(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”)
- The army
- 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.