Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Can Beyond BT Be More Inclusive?

Posted on | February 19, 2008 | By Guest Contributor | 87 Comments

Dear Beyond BT

Although I don’t like labels (who does?), for the purpose of this post, I would describe myself as Left Wing Modern Orthodox. That means that I watch TV, listen to secular music and have no objection to teenage boys and girls socializing with each other, among other things. I have made great strides in my Torah observance and keep Shabbos, kosher, pray regularly and keep all the generally observed mitzvos.

I was pretty excited when I first came across Beyond BT as there were many issues discussed that were relevant to me. However over time it seems that Beyond BT has established its place in the right wing of the Orthodox spectrum.

Am I correct in stating that Beyond BT has moved to the right? If so, why has that happened? Can Beyond BT make room for a Left Wing Modern Orthodox BT like myself?

Thanks
Alan

Comments

87 Responses to “Can Beyond BT Be More Inclusive?”

  1. IB
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:26 am

    Rest assured, Alan, there are many more left-wing frum BT’s out there… This blog just isn’t one of the places that most of us congregate. I read it, but I rarely comment because it is so clear how entrenched in right-wing Orthodox culture most of the posters are.

  2. Fern R
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:57 am

    Alan–Do you have any examples of how you think BBT is a right wing (of Orthodoxy) blog? I’ve always thought of BBT as pretty “non-denominational.” Some of the regular commenters are rather hostile to the haredi world and I’ve seen quite a few comments that are critical of Orthodoxy as a whole. From my vantage point, BBT is pretty tolerant of a wide spectrum of opinions.

    As an aside, are there many left-wing BTs? In my own experience, it seems that most BTs are to the center or right side of the Orthodox spectrum. Three BTs have told me that they spent so much of their life on the wrong side of “the line” that they wanted to be solidy on the right side of the line when they became observant. It’s weird, because all three people used the same line analogy. Anyway, that’s obviously a rather small sample size, so I’d be interested in hearing other’s thoughts.

  3. Bas Yisroel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 7:01 am

    I think for the most part there are more right wing ultra Orthodox BT than left wing modern Orthodox. So the right wing orthodox are posting more articles relavent to them and their view. I think it is great that you have made great strides in your Torah observance. I feel like I am going down hill. VERY burned out from all the shtick and garbage I see, and I don’t feel like I fit in. Sometimes I wonder if I would be frum if I wasn’t married, it’s a real daily nissayon. Do the left wing modern Orthodox welcome BT, do you feel happy and accepted and you fit in? I never felt I fit in with them. My friends used to read romance novels all shabbos long and it didn’t make sense to me. Well, I am glad you are content with the modern orthodox, and you fit in somewhere!

  4. Dovid
    February 19th, 2008 @ 7:49 am

    Alan…I don’t feel that the Beyond BT web site has been or is moving towards the “right wing of the Orthodox spectrum”. Each contributor and blog participant has their own view on things, and so many diverse opinions are represented. I have learned a lot from this site, mainly how others are managing in their own personal BT travels. Much of the time, I am perplexed by the outlook of some of those who share their feelings on being a BT.
    IMHO, some are newby’s dipping their fingers in the pool of Yiddishkite for the first time, while others are clearly BT “veterans” who have much to offer by way of advice. Folks from diverse backgrounds and locations can be found here, which makes for an interesting read often. You, yourself, by writing here, allow me to share my curiosity about your opinions on TV, music, co-ed socializing, etc.
    should this site have different sections called “Beyond BT”, or maybe “Not Quite BT”?
    That clearly won’t work. So, keep on visiting,
    keep on learning, try to avoid the TV and grow every day…

  5. misnaged
    February 19th, 2008 @ 9:18 am

    “To love a fellow Jew, just the same as you is the basis of our holy Torah”–Chassidus you all, Chassidus!

  6. JDMDad
    February 19th, 2008 @ 10:07 am

    Based on your description, I guess I’m leaning left currently. I still find and learn a lot from this site. When I searched last year, BeyondBT was where I found the most useful information for me though. What are some examples of “Left wing” BT sites? (Not that I’m looking to jump ship, but rather, maybe if I read others, I’ll get a better feel of the “Left/Right.”

  7. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 10:10 am

    1. This blog is interactive, so its character evolves based on reader input.
    2. I get the sense that the “void” of coverage here about more MO-oriented BT’s is filled at least in part by other blogs.
    3. If our moderators want to be more inclusive, they can solicit more articles from the MO world.

  8. Tzvi
    February 19th, 2008 @ 10:48 am

    … teenage boys and girls socializing with each other, among other things …

  9. David Schallheim
    February 19th, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

    Alan,

    I’ve been reading and contributing for a couple of years and I think the input of right wing chareidi posters and commentators has actually decreased, due to the departure of a few posters after the internet ban proclaimed in Lakewood, drashos in Monsey, etc.

    Personally, I never felt comfortable in the MO world. This is primarily due to a lack of exposure, as I was educated initially in Aish HaTorah, which has chareidi rebbeim, and that’s what I got used to, hashkafah-wise and socially.

