Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Hard Time in a Hard Holy Land

Posted on | March 12, 2007 | By Ron Coleman | 112 Comments

One of the most troubling threads of discussion to emerge from this blog is the firm, virtually unanimous line of warning from Americans, particularly BT’s, who have chosen to make Israel their home — or those who, having made that decision once, concluded it was the wrong one for them, and have returned to their countries of origin. Having just come back from a trip to Israel, where I stayed in the largely North American enclave of Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, I found this discussion particularly compelling. It is clear, based on my observations, discussions with American olim, and the majority of commentators here on this topic, that the cultural environment for North American BT’s who wish to find a place in Haredi life in Israel is brutally harsh. I can understand many reasons why this may be so. Some of them suggest rather harsh observations as well, and ones that we should learn from for our own sakes.

Fundamentally, American haredism and Israeli haredism bear largely superficial relations to each other. The differences are more fundamental than the similarities. You might object to this and insist that it is an overstatement; both kind of haredim, after all, are committed to scrupulous observance of halacha, including the cultural pressure points of tzenius and limud hatorah. But there are substantial populations withing the dati leumi camp, including those who consider themselves a sort of cross between haredim and datiim — chardal, they call themselves (Haredi Leumi — Nationalist Haredim) — who fit this description as well. Datiim also observe Shabbos and kashrus, all with varying degrees of stringency. Yes, non-hasidic haredim consider themselves in the same camp as hasidim; but probably not as many hasidim as they’d like to think agree.

But haredi society in Israel is so profoundly different from that of the group that uses the same name here (including hasidim to a large extent) that American olim have found it necessary to build their own camps. It is widely understood among Americans, and according to many it is daas torah, that Americans should live and learn mainly separately from Israelis, even in Israel. There are a number of very significant differences, and they don’t all have to do with hashkofah (outlook or philosophy).

One does: In Israeli haredi society (non-hasidic), men are simply not supposed to work for a living. Men learn. The “elite” includes everyone, except those who wish never to be regarded as fully frum. In America, by contrast, while there is a large and culturally very significant cadre of full-time learners, there is a place of honor at the table for the learned baalebos (“householder” or layman). This does not solve all our economic and social problems — witness the threads here about yeshiva tuition, for example — but it does mean we have a society in which the expectation of a man who is the head of a household being supported by others is not the default position. It is not an understatement to say that this is a profound difference between American and Israeli haredi society, and evidently men who learned in yeshiva for years, BT or otherwise, who get to Israel after having already left the beis medrash and begun to take personal and direct responsibility for their families’ sustenance, discover that they are at best second-class citizens in the eyes of Israeli haredim. This is regardless of their level of Torah knowledge, frumkeit and observance, and it is, from what I gather and from what I can project in my own case — because who does not visit Israel and muse of staying there? — demoralizing to say the least.

That is the easy one. The second main thrust of criticism that I have gleaned is far less amenable to interpretation as an artifact of idealism, and it is this: Haredi life in Israel is brutal. Some of this is the result of the first issue; where an entire social group lives on handouts, and insists that it is entitled to them by virtue of the spiritual benefit if bestows on those from whom it makes this demands, let us just say there will be… resistance. And gnawing, growing need. Corruption is almost inevitable. Every sort of tribal and clannish behavior is found and, unfortunately, rewarded by the system. Schools and seminaries become personal fiefdoms. The Israeli political system — recognized as one of the free world’s most corrupt — being largely the benefactor of an entire ethnic and cultural sector, inevitably leeches its crooked ethos into the soil from which even the most idealistic blooms grow. To an American, this is inevitable: Earthly sustenance disconnected from effort is contrary to the Protestant work ethic that every American, including orthodox Jews, believes in, even as we acknowledge abstractly that our work is only hishtadlus (a contribution of external effort) and that parnosah itself is awarded only by the grace of God. Here we say it; there, they live it. In fact they live it so profoundly there that they have political parties whose sole job is to press forward with enforcing the grace of God in the Knesset. It is inconceivable that American olim do not view this cynically, and that it chips away at their idealism.

(In a similar vein, Americans raised on concepts — however much observed more in the breach — of fair play and communal responsibility, the idea of living in a place and not contributing to its physical security, regardless of the spiritual station you assign yourself, is itself seen in largely unflattering terms — especially by many BTs. I cannot say, however, that I have observed this particular point to be one which has resulted in a large amount of American aliyah disfunction among haredim. Perhaps this is because of the widespread and reasonable observation that the Israeli political and philosophical hashkofah and utterly un-tzenius lifestyle that are part and parcel of military service are really so offensive to Torah values.)

Americans are told, or find out the hard way, that the system is “different” in Israel, and some of it is because of these profound structural differences. There are more. There is no question that despite the existence of chesed and tzedaka on phenomenal levels in Israeli society, there is a harshness in personal interrelations that simply does not comport with conception of Jewish middos that we learn about and try to inculcate in our children and ourselves. This Old World harshness, almost a certain brutality, is far more commonplace in Israel than in America.

This is not entirely surprising. In America, we go out of our way to avoid giving offense; making friends, being socially accepted by broad categories of persons, and even obsequiousness are considered ways to get ahead. One of our all-time biggest sellers is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. A recent article discussed how this book is being used in haredi communities here, such as hasidim, where such concepts are utterly foreign; but to Israelis, the promulgation of such ideas seems preposterous. Israelis joke about their style, but to fresh-scrubbed Americans, driving (it seems) to kill, assertive and widespread tobacco use, physical violence — all known phenomena in the Israel haredi world that cannot be blamed on exposure to the krum (gross) host culture — frankly seem abominable to North American eyes. To strangers, often lacking roots and native skills, such as language, the coldness and lack of outer warmth is more than off-putting. It can be a genuine challenge to religious inspiration, to say the least.

And finally, there is that issue of roots. I mentioned clannishness briefly. The English-language journalism, and the “reports” from the field in Israel, are clear: There is tremendous polarization along ethnic and “racial” lines among Jews in Israel, and these prejudices are very much alive among haredim. One recent article described an ehrliche (sincere) haredi parent’s attempt to enroll his child in a cheder, which was unsuccesful in cheder after cheder until he was given the advice to just plain lie about his children’s Sefardi grandparents on his mother’s side. We have Ashkenazi and Sefardi camps here, too, but I cannot fathom such a story in any but the most obscure communities, if then, in chutz l’aretz.

Undoubtedly, Israeli haredim are on the front lines of a very profound kulturkampf, a fight for the soul of the Jewish people that is being played out in very stark terms. But where there is war, there are uniforms — rigidly enforced; there are casualties — however regrettably; and there are atrocities — so to speak. Yes, I remain more than impressed — positively inspired — by the wellspring of enthusiasm and, yes, idealism by olim who have grown and blossomed and flourished in our eretz hakadosh. The growth of Torah to historically phenomenal levels can only be a sign of Heavenly approval. When I was in Israel, especially as I walked the streets of Jerusalem, I felt truly at home. Perhaps it is because I am a native New Yorker, but to me it is Jerusalem that I picture when I imagine, fantasize really, about living in Israel. But as my youthful enthusiasm gives way to reality and the acceptance of who and where I am, I have realized and learned that, unfortunately, there is almost no conceivable way I can be there, short of the miraculous Redemption, in the foreseeable future. What pains me most, though, is the realization that this fantasy, like so many others, can perhaps only be nurtured in the abstract, and that from what I have read, seen and heard, this love may well be unrequited.

We are, after all, in galus.

Comments

112 Responses to “Hard Time in a Hard Holy Land”

  1. Cosmic X
    March 12th, 2007 @ 3:49 am

    “The Holy One Blessed Be He gave three good gifts to Israel, and all of them He did not give except through affliction, and they are: Torah, and the Land Of Israel, and the World To Come.(Berachot 5A)”

    Ron,

    All of the social and cultural issues that you mention here are part and parcel of the affliction that one has to go through in order to acquire Eretz Yisrael. When one knows the importance of the goal, it is easier to deal with the afflictions along the way. When we compare today’s afflictions to what previous generations had to go through, we should be embarrassed to even mention them.

  2. Bob Miller
    March 12th, 2007 @ 8:42 am

    Ron,

    Which of these phenomena have you seen and tried to deal with in person? Some details from your own real life (names changed, of course, where necessary) would impress me far more than this broad-brush slam.

  3. David Schallheim
    March 12th, 2007 @ 9:38 am

    Ron,

    While I can’t help but admit your points are well taken, if not somewhat “brutal,” I felt it necessary to extol some of the virtues of living here.

    On the macro level, things look bleak: Terrorism, Iranian threat, the economy, political corruption, the list goes on and on.

    However, on the micro level, I believe life is much more pleasant, and when you close the papers—that’s where it really counts.

    We can send our children out alone at night to the store or a friend’s house; the neighbors are genuinely interested in helping; we have all the amenities of a smooth running frum society—kashrus, mikveh, minyanim, you name it—all over the entire country.

    In my building, four avreichim are truly expert in all of Shas and poskim, without exaggeration (two are Roshei Kollelim, the other two are shoel-u’mashivim in prominent Yeshivos), one a Rosh Yeshivah of four mosdos (others are klei kodesh as well, a mohel, a shochet, a sofer, and there’s a handyman, a businessman, and a young baalei teshuvah family).

    The presence of Torah scholars undoubtedly gives me a spiritual boost, an inspiration and an obligation (hischayavus) when I see their application and devotion to Torah. Being close to talmidei chachamim increases my yiras Shamayim—and is there anything more important, in the final analysis (Koheles had something to say in that regard)?

    We made our decision to live here before our marriage; I am actually more familiar with the Israeli health system, banking, etc. than America’s. Our children are pure Israeli, although they have English skills. So the question of Israel or America for us is really a mute one at this point. To quote my mother, a’h, “You’re stuck.” (I don’t know exactly what she had in mind, but it’s an accurate description of the reality).

    When I look at my sweet little (and big) sabras, I can’t help but wonder: Would this have been possible in America?

  4. Steve Brizel
    March 12th, 2007 @ 10:04 am

    Despite what I reported in my travelogue , Ron’s post is largely on the mark.Yes, one cannot help but be spiritually inspired by the facts on the grounds in so many communities in EY. Yet, I once heard a talmid chacnam explain the differences between the EY Charedi world and its ChuL counterparts as about 100 years apart in hashkafic outlook in many areas.

  5. Chaim G.
    March 12th, 2007 @ 11:19 am

    as about 100 years apart in hashkafic outlook

    Which century are the Chutznikim in and which are the Israelis in? Whichever is in the earlier on is that progressive or regressive?

    Ron whew!!! You said a mouthful. Whether one agrees with you or not you write with great conviction.

    (As to where I stand personally and how to respond to such a powerful and comprehensive post defies quick flip reactions). Love it or hate it this post was masterful.

  6. Yoel Ben-Avraham
    March 12th, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

    There is no real connection between “Bnei Torah” from North America and “Charedim” in Israel. Culturally you are far more Western, open and pragmatic. Religiously N.A. orientation accepts “baalebatishkeit” wheras the Israeli Torah world is only very gradually moving away from the Post Hollocaust era of Emergency Rebuilding the Torah Velt toward a more balanced reality. Bottom line, it will take the Charefi world in Israel a few decades and many many serious crises before they acclimatize.

    I opted out and I and my family were successfully absorbed into the National-Religious Torah world. Much more open, willing to employ the advantages of science within a Torah framework and deeply deeply attached to the Land and willing to act on that attachment. You’re welcome to join us!

  7. TzviNoach
    March 12th, 2007 @ 12:19 pm

    I have to agree with Cosmic X. The tremendous merit of living in Eretz Yisroel has always been obtained through difficulty. The challenges today, while they seem huge to us, are really minor when compared with just about any previous time in history.

    Not that long ago, just traveling to EY was a perilous undertaking. Living there was risking one’s life on a daily basis. And it was so difficult to earn a living that poverty and starvation were widespread. How ironic that a major complaint today is that while earing a living is not that difficult, haredi societal norms do not allow it.

