Let’s Talk Commitment

Aish.com has a piece by a woman, not BT, who dated her husband for a looooooooooooong time before marriage. She broke up with him at least twice, in a process that took 3 1/2 years. Now she’s married almost ten years, very happy, lots of children, loves her husband and he loves her, etc. – in other words, a typical Aish piece. I post this because a friend insists this “fear of commitment crisis” is way overblown. I’m not so sure, having seen it first hand, from both sides. This is part of a larger discussion in which my friend is, as usual, strongly prevailing. Readers, is there a raging “commitment crisis”? Or is this whole commitment thing overblown?

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Filed under BTs, Modern Orthodoxy

8 responses to “Let’s Talk Commitment

  1. Anonymous

    .THE STAR LEDGER .
    The following article appeared in today’s Star Ledger. They basically make a chulent of every controversy in the last year in Lakewood, and spice it with twists of anti-Semitic rhetoric here and there. Be sure to check out Bob Singer’s quotes!!–Yeshiva world Editor.
    ……………………………
    . THE STAR LEDGER.

    In Lakewood, people are watching.

    In the century-old downtown, Orthodox Jewish men watch Mexican men standing impassively on the corners. The Mexicans watch the ground, carefully ignoring Orthodox women hurrying by in long skirts and wigs. The police watch everyone.

    It is a daily dance of uneasy co- existence in an Ocean County town that has undergone rapid racial and cultural transformation. Once a cosmopolitan mix — black, white and Hispanic, Christian and Jew — Lakewood is now home to one of the largest concentrations of fervently Orthodox Jews in America.

    The new majority is flexing its muscle.

    In only a few years it has taken control of the mayor’s office and school, zoning and planning boards. Yeshiva-schooled children now outnumber public school stu dents by nearly 3-to-1, and traditionally black and Hispanic neighborhoods are giving way to Orthodox expansion.

    The streets that old-timers remember as a mix of cultures are now crowded with men in black suits, white shirts and black fedo ras hurrying to and from prayers, often pushing baby carriages. Few women wear pants in Lakewood anymore, because the ultra-Orthodox say Judaism forbids it. Weekday traffic, normally appalling, disappears on Saturday because nearly 60 percent of the population cannot drive on the Jewish Sabbath.

    Residents increasingly see crime and other problems through the prism of race and religion.

    The recent assault on a black teenager by an Orthodox teacher set both groups on edge. A controversial Orthodox neighborhood watch group was formed; lawsuits have been filed by and against the Orthodox community; state and federal authorities are investigating allegations of discrimination in housing and education; and the township last year reported the highest number of bias crimes in the state.

    “What balance we had in town is gone, and there’s bound to be re sentment from the have-nots, who are being pushed out,” said state Sen. Robert Singer (R-Ocean), who is also a Lakewood councilman and Jewish, but not Orthodox.

    “The ultra-Orthodox are now the driving force in Lakewood, which is not necessarily a bad thing,” Singer added. “‘But pretty soon Lakewood will consist of the ultra-religious, senior citizens and those who are trapped here be cause they’re too poor to get out.”

    Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, who often speaks for a council of local Orthodox leaders, says they have no agenda to drive anyone out of Lakewood and shouldn’t be blamed “just because our influence is everywhere.”

    “We are the majority and we are growing at an accelerated pace, but there was never a conscious movement to take more than our share,” he said.

    AN EVER-EVOLVING TOWN

    Already an established resort when it was incorporated in 1893, the 25-square-mile township of Lakewood had world-class hotels and estates, including those of John D. Rockefeller and George J. Gould.

    The resort industry faded by the time Holocaust refugee Rabbi Aharon Kotler started the rabbinical college Beth Medrash Govoha — now called the “Harvard of yeshi vas” — in 1943 with 13 students.

    Over the next 40 years, the rural outskirts of Lakewood became home to retirement communities and the state’s second-largest industrial park. Residential neighborhoods developed around local colleges. The downtown blossomed, then withered as businesses were lured to the malls.

    For the U.S. bicentennial in 1976, Lakewood town fathers commissioned a giant mural that still hangs in the courtroom in the municipal building. It portrays a rainbow of ethnicities and religions. Of 125 people depicted in the mural, three are Orthodox Jews.

