I realize this is a place for questions in Halacha, however if we look through history, Rabbonim served as those to guide us in the right way, provide answers to difficult questions in life, not just those questions in halacha. Recently there were many events in Eretz Yisrael involving the Charedi community that left us in America bewildered. Especially a family member of mine who survived the holocaust loosing sleep for many nights and crying for a long time over seeing the images of little boys in Mea Sharim dressed up as if they were people imprisoned during the Holocaust. To make matters worse a letter recently came out from the Eidah Charedis seemingly condoning these actions and those that do things against the Torah. While I realize you are not spokespeople for the Eidah Charedis, my question is are other Rabbonim, perhaps you yourselves (in Eretz Yisrael) going to stand up against one of the biggest Chilul HaShem there’s been in recent time. Certainly Halacha would mandate those in the position to make a difference to do so and stand up for Kavod Shamayim? Especially with this letter seemingly making matters worse now showing the world that this is not “group of extremist”.

I thank you for your time and apologize if I am putting any pressure on you with this shailo. However I feel it’s important to address this issue in any way possible to help myself and those here in America, and especially this old holocaust survivor what’s really going on here…

Answer:

As you rightly point out, I cannot be a spokesman for the Eidah Charedis.

My understanding of their own reaction to the event was that they, too, see it in as the works of an extremist minority, which receives funding from abroad for doing its utmost to embarrass the State and to alienate itself from the secular-Zionist society.

The “regular” Israeli Charedi certainly has little or no ideological connection whatsoever with the extremist and militant few, and absolutely shuns the violence and the aggression of the minority groups, and the tragic Chilul Hashem that emerges from their actions.

Many claim that it would be better if the mainstream Charedi outlets would do more to slam these minority groups, condemning their actions openly, dissassociating ourselves from them altogether, and even organizing protests against them. The “inside” Charedi debate on the subject is clear in denouncing the groups and their actions, yet this voice is barely audible outside the insular communities. Personally, I support making public condemnations in this spirit.

However, some believe it would be unwise to declare public condemnations, because doing so will play into the media’s hands, as it were apologizing for the acts of the few, and demonstrating that Charedi society is corrupt or inferior vis-a-vis secular society.

Although the acts of violence were perpetrated by a small minority, the media here has made it into an issue of “them against us,” and this makes matters more complex and harder to deal with. Denouncing can give the impression that the secular side of the argument is “right,” in whatever issue sparked the conflict, and it is hard to condemn on the one hand, and to explain on the other.

We know that Charedi society has many advantages over secular society, one of them being the virtue of modesty. The entire concept of “modesty of thought,” which is behind the idea of separation between the sexes (the main issue in the recent public debate), is so foreign to secular society that there is little chance of them understanding the depth of the matter.

By publicly reacting in the formal media channels, the dialogue is pinned to the shallow and populist tones that the media desires (the real underlying issue of modesty is whitewashed). The question is therefore whether getting drawn in is to our benefit, or to our detrement. It is more complex than simply “if you think they’re wrong, say so loud and clear.”

Despite these internal questions, the fact that the entire Israeli-Charedi community is seen, in the eyes of the secular community here, and the eyes of many communities abroad, as being a “uniform block,” is certainly problematic. Black comes in many shades, and the truth is that only a very small minority is involved in the harmful acts we have witnessed, and in the cynical and offensive use of Holocaust symbols.

I hope that we, as a community, can learn the lessons of these these difficult affairs, and move towards a brighter future. In judging favorably, know that the situation in Israel is complex, the Charedi community is the subject of a harsh media campaign, and are really no easy ways out.

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