Posts Tagged ‘hassidim’
Breslov Chassidim have an affinity for Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem.
Regardless of prevailing security conditions they drive in there, into PA-controlled Area A, do their “Na-Nach” thing and leave.
Needless to say, they often do it without coordinating with the IDF, who might or might not let them go in at that time. The IDF regularly organizes fully-guarded, heavily armed Israeli visits to the tomb of Joseph.
Last night, an unescorted, unauthorized, and uncoordinated convoy of around 30 Breslovers drove into Shechem, to Joseph’s Tomb.
[Editor: Reportedly, they went in to clean up the site that the PA Arabs destroyed on Thursday, per their Rabbi’s orders.]
At some point the local barbarians found out they were there, and an Arab mob, including PA police, came out to violently greet them.
One car in the convoy wasn’t fast enough in the exit, and they got captured by the mob and the Palestinian Authority police.
The Breslov car and passengers were badly beaten up by the PA Police. The PA police even drew guns and cocked their weapons at the enthusiastic Chassidim.
Eventually, the PA police let the heavily-wounded Breslov Chassidim go, and as they exited Shechem, the Breslov chassidim were promptly arrested by the Israeli police for their stupid and illegal action (and taken to Beilinson hospital for treatment).
Now, I for one am all for Jews visiting EVERYWHERE in the Land of Israel, at any time – but be SMART about it – we’re not allowed to rely solely on miracle – tell the army you’re going, make sure everyone in the convoy is together, take guns or an armed escort with you. Be smart.
The following video is believed to be right after the Arabs discovered the Breslov visit to the tomb last night:
Racial tensions in the New York town of Ramapo, near Monsey, flared Wednesday when two men and a women were arrested for firing a paintball gun at two members of the Jewish volunteer patrol group Chaverim. One of them suffered minor wounds in the stomach.
The trio also yelled anti-Semitic slurs and was charged with a hate crime, aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon.
The victims were standing on a street when the suspected attackers drove through the Jewish community near Monsey. The volunteer radioed other Chaverim members, who were able to corner the vehicle until police arrived and arrested the trio.
Tensions have been running high in Ramapo, where there is a large Orthodox Hassidic community and large black and immigrant communities.Jewish Press News Briefs
For so many people religion is practiced out of a sense superstition. Like a furry rabbit’s foot, it wards off evil spirits. Fulfilling the word of God keeps you from experiencing bad things. So what happens when you’re religious and those bad things happen anyway? It must be because you sinned.
I continue to be amazed at how many people see God as “the great blackmailer in the sky,” a term I first heard from the atheist Oxford philosopher Jonathan Glover in a debate I moderated between him and my friend Dennis Prager. God threatens us with death and suffering unless we follow His will. Insofar as I have recently published a full length book refuting this idea, both Biblically and logically, I will not here address it, other than to focus on the most insidious permutation thereof. And that is the belief that the Holocaust was punishment for Jewish sin.
No doubt you’ve heard this argument before. It’s straightforward and it goes like this. The Jews of Germany didn’t want to be Jewish any more. They wanted to be more German than the Germans. They changed their names. They assimilated. They married out. The reform movement, which started in Germany in about 1820, expunged all mention of Zion and Jerusalem from its prayer book. Germany and Berlin were the new promised land. In short, the Jews of Germany abandoned God. Worse, they thought they could get away with it. So God decided to teach them a lesson. Just try and forget Me. Here, have a few gas chambers. Let’s see how independent you feel when you’re incarcerated behind barbed wire? Let’s see how much you love Germany when they collectively slaughter your children.
I’ve heard many variations on this theme. One is that it wasn’t assimilation and attachment to Germany that brought the Holocaust, but the exact opposite. The Jews were punished for secular Zionism and an attempt to return to the ancient homeland without divine assistance. Another variation, which I heard just recently and supposedly exists on a tape from one of the great Jewish scholars of the 20th century, was that the only way the Jews would ever give up their deep, emotional attachment to the great Torah centers of Europe, like Lithuania, was to see their neighbors shoot their own parents.
Whatever the variation on this theme of the Holocaust as punishment, let’s be clear. These theories are ignorant, repulsive, and wrong. Ignorant because no human being knows the mind of God. Repulsive because they take six million innocent martyrs – including 1.5 million children – and turn them into culprits responsible for their own deaths. Wrong because they ignore the most basic fact of all, which is this: the majority of German Jews survived Hitler, even though, of course, huge numbers perished.
