Burning down our own neighborhood
I’m delighted to have been out of Eretz Yisrael during the prelude to last week’s scheduled Gay March of Pride. The closest I came to the action was the morning I could not get through to my office because the phone lines were down as a consequence of the previous night’s fires.
The rioting revealed our community at its weakest. The mark of a Jew shaped by the Torah is the extent to which his sechel rules over his emotions and desires. That quality was notable primarily by its absence last week.
Using one’s sechel requires matching means to goals, and recognizing that improper means can damage, sometimes irreparably, the best of causes. Even when the goal is achieved the damage caused by poorly chosen means can sometimes outweigh any possible gain.
An extreme response, for instance, almost inevitably ensures that one’s message will be lost and the focus of public attention shift to the messenger and the impropriety of his actions. Prior to the onset of the rioting, many secular Jews viewed this particular march in this particular place as a deliberate affront to the sensibilities of Jerusalem’s residents.
But as soon as the garbage cans started going up in flames, all public discussion switched from the propriety of the parade to that of the response, and the chareidi community found itself on public trial. Many of the relevant governmental bodies opposed the parade for their own reasons, but they could not appear to be intimidated by threats of violence.
A massive demonstration, such as that against the Supreme Court’s trampling on all religious values, would have made clear that the kedushah of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael are not matters of indifference to the Torah community. And it would have enjoyed a great deal of public sympathy. But that sympathy was wantonly squandered.
Another aspect of sechel is the recognition that almost any course in life involves balancing competing values. In the case of the parade, for instance, the necessity of protesting the parade had to be weighed against the impact on the image of Torah in the world from the means chosen to make that protest. In addition, there is almost always a balance between short-term goals and long-range consequences. The capacity to keep both in mind is the hallmark of a person guided by his sechel.
All the gedolei Yisrael about whom I have written thought constantly about the image of Torah and Torah Jews in the world. It is hard to imagine that last week’s rioters gave a moment’s thought to such concerns. I’m old enough to remember the urban riots that swept across America in the early ’60s. At the time, the most frequently asked question was: What kind of people burn down their own neighborhoods? Now, that question is being asked about those garbed as Torah Jews.
If the rioters were motivated solely by righteous zeal, they might at least have commanded some respect. But it is all too clear that their motivations lack the purity required of a Pinchas. When youth in Ramat Beit Shemesh stone Egged buses carrying other chareidi passengers because Egged has failed to institute separate seating – as if a public company were obligated to impose chareidi standards of tznius for reasons other than its own economic gain – can secular Jews be blamed for thinking that rock-throwing is a form of chareidi sport for which any pretext will do?
Yair Erlanger in Ha’aretz last Friday quoted one foreign student at a major Jerusalem yeshiva, “Its not so bad for the young people to enjoy themselves a little. The main thing is that the parade is stopped.” Another told him, “We all have a common goal: to stop the parade and to have some fun.” Apparently it did not occur to either of these young men, who were clearly delighted with their good fortune to be in Jerusalem at such an exciting time, that their talk of “enjoyment” and “fun” discredits the cause they support.
Besides the image of Torah Jewry, there was another victim last week: Klal Yisrael. The failures of the war in Lebanon engendered a great deal of soul-searching on the part of many Israelis. Yair Sheleg, writing in Ha’aretz of all places, argued that a decadent society is ill-equipped to confront ongoing threats to its existence. And Ari Shavit railed against the country’s elites for having made money the measure of all things, and imagining that Tel Aviv requires no more of its citizens to survive than does Manhattan.
The societal elites, in Shavit’s view, have destroyed all sources of national will, all belief in the justice of Israel’s cause. And, he argues, precisely upon such national will does Israel’s long-term security depend.
These secular writers have diagnosed the disease. But they can offer no cure, for national will is not a commodity that can be ordered off the shelf. Nor can it be reduced to another line in the budget law. No amount of money can create national will.
Nothing less that an account of why it matters whether the Jewish people continue to exist — a description of our national mission, and how and why it is linked to the small sliver of land that we inhabit — is required. Absent that Israelis with the talents and wherewithal to do so will opt for a less threatening place to live.
