Monday, January 9, 2012

"We Love You! And Pity You!" Plus, the Inaccuracies in Ami and elsewhere

Reader Dov Kaiser sent in this photo of a poster displayed in a Charedi street in Rechovot. He wonders whether it is really addressed to Chilonim, as it purports, or if it is to make Charedim feel better about themselves:

It's amazing how some parts of it are so helpful, and other parts so deeply offensive.

In other news, the Mayor of Bet Shemesh, Moshe Abutbol, stated in Ami magazine that the Orot school is "in the middle" of a charedi neighborhood. The same was stated by Yisrael Eichler in HaModia. This is a blatant lie. In fact, the school has a valley behind it, a new charedi neighborhood on one side, and a dati-leumi neighborhood on the other side as well as facing it.

This isn't the only inaccurate information that you'll find in Ami. See this very important post at Life In Israel, which shows that, contrary to the story that Ami magazine ran, significant elements of the Eidah HaCharedis did support the notorious rally in Mea She'arim.

Other false claims that I have seen lately include:

1) HaModia reported a claim that nobody has ever been forced to sit at the back of a Mehadrin bus. But I've seen it with my own eyes! I usually drive, but on one occasion where I had to use the bus, I witnessed a man in charedi attire barricade the front of the bus to prevent religious girls boarding (they could not board at the back, because it was too crowded). Countless people have witnessed such things. How can they report such a blatantly false claim?

2) Someone else claimed that "there hasn’t been any violence" in Bet Shemesh/ Ramat Bet Shemesh "except for by a few thugs a few months ago." I wish that were true, but it's not. There have been many, many incidents of violence against non-charedim over the last few years.

3) Another claim was that "There is absolutely no imposition of Mehadrin standards onto the general public." This is certainly incorrect with regard to Ramat Bet Shemesh. For example, the stores in the main shopping area have been intimidated into putting up signs demanding adherence to certain tzniyus standards, and into allowing mashgichim to deface the packaging of cosmetics that have pictures of women on them. And even a mainstream Anglo-charedi figure, Rav Elimelech Kornfeld (not to be confused with his brother in Har Nof; as we see throughout Tenach and history, people are not to be judged by the actions of their brother!), sought to prevent the opening of eating establishments with seating at the small shopping area near where I live. (In the end, the lawyers were brought in, and this particular effort failed.)


  1. ...sought to prevent the opening of eating establishments with seating at the small shopping area near where I live....

    Pardon my profound ignorance, but what is improper or immodest about having a restaurant with a seating area?

  2. It encourages the mixing of genders and frivolous behavior. Or something like that.

  3. What's amazing is that the same people that rant and rave about the biased secular media seem to have no problem accpeting lies such as the ones you mention from the haredi media.

    The bus situation is a good example. To see a statement such as "nobody has ever been forced to sit at the back of a Mehadrin bus" accepted by people who really should have more respect for the truth is truly depressing.

    I guess organs such as Ami and Hamodia feel that it's part of their mission to make their readers feel better about themselves. People seem to simply believe what they want to believe in most cases.

  4. Jordan - to anyone normal, nothing whatsoever. But a lot of rabbis seem to feel differently. This happened in Beitar as well - the rabbis insisted on shutting down a popular ice cream place because men and women were, pardon the expression, sitting together. Next thing you know it - mixed buses. But this is what we can expect if the haredi rabbis of Ramat Beit Shemesh have their way.

  5. "Great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events, small minds discuss people" - Eleanor Roosevelt

    Can we get back to discuss ideas? You're the Baal HaBlog, and you can do as you wish, but I'd really be happy to see an "ideas" post once again after a week plus of "events" and "people" posts.

  6. R' Slifkin -

    You recently wrote that you hate when people make assumptions about your beliefs.

    So why is it okay to assume (or wonder) that the others of this poster don't mean exactly what they wrote? (Both the parts you like and the parts that offend.)

  7. First of all, if you read the post carefully, you'll see that I was quoting someone else.

    Second, there's a big difference between raising possibilities and asserting something as fact.

