Whose Problem Is It, Anyway?

by Dovid Kornreich

There is a recurrent theme that I’ve read on Jblogs and newspapers, and it has two parts:

1) Chareidi society somehow engenders extremism and these incidents in Beit Shemesh are its bitter fruit.

2) Neglect by the rest of Chareidi leadership to publicly condemn the extreme acts is a form of acquiescence by silence.

The response to the first charge is that your average chareidi individual living in, let’s say Bayit Vegan or Har Nof, shares very little of the *cultural* values and norms of Mea She’arim Chareidim. The sad reality is that Chareidim are an extremely factionalized and subdivided group, and the divisions are deep and operate on many different levels of which outsiders simply have no appreciation.

True, on religious and political issues vis-a-vis non-Chareidim and especially the non-religious, most Chareidim seem to rally together as a unified group to oppose a common threat. But socially, there is very little meaningful contact between Mea Shea’rim Charedim (and their RBS offshoots) and the rest of the Chareidi population.

So one can’t credibly say that “Chareidi society” engenders violence, extremism, intolerance etc. There is very little *culturally* that unites all Chareidim. And it is the uniquely extreme form of anti-modern, anti-Zionist culture of Mea She’arim society which engenders physical displays of intolerance, lawlessness, and violence. Mainstream Chareidi society may certainly be anti-modern and anti-zionist and not tolerant to others to some degree, but those attitudes are simply not visceral enough to engender any extremist behavior in emotionally balanced people.

The response to the second charge is a direct corollary to the first. For a Litvish Godol embedded in mainstream Chareidi Society to come publicly against Mea She’arim Chareidim is almost as non-meaningful to the extremists themselves as the Agudas Yisroel of America’s statement of condemnation. (And if they come out publicly simply for appearances sake, they will look shallow and insincere. I have yet to hear anyone say that they have changed their minds about a violent group of people on the basis of its leaders’ condemnation of acts of terror. It is lip service and people know it. People change their minds about another group only once they observe that the group has consistently changed their behavior.)

If I understand the bloggers and the pundits correctly, the point of having Chareidi Rabbonim and Gedolim come out publicly against the extremism is to send an internal social message that such behavior is not acceptable in Chareidi society. The message being sent is that extremists will be socially ostracized for such behavior and the expectation is that such messages will actually pave the way to reverse the trend of anti-social behavior on the ground.

The underlying assumption of this is that Mainstream Chareidi gedolim wield any significant social influence over the Meah She’arim Chareidim (and their RBS offshoots), and that this sub-society will pay attention to any disapproval these Gedolim register. This assumption is simply false, and thus it imposes an illegitimate burden on the Chareidi Gedolim.

We hear all the time how Mea She’arim extremists use threats, intimidation, and even violence towards mainstream Chareidi Gedolim who have taken moderate stances on public social issues which these people consider unacceptable religious compromises. They have always lived in their own sub-society with their own version of religious authority/vigilantism and with dismissive social attitudes vis-a-vis the rule of secular Israeli law over their community and over their actions.

As many chareidim have said time and time again, this is not an “internal Chareidi” problem which can be resolved internally. It is a legal problem of wanton lawlessness on the part of the extremists (unfortunately, in the name of a very moderate religion) and it requires the law enforcement apparatus of the Israeli police and courts to contain it bring it to a halt.

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71 comments to Whose Problem Is It, Anyway?

  • mb

    Silence constitutes assent. Talmud Shabbat 54b
    Don’t you understand that despite the valiant attempts of writers such as yourself and Rabbi Menken, to protect the Gedolim,or Agudah, and saying the daftest things in the process, you are making it worse.
    We are all laughing at you.

  • velvet kippah

    Your points are well spoken, however you still seem to be missing the point.

    1) as to your point that “those attitudes are simply not visceral enough to engender any extremist behavior in emotionally balanced people” lets hope you are right about that re: mainstream chareidim. However, there has been a marked increased hard-right turn in recent years. Proof of this is the proliferation of needless and questionable bans on what used to be acceptable forms of entertainment and viewpoints. We also see an obsession with tzniyus the likes of which we have never seen before. The further extreme a society goes, the greater likelihood of spawning dangerous extremists as you can see from Satmar = Neturi Karta = spitting on girls. Sooner or later the grips of intolerance take over, and from there its not that big a leap to that dark place of kannaus. This is what ‘noraml’ people are seeking to prevent, and it is being protested. More on that in the next section.

    2) Where you also miss the point is on what you presume to be the reason for the protests. The purpose of condemnation by Gedolim is not so much as to change the behavior of the kannaim as it is to reinforce to the rest of the world -frum, frei and non Jewish, that all this is wrong and we are taking a stand!
    What is expected is the constant reminder to the rest of the world of what Torah really stands for. It is further dismaying that the moderate chareidim in RBS havent marched en masse to the Orot school and walked a kid to school. The fact that only a few individuals had the courage to do that is a further disgrace and only contributes to the fallout.

    This is the reason for these protests, and these are all legitimate ‘taaynes”
    No more apologetics, no more blaming the media, no more playing the victim.

  • Ellen

    Yes the feeling in a neighborhood like Arzei Habira resembles nothing like that in Bet Shemesh. But unfortunately, your suggestion that the communities are disconnected is not at all true.

    There is a continuum of charedim, from moderate to extreme, all over the country. Some cities are more extreme and others contain happy moderates as well.

    Three years ago, when the Charedi politicians took office in Bet Shemesh, their press conferences included pronouncements that they are on the way to turning the entire town Charedi. This year, when the extremists started their protests before school began, those same politicians issued a no-open order on the school and tried to bargain with the administration to relocate to an alternate facility. (The mayor never even visited the premesis until four months into the assaults! And it wasn’t only political – not one Charedi shul Rabbi agreed to send his congregants to stand outside the school in solidarity.)

    And last week Rav Elyashiv was quoted that the latest anti-Charedi harassment by the Israeli media are because the Charedi community mingles too much with the other Jews in the country. This is a problem.

