Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Change We Can't Believe In

So in yesterday's rant, I made a passing reference to the recently indicted Spinka Rebbe, and how I found the idea that one of the goals of the symposium was "...to learn to distinguish between conduct that conforms with dina d’malchusa and conduct that does not," to be evidence of their disingenuousness in truly addressing the systemic problem in their community. After all, it’s not as if the Spinka Rebbe doesn’t know the halachos!

I also mentioned about how I thought it was ludicrous that one of their keynote speakers at the event was going to be a man who has proven to be a ruthless and dishonest thug. Well, leave it to the Agudah to outdo themselves. Not only did they have that fellow speak to the crowd, but they also had the Spinka Rebbe himself! Yes, barely two weeks after pleading guilty to a decade-long tax fraud and money laundering scheme, Rabbi Naftali Tzi Weisz is being presented as the opening speaker at an event meant to tackle the problem of fraud and corruption!

Now, I’m sure there are many people who will argue that this is not as bad it seems, and that he’s actually an appropriate choice, because firstly, he's done teshuva, and secondly, someone who has been guilty of such a crime is the best person to speak to the community of the problem, kind of like how convicted gang members talk to inner city high school kids. Yeah, well, sorry, but I don’t think it’s the same thing. He was up there on the dais as a respected leader of the community, not as a convicted felon. The unspoken message to that crowd was that you can commit these crimes but we will still respect and honor you as if nothing happened. Which we all know is par for the course - as far as I know, there hasn't been a single op-ed or article in the chareidi press criticizing the man for his indiscretions. And more importantly, if you look at what he said, it shows that he actually hasn’t owned up to the problem. From the Forward article:
Weisz spoke in great detail about the compliance program that the Spinka board has entered with the government and he said, "Our community, baruch hashem, is not lacking in smart experienced lawyers and accountants that are willing to teach the tzibur [community], how to conduct their communal affairs in a manner that is in compliance with the law in all respects."
And from the VIN article:
The Spinka Rebbe told the audience about a new organization founded with the help of prominent askonim. Members include experienced attorneys, accountants and other professionals. “A lot of effort has gone into this matter and the staff can help people set up tzedaka and chessed organizations. Little by little more and more mosdos are joining the program and we’re hoping that in the coming years there will no longer be any organizations that don’t keep proper accounting records.”
Please! What a bunch of unadulterated bulls#*it! He’s making it sound as if, nebach!, we just didn’t really understand that what we were doing was wrong. But thankfully, now we have people who will teach us how to do things right! He isn’t in the least bit owning up to what he did! Just like how Zwiebel explained the asifah, not as a moment of true self-reflection and an opportunity to acknowledge their misdeeds, but rather as a chance for people to learn right from wrong! Suuuure... it’s just a matter of educating people! As if no one really intended to cheat, deceive, and steal from the government (and the taxpayer)! Even Braffman, one of the attorneys who spoke, made it sound like these things are innocent mistakes (from VIN):
Later in his talk Atty. Braffman touched on day-to-day affairs. "People don’t learn how to run their day-to-day lives after getting married, when they’ll have to report income. You have to know how to write checks, how to buy a home. When today’s generation grows up we’ll be in a much bigger mess because young people know nothing about how to run their day-to-day lives. You have no idea how careful you have to be to avoid chilul Hashem."
What a bunch of horses#%t! This is not a mea culpa! This isn’t admitting wrongdoing! This is exactly the opposite! Focusing on people's (supposed) ignorance is not how you take responsibility!

This is why I think the Agudah and all the frum people who are talking about ‘addressing the issue’ are so full of crap. They aren’t really interested in looking at themselves in a mirror and admitting to any real wrongdoing. Instead, they’ll point to ‘flaws in the system’ that contributed to the problem. Already, we are seeing people pointing to the fact that secular education in the frum world is so poor as a cause for these kinds of problems. Yeah, it’s true, their secular education does suck, and that cultivates an environment where people are lacking skills to support themselves, which can often lead to such shady activities, but that’s not the real problem!!! Nor is the problem - as everyone seems to be focused on - because these sort of things cause a chillul hashem!

