The vast majority of Charedi Jews are fine people. That fact was mentioned in an article on Ynet with which I am in sympathy. But that is not how the world views them. They view the Charedi world the way they are portrayed in the media – as primitive savages. The media often gets criticized for not showing the far more common good side of the Charedi world.
That’s because it’s not news. Peace, tranquility, and brotherly love is simply not newsworthy. Not anymore than my a eating doughnut and coffee for breakfast is newsworthy. And the media is absolutely right to report unflattering news. The Jewish people have every right to know what is happening in their world – whether it is in the holy city of Jerusalem or in the streets of New York – so they can urge their leaders to take steps and rectify problems.
The problem is that thus far these leaders have not done what’s necessary to achieve that. Charedi leaders in Israel – and to a lesser extent their counterparts in America – fail to treat their miscreants with the same level of contempt they have for the many things that truly despise. Like the secular leadership of the State of Israel. Or left wing modern Orthodox rabbis. Or Religious Zionism. Or the books of Rabbi Slifkin. Or the Internet.
The question is why?
To one extent or another the vitriolic rhetoric they employ in bashing those things and others like them rivals some of the worst rhetoric reserved for Israel’s worst enemies. Terms like Nazi and Gestapo are frequently heard when speaking of secular Israelis; as are terms like haters of Torah and God for modern Orthodox rabbis; and terms like heresy for Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s views on Torah and science!
But when it comes to condemning the violent activists among their own - their expressions of disapproval are relatively mild. An example of that is a recent written statement about some Charedi protesters in Bnei Brak. They said ‘Ein Ruach Chacahmim Noche Haymenah’ - The spirit of the stages does not rest with them. True – for a religious Jew that should be quite a condemnation. But let us examine what that statement means and compare it to the rhetoric they reserve for others.
What they are basically saying here is that their own miscreants err in thinking that this is what God wants. It certainly is not - and surely our sages would disapprove. Contrast that with calling the police – the Gestapo.
What is missing here is anger! And the reason it is missing is because they aren’t really that angry. In the case of protests for example they are more concerned with the issue being protested than the violence of protest itself – as though the hearts of these miscreants were in the right place but were letting their feelings get in the way of their better judgment - guiding them down a wrong path of action.
Just to be clear I am 100% certain that there is no Charedi leader anywhere that approves of burning dumpsters. At least I hope there isn’t. They have indeed condemned such actions. But sometimes the manner of protest tells you more than the words themselves. Let me illustrate with the following.
I had a conversation yesterday with a Charedi friend - who happens to be a Posek. It was about the faction in Satmar that proclaimed publicly that they stand with the rest of the world in condemning Israel for ordering the commando raid on a boatload of anti Semites posing as humanitarians. They therefore canceled a protest against the uprooting ancient graves in Israel because they didn’t want that incident to overwhelm their message.
My friend’s first reaction was to say – Satmar was right to protest the uprooting of those graves. After I objected to his response pointing to it as a side issue with respect to their siding with our mortal enemies he said that not only were they wrong – they have a din of Rodfim – those who hunt you down in order to kill you. Such people are to be stopped even by lethal force if necessary.
That was a very telling moment for me. It showed where the primary concern was. It was not in the far greater area of our own mortal existence. It was in the objection to government’s removal of graves which is a violation of Halacha. Even if I were to grant that the government was wrong here – which I don’t – the priorities were made very clear. But at least he got it right after I emphasized my point. If only the other Charedi rabbinic leaders would call these Satmar Chasidm, let alone the Meah Shearim mob Rodfim…
The question is why the Charedi leaders have such mercy on these people. Why do they pull their punches? I can only guess at the answer but my feeling is that it is because the leadership is not that far from these miscreants in their overall attitude.
They both think Zionism is evil. They both have disdain for the secular authorites in Israel. They both hate Zionists – religious or otherwise. They both think Rabbi Slifkin's views are Apikorsus. They agree on the issues including the ones that precipitate violence or siding with our enemies. Thye otherwise see these people as fine religious Jews… as people who look like them and dress like them…. As people who live an otherwise similar lifestyle condemning all the same things that the leaders condemn.
In other words they are essentially of the same Hashkafos. The only real difference is in tactics – big difference though that may be. That is why they cannot bring themselves to be angry enough to condemn these people in the same terms they condemn others.
The bottom line is that Charedi leaders, Satmar, the Edah HaCharedis, Toldos Ahron, and Neturei Karta… all have a common Hashkafa and represent a common spectrum of hatred and anger against similar things that will never appear toward their kindred spirits. That’s why - in my view – Charedi leaders are so tepid in their condemnations. There is no anger in their voices because they aren’t all that angry!
This is what’s lacking. That’s why nothing will change. And that is why much of the rest of the world will continue to see all Charedim in negative ways.