  8. Thanks for the clarification. I didn't realize that restaurants were ossur nowadays.

  9. you say "HaModia reported a claim that nobody has ever been forced to sit at the back of a Mehadrin bus. " but claim it to be not true..

    I will explain. Nobody was ever forced because all women who sit in the back do so voluntarily. It does not matter that they volunteer to do so because men tell them to, as at the end of the day it is their own choice to comply.

    So there you have it. Nobody has ever been forced.

  10. Someone asked my opinion about Pinchos Lipschutz's remarks in his column Yisgadeil Veyiskadeish Shemei Rabboh concerning "maskilim." Was it true? Here's as good a place to address it as any. Before I do, I can't resist making the obligatory comment about how "Yisgadeil Veyiskadeish" comes down to us via maskilim, R. Salomon Hanau > Isaac Satanow > Pri Megadim > Mishna Berurah. Ironic.

    The quote is: "The Maskilim who had been battling traditional Judaism for years, saw Zionism as a vehicle with which to continue their war. The Maskilim effectively used the new movement to battle religion.

    "What is transpiring today in Eretz Yisroel must be understood as another chapter in that ongoing, awful, century-long tug-of-war.

    "We should not allow ourselves to be drawn into the cauldron or be lectured by the ideological heirs of those early Maskilim who did everything in their power to vilify Torah, gedolei Torah and Yiddishkeit.

    "They were quick to discover the power of the media and propagandized regularly against the religious community. Nothing was beneath them. They lobbied to have rabbonim sidelined and at times jailed. They sought to have chadorim made illegal and to delist melamdim, who they demeaned and accused of kol dovor assur. They vilified botei din and attempted to have them banned as well. They also lobbied the authorities, claiming that rabbonim used seforim to encourage anti-government and anti-social activities, and sought to have them made illegal."

    In truth it's difficult to know when and what he's talking about, since my suspicion is that he is wrapping 125 years or so, and the Reform and the various Haskalah movements, into one. So I will respond in kind.

    The truth is that there were instances of lobbying the government and using the media to undermine, oppose and even shut down all the things he mentions. What he does not mention is that the rabbonim did the same thing. Personally I don't like reading about various factions of Jews malshining on one another, but the reality was that Jews had very little political power, and they all grabbed the closest thing, the government, and tried to harness that power to fight their opponents.

    Let's begin at the beginning. It is well known that Moses Mendelssohn managed to avoid a cherem on his Chumash by outplaying R. Rafael Hakohen of Hamburg. At the time Hamburg was under Danish rule. Apparently he was aware that R. Rafael was likely going to place the Chumash in cherem, so he obtained the subscription of the Danish king. Once this happened, it became impossible for R. Rafael to place a book ordered by the king in cherem, and therefore he of course refrained from doing so. Maybe some people look at it like this was dastardly on the part of Mendelssohn. R. Rafael of course has the right to put anything he wants into cherem - but Mendelssohn doesn't have the right to print his chumash in peace. You be the judge.


  11. cont.

    When the earliest reforms began, the rabbonim didn't only oppose them in theory, but they lobbied the government to ban them. In very conservative places like Prussia this was effective, for the same reason why the attacks on Chasidim by the Misnagdim were effective: the governments didn't want to see changes from the status quo which they didn't control. So whether it's the Chasam Sofer coercing R. Aron Chorin to retract his lenient teshuvas permitting reforms, or whether it is the bulk of Eleh Divrei Habris, which was a memorandum to the government opposing reform, complete with many references to how the government should or could stop the reformers, they certainly did not feel that lobbying the government to stop other Jews from worshipping as their conscious felt was out of bounds. (And, incidentally, Eleh Divrei Habris was printed in Hebrew, of course, but also included a German side, abstracting the arguments of the rabbonim. The writer of this section was Shalom Hakohen, otherwise known as the maskil editor Hameassef and later of Bikurei Haittim.)

