Baruchim ha’nimtza’im b’Jewlicious!

So, in case anyone hasn’t been reading, I was part of the ROI120 conference that graced the Holy City this past week, a meeting of minds I have never experienced before or since. The conference was pluralistic, which, as was the case with other pluralistic conferences I have been to, translated into “95% Orthodox-free.” However, as I learned at LimmudNY, it is usually not the secular or non-Orthodox Jews who are the ones with barriers to “interdenominational” sharing and idea exchange.

I went in thinking that I was going to be the one to raise the banner of charedi Orthodoxy, to show that ultra-Orthodox can be ultra-now, ultra-savvy, and ultra-cool while still remaining true to Torah and halacha. Ostensibly, this meant that I would feel most at home in, or at least connected to, charedi areas in Israel. To say that this simply “was not the case” would be a monumental understatement.

It was quite disillusioning to have my friends from yeshiva tell me that I should “be careful” because the “gedolim” would rally against me for my music and concerts. It was disheartening to feel so welcomed in Modi’in by chardali Jews, but to feel so excluded in charedi neighborhoods and to be told “you’re not really charedi, you’re ‘charedi lite’.” After all, I put myself on the line repeatedly defending charedi communities for even the most extreme of actions, and sing the praises of halachic Orthodoxy in every venue to which I have access — but what I started seeing was a culture which had long since passed halacha, that had built so many fences around Torah that it had grown distant from the Torah itself.

I began to hear stories from Israelis from charedi/dati families who had been abused, manipulated, or generally mistreated by batei din or rabbis and became chiloni as a result. And I began to feel fear rising in myself at the sight of — as happened one night in Rechavia — groups of Chassidic yeshiva students approaching the car I was riding in, thinking “am I dressed right? is this music offensive?”

While I would never, chas v’shalom, leave the path of Torah and halacha, I began to understand the points of view of the Tel Avivim in the audience at my shows who screamed to shamayim about “the charedim”, of the dati-leumi woman in the German colony who said that the phrase “Yiddishe ta’am” (loosely translated: a “Jewish flavor”, referring to extra-halachic distinctions between “Jewish” and “goyish” events, music, or things) was traumatizing, and of the American XO (ex-Orthodox) Jew all at once. I began to see standards of tzni’ut surpassing Iran’s. I began to feel for the hapless drivers who took wrong turns on Friday night only to be greeted by hundreds of cries of “Shabbos!”

I said multiple times during the conference in conversations with the dynamic people G-d allowed me to meet: if the Beit Yosef, the author of the Code of Jewish Law, could get out of his grave in Tiberias and catch a bus to Jerusalem, he would walk through many streets saying “I didn’t write or mean any of this” or Aramaic phrases which would translate to “y’all have issues.”

And I began to wonder if this was a new type of re-formed Judaism I was seeing: re-formed into something bypassing even jihadi daydreams. But it was through this disillusionment that I would re-affirm my ties and affinity to Torah and halacha, and through which I would reaffirm my belief that halacha is the Divine will on paper, the life-defining plan of the Creator Himself as codified.

Perhaps my left-wing, ultra-Orthodox attitude really doesn’t exist in Israel. But I did meet a few like-minded souls at ROI, and baruch Hashem for that.

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About the author


A modern charedi Jew-by-choice since 2000, and igniting headphones with Torah hiphop since 2001.

Originally from Maryland and now holding it down in the shtetlach of New York, won the Jewish Music Awards for "Best Hiphop" in 2006. Vocally anti-prejudice and pro-unity.

Love me, hate me, or debate me, know you can't ignore me, though.


  • ugh, (i think) i know exactly how you’re feeling. i went throught that too and it was so painful… especially being a chabadnik – when you come to israel and discover to what extreme Chabad is bastardized *in the Holy Land of all places*… it just makes you sick…

    but it’s like i wrote you on jewschool – your assumption of any similarity between diaspora-Charedi and Israeli-Charedi is totally misguided. Israeli-Charedi is much more ghettoized and belligerent (b/c of the army issue, that paints them into a socio-economic corner) and they prolly would not let their kids marry US-Charedim, for fear of them not being frum enough. sad but true.

    like my friend once asked me “do you ever find yourself having to make a distinction btwn Jews and Judaism?” all the time. ditto for “charedim and charedi hashkafa”…. not that i thought you would, but i’m glad to see that you’re not throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater…

  • This is why I have often said that it is unfortunate that there is this image of “haredi Jews” as the “ultimate expression of the ‘authentic’ Jew.” IMHO, too much of what passes off as haredi Judaism are no more halakhic than Reform Judaism (I use this example b/c ideologically the Reform movement rejects the binding nature of the halakhic system, not to bash them).

