Monday, February 17, 2020

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As I was reading through Rabbi Muskat’s fine article (“Modern Orthodoxy’s Relationship With the Charedi and Open Orthodox Communities,” August 8, 2019) it struck me that I just learned yet another Jewish adjective: “Open Orthodox”—I could decipher some meaning from the context—but underlying it all, it introduced what to me is yet another divisive adjective.

A quick Wikipedia lookup notes, “The earliest known mentioning of the term ‘Orthodox Jews’ was made in the Berlinische Monatsschrift [Berlin Monthly Magazine] in 1795. The word ‘Orthodox’ was borrowed from the general German Enlightenment discourse, and used not to denote a specific religious group, but rather those Jews who opposed Enlightenment.” In essence, the burgeoning Haskalah movement in an attempt to position themselves as centrist named observant Jews as Orthodox (right wing.) … and so it goes.

In more simplistic times (I grew up in the 1950’s, in Cleveland, Ohio) frum (a frummer Yid) was sufficient. More importantly, shayne (a shayna Yid) was a more apt description. But we seem to continually grow more and more diverse—or at least we seem to seek to differentiate our daled amos from everyone else’s. Consider the all-important Shiddach acronym TE-FFB (Torah Educated—Frum From Birth.)

I should note that my dear wife and I overcame a much greater barrier—she’s a Litvak and I’m a Polak.

The old joke of a Jew stranded on a desert island—when rescued his rescuers note two synagogues that this Jew had built. “Why two?” “There I don’t go!” It’s not so funny anymore. The reality of differences is challenging. We are differentiating when we should be integrating.

Carl Singer