The Exchange, Part 2

     I received a response from my interlocutor, and reprint it fully with some minor editing. To make it easy on the reader, I have interspersed my comments within his response. As he asked not to be anonymous, I include his final salutation. May there be shalom al Yisrael!       - RSP

 E – I hope all is well with you and yours.   May you see Yiddishe nachas from all of them.

Thank you for your response. I did not write this letter to you b’mikreh. To the contrary, I heard about your speech and was shocked. No question that we have very bad PR, and I’m also not claiming that our community is perfect – and thus I can be דן לכף זכות — but there are aspects of your response that are so misleading and false and based more in prejudice than in fact or understanding that I felt a need to respond.

The attached document responds in depth to your points. Don’t be offended but we have to know how to respond to an אפקורוס כגון מאן אמר ר”י כגון הני דאמר מאי אהנו לן רבנן לדידהו קרו לדידהו תנו א”ל אביי האי מגלה פנים בתורה נמי הוא שכתוב אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חוקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי

SP-    I don’t assume that every Haredi is a “rabbanan” in the language of the Gemara. Most are not. I don’t know why you would assume that. And I thinks the problem here transcends PR.

E – Anyone who has had any actual human contact with Hareidim is generally struck by the extent of giving, rather than taking, that characterizes the community. The Har Nof directory has 36 pages of phone numbers and names of gemachs and community services! That’s not to mention, Hatzala, Zaka, Y‎ad Sara, Zichron Menachem, Yad Eliezer among an endless list of large and effective tzedaka organizations that serve the entire Jewish community, frum and chiloni. The endless time and money and energy spent in the world of kiruv rechokim to  bring unaffiliated Jews back to Avinu Sh’b’Shamayim, whether on college campuses, via outreach kollels or baal teshuva seminaries and yeshivas also largely traced to people who until they were in their mid-20s, sat and ingested Torah values and learning in yeshivas and seminaries. Then they spent the rest of their life living it through tzedaka v’chesed rather than chasing money for themselves. The idea that the Haredi world rests on taking rather than giving simply has no correspondence with reality and you should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting otherwise.

SP - The Haredi community has a plethora of chesed organizations. That is very true and speaks to their essential good hearts. But it is often true that the chesed organizations take the place of actual work because they typically lack a secular education that would enable them to join the work force in normative way, especially in Israel. E.g., I often have people come to my door from Israel – heads of “new” chesed organizations – who are simply collecting money for five families, ten families, twenty families, and of course including their own. The chesed is not without its financial benefit. Let us not ignore that.

     Here in America, people do chesed as well and volunteer for organizations. The local Teaneck volunteer ambulance corps is just that – volunteer. We support many of the organizations you mentioned, but you are ignoring the real story. Most chesed organizations provide services – primary or supplemental – and jobs for the organizers. These are jobs also – but jobs that take money out of the economy cannot substitute for jobs that grow the economy. You do not grow an economy with a plethora of chesed organizations. You just re-distribute income from those who work for it to those who don’t. Much more important are organizations that foster employment. Give a man a fish and you’ve given him a meal; teach a man to fish and you’ve given him a livelihood.

    And most of these organizations exist in some form in the non-Haredi communities as well, but they are not as prevalent simply because they usually deal with hardship cases – the sudden poor caused by illness, death, loss of employment or some other tragedy, not the willful poor. When people choose to be poor they encounter a different dynamic entirely. And kiruv is not limited to Haredim, obviously. The fact that there are 36 pages of gemachs in the Har Nof directory is a sign of kindness, but might it not also be a sign of dysfunction? The lack of otherwise gainful employment? And you would certainly be shocked to hear of the abundant charity organizations run by non-Jews in America. The Haredi – even Jewish – instinct for chesed is admirable, but it is not exclusive to them, and certainly should not substitute for gainful employment.

   Note, also, that the “giving” is exclusively on your terms, and not what the rest of the society needs or is asking for.

E – Nearly all my male Hareidi friends and relatives work and pay over 60% in taxes – meanwhile the Government cut our kids’ school budgets by 50%. My son currently gets no milk in the morning because the budget was cut.  Somebody is stealing my tax money, and it’s not the Haredim.

SP – But those are your friends! And you do come from a different background. The rate of adult-male employment in the Haredi world is one of the lowest – I think it is the lowest – in the industrial world. A recent statistic in the Haredi press “boasted” of a 54% adult male employment rate – but that is extraordinarily low. In the rest of the world, the rate in industrialized countries is around 70%. That means that 46% of adult males are being subsidized by someone else.

   Now, who gets what from the government is always a political question. For decades, the Haredi parties chaired the Knesset Finance Committee and used that position to funnel money to their communal needs at the expense of other communities. The election results turned them out of power, and with it, loss of those sinecures. It is a lamentable aspect of Israeli politics that too many people take care only of their own constituents, but, I guess, that is true of politics everywhere, even here in the US. There is nothing moral about it; it is politics. When the Haredim next join the coalition, it will be back to business as usual. BUT: were the school budgets cut because schools refused to comply with the core curriculum? Because there is an expectation of national service that is not being met? Because of bias? The kibbutzim used to have patrons that took care of them in the Knesset, as did the haredim. They also fluctuated based on electoral outcomes. That’s life. Your tax money is not being stolen – it is just being redirected for other national uses.

    Do you feel you are not getting your fair share of return on your tax dollar? If so, welcome to my world! In Teaneck, the Orthodox community pays more than 60% of the property taxes, and our return in services is less than 20% (mainly because we don’t use the public school system). And, double whammy: New Jersey has the lowest ratio in the nation – 50th out of 50 states – in the return to the state of federal spending based on federal taxes paid, about 60 cents on the dollar. These complaints are universal, not limited to you.

E – How about what Haredi education produces relative to morality? In our schools there is virtually no drugs, sex or violence. There is not a yeshiva in the world that has metal detectors to check its students – how does that compare to the secular system of education?

SP – None of our schools have metal detectors either. And the yeshiva system even here still produces a decent product. The dropout rate in all religious communities is roughly the same. But – what is their educational product? Does the haredi system produce a student who can function in civil society?

      I find it fascinating that your straw man is always the “secular” system or world, as if there exists only this dichotomy: Haredi v. secular. But that is not true. There is an entire world of religious Jews who are neither Haredi nor secular (not that the Haredi world is completely monolithic). You certainly know it from your background, but you know it from Israel as well – the Hardalim, the Dati-Leumi, etc. – people whose lives fully implement the Torah system in the real world, not just theorize about it in the Bet Midrash. I have always assumed that one of the great fears of the Haredi establishment about military service was not the exposure to secular culture but the exposure to Torah Jews who know how to learn Torah, perform mitzvot, fight in G-d’s wars, build a country, get an education, etc. – i.e., a balanced life. That life undercuts the Haredi argument that mandates segregation as the only means to the preservation of Torah.

  E – From high school on, the men’s educational process is focused on Torah. Isn’t it amazing that people without college are nonetheless able to start and operate successful businesses of all kinds, from crafts (plumbing, electrical, contracting) to retails to finance to real estate to start-ups. All without having studied Shakespeare or art history – without knowing how many wives King Henry 8th divorced or beheaded – and without having had to subject themselves to the looseness, depravity and coarseness of midos one finds with such ease on a college campus. But the Israeli Government feels it knows better and wants to impose its standards on our time-tested curriculum. Not a culture war? Really?

