There is a chill throughout the Jewish community, most powerfully felt in the Modern Orthodox world. It is not felt everywhere and by everyone, but it is certainly noticeable. It manifests in a fear of what people might think if you raise a certain question or suggest a certain answer. It is a fear of revealing your own struggles and challenges. Ideology is becoming rigid and frozen. People are afraid to act in ways that are true to themselves and to their beliefs. Why is this occurring?
I recall a recent conversation I had with a leader of a Modern Orthodox organization who, while debating a decision that had absolutely no halakhic bearing expressed the following: “But what will the bloggers say?” I can recall more incidents than I can count where the blogger question was a real factor in making serious decisions.
The question of the bloggers has permeated not only the realm of policy-making, but has also shaped the attitudes of everyday people in the community. People have become more defensive, jittery and ready to pounce on any breach of ideological conformity. Humor, inquisitiveness, and critical thinking have been sacrificed on the altar of the new political correctness being instituted by the blogging class. This is ironic, given that many of the most prominent bloggers are also on the American political right wing and oppose the “P.C. culture” of the left, even as they give birth to a new era of political correctness within Modern Orthodoxy.
I have been blogging and writing for more than 10 years. I have written a lot of blog posts for a variety of forums and platforms. I have also written more lengthy articles for magazines and newspapers, and even a few more scholarly researched pieces for journals. All of my writing is important inasmuch as it expresses my opinion, which I put it out into the marketplace of ideas to hopefully stimulate thinking, and, sometimes, persuade people of my viewpoint. Yet, my writing is not that important and neither are any of the blog posts of any other bloggers.
Bloggers should not be feared. People and organizations should not worry about making it on their bad list. Some Jewish bloggers are financial consultants, while others are professionals in Jewish nonprofits, rabbis, academics and physicians. Each blog post expresses the opinion of the single person who wrote it. A blog post can be enlightening or infuriating, but it should not dictate communal policy or create a toxic communal environment.
How do we fight back against this culture cultivated by an overemphasis of the blogger class? I believe we do so by articulating clearly our mission, vision and goals. We must begin with a definitive outline of our desired outcomes, coupled with the knowledge that we are not alone. There are people throughout the world who are thirsty for a vibrant, inclusive, passionate and intellectually curious Jewish community. If we have the confidence of people standing with us and a clear strategic outline of our direction moving forward, we will not succumb to being shaped by an assortment of bloggers.
This blog post hopefully has been a little interesting. Perhaps it provided something to think about. However, this blog post is not that important and neither are most blog posts written. Let us find ways to remind ourselves and our institutions of that daily.