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Issue 181 - Finding Our Voices – And Names
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Publication: Mishpacha Magazine

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10/31/07

When the at-risk teen issue was brought to the public consciousness eleven years ago, several Orthodox elected officials in the New York area pooled their resources to underwrite the production and dissemination of an excellent series of four videos titled, “Shattered Lives" in order to raise public consciousness about the challenges that our teens-at-risk were facing.

In addition to parents, educators, and those who work with the at-risk teen population, a number of Orthodox teens-at-risk were interviewed for the video series. Quite obviously, the producers of this tape series afforded the kids complete anonymity by using a sophisticated computer program to garble the voices and distort the images of the young men and women who volunteered to be interviewed.

While these nameless, faceless discussions are entirely reasonable in the context of that particular video series, it is terribly disconcerting that much of the dialogue in Jewish communal life seems to be taking place under similar circumstances. Many or most people who write letters to the editor in charedi periodicals expressing their thoughts on matters that are critical to the future of our community are not comfortable posting their names and the cities in which they live. This is very troubling because it signifies a reticence to engage in open discussion of ideas and opinions about the most important issues in our personal and communal lives.

This reluctance is entirely understandable when people are writing letters to the editor about delicate matters such as learning disabilities or personality disorders that they or their children may have. However, the reluctance to express one’s personal opinion is quite upsetting. Why should an individual be uncomfortable or afraid to express his views in a rational and reasonable manner?

Sometimes, it borders on the comical. In my hometown of Monsey, New York, there are several weekly newspapers that are mailed to the community free of charge. I never cease to be amazed when people decline to sign their names in letters to the editor about mundane matters. Here are the types of letters that appear week after week:

“I would like to thank the Town officials for doing such a wonderful job plowing the streets after last week's snowstorm” E.R.

“I really enjoy the Dvar Torah column every week.” Name Withheld.

Whenever I read one of those letters, my first reaction is, “Wow, you are really going out on a limb there! No wonder you didn’t want to post your name on that letter.”

Speaking of comical scenarios, here is another: When people approach me and comment that they are pleased that I am writing columns which express sentiments they have been feeling for a long time, I sometimes (usually when my wife is not present) ask them with a deadpan expression if I can quote them by name in my next article as having supported my opinions. It is difficult to describe the horror in their eyes and the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look I get whenever mention that to someone. I always walk away from these conversations saddened and worried – especially they occur with people who occupy high-profile positions in our kehilos.

What is most troubling is that the only voices that are being silenced are the moderate ones. The kanoim, those in our community with the most extremist views, comfortably thunder their macho’os, protestations, in very public forums with nary a concern, while those who have more mainstream views are intimidated to express them.

We are paying a terrible price for this silence and for the suppression of communal dialogue. When important problems are not honestly discussed and addressed, they fester and grow. In the darkness of neglect, manageable challenges become full-blown emergencies. In a climate of fear, extremist ‘solutions’ to real problems often set the stage for much larger calamities later on.

We all know the incredible successes of our charedi kehilah. We are raising, with the chesed of Hashem, thousands of proud, idealistic young men and women, devoted to our timeless mesorah. Our yeshivos and kollelim are filled with vigor and positive energy. We have more than earned our right to celebrate these accomplishments. But there are incredible challenges ahead.

Like it or not, ready or not, we – and our children – are being thrust into a rapidly changing world where all the rules are changing. Instant and exponentially growing methods of communication have already broken the protective ‘firewall’ we so carefully built around our homes and communities. And this process will only accelerate as time marches on.

We desperately need forums where these matters are candidly discussed in an environment of mutual respect with an eye towards generating solutions to these challenges; where all views are encouraged and appreciated and where those who care enough – and have the courage – to ask tough questions are venerated for their dedication to the future of our children.



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1. Thank you     10/31/07 - 1:39 PM
Ari Koretzky - Silver Spring, MD

Thank you Rabbi Horowitz for your candid comments. It's refreshing to read a "voice of reason" regarding not only the issues facing the community but the processes in place (or not in place) to address them.

Keep the wisdom flowing! Name Withheld :)

Just kidding, Ari Koretzky


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2. Writing our names     10/31/07 - 2:01 PM
Yanky (the other one) - Monsey

It's simple... Most of the withheld names are not "real" people.

If it's political in nature then you know for sure that it was put in by somone with "political" interests.

If it's controversial, then it's the "someone" stirring up the controversy, etc...

Very few people will respond, as they do not believe that anything will happen anyway.

I would suggest you asking people if they believe that their opinion would make any difference.


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3. wish it wasn't so     10/31/07 - 2:21 PM
sad to be anonymous

I have been in positions of chinuch and outreach for a long time. But I'm not a famous leader. I'm just a middle tier guy. If my name is attached to opinions my bosses don't like, I may need to look for another job. Often it's the boss' way he runs the school, or organization, that I (and you) object to. You as a principal and with a hechsher as head of project YES, have little to lose. I as a simple mechanech do. Believe me, I wish I could speak out more. I think there are many people in my situation.

