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

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy