They Will Come for You, Too

For all the protests to the contrary, recent news articles (and comments right here on Cross-Currents) have demonstrated why Agudath Israel felt the need to warn against confusing the behavior of isolated thugs with the sincere religious convictions of many Orthodox Jews. With alarming speed, the voluntary separation of genders in public spaces has been muddled with spitting on seven-year-old children.

Like it or not, or whether our favorite writer Naomi Ragen has heard of it, it is true in Halacha that a man should not walk behind a woman. Manoach walked after his wife, and for this reason was called an Am HaAretz (ignoramus). You and I and most everyone else might not consider sitting behind a woman to be problematic, but I know many Chassidim do — and I’m not willing to tell them how to observe their religion. Freedom of association and freedom of religion apply to Chassidim too. If they don’t want to sit behind a woman, does that mean they don’t deserve to ride public transportation?

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely is the most recent to demonstrate that she doesn’t believe that Chassidim should have these freedoms. She recently, with her entourage and the media, boarded a Mehadrin bus to Beit Shemesh. She sat in the front, and the charedim sat behind her. Then she got off — until she noticed that as soon as she did so, the men moved forward while the women remained in the back.

At that point, she got back on the bus. She impeded public transportation for the sole and unique purpose of harassing the other riders. Is that defensible? Do you think there was no need to speak out against the trampling of the religious rights of tens of thousands of people, because of the misbehavior of 100?

That isn’t an exaggeration, by the way. Even The Forward acknowledges that there are perhaps 100-150 families of Sikrikim among the 40,000 charedim in Beit Shemesh, “and the vast majority of them, it must be said, are peaceful and not affiliated with the Sikrikim sect.” Yes, that means the Sikrikim are less than 1% of the population of Charedim. Yet their header for the article said “THE ultra-Orthodox picked the wrong Israeli town in which to pick a fight” — smearing not just the 40,000 Charedim of Beit Shemesh, but every Charedi in the world. My wife teaches kids who dress like Naama Margolese. My daughters play with kids who dress like Naama Margolese. But we’re ultra-Orthodox, and therefore “picked a fight” in Beit Shemesh?

It is entirely akin to saying that “Occupy” protesters are rapists. Indeed, the incidence of rape in “Occupy” tents appears to vastly exceed the number of Sikrikim willing to spit on children. So why has there been no similar demand that the “Occupy” protesters do some crowdspeak sessions about the horrors inflicted by their own?

The only Charedi leader who legitimately should have done more, and done it sooner, is the Charedi Mayor of Beit Shemesh, to the extent that he failed to heed the warnings of those, including our own Jonathan Rosenblum, that he was giving in to extremists. It is not legitimate criticism to expect the American Agudah to ignore the rights of Orthodox Jews right here in America.

While some pointed out that the OU/RCA Statement said nothing about tzniyus, it is still true that their statement didn’t merely condemn the hooligans. Their statement, too, defended Torah Jews, if not a Torah value: “We also urge all observers to recognize that the behavior of these hooligans does not in any way represent the attitude or demeanor of the Charedi community at large. The vast majority of Charedi Jews find these actions abhorrent, and the community should not be judged by the inexcusable conduct of a few.”

What the OU and RCA know is that this won’t stop with the Charedim. The “activists” have, in fact, already come for the best and brightest of the religious Zionists, those most anxious to serve in elite IDF units. Now in Israel, people are speaking out against “mistreatment” of women in the IDF. Are they referring to the rampant problems of sexual harassment of female soldiers? No — “extremist religious behavior… affecting the role of women in the armed forces.” The one speaking is Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz, the Chief IDF Rabbi,” and he expressly made reference to Beit Shemesh. Has he so soon forgotten that the religious “problem” most recently afflicting the IDF was the desire of some young men, not one of whom was Charedi, to observe halacha with regards to Kol Isha?

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43 comments to They Will Come for You, Too

  • yitznewton

    You and I and most everyone else might not consider sitting behind a woman to be problematic, but I know many Chassidim do [...] Freedom of association and freedom of religion apply to Chassidim too. If they don’t want to sit behind a woman, does that mean they don’t deserve to ride public transportation?

    Probably. Emphasis is on the public – the Supreme Court ruled that gender segregation is illegal IIUC. This strikes me as a less severe example of something like a prisoner in the USA refusing to walk without tzitzis – there is IMO a missing sense of priorities and derech eretz (in the broader sense of “this is how the world works, and it’s not a violation of halachah”). If a chassidus can’t reconcile itself to the public transport system, then they ought to accommodate the same way they accommodate to any other aspect of current life.

  • Bob Miller

    If we face problems on multiple fronts, we can’t push some of them out of sight and out of mind indefinitely. However, we have to concentrate most on the most serious, immediate threats.

    Today’s most serious, immediate threat is the alienation of Jews from genuine Torah values and behavior, and, thus, from HaShem. Our other problems flow from that. This threat comes not only from the left-wing, secular factions. The sinister “They” who come for us dress and speak in a remarkable variety of ways!

  • Eli

    “If they don’t want to sit behind a woman, does that mean they don’t deserve to ride public transportation?”

