Saturday, February 14, 2015

So What's The Plan?


The Problem: The economic catastrophe in the charedi world. The trickle of charedim in vocational training programs does not outnumber those who take the kollel path.

The Cause: A new way of life in which men are given no secular education and are taught not to work, while women have large families and are not allowed to go to college.

The Forecast: Since charedim have large families, the economic catastrophe will get ever worse, and will eventually threaten the rest of the country.

The Plan: So what's the plan? How does charedi leadership plan to address this ever-worsening problem? Last week, I was involved in an extensive discussion about this question with a prominent figure in the charedi world. He confessed to not actually knowing what the plan is. This was very disturbing to me - you'd think that with such a huge, obvious problem, the plan would be known. But he offered three speculations:

1) When the situation gets really bad, the Gedolim will change social policy.

The problem with this is that the situation is already really bad, and yet Rav Steinman is continuing to insist that no secular education is permitted. Plus, you can't send people to the workforce overnight, it takes many years to change things.

2) Maybe there will be increased government/foreign aid.

The problem with this is that even if does happen, that just means that a few years later, when the money eventually runs out, the catastrophe will be even worse. It's simple math - when charedi society has six to ten children per family, there is no way that government or foreign aid can keep up.

3) Maybe Moshiach will come.

I was really taken aback by this one. That's a strategy?! What happened to it being forbidden to rely on miracles? He responded that if the Gedolim tell us to rely on miracles, we should do so.

How can it be that they are creating this terrible catastrophe, which is continually getting worse, and they have no viable plan?

54 comments:

  1. Perhaps there will be a trend away from the path of the previous generation towards working brought about by the experience of poverty that this generation is experiencing. I personally know many who left the kollel lifestyle to work because of the trauma from being so poor.

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  2. "the Gedolim will change social policy"

    The Gedolim are, and will continue to be, unable to change social policy. Part of this is because they didn't really create it, and part is because it long ago got away for them. They can't even keep Ponevezh students from stabbing each other!

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    1. Another possibility: They don't want to.

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  3. 1) The charedim do not threaten anyone else other than themselves. True, Israel loses in that its GDP would be higher if charedim worked, but that's not a "threat." That's a missed opportunity. The only "threat" charedim can possibly pose is if the government (i.e., the rest of society) continues giving them funds. These funds give people the notion that "they" have to fix charedim's problems. I apologize for saying this, but this is a dictatorial impulse. Far better that you stop giving money and let them sink or swim on their own. They're not children. They'll figure it out.

    2) Which leads me to my next point. They are, in fact, grown ups, and they will, in fact, figure it out on their own. Do you think they will literally drop dead on the street from starvation? Of course not. Like this prominent figure said, when things get really bad -- or unbearably bad -- changes will ensue and gedolim will endorse these changes. Society always evolves to meet the hard facts of life. Charedi society is no different.

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    1. you are ignorant of basic civics the reason all western countries give free public school education is if a large part of society is ignorant it effects all that live there

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    2. Talk about ignorance. There were no public schools in America for the first 50 years of its existence.

      And everything that anyone does affects other people indirectly. That doesn't give you the right to force him to act in the manner that you happen to believe is correct. A rude person may ruin my day. That doesn't give me the right to kidnap him when he's young and place him in a finishing school.

      Dictators always cite the public good to defend what they do. What reason do you think Stalin gave for starving all those peasants? Rule of thumb: If you don't want to act like a dictator, then you don't force anyone to do anything. You let people be and they let you be. You don't impose your values on them and they don't impose their values on you.

      Or is it your opinion that kefiya davit is immoral but enlightened kefiya is perfectly permissible?

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    3. Yehuda-
      Things aren't so simple.Even democracies impose restrictions on their free citizenry for the national good. I believe that during World War II, in Britain, everyone was either conscripted into the Army or told where to work (the US did not have labor conscription). Even concientious objectors were required to do national service, either working at the front as medics, or being sent to places where there were critical labor shortages such as in farms or coal mines or the merchant marine (which was quite dangerous....IIRC 1/3 of the merchant seamen in the British merchant marine were killed in the U-boat war).
      Western Democracies have increasingly moved in recent years to require able-bodied people to work and not live indefinitely on welfare or the dole. As I understand it, the Torah itself says something similar.

