Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Letter From A Charedi Jew Regarding The Bet Shemesh Elections


The following anonymous letter was delivered to my house on Friday. I decided to scan it and OCR it (you can download it as a PDF here). In the next post, I'll discuss the very revealing anonymous response that was delivered to my house today. For background on the Bet Shemesh elections, especially vis-a-vis the charedi community, see this post from a few weeks ago.

Don't Tell Anyone...

I wish I could tell you who I was. We likely have mutual friends, or may even know each other. But I can't reveal my identity. Why not? Because I am Charedi (wear a black hat, boys in cheder and girls in Bais Yaakov), live in RBS "A" and I'm voting for Eli Cohen.

The truth is that I've been able to 'read between the lines' that more than a few of my chaverim (including but not only those in kollel and chinuch) are thinking similarly — once you hear the facts, the case for Eli and against Abutbol is really, really strong. Still, to 'come out' publicly would cause too many problems for me and my family, so this letter is anonymous. I feel that I have an achryus to the tzibbur and so, in my small way, I am writing this letter in order to perhaps help others make a more informed decision. Whatever you decide is up to you, of course, but each of us should know the facts and not simply repeat what the mayor's people are saying.

Our family has been in RBS for many years. We spent a few years in Kollel in Yerushalayim and, when it was time to buy a dira, came to RBS. Prices were still relatively low and it was a young community of like-minded young frum families. In many respects, this was and is a great place to live. But in other ways, there are real problems here — and things are heading in a poor direction.
Let's start with basics: this town is disgusting. I know they've been cleaning it up over the last month... surprise, surprise — it is election time. But, over the last years, I feel like I'm living in an expensive slum. Seriously — my dira is worth close to 1. million shekels — as are many of yours — and yet there is garbage in the streets, garbage in the Mercaz, graffiti all over the place, etc. The municipality — if it was competent —CAN fix this. Beitar is not like this (and they have big families as well!). Har Nof is not like this. Even Geulah is not like this! Why are there only a few small trash receptacles in the entire Mercaz? Why only two on my street? Why is clean-up so random and ineffective? The previous mayor wasn't great — I voted against him, actually — but things have gotten much, much worse. My parents came to visit over bain hazmanim and couldn't stop talking about the (negative) change. Don't tell me there isn't money to clean up: (a) Abutbul has spent money on plenty of his pet projects; (b) he has put the city of Beit Shemesh into serious debt; (c) he just promised to build a 500,000 baseball field — yes, you heard right (He is a politician trying to buy votes, I suppose. Good luck.) My point is that there is money for things he cares about.
So I'm supposed to vote for Abutbol in order to protect Torah and Chinuch? I did that last time. Interesting that my daughter's Bais Yaakov is still in a caravan. Abutbol specifically promised to solve the problem. He has had FIVE YEARS and done NOTHING. In this and countless other areas, the incompetence of Abutbol is simply astounding. Call me a na├»ve chutznik, but I expect a mayor to actually improve the city. To do something. To help. He has made it worse and worse. Eli Cohen has been openly talking for years about the legitimate needs of Charedi kids to have proper schools and that all groups in the city will get along if their legitimate needs are met. I've done some serious checking: Eli is a straight, honest arrow. Above all, he is an able administrator. He is a veteran Likudnik. He openly quotes Torah and is a proud, traditional Jew. He is not anti-Charedi at all — quite the opposite.

Of course, I can't write this letter without mentioning the kanaim (the extremists). A small group of crazies —that is what they are — spit on a dati girl — and then spent months yelling "shiksa" at her and her friends as they walked to school every day. Terrible, to say the least. The Mayor had an opportunity — and I know for a fact it was suggested to him many, many times — to make a great Kiddush Hashem. He could have escorted her to school or asked for a group of volunteers to help. Instead, he rationalized, explained.., and did nothing. He didn't even condem it until forced to, way after the fact! His reaction — or lack thereof— was universally panned and make a chillul Hashem into a massive Chillul Hashem. Do you know that our city is now the 3'd most known city in Israel? People around the world have heard of Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv... and Beit Shemesh. It is not famous— it is infamous. What an embarrassment. Combined with his colossal incompetence, his international reputation for weakness against the extremists is causing serious problems for the city: No wonder businesses are staying away. Connected to this is the whole attitude of too many members of his 'inner clique.' They have turned this city into an 'us-vs.-them' battleground. Non-Charedim feel under attack. We all know the city is going more and more charedi. But it can happen with ahava and achva or it can happen with machlokes, lashon hara, motzee shem ra, and worse. Doesn't all this sinas chinam remind you a little too much of Beis Sheni?