In 1933 there were 522,000 Jews living in the Reich. By 1939 and the start of the Second World War, 304,000 had emigrated. Beginning in January 1933, when Hitler came to office in a torch lit parade down Unter den Linden, the Jews of Germany knew that they were in the hands of a monster. Almost immediately Jews were beaten in the streets, their businesses boycotted, their Synagogues attacked. By September, 1935 the Nuremberg race laws were enacted. By November 1938 the horrors of Kristallnacht defined the growing Nazi tyranny. And throughout, the Jews of Germany tried to get out. They knew they were otherwise doomed. And while the nations of the world closed so many doors to them, the majority managed to escape.
The people who did not escape were, among so many other millions, the Hassidim and ultra-religious Jews of Poland who had no idea that Hitler had signed a secret pact with Stalin to partition Poland. They had no inkling of Hitler’s plan to invade via blitzkrieg on 1 September, 1939 and that they would be caught in his web.
Are we to believe that these Jews who were devout and pious, with deeply sounding Jewish names, who observed the minutiae of Jewish law pertaining to kosher and the Sabbath and prayed thrice daily for the Jewish return to Zion were punished with extinction while the “sinful” culprits of German Jewry mostly survived? And what of the more than one million children who were gassed and cremated who were utterly innocent of every sin?Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
My late father was a survivor of Auschwitz. He arrived there as a young Hassid from a Jewish village in Poland, and he left as he had arrived, with his faith intact, and with an awareness that following the Holocaust, he must not be tempted by the offers of the JDC and HIAS to travel to America. As he put it one of the few times he broke the long silence that characterized his life: “The time had come to go home.”
He went to fight in the War of Liberation, although my mother, who had survived the ghettos, already was carrying me in her belly. They had made a decision to build a family together, and were married by a British military rabbi in a Cyprus detention camp for Jews who attempted to break the British blockade of the Land of Israel.
Upon arriving here in Israel he was immediately conscripted and sent to infantry training and then to serve at Haganah positions. He left my pregnant mother in a village in the north with other families that had come from the gloom of the Diaspora and forged a community of Hassidic laborers out of its wreckage.
Alongside him served other survivors. The cynics among them would later laugh about those days of “Yiddish soldiers” whose maneuvers were executed in exquisite Yiddish that to my ears sounded like a Dzigan sketch. I remember their reminiscences about mortar-firing exercises accompanied by otherwordly orders straight out of the shtiebl. “Arise, Reb Yechiel—honored with the firing of one bomb!”
As much as this was a Hassidic community, it was a Zionist one, at once hard-nosed and idealistic. Its members took Independence Day with the utmost seriousness, and recited the formal blessing over the Hallel prayer. “Anyone who wasn’t there has no business telling us not to say a blessing,” Daskal, the synagogue manager, once said to me. He would later lose his son Ya’akov, a brilliant yeshiva student, when he fell with two fellow students in a terrorist ambush in the Jordan Valley.
There was no quibbling with decisions as to who was called up for duty. Encounters at the shtiebl between Torah students and fighters lacked the tension that is there today. There was agreement that everyone was on a mission, whether a military mission or one of Torah.
“A Head with Tefillin”
It was the first day of the Yom Kippur War. We were in the middle of the Mussaf prayer, and I was there in my commanding role in the Hassidic choir as we sang “Be with the mouths of your people the House of Israel.”
My mother, who had been informed well in advance that two consecutive calls were due cause to pick up the phone on a Shabbat or holiday, arrived at the synagogue and hurried me out.
“I think they’re calling from your unit,” she said nervously.
Before saying goodbye to me, the old Hassidim sent me to receive a blessing from the rebbe of the neighboring shtiebl, who was considered a miracle worker. He too had come from there.
With the convulsions of war and the battles, I moved around between various units so as to stay on the front. As time went on, as would be expected of me, I lost more and more of my equipment—but not my gun or my tefillin.
My gun—granted, but tefillin? To understand that you have to know a story from my youth.
One day in yeshiva I received a package of cookies from my mother, accompanied by an agitated letter from my father.
