Friday, January 18, 2008

The Price of Insularity

Gutsy essay by R. Yitzchok Adlerstein about the current tax scandal in his city (link). He is looking for a lesson in the wake of this scandal:

Perhaps some reader will prove me wrong, but why is it that neither I nor the friends I asked can remember similar scandals affecting Orthodox Jews of German extraction? Is it only that “yekkes” are straighter? Is it not also that their attitudes towards the rest of the world are not as contemptuous and not as benighted as in other quarters? Why does it take so long for some people to take note of the differences between corrupt, anti-Semitic governments of older vintage, and the arguably better record of the medinah she chesed we inhabit? Is it not related in part to having no frequent and sustained interaction with our neighbors, so that only fictionalized versions of them are encountered?

Insularity has its merits, but it seems to come at a price as well. Part of that price is living in a time warp, where little has changed from hundreds of years ago, and all non-Jews are assumed to be cut of the same cloth. Those who promote insularity as a hedge against dilution of spiritual energy had better come up with a way of injecting a bit of an update in attitudes towards non-Jews and non-Jewish governments, or scandals such as the present one will continue to plague the community.
(Note to commenters: Please do not turn this into an argument about whether or not insular communities have more scandals. If you disagree with the premise, please just say so without going into further depth.)

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