    They deserve it, but CHOOSE not to take it. That is a choice to follow religion, not a denial of service.

    Are we forced to offer horse & buggy public transportation for the Amish who will not enter a bus?

  • my frum wife goes to Zumba

    Kvod Harav…
    Your premise is completely out of bounds.

    FACT: It is illegal to enforce discrimination on public busses, period. The MK who got back on and sat where she wanted had every right to. Kudos to her to drive home this point to the general public. And YES, the rights of the public to sit where they please DOES trump the “religious rights” of a group with a narrow, convoluted/warped idea of what Tzniyus is. That is no more a provocation than you exercising one of your rights.

    Yet you view her actions as a provocation. However, it is the Chareidi element that has created the “Mehadrin busses” anomaly and the rest of that society that tolerate it (and dont speak up, dont speak up loudly enough, or dont speak without offering apologetics or creating strawmen) who are the provocateurs. Not those who insist on their rights to sit where they please. I believe your frustration is misplaced.

    Did you really mean to compare a legitimate franchise of Yiddishkeit of folks who are lomdei Torah, gomlei chesed and medakdek’n bmitzvos to this group of slobs, Communists, homeless, agitators, anarchists and criminals etc.?! Come on…

  • Charlie Hall

    I see Chasidim on the buses and subways in New York city on a regular basis. In fact, a Chasidic Rebbe once told me that I should always take the subway from the Bronx to Brooklyn because that way I can learn more Torah than if I drive.

  • Greg G.

    “If they don’t want to sit behind a woman, does that mean they don’t deserve to ride public transportation?”

    It’s their choice. It’s not incumbent upon anyone else to help them not sit behind a woman. If that means they can’t ride public transportation, tough. I don’t see what is so hard to understand about this.

  • Abe71

    “With alarming speed, the voluntary separation of genders in public spaces has been confused with spitting on seven-year-old children.”

    Agree; however I think a lot of this confusion is coming from, or at least being prolonged and increased by articles such as this one which spend a line pointing out that violence is wrong, and then proceed to preach for paragraphs about bias against Charedim, Naomi Ragen, politicians, the importance if tznius etc. These are important byt why the linkage? Though not intended it can come off as a half hearted condemnation of the vile behavior. And that may beescpecially true if there is a bias by an observer (such as secular media); however why not just recognize that, state a clear condemnation of the bad acts; and then write other articles about the importance of tznius, calling out negative portrayal of Charedim etc.

  • Shades of Gray

    The “They Will Come for You, Too” argument has been made by R. Yisroel Reisman in his Jewish Observer article on Metizah B’feh, ie, be careful when criticizing the former because there are anti-Milah activists which affect all Orthodox communities.

    I think separate buses can be defended. There are different issues. The crowding on certain lines involving physical contact is a competely different issue than merely siting near or behind a women which R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach obviously did, as mentioned by Aryeh Deri (also quoted in Hanoch Teller’s biography). Part of what’s motivating the new approach, different than before, seems to be “vehaya machanecha kodesh” (as mentioned in the posters for Mehadrin buses), a need for a zechus and protection. If so, these communities have every right to do so.

    On the other hand, the Augudah statement mentioned that new increased stringincies are made to couteract increased pritzus. I recall hearing a similar concept, in general, from R. Hershel Schacter (“Gender Separation in Halacha” on Torah Web); it would be interesting to see how this concept actually plays out and is it successful. On the one hand, a Dayan writing in the RCA’s Tradition Magazine a few months ago argued that Mehadrin buses are an acute need, while Rabbi Melamed was quoted in the media that “enforcing separation between men and women on busses is detrimental to the family structure as men are unable to sit with their wives, fathers are unable to sit with their daughters and mothers are unable to sit with their sons”. The key is “enforcing”; as R. Gideon Sylvestor (I’m not sure if he’s Orthodox) wrote in one of the papers, when the British Parlimanet tried to *enforce* certain standards on the secular public it backfired.

    Most fundamentally, the real issues behind tzniyus sometimes involve emotions since one is dealing with sexuality. The Agudah statement touched on this because sexuality is an underlying issue, and even further, how one relates to Hashem. These topics might ultimately be best being discussed privately, however they become public issues in this case, as well as when the focus in the media and by sociologists is on Chasidim who go off the Derech due to this type of matter. Perhaps it is not always a bad thing when tzniyus is being questioned as it forces a deeper understanding. Also, in the case of “Kol Ishah” in the army, this can easily be defended, as long as one is talking to people of good will who make a minimum effort to understand.

  • Yaakov Menken

    All of the above would be correct were it not for the fact that Mehadrin buses were created by private companies who saw a market niche, and then Egged bought them out. Similarly, every bus in NYC has to be registered, even when operated by a private company.

    Abe71, Blaming this article (or the Agudah) for responding to the actions of the media and “women’s rights” activists and the confusion they have made, has it completely backwards. Only a fool blames the cart that the donkey is pulling.

