The RBS Kerfuffle: Tempest in the Wrong Cholent Pot?

As two sides go at each other about the regularity of attacks on women in Ramat Beit Shemesh, both may be letting another culprits off the hook. No one has invoked Malmo. Or Umea. Or North American college campuses.That is a pity.

And the beat goes on. The sides are firmly entrenched, trading accusations and arguments, more or less genteelly so far. It began with an opinion piece in the Forward, was responded to there, and moved to Facebook. The issues include whether moderate elements in the haredi world are complicit in attacks upon women by extremists in Ramat Beit Shemesh because they have not opposed such violence vocally; whether such violence is a regular occurrence; whether haredi leadership has in fact spoken out; whether unrelated complaints against the haredi community are combined by critics as a mashup of incitement against that community; whether there is a pattern in haredi life of ongoing encroachment on the rights and status of women.

[Sidebar: My own stance on some of these points should not be a distraction to the main issue, so let’s get it out of the way. Perhaps then readers can weigh on in the real issues, rather than what I should or should not be saying. 1) I have no idea whether the attacks occur regularly. I have heard from trusted individuals arguing both narratives. I am left thoroughly confused. 2) I cannot accept the position that haredi leaders – local and national – can remain silent. We teach that watching in silence is complicity. However, I do not believe that gedolei Yisrael have to personally react to every upsetting item in the news cycle. It suffices if they weigh in through recognized surrogates. Their clearly enunciated opinions should be conveyed, to both their own followers and to the general Israeli public. Periodically. 3) Local rabbonim who have spoken out forcefully should not be criticized for failing to speak out again and again. Once they have made their views known – their unvarnished contempt for the extremists – they should be appreciated for having done the right thing. They cannot be expected to cure what they cannot cure. 4) It seems inescapable but to note that more extreme views about women have indeed infiltrated the haredi world, where they have become the new norm. It is useless to debate whether or not pictures of women appeared in the old Jewish Observer. Up until a few years ago, no one outside of chassidishe circles would question the publication of the pictures of a married couple as honorees of a yeshiva or shul dinner. No more. That is an escalation – one that brings shame to the image of Torah, decreases opportunities for kiruv, and creates an unusual obstacle for the thousands of Bais Yaakov girls who struggle with the extremes of galloping peritzus on the one hand, and suffocating restriction on the other. (Anyone who cannot see the evidence of that struggle in changes in mode of dress among many Bais Yaakov grads is blind.) OK. I’ve done it. Now let’s move on to the important stuff.]

Back to Malmo, being the city in the south of Sweden that once opened its arms to the Jews spirited out of Denmark during the Holocaust, and gave them new lives. But no longer. Today, Malmo is – rightfully – seen as unsafe for Jewish visitors, and unworthy of any visitors with a conscience. Malmo is the city that, in the face of persistent and recurring attacks on its elderly Jewish population by Muslims, essentially announced that it was unwilling to protect them, and whose previous mayor faulted its Jews for inviting the attacks: “I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population in Gaza.”

Umea, also in Sweden, recently saw the close of its Jewish center, when its Jews could no longer bear the threats from neo-Nazis.

These cities share two things. Firstly, they utterly failed in their duty to protect their citizens. Secondly, they were justifiably called out for it by the world Jewish community, as well as many others.

Closer to home, we find ourselves infuriated when campus police back down when Jewish students come under verbal and sometimes physical attack by pro-Palestinian hordes. We write angry letters to protest that students have to cower in a room after a meeting is disrupted by menacing extremists before eventually being led to safety. Why aren’t the disruptive students arrested? Aren’t the police meant to protect the rights of the lawful students, and create consequences for the unlawful ones? Governments are charged with keeping the peace for all their citizens, and not withdrawing when the going gets rough. We expect those to whom we entrust our security to do what it takes to protect those under attack.

Why, then, do we not demand the same of Israel – its municipalities and national police? If women are menaced in RBS, there should be an immediate show of force by the police, arresting as many violators as is needed. There should be police escorts in place thereafter, until the rule of law is reestablished. The same holds true for the illegal street demonstrations in Yerushalayim of the last weeks that have stopped traffic, tacking on senseless extra hours to the commute of tens of thousands of commuters. There is no sanction halachic sanction for such demonstrations; they amount to theft in the full sense of the word from a large number of Israeli citizens who, inexplicably, have shown more forbearance than the citizens of New Jersey would if their elected officials tried to repeat the George Washington Bridge lane closures. There should be a show of force to prevent illegal gatherings, rather than a handful of token arrests And those who have the temerity to lay a hand on an IDF soldier in uniform should be dealt with far more severely than other demonstrators.

In all these examples, law enforcement is not doing its job, fearing a confrontation with extremists in the haredi community who ought to be jailed. They don’t have the manpower, they say. They fear an escalation of the conflict. This is inexcusable, and cannot work. We decry the so-called no-go neighborhoods of Paris; why do we tolerate them in Meah Shearim, and its satellite community in RBS?

As Jews, we should and must weep to see other Jews rounded up for illegal behavior towards other citizens. But weeping is a better way to go than tolerating a lawlessness that will only get worse. We can continue to point fingers of blame at those we think should be censuring the extremists, and speaking out against the atmosphere that tolerates them. But if they spoke out more often, would the problem go away? Has the clear denunciation of Peleg by the majority haredi leadership in Bnei Brak moderated the street demonstrations?

Moderate haredim, from messages I have seen, have clearly called for the arrest of lawbreakers. Shouldn’t we be demanding at home exactly what we expect of the Swedes – the protection of law-abiding citizens?

