Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Disconnect

I think that one of the more difficult situations that exists in the Jewish world of today, especially, in my humble opinion, in the Diaspora, is the widening disconnect between the vast bulk of the population and the rabbinic leadership. While there are many rabbinic pronouncements on the minutiae of Jewish law, customs and observance there is very little that is said and heard about the major problems that face the Jewish world – the security of the Jewish state, the dire financial situation that threatens the entire system of Jewish education, the astounding rate of poverty and unemployment (voluntary and involuntary) in religious Jewish society, children at risk because of one-size-fits-all educational institutions, growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction, an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage, growing anti-Semitism and a seemingly unstoppable rate of assimilation, secularization and intermarriage that guarantees a shrinking Jewish population in a few generations.

Rather than address these terribly difficult issues, Jewish leadership is engaged in fighting over – again – the battles that destroyed the Jewish world of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whether we like it or not, whether it is theologically acceptable to us or not, the State of Israel is a reality where six million Jews live. The predictions by many Jewish leaders made in the 1950s that the state would not survive for twenty, thirty or fifty years have all proven to have been incorrect.

We have no choice but to support the state with all of our might, prayers, talents and resources. So why don’t we hear that call from our leadership, whether it be from any grouping of the Jewish people? The disconnect from reality is truly astounding!

The tuition rates for attending Jewish schools are rapidly reaching the breaking point. A small percentage of parents – those who pay full or almost full tuition at schools – are subsidizing the rest of the parent body who cannot afford the astronomical amounts that are termed full tuition. But that group of people – those who can and do pay full tuition – is a rapidly diminishing breed. Instead of addressing this problem – the true time bomb that threatens the future of Torah education – we spread our wealth so thin that we are unable to help the situation.

It may be important to help a father of a daughter to raise many thousands of dollars to buy an apartment for her and her prospective husband in Israel but it certainly is more important to provide for Jewish education to one’s own children and for one’s own community. This is part of the current disconnect – the inability to view the forest and remain fixated on the trees or even the bushes.

The fact that there is an enormous proliferation of small yeshivot, all of which are basically similar in curriculum, method and purpose is not only very inefficient and enormously costly but it has yet to prove that its educational accomplishments and scholarship are in any way superior to a large institution that would prove much less costly per student to maintain. Part of the problem is that there is such a surplus of kollel “graduates” who have no other employment potential except for yeshiva teaching so that somehow there have to be many such institutions simply to absorb some of this surplus of talent and scholarship. This is also part of the disconnect that exists in our world.

Having just recently completed the production of a documentary film about the Jewish world of the 1930’s, I am very concerned about the similarities of the anti-Semitic mood of the present decade to that past decade. It is much more insidious today because this anti-Semitism is encased in the pious cloak of anti-Israel rhetoric and policy. And unfortunately there are many Jews who are themselves entrapped in this self-destructive dance. And many of these Jews live in Israel!

But again all voices against this threat are muted and very little leadership is exhibited to address the problem. This is not merely a matter for the Anti-Defamation League to fight. We are all in a precarious and vulnerable position. Our leadership should warn us about this situation.

Again, silence is a great example of the disconnect that afflicts us. We should demand more from those that claim the ability and knowledge to lead us. Connection to the true large problems that face us is and should be a basic requirement of leadership and serious opinion.

Shabat shalom.

Berel Wein
Hat tip: Daat Torah blog

Chief Rabbi Sacks on “I” generation


Key quotes:

“The consumer society was laid down by the late Steve Jobs coming down the mountain with two tablets, iPad one and iPad two, and the result is that we now have a culture of iPod, iPhone, iTunes, i, I, I,” .

“When you’re an individualist, egocentric culture and you only care about ‘I’, you don’t do terribly well.”

“What does a consumer ethic do? It makes you aware all the time of the things you don’t have instead of thanking God for all the things you do have

“If in a consumer society, through all the advertising and subtly seductive approaches to it, you’ve got an iPhone but you haven’t got a fourth generation one, the consumer society is in fact the most efficient mechanism ever devised for the creation and distribution of unhappiness”

Interestingly, the office of the Chief Rabbi had to issue a clarification: See here:

At the end of the day, I find his comments rather spot on. And this is unrelated to the fact that I don’t have the latest iPhone…. :)


Intolerance lies at the core of evil. Not the intolerance that results from any threat or danger. Not the intolerance that arises from negative experience. Just intolerance of another being who dares to exist, who dares to diminish the space in the universe left for you. Intolerance without cause.

It is so deep within us, because every human being secretly desires the entire universe to himself. Our only way out is to learn compassion without cause. To care for each other simply because that ’other’ exists. – R’Tzvi Freeman

Gedolim are made, not born