In our modern day era of PC not all offences are equal. While it’s not nice to say kike, dego, pollack, Jonny Bull, spic or camel jockey, none of them have been treated to the pedestal of the N-Word. Of all racial slurs this is the worst. No one can say it or quote it on any media outlet. Its use bans you from the land of the civilized. Paula Deen can be boycotted and shunned because she was said to have used it years ago. You can even be told to sell your football team. Does the use of honky, cracker or white bread carry the same taboo?

 I understand why this word is offensive. In the US it is a vestige of generations of slavery and discrimination. The fact that no slave trader or owner is still alive is irrelevant. The fact that a majority of US voters, white and black, have voted for a black president is also irrelevant. African Americans are represented in all areas of public and private endeavor? Ditto. But cruel discrimination and working conditions rivalling slavery were the lot of most of the US immigrant populations.

George Carlin unofficially codified those words that were not accepted by the polite or educated society of my generation in his classic “7 Words You May Not Say on Television”. Today most of these have made their way onto television. While not yet being acceptable on the small screen, the F word has gained not only acceptance, but respectability in movies, stand up, social media and regular conversation. It is the expletive of choice in nearly every situation for the Millennials and their younger siblings.

What do we say when we say the N word? In every language this word means black. A descriptive in its natural meaning and its derogatory implication implied. The F word on the other hand implies equating the sexual act with violence against women. Its etymology has been traced to old Germanic verbs to strike, hit, fist, punch. An alternative meaning is to plow a field. This imagery carries over into its common, less taboo synonyms – screw, knock, bang…well you get the idea.

Today we have a word that is a descriptive with a heavy layer of implied insult as society’s most feared pejorative, and a word whose literal meaning suggests violence against women is being coming increasingly accepted. In fact, to drop F bombs like a man may just make a woman feel liberated.

Why does this matter? What you say is what you are. When a word is conceived both as the sexual act and a violent expletive with a violent meaning then the emotional context of sex becomes warped. Feminists decry a “rape culture” but encourage this mechanical view of sex. Men and boys “get a piece” while feminists worry that a girl may be told to respect herself enough to give herself only to a man who cares enough to make a lifetime committment to her.

It’s time to reexamine our modern cultural norms with an eye to the effect they are having on us and our children. What our children see and hear at a young age affects and disturbs them. If we don’t want violence in our relationships and in our society thenwe have to excise it from our speech.

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A few days ago,on my way out to work, I passed our community’s clubhouse for boys from 2nd to 8th grade. A huge colorful, hand drawn poster covered the side of the prefab. It read “G-d loves the Righteous”. Something about it bothered me. Were they trying coercion? Behave and G-d will love you? Were they raising a generation of elitist snobs? We were talking about people raised not thinking the phrase “people of quality” is offensive. As my baby is in line for a March draft date, the doings of the club for lower grades has not received much of my attention lately.

A week later I was on my way out with my husband and mentioned the signs. There was another on the preschool, ages 3 months to 3 years. Somebody was serious about this message. He had noticed them and was also disturbed. He also saw the manipulative aspect within this true but not complete statement.

As we neared the bus stop we noticed that one of our neighbors hung 3 huge signs on his fence. On two of them was written “Jews Love Jews” and the middle sign said “Soldier! Jews Don’t Evict Jews”. Is fear of eviction the reason for this plea for brotherly love? If G-d loves the righteous why should we love all Jews? And more, if G-d loves the righteous, why should the soldiers love all Jews? Maybe the soldiers should not evict the righteous but put us sinners out on our duffs.

With all of the talk since the beginning of the Oslo Era about threats of expulsion and how to deal with them have we ever asked ourselves if we deserved to be here? Should G-d’s promises, great love and patience and love for His land trump our unworthiness? To paraphrase Avraham Avinu, how do we know that we, in this generation, will inherit it? While there is much judging of the sins of the expellers, there has been precious little soul searching about how we could be responsible for things like the Gaza expulsion happening. There has been even less thought about our current spiritual state.

This present exile is the product of baseless hatred. Hating someone who has wronged you is not baseless. Baseless hatred means hating someone because he is there. I would suggest that baseless hatred could be the need to make sure the other is NOT here. The settlement movement has a long list of those who it either wants not here or here in limited, useful quantities. Charedim, too Torani, single parents, low income families and those with troubled or handicapped children are just some of those undesirables in the House that Zambish & Co. built. We would do good to remember that the first vaad klita (acceptance committee) was in Sdom. They put in place an elaborate system and rational to exclude undesirables. We also should remember how pleased G-d was with their attempt to live with only quality people. Actually, we don’t have to go back so far. The leaders in Gush Katif refused to absorb activists who wanted to move there because someone asked, “What if we succeed in thwarting the government’s plan and these people want to stay here? What can we do if they don’t leave once the fight is over?

Holy Rabbis and many good Jews prayed that the communities in Aza would be spared despite us. Our enemies from within and without saw the expulsion as a weakness of G-d. We should know better, the weakness was ours. It is sinas chinam of the worse sort to ask for the representatives of all Am Israel to stand beside us but please don’t move here. If G-d loves tzaddikim, who are we to tell Him that He has to tolerate the others on His holy soil. Is not the soldier who comes to expel merely the handle of the axe that does not realize that he is cutting his own source? Who are we to tell the soldier to not expel Jews but also don’t try to buy a house. If we truly believe that this is the generation then we have to leave the definitely non Torah viewpoint of who is worthy to be our next door neighbors, to daven in our shuls or to go to school with our children. In the past this was not a problem in our community, which houses Jews of many colors, backgrounds and outlooks but lately this has changed.

As the question is from Avraham Avinu, so is the answer. Why did G-d choose him? “I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Abraham that which He spoke concerning him.”  To teach our children to do G-d’s mishpatim, yes, but also tzedaka. Not quality of life and judging the worth of Jews. These are the true quality of the tzaddik which G-d loves. As the Baal Shem Tov said, “He who loves loves whom the Beloved loves”. G-d loves all Jews. We should too.

Yesterday I lost a part of my heart. I am a proud member of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. It is over 200 years old and today has centers all over the world. The people who build and run those centers are the apple of our eye, our pride. I have the huge merit that my son is one of these emissaries. They get no salaries, they pay their way and give selflessly to Jews and non Jews alike. They do it only because they feel called.

Their life can be very hard in far off places. They got world wide exposure in 2008 when the Chabad House in Mumbai India was attacked, the emissaries and their 3 guests were murdered in a horrible way and by miracle the Indian nanny escaped with the emissaries’ 2 yr old son who is being raised by his Israeli grandparents. They are also emissaries. The murdered emissaries were Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg. The day of the murder was the first day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, a joyous day in the Jewish calendar.

Last March a Rabbi from Jerusalem answered the call to be a teacher in Toulouse France leaving part of his family here. He and his young son were shot in Toulouse. His son, Gavriel, was named after Gavriel Holtzberg. One of hundreds of Chabad children who are named Gavriel or Rivky all over the world.

Yesterday a rocket scored a direct hit on an apartment building in the Nachalat Har Chabad neighborhood of Kiryat Malachi in Southern Israel. Three people died. One was Mira Scharf, the Chabad emissary to New Delhi India. She was in Israel to give birth to her 4th child and to attend the memorial for Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg, with whom she now shares her date of death.

Itzik Amsalam was also killed when his apartment was hit. R’ Aharon Smadja was killed trying to save him.

Yesterday was again the first day of the month of light, the month of miracles. Last night I was with our vocal group as we had previously been invited to an old age home to bring joy to the women in their wing of constant care patients. These ladies have seen it all, they are older than the country. When we came in their caretaker was reading to them the news from the daily paper and explaining in simple terms what was happening.The women were aware and through monitors and oxygen listened intently and asked questions.

Joy and tears mixed among the members of our group as has been our 3300 years of history. We added songs of longing for redemption. In the middle of the performance the daughter of one of the patients arrived and asked us please to not mention the situation as to not alarm the elderly patients. She did not seem to understand as they did.

May Mira Scharf, R’ Aharon Smadja and Itzik Amsalam rest in peace after they have rattled the gates of Heaven, after their blood is avenged. It is time, we have had enough, Ad Matai(Until when?!)!

The primary source of news and commentary for Israelis, especially the Anglo variety, is the web. We are aware that most of our print and broadcast media belong to a few wealthy families with a definite political skew. The few independent outlets have a party or single politician agenda.

The English language press is a different situation. Since before the founding of the State the Jerusalem Post has stood alone. Not for lack of potential competitors. The Post has strong armed itself into a monopoly. The web has made monopoly press a thing of the past, or has it?

In February of this year another David rose up to take on Goliath, veteran Anglo Israeli journalist David Horowitz. I was assured by friends that he had gathered good people and there would be an alternative. Vehement was a friend who was to write blog pieces for the Times. A free marketplace of ideas facilitated by a small army of bloggers located all over the political and religious spectrum. Yes, there would be pieces I would dislike and even hate.

What I found was disappointing. It was Jerusalem Post II, but minus the obnoxious advertising. The many voices were primarily pushing the same agenda: religious pluralism, political correctness and the need to prove that Israel could be just as crass as America. So I came and went. A few likes, some comments and a lot of frustration. I expressed this periodically on my Facebook page.  “Understand”, I was told, “they have little resources and they have to take who they can get”. And then the challenge that ends all discussions, if I wasn’t satisfied I could write a blog for them myself.

All of my flirtation ended this week. A line was crossed that transferred the TOI from a legitimate left of center newspaper to a propaganda tool. The TOI fired a blogger for expressing her opinion. In addition, I feel that they did it in a very dishonest way, using a transparent excuse that lasted only a few days.

That blogger mentioned above, Varda Epstein, makes it clear more often than necessary that she uses only public domain and freely shared graphics on her blog. After writing this controversial piece, she had fell under heavy criticism. When she posted again in response to her detractors her blogging privileges were revoked. When her column attracted the arrows of The Daily Beast her editors did not stand by her right to free speech. She was also attacked by her colleagues on the TOI. The TOI then received complaints that she had illegally used copyrighted images, an obviously false and suspicious  claim.

After several days it became obvious that there was no truth to the claim yet Varda’s post had been locked. A lively on line discussion had been halted in its tracks. Although the post has reappeared, her blog account has not been reopened for posting. Her previous posts, including the controversial ones, remain visible. What was the final verdict? She has been fired for discussing these “inner workings” with her Facebook friends. It would be interesting to know if the Times routinely scans all of its bloggers’ pages for signs of discontent.

Varda Epstein’s son holding  a homemade sign   
One of the banned images                            

As I examined the TOI site more closely I noticed that they have taken on a number of partners. Herzlia IDC, Hartmann Institute, Nefesh B’Nefesh. No rightwing or Orthodox affiliations. As we Jews have always said, “Baal HaMeah, baal hadeah.” (The one who has the money has the say). Israel now has one more media outlet fueled by moneyed interest. Like the Hebrew press there will be dissenting voices on the condition that they are weak and apologetic.

I want to strengthen Varda Epstien to keep writing honestly and from the heart just as she has always done. I look forward to seeing her pieces in her private blog, Judean Rose, and on any site smart enough to snap her up.

*This post has been edited to correct misunderstandings clarified by Varda Epstein.

*Since this was first posted the Daily Kos has joined the attack on Varda’s piece.

Remember me?  Prolific poster, happy to argue or just show you how ridiculous your argument is? I had just managed to post here twice a week. From light humor to saving the world, never missing a birthday or anniversary.

Some have asked me why I dropped off the face of the Earth. That would have been ok as it would mean that I was totally preoccupied with critical matters that I would soon report on.

Instead I am on Facebook commenting in 3 words or less, avoiding arguments and letting too many posts slide with Like/Share. Here I have been AWOL. I am sorry to the people whom I didn’t acknowledge or simply said “Happy Birthday!” as if the exclamation point was real. I spend too many hours on-line and not enough communicating.

It all started with a twisted ankle. The x-ray didn’t explain the 4 weeks of pain so the bone scan was done. It revealed the problem knees but also an internal infection. The tests to find the infection cause found halicubator leading to medically induced mental fog. The vomiting led to bleeding which led to more tests. They found the gall stones, high uric acid and the polyp.  Halicubator was not my tormentor, the gall stones were. That meant that 4.5g/day antibiotics were unnecessary. Shortly before this my right eye stopped seeing. The doctor said that it is the biggest cataract that he’s ever seen.