These are just side issues to deflect from the real issue that no one wants to face, that for the past few decades the chareidi world and its leaders have turned a blind eye to the widespread financial impropriety that is commonplace in their society. They don’t want to face the real issue that they have been complicit in cultivating this attitude, that its ok to take advantage of any loophole (legal or not) they can come up with, if the goal is to support their mosdos and their frum lifestyle. They don’t want to acknowledge the many shmuezzen and divrei torah from their rabbonim, roshei yeshiva, and gedolim, which have subtly (and sometimes explicitly) sent the message that the only rules in life that matter are the torah rules and what the goyim say and think doesn’t really matter at all. Anyone who had been in yeshiva has heard a shmuez or two where the rabbi stands up at the podium and thunderously exclaims to his flock, "It’s only wrong because the torah says it’s wrong!" Any proper yeshiva bochur knows that the whole notion of being an ethical person really doesn't matter at all to a torah yid. All that matters to such a person is being a halachic person. And while many will point out that according to halacha all these things are forbidden (well, according to some opinions), it doesn’t really matter. Because once you’ve disregarded the notion of ethics, and put all of life into the box of halacha, all it takes is one clever gemara-kup to come up with a legal loophole, or to find some obscure psak, or figure out some rationale as to why it’s not a problem according to halacha, and the frum people will do whatever the hell they want.

How many more incidents is it going to take before they acknowledge the real underlying issues? In fact, in the past 24 hours, two more incidents have come to light - one of a couple in Monsey that were arrested on welfare fraud, and another of two young guys stealing checks from people’s mailboxes. A few months ago a Monsey guy pled guilty to wire fraud. Before that it was Leib Pinter (an Artscroll author) getting busted for a $44 million fraud. Last year it was a Lakewood bochur scamming elderly people. These are all symptoms of a very deep and disturbing issue.

Like so many other problems in chareidi society (lack of education, poverty, sexual abuse, violence, and more), this is one more travesty that they themselves can proudly take credit for creating. I’m not saying that everyone in the chareidi world is a criminal. Absolutely not. Just like not every chareidi person is a sexual abuser. But just like with the problem of sexual abuse, the community as a whole has knowingly fostered an environment where this sort of thing is not just tolerated, but is allowed to flourish. They chose to look the other way when it went on in front of them, thereby allowing the problem to get ever worse. And as was so amply demonstrated last night, they have chosen to hastily forgive the misdeeds of those who have been guilty of these crimes.

If these people ever own up to the detrimental attitudes that are endemic to their value system, there may be hope for real improvement. But as long as they refuse to face the real issues, and instead distract themselves with every excuse they can come up with, I’m quite confident that nothing more than superficial changes will come of all this.

45 comments:

laura said...

Hedyot, I think you should listen to the actual speeches instead of reading snippets and excerpts. I don't think you'll change your opinion, but you will get a clearer idea of what was said.

And the unfortunate truth is that--at least among chassidim--there are, indeed, many yungerleit who have no clue that certain things are illegal and wrong.

Anonymous said...

You covered a lot of ground in this post a great deal of which is worthy but let me just address two small points right now because I've got to run.

1. They may be more guilty of things like hypocrisy than others are but that's only because they claim to hold to a higher standard than others. Judged based on any pure measurement, I believe that the frum are found to be more in compliance with ethical standards than almost any other community.

2. I was at the asifa from pretty much start to finish and there was enough babbling in 3 languages for tzitutim to be offered that could say anything but, at the end of the day, there was a great deal said - in each of those languages - that you would have been very very pleased to hear.

Again, sorry for having to be so brief right now but i'm keeping people waiting.

Moshe

XGH said...

LOL. Keeping the law is just a compliance issue. There's no moral aspect. Actually, that makes sense from a Chareidi POV.

XGH said...