    By the early 1990s, however, a change began. BMG became the largest yeshiva in America. Stu dents who historically left Lakewood after finishing their studies decided to stay. They married, had families and built an Orthodox infrastructure that in turn attracted more Orthodox. The influx esca lated after 9/11, as Orthodox families left New York.

    Today there are an estimated 45,000 Orthodox Jews in Lakewood, according to Meir Lichten stein, 36, who in January became Lakewood’s first ultra-Orthodox mayor.

    The ultra-Orthodox primarily account for a population that nearly doubled in 15 years, and increased between 25 and 40 percent in the last five years, according to local officials, who claim the actual township population is at least 10,000 higher than the 2005 Census estimate of 75,000.

    The Orthodox vote is large, esti mated at 10,000, which is enough to sway any local election, the mayor said.

    The only other population growth, according to estimates from local officials, has been an influx of 12,000-15,000 undocumented Mexicans.

    Aside from about a dozen Latino businesses, downtown is kosher. There are Orthodox butchers, doctors, tailors, cleaners, dentists, hairdressers, florists and Realtors.

    There are Orthodox social service agencies, meals on wheels, an ambulance squad and patient ad vocates at the local hospital.

    The newcomers are buying out traditionally non-Jewish neighborhoods by offering homeowners more than market value, said the Rev. Thompson E. Simpson, pastor of the Intercessory Tabernacle Ministries Church.

    The Pentecostal church was in Lakewood’s black neighborhood, west of downtown, across the rail road tracks. Now the church overlooks upscale new houses owned by Orthodox families.

    Simpson said the black community used to admire the Orthodox “when they were just another minority. They were united and understand the system. But it doesn’t feel so good when there’s nothing left for anybody else.”

    Rabbi Weisberg said this is un fair.

    “We are concerned about the trend of taking minor incidents and building a scenario of a conspiracy,” said Weisberg. “We are tired of everything being an ‘Orthodox’ thing.”
    KEEPING SEPARATED

    Twenty years ago, most of the Jews in Lakewood were Reform or Conservative and sent their children to the public high school, invited their Christian neighbors to sit shiva and, in turn, attended their neighbors’ baptisms.

    Today, the vast majority are Haredi, the most theologically rigorous form of Judaism.

    Like Hassidim, Haredi Jews are extremely insular and adhere to strict dress and dietary laws. They trace their belief system directly back to Moses and consider non- Orthodox denominations to be unacceptable deviations from authen tic Judaism.

    It is a closed culture dedicated to religious study and family. Marriages may be arranged, and large families — eight to 12 children — are encouraged.

    One of the key tenets of Haredi Judaism is the refusal to assimilate.

    “Let’s be realistic,” Singer said. “The Orthodox have done a lot for this community, but they are never going to be part of this community. Unfortunately, people fear and re sent what they don’t understand.”

    A soft-spoken, serious man who is highly regarded in both the Jewish and the non-Jewish communities, Mayor Lichtenstein admitted that it is difficult to balance the demands of different groups.

    “I’m the civil face of the Orthodox community, but I am not an ambassador,” he said. “The Orthodox must keep separate. It has created tension. I can only hope people will try to understand.”
    OUTRAGE AND VIOLENCE

    Tension began building in May when a 20-year-old Orthodox woman was abducted as she walked to her car in the parking lot of a Lakewood shopping center. She was raped, then dumped back in the parking lot the next day.

    The case was still unsolved and the Orthodox community still outraged when 15-year-old Jamarr Dickerson — an honor student at Lakewood High School — walked through an alley behind a synagogue in the early evening of May 17.

    Halfway down the alley, he was accosted by Elchonon Zimmerman, 44, a teacher at one of the local Orthodox schools who lived next to the alley, according to police.

    Zimmerman accused Dickerson of trespassing and the two scuffled, police said. Several Orthodox men ran to Zimmerman’s aid. They forced the 157-pound teenager to the ground, standing on his hands and back, according to police. Dickerson said one of the men spat on him and called him an ugly racial name.

    When the police arrived, all of the men except Zimmerman ran off, police said. Dickerson was taken to the hospital for a cut on his head. Zimmerman, who had a cut mouth, was arrested for simple assault.

    Dickerson was not charged by police, who determined that the alley was public property. Zimmer man filed civil charges against the teenager. He did not return calls for comment.

