Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jews Should Not Act Like Human Debris

I am not in the habit of criticizing bad behavior by people who do not represent – or claim to represent the values of the Torah. This is something I am often criticized for. Why, I am often asked, do I focus only on Frum bad behavior? If it is a Charedi burning a dumpster in Meah Shearim, I am all over it. But when secular Jews do it I basically ignore it.

That accusation is true. I am guilty as charged. I focus only on Jews who claim to be observant of Torah and Mitzvos. And the more religious they appear or claim to be, the greater my criticism. In the eyes of my detractors, that makes me a Charedi basher.

I bring this up now because of an article in Ynet This time it is indeed a secular group using violence to make their point. From the article:
Social activists in Tel Aviv clashed with police across the city Saturday evening, at one point shattering windows and charging into banks in what is shaping up as unprecedented socioeconomic riots. Some 85 people were arrested throughout the night.

The night started with a rally against police violence, as some 2,000 protestors gathered in Tel Aviv's Habima Square a day after 12 activists were detained by police during a social protest.

The demonstrators claimed police used uncalled for violence during Friday's rally, holding up signs reading "Don't touch my body, I have a right to speak up" and "Dear police officer, please don’t disrupt this citizen in performing his duty."

Soon after, violent clashes erupted at various locations across Tel Aviv, including at banks near the city's Rabin Square. Protestors shattered windows at some banks, in one case making their way into the bank with a tent, the symbol of last year's housing protest, and barricading themselves inside.
 According to police, windows were shattered in at least five bank branches. Some protestors chanted slogans slamming the ties between Israeli politicians and industrialists.

Protestors blocked one of the city's main streets, Ibn Gvirol, and later also managed to halt traffic on the southbound lanes of the Ayalon Freeway.
First let me say that these people are every bit as contemptible as any protester from Meah Shearim might be if he were doing the same thing. Although the 2 groups are as far away from each other religiously as possible, their means of making their point are equally despicable.

I have no compassion for their cause anymore than I do for the cause of the Meah Shearim crowd. Using these kinds of tactics tends to make me go the other way. If I was ever inclined to support a cause, using violence to make their point makes me run far away from it. As far as I am concerned these people ought to join their fellow Jews in Meah Shearim or Bet Shemesh, or the "price taggers" in jail. For a long time! Generally speaking they are all miserable excuses for human beings – all of them.

So why do am I more upset when a Frum Jew does this than I am when a secular Jew does it? Why do I have such contempt for Frum Jews while seeming to give a pass to secular Jews or non Jews? That’s because when someone identifiably Jewish does something wrong the repercussions go far beyond the immediate damage they do. They are making a Chilul HaShem. And the frummer they pretend to be or the Frummer they look; the longer the beard and peyos, the blacker the coat, the more desecrated is the name of God.

The Jewish people are the Chosen of God. We are the ones who are supposed to be spreading His message – both by word and deed. Those who are not Jewish or nonobservant can make no claim to that. The actions of those of us who purport to represent the Torah must be judged by a higher standard.

So yes, the more Charedi one looks, the greater the Chilul HaShem. The images being broadcast is that observant Judaism is defined by the violent actions of the most devout looking Jews among us.

No matter how much any segment of Orthodox Jewry reject them as not really representing the Torah; No matter how much we say that these are extremists that do not represent us, the world doesn’t hear us. We  are a voice in the wilderness. They see us all as members of the same tribe. And that the most religious among us are the exemplars of our beliefs. The world then sees Judaism as a primitive religion whose members might otherwise be considered street thugs. All observant Jews, no matter what our Hashkafos, are tainted by it – thus tainting the very Torah itself.

I think it would behoove religious journalists on the right to realize this – rather than calling us Charedi bashers. They are constantly griping about the fact that along with secular media many Orthodox bloggers are anti Charedi. While some of us may be like that, many of us actually care about the image we Orthodox Jews project to the world. I for one will continue to publicly protest loudly and clearly when the behavior of the most religious looking among us make all look bad. There are few thing worse than a Chilul HaShem made by casting all observant Jews in a negative light.

So if God forbid another incident like the one last year in Bet Shemesh where a group of bearded, Kapoteh wearing Jews shout epithets at an 8 year old religious Zionist girl as she attends a school they don’t approve of, you can be sure I’ll be writing about it and condemning it as soon as I am made aware of it. Although all such activity no matter where it comes from - secular or religious - is disgusting, it will continue to be far more upsetting to me when it is religious looking Jews that are doing it. Because when that happens the attendant Chilul HaShem is enormous!