Chareidi publications in recent years have become a class act. Although the fact that they print no pictures of women may be irksome to some, they nonetheless are written with the highest degree of professionalism. It’s not just their use of language that is superb, but their thoroughness in each article is truly special.
Without trying to toot my own horn, I was recently interviewed about my recent rise to the presidency of the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV) by a weekly chareidi newspaper’s weekly magazine. The interviewer came fully prepared, with great knowledge of the CJV and quite a bit about me. The article itself was one that did me and the CJV proud.
In another magazine, I read of the outstanding Rabbi Leo Jung zt”l, formerly of The Jewish Center in Manhattan. I had no idea how this special man was involved in building every Jewish institution from Beis Yaakov in Krakow to Torah Umesorah in the United States, the Mir Yeshiva following World War II, and supporting rabbanim throughout the New York area. Each publication shows how far the chareidi world has come in sophistication – and in every pursuit.
Equally sophisticated are the ads. I assume they are sophisticated because most of them I do not understand. The subtle young readers apparently are tuned in, but I am more used to “Buy Schapiro’s Wine. There is no better wine. In fact, you can cut it with a knife!” (a bit of a throwback)
What strikes me, though, is that, while there are these state-of-the-art ads for all kinds of Torah institutions, charities, and gatherings, there are an equal number of ads for almost every indulgence.
No more Homowack or Pioneer Hotels for a getaway – now it’s off to the Swiss or French Alps. No more Bulova watches – now it’s names that I will never recall. Every ad for some fancy restaurant or supermarket shows pictures of the most expensive cuts of mouthwatering steaks. No more tenement type of apartments – now its condominiums with a concierge and swimming pool.
So, what is the Torah community? Is it one that preaches disdaining of materialism or one that looks for the better things in life, seeking luxury? Or is it one where we prize our kollel yungeleit for their mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) for Torah study?
I am not knocking either lifestyle. I am just wondering out loud. I guess the best answer is that we have arrived. Yes, we hold our talmidei chachamim in great esteem. We admire and sometimes aspire to the life of simplicity. But we also have shown that Torah can flourish in almost any type of environment. We also admire success and what it is used for. Let’s make sure it’s used for the right purposes.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.