Category Archives: sociology

R. Bernard Lander, Officer Krupke, and Rav Moshe Feinstein

Rabbi Bernie Lander A”H died last week. He was from the G.I Generation also called the Greatest Generation. They lived through the depression, WWII, and the rise from the tenements of NY to middle class. They tended to seek solutions in social sciences and thought of law as social realism. He came of age in the Judaism of the 1930’s atheistic and Communist fleeing from religion. His writings followed the Chicago school of social science, which looked at society based on class, caste, and place of immigrant settlement.

Lander’s Phd and book was on what to do with juvenile delinquents. The short films Dead End Kids and Bowery Boys were intended to portray what downtown Jews were like. The Chicago school considered that juvenile delinquency portrayed in these films was due to the breakdown of the social fabric of family, school, religion, and community. Think of the song “Gee, Officer Krupke” from West Side Story where the kids are blamed by judge, social worker, psychologist, and police. Lander in his Towards an Understanding of Juvenile Delinquency blamed the breakdown on inter-group conflicts, like between the Sharks and the Jets. Bear in mind that West Side story was originally to be Jews and Irish in a rumble. Lander always thought in terms of class and social structure. He advocated education for the lower classes. In the 1960’s, he followed the ideas of alienation. “My conclusion,” he said, “was that the rioting was a reflection of how students were being treated as automatons. There was no relationship between students and university anymore. They were rioting against the depersonalization of American education.

Lander had been working on social issues since he worked for Mayor La Guardia to serve on a Civil Rights commission in 1941 and “from 1961 to 1969, Rabbi Dr. Lander researched poverty at Notre Dame, a Catholic University” He researched the juvenile delinquents and poverty of Spanish Harlem. His answer was education [and the Church]. He wrote a report on the need for government funding for education and housing for the Lavanburg Corner House for delinquents. “Dr. Lander pioneered no-frills education when adult education for the working class was in its infancy.”

So when he created Touro, he was thinking in terms of class and caste and creating a school for urban ethnic lower class Jews. “Touro, which was created in part on the model of more than a dozen small Catholic colleges interspersed throughout New York, was Lander’s way of enabling tradition-minded Jews to acquire a college education without having to go through the secularizing and depersonalized university machine.” Currently, Jews have forgotten about the class issues and see everything as religious ideology.

Lander as a member of the Greatest Generation saw things in terms of class, while the silent generation who were the major leaders of Modern Orthodoxy saw things in terms of the stable suburbia of the 1950’s. The Silent Generation catered to the middle class, spoke of liberal arts, and avoided getting their hands dirty with [gentiles or] social problems. By the 1980’s, modern Orthodoxy was already catering to a predominately second generation college, while Lander, still aiming at first generation college, understood that in social terms without an education then you don’t have social stability. If one is not thinking about religious ideology but about class, then there was little difference between his schools in 123st and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blv in Harlem and his Brooklyn campuses.(If anyone from Touro is reading this and wants to commission a full 20 page article, then let me know).

Rabbi Lander dealt with more American social issues, had more exposure to gentiles, and had a more dynamic vision than the younger YU products who assumed the 1950’s would last forever. Most of the thinkers of the 1950’s Conservative movement were forged in the Greatest Generation, while modern Orthodoxy was more of a Silent generation movement (except for the older rabbis such as Rackman and Israel Miller).

The last time I saw Rabbi Lander was March 2009 was when the Catholic Cardinals came for their annual visit and were hosted by Touro. The topic was to “train young believers in modernity, to train young believers in tradition.” There was a tour of the Holocaust museum and a plan to work together on Holocaust education, a discussion of current issues, and then speeches over dinner of fellowship and working together. It was a far cry from the responsa of Rav Moshe Feinstein from over 40 years prior. (I have the teshuvah at hand, as well as Aleksandrov and the Dali Lama in Hebrew, as part of my forthcoming BOOK TWO)

19 Adar I, 5727 – March 1, 1967 To my honored friend, Rabbi Dov Ber Lander
Regarding the matter that you promised to attend the meeting on the 23rd of Adar I where Catholics and Protestants together with Jews from the Synagogue Council of America and Rabbis from the Rabbinical Council of America will meet. Even though you will only speak general words, it is obvious and clear that this is a severe prohibition of appurtenances of idolatry.

For a plague is now spreading in many places because of the new pope (Pope Paul VI) whose only intention is to move all Jews away from their holy and pure faith to accept the Christian Faith. For it is easier to accomplish this through these methods than through hate and murder that previous popes have used. Therefore any dealing with them even on general matters and all [the more so] actual coming close for a meeting is forbidden with the severe prohibition of “coming close to idolatry.” There is also a prohibition of enticing and leading astray.”
Even if you and the other rabbis who go there will be careful with your words and you will also not flatter the priests and their faith as do the Reform and Conservative rabbis, who entice and lead others to go astray, many people will learn from them that it is permitted to go to the events such as the lectures of the missionaries.

Furthermore, you should not even send a letter there expressing what you planned on saying for any interaction with them further assists their evil plans. It is also forbidden to participate in any manner in meetings like these for I heard that they want to have in Boston and Rome. Anyone who joins with them will be considered one who entices and leads astray the Jewish people. For this that the Catholic missionaries tried so hard for all these years and had very little success, but through these rabbis who lack knowledge who want to join with them, it is possible that many will apostate. We cannot justify the one who entices by saying this was not his intention; he is guilty of a capital offense in this act and all that consequences. .

Therefore, do not be concerned with not keeping your promise to attend and speak. For on the contrary, perhaps through this that you do not go on account of the prohibition, perhaps others will not go and you will bring merit to the community. Your Friend, Moshe Feinstein.

Based on David Ellenson, “Two Responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.” Chronicle of Hebrew Union College, Volume LII, Nos. 1 and 2, Fall 2000-2001.

When reading Rav Moshe, did you agree with his visceral reactions? Do you think that Rabbi Bernard Lander who had been working for Notre Dame thought that all Catholic clergy were out to convert the Jews? Do you think that he thought that in 2009 when hosting the Cardinals

When the septuagenarian Orthodox Rabbis who proudly proclaim that they follow Rav Soloveitchik, were busy flattering the Cardinals and discussing how they have been good friends for decades and how much they trust the Cardinals- were they still in the apprehensiveness of the 1960’s? Were these senior Orthodox rabbis, for whom the Catholic clergy are old and trusted friends, still viewing the meetings as a hidden missionary agenda? When those Jews who work in community organizing are continuously working with Catholic clergy in social projects, are they still waiting for the conversionary speech? What about when Orthodox rabbis or Orthodox organizations state that Catholic social theology and Halakhah are the same on marriage and that they should work with their Catholic friends in banning same-sex marriage? Are they still expecting missionary activity after the joint worldview statement? How about when Orthodox rabbis eagerly listen, and then applaud wildly, when Pastor Hagee tells them that God will bring the Jews to Israel where they will even convert after the wars of Gog and Magog?
Is the change just due to the Culture Wars and new found Islamophobia or is there something more?

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

New issue of Sh’ma – DIY Judaism

Marshall Sklare’s classic work Conservative Judaism (1955) declared Orthodoxy dead because orthodoxy means Yiddish derahsas not English sermons, it means old world customs, it meant rabbis without a secular education, it meant no college and no professions. What about the rising modern orthodoxy of the 1950’s? They were few in number and most importantly when Jews who moved to suburbia in 1950 viewed their live options and their memories, it was the Orthodoxy of their childhoods. They forever visualized Orthodoxy in those terms, which justified their choices even into the 1980’s when their original vision of Orthodoxy was no longer reality.

We have a similar retention of an original childhood vision by modern orthodox who still refer to the Conservative congregations of their youth that were unlearned Orthodox synagogues without a mechitza, with a traditional rabbi paternally leading a semi-observant congregation. In those days, Conservative Jewish centers taught peoplehood and ethnicity.

The MO never ask: what is done today? What people do today is indie and DIY. When gen-y opts out of Orthodoxy for intellectual and cultural reasons -they are attracted to indie.

Well, the current issue of Sh’ma is an essential read to catch up on current affairs, especially for this snowy day. It describes the new world of Do It Yourself and indie Judaism. They want everything to be a co-op or a collective activity. They do not seek wisdom of the boomers or an organizational hierarchy, they are DIY.

[I cannot seem to create a direct link. It seems that you now have to sign up – It is still free but they get your email. Let me know if one can get in directly. Here are the links:
www.shma.com/shma-subscriptions
www.shmadigital.com/shma/201002/?u1=texterity

Steven M Cohen wrote a great article in the issue (It is on page 3) on “The New Jewish Organizing” outlining five points (1) indie and spiritual minyanim (2) culture- music, magazines, film, poetry (3)learning in LIMMUD format (4)social justice (5) new media- social networking. Cohen points out that the gen y calls themselves activists, not leaders. High quality davening is valued over building an institution. They don’t want to change the system like Boomers, rather they want to create opportunities for like minded people with similar sensibilities to gather. They don’t like the preoccupation with divisions and boundaries of the older generation. Cohen writes that they blur the boundaries of” education and entertainment., prayer and social justice, learning and spirituality.” They remain single into their 30’s and exist in a separate social realm than those settled. Religious experience is more important than numbers attending.

