A Letter from Beit Shemesh

by David Kasten

This letter was submitted to Cross-Currents. We invite an alternate point of view and the ensuing discussion.

Editors’ Update, Nov. 1, Updated Nov. 4: This has proven to be one of the most contentious debates in the history of Cross-Currents. Probably one of the most successful, as well. We agreed to publish, and to allow free-wheeling commentary plus a submission from an opposing point of view, which we urge you to read as well.

In retrospect, publishing the piece was especially important because few were prepared for – or understood – how it came to pass that thousands of charedim cast their ballots for the non-charedi candidate. This article and the comments provided an inside look that could not be found elsewhere, which will help many assess the impact of this election on the future course of the charedi community, and elections to come. It should be understood that, as with virtually any publication, the editors do not necessarily agree or disagree with the content of any submission! — Editors

I hail from Bet Shemesh, and although the final results are not in yet, I’m disappointed. But before I get to why, I would like to introduce myself. Around 15 years ago, I came to learn in Eretz Yisroel. I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to stay forever, but it took a few years until it became official. 5 years later I was married to an (American-)Israeli girl and happily living in my dream-town, Bet Shemesh, and more specifically, Ramat Bet Shemesh Aleph.

Now I’ve been around the block. I have learned or davened in all neighborhoods and shuls, had business dealings with many different types of people, and just schmoozed with random strangers from all over. Over the past 10 years I’ve met and conversed with thousands of residents of the city, the vast majority of them English speaking. I am proud to say that the common denominator of almost all of them is their living in, or moving to Eretz Yisroel, in order to grow spiritually. Indeed, it is very rare that one is here for the Gashmius opportunities or because they love the Israeli mentality or culture.

Come the municipal elections. We just had elections for mayor and city council and while 5 years ago, the city picked R’ Moshe Abutbul to lead, this time around, although there are many more Chareidi families in the city, he may or may not have been chosen (again, they are currently waiting for the results). That’s right. A city that has a clear majority of frum, Orthodox Jews, has not clearly picked a frum, Orthodox mayor. I myself saw English-speaking residents who have their children in the local Beis Yaakov actively campaigning for non-religious parties. That’s right, not a (non-existent) Dati-Leumi party, but one that has no connection to religion at all (and actually participated in the anti-religious decrees of a few years back). This is very disappointing.

It goes against the logic of our choice live here. We came, we saw, we wanted, we moved. The Kedusha, that is. We moved here because we didn’t want the Chutznik life centered around one’s job or career. We didn’t want for ourselves and our families to be enmeshed in a secular world and culture. We wanted to grow in Torah and Yiras Shamayim and become close to Hashem. We wanted to be in the land that Hashem gave us in order to serve him in the way that he requires of us.

Now unlike America, there is no separation of Church (Synagogue?) and state. The government is in charge of basic Jewish operations such as Kashrus and Marriage. The government funds almost all girls schools and a large percentage of almost all boys schools. Most aspects of non-connected Religious plans such as constructing a shul must also go through the government offices in order to turn them into reality. A school does not raise money for a building but requests one of the municipality. Even religious events, such as a Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas is normally funded or at least heavily subsidized by the local government.

Every 5 years, the residents of a city have the choice to decide in which direction they want the city to head by voting for a mayor and a local political party. What is important to you influences you decision when you go to the polls.

Hence the illogical decision of many of my fellow Chutznikim. Who didn’t come here for the comfort. Who didn’t come here for the spick and span streets. Who didn’t come here for the American –style way the government and the city are run. Who did come here for the Ruchnius and the ability to connect to Hashem more easily.

So why vote for a mayor who is not like you and does not share your ideals? Why vote for parties who don’t even fake their connection to religion? Why put yourself in the same camp of those who hate Judaism and anything to do with it? Why reduce the amount of resources spent on your own child’s education? Why shoot yourself in the foot? (Why shoot me, your neighbor and friend, in the foot?) Why make it harder for your own shul to build or expand? What are you gaining? One less empty soda can on your street? Because I hope you’re not preparing to go to the theater that they say they would like to build…

And for this I’m disappointed. Disappointed that my fellow Chutznikim have decided that the ideals that they have come here for no longer apply. And disappointed that they have let me, and all those who still hold those ideals strongly and lead our lives as such, down.

And they should be disappointed in themselves. Disappointed that they listened to those spreading lies and Loshon Hara against those who have done no wrong to them and only want to do good. Disappointed that they have embarked on a rocky, downhill, path that may, Chas Vesholom, destroy their families and themselves. Disappointed that they have left the idealism that they once had when they came here. The idealism for growth, for Kedusha, and for connection to Hashem.

Whatever happens, whatever the results, I hope good will come out of this. I hope that my friends and neighbors who have lost direction will come to their senses. I hope they will climb up from the hole in which they have placed themselves in. And come back. Come back to Hashem, to their friends and those who truthfully care for them, and most importantly, come back to themselves.

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129 Responses

  1. Natan Slifkin says:

    ” A city that has a clear majority of frum, Orthodox Jews, has not clearly picked a frum, Orthodox mayor.”

    But Aliza Bloch *is* a frum, Orthodox person!

    And the writer is criticizing *other people* for accepting lies and lashon hara?!

  2. A says:

    “A city that has a clear majority of frum, Orthodox Jews, has not clearly picked a frum, Orthodox mayor.”
    If Aliza Bloch does indeed win, then yes, the city will have picked a frum, Orthodox mayor. Both candidates are orthodox and observant Jews, the difference being that one identifies as Israeli Chareidi and one does not. The only thing I’m disappointed about is how condescending this opinion piece is.

  3. Dani Waxman says:

    “A city that has a clear majority of frum, Orthodox Jews, has not clearly picked a frum, Orthodox mayor.”
    While I reject the whole premise of this letter the above statement is simply not true, Aliza Bloch is ” Frum /Orthodox”.

    I would think Cross Currents check these simple facts before posting a letter like this.

  4. Snag says:

    Perhaps you should consider what the role of a town mayor is, and then, if you answer it truthfully, all of the objections you post in this letter will disappear.

  5. Daniel Goldman says:

    It has been a while since I have been so disappointed with a piece of writing. Setting aside the writers disappointment that his fellow Haredi Anglos did not vote for Moshe Abutbul Mr Kasten show’s tremendous ignorance and sadly a lot of arrogance towards his fellow residents. I would hope that some Haredi residents of Beit Shemesh will find a way to reply to this. I have much higher expectations from Cross Currents.

  6. A says:

    Also, for all the castigation contained in this opinion piece… this is pure opinion. No facts. No statistics. No actual literature from either party. Are there no standards anymore?? This isn’t anything constructive in here, just lecturing neighbors and friends based on a one-sided and anecdotal viewpoint. I think that if one educated themselves about both candidates and their respective platforms, they would understand more fully why people who are committed to a life focused on spiritual growth could vote for either candidate.

  7. Eve Finkelstein says:

    So corruption and bad governance is fine as long as the corrupt send money to your institutions . Got it!!

  8. Dovid Wernicker says:

    I also live in Bet Shemesh. Just because I wear a black hat and I am a man doesn’t make the religious female candidate someone who is “not like me”. She is like me – She has ahavas yisrael and tires shamayim. And she campaigned to be a mayor for everyone and clean up the city (from litter and corruption, both Jewish values).

  9. Leah K says:

    It is YOU who listen to loshen hara and sheker, not the people who voted for Aliza Bloch. I chalenge the author to answer this question: did you meet and talk to both candidates before you decided who to vote for? I did. And one clearly said she wants to be a good mayor for all residents of the city, while one claimed he was going to favor one group. That alone speaks volumes about who is fit to be mayor for a city that has all types of Jews. Just because I am cheredi doesn’t mean I am selfish. V’Ahavta L’reacha Kamocha

  10. Natan Slifkin says:

    This article is actually a perfect example of some of the reasons why many people with “idealism for growth, for Kedusha, and for connection to Hashem” did not vote for the incumbent and his party.

  11. Deenie says:

    I too have been in Bet Shemesh for 15 years, and just laughed my way through this #fakenews article. Such a skewed perception of reality, it’s actually laughable. Please don’t take this seriously.

  12. Gershon Josephs says:

    Many Chareidim voted for the non Chareidi (but still frum) candidate because the incumbent mayor had been widely recognized as mostly incompetent and possibly corrupt. The city is dirty, there are not enough facilities, and key things like services for special needs children have been cut. Luckily many residents are able to see beyond this highly partisan ‘chareidim must vote chareidi’ nonsense and vote for a good mayor who (hopefully) will improve the city for all residents.

  13. Rachel says:

    There’s so much wrong with this article. Dr Aliza Bloch is a respectable Dati woman who gives shiurim every shabbat. She ran a clean, honest campaign based on the issues. The incumbent led a campaign based on daas Torah, it’s like they weren’t even trying.
    The incumbent mayor’s administration is rife with corruption and many charedim are sick of it and want change.

    His neighbours have not lost direction, they’ve found it. We’ve gone back to the words of the Navi Yechezkel; we do care about social justice. At the moment the revacha is barely functioning, is it terrible to want more for the vulnerable in our community? Is it terrible to care about everyone? Is it terrible to want clean streets? Is it too much to ask to have enough planning in advance so buses aren’t racing down narrow roads? All.this and so much more. This man is not acquainted with the issues and should not have been given space based on his feelings that aren’t based in fact.

  14. Dan Perlstein from RBS G says:

    This is the saddest post I have ever seen on CC.
    Aliza Bloch is not like you? Why not, because her husband wears a kipa seruga and you wear a black hat? Aren’t we all Jews? People should not vote for her because she is a woman? What terrible things has she done, exactly, aside from trying to make Bet Shemesh a better city?
    Moshe Abutbol was mayor for 10 years and our children are sitting rotting in caravans and don’t have school buildings. Should we not care about our children? Ramat Bet Shemesh Gimmel opened and people moved in and there was NO mikva – thanks to the charedi mayor. Should we not care about our wives? Ramat Bet Shemesh Gimmel had thousands of people moved in with ZERO police because the mayor claimed he couldn’t hook up electricity to a command post. Magically, the morning after my kids’ bus..a Magen Avot school bus- was attacked by a terrorist who stabbed a yeshiva boy walking out of shul, the electricity was hooked up. Should we not care about our lives???? This mayor had 10 years. This city is dirty.
    We have nothing to be disappointed about for voting for someone who wants to make this city better. Perhaps the author is the one who should be disappointed.

  15. Yacov Maltz says:

    A city that has a clear majority of frum, Orthodox Jews, has not clearly picked a frum, Orthodox mayor.

    Aliza Bloch is a proudly religious woman whose son goes to Yeshivat Chorev with my son. The only reason you don’t know that is because of smearing and lashon hara being spread around. You obviously didn’t take even one minute to meet Aliza and hear her position, the way that some charedi rabbonim actually did. You don’t hear these rabbonim spreading lies about Aliza.

  16. Weaver says:

    David Kasten, you are very, very naïve. A more adultlike, less trite worldview would serve you well.

  17. Perhaps the writer is distressed by the prospect of a female leader not because he opposes Dr Bloch, but because the Gemara (Megila 14b) implies that when the religious community is led by a woman, it indicates that they are not behaving as they ought to.

  18. S. Snow says:

    I live in Beit Shemesh and was very saddened to read this letter. My daughter is in a Beis Yaakov and no question I feel that we belong in the chareidi world but I still haven’t seen why that requires me to vote for a mayor who, after two terms, has proven to simply not being up to the task of running a city this size. One important example: he has allowed our welfare department to fall apart. He allowed a person with 6 (!!) months of job experience to be hired as director of the department when the law calls for a minimum of five years(!!) experience. Most, if not all, of the department social workers have left their jobs and there was a court order to fire the director and hire one who meets the requirements of the law. (And by the way, the director is not Chareidi, so this isn’t a case of anti Chareidi bias.) SO now that our city of 120,000 residents has no functioning welfare department, what are our poor or dysfunctional families supposed to do? Where can they get help and assistance to find resources etc like people in every other city in Israel, including Chareidi ones!! We cooked against the chareidi mayor because he is incompetent, not because we want gashmius! So the author would like to live his dreams of ruchnius just like many of us are trying to do. But don’t do it on the cheshbon of others! Go ahead, live a simple life, but you have no right to impose that on the whole city via allowing an incompetent mayor to be in power and not serve the needs of all the citizens. You chose simplicity, fine. But poor families or dysfunctional families didn’t choose their problems and we have no right to stop them from getting the help they need from the government agencies that are supposed to be in place to help citizens.

  19. Tamar says:

    It sounds like the writer of this letter gets all of his information from the pashkevilim on the walls, or possibly just the English pages of the totally pro-Abutbul Hadash newspaper. No statistics, no hard facts, no objective standards. I wonder if he would only go to a Haredi brain surgeon, oral surgeon or international lawyer if he needed help or advice? Or would he choose the person with the best skills?

