Trending Topics:

‘NYT’ columnist praises fundamentalist Jews as collective of ‘the future’

on 42 Comments

In the New York Times, David Brooks praises the Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn as people who put the collective ahead of the individual, and are therefore the future. “I notice how incredibly self-confident they are,” he says. “Once dismissed as relics, they now feel that they are the future.”

This sales job requires disguising the fact that the “external moral order” that he so admires in the Orthodox bars intermarriage– under the kind of ethnic commandment that when espoused by political candidates has rightly disqualified them from public service in the U.S. The word “covenant” in Brooks’s homily entails no intermarriage:

But there are still obligations that precede choice. For example, a young person in mainstream America can choose to marry or not. In Orthodox society, young adults have an obligation to marry and perpetuate the covenant and it is a source of deep sadness when they cannot.

“Marriage is about love, but it is not first and foremost about love,” Soloveichik says. “First and foremost, marriage is about continuity and transmission.”

The modern Orthodox are rooted in that deeper sense of collective purpose.

I have to believe that Brooks’s praise is connected to his fears surrounding the delegitimization of the Jewish state because its laws are based on the idea of preserving a collective by privileging it over other groups. Israel is a place Brooks  has visited a dozen times, and that makes him “gooey-eyed.”

Happily, Brooks is getting drubbed in the Comments. Jack Chicago:

I come from an Orthodox background and live a connected reasonably happy, and I would like to think contributing life. I make my connections and fulfill moral and communal obligations that I have deliberated about and choose to take on. I am a convinced atheist and find all deisms and similar religious practices delusional, limiting and foolish. I reject utterly that the community you describe represent the future. The only reason that you can romanticize this “counterculture” is because they are in a minority here.

And Leah:

I am a female Reform rabbi, who is also a Reform convert. I am not accepted as a Jew, far less a rabbi by the Orthodox. Their laws might make them more comfortable, but as a female, I would find them repressive. I would not be able to study Torah or Talmud with males, and would not be able to even sit in the synagogue with my husband or sons.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

42 Responses

  1. Tzombo
    March 8, 2013, 10:31 am

    That’s not a collective, that’s a tribe. The past, not the future.

    • RoHa
      March 8, 2013, 8:15 pm

      Exactly. They put their little tribe ahead of their obligations to the community which supports and protects them.

  2. Nevada Ned
    March 8, 2013, 10:45 am

    If Brooks really believes in supporting the collective over the individual, then he ought to stop his attacks on Medicare and Medicaid, and start supporting socialized medicine. Actually, he ought to respect the achievements of the late, great Hugo Chavez, the advocate of “socialism for the 21st Century”.

    • MK_Ultra
      March 9, 2013, 1:52 pm

      Considering that the Orthodox all have a minimum of 13 kids, it would be reasonable to assume that they’re all on welfare and Medicare so they’re already partaking with gusto of all those Socialist programs.

  3. [email protected]
    March 8, 2013, 11:03 am

    Oh my goodness. A paean by Brooks to the non-secular life, the affluent shtetl. What a weak, ridiculous essay.

  4. Chu
    March 8, 2013, 11:04 am

    Brooks is gooey-eyed and a wimp in general. PBS has him and Ruth Marcus to talk about US Politics every week. No bias there…
    The new vision of Jewish Left and Right.

    Regarding marriage, a lot of the orthodox women in Brooklyn have arranged marriages for them, and they more often don’t really have a close relationship with their future husband prior to their union.
    If the tables were turned and he were talking about Muslims it would be ‘forced marriages’ against the will of the woman’s rights. Sharia law, etc. But hey, if it’s kosher it’s cool, man.

