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

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.

Read more at Eli Spitzer

More about: British Jewry, Haredim, Internet, Multiculturalism

 

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy