Hi, Yankel


Just when I thought I was going to have to spend time taking issue with what others have written on these pages, Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rav of Cong. Ahavas Israel in Passaic NJ captured the mood perfectly enough, that I no longer feel compelled to distance myself from the content. (This “Short Vort” appears today on his website, ahavasisrael.org )

Hey Yankel- how are you doing?

Thanks a lot for the pics you sent me. You and your son really look well fed and robust.

However, since you asked me how I am doing, I have no choice but to be honest.

Jake, oh sorry, I meant Yankel- I have known you all of my life; after all, you are my older brother.

I have always worshipped the ground you walked on and attempted to emulate all of your ways and movements.

After all, why not? While I went off to live in ‘treif America’ you settled in the land of our fathers’: Eretz Yisroel.

While I chose to use English as my spoken language, you kept to the ‘mama loshon’ and insisted on exclusively speaking Yiddish.

While I dressed in more ‘Western style dress’, you were obsessive in maintaining what you were emphatic was ‘authentic Jewish dress’.

I admired you for both of these traits.

And while me and many of my friends had no issue in using our ‘goyishe names’, you always insisted that we refer to you as Yankel and nothing else.

Although sometimes I kidded you for you obstinacy in the maintenance of these three cardinal traits of Jewish identity, in truth I envied you for what certainly seemed to me at the time as your authentic and ‘more Jewish’ lifestyle.

You are living in Meah Shearim; you have the freedom to teach your kids the way you want to; you are protected by the State; and for the most part no one- and I mean no one- interferes with your life at all.

When I came on my frequent visits to you- I was constantly amazed and happy by your financial stability and the growth of your neighborhoods.

You now have air conditioning and cell phones, beautiful Shabbos clothes and thank Hashem you purchased apartments for all of your children when they married.

In short, you were blessed by He whose blessings count and I was happy for you.

Even though you complained sometimes about all of the Americans who came through your neighborhood, privately you admitted to me that only because of those American dollars which pour through the shops and collectors of your streets were you able to make beautiful and wonderful weddings for your children.

I remember how at the last wedding of your daughter you had two video-people- one for the women and one for the men. It did make me wonder why you needed that – after all, I (the Modern American) had no video person at my son’s wedding while you had two! However, I let it pass and was happy for you.

When you came to visit I took you around and helped you raise money for your apartments with a smile and with a feeling that ‘at least there are still authentic Jews’ living an authentic Jewish life in Yerushalayim.

When the incidents occurred in Beit Shemesh, I believed what I read in the Chareidi media that this was not indicative of the feelings of most ‘authentic Jews’ and that this was the work of a ‘fringe group’. Perhaps I did not ‘really’ believe this, however, I so wanted to believe that this was true so I let it pass.

I decided not to contact you about those incidents; after all, you do not live in Beit Shemesh and after all you are a member of the Edah Chareidis an ‘official and respected’ organization.

All that was before Motzei Shabbos; on Motzei Shabbos I turned on the computer and there you were with your son- my nephew- Yossele!!!

My own brother Yankel in the middle of the melee!

Yankel, how could you do it? And how could you do it to our Yossele?

Look at your smile Yankel as you proudly set your eyes on your son that you have manipulated to raise his hands in a grotesque, sickening and revolting pose which imitates that which is truly holy and pure.

Yankel, I am sending you a copy of the ‘authentic’ (as I know you always want that which is authentic) original photograph of the scared and frightened little boy.

That boy is terrified; not knowing what life has in store for him.

Look at the other people in the photograph (I know most of them are women, however, let’s be honest Yankel, you must have studied this photo intently before you ‘offered your son’ on the alter of hate) – they are petrified and to be pitied.

Look now at you Yankel and at the other people in the picture. All of you are well fed, dressed in your Shabbos finery; having just eaten a big Shalosh Shiddush and a big Melave Malka. None of you in the picture appear truly frightened or scared.

Yankel, what did you say to little Yossele before you sullied him with the badge of hate?

What words of ‘chizuk’ did you offer to his pristine Neshama as you told him to pose in that position of mockery and as a caricature of contempt and as a parody of sarcasm.

Yankel, you know and I know it; you have benefited from the ‘Zionist State’ more than the majority of secular Israelis!

You have protection from the Arabs; dollars streaming in from tourists and students and you do not have to give back a dime.

However, after the events of Motzei Shabbos- and you have pointed this out to me- no one can claim that you are just a ‘few fringe people’.

Yankel, I must admit that you are correct, just as you have told me so many times before- you are not a fringe group.

There were hundreds if not thousands of people involved in the planning and execution of this Motzei Shabbos ‘rally’.

You had women sewing the Concentration Camp uniforms.

You had technical assistance in surfing the web to get the best Holocaust pictures.

You had printers and translators printing and translating your signs into Hebrew and English.

You had choreographers and script writers planning and practicing this complicated cavort of callous insensitivity.

In short as you had told me time and time again, you are no fringe group and you are not a few individuals as others would have us believe.

There were hundreds if not thousands of people involved in the planning and the execution of this demonstration!

And as you have pointed out to me many, many times; although we have seen rabbinic bans and protests against concerts and books; against women rabbis and against individual authors, there has never been a single signed pronouncement appearing with the names of any prominent Chareidi Rabbis who have protested or denounced your actions!

I guess Yankel you are correct. If ‘shtika K’Hodaa’ (if silence is akin to agreement) then I guess you are right, as sad as it may be.

However, Yankel, with that being said, the reason I am writing to you is really because you are my brother and I do love you dearly.

I love you with you all my heart and soul and I so cherish the good and wonderful and spiritual times we spent together singing and discussing Torah.

I remember fondly you telling me about how happy you were when you found solace and peace in the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.

How happy you were with his love of each and every Jew and how he accepted all Jews no matter who they were and what their standing was.

You told me how he started a movement wherein each and every precious Jew could be counted and loved, irrespective of how learned he was or how he dressed.

You told how the Baal Shem Tov himself dressed as a simple Jew as he went around sharing his love for each and every Jew irrespective of their level of observance.

You told me that Hashem looks into the heart of every precious Jew and forgives their lapses.

However, that was before you sent me the picture of you and Yossele.

That was before I saw my nephew forced to pose with his hands held upright in ridicule of that which is pure and pristine.

You told me about love and now I see hate.

You told about compassion and now I see cruelty.

You told about sanctity and now I see sacrilege.

Yankel, I know you are my brother; however, Yankel I must ask you:

Who are you?
Often I can no longer recognize you anymore.

With all my love,

Your brother who loves and misses you.

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3 years 9 months ago

I am an American child of Holocaust Survivors. In 1966 I spent a year in israel studying in the Bais Yaakov Seminary in Yerushalaim (this was before they had an America program). There was a mantra repeated by the teachers there many times. It was “אנחנו והרחוב US and the STREET or US vs the rest of Israel. This being the Sixties (16 years after the Holocaust) and me being a child of Holocaust survivors, i was shocked by this Haskafah/philosophy. I had not been taught this way of looking at other Jews not by my parents nor by the Bais Yaakov I attended in Brooklyn. Why am I giving you all this history? It is because I feel that what we are witnessing today in Beit Shemesh is one of the results of this Hashkafa. Unfortunately this is not a fringe Hashkafa. There has to be soul searching about what we teach our children and basic love of other Jews should be a foundational teaching in our schools.

L. Oberstein
3 years 9 months ago

A Gerrer Chosid told me that some chassidim in Elad printed raffle tickets to raise money for their cause. The prize was an opportunity to daven in close proximity to the rebbe. Someone showed the flyer to the Gerrer Rebbe and he said he had never autorized it. The rebbe himself personally called the Gabboim of all the Gerrer shtiblach ( I presume in Elad) and told the gabboim to take down the posters and cancel the raffle. On the other hand, the leadership of the Litvish world e.g. Rav Elyashiv does absolutely nothing to disassociate from bans in his name . It has to be more than callous cynacism that allows the people around the Posek Hador to ignore raging problems and instead issue bans on Mishpacha Magazine without ever asking anyone from Mishpacha is they have a side of the story. This started for me with Slifkin and has been steadily down hill since then. It hurts to see once revered terms like Daas Torah made into a mockery. How can anyone in the Chareidi leadership hold his head high when this open cynicism and falsification goes on.

3 years 9 months ago


The reason spitting and rent are related is that the Chareidi community cannot simultaneously come begging to the general productive public to fund their lifestyle and infrastructure while simultaneously treating the general public with disdain (let alone violence). Similarly the Chareidi world cannot simulatenously live in geographical proximity to the secular world and demand complete isolation from secular ideas.

The Amish, Mennonites, etc. live austere lives, separated from the secular world and with similar attitudes towards gender roles, large families, and modesty. However, these groups also place high value on (extremely) hard work and are able to pay for their society. They are able to produce or barter their goods and services with the outside world for everything they need and do not demand that others fund their lifestyle. They also maintain a very rural lifestyle which supports both a very low cost of living and workable separation with minimal conflict with the secular world

3 years 9 months ago

Baruch, This statement is a norm for one outside of the shooting range. It is also a norm in psychology…if it is not happening to me or my group, it is impossible that it is as bad, horrific, or even a true event. How about asking an Israeli Dati Leumi friend living in Bet Shemesh on his read of the situation? (at least he will respond without the laughter)

“I recently spoke to a friend who is part of the Israeli Dati Leumi community in Beer Sheva. I asked him “So what’s the deal with the Chareidi/secular tensions?” He laughs: “Come on, it’s just the media blowing things up”.

3 years 9 months ago

Yehudis: “I wish that all of the Israeli charedi world could speak with such a clear conscience.”

I wish, at least some of the commentators of CC exclaimed upon reading Chabad’s statement: ‘Today we are all Lubavitch’. Maybe that’s too much to ask. Bashing Chabad has always been glatt. Praising them is treif unless they are killed in the line of duty.

[YA – How about something more focused. Like, “I have no doubt that Chabad’s statement takes top honors in the competition for best statement regarding the situation, my own included.”]