Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Rant From Monsey

Ezzie - My friend Mordy S. from Monsey e-mailed me with a rant regarding the latest news out of Monsey. That post ended with this point, and this got Mordy typing... Please, read the whole thing. It makes a number of very important and sharp points throughout.

A Rant from Monsey - Mordy S.
"Address the disease, not the symptoms"
Ah, yes, the real point you were trying to make! And oh, how right you are.

To me, it almost seems as if addressing problems and issues within themselves is not the "in" thing to do in Jewish communities. Basically, I feel as if the “leaders” of different communities feel that it’s just easier to ban the internet than deal with the issues of the lack of bitachon among their constituents. It is clear that through their abuse of such a powerful tool, these people obviously have deeper issues.

However, it’s curious that the “leadership” would not ban cars, under a similar line of reason. One is reminded of the irresponsibility with cars that many UO have shown through their wonderful recent display in BoroPark or another already long forgotten story of a certain yungerleit who left his kid to fry in a car during the summer. I mean, driving has become, to some extent, dangerous in the Jewish world in the tri-state area. Are the leadership just so much more caring about the ruchnias and the neshamas of their constituents that imminent harm to their guf and gashmius just isn’t enough of a big deal to make bans? Although, in the Catskills there has been a ban for years in certain bungalow colonies and camps that prohibits bochurim from driving at night or other similar restrictions due to a deadly car accident, so maybe it takes some death to get things stirring.

But I’m being facetious. I don’t expect at all for there to be any real bans put in place regarding driving, and I’m sure something was done in the community where the certain yungerleit accidentally left his kid in the car. And I don’t truly believe that our “leaders” care more or less about any part of us. I believe our leaders care about us as individuals and as a community. And they all certainly know a lot more Torah than I do, so who am I to offer my .02? But here it goes anyway…

While that example I gave on driving might have been a little wacky, the ban that was imposed in certain communities in the Catskills wasn’t so wacky. It was the proper response to a problem that existed. Whether that problem was irresponsibility, lack of experience, or just completely out of the hands of the people who were involved isn’t the point. The point was that the problem was addressed and dealt with. Which is what should be done to ALL problems that currently exist in the Jewish community.

Look at the drug problem/ teens at risk/ going off the derech issue that has not left a single Jewish community untouched. Response? Indeed, quite the movement has taken place to ADDRESS this problem. However, have we so soon forgotten for how long this issue went UNADDRESSED? Does anyone know how long it actually took for Rabbis to start talking about in public, giving shiurim on, and holding conventions about these issues, plagues, diseases, cancers, and everything else they’ve been referred to as in the past. I don’t know when it actually started, but I do know how long it took for many of my friends to get the help they so desperately needed - some almost ten years.