“My dear son,” he wrote in the rugged handwriting of a manual laborer, “you know what ‘a head without tefillin’ is. But the head of the yeshiva has informed me that you missed putting on tefillin one day!”
He continued, adding that in Auschwitz there were no tefillin, until in 1943 a certain group of Hungarian Jews arrived. When he heard that they had a pair of tefillin, he began crossing the fence that separated him from them very early each morning to put on tefillin for a moment and say “Shema.”
“Let this deed not seem trivial to you,” he wrote in Diasporic Hebrew. “It was a very difficult thing to do, it was cold, and I stood the risk of missing the distribution of rations—and someone who missed receiving food for one day was in danger. Nevertheless, this was [serving God] ‘with all your means.’”
When I came home I wanted to hear more of the story. Was the fence electrified? It wasn’t every day that he opened up, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.
“What was, was,” he said definitively. “That is all.”
“But wasn’t your life at risk?!” I said deviously. “Is it really permitted to risk your life in order to perform a mitzva?”
That already was a halakhic discussion. He responded.
“True. As soon as I saw that other Jews were copying me and waiting on line, I stopped.”
I took this story with me to every war. Before beginning a day of forced labor, a Jew goes and finds other Jews like him waiting at dawn on a long line to put on tefillin. Just so they would not have “a head without tefillin,” as the Talmud puts it. How then could I not be sure to put on tefillin every day?
Still, the Lebanon War came and, as luck would have it, my tefillin remained in the APC behind the lines with the rest of my equipment, while I was in the alleys of Baabda at the entrance to Beirut, part of the first battalion to arrive there. A few inquiries later a pair of tefillin was found for me, and I went to the side, dressed in tefillin and talit.
Suddenly an Arab couple appeared, a man and woman dressed in their finest. They drew closer, heading straight for me.
I pulled my gun out of the folds of the talit.
“Rifa ayadikum!” I ordered in Arabic. “Put your hands up!”
As they stood there opposite me, their hands aloft, the man made a gesture to his wife with his raised hand.
“Marati!” he exclaimed. “Yahudi.” “She is a Jew.”
“Prove it,” I countered. “What does it say inside this box?” as I pointed in the direction of my forehead.
“Shema Yisrael,” she answered, lowering one hand from above her head, covering her eyes, “Hashem elokeinu, Hashem echad.”
“Uchtei anta,” I said. “You are my sister.” Her eyes were moist. I think mine were, too.
I could feel my father standing there with me, and his fathers as well.
“How great tefillin are,” I thought. “They connect different worlds and different generations. If I hadn’t been wearing them, the lost daughter who married a Christian man might not have dared approach the enemy invaders. She might never have reconnected with her family in Bat Yam.” Now, as she told the story of her family members with whom she had lost contact when they departed for Israel, the connection was renewed.
One good deed leads to another. I don’t know what happened to that woman, but maybe, just maybe, her earth-shattering “Shema Yisrael,” together with the prayers for the safety of our soldiers, gave us the boost we needed in the ensuing battles.
I have a strange occupation: I attend funerals and memorial services. After a recent funeral, I had a dream in which my father appeared, waking me with his numbered hand.
“You cried?” he said.
“I heard you cry. I know you. You’ve cried every time since you came back from the Six-Day War as a young man. Anyway, I thought I heard you crying from up here, so I came.”
“So I cried. So what?
“I’ve told you a thousand times you don’t have what to cry over. We didn’t cry ….” He gestured with his numbered hand. “What we went through without crying … Thousands of us killed every hour, herded by the hundreds into the crematorium every seven minutes, and we didn’t cry!”
“Then maybe the time has come to cry,” I said. “The numbers keep adding up. There’s no end. You promised us that we had come here to put an end to the era of death!”
“Nu, nu,” said my father in his Polish Yiddish Hebrew, clicking his tongue. “Have you forgotten the inheritance I left you?”
“What inheritance, Abba? You worked liked a dog your whole life, but there was no inheritance! Not a dime!”
“What abbout the Kaddish prayer I left you? That inheritance. Every year I said Kaddish on the Tenth of Tevet and on Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of all the relatives who were murdered by the hundred. Now it’s you, my heir, who has to say it instead of me.”
“What kind of an inheritance is that, Abba?” I yelled. “I should say Kaddish? I never even met them!”
