By Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie
There is much to debate about the challenges facing Chabad-Lubavitch in a post-Gimmel Tammuz era. Unfortunately, the conversation on COLlive.com between Rabbis Shmuley Boteach and Yoseph Korf fails on many counts to take a responsible approach to the questions that face us as a community.
Rabbi Boteach’s arguments are not original. Chabad is a culture of openness and self-analysis. All you have to do is to step into any Chabad Shul and you will hear these issues debated every day. It’s not just the back benches. The leadership is also engaged in active conversation on many of the issues.
While other parts of the Frum community repress public debate, the culture of Chabad encourages it. Shmuley is not writing anything that many of us don’t already know about (while we may disagree with him on some of the points).
I do at times wonder why Shmuley feels it so important to be the clarion caller on these issues that are already being actively discussed.
A year ago he wrote a piece in the Jerusalem Post about his ‘Chabad concerns.’ At the time I responded in the newspaper (read it here: http://tinyurl.com/lbj4kj). I would imagine that Shmuley might have more traction expressing his concerns internally to those he knows in Chabad rather than by making them a debate in the broader community.
At the same time I am deeply distressed by the response of my colleague Rabbi Yossi Korf.
Instead of intellectual discussion about the issues, he falls into the pit of personal attacks and fails to treat the questions raised as ones of value and concern. There are young people who need Shidduchim, our schools – while excellent in many communities – could still use improvement. His response falls short of dealing with the real questions. I do share some of his anxiety about Shmuley’s writings, still his article lacks a real contribution of ideas on the issues at hand.
There are no simple answers. We are a complex community, spread over continents, speaking different languages, coming from varied backgrounds. Many of us engaged in an effort to remold modern Jewish life. At times the priorities of our own community recede from the front burner. Still we cannot forget that we need to focus inward, be it on our educational system, the needs of our youth, etc.
We are also a community in transition. Prior to Gimmel Tammuz 5754 the buck stopped on the Rebbe’s desk. The Rebbe would see the big picture and orchestrate solutions to problems. Today we struggle, searching for the correct answers, using the Rebbe’s instructions as our guide. The internal institutions of decision making and governance are in a learning curve. At times they rise to challenges and sadly, at times, not. In the arena of Shlichus we have seen revolutionary improvements.
Maybe the time has come that we focus more inward towards the needs of Anash. How do we balance between our broader responsibilities and those to our own community? At the same time we see remarkable creativity in the grassroots of Chabad in meeting some of our important internal challenges.
We should not forget the positive. Our communities are flourishing. Chabad is undergoing remarkable growth. Jewish leaders from the most liberal to most Frum are amazed with our passion, sense of mission and way we get things done. Children are continuing the live by the ideals the Rebbe implanted.
Shlichus is booming, in fact it’s the success that is creating some of the newest challenges. So many young couples are seeking to enter Shlichus that the system is finding it difficult to create enough positions. There are problems but they are manageable. With some leadership, cooperation and courage we can find the solutions and the strength to rise to the occasion.
– Rabbi Eliezrie is the director of North County Chabad Center in Yorba Linda, California