So chazak v'ematz! Sad that the kanoim have the upper hand. They are doing so much damage (and yet they are patting themselves on the back for being the great guardians of our religion). It makes me want to do something about it, but what?


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4.     10/31/07 - 2:30 PM
Too long in Galus

Some of us are worried about the ostracism/backlash on our children. It's an ugly situation, but this is the reality.


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5. Just my thoughts     10/31/07 - 2:37 PM
Chayim Kramer - Lakewood

I have written to Mishpacha, Binah, Hamodia, and Yated requesting that unless it is a sensitive personal issue, they should not publish letters without a name. I guess they did not publish my letter as it was signed.


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6. The Marketplace of Ideas     10/31/07 - 2:39 PM
Mikeskeptic - mikeskeptic@hushmail.com

Our community has an institutionalized system for dealing with ideas that challenge mainstream beliefs. We refer to such ideas as heresy or kefira and we refer to the people who espouse the ideas as apikorsim. Under longstanding halachic principles, heretics have no chelek in olam haba, are to be ostracised by the community, are not to be counted in a minyan and if they form their own minyan we are prohibited from davening in their shul. This system is explicitly designed to supress debate and discussion of certain subjects. The natural result of such a system is that people who have doubts will pretend to follow the party line. This is how we ended up where we are today, with a significant population of adults in the prime of their lives, in some cases holding positions of respect and authority in their community, just going through the motions of orthodoxy, afraid to speak out about the things that trouble them.

Fortunately, history shows that such a state of affairs is always temporary. Even in the harshest police states, where dissidents are punished with torture and banishment, beliefs that don't work ultimately fail, no matter how extreme the measures to maintain them.

We should not be shocked that young children openly display the values that their parents hold in secret. I would never tell my Rav what I think of Rashi's pshat in last week's parsha on "asher yaiamar hayom behar hashem yairahe," but what kind of father would I be if I didn't tell the truth to my own children?


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7. other reasons why people prefer to be anonymous     10/31/07 - 2:42 PM
Nechama

Wonderful article. It is strange that individual opinion, except in (this is irreverent) irrelevant Torah discourses, or novels, does not seem to be encouraged. It is also a shame. But I don't think that the only cause is social suppression. A second cause is that people don't want to be seen in terms of what they write, they want people to see the side of them that they wish to present, according to the social situation. If you're a known author, the conversation soon shifts to what you wrote or did publicly. Which can be a starting point in conversations, and can make you popular, but at the expense of developing the other ways of getting along with people.

People also don't sign their names because they themselves are likely to change their opinion five years down the line, and might feel very embarressed of what they have written. Partly because their opinions change with discussions, partly because their opinions just reflect the social scene at the time, and as the social scene moves on, so do their opinions, and partly because they mature.

Most anonymous authors have some experiences when they wrote something for a school magazine or a community paper and it came out looking really WIERD, the words were all wrong, the concepts were all wrong, and the embarrassment was ABSOLUTE. So anonymity grants you the freedom to not worry about whether you will be embarressed later. This makes people more open, more willing to express, and some people think best by expressing themselves.

I think I stand by anything I've written on this blog, but in other publications to which I've signed my name, it takes an inordinate amount of time to write the article/letter, and I'm usually very disappointed with the results afterwards. I wonder if other people feel similarly?

An upside to anonymity for the community is that anonymous authors are not trying to impress. They are just sharing their honest views. (or trying to tickle a laugh or grimace).


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8. don't get the point     10/31/07 - 2:44 PM
Mrs. Y. Homnick

I've signed my name to many Letters to the Editor and I've also submitted numerous letters and comments without my name or with initials. When yes and when not? I'd have to look at each letter to see what the reason was.

As for this blog and Internet comments in general, I rarely sign my name. I don't think my name will add anything to the discussion. I don't occupy a "high-profile position" and I don't think my name makes any difference.

There's something about the Internet that makes me feel uncomfortable about putting my name "out there," when I don't feel that way about submitting a letter to Mishpacha, Jewish Observer, Jewish Action. No doubt part of it has to do with the give-and-take on a blog or other interactive forum.

I don't think my anonymous contributions diminish from the candidness of our discussion; on the contrary. And I don't think our voices are suppressed, particularly when we can be anonymous. The ones we need to hear from, with their names, are public figures. I don't understand why you lump together the public figures and the rest of us.


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9. To Mike     10/31/07 - 3:05 PM
Nechama

I am intrigued about what you told your son. I couldn't find anything controversial in that particular Rashi.

BTW, I doubt it's worse than what my six year old asked me. He's been wondering for a while whether it could be that one day Hashem will switch to being a boy, and the boy can be Hashem. His latest question is: How about if there's really another Hashem, a bigger one, who made the Hashem we know about, and perhaps the Hashem we know about doesn't even realize it, but He is not really in total control?

