The Blame Game

Even without the recent spate of well-warranted negative media attention towards Orthodox Jews, the cynical misuse of a recent murder in Tel Aviv for further Charedi-bashing is little surprise. It is, nonetheless, worthy of note. With even a cursory examination of the facts, it becomes clear that those whom the GBLT community seek to blame are a politically-convenient target, rather than those whom the police might do well to investigate.

Here is what we know. A single shooter, masked and dressed entirely in black, entered a GBLT youth center in Tel-Aviv and opened fire. After killing two teenagers and wounding over a dozen others, he ran back out and disappeared into the streets of the city. It is reasonable to suspect that the killer chose his target in advance, having planned to enter with his features already disguised, shoot, and run. So the police are looking for a person who knew something about the “scene” in Tel-Aviv, knew that this was a youth center, and chose that youth center as a target.

In one instance after another of mass shootings, the killer has imagined himself rejected by the target group. This is especially true of teenage (e.g. Columbine) and college-age (e.g. Virginia Tech) shooters, but is equally true of the man responsible for the shooting at a Pittsburgh fitness center last week. Mass shootings infrequently target those pursuing an alternate, not to say deviant, lifestyle as a group — in one exceptional case, the man’s last name was “Gay” and he blamed that community for the teasing he endured.

There has also never been a mass shooting carried out by an Orthodox Jew, and no murder under rabbinic encouragement — despite the frequent accusations made following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, which were disavowed by the killer himself. [The sole exception to the above is the murder of the wife of a Reform Rabbi in New Jersey, whose husband is now serving 30 to life for arranging her death.] As a more honest voice said in the wake of the Rabin assassination, “Any rational review of murder statistics would show that orthodox Jews do not contribute their share of transgressors to this group.”

Furthermore, despite the obvious and well-known opposition by Orthodox Rabbis to the pursuit of lifestyle choices in opposition to Torah guidelines, the “alternate” community in Israel has enjoyed relative peace compared to those in other countries. A GBLT spokesman quoted in Yediot said that overall, Israel “has not yet reached the violence level against the gay community seen in the US and the rest of the world.”

Given all of the above, you would expect that police would actually have found and interrogated the shooter before “gay activists” would start pointing fingers at Charedi rabbis. As I said at the outset, the premature blame-throwing is a matter of political expediency, and little more.

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24 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    Rabbi Menken is, of course, correct in much of what he says. It is absurd and unfair to condemn Chareidim for speaking out against this lifestyle.

    However, for many of us, what is truly disturbing is that we would not be shocked if the murderer (chas v’sholom) were Chareidi. We seem to be witnessing a community getting out of hand.

    We are seeing more and more acts of violence. Young men who are unemployed, bored, and looking for meaning in their lives — rebelling in their own neighborhood, disregarding the words of their rabbonim.

    Yes, we should object to the baseless accusations in the media. But we must take stock in what this community is becoming — that is the sad and shocking part of the situation.

  2. grad says:

    True, it is unfair to attack chareidim when there is no evidence that a chareidi was involved, but we do have to think about WHY people are looking at us. First of all, when this type of attack happens, it’s not unreasonable to think that there might have been religious motivation of some sort- kind of like when abortionists are murdered, everyone starts looking at local churches. Also, we have to be careful about what we say in regards to these kinds of things. Yes, we must condemn the act, but we cannot express hatred for the people- words, especially those of Rabbonim, get taken out of context, people paskin halacha by themselves based on misinformation, and bad things happen. I hope the police catch this guy soon, and based on what we know, it seems that this attack was NOT religiously motivated. But that doesn’t get us off the hook for some serious cheshbon nefesh…

  3. CJ Srullowitz says:

    “There has also never been a mass shooting carried out by an Orthodox Jew.” – Rabbi Y. Menken

    Untrue. Baruch Goldstein carried out a mass shooting of Arabs several years back. While Rabbi Menken is correct that society should not jump to conclusions, it is not inconceivable, as Andrew points out, that a Chareidi is responsible.

  4. Esther says:

    So, grad (#2), by the same token, we do have to think about WHY the world is looking at Israel, no? Perhaps the Palestinians are right and Israel is the bully of the Middle East? My point is that anti-Chareidiism is as baseless and cruel as anti-Semitism.

