Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Step in the Right Direction - but Not Enough

I’m happy to see the Agudah on board. I received a communication from David Nyer* with a statement** from mainstream Orthodox institutions about the violence perpetrated by Charedi extremists in Israel.

Agudah spokesman, Rabbi Avi Shafran, has joined the RCA, OU, and Young Israel - condemning recent attacks perpetrated by Charedi extremists in Israel towards the IDF and Israeli police. It’s nice to see them speaking again with one voice on an issue vital to the Jewish world. Just as they have with respect to the extremists on Orthodoxy’s Left..

But as I’ve noted in the past (more than once)  one has to look beyond the actual perpetrators of violence and recognize the source of the problem: The rabbinic factions in Israel whose anti Israel and anti Army rhetoric has given these miscreants ‘permission’ to behave this way. They reason that their leader’s condemnation of the government and the army justifies their behavior in this vein.  

Especially since even the moderate Charedi leadership in Israel has been relatively quiet about these attacks. The staement made of that. And included the following appeal by Young Israel president Farley Weiss:  
…to all Jewish Rabbinical and communal leaders in Israel to join us in condemning these reprehensible actions and we must do all in our power to prevent these attacks.” 
I wish I had any confidence in this happening in any significant way. I may be wrong but even in America I do not for example see Agudah going beyond a statement.

I’m glad they have come on board with the sentiment. (Although it doesn’t really surprise me.)  But actions speak louder than words. And I do not see them doing everything in their power to prevent these attacks.  There are mainstream members of the Agudah Moetzes that actually side with the factions in Israel that inspire those extremists. They have made public statements expressing it and have attended anti Israel protest rallies organized by Satmar - standing side by side with their leaders in support of those sentiments.

Clearly the solution is in dealing with source of the problem. I just don’t see that happening because of  the support by some of them of the view and rhetoric that inspires those extremists.

For me the course of action is pretty clear as I have outlined many times. The leadership that inspires these extremists should be shunned.

There are those who say it’s virtually impossible to do more than they already have. I’ve heard it all before.  ‘What are they supposed to do with those extremists?’ ‘They don’t listen to anyone!’ That their behavior has been condemned falls on their deaf ears. They deem those extremists juvenile delinquents in any case - not interested in listening to their leadership.

But there is something the mainstream Charedi leadership in Israel can do. It is the opposite of what they have done till now.

I recall not long ago, an incident where one of the Charedi Knesset members interceded on behalf of one of the jailed draft dodgers and to got him released from jail. What he should have done instead is doubled down on that jail sentence and insisted that it be carried out in full. And made clear that that breaking the law will not be tolerated. As a legislator it is his duty to see back up law enforcement and the judicial system that metes out justice. The law must be followed. ‘Getting the guy off’ was exactly the wrong call and served only to encourage them to continue along their violent path. What’s to stop them? Certainly not any significant time in jail!

I once again say to the Charedi leadership in Israel to do more than pay lip service condemnation to the violence perpetrated by extremists (if they’ve even done that). And to stop saying that it is just a few extremists doing it. Because even if that’s true, it is clear what motivates them. Or at the very least  gives them their excuse. They will say that they are simply doing something about the beliefs of their leaders. There has to be action, they say in order to make their point.

I actually agree. There has to be action – by the more sane members of the Charedi mainstream  in Israel. Actions along the lines I suggested in previous posts on the subject (such as those I mentioned last Friday). Not mere words accompanied by apologetics.

Unless and until that happens, this will continue. Innocent Israelis; some of them patriots serving in he military; some of those Charedi - will continue to be physically and emotionally hurt by these extremists. The Charedi leadership in Israel (as well as some of the Charedi leadership  in America) that support the views that inspire those extremists must share responsibility for some of the evil that results.  It’s too bad they don’t realize it yet. Or perhaps they do but tolerate it since according to them the greater good is being served.

*David Nyer, LCSW, is an Orthodox activist. He can be reached via email at for any questions or comments.

**Available in full herehere, and here.