Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Emes Ve-Emunah: Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Emes Ve-Emunah: Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Reb Dovid Landesman's comment there represents my perspective as well, so עיין שם היטב (I commented there to express my agreement).


An important source:

This Has Got To Stop!

By Rabbi Elchonon Oberstein

Posted on 07/14/13 | News Source:

Below this JPost article is an addendum and letter from from Baltimore's own Rabbi Elchonon Oberstein and Rabbi Avi Shafran

Two haredi men spit on national-religious soldier, punch him; Peres calls on ultra-Orthodox leaders for support.

The police reported that another haredi attack, this time on a national-religious soldier, took place on Sunday afternoon in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Yisrael, close to Mea She’arim.

According to police spokesman Shmuel Ben- Ruby, two haredi men attacked a uniformed soldier wearing a crocheted kippa who was passing by on Sha’arei Shamayim Street.

Ben-Ruby said that the passersby spat at the soldier and punched him. The soldier fled the area and called police to assist him. He was extracted from the area by police without injury.

The suspects fled the scene with the Special Patrol Unit on motorcycles searching the neighborhood.

This is the third serious incident of a violent attack against a religious soldier by members of the haredi public in Jerusalem in the last week.

On Thursday last week, a haredi soldier walking home on Shmuel Hanavi street in Mea She’arim was pelted with various objects and cursed by passengers in a vehicle that passed him by.

The uniformed soldier took refuge in a nearby building and was extracted from the site by the police without being harmed.

On Tuesday evening, a mob of approximately 100 haredi men surrounded and threatened another haredi soldier in uniform. He managed to escape and was rescued by police, but a riot broke out when the mob confronted police officers and threw stones and other objects at them.

Four arrests were made at the time, including a minor.

An intense public information campaign has been launched by radical elements in the haredi community against ultra-Orthodox soldiers in recent months in protest to proposed legislation to draft haredi yeshiva students into military service.

In one recent and elaborate poster, haredi soldiers and policemen are portrayed rounding up haredi children and taking them off for military service, while the children call out for help.

The poster had one of the haredi children saying “They’re making me a cantonist,” a reference to the forcible conscription of underage Jewish children conducted by the Russian army in the 19th century.

A haredi soldier in the poster says “Children, don’t run away, I’m religious, I’m a proud hardak, so what if I’m an ambassador for the army.”

Another religious solider, lifting haredi children into a military vehicle, thinks to himself “Now it’s by force, but in a few years they’ll want to [enlist] by themselves.”

President Shimon Peres called on the haredi community to support ultra-Orthodox soldiers during a meeting with haredi troops earlier on Sunday.

“I call on the heads of the haredi camp to be proud of the haredi soldiers, just as we are proud of you,” Peres told the soldiers.

Peres grounded his speech in the teachings of the Bible, saying, “we must protect against all acts of violence – these acts are against the concept of the Ten Commandments.”

The president urged haredi soldiers to persevere in the face of opposition.

“It is a mitzva [religious commandment] to protect our country,” Peres said. “No one is going to do it for us.”

There have been tensions of late between the haredi community and the Israeli public that have been exacerbated as a result of the ultra-Orthodox Knesset parties having been left out of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition government. Despite the turmoil, Peres reminded the nation that Israel is a unified country.

“We are all brothers, one nation and not two,” Peres said.

In response, a representative for the haredi soldiers commended the army for its support and made it clear that it is possible for haredi soldiers to serve in the army while staying to true to their religious lifestyle.

“When we are on active duty, and when we return home from the army, we study Torah in the proper manner, alone or in pairs, or in yeshiva,” the speaker said.

“The IDF gives the necessary support network to make it possible to be drafted as haredi men and to be discharged as haredi men.”

From Rabbi Elchonon Oberstein:

Fellow Parents:

I write this as a father of a son who out of sincere devotion to Am Yisroel, made aliyah and volunteered for Netzach Yehudah. The idea that he and his fellow frum soldiers are treated in this horrible way by Jews who look very religious bothers me personally. It is far more than a matter of politics, it is very painful and especially when we remember that the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed by sinas chinam.

However,  I am also a long time member of Agudath Israel of America, and I actually pay my dues. I was zocheh to have a personal relationship with Rabbi Moshe Sherer, zt'l, who came to my wedding and thus, it is hard to feel alienated . This is a part of a letter I wrote to Rabbi Avi Shafran and it is followed by a letter he sent to an israeli soldier who wrote to him. Rabbi Shafran gave me permission to include his letter.


It is heart breaking to see how low the invective and insults have gotten.

I have been a dues paying member of Agudath Israel of America for many, many years and, at this point,  I am very troubled. The campaign against Chardakim, in other words, calling my son, Yoni, a cockroach, because he made aliyah and risks his life literally for Am Yisrael, in Netzach Yehduah, is supported by Hapeles and by an increasing segment of our chareidi representatives who refuse to say a negative word about the perpetrators.

They snicker and say that these are a few crazies, well then put them in cherem, have them arrested and put in prison, don't just look the other way.

Every day, I read  news that makes me sick. What do we have in common with these people who act in such an uncouth way. They do the opposite of everything that Dale Carnagie would advise and then they want to be supported. Maybe the American Agudah has to tell these people in a quiet way that they are counter productive and can't expect us to bail them out if they act this way.

As far as Rav Shteinman, shlita, I wish I knew his positions and I wish they were public. If he encouraged the Nachal Charedi, why doesn't he come out forcefully against the violence and hatred shown to chareidi soldiers. Please share this with others at the Agudah, people like me are being told we no longer have a place in the organization and that is a shame.

Elchonon Oberstein 

This is the letter that Rabbi Shafran shared with me. It was written to a frum soldier.


Let me begin with my thanks for your service to the cause of the security of Klal Yisrael. You and those like you are regarded with pride and appreciation by all the charedim I know, I assure you.

A major part of the tragedy of recent months, I think, has been how issues have been so highly charged. The phenomena of haredim in the armed forces or who have entered the workforce had been increasingly accepted over recent years, and an evolutionary process, I believe, was in progress. Now, with various players putting the issues front-and-center, and signaling their intention to mold the charedi community to something closer to their own image, the (easily predictable, if unfortunate) result has been a counterpush – with things like army service and joining the workforce becoming, at least in the eyes of some – a playing into the hands of the enemy (here, Mr. Lapid and company).

The poster-posters and catcalls you describe are misguided and obnoxious -- I felt revulsion reading your account -- but they are just another sadly predictable result of the new polarization of the Israeli populace. The small-minded in each camp can always be counted on to express themselves crassly and wrongly.

My role at Agudath Israel is limited to dealing with press inquiries. I assure you that if I receive questions from the media about such actions, I will describe them as I have above. As to reaction from the Gedolim, I think there are two things you need to realize.
Firstly, the American Gedolim as a rule do not comment on anything having to do with Eretz Yisrael, unless they are asked to do so by the Gedolim there. That is born of a conviction that Klal Yisrael’s most senior and sage manhigim are in Israel and that, in any event, those “on the scene” are the best qualified to make judgments.

Secondly, Gedolim both in E”Y and in America have a long-established policy of generally not commenting on outrageous acts committed by ostensibly religious Jews. That is not out of any sort of personal fear or intimidation but rather out of a very proper fear – that any such comments will not serve to curb wrong acts (the bad actors won’t listen, thinking they know better) and will likely only create infighting among Jews. What is more, once “condemnations” are issued about this or that major outrage (like the one you have experienced), there will be no end to the demands that even less outrageous wrongs be spoken to – and impossibly fine lines will have to be drawn, creating only more ill will.
I realize that the above is likely of little comfort to you, and I understand. But I don’t want you to think that unconcern or personal fears are what account for the reticence of Gedolim when religious people do bad things.

And yet, on communal issues like the larger one in Israel, the Gedolim do feel they must call a spade a spade, and a stick-and-carrot campaign by anti-charedi people (even those who have occasionally presented themselves as “the charedim’s friend”) precisely that.  As above, it is tragic that what has resulted is that things like principled army service or workforce-joining by upstanding religious Jews have been caught up in the maelstrom of rejection of the anti-charedi campaign. I wish I knew the way to mitigate that. Hashem ya’azor.

