Sunday, 26 May 2013

Right in the wrong

Guest post by “Moish”

Apologies in advance to readers who must by now have tired of the 'painful saga', but an article in this week's JC underscores an aspect of the ensuing fallout that has yet to be fully appreciated. It demonstrates the seismic shifts taking place in frum London, if not the UK, effected in large measure by this very saga.

For the first time in living memory, a spokesman for the United Synagogue (and not merely individual dayonim acting in their capacity as 'NW London rabbonim') has gone on record criticizing the UOHC. The significance of this cannot be overestimated, especially as the criticism relates not to the UOHC's financial probity, general accountability or its (lack of) democratic mandate but on issues of chupa and kidushin. The US lecturing the Stamford Hill establishment on yiddishkeit may not be quite like North Korea lecturing the USA on human rights but in the Adath’s eyes it must come scarily close.

The story of Orthodoxy, if not Judaism, in the UK, as well as the world over, during the last few decades has been to a large extent the seemingly inexorable ascendancy of the Charedim. Their growing numbers have been accompanied by an increasing confidence not only in expressing their views, but in policing the limits of acceptable rabbinic thought and behaviour amongst those to their left. UOHC rabbonim alongside their stable mates up north have been frenetically ferreting out the slightest whiff of heresy in their backsliding 'mainstream' counterparts. Whippers-in like good old Joe have made it their job of propping up the rear (where many of their heads are firmly ensconced) from his perch in Anglo Orthodoxy's organ and through the presidiums and presidencies that have fallen his way.

Whether it was the near-career-ending furore over the mischievous leaking of the Chief Rabbi's letter to the late R. Padwa over Hugo Gryn's memorial service or the auto-da-fe that ensued over the Chief's 'Dignity of Difference', God's self-proclaimed inquisitors were always on the case. In halachic matters too, from the brouhaha over the NW London eruv to the excoriation of Dayan Lopian for his overly liberal approach to yom tov sheni, any overt deviation from the Stamford Hill cum Bnei Brak line was swiftly and harshly condemned and without the adjudication of an ad hoc Beis Din.

Although this condemnation did not always lead to a retraction on the part of the offending party, the bearded bearers of 'Torah True' principles became the force to be reckoned with on Judaic matters. This self perception of the 'Adath' rabbonim was widely in accordance with how they were viewed by the Jewish public at large: uncompromising adherents to unchanging principles.

And it is here where the tectonic shifts are taking place. Without repeating the sordid allegations of 'the curious incident of the rov in the night-time' with which readers of this blog will be well versed, it can safely be said that the reputation of the UOHC rabbinic leadership has taken a pounding. It will take a long time if ever before anyone outside their insular citadels will look to them for guidance or authority on anything, never mind issues pertaining to the status of women, sanctity, marriage or education. In the immortal words of Rav Padwa, "the solution doesn't lie with the police," and it definitely does not lie with the self-appointed UOHC religious and modesty cops.

It is no coincidence that the UOHC has chosen to keep its counsel while mainstream Anglo Orthodoxy has been undergoing a mini-revolution of its own. From the appointment of a 'yoetzet halacha' in Kinloss to the election of women onto the boards of Federation shuls and as presidents of several United Synagogues; from the expansion in the number of women's megilla readings to increased contact with rabbinic personalities from New York's Yeshiva University, a not-so-subtle snub of Charedi norms has been gaining traction while the guardian angels have been looking less than beatific.

Of course this has not all come about as a result of the UOHC's recent failures and the LBD is still firmly ensconced in black-hat territory. What has changed, however, is the deterrent factor the UOHC and its allies once represented. Whereas in the past, R. Sacks felt the need to offer an abasing response when he was called to account by the late Rav Padwa, a similar demand from the current UOHC Head (were it not to be retracted on the same day) would likely be greeted with a mixture of scorn and bemusement.