But here's what the Spinka Rebbe said:

Addressing the audience in a mournful tone, he said: “Morai verabbosai, let’s talk about this in very clear terms: it is well known what has been happening at our mosdos and yeshivas over the past 16 months. We’ve learned a lot during this period and I feel obligated to tell the public what we’ve been going through. We’ve been leading mosdos in Boro Park for 40 years – a kollel, a yeshiva and a cheider. Out of necessity we allowed ourselves to indulge in illegal acts. As painful as it may be, we must admit we have failed. [Failed cos we got caught?] Things have happened at our mosdos that should not have happened . We must acknowledge this, and make it known publicly, because we’re hoping it does not repeat itself.

Anonymous said...

With sadness . . . Amen V'Amen

laura said...

XGH: Out of necessity we allowed ourselves to indulge in illegal acts. As painful as it may be, we must admit we have failed. [Failed cos we got caught?]

Ploni 1: Out of necessity we allowed ourselves to indulge in illegal acts. As painful as it may be, we must admit we have failed. [Failed to do the correct thing].

Ploni 2: Out of necessity we allowed ourselves to indulge in illegal acts. As painful as it may be, we must admit we have failed. [Failed to abide by the laws of the land].

Ploni 3: Out of necessity we allowed ourselves to indulge in illegal acts. As painful as it may be, we must admit we have failed. [Failed to get rich?]

I mean, you can interpret this however you wish, of course. And obviously, Hedyot will interpret it according to his preconceived ideas about charedim, XGH will interpret it according to his, the frummie according to his, and so on. You cannot, however, fault the Spinka Rav on stuff that you've personally and subjectively inferred.

jajogluck said...

You mentioned the possibility that the preponderance of financial fraud in the Hasidic world is due to their lack of access to state education funds. I want to elaborate on this a bit more.

Even though I am most critical of the haredi educational system and its lack of respect for a thorough secular curriculum, my question is: why are religious people not entitled to a piece of the education-funds pie?

I think this country has taken the separation of church and state doctrine to an illogical extreme. I don't think the founding fathers had in mind a prohibition of state funding to private religious schools in the same proportion as they would have gotten if they had been secular. In other words, if they're paying in to the tax system, they should be entitled to take out an equal amount for education purposes even if they happen to be religious institutions.

Until this fundamental problem is properly addressed by the legal and judicial systems of this country I actually do have a certain level of sympathy for religious educational institutions defrauding the state and federal gov. I think an argument could be made that they are being cheated. Parents of its students are "theoretically" paying as much taxes as those of public school parents but are forced to pay a tuition cfor their child's education. why?

The Hedyot said...

> The unfortunate truth is that--at least among chassidim--there are, indeed, many yungerleit who have no clue that certain things are illegal and wrong.

This may well be true, but the people who are committing fraud, money laundering, and deliberately cheating the government out of millions can not pretend that they were ignorant of the law. They knew the law and they purposefully and knowingly sought to contravene it.

The Hedyot said...

> Out of necessity we allowed ourselves to indulge in illegal acts.

Out of necessity? What the hell does that mean? We were forced to do illegal things? Really? We were compelled to support another kollel yungerman? We had no choice but to have another kid when we couldn't afford it? We were obligated to build another wing on our house?

To me, the very fact that this man uses such words indicates a lack of remorse! There is no 'necessity' that compels one to steal on the scale that this mans organization did! What would have happened if they didn't have the money? Yeshivas would have closed? People would have had to go out and find jobs? Grandiose shuls wouldn't have been able to be built?

By using such terminology he is trying to mitigate his offense, and that is not the sign of a repentant person.

G*3 said...

> When today’s generation grows up we’ll be in a much bigger mess because young people know nothing about how to run their day-to-day lives. You have no idea how careful you have to be to avoid chilul Hashem.

This is very telling. Its not a problem because fraud and stealing are wrong, only that it looks bad.

As you say, this is a cultural problem. Many cahreidim really do not see themselves as subject to the law. The law is for others; Jews are a separate people and are subject only to halachah. So breaking the law is only a problem if you get caught. Its not a moral issue at all.

The Hedyot said...

