One Man’s Hafgana (Protest)
By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Since our Confronting and Eradicating Communal Abuse ran a few weeks ago on July 25th, there has been a seemingly non-stop string of riots, a beating, another attack on a soldier, a bus stoning, on and on.
My dear friends, the violence in our charedi community in Eretz Yisroel is a runaway train and we, the vast, overwhelming majority of peaceful charedi Jews are the only ones who can stop it.
Here is a sobering thought: When this Op-ed in Jerusalem Post -- They Do Not Represent Us ran in March of 2009, I noted that a Google search of the two words “charedi” and “violence” generated 26,200 hits. As of this morning, those same two words produced 218,000 hits.
As a personal expression of my unequivocal condemnation of the violence, permit me to share with you links and selected quotes from some of the essays Project YES have published over the years on the corrosive effects of violence and the obligation we all have to decry it in the strongest terms.
May Hashem grant us the wisdom and courage to eradicate the violence and terror that is an existential threat to the future of our community.
The Pierced Teen and I (1996)
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.” …
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.
Kanoim Are Rodfim (2011)
Let’s not mince words.
The future of our charedi community is quite literally in existential danger as the tension in Beit Shemesh plays itself out in the international media.
On a purely pragmatic level, this disturbing publicity has already placed the charedi community in Eretz Yisroel at greater risk of losing its financial aid to Yeshivos and Kollelim at the very least. In all likelihood, there may be far greater ramifications, as this could generate a tsunami of support among secular (and many religious) Israelis for a complete separation of church and state, which has the potential to end state support for all non-public schools in Eretz Yisroel.
However, the far greater danger is that we will be losing our souls should we fail to condemn the horrific actions, however isolated, of people who dress like us threatening women and children with violence, taunting them, and calling them all sorts of horrible names. And we will justifiably lose the hearts, neshamos and even lives of our children and grandchildren if we, rachmanim b’nei rachmanim (merciful people), cannot muster the righteous indignation and join forces to protest the appalling actions of these so-called kanoim.
Our community is just now coming to grips with the painful reality that is child abuse, and the ravages it leaves in its wake. We must now realize that there is communal abuse as well, from which we all continue to suffer. And just like we have come to understand that prosecuting and convicting child molesters can prevent future abuse, so too we must make sure that these kanoim who are rodfim in every way be stopped in their tracks.
Interview on Zev Brenner Show on Beit Shemesh Violence (2008)
Why is it that talmidim of radical chinuch throw stones, and talmidim of our great rebbi, Rav Pam z’tl don’t?
I hope that I am wrong, but the ramifications of this violence will be felt for a generation or two. This is a threat to our very future.
We need a “right book-end,” meaning when people on the very right abandon Torah values by committing violence, they should be declared as having left our mesorah.
One who picks up a stone to a police officer is a rodef.
Why are Jewish rock-throwers treated differently than Palestinian rock-throwers?
Interview on Zev Brenner Show on Violence in Yerushalayim (2011)
Op-ed in Jerusalem Post -- They Do Not Represent Us
AS AN EDUCATOR and a proud member of the haredi community, I appeal to all haredi 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 to bring law and order to the streets of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak and other areas where these people operate. If 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.
What Kanoim and Extremists Have Wrought (2009)
Read this report on Arutz Sheva titled Dangerous Youth in Bnei Brak and weep.
Weep for these kids who have been mislead to believe that anything less than full day learning is shameful.
Weep for their parents who did not have the courage to buck community pressure and do what was right for their “average” sons years ago.
And weep for our charedi tzibur that gave the green light for many years now to kanoim and extremists who have quashed all efforts in Bnei Brak and many other communities to create alternate programs and recreational activities for healthy, normal, mainstream children who so desperately are in need of them.
Several years ago, I had the ze’chus to be in the presence of Maran HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlit”a when he spoke at the Torah Umesorah Convention. Outside were dozens of kanoim, fiercely protesting his support of Nachal Charedi, (here are two columns that I wrote a while back about Nachal Charedi - Nachal Charedi #1 and Nachal Charedi #2), a wonderful program created for charedi boys who are not full-time learners.
Make no mistake about it. The ruined lives of these children, the tears of their parents, and the havoc these kids wreak on our kehilos are all on their hands.