    A few instances of un-welcoming receptions in Mizrachi shuls in Jerusalem turned me off from examining modern orthodoxy any further (this was in the late 1970’s, when a long haired baal teshuvah in jeans was frowned upon in Israeli Mizrachi circles, at least in my experience, although the Meah Shearim chassidim were very warm and welcoming).

    Logically, it would seem that it’s easiest for baalei teshuvah to adapt to, and become a part of the LW MO position. However, the reality is that the baal teshuvah yeshivos are almost all to the right of that, from Chapell’s to Ohr Somayach, and everything in between. I can’t say whether this is the cause of or the result of the baal teshuvah population being predominantly right of center.

    Maybe, like Fern R. mentions above, so many baalei teshuvah want to “go all the way.” Interestingly, Toldos Aharon in Meah Shearim is bastion of Israeli BT’s.

    I think that a place like Beyond BT has a proven tract record for baalei teshuvah of different backgrounds coming together to share their experiences and feelings in an atmosphere of tolerance.

  10. Charlie Hall
    February 19th, 2008 @ 12:20 pm

    One of the shuls my wife and I belong to is a famous “left wing modern orthodox” congregation. I do not exaggerate when I say that it has hundreds of BT families; most of them were brought to torah personally by their senior rabbi.

    I can immediately think of two reasons why it seems that the majority of BTs lean to haredi environments. One is that there are most modern orthodox congregations in the US don’t seem particularly enthusiastic toward people who are new to observance. (I’m not sure this is actually correct, but initial perceptions do matter). Second, for many of us, affiliating with a modern orthodox derech may be an insufficient distinction from our previous lives. In my own new MO lifestyle I still go to the same job, read similar novels, attend theater, and enjoy classical music just as I did before I became frum. (Admittedly, this former television addict hasn’t watched it in years. I’d never keep up with daf yomi if I made time for television.) I could easily see, however, that more outward signs and more of a distinction from previous lifestyle practices, mutar though they are, would make someone more comfortable in their path.

  11. Ron Coleman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

    I am prepared to be the meanie here. Maybe it’s an occupational hazard.

    My view of how people go about making a place for themselves in the frum world, and in life, has evolved (I say that hoping it is an evolution) in the last couple of years, and I know I am a lot less judgmental than I was not long ago. Comes with age — you develop a heart. (This itself is useful for younger BT’s to remember, because we have a habit of developing a judging habit because of the changes we’re going through at an odd time of life. At some point hopefully you let that go!)

    Having said that, my long experience in the usually unrelated world of intense Internet polemics is that people who cannot sustain their arguments on logical grounds slink away and complain about the “tone” or the “atmosphere” of a blog. And I will end the suspense by saying that I believe this is fundamentally the case with people who take the position that they are proud observant Jews , but merely consider X, Y and Z halachos from Shulcan Aruch or recognized contemporary poskim as optional because of their “lifestyle.”

    This is not about judging how a person conducts his personal life. I do not want to be judged on mine. But when I fail to meet the standards that the Torah sets for Jews, I do not consider that failure a principled stand. It is a failure. The dilemma of left wing modern orthodoxy is that some of the practices it consider acceptable are not considered acceptable by halacha, and in a less-than-three-dimensional forum like this that is a very hard position to justify. And because the participants here are searchers, and sincere truth seekers, and have already made hard personal choices based on what they have come to understand are their religious obligation… those hard questions will be asked.

    They are seldom answered satisfactorily. LWMO is a very hard religious position to justify analytically, because the LW premise is one of compromise while the O part is an acknowledgment of the absolute truth of Torah. What can we do about that if a person says that’s where he is and he’s comfortable there — a “there” most of us passed through, some quite rapidly, in search of far firmer logical ground (which absolutely need not be “ultra” or “haredi” in order to be internally consistent and halachically valid).

    In contrast, we have other kinds of struggling seekers here who do not call themselves orthodox. They are valued participants in these discussions, and then some. They challenge us, and themselves, but acknowledge that they are not “there”… either “yet,” or just not… at this point, let us say. To them, the right wing BT should be able to relate, though some of us do so more empathetically than others, because they do not claim to have all the answers, and they were the badge of skeptic or seeker honestly.

    That’s why LWMO types don’t stay here long. They’d rather congregate online where they won’t be challenged. (Frankly it’s the haredi world that’s mostly been challenged here in the last few months, anyway.) But if you can stand the heat, you may find the cooking here more nutritious.

    Um, no baking required (sensitive topic).

  12. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

    It’s not only that the official MO derech may be too close to our previous lives for comfort. BT’s may also reacting to a lackadaisical attitude toward Torah and Yiddishkeit among many of the MO rank and file they meet. They may want to associate with Jews who are more fired-up.

  13. Menachem Lipkin
    February 19th, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

    Alan’s question wasn’t about BT’s being to the right, it’s about this blog’s move to the right. Maybe the two are related, but I think that Alan has a valid point.

    I share this perception with Alan. I think, as in many RW BT yeshivas, the push is coming not from the Administration (Mark and David), maybe a little from the Rebbe’s (the authors), but mostly from from the “talmidim” (the commenters). Several of the most verbose and frequent commenters are RW and strongly push that Hashkafa. In some cases to the point of making in uncomfortable for those of more left-leaning hashkafot to comment.

    I don’t think there’s any “fault” here. Most blogs I’ve read become flavored by a relatively small number of commenters. It’s the nature of the beast.

  14. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

    Menacham Lipkin’s analysis leads me to wonder why LW-MO commenters can’t be more assertive here. In the rest of the blog world they are not such shrinking violets.

  15. Dovid
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

    Ron Coleman…you are not a meanie, and your comments and insights are most appreciated!

  16. Charlie Hall
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

    “some of the practices it consider acceptable are not considered acceptable by halacha”

    Could you provide some examples?

  17. Menachem Lipkin
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

    Alan asked, “Can [Beyond BT] make room for a Left Wing Modern Orthodox BT like myself?”

    Ron answered, “In contrast, we have other kinds of struggling seekers here who do not call themselves orthodox. They are valued participants in these discussions, and then some.” and “That’s why LWMO types don’t stay here long. They’d rather congregate online where they won’t be challenged.But if you can stand the heat, you may find the cooking here more nutritious.”

    So someone w/o the O label is a valued seeker while the someone who self-describes a LWMO who is looking for room here (i.e. “seeking”) is deserving of “heat”.

  18. Ron Coleman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

    Yes, Menachem. The non-orthodox seeker who does not claim to be orthodox is being, in my view, a lot more honest about where and what he is than someone who says he is “orthodox, but.”

    On the other hand, I am more likely to be able to eat at the MO guy’s house!

  19. Menachem Lipkin
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

    Bob said, “Menacham Lipkin’s analysis leads me to wonder why LW-MO commenters can’t be more assertive here.”

    I think it’s a local phenomenon. For better or worse, Beyond BT has a handful of articulate, verbosely-biting, RW commenters with a lot of time to comment.

    As one staunch MO participant of this forum, I simply don’t have the energy or time (these days) to spar at a level of detail where I must dot every “I” and cross every “T” to make a point.

  20. ChanaLeah
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

    There is a (growing?) contingency of disenfranchised frum Jews who subscribe to the parameters Alan describes, perhaps with praying daily being optional, and if they are willing to categorize themselves at all, might say they are LWMO.

    My perception, though, is that this type of frum is hanging on by a thread, a thin line that can be crossed easily, while waiting for inspiration. Keeping Shabbos, for example, can mean sleeping through Shabbos each week, a passive observance, so to speak. Or as Bas Yisroel said, reading material that takes one out of the realm of the ruchniyos of Shabbos. Where is the strength of such a connection ?

    That being said, if the Jew who is LWMO is a new BT, they may find as I did years ago, that the MO can be very welcoming, non-judgemental, a good place to start out and make mistakes without feeling ostracised.

  21. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

    Ron (February 19th, 2008 13:51), you’re being way too categorical about this. Both non-O and MO Jews of whatever wing come in many varieties. Those who approach this forum with a sincere desire to learn or to share experiences should be welcome regardless. However, we should also respect their ideas enough to present reasoned arguments against them if we disagree.

  22. Menachem Lipkin
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

    Ron, we’ve been through this before. I’m not LWMO ,and I don’t even play one on TV, but I do know a handful and they are very sincere and honest about their LW agenda. They do not say they are “orthodox but”.

    OTOH there are people who self-identify as LWMO who don’t follow all halachos who do not represent that hashkafa any more than a self-identified Chareidi who doesn’t follow all halachos and can be just as brazen about their lack of observance in certain areas.

    I’m not going any further on a limb defending LWMO as I believe, just as on the far right, there is a point where they fall off the spectrum of orthodoxy.

  23. David Schallheim
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

    “some of the practices it consider acceptable are not considered acceptable by halacha”

    Could you provide some examples

    Talking in shul. The first minyan I attended in the US after 18 months in a Jerusalem yeshivah was in Teaneck, in someone’s basement. I was shocked and agast at all the talking, which made the krias HaTorah inaudible.

  24. Mark Frankel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

    There are many Rabbanim who rule that there is no problem watching most TV programs and that listening to secular music is ok and permit teenage socializing between the sexes.

    If a BT found himself in such a community and that is the accepted halachic norm, they are usually not in the position to really defend or attack those norms. In many of these situations it is not a simple as opening up the Shulchan Aruch.

    Some BTs are just trying to integrate the tremendous changes they’ve already made.

    It might be smart to assume that at some level, most observant Jews are trying to grow. If the person is moving in the right direction, I think we should welcome and support them as much as possible.

    I think it would be great if more Jews were comfortable learning, giving and growing with all of us here at Beyond BT.

  25. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:12 pm
  26. Ron Coleman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

    You’re right, Menachem, we have been through this before! And just like before, I’ve never quite heard anyone actually defend departure from halachic observance as a place to ultimately be “holding.” If LW means something different from that — like just a style of dressing, let’s say, but in accordance with halacha — then we’re all being too categorical!

  27. Menachem Lipkin
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

    Chana, you said, “…that the MO can be very welcoming, non-judgemental, a good place to start…” I know that your comment in general was well-meaning, but this statement represents part of the problem. Modern Orthodoxy is not just a “good place to start”, it is a valid hashkafic path via which people can reach great heights, just as great as on other paths.

