Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yeshiva World News creates Anti-Semites

Many readers are likely aware of the controversy surrounding Rabbi Leib Glanz. Rabbi Glanz is a part-time chaplain for the New York City corrections department who came under scrutiny after reports emerged that he had used his influence to help a convicted criminal hold his son’s Bar Mitzvah at the prison. The event included about 60 guests. Prison employees were paid overtime to help with the event. This by itself showed an astonishing lack of judgment on the part of Glanz. However, further details emerged which showed a pattern of Glanz systematically performing favors for Orthodox criminals, especially Satmars, the chassidic sect of which Glanz is a member. A member of the clergy who is corrupt or has severely misplaced priorities is such a common event that it is usually not worth noting. What is worth remarking on is the reaction to these events in a part of the larger Orthodox community.

Yeshiva World News, a popular ultra-orthodox news publication, ran an editorial on Wednesday that argued that the real problem wasn’t anything that Rabbi Ganz had done. No, the real problem was that the matter came to the attention of the proper authorities in part because fellow Jews had told the government and the press about Ganz’s behavior. The article is misleading in that it implies that the criminal in question, Tuvia Stern, was merely awaiting charges . This is not accurate. Stern was convicted and is serving a sentence. Moreover, although Rabbi Ganz is a chaplain for The Tombs which is used primarily as a holding prison for not yet convicted criminals, most of the favoritism he is accused of providing benefited convicted prisoners.

From the article (comments in brackets are my translations of relevant Hebrew and Yiddish phrases):

The inmate had arranged to have his son’s Bar Mitzvah celebration in the jail where he was being held. This information was subsequently leaked to the press at which time they had to act on the information. And act on it they did. What a travesty!

This has caused an obvious chillul Hashem [disgrace to God’s name] of the highest magnitude and has put the orthodox community at large and all frum [orthodox] inmates, once again, under great and unwarranted scrutiny. It has had a tremendous ripple effect and has left in its wake the evisceration of years of mesiras nefesh [self-sacrifice] and infrastructure that has been built for inmates past, present, and future.

We all know how important the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvui’im [redeeming andcomforting captives] is and it is not our place to judge another Jew. That is a job for Hakodosh Baruch Hu [The Holy one Blessed be He] alone. Our job is to make sure that we do all we can to facilitate these individuals and their families in their time of need to the best of our ability. No one would condone any of their alleged behavior and some may agree or disagree with the considerations they may have received until this point, but no one would disagree that we must stand by our fellow Jews and help in any way we can. Unfortunately, that was all lost and a lesson that will come at a severe price. Who knows what will, Lo Aleinu [God forbid], await these prisoners as they get shipped off to Riker’s Island. Their potential mistreatment is beyond our comprehension as they will be in the company of the worst criminals in our state.

Does someone really believe a good thing was done here? Is this what our Torah teaches us? The anti-semitism this has caused will be on their head and only death can be m’chaper [atone] the chillul Hashem [disgrace to God’s name]. We, as Jews, must think long and hard of the far reaching ramifications of our actions.
So to be clear: An Orthodox Rabbi engaged in behavior that was at best ethically dubious, he got caught, and YWN is complaining that fellow Jews reported on him.Centuries ago, one of the worst things a Jew could be was a “mosser,” a term generally translated as “informer” but more accurately rendered as a “snitch.” A mosser was someone who reported the transgressions of other Jews to the non-Jewish government. In an era when pogroms could occur on the flimsiest pretext and where Jews handled most legal matters internally, this was a reasonable stance. However, this has not been the case for hundreds of years in most of the world, and has never been the case in the United States. Yet, here in the United States in 2009, we have an Orthodox Jewish publication criticizing Jews for reporting clearly inappropriate behavior out of concern that such reporting will lead to increased anti-Semitism. This position is both reprehensible and short-sighted. I know what will lead to increased anti-Semitism: Non-Jews learning that a substantial part of the Jewish community considers itself so divorced from the civic life of the United States that it thinks that people who report the failures of government employees are worthy of death.

I hope that the sane elements of the Orthodox community will condemn this outrageous editorial in the strongest possible language. Jews are American citizens with the same rights and the same obligations as all other American citizens. The United States has welcomed and extended civil rights to Jews in a historically unprecedented fashion. This editorial displays profound unawareness of and ungratefulness for that reality.

Hat tip to Onion Soup Mix.

10 comments:

onionsoupmix said...

The sad part is that I think there are many frum Jews who get the majority of their news from YWN.

They also piss me off b/c they allow screen their comments and allow outrageous remarks which really make frum people look bad. Read the comments they allowed on the article about Hillary Clinton's injury.

Joshua said...

I'm more concerned honestly that there are that many frum people out there with these sorts of opinions. And at some level, these are the moderates because the real charedim won't generally use the internet. So in some sense, those comments are coming from moderates.

Incidentally, I've noticed an interesting pattern in that extreme frum sites are more willing to have comments threads than extreme Chrisitan sites. The Equivalent of Yeshiva World News in the Protestant world would probably be World Net Daily which doesn't allow comments at all. I don't have a good explanation for this. My working explanation is that some element of the classic Jewish tendency to consider debate and argumentation to be good things still exists even in the charedi world. I'm not so happy with that explanation. Another possibility is one of practicality in that the equivalent evangelical websites get more hits by at least an order of magnitude and so cannot as easily allow for commenting.