My friends, Arutz Sheva got everything right but the title. The kids aren’t dangerous, they were just normal children driven to the streets by the dangerous kanoim who are destroying every facet of our kehillos.
The Nauseating Violence in Eretz Yisroel (2009)
I don’t for one moment believe that our aged and overburdened gedolei hador shlit”a are being informed by the askonim who plan these demonstrations, what the “last 150 pages” look like – the disgusting images of burning garbage cans and pitched battles with the police that are broadcast worldwide in real time.
Honestly, I don’t think the process by which these demonstrations are planned is led by the gedolim at all. Please carefully read this column in the Jerusalem Post, titled “The quiet organizer behind the new haredi riots vows: We won't surrender.”
I had the great ze’chus of working for and with Rabbi Moshe Sherer zt”l for the last few months of his life when we started Project YES. So I am very familiar with the correct way to approach Da’as Torah. Each and every time we had a question, Rabbi Sherer, who after 50 years of leading the Agudah, had the full confidence and respect of the gedolim, humbly asked for advice and then began planning.
This does not remotely resemble the manner in which the 36-year-old Mr. Yoel Kraus conducts, “behind-the-scenes deal-brokering that brings leading rabbis into its fold on various issues.” Read how the process works in Mr. Kraus’ own works, quoted in the Jerusalem Post column. "Let's say we want to stage a protest," Kraus says. "I contact people and get the word out, while the pashkivlim [wall posters used for announcements] also play an important role." Notice the words “we want to stage a protest,” and not “When our gedolim ask me to organize a protest. These are not semantics, but cut to the very core of how these things evolve. I think a more accurate term for Mr. Krause would be “The Charedi Warlord” not “The Quiet Organizer.”
I suggest that all askanim take a hiatus of at least one full generation where we stop protesting about other people’s sins and start looking inward. Maybe Mr. Krause should worry more about the hundreds of our sons and daughters who are in Israeli clubs on Friday night smoking pot, than worrying about secular Jews parking their cars on Shabbos. Maybe Mr. Krause should worry more about the pedophiles in our community who are violating children, more than those outside our community who are violating Shabbos.
Those of us who have any positions of influence in our communities must speak up loud and clear and call this behavior what it is -- a disgraceful Chillul Hashem and a distortion of Torah values -- in the loudest and most unequivocal terms. I am convinced that those of us who don’t will have to give din v'cheshbon for not having done so.
Occupy Beit Shemesh (2011)
Many people in our community insist, “Everyone understands that these are a small bunch of radicals who do not have the support of any rabbinic leaders.” But that is simply not the message resonating around the world nowadays.
The 1% is getting all the media attention due to the passiveness of the 99%.
Several years ago, readers of this website conducted our own peaceful “hafgana” (protest) when the demonstrations in Eretz Yisroel were spinning out of control, by writing respectful emails to the editors of The Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz condemning the violence in the clearest terms.
By all accounts, it was very successful as each of the papers received more than 100 emails from Jews worldwide. The Jerusalem Post designated a letters-to-the-editor section, where they printed many of the responses and actually wrote a column noting that there was a grass-roots movement by charedi Jews worldwide condemning the violent behavior.
We respectfully ask that you do the same at this critical time – with the eyes of the world focused on Beit Shemesh. Kindly take a few moments to cut and paste this message or write something along these lines and email them to
“As a Torah Jew, I am deeply distressed by the harassment and violence in Beit Shemesh – all of which is diametrically opposed to the teachings of our Holy Torah. Lest our silence be misconstrued as passive acceptance of this behavior, we condemn it in the strongest terms, as do the vast, overwhelming, majority of Torah Jews worldwide.”
We ask that you show public support for this effort by posting your name and the city where you live as a comment on the bottom of this thread so that members of our community and the media at large can see that this is a broad-based effort.
Thank you very much for your time and may this effort be helpful in restoring k’vod shamayim.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Collective Consequences (2009)
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 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.
Fire Your Spokesman in One Easy Step (2009)
Did you see the ugly picture in the papers this week of the elderly charedi man in Yerushalayim shaking his fist angrily in the face of a police officer? Well, he is your spokesman and he was kind enough to represent you before millions of readers worldwide last week while you were sitting at the Shabbos Seudah singing Zemiros with your children. And the charedi young men who threw rocks and burned garbage cans regularly over the past few weeks? They were your spokesmen too. Nice.
