Monday, August 31, 2009


Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lezeh (loosely translated: Jews are responsible for one another) are powerful words conveying an awesome ethic which has been part of our national psyche and vocabulary for a very long time. It has been the gold standard by which the members of the tribe comported ourselves. This rule has had a tribal like quality to it and unless you are a member of a tribe it is hard to grasp. Other ethnic groups who maintain a strong network and filial association can empathize with the sense of responsibility and belonging that we feel. The dictum kol yisrael areveim zeh lezeh defies the traditional definition of responsibility, because it also assumes belonging and group identification, transcending blood ties and demanding loyalty and fealty to the group. The idea of the “kehilla” is founded on this idea. In fact the underpinnings of the very idea of “Jewish community and infrastructure”, including the overpowering need to extend tzedakah wherever it is needed, is built upon the simple yet complex idea that we are bound to each other.

This paradigm that has helped define us as a global community for millennia undoubtedly (obviously) applies to Israel as well. Israel has enjoyed the financial, emotional and political support of the American Jewish community since the inception of modern Israel because of the abiding principal that kol yisrael arevim ze lezeh. Even though we were separated by geography, culture, language, law and citizenship there was always the bond of brothers, an unspoken pledge amongst us, which transcended space and defied logic. American Jews may have disagreed with some of Israel’s policies, and Israelis may have ridiculed their spoiled and naïve American brothers, but we settled our differences behind closed doors in a space reserved for members of the tribe. While there may have been dissension within our community we presented ourselves to the public as a unified front having settled any previous differences that threatened the harmony of the tribe.

All of this has begun to erode and while it is difficult to pinpoint its genesis (I shall leave this to the sociologist) one can certainly point to a series of recent benchmarks that underscore this lamentable reality. J Street is one, but a more insidious manifestation was the support that Barak Obama garnered from some quarters of the Jewish community. There is nothing inherently wrong with voting liberal. There is nothing wrong with voting conservative. What is troublesome is voting for a candidate that has leanings not favorable to a significant segment of the corpus of the Jewish people.

While this in itself may be disconcerting what is reprehensible is that individuals in leadership positions have chosen to join those that that have applied the infamous double standard to Israel’s conduct of war. The U.N. War Crimes Commission for Gaza is headed up by non other than Richard Goldstone, a Jew determined to nail Israel to the cross and is a persona non grata in Israel. Another maverick Jew is Ronnie Kasrils, a small time South African Jewish politician trying to make a name for himself by leading a campaign against Israeli soldiers carrying dual citizenship. He is trying to pressure his government into prosecuting those soldiers, members of the IDF holding South African citizenship, for war crimes.

There was a time that members of the tribe all shared common goals and even if there were fundamental disagreement rarely was there an instant when we turned against our own. All that has changed in a very short time. People like Kasrils and Goldstone have joined the auspicious gang of sophisticated Spanish bounty hunters on the hunt for Israeli “war criminals”, not wanting to dull their skills honed during the Inquisition. Add to that the new breed of self hating Jews, like Rahm Emanuel, and David Axelrod and we have a picture that doesn’t bode well for our future. (They represent a new breed of Jews, acting, ostensibly for the good of the Jewish people, but in reality they are no different that so many other well intentioned “court Jews” throughout our history). A week ago Robert Novak died. I couldn’t help but wonder who was worse Kasrils or Novak?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Skydiving Over Jerusalem

Last year at about this time the financial markets were tough but it was just after Rosh Hashanah that the ceiling came down. Add to that a stagnant economy, record high unemployment, and a real estate market that’s writhing in pain and you have the perfect storm – almost. What more can go wrong? A pandemic, the swine flu has been plaguing us this past year and threatens to come back with a vengeance this fall. But I’m not really that concerned, because the best and greatest minds will be put to the test as they were when dealing with the global financial crises.

