Thursday, October 25, 2007

Benefits of Public Self-Criticism

There was a discussion on this thread about the issue of Ramat Beit Shemesh fringe-element zealotry. Someone termed such discussion "Charedi bashing".

The other side of the issue is that if there is silence, people might say that the Charedi world:

1) does not care about its own image

2) allows itself to be taken hostage by fringe elements

3) is not open to honest self-criticism

We would then have to apply the same standards to all other groups--Jewish or non-Jewish-- if and when they are defensive about discussing and responding to outside criticism. Yet most people, at least political conservatives, argue that all communities need to take responsibility with " the buck stops here " attitude, and that denying responsibility and shifting blame is no option.

It is true that there are distinctions between the Israeli situation and certainly some of the situations in the previous paragraph, and also that the Charedi community has strong and healthy points. There is also complexity to Ramat Beit Shemesh fringe zealotry, which includes factors such as different groups and the secular-religious kulturkampf, both of which I would guess, make a quick solution difficult.

But if the default Charedi response is to not take a strong public stance, then it becomes harder to argue any cogent pro-Charedi position. Without appropriate self-criticism, Charedi defenders wouldn't be able point to honest, public self-reflection as part of a larger position which they have staked out.

This is in addition to people within the Frum/Charedi world--children and adults-- who will question, saying, "what in the world is going on?".

Perhaps there could be an interactive session with rabbonim and lay leaders, where people can honestly debate, ask questions and offer suggestions without fear of criticism, given that the issue is as important as any other community issue to Klal Yisrael and Kvod Shomayim.

Americans can apply pressure, which will help those who wish to thwart the zealots, but there is a need to harness that collective power and work with the rabbonim in Israeli community.

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