Jun 14, 2010

Why Does Judaism Suck?

jewish_teensA Guest Post by Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths

(Illustrative photo – not of the people involved in this article)

A percentage of our youth are disaffected. Orthodox Jewish youth. A subset of the generation that is drawn to the excitement of the world or turned off by a dry education system or parental and communal restrictions. Or so I say. But as my own teens remind me regularly, what do I know?

So I’ve asked and challenged them, tell me “Why does Judaism suck?” Yes, a provocative question designed to get their interest and get a deep answer from them.

They’ve taken up my challenge. A worldwide group of disaffected Jewish teenagers, girls and boys from orthodox homes, have responded. Here it is, here’s why, in their own words, the Judaism of today doesn’t work for them. From Ramat Beit Shemesh Israel, Passaic New Jersey, Jerusalem Israel, Crown Heights New York, here’s why Judaism sucks….

(These are their own words. Very minor edits for grammar and spelling to keep the reading easy.)

A: It’s not that Judaism sucks, it’s that people these days really corrupted it and teach it totally the wrong way. So I think that that’s one of the main problems. It’s the people, not the religion. The school systems need to be changed, and the way that it’s taught.

B: Maybe like the adults and teachers are hypocrites. They don’t keep what they teach. They teach to fear God which isn’t good. They should teach that we should love God and not fear him. They also focus too much on like external stuff these days, like how high your socks are and are not teaching the more important stuff like morals and how to act and behave. They should focus more on being a good person then how high your socks are. For example adults and teachers say you shouldn’t speak lashan hara, then go and talk to all the parents and teachers about you! People should just be real and true.

C: They say when you are young (a child) everything can influence you and they are right. Their influence is what screws with you, confuses you, makes everything complicated.

D: Judaism doesn't provide enough answers. How do you expect a young child to go about his life with no answers just curiosity?

E: I think it sucks because it’s a shallow minded religion. Things that it says don’t work for our generation. Kids don’t want to hear how they can’t do anything enjoyable.

F: I think Judaism itself is fine. The basis of the true religion is great. But rabbis and sages have made up all these extra rules to add here to the original rules which, because they are man made, might be spoiling the purity of the religion.

G: I don't think the religion sucks, I think that it's not being taught properly. There are people out there distorting it and taking things a little bit too far. I don't think that the extra rules the rabbi's added on a while ago spoils the purity, I think its more all the extra rules being added on NOW. And while “E” is right about kids not wanting to hear about it now, but often it’s because they don't get what it's really about and don’t understand why they can't do the things they want to do.

H: Know ANYBODY who teaches it well? Can’t say I know any one or any rabbi who does.

I: In short I find even when you do all the right things it still seems to be a dark world, and basically that’s why I think it’s all (feces).

J: Judaism is awesome, it’s just the people who represent it nowadays are stuck in a steel box and are doing it all wrong. But Judaism in and of itself is beautiful. If it was taught in the right way people would be a lot more into it.

K: Judaism is beautiful...one creator, angles, spirits, mysticism, heaven,.... But it’s based on ancient culture.

L: What the rabbi's added in the times of the Gemara isn't bad at all, it's just as pure as the rest of the Torah. But people are adding on their own stuff and taking it too far now, which is wrong.


  1. I Have Seen the LightJune 14, 2010 7:01 PM

    Until recently I davened in a local shul. When the rav of that shul put Lema'an Achai in cherem because of David Morris my kids came to me and said that if this is how rabbis treat baalei chesed then they don't want any part of it. Kids, and especially teens, are very perceptive.

    That is why my family no longer davens there. I hope that I nipped their concerns in the bud.

  2. to I have Seen the light,
    i don't htink that you nipped the thing in the bud. i think you just rebelled instead of them.
    eventually they will have questions on your new rav and perhaps on yourself, being that no one is perfect. it would have been wiser to actually deal with the issue than running away from it.

    i think you should have explained to your kids that it was not David's chesed that was at the source of the debate, rather it was some side issue. they should be explained that sometimes things that go on amongst rabbanim and other communal leaders are only known completely to them and we can't know exactly what was involved.
    ultimately, i think that it is more important that kids' perception of the Rabbonim are strenghtened more so than how their perception of other community activists is. therefore you probably wopuld have been better off taking the Rav's side than that of the community activist.

  3. Of course, if he wanted to, Mr. Anonymous could take the side of _both_ the activist and the Rav, if the Rav is question was R' Soloveitchik or R' Myers (or others)...

