Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nazis?! What Were They Thinking?!

I think it is fair to say that all segments of Orthodoxy, indeed all of humanity sees the Third Reich as evil incarnate. If there was ever an ‘Evil Empire’ that was it!.

I don’t think there is an ethical human being on the face of the earth that would disagree with that characterization. We know what they did to the Jewish people. The picture accompanying this post is but a small sampling of it.

Nazis were so evil that the very mention of the word ‘Nazi’ in any context is considered highly inappropriate - especially when one is comparing a fellow Jew to them. Even when there is strenuous objection to the views and rhetoric of that fellow Jew - it is unacceptable to compare them to Nazis.

Nor is it acceptable to use behavior by them as something to emulate – even in those instances where it might seem to be the case. For example - to say that Hitler was kind to dogs and use that as an example of how we should act towards animals is nauseating!

And yet it appears that there is a new obsession in certain Orthodox circles to do just that. Last week in two separate instances Nazi behavior was brought up in exactly these contexts. In one case comparing anti Agudah rhetoric to Nazi Germany’s propaganda against the Jews, and in another to demonstrate the Jewish ethic of Tznius. I wrote about the former last week.

The latter case is a shocking article in the Israeli version of the Yated. It was about gender segregation in the Charedi world in response to critiques – most notably by our Secretary of State - of this practice in Israel. He used Nazi gender segregation in the death camps to show just how widely accepted that idea is.

How can any Jew - no matter how right wing - continue to buy that newspaper? It is an insult to the memory of six million holy Jews that died Al Kiddush HaShem and to every single holy survivor of the Holocaust, religious or not. Those words should have never seen the light of day.

The Yated can extol the virtues of gender segregation all they want. They do not have to agree with me that such practices do more harm than good.

They can place extremes in the service of Tznius on the highest pedestal – even though these attitudes have led to the advent of Burka ladies; women getting beat up on buses; or for simply walking through their neighborhood dressed in the style of Bnei Akiva; or spilling acid on clothing they don’t like worn by women as they pass through Meah Shearim; or as in one case, a woman wearing a jumpsuit as she was jogging having had acid thrown in her face; or burning down a store that they think is selling immodest clothing; or in their latest enterprise calling little Mizrachi girls Shiksas and Prutzos as they enter or leave their religious school!

They can ignore all of those things if they want and continue to preach that segregation of the sexes is the greater good. They can explain all the problems away by saying these are exceptions; that they do not preach violence - that they condemn it; that people taking Chumros to extremes is not their fault. But once they use Nazi practices to justify their Chumros, they have lost the argument. And perhaps their minds!

Do they really think that the Nazi segregation of men from women in the camps was done because of any moral or even societal consideration? Can anyone at the Yated possibly even believe that? The Nazis were just using that tactic as a ruse to prevent chaos. The Nazis wanted their Jewish inmates to believe they were going to live in order to keep them calm before the slaughter. Men and women were segregated in their walk to the gas chambers. They were segregated as they entered the ‘showers’, and they were segregated as they were gassed to death.

But even if I were to grant that ‘even the Nazis understood the morality of gender segregation’ would that in any way get me praise the virtues of gender segregation? Think about it. Jews were being taken to the slaughter and were gender segregated before doing so. And this is an argument for Tznius?! How dare the Yated come anywhere near this argument?! And what are they saying about our Secretary of State? ...That even the Nazis understood gender segregation better than her?!

I do not believe the editor of the Yated was thinking too clearly on this one. It is a condemnable comparison that destroys the entire point he tried to make.

The Yated editor owes every decent human being an apology for allowing this odious article to appear in his paper. No matter what his intention was. As I said, he is entitled to his opinion. But if he wants to be credible to even his own constituency - he cannot be allowed to get away with using Nazi behavior to justify it!