Rather than cowering in fear as they may once have done when facing an attack from their exposed right flank, mainstream Orthodox leaders would more likely be on the floor in fits of laughter. It will be a long time indeed before the rabbis of the United Synagogue are prepared to take lessons from their Charedi counterparts on what should be considered a 'deviation' from our sacred mesorah.

And it is not just external forces that are weakening the UOHC. It may be imploding internally too as their predominance on their home turf is being eroded and they concentrate their efforts on modesty squads and the like. While In the past hell would erupt at the change of hechsher of a mere yoghurt supplier, nary a peep has been heard from Kedassia officialdom in response to the tanks of a rival butcher shop parked firmly on their lawn. Since the ba'alei machshirim are a Stamford Hill Rov with the backing of a large kehilo and an ex-Stamford Hiller in out-of-reach Edgware, there is every reason to believe that the eyes and direction of the newbies are firmly set east. Were Belz to establish its own meat in Stamford Hill Satmar would have no option but to follow suit. The absence of the revenue provided by a profitable meat production would mark the practical end of the UOHC.

It would be a mistake to attribute the decline in the Union’s ‘footprint’ solely to recent events. If Rav Padwa's inaugratory address on a decapitated calf didn't raise doubts on the leadership quality of the victor at the funeral power grab, then by the time of his incoherent discourse on nobody-quite-knows-what at the Siyum Hashas, he had richly earned his nickname as the 'Moro D'saster'. This latest saga has however metamorphasised the headless calf into a headless chicken and shown the emperor to have no bekitshe and barely a loin cloth. And for this they have a certain resident of Bridge Lane to thank.

25 comments:

Yerachmiel Lopin said...

Another one of your marvelous posts.

Alas in reality in the US, the Orthodox Union is being taken over by black hatters who wave aside all objections for the sake of a certain posek.

Keep up your good work and good cheer on the other side of the ocean.

Asher said...

What was the yom tov sheni issue?

paddling pool said...

'Moro D'saster'.
touché

Pull the other one said...

Guest post? I don't think so.

onlooker said...

Very good article. Indeed it is those who have always preached holiness and modesty whom have now breached holiness and modesty on the highest level.
Unbelievably the holy Kedassia for all it's worth do not see the light and have to accept rebuke from those who they always looked down on...

Oink oink said...

But I thought the LBD dayonim had all recently been awarded honorary degrees by Oxford University. Or at least that's what my rov told me.

chemi said...

Mistomeh kedassia vil uz intz ala zolen yoh shpilen mit undera froen

Betrayed Former Supporter said...

Well said. The Union is clearly in decline and completely lacks any moral authority whatsoever. It is now transparent that it is run purely for the benefit of a few insiders and will stop at nothing to protect 'their' people.

Disgusting.

jane said...

Chemi,
the cops dont know yiddish or you dont know English?

What Kedassia really want is that if you wish to be mesader kiddushin you have to have allegations of abuse first.....
What a sad Union of Orthodox....

single! said...

To Cherni

Afilu nisht mit dein aygene!

גם אויל מחריש said...

'How can we deal with child abuse adequately while we begrudge our kids a day off on bank holiday or a decent half term break?'

Are you silly, or what?

SH educated said...

Mr Lopin.
This is not actually addressed to you but to anyone that might be influnced by your post.
The "certain posek" you refer to is R' Moshe Feinstein ztzvk"l (The Igros Moshe) who is among ALL observant circles and not just the so called "black hat brigade" THE acknowledged final authority. THE posek hador. Undisputed. And having studied his works I undestand why.

Anonymous said...

Regarding LBD critcising UOHC about breaches in protocol I think "Let he who is without sin....." would be most appropriate.
On the particular issue to which your "guest" blogger refers may I remind the learned US "rabbis" that the choice of mesader kidushin is al pi halacha entirely that of the chosson though lately it has become the choice of the kallah's father who has absolute discretion to take whoever he wants.
Who knows? Some day some-one might even choose you. Which would be just as permissible but far less comprehensible.

chemi said...