    The MK did not get back on the bus to sit down; she had already gotten off the bus and returned merely to harass and provoke, because charedim were exercising their right to sit where they wanted. So whether or not the commenter has a frum wife, he himself has aligned himself with bigots who think freedom of religion is only in cases they believe to be legitimate.

  • Tal Benschar

    The rank opportunism displayed by the Israeli media and Israeli politicians in equating gender separation with spitting on and harassing women and young girls is not very surprising. Indeed in Israeli politics, it is par for the course.

    What I find rather surprising is the number of Dati Leumi types who have taken the same tactic. It was not so long ago that they suffered from the same phenomenon when every DL and every right winger was blamed for the assasination of Yitzchak Rabin. (People wearing yarmulkes in the street were screamed at with the epithet “Rotzeach.”) One would think that the victims of such opportunism would not resort to the same thing.

    As for the politicians, next time one says that all gender “discrimination” or separation is evil and illegal, ask them when the following are going to be outlawed/shut down:

    — Separate bathrooms and changing rooms throughout the country
    — Women only gyms, common throughout Israel
    — separate beach areas
    — separate schools, including many Dati Leumi and all Charedi schools.

    I am sure others can think of more to add to the list.

  • Allan Katz

    The ‘ mehadrin busses ‘ are a symptom of what is wrong with chareidi yidishkeit. Instead of focusing on being a mensch on a bus , getting up and giving your seat to an older person , helping a woman with a pram to get on or off the bus , helping people with their bags or parcels we focus on seperating. Being a mensch one needs to focus on chinuch and sensitivity. Seperating the sexes, the focus is on control and when people do not comply, they are forced to move to the back by offending comments and being shouted at. Reb Moshe’s psak on public transportation means that mehadrin buses is not a must.In the chareidi community many travel as a family on a bus and fathers and mothers need to help each other with their very young kids. So mehadrin buses really cater for the needs of these families ?!!!
    The solution to over crowding on buses is more buses

  • Menachem Lipkin

    “What I find rather surprising is the number of Dati Leumi types who have taken the same tactic.”

    Huh? The comparison to the post Rabin generalization makes no sense. People are, by large not generalizing about Chareidim, at the rally on Tuesday, every speaker, even from Meretz and Labor, took pains to differentiate the extremists from the broader Charedi public. Most newscasts I’ve watched do the same.

    Yes, some the DL community have included other tznius-based offenses, as should be done as the abuse of these children falls on the spectrum of such offenses. In the RZ community, the issue with segregated buses is not the buses per se, it’s the occasional behavior of the more extreme elements of their regular riders toward a woman who occasionally decides to sit in front.

    Since you brought up the Rabin murder… at least two of the leading RZ rabbis in Israel, Amital, zt”l and Lichtenstein, took responsibility for Amir. Rather blaming people for pointing a finger at Religious Zionsism in general. They did what true leaders do and introspected to try and understand what, within their philosophy and teachings, could have produced a murderer. And he was just one man. Halevi, we should see such introspection from Chareidi Rabbinic leadership trying to understand what is creating hundreds, if not thousands, of violent extremists from within their ranks.

  • dr. bill

    ask religious jews, not an extremist either charedi or gush emunim, if they feel secular israeli society is coming for them? to the contrary, the comments i heard from my very secular business associates in Israel on what Har Etzion produces is nothing but admiration.

  • YM

    Unfortunately, it is the same “activists” doing the spitting and harrassing who are most supportive of the mehadrin busses. Also, the busses touch a certain nerve in secular and even many religious folks, especially those who grew up in a western environment. If I were the gadol hador, I would say that perhaps that Egged should drop the mehadrin busses and they could be relaunched in the future with more sensitivity, without curses and nasty words and even assaults against women who decided they were Rosa Parks incarnate.

    OTOH, I am horrified that this sect tore out PUBLIC park benches to prevent women from sitting in the fresh air with their infants and children. I feel bad for their wives. I wonder where a guy like me, an “Agudah lite” as one commenter described, would be able to fit in in Israel? I sincerely wish that the charedi community would stand up against those who spit on and harass children and women, and who force bookstores to get rid of books that they deem unsuitable. If the charedi is too scared or apathetic to stand up against them, they will afflict everyone with their chumras and their lack of middos, derech eretz and sense.

  • Abe71

    R’ Menken with all due respect, if you or anyone else thinks that the linkage of these issues by the media and women’s rights groups is wrong and confusing (as I do), then why do you insist on perpetrating it? Just state a clear condemnation of bad behavior. I think it is you who has it backwards if you think that your or anyone’s response should be dictated by the media’s conflation of these issues. By responding that way you validate the media’s contention. I stand firmly behind my prior comment (and if you think me a fool so be it), but I will add that an unequivocal condemnation of bad behavior (spitting, name-calling (names worse then “fool”) is only effective if those who observe the bad behavior (read “everyone”), recognizes that condemnation for what it is. You don’t know me, but I understand the importance to you of tznius etc. . .However, if I was a secular Jew commenting on your post I am not so sure that your dismissal of a valid comment (even if you don’t agree with it) as being made by a fool, would increase anyone’s desire to adhere to, Halacha, let alone raise any empathy or admiration for Yiddishkeit. For anyone whose only agenda is to stop disgraceful behavior and intimidation of other people, there is no need to mix up these issues or get emotional. The media has another agenda; we know that. Women’s rights groups do too. I personally don’t (you’ll have to take my word for that). The Agudah is a political body and does-I get that too, though I wish they could transcend it- the Kiddiush Hashem would be great.