    freaking hypocrites… I cant stand these spineless poseurs…

    • bilal a
      March 8, 2013, 12:33 pm

      Now Im starting to understand some of the motivations of Liberals in hating both Israel and ‘Islamists’. Commenter Jack hates all religion even Deism, and Leah hates religious jews that follow the Torah, she prefers the genderless Reform movement invented by Goyim in Europe less than 200 years ago. But Islam, which claims continuity with 1st century Jewish Christianity , and Judiasm of course , give authority to fundamental beliefs in the Toah , which clearly promote marriage without previous dating (hooking up etc) , gender separation, and moral condemnation, if not punishment, of adultery, fornication, homosexuality. Almost all human societies, Mead’s fabrications not withstanding, shared these values for thousands of years before corporate advertising culture tore them down less than fifty years ago. We dont know the evolutionary significance of gender cultural marxism just yet, but clearly it is explanatory of birth dearth in the West. Brooks then, empirically, is correct. Orthodox communties, collectives, will survive as anti-theists will tend to die off .

      So Please critisize Israel, or Orthodox Muslims and Jews for racismor other crimes when present, but dont let anti-religious Bigotry motivate your hatred of the Jewish state. Perhaps some criticism of the one staers is valid, they hate the concept of a “Jewish” (religious) organized state, for anyone, while insisting on the religious living according to their own secular genderless experimental views.

      • Tzombo
        March 8, 2013, 12:58 pm

        It’s hard to take seriously anyone who comes up with ‘cultural marxism’, but seriously do you really think reproduction is the only way to create new atheists? That is the classic mistake I see every time: orthodox Jews/Muslims have a very high birthrate, therefore in the future everyone will be an orthodox Jew/Muslim. In the Netherlands the Catholic Church pushed their followers to produce more kids so they would outnumber the Protestants. That still seemed like a viable plan in the early sixties. Then all of a sudden thousands and thousands of Catholics stopped being Catholics and it was secularism that turned out to be the future.

      • Chu
        March 8, 2013, 1:11 pm

        I think you read it wrong, bilal. I am saying that David Brooks would make this claim that Jewish orthodox are so unique with marriage, but then turn it around and cast Muslim fundamentalism as backwards.

        Who said anything about motivations of liberals, and who is Jack & Leah?

      • MK_Ultra
        March 9, 2013, 1:50 pm

        So Please critisize Israel, or Orthodox Muslims and Jews for racismor other crimes when present, but dont let anti-religious Bigotry motivate your hatred of the Jewish state.

        Now, that’s a new one. No “hatred” of the Jewish state of ISreal is permitted on the grounds of anti-religious Bigotry (mic). Of course, “hatred” of the Jewish state of ISreal based on religious Bigotry is also not permitted. LOL!

  5. surewin
    March 8, 2013, 11:18 am

    Remind me, does MJ Rosenberg include Brooks in his list of alter kockers (along with David Mamet and others)?

  6. Cliff
    March 8, 2013, 11:20 am

    Our Jewish gatekeepers doing what they do best – advancing Jewish agency at the expense of what they view as competitive ethno-religious groups (Arabs and Muslims in America).

  7. David Doppler
    March 8, 2013, 11:26 am

    I think Brooks writes with more care and a pointed ambiguity about his own feelings than most of the comment acknowledges. While the details he relates leaves out any negativity – it is clearly unbalanced in that respect, a paean to the taboos that the NYTimes enforces – he does not sign up as a convert. He speaks of the self-confidence of the collective, not his own. He wonders at their high birthrate, a cultural phenomenon usually attributed with alarm by conservatives to poor underclasses. He speaks of them as “constitutional lawyers,” (an allusion to Justice Scalia’s philo-semitic praise of Talmudic studies as preparation for law), endlessly debating over what blessing to say over Crispix (rice or corn?), reconciling all the details of life to the internal discipline that is Orthodox Judaism, and then uses as his generalizing example, an Orthodox spouse who chose Yeshiva over Harvard, then went to Yale Law School and is now an assistant US attorney. It does not take more than minor reflection to be forced to ask, with what cultural and legal discipline does an Orthodox AUSA reconcile the details of crimes she investigates? Brooks’s indirect, taboo-passing way of asking about dual loyalty.

