Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beating that same Horse

It has been three years since I began this blog. By anyone's reckoning three years is a long time. I went back into my early postings to see what was being talked about back then and to compare it to now. Guess what? The more things change (or the more time that passes) the more things stay the same.

On the discussion radar back then were the following topics: the shidduch crisis, the high cost of tuition, the lack of transparency on the part of yeshivas, school schedules that don't take into consideration family/parental needs, the rising tendency of piling chumrah upon chumrah, a lack of achdus between various of the frum sub-groupings, a lack of proper preparation in some of the frum sub-groupings for getting a job, a disconnect for some of the frum sub-groupings from the general secular society, a lack of foresight and planning for the needs of an aging boomer generation, the world attitude towards Israel, excess consumerism, smachot whose costs are sky high, the unbalanced distribution of money in Klal, abuse in the community, dishonesty in the community, etc., etc., etc..

Look at that list and one thing becomes clear: in three years we've pretty much remained static as regards the problems we identified three years ago (and some were identified long before that). I'm hard put to name even one major innovation that Klal has put into place--or even discussed with real seriousness--that would apply to any of these problems. Even with the added impetus of an economic depression, what can we point to that has been a real change? It may well be that an individual here and there has made changes in the way they do things, but nothing that can be said to be making an impact on the general behavior and attitudes of Klal. If anything, there seems to be more of a disconnect between reality and our practices.

There's a new year coming and we each of us have to make a cheshbon hanefesh. It would be nice of we could also take a few moments to make that cheshbon on behalf on the practices of Klal as a whole. Wouldn't it be wonderful if next year I could excitedly point to even one major innovation, one major change that Klal made for the benefit of all? It would be lovely if next year I could point to doers rather than only to talkers/complainers. It would be lovely if next year would not be a repeat of this year and the years that came before it.

I'm going to take a positive stance here and say that there WILL be changes made this year, changes for the better, there WILL be actions taken, actions that will make a positive difference. And oh how I would love to see these words become reality. At least for now I'll put my pessimism in a dark recess of a closet somewhere. Wouldn't it be lovely if it could stay buried?


Lakewood Falling Down said...

Of course you right, we are beating a dead horse(or horses). We have set up a system for failure. Even with schools closing in Lakewood, the status quo of who is a first class citizen and was a second class citizen remains in force. Lack of money as a whole creates and perpetuates situations that generate all these different crisis. If a kollel system is creating a huge families that cannot pay their bills, and the "rich families" are expected to carry the burden, when "rich" (by the way did you know that rich families means working families?) run into financial difficulty there is no one left to turn to. While I understand that the learning mentality teaches that as long as you sit and learn, g-d will take care of you, the responsibility of creating a family and the responsibility of raising and educating children is something that's glossed over until it's too late. And unfortunately for those 600 or so students in Lakewood it's too late. Between you me, and anyone else who reads your blog, I don't think it will make that much of a difference. Will the rabbis step up and address root causes of these problems? I don't think so. And further to your point of an entire klal addressing problems together I'd love to see it but truthfully, even within small communities for example Teaneck, Edison, the 5 towns etc. have too many communities within communities to stand up as a whole. Each little shul and rabbi have their own little fiefdoms setup. To get any of them together to cooperate even on a communal problem is nearly impossible. Going the other direction are communites like Englewood New Jersey that have only one shul (more or less) is not included in the right wing "Klal". Therefore even places like that that are experiencing a tuition crisis and a shidduch crisis and all the other different crisis are not sitting at the same table with the klal. I asked a friend of mine who attended a Torah Mesorah convention last year if any of these problems were addressed. Sadly the answer was no. Truthfully they, meaning torah mesorah, were unable to see left wing religious issues as part of their klal and therefore they are not part of the problem. Second class citizens don't count.
On the other hand, when I spent a shabbat in Englewood, they have a system set up with a nonreligious schools to make a pool of money to deal with just this tuition problem. It made me very uncomfortable that the religious schools even the left wing were more comfortable reaching out to conservatives and reformed than the yeshiva world. It also bothers me in reverse that the yeshiva world sees fit to go to these communities to ask for money, but will not include them in larger discussions to address similar problems. If we as religious Jews are unable to come together to address our communal problems then I guess you're correct. But as a new year comes, we can do what we have always done when no other solution seems to work. And that is to pray. BTW, I think this is my first time commenting but let me say your blog is terrific! Have a happy healthy safe sweet new year!

JS said...

Well, it is almost time for Kohelet:

"There's nothing new under the sun..."

JS said...

I'd just add that I suspect that if change comes at all, it will come from each individual deciding what is best for his or her family. Once enough individuals make a change, then klal has, by default, acted. I suspect once that has happened the leadership will take notice, make a bunch of proclamations, claim credit for the changes, and in a few years everyone will believe the rabbis and leadership saved us from ourselves - oh, and we'll also believe that whatever the new way of doing things in klal has ALWAYS been done that way (going back to Moshe Rabeinu, no doubt).

tesyaa said...

I'd just add that I suspect that if change comes at all, it will come from each individual deciding what is best for his or her family.

Sadly, individual decisionmaking is not welcomed or looked upon favorably in the frum world, almost across the spectrum, which is one reason change will be slower and more painful than necessary.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised that there is no change in just a few years. These problems did not develop overnight and they won't be solved overnight and it is human nature to cling to old habits and ideas even when they are not working. On the silver lining side, need is the mother of invention and as things get worse economically, that could lead to some positive change, rather than further entrenchment.