Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We are the world

Hey, I wanted to briefly focus on another topic that has come up almost daily in the past 2 weeks of my life. I think there is a theme within the Orthodox communities of ethnocentrism. The Idea that "us" Orthodox Jews know better, act better, and are better, than the rest of the world as a whole, and even the rest of the Jewish world.

It's time for that theory to be eradicated. Wherever that attitude came from within our communities it just needs to go. Orthodoxy has the same, if not more, problems than the rest of the world. We have no more figured out than a non-Orthodox Jew and are no better people than your average "Goy". We are all equals in this world, and until we realize that we can never have an influence on anyone else. No one wants to be looked down upon, no one wants to hear from the Orthodox Jews, when all we do is talk down to others and teach them why our way is the right way and their ways are wrong. We need to grow out of that frame of mind, or no one will want to listen to us.

I am just as guilty as anyone else, of growing up in the Orthodox world and believing that we were above it all. It's what being sheltered and staying in our own communities will do to us. However, I am only now beginning to learn that my attitude has been all wrong, and I hope I can grow to understand that I am no better than anyone else because of my community.

I say the following with caution and not any sense of authority on the matter, and no offense meant to anyone- it's just something that came to mind, and I could be wrong: Orthodox Jews spent a lot of time in Europe sheltering themselves and trying to be above everyone else, and unfortunately that seemed to have a negative outcome. The only way to be part of the world is to understand that we are all the same. We are just as good or bad, strong or weak, tall or short, as everyone around us. Until that happens, no one will take us seriously and we will lose the opportunity to influence the world in any way, if we are simply ignored because of arrogance.


  1. Amen, brother! A timely and important insight.

  2. Orthodox Jews spent enough time in Europe sheltering themselves and trying to be above everyone else, and unfortunately we know how that turned out.

    What does this mean?

  3. "Orthodox Jews spent enough time in Europe sheltering themselves and trying to be above everyone else, and unfortunately we know how that turned out.":

    You have to understand that Jewish people were not only persecuted because of the way they acted. There are many reasons why Jewish people have been persecuted. One of which is that Christians and Muslims did not like Jewish people simply for being Jewish people. It is, however, that when Jewish people act inappropriately it gives a bad message about Jews to the rest of the world. But it is incorrect to think that Jewish bad behavior is what accounts for the persecutions that they went through. In fact, many Muslims and many Christians think they are above everyone, therefore, if they think that, then it would be clear why they would act to others who are not like them.

    Now I have a question for you. If you believe that the Torah is truth and it makes people better then why is it that the most observant Torah Jews are not better people? In fact, many crazy Jews who only spend time learning Torah, have rather terrible midos. Why is that? However, very secular people and secular families are often the nicest of people. Why is there a inverse relationship between your religiousity and your behavior to other people?

  4. "Orthodox Jews spent enough time in Europe sheltering themselves and trying to be above everyone else, and unfortunately we know how that turned out."

    1) if this is a reference to the Holocaust -and the negative connotations lead me to believe it is- then you have applied a wholly misleading statement of "cause and effect." Extremist theories of racism and genetic superiority, combined with anger and a desired scapegoat for poor conditions in Europe, were what enabled the Holocaust.

    2) To say "Orthodox Jews sheltered themselves, and look what happened" is to accord too much (negative) influence to their presence. The overwhelming majority of Jews in Europe were not Orthodox, and did not try to shelter themselves. In fact, the majority made every effort to integrate more into society. Hence the emergence of Geiger's Reform movement (and Hirsch's neo-Orthodoxy for that matter). One of the first political moves of the Holocaust was the establishment of quotas against Jews in SECULAR universities and elite academic and work programs- society and government's attempt to shelter the Jews! (note: the Orthodox jews also studied in these universities until these laws prevented them).

    anyway, yashar koach.

  5. So my comment about Europe was not meant to be the sole and exclusive reason Jews were persecuted back then, I apologize if it seems that way- I did not mean to seem all-knowing.
    However, on the note of secular people being nicer the Jews- I think this is your perspective, Baruch, and not necessarily the truth. While I understand the thought process, I do not agree on the generalizations. I also resent the language of "your religiosity and your behavior". Sounds very condescending.

