Monday, May 11, 2009

Chasidim Who Cheat on their Wives

A Charedi friend of mine in New York e-mailed me something very disconcerting earlier today. He had a conversation with a couple of Frum therapists over the weekend. They told him they were shocked at the staggering increase of affairs among Chasidic couples who are their clients.

This is a shock to me too. Not because I didn’t think extra marital sex existed among Chasidim. I know that it does – and has for decades. Anyone who is familiar with the ‘Mayflower Madam’ can attest that the phenomenon of sex outside of marriage among Chasidim existed at least since then.

For those who don’t remember her, Sydney Biddle Barrows - known as the Mayflower Madam - was convicted of running a high priced call-girl operation from 1979 to 1984 in New York. She was called the Mayflower Madam because she could trace her roots back to the Mayflower – the famous ship that brought the first European colonists to America.

What is shocking is that Chasidic extra marital affairs seem to have increased. And if I understand correctly, this isn’t just about extra marital sex. It includes even biblical level adultery!

If this is true - and I believe my friend and his professional contacts - Why is this the case? Why has there been such a spike in extra marital affairs? And why is no one talking about it? What are the causes?

Is it that we live in a promiscuous society? If that is so, what good is the kind of isolation from the world that they so strongly advocate? It doesn’t seem to be working. In fact the opposite seems to be happening.

There has never been a greater push toward Tznius than now. And yet the extra marital affairs among Chasidim seems to be greater than ever.

Is more of the same going to produce different results? I don’t think so.

I refer you to an earlier post about a mother’s plea for greater levels of Tznius observance as a Segula - spiritual intervention - for her incarcerated son. Why was the focus on Tznius?

The fact is that just about every story where someone is hurt by overly zealous religious fanatics - it is almost always about some sort of Tznius violation. Whether it is beating up a woman for sitting in the men’s section of a bus, torching a pizzaria because of family style seating arrangements, or burning down a clothing store because it sold clothes they thought were not Tznius enough.

True, these are extremists that do not represent the whole - but that they represent an overall trend toward an ever increasing Tznius standard cannot be denied. And what has all this ‘protectionism’ wrought? More adultery and cheating by their own people!

I realize that this will all be denied by many members of that community. They will say that the two are unrelated. That isolation from the world has nothing to do with those who commit adultery. Two different worlds. Good guys versus bad guys. Every community has them.

But I don’t see how anyone can ignore what two mental health professionals who people who are having extra marital affairs have said. They called it a shocking increase! If greater protection leads to less violation of sexual prohibitions, why the increase in the very community where the protectionism is the greatest? How can there not be a connection?

The greater the push for ever greater Tznius standards the more violations there seem to be. I don’t think this phenomenon can so easily be written off as the exception.

But Kanaim are still pushing it. That was the source of a recent disruption at a Charedi wedding. The Charedi singer there was publicly embarrassed. Why was this done? The Rav who embarrassed him claimed that his singing style leads to frivolity. Which leads too – you know what.

The Kanaim are the strong ones. Moderates by definition do not push. They just tend to roll with the punches. Sadly as long as that is the case - I predict that adultery among Chasidim will increase. The more isolated the community is made to be from the world, the more members from it will find their way to it.

If we don’t stop these Kanaim from their tracks, who knows where this will all end. It is time for moderate rabbinic leaders to push back. They should no longer stand idly by while these guys keep pushing the envelope.

I understand the reluctance by rabbinic leaders to push back. It will make the Kanaim look Frummer than them. But that will only be the perception. Not the reality. The reality is that pushing sexual matters so deeply into the unconscious mind has resulted in increased violations. Like the Chasidic adultery now taking place. What are we waiting for? A New York Times expose?