web analytics
October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



A Call to End Anti-Chasid Bigotry

People were literally saying that a chasid cannot write so well. It’s impossible they claimed.
F110515YN08

Photo Credit: yaakov naumi/Flash90

A few days ago I spoke with a Satmar chasid who studies academic Biblical Scholarship. We talked for a while and I got a sense of his typical chasidic upbringing, his current life situation, and his scholarship activity.

Like almost everyone raised in a deeply insular chasidic environment, he speaks English as a second language. HIs accent is not as thick as some of the other chasidic people I know, but it’s clear that Yiddish is his first language. However, once I got past the accent, it was also very clear that this was an extremely bright and erudite young man.

I talk to people all the time. Some are smarter than others. Some people have quicker minds than others. This fellow was smart, no question about it.

He wrote a superb article describing his journey into Bible Scholarship and the various ways it has adjusted his thinking and Jewish experience. It was beautifully written and made its points eloquently and somewhat poetically. I was asked to vouch for his chasidic bona fides, which I did, based on a mutual friend and my assessment following our conversation. (Verifying that the fellow exists and lives in the Chasidic community is not an endorsement or approval of the content of his article.)

The article generated a bit of a firestorm. Not because of its provocative content though. The largest issue seemed to be that people could not believe that a chasid could write such an amazing article. Turns out, the article was too good. It was suggested (accused?) that the chasid had written some notes and the editors of TheTorah.com must have rewritten it in proper English. To alleviate the skepticism, I asked to see the original draft he submitted to TheTorah.com and I again confirmed that it was at least 98% of his own writing. Only a few minor edits were made and they were use and stylistic edits, not wholesale rewrites.

But the skepticism remained. People were literally saying that a chasid cannot write so well. It’s impossible they claimed. I was challenged on my Facebook page and TheTorah.com also received extremely skeptical, bordering on accusatory, comments and feedback.

This is pure bigotry. And it disgusts me.

It is absolutely true that a chasid is going to be severely handicapped by his lack of proper secular education. The average chasid starts much further down on the ladder of English erudition. I don’t dispute that fact. But with some effort, anyone can learn how to write well. And if one has a gift with words, is able to put ideas into black and white in any language, those skills will translate into beautiful English prose and poetry.

While it is fair to say that a chasid will lack teachable skills simply because a chasid is untaught, it is bigoted to assume that a chasid will lack talent and ability.

After the Leiby Kletzky tragedy, I paraphrased Lee Anne Touhy from “The Blind Side”. In talking about the inner city ghetto, Touhy said that the cure for cancer might be in those ghettos. We need to give all youth the opportunity to discover it. The same thing applies to the chasidic ghetto. There are plenty of super talented people behind those walls. Some might have the talent to cure cancer, unfortunately few have the opportunity. Some have the talent to write incredible articles or books in English, unfortunately few have the opportunity.

But when someone gets the opportunity, it’s cause for celebration and recognition. When a chasid breaks free from the artificial wall his community has placed around him and discovers a special talent, we all benefit. And let’s not be so prejudiced against chasids that we can’t believe that talent can be found behind those walls. The only real difference between those on the inside and those on the outside is opportunity. But insofar as talent goes, those on the inside are at least as blessed as those on the outside.

To think that a certain group or subgroup is inherently inferior and incapable of achieving greatness is bigotry. Pure and simple. It’s no different than saying that a black person cannot be president or that a woman cannot be a Supreme Court Justice or that an Asian cannot play basketball or that an Orthodox Jew cannot be a rockstar. There are talented and incredible people everywhere. Some are given an easier path to discovering and sharing that talent, but talent is everywhere.

We should be encouraging talent from the chasidic community to contribute to greater society, and stop being so shocked when they actually do.

One suggestion would be to stop using “chasidish” as a pejorative, whether in style of clothing or otherwise. To stop imitating or mocking chasidic people for their accents and foibles. We all know that non-chasids do it. But it contributes to a bigotry that makes it impossible to believe a chasid might be the next Hemingway. Let’s help make that happen and not stifle their creativity. Let’s embrace their talent, not question it. I guarantee you that they will continue to impress us.

Visit Fink or Swim.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “A Call to End Anti-Chasid Bigotry”

  1. And now for the ultras in Israel.

  2. And now for the ultras in Israel.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You are presuming that playing basketball, or being a Supreme Court Justice, or a medical research scientist does more for the world than studying Torah. Rabbi/Dr. Fink, don't you know that Torah study is what keeps the world in existence??? It's the most important contribution a Jew can make!

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat meet with security officials over Oct. 22 terror attack.
Netanyahu Convenes Top Brass in Jerusalem Over Terror Attack
Latest Blogs Stories
Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

European Union

Is the EU “Jewish challenged”?

Car in Light Rail Runover

The headlines refused to scream “ARAB TERROR ATTACK;” instead the phrase “Suspected Terror Attack.”

"Shiloh"

I’ve heard many times I write what others think, making them extremely happy; that’s why I continue.

Though secular, Hitman’s CV includes writing music for, recording, and popularizing religious songs.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Has the Jewish world adapted to the times? Hear the answer with Doug and his guest, Rabbi Berel Wein.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

Kids bring in the light and let out the darkness through breathing exercises; it changes people.

If I make a million dollars in 2 weeks, how can I observe something like this and sit by quietly?”

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

How long will it take for Israel and the Jewish World to admit that we are in very serious danger?

How do changes in technology affect the human life and our interactions with each other?

Palestinians (and Jordanians) often use the term “provocation” regarding Israeli action in Jerusalem

The zealots who engineered the ban have been publicly disgraced.

I am sick and tired of this one way street boycott! Time to boycott all products developed or invented in the Palestinian controlled areas! Let’s start with……umm….

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
QuestionsandAnswers-logo

People act not because they think it’s right; they do what they do because it’s what they want to do

Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.

What do we do when we want to be mad at God but we also want God to make it all better? Indeed, what do we do?

Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism.

There is no song that tells the story of freedom like Shir HaShirim.

It is unfair to judge a 52 year old man with the glasses of a person who lives in a different world.

Adegbile was not making a moral statement by representing a man convicted of killing a cop.

Women learning Torah is becoming increasingly permissive, but women wearing tefillin is becoming increasingly stringent.

When the “offensive” statements in our Talmud were stated, no one thought they were offensive.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/a-call-to-end-anti-chasid-bigotry/2013/11/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: