Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A Profile in Courage

Rabbi Menachem Bombach (Forward)
Sometimes I wonder whether there is any sanity or intelligence at all in the more extreme right wing end of Orthodoxy. The uncivilized – almost primitive behavior of those factions defies both of those very important human qualities.

Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt cites two examples of those kinds of extremists in a Forward article on subjects that have been the focus of much discussion here: Education of Charedim in Israel, Meah Shearim type extremists, and followers of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach.

These extremists are at it again - demonstrating (with a vengeance) against departures from their educational norm. An issue that is near and dear to my heart. 

For me, Menachem Bombach is a hero. One that should be supported and honored. Because he has done what I believe is of paramount importance to the future of Charedi community in Israel. More specifically the Chasidic community from which he hails.

In the heart of Beitar, one of the most religiously right wing cities in Israel, Menachem Bombach has successfully established a Charedi high school that offers a full complement of secular subjects.  A curriculum that includes Bagrut, the Israeli version of the New York Regents exam.

It is particularly relevant that it is Bombach is the one doing it. Meanchem is not some outsider who got on his high horse and galloped his way into other people lives to force his own values on them. He is one of them, having been raised in Meah Shearim. He is the son of a Satmar father and an Eida HaChardis mother.

Nor is Menachem some off  the derech (OTD)  expatriate Chasid with a vendetta or mission to destroy his former world. He is not from a dysfunctional family. He was not a bad student. He did not have any kind of learning disability. He was not socially awkward; did not fall through the cracks and has not abandoned his roots. He is fully observant and remains Charedi in both culture and custom. He loves his community dearly: 
“Haredi society is a very good society,” he explains. “There is so much idealism here, it is truly a world of chesed (acts of kindness), a miraculous world….” 
But in recognizing the dire needs of his community, he did something about it. He created a school faithful to Charedi norms in every sense except one: giving his students an opportunity for a far better future.  Menachem’s school  also recognizes the sacrifices of Israel’s defense forces in the form of prayer for fallen soldiers on Israel’s Memorial Day.

This is what the Charedi world in Israel needs a lot more of. Unfortunately this is not how their leadership sees it, nor any of their publications. They see it more the way Israel’s Yated Ne’eman does - which recently branded him a ‘spiritual muderer’!

That attitude is practically inborn in the more right wing Charedi world of Israel. It is in their mother’s milk from which they are weaned. The zealots among them have not been reticent in expressing their mindless protests in their typically disgusting ways.  After all (they probably reason) how else should a ‘spiritual murderer’ be treated? Which results in the behavior described by Chizhik-Goldschmidt: 
His apartment door and lock have been smeared with tar several times; his neighborhood was covered in pashkevilim, posters, denouncing him as a Haredi imposter and calling on him to “return to Tel Aviv”. And when he was recognized upon a visit to his childhood neighborhood Mea Shearim, locals threw bottles and diapers at him, tearing off his yarmulke. 
And who are these people? Where do they come from? Despite the fact that Beitar is so strongly Charedi the protesters are not residents. They are the from the extremes of the Charedi world that I referred to above: 
The zealous demonstrators, Bombach explains, are not Beitar Ilit locals. They’re imports — either residents of Beit Shemesh, who originally came from Mea Shearim, or Lithuanian Jerusalemite Haredim, who are affiliated with Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach. 
Menachem Bombach is a profile in courage. He is a sees a problem and does not just talk about it. He does something about it against great odds and tremendous opposition. He successfully embarked on a path of improvement for his community full steam. Looking neither at his detractors nor his antagonists. Caring not a whit about what a popular Charedi newspaper says about him. He is focused on his task and has his eyes on the prize: a better future for his people. God bless him.