  6. I have several comments:
    Firstly, the term "orthodox ethnocentrism" makes no sense. Judaism is not an ethnicity - just saying. I know what you mean, however, and my critique only relates to semantics, so I'll let it slide.
    On a more important note: on your want for eradicating the theory that Orthodox Jews act, know and are better - you may want to realize that much of this stems from a belief in dogmatic, singular truth within their own religion. Of course, tolerance is wonderful, but if you're going to take the perspective of dogmatism (which many orthodox Jews find essential to their religion) then of course Orthodoxy will be more correct and proper in many ways - if not all.
    [And just btw, I'm a fan of subjective truth. I'm just writing this to play devil's advocate. But if you want those within Orthodoxy to be tolerant of others, perhaps you should be tolerant of those within Orthodoxy.]

  7. You are trying to be unprejudiced and unbiased in your opinions, but this is only making you appear to be a self-hating Jew. And I know you are thinking, 'well you don't know what I experienced, so you can't judge', a mantra you like to repeat. But, don't you think that this makes you, as a frum and gay Jew, seem egocentric?

  8. First please define Orthodox, do you mean all Orthodox including the modern orthodox with the knitted kippa.
    I wear a black knitted kippa, its a statement, orthodox but not like you.
    For one I was not awear that the Orthodox feel that they "know better" what do you mean by "know better"
    They may know more Torah in their little finger than I know in my whole hand but they don't know matters that concern the real world, the world out there, the world that you know.
    Are you looking at them in this way because they don't or won't except homosexuality.
    Well why would they, the Torah does not except it either, its quite clear is it not that your not allowed to lie with another man like you would with a woman,its black and white open up a chumash.
    So then prove to them this only applies to a man having anal sex but a man can kiss hug and do everything else, sorry they will stone you.
    But there are those who will listen but will be afraid to agree as they may get stoned.
    When I walk in the streets here in Israel I don't see the men in black more superior to me I see him living in a different century and if he wants to live there he is welcome.
    Remember you can't change the world over night if you can change it at all.
    And you can't put all Orthodox under one umbrella.

  9. Putting the Holocaust implications aside, I find this post to be slightly ignorant. It's as if you are trying to find flaw in Orthodoxy alone. Every religion is like this (to include atheism)! Every faction within every religion is like this. You don't think Catholics think they are better than Protestants? You don't think within Protestantism, for example, Puritans think they are better than Presbyterians?

  10. Mark- I don't have a specific answer, if you feel this doesn't apply to your experience within Orthodoxy, then congratulations. And this has nothing to do with my sexuality.
    emee- I'm trying to speak to my community, where I came from, the main readership on this blog, of how Jews, can change our flawed perceptions. And just because it exists in other religions doesn't make it right.

  11. Ironic how you seek acceptance from your community on the one hand - urging its members to see past your sexuality, reminding them how very much you are a part of the same world - while disparaging it and accusing it of narrow-mindedness, condescension, and superiority on the other hand. You can't play both sides of the coin.

  12. Anon 2:13- So because I'm gay, I don't belong in the community and I have no right to comment on how it functions?

  13. Frum Gay, About your comments about modern day judiasm and its interactions with the other sects you're dead on. I still feel one should live where he feels comfortable and fulfilling however that manifests itself.

    Regarding your holocaust implications thats pure speculation and in such a context i dont think it is really fair, were not talking about stock prices here.

  14. FrumGay,
    You seemingly have a pattern where you are very eager to dish out critique of others and point out their flaws. Perhaps you should take the opportunity and look inside yourself and fix those flaws before openly berating everyone else around you on such a frequent basis. In regards to your comment about Europe you should look through history all the good that it has done the Jews to remain sheltered at that point in time it kept them safer and better preserved. Lastly, Judaism as any religion in its inherent nature is to be above all else, the concept of being lemale min hateva comes from Judaism it isn't a superiroity complex based on ego its based on truth and integrity.

  15. "However, on the note of secular people being nicer the Jews- I think this is your perspective, Baruch, and not necessarily the truth. While I understand the thought process, I do not agree on the generalizations. I also resent the language of "your religiosity and your behavior". Sounds very condescending.":

    The usage of "your" is a general term, it is not specific to you, it is specific to all people. That is the way I like to speak, I like to use "you" and "your" to refer to general population of people and not necessarily the person I am speaking with.

    And I disagree with you about my analysis between how nice a person is and how religious he is, it is not my prespective like you state, for the following reason. I have known and know numerous of very religious Jews who have terrible midos but they sit and learn Gemara all day. While, I know atheists who are perfectly nice people.

    To be fair, there are terrible atheists too, and very nice Jewish people too. I do not deny that. I only raise a question that needs to be answered. My question is why is it that often we find extremely religious Jews with terrible midos and outspoken atheists whith the kindest of intentions?

