Real Jews are Persecuted

I am now looking at the Memorial Book, published in Tel Aviv in 1967, for the community of Govorovo in Poland.  My mother’s grandparents and most of their family were murdered by the Nazis. I am now looking at  pictures of my great grandfather,  my namesake, Velvel Blumstein,  and my great-grandmother, Feiga Blumstein, and, across from them on a different page, three of their seven children slaughtered with them, Shmuel, David Herschel, as well as Mordechai Gerlitz – such handsome young men, killed in their youth.

Last Saturday night, over a thousand men stood in Shabbat Square in Jerusalem and protested the ‘persecution’ of the ultra-orthodox at the hands of the ‘Nazi State of Israel’ and the ‘Nazi Liberal Media.’  And the leaders of the demonstration dressed their children up in prison uniforms from concentrations camps: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachua.  One of the leaders explained, ‘this protest reflects the Zionists’ persecution of the ultra-orthodox public, which we see as worse than what the Nazis did.’

The protests at the politicization of the holocaust have been heard from almost every corner; and there is talk of a law that will make the use of such terms in the public sphere a crime.  In the meantime, the protesters that  gathered last night should be given a mandatory tour of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, or they can come to my house, and we can flip  together through the pages of Memorial Book, to look at the pictures of my relatives who perished at the hands of real Nazis.  Mordechai Hirsch, you are invited.

But: in the ultra-orthodox communities, one of which I live in, there is silence.  I would emphasize – and this is not an apology – that almost everyone I ask is embarrassed by the ultra-orthodox violence against women and children of the past week.  And, though I have not inquired today, I am sure that most of my neighbors dismiss the demonstration of last night, as not representing the majority, but rather acts of lunatic marginal extremists.  They would also probably decry how the dance of co-dependence between different parts of society – religious fanatics and newspaper editors – is swinging more furiously than ever before.

But that is not enough.  In a community where billboards go up regularly – against the internet, against expensive baby carriages, against movies, against mixed buses: where are the billboards and the public proclamations that violence in the public sphere runs counter to the values of Judaism?  Where are the sermons in synagogue expressing rage against those who, in the name of Judaism, cause embarrassment or injury to women and children?  And for those who require it, where are the posters with citations of the Jewish Legal Code affirming that such behavior is forbidden?  Further, I wonder – though I think I already know the answer – where will the sermons be this coming Friday night decrying the shameful appropriation of the images of the holocaust?

The silence that reigns is not only the silence of resignation and apathy, but more than that, it is the silence of those, who even as they feel embarrassed and repulsed, hang on to the sense of Jewish identity that comes through being persecuted.  So while most all of  the ultra-orthodox whom I know acknowledge the extremity of the behavior – things are worse than they have been in the twenty years I have been in this country – they still nurture an identity based upon being the oppressed minority.  Everyone knows – Real Jews are Persecuted.

But real Jews of all persuasion, especially those in the ultra-orthodox community, should not now embrace a Jewish authenticity based upon being persecuted, but a different kind of authenticity, one based on three thousand years of Jewish history: the authenticity of Jewish conscience.  That conscience will dictate that when injustice occurs – even or perhaps especially when it comes from  those acting in your name – you must stop the silence, stand up and cry out in protest.

 

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27 Comments

  1. Rachel
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m very proud to be the wife of a Chassidic Rabbi of a synagogue in Israel who publicly decried (in shul) this terrible behavior of the ultra Orthodox extremists who are giving all of us a bad name. There are definitely those who speak up… they’re just not given any air time in the media of course…..

    • Dov
      Posted January 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      “they’re just not given any air time in the media of course…..”

      Why not? There is plenty of frum media. Let Yated and Hamodia give them air time. There are blogs, there are message boards. There is a hundred ways to get the message out publicly. It is insufficient to say that Ha’aretz won’t print or cover it. Frankly, did your husband contact Ha’aretz and ask to send a reporter, or did he try to submit a piece to them?

      Please don’t misunderstand me – I do not place any burden on your or your husband, who has done the right thing, but only mean to point out that it is insufficient to blame the media for this message not being heard.

  2. Posted January 2, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Very well presented – Kol Hakavod!

  3. Catherine Elhadad
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Those images are so shocking. I very often think of my own grand parents and parents during WWII, particularly when I am facing difficult situations. But I always reflect that even the most difficult events I had to face, do not come close to what they experienced. I can’t understand what those people, (using their children in that way), are thinking about. Do they have any connection to the shoah at all?