The Torah offers what secular Israel so desperately needs. Last week’s events, however, make it less likely that secular Jews will seek the answers to their admitted spiritual malaise from us and not in some ashram in India. And that is a tragedy for all of us.
And for the Torah community, it is no less a tragedy that concepts like Kiddush Hashem and Klal Yisrael never entered the minds of last week’s rioters. They are not even on their radar screen.
For the rest of us, it is time to ask: Why not?
Published in today’s Mishpacha magazine.
So where are the gedolim and roshei yeshiva? How come we haven’t heard this message from them? Why didn’t they speak up and say loud and clear this behavior is not acceptable? Their silence leads many to believe that they are not against this behavior.
Some thought should, perhaps, be given to the reasons why portions of our youth are so callous of basic derech eretz, the concept of chillul hashem and the daas torah to which they pay lip service.
If the Torah offers what secular Jews so desperately need, why is it that the ‘Torah observant Jews’ acted as they did during the riots? Maybe the community they belong to is not necessarily ‘Torah observant’; rather, it is a society that likes wearing black and having beards.
Judaism is more than sitting in kollel, wearing black and growing a beard.
It is also about personal responsibility (e.g. how one plans on supporting his family), communal responsibility (e.g. how will my acquaintances support their families, who will fight in the army), getting along with others, not constantly bickering over nonsense (see the Israeli politicians – including the Charedi ones) and respecting other people and their ideas and ideals.
Unfortunately, many of these are sorely lacking in the Chareidi community – and for some reason, there has been no ‘cheshbon hanefesh’ here. This is a concept exceedingly difficult for Americans to grasp, as they cannot imagine frum Jews acting in such a way, but unfortunately, it is true. Until the Chareidi community looks at themselves in a sincere way, and tries to determine what went wrong and how to fix it, they are destined to be a community that is not one that G-d is proud of.
Cogently presented article, critical points. Having excluded inanities like “Sinat Chinam” to the nice policeman, or armchair analysis of haredi disaffection toward “social engagement” with the sincere powers that be, this presentation cuts to the chase and allows us to examine the real issues.
Why were the Gedolai Hador and the Roshei Yeshiva silent during the riots. It was not a one time occurrence? The papers report that some of the non “eida chareidis” charedi leaders encouraged these demonstartions of protest
The Gerrer Rebbe forbade his chasidim from participating in the protests nor did he allow Hamodia, the Agudas Yisroel newspaper to publish any details of the issue. Halevai(were is so) that othere would have follwed his lead.
They chose to riot because rioting WORKS. They learned this fact from the Arabs who always riot, and thus successfully prevent Jews from praying on Har Habayit. In the end the strategy came pretty close to working. The police did say they wanted to cancel the parade, before the compromise reached at the end regarding Givat Ram.
At the same time it is undeniably embarrassing that religious Jews are behaving in such a manner.
You win with the parade, you lose with the secular opinion of charedim – maybe it’s a net win overall? Even if you don’t think so, apparently a lot of (rationally motivated!) charedim did.
As an outsider, may I still say Yishar Koach? I don’t know any of the rioters, so I don’t know if Kiddush Hashem was on their mind or not. However, having grown up Chiloni in Israel, I do know how Chiloni society perceives this. As far as Chiloni respect for Torah (and Charedim) is concerned, a riot like this undoes a lot of Chesed activity.
Marty, you got it right. The Gedolei Yisroel wanted riots, because–as Shlomo correctly noted–force is the only language this callous, anti-religious band of thugs in the Israeli Government understand.
In this week’s Mispacha magazine (Hebrew version), there is a retrospective article on the battle against the mixed-gender swimming in Jerusalem in the 1950’s.
The anti-religious mayor of Jerusalem at the time, Gershon Agron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gershon_Agron), insisted on pushing this immoral abomination on the Hareidi neighborhood of Meah Shearim, totally disregarding the “respectable” entreaties of their Rabbinical leaders.
Having no other choice, the most prominent Torah authorities of the time, headed by the Rav of Brisk, organized a demonstration of 50,000 people. There was plenty of “violence,” as Police clashed with protesters, as can be seen from the vintage photos in the article.
And…the BADAT”Z of the Edah HaChaReiDis, led Rav Jungreis, convened a Kabbalistic tribunal and implemented a “PulSa DeNurah”–DEATH SENTENCE–against Mayor Agron, which resulted in his demise a short tome later. His successor Mordechai Ish-Shalom, was warned that, if he continued with the construction of the mixed swimming pool, he would suffer the same fate.
Now, that’s what I call REAL VIOLENCE!
So, how is this possible? Wasn’t this a Chilul HaShem? didn’t this “turn-off” the secular public and discourage them from returning to Judaism?
Obviously,the Gedolei Torah who led this mass protest did not think so. They felt there was no choice, because the Israeli secular leadership are not “mentschen” who will respond to an appeal to “do the right thing.”–They’re a bunch of self-aggrandizing corrupt thugs, who understand only one thing: force!
The great Rebbe of Sanz used to say that an Am Haaretz doesn’t understand that a Rabbi can issue two contradictory rulings, depending on the circumstances. An Am HaaRetz demands “consistency,” while a Talmid ChaCham understands that HaLaCha is meaningless without context.
Finally, as we approach Chanukah, we should bear in mind that Matisyohu and his five sons, the Macabees, did not eschew violence. Matisyohu Kohen Godol stabbed the Jew who dared to step forward in the town of Modiin and volunteer to slaughter the pig on the altar of the Greek idol.
Now let’s understand that, in Greek-ruled Palestine, the action of that traitorous Jew was perfectly legal, and he was not physically harming Matisyohu in any way. He was engaging in his own personal “freedom.”–doing his “own thing.” Yet, we all light the Chanukah candles and celebrate the feats of the Macabees, including Matisyohu who stabbed this Jew, and including a “violent revolution that defeated the Greek/Syrian armies who controlled Palestine.
The moral of the story is that Daas Torah is very different than Daas BaAl HaBaYis. We may think that “violence” is terrible, while the Torah may demand otherwise.
…And, in fact, this very “violence” that has caused so much hand-wringing on the part of so many, has engendered real admiration among religious people around the world who are dismayed at the limp-wristed, milquetoast response of their leaders to the agressive march of homosexual activism in their communities.
This was an article that needed to be written, but I’m a little startled that it seems to only present the issue of wrongdoing in terms of its being counterproductive and sullying for the image and reputation of the Torah. If that is the only fault and not something intrinsically wrong, how are we different from the only kinds of Arab condemnation of Palestinian terrorism we see; “It isn’t helping our cause?”
I’m certainly willing to believe that R. Rosenblum personally considers these behaviors intrinsically wrong, even if in some outlandish scenario it would not have changed the conversation, but chose not to highlight this for his audience. After all, this form of tochacha may be all that would be listened to.
Nevertheless, I have no idea if this is what he feels. It certainly is not even implied! I find that disappointing.
It’s possible there has been no condemnation of the rioters for the simple reason that the rioters’ actions do not differ very much from those of our heroes of previous generations: No doubt many years ago those Hellenist moderns cringed with embarrassment as ragtag groups of Hasmoneans burnt tires, and caused murder and mayhem across Judea. Three hundred years later, the fourteenth of Adar, bands of uncivilized black-hatted zealots caused massive Hillul Hashem by acting as bloodthirsty savages throughout the Persian Empire. To this day there has been neither condemnation nor acknowledgement of counterproductiveness of their actions. Take the founding of the State of Israel too. If only this would have been brought about through letters to the editor and blog postings. We would have avoided the world’s hatred and spared ourselves much grief.
I agree that “it is no less a tragedy that concepts like Kiddush Hashem and Klal Yisrael never entered the minds of last week’s rioters”. As Rabbi Grylak wrote in the Hamishpocha as well, the charedi community needs to see why the educational system allowed this to happen–even if it is only a few bad apples.
In “Two Different Responses”(May, 2006), Rabbi Rosenblum wrote regarding a different issue(I understand that they can’t be compared):
“Yet it still may be that rabbinic authorities living in a majority non-Jewish world are much more sensitized to the way the Torah and Torah Jews are viewed by the general public than are those in Israel, where even current events take place against a backdrop of more than a 100 years of bitterly fought battles between the old yishuv and the Zionist movement.
