Aug 5, 2009

Is the situation really so bad?

Those involved in the leadership of various aspects of Orthodox life, are wont to point out the failures of the secular community in transmitting even the most basic of Jewish tradition. They decry the base lack of knowledge, how secular kids don't know basic tanach, don't know the Sh'ma prayer, etc.

I don't know if that is really true (though they always quote statistics) or not, but it is ingrained in us, and i believed it as well, that it is fact. Maybe it is just propaganda, like saying the Palestinians use sewage water to irrigate crops, or like the Palestinians saying Israel supplies Gaza with gum that makes them want to have sex and live decadent lives destroying their society.

So I, as do many, always believed to be true the idea that the secular knowledge of Jewish tradition and custom is in such a bad state that they don't even know the most basic concepts.

Believing that to be true, I was very surprised to read an article this morning in the newspaper (Yisrael HaYom) about a plane crash in some island off of Thailand. A group of about 20 Israelis on the flight came out of the crash unscathed.

The article quoted one of the Israelis as saying, "It happened so fast, just like in the movies. There was not even time to cry out "Shema Yisrael"!"

I was shocked when I read this. Yes, perhaps they were religious, or sfardi traditional, as the article did not specify anythign about them. However, based on the general impression based on the propoganda described above, it was surprising to read such a statement from Israelis backpacking through islands of Thailand.

Perhaps the situation is better than the one assumed/presumed.


  1. Shechora Anni V'navah, Bnot Yerushalayim, K'ahalei Keidar, K'yeriyot Shlomo.

  2. That being said, we are ALL far from what we can be, let alone what we're supposed to be.

  3. I believe that there are very few completely secular (or Chiloni) Israelis.

    There was just a report that over 90% knew that Tesha B'Av was the date that the Temple was destroyed and over 60% wanted the Temple rebuilt (!)

    I think that even though completely Secular are a small minority, they are over-represented in the media, the courts, the Knesset and Universities

  4. I think it is a generational thing. The older Israelis that i've met can often quote easily from T'nach and are pretty knowledgeable even if they are not practicing much.
    The young teens who have grown up in the secular education system don't seem to know much and are more anti-religious. Just what i've seen.

  5. I believe the argument made regarding the secular is nothing more than propoganda by people who are insecure in their own level of knowledge. I have met many secular who know quite a bit, and way too many "frum" who know nothing but the motions they go through.

  6. Fantastic! I love hearing things like that :)

  7. yes it is true rafi, The orthodox educational system is filled with propoganda. But if you are learning that the world is 5000 yrs old and that the dinosaurs never existed than why would you imagine that charediim would understand the secular outlook and jewish teachings based on what the closed charedi system propogandizes.

    But why would they bother to understand the secular viewpoint, the charediim believe they have the truth. Therefore any other choice but the charedi choice must be made on ignorance.

    Furthermore, perhaps the charediim feel that if they respect and attempt to understand the secular view of judaism it would be dangerous to them and their way of life. Although I have always had a problem with this particular view. I've always felt that if you have interesting and wonderful knowledge than it will stand the test of time and society. If I have to hide myself and my understanding of the world away from the rest of the world, than how strong and valuable could my way of life really be?
    For example, I send my daughter to a jewish day school where almost all the families are orthodox. I have no problem with my kid mingling and learning about the orthodox way of life and views. More knowledge will only enhance her understanding of the world. I am not afraid that being around charediim will corupt her. I accept that there are great wisdoms to be learnt from every culture and group and walk of life.
    And I teach her that there are diffrent types of jews and different types of people. She gets to learn from as many of them as she can without fear that knowledge of others will somehow corrupt and ruin her.
    When I took her to meet and hear the dali lama I thought of how the parents of the kids in her class would call that avodah zarah, and instead of being afraid, we went and had a learning experiance that made her more complete, not less.

  8. according to my own experience working with secular jews, most of those I know are attached to tradition. For instance,I saw some of my colleagues standing and talking about the technicalities of selling the Chometz.
    But then I live in Jerusalem so maybe I'm wrong. I guess that in Gush Dan or in Haifa the situation might be different.
    but consider this:
    Charedim may prefer completely secular jews because it is easier to show somebody who thinks that charedim have horns that the reality is different. It is more complicated to deal with say a committed Reform or Conservative jew.

  9. Way - let's not get carried away. Every society and group passes a certain amount of propaganda about other groups. That is the way of the world. Some people are more open, but as a group, propaganda is very common.

    Others - there could be a lot of explanations. Article said they were from Hertzliya. Maybe they were sfardi. maybe religious. maybe just more knowledgable than the average person. article did not say.

    Yes, knowledge is very slight and sadly they are very ignorant of tradition. I am just saying maybe it is not as bad as they are making it out to be. When you say "they don't even know the shema" and then you hear a story like this, it indicates that at least some basic knowledge they might actually have.

  10. Was it a bit much? I blame the morphine.


  11. I find it difficult to believe that many secular know that little because just living in israel, you must land up learning a lot - you hear quotes, the papers quote tanach and maamarei chazal and people do, they land up in some areas interacting with frumme etc they cant possibly know as little as secular american jews


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