Over the past year financial wizards, international financiers and industrialists converged with statesmen and politicians from around the world in an attempt to staunch the financial hemorrhaging, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the great depression of 1929. It would appear that their efforts have born fruit. While we may not be in a full recovery, it seems that we have turned back from the abyss. What I found disappointing in the press and media coverage hitherto of the handling of the financial crises the conspicuous absence of the role our revered rabbis are playing in the recovery.

As a matter of fact, the media really hasn’t done justice to our rabbis in the handling of the health and financial crises. Our rabbis have been working feverishly around the clock in tandem with the World Health Organization in trying to find a solution to the swine flu. Apparently, the long awaited vaccine which promises to save many lives didn’t meet the high standards of our rabbis. Our rabbis, determined to protect humanity from this scourge has a new approach: to offer blessings while flying over Israel offering sounding the shofar and praying for the health and welfare of Jews Arabs and Christians. It would seem that to maximize the effect they ought to skydive – doing so would put them in even closer contact with god!

On the financial front, Yitzchak Cohen of Shas is promoting a new concept – kosher investment. The idea involves having rabbis in different communities who rule on halachic questions approve of investment avenues for the hareidi community. One such rabbi is Moshe Yosef, son of Ovadia (from the same family who brought us clarification as to the appropriate bracha for bamba). According to Cohen “we want to approve investment avenues based on values, for example, halachic principles”. That is a scary thought. After all, Israel is worse off today because there was never a clear separation of church and state. One would think that learning from previous errors there would be a clear delineation between the financial markets and the religious establishment.

The religious establishment isn’t known for its pristine ethical standards. Just look at the recent scandal in Deal, New Jersey, or the hechsher affixed to the products of Rubashkin. Ethics don’t only impact on financial transactions; they also are taken into account regarding medical decisions, business as well as civil comportment. While there has been some outstanding rabbinical leadership living and setting the standards for ethical behavior like R’ Arye Levin who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Unfortunately too many of our rabbis in key keadership positions haven’t exhibited the metal necessary to serve as ethicak role models.The 4th Belzer rebbe who while instructing his flock to remain in Nazi Europe fled, saving his own skin while his hassidim were decimated.

Their ethics are so skewered that they aren’t capable of setting standards by which to hold their rabbis accountable. Their ethics are tainted because of their relationship with the broader political landscape. Once politics enters the picture anything associated with it becomes tainted. Our rabbis in Israel are tainted, since there is no separation between church and state; their ethics have been compromised and some of their halachic decisions are questionable; and therefore I can only assume that their hechsherim regarding investments will be tainted as well. I suppose that compared to some of them, Bernie Madoff looks like a tzadik - or maybe even the gadol hador, when it comes to solid financial investment.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Just Do It !

Why is it that Orthodox (keruv) rabbis and in particular those in Chabad have this obsessive compulsive need to evangelize their version of Judaism on their co-religionists. They seem to have this obsessive need to put orthodoxy in a positive light. It’s become their raison d’être! Today, more than ever, with the scandalous behavior of the Deal NJ gang of rabbanim, Rubashkin’s version of glatt and other nefarious Orthodox Jews being arrested for felonious behavior, orthodox “kruv” rabbis are cringing, ducking from the public view; hoping that this too will blow over. One of their stalwart spokesmen, Shmuley Boteach believes that the recent scandals rocking the orthodox Jewish community and giving it a black eye can be reversed.

In one of his musings, Shmuley believes that by demonstrating how truly sublime orthodox Jews live their lives the tarnished image of the orthodox Jewish community can be repaired:
We the orthodox have it in our power to restore the true light and love of Judaism by demonstrating the power of our faith to shape outstanding ethics and inspire righteous action….But now is the time for that truth to shine, to demonstrate that resting on the Sabbath and studying Torah makes people less greedy, more noble and more spiritual.
It should but it obviously doesn’t. I don’t know what it is, but there is an evil wound blowing through much of the Jewish community that inspires greed. There is an inability to “fargin” their successful neighbors. If a member of the community is successful, rather than feel genuinely happy for his fortune, there is this insidious invective just under the surface, marring his good fortune.