    For years we have said about the lack of mainstream Charedi action against the extremists: “they are afraid.” For years we have even empathized with the extremists that “their religious sensitivities make it impossible to be tolerant.” This benefit of doubt is all over the “moderate” Charedi papers, and in the mouths of anyone in the Charedi communities when these subjects come up.

    And we always hoped these poor extremists could steer clear of the police, because turning them in would of course be “moser.”

    It’s time to stop drinking the kool aid.

  • koillel nick

    “The underlying assumption of this is that Mainstream Chareidi gedolim wield any significant social influence over the Meah She’arim Chareidim (and their RBS offshoots), and that this sub-society will pay attention to any disapproval these Gedolim register. This assumption is simply false, and thus it imposes an illegitimate burden on the Chareidi Gedolim.”

    Those same Chareidi Gedolim manage to sign statements against plenty of actions that are way beyond their social influence. Gay pride parades, people driving cars on Bar Ilan St, and a lot more. Just step outside and look at the walls of Jerusalem any given day. The point is, that these extremest are claiming to speak in the name of Torah, and our leadership was silent. And it happened in our back yard. Our neighborhood. Just like the chillul Shabbos that goes on in our neighborhood.
    The bigger issue here, is the inability for Charedim to take mussar from any outsiders. It’s always “who are they to criticize? They are worse. and didn’t you hear about that kid who spit on a charedi child?” How about accepting the mussar? Among us, there are those who are primitive barbarians, who claim to speak in the name of Torah. Our leadership was silent, and wrongly so. The Israeli Gedolim did not issue a statement (excluding the Belzer Rebbe and R Ovadia), and the American Aguda issued a halfhearted statement which equally condemned the left wing politicians.
    And by the way, the lawlessness mentality is part of the mainstream charedi society here in Israel. A system of chinuch which is too anti Zionist, gives a result of “us vs the system” mentality. It makes it difficult for us to listen to a cop on the street. It makes us blame it all on the left wing government who “is out to make us secular.” (BTW the leftists couldn’t care less what we do with our lives. As long as we don’t interfere with their’s.)
    “Pray for the peace of the government, for without it, man will swallow up his brother.” That is what we are seeing.

  • Bob Miller

    The good guys in the threatened areas need to get a meaningful show of solidarity from the broad Chareidi community in Israel and to get proper police protection of their security.

    Regarding security, surely the responsible Chareidi leaders and followers can push hard for this, as they may well be doing now. However, if some subgroups hold that the State is 100% treif, doesn’t this reduce their leverage on the authorities?

  • reb yid

    Well said ,velvet kippah

    why does Cross Currents need to air the illogical apologetics of a known apologeticist?

  • Nachum Boehm

    (1) Chareidim can’t have it both ways. They can’t complain that the “secular media” (or whoever) paints all Chareidim with too broad a brush, on the one hand, and on the other to say that there’s no reason for them to publicly denounce the actions (and worldview) of the extremists. How is the world to know that the extremists, who dress the same as the moderates, don’t represent all of Chareidi Judaism?
    (1a) You write that the expectation that Litvishe Gedolim denounce the extemists “imposes an illegitimate burden on the Chareidi Gedolim.” Come on! Is it that difficult for Litvish Rabonim to sign a statement saying that the depicted actions are unJewish? It doesn’t doesn’t seem to be a burden when it comes to denouncing other things.
    (2) The Eida Chareidis and the Rabonnim from within the Mea Sh’arim community certainly do have an influence, if not on the extremists themselves, then on the many people in their community who are “on the fence” regarding extremism. The failure of those Rabonnim to speak out sends a message that they are not interested in marginalizing the extremists. It is only for me to guess why they wouldn’t want to marginalize them.

  • L. Oberstein

    Most contributers to Cross-Currents share the same opinion on these issues. Most comments and editorials in the more right wing publications seem to feel that this is an example of anti-chareidi intolerance and that we are being tarred unfairly. There is no feeling that any of this reflects on the general chareidi community and thus we bear no responsibility or ownership of this problem.
    Many of the people who work for the Agudah in the trenches did not share the wishy washy attitude of the party’s press release. But, they realize that a coalition has to keep all elements in the tent.
    In my humble opinion, there is no leadership of the Chareidi community in Israel. People in the know, and I do hang out with such people, tell me not to believe anything that comes out of Rav Elyashiv’s “chotzer”, there are people around him who manufacture opinions or wildly distort them or who present to him only one side of an issue. Everyone knows this, it isn’t disputed.
    Unfortunately, the Religious Zionist camp has its own leadership problems. There are numerous leaders but none who can command the respect and following of all the various groups. It is very divided.
    Rav Ovadia Yosef is also over 90 and who comes after him? He is a leader,but his followers are already chomping at the bit and there is a lot of intramural fighting over the leadership. I like Rav Amsellam but I hear that he doesn’t have a chance. Aryeh Deri wants to have a come back. It could all fall apart.
    The secular parties aren’t better off. Their leaders are light weights and opportunists. I guess the only answer is the Lubavitch one, we need Mashiach now!

  • L. Oberstein

    One more point. The exception to the above is the Chassidic communities. They have real Rebbes who exercise decisive leadership.

  • Eli

    So by your logic, the Agudah should not protest woman’s prayer groups? Rabbahs? After all, it doesn’t affect the Agudah members! How about Iran lovers? The Gedolim’s condemnation means nothing to them!

    The logic brought then is more like what velvet kippah said:

    “Where you also miss the point is on what you presume to be the reason for the protests. The purpose of condemnation by Gedolim is not so much as to change the behavior of the kannaim as it is to reinforce to the rest of the world -frum, frei and non Jewish, that all this is wrong and we are taking a stand!”

    Of course it will not have an effect on the crazies. The only thing that might is a straight up break (call them the equivilent of Christians, will all Halachos pertaining as such). That the gedolim (understandably) are not willing to do.