  • rabbi dr. bernhard rosenberg

    these FEW charedim should be locked up and the key should be thrown away. They need psychiatric help. Hitler and today’s neo-nazis gain in stature when pictures of these insane idiots are seen througthout the world. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

  • SZiskind

    Pretty much it sounds like Egged was primarily responsible for the major problems with the busses. If they just had let the private busses run, everyone who would want a chareidi bus would take one without anyone else complaining. The Belems bus was great. Also there the men were one one side and the women were on the other. There wasn’t a concept of women going to the back.

  • Yehoshua Friedman

    I agree with the premise that the DL and hareidi communities have to work together because the enemies of Torah are maintaining their control by a divided and conquer strategy. The number of hareidi, DL and traditional Jews in the country, if they all got together, would be a majority. But if they can’t work together, they won’t do it. A nation is not a nation in fact if it is too fractious to have a majority consciousness. The DL and hareidi leaders must sit down together and decide what are vital issues and what can be put aside for the good of the greater community. After that decision your struggle becomes my struggle. The kipot srugot go to the Shabbos demonstrations (as Rav Kook did) and the hareidim protest the eviction of settlers. This might also require a change in the way in which community leaders are chosen in order for them to be able to sit down together with the same level of authority. This is a process long overdue.

  • Orit

    Shades of Gray:
    You don’t live here. Many of the mehadrin buses do not replace crowded city buses; many are inter-city, non-crowded buses (where the driver only takes as many people as there are seats for, plus a couple extra guys to stand in the aisle).
    TAL: Nobody should defend a separate bus – it is not a bathroom or gym or beach where people at times are undressed or exposing parts of their bodies to complete physical actions. It is a PUBLIC bus, and should be open to all. Religious men like Rav Moshe and Rav Shlomo Zalmen rode on NYC subways and Jersualem buses. We are not holier than them! I am sad to say I do believe this new “chumra” was invented to further obsess about tznius (are there no other mitzvos?) among charedim. I live in Bet Shemesh – in a town where you rarely see a married woman with uncovered hair or a liitle girl’s elbow, this is a bit much to take.

  • Yissacher

    Rabbi Menken, are you suggesting that Chassidim have the right to force non-Chassidim to sit at the back of a bus, and to call them names if they don’t consent? After all, that’s what started this whole fuss. What gives them this right? The bus is owned by a national company, not by Chassidim!

  • David Ram

    To R’ Yaakov Menken:
    Thank you for your passion. But as you are an American, I am surprised by your post for a few reasons:

    1) America’s history of discrimination against blacks
    2) America’s pride of capitalism, private ownership and free enterprise
    3) and America’s view of terrorism – that all should defeat terrorism and those who harbor terrorism

    Regarding #1:
    In the US, discrimination was felt deeply by the black community – and specifically regarding treatment on buses. There is no halachic source or ramification for sitting near a woman on a bus. It is discrimination and demeaning to women. pure and simple. R’ Aryeh Deri recently told a story of R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach – where he would take a bus every day. one time a woman sat right next to him. Not only did he not get up, not only did he not get off at the next stop; he passed his own stop out of feat that the woman would think that he was getting off early because of her. That is torah and respect. And Americans, more than any other nation, should be sensitive to that.

    Regarding #2:
    Let’s say that the chareidi women really want to sit in the back of the bus (similar to the women in Saudi Arabia love the way they are treated) – then create a private bus company. make it a business decision. don’t force it on the society through threats and extortion. If there really is a market demand that makes business sense, then a private company can be created to serve that population with those demands. Like kosher. no one is forced to be kosher. it is a business decision.

    Regarding #3:
    You said that “The only Charedi leader who legitimately should have done more, and done it sooner, is the Charedi Mayor of Beit Shemesh”. And you rightly pointed out that the extremists that are doing these horrible acts are a very small minority of the chareidi community. It sounds like you are absolving chareidi leadership from speaking out harshly against the extremists. And they are not. they are quiet. they are ignoring. And they are waiting to benefit from the successful segregation of charedim from society. Unfortunately, chareidi leadership is harboring these terrorists. And as an American – you should be shouting down and demonizing not only the terrorists themselves, but the ones who harbor the terrorists. Americans, more than anyone, should be sensitive to that.

    And this is where Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely is coming from. She is borrowing positive American values – fight discrimination, fight extortion, fight terrorism and those who harbor it, encourage freedom, encourage private enterprise and encourage mutual respect.

  • Dovid

    It is undoubtedly true that the media circus about alleged “hadarat nashim” and other so-called charedi crimes is disgraceful. At best, it is a gross display of journalistic sensationalism, and at worst, a pointed attack against an entire sector of the Israeli population.

