Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fraud, Breach of Trust, and Obstruction

Mayor Meir Rubenstein of Beitar Illit - photo credit Ynet
Modesty squads are in the news again. This time the mayor of Beitar Illit is involved. He is being accused of being aware of their strong-armed tactics and illegally protecting them from the police. 2 Beitar residents were arrested for allegedly terrorizing females in his city for their supposedly immodest behavior. From Ynet:
He is suspected of fraud, breach of trust and obstructing a police investigation.
According to the allegations, the mayor was aware of the two youth councilors' activities and of their violence.
In addition the investigators suspect that the mayor tried to prevent the police from obtaining information relevant to the investigation. The mayor was released following his interrogation.
No matter how obvious it is to me how disgusting the behavior of these ‘modesty squads’ are - and how obvious to me that they ought to be brought to justice, it doesn’t seem to matter to the right. Their rabbinic leaders and their political representatives in government put a much higher premium on the value of these ‘squads’ than they do on the people they have harassed.

It’s almost as if they support their ‘holy’ work! Which I doubt that will admit. We will probably soon hear the typical denial by the mayor that one hears from rabbinic leaders in these circles. They do not approve of that kind of behavior… and not to judge the community by the actions of 2 people calling themselves the Vaad HaTznius (modesty squad).

I don’t buy that for a minute. What they don’t approve of is the bad publicity they are getting. But you better believe they approve of the goals of that ‘squad’. And perhaps secretly - even their means. I don’t know what the actual violations of Tznius were in this case. But it was obviously behavior that this community does not approve of. Much more then they disapprove of the means taken by the ‘squad’ to stop it!

This event is not all that different than what happened last year to Na’amah Margolies in Bet Shemesh. Or the young girl in Williamsburg who had masked modesty squad thugs enter her bedroom and confiscate her cell phone. It doesn’t really matter what the exact infractions were in this case. All we need to know is that they were not in consonance with this community’s standards.

I have no doubt that the same thing is true in Beitar Illit that is true in Meah Shearim, Williamsburg, Kiryas Joel,Squaretown, and Bet Shemesh. It doesn’t matter if the modesty squad is unofficial. Nor does it matter if that rabbinic leaders in those places disavow them. No matter how loud and strong the condemnations are. The fact is that they exist – and continue to function in all of them.  Not only do they continue to function, but they are defended against any possible legal consequence of their actions the way Mayor Rubenstein is. Even if it means breaking the law.

So spare me the protestations by rabbinic leaders. They no more oppose modesty squads than they oppose the lack of Tznius itself. They secretly want the modesty squads to intimidate away… so that their communities can live the pristine lives of Kedusha (holiness) that every Jew should. The problem is that the Kedusha they seek is self defined and comes at a price. One that is anything but holy. And one that is enforced by groups that are hardly an anomaly. 

I’m sure that the Mayor Rubenstein is an otherwise nice man; a kind and decent husband and father and a good public servant. But he is an enabler.  By trying to protect these 2 thugs from prosecution he assures that their activities will continue. Perhaps if Mayor Rubenstein is found guilty and get’s the book thrown at him - and maybe even gets some jail time – it will set an example for others and might just make a difference!