I am an investment banker and have raised over 50 million dollars for Israeli companies supporting hundreds of secular families. Nearly all the owners of those businesses are secular — They love me and I love them ( I don’t hide my peyot) certainly not in Teaneck. My Partners supports hundreds if not thousands of Israelis in construction, law, accounting, security, insurance, architecture and engineering, to name a few, via his real estate business. I have another close friend who moved his family here to open a baal teshuva yeshiva that is one of the largest employers in its neighborhood. We all pay taxes here. All of my friends and peers are busy with tzedaka projects – many if not most not content just to give money, but insistent upon giving time and effort and talent as well. All this in addition to commitment to regular Torah learning. Is that really a hateful existence?

SP- Here is the crux of the issue. You are not typical, obviously. They are many Haredi businessmen, many successful Haredi businessmen. But you know they are not typical of Haredi society, unless you are asserting that what is perceived as the endemic poverty in the Haredi world is a “secular” myth . I also don’t care how many wives Henry VIII (or for that matter, the VII) had – but I do care that in today’s world, children learn English, math, science, writing skills, even Jewish history and Jewish philosophy. An eighth grade knowledge of those subjects is as embarrassing as an eighth grade Torah education (or, as it might be, a fourth grade education).

   It is interesting that Haredim in America have never embraced the value system of Haredim in Israel, at least not until recently. Some went to college, some didn’t (there are even online colleges today for which you almost never need to leave home) – but all knew they would have to support families someday, and not through starting chesed organizations. An educational system that produces bnai Torah, good citizens (I’ll add – Ahavat Yisrael of all types, Ahavat Eretz Yisrael, and a willingness to fight for it as Haredim did in 1948) who can support themselves and help others would be embraced by all, even the secular. No one intends to produce violent, depraved, backwards, drug-addled, parasitic, drunken miscreants. Not all secular schools produce the latter, like not all haredi schools produce the former. That’s reality.

E – How about the families that you so revile where the husband is learning in Kollel? Let’s check a few facts here. The government used to help with $200 a month; Lapid and Bennet cut it to almost nothing!  The average hareidi family has about 8 children. We pay 18% vat tax on all we consume. Do you really think these families live on Government handouts? In these families the wives are all working (did you assume they were home redesigning their kitchens, eating bon-bons, shopping at our equivalent of the Short Hills mall or Nordstroms and filing their nails?). Do you have a similar problem when one of your secular friends has a wife who works and the husband stays home? I never heard anyone ever complain about that concept. So why is it that a family that is willing to forego all the pleasures of the olam ha-gashmi to pursue a self-sacrificing spiritually oriented existence voluntarily, supported in dignity by a working wife who believes in the primacy of Torah study be so reviled by you?

SP – I don’t revile anyone! Chas Veshalom! I love all Jews. But I still fail to see why the government – someone else’s tax dollars – is obligated to support someone in kollel. Find a Zevulun, a private benefactor. Similarly, I fail to see why the government – someone else’s tax dollars – would be obligated to support a talented artist, poet or basketball player. Is it the same? Of course not, based on my value system. But the Tel Avivian who has not yet been attracted to Torah has a different value system. Don’t tell me – tell him why he has to pay for yours.

    Better question: how many extra hours should my children in Israel work every week in order to support those who wish to learn full-time? And what if they would rather use those extra hours to learn Torah themselves? Why is that option foreclosed?

    I also have no secular friends, not that I’m proud of that! Then again, I don’t get out much. But I do think it is troubling if a wife works to support her husband and the family. Ultimately, as we know from our world, it causes real shalom bayit issues. But I don’t judge. If it works for them, it’s fine with me. In fact, the only cases I know of secular families in which the wife works and the husband doesn’t (the Mr. Mom dynamic) is where the husband has temporarily lost his job or is incapable of working. But if a Haredi family chooses that – tavo aleihem bracha – but just don’t expect the rest of society to subsidize it.

E – With large families the Hareidim are massive spenders on consumption and investment in Israel.  Ask Osem or Pampers or Simalec. Or anyone in the world of real estate and contruction. As consumers we give back a multiple of what we “take”.

