Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You just might be a Religious-Zionist

(Subtitle: Thinking out of the Chareidi box)

“The only reason I’m not making aliyah is because there are no communities in Israel where I’d feel comfortable living and no acceptable schools for my kids. I mean, everything is just so polarized there!”

If I had a shekel for every time I heard a variation of this absurd statement, I’d be able to retire my stehmp and spend my days as a full-time blogger…

Why do I refer to the above statement as absurd?

Because it’s patently untrue.

You see, contrary to what some misguided individuals would have you believe, Israel is chock-full of wonderful communities populated with amazing, committed Jews who value secular education and yet also observe the mitzvot - kalah k’vachamurah (meticulously), are kovei’a itim (regularly set aside time for Torah learning), dedicate much of their time and effort to chessed, and (for the women) cover their hair and dress with tzniut (modestly).

And these communities boast first-rate schools and yeshivot, whose alumni go on to excel in both the Torah and secular worlds.

I’m speaking, of course, about Israel’s many Torani communities.

So, then, you rightfully ask, what’s the problem? Why don’t would-be olim avail themselves of these communities and schools?

The answer is very simple. In general, people who live in Torani communities don’t wear black hats.

The thing is that in the States, wearing a black hat means that one is committed to Torah observance. (Yes, I do realize that this is a gross overgeneralization. There’s no need to bring counter examples.) For instance, even many so-called “Centrist” rabbis wear black hats in the States.

In contrast, here in Israel, black hats are pretty much the exclusive domain of the Chareidi world. (And IMNSHO, “Chareidi Lite” and ”American Yeshivish” are, for all intents and purposes, really subsets of the Chareidi world.)

However, many Americans may find themselves at odds with the Chareidi world on a wide range of issues, including:

  • Kollel vs. working (aka “learn or burn” ;-))
  • Secular education
  • Daas Toirah (i.e. the infallibility of the “gedolim)
  • And much, much more

And as a result, these Americans eventually conclude that there are “no normal communities in Israel” [sic].

Of course, the obvious solution is to move to one of the aforementioned Torani communities.

But many Americans won’t consider these communities, because it bothers them that most Torani boys don’t wear suits and ties on Shabbat – even at their own bar mitzvahs. It bothers them that Torani girls dress like ulpanistiyot. And it bothers them that illustrious Torani rabbanim and roshei yeshiva wear crocheted kippot rather than black hats.

You know, “important” stuff like that.

In other words, the problem isn’t that Israel is “too polarized” [sic].

The problem is that many Americans unfortunately let themselves miss the Torani forest for the superficial trees…


On a related note, check out this fascinating guest post over at the Life in Israel blog. It was written by someone who is torn between the Torani and Chareidi worlds.


  1. Does Torani mean anything special?

  2. If I moved to Israel that's the sort of place I'd like to move to - i think:

  3. Ilana-Davita (1) - "Torani" comes from "Torah". A loose translation would be something like "Torah-minded" or "with an emphasis on the Torah". Torani refers to a certain segment of the national-religious schools and communities and is often used interchangeably with "Chardal" (chareidi leumi - literally, "national chareidi") - although the two terms sometimes have slightly different connotations.

    Yaffa - Thanks.

    Ilana-Davita (2) - That looks like a beautiful spot.

  4. Thanks for the article. This is a great explanation of why my hat went into storage when I got off the plane.

    Although our Rabbi wears a hat and strattles the line between DTL/YU/Charedi.

  5. so superficial
    When we were on shlichut in London mid 1970's we were snubbed by the religious community, because we didn't wear the right costume. I wore a tichel and not a wig, among other sins.

    Considering that the source of a "black" kippah vs the colorful crocheted is pride or lack of it. Black isn't noticed. I consider it a very low level of frumkeit.

    The clothing, suit, no denim, expensive rimmed hats are just local minhagim, not real halacha. Living in Eretz Yisrael, yishuv u'biniat haAretz is a great mitzvah. How can they sin against that because of a costume?

  6. I think I'd also like the inclusive aspect of the community.

  7. EhWhy - Thanks for your kind words. Also, it's nice to hear about people who manage to straddle the line. But, as I'm sure you know, that only works for adults. Kids have a much harder time...

    Batya - IMHO, it's not easy to change one's ingrained way of thinking. Thus, when one has been raised to think that being frum is equivalent to wearing a black hat, it's hard to go against that...

