Sunday, January 10, 2010

Empathy for an Opponent (On RWMO)

[The following letter is fictional, but I believe the sentiments are real. I intend to try and deal myself with the issues here in a later posting - aiwac]
Dear Dr. Aviad Hacohen,
I read with some interest your article against the phenomenon of self-segregation in our circles. You complain of our establishing "committees" for screening potential candidates, our sending kids to religiously selective schools, our intolerance for more lenient standards of religiosity. You wax poetic over the non-democratic, perhaps even illegal nature of many of these activities, citing the undoubted value of democracy and equality in our fair state of Israel. Yours is but the latest in many an argument presented by Ne'emanei Torah Ve'Avodah against our behavior. What is missing from your critique, indeed, from all the critiques, is any real empathy with our situation or allaying of our fears.
We live in a world dominated with kefira and te'avon, Dr. Hacohen. You are asking us to risk ourselves and the religious well-being of our children to this atmosphere. Waxing lyrical about Achdut, the necessity of everyone having "different opinions" and so forth doesn't cut it and never will. It would be one thing if you and your LWMO colleagues worked on ways for us to deal with the various challenges to faith and halacha; if you genuinely believed in your program of "religious innoculation" enough to give us more than slogans. Instead you ask us to expose ourselves to the same ill wind that turned halachic Jewry into an insignificant minority in the space of a few generations, and you give us nothing to defend ourselves except snide contempt along the lines of "other people managed" or "I'm still religious, you should be able to deal also".
This perhaps is the worst part of your and your colleague's critiques - your snide elitism and complete lack of empathy for people who struggle. You will offer all the sympathy in the world to people who have fallen out of faith or who don't believe. For us, you have nothing but hatred and contempt, perhaps ocassional pity; but never compassion. You apparently neither understand nor care what it is like to see a third of your class year "take off the kipa" in school or in the army, except perhaps to dismiss it or even praise the "plurality of opinions". Exponentially more energy is invested in your circles to proving the connection between "Judaism and pluralism" and "Judaism and democracy" than formulating anything resembling a convincing argument for remaining an Orthodox, halacha-abiding Jew.
If your purpose is merely to "preach to the converted", then fire away. But if you and your associates wish to convince me, or indeed anyone else who wishes to retain the ember of Torah, then you will have to do more than show us a few bumper-sticker slogans with your nose stuck in the air. Until then, Dr. Hacohen, I ain't buying.
An RW Parent


Anonymous said...

"This perhaps is the worst part of your and your colleague's critiques - your snide elitism and complete lack of empathy for people who struggle."

Kol ha-posel be-mumo posel.

What makes you think you are the only person struggling? Why must you be continually snide and disgusting towards those with whom you disagree from exactly one world (what you consider left-wing Israeli Orthodoxy)? A great many such people have struggled far harder than you and continue to do so.

The root of all problems in Israeli religious life is not left wing or right wing Modern Orthodoxy. It is neither the professors nor the rabbis, nor the particular positions that they take. Rather, it is the continual delegitimization of those with other Torah viewpoints, and the refusal to let all voices be respectfully heard in the Beit ha-Midrash. Your attitude on this blog only emphasizes the problem.

Since your blog is anonymous, my post will be the same.

Stop complaining and start building something positive.

aiwac said...

Dear Anonymous,

If you had read my other posts, you would know that this "letter" does not represent my own views. It was an attempt to see the world through someone else's eyes, if you will - pulling something of an "evanston Jew".

I advise you read through the blog before you judge me so quickly and end up being guilty of your own charges.

Anonymous said...

i just came across your blog and think this letter is excellent. i have read your entries on post-modernism as well as the fawning of LWingers upon certain academics, and think they are quite insightful. Your writing style is great, full, rich, clear- without being too screechy. Thank you.