I told him that I really didn't know, perhaps we should think it through for a few days, and see if we notice any contradicting thoughts to this suggestion. In the meantime, does anyone have any ideas as to this?


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10.     10/31/07 - 3:31 PM
David Fried - dave3754@yahoo.com

Mikeskeptic, I have no idea why skeptics insist that almost every topic on a blog has to revolve around them. Rabbi Horowitz is clearly talking about communal problems and people's reticence about going public discussing them. What in the world does that have to do with people discussing emunah issues?


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11. Rabbi Horowitz:     10/31/07 - 4:25 PM
Anonymous

David Fried is correct. comments 11 and 6 have nothing to do with your article. Furthermore, derogatory comments about Rashi have no place on your blog.


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12. Hello, my name is Tzvikee Green     10/31/07 - 4:48 PM
Elliot Pasik - Long Beach, NY - efpasik@aol.com

Remember that book? Its a good one. That fictional little boy has more moxy than all the pseudonyms put together.

Someone pointed out that Torah says more than 1,000 times, Al tirah. Do not be afraid. I am your G-d. What is the message? One who fears man too much, does not fear G-d very much. Who do the pseudonyms fear?

Yaakov wrestled with the angel. Yaakov asked, What is your name? The angel answered, Why do you have to know my name? Who is Yaakov? Who is the angel? With whom do we identify?

This is all baffling.

Mikeskeptic - may I call you MS? :-) - what's your p'shat?


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13.     10/31/07 - 5:50 PM
Mikeskeptic

To David: I'm not sure what Rabbi Horowitz had in mind, but why do you think skepticism and its repression are not important communal issues? Obviously, my detailed critique of Rashi's approach to apparent anachronisms in the Torah was off topic, but it was in response to a question from Nechama on my prior comment. I reread my comment and didn't see anything personally derogatory toward Rashi. I guess I did use some strong language, but it was in the spirit of attacking his approach more forcefully and no personal disrespect was expressed or intended. In holding his commentary up to rigorous challenge and examination we do him no dishonor. It is surely what he would have hoped for and expected of us.

Elliot: I already explained why I use a pseudonym in my first comment above. Yes, I am afraid and I have good reason to be afraid. I don't want to want to turn this thread into a discussion of my "p'shat" as you delicately put it unless the moderator says he's ok with that. If you want to pursue this topic privately feel free to email me at mikeskeptic@hushmail.com


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14. I'll have to take a rain check, Mike     10/31/07 - 6:33 PM
Elliot Pasik - Long Beach, NY - efpasik@aol.com

I wrote my previous comment before I saw your above drasha. However, I'll have to take a rain check on your p'shat on the Rashi. I can see from the drasha I'll need too much time to understand and analyze your p'shat. Nicely put, by the way: "...beliefs that don't work ultimately fail, no matter how extreme the measures to maintain them." I get some good material here :-)


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15. mom of kid at risk     10/31/07 - 6:41 PM
Mirriam

I enjoy the e-mails I get from you every week, thank you for devoting your time and energy to the youth at risk. Noone should know the hell us parents go through with these kids! Please continue writing, it gives me so much chizuk. thanks again!


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16.     10/31/07 - 6:52 PM
Sholom

Rabbi Horowtiz, you raise a subject of immense importance, one which has long bothered me greatly. However, you cannot be so naive as to fail to understand the causes for this phenomenon. The community of bnei Torah lives by a very bizarre set of unspoken rules. Altho we espouse lofty values and try to live our lives by them, regrettably intellectual honesty is not among them. While new publications come out frequently bandying the word "truth", this word is used in a very constricted, indeed distorted, sense. We are a community which cannot tolerate too much truth, much less the opinions of those whom we disagree. One need look no farther than the despicable treatment received by Rabbi Nosson Kaminetsky (who by the way has an excellent discussion of this phenomenon in the introduction to his revised edition, which tounge in cheek might be called "The Remaking of A Gadol") and others who have committed the sins of excessive candor and regard for the facts. As a community, we are willing to look away at alot of bad conduct and bad actors, particularly in the realm of dishonesty and financial shenanigans. Regrettably, however, the one thing which much of our contemporary leadership will not tolerate -- and I believe 25 yrs ago it was not this way, at least in America -- is disagreement with their views and failure to play by the rules of 'groupthink.' It is a sad commentary on our society that we accord respect and esteem to outwardly pious people who know how to play the game but whom we know lack fundamental integrity, yet we accord no respect and at times even oppress ehrilch people, true yiraih shomoyim, who have the courage of their convictions. To loosely paraphrase the Gemara, keshame shein partzoofayhem domos zeh la zeh, ain daisoseyhen domos zeh la zeh. This is the way HaKadosh Baruch Hu created us -- each of us looking at things somewhat differently -- and is a part of our tzelem Elokim. This would seem to dictate a certain level of tolerance for the views of others even when they differ from our own. I could go on ad nauseum on this topic (I have already overdone it) but Rabbi Horowitz, you can hardly be surprised that in a community which looks askance at someone who walks into shul without the same black hat and dark suit as everyone else, there is a great deal of hestancy to publicly express one's opinions on controversial topics.