To develop Yosef’s comment, the younger gen y’s are moving out but not pulled by the Conservative movement circa 1975, which still lingers mainly in the imagination of the modern orthodox. It seems Yosef is affirming my original definition that the gen-y’s are in a new place. Yet all the gen-x and boomers can do is use the phrase post-orthodox and think of the issues of the 1980’since they have not visited the new minyanim. Some Boomers do not get that for the DIY movement, MO synagogues seem intellectually and cultural stagnant like a 1970’s Jewish Center. The gen y’s are pulled by the new indie vision. Yosef seems to be correct, the older generation may call them post-orthodox, but they are indie and DIY. The current issue of Shema is probably the best list itemizing what might be considered as post-orthodox to a Boomer and treated as natural to a gen y.

But just as I remember Conservative leaders were still telling people in the 1980’s that one cannot be Orthodox and go to college or be a professional. Even though no one who was mastering the halakhic world of Rav Soloveitchik students ever thought about Yiddish and the Lower East Side. I suspect that the older Orthodox will still think for years to come that the younger set is leaving to return to the liberalism circa 1978.

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

Post-Orthodoxy and loss of the 20th century definition of Orthodoxy.

Since it has reached my attention from people in real life -not online- that the term post-orthodoxy has gone from a meme to a buzz word, I will devote a few more posts to the term. Unlike my original post on the term among gen –y, I have been told that some people 35 years older are finding it a meaningful buzz word. I am not sure what we will have in the end of these posts, but here goes.

Let us now consider the term from the perspective of a thesis ‘POST ORTHODOXY’: AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF THE THEOLOGICAL AND SOCIO-CULTURAL BOUNDARIES OF CONTEMPORARY ORTHODOX JUDAISM NEHEMIA STERN (unpublished MA, SUNY Binghamton, 2006.) Stern is studying for a PhD in anthropology and I assume that someday he will be a fine scholar. I thank him for providing me with a copy. However, the thesis was a journeyman’s work and he should not be judged on it. I will be reorganizing the material, providing a tighter framework than the original and a stronger conceptual scheme.

Stern claims that the clear sense of Orthodoxy as a fixed denomination as defined by the era of Rav Moshe Feinstein is over. Now we have a wide variety of practices and many lines to divide people formerly under a common banner of the term Orthodoxy. Meaning that the working definitions of the 1970’s and 1980’s are gone and people are now without a fixed order and have to work things out afresh.

Stern claims that lay people are now figuring out what it means to be Orthodox through their discussions on the internet, in turn this creates the formation of many micro cultural identities. The micro-cultures are the many echo chambers, group thinks, and blogging communities that have created new cultural boundaries.

Stern insightful point is that topics that once had a variety of accepted rabbinic opinions, in which one knew that there were liberal and strict opinions has now been reframed as whether one is a heretic, outside orthodoxy and whether one accepts rabbinic authority. Inside/outside has replaced strict/lenient. The topic that is mediated is no longer the halakhah as found in the Rabbinic books rather the topci debated is Rabbinic authority. Topics are no longer debates of two rabbinic authorities in which a practitioner accepts one position. Now, there is only one correct position and those who disagree are heretics.

Even very small decisions in the grand scheme of things, such as a decision whether to eat Hebrew National franks is not decided as a Kashrut question, but as a snowball discussion about gedolim, science, rabbinic authority, and obedience. Rather than a strict and lenient position questions open up a Pandora’s box of issues of boundary issues.

Finally, these changes are incomprehensible using older models so the baby-boomers are clueless. Stern claims that those whose model is still from an earlier decade have trouble with the new shifts and mixing of older categories. There are dozens of patterns of belief and practice, few of which continue the recognized older patterns.

In sum, Post- Orthodoxy is the sense that the older definition has faded, that everything is now pitched as question of boundary and heresy. In this new era, lay people create their own boundaries using blogs and newspapers and are thereby creating a post-Orthodox world of new identities.

In a post Orthodox world the choice of practices and rituals one performs or takes part in, tell more about a person then his/or her choice of denomination. Separations are made through practices and not so much through beliefs. This paradigm of praxis differs markedly from the ways in which Rabbi Moshe Feinstein attempted to shape Jewish Orthodoxy within the twentieth century. For Feinstein the boundary of that which is intolerable rested on ones denomination. For example, Feinstein could recognize one who desecrates the Sabbath as being within the
frame of Orthodoxy, so long as that desecration occurs out of a sense of teyavon (desire). Thus, if one is required to work on the Sabbath to feed ones family that is considered ‘desire’. If one watches television on the Sabbath out of a sense of loving television, that
too is desire. However, the instant that desecration turns into an ideology, an intolerable deviation suddenly occurs. Thus, Reform and Conservative Judaism’s acted as intolerable deviations (from the stand point of Orthodoxy) because they ignored or negated (from the Orthodox perspective) various practices and rituals out of a sense of ideology, and not desire.

In the post Orthodox era of the twenty-first century, individuals gather either on the internet, in groups, or via letters to the editor, and discuss this wave of ‘crime’. In the process of discussion, various sensibilities and ideologies are being negotiated. These negotiations pierce the philosophical heart of what it means to be ‘Orthodox’ in the twenty-first century. The definition of rabbinic authority, the role of rabbinic authority, the delineations between Science and Torah, between governmental control and communal practice, are under a constant process of negotiation and mediation. Some individuals may discuss these themes in an effort to forge definitive answers. Yet in many ways, these efforts are irrelevant. Answers have never been reached. These discussions however, serve a social function. They operate to demarcate and define social and religious boundaries between people. By discussing that which is intolerable, by questioning the very notion of the intolerable, an Orthodox group, “supplies the framework within which the people of the group develop an orderly sense of their own
cultural identity”

Whereas in the previous century the discourse rested on the interpretation of the opinions of the cultural broker (indeed there existed a plurality of mutually respected interpretations), in the 21st century the discourse has shifted slightly to the authority of the culture broker (Da’as Torah) and subsequently to the creation of theological boundaries and separations.

Thus over two packages of heretical franks…The conversation that ensued was ethnographically fascinating in that we could not discuss the legal topic of Kashruth without discussing the meta-thematic issues of Rabbinic authority.

Individuals who were primarily educated in the previous century may have difficulty comprehending religious conceptions that question classical boundaries… Where once two or three delineations were enough to categorize ones Orthodoxy, today a plethora of different delineations are being made.

Stern offers lists of the controversies of the last few years, all well known to those who are keeping up with the world of blogs. The controversies include Slifkin, metizah bepeh, organ donation, bugs in the water, shidduch crisis, Hindu temple hair, and Chabad messainism, Much of the MA is devoted to a collection of snippets about these topics.

Stern claims that these controversies eroded the fixed positions of religion and science, religious authority, and education. There are five new criteria that have destabilized the older definition: Jewish outreach, Gedolei Yisroel, the semiotics of holiness and purity, and invoking of acceptance of rabbinic authority They created unclear lines of who is on what side. And most importantly, they have served among lay people, who inhabit blogs, newspapers, and eat at pizza shops, as a means for them to argue, debate, and reach new understandings of Orthodoxy.

The new positions created in these popular venues are not intellectual or even ideological positions but cognitive frameworks for dealing with change. Reactions are in crisis mode and emotionally charged because of the need to regain a stable world order. For Stern, these new restructures, even when speaking about Rabbinic authority, are highly personal. An Orthodoxy “that is constructed of our own experiences, language, culture, and temperament”

A feeling of ‘dramatic crisis’ is created, as the boundaries and definitions of Orthodoxy are called into question…. Controversies and newly found religious stringencies are used to help reinterpret a definition of and a boundary for Orthodox Judaism.

For the purposes of this thesis, religious fundamentalism occurs when an individual (or a group of individuals) reflexively reinterpret their theological assumptions. In this paradigm, modernity acts as a backdrop to this reinterpretation. Fundamentalism then acts as more of a cognitive then an ideological framework. Martin Reisbrodt in his essay Fundamentalism and its Resurgence in Religion (2000)… For Reisbrodt religious fundamentalism refers to a“type of religious revival movement which reacts to social changes perceived as a dramatic crisis. In such movements people attempt restructure their life worlds cognitively, emotionally, and practically, reinvent their social identities and regain a sense of dignity, honor, and respect (2000. 271).