    While many points that Ron makes are on point, and should be addressed, I find the tone of the post troubling. Yes, there are challenges. Yes, many Americans have had difficulty adjusting. But does that mean EY is not for us? Does it mean that “there is almost no conceivable way I can be there, short of the miraculous Redemption, in the foreseeable future”? It all depends on our attitude.

    It is possible for haredim from America to make aliya successfully, and to integrate into the haredi society there. The haredi community in EY is liberally sprinkled with American emigres. It is definitely much easier for those who are willing to adapt, to drink the Kool-Aid and accept the norms of a different society (including making learning your primary vocation — but is that so bad?). But aren’t most BT’s accomplished at adapting to a new culture, with all its strange societal norms?

    Beware of the meraglim syndrome! Discouraging others from thinking positively about EY and aliya is rarely a good idea.

  8. Ron Coleman
    March 12th, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

    Bob, is “slam” a synonym for “criticism”? Or is it something more sinister?

    I don’t even understand the point of your question. I can’t criticize a problem, including things that are important to me, unless I’ve personally done something to attempt to ameliorate it? What is the source for this concept? And what could I possibly do, except in a metaphysical or symbolic (i.e., largely self-satisfying and not much more) about these issues, which are generations old and are based on the interaction of innumerable cultural, economic, hashkafic and historical phenomena?

  9. Ron Coleman
    March 12th, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

    Oh, thank you, Chaim! David, as I said, I admire people who do it. And I am glad to say that I wish I could be one — that’s at least a shtikl madrega. My recent trip was more inspiring than it was depressing. But this is what came out when I sat down to write.

  10. Chaim G.
    March 12th, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

    Full disclosure: I am a Chutznik who has been reluctant to try Aliyah for many of the reasons you raise. And so when I first read your post I enjoyed a certain sense of validation and justification in my decision to remain a Diaspora Jew…for about 30 seconds. Then when reading David Schalheim and Cosmic X’s comments are understood there “take” to be no less true than yours.

    Here’s what I’ve been pondering: would an articulate and passionate Israeli Charedi have been able to pen an article just as critical of different elements of American frum society? Is determining which is the “superior” of the two civilizations, i.e. which maintains greater fidelity to the Torah and its core values, an impossibly subjective question?

    I have no doubt that just as thought bubbles containing lines such as “right on” “hit the nail on the head” “sing it brother” “wow…my sentiments exactly” appeared above my head while reading your article that an Israeli Charedi reading the same article (in well translated Hebrew of course) would have thought bubbles containing lines such as “ sheker v’chozov” “completely misses the point” “be quiet and stop criticizing things you have only the shallowest understanding of ” or “krum kop, krum hashkofos all caused by his negios to keep on living in the American Fleshpots” appearing above his/her head.

    IOW I’ve got a chicken and egg quandary over your post, the general tone of which I find myself very much in agreement with: Do we perceive these self-evident truths and therefore cry the wail of a frustrated yid who feels as though there is no home for him in the homeland? Or… are we just too attached to our American lifestyles BOTH the good, non-corrupt, tolerant. Work-ethic aspects as well as the more unsavory and path-of-least-resistance aspects and therefore detect problems in Israeli frum society where few exist and inflate the real ones that do to the point that they seem insurmountable?

    Simply put can we not detach ourselves from America (and on a certain level that includes constructing all-American enclaves [re: Ghettoes] a la Bet Shemesh) because we cannot, in good conscience, attach ourselves to Israeli Charedism or is it the other way around?

  11. Chaim G.
    March 12th, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

    BTW my last comment is of more than passing or academic interest even to those not /no longer considering aliyah. It also has ramifications for the topic obsessed upon here at this blog : plateuing .

    Most of us (even not those as bitter and angry as the people featured in The Dilemma of the Talented ex-BT’s posted on January 3rd, 2007) are repelled by certain aspects of American frum Charedi society as we begin to feel our way and gain familiarity with it. Of course we were first attracted and continue to remain very fond and admiring of many core aspects of it. But few of us maintain an “all is rosy” Pollyannaish view of frum society for more than a couple of years after our initial return.

    And so, when we seem to level off on our growth curve, we need to consider this question: Is the reason that we have platued because we cannot , in good conscience, “become” THAT type of Jew and so we hang on to a lot of things that would be an anathema in “frummer” circles.. or is it the other way around; Is it our inability to let go of certain more-American-than-Jewish parts of our lifestyle that are impeding our upward-frumkeit-mobility?

    After all for many folks with an EY-centric Hashkafa system (and this includes plenty of fierce anti-Zionists and encompasses almost all native born Israeli Charedim) making aliyah is itself a/the most important “elevation” and progress in ones spiritual growth.

  12. Chaim G.
    March 12th, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

    How ironic that a major complaint today is that while earring a living is not that difficult, haredi societal norms do not allow it.

    Not ironic at all Tzvi Noach. A neshoma craves love and approval far more than an empty stomach craves a crust of bread O chavrusa o Meesusa

    including making learning your primary vocation — but is that so bad?

    Not bad at all. OTC holy and to be admired. What’s bad is the tyrannical conformity that demands that EVERYONE without exception hew to this exalted standard. Not everyone has the poverty-tolerance or mental acuity to be a Torah-so Umnoso person and when you ram square pegs into round holes tsuris ensue. Especially when the ramming is self-inflicted by self-delusionary folks counter-intuitively convincing themselves that this lifestyle is for them when subconsciously (and sometimes consciously ) motivated by the crying need for societal approval.

    I thought that Ron pointed this out very succinctly when he wrote that “(In EY the fulltime-learning) The “elite” includes everyone,”. This is an oxymoron. By definition elites should represent a minority of the population. No good accrues to either the true elites nor to the rank-and-file adopting the elite regimen when it becomes universal.

  13. Mark
    March 12th, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

    Chaim G, I think some people have difficulty letting go of cultural artifacts, but I think that many of us plateau because we are distracted with so many things (earning a parnassa being a primary one), that we don’t follow the steps needed to grow to the next levels.

    And unfortunately making Aliyah, is no guarantee of spirtual growth. The potential is there, but there’s no guarantee. On our recent trip there, one of our children was taken aback that a Ben Yehuda can exist so close to the Kotel. After some time in Eretz Yisroel, I wonder if it would still bother her.

  14. Chaim G.
    March 12th, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

    Never said that this is the only factor. Just another possible one to consider.

  15. Menachem Lipkin
    March 12th, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

    Ron,

    I think you need to be careful when writing so negatively about Eretz Yisroel. The information the miraglim brought back was also accurate, yet they were severely punished for speaking loshon hora.

    Beyond that, I take issue with your opening line, “..virtually unanimous line of warning from Americans, particularly BT’s, who have chosen to make Israel their home”. I know that I have written positively about my aliyah experience and many others have commented positively as well.

    While some of the issues you raise are formidable to hyper-comfortable Americans, there have been millions of Jews, from Moshe Rabeinu and forward, who would literally have given everything to live in such an “inhospitable” Eretz Yisroel.

  16. Bob Miller
    March 12th, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

    Ron Coleman (March 12th, 2007 12:20) said,
    “Bob, is “slam” a synonym for “criticism”? Or is it something more sinister?
    I don’t even understand the point of your question. I can’t criticize a problem, including things that are important to me, unless I’ve personally done something to attempt to ameliorate it?…” :

    Ron, you did miss my point, which I’ll try to clarify.

    To me, whatever your piece said has been said and blogged—rightly or wrongly—many times before, and your piece’s overall tone is strongly negative. Not sinister, but not balanced either.

    I’d be far more interested in hearing about new details, namely, any things that actually happened to you or in your presence in connection with this set of issues, and how you actually reacted at the time (I didn’t mean “deal with” in the narrow sense of “solve”).

  17. Bob Miller
    March 12th, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

    It would be useful for the oleh-in-planning to make contact ahead of time (as on a visit) with a varity of Orthodox communities in Israel to see which would be the best fit spiritually and practically. No use complaining about the communities that are a difficult fit; they are what they are for at least the near term. I think a survey of olim who used this approach might show more positive results.

  18. Bob Miller
    March 12th, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

    s/b “variety” above

  19. Ron Coleman
    March 12th, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

    Menachem, and to some extent Bob, I have to tell you — I fully anticipated this “why are you so negative” issue.

    Balance, first of all, is in the eye of the beholder. A few commenters here have focused on how marvelous it is that we even have this option today, and this is true. And aren’t we concerned about being like the meraglim, we ask, when we write negatively about the Land. I have to say, and I’ve said it before, we may as well not have a blog if we’re going to have this response to every critical column, because it’s always going to be some sort of question on the propriety of raising negative things about our fellow Jews. But here is my answer and my toelles.

    I am not writing to lash out, to accuse, to denigrate. I am writing out of disappointment, and because I believe that by articulating issues that I believe many others perceive on different levels, but which not as many people can express as clearly as I can BS”D, I am performing a positive and hopefully constructive service.

    BT’s in particular need to understand their place or range of places in the subculture of orthodox Judaism and in the culture of EY. Looking at what I experienced there, and what I heard speaking to my friends — and Bob, I must resist your call for specifics and for examples; it really would take me days to write it up, and I don’t really believe my observations are that vulnerable to empirical dispute (if I’m wrong I’m sure I’ll find out) — I think examining these issues is also a way for us to look in the mirror. We are able, in America especially, to avoid many of the hard questions of hashkofa. What does it mean to me have pictures of Rav Shach and the Chazon Ish on my walls and yet to live a life that they would not really recognize as first-class yiddishkeit? That doesn’t mean R’ Aharon Kotler would give me a gold star, if he (or any of them) were in the judging business, but the issue is still out there, and my trip to Israel crystallized these thoughts.

    The midos issues, frankly, remain a theme for me. BT’s may be the last best hope for improvement in this area in the yeshivish community, I immmodestly suggest (and have done so in the past in this space), and I believe that if we don’t see what’s going on around us we won’t be equipped to fight (for everyone’s benefit) on this front and to educate our children as well.

    In terms of raising the issues of corruption, I have taken my cue from Rabbi Yonoson Rosenblum and others who obviously see that we will never uproot this persistent chilul Hashem if we don’t first recognize it. This goes doubly for getting caught up in it.

    Sorry I couldn’t be so peachy. I love EY; I wrote what I wrote while feeling pain. My understanding is that this is the purpose of this forum. Believe me, my attitude toward this is as if there’s a problem with me, not “them.” I just wonder whether “they” think I’m one of them, as I do. That’s my topic.

  20. Bob Miller
    March 12th, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

    “Bob, I must resist your call for specifics and for examples; it really would take me days to write it up…”

    Highlights or lowlights are OK, too.

  21. Menachem Lipkin
    March 12th, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

    Ron,

    I fully appreciate the value of blogging and am certainly not one to shy away from expressing honest opinions.

    However, toelles or not, behaving this way in regard to Eretz Yisroel is quite unique. In a sense you did exactly what the meraglim did. You went for a “visit” to Eretz Yisroel, were scared off by the “giant” problems, and under the guise of performing a “service” discourage your fellow Jews from fulfilling the mitzvah of Yishuv Haaretz.

    Nobody should make Aliyah without doing their due diligence. And, indeed, there may be “show stoppers” for individuals and families. But to broadcast such a sweeping negative image, based on a smattering of information of a single community is quite the opposite of being constructive. That you write with erudition only increases the magnitude of the damage.

    The best corrective measure for many of the ills you describe as affecting Israeli society is to have more Americans make Aliyah, not fewer. “Spy” reports like yours only serve the very destructive end of giving people, already negatively predisposed toward Aliyah, even more excuses not to live here.

  22. katrin
    March 12th, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

    ron

    you wrote very passionately – but i think it’s incredibly difficult to write accurately about anything viewed from the ‘outside’, particularly in Eretz Yisroel.

    Also, another point that i would stress is that ‘chareidi’ cities and communities are not the only options open to a chutznik charedi person who wants to make aliya.

    the beauty of Eretz Yisroel (at least, in very small part) is that whatever flavour of frumkeit you prefer, somewhere there is a community for you. it might just take a bit of experimentation to find it.
    that is one of the real blessings of living here.