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17. To Mike     10/31/07 - 7:03 PM
Nechama

Thank you very much for being so open. I apologize to all the other readers of this forum who find these discussions distasteful.

Your first comment was about Rashi, and the words in the Possuk about Hashem Yireh.

In the Posuk it says: And Avraham called the name of that place Hashem Yireh... Rashi writes: this was a reference to one day Hashem will See - ie show that He sees, by taking action and using this place for the Temple. The Possuk continues: through which a person might say on a certain day "on the mount of Hashem, the person should be seen". According to the Kli Yakar, Hashem "seeing" and us (males) needing to "be seen" on the Sholosh Regolim, are intrinsically connected. Rashi says: In the descendants' days, they will say about it - on THIS mountain Hashem will appear to His people.

Rashi then says: Hayom. (What does this word mean?) A span of days that were to occur in the future. (Although the word Yom is in the singular and it is translated as referring to many days - the whole span of both Betei Mikdash, we don't need to to worry about this seemingly singular word, as follows:) This word "Hayom" is similar to the expression "Ad Hayom Hazeh", (which is also in the singular) which appears throughout the Torah, that all the future generations who come to read this Torah text would say "until today" and they would mean "until the day that they are standing in" (hence the term "until this day" spans quite a long period, since people reading the Torah have been doing so for quite a while. So we must translate the word Yom to mean not only one day, but also a span of days).

The Kli Yakar explains that Hayom means only "one day", as follows: Hashem kept the identity of the Mountain that He would choose a secret, just like He did to Avraham, the similarity is shown by the similar wording of Avraham saying to Yitzchak "Hashem will *show us* the sheep for the offering", so too Avraham is implying with his naming, that the time will come when Hashem will show and choose this place. And at that time He will direct the generations: TODAY you shall appear on the mountain - today, and not earlier, because until the chosen day, Hashem did not reveal it.

(Words in parentheses are my explanations) As you can tell, I have no problem with the above Rashi, and not undersand how it can be read according to your interpretation.

With regard to Gilad, I looked up the chapter about Yaakov and Lavan and did not find any mention that the Gal Ed would be there until today. Perhaps it is written somewhere else? Please provide references. Also about Og's height. By the way, although I couldn't find it, I remember that Rashi says that Og's height was 9 of his own cubits. This thus does not prove his height at all! But it does show that he had excessively short arms, relative to his height.

With regard to Dan, (I didn't even know where to look for it) place names are not just terminology used to label a place. People's names and place names are the essence of the thing. Thus I do not think it strange that Dan was known as Dan, even if the people didn't understand what drew them to call it that. Similarly, parents call their children a name that suits them and helps them religiously to grow. Heaven knows what your parents were thinking when they called you Mikeskeptic!

With regard to the Eisav's kings in Vayishlach, I found the list but no reference to King Shaul. In Rashi, I found, that Eisav had eight kings, and Yaakov enabled eight of his own descendants to have the strength to be kings and spiritually outweigh Eisav's kings. It also says there that at the time of these noble Jewish kings, there was no kingship amongst Eisav, that Eisav had kings until Shaul and after Yoram but not between. The Possuk (36:31) says: and these are the kings (of Eisav) who ruled in the land of Edom before a king ruled over Israel. This does not mean that these eight Edomite kings were ruling until Shaul, just as it doesn't mean that they were ruling after Yoram.

There seem to be two aspects here. Firstly that we had 8 and they had 8. We actually had far more than eight kings as did they, but these eight of Eisav's seem to be significant in some way, and our 8 outweighed their eight. The second aspect is that they have (strong) Malchus when we don't, and we have it when they don't.

I hope this helps Mike, but if it doesn't, please change your Rav (or provide sources, or both). It says in Pirkei Avos "Make for yourself a Rav". Someone who is "FOR YOU".


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18.     10/31/07 - 9:23 PM
Steve Brizel

John Hancock, a then prominent resident of Boston, told anyone who was interested that he signed his name in large print and bold ink to make a point IIRC that he believed in the Declaration of Independence so much that he wanted to make sure that the British Empire would take notice of his opinions. For a community that does not shy away from quoting Poskim and Gdolim left and right on matters of halacha and hashkafa, many of us have an almost pyschotic and paranoid fear of expressing our opinions on important issues within our communities.


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19. On Speaking your mind.     10/31/07 - 9:28 PM
Benzion Chinn - Columbus, OH - Beezeenc@aol.com

I recently had an interesting conversation with my bubby who lives in Monsey. She was critical of the fact that on my blog (www.izgad.blogspot.com) I openly identify who I am, I talk about myself and that I put some rather controversial things up all in my name. She raised the issue of what will I do if I change my mind. To me the fact that I might have things out there in my name that I no longer agree with should be a badge of pride. It shows that I am intellectually honest, something so lacking in this day and age.