    IMHO, the authentic halakhic Judaism is that at Shira Hadasha, JOFA, Hartman, and, yes, ROI.

  • Yitz, as a total hippie, who defends anti-Israel politicians your views are not welcome by many Jewlicious readers.

    I’m not sure if this post was trying to show how moderate you are to “break-you-in” with Jewlicious readers, but we know that more than anything you are a toe-tied democrat who cares more about that than anything else.

    Since you’re a regular blogger who spends lots of your time bashing America and troops….
    ….. I was disappointed in you for not even mentioning America’s Independence Day, the 4th of July. Your saying nothing, really says something about you. Maybe you spent the day in mourning along with your friends:

    Have you considered Islam? Because there you can have a personal relationship with God along with a hatred of America.

    I’m disappointed with whoever made you a blogger on this site.

  • “As a total hippie”? OK, first of all your response vis-a-vis America: one only gets appalled a lack of moral standing or ethics in a place where one expects there to be one. One does not, for instance, get appalled at the social interaction of cannibals or at the table manners of mass murderers. The only reason I would express disdain with the way things are going in America — and with the unnecessary war in Iraq — is because I would like to think that America is, b’etzem, “better than that”, that America “should know better.” We should not, for instance, be a country whose troops taunt children. America is better than that, and these particular troops needed to be called out.

    In fact, my “America is a corporate theocracy” post, as you could see from the last line, was a reflection on what the current cabal of politico-corporatists has made America look like.

    Jewlicious is really this huge W fan club?

    I was in Israel on July 4th, for your information. My thoughts at the time were not on how much I loved America, but how much I loved being Jewish and how much I loved Jerusalem.

    I’m not even going to justify the Islam comment with a response.

    Get it together, bro, and perhaps you might want to look into some news outlets that aren’t FOX News.

  • Mike- regardless of what your views are, speak only for yourself. You can say that you don’t welcome Yitz’s views. But I’m not sure what type of authenticity you are trying to create with your comment that you are a ” total hippie, who defends anti-Israel politicians.”

    I was pretty sure that one of Jewlicious’ raisons d’etre was to be pro-Israel. That doesn’t mean that if you aren’t, you shouldn’t read, but recognize that maybe you don’t speak for everyone.

  • LOL, Jewlicious is a place for cool hip bloggers, not toe-tied politicians.

    Yitz already blogs on JewSchool and I think it should remain that way.

    Maybe JewSchool should make a way for people to filter which bloggers appear on the site (preferences could be stored by cookies). I’d like to remove Michael as well.

  • Or anyone happy … ever.

    Anyway, what you speak of is so true and current to me. Israeli Charedi love to pigeonhole everone and nobody is ever good enough. I know someone who is BT and G-d forbid that he associate with someone FFB. Not to mention that he’s an American, so there goes any Israeli FFBs or Israeli BTs.

    And whats this? You haven’t committed to Rabbi Kook’s teachings? Oh, forget about it. We’re too different to even have a conversation. Have a good life.


  • Y-Love it seems your political side is too hardcore for Jewlicious. Could you rap in aramiac again or talk about some other cool stuff? you are a genius. hit me with something apolitical. we love you!

  • So far I’m enjoying Y-Love’s presence here. I think, like all of us, he knows that certain topics and ideas will generate angry responses. Welcome to Jewlicious, Y_Love.

  • Yitz, I really deeply sympathize with your post. Israel is a land that you run to embrace, and that you love unconditionally. But there are things about Israel that turn you away, and alienate you, and make you feel that you’ll never be completely happy or content there. And that realization hurts deeply…

  • I can never be happy in a land that does not have good hummus available ALL THE TIME. That having been said Oyster, the Bay Area is pretty darn compelling. Let me know when you have a Jewish Leadership/Innovation conference I can participate in, or when there’s a birthright-San Francisco trip I can join. w00t!

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