“Precisely,” my father exclaimed with a victorious smile. “You understand now. You never met them, and I never meet them either. They went to their deaths anonymously by the hundred, by the thousand, by the million. Now everything has changed. Today your newspapers are full of names, pictures, stories. Every person who is killed has a name, and the whole nation remembers him. Where we were, who remembered them?
“Now you understand that there is a difference. In between the tears, you can smile a little, you have to allow yourself some happiness. Now you have a state, and an army, and someone to bury the dead, which we did not have …”
With that my father disappeared, wearing the doleful smile he had worn when he came, offering a survivor’s consolation so relevant to these days.
Originally published in Makor Rishon, April 12. Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg.Meir Indor
My issues with Satmar notwithstanding, I must give credit where credit is due. The Williamsburg area where Satmar Hasidim live has quietly created a trend of development that is somewhat counter culture – in a good way. In an era where gentrification has become standard for urban renewal Satmar has had its own – much more affordable version of that going on in its outer edges.
Gentrification is what happens to slums (or at best neglected neighborhoods) where the poor live when a city council and developers get together to try and eliminate those slums. Developers will buy out dilapidated buildings and either demolish them to build new upscale living quarters or rehabilitate existing structures that in their hey-day were quite upscale themselves.
When the original tenants moved to the suburbs (what used to be called white flight) and the poor started moving in these neighborhoods became neglected – some of them turning into slums. The residents could not afford to keep up the buildings and they became run down. That is an oversimplified – but I think fair description of what has happened.
Developers – seeking to attract singles or a working couple with no children whose incomes are well above average and expenditures far less that the average family would build housing suitable for this demographic… making them unattractive for most families and too expensive in any event. These dwellings are steeply priced. As an article in the New York Observer points out – in the trendier section of Williamsburg, a half a million dollars will barely buy you a studio apartment.
Satmar developers, ever mindful of the need of their growing community, have taken a different track. They have lobbied government officials successfully and have received zoning variances enabling them to build housing on what were once commercial and industrial zoned areas of Williamsburg. And they have built brand new and affordable housing for Satmar families where that same half million will buy a three-bedroom condo in a new elevator building.
True these structures will not win any architectural awards. “Strolling down Bedford Avenue, you’re greeted by a solid wall of new six-story brick buildings” says the New York Observer. They are obviously more functional than aesthetic. But they do have a clean and new functional look to them. In an area where a modest lifestyle is promoted, this type of housing is ideal. And again from the Observer (here comes the good part): “the ultra-Orthodox have succeeded in building thousands of units and keeping the neighborhood affordable for families—on private land, and without public money!”
I have been to these neighborhoods and seen these buildings. They are a far cry from the impoverished conditions I used to see there just a decade or so ago. It appears to be populated entirely by Williamsburg Hasidim.
And yet, I can’t help but feel that there is something missing from this seemingly idyllic picture. For one thing a half million dollars isn’t pocket change. The ‘modest’ incomes of most Satmar Hasidim doesn’t seem like enough to buy one of these units. Even if you factor in low down payments – there remains the very high mortgage payments. Which begs the question, where do these families with 6, 7, 8 or more children get the money to pay for that? It would therefore appear to be that only a more upscale (by Satmar standards) family can afford these units. Either that or some of these families must be getting subsidized. And if so, where is that money coming from? Philanthropists? Government welfare programs?
The building boom also had some controversy attached when public land was bought along with private land. From the New York Observer:
Black and Latino leaders claimed that the affordable housing complex—to be built on city-owned land, some of which would be seized by eminent domain—would give a disproportionate number of units to the ultra-Orthodox, as traditional public housing projects nearby had in the past.
Rabbi David Niederman, leader of the United Jewish Organizations, begged to differ, saying that both the public and private aspect of the rezoning are needed. “We believe in supply and demand,” he said. “Imagine if 200 people are fighting for one unit”—something that New Yorkers outside of Hasidic Williamsburg won’t have to try very hard to do. “Prices are going to go up like crazy.”
I personally see no problem with what Satmar did. They lobbied for the land and they got it. Black and Latino leaders could have done the same.Harry Maryles
Today is Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. My parents were both Holocaust survivors. If my father were alive today he would be 109 years old. My mother would be 99. My two brothers who were in the early teens when they were freed from their bunkers are today in their mid 80s.
