9 thoughts on “The Observant Reader

  1. Pleae, please, PLEASE, do not post references to restricted or Member Only web sites…. not all of us wish to sign up for services all over the net.

  2. Pleae, please, PLEASE continue to post references to restricted or Member Only web sites…some us would like to see them and do not mind registering to do so.

  3. So, since nobody commented on the story itself, I’ll start. As someone who grew up in the weird world of Syrian Modern Orthodoxy, but left it for more inclusive and progressive pastures, I have to say I could not disagree more with Shalit. If an author has grappled with orthodoxy and rejected it, then his or her novels will contain his or her take on orthodoxy. That doesn’t make them false, just from one particular perspective. Of course all orthodox folks are not hypocrites, but enough think they have the monopoly on truth (that is what orthodoxy means [correct belief]) that these authors characterizations seem highly warranted.

  4. You don’t have to look only to the “orthodox” to find Jews who think they have a monopoly on the truth.
    The intellectual gymnastics that some Jews go through to distort the concept of “dina d’malchusa dina” is something worse than hypocrisy.
    But traditional Judaism is an inclusive “monopoly” – if you’re Jewish, you’re in. More mitzvos, fewer mitzvos – a Jew’s a Jew.
    The demographic trends in America point to huge forces to be reckoned with- Jews are becoming more observant. Is it any wonder that this makes many people uncomfortable? Even the Reform rabbis now wear more kipot than they did ten years ago.
    That so many people are putting their experience to paper is just a logical progession of these trends.
    The “coldness” of English Jewry or “weirdness” of Syrian Jewry (the latter is not my word, but Yusul’s) may have more to do with national baggage picked up along the way, rather than Yiddishkeit itself.

  5. I agree with Yusul. The journalist doesn’t seem to treating the material with both eyes. For many formerly Orthodox writers (and people), their eventual departure from Orthodox life began not with the failing of the orthodox community, but the failings of Orthodox individuals, perhaps family or friends, who presented their devotion to Hashem in poor and often inconsistent ways. After leaving the modern orthodox world myself, I began to realize that my uncomfortability with that lifestyle did not start or end with the problems of “the community” or “of orthodoxy as a way of a life.” Those who have left that fold are often the ones who impart an incredibly religious or devotional perspective among their secular friends. I feel closer to orthodox judaism now that I’ve left it. In no way does a person who reject Orthodoxy fail to perceive it in a truthful way, nor does a writer like Englander do an injustice to “Orthodox movement” by writing stories about fully human characters, who also happen to be from Boro Park…

  6. Shalit gives some very specific – and damning – examples of the sort of axe-grinding some previously-Ortho writers are engaging in. These are the adolescent “everyone is a hypocrite” type things – the straw men and cardboard cutouts that all to often are used to stereotype ALL religious people in the secular media/culture.
    So we get “a fistfight that breaks out in synagogue over who will read from the Torah; a sect whose members fast three days instead of one and drink a dozen glasses of wine at the Passover seders instead of four; a man whose rabbi sends him to a prostitute when his wife won’t sleep with him.”
    This is just from one of these author’s works. Shalit has other examples.
    These are way beyond justification as “presenting their perspective” – not the least because, as Shalit points out, their works are specifically promoted as somehow being more “insider-y” and authentic when in fact they are gross caricatures…
    This is like the Jew-baiting editors who get a liberal Jew to write an “Israelis are just like Nazis” article – then protest “but he’s Jewish” to cover their anti-Semitism.
    Unfair, dishonorable – and immature.

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