Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guest Post: The Virtues of Confronting Contrary Opinions

Copyright 2014 by David Ohsie.  All rights reserved

In an otherwise reasonable post on Cross-Currents, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum makes the following astonishing statement:
In every chareidi history of American Jewry’s responses to the Holocaust, one event always merits special mention l’gnai (for criticism) – a mass protest called by secular Jewish organizations in the mid-1930s calling for a boycott of German products. Those histories cite credible reports that Hitler, ym”sh, was enraged by the protests and thereby strengthened in his determination to exterminate the Jewish people from the face of the earth. [Emphasis mine]
Rabbi Yaakov Menken writes similarly, in justifying rejection of comments protesting Rabbi Rosenblum's statement:
Is Rabbi Rosenblum really to be tasked with explaining, at a third-grade level, the difference between rallies and mock trials of Hitler in the early 1930s (which caused reprisals against Jews and Jewish businesses across Germany) and a march on Washington when the death camps were operating at their most brutal level? [Emphasis Mine]
The Reichstag Fire
It doesn't take a degree in history to understand that Nazis used a series of pretexts to justify their actions and defuse opposition to their monstrous policies. For example, on February 27th, 1933, the German Parliament building (the Reichstag) was burned in an act of arson. The Nazis falsely claimed that this was part of a Communist plot to overthrow the government and used this as a justification for the permanent suspension of civil liberties, giving themselves free reign to arrest their political opponents and take on absolute power.

Another infamous example was the German annexation of the so-called "Sudetenland" from Czechoslovakia, with the support of the other European powers in the Munich Agreement. Hitler justified this annexation as an expression of self-determination of the Sudeten ethnic German citizens of Czechoslovakia. However, it became clear from Hitler's subsequent march into Bohemia and Moravia that the the entire exercise was but a pretext for Germany's eastward expansion. In fact, Hitler had described his Lebensraum (living space) policy of eastern expansion and ethnic cleansing back in 1925 in Mein Kampf.  As a result, the notion that protesting Jews caused Hitler to be "strengthened in his determination to exterminate the Jewish people" is repeating the same fallacy that the European powers made in Munich.

Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini, and Ciano
pictured before signing the Munich Agreement
Courtesy of: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R69173 / CC-BY-SA
But it is more than that. Those who recognized the true nature and threat of Hitler and the Nazis tried hard to get the rest of the world to pay attention, while the Nazis used their best efforts to suppress these efforts, sometimes succeeding even in America. For example, the film "Hitler’s Reign of Terror," characterized as "The First American Anti-Nazi Film" was actually successfully suppressed:
George Canty, the Berlin-based trade commissioner for the U.S. Department of Commerce, got wind of protests against the film by the German Ambassador in Washington, and concluded that "the film serves no good purpose." Across the country, censors took Canty’s view, and the film was denied a license, banned, and cut by New York City and State censor boards. In Chicago, the film passed the censors but was stopped when the city’s Nazi consul insisted that the footage was fake.
Hitler in "Homes and Gardens"
The Nazis were so successful that as late as November 1938, the British Magazine "Homes and Gardens" published an article entitled "Hitler's Mountain Home" with such gems as the following:
[A]s his famous book Mein Kampf ("My struggle") became a best-seller of astonishing power (4,500,000 millions copies of it have been sold), Hitler began to think of replacing that humble shack by a house and garden of suitable scope. In this matter he has throughout been his own architect. 
To summarize: The Nazis had a deliberate strategy of defusing and suppressing anti-Nazi sentiment around the world. They successfully used this strategy to lead the Western powers on until 1938 when the invasion of Czechoslovakia brought the other European powers to their senses. As a result, those who tried to wake up the world were people with foresight who the Nazis themselves recognized as capable of obstructing their plans. Those, Jews and non-Jews alike, who had the clarity of mind and the opportunity to prod the powers that be into action deserve great credit for their actions. Had they been successful, France and England might have stopped Germany's remilitarization of the Rhineland, as Hitler himself admitted:
The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance. 
To blame those same people for causing Hitler to be "strengthened in his determination to exterminate the Jewish people" is to unwittingly reprise an anti-Semitic trope which blames the Jews for their own misfortune throughout the ages.

I want to emphasize that all of the above is not any kind of creative thesis on my part. I believe this to be a quite conventional view of history which you'll find repeated many times over (see, for example, William Shirer's "Berlin Diary"). I don't know whether or not Rabbi Rosenblum is correct in the contention that his view is conventional in Chareidi historical narratives, but it is certainly unconventional in the wider world and, unwittingly, uncomfortably close to anti-Semitic apologetics. 

I sat down to write this piece for two purposes:
  1. To clarify what I believe is the well-established and standard interpretation of history, in opposition to the claims of Rabbi Rosenblum and Rabbi Menken, and to praise those whom they condemn.
  2. To serve as an example and a warning as to what happens when we shut ourselves off from debate. 
We are all susceptible to biases.  Rabbis Rosenblum and Menken (and Chareidi historical narrative, if Rabbi Rosenblum is correct) appear to me to have accepted an unconventional view of history due to a confirmation bias: what is done by Orthodox Jews must be superior to what is done by other Jews. Furthermore, this bias is reinforced by an unwillingness to even entertain an alternative interpretation, as evidenced by the fact that no critical comments have been allowed on this topic in their blog. [UPDATE: After this post was written, a comment by "Y. Ben-David of Rehovot" was admitted to this post that included a strong objection to Rabbi Rosenblum's original post.  I think that this was a wise editorial decision.]  I will admit here that perhaps it is me that is biased and that their view is really easily supportable; after all, my comments on their posts were rejected and I may be biased by that experience.  What we can learn is not that "they" are wrong and "we" are right; that always appears to "us" to be the case, whoever "us" is. Rather, we have to learn to keep our minds appropriately open if we want to avoid being bound to our own preconceptions. This is the virtue of confronting contrary opinions.