The physical sites of such controversies may be a pizza store, a kitchen, the internet, or the pages of a newspaper
The standard Orthodox meta narratives that deal with, denominationalism, rabbinic authority, and secular knowledge are no longer enshrined in stone when viewed in the light of a world “that is constructed of our own experiences, language, culture, and temperament”

Post-Orthodoxy is a term for those drawn into the vortex of ever new controversies, those who feel an urgency to deal with them, and those who use them to help create new lines.

To be continued in a Part Two with some of Stern’s examples of the new varieties and my own reaction to Stern attempt at providing historical causality. But do you think his analysis rings true?

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

Post Orthodoxy and Post Evangelicalism again

Since many did feel there is something to the comparison between Post-evangelical and Post-Orthodoxy, I will continue exploring it a bit more.

Sometimes there are moments that capture a certain feeling. 1946-7 was the feeling of the returning GI not going back to his hometown. 1959-was the threat of nuclear attack, 1968 was the sexual revolution and the counter-culture, and 1984 was the year of the Yuppie.None of these moments create a denomination they affect all denominations. The returning GI’s created all the suburban congregations of all denominations.

And the social mood of the returning GI’s- should not be quickly conflated with Film Noir and French Existentialism of the same years. Different trends and mood can occur at the same time.

This year is a sense of the post-Evangelical era. (There is also post-Mormonism)  It may not really kick-in for another few years. (The same way that those people who watch MadMen are able to see that things are unraveling toward the late 1960’s.) Evangelical religion was driven back by a variety of things such as the Scopes trial and Elmer Gantry in 1926. It retreated and then in the 1950’s wanted to be modern, educated and relevant. It wanted to show that it does not have to be seen as backwards, rather it should be seen as intellectual and modern. It started growing again as a reaction to the 1970’s. By the 1990’s they were seen as mainstream. They could show themselves as doctors, lawyers, and politicians; they are no longer backward.

Traditional Orthodoxy was Yiddish speaking and seen as not modern, not scientific, not family oriented, not democratic, not educated. Post WWII Modern Orthodoxy responded to these limits with concern for the modern. Then, with the return to religion in the 1980’s, Centrist Orthodoxy embraced conservative positions on social and cultural issues combined with an identification with Yuppie values (The latter point itself is big and important topic). And like the new Evangelicals, it effaced history and had a non sacramental approach (mizvot no longer change the worlds and performance is not cultivated). It shared a dispensational eschatology with evangelicals, Biblical promises are happening now but only as applied to Israel.

To return to the original Post-Evangelical post. The Christian Blogger IM in his post What Do I Mean by Post-Evangelical? August 7, 2006 notes some the history outlined above. He notes that Evangelicals were “Attempting, and largely failing, to establish a non-fundamentalist identity.” He offers a variety of thought of new turns of thought including: there is more possibilities in the classic texts and more relevant interpretations than currently taught; the boundaries of in and out matter less and the current boundary may not be true, creed is important but it is not to be used in an authoritarian way, show respect to those of other denominations; interpretation only occurs in a complex human matrix; the meaning does not fall from the sky in a magical or timeless way; He also notes that he does not worry if some post-evangelicals are heretical or out of step- it will sort itself out over time. He states that the clergy’s role is not to define who is right and wrong. We need to return to the sources and to the spirit (experience, prophecy, intuition).

We must be aware that there is far more in the Bible than the Reformation dealt with, and that many of our problems today are addressed by those hitherto unnoticed or undeveloped aspects of the Bible.

Those who want to bang the drum for a 450-year old tradition are dooming themselves to irrelevance. Our only concern is to avoid being beat up by them as they thrash about in their death-throes. I mean that I do not recognize the boundary lines of American evangelicalism as the boundary lines of true Christianity. I mean that creeds and confessions have positive and defining roles, but do not function as popes and unassailable authorities.

I mean that it has become virtually impossible to practice any form of Christian community that does not interact in some way with the larger church in history and reality. (I salute those who attempt to practice pure forms of fundamentalism, etc. They have my respect.) I mean that I do not share the hostility and suspicion of all things Catholic or catholic that is endemic to evangelicalism. I mean that I recognize that Christian belief emerges from a matrix of the text of Holy Scripture, the history of interpretation, cultural and sub-cultural presuppositions, the use of reason, the place of experience, the wisdom of the teachers of the larger church and the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing more light. I embrace this more complex understanding of Christian belief as part of the great stream of Christian existence, and I reject any notions that Christian belief falls from the sky as a magic book that exists apart from other components of human experience.

I mean that words like “postmodern,” “emerging” and “missional” are in the process of being defined and filled with meaning, and are not to be ridiculed and rejected out of hand because some who use them are out of step or even heretical.

I mean that I reject the idea that the primary role of a minister is to define other Christians as wrong. . I mean that the death of evangelicalism opens the door for a return to the sources…I mean that our reverence for previous epochs and events in church history must be tempered with an awareness that the work of the Holy Spirit in the church continues, and what was believed in the past is not immune from the light that may break forth in the ongoing present.

Full version here.

And in the article on the Emergent Church that I posted here “The Emergent Church and Orthodoxy” the author listed at least four points worth considering: Prophecy, greater focus on worship and ritual, not being worried about boundaries, and liberal politics.

I ask the Gen-Y/Millennials out there: How do they see themselves different than Centrism? What do they think are the sins and excesses of Centrism?

I ask again: How much of this is applicable to changes within Orthodoxy? Does it sound familiar? Are their differences? Is this change inevitable? Which of these will change Orthodoxy more and which will change it less?

If I wanted I could collect the Facebook answers to the info line “Religious Views” to show that something is up. I have hundreds of examples of those raised Orthodox defining themselves in all sorts of convoluted ways. Don’t worry I will not do it, but a such a listing of self-identifications bespeaks a mood.

Remember, this is a moment or a mood – not an ideology or denomination. Post-evangelical is like Yuppie or returning GI – a set of values that will play itself out in a variety of diverse ways. How will these winds blow over the face of traditional practice? What will be the VARIED responses? I await details from those in the field.

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill • All Rights Reserved

What is the Civil Religion of the Orthodox? Models of Relgion and Society

Philip Gorski, Professor at Yale offers three attitudes at the immanent frame toward the relationship of religion and state in America.

Liberal secularists believe that the religious and political spheres should be radically separated; religious nationalists believe that they should be tightly integrated; and civil religionists believe that they should be overlapping but independent.
The governing metaphor of religious nationalism in the United States is blood: blood as in blood sacrifice on the battlefield, and blood as in the blood purity of the nation. The deep roots of this tradition are to be found in the bloody wars and priestly sacrifices portrayed in the Hebrew Bible.

The governing metaphor of liberal secularism is autonomy: autonomy as in individual choice and institutional separation. The deep roots of this tradition are to be found in the atomistic and anti-religious creed of the Epicureans. Faint echoes of it can be found in, say, the writings of Thomas Jefferson.. Its most complete—and virulent—expressions today are Randian libertarianism on the right and soft-Nietzschean post-modernism on the left.

The governing metaphor of civil religion, finally, is covenant: covenant as in collective commitment to a set of sacred principles and collective responsibility for their realization. The deep roots of this tradition are to be found in the Biblical covenants between the Ancient Israelites and their God. Its more immediate roots can be traced to the New England Puritans

For the religious nationalist, America is a “Christian nation” or, perhaps, a “Judeo-Christian nation.” In this vision, religious and political communities should be coterminous.

For the radical secularist, America is a liberal society comprised of autonomous individuals. In this vision, religious and political communities ought to be completely distinct.

For the civil religionist, finally, America is a moral community that seeks to balance solidarity and pluralism. In this vision, the religious and political communities inevitably overlap with one another.

Now how would this apply to the Orthodox community? They seem to use the religious nationalism model when dealing with Israeli society. But it seems that the majority of Centrist Orthodoxy follows liberal secularism in America. Why? They keep their religion and their Americanism bifurcated. Yet, there are selected groups and rabbis in the community that do accept civil religion. But which? On the other hand, some parts are beginning to identify with American religious nationalism and identify with Republican or Christian right values.

Can we conceptualize the community not as right and left but based on which of these three models they follow? Or to keep things closer to the way people think now- which model does Open Orthodoxy follow? (The latter may be a much harder question than it looks.) Which does the yeshivah world follow?  How about a supporter of AIPAC? Which does Chabad follow? Which does Aish Hatorah follow taking into account their production of the movie “Obsession” on their view of terrorism? Or do the  various blogs follow? And in these distinctions, one’s age and generation does matter and will change the results. Among orthodoxy, who is a libertarian, who a covnant thinker of values, and who a nationalist? Does it change the conception of orthodoxy?

The religion of the 1950’s was a Judeo-Christian covenant. At the end of the 1970’s Robert Bellah reoriented everyone and said civil religion was empty. “Writing amidst the collective funk of the mid-1970s, Bellah famously concluded that the American civil religion was an empty and broken shell” And it led many clergy to preach that one must turn to religion to reclaim society. Without religion one has the vacuous worship of the self. What does it mean when rabbis in 2009 are still saying that religion will save you from “Sheilaism”?

