Okay, I Get It

[Revised] In the recent weeks, we have drawn attention in our posts to Orthodox individuals and communities who have engaged in rank corruption, assaulted cops, assaulted their neighbors, assaulted Christians, assaulted each other, destroyed other people’s property, and who have threatened to don yellow stars in protest of a ban on a religious ritual which has led to the deaths of several children.
When we raise these issues:

  1. Because they are exceptionally troubling and reflect poorly on, not just Orthodox Jews, but on the Jewish people as a whole, we are:
    1. Expressing out desire as yet another face of the Jewish community to distance ourselves from these actions;
    2. Informing the Jewish public about these events and issues so that they will not go unnoticed or be swept under the rug;
    3. Attempting to call our community to action so that incidents of this nature can be prevented in the future;
  2. We have the intention of challenging the smug, false piety our many of the Orthodox commentors on Jewschool who brandish the righteousness of Orthodoxy as they condemn their non-Orthodox coreligionists (check out the comments on any post on this site mentioning Reform Judaism or autonomous Jewish movements) for the positions they are imagined to hold;
  3. We are challenging what seems to be the widely-accepted viewpoint that Orthodoxy is infallible, and that the Orthodox are the “true bearers of the Jewish tradition” who are beyond rebuke.

In doing so, we are decried for “attacking the Orthodox community,” while the issues we’re raising in-and-of themselves often go without being confronted, or are glossed over by apologists.
Take the Ramat Beit Shemesh incident, for example, in which it is alleged that the two Modern Orthodox boys who were attacked had publicly desecrated Shabbat. Their alleged and unproven violation of halakha is cited as a justifiable cause for their attack, while the attackers themselves are excused from their violation of halakha which prohibits a Jew from raising his hand to his fellow Jew, or delivering “justice” without the ruling of a beit din.
In Vayikra 19:18-19, it states, “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your fellow. Do not bear that burden. Do not bear a grudge. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am God.”
It’s also been said that none in this generation are capable of giving proper rebuke, and to give rebuke in a way in which it will not be received is a sin in itself. I’ll admit my own fallability in that department. Will those Orthodox readers of Jewschool who endlessly assail us with hateful remarks acknowledge theirs?
In reading the responses to the original version of this post, it is clear that we have failed to be more specific, and more tactful, when confronting these challenging issues. And for that I apologize and pledge to work harder in the future to be more respectful of the greater Orthodox community whom I do not hold accountable for the actions of these individuals and groups.
In that, however, I believe we bear a collective responsibility towards one another: To hold each other to the highest standards so that we can excel in the eyes of one another, and in the eyes of God. I expect you to hold me to that, as much as you should expect it from me. And, in my struggle to learn to do so more artfully, tactfully, and respectfully, I will continue to hold the greater Jewish community to that challenge as well.

26 thoughts on “Okay, I Get It

  1. The way I look at it, is that if someone steals – They are no longer considered Orthodox, they are now classified as a thief. Orthodox people follow the laws of the Torah, according to the Torah “Thou shalt not steal…” and so on…
    As my friend says: “There are Rabbis without beards and beards without Rabbis. And of the two, I prefer the former.”

  2. If I had to venture a guess, I would guess that this site is not the mirror — that few Orthodox Jews view Jewschool as “one of theirs”.
    I mean, think about it. On the one hand you say “when we call THEM out on it”. On the hand you talk about looking in the mirror. There is a difference.

  3. A better question might be why non-Orthodox Jews (and I’d put myself in that category) feel the need to measure ourselves (guilt) by their actions. My girlfriend is “Orthodox/traditional” and all her friends are as well. I’ve never, ever seen any of them act/do the things you report. And by far, their practice DOES help them avoid the many pitfalls that secular/non-religious people fall into.
    For the past 11 years, I’ve only davened in Orthodox shuls. From Vancouver to Toronto to Montreal to Calgary and Israel, I’ve never heard of or witnessed the things you report. Perhaps it’s not an “Orthodox” problem as much as it is specific folks, events and/or communities.
    I’d imagine that other communities, names aren’t important, would be a much better analysis for your questions.

