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Collective Consequences
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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7/17/09

Charedi Knesset Members broke their deafening silence on the out-of-control violence in Eretz Yisroel to condemn Mayor Nir Barkat for his "Collective Punishment" of the charedi community when Mr. Barkat announced that he is suspending city services to Meah Shearim and Geulah, after a sanitation worker was evacuated by police and taken to the hospital having been injured in a demonstration, and following the vandalism of a city welfare office.

I know I was not asked for my input, but may I humbly suggest that in future press releases, the charedi Knesset Members consider changing the words "Collective Punishment" to "Collective Consequences?"

Why? Because there is a subtle but profound difference between a punishment and a consequence -- one that has powerful ramifications for parents and educators. A punishment is one that is punitive in nature and is not logically connected to the misdeed. An example would be if parents would take a favorite toy away from their son because he hit his sister.

On the other hand, if a parent sends a child to his room for hitting his sister and explains that the living room is a public area and he forfeits his right to use those areas if he hurts others there; that is a consequence. There is a logical thread connecting the crime and punishment. (Note to parents: Do your best to give consequences to your children as opposed to punishments, as they are an educational tool and do not breed resentment.)

I am suggesting that the Knesset Members and other leaders of the communities would be well served thinking of the mayor's actions not as a "Collective Punishment" but rather as a small sample of the enormous "Collective Consequences" that will inevitably unfold in the weeks, months, years, and probably even decades ahead, in response to the uncivilized mayhem that is happening.

The American public turned against the war in Vietnam in no small part when the carnage it produced was broadcast to their television sets in living color each night -- the first war to be covered in such fashion.

Well; the horrible, escalating violence in Eretz Yisroel is being beamed around the world on the Internet in real time, and ALL decent citizens of the world -- gentiles, secular Jews, observant non-charedi Jews and even or especially charedi Jews -- are disgusted and nauseated by each picture, each video and each written report we see.

And just as day follows night, there will be collective consequences -- not punishments -- as a result.

Because of these endless stream of images, Jews in Europe may suffer more Anti-Semitism, visibly charedi Jews worldwide will continue to be more and more shamed by association, more of our teens and adults will have their connection to Yiddishkeit weakened, and kiruv workers will spend greater percentages of their time saying things like, "You know, it’s only a small percentage ...."

However, even if the charedi Knesset members are not motivated by any of the above to stop the mayhem, and are not motivated by the colossal chillul Hashem this is causing, and if they are not motivated by the difficulty Israeli Roshei Yeshiva and Kollelim will have raising money for Israeli mosdos in this terrible economy due to the backlash to the violence, I suggest that they ought to be concerned for purely selfish reasons. For there will inevitably be perhaps unprecedented "Collective Consequences" for the broader charedi community by the "counter-riots" secular Israeli Jews will stage as a result of all this.

What do I mean by that? Here is an excerpt from the "Pierced Teen and I" column I wrote on this subject four years ago in The Jewish Observer. And things have certainly not improved since then. The time is long overdue for calm responsible voices to be raised to reverse the trend of the violence that is causing such destruction, chillul Hashem, and collective consequences.

Of Rioting and Cuts

A.M. Rosenthal wrote a prophetic op-ed piece in the New York Times nearly fifteen years ago, following the horrific Los Angeles race riots. He commented that after the riots of the inner city minorities ran its course, he predicted that in the following months and years, the upper class whites in the country would riot the way they always have rioted. They will abandon the cities and move to the suburbs, he wrote, and they will vote Republican and shred the social services network. Sure enough, in 1994, two years later, Newt Gingrich was propelled to power and his “Contract with America” started a decade-long attack on funding for social programs. And shortly thereafter, President Bill Clinton announced that he would, “End welfare as we know it.”

I conducted parenting classes in different Torah communities in three of the five evenings that I spent in Eretz Yisroel on this past trip. Fielding questions from hundreds of people in an open forum for two hours and taking private request for eitzos gives the presenter (me) a very accurate read regarding the challenges that communities face. I can tell you firsthand that our valiant avreichim and their families are suffering terribly from the draconian ‘triple-whammy’ cuts of the past few years. Simultaneously, child subsidies have been slashed; yeshiva funding cut back and all sorts of regulations on religious schools are now in place – compounding the strain on these mosdos haTorah.

Shouldn’t we ask ourselves if the recent, painful budget cuts brought about in part by the stunning ascendancy of Tommy Lapid and the Shinui party – the rioting of the secular Jews – was even in a small part caused by the self-imposed collective black eye that we suffered as a result of the aggressive actions of some members of our community? We cannot avoid these implications for our future. Just because Tommy bungled his mandate and is slipping from power does not mean that the forces that propelled him there have abated.



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