    The local chapter of the National Association for the Advance ment of Colored People demanded a bias investigation. Ocean County Prosecutor Thomas Kelaher said bias charges were not filed “be cause we could not identify the man who made the slur, or any of the other men involved.”

    Lakewood reported 41 bias inci dents last year, the highest number of any municipality in the state. Most of those incidents targeted Jews, Kelaher said.

    An Orthodox neighborhood watch unit — formed after the rape and named Shomrim after similar groups operating in Brooklyn — was denounced by Lakewood Pub lic Safety Director Al Peters as “an independent police department.”

    “Instituted correctly, Shomrim could be very positive, but they misrepresented themselves upfront,” said Peters, a retired State Police major who was hired by Lakewood last year, following bias accusations against the local police.

    Peters said Shomrim organizers claimed they were not active, “when they were.” He said that, instead of reporting crimes to the police, they went to crime scenes themselves.

    Lakewood Shomrim founder Chaim Rubin, 25, did not return calls for comment for this article. Group leaders told police that the organization has been inactive since Rubin was arrested for at tempting to bribe a police officer to fix his wife’s parking ticket.

    In July, Brandon Fritz, 21, of Lakewood, was charged in the sexual assault on the Orthodox woman. He was arrested while trying to assault another woman in Middlesex County. That woman was not Jewish.

    IMPACTS ON SCHOOLS, HOUSING

    The rift between factions in town permeates all aspects of the community, residents said.

    There are more than 100 Orthodox synagogues and 14,466 Orthodox children in 50 private Jewish day schools, versus 5,359 children in Lakewood’s six public schools. The Orthodox schools are ex pected to grow at a rate of 2,000 new students per year; the public schools are expected to decline.

    “I remember when all our kids played together, went to school together and played sports together. I don’t think we’ll ever see that again in Lakewood,” said Eleanor Citron, a Conservative Jew whose children grew up in Lakewood dur ing the 1960s and 1970s.

    In May, the state Department of Education issued findings that black and Latino children in the Lakewood district received a disproportionately small amount of special education funding.

    The review — which focused on preschoolers — said nearly all white special needs children were enrolled in full-day programs. Most of the black and Hispanic special needs students were in cheaper half-day programs.

    The majority of white children in the district go to Orthodox schools, which have more intensive, privately run special education programs. By law, the local district must pay for special education for all children.

    The state ordered the district to correct the disparity. The local board of education, which has an Orthodox majority, appealed the order. A DOE response is still pending.

    “I understand how people in the minority communities are getting frustrated, but you can’t fault the Jewish community for uniting and working for what they’ve got,” said Glenn Bradford, a local minister and anti-poverty activist. “Though it does seem that some of the newcomers are bringing a New York at titude to Lakewood, which is the last thing we need.”

    The changing demographics also affect housing and land issues.

    Last month, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development filed suit against the manager and Orthodox owners of an apartment complex for discriminating against black and Hispanic tenants.

    Former Lakewood fair housing officer Carlos Cedeno called the housing situation “catastrophic. There is overcrowding, discrimina tion claims and constant anti-Orthodox reaction, because they are most of the landlords, although it’s not necessarily cause and effect.”

    A landlords group filed suit against the township, claiming that in cracking down on high-density rentals to undocumented Mexicans, the housing inspectors were discriminatory.

    Georgian Court University filed suit against the Orthodox-majority planning commission, saying it un fairly denied the school’s expansion plans. The university is next door to BMG.

    Sister Rosemary Jeffries, university president, called the board decision “capricious” but not religiously motivated.

    “We’ve co-existed for years. Since the Orthodox moved in, we have zero crime in this neighborhood,” Jeffries said. “I would point out, though, we were here first and don’t intend to move.”

    Rabbis from the last two non- Orthodox synagogues did announce in September, however, that they are moving out of downtown Lakewood. Both said they ac cepted long-standing offers from the Orthodox community.

    “We never felt pushed out, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t felt the rising tensions in this town,” said Reform Rabbi Stephen Gold of the Temple Beth Am. “There are very ethical people on both sides, but I’m not sure where they’ll find a middle ground.”

    Adding to tensions is the grow ing number of undocumented Mexican day workers, whose presence in town surged over the last decade, officials said.