  4. Simi Peters
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    The kind of people who post wall posters (pashkevilim) are the same people who go to a protest like the one you described in Kikar Shabbat–extremists with too much time on their hands. Most haredim are busy people with lives to live and don’t spend their time on this nonsense.

    Why should any haredi person of any stripe have to respond to this extremist camp or be identified with them in the press and in the demagoguery of politicians? And why should any rabbi have to waste his breath preaching about this at all, given that normal people already know that the extremists are behaving despicably?

    The Sikrikim don’t listen to anyone but themselves. They are not about to be persuaded by the censure of rabbis or the disapproval of other haredim (which they already face on a wide range of issues.) And the press wouldn’t care if there were a wall-to-wall coalition of haredim repudiating these nut-cases because that wouldn’t suit their agenda.

    I don’t think ultra-orthodoxy is characterized by a culture of victimhood–it’s certainly not a defining trait in the world I inhabit. I resent the implication that you–like many others–think we all need to apologize for one another because, after all, we’re really all the same. I find your article personally offensive–and that’s a first for me.

    • Posted January 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      Yes we are, we are all part of one whole body, the body of Am Yisrael. Don’t be offended, be embarrassed.

    • Abbi
      Posted January 2, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      Simi, like it or not, when you associate with a community for all the right reasons- hashkafa, chesed, atmosphere, attitudes, support, etc.- you’re stuck with them for the wrong reasons as well. You can’t simply “divorce” the community when a significant group within the community performs despicable acts in the community’s name and with its tacit permission. And that last phrase is significant- the extremists are enforcing norms that the community approves of- namely, strict separation of men and women and the most chumradik versions of tznius. The fact that the charedi community and gedolim hasn’t publicly denounced has basically given them permission to proliferate and wreak havoc on innocent people. It offends me that you don’t think you have a responsibility to speak out against evil.

      As a pretty famous teacher of Torah around Jerusalem (I’ve seen you name on shiur offerings at Nishmat or Matan) I’m really surprised you’ve forgotten the most basic element of Torah life: Kol yisrael areivim zeh la’zeh.

      • Simi Peters
        Posted January 3, 2012 at 2:16 am | Permalink

        The haredi community is many communities and it is not monolithic. Identifying as haredi does not mean checking your brain at the door, nor does it require you to take responsibility for people who represent the lunatic fringe. The actions of these criminals have been condemned time and time again within the haredi world and that has absolutely no effect on their behavior because they represent only themselves and care nothing for gedolim outside their very narrow camp.

        I disagree with your contention that the larger haredi community tacitly supports or approves of this behavior. It is worse than an embarrassment–it makes us all feel hated and threatened. In fact, the behavior of these extremists has provided plenty of people with an excuse for venting their venom and bigotry against haredim. And as you probably know, that venom almost certainly pre-dates the events in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

        I can assure you that the condemnation of people like myself (as well as people far more influential than myself) would have absolutely no effect on the Sikrikim. If anything, it would just fan the flames. Short of physical intimidation, there is nothing that we can do to stop these extremists. That is the responsibility of the police force, not of private citizens. Frankly, I don’t understand why the police have failed to arrest these people and why the judicial system doesn’t simply throw the book at them. Why do you expect us to do this job?

        And if we are speaking about love and responsibility for other Jews, don’t you think that you might consider exercising some tolerance toward haredim? You might start by talking to some. You might also consider that even haredim are entitled to their own religious standards and norms–even in areas of tzniut. Your fear of haredi ‘proliferation’ (your word) is rather disturbing and leads me to doubt your concern for Jewish interdependence and mutuality.

        For what it’s worth, I am not personally in favor of mehadrin bus lines. I preferred the informal separation that was routinely practiced on buses in haredi neighborhoods. I think the request for separate lines in certain areas was ill-conceived but it was hardly criminal or evil. For one thing, Egged could have refused. Originally, the initiators of the mehadrin bus idea wanted to operate a private bus service; Egged has a monopoly and shot down that idea. They proposed the mehadrin line alternative. If people like yourself feel that mehadrin bus lines are a threat to your lifestyle or to democracy or whatever, take it to court. It’s a free country. You’d probably win.

        Please understand that I find it more than a little condescending and self-righteous that you are offended that I don’t feel a “responsibility to speak out against evil.” My very first post made it clear that I find the behavior of these people to be utterly repulsive. I suspect that what really offends you is the fact that I identify as haredi.

        • Abbi
          Posted January 3, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

          No, actually, it really did offend me that you found the Professor Kohlbrenner’s post offensive, in addition to your rehashing the the trope that “haredim are too busy” to denounce extremist behavior and can do nothing about it, and you’re not monolithic.

          When you say “Don’t blame me, I have nothing to do with it” what I hear you saying is “I don’t really care that real people (not to mention real children) are hurt by people that are part of my community

          As for “actually talking to a haredi”? I have plenty of time to do that, because my brother is haredi. And do you know what happens when we go to visit him so our children can play together? My 8 year old niece lectures my 8 year old daughter that her sleeves are too short and she should be wearing socks even though it’s August (this is obviously less of a problem in winter). When my daughter, in her mature wisdom, suggests that they each just do things differently and both are ok, the answer from my niece is a resounding “No, you’re wrong”. That is pure charedi judgementalism, straight from her Beis Yakov education shining through. When she’s a bit older, she’ll learn to keep that to herself better. In the meantime, she’s under the impression that there is only one way to keep halacha and only one way to be Jewish. That sounds awfully like the attitude of some nasty hooligans we might or might not be talking about…

          In a certain way, I understand the need for this attitude. My niece doesn’t understand why she needs to suffer in long sleeves and socks in the sweltering heat, so it’s explained to her that this is the only right way to fulfill the mitzvot- this is the exact way God’s will must be fulfilled. There is no room for elu v’elu, there is no room for different halachic opinions, because that’s too confusing and causes too many questions. And that’s the last thing the charedi community wants- because when the children start looking around and asking too many questions, they discover that there are other ways of being frum and there goes the community. I know the haredi community is not monolothic, (my haredi brother is an avid biker and doesn’t buy 90% of the nareshkeit that comes out of it. But he does need to leave his neighborhood before donning “biking” gear because he wouldn’t want to jeopardize his kids’ school and shidduch chances).

          Walking home from shul last week, my 6 year old daughter said to me “So Ima, when I grow up, I can choose to be dati or chiloni?”. Wow, what a question to be slapped with out of the blue! But what a wonderful question! I’m not surprised she asked it- where we happen to live in our neighborhood, which has many dati leumi families, we have a lot of chiloni neighbors that my kids play with. So she sees many similarities between herself and the charedim, in addition to the differences (We discussed this question at length, without lying – yes, as an adult she could choose but we both agreed that it’s better to be dati and keep Hashem’s mitzvot). But this attitude is an anathema to charedim, and on a basic level I understand why. But when taken to extremes, it’s exquisitely destructive.

          The point of all of this is, what the non-charedi community wants when we ask for denunciation and condemnation by other charedim is not just the emotional satisfaction of feeling heard and supported. What we are really asking for is for the charedi community to look inwards and do a little cheshbon hanefesh and to simply take responsibility for the destructive elements in your community.

          So when you ask “Why should any haredi person of any stripe have to respond to this extremist camp or be identified with them in the press and in the demagoguery of politicians?” what I hear you saying is that you are above this cheshbon hanefesh and you don’t find it necessary or relevant to how you live as a Jew in the world and you take no responsibility for how your community behaves vis a vis the larger world. I find that very sad, and frankly, offensive.

          • Simi Peters
            Posted January 3, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

            So you’re offended that I’m offended that Bill is offended that you’re offended that I’m offended and we could go on and on and on…

            There’s not much I can do about that, but I’ll try one more time: The extremists in Ramat Beit Shemesh are not my community and I do not feel any responsibility to apologize for them. When you lump all the haredim in this country into one group without regard for nuance, I think it is your problem, not mine. I am as offended by their behavior as you are–perhaps more, because what they do affects me far more than it affects you. I have to listen to the hatred for *all* haredim unleashed without restraint or reason by the press and politicians and even by people like yourself and yes, I take it personally.

            I’m sorry you don’t like mainstream haredi attitudes to the modern world, issues of tzniut, the price of tea in China, or whatever, but like I said, it’s a free country. Isn’t it wonderful that you can live according to your beliefs and raise your child as you choose to? I think haredim are entitled to do that too, even if you don’t approve and think that the world would be a much better place if everyone were like you.