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    4. Yehuda,

      I agree with you. We shouldn't try and force Charedim to change. Of course, Charedim shouldn't force us to pay for their Avodah Zarah and blind adherence to "Gedoilim" who ignore the Torah of CHaZaL. It goes both ways -- we won't force you to become God-fearing Jews, and you won't force us to pay for your ignorance.

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    5. yehuda in every western democracy primary education is compulsory and not sending your kids will end you in jail and having your kids removed from your care are they all dictatorships?

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  4. Sounds like the 1930's all over again. When the Gedolim finally encouraged people to escape their fate in Europe, the gates of emigration to the West and Palestine were closed. Government Aid? None was forthcoming. Moshiach's arrival? People went to the gas chambers singing ani ma'amin, yet instead they could have been saying for decades longer every day after davening, if only they had ignored their so called Gedolim.

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  5. It sounds to me like a mass suicide plan.

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  6. I agree with the thrust of your post. but one small comment: relying on mashiach coming is not "somchin al hanes". that rule applies to an individual expecting g-d to do a personal miracle for him, something that, no matter how big a tzaddik one is, one shouldn't expect. klal yisrael has a havtacha that mashiach will come, however, and that is a totally different story.

    nonetheless, charedim have no right to throw themselves on the rest of the tzibbur for parnassah -- mashiach's coming has no bearing on that whatsoever.

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    1. Rav Yaacov Kaminetsky writes in Emes LeYaakov that תפח נפשם של מחשבי הקץ means that we aren't allowed to ignore the responsibility to deal with reality, with the claim that 'there's no point, as moshiach will come'.

      I don't see why that concept should only apply on an individual level, as the thought process is also faulty on a communal level.

      For that matter, what is the proof/source than אין סומכין על הנס doesn't apply on a communal level, as there is no הבטחה that Hashem will save us from any and all problems. He only 'promised' that at some point Moshiach will come. We are only obligated to 'long for' and await Moshiach, we are not commanded to believe that he will come today.

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    2. Even if we have a guarantee that mashiach will come, that doesn't mean he will come at our nearest convenience. That line of thought cost R' Akiva his life and lead to the Hadrianic decrees. Rather, like everything else, we should act as if God isn't there to bail us out and be thankful post facto when things work out. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best and you'll never be unpleasantly surprised.

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    3. Es, believing moschiach is coming is 1 thing. But "we can let our communal problems fester and get worse, and we can refrain from trying to solve them because moschiach is coming?" Was there any historical Jewish figure who ever took such an approach?
      I don't believe so. Regardless, what is the justification for such an approach?

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  7. What is a "prominent figure" in the charedi world?

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  8. The root of the problem is that, (oh yes I, said the root of the problem), we have labeled education as “secular education”. Pray tell, why would/should any rabbi want to introduce secular education into the Torah world? It will never happen. Period.

    Now let me ask you. Why are “you” using the term “secular education”? Was teaching our children how to plow a filed, and all the other tricks of the trade of agriculture, termed “secular education”?! I don't think so. Then why should teaching our children how to effectively run a business, or whatever, be labeled as secular education?

    The question to Rav Shtienaman Shlita should be: “should we teach our kids a work related skill or not”?

    As of now I have not heard/read anywhere a answer to this simple question.

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    1. What are you talking about? The answer has come, and it is "no."

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    2. That is a very good point. And quite frankly, I'm surprised by the spin. Because I have heard of R' Steinman years before R' Elyashiv passed away, he was the gadol that the Chareidim who run my kids' elementary school would go to. And not only does the school teach all the necessary subjects (Chareidi textbooks about, with pictures of boys AND girls - mostly girls, actually), English from 1st grade, lots of math, etc, but also I have heard that on the question of higher education, he tells people to first learn in yeshiva for a couple of years, and go out into the world at 22 or so. Which is not fundamentally different from what the Hesder yeshivas tell their students. (It still leaves the problem of the army, I know.) So I'm really surprised to hear that he is fully against any professional education. I am sure that the quotes are based on things he has actually said, but I also know what they teach in my kids' school. So it's not so simple.

