Posts Tagged With: Haredim

Haredim Trying to Increase Control Over Area Around Jerusalem’s Central Shuk

Editor’s note: the HaAretz article mentioned below says the woman in question lived in Machane Israel, not Mahane Yehuda. We are currently inquiring from HaAretz if they indeed meant Machane Israel. Machane Israel is not even remotely a Haredi neighborhood. It contains two non-orthodox yeshivas: Hebrew Union College (Progressive/Reform) and the Conservative Yeshiva and two large centers housing visiting groups for the Progressive and Masorti movements. It also contains the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), four hotels and one under development catering to business travellers and mainstream tourists. Women regularly walk through the area in pants and many HUC students rent apartments in the area.

Note posted on apartment door asking a religious (Masorti) woman to leave because she isn't modest according to the Torah.

According to a report in HaAretz, Masorti (Conservative) Jewish woman living near Mahane Yehuda, the main stall based shopping market in Jerusalem, was sent a threatening letter last week demanding she leave the neighborhood. The letter was signed “The Modesty Police” It complained that she had transgressed the Torah’s rules of modesty.

The woman says she moved into the neighborhood because she needed a place to stay after she returned from America. She did not know that the neighborhood was predominantly Haredi. She also says that she gets along well with her neighbors, and was not aware of problems. She says she wears pants but does not wear short ones.

Police have said they will step up surveillance in the area, but the woman is still afraid. A friend of hers who ignored the warning had her apartment burned down.

The area around Mahane Yehuda is culturally diverse and includes haredim, hippies, and middle class professionals attracted to an area with a lot of character and ripe for renovation projects. There are many different styles of Jewish religious life, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, progressive and traditional.

Haredim in the area have been trying to extend their control over the area. For several years the Kolben Dance Troupe had covered their rehearsal room with shades because of Haredi complaints about the women dancers. The Dance Troupe is on a main road leading out of the main Jerusalem commercial area and is in no way Haredi. It is part of a complex that includes a public library and one of Jerusalem’s major performing arts venues. However, there is a residential cluster of Haredim one to two blocks away off of the main road.

Haredim have also complained about entertainment in the Mahane Yehuda shuk. The city government has been hosting street festivals in the area for the last few years. Haredim dislike that women are included in the performances, seeing it as a violation of their understanding of Jewish modesty. They have threatened to set up their own strictly gender seggregated shuk.

Most Jews, including religious Jews, do not consider the Haredi understanding of gender segregation to be required by the Torah,  nor even later Jewish law nor identity.

Hat tip: Failed Messiah

Categories: Exclusion of Jews, Extremism, Gender Segregation | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A Step Backwards: Kol BaRama allowed to limit women to 4 hr/wk

This morning HaAretz reported that the Sephardi Haredi radio station Kol BaRama will be broadcassting women’s voices for only four hours a week with the blessing of the the Second Authority for Television and Radio. The Second Authority is responsible for issuing radio station franchises and ensuring that radio station practices conform to Israeli law.

Orignally the Israeli Broadcasting Association was demanding that they have at least one hour a day of women’s programming (6 hr/wk). Civil rights groups believed that even this amount was too little and filed a suit in the Israeli Supreme Court alleging that the government was not doing enough to fight discrimination against women at Kol baRama.

Israeli law does not allow discrimination except in certain religious situations. However, last May former Sephardi Chief Rabbi and Shas spritual leader Ovadia Yosef ruled that there were no problems with listen to women’s speaking voices on the radio.

Kol baRama’s ownership has close ties with several coalition MKs. In Israel there is a very thin line between the legislative and executive branches of government. Members of the Knesset, the legislative branch, also run the ministries that form the executive branch. They therefore control the ability of the government to execute its laws. This often means that a law that is passed in the Knesset can be effectively nullified as a political favor by the MKs that run specific ministries.

Kol baRama insists that increasing the number of hours of women’s broadcasting would lead to an economic loss. The Second Authority run its own independent study and found that 20% of listeners would stop listening if there were more hours of women’s programming. Kol BaRama claims the potential loss is closer to 1/3 of their listeners.

If this statistic is indeed representative of the Sephardi Haredi population as a whole, it suggests that there is deep rooted prejudice in that community. Given Ovadia Yosef’s ruling one can’t simply claim that the exclusion of women is due to religiously mandated separate roles or some sort of special holiness that sets women apart.

However, it is quite possible that this statistic is not representative. It only reports on current listeners. Given an on-going policy of excluding women, it may be that Kol BaRama is creating a self-confirming illusion. By making women all but invisible it alienates people who want to hear women’s voices. The current listeners are those who already don’t mind exclusion rather than the general public. In that case all the statistic tells us is that 20% of people who don’t care about women’s voices actually dislike them enough to stop listening.

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority defends its decision saying that the differences are not that great and no one should be making a big deal of going down from six to four hours.

Kol BaRama broadcasts 24/6. Four hours a week of women’s voices represents 3% of airtime.

Previous articles on Jacob’s Bones:

Categories: Building a Better Judaism, Gender Segregation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Community Blames Mother, not Mohel, for Death from Metzitzah b’Peh

According to the New York medical examiner, on September 28, 2011, a two week old infant died at Maimonides Hospital from a Herpes Simplex I (HSV1) infection acquired after the child was circumcized by a mohel who used direct oral suction to “clean”the wound.

The case is currently being investigated by the Brooklyn DA, but the family is not cooperating. Despite the medical examiners report the community is closing ranks around the mohel and instead blaming the mother, claiming that she did not care properly for her child.

Oral suction (metzitzah b’peh) is a high risk practice that has been rejected by many Jewish halachic experts. The Haredi community insists it is an essential part of circumcision and considers its right to continue the practice a matter of religious liberty.

The last recorded death from Metzitzah B’Peh acquired HSV1 was in 2004 when two twins were allegedly infected by mohel Yitzak Fischer. Fischer was banned from performing oral suction in 2007, but the ban does not appear to have been enforced. The Jewish week found that he was still scheduling brit milah with oral suction even two weeks ago. The Lower Hudson news reported that Fischer is also under investigation in connection with the most recent death.

New York City’s attempt to crack down on the practice in 2005 ended with a state wide 2006 “protocol” that allowed the Haredi community to continue the practice despite objections of medical personel and on-going concerns about health risks. This protocol was rescinded in 2007, but Agudat Israel who played a major role in the 2006 protocol claims that they were never informed of the change. The Health Commission plans on letting the Brooklyn DA take the lead in the current investigation.

In 2005 Mayor Bloomberg vowed not to interfere with religious practice, has begun to shift his rhetoric:

There is probably nobody in public life who fights harder for the separation of church and state than I do, but I just wanted to remind everybody: religious liberty does not simply extend to injuring others or putting children at risk … And we will continue working with the community and others to prevent more baby boys from suffering these tragic fates. (Source: NY Times)

Only time will tell if this new assertiveness will result in government action. Many of the themes of Haredi-state interaction apparent in Israel also seem to be at play in New York. Continue reading

Categories: Extremism | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Celebrating Purim With a Vengeance

Its often said that Purim is the Jewish Halloween, but some Jews in Borough Park, Brooklyn in New York City must have taken that a little too seriously.

When most people think of Purim, they think about funny parties, weird costumes, drinking a lot, and giving gifts to each others. The Jews who put up these Purim decorations decided that wasn’t enough. They decided the Purim symbol they wanted people to remember was t the hanging death of Haman and his sons. The recreated the scene by stringing up a line of eleven manequins on a wire stretched across the street.

There is a medieval tradition of parading with a hanging figure of Haman and then burning the figure up in effigy. Symbolicly burning is a way of wiping something out. Psychologically burning is a form of purification. One might imagine that burning Haman in effigy is a symbolic way of purifying ourselves from the effects of evil, i.e. symbolically ridding ourselves of self-defeating anger, learned fear, anxiety responses and all the other ways suffering and trauma can bend the human soul out of shape. But hanging 11 fake corpses in a row to stare at all day is nothing more than gloating.

Jews aren’t supposed to rejoice in death. The Talmud says that a generation that puts one man to death is a blood thirsty generation. We talk about the effect of death,. For example, wiping out the name of someone and their descendents is a way of saying that they have been completely vanquished and can never cause trouble anymore. However, we don’t rejoice in death itself, nor in the suffering that leads up to it.

Jews believe in respecting dead bodies. According to Jewish tradition even the hung body of a criminal should be taken down before nightfall. Even if the human being who inhabits the body is evil, the human form is in the image of God. To leave it hanging disrespects not just human dignity, but also God.

