I received some surprising feedback to my Article “To Hell and Back“. I wrote that blog with a very specific message in mind. I have met and known many people who have let bad experiences with certain orthodox individuals or institutions mold their view of our religion. Some have abandoned the faith entirely due to it. I am saddened to have witnessed this for I find much benefit and value in the religion and it’s a shame for it to be discarded based on these unfortunate experiences. I love the Torah and the Orthodox way of life and desired to express that we should distinguish the difference between abhorrent behavior by misguided individuals and the truth and beauty that exists within the Torah.
I found it particularly disturbing that I was accused of exaggerating my story. The accusation came from someone who admittedly did not attend a yeshiva elementary school and therefore has not experienced what I have. It is wonderful that she has only experienced “nothing but LOVE” from the Charedi world, but that in no way bears relevance on my experiences. In my school, questions, doubts and differences were not tolerated and were viewed with disgust.
Apparently the article “In Defense of Chareidim” was written as a response to my blog. This itself was a huge shock to me. I did not intend to “malign” the entire chareidi community at all. Ironically, I am known to be a Chareidi defender by those who know me. I was even called Chareidi by people who have not met me in person, but read some of my opinions on various topics in blogs, Facebook and elsewhere. The article was particularly painful as many of the negative judgments and statements that the author assumed I espoused about the Chareidi world and all the good she assumed I was not aware of are much of what I have spent many hours arguing as well.
What I am indeed guilty of is telling my story. I was a child raised in a school that taught religion through fear. A teen magazine WAS called Avodah Zarah and it was considered a fatal sin. I had to listen to a long speech that explained this in no uncertain terms. I do not appreciate being told that I exaggerated this point. I did not. I could have gone on and said harsher things but I chose not to.
The author’s response is a perpetuation of a common problem. It attempts to avoid valid criticism of a certain ideology by claiming that it was a hateful attack on an entire group. It displays the unwillingness on the behalf of some to confront and admit any wrongdoing of a sect that has otherwise many virtues. Claiming perfection and sweeping mistakes under the rug is an egregious error. Problems that are not dealt with only fester and yield bad results.The fact that the school I attended was ultra orthodox needed to be mentioned because the ideology that drove my negative experience was espoused by the ultra orthodox administration of that school borne from an educational philosophy that IS ultra orthodox. To say that I am fostering hate for the Charedi community by telling of my personal experience in that world is unfair, detrimental, simplistic and downright silly.
I do vehemently disagree with scare tactics and the failure to admit when something is wrong. We can draw people close with the beauty and the good that is our Torah. There is no need to scare the hell out of them. We also need to be able to admit when wrong. It is a huge disservice to teach children that we are never wrong and that mistakes are not tolerated. This will send the message that if one errs they are inherently bad. Then children will either suffer from low self esteem or abandon ship. Why should they stay in a place where they are looked down upon for being human?
We need to teach with more ahava and less yirah. This is how the religion began to flourish through Avraham Avinu. We need to admit to wrongdoing when perpetrated and display the ability and willingness to change. This is the highest level of virtue as displayed by Yehudah for whom, as I have said, we are named. These qualities are the basic necessary ingredients of a Jew; to deny them is to reject the very foundation on which we stand. I give this critique, based on my experience in the Chareidi world, out of concern for the growing number of children that we, klal Yisrael, are losing, NOT out of hatred for any particular group but for love and concern of all our people.