Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Intra-Orthodox Skirmishes, The Three-Weeks, and Blogs

Three comments on a recent Hirhurim thread:

" I have been in both MO and chareidi institutions. I have never heard anyone in a chareidi institution talk about any MO individual or rabbi in the way MO individuals talk about chareidim. The chareidi may say that the MO act in ways that are non-halachic or that a MO rabbi does not know how to learn - but these things have been said about chareidi rabbis too.

I have been witness to adhominem and vile attacks on chareidim from lay leaders, educators and the rabbis. I have even heard the following statemnt from a MO educator - "I hate, hate, hate chareidim" - and noone in the vicinity protested. I've learned about bigotry and antisemitism from the MO. Take this as what you will but I'd rather hang out with chareidim who had issues with one or two of our leaders than a population who hates a broad group of people for no reason."

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"In my 4 years in a MO high school and 5 years in YU, I can't recall ever hearing someone MO say anything bad about Chareidim. Ever.

The only thing I can think of is when someone said that he doesn't think that people in other yeshivos know how to learn. One guy said one thing, once, and it isn't particularly bad. And everyone else thought that he was crazy.

My experience in the Charedi world is that the word "Modern" is equivalent to "barely frum" but that might just be an issue of terminology. "

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"So what's the lesson here? Each group feels that the other hates them?"

I think that the lesson is that are fair and reasonable people in both groups whom one can talk to, as well as the fact that when you have human beings involved in dispute, there will be indiscretions on both sides. Groups are no different than individuals that have "fights", whether in marriage or in friendships.

If one is involved in a "fight", at least the machalokes should be as civil as possible. Again, on the individual level, I think that Rav Pam zt'l said that couples going through a divorce should remember the bercahos which were directed at them during the Sheva Berachos and be amicable as possible, under the circumstances. One might say the same regarding ideological disputes.

Regarding intemperate remarks made on both sides, I think that we should distinguish between what I would call "internal-talk" or "locker-room talk" ("Mikvah-talk" ?) whose content may include flippant, off-the- cuff remarks that aren't nuanced, versus actual strident language and speech, which sometimes appear in polemics. As an example of the first type, boys(or men) might talk amongst themselves that women have a tendency to "blabber on the phone", and there might be a reverse type of comment from the other gender(I've heard that as well !). While that might not be nuanced, sensitive, or totally fair, I would not call it "vitriolic", if one says "blabber" instead of "effusive" or "demonstrative".

To bring a personal example of this in intra-Orthodox matters, I remember a Centrist person saying something, that while it could be construed as highlighting the strengths of his own group, could also be understood as stereotyping people in the Yeshivah World. I, personally, thought that statement in question was unfair and a stereotype, and should therefore not have been said, but I understood the remark in the context of the communication that was taking place, which was one aimed at highlighting the strengths of his own group, to his own audience.

In fact, this person had previously spoken about appreciating the positive in all groups, and that was what convinced me to introduce myself to him months later, when I met him at a different event. We had a interesting, enlightening, and pleasant conversation, but I would never have thought to do that, had I had not been convinced that he was genuinely respectful of all groups, and that he would not look down at me, as being a stereotype of the "other group".

On the other hand, there is also the category of actual strident language that goes beyond "internal-talk". One might argue that the Right-Wing, on the account of defending Torah principles, may be inherently more "at risk" for using intemperate language(which they believe to be justified, in order to defend a certain understanding of Torah). One should point out that parts of the Right, have learned from experience, and have become more nuanced and sensitive in some of their public communications. To the extent that this is true, we should recognize that as a positive happening, instead of only focusing on a laundry list of past, painful indiscretions.

On the other hand, the more modern group, is also human, and when attacked may also "get carried away", and respond in kind, perhaps months or years afterwards. I've heard a remark where a person from the Left, in order to defend his ideology, was "carried away" and said something which was clearly out of line, and which I felt deserved an apology and retraction. In the case I'm thinking about, however, I still thought to myself at the time, that the person making the remark was basically a decent person, but got "carried away".

Is the solution to have open communication between groups? Should differences be brought into the open, or be papered over? I would say, it depends. Sometimes, as in personal relationships, achdus(unity) is indeed best served by bringing up differences, and talking things through. On the other hand, if both sides don't make a concerted effort to display good-will, dialogues can turn into debates, and in such cases, achdus would be better served by not focusing on the differences. I suppose it depends on the situation, and on the people involved.

I will conclude that if a person or group takes the "high-road" when attacked, and resists the urge the respond in kind, they(or the group) come out better, both objectively, as well as in the eyes of the public.

I would also appreciate if on this thread, people keep things as general as possible, and do not bring up names, as I do not want it to, ironically, turn into a contest regarding which side made greater indiscretions.

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