    That said, does _every_ post here have to have a complaint about BTYA or its Rav? No one is forcing you to daven there, and it's not like the Rav is the Mara D'Asra to whom you must submit... (for that matter, it's not like the "Mara D'Asra" is really the Mara D'Asra, but that's a different topic)

  4. Mr. Anon,

    If the rav had a problem with David why hit Lema'an Achai? While I agree with your premise about respecting rabbonim I can not understand how and why the poor should suffer by attacking Lema'an Achai. David is just one person at Lema'an Achai just as the rav is one person at BTYA. How could "I Have Seen the Light" explained to his children that it's ok to punish the poor because you have a problem with a member of the board of the organization? This goes way beyond normal thinking.
    Should I boycott all business owned by BTYA members because their rav believes in collective punishment?

  5. Mikeage,

    I wonder how many of the Judaism "sucks" kids come from BTYA families.

    I disagree with you...if a particular shul and or their rav is a source of pirud, machlokes and punishing the poor then by all means the problem should be addressed.

    It has been over a year since this travesty that came from the pulpit of that shul and time has come for them to rectify their misdeeds.

    If they have a problem with Morris then keep him out of the shul and don't do business with him. But to ban Lema'an Achai?

    There is something very rotten there.

  6. how did this turn into a Lemaan Achai - Rabbi Malinowitz discussion? Is that one issue the reason why all these kids think Judaism sucks?

  7. No Rafi it is not that one issue.

    But having a rav (and his kehilla) blacklist Lema'an Achai because of the rav's issues with David Morris is a blazing example of what is wrong with Judaism in the eyes of these kids. Couple that with beating of kids in the park and RBSB, the elite schools that won't accept "certain" types of kids and adhering to more new chumros each day and you'll have a recipe for discord.
    Why would a teen (or an adult for that matter) in today's day and age want to have a kesher with such Judaism?
    Darchea Darchei Noam and this just isn't it.

    So yes Rafi...Rav Malinowitz and his senseless ban against Lema'an Achai and the poor IS a big part of the issue.

  8. Perplexed,
    Not everything has to be understood. The same way a father can explain to his son many parts of how a car works there are some parts that he would have to say that he is not a mechanic and doesn't fully understand.
    Similarly, one can explain to his children that he also doesn't understand, but the Rabbi is more knowledgable than us, and also knows more of the details than we do and perhaps if we had all the info that the Rabbi did, we would agree to his opinion.
    While this may or not satisfy your question, that was not the issue that "I saw the light" was grapelling with - at least not what he said he was.
    That being said, I don't want to take any sides in this issue, but would like to suggest the following: When we give money to a tzedakah organization, we rely on their judgement of how to distribute those funds. If the aforementioned Rav, came to the conclusion that the heads of an organization have exercised poor judgement and feels that their judgement can no longer be relied upon, then it would be very difficult to permit the handing over of tzedakah funds to someone who you feel is not reliable to show proper judgement.
    I am not saying that this is that rav's position nor iam I saying that I feel this way. I am just suggesting a way to understand the issue. Similarly, other reasons might be at play.
    We all make decisions that are questioned by people, whether it is friends, neighbors, parents, or in-laws. Many times there are things that went into the decision that we prefer not to share. Without that info, these people often look at our decisions as bad ones and can't understand how a rational person can make such a decision. But WE KNOW that our decision was right under the circumstances.

  9. Another Mr. AnonJune 15, 2010 12:06 AM

    Mr. Anon,

    A rav can be a talmid chochom and a tzadik. That doesn't make him infallible.

    We know that in our history many very great people (including a tanna in the mishna) made grave mistakes that caused many to fall.

    If the heiligeh tannaim could falter certainly a rav today can make a misjudgement.

    From what I know of Lema'an Achai David Morris has little to nothing to do with distribution of tzedaka. There are rabbonim,including thier director and professionals who are bnei Torah who decide how to give tzedaka. I can see this as nothing more than the rav punishing David by banning his organization.
    This would be no different than my not giving to Kupa because rav Perlstein started it and still has a deah. Although I might not agree with Rav Perlstein (and certainly question his judegement in many areas) I know that he has little to do with KST's daily operation so I wouldn't tell people to ban Kupa based on Rav Perlstein.

    So too your postering that Rav Malinowitz is banning Lema'an Achai based on David's invlovement (and judegment in giving tzedaka) just doesn't hold water.

    I believe that the time has come to end this silliness and support Lema'an Achai and the wonderful work that they do.