  4. Mobius-
    As a matter of fact, I do not ignore the faults of my (fellow) Orthodox. The problem I have with Jewschool and various other non-Orthodox individuals and sources is the way the criticism is done. Let’s try the following:
    “BLACK people assault cops, assault their neighbors, assault Jews, assault each other, destroy other people’s property; and when we call them out on it, and expose their hypocrisy, we’re decried for being “racists.”
    “ARABS assault cops, assault their neighbors, assault Christians, assault each other, destroy other people’s property; and when we call them out on it, and expose their hypocrisy, we’re decried for being anti-Arab.”
    Now that’s nasty, right? Honest criticism would have gone something like “SOME Orthodox people assault…etc. (though, looking at crime statistics, not very many, and hardly any are ever involved in the worst crimes such as rape and murder). However, the crimes that ARE being committed are serious and need to be addressed…”
    I don’t think you even noticed your double standard when you posted.

  5. to answer your question, mobi, its because these are a few isolated events, not problems with the orthodox community, as you seem to believe.
    In fact, if such statistics exits (i doubt they do) im quite certain that the level of crime within the orthodox community (adjusted for size, of course) is far lower then the general population, and probably lower than any religious sect in this country.

  6. Maybe you’re being accused of attacking the Orthodox because you seem to publicize every wrongdoing an Orthodox person does, whereas, with other groups, you don’t muckrake as much.
    With all respect achi, I’m not saying you hate the Orthodox, but homes, you sure can come off that way sometimes.

  7. The black people example, most concious black music and comedy is about exactly those things, The Boondocks cartoon being a recent poigniant/hysterical example. It’s good for culture to take responsibility for they’ sins, and maybe try to deal with them at the source, if there is one, in the cultural ideology, and in that culture, in the humor and assumptions, you can usually find just what their problem is.

  8. It’s a tough thing being orthodox.
    One is expected to behave better than the rest, but at the end of the day many of us are no different than anybody else.
    But what would you have us do? Remove our uniform????????? The style of our clothing isn’t chosen by us, its chosen for us, by virtue of where we live and to whom we were born.

  9. Mob,
    I’m just waiting for you to start posting ‘bad things’ about ‘regular’, I mean non-religious people. Then we can compare notes.
    And no matter what you post here, in general, religious people are better people. The fact that, in general, they are better people, makes their faults stand out even more. So virtually most of the religious people are not tzaddikim, many make an effort to get better all the time, but as humans (will you accept that religious people are humans), they/us will still make mistakes.
    Dan, you don’t have to be perfect to be religious or Jewish. You don’t have to be ashamed to be Jewish because other Jews make mistakes, sometimes publicly, that should embarras them, not you. I know what these posts are about. Take things one step at a time. Don’t blame yourself because Jews fall down sometimes (especially in Israel, the crime is mostly Jewish 🙁

  10. I gotta agree somewhat. Mobius, if you’d be more specific about the problems you’re citing then it woudl be a lot easier to see what you’re getting at and you wouldn’t fall into the “everyone in Group X is like this” trap.
    As for everyone else, you should be a lot more specific too…not all religious Jews are Orthodox, not all Orthodox are observant, and the various faiths collectively called “Judaism” don’t equal Haredi Orthodoxy. Plus, are frum yidden really so much better than everyone else? My entire life has been within the Orthodox community, and we’ve got plenty of screw-ups, maniacs, and jerks (some of them systemic). (and statistics for things like spousal violence and drug abuse don’t actually show that we’ve got a better record than anyone else.) Tooting our own horn about how “better” we are doesn’t actually solve anything.

  11. a) why is it implied from “orthodox people” that i am saying the entire orthodox community?
    b) how can you say, “by the numbers…” when entire towns are pouring out of their houses to force their neighbors out of their homes? or when orthodox synagogues across north america are fundraising for hebron?
    c) the orthodox seem to have no problem pontificating on the moral bankruptcy of reform, reconstructionist and conservative jews and their penchant for flaunting halakha. all i’m doing is showing that orthodox people too can be morally bankrupt and flaunt halakha.
    now, i just said “orthodox people too can be morally bankrupt” — is that a statement that the entire orthodox community is morally bankrupt because i didn’t use “some” as a modifier?

