Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Torah Dedication that was a Disgrace

Scenes from a Boro Park Hachnosas Sefer Torah (more available at YWN)
I have attended many Torah Scroll dedications (Hachnasas Sefer Torah) here in Chicago. Every single one of them were a Kiddush Hashem.

For those not familiar with the event, it involves the completion of the actual script in the Torah by a Sofer (scribe) – usually in the home of the individual who commissioned and purchased it. That is followed by a parade down a pre-determined route of about 2 or 3 blocks of residential streets until it reaches the Shul in which that Torah scroll will be housed.

The parade is a festive affair, usually accompanied by a band and a lot of dancing and singing down the street as the Torah is carried under a Chupah. At first by its owner and then transferred along the way to family members, rabbis, dignitaries, friends, and others until it reaches the Shul. 

There the dancing and singing continues for a while until the Torah is placed in the Aron Kodesh. The parade itself lasts about about a half hour or so and draws out even non Jewish neighbors from their homes that seem to enjoy watching the pageantry.

It would seem like this kind of event would produce nothing but a Kiddush HaShem.  How could a Torah dedication be anything else? Well it can be and it was just a few days ago. What should have been a Kiddush HaShem turned out to be a Chilul HaShem in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn. From YWN
Sources tell YWN that at around 6:00PM, hundreds of people began a procession accompanying a new Sefer Torah to the Dzebo Bais Hamedrash. There was apparently no permit issued for a street closure, and police responded due to massive traffic in the area…
(N)umerous NYPD vehicles responded to the vicinity of 16th Ave & 51st street and ordered the pedestrians onto the sidewalks in an attempt to open the street.
Several individuals intentionally ignored police, prompting officers to get out of their vehicles and physically move the protestors. At least person was arrested.
The NYPD called for a Level 1 Mobilization Response, prompting dozens of officers to respond.
It should be noted that there are no legitimate permits issued for Hachnosas Sifrei Torah. A phone call is made to the Community Board who coordinates it with Shomrim and informs the NYPD of the event. In this particular incident, the Community Board was never contacted, for unknown reasons.
A group of around 100 Bochrim staged a small protest outside the 66 Precinct on 16 Avenue, while community activists worked behind the scene to defuse the situation.
The (arrested) man was released at around 9:30 PM as the crowd cheered and sang as he exited the Precinct.
YWN ADDS: While the police response and actions can be called “police brutality” or “excessive force”, instead the angry group of pedestrians appallingly began chanting “Nazi” at the NYPD Officers – once again demonstrating that many members of the Jewish community haven’t a clue who the Nazis were. These people are simply trampling on the names of the 6 million Kedoshim HY”D. The people quick to use the word Nazi today, have obviously no clue – just as an example – what took place in just one day at Treblinka. 
I wish I could say that I am surprised by this mob reaction. But I would be lying if I did. I am not surprised at all.

First, let me make clear that I was not there. So I cannot say for certain that there wasn’t any police brutality or excessive force. But I tend to give the police – who were only doing their job – the benefit of the doubt. They probably did what they had to restore the streets of Boro Park to traffic.

But I do agree with YWN’s assessment of that Jewish community. They have no clue about what the Holocaust was all about. Which is a sad commentary considering that many of the residents of Boro Park are children or grandchildren of survivors.  

But I would go further. No one has a right to commandeer a public thoroughfare for their own purposes. Not even religious ones. Had they taken the time to contact police who have always worked closely with this community this would have never happened. Instead of fighting with the police and calling them Nazis – the police would have paved the way for them to have that parade. 

This is how it has always been done. At least in Chicago. The police have always been contacted and have responded by being a presence at these parades, blocking off streets and otherwise assuring the parade would run smoothly. I doubt that the NYPD is any different.

Instead we have yet another Chilul HaShem with ‘crazed’ participants looking like ignorant fools calling the police Nazis. All because they believed that their religious rights to march down a public thoroughfare trumped whatever got in their way. Including blocking unsuspecting drivers who with no warning at all were simply trying to get from point A to point B. 

The protesters and name callers may be fervently religious Jews with respect to ritual behavior. They may look and dress like the most religious Jews among us. But in my view there is little difference between their behavior on this day and that of any other unruly mob.

In essence their angry reactions to the police on this day shows what they really think about non Jews. Instead of realizing what the problem was and giving way to the police, they reacted with anger insisting on completing their trek regardless of who it inconvenienced. They have absolutely no respect for non Jews and could not care less about the inconvenience they caused. 

Sure - those that were part  of the mob might normally get along with non Jews on a day to day basis. They might even have friendly relations with them. But deep down they have no respect for them. That is the only conclusion one can reach based on their reactions that day. 

Which is why a minor Chasidic Rebbe in Brooklyn a few years ago could come out with a CD preaching to listeners that although we Jews must openly treat non Jews with respect, we must secretly HATE them. (I heard it with my own ears!) That is apparently the attitude many of them have deep down. An attitude that is obviously reinforced by the isolationist lives they live. Even if some of them are out in the world for business purposes dealing with customers, vendors, employees or bosses and get along quite nicely - this event shows what they really think. And for those that say that these people were the exception that proves the rule... I am increasingly beginning to doubt that.