Mind-reading in the blogosphere

This is a letter that was sent to me privately:

I am not blaming you for what happened in Bet Shemesh. However, the antipathy that is displayed by many teachers cannot be helping the situation. I’ll even say that by the way you try to excuse the situation on Mr. Schick’s blog implies that you do not totally disagree.

Yet I do totally disagree! The entire chareidi community in both Eretz Yisrael and America rejects Yom Atzmaut as a holiday, including virtually all the Litvishe roshei yeshiva and chassidishe rabbeim. This includes the Torah-only stream, the Torah-plus-a trade stream and the Torah-im-Derech-Eretz stream of Orthodoxy. Even Lubavitch doesn’t celebrate Y”A.

There are many people who have a basically positive view of the Jewish State and view it as a sign of amazing Hashgacha Pratis that Jews can again live in E”Y after 2000 years of exile, and yet at the same time have very serious reservations about the secular anti-religious nature of the Israeli government. We don’t see that the Redemption has yet advanced sufficiently to warrant adding a holiday to the Jewish calendar.

It is a big stretch from there to pelting people with eggs. You remind me of those people who look at murderers who kill abortion providers (maybe twenty such criminals in the whole country?) and extrapolate from there that they “must” have committed murder because the entire pro-life movement somehow led them to behave that way and tacitly approves.

Did you know that the Unabomber was a great environmentalist and quoted extensively from Al Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance? Would you say that Al Gore and people like him created a climate of opinion that led directly to the Unabomber’s actions, and that Al Gore approved his actions? Have you called upon Al Gore to repudiate the Unabomber’s actions or else you will just have to assume that he “must” really agree with the Unabomber?

If you want to know the real truth, I have much warmer feelings towards those who celebrate Yom Atzmaut — for whom I have a keen sympathy and fellow-feeling — than I do towards those who throw eggs. And you know what? Practically the whole Agudist wing of Orthodoxy feels the way I do.

One of the astonishing things I’ve discovered in my short career in the blogosphere is how much mind-reading goes on here. And how many assumptions and stereotypes rest on what a paucity of data.

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12 comments to Mind-reading in the blogosphere

  • Gershon Seif

    gut gezugt Toby!!

  • mb

    What the antiZionist, anti Yom Haazmuut, etc. Chereidim seem to forget, that rarely in Jewish history was the government of Israel/Judah religion friendly. In fact quite the opposite. The secular Government of this past 57 years, with it’s religious/secular status quo is remarkable in comparision.
    Also it’s not just the rejection of holidays such as Independance Day, or notable days such as Yom Hashoa by that sector of chereidim that is so annoying and unconstructive, but the contempt that seems to emanate from them to those that do aknowledge and celebrate/commemorate them.

  • Max

    Mrs Katz,
    While I agree with your main message, I would like to solicit your thoughts on the underlying point you have made:

    “…and yet at the same time have very serious reservations about the secular anti-religious nature of the Israeli government.”

    I was under impression that while it may not be perfect, Israel is a democracy, which means Israeli government is only a reflection of Israel’s population. Is it possible that, we the haredi community and our leaders, are viewing Israel as another host country, not so different from Poland, Germany, U.S., Lithuania or any other stop in our exile. If so, how do you explain such view?
    Are we not Israel’s government? Could the religious and religious/nationalist parties in Israel form “Big Tent” religious party (certainly that would require much compromise on all sides, but is it not better than being junior brothers of Likud or Avodah)? If my math is right such Big Tent religious-nationalist party would have largest representation in Knesset and be the governing party. If more of us, religious Jews in U.S. (perhaps as the result of the value of moving to Israel being elevated in the haredi community) move to Israel would it not further add to the strength of our voting block?
    In fifty plus years since establishment of Israel much has changed. The religious including the haredi community has greater numbers, greater self-confidence, while secular Jewish nationalism has virtually melted away in Israel and in Diaspora. There is really nobody to fill the vacuum, of leading state of Israel, but us. But each faction within religious camp is still too small to do it on its own. Perhaps if we and our leaders will cease viewing Israel, defacto, as another stop in our exile, but begin to view it as G-d given opportunity not merely to live in but to GOVERN OURSELVES in the Holy Land, than we will not only alter the secular nature of Israel, but also will stop the suicidal capitulation to the ‘world opinion’ which is taking place now. Should the Haredi leaders leave themselves out from providing a Torah perspective on appropriate economic, diplomatic, environmental and military policy? Should the Haredi institutions miss the opportunity to shape and prepare future economists, diplomats, and generals to lead the truly Jewish state? Our leaders grappling with these questions?