This example is a microcosm of how issues are addressed in general throughout the greater Orthodox communities. It’s got to take EVERY community to feel, it’s got to claim MANY lives, it’s got to decay, ruin, and destroy entire families and relationships. Basically, it’s got to become an issue before it can get the proper response and dedication it deserves. Instead of dealing with each person and need, we wait until most of us, or even everyone feels the same needs. It never takes just one time, just one person, just one little issue. It’s not one act of abuse that a father carries out. It’s got to be at least one father in every Jewish community, and one family on every block of those communities. It’s not just one girl who gets abducted for $50,000 of reward money to suddenly appear. It’s after this same thing has happened in Monsey a year or two ago, and then again in Boro Park a couple of days earlier. We’ve got to wait until how many girls die of Anorexia before you hear about it spoken publicly in every HS and seminary? These are just a few that have finally been addressed. But what about all the other problems that “only happen here and there” so they just get swept aside or dealt with in private, instead of being a source of information or growth to the community and contributing the overall knowledge of the issue.
Does anyone know how long it actually took for Rabbis to start talking about in public, giving shiurim on, and holding conventions about these issues, plagues, diseases, cancers, and everything else they’ve been referred to as in the past. I don’t know when it actually started, but I do know how long it took for many of my friends to get the help they so desperately needed - some almost ten years.
I’m curious to see what’s going to happen over the next 5 to 10 years, as thousands of Orthodox Jews continue to dig themselves deep into debt. I want to know how some of these people that go to Florida every Pesach actually plan on paying off their credit card bills. I want to know why these people even go in the first place while they can’t even seem to pay full tuition for their children’s yeshivos. Does any Rabbi ever discuss the economic situation that exists in the Jewish community? You hear them discussing the “keeping up with the Johnson’s” theme every now and then. But even that seems like it's not the "in" thing, for it might upset some of the donation-giving populace who pride themselves solely on their beautiful and pleasure-filled possessions and who live just to hear their own names being announced in public. So yeah, it’s not a problem. That’s it, it’s just not an issue, since bankruptcy and fiscal irresponsibility has not caused enough harm and damage to the Jews yet.
Basically, it’s got to become an issue before it can get the proper response and dedication it deserves. Instead of dealing with each person and need, we wait until most of us, or even everyone feels the same needs. It never takes just one time, just one person, just one little issue.
But to me, all this is obvious. One of the characteristics of a Jew is busha. Jews are embarrassed by their problems, but even worse, they’re embarrassed about what their neighbors will say about their problems. The non-frum seem to talk more about Jewish guilt than the Orthodox, and I went to Ner Israel for high school so I know a thing or two about guilt. Basically, between the guilt, the neighbors, and whatever else, us Jews have enough other junk to deal with in addition to the actual problems themselves. But the main deal is that we have busha. We are just too embarrassed to bring our problems into the view of the public in order to deal with them and learn from them together. There exists no open-aired environment where one can speak freely. Why is there no Jewish AA or why aren’t there any public Jewish support groups? And if there happen to be some that I’ve just never heard of (which is entirely likely), are they public groups that are properly publicized, supported and encouraged or are they still riddled with stigmas that the rest of civilization has shed years ago? Do people realize how much good they can do for the community if they share their problems with others and how many people with similar problems can benefit from the common goal to reach a solution?
I’m curious to see what’s going to happen over the next 5 to 10 years, as thousands of Orthodox Jews continue to dig themselves deep into debt.
And yes, I know I’m being insensitive to all the people that have very serious, very personal, private psychological or medical problems. But people have to realize that they are not alone. People will do sick twisted things for different reasons, and some will feel guilty afterwards and long for help, while others are too sick to realize they even have a problem. But both of those people need help, and they need to know that there is somewhere to go to get help. If there is no problem, there is nothing to fix. So instead of dealing with problems, we avoid, deny, or ignore them. And then finally when something is too big to ignore, we just make one broad sweeping move that’s supposed to make sure it never happens again. And we manage to avoid the actual causes and intricacies of the problem itself, in order to avoid anymore twisting of the knife in the heart of the already ruined parties.

One more example that I think is a decent analogy is the different types of yeshivas that exist in Israel, and it probably even applies to yeshivas in America. I attended OJ, and people would say about OJ that it did nothing to help somebody’s actual problems. Rather, it would give people a hashkafa, a sort of “thorough chareidi-ish brainwashing” and then spit them back out to the world as a completely different person. Now, whether I agree or disagree with that assessment of the yeshiva is irrelevant; however, when one looks at the purpose of another yeshiva, one can see a more specific goal.
Do people realize how much good they can do for the community if they share their problems with others and how many people with similar problems can benefit from the common goal to reach a solution?
People know why Neveh Etzion exists, and it serves its purpose well. There were many success stories and also many bumps in the road, but they, as well as other similar yeshivas, are there to deal with specific issues, and most of them put a real effort into really dealing with them. They apply modern techniques and keep on top of their fields, and that’s why they succeed. They acknowledge the issues, and work on them. Why does it only have to be yeshivas like Neveh that keep on top of stuff like this? Why doesn’t every yeshiva address all types of issues.

The answer is because even yeshivas have busha. Yeshivas don’t want to be labeled “that type of place” and in order to avoid being referred to as not-as-shtark as the next place, they can’t discuss certain things and then real personal and psychological problems go unnoticed, or just don’t get dealt with correctly.

