Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Real Ahavas Yisroel

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

My column last week about the Yerushalmi demonstrations elicited varied responses. It was painful to realize how many people think so little of our chareidi brethren that they believe whatever they read which denigrates religious people. It is painful to be attacked for writing a sensible article laying out the facts and defending people for trying to exercise commonly held freedoms of expression and assembly.

The entire Israeli media was engaged in a conspiracy once again to paint the religious community as a bunch of backward infidels who are an embarrassment to their religion. It is no wonder that the anti-religious groups readily gobble it up, but it hurt to note that their reports were oft-repeated by religious people and believed by almost everyone.

Since that article was published, another spate of demonstrations broke out over the arrest of a loving Yerushalmi mother for allegedly starving her child. Without any examination or proof, the health system, police and media diagnosed her as being mentally ill and suffering from an ailment which forced her to starve her sick child. In the fifth month of pregnancy, she was dragged away, chained hand and foot, sent to the jail in Ramle, which is reserved for the most dangerous of criminals. She was held under inhumane conditions, sleeping on a concrete bed in a cell she shared with an Arab woman accused of murder.

Is that the way a civilized country treats anyone? A separate article in this week’s paper highlights the inconsistencies with the case and presents the other side of the story as documented by people in Yerushalayim who, for quite some time, have been involved with the medical issues facing this family. There are witnesses who can testify that the child lay in the hospital for months with a standing order not to feed him anything other than what he received from his feeding tubes. It was only after the mother was dragged off that they began force-feeding the child in a bid for him to gain weight.

Of all the people, the mayor of Yerushalayim, elected because the religious community could not organize around a candidate, found the perfect way to respond to the riots. He called off all garbage collection and municipal services to the areas which the shababnikim damaged. So, not only do the parents suffer by having such children, not only does the community suffer by having fires burning under their noses, but the benevolent mayor decrees that there will be no more garbage pickup. Thankfully, his tactic was overturned by the courts.

Mayor Nir Barkat also targeted Americans as scapegoats, blaming them for the violence, with no evidence. Of course, the people inclined to mock yeshivos and yeshiva bochurim cheered him on, without bothering to ascertain how many bochurim, if any, were involved in anti-social behavior they could not have learned at home or school.

Typical of the reaction to all this was an article posted by Rabbi Asher Lopatin on a secular Jewish media site, as well as a religious one. The Chicago rabbi, who stood with those who castigated the Rubashkins and their Agriprocessors Corporation which supplied much of the United States with affordable kosher meat, is now advising the members of Yerushalayim’s yishuv on how to handle their affairs.

Back then, he said that “there seems to be a pattern of Jews, and especially Orthodox Jews, not knowing how to relate to gentiles. We have a history of really trying to survive as Jews and having to protect ourselves constantly, but now we are in a different reality. If you want to stay in the Brooklyn ghetto, maybe that’s okay. But if you want to go out into the rest of world and get involved in real business, you can’t just have the same paradigm we had in Europe or the Middle East.”

When he stood beside liberal union groups seeking to unionize a Chicago hotel owned by religious people, he said, “I remember the ads defending Agriprocessors - talking about how it’s this modern, clean factory. People were just deluding themselves. That’s the impression I have here, as well.”

Anyone who visited Agri had to be impressed by the high level of cleanliness evidenced in the USDA inspected plant. That was never in doubt. Yet this rabbi was able say anything with impunity, for he was talking about a plant owned and operated by old-style religious Jews. Who would go after him for playing up the centuries-old canard that religious Jews are dirty and slimy? He can freely posture for the media and the liberals who write him up in glowing terms.

Though he is Orthodox, he does seem to have an agenda against the black-hatted Jews. It is to be expected that the secular media would play him up. What hurts even more is when the Orthodox media quotes him and publishes his missives, such as his recent one against Yerushalmi Yidden.

He writes, “Rather than rioting against what seems to be saving of a child’s life - piku’ach nefesh - didn’t you question for a moment what is going on? What are the names of chareidi organizations that protect children - and spouses - from abuse? The chareidi community in America has such organizations which serve the entire Jewish community - have you set up yours? I haven’t seen them involved or consulted. No, instead of blaming Hadassah hospital, the doctors and the media of a conspiracy, maybe you should begin a process of coming clean and accepting that domestic abuse occurs in all types of communities - from the most religious to the most secular, Jewish and non-Jewish. And that sometimes the police and the authorities have to be brought in to protect children and spouses. That would be the appropriate response, one that would be a kiddush Hashem, which would win the respect of Jews and non-Jews for Torah and for Judaism.”

