Emanuel: The Other Side of the Story

The previous writer believes that there is “chareidi triumphalism often voiced on this blog as well as other chareidi media outlets which loudly proclaim how ‘goodly are our tents'” — “numerous apologists” who believe that “we have no real problems; simply a media that is biased against us and outsiders who, as a means of justifying their refusal to recognize and accept the truths of our lifestyle, resort to hatred and bashing.”

Having said something so forthright and critical, he should put cards upon the table. As per my own comment to my previous article, are the two, in fact, mutually exclusive? Must the IDF first prove that not a single soldier behaved wrongly — in fact, killed the innocent — in Gaza, before bothering to tell the world that the Goldstone Report is filled with lies and defamation? To be sure, there are many on the Israeli left who believe this to be the case, and many on the Jewish left who will react with glee to such an “audacious” condemnation of unnamed apologists.

I would rather know who they are. I do not believe that pointing out that the media likes to falsify our record is “charedi triumphalism.” Rather, I believe that acknowledging our successes, criticizing a biased media, and awareness of our own problems, are not mutually exclusive. With apologies to those who prefer to define “narrow-minded” as an ideology opposed to their own, rather than a genuine willingness to address multiple streams of thought, my mind is sufficiently broad to encompass all three. The previous writer never asked my opinion — so to whom was he referring? Who is the Charedi writer, on this blog or elsewhere, who believes that “we have no real problems?”

The writer acts as if his lack of awareness of efforts to publicize or solve a problem means that those efforts do not exist. I don’t know how he’s missed what I read in Mishpacha every week: stories about alcoholism, substance abuse, financial misdealings, anorexia, and, yes, alternatives for the kollel student in need of an income. Pretending the problems are being ignored — and many others, as I’m sure he knows as well as I, are being addressed by groups that would prefer to operate quietly — is no less wrong than actually ignoring the problems.

Further, the previous writer insists that, regarding the Bais Yaakov Chasidi in Emanuel, “no one is denying that the story itself is true,” that it was formed for the purpose of discriminating against Sephardi girls. What no one denies is that racism is too plentiful in our society, as in most others — but that stamping it out cannot be accomplished through false reports about it and its extent. Contrary to what he so confidently wrote, it took scant hours for the enclosed reply to hit our mailbox.

Note that if the Bais Yaakov HaChasidi of Emanuel was indeed founded by a board including a Sephardi Gadol, and there are, indeed, any more than a handful of Iraqi, Persian, Moroccan and Temani (Yemenite) students in attendance, then the story is false. Not exaggerated, not evidence of a hidden problem we are avoiding, but a defamatory lie. I, for one, find it all to easy to believe that the Supreme Court would dismiss concerns about MP3s and makeup as “irrelevant smokescreens” because it is what they believe, rather than what the parents believe, that counts in their minds. In that case, the media coverage would indeed be another “example of their anti-religious agenda,” exactly as “RG” has written.

I am not saying that I know the facts, because I do not. I am saying that a resident of Emanuel probably knows more details than a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh or Baltimore. I am saying that the following comment (which was received with full name attached, redacted on request), says that this was yet another media lie, and responds with appalled disbelief that a person known to be a Charedi Rabbi would believe the media without, in the commenter’s belief, inquiring of the citizens of Emanuel. I am wondering why the previous writer was so hasty to believe the accounts, and beyond that, to condemn the Charedi community on the basis of a Supreme Court and media so well-known for their anti-Charedi bias.

I live in Emanuel. You can visit the place for yourself and see girls from Sepharadi and Ashkenazi and blended families in the Beis Yaakov Chasidi.

I cannot believe how far these lies have gone.

The girls who attend the Beis Yacov Chasidi in Emanuel have their roots in the following countries: Iraq, Persia, Morocco, Kurdistan, Yemen, India, Egypt, The Old Yishuv here in Israel, Tunisia, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Germany. What makes this school different is its standards, in particular standards concerning tznius (length and tightness of dress), no makeup, no MP3s, exposure to media, etc. The parents who objected to the current standards of the city Beis Yakov either bussed their girls to Bnei Brak or tried to start another school.

I have lived in Emanuel for eleven years, have six kids who have been and are still attending schools here. When we first came, there were three schools for boys and one for girls – the only school for girls was the Beis Yacov, which already had within in a split off Chabad School, which soon after moved to its own building. The original Beis Yacov was largely comprised of Chassidic families. The three boy’s schools were then and continue to be Chabad, Chassidic, and Sephardic. “Chassidic” does not mean “Ashkenazic”. Members of both communities marry each other.

The demographics here changed. Chassidim were moving out, and the flavor the original Beis Yacov was becoming more modern. Outreach programs began in order to encourage people to move the original Beis Yacov back towards its original narrower interpretation of the Israeli Haredi lifestyle. This did not succeed on a wide level. The formation of the Beis Yacov Chasidi was an effort by members of the original Chassidic population here to re-create the kind of Beis Yacov that they had a decade ago. It was a stricter school – in terms of dress, exposure to media, even to some aspects of Haredi culture that they feel is not for them as in Haredi “rock music”, choice of careers, etc – and certainly NOT of an “Ashkenazic” school.

One of the original founders of the Beis Yacov Chasidi, in 2007, was Rav Ba’adani, a gadol (very well respected Rabbinical authority) who happens to be Sephardic. Additionally, there were two families who had daughters in both the original Beis Yacov and the Beis Yacov Chasidi at the very same time, proving yet again that this was not an ethnic division. This is a dynamic, fluid society. There were girls who switched back to the original school and those who switched to the Chasidi school the following year. There is an excellent Chabad school, the original Beis Yaakov, plus dati leumi and charedi dati leumi (chardal) schools in other towns in the Shomron that offer excellent alternatives, and the new Beis Rachel and Leah, openedm under the auspices of the local boy’s Sephardic school, and run by a wonderful principal and staff, offer yet another alternative for students here.

I live in Emanuel. I love the variety here, some of which must be preserved in diverse educational institutions. Variety has been instrumental in the survival of the Jewish people, both nationally and individually.