> they should be entitled to take out an equal amount for education purposes even if they happen to be religious institutions

What?! Are you kidding me?

Putting aside the issue of separation of church and state, why in the world should the public support an institution that, in their opinion, teaches superstitions, irrelevant laws, and other useless crap that provides absolutely no benefit to the general society whatsoever? (Not to mention the parts where they encourage their students to ignore the law of the land!)

Would you be ok if I took your money and used it to support people that just want to sit around, drink beer and play video games all day?

Veganovich said...

One of the reasons that fraud is so prevalent in the frum community is that frum people have an easier time getting away with it. Part of this is because of the social stigma of mesira. There are certain types of white-collar crime that the government has a difficult time investigating without a cooperating witness. At the same time that the community sheds crocodile tears about the fraud, they ensure that it will continue in the future by denouncing Shlomo Dwek as a moser. Dwek’s willingness to cooperate with the government will do more to prevent financial crime in the frum community than one thousand speeches.

FancyPants said...

why in the world should the public support a religious institution that, in their opinion, teaches superstitions, irrelevant laws, and other useless crap that provides absolutely no benefit to the general society whatsoever?

Why in the world should religious taxpayers support secular institutions (public schools) that preach ideas diametrically opposed to their beliefs?

Would you be ok if I took your money and used it to support people that just want to sit around, drink beer and play video games all day?

Sounds like a good argument against government funding of colleges and universities.

Sarah said...

they aren't forced to do anything. they choose to reject the free schools they are entitled to.

The Hedyot said...

> Why in the world should religious taxpayers support secular institutions (public schools) that preach ideas diametrically opposed to their beliefs?

Because by cultivating an educated public, we are helping create an economically stable and healthy society - one that the religious people benefit from too.

It's like a storeowner that doesn't want to pay for the upkeep on the street. "I don't drive a car here, and I don't throw any garbage out here, so why should I pay for maintenance?" he says. Well, do you benefit from the pedestrians who travel here because its so clean? Because the roads are well paved? Because the streets are pleasant to stroll on?

Religious people benefit in many ways from paying taxes, not the least of which is that having an educated public creates a prosperous society.

Anonymous said...

they aren't forced to do anything.

Religious people are very much forced to pay taxes.

they choose to reject the free schools they are entitled to.

Schools are not free. The fact that tax payers are forced to pay for them regardless of whether or not they use them does not make schools free.

Because by cultivating an educated public, we are helping create an economically stable and healthy society - one that the religious people benefit from too...

Society also benefits from educated religious people, so why shouldn't society pay for their education?

The Hedyot said...

> Society also benefits from educated religious people, so why shouldn't society pay for their education?

How exactly does society benefit from people being educated in religious laws?

PS - I kindly ask you to please comply by the rules, and use a pseudonym when commenting. Make up a name and stick with it. Conversations with Anonymous get too confusing.

The Hedyot said...

Laura -

I listened to some of the speeches. Braffman indeed did say some things that were admirable, at times calling them out in semi-harsh ways, but he also said some things which were atrocious in my opinion (such as saying that jewish blood is cheap to the media) and worse, he focused a lot on the side issues like chillul hashem, lack of secular education, and ignorance of the law, rather than on the fundamental problem of the attitude in chareidi society that following the law is not really such a high priority in the first place.

FancyPants said...

Sorry, about the anonymous. I now see the request. I was wondering how I became FancyPants :)

How exactly does society benefit from people being educated in religious laws?

a)I said society benefits from educated religious people, not religious law. Religious schools do not only teach religious law. They also teach the 3 R's, etc.

b) Many people are inspired by religious law to try to make the world a better place e.g. give charity, turn the other cheek.

c) The rigors of studying religious law (e.g. Talmud) or philosophical arguments are excellent preparation for other activities requiring rigor which help society (e.g. lawyer, programmer). Obviously this is not the only way to prepare for becoming a lawyer, programmer, etc but it is one way.

d) Religion has always been a big motivation for science. History has no shortage of people studying religion being inspired to study "secular" subjects. "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." -Albert Einstein

FancyPants said...