    What I think you’re trying to point out is that many BT’s feel more comfortable begining their journey with MO because it has a bigger, less-judgmental tent, but unlike a common misconception in the RW/Chareidi world, one’s growth does not necessarily have to lead them out of the tent and into a “frummer” one.

  28. Yaakov
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

    David – your comment based on a USA sample size of one MO minyan and zero charedi minyanim is astounding… In my opinion BT’s in the MO world don’t stand out because they’re just accepted. They’re not complaining about shidduchim or their kids being accepted to yeshivos… they’re just like eveyone else

  29. David Schallheim
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

    Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 14:12 25
    By the way…

    What’s your point?

  30. Charnie
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

    The tendency seems to be that depending on the subject of the post, it seems to bring out the RW or LW “attitudes”. It would appear, on the surface, that the RW element tends to be more vocal, but we have several self-described MO representatives who are very capable of making a point.

    Personally, I like the fact that I don’t’ think there’s a label that comfortably fits either my husband or me. However, my own growth pattern has been a move from what Alan seems to feel is LWMO, to an association with those who might be considered anywhere from RWMO to Charedei (NY style). Personally, I needed to create a bigger space between Conservative (which was a very negative association) and Orthodoxy, so that may be part of my transition. However, the LWMO I’m referring to are those described here who have a laxity in observance – such as only washing and bentching on Shabbos, or disaassociation with tznius. Alan, that’s not what you’re talking about, as I see it. That being said, you still won’t find me getting rid of all my secular books or music. TV just doesn’t seem worth the time anymore (unless the Mets make the World Series), not only because of bitel Torah, but because the shows seem to be either ridiculous and/or trashy. (With one exception, which I can watch from ITunes or online). In fact, the internet has almost made the need for a TV set obsolete, except for those of us with teenage sons who like to play video games to relax. And after a long day in Yeshiva, they’ve earned the right to “chill out” a bit!

    P.S. BTW, there were about 10 comments posted before I got a chance to put this answer, which may seem sort of irrevelent by now.

  31. David Schallheim
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

    David – your comment based on a USA sample size of one MO minyan and zero charedi minyanim is astounding

    It was more in terms of an illustration than as a basis for the comment.

    The point being that it is commonly accepted to talk during krias HaTorah in many MO shuls, which is against Halachah. I’ve always heard that talking in shul is more prevalent in MO shuls.

    In my experience, it is completely off limits and not tolerated in RW Orthodox shuls. Have you found differently?

  32. Mark Frankel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

    Ron – “Defending departure from halachic observance” sounds like a strawman. Many fine observant Jews are following their Rebbeim’s psak in these situations. They may not be defending their departure, but rather trying to defend a halachic norm.

    Menachem – I’m pretty much with you here, but doesn’t growth by definition mean you are becoming frummer. Or are you using becoming frummer in a deragatory sense, which would be unfortunate.

  33. David Linn
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

    I’m sure that no one has done a statistical survey but I wonder what is the breakdown of BTs along the lines of hashkafah. It may well be that more BTs fall into the hashkafic zone of “the right wing of the Orthodox spectrum”. If that is the case, that would be one explanation for what Alan is seeing.

    As to talking in shuls, I don’t think there is anyone that takes the position that talking during krias hatorah is proper or permissible. People will often do things without sanction and those actions don’t define a movement.

  34. Charlie Hall
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

    I’ve found that talking is a problem in every kind of shul I’ve attended — LW MO, center MO, RW MO, yeshivish, Chasidic, and Sefardic. The only places I’ve found it consistently not to be a problem was in Reform shuls (although I haven’t been inside one in years).

    Regarding music, the rav to whom I address most of my shilahs told me that Rov Soloveitchik was adamant that all classical music was mutar, period. It is also a matter of record that he supported co-ed schools and advanced secular education. (He, his wife, his son, both his daughters, and both his sons-in-law earned secular doctorates.)

  35. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

    David asked why I posted a definition of verbose. Because someone had used the word earlier in a possibly inaccurate way.

  36. Len Kofman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:59 pm

    Mark: I’m pretty much with you here, but doesn’t growth by definition mean you are becoming frummer.

    I found that often people seem to say frummer and imply meaning keeping more chumra’s and choosing the most stringent of rulings.It also often implies following what is typical yeshivish traditions. E.g. one of my friends started dressing in white shirts only and many people would say that is (a small example of)becoming frummer. This may have for him been an expression of getting closer to Hashem but you can definetly grow with out doing many things that are considered “Frummer”

    Ron: There are people who follow MO as a way to be loose about Mitzvah’s but I don;t think it is right to catagories the movement as that. There are many people who are careful about halacha but follow MO for haskafic reasons. There are many issues which are not directly related to halacha which RW vs LW differ on. An example would be the view on secular knowledge and secular education. MO generally view that there is wisdom inherint in secular education beyond just being a means to a parnassa. Most RW people who I know would say that the value of secular education is to get a job and other than that time should be spent mostly on Torah.

    There are many other differences like this which I could list but my point is that the differences between LW and not is not just whether you follow halacha.

  37. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

    We found services at Machon L’Torah in Oak Park, MI to be very free of talking. This a BT-oriented shul led by Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitz—See his bio at http://www.jaam.net/rabbijacobovitz.asp

  38. Menachem Lipkin
    February 19th, 2008 @ 3:26 pm

    Mark, yes in my book, frummer means more halachically observant which would imply growth. The problem, and the reason I used scare quotes, is that, to many, growing in yiddishkeit, i.e. becoming frummer, erroneously means becoming more RW hashkafically.