  • Robert Lebovits

    Recently I asked a non-Chareidi Israeli friend what he would do if a random adult who was not Chareidi were to spit on his daughter. His answer was what any father would say: He’d protect his daughter “any way necessary” and see to it that the man was arrested. He wouldn’t look into the perp’s background, religious affiliation, ethnicity, etc. He’d just do whatever he could to have the man punished to the hilt.
    THAT is the appropriate response to ANYONE who engages in assaultive or destructive behavior. The parties most responsible for the continued violent actions of lawbreakers who mask their lawlessness under cover of religion are the law enforcement bodies in Israel who are content to let groups within the religious sector battle between themselves and bring dishonor to everyone who is identified as frum rather than perform their duty to enforce the law with equality and justice. There would be no need for Gedolim to put out statements of condemnation, have Chareidi escorts for Dati Leumi children on their way to school, or any other symbol of solidarity with decent folk if law enforcement did its job of rooting out the very small number of perpetrators and sending them off to jail. The violence would be short-lived and the media circus would be over. Had the police responded in this fashion years ago when the first eruptions of hostilities began in Beit Shemesh from a tiny group of newly-arrived hooligans out of Mea Shearim, we would not be here today. They didn’t. So now all Chareidim are judged harshly and the frum world engages in a self-destructive, misguided and misleading cheshbon hanefesh that has created even more divisions and more Chilul Hashem. The S”A is truly brilliant.

  • Orit

    In answer to the first argument, if you have something to say publicly about so many (more minor) issues, why be silent on this issue?

    I live in RBS. I think we as a community do deserve this terrible punishment of chillul Hashem. We have tolerated and encouraged terrible hatred between religious Jews, and the extremists have carried it, to, well, the extreme. Some examples:
    1. In Bnei Brak and Boro Park, in Lakewood and Lawrence, in Har Nof and Houston, in Dallas and Denver, in London and Los Angeles, the women in the community can go to a local mikva that the local rabbis have deemed kosher, and prepare the way their Bubies did. In RBS-A, women have “my mikva” and “your mikva” and the invented “mehadrin checking.” Some of this is based on documented sinas chinam – a sign was posted on a plaque, not paper, declaring that women “from all communities” are forbidden from dipping ben hashmashos on Friday nights (the custom of sefardim). This is unheard of and has NOT been protested – most people have stayed out of it, preferring not to fight – even though this is a fight l’shem shamayim. Women, under a pretense of “tznius” have not talked openly about the disgraceful mikva situation. We women, not just rabbis, are guilty too!
    2. There is much hatred between neighbors. The local Shabbes afternoon “Bnos group” doesn’t allow girls from the “lesser” neighborhood Beis Yaakov to attend, lest the little girls be contaminated.
    3. Neighborhood schools kick out kids whose siblings attend the “wrong” schools, even if that sibling needs a more open environment or is at risk for failure at a more right-wing school. Rabbis have not banned this practice.
    4. Women in the neighborhood snitch on their daughters’ classmates who are breaking rules. Since the local girls’ high school has a rule against – I promise – not wearing your ponytail too high up on your head, you can imagine how many girls run afoul of “the rules.” Then the principal calls the girl and her mother in and often threatens expulsion. The told-on girl now sees other women in the neighborhood as spies. How does this promote love between Jews?
    5. When a local boys’ high school opened up with black-hat boys, full time learning, and some basic math and English, the neighborhood was plastered with pashkevilim against it. The community did not rally to help the school with donations, protests, or any form of support.

  • S.

    Here’s the thing. If it’s Conservative Judaism, the Gedolim say it’s wrong. If it’s jeans, they issue a responsum prohibiting it. If it’s Women’s Tefilla Groups, they say it’s wrong. If it’s Vos Is Neias, they say it’s wrong. If it’s rabbit-eating kibbutzniks, they say it’s wrong.

    If it’s harassing DL children, nothing. Silence.

    And nothing the Explainers, self-appointed or otherwise say, changes that.

  • Tal Benschar

    “Silence constitutes assent. Talmud Shabbat 54b”

    Really? In every context?

    Let’s apply your rule in a couple of other contexts. About a month ago, a student publication at the leading institution of learning of Modern Orthodoxy published a piece where a student muses about extra-marital sex during college years. This caused an uproar among the alumni, but some defended it as normal among college students. (!) I have yet to hear a condemnation by the University, nor any Modern Orthodox rabbinic organization.

    So I guess under the rule of “Silence constitutes assent,” the Modern Orthodox rabbinate approves of rampant znus in the college years.

    Similarly, it was reported about two months ago that an “Orthodox” rabbi performed a same-sex “commitment cermony” (as well as a civil marriage), in the District of Columbia, where such is recognized. True, a list of rabbis signed their name to a letter protesting same. But neither the OU nor the RCA made any comment, and at least large numbers of the Modern Orthodox rabbinate seem to be silent about this widely reported travesty.

    So under the rule of “Silence constitutes assent” we can deduce that large parts of the Modern Orthodox rabbinat approve of same-sex “commitment ceremonies” (although a significant minority do not).

  • Phil

    “…it requires the law enforcement apparatus of the Israeli police and courts to contain it bring it to a halt”

    You cliam it’s fine for the charedi leadership to turn a blind eye on these criminals but we know that you will be the first one protesting the “unfair treatment of charedim by the police, courts and media” as they step in to do what needs to be done.

    MB is right, we are all laughing at you because as usual, you want to have your “charedim are vicitms” cake and eat it too.

  • Dovid

    The overwhelming majority of people – religious & secular Jews, and non-Jews – are incapable of making a distinction between the fanatics and mainstream charedi. And this is precisely what we are demanding – that the leadership of the mainstream make a serious effort to drive home this distinction. And this is also precisely what Agudath Israel of America – to its credit – did, issuing a statement clearly distinguishing between what it stands for and what the lunatics are doing. This statement was not “meaningless” – it was an admirable display of leadership. Why isn’t the Israeli leadership doing the same? Why are they sitting back idly as the media shows the Israeli public scenes of crazed people acting violently in the name of charedi Judaism?

  • Ori Pomerantz

    It is a legal problem of wanton lawlessness on the part of the extremists (unfortunately, in the name of a very moderate religion) and it requires the law enforcement apparatus of the Israeli police and courts to contain it bring it to a halt.

    Ori: When the Israeli police gets involved in Charedi matters, it typically gets condemned and asked to stay out. The police can’t work without the consent of the majority of the population.