    In a later generation, the rabbonim lobbied the governments to prevent the establishment of reform temples and rabbinical seminaries. As far as I can tell, the first major figure to break the cycle was R. Hirsch, who understood that he could argue for Orthodox rights using the "freedom of conscience" argument - but that this applied to the Reform too. In reality this is what American Orthodox rabbis have always adhered to; they may not have liked Reform (or Conservative) but they've never attempted to block their way and right to do as they want; it is only in Israel where the Orthodox rabbis do not recognize the right of all Jews to worship as they see fit.

    As for his comments about vilification, obviously this went tit for tat. Although everything must be judged on a case by case basis, Lipschutz doesn't consider the possibility that when "accused [melamdim] of kol dovor assur" that there may have been some truth to it. Certainly the reality of the chadorim is that they churned out mostly am haratzim. It offered no exercise. Many of the melamdim beat the kids. Lipschutz himself would never not consent to sending his kids or grandchildren to such a school. In the case of EY, many people who were considered nice Jews in Europe, or even gedolim, were tarred as reshoim all because they wanted to teach orphans a trade and things like that.

    Lipschutz, with his own newspaper, and his yummy shabbos food and, I'm sure, his nice car, really should have nothing to say about trying to improve the economic (and spiritual) plight of the masses, when the gedolim are choosing poverty for everyone.

    I commented recently at Hirhurim, "at least nowadays, the Gedolim will (or need) never have a leak over their head, an operation they cannot pay for, or a shabbos without food. Even if they would, they choose to, and the insecurity of poverty or other problems is not present when in fact there are legions of people who would be only too happy, and honored, to bail you out. This was certainly not the case in earlier times." These failed ways are even worse now. It's poverty for the masses, and first rate doctors are flown in for Rav Elyashiv. It's not his own fault necessarily, the man is 100, and people truly want the best care for him, but there is a big difference between the challenges he and his family will have to face and the masses. Every time I read about how he wrote a check for 1800 shekalim for a tzedakah organization it makes me sick. Where did he get that money? If it is all fakery on the part of the organization, and he doesn't really have it, fine.

  12. You are right, Rafi G..

    This is the same as punishing a recalcintrant husband until he voluntarily issues a get.

    QED :)

  13. I posted this comment on Cross Currents, where I'm having an ongoing conversation with Rabbi Menken and Kornreich:

    Rabbi Menken:

    When, where and how did the Eida denounce extremism? The protest in support of the convicted extremist two Motsei Shabossos ago was officially sponsored by the Eida. Rabbonim of the Eida were in attendance and spoke at the rally. The official newspaper of the Eida called for people to protest and supported the convicted extremist. In light of the above, in truth, a denunciation by the Eida wouldn’t do it for me. I would indeed see it as nothing more than PR.

    I would like you to consider this: Suppose a public statement signed by the Gedolim would come out today, denouncing the extremism, and stating unequivocally that it’s not okay to make strange women feel uncomfortable, especially in public, for any reason. Would you think to yourself: “They really shouldn’t have done that! They don’t understand what it means to be a gadol!”? Or would you look at the public denunciation with relief, and think that they did the right thing? Be honest.

    If you believe that the Gedolim will have acted correctly whether or not they denounce, then all your explanations for a denunciation of lack thereof can be seen as nothing other than apologetics.

    Rabbi Kornreich:

    Books that are written in English by definition do not directly affect their community.

  14. That's like the gemara that says a get is always given voluntary. You might have to beeat the guy to a pulp to get him to voluntarily say it but he does voluntarily say it in the end!

    I guess the 614th mitzvah is: Thou shalt lie to the infid... kofers.

    Or is it a d'rabannan?

  15. The statements in Hamodia are all excellent examples of Orwellian "double-speak," which goes to show that even "pious" Orthodox Jews are capable of denying the truth when it suits their agenda. The reality they are trying to create is truly offensive.

  16. the Mayor of Bet Shemesh, Moshe Abutbol, stated in Ami magazine that the Orot school is "in the middle" of a charedi neighborhood.

    Hamodia interviewed Israel Eichler - if memory serves me well, and yes, he made the exact same claim. He went on to state that Orot was zoned to that location by the former mayor in order to stem the growth of the Haredi neighborhood.

