Newspaper Archive of
Heritage Florida Jewish News
Fern Park , Florida
January 6, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
PAGE 18     (18 of 20 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 18     (18 of 20 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
January 6, 2012

Newspaper Archive of Heritage Florida Jewish News produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2019. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

PAGE 18A Dreidel From page 1A they waited for the next round. His spin had petered out a few seconds too soon. It was up to the students to be honest when tallying how many dreidels had made it, organizers said, remind- ing them that ethics was this year's conference theme. Per "Guinness Book of World Records" require- ments, USY enlisted an impartial crew of hotel staff and chaperone "judges" to record the results. "Oh yeah, it's my job to make this meeting go as smoothly as possible," joked one Marriott employee, his suit and tie incongruous among the sea of kids in. sweatshirts and jeans, a few with face paint and balloon hats after volunteering as clowns at a hospital. Convention director Kar- en Stein said she had to petition Guinness months in advance to have their spin-off considered, but staff kept the event under wraps so other Jewish groups wouldn't think about steal- ing their thunder. It'll take a few months, before the powers that be at Guinness determine whether the teens surpassed the existing record, said Stein, also the New York-based assistant director for USY, the youth arm of the Conservative Movement. While the judges tallied another round, the video segued into "I Have a Little Dreidel," many of the teen- agers joining in the song even as they turned their attention to text messaging or their neighbors. "I always had a dream of being part of a world record," said David Katz, a senior at Lower Merion High School. The place where he gets his HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 6, 2012 hair cut always has the lat- est edition of the Guinness book in the waiting area, the 18-year-old said, so he'd look'through it every time he was there. And, he said, not only does he love spin- ning dreidels, "I'm really good at it." Though the d reidel di- version generated the most medi attention, it repre- sented just a fraction of the activities comprising the multi-day conference, which is held in a different location each year. High school students from across Canada and the United States attended the 61st annual event. "I just like the ruach that 900 Jewish kids can make," said 16-year-old Josh Perloff. "It's an experience." Deborah Hirsch is on the staff of the (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent, from which this article was re- printed by permission. Violence From page 1A some 2,000 defenders of the girls--secular and Modern Orthodox--struck back with a rally at the school against attempts to exclude women from the public sphere in Israel. , "Free Israel from reli- gious coercion" read one sign at the rally. "Stop Israel from becoming Iran" read another. By Uriel Heilman (JTA)--The cascade of condemnations started pouring in almost as soon as the Israeli TV report aired. It's subject was an 8-year-old girl harassed by haredi men on the way to her Modern Orthodox girls' school in the Jerusalem suburb of Belt Shemesh. The Israeli prime min- ister and president vowed that Israel would not toler- ate haredi Violence against women, whether directed at schoolgirls or women on public buses. Israel's opposi- tion leader, Kadima's Tzipi Livni, went to a demonstra- tion of thousands held Dec. 27 in Belt Shemesh. In America, too, the condemnations came fast and furious: Hadassah, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Ameri- can Jewish Committee, the Orthodox Union, the Rab- binical Council of America and the haredi Orthodox umbrella body Agudath Is- rael of America were among the many groups that re- sponded. There appeared to be just one segment of the Jewish community that was staying silent about the violence: Israeli haredim. That's because there is some ambivalence among haredi Israelis when it comes to religious zealotry. 