    They are blamed for overcrowd ing and poor conditions in rental housing and for milling on downtown street corners every morning, waiting to be picked up by contrac tors.

    Last week, the town imple mented its solution to the day worker problem by opening a “muster zone” in the industrial park 3.5 miles from downtown. The first day, not one worker went to the muster zone.

    Rather than target day workers for loitering, “which is unenforceable,” Peters had his officers ticket drivers stopping illegally to pick up the workers. The officers did not ticket people illegally parked while making deliveries to the Orthodox businesses, according to activists who filmed the stops.

    “It’s not just that there are more Orthodox these days, it’s the general perception that they are getting preferential treatment,” said Lawrence Simons, a retired accountant who moved to a Lakewood retirement village, as he photographed every double-parked vehicle.

    The charges against Dickerson and Zimmerman are still unre solved.

    “This case has brought out into the open a lot of resentment that has been simmering underneath this community for a long time,” said Warren Sherard, director of the local NAACP. “I’m worried about a spark setting things off.”

  2. Stop pasting whole articles – especially off-topic articles – into the comments section. If you want me post on this, email.

  3. And I woudn’t call anything there antisemitic. It’s simply haredim behaving very badly, as per their societal norm.

  4. Anonymous

    I dont see anything anti semitic either. Its the every day norm of lakewood.
    This is what you get when 90 percent of the people shnur money from the system and in-laws.
    they dont know what it means to to make an honest buck

  5. Nigritude Ultramarine

    and spice it with twists of anti-Semitic rhetoric here and there

    Where?

    / Nice job of thread-jacking BTW

  6. noclue

    Exactly what are the charedim accused of in this article, besides one incident of perhaps, at most, simple assault and name calling, and some, as yet unsubstantiated, discrimination.

    Oh yes. They are accused of making “above market” offers for property, building new houses and driving the crime rate to “zero.”

    Asiides from the obviously bad economic reasoning (clearly charedim have no interest in offering above market rates for real estate; what has happened is that the market has shifted) what is wrong with making offers for real estate at fair, or more than fair, prices?

    Funny, the Amish are insular and geatly admired; charedeim are insular and, implicitly criticized.

    Also, the move away from New York has nothing to do with 9-11-06, and everything to do with affordability of housing in Brooklyn and Queens, and other factors.

    There may be a lot to criticize about Lakewood, but this article just does not pass muster. For example, is illegally hiring workers (people present in this country illegally) the same as making deliveries to a local business. It is virtually impossible to make a large delivery without double parking and such conduct is widely accepted.

    Parking illegally in order to hire illegal aliens is not acceptable and therefore the township has every right to stop the practice. In other words, one case is double parking in order to engage in legal conduct and the other is double parking in the course of committing a crime. The two are not comparable.

  7. D

    Let’s get back on topic.

    In my case, I was in an on-again-off-again relationship with a young lady starting while we were both in college. It carried on this way for the better part of a decade including a 4-5 month period in which we were “engaged” (had a ring but no firm dates). Finally, after a rather passionate meeting, we both declared things finished due to too many unbridgeable differences. We resolved then that we should not contact each other again and that resolution has stuck. I married my current sweetheart a year later and, 10 years and 3 children later, we’re still going strong.

    As distance aids perspective I can certainly relate with the dichotomy you list above. The woman in my story and I were definitely having fun with our more-or-less platonic relationship with just a hint of sexual tension. When things began to grow serious during our “engaged” phase lots of reasons and excuses for hesitating revealed themselves (what about grad school – I want to be in THIS community under THAT leadership – can I still enjoy [popular artist X or musician Y]?). Suffice to say the fact that we were both pretty unyielding showed that we were both either too self-absorbed or too far apart to give the sort of self-sacrifice required in a marriage.

    I don’t think we suffered from any “fear of commitment” in our stormy relationship. Rather, for too long a time, we were simply happy to be just friends and enjoy that slight exhiliration that comes from being on the borderline of something forbidden. This was certainly cemented by our initally meeting as we were growing into yiddishkeit although our subsequent paths have turned out very different. The entire marriage question challenged our entire calculus and, frankly, exposed just how wrong we really were for each other and how unwilling we were to make the necessary adjustments.

  8. Thank God you met someone compatible so quickly.

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