Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chasidic Violence - Strength in Numbers

Why is there so much violence among Chasidim? I am not talking about small mariginal sects. I'm talking about big mainstream ones. Whether it is Satmar, Skvere, Chabad, Ger, or Toldos Ahron… the way it seems that they ultimately achieve their goals or settle their internal disputes is through violence. But then again it isn’t only Chasidim. Some Religious Zionist zealots are guilty of violence too when things don’t go their way – as evidenced by the recent ‘price tag’ raids against innocent Arab villages.

What is it about these groups that lead them to violence? I think the answer is obvious. It is their religious zeal. They all believe they are modern day versions of Pinchas. They believe that their version of Judaism is the only true version and they will do whatever it takes to achieve it. They have no respect for the views of other Jews – no matter how religious they are. They want their standards and are going to implement them no matter what.

But I have to say that it seems to be far more prevalent in Chasidic circles than in Religious Zionist ones. It has been reported in Ha’aretz that a Chasid was violently attacked and severely beaten by a group of vigilante Ger Chasdim.

Yes I know all about the condemnation by rabbinic leaders of all of these groups. And I know that their community does not approve of these vigilantes. Ironically a counter protest against Ger (pictured above) by members of the local community that so often are themselves involved in violence is evidence of just how self centered these kinds of communties are about violence. If they do it, it's right and just. But if others do it to them - well that's just disgusting!

The problem is that even among those within each community that legitimately oppose violence of these extremists – or better terrorists! …is that the goals are desired. The only thing they oppose is the methods. If the terrorists accomplish their mission, the community does reap the benefits.

The fact that there was a major protest against what happened to that poor Chasid, does not diminish that fact that that many of them secretly appreciate the results of violence when it suits them. Does anyone really doubt for example that a successful outcome for the residents of Ramat Bet Shemesh-B in their dispute with their Dati neighbors would be appreciated even though it was achieved through the admittedly vile and disgusting methods employed by their zealots?

Why is this happening now? Why does there seem to be an increase in this type of thing? I think it is a result of their growth. These groups are now flexing their collective muscles to get what they want – even at the expense of inconveniencing others. Call it the tyranny of the majority if you will.

That’s why we are for example seeing more and more Mehadrin type buses in Israel. They are no longer content to sit on a mixed bus as they did in the past. Women sitting in the back of the bus is their norm. Those who don’t like it will just have to live with it. Their growth in numbers will no doubt increase their influence. It is not too much of a stretch to say that Mehadrin buses will increase along with it into neighborhoods other than their own – thus inconveniencing even more people.

The fact that this was even attempted by Chasidim in America also demonstrates my point about their growth and power even here. They assert their rights to live in a world of their own making. If that inconveniences a few people... tough!

It is exasperating and the source of a major Chilul HaShem to say the least. And I’m not sure what to do about it except to continue protesting it every time I see it.

Modified: 5:00pm CDT