51 89 62 23 47 18 74 i 35 96 "We are struggling over Israel's character not only in Belt Shemesh and not only over the exclusion of women but against all the extrem- ists who have come out of the woodwork to try and impose their worldview on us," opposition leader Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima Party, said at the rally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the Israel Police to act aggressively against violence aimed al women. Netanyahu also reportedly spoke with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to make certain that laws against ex- cluding women from public spaces are enforced. "The exclusion of women goes against the tradition of the Bible and the principles of Judaism," Netanyahu told participants at a Bible contest Dec. 27. Kadima lawmaker Nach- man Shai submitted a bill to the Knesset on that day that would make "publiciz- ing, inciting, preaching or encouraging gender segre- gation in the public sphere" a criminal act punishable by three years in prison. Israeli President Shimon Peres urged Israelis to at- tend the Dec. 27 rally. "Today is a test for the na- tion, not just for the police. All of us, religious, secular, traditional must as one man defend the character of the State of Israel against a minority which breaks our national solidarity," Peres told reporters Dec. 27. The haredi Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh, Moshe Abutbul, decried the violence against young girls and the exclusion of women. "Beit Shemesh denounces such behavior. Violent men Israeli haredim silent on haredi violence "The question isn't how many haredim support haredi violence and how many do not," said sociolo- gist Menachem Friedman, an expert on haredi life and professor emeritus at Bar- Ilan University. "In all the conflicts involving haredi violence in Israel, from the British Mandate period until today, violent haredim were always a small minority, and I believe that the vast majority feel uncomfortable about them. "The problem is that most haredim allow the extremists to act and do not stop them," Friedman continued. "Some, perhaps a small segment, really do support the violence; some, perhaps a larger segment, do not support the violence but understand the extremists, believing that actions like these, even if they are not pretty, at the end of the day are a true expression of reli- gious sentiments," he said. "And the majority perhaps opposes the violence and knows that ultimately it's bad for Judaism but doesn't have the courage to go out and oppose it publicly." There were one or two no- table exceptions last week. "If there are those in our generation who believe that warfare is the way to spread the light of Judaism, they are mistaken," the Jerusalem-based leader of Sudoku Solution From Page 7 3278694 4163257 7549318 5781946 9635182 6924735 1352869 2896471 8417523 the BIz Chasidim, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, said Dec. 25 during the nightly Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony at his synagogue, which holds upward of 6,000 people. Rokeach's comments, though tepid by secular standards, marked a rare foray into current events by the rebbe, who has an estimated 45,000 followers worldwide. But the roundabout way the rebbe's message was de- livered, and the scant media coverage given to haredi opposition to the violence aimed at non-haredim, is indicative both of the dif- ficulties outsiders have with discerning shades of gray in haredi society and the am- bivalence within the haredi world toward using violence to achieve religiou s aims. For one thing, Israeli haredi condemnations of vi- olence are not delivered the same way as condemnations in the non-haredi world. They are generally directed inward, not outward; they tend to be delivered not in statements to the press but as words of Torah to follow- ers; they are often spoken not in English or Hebrew, but in Yiddish; and they are expressed less as a reaction to current events than as calls for dignified behavior by Torah-observant Jews. "The Belzer rebbe is one of the few people who has the guts to say something," Tu- vya Stern, a haredi attorney who lives in Belt Shemesh, told JTA. "But he's not going to condemn the extremists; that's not his way. He'll just advocate for a different ap- proach." Rokeach's speech, which was reported in haredi media and noted by Israel Radio, was unusual both because it referred to cur- rent events and because it was aimed, at least in part, at a wider audience: The rebbe had invited an Israeli Knesset member, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, to be with him when he delivered his speech on Chanukah's sixth night. Because Rokeach made his remarks in Yiddish, it's not clear whether or not Sa'ar picked up on their signifi- cance. Rokeach's reaction, how- ever, was exceptional. Most haredi leaders stayed silent. The violent zealots are drawn largely from the Edah HaHaredis, a commu- nity of anti-Zionist haredim that is particularly strict even by haredi standards and has strongholds in Je- rusalem and Beit Shemesh. The Edah is closely aligned with the Satmar Chasidic sect. Haredi support for fight- ing a culture war against secularism extends beyond the Edah HaHaredis, but most haredim who espouse such views won't go so far as to become defenders of the faith themselves. Hare- dim often invoke a classic metaphor to describe this approach: You may not want to live with a cat, but you need cats around to eat the mice if you want to prevent infestation. Last week, the "infesta- tion" is the presence of a new Modern Orthodox