RZ = MO? Some Propositions

OK, so I’m going to make this section interactive. I will make a number of propositions on why Religious Zionism is similar to Modern Orthodoxy, and readers are invited to agree, disagree and elaborate. I will do the same for the differences, but these will be more spread out. Ready? Let’s go:

Proposition #1:

Both RZ and MO believe in secular education and going to college to one extent or another. RW and LW will debate the particulars, but that’s already a matter of degree, not principle. Both communities believe that there is no insurmountable contradiction between Torah and Science, although they both remain deeply split about Torah and Humanities/Jewish Studies. Put differently, Evolution is not an issue by RZ and MO, Biblical Criticism and Historicist thinking are issues.

Proposition # 2:

RZ and MO communities have a far greater tolerance for halachic/hashkafic laxity than the most LW Charedi community. This is due to a number of reasons – sociological as well as principled – but it is a fact of life.

Proposition #3: 

RZ and MO communities both agree that the State of Israel is a good thing. They differ on whether it also has messianic significance.

Proposition #4: 

Both communities have unfulfilled aspirations for general Jewish leadership, and are constantly trying to create elites. Baalei Batim or “simple Jews” who aren’t intellectual/artistic geniuses and/or are not particularly wealthy are not on their radar, and are not considered worthy of attention or investment. To quote my sister Chana, it’s not OK to just be a Jewish baker in the RZ/MO world.

Proposition #5: 

RZ/MO is desperate for legitimacy from both the Charedi and the secular worlds, often developing a “double inferiority complex” in the process. As a result, rather than craft their own identity, discussions about what RZ/MO is revolves around what it isn’t (how it differs from Charedim/Secular/Conservative &c).


Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at: opdycke1861NOSPAM@yahoo.com
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3 Responses to RZ = MO? Some Propositions

  1. fred says:

    #1:not sure youre correct. mercaz harav dominates rz ed in israel, and they are really not so into secular ed — witness the recent growth of rz cheders, and the general lack of higher ed among rz grads. a mo cheder would be an oxymoron in the us.
    #2: yep. dont know why exactly.
    #3: not sure about if they differ. at least formally, if you judge by prayers in mo shuls in the us they recite the same version as in israel. what goes on in the hearts and minds of mos i do not hazard to guess.
    #4: this is similar to the hareidi world, and may be endemic to jewish society. dont know why.
    #5: yep, makes me sick. but to be fair, it is a sociological fact that i define myself in terms of you, the other.
    looking forward to hearing more!

  2. Shlomo says:

    #4 – In my experience much of the DL world is extremely working class. To bring one anecdote, Udi Davidi’s day job is sheep-herding. How many MO or charedi celebrities can or would say that?
    #5 – A different perspective: perhaps MO and DL each has something like a double superiority complex. The special circumstances of a wealthy educated society on one hand, or the state of Israel on the other, create a feeling of confidence and comfort that allows people to pursue two different modes of thought rather than barricading themselves withing a single paradigm.

  3. fred says:

    i wish what you were saying re #5 were true.

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