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56 Responses

  1. Ben Bradley says:

    I don’t have a facebook account and have therefore not followed most of the kerfuffle directly. So I’ve no idea if this has been raised yet, but the most worrying feature (with stiff competition) in RBS B to my mind is the radicalisation of the children. I intermittently walk from RBS A through RBS B on Shabbos with my wife, dressed in levush tzanua. Because that’s how we live. It is nearly inevitable that one or more children at some point on the 15 minute journey through RBS B will call out ‘shiktza’ at my wife with no fear or shame, as if  it’s the most natural thing in the world. By children I mean somewhere between 6 and 12. Once or twice we’ve gone through verbally unmolested. And that’s with me standing there in my hat and jacket. Sorry to say but the future looks worrying.

    • Martin Ingall says:

      A couple of pivotal points to add to the article.  First, the police are merely – and I emphasize merely – tools of the elected leadership.  Police enforcement, police behavior, is not driven by the law.  It is driven by the decisions and policies of the elected political leadership.  Welcome to Israel.  The country’s leadership operates in fear of the charedi constituency, the charedi demographic, and it’s elected representatives.  Those of you expecting a shred of common sense law enforcement, or any sort of courageous decision by the police, or anything from the police at all, do not understand Israel even if you live here.  About the question of what portion of charedim are “extremists”, I say it’s far more than good people want to admit.  Further, among the quiet “moderates”, the people and their leaders, there is far more tolerance, acceptance and support for this ridiculousness than most people can bring themselves to acknowledge.  For goodness sake, what do you expect from  so, so many products of multigenerational welfare, who actually have a political philosophy and religious theology of extracting by coercion every shekel possible from the hardworking taxpayers?  It is a chillul Hashem and will only get worse until the general public comes to its senses and cuts off what has been a terrible, 69 year gravy train…with no end in sight.

      • Sarah Elias says:

        Wow.  Just wow.  Did you get your information out of Der Stürmer?  Because if I didn’t hope better, that’s what I’d assume.  I’m sure you didn’t mean to sound this way, but your post comes across as classic anti-Semitism.

      • Martin Ingall says:

        Sarah, you clearly haven’t a clue what classical antisemitism was or is.  Calling a spade a spade, and calling out the police, is simply reality.  Calling out the paradox of charedi political success and dysfunctionality is likewise a cogent perspective.  You either do not live in Israel or your are a charedi living in Israel.  Either way, you are a part of the problem.

      • Mark says:

        No, Ms. Elias is right. Your post is anti-Semitic.


      • dr.bill says:

        Sarah, criticizing the growing threat of chareidi extremism be it violent attacks against idf soldiers or police or just the adoption of new fanged religious standards that were not widely followed, can be viewed as an attempt to derail a train before it picks up so much speed that it will crash.

        some / many liberal orthodox  Jews support approaches like that of yair lapid.    Declaring antisemitism  or a more disguised,  sounds like antisemitism, too often in a world where there are real anti- Semites , is counter-productive.

      • Mark says:

        First of all, Mr. Ingall’s comment went far beyond yours. Secondly, since there is no Torah authority of stature that supports Yesh Atid, those Jews who do support it are not adhering to a legitimately Orthodox opinion.

      • lacosta says:

        it is problematic if the ills of haredi or hareili life cannot be openly discussed without ascribing evil motives to the commentors.   yes, tone is important.  if you wish to attack the  *tone*, that’s legit. if you bring proofs that the allegations are lies, even more legit.  if you wish to deny facts or cover them up, that only leads to worse problems.  and the railing against ‘the bloggers’ in certain communities,   is as much over the facts they bring to light as it is the scornful tone with which they present them.

        The recent demise of the much lauded Rabbi Nissan Wolpin of Jewish Observer fame  makes one wonder if he too would have deemed many of these issues taboo. He was able to portray the early OTD phenomenon. but one wonders whether the current era issues [issues such as above, the abuse coverups, federal crimes in haimish communities  etc ] would remain too touchy .  Maybe haredi daas tora is different now…



  2. Menachem Lipkin says:

    The issue of religious leaders speaking out is mainly a sidebar. Some do, others incite the violence, and yes nobody expects these men to jump at every infraction. And even framing it mainly as a women’s issue fails to account for the larger problem. (Which you alluded to later on in mentioning the traffic blockages.) On a regular basis in Bet Shemesh and in other parts of the country we deal with physical abuse, verbal abuse, vandalism, theft, reckless endangerment, hate speech, and more emanating from some segment of this community.

    The main point of disagreement, and this goes back to R. Shafran’s original article critiquing Reza Aslan’s documentary, is; are we dealing with a fringe group of extremists or is there a more widespread and systemic problem? I’m not going to rehash my position as you know it well. (I just have to point out that given that we’re in Yom Haatzmaut season, the fact that you have roving gangs of young (pre-Bar Mitzvah) boys stealing flags from and vandalizing cars, certainly speaks to an educational/indoctrinal component.) But for R.Shafran to state that this community merely wants to “live and let live” is a page right out of Donald Trump’s fact book. One merely need look at the behavior of the Chareidi parties in the Knesset to know that this is patently false. And I’m not assigning nefarious intent. For now, this is still a democracy and everyone has a right to express their needs via their elected officials. But given that and the current demographic trends, Reza Aslan’s concerns of Israel becoming a fundamentalist theocracy are not outrageous.

    Jumping back to Bet Shemesh, yes, law enforcement would help the situation but here and in many places in the country the police are woefully understaffed and underpaid. And we live in a country that generally faces greater threats than so-called quality of life issues. Another frustration for law enforcement is that even when arrests are made the city generally lacks the “will” to prosecute. There is a definite Dinkinsesque air of allowing violence to play itself out and a lack of desire to confront the worst of offenders and their leadership.

    The city has grown from 60k to 100k in a dozen years and is projected to reach at least 200k in the near future, with most of that growth being of the Chareidi demographic. The question for Bet Shemesh is: Are we a canary in the coal mine or an aberration? And if it’s the former, can we learn anything now to prevent this from engulfing the entire country?

    • “But given that and the current demographic trends, Reza Aslan’s concerns of Israel becoming a fundamentalist theocracy are not outrageous.”

