An op-ed piece in the JPost today caught my eye — apparently the Jewish People and Policy Planning Institute‘s conference on the Future of the Jewish People was planned and organized to the exclusion of the charedi community.
Granted, many “pluralistic” events often mean “we invite everyone except traditional Orthodox people”, but to exclude the fastest growing sector of the Jewish population from a conference talking about the future of the Jewish people is a horrible oversight at best, a patch in panim (slap in the face) at worst.
Like David Eliezrie, a Chaba”d shliach from Yorba Linda, California, writes:
The conference boasts an impressive array of academics and organizational leaders, but it seems there is little or no attendance from the more religious end of the Jewish world. I am sure there are some there sporting yarmulkes but few, if any, have come from the more haredi sector.
If one takes a look at Jewish life it’s without question that the more Orthodox are succeeding in the crucial area of Jewish continuity. While assimilation chips away at many in the Jewish world, the Orthodox seem to be both retaining the loyalty of the next generation and expanding their numbers. We are far from a utopia – parts of the ultra-Orthodox community are insular and have minimal concern for the totality of the Jewish people, unless it’s on their own terms. And there are internal problems that are acute and need to be met.
Still, even a casual observer will note that we are not doing something right. And around the world, in community after community, traditional Judaism is gaining root and expanding…
Not everyone in the frum community is prepared for this type of engagement. Some see little value in dialogue with more secular Jewish leaders. However, in the interest of intellectual honesty they should at least be invited.
Failing to do that raises a deeper question. Is not the unwillingness to extend such an invitation merely the mirror image of a narrowness found among segments of the haredi world? Shouldn’t the spirit of liberal tolerance prompt organizers to seek partners outside their own world view?
And let it not be forgotten — the charedi world (at large, even if Meah Shearim is still not quite there yet) is changing and becoming more diverse. From staunch chardali Zionists to Neturei Karta-niks, from those who make niggunim to those who make hiphop, the charedi world is becoming more of a mosaic as it is joined by various ba’alei tshuva, converts, and a new generation of kids (52% of Israelis under 18, according to the last census, are charedi Orthodox) who have been exposed to varying levels of the secular world and are beginning to incorporate new ideals into tradition.
Many of us are the future of the Jewish people. Continuing stereotypes of the “oppressive white guys with long beards” with 18th century mindsets benefits no one. Open dialogue — or at least open invitations to have such — benefit k’lal Yisra’el.