I should add that religion has also always been an inspiration for literature (the Bible, Dante), poetry (psalms, Matthew Arnold), philosophy, art (the Sistine Chapel),etc. Essentially any field has great works which have been religiously inspired. Again, religion is not the only inspiration, but it's indisputable that religion is an inspiration.

shoshi said...

Well, I suppose it should be a very shaming experience for a Rebbe to go out there and speak about the fraud he pleaded guilty to...

I should think he would prefer not to do it.

And it's infinitely better than his fans who claim he never did anything wrong.

Baal Habos said...

>He was up there on the dais as a respected leader of the community, not as a convicted felon. The unspoken message to that crowd was that you can commit these crimes but we will still respect and honor you as if nothing happened.


While Laura might be correct about the quote mining, your take on the message is very insighful. The message is, you're still our leader and we'll stand up for you.

The Hedyot said...

> Religious schools do not only teach religious law. They also teach the 3 R's, etc.

If they do that, fine. Any religious school that provides a sufficient curriculum gets government funding. Hover, the reality is that it’s usually a joke. When I was in certain yeshivas, everyone knew that the yeshiva’s secular studies program was only there so that they can get the money for it, and that the yeshiva didn’t care a bit whether we did well or not. There's even a book written by a teacher who taught in Satmar which recounts this experience: Teacha!

> Many people are inspired by religious law to try to make the world a better place e.g. give charity, turn the other cheek.

And many people are inspired by comic books to become crime fighters.

> The rigors of studying religious law (e.g. Talmud) or philosophical arguments are excellent preparation for other activities requiring rigor which help society (e.g. lawyer, programmer).

A million things can be shown to have some indirect benefit in other areas of life. That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe video games should be subsidized because it develops better hand coordination, which is crucial for becoming a surgeon?

> Religion has always been a big motivation for science. History has no shortage of people studying religion being inspired to study "secular" subjects.

Again, just because there is occasionally some indirect positive effect from one thing to another doesn’t mean that it’s sensible to support that original thing. (And I hate to break it to you, but to use the example of religion inspiring science, in today’s era, is an utterly absurd one, especially in regards to chassidish schools, which actively discourage people from studying science.) You can find an example of anything inspiring anything, if you really look. Poverty has inspired art. Atrocities have inspired societal revolution. That doesn’t mean the original thing is desirable to have.

I don’t want this thread to be any more sidetracked that it already is so any further responses I give to this issue will be offline.

The Hedyot said...

> Well, I suppose it should be a very shaming experience for a Rebbe to go out there and speak about the fraud he pleaded guilty to...

Yes, so shaming, when he is introduced with all the typical honorifics, and people stand up for him when he enters. It must have been so humiliating.

Ok, I admit, I'm sure it wasn't pleasant for him to have to talk about that stuff, but that really doesn't mean much. He knew he was in front of a friendly audience. He knew that they were not there to judge him.

It's almost like a ba'al teshiva who is invited to speak to a bunch of FFB's about his past life. Yes, usually that past life is not something that they are so proud of, but in the context in which they are speaking, they know that they are being respected for their decision to change from that past, not belittled, so it isn't in the least bit a humiliating experience.

TikunOlam said...

I guess no Moshiach this year?

Brad said...

There might have been a lot of good things said there, but the key question is, did they ever really cut to the chase? At any point, did they address the basic fact that they have raised a generation to believe that as long as it doesn't violate halacha, they can break whatever rules they want?

jajogluck said...

Hedyot, you seem to be involving your personal animosity towards religious people and institutions in this debate. To be objective, as opposed to subjective we must assume that religious people are capable of contributing to society just as any other movement, sports organization is. I am personally very loathe of sports. I hate it when the local government subsidizes the building of stadiums and ball parks. I personally see sports spectator activities as culturally void of any value but I cannot argue against gav. funding of ball parks simply because I know that most people -- THE ONES WHO PAY TAXES -- do like those sports and so it's simply a way of gov. to give back to its taxpayers.

