Welcoming The Charedi Spring

The Charedi Spring may have finally arrived. Eight year old Naama Margolese may do for Israel what a Tunisian street vendor did for the Arab world. The wave of revulsion for the behavior of the extremists, if sustained and channeled into focused police work, may release the Israeli public – both secular and charedi – from the tyranny of fanatics whose thuggery and primitivism ran unchecked in Meah Shearim for years.

The price we pay for it is a massive chilul Hashem, as hundreds of millions of people equate Torah with Taliban. The only partial antidote is for the genuine Orthodox world to do what Muslims do not do to their extremists. We must condemn with passion, conviction and without qualification.

As the numbers of Meah Shearim-grown extremists increased, they sought space in other communities. (It was not only a matter of space. They were repudiated by many in their own neighborhood, including the Edah Charedis, which was still unable to rein them in.) Large numbers settled upon the Beit Shemesh area. Their growing enclave in RBS-Bet gradually spread out, to the point that they found themselves in close proximity to existing neighborhoods of dati Leumi and conventional charedim. Ongoing clashes came to a head with the opening of a frum girls’ school on land the extremists coveted in the dati Leumi neighborhood of Scheinfeld. While the dispute has been going on for months, and while violently imposing their requirements on local businesses has taken place for years, the issue exploded upon the national and international scene through a clip from Israel’s Channel Two that has gone viral. Listening to an Anglo girl dressed in long sleeves and a skirt speak about her fears in simply crossing the street and having to run a gauntlet of taunts, curses, and spittle from bearded adults has turned out to be the impetus to galvanize a country – including many charedim – into taking action. Contrasting her angelic demeanor with the ugly rhetoric of one of the tormentors who is particularly honest about their objectives to take over the entire country contributed to the mood of resistance.

Both the Prime Minister and the President spoke about the video. (Netanyahu was particularly gracious. “”We must beware of generalizing an entire population, because the vast majority of the Haredi public combines an adherence to Jewish tradition and a complete respect of the law”). Thousands came to Beit Shemesh to help stand up against the extremists. Groups of Knesset members are scheduling visits. Most remarkably, Haaretz reported that journalists were getting plenty of lip from charedim – but not to complain as usual about unbalanced treatment of their community. Rather, charedim were turning to them in person and by phone to implore them to keep the heat on through their coverage, so that the government will have no choice but to take firm action against the zealots who make life miserable for them as well. Haaretz even had to concede a difference between a minority population of out of control extremists and a “mainstream charedi” population.

To anyone not familiar with the history and dynamics of the charedi communities of Israel – and the century-and-a-half-long kulturkampf that created it, there is nothing in the pictures coming from Israel to differentiate the mobs in Beit Shemesh from those in Pakistan or Iraq. No amount of casuistry will put a dent in the plain truth: the behavior of many people who are seen as frum is a massive chilul Hashem of epic proportions.

Rabbinic and communal organizations are readying statements denouncing the barbarians at the gates of Beit Shemesh. This is necessary and good. It is probably not good enough. The extremists are not the equivalent of the poor, semi-literate unwashed masses in the Muslim suburbs of Paris. They were the recipients of many years of Torah chinuch. They studied, to some degree, the same seforim as the rest of us.

Even after we protest, the world will want to know what makes us more authentic than them. Why are they not the “real” Jews, and we are the reformers? How do we demonstrate that they are the imposters, that their understanding of Yiddishkeit is foreign to its genuine spirit? It is simply insufficient to say that we are right and they are wrong, or that our rabbis and leaders are greater than theirs. We dare not leave the very definition of Yiddishkeit to a he says, she says competition.

It is not enough to unequivocally denounce them. We must explain to the world – and fully and confidently to ourselves – why the extremists are a foreign, sickly weed, not another shitah among many. Where do we find within our mesorah the confidence to see these people as outside of it? We must be able to point not just to a collection of their terrible actions, but to fundamental themes in their lifestyle that make them different – and that we can package simply and reinforce in our children and students.

I have nothing magisterial or even particularly insightful to offer. A few thoughts, however, do come to mind.

How do I reject thee? Let me count the ways…

1) The dignity of everyone possessed of a Tzelem Elokim. We take it seriously; they don’t. You can’t take it seriously and still bring children to tears. You could never smear feces on the property of others. You could never spit at someone, rather than engage in discourse. You would see in all of this a belittling of the tzelem Elokim – the image of G-d vested in Man – not only of the other person, but of yourself. The imposition of one set of standards on others who are not willing (e.g. removing public benches so that women will not sit on them in public) is not only theft of the public, it is a denial of their Tzelem Elokim that allows them to choose their own decisors. Claiming that all other decisors but their own are wrong is a fatal distortion of halachic process.

2) Hakoras HaTov According to Chovos HaLevavos, owning up to the obligation to reciprocate what others have benefited you (even when done for the wrong reasons) is the key to any growth in serving Hashem. Closing their eyes to the benefits they have received from the State – the blood that has been spilled defending them in every war since ’48; the subsidies that feed their children and pay for their medical care – is so profoundly un-Jewish that it should be sufficient cause to call them opponents of Torah. All the mental gymnastics applied by them to prove to themselves that they owe nothing to anyone (i.e., if it weren’t for everyone else’s sins, the Arabs would be our peaceful and loving neighbors) should only prove that they can compound lack of hakoras hatov with distortion of sechel. R. Chaim Shmulevitz zt”l used to ask every year during Neilah that people daven for the soldiers of Tzahal. “Those who don’t understand why are fools.”

3) The simplest one, and the one that works the most for me: The proper way, we are told in Avos, is one that brings honor to Hashem and honor to the one who follows it. It should be simple enough to argue that a lifestyle that brings nothing but contempt upon Torah cannot legitimately be Torah! Discounting the small percentage of Israelis who truly hate Torah, the rest of Israeli society cannot be written off the same way. Where they should see the ahavas Yisrael of the R Aryeh Levin they remember a generation ago, they see nothing in the video clip but unvarnished hatred. Where they should see a lifestyle to admire, they see a community that cannot support itself, covers up its misdeeds, and shows itself entirely unsuitable to face challenges of real life. They react – and indeed often overreact – with contempt. But at least part of their contempt is understandable. It certainly means that the extremists are not bringing honor to anyone.

This alone proves that their way cannot be Torah. Everything else is commentary.

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81 Responses

  1. Baruch Gitlin says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, kol hakavod for what I feel is a very well balanced, intelligent, and impassioned statement about the violence in Beit Shemesh. I am particularly glad that in addition to dealing with the issue of tarring us all (the religious) with the same brush in a nuanced and intelligent way, you also take the trouble to avoid tarring the secular Israeli public with the same brush. An excellent article!

  2. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  3. Etana Hecht says:

    Thank you for your words of reason!

  4. Shoshanna says:


  5. David Greenzweig says:

    Wonderful, Rabbi Adlerstein! As a Beit Shemesh resident, dati-leumi, I take great comfort from your article. Sadly, it is not that difficult to know how to treat and talk to other people. Hillel said it clearly – “That which is hateful to you do not do to your fellow”. Is this *really* so hard? And to be fair, the issue is not only applicable to those extremist Jews in Ramat Beit Shemesh B. Our whole political culture here is lacking in basic decency. Thank you, Rabbi Adlerstein!

