by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
One of the hot topics in Orthodox Judaism in the past week is whether there is a significant bleeding of members of the ultra-orthodox community, particularly in Israel, towards the secular community. Or, as one ultra-secular Israeli journalist put it “the charedim (ultra-orthodox) are making more secular Jews than the secular Jews” (a tongue-in-cheek response meaning that the very-large-family size in the Israeli ultra-orthodox community can lose several children to secularism and exceed the birthrate with their loss of the secular Israeli community).
Over the 200 years before World War II there was a mass loss of observant Judaism to the Reform movement. Following World War II, there was only a small remnant of orthodox Judaism in the U.S. and in Israel (with a few miniscule communities in other countries such as England).
Following WW-II, those orthodox and ultra-orthodox remnants experienced exponential growth with very little defection. Rather, there was an influx, a large influx, of Jews returning to search for truth, Jewish spirituality, and a connection to G-d.
Between 5x growth per generation and an ongoing influx, orthodox and ultra-orthodox communities grew…and grew…and grew. But like a massively growing new company, ultra-orthodox Judaism also struggled with massive growth. Schools needing to add new classrooms every 3 years, new synagogues, new community services, new charities. And housing…orthodox Judaism depends on many communal functions, moving into new areas means areas without communal services.
Modernity and the Internet pose an additional challenge. Isolated lifestyles that never had to deal with the world IN YOUR FACE were suddenly dealing with it literally in everyones pockets…and some were and are not up for the challenge.
It’s no surprise that each community would teach that their way is THE way. After all, historically the community you were in was a relatively isolated thing, and leaving the community meant leaving G-d, Torah, Judaism, your people and family. Yet today it may mean only walking across the street, or moving a few neighborhoods or a small town away.
Today if the particular type of Judaism, orthodox or ultra-orthodox Judaism, you have doesn’t fit, there is a smorgasbord of options…
Chabad – intellectual chassidus and personally demanding
Breslev – emotional chassidus and a way out of the mud
YU – Torah and Science and modern education
Mizrachi – Settle the Land, Learn the Torah, Get Educated, Stand for Israel
I have a friend in synagogue, the left Gur (chassidus) and came to Chabad – the teachings of Gur didn’t speak to his soul, the chassidus of Chabad does. Another who learned with Viznitz, he went to Breslev – it spoke to his heart. Another who learned in Satmar and went YU, as he encountered the world he needed to reconcile with science.
It’s all there, in so many flavors, there is no need to turn away from Judaism…just find your flavor!
[ There are those who are hurt, the system has failed them, they (reasonably from their own experience) associate Judaism with hurt or pain or being taken advantage of…or (G-d forbid) criminal or negligent acts that were perpetrated against them. For them, the failings of the system and criminal people who represent themselves as orthodox Jews color their view of Judaism. These situations are truly terrible and we should NOT ignore such things to “protect” Judaism. Rather we should aggressively deal with such things to protect our people from such horrible situations. ]