Monday, September 19, 2016

Modern Orthodoxy Fails Again

UPDATE: See the very important follow-up post at

Have people gone crazy, or is it me?

I just came across a report that this week, there is a major fundraising drive for Chinuch Atzmai - the network of charedi Talmud Torahs, Beis Yaakovs and yeshiva ketanas in Israel. And this drive is taking place in... Teaneck.


Why on earth would Modern/Centrist Orthodox, Zionist Jews, fund a charedi, non-Zionist system of yeshivos, which is opposed to educating children towards professional careers?!

Apparently Rabbi Yosef Pollak, Campaign Director of Chinuch Atzmai, cited passages from the Talmud showing that "in times when the Torah is in danger of being forgotten, our sages have always placed the Torah education of children as their highest priority."

But how on earth is Torah in danger of being forgotten in Israel?! Never in history has there been as much Torah studied as there is today!

On the other hand, Torah is indeed very much in danger of being forgotten in America, where there is an enormous tuition crisis, and many kids go to public school instead of receiving a Torah education because they can't afford the Jewish schools! Which is more of a spiritual tragedy - that a charedi kid would go to a Torani (state religious) school, or that a Modern Orthodox kid would go to a public school?!

Apparently, this fundraising drive is making a big fuss of the fact that Rav Soloveitchik was a strong supporter of Chinuch Atzmai, and was even invited by Rav Aharon Kotler to serve as the first guest of honor at a Chinuch Atzmai dinner. Rav Soloveitchik stated that “a school system of the type of Chinuch Atzmai is of the greatest importance for the survival of Torah Judaism in the Holy Land.”

The relevance of this escapes me.

Top: Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Kotler.
Bottom: The picture as it appears in
The Legacy of Rav Aharon Kotler

First of all, if you're going to argue that the dinner honor demonstrates that Rav Soloveitchik greatly respected the chareidi world, it should be pointed out that it also demonstrates that the charedi world of the time greatly respected Rav Soloveitchik. Such is not the case today. In fact, the legacy of Rav Aharon Kotler is that The Legacy Of Rav Aharon Kotler (Feldheim Publishers) crops Rav Soloveitchik out of the picture of the Chinnuch Atzmai dinner.

Second, and more fundamentally, Rav Soloveitchik did this in 1956. How many charedi students were there back then? Less than twenty thousand. They were a miniscule fraction of the population, living a strongly anti-religious country. Contrast that with today, when hundreds of thousands of students, including over thirty percent of first-graders in Israel, are in charedi frameworks!

Unlike in 1956, the problem today is not "Torah is in danger of being forgotten" or "the survival of Torah Judaism in the Holy Land." The problem today is precisely the opposite: that there is too much Torah study, taking place at the expense of other obligations mandated by the Torah and Chazal: working to support one's family, serving the nation, and teaching one's children to be able to support themselves. The majority of Chinuch Atzmai schools have substandard secular education, encourage the children to go to yeshivah ketanah instead of high school, and teach the strong message that students should not serve in the army or do Sherut Leumi, that they should all learn in kollel, and that they should not train for professional careers. And this, as Chazal predicted, has catastrophic consequences, which threaten to get much, much worse.

Don't take my word for it. Read the Israeli Mishpachah magazine article about the economic collapse of chareidi society. Trust Jonathan Rosenblum, who actually lives in Israeli charedi society (rather than being an American with romanticized views of life in Israel), and who wrote about how it is essential for chareidim to engage in a wholesale reform of their educational system - not just to prevent the collapse of their own society, but to prevent serious harm to the entire country.

In the past, I have written about how for thirty years (until the rise of Koren), Modern Orthodoxy completely dropped the ball with regard to publishing Torah works. One could likewise talk about the long failure of Modern Orthodoxy to produce enough of its own Torah teachers, instead importing teachers with different worldviews. But this one really takes the cake. When there is a catastrophic shortage of funds for Torah education in the Modern Orthodox community, are they really going to give their donations to a community which disregards and disrespects that which they hold dear, which is threatening itself and the rest of the country with catastrophe, and which is learning too much Torah at the expense of other critical areas of education?!

Am I missing something, or have they gone crazy?!

UPDATE: Here's a comment that someone posted:
"Yosef Ehrman:
We have a chareidi school started not so long ago, with all secular studies to go with very strong torah studies, and its called תלמוד תורה ממלכתי חרדי
We give the kids the best education possible, both in torah mishna and navi and halacha. The Chinuch hAtzmai is one of our biggest opponents. They fear that they loose their hold of the tzibur. That they will be irrelevant. That they wont be able to hold such an event of fundraising, where the principals make 20-30-49 percent of the income to marry of their children, where the rest of the kids in the town wont have proper education, and will be forced to stay in kolel, or paint houses for a living.
Sorry for my english. Im an israely that had enough of the system.
Look up תלמוד תורה בית רבן."

There are charedi high schools, such as Rabbi Betzalel Cohen's Chachmei Lev, which innovated a full secular curriculum - and was promptly condemned by the chareidi establishment. There's a great new institution called Derech Chaim, which combines yeshivah studies with army service (you can donate at their website). If Americans want to support charedi education in Israel, they should be supporting institutions that address the problems, not those that perpetuate them.

UPDATE: See the very important follow-up post at


  1. Rabbi Slifkin,
    I don't know how closely you track communities in the US, but much of what we call "Modern Orthodox" in the US is actually "Haredi-Lite"/"American-Yeshivish". The current generation (including many of the products of YU) embrace the anti-rationalist worldview. Many shuls that were actually Modern Orthodox 20-30 years ago are led today by black-hat rabbonim from Lakewood, Ner Yisrael, etc. If you go to Teaneck, you'll see the older generation is more modern, but they all sent their kids to Haredi yeshivas. Those kids are now running the shuls. "Modern Orthodox" often just means they say the Prayer for the State of Israel and semi-observe Yom Ha'Atzmaut, but in world view they are Haredi.

    1. I sadly second M. Wittenberg's analysis. Coupled with the MO inferiority complex that equates Haredism with authentic Judaism Teaneck is indeed a logical venue for a Chinuch Atzmai fundraiser.

    2. I know a lot of kids who grew up in communities like teaneck, and just one has moved to teaneck as an adult. A lot of them are living in urban communities like DC or the uws into their thirties. A lot more made aliyah.

    3. Malchiel Wittenberg: All I know is that MO Day Schools and High Schools in Teaneck are filled to the brim, and most of their teachers are similarly MO. Your doom and gloom prognosis greatly exaggerated.

      Lawrence Kaplan

    4. We have lived in Teaneck for forty-two years. Three of our children live here today with their families and all are MO. Teaneck as we see it remains MO. Children who become Chareidi leave for elsewhere, as has one of our children currently in Lakewood.

    5. I love hearing modern orthodox parents complain about their children becoming charedi. Its completely there fault. Maybe if they would have offered a legitimate sincere alternative their kids would have stayed in the fold. Instead they were given fake judaism and hipocracy, following halacha only when its convenient and no serious dedication to talmud torah and mitzvos.The kids were revolted by the fakeness of there parents and wanted to get as far away as possible.

    6. Lawrence Kaplan and Henry Firsch:
      Which yeshivos do mo children tend to attend? Do a large percentage go to Israeli yeshivos with charedi members of staff such as Beis, Aj, senters, imrei binah etc?

    7. As someone who grew up in Teaneck and now lives there with my wife/kids-
      Shlomo - I know many others like me who have moved back here (including one of Henry Frisch's children)
      Yavoy - I've heard of Beis (but don't know anyone from Teaneck who went there), but never even heard of the others.
      Malchiel, I don't think they "all" send their kids to charedi yeshivos - there are some, but the community is still not yeshivish.

    8. Yavoy: I was speaking about Day Schools and High Schools, which I know about since my grandchildren go to BPY and Maayanot. I will check about the Israeli Yeashivot, but my, unauthoritative, impression is that more of them go to the more MO programs. Do you have any information to the contrary?

      Lawrence Kaplan

    9. Lawrence Kaplan: I am not from the USA, nor have I ever been there, so I can't say. However I know numerous charedi run yeshivos which are full of modern orthodox bochurim. I don't believe there are any modern orthodox yeshivos in Israel, and the Religious Zionist yeshivos tend to be fewer and have smaller chutsnik programmes. Thus I assume that a large percentage of modern orthodox children must go to charedi run yeshivos. Of course I don't know whether they come from Teaneck, or only other communities.

    10. Yavoy,

      Many of the people that are considered MO in the USA go to Yeshivot like Netiv Aryeh, Reishit, and Torat Shraga (they tend not to go to places like Beis, ToMo and Senters). The students that attend these Yeshivot come from all over, Teaneck included. I can only testify to one of the aforementioned Yeshivot, which strongly encouraged getting a secular education and a career. Kollel was seen as an ideal, but was not actively encouraged. A handful of students went off to do IDF service, which was considered praiseworthy. The staff ranged widely in terms of Hashkafa, but there was a general anti-rationalist feel (e.g. learning Torah scores metaphysical points and you are literally changing the world as you learn, Chazal essentially knew what modern science now knows, Derech Hashem and Nefesh HaChaim are favored over Moreh Nevuchim, etc). My guess is that the other MO Yeshivot are pretty similar.

    11. I am wondering if Malchiel, Avinoam, and Shlomo have ever been to Teaneck. I grew up there and am back there as an adult (technically in Bergenfield, which is one of several adjacent towns that serves as spillover for the community). There are loads of people who grew up in Teaneck who are back in town as adults and who send their children to the Modern Orthodox schools in town, of which there are several days schools with 800+ students and three local high schools with a combined 1300+ students. No one would confuse Frisch, TABC, Maayanot, Yavneh, Noam, or BPY with being a charedi school (even RYNJ, the most "right wing" of the schools is filled with Modern/Centrist Orthodox families from Teaneck). Yeshivot and Seminaries such as Gush, Shaalvim (for men and women), Migdal Oz, Midreshet Lindenbaum, Nishmat, Netiv Aryeh, Hakotel, and others recruit heavily and successfully in Teaneck. Go to Modiin, Beit Shemesh, and Gush Etzion and you will find many, many olim from the past 15 years who hail from Teaneck, either having grown up there or as adult.
      The fact is that I am unsure how many people in Teaneck paid much attention to the Chinuch Atzmai fundraiser. My shul hosted one of Rav Schechter's shiurim, but the fact that it was for CA was mentioned but not really hyped (whereas other tzedaka organizations were hyped over Shabbat). The fact is that Teaneck has a large Orthodox community, and a fairly well-off one at that, and thus many organizations are looking for a piece of the pie. People will give where they want to give - no one is being duped. Does Teaneck hosting a Chinuch Atzmai fundraise look curious to an outsider? Perhaps. Is it a failure of Modern Orthodoxy? I don't think so.

