When I was in my early 20s, I was working for Alpha Epsilon Pi, whose aim is to develop leadership for the Jewish community. I was lamenting to a friend how my generation feels a bit distant from our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., and how I would completely change the State of the Union to be more in touch with the people.
I proposed letting Michael Buffer introduce the President, and having a half-time show of sorts before the response from the opposing political party. My friend told me it was a horrible idea because it would further erode any respect we have for our elected officials.
Of course, my proposal was an awful one. And today, just over a decade later, I still struggle with how “leaders” relate to the average person. It turns out that I’m not the only one.
James Walker sent me an article several months ago stating that the Modern Orthodox Movement may be in decline and that among the movement’s issues is the role of rabbinic authority. Here is the key excerpt:
- Rabbinic authority is waning. . . “What rabbis say does not matter,” is a refrain I have heard repeatedly. “Authority is in retreat,” declares one rabbi; says another, “People like traditional davening (prayer) and singing; but when it comes to halakhah impinging on them, then they resist.” In one haredi school, the head of Jewish studies states without any prompting, “In today’s age, the model of rabbinic authority does not exist. We don’t live in ghettoes anymore, so you have to reach students where they are. Saying ‘because it is so’ no longer works.””[1.]
I actually would love to see the Modern Orthodox Movement thrive. For the most part, I have been able to have open and honest conversations about Karaite Judaism (and halakha, in general) with its adherents.
Unlike the history of the Orthodox Movement, the nature of Karaite Judaism is decentralized. That is, we never really had a model that valued a central authority.
Yet, similar to the Modern Orthodox Movement, Karaites have never been particularly good at meeting people where they are. This has changed slightly over the past few years. But a much greater investment needs to be made in this regard. Karaite Judaism cannot simply be an academic pursuit of a million individuals. It needs to be a spiritual pursuit of millions of individuals who seek every and any legitimate expression of Judaism – even if that expression has never been “sanctioned by a central authority.”
So, in the effort to meet you where you are, please drop me a note telling me what the Karaite Jewish community can do to help you live a better and more meaningful Jewish life.
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1. CAN MODERN ORTHODOXY SURVIVE? by Jack Wertheimer (http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2014/08/can-modern-orthodoxy-survive/?print)