Volume 14 Number 7
                       Produced: Sun Jul 10 22:17:59 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chasidishe/Right Wing  Social Failure
         [Josh Rapps]
Haredi Yeshivos
         [Yitzchok Adlerstein]


From: <jr@...> (Josh Rapps)
Date: Sun, 10 Jul 94 01:58 EDT
Subject: Chasidishe/Right Wing  Social Failure

I have long been bothered by the issues raised by Arnie Lustiger in his
post regarding the sociological failings of the "yeshivesh/charedi"
system. I would offer the following observations on this issue.

I remember back in the mid 70's only the elite of the right-wing
yeshivas were allowed to attend college at night.  It was considered a
badge of honor to accomplish a degree plus attend a right wing yeshiva.
Many of those people that I know of are indeed excellent professionals
as well as true Talmidei Chachamim. At some point in the last decade a
shift in the values system of the right wing yeshivas crept in.  College
and additional secular education was deemed unacceptable to the
"Yeshivishe Velt".  All this while Yeshivas which scorn secular
education tend to feature prominent professionals as their guests of
honor at their dinners.  My perception is that this shift in attitude
started around the time that the now (in)famous "Daas Torah" concept
crept in. The goal among right wing yeshiva students became to find the
right Shidduch that would enable the young man to continue his Torah
Studies.  Who needs a profession when someone else is paying the bills.

Now, all that is fine and dandy as long as the finances hold out.  It is
feasible for one wealthy individual to support his daughters or sons and
their spouses and children. But what happens to the next generation when
the numbers to support increase dramatically?  If secular education is
denigrated to the point of contempt, what will happen when these people
find out that the only way to make a living is to get a real job? If
getting a real job requires minimal competency in general studies they
will have to compensate for a lack of basic skills. In some of the more
Chasidishe communities, basic elementary school skills are not taught or
are trivialized to the point that the students get nothing out of it. (I
have cousins who live in Williamsburg who can hardly put a sentence
together in English and outside of rudimentary arithmetic skills, are
virtually uneducated).  As long as these people can remain within their
insulated community, and that community is self sufficient, they and
their community may survive economically. But once the community needs
to interact beyond its narrow scope, difficulties are guaranteed to

The more interesting phenomenon to me is the attitude of the girls and
girl schools in the right wing communities. It seems to me that their
ideal is to be married at 19 and to support a husband while he sits and
learns in an appropriate Yeshiva.  Academically excellent girls are
willing to accept or even strive for the opportunity to be the bread
winner in the family while their future husbands will be learning in a
Yeshiva.  They don't even entertain the idea of pursuing an advanced
degree.  While it may be argued that attending a seminary provides these
girls with the needed skills to pursue teaching positions, are there
enough schools out there to provide jobs for all these girls? Will these
teaching positions provide enough for them to support a growing family?
I believe that it is the fault of the school (I wonder how many of these
schools are run by men who are imbuing the school with their notion of
what a Bas Yisrael should be like in the 90's) for not pointing out to
these young women that there are challenges out there for which they
need to prepare themselves in order to make it in this world.

 From what I have heard, Touro College is providing separate sex evening
classes that are tailored to the Yeshivish world where a minimum of
liberal arts courses are taught and degree programs in the sciences and
accounting and computer science are offered.  I can't understand why
such a program would not have the overwhelming support of all the right
wing yeshivas.

Many of these girls might be hoping that their husband will turn out to
be the next Gadol Hador.  The reality is that there are a a small number
of Rosh Yeshiva positions available.  One must wonder what will happen
to those that don't get the positions.

Perhaps yeshivas need to institute a merit system for determining which
students have the potential to be Roshei Yeshiva and which don't. After
some period of time those students that are not RY material should be
encouraged to pursue other careers.  Some might move into education at
the lower grade in both religious and secular studies. There should be
no stigma attached to men teaching elementary school Limudei Kodesh or
secular subjects.  Indeed, teaching younger children correctly can be
more challenging and more rewarding than teaching older students. Would
not the perfect secular studies teacher for young children be a Ben
Torah who is able to show by example the beauty of Torah life and the
possibilities of secular study? The schedule of a teacher is also
conducive for one who wants to devote additional time to Torah study. I
believe that the right wing yeshivas themselves must be involved in
encouraging their students to pursue these positions.