  39. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

    Do we know if their becoming more RW represents growth or not, or are we guessing?

  40. Ron Coleman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

    Ron – “Defending departure from halachic observance” sounds like a strawman. Many fine observant Jews are following their Rebbeim’s psak in these situations. They may not be defending their departure, but rather trying to defend a halachic norm.

    Well, what defines LWMO then?

  41. Michoel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

    I would suggest that the very fact the BehondBT is an internet blog, indicates that it is not on the right wing. To me, right wing means Lakewood and Satmar. Clearly, the average beyondb commenter is not from those communities. And I, who probably self-identify more to the right than the large majority of commenters, very often read things here that strike me as overly to the left. Such is life.

  42. Jacob Haller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

    Charlie,

    Was Rav Soloveitchik’s z’tl support of the co-ed K-8 institution Maimonedes in Boston a L’chatchila or a B’Dieved?

    Histocial evidence leans towards the B’dieved and that he would have preferred separate classes if there was greater communal acceptability.

    Were you suggesting that the co-ed setup was done B’shita? Is there any evidence supporting that view?

  43. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

    Ron asked,
    “Well, what defines LWMO then?”

    If it could be defined, would it still be LW?

  44. Charlie Hall
    February 19th, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

    “what defines LWMO then?”

    To paraphrase the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I can’t define it but I know it when I see it!

  45. Charlie Hall
    February 19th, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

    Jacob Haller,

    Decades after Ramaz and the Maimonides School were well underway, the Rov maintained his own school as a co-ed institution and told is talmid Rabbi Haskel Lookstein not to change Ramaz, which he had publicly praised. And this letter strongly suggests that he did not see co-ed schools as a b’dieved:

    http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2005/08/women-learning-gemara-ii.html

  46. Charlie Hall
    February 19th, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

    Something that we forget here in the Christian galut is that there is a huge difference between our own religion and that of our gentile neighbors. In Christianity, there is no definitive standard for religiousity. Judaism, however, defines a very careful minimum standard. In Christianity, there is no real difference between going from 0 to 4 than there is from 4 to 8. In Judaism, however, if the halachic standard is 6, there is a huge difference between 0 to 4 and 4 to 8. Someone can maintain themselves as a 6 in their level of observance and have a perfectly sound, nurturing, correct, and pure spiritual path and may even grow more than if he/she went to a 9 because exposure to parts of the secular world when done consistently with torah values can enhance one’s Judaism. (I’m not saying that is the path for everyone.) Someone at the level of 5, however, still hasn’t reached the minimum standard.

    Nevertheless there are people below the minimum standard who are a part of the orthodox community, because all you need to be a part of the community is to be shomer Shabat and have a kosher home. That doesn’t make one frum, but it is a good start.

    And there are of course many areas of halachah for which we don’t know if the real standard is a 5 or a 6 or a 7 or even a 10. For that, one needs a rav.

  47. Jacob Haller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

    Charlie,

    Interesting insight from 1953 but why did what is perhaps the flagship MO high school MTA of YU not go that route if co-ed is L’Chatchila?

  48. David Schallheim
    February 19th, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

    That means that I watch TV, listen to secular music and have no objection to teenage boys and girls socializing with each other, among other things.

    Mark mentioned that you can find a Rav who will permit all these matters, which I have no doubt is true.

    However, what about a fundamental principle in Torah: “Kedoshim tehiyu—You shall be holy”?

    TV, secular music, and socializing with the opposite sex are less than conducive to kedushah, and more than likely going to lead to the exact opposite.

    Perhaps that’s the difference between LW MO and the more RW MO and chareidi velt—the striving for kedushah and taharah?

  49. Charlie Hall
    February 19th, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

    Jacob,

    The Rov never ran YU. Decisions like that were Rabbi Dr. Belkin’s and I have no idea why he decided to start up two high schools rather than one. Maybe he felt that there was no need for a co-ed modern orthodox school in Manhattan since Ramaz had been around for a while at the time YU started its high schools? I’m just speculating.

    Interestingly, at roughly the same time Rabbi Dr. Belkin set up separate high schools, he also set up graduate and professional schools that make no pretense of running according to halachah; I am on the faculty of one. The cafeteria food is kosher, there are no classes on Shabat or Yom Tov, we have regular minyanim, and there is a strong orthodox student community with a great rabbi, but other than that we are pretty conventional place.

  50. Ron Coleman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

    I remember when Rabbi Lamm coined the term “centrism” for what we had all along been calling MO, many on the right asked, “Whom do you consider to be on your left, but orthodox, exactly?” I am sure there are answers but no one ever wants to flesh them out.

    Look. People who weren’t doing mitzvos, and now are doing them, are to be encouraged. The problem is, now what? Many of us crossed “the line” and then came to realize, sometimes with some shock, that the Torah asks a lot more of a person than Shabbos and kashrus and beanies; and that there are complementary issues of atmosphere, community, attitude and growth that affect our ability to meet what the Torah, and its Author, expect from us.