    Putting these two quotes together, I speculate that we can understand the meaning. From the Haredi perspective, the location of the Orot school is indeed smack in the middle of the Haredi section if we consider the natural course of Haredi growth into RBS aleph. That is, RBS bet would spill over to aleph. The mizrachnikim were slated to pick up and move to Modiim or whatever. Indeed, the location of the Orot school would then be a serious fly in the ointment for the 'master plan', and thus we can understand the community's major frustration.

  17. > For example, the stores in the main shopping area have been intimidated into putting up signs demanding adherence to certain tzniyus standards, and into allowing mashgichim to deface the packaging of cosmetics that have pictures of women on them.

    How much would it cost to hire security guards to prevent things like this from happening? I’ve heard stories of people collecting money to pay store owners to move adult magazines to where yeshiva bochurim couldn’t see them. Is forcing people to allow the degradation of women by making them disappear from public spaces less of an issue? I’m very far from rich, but I’d be willing to contribute something to help people defend themselves from the extremists.

  18. I believe that Nachum Boehm's observations about that street theater display on motza'ei shabbat in Geulah is worthy of serious attention. I had thought that the event was sponsored by Neturei Kartaniks and fellow travellers, judging from the theatrics and signs. According to Nachum, however, there was official Edah participation in the event and support of the convicted Hareidi hoodlum. Such involvement by the Edah would be sufficient, to my mind, to provoke a boycott of their hashgacha and to disregard any pronouncement from their bet-din. The words of the Rambam concerning those who separate themselves from the general community and act in a manner which shows their complete disregard for what is or isn't acceptable should apply to them.

  19. It's amazing how we live in two worlds. The commenters on pinny lipshitz's article, on the web site there - which is on the internet that their rabbis said is assur - are all nodding their heads in agreement. Meanwhile, I found it so foolish I could not even finish it. The whole thing is filled with stories, the type of "argument" one reserves for children and the gullible.

    He then engages in the "give no quarter" rhetoric, ie, never apologize and never explain. That's sometimes a good strategy klappei chutz. But all the criticism, at leat the ones he should be concerned with, have come from other. religious. Jews. You can't just ignore them. Or you can, but for a community that lives on handouts, it's not wise.

  20. S - Very interesting, thank you. Could you recommend any books for the layman with balanced information on the Haskalah movement?

    We were taught in yeshiva that the haskalah movement and the maskilim were worse than the Nazis. And I'm sure ArtScroll would agree. I'm just wondering how I could find out what REALLY happened along the way - the good, the bad, and the ugly - without breaking my head or falling asleep from trying to read academic papers on the subject.

    Additionally, I heard that a non-negative article about Moses Mendelsohn written by Rabbi Avi Shafran was published by the Jewish Observer in one of the last few years of the magazine's life. I also heard that after that article, the Agudah made him retract anything positive he wrote and make excedingly clear how terrible Moses Mendelsohn was, in addition to the evil haskalah movement that they credited him with starting, etc. I am wondering if you know if this is true that such articles were published by the JO and written by Rabbi Avi Shafran. I've never been able to locate the magazine articles, but I'd really like to read them if you happen to know if they exist, and where I could find them. Thanks.

  21. The Jewish Observer article can be found here (rather poorly scanned)

  22. Michapeset

    Know ye, that Moses M. was a talmid chochem and shomrei Torah U’mitzvot, whose main goal was to bring jews and Judaism into the modern world and if he lived today would probably be classified as RWMO.

    To illustrate how the traditionalist Torah world has changed since his time allow me to recount an anecdote told to me by a close friend. He tells of a short interaction that he had many years ago involving himself and 2 kollel ‘bochurim’.

