I would like to thank Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer (and many others) for pointing out an important article to me in last week’s 5 Towns Jewish Times. Barry Jacobson the author of that article is apparently a good friend of his. That he recommended this article means that he probably agrees with a good portion of it.
The title of that article is The Mesorah of Chesed . Mr. Jacobson describes himself as a proud Charedi who represents a growing part of that community that is getting sick and tired (and angry – I might add) of the rhetoric of the Charedi leadership in the extremist self centered attitude they express with respect to issues of the day that impact on them.
The article was generated by a community meeting sponsored by Mishpacha Magazine held in the 5 Towns dealing with the current situation in Israel. He said he was ultimately very disappointed by it. I don’t blame him. Direct questions from the audience were not permitted.
All questions had to be submitted in advance and screened. The claim was made that since the event was held on Motzi Shabbos – the lateness of the hour prevented a lengthy question and answer period. That of course made it very convenient to ignore the tough questions. In effect it seems like this presentation was nothing more than a propaganda moment to further bash dissenting views – wherever they come from.
The rhetoric at that presentation was what we have all come to expect from the right. We’ve heard versions of it before. Many times. The presenters sounded the alarm once again how the very essence of Judaism is at stake and that the forces of evil (read: Lapid, Lipman, and Zionism of any stripe) have declared war on Charedim. Using quotes from Chazal to ‘prove’ their point – they argued that anyone who supports the government on these issues is a heretic.
They used the same litany of canards against the government heard repeatedly from the right which amount mostly to vilifying Zionism in all its forms from its inception to this day. They characterized it as though it were the worst thing that ever happened to the Jewish people. It apparently was one huge harangue… and a plea for the American Orthodox world to support their Charedi brothers in Israel in their holy fight against the evil decree!
Nothing new here. But Mr. Jacobson’s heartfelt cry (which is apparently shared by many Charedim in increasing numbers) was something new. It is the first time that a proud Charedi has said what needed to be said in such an emotional way. He listed many of the problems I have dealt with here expressing how upset it made him and he then virtually condemned the way the Charedi world has dealt with them. Issues like their unrelenting harsh condemnation about the founders of the State of Israel – bashing them and their political heirs that are in government today.
You could feel the pain in his words. Mr. Jacobson is a Charedi by choice. He saw the beauty of the Charedi way of life and delved right in… He sent his children to Charedi schools for that reason. But what he now sees is an attitude of unbridled hatred of all and vilification of anyone who dares to see things differently than themselves. A hatred that refuses to see or recognize any value in the State of Israel nor grant any real recognition for all it does for them. A hatred that begins at the top eshelons of Charedi rabbinic leadership and spreads its way across much of Charedi society. It begins with Theodore Herzl himself. Instead of recognizing the benevolent hand of God via His messenger they see only a pure Rasha with a motive to destroy the Jewish people.
Why did God choose an irreligious Jew to be His messenger? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the religious community wasn’t doing anything themselves about returning to Zion. Herzl accomplished what no one else could in over 2000 years. And yet not a peep about all that he has accomplished. Not a word of praise for him and all of the benevolence God granted the Jewish people via the creation of the State of Israel that Herzl envisioned. No Barcha for the Medina. Not even a MiSheberach for the soliders in the IDF many of whom risk their lives daily. Nothing. Only hatred and criticsm. Is it any wonder that Datim and seculars are so angry now? The only real question is why did it take them so long to react?
I haven’t even scratched the surface of this man’s plaintive cry. A cry from the depths of his heart. He ended by saying the what Charedi leadership ought to be doing instead is following a Mesorah of Chesed – in the tradition of people like R’ Aryeh Levine and Rav Gustman. That is sorely missing form the Charedi narrative.
Unfortunately the only reaction I saw to this was from Rabbi Aryeh Z. Ginzberg. The title of his response should tell you all you need to know. “Misguided Mesorah”. It was more of the same. “He feels Mr. Jacobson’s pain” and calls him a friend. Then he goes about trashing him for daring to speak from the heart about what he sees from Gedolei Yisroel. He explains away all their negative rhetoric by listing all the same old canards about how evil they really are bringing ‘proof upon proof’ from anecdotal sources. Thus concluding that they deserve no better than what they are getting from the Charedi side.
I am frankly sick of the big lie filled with half truths being repeated over and over again. Rabbi Ginsberg has no credibility with me. Hopefully the truth will continue to spread in the Charedi world and the Rabbi Ginsbergs of the world will finally lose all their credibility – even among their own people. If there are more Charedim like Barry Jacobson, that will surely happen
I don’t know how all of this will end. I suspect that at the end of the day there will be some sort of compromise that all will be forced to live with. If one wants to see a decent projection of the future – and an overview of who believes what… and why, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein has done a pretty good job of sizing things up over at Cross Currents.
The problem is that even if things settle down, I do not see the enmity changing. It will continue to fester beneath the surface only to rear its ugly head the next time a crisis comes up in the Charedi world. Unless more ‘Barry Jacobsons’ speak up… and realize how badly the Charedi Leadership is failing its own people.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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