The activists of Yeshivat Har Hamor are correct in their diagnosis. Our Torah based family structure and values are under direct fire from the radical liberal, post modern social culture. They are correct when they call for immediate action to defend and develop our truly threatened Torah family. However their strategy for defending the Torah family is wrong.
As we can learn from their decision to establish a separate political party, under the slogan "To be a normal nation in our homeland" the Har Hamor activists’ want to defend the Torah family by addressing the general Israeli Jewish public, via the public media and political activity, and by defining the radical liberal threat to the Torah family; in terms of the growing, public legitimacy being granted to LGBTQ relationships.
Education, and not political activity, is the way to defend the Torah based family
This Har Hamor strategy, I want to argue, is foolish, self destructive, and likely to fail. Rather, I argue, we must defend and develop the Torah family by
1) Concentrating our efforts on intense Educational efforts within the national religious community, and Not by a political-media campaign aimed at the general Israeli public
2) Ignoring the current phenomenon of LGBTQism, while confronting the social-cultural ideology that stands behind it;
3) Giving our educators and rabbis the knowledge to clearly define in Torah and sociological terms what constitutes the Torah family, and to explain with self confidence to our community the advantages that make the Torah family superior to the post modern, radical liberal model, and
4) Magnifying our efforts to find creative educational ways to better cope with the sociological realities that are the True day to day threat to the traditional Torah family; these sociological realities include late marriage and delayed bachelor hood, careerism, and social environmental challenges to sexual modesty. The answers to the radical liberal threat to the Torah family must be internal and educational, and not political and media oriented. There are no easy short cuts.
Sources of threat to the Torah family structure
The Torah family is threatened because all traditional social structures today are threatened by a deadly combination of social- technological change and a radical liberal ideology that defines freedom and equality in terms of the liberation of the individual from the ‘oppression’ of all obligatory, traditional definitions of gender and sexual identity.
For the sake of brevity, three examples of upending technological change will suffice.
- One, affluence and technological change, has radically reduced the time necessary for home and household maintenance and has thus freed both parents to pursue careers outside the home. This in turn has inevitably changed traditional gender roles.
- Two, medical developments that enable people to change their biological sex, and allow for surrogacy childbirth, have thus allowed for the development of transgender role models and homosexual parenting.
- Third, medicine’s development the contraceptive pil has set in motion a radical change of sexual norms
The point of this list is to show that the current crisis in defining proper family, gender and sexual norms is not just the result of a ‘malevolent’ Leftist elite pushing a LGBTQ social agenda, but rooted in real, deeply rooted societal changes. The traditional Torah family would be challenged even if a radical liberal ideology was not attacking it.
Radical liberal ideology, however, has turned this sociological challenge into a much more serious threat.
LGBTQism as a numerical phenomenon is not a threat. LGBTQism as an ideology is a threat
In order to cope with this intertwined, two fold social- technological and ideological challenge our national religious community must have a realistic, sociological ‘road map’.
This realistic ‘sociological road map’ should begin by clearly distinguishing between LGBTQism as a numerical phenomenon, and LGBTQism as an ideology. It should be emphasized that the LGBTQ community, as a numerical phenomenon, does Not constitute a threat to the Torah family. This is because the community is numerically insignificant. Only three to five percent of the general population is homosexuals/lesbians who have committed themselves to living an established homosexual lifestyle. (The percentage of those who intermittently engage in homosexual activity may be larger. My statistics here are based on the fact that only 1.7% of marriages in France are same sex marriages).
Now roughly 650,000 plus Jews define themselves as national religious. The percentage of our community who have committed themselves to an established homosexual lifestyle is less than the general population, which would mean that two to three percentage of our population live a homosexual lifestyle, that is roughly 13,000 to 18,000 individuals. The vast majority of this small population prefers to live their lives quietly and in private. Over the last five years there have been relatively few individuals who loudly and publicly demand that their homosexual lifestyle and household unit be accepted with equal legitimacy in national religious synagogues, schools and community organizations.
We must Educationally combat radical liberal (LGBTQism) ideology with a strong, confident Torah ideology, and avoid the general media
Thus it is the ideology behind LGBTQism, and not the actual, numerical phenomenon itself, that threatens the Torah family. We thus have to fight radical liberal ideology with our Torah ideology, and this means Educational activities in our families, synagogues, schools, and youth and social organizations. The focus of our energies must be internal. We should avoid activity aimed at the general political and communication media communities.