  23. Steve Brizel
    March 12th, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

    Bob-even if one has pictures of Gdolim all over one’s house or a house full of seforim and a great family life, a BT who thinks about the issues that you mentioned and many of the issues that we discuss here will still see many negative features about the FFB world, regardless of where he or she lives.It stands to reason that someone with very high expectations will also experience a profound sense of disappointment when he or she sees something that runs contrary to those expectations and sensibilities. Perhaps, our reaction to this phenomena is more pronounced in EY because hashkafic boundaries are even more stringently drawn there than they are here and many of the issues that you mentioned such as physical violence, driving like a meshugena and smoking should be anathema to all of us, regardless of where we stand hashkafically.

    FWIW, a few months ago, Mishpacha ran an article about anti smoking advertisements that were to be circulated in the Litvishe and Chasidishe communitues. One would hope that these advertisements were widely circulated and that smoking becomes discouraged and viewed as negatively for any young person in the parsha for a shidduch as are some of the other criteria that currently are viewed in a bad light.

    That being the case, I do believe that a year or so in EY is am imperative for the average high school graduate or someone who has graduated high school and has shown promise in a Beis Medrash and who is not looking at the year either as an escape from his or her parents or as a cure for underlying and pre-existing mental heal issues. IMO, one cannot compare the spirituality of EY with any other place on earth. OTOH, if one decides to make aliyah, that requires deep and serious investigation as to when, where ,how and financial considerations.

  24. Chaim G.
    March 12th, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

    is that whatever flavour of frumkeit you prefer, somewhere there is a community for you.

    is this not true of Chu”l?

  25. Bob Miller
    March 12th, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

    Steve said, “Bob….issues that you mentioned such as physical violence, driving like a meshugena and smoking should be anathema to all of us, regardless of where we stand hashkafically.”

    Steve, you must be thinking of somebody else. I didn’t raise these points here.

  26. katrin
    March 12th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    Chaim

    i don’t think so. most of the time, you get ‘stuck’ in a relgious area, whether or not you really like it or the shuls etc, because the alternative is to live somewhere with no ‘obvious’ jewish community, and in places like the UK or Europe, that means a) no kosher food b) no schools etc and c) a not insignificant risk of nasty comments / situations arising, particularly if you are visibly jewish.
    i should add d) that it also really increases the risks of assimilation – a friend of mine lives in the back of beyond, and doesn’t have a single jewish friend, yet wants her kids to marry ‘in’. that is one heck of a tough sell, in that situation.

    In israel, you can be a jewish farmer, a jewish surfer, a jewish astronaut – and still be obviously and commitedly jewish.

    and even better – you’ll find a whole community of jewishly committed farmers / surfers / astronauts (ok, maybe that last one’s a stretch….) to hang out with.

  27. Chaim G.
    March 12th, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

    OK point taken. I just had a roblem with the implication that one could easily move from one city/ neighborhood to another evry year or two until getting “the right fit”.

    In Israel and in Chu”l.
    A) Do lots of homework before buying a home/flat

    B) If you plan on doing any serious evolving or devolving be prepared to movw or to be intensely uncomfortable.

    C) Evolving or devolving are rarely planned in advance.

  28. Ora
    March 12th, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

    Ron–You clearly have a lot of issues with the Israeli Hareidi community. What I don’t understand is why you take issue with the “Israeli” part and not the “hareidi”? Certainly you could find an anglo-friendly, non-smoking, pro-work and pro-Torah community here in the Holy Land; I’ve been in several myself. You’ve addressed your rejection of the Israeli hareidi lifestyle, what about the other million religious Jews living here? Why are you rejecting hareidi leumi, dati, etc?

    I would also like to second earlier calls for more Americans to make aliya davka because of the difficulties, in order to fix the situation. Who said that our task as BTs, or as new olim, is only to integrate into existing (perfect) communities? We have to strive to make the community better, whether or not we have the merit to live in Eretz Israel. If the community has problems, all the more reason to pitch in and improve the situation.

    Two things about “polarization,” as it often comes up in discussions with people who don’t want aliya:
    1. Everything looks worse from the outside. I know many happy hareidi-dati leumi married couples, and many more who’ve wandered from one “camp” to the other over the years. Ditto ashkenazi/sfardi. While I’ve heard horror stories, mostly about hareidi schools rejecting Sephardi students, what I’ve seen in my own (not hareidi) community is complete acceptance.

    2. If all of the American Jews were forced to sit down and run a country together, it would look at least as bad as Israel does now in terms of tensions between different groups. If things seem calmer in the states, it’s due to isolationist communities, not an actual difference in culture.

    There will always be more tensions between family members living at home together than family members who barely make contact. That doesn’t mean the latter situation is healthier.

    Finally, a New Yorker is calling someone else’s driving bad? Hahahahahhahahahahhaha… i get scared just thinking about the last time I had to cross streets in NYC, and I was only in town to get from the airport to the train.

  29. Ron Coleman
    March 12th, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

    Ok, Ora – here’s the answer. It is a funny one.

    I am haredi.

    I am one of them. That’s where I find my core of emes. And that is my struggle.

  30. Mark
    March 12th, 2007 @ 7:07 pm

    It could be that the term Haredi is not working for those among us who tend in that direction.

    What would the world look like if we didn’t have all these terms and we thought of ourselves as Jews working to improve and getting closer to Hashem? Do you think Hashem is happy with our current classification system?

  31. Ron Coleman
    March 12th, 2007 @ 8:20 pm

    Mark, it’s a fair question, but that’s not my topic. Let me put it this way: The segment of the population that I am focusing on — the people who have me gritting my teeth — are the ones that, notwithstanding all that, I identify with in their approach to avodas Hashem. I write about them because I am at sea about that fact, because when I am in a haredi neighborhood, that’s where I feel most comfortable in many important ways. I need to resolve this not by turning my back on them — “too right wing, a hundred years behind,” whatever — but by this sort of cry of the heart.

  32. Naftali Rischall
    March 12th, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

    This is comical – how issues can be blown up that are mostly irrelevant. RBS is to me almost Gan Eden none of the American shmutz none of the American running after the car, the fancy simcha, the big house and all other status symbols. Learning that is on a whole new level in quality and quantity. People that are really growing and trying to always do more. We were welcomed as we had never been in any community in America. Our children are happy and safe – my learning is better than ever – my tuition is lower than ever – even though the student teacher ratio is lower !

    The meraglim saw the problems instead of the beauty of Eretz Yisroel and so did you. So sad that you will miss out on one of the best places an American Jew could ever move to if he cares about his yadus more than his gashmius.

    Let me make this absolutely clear – I Love Living in RBS in Israel, you visited, I live here it is an amazing place to live.

    Naftali Rischall

  33. Leah L
    March 12th, 2007 @ 10:30 pm

    In response to Mark:

    What would the world look like if we didn’t have all these terms and we thought of ourselves as Jews working to improve and getting closer to Hashem? Do you think Hashem is happy with our current classification system?

    >>> Possibly there would be less sinas chinum and loshon hora. Possibly the way would be paved for Moshiach to come and the Beis HaMikdash to be rebuilt.

    And, no, I don’t think our current classification system was part of Hashem’s plan — or maybe it was. Maybe we as a people still have a lot of growing to do.

  34. Mark
    March 12th, 2007 @ 11:14 pm

    Can I make a request as a fellow Jew and not as an administrator? Would it be possible to refrain from hurling the “meraglim” invective when somebody has made the decision that they should stay in America at this time. Besides being inaccurate, it is painful, devisive and not a very effective way of convincing your brothers and sisters to join you in the Holy Land.

  35. Baruch Horowitz
    March 13th, 2007 @ 12:02 am

    I link below to an article that appeared in the Jewish Observer(December, 2004) which discusses issues which should be thought about when considering making Aliyah. I remember that the article generated a lot of a discussion in a subsequent issue, and some writers felt that the author(who is a respected Israeli educator) did not emphasize enough the positive.

    Personally, I think that I would find it hard to adjust to the polarized description on page 8(” the polar nature of Israeli society has driven the chareidim to express their extreme allegiance to Torah in every aspect of their lives…”); I don’t think that that is the ideal way a Torah society should be. That is part of the challenge, to give up some of one’s previously held hashkafos, as Rabbi Leff is quoted further in the article.

    As was mentioned in subsequent discussion in the JO, the Meraglim analogy is not necessarily a good comparison for people discussing the realities that one needs to be aware of. The Meraglim went against Hashem’s plan for the Jewish people; Rabbonim do not necessarily recommend that everyone should settle in Israel, as mentioned in the article, so one is not guilty of “lashon hara” against Eretz Yisrael for discussing the pros and cons. But it also makes sense what Ora says(comment # 28)that “everything looks worse from the outside”, as that is true for life in general.

    I indeed have friends who have made adjustments and are happy(most are in Kollel, but one is an accountant); obviously there are many who do have the courage to make Aliyah, and find it within themselves the strength to adjust. I see it as an example of “ahava mekalkeles es hashurah”.

    http://www.shemayisrael.com/jewishobserver/archives/dec04/JODec04web.pdf

  36. Menachem Lipkin
    March 13th, 2007 @ 12:07 am

    Mark,

    I’m sorry, but I strongly disagree with you. Ron has hurled an invective article at an entire city if not an entire country. Comparing what he has done to the actions of the meraglim is not meant as an ad hominum attack. It’s simply an extremely accurate metaphor for what has occurred.

    It’s not merely that he has decided to stay in America. (Nobody should criticize such an important decision on an individual basis.) It’s that his words are encouraging others to do so as well. That’s where the comparison is most apt.

    I see that Ron is sincere and I don’t believe he meant any harm. Yet this too may be another area in which this article has similar overtones to that biblical episode.

    It is not an uncommon theme amoung writers such as Rav Teichtel and others who are deeply pained by such reports about Eretz Yisroel.

    I think it was inconsistent and unfair of you to pick up on this one item.

  37. Ora
    March 13th, 2007 @ 2:27 am

    Ron–If you only had a few minor disagreements with the Hareidi community here, I’d understand what you were saying. But when you disagree on fundamental issues, it seems a bit strange.

    If I said I identify with the dati leumi community, except I think that men should only study Torah and not join the army and preferably not work, and I believe that secular studies are a waste of time, wouldn’t you start to wonder why I don’t just join a different community?

    I understand why you feel hareidi in America, I just don’t understand why you reject the possibility of changing a bit here in Israel, particularly as you yourself mentioned that there are hareidi leumi communities which share hareidi values of strict observance and lifelong Torah study.

    You did not address my other points. Which I will rephrase as a question: given your misgivings about the hareidi community in Israel, why is your conclusion “there is almost no conceivable way I can be there” (which, btw, is the main reason your post sounds a little meraglish, not the criticisms, which are fine and often necessary) and not “wow, lots of work to be done, I’d better get started”?

  38. Bob Miller
    March 13th, 2007 @ 8:33 am

    One question is whether, to be part of an Orthodox Jewish community, you need to buy into all its customs, folkways, styles of dress, approved/disapproved occupations, patterns of speech, chumrot, etc., without exception. (I’m not talking here about Torah and Rabbinic law, taking their observance as a given)

    In America, there is a tendency for communities (but not all!) to regard the customs and so on as optional within some outer limits, subject to modification to suit personal preferences or needs.

    This is not so in all other countries. In these other countries, it takes more effort to find a community to fit into, because each community is a complete package deal. You have to buy the car fully loaded with only the options the dealer put into it, so you need to make the rounds of dealerships, or at least email or phone, to define your actual choices before decision time. If you find you really like that red ‘vette with those features, you’ll also want to check with Consumer Reports, Road and Track, and present owners of the same thing.

  39. Dina
    March 13th, 2007 @ 8:57 am

    I have had many discussions with friends similar to Ron’s. Almost every American family I know who settled in E.yisrael (mostly in Jerusalem, bec. that’s where my generation settled, before RBS was a viable option) have or are now experiencing the pain of one of their children not being accepted into mesivta/bais yakov/seminary or of one of their children going off (hopefully temporarily). Some of the children went off, their parents found appropriate programs that were far away from mainstream chareidi life, and they florished, B”H. Many many children of American olim dislike the chareidi society they were born into and many who are not “problems” still dislike it there. The American values of openness and respect for education and fair play, etc., come through their chinuch and are not reciprocated in the outside world. There is much conflict.

