(Hat tip: Failed Messiah)
(Corrected as per tip from the Wolf)
By now word has spread across the Jewish blogosphere about how a butler of the Skver Rebbe recently attacked one of the inhabitants of the village, New Square, with a Molotov cocktail-like device. The man, one Aron Rottenberg, was guilty of joining a breakaway minyan in the small village. This was considered a crime after the Rebbe decreed at some point that there must be only one shul in town and everyone must daven there. Apparently (although I have yet to see the chapter and paragraph in the Shulchan Aruch) this is the accepted penalty for joining a breakaway group after the Rebbe says it's not allowed.
From the various articles it seems that this was also only the culmination of a long campaign of harassment by the followers of the Rebbe against those who would not walk in lock step with his rule. Again, I'm not sure where in Shulchan Aruch it's written that it's okay to behave like a common thug when people disagree with you.
That this episode should be viewed with revulsion goes without saying. That those involved should be subjected to the full penalty of civil and criminal law goes without saying. That this behaviour makes a mockery of what Torah-observant Judaism stands for goes without saying. However, it apparently needs to be said anyway because of who isn't saying anything.
Matzav, for instead, doesn't seem to have picked up the story, concentrating instead on Netanyahu's recent Congress speech and, of course, taking another cheap shot at the Magen Tzedek. Neither, it seems has TheYeshivaWorld. Don't hold your breath waiting for CrossCurrents to put up anything on it. All these websites will probably avoid the story to prevent anything from bursting their "We Chareidim are all tzaddikim" bubble.
However, here's where the silence should be broken. I have noted before that the relationship between Modern Orthodoxy and Chareidism is like that of a victim and a bully. The bully frequently does whatever he wants to push the victim around but the victim, scared of "escalating" the situation, never responds. Even though real life shows that this concern is foolish and that all it does is prolong the victimization, people still seem to believe that deference to the bully to avoid aggravating anything is the best course of action.
This is a chance, however, for the victim - Modern Orthodox - to strike back against the bully - Chareidism. For far too long, Orthodox Judaism has suffered from a branding issue in that one segment of the Torah-observant community, the Chareidim, have perpetuated the image that all "Torah-true Jews" are Chareidi and that any other form of Orthodoxy is a deviation from that highest standard. Through various foundations, organizations, yeshivos and publishing companies, there has been a concerted effort for decades to create an image of what an "real" Orthodox Jew looks and acts like while delegitimizing or marginalizing the other forms.
The problem is that in concert with this monopolizing has come a great level of degeneration within the leadership and cultural ranks of the Chareidi community. What does it say when the two biggest opponents to a bill against child abuse in New York state are the Catholic Church and the Agudah? What does it say when pictures of Orthodox organ smugglers in Deal, New Jersey feature black hats, suits and long beards? What does it say when a man with a black hat tries to murder another man because he chose to daven somewhere else against the orders of the Skverer Rebbe? What does it say when the Skverer Rebbe refuses to issue a condemnation or any statement at all?
Let us be clear - there is much that is positive about Chareidi Judaism but, chalilah, much that is negative and it is the negative which seems to be dominant in this day and age. For all the genuine, pious Chareidim out there there seem to be just as many, if not more, whose Judaism is defined by selfish and righteous indignation, whose acceptance of Torah law is limited to external things like clothing and looking for the best hechsher while purposefully ignoring any rule involving ben adam l'chaveiro in their lives.
This might be why Chareidim don't learn Nach. What would Yishiyahu say at such behaviour? How much would he condemn the falsely pious who pretend to be the inheritors of Moshe Rabeinu while aping the style of Don Corleone?
Honestly, a man throws acid on another man out of fealty to the Skverer Rebbe? Is the Rebbe a godfather? Is he just a Jewishly dressed mafia boss with a good chunk of gemara memorized? This is not Judaism! This is not Torah! And as no one in the Chareidi world seems like they're going to stand up and shout it, then it now falls to Modern Orthodoxy to point this out!
Judaism is not about mutilating people, or about trying to humiliate or demean them. It is about kindness, learning that leads to ethical and proper behaviour and developing a nation that is a positive example to the world, not an incarnation of all the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes from centuries past. This is what Modern Orthodoxy should be shouting about. The leadership of Yeshiva University should be announcing it from their lecterns that this behaviour is not Jewish, that if the Skverer Rebbe does not condemn this behaviour then he is a rasha just like his servant, that Torah Judaism rejects any pretenders who think that a shtreiml and Yiddish accent make you more religious and give you a heter to be a savage primitive without ethics or manners. They should be working hard to redefine the image of what a proper Jew is so that the next time the guy with the long peyos and 1950's glasses shows up in the press (and you know he will before too long) people don't automatically think "Wow, he's really frum" but look at him with a more jaundiced eye. Modern Orthodoxy has been bullied long enough and it hasn't benefited one bit. Might this be a straw that breaks that camel's back?