Over the last few days Jewish Worker has been featuring pieces on the mess the Israeli Chareidi community finds itself in these days. I myself have previously noted that what is starting to happen among them is predictable and inevitable. To wit: the first generation after the war worked and accumulated capital because that's what Jews had always done. The second generation drank the kosher Kool-aid and dropped out of productive society to follow the instructions of "the Gedolim" that Torah-true Jews "learn, don't earn". After sharing the Kool-aid with their parents they found they were able to survive such a lifestyle choice by spending their parents' money. The parents, for their part, believed they were doing a big mitzvah in encouraging their children to learn full-time.
But here's where the problems started. The second generation had the first's capital to live off of. In turn they produced nothing for their children to survive on but raised them to believe in "learn, don't earn". Now we had a perfect collision of non-productive folks with no money to live on. Is there any wonder a crisis is now starting to unfold?
Over at his blog, Rav Slifkin wants to know if this debacle will induce change. The answer, from where I sit, is in the negative for a few reasons.
1) "Learn, don't earn" has been wildly successful for the Chareidim until now. It has allowed them to build a society where Torah-true Jews live a Torah-true lifestyle of learning without such petty things as worrying about who will pay the bills. God (meaning the parents, some gemach somewhere or the Israeli government) will provide! As anyone who observes cultures of entitlement knows, such groups never expect the good times to end and when faced with a reality in which they do they immediately retreat into denial. It's always been fine until now and therefore it will continue to remain fine.
2) The brainwashing in the Chareidi community has ensured that there are now two generations of adherents who not only have no employable skills but also no motivation for seeking employment. It's hard to go from sitting in kollel and being told you and your Torah study are the reason the world was created to asking if you can sweep up at the local convenience store for a few dollars.
3) This entire dysfunctional system was created by "the Gedolim" who, in the Chareidi mindset, are infallible demigods. When the Chazon Ish, zt"l, announced "learn, don't earn" as a new compulsory way of life he didn't set a time limit on it. His laudable goal was to recreate the Torah-learning culture that had been destroyed by the Holocaust but now its become an end unto itself. No "Gadol" could ever stand up and announce the end of the program and a return to sanity. Being Chareidi is synonymous with sitting in kollel and those Chareidim that work are used to being relegated to being second class citizens in their community.
4) There is no insight. If Israeli Chareidism falls apart the damage to the Torah world will be incalculable. Because Chareidi leaders have portrayed their form of Orthodoxy as the only legitimate one those who leave the community as things degenerate will not stop at Modern Orthodoxy or Religious Zionism on the way out. They will simply leave Torah observance all together. This is something we must all be desperate to avoid but the lack of insight into how Chareidism will be the main cause of the sudden surge in the OTD community is lost on them.
5) Despite the warnings, the money's not all gone yet. The State of Israel, despite being villified for daring to expect some minimal gratitude for all the money it puts out, is still handing out free cheques to the batlanim. There is still a lot of Chareidi money in the US getting sent out to Israel as well. No one, not the Israeli government and certainly not the American Chareidi community want to see the horrible outcome the collapse of the Israeli Chareidi community would cause.
As a result those who are waiting for the headlines of a sudden change are going to be disappointed. This stumbling is going to go on for a while with all the misery the enforced poverty of such a lifestyle demands. That's a pity.