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I’ll Be There

As usual, my wife was right and I was wrong about the importance of attending



wife and I hit it big last week: one grandson’s celebration of completing Chumash and another’s mesibas Chumash, the celebration of beginning Chumash, including the receipt of Sefer Bereishis, within 12 hours of one another.

To tell the truth, I have something of an allergy to such events. The Thursday evening siyum cost me nothing, not even a basketball game (were I still capable). But the Erev Shabbos mesibas Chumash came at a heavy price: one shiur and two chavrusas and the blow-up of a planned Shabbos I had long been looking forward to.

But I never had a chance, especially when the grandson poised to receive his Chumash told everyone within earshot how excited he was that Saba and Bubbie were coming and would be staying for Shabbos.

As usual, my wife was right and I was wrong about the importance of attending. Grandfathers, including many friends, made up a large percentage of the audience at both events.

In retrospect, I am grateful that we have grandsons (as well as granddaughters, from whose events I’m happily excluded), and that our presence or lack thereof makes a difference to them. And I rejoice that I have a grandson completing his first time through Chumash at eight, an age at which I had no idea what Chumash was.

But there was something else that captured me at both events, besides wondering how all the chassidic rebbis (who dominate the teaching profession in Jerusalem) dance so gracefully. (I’m someone who can bring any circle dance, no matter how large, to an almost instantaneous halt.)

A great deal of effort went into the preparation for both events, and according to the effort was the enthusiasm of the sixty or so young boys at each celebration. That enthusiasm was an expression of their excitement about the Torah they are learning, and their feeling that their Torah learning is precious.

I usually enjoyed school as a child, at least when I wasn’t in the principal’s office for my efforts to overcome the stigma of being a smart boy. But the idea that my classmates and I would have ever sung with gusto about the subjects of our studies is laughable. (One has to be a baal teshuvah to fully appreciate how remarkably different Torah society is.)

I doubt there is another society in the world that comes close to ours in binding its young to the primary focus of their education: the Torah. And that’s why my grandsons wanted me there — to rejoice with them in every rite of passage in their different stages in learning Torah.

At each of these celebrations, the words frequently repeated at such events about the existence of the Jewish People being preserved through the hevel pihem shel tinokos shel beis rabban became fully tangible.

And that’s why the next time one of my grandsons marks another step in Torah learning, I’ll be there without any krechtzing.


The “Woke” Nightmare

After too much time reading the news, I recently felt the need for a pick-me-up. But little did I dream that it would come in the form of an extensively researched 10,000-word article in the very left-wing outlet The Intercept.

After Democrats won the trifecta — the presidency, House, and Senate — reports Ryan Grim, the advocacy organizations that form the party’s ideological infrastructure ceased to function. That’s the good news.

The reason for that paralysis is enough to make one fall on the floor laughing: No one can work with the young “woke” employees of these organizations. Almost all the organizations’ time has been spent in “virtual retreats, Slack wars, and healing sessions” caused by “tensions over hierarchy, patriarchy, race, gender and race.”

Executive directors are too terrified of their employees to be quoted by name, but one told Grim that 90 to 95 percent of his time is taken up with internal strife. The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that progressive foundations are having unprecedented difficulty hiring executive directors, and senior staff are fleeing in droves.

Things got to the point that Bernie Sanders ordered his 2020 campaign team not to hire any more activists, but only those interested in actually doing their jobs. One executive director commented that his primary concern in any hiring interview is: Will this person blow up my organization from the inside?

Neither radical bona fides acquired over decades nor one’s race and/or gender will protect senior staff from being labeled “racists.” Mark Rudd, one of the founders of the radical Weathermen, was ousted from an organization he founded, as a racist, for disagreeing with a non-white activist about the organization of a demonstration. One black executive director who dared to discuss performance with an employee was accused of “facilitating white supremacy.”

Young woke workers have mastered the use of social justice to their benefit in traditional management-employee disputes. After the death of George Floyd, Heather Boonstra, vice president of public policy at the Guttmacher Institute, the premier pro-abortion research organization, called a meeting to discuss how Guttmacher’s work could counter systemic racism. But the employee suggestions focused on “loosening deadlines and more proactive and explicit policies for leave without penalty” (specifically for employees of color), along with additional racial equity training. When Boonstra suggested the staff were being a mite self-centered, the staff was appalled and quickly went public with her remarks.

After the release of Justice Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs, when the pro-abortion community should have been fully mobilized, the energy at Guttmacher was centered on forming an employee union. When management agreed to recognize the union, but insisted on a limited no-strike clause and a “no public disparagement” provision, the workers rejected the offer.

The divide, writes Grim, is between older executives who want to make the world a better place, and younger ones whose focus is on making their organization a better place. The younger workers are accused of refusing to brook any compromise and of a complete inability to form coalitions with anyone who deviates even slightly from their Manichean division of the world into good and evil, each permanently locked in.

No wonder that progressive organizations have failed entirely to have any legislative impact. And at that point, the younger employees’ attitude becomes: “Maybe I can’t end racism by myself, but I can get my boss fired.” When told that inner turmoil is destroying their organizations’ mission, younger workers pay no heed.

One veteran of the progressive movement sums up: The right-wing could not have come up with a better plot to paralyze progressive leaders than by “catalyzing an existing culture where inner turmoil and micro-campaigns are mistaken for strategic advancement.”

Here’s wishing the young “woke” employees continued success.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 921. Yonoson Rosenblum may be contacted directly at rosenblum@mishpacha.com)

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