Monday, August 17, 2009

Just Do It !

Why is it that Orthodox (keruv) rabbis and in particular those in Chabad have this obsessive compulsive need to evangelize their version of Judaism on their co-religionists. They seem to have this obsessive need to put orthodoxy in a positive light. It’s become their raison d’ĂȘtre! Today, more than ever, with the scandalous behavior of the Deal NJ gang of rabbanim, Rubashkin’s version of glatt and other nefarious Orthodox Jews being arrested for felonious behavior, orthodox “kruv” rabbis are cringing, ducking from the public view; hoping that this too will blow over. One of their stalwart spokesmen, Shmuley Boteach believes that the recent scandals rocking the orthodox Jewish community and giving it a black eye can be reversed.

In one of his musings, Shmuley believes that by demonstrating how truly sublime orthodox Jews live their lives the tarnished image of the orthodox Jewish community can be repaired:
We the orthodox have it in our power to restore the true light and love of Judaism by demonstrating the power of our faith to shape outstanding ethics and inspire righteous action….But now is the time for that truth to shine, to demonstrate that resting on the Sabbath and studying Torah makes people less greedy, more noble and more spiritual.
It should but it obviously doesn’t. I don’t know what it is, but there is an evil wound blowing through much of the Jewish community that inspires greed. There is an inability to “fargin” their successful neighbors. If a member of the community is successful, rather than feel genuinely happy for his fortune, there is this insidious invective just under the surface, marring his good fortune.

Beyond this however, is something more troubling in Shmuley’s statement. He is guilty of using platitudes without clearly defining what it is he is really saying. He assumes that he and others of his ilk have a monopoly on the “true light” of Judaism. Perhaps the Satmar’s demonstrating every Shabbat (against mayor Barkat’s policy of opening garages on Shabbat) possesses the true light. They certainly believe it. So who is to say what the true light is. At best, Shmuley’s statement rings hollow, at worst it smacks of religious imperialism and triumphalism – neither of which are the right ingredients for one espousing religious and ethical beliefs.

Saying that the best way to destroy the myth (of the less observant) that the orthodox are judgmental is “to invite them to our homes where they will see our daughters are raised to comport themselves with dignity…..” Does he mean to imply by that that those who aren’t “religious” do not comport themselves with the same level of dignity as the daughters of orthodox families? Again, without realizing it he and others in the kiruv business are guilty of being sanctimonious.

Most non religious Jews aren’t obsessed with the image of the religious Jews. They could care less. Ironically, they can, under certain circumstances feel threatened by them: when there is an influx of religious into non religious neighborhoods. The small, burgeoning religious community after a while begins making demands on the neighborhood, changing the nature and quality of the community. Before long an eruv is in place; a house is converted into a shtiebel; and balabatim are walking in the middle of the street on Shabbat, as though it belonged to them. Jews, good Jews, who previously enjoyed their community are looked down upon, judged and made to feel inferior.

So rather than talk about how benevolent and munificent the orthodox community is I would suggest practice “being” Jewish. Rather than sing the praises of Orthodox Judaism, practice with modesty and let others sing praises. As Nike aptly put it for one of their sound bites “just do it”.