By Sruli Schochet – Los Angeles
Did you read the Newsweek article?
You know, the one by Fareed Zakaria how Bibi Netanayahu is undermining Israel’s security, or how everything you know about Iran is wrong.
It must be true, right? After all, it was published in Newsweek. Needless to say, an informed person doesn’t believe everything they read. While an article can be a good starting point for gathering information, intellectual honesty behooves a person to do their own due diligence and come to their own conclusions.
There has been much uproar in the Crown Heights community of late, about a Newsweek article by Elijah Wolfson titled: ‘Child Abuse Allegations Plague the Hasidic Community’. To be sure, the article discusses an important topic, one that must never be swept under the rug. It is a subject that must be addressed with all the vim and vigor its importance requires.
However, this particular article smacks of a hatchet job. The articles, while purporting to be an expose on the Chassidic community, turns out to be almost entirely focused on Chabad. Even though Chabad makes up less than 10% of the Chassidic community of New York City and probably less than 5% worldwide, 99% of the article is geared towards Chabad and Chabad allegations alone. That is biased reporting.
Imagine an article titled: ‘The Rise of Crime in the USA’, but then goes on to only discuss the rising crimes in one particular demographic or ethnicity. Such an article would be decried as racist and bigoted. This article should be held to same standard, regardless of the importance of the topic.
Having grown up in Toronto, I never attended any of the schools mentioned and do not know any of the key players on either side of the article. Thus, I cannot properly weigh in or state a personal opinion about the specific stories listed there.
However, I do know one of the victims.
As fate would have it, we crossed paths last week and the article came up. He looked at me and said: “I am never helping [name redacted by author] ever again! I have emails of them showing me exactly how I would be quoted and they took my quote and put it there completely out of context!” He looked at me with such pain in his eyes, like he was just taken advantage of. Again.
I didn’t know what to say, so I gave him a hug and changed the subject to happier things. It was a stark reminder to me that things are not always what they seem. Sometimes in the rush for justice, we trample well-meaning people along the way.
The Baal Shem Tov teaches us that everything we see is divine providence and a life lesson. Of late, I have been seeing a lot of billboards advertising ‘Superman vs. Batman’. I think there are few people out there that have not heard of these fictional ‘superheroes’.
I asked a friend of mine, a self-professed ‘comic book geek’ to please explain to me why these two ‘good guys’ would be fighting each other? He explained (the storyline) that the first viewed the second as a vigilante, working outside the normative and accepted rules that society had established. While the second view the first as this elitist, demagogue who was given too much power and respect, not answering to anyone, risking our civil liberties. A war ensues and as is always the case, havoc and destruction was left in its wake.
I think the analogy could not be more apropos. We have one group of people that see the Rabbis and establishment leaders as viewing themselves above the law, not needing to answer to the lowly masses. Perched in their ivory towers, they get to dictate with impunity.
The Rabbis on the other hand, view these groups as vigilantes as working outside the confines of Torah and halacha, the very basis and foundation of Jewish DNA. The war of words ensues and we the common folk, lose out as a result of it.
As Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently said: The old law of ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. Imagine the strength that would come from a unified front, two superheroes working for a common good, built upon the common ground they can find. That force would be unstoppable and we would all applaud it.
Originally I was going to write this anonymously. I know that as a result of this, myself and my family will be subject to personal attacks, ridicule and vitriol, one of the dark underbellies the internet has provided. But I quickly realized that doing so would be to give in to bullying and the fear of verbal abuse, something that should never be the case.
We need to support victims of child abuse to NEVER feel scared or cowered to come forward. We need to support our establishment, that they can state a difference of opinion on certain matters without fear of reprisal. We need to encourage the dialogue. We are a nation of ‘hakol kol Yaakov’ and it’s through our discussions that we reach resolution, not by the silencing of others.
I will end with this:
Imagine you have a rat problem in your house. Nobody wants them and everybody wants to get rid of them. So you buy a trap. You can buy a glue trap, a snap-trap or even a ‘cruelty-free’ trap. Sometimes the rats come back or other rats pop up in their place. So you keep at it, getting rid of them one by one.
There is another more permanent solution though: you can just burn down the house. That would work in ways the traps never could. But at the end of the day, you will be rat free and homeless.
I think the analogy is clear: We ALL want to eradicate the rats from amongst us. Just don’t burn down the house while attempting to do so.