Friday, June 30, 2017

Is Antisemitism to Blame?

Image from YWN
How sad it is when a Charedi internet news media outlet turns a humongous Chilul HaShem into a case of antisemitism. This is exactly what YWN (Yeshiva World News) has done in an oped published late yesterday. The disclaimer about not condoning fraud notwithstanding. Saying they don't condone it is a thinly disguised cover for making that charge. 

The recent astonishing arrests for welfare fraud of family members of one of the most prominent names in the Torah world are the subject of the oped. YWN questions why there has been so much media attention and outrage about 12 Jews arrested in Lakewood when there has been little coverage and no outrage of similar crimes by 68 non Jews in Pennsylvania. Their conclusion is as follows: 
Want to know why? Take a look at the list of names and you will see the reason: NO ORTHODOX JEWS WITH BEARDS. It’s not a “story” if a bunch of meth-heads are arrested for fraud. But if a Jew with a beard and Yarmulka is arrested for the same exact crime, it becomes a “prominent Rabbi” story splashed on national headlines…
L)et’s be blunt. This is blatant open anti-Semitism by the fake-news / drive-by media. It is simply appalling and utterly despicable. There will be those who will say that this hatred against Jews was brought upon ourselves by past crimes by Orthodox Jews over the years. That may or may not be true. But this hatred towards the Lakewood Orthodox Jewish community can’t be ignored any longer. 
It is opeds like this that are part of the problem. YWN completely practically ignores the very letter it partially quotes (published earlier) : 
Yes, we all saw the letter on YWN yesterday calling us the “Am Hanivchar” and telling us that we are held to a higher standard.  
That should be their focus. That should be the reason we are upset. Not just the media, but every single Jew that cares about a Chilul HaShem.

I do not hate Orthodox Jews with beards. Many of my close family members are Orthodox and have beards. I do not hate the ‘Lakewood Orthodox Jewish community’. Lakewood is a tremendous Makom Torah. There is a legitimate reason its nickname is ‘Ir HaTorah’. That’s because more Torah study takes place there per capita than any other city in America. What ever problems I or anyone else might have with some of the things that go on there, or their Hashkafos - there can be absolutely no dispute about the amount and the quality of pure Torah study for its own sake that takes place there. That is to be admired.

But I am going to condemn in the strongest possible terms when any of these people - people that are supposed to exemplify the highest ideals of the Torah - end up doing the opposite… showing they have the same standard of ethics that the above mentioned meth-heads do.

I realize that they said they don’t condone it. I’m sure they don’t. That would be ridiculous for them to say – even if they were lying about it and did condone it.  But to say this is all about antisemitism is as ridiculous as saying that Jews for Jesus is all about Kiruv.

True, crime is crime. But when common criminals do it, it is not news. When the supposedly most upstanding citizens of the Am HaNivchar (God’s chosen people) commit a crime – it is major news.  For a common crime to be considered a major news story - it means that honesty is the expected norm . That this story is major news is not antisemitism. 

The editorial staff at YWN should realize that instead of having the typical knee-jerk reaction of the Jewish religious right that yells ‘antisemitism’ at the drop of a black hat. ‘Relilgious Jews are reported getting caught in a fraud?’ ‘Antisemtism!’  

No it isn’t. That they think it is might just explain why some Jews think fraud against anyone that isn’t Jewish or Orthodox  - is OK. If non Jewish or non Orthodox society  hates us so much, then stealing from them and getting away with it might even be a Mitzvah!  

YWN should be screaming at the top of their lungs about the massive Chilul HaShem that has been caused here – and fully condemning it. Without any qualifiers or finger-pointing. The only bias here is theirs. I am ashamed and disappointed by their reaction. Because accusatory statements like that might too be a Chilul HaShem. Which makes them part of the problem. Their disclaimer notwithstanding.