In this turbulent age of social unrest and questioning, we believe the time is ripe for a new Charedi publication. It is Charedi in the sense that its authors and editors are proud to belong to the Charedi community, and see themselves as being loyal to its core values. And it is new in the sense that it is prepared to take on difficult and complex questions concerning policy, ideology, and sociology that are yet to receive adequate attention.
Charedi society is best understood as a lived ideology, rather than a written one. This explains why there is so little quality writing that lays out a coherent Charedi worldview. The method has worked with much success for several decades.
However, given the dramatic processes of adaptation that Charedi society is undergoing today, in reaction to changes in its own social fabric (including increased size, exposure, and integration in general society) and in that of broader society, there is a real need for elucidating the ideals on which Charedi society stands, as well as its central policies vis-à-vis Israel and the Jewish People, and to cultivate deep internal-Charedi conversation around them.
It is toward this aim that Tzarich Iyun—meaning literally “requires investigation,” but also referring to a conundrum that must be solved—will aspire.
Tzarich Iyun was first established as a Hebrew-language journal focusing on issues relating to Charedi society in Israel. This English-language version will both provide a window into the challenges and opportunities faced by Israeli Charedi society—many of which share a common denominator with similar challenges abroad—and supply a dynamic platform for deliberating issues specific to the English-speaking Charedi public in Israel and worldwide.
By way of introduction, the following are some of our basic convictions:
- Religious Excellence. The crux of Charedi society is the institutionalization of Jewish-religious excellence. In a certain sense, the Charedi community is a modern (and very large) version of the traditional Jewish community, which over centuries cultivated a life centered on religious worship, refined interpersonal relationships, and self-perfection. In another sense, it departs from the traditional Jewish community model in its demand for ubiquitously high levels of Torah scholarship and religious praxis. After decades of impressive growth and consolidation, this tradition faces great challenges, such as high dropout rates, high poverty levels, and infighting among factions. Much creative thought and initiative are required toward its preservation and continued prosperity.
- Isolationism. From the outset, isolationism has been the basic Charedi strategy for preserving the values it cherishes: the sanctity of life, the sacredness of marriage, the imperative of having children, respect for parents and reverence for teachers, the centrality of Torah study, the authority of wise elders over the young, a preparedness to live a modest lifestyle, and more. The transmission of these values to future generations depends on placing some distance between Charedi society and a secular culture generally hostile to them. Yet, the isolationist impulse must be checked by the values it stands in tension with—the realities of modern life, participation in social debate, discharging civic duties, and belonging to the greater Jewish body. While we espouse a healthy distance from secular culture—itself no small feat in today’s world—we are thus not segregationist.
- Conservatism. Like other societies, Charedi society is not unchanging. Indeed, only by means of adjustment can it preserve its core values in a world of ever-changing circumstances and challenges. The establishment of the State of Israel, the exponential growth of the community, and the radical nature of modern culture are good examples. Yet, while some have called for radical reform, we believe changes must be incremental, building on the firm foundations and proven experience of the past while looking to the future. We espouse the conservative standard of a disposition to preserve and an ability of improve—a standard that articulates the Jewish respect for tradition together with its ability to navigate changing circumstances, and reflects the covenantal combination of a fixed Written Law with a dynamic oral tradition.
- Community. Living as part of Charedi society, we highly value the virtues of our community life, which is saturated with kindness and charity, with mutual responsibility and shared religious experience. We are also aware of the dangers that modernity in general, and the modern state in particular, pose to this community-oriented way of life, and are sympathetic to the idea of a government that does not trespass into the organic, self-governing sphere of local community and its voluntary associations. At the same time, a respect for limited government means that Charedi society should actively work to minimize its economic and social dependency on state mechanisms. Communal liberty is contingent on accepting greater communal self-sufficiency and responsibility.
- Civic Responsibility. As Charedi society continues to burgeon, the scope of its social and political sway on the State of Israel grows in tandem. This is true, to some degree, even of certain Jewish communities in the diaspora. Given this development, it is imperative that the Charedi community fosters a sense of responsibility for contemporary challenges in the fields of state and society, which are common to both Israel (or general society) and to Charedi society. A healthy measure of civic responsibility will benefit many areas of national life. For Israel, these will include the rabbinate, a wide range of government institutions, the public square, and so on. We believe the time is ripe to add a serious and responsible Charedi voice to the ongoing public debate over sensitive issues of state and society.
- Education. In matters of education we are pro-choice. The current situation, certainly in Israel, is such that the typical Charedi family has few options of where to send its son or daughter to school. Even where institutional choices abound, most institutions follow an identical system and share the same characteristics. We believe it is important to broaden the range of choices available within the Charedi school system, while retaining the inherent advantages of the Charedi system over its non-Charedi parallels. While there are issues specific to Israel, the challenge of balancing between inculcation of Torah values and preparation for adult civic life in Western societies are common to all.
- Coexistence. Charedi communities do not live alone. Peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, Jews and non-Jews alike, requires basic mutual respect and understanding. From the Charedi perspective, there must be a readiness to engage in dialogue and practical compromises with groups that do not share the Charedi mindset and ideology—without undermining the fundamental distinctions that define Torah values and Charedi culture. Outside Charedi society, it seems that many have difficulty understanding the principles that underlie the Charedi community, due in part to the lack of their lucid articulation. In this sense, we hope to have an impact even beyond the boundaries of Charedi society.
If you identify with some of the points above, whether in agreement or disagreement, you will certainly find interest in the articles that appear in Tzarich Iyun, and the discussion they enable. As you will note, we have made great efforts to publish truly excellent articles, and believe that serious discussion should begin with writing of high caliber. We are happy to present this quality to a Charedi and non-Charedi readership, and invite you to read and enjoy the material, and to take the discussion far beyond the limited scope of our own imagination.