  • Ben Moshe Yosef

    1) Your first point is simply wrong, and please do not patronize by assuming the many who would disagree with you are mere “outsiders”. I learned in a charedi yeshiva in Bayit Vigan – nowhere near Meah Shearim, thank you very much – for a few years. Many of the Israeli bachurim would engage in arguments and fights with the mizrachi boys and girls walking down Hapisgah street on Friday night. On one occasion the wilder ones actually threw chulent. This was explained as “bachurei yeshivot michapsim ection”, ie, the yeshivah guys are bored, and need an outlet. Likeise, any time there was a hafganah some of (of course not ALL) the bachurim go down and fight with the police. Likewise, in Bnei Brak – also very far from meah shearim – there are plenty of yeshivah bachur shabavnikim. It is NOT just Mean Shearim, halevai. It is the entire culture.

    2) By your logic, that condemnation would be pointless, why did the Chafetz Chayim protest the stores opening on Shabbos? Why did Ner Israel protest the Baltimore JCC opening on Shabbos? Why did the Agudah protest the homosexual parade? They should have just ignored it, right, because no one wanted to listen to them anyway, right? Just write them off, right? WRONG. When you care about something, you cry out. If you have have access to a pulpit, physical or pixel, and fail to use it to protest, you will have failed in an elementary obligation. (Besides, who says it has no influence? Outside opinion eventually trickles in.)

    3) In your zeal to defend , you fail to apprehend the essential problems. It’s not just the violence and the lawlessness, that is merely the rallying point. The problem is with the entirety of charedi society. It is a warped perversion of Judaism. The very fact you have to strive so often in (unsuccesful) attempts to defend it illustrates the chillul hashem that it is. Periodic verbal attacks from the non-religious upon the religious are to be expected, certainly. But the charedim are attacked by both religious and non-religious, and on a regular basis. It’s nice to defend, but there comes a time when a mature adult has to stop and think that maybe the critics are right.

  • Menachem Lipkin

    You actually have made a good case for both points in the opposite direction. You admit that “it is the uniquely extreme form of anti-modern, anti-Zionist culture of Mea She’arim society which engenders physical displays of intolerance, lawlessness, and violence.” This is huge part of the issue we’re dealing with, ie it’s not just pure criminal behavior. It’s behavior that is incubated in an extreme ideology.

    You then go on to say that, “Mainstream Chareidi society may certainly be anti-modern and anti-zionist and not tolerant to others to some degree”. And maybe you’re right that this “intolerance” may not be visceral enough to inspire the type of extremism we see in Bet Shemesh. However, what you have clearly shown is that there is a link, a continuum, that spans from the most moderate integrated Chareidim all the way to Neturei Karta.

    That connection, alone, is enough of a reason that leaders in the mainstream Chareidi world need to speak out and condemn extreme behavior. In a world where religious growth is often linked to increased strictness, it is not inconceivable that there would be movement across this spectrum. Therefore it is incumbent on moderate leadership to put up a big bright red flag to their flocks telling them that there are limits to where they can and should go. It’s not about getting the extremists to stop, it is about making it clear that there is no common ground to be had with them.

  • bitzy22

    Dovid,
    The point is not that these statements from gedolim will get them to stop, it is to show this is not us. It is amazing to me that gedolim will come out and say jewish group X is outside of the pale of orthodoxy yes these hooligans are somehow still inside the pale. It is that aquiesence that is disturbing.

  • Allan Katz

    There is always talk about protecting kids from outside influences , especially the chiloni world and condeming their values, would it be even more appropriate to condem the chilul Hashem of frum Jews, those who are more likely to influence kids since they are ‘ frum’?

  • Shades of Gray

    “About a month ago, a student publication at the leading institution of learning of Modern Orthodoxy published a piece where a student muses about extra-marital sex during college years….I have yet to hear a condemnation by the University, nor any Modern Orthodox rabbinic organization.”

    It’s not a perfect example, because the Roshei Yeshivah in the same institution publicly condemned the Gay Panel, and there was a schmooze in the Beis Midrash after the Beacon article. The Beacon incident certainly is a wakeup call in how to relate to dating, co-ed environments, etc. But each case must be weighed specifically whether to issue a condemnation.

    What really affects change is when people from within, rather than from without, admit that there is a problem. It’s human nature to criticize others, rather than one’s own self or group. It may very well be that Gedolim have a good reason for not issuing a critique of the kannoim in Beit Shemesh. But there are some in America who go off the Derech and have as one of their greivances the way they perceive Goyim are referred to–an issue that if true to any extent needs to be addressed from the inside, and which can cause Chilul Hashem if not addressed. This may have nothing to do with the Israeli Beit Shemesh situation, but it does show a related issue, the same way the Beacon article shows an issue. Whether to publicly condemn any of these items are separate questions.

  • Bob Miller

    Regarding police actions against the crazies:

    In various countries of the world we have ethnic or religious minorities who have set up de facto “police-free zones” where public law enforcement officials fear to tread, or avoid by choice for other reasons. The minority communities inside the zones presumably police themselves by their own rules.

    How much does that resemble the situation we’re discussing here? Is part of Beit Shemesh a police-free zone in the same sense? Do communities actually police themselves? Is there no enforcement by anybody at all? Is there selective or arbitrary or mob-like enforcement against groups out of favor? These questions are worth a real investigation, since we out here may only be guessing.

  • dovid landesman

    I am amazed by the extended apologetica that appears on this blog – almost always from the same sources. In the halachot of the egla arufah, beis din was obligated to make a public declaration that yadeinu lo shafchu et hadam hazeh. Did the Torah for a moment suspect beis din of being complicit? Or is the declaration an admission that beis din – perhaps by lack of sufficient involvement – fostered the conditions in which a murderer could circulate.
    Simple question, R. Dovid. Do you believe that it is possible to organize a demonstration of 1500 people in Kikar Shabbat without the tacit approval of the Eidah? Do you not find it disturbing that one of the gedolai hador chose to speak out today about violence – not by pseudo-chareidm [as a chareidi myself I refuse to share the label with the riffraff of the sikrikim and their supporters] but because of a number of incidents perpetrated by chilonim who he refers to as erev rav?
    The real issues at stake in EY are not gender segregation on the buses. We are at a crossroads where we have to make a decision as to what kind of chareidi society we want to live in. Do we want to be contributors to the Yeshurun model as envisaged by RSRH which may mean that we may well find ourselves in a position where we have to make certain compromises [as sanctioned by qualified rabbanim and poskim] or do we choose to continue to live in the vision of R Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld zt”l and exist through the handouts and good will of the modern day chalukah of the medinah. I am scared because recent statements attributed to Rav Elyashiv would seem to point to choosing the latter.

