I had a unique opportunity to meet a former national president of Hadassah this past Sunday. While she is not Torah observant, she said she was a “strong supporter of Israeli and American Jewish causes, and sensitive to Orthodox issues”.
She told me that she lives in West Palm Beach, FL and that it is the fastest growing Jewish community in the United States. I said that make sense with Palm Beach being close in proximity to Boca Raton, which is the largest growing Orthodox community in America.
This nice woman, who is 82 years old, then proudly told me that there are so many day schools and shuls where she lives. She said that without exception all movements within Judaism are moving to the right. No matter if its spirituality, taking on a new mitzvah, or studying the Torah, she said, reform and conservative Jews are moving more to the right, trying to catch up to people like me (Torah Observant, if you hadn’t guessed). She claims that this move to the right has been happening for decades, but now it’s more public because being Jewish has been accepted by the media as an ‘in thing’.
This got me thinking about our own Torah observant communities. I’ll tell you the truth, the first thing that comes to mind is trend of taking on more chumros. Moving to the right doesn’t have to mean that we become more extreme or take on an attitude of stringency. Moving to the right might just be our way of gravitating towards the goal of become an Am Kodesh.
Some positive moves recently have been the growing number of chessed and sh’miros halashon programs, the number of shiurim available in shuls or as MP3s, the increased number of tehillim groups, a multitude of gemachs, and increased levels of tzedaka.
Perhaps the shift to the right that is taking place outside the Dalet Amos of the Torah observant Jewish community is due to the strengthening of own Avodas Hashem?
Or maybe, it’s the other way. Maybe Hashem is helping our non-observant brothers and sisters move more to the right in order to motivate us to move close to Hashem, as well.
it’s certainly an inspiration to us seeing those that give up a lot to become observant.
hi just found your blog. i am not a sociologist but just an observer of the jewish communities here in israel and in the us (from afar). there is a lot more involved in the move to more observance.
first it would be a big misnomer to call it a move right. in any event the term can be divisive and serves little purpose.
but to my main comment, there are many ways that the american jewish community is adopting increased spiritual practices. many of them are not necessarilly through your standard religious channels (synagogues). the community is much more eclectic than it used to be. but while your typical reform or conservative synagogue may seem more traditional than 25 years ago the main problem is that there are many less (is that the right way to say that) participating.
also in the orthodox community while there are communities that have grown tremendously (teaneck, skokie, etc) there are many more communities where the orthodox synagogues now barely get a minyan on shabbat. so not all is rosy
just my two cents
Good points. You’re right, the nubmbers for the non-Orthodox attending their congregations is much less. In West Rogers Park (near Skokie) the neighborhood has moved more to the right over the past 10-15 years from what I understand. I do usually try to have a postive spin on things, thought. Thanks for reading.