Monday, January 02, 2012

Thoughts on the yellow star

Thoughts on the Yellow Star
An anonymous guest post

How are we – the hopefully reasonable and rational Jewish community, including the observant Jews in that category  - to react to the pictures from Meah Shearim featuring the Neturei Karta led demonstration with children dressed in Concentration Camp ‘clothing’, and many demonstrators wearing yellow stars on their shiny bekeshes?

I think that those photos will prove to be a defining moment for many of us.

First, the obvious.  The pictures, and the people who are shown, are totally repugnant.  My, aren’t they enjoying themselves playing “Concentration Camps”?  The broad grins on their faces show how much they are relishing hijacking the most potent symbols of Jewish and European history to themselves, totally oblivious to their horrendous insult to the dead, to the survivors, to civilization, and to the propaganda gift they are making to every ‘Sonei Yisrael’ on the planet. No civilized person will ever want to have anything to do with them again.

Second, I am waiting for the reactions and condemnations.  They won’t do much good, but they need to be there for the record.  All the rabbis and Roshei Yeshivah who are so free with their pronouncements on all sorts of people and events – well, stand up and be counted now, please. (And not a mealy-mouthed American Agudah statement, either.)  Just tell us that anyone at the demonstration, or anyone who expresses sympathy with it, cannot get an aliyyah in your shul; won’t be counted for a minyan; is not to be a guest at your table; and will not be a recipient of your tzedakah dollars.   A declaration of respect for the law, for non-violence, for other Jews and human beings would also be good, but based on past record I don’t expect it. Anyone who doesn’t make that declaration, publicly and on the record, big or small – it’s a free world, and don’t bother ever again to ask me for money.  And I don’t want to listen to your Torah, or buy your books, either, because it is tainted to my eyes, ears and neshamah.

Third, some questions.   My biggest question, based on many years of interest and interaction with the Haredi community (following some academic research), is whether these photogenics really know what they are talking about.  The knowledge of any history, including Jewish history, including the Shoah, in the Haredi community ranges from nil to non-existent on a good day.  It is difficult for many people, especially English-speaking Jews, to comprehend or appreciate the results of a complete lack of secular education, and the pure, unadulterated ignorance it breeds.  This is especially so in the Ivrit/Yiddish totally enclosed world in which these uneducated people grew up.  ‘Min Hameitzar’  is what passes for a history book.  It is a source; but it is not a history book.

Fourth, consequences and suggestions.  Shouting at these factions is useless.  As some writers on other blogs have pointed out, because of their total ignorance of the world outside their own circles, there is also no real dialogue with them, in the sense that the word is commonly understood.  Every individual will draw their own conclusions about how to conduct personal contacts and relationships with these groups and individuals. (For mine, see my “Second” para above.) Their latest actions mean that they have now forfeited any remaining sympathy from the rest of the Jewish / Israeli world.  There is now no credible argument about the ‘Saving Remnant’, or the ‘Purity of Torah Study’, or anything similar or analogous.  Finito.  Done.  Gone.  What they have shown is that their world breeds darkness. What we should do, however, is to seriously target them with education, and educational opportunities.   Produce pamphlets and newsheets.  Offer courses in literacy, education and training, targeted at that community.  Flood them with exactly that which they fear most – reason, knowledge and enlightenment.  Let them see the outside world, in its complexity, with its faults but with its richness as well.  “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men stand by and do nothing” – (attributed to) Edmund Burke.

Fifth, a Jewish religious community note.   Within our community, as Dov Bear and others constantly note, there is a huge tendency to tolerate, justify and explain away tendencies towards ‘haredi-ism’.   We don’t always stand up enough for what is right, what is decent, what is fair.  We also put up with endless apologia for the ‘frum’ world (and, especially, for their leaders).   Enough.  From now on, the voice of decency, civilized behavior (“We can agree to disagree”) and challenges to plain stupidity must be heard – voiced by all of us, on every occasion, to our rabbis, leaders, and anyone else who will listen.   We have to make it clear that the ONLY paradigmatic spiritual gathering of all Jewish souls was at Mt Sinai at the time of Matan Torah -- that Torah “whose ways are ways of pleasantness and all of whose paths are paths of peace”  -- and not Kikar Shabbat last Motzei Shabbat.

As I said – Motzei Shabbat was a turning point.

The writer is a frequent commentator on Jewish affairs, usually under his own name, who for a variety of non-personal, professional reasons does not think it fair to others to sign this particular piece.

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