So then what is the disease? Is the disease embarrassment, or is it just natural for Jews to be embarrassed? And should we work on breaking down some of these communal restraints, or in the air of tznius, should we continue to stay quiet and private about any personal issue? Like, I said earlier, the leaders know a lot more Torah than I do, but I just feel like something has to be done. I feel that proper communication of any feelings can build so many bridges. If every Jewish community actually worked on communicating how they feel about each other and realized how many of the same problems they all have to deal with, Moshiach would be here already (that’s just what I think). And when I say communities, I don’t mean a couple of rabbis in the bigger shuls getting up and speaking while half the place is out making kiddush, and the other half is snoring. I’m talking about people who live on the same block and don’t even know each other’s names. People that daven in different little shteibels with completely different upbringings and hashkafas, getting together for a shaloshudas (seudat shlishit) every other shabbos in a different shul, just so they can discuss what they’re all facing as Jews together in the same world. And it’s not even that hard to do - but it won’t happen, ‘cuz there aren’t any problems.

Problems? What problems?


  1. I'm not even sure which of these problems is the most serious: They're all on the brink. What's even scarier regarding the debt issue is that much of the Jewish world are not even in a position to get themselves out of it when that time arises. All too many good, honest people learning in Kollel who are not self-supporting may be hard-pressed in a few years, when some of the money runs out. Forget even staying in learning - will those who decide to work even be able to, or will they be too old?

    I must say, I am very happy for people like my brother. He is learning full-time, but completely unsupported. Do they struggle? Certainly. But they have managed to remain out of debt. They will be safe when these walls come down.

  2. Very articulate post from your friend. Brings up a lot of interesting points, good points. Some denominations are better than others at addressing the social problems Mordy talks about. I agree with his 'busha' assesment. And his last point, about communities and people getting together for seudat shlisheet, IMHO should extend beyond denominational boundaries. OY. A lot of work to be done.

  3. Learning is a whole other thing. I understand if someone is a true illui, ok, fine, but when you have many children to raise and a family to support, I believe you have an obligation to help your family. IMHO. :-)

  4. EK - Not to turn this into a discussion about learning... but I don't mind either when they're a true illui as you mentioned, or if they are willing to support themselves (or someone has expressly told them they would fully support them). My brother, for example, is fully self-sufficient, and his wife is completely supportive. He does small catering-type jobs on the side to supplement her income. They aren't living richly, but they and their 2 children are very happy.

  5. The problem is scapegoating. Easier to claim the problem is from the outside and easily fixed than from the inside and require work.....

  6. I am not talking about a situation like your brother's, where he is clearly a responsible human being, and the whole family is pitching in to support each other. I am also not talking about a situation where a generous benefactor is supporting someone. I am talking about irresponsible people who "live off the land" so to speak, as if they are entitled to be supported by taxpayers because they are learning Torah. Not to turn this into a discussion about learning . . . :-)

    PS: very sad about larry hughes's brother. Baruch Dayan haEmet.

  7. EK - Very sad about Hughes. Tragic story.

    And okay, I get you. :)

    DAG - Amen.

  8. Not to take this thread on another tangent, BUT . . .

    Do you think it is possible for the rank and file of different denominations to have productive dialoge on a community level? I am not talking about clergy getting together to shake hands and keep up the fiction that we are getting somewhere, I mean real people trying to make real strides in the battle to support and promote Klal Yisrael. Not that the rabbis who are doing that are all farcical (of course, my husband is an angel :-)), but you get what I mean. If we extend and strengthan Klal Yisrael, perhaps we can combat more effectively the ills which plague our Jewish societies. Thoughts?

  9. So thank g-d they finallly addressed the shidduchim problem and they finally addressed the ostnetatious simcha problem.
    Perhaps you can tell us why people bash the new magazine that forthcoming and perhaps you can tell us why everyone scoffs at the simcha guidelines?
    You can't have it both ways.

  10. EK - Worthy of a post. (Which you should write! :) )

    Honestly, I'm not sure. It's hard enough to get the different strands of Orthodoxy to get together on a meaningful level. But perhaps it's items like this that are the beginning, even on the most basic of levels? Let's hope.

    Anon - How have they truly addressed either one? It is nice that they have finally spoken about it, but where's the action save a few select communities? I'm not sure what magazine you're referring to, so I can't speak about that. Personally, I have no beef with the simcha guidelines. OTOH, I've yet to see them in action. Those who used to not overspend still are not; the rest are lavish affairs, with gobs of money being spent - they just spend it on different things these days.