  • Zalman Alpert

    Okay. So lets change our terminology and lets start criticizing groups we will call Ultra-charedim (in reality what we mean are many Yishuv hayoshen people and a great number of Chasidic groups even some within the Aguda).
    So lets put the shoe on the other foot, if you believe that main line gedolims criticism is meaningless to these people, why is it that these gedolim spend so much time attacking so called left wing Orthodox groups like YCT,Orthodox feminists, and individuals such as Avi Weiss and Marc Angel. Obviously these groups and men and women will not be changed by cticisms coming from gedolim like rav Shteinman or even the MGHT in the USA So why does this criticism continue weekly ?
    Perhaps there is a psychological reason for it as the Chazal tell us Mi she lo Micha , shma mina sheNicha. And that is reason enough for rabbinic figures to publically express their criticism of recent events(of course if they think things are wrong , otherwise they should defend these actions !)

  • David

    Dovid,

    The condemnations are not for the thugs who will ignore them.

    They are an effort to try and stop a terrible Chilul Hashem which the thugs have casued.

    By making it clear to the world that these thugs have been condemned by all responsible
    Jewish groups and leaders, the world may begin to realize that the thugs are not acting
    in accord with true Judaism.

    (Wouldn’t you like to see Islamic groups condemn suicide bombings? Why? The crazies
    won’t listen to them anyhow?)

    Also, the thugery never would occur if people had an Elu V’Elu approach towards all
    Halacha observing Jews.

    It’s the lack of that attitude which causes many Frum Jews to deligitaze others, and a
    smaller group to take it a step further with thugery.

    If we’re looking to live in peace with eachother, it’s not enough to just call for an
    end to thugery, we need all Frum Jews to recognize each other.

  • James

    Tal,
    You are wrong to write that the MO rabbinate was silent with respect to the student publication and the same-sex commitment ceremony.

    With respect to the student publication (which, BTW, was not advocating or promoting pre-marital sex but simply documenting the shame one (fictional) young woman felt after her one-night stand) the University quickly stripped it of its funding.

    With respect to the same-sex commitment ceremony, you are doubly wrong. A long list of MO rabbis quickly condemned it followed by an official statement by the RCA deeming it completely against normative Judaism.

  • lacosta

    we are prepared to accept this type of argumentation, if the haredi intelligencia will equally grant lassez faire attitude to MO leadership for eg extreme positions held at the left end of MO judaism… of course , not only are the avi weiss’, the Rabbahs, the YCTs etc lambasted migaol vad katon , but the leadership of MO is assailed for not coming out to put in cherem, ostracize etc… where are the MO voices attacking their own? gee, maybe as rare as the haredi street is , to eat their own….

  • Yisrael Asper

    “mb said:

    Silence constitutes assent. Talmud Shabbat 54b
    Don’t you understand that despite the valiant attempts of writers such as yourself and Rabbi Menken, to protect the Gedolim,or Agudah, and saying the daftest things in the process, you are making it worse.
    We are all laughing at you.

    mb if you are laughing at him and having this all be a part of some grand campaign against the Chareidi world you are just a mocker and that does not make me laugh. It seems pathetic. Are you really interested in a girl who was spat and yelled at or are you just gaining capitol for your side? At this very moment there are indeed those who are using this to score points against Judaism and all Religious Jews. Either really be sensitive about a girl being spat at and yelled at or else she really doesn’t need your sympathy as much as from people who are outraged against this as a breach in Ahavas Yisrael and Human Dignity. Stop being a part of the problem mb and become a part of the solution.

  • Ellen

    The underlying assumption of this is that Mainstream Chareidi gedolim wield any significant social influence over the Meah She’arim Chareidim (and their RBS offshoots)….

    Well, actually…. 5 years ago when there were routine garbage burnings and other protest activity blocking the road from Bet Shemesh to Ramat Bet Shemesh, the Rabbonim insisted that all such activity take a break in the early evening hours so as not to embarrass women who need to be out at that time. And suddenly there were no protests for that 3 hours every evening.

    If they wanted to, they could. They just don’t.

  • Dovid Kornreich

    One common complaint I see is that Gedolim come out on all kinds of things that have no effect on their community.
    One point to consider: people on blogs often complain loudly that Gedolim are manipulated by askanim and they are the real forces behind the public declarations of Gedolim. Now, all of the sudden, you want the askanim to lobby for your pet cause?

    But I would like to address the examples provided to see if the hypocrisy charge sticks. (If you know you are going to dismiss any distinction I could make as hopelessly apologetic, then you need not read further. Those who are interested in a meaningful exchange of ideas and arguments are invited to continue in the conversation.)

    Gay pride parades public desecration of Shabbos, and Tznius were the most common examples, (and I’m surprised no-one mentioned the excavation of Kivrei Yisroel,) and they are all forms of protesting one overall principle: “Chillul Kedusha”
    The reason why “Chillul Kedusha” is singled out for Chareidi protest, as the leaflets and pashkevilles explicitly state, is because it endangers physical the safety of everyone. Chazal and Kabbalistic sources are very clear about the far-reaching, physically devastating consequences of Chillul Kedusha. So the protests are a matter of simple, physical, self-preservation. (I personally wish the organizers of these protests would be more altruistic and run effective educational drives to explain to the secular why this issue is so sensitive, but they would consider the attempt naive.)

    The next category was Liberal Orthodox innovations. Truth be told, I never heard any Israeli Gedolim come out against them, so I don’t see the hypocrisy. If you are asking about the American Agudah, well, they came out protesting this issue as well, didn’t they? Where’s the contradiction?

