Letters to the Editor: June 30, 2010

When Jews are the cause of anti-Semitism

For centuries we Jews have been the victims of anti-Semitism, but sometimes our own actions are the cause of it.

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Last week’s St Louis Jewish Light exhibited such examples of the ultra-Orthodox (“haredi”) community’s actions. These examples show why mainstream Jews need to denounce these actions just as we demand that Arab leaders denounce terrorists in their midst.

In his defense of the recent refusal of Ashkenazic parents to allow their children to attend a school with Sephardim in Emanuel, a West Bank settlement, Rabbi Avi Shafran, denies racism and claims it is a matter of “religious practice.” Though I believe numerous sources show he is wrong, why is the State of Israel funding schools that practice religious discrimination among our own tribe?

And if you Google “haredi riots” you’ll see a growing militancy by the Israeli haredi. A good example is the rioting and stone-throwing after a recent Israeli Supreme Court ruling which denies welfare support to haredi families which simply refuse to work.

Second, in the United States, some from ultra-Orthodox communities have defended Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin, who has now been found guilty in federal court on over 80 counts of financial fraud claims. Some claim Rubashkin’s conviction or sentencing was motivated by anti-Semitism. Others have defended him because he was “charitable.”

The defense of Rubashkin raises a question as to whether some believe that violation of the civil law is acceptable as long as it helps them live out their vision of what it means to be a Torah- true Jew.

The recent pictures from Israel and the growing haredi population make me wonder what Israel is becoming. The nice pleasant area of late 18th-century Jews in in Mea Shearim that I visited 30 years ago has become a growing cancer on the country with more and more large families living off the state, secular Jews and indirectly the diaspora and the United States government. (Why does Israel need “guest workers” when it has a surplus of Torah scholars who could perform those jobs.) An Israeli theocracy in my mind is no better than an Iranian one.

Where is the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee? When we face a crisis of anti-Semitism from without they are there to protect us. But why are leaders David Harris and Abe Foxman silent now when members of our own community do hateful things and falsely play the anti-Semitism card?

Norman Pressman

Crystal Lake Park