            I could get all self-righteous and demand that you take responsibility for the no’ar hageva’ot and other extremists in the dati leumi community, like the kids that attacked the army base a few weeks ago, but I don’t believe that you need to do a heshbon nefesh for the actions of others. It would be nice if you could extend the same courtesy to me.

          • Abbi
            Posted January 3, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            You’re free to ask me to take responsibility for noar hagvaot and I would tell you that I do, even I live neither in an outpost nor a yishuv and have no plans to move to one in the future. I think their behavior is the logical, extreme, extension of Ahavat Ha’aretz- something I strongly believe in, but that I also understand can become very dangerous when it gets out of hand. And I explain that to my kids.

            But that’s because I’m not afraid to acknowledge the dangerous elements of our beliefs and I also believe that they only way to protect my children from these extremes is through honest communication about them.

            Your insistence on closing your eyes and “being offended” that I’ve “lumped” you in with people you insist aren’t part of your community will only prolong this struggle with the extremists.

            I’m reminded of the mitzva of egla arufa in Shmot. Why does a whole city need to atone for one person’s heinous crime? How unfair and lacking in nuance! Obviously, the whole town isn’t made up of murderers.

            From Har Etzion’s VBM: The Ramban, in his commentary to our parasha… views the egla arufa ceremony as a form of sacrifice to atone for the crime.

            The Abarbanel prefers the Ramban’s position, but he elaborates on the Rambam’s view to explain how this mechanism works. He offers two possible explanations, which more or less amount to the same general approach. First, the severing of the calf’s neck symbolizes the murder that was perpetrated. By reenacting the murder, so-to-speak, the city’s elders proclaim that until the criminal’s identity is discovered, the entire city is under suspicion of guilt. If only temporarily, they all bear responsibility for this crime just as they have collectively killed this calf. Everyone is viewed as potentially guilty of this crime, an accusation that could result in a more vigilant campaign to solve the case. Alternatively, the Abarbanel suggests, the “violent” ritual symbolizes the harsh punishment that threatens to befall the city as a result of this crime. This threat hovering over the city’s population may also help accelerate the investigation and hopefully lead to the killer’s arrest.

            Interesting how the Torah and Chazal perfectly grasped the dynamic relationship between the individual and the community.

        • Lindsey
          Posted January 3, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          Simi, I’m glad you mentioned the “noar geva’ot” as I had been thinking about the very same issue. I was thinking that while most of the dati leumi community abhors what they are doing, there is a part of us that is sympathetic toward their pain and frustration, particularly after Gush Katif. Whether we marginally identify with them due the persecution syndrome Bill talks about is questionable, although I don’t rule it out entirely.The point I would like to make , however, is that the enormous spectrum of views concerning the hilltop youth and other such controversial issues within the DL community, is demonstrated every weekend in the paper “Makor Rishon. ” Open, erudite, provocative discourse is alive and kicking in the DLcommunity so that while one may not actually take action against the hilltop youth, at least they are being condemned , and from several perspectives, in our very own press. This kind of open discourse is missing in the charedi community , it would seem. Indeed, as far as I can tell ( and yes, I have spoken to people in the community) the very idea of discourse is rather anathemic to it’s hashkafa. Indeed, the charedi community only seems to survive due to its insulation and dogma; its strength but, alas, also its great weakness.

          • Posted January 5, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

            Hi Simi,
            Having watched the raw footage of the rally in kikar hashabbat here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7W8_Y5e0Po&feature=channel_video_title) I was wondering if you could explain three things to me.

            1. Clearly the dozen or so people on the stage in the concentration camp uniforms are there for a photo op. In which paper where they hoping these photos would appear?
            2. Why is the rally in Yiddish if its message is intended for the wider Israeli public?
            3. Even though I consider myself to be a secular Jew, I am quite troubled by the Haredi bashing that goes on continually in the Israeli press, and in some way empathise with the message of the protesters (although not with their obscene tactics) . Is there any way more constructive way that you feel the Haredi community could address this phenomena?

            Thanks

  5. Lindsey
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Your words simply reinforce the belief that our enemy from without (the Islamic Middle East) is much less cause for trepidation than the enemy from within. Their behaviour exceeds all reason. I’m not sure I feel outrage anymore; it’s more like fear- fear of a bunch of gansgters devoid of any ethical consciousness who “in the name of Torah ” are eating away at the very moral fabric of this country.