Jewish tradition teaches that even our enemies deserve a degree of empathy and respect. Each Pesach we dip our finger in our glass of wine and remove ten drops. According to one well known explanation, we diminish our own joy at liberation because our freedom came at a price paid by others.

Judaism believes that the ability to stand up for oneself and the ability to have compassion for one’s enemy are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the opposite is true. The failure to have compassion destroys the ability to protect oneself. Pharoah was a strong leader, yet he is described as having a hardened heart. Each plague in one way or another was meant to provoke empathy and compassion. For many, shared suffering can soften even the hardest of hearts, but this was not the case for Pharoah. He couldn’t even muster compassion for his own people, let alone the Hebrews in his care. Plague after plague Pharoah refused to let the Jews go, even though his own people suffered the price of his stubbornness. Even when he lost his own son he could not feel empathy and compassion for all the Jewish children he had killed during the years he forbid the Jews to reproduce. He could not acknowlege their suffering. Eventually his hard heart killed him. He drowned in the Red Sea pursuing the people he had no compassion for.

Haman too lacked empathy. He was consumed with his need for power and respect. When Haman refused to bow down to him, he began persecuting Mordachai and everything associated with him, including the entire Jewish people. Had he been capable of empathy he would have understood that Mordachai’s refusal to bow was an expression of integrity and not a threat to Haman’s power. Had he been capable of empathy he would have accepted the kings need to honor Mordachai as the person who saved his life. Instead of empathy for the king’s need, Mordachai entertained still more hatred and resentment against Mordachai. Eventually, his self-absorption and lack of empathy sealed his doom: seeking to save his own life he threw himself at Esther with the intent of begging her for his life. He gave little thought to how this might look to the king. Whn the king came in from the garden, he saw Haman attacking Esther. This was the final straw and the king ordered Haman’s death.

Even the Jewish notion of God affirms the compatibility of empathy and honor. God in Judaism is portrayed as a strong warrior, but also as One filled with compassion.

We lower ourselves to the level of Haman if we think that celebrating salvation requires gloating over the death and suffering of others, even long dead fictional others. There’s a reason mischloch manot, tzedakah, and a meal are the Purim mitzvot: they are about sustaining life.

Categories: Building a Better Judaism | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Service for All: 82% of Israeli Jews support a law of mandatory conscription for yeshiva students

by Hiddush staff, crossposted with permission from Hiddush blog.

Nahal Haredi Soldiers

68%, more than two-thirds of the Jewish population of Israel, including 81% of Likkud voters, support withholding public funding for yeshiva students if they refuse to enlist in military or civil service. 82% of the Jewish Israeli population hold that in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling that invalidates the Tal Law, a new law must be passed to enforce mandatory conscription of all or most yeshiva students into service. 69% support the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the Tal Law.

These are the findings of a new poll conducted by the Smith Institute on behalf of Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel, Inc. The poll was conducted in the last week of February, based on a representative sample of 500 adult Jews in Israel.

Hiddush President, Rabbi Uri Regev says “The poll proves unequivocally that the Israeli public is sick and tired with politically motivated mass exemption [currently app. 60,000, about 14% of the conscription] and is demanding mandatory service for yeshiva students. Integration of the ultra-Orthodox population into service will only happen if public funding for yeshiva students is conditional upon that service. The question is whether the government leaders will stay true to the voters who elected them and to the core values of Israel”

69% of the Jewish Israeli population, 83% of secular Israelis and 84% of recent immigrants (typically from the Former Soviet Union) support the Supreme Court decision invalidating the Tal Law. 29% are opposed to the decision. 86% of the ultra-Orthodox population opposed it. Of those who supported the Court decision: 87% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters, 73% of Likud voters, and 30% of voters for ultra-Orthodox parties. This somewhat surprising result can be explained by the fact that among Shas voters, there is a significant number of traditional and religious Jews who oppose army exemption for yeshiva students.

52% of the Israeli Jewish public support the passing of a new law that requires service, either military or civil, of all yeshiva students, and another 30% support recruiting all except for a limited number of outstanding yeshiva students. Altogether, 82% are in favor of mandatory recruitment for all or most yeshiva students into service. Of secular Israelis, 96% are in favor of such a law. Among religious respondents who are not ultra-Orthodox, 51% are against such a law and 49% are in favor. 91% of Likud voters are in favor of such legislation, 95% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters and 100% of Kadima voters.