  2. Before Loren, there was , and still is, Missed HaRav Kook, publishing many religious texts.
    Additionally, here in Israel, many Raabanim have published their works through the regular publishing houses - Keter, Yediot, the Ministry of Defense, the Education Ministry, etc, as well as their own yeshivot publications - Rav Goren's books are published by HaIdra, Rav Prof. Rakover's works by Sifriat HaMishpat HaIvri in the Justice Ministry, Tehumin by Machon Tzomet, Rav Spector's book of Shu"T for artists was published by the Emuna Art College for Women, And Rav Chaim David HaLevi published all of his Shulhan Aruch and Kitzur Shulhan Aruch alone.

    The lack of Religious Zionist publications is actually only a "lack" of such works in English.
    You are invited to cross the street and get acquainted with hundreds of works of halachic and hashkafic literature from the past few hundred years of Zionist Torah scholarship.

    As to your complaint about the Modern Orthodoxy's misguided fundraising, this stems from their ignorance of all these same books I mentioned, and possibly even their ignorance of the Rabanim involved.

    1. The post was about Modern Orthodoxy in America, so I think you made his point beautifully. Where are the English translations of all the works you mentioned?

    2. Many of them are translated and published by Koren's Toby Press imprint. (For example, the works of R Haim Sabato, which in Israel are published by Yediot, in the US are published in translation by Toby Press.)

  3. I send one of my three children to a Chinuch Atzmai school in Petah Tikva. First of all, they do teach (at least at the school my son is at) the core studies, and children do leave with with options of pursuing a high-school degree. You can't just make a swipe at an entire educational system if you do not know all the facts. Additionally, so what if the fundraiser is in Teaneck - if that is what people want to support than let them.

    1. That's one of the Chinuch Atzmai "outreach schools." Most Chinuch Atzmai schools do not have core studies.

    2. This is inaccurate. Most Chinuch Atzmai schools do have core studies. Here is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article on the core curriculum: בתוכנית קיימת התייחסות שונה לסוגים שונים של מוסדות חינוך. ישנם מוסדות החינוך הרשמי, שכוללים את החינוך הממלכתי, חינוך ממלכתי-דתי וחינוך ממלכתי ערבי. מוסדות אלה מחויבים בקיום של 100% מהתוכנית. לעומתם המוסדות שאינם רשמיים, מוסדות ששר החינוך הכריז עליהם כמוסדות חינוך מוכר בלבד (חלק מהחינוך הערבי, מעיין החינוך התורני בראשות מפלגת ש"ס, והחינוך העצמאי בראשות אגודת ישראל), מחויבים בכ-75% מהתוכנית. מוסדות הפטור, שפטורים מפיקוח משרד החינוך, אך חייבים באישורי משרד הבריאות והבטיחות, מחויבים ב-55% מהתוכנית. מוסדות אלה נחשבים כמי שעומדים בחוק חינוך חובה, אך אינם תחת פיקוח משרד החינוך.

  4. We have a chareidy school started not so long ago, with all secular studies to go with very strong torah studies, and its called תלמוד תורה ממלכתי חרדי
    We give the kids the best education possible, both in torah mishna and navie and halacha, the chinuch hatzmai, is one of our biggest opponents.. they fear that they loose their hold of the tzibur. That they will be irrelevant. That they wont be able to hold such an event of fundraising, where the principals make 20-30-49 percent of the income to marry of their children, where the rest of the kids in the town wont have proper education, and will be forced to stay in kolel, or paint houses for a living.
    Sorry for my english. Im an israely that had enough of the system.
    And instead of leaving, decided to try and make it better.
    Look up
    תלמוד תורה בית רבן.

  5. From over 30 years ago back in Manchester, Chinuch Atzma'i resented itself as the bastion against Christian missionaries in Israel. We all believed this was a big threat and they were helping. Perhaps this is still the view perpetuated overseas.

  6. There's a lower school in Ra'anana, independent of Chinuch Atzmai, called "Chorev" - it also provides a full Misrad HaChinuch curriculum, and unlike almost all other schools in Israel, has Dati Leumi children studying together with Chareidi children, Sefardim and Ashkenazim, French, Anglo, Mexican, whatever, including geirim of various races and recent Ba'alei Teshuva - anyone who wants a traditional Torah education for their children, with no politics. They get some small amount of funding from the gov't (despite fulfilling the curriculum requirements), and can really use your help. - from 2007, the little kids there are grown now. For instance, here is Gavriel Churaki in uniform, also, from a while ago.

  7. How sure are we that the Chinuch Atzmai this is about is even the Israel Chinuch Atzmai? I ask because you didn't link to or quote any specific sources and there are CA organizations in the States too (and apparently in the UK, per Kibi's comment).

    1. No. In England they were collecting for Israeli schools

  8. For the record, "Torani" is not identical to "state religious." Some state religious schools are Torani, and some aren't.

    Also, even without the core curriculum, Chinuch Atzmai (and the Shas network) gets lots and lots of government funding. You can thank Yair Lapid for that, among others.

  9. I think it's a good thing to *davka* help those of a different ideology, to increase ahavas Yisrael as per Derech Eretz Zutta, 2nd perek:

    אם חפץ אתה להידבק באהבת חברך
    הוי נושא ונותן בטובתו

    That said, MO should also ensure its own survival and perpetuate its institutions.