Beyond this however, is something more troubling in Shmuley’s statement. He is guilty of using platitudes without clearly defining what it is he is really saying. He assumes that he and others of his ilk have a monopoly on the “true light” of Judaism. Perhaps the Satmar’s demonstrating every Shabbat (against mayor Barkat’s policy of opening garages on Shabbat) possesses the true light. They certainly believe it. So who is to say what the true light is. At best, Shmuley’s statement rings hollow, at worst it smacks of religious imperialism and triumphalism – neither of which are the right ingredients for one espousing religious and ethical beliefs.

Saying that the best way to destroy the myth (of the less observant) that the orthodox are judgmental is “to invite them to our homes where they will see our daughters are raised to comport themselves with dignity…..” Does he mean to imply by that that those who aren’t “religious” do not comport themselves with the same level of dignity as the daughters of orthodox families? Again, without realizing it he and others in the kiruv business are guilty of being sanctimonious.

Most non religious Jews aren’t obsessed with the image of the religious Jews. They could care less. Ironically, they can, under certain circumstances feel threatened by them: when there is an influx of religious into non religious neighborhoods. The small, burgeoning religious community after a while begins making demands on the neighborhood, changing the nature and quality of the community. Before long an eruv is in place; a house is converted into a shtiebel; and balabatim are walking in the middle of the street on Shabbat, as though it belonged to them. Jews, good Jews, who previously enjoyed their community are looked down upon, judged and made to feel inferior.

So rather than talk about how benevolent and munificent the orthodox community is I would suggest practice “being” Jewish. Rather than sing the praises of Orthodox Judaism, practice with modesty and let others sing praises. As Nike aptly put it for one of their sound bites “just do it”.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Parable*

The writer of this brilliant piece is Janet S.Tiger. It was posted to a blog on the internet ... 18 June 2009.

The Jews settled the moon in 2053, just about five years after the end of the Islamic Wars of the 40's, where the Middle East, and Israel, of course, had been obliterated by nuclear weapons. The two million Jews remaining throughout the rest of the world - less than 100,000 total in all the Islamic countries - banded together and purchased the dark side of the moon, which no other companies or people wished to colonize.

Great transports were arranged via the 62,000 mile space elevator and the Space Shuttle and every Jew on Earth - including anyone who claimed any Jewish heritage whatsoever - left to go to a place where no one could blame them for anything.

The Earth rejoiced - happily rid of all Jews . There were huge parties throughout all of Sweden and the rest of Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and North America. (Now known as the Northern Alliance of Islamic States after the United States was taken over peacefully in the elections of 2040 by a predominantly Muslim Congress and President, who immediately passed amendments making Islam the main religion of the United States and the world.)

After the last Jew entered the elevator (a David Goldstein, 62, formerly of New York), the Earth was officially declared Judenrein by Hans Ibn Hitler, a great, great-grandson of Hitler who had been raised in Brazil and hidden by Nazis until this precious moment.

It was not an easy move for the Jews but, in some ways, it was no different from all their moves of previous eras. Some former Israelis (still alive because they were out of Israel when the bombs dropped) claimed that the moon was easier to deal with because there were no Extremist Muslims. Of course, this precipitated a huge argument with some Jews, who felt not having the Radical Muslims nearby was not enough challenge.

Other Jews argued that taming a wilderness with no atmosphere, plant or animal life and freezing temperatures was enough challenge. And yet other Jews argued that arguing was counterproductive. It came as no surprise to anyone that for the two million Jews, there were eventually one million synagogues (with the other million Jews not joining).

It was also no surprise that within just three years, the Jews had created a controlled environment that allowed for fantastic plant and animal growth and production. The transports, which had been called the Arks, had also carried two of each animal and plant (rem ember, Noah), and through the ingenuity of the Jews and cloning, there were now many new species which sped up production of food (cows with six udders, chickens with four legs and so forth). The population had rapidly increased and, due to the amazing collection of scientific and medical minds, most diseases and even aging had been reduced to nil.

