Monday, December 13, 2004

American Haredim flex some political muscles

Two weeks after the event, Eric Yoffe, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, has welcomed a statement made by Aguda's executive vice president, Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, in which he urged American haredim to take a greater role in American Jewish communal life.
This is, of course, an extremely interesting development, which, as Rabbi Bloom points out, seems to reflect shifting demographics and thus greater Haredi power. It also seems to reflect a growing Haredi dissatisfaction with some of the positions taken by the mainstream community, which is further to the Left politically. (I would be interested to hear other hypotheses on why this announcement comes now, specifically -- a question which seems to me to warrant some further thought. One person has suggested to me that perhaps they are a little scared of being too overshadowed by the OU, where Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb seems to have established himself in a short time as a very sensible player and effective leader, but I'm not sure if that's enough).
In any case, it seems interesting that while Bloom very clearly says that the Haredim are looking for more 'responsibility,' Yoffie seems to wonder, at least at the end of the article, if what they are actually looking for is more 'influence.'
It is also important to remember that as much as the Haredim can change the American Jewish community through increased communal participation -- they, too, are liable to be changed. It will be interesting to watch how all these factors play out.

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