    I found this amusing:
    Here’s the thing. If it’s Conservative Judaism, the Gedolim say it’s wrong. If it’s jeans, they issue a responsum prohibiting it. If it’s Women’s Tefilla Groups, they say it’s wrong. If it’s Vos Is Neias, they say it’s wrong. If it’s rabbit-eating kibbutzniks, they say it’s wrong.

    And the Eida Chareidis puts up Pashkevillim in Mea She’arim declaring that using violence is wrong. (I saw them myself put up twice. Too bad I didn’t have a digital camera on me to post it.) But you don’t see any media or blog coverage of that, do you? Of course not.

    Violence and lawlessness isn’t a new, creeping distortion of Judaism that needs to be identified and pushed outside the pale. It’s as old as Kain and Abel.

    I will own up to the problem of the commentor(s) who pointed out that when the Israeli police are vilified for their brutality and the justice of secular courts suspect, it’s hard to blame them for not interfering here.

  • Dovid Kornreich

    Some commentors claim that there is a continuum from mainstream to extreme by the very fact that the values are the same but the differences are in degree.
    I disagree. I should have emphasized more in the post that the mainstream have additional values which are not shared by the extremists which keep the shared values in check. That is respect for the rule of law.
    No-one can deny that the mainstream Chareidim have de facto, accepted the existence of the State of Israel. We participate in elections, pay taxes, and have political parties active in the Kenesset and in all the major population centers. This de facto recognition and respect for the laws of the State put mainstream Chareidim in an entirely different social (and some would say religious) category than the extremists.

    I consider the repeated insistence of a continuum of Chareidi values leading to violence and lawlessness to be outright slander. This is perhaps the most pernicious canard being propagated by Orthodox writers about this issue.

  • Dovid Kornreich

    By making it clear to the world that these thugs have been condemned by all responsible
    Jewish groups and leaders, the world may begin to realize that the thugs are not acting
    in accord with true Judaism.

    (Wouldn’t you like to see Islamic groups condemn suicide bombings? Why? The crazies
    won’t listen to them anyhow?)

    I addressed this parenthetically in the main post, but let me ask you personally: Do you take any comfort in the fact that Abbas always comes out with a condemnation of the terrorism emanating from his territory? I don’t. I look at it with a very jaundiced eye. Do would you want to subject Chareidi Gedolim to more uncharitable political analysis if they do come out against the extremism.
    Oh sure, now people say that this is what they want to see. But trust me, if it finally comes out, then it will be all about political maneuvering and public relations ploys and damage control. No-one will think it’s sincere. Why do they need more cynicism? It’s a no-win.

  • Shades of Gray

    I sometimes wonder if the reason for silence from Gedolim is because there is a war going on between two sides; in a war, there is a concern that “if we give an inch, they will take a mile”. One of the tactics of the Charedi world is to protest, which indeed is a legitimate right in a democracy. Perhaps there is a concern that condemning one’s own will weaken the ability to organize protests and defend against chilonim in other cases when protesting is warranted.

    Also, perhaps the problems are too complex to solve with a single kol koreh which may be ignored; it would force the Edah to confront what causes unrest in the fringes of it’s own camp(no productive outlet for some), and these problems don’t seem to have an easy solution(Rav Dessler admits that the Torah Only approach has a cost).

  • Moishe Potemkin

    Dovid Kornreich: “Gay pride parades public desecration of Shabbos, and Tznius were the most common examples, (and I’m surprised no-one mentioned the excavation of Kivrei Yisroel,) and they are all forms of protesting one overall principle: “Chillul Kedusha”
    The reason why “Chillul Kedusha” is singled out for Chareidi protest, as the leaflets and pashkevilles explicitly state, is because it endangers physical the safety of everyone. Chazal and Kabbalistic sources are very clear about the far-reaching, physically devastating consequences of Chillul Kedusha. So the protests are a matter of simple, physical, self-preservation. (I personally wish the organizers of these protests would be more altruistic and run effective educational drives to explain to the secular why this issue is so sensitive, but they would consider the attempt naive.)”

    I do think you are engaging in apologetics, perhaps unintentionally.. The idea that the Gedolim have a checklist (“Unzere? Nope. Chilul Kedusha? Nope. Okay, then, no condemnation necessary. Let me know if anything changes.”) seems far-fetched. It also ignores the physically devastating fate of Rabbi Akiva’s students.

    It’s really okay to acknowledge that the Chareidi system has real flaws, along with its very real strengths. Every group does (and people know it!).

  • Dr. E

    I think that we need a change in semantics within the context of the entire discussion. I am seeing Gedolim, Gedolei Hador, and leadership all being used interchangeably. Furthermore, the expectations that those outside of the Chareidi community have and even within need to be subsequently adjusted. Many of the Torah luminaries being alluded to have tremendous grasps of the breadth and depth of Torah. And for that, we should all be in awe and inspired. While that puts them head and shoulders above almost everyone (and you might call them a “Gadol” for that), that does not make them a “leader”. Nor does what they say (or are alleged to say) binding upon all at all times.

    Unless one is talking about monarchies, leadership is learned and earned. Leaders who emerge have been trained to lead. Leadership is a role and a related set of responsibilities, not simply a bestowed title. Leadership is about two way communication and dialogue, not Kol Korehs. Some leaders have taken classes, have had formal schooling, or been beneficiaries of corporate training. Alternatively, even outside the academic and corporate track, some leaders have had life experiences which have seen them at meetings in committees—working with others who are not only similar to them but dissimilar as well. They have managed organizational nuances and over time, they have earned the respect for their ability to navigate space and people. This has given them organizational which inform their leadership. And for some, leadership acumen is innate. Yet, all of these components are missing from those that many in the Chareidi world are looking towards. Many have never held jobs or had formal responsibilities. They have never attended a board meeting. They have had no formal training in communication to groups outside of a strict Torah context. Their involvement with organizations is often limited to photo ops in which their image can be exploited for the benefit of the organization seeking validation. They don’t read the papers of or write emails, answer their own phone, pay bills, or make phone calls. All information that that they receive is filtered in, and all information supposedly from them is filtered out. Consequently, we are all subjected to hearsay and a global game of telephone. They have handlers 24/7. There is a disconnect, and perhaps that is what has indeed made them special. But, a leader is in many respects a generalist, not a specialist. So, let’s just call it like it is and not refer to these Torah giants as leaders or have expectations that they will serve or act as such—during the episodes of Beit Shemesh or ever.

