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Summer Camps and Summer Camps
There are all sorts of summer camps. Most familiar to most of us are summer youth experiences like Camp Agudah, Camp Sternberg, Camp Morasha and many others like them. They combine Torah-study and stress on Jewish ideals like chessed and tefillah with sports activities and arts and crafts. Spirits are famously high in such camps, lifelong friendships are made and many a successful Jewish adult credits his or her love for things Jewish and for other Jews on their formative camp experiences.
In the same state, there are summer offerings, too, for young people from other streams of Judaism, like Satmar. In these camps, children are taught "to express their freedom of speech" by denouncing Israel.
During the summer camps’ stint, hundreds of children enjoyed their camp experience. As Modern Orthodox, Centrist Orthodox and Yeshivish youth here in America were taught water safety, wrote skits and cantatas and composed and heard divrei Torah, Satmar youths were striding down the street in the style of a demonstration, chanting “Israeli government, shame on you!” and waving creative anti-Israel banners that they had designed.
The Modern Orthodox, Centrist Orthodox and Yeshivish campers, as every year, were enthusiastic about the the unity they felt with their fellow campers and the caring mentorship of their counselors. As Tisha B’Av came closer, the spirit of mourning over the batei mikdash was intermingled with yearning for the Geulah sheleimah and realization of the tefillah of “Sim shalom.” At a Satmar camp, on the other hand, children were given eggs and told to throw them at a black SUV which represented the car of the Prime Minister of Israel, whilst yelling derisive slurs.
In Modern Orthodox, Centrist Orthodox and Yeshivish media outlets, the camps' creative and sporting activities were highlighted in photo features. In the Satmar's official newspaper Der Blatt, a full-page feature displayed photos of the children throwing eggs at "the Prime Minister's car."
Summer camps and summer camps, l’havdil meah elef alfei alafim havdalos.
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The above was inspired by Rabbi Avi Shafran's latest column in Hamodia, which contrasted Agudah camps with Hamas camps. It is indeed important to be aware of the depravity of our enemies. However, there is certainly no risk of Hamas making any inroads into Jewish religious society. Satmar, on the other hand, presents a real danger of influencing other Jews with its hateful approach. Yet Rabbi Shafran did not see fit to write a column condemning it, and as far as I know Hamodia likewise did not cover it (despite it often providing news about the Satmar community). Why not?
This is also the reason why many people had a problem with Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer's mission against the Open Orthodox. Last week he announced that he is taking a break from his three-year crusade. He described the reactions to his writings as falling into two camps: those who rated his work as being "of great import and necessity," and those who vilified him and failed to respond to the issues on their merits. No mention is made of those who presented reasonable critiques of various aspects of his approach or of his arguments. One of those critiques was that it seem strange to go on a crusade against the largely irrelevant and miniscule numbers of those stray too far to the left, while completely ignoring the much more relevant and greater numbers of those who stray too far to the right. Mishpachah magazine even put Rabbi Gordimer on the cover for his crusade against the Open Orthodox. Yet would they ever feature a critic of Satmar or others that are too far to the right?
To those who would claim that Satmar is not relevant to other Orthodox Jews, we can point out the following facts: A few years ago, Satmar planned a rally in Manhattan that was also attended by many other chassidic groups as well as right-wing Litvishe rabbis, including Rav Aaron Schechter (of Chaim Berlin), Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel (South Fallsberg), Rav Osher Kalmanowitz (Mir), Rabbi Moshe Meiselman (Toras Moshe) and others. Speakers at the rally spoke about the "evil Zionists" and compared them to Amalek. They described Israel as an "evil regime," spoke 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.”
Why is the charedi community, and similar people such as Rabbi Gordimer, so enthusiastic about criticizing those who are too far to the left, even if they pose no significant threat to the rest of Orthodoxy, yet they will never criticize those who are too far to the right, even if this is very relevant to the rest of Orthodoxy?