Religious people pay taxes just as non-religious people do and they are entitled to a slice of the pie. Forcing them to pay taxes and then denying them education funds because they choose not to go to public school is very unfair IMO. The voucher system would be probably be a good solution to this problem. As long as this rudimentary issue is not being addressed by politicians and judges, the problem of education fraud in religious institutions will continue.

Remember, when you see a poor lower-class person sholifting, it is not ONLY the shoplifter who is to blame. By society tolerating such poverty amidst such great wealth, they are setting the stage for crimes that equalize wealth. Part of the solution to shoplifting, gang violence, drug abuse etc... is raising the standard of living and education among the poor. I hope you get the analogy. lav akhbera ganav, hura ganav. The mouse isn't the thief; the hole in the wall is!!!

ymosh said...

jajogluck, hedyot answered your point entirely objectively. hedyot might hate religious people but i couldn't tell it from what he wrote here. (actually don't think he does really)

evanstonjew said...

I can't get over the fact that there is such bitterness and animosity towards charedim. It makes me very sad; not the specific points which always have some validity, but the feeling tone, the affect underlying these remarks. There is virtually no one here that is being held captive inside a charedi world. Many have left Orthodoxy. We even read recently of a woman who found happiness inside Catholicism. Everyone gets treated with respect and empathy except charedim.

It is unreasonable to expect change overnight. The Charedi world, like many tradition bound societies changes slowly. We are talking minimal 10-20 years. Yesterday was an excellent start. The idea that the Spinka Rebbe or the charedi leadership as a whole owes the blogging community or any group a mea culpa is ridiculous. Change happens with communities as with individuals by patiently dealing with the defenses and allowing the community to figure out for itself what it must do. Change will happen bottom up , one mother at a time. Nothing will come by yelling at the Agudah. There is no one home.

The Hedyot said...

ej -

I sympathize with your plight. Honestly, I imagine it can't be easy to hear the attacks that are written here. But what's being attacked here is corruption, hypocrisy, criminal behavior, and the widespread societal attitudes that underlay those behaviors. Why in the world would one expect sympathy and respect for people who support, even indirectly, in such things?

> The idea that the Spinka Rebbe or the charedi leadership as a whole owes the blogging community or any group a mea culpa is ridiculous.

Huh? Who ever said he, or they, owe the bloggers anything? THEY are the ones who said that they want to take an introspective look at their society and examine the issues! All I'm doing is pointing out how short they've fallen in their own stated goals.

> Change will happen bottom up, one mother at a time.

And what do you think this blog is, if not a voice from the bottom? True, they might not be listening to me directly, but plenty of chareidim read this, and those who can get past the difficulty of hearing their society criticized, often echo these sentiments when they go back to shul and talk it over with their chevra. I know for a fact that people have printed out my posts and given them to roshei yeshiva to read.

Again, I genuinely am sorry that it hurts you to hear the attacks that get expressed here. I don't have sympathy for people who are doing wrong, and won't hold back when I think thy deserve criticism, but honestly, when I let loose, it's not based on any animosity but on a sincere feeling of being bothered by what I see as corruption and injustice in the name of religion.

Frank said...

> To be objective, as opposed to subjective we must assume that religious people are capable of contributing to society just as any other movement, sports organization is.

Wrong. To be objective, as opposed to subjective, you must determine whether what religious people study in their schools directly contributes to society as much as what is studied in schools that receive government funding does.

Frank said...

> Religious people pay taxes just as non-religious people do and they are entitled to a slice of the pie.

Government funding of education is not a right that people are 'entitled to'. It is a decision made by society to allocate resources to those things which they feel they will get a return on investment on. If religious people can demonstrate that studying hilchos nida or lulav hagazul can provide as much of a return on investment to society as science and writing does, I'm sure society would find it appropriate to invest in their schools too.