85% of secular respondents, 87% of recent immigrants and 68% of the Jewish Israeli population as a whole are in favor of denying subsidies for those yeshiva students who do not serve. Of all respondents, Likud voters showed the highest support for such withholding of subsidies, 81% supporting, more than the 79% of both Yisrael Beiteinu and Kadima voters. 52% of voters for right wing religious parties supported withholding subsidies.

*The Tal Law, named after Justice Tal who chaired the committee that recommended it, was passed in 1999 and was meant to provide a legislated framework to the long standing administrative practice of exempting yeshiva students from military service. It was intended to encourage greater participation in both military and civil service, as well as the workforce. In six months, the law will expire and it is widely held that it failed its purpose and provided for only negligible growth in each of these areas.

HIddush is an organization dedicated to promoting religious freedom and diversity and realizing the promise of Israel’s Founders as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

Categories: Public Opinion Surveys | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Women Take Action Against Disrespectful Purim Advertising

This pre-Purim season was marked by two most interesting sets of Purim circulars. At one extreme were the Purim costume advertisements published by Hadash B’Beit Shemesh, a Haredi newspaper. At the other extreme were Purim costumes designed by Soshi Zohar.

As expected the Haredi newspaper blurred out the faces of all the little girls. They explained their actions to the press saying:

This is not a case of women’s exclusion or girls’ exclusion. The ads were blurred by the advertising company, at our request, out of respect to our readers – both men and women – who want to receive a paper which matches their worldview and lifestyle.

All that might be well and good if the newspaper’s advertising circular in fact was distributed only to Haredi homes. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The paper, or at least the circular in it, is targetted to a much wider audience. Parents in the non-Haredi neighborhoods also got the advertising circular. These parents do not hold to the idea that women’s faces are immodest and they resented the blurring out of girls’ faces.

At the other extreme was an advertisement for Purim costumes of Shoshi Zohar. Her costumes for toddlers and children under six were innocent enough. However, nearly every single costume worn by a pre-teen, teenager or adult woman looked like they had walked off the set of a Lady Gaga video.  Even the costumes for dressing up as a professional women or animals were sexualized. There was not one costume of a notable woman leader in history, nor even one of a notable woman in fiction. One might assume from Shoshi’s costume collection that either (a) women don’t want to imagine themselves as anything notable or (b) women can only imagine themselves as sex objects.

When confronted by the press about her over-sexualized all-but-prostitot costumes she was puzzled by the negative reaction. Like the publishers of the Haredi newspaper she asserted that she had done nothing wrong. She explained that ” her range of costumes provide something for both secular and religious communities”.

As a commenter on the Mother in Israel blog eloquently exclaimed:

Well, tell me: why should a sexy costume be considered secular? Do all secular women want to dress in a sexy costume? Do none of them want to dress in a non-sexy costume – you know, have fun at a costume party without being a sex object? What a ridiculous assumption. And do religious women not have sex or ever want to feel sexy? I guarantee you that many religious DO want to feel attractive and dress attractively. Finally, is it not possible to be sexy without being sleazy (fishnet stockings and a whip?!)? Of course it is!

All too often women see such portrayals of themselves and stay silent. However, not this time. It often happens that suffering from violence drives home the need to act. We can’t always prevent the crime that happened but we can work to make a better world. This is exactly what happened to Hadassah Margolese, the mother of Naama Margolese, who was traumatized this fall by adult Haredi males who spit and cursed at her. She writes in a Jerusalem Post op-ed about her reaction to the blurred faces in the Beit Shemesh Purim costume catalog:

A few weeks ago, an advertisement booklet from Ramat Beit Shemesh was put in my mailbox. I was not shocked to see that the girls’ faces were blurred, because we’ve become used to this. However, following my daughter’s experience, the phenomenon took on new meaning for me. Things seemed to click; they hide our faces in magazines, as well as trying to hide us in real life. This time would be different, I said to myself. I would actually do something about it, because I could not keep quiet any longer.