    We all know of the legends of Chassidishe Rebbes dressing in the clothing of commoners and going through the villages with anonymity. Part of this was self-imposed Galus and part of it was in order to be “in touch” with the hamon am, the rank-and-file of the Jewish people. The purpose was to inform their leadership. Whether those stories were true or not, we no longer have that.

    [YA – Not true. We still have it. Just not enough of it. :-) ]

  • dovid landesman

    One point to consider: people on blogs often complain loudly that Gedolim are manipulated by askanim and they are the real forces behind the public declarations of Gedolim. Now, all of the sudden, you want the askanim to lobby for your pet cause?

    Is there some reason why the comments here have not penetrated at all? It’s not our pet cause – it is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.

    Do would you want to subject Chareidi Gedolim to more uncharitable political analysis if they do come out against the extremism.

    I find this statement astounding. Who exactly will be uncharitable – the same vile riffraff who attacked R. Aron Leib for his tacit support of Nachal Chareidi?

    I find the level of violence and lack of civility in chareidi society to be apparent almost across the board [see the “peaceful” succession wars in Ponovezh as an example]. The “unzere” mentality is pervasive and is taught in the chadarim and girls’ schools as part of the catechism of Jewish life and because of the demographic changes in EY, charedim are not hesitant to make demands upon the community.

  • Bob Green

    You claim there is no cultural connection between the Meah Shearmniks and the rest of mainstream Chareidim. I wonder, though. Are those in Meah Shearim anathema to the Chareidi world in the same way that modern orthodoxy and mizrachi are? There is no doubt that R’ Norman Lamm would never be allowed to speak in even the most left-wing American yeshiva, and no Israeli Chareidi yeshiva would give R’ Shlomo Aviner a warm welcome. I suspect the same is not true for the rabbanim on of Meah Shearim, and that Chareidim would not have a problem attending a shiur given by the gaavad of the Eida.

    This is just an illustration of why your arguments are not relevant. Fine, there isn’t a regular, day-to-day connection between moderate Chareidim in Har Nof and the yerushalmis of Meah Shearim. But there is a broader identity which does encompass those in Meah Shearim even as it excludes Dati Leumi, an identity of rejecting the modern world and the Zionist state. Meah Shearim chasidim are not “the other”, they are members of the same movement who happen to be extremists.

  • Ellen

    and I’m surprised no-one mentioned the excavation of Kivrei Yisroel

    Sorry I just lost you there. This mention only calls to mind the trash-burning hafganot and vandalism against everything Electra about some gravesites which were really said to be Roman and not Jewish.

    (And the only Jewish graves I know of in recent history being moved were those from Gush Katif. Now who was silent on that one?)

  • Ellen

    I consider the repeated insistence of a continuum of Chareidi values leading to violence and lawlessness to be outright slander.

    It’s more nuanced than that – we’re talking about forcing one’s will on strangers: through violence, through intimidation, through stonewalling legal processes and quoting the support of Gedolim to do so. Preventing police from prosecuting legal offenders, and when necessary protesting to demand release of Charedi violators. Participating in protests alongside violent protesters, pushing the Charedi interpretation of halacha despite its impact to others’ health, parnassa, and overall well-being.

    The Charedi way used to be one of kedusha and prishus in order to achieve greatness in Torah. With “no-blood, no-foul” type justifications such as the one above, the newer Charedi style of applying insensitive force against communities outside its own (because they’re next door) gains more ground.

  • Baruch Gitlin

    “But trust me, if it finally comes out, then it will be all about political maneuvering and public relations ploys and damage control. No-one will think it’s sincere. Why do they need more cynicism? It’s a no-win.”

    That much is probably true. Condemnations that result from outside pressure are pretty worthless, which is the case with the condemnations issued by Abu Mazen, among others. At this point, I think we should all draw whatever conclusions we see fit to draw from the silence of the rabbis and the one-sided defensiveness of the haredi press, and move on.

  • Bob Miller

    Dovid Kornreich wrote, “One point to consider: people on blogs often complain loudly that Gedolim are manipulated by askanim and they are the real forces behind the public declarations of Gedolim. Now, all of the sudden, you want the askanim to lobby for your pet cause?”

    Because of the isolation by some askanim, communications to some Gedolim and back may not be getting transmitted accurately. Ideally, we would want the filtration or outright manipulation of the lines of communication about serious issues to stop altogether.

  • Yaakov Menken

    The comments here just seem to prove my earlier comment that the Charedim are the Jew’s Jews. Any misbehavior by a tiny fringe group becomes an excuse for unwarranted vitriol, hypocrisy, and outright falsehoods.

    Unwarranted vitriol: “the level of violence and lack of civility in chareidi society” can only come from one whose problem is clearly that he has not resided in any other. Those of us who attended elite secular colleges know better. Those of us who live in mixed neighborhoods (like Baltimore) know better. Those of us who have seen the police and the settlers “go at it” in Gush know better. While there is no question that the yeshiva-educated are expected to conform to a higher standard than that of Charedim overall, even there, there are failures. Charedim are, obviously, still human — but a statement implying that Charedim are more or equally violent can only be made by someone unfamiliar with either the Charedim or the rest of the world.

    Hypocrisy: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6741231/ns/world_news/t/settlers-compare-gaza-pullout-holocaust/#.TwW519QS3t8 — I believe we are still waiting for Rav Aaron Lichtenstein to condemn this, so obviously, according to the standard employed here by commenters, he endorses their behavior. [To those who call it an obscenity to even imagine such an endorsement, I wholeheartedly agree!]