I love keddasia, they have announced that wife swap is 100% permitted,I think from now I will only eat kedassia meat.
For this reason I would say that jewdasim is the best religion.

Expat NY said...

Anonymous 21:09 said: "Regarding LBD critcising UOHC about breaches in protocol I think "Let he who is without sin....." would be most appropriate."

Quotation is from the New Testament r"l Matthew 15:11)(John 8:7), appropriately concerning 'The Woman who was taken in adultery", and would be unlikely to be used by Dayyonim of either Beis Din......

A week or so ago someone else commented that the frum oilem 'Should take more care of what comes out of their mouths than what goes in". That was also a quote fom 'Oiso ho'ish' (Matthew 15:11). I once heard a Charedi Rov quote that in a droshoh, attributing it to R'Yisroel Salanter!

There is a moral in this somewhere, but someone else can explain it.....

Just Observing said...

"R' Moshe Feinstein ztzvk"l (The Igros Moshe) who is among ALL observant circles and not just the so called "black hat brigade" THE acknowledged final authority."

What on earth is that supposed to mean? That nobody is allowed to disagree with him? R' Moshe himself explicitly wrote that it's okay to disagree with the Godol HaDor and even the Rishonim.

SH educated said...

Just Observing.

Of course. Not all of yahadus hachareidis conducts itself in accordance with R' Moshe's pesokim, nor, as you rightly say, are they obliged to.
I was just pointing out to the original poster that his criticism of OU etc. was entirely unjustified as all sgree that anyone who does conduct per those pesokim is ok.

Anonymous said...

Let us hope that te NY poster is as familiar with the true Torah as he is with the so-called "new" testament.
Nothing he says invalidates the truth of my inference of the inappropriatness of LBD rabbonim criticising UOHC rababbonim.
Just for starters, whatever his faults, just compare just of R' Padwa's recent remarks with some of R' Sacks' recent remarks.

a yid from over the pond said...

"R' Moshe himself explicitly wrote that it's okay to disagree with the Godol HaDor and even the Rishonim."

Please, if you know the exact location where Rav Moshe wrote that, I would be most interested in seeing that. This is not the kind of teshuva they show us in Yeshiva, and it seems I have some catching up to do!

Kedorluomer said...

A yid from over ther pond, that teshuva has obviously not yet been published... You will need to wait until the next edition of Rav Moshe's teshuvas' gets printed. You could go blue, green and polka dot with all that breath holding..

Anonymous said...

Of course he didn't write such a teshuva. It was not necessary. There is in our generation no single posek that has overall authority to the exclusion of all others. What there is, is a select (very select!) few that even those who don't conduct themselves in accordance with a particular posek's view concede that those who do are behaving "correctly". R' Moshe is one of them.
Back to the Moish's original post. Rav Padwa most certainly is not.

Just Observing said...

It's Igros Moshe (Y.D. 3:88), translated at http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2010/12/rav-moshe-feinsteincan-one-disagree.html

Exalted in Solitude said...

SH:
He is not referring to R' Moshe, but a living Posek. If you'd read his blog you'd know who is referring to.

Yerachmiel Lopin said...

Some blog commenters have mistakenly misunderstood me to be criticizing R. Moshe Feinstein, Zatzal. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am referring to a living posek. A perusal of my blog postings should make it clear that I have never criticized R. Moshe and I am absolutely persuaded that Rav Moshe was a rav of impeccable integrity.

I would just add, that there is often space for legitimate disagreement and I can respect competing viewpoints even when I believe they are wrong. However, I feel no obligation to accord respect to a psak rendered by a rav who violates rules of neigus or fails to properly inquire into the facts by listening to both sides. This is true whether we are talking about opinions about the innocence of a convicted Lakewood child molester or aboutthe kashrus of meat in Los Angeles. Hamayvin Yavin.

פי האסון said...

You end off by laying the blame for the metamorphic change from headless calf to headless chicken at the feet of the resident of Bridge Lane.

He was the trigger, but the blame remains firmly with the management of the Union.