Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Moment of Reflection

So, it seems that the Agudah is having an asifa (a communal gathering) to address the recent scandals that have come to light. Here’s the letter that got sent out by Chaim Zwiebel, the Agudah’s VP:
The asifa, which is being sponsored by community askonim, will be focusing on the timeless (but also all too timely) theme of "Vi’asisa hayashar vi’hatov." It will feature two distinguished rabbonim - Harav Avrohom Schorr, shlita, and Harav Dovid Ozieri, shlita; as well as two respected legal experts - Benjamin Brafman, Esq. and Jacob Laufer, Esq. I will be serving as the evening’s chairman. We will start with Mincha at 7:15 and then proceed with the program.

Introspection about how to better live our lives in consonance with Torah ideals is always timely. It is particularly timely during the days leading up to Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the fact that we remain in Golus, and the reasons why.

And in the wake of recent headlines and front-page photographs that made every feeling Jewish heart ache, it is even more timely for us to take a good, hard look at our obligations to our fellows, to our society, to our government.

I don’t think I can adequately convey how compelling this gathering should be to us all. But I am confident that you realize how vital it is that we hear words of mussar and chizuk, and that we learn to distinguish between conduct that conforms with dina d’malchusa and conduct that does not. I am also confident that you understand how important it is to demonstrate to the wider world how heartfelt and determined Jews respond to news like the tragic tidings of recent days. Tomorrow night’s symposium and our attendance are an important part of that response.
This is without a doubt the biggest load of crap I've heard since Shafran's contemptible defense of Madoff. "To distinguish between conduct that conforms with dina d’malchusa and conduct that does not?!" What the hell does that even mean? It sounds like he's saying that because people don't realize that these things are actually assur (forbidden) due to dina d'malchusa, unfortunately some bad mistakes have happened. Riiiiight... because without knowing that dina d'malchusa forbids it, it's understandable that someone would find it acceptable to cheat the government, launder millions through charities, bribe officials, and engage in illegal organ trafficking! (Not to mention sexually molest children, grant special treatment to prisoners, defend abusive parents, smuggle drugs, abuse immigrant workers, violently riot because of a parking lot opening on shabbos, and protect pedophiles - just some of the recent crimes that have been perpetrated by ultra-orthodox people in the past few months.) Sure, it's a lesson in conforming to dina d'malchusa dina that people need - people like the Spinka Rebbe, who was busted this past year for money laundering and tax evasion. If only he had known the halacha!

The hypocrisy of these people is utterly astounding! They can’t even acknowledge the problem they claim they want to address! Why can't they just say it like it is?! To admit what everyone knows is really going on?! Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone at the Agudah actually said the following: "We need to take a close look where it is we've gone wrong if every other week another rav or frum person is being busted with crime after crime. We need to consider how the view that we've promoted throughout the last few decades (sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly) - that the goyim don't really matter and that it's ok to disregard them, cheat them, and lie to them, as long as we don't get caught and cause a chillul hashem - might actually be responsible for all this awful behavior. We need to acknowledge that the fact that the Otisville prison looks like a heimishe bungalow colony says something very disturbing about our society. And that few frum people seem to be bothered by this is even more disturbing. We need to admit the painful, ugly truth, that - to paraphrase Shakespeare - something is truly, very rotten in the state of Chareidistan."

Of course, this would never be said in a million years. Why not? Because the attitudes and behaviors that have produced this dysfunctional rot have been taught to scores of frum people as part of the one True Torah Derech (TM). I guarantee you that every person who commits one of these crimes, or defends those who have done so, can find some rav or halachic source to justify his behavior. Just look at the recent debacle over R' Dovid Cohen's statement that it's ok to cheat on one's taxes. Although many in the MO world spoke up against this, the chareidi world was mostly silent, and in fact most of the discussion that I saw from those quarters was defending him. The fact that the Agudah doesn't even have the guts to openly refer to the problems which need addressing just proves how disingenuous they are about actually fixing them. The simple, yet disturbing, truth about all this is that they won't ever really address these issues because so many of their constituents, and their leaders, don't really see these attitudes as problematic.