Hadassah then went to the facebook page of Red Pirate, the maker of the costumes advertised in the booklet, and complained. Several other women joined suit until Red Pirate was forced to respond. Red Pirate explained that they had not authorized the blurred photos:

The newspapers’ kashrut supervisor made the decision to publish the blurred ad… As this is the first time we encounter such a thing, which happened shortly before the newspaper was printed, we were unprepared. Therefore, we will prepare accordingly for the next ads directed at the haredi sector and put an end to this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the “end” did not involve showing the faces of young women. Instead the Haredi newspaper chose to blur both the little boys and the girls. Although it had complied with the Red Pirate’s demand not to discriminate against girls, it and possibly Red Pirate as well, had entirely missed the point: people don’t need to be hidden. Worse yet, the store had blurred girls faces on yet another set of toy advertisements and also put the blurred advertisements on Beit Shemesh buses. Not to be deterred, Hadassah Margolese took action again, this time writing an editorial in the Jerusalem Post, where she called out the store for yet again allowing faces to be blurred:

The store was apparently so desperate not to offend the extremists that it now allowed the blurring of all children’s faces. Did the store’s owners thinks this was some kind of compromise? I do not see it as a compromise. We pointed out a problem, they acknowledged it – and then decided to work around it rather than fix it. “Working around” a problem like this is unacceptable. Resolving the issue is what is necessary.

Meanwhile on the ground male and female Beit Shemesh community members protested the continued blurring by standing on the street in front of the store to educate potential customers about the store’s practices of blurring the pictures of women. Television cameras came in to cover the story, thus ramping up exposure of the issue.

The battle to convince stores and bus companies to stop allowing blurring of women’s faces is going to be a long one, but Israelis are used to fighting when they need to. Stores need to sell their product. Unless they risk losing more customers from bad publicity than they gain by using blurred photos they will likely continue the practice.

Women also took action over Shoshi Zohar’s oversexualized costumes. The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) condemned her costume collection and called for a boycott. Said chairwoman Gila Oshrat:

We have seen that the nation does have economic power and maybe it is time for parents to speak out about this. With only these kind of costumes available to women, it leaves them with little choice but to wear a near-pornographic outfit …. There is no need for a nurse costume to consist of a short mini-skirt and fishnet stockings. Why do all costumes, whether they are professional or an animal, need to be sexy?” Is this the message that we want to send our children? …. These kinds of sexist ads increase attacks against women and portray us as cheap.

The Israeli branch of WIZO has been actively involved in combating sexist and degrading images of women in the media. Each year it gives an “award” to the commercial that is the most sexist and degrading. The award for this year will be announced later today at the Knesset.

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Gender Segregation | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Toldot Aharon: Kudos for Taking a Stand

Admor of Toldot Aharon

In the middle of Februaray Shmuel Pappenheim, a Toldot Aharon Hassid who has been working to help Haredim get into the workforce, was beaten up by members of his synagogue when he attempted to go to Friday night prayers. They were angry about an interview he gave to HaAretz at the end of last December (2011). The attack began with demands he leave his shul, followed by name calling. When he refused to leave, the attack became physical. He was beaten all over his body, resulting in a broken shoulder.

So often rabbis in the Haredi community are unwilling to take a stand, but not this time. The Admor of Toldot Aharon called for the community to distance themselves from the attackesrs and convened a special meeting of the community council. According to Tzedek-Tzedek , reporting several days later,

The Toldos Aharon rabbinic leadership has come out strongly against the attackers and are implementing sanctions against the attackers.

Abuse is never justified and it is good to see Jews taking a stand.

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Signs of Progress | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

MK Israel Eichler: Love Us, Hate Them, Respect Only Deserves to go One Way

Last week UTJ MK Israel Eichler was thrown out of a meeting on the exclusion of women for inappropriate behavior. During the meeting he called Reform Jews anti-semites. He also threatened the Committee chairwoman Tzipi Hotoveli saying “she marked herself as an enemy of the Haredi Judaism” and that “Hotovely would pay for her actions.”.  He was furious that Hotovely would even invite Reform Jews to a meeting and hear their research on the exclusion of women.

Being thrown out sent a message that fell on deaf ears. Later that day when the Israeli Movement for Reform Judaism (IMPJ) said it planned to file a complaint against Israel Eichler to the Knesset Ethics Committee, he scoffed, saying he has no need to worry about “such a far fetched complaint”.

People usually throw temper tantrums when they run out of reasonable words and arguments.  However, there is a concerning pattern here.

