Thursday, December 27, 2007

What I Fear in the Chareidi World

I have heard that in the African American world, because of so much racism that they had to deal with, many in retaliation pampered their sons. So much so, that if one committed a crime, it was brushed under the carpet, if they said something wrong it was overlooked. If they didn't want to pursue higher education because of "the system" it was understood. If they didn't want others 'snitching' to the police, it was accepted. Eventually, those same guys realized they could do no wrong. And as some children will do when they are left without borders, these guys went all out!

Now you have rap music -which I used to love- that used to recount hilariously invented stories about some kid getting caught sneaking off to a party with friends or the likes -now its about black women in the most derogatory name calling imaginable! Hip hop -which also started pretty parve- is now (de)evolving into .....crunk?

There are many good black men still out there, waving their flags and doing their best. I know a few. They are good loyal fathers and husbands. Deep thinkers, Dedicated workers, business owners, entreprenuers, etc.

But the state of the black community in general is at a point of crisis.

What does that have to do with the Jewish community?

For whatever reason, many in the chareidi world are taught that they must be in kolel. Kolel is a place of learning for married men. All day, they learn. That is a great and noble venture! But its only great if you have the capacity to learn like that. And its only great if people are SELECTED for their learning skills to be there, not that EVERYONE must be in kolel. Many can not just sit and learn all day. Many do not want to! Many, out of social pressure are quite reluctant to go out and work --even if their family needs it. Those who do go and work are so looked down upon.

The wife is expected to be the mother, run the house, work -work enough to support everything, be a wife (a job of its own!) all this while the men simply sit comfortably and learn.

What kind of guys are we creating? Are they becoming Torah giants or loafing about because they feel 'stuck'? Will they take out their frustration elsewhere? On the seemingly all-powerful wife? If they are not great learners, do they feel a lack of responsibilities? Does it bother them? And if they are not great learners or THE GREATEST learner, will the wife still respect him? Will those who feel shame, disrespect their wives?

Now more and more, I'm hearing stories of women getting their clothes sprayed on because someone thought it was not modest enough. I heard of one lady who's car tires was slashed because of her garments. Women getting literally beaten on buses because they are expected to go to the back so the men won't have to look at them (and have unclean thoughts). They are responded to in rude fashion, if they -even older ladies now, -dare question the back-of-the-bus policy.

As a person who's been from one "black" community to another, I wish I could help my Jewish brothers and sisters watch their step so that they don't end up a different version of my previous 'black community'. Ladies, don't become enablers and mammies in an attempt to appear overly righteous. Guys don't styfle yourselves if what you want to pursue is according to halachah -even if its not sitting all day and learning.

I, too, want my son to become a talmid chacham /a wise Torah scholar. But should he choose work in conjunction with learning, he should not have to bear it with shame.

I dunno. I worry.


Rafi G said...

great comparison!

Anonymous said...

great post. Yea Rap is sorry.
david pitts

Jacob Da Jew said...

Well-written. These things start at home so educate your children accordingly.

Ehav Ever said...

I am with Jacob.

I think the answer lies in you teaching your children that one of the important aspects of being a Torah scholar is having the ability to earn parnasah. There are many great examples of Hachamim who learned and worked. The Rambam is a prime example, he was a doctor, a scholar, A Hacham, and he was able to write books on halacha when he was in his 20's.

I believe that you can change the environment by stressing with you own children the importance of have the ability to learn and work. If you impress upon them the ability to stand up even against a wave that may seem enormous and if other families do the same it can change things.

All it took for the kolel only movement to start was a few people doing it, and convincing others to do it. So it can be reversed by families doing the opposite. I think when people see your children's ability to be Hachamim with good livelihood they can inspire others.

-suitepotato- said...

The Torah is to be learned. Nowhere anywhere but in some fevered imaginations is it the ONLY thing to be learned. It is ONE thing, an IMPORTANT thing, but NOT ONLY. I emphasize those to draw the distinction clearly.

ehav ever makes a good point. In the chasid world, the Baal Shem Tov himself was a simple toiler for the day IN ADDITION to being such a spiritually gifted man. He didn't think it was beneath him and he kicked off a movement that reverberates to this day. Yet you'd swear today it was as if he was community supported from birth.

I think one of the strong draws to the kolel all the time world is that some men yes are so learned, great, and wise, with such big hearts AND gifted with excellent communications skills to get that across that they certainly should be treasured by the community and helped along.

So people see that and imagine being as great, and not having to work. Well, some people would like to do nothing but study literature all day and become a fountain of great ideas for the good of everyone and not have to work at all, but that's not the way life is.

Besides, work is good for the soul as they say. I feel no shame to rake leaves on Shabbat for instance because that's when I talk to G-d best. Doing little things that keep my body and basic attention occupied while I let my heart and spirit go do something more important. It works for my connection to Him and it makes me appreciate what He did to make the world in a way I can't the rest of the time, because then I'm doing it for me, not for Him.

Sometimes work isn't so pedestrian as it seems. Sometimes He needs us to do it to get our full attentions.

Mes Deux Cents said...


That was a very interesting comparison. And thanks for letting me learn a little about an aspect of Jewish culture.

All I would add is; not all African Americans are like those that you mention. The media focus is on those that you speak of, so it seems there is more of that going on than there really is.


Miriam said...

Rafi G- Thanks!

David- Hey great to see you. Thanks!

JDJ & Ehav - that is my goal: to raise my children with that understanding. They'll be against the tide. sigh.

SuitePotatoe - thnaks for the insight on the Baal Shem Tov. I'll have to do some research. That WAS the image I understood - that the community practically raised him.

MDC said: not all African Americans are like those that you mention.

I agree. Some are loyal fathers and husbands, deep thinkers, entreprenuers, business owners, etc.

(I'm assuming you meant the first group of AAs that was mentioned?

Lady-Light said...

You hit the nail right on the head (see my post of Jan. 1).
There is a serious problem among the Hareidim; I understand that after the Shoah (the Holocaust), there was a tremendous need to increase Torah scholars, because of the nazi murderers destroying Jewish life in Europe.

I believe there needs to be a constant contingent of Torah scholars and Yeshiva/Beit Midrash/Kollel learning. Not everyone, however, is cut-out for this type of life; there also has to be a large number of men who have a skill, a trade, or a profession earning a living, which is currently not the case: on the contrary, as you said, working is frowned upon, while learning full-time is praised.

This in my opinion, is wrong. Boys should be educated and prepared to earn a living, to support their families; but the exceptional ones - the ilui ("genius") should be encouraged and supported to learn full-time, if that is what they want.

By not doing this, and forcing all boys to study Torah and nothing else into their adulthood, the Hareidim are perpetuating serious poverty in their kehilot, and doing nothing to contribute to the benefit of society in any other way.

It's only recently that the Hareidim began enlisting in the IDF, in special Hareidi units-that is to be highly commended.
But more needs to be done. And don't even mention the plight of the women, who have the entire burden of raising children, maintaining the home, and supporting their husbands as well; that's a post of it's own (actually, this comment is as long as a post; maybe I should, uh, just post!)