Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Religious White Jews seem to have taken a wrong turn

I’m not saying all Dati Ashkenazim have this problem equally

True, in each group you find nice and terrible people. And in each good person, you find bad things, and in each bad one, you find good things. Many identities are on a spectrum rather than one or the other extreme.

Yet, we can still generalize and talk about groups while bearing in mind that we all have better and worse points, and each can be an exception.

My grown kids, for instances, are exemplary people treating their fellows as humans, with respect, tolerance, and friendliness. Some ultra-Orthodox Jews have specialized themselves as role models of empathy and warmth.

Yet, most Dati, Ashkenazi, especially young people, seem to go downhill.

My Discovery

Yesterday, I went shopping for some pastries. A dozen stores before I succeeded. Most kids ‘serving’ the customers didn’t want to talk to me. Were they disturbed I asked for vegan? That I wore crocks? That I smiled? That I’m 70. No! I talked to them. One of these babies I asked about vegan said: How do I know? When I walked away, he added: Watch the holiness of your mouth! No, you need to grab what you want, dump it in front of the cash registry, wait for the amount, pay, grab your stuff, and leave.

Normally, I don’t go into such stores. I have a grocery store close to my home, I go to bookstores, greet bus drivers, and that’s it. Moody people are everywhere, but I never connected the dots. The gloomy ones are most people’s default mode by now. The rest are exceptions, like aliens.

I recall an office full of super religious Jews, one more stone-faced than the next, with a receptionist who was all smiles. I asked her: How do you do it? She said: 1. My mother is a Holocaust survivor who educated me: Never go sleep without naming 5 things of the day you’re grateful for. And 2. When I see a sour face, I tell myself: I’m so lucky I’m not married to him.

I remember this Black Jew in a Jerusalem store who used to smile at me. After a couple of years of stern looks, I asked him if I had to apologize for something. Not at all. By now, this was how he looked at the world.

I love Tel Aviv because there, random people are just friendly. They look for a split second at my ultra-Orthodox garb, realize I’m human too, focus on my eyes, and ask how they can help. When I say this to Tel-Avivians, they can’t believe their ears. That’s because they’re upset every day about ‘the lack of norms’ around them. They don’t realize those are exceptions and that their higher behavioral norms are exactly what makes the place so great. Also, all left-wing demonstrations I went to lately were paradises of smiles and tolerance. Maybe also because I smiled but still.


NB: I’m not blaming any of them. Depression and coldness are obviously caused by millennia of persecution and the Holocaust, last but not least. The hyper-focus on details and over-criticalness were obviously survival strategies for which we don’t blame the victims.

But just terrible to meet are Western Orthodox Jews who still sit in their White community bubble, don’t learn with, befriend, or marry Jews of non-White communities, and don’t specialize in learning about empathy.

They don’t see you. If you make them notice you, they either look dead or frown. Smiling is out of the question. That you talk to them is an intrusion, even a greeting or blessing like Good morning. When they need you, they start talking without addressing you: What’s the time? In a supermarket, they may push you away or stand on your toes without saying sorry. They never saw you; a thing was in their way and only you know it was you.

Of course, even worse are those who read a book on how to be polite. They see themselves as educated, sophisticated, and far above the rabble who don’t know their refined rules. “How are you?” “Not so good. My wife just died.” “What, you got married? I didn’t know. First of all: Mazal tov!”


How can this be? They too all learned that they have to love all Jews. They are taught to be generous and not self-centered, at least theoretically.

A major answer is trauma. They’re wounded people. Unfortunately, they are no real-time victims anymore. They often now are in the position of abusers. They think they are defending themselves while they attack.

Another explanation is that all their relational energy goes to G^d and hopefully their close ones. While many seculars (but not the bullies) often direct their relational energies horizontally, forgetting the vertical option.

Last but not least, too much money. The Sayings of the Father already says: more money means more worries. The wealthiest nation, the US, consumes the most anti-depressants. Its Constitution prescribes as a Right ‘the Pursuit of happiness.’ It’s a receipt for disaster. Real happiness comes from the inside, not from consumerism and status. In their early Zionist years in Israel, Jews had nothing. There was malaria but that’s hardly an asset. But they didn’t have sour faces as I now see on the bus. Displeasure comes from never having enough, from having more than the minimum. (That doesn’t mean that I agree the banks continue to plunder us.)


Solutions: Make them meet more-secular and non-White Jews. The White religious Jews of Tel Aviv are much friendlier! The nicer ones: Don’t take it personally. The others have nothing against you; they don’t even see you.

And to religious White Jews still in the bubble: You’re not under attack. You’re not the issue. And smiling at others is at the center of Judaism.

Racism (ethnic distance) is so low in Israel that we see frequent marriages between White and non-White Jews. That makes that sociologists and statisticians can no longer distinguish between the two groups. But, in any case, secular and non-White Jews are at risk, too. They also are becoming increasingly moody, violent, and materialistic. The Chazzan in Mizrachic Shul sings we should go up be-simchah Rabbah le’artzeinu, to our Land in great happiness. One kosher Prayer book left out these words since we are now here already. Big mistake. The prayer leader hums it so in minor, it’s as if he says: be-simchah Ra’ bah le’artzeinu, evil enters our Land happily.

Their Mizrachic parents and grandparents came to the Land with nothing and got racism and capitalism on top of it. They worked hard but stayed relaxed. But their (grand)children often work themselves to death, literally. More money, security, and status, and forgetting to relax, smile, or live.

We all must begin to receive each other with a smile, most urgently, today.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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