  20. Anglo Lady says:

    So let me see if I have this straight. You chose the mayor you thought would be good for you and would provide you with what you want, dirty streets and a lot of ruchniyus. Other people chose a mayor they thought would give them what they want, clean streets, classrooms for their children, security cameras, funding for mikvas as, etc. Everyone voted for what they thought was good for them. Yet you are disappointed in your neighbors. Well, they are disappinted in you, so that’s fair. And guess what: we also moved to Israel to grow in Torah and Ahavas Yisroel. That’s why we voted for Aliza Bloch. Lets hope she wins and let’s hope you do some self-reflecting!

  21. Rachel says:


    Does this look like someone who wants to tear the city apart?

  22. Ruchama K says:

    Aliza Bloch is religious. To say that religious people chose to vote for someone who is “not like them” is to imply that she is not religious. Talk about loshen hara!
    Ask yourself why such a huge number of people including charedi people voted for her…did R’Abutbol do a good job as mayor but people just voted against him for no reason? Or did all these people just decide they hate ruchniyus? Please explain more, I am not quite understanding the point of this post.
    Signed, One of your neighbors who disappointed you

  23. BR says:

    Dear Neighbor,
    Chat with some of the people you are disappointed in. You will be happy to find out that they are just like you….they voted for the candidate they thought was best. The only difference is that they were gracious enough not to insult you for your choice.

  24. Pesach Wolicki says:

    A new low for cross currents.

  25. Moshe K says:

    Cross-Currents, you should be embarrassed to publish מוציא שם רע publicly on an entire community. This article is not Loshon Hara as it contains not one iota of truth. It is complete slander. You should be ashamed.

  26. Also a Resident of RBSA says:

    Wow, just wow. From the deepest place in my heart I can only say… D E L U S I O N A L ! No, on second thought, I’ll say a bit more… I’ve also been living here in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph for years.

    The writer of this dissmisive and narrow-minded article has expressed that he knows why people did or didn’t move to Israel and to Beit Shemesh. He’s decided that the Dati-Leumi parties (and citizens) are “non-existent.” And guess what, as everyone here knows, Aliza Bloch (the other candidate for mayor) *is* a “frum, Orthodox” (redundant?!) Jew who has actual Ahavat Yisrael. She is shomeret Shabbat and kashrut, she is a G-d fearing woman, she davens, she learns Torah, she covers her hair. She also abides by the actual halachot of lashon hara and this showed throughout her campaign. Maybe those are the differences that your neighbors and friends noticed. Maybe the fact that the writer’s candidate and that candidate’s campaign managers and “the askanim” didn’t follow these basic halachot, is the reasons that so many of us, including many chareidim who speak all languages, chose to vote for the better candidate — for Aliza Bloch!

    The writer of this opinion piece determined that it’s the job of the local government to fully fund (or heavily subsidize) his personal religious life to the exclusion of providing basic services to the rest of the citizens of our city. Things such as garbage and recycling collection, building classrooms for everyone instead of leaving our children to study in dilapidated / cold / unsafe caravans, providing services to special needs kids, ensuring a functioning social services dept (revacha), alotting land for shuls to non-members-of-the-inner-circle kehillot (yes, INCLUDING chareidi kehillot that aren’t part of the current administration’s inner-circle!), fixing of roads, painting of crosswalks (or at least not CANCELLING crosswalks in the most major commercial shopping area of the entire RBSA!!), providing security cameras in areas of known vandalism and safety areas, provision of municipal inspectors to join forces with the police in order to extend a reasonable number of patrols (as is done in most cities of Israel for years now!)… should I go on?!

    I can only hope that the writer of this article takes the time to do some real, deep soul-searching and then asks for forgiveness from all those who he has judged. He’s entitled to vote however he pleases but he’s not entitled to judge us.

  27. Sara says:

    Perhaps the writer needs to stop judging his neighbors and actually sit down and discuss the issues with them. Just because they support a different religious candidate than he does doesn’t mean he seeks kedushah and they don’t.

  28. Dovid Kasten says:

    The Author responds: It seems as if my submission was read by a quite many of the people of whom i am disappointed with, my friends and neighbors. I will try to answer the “alternate” opinions to the best of my ability, but i feel as if all the feedback has merely proved my point.

    Natan Slifkin, A, Dani Waxman, Rachel, Dovid Wernicker and Dan Perlstein all point out that Aliza Bloch is “also frum and Orthodox”, but a quick Google search will prove otherwise. While frum and Orthodox women cover their hair, Mrs. Bloch does not. Going against a basic Torah law (in public) takes her out of “frum” and “Orthodox”. Second, nowhere did i state that she was not religious but that she is “not like you and does not share your ideals”. Do you daven every day? Koveah Itim? Keep all 613 Mitzvos? Hold Hashem’s word as the ultimate value? Well, in my eyes that makes you similar to Mayor Abutbol, not Mrs. Bloch.

    Snag, Dan Perlstein, and Gershon Josephs (plus Eve Finkelstien, a known rabid anti-religious activist,) point out the corruption and lack of responsibility by the current mayor. Although there has been many problematic issues with the current administration, using a bazooka to kill the mosquito is hardly the answer. Yes, there are problems, and yes, the city is not run as smoothly as we are used to. But our basic needs are cared for and enable us to actualize what we came here for, Avodas Hashem. Should we focus on the Tafel, the side trimmings, and lose out on the Ikar? This was the brunt of my article, but was apparently lost on these readers.

    Last, but definitely not least is Leah K.. She talked to both mayors and decided that Mayor Abutbol will only focus on the Chareidi sector, leaving the Chiloni and Dati Leumi community in the dust. Let us look at deeds and not words. Malls, huge parks, and much infrastructural work has been done in the Chiloni part of Bet Shemesh these past 5 years. To say that he would ignore the needs of the non-Chareidi is not based on facts, but on blindness. Regarding the promises of a potential candidate for mayor, (who, by the way, did not serve in the city council for even one day,) look at her supporters. While she may (and i’m sure she does) has the best interests for all in mind, can she stand up to the anti-religious council members who have supported her bid for mayor? All we know from the past is that her weakness caused her downfall 5 years ago, when she was unfairly and unceremoniously ousted from the primaries by Eli Cohen. Good wishes do not necessarily equal reality, especially when spoken from one ignorant of the inner workings of city hall.

    I ask the ones who comment to look into themselves. Is your fight to have Aliza Bloch become mayor based on your aspirations when you moved here? Is it an actualization of your dreams? Or perhaps something else is seeping in. Perhaps you were (unjustly) harmed, whether physically, emotionally, or verbally, by “Those Hareidim” and bear some sort of grudge. Perhaps you have been let down by some who call themselves Chareidim or perhaps you just had unrealistic expectations. Do a (true) Cheshbon HaNefesh and i’m sure you’ll be surprised at the result of your find.

  29. Rina says:

    Dear Mr. Kasten,
    It is Dr. Bloch, not Mrs.
    And answer the question, or are you afraid of truth: did you personally meet and talk to both candidates? I did, as did many of your critics. Just a simple honest yes or no would be helpful for us to understand if you actually tried to become informed. Thank you.

  30. Laura says:

    As ignorant, disappointing and condescending as this article was, the positive rallying cry of those who have responded to it have restored my faith in humanity – and in article responses. 🙂

  31. Debbie Rubinstein says:

    Well said, Reb Kasten! Thank you for this well written, and accurate account of the sentiments of many of your fellow Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph families!
    Debbie Rubinstein
    20 year RBS A resident
    Nachal Lachish

  32. Ilana says:

    David Kasten, I don’t see how you can say that basic needs are being met. They are most definitely not. When there is no welfare program, nothing done to help special needs children, nothing done to make places accessible to the handicapped and the list goes on and on. And it’s not because there’s no money. It’s because the money isn’t going where it should be. There are many other reasons I voted for Aliza Bloch but I’ll leave it at this so as to not join in the slandering, lies and lashon hara

  33. Dovid says:

    If, in fact, the situation is as the author paints it, then it is a sad day for the city of Beit Shemesh…but not for the reason the author says. It is sad that such a community should be so disgusted by their “obvious” choice for Mayor that they will go and vote for the “wrong” candidate. They should be ashamed that even with the Rabbis pushing for him, so many people don’t think he is qualified. Hopefully, one day in the future, things will improve and these people will be able to live the dream they moved to Eretz Yisroel for.

  34. Tzali says:

    Wow. Dovid Kasten you just reaffirmed why I chose Aliza Bloch as my mayor. She may not meet your standards of observance but she’ll be a very real shliach for Ahavas Yisrael to undo your narrow view of our RBS community and the chillul Hashem you’re causing. As a fellow chareidi I’m embarrassed you’re trying to represent yourself as a voice for our community. Shame on you.

  35. Sheera scherman says:

    Mr kasten, you keep going back to the goal of living here for avodas hashem- and to that ill say that when a chareidi person runs a place so dysfunctionally, it is nothing short of a chillul hashem. I work at the aforementioned revacha (holding on by our teeth at this point but nonetheless) and seeing our hands tied again and again from being able to help our most vulnerable neighbors made me seriously question chareidi agenda. No one is keeping all 613, don’t fool yourself. Nuff said.

  36. yoni samber says:

    This letter encapsulates an attitude that has rotted its way into, or in this case out of, contemporary litvish thinking. I dont know the author, so I come to take issue with his ideas that he has written here and not with him as a person. What he has written is representitive of the sentiments of thousands of chareidim in our city. I know this because I have been reading the local chareidi propaganda paper in hebrew for the sixteen years that I have lived here in Bet Shemesh.
    Blatent in this letter is Davids presumption of malice inherent in anyone running against his candidate. He has no doubt that they are out to get us, to suck us defenseless chareidim away from our God and into their shmutz filled orbit of taiva and movie theatres and army chas veshalom…
    If this is what David believes after his years interacting with real people in this city, then I know there must be a mistake. My line of work has brought me into direct contact with every walk of life in Bet Shemesh, from the Morocans to the Ethiopians, the Dati of old “darom” to the arsim of the tayelet and ayalon park. Since many of them will not read his letter, I, a chareidi man who learned in Kollel for eight years and have kept learning in the years since, will stand up in their defense.
    How dare you? How dare you accuse any non chareidi party or group of “hating judaism and any thing to do with it”? In my sixteen years here I have NEVER met a SINGLE Jew in this city that fits anything close to such a description.
    You have bought into an imaginary, paranoid world that fear mongers and feeds off of some delusion that all non chareidim are out to get us. Circle the wagons! Only a person or a society that is insecure in its qualities feels the need to fall back on such a perpetual state of war.
    Other respondents have addressed how you repeatedly refer to Dr Bloch as not Orthodox. What an utter humiliation to chareidim everywhere that here, for all the world to see, a man makes NO EFFORT to conceal what too many chareidim think, but usualy have the self respect to keep to themselves- any non chareidi person or sect is not truely Torah observant. I have heard this said before, but to see it written in public is simply bone chilling. Is this the spiritual aliya, the “ideal” that you had in mind when you came here? You have shown how spiritualy bankrupt your ideals are.
    Seperation of church and state? Lets talk about that. The obligation to struggle to be a good Jew is not dependant on the help or hinderance of the Israeli government, national or local. So even if a non frum or anti frum politician takes the reign or power for a while, I will double down and work harder to strengthen my spiritual roots and branches. I will encourage my family to fight harder to develope and intensify our relationship with G-d during the transitory period that we will endure. If the government isnt giving money for kashrus or school, then we will have to pay for it ourselves, just like we did in the good old days.Only a man who has been hopelessly dependent on government handouts for most of his adult life would be too overwhelmed to step up to the plate and empower himself to take his fate into his own hands. That is what I see here. It does not even occur to people like David that there is a Jewish future outside of Abutbuls abysmal failure and mismanagement, because the alternative would be spiritual suicide. It doesnt have to be that way, and I am not embarressed to go on record to say I trust Dr Bloch not to destroy Judaism. Not over five years, and not ever.
    This leads to the next point. Seperation of church and state can carry over to the compartmentalizing of ruchnius and gashmius. In the US it is easier to feel or fall into a mindset of “my money is my money, and my ruchniess is my ruchniess”. When you come to Eretz Yisrael, your perspective of the two change. You feel elevated ruchniess, and you realize how important that ruchniess is. If you develope proper Torah perspective, you start to value essential gashmius fundamentals such as parnassa, basic food, safety from theft or terrorism, functioning public transportation, lit sidewalks free of obstacles and so on as not as just some gashmius need, but as a spiritual need! The spiritual ruchniess could not exist with out all these things. And this is one of the merits of living here- even the gashmius pursuits are elevated to a ruchni level. By failing in all areas of essential gashmius, our very ruchniyus is threatened. Who can learn during the day when over six thousand potential or aspiring terrorists from Tzuriff and darom Harrei Chevron are bussed into our city DAILY to find work in Abutbols housing projects? How can i send my son to learn Torah in yeshiva when the iriya could not find the money to provide an armed guard outside his school? How could my wife go to the mikva friday night for two years if we would live in rama gimmel? How can i explain to my bais yackove daughters that we have a chareidi mayor , endorsed by gedolei yisrael, who has done nothing to prevent or discourage the abhorent treatment of frum women going about their business in rama bet? How can I explain to my children that the gedolei yisrael instructed their followers to vote for a party in which their number two man was arrested for multiple cases of bribery and abuse of public funds?
    And you have the audacity to boil it all down to one less sodah can in the street?
    Moshe Abutbul and his gimmel party of shame are in fact the GREATEST THREAT TO RUCHNIESS IN THIS CITY.
    The good news is, the Torah and the Jewish people will survive them. I can only hope that David and the thousands of misguided chareidim like him can survive the spiritual rot that planely manifests itself in his letter.