Keep up the great work.

Benzion

P.S When will you have the honor of being banned by one of the zealots?


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20.     10/31/07 - 10:15 PM
anonymous - far rockaway, ny

When I first moved to this very frum community, I shared a non-mainstream opinion very stridently with a woman I met. When she stopped responding to my warm "gut shabbos" wishes, I summoned up enough courage to ask her what she has against me. She responded that after talking to me she was left with "a bad taste in her mouth." It's been 14 years now that she walks by me and looks the other way. Since then, I have learned to keep my opinions to myself.


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21. Dilemma of Less-Conventional Thinker in a More Conventional Community     11/1/07 - 12:05 AM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

"Since then, I have learned to keep my opinions to myself."

I, as well, can relate to this. One idea is to find the right people in your community, on the lay level and amongst rabbonim, but it's a shame that it has to be like that.

A non-nuanced, negative reaction to non-conventional ideas may have to do with an inclination to see things as uncomplicated, or relate to a need to feel safe in following a known and endorsed position, which of course is legitimate. Or sometimes, people are simply uninterested in a topic, or don't know enough about it to take a less conventional position on it.

Sometimes it may be a personality issue; creative thinking embraces ambiguity and nuance, but not everyone is comfortable with this in all areas. The same person who doesn't hesitate to disagree with a Conventional Type on a social topic, may be hesitant to do it for a philosophical issue.

At the very least, both sides should be able to listen to each other even if they don't see nuance and degree in different ideas(which they should); I have very assimilated relatives whom I don't agree with, but I do understand where they are coming from. Yet, not everyone is able to do that; it requires nuance in thinking, an intellectual empathy, and "active listening" to see the other's mindset, but it can be learned.

I've come to realize that both parties in these interactions--the More Conventional Type and the Less Conventional Type -- have intellectual and emotional needs which may not always be able to be fulfilled by the other, and indeed discussion may be futile in some cases.

It is also possible for the Less Conventional person to adopt somewhat in the interaction. There are less Yeshivish speakers, for example, whom I think still keep certain aspects of their personality, but "adapt" somewhat when speaking to more RW audience; the reverse can be true as well.

Finally, there is benefit to interacting with More Conventional Types as they keep the Less Conventional Type grounded. I personally dislike it, for example, when in a private conversation, a Very Conventional Type tells me about an original idea, "you have to ask daas Torah in order to say that". Obviously, it's a mere conversation, and I'm merely expressing a *tentative* opinion, not advising the community, the equivalent of learning halacha but not paskening for another person !

But as above, there is a balancing effect when the Less Conventional Type interacts with the More Conventional Type. Both need to appreciate each other. It would be helpful, though, if all types would be more careful in expressing themselves.


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22. Blog/forum     11/1/07 - 5:48 AM
Ak

Hi, IMHO posters here should have a username and not use annons. Posters should register giving their real names and email addresses. I prefer this blog to have a forum format where posters can private mail as well and also edit their own posts. A user name is more respectful and lends to better discussion and learning.


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23. Once again, you hit the nail on the head     11/1/07 - 7:44 AM
David Sher - dsher999@hotmail.com

The thing is, if we only look to our tradition, we have a well designed set of Halachot that specifically detail what can be considered good and fair speech. If we merely cleve closely to these rules and understand their meaning, we should have no problem discussing any topic.


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24. re comment 21     11/1/07 - 7:59 AM
M

"very stridently"

the definition of strident is: conspicuously and offensively loud, so you said your opinion in a very conspicuously and offensively loud manner

what if you hadn't voiced your non-mainstream opinion in that manner? maybe you wouldn't have left a bad taste in her mouth

and if it wasn't:

"When I first moved to this very frum community"

maybe you would have made a friend

Why do we think we will win friends and influence people when we show up on the scene and rudely proclaim our (unasked for and unconventional) views? Why the dismay and hurt feelings at the reaction? Maybe an apology is in order.


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25. As usual RH is right on point     11/1/07 - 9:45 AM
Alexander Novak, Esq. - Lawrence

As an attorney I have taken on controversial "frum community matters" and I was immediately warned by my really good friends that I would be personally villified. They were right. When that did not work, next it was the "what will it do to your children's shidduchim prospects." Since one daughter was married in Israel and the other went to high school out of the Five Towns and my boys were in big name yeshivas, I felt safe and tough, though my oldest son was concerned. Even though this controversy is now done and more than a year old, when my parents said their name (which is same as my name) to a local Orthodox rabbi last week he got up and walked away. My 74 year old mom called me and asked what did I do! This is a top to bottom matter; there is way too much fear and disrespect. Parents in this community tell me what Rebbes and Principals say about who their kids can play with (in that same school) with the threat of being tossed out. I tell them they have no legal recourse. I see have seen this for over 20 years. It can scare anybody but the most thick skinned. HOWEVER if I talk about my children online in a blog I will not use my name to protect my kids or family because at 52 my shoulders are pretty broad theirs' are not.