My week looked like this for a month: 3 days a week to doctors, walking kilometers around the über expansive hospitals to find the various departments and outpatient clinics. One day to teach and other responsibilities not going away. Totally understand my new client dealing with lack of clarity due to health issues. Sleep by 8, regular early ride leaves at 5:45. Ever other Shabbat for 6 weeks spent vomiting.

When I am not running around I am exhausted to the bones.  Erev Rosh HaShana we did it all, in one day. Thank G-d we are invited to my son for the 1st day of Sukkot.  Tomorrow I am traveling again just for a 15 minute appointment. My next appointment is Isru Chag. I firmly refused chol hamoed. I need a quiet holiday at home.

I have just been too overwhelmed about halicubator, developing gout and the dietician pulling a Michelle Obama on my love of good food. I can’t believe that the eye clinic, ENT, gyno and gastro all want pieces of me. It shoots the hell out of my usual pleasant controlled self. I sometimes have trouble concentrating.

I would like to shout out to people saying that the absolutely wonderful, thorough doctors I have been seeing are conspiring to kill me and pay big pharm. It does not matter that I have no money and no insurance and all this is almost free, plus nobody has put me on medication again. Gimme a break!

People, especially if you are young, learn from this. Do your 10,000 mile maintenance. If it hurts check it right away. And share it with someone who loves you.

I am slowly adjusting and hope to resume writing and academic work after the holidays. I spent yesterday evening putting up new homemade liquor and bottling those that are ready to cure. My domestic self is getting her act together. I may even clean the house.

I would like to wish all my Jewish friends a wonderful New Year and a Gmar Chatima Tova (a good inscription above). To all of my non-Jewish friends enjoy the arrival of fall as you begin to prepare for your festivals.

If this is not your first visit to this blog you may have noticed a change. Until today these posts have been anonymous. I did not list my name or other identifying details on the blog profile. Today that has changed and I have decided to stand behind my words. I would like my readers to understand the reason for the secrecy and the reason for ending it.

All of us wear many hats in our life. We are spouses/lovers, parents, professionals, servants of our gods or ourselves. It is sometimes difficult to transition and it is always difficult for those who know us from only one dimension to see us in our other roles. Some, like me, have gone through many changes in our lives and have gathered a very broad sampling of races, religions and creeds among our friends and family. In many ways those of us who have seen many changes are never as pure as those who had the blessing of growing in one consistent world view. I have left where I have been but as I reach my Autumn I have come to understand that those places have never left me. In my on line life those people and places have found me and uncovered my hiding places and have reattached to that part of them that I took with me.

So why the anonymity?  Because I had no idea who would write on these pages. Would it be the little girl and teenager running free in the Monongahela Valley where a good job with a paycheck every two weeks, a running car, cold beer , kolbassa and a loving family was all anybody wanted? Maybe the young student who was going to change the world by freeing Mexican lettuce pickers and keeping Nestle out of Africa? Or the serious young woman who had to consider the implications of discovering a G-d and a land that were uniquely hers. What about the Jewish wife, mother and homemaker? The Chassid?  The settler?  The teacher?  The helper and counselor? The Bubby and Shvieger  (Grandma and mother- in-law) and the newly minted “elderly lady”,  as I was shocked to be referred as by my thirty something neighbor. Did I really want them to converge and even more, did I want those from each life to realize what I was carrying with me.

So today I have decided that yes I do. I need my friends, family, students and readers to see that where I have been has made me what I am. That G-d Himself put me in each of those places and when necessary it was He who took me out. I was meant to be a Chassidic lady who drinks beer, watches football and hockey, enjoys music and a good read and loves to argue religion and politics. I have been on this Earth for more than 50 years and have been blessed to have some of the most amazing rabbis, friends, colleagues and children as my teachers.  That’s me and it is really all I have to offer. Now that you know me a little better we will be better able to share.

Rivka

Life is tough living in an apartheid regime. Even the slightest of chores can become daunting when living with such strict racial segregation. Yes, we learn to take it for granted but occasionally even those of us who live here get a jolt.

Take for example the trip I had to make to the big city yesterday to visit the doctor. Of course, I could not ride the bus, a privilege more common for city folk and those different from me. (I live in the Shomron where Jewish bus service is terrible). Luckily someone stopped on the road and gave me a ride after I walked to the outskirts of my small town. At the nearest crossroads I then had to wait a while to hitch another ride. When I reached the city, I promptly boarded the back of the train (I was late and reached the last car just in time). Debarking I had a coffee and cake in one of the few eateries open to people like me. (I am a religious Jew who only eats in strictly kosher establishments). I then walked to the clinic. I was directed to the doctor’s office.  The doctor greeted me in a heavy (Russian) accent. She occasionally threw in a few English words for medical clarity but she did not generally speak to me in my native tongue (we spoke in Hebrew).

Then I then stopped at the desk on the way out to have my papers stamped. (Approval from my insurance company to pay for my tests) and started the long trek home. Again I crowded into the back of the train where I did not understand those around me (most were Arabs who prefer the back and get on at the earliest stops).

It was in the city’s Central Bus Station that reality sunk in. There were few with my skin color (white, European) and even fewer with my religious orientation (Chassidic Jewish). Around me I heard a mixture of languages, none my native tongue (Arabic, Russian, Amharic, Spanish, French but this time no Anglos). For nearly 3 hours I sat at the platform as buses came and went, others boarded and I remained seated at the platform (few buses go the extra 10 minutes to bring me close to home). Finally a bus comes for me and those like me and after a 2 hour meandering ride I was deposited at a lonely army checkpoint  20 minutes from my home along with a few other lonely hitchhikers (Tapuach Junction whose soldiers have been attacked and murdered and who find at times an average of one explosive belt a week).  I stand behind the cement barricade and waiting and hoping for someone to offer me a ride home. I am very tired and hungry.

Time at the clinic: 40 minutes.  Total round trip time:  11 hours.

Try reading this without the parentheses and you will understand what your average news story on the Middle East sounds like to those of us who live here. It was inspired by pleasant wait at the bus stop talking with immigrants from Peru, admiring the beautiful baby of Oriental converts, sitting next to a man from Ethiopia, rushing to beat the quick French immigrants who had their eyes on my favorite seat on the bus and paying the Yemenite driver. Think of this the next time you hear that Israel is an apartheid state.

Every advertising professional knows that the best way to get their message is through is by aiming it anywhere but at the customer’s brain. Long winded speeches are the province of stodgy professors and clergymen. In the constant update world of social media more often than not a picture is used to replace a thousand words, or even ten. Twitter forces its users to get to the point. Facebook gives you a choice – be brief or risk everyone scrolling right past you.

This message has not been lost on another, less innocent group of social media users, those whose profession is to change how you think, vote and buy. Certainly it is the right of activists, politicians and businesses to use the new platforms to hawk their wares. It is up to the reader to use judgment.

The problem is that Facebook is not like Pinterest, where clothes, recipes and home decor reign supreme.  On Facebook critical and even life and death issues are being discussed on the status line. This has led a proliferation of propaganda in the overused ‘pithy saying’ format. For the believer it is an instant injection of reinforcement. He waves his fist in triumph. At the same time he scratches his head, wondering how half of the world is too dense to get something so clear. Ultimate wisdom by Photoshop on famous faces, golden sunsets or touching moments. Info graphics with statistics and conclusions supplied. No thinking required.

With apologies to a friend I cite an example that appeared on my wall this week.

Image

Straight to the point, right? We all know the message is peace, and everybody wants peace right? Well, everyone wants peace who is not a bigot, hater, etc. Look at the men pictured. In the popular eye these are history’s great men of peace. You can fight Imperial Britain, Caesar’s Rome, savage Viet Cong, internal conflict racism without lifting a finger. Gandhi, Jesus, John Lennon…huh? Four of these five lived a life of peace dedicated to their people. Four of these five led their people to what they saw as victory by taking the payment on their own body with two of them paying with their lives. One lived a life of luxury, adoration, drugs and abandon while people were dying on the other side of the world. One belonged to a movement that accomplished more rioting, unsafe sex and drugs than bringing peace. John Lennon was a symbol not of peace but of surrender.