  37. Faith says:

    1) listen to the torah and run away from corruption, bribery, giving jobs to family instead of people who can do the job well.

    2) Avoid a person who is happy to live with rubbish strewn on the streets for this is not kavoid habrios. And how can we serve Hashem and be a kli kedusha if we can’t keep clean.

    3) And then go and check on the cleanliness around the mayors house… Is it just as dirty?

    4) you don’t like Dr Bloch… Let’s assume that there is good reason for that … No problem. Go and get someone who you believe is a true honest yiras shomayim, and well qualified to do the job, someone who is an ohev shalom and not rodef achar kovoid… Get them to run and I’ll vote for them too.

  38. No faith says:

    So you are staying true to your dream. Of seeking so much ruchnius but leaving derech eretz behind?
    Simple example of derech eretz – having safe roads with enough space for buses… Not happening.
    Maybe that’s too literal…. But the trash? Or the care for special needs? Both big derech eretz issues here…
    Or maybe the baal tashchis for inefficiencies in the municipality….

    No derech eretz then your torah is crum. And if that’s what you wished for, shame.

  39. dr. bill says:

    the fact that a reasonable but still small portion of the chareidi population opposed an almost universal edict from every stripe of chareidi rabbi on how to vote gives me hope that the (exaggerated) notion of daas toireh is beginning to lose its grip.

  40. Ilan says:

    This right here is the epitome of a false dichotomy. Whose says that we need to choose between a properly run city and Torah? I am glad enough people realized that we can have both and that the two are not mutually exclusive or contradictory concepts.

    I’m not surprised that the writer results to these kinds of arguments. I normally find people who quote philosophical points online to be somewhat pretentious, but the outgoing mayor’s entire campaign was based on so many straw man arguments, appeals to authority, ad hominem attacks, and slippery slopes that his entire campaign should be a textbook example of local fallacies in action

  41. Devora Katz says:

    Bloch won. Let us hope we can move forward and build Bet Shemesh and make it a place that is good for ALL kinds of Jews, not just the ones “like you”. Thanks for giving is a place to vent while we waited for final election results.

  42. Toshav Beit Shemesh says:

    @Dovid Kasten

    Re: “Using a bazzoka to kill the mosquito”

    The problem is that when the only tool that you’ve been given is a bazooka, then that’s what you’re going to use.

    If the chareidi populace hadbeen given the opportunity to express disappointment in the current administration and choose between two chareidi candidates in some sort of primary, then maybe there would be a chareidi mayor today.

    But we all know that the powers that be in the chareidi political system are more interested in preserving the status quo than in allowing actual democracy.

  43. LM77 says:

    “Natan Slifkin, A, Dani Waxman, Rachel, Dovid Wernicker and Dan Perlstein all point out that Aliza Bloch is “also frum and Orthodox”, but a quick Google search will prove otherwise. While frum and Orthodox women cover their hair, Mrs. Bloch does not.”

    If the author would perform a “quick Google search” (as I just did), he will discover that Mrs. Bloch does indeed cover her hair.

    The issue, of course, is not whether Dr. Bloch covers her hair, but how the author of this piece has no qualms about presenting “alternative facts” in such fashion – one would have thought that *milsa de-avida ligaluyei lo meshakrei bah*. Perhaps instead of performing (pseudo)-Google searches people would be better off studying Shemiras Halashon.

  44. Aviya Shevin says:

    Mr. Kasten,

    I have read your original post and your response. I would like to go through the response point by point.

    1. For you to be disappointed in your friends and neighbors for thinking differently from you, as well as considering all the comments refuting your original post as proving your points, reveals a closemindedness and narrowmindedness which is unfortunately endemic in some segments of the Chareidi population. No, your way is not the only legitimate or right way. Yes, there are other legitimate ways to observe Torah to its fullest that do not include wearing black hats or davening at your shul. And, quite frankly, I’m not sure what you’re trying to gain by telling everyone that you’re disappointed in them – it just highlights the petty and judgmental nature of not being able to accept others as they are, not as we wish them to be.

    2. A quick google search will point out that Dr. Aliza Block is, indeed, orthodox. She does cover her hair, albeit not exactly like your wife might. Do you think Chassidim who double cover their hair look down upon you as not being orthodox enough? I should hope not. Regardless, even if she didn’t cover as much as she does or didn’t cover at all – that isn’t something that would exclude her from the orthodox/ frum kehilla. How do you feel so comfortable judging others’ religiousity on externals? Are you Gd, to determine if someone is doing orthodoxy “right”? Are you saying that all of the Gd fearing Sefardim, non-Chareidi orthodox, daati leumi Jews are not orthodox or frum because they don’t look exactly like you or your wife? Do you know her or her husband personally to be able to say that they don’t value davening or koveah itim or the 613 mitzvot? This is an amazing amount of chutzpah on your part.

    3. You say that we should focus on the ikkar, not the tofel and that this was the purpose of your article. Since when is corruption, dishonesty, nepotism, violence against other jews, providing services for the most vulnerable in our community, etc etc the tofel? As Gd fearing Jews, shouldn’t that be the IKKAR? If those basic needs are not met, then how are we to actualize avodas H’ as a community? Are we to be a chillul H’ to the rest of the country as long as we fulfill the agenda of one political party?

    4. You claim that malls, huge parks and much infrastructure has been created in the chiloni neighborhoods. I would love to see that big park in the chiloni neighborhood that you are referring to – I don’t think it exists. Please correct me if I’m wrong. If anything, the neighborhoods of old beit shemesh are falling apart from neglect. Also, what good are so many malls? Are they creating well-paying jobs as opposed to having a tech park? And in your original post, you decried the materialism of the West that we moved away from. Are you now a huge fan of materialism because it supports your point? Lastly, infrastructure – since you live in Alef, have you been having water pressure issues on Fridays? Because they built so fast and didn’t upgrade the infrastructure concurrently. Are you referring to the new highways? Because although the Mayor would like to take credit for that, it was not his doing or jurisdiction.

    5. I have not been physical, emotionally or verbally harmed by Chareidim – in fact, I count many Chareidim amongst my friends. It’s telling that you would bring that up as a possibility for why people would be reluctant to have another Chareidi administration in power, though. Perhaps, somewhere inside, you are aware that not all Jews are perfect & that Chareidim also have their problems individually and as a group? Perhaps it is you who should do a true cheshbon hanefesh?
    I am disappointed as well. I am disappointed that people that purport to be doing the ratzon H’ stooped so low as to spread gossip and slander and misinformation about a woman who did nothing more than try to change the status quo. I am disappointed that non-residential leaders pressured their followers to vote a certain way based on misinformation or selective knowledge. I am disappointed that my neighbors are so willing to cloak themselves in misguided self-righteousness and look down upon their fellow Jews.

    Thank you for your opinion. I respectfully disagree.
    Resident of RBS-A, 6 yrs

  45. Zev Weisinger says:

    This piece is a dumpster fire on par with the protest fires in Haredi neighborhoods.
    If all was so good in BS/RBS why would Abutbol lose or even come close to losing?
    I would look up the Halachos of tznius and hair covering before you make an inaccurate and horrific statement like you did.
    If I posted the platforms of each candidate without their gender or picture, would you be able to tell whose was whose? Maybe it would clear up some of that sexist and chauvinistic idiocy that runs rampant in your writings.
    All in all, you can disagree with your neighbors and even your friends when it comes to politics. But you are a Jew and they are Jews. 11 ppl just died for that fact and you choose now to write this garbage? Shame on you.

  46. Chaim Goldberg says:

    Mr. Kasten, this is one of the saddest pieces of writing I’ve ever seen. The fact that you have clearly lost any capacity to think for yourself, and instead just parrot what you here from others, is woefully clear.
    May Hashem send someone your way to help you understand that having critical thinking abilities instead of blind following biases is a virtue, not a vice.
    Cross Currents staff, it is quite disappointing to imagine that you vetted this non-factual letter and approved it for publication.

  47. Ben Bradley says:

    I too am very disappointed. Disappointed that such perversion of Torah values finds its way onto Crosscurrents. I don’t recall having read any piece on here in the past which reflects quite such a distorted, tribal, small-minded version of Judaism, complete with blatantly incorrect and derogatory information about a shomer shabbos Jew.
    I do not associate this kind of writing with this website.
    As a fellow resident of RBS A, I’m full of hope for a city with the resources everyone needs for the families in both their ruchnius and gashmius. And I sincerely hope that those whose aspirations are to become close to Hashem are zoche to an undistorted Torah hashkafa where every individual is appreciated for who they and malignant tribalism is recognised as the danger it truly is.

  48. Natan Slifkin says:

    “Do you daven every day? Koveah Itim? Keep all 613 Mitzvos? Hold Hashem’s word as the ultimate value? Well, in my eyes that makes you similar to Mayor Abutbol, not Mrs. Bloch.”

    I am very confused. How on earth do you know that Aliza Bloch does not do these things, and Moshe Abutbul does?

    Also, it appears that you have a very strange definition of “frum,” via which someone who publicly lies, calls his opponents “Nazis”, and neglects his responsibilities in taking care of those who need help (by disobeying the laws of how to run the welfare department) is still considered frum, whereas someone who possesses great integrity, gives a weekly shiur, and is makpid on shemiras halashon is not “frum” simply because she doesn’t cover enough of her hair.

    Do you not realize that it’s people like you who cause many charedim – people with idealism for ruchniyos and avodas Hashem – to abandon your political camp?

  49. RBS resident says:

    to yoni samber (sorry the reply button didn’t work):

    you and many other of the respondents to this article are pretending that there are no deeply rooted anti charedi (ultimately anti judaism) feelings in bet shemesh. you write “How dare you? How dare you accuse any non chareidi party or group of “hating judaism and any thing to do with it”? In my sixteen years here I have NEVER met a SINGLE Jew in this city that fits anything close to such a description”

    because of my position (and for that reason i won’t be signing my real name, but you know me) i move among both the charedi and DL community in bet shemesh, and maintain excellent relations with both. while i don’t believe that aliza bloch herself is anti charedi, many of her supporters, especially from DL society, clearly are. i sincerely hope that she will not be influenced by those supporters, and if she is not, she has the potential to be a successful mayor who will be widely supported by the rabonim and the charedi community if she chooses to run for re election in 5 years.

    but let’s not pretend that there is no danger that she will be influenced by these people. they are after all part of the community that she comes from, and they strongly supported her candidacy. if she allows herself to be dragged into the mud by radical feminists, supporters of a forced draft against charedim, or the various other anti charedi “zramim” that are very active in beit shemesh, we can anticipate 5 years of strife followed by a charedi takeover of the iriya that will not be led by someone as mild mannered and peace loving as moshe abutbul.

    i was approached early on by the bloch campaign, who felt that because of my position i could be influential if i would publicly support them. i thought about it carefully, but in the end i declined to take a position because:
    1. i think that most of the problems that people are complaining about are structural, and i’m skeptical that she will be any more successful than abutbul.
    2. i like the iriya’s liassez faire attitude toward the residents of the city. i’m afraid that she will make the iriya much more intrusive in to people’s lives. those who have friends/family in the pristine clean city of modein, can ask themselves if that cleanliness is worth it.
    3. although unlike the previous election 5 years ago, when the campaign of eli cohen was blatantly anti charedi (and ultimately anti judaism), aliza has been very careful to avoid that type of rhetoric, none the less, many of her supporters are the same people who supported eli cohen and are doing so now for the same reasons.
    4. there are other deeper ideological reasons for supporting one candidate or the other that have nothing to do with the actual candidates as people, but relate to ones attitude towards a zionist state. i think that underlies much of what the author of this article was trying to say, but that is really too deep of a subject to be discussed in this type of format.

  50. Miriam L says:

    I am shocked that Cross Currents posted this, due to both the content (the clear implication is that the new mayor, Dr. Bloch, is not religious, a LIE), and the writing style (perhaps some editing would be in order, with clear points outlined in a shorter piece).
    I am very troubled by the sinat chinam in this post – the two main points were quite shocking – that a woman who doesn’t cover all her hair is not religious, is not “like us”, even though she keeps Shabbat and Kashrut and sends her children to yeshivas? A person who votes differently than you has no feeling for “kedusha” and “ruchniyus”?