Why should we avoid political and media activity aimed at the general population. The chief reason is that our chances of successfully explaining our Torah family model in the general media are minimal, frequently self defeating, and thus become a cause of despair. Our chances are slim because the communications media is the hands of the liberal Left. They are currently fired up with a religious ‘messianic belief’ in radical liberal equality and libertinism. And they are just waiting, in zealous anticipation, to ambush and ridicule our Torah family ideology. It is self defeating to fight this radical, liberal ideology head on. In another few years the liberal elite will sober up and may be then willing to listen and respect our Torah ideology. But right now they are still ‘drunk’ with ‘revolutionary fervor’.
The second reason for avoiding the general media is that our Torah family ideology is ‘complex and refined’. It cannot be simply be ‘marketed’ like a hot piece of merchandise or a charismatic artist. For example, a core element of Torah family ideology is sexual modesty between man and woman, both before and during marriage. Anyone trying to explain the laws of avoiding physical contact between unmarried men and women over the general media will most likely end up sounding ‘naïve and somewhat foolish’.
Educate, Educate-education is the special artisanship of our national religious community
If I may paraphrase the teaching that ‘war is the craftsmanship of Esau (Rome, the non-Jew), and ‘prayer’ the craftsmanship of the Jew, we may say that currently ‘the general media’ is special craftsmanship of the liberal Left, and ‘education’ is the special craftsmanship of our national religious community. Our community is flourishing in a general society that exists in real tension with our religious way of life primarily because of the educational inspiration of our parents and teachers. (In contrast, the charedi community perpetuates itself due to education, and also due to social isolation , and social sanctions.)
Educate, Educate-defining the Torah family model
Radical liberal social ideology encourages the individual to find self actualization by liberating himself from the oppressive social norms of conventional society. A ‘family –household unit partnership’ is proper as long as it allows both members to equally and mutually satisfy their emotional, intimate, sexual and economic needs. The partnership commitment is primarily a commitment based on social utilitarianism.
In contrast, the Torah family model teaches that a Jew can only fulfill/actualize himself by overcoming his social singularity and deciding to live his life in terms of a set of covenantal obligations, primarily within a covenantal Torah family. (A covenantal relationship is one based on permanent set of mutual sharing and mutual obligations.) A Torah family is based, in turn, on a covenantal relationship with G-d’s Torah, and a covenantal relationship with the Jewish people and their history.
As an everyday reality, we can describe the ideal Torah family as being a) a two parent, two gender family, based on the idea that children need to grow up nourished by both the male and female spiritual personalities; b) is large ( combining the averages of the charedi and national religious community, the average Torah family is 5-7 children); c) is extended, there is a lot of contact between cousins; d ) is multi generation, often including great grandparents; d) is stable, (with a slightly less that 20% divorce rate); e) with one of its primary purposes being the transmission a love of Torah and the Jewish people from generation to generation (roughly 80% of national religious children continue the basic religious practices of their home).
All sociological research shows that this family model is the most effective social coping resource that a person can possess. Research consistently shows that growing up in an extended, multigenerational, two gender parent family is the best way to achieve emotional stability and happiness, and overcome the social loneliness, and the anxiety laden sense of alienation that characterizes post modern society.
Educate, Educate – the necessary tasks
Using the above model, our rabbis and educators must invest with determination and creativity in the following tasks: One, our educators must forcefully teach with pride and confidence that the Torah family model is not only what the halacha wants, but is sociologically superior to all other competing ‘new’, post modern family-household models. Two, we must teach that the Torah family model requires the active presence of both parents, and may mean twenty percent lower family income and slower career advancement. Three, we must proactively find ways to actualize marrying by the late twenties, and decrease late bachelorhood. Four, we have to explain to our adolescents and young adults with great sensitivity (and minimal ‘preaching’) to our adolescents and young adults that sexual modesty is not primarily a question of prohibitions, but rather an important way of defining our personhood.
Strengthening and developing our threatened Torah family model demands that we focus on intense, creative, self confident educational work within the family, educational and community institutions of our national religious community. Focusing on a general public, media campaign against the false, ‘bogey man’ of LCBTQism is dead end trip that spreads despair and not hope.