  5. tzippi says:

    3: true. But, there was near universal condemnation of the act. And as for those who defended not just the man he was till that day but the act itself, there was a backstory they maintained that real or not is very telling of how much an anathema such acts are, to the entire community.

  6. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    #3: The investigation of the shooting in the Me’arat Hamachpela in ’94 was very spotty and failed to take into account Arab eyewitnesses who claimed there was more than one shooter. It was not physically possible for Goldstein to have fired all those bullets. It has been suggested that from the evidence Goldstein fired at the legs of the Arabs. A leftist retired Supreme Court “Justice” led and controlled the investigation. Independent sources claim that Goldstein was set up to be the fall guy. The operation was intended to blacken the name of the Jews of Hevron and force their removal. It failed because of Rav Goren and other rabbis who presented a united front against government’s incitement.

  7. Raymond says:

    The reason why a significant portion of the gay community has an almost visceral animosity toward Orthodox Jews is really the same reason why the Political Left shares that same hatred: because the Torah’s eternal moral values stands in the way of people inventing their own morality or simply getting rid of morality altogether. By characterizing traditional, Orthodox Jews as intolerant, potential murderers, those living an immoral lifestyle can somehow feel vindicated for rebelling against Torah values.

    As for the specific case of the shooting in that gay bar that took place, I wonder why nobody has yet supposed that that was the action of some islamofascist terrorist, as murdering people is their way of dealing with issues that they cannot handle. And as for the existence in Israel of gay bars themselves, I am not sure that Jews have prayed for thousands of years to have their land back, only to have gay bars present in the Holy Land. Still, education rather than force is a far more effective tool in the long run in getting people to change their undesireable behaviors.

  8. sharona says:

    I think what secular and religious Jews should do is come and learn together so we develope both ahavas Torah and Yisrael. Kind of like partners in torah. This way, we use it to unite

  9. ilana says:

    We probably should not forget that a hareidi Jew stabbed three participants in the 2005 pride parade in Jerusalem, and was convicted of attempted murder.

    However, there does NOT seem to be evidence that the recent attack on the youth center was religiously motivated, and the police are casting their net much wider than the religious community.

  10. Nachum says:

    Yehoshua Friedman: I admire Dr. Goldstein greatly myself (let’s leave aside discussion of his final act for this forum), but let’s not fool ourselves: Of course he did it. Whether he snapped (which means you can’t really blame him) or had a good reason, it’s pretty clear.

    Esther: Not at all. The last few weeks have undeniably seen a whole lot of Charedi violence, while Israel- for those who choose to look at the facts- is clearly the “good guy” when it comes to its actions against Arabs. R’ Menken has a point when it comes to how non-Charedim are condemning Charedim here without evidence, but he’s missing the lesson Charedim should be taking for themselves.

  11. Yaakov Menken says:

    Ilana and Nachum are both making a mistake. There is criticism that is justified, partially-justified, and unjustified. The fact that Rabbis, especially Sephardic Chachamim, have said that homosexuality is an abomination, a plague, a death-penalty offense in Biblical law, does not implicate them in the least.

    The knife-attacker in Jerusalem became unhinged, not by the existence of homosexuality, but by the fact that it was being flaunted with a parade down the streets of the Holy City (comparable to the difference between eating pork and holding a pork-eaters parade). B”H he didn’t have the tools necessary to do the job. The police are not “casting their net much wider than” the Orthodox, as if this were the center of the investigation. There is little to no reason to give Orthodox groups special attention.

    Oddly enough, Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz said much the same. Obviously, not everything he says is agreeable — to the modern Israeli, special concern for other Jews is “racism” and “xenophobia”, and allegiance to the Torah is “homophobia.” [No, I’m not saying there isn’t racism in the Orthodox community. That’s a topic for another time.]

    An analysis of Pfeffer’s article is probably worth a post of its own, but the following quotations are especially worth considering. He demonstrates a solid grasp of where one can take all Charedim as a group, and where you cannot:

    I may be proved wrong, but I am confidently predicting that this was not a blind hate crime and that it certainly was not carried out by an ultra-Orthodox gunman. Over the years, numerous surveys have pointed at the ultra-Orthodox population as the most racist, xenophobic and homophobic in Israel, but they don’t produce murderers. They haven’t got the hardware or the know-how and despite the violence we see in the Shabbat demonstrations in Jerusalem, they simply don’t go for that kind of thing.