My point here is not to demand that Cross-Currents ought to change their commenting policy, or even to criticize their commenting policy. I'm very happy that I've not had to try to make the editorial decisions needed to keep a blog comment section both open and appropriate. And I'm free to take my business elsewhere, as I've done here. However, I do believe that in this particular instance, editorial discretion reduced what could have been reasonable debate to an echo chamber, with less than desirable and, frankly, somewhat offensive results. And that everyday, we exercise a similar editorial policy for ourselves in what we read and discuss, and we can all profitably reconsider whether we are casting a wide enough net.


I'll conclude with an interesting quotation from a Haskama on L'shon Chaim, which is a commentary on the Gra's book on Hebrew grammar work Dikduk Eliyahu.  L'shon Chaim was apparently self published by R. Chaim Hilel Krzepicki of Lodz in 1939! The Haskama was written by Rav Yehudah Leib Eisenberg of Lask who is reported to have been one of the many Rabbis who refused offers of freedom in order to stay with their communities (see "To Flee Or To Stay?"). He writes that while "many great Rabbis distanced themselves from the study of Hebrew grammar for the 'known reason'" [presumably its association with Zionism], since in his time the language was being revived as a spoken language, that it was important to study the language using a work written by a religious man (Ish Charud B'Yiras Hashem). Perhaps, this is my own bias, but I'd like to think that Rav Eisenberg was here disregarding "conventional wisdom" and considering new perspectives when he wrote the Haskama. Having gained from the commentary, I can hope that I can be considered a Talmid of R. Krzepicki and that my learning is a Z'chus for him.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and may not represent those of the blog owner. Comments are welcomed and encouraged.

51 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this piece. I was truly shaken and upset by Rav Rosenblum's piece. He is a knowledgeable person and a good writer and I can not accept that he really believes the supposedly "credible evidence" that it was the anti-Nazi boycott of 1933 that pushed Hitler to "go all the way". For heaven's sake, Hitler wrote exactly what he thought about Jews in Mein Kamp 10 years before he came to power. The SA street thugs were beating up and killing people and harrassing Jews in the streets before he came to power.
    He had no trouble murdering cronies and close friends such as Rohm and other SA leaders in June 1934 in addition to former Chancellor and army General Kurt von Schleicher when it suited him. He gave the go-ahed to murder something like 50,000 physically and mentally handicapped GERMANS.
    At the end, in the bunker he had Eva Braun's brother-in-law from the SS taken out and shot, plus he pronounced a death sentence on old buddy Herman Goering. He also gave orders to destroy all of Germany so his own people would starve, since by losing the war they let him down and thus lost the right to exist.

    Thus, to say that he didn't really have a serious problem with Jews until this 1933 boycott
    is preposterous, and frankly, added to the other gross distortions of history we have seen posted here by those who agree with Rav Rosenblum's line, it makes me wonder if there is any grounds for dialogue with anyone who thinks along the lines of this Neturei Karta propaganda. It seems the split between us and those who follow that line is much deeper than I had believed all these years. I left a comment at Cross-currents stating this at Rav Rosenblum's last posting and I hope he read it and it gives him food for thought.
    In any event, we must continue to maintain our allegiance to TORAT EMET, the truth and nothing but the truth.

    Thank you again, Rav Ohsie.

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  2. David Ohsie,

    Thanks for this thoughtful article.

    Y. Ben-David,

    Exactly- the Nazis from day 1, in 1933, of taking charge pushed through raft and raft of anti-Jew legislation, well before Kristallnacht in 1938.

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  3. You can add to the list that even the invasion of Poland had an "excuse": The Nazis kidnapped some Poles, dressed them in Polish uniforms, drove them to the border, and had them run directly at the Germans (who conveniently had movie cameras running). They were shot from the front so as to give the Nazis an excuse for invading Poland.

    By the way, in Mein Kampf, Hitler blames his hatred on Jews on seeing what we would call a "charedi" in Vienna one day. I don't believe him for a second, but that's one source more than Rosenblum has.

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  4. i find it very disturbing that a group of writers who are the "left wing" (for want of a better phrase) of the chareidi world is so restrictive in who they will engage, in what ideas they will publish.

    their last post is about constructive dialogue. excellent idea. but how can people have such a dialogue with the secular world when they are unwilling to have a dialogue with the dati world?

    i realize that they are busy, that many responders may be trolling. OTOH, they simply won't allow certain ideas which challenge them, won't allow an idea as idea.

    very disappointing.

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  5. Rosenblum's apologetics have never been more dishonest or more despicable. How can he talk about "chareidi history", when the well known haredi position is that historiography is at worst bitul zman, and at best propaganda and hagiography? Rav Schwab's shocking essay propounding disdain for mere factual truth when it conflicts with the need to tell inspirational tales is well known, and plainly expresses the spirit of what passes for "chareidi history." Rosenblum's assault on the memory of the courageous activists who, like Mordechai & Esther, refused to be silent in the face of catastrophe, is especially galling in light of the tragic miscalculation of the haredi leaders who urged their followers to remain in Europe to weather the storm. Your response to this obscenity is, if anything, too gentle.
    BZ Niderberg, Hashmonaim

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  6. Excellent piece.
    First, one must remember the position Rav Rosenblum is in. On one hand one gets the impression he knows about "the rest of the world" and the impression it has of his community and, more importantly, the impression his community is giving the rest of the world.
    On the other hand, if he wishes to continue in his current job he has to do what he's paid to do, tow the Chareidi line, historical revisionism and all.
    Every so often he lets a little loose. Recently a video of him bringing refreshing perspective to the ongoing Chareidi community crisis in Israel was circulating on the internet until it was suddenly yanked down. In the past he's written stuff that's "outside the pale" and then follows it up with pieces that are within his community's guidelines to restore his "street cred". Perhaps this article was such an example. I'd hate to think he really believes what he wrote.