J. said...

There seems to be a bit of confusion here about state support for religious schools. The American consititution mandates the separation of church from state. As far as I understand this prevents the state from funding religious schools, even for their secular studies.
In countries such as England however, where there is no such separation, there are government funded 'faith schools'. This does NOT mean that the religious studies are funded by the state, which I can see many people objecting to. All it means is that if the school agrees to teach the curriculum decided by the government, they came become 'state aided', which means that the state pays for everything APART FROM any religious instruction.
However, even in countries such as England, there are many Charedi schools, who far various reasons do not want state funding. This is chiefly because this would mean that they had to stick to the 'national curriculum', which mandates things that some charedim don't like, as well as requiring a certain amount of teaching hours per week.
However, this system is unlikely to be adopted in America any time soon, so if you want a cheap Jewish education for your children (and crazy house prices), move to England. If you want cheap Jewish education AND cheap housing, move to Antwerp (Belgium).

Moshe said...

To whom it may concern:

The anonymous commenter who signed as "Moshe" on July 29, 2009 at 6:54 PM is not me. In particular, I am, sadly, unable to agree with his statement that "the frum are found to be more in compliance with ethical standards than almost any other community."

Sincerely,

Der emesdiker Moshe

laura said...

Hedyot: But what's being attacked here is corruption, hypocrisy, criminal behavior, and the widespread societal attitudes that underlay those behaviors.

Nah, don't kid yourself. Perhaps that is what *you* *intended* to attack, but as Wimsatt and Beardsley and Barthes discovered years ago, "intentional fallacy" leads away from the actuality. What's attacked in this post, and even more in the comments, is the charedi.

The Hedyot said...

Yes, I don't deny that it is a criticism of the chareidi person - the chareidi who supports, defends and benefits from a system that enables corruption, hypocrisy, nepotism, and criminal behavior; it's a criticism of the chareidi who subscribes to the widespread societal attitudes that underlay those behaviors.

Absolutely.

Anon said...

All I can add is that the tone of your writing does nothing to move the issue along in a positive way. For the Agudah and other chareidim this is a MAJOR STEP. Yes, its not %1,000 what I or you would like. But it is more than just minuscule.

I know you will counter by saying the whole thrust of what they are doing is wrong and misguided. They are hiding the real issue behind a veil of accidental actions/lack of knowledge.

Even if that is so this is still a big step in addressing the issues. Furthermore, (being that you tone is so resentful as well as judging from past posts)you don't even give full credit to what WAS said that was good.

Honestly, if it was Barack Obama giving this type of apology I am sure you'd more nice things to say. We can always find fault.

The Hedyot said...

> All I can add is that the tone of your writing does nothing to move the issue along in a positive way.

Again, this is your opinion. I know chareidi people who are as worked up about these hypocrisies as I am and they appreciate that I am giving voice to their frustrations. Don’t you realize that the more anger there is about this stuff, the closer the problem gets to being dealt with? The blogs are what got people riled up about sexual abuse. The blogs are now giving voice to the outrage over the chareidi violence in Israel (even calling for people to stop donating money to certain institutions). The blogs are what took Shafran to task for defending Madoff. The blogs are where people vented when R’ Horowitz took the position against the Markey bill. And now the blogs can talk about this latest black eye for the chareidi community.

And besides, since when is it my responsibility to move the issue along? I'm not even part of the community. I’m just an outsider making observations. One isn’t allowed to strongly criticize dishonest leadership unless it “moves the issue along in a positive way”?

All this pathetic kvetching that I’m not fair, or that I’m too negative, or that I’m not giving enough credit is just a bunch of puerile whining from people who would prefer that the indiscretions of their society not be broadcast for all the world to see in their ignominious glory.

And you know what else? The very fact that people are making these complaints about me, actually shows that I am having a positive effect on the issue! They know that blogs like this do inform the public’s opinion, which subsequently has an effect on the public policy and the community’s relationship with the leadership. If I was just some clown shouting into the wind why would they even care what I say?