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    3. Both Rabbis Steinmen and Kanievsky print weekly statements in Yated Neeman stating the imperative to not change the Haredi education system one little bit.

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  9. I attended an election campaign rally for the Bayit Yehudi party and I asked Nissan Slomiansky, who is currently the Chariman of the Knesset Finance Committee that if we assume that the Haredim will be part of the next coalition government, presumably headed by the Likud, the Haredim will be in a position to roll back the reforms that the government has been implementing regarding subsidies and educational reforms that impact the Haredim community. Slomiansky stated that this problem is a national strategic one and that his party will do everything possible to continue the reforms, even against Haredi political opposition.
    IMHO, I don't believe the Haredim are in a position to roll back everything and restore the situation they had before. First of all, they have all committed themselves to supporting a Likud government. Secondly, Herzog couldn't give them everything they want in any case because his voters support these reforms as well and the Left can't use the excuse "we have to give the Haredim everything they want because of the (supposed) "peace process" which they used in the 1990's.
    Thirdly it is unclear whether Lapid would agree to join a right-wing coalition so if the Haredim make unrealistic demands, Netanyahu could "threaten" to bring in Lapid on his own terms.
    Thus, I think it is reasonable to think that these reforms are essentially irreversible, with the exception of the army conscription matter which I think the Haredim will succeed in overturning, since most everyone thinks it is unrealistic to force them into the IDF against their will.

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    1. I should add that Slomiansky pointed out that there is considerable interest among Hasidic Admorim regarding vocational training for the Hasidim, at least.

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    2. There are many Hassidic Admorim who do send their boys for some kind of army service. Not the Satmar of course, but they are not the only Hassidim in Israel. Lots of Chabad do army, and I believe Pittsburgh as well.

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    3. Not all the charedi MKs seem to be sold on Likud:

      http://www.jpost.com/Israel-Elections/Haredi-MK-Gafni-hints-at-backing-center-left-govt-gets-in-hot-water-with-party-390743

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  10. The line "Too big to fail" comes to mind. Remember not long ago we were told GM and Chrysler deserved billions of government dollars because the economic and human price of their going bankrupt exceeded the price of printing lots of money to keep them afloat. It worked briefly and now they're teetering towards the same precipice again.
    The same will apply to the Chareidi community. The simple answer is "Cut them off" or "Treat them like everyone else". This will lead to hundreds of thousands of people starving, children living in the street, violence and crime. It is simply easier to continue pumping just enough money to keep the community teetering on the edge instead of letting it fall off the cliff.
    Remember that the Gedolim don't know much about the outside world, dependent as they are on their askanim for news from the outside. I'm sure that Rav Shteinman and his colleagues have no clue or are so convinced that poverty is a righteous thing that they think they're doing their followers a favour by keeping them in this miserable situation.
    So there will be no change. The government will continue to pay. The Chareidi leadership will continue to stamp its feeet and make unreasonable demands. The Toronto Maple Leafs will continue to lose.
    And Moshiach will stay in Heaven, shaking his head sadly.

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  11. I think you're underestimating the shift that's already happening at the grass roots. First, there are a lot of people working under the table. Second, many are getting training or going to the army quietly, without families telling anyone. I would love to see numbers for how many people of a given age (20 or 22) are Toraso umnato, in training, in the army, working, working under the table, etc.

    Also, I think that Ploni's comment above is on the mark. I believe it was Rabbi Leo Jung in NY 40 years ago who wrote that the college education of then (and even more so today) is not the equivalent of chochma yevanis, but rather the equivalent of lelamed libno umnus. For better or worse, there is virtually nothing in today's bagrut tests or in most practical-oriented BA programs that is not necessary to function and prosper in today's world. This is the inherent fault (which you mentioned in passing) with the concept of "learn until you need to work, then work" - it's hard to find work that can support a family without the necessary education.

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    1. There are Chareidi versions of Bargut tests, including History and Tanach. Nobody is asking them to teach their children apikorsus. Really not.

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  12. Yehuda,

    Unfortunately the Charedim do threaten everyone else because the Charedi population is growing much faster then everyone else. The Charedi population numbers about 10% of the population today however, 25% of first graders are in Charedi schools. That means in under 20 years 1/4 of the young adult population will be non-working and non-army serving. That will simply not work. At some point a tipping point will be reached where the productive chiloni will feel that he has no choice but to leave the country because of the growing Charedi power.