There was even a ministry of communication with Earth, consisting of the remains of Hollywood producers and moviemakers, who sent back to Earth portraits of life on the moon. Of course, it had been decided when the Jews first got to the moon - based on six-thousand-year history of people being jealous of Jewish accomplishment - that all news coverage of the moon's population would be 'movie-ized' to show only horrible things. The film industry, led by Jordan Spielberg, went to great lengths to fabricate news clips to show Jews barely surviving in the harsh lunar habitat. Artists and engineers laboured to cover over vast environmental successes with illusionary domes showing massive areas of wasteland - just in case anyone from Earth ever sent a spaceship with cameras to see what was going on.

But no-one ever did, and the years passed rapidly; one decade, then another. bar mitzvahs, weddings, brises, all celebrated under the artificial world that the Jews had created - not only had it not been that bad, but by the end of the century, some Jewish authors were calling the moon colony - Eden 2'.

Of course other Jews disagreed. In fact, much time was spent on disagreeing. There were even contests for arguing but, in general, there was peace. Anyone who threatened the peace was forced to officiate at a contest with people arguing about why that person was wrong. The contests would go on for days (sometimes weeks), until the troublemaker begged for forgiveness. (Many penalties on the moon were similar to this, and were extremely effective.)

Back on Earth, life disintegrated without the Jews. There was a return to Middle Ages thought - only the current religion du jour was valid - all others were kept legislated into poverty until a war erupted and the positions changed for a few years.

Another amazing anomaly appeared when there were no longer any Jews on Earth - anti-Semitism actually increased to monumental proportions! Famous orators explained this simply by saying: 'I don't have to have a gun to be afraid of having my brains blown out.' Additionally, without the presence of the Jew, the world developed incredible evil that had no release. (Previous evil had always focused on the Jews. One Rabbi on the moon actually said G-d spoke to him, and said that He, G-d, was about to destroy the Earth because everyone o n the Earth was evil. The Rabbi begged Him to reconsider, and bargained that if there were 1,000 good people left on Earth, G-d should spare the planet.
G-d then told the Rabbi, 'Hey, I went through this before with Abraham and Noah, and I already know the answer because I'm G-d.'

People laughed at the Rabbi, but then, one day, while all the lunar citizens were going about their business, an enormous series of explosions was seen on the Earth. Everyone on the moon stared at the distant fireballs that seemed to engulf the blue planet that was once their home.

Although there had been great anger at being forced to leave the Earth, the true spirit of Judaism was always present on the moon, and no one had wished ill on to their former home. As in the tradition of the Seder (when the wine is spilled because the Egyptians perished, and we do not rejoice fully when even an enemy has died) when the Jews saw what was happening, they began to weep and pray, and watch what was to be the final news broadcast from Earth. The horror of the apocalypse was videotaped by cameras until all electricity was ionised by the new electron bombs. Entire countries were wiped away in the blink of an ion exploding. And then came the final transmission from the nation that had started the entire mess - it was a desperate headline screamed by a hundred dying newscasters. Their rant continued until it was just blackness. What were they saying? As the Jews watched, some gasped, others cried, and a few even laughed. For the last words of the disappearing civilization was a condemnation. 'The Jews have caused all our problems - they left us here to face the mess they made. If the Jews hadn't taken all the best scientists and engineers, we could have defeated our enemies. Our enemies are the Jews! Kill all the Jews.'

It took a little while, but the electronics experts pieced together what had happened on Earth during its last days. Anti-Semitism, which had grown stronger and stronger since the Jews had left, had reached its pinnacle, and all the countries of the world had decided to launch a massive attack on the moon. The attack had been coordinated by the United Nations and, although all the missiles had been launched properly, there was some sort of glitch in the targeting system, resulting in all the weapons colliding in the upper atmosphere and showering the Earth with a deadly rain of nuclear fire, electronic destruction, and a generally bad day. The mistake triggered the military response of all the nations (who all had nuclear weapons by then - plus a few other horrid toys), and the result was truly an Armageddon.