"But the Gedolim say to vote for Charedim".... I know. That is what I've been struggling with. I'm a yeshiva man. Pictures of Gedolim take up much of my wall-space. I am fully aware of how important Daas Torah is. But it isn't so simple. In the last national elections, one of the main local RBS charedi rabbanim openly pointed out that a Ben Torah does not need to vote for the charedi parties. I couldn't bring myself to do it - I've always voted Gimmel — and will continue to do so in national elections. (How else can we stop the terrible gezeiros against the Torah world?) But this is a municipal election! This is about cleaning the streets, balancing the budget, and other such topics. Besides, the Gerrer Rebbe said to vote against the Charedi candidate in the last election for mayor of Yerushalyaim — he supported the (very) secular Nir Barkat! And, in our case, Eli Cohen is a very traditional, masorti Jew. This election has nothing to do with Yiddishkeit. In fact, Eli will be much better for our community.

Abutbol has proven himself completely incompetent at just about everything his job requires. He promises everything to everybody.., and accomplishes ZERO. Five more years of epic incompetence, machlokes, in-fighting, hatred and lack of planning? No thanks. Eli Cohen will clean the city. Eli Cohen will get the city's finances in order. In the long run, his victory will even help Shas and Gimmel by teaching them that they need to be competent, not just charedi! Eli's election will bring back business and investment to the city, leading to jobs, a broader tax base and better city services. His election will send a message of inclusiveness—that this city is not a model of hatred, but rather a model of achdus.

This city could have been — and can be —great. It can be a Torah city. It can be a clean city. It can be a city where the charedi community gets all the services it deserves — more than we get now! It can be a city where charedim, datiim, masortim, and even chilonim, get along and work things out. All this can and IY'H will happen — if we do the right thing and put Eli Cohen into office.

With warm regards

An anglo-Charedi resident of RBS "A"

12 comments:

  1. I believe this is a genuine letter but since it was written on a computer and by someone who obviously knows how to write English correctly it cannot be from a normal standard-issue chareidi kollel man who does not have a computer and cannot write English well. I hope Eli Cohen wins but it will not be a landslide victory even if he does.

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  2. Two thoughts:

    "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" (The Who)

    At least you still have elections. If RBS goes Chareidi you might wind up like Bene Beraq where "the Gedolim" choose the mayor and he runs unopposed.

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  3. I know that this letter is 100% authentic as the author gave it to me first.

    I know him well and can understand, based on his standing in his community, why he is afraid to reveal his name.

    He is an intelligent and articulate person who has achieved much in his Torah learning. He is also an accomplished Marbitz Torah, having taught many on different levels.

    What pains him is that there are so many others like him who know will be best for them and their children and yet, are paralyzed to publicly act.

    To all of them I say: "Al Tfachaed" Do not be afraid!

    I am confident that he, along with the many others who are thinking individuals, will enter the voting booth securely.

    They will know that no neighbor, principal or shadchan is with them in that booth. No arm twisting or threats against them.

    They will alone with HaShem, their tfilot and the ballots that will help determine a better future for their families and their city.

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  4. Wow! Anonymous Haredi man speaks common sense...hold the press!!! How Pathetic. Has the Haredi community regressed so much that a Haredi man cannot openly oppose a Haredi candidate for Mayor of his own city. What can possibly happen to him? That other Haredim might agree?! Or that people will discover that the man - Chas Vesholom - possesses common sense? What on earth is going on over in RBS A,B,C? When will G'd fearing Jews stop practising Haredism and move over to something a little more authentic?

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  5. Can someone fill me in on the demographics of RBS? E.g. what percentage of the population is Haredi, how many are native-born Israelis vs. those born abroad, how many are native English speakers, etc.

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  6. I cannot understand why an educated frum Jew would choose to isolate himself in the non-moderate chareidi world. I wonder if this gentleman is asking himself how he got where he is.