    1. If so, it would be much better to donate to haredi schools which teach secular studies rather than help perpetuate the current disaster.

    2. Two points:

      1) On individual or chesed levels, Charedim help MO, so there is reciprocity on that level at least.

      2) Rabbi Adlerstein wrote in November, 2013("Adina Bar Shalom and the Poverty Video"):

      "I asked Adina Bar Shalom what she thought about those calling for tough love. If Americans cover the shortfall caused by the recent draconian cuts in support for families, won’t this impede or slow the very process of change she has worked so hard for? Will it disincentivize people from utilizing the very exit strategy from poverty that she is promoting? She shook her head. “It won’t. There is no greater happiness than being able to support one’s family. There is a process to make this happen. But we must support families during this process.”

    3. so the question is where is the sweet spot between enabling suboptimal behaviors (while being "greatly happy") and supporting an expedited process (so less total "hurt" accumulates to that society.

      Sometimes, as The Big D taught us, "I must be cruel, only to be kind" Hamlet 3.4


  10. Unfortunately, Rav Slikfin writes only about Chinuch Atzmai schools whereas most Chareidi children are sent to what is known as Mosdot P'tur. Mosdot P'tur include all the chadarim that are not part of the Chinuch Atzmai system. They are called p'tur because they are patur from any supervision of the Education Ministry. Still, a child who attends one is considered to be in an educational institution and not truant.

    As opposed to Mosdot P'tur, Chinuch Atzmai is under Education Ministry supervision and must adhere to its guidelines in order to receive government funding. The official status is, mukar velo rishmi (מוכר ולא רשמי). The schools are recognized but are not official government sponsored schools. They receive funding per child as opposed to official government schools that receive per school/teken.

    I sent my children to the Chinuch Atzmai school in Petach Tikvah. It has a regular core curriculum in addition to more Torah studies. An earlier comment stated that the Petach Tikvah school is different because it is a Chinuch Atzmai outreach school. This is ridiculous. There is no difference between the core curricula of different Chinuch Atzmai schools.

    Having said all this, Rav Slifkin is correct regarding the philosophical outlook of the Chinuch Atzmai schools. They follow the approach of Agudas Yisrael. The children are encouraged to continue to a Yeshiva K'tana for high school (i.e. no secular studies).

  11. It all comes down to priorities. At a time where the MO community in America doesn't have enough funds to support their own institutions, funding an organization that looks down upon us and perpetuates the problem of poverty in Israel seems problematic at best and likely inexcusable.

    1. R' H Schachter has made this point frequently. My best guess is that for those who MO isn't a true lchatchila hashkafa but rather an expedient theory to psychologically support a preferred lifestyle, there's some feeling of guilt that I really should be chareidi.
      joel rich

  12. Teanek is a big place, man. There are tons of shuls, and many different types of people. Huge numbers of them fall in between the extremes of modern orthodoxy and Yeshivish. How do we define those, anyway? There are lot of guys who wear the black hat all Shabbos, then go to the comedy club an hour after Havdala. (Lot of guys like that everywhere, actually.)The differences are not as rigid as they are in Israel, and even there, there is more fluidity than what appears on the surface. So it doesn't surprise me at all that there's a Chinuch Atzmai thing going on in Teanek. There's probably a Bnai Akiva thing going on at the same time next door.

  13. Points taken. But we should be grateful that the meagre output produced by the MO community is done through Koren of all people. All their stuff is first rate and generally of a much higher standard than the mass produced Sefarim etc that proliferate throughout the Charedi bookstores.

    NB. I use a Koren siddur in my very Yeshivish shul, and have got a few snide remarks from people. Somehow, the page for Prayer for the state is the one they all leaf to.

    I take the opportunity to ask my fellow congregants to translate parts of Davening such as וִנֵ֖קּיתי ָדָּ֣מם ֽלֹא־נֵ֑קּיתי, where Koren place a comma after the first word, to reflect the true meaning of the Passuk; inevitably they get it wrong.

  14. Excellent. The Modern Orthodox are their own worst enemy. Constantly looking over their (right) shoulder to see what they should be doing.

  15. "Why on earth would Modern/Centrist Orthodox, Zionist Jews, fund a charedi, non-Zionist system of yeshivos, which is opposed to educating children towards professional careers?!"
    Because not everyone has as much Sinas Chinum as you, R' Slifkin.

    1. So you would fund an Open Orthodox yeshivah?

    2. To be fair, that's an individual decision. Someone could legitimately decide to fund Chinuch Atzmai and not YCT, and vice versa. The question is should others be commenting on people's such decisions.

  16. This could be a manifestation of guilt feelings that one is not really as "frum" as they think they should be so they donate to a school system that openly rejects and educates against the lifestyle of the donor. Another manifestation of this in Israel today is having Religious Zionist parents send their kids to Haredi schools because "they want them to be real 'frum'". This, of course, plants seeds of conflict into the family, with the child saying either "how come I have to be real frum, and you don't , Dad?" or, alternatively, the child gets "turned on" to the Haredi line and loses respect for his parents who "aren't frum enough". (Yes, I do now of cases where the kids do become Haredi and maintain good relations with their more lenient parents, but all too many do end up with the conflicts I mentioned)

  17. Am I missing something...?

    Modern orthodox after high school yeshiva mostly go to a college and then work. They realize that their study is not enough and it's not they who can preserve the entire Torah knowledge in Jewish nation.