  6. Posted January 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    The first time children were used in this revolting manner was during the evacuation of Gush Katif. The sight of a mother pinning the yellow star to her very young children’s clothes and aggressively pushing them crying and clearly petrified to the cameras was a sight that I will never forget. That was the first time that I absorbed the gigantic rift between “us” and “them”. But even then, for me “us” was never the so-called “secular- left wing-sushi eating-espresso drinking”" tag that people such as I am automatically given by people such as “them”. “Us” was everyone in this country, Jewish-whether recognized as such by the orthodox rabbis or not- Arab, or undefined, who have a vested interest in this country and in the building of a sane and liberal plularist society in which there is respect and tolerance of other ways of life. And yes, as far as I am concerned this would even include a tolerance of the ultra- Haredim living off our work and taking no part in the culture and defense of this country, as long as their way of life does not encroach on mine or attempt to regulate it. And so Prof. Kolbrener, I agree that you have failed and see this failure as a small victory for “us.” It seems to me that those who were part of my “us” even though we never shared the same religious beliefs or way of life have in great part deserted our pluralist common base and chosen to close ranks with “their own kind;” those with whom they share only their religious beliefs and practices. What about the rest? What about not giving up on the extensive common ground that we all share and “they” don’t? I know that this is an over- generalization but that is the feeling that “us” have these days. So your loss of the ability to be balanced and complex in face of this outrage helps me retain the hope that maybe something good may still come from all of this madness.

    • Simi Peters
      Posted January 2, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      What’s with all the ‘us’ and “them”? What authorizes you (or anyone else) to decide what any given person or group of people think about anything based only on newspaper portrayals of whole groups? When was the last time you spoke to an actual haredi man or woman? Or a person wearing a kipa sruga? Or a woman who covers her hair mitnahelet-style?

      Not everyone in the dati leumi camp approved of the Nazi imagery exploited by (the admittedly desperate) evacuees of Gush Katif. No one I know (and I know a lot of haredim across the spectrum) would defend the actions of the extremists in Ramat Bet Shemesh. It’s hard to see why “the haredim” should be vilified for those actions.

      Oh, and while we’re at it, thanks so much for ‘tolerating’ even the haredim who “live off your work and take no part in the culture and defense of this country.” Spoken like a true liberal.

      • Posted January 3, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Dear Simi,
        Actually I have spent the past three years pursuing graduate studies at Bar Ilan with a group of wonderful Haredi, Dati-leumi and Hiloni women ( if we’re into stereotypes, let’s go all the way). We were joined by our common interest in literature and have had meaningful and insightful interaction. The women I studied with are from Beit Shemesh and Bnei Berak, from Neve Tzuf and Jerusalem, and also from Raanana, Ramat-Aviv and Haifa. Some wear mitpahot, some wear wigs and some don’t cover their hair at all. All were intelligent, involved women and our dialogue was characterized by a genuine interest in each other’s way of life and a mutual respect that developed over the time we spent together. So you see, despite your belligerence and in direct response to your question, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with dati women from different walks of life, rather than with their newspaper portrayals.
        Surprisingly, we discovered that despite the very substantial differences in our life-styles and beliefs, we have much more in common than what separates us. And that is what I am looking for; that which we have in common and do not have in common with the ultra-haredi of Ramat Beit-Shemesh and Meah Shearim. So, Simi, despite the fact that we know each other only through stereotype, I would like to believe that you have more in common with me than you do with those who would put a yellow star on their children’s clothes. Just because you don’t approve of my stereotype doesn’t make me the enemy. I would like to think that we can rise above the stereotype and start by admitting to a concensus in dissaproving the cynical use of the Shoah and the intolerance and violence of the ultra haredim of Meah Shearim and Ramat Beit Shemesh.
        In these difficult times, the differences between us are not important. Finding a commmon ground is, otherwise this country will be destroyed from within.

  7. Harvey Miller
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I think this dreadful behaviour is a blatant Chillul Hashem; it is highly disrespectful to those who perished in the Holocaust. The Angel of Death did not discriminate. Whether Ultra Orthodox or Liberal, they died at the hands of a heinious regime. In recent years, Israel’s enemies have portrayed the country as a Nazi regime ad nauseum. And now so called proponents of the “Light unto the Nations” have jumped on to the bandwagon. What possible good does this serve?