    Just think about the following anecdotal evidence. 3 years ago, two 102 year olds passed away, R' Elyashiv and Benzion Netanyahu (the father of the Prime Minister). Although they lived to the same age the number of descendents that they had is radically different. Bentzion Netanyahu had 12 descendents, 2 of them great grandchildren. R' Elyashiv on the other hand is estimated to have had at least 1300 descendants. SeeCharedi Demographics vs Chiloni demographics for a detailed explanation. You can't beat those kind of demographics.

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  13. In Israel unfortunately there is no plan. In America at least it sounds like people are at least talking about the problem. The latest issue of Klal Perspectives (http://klalperspectives.org/Issues/KPWinter2015.pdf) deals with the Ben Torah Baal Habayis (as they call him). The articles are quite reasonable and make sense. Unfortunately, they are preaching to the choir. The right wing Charedi world in America is not reading this (and would most probably dismiss it out out hand) and the Israeli Charedi world is not even in the same zip code.

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  14. I'd like to make an educated comment but before I do so, are there any hard numbers for the current employment statistics of 25-45 year old chareidi males? As a outsider this article makes one assumption that I don't see substantiated: chareidi males are unemployed

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  15. when I was just a few years in kollel and was out of money I ask R abbi Pluchok and Rennart what to do and if I should leave the kollel. One said if My heart was still in learning then I should stay and the other one then said to start borrowing money .

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    1. How were you going to pay back the loans? If you borrow money you need to pay it back somehow sooner or later

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  16. One does not need a huge amount of "secular education" to get a good job. One does need a change in perspective to see how this is possible. There is, in the Jewish world, this idea that only white collar jobs are dignified enough for a Jew, like a doctor, a lawyer, and accountant, etc. But this is nonsense. Perhaps my perspective is unique because I come from a blue-collar family and I am able to appreciate and respect a man who has a trade and a skill, who makes his living with his hands and his back rather than his head sitting on his backside. This kind of training lends itself easily to gender-segregated training, doesn't require math beyond some facility in arithmetic nor much at all, if any, of those other "forbidden" subjects, yet a person with such training and minimal education can provide for his family. Of course, for vocational training programs to be viable, the rabbinic leaders have to change their attitudes about what is a proper lifestyle for a Jew. Perhaps if more of them had to live in the abject poverty and hardship that their decrees doom their followers to, they'd be more flexible about encouraging men to have a parnassa. It starts at the top.

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    1. Just like not everyone can sit and learn not everyone can work with their hands. Some people are simply not good at these things. There needs to be both kinds of training.

      Additionally, the traditional blue collar jobs are going away, replaced by automation etc. For example, today, to be a car mechanic you need to deal extensively with computers as everything in the car is sun by computers.

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    2. "Just like not everyone can sit and learn not everyone can work with their hands. Some people are simply not good at these things"

      That is very true. My husband is an electrician and has met several college-type guys in construction for a few months who figured 'How hard could this be?", and who proved, in fact, inept. Especially if they never grew up learning to think about how things were put together.
      This business of keeping people away from computers is not going to help either.

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  17. Isn't it obvious that there is no plan except to keep doing things the way they are now no matter what?

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  18. THE PROBLEM- The State of Israel is in dire straits its existence is at risk!!
    THE CAUSE- Many Israelis consider themselves JEWS and stubbornly heed the word of G-D, they blindly follow the great Torah Sages. They refuse to become Israelis this prevents the land and people from achieving their great ultimate purpose a State of Israel with Israeli citizens on Israeli land.
    THE FORECAST- OY! VEY!
    THE PLAN- Just like they (the JEWS!) look to Torah Sages for answers we Israelis should consult Israeli Sages for their plan, they seem to be doing well moving their citizens to denial of their Heritage and G-D the cliff is in sight, but maybe we can move it along faster, i heard there was a Great Sage who had a similar problem to "Since charedim have large families, the economic catastrophe will get ever worse, and will eventually threaten the rest of the country." he had a great solution his name was Adolf something or other.

