We never settled on a good name.
National Religious? Religious Zionist? Srugim, the cheeky, called us, after the kippot serugot (knitted/crocheted yarmulkes) our men wear. Modern Orthodox, foreigners called us. Mizrachistim, the ultra-Orthodox called us. Messianists, the secular left called us.
I’ve always preferred Dati, which is what the pollsters call us. Dat is a biblical word, but of foreign (Persian) origin, which exemplifies what we stand for: an unwavering commitment to Jewish law and tradition, on one hand, and engagement with contemporary society, on the other. We sought to build a bridge between the secular, alongside whom we worked and lived and fought, and the Haredi, whose talmudic language we were conversant in and cherished.
But I’m not sure that’s true anymore, especially considering what happened just the day before yesterday. It didn’t make much news, but slowly filtered through social media: convicted sex-offender Mordechai Elon opened his new “Jerusalem Hall of Meeting and Study” to muted fanfare. Here, on Israel National News (Arutz 7), you can watch him installing the mezuzah to dedicate the site. INN helpfully puts it in the “Kippa Seruga” section, naturally.
I’ve talked about Elon before — wait, he’s a rabbi, one must not forget that! Let’s give him his proper title then: I’ve talked about Pederabbi Elon before in this forum, in “Sorry, Rabbi, it’s not OK” and “Indecent acts.” But I naively thought that he would go away after his conviction for sexually assaulting a minor and his decision not to appeal.
I could not have been more wrong. Pederabbi Elon keeps popping up, again and again, to give public Torah lectures, even though he’s legally barred from contact with youth. And now he’s got a brand spanking new study hall, across from Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, 59 King George St.
Now, the Elon family is Dati royalty. His father was deputy president of the Supreme Court, where one of his brothers served as well; while another (recently deceased) was Minister of Tourism, his sister-in-law being a famous author. Oh, and one of his sons is chief rabbi of Caesarea, where our prime minister has his palatial residence.
I thought we Dati were supposed to be different. Didn’t we criticize the Haredim for welcoming back convicted sex offenders like Pederabbi Eliezer Berland? Aren’t we the ones who believe in our court system fulfilling the vision of the Prophets to build a society of justice and compassion? Yet, with nary an admission of guilt nor apology, we welcome back Elon, and the most we can hope for is a Facebook debate: Rabbi Lichtenstein opposed him, Rabbi Druckman supports him, ask your Local Orthodox Rabbi.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. We cancelled our subscriptions to any media that challenged us, and our reading list now spans the “spectrum” from BaSheva to Israel Hayom. We clustered in like-minded communities and cut ourselves off, built yeshivot and synagogues that tolerate only one type of Judaism, and founded political parties to funnel money to them. We out-haredied the Haredim. Now what?
At long last, have we left no sense of decency?