  8. Annie
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Every word a treasure!

  9. Stephen J. Landes
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    You provided an important insight.

    Many Haredi leaders – typical of dictatorial politicians – gain traction over selling victimhood and placing blame. There is a strong cultural bias that leads to these demonstrations and a refusal to step up and say in a very loud voice – “not in my name.” What we should have seen is a major Rosh Yeshiva from Bnai Brak or Yerushalayim go to Beit Shemesh, take the young girl by hand and walk her to school. Something that Dr. King would have done.

    What concerns me is that Israel continues to find itself beset by opponents who construct narratives of victimhood. We can put aside for the time being what share of responsibility we have for the Palestinian narrative. But the Haredim should think about what the State of Israel has given them: a pass at the dangerous burden of national defense, social benefits that they do not fund and by far the largest cohort of Jews learning Torah in history. What the State gets back is derision, an absolute refusal to assume responsibility for the common venture and a total absence of civic culture. It is obvious why the Haredi leadership was noticeably absent during the social demonstrations this past summer.

    This is not in any way, Heaven forbid, to denigrate those who legitimately devote themselves to serious and productive lives of learning. But those who occupy the “1%” in the world of Torah have a national obligation to create a new narrative of shared responsibility and destiny. This once existed.

    We greatly enjoy and profit from your commentary. Keep up the important work.

  10. Melanie
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    I wonder whether the current Charedi gedolim have heard about or seen photos of this ridiculous protest.

  11. Posted January 3, 2012 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    As time goes by and I get more and more bewildered and bewuthered about what is going on in our beautiful, beleagured, tiny little land, I have begun to question whether Hareidim (more specifically these hooligans in black discussed in Bill’s post, but also those who don’t pay their taxes, don’t send their kids to the army, don’t teach their children the core curriculum and don’t really contribute to the sustainability of their own country’s social system) are really Jewish at all. Perhaps they are more like cultists, with the uniform, discipline, toeing the party line and fanatical adherence to ideals that any other cultists have. I can’t see much of a diffence, can you?

  12. None
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Um, the people who put up billboards against internet, baby carriages and the like are also from that same group who attended the demonstration on Motzaei Shabbos and who don’t want to speak out against the extremists (terrorists).

    The other 95% who hate the terrorists, are people who simply take the bus to kollel and work, raise kids in a proper atmosphere, live at peace with other Jews — these do not put up “pashkevilim.”

    Actually many people have condemned the violence. As a previous commenter said, Haaretz, Yediot Achronot and Maariv do not give them a platform to do so, but many have done so in the Chareidi community. You have to look in the right places — check Mishpacha, which might now be the most popular paper and probably represents the general chareidi view best. I know for sure that on sites like KikarHashabat.co.il, etc., the terrorists have been denounced in the strongest terms from the beginning, both by the writers, and by the commenters, who cry at the repulsive violence and seethe at the belligerent thugs for shaming HaShem and his Torah.

    But personally, I as chareidi have trouble feeling that I am obligated to condemn publicly the actions of a few thugs from Beit Shemesh. What do they have to do with me? Neither me nor any of my friends support them in any way and all of us are repulsed by them and feel tremendous anger towards them. No one from my circles would think that anyone else would support them or would not feel this anger. Any public condemnation that we would do would be simply for public relations purposes (aka political purposes). The Rabbonim (again, of the regular chareidi community that I refer to) do not get involved in these politics. Neither do I. I just want to learn, work and raise a family. It pains me that people think badly about my people, and there isn’t so much I can do about it. But if this comment will do anything about it then so be it.