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26. "Just a middle-tier guy"     11/1/07 - 10:05 AM
Andy - Wesley Hills, NY

To "Sad to be Anonymous" #3 and Mrs. Homnick #8:

Please excuse, but haven't you considered that ten years ago, Rabbi Horowitz was just a middle-tier guy who had everything to lose? He was a Rebbe in two local yeshivos, neither one known for great tolerance to speaking out. He penned a very contraversial article with his name signed and earned many adversaries. He ultimately had to leave both jobs, because with that act of courage, he outgrew both institutions and created his own: Yeshiva Darchei Noam and Project YES.

I'm glad that you respect him properly in his current capacity as indicated in your comments. You are simply him -- ten years ago. In his article, he's asking you to be courageous, shed your fears and anonymity and become greater, for the good of the community. Are you up to the challenge?


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27. From British Prime Minister Winston Churchill     11/1/07 - 10:14 AM
Elliot Pasik, Esq. - Long Beach, NY - efpasik@aol.com

"You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life."


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28. Explanation for "Removed by Admin"     11/1/07 - 10:16 AM
Admin

Individuals are permitted to question the holy reshonim's interpretation in a beis medresh environment, which I hope is mikeskeptic's intent. In the context of this discussion though, his words might be construed or misconstrued as bible criticism, an activity forbidden by the Torah, which has no place on this site. Please excuse.


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29.     11/1/07 - 11:36 AM
Too long in Galus

Rabbi Horowitz: I wonder if you could explain what you mean by "those in our community with the most extremist views". The non-religious family of a BT may view him as extremist. A MO Jew may consider a Satmar extremist. I may consider anyone who is machmir on something I don't hold, extremist. For that matter, some of our Neviim were considered extremist by the Jews they were trying to reach.

If this forum touches upon topics that are burning (but hidden) in the minds and hearts of the klal, and some writers who have been personally impacted express their anguish in a clear and honest way, is this extremism?

Please clarify.


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30. to comment #28 - still sad to be, but will remain, anonymous     11/1/07 - 11:54 AM
just a middle tier guy

I'm the guy from above you challenged to be braver. I understand that Rabbi Horowitz wasn't the famous Rabbi Horowitz when he wrote his first article. I have parted ways from my Rosh Yeshiva, because he expected (no demanded) me to live a very narrow definition of a bel aliya, and it backfired in certain areas of my life(v'ein kan mokom l'ha'arich - even if it's anonymously) and it is a source of pain to me. Being very vocal about my thoughts, will certainly cause me even greater tza'ar. I don't think I can bear that at this stage in my life. Maybe a bit later.

All I can say is, I do my part in my own quiet way, and make a dent where I can. Perhaps in time I can do more.


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31. Additional Points     11/1/07 - 12:32 PM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

Two Points:

1) When I was referring above to "Non-Conventional Types", I was referring obviously to a differences *within* normative Torah Judaism, although I was intentionally general and vague(I add this because of the context of other comments which I was not at all referring to).

My point was also not to be negative in any way, but simply to share an "eitzah tovah" for those who relate to this issue; I have reason to believe that this may be an issue for many sincere people, so I thought it to be appropriate to raise it in the way I did.

2) The idea of comment # 26 has merit as well.

Since many issues which people differ on involve balancing two different concepts(I have found this often on blogs), one can relate one's own idea to another "Conventional" person with adding just a little more nuance and emphasis, as opposed to forcefully. Then when one finds someone capable of relating to one's own differing view(whether they agree with it or not), one can be more open.


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32. response to Andy     11/1/07 - 3:08 PM
Mrs. Y. Homnick

I haven't considered what you refer to since I know nothing about Rabbi Horowitz's previous teaching experiences, except for what he has posted. I can only say that if his project is under the auspices of Agudath Israel, then he pledges allegiance to chareidi gedolim and is not controversial enough for them to shun him.

Where was that controversial article you refer to published? What was it called?

In his article, he's asking you to be courageous, shed your fears and anonymity and become greater, for the good of the community. Are you up to the challenge?

I'll repeat. I've signed my name to many Letters to the Editor and I've also submitted numerous letters and comments without my name or with initials. As for this blog and Internet comments in general, I rarely sign my name. I don't think my name will add anything to the discussion. I don't occupy a "high-profile position" and I don't think my name makes any difference.


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33. Names make a difference     11/1/07 - 4:03 PM
Andy - Wesley Hills, NY

Rabbi Horowitz's name was also meaningless in 1997 when he wrote that famous article for the Jewish Observer. It's actually on this site somewhere. Mr. admin, can you post a link here?

ADMIN: Here is the link. An Ounce Of Prevention


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34. What's the big deal?     11/1/07 - 6:16 PM
D.B.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see what the big deal is. When I write letters to the editor or even comments on this blog (see my initials) I always either sign only initials or ask to withhold my name. The reason is simple - I am uncomfortable putting my name in print and having it out there in any forum, especially the Internet. Only on very rare occasions have I signed my name. I don't think I'm alone in not signing my name because of personal discomfort having nothing to do with being afraid of anything or anyone.