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  7. "I've always voted Gimmel — and will continue to do so in national elections. (How else can we stop the terrible gezeiros against the Torah world?) But this is a municipal election! This is about cleaning the streets, balancing the budget, and other such topics."
    And the "terrible" gezeiros against the torah world isnt a part of balancing the national budget?
    How is recinding government programs that are not a protected right, translated in to "terrible gezeiros" by chareidim and chareidi sympathizers?

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  8. tesyya, many of us are asking how the community got here. The goalposts are continually shifting, in 30 years in chutz leAretz we have gone from almost all boys achieving national levels in secular with the exception of a handful whose fathers were rabbonim to today where most don't finish and children focus on who dropped secular the earliest

    Makk, the penny will drop very shortly for most who are scratching our heads at how our Torah and Rabbis have become politicised. It's harder to visualise the situation at the national level, whereas city streets filled with rubbish is hard not to notice.

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  9. "I've always voted Gimmel — and will continue to do so in national elections. (How else can we stop the terrible gezeiros against the Torah world?) But this is a municipal election! This is about cleaning the streets, balancing the budget, and other such topics."

    And the "terrible" gezeiros against the torah world isnt a part of balancing the national budget?
    How is recinding government programs that are not a protected right, translated in to "terrible gezeiros" by chareidim and chareidi sympathizers?


    I agree with your fundamental point, and I don't know what the letter writer was thinking to himself, but...

    Do you think that the letter would be more effective if he wrote that? Effective politics requires compromise and careful language.

    The abolitionists were skeptical of Lincoln because he was careful with his language and spoke in a "moderate" fashion and pursued "moderate" policies on slavery supported by the electorate as a politician must. And the Emancipation Proclamation freed only the slaves not under Union control. But in the end, the goal was achieved.

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  10. "I cannot understand why an educated frum Jew would choose to isolate himself in the non-moderate chareidi world." --- Erm, maybe he weighed the pros and cons and decided the pros outweighed the cons? If you never make that weighing yourself, the "decision" is easy.

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  11. The letter of your anonymous writer makes the case for supporting mayoral candidate Eli Cohen over the haredi incumbent Abutbol. It is interesting to note that the writer reaches his conclusions by employing what one might call secular logic, which serves his current arguments but cannot seem to shake himself of the traditional haredi mindset.

    1. He sees the value of having businesses in BS, yet he and his chaverim will not engage in real work, the kind that draws a salary, generates tax revenue, and ultimately pays for the garbage collection he wishes.

    2. His secular side recognizes the "crazies" of RBS for what they are, and he decries the silence of the mayor. But his actions -- or, rather -- inactions are guided by haredi exigencies. Where were he, his friends, and his rabbanim during all this? All were operating under the haredi modus operandi of staying silent, lest it hurt one's social standing.

    3. Finally, his haredi side prevents him from recognizing that the "terrible geziros against the Torah world" are nothing more than giving the haredim their fair share.

    So, Mr. Anonymous, vote your conscience, but also realize that you and those of your ilk are no better than the mayor you are trying to replace.

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  12. "1. He sees the value of having businesses in BS, yet he and his chaverim will not engage in real work, the kind that draws a salary, generates tax revenue, and ultimately pays for the garbage collection he wishes."

    Or he sees the values of all of the above, yet after considering all factors believes that the best PERSONAL decision for himself for now is to remain in kollel.

    "2. His secular side recognizes the "crazies" of RBS for what they are, and he decries the silence of the mayor. But his actions -- or, rather -- inactions are guided by haredi exigencies. Where were he, his friends, and his rabbanim during all this? All were operating under the haredi modus operandi of staying silent, lest it hurt one's social standing."

    Or he is worried about much more than his social standing, as speaking out may cause him to lose his position in the community, his children will be forever taunted in school, and he and/or his family may be physically attacked by the crazies that he is afraid of. And from his point of view, maybe this letter is the only action available to him to try and help the situation.

    "3. Finally, his haredi side prevents him from recognizing that the "terrible geziros against the Torah world" are nothing more than giving the haredim their fair share."

    Questionable, but I have nothing intellegent to say on the matter so I'll leave it as that.


    "So, Mr. Anonymous, vote your conscience, but also realize that you and those of your ilk are no better than the mayor you are trying to replace."

    That would be a personal attack on both our subject and his ilk. Perhaps you should apologize.

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