Monday, April 20, 2009

Chazal were right about kollels

The kollel culture found in places like Benai Brak, ir hakodesh, is something new under the Jewish sun. Chazal didn't anticipate or desire it. I say this, because Chazal insisted that young men be taught trades, and gave no indication that they wished for a society where Torah Study was every man's mandatory profession.

Later authorities, too, warned against establishing kollel societies, for instance the Rambam who said that those who study in kollel at the expense of the community are mechallel hashem, mevaze hatora, umechabe ohr hadat (desecrators of the name of God, defilers of the Torah, and extinguishers of the light of religion) and the Rama who agreed (with post facto exceptions.) For these and other reasons some correctly consider the kollel town a modern, reform on par with the synagogue organ.

That argument can be re-fought in the comments; for now I wish to provide one bit of anecdotal proof that the opponents of kollel were correct:

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Bnei Brak vandals slashed tires on nearly 30 cars, torched a synagogue and burned a woodwork shop between Friday and Saturday night. The Bnei Brak residents agreed to talk with Israel National News TV on condition that their identities be concealed.

“Some of the local kids who were probably kicked out of their homes gathered here and decided to spend the night in the synagogue," one person said. "They tore down the Torah ark covering to sleep under it, and they took all the prayer shawls in the synagogue to use as sheets. A fire broke out when they burnt prayer books, and the whole wall was set aflame. This is pure vandalism.”

One yeshiva student spoke of his personal experience about how dangerous Bnei Brak can be late at night. “Two punks came over, and they were holding a glass bottle. They shattered it on my neck. With what was left after the bottle was broken, they tried to stab me. I was rushed bleeding to the hospital where pieces of glass were extracted and I was told that it almost reached my main artery. Two weeks later my uncle who is a great rabbi here walked through the streets, and two punks came over and started pulling his beard and hitting him."

Jews sometimes suffer assaults and harassment by Arabs or groups of immigrants defining themselves as neo-Nazis in other Israeli cities, but Bnei Brak is dealing with a homegrown menace. "They come from good families who live here in the area, they leave the way of their families and they allow themselves anything," one person said.

"They have no day or night, they have no boundaries and we don’t see the police doing anything. When we call the police and complain about the harassment, we notice they don’t come at all or they come with the siren and blazing lights and that’s enough for them to run away and come back the next time.”

'What Has Created Such Acts of Terror?'Forensic psychosocial investigator Dr. Simone Gordon told Israel National News that the recent outbreak of violence in Bnei Brak raises some especially disturbing questions.

"To the extent that shuls have been vandalized and rabbis victimized, to what extent is this an re-enactment of trauma and a need to feel empowered?," she said. "To what extent is this due to drugs? To what extent is this a message to the community that 'we feel rejected by you, and are now going to reject and terrorize you?'"

Gordon, who leads workshops on the issue and commutes between New York and Jerusalem to consult on legal cases, commented that the choice of the youths to defile their "spiritual home" was a symbolic acting out of their anger and agression towards their parents and their cultural heritage.

"One can only ask 'what has created such acts of terror,' -- what is the traumatic re-enactment here and how is it being addressed?" she said.
Yankie Horowitz has more.

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