    Many, many people in the charedi camp voted for Bloch, and I would like to explain why we went “against the gedolim”, which is what seems to be bothering the writer.
    1. IF a gadol says to vote Trump or Clinton, they don’t stand to gain either way, they are simply offering insight for what would benefit the Jewish people, and one should certainly listen. In this case, the rabbis were “nogeah b’davar” – they clearly stand to benefit (getting power, money for their institutions etc.)
    2. IF a gadol makes a judgement about people, he surely has to meet the people and study the situation before making judgements. The rabbis supporting Abutbol, did not, to my knowledge, have serious meetings with Bloch and her supporters or find out about the mismanagement in the city. Therefore, they are not able to judge (and sadly, we know that there are those who feed them false reports, rendering their judgement based on second-hand information incorrect).
    3. We have all seen that Gedolim contradict each other. Rav Ovadia said to vote for Shas, other gedolim said vote for their parties etc. So it is not possible to “listen to gedolim” on voting matters even if someone wants to. Rather, they need to rely on their own rabbi and their own judgement. And many local rabbis of our shuls told us to vote for who we think is best, or quietly offered support for Bloch. Since there are threats and intimidation for those who speak freely, we can’t really know what many rabbis thought – they are afraid to say as their children will be thrown out of school.

    I hope all this helps the writer understand why people voted for Bloch. Those of us who are charedi and voted for her truly believe that a city that is clean, where children have classrooms to learn Torah in and the disabled have services, is truly a city where ruchniyus can grow, and we did not see why religious values would contradict that vote.

    May the new mayor be blessed with success and may ALL the people of the city of Bet Shemesh have peace and happiness in the future! And I hope the writer of this post takes the time to consider the words his neighbors have posted here.

  51. Meir says:

    While I too, as a Charedi resident of RBSA am appalled at David Kasten’s words, he is not to be totally blamed. He is the product of a society that has perverted the word Charedi from the ideal of “one who fears HaShem” to ones who fear everyone but HaShem. They are afraid of their neighbor, rav, principal, shadachan, etc. etc.

    Just this week I received a letter, on official Moshe Abutbol/Gimmel stationary,attempting to convince me and others of the error of our ways in voting for Aliza Bloch.

    Just like David Kasten’s post, this letter was complete with untruths, distortions and fear mongering.

    Unlike David’s post however, this was not the ramblings of one person but a letter from an official of the Gimmel campaign who is a self claimed seasoned mechanech and activist for Kupa Shel Tzedaka, a respected organization that receives my and many other’s financial and moral support.

    I am certain that he included these facts in order to more strongly influence his target audience. As a member of that audience it was just a further indication of how low even “respected” people will stoop to further their agenda. Lies, Loshon hara and wholesale delegitimizing of fellow Jews.

    The letter asks me what I will tell my children that I ignored the heed of the gedolim.

    I ask him, “what will you tell your children when they discover that you were willing to lie just to get political influence and control in an election?”. Where is the Kavod HaTorah in schlepping Rav Chaim Kanievsky and others into a dirty political machine.

    So yes, David Kasten penned a disturbing piece. Once again, however, he is just a small symptom of a greater issue that the Charedi leadership must consider the far reaching implications of.

    Let’s hope that Dr. Bloch’s victory and the Charedi participation will not only bode well for the future of Bet Shemesh, but for the Jewish world as a whole.

  52. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    “Do you daven every day? Koveah Itim? Keep all 613 Mitzvos? Hold Hashem’s word as the ultimate value? Well, in my eyes that makes you similar to Mayor Abutbol, not Mrs. Bloch.”

    How do you know? How terribly sad to judge a woman this way because she is not chareidi. How could you possibly allow yourself to assume that she doesn’t daven everyday, that her husband is not kovea itim, and that she does not “hold Hashem’s word as the ultimate value?” (And please let’s stop talking about the cliche of keeping all 613 mitzvos. Not even chareidim do that.)

    Who gives you the right to judge a person’s avodas Hashem behind closed doors? Because she is showing hair under her hat?

    I’ve found that the more people allow themselves to get to know individuals “on the other side” without feeling threatened, the more we learn about them and ourselves.

    Forget about politics and what’s best for RBS. Let’s talk about basic Jewish values in how we view other Jews. The self-righteousness, narrow-mindedness and judgementalism doesn’t look good on you.

    Sadly this article confirms why living in E”Y would be such a struggle for me. This reminds me of my experience there where I heard blatant generalizations that the D”L don’t keep shomer negiah. It’s a civil war of sorts in the Holy Land. How sad.

    Please accept the fact that a religious person who does not look like you on the outside does not mean they aren’t religious. And don’t lower yourself to presume what mitzvos they keep or do not keep inside their home.

    Rabbi Adlerstein, I think I am not alone in saying that we would appreciate your perspective about this article.

  53. RBSA resident says:

    I’m curious to know if the writer of this post, who reached out to express his thoughts to his neighbors, has actually listened to any of their responses and now understands more about their thinking and motivations. In particular, I would love to get simple YES or No answers to the following list of questions:

    A. Do you think it is OK that people called Bloch and her supporters Nazis?

    B. Do you think the rabbonim calling for people to vote for Abutbol thought he was doing a good job? (I must note that I didn’t hear any rav say, He is an amazing mayor!!!! Everyone loves him! He is doing a great job! He is a terrific manager!)

    C. Do you think the rabbonim urging people to vote for Abutbol were “nogeah b’davar”?

    D. Do you think Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who came to Bet Shemesh (and did NOT actually say even ONE word to support Abutbol, not ONE), met with Aliza Bloch or her supporters / actually understood the details of the difficulties BS residents have encountered with the previous administration?

    E. Do you understand why people think it is offensive to say that BS residents did not choose a “frum Orthodox mayor” when they chose Bloch who as far as everyone knows, does keep Shabbes and kashrus and does send her children to yeshivas?

    F. Did we understand you correctly – do you believe that if there are only two choices, a person who is charedi should vote for a bad Charedi mayor over a good Dati mayor?

    Note: a previous comment asked if you had actually met the two candidates, another simple yes or no question. Can you please answer that?

    Thank you,
    An RBSA Charedi resident

  54. Gary Brown says:


    Best summed up as follows (not mine i can’t take credit but don’t know source)
    “The first time since 1967 that soldiers have liberated a city!” 🙂

    To the chareidim who voted for aliza – kol hakavod, you are giborim/rot
    To the chareidim who didn’t vote as they didn’t want to vote for abutbul but didn’t want to go against their rabbanim – thank you it helped

    finally to those who voted abutbul – if you voted because you truly think he is best then we agree to disagree and that is a legitimate debate.
    If you voted that way coz your rabbanim said so then shame on you and shame on them because rabbanim should NOT tell people in a rabbinic capacity who to vote for (though i do think they can say in a personal capacity who they are voting for and why) and you should not follow such rabbanim. I know a number of chareidi rabbanim who said “i am not telling my kehillah how to vote, it isn’t my place) and i respect them and know they voted abutbul but they didn’t make it a halachic issue.

    There is hope – Od Tireh, Od Tireh, Yesh Tikvah b’Avir!

  55. Nachum says:

    “Sadly this article confirms why living in E”Y would be such a struggle for me.”

    This excuse comes up a lot. Frankly, I don’t understand it. Make aliyah to Israel (not Eretz Yisrael), don’t affiliate with the charedi community, and live your life as you see fit, and don’t worry what other people say about your religion. It works for lots of people.

  56. Dani says:

    David- if the amount of one’s haircovering is the ruler by which you measure one being Frum would you use the same ruler to the wives of the many Gedolim of previous generations for whom there are no shortage of pictures or forat hand testimony as to the lack of hair covering? Are you willing to stand up and call those women “not frum”?

  57. Aviya Shevin says:

    To RBS resident:
    I find it disingenuous to equate “Anti-chareidi sentiment” with “ant-chareidi fanatic sentiment.” Do you really think that Dr. Bloch would support a forced draft against chareidim? Because she has absolutely no influence whatsoever on that issue – so you’re being purposefully inflammatory. Do you really think she will be influenced by “radical feminists?” And what do you mean by “radical feminists?” Do you mean those that are uncomfortable with the erasure of women and girls from publications or those that do not want people to be spit on or harassed because their definition of tzniut differs from a chareidi one?

    As to our previous mayor being laissez faire – do you consider the redefinition of our apartments to sneak in an arnona raise to be “hands off?” Because I sure don’t. Do you think that not stepping in and making a statement when soldiers and pedestrians are harassed and attacked in Rama Bet was the correct thing to do? Because I don’t.

    The “anti-chareidi sentiment” is imaginary. Please feel free to serve Gd in the way you see fit. But chareidi fanaticism that affects others? Yes. There is a strong sentiment that exists against that – nuance exists.

  58. Ruchama K says:

    Why don’t you want to make aliya???? Wait a minute Alexandra — we olim, the black hat Americans in Ramat Bet Shemesh Alef just won the election! We are changing things! Come join us! We opened schools where you can come whether or not your father wears a black hat, we are changing this community. A huge number of American Charedim supported Bloch.

  59. Leah K says:

    The joke going around is that the Charedim are saying, We did G-d’s will and voted for Abutbul, and He did our will and Bloch won.

  60. David Ohsie says:

    Kol Hakavod to those who voted for Dr. Bloch who adheres to the true Torah. She chooses to cover her hair with a hat as directed by the great Gedolim Rav Elyashiv z”l and Rav Ovadia z”l and not with the worthless Peah Nachris (r”l) as (B’Avonoseinu HaRabim) many other supposedly frum women do.

    [In case this doesn’t come through, I’m not really attacking anyone who wears a shaytl or even anyone who doesn’t cover her hair or even anyone who is secular. I’m just pointing out how ridiculous the OP is being].

  61. Joel Rich says:

    Dr. Bill hit the nail on the head-the real question to be asked is can one truly be chareidi and not listen to the universal daas torah on an issue as boolean as voting

    I’m curious if many of the responders would have agreed with the poster if Ms. Block had been secular but respectful of religious values (side question -how will Ms. Block deal with the flip side of this question)


  62. Yisrael Ury says:

    My wife and I have lived here in Ramat Beit Shemesh for the past 10 years and I think there are two takeaways from the election, both of which need thoughtful attention.

    1)Any mayor here is faced with an enormous financial problem. Beit Shemesh is a very poor city and property tax revenue is very low. I estimate that I pay about half a percent of our home’s value annually in property tax. That is extremely low by U.S. standards and isn’t enough to pay for many services. Furthermore, the only way municipalities attract young Haredi Kollel couples is to either exempt them from property tax or give them a hefty discount. In Beit Shemesh the current discount is 90%. Lack of services was a big factor in the election.

    2)The Haredi parties received a strong majority of the seats on the City Council yet the Haredi mayor lost. Many great Rabbis visited Beit Shemesh and participated in rallies urging the Haredi public to vote for the incumbent Haredi mayor. The fact that the Rabbis were not listened to represents a sea change in Haredi attitudes.

  63. David Ohsie says:

    “Furthermore, the only way municipalities attract young Haredi Kollel couples is to either exempt them from property tax or give them a hefty discount. In Beit Shemesh the current discount is 90%. Lack of services was a big factor in the election.”

    That’s great for being re-elected, but not very good for the city.

  64. “Going against a basic Torah law (in public) takes her out of “frum” and “Orthodox”. ”

    So he just threw a lot of Litvishe rebbetzins in the old country under the bus. Shameful. Learn some history.

  65. Leiby Wasser says:

    When people see that in Jerusalem, the Degel HaTorah party supported Moshe Lion, the Likud party candidate, rather than the Charedi candidate of Agudat Israel, it becomes difficult to be convinced of the imperative for a Charedi mayor.

  66. cohen m says:

    Many Charedim or charedi inclined especially those of Western origins
    voted for Bloch or chose not to vote for mayor altogether

    Abutbul was a well meaning sincere person And BT to boot but wasn’t as mayor competent

    Last election they felt that it was a national atmosphere ,and indeed it was,
    therefore they had to go vote for him.
    this time around it wasn’t as necessary however

    Based on some comments the crows and vultures already are Gathering
    hopefully this vote will mean little more than that haredi parties have to put up someone who besides being religious & pushing the country toward the right goals
    also when it comes to bread and butter Is competent and capable

  67. Chaim Goldberg says:

    @Alexandra Fleksher, you are certainly not alone. An explanation behind the thought process of posting it would nice too. The best thing I can come up with is that it was a way to elicit all these responses which hopefully provide food for thought for those with a train of thought like David Kasten’s.

  68. Sol Jaworowski says:

    I came to Bet Shemesh 17 years ago looking for a mixed community which reflects the wider Israeli community.
    Since that time there has been a massive influx of Haredim with an exit of non Haredim. When I discussed the changes in the City which were not to my view of how Bet Shemesh should be moving (litter, religious coersion, female oppression and closure of the Cultural Centre and the proposed swimming pool in RMS etc…….) the usual riposte from Haredim was: ” If you don’t like it here, leave! We are too poor to move”
    I am not ungracious enough to tell you to move because i beleve that Jews should learn to live together even if they have different perspectives on life as long as they don’t infringe on my liberties.
    I applaud the opprtunity for Aliza Bloch to clean up the city and provide an improved life style for all Bet Shemesh residents not just Haredim. I hope that she will also improve the noise pollution that takes place 30 mins before every Shabbat!!