  6. Dov says:

    Kol hakavod! Frum Jews need to stand up and seperate from the crazies. In case there’s any question, the kanayim involved are not chareidi in a way that anyone would recognize. See the YouTubes to see the sickness in their eyes, or to see the gauntlet that religous girls had to walk through. To quote a Rav who’s tried to talk to them, their Torah is not the Torah we recognize and love.

  7. joel rich says:

    I suggest going to the Ratiojnalist judaism blog (iirc you don’t post links):

    Spitting on Girls is Not the Main Problem

    Charedi zealotry has been a hot topic in Israel over the last few weeks, and Bet Shemesh is the hotspot this week. Today, a huge rally will take place, sparked by a moving interview that aired on television last week. It featured an eight-year-old girl who was traumatized from going to her school, Orot, due to charedi extremists who scream at her and spit on her.

    Now, I do not mean for one moment to minimize the awful nature of the situation with the Orot girls. I am extremely upset by it, and I was at several rallies to protest what has been happening there. However, I am concerned that there is an excessive focus on that particular situation which distracts from the larger problem and even plays into it.

    The vast majority of charedim are horrified and disgusted at the thought of screaming at girls and spitting on them – or indeed at anyone. These are the actions of a fringe lunatic element that are detested by everyone. But as such, it’s easy for charedim, including Mayor Abutbol, to give television interviews protesting their behavior. This neatly enables them to avoid the more general problem, which is this: At every level in charedi society, there is a certain degree of intolerance towards non-charedim, which is never protested by those to their left in charedi society…………….


  8. Aharon Haber says:

    Kol HaKavod. This is the kind of statement the world is waiting to hear from Chareidim who count themselves on the right side of rationality. I only wish it could translate into unqualified public condemnation (and piskei halacha where relevant) from Gedolim and into large numbers of Chareidim willing to join the rest of us in the battle to take back our streets. Then the world will know where to put the dividing line in this struggle.

  9. rabbichaplain says:

    This post truly makes me cringe. I am glad everyone is finally speaking up. All the Orthodox rabbinic organizations, RCA (their statement will be ready soon), Agudat Israel, and others, are making statements condemning religious extremist violence in Beit Shemesh. The Belzer Rebbe also alluded to the violence according to Yeshiva World News. Yet, I wonder if perhaps it is another case of too little, too late. Religious violence in Israel has been there for years. And sure, for every stone thrower, there is a Rabbi who says it is not appropriate. Yet, you only hear about that years later. And even in this, while all the organizations are talking, who is to say the zealots are listening.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, talk we must, but let’s not get carried away and make declarations that this is the beginning of an “Charedi Spring.” I find the usurping of that term preposterous, as while I hope this event does cause a change, to equate it with what is going on in the rest of the Middle East is absurd. Besides, the Arab Spring upon which this is predicated upon is, by many accounts, turning into an Islamic winter.

    To me, the violence should have been condemned and punished years ago. But when there was public silence against protesting Shabbat desecrators, all it did was embolden some of them to take their violence to another level. And to top it off, unless one of their Rebbes comes out and says the violence is not allowed, which most likely will not happen because of their own fear of these extremists, I don’t see much in the way of curtailing it. And should the Israeli government step in and arrest some of the more egregious men who are attacking and cursing young girls, I have a hard time believing the more mainstream Haredi world won’t be up in arms to an extent.

    To conclude, we should all hope that this violence will end as it is making us all look bad as well as proving Hillary Clinton correct to an extent when she sparked her own controversy with her comments about gender bias in Israel. To outsiders, it is no different, even if on the inside we can try to find the subtleties. I pray that these men find some seichel (intelligence) and stop this disgusting display of zealotry in a time when we need to be banding together as one nation.

  10. Nachum says:

    Yes, well spoke. I must point out some facts, though, as truth is truth:

    “without qualification.”

    The official American Agudah declaration, about as mainstream charedi as you can get, had three short sentences of condemnation and seven long ones of qualification.

    “allows them to choose their own decisors”

    That’s not respecting tzelem Elokim. Respecting tzelem Elokim would be to allowing people to make their own *decisions.* That the most freedom you will concede is the freedom to place oneself under the control of another human of your choosing is quite troubling.

    “Closing their eyes to the benefits they have received from the State”

    So the UTJ- again, about as mainstream charedi as you can get- calls their ministers “deputies,” so as not, chalila, to recognize the State even an iota more than absolutely necessary, even as it uses those positions to benefit materially from the state. I see.

    It would be nice if R’ Adlerstein was right. I will wait and see.

  11. Reuven Ungar says:

    I totally agree with Mr. Gitlin’s endorsement of the article. Completely on the mark. The only thing that I’d add is what I saw elsewhere (escaping me at the moment)- encouraging all of us to learn the hakdama of the Netziv to Sefer Bereshit.

  12. Tova Taragin says:

    Beautifully written. Kol hakavod.

  13. koillel nick says:

    “It is not enough to unequivocally denounce them.”
    It would help if the Aguda’s statement was unequivocal. The statement they released added some criticism of leftist politicians and some religious ideas. It is a very counterproductive statement, and does not represent the people the Aguda claims to represent.

  14. Yosef says:

    As Rabbi Hillel said when asked to explain the Torah on one foot: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to others- the rest is commentary. Now go and study!”

  15. Elana says:

    Breathtakingly eloquent. The most well thought out piece I’ve read on the subject. WOW!!!!!

  16. A simple Jew says:

    R. Adlerstein,

    This is the best article/response I have seen— keep up the good work.

  17. Ross says:

    Outstanding — Yasher Koach!

  18. Dovid says:

    Great piece, but there’s one point which needs to be clarified: The second and third reasons you mentioned for why this can’t be authentic Torah is, I’m sorry to say, applicable to a good deal of the charedi population in Israel, and not just to the hooligans. Whenever I read the charedi press here (which I’ve done plenty), I am appalled by the dreadful lack of hakaras hatov both to the State and to HKBH who gave us this State. There are constant complaints about the “porkei ol” and how difficult the secular Zionists make it to live a Torah life here (which is, of course, nonsense; Torah life here is great). And as for bringing disgrace to the Torah, you yourself wrote “Where they should see a lifestyle to admire, they see a community that cannot support itself, covers up its misdeeds, and shows itself entirely unsuitable to face challenges of real life.” This applies to many (most?) mainstream charedim, not just the meshugaim in Beit Shemesh.

    So, does that mean that mainstream charedim also cannot represent authentic Torah?

    [YA – my response to this can be found in a separate post: “Response To Comments on Charedi Spring.”]

  19. Harry Maryles says:

    Wow! I wish Agudah had said that!

  20. Yitz Waxman says:

    Thank you for the refreshing article.

    The issue that Rabbi Adlerstein of reclaiming the mantle of authentic “darche noam” Judaism is indeed as difficult as it is important. I suggest that no explanations are sufficient here – not for the public and probably not even for internal use.

    Rather, the only remedy available against a chillul haShem is kiddush haShem. Imagine 500 mainstream Haredi men from Beit Shemesh and in full regalia of fedora hats and black jackets forming a human barrier against the Sicarii. For added effect, have them sing niggunim and songs while they escort the dati girls peacefully out of school. Why can’t that happen?

