The Fish Stinks From Its Head

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum writes a scathing column condemning haredi violence surrounding Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade. The problem? First, his complaints are all tactical:

…An extreme response, for instance, almost inevitably ensures that one’s message will be lost and the focus of public attention shift to the messenger and the impropriety of his actions. Prior to the onset of the rioting, many secular Jews viewed this particular march in this particular place as a deliberate affront to the sensibilities of Jerusalem’s residents.

But as soon as the garbage cans started going up in flames, all public discussion switched from the propriety of the parade to that of the response, and the chareidi community found itself on public trial. Many of the relevant governmental bodies opposed the parade for their own reasons, but they could not appear to be intimidated by threats of violence.

A massive demonstration, such as that against the Supreme Court’s trampling on all religious values, would have made clear that the kedushah of Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael are not matters of indifference to the Torah community. And it would have enjoyed a great deal of public sympathy. But that sympathy was wantonly squandered.…

All the gedolei Yisrael about whom I have written thought constantly about the image of Torah and Torah Jews in the world. It is hard to imagine that last week’s rioters gave a moment’s thought to such concerns. I’m old enough to remember the urban riots that swept across America in the early ’60s. At the time, the most frequently asked question was: What kind of people burn down their own neighborhoods? Now, that question is being asked about those garbed as Torah Jews.…

In other words, Rosenblum decries tactics that are counterproductive to haredism’s larger goals. He does not endorse or encourage the democratic process or civil discourse. And Rosenblum also plays the kiruv card:

…The Torah offers what secular Israel so desperately needs. Last week’s events, however, make it less likely that secular Jews will seek the answers to their admitted spiritual malaise from us and not in some ashram in India. And that is a tragedy for all of us.

In other words, it will hurt the efforts to expand the haredi population through recruitment, or kiruv. because it presents a bad public image. But that public image is absolutely representative of actual haredi beliefs and practices. Rosenblum wants to mask these in order to entrap innocent, naive people. He continues:

And for the Torah community, it is no less a tragedy that concepts like Kiddush Hashem and Klal Yisrael never entered the minds of last week’s rioters. They are not even on their radar screen.

For the rest of us, it is time to ask: Why not?

The answer to that question is simple. Rioters were egged on by rabbis, leaders of the haredi world, from Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch of Edah Haredit to Rosenblum’s own leader, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. What you saw on the streets was the souls of those rabbis stripped bare for all to see.

There is an old Yiddish proverb, The fish stinks from its head. That, Rabbi Rosenblum, is the answer to your question.

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7 Comments

Filed under Crime, Gay Pride March, Haredim

7 responses to “The Fish Stinks From Its Head

  1. Aharon Varady

    What riots in the early 60s is Rosneblum referring to? There were civil rights demonstrations in the south in the early 60s. It was only directly after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 that riots occurred in cities across America.

  2. D

    “It was only directly after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 that riots occurred in cities across America.”

    That is incorrect. There were major riots in Los Angeles, Newark and Boston during the years 1965-67 coinciding with the rise of the likes of Stokeley Carmichael, Malcom X and the Black Panthers. King’s assassination certainly egged things on but was not the seminal event.

  3. Aharon Varady

    And I suppose a “peaceful” massive demonstration in support of “religious values” of intolerance and homophobia will present a positive image to secular Jews and the rest of the world. A parade/demonstration of love and tolerance is one I’d gladly particpate in as a religious Jew.

  4. D

    Well, I am still waiting for the “Straight Pride” counter-demonstrations to take root.

  5. Aharon Varady

    You’re correct that the 1968 riots weren’t the first but these earlier riots in Camden, Newark, and Watts hardly hold a candle to what happened in 1968 after the assassination. My main point though was that these riots didn’t occur in the early 60s.

  6. shmuel

    Please link me to quotes of Rabbis Sternbuch and Elyashiv regarding Charedi response to the parade, if you can. Thanks.

  7. Just click the Gay Pride March link under the post and read the stories. Shterbuch openly encouraged violence and Elyashiv encourage mass public protest but did not condemn the violence, which was taken by many haredim to be an endorsement of violence.

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