Monday, March 25, 2013

Stereotypic thinking:Intelligent opening-minded chareidim is not an oxymoron

The comments to my  previous post regarding Rav Sternbuch brought to mind two incidents. 

One happened 10 years ago in Bayit V'Gan. I was waiting for a bus back to Har Hof. There were two long haired young men sporting kipas - that clearly were not used too often - waiting also. One asked the other  - "We've been in this kiruv program for 2 weeks - what did you get out of it?" The reply was something that stuck me hard and revealed a new world. "I don't think I got too much out of the speeches about Science and Bible. I really didn't understand most of what they said about Torah. However I learned one important new fact, it is possible to be an Orthodox Jew and be intelligent and open-minded. Usually when someone mentions Orthodox or ultra Orthodox Jews, I picture a rather brutish person screaming Shabbos. A person who has no manners and views me with utter contempt. After all that is how they are described in the newspapers. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Orthodox Jews are really nice people."

The other happened 40 years ago while I was waiting for a subway in Midtown Manhattan. A tough character with leather vest, spiked bracelets and tatoos up and down his arm approached me. He snarled at me, "You know who I am? I am an Nazis and I hate Jews." I smiled and said hello. He apparently expected me to be frightened and disgusted with him - but I just politely listened to his rages about Jews and the world conspiracy against him.  The monologue continued for about 5 minutes. Suddenly he stopped and said, "This is really disgusting. People - even my friends - rarely have the patience to listen to me. I can't believe that a Jew is more understanding and considerate of me than my own kind." Fortunately at that moment the train arrived and I quickly jumped on. 

7 comments :

  1. Yes, after 2 weeks on kiruv that might be the impression you get. However, most of what they say on Kiruv is a lie which they have a heter to tell, for example that Science is totally compatible with orthodoxy - then after a few years you realise that books like Slifkin's get banned.
    And this is not just haredism. A little known example, is R' David Cohen the Nazir, who at some point went OTD and got 2 PhDs, before being recruited by Rav Kook. The Nazir took upon himself all sorts of fasts, including not speaking at times. This was because he had "sinned" by getting a secular education.

    So when I hear "kiruv" arguments for how open minded Orthodoxy is, i am very skeptical. If you repeat the same arguments within a Hareidi or even MO framework, you are told that such opinions are not valid.

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  2. It's not a lie . Their are different opinions in Torah sources on how to approach the age of the universe . Rav Elyashiv chose the more stricter opinion as the psak . Other Gedolim say otherwise . Slifkin was put in cherem by followers of Rav Elyashiv.
    As Dr Gerald Schroeder quotes the Ramban mentions additional ages in the universe and describes the Big bang for the creation .

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    Replies
    1. as if the age of the universe and the Torah's (literal) definition of creation were the only problems...there are many more problems from archaeology,geology, astronomy, zoology that need to be addressed. the insularity of the chareidi community allows them to be ignorant of these challenges and thereby statements made that Torah is easily compatible with science is taken for granted.

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    2. It would be best if the Charedi community would be up front and say that the Torah is God's opinion about the world, while science is man's opinion about the world. Sometimes, the opinions contradict one another and sometimes they don't.

      I'm a baal teshuva. My first surprise of the Orthodox Jewish community was that the people I talked to were highly intelligent when talking about Judaism. That wasn't my experience growing up with a Conservative Jewish background, as nobody really talked about it.

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  3. Eddie:
    Reb David Cohen had sinned by being unobservant (e.g. he didn't keep Shabbos when he was in the university), not by simply getting an education!

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    Replies
    1. which was he repenting for?

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    2. Do you have any basis to assume he was repenting for getting an education? If not, I see no reason the presume such a thing.

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