  12. “a) why is it implied from “orthodox people” that i am saying the entire orthodox community? ”
    from here:
    “Where are you, oh casters of stones, to stand up in your community and work for change?”
    sounds like you think the CUMMUNITY needs changing. Now, its time for you to backtrack, as usual.

  13. j, fine. point taken.
    joe, you ignored b. i don’t think it’s the entire orthodox community that’s fucked up, but there are systemic problems in the orthodox community that a rare few are working to change.

  14. Mobius:
    Building off of hum’s post (#2):
    After reading your post on about your personal history (thank you, btw), I’m curious as to why you retain “orthodox” as part of your blogosphere moniker.
    Given that you doubt the authenticity of the written Torah (“I wish I could walk around in life, blissfully ignorant and believe that Biblical myths are something more real and true than folk tales bastardized from previous Middle Eastern cultures, but I just can’t.”), why don’t you just call yourself a Jewish Anarchist? Would it be wrong to speculate here that retaining the title “orthodox” allows you additional liberties when choosing to identify with and/or to criticize orthodoxy?
    No disrespect intended. I’m very interested in your beliefs, but I’m also interested in why you’ve chosen to classify them the way that you did.

  15. There are two problems here. One is the obvious problem Mobius noted about the shabby way SOME Othodox people treat their brothers and their behavior in general. In my opinion, so much of the problem is rooted in the highest levels of rabbinic leadership. But that’s a long and interesting discussion to have elsewhere.
    The second problem is the way Mobius chose to express this issue. Looking back on his original post and then his rejoinder in the commnents section above, I find it hard to believe he is really trying to change things for the better. I think he’s just trying to point fingers at wrongdoers for the benefit of their political and religious opponents. I don’t sense that he is coming from a perspective of love for the victims.
    That’s why it all smells bad and gets Mobius so much criticism. His call for Orthodox people to rise to the challenge posed by the bad actions of other Orthodox people is puzzling at best. Does he really believe the Orthodox people in question are reading this blog? More likely, he wants non-Orthodox people to talk about how bad things are and how no one is doing anything abuot it. And that’s the problem.

  16. Chevrey,
    Hey it’s Aviad Cohen. I have a question. Why is and has this site always been about Judaism and less about God and His Word? To me, being a Jew is all about seeking Him and His Word, worshipping Him and glorifying His name rather than “being Jewish” and ripping on everyone else who isn’t “Jewish”. Check out my website: I don’t know if you guys have ever seen images or video of the REAL Mt. Sinai but it isn’t in the Sinai Desert but rather in Saudi Arabia where it has been taken control by the Saudis. Two guys did MAJOR Biblical and historical research, snuck in, documented it and put it on a DVD. I’m a Jew, perhaps you are too…maybe you want to see the REAL Har Sinai. Go to my Extras tab and below it is a resources link. It’s in there. There is also a video preview on the site that it’s linked to. Yah’s Word is real…all of it. Love ya, Aviad Cohen

  17. Mobi is (on occasions) a loud mouth reactionary – that’s it – Mobi you might better spend your energy on cool graphic design and learning more about yourself – (meditating) watching the way your mind thinks – seeing how you react and why. As it says somewhere – ‘the righteous always have their eyes on their heads’ – that is they are always aware of their own thought processes. Far too often mobi opens his big mouth and says stuff – that in the cool light of day – and after some soul searching reflection he realises it may not have been the best thing to say. and if we’re lucky he may backhandedly apologises. In the mean time – we have to listen to his reactionary rhetoric. It usually says ‘I’m right -everyone else is wrong!’ But i’ve got a hunch that he knows-deep-down that thing really are not that simple. Situations are complex – multi-layered and choosing sides is just as reactionary as being in the middle of the fight. As my mum says ‘Right and Left meet up at the ends of the political spectrum’ Mobi – that emotion – the adrenaline – isn’t good for you – even if you do enjoy it -and i’ve said it before. Mobi -get out of Israel and come home to the true ‘Golda Medina’ NYC!