    Ilana-Davita - Thanks for illustrating my point! B"H, there are so many different kinds of communities in Israel that it bothers me when people say they can't find a community which would suit them. This post was my way of trying to understand this phenomenon.

  8. Ehwhy's wife here (long time reader, first time commenter- I sent him the post this morning) b'H we have planted ourselves in a good group of people since we arrived that has allowed us to grow and thrive. There was some adjustment from what we felt like was "expected " back to home to "normal" now- and it is a line we are still trying to clarify. It will be a continuing battle for us and our daughter, but one we feels is a worthwhile one to push.

  9. Don't concern your self that people say this is the reason they don't make aliyah. I received some of the same comments. Certain people look to justify why they do not come. Keep up the good work. I will write a response in detail and post it by
    Kol tuv,


  10. Rachel - Nice to "meet" you! We also went through a period of adjustment, and of course, in some respects, we're STILL adjusting (especially as the kids get older BA"H). Growing up in the States, one has many preconceived notions, and not all of them are relevant or apply to Israeli life.

    Yeshoua - Thanks. I look forward to reading your response.

  11. While the point about black hats is correct(I left my hat in the States), the point about polarization is also true. In the US communities are more heterogeneous so you aren't forced to stuff yourself into a particular box. In Israel you can find many wonderful communities - but you are forced to clearly define yourself first - even if you are an mix of different ideas.

  12. Great article - very well said.
    So where does one get a "list" of these Torani Communities?

  13. Not Defined - I agree with you that one must choose between being Chareidi and being Dati-Leumi. (As I noted above, I believe that if they really want to and are very determined, adults can more or less avoid this issue. But it's nearly impossible for one's kids to do so.) However, if one is willing to cross the Rubicon and define oneself as Dati-Leumi, I would argue that there's no further polarization. Perhaps it exists on the Chareidi side of the divide, but I really don't see it in the Dati-Leumi world in general and the Torani communities in particular.

    Chanoch - Thanks, and good question. Perhaps NBN has this information?

  14. Wow your post is just overflowing with both ahavas yisroel and understanding of chareidi hashkagos.

    Ahavas yisroel, I will let you deal with it. Just remember that if a chareidi said these types of things about your DL world, you'd accuse him of being a racist soneh yisroel.

    Regarding the reason many chareidim in america would not consider a "torani" community - the MAIN reason is that they think your hashkafos are PASUL - not kosher - not a viable option. No matter how much you are kove'a itim, no matter how many hair coverings you wear, no matter how meticulous you are - the underlying hashkafos are treif.

    Army is assur.
    Sheirut Le'umi is yehareg v'al yaavor.
    The list goes on and on, but I dont have the time for it.

    But understand this. Its not because you dont wear a tie at your bar mitzvah. Its because the gedolei yisroel - starting with the CC and continuing with the CI, the Rov, Rav Shach, the Steipler et al - have ruled that tzinout is wrong. Period.

    That and that alone precludes a chareidi leaning individual from joining your community.

    Now, I am not here to pick sides. If you have your rabbonim and manhigim that you follow thats great. But dont be all self richeous about how chareidim are so dumb that the only reason that dont make aliyah and become a tziyoni is ..... when there is a real reason - even if you dont like it

  15. Anonymous- This post didn't have anything anti-Charedi about it. The point, which you obviously missed, is that there are many Americans who aren't really charedi and whose hashkafot aren't really charedi, but who think that they belong in a charedi community just because they wear a black hat in the U.S.

    I am not going to respond to the specifics of your other comments other than to say that the Chazon Ish's grandson served in the army and he used to walk into Ponnovitch wearing his uniform.
    Can you give me specific sources for the "psaks" that you quote. I have a feeling that your conclusions don't exactly match what the original sources say.

  16. If only I hadn't allowed my spouse to believe the no communities/schools myth while my children were still young...

    For the sake of those considering aliyah, can you specify a list of communities that you feel have a vibrant Torani community/school?

  17. I imagine you mean Rav Shachs grandson served in the army. He is off the derech to the best of my knowledge, and Rav Shach, though he didnt disown his son, was not happy with him. He didnt even speak at Rav Shachs levaya. The CI did not have any children

    Sheirut Leumi is yehareg v'al yaavor. Look into before you tell me I made this up. I dont think I could have thought of if I wanted to. The psak came from all the rabbonim of the time, led by the CI, and including Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank among others that I am sure you heard of. Look into it.

