The iPod Threat To Yiddishkeit

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz writes:

…We are deluding ourselves – and ignoring the lessons of history – if we think that we are somehow immune from another colossal tidal wave of children leaving Yiddishkeit [i.e., the haredi world] in the years to come.…

I keep getting calls from concerned parents from very charedi and chassidish homes asking me how to respond to their teenage children’s requests for IPOD’s. These are sheltered children from heimishe homes. Their parents are rightfully terrified of what the implications are for saying yes to the request, but correctly realize that saying no to the request without a good reason will be counterproductive. They also fully understand that their children can buy it without their permission if they really want to.

What is also unsettling is the fact that many of these parents have no idea what an IPOD is. So there you have it. Kids speaking a language that their parents don’t understand. Children acclimating to a new environment while their parents are like … well, immigrants. The last time we had that experience was on the Lower East Side. Do you have any idea what percentage of the kids left Yiddishkeit in that generation?…

I would argue Jews of that generation left haredism and Orthodoxy because of the combination of stagnant leadership and real theological challenges from science. The apparent impotance of God during the Holocaust (or His participation is same) didn’t help, either.

The problem isn’t iPods. The problem is rabbis and their failed policies.

Rabbi Horowitz is a good guy, fighting a good fight. But until the haredi world opts to choose good, nothing he says will really matter.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “The iPod Threat To Yiddishkeit

  1. Anon

    With all due respect, I don’t think that majority of people who leave today leave because of rabbis and “their failed policies.” They leave because Orthodox Judaism no longer seems to be a meaningful/viable way of life for them.

  2. ZA

    The actual person does indeed leave because “Orthodox Judaism no longer seems to be a meaningful/viable way of life for them”. However, the respond of the Rabbis to the social situation does matter. One may be stagnant and answer to everything that it is “assur” (forbidden) like Rabbi Elyashiv in Israel and his doubles here. Or one may be looking at the issue and say, hey, it’s absolutely “mutar” (allowed), but since there could be negative implications, let’s work on what could and what could not be done. Our children are young, not stupid, and when you discuss with them the limits and explain those limits and their reasons, they do listen. Now, there is a percentage that would do away with your limits, but those are exactly the people that might go away no matter what you do. The rest of them would say, my parents respect me, they see me as an intelligent being, they give me reasons and I should listen to them the same way I listen to them when not jumping in front of a fast moving car.
    I did that with my daughters and I am not disappointed. It’s easy for me to say since I live in a MO community and interact with MO people, but I believe that this method could and should be emulated in the UO world as well. They need a “Gadol” that would go against the flow though and the chances for that seem slimmer and slimmer for every day passing.

  3. JewishCynic

    What’s the problem with an iPod? It’s basically a playback device just like a cassette player – it plays what is put in it.
    The potential problem is when someone goes on the internet to obtain content but the internet is off limits to haredim. Sounds like a fear of the unknown.
    Wait till the Lubavitch come out with a custom iPod that plays the “Yechi” over and over…

  4. frummeyid

    I think you are a little harsh on Rabbi Horowitz. You are essentially presupposing the the chareidi world (of which I am not part, but I was for many years) cannot possibly solve this problem and remain chareidi. Rabbi Horowitz assumes otherwise. Although I don’t see the Chareidi world coming up with answers which ‘do it’ for me and my kids, I admire someone like Rabbi Horowitz for trying and wish him success. Additionally, and crucially, I am not going to let my own experiences convince me that he will not be successful. There is plenty of room for all types.

    I do agree with the idea that the chareidi world will have to undergo almost cataclymic changes to continue to function —- in the areas of economics, insularity, blind allegiance to human beings etc.

    And while off topic, the last phrase in that sentence brings to mind a paradox I have noted: that those who profess to have perfect faith in G-d actually debase that faith by instead having perfect faith in HUMANS. It’s one or the other, in my book, and men of faith are supposed to have the greatest faith in G-d alone. Why the daas-torahniks don’t realize how preposterous it sounds to equate faith in man with faith in G-d is beyond me. (Anyone see the Beis Halevi at the beginning of Miketz?)

  5. Anonymous

    I would argue Jews of that generation left haredism and Orthodoxy because of the combination of stagnant leadership and real theological challenges from science.

    As someone who did leave Orthodoxy because of challenges from science et al, I think I’m qualified to say that that is BS. The vast majority of people born into Orthodoxy that are no longer Orthodox did not make that change for theological reasons. That’s just the way it is.

  6. david

    This Ipod question is non-existent. Daf Yomi, the daily talmud page, is available for sale loaded on an Ipod. No fears from any orthos.

  7. Ahavah bat Sarah

    You didn’t quote the most relevant part of the article:

    “What are the numbers – the percentages of our children in the various ‘rings’? Accurate information and research-based studies are not readily available, but I would estimate that during the past few decades, about five to fifteen percent of children from observant homes completely left Yiddishkeit – which is far more than we would like to admit or believe.”

    Here’s the truth, and it’s ugly, and the whole frum world wants to deny it – splitting the difference, 7 or 8 of every 100 frum children walk away from Judaism and observance completely. I would guess about twice that percentage ends up with the Conservatives or some other branch. That means we can conservatively estimate that the frum community loses 1 in 5 of their children – 20% – and are still claiming there is nothing wrong with what they are doing and teaching. How much longer does this need to go on? When will we stop being so blind and admit that the frum/yeshiva culture is seriously flawed?

  8. Neo-Conservaguy

    “As someone who did leave Orthodoxy because of challenges from science et al, I think I’m qualified to say that that is BS.”

    Pardon a silly question, but how exactly does that qualify you to offer anything other than an opinion about the actions of others? BTW, where did you “land” – Conservative, non-observant, etc.?

  9. I don’t understand his issue with an iPod, it seems that is whole concern is that kids are asking for things that their parents don’t know about. This year it was an iPod, but it could have been a mobile phone. Let them educate their parents…

  10. Bava Kama Sutra

    The people who are in the know say that most people who leave orthodoxy do it for personal reasons rather than theological reasons. Make sense to me, I do not think people read Godol Hador and say ‘Hey, the mabul was local not global therefore everything else is wrong’. It does not work this way.

    That phenomenon is called in the charedi world makos bechoros (plague of the firstborn) of our time where every family has one.

  11. Anonymous

    What happens when these kids finally learn that the world is billions of years old and not 6000 years old ? (Greenland has 200,000 years of snowfall- then there is Anartica which its recorded years of snowfall.) In the past (don’t know now) one Orthodox day school taught, from the Science point of view, billions years old is OK. If the heredim teach there is NO room to believe “billions of years old” just watch as some more ‘walk out the door’

  12. JewishCynic

    R. Horowitz is worried that parents are out of touch with the modern world. But these parents are calling him as an authority to enlighten them. Unfortunately he seems to be no better informed than the parents “Their parents are rightfully terrified of what the implications are for saying yes to the request”. (terrified of an iPod?!) Haredi parents learn about the world through the rabbeim. R. Horowitz should be worried that the rabbeim are out of touch.
    As far as loosing frum children, there will be kids who leave the fold no matter what. It happens with all religions and orthodox judaism has many restrictions that a young person may want to be free of. Orthodoxy’s first concern should be what kind of lives are the “frum” members leading. If the leaders ignore halachah when it inteferes with their desires (money, sex, kovod) how can the kids be expected to control their urges. If the Haredi community is a good example of true torah meidos then even those that leave in their youth may later return. And even if they don’t return they will at least have respect for what they left even if they have theological dissagreements.

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