“In reproducing itself, Orthodoxy evolved many cells, defined by varying behaviors and ideologies”

In reproducing itself, Orthodoxy evolved many cells, defined by varying behaviors and ideologies. Wertheimer has delineated some of these; others keep revealing themselves as Orthodox Jews search for ways to express their often nuanced differences. Modern Orthodox Jews combine their involvements in the contemporary world and secular culture with their contrapuntal commitments to an Orthodoxy that calls for ever more observance, more Torah study, more resistance to what are viewed as the insidious seductions of contemporary popular culture. Many Modern Orthodox Jews, especially those under thirty-five, turn to social media or Internet chat rooms to air the tensions arising from their not always harmonious choices, seeking the comfort and help of their peers in navigating between the Scylla and Charybdis of their contradictory and often double lives. All this variance is to be expected, for no expanding group can remain monolithic. As even haredi Jews are discovering, one size cannot fit all; there are many shades of black.

Within Modern Orthodoxy, one discovers sometimes exquisite feats of compartmentalization: people who are punctilious in religious observance or fervent in prayer but liberal to lax in their sexual behavior or when it comes to the laws of family purity; dedicated to regular Talmud study but captured by their careers and/or on the lookout for newer and more absorbing leisure activities; supportive of feminist goals but opposed to giving women a greater role in the synagogue or in public religious life; covering their heads in public but willing to catch the latest risqué movie or TV series. One could go on.

Samuel Heilman, “Modern Orthodoxy, and Orthodoxy”, Mosaic (August 2014) [http://mosaicmagazine.com/supplemental/2014/08/modern-orthodoxy-and-orthodoxy/]