Because of its small size, Emanuel has been a nice place for people to get to know members of different kinds of communities more easily than in a large city perhaps. That makes this horrendous media fabrication all that more ironic – and painful.

Next time you hear a news story that touches you, please contact people who live locally to get a sense of what is happening.

What this story really is about is media provocation and misinformation, a public who does not scrutinize its journalists enough, and inappropriate judiciary activism.

Stop the cycle of lies. Question the media. Question the court system.

You might believe that being the victim of media slander and lies cannot happen to you. But as long as it is happening to anybody, it is affecting you too. The media is sneering at the Chassidic Jews of Emanuel — and if you believe the media, they have duped you too.

What do you think of the following interaction I had with a so-called journalist two years ago?

Me: How can you say this is an ethnic division when you see for yourself Sephardi girls here? The difference is that of hashkafa!
Reporter: I know it is racist because the Chassidi school opened in the same building! (Triumphant sneer)
Me: But the Chabad school also opened up in this building before they got their own building!
Reporter: (blushed, blinked rapidly, eyes darted from side to side), “I have work to do!” and she walked away quickly.

The original Beis Yaakov building, since its inception, has always has two gate entrances and two front doors. One entrance is down the hill, the other is on the higher part of the hill in this hilly town. Many schools have several entrances. The high school was inside this building, in the top floor, along with the elementary school until 2004, whereupon the high school got its own building. The entrance normally used for the high school was the uphill entrance, which was nearer to the top floor, where the high school was. When the high school moved, the top floor was left totally empty. It was a reasonable idea to use this empty, unused space for the new Chassidi school and its different philosophy and community of girls whose roots are from Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, Persia, Tunisia, Egypt, India, Hungary, Poland, Germany, etc. So they use the old high school entrance. So what?

Please use your energy to question the media and judicial activism. Do not let them dupe you. I live in Emanuel. Come visit.

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42 Responses

  1. The Contarian says:

    Why has no Sephardi Rabbi of stature come out in support of the way the Ashkenazi school in Emanuael is run. Their silence is deafening.

  2. Tzurah says:

    I’m glad to finally hear from an Emmanuel resident about the ruling. I think everyone following the story has been dying to hear more details about the facts of the case. If only there are more actual news articles like this (rather than merely a comment on a blog post).

    Actually, why haven’t there been more articles like this? There has been no real defense of the Emmanuel kehilla even in the Chareidi press! All the articles there have been about R’ Elyashiv and the Moetzes declaring that the thugs of the Zionist Government and the Supreme Court has no business meddling with Chareidi internal affairs. To outsiders, such a response screams of a guilty conscience.

    The whole thing, from beginning to end, is an embarrassment.

  3. dovid landesman says:

    I used the Emmanuel case as an example of the tendency within our community to immediately raise the flag of chiloni hatred of chareidim and media bias instead of trying to solve what is a very real problem in our community. No, I do not live in Emmanuel and your correspondent is obviously better informed about the particulars of this case. Nevertheless, I still maintain that there is a tangible element of anti-Sefaradi sentiment in what is transpiring in the city, with religious standards being used as a means of covering them up. I cannot recall at the moment which of the Maggid’s talmidim said this so I am guilty of not bringing geulah to the world. He remarked that the sod of the parah adumah was ahavas yisroel. When pressed to elaborate, he explained: “in order for the tamei mes to become tahor, the kohen must become tameh.”
    Publicly funded institutions have a responsibility to the entire community and that sometimes calls for compromises in certain standards. Albeit that there can not be any compromise in what is absolute halachah, the gray areas at times need to be adjusted for the benefit of all stakeholders. I would maintain that creating a mechitzah in the playground goes beyond the line of halachic requyirements and could therefore have been avoided. As far as the contention that a prominent Sefardi rav supports the separation, I would point out that there are Sefardi run yeshivot in Yerushalayim [two come to mind] that have strict quotas about the number of Sefardim that they will accept. Their justification is that without these quotas, Ashkenazim would not enroll.
    The bottom line is that I challenge those who contend that there is no discrimiantion in the yeshiva world. To cite the articles in Mishpachah as an example of our willingness to confront our problems is to ignore the fact that Hamodia and Yated are bastions of silence on these issues. As I wrote before, I am not worried about chilonim hating me – or the media bashing me. I am worried about what is going on in my homecourt.

  4. Rafi says:

    The defense of Emanuel’s situation, whether true or not I have no idea and I don’t know how true it is or not) is really just a whitewash.
    I live in Ramat Bet Shemesh and I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that the charedi chadorim, the ones I send my kids to and all the others, have the same racism in their schools. The ones that do accept sefardim do it with quotas of either 2 per class or a certain small percentage, if they accept sefardim at all.
    There were other cases all around the country where sefardi kids were not being accepted in schools. Dozens of girls are left out of schools every year because they are not accepted (why they don’t apply to sefardi schools I dont know, but that is besides the point).

    So, perhaps in Emanuel the case is not as bad as it was made out to be. However the problem still exists in a big way.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    Rabbi Landesman surely knows that when a false calumny is used to demonstrate the existence of a real problem, the result is often the very opposite of what was desired. There is no doubt at all that there is plenty of discrimination, especially in Israel — against Sephardim, against Americans, against Baalei Teshuvah, you name it. I am reminded of a situation I heard about involving a Baal Teshuvah while I was in Israel, where a family teaching in a prominent seminary for girls, a Kiruv Seminary at that, was ready to let their daughter date the student, but when push came to shove broke the shidduch rather than permitting them to marry. But whether or not there are parents choosing Beis Yacov HaChasidi for reasons of ethnic bias is no proof at all that this is the raison d’etre of the school.

    Schools are, in general, the wrong place to look. Day Schools in the US have quotas on how many Russian children per class, and that’s not about race but language and religious status. I’ve learned a bit more about the Emmanuel situation, namely that the average Ashkenazi resident is Chassidic, whereas the average Sephardi may be nominally Orthodox. This obvious explanation as to why only Sephardic girls are excluded from a school requiring a commitment to a higher standard (which, far from being racist, has a very high percentage of Sephardi students) was discarded by the Supreme Court in favor of a more nefarious one of its own invention.