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35. been there     11/1/07 - 8:26 PM
Mrs M

I once wrote an article for an internet blog with my name attached which I thought was a restatement of Torah principles on a certain topic. I guess I was new to blogging, or just naive, because I soon found out that I was personally ripped apart on someone else's blog (who had axes to grind about my opinions and that stream of orthodoxy in general). Personally mocked and ground down. Well, that taught me about the internet, and I will never do that again.

As for other fora, I have submitted letters to the editor with my name on them, although those were not particularly controversial.

In my quasi-out-of-town community, it used to be that every organization, and every chessed enterprise, had a person attached to it who was responsible. It made the community close and personal; one knew whom to call. Now, however, publications, organizations, etc. spring up frequently with just a phone number and a generic email address attached to communicate to. There is no taking of personal responsibility, even for a publication or chesed org. I find it a real loss.


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36.     11/2/07 - 7:33 AM
yoni

I would point out that for those who are different from the norm, and who do not beleive in some of the shtussim going on, does it really do you any real favors to choose to hide your oppinions? Do you actualy WANT your children to marry those kinds of people? Do you actualy want your children to risk marrying someone with hashkafot that bother you so? If you put your name out there for something you truly believe then it will only help guide people with similar beliefs and approaches to your door for shidduchim.

Sure alot of people may reject you, but what about the kid who already believes this? You'll only encourage them.

at the same time, for most internet commenting I don't see the point in using our names. Nothing to be gained or lossed really, although it is usefull to take a nick-name for identification purposes.


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37. TO YONI #38     11/2/07 - 10:08 AM
Miriam Shear - imahawk@aol.com

"Do you actualy WANT your children to marry those kinds of people? Do you actualy want your children to risk marrying someone with hashkafot that bother you so? If you put your name out there for something you truly believe then it will only help guide people with similar beliefs and approaches to your door for shidduchim."

Yoni, thank you for saying it so succintly. When I made the decision to go public last November regarding the #2 incident, very well meaning and sincere friends implored me to "back off" publicly because "this could impact your children's shidduchim." I thanked all of them for their concern but told them that my children's shidduchim were already announced by a bas kol 40 days before they were conceived - shidduchim comes from Hashem, not narrow minded zealots. Furthermore, how much do we REALLY mean it when we say in our bentching, "do not make me dependent on the hand of another" - this does not just apply to parnassa but also to our own feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. It is no surprise to me that we have so many messed up kids. Chances are they have some parents who are so insecure and so concerned about what everybody else thinks rather than acting according to emes that these parents will make decisions not exactly in their kids' best interests. They will reap what they sow: confused, afraid, insecure kids who will also, like their parents, "follow the crowd" - but perhaps a really bad one.

Bottom line: We need to support those who depart from this sheker - people like Rabbi Horowitz, Jonathan Rosenblum, Rabbi Maryles - and learn from their example. Avraham Avinu did not become Avraham Avinu by aping the local mores.


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38. Another approach     11/2/07 - 1:16 PM
Yehoshua

I agree with many of the reasons above for remaining anonymous. Here is another one:

Most blog commentators are not Rabbis and don't vet their opinions with a Rabbi before posting. How can one know he/she is saying something that may be labeled as heresy or at least criticized for straying from the norm? An if it is critiqued, it stays on the 'net FOREVER. This is not something most want to deal with.

I have personally been tempted to attach my real name, but what benefit would it be to anybody or myself to do so? It seems there is only harm that can come from it.


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39. On the Net Forever     11/2/07 - 1:39 PM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

Yehoshua,

It's a responsibility to write on the web, which has a wider audience and is forever. Yet, since in most cases posting is instananeous, one usually doesn't treat it with the same gravity and review process as by print publications.

If one is not vetting comments with someone, the only solution as far as mistakes is to write additional items correcting or giving perspective to previous items (I hope I will have no reason to regret this comment :) ).


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40. speak up and you'll regret it     11/4/07 - 2:12 PM
The Hedyot

I don’t think that it really matters too much when a person put their real name to a letter to the Editor. The only difference it makes is that other like minded people will finally know who they can have a productive conversation with about the topic. On the flip side, the obvious downside is that people who are against that opinion will now have a target on which to focus their opposition.

And this is the fundamental problem of the frum community (well, one of them) - if you don’t conform you are in trouble.

Of course no one is going to put their name to something which will very likely cause them all sorts of tzuros! Who wants to deal with the consequences of a child’s shidduch prospects being blackballed, kids turned away from yeshivos, neighbors avoiding you, and maybe even losing one's job?

