Friday, January 22, 2021

Do These Rabbis have Blood on their Hands?

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav with his late mother Sarah (TOI)
Yesterday a Chasidic wedding in the UK with 400 attendees was broken up by the police. This is yet another in a long series of egregious violations of the law and disregard for public health by the Chasidic world. They cannot claim ignorance of the law (which in any case is not an excuse). That they covered up all the windows shows that they knew very well they were violating the law. What makes this particular event even more startling is that it was located in a school building whose principal had earlier this year died from COVID. 

It is certainly true that not all such violations are by Chasidim. But as I have said before, it seems like the lion’s share of them are.  Just a few days ago a huge wedding in Bnei Brak was raided by police. And that was on top of a similarly huge wedding in Brooklyn by another Chasidic faction (Bobov) earlier this week. 

One might  think that the people that lead these factions and their followers would be duly chastened by now. These weddings were certainly not the first  time something like this has happened during the pandemic. It’s not like they don’t know that a lot of people have died from COVID. But not only were they not duly chastened the reaction that took place in Vizhnitz in Bnei Brak this week shows they will  resort to violence to protect their criminally negligent ways. Violence comparable to what happened during some of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer and the violence by racist Trump supporters that took place in Washington last week, Form the Jerusalem Post: 

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox (haredim) extremists belonging to the Vizhnitz Hasidic dynasty on Thursday night surrounded and assaulted a vehicle driven by police officers who were enforcing the coronavirus lockdown on King Solomon Street in Bnei Brak, police reported. 

As the crowd surrounded the vehicle, rioters were heard shouting "Nazis" and "damned," while bashing and eventually smashing the police vehicle's windows using stones.  

"The group even tried to open the vehicle's doors, as the police officers inside were forced to call for rescue!," the police statement read.  

These 3 groups could not be further apart socially, morally, or religiously. And yet they are all birds of a feather: Violent criminals that have no respect for the law nor do they value human life.  

While not all Chasidim of these sects behave this way, it is not a coincidence that in every case it is Chasidim from sects like these that do. Furthermore, it cannot be attributed only to the extremists among them. While only a relative few  are inspired to act this way, they all are motivated by the same fealty to a charismatic ‘Godly’ leader. 

I have said it before and I will say it again. It is time for mainstream Orthodoxy to sever our relationship with Chasidic groups like this. Even though these partiucar events have been condemned by a variety of Charedi leaders, it will never stop them from doing it again under similar circumstances.  

The Chasidus of sects that are involved in incidents like has devolved into a cult of personality. A Rebbe is treated with reverence reserved only for a saint. The word of the Rebbe is the only thing matters to the devout. If the Rebbe invites 1000s of people to a wedding in the middle of a pandemic, there is no question that they will… that they must attend. 

What about the fact that the positivity rate in places like Bnei Brak is a whopping 20 percent? These Chasidim apparently don’t want to know and don’t care even if they are made aware of that statistic. All they care about… all they are groomed to care about is what their holy Rebbe says - as the man closer to God than anyone else in the entire world. If he says not to worry about COVID, then why worry?   

Why worry?! Ask Yehuda Meshi-Zahav whose mother just passed away from COVID. From the Times of Israel:

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav pleaded with his family not to hold a party, but with Haredi leaders not taking the virus seriously, the ZAKA rescue group leader says he didn’t stand a chance. 

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav waged an uphill battle for virus vigilance in the ultra-Orthodox community. But even his mother didn’t listen — and held a party that led to her infection and death.

Meshi-Zahav says that rabbis have “blood on their hands” for the death of his mother, Sarah, on Monday. Because of their disdain for COVID-19 rules, his cautious voice didn’t stand a chance when she decided to hold a family Hanukkah party. 

Blood on their hands indeed. While there are more than a few Charedi rabbinic leaders that have strongly condemned these events - it is not enough. It is not enough to condemn an event yet again and claim that this is not our way. They must sever their relationships with these groups. No longer to be counted among Klal Yisroel. 

The leaders of those groups and their followers might not care. They may not need or even care about any outside approval. But it doesn’t matter. Orthodox Judaism cannot afford to have unity with groups such as these. Until such time that they repent and return to the pleasant ways of the Torah, rabbinic leaders must shun them no less than they do those to their extreme left.

I know I am constantly calling for unity among our people. And although I have always had serious differences with Chasidic sects like these, I never thought not to include them. But that they would so consistently resort to - or support behavior similar to fringe right wing racists and fringe left wing rioters we have witnessed in America over the year is a bridge too far.  They have and apparently will continue to do things like this. There is no such thing as unity with people that resort to criminal behavior while completely disregarding the welfare of those outside of themselves. Or even themselves. 

I realize that these words will fall on deaf ears. But it needed to be said.