  13. Raizel Shaneh
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Your point is interesting and thought provoking. I have another angle on the story:
    I live in the Haredi city Elad, though I myself am not Haredi. Our one newspaper is Haredi-oriented, and this week’s paper gave an explanation for this silence: “we’ll explain our views on women’s status in Judaism when we’re ready to, and not as a response to demands from the media… right now we want to concentrate on the rising rates of Arnona, important things like that”. This article did actually include a very clear denunciation of the extremists, written to sound like an obvious fact that hardly needs repeating, which I appreciated.
    Still, even if the majority of the Haredi community strongly disagrees with the extremists, as it would appear, I think it would be wiser to go out there, request interviews, write articles and fill the media – even their own – with “their side” of the story. The article I quoted from complains the Haredim are being attacked without once being asked to defend themselves. At at the same time, it announces they won’t defend themselves if asked. Why this fear? If the members of this community are so strong in their convictions, it should be easy to defend them. And yes, when demanded to, if that’s what it takes to start cooling things down.
    Elad has separate buses and I’ve found myself arguing about my right to sit where I please. I have very often needed to insist on my right to keep my place in line at the post office, drug store or supermarket. I personally would love to hear the explanations for this behavior, but beyond that, I think everyone needs an explanation. We need to know that this isn’t arbitrary, or some new halacha recently invented (Rav Avraham Yosef disagrees with the separation on buses, for instance).
    I suspect that everyone is afraid of explaining, because every explanation might be answered, and I don’t think that there’s an answer good enough to withstand counter-argument – not even “God said so”, because, well, he didn’t. It’s the Jewish no-argue policy, but in this case it shouldn’t apply.

  14. WDK
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m grateful for the so carefully articulated and suggestive comments.

    I have a lot of ‘take-aways’ – but for me, what seems especially important, as Lindsey suggests, is the lack of any public sphere discourse in the ultra-orthodox world to consider such issues. The public sphere, such as it is, is dominated by bill-boards which, to be sure, everyone living in such communities knows to be exaggerated (my kids for example will dismiss them, as ‘stupid’ or ‘crazy’). But that knowledge – and the explicit dismissal of them as the work of a small minority – does not change their influence, and that they have become the exclusive of public discourse. Now that posters up in Jerusalem, in the name of Rabbi Eliashiv – whether he actually signed them or not is another issue – forbidding the ultra-orthodox weekly Mishpacha, the problem becomes even more acute.

    True, we want to claim normalcy and live our lives, but the acquiescence to such representations – the hesitancy of rabbis to get involved – remains, to me distressing. That one of the ‘haredi’ or ultra-orthodox views expressed here was done so anonymously – ‘none’ – for me emphasizes the extent of the problem. Why should there be such hesitation about expressing an opinion? Shouldn’t we cultivate venues in which conversations – like the one here – can happen?

  15. Abbi
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    A compelling American charedi response to last motzash’s demonstration: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2012/01/04/hi-yankel/

  16. Simi Peters
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    Itay–

    It’s hard for me to answer your first two questions because I simply don’t know the answers. Every shevet has its medura. Maybe this is theirs.

    Answering your third question is more complex. For one thing, the question preuspposes that there is a single entity called “the haredi community” which can respond in a unified fashion, and that is not the case, any more than there is a single entity called “the hiloni community” or the “dati leumi community.” For another, most people who identify as haredi already feel so battered by the haredi-bashing that the idea of explaining themselves seems a Herculean (if not a Sysiphean) task and one that is doomed to failure at the outset. Haredi-bashing is not a new phenomenon related to Ramat Beit Shemesh–it’s been around for years and has only intensified recently.

    To be frank, I had resolved not to continue responding to comments here, because of some of the responses I received. I sympathize with Bill’s desire to cultivate venues in which meaningful discussion takes place, but I am not convinced that a meaningful discussion is indeed taking place here. There is lots of venting of frustration (mine included) but not much listening. The reason I decided to respond to you is that you did not attack the haredi way of life, did not express self-righteous, somewhat phony shock and horror at the sickening appropriation of the Holocaust by the demonstrators in Kikar Shabbat. Instead, you asked some reasonable questions which I can’t really answer.

    I don’t think there is much that “the haredi community” can do to respond to this situation, given the hostility of the press and the opportunism of politicians. Lots of people just don’t like haredim (to put it mildly) , whether because of their own ambivalence about their Jewish identities, or because they see haredim as the oppressive Taliban who impede progress and such the State dry, or because they really do believe that haredim are the root of all evil and secretly dream that if we could only get rid of the haredim, this country would be Paradise. Maybe, if there were no haredim, the haters would have to invent them. Beats me. The only solution as I see it is for individual haredim to respond intelligently to well-meant questions and to answer hostility with dignity. It’s a difficult thing to do for most people (myself included) but that may be the only way forward for any of us when we are treated not as individuals, but as the Other.

    This is a small country full of opinionated people. We need to be careful with each other. Maybe then this country really would be Paradise.

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