The Challenges Facing American Jewry at the End of the Century—25 Years Later

In 1998, Tradition—America’s most prominent Orthodox journal—published a symposium on the changing face of Orthodoxy that had taken place since the 1970s. Now, another quarter-century later, two of the contributors revisit the same questions. Judith Bleich stands by her previous position that the problems within Orthodox Judaism are far less grave than those facing Jewry as a whole:

[T]he stark reality is that the Orthodox are but a relatively small fraction of the Jewish people. The major problem confronting contemporary Jewry is not tension between traditionalists and innovators; it is the absence of any form of religious identification on the part of vast numbers of Jews. In an increasingly thoroughly secular world, allegiance to religion among 21st-century youth is waning.

The dramatically soaring rate of intermarriage is certainly incontrovertible testimony to the loss of religious commitment on the part of contemporary Jews. . . . Indeed, usually, neither party to an intermarriage has a meaningful connection to any religious faith. Questioned regarding the religious group with whom they identified, the response of far too many millennials was “none.” The challenge of denominationalism pales before that of disinterest and apathy.

By contrast, Rabbi Marc Angel worries about a trend toward dogmatism and inflexibility among Orthodox Jews:

Orthodoxy needs to foster the love of truth. It must be alive to different intellectual currents, and receptive to open discussion. . . . [W]e must stand up and be counted on the side of freedom of expression. We, as a community, must give encouragement to all who have legitimate opinions to share. We must not tolerate intolerance. We must not yield to the tactics of coercion and intimidation.

Our schools and institutions must foster legitimate diversity within Orthodoxy. We must insist on intellectual openness, and resist efforts to impose conformity. . . . We must give communal support to diversity within the halakhic framework, so that people will not feel intimidated to say things publicly or to sign their names to public documents.

Read more at Tradition

More about: American Jewry, American Judaism, Decline of religion, Orthodoxy

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7