Tuesday, September 03, 2013

To the Right - To the Left

Guest Post by 'Lakewood Mechanech'

2nd graduating class of Beis Yaakov founded by Sara Schenirer - Lodz, Poland 1934
The fear of retaliation is ever-present on the minds of some of our finest. Which is a horrible way for any community to operate, let alone a Torah community like Lakewood. But it seems to be a tactic that works. Fear generates loyalty. At least on the surface.

The question is how did it get to be that way? Why is expressing a legitimate criticism that is meant to better the society in which one lives - subject to retaliation?  And where are the rabbinic leaders who should be protecting such people? Is criticism so feared by that community that they are willing to destroy anyone who makes it?

In any case that is the reason that the Lakewood Mechanech who has written this guest post has chosen to remain anonymous. I know his identity. He is well respected. But he fears that his community will retaliate and somehow gravely hurt his family.

The fear is quite legitimate. Ask Rabbi S, who reported a sex abuser to the police after that abuser violated the condition he agreed to of going to therapy. The retaliation Rabbi S got for doing what he believed was right, cost him his job and his reputation. He was bad-mouthed and ostracized by his peers and forced to leave town.

I am therefore forced to withhold the identity of a Lakewood based Mehcanech for that reason. But his message is too important to ignore. He writes of a situation in the Charedi world that no doubt contributes greatly to the OTD phenomenon. His words follow.

This singular line sends shudders down the spine of every living Jewish man and woman. "The selection" process of yimach shmo SS-Hauptsturmführer Joseph Mengele personifies perhaps the most barbaric and inhumane period in our long and storied journey through golus. If you appeared strong you lived, weak straight to the gas chambers, if you were privileged, subjected to an experiment.

Outward appearance dictated fate.  

There is a strong and poignant lesson we can learn from this. Are we as a community in a subtle yet similar vein guilty of this same approach?  The torah teaches us in the parsha of egla arufa "yadeinu lo shofchu es hadam hazeh" and chazal teach us to examine whether we did anything that may have assisted and possibly caused the calamity.  Lo potarnu blo levaya and see Rashi there who elaborates.  Are we student of “left and right”?  Are we judging and condemning young and innocent eighth graders to a "selection" process based upon the criteria of what looks good for my school and not the essence of her true neshama?  

"To the right to the left." 

Did we do everything in our power not to alienate these bnos yisroel and setting them on a path of destruction because of our refusal to accept them in our community schools?  Are we confident heading into a yom hadin to face our creator and ask him to judge us favorably and not look at our sins and condemn us lamoves?  We seem to be very proud of our 11th hour ability to make sure that all girls are accepted into schools at the beginning of the school year. We pat ourselves on the back for a job well done once again. ”We did it!” Every girl has a place in school!  Amazing!  "Mi keamcha Yisroel!"

Yadeinu shafchu es hadam hazeh!  By the time the innocent “11th hour girl” is “placed” the damage is already done.  We have alienated, lost, and "killed" the soul of a bas Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel v’Leah.  We pat ourselves on the back, "Mi keamcha Yisroel!"  They suffer humiliation at the hand of a system run by ruthless mechanchim who judged them and sent them to the left: a system that these innocent souls can no longer believe in.

Yadeinu shafchu es hadam hazeh.


Written by a Lakewood mechanech afraid to identify himself out of fear of retaliation against his family and yeshiva.