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  7. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
    Edmund Burke
    And David Kavanagh, you are correct. Kristalnacht was the end of the beginning not the beginning of the end.

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  8. What stood out for me in his words was the phrase "In every chareidi history of American Jewry..."

    Chareidi society as we know it is barely a few decades old. To refer to those figures who were against the German boycott as part of "chareidi history" is just one more example of them trying to rewrite history.

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  9. simply Rosenblum simple believe if the so called dass torah did not protest and teh secular did, the secular must have been wrong and dass torah correct.

    Then he will connect the dots that fits that believe.

    one must understand where he is coming from.

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  10. Would R' Rosenblum similarly condemn Herschel Grynspan, who, by assassinating the German consul in Paris, presumably "caused" Kristallnacht?

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  11. Your argument is solid and well-reasoned, but I find it hard to fathom that this discussion is even taking place. Has it been long enough that we can begin to second-guess what the correct response might have been when dealing with Hitler? Do we have reason to believe that anything we might have done would have changed anything in either direction?

    And what if it did make Hitler angry, what then?

    Are we worried that Pharaoh was angered by Moshe Rabbeinu killing the Egyptian in protest and therefore murdered more Jewish babies?

    Or perhaps we realize that persecution on that scale comes from the Ribbono shel Olam, and look for Geulah?

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  12. Avi, I think he means charedi "histories" written after the fact.

    Joe Q.: Probably. And he'd blame Sharon for starting the intifada...

    Kira: Actually, the Jews of his time *did* blame Moshe for making things worse (see the end of Parshat Shemot). Moshe was right, of course.

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  13. UPDATE: I updated my post because Y. Ben-David's comment critical of Rabbi Rosenblum's statement was accepted on a different post at Cross-Currents. I think that this was a wise editorial decision.

    @Y. Ben-David: I felt the same way that you did, which is why I posted. I really appreciate Rabbi Slifkin allowing me access to his platform to do so, otherwise I would have been quite frustrated. Your examples are also very good.

    I'm not a Rabbi and I'm not into titles, so "David" is fine.

    @David Kavanaugh: Thank you and your point is also very good.

    @Nachum: Excellent point. I did think of putting in your example, but the piece was already too long and I wanted examples of external "pretexts" rather than a one invented from whole-cloth.

    @Ben Waxman: It was very disappointing, but everyone has their blind spots, so I'm loathe to generalize. There is always going to be some randomness in comment moderation. I was more bothered by the fact that their idea could gain any currency and then Rav Menken claimed that opposing views were obviously so ridiculous that a "3rd grade lesson" could could defeat them.

    To be honest, what is most scary is if Rabbi Rosenblum was right and that this really is the Charedi view. If so, I'm glad he published this piece. However, I'll assume for now that he was wrong and not be "Mekabel" this.

    @BZ Niderberg: Good point about Mordecai. By Rabbi Rosenblum's reasoning, he should have bowed to Haman. That said, I don't want to personalize the dispute.

    @MGI: Thank you.



    ReplyDelete
  14. Moshe Dick writes:
    Most posters have already skewered Jonathan Rosembloom's piece sufficiently so I will refrain from adding much on this subject. Additionally,like many others, my critical comments in cross-currents have been refused time and time again, and, therefore, my thanks go-like other's- to Rabbi Slifkin for having a website where comments from both sides can be entered and read. Yasher Koach!
    My own point is that all of these incidents (Rosenbloom's articles, Rabbi Menken's disdain and many others) point to an obvious truth: chareidi Jewry is living today in a cocoon and does not want to accept anything that does not chime with their own 'weltanschaung". It is a reprise of what happened in the early twentieth century, when chareidi jewry opposed Zionism -even in its religious form- and when,as amply documented, did not recognize the Nazi danger. Real tragedy followed and I think that the chareidi world follows the same path today, at its great risk. The Israeli government and the great majority of the Israelis (chareidim still are only, at best, 10% of the population)will not continue on the same path anymore by supporting chareidi life as it is now. And, nothwithstanding chareidi bravura, things will change and will never be the same.
    Additionally, there is a constant defection by thousands of youngsters from the chareidi life ,both in the United States and in Israel. This, by the way, may be the biggest fear by chareidi leaders and why they have been so vehement about the draft- to keep their control over the masses.
    Like King Canute, th chareidi leaders are trying to stop the natural tides....

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  15. My goodness! What a mountain out of a molehill!
    Rosenblum is brave and decent writer who is often critical of the conventional Chareidi position. Most of what he writes is excellent. He has made mistakes but so do we all (as David Ohsie points out). For those who didn't read his entire article on Cross-Currents, I would like to quote its last three paragraphs (my emphasis added). Those are bold words that were intended as a crititque of Chareidim.

    "In addition, if we permit ourselves to spew forth venom and hatred, however understandable our imprecations may be, we not only reinforce the reciprocal hatred of our enemies, but also create sympathy for them, and thereby strengthen their hand.

    Here another page from Jewish history is relevant. At a gathering to protest the statement of a certain rabbi who had spoken in a denigrating fashion of the saintly Chofetz Chaim, one of the speakers used the term, yemach shmo against the rabbi who had insulted the Chofetz Chaim. As soon as he did so, he turned the subject of the protest into a nirdaf (the one pursued), and entirely took the momentum out of the rallies called to protest the insult to the honor of the Chofetz Chaim.

    The ultimate support for the atzeres tefillah, however, comes from Megillas Esther. Mordechai called upon the Jews of Shushan to fast and pray for Esther – to direct their words Heavenward – not to waste words on expressing their contempt for Haman."

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  16. George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

    This isn't just about not remembering, it is about deliberate falsification of the documented record of the people who killed more Jews than anyone before or sense. George Orwell would be proud. "Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia."

    I cry as I write this.