  18. Not quite sure what you mean by "too much Torah". As an MO person born and raised, I believe that there is no such thing. Perhaps what is necessary is a different kind of education, or a different kind of emphasis within Torah learning. But there is never any such thing as "too much Torah".

    1. If someone learns Torah for 24 hours straight - missing his halachic obligations during that period - then he has learned too much in that period, right?

  19. 1) The Chareidim play on the "Fiddler on the Roof" nostalgia in MO communities. Oh look, little boys with long peyos. Let's give them money so they don't starve.
    2) They quote selectively to people who don't know better. I once had a Lubavitcher explain to me that praying is the most important thing a person can do and supported it with the quote from the gemara "Would that a person could pray all day long". And then I brought up a list of quotes about how learning all day long would be the ideal. But when people don't know, they nod and sign cheques.

  20. Most Modern Orthodox Jews don't have firm beliefs or principles. What they have is some sort of vague notion that tolerance and moderation is -- must be -- good. I find it sad and pathetic, but this is the reality as I see it.

  21. Teaneck has chareidi wannabees (don't really want to be chareidi or they'd live in Passaic or Monsey; thus fakers in my parlance) or MO's. The untold truth, never admitted by the leaders of the local MO schools and YU is that many have gone AWOL (OTD). Check out TABC for an example. Naturally the staff blame the parents, but many are from ganz fine homes. Fact is all communities are challenged in their own way following an antiquated tradition. Tradition is nice if you don't take it too literally.

  22. I think it's all guesswork to say rav soloveitchik wouldn't,support chinuch atzmai today there may even be some bias involved.

  23. Firstly, there are probably those in Teaneck who although preferring to adopt a MO lifestyle, nevertheless respect the Chareidi approach as a legitimate stream of Judaism, and don't feel the need to restrict their tzedaka to those who share their beliefs. Unfortunately though, there is no doubt another factor behind the success of this drive, one which is a result of a much more systemic problem plaguing the MO community in America.
    Few people who are MO consider their approach to be the lechatchila one. Many still suffer from an ideological inferiority complex and feel at heart that Chareidim are the most authentic Jews. Perhaps it is the influence of those who consciously adopt MO for utilitarian reasons instead of theological ones. Perhaps is the perceived laxity of dikduk hamitzvot in MO communities when compared to Chareidi ones. Perhaps it is the ostensibly more Jewish culture of Chareidism. Perhaps it is the failure of the MO system to instill pride in its adherents the same way that the Charedi system does - it certainly doesn't permeate the air of Modern Orthodox schools the way it does Chareidi Yeshivot. The religious arrogance toward MO that is part and parcel of Chareidism - which varies from desire to be Mekarev MO to disdain - doesn't help either.
    There are far too few educators in the MO community who successfully and articulately preach the ideality of MO. It is easier to get caught up in the ideological fervor of increased stringency and isolationism of the right or fall prey to the call of secular modernity or radical liberalism than it is maintain a love for Torah and tradition while still promoting rational values and productive engagement in the world at large. The increasing move to the right of many MO Jews reflects a glaring failure on the part of its leadership. Religious Zionism, which in many ways parallels the integrationist approach of MO doesn't suffer from the same erosion since it has leaders who present a forceful and robust ideology and it has created for itself a culture of ideological pride.
    Until MO will produce leaders and educators who promulgate MO as effectively, there will still be Chiuch Atzmai fundraising drives in Teaneck.
    R Stefansky

    1. There are few educators in MO schools who effectively teach MO because there are few educators who believe in MO. They often send their own children to Chareidinschols. Children in MO schools thus not only aren't exposed to MO by people who believe in it- the children realize that they don't believe n it and teachers are just there for the money.

    2. As a teacher in a Modern Orthodox school, I can assure you, you are incorrect on this point. Most of my colleagues (both in my own school, and in the other schools in which I have friends teaching) indeed send their children to MO schools. And by "most," I mean the vast majority.

      The days when MO schools were staffed by right wing teachers are largely over. Most of my colleagues are indeed proud MO Jews. And we are not here for the money. If that was our motivation, we chose the wrong career path.

  24. This is on point from Rabbi David Bar-Hayim:

  25. Rabbi Slifkin, On the whole, I share your sentiments. However, it is possible that the fundraiser will not be very successful. Let's say they only get $30k.

    That would be a pittance in the overall level of Teaneck giving.

    if so, the handwringing of the article would not be justified.

  26. I wrote a similar article some years ago about a Lawrence fundraiser for a shomrei emunim/toldos aaron offshoot, a group that makes Chinuch Atzmai seem libertine.

  27. Thank you for the call out to Derech Chaim. I would just like to add that the Yeshiva not only combines Yeshiva learning and army service but an academic degree in computer science as well.

  28. Many people complain that too MO people have adopted an essentially Haredi understanding of Judaism, apparently oblivious to the fact that the single most important founder of MO Judaism, took his entire theory of mitzvah observance, Torah study and halachic reasoning from the most extreme and, frankly, deranged version of Haredi philosophy, namely Brisk.

    MO ends up in two places: Meiselman or Reconstructionism. No-one, looking at the revolting nightmare that is mainstream American "Judaism", can deny the value it had in saving precious souls, but it's over now. Time to move on.

    1. I see that my reply was not accepted, so I will try to put my point more politely and succinctly.

      First of all, I find it puzzling that the moderator allowed this comment which calls the Brisk philosophy "deranged". How does that contribute to reasoned discussion?