    And a lot of us found that the LWMO world did not support, or even encourage, continued growth in this regard. That was my observation. So I kept swimming…

  51. Bas Yisroel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 5:46 pm

    I have been thinking about what i wrote earlier, and I would just like to say that I went to a modern orthodox high school (but was not frum yet.) I became very close with one of my teachers, who was modern orthodox, she was my role model and was like a big sister to me. She is very sincere in her yiddishkiet, she ended up marrying a lovely Rabbi who got semicha at YU.

    There are some Modern Orthodox that didn’t inspire me, but then I remembered that some really did inspire me!

    On the other hand, there are many right wing orthodox that are taught me and inspired me. Right now those people are very scarce, I see alot of hypocracy there too!

    Now that I am frum for almost thirty years, I am tired of all the labels and shtick, and welcome all people no matter who they are, as long as they are not liars and cheaters. I stopped being the judge over everybody as I got older, and I have to only judge myself and stop inspecting others!

  52. Mark Frankel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

    I don’t think all hashkafas are equal, but I do think that there are times to look at differences and times to look at similarities.

    I think that we have a lot in common with all of our fellow BTs and it would be great if we could make Beyond BT a place where more people felt comfortable. I don’t think we would have to sacrifice much (if anything) to strive for that goal.

  53. Menachem Lipkin
    February 19th, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    Ron, you said, “I am sure there are answers but no one ever wants to flesh them out.” Oh please, people flesh them out all over the place. They revolve issues of woman’s role, our relationship with other “streams” of Judaism, our relationship with other religions, etc. What you can’t do, and often try, is base your definitions on the behavior of random adherents. You can no more define MO this way than I can define Chareidism by the black-hatted terrorists that live across the street from me.

    You and I actually have a lot in common. I came to the same realization you did with regard to the need for growth beyond the basics . I even started to reject my perception of Modern Orthodoxy as I moved on a trajectory to the right. However, at some point I realized that, not only does MO support and encourage growth, it does so in way which does not require me to check certain aspects of my Jewish and world view at the door.

  54. Steve Brizel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

    IMO, Menachem Lipkin’s points as well as the author have great value and should not be dismissed out of hand. R E Buchwald stresses that one of the most important considerations in any Jew’s life is that he or she have a positive view towards observabnce, regardless of their current level or hashkafic alignment.

  55. Ron Coleman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

    No handless dismissing here. I respect Menachem’s points well. I don’t canvass the whole Jewish blog world so if there is a definitive fleshing out of these questions I’d love a useful link or two. In our forum, though, I have never gotten great answers. I’m not making any demands, however! I don’t even have the energy or motivation for this particular fight. I want every Jew to do mitzvos and develop a relationship with Hashem and as long he’s not ragging on others — from whatever perspective — it’s got to be a good thing.

    Some of the least “right wing” or even “frum” people I know put more soul and heart into a moment of emunah and bitachon or refraining from loshon hora than I’ve summoned up in a lifetime of intense shokling. I am humbled every day by this realization. Some days quite a bit.

  56. Steve Brizel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

    Ron-why should you expect “great answers” on hashkafic issues such as Torah only vs Torah and Derech Eretz or a variety of the same that have their unresolved roots in the Talmud? WADR, your last paragraph reads like “tokenism.”

  57. Ron Coleman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 7:53 pm

    Listen, when I was a kid a token could take you anywhere!

    I think the “great answer” question on modern orthodoxy is more urgent than on the difference between TIDE and other variants of “RW” Judaism. I understand others may disagree.

    Steve, I am fundamentally arguing that we remember that, as the Sages teach, a person can acquire his World in one moment; that sincerity is a pretty big deal, if not the biggest of all; and that none of us knows the reward for doing a single positive mitzvah, or the punishment for transgressing a single negative one. And in my humbled view these are the three principles which we must view every other Jew.

  58. Dovid
    February 19th, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

    Besides the issues of halacha and hashkafa discussed above, and the various failed attempts at defining MO (whether LWMO or RWMO – does it really matter?), I’d like to add the issue of modern Zionism to the picture. Surely this also plays a major roll in MO thought. Some self-proclaimed MO folks that I have known seemed to have had practically worshipped the State more than they looked to Hashem and Torah. There is at least one community in _____ that so totally focuses on modern Zionism that it borders on an avodah zara-like land worship. It is this aspect of MO that disenfranchises the movement in my opinion. Does the minimal observance level or unznius dress make any difference with this issue hanging over the heads of those in this and other like communities?

  59. Steve Brizel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 9:31 pm

    ROn-since you are looking for sources on this issue, may I suggest that you either subscribe to Tradition and thus obtain access to its archives and/or access all of the TuM Journals which are available at Yu.Torah?

  60. DK
    February 19th, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

    I think having a more RW perspective is more honest about what the kiruv world both expects and produces.

  61. Ron Coleman
    February 19th, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

    That’s a great idea, Steve. I have always enjoyed Tradition when I’ve picked it up… but I am really not talking about Torah Umadda. I’m talking about what was described here as “left wing modern orthodoxy.” Or are they the same?

  62. DK
    February 19th, 2008 @ 11:20 pm

    Ron,

    There is actually much less of a difference between RWMO (like Steve) and LWUO (like you) than there is between either LWMO and RWMO or LWUO and RWUO.