    Outright falsehoods: I do not believe a comment regarding “the silence of the rabbis and the one-sided defensiveness of the haredi press” can be put off as simple lack of awareness. Rabbi Eisemann was not writing for “outsiders.” He was preceded multiple times by Jonathan Rosenblum and by Ami Magazine, while Mishpacha and HaModiah (definitely worth reading, please catch it while you can: http://www.hamodia.com/index.cfm ) both cover the disgraceful behavior of the Sikrikim this week. The Haredi press has been anything but silent and anything but defensive, as is plain as day to anyone not blinded. I need not say by what, other than to point out that Muslim clerics still control Har HaBayis.

  • daniel

    To Rabbi Menken:
    Rav Aharon Lichtenstein has frequently criticised vocally and publically extremist behaviour in the religious camp as can be seen in the numerous MO blogs.

  • dovid landesman

    As I have come to expect R. Menken, you manage to totally distort a comment by labeling it [unwarranted vitriol!], by suggesting that the commenter has a “problem” and by preaching how “those of us who attended elite secular colleges know better.” Why don’t you try to answer the points raised? Never did I accuse the chareidi world of being “more violent.” Instead, I noted – and if you want other examples it would be my pleasure to supply them – that there is a level of violence – and tacit approval of that violence – that in my humble opinion is intolerable. As a born and bred [and proud] chareidi, I resent your allegation that I am unfamiliar with the chareidim or the rest of the world. I don’t think that I am the person who needs to remove the tinted glasses taht distort one’s perception.

  • Tal Benschar

    R. Kornreich:

    While I agree with much of what you say, your analysis contains a fatal flaw, IMHO. You are surely aware of the famous Brisker Rov’s explanation of the Midrash which begins sheloshah hayu be oso eitzah and why Iyyov was punished with suffering. Protest by Iyyov of Pharaoh’s nefarious plans would have been just as futile as condemnation by the Gedolim today of the vile behavior of the kannoim in Beit Shemesh. Yet, as the Brisker Rov ended that vort, “When it hurts, you scream!”

    I am sorry, but for many God-fearing Jews throughout the world, the recent events painfully hurt. Some vilde chayos who purport to represent the Torah have acted in a way that any shegetz knows is utterly disgraceful. This has been spread throughout the world — ad arba kanfei ha’aretz. The level of Chillul shem Shomayim is unfathomable. I cannot imagine anyone with an ounce of yiras shomayim or ahavas Hashem not being deeply distubred and pained by these events.

    And yet, in the face of that, the greatest talmidei chachamim are silent.

    “When it hurts, you scream.”

    One shudders to think what Iyyov-like sufferings might be incurred for that silence. May Hashem have mercy on His people.

  • Baruch Gitlin

    Outright falsehoods: I do not believe a comment regarding “the silence of the rabbis and the one-sided defensiveness of the haredi press” can be put off as simple lack of awareness.

    I am not familiar with the press in the United States. I was thinking of Israeli media outlets, namely Yated Neeman (Isreali version) and the local Beit Shemesh paper, Chadash. I have not seen anything in these papers other than defensiveness. The exception was Chadash’s initial coverage, in English, of the problems at Orot in September, but that turned out to be radically different from their coverage on the Hebrew side of the newspaper (as Rabbi Slifkin recently brought to light on his blog, the different coverage was not deliberate, but resulted from the English translator’s desire to bring some accuracy to the story). I no longer read the Israeli HaModia, although I think it is generally a better, and less biased, newspaper than Yated. I have noticed the its headlines have been about the anti-haredi incitement, not about the actions that gave rise to the controversy.

    If I’ve missed something, and the Israeli newspapers have reported and condemned the actions that gave rise to this controversy, than I apologize. When I say “the actions,” I am referring not only to the Sikirim, but also to the many incidents in which women have been attacked by haredim on buses, either physically or verbally. That is a big part of the story, not just the Sikirim.

    The HaModia article was, indeed, worth reading.

  • Eli

    Dovid (as I knew you in TOMO) & Rabbi Menken:

    You are both not making a critical “chiluk” the you Dovid yourself made. People like yourself, Rabbi Mieselman, and really all Americans in EY are not “Charaidi”. They just don’t have the same mindset as the Chassidim & Yishuv HaYashan. They are “isolationist Charadim”, which is its own catagory.

    You are correct that YOU would have no Hava Amina to do anything like this. Ami, Mishpacha, the Agudah of America, Rabbi Menkin, etc. can all apologize (which is all good). It has nothing to do with a somewhat large section of the Israeli society that is the problem.

    Your point is a good one. Until the “gedolim” or whomever is in charge of the crazies (or who they claim is in charge, who is not Rav Elyashiv, etc.) does something, nothing will change.

    But don’t YOU want something to change? Don’t you want Ha’aretz & the like to say “Wow, Charadim are great, I wish I could learn like they do”.

    That is why YOU (and others like you, like Rabbi Meiselman, etc.) should push them out. If YOU disown them, even if they don’t notice, others (the DL, Chardal, even the secular)will.

    Aish HaTorah has an open letter to the spitter on their website.
    http://www.aish.com/jw/s/An_Open_Letter_to_the_Beit_Shemesh_Spitter.html
    That is what the “Moderate” (or American) Charaidim should be saying. To a large extent they are doing so. Maybe if it is loud enough then others will make the distinctions that you make as well.

  • Moishe Potemkin

    YM: While there is no question that the yeshiva-educated are expected to conform to a higher standard than that of Charedim overall, even there, there are failures.

    Me: I think you’re overlooking the fact that the Chareidi failures – beyond the normal human frailties present in every society – are an inherent product of Chareidi culture (as are, of course, its many strengths) Is it really surprising that a culture that so readily and regularly criticizes other groups of shomrai Torah umitzvos (i’m referring back to my own yeshivishe chinuch, and large family in Bnei Brak) produces what you (incorrectly, in my view) describe as a “tiny fringe” that takes this attitude even further?

    No-one begrudges Chareidim the normal distribution of personalities from saint to sinner. What is disliked and criticized is the pretense that uniquely Chareidi misdeeds are somehow unrelated to uniquely Chareidi philosophies, rather than representing an inherent and inevitable cost.

  • Tzvi

    Rabbi Menken,

    Rav Aron Lichtenstien did condemn it in no uncertain terms. And he didn’t call anyone eruv rav while doing it either.