All that said, I do intend to share your letter (without your name or address) with some others who do interact with Gedolim, both here and in Israel. Whether it will make any difference in what takes place or doesn’t, your words deserve to be read by Gedolim. And who knows…?

My advice to you in the here-and-now is that you try your best to allow the name-calling (and worse) to not affect you, that you see yourself as an innocent victim of others’ misconceptions and crassness who proudly shrugs it off and does his job – in this case being a Torah-dedicated member of the defense of your fellow Jews.

I wish you only well, and thank you again for your cogent and wrenching letter.

Best wishes,

P.S.  Yoni called me on Friday to tell me that he had just visited rabbi Yaakov Hopfer, who is in Israel for the bris of his grandson. Yoni was on the way to Bnai Brak  for Shabbos to the home of a fellow frum soldier. I asked him what he would do if a fanatic started up with him. He calmly told me he would do what he does to Arabs all week long. He would subdue  him, arrest him,  put handcuffs on him and call the police to take him away. That made me very proud.

May we merit Nechamas Tzion U'binyan Yerushalayim, b'yomeinu.
Elchonon Oberstein


  1. Good responses, but 'twould be nicer to see it coming from higher up:

    העיתונות החרדית "מגנה כל התנכלות לכל אדם"

    מאת: חיים לב

    הכתב הצבאי של העיתון החסידי 'המודיע' ישראל קצובר (תחת שם העט א. פאר), כתב בטורו במילים ברורות כי הציבור החרדי אינו מזדהה עם מעשים נפשעים אלו וכמובן שאינו עומד מאחוריהם.

    "אנו מגנים כל התנכלות לכל אדם. לאזרח או חייל, חילוני או דתי. יש הרבה דרכים להשיב מלחמה להנהגה החילונית, אך לא באלימות. אסור שמיעוט קטן וזניח יפגע במערכה", כתב קצובר.

    גם השבועון 'בקהילה' יצא בגינויים מפליגים נגד מעשים אלו. עורך העיתון, אברהם דב גרינבוים, פרסם טור נוקב בו הבהיר כי העיתון מגנה כל פגיעה בחיילי צבא הגנה לישראל תוך שהוא לועג לקיצונים במאה שערים שרשמית אינם לוקחים כסף מהמדינה אך מנצלים את זכויותיהם הכלכליות בכל מקום אפשרי.

    "לכל קהילה, חוג ועדה, מטרות ושאיפות משלהם. לכל אחד גדרים וסייגים משלו, אבל הניסיון ההיפותטי של קיצוני מחנה מאוד מסוים - שלא מצביע בבחירות אבל כן לוקח כסף מהביטוח הלאומי וכן מנצל את זכויותיו בכל מקום שניתן לקבל משהו- להשתלט ולהכתיב את סדר יומו של הציבור החרדי, הוא נלוז", כתב גרינבוים.

    בהמשך החריף מילותיו תוך שהוא תוקף את הנהגת הסיקריקים במאה שערים. "יש לנו גדולי דורנו, מאירי דרכנו, מוסרי התורה ומעתיקי השמועה שמאירים לנו את הדרך נלך בה. איך אמר יהודי חכם השבוע, "הם מקעקעים את מרות 'האיש על העדה', וכופים עלינו את מרות 'העדה על האיש'". הדברים נכונים וזועקים לשמים".

    "ייאמר ברורות ברגימת אבן על שוטר - אנו מתבדלים, בתקיפת חייל חרדי - אין אנו מאמינים. בדרך גדולי התורה נלך, באש ובמים. לקדש שם שמים".

  2. I would print out Rav Shafran's letter but I already have enough toilet paper at home.
    If one reads the wording it's amazing to see how thoroughly he dissociates blame for this crises from the Chareidi leadership.
    Conflicts don't just break out. Wars don't just start. Someone causes it. Someone makes a decision to initiate hostilities.
    American Gedolim don't comment on Israeli situations? Please. The Agudah has been silent about the Women of the Wall, perhaps? Oh wait, Rav Shafran himself has written about them on repeated occasions.
    What can you expect? Rav Sternbuch is quoted as calling Religious Zionists "Amalek". Rav Shteinman is quoted as saying all gentiles are murderers and all non-religious Jews are immoral. Then their followers act on those statements and they aren't responsible?