The Jews on the moon went into a period of deep mourning. The Orthodox rent their clothing and there were mass counseling sessions. And then, about one week after the BIG DAY, as it was now called, a presence was detected heading towards the moon. Had one of the missiles escaped? Were the Jews doomed after all? The leaders checked with the defense experts - no this was not a missile, it was an old-style spacecraft, like the ones used in the early seventies. As it approached, the laser defense was trained on the craft. Debates raged as to whether the craft should be destroyed or allowed to get close enough to communicate with.

A message from the ship came just in time. It said, 'We are the last representatives from Earth - two from each country and we come in peace.' Some Jews rejoiced that there were survivors, others demanded isolation or death of the approaching group.

The Rabbi who had had the vision of earth's destruction told the leaders that G-d wanted them to have a chance, so they were allowed to circle the moon. When told they could have a section of land to themselves to farm and repopulate, the Earthlings were upset. They told the Jews that they should be allowed to live with the Jews and have all the same privileges - because, after all, in Judaism, the stranger is given the same rights and privileges as the citizen.

Upon hearing this, the leaders went to the Rabbi with the visions, and he offered to guide the visitors to their new home. The leaders allowed him to g ive the instructions for landing. Of course, not trusting the Rabbi, the commander of the ship didn't listen to his advice, and instead crashed into a lunar crater.

And so we have the final days of the history of the planet Earth, which have been generously shared with us by the Jewish colony of the 453rd Solar System of the M Galaxy. Although the Earth is currently uninhabitable, the head engineer of the Jewish colony on Mars tells us that Venus will be fully colonized by the year 2120, and with continuous replanting, Earth will once again be ready for Jews returning from other planets in the year 2136.

An interesting side note - inside the wreckage of the rocket with the survivors from Earth was a specially-marked package that had survived which included the following words: 'Once there was a great planet named Earth. And there were many peoples on this planet, and they all existed peacefully with each other, except for the Jews. Wherever there were Jews, there was trouble. Jews brought dirt and death and hatred and strife. They were finally banished from our planet, only to take with them many great inventors and scientists and doctors, leaving Earth with nothing. We have decided to destroy the remnants of the Jews, and since the first attempt failed, we are the last chance for Earth. Whoever shall find this will know the truth - It was all the Jews' fault.'

This panel has been saved and is on display at the Earth Memorial Museum at Rivka Crater, NW, for all travelers who wish to see the remains of a civilization that did not understand the words - 'He who blesses the Jews, is himself blessed. He who curses the Jews, is himself cursed.'


*For other work and holocaust-related material please refer to her

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shabbes Goy

A group of rabbis in Bat Yam including the city’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi Shaul Yosef Weingerten recently convened in order to discuss the increasing demand for employing the shabbat goy better known as the “shabbes goy”. A shabbes goy is a non Jewish person who performs those tasks that are halachically forbidden for Jews to perform on Shabbat or yom tov. Examples of the kinds of work the shabbes goy is called upon to do is turning on or off electricity, cooking, cleaning, indeed any kind of work that is prohibited according to the 39 categories (avot) and their derivations (toledot). One of the means by which some of these prohibitions may be circumvented is through the shabbes goy. The laws regarding the shabbes goy are complicated and complex and weren’t treated lightly until the 19th century. By the mid 20th century with the accessibility of Jewish education and the deterioration in the respect for the orthodox communal rabbi and the ascendance of the yeshiva scholars (roshei yeshiva), laws regarding the governance of the shabbes goy were dramatically relaxed.

Our sages throughout the ages from the talmudic/geonic period up through the 19th century were concerned with the possible abuse of the laws regulating the shabbes goy from an ethical perspective as much as a halachic one. The purpose of this posting is not to examine the halachic aspects of the shabbes goy in the 21st century but to explore the ethical / moral ramifications which arise when use of the shabbes goy is abused.