  21. Ellie Levi says:

    Thank you for your well-written article. Please add another crucial point to the arguments against this behavior as follows: Sinat Chinam is assur. The Beit Hamikdash was destroyed due to Sinat Chinam – and no one can expect to rebuild it through more of the same. Additionally, history has proven time and again that all those who built a form of leadership predicated on hatred of others, were consumed and ultimately destroyed by that hatred. Peace [Rav Kook’s Ahavat Chinam] is what changes the world for the better.

  22. Daniel W says:

    I’m not such a historian, so I ask this: Is this not an oft-recurring divide within our religion? Isn’t there plenty of historical precedence for a group to rise with an alternative understanding of Jewish law who attempts to run a community by it? What were the results there? History is written by the victors, who look in hindsight at the defeated and analyze after the fact why they were flawed. It is clearly important that the majority/mainstream should – both intellectually (like your post) and then, as necessary, physically – dispel those who advocate this distortion of Judaism, but perhaps some historical analysis could aid in the process of deciding what actions to take.

  23. Dan Daoust says:

    I would be perfectly willing to buy that if the greater Charedi community had been loudly and unequivocally condemning the fanatics for as long as the Beit Shemesh situation has been going on. But that hasn’t happened, has it? The silence from the mainstream Charedi community and its leaders has been deafening. So while you’ve successfully explained how the actions of the fanatics cannot possibly be representative of the Torah, you have not provided an answer for the question of whether this episode shows that the broader Torah community actually sympathizes with the fanatics’ underlying motivations and whether it wouldn’t really mind if at the end of the day we arrived at the place that the fanatics are taking us to, even if we clearly don’t accept their methods.

    Frankly, at this point it’s not even the humiliation of the community that rankles me. In the end that’ll blow over. I’m just trying to understand for myself how I can support the notion of devoting one’s entire life to the Torah if you either end up a fanatic or an enabler.

  24. Shimon says:

    Beautifully written and an excellent articulation of true Torah Judaism…but so unfortunately, untrue. This is not what is coming out of the charedi establishment here in Israel. I live in Ramat Bet Shemesh, and I have not heard this, or even anything close, coming from any more moderate charedi Rabbonim. The only question I keep asking myself is; why isn’t this most obvious message coming from any segment of the traditional charedi leadership; from local rabbonim to gedolei israel???

  25. YEA says:

    I’ve been waiting for this article!! Rabbi Adlerstein once again hit the nail on the head (teaching me some new words along the way). I think a quote from an old post by Rabbi Adlerstein is relevant here:

    “They don’t see, for the most part, the sincerity and the chesed. They see people who in their eyes are fixated on the past, who’ve created cocoons for themselves in which they can avoid the issues that everyone they know faces. People who are contemptuous of the sons they’ve sent to battle in their place. People whose leaders are powerful enough to keep the 20th century out of their enclaves, let alone the 21st, yet cannot stop their youth from burning garbage cans as a sign of protest. They see in you a life style that to them more resembles that of the Arab primitives around them. They do not see the noble people that the little they know of Jewish history tells them we are.”

  26. Ariel Rackovsky says:

    It can’t happen because there is no vociferous condemnation from those they hold to be Gedolim, and, more importantly, the Gedolim are not encouraging them to do that. And the reason they aren’t is that even the moderate Chareidim don’t actually want the school- or those who represent its target population- there in the first place, even if they don’t condone violence against them.

  27. Michael Rogovin says:

    This is an excellent piece and I agree of course. However, I do think that it skips over a larger issue that is directly related but ignored by much of the orthodox, and certainly the mainstream hareidi world. The extremists are an extreme form of a decades long shift among mainstream hareidi (and in some cases dati leumi) camps in which they seek to impose their Halachic norms on others. This is manifested in the haredi control of the rabbinate, imposing ever stricter standards in kashrut, public Shabbat observance, conversion, marriage, divorce, immigration and transportation. While the use of threats, taunts, violence, etc distinguishes the extremists, I submit that their goals are not all that different from much of the mainstream, and I (as a religious Zionist living in the galut) consider these moves by the mainstream a threat to the state and to orthodoxy.

    Of course I favor strict adherence to Halacha in kashrut, an area where there is much corruption. But I think it is wrong to impose new chumrot. The restrictions on conversion have led to a shomeret Shabbat American being denied immigration status (illegally I should note). The danger is also a secular public increasingly intolerant of the status quo, which is very likely to lead to more Shabbat desecration, civil marriage and growth in mamzerim and other problematic status Jews, and an increase in chilul

  28. Michael Rogovin says:

    (sorry – hit the publish button – iPads are not for long typing)

    (continued) Hashem. The way forward is for the dati communities to lead by example, not by imposing restrictions. We must be sensitive to using kulot when appropriate, reserving chumrot for those who choose them for themselves, the way our sages did. Tradition published a great article on this several years ago. It is time for the moderns to ally themselves with the seculars rather than the litvaks and make orthodoxy so beautiful that everyone will admire it and want to join.

  29. zev says:

    Let the Israeli government stop providing welfare to able-bodied non-workers and you’ll see how quickly this clears itself up. Busy people who need to work don’t have time to stand around spitting at little girls.

  30. Apikorus Al Ha'esh says:

    While the general sentiments you’ve expressed are correct and admirable, I object to your racist generalizations regarding Muslims in Paris. Are they all semi-literate and unwashed? Have you visited an extremist Jewish neighborhood and found its residents fully literate and recently bathed? I doubt it highly. You can make your point without putting down others who–however guilty in general–have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    [YA – You are entirely correct that any such implication would be racist and inaccurate. It was certainly not my intention to make any such assertion. Thank you for pointing this out.

    Do understand, however, that a stock argument in the liberal press (one that I happen to agree with) is that Americans should not react to our Muslim neighbors here in the US based on the horror stories that emanate from the Continent, particular from those neighborhoods near Paris that the police openly state that they will not enter. The argument is that the residents there (and in several other European cities) unwashed illiterates – recent immigrants from Algeria and other former European colonial holdings! Although we have our share of those in the US, they are a much smaller part of the Muslim world here, and therefore we should not extrapolate from the grim failures in assimilating European Muslims.

    So the finding that there are unwashed illiterate Muslims out there, and that they are the ones held up to the West as exemplars of religious extremism, is not my invention. It is important, as you point out, not to make a generalization of this.]

  31. Abe 71 says:

    Thank you R’ Alderstein, for saying like it must be said. This is the first article that I have read that really “gets it”.

  32. Abe 71 says:

    Thank you R’ Alderstein, for saying like it must be said. This is the first article that I have read that really “gets it”. I agree with the all of the above commentators’ positive comments.

  33. dr. bill says:

    frankly, the latest words from r. elyashiv are more critical than the extremism; the extremist may be quarantined but the r.elyashiv’s impact will be felt for at least 1-2 generations. i have no issue with his views as long as they are restricted to yichedai segulah who have the right to extol to the cloistered life he values. clearly others would choose a broader exposure even for yichidai segulah, but that argument has gone on for centuries. what is frightening is applying his POV broadly, as I strongly suspect he intends.

    This isolation, so characteristic of israeli chareidim, is leading to a broader and deeper crisis than a few bad actors at the fringe. For those who can find it, the teshuvah to the charedi community of the old yishuv on some of these very issues by R. Dovid (Karliner) Friedman ztl, over a century ago, reads like it was written yesterday. it covered the need for secular education for the broader community in Palestine of that era. contrast it to his tshuvah where he opposed secular education in the khedarim of Europe (in the late 19th century.)

