Point / Counterpoint
Last Wednesday the Oisvorfer sent out copies of a letter exchange
between Rabbi Steven Pruzansky and a ‘chaver’. The name of the
chaver was intentionally omitted. As an aside, many favorable
comments were received.
So happens that the Oisvorfer’s Toirah review reaches people all
around the world, hundreds of thousands now, and punkt (so happens)
that one of the followers, is the ‘chaver’ in the exchange. Givaldig mamish, what could be better? In any event, the ‘chaver’ made contact and identified himself as an old friend of the Rabbi and said “wait until you see my response.”For those that suspected that the Rabbi made up a fictitious chaver, it’s just not so.
His response to Rabbi Pruzansky, which was emailed directly to the
Rabbi, is attached. Here then, another view of this very hot issue.
I hope all is well with you and yours. May you see Yiddishe nachos from all of them.
In the words of Jackie Mason it took me 30 years to become an overnight
success…..I did not realize that you were going to publicize
our correspondence….I certainly would have addressed you by your title –
I hope there was no offense (I just remember the elbows under the
Thank you for your response. I did not write this letter to you b’mikre.
To the contrary, I heard about your speech and was shocked.
No question that we have very bad PR, and I’m also not claiming
that our community is perfect – and thus I can be דןלכףזכות — but
there are aspects of your response that are so misleading and false
and based more in prejudice than in fact or understanding that I felt
a need to respond.
The attached document responds in depth to your points. Don’t be
offended but we have to know how to respond to an אפקורוסכגוןמאןאמרר
Anyone who has had any actual human contact with Hareidim is
generally stuck by the extent of giving, rather than taking that
characterizes the community. The Har Nof directory has 36 pages
of phone numbers and names of gemachs and community services!
That’s not to mention, Hatzala, Zaka, Yad Sara, Zichron Menachem,
Yad Eliezer among an endless list of large and effective tzedaka
organizations that serve the entire Jewish community, frum and chiloni.
The endless time and money and energy spent in the world of kiruv
rechokim to bring unaffiliated Jews back to Avinu Sh’b’Shamayim,
whether on college campuses, via outreach kollels or baal teshuva
seminaries and yeshivas also largely traced to people who until they
were in their mid-20s, sat and ingested Torah values and learning in
yeshivas and seminaries. Then they spent the rest of their life living it
through tzedaka v’chesed rather than chasing money for themselves.
The idea that the Haredi world rests on taking rather than giving simply
has no correspondence with reality and you should be ashamed of
yourself for suggesting otherwise.
Nearly all my male Hareidi friends and relatives work and pay over 60%
in taxes – meanwhile the Government cut our kids’ school budgets by
50%. My son currently gets no milk in the morning because the budget
was cut. Somebody is stealing my tax money, and it’s not the Haredim.
How about what Haredi education produces relative to morality?
In our schools there is virtually no drugs, sex or violence. There is not a
yeshiva in the world that has metal detectors to check its students –
how does that compare to the secular system of education?
From high school on, the men’s educational process is focused on Torah.
Isn’t it amazing that people without college are nonetheless able to start
and operate successful businesses of all kinds, from crafts (plumbing,
electrical, contracting) to retails to finance to real estate to start-ups.
All without having studied Shakespeare or art history – without knowing
how many wives King Henry 8th divorced or beheaded – and without
having had to subject themselves to the looseness, depravity and
coarseness of midos one finds with such ease on a college campus.
But the Israeli Government feels it knows better and wants to impose
its standards on our time-tested curriculum. Not a culture war? Really?
I am an investment banker and have raised over 50 million dollars for
Israeli companies supporting hundreds of secular families. Nearly all
the owners of those businesses are secular — They love me and I love
them (I don’t hide my peyot) certainly not in Teaneck. My Partners
supports hundreds if not thousands of Israelis in construction, law,
accounting, security, insurance, architecture and engineering, to name
a few, via his real estate business. I have another close friend who moved
his family here to open a bal teshuva yeshiva that is one of the largest
employers in its neighborhood. We all pay taxes here. All of my friends
and peers are busy with tzedaka projects – many if not most not content
just to give money, but insistent upon giving time and effort and talent as
well. All this in addition to commitment to regular Torah learning. Is that
really a hateful existence?
How about the families that you so revile where the husband is learning
in Kollel? Let’s check a few facts here. The government used to help with
$200 a month; Lapid and Bennet cut it to almost nothing! The average
hareidi family has about 8 children. We pay 18% vat tax on all we
consume. Do you really think these families live on Government
handouts? In these families the wives are all working (did you assume
they were home redesigning their kitchens, eating bon-bons, shopping at
our equivalent of the Short Hills mall or Nordstroms and filing their nails?).
Do you have a similar problem when one of your secular friends has a
wife who works and the husband stays home? I never heard anyone ever
complain about that concept. So why is it that a family that is willing to
forego all the pleasures of the olam ha-gashmi to pursue a self-sacrificing spiritually oriented existence voluntarily, supported in dignity by a working wife who believes in the primacy of Torah study be so reviled by you?
With large families the Hareidim are massive spenders on consumption
and investment in Israel. Ask Osem or Pampers or Simalec. Or anyone
in the world of real estate and construction. As consumers we give back
a multiple of what we “take”.
All this is without any reference to the spiritual value of what we
contribute to our society – which as a rabbi and learner I hope you
might at least modestly appreciate……אפקורוסכגוןמאןאמרר”
As far as the Rambam, please see the attached. There are almost 30
poskim listed who disagree with the Rambam, including the
Mechaber in three places. In addition, we can probably agree
that the Brisker Ruv’s son, R’ Moshe’s son and R’ Aharon’s
grandson know a thing or two about the Rambam — yet they attended.
Like you, I grew up with Zionism uber alas. But we did not hate the
Haredim . I told a friend of Bennett’s ( to paraphrase Golda Meir) that
I can forgive him for stealing our money, starving the avreichim, and
supporting legislation to jail our kids … but I can’t forgive him for
causing me to hate him and causing you to hate me.
In the world of Israeli kiruv (just like the global phenomenon) there’s
an amazing reality: virtually all who become frum — and there are well
over 100k — become chareidim (of one form or another). They all grew
up interacting with the datei Leumi, yet when push comes to shove,
that’s not the lifestyle and community they choose. How odd for such
a highly educated and unbiased (other than the extreme anti-Haredi
bias they are raised with) to choose such a different way of life (one
that will surely bring them no prestige or power or connections). How
strange that they choose to join what you view as a cult of takers and
uncaring, non-contributing families and individuals. Somehow the appeal
of authentic and committed Torah and Yiddishkeit weighs more than
The official prayer for the army? We love the soldiers and pray for
them every day. In times of stress and war our shuls are full of people
davening and saying Tehillim and personal prayers. We also cry when
they fall, and Hatzola and unfortunately Zaka are there to pick them up!
We don’t need the nusach of the chief Rabbi; we have Chazal
Posted by Yitz Grossman
The Oisvorfer Ruv