And let's not forget this little gem:
I am also confident that you understand how important it is to demonstrate to the wider world how heartfelt and determined Jews respond to news like the tragic tidings of recent days.
Hahahahahaha! What a freaking joke! Yes, we have to make sure that the goyim know we’re very upset about all this. Damage control! We wouldn't want them to draw any conclusions from this tragedy about the disregard that our society has viewed them with these past few decades! You know, Rabbi Zwiebel, it's funny you should mention how Jews respond to these things, because until this week, whenever I heard a frum guy share with his yeshiva or shul buddies some ethically questionable shtick that would save them some money, all I heard in response was admiration of his clever yiddishe kup! (Who in the frum world hasn't knowingly winked at the ingenuity of the camp administrator who bussed in loads of kids on the day the inspectors were coming for a visit?) Where was the chareidi community's moral outrage when their criminals weren't being paraded in front of the whole world?

As usual, they profess an earnest sense of remorse and self-reflection:
Introspection about how to better live our lives in consonance with Torah ideals is always timely. It is particularly timely during the days leading up to Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the fact that we remain in Golus, and the reasons why.
As DovBear so eloquently put it, the reason the Temple was destroyed was because the leaders of Jerusalem were pious frauds, who used the Temple to justify their selfish behavior.... In the language of the Prophet, they did not "Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, [or] plead the case of the widow." They didn't protect the vulnerable or defend the rights of the innocent. Instead they just kept showing up on the Temple Mount, day after day, with their fat bulls and incense. While vulnerable people went exploited and unprotected, the leaders of Jerusalem gathered on a mountaintop to pay lip service to God.

They say they want to take a close look at themselves. Well, how about taking a look at this? One of the featured speakers at this asifah, Rabbi Avrohom Schorr, is one of the fundie nut jobs behind a lot of the banning thuggery that goes on in the chareidi community! Yes, the man who unjustly caused damages in excess of $500,000, and tried to ruin an innocent man’s reputation is going to lecture to them on the theme of "Vi’asisa hayashar vi’hatov!" The person who publicly humiliated Lipa Schmeltzer by rushing the stage at a wedding and grabbing the microphone away from the singer is going to speak "words of mussar and chizuk" to the community!

On Tuesday, these god-fearing people will gather to, in their words, "take a good, hard look at our obligations to our fellows, to our society, to our government."

I honestly can not wait to see what they discover.

41 comments:

Daganev said...

You know, that letter said exactly what you wanted the letter to say, just in different language.

The asifa is not for the people who commited the crimes, the asifa is for the people writting comments that defends the people who commited the crimes.

shoshi said...

I thought they were about to collect for "Pidyon Shevuim" for the poor victims of the evil mosser...

jewish philosopher said...

Here's a list of recent accounting scams.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accounting_scandals

Tell me how many gatherings Richard Dawkins, or any atheist or secular humanist, organized to try to prevent their occurrence. Or if you're not religious it's OK to be a crook?

tzvee said...

you could be more analytic... this is a damage control meeting. that's okay - you gotta do damage control. you and i would like to see a root cause analysis and solution meeting. we know that ain't gonna happen because these guys are titular - they don't do nothin'.... the community needs a police and investigation organization to self regulate its organizations. wanna start one? that would be cool.....

Nachum said...

Why do they have a criminal defense attorney speaking? That makes no sense.

TikunOlam said...

JP,
There is no organized atheist community. Dawkins is not our Gadol. People act as individuals and true humanists are true humanists. Criminals are criminals. Atheists simply do not believe in god. That is the only thing they have in common. There is no book or ultimate guide to morality we depend on.

This is not true for Torah observant Jews. And tell "frum" Jews to observe Torah makes perfect sense. Sometimes you need to be reminded of the laws you claim to have signed on for.

If I were a part of some humanist community, as a person who considers herself a humanist, I would expect criticism if I acted against humanistic ideals.

TikunOlam said...

Hedyot,
Going to link you over at DovBear. Great post.

The Hedyot said...

> the community needs a police and investigation organization to self regulate its organizations

No, it's not about that. The problem is much more fundamental than trying to prevent a few crooks cutting corners. The issues is that they don't see these things as problems in the first place.

Peace In Our Holy Land said...

It's time to put an end to the violence and riots.

PEACE IN OUR HOLY LAND is a grass roots effort to end the reign of terror perpetrated by extremists who intimidate and assault decent Jews and bring shame to Hashem’s Torah.

Please come to our site and join our peaceful cause.

dd said...

"because without knowing that dina d'malchusa forbids it, it's understandable that someone would find it acceptable to cheat the government, launder millions through charities, bribe officials, and engage in illegal organ trafficking!"

I must disagree with you about selling organs. If it weren't illegal, there would be absolutely nothing halachically or ethically wrong with brokering the sale of an organ. The biggest scandal is that so many people have to die because of some misplaced sense that it is immoral to save people who have kidney failure. Kidney donation is major surgery, but it is not especially dangerous. If someone wants to raise their family out of poverty while saving the life of another, why should it be a illegal? (Assuming informed consent, of course.)

Of course, it is illegal. But the law is unethical.

The Hedyot said...

I agree with you that buying and selling kidneys is not immoral in and of itself, and that our society may well be better off if we were to have an open regulated market for such things, but what this guy did was not just selling things that were not legally allowed to be sold. He was part of a criminal group that facilitated this, and like any such underground enterprise, it's more than likely that there were elements to his operation that were not above board, and which took advantage of the poor and ignorant people which were desperate to make a buck.

One of the reports I read about this told of donors from third world countries who didn't really know what they were signing on to, and were forced to consent to the surgery against their will.

Selling kidneys is not the same thing as selling used auto parts. There are real people involved whose health will be affected, and if such a transaction is to take place, it's imperative that there be proper oversight in all aspects of any such exchange.

Daganev said...

"There is no organized atheist community."

You are SO WRONG about that, you have no idea...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_secularist_organizations

Honestly Frum said...

It is frightening that so many people think along the same lines. I just posted nearly the exact same thing to my sight, including R' Schorr and Dovid Cohen, without reading your post first. The problem is systemic and cannot be fixed by the same people who created it.

Charedim Kol Yisroel said...

At the risk of sounding too pesher-esque, see below, from last week's Haftorah (Yeshaya Ch. 1). The text ages well.



Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them.

evanstonjew said...

I agree there is a serious problem in charedi life and this meeting is not the solution. But I think you misunderstand the point of the meeting. It's purpose is not to convince charedi crooks and abusers to do teshuvah. These guys don't show up or even if they do the message doesn't sink in. The meeting is to help frum Jews who have been stunned by these revelations to regain their equilibrium. They want to hear what they believe; to wit that their way of life has answers that will guide them through life. They want to be told the Torah is a competent guide to the modern world and these criminals are the exception.

Undoubtedly like any kinus teshuva there will be a recitation of tehilim and inspirational speeches by recognized rabbanim and baalei musar. In that regard Rabbi Schorr is a wonderful choice. He is an excellent and dynamic speaker, a brilliant darshan and talmid chcham and one of the leading up and coming gedolim in the Agudah pantheon. The fact that you don't like him should be the standard. The relevant question is whether he is the right man for the audience that will attend. I would say he is a great choice.

evanstonjew said...

correction...In my comment the sentence should read "The fact that you don't like him should not be the standard."

kisarita said...

if the kidney broker had taken 10k for himself, and given 100k to the actual kidney donor, he would have been a hero to me, and I suspect to much of society. but can you imagine what he did? he looked at a desperate sick person in the eye, and said, "I can save you. but only if you turn over your entire life savings and assets." Some פיקוח נפש.

Manny said...

My cousin was arrested. I personally am doing some soul searching, as to when does cutting corners and little white lies, become corruption.

Malach HaMovies said...

Will the Agudah, the charedei world and the chassidim make thse changes ?

Are they going to tell married couples to have less kids Or not to have kids until the parnossa situation is solid ?

Are they going to Asser Borsalino's and Shtreimeles?