Rabbi Lopatin continues:
“My brothers and sisters in the chareidi community: G-d’s name is not sanctified by you showing how much political muscle you have to close parking lots, to maintain the ‘status quo,’ or to show that you can do whatever you like to your kids without the authorities intervening: that’s not the way to sanctify G-d’s name, or even your name. The way to kiddush Hashem is for all of us to place G-d and G-d’s kindness above our own agendas, and to show that we are willing to sacrifice even your own serenity on Shabbat, our own control over our families, in order to protect the weak and make G-d’s name something beautiful and desirable, not something which people cannot run away from fast enough.”

Without bothering to find out what the facts are, much as was the case in his campaign against Rubashkin, Lopatin bought the media story, lock stock and barrel. And why not? After all, it is those same backward, insular people who have no concept of law, order and hygiene.

He didn’t speak to anyone who was at the so-called riot, because if he had, he would have found out that thousands of religious Jews congregating to protest the treatment of one of their own does not constitute a riot. He didn’t speak to any spokesmen for the Toldos Aharon chassidim. Had he, he would have heard their categorical denouncement of any violence. He would have found out that the protests were peaceful. He would have discovered that troublemakers, known as shababnikim, were responsible for the burning of trash bins and creating other mayhem after the masses of protesters had gone home.

Shame on him and shame on those like him who accept as fact whatever they read in condemnation of religious Jews, and anyone else for that matter. Shame on him and those like him who post such drivel and contribute to the increasing hatred of religious people and our causes. Shame on people who seek to divide the Jewish people, rather than bring us together. Shame on people who are ready to denigrate and dispense self-righteous advice to Jews who hew to an ancient and hallowed way of life.

Walk down Rechov Meah Shearim and observe the Reb Arelach, as the Toldos Aharon chasidim are affectionately referred to, as they go about their daily lives. They are the most unpretentious and humble of people. All they ask for is to be left alone so they can serve Hashem. They don’t seek material pleasure and always seem to be so happy. Their children are picturesque epitomes of simple beauty and chein. They obey all laws and exhibit no anti-social behavior. To accuse them of being rioting baby killers is nothing short of a modern-day blood libel and lynching.

I invite Lopatin and the rabbi who wrote in The Jerusalem Post to join me for a visit to Meah Shearim. Let’s go visit the stores and places of business of the Reb Aralach – yes they do work – and see how they conduct themselves. Let’s visit their homes and see how they live. Let’s follow them to the Beis Medrash and observe them davening and learning. We’ll go to the rebbe and you can ask him all your questions. We’ll visit Ben Zion Oiring and watch a one-man chesed operation in action. We’ll talk to Uri Zohar and hear what he has to say. We will pay a visit to Rav Dovid Soloveitchik and you can ask him why he publicly referred to the sorry story as a blood libel. We can just stand at Kikar Shabbos and watch how these loving lovely people go about their daily affairs. If, G-d forbid there should be a need for another hafganah we can attend and watch how Yerushalmi yidden peacefully express their pain and how they are treated by the police. And we can stay till the bitter end and watch how the rif-raf comes and destroys the place. And then we can review together what we have seen and determine whether a re-evaluation is in order.

As we enter the month of Av, it would behoove us to seek to bring Jews together and create a kiddush Hashem wherever and whenever possible. Though the response to my column last week on the Shabbos demonstrations hasn’t been what we expected, neither has the outpouring of support we have been receiving for our campaigns on behalf of two chassidishe Yidden, Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin of Postville, Iowa, and Ben Tzion Oiring of Yerushalayim ihr hakodesh. Good Jews were touched when reading about their financial situations and wrote out checks for people they don’t know. That is real ahavas Yisroel of the type that is mekareiv the geulah. Ahavas Yisroel doesn’t mean writing articles in the Jewish Journal, Jerusalem Post, or on various websites and blogs slamming frum yidden. Ahavas Yisroel means to give a Torah Jew the benefit of the doubt and to examine the story before rushing to judgment and engaging in the castigation of good people who are under attack.

May we merit welcoming Eliyahu Hanovi in enough time to declare Tisha B’Av a Yom Tov.


Blogger Judah said...

Rabbi Lipschutz, last week you wrote:
"Granted there are no pat, immediate solutions to many of the problems we face in our community. But perhaps it is time that we at least begin to call the problems by their actual names. For too long we have been getting away with avoiding the real issues. We have avoided saying the truth because we couldn’t bear the thought of slaying anyone’s sacred cows. We have all played along for fear of rocking the boat and being ostracized.

When a society can’t honestly face its problems and manages to keep the status quo by scaring its members into submission, it is a sure sign that moral rot has set in. Unless stopped, the decay will eventually undermine the society’s very foundations.

We must ensure that such a fate doesn’t befall our community. We posses the collective intelligence and ability to honestly analyze where we are going wrong, and to figure out how to rectify and remedy our ills. We know that self-delusion and skewed thinking are the tools of the weak."

How does this square with this week's article?

12:07 AM  

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