  69. Shui Haber says:

    On the chance that this piece is not a parody, I have to say that when the Gedolim called for their constituents to be Mekadesh Shem Shomayim, they did not mean that you should write ridiculous articles and run campaigns full of Motzi Shem Ra, Rechilus and Chillul HaShem. Before jumping to judge all your neighbors, perhaps do some introspection to determine if you are indeed living and acting per your aspirations.

  70. Rp says:

    As a Yerushalmi I can only express my positive amazement that in the 4 amot of the ballot box the majority of residents of Bet Shemesh showed more yirat shomayim tban yira of their Rabbis & neighbours. An additional note following Rabbi Adlerstein’s article, there were tens of parlour meetings with all 4 candidates in our area both individually and all together. Anyone interested in hearing their opinions and plans was welcome.

  71. YEA says:

    This letter leaves me with the impression that the author believes that wanting streets that are not strewn with garbage is a secular anti-religious ideal. The writer seems to believe that the one and only job of a mayor (and the one and only legitimate concern when voting for a mayor) is to fund Charedi institutions. It’s hardly surprising that anyone who is not Charedi and many people who are find that message off-putting to say the least.

  72. Dovid Kasten says:

    A second response from the Author:
    There seems to be a misunderstanding regarding definitions of certain words and Halachos of Judaism. So here goes.
    “Frum” – Oxford dictionary says that this means, “Devoutly observant of Jewish laws; strictly orthodox or religious.”
    “Orthodox Judaism” – “A major branch within Judaism which teaches strict adherence to rabbinical interpretation of Jewish law and its traditional observances. There are more than 600 rules governing religious and everyday life”.
    Regarding covering ones hair. A married woman has a Chiyuv from the Torah to cover ALL of ones’ hair. Not doing so is NOT strict adherence to the Torah. (Regarding R’ Moshe’s “heter” to have 1 Tefach revealed see: http://dinonline.org/2018/08/22/head-covering-according-to-r-moshe/ explaining that this is B’Dieved i.e. not strictly orthodox/adherence to the Halacha.)
    This may bother many readers of this article, but being that Dr. Bloch does not fully cover her hair, currently a core value of Orthodox women, she is by definition, not frum and not orthodox (One respondent correctly pointed out that years ago the situation was different). This does not make her not religious and this does not mean that she does not care about Hashem or Judaism. This simply means that she does not share the same values and goals of many (or most) Chutznikim who [at least when they came] choose to live in Eretz Yisroel.
    The editor graciously published my article with a note that he would like alternative viewpoints on the matter. I opined that R’ Moshe Abutbol was a choice for Ruchnius for the city while Dr. Bloch was a choice for those who wish to improve the Gashmius of the city. Most responses echoed what I was saying. There was not one response which claimed that a vote for Bloch was a vote for Ruchnius. This was the cause of my disappointment.
    For the very few who could not function in such a “dirty city” (Bet Shemesh won a beauty award contest [I think you get $10 for that in Monopoly] just last year), then a vote for her may very well have been the right choice. But not one person mentioned this, probably because it wasn’t true.
    A final note. I voiced my personal disappointment (and finding out after a few discussions I found out, the disappointment of many Chareidim) to the general public. The responses that came back showed a severe lack of empathy and sympathy. Hate and mockery best describe most of the responses. The “Ahavat Yisroel” which so many of these responses mention seem not to apply for those who hold a more religious opinion. If the ideals for Torah and Kirvah to Hashem have been abandoned and a twisted form of “Ahavat Yisroel” is all that is left, what hope is there for the future. Will the children of these critics have anything to live for? Or will they sink into the secular black hole where so many other “enlightened” Jews have been lost? I daven that all of our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the Torah approach according to the Mesorah in which our Rabbanim have led us through during this long Galus, to return, and may we all be Zocheh to Mashiach B’Miheira V’Yameinu.

  73. YEA says:

    The author wrote in the comments that,

    “While frum and Orthodox women cover their hair, Mrs. Bloch does not. Going against a basic Torah law (in public) takes her out of “frum” and “Orthodox”.

    Assuming he is correct about Mrs. Bloch’s lack of hair covering, it is well-known that there were frum Lithuanian women, including wives of roshei yeshiva, who did not cover their hair. Surely they were “frum” and “Orthodox”?

  74. eli says:

    I am completely confused by this demand that charred voters can only vote for charred politicians.
    The rabbis backed a woman candidate for mayor of Haifa who does not cover her hair. Most of the charedi parties in Jerusalem backed a DL candidate against a charred candidate.
    BTW Rav Ovadiah Yosef’s daughter all backed Aliza so she can’t be that bad

    When it comes to politics it is all about what the various backers get from the deals. Even in charred towns their are fights over patronage. Someone who thinks that the mayor’s job is ruchnius is very naive

  75. Moshe says:

    As a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimme, the neighbourhood that has not been serviced enough. When I moved to Gimmel from Yerushalayim 3 years ago there was no acceptable Mikva for women to got to. We also had poor bussing for the first 4 months that My family and I were here.
    You see there are reasons and Rabbonim who gave their Haskamos, all be it privately, to vote for Dr. Bloch.
    We in Beit Shemesh not only have to look for the spiritual safety of our children but also our physical safety. There is a street in Gimmel that is so dangerous windy and narrow that when someone gets hit on the street I would only say “I’m surprised it took so long.”
    The exponential building while necessary needs to be planed out better. Neighbourhoods require more than one school building. like mine does. (there are many ganim in apartments and on the land that was meant for a matnas/ community center with a pool, basketball and tennis courts. We were told there needs to be schools and we are chareidi and dont need to have one.)
    Before we just build we need to plan like Dr. Bloch seems to want to do. While she was running she spent the time to speak with those that would usually want to appose her and discussed their needs. I was extremely happy to not only talk with her but also hear that she wanted to help service our community.
    And while I am grateful for Rabbi Abutbul’s service, I do think that it is time to try something else.
    On another note I spoke with some friends of mine who told me that their Rabbeim claimed that Dr. Bloch does not keep Shabbos. This is not only wrong but unfair to disparage her for not having the Chareidi world view. I work with people who know Dr. Bloch personally and they say that she is Dati L’umi (National Religious).
    I believe that sometimes we need to widen the tent and accept that while we look and dress one way that there are other paths that fallow the Shuchan Aruch.

  76. Dr. E says:

    I presume that there are a few aspects of dissonance that the hard core Chareidi sector is facing after the election in Beit Shemesh. First is that the Mayor-Elect had two strikes against her. One that she is from the outgroup, and two that she is a woman. Chareidim are uncomfortable being led by outsiders. And in 2018, they have still not come to grips with the construct of serara for females. Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again that females have no decision-making power or formal positions in most heimishe institutions. They would rather appoint unqualified males who lack hard (e.g., administrative, written communication) or social skills than involve capable women in key roles or leadership positions. As such, many Chareidi organizations woefully underachieve, being fraught with nepotism and incompetence. Anyone with a requisite amount of maturity and intellectual honesty understands that there is no slippery slope for a woman to be in this type of political leadership position. And furthermore I don’t think that with Dr. Bloch in office that the sky will fall and there is any existential threat to Yiddishkeit.

    It would also seem that this would represent a blow to the all-or-nothing approach to Daas Torah. It seems that the margin of victory was the result of both Chareidi-Lite crossing party lines and even more traditional Chareidim voting for Dr. Bloch. These constituencies seem to have finally come to understand that the Rabbis pictured in the large campaign posters telling them for whom they must vote, either have not given them or cannot give them money to clothe their children and pay their mortgages. The Ribbono Shel Olam built “economics” into His Creation and that chicken has just come home to roost in Beit Shemesh.

  77. Bob Miller says:

    Who will govern best? Voters should at least consider this. Smart voters should make this their focus.

  78. lacosta says:

    1– when tragedies strike , there are always explainers of the specific sin that caused them, usually related to women’s behaviour. maybe in this case then it was the anti-semitic treatment of not-haredi-enough women who were abused by those to their right, that caused this tragedy

    2— BH i live in a land where the kanaim are few and circumspect , usually locked into their own private villages , where they can only harm each other not the rest of us. This article reminds us again why we must remain in Chu’l , where jews don’t hate us… aliya? you must be kidding

  79. Nachum says:

    The author keeps using certain words that betray his underlying issues. For example: A “chutznik,” by definition, lives in Chutz LaAretz. Someone who moves to Israel is an oleh. The fact that he keeps referring to his “fellow chutznikim” is very telling. No one I know who lives here refers to themselves as a “chutznik.”

  80. Shelly says:

    I actually know many – even almost all – of those from Chu”l call themselves “Chutznikim”. It’s no different than all those who call themselves “American” or Anglo.

  81. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    “This may bother many readers of this article, but being that Dr. Bloch does not fully cover her hair, currently a core value of Orthodox women, she is by definition, not frum and not orthodox ”
    Mr. Kasten,
    I once had a question about the norm in the D”L community to wear a hat with hair showing. Yes, it goes against Rav Moshe zt”l’s pesak. I have learned there are different interpretations by D”L rabbonim about kisui rosh. They do not all interpret as does Rav Moshe. But this certainly cannot mean Dr. Bloch is not frum or orthodox because she doesn’t “hold this value.” I would assume she has a Rav who she consults with, and/or is following the shitos of her kehillah.

    Honestly, does your Rav say that a woman who wears a hat with hair showing is not frum and orthodox?

    Finally, tsnius is always the altar upon which to die for as women. I am not minimizing its importance, and in fact consider it my greatest source of pride, but please consider the fact that there are other mitzvos that we may know we transgress, if we dare admit it, that are core values. For example, for many, lashon hara is something that can be very challenging and we say things in order “to vent” but in all truth is not permissible according to hilchos lashon hara. Does this mean that we are not frum or orthodox?

    You may say that not covering all hair is public vs our private sins. Please also consider that your perspective is very painful to women who are frum, devoted to shabbos and kashrus, devoted to chinuch habanim, devoted to chesed and personal middos refinement, and for whatever reason, may not cover their hair to your standards. They may not because it is a struggle for them. They may not because they are doing what their mothers did. And they may not because they are following a halachic opinion that permits such an intepretation or kisui ROSH. The rest of their frum, committed life doesn’t go in the garbage.

    If such a woman is not frum and orthodox, then what is she?

  82. Eliyahu says:

    Considering the style and content of the letter written by David Kasten and that it must have been obvious to the editors that for many (perhaps the vast majority) of Cross-currents readers, the letter would accomplish exactly the opposite of the purpose that it was ostensibly written for, perhaps for balance and fairness the editors should seek not only a contribution from a Dr. Bloch supporter but also another contribution from the Abutbul side that does not mostly provide propaganda material and a shot in the arm for the Bloch supporters. Without such balance, I would be inclined to suspect that the editors themselves have already taken a side in this debate by setting up a charedi straw man.

  83. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    I pressed post comment too soon. Only Hashem knows the true weight of each of our mitzvos. It is not upon us to decide who fits the bill based on what mitzvos a person performs and by which way. And I certainly wouldn’t determine the definition of frum based on the Oxford Dictionary.

  84. Yisroel says:

    Such harsh comments. Has the Internet turned us into a nation of scolders or were we that way before? I forget. Beit Shemesh isn’t doing so badly. We have water, electricity, buses, medical care (need a hospital). It’s safe. What’s with all the complaining? He’s been in charge for 10 years. He must be doing something right. As for schools in trailers. Is that the mayor’s fault? Doesn’t that have more to do with Misrad HaChinuch and secular studies and all that? The comment I do agree with is that the Shas/Gimmel campaign didn’t seem to be trying. “Listen to the gadolim” was the slogan and strategy and that’s not going to work on people who say they are Charedim but really aren’t, which is part of what the author of this article was getting at. The mayor needed to hit the streets and talk to all the Charedi-light, Modern Orthodox people and give reasons for voting for him in addition to “the gadolim say.”

  85. Elana says:

    From the charadim I speak to it seems the most agree that dr Bloch ran a much better campaign, however they felt compelled to vote for Abutbul simply because “daas torah” said so.
    I would love to see an article examining the role of dass torah in elections. Is there a halachic basis for following dass torah when your knowledge of the situation seems to contradict what your rabanim are saying?
    Did anyone privately ask rav kaniefskey if he is allowed to vote for who he thinks will be a better mayor for the city in ruchnious and gashmiyus?
    And a question to David, had he been voting in yerushalyim would he have voted for what he would probably call the “non orthodox” moshe Leon endorsed by his rabanim or a frum chassid?

  86. Nitza P says:

    I agree completely with the writer. People should vote for someone like them. So by that logic, the writer should understand my vote: I’m a woman so I voted for Aliza Bloch.