  10. Olam hafuch Ra'isiJune 15, 2010 12:08 AM

    Based on what Mr. Anon says no thinking person in RBSA should give to Kupa as some of their heads closely associate with kannoim both here and in RBSB.

    If their judegemnt is so poor how can we give over our tzedaka to them?

    Do you see how ridiculous this sounds?

  11. sorry Mr. Anon

    instead of addressing the point of the post and comment, you simply attacked the commentor. This means that you are part of the problem.

    As a shomer shabbos Jew with a very right wing yeshivah background, on a very basic level, I happen to agree with the title and all of the unfortunate comments by the interviewees. I am old enough now to understand some differences and human interjections, but for the most part, the arguments are correct. Our pathetically trained, most not trained at all, Rabbis and teachers have ruined our religion.

  12. Enough AlreadyJune 15, 2010 9:59 AM


    In all (very) due respect you can't minimize the Lema'an Achai issue.
    Years of life saving work in our community could be potentially disrupted by the careless actions of a rav and his congregants.
    I have friends in BTYA who tell me that they used to give to Lema'an Achai and now don't.
    This is direct hezek to the organization and the people it helps. It is no longer a laughing matter.
    If Lema'an Achai wil no longer be able to assist as they have in the past our community will suffer greatly.
    Those responsible for this damage will be accountable both here and in shomayim. No amount of Torah learning and piety will silence the cries of the poor people, widows and downtrodden who will have been hurt by this ban on Lema'an Achai.

  13. while I dont minimize the issue, I wonder why it has to become so central on very many posts here...

  14. I wonder how many people really make an issue out of it, versus how many of these posters are the same individual...

  15. Rafi,

    It should be an issue on this and every post until saner minds prevail and the cherem is lifted.

  16. Lemaan Achai, the kanoim, the irrational and historically untrue things that they get told they must believe, the running after humrot, the papal infalibility of the gedoilim and the monopoly on "authenticity" by Haredism, the immoral behavior of "religious" people... the list goes on. It is all relevant. A lot of the stuff they are saying here is "whiny" (as it was called over on DovBear, but much is also true.

  17. The big question here is how to make the Torah/Judaism/etc more compelling to our youth?

    The "kids on the street" and unsavory elements show much more love, acceptance and understanding than do our own community.

    A true effort to love, accept and respect others (even those not like us) will filter down to our kids and bring them back.

    Ridicule,judging,"more machmir than thou" and partisanship in tzedaka will do nothing but alienate more of our youth.

    (Mr. Anon...I do not see how that in any way the display against Lema'an Achai and then forcing the rav's authority/infallability on our kids will foster anything but confusion and anger)

  18. Can we put all the Lemaan Achai/Btya/Rav comments in 1 place(somewhere else)
    so those of us sick of the topic, sock puppets , etc., don't have to be bothered?

    Enough Please
    p.s.- please no plays on 'enough' or 'bothered' explaining why starving families/la,etc.etc.

  19. The Torah has nothing to be ashamed about, its the way it has been taught which causes the problems. Like Rabbi Berel Wein always says: Dont blame Judaism because of Jews, dont blame God.
    However, for young teens and even older teens, it hard to make that difference.
    As someone who has first hand experience with the boys and girls from RBS and beyond, let me tell you this: They are amazing kids, with real questions and real feelings. And they cannot be just "beaten", or waved away.
    They are angry, confused and often shunned.
    They need to be invited to your house (if possible) for a shabbas meal, they need to be spoken to, they need to be respected.
    Another BIG factor is: Shalom Bais. Harmony in the house. If they have a nice shabbas table, with singing or without, with divrei torah or without - doesnt matter. What matters is that is fun, warm and RELEVANT. I have personally seen very rebellious teenagers engaged in beautiful discussions on Shabbas meals, because the atmosphere was right.
    The "new" Generation, which I think the majority of readers here are, i.e.: Men and Women with younger children, know this: You can make a difference. Chill with them, shmooze with them. Not in a patronizing way, dont view them as your chessed project. But with respect and love. What they lack in abundance is INSPIRATION. They have none.
    The Torah can and should be taught better. Better role models, better schools and better Ahavas Chinam.
    I would be very excited to hear your ideas on this matter.