    I think Brooks, the most brilliant of conservative pundits, is wrestling with that very question within his own breast, which discipline is more important to me, the American or the Jewish, and how can I forge a workable compromise in my own outlook? And what is my relationship with these Orthodox people for whom there is little such debate?

    And by sharing that internal debate, albeit indirectly, he triggers that exact discussion among the mostly Jewish-American commentariat, for all the world to see, right on A sort of bright but timid man’s Mondoweiss, with a large audience.

  8. piotr
    March 8, 2013, 11:34 am

    Brooks has a romanticized view of assorted communities that he perceives as traditional, basically, he gets kicks from seeing people that do not adhere to phony rootless cosmopolitan liberalism but instead follow something … whatever.

    This “deeper collective sense” reminds me the time when I was a teenager living for aa number of weeks in a hospital room with Polish conscripts. One of them thoroughly hated the military service, and once he remarked “Ah, village is so wholesome”. And his colleague, also from a village, chimed in “Village is wholesome, but the people are whores”.* Afterwards they started to swap stories. Traditional communities have their share of problems, and Orthodox Jews of New York are sufficiently advanced to have a web page dedicated to those problems, “Failed Messiah” (where you can find an informed comment on Brooks’ article).

    * Imperfect translation of “Wioska zacna”, “Wioska zacna ale ludzie kurwy na niej mieszkaja”.

  9. Citizen
    March 8, 2013, 11:53 am

    These people are pernicious to anyone who has hope the human race will progress. They remind me of interviews I’ve seen with young African mothers, who insist any female offspring of theirs marry a man who insists on female circumcision.

  10. pabelmont
    March 8, 2013, 12:08 pm

    Read the book “Unorthodox”, Deborah Feldman, about a girl growing up in — and escaping from — a Brooklyn Satmar community. The community seems cult-like to me in my atheist, non-religious, and non-communitarian mind-set. BTW, Satmars,according to this book, are profoundly anti-Zionist, possibly conneced to the Neturei Karta people, so not the favorites of Mr. Brooks.

  11. W.Jones
    March 8, 2013, 12:39 pm

    So is he considering joining the Way of the Future?

  12. broadside
    March 8, 2013, 1:01 pm

    I thought the most interesting bit in the article was when he described the Orthodox as “fertile.” (As in imagination.)

  13. marc b.
    March 8, 2013, 1:08 pm

    i won’t read brooks anymore. he’s just a waste of time. but isn’t this community of the future the same collection of individuals who harbored child molesters, assualted the victims of abuse and their families when they insisted that the molesters be punished, and more or less conducted themselves like a medieval village stuck in some impenetrable forest in transylvania?

    The first shock came when Mordechai Jungreis learned that his mentally disabled teenage son was being molested in a Jewish ritual bathhouse in Brooklyn. The second came after Mr. Jungreis complained, and the man accused of the abuse was arrested.

    Old friends started walking stonily past him and his family on the streets of Williamsburg. Their landlord kicked them out of their apartment. Anonymous messages filled their answering machine, cursing Mr. Jungreis for turning in a fellow Jew. And, he said, the mother of a child in a wheelchair confronted Mr. Jungreis’s mother-in-law, saying the same man had molested her son, and she “did not report this crime, so why did your son-in-law have to?”

    By cooperating with the police, and speaking out about his son’s abuse, Mr. Jungreis, 38, found himself at the painful forefront of an issue roiling his insular Hasidic community. There have been glimmers of change as a small number of ultra-Orthodox Jews, taking on longstanding religious and cultural norms, have begun to report child sexual abuse accusations against members of their own communities. But those who come forward often encounter intense intimidation from their neighbors and from rabbinical authorities, aimed at pressuring them to drop their cases.

    Abuse victims and their families have been expelled from religious schools and synagogues, shunned by fellow ultra-Orthodox Jews and targeted for harassment intended to destroy their businesses. Some victims’ families have been offered money, ostensibly to help pay for therapy for the victims, but also to stop pursuing charges, victims and victims’ advocates said.

    they remind me of the nitwits in southie and their code of silence and reverence for the great philanthropist whitey bulger. that turned out well, too.