  18. OMG! what a lot of boll*cks! Mobi – i’m not ‘religious’ or ‘orthodox’ in any recognised or conventional sense – nor am I ‘right-wing’. But you really are talking rubbish, the only one with ‘smug, false piety’ around here is your good and dear self. Reb. Yakov Yoseph of Polyne wrote – ‘It is very easy to look for, and at, other peoples Chumetz, but [we each] need to look at our own Chumetz.’ Before you protest against someone elses view point – why not try getting to empathetically understand what and why they are saying what they are, or doing what they do. please Don’t stand up in ‘protest ‘against something which you clearly haven’t thought about enough from both sides. You just sound like a child. Please don’t start quoting Tanach about ‘loving your brothers’ – because the same Tanach gives the community clear and unequivocal rights to kill people who do not keep the Sabbath in public (for example) – everything you have mentioned as being so bad (opposing a ban on circumcision, beating ‘cops’ etc…)- can actually be sanctioned by the same Torah and early commentaries that you so ‘sweety’ quote – but unfortunately for us because you haven’t spent enough time sitting on your ass and learning the stuff – or thinking about it, you react, like an ill-educated heeb reader. And to be honest Mobi i’m surprised by you and disappointed. You remind me of all those things I didn’t like about the Frum world – you have demonstrated that at times you are just as arrogant and narrow minded and pigheaded as the worst of the frummers. I think you would make a Great Right Wing Fanatical Rabbi – if you where ONLY brought up in a different household. Life is filled with grey and ambiguous areas, things ARE messy! many aspects of Judaism are deeply problematic, get over it! The orthodox community is as messed up as any other, get over it! The only thing you are proving is that you are not nor have you every been frum. You have no idea what you are ‘protesting’ against – but hey – i’m over it!
    Mobi – please try to be a True Jewish Leader in the best tradition of Jewish leadership – cultivate deep empathy (compassion) – broadmindedness and love, but make sure that it is your clear mind which is speaking and not the reactionary impulses of your clearly ‘underdeveloped’ heart.

  19. He can’t be a True Jewish leader till first begins to walk as a True Jew and that first starts with knowing Y’shua (or as the gentiles refer to Him as Jesus) Sincerely, Aviad Cohen For real everyone…have a good Shabbos. Beyond that, crack open a Tanakh and read God’s Word.

  20. fyi: aviad cohen is the psychologically troubled failed musician known as 50 shekel who has saved his non-existenet career by becoming a jew for jesus and gets lots of moola now from the christian evangelicals….
    whoring for jesus, he tries to do his outreach on websites like ours…
    poor dude
    may hashem help him

  21. why do i bother wasting my time here? Why do I care for those who hate God like you all? Why do you guys make up stuff about me that you don’t know? Why is what God will say to you on judgement day when He asks you why you rejected His Son Y’shua. Then you’ll cry saying…why didn’t anybody tell me? Then He will say…why did you not read the Tanakh? I sent you people in your path to make you aware but you spit on them just like you spit on Y’shua’s name. Then He will send you to hell for eternity and as you decend, you will cry “Why?” You guys are no different than Hitler & Usama Bin Laden. You just “hate” God and His children. You can always repent and ask Y’shua into your heart today. Again, none of you ever praise God on this website. I now know “why”…because none of you know Him.
    Aviad Cohen

  22. Avid Cohen – thank you for your concern for our souls – it is touching – honestly – but if you want to get people to argee with you and follow your messiah the way to do it is through Peace & Love – ‘Darchi Shalom, Darchi Noam’ and not giving people a mussar shoomz! really look at the message of Jesus and Paul – it is primarily a message of LOVE – and by being happy and in-love with all of God’s creatures (even those who you don’t like – even those who Havn’t accepted your lovely ‘Yeshu-God’ into their lives and hearts) – that is how you convert people to your beliefs. Also – Avid please see for more helpful info. Peace*

  23. Mobi – do you know what this reminds me of is your whole ‘F*ck Jewlicious’ thing -They called me names!! I bet in a week or two you’ll be ‘Frummer Hugging’.

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