Monday, June 20, 2005

What Responsibilities Have Frum Skeptics and the Ex-Orthodox?

Ben Avuyah gets to the core of the matter in the comments of my previous post.

The only thing that gets to me is what responsibility for [the outdated ethical standards of many Rabbis] lays in our hands…I mean here we are sneaking around on the web cloaked in anonymity snipping away at our religion; doesn’t change come from those courageous few who stand up and are heard, consequences be damned.

Do I, as someone who left Orthodoxy because of moral and historical differences, have a responsibility to stand up with my real name and shout that Orthodoxy harbors too many people with iron-age ethics? When I decided once and for all to stop wearing my kippah, I did it because I could no longer grant my silent support of ideas I believed outdated and immoral, nor of the community which shuns people I respect. Is it enough to just withdraw my support or do I have an obligation to voice my opposition? What is my responsibility towards those people who are still stuck in Orthodoxy because the social costs of speaking out are too great?

What about some of my readers who are Orthodox in appearence and lifestyle but who have grave misgivings about the Rabbis and extremists who claim to represent them? What is their responsibility to voice their dissent and take Orthodoxy back from the Right? Or to criticize Orthodoxy from within, to make it evolve or die? Should they stand up publicly and say, "This is what I believe, and I'm not ashamed?" If enough people did that, where would Orthodoxy be?


mushroomjew said...

Yes, I believe we have a responsibility to try to change Orthodoxy. The truth should be told and people should be educated.
I suggest some type of organization where people who share doubls can meet and talk in the real world. The internet is good for throwing around ideas and complaining, but if we want to accomplish meaningful change and dialog, we should take real steps.

-Mushroom Jew

Mirty said...

I would have no problem revealing my real name, except that I'm concerned about how it might impact my children. I'm writing about grown-up matters and I don't really want them stumbling in on it by "googling" my name. When they're older, maybe I'll "remove the veil" and go by my real name.

I think I've written honestly and openly enough to give some weight to my words, even without my full first and last name. I don't want to necessarily encourage anyone to leave Orthodoxy. My message is more: This was my journey, my path. Find your own.

Chana said...

We have to try to change them. It wasn't pleasant for the administration to treat me as a lunatic simply because I attempted to show them how warped the way they were teaching was. It wasn't pleasant for them to ask my parents, "But what about her shidduch?" And it wasn't pleasant to be asked whether I was still religious just because I had switched to a Non-Jewish school. It was not pleasant to see the reaction, mostly the community directed against my parents- people's vindictive tongues and viperous gossip. None of that was pleasant. In fact, it was downright painful.

I survived. So did my parents. We left the school, and everyone heard loud and clear that there was something extremely wrong going on there. Wake-up calls began and were strengthened. In some ways, it helped.

But it really took a toll. I really felt like the only sane one in an insane asylum- or maybe vice versa. Everyone told me I was crazy. The administration said I had an anger management problem and should be seen by a psychiatrist. They tried to blame everything on me- because I was not accepting their warped view of "Accept, don't question/ think."

It hurts, but sometimes things have to hurt. And I do believe, if enough people would tell the truth, things would change.

Not you- you don't need to reveal your real name. But at least some of us. And especially the younger people...the ones hurting in schools/ shuls. The ones who are to be the future of Orthodoxy.

Ben Avuyah said...

Thanks for putting that up, I agree, this needs to be discussed.

Firstly, my own admission, I am no hero, and have shamelessly clung to the apron strings of orthodoxy for self-preservation.

However, due more to a pound of poor judgment, than to an ounce of bravery, I have on occasion spoken my heart…. to a point.

Sometimes the results have been positive, I have met at least three people in the community who either have doubts, or are willing to engage in a conversation in which doubts are not considered heretical.

Sometimes the results have been negative. At these moments I realize I have challenged the belief systems of people who are simply not ready. And they make their lack of appreciation clear.

I’m not sure orthodox Judaism as a whole is ready to have it’s security blanket pulled away.

I think I could be very verbally outspoken in my community with regards to prejudice and sexism, without retaliation, and I do feel guilty for not being more outspoken, but I yearn to challenge so much more. Were I to debate issues of racism in orthodoxy, I would likely have to anchor my arguments in other rabbi’s teachings and lenient rishonim, when what I really want to say is it’s wrong because the whole thing is a fairy tale from antiquity.

I have found the blogoshpere unique in allowing discussion of these issues without fear of repercussion. And I do maintain a hope that a critical mass will be reached that will allow the ideas that we have all expounded here to reach, and be considered by the main stream.

I may just be a dreamer, but I hope for time when we can shed our skins without anticipation of reprisal, and bring what I think may be the quintessential debate of Judaism, to the masses.

Avi said...

You are all insane. You think that you will change Orthodoxy? The fanatics will just keep on living as they always have. They will simply say that you are a secular Jew and ignore you. Most people where I live in Monsey, know what I think and as long as I dont voice it too loudly there is no problem. When I daven with the Satmar I behave myself. ( When in Rome do as the Romans) My wife thinks that I had a stroke ans is waiting for me to become normal.I dont even discuss my thoughts with my wife anymore( we have anough to talk about) Avi

Orthoprax said...


They said a heavier than air craft would never fly too.

Never say never.

Conservative Apikoris said...

The administration said I had an anger management problem and should be seen by a psychiatrist.

Actually, you should have taken them up on the suggestion --- as long as it was a shrink of your choice.

My shrink, for example, is very reassuring, "you're not crazy, you're just neurotic." But everybody is neurotic, that's not news, that's the way God made us.

When I needed a background investigation for my job, the Man in Black who interviewed me paid particular attention to the fact that I see a shrink and was very persistent asking annoying questions about the nature of my neurosis. I calmly and just as persistently suggested that it would be better if he talked directly with the shrink about it,as Dr. Shrink had the most complete information. Which is what the invesitgator did, and soon thereafter, I was notified that my investigation was approved and I am now considered a loyal and reliable employee.

So, as long as you pick the right shrink (and make sure it's you or your health plan that's paying the bills), a shrink can be yoyr friend.

DNA said...

I'm continuously amazed at the conviction and sense of morality of the frum skeptics. What need do you have to change the status quo? Do you have a god-given mandate to lead people away from god? And with what will you replace their belief? "I'm not really sure what to believe, but follow me, because your belief isn't true."? "Your morality is primitive; my heart tells me so." Jesus and Buddha had paths. We have nothing; we are desolate. Do you think that frum people don't know that there are atheists, don't know that there are Reconstructionists?