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It's certainly understandable that the charedi community has great hostility towards Rabbi Dov Lipman. Unfortunately, that appears to have translated into a declaration of open season upon him - including interpreting his statements in the most negative way possible, and outright lies about his activities.
A while ago, we had Rav Aharon Feldman condemn Lipman as a rasha. He subsequently sort-of apologized, saying that he had since learned that Lipman truly believes that he is doing the right thing in trying to get charedim to receive a minimal secular education, and is not acting out of wickedness.
But why couldn't he figure this out in the first place? Even a minimal amount of research on Dov Lipman reveals that he is a very idealistic person, who puts himself out to improve society. And is it so unthinkable that a person might, for altruistic reasons, want charedim to be able to support their families?
But the real nasty hatchet job on Lipman was performed by Jonathan Rosenblum in Yated last week.
Rosenblum began by referring to Lipman's famous/infamous remark upon seeing an elderly street cleaner - “Why couldn’t a yeshiva student be doing that?” Rosenblum presented this as an example of contempt for Torah learning.
Now, for the record, I think that it was a huge mistake for Lipman to say what he said. But is there really no possible interpretation other than that it reflects contempt for Torah learning? It couldn't be that Lipman simply feels that yeshivah students, instead of focusing only on Gemara, could also work on chessed projects? In one charedi yeshivah where I spent many formative years, the emphasis was only on Gemara, to the extent that when a badly handicapped person in the neighborhood needed daily assistance, some "top bochrim" refused to help, saying that it was "bittul Torah" and best performed by lesser students. Conversely, the wonderful yeshivah where I teach part-time, Lev HaTorah, strongly encourages all students to take on chessed projects for the community, as part of becoming better Jews. Does this mean that they have "contempt for Torah"? Of course not. And why not assume the same for Lipman, who, as someone who spent most of his career as a yeshivah rebbe (and himself volunteered for street cleaning), clearly does not have "contempt for Torah"!
Rosenblum proceeds to describe a video in which
"Lipman is seen leading a woman whose attire was guaranteed to provoke an angry response past a shul in the “Yerushalmi” neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh. Just in case she failed in her task, he thrust his arms triumphantly in the air numerous times to provoke the desired response for this bit of filmed street theater."
What a sneaky, dishonest account. The distortions are so densely packed into this that it has to be fisked.
Let's first discuss the description of the woman wearing "attire guaranteed to provoke an angry response." He gives the impression that she was wearing a halter top and shorts. In fact, she had sleeves (albeit above the elbow), a long skirt, and her hair was covered (albeit only with a hat). This is exactly how many women in the neighborhood dress, especially on that street, where they have lived for many years, before any Yerushalmis moved into the neighborhood.
More to the point, Lipman was not "leading" her "past a shul" in a "Yerushalmi neighborhood" in a provocative act of "street theater" with the "task" of provoking an angry response. I happen to live just a few minutes away, so I know the facts.
It is an apartment block, not a shul. It is not a "Yerushalmi neighborhood." It's a street that connects a dati-leumi school with a dati-leumi neighborhood. (Recently, charedi apartment buildings were built on one side, facing the previously-existing dati-leumi neighborhood.)
Walking along this street is something that dati-leumi residents have been doing for over fifteen years, long before any charedim moved in to the area. Unfortunately, when their school (which had been planned for years) was opened, certain charedi residents (who had only recently moved in) decided that it was their turf, and harassed dati-leumi people walking past, including children. (Similar harassment of children has occurred in my own neighborhood.) And so many dati-leumi people decided to walk along that road - in their own neighborhood - to make it clear that they would not tolerate this kind of intimidation of children. And it wasn't a performance for "filmed street theater" - it just happened that one of the local residents involved in the daily walk spontaneously decided to show the world what happens here on a regular basis. It wasn't "provoking" anything - the charedim were out there yelling even before Lipman arrived on the scene.
As for Lipman thrusting his arms into the air - how on earth does Rosenblum know that this was to provoke a desired response? Is he a mind-reader? Maybe it was a reaction to an approaching hostile group, to show that he wasn't intimidated? Maybe it was a nervous or quasi-playful gesture, to make light of their insults and curses? Why does Rosenblum feel an obligation to judge it in the worst possible light?
And for all Rosenblum's condemnation of "provocations" and his dismissal of Lipman as a peacemaker, with Rosenblum claiming that the problem had already been largely resolved, the facts are otherwise. The chareidi mayor of Bet Shemesh was all for giving in to the zealots and removing the school from the dati-leumi population that it had been promised for. The only reason why the dati-leumi community was able to keep their school - and that the protests eventually died down - was that they took a strong stand and did not give in to intimidation.
Amazingly, Rosenblum says in this very article that people should only have opinions on matters when they are intimately familiar with the local situation. (Yes, I am aware of the irony of that position being stated in a publication that idolizes Gedolim who are famous for giving rulings for situations of which they have no knowledge.) Why doesn't that apply to him?
Rosenblum's main point is that the RCA should not have Lipman speak at their convention, due to guilt by association. But if he believes in guilt by association, and he's writing in Yated, then why doesn't he mention anything about the Satmar rally, featured in the same issue, in which Lithuanian Gedolim sat at a dais where speakers described Israel as an "evil regime," and talking about how “the very existence of the state is a rebellion against God” and about how “the [Israeli] army was founded on murder and blood spilling”?
The basic problem is that Rosenblum and co. try to make the focus all about the personalities of Dov Lipman, Lapid and Bennet. But what about R. David Friedman of Karlin, who also wrote about how charedim in Israel should receive secular education to prepare them for employment? Was he also motivated by hatred of Torah? (Rosenblum claims that the issue is less about math and English than it is over ceding curricular control of chareidi schools to secular authorities. I'll believe that when I see some independent charedi interest in teaching math and English.)
It reminds me of the time that Rosenblum was speaking to a secular audience about the ban on my books. He did not reveal that the Gedolim insist that the world is a few thousand years old, that the Sages of the Talmud were scientifically infallible, and that the rationalist approach of the Rishonim is forbidden and/or heretical. Instead, Rosenblum launched a personal attack on me - as if my personality was the issue at stake.
Even Rosenblum himself agrees that the charedi community in Israel has a huge problem with mass kollel and underemployment, describing kollel as "chemotherapy". And not everyone will agree with his spin about how the Gedolim secretly agree with him. The charedi community is taking steps to deal with it; but many people see these as relatively miniscule, painfully slow, and woefully inadequate. It may - may - be strategically unwise for the government to force the issue, but it's not evil or anti-Torah.
Slandering people, on the other hand, is most certainly evil and anti-Torah.
UPDATE: See Rabbi Lipman's response at http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-truth-hurts