    I think it’s a real problem, and with all due respect, although I don’t know this for a fact, our BT bloggers who are saying it’s not all that bad, I would ask how old are your kids? Have any of you with older children raised them through the school system there through seminary/baias medrish? (As opposed to moving when they were much older) Are any of you trying to have your children assimilate into the Bais Yakov/mesivta population?

    I would add, that the families I know and have spoken to, these are the creme de la creme. High intelligence, high level middos tovos, very introspective and into growth, high level learning. All BTs. Well assimilated. You can’t just attribute these problems to bad parenting. The society just definitely takes a toll.

  40. Ron Coleman
    March 13th, 2007 @ 9:15 am

    Well, Bob has sort of hit the nail on the head. But first let me address the “meraglim” issue. I think Menachem is right — the epithet is not wildly inappropriate here. Surely no one suggested it merely because I don’t live in Israel. I was affirmatively critical. Let’s not be oversensitive about that point; I’m willing to take the heat.

    But I do think, on the merits, it’s unjustified. I don’t believe invective is the right word. As I said, one reason I have not gotten into specifics is that I don’t believe there’s hardly any objection here to the facts I have established as the premise of my argument — merely suggestions of how they might be offset in various ways. So that’s where the meat of our discussion is.

    Ora, going back to Bob’s point: I’ve made a commitment to the haredi outlook as ideally expressed. I have to struggle within that context. My rebbeim, my childrens’ rebbeim, the people I look up to the most — that is who and where they are, and that is, at least conceptually, where I want to be. In my view, it is among haredim where the commitment to dikduk hamitzvos, limud hatorah, tzenius, and emunas chachomim are strongest, and from my point of view these are the keys to Yiddishkeit. There are other things I value, too; I have to find a way to come to terms either with the negation of attenuation of those values in my community, or with the contradiction or paradox in my life. It doesn’t have to happen today.

    Ora, you also ask,

    given your misgivings about the hareidi community in Israel, why is your conclusion “there is almost no conceivable way I can be there” (which, btw, is the main reason your post sounds a little meraglish, not the criticisms, which are fine and often necessary) and not “wow, lots of work to be done, I’d better get started”?

    Every one of us contributes to the improvement and survival of klal Yisroel in different ways. I don’t believe I am forbidden from criticism by virtue of a lack of interest in tilting at windmills… at least directly at them. It’s a hard job bringing up a large frum family as middle-class baal teshuvah under any circumstances. My dance card is kind of full!

  41. Bob Miller
    March 13th, 2007 @ 9:21 am

    To clarify my comment of March 13th, 2007 08:33 :

    “This is not so in all other countries.”
    meant
    “This should not automatically be our expectation in all other countries”

    “In these other countries”
    meant
    “In other countries that are unlike America in this respect”

  42. Menachem Lipkin
    March 13th, 2007 @ 9:39 am

    Dina,

    The issue I have with posts like yours and Ron’s is that you have either implicitly or explicitly decided not to live in Eretz Yisroel. (Which of course is your personal decision and like other’s have said you have whom to rely on halachicly to make such a decision.) Yet, based merely on anecdotal, hearsay information you are warning others like you of the perils of Aliyah. You’ve taken it a step further by impugning the feedback of people posting who actually live in Eretz Yisroel!

    Let’s face it. For all Torah Jews there has to be at least a little cognitive dissonance in living in Chutz L’aretz while it has never been easier to fulfill the mitzvah of living in our homeland. When people are in such a state they can be very selective about the information they process as it relates to their current situation.

    So while folks living in America may overemphasize the negative to assuage their “guilt” those of us who made Aliyah will likewise overemphasize the positive to justify our difficult decision.

    It would be illustrative to have some type of side by side statistical analysis of problems in the chareidi community in the U.S. vs Israel. Of course to do so would mean defining “Chareidi” and “problem”, which would probably bring us right back to this discussion.

  43. Aaron Huber
    March 13th, 2007 @ 10:12 am

    Ron,

    While I’ve never lived in Israel, I have spent extended periods of time there and can relate to much of what you have written in your article. I know that if I made aliyah I would not even attempt to fit in to Israeli Haredi society. Besides dress I think we have little in common. In any event who would even want to be a part of such a culture where work is frowned upon? The truth is that much of the Haredi world’s actions bear little resemblance to the ideals of classical Judaism.

  44. Bob Miller
    March 13th, 2007 @ 10:25 am

    Aaron Huber said,
    “In any event who would even want to be a part of such a culture where work is frowned upon?’

    One could ask who would even want to be a part of a culture where traditional in-depth Torah learning is frowned upon.

    The answer, as always, depends on a person’s system of values, and other considerations not named.

  45. Menachem Lipkin
    March 13th, 2007 @ 10:31 am

    Ron,

    I appreciate your candor on the meraglim issue. Just so you know, I was calling myself one until I made Aliyah.

    About 12 years ago I spoke at farewell Shaloshudos for two families making Aliyah. It was Parshat Shlach. I thought I was being so original in comparing those of use remaining behind to the “bad” meraglim and the two families making Aliyah to Yeshoshua Bin Nun and Calev Ben Yefuna. Since, then I’ve come to realize that it’s not such an original concept.

    Rabbi Teichtel, in his “Eim Habinim Semeichah” brings many references between the meraglim and those would disparage Aliyah in his time.

    Here’s one example he brings in the name of R. Sonnenfeld:

    “The spies were punished because they slandered Eretz Yisroel at a time when there were no Jews there; how much more so now, when there are many Jews in the land.”

    Here’s another quote in the name of R. Sonnenfeld:

    “It is insufficient to criticize the land and its inhabitants from the outside. Instead, you must enter the Land and enhance it’s sanctity.”

    One more, in the name of the Zohar and Shelah:

    “Even the greatest gadol in Torah and righteousness should not trust himself when he opposes the movement to build the Land. He should not think that his intentions are fully for the sake of Heaven, for he is certainly no greater in Torah and righteousness than the princes whom Moshe sent.”

    I suggest you let the folks who are thinking of making Aliyah do their own investigations as in IMHO you are playing with fire with your public disparagement.

  46. TzviNoach
    March 13th, 2007 @ 10:40 am

    Ron said:
    “But first let me address the “meraglim” issue. I think Menachem is right — the epithet is not wildly inappropriate here. Surely no one suggested it merely because I don’t live in Israel. I was affirmatively critical. Let’s not be oversensitive about that point; I’m willing to take the heat.

    But I do think, on the merits, it’s unjustified. I don’t believe invective is the right word. As I said, one reason I have not gotten into specifics is that I don’t believe there’s hardly any objection here to the facts I have established as the premise of my argument — merely suggestions of how they might be offset in various ways. So that’s where the meat of our discussion is.”

    I have read this 3 times, and I can’t understand what you’re trying to say. Let’s dispense with the lawyerly talk, the double negatives and the pronouns, and answer the question: Do you accept the criticism that parts of your post (including the title – … a Hard Holy Land”) were unduly negative towards EY, and possibly touch on the error of the meraglim, or do you reject the criticism and defend your post?

    Ron also said:
    “Every one of us contributes to the improvement and survival of klal Yisroel in different ways. I don’t believe I am forbidden from criticism by virtue of a lack of interest in tilting at windmills… “

    Would you please explain how your rant about everything that’s wrong with hareidi society in EY, without offering any prescriptions for fixing it, or even for how a sincere American oleh can deal with it (other than stay home), “contributes to the improvement and survival of Klal Yisroel”?

    Thanks for clarifying.

  47. Dina
    March 13th, 2007 @ 10:57 am

    Menachem,

    Actually, we did make aliyah at one point and very hesitatingly came back to the US for parnassah reasons. I see the positive about E”Y very strongly. But I also cannot ignore the very real pain my friends are in — which cannot compare to the everyday situations of my friends here. Call it anecdotal if you will – it doesn’t make it invalid. That’s how we get our information to make decisions – from people very much like ourselves and what their experiences have been.

    I noticed you didn’t answer my questions, you just lashed out at my having cognitive dissonance and guilt over not living there. My point was that I would like to hear anecdotes of successful integration of entire BT families into the chareidi Israeli culture through chuppah. So far, I have heard of successes of young families (who to my mind have not yet been tested on the points raised) and very mixed stories of others. Ron seems to imply that those to whom he spoke (I imagine they include rabbonim) do not dispute the negative aspects at all.

    I wouldn’t say, “I would never live in E:Y.” What I would say, however, at this point, is that I would never raise my kids there, in the chareidi culture, nowadays. I’m open to change, open to hearing about other towns, etc.

  48. David Schallheim
    March 13th, 2007 @ 10:58 am

    >I think it’s a real problem, and with all due respect, although I don’t know this for a fact, our BT bloggers who are saying it’s not all that bad, I would ask how old are your kids? Have any of you with older children raised them through the school system there through seminary/baias medrish? (As opposed to moving when they were much older) Are any of you trying to have your children assimilate into the Bais Yakov/mesivta population?

    Okay, I’ll bite. I definitely fit into this category. All my children were raised here, from age 22 to age two.

    My wife is also a baalas teshuvah, and besides a very supportive cousin, we have no relatives here. I learned in Kollel for a dozen years, before working in kiruv and now translating, and my wife teaches art and paints in oils.

    Our children were accepted very readily into the chareidi school system, into a large and highly regarded Litvish cheider and the Beis Yaakov in our neighborhood. They performed very well in elementary school.

    The troubles began with the teenage years (sound familiar?). Actually, our oldest son had trouble in Yeshivah Ketanah. He was in a very elite school, and was definitely intellectually able, but he was simply not interested in learning Gemara all day. The Yeshivah handled things very poorly, and as parents we over-reacted, but in the final analysis we have to remember that everyone has free will and makes their own choices.

    It’s a long story, but today he’s a first sergeant in the Nachal HaChareidi, and we’re very proud of him. He is connected to his family, and definitely wants a Jewish future for his children, which includes sending them to a Talmud Torah by his definition.

    Thank God, although there are certainly issues, our other children are doing generally well in the “system,” especially the girls.

    I do think the educational system is harder on the boys, as they have a tough regimen of nine-ten hours of Gemara a day from age thirteen, with no socially viable options. However, as BT we have an advantage that we’ll consider other options that the FFB chareidi would find a social impasse, such as a technological school like Machon Lev, or whatever.

    The problem of a child leaving the Yeshivah fold is not unique to BT or even American olim, and I don’t think the problem is greater on this side of the ocean. If anything, I think the magnitude of the problems of drug abuse, licentiousness, and the like are less over here.

    Granted, with all the risk factors, we are more susceptible. However, I know of concrete examples of children of BT’s who were extremely successful in school and married into the best Yeshivishe or Chassidishe families (while at the same time these same BT’s may have another child who’s struggling).

    Overall, we have to avoid the view of Haman who said: “All this is worth nothing as long as…” Look at the positive!

    We have such a great privilege today of realistically living and making a Jewish future in Eretz Yisrael. The enormity of this mitzvah should not be understated. It comes with struggle, as CosmicX mentioned above, but it’s certainly worth the struggle.

    What greater nachas can there be than to sit around the Pesach Seder with one’s family of pure and unaffected FFB sabras and sing “Hashanah Haba’ah b’Yerushalayim—Next year in Jerusalem” with the emphasis on “Habenuyah—The rebuilt city with the Beis HaMikdash,” and not on “as opposed to here in Chutz L’Aretz”?!

    In the end, we believe we are doing the ratzon Hashem by living in Eretz Yisrael, and as a result we have His assistance.

