Sunday, June 27, 2010

Emanuel Redux

My primal reaction to the events in Emanuel produced a lot of comments, and I am greatful to everyone for their observations and insights. I've not posted further on the subject, because I am also not a little confused by it all. Looking things over from a different side of the ocean, it really is a very complex, nuanced situation. Based, in part, on the incisive observations of my readers I've come to the following, developing, conclusions.



1) In stark contrast to the RZ/MO world, the Ashkenazi Haredi world suffers from serious anti-Sephardic bias, which borders on (and frequently crosses) the line of racism. It is an open secret that Ashkenazi Haredi (AH) institutions discriminate against Sephardic students. There are quotas for them in yeshivot ans seminaries. (The סמינר הישן in Jerusalem is just one example.) Sephardic Shiddukhim are shunned, leading to desperate efforts by them to 'pass.' They change their names, dress, family customs...whatever it takes to make it, according to the benchmark set by the AH community. I suspect (and I confess that I don't know) that some of the Sephardim who were against integrating the school in Emanuel fall into that category.



2) There is, as a number of the comments noted, another side of the story. The parents in Emanuel, who were today released from jail, claim that the problem may be found in the inappropriate level of religious observance and comportment among the girls in question. In other words, the parents want an elite, tribally and religio-culturally homogenous school environment wherein they can shelter their children from baleful influences.

Personally, I have a real problem with that kind of elitism. What happened to kiruv? What happened to Ahavat Yisrael? What happened to Torah is for everyone? On the other hand, isn't there a fundamental right of association and lack of association? [Here, the fact that the school in question receives government funds may be a moderating factor.] From this vantage point, as much as I find the behavior of the Slonimer Hasidim (and the loathsome apparatchiks of the Yahadut ha-Torah party) repulsive, there is definitely a civil liberties issue here that got lost in all of the screaming.

3) Hypocrisy cuts both ways. Many of the same fur-clad righteous (צדיקים אין פעלץ) who blasted the racism in Emanuel grew up and send their children to schools that are no less elitist, no less supercillious and no less obnoxious than those against which they took aim.

4) The Supreme Court, once again, is the villain here trying to be the dictator populae. OK, so they want integration in the school. Why do it in Une, when there are a mere three weeks left to the school year? They sit on cases for years without a verdict. Here, though, they send people to jail when there was absolutely nothing to be done. Why not issue an inunction that eveything has to be resolved by Rosh Hodesh Elul, and avoid ripping the country apart? The only reasonable explanation is that they wanted to flex their muscles and stick it to the Haredim in Emanuel, who are the flotsam and jetsam of the Haredi world, as it is. (This was a point made to me by Ben Chorin, though I don't agree with every aspect of his take.)

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

1. there is legitimate cause for ashkenazim to educationally separate from sefaradim [and vice-versa]. they are different cultures, each one holy, and neither should be watered down. this is not necessarily racism. shas has established a school system, and there is no reason it should not rival or surpass chinuch atzmai. let ashkenazim send to their schools where they are taught according to their holy mesora, and sefaradim should do the same in their educational institutions. [this is not necessarily my position, but i do think it is legitimate.]

2. an important point that often goes unmentioned is the very harmful inferiority complex of the sefaradim: why do you want to be a part of a culture or institution which marginalizes you? especially, if you have your own school system...

3. i can easily see not wanting my kids to play with/be in the sphere of influence of kids whos observance i find lacking. we all do this in some way, and this is just the religious aspect of it.
kiruv is not the role of a child in school, especially if the critical mass is not there, etc., and just as your kid may influence the less religious kid, the opposite may result.

4.much of the rest i agree with. the bagatz is so blatantly out of line it is shocking.

YMedad said...

Last week, Channel One TV interviewed a mother who had wanted her girl to go to the school. Forget her deportment, but smoking a cigarette like she was really was not the classic Slonim Chassidic appearance. Slonim Court has split and these Emmanuel chassidim probably feel threatened and are building themselves up and so set up their own institution. It is not as if they are excluding but rather moving out - and they have about two dozen Sefardiyot.

So, as much as I am with you on the issue of elitism, etc., there is still here more than we can see.

But yesterday's decision to do kiruv was good.

Anonymous2 said...

What's wrong with your children seeing that there are in fact other Jews out there? It's not like they are making their life decisions when they're in high school, anyway. To make the right decision there are seminaries and yeshivot for that.

Furthermore, these Sepharadim are NOT, in any way shape or form, "lacking" in their religious observance. There is no "right way" or "wrong way" when it comes to Jews in different Edot. It is a reality, that in truth is our own fault, that we were exiled onto different parts of the earth to worship god in the way that we developed and saw most fit. We came back to our homeland and saw that there are in fact 70 faces to our precious Torah. Each as valid and as strict as the other, in it's own way.