    I’m sitting in the back of a shul that I was visiting, next to two 'kollel bochurim' who seem to be discussing ‘hashkafah’. I’m not too interested because I know how narrow their ‘yeshivishe’ outlook is going to be. But somehow moses mendelssohn's name enters the conversation, so my ears perk up and i hear them disparaging and condemning this man. Normally I mind my own business, but I felt I had to say something. So I turn to the first individual and ask him what he knows about moses m. and he admits not much really, but he heard that he was put in ‘cheirem’ by, and he names some 18th century prominent Lithuanian torah scholar, (today, I don’t remember who) . so, to begin my response, I look at him and focus on his clothes and comment on the relatively nice suit and tie that he is wearing and ask him if he always dresses this way. He answers that on shabbos and yomtov and when he gives his ‘shiurim’. I say fine. Then I ask him if he has any ‘sifrei kodesh’ on his shelf at home with English translation. He replies, yes and names some, chumash, etc. next I ask if his son takes secular studies. Of course, he says. And then I ask if he plans on sending his young daughter to school. next, I ask if he drives a car, and does his wife work. yes, he says, at a local bank. Finally I asked him if ever votes in elections, and a few other questions, that I don’t recall anymore. The bottom line of my conversation was I simply said to him that it’s a good thing he won’t have occasion to run into this particular ‘godol’, because I’m sure that that scholar would’ve put him in ‘cheirem’ as well.

  23. "Michapeset said..."

    Abba Eden's history book called "My People" written in 1967/8 has a good overview of Jewish history, both the good and the bad, and seems fairly even handed to me.

  24. Michapeset asked about a article written by Rabbi Shafran. This may be the link he is looking for: ""
    Ain't Google grand?

    N Kabak

  25. In response to Michapeset:
    You might want to listen to this talk by Rav Aaron Rakaeffet:

    --danny kern

  26. A PRAYER: In living here in Israel more than thirty-two (לב) years, in times like these I return to a prayer of mine from a number of years ago. “My heart aches for the day when the Torah observant community will say, “Our Holy brothers, we so much want to learn Torah with you”, and the non-observant community will say, “Our Holy brothers, we so much want you to help us build Eretz Yisrael”. And simultaneously both will say, “We’ve been waiting so long for you ask us!”

    Daniel Eliezer

  27. see here

  28. I actually doubt that Hamodia or other Haredi news outlets or community reps (like Eichler et al) are outright lying when they deny violence or coercion on buses and the like. Haredim have a deep seated siege mentality (most Jews do to some extent, Haredim even more so).

    They feel - rightly so - that the secular media has it in for them, so they have become accustomed to simply ignoring any accusations or criticism, chalking everything up to Haredi-hatred. Most people tend to be apologists for their community; Haredim even more so due to their genuinely bad experience with the media.

    Now that very real and very serious problems are coming to light within the Haredi community, be it child abuse, religious coercion, sikrik violence, discrimination against Sfardim and Mizrachim, manipulation of well known rabbis by askanim with personal agendas, etc etc, the Haredi community needs voices from within that are willing to assess a given situation objectively rather than living in denial. Haredi internet sites (like behadrei haredim) are a step in the right direction since they are relatively independent, report stories that yated never would, and are far less likely to smear the dati leumi the way most Haredi outlets do.

  29. Y. Ahron:

    The source of my information is in the link provided in R. Slifkin's blog post.

    Although I posted the comment 24 hours ago, R. Menken still hasn't let my comment through.

  30. Michapeset "S - Very interesting, thank you. Could you recommend any books for the layman with balanced information on the Haskalah movement?"

    "The Jewish Englightenment" by Shmuel Feiner (trans. Chaya Naor) is probably as good as it gets. It may be a little plodding as an introduction, but anything more popular than that is going to be polemical, one way or the other. What I would recommend is a book like that, and the use of other sources regarding names which recur in the book. It's really the kind of thing where, as an introduction, it would probably be good to read it, read other things over a long period of time, and then go back and read that book again.

    You might want to read my post What's a maskil?, in which I discuss what I think are the definining characteristics of how to categorize someone as a maskil, or not. Mind you, I wrote it over two years ago and I didn't reread it - so I can't promise I haven't revised some of my thinking.

  31. S.,
    R. Elyashiv was a dayan for quite a few years in the state high beit din. The salary there, and surely also the pension is quite respectable. There is no reason he shouldn't have 1800 nis to give to charity.


