J’Accuse. You Have Hurt Me, Lisa

Lisa, I am very disappointed and personally hurt by your words directed against me.

You and I have communicated before. We are in agreement on many issues, and have always been amicable with regards to the exceptions. So I find it difficult to adequately express my surprise and pain to have discovered your essay, in which you accuse me personally of bloodshed.

Yes, you did accuse me personally. You said it explicitly: “The entire Hareidi community spilled this blood.” I have the Fedora hat. I have the beard, the big black yarmulke, and the Tzitzis. And I pray in the right synagogues. You meant me.

I warned that hateful essays would be written. I just didn’t expect someone like yourself to be the writer. Your words were painful precisely because your accusation was both hateful and personal.

I understand that you disagree with our continued fealty to the Book of Leviticus, but our calling a certain act “to’eva” has not, in our community, ever encouraged murder. That is simply because the same Torah that calls that action “to’eva” also requires us to love every Jew, to not hate our brethren, and above all, not to murder. I am not somehow collectively responsible for everything written by a charedi person on a website, and I chose different words myself — but despite what you claimed in your essay, at no time did the website you mentioned ever refer to a person as to’eva, just a parade.

You said that the “small rabbis in the Hareidi community” are calling people to’eva. Can you identify one, or did you simply make an assumption that Hareidim “must” think that way? I suspect the latter — for if you had actually wanted to know what our Rabbis say regarding those with homosexual inclinations, you might have watched or remembered the interviews of HaRav Aharon Feldman and several others in the 2001 movie “Trembling Before G-d.” You would have seen how they balanced uncompromising love for the Torah with uncompromising love for every Jew.

But even without learning what we actually think, surely you observed that Schlissel was in jail for the last ten years, rather than sitting in a class in a charedi neighborhood. If it were true, as you assert, that referencing the Bible leads our extremist members to murder, surely it should have been someone who was actually in our community for the past decade who committed this horrendous crime.

In actuality, there was near silence about the upcoming parade, rather than condemnation. Did you notice that the same website, which has had five articles after the attack — including the incident itself, “Why the Gay Pride Parade Stabber is a Murderer,” an update on the victims, calls for the police chief to resign, and widespread condemnations — had no coverage whatsoever prior to the attack? The (secular) commenter on charedi affairs for Channel 10 noticed the charedi silence, and reflected that Schlissel was more likely to have been driven crazy because the community ignored the parade.

I challenge you to find another population group of 900,000 people — whether Israelis or Americans — with a similar murder rate to ours. Charedim do not murder, neither Arabs or Jews, and neither do we encourage it, with an unparalleled degree of uniformity. This does not mean perfection, because we remain human beings. But we certainly do better than any other group of similar size. Israel’s annual murder rate (excluding victims of terror) is 1.7 per hundred thousand. When was the last time you heard an accusation of murder directed against a charedi person? Surely you know the media would have made quite certain we all knew about it.

Yes, you’ve accused the most peaceful community in Israel of encouraging murder.

We are and remain human beings. We, like any other community, have our share of the mentally ill. We, like any other community, trust the police to do their job. Instead we had a single unhinged individual do a heinous act ten years ago, and when the police let him loose they apparently didn’t contemplate the possibility that he might not be cured of his illness, and might go back again, “k’kelev chozer al kei’o — like a dog returning to its vomit.”

This isn’t to say that the charedi community was entirely absent from the scene — charedim direct and are Jerusalem’s predominant members of the United Hatzalah organization, whose volunteer first responders make Israel’s emergency response time the fastest in the world. That same community that you claim wished to murder those at the parade, was there in numbers to rescue them.

They represent the true heart of the charedi community, willing to sacrifice work and family time to help those in need of urgent care — regardless of whether the person is Jewish, much less his or her level of religiosity. There was one murderer, and dozens of volunteers ready to drop what they were doing to try to save his victims. Is it not obvious that most charedim aim to save lives, not take them?

Yet you didn’t ask questions. You expressed no sympathy for the phenomenon of mental illness and how horrified Schlissel’s family — and extended family — most assuredly are. You reserved no words for the police who released this person from prison three weeks before the parade, and failed to keep an eye on his behavior. Instead, you accused me, simply because I am charedi, of participating in his act — and encouraged your readers to hate me as a result. I hope you can see why I might feel personally hurt.

