The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

A policy conference without haredim?

The Jewish Policy and Planning Institute is sponsoring an impressive conference in Jerusalem this week. Leaders from around the world are grappling with the crucial issues of continuity, Israel and the future of the Jewish people.

The conference boasts an impressive array of academics and organizational leaders, but it seems there is little or no attendance from the more religious end of the Jewish world. I am sure there are some there sporting yarmulkes but few, if any, have come from the more haredi sector.

If one takes a look at Jewish life it's without question that the more Orthodox are succeeding in the crucial area of Jewish continuity. While assimilation chips away at many in the Jewish world, the Orthodox seem to be both retaining the loyalty of the next generation and expanding their numbers.

We are far from a utopia - parts of the ultra-Orthodox community are insular and have minimal concern for the totality of the Jewish people, unless it's on their own terms. And there are internal problems that are acute and need to be met.

Still, even a casual observer will note that we are not doing something right. And around the world, in community after community, traditional Judaism is gaining root and expanding.

Take a look at a wide variety of statistics - aliya, ongoing Jewish involvement, college-age students who spend time in Israel, the rate of intermarriage - and time and again it is the more observant who seem to have created a strategy that works.

AN INSTITUTE dedicated to long-term Jewish planning should, at the minimum, pick the brains of those - such as Chabad - who have created a successful modality of Jewish survival in both Israel and abroad. Not everyone in the frum community is prepared for this type of engagement. Some see little value in dialogue with more secular Jewish leaders. However, in the interest of intellectual honesty they should at least be invited.

Failing to do that raises a deeper question. Is not the unwillingness to extend such an invitation merely the mirror image of a narrowness found among segments of the haredi world? Shouldn't the spirit of liberal tolerance prompt organizers to seek partners outside their own world view?

The Jewish Policy and Planning Institute could be the place where an honest exchange of ideas and strategies takes place. The more liberal end of the Jewish community grapples with the issue of perpetuating Judaism with limited education and observance. It might be wise to engage with those of us who view these elements as crucial to the future of the Jewish people. Maybe there are areas of commonality where communal synergy can be explored.

But to do this the institute will have to reach out in an aggressive way to the traditional community. If they make that initiative, I hope the response will be a positive one.

The writer is a Chabad emissary in Yorba Linda California. [email protected]

This article can also be read at

[ Back to the Article ]

Copyright 1995-2007 The Jerusalem Post -