And who does the creator of this instant lesson quote? The pop culture icon whose main connection to peace was the records sold and money made. “Blessed are the peacemakers”, “I have a dream”. No, it is the Mantra of Surrender that is showcased.

In fact Martin Luther King said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice”. Surrender has masqueraded for peace, morals recast as bigotry and security cast as xenophobia in an effort to weaken us from within. Any effort question or discuss draws accusations of arguing and derision.  No need to look for truth, no need to hear the other. Certainly no need for rain on the peace parade.

If you don’t question the statuses that appear on your wall and twitter feed we will continue repeating the past that the pithy sayings conveniently omit.

I am not a big fan of Tu B’Av as the Jewish Valentine’s Day. I think it’s a lot deeper than pink hearts, commercialization and loving the one you’re with. But in the interest of reviving a holiday that is compared in the Talmud to Yom Kippur I would like to share my own miraculous story. It of course includes a group of women attempting to catch the eye of the men of Israel and dancing, sort of.

Many years ago I was a single parent with four children from 5 to 9 years old. The other “advantages” I had for the matchmakers were many: baalat tshuva, divorced, poor and zero yichus. Plus it was decided that due to my love of learning that I should marry a rabbi who doesn’t need a great housekeeper. Of course, with that formula I was doomed to a life alone. On top of that I had ended my last relationship in such a painful way that my rabbi agreed that I could take a 6 month rest from dating. That was after Passover. Nearly 6 months to the day. I believed I deserved to finish the holiday at least.

At the time I had a close friend who was an aguna (her husband refused to give her a Jewish divorce) who had 3 children of her own. We had taken to spending holidays together. My ex took my children so I would take over cooking while she crashed from her hard life as a career woman.

On Simchat Torah I arrived to find that four women would be sharing the holiday: myself, my friend, a convert and a Russian girl who had been shipped out to Israel to a religious school that she had no desire to attend. When I arrived my friend was finishing the cleaning and she immediately went to bed. The Russian girl was passed out after partying for two days straight. The other guest was settling into her room. I went into the kitchen and immediately started to cook. About an hour before candle lighting the phone rang. Her voice was like a ringing in my ear until I heard, “The woman I told you about is here. You like kids. You should like her better than me because she has four kids and I only have three”. My throat tightened and I felt pressure in my stomach.

After candle lighting a man came to take my friend’s son to hakafot. We 3 women walked to shul. Before hakafot we went home to eat. When the man brought back the little boy my friend invited him to eat with us. Being Chassidic this was very uncomfortable. An unmarried man would join the meal with three unmarried women. Kids or no kids, pasht nisht!  After Kiddush I went to the kitchen putting the finishing touches on a potato salad and stayed there for a  l o n g  time. When I finally came to the table with the small dish the guest stood and clapped. I glared at my friend. After fish my friend again put me on the spot and said that I would give the devar Torah and I refused as it was more appropriate for the man. The whole thing seemed to me to be an episode of the twilight zone. After the guest’s insistence I said something short but something which I learned that night was totally unacceptable for a woman in his world. He raised his voice and demanded to know who had given me permission to learn. I answered that Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Then I added with my best sarcasm that I doubted that he had someone greater than that to forbid me. The other ladies took this opportunity to slip out the door with the kids. We were alone.

After he placed a sponge in the door to avoid yichud we stopped arguing. It was obvious to both of us that we had been set up. We decided to go outside and walk. He was not totally averse to getting to know me. Thanks a lot. It turned out that he was dating my friend and she had just decided to break it off. He came to help her with her son and to convince her to change her mind. She passed him onto me. We ended up talking for 8 hours. It was getting light and he walked me back before heading to netz. Then I launched into my friend viciously. When he returned he wanted to speak to both of us. He said he had enjoyed talking to me very much but he still had feelings for my friend. He was interested in continuing with her.  After he left I again raked my friend over the coals and went to sleep.

That evening I invited the women and kids to hakafot shniyot in Hebron. My friend invited this man who wanted only her. After hakafot and giving them the tour of the Maarat HaMachpela my friend asked to go in to pray alone. After she walked away her daughter said to our guest, “You are not supposed to marry my Mom, you are supposed to marry HER. Long uncomfortable silence. Silence in Hebron, silence on the bus home, silence until the goodbyes were said. Dead silence until I left, picked up my own kids and headed home.