Rules concerning the shabbes goy depended on whether the use was for the community or the individual. Regardless of the use of the shabbes goy, Jews have always understood that we were responsible for our actions and that observing the commandments assumed certain responsibilities, privileges as well as sacrifices. It was for this reason partly that Jews avoiding the use of the shabbes goy didn’t work in agriculture during the early geonic period. Farming and agriculture required working 7 days a week; cows had to be milk every day otherwise there was issues of “tzar lbaalei chaiyim” as well as economic loss. On the other hand it was easier for a community to employ a shabbes goy because the community as a whole was held to a standard, unlike the individual who might abuse the system. The use of the shabbes goy by the individual was of greater concern to our rabbis because implied was the fact that by using a goy we were relinquishing individual responsibility for our actions benefiting from the use of someone else’s work that was prohibited to us. The ethical fallout was that at some point the halachic system would trump ethics or even define ethical standards. If the law was designed to accommodate the individual as well as the collective, in their own land or in the Diaspora, then avoiding that responsibility by seeking out the loopholes of a shabbes goy would be to undermine the intention of the original design. Subscribing to a religious system assumes that at times there will be inconveniences. Seeking the loopholes in the system is to ultimately avoid responsibility and the benefit of that design, however flawed. On the contrary, by creating a shabbes goy we ultimately impinge and corrupt the intention of the design.

To fulfill a mitzvah by use of a proxy goy is to diminish its meaning and purpose as well as to impede the Jew from practicing his mitzvot. To relinquish obligations is no different than avoiding conscription by paying someone else to serve in one’s place. To relinquish obligations is no different than paying someone else to serve out ones prison sentence. According to the logic of using the shabbes goy what would be wrong if Bernie Madoff decided to hire someone else to do his time! This has been done before in Europe and the feudal system ultimately collapsed giving way to other enlightened political systems. The use of the shabbes goy effectively diminishes the ethical underpinnings of halacha and it is happening today. By using the shabbes goy, the gentile has become objectified, an easy target, someone to be taken advantage of.

The use of the shabbes goy not only objectifies him but also enhances our ability to discriminate. We may not be able to do the work on Shabbat, but at some point work in general becomes unseemly; let the goy do the work. This has become a mentality quite ubiquitous in some quarters of the orthodox Jewish community. That coupled with the fact that they subscribe to a literal understanding of “asher bacar banu mecol hahmim” becomes a formula for the perfect storm. The likes of the Spinka rebbe or the Deal NJ gang of five or the Rubashkin fiasco is no longer a surprise when put into this perspective. Remarkably and ironically the shabbes goy has truly done its work – objectifying itself with a boomerang effect!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wake Up Call

Here we go again. It wasn’t enough to have been bombarded for the past week with news about the Syrian community in Deal NJ and their illustrious rabbinic leadership. This week we’ve been treated to two more instances of hareidi style “yiraas shamayim”. But this time in Monsey.

According to the news outlets the police claim they caught two men (bearded and dressed in religious garb) stealing mail out of mailboxes. The police found hundreds of checks sorted in the car of one of the perps. According to their investigation some checks were negotiated locally while others were sent to Israel. How charming.

The very same day that this story broke another scandalous story made the news. This time a couple was arrested for bilking the government out of more than $75000.00 over the past two years. Chump change compared to our brothers out in Deal, NJ. What they have in common however, apart from their larcenous souls is their creativity. They weren’t as crude as the above mentioned who ripped off the mailboxes in Monsey. These frume yidden, a married couple,(a wonderful shidduch, a marriage made in heaven) defrauded the government by misleading various welfare agencies. I don’t want to get into the details out of concern that I may give someone the wrong idea.

