Monday, June 13, 2022

Silence in the Face of a Chilul HaShem

Image of Charedim for illustration purposes only (Tzarich Iyun)
One might assume that what happens outside of their own immediate segment of Jewry shouldn’t concern us. That is a fallacy. A huge one. Especially as it pertains to those of us that are observant. All Jews are ‘brothers’. We are all responsible for each other. We are required to see to the welfare of every Jew regardless of their station in life – as directed by the Torah and its scholars throughout the generations. 

When Jews in one segment of Jewry do bad things we are obligated to call them out in order to negate the bad impression they leave about Judaism as a whole. It doesn’t matter if the bad behavior was by done by a segment of Jewry that we have nothing to do with. 

If for example a Modern Orthodox Jew does something wrong and it becomes public knowledge, the Charedi community has an obligation to call it out. The same thing is true in reverse. We are all part of the same people. When it comes to observant Jewry, it will not do to say that a particular segment of Jewry does not represent my segment - and walk away.

Which brings me to an excellent article by Pinchos Tauman in Tzarich Iyun. The issue is the recent violence by Gerrer Chasidim that took place in Jerusalem on Shabbos a few weeks ago.  For those unfamiliar with that event, here is what happened: 

Friday night. Hundreds of rioters gathered outside the doors, their cries clearly heard inside the Shul. Children clung to their parents, seeking shelter. Helpless adults recited Tehillim in helpless panic. One door is torn down, then another. Rioters unleash their fury, smashing furniture and hurling holy books to the floor, tearing them to shreds. An eight-year-old child looks up at his father and sees his head covered in blood. Nobody knows how the terror will end. After minutes that seem like an eternity, the prayers are answered and baton-carrying officers show up. Ranks of helmet-bearers divide between persecutor and persecuted. 

Here is the money quote: 

Shabbos passed, as did the following night. The sun rose, and with it morning papers were delivered. And then darkness struck back. Though many thousands were aware of the shocking events, you would know nothing of them from reading the Charedi press. A new day dawned, and yesterday’s events were erased from the record.
Charedi dailies—Yated Ne’eman, Hamodia, Hamevaser, and others—made not a single mention of the violence that had swept the Charedi street for close to two days. Placards, pashkevilim, Rabbinic letters that know well how to decry any and all violations of Charedi norms, were silent.
Yesterday, blood was spilled, yet today it’s business as usual. The Rabbinic “shock and dismay” of the type we are so accustomed to in response to religious threats and infractions was entirely absent. No shock, no dismay. 

The obvious question is why? Why the silence? Why not do what you are supposed to do in the face of a massive Chilul HaShem and condemn it in no uncertain terms?

It’s true that eventually there was some condemnations. As noted in another context last week. R’ Uren Reich certainly did.  

In what was an expression of outrage Rabbi Uren Reich said the following: 

(He) does not like when the term “Rasha” is used to loosely, because it loses its meaning. However when a Jew hits another Jew, he truly is a rasha, he is lashed in Bais Din, and does not count toward a minyan.  

There were also belated condemnations by the Rebbes of Vizhnitz, Karlin-Stolin, and Pshevarsk: 

… the Karliner Rebbe said: “Nowadays, people have beat and hit others in the streets, while desecrating Shabbos and desecrating Hashem… how could it be that our own people will do such deeds?

…Every child knows and knows the story that happened to Moshe Rabbeinu who said, ‘Evil man, why should you strike your neighbor?’

…suddenly because of foolish nonsense [people] desecrate Shabbos and hurt others, what kind of image do we show the outside world, while we have such behavior happening within [our community]?”

… The Vizhnitzer Rebbe and Rebbe of Pshevarsk also publicly condemned the behavior, at gatherings with their followers. 

Why it took ten days for these Chasidic Rebbes to react to a major Chilul HaShem is a question that has yet to be addressed. But at least they finally did.

But where was the Agudah? Where indeed was the so-called Charedi press that so quickly decries any and all violations of Charedi norms

If women start wearing Shaitels that are ‘too long’ the condemnations come out fast and furiously. And published immediately in Charedi press - and in Pashkevilles – posters plastered all over the Charedi sections of Charedi strongholds throughout Israel. But here where blood was spilled – nothing.  

 Let me hasten to add that there was a silver lining to all this: 

In the face of this terrible violence, the beautiful face of the simple Jew on the street was revealed in the form of mutual aid, care, and charity. The Charedi public was anything but silent. Hundreds of Jews of all circles and communities risked themselves in protecting victims and property against the violent rioters. Many protected total strangers with their own bodies. Young Kollel students were extracted by anonymous rescuers from the frenzied mob heading toward them, and neighbors and acquaintances volunteered their help in this time of need. Voices of protest were heard everywhere. The Jewish people wrapped the Pnei Menachem community with love and compassion. 

This certainly speaks to the inherent goodness of the Jewish people. When we see our brethren suffering – we act.  Often at risk to our own safety. 

But where was the leadership? Where was the Charedi media? Why the silence in the face of Jewish blood being spilled by ostensibly observant Jews? ...Jews that  ordinarily will go to the ends of the earth to find the perfect Esrog? 

I’m sure the usual suspects will once again accuse me of Charedi bashing. But I am not bashing Charedim. And it isn’t only me discussing this problem. I am just agreeing  with Pinchos Tauman.  Based on the tenor of the article, I have to assume that he is a Charedi in good standing that adheres to all the traditions of the Charedi world. He is just someone that seeks answers to these difficult questions. 

So if anyone wants to complain about ‘Charedi bashing’ they should take it up with Pinchos Tauman. Not me.

There is much more to this article which I urge everyone to read in its entirety. But it is the deafening silence by mainstream Charedi leaders (and the Charedi media) on this issue in contradistinction to their usual quick response to virtually all other matters that affect the Jewish world that is so disturbing to me.