Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Conversation During Shalosh Seudos.

As of June 12, 2009, analog television broadcast ended in the United States and was replaced with digital mode broadcast. If you had an analog television and didn't attach a digital-to-analog converter, you would turn on the television and all you would see would be a boiling jumble of white dots and all you would hear would be static. Even though broadcasts of fine television programs filled the air, and even though you had a high quality television, you would see and hear nothing but garbled nonsense.

Our neighborhood has been lucky to host a new Kollel. The impetus to bring in the Kollel (even while established mosdos are suffering for lack of donations) was the fact that in the past three years, not one Orthodox family had settled in this neighborhood, while other neighborhoods have been growing. While some new families had moved in, they have all been Arab, or Assyrian, or Oriental. I'm sure they are all fine people, but the Orthodox Jewish presence in our neighborhood was definitely in a downward spiral. Several wealthy individuals decided that they would fund the new Kollel for three years. Hopefully, by the end of the three years, the Kollel will be self-supporting. A great deal of money and planning went into the effort: Fifteen houses were purchased, jobs were found for the Kollel wives, and a very nice hall was rented and furnished for a beis medrash.

Even within the few weeks since the opening of the Kollel, the influx of these yungeleit has had a discernible impact; simply seeing these new young families has invigorated the kehilla, and the presence of young men whose entire day is dedicated to limud hatorah, and not to more mundane pursuits, has inspired many of us baalei batim. Many people have been drawn to the Kollel for davenning, because they daven exactly as they did in the Brisker Kollel in Yerushalayim-- not a baalebatishe minyan that caters to bnei Torah, but an unabashed yeshiva minyan. (In fact, I suspect that they daven longer when Baalei Batim are there in order to scare them off, but I, of course, have no way to test the hypothesis.)  The Rosh Kollel was the sho'el umeishiv in the Brisker Kollel for many years, so he obviousy is among the great young talmidei chachamim of our time. Inquiries about house purchases from people moving to the city have begun to focus on this neighborhood, and it appears that the Kollel is a davar be'ito mah tov. Even though the Roshei Yeshiva and Roshei Kollel of the older mosdos in the city were very vexed with the founding of the new Kollel, as it will draw away both sorely needed money and focus, ahl korchom ya'anu amein, since the founders of the Kollel are also their supporters.

Another advantage: there is a nearby shul that has been having trouble dealing with the rightward-trend of the past few years, and there has been a considerable amount of friction in the shul between the more modern and the more yeshiva-oriented elements ("Who needs all these black hatters? They're a bunch of freeloaders!) With the founding of the kollel, the bnei torah will most likely spend more and more time at the kollel minyan, and the shul will remain with the more modern people, and everyone will be happy. Im hayemin ve'asme'ila and so forth.

And here is the story that motivates this post. Yesterday, I was sitting at Shalosh Seudos, and a man said, almost verbatim: "They brought in fifteen Kollel families to the neighborhood, and not one of them ever lived in a house before. You think they're going to take care of their houses? You think any of them is going to mow his lawn? It's going to drive down the price of houses in the neighborhood!"

The most elementary level of being a member of civilized society is the inclination toward compromise instead of conflict, to seek accommodation instead of confrontation, to be open-minded enough to appreciate that not everyone is exactly like you are, and to not pre-judge others on the basis of superficial differences. But from where I was sitting at Shalosh Seudos yesterday, it seemed that we haven't risen to that first step yet. To witness the rejuvenation of a neighborhood, to see the influx of young men and women dedicated to Jewish scholarship, and to focus your tunnel vision exclusively on the fact that 'THESE PEOPLE' ARE NOT GOING TO MOW THEIR LAWNS, DAMMIT! seems to me to be akin to having that great widescreen analog LCD after the switch has been made to digital. The signal is there, the receiver is powered up, and nebach, nebach, all you can see is static.


  1. It's simple: some people would rather be surrounded by nice lawns than by flourishing Judaism. The former is a value; the latter is not.

    Look on the bright side: at least the kollel was brought in and you have something to fight about.
    On a recent Shabbos afternoon I and someone else (who was a guest in the neighborhood) made the mistake of staying later after a 1:30 mincha in a local shul to learn. We were promptly tossed out so the janitor could lock up. The out of towner could not believe that a shul should be locked all Shabbos afternoon with no one learning there. The manicured lawns and housekeepers abound, but a beis medrash for learning even on shabbos -- are you kidding? So at least you managed to get a kollel even if you still have gripers. Some of us are still living in a midbar.

  2. You don't pull any punches. I wish I could cut to the essence of things like you do so eloquently.

    We hope the Kollel is Mekadeish Shem Shamayim, and expect great things from them. I'm sure their lawns will look just fine.

  3. How short sighted! Any research into the prices of homes in a desirable frum community would show that home prices rise as more frum families want to be a part of that community.
    In fact I bought my home from a non-frum family in a chicago suburb who wanted to get out before "they" took over. Five years later my home tripled in value as "those" people moved in.
    May the kollel be matzliach in the revitalization of both the physical and spiritual aspects of their new community home.

  4. anyone who understands basic economics should realize that buying up houses that are for sale should help the value of their house these people are rodfim i should know about being a rodef

  5. The mixed gender, mostly mechallel-shabbos-families school I send my kids to is not good enough for them?) With the founding of the kollel, the bnei torah will most likely spend more and more time at the kollel minyan, and the shul will remain with the more modern people, and everyone will be happy. Im hayemin, ve'asme'ila, and so forth.

    I just want to point out that someone who sends their kid to a mixed school can still be a ben torah

  6. Agreed. And sometimes, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

    But studies, e.g.
    have shown that students at single gender schools do better scholastically. Judging from my own experience, girls can be distracting to adolescent boys.

  7. You must have misunderstood. he was speaking in M'sholim...

    He MUST have meant will MOE be LEARNING on the lawn! If he would be learning on the lawn the property value goes up! If he stays only in the Beis Medrash and doen't reach out to the commuinty (ie, MOE sitting on the lawn) the property values will go down. Pure and simple.
    Otherwise, it would be complete "amaratzus" or "rishus" Take your pick...

  8. Re: Im hayemin, ve'asme'ila: While it is true that often good fences make good neighbors, IMO, it is very sad when the only thing creating good will in a community is those kinds of divisions. It shouldn't be necessary for the yeshivish people to daven elsewhere for the MO woman to not feel judged for wearing her doily. (Regardless of what you think about doilies, it's not right for a person to feel judged.)

    @Chaim: I have been quite frustrated in some communities not being able to find an open beis medrash on a shabbos afternoon. When I'm finding a community to live in, a basic requirement will be an open, air conditioned beis medrash on a shabbos afternoon. While I may end up living in a community without that for whatever reasons, it would be a serious mesiras nefesh.

  9. Michael, one of the reasons I write this blog is so that I will occasionally be reminded to be less insular and dismissive. Maybe I was overreacting to the other fellow's attitude; it would be nice if people could get together without automatically assessing the others there and rating them on some scale, whether a scale of beauty, or wealth, or religion.

    my interpolated comment is going to undergo some rehabilitation.

  10. In response to some valid criticism, I edited the post. If some of the comments don't seem to make sense, that's because they did make sense before I edited the post.