SP – I’m not sure your statistics are accurate. But this is: EVERYBODY pays VAT, everybody pays taxes, and everyone consumes. They just make different consumption choices. And I must be missing something: if Haredim are such massive spenders on consumption, real estate, etc., why is a cut in school milk money so devastating? Ha’ikar chaser min hasefer – something essential is missing from your argument.

E – All this is without any reference to the spiritual value of what we contribute to our society – which as a rabbi and learner I hope you might at least modestly appreciate……אפקורוס כגון מאן אמר ר”י כגון הני דאמר מאי אהנו לן רבנן לדידהו קרו לדידהו תנו א”ל אביי האי מגלה פנים בתורה נמי הוא שכתוב אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חוקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי

As far as the Rambam, please see the attached. There are almost 30 poskim listed who disagree with the Rambam, including the Mechaber in three places.  In addition, we can probably agree that the Brisker Ruv’s son, R’ Moshe’s son and R’ Aharon’s grandson know a thing or two about the Rambam  – yet they attended.

Like you, I grew up with Zionism uber alas. But we did not hate the Haredim . I told a friend of Bennett’s ( to paraphrase Golda Meir) that I can forgive him for stealing our money, starving the avreichim, and supporting legislation to jail our kids … but I can’t forgive him for causing me to hate him‎ and causing you to hate me.

SP – I appreciate everyone’s Talmud Torah. I just don’t genuflect before the altar of those who insist that Haredi Talmud Torah is superior, nor to those who think their Ahavat Yisrael is superior. Every person – groups – has strengths and weaknesses.

    One of the bigger mistakes of the Haredi world is projecting the sense that their Judaism is more authentic than everyone else’s and therefore deserves the support of others. It is not. The Haredi world has strengths and weaknesses like any other group. Indeed, there are many things that the Haredi world can teach other Torah Jews and many things that the Haredi world needs to learn from other Torah Jews. But the Haredi world is trying to recreate something that never existed, and thus has run into problems.

     And – whatever you, I or others might say – the Rambam is still the Rambam. People do disagree with the Rambam, but they haven’t refuted his basic idea, which has turned out to be spot on: Kava me’or hadat. People have lost respect for the Torah lifestyle because of the Haredi estrangement from general society, not grown in respect. And, obviously, there are many Rabbanim who have an interest in keeping the status quo, or fear a public dissent from it.

    But, there was a time when Haredim understood this as well. In last Friday’s Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Stewart Weiss, whose son Ari hy”d fell in battle while protecting Jewish life, including this observation from post-1948:      “Indeed, no less a figure than the late Grand Rebbe of Gur – a Chassidic leader far ahead of his time – appealed to the yeshiva world to break down the wall of separation and allow yeshiva students to do their fair share in “giving back” to the nation. If they did not, he warned presciently, they would eventually provoke major animosity and resentment from the general public, resulting in a terrible Chillul Hashem, desecration of God’s name. Tragically, the Rebbe’s plea was rejected, the number of yeshiva exemptions grew exponentially, and the problem was left to simmer and boil. Now, the polarization and hatred it has created has divided our nation and been laid bare for all to see.

   I tell you that it is critical not to hate. I don’t hate Haredim at all, although I do feel sorry for many who – as they have told me – feel trapped. And you should not hate anyone, r”l, especially Naphtali Bennett. I have met him several times, he even has some good Teaneck roots. He is a wonderful person, very dedicated to Klal Yisrael. He really believes he is helping Haredim (I think he is right) – not just with the army but with entering the work force. He knows – you know – the present economics are unsustainable. The people who were paying for it no longer want to pay for it, secular and religious. And you know as well that permanent exemptions from army service or employment are also not sustainable. That is the society in which you live. Do not forget that all this came about because the High Court ruled that the current system was inequitable and therefore unlawful. Even the present Shaked Bill which Haredim so revile might not pass muster! But the status quo could not go on much longer, as the Gerrer Rebbe anticipated.