      Reza Aslan has the right to fear that other countries will go the way of his Iran. But there is no real basis of comparison to Israel. The mullahs in Iran had popular support for long enough to impose a theocracy. Haredim do not enjoy that support. Not with secular Israelis, not with mesorti Israelis, not with the Dati Leumi. Whatever political clout they have is minimized by infighting among them. They do not have fat cat donors. They will increase in size, BH! (I say BH not only because I like to see more Yidden whose grandchildren can be predicted to be Jewish, but because there are so many signs of positive change in the haredi world (without minimizing the negative effects, some of which you know we agree upon), that I am optimistic that we will see many more in the next decade. in the workforce, as students in schools of higher education, and as participants in Tzahal. But there is no chance that they – especially the extremists and the sympathizers – will take over the country. The rest of Israeli society could (c”v) destroy them in a moment, simply by cutting off all funding. The danger of a takeover is non-existent; the danger of an increased economic burden while waiting for change is a more real possibility

      ” law enforcement would help the situation but here and in many places in the country the police are woefully understaffed and underpaid. And we live in a country that generally faces greater threats than so-called quality of life issues. Another frustration for law enforcement is that even when arrests are made the city generally lacks the “will” to prosecute. ”

      But this, Reb Menachem, was exactly my point! With few exceptions, the places and people we call out for insufficiently protecting Jews cite exactly the same excuses! Campus police are understaffed; moving against the militants in their banlieues will create martyrs and radicalize the others. The public face of Jewry does not accept this approach – including that of the State of Israel! You can’t have it both ways, Reb Menachem. If the threat is really existential, as you believe (or just plain intolerable, as I do) then a government simply must come up with the resources, and must develop a plan to use force if necessary. (Courage in battle is hardly on the top of a list of values communicated to the kids running amok. Bust enough of them – and keep them longer than a few hours – and others will think twice.) Failure to enforce the law – to look away from unauthorized demonstrations that interfere with the lives of other Israeli citizens – sends a message to them as loud as the one they receive from other haredim.

      • Nachum says:

        “I like to see more Yidden whose grandchildren can be predicted to be Jewish”

        Pretty much every “Yid” in Israel will have Jewish grandchildren. You need to readjust your language when talking about another country.

      • Decidedly not true. Too many of the non-frum will join the tens of thousands now distributed over large parts of the San Fernando Valley of the LA area. I had Israeli students in my law school class who literally could not read Hebrew. I’ve spoken with others who said they had zero interest in their children marrying Jewish.

      • Menachem Lipkin says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply Rabbi Adlerstein. I’d just like to make a couple of (hopefully) brief points.

        I think there’s a bit of a straw man in play here. I don’t think Aslan, and certainly not me, is suggesting there’d be an Iran-style theocratic revolution. As you say, there’s pretty much zero chance of that. I do believe there is a real concern that a similar end result could occur more organically. Given the current demographics and the religious and political climate, there’s certainly significantly greater than “zero chance” of Israel slipping into the grips of an increasingly fundamentalist theocracy. One merely just look at the theological chaos being caused with the Chareidi parties at a mere 10% of the Knesset. (And that overreach clearly puts to bed Rabbi Shafran’s claim of “live and let live”.)

        Regarding the police, I think you’re conflating two things. The behavior of the extremists is not, in and of itself, an existential threat. It derives from one. If we elected a Rudy Giuliani mayor of Bet Shemesh tomorrow he could wipe out the quality of life issues, but the underlying threat would remain untouched.

        That said, I cautiously share your optimism. I believe the educational and societal participation trends are important. Both will lead to moderation change the demographic dynamic. However, before true momentum is gained in that area there is going to be (already is) what will amount to a civil war within that community. And the outcome is far from guaranteed.

      • dr.bill says:

        sadly, i agree with you.  before haredim grow towards increased political clout, the remainder of the population will vote to make them suffer by reducing subsidies and enforcing conscription and a core curriculum.  the result might be too dramatic for my taste.  i prefer what Lapid originated but was now undone by politicians who can not see beyond their current needs.

  3. Dov Reifer says:

    Always appreciate your articles R’ Yitzchak. Whether I agree or not, it is refreshing to read a piece that doesn’t scream at you and presents views in a well reasoned manner.

    I don’t believe that the Israeli police are necessarily at fault for failing to arrest the lunatics. As we have seen, any arrest turns the perp into a hero, leading to more violence and disruption. The fault of the behavior of the RBS “fringe” (I wish it were that simple to dismiss them as such) clearly lies with the chareidi leadership. How many announcements have we heard and seen about cellphones, tznious, etc from all of the notable chareidi leaders over the years?? Countless. And these proclamations continue. Yet on this issue … silence, which only emboldens this behavior to continue. I fear, and I doubt that I’m alone on this, that this is just not seen by the leadership as a big deal, certainly not as important an issue as cellphone use, skirt length and secular studies. Otherwise, we would not have any doubt as to whether announcements, pronouncements and the like have been made. If only the leadership would display the same ferocity against these animals and the chillul hashem caused by their behavior that they have shown against the other issues mentioned above…chaval

    PS – please do not bring any proof of action from chareidi proclamations against Peleg. Even a non-cynical person could readily argue that this is nothing more than a political fight for the hearts and minds of the chareidi public and votes.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    As long as other sites for “news” such as YWN show “protests’ by Peleg, and view its leaders as legitimate, articles appear about the Mesiras Nefesh of parents who don’t want their sons who are not great Lomdim to serve in the IDF in mainstream Charedi media , and posters such as the above appear without any Cheshbon HaNefesh whatsoever, and we continue to read articles in 2017 that go out of their way to deny the spiritual importance of an admittedly imperfect sovereign Jewish state, we will continue to read such articles by R Adlerstein. One possible solution would be to screen would be seekers of Tzedaka more carefully and ask them their views on what is happening RBS.

