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They Do Not Represent Us
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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Once again, charedi Jews worldwide were shamed and disgraced yesterday, by association, due to the actions of a few violent criminals dressed like charedi Jews.

This time, it was in Beit Shemesh, where according to reports in Israeli papers, a group of five chareidi young men assaulted a woman for refusing to move to the back of a ‘charedi’ bus where the front seats were ‘reserved’ exclusively for men. A male soldier seated next to the woman was reportedly also assaulted – “murderously” beaten, according to the soldier. When police arrived to arrest the individuals, dozens of other ‘chareidi’ men attacked the police officers and punctured the tires of a police car, according to the newspaper reports.

I hope beyond hope that this story, as reported, is inaccurate. But if it is true, it represents a colossal desecration of Hashem’s name, especially since the criminals who committed this despicable act claim that their violent actions chas v’shalom (G-d forbid) represent Torah values. Nothing could be further from the truth. They disgrace out holy Torah and bring shame to all of us. (Less than a year ago, a 50-year-old woman, Miriam Shear, was attacked and beaten by a group of charedi men on a Jerusalem bus for similar ‘reasons.’)

Eighteen months ago, when a police car was torched in Boro Park after an elderly Jew was treated roughly during a traffic stop, there were clear and unequivocal quotes of condemnation of those illegal acts and calls for us to act as law abiding citizens by the Noviminsker Rebbi shlita and Horav Rosenbloom shlita in a full-page editorial in the daily Hamodia newspaper and many rabbonim condemned those lawless acts in their Shabbos Hagadol speeches. I posted a Column on my website the day the shameful event occurred condemning the violence and a few weeks later wrote an essay about it that was published in Hamodia; Before the Next Time, where I asked some hard (still unanswered) questions as to why these events are occurring far too often in our community.

These are appropriate responses that ought to happen each and every time one of these horrible events that shame Hashem’s Torah occur.

I think that every parent and educator who hears his (her) children/students discussing this matter must forcefully state in unequivocal terms, “These people do not represent us!” Charedi publications should report this incident in the news sections of their papers and condemn them in their editorials. Additionally, we should treat these thugs like the ‘rodfim’ that they are and do our best to see that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We should also stop using politically correct terms like “misguided youths” to describe the criminals who physically assault peaceful citizens – charedi or otherwise. We should use the same terms that were used in our papers to describe the horrific beating of a 40-year-old rebbi in Lakewood last week with a baseball bat by a non-Jew. “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 hitting people – especially when a group of men cowardly attack an individual woman. We must publicly state that violence is always wrong and it contradicts all the teachings of our holy Torah.

In the past ten days, I posted two columns on my website; Adults at Risk and Running out of Time describing the very real challenge that we face with well-adjusted adults and children leaving Yiddishkeit. There are few factors that contribute to this phenomenon (especially the adults who are leaving) more than the shame generated when decent Jews are asked by non-religious/non-Jewish colleagues or acquaintances to comment on or explain these thuggish acts purportedly committed in the name of our Torah.

I believe that the vast, overwhelming majority of charedi Jews worldwide feel as I do; disgraced and shamed when these events occur. We also feel frustrated; as there is little that we can do to remove this collective stain from our shirts. We do not seem to have a voice in this process at all.

Do you know what I would like to see happen? I would like the Rabbonim of Eretz Yisroel to use the platform of the charedi press to:

1) Clearly and unequivocally condemn the violence in the strongest language.

2) Issue halachic rulings that:

  • Violence is forbidden by our Torah under any circumstances
  • Those who commit violence constitute a real and present danger to the safety of the public and one is halachicly obligated to report them to the police, and
  • If one finds himself in the presence of a violent act perpetrated by criminals, he is halachicly obligated to defend the victim as the Torah says, “Lo sa’amod al dam re’echa”

I would also like to see all charedi Knesset members call a joint press conference where they repudiate all forms of violence and vow to bring to justice all those who perpetrated this cowardly attack.

Can’t happen, you say? Why don’t you take a minute and make a phone call, write a letter, or drop an email to the office of every charedi Knesset member respectfully asking that such a press conference take place immediately. (I do not have contact information of the charedi Knesset members. Please post them on this thread and my site manager will add them to the body of this post.)

If enough of our decent Torah observant individuals stand up, distance ourselves from these thugs and demand action from our elected officials, we might effect changes which will restore honor to Hashem’s name and end this senseless violence.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

Recommended reading:

My Grandfather and I

The Pierced Teen and I

A Response to The Pierced Teen and I

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