    This is not a problem to be solved in 20 minutes, and lies will take us in the wrong direction. It took the US 50 years to elect a black President.

    I do not read Hamodia or the Yated, but a reader of the former was most adamant that Rabbi Landesman is no more accurate there than on Mishpacha. Nonetheless, Mishpacha has a larger circulation than either of the others, and possibly greater than both combined. Far and away the most popular journal in our community is trumpeting these issues on a weekly basis… how, then, does one justify the claim that the community is pretending those same issues don’t exist?

    But Rabbi Landesman hasn’t responded to what I regard as the more insidious of his assertions — that condemnation of media falsehoods is a symptom of “charedi triumphalism,” or that unnamed “apologists” believe the charedi world is devoid of problems.

    I suggest that no one is actually wearing rose-colored glasses; when not looking at them through a darkened lens, those glasses are quite clear.

  6. dovid says:

    Rabbi Landesman: “Hamodia and Yated are bastions of silence on these issues”

    The above comment is true re. Yated. (I don’t read HaModia.) As a case in point, the March 12 issue of Yated describes Shalom Rubashkin as “a remarkable tzaddik”, “ehrliche Yid”, and “an innocent man”. I am repeating the comment I made in a different thread that these epithets are as much a travesty of the emmes as the unduly harsh sentence the prosecutors are seeking are a travesty of justice. Shalom Rubashkin most likely is good-hearted person, but he was not ehrlich or innocent. Yated would have done a true service to Mr. Rubashkin AND the charedi community by pointing out that submitting false financial statements and documentation to the bank is fraud according to Shulchan Aruch and the law of the land. Not intending to personally benefit from the fraud does not make it permissible. Robin Hood is not a hero in Jewish folklore and his acts are certainly not validated by the Shulchan Aruch.

  7. Yaakov Menken says:

    Dovid made me wonder about the context of the above quotations, reminding me that although I do not receive the Yated, I do receive the email “teaser” they send out with a few editorials and op-eds. The above piece was written by Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg, Dean of the Torah Academy of Minneapolis. While he is a frequent writer, it’s one Rabbi’s opinion. Furthermore, in context, the “innocent man” quote reads as follows:

    I hope that you are not saying to yourself, “Well,he did something wrong and he got what he deserved.” I challenge you to find another contemporary case that comes close to the travesty and unheard of cruelty of this one. Suffice it to say, that with the release of portions of the trial transcripts, evidence is emerging that an innocent man was wrongfully convicted of crimes he did not commit. The jury’s verdict was engineered by an overzealous prosecution aided by one-sided rulings from the bench that essentially robbed Sholom Mordechai of a fair trial.

    He has a right to his defenders. Meanwhile, the Yated of March 25 references “the enormous disparity between the treatment of Mr. Rubashkin and others who committed similar offenses,” so I do not believe Dovid’s selective quotations accurately depict the Yated’s position on Mr. Rubashkin.

    I also noticed that the Yated had a two-way debate on whether it is ever appropriate to strike a child today. From what I get via email, I can’t tell you what they aren’t covering, but that’s not exactly an uncontroversial topic.

  8. SE says:

    I would like to know much more about the admission process of the Chasidi school. Are there many sefardi girls who would like to attend the school, are willing to conform to their religious standards, and are yet denied entrance? It seems to me that this piece of information is crucial in determining the existence (or non-existence) of discrimination. As of yet, I have not seen it addressed.

  9. cvmay says:

    Yes, No or maybe so….
    I find it quite interesting that the entire Emanuel bais yaakov issue erupted when a MONETARY FINE $$$$ was levied against the Chinuch Atzmai school system. This case was brought to the courts approximately two years ago and silence has reigned on the issue till now. Could it be that MONEY IS THE BOTTOM LINE and the ‘fault line of the earthquake’?
    Any educational system that receives government grants & funding is responsible to abide by rules, regulations and checks/balances. Really quite elementary… Re establish the school as a private enterprise and do whatever the ‘Board’/parents/rabbanim/askanim desire. A similar lawsuit was levied against the Beis Yakov of Givat Shaul by a couple of parents (Sefradic) whose daughters were not permitted to enrolled. The parents won the case and the daughters are presently learning there.

  10. dovid says:

    “While he is a frequent writer, it’s one Rabbi’s opinion.”

    A rabbi calling a person who committed fraud tzaddik, ehriliche Yid, and innocent, AND publishing such epithets on the first page of Yated without challenging it is perversion. The gist of Rabbi Dovid Landesman’s post was that we face serious issues and those who have the means to be mashpia and direct the public in the right direction such as Yated, fail in their task big time. Capitalism has its way of weeding out the politically correct rubbish over time. That explains why HaMishpacha has earned a wider circulation than Yated and Hamodia combined. That explains why a substantial segment of the Ashkenazi Charedi community in Eretz Yisroel vote for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

  11. L. Oberstein says:

    You print one anonymous (to us) letter from a parent in Emanuel which tries to soften the edges of the discrimination. The facts are clear and Rabbi Landesman is telling the truth and everyone knows it is the truth. Don’t tell me that segregation is good because negroes prefer to be with their own kind.

    The Israeli chareidim not only don’t want Sephardim , they don’t want Americans either if they can get away with it. There is a Bais Yaakov in Sanhedria that put American little girls in the segregated class with the Sephardim. They refused to budge even when great rabbis told them that it was wrong. The result, I am told, is that they are going to open a “Torah Umesorah” Bais Yaakov with a more American curriculum in the neighborhood and “fooey” on the segregationists.

  12. Harry Maryles says:

    I know prejudice exists in the Charedi world – especially in the Chasidic world. I saw it first hand over 30 years ago in Bnei Brak – the city my parents lived in for 18 years. I visited them often. R’ Landesman lives in Israel and he knows it too. Just because a resident of Emmanuel is closer to the situation does not mean he doesn’t have any bias. The writer is very likely Ashkeanzi and is probably skewing things his way.

    That said. If the basic facts about Sephardi attendees are true, then there is no ethnic based discrimination. However, I can’t believe the Supreme Court wouldn’t see that. To claim that there is ‘ethnic cleansing’ in that school when there clearly isn’t any – would be an obvious miscarriage of justice. I don’t see how they could possibly get away with it.