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  17. Tom: So, in other words, it's simply a matter of tactics. Otherwise, it's all well and good to think of one's well-meaning (and possible even correct) opponents as Haman, "yemach shmo," etc. Lovely.

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  18. Joe Q.: Another great example.

    Tom Voletz said...
    My goodness! What a mountain out of a molehill!


    People are very sensitive about this topic, as you can imagine. Y. Ben-David wrote that he "was truly shaken and upset by Rav Rosenblum's piece". That is not hyperbole. I personally felt the need to make some kind of protest. Is this post adding to the sum total of world knowledge or addressing people's critical needs? Probably not, but that was not its purpose.

    That said, thank you for sharing your opinion. As the post says, I want to hear those that disagree with me.

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  19. Tom Voletz-
    Can't you see what is right in front of your eyes? Here is the quote YOU brought from Rav Rosenblum:
    --------------------------------

    In addition, if we permit ourselves to spew forth venom and hatred, however understandable our imprecations may be, we not only reinforce the reciprocal hatred of our enemies, but also create sympathy for them, and thereby strengthen their hand.
    --------------------------------


    Didn't you notice the word "ENEMIES"? What "enemies"? Who is an enemy of the Haredim today? Is thinking that requesting some Haredim who are not studying Torah full-time should do military or national service make one an ENEMY?
    Who at this site is an ENEMY of the Haredim? Why such incendiary language coming out of someone who should know better?
    Doesn't this bother you? It bothers me? Are we talking about the same Torah anymore? Are we still part of the same people? What is going on here? Why have the OFFICIAL spokesmen of the Haredi community, both in Israel and the US adopted Neturei Karta propaganda slogans?

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  20. Charlie Hall writes:
    'George Orwell would be proud. "Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia." I cry as I write this. '

    Orwell's condemnation was of government, history's greatest re-writer of history. It is ironic that in a thread of posts touching on coercive drafting and the murder of millions of innocents by governments, the only anti-government sentiment summoned to the forum is in condemnation of writers belonging to that other great social institution, religion.

    In a conversation with an anarchist friend I asked for an explanation of Jewish big-government-voting tendencies in light of the persecution the Jews have faced at the hands of the taxpayer-funded. His response was that Jews have always run from governments to seek refuge in the hands of yet other governments. In this way their tormentor becomes their savior, until the present day when the two identities fuse as one and the people they salute as heroes, donate money to, send holiday baskets to and idolize in school assemblies are the same ones beating their women (Amona) and taking their land (Gush Katif).
    It is high time for a different paradigm, road-paving be damned. (By the way, for those concerned, the Chileans seem to be doing just fine with private highways: http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2002/10/v25n3-6.pdf)
    Charlie Hall, what do you think?

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  21. You should know betterMarch 26, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    Although I'm not sure I agree with your views, a refreshingly well written post, respectful and without personal agenda. Nice.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The point of Rabbi Rosenblum's article was that we (Torah Jews) shouldn't be openly contemptuous of our enemies (The Israeli Govt).

    In order to make his point, he cites other examples of us dealing with our enemies - specifically Hitler and Haman.

    He's saying that the Govt of Israel is our enemy like Hitler and Haman were.

    That's the key message I take from his post. And It's pretty startling.

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  23. @David Friedman:

    Jews have an even longer history of anarchy:

    "Ein lanu chelek be'David! Ish le'Ohalav Israel!"

    King David thought that Sheva ben Bichri was an even bigger threat than Avshalom had been.

    BTW, this week is Shabbat HaChodesh - Rosh Chodesh Nissan is Rosh Hashana for kings. The Haftarah describes a "Nassi" that has limited and defined powers as a representative of the people.

    So no, anarchy and extreme libertarianism, while deep in our blood and our psyche, is not the ultimate solution.

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  24. To David Ohsie and Y. Ben-David,
    Your points are well taken.
    What I'm saying is that Rosenblum for all his faults, is doing his best to hold up a mirror to Chareidi society.
    He is a Chareidi spokesman, which severely circumscribes what he is allowed to say. But within those limits, he is decent and honest (albeit fallible, like everyone else). Just compare his oeuvre to that of Kobre, Menken, Shafran and their ilk. They deserve our opprobium but Rosenblum deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    [Side point:
    Rabbi Slifkin: I wish you would collect all your criticisms of Rabbi Meiselman's book and publish them as a single, coherent work, either in digital or printed form. Any chance of that?]

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  25. David Ohsie,

    You're welcome.

    David Friedman

    Whilst Charlie Hall gets back to you , here is my take on your post :

    “Orwell's condemnation was of government, history's greatest re-writer of history”

    Except that Orwell was centre -left in his view and a socialist, writing for the ‘house journal’ of the British labour party for many years. I think you’ll find in his works a critique of both fascism and Stalinist communism. That doesn’t meant to say he condemned government per se or as something bad in its own right, rather his polemic/literature was on the nature of particular governments & their political systems. To wit, almost every political or philosophical spectrum [except for anarchists], Jewish or non -Jewish, does not deny that a government should exist, but rather on the nature, limits and powers of government. As for the rest ‘Jewish big government voting tendencies’ and Chilean private highways, hardly germane to this discussion.‘On Yer Bike’ as we say...

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  26. "coercive drafting and the murder of millions of innocents by governments"

    Had it not been for the coercive drafting in the US, UK, and Canada during World War II, there would have been a lot more innocents murdered. Besides, conscription is permitted al pi halachah. (Rambam Hilchot Melachim u'Milchamot chapter 4.) To compare the US, UK, and Canada with the truly evil murderous regimes of Germany, the USSR, and Japan defames the memory of their victims.

    " in condemnation of writers belonging to that other great social institution, religion"

    *I* happen to be a religious Jew who takes the Torah and Rabbinic mandates to create governmental institutions seriously.

    "anarchist friend I asked for an explanation of Jewish big-government-voting tendencies"

    If he were religious he would have identified the Torah and Rabbinic mandates for things like public works, education, and care for the poor (not to mention military defense). And governments are supposed to levy taxes for those purposes. But if he were religious he would realize that anarchism is anathema to Rabbinic Judaism.

    "taking their land "

    A proper function of government is to take land when it is in the public interest. Beit din can take your property without compensation. So can a Melech. Federal, state, and local governments in the US have to pay you because of the US Constitution.

    "private highways"

    I challenge you to find a single private highway that has ever been built anywhere in the world without the benefit of the government's ability to take and own land.

    "the persecution the Jews have faced at the hands of the taxpayer-funded"

    There are places in the world without taxes. How well are Jews doing in Somalia?

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  27. Nachum, I was going to post something about one of Germany's "excuses", but you beat me to it. You wrote that it was kidnapped Poles wearing Polish uniforms who "invaded" Germany. I heard it was Germans themselves. You may be right; I don't know. But I also read about who supplied those uniforms. None other than Oskar Schindler.

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  28. Phil: Wow. Yes, I recall that they were political prisoners dressed in Polish uniforms. They may have been German, or maybe ethnic Poles. Obviously, the details didn't matter too much, or someone could have asked, "How convenient the whole thing was caught on film!"

    David Friedman, come on. I'm mostly libertarian myself. But governments are not states. Too many people, left and right, confuse support of Israel with support of its government, which is ridiculous.

    Examples: "If you support a country, you are obligated to support its government." Nonsense, of course.

    "If you support a country, that means you support all the negative aspects of its governments." Also nonsense, but a popular (and false) excuse for charedim not to support Israel.

    What I'm saying is, it would be nice if charedim could be a bit patriotic.

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  29. This is not a constructive comment, but it simply needs to be said:

    Someone would have to be extremely delusional (or agenda-driven) to believe (or promote the idea that) the boycotting efforts of 1933 played a role in what Hitler y"s ultimately decided to do to the Jews.

    David, you give them way too much credit in your article, talking about multiple views this, and different perspectives that. Theirs is a "perspective" like "Jews did 9/11" is a "perspective" - Pure bunk with no factual evidence to back it up. They harm people by misleading them. It's not a "different view." It's WRONG.

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  30. Student V said...
    This is not a constructive comment, but it simply needs to be said:

    Someone would have to be extremely delusional (or agenda-driven) to believe (or promote the idea that) the boycotting efforts of 1933 played a role in what Hitler y"s ultimately decided to do to the Jews.

    David, you give them way too much credit in your article, talking about multiple views this, and different perspectives that. Theirs is a "perspective" like "Jews did 9/11" is a "perspective" - Pure bunk with no factual evidence to back it up. They harm people by misleading them. It's not a "different view." It's WRONG


    It is wrong, but it isn't "delusional". Believing you are Jesus is delusional. Otherwise normally functioning non-delusional people apparently believe that these protests were objectionable. I think that "agenda-driven" is a more reasonable explanation, which is pretty much the same as what I referred to as "confirmation bias".

    The main thing to realize is that you (and everyone) are susceptible to the same biases, despite not being delusional.

    My point in mentioning that my PoV is conventional was not to indicated there were other likely or possible theories, but that I was in fact representing a view of history that is as sure as any view of history can be, and not advancing a creative thesis of my own.

    Thank you for your comment.

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    Replies
    1. They believe, against all clear and obvious evidence to the contrary that the boycott efforts caused Hitler y"s to hate Jews and suddenly want to murder them. That is a delusional belief, if one truly believes it, because it ignores all the evidence to the contrary. If they are not aware of the facts, then its ignorance instead. If one simply promotes this idea to suit the haredi agenda, but does not truly believe it, then that is agenda-driven and not delusional at all.
      Yes, we all have biases because we are all human. So what? Facts are true and lies are false.
      They spread a calumny against non haredi Jews (along with any haredim who participated or supported the boycott efforts - afterall, history indicates that not every Jew does what rebbe so-and-so says, no matter how loyal they are to a given faction).

      Delete
  31. "taking their land "

    A proper function of government is to take land when it is in the public interest. Beit din can take your property without compensation. So can a Melech. Federal, state, and local governments in the US have to pay you because of the US Constitution.


    I'd like to think, though, that if a central halachic authority was re-established, that takings by government would be compensated under normal circumstances, just as I hope that invading other countries to take their citizens as slaves would no longer be considered acceptable policy. That something is allowable doesn't make it advisable.

    I do agree with your opposition to anarchy.

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  32. Charlie, let me take on your points.
    "Had it not been for the coercive drafting in the US, UK, and Canada during World War II, there would have been a lot more innocents murdered."
    This is a consequentialist argument and in this vein, had it not been for the prior existence of government (master) and its tax cattle (slave) WWI, WWII, etc. could never have been funded (no printers to print money! No Fed to "finance!" No Congress to "borrow!") I suspect, though, that this is one consequentalist argument you would reject. After all, who would pave the roads?

    "*I* happen to be a religious Jew who takes the Torah and Rabbinic mandates to create governmental institutions seriously."
    But only as seriously as the most lenient rationalist reinterpretation of those mandates would allow. So, for example, the Pirkei Avot "swallowers of man alive" would today actually refer to government itself. The Germans in particular had a terrible manner of swallowing our ancestors alive. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumbula_massacre
    The Shoftim V'Shotrim mandate can be understood as referring to a voluntary arbitration system where all of the Torah's monetary penalties are implemented only on the penalty of social and economic ostracization. Actually, given that nowhere does the Chumash mandate that a "tax" must be forced at gunpoint from the people, I don't think there is any other valid interpretation. Have you ever considered that the Five Books were independent of the later Taxes imposed by the Kings and apparently would have to be implemented without a "tax" backed by the use of force?