    However, I disagee with this sentence: “The only Charedi leader who legitimately should have done more, and done it sooner, is the Charedi Mayor of Beit Shemesh.” One thing charedi leaders do very well is publicizing strong statements and condemnations. It’s nice that Jonathan Rosenblum, the Aguda, the RCA/OU, and Cross Currents are saying that most charedim do not condone violence, but the lack of a loud, clear, unequivocal voice on the part of the Israeli charedi leadership leaves many people wondering whether this is indeed the case. When Rabbi Slifkin published his books, the sounds of condemnation were ringing from the rooftops. Why do I not hear such a loud cry condemning the violence of the thugs in Bet Shemesh? Yated recently published a handwritten letter from a prominent gadol banning Mishpacha magazine. With all due respect, why is it not a failure of leadership when that same gadol is silent when charedim riot and harrass innocent schoolgirls? Isn’t that more dangerous than anything written in Mishpacha??

    Yes, the Israeli media bears much of the guilt for what’s going on now, but I’m afraid that the charedi leadership does, too.

  • Yaakov Menken

    Those who believe the Gedolim are silent because they are ‘harboring’ the terrorists would have a point, if they were right. But that requires not reading, or comprehending, Rabbi Adlerstein’s essay. The first victims of these terrorists are other charedim. The Sikrikim do not listen to the Gedolim, nor is it necessary for the Gedolim to say this is hateful — Gedolim don’t say things that are obvious to anyone of intelligence.

    I’m about to post the words of a Charedi resident of Beit Shemesh that should clear this up.

    What David Ram conveniently avoids is that no charedi person said a word to MK Hotovely. She was not told to go to the back, they waited until she disembarked and then moved forward. She was not fighting discrimination, she was the one expressing bigotry and hatred, suppressing freedom, and expressing anything but mutual respect. It is a pity that David’s glasses are so clouded that he cannot perceive the obvious.

    As Eytan Kobre said in this week’s Mishpacha, why is it that no male reporter has attempted to sit with the women in the back? The answer is that the women would rapidly reveal the truth, rather than supporting the distorted media narrative David Ram wants us to buy.

  • cvmay

    “The vast majority of Charedi Jews find these actions abhorrent, and the community should not be judged by the inexcusable conduct of a few.”

    Is this TRUE?
    Are you talking about Israeli or American Charedim?
    Are you refering to Anglo Israeli Charedim or Born & Bred Israeli Charedim?
    Are you refering to the EDAH of YERUSHAYALIM who sponsored a rally in support of these extremists?

    WHO ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT?

  • Dovid

    “The Sikrikim do not listen to the Gedolim, nor is it necessary for the Gedolim to say this is hateful — Gedolim don’t say things that are obvious to anyone of intelligence.”

    True, but the Sikrikim do what they do in the name of Torah Judaism. Isn’t it part of the responsibility of leadership to clarify to people on the outside that these actions do not represent Torah Judaism? Agudath Israel of America felt it imporant to make this clarification (for which it should be commended), why doesn’t the charedi leadership in Israel feel the same? Don’t you think a strong, loud, unequivocal statement of condemnation would be a significant step in repairing the chilul Hashem and improving religious-secular relations in the country?

    (Regarding the bus issue, I agree with you 100% – the secular media is acting disgracefully in making this into an issue of degredation of women. I don’t see anything wrong with having an option of gender-separated buses.)

  • Baruch Gitlin

    “As Eytan Kobre said in this week’s Mishpacha, why is it that no male reporter has attempted to sit with the women in the back? The answer is that the women would rapidly reveal the truth, rather than supporting the distorted media narrative David Ram wants us to buy.”

    That’s probably correct – most women would probably say they are fine with the segregated seating arrangement – although as you yourself state elsewhere, the zealots can be very intimidating, so you really should consider whether the women’s agreement would stem from the truth or their fear of the zealots. Or even their fear of having their names published, which might result in their children being kicked out of their (haredi) schools.

    But that’s never been the issue. The issue is the coercion of those women who are not fine with being told to sit in the back of the bus. And there are some in any community, both within and without. When segregated buses first started in Beitar (not by any official ruling – the zealots tried and failed to make the arrangement official, but went ahead in trying to enforce gender segregation is if it had been made official), there were ugly incidents against women who did not want to sit in the back of the bus – primarily haredi women, residents of Beitar. There have been ugly incidents on the 418 bus in Beit Shemesh, at least some, probably most or all of which have been against local, religious, women, not outside agitators. There have been ugly incidents since the beginning of this movement towards demanding segregated seating on buses, which goes back about 20 years. And I might add that most of these incidents are never reported by the press, that terrible, secular, anti-haredi press you feel is so intent on using every bit of ammunition in can get its hands on to tar the entire haredi community. The beating of dati leumi teenagers in Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit, which has happened several times in recent years, has also not received any particular attention from the secular press, as far as I am aware, nor has the routine vandalism that occurs against cars that dare to fly the national flag of our country (Israel) in Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit. I am aware of these things through personal knowledge, either first hand or second hand through friends and acquaintances, not through the media.

    I often take the 417 bus from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem. Most of the people who ride this bus are religious, and many are haredi. Nobody has ever tried to establish segregated seating on this bus. For the most part, the passengers are self-segregating. Almost all women, including women that do not appear to be Orthodox, will avoid sitting with men, and vice versa. If there is an issue, a woman might ask two men to sit together and free up two seats for women, and vice versa. No coercion is necessary in order for everyone to be comfortable, and for everyone’s religious needs to be met.

  • Baruch Gitlin

    “What I find rather surprising is the number of Dati Leumi types who have taken the same tactic. It was not so long ago that they suffered from the same phenomenon when every DL and every right winger was blamed for the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. (People wearing yarmulkes in the street were screamed at with the epithet “Rotzeach.”) One would think that the victims of such opportunism would not resort to the same thing.”

    My response to Tal Benschar – I remember those days well. It was, indeed, very difficult to be a kippa-wearer of any color (mine was black at the time) during the days and weeks after the assassination. And yes, the media certainly did its share to whip up the animosity, although one could argue that this, too, was a two-way street, as the animosity directed at Rabin and the government during the weeks leading up to the assassination was intense, and in my opinion, sickening. In fact, I think the rhetoric on both sides often crossed over into the sickening in those days.

    But lets assume the worst about the media in that case. Yes, they helped to whip up a terrible anti-religious sentiment. However, although the dati-leumi world in general deplored the media excesses, there was also a very significant amount of soul searching that went on about the overheated rhetoric that had taken place prior to the assassination. Prominent rabbis, politicians, and lay people participated in this soul searching. In my opinion, the result was a much-needed moderation of the pro-settlement and anti-Oslo rhetoric, a moderation that I believe has continued to today, at least within the mainstream of the dati-leumi world, tag machir not withstanding (tag machir, as others have pointed out, has been widely denounced by leading dati-leumi rabbis).

    The reason I object so strongly to the anti-media emphasis of this blog post, and many other articles in the haredi media, is that I believe they serve to deflect the same kind of soul-searching within the haredi world that took place after the Rabin assassination in the dati-leumi world. True, the zealots in Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit are a fringe group. But I believe, and I think many others believe, that much of the haredi world has become too extreme with respect to tzniut, and that this extremism has harmful consequences. To the extent that these harmful consequences take place within the haredi world itself, that world should be left to its own devices in determining how to deal with the problem, if, indeed, there is a problem. But since some of the extreme attitudes towards tzinut spill over and affect the non-haredi community as well, it becomes their problem as well, and they have a right to criticize it, regardless of the media.

  • S.

    Yaakov Menken, the truth is that if 8 out of 10 Chareidi women don’t want men sitting next to them, if even 2 out of 10 do not want to be forced to sit in the back, then the 8 have no right to force it on the 2. This applies doubly to women who are not Chareidi who, I think we can agree, do not want to sit in the back in far greater numbers than 2 in 10. This is coercion, even if most women are happy with it. The point is that those who do not want it should not be forced. Whether a kamikaze male reporter has tried to get the perspective of the 8 out of 10 (or even 99 out of 100) is immaterial. And Kobre lives in the 5 Towns; no one is making Mrs. Kobre sit in the back of the bus.

  • Joe Hill

    R. Menkin:

    A slight correction. Egged did not buy out the private bus companies that the Chareidim set up with separate seating. They used the force of law and their bus monopoly to involuntarily force the Chareidim to close their private buses that had separate seating.

  • David

    “Gedolim don’t say things that are obvious to anyone of intelligence.”

    They should. In this case. It hurts so many that they do not condemn the attacks.

  • Nachum Klafter

    Rabbi Menken:

    I normally enjoy what you write, but am profoundly disappointed by this post. It is not only irresponsible, but it is factually wrong, and theoretically flawed as far as mentioning the “voluntary separation of gender in public spaces,” your citation of the halakha that men not walk behind women, and your assertion that freedom of assembly and relition “apply to Hassidim to.”

    We have a widespread consensus of gedolei ha-poskim that Orthodox Jews can, in fact,live and interact in societies where genders mingle in public places, and were women do not dress according to Orthodox requirements of tzniyut.

    At this point, you really sound like you are defending the Sikrikim despite your intentions to the contrary. Your contention that the Haredi rabbinic leadership cannot be faulted for failing to condemn this behavior earlier is absolutely baffling to me. They have responded to the New York Times, Hillary Clinton, and Shimon Peres, and not to the plight of the Jews being menaced in Beit Shemesh.

    Only semi-related: It is, by the way, my position (with which you probably disagree) that it is not possible for Torah Jews who wish to life a harmonious life in liberal, Democratic, contemporary society (Including Israel), and demand or impose sex segregation in public spaces. It simply cannot be done. It leads to violence, polarizaiton, and radicalization of the religious community.

    Nachum Klafter

  • David Ram

    To R’ Menken,
    I am not sure what or how your were trying to undermine my key points. Perhaps your words are just too lofty for me. But I live here in Beit Shemesh. I am somewhat embedded in the Chareidi and Dati Leumi communities. I have had direct contact with high level rabbis, mainly from the chareidi side. And I am simply not clear what “distorted media narrative” you think I am a part of.
    I am in favor of Halacha AND against discrimination, extortion, and terrorism. I also love religious freedom and mutual respect. I wish the chareidi leadership would join all freedom and respect loving people and completely denounce discriminatory acts, and terror acts. But they don’t. They don’t – not because they are in favor of violent tactics, but they don’t because the results of such tactics suite their world view.