    There obviously is ethnic based discrimination in some way shape or form. That a few Sephardi girls attend and toe the Ashkenazi line is no proof that there isn’t. My best guess is that religious standards were designed in a way that discriminates against Sephardim so that the school can deny discrimination and yet practice it under the guise of religious standards – and then point to a few token Sephardi students as proof.

    What is the truth? I don’t know. But I have my suspicions – even after reading this letter from a resident.

  13. Yaakov Menken says:

    Dovid, “He has a right to his defenders.” The Washington Post has published op-eds in support of the murderer of a police officer without challenging them, except through the letters. I haven’t read the Yated’s letters and do know the “innocent” claim was contradicted by the Yated itself two weeks later. I don’t disagree with you that their news is too sanitized, but I think the problem is far less severe than you make it out to be.

    Rabbi Oberstein and Harry M.,

    You need to look at the facts in this case, not the Sanhedria case. I said there’s discrimination, and said that when your flag-waving case is a lie you get negative results. Please reread my comment of yesterday afternoon, and you’ll notice that there isn’t anything you’ve said with which I disagree.

    At the same time, in many of these cases it is not a matter of ethnic bias, but stereotypes with a basis. Of the two charedi boys’ schools in Baltimore, in one the kids often have TVs, in the other they hardly ever do. But in both, our kids have seen and heard and been exposed to a lot of things Israel kids have never heard of (“Harry Potter”). The problem is when all the kids are lumped together by country rather than evaluated child by child.

    The parent in Emanuel is not “softening the edges” but rejecting discrimination as the rationale. The Emanuel “Chasidi” school has a high percentage of Sephardim. Yes, I checked the facts. And it is also in a community where all the Ashkenazi residents are right wing charedim, and the Sephardim are very mixed. Thus the new school has higher requirements that don’t “challenge” any of the Ashekenazi families — for purely religious reasons: media exposure, music, tznius. [Update: I have learned that I was mistaken: three Ashkenazi families were not invited to the new school. The reason why no one took this seriously until now is because everyone in the community took the accusation of racism as the joke that it is.]

    Harry, given the record of the Israeli Supreme Court, you don’t think they’d “determine” that the above standards are nothing more than a smokescreen to hide ethnic bias, where the truth is just the opposite? Have you never seen a minority cry racism in this country — and get too far in the courts — when neutral standards were fairly applied? This is the Israeli Supreme Court we are talking about, which has a record of anti-Orthodox activism several miles long — as you have, in the past, claimed to be aware. You are kidding, right?

    Deputy Education Minister Rabbi Meir Porush, Chinuch Atzmai, and the Moetzes of the United States are all involved, and unanimously support the school. Do you honestly think the Novominsker Rebbe, Reb Dovid, or Reb Shmuel shlit”a would support racism? Because that is exactly the school of thought that you (and Rav Landesman) are supporting.

    This is not a totally different school where Gedolim told them what they were doing is wrong, and is a calumny of the charedim of Emanuel. Imagine if TI were ever to prohibit owning a TV, and if every BT or Persian or Israeli or {insert minority here} family in Baltimore owned one. That’s not racism. You may not appreciate their religious standards, but that’s exactly what freedom of religion and freedom of association are all about.

  14. SE says:

    re: Imagine if TI were ever to prohibit owning a TV, and if every BT or Persian or Israeli or {insert minority here} family in Baltimore owned one. That’s not racism.

    Well that is not racism, as it leaves the decision to conform to the religious standards – and thus attend the school – in the hands of the applicant. However, if there exist families from various ethnicities who are willing to conform to those strictures (i.e. get rid of the TV) and are yet denied entry – there you may find racism. It all depends on who’s doing the rejecting. While I don’t know the facts of the case in Emmanuel I have definitely heard of incidents in other parts of EY where families are willing to comply with all and every chumrah in the book in order to gain entry to institutions but are rejected out of hand.

  15. Bob Miller says:

    As the splintering of our Orthodox institutions proceeds, at what point does the sense that there really is a Klal Yisrael (as opposed to a multitude of distinct and often antagonistic grouplets) waste away, G-d forbid?

    On the other hand, our original educational ideal was for parents to teach their children directly. Nothing could be more exclusive than that!

  16. cvmay says:

    L’kvod Rav Menken,

    Chinuch Atzmai is a valid educational system operating through government funds, grants and resources. The reason the Charedei schools in Har Nof (beis yakov & sanhedria for boys) have huge edifices, text books, teacher benefits is because they are under the umbrella of Chinuch Atzmai. If this beis yakov is determined to set its own standards, practices, and regulations…….FINE & DANDY, become a private school and everyone will bless them with hatzlacha rabba.

    They are going to open a “Torah Umesorah” Bais Yaakov with a more American curriculum in the neighborhood and “fooey” on the segregationists.= Mr. Loberstein that is terrific news and allow me to be the first donor to the new school. This is a foremost step to increase aliyah – hopefully there are parents who are giborim and not ‘Israeli Charedei WANNA BEES’ who can focus on emes to support and send their daughters to this future beis yaakov. (Personally have doubts that Torah Umesorah will be a stamp on a ‘so called fringe’ break-away school)

  17. Shua Cohen says:

    Bob Miller wrote: “As the splintering of our Orthodox institutions proceeds, at what point does the sense that there really is a Klal Yisrael (as opposed to a multitude of distinct and often antagonistic grouplets) waste away, G-d forbid?”

    Bob’s question is addressed by HaRav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, in his elucidation of the words “v’kabtzainu yachad” [“and gather us together”] in the berachah of Kibbutz Goluyos. Wrote Rav Schwab:

    “During the galus, the Jewish people is split, not only physically-geographically, but also ideologically. One group does not see eye to eye with the other…This disparity exists …in that…even the people who do keep the Torah and mitzvos are divided and subdivided many times among themselves.” [“Rav Schwab on Prayer,” Artscroll, p. 468]

    So, as our present splintered condition is as a result of galus, Rav Schwab indicates that it will only be healed at the “onset of the geulah,” which is alluded to in Bereishis 49:1, when Yaakov Avinu called is children together and said: “Assemble yourselves and I will tell what will *call* you in the End of Days.” Rav Schwab concludes: “The ‘call’ to which Yaakov Avinu was referring is…at the acharis hayamim [and] the recognition of Bnei Yisrael that a new time has come…so now we too must gather together, hikavtzu v’shimu,” and listen.
    [p. 469]

    I believe that this ties nicely into the comment of cvmay concerning the opening of an American-style Bais Yaakov as being “a foremost step to increase aliyah.” If increased aliyah is, indeed, a sign of the onset of the geula, then maybe this whole machlokes is being brought to a head by the will of the Ribbono Shel Olam (through the agency of the Supreme Court) to finally air the problem of disunity and discrimination and cause us to do a cheshbon hanefesh as a curative.

  18. Yaakov Menken says:

    I think I have said as much as needs be said about the Emmanuel case, at least for now. The responses seem to come in two flavors: (1) the Supreme Court can’t be wrong, and (2) there’s racism elsewhere in Israel. To (1) I have already said, you must be joking. And as far as (2) … let’s call this for what it is. If you believe that because there are other cases where racism was a likely motivation, therefore you are entitled to stereotype and prejudge the community of Emmanuel without a determination of the facts — then if you are looking for unseemly ethnic bias in this case, you need look no further than a mirror.

    What I find more troubling is this: I specifically challenged the previous writer for numerous other errors of fact and bias. He claimed that issues being discussed on the pages of Mishpacha were not being discussed, that proposed solutions discussed on those same pages do not exist, and that numerous writers here and elsewhere believe that we have no problems at all. On all of these I provided factual challenges and requested specifics. None have been provided, yet people continue to back-slap the “courage” of this broadside against the state of Charedi affairs.

    Why do you think that is?

  19. Hamasig says:

    Any educational system that receives government grants & funding is responsible to abide by rules, regulations and checks/balances. Really quite elementary… Re establish the school as a private enterprise and do whatever the ‘Board’/parents/rabbanim/askanim desire.

    True, but when you follow reasonable rules and do not discriminate by way of unfounded stereotypes, as the letter writer claims, then you have every right to claim a portion of government funds, indeed taxpayers funds, without being forced to flee the biases of the media and courts, for the refuge of private education.

  20. Menachem Lipkin says:

    R. Menken, in your effort to be so meduyak you’ve completely missed the forest for the trees. To those of us living near and within the environment R. Landesman is describing his sentiment is 100% correct even if the specifics aren’t perfect.

    Sure, some media errors and bias exist, but just as you aver that Israel can move forward against the Goldstone report without proving that it is 100% wrong so too one can accept the media’s overall portrayal even if it’s not 100% accurate. Focus obssesivly on the innacuracies causes people to become overly defensive to the point that they are imobilized from taking the necessary actions needed to correct the very real and growing problems we, here in the trenches, know exist.

    R. Landesman’s “broadside” is being lauded specifically because he has been able to rise above the paranoia that animates much of intra-Chareidi discourse on these issues.

  21. Yaakov Menken says:

    Menachem, if you attempted to put these same quotations towards any other minority, you would be appalled. Why are the charedim any less entitled to a fair press?

    The specifics aren’t “imperfect,” they are wrong. Obviously you can “accept the media’s portrayal” even if it’s a lie, but it doesn’t mean you should. Not one of the things he claimed is being hidden is hidden. Not one of the things he claimed was not being addressed is not being addressed. And not one of the Charedi writers of my acquaintance has ever imagined that all is rosy and well.

    Your reaction is, “it doesn’t matter that all these trees happen to not exist; there’s still a forest!” I repeat: if you attempted to put these same quotations towards any other minority, you would be appalled. You should be no less averse to saying things about Charedi Jews. But you aren’t, and I ask it again: Why do you think that is? Why should this be any less disgusting here than anywhere else?

    R. Landesman’s “broadside” is being lauded specifically because those with an anti-Charedi agenda could care less if the accusations are long and the facts are short.

  22. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Rabbi Menken,

    I suspect if you would try “settlers” as the minority, that would not go over very well with Menachem.

    Welcome to the blogosphere echo chamber.
    In this echo chamber, issues that Charedim have are always uniquely Charedi issues. So of course nobody will point out that the Rabbi who allegedly allows tax evasion mentioned in Rabbi Landesman’s post – is actually from the RCA. Annoying little sapling in the forest.

    In this echo chamber, Rabbi Feldman is “angry” and “inspires hatred” and Rabbi Landesman speaks “Devarim Hayotzim Min Haleiv”.

    In this echo chamber, Charedim all wear the same clothes because they are mindless automatons, and Mercaz Harav all wear sandals with socks because it is stylish.

    In this echo chamber, Charedim stick their head in the sand on recidivism, but a very prominent Religious Zionist Rabbi is still coddled when he condemns forum Takanah on the basis that the alleged homosexual rabbi did Teshuvah. And I’ll bet you didn’t know that “Yamim Al Yemei Melech” was played at a wedding in honor of said homosexual Rabbi, with enthusastic dancing by the crowd. Analysis on effectiveness of takanah forum? Please? Anyone?

    In this echo chamber, Charedim are “triumphalist”, and Centrists are merely “concerned with how others’ flaws reflect on them.”

    In this echo chamber, Charedim are racist, but those who state openly that they don’t send their children to Yeshiva of Flatbush because it is dominated by Syrians – are right.

    In this echo chamber, Mishpachah doesn’t exist, B’chadrei Charedim doesn’t exist, R’ Yakov Horowitz doesn’t exist, Rabbi Adlerstein doesn’t exist, Jonathan Rosenblum writing about Kollel not being for everyone doesn’t exist, there is no Charedi discourse on how to solve issues, no condemnation of Chilul Hashem.

    In this echo chamber, broadsides against the Charedim are courageous, but broadsides against the State of Israel are indicative of deep-seated lack of hakaras hatov at best. Newsflash to echo chamber – without the Yeshiva world leaders post WWII such as the Chazon Ish and the Ponovezher Rav and Rav Aharon Kotler, the Torah would have been utterly forgotten, Hasmadah a thing of the past, Dikduk B’mitzvos on today’s level non-existent. The Hesder Yeshivos owe their very existence to the Charedi world, and without Charedi products of the Yeshiva world all ye Modern Orthodox sons would be bereft of Mechanchim because the MO don’t want their children in such fields, and your daughters would be forced into mandatory Sherut Leumi.

    Keep that in mind, that you would all be spiritually DEAD without the Yeshiva world, when determining the tone, tenor, content, and fairness level of your VERY MUCH NEEDED critiques, because us Charedim, as sure as hell, have very serious problems on our collective plate.

  23. Andrew says:

    Rabbi Menken,
    Most of your Cross-Current readers live in the Orthodox world. We’re very familiar with the yeshivische velt. This is not a war of propaganda, where you can paint the picture you want and hope/expect us to believe you.

    To quote Richard Pryor: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes.”

    We experience these rosy-colored writers and head-in-the-sand mentality. Some of them post on your website. They might on occassion raise criticisms of the frum world — but rarely so, and never without first bashing the secular or MO world.

  24. dovid says:

    Binyomin Eckstein, I would appreciate if you specified who the “you” is in “you would all be spiritually DEAD without the Yeshiva world”. In case you referred to R’ Menachem and Rabbi Dovid Landesman, let me inform you they are part of the yeshiva world, not any less than you, or those whom they criticize. (Disclaimer: I know neither of the two gentlemen personally [I wish I did] and I safely assume they don’t need my haskama or sh’vach.)

    With regard to the “tone, tenor, content, and fairness level” that you mentioned, I found Rabbi Menken consistently referring to Rabbi Dovid Landesman as “the previous writer” and not by his name demeaning and falling short of the standards of discourse that you so eloquently demand of others. The “previous writer” is known to the world at large as Rabbi Dovid Landesman and even if he displeased Rabbi Menken, he still is Rabbi Dovid Landesman. Rabbi Menken responded in an e-mail to my protests in a comment (it was not posted) explaining that “I removed his name in deference to his honor, not to insult it.”

  25. Natan Slifkin says:

    I would like to comment on those who reject Rabbi Landesman’s charge that the Charedi world does not openly discuss its shortcomings.

    First of all, citing discussions in the charedi media about alcoholism, substance abuse, and anorexia, does not really count; these are not discussions of unique charedi problems which result from the charedi way of life, but rather of problems that exist in the wider world. And they are often portrayed as problems that “seep in” from the outside world. This is not the charedi world discussing its shortcomings!

    Second, while Mishpachah does indeed do a much better job than Yated/ HaModia of discussing problems, they are still far from perfect (look how Jonathan Rosenblum has to disguise his critiques), and Mishpachah itself is regarded as treif by many people.

    Finally, there are many people, including talmidei chachamim, both outside of the charedi world and within it, who believe that serious problems exist in the charedi world at the leadership level – with the concept of Daas Torah, the system of leadership and authority, and various specific acts by the rabbinic leadership. Would even Mishpachah print an article or even a letter that expresses this? Of course not.

  26. Miriam says:

    Rabbi Landesman points to a number of examples in his article. One is refuted, and Rabbi Landesman counters that his intention is that we should not use this example to say we’re always blameless – if that were the case it’s unlikely the media would be searching for such stories as they’d always be disproven.

    Yet you create an entire article around the idea that one example is incorrect.

  27. Yaakov Menken says:

    Miriam didn’t read my article or my earlier comments. That is the conclusion to which one is forced by the contention that my entire article was based upon the one example of Emanuel.

    Rabbi Slifkin is right that the haredi world does not openly discuss all of its shortcomings. That does not make the claim that “the problems are not addressed” any more truthful, much less the claim that Charedi writers believe that “all is a bed of roses.” But further, Rabbi Slifkin then attempts to create a moving target. With the exception of the kollel system, all of the problems to which Rabbi Landesman referred exist in all societies. Now according to Rabbi Slifkin those “don’t really count.”

    Tell the big lie often enough, and people believe it to be true. That was and remains my point. No one claims that there are no gun-toting crazies who support the Tea Party movement, but they do not — contrary to media reports — define it. The statement that the Tea Partiers are just a bunch of gun-toting crazies is false, not partially true.

    Many of us are familiar with the story of the Charedi boys duped into bringing drugs into Japan. A few months back, those involved in the effort to free them warned the community that it is important that articles and letters not falsely depict Japanese prisons as far worse than they actually are. That does not mean that Japanese prisons are a bit of roses, it means that lies are counterproductive. Similarly, claiming that the Charedi community is not doing anything about problems, when it is doing a great deal, is slander. It also has real-world ramifications when someone out there needs exactly the help people are so happy to claim doesn’t exist, despite the fact that it does. And the fact that someone is Orthodox, or even Charedi, doesn’t make them immune to making false accusations driven by emotion rather than reason.

    Dovid, for example, seems to selectively apply standards of “tone and tenor.” He seems to have a problem with the fact that I did not wish to refer to Rabbi Landesman by name, but no problem with Rabbi Landesman accusing unnamed “writers” here of “chareidi triumphalism” and depicting Charedi life as “a bed of roses” (and one could not read that without thinking names like Kobre, Shafran, and, of course, Menken). Is that driven by reason, or emotion? To those who believe that airing our dirty laundry is somehow more important than showing two million Jews, those we are likely to lose forever in the next thirty years, that Charedi life is more diverse, more interesting, and more spiritual than depicted by the media and liberal movements, I proudly demur.

    The case of Emmanuel is a paradigm, but an important one. Jumping on the “racism” bandwagon in lieu of investigating the facts may slander the innocent — in this case, it does.

    This is why I did not, initially, mention Rabbi Landesman’s name. I only know him by reputation, but I felt the article beneath him.

    I am still waiting for the names of the so-called Charedi apologists who believe all is well in our world.

  28. RG says:

    The Contrarian may contact HaRav HaGaon Rav Ba’adani of Bnei Brak, who was one of the Gedolei HaDor who ordered the founding of the Beis Yaakov Chasidi in Emanuel. Any phone book that lists Rabbanim has a country wide listing.

    There are Sephardi Rabbis in Emanuel whose daughters learn in the Beis Yaakov Chasidi. Would you like contact information?

    It is not that the Sephardi Rabbis are silent. It is that we need to listen better.

    Harry Maryles wrote “The writer is very likely Ashkenazi and is probably skewing things his way.”

    I am a female. I have mixed heritage as does my husband.

    L Oberstein, I just do not feel comfortable putting my name on the Internet. You may contact me directly if you like via Rabbi Menken. And I do no know about the educational system in Sanhedria, I can only speak for Emanuel.

    And finally to Rabbi Landesman: I am sure you are a good person, but what you have stated is not true. Ask the Sephardim themselves.

    Pick up the phone or email and find a contact. You may contact me directly if you like via Yaakov Menken. I live in Emanuel.


  29. Izgad says:

    “The writer acts as if his lack of awareness of efforts to publicize or solve a problem means that those efforts do not exist. I don’t know how he’s missed what I read in Mishpacha every week: stories about alcoholism, substance abuse, financial misdealings, anorexia, and, yes, alternatives for the kollel student in need of an income.”

    Rabbi Menken

    It would seem that you are doing the same thing to Rabbi Landesman that you accuse the Left of doing to Israel. Do you seriously expect Rabbi Landesman to prove to you that no one in the Haredi world is willing to talk about problems? Think of it this way. Whatever problems one might have with how the Haredi world talks about its problems, how much more pathetic would things be if we were to take out people like Rabbi Yakov Horowitz and the Twerskis, people who are still, in many respects, voices in the wilderness on the defensive. We are not yet in the position where they are setting policy. It is not enough that the Haredi world can find someone willing to talk about abuse or about alternatives to kollel. What is needed is a deep seeded institutional attitude in favor of these things and that is lacking.

  30. Zach Leiner says:

    Natan Slifkin,

    You wrote “Mishpachah itself is regarded as treif by many people”.

    Not to be snarky, but please define the “many people”. Is it the the “yeshivishe velt” or the “YU/MercazHaRav/HaMivtar Olam”?

    If the former, then it only adds to Mishapacha’s credibility that they continue with the muckraking and are not intimidated by ideological adversaries. If the latter, I’m curious to know why.

    Also “look how Jonathan Rosenblum has to disguise his critiques”. Please elaborate; that sounds very vague. Or, he may just be writing within the requisite halachic parameters.

  31. rachel w says:

    Izgad- Rabbi Dr. A. J. Twerski is the first to state that he does not set policy-he defers to the gedolim on that. Read any of his articles.

    I would assume that Rabbi Horowitz says the same.

  32. Steve Brizel says:

    Like it or not, the High Court of Justice is a product of a LW, secular Ashkenazic culture , mindset and “old boys club” that inevitably views the Court as the last bastion of secular Zionist or post Zionist values in Israel while being notoriously anti Torah, regardless of one’s hashkafa and even bending over to appear very “liberal” on security issues. It is no accident that a former justice was quoted in an interview in what is promising to be the Israeli equivalent of the Pentagon Papers case. Yes, Virginia, there are problems between Ashkenazim and Sefardim. However, the question remains whether the High Court has any role to play in this issue or is merely acting as the representative of the equivalent of the Jim Crow society whose interests it seeks to protect at the expense of all others whose views differ from its perspective.

  33. Miriam says:

    You wrote “Mishpachah itself is regarded as treif by many people”….Is it the the “yeshivishe velt” or the “YU/MercazHaRav/HaMivtar Olam”? If the former, then it only adds to Mishapacha’s credibility that they continue with the muckraking and are not intimidated by ideological adversaries.

    The former. I believe Rabbi Slifkin’s point was more that those who write for Mishpacha aren’t likely to influence certain Charedi circles. Strong ones.

    Personally I wonder whether some of this Charedi vs. anti-Charedi sentiment, revolves around whether a Charedi philosophy accepts other approaches, or sees it as above and beyond any others – which then shackles the masses of its adherents to kollel for life, fighting against chiloni influence rather than befriending them, disparaging the zionist state….

    (I wrote “masses” because I’m not referring to the few who get a personal audience with a Rav who personally advises them otherwise.)

  34. Izgad says:

    rachel w

    There is a two way street here. Yes it is important that Rabbi Twerski and Rabbi Horowitz seek the guidance of the Haredi leadership. It is also important that those in power seek out the experts in the community for advice as to how to handle these complex issues. Right now Rabbi Twerski and Rabbi Horowitz are in a position of having to knock on doors to get past the askanim to get heard. They are not the askanim sitting on the right hands of those in leadership positions.

  35. dovid landesman says:

    I have refrained from responding to R. Menken’s numerous challenges, because I honestly feel that there is no point in engaging in a prolonged debate as to whether or not I based myself on facts on the ground or the lies of the Israeli Supreme Court. That is not the issue I tried to address. My contention is that we – and I include myself – need to do some hard-thinking as to why we are viewed with such antipathy. I am not a self-hating Jew, R. Menken – just a very concerned one. I do not condone chareidi bashing nor do I downplay the animosity of the chiloni world. That said, however, I truly wonder why many subjects are taboo or swept under the rug. I constantly hear how much better our chinuch is than the bankrupt mamlachti schools, but at the same time I hear many parents complaining bitterly about the education that their children are receiving. Is it at all possible that our chinuch system is somewhat deficient? Do our media raise the question for civilized and constructive debate. One child who leaves the derech because of inadequately trained rabbeim or morot might be equivalent to all of the baalei teshuvah who our schools have brought back. That’s not my quote, R. Menken – it was said by the Steipler zt”l!

    Is it not possible that we are facing a crisis in terms of leadership when there are askanim who protect the gates and filter the information given to those who ostensibly make the decisions. Yes, R. Menken, I am being vague but I do so out of a sense of kavod for gedolei yisrael. Perhaps you might like to discuss the recent publication of a pashkevil signed “mistakenly” by some of the leading rabbinical figures in EY calling on the tzibbur to contribute to the defense of Elior Chen who was labeled a great tzaddik and marbitz Torah! We can simply ignore these aberrations or we can try to determine how and why they happen and what we as a tzibbur can do to prevent them from recurring. The mesorah that I have from my rabbeim is that we need to look at ourselves constantly to make sure that nothing that we do can be misinterpreted.

