Friday, November 02, 2018

A Golden Opportunity

Bet Shemesh mayor-elect, Dr. Aliza Bloch (Rationalist Judaism)
First I want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Aliza Bloch. I also want to offer my sincere congratulations to the citizens of Bet Shemesh. All of them, Including those that did not vote for her. I truly believe that she will be a mayor that will serve all the people. Including those that did not vote for her. Which probably included most Charedim. Most but not all. For the first time enough Charedim in Bet Shemesh - specifically Ramat Bet Shemesh Aleph (RBS A) -  voted for a non Charedi candidate - making Aliza Bloch the new mayor.

That said, I do not think being triumphalist is wise. Some are giddy over this. I understand why they feel that way. But I think they should be more reflective about what just happened. And more understanding of the supporters of the man they just defeated.

I know what defeat must feel like. There is great disappointment that their man in office - Moshe Abutbol who is Charedi - lost. 

The election brought out the worst in people. It was contentious and hyperbolic. Which reflects the degree of discord between the Charedi and Dati communities in greater Bet Shemesh.

One of the reasons that I am not jumping for joy is that I have warm feelings for the Charedim of RBS A. Among them  are many that strongly supported Mr. Abutbol. I live among them when I am there. I Daven with them and interact with them in a variety of ways. To a man (and woman) - they are some of the finest and kindest, people I know. There is not single Charedi in Bet Shemesh that I have personally ever encountered that is not like that.

In fact - although he would personally never hurt a fly - one of the finest members of that community that I know is a supporter of Rav Shmuel Auerbach’s extremist Peleg faction (also called Eitz). I nevertheless love that man.  Even though I can’t understand how anyone of his fine character would support an extremist group like Peleg- it does not diminish my respect for him as a human being. (Ironically his daughter just married a great grandson of the Rav. But I digress.) 

By the same token I do not consider those that supported Moshe Abutbol to be extremists. I reserve that distinction for many of the residents of RBS B.

The question is, what happened? How could a community whose majority is Charedi - and which was urged by their rabbinic leaders (i.e. Daas Torah) to vote for the Charedi candidate – end up with that candidate losing? And why were they so vehemently opposed to Dr. Bloch, the Dati woman who is now the mayor-elect?

The answers might be found in a letter published in Cross Currents by David Kasten an American Charedi resident of RBS A and a supporter of Abutbol. Here in part is what he said: 
(That Charedim voted for Aliza Bloch) goes against the logic of our choice live here. We came, we saw, we wanted, we moved. The Kedusha, that is. We moved here because we didn’t want the Chutznik life centered around one’s job or career. We didn’t want for ourselves and our families to be enmeshed in a secular world and culture. We wanted to grow in Torah and Yiras Shamayim and become close to Hashem. We wanted to be in the land that Hashem gave us in order to serve him in the way that he requires of us… 
(We) didn’t come here for the comfort.(We) didn’t come here for the spick and span streets. (We) didn’t come here for the American – style way the government and the city are run. (We came) here for the Ruchnius and the ability to connect to Hashem more easily.  So why vote for a mayor who is not like you and does not share your ideals? 
But then he goes off the rails! I believe this was generated by a complete misunderstanding of what Dr. Bloch is all about. It is a view based on both ignorance and an irrational fear that must have been generated by the political hyperbole that existed during the campaign: 
Why vote for parties who don’t even fake their connection to religion? Why put yourself in the same camp of those who hate Judaism and anything to do with it? Why reduce the amount of resources spent on your own child’s education? Why shoot yourself in the foot? (Why shoot me, your neighbor and friend, in the foot?) Why make it harder for your own shul to build or expand? What are you gaining? One less empty soda can on your street?
When voters believe the kind of rhetoric Mr. Kasten expressed about an opposition candidate it should not be a surprise that they are so disappointed then their candidate (and current mayor) loses.

And yet so many Charedim in RBSA voted for a Dati woman? Why? I guess that many of them felt that Mr. Abutbol was not doing his job. Or perhaps it is as simple as one Charedi fellow I spoke to put it: They just do not like being told who to vote for. (Is this the beginning of the end of Daas Torah? I doubt it. But it might just be the end of telling people who to vote for.)

I think it is extremely important for supporters of Mrs. Bloch to understand where Mr. Kasten is coming from. The last thing I would do if I were them is gloat.

By the same token I would advise the Charedim of RBS who supported Mr. Abutbol to stop feeling sorry for themselves. And to certainly stop all of the negative criticism of Dr. Bloch. Much of which was exaggerated or even false.

This is a golden opportunity for some real Achdus. (Yes, I am a hopeless optimist.) If both sides step back and try to understand where each is coming from - that would go a long way towards uniting a divided community. One that by being observant has far more in common than what they don’t. 

Differences in Hashkafos should not make people enemies.  Like that fellow I mentioned earlier who supports Peleg. Like I said, I love that man. He is a diamond of a human being despite my strong differences with him Hashkaficly.

The election is over. It’s time to give the new mayor chance to prove herself. From everything I’ve read - Aliza Bloch is an Ehrliche human being. I really think (or at least hope) she will be fair to everyone and to every constituency. In fact, if she is smart she will bend over backwards to make the Charedi community happy – without – of course short changing the Dati community - or short changing even the minuscule secular community that lives there.

If I am right and she does make it her mission to represent everyone fairly and equally, in the next election she may actually win by a landslide. Wouldn’t that be nice?