    These bad actors are deflecting needed dialogue on a much more serious issue. Nonetheless, R. Adlerstein took a big step forward after the rather tepid observations of the agudah.

  34. Gershon Spiegel says:

    Thank you Rabbi adlerstein!

  35. koillel nick says:

    I guess the OU and RCA do a better job representing almost all those replying on this site. Their statement is clear, and without qualifications. Unfortunately, the Auda couldn’t do that. Perhaps we all identify with the wrong organizations.

    The Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union join together to strongly and unambiguously condemn the recent violence and intimidation committed by segments of the Jewish community in Beit Shemesh, Israel. As the largest body of Orthodox Rabbis, and the largest organization of Orthodox Synagogues, respectively, we call upon all involved to return to the peaceful ways of our sacred Torah and to respect the dignity of all human beings. It should be clear to all that this hateful activity does not represent Judaism.

    We also urge all observers to recognize that the behavior of these hooligans does not in any way represent the attitude or demeanor of the Charedi community at large. The vast majority of Charedi Jews find these actions abhorrent, and the community should not be judged by the inexcusable conduct of a few.

    Finally, as rabbis and national congregational leaders, we support the right and the duty of Israel’s police to act with the full force of the law in putting an end to these illegal, and dangerous, activities.

  36. S. says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein

    “2) Hakoras HaTov According to Chovos HaLevavos, owning up to the obligation to reciprocate what others have benefited you (even when done for the wrong reasons) is the key to any growth in serving Hashem. Closing their eyes to the benefits they have received from the State – the blood that has been spilled defending them in every war since ’48; the subsidies that feed their children and pay for their medical care – is so profoundly un-Jewish that it should be sufficient cause to call them opponents of Torah.”

    Here’s as good a place to ask as any. It is my understanding that the Satmar Rav believes and taught that one must not show hakaras ha-tov to the Medinah (to be fair I think he also taught that one should not benefit from them, but as you point out, everyone does nevertheless).

    We are also taught that the Satmar Rav’s views are and were mostly definitely a “ve-elu.”

    How are these positions to be reconciled? This is of course a larger question – how and are we supposed to respect people whom are considered to be great who frankly spread such teachings?

    [YA – my response to this can be found in a separate post: “Response To Comments on Charedi Spring.”]

  37. David Ram says:

    To Yitzchok Adlerstein: Well written piece. I believe that your idea of trying to completely undermine the extremist elements as outside the purview of normative orthodox Judaism is a good idea, but extremely difficult.
    I want to give you a bit more perspective – of someone that lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh and has interacted directly with some of the most influential chareidi rabbis in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.
    In halacha, the reason why halachic issues are in fact an issue, since there must be 2 competing values. For example, not doing work on Shabbat and tending to a sick person. Sometimes the law is to keep Shabbat and not provide medication or otherwise to the sick, if the sick is not in danger. And sometimes we must break the Shabbat to deal with the sick. Both values are good, but they clash, and we need to know what to do in each situation. This is in essence the reason for questions and answers in halacha. Essentially, all halachic questions, by definition, are asked since there are 2 competing values at play. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a question. The same is true with what is happening in Beit Shemesh.
    One of the main differences between Galus and Israeli societies is that in the galus – all you have is the 4 cubits of the law. In Israel – hashkafic values often battle even legal issues. The divide between dati leumi (nationalist Orthodox Jews) and Chereidi (ultra-orthodox) in Israel is not halachic. It is not even a divide regarding commitment to torah and torah values. It is philosophical. Largely around the concept of Zionism. That is it. All the rest is a façade. There is no modesty issue that the chareidim are battling in Beit Shemesh. It is Zionism in their midst. They have plenty of modesty challenges in their own ranks. This is about land, control, money and the eradication of Zionists from “their” communities. And in Israel, philosophy is fundamental. The rabbis in Israel place hashkafa very high on the priority list. Therefore, things like kavod habri’os, stealing, destroying property, shaming the name of G-d, etc. can often be viewed as a secondary value to undermining the power of Zionism and strengthening the power of chareidi lifestyle.
    There is a common misconception among Jews in the Galus and even Anglo-Saxons living in Israel – that Israel is like chutz la’aretz. And by that I mean – there are 2 general directions (1) modern orthodox and (2) black hat. In chutz la’aretz, black hat communities are viewed as the ones that hold a strong commitment to Judaism, to Torah, to taking the obligations seriously and living Jewish in the fullest sense. And the modern orthodox are the ones that are perceived as only tolerating the religion and finding compromises that allow us to live comfortably despite it. (Sorry for the generalizations.)
    In Israel, this is pointedly false. In Israel there are 2 general philosophical tracks from which to choose within Orthodox Judaism. Each track has its strong commitment camp, its more modern camp and even an extremist camp. One track is chareidi – where there are modern chareidi, committed chareidi and extremists. We have the luxury of knowing these 3 camps very well within Ramat Beit Shemesh. The second track is the dati leumi track, with the same 3 camps (modern, committed and extremists). The fundamental difference between dati leumi and charedi is ONLY leumi (nationalist) issues. NOT modesty, strictness in halacha, the shininess of an Esrog…nothing. Only Zionism. In addition, due to the natural pride of building the Jewish homeland, all 3 Zionist camps respect army service, education and work – even though many of the “committed” and “extremist” camps do not always serve the army, get an education and work. (much “frummer” than American black hats).
    So this battle is real, and not at all new. And the “extremists” have the backing from serious rabbis and the agreement by many other rabbis to ignore the situation. And we all know, deep down, that the mainstream chareidi rabbis in Israel agree with the radical chareidim. Whether they agree or disagree with the tactics is one thing – but the underlying problem felt by the radical chareidim is agreed upon with virtually all mainstream chareidim. Some like the tactics and some don’t. But the tactics often get the job done…so all look the other way.
    So again, this is a battle of values. And in Israel, much more than in the US, philosophy is a more important value than the Ten Commandments.

  38. Joshua Cohen says:

    ’bout time! Well said!

  39. Shades of Gray says:

    “How do we demonstrate that they are the imposters, that their understanding of Yiddishkeit is foreign to its genuine spirit? How do I reject thee? Let me count the ways…”

    They also have a different concept of tzniyus and perhaps of a Diety as well(they are doing His will, after all). There is, however, a danger of going simply in the opposite direction of them, and that’s part of where the Agudah statement on tzniyus in this context might comes in.

  40. Yehuda Poch says:

    Shalom Aleichem:
    A very well-written article. My only question is: Where are the haredi rabbinic leaders in all this? Why aren’t people like Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman openly and forcefully condemning the extremists? What about the haredi rabbinical leaders in Beit Shemesh – like Kopshitz and Perlstein and Goldstein? Where are their condemnations? That would certainly help the world understand where the haredi opinion really is.

  41. BZ says:

    You are the Taliban

    I don’t think you guys get it. You show fanatical zeal to uphold a nebulous tradition. You disavow science whenever it is not compatible with your beliefs. You pray for the time that you could put to death (via stoning or some other barbarous method) homosexuals and those who desecrate the sabbath. You would whip to death someone who disagrees with your decisions. In many cases you treat non-Jews as non-persons (or you would if you could).
    Of course you can’t find significant distinctions between the hooiigans and you. There are none. They are you. You are them.

  42. Etana Hecht says:

    Excellent, thank you so much!

  43. Michael Feldstein says:

    Most remarkably, Haaretz reported that journalists were getting plenty of lip from charedim – but not to complain as usual about unbalanced treatment of their community. Rather, charedim were turning to them in person and by phone to implore them to keep the heat on through their coverage, so that the government will have no choice but to take firm action against the zealots who make life miserable for them as well.

    On the one hand, this is very refreshing news and speaks volumes about the fact that most Charedim deplore what has occurred. On the other hand, it underscores the culture of fear that has enveloped the fervently Orthodox community. This is certainly not the first kind of incident like this that has occurred. It is only the first incident that has garnered such widespread media attention. Until now the rabbis and the gedolim in the Charedi community have preferred to ignore such incidents…or sweep them under the rug when they could. The general population was fearful of expressing their real opinions about these matters for fear of what it would do to their own standing in the community. I It is indeed a shame that it had to take such a massive chillul Hashem to convince the Charedi population to speak out and air their true feelings about what is happening in their community. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of a refreshing change, as Rabbi Adlerstein so eloquently describes.

  44. lacosta says:

    maybe we need to distinguish between haredi and hareili, the latter the israeli brand— the former tends to live and let live -maybe that’s the nature of chu”l. the latter , contains many streams of my way or no way judaism [worse than my way or the high way , it carries potential of live and not let live]…

    big picture , not optimistic… the past week ,an underplayed story of the undisputed godol hador demanding no breach of the wall to Army or University, no matter how kashered those programs may be . it speaks again of no options — hermetically sealed existence, or removal of the Enemy [ except for his lucre, which is vitally needed to fund all these endeavors—including the hooligans who seem to never have to be at work]

    sadly this will probably be a case of ki mizion tezei tora— the spirit of a tora life , including r’ adlerstein’s principles , can’t function in tzion…..

  45. Akiva Males says:

    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein!

    Akiva Males
    Kesher Israel Congregation
    Harrisburg, PA

  46. Mr. Cohen says:

    We must distinguish between real Chareidim who love peace and honesty in business,
    and fake Chareidim who do not.

    Vigilante violence against immodestly dressed people is never taught in any Torah book.

  47. Zalman Alpert says:

    What are “conventional Charedim” that are mentioned here. Is that a code word for yeshiva communities not chasidim ?
    The Charedim in BS were not expelled from Jslm. they are here because housing is too expensive in Jslm.They are not outlaws from Jslm.
    They are not lone wolves either , but belong to groups of Chassidim and Perushim who do lots of fund raising in the US among the “conventional Charedim” and Aguda light fellows in places like the 5 towns.. In BS they are well organized and almsot all Ultra communities in Jslm have branches in BS like perushim , Dushinsky and Toldos Aron.
    Obviously there aremany ways to battle these people, but 1 way is to make the stays of their holy leaders while visiting in the uS just a tad uncomfortable and to ask these man tough questions, Rebbe what are you doing to control your disciples ?
    Then it may be worthwhile to place a qualifications on donations to these groups.
    Everyone knows the groups to which these fellows belong to, and in todays charedi world evryone (or almost ) has to belong to a Misgeret in order to do shidduchim and get schooling and much needed funds.
    AI wrote elsewhere its time for the Aguda to abandon its failed policy of not attacking anyone to its right.
    lets be frank is the RCA,YU , RIETS and Rabbi Avi Weiss the enemy of Klal israel or these characters in BS ?
    Lets not place the responsibility on others to control these guys. The MGHT ought to come out front and center against them.
    The Lubavitcher Rebbe in a similiar situation proclaimed lo mehem velomayhomonom publically and criticized their hashgochos.
    Dow e wish to eat Eda food products whose mashgichim and even rabbonim support this behavior ? Lo mehem velomayhamonom !!

    [Editor’s note: The author is the distinguished reference librarian at the Mendel Gottesman Library at YU]

  48. Ellen says:

    The Orot-Bet Shemesh incident and its national (international) response is a nail in the coffin of charedi politics’ conquest to run the country its own way. What started out as influence and looking out for its own sector has become an attempt to dominate where the means justify the ends, turning the concept “charedi l’davar Hashem” into something far more domineering and intrusive.

    At the last election in Bet Shemesh, the charedi leadership welcomed the kanoim’s participation in the election – both voting when in the past they abstained on philosophical grouns, and also aggressively campaigning including within voting stations despite regulations. The shortage of school facilities in Bet Shemesh for all the populations is a struggle, and one only wonders what a charedi mayor and deputy were hoping would transpire through inaction, making no personal appearances at the mess at Orot until two weeks ago when the national press conferences began.

    Three years ago Bet Shemesh eagerly welcomed the new leadership in Bet Shemesh, hoping for a shift from the cronyism of the past. While the new politicians have some potential, their mandate to apply newer charedi values that over-prioritize the charedi constituency haven’t resulted in an improved Bet Shemesh – not for the residents in general and not even the charedi population that also needs enhanced infrastructure, adequate police protection, and for those seeking employment some of the long-tabled proposed industrial developments.

    I would like to see the ultra-orthodox political influence restored to the personality that earned national respect in the past: insisting on religious content for all of Israel, and advocating for the support for its dedicated few who are learning Torah and teaching it on behalf of the nation. Until Moshiach comes, we still need to approach politics with the modesty of a galus perspective – even within Israel.

  49. Sam says:

    As in the case of Eglah Arufah, it is the rabbis who are guilty by their silence and inactivity. You can’t have Kovod and no responsibility, sorry guys.

  50. E. Fink says:

    I like what you wrote. I just wish we could focus more on the horrible acts and society that tolerates these acts and less on how it makes us look in the eyes of others.

    [YA – I think you have it wrong. Only when the media trains its digital eye on misdeed in our community do we find the motivation and the wherewithal to respond to the horrible behavior. Let’s not squander the momentum of the moment.]

  51. Jeffrey R. Woolf says:

    I cannot put into words how much I appreciate and applaud the eloquent courage and religio-moral rectitude expressed by Rabbi Adlerstein in this essay. מילים כדרבונות כיאה לתלמיד חכם הראוי למנותו פרנס על הציבור

  52. Nachum Klafter says:

    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for this excellent piece.

    You are always soft on the Mo’etzet (American and Israeli) and the Haredi rabbinic leadership in general, reserving your criticism for the masses. I understand why, but I would like to say what you appear to be only able to hint at:

    The Agudah and other Rabbonim who are finally now condemning this behavior were moved to do so by Shimon Peres, the NY Times. Our rabbinic leadership has failed us. Yesher Koach to Shimon Peres and the NY Times who have given us appropriate mussar.

  53. Charlie Hall says:

    “The extremists are not the equivalent of the poor, semi-literate unwashed masses in the Muslim suburbs of Paris.”

    Correct. I spent a week in Paris this summer. I wore my yarmulke all over the city. Not once did anyone ever harass me. Not even one of the many people I saw wearing distinctively Muslim dress.

    That I can spend a week in a country that has a very serious problem with the lack of assimilation and the lack of respect for the law in its Muslim immigrants, and not be harassed, but a Jewish child can not walk past Jews in religious garb without facing the most vile insults and physical threats is very sad. These Jewish extremists are not the equivalent, they are WORSE than the French Muslims!

  54. inagreement says:

    I agree fully with David Ram-I think he is really the only one who got it right.

  55. Charlie Hall says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein eloquently joins Rabbi Horowitz, the Orthodox Union/Rabbinical Council of America, and the International Rabbinic Fellowship in condemning the violence in Ramat Beit Shemesh and the thugs who perpetrate it. Agudath Israel of America also issued a statement that was somewhat watered down but still came down on the right side.

    But does anyone in Israel care what these largely American rabbis have to say?

    Where are the condemnations of the thuggery by the charedi gedolim of Eretz Yisrael?

    Where are the sanctions with some teeth against the thugs? Neturei Karta was put in Cherem after their leaders hobnobbed with the holocaust-denying President of Iran. And the charedi gedolim spared no effort in their attempts to read R’Slifkin and R’Druckman out of Orthodoxy!

    And where are the statements by the charedi gedolim acknowledging that the Dati Leumi rabbis of Israel contain many gedolim and can be relied upon on all halachic matters including tzniut dress? These are religious girls from religious families who are being harassed!

    Not a single one of the many charedi Jews I know would ever tolerate this behavior; why have the rabbinic leaders taken their time in acting?

  56. Rafael Guber says:

    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein. Courage is in such short supply today. Thank you for giving some of yours to us and speaking truth to power. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “You are entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.”

    B’Kovod Rav

    Rafi Guber

    Maybe some of those who put Rav Amsellem in Herem could turn their attention to the plight of this innocent little girl.

  57. David Meir says:

    Like others, I want to thank R. Adlerstein for this. But it’s like Yitz Waxman says – people need to SEE the kiddush Hashem with their own eyes, and statements of condemnation (while always welcome) aren’t going to cut it.

    I’ll also say that all 3 “how do I reject thee” points are also a problem in the “mainstream” charedi world – not just with extremists. 1) “Tzelem Elokim” – non-Jews are regularly scorned, looked down upon and considered inferior (despite their tzelem Elokim), and words like “shiksa” (from sheketz) attest to that. 2) I can say from experience that by no means do mainstream charedim express hakarat hatov for the State of Israel. Mostly the good is simply ignored, but often what you hear is scorn for the evil secular state. And certainly no mainstream charedim in RBS would be caught dead displaying an Israeli flag on Yom Haatzmaut. 3)Things that “bring contempt upon Torah” – how about Torah without derech eretz/livelihood, poverty/drain on the economy, non-payment of taxes, the yeshiva deferment from the army, agunot, keeping women from leadership positions, not showing photos of women in mainstream charedi magazines, etc., etc.

    I agree that the extremists take all these to another level entirely, but I don’t think R. Adlerstein is trying to make the point of “degrees” here.

    In any case, I want to reiterate that the article is definitely “good for the Jews”. Keep it up!

  58. cvmay says:

    DAVID RAM, you have described the issue in its entirety.
    The likes of those leaders who would condemn their own and their actions have passed on (Rav Aryeh Levin, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, Ponevitch Rav, Rav SZ Auerbach ztk”L)

  59. Liron Kopinsky says:

    Simple way to know they are beyond the pale: Deracheha Darchei Noam vCHOL Netivoteha Shalom.

  60. S. Malkah Cohen says:

    To Charlie Hall: The RCA & OU have issued a joint denouncement of this (http://www.ou.org/general_article/rca_ou_joint_statement_regarding_violence_in_beit_shemesh_israel#.Tv0_lmOO5Ow.facebook). Much more is needed, of course. The voice of reason must be backed by “ordinary,” observant Jews consistently taking a firm but peaceful stand on this and related issues. This chillul HaShem (shaming of the Holy Name) cannot stand without creating major rifts in the achdut of Am Yisrael (the one-ness of the people of Israel). Between this, the bus segregations and the terrible power plays made by the Israeli rabbinate on all issues coming before the Batei Din (especially regarding conversions and divorce), I greatly fear that Judaism will soon splinter in a way Yiddishkeit as we know it may not survive. This is a test, folks!

    S. Malkah Cohen

  61. L. Oberstein says:

    One of my little grandchildren told another one of my grandchildren,”you are Chareidi”. This grandchildren ran to his mother and asked what is a chareidi, his mother said someone who has Yirat Shamayim and Learns Torah. The children said that Uncle…,the father of the other grandchild has yirfat shamayim and learns Torah ,so he is chareidi too. He does’nt fathom why a Dati Leumi gan student would hear that chareidim are to be disliked when ,to him, we are all good Jews. I spoke to the father of the first one and he acknowledged that this is what his son is hearing and the child doesn’t even know what it all means. One thing that we pride ourselves on is that all of my children respect each other and eat in each other’s home, spend Shabbos in each others homes,etc. We do not recognize that there are catagories of Jews in our family. I am worried that this will explode in our faces.
    On another note, I just got my weekly edition of Hamodia. Their editorial view is that the poor chareidi majority is being stigmatized because people are out to get Netanyahu and this is a way to bring down his government. There is not the slightest feeling that the general chareidi community has anything whatsoever to do with the problems, it is all sinas chinam against frum Jews. They really don’t get it.

  62. Dovid Shlomo says:

    “Moshe” of the video is not a lunatic.
    He is reasonably intelligent and reasonably articulate.

    Therefore, when you look at “Moshe,” look at him not as some kind of crazed individual, but as the logical product of his educational system and culture.

    And therein lies the problem.
    And therein lies the reason as to why driving away the individual “Moshes” will be about as effective as spitting to the wind.

    To me, what is most significant is not that “Moshe” favors spitting on little girls, but that he is proud to say so on National TV, knowing that the camera is rolling.

    Obviously, this is not a matter of one hot head’s warped perspective, but an outgrowth of the education he has received and (hence) the culture in which he lives.

    Good Luck trying to change it.

    BTW, I wonder where he got the car and where he goes with it.

  63. YM says:

    I would consider myself a member of the charedi community in the US and a supporter of the charedi community in Israel, but I simply don’t recognize any leadership there. About a year ago, I asked a Rav who is based in Israel and travels to the US on a regular basis to help me understand the role of Torah leadership and how Israeli Rabbinical leadership works and he found himself unable to address the issue. I would never condemn a Jew for wanting to make the public space more tzniusdik, but things are out of control when park benches are being ripped out so that women wont sit and talk to each other or when the head of Shas and an MK from Agudas Yisroel have to be assigned bodyguards to protect them from death threats from the out of control elements identified with the charedi community.

    I think most of the charedim in RBS bet would like the police to come and arrest these criminals.

  64. PAUL MORTON says:

    one of your writers referred to ” the plight of the little girl ” . while I have great sympathy for her , this is not just her problem ,bur rather a problem for all Jews whether in Israel or the Diaspora.
    many years ago in a private meeting with Bibi Netanyahu, I asked him, how big a problem is Muslim fundamentalism to Israel ?–his response , not as serious as Jewish fundamentalism . he was correci


  65. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Where are the condemnations of the thuggery by the charedi gedolim of Eretz Yisrael?

    In the US, the press and the public at large can be excused for failing to differentiate between mainstream Charedim and the spitting thugs, and condemnation from any every Charedi leader there is called for and welcome.

    In Eretz Yisrael the situation is much more complex. The press and some secular politicians are responsible for perpetuating, if not creating, the blanket view of all ultra-Orthodox as cut of the same cloth. Here, virtually every secular Jew rubs elbows and shoulders with mainstream Charedim every single day, and they know very well that every Charedi they know abhors such behavior as much as they do. So just like, for the secular press here, a “Chiloni” doesn’t rape, a criminal rapes, it should be clear that a “Charedi” doesn’t spit, a criminal spits. But there are political dynamics in play (on the state and municipal level) that make it convenient for some to lump all the Charedim together, and it is that game that creates the prima facie impression that Charedim spit. So why should Charedi leaders here play that game?

  66. Shlomo says:

    R’ Adlerstein, you must be kidding me. The gedolim will never condemn this in clear language, which means that a society which follows daas torah cannot take action against it.

  67. anonymous says:

    There are 2 subtle things that truly bothered me about the clip from Channel 2, besides the obvious.
    1. The man who repeats over and over “Ani ben adam bari” – ‘I am a healthy male.’ Meaning, any healthy male has a “healthy” sex drive which makes it difficult for him to control if a woman is not modestly dressed. Unfortunately, the man who repeated this statement was talking not only about women in general, but about the 8 year old girl involved in the spitting incident. This is SICK.
    2. Another chareidi man with long peyos carrying a briefcase responded with ugliness to the reporter as he (the man with the briefcase) was surrounded by young boys. The briefcase is of the type typically carried by cheder teachers in Israel. It appears he is a rebbi at a boys’ school. This is very disturbing, as this person is a role model to the very boys he teaches, and he certainly does not control his ugliness in front of the little boys in the clip.

  68. Raymond says:

    Too bad I came so late in this discussion. But please allow me to say, G-d bless Rabbi Adlerstein, for his uncompromising honesty and integrity. It is people like him who keep me interested in Judaism at all, while the apologists for even the most abysmal behavior of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish world turn me off from that lifestyle like nothing else can.

    One thing I feel like telling those fanatics that are bringing so much shame to our people, is that they need to get a full-time job doing honest work. The Israeli government needs to stop funding them, and they need to join the army like anybody else. As things stand now, they are little more than ungrateful welfare recipients with an unjustified sense of entitlement. Have these people not been made aware of the fact that being members of G-d’s Chosen People, means that we Jews have an extra responsibility to behave in a morally exemplary manner?

  69. Yoni Schick says:

    Agudah’s statement was another exercise in smug apologetics. We need leaders like Rabbi Adlerstein, and many of us from out of town communities to gather together to create an alternative to Agudah. The pained voices of normative Torah-Judaism have been squelched for too long.

  70. Tz says:

    I just moved to RBS-A.

    I agree with #1. Why aren’t the Ashkenazi gedolim taking a strong stand against this? Where are they!!!!!!!!!

    Its really hard to believe in their “daas Torah” given these circumstances.

    The silence is deafening.

  71. L. Oberstein says:

    Yoni Schick assumes that out of town is a major force in Agudah’s constituency. It is growing especially due to the regional representatives who advocate with the legislature and political class. These men are a kiddush Hashem and they help all Jews and do a good job. I think that Agudah’s leaders are looking over their shoulder afraid of being dismissed by the chareidi element that is more Bnai Brak than America and by the very large and growing Chassidish community that has strong rules against gender mixing. The old time Litvishe Roshei Yeshiva are gone and their replacements don’t have the same constituency any more. If the Novominsker would advocate strong secular education in his own yeshiva like he received in Chicago, his school would get a bad reputation. I was told this by someone to whom he told this to. Agudah is the strongest,by far, of all the national Jewish organizations and it is a big tent. We out of towners are a small part of that constituency and aren’t really in the loop.

  72. Akiva says:

    a “Chiloni” doesn’t rape, a criminal rapes, it should be clear that a “Charedi” doesn’t spit, a criminal spits.

    Binyomin, with all due respect, when a criminal spits because he believes it is not only religiously justified but religiously imperative to spit, and when he self identifies his religious perspective as Charedi, and in fact is a member of the Charedi community . . .

    Then yes, a Charedi spits.

    The same way a Muslim engages in terror attacks when the motivation behind them is an interpretation of Islam. Not all Muslims, and not all Charedim – but this wasn’t a man who spit who happened to be a Charedi; this was a man who spit solely because he was a Charedi (again, not saying it’s inherent to the Charedi world-view – just that in this case it was, in fact, motivated by his world view as a Charedi).

  73. Binyomin Eckstein says:


    You miss one crucial point.

    The mainstream media, worldwide, does not refer to perpetrators of terrorist attacks as “Muslims.” There is, invariably, a modifier, a euphemism or a benign appellation. Because they do not wish to create or perpetuate an impression that terrorists represent Islam.

    Compare and contrast that to reference to “Charedi” spitters, and therein lies all the difference.

  74. Dr. E says:

    To say that the Agudah’s statement on this was “too little too late” would be way too generous. While making a failed attempt to “be relevant”, it demonstrated both a disconnect with and a diversion from the real issues. It showed that some askan felt that they needed to issue some statement or else they would be pushed further into oblivion, and this was cobbled together. The fact remains that while the leaders and the majority of its constituency are likely quite familiar familiar with communities like Har Nof, Geulah, Kiryat Sefer, and Beitar. But, they know very little if any, about places like Scheinfeld, Alon Shvut, Yad Binyamin and Neve Daniel—or its schools and Yeshivos. Lack of information combined with filtered information and buba-meises is never a good thing. This is why the statement went on to stick its semantic foot into its mouth when it framed it as a battle about tzniyus–gone wild. Someone had to tell them that Tzniyus was a part of it, no? I don’t think the Agudah won anyone over with that one, including those among its own ma’aminim who are in touch with reality.

    We see much maneuvering going on in putting this emerging story all together and idetifying the scapegoat. First, it is a fringe group. Now, it is a media conspiracy against the entire Chareidi community. Then again, it might just be the Chareidi community in EY and not the Chareidi community in America. But what about the discomfort that the Chareidi community has had for other Hashkafos, points of view, or standards? This trend is based on an attitude that has been evolving for many years? Even before the recent Beit Shemesh incident, we have heard harsh rhetoric about others at conventions, in the press, in Kol Korehs, and at Shabbos tables (and in recorded shmoozen by charismatic “Mechanchim” to audiences of soon-to-be Kiruv guys, that anyone can hear online). Those in the out-group have been marginalized far more effectively than what has been happening with the Kannoim. Extreme behavior doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Yes, it is really the far end of a continuum of intolerance, but part of the same explicit and implicit continuum of intolerance nonetheless. The onus is really on the mainstream Chareidi community to not only talk the talk, but now also walk the walk in order to show that the extremists are not merely openly expressing what they have really been thinking all along. Let’s hope that the Chareidi community can demonstrate that those engaging in the extreme behavior of Beit Shemesh and elsewhere are not merely their “Shabbos Goyim”.

