How the Growth of Jewish Education in Postwar America Brought Polarization

March 23 2018

Today, Orthodox Jewry is divided, if not always cleanly, between the Modern Orthodox, who embrace secular education and some openness to the non-Jewish world, and the ultra-Orthodox, who pursue greater cultural isolation and a more stringent understanding of religious requirements. Moshe Koppel notes that these categories did not apply to the many Jews he knew in his youth who had come to the U.S. from Eastern Europe after World War II. He seeks to explain how the schism came about:

[A] generation of yeshiva-educated baby boomers growing up after the war moved comfortably along the spectrum running from frum [i.e., strictly observant] and segregated to modern and assimilating. On the one hand, they inherited deep feelings of alienation and resentment toward acculturated American Jews and their establishment. On the other hand, as is common with children of immigrants, they rushed headlong into professional achievement and American culture, often including the 1960s counterculture. The resulting tension played out in many interesting ways, including various singular combinations that are fast becoming extinct.

The success of Orthodox institutions in America, especially beginning in the 1960s and 70s, has had some unintended consequences. Large educational institutions are not artisanal studios; they are instruments of mass production. Even if graduates inevitably choose their own divergent paths, these institutions define a standard against which one must self-define. Furthermore, since such institutions compete for students, they inevitably cluster around certain standard forms. . . .

Eventually, such institutions are around long enough to produce their own teachers, creating a feedback loop that narrows and hardens institutional identity. Graduates of the various standard educational types then sort themselves out to different neighborhoods, like [Modern Orthodox] Teaneck and [ḥasidic] Borough Park, where they don’t need to interact and where there is intense pressure to conform to the right stereotype.

One consequence of this is that a certain type of crossover character is disappearing. There are no more celebrated Lithuanian talmudic sages who play chess and go the opera. There are no more wives of ḥasidic rebbes studying in Hunter College. . . . [This] division of a messy continuum into distinct segregated sub-communities is merely the preliminary phase of a process in which segregation leads to polarization.

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Read more at Judaism without Apologies

More about: American Judaism, History & Ideas, Jewish education, Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy, Ultra-Orthodox

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy