In response to “Are You an Assimilated Orthodox Jew” by Rabbi Chananya Weissma
In his recent Op-Ed, Rabbi Weissman posits four indicators that determine if one is an “assimilated orthodox Jew.” Before addressing each in turn, it is noteworthy to mention that when Weissman states, “morality is not subjective,” and it is hard to find a religious person, Jewish or otherwise, that disagrees with that statement. Yet, he then bases his entire article around four highly subjective criteria to lump countless Orthodox Jews, lightly put, into a highly undesirable classification. For brevity sake, these are his four indicators, so that they may be referenced to throughout my response. 1: One lives outside of Eretz Yisrael and has no intention of moving there; and one teaches their children how important it is not to make a Chillul Hashem (he postulates that there is no greater C’H than Jews living outside of E’Y). 2: You take moral cues from non-Jewish society. 3: You believe interlopers in our land deserve control over part of it. 4: You have a problem with the mitzvah to wipe out Amalek.
First, there are many reasons that Orthodox Jews do not live in E’Y. But to name a few, some people have medical conditions that disallow them from even traveling to E’Y because in a country where medicine is socialized, they would not receive the treatment they need without going through costly-prohibitive back channels. Further, many cannot move because Israel’s immense taxation and heavy-handed control over business make it difficult for people to make a parnassah there, as they would in America. Obviously, there are many more legitimate reasons that Orthodox Jews cannot just pick up and move, but Rabbi Weissman contends that they don’t exist. Would we all move if the situation was right? Sure. But to most people, it is not. Next, Weissman’s second “clause” is an extreme logical fallacy. Let’s clarify: one must be an assimilated Jew if they have no intention to move to E’Y and teach their children not to cause C’H, because being in America is the greatest Chilul Hashem? Even if Rabbi Weissman was correct, this implies that one should not teach their childrento avoid aveiros, just because the parents struggle with some aveiros. So, if one has a hard time going to minyan, or grappling with other aveiros, they shouldn’t bother teaching their children not to do them. In Weissman’s words, “no amount of good behavior will make up for it.”
Second, our society’s morals have always changed in line with that of non-Jewish societies, whether one cares to admit it. This occurred in many facets of life, from dress to religious practice. Further, gender roles have changed in the Orthodox world, and most of that change has brought great benefit. Communities in places like Lakewood, Monsey, and E’Y contain thriving Kolel life because society changed, and it is now acceptable for wives and mothers to be the (sole) breadwinners. Rabbi Weissman mentions those who become vegans because of a twisted sense of morals, and that is a point with which I agree. However, he writes as if this is the norm in Orthodox society today. It is not, and most people reading this article likely don’t know more than one or two (if any) Orthodox Jews who are vegan because of the morality of it all. Finally, just because some outspoken women pushing “new” women’s roles, this does not indicate the norm in the Orthodox wold. Klal Yisrael now has more “Torah” families with gender roles Rabbi Weissman would approve of, than ever in history.
Third, most Orthodox Jews do not believe that “interlopers” should have any control over E’Y. However, and tying back into the first point, one of the reasons people aren’t running to live in current E’Y, is exactly the root of this point. The current government is structured in a way that, at times, can be less friendly to Orthodox yidden than other world governments. The very Jews in charge of the State consistently capitulate to the whims of foreign pressures, and cede control to said “interlopers.” The same Jews are the ones pushing new gender roles and the very things Rabbis Weissman disdains. It is no wonder why many Orthodox Jews don’t want to move to E’Y under this regime. Does Rabbi Weissman truly think that many Orthodox Jews in Lakewood, Brooklyn, Teaneck, etc., believe that there should be 15 Arab Kinnesset members?! Or that they are OK with the IDF, that seeks to draft all Orthodox girls and boys, having one of the highest abortion rates out of any organized army worldwide? How Israel is currently run is precisely why many Orthodox families have not moved there.
The fourth indicator is just a baseless attack on Orthodox Jews in general. Rabbi Weissman states that we must be so assimilated, that were Eliyahu HaNavi himself to appear, give us a sword and lead us to a member of Amalek, we would “want nothing to do with it.” Rabbi Weissman does not offer proof. He simply declares that we are so meek in our religious observance, that the Orthodox world wouldn’t perform an outright Mitzva D’oraysa if it were staring us in the face. This point is the least consistent, as Rabbi Weissman does not even provide a rationale as he did for the first three indicators.
In sum, it behooves us all to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus and assume that Rabbi Weissman’s article was not, as seemingly written, a broad attack on the Orthodox Jewish community at large. This is not an attack on Rabbi Weissman, but a defense of the Orthodox Jewish community as a whole. Perhaps it was just the way it was written that led readers to that belief, and in fact, it was only intended at a few among us. Either way, it does not detract from the main point of this response. No one among us should be judging members of the Orthodox community without personally knowing them. Not on our decisions to remain in America (for the time being), or on our observance as Jews. Certainly, not in a manner as broad and subjective as this Op-Ed has.