  49. katrin
    March 13th, 2007 @ 11:13 am

    i’m a bit confused as to why the ‘work is frowned on’ idea is being taken as gospel law.

    in kiryat sefer, all of my husband’s co-learners either run their own business, or are trying to set something up – and one of the rabbis who lectures in his kollel actually has a business exporting pets to other countries.

    i’m not suggesting that frowning on work is unheard of – i don’t know enough to know either way. but from the evidence of what i’ve seen and heard with my own eyes, i don’t think it’s the only acceptable path, even in ‘hard core’ haredi cities like kiryat sefer.

  50. Menachem Lipkin
    March 13th, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

    Dina,

    Sorry if you felt I was lashing out at you.

    Though I do have teenage children I’m not a valid sampling for your question as they were already teens when we came here and also I’m not Chareidi. (But B”H so far everyone is doing very well.)

    I know families in Bayit V’gan and Telz Stone who have been here for years and raised kids to adulthood without more than the usual problems.

    In general I’d say (in my statistical invalid anecdotal sampling, of chareidi families I know of here and there I see similiar incidents of “problems”.)

    For the record, I don’t consider it a “problem” if a Chareidi kid becomes RZ any more than if an RZ kid becomes Chareidi.

  51. Mark
    March 13th, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

    Menachem,

    To me, calling someone the meraglim is a potential conversation stopper and this is a very important conversation. Clearly many here have no problem with this type of name-calling (Kol Kavod or maybe not?). It’s similiar to being in a Kiruv situation and constantly referring to the non-frum person as a sinner, it might be technically correct, but certainly not in the spirit (and probably not the letter) of the Torah law of helping someone get closer to Hashem. I’m assuming the sources you mentioned above, did not call people meraglim to their face.

  52. Menachem Lipkin
    March 13th, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

    Considering that there are over 50 comments I don’t think this has been a “conversation stopper”.

    My use of the word “meraglim” is meant as a concept, not a name. And this concept is part and parcel of this conversation.

    Out of respect for you I will not use the word any more, but the concept is absolutely fair game.

  53. Ora
    March 13th, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

    Dina–
    I came to Israel alone, but my husband and many of our friends are children of BT parents who made aliya. Most weren’t hareidi. The only kids who rejected religion would have done so anywhere, their family has a lot of religious issues. I do know one family of BTs who made aliya about 30 years ago to a hareidi neighborhood in Jerusalem, their children are all lovely and have married nice hareidi guys.

    Oh and another family we know made aliya about 10 years ago with three young kids, they now have four kids, three are teens, they’re in school in RBS and all doing fine.

    I don’t think that BT/not BT makes a huge difference once you’re here. BTs and FFBs both become “Americans” and then have that to struggle with.

  54. Ron Coleman
    March 13th, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

    Txvi Noach asked:

    Do you accept the criticism that parts of your post (including the title – … a Hard Holy Land”) were unduly negative towards EY, and possibly touch on the error of the meraglim, or do you reject the criticism and defend your post?

    I reject the criticism.

    Would you please explain how your rant about everything that’s wrong with hareidi society in EY, without offering any prescriptions for fixing it, or even for how a sincere American oleh can deal with it (other than stay home), “contributes to the improvement and survival of Klal Yisroel”?

    I don’t like name-calling games, Tzvi Noach, so if you want me to address your questions in the future, eschew words that allude sarcastically to what I do for a living and descriptions like “rant.” I can get name-calling on other blogs.

    I believe that when people of good will discuss issues of sincere concern, they are beginning the process of effecting change. This is especially true if they are the kind of motivated people who read this blog. One of the things that we do in this blog is put our thoughts and feelings as ever-developing BT’s, and frum people, on the table and poke around at them. If you don’t think this is per se “useful” you probably shouldn’t even read this blog.

    Oh, I have solutions. I just don’t think they’re that original or that anyone in a position to do anything about them is interested. But you asked, so here goes: Everyone should be nicer to everyone else. The gedolim in general, but especially in EY, should actually talk about mitzvos bein odom l’chaveiro, a topic regarding which I do not recall any recent kol koreh. The concept of working for a living should not be disparaged.

    Which leaves me with a small point, regarding this exchange:


    “In any event who would even want to be a part of such a culture where work is frowned upon?’

    One could ask who would even want to be a part of a culture where traditional in-depth Torah learning is frowned upon.

    Huh? No one is positing that here. The distinction is not between working for a living and “traditional in-depth Torah learning.” It’s between working for a living and holding out, as a desideratum, having other people work for your living, so you may engage in traditional in-depth Torah learning and knock on my door every weekday night asking me, as I get home from work at 9 PM, to support your kollel and your son in law’s other kollel. Okay, that’s a caricature too, but we’re not talking about any suggestion here of frowning on learning or even frowning on full-time learning. That is what we call a straw man.

    As to the meraglim question… I will let the debate roll. I do reject that criticism. I’m not even anti-aliyah. I would love to make aliyah. I wrote an article about a number of reasons why, in the present world, I don’t see how I could.

  55. Yaakov Astor
    March 13th, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

    First, I found Ron’s piece moving and important. I wondered about the tone, but in the end I can go either way it.

    Second, the miraglim accusation is excessive, IMO, for numerous reasons. Among them is that the miraglim were speaking about the Land, while Ron, at worst, is speaking about a culture. There are no shortage of authentic criticisms of problematic Jewish cultures throughout history, starting with the Neviim. Yechezkal HaNavi himself at one point states emphatically that the Jewish society in EY will be destroyed and replaced by one in Bavel. Ron is not a Navi. Today’s EY culture is not the one in the time of Yechezkal. Ancient Bavel is not today’s America — but the point is that it is okay to critique a culture, if indeed it is a critique. And it’s even okay, IMO, if it’s not a critique but its just one person expressing his apprehensions.

    I think Ron expressed some apprehensions that are specific to him and others that are universal. Because of who he is and/or the way he became frum he may feel it is “charedi Yiddishkeit or bust,” and thus the field of options for him in EY, at this time at least, is limited. That’s perfectly fine. And it’s better that he is honest with himself about that rather than be in denial.

    At the same time, I think there is validity in his apprehensions that would apply to other American BTs that need to be aired, and I am thankful Ron did so. This is not “miraglimkeit.” This is introducing a measure of sobriety, IMO, into the sometimes over-idealistic BT mindset.

    I am glad there are BTs in EY who feel Ron’s apprehensions are not valid and can cite themselves and/or others as proof. At the same time, I can tell you that there are people who have been broken or certainly had their enthusiasm severely dampened by their experiences attempting to make it in EY.

    Know thyself. And to thine own self be true. For some the trials and tribulations of EY are not for them at this time, IMO. Moshiach has not arrived and there needs to be Jews living Jewish lives outside EY. I hope articles like Ron’s get to these people who might otherwise have felt they were committing some grave aveirah by suspecting there were trials and tribulations of aliyah that they may not be up to.

    As for the actual content of his article, the word that kept popping up was “harsh.” “Brutal” and even “physical violence” was in there too. I do think it would be valuable for the audience to have some specific examples of what exactly was meant behind those words. How is it harsh? What do you mean by brutality and physical violence. These terms without examples backing them up can lead people to think many different things, perhaps worse than it actually is. That would be my question to Ron: please give me a concrete example, or concrete examples, to better define what you mean.

  56. Bob Miller
    March 13th, 2007 @ 3:11 pm

    ““In any event who would even want to be a part of such a culture where work is frowned upon?’

    One could ask who would even want to be a part of a culture where traditional in-depth Torah learning is frowned upon.”

    Hey, Ron! Peace! The last sentence above was my attempt to parry the point above it, and was not aimed at you and was not meant to describe your actual situation, or necessarily any real-wold situation.

  57. Chaim G.
    March 13th, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

    Menachem you quoted the Shlah:

    “Even the greatest gadol in Torah and righteousness should not trust himself when he opposes the movement to build the Land.

    This is a point that IMO derails the discussion. The notion that “the building the land” is the, or even an, objective of living in the Modern day state of Israel is itself a hashkafa rejected by most segments of Charedi society that Ron (and I) find it difficult to acclimate to.

    Most FFB young charedim who make aliyah do so because they believe that better Yeshivas and Kollelim exist in EY, that it is more conducive to the full-time learning anti-materialistic lifestyle and that their kids will receive a purer less “influenced-by-goyish-culture” chinuch. These are the same reasons that cause home-grown charedim to never even consider leaving.

    The fact that all this is taking place in historical EY is almost beside the point. The mekomos Hakedoshim and the kivrei tzadikim are “nice perks” but, for most, not the deal-breakers in their decision. Had the Uganda plan materialized and this haven for Torah and Chasidus materialized there it would not make much difference to most Charedim. They are also, typically, untroubled by any conflicts of conscience and gratitude that should naturally flow from recognizing the indisputable historical fact that Divine Providence worked, and continues to work, davka through the despised chilonim, who disproportionately spilled their blood and guts, to build and maintain this haven/little piece of heaven. (Obviously little or none of this applies to the Chardal camp.)

    The fact that you even talk this way, and perceive things this way is, to me, proof that you have not been fully acculturated to the Charedi mindset. (IMHuO this is a good thing).

    For many people myself (and I suspect Ron) included this obtuse, ungrateful obliviousness is another very troubling and off-putting plank in the Charedi (both in EY and Chu”l) Hashkafa Platform. If there was a sea change in this attitude, if the enterprise were at least partially about binyan ha’aretz rather than exclusively on creating the most insular hermetically sealed life-long school system possible, many of the other troubling aspects Ron posted about would rapidly begin to disappear.

    Meraglim charge aside I think that you misunderstand Ron (and perhaps me) when you quote this Shelah to negate his post/ our feelings. Ron doesn’t come across to me in this post as a guy who opposes the movement to build the Land. OTC his is the anguished cry of one who would love to do his bit to build but comes to a construction site and finds it being picketed by strikers. Saddest part is that upon closer examination the strikers are all members of his own family. He has laid down his hard hat for the time being but he’ll be darned if he is going to join the picket line.

  58. Bob Miller
    March 13th, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

    One guy’s obtuse is another’s acute.

  59. Chaim G.
    March 13th, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

    PS

    Please recall that had the Lashon Hara of the meraglim been accepted it would’ve perpetuated a miraculously sustained 100%-of-the -population in Kollel society and forstalled the inevitable transition to part-Kollel, part-warrior, part-seafaring trader, mostly agrarian society that was considered an actualiztion rather than a negation of the Torah.

  60. Menachem Lipkin
    March 13th, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

    Chaim,

    I’m not sure if you’re insulting me or complimenting me. I’m hoping it’s the latter. :)

    I’m not oblivious to the issue you’re raising and in fact it’s large part of the reason we chose not to move to RBS and instead sought out and found a wonderful chardal community which much more closely matches the chareidi-lite lifestyle we were living in America. Basically, Chardal is what you describe and I think it’s growing here.

    It’s a catch-22, if we could encourage more Chaim’s and Ron’s to move here it would be easier for them to live here. I do believe that there is a growing niche for American type chareidim.

    That said, however, nobody should have the expectation of transplanting themselves “as is” to a foreign culture. One of the wonderful things that I believe Nefesh B’Nefesh has done, beyond smoothing the beuracratic road, is to help set realistic expectations for new Olim.

  61. Chaim G.
    March 13th, 2007 @ 3:50 pm

    Complimenting you and trying to promote greater understanding and sympathy.

  62. Chaim G.
    March 13th, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

    PS smileys don’t seem to work in wordpress

  63. Ron Coleman
    March 13th, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

    Yeah, I figured something like that Bob. There’s always peace between you and me.

    Okay, there’s been some call here for me to define some terms. Here are some of the things that I had in mind.

    My last night there, as we passed through a a certain haredi (mostly hasidic) neighborhood (I won’t name it; it’s not in the story) on an Egged bus, the bus was stoned. By haredim. By us. Why? Because they’ve been having riots in that neighborhood there and the bus was driving its route. Certain parties were upset about a certain proposed local development, and that’s the government, and that’s the Medina, and that’s the bus. So I’m on a bus full of haredim being stoned by haredim and most of us are wondering which side of the glass we wish we were on.

