When secular Jewish intellectuals find Orthodox Judaism fascinating, we Orthodox Jews in turn find their interest fascinating. Presumably they do not see the truth of the fundamental teachings, but do they recognize the beauty of tradition or merely exhibit curiosity at the remarkably different community? In this case, Franz Kafka’s interest in the Belzer Rebbe’s behavior and treatment is a fascination Misnagdim would not share other than as a curiosity. If anything, this royal treatment would be a subject of scorn.
On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War , pp. 131-132:
Enlightened central European Jews regarded Hasidism with a mixture of horrified repulsion and yet, often in the early twentieth century, fascinated attraction. In the German-speaking lands, most became acquainted with it only indirectly through the medium of the writings of Martin Buber, whose foggy, volkisch romanticism briefly attracted even the future Marxist Georg Lukacs.
An unusually far-reaching case of such attraction was that of the Czech-Jewish writer Jiri Langer, who embraced Hasidism wholeheartedly and for a time lived in Belz at the court of the rebbe. In Marienbad in 1916 Langer introduced his friend Franz Kafka to the Belzer rebbe. Introduced is perhaps the wrong word, since the rebbe was a virtually unapproachable figure, but Kafka was permitted to accompany the rebbe‘s entourage as the great man went for his constitutional in the woods, all the while reciting to himself the Talmud (he too was said to know the entire work by heart). Every now and again, the rebbe paused to chat with ornamental wodden gnomes. Kafka was amused by the almost royal decorum that was enforced in the rebbe‘s presence. He was fascinated by this encounter with Hasidic Judaism and talked and wrote about it extensively. The rebbe reminded Kafka of a sultan in a Gustav Dore illustration of the adventures of Baron Munchhausen.