      Secondly, at least to my limited imagination, something like what is commonly referred to as "Brisker lomdus" seems necessary to anyone who wants to take traditional Talmudic scholarship seriously in today's intellectual context.

      I'm still not sure what was considered so objectionable in my original comment.

    2. "fsy": Gavriel M is an iconoclast, to put it politely. Don't take it personally; he has established a unique religion with a single member: himself (actually, I can't be sure that he meets his own standard, so it may be a religion of 0).

      To address Gavriel M directly: you must be reading a different Rav Soloveitchik. Most of the actual innovations of the Rav are pretty common sense, even if you disagree with them. To take a few simple ones: women aren't actually stupid, so teach them Torah. Next: there is no such thing as "goyishe" knowledge, so acquire "secular" knowledge. Next: This Israel thing is actually working out really well for the Jews; we should support it. None of them are terribly rooted in Brisk per se; the rest of the family flatly rejects them.

      As far as study method, if you study the Yarzheit shuirim, they are not hyper-stylized Brisker Torah. They are just plain creative and interesting and fairly intuitive (while of course not being "Muchrach").

      Was Rav Lichtenstein or his followers "R Meiselman or Reconstructionism"? Rav Schachter? Prof Haym Soloveitchik? I'm especially surprised that you leave out Rav Schachter given his adherence to two of your core principles: Techeiles and political incorrectness on racial issues.

      Let face it: you standard is, let's call it, exacting. As in, no one else passes the bar.

    3. For what it's worth, I would consider myself a talmid of Rav Bar Hayyim and I think he considers me one of his talmidim, so 0 is probably putting it a bit strong.

      Haredi Judaism has a particular view of what the Torah is, how it is to be studied, how mitzvot work, how halacha is decided etc. The problem with this viewpoint is that it's rendered untenable for numerous reasons by evidence from numerous disciplines. The Haredi response is just not to learn anything about these disciplines. The problems resulting from this approach are discussed on this blog at great length and I don't disagree (in fact, I could add my an appendix list of my own). Rav Soloveitchik came up with an ingenious solution to the problem: Judaism is a self-contained discourse and, as such, its conclusions are valid within its own framework and cannot be impacted by those of other disciplines. The instability of this solution is obvious. There are only two ways out. One is to declare Judaism a master discourse and thus you end up back at Brisk, but with some pointless philosophy on top (Meiselman). The other is to acknowledge that there is no master discourse and to give the other discourses their due sovereignty in all spheres, including ethics (Reconstructionism and YCT).

      That's philosophy. On the more mundane level, MO is really just Haredi Judaism tempered by liberalism (what you imagine to be "common sense"). Again, the instability is obvious and the paths out are basically the same.

      For an example of where the first road leads, I would recommend this essay by Mayer Twersky. For an example of the second road this article by Avi Weiss.

      As for your counter-argument. I'm claiming that OU is an unstable compound out of which two well defined roads are possible: a return to Haredi Judaism or "mitzvah observant" heathenism. That obviously doesn't preclude the possibility that many people will try to hold to the centre. I think it's obvious that the MO centre is preferable to either of its deviations; I just don't believe it to be stable. I will add that I have nothing but respect for Rav Schachter and believe that he is doing the best possible job in the circumstances and has prevented much harm in doing so.

      But my point remains clear, MO is on life support, you can keep it there for a few decades, but it's not going to wake up. It's over, in fact, it was over before it began: time for a fresh start.

  29. Rav Soloveitchik said in his famous speech at the Chinuch Atzmai dinner in the name of his father, "When there is opposition to a undertaking it is the greatest sign that it a holy cause". Thank you Rabbi Slifkin for your endorsement.

    We understand that an individual has insulted a Gadol and you took it personally, but do you have to keep it in your pocket and pull it out at every opportunity. Here we have a community who's Ahavas Yisroel is bringing them to focus on what all Torah Jews have in common, saving neshomos, but you can't handle that.
    We have been in galus long enough!
    Please be aware that your views do not represent those of the MO community, but rather the views of our Gedolim.
    I hope this message will help you prepare yourself for this coming Rosh Hashana.

    1. Rav Soloveitchik said in his famous speech at the Chinuch Atzmai dinner in the name of his father, "When there is opposition to a undertaking it is the greatest sign that it a holy cause". Thank you Rabbi Slifkin for your endorsement.

      You understand that that argument is a polemic, suitable for preaching to a choir, but not for actually demonstrating a point to a detached observer, right?

  30. It's over? It's time to move on? To what?
    To a community which insists its constituents must check their brains at the door?
    Which now publicly admits that they were grossly wrong and indeed living in the dark ages for 50(!) years regarding how they dealt with child sex abuse?
    Which edits out photos of people or events it feels generates cognitive dissonance?
    Which is so conflicted over the stunning success of the state of Israel that they never, ever mention it by name, in public or in private?
    Which is not economically self-sustaining and just goes wherever the MOFAIS (Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, section 8) is the biggest?
    Which has no use or respect for modern science until they need it for themselves of their children in a hospital setting?
    Which sees no value in societal getting along, pulling one's own weight, army service, paying taxes, and fair play?
    Which seeks to shun women at every turn?
    Which publicly demonizes all its (Religious Jewish) intellectual competitors?
    Which demonizes Gentiles?
    Which has systemic, unsolvable problems (the tuition, shidduch, and OTD crises)?
    Which insists full-time Talmud study for all as the only option, and no Plan B in Israel for those for whom such study is not realistic?
    A society that touts "Daas Torah" and allegiance to its right-wing sages but whose members ignore those sages when it's convenient for them to do so, ala the racism in girls high schools in Israel?
    A society that denigrates those who earn a living and support their families?
    A society that cannot and won't ever recognize the legitimacy and veracity of the rabbinic teaching of "Chochma baGoyim taamin"?
    I'm supposed to take that sick society seriously?
    Your society is artificially propped up by liberal welfare in America and Israel. Whe it's gone, you will be, too. So much for your vaunted vibrancy. A house of cards built securely on sand. Enjoy it while you can.