The notion that blogs like this one are not having any constructive effect rests on the questionable assumption that change in the community comes entirely from on top. If that were true (and I admit that many people supposedly subscribe to that idea), then I’d agree that what I say is useless. The Agudah isn’t really going to change anything just because I say it. But that’s a misconception; the reality is that the Agudah, the gedolim, and most rabbinic figures, are actually savvy political players, and when they see the public mood swinging a certain way, they respond. There’s a complex interplay between the leadership and the laity, despite the fact that many claim to obediently follow whatever their gedolim tell them to do. When a rosh yeshiva is handed one of my blog posts to read, he’s not being told that he should listen to some crank on the net. He’s being told that this crank on the net is actually voicing the opinion of many people in his community! You think he just dismisses that outright? Well, maybe he will, but when people stop donating money to his yeshiva, he may just change his tune.

So if you don’t like what I’m saying, or you think I’m not being balanced enough, or you find me to be too biased, I’m sorry, but I really don’t care. As long as I’m not saying anything that’s a blatant lie, it doesn’t matter to me that it grates on you. Don’t read it if you don’t like it. But if you do read it, and it bothers you, well, I’m glad then. Because maybe then you’ll be motivated to try that much harder to change what it is that is causing these problems in the first place. And maybe then I’ll shut up.

Anon said...

Its not the fairness or grating that bothers me. Its the same narrow mindedness I find on the right that bothers me on the left.

Admit it - this is a major step. Be sincere not just inflammatory. While it may be that the blogs did move the issues you speak off along, (questionable - but I think it did)sometimes speaking positively also goes a long way. The blogs are also at risk of being marginalized and labeled as fanatical rishoyim. Maybe instead of using rhetoric and borderline hate speak a softer tone would be more apropos.

I don't totally disagree with your perspective as much as with the tone you say it in. You seem to always say you don't really care, not part of the community, etc. but your words and passion speak otherwise. You do take an interest in our community whether you are part of it or not. Just do so honestly and with the same understanding you would afford others. We are far from perfect but yelling and putting us down wont move anything in the right direction.

Quiet frankly I hate posting to these blogs because people say things they wouldn't say in person and surely not in the same tone. I like to consider myself moderate and while I enjoy a passionate discussion I don't enjoy the quickness with which the blogs spew venom. Its mostly counterproductive and certainly not the best way to debate issues and actually come to any fair conclusion. I don't think people with a true open mind actually connect with these type of writings as they mostly appeal to the fringe of both sides of the issue.

P.S. What you are saying about the Spinka Rebbe is puzzling. Did you hear him speak? Know what he said? How he was introduced? I think it is off color (I know I am being generous here) that they asked him to speak if address the crowd on this subject - unless of course he did admit to some guilt as you said.

FancyPants said...

Hedyot-

Please tell me what is taught in public schools that helps people contribute to society. Perhaps then I can give a better argument for how religious schools do the equivalent. Or perhaps I won't be able to.

gillian said...

Anon, shush. Finally nice guy Hedyot is showing some passion and you're trying to stop him?

Anon said...

Gillian - He always has passion. It just usually gets in the way of his thinking!

Off the Derech said...

Anon is Garnel. Guaranteed. Probably FancyPants, Gillian, and Laura, too.

Anonymous said...

"By society tolerating such poverty amidst such great wealth, they are setting the stage for crimes that equalize wealth. Part of the solution to shoplifting, gang violence, drug abuse etc... is raising the standard of living and education among the poor."

Oh fiddlesticks. Let's look at the role of personal responsibility. That has something to do with it too. The US and Western Europe have extensive income redistribution schemes, and we now have a trillion dollar stimulus program that isn't working.



Icahbod Chrain

Mick said...

Interesting post as usual. I worked for four years at an MO yeshiva in the midwest, and I was shocked by the level of corruption there. The rabbi pocketed cash he solicited from parents for scholarships and used it to support his son's business. When asked about this, he stated that, since he was the rosh yeshiva it was none of the parents' business what he did with the money. This yeshiva, was also known to avoid paying teachers and not paying them for hours that they had worked. When the rabbi suddenly had to return to Israel for personal reason, the board was shocked that money was missing from one of the school's bank accounts. Of couse this was covered up, but it had a direct inpact on programming.