When Rav Soloveitchik writes in Confrontation that “it is quite legitimate to speak of a Judeo-Christian tradition…However, when we shift the focus from the dimension of culture to that of faith… the whole idea of a tradition of faiths and the continuum of revealed doctrines…is utterly absurd…” In the 1950’s he seems to follow the civil religion model? But does Lonley Man of Faith agree? Which of the three is he associated with now?
I was asked in the comments on an earlier post: How does all this evangelicalism relate to the thinking of thinkers like Taylor and Habermas. Gorski offer an answer:

.Now, there are plenty of people… who would disagree that civil religion is a necessary means to this end. First, there are non-theistic neo-Kantian rationalists—such as Rawls, Habermas, and Audi—who would be somewhat uneasy about the religious dimension of civil religion. Then, there are theistic neo-Aristotelian confessionalists—such as MacIntyre, Yoder, and Hauerwas—who would be somewhat uneasy about the civil dimension of civil religion. But each critique supplies an answer to the other.

Among Orthodox, are they more worried about the civil or the religion in American civil religion?

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill · All Rights Reserved

Catholic Schools and Jewish Day Schools

In the 1960’s the Catholic Ghetto walls came down. In the 1950’s Catholics went to Catholic school, lived in Catholic enclaves, and had all their social needs met by the catholic community.  One only left for graduate school or when certain professions required one to have non-Catholic co-workers.  In the nineteen sixties, everything changed. Catholics wanted in live in new locations,  new suburbs and exurbs, the idea that one should only live around Catholics declines and the cultural revolution of the 1960’s called into question the provincialism and parochialism of these enclaves.  Some of these Catholic Ghettos dissolved entirely – from near total allegiance to the Church to minimal attendance, and even then only by the elderly.

Catholic teaching taught that building a parochial school is more important than a Church and that one would lose one’s faith in public school.  Jews at this point were in favor of public schools, and many of the orthodox saw day schools as entirely unneeded for girls and a hot bed of Zionism.

The question is: Can the Orthodox Jewish community learn anything from the Catholic example? Are there things to learn about rapid declines of enclaves? Are there any reasons it wont happen to places like Teaneck? Will the young gen y- millennials share their parents Modern Orthodox provincialism?  What about when they move to new cities, new professions or disdain living with the gen-x’ers? Dont just say we are committed to our religion in a way that Catholics are not.  Catholics were more committed and  had a much longer tradition of day schools.

Let’s turn to day schools. The Catholic system lost most of its attendees in the nineteen sixties. By the end of the decade they were down to 15%.  N ow 40 years later they find themselves as an unsustainable system strapped for cash and may have to close. What can Orthodox Jews learn from it? I am not sure but we should ask ourselves what we can learn.

The quotes below are from a variety of papers. Some are based on a 2007 Notre Dame Study and some from the Bergen county schools. One factor they cite is that without nuns they have to pay real salaries for teachers. Is anyone here old enough to remember when Jewish day school teachers were seriously underpaid? We cannot go back to hiring Holocaust survivors who don’t live in our communities or to being months behind on salary payments.

Also many Jews and Catholics went to parochial school to avoid the public school in immigrant neighborhoods. We don’t live in immigrant neighborhoods anymore and many public schools are of the same class and caste as the parochial schools. The article also points out that we expect more. We are not first generation college bound anymore. There are currently high expectations for a school. When parents were lacking in either general  or Jewish studies they expected less. Now what?

Many parents of children in Catholic schools attended these schools themselves and look back nostalgically at a day when Catholic schools, just a step past “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” were staffed by nuns, brothers and priests. Today, however, they account for a mere 4% of the staff, many of them in administration.

The glory days of the U.S. Catholic parochial school are gone, according to a new University of Notre Dame report, and the church must rethink its mission in order to recapture the school system’s lost luster.
The nuns and priests who educated generations of American Catholics are almost gone, retired or deceased.. Faculty salaries are too low while tuitions and costs are rising, the report says.

Catholic schools are in steep decline, their enrollment having “steadily dropped by more than half from its peak of five million 40 years ago.”Among the better-known reasons: 1) nuns and priests who once staffed teaching positions have retired and their ranks have not been renewed in the near-total absence of new American “vocations”; 2) as urban Catholics suburbanized over the past two generations, Church officials for various reasons did not choose to follow them out by establishing suburban schools in large numbers; 3) having fully entered the mainstream of American life, Catholics are less drawn than previously to separate institutions.

There was a time when parochial schools seemed almost omnipresent, when the daily migration of kids in plaid clothes seemed to fill every street. However, with enrollments plummeting and one school after another closing its doors, the torrent of Catholic school kids has become a trickle, and it looks like the days of Catholic education may well be numbered.

When it comes to Catholic education in America, the numbers are downright startling. In 1965, approximately half of all Catholic families sent their kids to parochial schools; today, roughly 15% do so. While there are numerous reasons for this, the big one seems to be that the cost of parochial school has vastly increased. Once upon a time, Catholic classes were largely taught by clerics. Today, however, fewer Catholics are choosing to enter the priesthood or the nunnery; in fact, one statistic states that there are presently more nuns over 90 than under 50 years old.

Another concern has been a reduction in religious definition. For many people, Catholicism has become less of an all-consuming lifestyle and more of a part-time identity. Where Catholic education was once a responsibility for Catholic parents, it is increasingly becoming an expensive luxury.

Furthermore, in areas where public education has improved, parochial education has suffered. For example, in Northern Virginia, where I grew up, Catholic schools once offered the best educational choices. However, as the area’s schools have improved, Catholic education has simply become a more expensive option.

You might have not seen the former paragraphs which were from NYT and other papers. But what about those who live in Bergen county? Did you not see the Bergen record two months ago? Has anyone called any of the Catholic parochial schools to see if anything can be brainstormed together? This article is on the remaining 15% of Catholics still going to parochial school having to leave because of the 2009 recession. They closed 40 out of 137 schools in the last few years. In addition, the local public schools which uses licensed teachers are currently seen as offering a superior education.

Bergen Record – Catholic schools enrollment drop blamed on economy
Friday, November 13, 2009 BY TONY GICAS

CLIFTON — The economic downturn has created frightening unemployment rates, forced many Americans to foreclose on their homes, brought sticker shock into the nation’s grocery stores and has even changed the way people plan their children’s education.

More specifically, many New Jerseyans have either decided to take their children out of parochial schools or send them to public schools because of the financial commitment required at most Catholic schools.

According to Brian Gray, a spokesman for the National Catholic Education Association, enrollment at America’s Catholic schools reached its peak in the 1960s with about 5.2 million students. By 1980 that number had dropped to approximately 3.1 million and last year the nationwide enrollment hit 2.19 million.

In September 2000, the Newark Archdiocese had 137 grade schools in Union, Essex, Hudson and Bergen counties. Now, it has just 97. The school population in neighboring Paterson jumped by 1,000 students this year, a 3.5 percent increase in the district that has about 28,000 students, the district reported.

“I think down the line if the economy continues this way the tuition at parochial schools will remain unaffordable to many and the numbers will continue to decline,” Tardalo said.

“Therefore they may desire a private education for their children, but if they have to they’ll opt to send their children to a public school.”

He said parochial schools offered “an equivalent educational experience” during his time as a Catholic school principal, however he did stipulate their teachers do not face the same licensing requirements as public school teachers.

I exclude from my discussion the wealthy Jewish prep schools like Ramaz becuase they are based on having a financial endowment  and have a different constituency. The question remains- Will the average Jewish days schools decline the way the Catholic schools did? Why not? Why do we think we have a more sustainable system than the Catholic schools? Even if everyone struggles to keep their kids in their current day school, will those 10  years younger than you want to enter this rat race? Will your kids want to continue this struggle? Anyone have good data about those moving to the new Sun Belt suburbs? I have no solutions, only historical questions.

This post came from running into a neighbor HF in the grocery for whom this is a major concern. It is a write-up of a discussion that occurred by meat aisle. I do want to write this up as an op-ed at some point.

Copyright © 2010 Alan Brill · All Rights Reserved

Foodie Judaism, Solar Powered

I have a neighbor who is a physician who switched twenty five years ago from his Conservative upbringing to Orthodoxy because the latter offered a Yuppie lifestyle (bye bye Maneschewitz and chopped liver, hello Cheers Italian restaurant) and rational medical ethics (bye bye appeals to tradition).
So, what now?
Food has changed for many Americans, as Anthony Bourdain wrote in the NYT last week “Foodie Nation” (December 27, 2009)

Something important happened to my former profession in 2007. I’m still unsure what, exactly — but there was a shift, the world of food tilting on its axis. Dining rooms were busy with ever more food-obsessed, better-informed customers…Chefs were now trusted enough to persuade customers to try what they themselves loved to eat. Hence the hooves and snouts and oily little fishes that increasingly popped up on menus

Or Wikipedia states:

. . . foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news . . . foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food.