Are they going to find a solution to the outrageous exorbitant camp and tuiton fees ? By the way, it can be done without goverment. If Vouchers happen (it never will) it will be a disaster fot this country. I can't get into it now but suffice it to say the taxpayers will be paying for moslem schools (take a look at France for example)

Are they going to stop implementing costly chumras every month ?

Are they going to limit Chasan/Kallah gifts?

Are they still going to insist that every boy goes to Kollel for "as long as possible" ?

Are they going to asser parents for spending $18,000 on their daughter's seminary in Israel ?

Are they going to stress that a young man or woman should go to college or trade school so they could eventually support themselves and their family ?

Are they going to have yeshivas start teaching the american tax structure to it's students so it won't be so overwhelming and threatening to them when they begin working ???


Unless the agudah, yeshiva and chassidic world change re: ALL of the above points, they will collapse like a house of cards.

And of course, they are impotent and won't do anything.

(please add your own points)

People have a need to survive. You can't give them lessons about chillul or kiddush hashem. The charedei society does not prepare their young people for the work force.

After they get married, they feel trapped due the unusually large expenses that they experience. My suggestions will go a long way in finding a solution to this problem

kisarita said...

i was gonna go but it said only men. (that's how you know it must be pretty important!)

still i might have gone anyway but couldn't get there in time.

if anyone did go please report

Pat said...

the exclusion of women is not incidental; it is part and parcel of the agudah's conviction of remaining beyond the pale of general society. Me thinks little is going to change.

Actually this is only a series of incidents which going to turn the trickle of OTDers into a massive hemmhorrage.

gillian said...

The naivete (not to mention, lack of originality) of people like Pat never ceases to amaze me.

MikeR said...

gillian -

I'd appreciate hearing why you think Pat is so naive, and on which point. Was it in regards to the exclusion of women not being incidental, on how nothing is going to change, or on her view of it causing a deluge of OTD's?

Happy said...

"I was gonna go but it said only men."

The Agudah's next meeting will be about how to fix sexism in OJ. ;)

Mikeskeptic said...

>If it weren't illegal, there would be absolutely nothing halachically or ethically wrong with brokering the sale of an organ.

Selling body parts does in fact raise troubling ethical issues. It may be consensual but so are slavery and prostitution and we still consider them to be immoral. Is child labor also ethical in your book?

The Hedyot said...

The issue of selling kidneys (within a regulated marketplace) might sound unappealing to some, but it is not at all unambiguously immoral. If anyone would like to get a more informed view of the issue, I'd suggest they read the following articles for extensive discussion and debate on the topic:

* ...With Functioning Kidneys for All (Atlantic Monthly)

* Organ Failure (Slate)

* Live Kidney Organ Donation: Is It Time for a Different Approach? (Clinical Journal of American Society of Nephrology)

* Paying for Kidneys (New Yorker)

* The Case for Living Kidney Sales - Rationale, Objections, and Concerns (American Journal of Transplantation)

PeterY said...

While there are too many frum child molesters, (one is one two many) the people who really can't seem to keep their habds off the chidren are the public school teachers. So with all the problems, including he financial scandals, we may very well be doing better than other groups. I've never heard of rally to address corruption in any other group.

The Hedyot said...

Ah, yes.. the 'we might have done wrong, but we're still not as bad as other people' excuse. If i recall correctly, that one is only meant to be used after the vehement denials that it didn't happen have been refuted, and the whitewashing is shown to be false ('it was only done to raise money for tzedaka'), and the blaming it on a few fringe individuals excuse falls flat.

Oh wait, did someone already use the 'minimizing the crime excuse'? ('It wasn't really as bad as they it was, they exaggerated it all.') Because I think you're supposed to use that before you pull out 'we're not as bad as them'.

PeterY said...

I never said that it the crime is excused, just that we are still doing better than everyone else.

Anonymous said...

And atheists have told me that mass murder commited by atheists is okay because the motivating factor was not atheism. So if motivationcan mitigate mass murder, why can't it mitigate theft? They were motivated by tzedaka.

Baruch Hashem said...

> I've never heard of rally to address corruption in any other group.