    "If he were religious he would have identified the Torah and Rabbinic mandates for things like public works, education, and care for the poor (not to mention military defense). And governments are supposed to levy taxes for those purposes." Logical gap. Those institutions may be mandated (on what penalty? Imprisonment if I don't donate to your homeless shelter?) but that doesn't justify the existence of a government. Do you realize that social services existed before government began to "provide" them (much more inefficiently and, as always, with a gun to the heads of the tax sheep?)
    "A proper function of government is to take land when it is in the public interest. Federal, state, and local governments in the US have to pay you because of the US Constitution."
    I like that you admit your rights to property, and freedom from physical aggression, come, in your view, from a piece of paper. Now we are getting somewhere.
    "There are places in the world without taxes. How well are Jews doing in Somalia?"
    The Somalians are doing excellent; glad you mention! Since the fall of the government in 1989, Somalians have experienced a life expectancy jump of FOUR YEARS, a 3% lower mortality rate, a nearly 300% increase in GDP per capita, 8% lower infant mortality rate, and a stunning adult literacy jump from 24% to 38%. http://www.libertariannews.org/2011/06/30/anarchy-in-somalia/

    David Kavanagh: Government certainly is germane to the issue of genocide, as it's been genocide's only sponsor. The term "genocide" is linguistic tomfoolery that pointlessly characterizes the act of mass murder according to victim type (race) when the more purposeful word to use would pinpoint the PERPETRATOR of mass murder and is called "democide" (murder by government). As for the "on yer bike" remark, as long as Rabbi Slifkin allows my posts, I will continue arguing against mass murder and its perpetrators. On a blog devoted to rationalist Judaism, this may just be tangentially relevant.

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  33. Thank you, Mr Ohsie! A truly superb thesis in so many ways.

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  34. David, you give them way too much credit in your article, talking about multiple views this, and different perspectives that.

    Student V, upon rereading my own prose, I agree that I may have gone a bit wobbly in one sentence:

    I will admit here that perhaps it is me that is biased and that their view is really easily supportable.

    My intention was that assuming that it's the "other guy" that is biased while "I" am pure in intention is itself a bias.

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  35. David Friedman, March 27, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    “David Kavanagh: Government certainly is germane to the issue of genocide, as it's been genocide's only sponsor. The term "genocide" is linguistic tomfoolery that pointlessly characterizes the act of mass murder according to victim type (race) when the more purposeful word to use would pinpoint the PERPETRATOR of mass murder and is called "democide" (murder by government).”

    If you actually look at my comment re the bits I found non germane, I was referring to you links in respect of private motorways in Chile & ‘Jewish big government voting tendencies’, which have nothing to do with government actioned genocide. In fact I’d say your reply is a non sequitur and straw man rolled into one.

    “As for the "on yer bike" remark, as long as Rabbi Slifkin allows my posts, I will continue arguing against mass murder and its perpetrators. On a blog devoted to rationalist Judaism, this may just be tangentially relevant.””

    I think you’ll find that was a rhetorical finish to my post. Would I want to muzzle you on this blog? Certainly not! If you wish to advocate anarchism go right ahead, I’m happy to challenge that.

    “The Somalians are doing excellent; glad you mention! Since the fall of the government in 1989, Somalians have experienced a life expectancy jump of FOUR YEARS, a 3% lower mortality rate, a nearly 300% increase in GDP per capita, 8% lower infant mortality rate, and a stunning adult literacy jump from 24% to 38%.”

    Somalia actually does have a government nowadays, although you could say it is hardly a successful one, being prone to Islamic revolution, propped up as it is by international (government) aid.. As for your stats, anything in Somalia would look like an improvement from when it was controlled by bandits and warlords, but even so you haven't given us the actual numbers, which would be from a very low base (reaching zero) and that comment of yours reminds me of soviet Apparatchik during the cold war: ‘we’ve increase tractor production by 300%!!’ (From 0 tractors to 3) etc.

    Somalia is one of the poorest societies on earth, with a life expectancy of 48, with only 29% of the population with access to safe water. Pace Israel: life expectancy 80.6 (USA 78, UK 79.3); access to safe water in all 3 countries 100%. Of course the key test of whether Somalia is a better place to live than the US/UK/Israel/Canada/any other OECD state you care to mention, is for you to go and live there and prosper without the big bad government interfering in your life. How long do you think you’ll last?

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  36. This whole "incident" was a terrible mistake of udgment.

    Mistake of JR to repeat such a shocking calumny. As other have noted, that's exactly the type of attitude the Israelites had in Egypt; that by standing up for them, Moshe made it worse. Exactly the type of "golus" mentality that Moshe came to redeem us from. If this is indeed found in charedi history textbooks, as JR says, ......

    Mistake of CC to attempt a feeble distinction between those protests and the orthodox rabbis protest. There is no distinction. Even in Roman times the Jews demonstrated against the Romans.

    Mistake of CC to boostrap this into justifying more censorship of comments.
    Mistake to cite S. R. Hirsch in support of criticizing anonymous writing, when Hirsch himself wrote anonymously before he was established.
    [And I saw a commenter there, who once ran the most popular website in the orthodox world, write favorably of censoring comments. How interesting, that commenter's site became a shell of itself after it changed its comments policy, and is no longer the chief destination for intra-orthodox debate.]

    Anyway. Probably best to chalk it up to shgaga she-yotzah on both fronts, and pretend it never happened. Unless the canard is actually in textbooks somewhere, in which case someone has to fix it.

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  37. This reminds me of Rav Hutner's claim that the Holocaust happened because of Zionism as a historical (and not just hashkafic Satmar) fact. Zionism angered Mufti. Mufti befriended Hitler. Mufti told Hitler to kill all Jews. See the three links at the top of http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2013/04/rav-hutner-holocaust-j-observer-1977.html for the original Rav Hutner piece, and R Lawrence Kaplan's (translator of Halachic Man) two scathing responses.

