Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Run Away, or Change Flavors?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageOne 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.  ]


  1. Nice post. Its true that we now have a variety of pathways to serve HaShem. This is due to the Baal Shem Tov and spreading the wellsprings. More or less, they all adhere to the firm halachic criteria. Some Jews who want a softer (but halachic) lifestyle can find their place. This is a 'personality' choice, as some Jews are more forgiving and others more exacting – this is a result of the inner makeup of the emotions and thinking. Enter here Miriam Adahan and her books on 'personality types'. People are not gingerbread cookies, they turn out different despite the upbringing in a family. I believe we need to be much more understanding and less extreme in order to bring back those who have been scarred.

    Another thought. If the Germans counted as Jewish ANYONE who had ANY Jewish ancestry (going way back) to be included in their murderous war against the Jews, why is in inconceivable that many that they included were only patrilineal or even non-Jews (i.e., intermarriage)? Also gypsies and others included. You even say, "Over the 200 years before World War II there was a mass loss of observant Judaism to the Reform movement."

    So I can understand it being possible that many halachicly not Jewish and actual non-Jews were included in the Holocaust (it being documented).

    Only the remnant of Torah Yidden (that were part of the survivors) who came to America were the ones that grew exponentially and are now the generations in the greater NY area. So from a few grew many. I wonder what were the immigration figures (to America and to Eretz Israel) for the years immediately after the Shoah?

  2. Firstly, would like to correct Neshama as to the mass intermingling, marriages that started with the Reform movement; that is true, except 200 years ago most of its impact was on German, maybe some Austrian and Hungarian Jews. At first, it was minimal; it was only the last hundred years that the reform mvmt really turned to the extreme which they are today. In other words, during WWII, 90%, at least, of the Jews exterminated (H' yikom damam) were 100% Jewish. Most of the extermination was of eastern European Jewry who would never think of intermarrying. This already has been proven, especially after the latest flareup about the Rabbi who said there were only a million or less and he apologized because he did not have the correct facts.

    Second point is that we are a people who have been scattered throughout the world for millenia and have taken on the cultures, etc. of the respective countries, eventhough still most adhering to halachic Torah. Now that the world has become a small place with the negative side of the internet, the fragmentation of the Jewish people has been hit hard, especially the insulated chareidi sectors. With all that, B'H, Orthodoxy has grown and the reform movement, B'H, is going downhill, hopefully to disappear. With the coming of Moshiach Tzdkeinu, in the near future, we will once again be one people with one Torah and not one Jew will be ignorant in Torah as the world will be full of the knowledge of H' as the waters cover the seabeds.

  3. They're calling it the "Haredi spring." Thank you anon for the clarification. It's confusing the numbers leaving orthodoxy and those who intermarry. It seems we are in another catastrophe like that which grabbed Jewish Neshomas after WWI. I truly don't understand the total exit from HaShems Torah miSinai. Why turn your back on HaShem? I can understand not being Israeli Haredi/chassidish because of the insularity. But to leave mitzvos and Halacha is puzzling. HaShem created the entire world/universe, and there is much to appreciate and be thankful for. A very sad phenomenon.


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