The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Monday, March 15, 2004


I was pleased to discover that at least a few people read my blog during the first week. I got a few congratulatory emails as well as a number that were critical of positions I took. In addition, I got one email that was critical of my attitude, i.e., my cynicism. Let me start there. Re-reading my entries of the first week, I have to agree with him. Going forward, I will try to express myself in a more positive way.

Now. To the criticism. One reader took issue with my position on Richard Joel speaking at the Young Israel of Woodmere last week.

"I thought your criticism of the shuls for giving pres Joel an opportunity to speak was offbase. He has years of experience as a Jewish leader and some people, perhaps not you, find his message meaningful. You may decide that the YIW is not for you for this reason, and you would probably be right. It is not right, however, to criticize a shul because their choice of speakers does not meet your standards."

Obviously, I did not make myself clear. As I said, I have nothing personal against Richard Joel (or Mandell Granchow, former president of OU who spoke at another shul). Indeed, he is a fantastic public speaker, very witty and charming. I was just trying to address the fact that many MO shuls have had a tendency to recruit speakers ON SHABBOS who speak about topics that have nothing to do with Shabbos, the parsha, tefilah, etc. Further, many Rabbanim themselves speak on Shabbos about political topics (e.g., the situation in Israel or the US position vis a vis Israel). Furthermore, many shuls have replaced the practice of having shalosh seudos (which the Zohar Hakadosh refers to as "the chosen time of the chosen day") with a lecture. What a missed opportunity to give over the beauty of Shabbos to our kids and to have personal hissorurus!

I also think it's important for Jews to discuss political and social topics. I just don't think they should be on Shabbos to the exclusion of divrei Torah and a focus on spiritual matters.

Next topic. I had criticized YU for hosting Moshav Band and Blue Fringe in light of their appearances at BB King's, a treif nightclub in the village. I got this response from a reader who is very involved in promoting all kinds of Jewish music in a city outside New York.

"First, nice bog. Next, I take issue with your post about the kashrut of Jewish bands performing at non-kosher venues.

1. Musicians don't often have a choice about where they get to play, especially if they get paid to do it (which is how they feed themselves and their families). Jewish rockers have even fewer choices, and in the world of rock music, BB Kings is a choice gig. They would be misguided not perform there, and one might argue irresponsible if they have financial obligations to family or charities for which they perform.

2. In case you hadn't noticed, most young Jews don't hang in the Bais most Saturday nights. They're out at the clubs. If we can bring any yiddishkeyt into that atmosphere, we do something to stem the tide of assimilation and light a spark of identity (or maybe keep it lit) in those who attend the shows. Many of those attending these shows aren't even shul-goers or observant- they're more casually, culturally affiliated Jews who are either seeking something more or a connection their shul doesn't provide, something that straddles their modern sensibility, passion for their identity and that ultimate of chassidic touchstones, music. You of all people should realize how effective this sort of kiruv is.

Those who argue that Jewish rock bands performing at rock clubs take Jews away from the fold are imitating ostriches and are not cognizant of the realities of today's youth culture, which does impact our youth. THEY ARE GOING TO GO OUT ANYWAYS. We should take appropriate action and support the bands and promoters who go out and provide cultural context in clubs with contemporary Jewish music, no matter how derivative or secular, with our thanks and checkbooks open."

I don't think it's possible for me to disagree more on most of his points. However, it would take me all day to respond to this and I have to work so I will try to respond sometime in the future. I am curious how others feel.


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