This isn’t the first time this year he has been thrown out of a Knesset committee meeting. In January th Knesset was discussing an affordable housing bill and Livni objected to the plan proposed by Israel’s Minister of Construction, Attias, saying that the way the plan determined need virtually ensured that all of the people receiving housing would be haredim. Although her arguments were based on sociological data and current policy, MK Eichler was convinced that her only motive was hate. He shot back that she was “our enemy”.

Nor is this year the first time, he has made such comments. Israel Eichler has a long history of polemical and anti-anyone-but-Haredim remarks.

He views himself as a fighter to protect Haredim. Just before taking over Meir Porush’s Knesset chair in February, 2011, he told Kobi Nachshoni of Ynet that he wanted to negate the legitimacy of anti-Haredi discrimination which is spread and financed by sources in the USA and Europe and creates hatred. We will use all means to fight it, including discussing it in a Knesset investigative committee. All of our struggle will be to preserve Jewish culture and the soul of Israel, may it never be extinguished.

Of course, as is clear from his latest Knesset ouster, his definition of “Jewish” does not include fellow religious Reform and Conservative Jews. Nor does it include secular Jews whom he barely sees as human. He once described secular Jews as “a generation of people who look like beasts and behave like two-legged animals”

In fact, it turns out the entire state of Israel isn’t part of his definition of Jewish either. He has also abused Nazi symbolism to paint wider Israel as a genocidal force out to destroy his community of Jews. He has liked the media to a “crematoria” and secular Jews fighting to keep Ramat Aviv mall open on Shabbat as “Nazis”. Among some of the other statements about Israel he has made over the years:

  • Israel is “an enemy state”
  • Israel is “a historical national disaster”
  • Israel is “an evil regime”
  • “all talk of democracy is just lies and hypocrisy”
  • “There is no further basis for us to be one people”.

Nor is this the first time he has shown a twisted standard. In a November, 2011 Knesset committee meeting on Kol BaRama, the Sephardic-Haredi Radio Station that refuses to include women in its broadcasting schedule, he insisted on freedom of the press. However, freedom in context did not mean the positive right to express a viewpoint. Rather it was the negative right to surpress the words of others, particularly women.

In a Democracy, Awareness, not Silence

Diaspora readers should not think that the existence of an Israel Eichler in the Knesset means that Israel itself is full of hate. Israel is a democracy so no matter how offensive Israel Eichler’s words are, he has a right to say them. Hiddush CEO Uri Regev stressed this point when Hiddush prepared a report listing all of Eichler’s hate speech and distributed it to members of the Knesset. Awareness, not silence, is how a democracy best deals with noxious speech:

It’s a good thing we live in a modern democracy, which allows us to express such extremist views against the state and democracy in public. However, it is important that we recognize the new MK’s attitude towards the state, Zionism, and anyone who isn’t ultra-Orthodox, and remember the hostile attitude of United Torah Judaism towards the government of which it is a member.

However, vocal protest is also part of the way democracy deals with hateful speech.

Protest is also Part of Democracy

Back in 1990 in the USA, when David Duke, a former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard well known for his racism and anti-antisemitism tried to run as a Republican for Senate, his own party repudiated him even though it meant losing the Senate seat to a Democrat. After a national outcry against Duke’s campaign, the party concluded that the bad reputation that came from being associated with such a hate monger-er would spill over into other elections and hurt the party as a whole.

Now Israeli politics is not US politics. However, it is still fair to ask: “Why hasn’t United Torah Judaism (UTJ) repudiated Israel Eichler?” Why did they even give him a Knesset seat in the first place? Why don’t they remove him? Why isn’t someone as hateful as Israel Eichler considered a political liability?

It was only last December that the Haredi community was fighting to distance its communal identity from the thugs in Beit Shemesh who attacked reporters, women, and little girls. It was only last December that Haredim fought to distance themselves from protesters in Kikar Shabbat who dressed up like Holocaust vicitms. Is Eichler really the face that Haredi Judaism, and in particular the UTJ, wants to present to the rest of Israel? Can we believe that the protesters in Kikar Shabbat are an abberation when the UTJ is silent about hate speech, including Eichler’s occasional use of Holocaust imagery for his own polemics?

And why isn’t there a public outcry demanding his resignation or at least a condemnation from UTJ? The IMPJ is planning to file a complaint to the ethics committee, but where are the other Israelis speaking out against hate speech?