  31. It's worth pointing out that there are at least two different issues at stake regarding Haredi education, in EY and outside, secular knowledge for its general value and preparation for earning a living, and although they intersect, they are hardly identical and hardly treated identically in many sub-cultures in the 'Haredi' world.

    In particular, the attitude of doing nothing for parnassa really only exists in a pure form in the "Litvishe Yeshiva World", while in the Chassidic communities as well as the "old-time Yerushalmi" community, working for a living is not only respected, but pretty much taken for granted. I know this first-hand from living in the Israeli Haredi society for almost 40 years. What do these people do for parnassa? All kinds of things, some savory, maybe some less so, but what they all have in common is a basic work ethic which is not being taught in the "Litvishe" yeshivos. The point is that this issue is more complex and also less universal than articles like this one imply.

    As far as "higher education" being the solution to the curse of Adam HaRishon, many people within the Jewish world and without have recognized this to be to a great extent a scam, and certainly not applicable to everyone. Witness in particular the poor parents today putting themselves or their children into lifetime hock in order to finance four years of partying at a "university" leading to some liberal-arts degree in "something-studies" which actually consists of a lot of leftist indoctrination.

    (BTW, I personally think that a serious education in science, history, culture, etc. is necessary to be a mensch and certainly to be a real Talmid Chacham, but that is a separate subject from the need for specific studies to prepare for parnassa.)

    1. Four years of partying, studying nonsense, is not wise, I 'll grant you that.
      But lots of people are focused---especially the future wives of those very Litvish yeshiva guys---in their college years and then they go on to Masters degrees (allowed in the USA, sorry they're forbidden to you in Israel).
      Plenty of religious men and women are graduating into careers in law, medicine, accounting, nursing, dentistry, computer science, teaching, film production, architecture, design, business administration, PT, OT and speech therapy (the latter three are Lakewood favorites) and they all went to college, they worked hard, and they're all gainfully employed. Where's the scam? There isn't any. You get an education, you work in that field. You don't want that education, go do something else. But to attribute a "scam" to college when it has produced hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of employed people, well, that's just ridiculous, and you know it.

    2. Trade schools are 1) A LOT cheaper, 2) not much for partying, and 3) dedicated to parnassa-centered education and fairly devoid of leftist indoctrination. TRIFECTA! These should be jam-packed with yeshiva bochurim.

    3. Just looked at this again:

      Where's the scam? There isn't any. You get an education, you work in that field. You don't want that education, go do something else. But to attribute a "scam" to college when it has produced hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of employed people, well, that's just ridiculous, and you know it.

      The scam is saying that it's for everyone, or even a large minority of people. Lots of people don't have the talents or motivation to succeed in professional careers and the fact that there's always "room at the top" doesn't make it the panacea it's presented as.

  32. Good article Natan. Rav Bar Haim addresses the unfulfilled potential of the Non Hareidy world in detail which dresses this issue here.

  33. The fund-raising effort and partnership spearheaded by Rabbi Schacter is for the Chinuch Atzmai kiruv school in Chadera, specifically the Ner Shmuel boy’s school and the Bais Yaakov girl’s school. The fund is to cover transportation costs that have been cut “As part of an anti-Torah movement effort to undermine Torah education”. Supporters claim these schools feature a full Limudei Kodesh and secular curriculum. They claim that “By helping shoulder the financial burden…, the merits of the children’s Torah learning and their families’ increased dedication to a Torah life will be shared with the community.”

    Questions: Does anyone have any specific knowledge about these particular schools? What is the level of secular education that they receive? Are they discouraged from going to high school, getting a high school degree, bagrut, etc..? Are they discouraged from trying to learn a profession and entering the work force? Are they discouraged from joining the army or national service?

    Are the Rabbis who signed their names in support of this effort doing so only because Rabbi Schacter told them to? Are they aware of what is actually taught (or not taught) in these schools? As Rabbi Slifkin noted, there are many other institutions worthy of support that better reflect the values of the Teaneck community. Maybe if these issues were pointed out to them, at least some might reconsider their support.

    1. This is the promo video for the school:

      In the video, the graduating class are all wearing black hats and going to meet Rav Steinman etc. These are not kids that are being sent to high school. They are going to yeshiva ketana. This is a school with charedi rabbonim, and that teaches the kids about the importance of "the Gedolim." It seems to have the goal of being "mekarev" kids to being charedi.

    2. I live in Yavneh and I know that the Chinuch Atzmai school has two tracks. One track is geared towards Yeshiva Ketana and a second track towards the army. The Hanhala (sorry I don't know how to say that in English) is not foolish. When we are dealing with secular parents you need to try to shoot for shmiras shabbos and to lead a Torah life. The schools themselves have nothing against serving the country or working.
      I am personally a chareidi and I love Hashem and his Torah so I can't have too much Torah, so I became a Rebbe and I have a very happy life.