  14. EUR1069
    March 8, 2013, 1:09 pm

    The irony of Brooks’ antics is that the true believer Orthodox following the Torah, be they in Borough Park or Mea Shearim, deny the legitimacy of the Jewish state as an affront to G-d. Here’s my man Rabbi Dov Weiss again:

    • MK_Ultra
      March 9, 2013, 1:41 pm

      Pick and choose. Pick and choose. Adopt this passage and ignore the next. The jews are every bit as hypocritical and blinded as their close followers the Christians.

  15. stevieb
    March 8, 2013, 1:20 pm

    He might very well be right – but he hasn’t considered how this might mean catastrophe for the very community he praises…

  16. W.Jones
    March 8, 2013, 1:26 pm

    Is it true as he says that “the Orthodox make up 61 percent of Jewish children. ” That seems high. And if as he says most in New York will be Rabbinical Orthodox, how can one explain why this is so much a recent trend?

    Besides that, aren’t there dozens of other similar religious collectives in other religions? (Amish groups, monasteries, etc)?
    “Meir Soloveichik, my tour guide during this trip through Brooklyn, borrows a musical metaphor from the Catholic theologian George Weigel.”

    “they now feel that they are the future.”
    What is the basis for their confidence?

  17. homingpigeon
    March 8, 2013, 1:41 pm

    But I like the Natorei Karta. They are anti-Zionists, call for the peaceful dismantlement of Israel, and say that the future joys of the Messiah will blot out the sorrows of the present. As for their other strange beliefs, well, they are not stealing my beer or breaking my leg.

  18. seafoid
    March 8, 2013, 1:41 pm

    “In Orthodox society, young adults have an obligation to marry and perpetuate the covenant and”

    the covenant is interpreted 24/7 in Shiloh and Hebron and it is uglier than sin wrapped in torture

  19. Les
    March 8, 2013, 2:21 pm

    Add that those marriages are normally “arranged” which Brooks would surely condemn if they were Muslims.

  20. StephenKMackSD
    March 8, 2013, 3:00 pm

    Should any of this be a surprise to any regular Brooks reader? He is a modern American Conservative, which is obsessed with the care and maintenance of unalloyed male power, even as it is eaten away by the modern world, as remade in the image of a failed Neo-Liberalism, again celebrated with a certain manic verve by Mr. Brooks.
    To put it more pointedly both Mr. Brooks and the Fundamentalists he celebrates are authoritarians, who believe in and practice male supremacy. Mr. Brooks doesn’t even read the paper he is employed by: Modesty Squads patrol the very community he celebrates, and the District Attorney of that jurisdiction was in league with rabbis to silence complaints of rampant child abuse. Reporters of child abuse to proper authorities, not first rabbis, were subject to being shunned by this enlightened community, that Mr. Brooks thinks so virtuous. The Paper of Record makes quite clear the paradise of our collective future , as Brooks argues it, is realized by mindless conformity, no matter the human costs.

  21. Taxi
    March 8, 2013, 3:00 pm

    I thought putting “the collective ahead of the individual” is communism.

    Cultism too.

    • goldmarx
      March 8, 2013, 9:58 pm

      Or the Borg Collective.

      • quercus
        March 9, 2013, 6:46 am

        @goldmarx. The Borg Collective came to my mind too. A collective is another way to say ‘robotic’ as in a society which follows certain tenets without questioning.

        Brooks praises a ‘collective’ when it can be described as a society which promotes the good of the group over the rights of the individual. Individualism is of course its opposite — promoting the rights of the individual over good of the larger group. They are both extreme and fraught with dangers.

  22. Shingo
    March 8, 2013, 4:49 pm

    In the New York Times, David Brooks praises the Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn as people who put the collective ahead of the individual, and are therefore the future

    If Brooks had been referring to any other community of group, he would be denounced as a rabbis communist.