Chas v'shalom!!!

This wasn't a rally to address corruption. It was an asifah to hear words of mussar and chizuk so that people have a better understanding of certain halachos, preparation for tisha b'av.

This is why we are the am hanivchar!

The Hedyot said...

Please stop posting anonymously. The rules require a name of some sort.

The Hedyot said...

> And atheists have told me that mass murder commited by atheists is okay because the motivating factor was not atheism.

Anonymous - anyone who told you that is a moron. I highly doubt that's what he said. More likely, you're misunderstanding the point often made that mass murder committed by atheists isn't done due to a belief in atheism, and therefore it can't be blamed on atheism like murder in the name of religion is blamed on religion; not that it makes mass murder ok!

gillian said...

Sure, Mike R. The naivete refers to his belief that there will be a "hemorrhage" of OTDers. Each generation (perhaps decade is more appropriate than generation)sports its own group of OTDers, and after a period of time, they all begin to claim that they have seen the light, so to speak, and so have so many others who remain closeted out of fear. In no time, they predict, OJ will implode and people will leave in droves. (This is especially said about hasidism and Lakewood-style yeshivish lifestyles.) Well, it hasn't happened yet, and I believe it's naive to think it'll happen anytime soon. The number of OTDers--in proportion--has not increased at all over the years. OJ has perfected the art of keeping people trapped within it, and no scandal (which will be old news a month from now anyway) can begin to touch it.

The Hedyot said...

> In no time, they predict, OJ will implode and people will leave in droves. Well, it hasn't happened yet...

It hasn't? I thought it happened in the early twentieth century in America, and also in the 19th century due to the haskalah. Not that OJ imploded as a result, but as I understood those eras, people did leave in droves. Could be wrong though.

gillian said...

And regarding the lack of originality -- it's the old blah-blah-blah women are excluded cliche. There are mussar get-togethers for women where men are excluded and mussar get-togethers for men where women are excluded. That's OJ. Women and men do not sit side-by-side at get-togethers of any sort. Occasionally, if the venue can support it and the topic is of interest to both men and women (chinuch, for example), both sexes are invited to attend a separate-seating meeting. But what, for god's sake, does women not being invited to this agudah meeting have to do with the topic at hand? Actually, the speeches were broadcast live over the phone, and men and women had equal access to that. Apparently, the Agudah wanted to ensure that as many families as possible were able to have a representative attend, and since most guys are the ones in business--not to mention, more likely to cheat--it made sense to invite the men to a meeting of this sort.

gillian said...

Yes, Hedyot, you're right. At the time of the haskalah, people did leave in droves. I was referring to Post-WWII OJ. This is my area of interest, and a subject I've studied quite a bit (though far from enough).

gillian said...

Which is why I said "decade" is more appropriate than "generation." Though I should have been more clear than that.

nat(is that better?) said...

Anonymous - anyone who told you that is a moron. I highly doubt that's what he said. More likely, you're misunderstanding the point often made that mass murder committed by atheists isn't done due to a belief in atheism, and therefore it can't be blamed on atheism like murder in the name of religion is blamed on religion; not that it makes mass murder ok!


When I tell people that if they succeed in their quest to make the world atheistic, then if history is any indication, then we can expect to see a marked increase in mass murder, they say that they aren't concerned because the motivating factor wouldn't be atheism

alex said...

"This is without a doubt the biggest load of crap I've heard since Shafran's contemptible defense of Madoff. "

I trust you read Shafran's words, right? His article was weird, but it was not a defense of Madoff. At least not what you implied with your brief words.

The Hedyot said...

> His article was weird, but it was not a defense of Madoff.

I think it was. But not a defense of Madoff's actions so much as a defense of his character. He openly professed his admiration for the slime bag, and said that Madoff inspired him, and that he felt Bernie had done teshuva.

And actually, he did defend his actions too, or at least try to minimize them. In his own words:

"Madoff likely began his crime spree in the hope of rewarding, not swindling, investors, and by the time it became clear he wouldn’t be able to do that, he was already deeply entangled – and daily becoming more entangled – in the web he wove."