Thursday, October 30, 2014

Time to reboot halachic Judaism

Back in 2007, when I started my first blog, my stated purpose was to start a new denomination. I figured that what constituted normative Orthodoxy had become too restrictive, and I wanted a big tent that could encompass basic halachic practice (shabbat, kashrut, etc) with the freedom of more egalitarianism, less dogma, compassion and acceptance of LGB's, etc.

I'm thinking something similar now, more as a thought experiment this time, not to actually start a new movement.

But I'm sick of all the scandal, the excessive chumrot, the heavy handed rabbinical control, the misogyny, the power plays, the conspicuous consumption, the condescension of anyone who doesn't seem "frum" enough according to others' social mores, the sexual shaming, the objectification of women, the worship of rabbis, the sheep-like adherence to "daas torah", the corruption of battei dinim and the Israeli rabbanut, the increasingly stringent demands of kashrut agencies, the indoctrination of children, the out-of-control spiraling cost of living a "frum" life, the mistreatment of converts and the mismanagement of the conversion process, the unearned superiority complex, the racism, the ignorance, and the damaging insularity.
It's time to reboot halachic Judaism.

All the good names are taken. "Reform", "Reconstructionist", "Renewal" are all good ones that have been used already by non-halachic movements. "Reboot Judaism" isn't very catchy, but it just might be enough for an online discussion, or even to become sort of viral: ‪#‎rebootjudaism‬.
So what would your suggestions be for a rebooted halachic Judaism?

Here's one to start with: pare back the control of the kashrut agencies. 200 years ago, if a person was observant, the food in their store was presumed to be kosher. The relationship with customers was a local one. Other Jews were simply trusted. Yes, going back at least partially to that model has risks, but are they really worse than the corruption and ridiculous chumrot in the Kashrut Industrial Complex?

Here's a concrete idea. Instead of a store being under a hechsher, the hechsher is on the proprietor. He or she has to take a class on kashrut, pass a certification exam, and after that, he or she is trusted. This would also lower the cost of kosher food, at least for restaurants and take-out places. I'm not sure if this is workable, but it's time to think outside the box.

Here's one more idea before I "open the floor" to your ideas. Day schools too expensive? How about group home schooling. Get a group of 20 or 30 kids in one neighborhood, hire a few teachers mixed with knowledgeable parents, and do home schooling. The kids can meet on a rotating basis in the homes of the parents. The kids get a good secular and Jewish education at a fraction of the cost.

What would you like to change? It's time to #rebootjudaism

1 comment:

  1. The single most important thing, IMHO, is allowing local authorities to actually be local authorities. Rabbis on the ground should be allowed broad leeway to make hashkafic decisions in their communities without facing overheated criticism from other rabbis. One can only imagine what R' Hirsch, R' Salanter, or the Ba'al Shem Tov would have been called if the current extreme "chadash assur min hatorah" mindset were in full effect.

    I'm less worked up over the issue of kashrut: I think the national standards, even if geared towards the "most machmir" denominator, have done more good than harm. As for the day school issue: this is one that really needs to be decided on a communal level. Communal homeschooling is a possibility, but I think it would prove too time-consuming for most working parents.