    • lacosta says:

      there is a lot of hasbara to say that selective tzedaka is assur—and with good reason, because it could put significant segments of extremist haredi society further below the poverty level….

  5. YEA says:

    “We decry the so-called no-go neighborhoods of Paris; why do we tolerate them in Meah Shearim, and its satellite community in RBS?”

    I agree completely. But I do think that the corollary must also be stated: Those who rightfully speak out against extremists in the Chareidi world and the Chareidim who don’t do enough to oppose such extremism have to stop insisting that Islamic terror has nothing to do with Islam.

    • David Ohsie says:

      “Those who rightfully speak out against extremists in the Chareidi world and the Chareidim who don’t do enough to oppose such extremism have to stop insisting that Islamic terror has nothing to do with Islam.”

      So would you say that Judaism as a whole needs to be called for for producing Charedi extremism, and need reform?  (I’m not asserting the Islam had nothing to do with terrorism, but if you make the distinctions between Charedim and non-Charedim, then it would be just as sensible to make a distinction between practitioner of radical forms of Islam and moderate forms.

      • YEA says:

        All Jews have to speak out against disgraceful Jewish behavior. The non-Chareidi Jewish world always DOES speaks out against Chareidi extremism. It’s the silence from the Chareidi world that’s problematic. If non-Chareidi Jews were silent on the issue then yes, that would be a problem. It’s sort of like Chabad chassidim who won’t speak out against meshichists. All other Jews have spoken out against them, so why don’t you? Unless you really agree with them.

        I am NOT suggesting that only Charidei Jews need to denounce Chareidi violence and, more importantly, put a stop to it. I am suggesting that only Chareidi Jews seem to have some reluctance to do so.  Chareidi violence, while clearly not sanctioned by Judaism, is clearly influenced by their Judaism. If someone throws a rock at someone who is driving a car on Shabbos, to say that that has “nothing to do with Judaism” is ridiculous.  If they were not Shabbos-observant Jews who believe that all Jews must keep Shabbos, they certainly wouldn’t throw rocks at someone for driving on Shabbos.

  6. DF says:

    Well, I’m a Hungarian, so the Charedi world and the concept of “Gedolim” is utterly foreign to our mesorah. But I do wonder. For those who believe in the concept, how is it that for anything positive the credit is supposed to be given to the Gedolim, and they are the ones who, it is said, we are to look towards for guidance and leadership.  Yet suddenly when the going gets tough, those same Gedolim are given a pass because they are said to be “powerless” to do anything.

  7. Raymond says:

    For the life of me, I just do not understand how any Jew can behave the way that some Jews behave.  When I read books on Judaism by very distinguished Orthodox Rabbis worthy of our respect, I read how unlike some other major religions, Judaism is a religion of tolerance, moderation, common sense, rationality, and above all else, basic human decency.  Well, then, if that is the case, how do Orthodox Jews who, after all, are the most representative of what Judaism is supposed to be all about, behave in such a reprehensible manner?  Do they not, at the very least, realize just how much they are desecrating G-d’s Name?  And isn’t such desecration, considered to be the worst of all sins that one can commit?  At least that is what I have read in the Torah books I have.  How am I supposed to feel proud as a Jew, though, when its strongest representatives do what they do?  I am wondering if perhaps one way of stemming this tide, is for such Jews to be more open to the better aspects of secular, even gentile, culture.  Think, for example, of what a fantastic government that America’s Founding Fathers created, and think about how the average American is, even today, basically decent.  Perhaps that will serve to humble our people just enough, to kind of back down from their self righteousness just enough, so as to significantly reduce behavior that makes decent Jews feel ashamed of their own people.

    • Nachum says:

      “who, after all, are the most representative of what Judaism is supposed to be all about”

      Well, maybe they’re not.

      • Raymond says:

        Actually, I did not mean to use the more generic term of Orthodox Jews, but rather the more specialized term Chareidi Jews, and even, only some of them.  I would like to believe that the vast majority of Chareidi Jews are thoroughly decent human beings, and that it is only some of the extremists who make the news.

      • Nachum says:

        Well, certainly that subset isn’t. Maybe no charedi is.

      • Raymond says:

        On what basis do you make such a blanket statement?  I cannot help but think that you have had only very limited, if any, direct experiences with Chareidi Jews.  I have had pretty extensive interactions with them, and found them to be among the warmest, kindest, most hospitable people on Earth.  The fact that relatively few of them sometimes do things that make us wonder about them, should not serve as an excuse to dismiss all of them.  It just does not comport with reality.

  8. Jolly Chareidi says:

    Up until a few years ago, no one outside of chassidishe circles would question the publication of the pictures of a married couple as honorees of a yeshiva or shul dinner. No more. That is an escalation – one that brings shame to the image of Torah


    I agree that it is Chassidic influence, however, could you explain how any other approach concurs with the Shulchan Oruch’s ruling of a man to distance themselves from women and the prohibition of gazing at women?

    • Sure. Men should completely adhere to the instructions of Shulchan Aruch, and distance themselves from ervah. That puts the onus upon men, not women. All men who find their mind wandering into impermissible areas after looking at their wives’ copies of Binah (if they had pictures of women), or of the unretouched picture of the Chofetz Chaim and his wife, or of old invitations to shul functions that had shots of fully tzius-compliant women – should avoid looking at such literature. All those should be safe for leaving around the house for everyone else, without resorting to a policy for which one adam gadol (and I said adam gadol deliberately, not just adam chashuv) with whom I spoke had a single-word description: “Crazy!”

