” that doesn’t fit either paradigm. Personally I’d like to see more discussion of the “baalei batim” and not just the ideologues who sit all day writing pamphlets and commenting on blogs (wait a minute…). 🙂

  101. “But its various sub sections need to stop acting like little monopolies. You see, if you’re in a very insular community and your community’s standards and beliefs are presented as the only acceptable form of Judaism, there will be a defection rate that is greater than need be.”

    I’m not sure that is true. What is the defection rate in New Square? Tosh? Kiryas Yoel? Zichron Meir? I would say pretty darn low. I’m not making a value judgement, just a factual observation. It’s interesting how for the MO this mikva/no mikva thing was a discussion until relatviely recently. How did the families of those who make up the aforementioned communities manage to maintain a situation where even the slightest deviation from communal norms was out of the question? I’m sure a resident of Tosh would laugh at you if you ask him whether taharas hamishpacha observance was ever an issue in her community. Did these people simply avoid the whole process of antithesis and synthesis that happened to the rest of American orthodoxy?

  102. Should be ‘I’m sure a resident of Tosh would laugh at you if you ask him whether taharas hamishpacha observance was ever an issue in his community.’

  103. “I’m not sure that is true. What is the defection rate in New Square? Tosh? Kiryas Yoel? Zichron Meir?”

    This is not clear. There is a higher barrier to defection in Charedi/Chassidic communities, because defecting means leaving everything — family and friends — behind. It is also difficult to gather credible data as a result, but the empirical data, as I understand it, shows this is a real phenomenon.

    I suspect, though, there is a much higher degree of cognitive defection in these communities than is admitted: i.e. people who go through the motions, but do not believe in what they are doing.

  104. Maybe. I imagine that there are very, very few couples in Tosh who do not keep taharas hamishpacha properly. My impression is that these communities are so closed that it takes a few decades of intellectual effort for most people to even think that the rebbe may be wrong about something – if there is dissolusion I don’t think it manifests itself in breaking away from shabbos/taharas hamishpacha/kashrus etc. And there is certainly little impact on the next generation if this does happen – they all end up in the same all-encompassing educational framework.
    I don’t think this will last forever. Even if you do the math on the birthrates you realise it won’t continue (otherwise you end up with around 15 billion charedim in 200 years time.

  105. >I’m sure a resident of Tosh would laugh at you if you ask him whether taharas hamishpacha observance was ever an issue in her community.

    They shouldn’t be so myopic. In the begining of Lev Ha-ivri there is a story brought down from the Krakow of the Rema’s time where a certain takkana enabled women to avoid going to the mikva. Not long ago in Lakewood they stopped taking cash, and now only accept check or credit card for the same reason. I’m sure Tosh is very frum, but I’m sure the Rema’s Krakow was too.

  106. >Should be ‘I’m sure a resident of Tosh would laugh at you if you ask him whether taharas hamishpacha observance was ever an issue in his community.’

    Put it another way, I’m sure he would laugh – but would she? You may hear another story.

  107. I’m sure the Rema’s krakow was a pre-modern traditional community in which observance was the derech hachaim, as opposed to the self-consciously reactionary and extremely ideological ultra-orthodox communes of today; the two are very different.

  108. “Like it or not, the role of Chumros can be found in the Talmud in many different instances ranging from Brachos to Rosh HaShanah to Nidah. In a similar vein, it is axiomatic that Safek D”Oraisa LChumrah”
    aGREED-BUT OF COURSE, safek derabannan lekulah-sfek sfekah etc.

  109. lawrence kaplan

    My collegue Professor Carlos Fraenkal, when in NYC, taught Spinoza to sevral extremely right wing –in appearance at least– hasidim. But, as IH says, while they were still part of their communities, they had “cognitively disassociated.” Some were reconciled to this, others bitter about it.

  110. Pinny,
    Can you be a bit clearer about what was going on in Krakow and Lakewood? I can’t make heads or tails of your comment.

  111. Thanks, Gil. I know they used to sell tapes of the conventions, I’ve bought them in the past, so it seemed a reasonable supposition that since the OU has distributed/sold MP3s in the past (from the Ask-OU conferences), they might do so for the latest conference as well.

  112. “The convention will not be mp3ized.”

    And the revolution will not be televised.