    Isn’t it amazing how when it comes to Israel, the progressives are PEP and the conservatives are pro small government and anti welfare, anti pulf health, except when it comes to Israel.

    • Castellio
      March 9, 2013, 5:27 pm

      The conservatives are always about furthering THEIR ” communities” (usually defined by blood), but not for ANY social obligations or responsibilities to others not “of the blood”.

      This leads them into a destructive form of ethnic politics and ethnic economic favoratism which has had, incidentally, catastrophic consequences for the US.

  23. Citizen
    March 8, 2013, 4:57 pm

    Only a religious or tribal ethnic leader can get up in public and condemn intermarriage in America and not get blowback ASAP from the forces against racism. What a cute contribution.

    • EUR1069
      March 8, 2013, 6:26 pm

      That hoodlum Alan Dershowitz ranted against intermarriage in his book some 20 years ago – if a German did the same he’s be lynched on the spot. So chalk Alan up.

    • RoHa
      March 8, 2013, 11:08 pm

      I recall a TV programme on intermarriage I saw when I was in the US, (so I should probably call it a “program”) in which a black activist (allegedly an academic) was saying that American blacks should only marry other blacks. This was in order to “preserve the race” or some such.

      The amount of condemnation he received was overwhelming. Some of it came from the other guests (who were, of course, people who were in racially mixed marriages) but even more came from the multicoloured audience. The general opinion – loudly expressed by people of the full gamut of races – was “Take your racial purity and stick it!”

  24. Stogumber
    March 9, 2013, 5:56 am

    I admit that there are contradictions. Notwithstanding I think that Brooks is basically right. As the late Vine Deloria said, only tribes will survive. (Even if not all tribes.) The rule works for wildernessas well as modern masssociety. And there is a possibility of not-too-sectarian tribalism: Chabad has left the shtetl in order to serve all (potential) Jews. Chabad is a model which seems rather successful to me.

    • Castellio
      March 9, 2013, 5:36 pm

      Interesting, but wrong. It is, in fact, the closed tribes which disappear. Take a look at the population/religion statistics current in the world, and you’ll quickly find that the most closed religious tribes are in a race to extinction, while the most open, flexible, and welcoming, grow.

      It’s about cultural strength, not birthrate, but I doubt if the historical facts will convince you.

  25. American
    March 9, 2013, 9:54 am

    Some people like Brooks are concerned with preserving ‘their tribe’, the Aryan groups urge the same thing. I don’t read Brook’s column any more because they are always predictable, but read enough past ones to understand that his belief in the uniqueness and the superiority of the Jewish tribe ‘people (as in zionism)…not as a ‘religion … part of his obsession with this.

    Here is a long but interesting and revealing conversation with Brooks and fellow travelers on the subject.

    It starts off this way:

    “Having succeeded in gaining acceptance into American society, Jews in this country must now confront new and perhaps harder questions. How distinctive are they prepared to be? How out-of-step are they willing to march? Where will they draw boundaries between themselves and their neighbors? Given the wide diversity of the Jewish community today, there are no consensus answers to these questions. But as a small religious and ethnic minority, America’s Jews face no more pressing set of questions.”

    But it ends up this way:

    David Shribman: Jack opened his remarks with a thoroughly unremarkable comment about Jewish over-representation in certain professions and in certain areas of American civic life. But I wondered what the reaction would be if Patrick Buchanan made the same comment. Why is it no big deal when Jack says it but a very big deal when Buchanan says it?

    Jack Wertheimer: Because Patrick Buchanan makes it sound as if there’s a conspiracy. When I said it, I tried to offer an explanation, which has to do not with a conspiracy but with the unleashing of a group with a lot of pent-up energy.

    David Brooks: When Buchanan says it, he means there is a monolithic or cohesive Jewish group in the media. When Jews say it, they know that . . . well, there were two Jewish guys on a desert island, and there were two synagogues. When the rescuers asked, “Why do you have two synagogues?” the answer was, “That one I wouldn’t go to.” Every group says things about itself that other people can’t say.