As I was finishing this essay, I learned that Shira Banki, one of the six victims of Yishai Schlissel, succumbed to her wounds today. She was 16. HaMakom Yinachem, may G-d console all her family and all who mourn our loss.

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10 Responses

  1. mb says:

    ” requires us to love every Jew, ”
    Actually, it requires us to love the stranger, those not like us.

    [Two separate mitzvos: to love every Jew, and to love the Ger. –YM]

  2. Shades of Gray says:

    “but despite what you claimed in your essay, at no time did the website you mentioned ever refer to a person as to’eva, just a parade”

    The same article spoke about “Toeiva groups”, “Since the 1990s, Toeiva groups have held an annual mega-parade in the largely-secular Tel Aviv.

    One comment on the above website asked, “Why doesn’t the yeshiva world refer in stories about cheating in business as “Toeva business”. It says Toeva by even shlaima”

    I think the answer has also to do with the values of tzniyus, rather than homosexuality; it’s more an issue of modestly using a euphemism for sexuality, rather than than homosexuality per se. If there was a *heterosexual* parade advocating loose values, it might also be euphemistically referred to as a “taavah”(lustful), parade.

    [Very true. And I was imprecise when I referred only to the parade. The point is that the groups, as well, are organizations promoting a lifestyle or behavior. There as well it’s not a condemnation of people. –YM]

  3. Moshe Shoshan says:

    The author in question often writes very harsh things, generally about people to the left. This never seemed to bother you. When she turns her venom at “unsers”
    suddenly you are shocked and hurt. If you were as concerned about unfair attacks and generalizations against non-charedim, I might have more sympathy for you.

    [I don’t read her regularly. I had to be referred to this article by a friend in order to notice it, at which point my jaw dropped. I think you’re looking too hard for a reason not to judge my post on its merits. –YM]

  4. tzippi says:

    Rabbi Menken, I appreciate this article and may well pass on the link. I will add my voice to those who commented on the related article that whatever points we need to make, it can only be after using our same voice to roundly condemn this atrocity.

  5. dr. bill says:

    Rabbi Menken, I agree that chareidi/orthodox communities have very low homicide rates. But spitting, burning, beating, shoving, shouting, intemperate speech and others forms of uncivilized behavior do not seem to be as well controlled. Sadly it reminds me of those who characterized rabbinic Judaism as only able to inculcate the basic rudiments of ethical life as oppose to its highest ideals. Perhaps, attacks on chareidim and the ultra-nationalist RZ movement, are excessive; but their need for a cheshbon hanefesh appears long overdue, as well. I was happy to see that Rabbi Yoel bin Nun, an early leader of the Greater Israel movement, join in an inter-faith meeting near the Gush junction.

    Shades of Gray, The proper translation of the term “toevah” in biblical Hebrew and its use in tanach has been closely examined; the results tend to buttress your point.

  6. LOberstein says:

    I think one reason people like to blame all frum Jews when one of us goes off the path is because our garb and our attitude conveys that we are a coherent group. I recall when I was a day school teacher that non observant teachers were aghast that orthodox youngsters would cheat. The standard answer is “don’t blame Judaism for Jews”. There has to be a better answer as to why we are so different in reality from our stereotype,at times,that is.

    So, let’s go to the next trite answer.”It’s all the rabbis’ fault” “Why don’t the rabbis do this or that.?” All the time, I hear that it is the rabbis’ fault.The school closed because the rabbis didn’t tell the community to support it. Why don’t people say the same thing about Conservative or Reform rabbis? The answer is that nobody thinks that they actually control and run the lives of their members.

    We “chareidi”,frum, orthodox,dati, whatever, people make the startling claim that we run every aspect of our lives by faithfully listening to Gedolim. “Safek =Amalek” we ask and we do, Kshov ve tzaiyeis” Listen and do. We make this outrageous claim as if 105 year old Rav Shteinmann runs our lives on a daily basis and thus ,if someone does something wrong, it must be his fault.