    Another defense is the counter-claim that these extremists have been provoked. To my knowledge, the concept of free will has not expired in the Creation. When we have 1500 people being mevazeh what until this point is one of the most horrific yet sacred eras of Klal Yisrael, all bets are off. It’s the smoking gun that it’s not about a media conspiracy. You don’t mess with the Shoah, unless of course you are the leader of Iran. What kind of chinuch allows for parents and teachers to pin yellow stars onto 8 year old boys and exploit children who are 65 years removed from that horror? I would hope that there is no Purim supply store that sells these materials. But now, it’s hard to know for sure (and shame to the person who sewed or fashioned these items for this event). If the Shoah can be trivialized and exploited as a means of showing disgust for the evil Zionist regime (who is protecting even this fringe group on a daily basis from being slaughtered by our enemies), then what does that say about the lessons learned from the cataclysmic event– one that did not distinguish between men, women, Chareidim, or non-Chareidim? Was it just another Anti-Semetic pogrom that allows for this costume party? Can there be such ignorance about the Holocaust among anyone who has had a Torah chinuch? I’d be curious to see what the Shoah curriculum looks like not only among the extremists, but among the mainstream Chareidi community as well. (Any Mechanchim out there care to weigh in on what is taught about the Shoah in Yeshivos today?) This recent episode is a historic red line that has been crossed, which is beyond the realm of deficient hakaras hatov.

    So much for the Chareidi Spring. Let’s hear what will be said in the “Chareidi Summer”, if we are still sitting on the floor on Tisha B’Av talking about why Mashiach has not yet arrived.

  75. DF says:

    “The Agudah and other Rabbonim who are finally now condemning this behavior were moved to do so by Shimon Peres, the NY Times. Our rabbinic leadership has failed us. Yesher Koach to Shimon Peres and the NY Times who have given us appropriate mussar.”

    The left wing attacks the religious all the time, and it never resonates with the religious, because the religious consider the source. In this case there was a reaction because everyone himself knew the charedim had gone too far. Do you think anyone in Israel, or even most people under the age of 50 in this country, read the New York Times, much less care what they say? (Ditto for Sgimon Peres – a good man, but frequently wrong, and at the very least no one the religious take seriously.) You are projecting your own thoughts onto the public at large.

  76. Younger Light says:

    K’vod HaRav Adlerstein,

    While I obviously agree with your overall point, I’m not sure that all of your specific ones are fair. I was thinking about Satmar and hakaras ha’tov, though I see you addressed that already. But what also seems too simple is your final point in Torah and pleasantness (tiferes) being related. Although our minds are filled with the dramatic stories of Rav Aryeh Levine and the non-frum store owner, Rav Shlomo Zalman and his cleaning lady, and beautiful related gedolim bein adam la’chaveiro stories, that is not all there is to being a gadol. Surely in the 1920s, when certain Jews stood up for Shabbos and lost their jobs on a weekly basis, their bosses and co-workers did not feel that these people were “tiferes” or honoring G-d’s name, but we view it differently. If a man does not shake a woman’s hand (assuming for now it’s in a case that he should not), she may be offended and be disgusted with the “G-d of Israel,” but he still make a kiddush Hashem in the true meaning of the words.

    If so, although again, I agree that the extremists are wrong, I do believe that it’s oversimplifying to use our taste of what seems honorable for G-d and what doesn’t as a measure of their actions.

    [YA – You are correct. When it comes to indisputable issurim, we do not care how others will reach. Ein chochmah v’ein tevunah, etc. When we deal with behavior that accepted canons of halachic procedure would regard as beyond the normative – and even when there are disputed arguments lehakel (assuming that they are based on real lomdus, and not sophomoric miscalculation) – the mishnah in Avos remains a good yardstick.]

  77. Mr. Cohen says:

    Yitzchok Adlerstein said:
    “Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz ztl used to ask every year during Neilah that people daven for the soldiers of Tzahal.”

    Rabbi Avigdor Miller ztl said (in the last year of his life) that we should pray for the soldiers of Israel.
    This remark was made at one of his Thursday night public lectures.

  78. Ita says:

    Could it be that the Chareidi Gedolim aren’t commenting because they don’t know? They probably don’t know because they aren’t being told. I bet you didn’t know that Rav Chaim Kanievsky doesn’t even own a telephone!

    Also, all we are all going by is what we see in the media. The media is hardly an objective place to judge what exactly is going on.

  79. Zev Bar says:

    Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,
    I have lived in Israel for over thiry years, and before that twenty five in the USA.
    There can be no justification for violating any halacha – spitting in another person’s 4 amos being one particularly clear-cut prohibition.
    Having said that, the fact is that spittle (and worse) flies in innocent (and not-so-innocent) people’s faces all the time. It would be impossible to count minor and major infractions perpetrated by ‘meshuganahs’ around our globe. No government, people, no religion, no culture, no country nor continent can say: ‘We have not thought,spoke, or acted improperly.’
    Last month at a golf driving range, a ‘fellow-golfer’ accused me of ‘stealing’ his driving range ball, and cursed me! (I didn’t pilfer the little white ball w/ a red stripe.)
    I stared at him and said: ‘For a golf ball you swear at me?’ He said nothing.
    Spitting at little girls is, Hashem knows, serious. If we collected all of the spittle, we’d probably fill up Lake Tahoe in no time flat.
    But the point is this. It isn’t, according to my most humble opinion, news.
    Not first page, not last page. No page at all.
    Right, I believe, will prevail when people use judicious words and reasoning to settle problems- both real and perceived ones.

  80. HW says:

    I get it that we condemn the violent actions of extreme groups in certain sects. But, I don’t see though why we need to go so far as to assume that these people are “sickly weeds”. And, I don’t see the relevance of saying that they are being ungrateful by closing their eyes to the benefits that they receive from the State. Many of them do actually avoid government funding, paying for medical services, schooling etc., out of their own pockets. Some of them do benefit from the government, but we do not need to condemn them for it more than we need to condemn Chareidim in general.

  81. SA says:

    I have lived in Bet Shemesh for almost twenty years. Rabbi Adlerstein’s words are so important for those of us who live here.
    We need the chizuk! We need to know that someone out there understands how we feel and is concerned! We are grieving for our city, a place in which we invested so much in an effort to build a community of all types of Jews. The behavior recently reported in the press has been going on for YEARS and have been documented. It is nothing new. There have been dozens if not hundreds of incidents of violence and abuse towards not only the dati leumi population but against charedim as well. Our pain is not so much due to the actions of a few ‘terrorists’ who live in our midst but rather the silence of the majority of mainstream charedim who will not protest or speak out. The charedim of Bet Shemesh and elsewhere are experts at protesting,at putting up pashkevilim signed by charedi rabbanim and in general, making their voices heard.

    There are a few reasons why they have not done so in this case: 1. Some in the charedi community are afraid to speak out against such violent, threatening people 2. Others feel that this behavior has nothing to do with them. It doesn’t impact on their lives 3. Some feel that to protest is to admit some connection to these awful people. Just as they would not protest murder by a ‘charedi’ person, they will not protest something which has ‘nothing’ to do with the person’s ‘charediness’. 4. There are those who do not agree with the tactics of the kanaim but agreewith the reasons behind their protest. They will not object to the violent behavior because it might look as though they are disagreeing with the reasons behind the protests. This includes charedim who have themselves been victims of the ‘terrorists’. 5. The last group does not agree with the tactics nor with the issues being protested but is quite happy to see the end result which will be the exodus of dati leumi families from the city. They want Bet Shemesh to be a charedi city are willing to put up with some fuss in order to get this result. Of course these are not distinct groups and some people fall into more than one category.

    This is what we mourn; this is the true Chillul Hashem in my opinion.
    Hashem gave us two chances to live here and rule ourselves. We failed and he sent us into exile.
    Now he has given us a third precious chance. What are we doing with that chance? I firmly believe that we can only stay here if we can manage, somehow, to treat each other with the most basic respect.

    May Hashem redeem us speedily.

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