web analytics
August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


Abusing Clout

When Chassidim make a request to a government official, he pays attention.
Women in the back of the bus.

Women in the back of the bus.
Photo Credit: Uri Lenz / Flash90

There is an article in the  New York Times that discusses the clout Chasidim in America have achieved. And it does not paint a flattering picture. Some might say that this is just typical New York Times bashing of religious Jews. But I’m not so sure it is. Let us examine the issue.

Chasidim do have clout. There is no question about it. How did they get so much clout? Prior to the Holocaust, Chasidim in America barely existed as an identifiable entity.  But they grew exponentially into huge numbers since the Holocaust. Chasidim tend to get married early (in some cases both bride and groom are in their teens) and have many children. A family of ten or more children is not uncommon. As a result, now over sixty years later they are a force to be reckoned with.

Although I have argued that – despite their rate of growth –  their current numbers do not necessarily predict their future dominance as a culture in Judaism… their numbers are very definitely huge as is their current influence in government. This is mostly seen in the power of their vote. If their rabbinic leadership tells them to vote for a certain candidate, they tend to do so in large numbers without question and without needing to know what that candidate stands for. This gives Chasidim as a group out-sized political power!

This power does not go to waste. This community uses it to their full advantage. When they make a request to a government official, he pays attention. And often sees to it that the request is granted.

I have no problem with using one’s clout to get things done for your community. There is nothing wrong with petitioning your government for your cause. It is no different than any group lobbying for their particular agenda. In that sense Chasidim are no different than – say – the gun lobby. It is the right of every American citizen – no less Chasidic citizens – to petition their government.

The question arises when petitioning for rights becomes pressuring for rights.  Requests then turn into demands with unspoken threats of political defeat in the next election if those demands aren’t met. Although it may be legal to do that – it can easily be interpreted as a form of political extortion to get what they want  – sometimes at the expense of others.That can only result in resentment at best… and at worst create (or expose latent) anti-Semitism.

First let me say that I view it unethical to vote for a candidate without knowing what he stands for just because you were told to do so by a rabbinic leader. I understand why they do this. It is obvious. It gives them an extraordinary amount of power over elected officials.  But one ought to vote for a candidate because of believing what he stands for – not because it will give your group collective power over him.

This is not good citizenship. And it makes religious looking Jews look bad. How does this affect the image of religious Jews in the world? Does this result in a positive image of Chasidim – or a negative one? What about the rest of Orthodox Jewry? Will we all be judged the way?

And how necessary are those demands? Are they Halachic or cultural? Let us look at some examples (described in the Times article) of achievements their clout has brought them.

How important is it for Chasidic women  to demand a female lifeguard at their beaches that are apparently sex segregated? Although I understand their request – it is a not a Halachic requirement to have a female lifeguard.  Is it worth exercising the community’s clout to get one?

I also do not understand why they insist on well water for their Pesach Matzos. They apparently object to chlorination. What does chlorine have to do with Chametz? It is not a leavening agent. It is a poison which if used in small quantities kills bacteria and has no harmful effects on human beings.

Separate – sex segregated public buses are now the norm in their neighborhood. Men in the front and women in the back. That is no doubt illegal. But since they do it voluntarily, no one bothers them. Is that so necessary? I know Chasidim consider separate seating on a bus to be more modest. But is violating the law the right thing to do if it isn’t a Halachic necessity – even if no one bothers them about it?

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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.

2 Responses to “Abusing Clout”

  1. Chaiya Eitan says:

    As long as they stay there….

  2. Concerned Jew says:

    The N.Y. Times is owned by the Sulzberger family, formerly reform Jews who converted to Episcopalian.
    The motto of the Times “All the News that’s Fit to Print” can be restated: If the News Fits Our Agenda, We Print It.
    Or as Jewish philanthropist Sam Zell remarked when he became publisher of the Chicago Tribune: When he read the N.Y. Times, he cannot distinguish between the Front page and the Editorial page.

Comments are closed.

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
State Department Spokesperson John Kirby. Aug. 27, 2015.
State Dept Spox: No Worries, Parchin has No Nuclear Dimensions
Latest Blogs Stories
haredim-no-women-allowed-sign

The Halacha of shmirat einayim (guarding one’s eyes) is incumbent on the MAN; it’s his obligation

Doug Goldstein

Dem. presidential candidate Doug Shreffler talks about his campaign & its motto “as good as it gets”

Jewish Press Blogger, Jordana Brown

I’ve decided to move away from my safety net-and I wouldn’t change that decision for anything.

Was “Jerusalem” the song Matisyahu planned to perform? It was the PERFECT response to BDS campaign

If the world’s winds of hatred bring Jews to Israel we are ready, joyfully offering them a home here

At what age should the realization start setting in for kids that we live in an uncertain society?

Spain’s SeaWorld canceled Zionist-spy dolphin’s performance unless it supports a Palestinian state

How does the Iranian deal affect anti-terrorist legislation adopted by a number of US states?

Shabbat afternoon soccer games, a tradition in Israel’s league, may become a thing of the past.

Calling the Jewish Press‘closest thing to a frum English-language weekly’ insults the publication

So long as Jews dance for the sheer pleasure of thanking God, Israel will never be defeated!

Why are wealthy people less likely to gossip? So if you get rich you’ll cut down on Lashon Hora!

Matisyahu was bounced from a music festival because he wouldn’t sign pro-BDS, anti-Israel manifesto.

Danon is still young, perhaps one day he’ll succeed Bibi. Representing Israel in UN is good training

I think it has been a major tactical mistake for Israel to consider Iran a particularly Israeli problem. And it is of crucial importance for Israel and Israelis to stop thinking that we have any influence on international leaders when it comes to anything, including international policy re: Iran. That’s why I think that Yair […]

More Articles from Harry Maryles
haredim-no-women-allowed-sign

The Halacha of shmirat einayim (guarding one’s eyes) is incumbent on the MAN; it’s his obligation

"Women Not Allowed"

Calling the Jewish Press‘closest thing to a frum English-language weekly’ insults the publication

Professor Cohen’s quotes statistics proving Reform & Conservative Judaism are in free fall.

Most that struggle abandon observance altogether. Why did these 3 remain observant?

Esav Sonei L’Yaakov: Is this how we should think of all non Jews?

Surprisingly, many Hareidi communities do not advocate full time Kollel study for life as the ideal.

The phenomenon pushing limits of Orthodoxy to the extreme left has no chance of becoming mainstream

There needs to be clarity about what is & isn’t acceptable in Orthodoxy; That should be the debate.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/abusing-clout/2013/08/25/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: