12 September 2008


I just finished reading The Crisis of Islam by Bernard Lewis. It was quite a different take from the other two books I've read about Islam, most notably by Robert Spencer (Sorry, I don't recall the titles). The way I see it, the difference in perspective is that while Spencer slams Islam as being inherently violent, Lewis takes a more Charitable view. While not claiming that Islam is a religion of peace, Lewis states that Islam's current crisis is due to extremist fundamentalism; the terrorism currently deployed by these groups, would never have been acceptable to the general Muslim populations a mere two hundred years ago.

Islam, like all religions, constantly evolves and branches into different forms, and of course, depending on the environment and circumstances, some branches are more successful than others.

The roots of today's Islamic crisis, which threatens not just Islam, but all of civilization, is due to the juxtaposition of two important events, the development of the Wahhabist fundamentalist movement and the sudden financial affluence of Saudi Arabia, which ended up controlling the funding of, and shaping the nature of, Islamic education the world over.

Education, Education, Education.

I'm not putting Judaism in the same category as Islam, but any skeptic, and perhaps even non-skeptic will realize that Judaism also evolves due to the external pressures of history. And Chareidi Judaism of today, is an example.

Rabbosai, I don't want to sound melodramatic, but I think anyone with his eyes open can sense a crisis looming in the OJ Chareidi world. I'm not going into the issues and causes, because there's no need to; you can read all those in blogs such as Emes Ve'emuna, Vos is Neis and Failed Messiah. I am deeply pained by what I see happening in my society, but more so, I am anguished by what I see is a coming Tsunami in the Chareidi world. It is already an acknowledged crisis in Israel and it's coming soon to a neighborhood here near you - in America.

The triple cocktail of withdrawal from society at large, high birthrate and low level of secular education, while may be good for creating Lomdus machines and even excellent social organizations such as Tomchei Shabbos and Hatzalah, is destroying any semblance of normalcy for adherents of Chareidi OJ. I experience this not just at the communal level but also personally. I see members of my family slipping past the point or no return.

Here's the point of my post.

We must begin to view Chareidi Jewry as an extremist movement.

For those of you outside my world, either Modern Orthodox or non-orthodox, the above is absurd. As a hardened Skeptic it's absurd even to me. Why? Because all of Orthodoxy is extremism. Yet, everything is relative and from where I live, I don't consider the Judaism that I grew up with as that bad. Your mileage may vary.

But if you're on the same page as me, the question becomes "So, what do I do?".

Well firstly, move your children to as leftmost yeshiva (and camps) as possible. (You see, I'm not proposing total removal from your community, because I know I couldn't do it, so I don't expect you to, If you can, then, errr, Kul Hakvod, I can't say I blame you .) This is really crucial.

It's that yeshiva experience that will determine whether your children will end getting sucked into that never ending Kolel Vortex where you need a Heter to earn a Parnossah. It is that yeshiva experience that will determine whether your retirement money will be siphoned off to pay for your grandchildren's yeshiva tuition. It's that experience that will determine whether your children become intolerant of others. It's that experience that will determine whether your children are more concerned with Lashon Hora and Kavod Hatorah or exposing child molesters and those who protect them.

I am serious.

And watch out for those years spent after High School in Eretz Yisroel. That's probably where the real damage is done. I don't have any answers for that. Even the Centrist communities have concerns about Flipping out.

Secondly, try to be as open as possible with other people about your opinions about Chareidism. I get funny looks all the time, but so be it. I find it amusing that I've even been called a koifer. Imagine that, me a Koifer?

Well, I could be called worse. I could be called a Chareidi.

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