The more self-enclosed a community, it seems, the less concern with the image projected to the outside world…”
I understand that the Israeli charedi community may be “self-enclosed”, but it should adopt at least some of the Hirschian and other’s weltanschauung that allows it to be at least somewhat concerned about its image in the broader community.
Rabbi Rosenblum’s article has restored some of my faith in the charedi community in the face of some amount of silence immediately after this issue, and I thank him for writing it.
From what I heard, stopping the parade by any means was the goal. As others mention, this behavior was not denounced by the gedolim. And I would bet, most of the readers here think the riots were just and were very pleased it caused the cancellation of the parade.
I was happy that no one killed anybody
and over here there weren’t too many reports of
Jews hurling viciouse verbal abuse-just that one guy who
showed up at the rally-it could have been worse
but what did disturb me is I heard that there were rabbi’s
seeking help from xtians and msl’ms on this issue
I mean going to the people who would
physically and spiritually
in order to stop the gay parade
doesn’t seem like a Kaddush HaSh-m to me
“So where are the gedolim and roshei yeshiva? How come we haven’t heard this message from them?”
“Why were the Gedolai Hador and the Roshei Yeshiva silent during the riots”
– Your questions assume that rabbis’ pleas would be effective. if these people would be the type to listen to rabbis, they might also be the type to act like mentschen in the first place. this is not about rabbis. if rabbis have to tell people to behave like human beings we have much bigger issues, that rabbis can’t solve.
“it is undeniably embarrassing that religious Jews are behaving in such a manner”
– is it surprising?
Superb article-There is no doubt IMO that the Charedi and RZ worlds missed an opportunity for Kiddush HaShem on a huge scale and instead the Chillul HaShem described in the article was the result.
Thank you for writing and publishing this article. From my vantage point, there are far too many people who look to justify terrible behavior just because those with the terrible, criminal behavior are “frum.” When this happens, I’d say we continue to encourage horrific behavior rather than correct it.
Rabbi Jonathan Rosenbloom is a talented publicist for Charedei positions, and I doubt that he would take a position that had not been vetted by Chareidi insiders. Thus, it is good to hear that the community is reflecting on its reaction to the Gay Parade. R. Rosenbloom’s article is a good beginning but I hope that it can be followed by true soul searching. As it stands, the article takes a utilitarian position with regard to the Chareida violence. It was counterproductive; it didn’t serve the interests of the Chareidi community. These are the sort arguments we hear from “moderate Palestinians” and which we find unacceptable.
R. Rosenblooms speaks of “rioters” who seem to have invaded Chareidi communities from outer space. The community accepts no responsibility for those acting in its midst. In fact, violence is a problem in the Chareidi community and its causes have to be explored, even if that causes pain. The violent attempts to resolve leadership issues at the prominent Ponevitz Yeshiva show that this is a problem facing the Chareidi community at its highest levels.
R. Rosenbloom names prominent secular Israeli columnists who are open to asking whether they have lost the way, and worries that they will now be less inclined to accept answers from the Chareidi community he represents. These fears are well founded, but this is not what R. Rosenbloom should be worried about. Rambam in hilkhot teshuva writes that the worst punishment that Gd can mete out is to withdraw the capacity for doing tshuva (repentance). Unless R. Rosenbloom, as a representative of the Chareidi world, is prepared to take his critique beyond where it currently is, I would be inclined to think that the Chareidim have been afflicted by this punishment.
“A massive demonstration, such as that against the Supreme Court’s trampling on all religious values, would have made clear that the kedushah of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael are not matters of indifference to the Torah community. And it would have enjoyed a great deal of public sympathy.”
Yes, yes, very nice, but it would not have stopped the parade (ask the people expelled from Gush Katif what public sympathy achieved for them after their exemplary behavior to the police and the army) and I don’t think the Shmagatz, the press or the Israeli government cares about “kedushah of Eretz Israel and Am Israel” or about what the Torah community thinks about it. Perhaps stopping the parade outweighed the loss of a “great deal of public sympathy.” Maybe the gedolim found the Kiddush Hashem calculus here “too murky” (to quote R’ Rosenblum’s memorable phrase regarding another issue). Or maybe, as JZ pointed out, burning tires wasn’t much different from what the Hashmonaim did (actually a lot less violent). Why does Rabbi Rosenblum assume that public sympathy is more important than stopping the parade?
