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They Do Not Represent Us
Protecting Our Women and Restoring Our Honor
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
This article orignally appeared in The Jerusalem Post

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3/17/09

Dear Readers:

Once a year, I ask my readers to kindly consider participating in our annual dinner by making a donation, large or small, to support Yeshiva Darchei Noam, which I founded twelve years ago, and where I serve as Dean.

Due to the current economic downward spiral, many of our parents who previously paid their tuition in full, and who also contributed generously to the capital campaign for our new building, are now finding themselves in financial difficulty. They have applied for scholarships where they never needed to before. That is why your gift to Yeshiva Darchei Noam means even more to us at this time. Please consider assisting Darchei Noam’s innovative chinuch by making a donation and/or placing an ad in honor of our Twelfth Annual Dinner celebrating the dedication of our new building, which took place on Sunday evening, March 22nd in Ateres Charna, 790 North Main Street, Spring Valley, NY. Aside from tuition, the Dinner Campaign is the largest source of funds for our Yeshiva.

For your convenience, you can make a donation to Yeshiva Darchei Noam by clicking here, or sending an email to: dinner@darcheinoam.org

Respectfully,

Yakov

They Do Not Represent Us

Protecting our Women and Restoring Our Honor

On Sunday, Elhanan Buzaglo was sentenced to four years imprisonment for the vicious beating of a woman, nine months ago in Jerusalem's Ma'alot Dafna neighborhood. Buzaglo, a member of a charedi mishmar hazniyut, a self-appointed chastity squad, pled guilty as part of a plea bargain struck with the State Prosecutor's Office.

Buzaglo, who broke into the 31-year-old divorcé’s apartment along with four other men, was convicted of receiving $2,000 from the mishmar hazniyut for his role in the attack, which was intended to intimidate her into leaving the predominantly charedi neighborhood. Judge Noam Solberg wrote in his decision that "the punishment must reflect the abhorrence of his acts … and deter him and others like him."

Even though the Jerusalem District Court described the assailants as an "armed militia," Buzaglo, 29, was the only defendant to be convicted in this barbaric attack. According to newspaper reports last October, a series of flaws in the investigation, including a problem with the recording device, enabled Buzaglo's dispatchers – the modesty patrol members – to evade indictments.

From my vantage point, it is unfortunate that all those who participated in the vicious beating of a defenseless woman are not facing long prison sentences. But it is a great step forward and hopefully will mark a turning point in the attitude of law enforcement officials to these thugs.

As an educator and a proud member of the charedi community, I appeal to all charedi Knesset members to display moxie and genuine leadership by calling a joint press conference where they repudiate all forms of violence and vow to bring to justice all those who perpetrate these types of attacks from this day forward. They should bring all law enforcement resources to bear, in order to bring law and order to the streets of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak and other areas where these people operate. If our elected officials cannot commit themselves to protecting innocent women from vicious beatings, they should all resign and be replaced by people who will.

There is no question in my mind that the vast, overwhelming majority of charedi Jews worldwide feel as I do; disgraced and shamed when these events occur, and frustrated that there seems to be little that we can do to remove this stain from our shirts. Many members of our community are reluctant to speak out publicly, fearing that doing so will cause a chillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s name. However, I propose that remaining silent in the face of violent and lawless acts perpetrated by individuals purporting to represent Torah values is the greatest chillul Hashem of all.

The time has come for us to speak out, telling our children and students in unequivocal terms, “These people are criminals and sinners – and do not represent us!” Our publications should begin reporting these incidents in the news sections of our papers, condemn them in our editorials, and call upon the police to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.

We should stop using politically correct terms like “misguided youths” to describe cowards who beat women for sitting in the “wrong” sections of buses and physically assault peaceful citizens who do not dress according to their standards – observant or otherwise. “Misguided youth” implies that they engaged in a prank, like a water fight, or that they went overboard in pursuit on a noble goal. There is nothing noble about these acts – or the terrorist mentality that glorifies them.

The violent members of these self-appointed modesty patrols are, in fact, a modern-day version of the Sadducee sect (Tzedokim) – having long ago veered off the path of our Torah and formed their own cult. They kneel to the idol of intolerance and bring the blood and bruised bodies of their victims on the altar of hatred. They only lack the intellectual honestly to declare themselves a new, non-religious movement divorced of any rabbinic teaching and tradition.

But violence corrupts not only the souls of the perpetrators, but also those of the silent majority of decent people who sit by silently and allow it to take place. And in this era of the 24-hour news cycle and worldwide digital communication, like it or not, admit it or not, these thugs have replaced our venerable sages as ambassadors of our charedi community to the world at large (a Google search of the words charedi and violence generates 26,200 hits) To our great shame, we have allowed these evil people to represent us before the world media instead of our noble sages from whom we receive inspiration and guidance. The Chafetz Chaim and Rabbi Aryeh Levine of blessed memory have been replaced by Yasir Arafat and Hassan Nasrallah. Burning garbage cans and hurled stones have supplanted Torah learning and acts of kindness.

We must clearly and unequivocally condemn the violence each time it happens in the strongest language. Halachic (Judaic law) rulings ought to be issued, that those who commit violence against innocent people are rodfim (individuals who present a real and present danger to others) and one is obligated by our Torah to defend the victim and report the criminals to the police.

I am posting this column on my website (www.rabbihorowitz.com ) and I respectfully call upon charedim worldwide to post a comment at the bottom of the column with your name and email address and the city where you live supporting the sentiments expressed here.

If enough Torah-observant individuals stand up, distance ourselves from these criminals, and demand action from our elected officials, we might affect changes which will restore honor to G-d’s name and end these acts of terror that plague us.

Recommended reading:

My Grandfather and I – lessons on living in a secular world

The Pierced Teen and I – my moving midnight encounter with a secular teen in the lobby of a Jerusalem hotel

A Response to The Pierced Teen and I – a response in defense of the Israeli charedi community by a resident of Kiryat Sefer, and my reply

Enough is Enough – Miriam Shear’s article about the beating she received on the #2 bus to the Kotel

Response to the Boro Park Riot – an essay I wrote condemning the violence, which was subsequently published in several charedi publications

Before the Next Time – where I asked some hard (still unanswered) questions, as to why these events are occurring far too frequently in our community.

Almost certainly due to the financial stress so many families are under these days, our Project YES phone lines are getting twice as many calls from parents, asking for mentors for their children, than last year. We are now more than 70 volunteers 'short' -- meaning that 70 kids are waiting for someone to spend an hour a week with. Our mentoring program is really something special -- you will have professional training, you get a great deal of TLC and hand holding from our YES staff, and it is incredibly rewarding. Please watch the video on our website, or click here to learn about it. To volunteer to become a mentor: Call (718)758-3131 or email: rabbihorowitz@rabbihorowitz.com



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