The fact is that the survivor population is aging. Many survivors are now gone having lived to ripe old ages. Some have retained their faith and some have not. Most have renewed their lives; had families and seen much nachas from the children, grandchildren and great grand-children. They have seen the birth of a Jewish State, a rebirth of Judaism, and an unprecedented growth of Torah observance.
But the memory of what happened to them and their loved ones who did not survive stays with them. How can it not? We need to recognize that. This was once again pointed out by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel who this morning was interviewed on CBS’s Sunday morning news show in a Holocaust memorial segment.
When he was asked to describe his experiences, he said it is not possible. He said that there were no words in any language that could describe the pure evil of what Nazi Germany did. The Nazis managed to perpetrate acts that were so evil that they were beyond human description. How, he asked, does one describe what it’s like to stand naked in a line on your way to be murdered (along with everyone else in that line) in a gas chamber disguised as a shower?
I think he is right. Yes, there are genocides taking place in the word even to this day in some uncivilized societies. But never like the systematic and scientific murder machine that was Nazi Germany. They saw murdering Jews as an ideal to be worshipped. Hitler considered it his “sacred” duty to annihilate the Jewish people.
I know that the religious right objects to observing a memorial to the Holocaust during the month of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. We are not allowed to eulogize the dead during this month. But this has never stopped even the most right wing rabbis from doing so at a funeral that takes place during Nissan. They simply say something like – since we may not make Hespedim (eulogies) during Nissan they will just say a few words of praise about him – and then dive right into an elaborate eulogy.
But I understand their objection to making an official day of remembrance during this month. I wish it were not on that day but at a date where eulogies are permitted. But it isn’t. Unfortunately their anti-Zionist rhetoric has spilled into Holocaust Remembrance day even if they have not said anything specific publicly about it. A lot of disrespect of that day persists – some of it public. And that is a Hilul HaShem.
It is also disrespectful to edit out women from photos from that era as was recently done. While I don’t approve of the practice of editing out pictures of tzanua (modestly dressed) women under any circumstances, I understand that there are some members of the right wing – mostly Hasidim – who feel that any picture of a woman is not appropriate for men to look at.
Much as I disagree with them, they are entitled to their opinion. But there are times when it should be inappropriate even for them. Such as the time the Secretary of State was photo-shopped out of a widely distributed “iconic” picture of the President and members of his administration watching the “Navy Seal Team’ assassination of Bin Laden as it was happening.
However, when it comes to tampering with Holocaust images it should cross every line of human decency. There is no way to justify that. The picture in question has blurred out the images of women in a famous photo. How in heaven’s name can anyone claim that viewing the women in that picture is in any way inappropriate?!
It is an insult to them memories of all 6 million Jews to decide that because a victim in such a photo is a woman it should be somehow blurred out of it. The reason for eliminating photos of women is so that there won’t even be the remotest chance of their eliciting an improper though on the part of a man. In this photo? Are they kidding?!
This is what happens when you stop thinking and see everything in linear fashion. They say that a photo of a woman is always a possible source of indecent thoughts in men. No difference here. If they don’t hadn’t shown this picture at all, that would have been one thing. But they obviously felt it was important enough to publish it as part of their message. But the message they sent was not one of the horrors of the Holocaust. It was how ridiculously far their views about showing a woman in a photo goes.
I truly do not understand how anyone can be an adherent of a movement that thinks like this, no matter how warm and fuzzy it otherwise is.
I am not one to make a religion of the Holocaust. Unfortunately there are some people who do. The Jewish people are not defined by the Holocaust. We are defined by God’s mandate for us as expressed through written and oral Torah law. Even so, God forbid that we minimize what happened by using it to promote various agendas (as have animal rights activists)… or dishonor survivors by ignoring Holocaust Remembrance Day entirely – in some cases even thumbing our noses at it… or by injecting the most extreme interpretation of modesty for women into it.
Here is my message to these people: get a clue. The Holocaust was not about your agenda. It was not about tznius. Do not dishonor the memory of the victims or mock the sensitivity of the survivors by using the Holocaust for your own purpose or injecting your unreasonable tznius standards by photo-shopping women out of Holocaust pictures.
And to those who in other ways dishonor Holocaust Remembrance Day… Stop it! All you end up doing is dishonoring yourselves and bring mockery upon the Torah!
Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.Harry Maryles