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

Sept. 15 2023

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


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

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