Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Orthodoxy Test #22: Chareidi Isolationism

Isolationist chassidic and chareidi enclaves like New Square

a) epitomize the proper approach to avodas Hashem
b) are not for me, but I wish I was on that level
c) are not for me, but I understand the attraction
d) have some good points, but the bad outweighs the good
e) showcase all that is negative about Orthodoxy
f) Leave this question out of my results

First, please note that I have no knowledge of New Square, aside from the fact that they make milk and juice.

I chose (c). (A) and (b) imply that intrinsically, such communities are morally superior to others, which I do not believe. I have been taught that within orthodox Judaism, different lifestyles are appropriate for different people; this view coincides nicely with my experience. I would therefore consider the burden of proof to be on any party arguing in favour of such superiority.

(D) and (e) imply that intrinsically, such communities are morally inferior to others, which I also do not believe, for the same reasons that lead me to reject (a) and (b) (see last paragraph).

(C), happily, makes no value judgment about isolationism. The first half of it - "are not for me" - is definitely true. The second half - "but I understand the attraction" - is also true. I have known people who feel intensely uncomfortable when confronted with lifestyles, points of view or practices different from their own. I myself have experienced a certain thrill and passion when submerged within a like-minded community. I therefore can understand why some people would find an isolationist enclave attractive.

Note that by choosing (c), I in no way condone any hostility, prejudice, feeling of superiority or offensive behaviour that is reputed to exist among certain such communities.

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