So my question is: How will this play itself out in religious groupings? Not everything is theology or law, people like to live their lives with those of similar lifestyles. How will those who go to Fairway to prepare for Shabbat only when they cannot get to a farmers market play itself out? How will those who prefer cerviche to gefilte fish create demarcations? or artisan bread in place of sugary egg challah? (once upon a time – the move from Orthodoxy to Conservative included a switch from herring to lox.)
From the other direction- will those who crave the heimish cholent or the frat house buffalo wings create community distinctions? Parts of Orthodoxy have actually been going with this trend as the restaurant Solo has hired 2 of the Top Chefs as consultants and there will be a molecular gastronomy restaurant similar to the non-kosher WD-50 opening in Jerusalem.
These shifts are never single cause and involve broader lifestyle changes. If the person that I mentioned at the start found doctors becoming Orthodox (there was still unwritten quotas and restricted positions for Jews entering medicine before). Yesterday’s NYT said that some of the in new fields will be narrative medicine, high tech security, and sustainable energy-solar energy. Whichever group gets there first with the “torah of the imperative of solar energy” or “halakhot of security” wins them as congregants. This is not so far off since on linkedin – among the friends of my Israeli friends- the largest number work for NICE systems- which develops high tech security. Have you heard any shiur geared to that industry lately?
So which rabbi or community will the solar energy engineer who feels there is a vital need to make our homes and synagogues energy efficient and reduce our global footprint pick? What if the engineer is also a foodie?
Copyright © 2010 · All Rights Reserved

The Emergent Church and Orthodoxy

There are a variety of post-modern turns to religion: including Post-modern Christianity, post-liberalism, emergent church, weak theology, post-evangelical, theology without Being, minimal theology, Paleo-orthodoxy, and radical orthodoxy. (Personally, I  do not necessarily agree with, or accept, or identify with any of them  except post-liberalism) Some of the new turns are liberal and some are orthodox.  Some are academic and some are popular. Some are ideas and some are social tends. And some are for everyone. while others are only for gen x and gen y – leaving the baby boomers out.  We live in a fluid decade where a Jew raised in the reform movement who starts wearing Zizit, putting on tefillin, and keeping Kosher can still be comfortable in Reform and where those raised Orthodox are still part of the social entity Orthodoxy regardless of believe or practice. Even within Orthodoxy, an ecstatic breslov Carlbachian, a scholarly interested in academic Talmud, a baby-boomer fighting what they perceive as chumrot, and someone advocating GLBT awareness- may or may not have anything in common with each other. .

Since my blog post on post –evangelicalism has generated an interest- I will offer a bit more on a related topic- The EMERGENT CHURCH. But when you read it, the question remains to map out where Judaism is similar and where it is different than the Evangelicals. As I asked in the first post: What needs to be added in the Jewish case? Are Jews playing themselves out in the same way? Where are the differences?
Here is the WIKI definition of the emergent church – I am not sure how it relates to Jews.

The emerging church (sometimes referred to as the emergent movement) is a Christian movement of the late 20th and early 21st century that crosses a number of theological boundaries: participants can be described as evangelical, post-evangelical, liberal, post-liberal, charismatic, neocharismatic and post-charismatic. Participants seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a “postmodern” society. Proponents of this movement call it a “conversation” to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature, its vast range of standpoints and its commitment to dialogue. What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community.

The emerging church favors the use of simple story and narrative. Members of the movement often place a high value on good works or social activism, including missional living or new monasticism. Many in the emerging church emphasize the here and now. The movement favors the sharing of experiences via testimonies, prayer, group recitation, sharing meals and other communal practices, which they believe are more personal and sincere than propositional presentations of the Gospel.

I am not sure how much the younger generation of Jews are using narrative, are doing good works, charismatic, or creating a new monasticism.

There was a good article a full three years ago attempting to unpack the Emergent Church that will be helpful in comparing Jewish trends to Evangelical ones.

Five Streams of the Emerging Church

Scot McKnight | posted 1/19/2007

Following are five themes that characterize the emerging movement. I see them as streams flowing into the emerging lake. No one says the emerging movement is the only group of Christians doing these things, but together they crystallize into the emerging movement.

Prophetic (or at least provocative)

One of the streams flowing into the emerging lake is prophetic rhetoric. The emerging movement is consciously and deliberately provocative. Emerging Christians believe the church needs to change, and they are beginning to live as if that change had already occurred. Since I swim in the emerging lake, I can self-critically admit that we sometimes exaggerate.

Brian McLaren in Generous Orthodoxy: “Often I don’t think Jesus would be caught dead as a Christian, were he physically here today. … Generally, I don’t think Christians would like Jesus if he showed up today as he did 2,000 years ago. In fact, I think we’d call him a heretic and plot to kill him, too.” McLaren, on the very next page, calls this statement an exaggeration. Still, the rhetoric is in place..

Postmodern: Mark Twain said the mistake God made was in not forbidding Adam to eat the serpent. Had God forbidden the serpent, Adam would certainly have eaten him. When the evangelical world prohibited postmodernity, as if it were fruit from the forbidden tree, the postmodern “fallen” among us—like F. LeRon Shults, Jamie Smith, Kevin Vanhoozer, John Franke, and Peter Rollins—chose to eat it to see what it might taste like. We found that it tasted good, even if at times we found ourselves spitting out hard chunks of nonsense. Postmodernity is the collapse of inherited metanarratives (overarching explanations of life)

Jamie Smith, a professor at Calvin College, argues in Who’s Afraid of Postmodernity? (Baker Academic, 2006) that such thinking is compatible, in some ways, with classical Augustinian epistemology.

Others minister with postmoderns. That is, they live with, work with, and converse with postmoderns, accepting their postmodernity as a fact of life in our world. Such Christians view postmodernity as a present condition into which we are called to proclaim and live out the gospel.

They don’t deny truth, they don’t deny that Jesus Christ is truth, and they don’t deny the Bible is truth.

From a theological perspective, this fixation with propositions can easily lead to the attempt to use the finite tool of language on an absolute Presence that transcends and embraces all finite reality. Languages are culturally constructed symbol systems that enable humans to communicate by designating one finite reality in distinction from another. The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry.

Praxis-oriented

Worship: I’ve heard folks describe the emerging movement as “funky worship” or “candles and incense” or “smells and bells.” It’s true; many in the emerging movement are creative, experiential, and sensory in their worship gatherings.

They ask these sorts of questions: Is the sermon the most important thing on Sunday morning? If we sat in a circle would we foster a different theology and praxis? If we lit incense, would we practice our prayers differently? If we put the preacher on the same level as the congregation, would we create a clearer sense of the priesthood of all believers?

Orthopraxy: A notable emphasis of the emerging movement is orthopraxy, that is, right living. The contention is that how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes. Many will immediately claim that we need both or that orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy. Most in the emerging movement agree we need both, but they contest the second claim: Experience does not prove that those who believe the right things live the right way. No matter how much sense the traditional connection makes, it does not necessarily work itself out in practice. Public scandals in the church—along with those not made public—prove this point time and again.

Missional: The foremost concern of the praxis stream is being missional. What does this mean? First, the emerging movement becomes missional by participating, with God, in the redemptive work of God in this world.  Second, it seeks to become missional by participating in the community where God’s redemptive work occurs. The church is the community through which God works and in which God manifests the credibility of the gospel.Third, becoming missional means participating in the holistic redemptive work of God in this world. The Spirit groans, the creation groans, and we groan for the redemption of God

Post-evangelical –-A fourth stream flowing into the emerging lake is characterized by the term post-evangelical. The emerging movement is a protest against much of evangelicalism as currently practiced. It is post-evangelical in the way that neo-evangelicalism (in the 1950s) was post-fundamentalist. It would not be unfair to call it postmodern evangelicalism. This stream flows from the conviction that the church must always be reforming itself.

The vast majority of emerging Christians are evangelical theologically. But they are post-evangelical in at least two ways.

Post-systematic theology: The emerging movement tends to be suspicious of systematic theology. Why? Not because we don’t read systematics, but because the diversity of theologies alarms us, no genuine consensus has been achieved, God didn’t reveal a systematic theology but a storied narrative, and no language is capable of capturing the Absolute Truth who alone is God. Frankly, the emerging movement loves ideas and theology. It just doesn’t have an airtight system or statement of faith.

Hence, a trademark feature of the emerging movement is that we believe all theology will remain a conversation about the Truth who is God in Christ through the Spirit, and about God’s story of redemption at work in the church. No systematic theology can be final.

