Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Alienating the Secular Jew

I’m sorry. I cannot understand the Hashkafa that has done what the Israeli Yated has done. If one looks a the carton featured in their back to school issue, I  don’t know how anyone that calls themselves the offspring of the Patriarchs, can do something like this.

You have two pictures side by side comparing the first day of school in the Chasidic world and the secular world. In one picture - the Chasidic caricature has a smiling kindly Chasidic teacher warmly welcoming  his student back for the new school year. In the secular picture you have a cowering teacher in the background while in the foreground you have a nasty looking student with a tattoo on his arm; and Mohawk haircut. He is holding an ‘evil’ smartphone in one hand; some marijuana in the other; and a bottle of booze in his backpack; holding a leash to his dog while a cowering police officer looks on.

The Yated is the main newspaper of the Yeshiva world whose political party is Degel HaTorah. They do not move without the approval of their rabbinic leaders. This cartoon must therefore reflect what they really think of the secular Jew in Israel. 

Now I’m sure they did not go to R’ Shteinman or R’ Kanievsky for specific approval of this picture. But they would not publish something that they thought would not  be in concert with their attitude. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that someone informs these leaders about this disgusting picture and they tell the Yated’s publishers to pull it and issue an apology.

But if past is prologue, I’m not going to hold my breath.  

How in heaven’s name are you going to convince the Israeli public, most of whom send their children to secular schools that they care about their fellow Israeli citizens? How are the Charedi political parties going to convince the secular public that they have their interests in mind too, when they consider legislation in the Keneset? How are they going to be able to reach out to their fellow Jews if they publish insulting cartoons and caricatures like this?

I have seen arguments that say that religious Jews should only focus on themselves… improving their spiritual status. Outreach is seen as a waste of time at best; and counter-productive at worst since a Baal Teshuva will unwittingly bring residual secular values into the religious world and thus contaminate the purity of their lives. This is counter to everything I believe in.

Is the hashkafa represented by the Chasidic caricature so wonderful anyway? Is that the way God wishes his people to live?   Here is a recent example of what’s wrong with this segment.  It is in this story Which I read recently. The mother of a handicapped child needed to get a driver’s license so that she could transport that child to the various places she needed to go. Like hospitals, doctors, and school. So great was her need that the national insurance of Israel supplied her with the funds to purchase a car.

For getting a driver’s license, she was fired from her teaching job. Why? Because of the rule against women driving. It is considered immodest for a woman to drive a car. When the principal was asked about it, she said that there are no exceptions to the rule. Women are not allowed to drive for any reason. End of discussion.

This story may sound extreme. And I’m sure that most Charedim are as appalled by this story as I am. But that such enclaves exist in any significant number means that this type of Hashkafa is an acceptable one. Even if it creates undue hardships on the parents of a handicapped child.

Why would any Jew want to become a member of a community like this? Maybe that’s why they think it’s a waste of time to reach out to others. One might ask, what’s keeping people in a community like this? Well if your are isolated from the rest of the world and are not taught how to function outside of your own community, you will not know any better. And if by chance you find out that there are other ways to live Jewishly in a world that is so radically different culturally and Hashkaficly that a transition to it would be virtually impossible.

Being opposed to the kinds of groups that promote these values is not being anti Charedi. It is being anti extremism. It is therefore high time for the Charedi world to call out these extremist groups and ostracize them no less than they ostracize the left.

Unfortunately  they won’t They will continue to tolerate them as a legitimate Hashkafa. Live and let live - as long as they are God fearing people and do the Mitzvos, no one has a right to tell them how to live their lives. Well, that is exactly what’s wrong with these groups. Their leaders tell their Chasidim exactly how to live their lives – well beyond the limits of Halacha. Which causes undue hardships on people like that mother of a handicapped child. Which is bad enough. But it is also an embarrassment to the rest of the Jewish people. And hardly being a light unto the nations.

Sadly cartoons like this will continue to be published. And every time I see one, I am going to continue to condemn it.