The Religious Community’s Leadership Problem
Due to our two thousand years of exile, we have become estranged from
those studies which relate to the issue of leadership. During that
period, Jewish community leaders learned how to employ
“shtadlanut” (persuasive entreatment) when dealing with rulers due to
the justified fear that any show of self-dignity was liable to
endanger the community. There was no choice. At any rate, this manner
of leadership centers on survival, not on developing and carrying out
state-level initiatives. It is this ingrained heritage which continues
to set the stage for the emergence of leaders from the various sectors
of the religious public.
On the other hand, when it comes to family life, religious Jews have a
rich tradition and much experience. During the long exile, we acquired
a wealth of experience in fostering Jewish families under even very
difficult conditions. And, indeed, we find that, in practice, the
religious tradition is very beneficial to family life in light of all
the difficulties and challenges of modern society. Family life in
religious circles is more successful than in secular society in all
So, in fact, the religious public merits a greater blessing when it
comes to building families, but when it comes to public leadership, we
have yet to make any great progress. Secular leaders act more
naturally, and they also learn from the experience of the other
peoples. Religious Jews are not free to act according to their nature.
Neither do they possess an organized and established heritage
regarding how to build leadership upon faith and Torah. As a result,
most religious leaders know primarily how to deal in intercession, to
make declarations and condemnations, or to serve secular leaders.
An Intermediate Conclusion: Unity
We have to acknowledge this reality, and the resulting conclusion for
now is that we must strive for the unification of all sectors of the
religious public. If we expect more from our own public figures than
what they are capable of, we will end up being disappointed again and
If there would arise leadership capable of presenting a vision and
striving to realize it intelligently, with a broad, realistic
approach, it would be worth supporting in the hopes that it succeed in
changing the state of things. In practice, however, such leadership
does not exist. Therefore, the least we can do is ask the various
religious movements and figures to spare us the tension and
competition, to unite for the sake of the common goals of all sectors
of the religious public.
Such unity must embrace as many sectors of the public as possible.
Despite our differences of opinion, we must emphasize our shared
interests, for these constitute a majority. We must find an approach
which will provide maximum freedom for each sector while at the same
time allowing for maximum cooperation on behalf of shared goals. It
will be necessary to agree from the outset that there will arise
situations in which some Knesset members will leave the coalition and
others will remain. All will be obliged to respect one another and to
refrain from exaggerated accusations and denunciations.
This will be the first step toward developing a system of leadership
according to the Torah.
In the next article “An Intermediate Conclusion: Unity”