  11. Ezzie: maybe :-)

    Anon: what magazine?

  12. EK & Ezzie - such a place does exist where Jews of many walks come together as if in some unbelievable dream. In 12th grade, when i attended TABC, i had to do chessed hours. Someone, (i think my mom) suggested i go get them done at Tomchei Shabbos. WOW! if only the Jewish world was like those thursday nights in that garage where all different types of Jews could get along, shmooze, eat some cholent, and actually do a ton of chessed all at the same time, together, and in peace. I should really start going back there. I can't think of a better place to go to gain back any lost hope in the goodness of man. It was just the essence of purity. I feel as if it might be the last area of the modern Jewish world uncorrupted by "denominational bureaucracy."

    Dag - i dunno if scapegoating is necessarily the problem as a general rule, although of course, the logic is correct that it's easier to blame the outside than actually acknowledging and working on an inner misguidance or defficiency. i mean, what community leader would wanna blame themselves for the issues that are strangling their people? but the lack of accountability never suprises me. when was the last time we heard any rabbi admit he made a mistake or took back a misguided p'sak? it can really test one's faith, as it has mine. but then i remember that in my 22 years on this planet, there's alot i don't know, and alot they have learned. but truth prevails above all, and we must seek it like we seek...(i dont rmmbr the rest of the saying, and i'm too tired to look it up)

  13. anon - if i understand what you're referring to, the irony of the magazine is that they feature articles discussing such issues as ostentatious simchas and the problems of bad credit, while on the next page they post these advertisements for extravagant yom tov vacations. if they truly believed what they wrote, why would they sell ad space to the cause of the problem?! it's almost like time magazine writing an article on healthy eating habits with a full page mcdonalds ad smack in the middle.

  14. Extremely good post, tackling very important issues. The embarrassment factor in the frum world keeps many from seeking help for problems, and in turn, organizations are not formed to deal with problems because people won't use them.

  15. Very, very well thought out and well written. Some of the problems mentioned are why I have started my blog "Bein Adam L'Chavero".

    I live in an area where there's an almost 50% Jewish population. I've been there for about a year and a half now. We're just now making friends because people are too busy competing with each other to be friends.

    My new Chevra jokes that we should find an area with a dying Jewish community, pull up stakes, and create a JewTopia.

    Some days I don't think it's such a joke.

  16. Lakewood Bans Uncle Moishy
    The Yated has reported that the Lakewood community has banned the popular children's music star, Uncle Moishy. When asked for an explanation, local Rabbinic leaders commented, "although we have not yet banned either uncles, people named Moishy or men who do mitzvas, the scourge that is Uncle Moishy can no longer be tolerated in Jewish homes."

    A Lakewood spokesmen said that while none of the Rabbis themselves have heard Uncle Moishy records, Chas Vashalom, a Kollel Yungeleit was with family for Pesach and accidentally heard a few uncle Moishy records being played. After hearing two songs, "don't walk in front of me I may not follow", and "Just one Shabbas just one Torah", he immediately called his Rebbe to report the dangers lurking behind the Frum facade that is Uncle Moishy.

    The Kollel Yungeleit was quoted as saying, "when I heard that Apikorsus, that we can't lead or follow, I mean, that's the antithesis of Judaism. I follow my Rebbe every day. And that other song, Oy. Can you believe that Uncle Moishy said that 'Hashem commanded us with ten not eleven', last I checked there are 613 Mitzvos, not 10!. I called my Rebbe who called his Rebbe and the ban was issued almost immediately. I am just happy that I had a small part in preventing the spread of this dangerous material to more innocent children."

    The Lakewood spokesperson noted that many people had asked which was worse, TV, the internet or Uncle Moishy. He responded that "obviously Uncle Moishy is the worst. Everyone knows that TV is evil and the internet is absolute evil, except if it can be used to make money that supports learning, but most people THOUGHT uncle Moishy was kosher, thus allowing it to seep into their homes and their children's lives."

    As a clarification, Lakewood leaders wanted to note "that many people who had listened to Uncle Moishy not knowing the serious Torah prohibitions in doing so should stop trying to kasher their brains by swallowing cups of boiling water. The water has bugs in it, so doing so will result in several other Torah violations. One can not receive atonement for listening to Apikorsas anyway."

    He concluded, "It is unfortunate that many of our children have been affected by the poison that is Uncle Moishy. We cannot allow that poison to affect the innocent non-Uncle Moishy listening children at our schools. Therefore any child that has heard an Uncle Moishy song OR knows the name Uncle Moishy will be expelled from all schools in Lakewood. All remaining Uncle Moishy records should be burned in bonfires on Lag Boemer. Schools will make home inspections to ensure that no Uncle Moishy records are present. In addition, School Rebbeim will randomly sing verses from the more popular Uncle Moishy songs and determine if there is any recognition amongst the children. All children that recognize the tunes or lyrics will be expelled to protect the neshamas of the other innocent children. May Hashem protect us."


  17. Regarding the magazine mentioned by above anon (me) see these 2 links or check your mailbox. Issues might have been mailed already. Those who were at the Harrison Hotel on Pesach already know all about it.

  18. UNCLE MOISHY??? Please tell me that is a there a Jewish version of "The Onion" to publish this?

    Mordy S.,
    Did we cross paths? I went to Ner Israel for High School and I started the OJ trend for 1st year out of Ner. It was taboo to go from Ner to OJ.

  19. Nevermind...I know who Mordy S. is just dawned on me ;-)

  20. JH - I would think you know of him pretty well... :)

    Anon - Interesting. Personally, I would not have wanted to be in such a magazine, and I'm not sure how much that does. Would people not compare the profiles of everyone in the magazine? If one is lying around, anyone can read it. I wish them luck, but I'm not a fan.

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  22. Especially because I am going to see GnR with his older brother this week!

  23. anon- i had no clue that you were referring to that shadchan thingy. i think that's just straight up wierd, but like i told ezzie, i really can't discuss dating. the only thing i've learned about dating so far is that there are no generalizations and whenever i discuss it, i learn something suprising and new that chanegs the way i look at it.

    dag- hilarious. i was rolling. it's b/c of leitzanus like that that they held the asifa!!! haha

    shosh- you got it. if someone actually decided to open a "frum" AA, i wonder how many people would show up. meanwhile, at the AA meetings held in the local unitarian church, you got at least 4 or 5 different yarmulkes from week to week. (how i know such information is a whole other story)and imagine how many more probably should be going, but would never get treated.

    typo lady- thanks! and when i first got back form israel, me and some of my monsey friends would talk about how we're gonna move our monsey crew to some random hilltop in the gush and start our community over in israel, letting our kids grow up the same way we all did, but for them it'd be hanging around by the kikar or in front of the makolet instead of in front of 7-11. hehe.

    jh- HEY MAN! how wierd is that that we havent talked for like years, and you randomly imed me yesterday. G told me about the show. dude, that's awesome! you've only been waiting, what, your entire life? haha! good stuff man.

  24. ezzie- he lived in my house for a summer

  25. Mordy and Ezzie,
    Something you guys mentioned really resonated with me. Poor fiscal responsibility in an effort to keep up with the Jonses.

    This problem is worse than the number of kollel families able to dedicate themselves to Torah down the line...even our Orthodox organizations (charities and schools) are drowing in debt, becasue the leadership making decisions and providing oversight are incompetant to maintain fiscal accountability. Not for themselves or the organization.

    This problem goes down way deep!

  26. "ezzie- he lived in my house for a summer"

    ...and did all the "at risk" things we never want for our own children. ;-)

  27. I think Orthonomics has had a few good posts about fiscal irresponsibility.

  28. JH - I wasn't even originally referring to kollel families suffering from fiscal irresponsiblity. when was the last time you heard a kollel family complaining about the new Lexus/pool/landscaping/outrageous simcha that the Johnson's just made? Also, from my experiences in Bnei Brak and Mattisdorf, those kind of communities are G-d's country. One has to wonder how an electric bill gets paid or how the water is still running in some of these apartments. Most of these people don't have real incomes. How do they even pay the bills? Seems to me that people just keep writing checks and G-d does the rest of the work. And i aint got no qualms. People wanna have different levels of emunah and bitachon? be my guest! That's not to be naive and say that there aren't plenty of sholom bayis problems in such communities. But who are we to judge? Many of them do deal with their issues in their own colorful ways.
    What i was referring to was commmunities like Flatbush and the Five Towns, where it seems like keeping up with the Johnson's has officially been re-named "Keeping up with the Shwartz's" and has been voted our new national past-time, beating out Kiddushes by about 2 votes. I mean, ask some of these people how they just got their hot new Audi's or how they can afford to go to the Eden Roc three times a year. oh i just put it on my credit card! Have fun folks! Meanwhile, their son's rebbi is across 878 living in an illegal four family and is lucky if he gets to send his kids to daycamp this summer. And don't get me wrong, i'm sure the Rebbi's a happy fellow. But a little hakoras hatov people!
    Me and a friend of mine have discussed doing the math and seeing how much money would be saved if every NY Jew didn't go to Florida for a pesach. We orignally thought that the Rabbis should assur it for one year, just to see what would happen. We didn't really make any calculations, but the overall conclusion was that the savings would probably be enough to pull every yeshiva right out of debt and give some of those rebbeim a raise so that they could afford to buy a minivan instead of letting them suffer the headaches they have with their '87 station wagons. And, yes, we took into account all the people that have jobs associated with catering and other aspects of pesach in Florida, and some who have even come to rely on the extra cash they'll make by working over pesach. Our suggestion is to have them relocated to all the stores that will suddenly be having extra business due to entire neighborhoods not suddenly disappearing around yom tov time and provide other services that will then be needed as associated with the extra people. And come on, is it that hard to clean your humongous houses for yom tov? you'll have the maid do it anyway! Anyone wanna try out my new campaign?

  29. I think Orthonomics has had a few good posts about fiscal irresponsibility.

    Hey Ezzie-Thanks for the plug. And, for all interested, there will be more to come.

  30. Trapped Charadei Syndrome (TCS)
    I think the events we are seeing in the Chardei world, riots in Boro Park chanting, No justice, no peace, Al Sharpton style rhetoric defending terrible behavior, fighting halchakik battles that had been decided decades ago by Rabbonim much greater than we have today, defending a dangerous, deadly Minhag for Brissen contrary to Halacha, banning books that would have been ignored 20 years ago, expelling innocent children from schools for their parent's choices, claiming Israel, of all places, is guilty of a blood libel, either someone is spiking the Kugel, or the Charedi world is in a SERIOUS state of flux.

    I think the Charadeim are trying to refuse to accept the FACT that the world has changed drastically in the last 15 years, and their methods can no longer work in such a world. You can no longer keep the outside world outside of the Ghetto. We are all affected by it, and that is unacceptable in their eyes.

    The acting out we see is an expression of how endangered the Chardeim think they are. They are truly acting as if they are trapped animals, willing to do ANYTHING to get free, defined in this case as returning to a world in which they could simply close their eyes and society could be ignored.

    So when Charedeim and their leaders overreact to issues that seem miniscule, when they cause Chilulai Hashem of proportions we have never seen in our nations history, just remember they are suffering from TCS, Trapped Charadei Syndrome. I don't think the DSM-V manual will list this new disorder, as their offices would be burned down if they tried, but I do believe the "circling the wagon" technique has been tried before in history. The result here will be equally disastrous.


  31. DAG - Interesting, funny post on TCS. I've thought of parts of that in the past...

    Mordy - Except many of those people would then spend the money on some other extravagance for that Pesach. :(

    Orthonomics - I'm always looking forward. :)

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  33. There is a Jewish group for alcoholics, called JACS

    A rabbi I know helped with a few events, and said that there were Jews there from all types of Judaism - from reform to Orthodox. He also said that another unaddressed problem in the community is gambling. Since people with an addictive personality tend to choose the addiction that they can most easily hide/be accepted with, both addictive gambling and compulsive spending are a serious problem in the Jewish community.

    But yes, there is a group. AA, NA, and others pride themselves on being non-denominational, but JACS realizes that the spiritual needs of Jews are often better met within a Jewish framework.