In versus out: An admittedly controversial element of post-evangelicalism is that many in the emerging movement are skeptical about the “in versus out” mentality of much of evangelicalism. Even if one is an exclusivist (believing that there is a dividing line between Christians and non-Christians), the issue of who is in and who is out pains the emerging generation. This emerging ambivalence about who is in and who is out creates a serious problem for evangelism.

Political A final stream flowing into the emerging lake is politics. Tony Jones is regularly told that the emerging movement is a latte-drinking, backpack-lugging, Birkenstock-wearing group of 21st-century, left-wing, hippie wannabes. Put directly, they are Democrats. And that spells “post” for conservative-evangelical-politics-as-usual.

Now—where does this apply to the new generation of modern Orthodox Jews and where do they differ? Why? This is not Baby-boomer liberal Orthodoxy – so where is it going? Do not take this one article and treat it as the definitive word or as the best definition. Dont make it into a Truth. There are many other articles, books, and differing opinions on Emergents, especially since it is a conversation. It was chosen as a temporary quck -fix for clarity. But the question is where do Jews fit into the conversation? Which of these five points apply to Young Jews and which dont?

© Alan Brill 2010

Rick Warren’s new agenda:what we can learn from it?

Someone in the comments mentioned that my post was similar to a NYT op-ed and said it must be a meme going around. It is not a meme but that we all subscribe to the same list serves of religion information such as the Pew foundation that study and conduct surveys of religion in America. Orthodoxy, except for the truly sectarian, follows these trends as much as any other group does. So if you want to know the range of positions available at a given time they provide the guidelines. Orthodoxy will follow other similar conservative groups. Chief Rabbi Sacks is closer to Pope Benedict. NY Centrist Orthodoxy is closer to certain aspect of the Evangelicals and the Kiruv organizations are closest to other aspects of the Evangelicals.
At the end of last month, Pew held an interview with Rick Warren to let journalists know where things are going. Rick’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, is the best-selling nonfiction book in American history – over 30 million copies. That was the first quarter century of his career and corresponds to the religious turn in America. He has now turned to broader concerns. These are some of the directions and causes people will want from their Orthodoxy. Whoever gets there first will claim them

We do training of what we call the three legs of the stool: business leadership, church leadership and public leadership in government.
We have over 4,500 small groups. They meet in every city in Southern California.
The second signature issue of our church we started in 1993, 10 years later, and it is called Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a Bible-based recovery program. It’s similar to AA but it’s built on the actual words of Jesus.
The third signature issue we began in 2002, and that is our AIDS initiative for people infected and affected with AIDS.
The fourth signature issue we began in 2003. It’s called the P.E.A.C.E. Plan. It’s a global humanitarian effort to take on the five biggest problems on the planet: poverty, disease, illiteracy, corruption and conflict. P.E.A.C.E. stands for Promote reconciliation, Equip ethical leaders, “A” is assist the poor, “C” is care for the sick and “E” is educate the next generation.

Notice his working together with lay leadership and government agencies. He divides his Church into many focus groups “parents with a Downs child” “parents of an ADD child” “parents of twins.”
His work with AA was done in Judaism by Rabbi Abraham Twerski and several elements of the Engaged Yeshivish world, not YU. Centrist Orthodoxy does not relish the thought of working with addictions as part of the rabbinate. Aids treatment is not part of the community at all. Finally, the community does not make as its mission to fight poverty, disease, illiteracy, corruption, and conflict. This last one is where the future of American conservative religion lies.

WARREN: the future of the world is not secularism. The future of the world is religious pluralism, and we must learn to get along. It is not secularism. There was the myth in the 20th century that if we just educate people they won’t need God anymore.
I was the keynote speaker for ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America, which is the largest convention of Muslims. It was here in D.C. on the Fourth of July. There were 25,000 Muslims here in town, and they invited a non-Muslim to be the keynote speaker.

This affirmation of religious pluralism from an exclusivist Evangelical Christian is where things are going. And unlike the 1980’s and 1990’s where Evangelicals said “woe is me- the secularists are after us;” Rick Warren is now boldly going out into the world and trying to put relgion in the public sphere (Don’t confuse his position with that of First Things and David Novak.) Many college students participate in interfaith events as part of the post 9//11 world, even Orthodox. We have had orthodox Jews and Muslims discussing difficulties in dietary laws and hair covering, Catholics and Orthodox Jews holding joint Friday night dinners, and groups of several faiths meeting to each talk about their experiences- not theology or doctrine but personal narratives.

I have many, many who are gay leaders across the nation who have worked with me on AIDS. Kay and I have personally given millions of dollars – millions of dollars personally – to help people with HIV and AIDS. We’ve worked with all kinds of gay groups on these issues. I wrote those guys apologies and said, you guys know I didn’t mean this. Oh, we knew. We knew it, Rick.
But all of the criticism came from people who didn’t know me – 100 percent. Not a single gay leader who knew me personally criticized me. Not one. All of it came from people who didn’t know me personally because I didn’t have the relationship. That goes back to this thing about if you don’t have the relationship, where do you know where that guy’s head is anyway? He said that. He didn’t correct it. Well, that’s not their fault; that’s my fault.

My message is to the individual, and that is, every individual matters. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done, what you claim to be or – you matter to God and you are loved unconditionally. You can’t make God stop loving you. Here’s my philosophy of life: If God gives me a choice to reject him or love him – because it’s not love if I’m forced to love him – if God gives me a choice to reject him or love him, then I’ve got to give everybody else that choice too. And that’s why I believe in America. I’ve got to give everybody the choice.

This is his philosophy on GLBT issues as an evangelical. He does not support Gay marriage but would not support the anti-legislation either. The press and the blogs love to tear him apart from both sides. The web is filled with statements hinging on his every word to see what he accepts or rejects. In contrast, Rev. Richard Cizik who was Vice President for the National Association of Evangelicals and was leading evangelicals toward ecology and global stewardship (another role model for orthodoxy) expressed his support for same sex unions and that he was closer to supporting same sex marriage and was forced to resign from his leadership position.

Melinda Gates, who was a friend of mine said, Rick, I get it. The church could be the distribution center for health care. I said, not only health care, for everything else. You can use it for education, you can use it – all five things that we’re talking about in the P.E.A.C.E. program. I said, let me give you an example.Then we started teaching them more things like how to dress a wound, all the way up to how to administer ARVs. Today, right now, I have 1,400 trained community health care workers – it will be over 1,500 by the end of December – in an area that had one doctor a year-and-a-half ago.

Notice he is friends with confirmed agnostic Melinda and Bill Gates. And when he asks for money it is not to build churches or parochial institutions but to offer health care in Africa. Young Jews like AJWS and Hazon.

Third is I added up all that the church had paid me in 25 years and I gave it all back. I knew I was being put under the spotlight, and I never wanted anybody to think that I do what I do for money. I don’t. I do it because I love Jesus Christ. And I love people.
We’re not going to change our lifestyle one bit. I still live in the same house I’ve lived in for 17 years. I drive a 10-year-old Ford truck. I bought my watch at Wal-Mart. I don’t own a boat, I don’t own a plane, I don’t own a vacation home. I didn’t want to be a televangelist. The second thing is seven years ago I stopped taking a salary from Saddleback Church, so I effectively retired.

See any Orthodox leaders going this route?

We lowered the age of the leadership body in our church by 16 years in one week. We had a group of pastors who have been with me pretty much since the start that we call our elders. Most of us are in our 50s, mid-50s, and we have led the church all these years. All along we’ve been mentoring the next generation, which is what I’m doing. I’m spending the rest of my life mentoring the next generation. We had a group of young guys who were in their 30s and a couple reaching 40, and in one week we turned over the leadership.

This is important for the change in leadership style– see this quiz that I posted a while ago.Take the Quiz

Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths: Eastern & New Age Beliefs Widespread

Last week, the Pew Forum has put out a report on how Americans believe in many contradictory things. Many Americans “Mix Multiple Faiths and that Eastern, New Age Beliefs Widespread”

Some 24 percent of U.S. adults surveyed (including 22 percent of those who identified themselves as Christians) say they believe in reincarnation — that people will be reborn in this world again and again. Other results of the Pew Research Center survey:

* Belief in Astrology: 25 percent
* Seen or felt a ghost: Nearly 20 percent
* Consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic: 15 percent

“The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories,” Pew analysts concluded. “Large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination — even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects.”

Nearly half (49 percent) said they have had a religious or mystical experience, defined as a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening.”

Most this applies in equal percent, if not greater, to the Modern Orthodox community. There are several of us who have watched the local community list serve for several years and have noted the ever increasing magic and superstition.

To return to the discussion of rationality from below. If someone calls the Modern Orthodox community rational and the Yeshiva world superstitious then does it correspond to the facts? On one hand it does not since the modern community displays all the beliefs of the Pew Report. Are they saying they want to be rational and rather than engaging in rationality they say other are others are superstitious?  Or is it that modern Orthodox has reached a point where they have a rational public Judaism but a magical superstitious private life. Meaning that to treat Torah as irrational is no good, but to live a new age life is OK. Or is it just a denial of what people actually think?

