Modern Orthodoxy Vs Right-Wing Orthodoxy

Joe emails: You can tell the difference between Modern Orthodoxy and more Right Wing Old School Orthodoxy by looking at synagogue websites.

Bnai David Judea is this high powered modern orthodox synagogue – it has women on the board, it offers a weekly class on women’s issues (no shiur on PMS which is a real shame), has an average educational level of ph.d., and a rabbi with a GQ pose on his bio. Its graphic popup is all about dignity for all of God’s children, whatever that means, and its rabbi made the top 25 rabbis in Newsweek (very cool). The website has about as much Hebrew as a box of matzos. It seems designed to allow its board members to show nonobservant Jewish friends the site and prove that the orthodox do not walk with their knuckles dragging on the floor, even though they still do not tear toilet paper on Shabbat, will not eat at 99% of the restaurants in Los Angeles, and will not let their kids go anywhere near a public school. It is hoped that nonobservant jews seeing this site will say, wow, I thought orthodox was all about women having no education, men wearing funny black hats, and having tons of kids. Actually, it is this nice little society with classes called "nosh and drosh" kind of like a Jerry’s Deli; how fun. Check the site out. – it looks like the website for a meet-up group. There is no daily torah study, no Jewish law, and a lot of hand-wringing over how much the shul supports Israel, even though there are precious few who are willing to leave Beverlywood for that other promised land.

Now, turn to the website for a leading los angeles old school orthodox congregation – Kehilas Yaakov – this is a shul allied with the kollel (an institution where men, and only men, learn full time, being supported by the community to provide leaders and teachers and the erudite types that have made Jews about three bell curves ahead in IQ of any other group). The website is basic. It has the time for prayers, and tons of daily learning, all in Hebrew. The only English is a plea for donations on the front page and an erudite justification for the use of the eruv. A nonobservant person looking at this website would say one thing: "Neanderthal." There is no photo of the rabbi – his only presence are tapes of his lectures on the prohibition against gossip. It is surprising that the internet, which is based on gossip, can even be used to broadcast such a message. The site is and it has about as much in common with Bnai David’s site as Barack Obama has with Glenn Beck.

Make no mistake, there is a subtle war under the covers of Orthodoxy. Those growing up in Bnai David will have a huge problem socializing with those growing up in Kehilas Yaakov. It is bad now, it will get worse. And the winner will be the far right wing due to the increased amount of children and the lock step following of its regime by those children.

It is said that Modern Orthodoxy is tolerant and apologizes for its authenticity, while right-wing Orthodoxy is intolerant and does not apologize for its authenticity. As a person who believes in the code aspect of Orthodoxy, the apologies for authenticity are as lame as if the US Marine Corps decided to cut back on rifle training to let more people advance.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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