The writers and editors of the Jerusalem Post never met you nor did their millions of readers. They don’t see your Tefillah and Chesed, the respect you show your parents, and the dignified way you raise your children with Torah values. All they see are these hooligans.
If you are as horrified and heartbroken as I am that this is the case, now is the time to do something. It is rather simple. Just fire them. How? By writing a letter to the editors of Haaretzand The Jerusalem Post saying that these hooligans don’t speak for you. That might not completely do the job, but it is a great first step.
Will it make a difference? You decide. Our letter made it to today’s Jerusalem Post and it was noted that more than 50 people signed the letter; that, despite the fact that I only sent the email request late Sunday evening. And the person who runs the letters to the editor section at the Jerusalem Post emailed me this morning, that she received another 20-25 emails since she ran the letter in yesterday’s paper and that more are coming in still. (I will continue working on this, until I reach my goal of 1,000 emails.)
This morning, I was contacted by a writer of the Jerusalem Post who interviewed me for an article they are doing about our campaign to condemn the violence. Hopefully more newspapers will carry the story.
So, to all those who sent emails, thank you, and please pass this along to your email list and ask them to do the same. If you did not yet do so, please do.
Let’s finally get these violent hooligans fired as our spokespeople.
Thank you very much.
Hafganos Begin at Home (2009)
Let’s start with a simple multiple choice question:
What is a greater Chillul Hashem?
A) Non-observant Jews, who never had the benefit of a Torah education, driving cars on Shabbos?
B) Identifiably frum people throwing rocks at police officers on Shabbos and yelling things at them in full view of the media, like, “[anyone who desecrates Shabbos] "must die." And "You will burn in the fire of hell!" (Read this and weep.)
I cannot for the life of me understand how any decent human being, let alone an ehrliche Yid who was raised learning Torah and grew up hearing stories of the Chofetz Chaim can answer anything but “B.”
And I’ll take it a step further and say that anyone who answers choice “A” did not learn the same Torah and the same mesorah that my generation was taught by Reb Moshe and Reb Yakov, Reb Ahron and Rav Hutner, Rav Pam and Rav Ruderman, zichronom tzadikim l’vracha. …….
You and I know with certainty that our gedolim shlit”a do not sanction nor support any expression of violence. But the public at large does not know that, and paints all of us with one broad brush. It is for that reason that I am once again writing about this topic. ….
We who know what true Yiddishkeit is all about, have a positive role to play. I feel with every fiber of my body that each and every decent Yid worldwide has an achrayus to write letters and emails to every media outlet informing them that these hooligans do not speak for us. For we have no right preaching to others until we have removed this horrible stain from our own kehilos.
Hate Has No Off Button (2009)
From my vantage point, I think that the organizers of the protests are beginning to realize that the violence is out of control, and thankfully we are beginning to see calls for moderation. However, they are discovering – like all anarchists, Jewish or otherwise, since the time of the gemara (Gittin 57) when the head of the baryonim himself feared for his life, when contemplating moderating his stance and saving the life of his uncle Reb Yochanan ben Zakai – that hate cannot be turned off like a water spigot.
Once children are taught to rebel against the infrastructure of society and that violence is acceptable or even commendable, all bets are off. Violence and hatred corrupt one’s soul. It is that simple. Things of this nature may start off with a noble goal, but they never, ever, end that way.
Adolescents see things in black and white (more on this later), and believe-it-or-not actually do listen to what adults around them are saying. They may not follow our wishes, but they do hear our overt and covert messages.
I keep reading reports in the charedi press that the violence is being conducted by “out-of-control teens.” I beg to differ. The violence is a direct and inevitable result of kids merely taking the hateful rhetoric of the adults around them to the next step.
Parents beware: If you are telling your children that these protests are “a-good-thing-that-is-overdone” or that those who throw rocks and dirty diapers are “people-who-deeply-care-about-Shabbos-and-just-can’t-control-themselves,” or send them to mosdos that are led by individuals who preach this, don’t be surprised when they become radicalized and turn hateful. And don’t be shocked and blame others when you get a call in middle of the night to bail your son out of an Israeli jail after being arrested at a hafgana
Hate does not have an off button. Nor does revolution.
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