      Looking into the actual issue l’halachah, I could recommend at least considering a few things:
      1) The difference between re’iyah and histaklus. (I’m not saying anything definitive – that does not belong on a blog of this type – but do look into the literature.
      2) The hisnatzlus written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l to the Baal Nita Gavriel on his instructions to feature the pictures of shluchim and their wives in the famous Shluchim volumes.
      3) The words written by R Yitzchok Hutner zt”l after spending an hour of bikur cholim to Rebbetzin Pesha Soloveitchik. He wrote that he stared deeply into her eyes. Should this seem strange, he continues, given Chazal’s instructions otherwise, he argues that looking into her eyes was mutar, because she radiated kedushah. Now, the rest of us are not Reb. Soloveitchik nor R Hutner. But it seems that minimally R Hutner was leaving room for some appropriate flexibility, and that it might be OK to have a face shot of a nine year old girl appear in a magazine, outside of Chassidishe circles. Just maybe.

      • DF says:

        Here’s an even simpler answer: MINHAG.  The very word Halacha, after all, by most opinions, means “the way things are done.” We don’t try to determine halacha by books, and we invariably run into trouble when we do. The no-picture craziness is only the latest example. It started with separate seating at weddings. (Though there are different opinions either approving or disapproving, mainly from 16th century on, but in actual practice the vast majority of such events were mixed.) We now see rabbis trying to institute separate doorways for men and women. None of this existed in Europe on any material scale.



      • David Ohsie says:

        Don’t disagree, but now that the “Minhag” is to have separate seating at weddings and censor news pictures, what argument are you going to make?   They are preserving the “Minhag” as they now have it.

        Better to avoid shortcut arguments and argue the substance, IMO.

      • Jolly Chareidi says:

        VERY interesting thank you. But can you also clarify how the banning of photos from women correlates with the downgrade in tznius in Bais Yaakovs, for if this were true wouldnt the tznius-decrease occur in kehillos where women are MORE “oppressed” / restricted when in reality this isn’ the case? I’m sorry if you think I’m blind

      • It certainly is impacting the more restrictive communities. Major. Of course, the real bnos aliyah are not affected. But not every BY trained girl is in that group. Many have to struggle with the allure of the street that penetrates everywhere. Offering them a choice between two extremes and nothing in the middle has not helped

  9. There is a crisis in policing across the West.  As any right wing speaker in North America will tell you, liberal mobs can easily shut down speaking engagements simply by threatening to riot if the speaker is given a microphone.  There is no response from the police that such behaviour will be met with mass arrests to ensure freedom of speech and association.

    In Israel the situation is quite similar.  Although I do not support Women of the Wall one must ask why they are constantly intimidated and harassed when the Israeli courts have made it quite clear that they are to be allowed to perform their so-called worship?  Where are the police when Chareidi worshippers riot against them?  And how many non-rioters and even non-Chareidim quietly mutter “Not a great situation, sure, but at least their blasphemy was prevented!”?

    Finally, you must remember that the best police responses occur with support from the community they are policing.  If community leaders fearlessly stand up and proclaim “We will not tolerate lawlessness from our own!” while the police are enforcing the law the system works.  When the opposite occurs it doesn’t.  Do you really believe for an instant that if the police were to crack down on Chareidi hooligans that the leadership of the Chareidi community, including a certain contributor to this blog, wouldn’t immediately circle the wagons and loudly condemn the police for attacking a non-existent problem?

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      If someone were obnoxious and unreasonable enough to try to hold a different worship service in the middle of Vatican Square, they would also have to “smuggle in a Torah.” The agenda of WOW is not prayer, but to change Orthodoxy to something different — by deliberately disturbing prayers. That you would defend this is telling.

  10. Bob Miller says:

    Mob violence combined with dereliction of duty by police forces and the officials who ought to back them up is a worldwide phenomenon.  We like to think we’re on a higher level as we potentially are, but, too often, “our” mobs, police, and politicians misbehave like the rest.  Whether we find ourselves in a secular state, a religious state (or zone), or a confused state, we’re here to stand out as a beacon of sanity in this world.

    Much of what passes for discussion in our circles is like lightly Judaized team sports.  Once you become a fan of some pro or college team, you can totally lose perspective about that team, its coaches, and its opponents.   “My Gadol is bigger than your Gadol” doesn’t fly among a discerning people.  And Gedolim can’t be misused as mascots.

    P.S.  On my grading scale, all writing that contains “kerfuffle” or “wonk” loses 10 points minimum.


  11. dr.bill says:

    frankly i have given up trying to assess the situation in chareidi sectors of israel.  it is well beyond what i can untangle from continents away.

    nonetheless, certain things seem clear.  some rabbis of renown know that their protesting will be of no consequence.  imagine what protests by Rav Zilberstein, Rav Goldberg or Rav Asher Weiss would accomplish.  i think no one in their right mind suspects them of any form of sympathy for the protesters.  why the famed chareidi gedolim (or their handlers) don’t protest is less clear.  i doubt that would help either; besides, condemnation might be seen as an  acknowledgement of complicity in what occurs.  and wrt to their leaders and fellow travelers, why protest a few hot-heads when they approve of the overall objective.  from my perspective the main issue is not some meshugaim raising children to scream  shiksa, but a distinguished gadol of the rw chareidim calling the talmid chacham / medical professor who diagnosed a chareidi woman with a mental disorder names that some view as excessive even wrt the PLO.

    but  why even try to impact where our attention is not wanted or respected.  we can stop sending money; that might make a difference.  we can stop allowing our children to attend certain mosdot.  but sadly, even that continues.

    our attention ought be directed to our local issues – the level of abuse and thievery that goes unchecked on our american scene continues.  when a convicted felon can sit on the dais of a major institution or a famous gadol can celebrate the release of one who caused a chillul haShem of epic proportion, why bother trying to fix the problems of eretz yisroel.  sadly, without figures like RMF ztl or RSZA ztl little will change.

    about 40 years ago a massive scandal in the chareidi world was kept largely under wraps by RMF’s intervention and request to two (now) famous individuals a lawyer and a businessman to act with his imprimatur.  a year later some of those peripherally involved threatened legal action against the businessman.  RMF called the leader of their community and told him that he never put anyone in cherem, but if they do not desist he will make an exception.  that was almost 40 years ago.  time has past, the world has gotten worse and our leaders are no longer of RMF’s caliber.

