The ongoing political struggles in Israel regarding the current government's efforts to bring the Chareidi community out of its ghetto and into greater society through universalizing the draft and cutting welfare coverage have had their fair share of coverage in news recently. Unfortunately much of that coverage has feature the Chareidi PR establishment's less than conciliatory approach to the new government demands.
In fact, much of the conversation sounds like this:
Seculars: We want to discuss you guys sharing the burdens of society by participating in the army and teaching your kids basic skills and knowledge so they can be employable.
Chareidi PR guys: Nazis! Cossacks! We know what you really want! All you do is sit around all day and think about how to destroy Torah! You're worse than the Czar, Haman and Hitler all rolled in together! Don't you know it's our learning that keeps the world alive? You need to be grateful for our limud Torah! Wait, why do you hate us so much?
The weaknesses of the various Chareidi positions regarding learn-don't-earn have been documented elsewhere as have the obvious rebuttals to the whole Torah-study-defends meshugas. I don't need to go into them again at length.
But there is one point I'd like to make. Like a spoiled child who drives his parents into anger and then screams "See! You do hate me!" the Chareidi leadership seems hell-bent on creating an atmosphere of hatred among the secular population at which point they will turn around and say "See! We knew you hate us!" It's either that or the leadership is so devoid of insight into its behaviour that it really does believe the empty lines it spouts about Chareid exceptionalism.
Whichever is the case it is important not to play into either strategy. There is much that is important and necessary for Jewish survival in the Chareidi community but it has to be isolated away from the elements that would like to see Chareidim permanently impoverished and ignorant.
Therefore it behooves all of us to remember that the proper response to provocations, attacks and lies from the Chareidi spokesmen is to recall the average Chareidi has a lot more to fear from his own leadership than he does from the secular worlds. The principles that secularism has a life of its own and doesn't exist simply to destroy Torah must be repeated. The idea that sharing the burden fairly is a value society wants implemented in all its sectors must be repeated. The fallacies that the Chareidi PR folks spout about how the halacha supports their positions when it really doesn't must be calmly but thoroughly countered.
Most of all we must remember that the average Chareidi on the street is a normal person with normal aspirations, held prisoner to a rigid ideology that imprisons his opportunities to grow and succeed.
Only through keeping calm and remembering that these initiatives are done for the benefit of all might they succeed.
Thursday, 2 May 2013
This piece comes from Simcha at TargetSplash and tells the story of a nearly forgotten hero of the Shoah. It is reproduced here with his permission:
The Nearly Forgotten Story of Irena Sendler
Memorial ceremonies recently held in remembrance of the Warsaw ghetto uprising’s 70th anniversary have stirred up interest in the historical events of the era, including lesser-known episodes.
One wartime experience involved a woman who was responsible for saving over 3000 Jews. Incredibly her story was almost lost to history until a group of Kansas high school students researched and publicized the affair in 1999.
Irena Sendler was a young Polish social worker who joined the Polish underground in 1939, immediately after the Nazis invaded Poland. During those early days of occupation Sendler helped Jews fleeing the Nazis and it is estimated that she assisted over 500 Jewish men, women and children in this effort.
In 1940 the Zagota underground group was formed so that members could assist the Jews in a more organized fashion. As part of that group Sendler was given forged documents that identified her as a nurse and she entered the Warsaw ghetto as an "expert" on infectious diseases. She was allowed to bring in food and medicine but her true acts of mercy were in what she removed from the ghetto.
Sendler quickly realized that the Nazis intended to murder all of the ghetto residents and she began to smuggle children out of the ghetto, sometimes under tram seats and other times in toolboxes, suitcases and even in bags under barking, snarling dogs. She also learned about the sewer system and other underground exits and brought children out through these tunnels. Many of the children were orphans but others had living parents and Sendler went door to door in the ghetto, to convince the parents that leaving the ghetto was the only hope that the children had of survival.
Sendler recorded all of the names of the children on scraps of tissue paper together with the names of the families, convents or orphanages in which they were placed. Sendler hoped that the children could later be reunited with their families, though in the end, only a few of the parents survived the war. Through her efforts however, many of the other children were brought to Israel to live as Jews.
Sendler was captured by the Gestapo in 1943 but she did not divulge any information about the whereabouts of the children, even under torture. Zagota members were able to bribe the guards and secure her release and Sendler lived out the remainder of the war in hiding.