Kotel caption contest

image06This photograph was taken this morning, during Rosh Chodesh prayers at the Kotel.

Women of the Wall were there and were kept very far from the Women’s Section and the Kotel by police.  The cited reason: security concerns.

It seems that since ultra-Orthodox girls’ seminaries are on summer break, and the girls had been ordered by their rabbis to arrive at the Kotel at 6:30am, the women’s section was overflowing even before the Women of the Wall service was scheduled to start.

Here are some captions to get the ball rolling…

“Whistle if you love sin’at chinam!”

“Egg-tossing, unnecessary roughness on the defense.  The penalty is declined.  First down!”

Fear of a Black Planet

When the Shoah, antisemitism and Israel-as-sacred-underdog narratives no longer capture the imagination and affiliation of the mainstream Jewish community, what scary bedtime story can you tell to keep folks interested?  Wait, I got it… !  FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET!  THE HAREDIM ARE COMING!  (Sorry, Public Enemy fans…) 

That the haredim play the role of villain in the Israeli press is not a new development.  The attack of a modern Orthodox girl in Bet Shemesh in December 2011 is a recent flashpoint, capturing the attention and evoking much tongue-clucking from North American Jews who saw themselves in the cowering eight year old girl from Chicago.

Add to this a persistent delegitimization of liberal Judaism by haredi leaders on and off the Israeli government payroll and what you get is analysis, analysis and more analysis bewailing the gap that widens between Israel and North America’s Jews.  (…As opposed to say, action.  But that would be silly to expect someone to be able to actually do anything about the haredi campaign to delegitimize liberal Judaism…  silly indeed.)

…And all the while, quietly, the haredi menace proliferates…  With each baby born, with each new pashkevil, with each new day care program opened in a soon-to-be-haredi neighbourhood, with each government coffer emptied out…  Quietly, the haredim are taking over Israel.  But we did not speak up because we did not live in Israel… Azoi…

But now, in recent weeks, one can see the coalescing of a different narrative…   The haredim are taking over in North America too!   

One can almost picture a female Reform rabbi riding across the countryside, sounding the alarm “Through every Middlesex village and farm / for the liberal folk to be up and to arm”…

Yo! Bum rush the show!

Consider the coverage of the purportedly anti-internet Asifa on May 20, the largest gathering of Jews in one place, EVER, IN THE HISTORY OF NORTH AMERICAN JEWRY.  And they were all haredim!  And they were all men!  And they wanted to throttle the internet!

The 2012 Israel Day Parade on June 3 in New York was dominated by Orthodox Jews!

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/MJayRosenberg/status/209365887323615232″]

And, because all good things come in threes, then came the kerfuffle over the recent UJA-Federation of New York survey that reported, among other dire statistics, that 6 in 10 babies born in New York were born into frum households.  JJ Goldberg of the Jewish Daily Forward opined that if this trend continues, North American Jewry and Israel would return to (cue ominous music) the days of the shtetl where most Jews were poor, uneducated and haredi.   Though fans of “Fiddler on the Roof” might be excited for the return of singing milkmen, and a new generation of yeshiva buchers with bottles on their borsalinos, let us also remember what the Good Book says:  When a journalist kills a chicken, either he or the chicken is sick.  (Yes, that made no sense at all – but then again, the same was true for much of what Tevye said.)

At the many talks I gave around the launch of End Of The Jews, I talked about how the real challenge facing the Jewish people today is existential in that we cannot count of negative narratives (i.e., don’t give Hitler posthumous victories, the goyim hate us, Israel is in danger, Israel invented the cherry tomato) to keep us committed to our tradition and our people.  We have to think of something positive, affirming and energizing (tikkun olam, perhaps?) to engage the next generation in the hard work of being a Jew.

But I was scooped by the great minds of the previous generation!  Ladies and gentlemen, we now that all the makings of a new galvanizing narrative for the unaffiliated, apathetic and the aloof … and just in time too!  Let’s see how long this one sticks…

Haredi Teen Girls! Porn!

Dr. Yaniv Efrati at Bar Ilan University has been talking to Israeli teenagers for quite some time about sex.

