I’m accused by what I suspect to be elements of the Adass Israel Congregation of being “anti charedi”. Let’s be clear. The term “anti charedi” has become a noun to maximise the opposition to specific approaches to Judaism. It should be noted that Rav Kook זצ׳ל was definitely a Charedi. Whilst there is a common element in the term Charedi, and that is something that sociologists would observe, as well as halachists, it is creating a diversion from the specificity of philosophies and actions which occur among quite specific groups, that may be described as Charedi.
The Adass Israel community is unique, I believe in the world. Borne by founders who would likely not recognise the direction that it had taken, it represented a specific adherence to the religious tenets and approaches that were brought from Europe to Melbourne. It was very common that the children of the founders of Adass, were encouraged to obtain secular education. If my memory serves me correctly, a number attended Prahran Technical School in order to obtain the certifications required to make a living. I see those people, today, and I interact with them freely and in a friendly manner. They tend to understand the world and the people comprising the world, not to mention the Chochma BaGoyim (the wisdom of a gentile population) as opportunities as opposed to hindrances to their development. Certainly, many of the original members were clean shaven (often with a moustache) and their children, often sport a neat beard, or no beard. They respect the Chassidic community that eventually also integrated into Adass, but they don’t share the range of views expressed by that community. They generally, and sometimes diplomatically keep their thoughts to their self. For reasons of cohesiveness and indeed economic survival this may well be a necessarily formula.
The smaller size of the Melbourne Community, together with the economic reality of needing to live within such a community, means that Adass incorporates a cornucopia of different types. The reverence for Rav Beck is a hallmark. There have been a number of leaders ranging from the charismatic Rav Ashkenazi to the Genius Halachist Rav Betzalel Stern, the B’Tzel Hachochma.
Bearing this in mind, we read about different communities around the world where there is more homogeneity. Especially in the USA and to some extend the UK, particular Chassidic groups are grouped entirely amongst themselves. There will be a Satmer, Belzer, Munkatcher, Vishnitzer, etc community. They will have their own organisations and pray in their own Shules and Shteiblach.
Melbourne is unique in that all these groups are together, and the economic reality dictates that they must remain so, at least for the foreseeable future. It is true there has been a radical breakaway. This may portend future development, although I prefer an eschatological reality where we are united in Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh, well before such events occur.
A number of my readers sent me the article where groups of both Satmar Chassidim (there are two Rebbes) were displaying acts of loathing and violence towards anything to do with the State of Israel. I had seen these and found them a repeat of many other loathsome approaches to education that are used to brainwash children into a line of thinking where the love of a fellow Jew, dissipates into a hate filled, dark room of horror.
Would this happen in Melbourne? My answer is that while there may be small pockets of such it is unlikely that the collective whole, which comprises Adass, would allow this to occur. Let us not forget that many are reliant on business dealings with the very same people they consider beyond the pale. Economic reality is a potent force. In addition, Melbourne has been a veritable bastion of pro-Israel sentiment, especially due to the sadly dwindling, but once enormous group of charismatic and determined Holocaust survivors, many of whom sported long payos, and untouched beards before the war.
Adass, like any community, has its occasional crises. At the moment, there is a great concern about the number of divorces and to their credit they have brought out two experts, to address issues related to this as a means to stem the tide.
If Adass were to splinter, and, say, a Satmar group became self-sufficient and had its own organisations, then I expect the same sort of offensive behaviour we have seen splashed over web pages, of children throwing eggs and more, will indeed become part of the Melbourne landscape.
I think its in everyone’s interests that Adass stays together. One group has a grounding and moderating effect on the other. The concept of being true to one’s ideals and yet be able to compromise on things that are not seriously important, is a plus.
I wouldn’t like to see Adass splinter. Indeed, I have the same view of the Chabad offshoot “Cheder Levi Yitzchok”. In my own dealings with a paraprofessional who helped me health wise when I sustained some serious ankle injury, I am amazed, that due to our respectful interaction, he now sees me as his “oracle” on matters Jewish. I will receive texts out of the blue asking me questions, and where I am able to answer without consulting expert Rabbi’s I do so. I am able to do so because I know him. I know his way of thinking, and I know his challenges. Splintering means that the side effect of cutting oneself off from the broader community. With apathy and assimilation from the children and grandchildren of challenged and sometimes disturbed holocaust survivors, it has always been my view that one needs to find kosher ways of reaching out and incorporating people into Yahadus. I feel this is essentially the process of Teshuva, and indeed, the formula for Geulah. It is clearly stated in Shas and the Rambam. We can sit on our hands, and focus on Bein Odom Lamokom, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Aybishter is quite interested in our ability to relate to Chavero, their fellow Jew.
The answer is not, of course, to make plasticine out of Judaism, and find academic loop holes, some of which are questionable, to make Judaism fit the modern world, the world of Science, the world of Philosophy, the world of linguistics, none of which I see as a threat to my belief system and the practices that flow from it. Rather, the answer is to mould people, and that can only done by engagement, interaction, and above all setting an example, which has been damaged by the open world we live in, which is able to promulgate the acts of every crooked religious person, and thereby lesson Kavod HaTorah.
Especially in a world which looks at religion as the cause of all terror and misery, it is critical that we work in the opposite direction.
How many of us, will pass a Jew, let alone a gentile, and simply not say Good Morning? Why not? These small acts, have potentially great outcomes.