I have just been quoted about my supposed views and I dont recognize it and agree with little of it. So you are needlessly keeping me up tonight to respond. (gezel shanah!)I am usually online- you and others can always contact me to fact check first to see if you are correct.
Some, such as Professor Alan Brill, now divide the American Orthodox community into three wings: haredi, CO and MO, where the CO straddle the ideological divide between right and left. In other words, in addition to being stricter in halakhic observance, the CO are more skeptical of the MO values described above. Some call this middle camp “gray” or “gray hat,” connoting a kind of diluted version of haredism.
According to Brill, CO has a more conservative religious ideology than that of philosophical MO. Moreover, beginning in the 1980’s, children from MO homes have become increasingly CO, partly as a result of their study in Israel post-high school. As a result, a generational shift is gradually condemning the philosophical MO to extinction.
But there are problems with Brill’s analysis. While the changes he documents are real, they seem minor relative to the overall continuity between philosophical MO and CO. Moreover, the generational shift suggests that this new ideology is nothing more than a new generation’s version of their parents’ MO, sort of a MO 2.0. Third, Brill sees CO as a uniquely American phenomenon; yet there are striking parallels in the Israeli equivalent of MO, which has also shifted toward more scrupulous observance of Halakha, more obedience to rabbinic authorities and more distance from secular culture.
Why the MO of the 60’s and 70’s changed is a question deserving a separate post. But the changes MO underwent point to larger cultural trends that include rising affluence, a more assertive rabbinic class and changes in the zeitgeist. In any case, no one will argue with Brill’s central point – that the MO community has moved right over the last 40 years.
Let me start with the last point, I do not think that the community has turned right. I go out of my way to avoid ever saying that. I even avoid it on the blog. I leave right and left for politics and Hegelians. (I have the word once in one article-it was added by an editor). I emphasize difference and change not right or left.
I find the Centrist community and ideology of the community more acculturated into Americanism, popular culture, and suburbia. It also has parallels with the Evangelicals. That is a specific pattern of combining Orthodoxy with modern life. I do not see Centrist as closer or further from either modern Orthodoxy or Haredi or “engaged yehivish.” It is its own ideology. I do not see it as more or less religious than any other group. I have 100’s of posts here trying to create a thick description of the workings of Centrism.
Now back to the beginning. No, No, No. I do not see three groups out there. I leave that for online quizzes and hockers. I have never discussed hats or sociological continuities.
If we are talking philosophic or ideological trends, then I see about 12-14 groups within Modern Orthodoxy. Their differences are not right and left but canon, genealogy, ideal, and goal. The most important one that some have already picked up on is “engaged yeshivish.” That would be an essential category.
The full 12-14 groups would include as a category the still inchoate “open orthodoxy,” the pedigreed “European community orthodoxy” and Israeli imports “New Religious Zionists” and “Hardal.” They are philosophic or theological trends so one person can be connected to more than one. I repeat, one person can be connected to more than one of them the same way a person can be connected to more than one philosophy, political theory, or theology. And I certainly dont arrange them on any spectrum. I certainly did not mention a correlation with strictness of observance or laxity.
As a sociologist, one needs to create a study that has predictive value. Most of the hock is not sociology and has no real correlation between observance and group.
If we talk about sociology of the community, then first tell me what form of sociology or demographic you are using. Sociology measures social behavior, an institution, or a demographic. Then we have to discuss what are you using to create your set, frame analysis, an institution, or a neighborhood. I think the author is confusing me with the sociologists who discuss “sliding to the right.” On a popular level especially on the blogs, ideology and sociology are confused. Observance levels may or may not have anything to do with a given ideology.
I do not come to this not as a sociologist, and am not answering sociological questions. Rather as an intellectual historian, or student of contemporary relgion.
If we are dealing with social organization, then mid-twentieth century documents used to write “the Young Israel movement” “the Agudah movement” The Conservative movement” “The Mizrachi movement” or the “Bnai Brith movement.” In that sense Centrism and the older Modern Orthodoxy are one movement.
The term modern orthodox has three distinct meanings in our context.
(There are more meanings but not in our context. For example, the term was first used in the 1920’s for synagogues that were mixed seating and had English preaching eventually leading them to become Conservative.)
The first meaning is the coiners of the term, the 1950’s and 1960’s modern rabbis. They called themselves modern (small m) and Orthodox. Then it was an ideology because the sociology of the synagogues were simply called Orthodox. They thought it applied to a few dozen rabbis.
The second meaning is that in the 1970’s and 1980’s the term was applied to a social group that went to certain school, camps, and a specific university- they called themselves Modern (capital M) and Orthodox. Those who lived in certain neighborhoods or had certain professional and family profiles were now Modern Orthodox. But the ideologies and religious practices of these communities were so varied and diverse, the term became a catch-all still subject to debate and hock.
The third meaning which is the one that I am most interested in- is that many groups since the late 18th century have mediated both modern and Orthodox. The term was invented in the US but we can use it to discuss diverse phenomena in many countries. I am not interested and dont know “who” is modern Orthodox but I am interested in “what” is modern Orthodox. Especially,how it works, and what forms of hybrid, acculturation, synthesis, and bifurcation are created.
Now, to the middle point. Centrism may or may not be just MO 2.0. But if it has more continuity or more break it needs to be discussed in a context of different versions of ideology and with clear criteria for what is continuity and break. My sole interest is ideology and theology to determine these ideological distinctions. If you want to discuss other questions of continuity and break: Is Isaac Breuer’s Agudah Neo-Orthodoxy a theological continuity or a break with Hirsch’s Israel-Mentsch. (I am not discussing hat color or what they ate out.) Are the Datiim Ha-Hadashim a break or a continuity with Kibbutz Hadati ideology of SHaL or from that of 1960’s Mizrachi? Is Italian traditionalism, the same as that of chief rabbi British, or cathedral American?
You write “the CO are more skeptical of the MO values.” How do you know that? I certainly have no interest in ascribing motivations or even recording motivations- a path filled with the danger of projection at every turn. I treat groups as discrete entities.
And as a final coda, I dont lump all Haredim together. They have many separate ideologies with clear distinctions.