A month went by with no communications and no dates. I was happy. One day a neighbor received a letter for me from a man who had been given my name. While I was reading it the neighbor returned to call me to the phone. On the other end was our Simchat Torah guest. He had finally finished with my friend. One of the reasons was that he just hadn’t been able to forget me. I asked my rabbi and he told me to close the ends with the man I had already met before meeting someone new. We met every day for two weeks. He met my kids and they loved him. Then we wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing which we received a week later. Thirteen days after that we were married by the grave of Yosef HaTzaddik in Shechem. Although we sent no invitations 300 people came by word of mouth including nearly a minyan of well known Rabbis.

This year we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary.

Smart Jews Part II

Separate But Equal Contribution

In my last post I discussed the vulnerable position of the charedi public. Lack of political sophistication and manipulation have placed us forever in limbo until needed as a scapegoat, diversion or punching bag.

There are two areas that need to be changed if we are to take an honorable place among the Jews of Eretz Israel. The first is our education system and its funding. The second is the question of learning until 120 and our relationship to national service.

First, our educational system is a right and not a gift. A country that demands equal loyalty and service must provide its services equally to all of its citizens. Talmudei Torah and charedi girls’ schools do not deserve partial funding conditioned on being subservient. They deserve full funding without interference.  Most importantly that funding should be part of the state’s regular education budget based on a just scale determined by the number of pupils and recognizing the inability to mix genders to save money .  Of course this may mean that several small chedarim will have to combine with other schools of nearly identical hashkafa. We must demand total noninterference with curriculum, management and values education. We must unite in refusing to accept either a core curriculum or non-compatible authority. The state should only supervise technical aspects such as safety and security. Funding priority must be on the elementary and secondary age groups as opposed to institutions for young adults and kollelim.  As we know “If there are no kids there will be no goats”.  This would also force the charedi parties to bring Daat Torah to bear on all areas of life without the sword of closing education rubbing our neck.

The yeshiva gedola must undergo some kind of equalizing with colleges and university in support, family contribution and state recognition of learning. The bagrut is not a good indication of success in higher education, secular or kodesh. We should advocate its abolishment in favor of a measure of sustained and consistent scholarship. Rabbanut and dayanut certificates should be equivalent to degrees. A goal should be made of pressing for official recognition and accreditation not only of teaching institutes and technical courses but also of schools of psychology, social work and humanities based on Jewish as opposed to western theories and models.

The second problem is that as painful for some to admit, the idea that all can learn full time is a fiction. There must be no stigma to the mitzvah of supporting one’s family. Some are unable and some are not willing to be the chosen few. There must be an immediate canceling of the linkage between learning a profession, serving the community or serving in a proper IDF framework and an assumption of low yirat shamayim and low mental capabilities. Young men who wish to earn an honest living must not feel that they must leave the fold.

Community service should be under the supervision of the young man’s yeshiva as should his army service. The Shachar programs and Nachal Charedi are both inappropriate. The Shachar programs were designed by non charedim not only to integrate charedim into the IDF but also to change the soldier’s hashkafa to one closer to Zionism and modernity. The Nachal charedi should be built on the same framework as hesder. The soldier must be accepted and attached to a charedi yeshiva of any hashkafa and maintain his learning as well as soldiering. As it is now, not only is the Nachal Charedi not charedi but it is managed by a nonprofit representing only a small number of those who wish to serve among charedi youth. Also the soldier’s grant for continued learning may only be used in yeshivot that are connected to the Education Ministry, effectively denying the charedi recruit the ability to return to a charedi yeshiva.

As to Kollel with stipends, a man should automatically be accepted for his 1st year of marriage and if necessary or proper for a 2nd year. Then only those training for rabbanut, dayanut or other klei kodesh should continue. Others could learn if they have an independent means or they enter into a contract with another who will fund their learning. Under no circumstances should public money be taken  from the state or yeshiva. Those spiritually unsuited for study or service in the IDF should do community service in a charedi framework.

These are ideas. I would appreciate an open and constructive discussion on these and other ideas for solving the problems in the comment section below.

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