    Let’s admit that our reality is far from our pseudo arrogant claim to be marching in lockstep to the orders of the Gedolim ,which is the way Rabbi Moshe Sherer would have described it. I is simply a fantasy. Charedim only listen when it fits in with their ideas. Rav Shteinmann,shlita is reputed to have permitted a number of things, frum army, frum career courses, etc. but it is all quietly and without much open fanfare. He knows that if he says something “different” he will be “ois godol” and maybe physically attacked. So, let’s stop playing games . The Moetzes hardly ever meets and when it does does not veer from the narrow agenda provided by the askanim. Thus, the whole premise is phony as a three dollar bill.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    The spread of “toevah” practices is enough of a problem to call for a vigorous informational and political response to achieve positive results. Criminal acts that turn advocates of those practices into martyrs are counterproductive in every possible way. To rein in every insane person within our ranks will require closer cooperation with the police, whether we like that or not.

  8. Yaakov Menken says:

    Tzippi, I agree with you. I called this act “evil insanity” and a “terrorist stabbing,” and identified the perpetrator as “deranged” and “mentally ill.” But in a world driven by calumnies of the frum, I could have made it even more clear, and I mean that seriously. Nonetheless, the point must also be made that references to a “culture of hate” in the Charedi community — leading to murder — demonstrate all the honesty and integrity of accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

    Dr. Bill, disgusting behavior happens, and when it happens must be addressed in the strongest terms. But people don’t listen — a lot of people listen, but not all.

    I went to college. I went to a sophisticated, elite, Western college. I’ve also been in Lakewood and the Mir, and on the streets of Jerusalem during the worst, most contentious intra-charedi election, when Degel HaTorah and the Agudah ran separately. Charedim burn dumpsters. Meanwhile, the Yad Eliyahu sports stadium has floor-to-ceiling metal fencing to prevent rioting sports fans from killing each other over which team is losing — quite literally fighting over nothing.

    Rabbi Oberstein, I think your analysis of why they think “it’s the Rabbis’ fault” is very perceptive. They think that way because of their notion that we are marching in lockstep, and our Gedolim and Rebbes could stop loons like Schlissel if they wanted to. That’s an extremely good point.

    I always thought, however, that “walking in lockstep” was a canard thrown at us by the non-frum. Rabbi Sherer might have described the Agudath Israel organization following the Moetzes that way, but we, as individuals, are actually much more varied in our Yiddishkeit than those who claim we are automatons following our Rebbeim. Rabbi Sherer was known to be a pragmatic realist, and the idea that we all follow the Gedolim at all times epitomizes “unrealistic.”

    Bob, I agree with you, too. But in this case, the police had to cooperate with the police. Ponder the level of sheer incompetence required to release a guy who looks quite like that, and still looks like that, and still expresses the same hate, and not do anything to keep an eye on his whereabouts that day. Schlissel isn’t a plotter, a planner. I suspect he made no attempt to elude detection when he left his new residence and walked or rode to the parade, and police haven’t said otherwise — because they don’t know.

  9. tzippi says:

    Rabbi Menken, thank you. I was actually about to post a reply that I was a bit unfair: you did preface the article with a heartfelt plea for prayer, which while concise, said it all.

    I know that we need to care for each other more and that that might just be what will bring the geulah. We also need to bring back two timeless aphorisms: Aseh lecha rav, and Chanoch l’naar al pi darko. (Make for yourself a rav [NOT make yourself into your rav], from Pirkei Avos, and educate the child according to his path, from Mishlei.)

  10. Yaakov Menken says:

    Tzippi, I noticed your comment on my way here to post a link about a settler who tried to visit the Arab family who lost a child to arson. The questions raised are significant. As I’ve said, I have insufficient knowledge of what Religious Zionist Rabbis say, but found it difficult to believe that one of their followers could do that either.

    The same things that I said about our community apply similarly to them. “Price tag” attacks don’t often rise to the level of arson where a person might be injured, and they, too, contribute a disproportionately low number of murders to Israeli statistics.

    People should be waiting to let police do their job. This is exactly what happened to Israel, by the way, in the wake of the Mavi Marmara flotilla four years ago — the world rushed to judgement, and still believes Israeli soldiers did something wrong rather than defend themselves. What if Jews had nothing to do with the arson in Duma?

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