When David Duke ran for office, black and white US citizens repulsed by his attitudes rose up. In Israel there are no shortage of columnists protesting that Israeli society must not take away a single exemption from the Haredim, because they are a minority and democracy must protect its minority. According to the Avi Chai/IDI study the Reform and Conservative movements are a minority that have the same size as the Haredim: Reform + Conservative is 8% and Haredi/Hardal is 9%. Eichler’s attitudes have been well known for years, but there is not one op-ed that we could find condemning objecting to his holding a seat of power, nor condemning UTJ for making it possible.

It is no good saying that protest is useless because “they” are all as prejudiced as Eichler. Last fall and winter Haredim rightly complained that it wasn’t fair to black ball an entire group by the misbehavior of a few. It is simply prejudice in return. However, if Haredim, and particular UTJ, truly want to claim that the Kikar Shabbat Holocaust mockers are an exception, then the larger society needs to say “Prove it! Show us you can find politicians who live by derek eretz and mutual respect”.

Granted, even if UTJ wanted to disown Eichler, they couldn’t remove him from the Knesset. Once the MK is seated, his seat belongs to him and not his party. Even if he is forced out of the party they can’t take away his seat. For example, when Chaim Amsellem had a falling out with Shas, he still held onto his seat and there was nothing Shas could do about it.

However, it is unlikely that UTJ even wants to remove Eichler. Shas was very vocal about its rejection of Chaim Amsellem, even if they couldn’t take away his seat. However, there hasn’t been a single public statement from UTJ repudiating any of Eichler’s temper tantrums this year.

The greater likelihood is that UTJ members and voters simply aren’t bothered by Eichler’s comments. Some UTJ voters actually share the hate. Others are simply being pragmatic and self-interested. UTJ has portrayed itself as the great defender of the Haredi lifestyle and social privileges. So long as UTJ continues to deliver the goods, its voters will overlook hate if it bothers them.

Either way implies a certain disdain towards non-Haredi Israelis. Either way, UTJ voters and members are saying that something is more important than Ahavat Israel if they are willing to have the likes of Eichler on their list. Those who dislike the hate and are merely voting UTJ are also saying self-interest justifies Sinat Chinam. Perhaps that is not their intent. None the less it is the practical meaning of their actions. If UTJ puts hate mongers on its party list, then voting for UTJ aids and abets hate.

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Calls to Action, Extremism | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Haredi Radio Station Kol BaRama: One Hour Per Week of Women Is Too Much

Making change in Israel take a lot of persistence.

At the end of February, the next chapter in the saga of Kol BaRama began. The story goes back just over a year ago to December 2010 when the LaDaat Right to Know complained to the the Second Authority for Television and Radio about Kol BaRama. The station didn’t have a single woman broadcaster or speaker. Even its women’s shows were hosted by men. Women couldn’t even call in and share their recipes. Instead they had to fax in the recipe so the male anouncer could read it over the air. Continue reading

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Gender Segregation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

70 Year Old Ultra-Orthodox Woman Latest Victim of Haredi Vigilantes

We must not stand idly by

Two nights ago, the “modesty potrol” of Mea Shearim beat up a 70 year old ultra-orthodox woman who teaches women studying for conversion. They broke her right hand, crushed her left leg, and injured her face.

Many have observed that the victims of these so-called patrols are usually other Haredim. The violence in Beit Shemesh was a spillover of a bullying problem internal to the haredi community. The reasons why this problem persists are complicated.

Just as rabbis refused to give public condemnations against the violence in Beit Shemesh, so too when the violence is targeted within their own community. The reasons for the silence are the same ones that were given in December when the non-Haredi public called for condemnation of bullying on buses, streets, and school protests.

Some rabbis have the feeling that the violent behavior is nonsense. Talking about it will only give them their moment of fame. It will in fact egg them on. Others may feel that the ends justify the means. When attacking or arrested by police, they claim to be acting in defense of modesty and protecting the Haredi community from destruction. Even if they don’t fully approve of the tactics, they don’t really want to stop the phenomenon. Others keep silent out of fear, lest they be judged as lax about modesty and external threats to the Haredi way of life.

Vigilante behavior is not limited to Israeli Haredim. There are on-going problems with self-appointed vigilantes in Haredi communities in the USA as well.  Continue reading

Categories: Building a Better Judaism, Calls to Action | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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