Wednesday, April 18, 2012

a "greater threat to Israel's survival than her external enemies"

You have to love the opening of this opinion piece in the NY Jewish Week by R' Eugene Korn.  Rabbi Korn tried to strike up a conversation with a chareidi man that he found himself sitting next to  on a flight home from Israel. Sensing that the person wanted to get back to his sefer rather than continue to shmooze, R' Korn ended the conversation. Rather than take this as an isolated event that reflected no more than one individual's desire (or lack thereof) to enter into conversation with him, R' Korn instead reads the withdrawal from the conversation as symptomatic of the chareidi community's withdrawal from society at large.  He then goes on to a fairly predictable tirade about how the chareidim contribute nothing to the betterment of the world etc. etc. (you've heard and read it before I'm sure).

One reason (among many) that I am not a public figure writing articles in a major Jewish newspaper is because had I been in Rabbi Korn's shoes, I might have just assumed the guy sitting next to me is just not interested in conversing, had more important things to do (like learn Torah), or maybe I'm just a lousy conversationalist and was boring him.  I lack the intellectual superman-like ability to generalize in a single bound from the lack of desire on the part of an individual to carry on a conversation to the sweeping assertion that not only this individual, but the entire community he is part of lacks the desire to engage in any productive activity that might benefit society.  Had it been me, I might even been tempted to qualify my words a bit instead of lambasting the entire chareidi community as being the equivalent of the ancient Essenes, labeling them as "Xstian monks, albeit with families," and claiming they are a "greater threat to Israel's survival than her external enemies."  I'm glad I do read the news now and then, because left to my own devices I would never have realized that it's not the threat of nuclear armed Iran that should concern us -- it's yeshiva bachurim who prefer learning to conversation that we really need to worry about.  Had it been me, I might have even been bothered by the contradiction between my posing the challenge of, "How many religious students or adults strive to connect to the Jewish people as a whole?" and my choice to identify the passenger sitting next to me not simply as a fellow Jew, someone who I have a bond with, but as a "hareidi man," some other species that lives in a world apart from my own, not part of that big "whole."  Were I a public figure writing in a major Jewish newspaper with professional editors that review articles before publication, I don't know what I would do.  Glad I'm just a lone blogger with only you guys as readers so I can just spew whatever unqualified, intemperate, rhetoric I want.


  1. Anonymous12:31 PM

    Some people at some times in some places just don't want to chat. Duh!

  2. Tal Benschar1:05 PM

    I had the same reaction. Maybe, using Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is the truth: the good Rabbi Korn is just a nudnik the bochur preferred not to engage with.