One of the arguments I have often heard for people to support the right
wing yeshiva world is that we should recognize the material sacrifice
they are making in continuing to learn instead of pursuing a livelihood.
We often fail to recognize the religious sacrifice made by those who are
pursuing a livelihood in order to support their family and the various
yeshivot and charities they contribute to. I know of many people who
would love to sit and learn all day but for intellectual or economic
survival reasons work instead. That does not mean that they love Torah
any less. In fact I am impressed when I see people after a long day of
work go to a shiur or learn in a Beis Medrash at night, or struggle over
a Daf Yomi in their spare time, or have a chavrussah at odd hours to
squeeze in some learning. Both the Yeshiva student and the professional
are faced with choices and both can claim the higher moral ground here.

I believe that the more insulated Chasidishe communities are at the
threshold of major social and economic problems.  Todays Chasidishe
families are larger than those of the previous generation of holocaust
survivor parents.  Families with 10 or more children are common in Boro
Park and Williamsburg. It is quite common today to have a pregnant
mother escort her daughter (or future daughter-in-law) to the chuppah or
for mother and daughter to have children at the same time.  The costs
associated with marrying off a child are phenomenal, especially if the
parents must provide the young couple with a place to live. Real estate
prices in Boro Park have been outrageous for years. Unless new
communities are established (e.g. Kiryas Yoel) to absorb the population,
things are bound to get tighter.  There is an ever increasing need for
schools and social services for the children in these areas. There are
only so many jobs that the diamond district can provide. New economic
opportunities will have to be found. Without education they will not
come easy.

While it is not fair to paint the entire Chasidishe community with a
broad brush, I am not at all surprised by what I read in the Wall Street
Journal.  Some of the allegations have not been answered at all by the
community. The concept of Deena Demalchusa tends to be forgotten quite
easily by many in that community.  There is no stigma associated with
cheating the government.  To their credit, they have realized that in
politics, numbers means strength and they are trying to pull as much as
they can from the politicians. More power to them. But when their
leaders are corrupt and resort to questionable practices they deserve no
better treatment than any other embezzler from other communities. And if
only a small percentage of what was written in that article is true, it
is still a tremendous Chillul Hashem.

I was amazed by the recent post relating the story of the Mayor of Bnai
Braq who requested more welfare aid for his city because of high levels
of unemployment. Seems to me that there are a couple of ways to handle
such a problem: more welfare or have the people go out and get jobs! If
that means getting an education to become employable then go get one!
The leaders of the community, including the Roshei Yeshiva, are to blame
for not insisting that these people take responsibility for their lives
and families. Why is there no "Daas Torah" requiring people to provide
for their families?

Changes in outlook are going to come to these communities over time. It
is up to the leadership to anticipate an plan for the change instead of
reacting to it half heartedly at first and empty handed later.

josh rapps


From: Yitzchok Adlerstein <ny000594@...>
Date: Sun, 10 Jul 94 01:06:01 -0800
Subject: Haredi Yeshivos

It took a while before I could pinpoint what disturbed me viscerally
about Arnie Lustiger's posting regarding haredi yeshivos.  Several of
his points, after all, have much merit - lack of financial viability,
lack of balance between Yissacher and Zevulon.  It took an analogy from
major league baseball to help me frame this correctly.

A pitcher goes nine innings, retiring 27 successive batters.  He pitches
the elusive perfect game.  The media come down hard on him, because he
missed a note during the singing of the national anthem before the game.

OK, I exaggerate a bit - but not much.  The problems Arnie exposes are
real, serious, and not to be trivialized.  But compared to what the
yeshivos have accomplished, all else pales.

Torah, and the study of Torah, are the pure waters that give life to the
Jewish people.  I cannot imagine how anyone who has participated in the
explosion of Torah growth on this continent could use the word "failure"
regarding them without choking on the word.

We are talking about the community that produced the vast majority of
all day-school teachers in America; that conceived and developed an
English language Torah literature unimaginable 20 years ago; that
contributes a growing number (if not outright majority) of new pulpit
rabbis to congregations across the spectrum of Orthodoxy who desire real
Torah sophistication in a spiritual leader; that has changed the face of
virtually every NON-haredi organization of import (O-U, Young Israel,
NCSY) through their contribution of personnel; that rescued whole areas
of halacha from obscurity and compromise (mikveh, tznius, hair-covering
for women, shatnez, serious kevias itim [setting regular time for Torah
study], batei din for monetary matters); that has inspired more young
people to spend full-time study in batei medrash than in pre-war Europe.

