In my early teens I discovered that I was an FFB (Frum From Birth).
I fully acknowledge that I am observant because that is the way my parents brought me up. Would I have chosen to be orthodox had I been brought up secular?
In my naive youth I was confident that I would have. It was obvious to me that Jewish history was being governed by a prime mover and that the only way to “guarantee” Jewish survival was to be observant. I still believe this to be true, but I was far more naïve about my second article of faith.
I believed, perhaps because of the influence of a number of BT (Ba’al Teshuva) friends, that non-religious Jews would on masse choose to be religious, however not just because of the reasons stated above, but because I believed that observant Jews were honest, good and tolerant people able to lead rich and satisfying lives without disregarding the positive aspects of wider society. Their behavior would be a shining example to others for others to emulate.
How wrong have I been about this!! Not only are orthodox Jews not shining examples, neither is their leadership. In Israel, one of the Chief Rabbis is being investigated on corruption charges, the other had a criminal act of violence perpetrated in his house, involving his son daughter, and wife for which his son was imprisoned, yet, the only desecration of God’s name that bothered the rabbi, was that people might think he had Internet in his house.
A gay parade was cancelled in Jerusalem, because the police did not believe they could safely protect the demonstrators from religious counter-demonstrators. Apart from the fact that rabbis barely address the serious issues of sexual identity, few rabbis seemed concerned that it was real violence and murderous threats that stopped the parade. Apart from a few calls of abomination, violence seemed to be the extent of the religious arguments.
While there is bias in the ways that religious issues are reported in the Israeli press, we cannot get away from the fact so many serious issues, such as the plight of agunot and sexual abuse in the community, are not taken seriously enough by religious Jews and there is very little debate abut these issues. We are light years behind our brethren on these issues.
Furthermore, religious leaders have shown themselves to be no better morally than their secular counterparts and a good portion of the religious community has shown itself to be narrow-minded, hugely intolerant and to simply be missing the plot. Would I become religious today? I am afraid to answer that question.