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Who Is Traditional?
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer is a man on a mission: the delegitimization of anyone that he deems insufficiently Orthodox (on the left of the spectrum - he doesn't seem to care about much more significant deviations from Torah on the right of the spectrum). Superficially, he appears to devote himself solely to the excesses of Open Orthodoxy. However, when one reads his writings more carefully, it is clear that his worldview is essentially charedi, and he is actually working to delegitimize anyone outside of the charedi community, in effect if not in intent.
In the past, I have critiqued his defense of charedi publications not printing pictures of women, his fallacious claim about following Gedolei Hador being a defining feature of Orthodoxy, and his repeating the popular misconception that the traditional meaning of Torah lishmah meant study for the sake of study. But in the latest installment of his regular column, "Who Is Out Of Orthodoxy" "In And Out Of Orthodoxy," a passing comment of his reveals a much more egregious distortion.
Rabbi Gordimer refers to Lakewood as "the primary population base of Traditional (yeshivish/chareidi) Orthodoxy in America." He defines "traditional" as "yeshivish/charedi"! In other words, if you're not yeshivish/chareidi, you're not traditional!
"Traditional" Yemenite JewsThis is fundamentally mistaken. Let's ignore the fact that it is more accurate to describe Orthodoxy in general as traditionalist rather than traditional (as I discussed in my essay "The Novelty of Orthodoxy," the attempt to remain loyal to tradition in the face of the massive changes of the eighteenth century forced the creation of a new type of Judaism). Yeshivish/charedi Orthodoxy is certainly not "traditional" vis-a-vis non-yeshivish/chareidi Orthodoxy. The defining features of yeshivish/chareidi Orthodoxy - the dominant position of the yeshivah in the Jewish community, the authority of roshei yeshivah, the primacy of "book tradition" versus "living tradition," the phenomenon of mass kollel, and the enormous amplification of all the novelties of Orthodoxy itself - are not traditional in the least! (For extensive discussion, see my monograph "The Making Of Haredim.")
In another passing comment that reveals his true colors, Rabbi Gordimer describes Lakewood yeshivah as "the epicenter of Orthodoxy." That's as absurd as describing YU as the epicenter of Orthodoxy. You could describe YU as the epicenter of modern/centrist Orthodoxy, and you could describe Lakewood as the epicenter of North American litvishe charedi Orthodoxy, but to describe Lakewood as "the epicenter of Orthodoxy" reveals a severely distorted perspective.
I'm told that there are people in the Midwest who don't consider New York as being part of America. And, of course, there are people in New York who don't consider the Midwest as being part of America. There's a common tendency to overrate one's own preferred community. The way to avoid this mistake, in our case, is to open one's mind a little and study some Jewish history.