In a Changing World, Orthodoxy Needs a New Breed of Spokesmen

Eli Spitzer
pick
Feb. 8 2022
About Eli

Eli Spitzer is a Mosaic columnist and the headmaster of a hasidic boys’ school in London. He blogs and hosts a podcast at elispitzer.com.

Last month, a new ḥaredi institution was founded in the UK with the express goal of serving as a “point of contact for our community’s public affairs and public relations.” Eli Spitzer believes that this organization came on the scene “not a moment too soon,” as two cultural shifts have caused unprecedented challenges for those who would manage the public relations of British Ḥaredim:

Twenty years ago, multiculturalism was the regnant orthodoxy, and politicians of all stripes were desperate above all to demonstrate their tolerance for, and warm relations with, minority communities, the weirder the better. It was entirely possible for a senior government minister to be photographed at an event in [the heavily Orthodox London neighborhood of] Stamford Hill with an ostentatious m’ḥitsah separating men and women, without anyone making a fuss about “gender apartheid.” Times have changed. The privilege pecking order (according to which the less “privileged” you are, the more privileges you get) has changed, and, now, being a member of a minority community is no longer an excuse for flouting the latest orthodoxies on gender, race, and sexuality; in some cases, it might even be an aggravating factor.

This shift was undoubtedly expedited by fears that autonomous minority communities were breeding grounds for terrorism, but it was going to happen sooner or later anyway.

The second shift is informational. The iPhone was first released for sale in 2007, Facebook was launched in 2003, even Google only goes back to 1998, and all of these developments took years to achieve social saturation. There was a time, much more recently than it seems, where you could say more or less anything to journalists and they had no real way of checking. Now, within a couple of minutes even a true statement can be easily “debunked” through a few minutes searching the Internet for exposés of the ḥaredi community written by hostile critics. Not only can we no longer keep secrets, but any voice we have is just one among millions available through a simple click.

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More about: British Jewry, Haredim, Internet, Multiculturalism

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship