Are There Higher Ethical Standards In Modern Orthodoxy?

In my experience, Modern Orthodox Jews have more concern about ethics than other types of Orthodox Jews. They are more concerned about appearances. They are more concerned about the goyim.

I’m not arguing that Modern Orthodox Jews are better Jews than the traditional Orthodox. I’m not arguing that they are finer and kinder. I am arguing that they have different concerns and these concerns lead them to put more stress on ethics.

I think this comes from their wider participation in life. Modern Orthodox Jews are more concerned with the way non-Jews and non-Orthodox Jews look at Orthodox Jews. As opposed to the more traditional Orthodox, the Modern Orthodox live in the world. They work as doctors and lawyers and professors and accountants.

The traditional Orthodox rarely go to college and consequently rarely enter the professions. All of the professions have ethics codes. Generic businessmen, by contrast, choose their own code. You can’t point to a generic businessman and ask to see his ethics code.

Traditional Orthodox Jews go into business while the Modern Orthodox go into professions.

In traditional Orthodox shuls, I’ve found there’s much more clannishness. The world can go to hell. I’m looking out for my group.

The Modern Orthodox live in two worlds but are painfully conscious of not fitting in to either world. They are consequently more insecure than the traditional Orthodox who are only concerned with living a traditional life.

Insecure with their fit in the Torah world and with the wider world, the Modern Orthodox Jew is much more concerned about appearances than the traditional Jew.

Look at Modern Orthodox powerhouses such as Bnai David-Judea and Young Israel of Century City. They have high ethical demands for their members.

Can someone get convicted of a felony and still join these shuls? Of course. Their standards aren’t that high. You can get convicted of two felonies and join such shuls. You’re only in trouble if your presence makes the shul look bad. Say, if you’re a controversial blogger.

I’ve found Alexander Technique teachers similar to the Modern Orthodox in their insecurity. Because their profession has no legal standing, Alexander teachers are highly concerned about how they appear to the wider world and drum out of the community those who make them look bad.

About Luke Ford

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