Thursday, May 19, 2022

There is a Difference

A violent COVID  protest in Chasidic Boro Park in 2020 (Gothamist)

“Hasidim routinely register their homes as places of worship to avoid property taxes, making other local residents pay for police and fire services as well as the maintenance of infrastructure…

 Jewish women… “routinely (file) as single mothers to get childcare subsidy checks,” while Jewish men allegedly (refuse) to work “so they can study the Talmud so they are able to engage in wholesale welfare fraud, claiming poverty, to get food stamps, social security and other money services.”

 …the “aim” of these growing Jewish communities was to “create enclaves that are hostile to outsiders.”

 ...those communities (are) “high fertility replacers”

If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. These comments are similar to some of the oft heard accusations made by observers of some bad people in certain Chasidic communities. While these comments are a gross exaggeration of the truth and certainly not a universal truth about every single individual in those communities, there is a ring of truth to them. And although I did not make these comments, I have made similar observations. 

The problem in this case is who DID make them. It was part of the 180-page manifesto posted by 18-year-old Payton Gendron who massacred 10 innocent black people in Buffalo last Shabbos.

Much of the Jewish media has used this to show the level of hate Gendron had for the Jewish people. I don’t think there can be any doubt about that hatred. It is an integral part of Replacement Theory - that Jews conspire to replace the majority white Americans with a majority black Americans –  in a plot to weaken the white race. 

Believing that Jews had to be destroyed first before they could ‘destroy us’  Gendon planned to act on this belief and massacre as many Jews as he could after doing so to black people in their neighborhood. Thank God he was arrested before he had the chance. 

The question arises, whether those of us that have made similar comments are guilty of the same antisemtism Gendon is. My own criticism of some of the people in those communities  is not all that different than Gendon’s criticism.. 

Another question is whether the criticism I made along these lines fueled Gendon’s Jew hatred. One could easily surmise that Gendon ‘s views were generated at least in part by reading some of my own words. 

Let me first state the obvious. I am a Jew. An Orthodox Jew. And clearly not an antisemite. My goal in making these criticisms is twofold. One of which was to hopefully influence an end to this kind of behavior. Behavior that is not only a Chilul HaShem, but adds fuel to the fire of Jew hatred among the antisemitees of the world. 

Even though it is highly unlikely that those to whom my rebuke is directed will ever see my words, I believe it is at least possible that some would see my rebuke, change their personal behavior, and perhaps influence some others to change it as well.

The second goal was to inform the world who reads stories about the most religious looking Jews in the world misbehaving to one degree or another - that this is not the Jewish way and is worthy of condemnation. Which as an Orthodox rabbi, I do. In other words, I try to turn a Chilul HaShem into a Kiddush HaShem

When, however, thoughts like these are expressed by an antisemite, his intent is entirely different. His goal is to raise hatred among the masses by showing the world how disgusting Jews are. So disgusting that they are even worthy of extermination. 

So, yes. It is possible for two people to say the same thing where one is a hate monger and the other is someone that cares deeply for the people he says those things about.

Which is why I get so upset when I am told by - perhaps some well meaning Orthodox Jews, that I am guilty of Lashon Hara (evil speech) and should shut-up about those among us who do bad things. And not display our dirty laundry to the world. Adding that by taking about it publicly I am giving the antisemites of the world more excuses to hate us.

There would be some truth to that if I were the only source of that news. Then I might be guilty of all that. But in every case, my criticism is based on public exposure of those deeds by the media. Sometimes in the secular Jewish media and sometimes also in a secular medium with the reach of the New York Times. 

Once that news is out, it has to be publicly protested and condemned. Silence is acquiescence - and not an option. That is one of the golden rules of the Talmud. We cannot stay silent and say nothing in the hope that stories like this will go unnoticed. They are noticed.  Big time!

What about the accusation that I am spreading Lashon Hara to people that might not have seen that story? That is quite possible. But there is a method to ‘my madness’. When there is a Toeles - a legitimate purpose to giving more exposure to news like that, it is not only permitted, it is mandatory. To call out and condemn bad behavior in public and declare that this is not Judaism surely qualifies.

I therefore do not regret any of my public condemnations of bad behavior at all.  Even if someone like Gendron might have picked it up and used it against us.  Remaining silent in the face of a Chilul HaShem is to be complicit in it.