    • mycroft says:

      I may not know about the example you list from 40 years ago, but there was plenty of corruption back then. Major difference then no internet, thus requirement of those with resources to decide to spread the news.Jewish news media would not have spread scandals back then. There are both positives and negatives to the change, but  can think of a few scandals from 35-45 years ago. They existed not limited to one form of Yahdus or the other.

  12. Shoshana says:

    Rabbonim don’t speak about tznius too much anymore, before it’s not being heard.  The same thing is probably true with a lot of things.  If you ask a Gadol he’ll give you his advice and opinion, but speaking out may not be very effective.  Giving a shmuz to bachurim still may be an effective means of communication, and I think it is still used.  I think Chassidishe leaders should be questioned if they are speaking about violent behavior or children making fun of others in the street.

    One thing I will say – my son was once outside on Shabbos with some friends (in a frum neighborhood in the US), and they made fun of some irreligious Jews who then knocked on my door.  They were angry and told me this must come from their homes and upbringing.  I said no, and told them quietly that one of the boys (not mine, B”H) had also colored something not nice on the Rebbe’s chair just the other day – they will be discplined, but will continue to do chuzpadik things as a means of showing off to each other, when NO ADULT is present, until they grow up.

  13. Nechama Friedman says:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been coming around to this thinking after 8 years of living in Israel. At first, I was shocked and horrified that Chareidi leaders don’t do anything. Now, I am more cynical. I used to do kiruv a long, long time ago. Now I have nearly no respect for the frum world. I can hardly blame the other whatever- thousand people, who like me, cannot stand the state of affairs, but can do nothing to stop it.

    After a violent riot about 4 years ago, I personally called Rabbi Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss to complain about the horrible human cost of the riots he was starting. He didn’t even know what I wanted from him and claimed that he had nothing to do with it. On the other hand, my brother is close to a certain Chassidishe Rebbe and was in attendance when that Rebbe begged a talmid of R’ Shmuel Auerbach to call off the fanatics. So there are some who are trying to stop this. (Needless to say, nothing has changed. )But using bait and switch tactics, the leaders who are responsible manage to evade responsibility.

    It’s depressing and not good for my yiddishkeit so I’ve been trying to stop thinking about this issue. But I propose you send this editorial (revised for a different audience) to secular newspapers, CCd to chavrei knesset.  Maybe you  can appeal to their sense of fairness.

    There are thousands of Yidden in Yerushalayim and Beit Shemesh, who can randomly have their schedules destroyed, their property damaged and their view of their own (as it is, difficult to maintain in today’s world)frumkeit tarnished..

    These chareidim cannot turn the tide. Maybe a broken window kind of policing would help. The police and the local governments and the media see the rioters as trashing their own communities and see us all as victims of our own zealotry. They don’t know that most of us would do anything it takes to remove this pox on our house.

    Yasher Koach. I understand if you don’t choose to publish this comment.


  14. leah yodis says:

    It is too complicated to mix together all these different issues.

    Violence in RBS – we have a lot of normal people who don’t have time to focus on this, a lot of crazies, and (sorry but) a lot of newly-religious who don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. Most of the crazies are poor and uneducated – those sort tend to be bored and engage in activities like cursing and rioting (see inner cities in the USA). Should the Israeli police do more? That’s a laugh – they care about Arab terrorists, and giving tickets. 100s of homes are broken into in RBS, robbers make off with thousands of dollars in cash, jewelry, silver, computers – and the police don’t do a thing (they don’t even know what a patrol is), so why would they care about this?

    Pictures of women – why does a writer on CC insult our intelligence by telling us omitting pictures of women isn’t new (oh yes it is! we’re old enough to remember! maybe a few publications left out pictures, but not like today!).  The Jewish Observer, anyone? And when we protest this new “chumrah” which basically tells our daughters not to bother with tznius because no matter what you wear, you can never be modest – we are told we are the intolerant ones! And all this piety to protect our menfolk who ride the NYC subways and see the ads in Times Square and have smartphones in their pockets!







    • Meir B. says:

      Could you please clarify what you meant by:

      “…(sorry, but) a lot of newly-religious who don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing”

      Sorry, but you don’t sound sorry. I wonder if all those “normal people” would roll their eyes a little less about those hapless people who “don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing”, their “crazy, uneducated” neighbors would “curse and riot” a little less.  I wonder if more of those “normal people” would find the time to talk to or learn with those newly religious people, the latter would know what they are “supposed” to be doing? Oh, I forgot – they don’t have time to focus on this.



    • DF says:

      The last sentence you wrote underscores how monumentally silly this “policy” is. This is worse than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s like enacting legislation to protect people from puppies, when there are wild animals roaming around outside your front door.

  15. YS says:

    It’s very hard to say how Charedi population growth will affect Israel’s demographics and political system. On the one hand, the fact is that despite massive growth over the last several decades, Charedi political power, as represented by their representation in the Knesset, hasn’t really grown all that much. On the other hand, I believe one third of all children entering Kita Aleph this past year were said to have been Charedi.  Either way, I don’t know why anyone would say that there’s virtually no chance of Israel moving significantly in the direction of theocracy. True, said theocracy might be a somewhat more benign one, what with דרכיה דרכי נועם and all.

    With regard to the  policing question in Bet Shemesh, the problem is precisely that because the relative moderates don’t really care all that much about what the extremists do, and in some ways identify more with the extremists than with anyone wearing a kippa sruga, there’s no will on the part of the mayor and police to act forcefully and decisively against the extremists.



    • Nechama Friedman says:

      Regarding the stagnant Knesset representation, many chareidim are very cynical about their Knesset members. Rightly so, in my opinion.

      The demographic is growing but without equal representation. A theocracy is not coming anytime in the near future. There are plenty of Chareidim who vote for other parties because they do not agree with the goals and means of the Chareidi chavrei knesset.