In a 2011 study, he and two research partners compelled religious teens to watch pornographic images to see if and for how long they felt bad about themselves afterwards.  The researchers (and Ynet), in classic soft-porn fashion, only revealed documentation of the 80 interviews, but intimated that the statistics are forthcoming.

Hey, pssst… look at these naughty bits. Feel bad yet?

And now, in 2012, Dr. Efrati strikes again.  This time, he surveyed over 500 11th and 12th graders from across the sectorial spectrum in Israel (i.e, national religious, haredi, and secular) to determine how much porn they consume.  This time, a decisive stat:  ONE IN THREE TEENAGED RELIGIOUS AND HAREDI GIRLS SURF FOR PORN!  That’s twice as much as secular girls.  (Insert lewd insinuation about how haredi girls do it twice as often here.)

I am dubious about the conclusions one can draw from this sample and this leering stat – but it does tweak the SEO, doesn’t it?

I await the next study that demonstrates that, in reality, the secular girls consume FAR MORE porn that haredi girls.

Nevertheless, it further drives home the point with which I concluded a piece I have written for Zeek magazine about the haredim and the internet.  It is a quote from Dovid Teitelbaum’s open letter to the Ichud HaKehillos in honour of the Asifa:

Filters sound good, but they are not the solution. A filter is only as effective as much as the person using it wants to be filtered.

And haredi teen girls, like their teen male counterparts, do not want to be filtered.  They, like their secular counterparts, need a compelling, affirmative reason not to consume porn.  (Incidentally, secular and haredi teen boys consume porn in equal degree.)

These haredi teens are also in need of a compelling, affirmative reason to remain within the fold in an appropriate manner and to support the institutions of their community to the same degree as their parents.  This “crisis” of confidence sounds an awful lot like the “crisis” of modernity that swept across Western Europe in the eighteenth century… (For more, see Chapter 6 in End Of The Jews.)

This Bar Ilan study comes on the legs of another study that determined that six of ten Jewish babies in America’s biggest Jewish community – New York City – are born to Orthodox families.   (Cue ominous music to accompany panic of liberal Jews afraid that their liberal bastion is being overrun.  Also cue giggles of an excited Michael Medved.)  What both studies do not address is the long term.  What does it mean that twice as many haredi teen girls are consuming porn?  Will they, or the six Orthodox-born babies, remain within their folds when they hit adulthood?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But even if they remain within their fold, they cannot do so without irrevocably changing it.

This “problem” is not one of technology, even though the gedolim at the Asifa argue that technology is at fault.  But, even more important, technology, in the guise of filtering or firewalling, cannot fix this “problem”.  This “problem” demands a very low-tech solution: a sound idea.

The Haredi World Wide Web part 3, or Asifa internet madness, continued

So despite protestations that the internet is destroying families and leading erlikhe yidden into the very pit of despair and all that, many folks were live tweeting the Asifa from Citifield last night … and it was not too long before the yiddishe kopf was busy at work coming up with tweet-cracks about the Asifa, including one from book-blurbster and all-around social media doyenne Esther K.

But what really kills me is that the linked-to YouTube clip of “40K Jews, Internet Asifa ASIFA KINUS ICHUD HAKEHILLOS” was taken down because … drum roll please:

If you do not believe me, follow this link.

“Hate Speech”?!  As in footage of Rebbe’im yelling “We HATE THE INTERNET!!!” in English and Yiddish?  YouTube really must have a weak stomach for criticism.  Yeesh.

Incidentally, here’s a piece by Adrianna Jeffries who pulled a Yentl to cover the event dressed as a man.  Papa, can you tweet me?  (I could not resist that one…  Sorry.)

livestream from the #Asifa

… can be viewed here at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/asifas-klal-yisroel RIGHT NOW.

Though I cannot laud the camera work, the fact that someone is at the let’s-talk-about-the-evils-of-the-internet rally holding up what seems to be an iPhone to live-stream the event for the world wide interweb is, in the fullest Alanis-Morrissette sense of the word, IRONIC.