E – In the world of Israeli kiruv (just like the global phenomenon) there’s an amazing reality: virtually all who become frum — and there are well over 100k — become chareidim (of one form or another). They all grew up interacting with the datei Leumi, yet when push comes to shove, that’s not the lifestyle and community they choose. How odd for such a highly educated and unbiased (other than the extreme anti-Haredi bias they are raised with) to choose such a different way of life (one that will surely bring them no prestige or power or connections). How strange that they choose to join what you view as a cult of takers and uncaring, non-contributing families and individuals. Somehow the appeal of authentic and committed Torah and Yiddishkeit weighs more than the alternative.

The official prayer for the army? We love the soldiers and pray for them every day. In times of stress and war our shuls are full of people davening and saying Tehillim and personal prayers. We also cry when they fall, and Hatzola and unfortunately Zaka are there to pick them up! We don’t need the nusach of the chief Rabbi; we have Chazal אחינו כל בית ישראל……

With love,

Ephraim

SP- I think you are right about the kiruv statistics (not in our part of the world, of course). That is because the cloistered life poses fewer challenges, and I can see why a baal teshuva would want to sever any connection with his prior life even if not all do. But the balanced life appeals to others – not violations of halacha, r’l, but just a comfort level interacting with the rest of society.

   Your last paragraph is the most troubling, because in your entire response, you neglected to address one key point: the rejection of army service. That is bad enough – haacheichem tavou lamilchama v’atem teshvu po? – but the reluctance to say the accepted tefila for Tzahal wins no friends in the dati-leumi community. Must you be different just to be different? Are you still fighting Herzl? Is tefila really a substitute for actual participation in national defense or national service?

  If so, perhaps then you can relate to this analogy: the dati leumi community (we’ll try to get the seculars involved as well) will offer heartfelt tefilot in our own way and of our own composition for the material success of the Haredim. You just won’t get any money from the government and the society you so disdain. That would be too practical.

With blessings for continued success, your friend who loves, values and respects you,

 Steven Pruzansky

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19 responses to “The Exchange, Part 2

  1. Rabbi Avigdor Miller (a popular Chareidi Rabbi,
    born 1908 CE, died 2001 CE) delivered a free public lecture
    in the last year of his life, in which he taught that Jews should
    pray for the Israeli Army.
    I personally witnessed this; I was there.

    When a Jew recites Tefilat Shemoneh Esrei, he permitted
    to add his own personal prayer requests in the middle of the final
    paragraph,which begins with Elokai Netzor Leshoni MeiRa.

    I recently began adding the prayer for the Israeli Army in that part.
    I know this is not the way it is normally recited, but it is permitted,
    and I can say it that way in any synagogue, any day except
    Shabbat or holidays.

    • You could say it on Shabbat and Yom Tov as well, as it is a communal tefilla, not a private bakasha, just like Sim Shalom.
      -RSP

      • Rabbi, thank you for saying that!

        I was planning to ask that question to an Orthodox Rabbi, but that is no longer necessary, because you just answered my question, before I even asked it!

  2. 1. Many, many Israeli baalei teshuva- probably the vast majority- are Dati Leumi. I think this gentleman needs to get out more.

    2. I especially like his claim that Bennett is “stealing their money.” It’s not theirs; it’s the hard-earned tax dollars of non-charedi Israelis that they’ve been helping themselves to all these years. It reminds me of American politicians who talk about “their money.”

  3. Rabbi, your points are well taken but Bennett and Lapid made major errors in tactics and strategy. They need to read Dale Carnegie and learn how to make friends and influence people. It’s amazing how they took on the charedim for so many issues all at once and suddenly if you wanted to cut food stamps in this country, how about a warning and doing it gradually? it’s just cruel how it all was done they should have told the kolleniks that gradual cuts will be made starting in two years so make plans to replace the parnassa you have been counting on and as Rabbi Wein sais so well last week, you can’t force or legislate these kinds of changes on a whole society You need to build bridges and spread the negativity toward charedim they have been spreading Can you imagine anyone going into the ‘hood’ and trying to get them off welfare and all to work by calling them names and talking about them negatively?

