I read Rabbi Schonfeld's recent article in the QJL with great interest. I also have 'tai ness' (complaints) about our community albeit from a political realm regarding a lack of participation in the political process.
I sincerely believe that there is a crisis in these modern days of the Orthodox community. I think one faction - the modern one, is falling into the pattern of Americanism with a priority towards consumerism, vacationing and perhaps an overly competitive view towards education and professional achievement and therefore not developing a kesher (bond) towards the overall community and its needs. I think the Chareidi world is similarly preoccupied with stressing Gemarah scholarship and not enough time is committed towards Jewish history and the study of our Galus.
With respect to young people not feeling committed to community - this is a lack of Hakaras Hatov. This can be taught by both parents and yeshivahs by stressing to children the importance and relevance of the environment which houses our community. Government, non profits and civic associations as well as the efforts of the private sector all contribute toward the development of a successful community, our religious institutions and the prosperity and happiness of families.
In my opinion, even the study of mussar is too often turned into an intellectual exercise as opposed to one where our G-d given emotional reservoir is triggered. I think real life scenarios should be illustrated by Rabbis and Rebbeim in discussing conflicts that arise between family members, marriage partners, business associates or between students in school. We're not paying enough attention to truly develop an internalized and working knowledge of mussar and midos.
I am also shocked at the level of scandals of Rabbis profiled in the paper these days. Indeed, when was it heard of to read about such a prevalence of molestation of young children from 'trusted' Rebbeim or leaders in the frum community? We hear too often of financial crimes such as embezzlement/money laundering in relation to non profits. Recently we heard of a scheme with financial gain, to terrorize husbands who refuse to give a get.
The problem that Rabbi Schonfeld points to of Agunahs is indeed very troublesome. Women are the pillar of family life and for any woman to be treated abusively with respect to obtaining a get is absolutely shameful. Besides any halachic fixes that can be enforced, it should be at the peril of any husband to withhold a get through shaming of him by the community. The dignity of women in our culture could be even more emphasized than it is today, that the practice of withholding a get in a divorce case would be practically unheard of.
What Rabbi Schonfeld said about the cohesiveness of the family unit is essential. Parents need to raise children with love and lots of attention and as he so aptly put it, with 'storytelling' in the home, because this is after all, besides role modeling how parents communicate their values to their children. Children should not be raised as trophy machines for parents such as they often do in Japan. I do not have children of my own but I took a great interest with respect to the needs of young nephews or nieces who wanted my attention or advice. I always wanted to be a part of their lives as I am with my siblings as well.
Rabbinic leadership should try to coalesce to whatever extent possible to see that our true and dear values that have sustained us over thousands of years should again govern the spiritual health of our people. I thought the Rabbi's article was visionary for modern day Jewry and the question is how our leadership can build the structure to prioritize a renewed commitment to our sacred and religious values to prevail in our modern times. Rabbi Schonfeld, we need you and likeminded leaders who have a broad perspective society and modern day Jewry to come together to trail blaze a path of vitality and integrity to attract and sustain a following to Torah ideals.
In general as well, Judaism should not be practiced in a bubble as it was in Eastern Europe. It is high time
that the frum community join the modern world with respect to political participation and not just react once a problem has already exploded in our faces. We can not wake up to the need of safety of our neighborhood once a pattern of crime already exists. It is too late then because people will already be hurt. We are too bright a people to be so passive. Insularity has not been a friend to the Jewish people over the years through our Galus.
There is a fine line between not blending in with non Jews so as to preserve our Torah way of life - and being withdrawn from society which only leads to negative consequences. There is and will always be a need for strict Torah scholars to lead us in Torah law and Haskafah (philosophy) but there will also always be a need for Rabbinic leaders to guide us in a sociological sense to attain a healthy and vibrant role in an ever changing world. In my humble opinion, there is a great need in our time of big-picture leadership and we need more Rabbinic minds asking the questions that Rabbi Schonfeld has raised in his article.