Friday, May 24, 2013

Charedi Extremists and the Tsarnaev Brothers

Extremist Charedi confronting an officer at one of their many protests
The comparison between the terrorist Tsarnaev brothers and Charedim in Israel who commit violent acts during public demonstrations and protest is apt. Most people know what happened recently at the Kotel. A peaceful prayer rally was called for by Charedi rabbinic leaders. Hundreds of young women showed up for prayers in what was supposed to be a peaceful show of strength and solidarity with tradition and prayer. It turned into a huge Chilul HaShem. Jonathan Rosenblum’s latest post on Cross Currents (originally in Mishpacha) makes note of that.

That of course is not the only time when protest rallies meant to be peaceful have been disrupted by violence. One can see a example of that  below by what happened recently at protest in Jerusalem against the draft in the YouTube video posted in the 5 Towns Jewish Times (cross posted in part at Daas Torah). Columnist, Rabbi Yair Hoffman got it right. He is the one who makes the comparison to the Tsarnaev brothers.

I have written about my disgust with these people so many times, that it is becoming boring already!

Except that it’s not. There is no such thing as being so bored with reports of violence that you begin to ignore it when they happen. Stories like this ought not be allowed to ‘get old’. Why? Because they keep happening. People get hurt, and the Chilul HaShem keeps happening - increasing in negative impact about us. When a video like the one below gets posted to YouTube – it makes an impression. This is how God’s Chosen People are seen. This is the ‘light’ we have become unto the nations!

We can cry “It’s not us” all day long. We can say that the vast majority of Jews are not like this. That it is just a bunch of hooligans that nobody approves of. It doesn’t matter. One picture (or video) is worth a thousand words of denial.

I don’t know how others feel but even I am affected. When I see a picture of a Meah Shearim type Jew no matter how innocuous - images like the one in this video come to mind. Fair or unfair, it’s hard to think of them in any other way – even though the vast majority of them are never involved with violence in any way!

In his artilce, Rabbi Hoffman points out Halachic sources to show just how evil these people really are. Jonathan Rosenblum asks, Is there nothing we can do to prevent our communal agenda from continually be kidnapped by those who answer to no authority?

I’ve asked these kinds of questions myself. The answer is, I don’t know. Although I think it would help if the rabbinic leaders who called for these protests physically participated in them.  And when they see violence to get in front of it! Perhaps then the mere lip-service condemnations will become more serious and they will finally begin to do something about it.

It ought to be clear that those communities who produce these kinds of hooligans; tolerates them; and protects them… ought to be held at least partially responsible for their actions. When a rabbinic leader calls for a protest, he ought to know who will come out and get all the attention. He ought to know that violence will break out. And Jews will be made to look bad.

I know that they have issues they feel are worthy of protest. But as justified and  L’Shma as these rabbinic leaders are, they surely must know by now that such protests will almost always end up being counter-productive.

The next time a peaceful protest is called for and violence of the type seen in the video below brakes out, the rabbis who called for these protests ought to be held accountable for the resultant Chilul HaShem.

On the other hand - if they call for a protest knowing what will likely result, then they must feel it is worth it! That the message sent by the protest outweighs the possible physical harm to innocent bystanders and almost guaranteed Chilul HaShem that it will generate. Maybe they think it is even a Kiddush Hashem despite the violence... Who knows?

Will there ever be any accountability asked of Charedi leadership by their constituency? I doubt it. It will probably never happen. These leaders are venerated – and will never in the slightest way be held accountable. Especially since they also condemn these hooligans. But that is not good enough because these condemnations have done nothing to stop them.