    3. I have been asked by my friends in Teaneck to clarify the curriculum confusion that many people have. I have been involved in Chinuch Atzmai projects before and I am happy to share the facts with the public.

      Chinuch Atzmai is a network of 263 private schools across the state of Israel. The Israeli government dictates a core curriculum required to receive maximum educational funding. There are a number of schools in Chareidi areas in which the parents are willing to compensate for reduced government funding in exchange for enabling their children to spend a greater part of the day engaged in Torah studies. I assume those are the schools that people are referring to.

      The fund raising efforts of these activists are exclusively for the 115 kiruv schools servicing 278 primarily secular commumities. The parents who enroll their children in these schools appreciate the added benefits of their children attending a Torah school (such as a lack of violence, substance abuse, and other commonplace public school issues) without having to compromise in any way on their secular education.

      Not only do these schools offer the full secular studies curriculum, the student performance in these subjects is generally much higher than that of secular schools in the same socioeconomic circle.

      The Yavneh girls school is known to have received the highest grades in math in the entire country.

      The challenge that they are now facing is the transportation budget that is only minimally government funded. By sponsoring a kiruv child's transportation to a Torah school, one is enabling that child to receive a Torah chinuch, and lead a life as an observant Jew.
      I encourage everyone to take the initiative of adopting a child before the days of judgement are upon us.

    4. "knowledgeable askin," thank you for sharing this information. But you didn't respond to the issues raised in the school's promotional video, posted by ploni above.

    5. Black hats in Israel are nothing significant. It is merely the dress of a shomer shabbat. What else should the boys wear when they are visiting a gadol other then their shabbos cloths. This same child can end up in the army a few years down the line if his parents are for it. I think that the black hat is a display of success on the part of the the school that the students are headed in the right direction. Had these children attended a Mamad school they don't stand a chance of being shomer shabbos. This is the fact. Supporting them is your choice.

    6. Askin: Are you familiar with Chinuch Atzmai schools in general, or this one in particular?

    7. I happen to be familiar with many Chinuch Atzmai kiruv schools (not the Chareidi ones) which include the entire Shuvu network and I have access to information for serious inquiries. I really do not want to engage in theoretical discussions. If the function of my comments will be to facilitate tzedakah I will be happy to comment.
      I personally feel that saving neshamos from shmad should be everyone's priority even if they end up being Chareidi. Imagine you are on a Hatzalah call and you realize that the individual is Chareidi and not MO, will you let him die? The same outlook should be with these neshamos. This is their only chance for spiritual life. I'm sure you realize that.
      It is my hope that Rabbi Slifkin will be the greatest advocate for this special cause.
      Gmar chasima tova!!

  34. Dear Rabbi Slifkin,
    I can’t believe that an observant Jew can open his mouth publicly without doing the proper research. The damage you must have done is unfounded.
    How naive can you be? Everyone in this country knows that the Mamad schools in secular neighborhoods do not produce shomrei shabbos. Even the Mizrachi recognize the failure of the Mamad schools and established the Mamad Torani network.
    I am familiar with the opinion of Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Schachter. They are the greatest leaders that Mizrachi has ever had. However when it comes to Chinuch of children, they both proclaimed publicly that the Mizrachi leaders have failed. Rav Schachter has advised many people against attending Mamad schools. He has close relatives that tried these schools and pulled out. You can ask him yourself.
    I am fortunate to emerge from army service as a shomer shabbat and it’s only due to my Chinuch Atzmai chinuch. In the Hesder unit there are very few if any Mamad graduates. Where are all that Torah that you talk about? The answer is very painful, those boys are either non-observant or in jail for committing crimes.
    Chinuch Atzmai does not discriminate, wether you are Chareidi, orthodox, or secular, they will help you receive a quality education. By the way there are only a few schools in Jerusalem and Bnai Brack omit some secular subjects to allow more time for Torah studies, at the price of limited state funding. However all the rest of them, especially those that service the non-observant student have the highest quality education. They are saving this country from becoming a secular country.
    Bottom line being that you opened your mouth and showed your ignorance and probably cause this vital organization a great loss. I personaly think that you are crazy, that is the fate of a bloger. Well the gates of teshuva are always opened, try to get in. Support them and encourage Teaneck publicly to do so.

    Srgt Yigal Levy

  35. If the argument here is concerning supporting one’s family, no one, the chareidim or others deny that one must support his family. Alternatively, If the argument is that ‘in principle‘ it is absolutely wrong
    To sit and learn and not work, the Bi’ur Halachah (The Chofetz Chaim) quotes and writes otherwise:
    All Torah that is not accompanied with work, ends with negligence and causes iniquity (Shulchan Aruch, Or HaChaim 156).
    Ends with negligence and causes iniquity. The Torah teachers have written that this is said concerning the general world, because not all of them are capable to merit to rise to this lofty level, to be solely occupied in Torah. However, individuals can be found at any time in this circumstance. [Moreover that which the Rabbis in Brachos, 36b said, “Many did as Rabbi Shimon, the son of Yochai and were not successful,” this means specifically ‘many’]. And the Holy One, blessed be He, will definitely provide their income for them. Now similarly to this, the Rambam, Chapter 13 on the Halachos of Shmitah and jubilee wrote, “And not just the tribe of Levi alone,” etc. (Be’er Halachah, ibid).


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