Thursday, March 27, 2014

On the Charedi Draft

I have never wished I'd found Judaism earlier for reasons of dating or marriage. But one occasion did make me regret converting at the ripe old age of 32: When rockets were raining down on Israel in late 2012, I contacted an organization that coordinates volunteer IDF service for American Jews. I was years past the cut-off age for women, but I was convinced I could make my case to be the exception to the rule, especially at such a dire time. Trust me, I know this is somewhat laughable. I pretty much left the womb in heels and makeup. Staying in a cabin with my family in the fall and showering with well water is my version of roughing it. But I am strong. A big part of this is thanks to my mom, from whom I learned a very "can-do" approach after my parents divorced. I also believe that every person has a deep "in case of emergency" reservoir of strength they can draw from when they need to.

So while I knew I was an unlikely candidate, I had to try. I couldn't stand to do nothing, not after everything Judaism had given me. I'm aware that I will probably (and unfortunately) see many more such conflicts in my beloved Holy Land in my lifetime, but since this particular one was the first I'd experienced since deciding to convert--and just months after my JDay--the pain, guilt, and helplessness I was feeling was brand new.

This isn't Charedi-bashing. I know and know of far too many amazing Ultra-Orthodox Jews to make any sweeping negative generalizations. Rather, it is very difficult for me to understand just why they would refuse to defend our beautiful country, as so many righteous Jews have done before. Beyond these feelings, though, I have to admit I'm a bit out of my depth on the topic, so I leave it to a knowledgeable Rabbi to make a very compelling argument (as shared by my Rabbi on his blog).

Shalom al Yisrael.



  1. For me, it's not even a conversation. No one Jew's blood is more precious than another's; someone else's child is fighting for your safety, and you can claim privilege?

    Whenever someone feebly attempts to justify refusing the draft, in three sentences my father can leave them retortless. Because you can't debate, no way no how, out of this one.

    I think the problem is that we are approaching the matter from a religious perspective, "chareidim vs." It's not that. A category of people were used to certain benefits, and now it is being taken away; they are afraid of change, of losing a certain way of life that they have known until now.

    Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch proclaimed them "cowards," but not necessarily of fighting. Some people are amenable to change, others need time. And with time, and not so much of it, people won't recall the era of the paid benefits to full-time learners.

    The same way I have to get used to a life without Daffy's. Sob.

  2. Ooh what is Daffy's? Is it better that I not even know what I missed?

    I agree with you 100%. I have the utmost respect for Torah scholars (as I know you do) and I appreciate their vital contribution to the Jewish people. However, I once heard a Rabbi make the following point in regards to Charedim being supported full-time, and I think he hit it on the head: Not everyone is meant to be a full-time scholar. That is the part I think we are really arguing over, not whether Torah scholarship is worthy--of course it is!-- but this idea that being born into a Charedi family guarantees one a position as a scholar and a get-out-of-military-service-free card. Only the truly gifted should move into the ranks of full-time Torah study; the rest can learn a livelihood and support themselves and their families as generations of Jews did before them. As long as a Jew lives by the Torah, there are many ways to lead a holy life.

  3. Absolutely. Service of any kind builds one's character.

    Re: Daffy's: Quel dommage! Especially as obscure brands tend to source their leather from the same places as the large designer houses in Italy.

  4. Ooooooh, the pain!


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