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    1. The great Torah sages of the past said that it is a commandment for a father to teach his son a trade, and that Torah without work leads to sin. The great sages of the past also observed that later generations are not as great as earlier generations.

      Two hundred years ago the rabbis who started the Reform movement tossed out thousands of years of Jewish tradition. Today it is a different group of rabbis who are tossing out thousands of years of tradition.

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    2. Matis-
      It is important to remember that the Jews are a NATION and the Torah is our CONSTITUTION. Anyone who is born to a Jewish mother or converted according to halacha is an AUTHENTIC Jew and, on the one hand, is bound by that constitution and, on the other hand, all the other members of that nation are bound to him or her, REGARDLESS of that one's level of commitment to the laws of that constitution.
      A rough guess says that about 20% of Israeli Jews will say they are "Israelis" and not Jews, but the rest say they are Jews and are more or less proud of that fact, even if they don't fully follow the laws of our Torah constitution.
      It is true that in the years from the founding of the Zionist movement up until, say, the 1970's there was an effort on the part of much of the Zionist leadership to create what they considered to be "the New Jew" and this Jew would reject many of the laws of the Torah constitution. However, the ongoing conflict with the Arabs plus the collapse of the associated socialist ideology that most of the secular Zionist establishment had lead to disillusionment with the old secular Zionist ethos and thus efforts to discourage Torah observance on the part of that Establishment has ended. That is why today, for example, the IDF bends over backwards to accomodate the religious needs of observant soldiers. Not only that, it is in the IDF that many secular Jewish Israelis see Torah observance for the first time. Orders are that if there is a religious soldier present, all soldiers must cover their heads and listen to Kiddush on Shabbat. In addition, the orders are that the Shabbat menucha of religous soldiers should not be disturbed by playing the radio and the such.
      Thus, this dichotomy you are describing between supposed "Israelis" who you posit are anti-religious and what you call "Jews" who supposedly represent "authentic" Torah Jews is obsolete. It is time to move beyond these anachronistic disputes which parts of the Haredi media and education system insist on promoting and come to a situation where everyone realizes that the Torah is the blueprint for our renewed Jewish society in Eretz Israel and that EVERYONE, whatever their personal level of observance is, has a part to play in it.

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    3. Your a dumbass

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    4. Your hyperbole aside, the general problem is that Charedim do not follow the great Torah sages. Instead, they follow their modern Gods, who they call "Gedoilim".

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    5. I'm going to invoke Godwin's law on this one.

      And last I checked, the Word of G-d does not include letting your children starve because you are unable to feed them because you are too busy learning the word of G-d

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    6. Well, which is it, Matis? Do they stubbornly follow the Word of G-d or do they blindly follow the "great" "Torah" "sages"?

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    7. Clown.

      There is nothing "israeli" about working for a living.

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  19. Maybe the solution is to finally stop, once and for all, this "Gedolim" nonsense. How many of the Charedim genuinely believe in it, anyway? Is it just a relatively few naïve newcomers, with the rest just cynically using them as an excuse to continue their lifestyle and get out of the army? ("I'd like to go out and work, but the Gedolim don't allow me.")

    I readily confess I am projecting here. I just find it so hard to believe that Jews, supposedly so smart, can believe in such a ridiculous thing. That "Gedolim" - the definition of which is "someone who has inherited a chassidus or yeshiva" - should be somehow considered anything special just blows my mind. But maybe such Jews aren't from the smarter Jews. I don't know. It is just incredible. "Daas Torah!" Its an amazing example of how quickly a hoax becomes accepted as dogma by whole segments of society. See Mormonism, Global warming, Scientology, and on and on.

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  20. אין כל חדש תחת השמש

    Cf similar situation in past in Eastern Europe, say 100-125 years ago, and how things played out.

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    1. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzFebruary 19, 2015 at 3:45 PM

      most charedim seem to believe that somehow the wells were poisoned in Europe and somehow hundreds of thousands of God fearing Jewish women suddenly gave birth to reformers, maskilim, secular zionists, bundists, assimilationists, converts to christianity and others.