  4. Major Type-O

    You need to build bridges and NOT spread the negativity toward charedim they have been spreading

  5. “We also cry when they fall.” Really?? Really?? Sorry, but you touched an old, still-open wound. My feeling is that Moshiach would have come immediately if only 25% of the recent Yerushalayim atzeres attendees- (including the proportionate representation of the rabbanim and Roshei Yeshiva) would have been overcome with a lapse of true ahavas yisroel and attended the Mercaz Harav levayas for those 8 innocent young kedoshim brutally murdered over their gemaras. Remember- it was on a Friday when most yeshivas don’t even have seder, and long before all of the recent draft-related controversy.

  6. Concerning woman going out to work while the husbands are learning full time. I believe that there is a difference between some individuals in a society deciding to make certain choices for there own lives, and a society which implicitly pressures people into living this way. I find it ironic that the Charedi world who claim to be traditional have created a society where it is normative for a man to do the opposite of what a ketubah expects from him. I do believe that there may be circumstances where this would be acceptable, but to have such a thing institutionalized is embarrassing.

  7. At the risk of sounding patronizing, I want to convey to you how proud I am of your courageous call to end the unsustainable Chareidi entitlement paradigm. I am also pleased that you chose to publicize your exchange with a Chareidi interlocutor. The more one challenges the basic assumptions of the Chareidi position, the more one sees the untenability of their position and the various self-contradictory arguments that underly that position. Even their standard default argument (“the ‘Gedolim’ say so!”) has been so often misused that it has started to ring hollow even to many of them.

    The only question I really have at this point is directed towards the Chardal camp – what motivates you to insist on defending the Chareidi position while defaming Naftali Bennett and HaBayit HaYehudi at every opportunity? It seems that you want to play the role of spoiler yet again, just as you did with the Chief Rabbinate election. Do you have such an inferiority complex with regards to Chareidi Judaism, or are you still pouting because Bennett was able to deliver the sort of electoral success that you were never able to?

    • I understand why some attended. Firstly, it is hard to sustain the us v. Them attitude when not everyone present is an “us.” From that perspective, the more non-Haredim that attended, the weaker that line of reasoning.
      Second, it is important that we show respect for Torah and for Talmud Torah. The Haredim are not enemies of Israel; they are good Jews who are making a mistake. Rav Aviner said he went in order to daven that Haredim should willingly join the army and society, not out of coercion.
      I don’t necessarily agree – I wouldn’t go personally – but I respect the reasoning.
      -RSP

  8. As I’ve said before you put into words what many know intuitively, but cannot articulate.

    The real flaw in your friends argument, and the big time elephant in the room, is – they aren’t learning better. If the Charedi lifestyle produced talmidei chachamim by the bucketful they would at least be able to make their arguments – not that they would be winning arguments, but at least they would be honest. But they aren’t even doing that. For all the years ostensibly sitting in kollel, the average charedi doesnt know any more Torah than the average working ballabos who went to day yeshivah/night college after high school, got married, and maintains a regular seder. (My first cousins are all charedim in Bnei Brak, and I spent two years in Kol Torah.) Most are capable of a couple of vertlach and a boatload of stories, but real, learning? – its just not there. And I need not even mention that they are no better than anyone else in middos, and actually ….. So the whole justification for their existence simply does not exist.

    As for the “chessed organization” problem – you hit it on the head. Most wouldn’t be necessary if people were actually working. And the dirty secret is that so many people are involved with them, because they make money out of it. This is a difficult topic that needs to be explored more, and not necessarily within the confines of discussion on the broader issue of charedim.