      I disagree that  moderates don’t really care. I think the vast majority do care and they just cannot do anything about it. What do you do when a 15-year-old kid lights a garbage right in front of your car? I’ve told enough of them that they are doing a chillul hashem, but other than calling the police, how do you plan on driving out of that block and getting home.


  16. Mark says:

    Sad echo-chamber in here.

    Let us begin: Have police made any recent arrests over harassment by Charedim in RBS B?

  17. Dr. E says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein:
    A few reactions to your post:
    (1) I would not place any blame on the Police.  As others have pointed out, hey are in a tough spot.  On one hand, they need to protect the country’s citizens.  Yet, reacting harshly will turn the vandals and perpetrators of verbal violence into martyrs and play into the whole victim narrative.  The only answer is to cut off the money supply to rioters and their inciters both on a national level in Israel and when those in America decide to support institutions and organizations there.
    (2) I think that “Chareidi Leadership” is often either a misnomer or (unfortunately) an oxymoron.  There is a distinction between Gedolei Yisrael (in Torah) and leadership.  They are not always synonymous.  And that synthesis should not always be expected.  A Torah genius who has never had a real job or its responsibilities is not going to automatically be a “leader”. The problem is that people look to these individuals as such and rely on their every word, said or unsaid.  Then the whole unimpeachable Daas Torah thing plays out (often through the gatekeeper Askanim) and this is the mess where we are at today.
    (3) The silence we are observing is somewhat reminiscent of that which occurred in the Kamtza and Bar Kamtza story.  While I am certainly not equating outcomes today with the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, meaningful lessons from history do not appear to be gleaned here.  There is merely some lip service given to this episode one day a year, but this does not carry over to where the rubber meets the road the rest of the year.
    (4) The real question is where the Chareidi community draws the line between being ideologically (or more commonly socially or religiously) opposed to serving the IDF and “acting out” in ways that are verbally and physically violent.  Undoubtedly, this is a continuum that covers verbal derision for Medinas Yisrael, the IDF, disrespect of those who get educated and work, and those who are of a different Hashkafa that is expressed in the Chareidi Batei Medrish and Shabbos tables of even the “mainstream”.  Attitudes will ultimately play themselves out in behavior.  And for those who neither have jobs nor the acumen to sit in a Beit Medrish for more than an hour a day, there is much time to be filled.  This makes them available to be rabble rousers whenever they get the go-ahead.  So we can keep playing a semantic game of where that line actually is.  But, attitudes and rhetoric still matter.   It’s far to convenient to marginalize the rioters as being outliers who are either deranged or an insignificant minority, when in fact neither is the case.  The frames in the photos and videos are no longer just 8 Neturai Kartaniks sucking up to the President of Iran.  There are far more people in the pictures now.
    (5) Regarding the indoctrination of Chareidi children, it is tragic that there are striking parallels between that and what the Arabs do with their kids.  Some in the Orthodox community have even recently made use of the term the “Taliban” to describe some of the recent trends of Tzniyus—not only its “Police” enforcers but the carryover to the removal of females in magazines and in photos for the upcoming Yeshiva Dinner.  The use of the labels “Nazi” and “Shiksa” are the result of those who appear to existentially oppose their worldview are horrible indicators of the dehumanization that is taking place.  Those parallels are obviously not enough of a disincentive for some in the Chareidi community to be introspective as to what the rest of the world sees—and what some of us clearly see as a Chillul Hashem.

  18. Miriam Weed says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, I feel compelled to make two points and will do so over several comments. First of all, as I commented on Rabbi Shafran’s post in this regard, when you say this is a problem, primarily, for law enforcement, you are ignoring the societal conditions that make it almost impossible for law enforcement to be truly effective. Here is the example I gave: Rabbi Shafran, in addition to everything that’s been said, bottom line, it’s not about statistics and percentages; it’s about dynamics and power structures. If a few violent criminals are holding hostages at gunpoint inside a store after a failed holdup, that’s only a few people who have to be dealt with by the authorities. But if the police are hindered, rather than helped, in their efforts because some neighboring store owners are afraid to give details of their “protection” arrangements with the organization of which the gunmen are a part because they may become future targets of the local mafia. And some residents won’t help the police because of race relation issues and lack of trust. And some are simply in shock and simply try to keep a low profile. And one, who may have crucial information, doesn’t want to assist because the guy in there with the gun (no matter how much he may disapprove of him) is his cousin. And someone else who managed to get out of the store is afraid that anything the police may do to act may endanger his wife who is still inside, so he resists assisting them. Soon enough, you have a huge neighborhood problem, which will keep repeating, with no solution in sight. והמבין יבין

  19. Miriam Weed says:

    Second point, and in some ways far more alarming. We have seen an extremely disturbing trend. In former years, when violence broke out, it was mostly lead at least by adults (one assumes affiliated with certain extreme groups). However, over the past few months, particularly during spontaneous outbreaks of unrest/violence that were not coordinate protests announced ahead of time, we see mostly children – preteens and very young teens, taking the leadership roles and spotlight. This indicates that an entire generation of children are being educated either to actively support such behavior or, at least, to tolerate it, and even admire it, as possibly misplaced sincere attempts to defend the honor of Torah. I don’t know if their parents support this educational message, feel intimidated by social pressure not to protest, or are not completely aware of how deeply it has permeated the entire educational system in some locations. And I don’t really care, because bottom line, the results are the same – it is imperative that those who identify as part of the Chareidi community, to any extent, find some way to send explicit messages to the “mainstream” community (however that is defined) that they must take back responsibility for their children’s education and make clear that this behavior is in no way compatible with Torah – and is not being done sincerely for the sake of Torah but out of egotism and to gain power.