    I saw people driving like maniacs in haredi residential neighborhoods, driving that can only be described as driving to kill. I don’t understand how anyone who even learned aleph-bais can drive so — not just aggressively — angrily; no, pugnaciously, bellicosely. Believe me, I’m a lifetime New Yorker, and I know aggressive driving. This was unbelievable to me, and my oleh host, also a native New Yorker, said, “Now look how I have to [do such-and-such maneuver] here because of that guy — if I don’t I’ll be regarded as a frayer.” This is coming from a totally idealistic guy from soup to nuts.

    Brutal? Violent? This story is so awful that I don’t even want to repeat it, but suffice it to say that even Yonoson Rosenblum saw fit, as he does from time to time, to act the meragel. I mean, do we need more than one story like that? This one did not make into HaModia; maybe it’s false. But to turn the story of the Chofetz Chaim and the judge on its head, Can you imagine “them” even making up such a story in his time?

    Of course these things do not affect every day life for the vast majority of people. But please, let’s not pretend there are not serious problems, and that to the extent we identify — as I do — with social segment that is experiencing them, they are not our problems, too.

    My piece was in no way an attempt to distance myself from the troubles. Far from it.

  64. Bob Miller
    March 13th, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

    Ron, have you ever seen Boston drivers?

  65. Menachem Lipkin
    March 13th, 2007 @ 5:12 pm

    Wow Ron, I can’t believe you’re about to put me on the other side of this argument. I had a few comments on the CC post you linked to.

    Of course these are serious problems and they’ve been beaten to death. I’m exposed to these issues on a regular basis in my neighborhood. And something must be done about it. But you are not them. Just because the label “chareidi” is used much more broadly here than in America is not reason for you to associate yourself, your hashkafa, with these fundamentalist aberrations.

    Did you spend time in Kiryat sefar or Beiter which are model Chareidi cities without the problems that plague RBS B? In RBS A did you go to Beis Tefillah? Did you meet Rabbi Mailnowitz a beacon of Chareidi moderation? Did you stop by the Gra Shul in the morning see working baal habatim taking time to sit and learn during their non-working hours? Did you check out the elemantary school Magen Avos where they learn limudei chol in a very frum yeshivish environment? Did you check out Beit Yaakov KoTamar, a high school started by friends of ours modeled after US style BYs?

    Yes driving is bad here and it’s tragic that more people have been killed in the highways than in wars, but it’s certainly no worse than 13th Avenue in Brooklyn. I don’t see people warning folks to stay away from Boro Park.

    Yes it’s horrifying that Mrs. Shear was beaten up on the 2 bus. But did you ride the 417 from RBS to Jerusalem. It’s a regular non-mehadrin bus I ride every day were people generally self-segregate themselves but nobody says boo if a man and woman do sit together or if a chiloni woman gets on wearing blue jeans.

    If you want to make Aliya these reasons are non-starters. You may have other, very legitimate reasons, but to me you sound like a person who has a lot more to offer being here than there.

  66. Ron Coleman
    March 13th, 2007 @ 5:16 pm

    Menachem, I hear your point. Seriously, I am open to seeing this issue differently. I also appreciate your generous comments.

    Bob, you’re right. They are actually worse than even outer-borough drivers here. But still.

  67. David Schallheim
    March 13th, 2007 @ 6:13 pm

    Ron–

    I agree with Menachem, many of these issues are non-starters. Just close the newspapers and the internet and you’ll see the general atmosphere of peace and harmony.

    That your bus was stoned must have been very disconcerting, but I don’t feel you can make a hekeish to the rest of chareidi society or communities from that incidence.

    To the extent these incidents reveal deep set communal problems, our presence only helps to alleviate them. Do you think your children are going to start rioting in Meah Shearim or RBS? Mine are repulsed by it, as they should be, and so are their classmates and friends.

    I see daily kiddush Hashem on buses and around town–all kinds of religious Jews offering their seats to another person, helping with packages and baby carriages, etc. Religious and non-religious Jews get along quite well off the pages of the newspaper.

    Maybe you’re concerned about parnassah?

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way (with si’ayatah d’shamayah).

    I know of a lawyer who made aliyah from South Africa about five years ago when his children were teenagers, and he’s been able to establish himself well in parnassah, settle comfortably in Ramot, and marry off two of his children. He looked for creative chinuch options for his children, and they’ve integrated well. He’s kovea ittim, and I’m certain that no one looks askance at him because he works.

    I think the line about a culture where work is frowned upon is highly exaggerated. Learning is encouraged as an ideal, but if someone needs to work to support his family he is met with compassion and assistance, not scowls.

    Any gadol I have spoken to has emphasized that it is the husband’s responsibility to provide for his family. Maybe he’s zocheh that his wife works and he can learn in Kollel, or some other arrangement, but ultimately it’s his responsibility. Is there any daas Torah that says differently?

    לילה טוב

  68. Chaim G.
    March 13th, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

    “Is there any daas Torah that says differently? ”

    Was that meant as a rhetorical question?

  69. Baruch Horowitz
    March 13th, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

    “I hope articles like Ron’s get to these people who might otherwise have felt they were committing some grave aveirah by suspecting there were trials and tribulations of aliyah that they may not be up to.”

    I was once discussing various topics with a (Charedi) rav, and I mentioned specific aspects of the Israeli Charedi culture that I didn’t feel I could adjust to(I wasn’t contemplating aliyah, but it came up in the conversation). Even though he has children in Eretz Yisrael, he didn’t blink an eyelash. Instead of giving me a schmooz on bitachon, seeing the good, respecting Torah, etc, he was in fact quite open and frank about discussing both the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the Israeli Charedi system.

    At a lecture a few years ago, I remember the lecturer relating that both he and his wife were raised to value Eretz Yisrael, and they therefore wanted to settle there right after they got married. However, R. Yaakov Kaminetski advised them not to do so. The reason given was that this person grew up with the American system, where Charedi high schools have secular studies, and Rav Yaakov apparently thought that this background would affect his and his family’s ability to adjust (the irony of the story, is who this person is). Of course, this is not blanket advice for everyone, but rather an example of Rav Yaakov’s famous perscipacity.

    Someone contemplating Aliyah needs to know if it’s laziness or the yetzer hara telling them not to do; on the other hand, he or she should not base the decision to go on initial feelings of “falling in love” with aspects of Eretz Yisrael that one experiences when visiting. At the same time, those who do settle in Israel and overcome obstacles, are in fact representing everyone else in the world. Perhaps that’s why I’ve heard that there are poskim that consider charities of Eretz Yisrael to have the status of “anyei ircha”.

    When savoring the EY atmosphere on the way home from schul Friday night while visiting Yerushalayim, one of my friends told me that one of the things he likes about living in Israel is the fact that there is less emphasis on materialism than in America. I remember him saying that because the country is poorer, people will sometimes put on a sweater, rather than rushing to turn on the heat; to Americans however, heat is not considered a luxury(I do not know how typical this example is, and even in the U.S., people do the same to lower their heating bills). The point is that one should be ready to live with trade-offs for the benefits one gets, whether the trade-offs are minor, or more significant ones.

  70. Steve Brizel
    March 13th, 2007 @ 9:29 pm

    Ron-I appreciate your anguish and despair over the more unseemly aspects of your trip, such as the stoning of a bus. Yet, for the two weeks that I was in EY, I also rode buses for a good portion of the time in many Charedi neighborhoods-without incident. I agree that RBS has problems, but as someone else pointed out, there are many fine Talmidie Chachamim,Bnei and Bnos Torah and their families there that abhor those who are involved in problematic behavior. From what I saw in Kiryat Sefer and heard about Beitar, they may be far better options than what can only be described as elements of an overheated community in RBS.

  71. Ron Coleman
    March 13th, 2007 @ 9:53 pm

    I regret that this turned into a thread about aliyah, though. Because that was not really my point. I am not against it, though it is not on my agenda for the foreseeable future for rather mundane reasons.

    My article was about how disappointed I am to see what “we” — yes, I know, this is the operative word — have created as a society in EY. As an idealistic guy I don’t understand, frankly, how a society can be built on Torah values and fall so short of them in important ways. My point was that it is still galus, notwithstanding how privileged we are in being able to live in our Holy Land. I wish I could say I see reason to be optimistic about these problems, but I don’t.

    That doesn’t mean that in many respects life in that world is not superior to what we live here. But points about American materialism are entirely besides the point and, I would note ever so gently, extremely grating to Americans who are constantly being asked to break off a piece of material for our idealistic brethren.

    I think most of the postings this has stimulated have been very insightful, on both (or all) sides of the issues I tried, perhaps clumsily, to raise.

  72. Bob Miller
    March 13th, 2007 @ 10:43 pm

    As long as we are in a time of galus, which now exists on some level anywhere in the world, aspects of our social organization will be out of whack. We can mitigate the problem and create more-or-less liveable arrangements, but the basic problem remains.

    People with a deep, heartfelt appreciation for Judaism are always disappointed with its imperfect implementation on the ground, because they know how much more it can do for us and the world.

    But we have a promise from HaShem Himself that all things will be set straight, which gives us the best possible reason for hope, despite current conditions.

  73. YM
    March 13th, 2007 @ 10:44 pm

    Great post, great thread, and great comment by Menachem in comment #65. Lets say a person who identifes with the Charedi side, like I do, makes aliyah and plans on working. I know that I will be considered a second class citizen in the Charedi community. Is that so bad? I feel like I am a second class citizen in the same community that Ron lives in, being 1) a BT, 2) not a Rov or learned by community standards, and 3) not publically known for being wealthy (although I do fine and have what I need, B”H). All this being considered, I accept my place — my competition is with my yetzer harah, not with anyone else in my community. Menachem’s post shows that you can find a place in the Charedi world in EY, if you are willing to be humble.

  74. Baruch Horowitz
    March 13th, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

    “But points about American materialism are entirely besides the point and, I would note ever so gently, extremely grating to Americans who are constantly being asked to break off a piece of material for our idealistic brethren.”

    I myself am an American, and I think it is relevant. I was noting that someone I knew actually saw this as a positive aspect of living in EY, and almost didn’t see it as a negative(true, he didn’t share with me any parnassah concerns). Considering the fact that he grew up in the US, I think that’s quite amazing, and deserving of admiration.

    However, it would be slightly hypocritical were Israelis to boast that “we are more spiritual than you”, if they indeed need to come on to the monetary support of the Diaspora. I think it basically boils down to the Yissochar-Zevulein idea, where each shevet is supposed to be appreciated for what it accomplishes.

    “As an idealistic guy I don’t understand, frankly, how a society can be built on Torah values and fall so short of them in important ways.”

    I think that there might be certain values that Americans have over Israelis, and that the latter should adopt. Rav SF Mendelowitz, IIRC, said that each country has it’s positives, based on elements of its native culture. He considered “tmimus” to be a virtue of Americans(I know society has degenerated since his times). The article I linked above(comment #35) noted:

    “By contrast, American society is built on egalitarian principles, which means respecting everyone for who they are, and downplaying differences and disagreements for the sake of unity and the common good. Americans are, in general, more unassuming and non-confrontational…A Torah community can thus be made up of families who fit into a general hashkafa category, despite minor discrepancies in their particular affiliations, mode of dress, or social interests.”

    If parts of America excels as this, than that is indeed a positive aspect of American Jewish life.

    Further in the article:

    “There are things that are accepted in yeshivish American society that are considered by Israelis to be treif. If a bachur follows professional sports in America, for example, he may not be looked at as doing anything wrong.Here, such a thing can get a boy kicked out of yeshiva. In Eretz Yisroel, if a yeshiva bachur shows up to shul in a blue shirt, he’s not normal. If he goes roller-blading, he has
    a serious problem.”

    If people who have successfully adapted to Israeli life(including die-hard sports fans :) ) want to disagree with this description, or put it in perspective, I understand. Also as noted in the JO article, it might be precisely these attitudes which result in the Israeli chinuch and Torah accomplishments(perhaps its also a reaction to the polarized secular-religious kulterkamp).

    Neverthless, if the price is more conformity, or a relative less amount of tolerance for slow growth and change, then for some, this is perceived as a significant price and a trade-off, and I therefore maintain that the(relative) egalitarian aspect of American Frum life should be recognized as its own strong point.

