Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Thursday, 11 February 2010


There is a fine difference between aggressive negotiating and brinksmanship.  The former may lead to pushing an opponent nearly into unconditional compromise but there is always some give and take.  With the latter, there isn't.  As the term implies, one party is prepared to push the other to the brink, and then give him a shove off the edge for good measure.
One example of this phenomenon in the Jewish world is the way the Chareidi leadership is currently interacting with the non-Chareidi Torah-observant communities.  There is no other word for their tactics other than brinksmanship.  It would seem their interest in clear - to control all aspects and characteristics of Torah observance as defined by them. 
Look at the events of the last few years and the cultural trends and the pattern becomes clear.  One group has decided that they represent "Torah true" Judaism with any group that differs representing a deviation from the norm and therefore inferior.  Conversion, tznius, kashrus, the standards are set by one group and the others are told "You have to hold by these because we won't recognize or accept yours."
Does such a position generally work?  In a word: yes.  When the Israeli Rabbanut, under its current Chareidi leadership, decided to change the standards of conversion so that only they would be able to decide "who is a Jew?" the RCA put up a brief fight and then submitted.  What was the alternative?
Well what is the alternative?  Modern Orthodoxy, as a movement, has an important choice to make because history is moving along and either it controls its destiny or gets swept away in the current.  There are two choices:
a) accept what those on the right consider the inevitable.  Modern Orthodoxy is an aberration, an illegimitate and weak form of Torah Judaism. It has no future, it cannot control its halachic destiny and therefore all those MO Jews who are serious about Torah observance have to stop fooling themselves, go out and buy black hats and suits and come home to the Chareidim, leaving the rest behind to merge into Conservatism.
b) stand up to the opposition and say "Ad kan", until here.  If pushing back means Chareidi leaders announcing that non-Chareidi Orthodox converts will no longer be recognized by the ultra-Orthodox, if pushing back means the Chareidim will no longer eat in MO institutions or recognize their rabbis' authorities, so be it.  The only way MO can survive into the future as a distinct entity is to jump off the cliff before being pushed.
Not an attractive source of options, are they?


Yosef Greenberg said...

You're painting too much of a black & white picture.

Where are tznius standards being officially set?

Anyway, there is a lot of grey area where things can mutually be worked out.

Just look at the Israeli leadership buckling against the website bands.

Izgad said...

Great post.

You do not go far enough. We shouuld be taking the offensive. No one is believes in a young earth should be allowed on a conversion Bet Din.

Garnel Ironheart said...

hi Yosef,

> Where are tznius standards being officially set?

When books are put out by Feldheim that state that denim skirts are not tznius. When seminaries and girls schools demand certain standards of their students in AND out of school. When clothing stores need hechshers.

Yes, there are lots of grey areas. I also believe that the average Chareidi is not interested in this brinksmanship but is being swept along by the current the askanim are creating.


Thanks for the feedback but my point was that going on the offensive, instead of causing them to back down, might make the schism official. We would no longer be considered "frum" and if you say "Well who cares what they think?" remember that we all have hareidi friends and family whose relationships with us would be affected by such a split.

Izgad said...

This is a classic retaliation game. You and your opponent both act in the knowledge that the other can and is likely to retaliate in kind for whatever is done. There are two ways to lose. If you do not seriously retaliate then your opponent has no more reason to take your threat of retaliation seriously and can act at will. If you strike out of proportion and without regard to how your opponent acts then your opponent loses any motive to consider you a threat and might as well act at will.
Yes I have Haredi relatives and an Orthodox split would affect me. My Haredi relatives in turn also have non-Haredi relatives, mainly me, and an Orthodox split would affect them. So why are my Haredi relatives not worrying, every time some extremist Haredi ruling comes out, that their non-Haredi relative Izgad might decide to cut them off?

Garnel Ironheart said...

I can think of a couple of reasons:
1) The Chareidi community would portray the split in terms of "genuine" vs "fake" frum. Further, they would expect that the MO community would see it that way too! Thus the thought "Well Izgad will still eat in your home because, of course, you keep kosher but he'll understand why you can't eat in his home because he's not really frum anymore" would be suggested to your relatives.
2) Chareidi communities have much higher levels of social pressure to conform than MO communities. The freedom to say "Well maybe cousin Izgad isn't Chareidi but we know he's frum and keeps kosher properly so we'll eat in his home" sounds nice but your relatives might be worried that their Chareidi friends will then think "Tsk, they eat in non-kosher homes so how can we trust them?"
(BTW, I don't know your relatives and I am not suggesting, chalilah, anything about them. I'm sure they're fine people with decent moral standards but I'm just using them for the sake of argument)
3) MO doesn't have the same self-assuredness that Chareidism has. Chareidi askanim could disenfranchise entire branches of the Torah community and not lose sleep over it. MO leaders would not do the same thing because of their respect for all parts of our community. You could see someone standing up in the name of Rav Eliashiv and claiming he said that all YU rabbonim are trief because they don't accept the "young Earth" belief. You would never see Rav Schechter stand up and say "All rabbonim who don't believe in an old Earth are trief."
As a result, the playing field is very unevent.

Izgad said...

This is why we need to raise the stakes. No one should think they can move against us without serious consequences like our community no longer accepting their conversions or accepting their kashrut. Yes the playing field is uneven so we have no choice but to attack.

Garnel Ironheart said...

I hear your frustration but I would counter: what does MO have to gain through an open confrontation? Part of me would like to this the other side would back down at the last minute, and it's possible they might just like other bullies do. But what if they don't? What if they're prepared to disenfranchise us? Listen, I have Conservative and Reform friends and they know I won't eat in their homes because they're not "Orthodox". How do I respond when I'm told that so-and-so won't eat in my home because his "gadol" told him I'm not Orthodox either?

Izgad said...

In practice I would start with more moderate acts of retaliation. Like a one month boycott of funding the Mir or Lakewood every time someone from these institutions says something out of line. Haredim should be able to count on every attack on Modern Orthodoxy that gets out into the press costing them money. The next step would be a more permanent boycott. Why should any Modern Orthodox Jew be giving money to a Haredi institution? If you wish to support Torah give money to the YU beis midrash, not Lakewood.

Josh said...

Garnel -Their Gadol already tells them not to eat in your home .