Maimonides would not approve of any of these beliefs but he was willing to write off the masses or at least seek to change them minimally by fiat. But what is this rationality of modern orthodoxy that does not involve rational training. It is like the works of Chassidus that describe dvekus as a way to warm people’s hearts even if they are not having such an experience. (This is a whole Michel Certeau  discussion to be had here)

One way of looking at this is to return to the discussion of rationality of the 1970’s of Wilson-Barnes-Winch. who used the African Azande tribe described by EE Pritchard as their model. The Azande tribe knew that trees fall for natural causes but if someone is hurt it had to be witchcraft , this way they can speak of theodicy and meaning. But this case of the tribe of the Modern Orthodox is a bit tougher to unravel.. What is the first order causality and what is second order? Do they live in the world of their secular professions and suburban lives and then make a leap into a second order world of Torah and halakhah in order to make meaning in life and give order to a secular existence? Or do they live in the rational world of their professions and have a halakhah equally secular of the supernatural so they find solace in the supernatural, new age, and superstitious beliefs? Is Torah their primary cosmology or are the beliefs of the Pew study their cosmology? Do they get meaning that transcends their rationality from Torah or from superstition?

An alternate way to explain things might be to compare the orthodox community to religion in China, where Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism exist simultaneously.  As Rav Lichtenstein, and others, have noted, halakhah functions as a proper order of life, providing education, hierarchy, values, and respect similar to Confucianism. Here is a possible extension after the Pew study, the superstition and new age functions like Daoism- it provided “scientific” explanations of sickness, of power and of magic.. People live surrounding themselves with forms of Daoism like Fung Shui and Chinese medicine. And finally, only some people, those more monastic and meditative, seek the greater explanatory force of Buddhism. So too here, while everyone does the ordered life of halakhah, the Jewish magic and new age is ever present in the community, while only some people go in for either philosophy or spirituality, akin to Buddhism, with their greater explanatory power but their greater removal from ordinary life.

Is there a Post-Orthodox Judaism that Corresponds to Post Evangelical?

Many of those who were raised as Evangelical in the recent Great Awakening of Religion are not returning to the Evangelical Faith of their parents. Statistics vary from 25%-80%. The Great return to religion is winding down.  Those raised with an intense Evangelical faith don’t naturally blend back into  mainline liberal Churches. They are specifically ex-evangelicals who have adapted liberal position.

So too in American Judaism, despite the triumphalism of orthodoxy Judiasm in the last quarter century and phony online statistics – Orthodoxy is witnessing similar phenomena.  We also have a large number of people who are ex-Orthodox, not believing in what they were taught, and adopting liberal positions but that does not mean they are comfortable with liberal Judiasm. Read the following and ask yourself: how many of them also apply to someone distancing him/herself from his/her Orthodox upbringing? How many are being argued on the Jewish blogs?

Post-evangelicalism is a term used to describe former adherents of Evangelicalism. includes a variety of people who have distanced themselves from mainstream evangelical Christianity for theological, political, or cultural reasons. Most who describe themselves as post-evangelical are still adherents of the Christian faith in some form.

Post-evangelical critiques of the evangelical church concern include but are not limited to:

  • Individualism and lack of theological depth
  • Anti-intellectualism
  • Narrow or excessively partisan political views
  • Lack of engagement in art, media, and society
  • Materialism and consumerism
  • Insensitivity toward homosexuals

Christianity Today explains that post-evangelicals have become willingly disassociated with the mainstream evangelical belief system over difficulties with any combination of at least the following issues:

1. Questions over Biblical innerrancy. Questions may relate to the Biblical record of history, contradictions between scientific and scriptural explanations of the nature of the Universe and humanity (e.g., the origin of the Universe, homosexuality) or the discrepancies in descriptions of the personality of God in the different books of the Bible. Shrouding these issues, are are how the cultural understandings and lingustical limitations of the written word have influenced the way Scripture has been recorded and handed down throughout the ages.

2 The moral failure of prominent evangelical leaders. Such failure has cast doubt over the entire evangelical movement.

3  Many post-evangelicals have come of age during times of increasing multi-cultural awareness in Western society. They are presented with the educational lessons of the validity of all cultures and necessity for a pluralistic world-view.

Publications identifying as post-evangelical include the blog Internet Monk

Now that was fun. How many sounded familiar? Any to add in the Jewish case? Do you think they have played themselves out in the same way in the Jewish community?

h/t –Here  is a recent blog post from the blog InternetMonk on the topic.

Update- please see this blog’s continued discussion on post-evangelical here. This one is important for the discussion of post-orthodox, and further discussion here on post-Orthodox, <a
And on the idea of labels and  “post” see here
And here on some of the changes within the evangelicals that may play itself out among Jews.

Update Dec 2012- After three years, the concept of a post-Orthodox moment still seems valid. Here are some later posts on the same topic.
A continuation of this post defining post-Orthodox- here,
A 2011 update on erosion- here,
the history of the term- here.

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Religion and Economics: Trust, Hell, and Keep it Minimal

Robert Barro, an economist at Harvard, and his wife, Rachel McCleary have returned to the question of the Weber thesis with rigorous statistical analysis, a pop article has some of their conclusions.

They found that the trust generated by a close knit community makes more money (and that is why the financial scandals have sent such a shiver in the community). Hell is a better motivator to attend services than theism, mere belief in God does not give enough incentive to waste time on religion. Long term literacy and skills raise income. And one need a certain ideal type of hell-less theism to create the world of Silicon Vally.

Does this explain why learning Torah is an activity that many value but don’t spend much time on? Since most Modern Orthodox don’t have a clear sense of hell, do they have a sense of punishment that keeps ‘em coming or is that why the community seems minimal at times. Is the tight knit social grouping all that is actually valued? What other applications does their reach have for the practices of the Jewish community?

On a larger scale, religious denominations affect economics by creating bonds of trust and shared commitment among small groups, both necessary qualities for lending and trade.. The Quakers of 18th-century Britain, renowned for their scrupulous honesty, came to dominate British finance. Ultra-orthodox Jews similarly dominate New York’s diamond trade because of levels of trust based on religion. Modern religious kibbutzim on average outperform their secular rivals, in part because of trust built through engaging in communal religious rituals.

Most strikingly, if belief in hell jumps up sharply while actual church attendance stays flat, it correlates with economic growth. Mere belief in God has no effect one way or the other. Meanwhile, if church attendance actually rises, it slows growth in developing economies.

McCleary says this makes sense from a strictly economic standpoint – as economies develop and people can earn more money, their time becomes more valuable. For economic growth, she says, “What you want is to have people have their children grow up in a faith, but then they should become productive members of society. They shouldn’t be spending all their time in religious services.”

Robert D. Woodberry, a sociologist at University of Texas at Austin. He has mapped how missionaries spread literacy, technology, and civic institutions, and finds that those correlate strongly with economic growth. He argues in part that this helps explain why the once-poor but largely Protestant United States surpassed rich, Catholic Mexico after 1800.

Governments worldwide have tried to foster their own versions of Silicon Valley, and, lacking the California Bay Area’s particular culture and history, have mostly failed. While education and rule of law might seem straightforward secular policies, the cultural forces that carry them into a society, including religion, have a lot to do with whether people respect them.

The bigger application of research into religion, she thinks, isn’t to foster religious imperialism but to build a better-informed economics, and in the long run, better policy.

More on Spirituality and secularization: Yoga, Jewish Yoga, and Hasidism

The Immanent Frame has a posting on     Taxing yoga: exercise or spiritual practice?

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported on a controversy that erupted over the decision by Missouri tax authorities to require yoga centers to collect and pay a sales tax on their classes. Yoga instructors have argued that they should be exempt from the tax “because the lessons include spiritual elements.” In this week’s off the cuff feature, we’ve invited a small handful of scholars to comment on the legal and cultural status of yoga and on the right of states to levy taxes on yoga centers.

Courtney Bender, Associate Professor of Religion, Columbia University

While the yoga teachers interviewed in the article are quite concerned that the state of Missouri considers yoga to be “entertainment” or “exercise” (unless, presumably, it takes place in a temple or a church), the category confusion surrounding yoga is nonetheless generative and valuable for those who teach it. The yoga teachers I met during a series of interviews I conducted in 2004 moved back and forth easily in spaces where they taught yoga as primarily exercise, primarily meditation, or primarily stress relief. These multiple capacities actually made it possible for yoga teachers to make a living. Likewise, it seems to me that they reveled to some degree in this possibility. They could argue that even if you didn’t “believe” in yoga it could help you.
Of course, not everyone thinks that this separation is possible—some teachers, and many outside observers, agree that it is not. But in this regard, yoga’s “spirituality” surfaces as a concern, or a danger. This Monday morning’s New York Post gives us a clear example. Several years ago New York City’s Department of Education contracted with an independent group to teach yoga and movement in dozens of elementary schools. When the Post got wind of this, it ran a story with a headline reading “‘Cult’ program in NYC schools.” Even though the techniques described seemed innocuous (if not downright silly), the reported dredged up fears of yoga as a plan to infiltrate the schools and brainwash innocents (not surprisingly, the article links the “guru” to a sexual harassment case). Within several hours of the publication of the story the city suspended this program.