    I have to admit here to a journalistic perversion of my own. I covered the Haredi community as a reporter for five years; there was nothing that I would have loved more than a juicy case of ultra-Orthodox homicide. I even tried to write a detective novel about one but had to give up, it just doesn’t happen.

    Nissim Zeev and Shlomo Benizri, two of the most vocal Shas politicians on this issue, never called upon their followers to physically attack gay people. They had no reason to believe that saying the Torah regards homosexuality a capital offense would cause anyone to actually carry out the sentence. The Torah is full of sins punishable by death, but no serious rabbi advocates bringing back stoning and beheading in this generation. That is their case defense.

    If you support gay rights, then you will find the views of the ultra-Orthodox hateful and dangerous. But they are just saying aloud what half the country thinks.

    The rabbis and political leaders of the Sephardi-Haredi movement are simply putting down ideological markers, clearly demarcating the gulf between them and a secular Israeli society which has suffered a complete breakdown in its values. At least they are saying what they really think.

    Compare that with the wishy-washy position of the Orthodox rabbis, who are mainly afraid to take an unequivocal stand regarding homosexuality either way, and the total silence of the old-school Ashkenazi-Haredi leadership.

    Shas Chairman Eli Yishai has espoused similar views on foreign workers and Arabs, he doesn’t like any of them. But search the archives for similar utterances from the MKs of the rival Haredi party, United Torah Judaism, and you will find much slimmer pickings.

  12. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Pfeffer writes that charedim “don’t produce murderers. They haven’t got the hardware or the know-how.” And as long as Charedim don’t serve in the Israeli army, that will probably be the case. Heaven help us all if Charedim ever get drafted!

  13. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Yaakov Menken — August 10, 2009 @ 11:44 am

    Isn’t it misleading to imply that the Torah-mandated court procedures (including safeguards for the accused, of course) and penalties for capital crimes will never be reinstituted? How many of us want a Geulah Sheleimah with reservations that would leave sections of Torah law suspended as they now are in Galus?

  14. Zach Leiner says:


    Let’s remember that in past years, the Gay Parade avoided walking through the eastern section of Yerushalayim. In the words of the organizer (check the YNET article) they didn’t want to “offend” the Arabs. In addition to that typical left-wing double standard talking point, isn’t it also possible that they would have feared for their lives with such a provocation in the east neighborhoods? However, if they didn’t fear for their lives to flaunt their colors in the Western sector, then fear of Charedi (or any) reprisal was obviously absent from their thoughts.

  15. Zach Leiner says:

    It’s a hard sell to claim that a Kahanist from Kiryat Arba (Baruch Goldstein) was Charedi.

  16. Yaakov Menken says:

    Bob, regardless of what may be appropriate when “the Land is filled with knowledge of HaShem,” Pfeffer’s statement that “no serious rabbi advocates bringing back stoning and beheading in this generation.”

    Dr. Reisman, chareidim produce the best sharpshooters in the IDF. You were saying?

  17. Zach Leiner says:

    Mr Reisman,

    Should we assume you were being facetious?

  18. Y.D. Homnick says:

    If I may call attention to my article in The American Spectator on this subject…

  19. cvmay says:

    “The knife-attacker in Jerusalem became unhinged, not by the existence of homosexuality, but by the fact that it was being flaunted with a parade down the streets of the Holy City”.
    I never read this before, is this a truism?

    “My point is that anti-Chareidiism is as baseless and cruel as anti-Semitism”.
    With the latest rock throwing and destruction of the Mayor Nir Barkat’s car after he met with the Kalaver Rebbe, I am not sure that we can still state honestly that charedi bashing is baseless & cruel.