    I applaud your research on the Emanuel subject and your search to discover the truth – good journalism for sure. That said, I wonder if you have an opinion about the following statement of Meir Porush, given in an interview to the Jerusalem Post.
    “According to Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, of United Torah Judaism, any Sephardic girl who wants to be in the “hassidic” track can get in, as long as she agrees to speak Hebrew with an Ashkenazi accent and give up Sephardic customs at home.”

    Of course, it is possible that he was misquoted!

  36. Rudy Wagner says:

    The facts are emerging and it really seems that on the Emanuel case the court decision was “dreadful and should provoke a public outcry” exactly as Rav Elyashiv shlita said.

    It took the esteemed journalists / opinionists of cross-currents, Hamodia, Mishpacha and so on quite a few days to come to this conclusion (and some will not do it still because they are not able to take facts that contradict their hashkafa…).

    Can it be that Rav Elyoshiv shlita is much more informed that it is continuosly assumed by these same enlightened journalists and the blogger/internet cohort that follows them? Can it be that this story of askanim filtering and controlling Gedolei Ha-Dor information and therefore influencing halachik ruling is as much wrong as the Emanuel case?

    When (for the first time I remember!) the facts have realy been looked into, it seems that the Gedolei Ha-Dor were quite right…. Could that be the lesson to learn during these yemei hasfirah?

    As far as I am concerned I stick to Rav Elyoshiv and the other Gedolei Ha-Dor!

    Have a gut shabos,

    Rudy W.

  37. Charlie Hall says:

    Rarely mentioned in any online discussions regarding the Emanuel situation:

    (1) Published reports state that the Sefardic parents were told to go to the secular court system by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef.
    (2) One of the high court judges who ruled against the Ashkenazic Charedim is religious: Hon. Edmond E. Levy.

    We should at least give R’Yosef and Judge Levy the benefit of the doubt rather than to assume that this is all just part of an anti-religion crusade.

  38. RG says:

    “That said, I wonder if you have an opinion about the following statement of Meir Porush, given in an interview to the Jerusalem Post.
    “According to Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, of United Torah Judaism, any Sephardic girl who wants to be in the “hassidic” track can get in, as long as she agrees to speak Hebrew with an Ashkenazi accent and give up Sephardic customs at home.”

    Of course, it is possible that he was misquoted!”

    Thank you for suggesting that he was misquoted, because as a resident of Emanuel I know that this is utterly, utterly untrue. I will be happy to connect you with Sephardi families here in Emanuel who are of course keeping their traditions – what does anyone mean by the speaking Hebrew part? We all speak Hebrew here like anyone does – does he mean during the prayers? Most prayers are said silently. You may contact me directly via Yaakov Menken.

  39. Zach Leiner says:

    Miriam wrote:

    “I believe Rabbi Slifkin’s point was more that those who write for Mishpacha aren’t likely to influence certain Charedi circles. Strong ones.”

    There is data indicating that Mishpacha is read much more widely than the Yated and HaModia and the circulation is growing. That said, it appears that “strong ones” who refuse to grant it a hechsher may be unimpressed, but they’re also not powerful enough to put a stop to Mishpacha’s increased readership and public airing of issues that other Charedi news sources would not touch.

    Therefore, maybe there’s an influence on other circles.

  40. Yaakov Menken says:

    I appreciate what Charlie Hall has just added, given that there is still much we have to learn about this case. Charlie, can you tell us the source of your information, and any specifics about R’ Yosef’s determination?

    But with all respect to the other commenters, I want to focus upon Rabbi Landesman’s response… and ended up doing so to the point that a new post resulted.

  41. L. Oberstein says:

    “strong ones” who refuse to grant it a hechsher
    I asume this is the translation of “shtarkers” or “thugs”. I subscribe to Mishpacha, Hamodia, and a host of secular magazines. What impresses me is that these two publications grow larger and larger as the secular ones get thiner.
    They must be doing something right.

    “Can it be that this story of askanim filtering and controlling Gedolei Ha-Dor information and therefore influencing halachik ruling is as much wrong as the Emanuel case?” Does this writer really believe that the rabbi is not surrounded by “handlers’ who benefit materially from their ability to decide who gets in? Everyone I speak to believes this, are they all wrong? I was told by the head of a major Torah institution recently that he would not believe one word that comes out of the mouth of a certain askan who is the main gatekeeper for the above godol. When someone is 100 years old, are they really attuned to all the nuances or do they deal with what is put before them. How much independent research was done in the Slifkin or Nosson kamenetzky cases before edicdts were broadsided and lives were harmed? My rabbeim never did that.Either the “handler” is at fault or not, the second choice is even more abhorant.

  42. Rudy Wagner says:

    L Oberstein,

    I am not at all denying that there are “handlers” surrounding the Gedoilim. So what? Lehavdil, newspapers chief editors, politicians, business people are also surrounded by people who brief them about everything. Is that a crime? What else should they do?

    I am sorry you have such a low consideration for old Gedoilim who according to you surround themselves by inappropriate people and have limited cognitive capabilities. I have personal experience speaking to many Israeli Gedoilim in their 100s (may they all live ad meah ve-esrim) who were very much aware of what is going on around them and in the wider world. Nuances included. It looks like the handlers are doing a great job.

    I don’t know about other cases, but in the Emanuel case, given his reaction, it seems that the report Rav Elyoshiv shlita had was more accurate and timely than the one by the bagatz and most newspapers. It looks like the handlers did a better job here…

    If you are honest to yourself, it may well be that your own ideas are based on a lot of filters (the “friends” you mention, newspapers, blogs…). How much “independent research” did you do to form your opinions about Gedoilim and the handlers?

    Believing that your rebbeim are right and the others (Gedoilim!!!) are wrong sounds a bit like the story of the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva… the inability of affirming themselves without putting down others.

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