  75. Ora
    March 14th, 2007 @ 6:06 am

    “points about American materialism are entirely besides the point and, I would note ever so gently, extremely grating to Americans who are constantly being asked to break off a piece of material for our idealistic brethren.”

    Who exactly are you talking about here? Given that everyone I know in the DL community works at whatever they can to support their family, I’m assuiming you’re talking about Israeli hareidim who wander around trying to convince people to buy their kids apartments. In which case I’d just like to say, IMO, that if you’re looking for a solution that’s about as close as you’re going to get right not. If you want a hareidi community in Eretz Israel that values work, start off by not paying those who avoid work. People who know they have a morgage to pay are in my experience much more motivated to get out and make a living than those living in a nice apartment bought by American generousity.

  76. Jaded Topaz
    March 14th, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

    Ron Coleman ,actual points and objectives aside ….. Your presentation of said points and perspectives is like an unadulterated dose of Àdderall XR.
    And apparently you’ve got that insulation deficiency syndrome well covered as you tenaciously and impressively embrace the heat head on. Must be the excessive heat experience from those long desert days hangin out with the meraglim :-)not too many “idealistic blooms” bloomin in that desert. Yeah even nowadays its kind of difficult for the “idealistic blooms” to do théir growin thing.Maybe they need to be wearing “ebony bekeshes” to protect théir bitterly bleary blooms from the harsh winter weather.

    Bob Miller and Chaim G nice runaway metaphor thing goin on. Implicitly impressive especially considering the linear oriented origins and roots of said metaphors.

  77. Bob Miller
    March 14th, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

    Linearity R Us!

  78. Chaim G.
    March 14th, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

    Harumph…R WE!

  79. Bob Miller
    March 14th, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

    I am not a Harrumph! (I hope)

  80. Ron Coleman
    March 14th, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

    Huh?

  81. Chaim G.
    March 14th, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

    The thread was just getting too heavy. The last several comments were our (apparently poor)attempts to lighten the load/tone.

    Seems superfluous now.

  82. Baruch Horowitz
    March 14th, 2007 @ 7:49 pm

    “The thread was just getting too heavy.”

    It’s indeed a serious topic, which can be looked at from different angles. Even if you feel that there needs to be some sort of change, as I do, it definitely won’t happen over night. You can attempt to understand the situation, but utimately, whatever someone’s decision is, they need to make the best of the current reality.

  83. Jaded Topaz
    March 14th, 2007 @ 8:37 pm

    Ron, does “huh” stand for hysterical& utterly hilarious ? Its all in the interpretation and perspective of the end user/reader…. Just so you know.Anyway back to your fun task of chareidi fixing.

  84. Ron Coleman
    March 14th, 2007 @ 9:57 pm

    Anyway back to your fun task of chareidi fixing.
    And here I’ve been spending all this energy (and money) on haredi-faking.

  85. Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz
    March 14th, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

    “inevitably leeches its crooked ethos into the soil from which even the most idealistic blooms grow”

    I hope you meant “leaches” – I get enough about the “parasite” thing from my brother in Yerushalayim.

  86. formermoshavnik
    March 14th, 2007 @ 10:37 pm

    Katrin – I think you are missing the point. It’s only OK to set up a “parnasah” on the side TO SUPPORT YOUR FULL (or near full-time) LEARNING, not to be “balhabatish”, have a job and be ‘kovea itim”. Don’t believe me? How about the doctor I knew in Kiryat Sefer who worked part-time in the US? He was advised not to reveal the source of family “support” and just confess to the 2 weeks a month he spent learning, lest his children not be accepted in cheder, etc. I’m a former neighbor of Kiryat Sefer and I think it more than supports Ron’s post.

    I agree with Dina’s observation that as far as Americans in Israel trying to fit into charedi society, there are few that don’t have kids who are “off the derech” or on vastly different drachim or running back to America. I mentioned in a previous post that those that *do* manage to fit in tend to go to great lengths to conform to charedi standards.

    I would refer you to the link to the JO article above. They tend to agree more than disagree with Ron in terms of the ability of an American to be absorbed into Israeli charedi society.

  87. Baruch Horowitz
    March 14th, 2007 @ 10:50 pm

    Ron,

    My philosophy is that you have to “be yourself”, and if that means living the American lifestyle, and even there, finding people or rabbonim who are on the same wavelength as you, then that is the best bet. I was lamenting to someone by e-mail about a related issue, and he told me why he prefers the charedi lifestyle in the end, even if it means “settling” on certain issues.

    OTOH, because I see strengths and weaknesses, that’s why I can see why someone identifies as non-Charedi. That’s also one reason why I blog, to add some spices to the menu, so to speak.

  88. Baruch Horowitz
    March 15th, 2007 @ 12:16 am

    On the topic of the Israeli charedi economic situation, there is an article I would recommend,linked below(“Israel’s New Economic Reality” , Jewish Action, Summer 2004 ).

    Jonathan Rosenblum presents the the position of the charedi world, but he acknowledges up front what the reality is(eg, ” The challenge the Chareidi community confronts today is how to preserve the ideal of Torah learning as its paramount value while adjusting to changing circumstances, both internally and externally. That will not be a simple task”).

    We need more rational and less-heated public discussion of this sensitive topic, and perhaps the Jewish Action is a good forum for more of that.

    http://www.ou.org/publications/ja/5764/5764summ/

  89. Ron Coleman
    March 15th, 2007 @ 8:56 am

    Rabbi Simenowitz, Dr. Freud would appreciate your diyuk!

    I was thinking about this whole sugya, not surprisingly, last night. Let me just say — I had a great trip, a very spiritually uplifting trip, to EY, and I’m grateful that it’s possible to go there and an olam hatorah when you get there. You can read a little about and see the pictures from my trip here. No pictures from the bus in my story!

  90. Chaim G.
    March 15th, 2007 @ 8:58 am

    My philosophy is that you have to “be yourself”, and if that means living the American lifestyle,

    I understand this. But I also understand why such an approach only fuels the cycle of alienation and exclusion of the new American Olim by the native born Charedim.

    I speculate that what “they’re” thinking about “us” goes something like this: “You can take the Jew out of the Golus but you can’t take the Golus out of the Jew” or perhaps even more pointedly; “Who needs ‘your kind’ here in so holy and rarified an atmosphere? What’d you come here for…to dilute our community standards? To make denim skirts, rollerblading or… (GASP SHUDDER)working for a living morally and socially acceptable? If you weren’t prepared to leave your Ahmerikahner Shtick behind in America, if you weren’t prepared to elevate yourself to a higher madreiga=level when you, supposedly, ascended, what’d you come here for…the nicer weather?
    This is what I was alluding to all the way back in comment 10 when writing: “Simply put can we not detach ourselves from America (and on a certain level that includes constructing all-American enclaves [re: Ghettoes] a la Bet Shemesh) because we cannot, in good conscience, attach ourselves to Israeli Charedism or is it the other way around?”

  91. Bob Miller
    March 15th, 2007 @ 10:38 am

    About “being yourself”:
    There are options, which overlap somewhat, such as these:

    1. Yourself as-is
    2. Yourself as transformed by life experience
    3. Yourself as transformed by Torah study
    4. (the toughest) Yourself living up to your potential

    The common denominator here is that all of the above are about “yourself”, not “you just copying someone else”.

  92. TzviNoach
    March 15th, 2007 @ 11:58 am

    “Being yourself” is wonderful, and we all like to think we can and should find our place on the path of Truth while being ourselves.

    Unfortunately, reality sometimes intrudes, in the form of the societal context in which we live. In EY, in particular (and increasingly in some US frum communities), societal pressures to conform are very strong. Are we strong enough to resist the conformist tide and do what we feel is the right thing? For many of us, the answer is yes.

    But what about our children? As they grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, the pressures to conform are much, much stronger, and the penalties for non-conformity are greater. Yair Spolter in his JO article and others have alluded to the apparently high incidence of youth going astray specifically among families that have tried to move to EY and maintain their American value systems and modus vivendi.

    It certainly seems that one who is inspired to make aliyah should consider adapting to societal norms in EY as a success strategy. For most participants in this forum, that would mean either:

    1. Joining a haredi community in EY, and adopting the customs and worldview of that community (which, as others have pointed out, is not as “harsh” as might seem to a visitor)
    2. Joining a staunchly religious but not necessarily haredi community in EY, and adopting the customs and worldview of that community (which will still require some adjustment, but may be closer to our experience in chu”l)

    Yes, there are other options (e.g., live w/Americans in RBS, live in a mixed neighborhood and do your own thing), but these are the only realistic conformist options in a demandingly conformist society. The remaining option, of course, is the one chosen by the other (and myself and many others) — none of the above, I’ll just “play it safe” and stay in chu’l.

    Which option is best for you? Could be any of the above. Research the pros and cons of each, do some serious soul-searching, consult your Rav, daven sincerely, and make your best choice.

  93. Alter Klein
    March 15th, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

    I live in Ramat Bet Shemesh. I think it is wonderful. Are there problems? Yes. Are there problems in America? Plenty. They are different and some are the same.
    Before anyone makes aliyah they need to do their homework and see where they belong. Everyone should contemplate and atleast seriously consider aliyah but they also must make sure they know what they are getting into. Remember, where there is tremendous holiness there also is tremendous Yetzer Hara. Also, we must realize that when you move somewhere, you take on the customs of that place(the kosher ones). Americans should not move here thinking this is Teaneck, the 5 towns or Monsey. This is Eretz Yisrael. The culture could be considered a bit rough however when a people face 21 nations that want to wipe them out physically and tons of secular people who want to wipe them out spiritual, I can understand (not justifying, just understanding) the “ruggedness” of the Jews here.
    Ron,
    I wonder if you truly experienced the negativity that you described or you had it “explained” to you by other Americans who moved here who sometimes forget the rules of loshon hara and talk bad about their fellow brothers. Their are unfortunately people who wear kippas and talk about the Hareidim like antisemites talk about the Jews.
    As to the work scenario, I know plenty of Good haredim that do part time work and also learn. Everyday there are more ads in the papers for haredim to take courses to learn a parnassa. The situation is slowly changing. We must realize that the gedolim like Rav Steinmen, Rav Kanievsky and Rav Elyashiv all agree with the system here(atleast in the general sense). They are the Gedolim and they definitely know more than me so whom am I to argue. For the most part, most agree with this. Why? Is it very hard on the families? Maybe they realize this is needed for us even if it isnt the most “comfortable”. Comfort is an American fetish and we must remember we want what is best for our yiddishkeit. Rav Moshe Feinstein didnt become the Gadol Hador by driving to kollel in a lexus after a bagel and a NY times “moment” on a Sunday morning. He pushed aside all comfort for the sake of learning and the klal.
    By the well, for those who like extra comforts(me included), you can have your bagel and eat it too. We have a good bagel store here in Ramat Bet Shemesh.
    Bon Appetit.

  94. Chaim G.
    March 15th, 2007 @ 5:12 pm

    Good work R’ Alter. Ifeel uncomfortable already!

  95. David Schallheim
    March 15th, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

    >>none of the above, I’ll just “play it safe” and stay in chu’l.

    Is there such a thing as “playing it safe” in ruchniyus (spirituality)?

    In my experience, I found that sometimes the motivations to “play it safe” are complacency or laziness.

    In our case, my wife and I were learning in Eretz Yisrael, so we got married and set up our home here. That seemed that the safest bet; it was roundly sanctioned by Rabbis and peers–to stay in Israel no matter what, because the dangers of falling apart in Chu’l were all too great, or so went the conventional wisdom.

    As can be seen on this blog, and by articles such as the JO article (link above, #35–thanks Baruch) that conventional wisdom is heavily challenged today. If anything, the pendulum seems to have swung to the other direction.

    Forget about playing it safe. Forget about conventional wisdom.

    We need to be extremely proactive in our approach to issues of ruchniyus, especially involving chinuch of our children. It takes enormous energy, and working on simchas hachaim (joy of life) is the most powerful way I know to develop that crucial energy.