  20. L. Oberstein says:

    Anyone who contributed money to prevent gay marriage in California was punished financially by the gay community. Many Mormons found their businesses boycotted because they took a stand demanded by their religion that opposed gay marriage. It seems that just being for “live and let live” is not good enough, even being against discrimination is not good enough. The gay rights movement is an example of extremism on the left that rivals extremism on the right. That being said, Shas rabbis and politicians do not use acceptable Western language, they talk like people from the Arab world who aren’t used to the neutral speech patterns of contemporary society. For example, we have to say “human kind”, no longer is “man kind” permitted. We have to be gender neutral not to offend feminists. Soobn, we will just have to keep silent,but then we will be punished for not speaking up for whatever is currently in vogue. The Shas politicians couldn’t care less what the gays say because their voting bloc is anti gay. Does anyone honestly believe that our community is free of this problem, does anyone honestly believe that gay bashing doesn’t mask deep seated issues affecting all of society, including the ultra orthodox. maybe we are not supposed to approve of marriage ceremonies, but we have to develope a way to deal honestly with those who are conflicted and we need religious guidance, not slogans. We live in the west, and we have all the issues of the west. I don’t know the answer, but it’s a problem.

  21. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    To Rabbi Menkin: I am not a Dr., just a Mr. In any case, there are very few charedim in the army now, and those who are there are those who are most inclined to view the state favorably (as witnessed by their voluntary decision to serve). If Israel starts drafting charedim, it will be taking in everyone, meaning that very large portion of charedim men who feel no loyalty or gratitude towards the state, and who consider themselves separate from it. From those, you have a small percentage of meshugoyim who believe the state, and its apparatchiks, are the enemies of hashem and Torah, and from those, a potentnal assassin could easily arise. It took the religious zionists 35 years to produce the west bank terror underground of the 1980s and 47 years to produce one Yigael Amir. It would take the charedim far less time to produce either, and in far greater quantities. Look at all those rioters in Jerusalem. How many of them do you want to teach how to use firearms or explosives.

    No, Mr. Leiner, I wasn’t being facetious. I strongly believe that Israel can do no greater thing to insure its security that to eschew drafting charedim. Let those who want to serve serve. They’re favorably inclined towards the state anyhow. From the others, you’d create a dangerous fifth column.

  22. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Mr. Reisman, with all due respect, you are completely out of touch with reality. The hareidim (the Ashkenazi ones are the ones we are talking about) either do not serve at all or go in for the minimum amount of time after they are older and have a bunch of kids. The ones who really have as little as possible to do with the state flunk the psych exams because they don’t respond to questions in the way the secular psychologists think is “normal”. That failing they will convince a doctor that they are not healthy. This is because they feel no stigma attached to not serving the secular state, just like some leftists in Tel Aviv. This has been going on since the beginning of the state and is not about to change soon. If they were forcibly drafted anyway, most of them would go limp and be jailed and the riots would start in the usual places. It is impossible to make soldiers out of people who are determined not to be soldiers. Young kids can lose control on the street and do damage or minor physical violence, but the will to carry out assassinations with weapons is not there. It probably has a lot to do with the belief that you cannot short-circuit the redemptive process in history. They will not make the attempt.

  23. Raymond says:

    I am finding all this talk about the inherently violent, even brutal, nature of Ultra-Orthodox Jews to be utterly baffling. As I have said many times on this forum, I myself am not religious, and probably would be Modern Orthodox if I were, yet the idea that the Ultra-Orthodox Jews are always on the verge of carrying out Timothy McVeigh-style mass murders, is simply ridiculous. In fact, I recall hearing at least as of a year or two ago, that there is a total of one Orthodox Jew residing in prison in the entire state of California.

    Those who know me personally, know all too well about the various issues I have with Orthodox Jews. But to paint them as violent, deranged maniacs, is itself just crazy. I strongly suspect that this is a case of psychological projection: the Political Left, with their very tragic history of horrible violence in the name of their various socialist causes, are projecting their own thought of violence, onto a community that really is quite benign. An alternative explanation, is that if one can villify the Torah community just enough, it can help justify in one’s mind one’s lack of adherence to traditional, Jewish values.

  24. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    In summation: Adult Orthodox Jews are generally law-abiding. When they do commit crimes the offenses are white collar such as fraud, embezzlement and tax-evasion. Wayward youth occasionally commit drug offenses and acts of low-grade, ad-hoc violence, but almost never premeditated murder. The culture of Orthodox Jews is so far from violence that it’s generally not on the radar screen. Religious Jews in Israel who serve in the army and know how to use weapons are also not prone to commit acts of violence with them. The sick kind of mind that starts with torturing animals as a child and moves up to serial killer is nowhere near us.

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