Monday, February 16, 2015

Annual Dinner of YSRH

Last night I attended the annual dinner of the Yeshiva Samson Raphael Hirsch. I'm somewhat used to it by now but still not completely immune to the novelty of the experience of sitting in a room full of black hat clad men and modestly dressed women and hearing approving comments about secular studies, college, and careers. One feels confused the first time he hears this, and it's always refreshing.

I certainly heard it last night, as I did ubiquitous references to the term "Torah Im Derech Eretz"  - even as nobody really elaborated on the term in its full Hirschian definition which exceeds secular studies and parnassah.

The quantity of people in attendance - a huge room in a hotel, full to capacity - gave assurance of the viability of the yeshiva.

But walking around the room and meeting the generally affable German crowd  I did wonder about the dearth of baalei teshuvah. Now, one can't always spot a BT - I wonder how many spot me even though I don't hide it at all - but good command of English is a good place to start. And the idioms are different with BTs, even the cliches we use. One referenced the Japanese movie monster Godzilla - what FFB is going to do that? Well I ran into only three (including incredibly the MC who promptly pointed it out to us), even though as I argue that Torah Im Derech Eretz is the natural destination for American Jews.

It could be also a big source of new blood for the German community. America is a Germanic country. I say this often. And German Orthodoxy and Torah Im Derech Eretz seem almost custom made for many American Jews. The formality is new but if a man or woman is becoming Charedi anyway, German Orthodoxy overall is less of a stretch, given all the points of stretching.

But as friendly as the Germans are - and their friendliness will shock you - they don't run to my knowledge any kiruv programs designed around Torah Im Derech Eretz. Yes, German Jews are in kiruv, but it's Eastern European Yeshivish kiruv.

That's fine, but we need alternatives and TIDE would be a great one. So I ask again, where were the BTs?


  1. In the 1990s two bochurim from Ohr Sameach Monsey arrived at the doorstep of the Breuer's Beis Hamedrash. They were advised by their Rebbeim that this would be a community they could acclimate to and settle in. One of the two did stay for many years afer marriage and was an important addition to the community. Today he resides in Passaic, and only left, hesitatingly, when the need for larger quarters became urgent.

    The gretest example of TIDE kiruv in action is the yearly excursion of Rav Schwab zt'l to spend summers in Cap Moodis. This camp attracted college youth who were searching for their Jewish roots. The camp was a feeder for Yeshiva Mecon Shlomo - the Yeshiva of Rav Schwab's son-in-law, Rabbi Rosenberg Zt'l.
    There are many stories told about the

    1. Yes, I met R' Schwab there in Moodis and was very impressed by him. He actually suggested Torah Im Derech Eretz to me as a derech.

      Yaakov Rosenberg's yeshiva had some TIDE in it in that they advocated earning a living and they didn't disparage secular studies either. You can find the same in the Litvish world. But they didn't study Nach or grammar or even halacha. And they didn't use the term Torah Im Derech Eretz.

  2. Rav Schwab had a great impact on these young Balei Teshuvah, and sometimes steered them away from grabbing on to extremes and teaching them a rational approach to Halacha that was refreshing to the young baalei teshuvah as they grappled with the difference beteween halacha, chumra, and mysticism.