Thursday, June 10, 2004

Wax on Wax off

I would like to thank Simcha for bringing an article by Chaim I Waxman (CIW) to my attention. If people would like, they could read this article, if only to understand why sociologists should not be trusted in explaing the Jewish Communities. Here's a section by section analysis of the article, illustrating why this is a terrible understanding of Modern Orthodoxy (MO) & Hareidim (H):
Page 1: (Introduction)
1)"it inevitable that Orthodoxy in modern society will adopt a stance of greater isolation and especially of ritualistic stringency” . If so, how does he explain the fact hat Orthodoxy through the 1960’s was moving away from isolation & ritual stringency. Unless CIW considers the 1940’s-1960’s as the middle ages, he wishes to explain something post facto as inevitable, which it is not.
Differences b/w MO & Hareidim
2) He assumes Modern Orthodoxy is inclusive. They are no more or less inclusive than Hareidim. Unless one means by inclusive including people who are not shomer mitzvos. Cf. Brill’s essay about practice vs. ideology
3)It’s never clear where Hareidim are antagonistic & modern Orthodox are accommodating. Unless he means that Modern Orthodox are accommodating in general. These categories are sloppy. Sloppy. Sloppy.
4)“Social & cultural isolation.” Maybe CIW should leave Rutgers once and visit Wall Street during any given business day to see some cultural isolation of Hareidim.
Demographics
5)Purely anecdotal paragraphs
Stringency
6)I do not see why CIW is talking about stringency, when he actually means following the basic rules of halakhah. In most circles in the USA, it is about keeping the minimum, not chumrot.
7)His two examples (writing hash-m & not using the Hertz Chumash are less about stringency than piety (which may or may not be misplaced).
8) CIW drops names and claims that Judaism is about stringency without proof or source. CIW’s explanation? B/c of Niskatnu ha-Dorot so we should be more stringent. CIW’s keeps on quoting Durkheim, Berger, Soloveitchik, Douglas, Kellner, Douglas & Friedman without giving a clear example of a single stringency or proof that single most important identifying characteristic of Hareidim is stringency.
9) CIW then argues that Modern Orthodoxy will never develop a structure/organizational framework similar to Chareidi society. However, in the recent Edah Journal, he argues the exact opposite, that Modern Orthodoxy is developing strong communal structures. And he ignores the fact that it was during the 1950’s-1970’s when MO was strongest that their communal orgs. Were then at their peak. A more obvious explanation is mediocrity, mismanagement and a lack a vision on the part of Modern Orthodox leadership. CIW also ignores the obvious point that the Agudah is in fact intruding on MO’s turf by being more inclusive, not less. The attack my Rav Elya Svei was the exception not the rule.
10) CIW then suggests that MO is an elite movement: complicated, philosophically sophisticated, (cool & rational), accommodating, which is why it's numbers are decreasing. CIW ignores any possible flaws within the MO community, leadership or infrastructure.
11) CIW almost tries to engage modern trends and examine Hareidi society in context of evangelical Christian America, but then he backs away.

What CIW is doing here, as he does in his Edah Journal essay, is use a few buzz words (chumrah, Rupture & Reconstruction, Hareidi) and wink at his audience who “understand” him and can now validate their lifestyles because they “independent minded” “progressive”, “individuals”.

In the final paragraph CIW’s real motivation becomes clear: he wants MO to “seriously consider an overt challenge to and, perhaps, even separation from Hareidi Orthodoxy.”

I long time ago, I resolved to ignore articles like this which only serve to distort the truth and reinforce ignorant assumptions. However, the problem is that then these articles become the accepted truth because no one has bothered to challenge them.

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