    This post about differing views also reminds me of the story in the super popular English language bio of the Satmar Rav, wherein he says he refused to meet with Rav Kook during his 1929 Palestine visit, as he was afraid he would not convince Rav Kook the error of his ways, but rather Rav Kook would convince him! (The Satmar Rebbe then proceeded to write a very charif and disrespectful piece about Rav Kook on his wasy back to Europe. See http://rygb.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-i-cannot-respect-satmer-rebbe-zl.html )

    Finally, it also reminded me of the Brisk famiyl story that the Gra ran away from Vilna when the Baal HaTanya came by to convince him he was not a kofer. Similar to the Satmar story, the Gra was afraid of being convinced, I believe is how I heard the story of why he ran and refused to meet the the Baal HaTanya

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  38. Yaakov E. said, "the Gra was afraid of being convinced, I believe is how I heard the story of why he ran and refused to meet the the Baal HaTanya".

    If I recall correctly, I read that Rav J.B. Soloveitchik zt"l said that there were people ("askanim", if you will) who were opposed to the Gra meeting the Ba'al HaTanya. They spoke to the Gra's mother, and convinced her of their position. The Gra, out of honor for his mother, had to refuse meeting the Ba'al HaTanya.

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  39. Interesting version, Yehudah P., though it is not the one I heard from talmidei Ha-Rav. http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2008/07/gras-meeting-with-baal-hatanya.html rejects that version as well, fleshing out the version I heard, where it sounds very similar to the Satmar refusing to meet Rav Kook story in the Meisels' bio.

    Also, I wonder if any biographical material would note when the Gra's mother died. The attempted meeting was apparently in 1774, when the Gra was 54, and his mother would have been a generation older. http://www.shulman-writer.com/the-vilna-gaon.html , for what it is worth, suggests the Gra's father, at least, died when the Gra still had young children, though no indication about the Gra's mother.

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  40. Oh come on. The idea that the Gra wouldn't meet the baal ha tanya because he was afraid of being convinced is just chassidic propaganda, no?

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  41. Yehuda P.:

    Off topic, but why do Chasidim feel the need to either justify or minimize the Gra's opposition?

    Suppose the Gra thought that Gebrochts was a form of heresy. The fact is that it is accepted today as non-heresy among almost everyone. If he felt that it was, then the Gra's position is considered incorrect.

    Say the Gra refused to meet the Baal HaTanya because he was completely opposed to him and though he was distorting Judaism. Who cares? The Chasidim have won the battle of their own legitimacy.

    I ask this as someone who doesn't understand or "believe in" Chassidus and doesn't knowingly perform any Chassidic customs.

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  42. Yehuda P.:

    Off topic, but why do Chasidim feel the need to either justify or minimize the Gra's opposition?

    Suppose the Gra thought that Gebrochts was a form of heresy. The fact is that it is accepted today as non-heresy among almost everyone. If he felt that it was, then the Gra's position is considered incorrect.

    Say the Gra refused to meet the Baal HaTanya because he was completely opposed to him and though he was distorting Judaism. Who cares? The Chasidim have won the battle of their own legitimacy.

    I ask this as someone who doesn't understand or "believe in" Chassidus and doesn't knowingly perform any Chassidic customs.

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  43. David Ohsie wrote, "Off topic, but why do Chasidim feel the need to either justify or minimize the Gra's opposition?"

    Excellent question--I once heard that the Gra was given the title "Gaon" because he had no problem differing with Rishonim. So it seems improbable that he would be afraid of meeting the Ba'al HaTanya (who was around 20 years younger than the Gra) and Rav Menachem Mendel of Horodok.

    Also, if the Gra's opposition to Chassidus was just some sort of misunderstanding (around the same lines as people showing Rav Eliyashiv or Rav Ovadiah isolated, out-of-context quotes from Rabbi Slifkin's books), it rings very different than the possibility that there is a deep theological problem with chassidic thought, that people just came to overlook over time.

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  44. Litvish- You can not say it is hasidish propaganda, as the source of the story is Hardcore Litvaks (The Brisk YU Soloveitchiks).

    Similarly, you would assume the Satmar Rav being scared of meeting Rav Kook is Zionist propaganda, yet the source is the popular, extremely right wing, Hagiographic Satmar biography of the Satmar Rav by Rabbi Meisels!!

    Yehudah P.- There is a difference between differing with Rishonim and meeting with people who you think are heretical Kofrim, even if they are younger than you. It is reasonable to believe rabbonim might have not wanted to meet with Baruch Spinoza for his heresy, yet still put him in herem. It is also reasonable to believe people could put Rabbi Slifkin in Cherem and yet not be interested in meeting with that heretic.

    I am sure the Brisker Rav did not fear disagreeing with his contemporaries, but he refused to meet with Ben Gurion, holding him to be a heretic.

    Also, I could imagine a theoretical hypothethical scenario where the Lubavticher Rebbe would be interested in explaining his view to Rav Shach, and Rav Shach not having interest in meeting with him.

    As to actual details of the Gra’s opposition to Hasidut, http://www.amazon.com/The-Hasidic-Movement-Gaon-Vilna/dp/1568211252 is an English language book length study.

    Finally, and ironically, getting back to Rav Hutner’s claim about the Zionists angering the Mufti causing the Holocaust, last week, Brooklyn based, right wing Haredi magazine Ami (a break-away of Mishpacha) had a similar cover story, regarding a new academic work which bolsters Rav Hutner’s theory, claiming the Mufti himself engineered the final solution! See http://www.amazon.com/Nazis-Islamists-Making-Modern-Middle/dp/0300140908/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top Though note the reviews of the book. One negative reviewer suggests the same conspiracy theory shoddy academic work as R Lawrence Kaplan did about Rav Hutner’s thesis.

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  45. Litvish- You can not say it is hasidish propaganda, as the source of the story is Hardcore Litvaks (The Brisk YU Soloveitchiks).