To say that one Edah's (Sepharadi, Yemenite, Moroccan, etc.) observance is lacking because they don't follow your customs or Rabbis is Sinat Yisrael. It is a great lesson that we must learn now: Accepting other views as valid. And most certainly allowing your children to interact with them. THAT, my friend, is racist.

Anonymous said...

a2: i do not want my 15 year old -- who is as obligated in mitzvot as a 30 year old -- to be tempted in ways s/he may not be ready for.

no one said anything about lack. in fact i agree with you that that there is a legitimate variety in jewish life. and it is this which each eidah should preserve [say hareidim].

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Dr. Haim Shein - one of Israel's leading scholars in the philosopht of law, who wrote a book on Rav Ovadia Yosef and Judge Aron Barak - wrote in a column that the interview with the sefardi mother on TV noted above is what caused him to change his mind and understand that the Slonimers were not motivated by racism, but by religious considerations which they had a right to consider (as much as you or I might not like them).


While you make the point in #3 very well, that the feinshmekers ALSO send their kids to elitist schools, it must be understood that by the standards established by the Bagatz, these schools are also recist. By the standards of the ruling, Yeshivat Har Etzion is a much more racist institution than any Agudist seminar for teachers. It is a fact. As Haim Navom wrote in his piece that got wide publicity - he knows that there is racism in the charedi community, so therefore they are racist. Well I know that there is still some racism in the modern orthodox and/or national religious communities and there - by the standards of the Bagatz - Yeshivat Har Etzion is a racist institution due to its low percentage of sefardi students and teachers and the acceptance criteria are merely fig leafs for racism. Just because a sefardi HS student is not interested in the Brisker (or Hungarian) derech halimud does not mean they shouldn't be accepted. It is obvious (by the standards of the high court of justice) that the real reason is to keep out sefardim - who indeed are underrepresented there.
Tell that to haim Navon and Yuval Cherlow.
I'm hoping to work on a more developed piece on this theme.

Anonymous said...

The nearly sole raison d'etre of the "torani" elementray school in your little town is to separate out kids from being influenced by other kids (i.e. less religious and/or "amcha" sefradi). this is predominantly the reason given by most of the parents when (privately) asked why they send the kids to this school.

that being said, I agree with the poster above that children are not "instruments" of kiruv rechokim. there is indeed an inherent value to community schools and if the community has a broad base then mah tov. if the community is "narrow" so be it. kiruv rechokim is nice for NCSY and mitzvah tanks. one shouldn't build a whole educational philosophy around it, however.

the fundamental flaw in the bagatz was the activist decision to substitute the state for the parents in deciding how one should educate one's child. all the rest is fluff.
and we should be very careful before saying that "they" are racist. we all have our own forms of racism.

Menachem Lipkin said...

The Supreme Court, once again, is the villain here trying to be the dictator populae. OK, so they want integration in the school. Why do it in Une, when there are a mere three weeks left to the school year?

The supreme court is the least of the "villians" here. The verdict was issued in August 2009. The court ordered the physical barrier removed and asked the parties to, imagine this, find a compromise.

The jail threat was the culmination of a year of stonewalling, contempt, and just all around really bad behavior by the Chassidim in and out of court.

It wasn't the smartest thing to order the parents to jail, but it wasn't totally unreasonable either given what led up to it. The same compromise that was reached 3 days before the end of the school year could have been reached 10 days earlier. This would have avoided a massive Chilul Hashem and for the Slonimer Rebbe looking quite foolish in first that he'd rather face a firing squad than compromise, only to compromise a few days later.

Brian said...

I am not Jewish. I do love reading this well written blog though. Each time I stop in I learn a good deal about your faith and the struggles which seem so overwhelming to me.

It is also refreshing to read comments which are so well written.

Anonymous said...

First anonymous here made me realize that I need to write the following:

1. there is legitimate cause for {white people] to educationally separate from [black people] [and vice-versa]. they are different cultures [] and neither should be watered down. this is not necessarily racism. [the black community] has established a school system, and there is no reason it should not rival or surpass [the white school system]. let [white people] send to their schools where they are taught according to their [customs], and [black people] should do the same in their educational institutions. [this is not necessarily my position, but i do think it is legitimate.]

2. an important point that often goes unmentioned is the very harmful inferiority complex of the [black people]: why do you want to be a part of a culture or institution which marginalizes you? especially, if you have your own school system...

How does that sound? only what's in brackets has been changed. i know the american south, black schools existed and were part of the black community in a way unimaginable to us today, and black and white culture are still extremely different. nonetheless, these sentiments are racist.