  • baruch

    David Ram,
    I read your comments with much interest. They are very insightful and offer much to think about. I’m wondering: Can it be that you’re unaware that Chareidim had their own mehadrin lines until Egged shut them down and replaced them? Are you also unaware that in the same article with Aryeh Deri where he condemns the extremists he mentions that his own daughters prefer sitting on mehadrin buses. Are they also poor brainwashed women? Also I’m sure you are familiar with “Tag-Machir” “Price-Tag” attacks that are carried out by the Dati Leumi community without loud and vocal opposition, or any that I’ve seen. Where are the silent 99%? Where are the mass demonstrations? Where is the leadership? The New York Times ads protesting? Now you may answer that there were many protests of which I am just unaware. But that would be unnecessary for me, as I wouldn’t generalize in the first place. I wouldn’t lump people together, just because of the way they dress. I also fail to understand what you mean by Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely encouraging mutual respect. While I understand she was fighting for something positive, I fail to see anything about mutual respect. Where was the respect for a lifestyle different than her own? How un-American.

  • Etana Hecht

    Just as a comment to the last post, I DO know of men who attempted to sit in the back, and the women were silent, it was the men who said “what are you doing back there, you can sit there with us!” further proving the point that it’s degrading for the women, and the men told him as though he was ‘privileged’ to sit up front.

  • Yaakov Menken

    Mrs. Hecht claims to “know of” unnamed people, but Eytan Kobre spoke to a pair of journalists who did an article on the topic. The woman of the pair deliberately sat with the men, while the man said something about being a journalist and trying to remain objective. It is always the woman sitting with the men who becomes the story, whether the bus is divided front to back, or side to side as in the Monsey-NYC route (which for many people is the only way they can daven at the z’man and reach work on time as well). The reaction of women on the Monsey route would be no different.

  • ChanaRachel

    1- While it was agreed by all that the Kol isha incident in the army was unfortunate, and poorly handled all around, I think that our religious sons in the army can –in general- look after their own needs, and don’t need “help” from those who haven’t served and don’t seem to have any intention of doing so. They fight real wars against real enemies, with real live bullets to help protect all those living in Israel, hilonim and chareidim alike. Everything else is a sideshow.

    3- I’m not so worried about the “activists” coming after me, but maybe the chareidim should be more concerned about stamping out the sikrikim thugs, before those same thugs come after you “moderate” chareidim, as well.

  • Chaim

    Regarding the posting comparing the situation to Rav Moshe on a subway, do Israeli busses perhaps pull out more suddenly shaking passengers together more so than a New York City bus or subway in the time of Rav Moshe, and on the routes at the times he traveled?

    Is there any distinction to be made between a time when the majority of the women on the bus or subway are not likely Jewish and the current situation in Israeli busses?

    I think New York busses, based on my experiences some 30 years ago, don’t tend to pull out before all fare payments are made unless they are filled right to the door, and only a select special few are permitted to get on the exit door without paying.

    Is this common on Mehadrin buses, what I have observed more recently, that after women get settled, with the bus already moving, their fare payments are passed up the aisle if there was no male in their boarding company to pay?

  • Nachum Boehm

    “nor is it necessary for the Gedolim to say this is hateful — Gedolim don’t say things that are obvious to anyone of intelligence.”

    But this is the point: it’s NOT obvious to everyone in their community that this behaviour is unacceptable. Did you watch the Israeli newscast? The chareidi, who was not himself a spitter, but a seemingly random person, defended the spitter, stating that girls who don’t dress properly should expect such treatment.

    There are two reasons that the Eida Rabbonim should publicly declare that such behaviour is abhorrent: (1) to teach those who may be on the fence regarding this issue, and (2) to make a Kiddush Hashem and thereby stop (what you perceive to be) the demonization of the entire kehila.

  • Baruch Gitlin

    “There are two reasons that the Eida Rabbonim should publicly declare that such behaviour is abhorrent: (1) to teach those who may be on the fence regarding this issue, and (2) to make a Kiddush Hashem and thereby stop (what you perceive to be) the demonization of the entire kehila.”

    I believe there is a third reason, hinuch. So that parents of non-charedi children can point to the rabbis and say, “see, the rabbis condemn what those people are doing,” and the parents of charedi children can say”you see, those people are going against the rabbis.”