  20. Weisz - please write to me offline. I have something to ask you.. israeli.jew (@) gmail.com

  21. Shlomo-many many BTYA kids feel this way. In fact, some of the most "troubled" kids in RBS are from some of the shul's leading families. I have spoken to them and yes, the LA issue was huge for them. They all have a great deal of respect for David, since he is known not to judge and accepts them as fellow Jews.It is an issue that will not go away and cannot be brushed under the carpet until it is addressed. The kids need leaders they can look up to and respect. If they see a talmid chacham behaving like a petulant child with a wounded ego, then these bright and sensitive kids are going to turn away.

  22. I hereby register my machaa for the words that "Jewish mom" used to describe a chashuva talmid chochom. You may disagree with his actions but that doesn't alow for such name calling.
    Look up in the shulchan aruch what the punishment is for being mevaze talmidey chachamim.

  23. Yes, Mr Anonymous, I will look in the Shulchan Aruch. It will also tell me what the punishments are for rabbonim who speak Rechilus and Loshon Hora about respected community members for no other reason than personal Kavod. There is no Kavod haTorah in this issue, just a Rodef Kavod who should have turned away ( if he is the gadol that you claim). After all, the original article mentioned 3 "local Rabbonim" (none of them by name) and I did not see either of the other two make salacious public statements or issue a cherem. If you are so damned frum, why are you on the internet reading blogs? didn't you know the gedolim banned you?

  24. Mr. Anon,

    " You may disagree with his actions but that doesn't alow for such name calling."

    Jewish Mom is simply following the lead of the choshuva rav who called David Morris insulting and degrading names in public inside a shul.

    Having personally witnessed this I have lost any and all respect for this rav. His actions were totally uncalled for. There were teens from the shul at that mincha time who witnessed this as well...what do you think their reactions will be?

  25. That incident obviously made a mark on the teenagers, and adult as it seems.
    However, lets focus on what WE CAN do.
    how about some brainstorming with less trash talking, even though that might be necessary at times, and more relevant ideas.

  26. Compelling JudaismJune 16, 2010 12:07 PM


    It's "toivel vsheretz byado".

    Until the ugly politics end there will be little that we can accomplish.

    The hate and intolerance for other Jews will undo everything that we have done for these precious teens.

    When the kids see that their role models refuse to accept the ban on Lema'an Achai (even though it might come from rabbonim) the air will be much clearer to show them the true beauty of being a Jew.

    Running away from this and trying to change the subject will not change the metzius.

  27. Dear Compelling,
    The article was about the teenagers. What I'm trying do to is to get the conversation back to be about the teenagers. I am not arguing that the ban or cherem against LA was or was not a terrible mistake and indeed a very bad incident for the teenagers to see. Indeed, the number #1 reason why they are upset and disinterested in Judaism is because of bad middos and hypocrisy in their leaders.
    However, what I am saying is that we can do little about the ban. I, for one, can do nothing. I dont know enough about the ban, dont know the Rav and his reasons.
    What I do know is that you and I can do something about the teenagers view of Torah. You and I and everybody else reading this can be better role models. When we shop, when we eat out and when we walk on the street. Like one comment said: They are very perceptive. And they are also perceptive when it comes to bashing of Rabonim. This particular Rav might have it coming, I dont know. But is it worth the bashing when the teenagers also observe that? Some of them might be reading this very blog. When we show Kavod to Rabbanim, Kavod for Torah - real Kavod, like NOT TALKING IN SHUL, COMING ON TIME TO DAVENING or refusing to talk Lashon Hara or nivul peh etc; then we can make a difference. Bringing back shopping carts to their proper place, not pushing ahead when waiting to check out, saying thank you, not standing in the express line with 24 items etc. These are thing we can do by just being a mentch. Many of us do this already. But we can do more: If you can, hang out with them, invite them.
    Instead of focusing on the bad things, like the ban, which - as far as I see - we cant do anything about, we should focus on the good. And there is much of it.

  28. We Can Do SomethingJune 17, 2010 7:54 AM


    You are 100% on the mark. The actions that you mentioned are all essential.

    Do you know David Morris? He examplifies almost all of the middos that you mentioned. In addition he has a heart that beats for every other Jew. When kids who know who he is hear how he has been degraded by a respected rav in the community they will throw everything out wholesale.

    I also disagree about what we can do about the ban. If we, who feel that it is an injustice, will support Lema'an Achai, donate to them, volunteer for them and help in any way we can then possibly we will have accomplished something.

    While shopping last night at the merkaz I saw some of "these kids" running a food drive for...Lema'an Achai.

    You should have seen how proud they are of what they were doing (and that was just standing around collecting food for Lema'an Achai's families).

