Thursday, August 04, 2005

The OU, Gaza, and Charedi-enamoration

Well, my inside information at the OU has been informing me of employee unrest over that organization's non-stance over the disengagement for a while. Yesterday, there was yet another meeting at which the Powers That Be (hereinafter PTB) again hid behind the "we resolved X at the convention," etc. etc.

Well, I was one of the people who resolved X at said convention, and it seems there's a bit of disingenuousness going on here. Thursday night, there was a big resolutions session. All those accredited as delegates (including yours truly) were there, in a big ballroom. When we got to Gaza issues, emotions started running high. Eventually, it was decided to leave this and a few other issues for the next morning.

The meeting the next morning was held in a much smaller room, with much less people. Various shiurim were going on at the same time. With regards to Gaza, we were presented with a "consensus" resolution that the PTB, especially the usual sus... the more political ones among them, had, we were told, stayed up late to hammer out. We would be able to vote on that or nothing would be passed as regards to the issue.

Now, I'm not saying the OU need have passed an "anti" resolution. I don't even know if it's the OU's place. But that was certainly the mood of the delegates.

Eh. Maybe it's my memory that's failing. But there does seem to be a deal of pussy-footing going on here. To be honest, the one issue I didn't vote for and protested was the stem-cell one. This one just makes me mad. Isn't being Orthodox all about having halacha touch on all aspects of life? To say, as the OU has, "There are well-meaning people on all sides, so how can we judge?" makes one wonder why they don't just say the same thing about Shabbos. Or Kashrus.

And now I fear that cousin of mine is about to stir things up further.

Anyway, the more shocking revelation about yesterday's meeting was that the OU's Exec. VP actually cited the Brisker Rav as support for non-action. How an ardently anti-Zionist gadol has authority over a Zionist group like the OU on matters like this is beyond me. But it brings up something I've been wanting to blog about for a while.

Some time back, I saw a book in the office called "Memories of a Giant." Essentially, it's a collection obituaries and eulogies for the Rav, published by the Institute in Boston. I flipped through it, and saw that one was by R. Yaakov Weinberg of Ner Israel. (The book was published after he passed on, so there was a "zt'l" after his name.) Considering the treatment the Rav's death had gotten from the Charedi world (Exhibit A: The infamous Jewish Observer piece), I found this intriguing, and read on. And was shocked.

Let's simply lay it out: In a eulogy that covered about five or six pages, R. Weinberg had not seen fit to mention the name of the subject once. There's no mention of "the Rav" or anything similar, either. All we have is vague Torah points and occasional direct references to "this man". (Yes, that's exactly the only way the Rav is referred to.) Didn't think that was possible? I guess I'll just cite R. Tendler's criticism of the JO obit and say that such things require planning.

So what's really going on here? Well, simply flip the page to the eulogy by the aforementioned Exec. VP, "Weinreb" coming after "Weinberg." R. Weinreb was, at the time, a Rav in Baltimore, and he opens his piece with a bit on how unlike in New York, where people don't get along, people in Baltimore do. As proof, we can see that all segments of the community- he doesn't spell it out, but he clearly means Modern Orthodox and Charedim- have come together for these hespedim.

Clearly, R. Weinberg was drawn along into this event, perhaps against his will, leading to R. Weinreb's reference. And he likely wasn't too happy about it, and so did something "cute" with his speech. And R. Weinreb was either too dim, or too elated about "unity," to notice.

Or, more likely, is too in thrall to ultra-Orthodoxy. Hence the Brisker reference.

So this leads me to the point: It's about time that Modern Orthodoxy stopped being led by people with such blinders on. We saw this in the praise of Frumteens in Jewish Action; we see it in Young Israels and other shuls led by Chafetz Chaim graduates who can't relate (or secretly despise) their congregants; we see it in the rebeiim teaching at various day schools and yeshivot; we see it in leadership of various organizations. And we have to start calling people on it, at least.
Perhaps I'm so worked up because the hatred seems so widespread. It's not just R. Weinberg and the JO on the Rav. Artscroll is clearly guilty of this, smacking their donors in the face when they can. Note the sly non-thanks given to R. Lamm, without whom most of their projects wouldn't have happened. Or note their "World That Was: America."

Ah, where to start of that piece of dreck? To mention that as a twentieth century work, and thus one that must mention such unmentionables as Zionism and Modern Orthodoxy, Artscroll doesn't grace it with it's own seal, rather choosing- as it does for other such works- the Shaar Press one? (Even though earlier volumes in the same series weren't so branded. In any event, those were texts, this is a coffee table book.)

Worse, the book was made with money from the Claims Conference. Ultra-orthodoxy proudly disdains working with non-Orthodox organizations, as we can witness from their constant badgering of the OU and RCA in the Synagogue Council days. Well, they're not so proud when money is being thrown around, whether it's from Sharon or from the Conference. I even recall them proudly mentioning, on R. Sherer's death (more on him below), how much money he got from the Conference.

So, the money having been gotten from them, the book must somehow touch on the Holocaust. It does, in a pro forma way, and then gets to the bulk of the book, short biographies of gedolim. Most post-date the 1940 cut off date of the book's title. The premise of the book is odd- the other books of the series show pre-war Europe. This one purports to show pre-war America (not that the Holocaust touched the US), but then goes on about post-war. There's even barbed wire over a map of the US on the cover. Very odd. Maybe it's a Holocaust-recovery book or something. Or maybe it's just a moneymaker. (Witness their new "Aleppo" book. Or the wonder of their women's siddur, all nice and purty and un-halachic and ahistorical.)

The worst part is the treatment of YU. After all, they have a large section on yeshivot, so how can they ignore the oldest one in the US? Easy: They give the history up until 1920 or so, then conclude with a line about how a college was founded, unnamed (as they are nonexistent) Roshei Yeshiva turn the page, and you're on a new yeshiva. Turn to the bio of R. David, you'd barely know he taught there. Turn to the bio of the Rav, and you'll see a few wildly out-of-context lines criticizing modern Orthodoxy, lifted straight from R. Rakeffet's book.

So why is there this hate and deligitimization? I think it goes back to the movement's founding: It was founded to be against things- Zionism, modernity, and so on. There simply isn't a positive program. Back in the 1950's, a book defending mechitza, called The Sanctity of the Synagogue, was published. Many rabbanim contributed essays. R. Sherer did, in Yiddish. Most of the essays, well, defend the mechitza. R. Sherer takes the opportunity to bash Modern Orthodoxy.

Oh, the OU republished the book in the 1980's. R. Sherer's essay was duly translated and included. You see, the Modern Orthodox world doesn't respond to such attacks in kind. That's left to bloggers like me.


Anonymous said...

No words! Just a huge yasher koach!

Steve Brizel said...

Nachum-I think that your comments re R Weinberg ZTL and R Weinreb are out of line. R Weinreb was a clinical psychologist for many years before he asked to serve as the rav of the largest MO shul in Greenspring, a Baltimore suburb. That shul has a healthy mix of YU and Charedim as well as BTs. Its present rav is a RIETS/Wexner Kollel grad. One of the facts of life in Baltimore is that Ner Yisrael, The Agudah and the MO work together, dspite their hashkafas. I think the fact that R Weinberg ZTL deserved a huge Yasher Koach for giving a hesped for RYBS when no other RW RY did so. The use of the third person is also fairly common in RW circles. IMO, your post on this subject lacked focus

The OU has always been pro-Israel and pro-Zionist. It manages to accomodate the views of talmidim of RYBS such as both RAL and RHS, as opposed to the views of R Kahane, ZTL.