Variations on a Theme by Dr. Schick

Without weighing in on the main question posed by Dr. Schick (Oct. 28), I will offer one observation, and pose another question.

Dr Schick’s concern about airing dirty linen in public is – unfortunately – much ado about nothing. The linen is already hanging from the tallest masts.

There are simply no secrets left. The “bird of the sky” that will inevitably “carry the sound” (Koheles 10:20) has sprouted digital wings. In the age of the internet, everything that is ever uttered becomes a matter of public record, and is never forgotten. It would behoove us all to keep in mind that our conduct is being scrutinized not only by the Ribbono Shel Olam, but by lots of human critics, poised to use every misadventure against us. It is ironic that Satmar, which often uses the notion of not “inciting the nations” against us as a central tenet in its anti-Zionism, often does not seem to understand this.

A Sukkos visitor drove the point home when he asked whether I knew that I was featured prominently on some anti-Semitic websites. I actually had known that a few cites quoted some rather innocuous statements I had made in a few papers. Most of them dealt with the general parameters of Jewish Law, but were used by antisemites to “prove” that we were on our way to imposing a Jewish sharia on the good citizens of the USA. He went on to say that these same sites actively monitor both Yated and Hamodia, ferreting out material that is disparaging of non-Jews! The last thing that most readers of these papers expect is that people outside our community – and hostile to it – maintain an avid interest in what we are writing, saying, and thinking. We should be forewarned.

Besides being a world-class talmid chacham, Rabbi Dovid Bleich is one of the most prolific writers of English language halacha on the planet. I asked him a few years ago what he thought about people dealing with rather sensitive and potentially damaging areas of halacha in published form, where the wrong people could seize them to their own advantage. He replied that they might as well be dealt with responsibly, since absolutely nothing was hidden any longer from our critics.

My question is a simple one. I could not help but notice the contrast between the NY Post story on Satmar, and the Baltimore coverage of the passing of Rabbi Naftoli Neuberger, z”l. The media’s examination of the life and contribution of the latter was a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s Name) of the first order. Are people like Rabbi Neuberger sui generis, or are there factors that create one’s propensity towards kiddush Hashem rather than its opposite?

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2 comments to Variations on a Theme by Dr. Schick

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Because keeping and correlating information is getting to be so easy and cheap, a lot of the privacy we (Western civilization, not just Jews) have grown used to is going to go away. Maybe it’s all for the best – if people aren’t aware of the Real Judge who sees everything, maybe it is better if they are aware that their family, friends, and co-workers are in a similar position.

    Will that mean that Anti-Semites will have more to say about us? I don’t think so. The effect will be that they will twist real things, such as your comments, instead of fabricating their own material, such as the Protocol of the Elders of Zion. Big deal. People who want to hate will hate anyway. People who want to understand will be able to find your comments and see them in context.

    My question is a simple one. I could not help but notice the contrast between the NY Post story on Satmar, and the Baltimore coverage of the passing of Rabbi Naftoli Neuberger, z”l. The media’s examination of the life and contribution of the latter was a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s Name) of the first order. Are people like Rabbi Neuberger sui generis, or are there factors that create one’s propensity towards kiddush Hashem rather than its opposite?

    Partially it was due to the type of story. A story about a fist fight is obviously going to be less sympathetic than an obituary. Fist fights are not what we are supposed to do in a civilized society – when we need violence we try to outsource it to professionals. We are only supposed to use it ourselves as a last resort for self defense. There is nothing wrong, however, with a person dying from old age.

    However, our actions do affect what is going to be reported about us. If Satmar hadn’t had the fight, the N.Y. Times wouldn’t have had the story. If Rabbi Rabbi Naftoli Neuberger z”l (of blessed memory) wasn’t respected outside the Jewish community, his passing wouldn’t have been news. Kiddush hashem is the same it had always been – doing good because G-d commanded it. It’s just that now it is more visible.

  • Ellen

    I think there’s just a cultural difference between New York and much of the rest of the country. I had once heard that the founders of New Amsterdam specifically wanted a non-religious state, in which financial pursuits would be most prominent. Seems accurate.