  • David Ram

    To Baruch,
    Thanks for your response.
    Firstly, please read my response to Rabbi Adlerstein’s nice article on the Chareidi spring:
    http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2011/12/29/welcoming-the-charedi-spring/comment-page-1/#comments
    I think you will get more insight into my way of thinking.
    Regarding the buses, I strongly believe, based on information from speaking to people involved, that there was threats and extortion used to get Egged mehadrin lines. I think the issue you raised was that they added mehadrin lines in markets where it makes business sense (like Beit Shemesh), and effectively competed against a charedi owned company, so the chareidim stoned Egged mehadrin buses…so I feel it is a complex story – but my view is that it was largely driven by extortion, not normative business decisions.
    Regarding Aryeh Deri – I accept the fact that I did not mention each and every point of the interview – like he felt that the police should use heavy violence against the protesters, etc.
    And I never used the word “brainwash”, since I don’t believe they are. i just believe they are not being treated as princesses should be treated. And our Jewish women are princesses.
    Regarding “Price Tag” attacks, I assume that you feel that I should be consistent between chareidi and dati leumi. For the record, i feel that I am. So in the dati leumi world – most rabbinic leaders came out very strongly against, and some were silent. and the ones that were silent are viewed as “shetika ke’hoda” (and for good reason). So the population accepts the fact that there is a fringe extreme group within the dati leumi and they have leadership. and there are battles against those extremists within Dati leumi. With the charedim, the torah leadership in Israel is silent.
    Regarding your claim that i generalize, I don’t agree and here is my logic: I am referring to leadership. There aren’t that many individuals in real leadership positions. so my “generalization” is that if terrible acts are happening within a community – leaders of that community AND leaders of peripheral communities have 2 choices – denounce or accept. the large majority of the chereidi leaders have made their clear choice. In the chareidi world, there is a bit of a domino affect, since most chareidim are very much focused on Daas Torah – that one cannot disagree with the leadership. So that automatically CAN place most chareidim under the shetika k’hodaa category. I didn’t do that. So i don’t accept that I was generalizing. I was referring to the leadership.
    Lastly, on “encouraging mutual respect” – you and I may have a difference of opinion here. I don’t view the requirement for women to sit in the back of the bus on certain lines – as religious freedom. I view it as discrimination. I don’t view it as a valid option for a “lifestyle”. I view it as demeaning. Whether the women say they like the separation or not. It is unequivocally outside the purview of halacha and only derisive and humiliating. so by trying to actively undermine that behavior in a free society, i view it as trying to encourage mutual respect for men and women. There are valid opinions against mine, I’m sure.

  • HAGTBG

    Even The Forward acknowledges that there are perhaps 100-150 families of Sikrikim among the 40,000 charedim in Beit Shemesh, “and the vast majority of them, it must be said, are peaceful and not affiliated with the Sikrikim sect.” Yes, that means the Sikrikim are less than 1% of the population of Charedim

    No, it does not mean that at all. Your math is wrong because you compared apples and oranges. As near as I can find online, the average charedi family size is 7.7-9 children per household. If we assume every Sikari family has 8 members on average (2 parents, 6 children) -smaller then the average size I found- then 150 families is 1,200 persons or 3% of the 40,000 you say are the charedi in Beit Shemesh. In a 9 child household (11 members of the family) 150 families is 1,650 persons or 4.12%. And that is assuming that everyone’s estimates are right that the Sikari do not exceed 150 families.

    So if 1 in 25 members of the charedi community in Beit Shemesh is Sikari according to your own estimate then we must ask what percentage is the group that supports them.

  • Yaakov Menken

    I took family size into account, while HAGTBG has launched on a flight of fancy. The Charedi neighborhood bordering Orot is brand new, and Israeli Charedim move much less often than Americans, thus the residents are often newly married. (See any grey hairs on the Sikrikim?) I’d like to know the real number, but I would suspect that even the oldest among them don’t yet have more than a few children. To get to 3% requires taking the largest estimate of the number of families and a larger number of children than is at all likely.

    Even were “HAG” correct, it wouldn’t make a difference. There are fewer Sikrikim than Huntsman supporters in Iowa.

    Similarly, David Ram doesn’t have facts to support him, so he creates them: “they [Egged] added mehadrin lines in markets where it makes business sense (like Beit Shemesh), and effectively competed against a charedi owned company, so the chareidim stoned Egged mehadrin buses.” If the mehadrin lines had been permitted to operate, the charedim might have frequented them. Why would they stone mehadrin lines? They’d just use the private company if they preferred.

    What happened was that the government shut down the mehadrin lines, and gave Egged the tender. At that point certain “women’s rights” activists (who agree with David Ram, that charedi women have no idea what they really want) said “hey, it’s a public line, so you can’t have separate genders.”

    I would invite David to take off his ideological blinders and give chassidic women a bit more credit than young children. They do know what they want, and what they prefer is to ride in the back, with no men behind them. You will find that in Monsey, in every car service as well as the chassidishe bus lines. As Eytan Kobre said, any man who tried to sit with the women would get the same message… but that doesn’t fit the story the media would like you to read.

  • Eric Leibman

    Hey, you people. Remember that you are speaking to and about
    RABBI Menken. Whether you agree or disagree, speak to and about him with the kind of respect that the office of Rabbi deserves. Personal and ad hominem attacks, sarcasm and ridicule are always out of bounds, but especially when you are talking to a Rabbi. I personally think the operators of this site should automatically delete any posts from people who speak disrespectfully. You can disagree and make your points and your arguments without being nasty about it.