Failure?  Walk into the Lakewood beis medrash, even if you don't hail
from there, as I do not.  Find yourself in a large building in which
EVERY SQUARE INCH is occupied by another person, on all floors,
sandwiched in like sardines.  Then learn that these 800 people
constitute only ONE chabura - all learning the same perek!  If you want
to find those studying other parts of Shas, you'll have to go across the
street, to find many hundreds more, or to various other nearby
locations.  Walk into this and fail to be moved, fail to be moved to
tears of joy and shout thanks to Hashem, and you cannot have any
lachluchis [sorry - I can't translate!] of Torah in your bones.

Then there are the factual errors, that seem to arise from writing as an
outsider, rather than from personal acquaintance:

1) Chassidim and yeshivos cannot be lumped together.  To the contrary,
chassidim have always accepted the keen necessity to be practical about
matters of earning a livelihood, as long as religious sensitivities
could be respected.  Problems of government fraud in this community have
a different root cause altogether, and thus may cast doubt on Arnie's
thesis altogether.

2) Thousands of yeshiva graduates who wound up on the Zevulun side enjoy
warm and intense relationships with their rabbeim and mentors, unlike
Arnie's assertion of strain and distance.  They soon learn that there is
avodas Hashem [real service of Hashem] outside the walls of the beis
medrash; they understand that it is the job of yeshivos to go for broke,
to inspire excellence and full-time commitment.  But they learn that
once they do in fact have to leave the yeshiva for the world of
breadwinning, they are not abandoned by their learning or their
teachers.  The proof is in the elementary schools that the major
yeshivos have spawned as satellites.  Most are overflowing with students
- primarilly children of the previous generation of students who are now
Zevuluns, but maintain fierce loyalty to their institutions and their
ideologies.  Graduates also continue to flock to the alumni minyanim and
fund-raising events of their yeshivos; their children recognize the
visages of their parents' rebbeim shining down at them in their homes.

3) No slow growth in Torah institutions!  Boruch Hashem, the size of
haredi families alone (kein yirbu) prompts a constant upsizing.  And
haredi establishments grow in variety as well: women's schools, outreach
organizations, vocational programs, social service agencies.  This has
meant a constant increase of new employment opportunities, in
contradistinction to what Arnie reports.

4) Torah institutions consist of many people.  Even if the malfeasance
of an institutional officer is ultimately proven, and a Chilul Hashem
(c"v) results, this hardly negates the learning of all the students in
that yeshiva who are not involved in the infraction.

The author is correct.  Haredi institutions are not economically viable.
Neither is Jewish survival through the ages comprehensible.  G-d seems
to have a vested interest in providing artificial viability to the
things closest to Him.  I think the sources suggest that Torah
excellence is one of them.  Perhaps the monolithic preoccupation with
Torah study that we have achieved can be criticized as "unreal."  Then
again, so is the view from Yosemite Valley.  I haven't seen many
tourists spurn its beauty because it isn't consistent with their reality
of asphalt jungles.  We will appreciate the gift Hashem has given us for
as long as we can hold out.  After that?  Perhaps we will make
adjustments, as the Torah community has done many times in history.
Perhaps we will yet see some Divine bailout that our frail minds cannot
anticipate, but only daven for.  But know this: if it does not come, we
- and all of Klal Yisrael - will pay a price in losing dimensions of
Torah excellence.

Reasonable people can disagree as to whether yeshivos are ignoring the
very real problems that Arnie writes about, or are slowly beginning to
deal with them.  In any event, Mr. Lustiger's solution is incomplete.
Addressing the problem requires more than restoring balance between
Yissacher and Zevulun.  It requires a gargantuan effort to stress Torah
values of honesty, integrity, avoiding Chilul Hashem, and tools for
withstanding nisayon [tests], not just running away from them.  This is
what Torah life is all about.

But to do all this requires more Torah out there, not less.  And all the
yeshivos we can get.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Yeshiva of LA


End of Volume 14 Issue 7