Saturday, August 21, 2010

The OU, power, and kashrus

With regards to my last vlog, some people expressed the thought that the OU can't break from the haredi world because the two are so intertwined. It is requested that I imagine the consequences of the haredi world boycotting the OU's kashrus label.

The short-term pragmatism of maintaining the haredim under the tent for power-purposes is outweighed by the theological problem of encouraging deference and reverence (and let's not make beef about it, they do encourage deference and reverence, particularly through NCSY) to people who really don't know what they're talking about on important issues of the day, resulting in consequences as extreme as book-banning, magical thinking, and a frum adolescent being enrolled in Tranquility Bay. For the man who knows that this way of thinking is wrong, his encouraging (of children even!) of deference is unethical. Moreover, the ethos of the increasingly powerful group so co-opted is diametrically opposed to the Modern Orthodox roots of the OU. If Modern Orthodoxy wishes to make itself known as a viable intellectual option, it must make clear that Haredi Orthodoxy's ethos is outside the realm of the acceptable or forever be rightfully condemned to the judgment David Singer once made of its historical leadership -- that they do not take their supposed values seriously.


  1. Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it.
    The problem with trying to exclude the Chareidim from Orthodoxy is that one cannot see the Chareidi community as monolithic. One might agree that the Satmars with their strong rejection of anyone different than them, the Lubavitchers with their meshicistism or the strong Litvaks with their Godol worship should be seen as "the other". However, what about moderate ultra-Orthodox folks who do show respect for MO? (And yes, there are some)
    Then there is the second issue - while MO may be more logical and sensible in many issues, when it comes to hard-core lomdus and major poskim, there are all in the Chareidi camp. By excluding them, you also force the removal of Artscroll's gemaras and chumashim from MO shuls since they are Chareidi products. You risk splitting families that have members in both communities. Then there is the issue of providing poskim on the same calibre in the MO community for Torah guidance who don't have some ties to the Chareidi world. Are you prepared to go that far?

  2. Regarding the "haredi moderates" and "haredi-lites:" Methinks that as long as haredi rabbis are involved, the concern is how to get the kids to defer the gedolim. And that may take the form of subtle advice to go to Derech instead of Lev Hatorah or it may take the form of the OU going to a three-day retreat to absorb the teachings of Aish and Ohr Somayach rashei yeshiva, but it's there. There may be exceptions who think that the bachur could hack Brisk (that is, R' Avraham Yehoshua's), but he'd be better off at YU; but those people are so exceptional that they not warrant the concern of a general statement as I made in my post.

    I do hope Modern Orthodoxy goes through a proper transition process and switches to Koren-Sacks; what could be wrong with that?

    I don't worry about splitting families. Firstly, I know families where the haredi children don't consider the Modern Orthodox parents properly frum (Flipping Out? discusses that phenomenon a bit). And really, if they're consistent, they shouldn't consider their parents -- who don't heed the words of the gedolei poskim -- frum. So the split's there already. Incidentally, they get around it the same way baalei teshuva deal with their parents -- they have a positive relationship while considering their parents to be ignorant of true Judaism.

    I think Modern Orthodoxy must train poskim. But however it chooses to address that issue, having a status quo of the Modern Orthodox rabbi asking the rabbi of the local kollel what to do just completely undermines Modern Orthodoxy. There are better options. For example, LWMO rabbis I've met who completely disagree with R' Hershel Schachter's worldview (including one who is quite eminent) still generally try and defer to him in psak din.