“Last week’s events, however, make it less likely that secular Jews will seek the answers to their admitted spiritual malaise from us and not in some ashram in India. And that is a tragedy for all of us.”
Very true, but place the blame where it belongs, on the Israeli secular society and its elites, led by the Shmagatz who have allowed the matters to deteriorate to this point.
“And for the Torah community, it is no less a tragedy that concepts like Kiddush Hashem and Klal Yisrael never entered the minds of last week’s rioters.”
I’m not so sure why R’ Rosenblum makes such a blanket generalization. He brings the following as a proof: “When youth in Ramat Beit Shemesh stone Egged buses carrying other chareidi passengers because Egged has failed to institute separate seating.” But how does one generalize from that one instance? Perhaps some of the rioters were rioting l’shem shamaim. It’s certainly not so farfetched given the issue involved.
“Burning down our own neighborhood”
Actually, I think this minimized chilul hashem. It would have certainly been worse if the secular neighborhoods would have been burnt by the charedim. Perhaps this was a calculated decision on the rioter’s part?
I object tothe term “rioters.” It is a loaded word.
“protestors” or “demonstrators’ are, I believe, the more appropriate terms.
“Your questions assume that rabbis’ pleas would be effective. if these people would be the type to listen to rabbis, they might also be the type to act like mentschen”
So why do we blame the pope(lhavdil elef havdolos) for not taking a stand during the Holocaust? Would the Nazis have listened to him?
Hillel, you’re right, of course. I was merely using the terms employed in the article and by those who agreed with it.
No matter the reason, how could any of us be “delighted” at being outside of Israel?
As much as I have always liked Jonathan Rosenblum’s writings, both for its rich content and great writing style, I have to disagree with him this time. I understand what he is saying, that the religious Jewish community needs to always conduct itself with the kind of dignity worth aspiring to, but sometimes there is a line that just cannot be crossed, and these gay parade marchers crossed that line. Israel is the most holy land in all the world; we did not cry for our return to it for 2,000 years and then miraculously gain it back so that people with perverted lifestyles, desperate for attention and anxious to rebel against authority could flaunt their disgusting immorality through religious neighborhoods. Why did these people have to target the Jews? Let them march in Rome. Better yet, let them try to march in Mecca, and see how many miliseconds pass before their parade comes to a screeching halt.
>“protestors” or “demonstrators’ are, I believe, the more appropriate terms.
Maybe we should call them “tzaddikim” while we’re at it.
Jonathan Rosenblum and Rabbi Grylak of Mishpacha Magazine are to be commended for writing about the failure of the chareidi educational system in Israel. However, it is very disappointing that the leadership doesn’t do anything . Why are the leaders all in their 90’s? Are they really running the chareidi world?
50 years after mixed swimming was introduced in Jerusalem — there are many swimming pools where men and women swim together now — at hotels and schools and town pools. And yet amazingly the world has not ended. Perhaps the rabbis and the charedim have exaggerated the threat of the gays, the same way they overstated the threat of mixed swimming. Judaism will continue and the world will not end even if there is a gay parade or a gay rally.
Just an afterthought:
Jonathan wrote: “A massive demonstration….would have made clear…”
There was never any chance that such a massive demonstration would materialize, since, as everone in Jerusalem knows, the Gerer Rebbe forbad it. The Rebbe even forbad Hamodea from writing a single word about the GayParade and the weeklong protests. (The Hamodea, in its Weekly Edition this week, defends its non-reporting.)
Rav Eliashiv was caught between the Gerer Rebbe, who didn’t want the homosexual issue to be raised in public, and Rav Weiss of the BADAT”Z, who demanded a public Mechaah. Rav Eliashiv finally decided in favor of the demonstration, sans Ger.
Since the Gerer Rebbe heavily influences Agudath Israel, they were mostly silent.