    Finally, the notion that all ballei teshuvah are charedim is “factually challenged”, as others have noted, but even if it were, it would be a meaningless point – the types of people who are driven to uproot their entire life to become a baal teshuvah are, by definition, not normal (no pejorative intended.) Besides, its common knowledge that the exotic dress and strange (to them) social norms of the Charedim have a much stronger appeal to ballei teshuvah who’ve never been exposed to it, than what appears (to them) the prosaic life of mainstream orthodox Jews.

  9. Your friend’s closing words in describing his camp reveals the ugly truth underlying all their positions, “Somehow the appeal of authentic and committed Torah and Yiddishkeit…”

    Chareidim labor under the illusion that they are the only “authentic” version of Judaism, everything else – MO, dati-leumi, etc. – are just corrupted, compromised versions of “the real thing”. You have no legitimacy in their eyes. As long as this is how they see the world, I don’t see how any bridges can ever be built across the two camps.

  10. Rabbi Pruzansky – I live in Israel and reading this exchange, I cannot help but feel frustrated.
    Please explain how you view the state of Israel in the context of your ability to be a part of this national conversation. (A) Do you believe that you have the right to be a part of this conversation because Israel is the national Jewish homeland and therefore you have a natural (G-d given) stake in its success and future? (B) Or do you view Israel as another large Jewish population center in the world, that happens to be in the Middle East and not the tri-state area? Because if it is “B”, I question whether you should be a part of the conversation at all. And if it is “A” – then you have as much responsibility to go to and send your children to the army as Ephraim.
    How can a Rabbi from NJ – regardless of how intelligent and prominent – act as an authority on Israeli politics and on what is considered “right” and “wrong” in a region and culture in which he has no part or stake? Or how can a Rabbi from NJ – regardless of how intelligent and prominent – act as a moral authority over a community in which he acts in the identical fashion: a parasite off of the Israeli Jews that are building the future of the Jewish people while you watch and judge from the sidelines?
    Respectfully, which one is it?

    • There are several other options that you fail to suggest that have been discussed here at length in the past. Here’s one. As a Jew, I have an obligation to protect Jewish life wherever it is, send to teach Torah – including addressing moral wrongs – wherever they present. Such does not depend on residency but rather on the identification of truth. So I have a stake in what happens to every Jew and especially where my children and grandchildren live and pay high taxes.
      Note as well that I wrote nothing until American Jews were asked to get involved and demonstrate against the Israeli government in NYC in front of the non-Jewish world. If you oppose US Jewry involvement, why did you ask me to participate?
      You shouldn’t use the word “parasite” which I find unduly harsh and offensive when applied to any Jew.
      Finally, American Jewry is intimately involved in the failure of the Haredi community to support itself, a factor of some of the points I raised: no IDF service, poor secular education in Haredi schools, poor job skills, etc. How involved? Just tonight, after Maariv, 15 different Haredim (no exaggeration) came to seek money for themselves, their Chesed organizations (food for their poor) or their causes. All were from Israel.
      If you don’t want my advice, please take your hand out of my pocket.
      There’s more to write but that’s enough for now.
      -RSP

      • Rabbi – Thanks for the reply.
        There is a fundamental difference when you are inside the story or a spectator. Your view seems to be that as a Jew, you are inside the story of Jewish life across the world and therefore have the right to enter the deep political and social discussion of those communities, where ever they are. I fundamentally disagree with that premise. And I don’t believe that people who don’t live with the risks and rewards of these discussed policies can have a valid view of them. And from the discussions that I have seen over many years – often when Hareidi American rabbis voice their clear opinions on Israeli politics – there is a consistent voice among the Anglo Dati Leumi community in Israel of disdain. I expected to hear the same view against your recent posts…but there was radio silence. Disappointing.
        I chose to use the word “parasite” – since in Israel that is the common word used to describe Hareidim and I was making the literary parallel.
        On your final point, there is a key difference between mandated tax dollars and voluntary giving. No one in the US has a requirement to give to anything voluntary. So no one has their hand in YOUR pocket.
        And for the record, I am a libertarian and believe that all taxes are essentially theft, whatever the use. At the same time, I believe that the most effective and Jewish way to build communities is through voluntary giving. Don’t blame the beggar for your giving.
        Respectfully.