  20. Miriam Weed says:

    I will end with one final example of a personal experience. Several years ago, a few months after a hotly contested municipal election, I walked out of my building and began walking down my street. A teacher and his Talmud Torah class (appeared to be kids aged 9 or 10) were having an outing, taking a walk around the neighborhood, and had stopped to rest on some steps/benches near my building. As I walked past, a few kids called out to me (I’ll translate for convenience): “So what do you think about Eli Cohen (the mayoral candidate who had been defeated) now?” I smiled and said, “Good morning” and continued on my way. A moment or two later, I heard running footsteps behind me and turned around. It was their teacher. He said: “The boys said they recognize you as someone who manned a booth supporting Eli Cohen on election day. Is that true?” I said that it was, not sure where this was heading. He said: “Oh, well, then I guess it’s okay. I was worried that they were being chutzpadik in accosting you that way, but if you were really supporting that candidate, I guess they did nothing wrong.” I would probably have quickly forgotten the boys’ comments had there been no sequel. But the teacher’s words have haunted me ever since.

  21. Alex says:

    All shocking accounts. Which other places should a thoughtful, tolerant, Anglo Torani family consider living in Israel besides RBS?

    • Miriam Weed says:

      There are many options.  And many who come to RBS are very happy, particularly as a starting point.  I could not even begin to give advice without knowing many things, such as:  are you looking for city or smaller community or open to either; do you have a particular location in the country in mind and/or are certain areas not being considered; are you looking specifically for a very Anglo community, or will you be happy as long as there are some other Anglos around to ease your way/provide some common ground initially; what ages are your kids, and what types of schools are you considering – just off the top of my head.  There are a lot of things we’re very happy with in RBS, but if I had known when I was deciding what I know now, we would probably have wound up either someplace in Gush Etzion or in Maalei Adumim (I wanted someplace relatively city-like and relatively close to Yerushalayim, so those were the two that we briefly considered in addition to RBS).

    • Dr Max says:

      A Torani family should not make Aliyah until the kids are grown. Then they can live wherever their budget allows.

  22. Dr Max says:

    A Torani family should not make Aliyah until the kids are grown. Then they can live wherever their budget allows.

  23. aviva rosen says:

    This is the saddest Cross Currents post ever. All the commenters basically have one thing to say: we are helpless.

    There are no true “leaders”…the police don’t care or can’t act…the children in some religious families are being raised to act boorishly and violently…

    Every community is different. RBS-A is generally a wonderful community. RBS-B also has many nice people, and many people from RBS-A who go there to shop or take their kids to school see that. However, there is a large group of people in RBS-B who extremist crazies. They light fires, block traffic, throw potatoes at cars, rip flags off cars, spit on school girls, call women names, etc. I think, as someone said, they are poor, uneducated, and bored. Perhaps what we need is kiruv? And more video cameras installed high up to aid the police.


    • We are never helpless. And Klal Yisrael never gives up hope – even when hope is inappropriate. Maintaining hope is part of the mahus of KY (See Maamarei Pachad Yitzchok, Pesach, #21) B’chasdei Hashem, we have recovered from far worse predicaments. Besides, in this case, the light at the end of the rainbow is clearly visible. What police, legislators, and even kiruv can’t do, economics is already doing. More and more in the haredi world are not happy with the enforced poverty, and seeking ways out of it. What began as individuals became a trickle, and is now a small stream. As more exemplars of people who remain bnei Torah after stints in Tzahal and the work place, more will follow their example – despite all the noise you hear from those who are holding firm at the moment.

  24. David Ohsie says:

    “However, I do not believe that gedolei Yisrael have to personally react to every upsetting item in the news cycle. It suffices if they weigh in through recognized surrogates. Their clearly enunciated opinions should be conveyed, to both their own followers and to the general Israeli public. Periodically.”

    After some thought, I think that this misses the point.   The reason that these pronouncements don’t work is because the underlying logic remains in place.  Group A still does think that group B is practicing an illegitimate form of Judaism, so the distinction then is between those in group A who are disdainful and disrespectful to those in B and those in A who cross the line to various forms of violence to those in B.  This is never going to work.

    What I would predict to be 100% more effective would be for the leaders of group A to actually interact with leaders of group B, have discussions and meeting with them, and quote them respectfully if only to disagree.  Generally this only happens when A is to the left of B.   When A is to the right of B or even on par with B, then A pretends that the leader of B is illegitimate or doesn’t even exist.  If that is too high of a goal to start with, start with cases were A and B are both very much to the right.   (For example the Rav S vs Rav A factions.)

    In the case of child abuse and abuse against women, one or two instances of a respected leader or politician of A (and some followers) or Mechanchim from the school catering to A  walking in solidarity with the members of B should be enough to make a huge difference.  Maybe you would need to repeat twice a year or so (first day of school would be a good time).

    When A treats B with respect, then it goes without saying that violence is out of the question and this need not be repeated over and over.

    The problem, I fear, is that A really does think that B is illegitimate and therefore my prescriptions are out of the question.  (And of course the author of this post is not in the category of A here).

    Here is an example of the sort of thinking necessary:

    “Love the Charedim as yourself.

    The first reason: Obviously, they too are Jews. Loving your fellow Jew means loving the entire Jewish People and not just those similar to you. You don’t need a Torah source for this. It’s natural. Torah sources serve where the act does not come naturally, but requires in depth analysis and effort.

    Therefore, even though the Charedim oppose Zionism, they still contribute a great deal to it through the vigilance they maintain. One requires a bit of expansive thinking to understand this, but let us avail ourselves of Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook’s words to his disciple, Dr. Moshe Zeidel, who had complaints against the Charedim: “Those innocent Charedim, who in the depths of the purity of their hearts opposed Zionism, are the very same people who refined it and removed a large part of its dross, until they brought it, through their negative actions, to such a level as being worthy to dress it in practical, royal attire, rather than the spirit of the House of Israel just dispersing it.” They, for their part, have “a sort of heartfelt protest based on their sensing the great light of the soul” (Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah 3:156)”


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