1] How does this relate to our quandaries over self help and Neo- Hasidism? If I have any criteria for Hasidism of the eighteenth century  is an immanence that is enthusiastic, devekut, and mindfulness of God. The 21st century versions the immanence is about self, expression, exercise, and marketing.  Midpoints are more confusing.

2] There are now studios claiming to teach “Jewish Yoga” to emphasize that it is not foreign and to incorporate it under Jewish spirituality and Neo-Hasidism. They will do a renewal chant instead of a Sanskrit chant at the end.  I have no problem saying it is not Neo-Hasidism. But is it Jewish, Hindu or exercise (as Missouri thinks)? I ask becuase there are teachers of the dharma who find the term Jewish Yoga as offensive as Hindu Kabbalah or Christian Talmud. When the Swamis wrote to the Jews, they received a reply that this yoga is Jewish. The swamis are going Huh?!? it is our India tradition. The Jews respond it is Hasidism. My Jewish-Hindu encounter  article elicited emails to me from the Dharma side to help fight the degradation of their tradition.

Which brings us back to The Immanent Frame

Stuart R. Sarbacker, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Oregon State University

That there should be tension between the spiritual and material culture of yoga is not surprising, given its modern history. Modern yoga, especially the posture-driven variety that is popular in North America, is the product of a particular historical moment in which premodern forms of yoga (such as hathayoga) were merged with Indian traditions of martial arts and wrestling, European physical culturalist thought and callisthenic practices, Hindu universalism, and emerging ideas of “modern science.” The shift towards scientific and secular frameworks and the focus on the body (often through intense attention to the finest of alignments in posture, such as in the Iyengar system) broadened the appeal of yoga while often pushing its metaphysical moorings into the background. As a result of this, the contemporary yoga community in the United States represents a spectrum of traditions that extend from sectarian tradition-driven studios and ashrams to “free-floating” yoga courses offered at fitness centers such as Bally’s Total Fitness.

The fact that yoga brings together the exotic overtones of Indian spirituality with the more familiar exertions of Euro-American callisthenic and fitness traditions has certainly been a driving factor in the success of yoga in North America

Spirituality at B’nai Jeshurun

There is a new study from Synagogue 3000— The New Jewish Spirituality and Prayer: Take BJ, For Instance  Ayala Fader & Mark Kligman S3K Synagogue Studies Institute. This one looks at the success of BJ in NYC. I have picked out the theological sections.  BJ preaches a spirituality of finding God in one’s own life through an emotional religious experience. Their deity is a therapeutic deism with psychological elements- it seems the true fulfillment of Arthur Green’s theology in Seek My Face, Speak My Name: A Contemporary Jewish Theology (1992) or the undated pop version Ehyeh: A Kabbalah for Tomorrow (2002).

Central to BJ is the claim by members and rabbis alike that in order to experience God, individuals must “let go”  of rationalism and the intellect. The goal is to access an emotional part of the self which opens the individual to experience the “energy” of God, something which is found within each person. When it comes to prayer, comprehension of Hebrew (loshn kodesh), Jewish ritual or traditional Jewish music is less important than kavanah (“sincere intention”). By privileg­ing kavanah, the emphasis of prayer shifts from “obligation” (the mitzvah) to what congregants describe as the “freedom” to choose those aspects of Judaism that best speak to each individual’s experience of God.

[The] aim is to have religious practice create opportunities for what they call “spiritual experi­ence,” meaning the experience of God; but God must be re-concep­tualized in order to be relevant in the contemporary world. Marcelo explains: “We have to change the paradigm from the idea of God to the experience of God.” The paradigm for today’s Jews requires what the rabbis describe as a “God of love.” Jews today, suggest the rabbis, need a “reason of love” or they will abandon God. [Their ] “God of love” is not necessarily a supernatural figure. As an entity found inside the self, God is, in effect, human.

To find God, each person must search inside the self. This concept of God echoes humanistic beliefs, but is clearly distinct from secularism. The rabbis elaborate a post- rationalistic God, located in the emotional interior of each individual, not the intellect. The point of the commandments (mitzvot), claim the rabbis, is not to force us to “give up things” but to “open us up and purify us for God.” Jew­ish ritual practice, particularly prayer, is an individual choice one makes in order to experience the divine.

Self-exploration is often expressed in therapeutic language, but with the goal of personal transcen­dence. When there is closeness to, and individual experience of, God, an individual can become more holy in the sense of ascending to a higher level of humanity. As the rabbinic intern said: “It’s not separating the two, God and psychology. We’re not going to pass it over to the therapists…it’s about finding out where God is in your life… It’s about how you can grow holy in this thing… It’s co-opting psychology and lacing it in spiritual terms.”

Now the contextualization in studies on Spirituality and Evangelical Churches. It confirms that much of the Neo-Hasidism of liberal Jews shares much in style with Conservative Evangelicals.

Embodied religious practice comes also through the use in services of practices from a range of minority religions. A number of people talked about the use of “breath” and meditation techniques. Others adopt meta­phors of “healing and wholeness” drawn from therapeutic contexts. This kind of combinative religious practice is a com­mon feature of New Age spirituality (Rothenberg and Vallely, 2008). Individualized picking and choosing from world religions in order to satisfy personal needs is a feature of postmodern religiosity, a “tradition” favored by Jewish baby boomers (Cohen and Eisen, 2000). But at BJ, combinative religious practice is institutionalized, not left to individual personal spiritual journeys; it is part and parcel of the synagogue, modeled publicly by authoritative spiritual leaders, and framed as the revitalization of Juda­ism’s authentic and shared religious heritage.

BJ shares many goals and practices with North Ameri­can megachurches and evangelical seeker churches. These churches focus on Christian spirituality in large settings where members can be part of a growing, successful and innovative ministry (Thumma and Travis, 2007:158). Like so many at BJ also, evangelical seekers, predominant­ly baby boomers, decidedly depart from the denomina­tion of their upbringing, searching out religious fulfill­ment through individual choice and a therapeutic ethos with an anti-institutional bias (Sargeant, 2000:163-4).

However, BJ has a distinctive definition of what indi­vidual fulfillment means. Seeker churches satisfy thera­peutic concerns for self-fulfillment through an evangelical understanding of Christ’s salvation (Sargeant, 2000). At BJ, individuals encounter God through individualized and, often, embodied expression of affect. Concep­tions of God, too, differ of course. Anthropologist Tanya Luhrman’s description of a “new paradigm” church (2004), for example, describes how congregants learn to conceptualize Jesus as a “buddy.” BJ members, by con­trast, find God inside themselves. However, God only enters the emotional, non-rational, vulnerable aspect of the self.

Regardless, what makes BJ seem modern to so many is the way that the traditional liturgy is made to engage modern forms of self-construction, including introspection, self-cultivation, and personal freedom as the path to happiness.

Full Article Here

Does this sound familiar?“Catholicism lite,” against “Taliban Catholicism”

We tend to think that our divisions in the Jewish community are internally generated, rather than reflective of the divisive culture wars of the last 20 years. The article is on the extremes in the community. If you substitute “orthodox-lite” and “Taliban-orthodox” would it change the meaning? And if the trend readers are correct,  much of the ideological driven angst will dissipate with the new generation.

Recently John Allen published a column regarding young Catholics. Here is some of what Allen wrote and some comments from the Commonweal journal blog:

This new generation seems ideally positioned to address the lamentable tendency in American Catholic life to drive a wedge between the church’s pro-life message and its peace-and-justice commitments. More generally, they can help us find the sane middle between two extremes: What George Weigel correctly calls “Catholicism lite,” meaning a form of the faith sold out to secularism; and what I’ve termed “Taliban Catholicism,” meaning an angry expression of Catholicism that knows only how to excoriate and condemn. Both are real dangers, and the next generation seems well-equipped to steer a middle course, embracing a robust sense of Catholic identity without carrying a chip on their shoulder.

“Why would I want to join a bunch of people who seem bummed out about the church?” one asked. “What’s the attraction in that?”

Yet they were equally emphatic that their choice should not be read in terms of left/right dynamics, as if they were choosing a side. In fact, many said their politics don’t really conform to any ideological formation, and in any event they said they resent being boxed into categories they find artificial and restrictive.