Hellish Education?

[Hat tip Ezra]

I understand I’m exposed. I understand that I am secularly educated. I understand that I’m not cloistered in Lakewood. I understand that there is more than one nuanced path in Judaism. Alas, I do not understand what the following approach to “encouraging” Tzniyus amongst the girls in a Lakewood Girls School can possibly achieve. To be sure, this approach focusses more on fear than love, but surely this is just too extreme?

Read the article here

The impending gathering about the Internet at Citi Field

Most of us will be aware that certain sections of Charedi Judaism (who call themselves כלל ישראל) are organising an enormous gathering of males (no women allowed) to conjure strength and provide direction in the fight against the iniquity of the internet.

Many pixels will be excited by this event as it unfolds. The following is a guest post by the pseudonymous  “Yosef Drimmel” on Rabbi Slfkin’s blog. It is a brilliant piece and I reproduce it here for comment. I couldn’t agree more with Drimmel.

May 20, 2012, Flushing, NY – A gathering of Ultra-Orthodox Jews from the New York tri-state area was held today at Citi Field. 40,000 men gathered here as approximately 40,000 women followed the events in their neighborhoods via satellite connection. This remarkable event filled with excitement and optimism offered a unique reflection on almost twenty years of Internet use and its effects on a generation.

Leading Rabbis spoke passionately about the various problems facing the community today and urged people to use the Internet and any tools available to address them. An introspective atmosphere was created that united laymen and leadership fostering a commitment to truth and transparency.

The leaders acknowledged they were short-sighted and unrealistic when in the past they attempted to ban the Internet entirely and that methods such as forced signatures on school applications were inappropriate and ineffective. Instead they expressed that many schools need to focus more on the academic and social growth of their students and less on their ability to conform to exclusive rules.

In a humbling manner, some rabbis went so far as to suggest that in the past they felt threatened by the dissemination of information and opinions over the Internet. But in the end they realized that transparency and open dialogue are in the greater interests of Klal Yisroel.

Perhaps the most moving moment of the day was the public apology issued by the leadership in the name of the entire community to the victims of decades of sexual abuse that occurred within our community, noting that it was the Internet that gave a voice to those who had none in the face of the establishment. A new covenant was drawn promising complete cooperation with law enforcement and advocating tougher laws to prevent and report child abuse. A number of enablers were removed from their positions and a new fund to support victims was created.

Some of the speakers also brought attention to the problems of Internet addiction. Expert psychologists and social workers discussed the pathways and pitfalls of excessive use of the Internet, a human challenge more than a religious one. Emphasis was made for teachers and clergy to be aware of individuals suffering from emotional problems of all sorts and to understand the best ways to help people. The disastrous stories of well-meaning but incompetent rabbis who offered counseling proved to be very enlightening to many in the field.

Some attention was paid to the unfortunate availability of pornography on the Internet. While no rabbi wanted to make a fire-and-brimstone rant against basic human instinct, even-keeled advice was offered regarding coping with this distraction and enjoying a healthy lifestyle and fulfilling relationships. A new program was presented to educate brides and grooms on the subject of positive attitudes about intimacy, mutual love and respect.

In the final remarks, the rabbis pledged to move forward with the continuous forging of new ideas. Future gatherings will probably be at a lower cost and scale but focused on actual changes and improvements the community will need to make. Future agendas will include problems and questions such as attitudes towards education and employment, proper allocation of charity funds, funding Jewish education as a community, today’s shidduchim system, agunos, extremism and intolerance, segregation of Ashkenazim and Sefaradim, participation in the Israeli workforce and armed forces, the system of Halachic rulings in Israel and America, reliance on subsidies, and integrity and honesty.

 Many of the attendees left the event feeling invigorated about their future and that of their children and grandchildren, echoing the sentiment that through justice and kindness we may merit the coming of the Messiah.

See also here for another excellent critique.

Matzav.com: they must live on another planet

From the sometimes sycophantic website matzav.com

There’s “help wanted” and then there’s “help wanted.” In a demonstration of the ahavas haTorah and bikkush ha’emes that reflects the atmosphere found amongst the talmidim of America’s largest yeshiva, a sign found hanging on a wall at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, shows the desire of its talmidim to uncover the truth behind often-overlooked or taken-for-granted portions of Torah, mesorah, or, in this case, tefillah.

The sign, which can be seen at the link below, has a simple heading: “Help Wanted!” But it is not just a “Help Wanted” sign seeking assistance or a job. It’s a “Help Wanted” sign seeking the emes – literally. The emes behind Emes Vetaziv, the tefillah we say each day in tefillas Shacharis.

The sign-hanger, assumed to be a yungerman at Beth Medrash Govoha, asks whether the phrase “Ein Elokim zulasecha,” is kodesh, meaning holy and referring to the Ribono Shel Olam, or chol, mundane, meaning referring to other gods. To further elaborate on the writer’s analysis and question regarding this phraseology in tefillah is beyond the purview of this post, and readers are welcome to read it in its entirety below in Lashon Kodesh. Perhaps printing it out will aid the reader.

Nevertheless, it is inspiring to witness the pure, unpretentious desire for truth of bnei Torah. We often look past these things, not giving it a second glance. It’s a sign on the wall; who cares? We should care. Let us appreciate and pay homage to those whose bikkush ha’emes and love of Torah usually fly under the radar – unless, that is, someone decides to make a Matzav out of it….

May we merit the day when those words, “Ein Elokim zulasecha,” are recognized by all of humanity. May that day arrive speedily.

Okay, what’s wrong with this? There is nothing wrong with the question and issue. It’s עמלה של תורה and who can be critical of that? What irritates me is that this online, web-based news source gets so excited about this as if it’s some new phenomenon. Well, hello there Mr Matzav. Did you ever go online? Have you seen the myriad of people who raise issues like this on blogs, and lomdishe forums, let alone audio shiurim and the like? Surely you have. Are these people who do so somehow lesser than the Lakewood yungerman? I’m just surprised they didn’t use the customary appelation of “Moiredik”.

Sheesh. Get with it. The internet is gushing with Torah and you get excited only because someone asks on a piece of paper and hangs in at the back of the Beis Medrash? Perhaps what you could have done Mr Matzav, was to start encouraging Lakewood to start recording their shiurim and putting them online; heaven forbid.

But wait, there is more. The readers of Matzav (yes, the internet folk who shouldn’t be reading it) answer online.

Perhaps I’m beyond cynical.

שבת שלום from Singapore