    Similarly, you would assume the Satmar Rav being scared of meeting Rav Kook is Zionist propaganda, yet the source is the popular, extremely right wing, Hagiographic Satmar biography of the Satmar Rav by Rabbi Meisels!!

    Yehudah P.- There is a difference between differing with Rishonim and meeting with people who you think are heretical Kofrim, even if they are younger than you. It is reasonable to believe rabbonim might have not wanted to meet with Baruch Spinoza for his heresy, yet still put him in herem. It is also reasonable to believe people could put Rabbi Slifkin in Cherem and yet not be interested in meeting with that heretic.

    I am sure the Brisker Rav did not fear disagreeing with his contemporaries, but he refused to meet with Ben Gurion, holding him to be a heretic.

    Also, I could imagine a theoretical hypothethical scenario where the Lubavticher Rebbe would be interested in explaining his view to Rav Shach, and Rav Shach not having interest in meeting with him.

    As to actual details of the Gra’s opposition to Hasidut, http://www.amazon.com/The-Hasidic-Movement-Gaon-Vilna/dp/1568211252 is an English language book length study.

    Finally, and ironically, getting back to Rav Hutner’s claim about the Zionists angering the Mufti causing the Holocaust, last week Brooklyn based, right wing Haredi magazine Ami (a breakoff of Mishpacha) had a similar cover story, regarding a new academic work which bolsters Rav Hutner’s theory, claiming the Mufti himself engineered the final solution! See http://www.amazon.com/Nazis-Islamists-Making-Modern-Middle/dp/0300140908/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top Though note the reviews of the book. One negative reviewer suggests the same conspiracy theory shoddy academic work as R Lawrence Kaplan did about Rav Hutner’s thesis.

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  46. Yehudah P. said...
    Also, if the Gra's opposition to Chassidus was just some sort of misunderstanding (around the same lines as people showing Rav Eliyashiv or Rav Ovadiah isolated, out-of-context quotes from Rabbi Slifkin's books), it rings very different than the possibility that there is a deep theological problem with chassidic thought, that people just came to overlook over time.


    But why would someone who actually holds of Chassidus (I assume that would include you) be concerned with such a thing? Of course there is no deep theological problem if this is your own ideal in Judaism.

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  47. David Ohsie asked, "But why would someone who actually holds of Chassidus (I assume that would include you) be concerned with such a thing?"

    Although Chabadnikim are accused of trying to "proselytize"--to get more adherents to Chabad--that's only partly true. They(We?) would like to see the 200+ years of Chabad chassidic thought become something for all of Klal Yisrael (sort of like Rav Dessler incorporating chassidic ideas in Michtav MeEliayhu). Inevitably, people new to chassidic thought will ask why was there opposition in the past.

    (I'm not ignoring Ya'akov E.'s comment, it's just harder to answer.)

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  48. From http://www.amazon.com/review/R1KTDQ238WO30D/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1568211252&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books -

    In the spring of 1772, a rabbinic court in Vilna, Lithuania (one of Eastern Europe's more influential Jewish communities) ordered that Hasidic books were to be burned near the entrance of the Great Synagogue of Vilna. Later that year, the Gaon of Vilna (arguably the greatest Torah scholar of his time) and the rabbinical court of Vilna issued an edict ordering Lithuanian Jews "to extirpate, to destroy, to outlaw, and to excommunicate" the Hasidim (p. 11).

    In 1781, the Vilna elders issued a second ban, ordering that "one may not associate with them or speak with them" and that any Hasidim "must remove their residence from our community" (p. 13). Numerous other communities excommunicated Hasidim, and banned numerous practices then common among Hasidim (such as wearing white). The Gaon suggested that these bans were inadequate, asserting: "If I were in my power I would have dealt with them as the prophet Elijah dealt with the prophets of Baal!" [i.e. kill them] (p. 10). Another town's leadership ordered that "All possible measures are to be adopted to put an end to the prayer meetings" (p. 21) of Hasidim and that "Careful watch is to be maintained that no one should study their literature" (Id.)

    That selection would bolster the Gra's refusal to meet with the Baal HaTanya. I personally hear the Gra's opposition based on "charismatic leaders" and feel much of the tzur-is (problems) of Torah judaism today is blind obedience to "charismatic leaders" (including in the Litvish world, as Chasidism won) rather than the give and take of leshem shamayim machloket and "eilu v eili".

    The Gush Emunimniks think Rav Zvi Yehuda's word is straight from hashem, and they have to settle the land at all costs. Satmars and anti-Zionism. Chabadnikim and messhichut. Haredim and Kollel society . . .

    That being said, I have trouble relating to the idea of the Gra refusing to meet with the Baal Hatanya (or the Satmar Rav meeting with Rav Kook). I trust the stories to be more likely than not based on the sources, but its kasha (difficult) for me. Then again, other stories about the Gra I also find difficult to understand (him allowing his wife and children to go begging for food rather than outing the fellow who was stealing their community stipend to allow the Gra to learn torah full time, for example).

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  49. Jonathan Rosenblum, quoted in the post, wrote-

    "In every chareidi history of American Jewry’s responses to the Holocaust, one event always merits special mention l’gnai (for criticism) – a mass protest called by secular Jewish organizations in the mid-1930s calling for a boycott of German products. Those histories cite credible reports that Hitler, ym”sh, was enraged by the protests and thereby strengthened in his determination to exterminate the Jewish people from the face of the earth."

    Well, Haredi magazine mishpacha (and picked up by Haredi kiruv organization Aish on their website) just had a piece praising Jewish organizations (which happen to be secular) for putting Hitler on "mock" trial circa 1934 in NY's Madison Square Garden and not ignoring his evil as mainstream America and its media was doing.

    See http://www.aish.com/ho/i/Hitler-on-Trial.html?s=show

    Wonder what Rosenblum's "every charedi history" would think of that.

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    Replies
    1. Good catch. As I mentioned before, I don't accept his assertion.

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