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  21. I am posting this message which a friend sent me in response to this post:
    I'm a part of charedidi society. Now, there are lots of different groups, with different goals, and not all of them have the same demographic makeup. That being said, the majority of people I know work for at least part of the day. Not only that, but there are very few people I know over the age of, say, 35, who are exclusively learning in Kollel, retired professionals excepted. In fact, I can't think of a single one. i've been on busses and taxis driven by chareidim, shopped in chareidi makolot and bought suits from chareidi haberdashers. i had a phone plan issued by a chareidi rep, i see a chareidi doctor when i'm sick, and i published by books with chareidi publishers. one of my close friends is a chareidi patent lawyer, and i write audio presentations for a chareidi outfit that creates audio stories for the blind. (i don't work just with chareidim, but i think this gives a fair, if abridged, sampling of what chareidi society looks like.) I conclude that:
    a) Rav Steinman, who was harshly criticized by real extremists some four years ago for saying that he studied secular subjects in Brisk and it did him no harm, probably did not state that nobody should have a secular education.
    b) Chareidi professionals exist, have existed, and will exist to the extent that, economically, they can't survive in Kollel alone.
    c) sweeping statements about charedi demographics issued by people not intimately familiar with what actually happens in chareidi society are apt to be misleading, one-sided, or outright wrong, and
    d) chareidi society needs to ask itself about its plan - other societies really should try to address their own issues instead of critiquing a group they clearly have no interest in joining. i do not think that this represents the threat to general society that the author presents; the "trickle of chareidim in vocational training" increases every day. ten years ago there were practically no organized programs for chareidim looking for such training. today they are all over the place and growing larger all the time.
    i agree with Rav Shteinman that the ideal for any Jew is to spend all his time shivti b'veis Hashem kol yemei chayai. I expect he agrees that a job beats starving, and that it's completely permitted to get one. at least, that's basically what I was told when I asked Rav Goldstein a similar question, and he used to frequent Rav Elyashiv...

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    1. I very much appreciate this perspective. It confirms what we instinctively think must be true (that there are in fact charedim who participate in all sorts of commercial and professional endeavors). I have just one issue with it. With regard to paragraph d), "other societies really should try to address their own issues instead of critiquing a group they clearly have no interest in joining" is true enough in and of itself. The problem comes when "other societies" are asked -- sorry, forced -- to provide the livelihood of large portions of a group they clearly have no interest in joining. If chareidi leadership were to publicly and as a matter of policy embrace self-sufficiency as an ideal (consistent with any perusal of halakhic sources more than 200 years old), never mind if it were -- again, loudly and publicly -- to endorse the taking of concrete steps to embark on such a path, it would effect a paradigm shift in Israeli society, the positive effects of which cannot be overstated. First and foremost among these would be the realization among both charedi and chiloni sectors that each sector is not out to destroy the way of life of the other.

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  22. Hi Rabbi, I had asked the crowd (above) for some stats on Charedi Employment for 25-45 Chareidi Males but no one has responded with anything. I'm sorry to trouble you but can you give me the numbers you used when preparing this article?

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  23. If the gedolim are instructing to rely on moschiach coming, then it's apparent that the gedolim believe the state of Israel was the footsteps of moschiach afterall! (Or first flowering of redemption, or whatever term that pointless argument is about).

    Does this "prominent figure" have relationships with gedolim personally? Or he is speculating?

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  24. THE PROBLEM: There is a large group of people in Israel who refuse to become Israelis, these people are a subversive element in the country that threaten the complete secularization of Israel into a state and people that have no connection to their glorious past and future as G-Ds Chosen Nation. past.
    THE CAUSE: This group actually considers themselves Jews, and not Israelis! These Chareidim actually fear G-D. And they stubbornly cling to the Torah and its laws, they refuse to realize they are Israelis, what does G-D the Torah or Jews have to do with Israel?
    FORECAST: Hard to say while many Israelis have completely abandoned the Torah and G-D there still remains this group of annoying Jews.
    PLAN: Just as the Chareidim listen to their sages so should we, it was said by Rabbi Slifkin " Since charedim have large families, the economic catastrophe will get ever worse, and will eventually threaten the rest of the country." I know a non-Jewish sage who said had a similar view and a similar problem, namely Jews were threatening his country and people. Anyways he had this great "Solution" to the problem, I dont remeber what it was but you can probably google it, his name was Adolf somethig or other..............

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