Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Those Funny Hasids

It seems that I may have underestimated the media’s ability to distinguish between variations among Orthodox Jews. As The Colbert Report indicates they seem to realize that not all Orthodox Jews have such extreme standards of modesty.

This video is a perfect example of the ridicule I was talking about when such pictures hit the mainstream media. But as is clearly mentioned by comedian and satirist Stephen Colbert, the people responsible for this are ‘Hasids’. He realizes that Chasidim are in a class by themselves.

The question is - Do Chasidim want to be painted in this light? Do they care if the world pokes fun at them? Do they think advertising these standards by way of photoshopping out of an iconic photograph women dressed well with even the strictest standards of modesty supersedes the laughing stock they have now become? Do they even care how the outside world perceives them?

One must remember that in spite of all this negative publicity they are more successful than any other segment of Orthodoxy in getting what they want in government services and financial aid. They vote as a block and politicians know that - tripping all over themselves in making promises during a political campaign.

Do they realize they are being laughed at behind their backs? Do they even care? Is it just all about getting the money? Do they not care about how non Jews and secular Jews perceive them? Do they completely ignore the idea of being a light unto the nations? Or do they somehow think that being so sensitive Tznius matters puts us in a positive light?

Chasidim believe they are the truest representation of Judaism. They believe they are the most stringent observers of Halacha. They believe that their success in doing so is in part because of the way they live their lives – insulated from outside influences. But they pay a price – and indirectly so does all of Klal Yisroel. Even if we are not all painted by the same brush there is still a connection made. There should be no segment of Orthodox Jewry that subjects itself to ridicule by way of its extremist religious views. I don’t want Chasidim to be laughed at!

By isolating themselves from the rest of the world they think the world won’t notice their religious stringencies. Well, guess what. They do notice them. Especially when they give comedians like Stephen Colbert such ‘great material’.

What exacerbates this problem for Chasidim is that by maintaining such high standards of Tznius and avoiding the rest of the world they end up with an unreasonably heightened and exaggerated sense of what Tznius is. Kind of like the satiric point made by Colbert about what the sight of an empty bedroom does to a Chasidic Jew.

I really think they should rethink their entire approach to the secular world. One must certainly take precautions to not be unduly influenced by negative aspects of secular culture. But by going overboard the baby kind of gets thrown out with the bath water.