Q. Isn’t it dishonest for a non-Yemenite organization to describe itself as Dor Deah? Couldn’t you choose a name with less stigma?
A. The generation of Israel that left Egypt should not be remembered only for the negative occurrences associated with it. They should also be remembered in the manner Haz”al described, the generation that reached a level of godly knowledge even greater than that of Ezekiel the prophet. It is in this sense that we identify with that Generation of Knowledge (Dor Deah) — in that they experientially knew G-d’s deliverance from idolatrous Egypt and reached the greatest level of godly knowledge at Mt. Sinai that an entire group of people ever attained in unison. Similarly, we desire to be a generation liberated from the idolatries that have crept into Judaism, which R’ Samson Rapha’el Hirsch identified as the same concepts of Egyptian idolatry. Such liberation will release us from irrational notions and free us to reach the highest levels of godly Torah knowledge attainable, with the aid of G-d given reason.
The community established in Yemen under Mori Yihya el-Gafih’s leadership likewise saw itself as parallel to that redemption. They sought to rejuvenate Torah observance with an appreciation for historical accuracy and a re-emphasis on the neglected fundamentals of our faith. In order to do so, they deemed it necessary to identify Kabbalah for what it is — pseudo-Jewish mysticism. They therefore called themselves the Generation of Knowledge (Dor Deah). Unfortunately, due to persecution at the hands of heretical Jewish leaders and the violence on the part of Muslim authorities that was aroused by those same Jewish leaders, the original post-Exodus Dor Deah died as a movement. Since its essential death, those who are remnants of that movement came to be derogatively known as Dardai, or Dardaim. Though many of the children of that original generation continue to identify with several of their original positions, they have, for the most part, given in to the continued oppression on the part of the mystical mafia that now dominates Orthodoxy in the Holy Land. Since the mass arrival of Yemenite Jews to the Holy Land roughly 70 years ago, no Dor Deah schools have been established, no Dor Deah yeshivoth founded, no communities organized, and only a handful of dying quasi-Dardai synagogues remain, and in near secrecy.
Although DorDeah.com does not affiliate with any Dardai organizations, as none exist, we believe the name Dor Deah is an accurate, unabashed, and easily recognizable description of our philosophy and goals. While we do not claim to represent the original Yemenite tradition, we are in many ways more of a continuation of that tradition than what has become of most Yemenite Jews through assimilation into European Orthodoxy or into secularism. Yemenite Jews do not have a copyright on the term, and if they did, it expired. There are numerous Jewish organizations that have adopted the name Maimonides or Rambam, while having little in common with the Rambam’s approach to Torah. Our use of Dor Deah is no less justified, if not more so.
It could be said that the term Dor Deah should be avoided due to the stigma already attached to the word. This is an understandable concern. Nonetheless, it is our experience that it is not the term Dor Deah that has a stigma, but the terms Dardai and Dardaim. The few familiar with the term Dardai do not realize it originated from Dor Deah. Most people would not see the connection unless explained to them. Those who would automatically oppose us simply due to our name would, once informed of our philosophy, oppose us no less were we to have any other name. Perhaps we should also avoid calling our religion Judaism. After all, the ideas this word conjures in the minds of most has little to do with Torah. The word even conveys secular-humanism and racial supremacism in the minds of some. Others assume being Jewish intails affiliation with a certain political party. The term Dor Deah is much less stigmatic. We preferred a term that expresses our ideas as clearly and concisely as possible. Dor Deah, Generation of Knowledge, does the task. Join us!
R’ Yosef Eliyah
* DorDeah.com is an independent organization. DorDeah.com is not affiliated with www.mechon-mamre.org, the “Torath Moshe Society,” nor Chabad-Lubavitch. Though we are grateful for the contributions of these organizations in providing Mishne Torah resources, we do not endorse all the views espoused by these organizations.