Chassidim on a Plane
A neighbor of mine posted the following account of what transpired during a plane flight:
I just flew to and from Israel... and I have never been more mortified to be Orthodox. The plane was trashed. The bathrooms wrecked. A flight attendant remarked that this route is always left this way, while after 15 hours to Japan, the plane is left spotless. Men crowded the aisles and blocked the passageways, forming a minyan even while being explicitly told that they could not do so A- because the seat belt sign was on and B- because of the pandemic. While attendants were buckled in because of turbulence, stopped food service because of turbulence, men were up and putting on tefillin even while flight attendants and the captain himself begged them to sit down and buckle up. They could not have cared less. It was as if they were deaf or above the rules or both.
To describe myself as shocked is an understatement. It got to the point that I asked them who they were even praying to, who would possibly listen to their tefilot when they were causing us such humiliation and chillul Hashem. I don't know who to turn to to speak about this and I do not want to trash an entire community. But this was so so bad that if I myself was feeling such anger and animosity and close to posting videos I can't think that someone actually doing this who is not Orthodox is far off. In all seriousness, rabbis and Leadership needs to address this. If anyone has ideas as to who to turn to, please let me know.
Someone else I know who was on the flight also told me about it and sent me videos. She commented that it was crazy and doesn't make any sense at all.
But in fact, it most certainly makes sense.
There are three reasons why one would comply with safety regulations on planes. One is because those are the rules and rules should be followed. The second is to conform with social norms. And the third is because it's, y'know, important to actually be safe.
None of these are particularly relevant to chassidim. (And even before seeing the photos and videos, it was obvious that chassidim were being described, although Lithuanian charedim are also to an extent guilty of this).
Rules are only followed when one sees oneself as being part of the system which institutes the rules. Charedim in general, and chasidim in particular, do not see themselves as being part of that system. To some extent, it's a cultural hangover from Europe when the government was the enemy. They don't see secular rules as having any authority. Rules are for goyim (or for the Modern Orthodox, which is practically the same thing).
Likewise, they see no need for conforming with social norms. You only conform with social norms if you are part of that society. Charedim, on the other hand, and especially chassidim, follow a general societal model of isolationism. They couldn't care less about what others say, because they consider themselves to be separate from, and above, everyone. Humans feel no need to conform to the social norms of dogs and cats, and chassidim feel no need to conform to the social norms of non-chassidim.
Finally, with regard to safety, the rules are likewise only for goyim. Safety rules are to do with physics and science and experts and professionalism, all of which are very far removed from the chassidish worldview.
So, what can be done?
My immediate reaction was to say that the only thing that could work is a public expose. It's unpleasant, but that's the only thing that got the charedi world to start taking child abuse somewhat seriously, as Agudas Yisrael's Rabbi Chaim Zwiebel acknowledged.
But on further reflection, I think that even that just wouldn't work here. I just don't think that the movers and shakers in the chassidic community care enough about what the secular press says, such as to start teaching an entirely different message to their communities about how to behave. Possibly pointing out that YAFFED gains support from public negative perceptions of chassidim might have some impact, but it's a long shot.
Unfortunately, I can't think of anything that would work (though I do think that all of us have a responsibility to publicly rebuke such behavior when we see it). What would conceivably give rise to a cheshbon hanefesh about taking rules and safety and being part of society seriously? Even 45 people being killed on Meron didn't do it!
But at the very least, perhaps publications such as Mishpacha can stop writing articles about how flare-ups with charedim on planes are entirely due to hostile flight crews. And Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal can stop talking about "media caricatures" of the Orthodox community as uncaring for human life and heedless of regulations.
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