  87. Leah K says:

    If two men had run for mayor, one Chassidic cheredi and one Litvish Cheredi, or one Sefardi cheredi and one Ashkenazi cheredi, should voters have also chosen a mayor according to that? No because that would be silly. If all candidates are cheredi, why would being Litvish or chassidish matter? Surely a Litvish Cheredi shares the main values of the Chassidish Charedim.
    What the writer missed when he judged his neighbors is that the people commenting here saw 2 religious candidates, and they chose the better one, whereas the writer saw one religious candidate and one nonreligious candidate, so he thought there was only one choice. Why he sees a religious woman as nonreligious is really the question….

  88. Indeed, it is a priority that serious talmidei chachamim weigh in on both elections specifically, and the boundaries of Daas Torah in general. These might be topics too dangerous for anyone to commit himself in print. One Gadol did write about these issues. (There is no mistaking that he was one of the gedolei ha-poskim of the last generation. He is maligned in some circles because he was accused of having Zionist leanings.) That was the Tzitz Eliezer, in Hilchos Medinah. Check out an ironic bit of phraseology in the third volume, Shaar 4 Chapter 1 (However, he did NOT really mean Daas Torah the way it is being used in this discussion.)

  89. Ayelet Katz says:

    The most tragic contribution Mayor Abutbul made to Bet Shemesh was the fomenting of this “us vs. them” mentality that was his key (and maybe only) political strategy. While national elections allow some breathing room for philosophical considerations, in the case of municipal elections we are all neighbors whose daily concerns more or less align. My hope is that with Dr. Bloch as mayor, at the very least the focal point will shift from red herrings to the unifying needs of city residents, and there will be some healing in this.

  90. Yisroel says:

    Nitzpa P. just summed up the problem with Modern Orthodoxy/ Dati Leumi when she said, “I’m a woman so I voted for Aliza Bloch.” Thus gender comes before Torah. Torah is always second to some worldly identity. Career first Torah second. Military first Torah second. You name it. And that is why we are nearly always better off with Charedi leadership.

  91. Friend of Dovid says:

    Dear Dovid : As a good Friend of Yours- I would like to point out that your Argument is not Fair. I will mention two thoughts that have been expressed on this page.

    1. Whether or not Dr. Bloch covers her hair, or how she covers her hair (which has been mentioned 22 times in the comments, now 25) is Irrelative to Halacha. Case in point : R’ Chaim Kanievsky fully supported Einat Kalisch Rotem, – who does not cover her hair at all, to become the New mayor of Haifa.

    2. We have no idea, if Dr. Bloch will be able to make our City better or not. I’m sure you know, that I also voted for Moshe Abutbul and Gimmel, as I believe, based on their Positive track record ( at least according to my knowledge, after living in RBS for 14 years), that they should continue being the government .

    However, apparently Hashem sees it different, and He is the Ultimate Controller of All.

    You may also recall that I have spoken to you about the issues of corruption within the government and certain Charedi circles ( that can now be labeled as Eitz (the new Reincarnation, that is )) , which I have personally been affected by.

    Maybe she can make that better. Maybe she can recreate the True Torah society that People who Live by Truth (ie Torah) want, and it seems, that this is the belief of many commenters on this page.

    I think it is necessary for all Citizens of BS , to see things for what they are ,and help this new government to make thing Better.

    We need to give her a chance to show us if she can succeed.

    Let’s make this happen, by going out of our way to Genuinely care for each other. Let’s Regenerate True Ahavas Chinam, and do our Best to give Each other the Benefit of Doubt.

    For as we all know, we are committed at Har Sina : Klal Yisroel Aravim Zeh Lizeh. We are ALL responsible to Care for each other.

    If we really stick to this, Maybe we Can Reset BS and B”EH the Rest of EY and throughout the world, to a World of True Loving and Care. As we are a Light to the nations of the world and thus the world follows Us.

  92. Ben Bradley says:

    ‘I opined that R’ Moshe Abutbol was a choice for Ruchnius for the city while Dr. Bloch was a choice for those who wish to improve the Gashmius of the city. Most responses echoed what I was saying. There was not one response which claimed that a vote for Bloch was a vote for Ruchnius.’
    I’m astonished that you could sum up the responses that way. That is the polar opposite of what the majority of respondents were saying. The recurrent theme was that your post contains a distorted understanding
    of ruchniyus and gashmius, and that the ruchnius of the city needs improved gashmius. So a vote for Bloch was indeed a vote for ruchnius. Hope that provides some clarity much needed.

  93. Tal Benschar says:

    Living in America, I am not close enough to comment on the individuals and issues involved in this election. But one thing deserves comment. The poster states:

    Hence the illogical decision of many of my fellow Chutznikim. Who didn’t come here for the comfort. Who didn’t come here for the spick and span streets. Who didn’t come here for the American–style way the government and the city are run. Who did come here for the Ruchnius and the ability to connect to Hashem more easily.

    The notion that “ruchniyus” is a contradiction to doing a good job and running something efficiently, properly and honestly is, frankly, a foreign notion.

    In a few weeks time we will read about how Yaakov Avinu watched Lavan’s sheep, whom he served “with all my strength” (Bereishis 31:7), working in the heat and cold and losing sleep. (Bereishis 31:40). The Rambam paskens that a worker is obligated to work for his employer with all his strength as did Yaakov Avinu (Hil. Sechirus 13:7) as does the Shulchan Aruch (Chosen Mishpat 337:20).

    Ruchniyus means, first and foremost, following halakha, and that means, if you are running a city, doing a good and efficient job, with all your strength (and that includes your capabilities) to make it run properly.

  94. Amanda Bradley says:

    The author wrote:
    “A final note. I voiced my personal disappointment to the general public. The responses that came back showed a severe lack of empathy and sympathy. ”
    To that end, i would like to express my empathy and sympathy for your disappointment. Refuah shelaimah. If it helps, don’t think of it as losing a mayor – think of it as gaining a city.

  95. David Twersky says:

    Even though this point of view has been painful to read and certainly atypical of the normal standards of rational and enlightened commentary that we are accustomed to read in Cross-Currents.com, I do want to express my support for the editorial decision to publish it along with the responses and “alternate point of view” to bring out into the open for readers to hear and understand the behind the scenes story of the historic election in Bet Shemesh this past week as well as the contentious battles that are currently underway — there and elsewhere — for the soul and future of Chareidi Judaism in Israel.

  96. A says:

    The responses that came back showed a severe lack of empathy and sympathy. Hate and mockery best describe most of the responses. The “Ahavat Yisroel” which so many of these responses mention seem not to apply for those who hold a more religious opinion.

    Why do you think yours is the “more religious opinion”? There were those that poskened that voting at all is assur – surely in a world where more restrictions equals more holiness, that is a superior and more religious ruling? I read through all the comments. I did not see hate and mockery. As for lack of empathy and sympathy, is that what you were expecting when you wrote your original piece?

    And they should be disappointed in themselves. Disappointed that they listened to those spreading lies and Loshon Hara against those who have done no wrong to them and only want to do good. Disappointed that they have embarked on a rocky, downhill, path that may, Chas Vesholom, destroy their families and themselves. Disappointed that they have left the idealism that they once had when they came here. The idealism for growth, for Kedusha, and for connection to Hashem.

    See, that doesn’t sound like someone expressing personal disappointment and asking for sympathy and empathy. That sounds like someone making judgmental statements on a group of people that are unfounded and uncalled for. You can’t attack an entire group of people, namely people who voted differently than you, and then expect those people to sympathize with you. Did you expect people to comment, “I am so sorry I disappointed you… thank you for being bringing me back to the path of righteousness”? Is that your definition of ahavat yisroel – that people should whatever criticisms you have of them to heart and then thank you for it? By your own admission, you talked to lots of people that agree with you. Did you have the opportunity to talk to those who did not? Do you and those that think like you have the monopoly on what spiritual growth, kedusha and idealism look like?

    I mean this in the kindest way possible – having both a judgmental and negative outlook and an attitude of victimhood will lead to a life of further disappointments.
    I wish you all the best and hope that you reconcile your hateful feelings towards your neighbors soon.

  97. Janice says:

    Cleanliness IS important to me and I would not minimize that factor. Yes, it matters that disease-carrying sewer water pours up from the drains and onto the streets. It matters there is litter everywhere you look. It matters that large shopping areas which are not even old(!) have come to look like slums — simply on account their dirt. It matters that, when you walk on Nahar HaYarden, the streets (where children play) smell strongly of garbage. It matters that, in this town, people with dogs have been given no incentives to clean up their dog poop. I am by no means a neat-freak but when we compare the cleanliness in this town to Modiin, or Karmiel, or Kiryat Sefer, or Beitar Ilit – we come up very short in this department.

  98. Nachum says:

    Yisroel, she was being *sarcastic*, responding to *exactly* that argument coming from the charedi side. Kol haposel…

  99. Aviva Brody says:

    I think perhaps the writer missed the nuance of Dr. Bloch’s message….when she said she wants to clean up the city, she meant clean up corruption. Here are just a few examples of the rot in this Haredi run city….
    A charedi Yeshiva that stole a city owned school building and made it into a dorm for bochrim
    Bribes routinely given to get assigned to school buildings
    Illegal building done mostly to expand small apartments owned by large families

  100. Yoni Samber says:

    I do not know if such Abutbol supporters exist(unaffected by propoganda);
    And why was the author himself so oblivious to the inherent inflamitory nature of his rhetoric?
    Being “meurav im haBrios” has become politicly incorrect in some shtark orbits.

  101. Yoni Samber says:

    People in this community were left aghast by a harsh letter that they felt was fundamentaly misguided on every level.
    It is proper to react harshly in defense of their decisions.
    I have heard consistantly from pro Abutbol supporters” what was so bad? A little dirt here and there, but he was doing a good job all in all” ??
    No he was not.Cleanliness was two percent of his failures. See my letter.
    Please re read nitza p’s comnment. You misunderstood her from start to finish.

  102. Eliyahu says:

    Yoni, what i meant in my comment (probably I should have been more clear) is that this piece provides propaganda material and a boost for Dr. Bloch’s supporters. I.e. someone like you looks at it and concludes or is at least tempted to conclude that yes, i was right, there are no rational, unaffected by propaganda, sensible and meurav im habrios Abutbul supporters. Which is why i think that when the editors decided to publish this post, they effectively took the side of Dr. Bloch and it isn’t only your letter that is necessary for balance.

  103. Chaim says:

    I am quite sickened by the main bulk of these comments. Anybody, and I repeat ANYBODY who considers themselves to be frum – will not dare contest the words of Chaza”l. The Mishnah in Sukkah (5:2) calls a mechitzah “a major tikkun”. Anybody who challenges this view is either an apikores or just plain naïve and deluded by the inroads of modern thinking. I can only hope that they are in the latter category. At this point we can erase 90% of the rhetoric of the previous comments, and clean up our minds of the world campaign of anti-chareidi bias – cleverly disguised as “ahavas yisrael” (including the week long front page article campaign in the secular newspapers regarding an unfortunate incident of a seven year old girl being spat upon [outstaging Assad’s gas attacks on his insurgents, which coincided with the same timetable] – which was quickly followed by chareidim being physically assaulted and chased by secularist zealots all over the country – oy, such ahavas yisrael!)
    Now – I have to carefully choose my words here – as I certainly DON”T want to make any gross comparisons, or chas ve’shalom open mouth to the accuser; but I do see need to mention that historically Beit Shemesh was subject to a plague claiming 50,000 lives, when they failed to properly respect the kedushah of the aron habris. Talk about building a “kosher” movie theater in Beit Shemesh? Never did such a concept exist!…. Such ahavas yisrael! I think 50,000 dead bodies is filthier and less sanitary that botched up garbage collection! And this all happened without exaggeration… Beyong a doubt I would prefer even a seculay mayor who shows some respect for our values determined by Chaza”l that a so-called “datia” who equates “ahavas yisrael” with undermining these values!
    And again – without making any gross comparisons, let us not forget that when the Amaleikite butcher took power in Germany – one of his first moves was to “clean up the region” and provide “civil services” to the German population – this was how he was able to win their faith and trust. The rest, we know – is history.
    The REAL measure of one’s ahavas yisrael is determined by how you relate to your “enemies”. If you have two people – a friend and an enemy in the same troubled circumstance – whom do you help first? The Torah teaches us that we must help our ENEMY first! (Shmos 23:4-5) That is TRUE ahavas yisrael! I wonder if this new lady will ever be capable of living up to this challenge…

  104. Mike S. says:

    I live in the US, so I can’t comment on the candidates. And I don’t know Mr. Kasten, and I don’t want to judge him based on one post that seems to have been written in bitter disappointment over a hotly contested election. However, there are two things he mentioned that I feel need a response.

    1) Anyone who is truly Charei L’dvar Hashem should respect the Tzelem Elokim in every human being. even those who are not “like you.” At least in the sence of being created B’tzelem Elokim” we are all “like you.”

    2) As R. Yisraoel Salanter reminded us so many year ago, ” Your ruchniuss is[concern for] the other fellow’s gashmius.” Ruchniuss is recognizing God’s Hashgacha on the world at all times and following His will, a very large component of which is proper concern for one’s fellows.

  105. Toshav Beit Shemesh says:


    Please do yourself a favor and research Godwin’s Law before posting again on the internet.