    Let me make my question more specific. Torah is supposed to make a person holy, then why is it that there is no direct relationship (positive corellation) between the amount of Torah one learns and his midos? If I was a scientist and I performed this statistical test I would be forced via the scientific method to reject the hypothesis that learning Torah leads to better midos.

    Even if you disagree with me that secularism does not improve the midos of a person, then you can at least agree with me that there is no corellation between being religious and having good midos.

    But you are an example of a frum Jew who has good midos. ^_^

  16. First- your blog is so insightful in so many different ways, so thank you.
    That being said, while I do agree with many things you say, I do not agree with how you judge the whole (Orthodox) community in a blanket statement when you yourself know thow ridiculous it is to presume things about such a large group. Perhaps you have met individuals who may act like this but it is extremely harsh for you to judge the greater community like that because it is just false.

    Keep doing what you do!

    All the best.

  17. first off while your intent with this post were good, i think you suffer far more from close mindedness then you realize, its nearly impossible to explain what "orthodoxy" is for even within our own communities there are an infinite number of nuances and sub groups, second i feel like your perception of the relationship between what would be called orthodox Judaism and the rest of the world is colored by the fact that you grew up in the ny/nj bubble/ghetto and are currently in YU, as im sure u are aware there are other communities outside of ny/nj/yu and they may not interact with the rest of the world the same way the ghetto you grew up in did. as such a sweeping statement such as yours, while nice, isn't necessarily a reflection of the truth, but rather your own experiences within a limited population of an even smaller sub-sect of Judaism, in which case you are entirely valid in making such a statement speaking directly to your own specific community, but not necessarily whatever the orthodox Jewish community would be as a whole.

  18. This post does not surprise me at all. Not because I agree with the content, but because of the eventual place to author will end up.

  19. Instead of just being "we are the world," I'd rather understand us as being the "light of the world--Ohr lagoyim". It does presuppose a conscious effort to try to improve the world--"letakain olam bemalchut Sha-dai". In this context, I believe that Orthodox Jews do have a sacred mission--that we do not always properly fulfill, but yet it is part of our essence. There is nothing wrong with striving to be better--to try to become, to use college lingo before you graduate--the 4.0s of the world; and to be successful enough to make the Dean's [could that be Deity!] list!

  20. This by the way does not only go for Orthodox Jews as well . I think The "Whole Jewish Community " be it Secular or Orthodox, has this stigma that they are then everyone.

  21. Reply to anon 7:02 : My first choice of places would have been a) inside someone else, but because of the sincere tzidkus of taking chumras on himself in the previous post (ayain sham) i guess we just have to go with plan b) some very hot place reserved for the most chashuv of ppl....

  22. The supposed view that orthodox Jews feel superior to society is one held by anti-Semites and perpetuators of the myth that Jews in general, not just orthodox Jews, want to take over the world.

    Just because orthodox Jews take pride in their religion by following Torah to the fullest extent possible does not mean try feel superior to the world. It's a fallacy to assume that those who believe other Jews should also ascribe to Judaism to the fullest extent possible have a superiority complex.

    If you believe that Torah is emet and true, then those who try to follow it completely without trying to fit it around what they feel comfortable are merely doing what is right.

    The superiority complex you so emphatically feel the orthodox community has is merely a reflection of your own feeling of insecurity. It is why secular Jews--not orthodox Jews--are so virulently anti religious Jews. It's a natural human reaction to seeing someone more religious than you--you instantly feel insecure about your own shaky beliefs in the face of someone who really holds true to it, so you instantly claim they are self righteous and think they are better than everyone.

    yes, orthodox Jews are far from perfect and like any group in society they clearly have their own issues, but for you to say orthodox Jews think they are better than everyone else is actually your personal perception on the issue and not reality. Orthodox Jews--yes, all orthodox Jews that claim to follow Torah and mitzvos fully, even yeshivish and chareidi--don't judge the world, in fact most of them don't care what the world thinks.

    honestly, if you want to know what really causes most of the Jews problems is not the frummies out there who are holier than thou, it is Jews who are apologists to the world, who are embarrassed that their religion is so confining and restrictive, who because they want to prove to the world how amazing they are they do everything possible to ingratiate themselves to the world, especially those who want to kill them and destroy them.

    Your assumption is that it is orthodoxys limited acceptance and tolerance that makes everyone hate us. Your assumption is typical of most secular apologists. Just because you personally feel vilified and excluded by the orthodox community does not translate as the cause of the world's ills.

  23. frumgay, does your family know that you are gay?


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