  33. Books that are written in English by definition do not directly affect their community.

    News flash: There are a LOT of English speaking Chareidim who follow Israeli gedolim's directives in halacha and hashkafa.
    What they said about these books affected their community directly!

  34. Could perhaps change the blog title to:
    "Life in Beit Shemesh".

    This is the only blog I actually look forward to reading and for the past few weeks it has been boring! Where's rationalist judaism gone to?

  35. It's not at all boring to rage about what's happening in Beit Shemesh. This will prove to be a pivotal moment in modern history. Bloggers generally write what's on their mind. It's very difficult for a thinking and caring person not to write about this issue.

    עת לעשות לה הפרו תורתיך

  36. Rav Slifkin,

    Your posting brings up a very important issue.

    As you have said the problem lies not with the "spitters" and stone throwers but rather the mainstream that passively support them.

    The moderate and anglo Charedim of RBSA should realize that Rav Kornfeld et al are the problem not the solution.

    No less than his colleagues in Bet and the Kirya, Rav Kornfeld would like to see the DL fade away from RBSA.

    Those who learn in his kollel, send to his schools and support his organization, the Kupa Shel Tzedaka, should know that they are in fact enabling the kitzoni future of RBSA.

  37. jpost published an article about the latest kol korei and the Eida's support for Weissfish.

  38. S – Thank you for the book recommendation. I read your post and it was interesting, I think I need to learn more background before being able to fully appreciate post list.

    Elemir – Thank you for the interesting and illustrative story.

    Mir murex – That was the article I was looking for. Thank you. It was not scanned, it was photographed. It is a really bad reading copy, but this helps me with a month, year, and name of article. Thank you.

    Ameteur – Thank you for the book suggestion.

    N Kabak – Thank you for the link on the subject.

    Danny Kern – Thank you for the link. I will listen to it.

  39. Shmuel the IrrationalJanuary 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    As a chul'nik (in a major jewish ghetto)I gauged my inner reactions after I heard what was going on in Beit Shemesh or Ramat Beit Shemesh, (I haven't visited in many years, forgive me). In this respect, I can say thank God I have some American ideals. You couldn't get away with this mierda in the US (at least not yet, God Forbid)

    I was ashamed to say it, but I was relieved to not be there to witness these events personally because I might have lost my cool, totally. It's a horror story and it is absolutely a precursor to much, much worse. We all (ok maybe me only, know/think this). I don't know if the poster ("We love you! and pity you") is really duplicitous, but I would like to believe the face value.

    At first I wanted to break legs, etc. Then I realized that may be excessive (underline the word "may"). And you do have to be careful to get the right guy. So I am at the point where I think that people (and not the police) may want to rent a water cannon or carry small fire extinguishers to spray the spitters. Absurd? Just enough of a message. Maybe.

    The real fault lies with the victims this time. Let me repeat that for emphasis: The real fault lies with the victims this time. Don't feel sorry for yourselves. Take responsibility.

    If MO's and Hiloniyim have children, you/they should (as I think I would or hope I would, and B'H, I have a bundle) teach by example. Don't tolerate this BS. You can be frightened into doing nothing LeMa'an Ahdut/Ahdus. The only way to deter this imposition of a particular religious agenda (Sikrikim, Mehadrin Bus, et. al.) is to show that you mean business and are not afraid to engage and challenge. Your opponents will respect courage. At the same exact time, you do have to recognize that the guy on the other side is your Jewish brother/sister and respect must be given and earned. It means love, but don't take s--t from people, even your brothers. We do have one God, the One and Only. A tough balancing act.

    A sometimes irrational Jew who has killed a lot of time.

  40. I have heard that the buildings on Rechov Herzog where the Sicarii'm live were not originally zoned for Haredim at all, but rather for a French community that was slated to be built and which was to be a part of Sheinfeld and that therefore Orot was not to be on the border of Haredi RBS-B at all. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

  41. Michapeset, I recommend Rabbi Schwab's article on Mendelson in the Jewish Observer. He read Mendelson in the originl and quotes from it. Avi Shafran has no credibility.


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