Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Yom HaZikaron and Charedim: The Bad, The Ugly, and the Amazing

There are three approaches to Yom HaZikaron that are found in the charedi community.

By far the most common is that which I practiced during my years in the charedi community: obliviousness and indifference. For the vast majority of charedim, Yom HaZikaron just doesn't register for them. They don't know anyone in the IDF, and they don't want to be part of the national community that is mourning those who fell in battle. If they happen to be walking in the streets while the siren sounds, then they may well stand still out of good neighborly relations, but otherwise they don't see any reason why this day should be significant.

For a very small minority of charedim, most of whom live down the street from me, a truly disgusting approach is taken. They will steal Israeli flags from cars and homes, and they will holler and jeer during the siren. The Beit Shemesh municipality even had to ask the police to safeguard the flags in the military portion of the local cemetery, after they were twice ripped down in the last few days. The flag destruction is very, very upsetting to local Zionist residents - it is done mostly by children, but often accompanied by laughing adults - yet unfortunately there does not seem to be any solution.

Another small minority of charedim take the opposite approach - actively commemorating Yom HaZikaron. There is an Anglo-charedi-lite shul in my city which encourages its members to watch Yom HaZikaron ceremonies and visit military cemeteries. And here is an extraordinary video about the amazing Rabbi Menachem Bombach and his chassidic school in Beitar, showing how they meaningfully commemorate Yom HaZikaron: (If you are reading this via email subscription, you will have to visit www.RationalistJudaism.com to watch the video)



I usually do not like predicting the future, except in hindsight. Still, my prediction is that Rabbi Bombach's approach will spread further, due to its obvious ethical value. Yet it will do so very minimally. The reason is that for most charedim, there is too great a fear that by teaching the children about the great sacrifices made by heroic soldiers, there is a risk that the children may want to join the IDF. That is why charedi rabbanim have opposed praying for the welfare of soldiers. There are only a few brave souls who recognize that this fear should not outweigh the importance of showing care and concern for our brothers and sons who place their lives on the line for all of us.

May Hashem comfort all those who have lost relatives and friends in the struggle for Israel's survival.


27 comments:

  1. No solution? Have you not tried coating the flags in poison ivy sap? Or better yet, wrapping electrified wire around them?

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    1. Shooting and killing a few may strike some as extreme, but I disagree. It'll do wonders for their respect.

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    2. So respect is worth more than human life. Ni where have I heard sentiments like that before? Hmm.....

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  2. Sociological question: he was speaking in Hebrew and not Yiddish. Is that how the learning is done there in general or because of the subject matter?

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    1. Many, if not most, Israeli chassidim speak Hebrew exclusively.

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    2. Yes, but do they “learn” in Hebrew or Yiddish? I thought (perhaps mistakenly) that Yiddish was the language of instruction. Am I wrong?

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    3. Yes, you are wrong.

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    4. Not sure where you live, Yehoshua, but you are very much mistaken. Israeli chasidim speak mostly Yiddish.

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    5. It depends which ones. Certainly, the Satmar/Toldos Aharon types speak Yiddish almost exclusively. But many other chassidic groups use Hebrew as their primary language.

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  3. David, most Israeli chassidim who I encountered speak Hebrew among themselves. They understand Yiddish and use it to communicate with non-Israeli chassidim, but the vernacular for most seems to be Hebrew. The Hungarian chassidim and Yerushalmi types are the exception.

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    1. Yes, but do they “learn” in Hebrew or Yiddish? I thought (perhaps mistakenly) that Yiddish was the language of instruction. Am I wrong?

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    2. The ones I knew spoke in Hebrew while learning. Could be there are different ways.

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  4. In the UK, the chareidi community, or indeed the wider Jewish community generally ignore Remembrance Day, the siren and similar. This is despite the fact many soldiers fell in defending the UK. Historians (apparently) have Hitler's plans in setting up internment camps followed by deportation should the German invasion of the UK be successful. And it was a close thing, the Battle of Britain was very nearly lost. There is no fear that celebrating Remembrance Day will make Jewish children want to join the army, yet it is still off the radar.

    Rightly or wrongly, the reason is the Jewish community do not feel enough of a connection to celebrate Remembrance Day. The same reason applies in Israel. It is nothing to do with fears that children will want to join the IDF. Rightly or wrongly, they feel no connection to the secular Israeli state.You made fear of joining the IDF as a reason up!

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    1. You have a point, but there is a breakdown in the analogy. In Israel, the community does feel an affinity and connection, because there is an ongoing threat right now. At time of war, all communities take notice. And of course there is always the natural connection to other Jews. Furthermore, the observance is much more universal, if my understanding is correct. In the US, most people (at least most city people), let alone Orthodox Jews, unfortunately, don't actually observe any kind of Memorial on memorial day because we are largely disconnected from the people who protect us any many fewer have lost someone in military conflict. There is no active opposition or disrespect, but Memorial Day for many is simply a day off, unfortunately.

      Finally, what you definitely do not have is soldiers being actively attacked when then enter the Jewish community. No one thinks less of someone for serving; it is always the opposite.

      So I think that he explanation that it is simply "off the radar" doesn't do it. I have no proof or specific evidence for this, so I cannot state that I definitively agree or disagree with either theory.

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  5. An interesting observation: When speaking to the students Rav Bombach spoke in Ivrit but when reading from the Tehillim his pronunciation was clearly 'Lashon hakodesh'.

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  6. While addressing his students Rav Bombach spoke Ivrit but while reading from Tehillim his pronunciation was 'Lashon hakodesh'.

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    1. That's absolutely standard. They speak Modern Hebrew all day long, but when it comes to davening, it's Lashon Hakodesh without a thought.

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    2. ...and has been for 100 years.

      "Rabbi Sonnenfeld, who came to Palestine in 1872 and has since been living in the Old City near the Wailing Wall, spoke with religious fervor with a splendid Hebrew-Sephardic accent, when interviewed by the correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on this occasion. " (Return to Torah Must Precede Palestine Rebuilding, Says Aged Jerusalem Rabbi. JTA, Nov 23, 1928)

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    3. Whenever I discuss anything in learning with my Israeli Gerrer neighbor he has to switch from his Chassidic Hebrew to Modeen Hebrew pronunciation so that I can understand him :).

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    4. In daily life Gerrer Chassidim in Israel speak Modern Hebrew. I know from my Gerrer Chassidic cousin. In davening they use the Polish Jewish accent of their ancestors and your ancestors if you have any Polish Jewish blood. If there is as a result any difference in the way they pronounce Israeli Hebrew I as an American can't tell.
      The usual YA.

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    5. Non-chareidim do that also. For whatever reason (education, organic language development, etc) spoken Hebrew seems to flow way better in Sefaradit, but I and my wife daven and learn and use interspersed Hebrew words in English sentences in Ashkenazis. I lein with kamatzes and savs, but if I had to carry on a conversation in Hebrew about a passuk I probably would pronounce things more Israeli-esque.

      And as Dati Leumi and non-chareidi as I am, it is more than mildly irksome when a non-Israeli, while speaking English, goes out of his way to use a Hebrew word pronounced Modern, when the Jewish community is comfortable with the "yeshivish" pronunciation. Granted, Your Mileage May Vary, and I am not bothered as much by the use of the word ShabBAT instead of SHABBis as I am by the use of shachRIT instead of SHACHris. (And I know the laws of dikduk and how the havarah is typically at the end of a word, but ask me in English what time we will be davening minCHA and watch my eye start twitching.)

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    6. Yes, when he's just speaking in Hebrew, it is with Israeli pronunciation. But any Brachah, Davening or Torah is with the Chassidic pronunciation.

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    7. "but ask me in English what time we will be davening minCHA and watch my eye start twitching"

      I believe that's because MINcha is proper Yiddish.

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  7. I pose a challenge to you - to only post positive things about chareidim during the days of the omer. I know it sounds threatening to what you stand for (not a dig), but I'll bet you'll find it enlightening and I think everyone will gain from it. As a token of my appreciation, I'll give a donation to your museum and perhaps others can back me up as well in this regard.
    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hmm......nah. But nice idea.

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    2. Fascinating idea. Wonder if he can do it. Personally have my doubts, but I guess you never know.

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  8. I think that Charedim do not see as a rule, those who died in battle as a class on their own. Each fatality is an individual tragedy, to be commemorated on its anniversary. The general commemoration of all fallen soldiers only makes sense as citizenship in one state, part of a general zionist amovement. Charedim do not see themselves as part of the zionist movement and live in Israel at the sufferance of the state, not as equal members of the zionist dream. Similar to Jews in England, who see themselves as guests for the short term. Joining national celebrations makes no sense in their mindset.

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