    Kol HaKavod to them and to Lema'an Achai for providing an opportunity to make our community a better place.

  29. Yes, I know about the food drive... the boys which you saw are "my" boys... from my school. And, yes, they were very proud. That's what its all about.
    I do agree that on a personal level one can do something about the ban, namely, to donate to LA. Which I do.
    I don't know David Morris personally, but from what I heard he is a walking Kidush Hashem for what he does for Klal Yisrael.
    However, bashing a Rav in a blog or over your supper table, again - he might have it coming -, might be counter productive. We run into this problem often: when the kids complain about the behavior of certain groups of Jews, like the beating up of the kids in RBSB; do we join them in bashing the Kanoim, or do we show sympathy and empathy, but in a way where we also don't fall victim to bashing people, judging people and throwing everybody into one pot.
    Of course, sometimes one has to whole heartily agree with them (as it was the case with the beating in RBSB) and maybe this is case here as well, I don't know.
    What I do know is that bashing Rabbanim (and believe me when I say, that there are other "Rabbanim" in our midst who have done far worse and "deserve" even more bashing and trash talking) is often counter productive.
    How am I supposed to expect them to trust me and learn from me, if I tell them that their fathers Rav, perhaps their own Sandek etc... is a lowlife. I don't know the answer, but tread carefully.
    But again, there is MUCH MUCH more you can do. Things with out side effects (like Rabbanim bashing) i have a list of things which needs to be done and all i need is (money, of course &) and people who want to help. Women and/or men. If you are interested, contact me. yechielweisz@gmail.com

  30. We Can Do SomethingJune 17, 2010 9:33 AM


    Once again I agree with you in regard to rabbonim bashing. This is why I suggest positive support of Lema'an Achai rather than speaking about the rav.

    The damage caused to this noble organization is beyond imagination.

    We as a community must work together to undo what has been done so that Lema'an Achai can continue to help others unencumbered by the politics that seek to divide rather than unite.

    Similarly we must work together for these kids as they are our future and as I saw last night they are caring, concerned and motivated to make a difference.

  31. A friend has just refered me to this thread of comments.

    Is anyone still reading this?

  32. Hi DY!

    Mr Anonymous wrote: "it was not David's chesed that was at the source of the debate, rather it was some side issue."

    I'd just like to set the record straight...

    The "side issue" is child abuse and how a community should responsibly deal with it.

    This was and is the only issue that me and Rav Malinowitz have a machlokes about.

    It's all about chesed!

  33. Rafi,

    I think that this is an important issue and should be moved up.

  34. Humans Can Make MistakesJune 20, 2010 10:08 AM

    Yechiel said,
    "However, bashing a Rav in a blog or over your supper table, again - he might have it coming -, might be counter productive. We run into this problem often: when the kids complain about the behavior of certain groups of Jews, like the beating up of the kids in RBSB; do we join them in bashing the Kanoim, or do we show sympathy and empathy, but in a way where we also don't fall victim to bashing people, judging people and throwing everybody into one pot.
    Of course, sometimes one has to whole heartily agree with them (as it was the case with the beating in RBSB) and maybe this is case here as well, I don't know."

    Yechiel, at what point would you say that it is ok to criticize a rav for a dangerous or even damaging stance or remark?

    It is wholesale acceptance that allowed the likes of Shabtei Tzvi and other charlatans to cause many to go "off the derech".

    While I don't condone bashing I don't see anything wrong in questioning a particular (not all) rav's stance about issues such as child abuse, mesira and his bashing of a tzedaka organization.

    It is exactly the philosophy of not being able to question that leads many kids and adults to stray away from the path of Torah.

  35. Dear Human...
    The answer is that "I dont know". I dont know where the line is, when to agree with them whole heartily and when not. When I see myself in such a situation I ask my Rav (who I totally trust!) and pray that I do the right thing.
    I wasnt coming here to say what to do; if its wrong to bash or right to bash.
    What I was saying is that BESIDES all the bashing there is things we most definitely CAN do.
    Every time you walk by the boys playing football on shabbas, say something nice to them. "Nice throw", "good arm" - or if you are woman (or man, depending on the situation, I guess) and pass by a couple of girls chilling in a park, say "Good Shabbas", "Thats a nice hairdo".
    The kind of impression you can make is truly amazing. Trust me when I say: You can really make a difference.
    The vast majority of these teens dont hate God per se. They hate the people who should represent God. Which eventually become a hatred towards religion, Torah and God.


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