Sunday, December 04, 2022

Right Idea. Wrong Guy!

Naftuli Moster at a 2019 press conference (JTA)
Imagine the following headline: 

‘Kanye West announces the creation of a publication dedicated to fighting antisemitism!’

Is there anyone that would trust this publication as a tool for that purpose? The very idea is laughable. Who in their tight mind would trust an avowed antisemite who said he wants to go ‘Defcon 3 on the Jews’ to publish anything that would fight antisemitism.  No matter how much such a publication is needed, West is obviously the wrong guy to be doing it. By orders of magnitude!

These were among my thoughts upon reading Naftuli Moster’s announcement about the launch in 2023 of ‘Shetl: Haredi free Press’.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not comparing him to Kanye West. That is not how the above analogy should be taken. But such a comparison is not out of the realm of possibility if one listens to his Charedi critics. They have painted him as a ‘monster’! enemy of the Charedi world whose real motive is to destroy it - citing ample ‘evidence’ of his hostility to his former community.

I don’t know Moster. Anything is possible. But I am not so quick to judge him. Maybe he is everything they say he is. Or maybe his motive is what he says it is – to improve the lot of his former community by improving their educational system. To me, however, he is  just a messenger that exposed a huge failing in his former community. A failing that should be corrected. Criticizing him is akin to ‘killing the messenger’.

So  whether Moster is a hero or villain is irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is his message. Which has caused the harsh spotlight of the media to expose the fact that there is little if any Limudei Chol (secular studies) taught in certain Chasidic schools. That is the real issue, not Moster.

That said, the fact that Moster is so reviled in that world will surely make any publication about that world dismissed by them as ‘fake news’ at best if not anti Charedi propaganda - disguised as news.

That a publication like this is a good idea is not in question. At least in my mind. The current crop of Charedi media is nothing moiré than a mouthpiece for their ‘Daas Torah’. They espouse those views without any possibility for dissent. there is no questioning those views. They consider that tantamount to disputing God Himself. 

With respect to the educational situation at hand, virtually all the Charedi media has characterized the attempt to get those schools to offer a Limudei Chol curriculum as existential threat to Judaism itself. Dissent is therefore seen as near blasphemous.

A publication that would present an alternate view is therefore desperately needed. But it can’t be Moster behind it.  His reputation as ‘the devil’ will end up with a complete rejection of that publication. The very people that need to read it the most will reject it without ever looking at what’s in it.

I like to think that the things I say are very much in concert with what a paper like that might say. But I know very well that those who would benefit most from my views generally do not read what I have to say. In the rare circumstance where someone might happen upon one of my posts, it is very likely to be painted with the same negative brush Moster is painted with. Besides, I don’t have anywhere near the reach a publication like this would likely have.    

At the end of the day, Moster’s idea is a very good one. A needed one. But he is just the wrong guy to do it. Regardless of how beneficial it might in reality be - it will never be trusted. In fact I think it will surely be banned. That would probably be true no matter who was behind it. But with Moster behind the wheel, its a slam dunk!