Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A few days ago, one of Israel's dynamic young Admorim convened a small meeting. (An aside: has anyone noticed that many of those who can be called "dynamic young Admorim" are from modern backgrounds? Some examples: the son of Sternberg the lawyer, the son of Brayer the psychologist and the son of Weinberg the ministry official. [Can anyone name them?])

Anyway, it was a group of about a dozen people representing charedim and chilonim (including one or two emeritus members of each). The participants included well-known figures from the Eida Chareidis, editors of major newspapers, etc. The purpose was to flesh out a project of joint interest to both groups. It began benignly enough with the usual bromides and the usual airing of grievances. Things got interesting when a very prominent lawyer (VPL), a former Ponovizher with ongoing social ties to that world (he was on the Haredi "side" of the table), was asked to state his views on the matter at hand.

VPL launched into one of the most remarkable soliloquies I've ever heard. This is the gist of what he said:
1. There is no point in dialogue unless it is based on complete honesty. Both charedim and chilonim are fundamentally dishonest with themselves and, consequently, with each other.
2. Charedim have an inflated view of their own power due to the ability of Shas to project Charedi power that is actually nothing but a short-lived optical illusion.
3. The fact that so few people in the charedi world earn income, a relatively recent phenomenon, has led to debilitating poverty. Worse than that, it has led to an unprecedented level of dependency on the government, which is the exact antithesis of ostensible charedi aims.
4. The charedi world, and especially its leading lights, used to be exposed to a broad range of experiences and people, but now lives in a bubble. As a result, it is completely devoid of any intellectual creativity. Not a single book on machshava has come out of the charedi world in the last 50 years that has any value at all.
5. The few people in the charedi world who actually have something interesting to say are scared to death to say it because the charedi world is actually run by thugs who intimidate everyone, including leading rabbonim.
6. Chiloni Israelis once claimed to be developing a secular Jewish culture but this claim is no longer even slightly credible. Secular Israeli culture now consists almost entirely of imitation of the most debased aspects of American culture.

All this was stated with great passion and eloquence. None of the content was especially novel; it was mainly of interest because of the audience in front of which it was said. But, as it turns out, what was most remarkable was the response by one of the leaders of the Eida Charedis. As best I can recall, these were his exact words:

"My job is to defend the honor of my community and to explain to you why everything that VPL just said is false. Unfortunately, I am unable to do that. Every word he said is the sad truth. That's all I have to say."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sternberg-kozhitz w 101 st
weinberg-slonim ?

11:37 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

2 out of 3
if you still remember sternberg from the west side you're an old guy or else you're confusing with steinberg (the brode ruv) who was indeed on 101st (in the space previously occupied by sassov)

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not confused, not SO old-cpl yrs younger than you-was friends with shimshi's sister !

who is weinberg ?

1:01 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Well, then you are actually quite young...

Weinberg is one of the Tolners.

1:11 AM  
Anonymous zalman said...

obviously a post orthodixisher chevreh

2:26 AM  
Anonymous zalman said...

which side of the table were you on, post orthodox?

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: point #2: this projection of hareidi power has continued for almost 30 years. at what point will it be considered an illusion? in fact hareidim get what they want: funding. perhaps they do not get as much as they want, but who does?
re: point #4: this is arguably false. alei shur, by wolbe. then again, he had broad experiences.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous yoeli said...

I know a professor the son of a gerrer chosid. Do you know him?

4:14 AM  
Blogger chardal said...

>alei shur, by wolbe. then again, he had broad experiences.<

This is a mussar Book. Not machshava.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ou are such am haaratzim

4:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what was the chilonim's response to VPL's soliloquy?

ben yissachar

6:34 AM  
Anonymous meta m.k. we all know you said...

mr, you are a self hating chareidi (even though you left hareidism, you still know its right , so to quench your guilt you bash chareidim .We all see that.)
you could be "choker" all you want whats right or wrong however you still feel the knawing feelings in youe hearts of hearts . good luck

8:09 AM  
Anonymous shachar ha'amim said...

while I agree with much of what VPL says and with why you are bringing this to our attention, us RZ and/or MO would do well by admitting that as illusory as Charedi political power is, the situation in the RZ/MO world is much, much worse and we have lots to learn from them
RZ/MO political influence is today at a nadir. There are Rabbis who actually believe and teach their students - that the State is allowed to violate fundamental civil and political rights of the citizenry and that halachically this is OK (something about a king breaking down fences). that political civil disobedience is a non-starter - let alone conscientious objection in a military setting.
Whatever one can say about the "illusory" political power of the Charedi, or Arabs, at least they have created a situation where they are a "protected" minority - the State of Israel (which obviously has NOT brought about the promised political emancipation of the "Jews") will think long and hard before trampling on (what they believe to be) their fundamental rights. The arguments are always about where to draw the line of the circle around those rights - but no one in power in Israel will ever really question the fact that they exist. With RZ on the other hand - they have become the public punching bag of the oligarchy and the proverbial wood shedders and water carriers of the oligarchs - and (many of the prominent rabbinical and political) communal leaders of this community think this is OK b/c they have some historical memory of the day that the IDF was once strong and had victories. The charedim never went up to this avoda zara so in a certain sense they are better off now.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Elli said...

Late to the conversation here: Another dynamic young Admo"r (an Admo"r-without-portfolio, really) is R' Tzvi Meyer Silberberg Shlit"a. His father went to a co-ed day school (Hebrew Academy in Washington, DC).

2:09 PM  

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