    Again, its not the black hat, its the underlying rejection of the zionist ideals which prevents an American with chareidi leanings to stay out of the DL world. Sorry to burst your bubble

  18. Anonymous -
    Yes, there are many Americans that fall completely into the charedi mold. On the other hand, I personally know many who made aliyah and live in charedi areas, but whose hashkafot aren't totally in line with the neighborhoods which they live in.
    The point of the post was not anti-charedi at all. The writer's idea was just to point out that there is a large group of people who make decisions based on dress and that if they would look past the clothes, they might find that there are communities where the general population's hashkafas more closely match their own.

    Since you are making public comments about specific psaks from a number of gedolim, I assume that you can back those comments up with specific sources. Please post specific sources instead of just a list of names.

    As far as "zionist ideals"- in my neighborhood there are those that don't say hallel on Yom Ha'atzmaut, those that say it without a bracha and those that say it with a bracha. There are those that learn full time, and those that work and also set aside time for learning each day. There are those that wear black hats and those that wear kippot srugot. They all live happily together and everyone respects each other. All are torah observant and all of klal yisroel should be proud of all of them.

  19. To the someone who asked about a community with Torani / Chardal unusual choice is Ramat Beit Shemesh. They have charedi schools (Litvish, Chassidish, and standard Beit Yaakov types), an "American style" yeshiva, and a Chardal system.

    While personally on the charedi side of the spectrum my children are attending the Chardal schools - where the education is much more professional than most of the other systems.

    They do push the zionist stuff a bit, but our home and neighborhood offsets it just fine to keep a reasonable balance.

    On a side note, my charedi neighbors son is in Netzach Yehuda (the charedi combat battalion), and my daughter(!) opted out of army avoidance and sherut leumi and is in the IDF Air Force. Neither are a product of Chardal in Israel, both of the black hat yeshiva systems in the US.

  20. Anonymous (December 29, 2009 4:36 AM) - "For the sake of those considering aliyah, can you specify a list of communities that you feel have a vibrant Torani community/school?"
    As I noted in my post, they can be found all across the country. There are Torani moshavim and yishuvim, Torani neighborhoods in many cities, and Torani kehillot. Some of the trappings of Torani communities include schools like Mamlachti Dati Torani schools and/or semi-private schools like Noam and others and also youth groups like Ariel and/or non-mixed Bnei Akiva chapters.

    Akiva - Good point. We have a number of Torani friends and relatives who happily live and send their kids to school in RBS.

  21. yepp we are in rbsa and would happily describe ourselves (now) as Torani.

  22. Rachel - Sounds like you found a community which really fits your needs!

  23. Unfortunately, I think your post is useless without a list of the Torani communities you are referring to. I have now lived in 2 which would probably be at the top of your list and have not found them to match the standards that you describe.

  24. Jmminy - That's too bad that you haven't yet found a community which suits you. Without mentioning any names or disclosing any identifying details, can you explain how these communities don't "match the standards" I cited? Also, are these Torani/Chardal communities or "regular" dati-leumi communities?

  25. Thanks to all for an illuminating thread. Re. the difference b/w Torani and "regular" DL--what is it? Is "regular" DL another way of saying MO-lite, and Torani is another way of saying serious MO?

  26. a helpful NbN page:

  27. I came across this blog when I googled "Torani communities in Israel."
    My question is: Where are the Torani communities that are AFFORDABLE? My husband and I just came back from a pilot trip where we visited "Torani" communities but they are unaffordable for us. Any suggestions for where else to look?

  28. Anonymous (January 11, 2010 4:07 AM) - "Is "regular" DL another way of saying MO-lite, and Torani is another way of saying serious MO?"
    Hmm. I'm very hesitant to say yes, because in many ways, DL isn't really synonymous with MO. And that's kind of the point of my post....

    Anonymous (January 11, 2010 2:06 PM) - Thanks for providing the link. I'm not sure I totally agree with everything she writes there - for instance, I don't think Chardal and Torani should be considered as two distinct categories - but overall, it's a great place to start.

    Tiffany - That's a tough question, but are Torani communities less affordable than other communities? IMHO, this is a problem across-the-board. Once a community - of any "flavor" - finds its way onto the Anglo map, the prices rise, and there are fewer houses/apartments available. In any event, best of luck with your search, and I hope you are able to find what you're looking for!

  29. Can someone provide a list of "Torani" or "Chardal" communities?

  30. Tiffany - Have you spoken to NBN?


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