    Did you really intend to draw a link between an observant, religious Jew and Hitler?!?

  106. Natan Slifkin says:

    Chaim, could you explain your comments regarding the Mishnah in Sukkah and the mechitzah? What does that have to do with this topic?

  107. Susie says:

    I would like to understand Mr. Kasten’s thinking, as I am not sure I do.
    What was the reason to vote for Mayor Abutbol? Was he
    A. a great mayor
    B. a not-so-good mayor, but committed to ruchniyus
    C. a not-so-good mayor, but the Gedolim said to vote for him
    I only heard local charedim saying C.
    If some in the neighborhood believe that Mayor Bloch would be good for ruchniyus (being that she is religious and promotes achdus and committed to helping people in all sectors), is it then OK that they voted for her?
    Mayor Abutbol said that he is committed to making sure the city turns Charedi and meets the needs of charedim, while Mayor Bloch said she is committed to making Bet Shemesh remains diverse and meets the needs of everyone. Is there something wrong with living in a mixed community where not everyone is charedi? and if there is a mixed population, and they all pay taxes, is it fair to only promote charedi culture and not offer music, sports, etc.?
    Also, Aliza Bloch would like to build a pool. Is a pool, in your view, which allows for exercise in the hot weather (which we have practically all year round), something that is gashmiyus? Or can it be considered partly for ruchniyus, as the Torah asks us to safeguard our health?

  108. cohen m says:

    R Meir,

    Painful to be soaring Full Speed Ahead spiritually and then turn around and realize few have been following

    May this be for a lesson and a guide

  109. Chaim says:

    Re: Comments by “Toshav…”, “Slifkin”, and “Susie”,
    Toshav… – Will you please explain to me what “without making any gross comparisons” has anything to do with Godwin’s law – before comparing apples and oranges? Or is it just a means of diverting attention from a most crucial matter??
    NS. (also to Susie) – Aliza Bloch has said that “the inhabitants of Beit Shemesh have voted to tear down their mechitzos”. Sounds nice on a media broadcast; but, if you carefully research the Mishnah in Sukkah – and after it the Gemara speaking at some length about the pervasive influence of the yeitzer hara and the need to be ever alert to combat this – you will never again be able to see the mechitzah in a negative light. When Chaza”l say that the mechitzah in the Beis Hamikdash was constantly being upgraded due to problems of “lightheadness” – they were referring to far less than what today would be called casual “friendly” contact. And yet this was given paramount importance! And yet this new lady is talking about “building a swimming pool in Beit Shemesh” – something that the city has survived for millennia without (long before the convenience of a 40 minute ride to the seashore). “Committed to making Beit Shemesh diverse” – a typical politician’s statement somehow indicates that the city has not been diverse thus far. This slanted statement is quite removed from reality – that is until you realize the secular “need” to rearrange the city’s infrastructure in a way which disgraces the Holy land with the modern day renditions of the same type of moral atrocity which caused the ancient Canaanites to be cleared out from the land. Our Torah scrupulously warns us (Vayikra 18:24-30 ibid. 20:23-26) not only to avoid this, but to enact additional protective measures against such deterioration. And this doesn’t suddenly happen overnight. It starts with the “crucial need for a swimming pool for health reasons”, then a movie theater to encourage “diversity”, and then.. and then… we all know too well the follow up, rachmana litzlan…
    The transparent excuses given to secularize the city for the sake of “diversity” indicate that one’s interest in accommodating those whose ideas run contrary to our beliefs outsteps his/her commitment to HKB”H. This attitude is downright rebellion against our stable and unchangeable tradition from Sinai, and it has historically caused the ruination of moral values by the society at large – from the ancient Greeks until today.
    It MUST be stopped!

  110. Shmuel says:

    Wow, Chaim! So according to you it would be wrong to have a pool with separate swimming in our city because we have survived for millennia without one. Just curious, do you have air conditioning in your home? Wear eyeglasses? Have a flush toilet and running water? Are you suggesting that we become like the Amish? Maybe you should do us all a favor and get rid of your newfangled computer.

  111. Yehoshua Ezra says:

    How does the author know Aliza Bloch is not fully covering her hair? Perhaps she is wearing a wig (like many of the author’s approved neighbors, no doubt), and wears a hat on top of that as an additional measure of Tzniut? Or has the author examined her hair closely, to ascetain that Aliza’s hair is real (which raises its own issues)? Or has he simply decided that there is no way that Aliza might even be more Tzanua than mere Sheitel-wearers ?

  112. Natan Slifkin says:

    Er, Chaim, the “mechitzos” that Aliza was talking about were not mechitzos in the Beis HaMikdosh or in shuls. She was talking about the conceptual walls between different sectors of society.

  113. lacosta says:

    bet shemesh is yet another formerly non-haredi city that has gradually been haredized , with the latter residents then feeling that their rules should apply . i understand why bnai braq shouldn’t have a pool or a theatre. but the haredi agenda , ultimately , is to haredize every living jewish soul , no matter their current religious practice.

    if the prior is correct , then it follows that-
    1] Bet Shemesh should be partitioned into two cities-one pure haredi , one totally not
    2] just as a Har Nof or bnai braq vigourously would fight to maintain its pure haredi life, so too it would be more than legitimate for non-haredi towns, settlements and neighborhoods to forbid/fight etc haredi encroachment by any means neccesary . Maybe there is a need for a hiloni Peleg as well…
    3] frum jews in chu’l , especially moderate normal haredim , should realize the violent Kulturkampf that will threaten their way of life if they ,chas v’shalom, consider moving to Israel…

  114. Amanda Bradley says:

    Just to clear up any confusion – when Aliza spoke about tearing down the ‘mechitzos’ in the city, she was speaking Ivrit, not yeshivish. She meant the barriers (mechitzos) that sadly divide one Jew from his fellow Jew. She did not in any way mean the mechitzos in shuls. ‘Mechitzot’ in Modern Hebrew mean barriers, of any sort. Please reconsider your comment.

  115. Ben Waxman says:

    I am an outsider but I have to say that this line “So why vote for a mayor who is not like you and does not share your ideals” was strange. Because instead of listening to the people’s concern, Mr. Kasten either poo-pooed them or argued that these people are wrong.

    You asked a question, an important question. Yet when people wrote back their answers, your attitude is “what you said is ridiculous”. That is not the way to understand an answer.

    I will add that when I listened to various Shas and Gimmel politicians talk about the loss, most of them seemed to realize that Moshe Abutbol brought the loss on himself. Almost one was too upset (yes I know what a certain prominent rabbi said). Hopefully, these leaders will internalize the lesson that group identity isn’t enough to guarantee loyalty and votes. These people, the political leaders, have to produce.

  116. Chaim says:

    Lacosta – Please reread what I’ve written above about the ancient Canaanites, and explain to me how a public theater would not encourage such a danger. We are all Jews – and responsible for one another.
    N.S. and A.B. I certainly hope that your contention is correct. Even still, it would have to be done with seichel – not with legal force. Correct me if I got the facts wrong about this: Moshe Avutbol had politely suggested years ago that the Maalot school set up its location conveniently in its respective neighborhood – not in the backyard of a Toldos Aharon kehilla. The school faculty stubbornly decided to take legal action against the mayor. Now I’m not a member of Toldos Aharon or Satmer, and it must be understood that – apart from knive-weilding junior gangsters, rapists, and heroin-addicts in Tel Aviv and Haifa – there is yet a need to train children at a young age about derech eretz – even if they have payos and speak Yiddish. When an unfortunate spitting incident occurred next to that stubbornly stationed school – it was immediately made the blaring news article on the front page headlines. The fact that within two days after this incident was reported an avreich was beaten up by secular hoodlums in Ashdod and a young chareidi girl was chased out of a bus in the middle of King George Street was entirely irrelevant to them, as the media sparked outrage continued FOR A WEEK STRAIGHT until some chassidim took the obscure step of dressing in ghetto uniforms and protesting the media venom against chareidim – reminiscent of the way a swarm of flies descends upon a rotting carcass. Of course the school will insist that they were only “standing on their rights”, but the emotional harm that was dealt to this unfortunate girl from their own egocentrical interests, as well as the overwhelming “ahavas yisrael” of the secular media (known all too well for their viscous lies and “head-hunting” tactics even against their own non-religious companions) clearly blows apart any MATURE interest in proper chinuch from them and their supporters. Now I’m CLEARLY not implying that all the Mizrachi members are of this clan (you’d be quite amazed at the genuine ahavas yisrael exemplified by the main bulk of misnachalim in Yehudah and the Shomron,) but there is and was a real issue of legal force being used arbitrarily against the Toldos Aharon Kehilla; and even those who hold themselves correct in this regard are only hell-bent on deepening the problem. Being politically correct is not necessarily synonomous with using common sense, and you’re not in any way “bridging the unfortunate gap” that you’ve only deepened! (By contrast – find me a hospital where the Satmer family stationed on the premises on a regular basis on Shabbos arbitrarily hands out food only to his own “non-Zionist” breed. Find me such a thing!)
    A time will yet come when – not movie theaters, cultural centers, and shopping malls; but rather return and renewal of the dictates of mutual respect as is sanctioned by our Torah (a far cry from today’s “ahavas yisrael politics”) will cause all Jews to unite – once and for all!

  117. Chaim says:

    erratum – The name of the school I mentioned was “Meorot” (- not “Maalot”).

  118. Natan Slifkin says:

    “Correct me if I got the facts wrong about this.”
    Gladly. The school *was* in its own dati-leumi neighborhood (contrary to the lie spread by Abubtul). It happened to *also* adjoin the extremist neighborhood.

  119. Tamar says:

    The school is called Orot Banot and it remains where it is since it the school for the neighborhood girls whose families, anglos settled in Beit Shemesh starting from the 1980’s, way before the extremists in Bet settled. The RBS Bet neighborhood neighbors the Anglo one and about 7-8 years ago they expanded their turf into the Anglo area. Seeing religious zionists as their neighbors turned some humans into thugs, hence the huge problem you brought up. But make no mistake, the school and those whose children attend are not in anyone’s backyard but in their own neighborhood.

  120. Rachel says:

    Chaim reminded me why I stopped reading hamodia and Mishpacha. Instead of acknowledging the issues they seemed to sit in the corner and talked about how everyone hates charedim. That was my flipping point. I want a strong identity that helps people, one that sees the bigger picture. I do not identify with a group that licks its wounds while moaning to each other that the media hates us. I don’t read the paper and moan oh my goodness, they didn’t make that beating front page news. What ridiculous talk. They were reporting on a turf war made worse by extremism. Most mainstream leadership washed their hands of the situation and said not my circus not my monkeys and the rest of the charedi media nitpicked how the Israeli media dealt with it. Yes, it was intense, but it blew over.
    This constant: they want to destroy Torah! They hate charedim. You can’t possibly live like that.
    Side point: this theater obsession is a bit ridiculous. Schools (even Beis Yaakovs) put on annual plays or graduations and have to do it in the nearest yishuv or Police museum. Why can’t the city benefit from it? Why do you care if the rest of your town enjoys a play? Want to know something else? Every motzash there’s a film at the eshkol Payis auditorium. There’s cookies and tea. It’s 15 shek. Oldies and younglets come together and enjoy a movie together. Look how much it ruined Bet Shemesh. It didn’t. You probably didn’t know about it because it’s nowhere near you. In fact, it’s such a sweet project and so reasonably priced that people don’t feel.the need for a cinema in this town. Win win right?
    No. Must not have theater. Rinse. Repeat. Etc.

  121. Dovid Kasten says:

    There seems to be much confusion regarding the choice of a Chareidi candidate versus the choice of a Chareidi candidate who earns the trust of the Rabbanim.
    First of all, the Chareidi candidate is usually one that earns respect amongst the Rabbanim. Thank G-d, it’s hard to be influential in the Chareidi world without gaining their trust. If this was not so, many imposters, who want to undermine the Mesorah that we hold on to so dearly would easily be able to accomplish their nefarious plans. So the 2 factors, Chareidi and trustworthy really go together. This was the case by Bet Shemesh. A Chareidi Mayor, who naturally follows the ideals of the Chareidi world bundled with the explicit trust of the Rabbanim and Gedolim. Hence the disappointment [not anger] of those who did not realize this patently obvious fact and take the opportunity to vote for him.
    However, sometimes there is no candidate who has both plusses. In such a case we cannot decide based on obvious logic and must confer to those who are the experts of Judaism, the Rabbanim and Gedolim. Such was the case by Chaifa (a non-religious woman who had the trust of the Rabbanim) and Yerushalayim (A Dati Leumi individual who is trusted). [In such a situation, while there would be some disappointment if the Chareidi voters did not follow the directives of the Rabbanim, it would not be so shocking that one is going after their natural instincts to vote for the Chareidi, especially if he is supported by other Chareidi Rabbanim.]
    Regarding the steady charges of corruption that have been spewed by so many. Please tell me why no one is in jail? If the corruption is so widespread and every deal is tainted, don’t you think the Israeli intelligence, which usually knows which terrorist will try to attempt an attack even before the terrorist himself knows, can’t place our evil council members behind bars for many years to come?
    The only answer to this is that you know better than the police. You know that although they don’t have anything on him, he’s still corrupt. On this we can say that it is not up to us to decide if it’s the right way to act or not. We leave that up to the Rabbanim, who are the experts in what Hashem wants from us, to decide. So if any Chareidi member of government acts a certain way in accordance with the Rabbanim, you can assume it’s not a negative thing but a positive thing, even if the secular world does not look at it as such.
    Finishing off. We do not decide what is good or bad. No matter what it seems like to the rest of the world. The Torah is the blueprint for the world, which means that to understand the source of everything, we need to be masters of the Torah. Just like we don’t go to a blog or website for a complex medical question, but to an expert doctor (and don’t laugh off his ideas just because we can’t understand them,) also regarding complex Torah questions our address is our Rabbanim and Gedolim. When they say something which we can’t comprehend, we don’t make Leitzunus of it or ignore it. We may question it respectfully, [and we should in order to get a better grasp of their understanding of the truth,] but to go against their words is ludicrous and irresponsible.
    I am not a Rabbi and have never worked in Kiruv. I am a simple Jew and therefore have nothing more to say. Those who are confused or upset, but want to go in the right way have unlimited resources at their fingertips. There are many amazing Rabbanim who are extremely capable of answering one’s questions on Yiddishkeit and most are available to speak to, if not daily but weekly. Call them up. Make an appointment. Send them an e-mail. Do yourself a favor.
    (Further comments should not be addressed towards me but towards a competent knowledgeable Rav.)

