Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Orthodoxy on Hold

Notice of suspension of shabbos services at the Brandywine Hills Minyan arrived second-hand, as I had unsubscribed from their list-serve after a few initial notices that I found offensive.  The first notice indicated that on the advice of one of the Gedolim HaDor of Philadelphia shabbos services would be suspended to avoid adverse consequences to an unnamed individual.  The followup note indicated that services would resume monthly on the shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh.  I suppose the Grand Rebbe of Philadelphia approved victimizing somebody in a more limited way, using a waning moon instead of a full moon, allowing three weeks for the victim to lick his wounds before the next assault, and inviting him to Kiddush lunch on the week of his ignominy.

For some time I have been an individual member of the Orthodox Union, reading their quarterly magazine, learning some weekly Torah in cyberspace from their Executive Director Emeritus, looking for the U in a circle on the products I purchase.  They have a problem that a mainstream orthodox community in Wilmington could help remedy.  Hard financial times have hit their community in the big metropolitan areas, including New York.  It has created a new class of poor, people who were used to having stable ample incomes but no longer do.  In the meantime, two of the central New York means of employment, the banks and the law firms have created important niches in Delaware with a certain amount of stability and prosperity.  The challenge would be to develop Jewish institutions here, which already exist in a Philadelphia commuting distance, so that these people displaced in New York can comfortably relocate their families here.  For millenia Jews have relocated to take advantage of economic opportunities, from the traders who found their way to central Asia and India to the oldest Jewish community in continuous existence in Rome to our current vibrant and prosperous populations in America's largest cities.  The economic opportunity inspired pioneers, the needed institutions followed.  That same process continues now.  The President and Executive Director of the OU have each written in their Jewish Action Magazine and spoken in public platforms how they have traveled across America to small communities that maintain a loyal commitment to Orthodox mainstream practice amid its local challenges, though not engaging in one-upmanship with what they find around them.

But instead of real orthodoxy, we had a therapeutic trial of the trappings of orthodoxy without its essence.  A self-appointed Bulshitzer Rebbe who not only had the hat with the biggest brim, but the biggest head to fit inside, as its champion.  Its banner was never how we can enable people but how we can rid ourselves of the inferiors at AKSE whose rabbi made decisions we did not like.  Anyone who has ever been immersed in real orthodox Judaism would pick this out as selective nursing of grudges more than creation of the something sufficiently inviting to become a destination in its own right.  Derech Eretz Kadmah L'Torah.

Maybe there will be a place for OU style Judaism beyond the Chabad Shaliach who has advanced Judaism in my area in the proper way.  there is certainly a public benefit to be derived, whether through modification of what exists now at AKSE, Shop-Rite, Federation and Einstein or creation of a more separate form of loyal opposition that maintains a level of Derech Eretz far ahead of what came across from the current communications.  I think the OU has a stake in supporting the real thing and will when begun in the proper spirit.

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