First Spit, Now Stones

Just when things seem to have quieted down a new report of bullying from Jewish extremists in Beit Shemesh. HaAretz reports that another Anglo third grader, this time a little boy, was spit on by teen bullies from the neighboring Haredi community.

HaAretz reports that the third grader was confronted by a group of Haredi teens who shouted at him and threw a large rock, hitting him in the back.

Last month, an 8 year old girl Naama Margolis was spit upon and cursed at by adult Haredi men on her way to school. The men doing the spitting claimed she was not modest enough. However, the willingness

The boy’s father, Jeff Klein, says that the incident with his son shows that the real issue is not modesty, but intolerance. The Klein and Margolis families live in a neighborhood adjacent to an isolationist Haredi community. In addition to attacking children, members of the community have objected to dogs and even televisions owned by their non-Haredi neighbors.

Attempts to pressure rabbis and parents within the community to reduce violence only seem to increase the violence. When Channel Two broke the story of Naama Margolis, Haredi men attacked reporters the following Monday. A demonstration against violence in the name of religion mid-week was followed by riots and stone throwing at Naama Margolise’s school.

Although rabbis on the fringes of the Beit Shemesh haredi community publicly protested, none of the major rabbinic leaders in Beit Shemesh did.  On the National level leadership was mixed with former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef condemning religiously motivated bullying,  current Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar keeping his silence, and Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger blaming the press for making too much of an issue of things.

The Haredi community relies heavily on its rabbis to define social norms and their silence was painfully obvious, even to children.  When there is a strong conviction against some policy and behavior, they have no problem gathering hundreds and even thousands together for rallies.  But nothing of the sort has happened to protest bullying in the name of religion.

Some Haredi observers suggested that this reflected general approval for the goals of rioters and bullies, even if the means of accomplishing them was distasteful.   According to Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim,  they operate in a zone between the forbidden and the permitted by taking an issue on which there is general consensus and then trying to enforce it in unacceptable ways.

Categories: Exclusion of Jews, Extremism | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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