Clearly the criminal behavior within the hareidi community has caused more than just embarrassment. Its brought shame to a community already perceived by many critics to be struggling with an ongoing wave of unseemly, unethical and criminal behavior. Consequently an aseifa, just what the doctor ordered, was being sponsored by community organizers “askonim” witht the focus on the theme “Vi’asisa hayashar Vi’hatov” featuring R’Avrohom Schorr and R’Dovid Ozieri and chaired by R’ Zwiebel of Agudath Israel. Calling an aseifa was the worst thing they could have done sending the wrong signal.

An aseifa is nothing more than a venue for polite venting, giving kovod and recognition in a convenient manner without it costing anything – no dinners, no honorees, and no embossed invitations. It isn’t the venue where you can get “down and dirty”, speak the unadulterated truth; pinpoint and analyze the problems and present alternative solutions. An aseifa is an event whereby the issues can be whitewashed, diminished and dismissed with a guest speaker and the public “clopping of al chet”. It isn’t a place where candid and painful discussions and decisions can take place.

An aseifa in a sense resembles Yom Kippur; an annual religious event where we do the expected “cheshbon hanefesh” with the premise that this year our behaviors towards our fellow man and towards our creator will have improved. But it rarely works: it is an annual exercise in futility, an annual national attempt at communal / personal expiation. It can’t work unless you have properly prepared yourself prior to the “great day”.

Preparation takes months perhaps years of professional help, sometimes with the guidance of a counsilor, psychologist, or therapist. It requires behavior modification, introspection and invewtment in serious meditation. With that preparation in hand one can stand before his community and creator and honestly ask for forgiveness by presenting oneself as a changed person. An aseifa is like a doctor recommending aspirin with a diagnosis of diabetes resulting from obesity. It’s not only ineffective and deleterious but the underlying cause of the disease isn’t being addressed.

The aseifa wasn’t addressing the underlying cause of the problem which is far more widespread than that community care to admit. The core problem stems from a jaundiced view of the non-frum and non Jewish world reflected in their dismissive attitude toward them and their values, as demonstrated by their rejection of quality secular education. Ironically, they are also guilty of not providing quality Jewish education to members of its own community. To focus on shas / poskim through the widely accepted pilpulistic methodology defeats the purpose of Jewish education: learning sacred texts in order to live moral and ethical lives. Not having derived this essential core element from Jewish learning is not to have learned at all. In order to learn these core lessons; process and integrate them into our daily lives, one has to study our texts while extracting the philosophical and theological underpinnings. This requires the use of critical thinking which in the hareidi community is loathe in doing. The hareidi community has confused critical thinking for pilpulizing logic and in the process has rendered torah study ineffective as a means of transmitting core ethical values.

Secular education means more than learning how to read and write grammatically correct English. It means more than learning a skill like computer science or bookkeeping. It means studying the classics, history and literature purposefully: to acquire a contextual understanding of whom we are as a people and as an integral link in the human chain. It isn’t enough to understand Jewish history through the victim’s lens, but to appreciate the growth and development of civilization over the ages. It’s enriching, provides a perspective, making us better human beings and thus better Jews. The hareidi community has put the carriage before the horse; first we have to be wholesome, mentally and socially healthy human beings – only then can we consider becoming better Jews.

One anecdotal reference to illustrate this point is the reaction of the Sephardic community to the recent Deal, NJ “bizayon” (shameful and obscene behavior). Their reaction was how one must see the larger picture: the tzedakah and chesed of the overall Sephardic community. Enumerated is the list of charities, institutions and organizations that the Sephardic community supports through charitable giving. Of course, goes their argument, they are part of the larger Jewish community, “clal yisrael” all working toward the same end. They missed the point entirely. This wasn’t about Sephardim vs. Ashkenazim or even the perception of the Jewish community by the non Jewish community. It’s about understanding once and for all that unless this problem is addressed at the very source the problem will continue to persist and fester resulting in an increasingly less manageable problem.

For many in the hareidi community the chilul hashem wasn’t that these behaviors were essentially wrong, unethical and criminal. They don’t truly perceive that they did anything fundamentally wrong other than getting caught. And that is the real chilul hashem.