American Orthodoxy Has Grown More Stringent in Some Ways, More Liberal in Others

Since the beginning of the century, observers of Orthodox Judaism in America have commented on what one sociologist labeled a “shift to the right.” This shift isn’t a political one, but rather a move toward more stringent observance and a tendency for the Modern Orthodox to grow closer to Ḥaredim in certain respects. Zev Eleff argues that Orthodoxy is indeed changing, but not in a way that can be explained in such simple directional terms:

Take, for instance, the gray areas of Jewish jurisprudence, as I have argued, from the rise and fall of peanut oil in Ashkenazi-practicing homes on Passover, [now considered a forbidden legume product], to the emergence of bat mitzvah ceremonies in Orthodox spaces. Peanut oil was “the Passover oil” in the immediate postwar period, approved by all kosher certification agencies . . . until the 1960s. Bat mitzvah, on the other hand, was a decidedly Conservative Jewish practice in the 1950s and rarely done in Orthodox circles.

In the case of peanut oil, the Orthodox community banned it and moved to the “right,” while in the latter instance, bat-mitzvah rituals, we have moved very far to the “left.” Factor in consumerism (Passover vacations, boutique toys, and other Orthodox products), dating practices, and women in the workforce, and you will further bollix notions of linear movements to one direction or another.

[Moreover], the tenets of Modern Orthodoxy are no longer all that distinguishable from the yeshiva [i.e., non-ḥasidic ḥaredi] world. The latter has softened its stance on Israel; the erstwhile anti-Zionists (save for Satmar) are by and large non-Zionists. The yeshiva world visits Israel, champions it, and votes for American politicians who they believe best serve Israel’s interests. In addition, the Modern Orthodox and [the more stringently] Orthodox are much more closely aligned in terms of higher education. The yeshiva world has developed partnerships with universities to help their children earn degrees in “practical” fields such as accounting and the health sciences. Their children enroll in top medical schools and elite law schools.

Read more at Jewish Ideas and Ideals

More about: American Judaism, Bat mitzvah, Modern Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy


An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy