Monday, August 25, 2008

A Voice of Sanity

Finally a voice of sanity in the Charedi world – an important one. Perhaps he’s been reading my blog.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that Rav Moshe Sternbuch one of the leaders of the Edah HaCharedis, is saying that it was permissible to hand over to the police Charedi zealots who desecrated God's name with their actions.

The element that has long been missing in all the condemnations by rabbinic leaders is teeth. Telling his constituents to report Charedi zealots to the police follows condemnation with action is the 'teeth' those condemnations were missing.

Often the word Mesirah – reporting Jews to secular authorities - is heard in defense of not reporting a vigilante perpetrating violence. It is felt by many in that community and those who sympathize with them that the police are so anti-religious that no one should ever report another Jew to the police. But this is apparently not the view of Rav Sternbuch. It’s too bad that the Edah itself did not come out with this as an official position.

This is not too surprising unfortunately. The Edah is known for its zealous and uncompromising attitudes about religious matters - especially those involving modesty in dress. As the article says - All the crusades chosen by the various modesty squads are no-brainers for the majority of the Charedi populace.

It should therefore not be surprising that Edah leadership tends to only mildly condemn their actions that get out of hand – explaining that while it is wrong - it as an just an over-reaction to a just cause.

But not Rav Sternbuch anymore. He realizes that this issue goes far beyond the issue of standing up for the religious value of modest dress. He calls their actions a Chilul HaShem - just as I do.

One should realize that while Rav Sternbuch is a member of the Edah leadership he is not really one of them. The Edah membership is generally not made up from the world of Litvishe/Yeshivishe Rabbanim, to which Rav Sternbuch belongs. But his level Torah knowledge and his prestige lends them greater credibility and extends their reach to the Charedi Yeshiva world.

I am told that one of the reasons Rav Sternbuch joined the Edah is to moderate their attitudes on a variety of issues to be more in line with mainstream Charedi thinking. I don’t know. But if that’s true, it is a good idea. But be that as it may. Rav Sternbuch is not known for his Kulosleniencies in Halacha. He is better known for his Chumros- stringencies. And he is often strident in expression of his views - many of which I have great disagreement about. For example I am opposed to his condemnation of Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s works as heresy.

But he is absolutely right on this issue. And this amounts to a sea change in attitude if what is being reported is accurate.

But now comes the test. Will his new attitude be put into action?

One of the alleged perpetrators of a severe beatings of a woman on behalf of the Tznius Patrol has just been indicted. From another Jerusalem Post article:

The chilling three-page indictment relates how the seven men brutally assaulted their victim - a divorced woman who had previously led a haredi lifestyle - in her home in the Ma'alot Dafna neighborhood on the night of June 1.

The men, armed with a bat and tear gas, barged into her home in the predominantly haredi neighborhood at 10:45 p.m., the charge sheet relates.

"The defendant and the others shoved the complainant, dropped her to the floor, beat her, slammed her head against the floor and kicked [her] all over her body."

"The defendant or one of the others sat on her head in a bid to prevent her from seeing what was going on and to prevent her from resisting," the charges continue.

The men also allegedly tied a piece of cloth to the woman's mouth and warned her that should she open her eyes, they would spray tear gas into them, the indictment says.

If this fellow is found guilty and sentenced to prison, the community ought to support the verdict and not protest it - or try and get him off. If hope Rav Sternbuch advocates this position - maybe thing will finally begin to change.