  11. You thanked me for my reply but it doesn’t seem like you read it.
    Every Jew is “inside the story” and the only “risks and rewards” about the policies under discussion relate to the future of Torah in the Jewish world, and especially avoiding its falling into disrepute because people falsely believe that it cannot be implemented in a modern society.
    And when American Jews are asked to participate – e.g., rally against the Mitzva of Yishuv ha’aretz and the defense of Jewish life – it is unctuous to then assert that we are inserting ourselves into a debate not ours. So too when we are asked – yes, asked- constantly to subsidize the natural consequences of a failed educational and social policy.
    Of course you are entitled to disagree.
    Your reasoning that opposes my criticism should be lodged equally against those here who support your efforts. That is to say, you should have vehemently opposed the involvement of American Jews in rallying against the Shaked bill as much as you oppose my support of it. Did you oppose the NYC Atzeret? That would have been consistent.
    It does follow a pattern to which I have become accustomed – and amused. Right-wing Israeli politicians urged American Jews to protest Oslo. Many of those same politicians told us to mind our own business before the Gush Katif expulsion. It would seem the only consistency is the utter lack of principles.
    Let us not make the same mistake.
    And even libertarians can find proper uses for tax dollars -like self-defense- unless they wish to rely for their security on the kindness of our enemies. “Theft ” is also a strong and misplaced term for taxes, because there are legitimate uses of tax money to which everyone agrees. And many illegitimate ones.
    Chag Kasher v’sameach!
    -RSP

    • Hi Rabbi. Thanks again for the reply. Have no fear. I read every word you wrote very carefully.I also want to make it clear that I have not at all criticized the content of your article; rather I question your ability to be a relevant part of the conversation. So you seem to be making assumptions about me and my views that are wrong, since I am not discussing your opinions at all; just whether you have the right to talk about it.
      You implied that every Jew has the right, nay the responsibility, to the a part of this conversation – no matter where they are and where their personal experiences and ties are, since the issues being discussed effect such a large portion of the Jewish population – then they relate to the future of Torah in the Jewish world.
      Again – I have read your views and fundamentally disagree.
      As a parallel (that you made above), I got quite frustrated in 2004/5 when I talked to “right wing” American Jews telling me that Israel better not give away Gaza to the Palestinians. Those American Jews has actively made the choice not to place their personal future on Israel and they think that they are entitled to have an opinion that relates to large scale life and death in Israel? I don’t think that is valid or appropriate, and this story is no different.
      You are guiding people towards serving in the Israeli military – because you seem to believe that all Jewish Israelis (and not all Jews) have that responsibility. I question whether you should be doing that, regardless if I agree with your arguments or not.
      As a lighter parallel from American politics, Dick Cheney – one of the more hard right wing Republicans, historically towed the party line on the view on gay marriage. But in 2004, his daughter came out as a homosexual. A few years later, he publicly announced his changed view – that he was in favor of gay marriage. Once he had a personal stake in the debate, his view was challenged. He was more sensitive to the results on both sides. And he changed his view.
      Here too. Without that sensitivity to the effects on populations, interactivity and dialog of those communities, the real personal understandings on life and death of the military – I don’t believe every Jew is entitled to a seat at the debate.

  12. Well, there’s the fundamental disagreement between us. Cheney aside, Torah principles are inviolable and do not shift based on personal predilection. That’s why Jewish life, yishuv Eretz Yisrael, etc. are important to Jews. But you should ask yourself then why American Jews were brought into the debate?
    I assume as well that you have done your military service, for, if not, there are thousands of Israelis who would deny you your place at the table as you would deny others.
    Be well – RSP

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