  • Toby Katz

    Max wrote:

    Is it possible that, we the haredi community and our leaders, are viewing Israel as another host country, not so different from Poland, Germany, U.S., Lithuania or any other stop in our exile. If so, how do you explain such view?
    Are we not Israel’s government?

    The reality is the exact opposite of what Max postulated. If we considered Israel just another host country, we would lie low, rely on shtadlanim for the needs of our community, carve out our little corners and not expect our host country to be Jewish. We would be grateful just to be allowed to live.

    But we do not view Eretz Yisrael as just another country. We view it as our own real home, very much ours. It is a Jewish country for Jews, the land of our forefathers, the land promised us as our eternal homeland by the Torah, a holy land. THE Holy Land. It is this awareness that makes us so vocal in expressing our desire that this land live up to the image of what a Jewish country should be.

    As for participating in the political life of the State of Israel, chareidim most certainly do. With very few exceptions, all chareidi groups participate fully in the government, both as voters and as political candidates. This includes the Litvishe yeshiva world, the various chassidic groups, and the growing Sephardi chareidi segment. The mayor of Jerusalem is a chareidi.

    One other point. People forget that there is a large floating foreign chareidi population in Israel, especially in Jerusalem. There are students in the girls’ seminaries, and kollel men and their wives. There is a tremendous amount of movement within these communities, people coming to Israel to study for a year or several years and then returning to the Diaspora. There are numerous chareidi tourists who come for the holidays. These foreign chareidim (mostly Americans) make a significant contribution to Israel’s economy.

    Just as non-American foreign students in Harvard do not vote in Boston elections, non-Israeli citizens living and studying in Israel do not participate in Israeli elections.

  • The Hedyot

    I have much warmer feelings towards those who celebrate Yom Atzmaut—for whom I have a keen sympathy and fellow-feeling—than I do towards those who throw eggs.

    I’m impressed that you admit this. Now ask your students and kids who they feel more positively inclined towards. If they agree with you, I’ll be even more impressed. Actually, let me modify that a bit. I’m not so surprised that many frum, yeshivish people will feel an affinity towards some group over certain extremist chareidi groups, simply because for many the extremism is very hard to swallow, even if it is packaged in frumkeit. So what exactly do you mean by “have warmer feelings”? Is it just a communal fondness, stemming from a similar lifestyle, or is it a feeling of identification and respect (or some other deeper and more substantive feeling, however you want to express it)? If it’s the former, then I’m not surprised and probably neither is anyone else. But if it’s the latter, I stand humbled.

    In my experience, no matter how true it is that there is so much more in common between the Chareidi/Yeshivish/Black Hat guy and the Modern Orthodox/Dati Leumi/Zionistic guy, when faced with the choice (as you have portrayed it above), the chareidi guy will always side with his fellow black-hatters, no matter how ugly their actions are (often while excusing and apologizing for them at the same time) rather than claim any affinity towards the MO fellow.

  • Yaakov Menken

    The Hedyot,

    Do you say that exclusively about “chareidi” guys as compared to everyone else? Or do you not think that secular, modern, and everyone else also fall into the habit of “siding with” their own side? While you may be right that “the chareidi guy” is all too likely to do this, he’s still much less likely than anyone else involved in an ideological battle.

