Can The Haredi World Be Salvaged? Should It Be?

Can haredism be salvaged? I don’t think it can be and I certainly do not think it should be. After almost 40 years of abuse by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko and nearly as many years of rabbinic coverups, fraud and foolishness surrounding it; years of sexual harassment and  physical violence – along with cult recruitment and retention practices – by Rabbi Yoram Aberjil and the resultant rabbinic coverups; the cases of Rabbis Bryks, Mondrowitz, Weinberg and a whole slew of other rabbis at Ner Israel in Baltimore and Toronto and their coverups; the Edah Charedis Jerusalem mikva abuse and its coverup; and more; I think the answer is a definite no – the haredi world should not be saved.

Why? Because over and over and over again, haredi rabbinic leaders make the wrong decisions: 1. Stay in Europe, do not go to America or Israel; 2. Coverup rather than deal with abuse; 3. Steal money from the government rather than encourage work; 4. Welfare fraud, Pell Grant fraud, school lunch program fraud; 5. Enabling extremists, kanaim, and thugs; 6. Honor known criminals; 7. Demonize and victimize the Other rather than learn to respect the stranger; 8. Etc., etc. etc.

Those decisions are largely self serving, meant to increase personal or communal wealth and retention in the short run. But their effects are corrosive, and the end result on the ground disastrous. A system with leadership this bad over so long a period of time cannot and should not be allowed to stand. As the old Yiddish proverb notes, The fish stinks from its head.

Haredim will do what they do. We have little control over that. But we do have impact on what our Federations do, what our communal agencies do, what our city, state and federal governments do, and what we ourselves do. Stop funding all haredi organizations, no matter how good they appear to be, no matter how many dancing rabbis or hallah bake offs they have. And make sure your Federation and your elected officials know you oppose funding for haredi controlled organizations. Starve the beast.

Also make sure to donate to Footsteps, a great organization that helps haredim who try to leave haredism. (This does not necessarily mean leave Orthodoxy, by the way, although it often does.)

In the end, the kindest thing one can do for future generations of haredim may be to help them leave.

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5 Comments

Filed under Crime, Haredim, Mikva Abuse

5 responses to “Can The Haredi World Be Salvaged? Should It Be?

  1. In the end I only hope that all of the vicious “Torah Judaism” sects die out and their adherents merge with some kind of regular ole Judaism. But just last week we had an ancient Samaritan come and talk to us at our synagogue, which goes to show you the kind of staying power they have.

    Work with people and do the best you can I guess. Put your faith in G-d and not men. Power and control are the real problem.

  2. Anonymous

    I wonder though, if a haredi leaves that world for a more normal religious lifestyle, will he stay Jewish or lose everything? You say that most who go through that footsteps program leave orthodoxy. From a religious/semi-religious perspective, is it better to be a religious haredi or secular Jew? Is it better to be a haredi, or to leave the Jewish people all together? I think there is a lot of good in the haredi world, and a lot of faith. If they fixed these problems you mentioned and devoted their strengths to only worthy causes and ideals, they could become an amazing froce for good in the world. I would be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water.

  3. shmuel

    Good point: no one wants to lose Jews to Judaism. But a major problem with Haredism is that it institutionalizes piety, and that simply should not be done. Piety mustn’t be forced upon a Jew: it must come from one’s inner being, out of his free will. Instead, we have tens of thousands of Haredim all dressing, acting, thinking, looking, talking the same, in the most pious fashion, dressing like they’re 80 year old men at the age of 12, when clearly for a good number of them that is not at all the lifestyle they’d really like to have. Some would prefer to be irreligious. No kidding. So what does a frustrated Haredi do? If we keep him in the Haredi fold, he’ll father children but sleep around with women; some with men. Some do drugs secretly. Others do alcohol. What do we gain by having miserable fathers, angry wives, confused children? If divorce wasn’t such a stigma in that community I think you’d see such numbers jump way high.
    Is that a stronger Judaism? Chasidut was wrong from the outset to mandate a particular dress code: you don’t make properly, halachically pious men out of thousands of plain people by dressing them up in long black coats and making them speak Yiddish and real bad English. That’s not classical Jewish piety. But it does make for a strong voting block. And a closed clique of like-minded people who think they’re saving the world.

  4. dfdsf

    >Chasidut was wrong from the outset to mandate a particular dress code

    Wrong or right, it was deliberately done as a way of creating equality between different social classes.

  5. Toronto Calling

    I am not familiar with Markin in particular, but the chain of events in Toronto until the 1970 break with Ner Israel Baltimore is not so simple. Ner Toronto has always been a yeshiva where the baal habatim have undue influence and have interfered with the administration. In the 60s & 70s, Ner was the only Jewish high school in town, so there were in excess of 400 bochurim, many of whom were not even shomer shabbos or kosher. The place was basically a free for all (partially due to the baal habatim) that could not be contained. Everything went on from watching porno flicks in the dorm on Friday night during “yeshiva Shabbos” to guys have sex with girlfriends off campus who didn’t go to mikva. In 1970 a rosh yeshiva was brought in from Breuer’s, although the yeshiva was nominally placed under the flag of Lakewood who started feeding them rebbeyim. It took a long time for the hanhala to bring these shenanigans under control. And the baal habatim still wield tremendous power to this day, if they don’t like the course that the hanhala is taking.

    Don’t you think that an “uprising” of students during this period might be for reasons that are not exactly kosher ?

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