    Just wanted you to know that because 1) I know you will find that annoying, and 2) it’s the truth.

  63. Bob Miller
    February 19th, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

    For the sake of additional clarification or maybe confusion, let’s also posit a middle category within each group (MO, UO). It’s not plausible that everybody is out on some wing or other.

  64. DK
    February 20th, 2008 @ 12:21 am

    Bob Miller,

    That’s a bad idea, as then too many will insist they are the center of each respective group.

    For instance, in the U.S., way too many people insist they are middle class. People earning $25,000; people earning $250,000.

    But the marketing books don’t have such a middle class. Rather, they have lower-middle class…and upper middle class.

    Still not convinced (I am speaking to others besides Bob Miller, incidentally)? Then let’s take your suggestion one step further — let’s just have “Orthodox” — I’m sure we can get everyone to agree on what the norm/middle is for that, no problem.

    Let’s start with hashkafa!

  65. Ron Coleman
    February 20th, 2008 @ 12:35 am

    LOL — DK you sling those acronyms like a genuine academic.

    I actually think you’re right.

    Don’t worry, you will always find other ways to annoy me!

  66. R' Bar-Chaiim
    February 20th, 2008 @ 8:15 am

    LWMO, MO, RWMO, YU, DUNNO,LWUO, UH-OH,RWUO, LOL. Gottaadmitit… this is quite a site!

  67. Bob Miller
    February 20th, 2008 @ 9:06 am

    “That’s a bad idea, as then too many will insist they are the center of each respective group.”

    Maybe significant numbers of people really are in the middle already—do we know enough to rule that out?

  68. Bob Miller
    February 20th, 2008 @ 10:05 am

    Where I work (an aircraft engine plant), the company intranet provides a huge, comprehensive guide to the corporate acronyms, to orient new employees.

    Beyond BT owes something similar to its readers. The moderators could commission a special article by Steve Brizel and others to make this happen.

    Then we can all fight about the definitions.

  69. Administrator
    February 20th, 2008 @ 11:01 am

    Bob, consider yourself commissioned.

  70. Jacob Haller
    February 20th, 2008 @ 11:23 am

    DK wrote

    “I think having a more RW perspective is more honest about what the kiruv world both expects and produces”

    A year and a half ago you submitted a thesis (and its subsequent high number of comments) to this blog with blueprints for a kiruv alternative. Has anything transpired since then?

  71. Charlie Hall
    February 20th, 2008 @ 11:24 am

    Dovid,

    The emphasis on the Land of Israel above just about everything else troubles me, too. The so-called “hilltop youth” who throw rocks and insults at police after squatting on land that isn’t theirs, the people who want to encourage mutiny in the IDF, the people who defend the indefensible actions of Dr. Baruch Goldstein, and the people who publicly compare Israeli government officials to Nazis all make me run the other direction. Most of the greatest rabbis of my lifetime (MO and otherwise) have said that land for peace is halachically mutar (and maybe a chiyuv) if it would lead to peace.

    It should be noted that many religious Zionists in Israel would not be considered modern orthodox here in the US. Two leading RZ rabbis publicly paskened last year that it is asur for women to study gemara; I don’t know of a single MO rabbi in the US who would agree.

  72. Bob Miller
    February 20th, 2008 @ 11:44 am

    I don’t know what most of these acronyms really mean!

    Anyway, for now, a small contribution to the literature:

    LW = Left Wing
    RW = Right Wing

    As http://ask.yahoo.com/20011217.html shows,
    this has to do with where a person was seated in the French National Assembly in 1789. So we can learn whether a person or group is LW or RW by finding out where they sat in 1789.

    MO = Modern Orthodox

    This has something to do with combining Modern ideas/behavior with Orthodox ideas/behavior, so it helps to know, going in, what these two concepts mean. Since we often don’t, our attempts to characterize their combination, MO, tend to falter. Centrist has been proposed as an alternative word to Modern, either for clarification, as a euphemism, or to make a quasi-political point.

    UO = Ultra-Orthodox

    This can mean a group
    1. that takes traditional Judaism seriously enough to believe and do it without compromise, or
    2. that one wants to stigmatize as fanatical or quaint.

    On the whole, the UO term is frowned upon by UO people. It’s also frowned upon by others who think the term is not pejorative enough.

  73. Charnie
    February 20th, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

    The NY Times association with the term UO is enough to make anyone frown. It’s almost always used in a derogatory context.

  74. anonagirl
    February 20th, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

    I’m a very occasional, non-BT commenter. I have a cousin who became a BT at a very difficult time. It quite literally saved his life. He became RW very quickly and it caused a lot of family problems. For whatever reason, I was his defender, the one who explained hekshers to his mother (my aunt) and my mother, tried to convince them that they should accommodate his Shabbos and Kashrus observance, and so forth. I could see what good it was doing for him.

    Eventually, however, circumstances in his personal life led his rebbe to suggest that he might be more happy in a MO setting. The circumstances had mostly to do with retaining a connection with the three boys from his first marriage, in the face of his ex-wife, who had converted to Mormonism and was extremely hostile towards my cousin’s Orthodoxy. The boys needed him, perhaps, more than RWO did. The “leniencies” of MO made it easier for him to have a good relationship with them.