  122. Just Curious says:

    Mr. Kasten,

    I am not a resident of Beit Shemesh nor an oleh, so I will restrict myself to commenting on your arguments rather than the particular circumstance in Beit Shemesh.

    You assert, “So the 2 factors, Chareidi and trustworthy really go together.” This is patently, demonstrably false. Unfortunately, while Chareidim like to believe that the fact of being Chareidi renders them and their coreligionists beyond reproach, the truth is that “being Chareidi” does not make one honest, “ehrlich”, kind, virtuous, or even G-d-fearing. While there are, of course, Chareidim who are all of those things, modern Chareidism (an oxymoron?)–as you yourself point out–seems to have more to do with adherence to the social construct (i.e., being “like us”) of wearing the “right” hair/head-covering and, sadly, holding the “right” opinions (as dictated to you by your askanim) than it does with actually having true yirat shamayim and yirat cheit.

    Also, you note, “Just like we don’t go to a blog or website for a complex medical question, but to an expert doctor … also regarding complex Torah questions our address is our Rabbanim and Gedolim.” Halevai that this was the way it worked in Chareidi society! You are absolutely correct, complex medical questions should be addressed to an expert doctor, and complex questions of Torah/halachah should be addressed to an expert rav. One would never think to consult a doctor regarding a halachic “shailah”, so why would one seek medical advice from a rav/gadol? Just as rabbanim/gedolim should not be dispensing medical advice (which I’m sure you are aware happens in Chareidi society), why would they dispense political/voting advice (calling it “advice” is obviously being rather generous when such dicta are intended to be followed unquestioningly)?

    I am glad we are in agreement that experts in their respective fields should limit the scope of their “hashgachah” to their particular field of expertise, and that “complex Torah questions” are the matters that should rightly be addressed to “our Rabbanim and Gedolim”.

  123. lacosta says:

    one wonders why the Chaims have not taken to actively put into practice his version of kol yisrael areivim –which seems to allow hegemony over others who wish to live differently , even if they got there before him. he should be in supermarkets throwing out treife food, destroying other people’s smartphones , firebombing theatres etc

    his attitude may speak for a majority of hareilidom , and should alert all who live in secular,dati leumi, masorti or mixed towns that their way of life is in imminent danger if they allow any hareili advances into their towns. so the claims of antisemitism when hiloni areas refuse haredi advances are just people looking out for their freedom. their lifestyle is no doubt 100% assur , yet it for a while remains a somewhat free country…

  124. Dovid Kasten says:

    @ Just Curious: You are correct. As in the begining of the paragraph i wrote “the Chareidi candidate is usually one that earns respect amongst the Rabbanim” i meant to write that the 2 usually go together. It was a mistake.
    Regarding the rest of your statement, that being Chareidi doesn’t make one “honest, “ehrlich”, kind, virtuous, or even G-d-fearing”, that is false.
    Define Chareidi. The way most will explain is 2 qualities:
    One is in terms of action; “Chareidim L’Dvar Hashem” or “Fearful to fulfill the word of Hashem”. Since Hashem demands us to me “honest, “ehrlich”, kind, virtuous, or even G-d-fearing”, anyone who is Chareidi means that he will be striving for those qualities.
    The second, a secondary factor, is more cultural; Chareidi in terms of dress and way of life.
    We can both agree that one who walks the walk but is totally lacking in the Ikar of being a Chareidi, is just a faker and will not become a “ehrlich” person. But when someone is Emesdik about his caring about the word of Hashem, usually through Hadracha of Rabbanim, this will always lead to only good things.
    As opposed to this is the “alternative” Judaisms (without going into names). I just read a publication of more “enlightened” Jews who are mourning the fact that 1 out of 2 (!) of their children are going off the Derech. Does that produce “honest, “ehrlich”, kind, virtuous, or even G-d-fearing” people? [Perhaps that explains the book that just came out called “Not Off The Derech”. If we are in denial that our way of life is a giant failure, we can continue without having to make changes.]
    Obviously, just being Chareidi doesn’t make one a good person. Just as being part of a neo-Nazi or terrorist organization doesn’t make one bad. If one buys into the values of your group and strive to work on ourselves according to the leaders of that group, only then will we reach the goals that the group pushes. If one considers himself a Chareidi, subscribes to the values of “Chareidism”, and goes according to the instructions of the leaders of the Chareidim, he will become a better person.
    Regarding the Rabbanim dispensing medical advice. Just like the government must make laws regarding medical experiments, medicine, hospitals, and any other thing connected to the medical world, also the Gedolim must let us know what the Torah wants from us in a medical situation. How does the government do this? The get advisers and expert doctors to tell them the facts and they make their decision based on that. The Rabbanim do the same thing. Based on the advice of doctors, they tell us what to do.
    Regarding your dangerous worldview that Rabbis should stay out of all other facets of life except for Religion. As i said before, we believe that the Torah is the blueprint of the world. The Torah includes everything in it. The Chazon Ish used to instruct top surgeons on how to do brain surgery, and he was always right. Although your average Rav is not up to this, a good one will research a topic before making a judgement. Just like the government, he will make an informed decision inculcating both the “facts” and how the Torah tells us to act in this particular situation. The Torah tells us how to live the most fulfilling life in every single situation that comes up.

    @ lacosta: Same thing. The reason why your average Chareidi is not “throwing out treife food, destroying other people’s smartphones , firebombing theatres (sic) etc”, is because that’s not what Hashem wants from us.
    There is nothing to fear from “hareilidom” (sic) except a world of real peace and tranquility. When Mashiach comes (please, soon), everything will be run according to Hashem’s word. And we’ll all enjoy. Don’t worry it’ll be OK, nothing to worry about.

  125. Just Curious says:

    Mr. Kasten,

    Thank you for your response. In your definition (or re-definition) of “Chareidi” you lapse into a common logical fallacy known as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

    It runs as follows (borrowed/paraphrased from Wikipedia): Reuven asserts, “No Scotsman hates haggis.” Shimon retorts, “But my uncle Angus is a Scotsman and he hates haggis.” So Reuven concludes, “Well, no true Scotsman hates haggis!”

    Similarly, when I point out that that there are Chareidim who behave in such a way as to display that they are not “honest, ‘ehrlich’, kind, virtuous, or even G-d-fearing”, your answer is to assert that such people aren’t really “true” Chareidim (because true Chareidim must be honest, ehrlich, kind, virtuous, and G-d-fearing). Surely you can appreciate the circularity of the logic.

    Halevai that “Chareidi” actually meant what you would like it to mean! But unfortunately, plenty of people who both self-identify as Chareidi and are identified as such by their communities have been proven to be criminals (even if the outgoing mayor of Beit Shemesh has not; I could cite any number of other examples) but, in far too many cases, that has not stopped their Chareidi communities from supporting and embracing them despite their misdeeds, which violate Torah law and should therefore place them beyond the pale of Chareidism and Torah Judaism in general.

    Additionally, I found it interesting to note that you point out that, “Since Hashem demands us to me [sic] ‘honest, ehrlich, kind, virtuous, or even G-d-fearing’, anyone who is Chareidi means that he will be striving for those qualities.” I hope you realize that there are plenty of Jews who meet those criteria who are not identified as Chareidi, even some who are schleppers like me, wearing kipot serugot and maybe even eating non-Badatz.

    To conclude, I would ask you to please cite for me the “publication of more ‘enlightened’ Jews who are mourning the fact that 1 out of 2 (!) of their children are going off the Derech” to which you refer. I have never heard this statistic quoted with respect to any branch of Orthodox Judaism and would be very curious as to where it came from.

    Also, I cannot find any book called “Not Off of the Derech” after searching on Amazon, Google, etc. (There was a book that came out 10+ years ago called “Off the Derech”, but I do not believe that is the publication you are referring to.) Can you please tell where I can find “Not Off the Derech”?

  126. Just Curious says:

    In response to the second part of your reply, “Regarding the Rabbanim dispensing medical advice”: Please do not perpetuate half-truths and miracle stories that are likely apocryphal.

    The Chazon Ish DID NOT “used to instruct top surgeons on how to do brain surgery, and he was always right”. There is a famous story that the Chazon Ish once advised a neurosurgeon how to perform a procedure but, to my knowledge, this story is not attested anywhere except in except in hagiographic biographies of the Chazon Ish, in an attempt to make him look superhuman. While an indecipherable sketch purportedly drawn by the Chazon Ish (or possibly the surgeon who consulted him; sources differ) is often included in these sources, it is not clear whether the surgeon actually followed R’ Karelitz’s recommendations or even whether the surgery was successful.

    Stories like this are like Catholics attributing miracles to their “saints” or Lubavitchers claiming that their rebbe held advanced degrees from the Sorbonne (lehavdil). They are only attested in hagiographies, and they don’t stand up to critical scrutiny.

    Finally, you assert “Although your average Rav is not up to this, a good one will research a topic before making a judgement.” Doesn’t this contradict the current Chareidi conception of “daas torah”, that since “the Torah is the blueprint of the world” and “The Torah includes everything in it”, Torah learning alone gives gedolim a some kind of supernatural ability to make correct decisions in realms as diverse as medicine and politics? Once again, halevai that gedolim actually did their due diligence before dispensing medical advice, but I think you know as well as I do that this is all too often not the case. And that is the real danger.

  127. Dovid Kasten says:

    @(anything but) Just Curious: While it is true that just being Chareidi does not make one automatically a good person, it is a step in the right direction. One who even just identifies with a group that puts the Torah (i.e. Hashem’s will) as the “Ultimate Importance” will automatically be ahead of those who have other factors involved in the equation as well.
    I agreed that I had made a mistake in that when I wrote, “the Chareidi candidate is usually one that earns respect amongst the Rabbanim”. As I said, “i meant to write that the 2 usually go together”.
    There have been criminals in every society, there are, and there always will be (at least until Mashiach). As I wrote, the main thing is what the group is striving for, what their goals are. The Chareidi society in general is full of people striving to be “honest, ehrlich, kind, virtuous, and G-d-fearing”, of course some more than others. And, yes, like all groups there will be a few fakers thrown into the mix. But as I wrote in my letter “I am proud to say that the common denominator of almost all of them (Chareidi Americans) is their living in, or moving to Eretz Yisroel, in order to grow spiritually.” And I believe most Israeli Chareidim are also interested in growing, albeit not as high percentage as the ones that make Aliya.
    The publication that I read was put out by the Mizrachi movement. In it they lament the fact that 50% of their youth are abandoning the proper way. This, of course is inevitable. For if the Land of Israel, Medinat Yisrael, or anything else also has importance in addition to the word of Hashem, contradictions are bound to crop up. Of course that does not mean that there cannot be, “honest, ehrlich, kind, virtuous, or even G-d-fearing” Mizrachi Jews, and indeed, there are many. But the ideals of the Mizrachi movement are headed in the wrong direction and headed for destruction as is evident in their youth. Please do not be blind to reality.
    [Also, The book is called “Not At Risk”. Sorry for the slip. But it’s the same idea. If we call the wayward youth not wayward then we can live in la-la land that we are doing fine. Nothing could be further from the truth.]

  128. Ben Waxman says:

    “one wonders why the Chaims have not taken to actively put into practice his version of kol yisrael areivim –which seems to allow hegemony over others who wish to live differently , ”

    I can also put that version of kol Yisrael into practice and demand that the government close any school that doesn’t have a core curriculum, demand that all 18 year old males participate in the mitzvah of defending Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Medinat Yisrael in Zahal, etc.

    Do you really think that anyone wants to live in that world?

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