Thursday, November 09, 2006

Big Tent Blogs

In politics, the Big Tent Policy maintains that one should attract members with as diverse ideologies as possible. An example given is the 1932 elections. FDR then set up his New Deal and forged a coalition of Big City machines, labor unions, liberals, and ethnic and racial minorities.

A group blog can maintain a similar diversity. While having in common certain core Torah beliefs and values, there can certainly be room for disagreement. Thus, "cacophonous cogitations of a composite crew".

I was thinking about this because I had an e-mail correspondence with someone about an idea which was being discussed on this blog. The person noted parenthetically:

[although] I think am more with you on this specific issue... I recognize that chareidim are not monolithic. I also feel that this blog tends to be intellectual honest and there is room for people to agree to disagree (which is one reason I really like it) .

It's nice to find a kindred spirit in the blogosphere.

One can apply the Big Tent concept to the Orthodox world in general and to the more right-wing communities in particular. Sometimes, one might compare Bnei Torah to an army. An army acts in unison, wears the same uniform, and has allegiance to the commander in chief.

Conformity is indeed often stressed in our community. There are limits as far as dress, ideologies and behavior. We also have allegiance to leaders, and ultimately to Hashem.

But I think that even within the limits of the Torah world, there can and should be as much diversity and individuality as possible. In the area of dress, if I recall correctly from the biography, Rabbi Stienberg Z'l , of Beis Yaakov of Baltimore, was initially against instituting school uniforms for this reason. I also think that we have to be concerned that the walls that we erect to insulate us from the outside world do not take a life of their own. Too much of anything is no good.

We also need to focus on the individuality and emotional needs of each person. To quote David Mandel of Ohel in the Jewish Press :

People need to be comfortable with themselves, secure in their own skin, in order to find their place in the community. Dr. David Pelcovitz often speaks of the resilience of human beings, the inner strength people have that carries them through difficult times. Dr. Abraham Twerski is renowned for stressing the importance of self-esteem and positive self-image.

As long as we're comfortable with who we are and what we want to be, and as long as we don't feel pressured or compelled to be someone or something we're not ready to be or don't want to be, we can be in the Center, the Right, the Left-- or anywhere else on the spectrum.

And please, let's leave the labeling to clothing and food, not people.

Anyhow, I hope that this blog, while recognizing the primacy of the Torah, will offer as many people as possible opportunities to post their thoughts.

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