But yes, things like this do make the frum community look bad. And the lack of concern about that while they rant about the "chilul hashem" displays amazing lack of self-awareness.

onionsoupmix said...

I would guess that YWN allows comments simply b/c that encourages more traffic to the sites and allows them to continue functioning via the ads they place. World Net Daily probably has better sponsorship or something.

Shalmo said...

"The United States has welcomed and extended civil rights to Jews in a historically unprecedented fashion. This editorial displays profound unawareness of and ungratefulness for that reality."

historically unprecedented fashion! Oh REALLY!

While persecutions did happen, in muslim countries Jews (most of the time) enjoyed a relatively safe status. There are numerous cases of muslims who protected Jewish synagogues, and some who even helped rebuild them when christian attacks (ah Crusdaers) came for the kill.

Think muslim Spain! Jews were better off there than the US, where anti-semitism is still quite common.

It doesn't matter which country, because Jews will always be Christ killers to a certain religious group. And since they make up 80% of the US, I don't Jews there enjoy civil rights in a "historically unprecedented fashion".

Let's not exaggerate how kool the US is. Its good to mention the perks, but careful when you say things like "historically unprecedented".

Joshua said...

I disagree. Classically in Muslim countries, while Jews were safe (certainly often safer and given more rights than in many Christian countries) they were ultimately treated as second class citizens. The treatment of Jews as legally identical to all other citizens and to make such treatment in many ways actual in fact is something that happened in the US before almost anywhere else.

Also, note that many Christians don't think of Jews as Jesus-killers. And even if they did, the issue here is what legal rights and treatment by the government that occurs.

Shalmo said...

What about places like Muslim Spain? I think that at least was better than the US, considering it was that environment that also gave Judaism Maimonides.

I'm not denying that there was mistreatment of Jewry. I just don't agree that the US is best example so far, considering even today Jews are constantly being "witnessed" aka aggressively proselytized to.

this is inspiring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDd-RyDmvZo

Joshua said...

Shalmo, I didn't assert that the treatment of the Jews was "best" but rather unprecedented. The treatment of Jews as identical to all other citizens is something that occurred in the US before it occurred in any other major country.

Also, the attitudes towards Jews in Muslim Spain actually changed a lot over time. It is primarily in comparison to the treatment of Jews in Christendom at the time that make it look good.

cipher said...

it is not our place to judge another Jew

Oh, please - as though they don't do that all the time. They have nothing but contempt for the non-Orthodox. Not long ago, I was informed by a young Satmar that I'm not a Jew, as I haven't willingly taken upon myself the obligation to perform the mitzvot. However, because I haven't taken on that obligation, I'll suffer in Gehinnom when I die. I asked him how I could be held responsible for being unobservant if I'm "not a Jew"; I didn't get anything remotely resembling a straight answer.

It's a siege mentality, Joshua. They've been traumatized by centuries of oppression culminating in the Holocaust (which many could have escaped by emigrating while there was still time, but their rabbis wouldn't allow it), and they now simply refuse to grow beyond it. A few years ago, a boy was abducted by a rabbi who was a sort of Satmar renegade, and who was establishing his own cult (the story is chronicled in the book, Tzaddik). His mother could get no help from the frum community, so she turned to the police. She then began receiving anonymous phone calls on a nightly basis, telling her she was going to burn in hell. People who were appalled by the rabbi's behavior were even more outraged that she'd inform on a fellow Jew.

There is simply no penetrating this level of psychosis. Fortunately, their world is self-destructing - succumbing to pressure from without and deteriorating from within. They haven't got but another two generations left, at most. Tragically, thousands of children will still grow up in that abusive environment in the meantime.

Incidentally, I've noticed an interesting pattern in that extreme frum sites are more willing to have comments threads than extreme Chrisitan sites. The Equivalent of Yeshiva World News in the Protestant world would probably be World Net Daily which doesn't allow comments at all.

Some do. I believe One News Now allows comments - but, invariably, they're as batshit insane as the articles. They remove dissenting comments, which is also habitual behavior at the frum sites.

And at some level, these are the moderates because the real charedim won't generally use the internet. So in some sense, those comments are coming from moderates.

I'm not sure this is true. I think a lot of them are on it now; they just hide it family and friends. I've asked that same Satmar fellow why he's online if his rabbis are against it; again, I haven't gotten an answer.

Anonymous said...

Being a moser an informar as you call it has nothing to do with 100s of years ago that there where progroms and what not. In fact a moser is someone who tells on a jew to a non jew authority. If you feel like explaining why 100s of years ago the problem with a moser was ans because of that change the rules. You can go ahead and change most of jewish law by saying what the reason for it was and then saying that reason is not in effect now so we can disobey. That's not how it works. Now Mr Glanz did do something wrong making a bar mitzvah in jail is not right we have a law about "dina d'malchisa Dina" but the guys who informed on him is still a moser.

cipher said...

Translation: a rabbi said it, so it's true.

As I said, there's no penetrating this level of psychosis. All that can be done is to sit back and wait for them to self-destruct.