girls' school, Orot, adjacent to a haredi neighborhood of Beit Shemesh. At other times, it has been the mixing of sexes in Orthodox neighborhoods, the operation of parking lots or roads on Shabbat in haredi neighborhoods, and attempts by women to pray with the Torah at the Western Wall. Similar behavior can be found in certain Islamic societies and fundamental- ist Catholic and Protestant communities,. Friedman said, noting that a key dif- ference with haredim is that any violence is relatively limited in scope, not involv- ing serious injury or death. Then there are haredim who oppose extremism but fear speaking out because they do not want to be seen as lax in matters of religion. When Rabbi David Kohn, the leader of the Toldos Aharon sect of Chasidim, spoke out a few years ago against religious violence via a Yiddish-language To- rah exegesis of the story of Pinchas the zealot in the Book of Numbers, h e quickly was condemned in placards posted around his neighbor- hood of Mea Shearim, in Jerusalem. Other haredim don't speak out because they see fights like the one in Belt Shemesh not as a battle between extremists and moderates but as part of a broader Israeli assault on haredi life led by the main- stream Israeli media. "The source of the pollu- tion is in halachah [Jewish law] itself," former Knesset member Yossi Sarid wrote in a column published Dec. 30 in Israel's daily Haaretz. Sarid called for the dis- qualification of haredi par- ties from the Knesset. On Haaretz's English-language website, the article was headlined "Orthodox Juda- ism treats women like filthy little things." Facing such hostility, some haredim say, why get involved at all? And then there is the large segment of haredim who see themselves as totally apart from the haredim perpetrat- ing the violence. Their atti- tude is that if it's not their community members, it's not their business and they don't need to get involved. While to an outsiler all haredim may look alike-- with their black coats, hats and beards--the haredi community is as fractured as the Jewish community as a whole. In Israel, the haredi community is divided amonag Ashkenazi and Sephardic, Chasidic and non-Chasidic, moderates and extremists. Within the Chasidic community, too, there are multiple sects-- and sometimes even com- peting grand rebbes within tie same sect. But in a world seen by outsiders as monolithic, all haredim inevitably are asso- ciated with the extremism of a few, and haredi silence is seen as affirmation of haredi bad behavior. It's something that may irk haredim who are en- gaged with the outside world, but it doesn't seem to matter much to haredim who aren't. That nonchalance is alien to the non-haredi Jewish world, where organizations and leaders go out of their belong behind bars: I urge the Israel police to act with a firm hand against all the rioters," he said, adding - that reporters should not make assumptions about all haredi Orthodox Israelis. Following the violence, the Belt Shemesh mu- nicipality said it would install hundreds of secu- rity cameras in areas where harassment of women was occurring. way to denounce ideas, people or actions they find distasteful. That goes for everything from terrorist attacks to the bombing of churches in Nigeria, which at least four Jewish groups issued tatements con- demning last week. When the main haredi umbrella organization in America issued its state- ment lastweek condemning the violence, it also took a shot at those denigrating haredim in general. "Those who have taken pains to note that the small group of misguided indi- viduals who have engaged in this conduct are not representative of the larger charedi community are to be commended," the Agudath Israel of America said in its statement. "It is disturbing, though, that some Israeli politicians and secularists have been less responsible, portraying the actions of a very few as indicative of the feelings of the many. Quite the contrary, the extremist element is odious to, and rejected by, the vast major- ity of charedi Jews." Until haredim take to their synagogue lecterns, the airwaves or the streets, however, that's a message that's unlikely to be heard by the Jewish public. To be sure, there were a few haredim who joined the Dec. 27 demonstration in Belt Shemesh against the violence. Some were mem- bers of a new local haredi party called Tov (Hebrew for "good") whose platform espouses moderation and open-mindedness. "It was a very hard deci- sion" because many of the protesters were engaged in anti-haredi sloganeering, explained Stern, the haredi attorney from Belt Shem- esh, who is a leading Tov activist. "There were signs at the rally saying 'Haredim leave Belt ShemeshY Nevertheless, he said, it was important to make a public statement. "There are rabbis in the haredi world who believe in violence as part of a reli- gious duty," Stern said, "but they are not a large group of people."