    He is more lax now, but also more *relaxed*. He does not judge his family harshly and publicly. He does not panic if things work out so he starts Shabbos a little late, or needs to eat something not quite at his still strict standards of Kashrus (he has an illness which requires him to eat regular meals.) He’s still Orthodox, and is part of a vibrant MO community.

  75. belle
    February 20th, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

    Bob Miller:

    My husband actually found that little tidbit about the French Assembly as well. And did you know (or did it say) that those who sat on the right hand side of the chamber wanted to preserve the monarchy (conservatives) and those who sat on the left wanted to overthrow it (reformist)? These labels are still relevant today!

  76. Mordechai Y. Scher
    February 20th, 2008 @ 8:58 pm

    Well, I’m late to the party, and too lazy to thoroughly read all the preceding worthy comments.

    I think Menachem Lipkin, back around #13 answered the basic question.

    I, for one, though not exactly ‘left wing’, do vary from what I perceive to be the norm here. But the only reason I don’t post is because…I don’t get around to it. David and Mark have a pretty open and encouraging policy about posters. I suspect that there are other potential posters with different perspectives who, like me, just didn’t make the time and frustrated the moderators’ requests.

    Like JDMD, I’m curious to know what else is out there. I do peruse the internet a bit from time to time (read: waste to much time on it), and have yet to find anything even close to this blog.

    BTW, thanks again David and Mark for an excellent venue for all who choose to take advantage of it.

  77. Steve Brizel
    February 20th, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

    Ron-try the TuM Journal. It has many excellent articles in it.

  78. Steve Brizel
    February 20th, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

    I think that I wrote on this issue when I wrote a long post here back in 2006 about mutual appreciation between the MO and Charedi POVs and worlds. IMO, I don’t see anything out there that warrants an addition or modification except for a comment that if one understands that Lifnei HaShem is a religious imperative that begins and does not end when one leaves a shul or yeshiva, that just might have as much effect, if not more, than all of the Sifrei Musar and Chasidus combined on this issue. I really think that unless one is educated on the practical ramifications of Choshen Mishpat as it applies on a daily basis, many of us assume that it has no practical application whatsoever except as Mareh Mkomos as we nove through Seder Nezikin whether in yeshiva or on Daf Yomi. RHS always emphasizes that unless one is told what is assur or mutar, one will assume that some questionnable practice is mutar in the CM area.

  79. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 21st, 2008 @ 6:25 pm

    Please stop confusing LWMO with MO-Lite.

    LWMO is:

    1. a generally positive view of general society (i.e. “what’s out there that can make me a better person/jew” as opposed to “what’s out there that i should avoid in order to be a better person/jew”)
    2. a preference for lenient opinions over more stricter ones, especially for the sake of preserving community
    3. a differentiation between halakha and sociology; i.e., just because something “isn’t done” doesn’t mean it’s forbidden, and if it’s not forbidden, and there are good reasons for it, do it (commonly found in issues of gender and women’s roles)
    4. a valuing of integration over isolationism, both in cooperating with other Jewish groups and in views on interacting with Non-Jews
    5. an acceptance of academic methodology as part of learning Torah (such as Critical Talmud study, and Literary Analysis of Tanakh)

  80. Bob Miller
    February 21st, 2008 @ 6:51 pm

    Do “Mo-Lite” Jews tend to affiliate with LWMO institutions? If so, why? If not, why not?

  81. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 21st, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

    Bob Miller:

    Yes, definitely, because LWMO, as part of its integrationist philosophy, tries to be welcoming. So MO-Lite people can hang out there without feeling looked down on.

    One of my dilemmas as a LWMO teacher and future (iy”H) rabbi is how to balance being accepting of people ba’asher hu’ sham while promoting increased mitzva observance and spiritual growth. Just trying to be a “passive kiruv” role model doesn’t seem to cut it.

  82. Bob Miller
    February 21st, 2008 @ 8:57 pm

    Is there some point at which the Mo-lites are so numerous in the student body that their lackadaisical attitude has a negative effect on the other students?

  83. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 21st, 2008 @ 11:03 pm

    I haven’t done or read any specific studies on that question, but it’s an issue that educators worry about and try to deal with.

    I personally became MO-heavy in high school, notwithstanding that much of my class was not even MO-lite but Non-Observant Orthodox-Affiliated.

  84. Charlie Hall
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 1:40 am

    “takes traditional Judaism seriously enough to believe and do it without compromise”

    That’s me! Does that make me ultra-orthodox?

    “LWMO is:”

    I relate to Steg’s definition, too. Can one be LW MO and UO at the same time?

    One thing in which I would differ from some of my (fellow?) LW MO folks is that I am highly sceptical of theological dialogue with other religions. I could give a host of reasons but it is probably way off topic.

  85. Bob Miller
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 7:44 am

    Charlie Hall said,

    “That’s me! Does that make me ultra-orthodox?”

    Could be.

  86. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    February 22nd, 2008 @ 9:52 am

    One person’s “compromise” is another’s “Torah-true recognition of the complexity of Halakha and Reality”

  87. YM
    March 3rd, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

    Steg – great contribution

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