Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Culturally Orthodox

One of the rarely spoken about phenomenon among among all Orthodox Communities is the Culturally Orthodox. There are people who have basically given up Orthodox Practice and Orthodox Belief, but still choose to participate in the Orthodox Community.
I am not discussing the non-Observant Orthodox, those who have never been Orthodox, but choose to attend Orthodox Synagogues. Or those who were Frum in Europe before coming to America. I am referring to those who were once Orthodox (usually coming from American Orthodox families) & attending Orthodox Day Schools, but go off the Derech (path) but still choose to associate with the Orthodox Community.
On the one hand this is a very bad thing. If Judaism is about belief & practice, having members of the community who do not keep the practice & openly reject the dogmas break down the barriers and (implicitly or explicitly) encourage others to do the same.
On the other hand this does "pad" the community adding members to synagogues & enrollement in schools to keep the critical mass necessary for functioning. Some may claim (but not me) that it is also good because it provides these people with opportunities to come back to Halakha if they choose. However, they are not "kiruv" cases, as they often know the details of Judaism & Halakha as well as Frum Jews.
So why do they stay? Why not assimilate off into the rest of America? Partly because of inertia? It takes effort to leave that which is most familiar. And after having "tasted the pleasures" of the outside world, many find the Orthodox Community the optimal home. And since they can live without many of the restrictions of Orthodoxy (except the financial ones), they think that they have the best of both worlds.

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