Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Antisemtism and the Anti Rally Letter

Mir (USA) Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Elya Brudny (VIN)
There are still plenty of amtisemties in the world. More than I had ever imagined even now in the post Holocaust era. It sickens me the core that there are people here in America today that are as hate filled as pre Holocaust Europeans. Some of them being mainstream political conservatives.

One such individual is conservative political commentator Candace Owens. As reported by VIN

Owens has repeatedly made anti-Israel and borderline antisemitic comments, including a social media post suggesting that Israel is guilty of genocide… 

Last week Owens expressed heavily anti-Jewish sentiments, falsely claiming that Neturei Karta represent mainstream Charedim, Israel forces Muslims to live in ghettos, and Jews themselves are responsible for antisemitism.

Owens invoked Neturei Karta as an example that ‘Charedim’ are opposed to Israel as a Jewish state… 

(I)n bizarre rant, Candace Owens calls Mein Kampf a ‘historical textbook’, defends sale of antisemitic film… 

What makes those reprehensible comments stand out is that she is a columnist for the Daily Wire, a conservative publication founded by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, a Kipa wearing Orthodox Jew.

While I am absolutely convinced that the majority of the American people on both the right and the left do not agree with Owens, .It was disheartening to see someone whose conservative views I would generally agree with spew such antisemitic rhetoric.

This is why the March for Israel was so important.  The nearly 300,000 people that attended made a very strong case for the moral rectitude of Israel's war with Hamas, rejecting a cease fire, and expressing concern over the kind of violence that might be generated by the vile antisemitic rhetoric uttered by a popular conservative commentator. The positive way in which the mainstream broadcast media portrayed that March surely reinforced the positive views of  the millions of American viewers of those broadcasts.

This just one reason that event was so important. And why it was imperative that all segments of Jewry were represented there. So that the ‘Candace Owens’ of the world are relegated to the trash heap of history where they belong. The majority of the American people know the difference between right and wrong and will not be intimated by the false narratives of our enemies.  This brings me to another VIN article: 

(A) letter was signed by HaRav Elya Brudny, Rosh Yeshivas Mir, HaRav Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Yeshivas Beis Medrash Govoha, HaRav Yerucham Olshin, Rosh Yeshiva Beis Medrash Govoha, HaRav Yitzchak Sorotzkin, Rosh Yeshiva Lakewood Mesivta, and HaRav Yaakov Horowitz, Rosh Yeshiva Viyalipoel… 

(Which in part reads as follows). 

Bnei Torah… should be pained by the pain of Yisrael and grab hold of the ‘craft of our forefathers’ – the Kol Kol Yaakov – by increasing Kol Torah and tefillah, to increase our עסק בתורה and increase our cries and pleas to Hashem Yisbarach that He should save us from the tzarah with His great mercy.”

“However… we are conveying our opinion that no one who is ‘חרד לדבר ה’ should participate in the general rally that is being held, as its organizers and participants are not משלומי אמוני ישראל

And therefore, all who fear the word of Hashem should not participate in this rally but should act differently – לא בחיל ולא בכח כי אם ברוחי אמר ה’ צבקות – by increasing Torah and tefillah and strengthening our emunah and bitachon in Hakadosh Baruch Hu and doing teshuvah for our faults. We should fulfill עת צרה היא ליעקב וממנה יושע במהרה בימינו.” 

First of all, I resent that the right wing Yeshiva world has co-opted for themselves the phrase Chareid L’Dvar HaShem - fearing the word of God. As though only they are like that. I too fear the word of God and I am certainly not right wing. And there are many others like me. 

Be that as it may, the idea of focusing on improving our Bein Adam L’Makom - which is esstntially the message of this letter, once again shows that the right wing’s version of being Chareid L’Dvar HaShem is primarily in the area of ritual observance. Nothing at all to with Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. 

Now I’m sure that they would concede that Bein Adam L’Chaveiro is important. But that is not what they emphasized here as a remedy to what ails us. But as they agree to the importance of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro and intended it as part of their message - it seems that they would apply it only to themselves. That is what this letter reveals.  

It grieves me to no end that their focus is only on the Bein Adam L’Makom of ‘increasing Torah and tefillah and strengthening our emunah and bitachon in Hakadosh Baruch Hu. and doing teshuvah for our faults’. They may counter that meant Bein Adam L’Chavero too. But that is clealry not how that letter reads. 

The attitude of divisiveness at a time when unity is needed. Yes, many people – perhaps the majority –that attended were not observant. But that these Rabbonim insist on separating themselves from the rest of Klal Yisreol at a time when we are all in increased danger of attack is in my view unconscionable .

Not only that, but they missed a golden opportunity to show non observat Jews that they actually care about the rest of Jewry instead of caring only about their own spirituality.

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.  It is true that I have some profound differences with the right on matters of Hashkafa. Nevertheless, I have always respected them as rabbinic leaders. But in this instance, they are not leading. They are withdrawing. They do not physically stand with the rest of Klal Yisroel despite their expressed pain over their suffering.

It is not enough to feel pain from a distance. And it is certainly not enough to turn inward when our people need public support. This letter falls far short of that.  If there was ever a Horaas Shah - an Eis Laasos to change from the conventional Charedi wisdom of never joining fellow Jews that are not Orthodox, this is it.

Sadly, it appears that Agudah’s lukewarm support of the rally as per consultation with their Moetzes was retracted in the last minute. Apparently their Moetzes changed their minds after being apprised of who will be addressing that event. Since some of the speakers represent groups that are anti Halachic. They did not think it appropriate for their students to attend. 

Apparently they feel that the solidarity with the entirety of the Jewish people at a time of an existential crises is overridden by the appearance of religious Jews under those circumstances.  What about the physical Hishtadlus that must accompany our spiritual Hishtadlus? I guess they believe the upcoming Agudah convention will suffice. I'm sure Daas Torah will be front and center at that event. But so too will be their obvious Pirud - separation from the rest of our people at a time of our greatest need since the Holocaust.

It’s just too bad that the rabbinic cosigners of this letter have outsized influence in the right wing Yeshiva world. In my view by urging their people not to attend the rally, they have abdicated any claim to leadership.