    Kenneth Woodward: Pat Buchanan also seems to suggest that Jews in public policy positions are sending other people’s kids to war to get killed because they are more concerned about Israel than the United States. That kind of argumentation is really poisonous to society. The achievement of Jews—and particularly Eastern European Jews in this country—is an astonishment, unequaled in human history. Second-caste people from a third-rate society becoming, many of them, the top people in the top society. Astonishing.”>>>>>>

    What you have among Jews like Brooks et al, as the opening question in this debate ask, is always ….how can Jews remain separate, distinct and yet partake of the great US melting pot opportunities without losing the tribe?
    And in most of these discussions I have seen among uber Jews and zionist they always end, as this one did, in a comparison of Jews to others, what “others” like Buchanan can’t or shouldn’t say about them and usually with some claim of how their accomplishments are “‘unequaled in human history”.
    The basic theme for those like Brooks is always assimilation with the “other” is a threat to the ‘peoplehood ” uniqueness of the tribe……not necessarily about preserving Judaism.
    IMO they are fighting a losing battle in the end, the world is too wide open to keep Jews or anyone else from intermarrying.

    The US Asians are being touted as the ‘new Jews” in Ivy educational and business ascendence, it would be interesting to know what the intermarriage attitudes are among them.

    • RoHa
      March 9, 2013, 7:08 pm

      A bit more than ten years ago I read that American women of Far Eastern ancestry were slightly more likely (52%) to marry a man of European ancestry than a man of Far Eastern ancestry.

      I don’t know whether that is true or not, but I recall seeing, in California, a TV commercial in which such a couple were just Mr and Mrs California.

  26. MK_Ultra
    March 9, 2013, 1:31 pm

    ‘NYT’ columnist praises fundamentalist Jews as collective of ‘the future’

    LOL @ the collective comment. In Startrek, The Borg also were a collective. Need I say more?

    Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

  27. Danaa
    March 10, 2013, 5:04 am

    As I read Brooks’ hagiography of a tribal lifestyle – I thought that everything he said could be applied to the Amish, who would actually come on top in this comparison. Tribalism – be it religious or ethnic or both – requires that others be excluded – basically by definition. Orthodox Judaism does indeed have cult-like aspects, as do the Amish – in their various communities that dot certain countrysides. The nice thing about the Amish though is that at least they live what they preach – they do not partake of secular society’s permissive lifestyle but neither do they become a burden on public services. They live, for the most part, as self-sufficient communities, collecting their own garbage, using electricity sparingly, if at all, dig their own wells and eat food they grow. Their schools are self-funded and I kind of doubt they use much of medicaid or medicare. Not so for the orthodox – whose communities are often steeped in deep urban poverty with many collecting welfare, earned income credit and medicaid. The more children they have the more the they burden the public which is, somehow, expected to contribute to their upkeep. As for their schools, aren’t they receiving aid from the state so kids can be brain washed from a young age, partly at the public’s expense?

    And didn’t i read that synagogs have been getting the lion share of Homeland Security funds? maybe not all orthodox but many surely are?

    I say, give me the Amish any day – I am sure their dinners are healthier and blissfully not nearly as noisy as those who spend much time in endless debates – mostly about how best to circumvent their own laws, in the interest of just a bit more modern comfort (for Exhibit A, I bring you the Heruv – the string that allows the pious to be a bit less pious and not feel guilty about it. Are they clever or what? ).

    OK, that’s it – I convinced myself – i think I’ll go buy me one of those popular Amish anti-bodice-ripping demure romance novels – and retreat to a land of fantasies about strong silent men with long beards and sweet-tempered – but resourceful – women with bonnets (sure beats pilpul and wigs!).

    • Joe Ed
      March 10, 2013, 10:49 am

      “And didn’t i read that synagogs have been getting the lion share of Homeland Security funds?”

      Jewish groups get @ 98% (yep, 98% — not a typo) of Homeland Security grants. I think it is fair to say that calling that the Lion’s share is not overstating the case

Leave a Reply