  • Edvallace

    “In my experience, no matter how true it is that there is so much more in common between the Chareidi/Yeshivish/Black Hat guy and the Modern Orthodox/Dati Leumi/Zionistic guy, when faced with the choice (as you have portrayed it above), the chareidi guy will always side with his fellow black-hatters, no matter how ugly their actions are (often while excusing and apologizing for them at the same time) rather than claim any affinity towards the MO fellow.”

    And I wholeheartedly disagree. I can’t speak for your experience but your negative characterization of a wide swath of people referred to as “the chareidi guy” simply isn’t true. “Chareidi Guys” are not a monolithic group trained to obey and follow the party line without ever considering the issues or people involved. There may be some who do behave that way, but the Chareidi public is varied and has so many levels of association that it’s impossible to make that generalization without sounding like you’ve got a major bone to pick with Yeshivaleit. I’ve attended a number of Yeshivos in both countries and rarely heard broad statements critical of MO people. There are definitely some areas of philosophical disagreement [that goes both ways you know] and a clear disdain for YU, but a wholesale dismissal of the individuals is not there.

  • Toby Katz

    The Hedyot wrote:

    Now ask your students and kids who they feel more positively inclined towards.

    My students come from a broad cross section of Jewish backgrounds and families, from left to right, Ashkenazi and Sefardi, chassidish and Litvish. This is Miami, not New York. Their attitudes similarly run the gamut.

    If they agree with you, I’ll be even more impressed.

    Most of them do. The general attitude in the school towards Israel is positive. Let me amend that. Warily positive.

    So what exactly do you mean by “have warmer feelings”?

    Sometimes I am just so bursting with affection for my fellow Jews that I have a yetzer hara to celebrate Yom Atzmaut.

    the chareidi guy will always side with his fellow black-hatters, no matter how ugly their actions are

    That does not at all accord with my own experience.

  • Zev

    “In my experience, no matter how true it is that there is so much more in common between the Chareidi/Yeshivish/Black Hat guy and the Modern Orthodox/Dati Leumi/Zionistic guy, when faced with the choice (as you have portrayed it above), the chareidi guy will always side with his fellow black-hatters, no matter how ugly their actions are (often while excusing and apologizing for them at the same time) rather than claim any affinity towards the MO fellow.”

    That’s a lot of baloney.

  • Chana

    Toby, you wrote:
    “I have a yetzer hara to celebrate Yom Atzmaut.”

    I think the choice of words- yetzer hara- is a bit offensive.
    Celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut is not an aveirah. Hence there is no need to bring in the Evil Inclination.

  • Toby Katz

    Toby, you wrote:
    “I have a yetzer hara to celebrate Yom Atzmaut.”

    I think the choice of words- yetzer hara- is a bit offensive.
    Celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut is not an aveirah. Hence there is no need to bring in the Evil Inclination. –Chana

    ——————————–

    Oh, honey, it’s so hard to be young, but some day you will grow a sense of humor, you’ll see, it’ll come…

  • Eliezer Barzilai

    Although I am a Litvak in the tradition of the Netziv and Slabodkeh and the Ponevezher Rov (i.e. don’t wear a black hat when I go shopping,) my street cred is good. Speaking as a passable chareidi, I say that the egg-pelters are just another gang, like the ones in big cities in America. Call them Biryonim, or kano’im, or zealots, or whatever, but they’re just criminals. Someone recently referred to the people who indiscriminately plaster libelous posters all around Yerusholoyim as “pashkevillians,” and that applies here as well. This rabid rejectionism of whatever is not precisely consistent with one’s own little weltanshauung is a constant theme in our history, and there’s no doubt that it’s an indelible ethnic trait, and we have to live with it. But let’s at least recognize its criminal and destructive nature!
    To say that “most chareidim” would agree with this kind of behavior is astonishingly biased, to the point of willful denial or self-evident truths, what used to be called “the big lie.”