Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Their OTDs Were Better Than Our OTDs: Rabbi Dovid Schwartz Responds
Rabbi Dovid Schwartz offers a response to Michael Makovi:
As I indicated, what most troubled me about your letter was that while it was quick to defend the secular Zionists and such (which is remarkable - I do sincerely thank you), nevertheless, it was quick to condemn the contemporary OTDs and such.
I beg your pardon. I did not "condemn" anyone. But as politically incorrect as this may be neither do I shy away from being judgmental. The Torah enjoins us to judge favorably, not to suspend judgment entirely. What I wrote, and what I believe, is that not only was the religiosity of the observant Jews of the interbellum period superior to the religiosity of contemporary Jews but that the IRRELIGIOSITY of the NON-observant Jews of the interbellum period was "superior" to the irreligiosity of their contemporary counterparts. On a absolute dispassionate, non-empathic level any Jew with Torah -fidelity ought to "condemn" Torah infidels as we presume that a just and compassionate G-d does not visit insurmountable nisyonos on anyone. A tough test is a compliment from G-d. But I am neither dispassionate, without empathy nor "holier-than-thou". I stand in awe of the BTs I work with and who have done a remarkably better job of the hand that HaShem dealt them than I have with done with the one that He dealt me.
Nor do I presume that I would have stayed "on the derech" if confronted with the tests of interbellum irreligious (Please re-read the letter. This is its denouement) or even with molestation or some of the severer tests that confronts contemporary OTDs. I was merely voicing a Tom Brokaw-like opinion about what I consider to be the "Greatest [Jewish] Generation". In comparing, on a pan-societal level, yesteryears irreligious with today's OTDs I voted in favor of the former. Does this equate to a "condemnation" of the latter? Not IMO. I'd ask you to be slower to judgment in your condemning me for imagined condemnations.
You admit the "broken school system", and you admit that the school systems are unable to impart true religiosity unless they include 8+ years of kollel. Shouldn't this set off alarms in your head? Perhaps the OTDs are responding to these failures of the school system?
No doubt many are. Others are responding to lousy parenting, sibling rivalries or a myriad of other "failures". Those alarms were set off in my head long ago or I could never have written what I wrote... least of all to the editor if the Yated. I am all for Yeshiva and Bais Yaakov school reform but people of good conscience can agree to disagree on what reforms are needed and how best to implement them. I am not for throwing out the baby with the bathwater and a total revamping of the system from the ground up. For our time and place there is much that IS good and holy in the current educational system.
Again, on a case by case personal level I was not blaming any particular OTD for their jettisoning of Torah-study and observance. Nor am I ready to make any case by case condemnations of particular schools, teachers and/or parents. A myriad of factors result in pushing youngsters OTD some from the realm of yedeeyah and others from the realm of bekheera. That said, on a generational, pan-societal level I opine that the (failed) tests that conspired to push the 1920-30s Bundist OTD were more daunting than those that pushed and continue to push the 1990s- 2010 Yeshiva or Bais Yaakov dropout OTD. Especially in instances when abuse and molestation are absent. I am neither statistician nor (professional) sociologist. And while it may be true that 75% or more of abused/ molested students go OTD I'm not convinced that 75% of those OTD did so because they were abused and/or molested. A system that demands too much of some, too little of others has too few extra-curriculars and invariably tries jamming square pegs into round holes is a helluva rough row to hoe. But again IMO it hardly compares with dealing with grinding poverty, genocidal anti-Semitism, educational and professional state-sanctioned apartheid and discrimination and come-hither sweeping intellectual ferment movements and parties which were the testes of the interbellum OTDs.
I know more about the Modern Orthodox community than the Haredi one, so it is difficult for me to speak of the Haredi one except as an outsider looking in, but what I see, from where I stand, is that the Haredi community forces an outdated and obsolete worldview on its students.
Talk about sweeping self-congratulatory condemnations! For now I have lost my ta'am in further responses. As a product of that community and its School Systems I fear that anything else that I write will be greeted with the dismissive contempt reserved for those who are out-of-touch and mired in a medieval mentality. Explain to me why further responses will NOT be utter exercises in futility?