    Playing it safe may seem to be the ideal default position, but we always have to check whether our biases are getting in the way of making the best decision for our spiritual future.

  96. Baruch Horowitz
    March 15th, 2007 @ 8:22 pm

    “As can be seen on this blog, and by articles such as the JO article (link above, #35–thanks Baruch)”

    I’d like to clarify later one of my comments in light of some of other’s points, but I would mention that there was discussion that mirrored this thread, concerning the JO article in a later issue. I remember seeing different points from Rabbis Yaakov Horowitz, Chaim Malinowitz, and Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, and others. If anyone gets a hold of it, it’s an interesting read.

  97. Baruch Horowitz
    March 15th, 2007 @ 10:46 pm

    “My philosophy is that you have to “be yourself”, and if that means living the American lifestyle, and even there, finding people or rabbonim who are on the same wavelength as you,then that is the best bet”

    I wrote this in an unclear way , and it was therefore understood as the opposite of my intention. I was referring to living in America, as opposed to Israel, (“and even there” =America), and accepting a open, but charedi approach, from the choices which are available in America. I fully agree with the rabbonim and mechanchim in the JO article, which I myself linked to, that it is better not to go to Israel, than to go there and not to conform. As mentioned in the article, sending a mixed message can create a disaster for the chinuch of one’s kids, and this also applies in the US to the extent that one gives children a different message from his or her school.

    “The common denominator here is that all of the above are about “yourself”, not “you just copying someone else”

    I agree. A person shouldn’t use individuality as an excuse to not grow in Torah. I also think that someone fully living the charedi lifestyle can certainly ” be themselves”. Furthermore, I agree as other commenters here wrote, that the more one gets to know different individuals and communities in Israel from up close, one will see some examples of diversity, or how one can adjust . My comments were in the sense of what IIRC R. Yaakov Kaminetsky once said about himself, “ I’m my own person”, as opposed to his being the stereotypical image of what a person or a gadol is supposed to conform to(if there even is such a concept).

    I was emphasizing the times when conformity can be problematic. Wearing a particular type of shirt to satisfy societal conventions, in certain situations, may be the reasonable and only correct thing to do, or sometimes, it might a reflection of “being someone else”, and have absolutely nothing to do with a Torah transformation. The value of external transformations and adopting to societal norms depends on the person, and on the specific situation. If in doubt personally, then the only choice is to ask someone.

    What I am emphasizing is that we should not minimize, nor deflect attention from the serious problems relating to excessive conformity in America and in Israel, as well as the economic situation. (I viewed the comments on the thread as adding balance or putting things in perspective, rather than actually doing the former) How we should solve these issues or at least adjust to them , we can(and I think, should) speculate about , but ultimate decisions will obviously be done by a particular community’s gedolim. The articles I linked to, I think gives a good understanding of the core issues involved in both of the above topics, as written from a charedi perspective.

    “I know plenty of Good haredim that do part time work and also learn. Everyday there are more ads in the papers for haredim to take courses to learn a parnassa. The situation is slowly changing. We must realize that the gedolim like Rav Steinmen, Rav Kanievsky and Rav Elyashiv all agree with the system here(atleast in the general sense). They are the Gedolim and they definitely know more than me so whom am I to argue. For the most part, most agree with this”

    I would add to this, that discussing isn’t always arguing. There are strengths and weaknesses, and complexities to making community decsions, which by definition are made as a whole, and as noted by Rabbi Klien , there is some amount of slow change and adaptation even within the confines of the general system.

    As I said above, I see positives and negatives in different approaches within the Orthodox world. If one lives in the charedi world and desires its benefits, then it makes sense as well to accept and respect as a package deal all of the community’s decisions, whether or nor one personally likes those decisions. In any event, the “grass is always greener on the other side”, and the other side has its weak points as well, which one would also have to accept.

  98. Alter Klein
    March 16th, 2007 @ 5:29 am

    A beautiful happening in the Holy Land:
    I went today, in Ramat Bet Shemesh, to buy a new music cd in the local GalPaz(frum record store). I asked the Hareidi(Hasidic to be exact) Israeli salesman for the cd. He gave it to me and told me that the local supermarket( 4 stores away) was offering the same cd for half price with a purchase of 250 shekels(which you usually have no problem doing). He said I am welcome to buy the CD from him however most people were buying it at the supermarket for 1/2 the price. He smiled, I smiled, & I told him thank you and have a great shabbos and saved myself 35 shekels.
    I walked out of the store and said I need to add this comment to this article.
    Baruch Hashem, That is Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael.

  99. Dina
    March 16th, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

    Thank you to David Schalheim for a thoughtful description of his families successes and challenges. I see from testimony here that there are those American BT families in E”Y who do not have any serious problems, B”H. All I know is that it is a real risk with major consequences for an American BT to raise children in the charedi society there. In fact Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz just wrote a column yesterday telling a family with 4 children (oldest is 13) *not* to move to E’Y. And he didn’t know any details about the family.

    I do admire the idealism and mesiras nefesh of all families who choose to live in E”Y. I guess my point was that it is no mitzvah to undertake this move with one’s eyes closed, at the possible expense of one’s children. It seems much more doable if one opts for the non-charedi world, since there are more options in that society.

    And, to Menachem and Alter and others who write about the incredible middos of the people in E’Y: Please stop!! This is of course exactly what makes me yearn to be there! But out of concern for my children, I can’t just up and go. I think those in E”Y think we chutznikim just want to live comfortable lives. Actually if I was living my life just for myself, I might just be there right now. But with parenthood comes responsibility–to know oneself and one’s children and one’s limitations.

  100. Chaim G.
    March 16th, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

    I asked the Hareidi(Hasidic to be exact) Israeli salesman

    As long as we’re going for precision was he the store owner or merely an employee?

    If he was only a salesman I find the ethics of his advice to you problematic as well as halakhically questionable.

  101. Ron Coleman
    March 16th, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

    And, to Menachem and Alter and others who write about the incredible middos of the people in E’Y: Please stop!! This is of course exactly what makes me yearn to be there!

    You had me till the last sentence. Dina, argumentation by charming anecdote is not too useful. That’s one reason I avoided “specifics” — you and I are both talking, in general, about well known phenomena. Delightful stories of warm-hearted Jews who live all over the world fill up the Judaica shelves.

  102. YM
    March 16th, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

    When someone says that in EY you have to “conform” I have to say that this need much explanation and elaboration. There is a differnce between respecting community standards and turning oneself into a clone and not experiencing even one moment of genuine existance. Every person is unique and hashem created each of us to be ourselves, not to be someone else. I would say instead that if someone is making aliyah, they should figure out ways to upgrade their service of hashem. The article in the JO has, as an unspoken codition, that if one is going to make aliyah, one has an obligation to fit in with the charedi community there, and better to not bother going if you are going to do anything else. Perhaps the most important idea that one could inculcate to prevent kids from going off the derech is to not be a hypocrite.

  103. Steve Brizel
    June 3rd, 2007 @ 8:49 pm

    As Parshas Shelach approaches, IMO, it behooves all of us to go thru this Parsha with Rashi and Ramban very carefully and then ask ourselves exactly where did the Mraglim who were among the greatest leaders of the Shvatim err. Ramban, after asking what their specific transgression, especially emphasizes that their mistake was in doubting that HaShem could effectuate in EY what had previously happened in Mitzrayim, which Ramban calls Chilul HaShem and which was the primary reason for the karbanos for AZ BShogegg being prescribed in this Parsha.

    WADR to our moderators, I believe that the Chet Hamraglim belongs in the discourse on this blog whenever we discuss the pluses and minuses of living in EY, but especially as a reminder for us not to think that we all ultimately should think about finding a place for ourselves in EY, as opposed to either thinking too easily and assuming that such a place exists or that such a place does not exist. IOW, we should feel some discomfort when we read this Parsha and not view it as some sort of RZ piece of demagoguery or incitement against those of us who are here in the Golden Galus for even the most seemingly legitimate reasons. To be blunt, I think that the Parsha of the Mraglim is designed to make us feel uncomfortable and ask ourselves whether we have made the right decision for ourselves or our children in not thinking about living in EY with more seriousness. I would contend that one can offer the not so radical interpretation based upon Rashi and Ramban that we cam learn that even the greatest leaders can err when they substitute their calculations and opinions for those of HaShem and deviate from His precise instructions.

  104. Steve Brizel
    June 3rd, 2007 @ 10:29 pm

    One more point-RAL related once that a couple were having a serious dispute over moving to EY that was R”L threatening their Shalom Bayis. They went to a major Gadol whose name escapes me presently. This Gadol relayed the following observation and advice-Yes, the husband was correct in desiring to live in EY but that since his wife would be so unhappy there, that a different apprroach would be required. Namely,both spouses should realize that it is better to live in Galus and think about life in EY than to live in EY and think about life in Galus.

  105. Menachem Lipkin
    June 4th, 2007 @ 8:32 am

    Steve, beautifully stated! Rav Nebenzal comes to a similar conclusion in a wonderful piece he wrote on this parsha.

    For all the years I lived there and wanted to be here I was often able to contain the dissonance it created most of the time. That is, except when it came to this Parsha (and maybe also Lech Lecha) at which time I was a basket case.

    The insight you brought about spouses and Aliyah is also quite valid. This is something that should not be attempted unless both are on board. It doesn’t have to be to the same degree, but it’s often not a pretty scene when one spouse “drags” another. I would extend the same logic to older children as well.

    We actually had a Brady Bunch style family meeting before putting our house on the market. We voted and everyone over 13 got a vote and veto power.

  106. Bob Miller
    June 4th, 2007 @ 9:07 am

    The meraglim’s situation was more clear-cut than ours today, because the Jews had one leader relaying HaShem’s message to the people. Today, we have multiple voices of authority in conflict with one another about how/when/where to settle our Land and many other issues. This makes it wrong to castigate any Jews as meraglim-equivalents without knowing them and their particular backgrounds and situations.

  107. Menachem Lipkin
    June 4th, 2007 @ 9:20 am

    Bob, following your logic we could not use any of the biblical narrative as modern day mussar.

  108. Bob Miller
    June 4th, 2007 @ 9:22 am

    It does apply, but we each have to figure out how.

  109. Menachem Lipkin
    June 4th, 2007 @ 9:35 am

    Well then we should just toss all of those books filled with mussardik divrei Torah and write our own.

    Nobody would denay that one is Mekayem a Mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisroel. I fail to see how you can take issue with using this parsha to encourage people to introspect, using the narrative of the meraglim, in order to understand why they are not fullfilling this particular mitzvah.

  110. Bob Miller
    June 4th, 2007 @ 9:45 am

    Menachem, I’m sorry you don’t get my meaning. You know and I know that the mitzvah stands but its fulfilment depends on a lot of specific details.

    One phrase I still remember from the army is “it depends on the situation”. This makes me reluctant to throw out pejoratives against Jews who could not make aliyah so far. Each such Jew has to make his/her own appropriate cheshbon hanefesh; the meraglim story and its lessons are pertinent, but not to all in exactly the same way.

  111. Menachem Lipkin
    June 4th, 2007 @ 10:24 am

    Bob, I do get you. Totally. I agree that the meraglim label should not be thrown at people simply because they don’t live in Israel. There are many halachically legitimate reasons for not doing so, like you said, “it depends on the situation.”

    Ron was very gracious and I don’t want to restart this whole thread, but there are certainly cases and actions that some people do take that can be likened to the actions and thinking of the meraglim.

    I believe that what Steve just stated and I agree with is not castigating people as meraglim, but saying that it’s fair game to inject the lessons from the Chet Hameraglim into a discourse about the subject of Aliyah.

    With your statement,”…the meraglim story and its lessons are pertinent…” I think we pretty much agree.

  112. Sarah
    February 18th, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

    The best thing to do, if situation permits, is to come and live temporarily in EY under a renewed tourist license or temporary aliyah (1 year at a time) renewable by the Jewish Agency for up to 3 years. That way, you know what you are getting into. We have Yidden in Israel living under renewed tourists licenses every 90 days. Go figure!

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