So, there was never a possibility of a “massive demonstration.” All that remained was action by followers of Rav Eliashiv and other “LitVishe” leaders, coordinated with protests by the Chareidi/Leumi community.
Well said, Raymond, and I agree.
As much as we all condemn the murder and mayhem that occurred in the riots in American cities in the 1960s, we still looked to the underlying root cause – overt discrimination against blacks in nearly all sectors of American life since the Civil War.
This essay does not attempt to do that. What is the reason for the rage? – a rage by the way that was unaccompanied by murder or looting. This was far more of a protest than a riot.
The reasons for the protest are the rage against a homosexual movement that has hijacked Western society. AIDS, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, gay marriage, licentiousness, destruction of the family.
Where are the leaders? Where are the rabbis? When the people feel they are being properly led, there is no need for street protests. But where there is a failure of leadership, people take to the streets.
Property damage is wrong. But Rosenblum writes an easy sermon. The harder sermon to preach is the failure of secular and religious leaders to address the growing threat of the homosexual culture.
“50 years after mixed swimming was introduced in Jerusalem—there are many swimming pools where men and women swim together now—at hotels and schools and town pools. And yet amazingly the world has not ended. ”
– “the world has not ended” ?? what’s your proof that the tough plight we are in is not affected by things like this?
Young men tend to want to be physically active, even agressive. Most western cultures use sports and other leisure activities as an outlet for that.
Do Charedi men in Jerusalem have such outlets, or would it be considered Bitul Torah (wasting time when you should be studying Torah)? If the second, maybe a different outlet for physical activity will reduce riots when they are inappropriate (without getting into the argument of whether they were inappropriate in this case).
Well, one thing I can guarantee you: The demonstration and (dubious) “curse” Hillel is so proud of accomplished exactly nothing vis a vis mixed swimming, or any other kind of immorality, in Israel. So Meah Shearim wasn’t “forced” (whatever that means) to have a pool. And Tel Aviv?
I think it’s embarrasing, by the way, that a supposedly educated Jew wouldn’t know that Purim took place centuries *before*, not *after*, Chanukah.
You wrote–“…the world has not ended.”
This brought back memories of New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who intoduced the first “Gay Rights” bill in the Nation and said–one year after the bill was passed by the New York City Council–“The sky has not fallen!”
Well, he was right. The sky didn’t fall, but the sky-high World Trade Center buildings did fall–on 9-11–a few years later.
Something to think about.
I really don’t know what daas torah says about this situation. None of us have spoken with Rav Eliashev, or with the Gerrer Rebbe, or with anyone from Baadatz. Most of what has been published is what the journalist thinks that these g’dolim think. However, I do think that Reb Rosenblum is wrong when he bases his analysis on chillul hashem and kiddush hashem in the eyes of the secular majority. The only time that this majority looks kindly on the charedi community is when the charedi community doesn’t express any opinion. Look, for example, at Rav Schach, ztz”l. In the eyes of most secular folk, he was some sort of evil political manipulator, when in fact he was by all accounts a gentle tzaddik. Why this disconnect? It seems to be because he actually tried to do something; he actually fought for Torah. In summary, if the charedi community fights for Torha, it is inevitable that this will be seen negatively in the eyes of the secular community.
Why does the sky have to fall for the aggressive homosexual agenda to be wrong? What is good and evil is layed out very clearly in the Torah, and it is up to us to follow it. Let G-d worry about the external consequences.
“Look, for example, at Rav Schach, ztz”l. In the eyes of most secular folk, he was some sort of evil political manipulator, when in fact he was by all accounts a gentle tzaddik. Why this disconnect? It seems to be because he actually tried to do something; he actually fought for Torah.”
– while not chas v’shalom saying anything about his gadlus, I don’t know that “gentle tzadik” is davka the most apt way to describe Rav Schach, ztz”l. He definitely took a kanous’dikeh line on things. he was in essence willing to sacrifice his name and put up with the shmutz inevitably thrown at politically activite figures, apparently because he felt it was worth ot for the cause. others like R’ Shlomo Zalman did not see their role as political or otherwise couldn’t personally tolerate the messiness entailed. But given Rav Schach’s actions on behalf of his shitos it is surely no surprise he had vociferous detractors.