As a sociologist of the frum community, I’m on a constant quest to figure our strange little community out. In the process of this, I’ve ruffled a few feathers, stirred a few pots, and pissed off some of those folks who have power to throw you in cherem and throw away the key. However, I’ve been wondering lately what the most important issues facing orthodoxy today. It’s an ever changing list, full of surprises and like anything involving Jews, full of opinions. Of course, I’m not just here to point out our problems, I’m trying to bring about some sort of change or reflection on the subject.
Shidduchim: No seems to be willing to admit that there’s been a shift in the way we do things with regards to marriage and dating. Shidduch dating has become passe, people are waiting longer to marry and we continue to blame it on things like the never-proven age gap theory and secular society’s ideals creeping into our culture.
Sex Abuse: Like the Catholics, it’s taken us many years to come to terms with our failures in this regard, Slowly (slower than I can really believe) the community is beginning to acknowledge that a problem exists. They aren’t quite sure what to do about it, as many people still believe that telling the authorities makes you liable for the death penalty, but as modern orthodoxy and more liberal black hat folks come to terms with this problem, you can look for more cooperation with authorities.
Women and the increasing “modesty”: I know that many of you think that it’s funny that Charedim are ever increasing their tznius standards, which include blocking out women from print media, preventing women from attending key events, and failing to mention their names on announcements. However, these are important issues, because it’s becoming increasingly strict, divisive, and a driving force in the case against women. At some point people may realize that using tznius as an excuse to mistreat women is no way to uphold modesty.
Gays: It’s not that the frum community has such a large gay population, but the fact that gay marriage is on the forefront of religious debate. This means that the Orthodox community will have to increasingly deal with a more open minded populace as they try to stick true to their religious values without being labeled as homophobes. I’m not sure how religious groups will deal with this key issue.
Off The Derech: The community of those who have left Orthodoxy is growing quickly, it is vocal, and it has influence whether you like it or not. The OTD community is both important and threatening, I’m certian that you will see more outreach from both sides. There will be what I may term as reverse kiruv.
Rising Costs: It’s darned expensive to be Orthodox and plenty of people have what to say about it, yeshiva tuition, food costs, and housing in major frum centers are all a worry to those in the community. I’m not really certian what we can do about it, but it seems that more and more people are moving out of the major frum cities on the East Coast to the smaller out of town communities. It will be interesting to see if other major frum centers pop up. The idea to send kids to public school never really worked, vouchers are stuck in the courts, and yeshivas are overflowing.
Internet: Despite the efforts of some people to ban the internet, more and more folks are on the internet than ever before. There is the general fear that once exposed to the secular ideals available on the internet, will people leave their communities due to their internet usage. Is it possible that internet will have an overall positive effect on the frum community.
Rising Divorce Rates: It was only time until the frum community caught up to the general community in this regard. No longer can we look at our shidduch system and say that it works, people aren’t getting married and more and more folks are getting divorced. It’s nothing special to meet 25 year old single mothers of 2 in the frum community. I’m not sure what we can do to prevent such things, but I think a lot of people talk about marriage, without talking about staying married. The shidduch crisis is not merely as scary as the looming divorce crisis.
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