  113. I don’t know whether the convention will be converted into MP3 format but it will be made available online in audio and/or video.

  114. The notion that all Charedim are resolutely opposed to entering the work place, at least in the US, is an urban myth.Anyone who has at least a working familiarity with the Charedi world in the US can testify to the fact that many Charedim work and that there are many Kolleleit who either enter the marketplace or seek high level training to enter a profession once they realize that they should be working and learning , as opposed to learning 24/7 indeinitely. If one travels to the Catskills in the summer, you will see summer homes and money being spent in Woodbury Commons, Staples and Walmart that can be based on someone earning a dollar, as opposed to a meager kollel stipend. If you ever read the Yated, you will see articles about networking and commuting kollelim, etc as well as other articles that presume that the subjects of the article either work or are in the process of gaining a secular education. Anyone familiar with Touro College can testify that its women’s programs in Flatbush have no shortage of carpools from Lakewood and that it offers training to help Charedim enter the workplace. Like it or not, the war over secular education for the purpose of earning a living, as opposed to the more problematic notion of secular education for its own sake, is really over in the Charedi world. I would venture to state that such fields as some branches of medicine which pose no conflict with Shabbos, pyschology and social work, to name a few professions, have increased numbers of Charedi men and women. I would agree that it is unfortunate that we now have a phenomenon that some who leave the world of the Beis Medrash, while working and learning in their spare time, either feel or are made to feel as if they are religiously inadequate-which none of my RY ever conveyed when we graduated YU and entered the professions. Their view is that of RYBS, who appreciated and treasured Baalei Batim who worked hard and were Moser Nefesh to be Kovea Itim LaTorah as much as possible.

  115. There are occasional articles written about the problem of the most religiously dedicated Orthodox Jews moving to Israel. How will this impact the statistics?

  116. The notion that 17% of the Charedi world is dropping out is utter nonsense. Certainly there is a percentage of kids who do, but it is nowhere near 17%. Are some Charedim simply going through the motions? Darn right. But that’s a fact of life and not a sign of dropping out.

  117. Where did you get the “17% of the Charedi world is dropping out” statistic? I don’t recall seeing that…

  118. To me, one of the puzzling questions about the Orthodox population concerns the raw numbers, rather than the percentages. The Orthodox Jewish population in the 1971 National Jewish Population survey was 8.9%, which I calculated out at 482,000 people, but I saw the number 600,000 elsewhere. The 1990 survey has the Orthodox populations at 6.1%, which looked to me like a drop in absolute numbers. The 2001-2 survey had a rate of 13%, but because of a declining overall population, I estimated this to come out as 529,000.

    Maybe someone else can provide more solid numbers, but even if mine are off, we still are not seeing the growth one would expect from an Orthodox community where many families have many children?!

    I do not imagine Aliyah had a huge impact. Is the drop-out rate higher than we thought? Other explanations? Or, are these numbers that far off? Was the 1971 number an overestimate? What would we expect the Orthodox population to be after 30 or 40 years, starting from the 1971 number and using the illustrations for “will your grandchildren be Jewish” exercises?

  119. Alan Krinsky on January 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm
    “To me, one of the puzzling questions about the Orthodox population concerns the raw numbers, rather than the percentages….”

    I think there are two main factors. First, earlier estimates of the “Orthodox” population in the US often included many who virtually nobody today would term Orthodox–people who were “inertially” or vestigially Orthodox, who never joined a Conservative or Reform temple, who may have kept some level of kashrut, lit candles, etc, but were not really Shomer Shabbat (e.g., “the shul I don’t go to is Orthodox”). Today, we would not so readily class them as within the Orthodox community. Many of these have now died off, reducing the earlier, inflated numbers. Then, too, while the Orthodox birthrate is rising, the overall Jewish population in the US is significantly contracting, so it’s easier for Orthodoxy to occupy a growing slice without truly massive raw numbers. Finally, I’m not at all sure we actually have such precise demographic data on the actual size of the Jewish community.

  120. I hate to argue with a self-identified sociologist; but:

    a) AFAIK the numbers are all based on self-identification, so “we would not so readily class them” is moot.

    b) The latest study shows that (self-identifying) Jewish population is growing on par with the general US demographic.

    See: http://tinyurl.com/38lfjto

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