As to why people are afraid to put their names to even innocuous things, I think it’s rooted in the fact that this whole attitude of not speaking out against anything has created a social mentality that speaking up on anything is somewhat impudent. I recall in yeshiva when someone would speak up in class, there would always be a few people who would jokingly make “pshhh...!” noises (as if to say, “look at him, speaking up in class, the big shot...”). It reflects the attitude that standing out is something inappropriate, maybe even untznius, and in order to avoid the reactions of those who find it unfitting, they keep their names off of even harmless comments.


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41. Because the kids are going OTD.     11/4/07 - 3:36 PM
Nechama

Rabbi Horowitz shlita writes that a main problem with us being intimidated/reluctant to speak up is that our kids are going off, and we need to discuss it, and find out why.

Well an obvious reason why kids are going off is class size. In a class of 15, even a mediocre teacher can give over the right lessons and a Torah'dike point of view. In a class of 30 you need an absolutely superb teacher to hold the class together and teach them well. There are some absolutely superb teachers. Every two or three years, our kids get them. In between, the kids get ruined.


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42. Bark At The Moon     11/4/07 - 8:53 PM
Yossi(Joe)Izrael - Monsey

It is easy to speak out against unidentified 'kanoim' but I feel if you urge people to come out of anonymity you should also spell out who these kanoim are.

Also many of those letters are written either by the kanoim or the idiots who are thier dupes - for example the snow-shoveling letter is a glaring example of flattering our corrupt town supervisor who ruins our town by granting all of the hassidim's whims to everyone else's detriment.

It is very easy for R Horowitz to speak out against unidentified targets, especially as he has a very rich community backing him. It is also the entire community's fault to subscribe to standards and habits that can be easily be ruined by these shadow warriors. Such as "good shidduch", a good yeshiva, obtaining housing that one cannot afford. So bottom line, no one is as innocent as they claim to be.


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43. Why Here?     11/5/07 - 4:20 AM
Marc Loeb - Israel

To #'s 4, 12, 21, 31....

In your decision to remain anonymous, I believe you strengthen the point Rabbi Horowitz shlita is making. You say nothing even remotely close to being controversial yet you are elect to remain anonymous....WHY? You are making a harmless comment in which you state an opinion, to which you are entitled.

We find this behavior within the Frum communities often. Our schools often lack the voice of the parent body because people are afraid to speak up. You will find a similar lack of actions throughout community issues and throughout all Frum Communities.

There is no question that there are issues that it may be wise to withhold your name from, But I believe the wise Author is speaking on issues that occur in our, and our childrens everyday lives. Issues that we should not be afraid to offer an opinion on.

And to all you who believe commenting anonymously is effective as well, it is'nt. Anonymous posts are nothing more than food for thought. Speaking up in a school or town meeting, Making a phone call to a Principle, Rav or town official, these are he activities that Rabbi Horowitz is encouraging.


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44. Less anonymity on this site     11/11/07 - 10:51 AM
Avrohom Meir Gluck - Spring Valley

It seems that more and more people are signing their names to their posts on this site since this article was posted. It demonstrates the effectiveness of such a forum to change people's thoughts and behaviors. This is an opportunity and a heady responsibility for all participants of this and other online arenas. We should always think twice, every time, before we press the submit button.


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45. speaking up     11/11/07 - 8:26 PM
Mrs.Y. Homnick

And to all you who believe commenting anonymously is effective as well, it is'nt. Anonymous posts are nothing more than food for thought. Speaking up in a school or town meeting, Making a phone call to a Principle, Rav or town official, these are he activities that Rabbi Horowitz is encouraging.

No, he's encouraging signing names to letters to the editor and to comments on blogs. I have made numerous calls to principals and teachers and spoken my mind. I don't see the connection between that and this article. If I provide food for thought with anonymous comments, great, that's what I want to achieve.


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46. open our minds and hearts     4/24/09 - 2:37 PM
Pinchos Woolstone - Brooklyn - pwoolstone@gmail.com

The post WWII era has seen a tremendous regeneration of Torah observance throught the entire world; many say there is more Limud Ha Torah in our generation than ever before. We are however seeing a breakdown in observance amongst many of our youth; they just are no as interested in the Torah life style as their parents and community would like. The remedies to this challenge are many but it will be a stuggle in the new global village, there are so many options out there to grab our childrens attention. We must however stay close to our children and students as they grapple with their identity, they see hypocracy and dishonest behaviour in the adult generation.One 16 year old boy said it straight out to me " tell me rabbi why do so many frum people cheat the government by working for schwartz so they can get foodstamps, medicaid and other handout; isn't that against Halocho". What can you answer this kind of question from such a sensible young man?. Over many years I heard critism of people who asked Rebbes questions on the minutae of their lives. Now we have the " Gedolim Phenonema" Many people are worried about doing anything significant because maybe the "Gedolim" will disapprove.Who appointeded these individuals; they maybe very knowledgeable and caring Rabbonim but they have been given to much power over the masses. Each person should appointment for themselves a Rav with the understanding that nobody is infallable. Let us return to a time where the principals of personal growth Ehrlichkeit and Mentchlechkeit are paramount without a reliance on self righteous extremism.

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