Friday, May 13, 2011

Does This Promote Kedusha or Ridicule?

Once again we see (in the video above) a group of Jews from Neturei Karta (who see the Satmar Rebbe as their spiritual leader) behaving like fools. They are protesting one of their pet issues – Tznius. This time it is a Lubavitch Shaitel Store.

There is a difference of opinion about the Tznius issue they are protesting. Both communities believe that a married woman must cover her hair. But the Satmar Rebbe and the Lubavitcher Rebbe disagree in how to go about it.

Lubavitch not only allows the Shaitlel (wig), they prefer it over scarves or hats. Their view is that a Shaitel covers every strand of a woman’s hair and is therefore superior to scarves and hats that tend to leave some hair out. Satmar on the other hand believes that a Shaitel does not fully ‘do the job’ in that it looks too real and does not accomplish the Tznius goals intended by Halacha.

Satmar does allow a woman to wear a Shaitel that is not too highly stylized. But it must be covered - at least in part - with a hat. Of course they are also strict about not showing even a strand of hair. To achieve that goal I believe that most Satmar (and Neturei Karta) Chasidic women shave their heads after marriage. They then wear a Shaitel and a hat over it.

Enter Iris Sherman, a Shaitel Macher. She is the owner of Iris Salon & Spa at 1416 Kingston Avenue in the Lubavitch enclave of Crown Heights. Her crime was opening up a branch of her store in the Satmar enclave of Williamsburg. Apparently she must have seen a market there. No matter to these Chasidim. They protested it and basically told her to get the heck out of there.

OK. Maybe they have a right to protest the invasion of their Tznius standards in the form of a Shaitel store as long as they do it peacefully. I suppose one could say that it isn’t much different than any mainstream family values oriented neighborhood whose residents might protest the establishment of an ‘Adult Triple X’ book store. (Although I wouldn't say that.) But they didn’t stop there. They went into the Lubavitch neighborhood where the original store is located and protested it there.

Why do I care about this kind of event? Why do I care if a bunch of men and boys dressed as Chasidim act like fools? Because it makes all Chasidim look bad. These people are indistinguishable in their look from many mainstream Chasidim who are probably just as upset by their shenanigans as I am. Possibly even more upset. When the world sees this video they don’t see Neturei Karta. They see Chasidim. And they are laughed at. And by association it taints all Frum Jews. The message to the world is that the more Jewishly religious one is, the more ridiculous their religious practices are.

What can be done to stop them? I don’t know. But there ought to be something! These people continue to make one Chilul HaShem after another with impunity. Their spiritual brothers in Israel behaved just as badly when they went to Bnei Brak on Yom Ha’atzmaut and had a festive flag burning event.

I can’t believe that nothing can be done by the two Satmar Rebbes who no doubt have considerable influence over them. In fact It probably wouldn’t hurt if all Chasidic Rebbes across the globe would come out in unison and condemn their actions followed by severe sanctions for doing anything like it again. Why this hasn’t been done escapes me. Unless they haven’t done so on purpose because they agree in principle with them on the issue they protest and only pay lip service condemnation for show.

I’ve said this before. I believe that the primary reason for their behavior is their indoctrination and their isolation. The world of Satmar is indoctrinated to believe that some of the most extreme Tznius Chumros are normative and see it as inviolable as Halacha. And they are ignorant of the ways of the world. They are purposely kept that way because of the fear of being tainted by the non Jewish values of the street.

They therefore have no clue how they are perceived and they are indoctrinated not to care. So they protest any attempt to water down their standards - same as if they were protesting Chilul Shabbos. I believe that most of Satmar feels exactly as these protestors do about their Halachos and Minhagim. But most would not make fools of themselves and harass legitimate businesses. I think that is the core of the problem. Those who stand by and watch these people do this may not approve of it. But they definitely sympathize with their motives. And that’s why we will continue seeing these people doing these things.

Here is my message to Satmar Chasdim. Wake up! These people are not your friends. They are your enemies. They do not promote Kedusha. They instead bring shame and ridicule to your values and by association all of our values. Tell your Rebbe to make them stop! Tell him to put severe restrictions on them. Tell him that they should be ostracized from any Shul and their children should not be accepted to their schools. Let them be barred from any social service that Satmar provides. Let them pay a price! Because if you keep letting it slide we will all be paying a price.