Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hating for Fun

If there's one thing I can't stand about the blogosphere (and there is), it's the charedi bashing that seems to abound on so many of the sites out there. I would prefer not to pick any specific targets, but there are blogs and commenters out there that daily take delight in mocking not only the religious opinions, but also the morals, intellects, appearances, etc. of the charedi gedolim and that community at large. While I don't agree with almost anything that poor Lakewood Yid may say, and usually just feel bad for him trying to fence with a typhoon blind-folded, I was struck by the same points that he brought up in this "guest-post" on DovBear:
LakewoodYid writes:


Just look at these comments;

*Chasidim are notorious welfare cheats.
*The hasidic version is horse crap and excuse making.
*Haisdut is a historical error like Kariasm
*I just realized that the Rebbe seems to prefer gay men to serve him than women
*The big tzadik has spent his whole life immersed in Torah and he can't stop thinking about girls?
*And why is Ger a worthy charity anyway? So the Rebbe can have a Rolls Royce?
*Hasidic Rabbis wouldnt have lasted ten seconds in the time of Moshe, or Dovid, or the Tannaim.

Comments which bash Gedolim, Charedim and Chassidim.

No one says a word.

What is it about us that makes us take such joy in attacking others? And how is it that the worst of this hateful bigotry seems to frequently come from the same people would (rightfully) take umbrage at any comment insulting a minority or another sect of Judaism?

And I'm not saying that I like Chai Rotel, or the internet bans, or anything else of that kind. But I have to wonder why we feel the need to attack it. You don't see us jumping up every time the Reform movement makes a decision that we feel is wrong, or leaping on every rumor of corruption in, say, the Catholic Church.

And even worse is the feeling of self-satisfied self-righteousness that you can hear radiating out of people's comments, that sense of glee at exposing other people's failings and simultaneously confirming their own superiority. "We," scream the comments, "We are not like them. We are clever and moral and tolerant, not like those retrograde morons." I exaggerate for effect. But only slightly.

This is one reason that I'm grateful to my high school education. By being placed in an environment full of people more right-wing than myself, I was forced to defend my positions to myself intellectually, but equally much forced to love those with whom I disagreed. I saw that my teachers were good, devout, often intelligent people. I saw that my classmates were fun, spiritual, curious, and earnest.

I learned that they aren't evil and they aren't idiots. Which means that no issue that you're arguing is as simple and one-sided as you like to pat yourselves on your backs and pretend. And even if you don't like the points on the other side, do yourself the intellectual courtesty of acknowledging them.

But more basically, sometimes I have to wonder what it is that motivates this sort of vitriol. Is there some basic human trait that makes us want to have somebody to hate? Is it a sense of insecurity in the correctness of our own positions? Is it just simple ego massaging? Is it an attempt to disassociate ourselves with positions we find abhorrent to avoid any guilt by association, which implies that we feel a sort of responsibility for any craziness that other Jews may come up with?

And, for that matter, why is this kind of hatred more accepted than other forms of bigotry? Do we feel that religiosity is in some way a threat to us? Do we suppose ourselves merely to be reflecting hatred that others have for us? Do we feel as if we have some sort of proprietary right to any group that claims the title of Orthodox, so that its decisions theoretically reflect us and must be warded off?

And sometimes I wonder, are the Charedim our "Jews"? Our offensively overly-religious, crazy outsiders? Our scapegoat, our stranger, our "other", our danger? Our tolerated fringe minority? Is this what anti-Semitism feels like from the inside?

I can't say that I know the answer to any of these questions. But I know that it makes me sick at heart. Because there's no more excuse for this kind of hating than for any other version. I would advise us to try to apply the maxim "live and let live" to those who are further right than us, as we do to those on our left. For both, I would advocate vigorous intellectual discourse among ourselves to figure out whether or not we, personally, agree or disagree with a position. But there's a world of difference between that and self-satisfied insults to a community that dares to endorse views with which we disagree.


Irina Tsukerman said...

Actually, I was having a very heated discussion on just that same subject in my literature class the other day. (What is about English classes that brings out totally unrelated debates?!) Anyway, most people in my class aren't even Jewish, and yet somehow, the discussion got off on the tangent, and everybody, including one other Jew in the room, started bashing the Orthodox for being hypocrites, etc. And eventually, many of my classmates commented that they perceive religious people, be they Jews or Christians, as a threat, and don't want to even go near them, much less have a discussion. And they actually thought it was a normal thing, gathering in the classroom and talking about the way all religious people are a threat, and it's ok to think that and not bother finding out their point of view just because you're a secular middle class person who goes to a private college and is very enlightened. I was extremely annoyed, and can't attribute it to anything but the same narrow-mindedness and fear of other points of view that they accuse "those crazy fundamentalists".

Tobie said...

I think you're absolutely correct. It's actually almost funny to see my liberal-minded, anti-racist, pro-tolerance classmates recoil just a a little in shock when they happen to find out that I'm a religious Jew. They don't mean to, but there's usually this moment of "....oh."

I think it's also an excellent point how you mentioned "be they Jews or Christians." Nobody ever, ever would dare to say such a thing about Muslems, or G-d forbid, about some even more esoteric religion.

Miri said...

if you look at the Chareidi bashing quotes you used, not one of them are intellectually based, or open to discussion, or a friendly exchange of viewpoints. which is not to say that they're acceptable, nor that ppl who do bother having intelligent coverations with Chareidim don't say things similarly sentimented (in other contexts). If I may say a word in the defense of ppl who do occasionally bash chareidim (although we try not to, bc sinat chinam is destructive.) first of all, a lot of chareidim aren't so willing to have an intellectual exchange of ideas - at least not with teenage girls. they do have a tendency to form opinions at a glance, to avoid discussion, or, if roped into a discussion, conduct it on the level of a sixth grade classroom talk and leave it as soon as they can, as soon as they've satisfied themselves that you've nodded enough when you realize it's not really going anywhere. of course not all chareidim are like that- you will occasionally get one who'll talk to you like you're older than 11 or 12- just enough of them to create general frustration, and of course, a convenient steryotype. I speak only from experience. this is also not to say that they don't have the best intentions; they are some of the sincerest and nicest Jews I know. which makes me think that for all our intellectual bashing, if they're better ppl than we are, they've still got one over us.

Tobie said...

I wasn't advocating necessarily intelligent discussion with them. I also know that sometimes this is simply not possible, considering the differences in the worlds and mindsets from which we come. But why can't we simply talk among ourselves as to whether or not we accept their opinions as valid, without attacking them for holding them? These comments all come up because a couple of non-charedi people start thinking about something that the charedim have done and attacking them for it. Really, there's no need for that sort of trash.

e-kvetcher said...

Couple of points...

At one point not too long ago, Chareidi and Chassidic Jews were the majority, not the minority.

Also, not too long ago, Chassidim were bashing Litvaks and vice versa - and I don't mean mild jabs either.

Just as with every other sect, the UO make it a point to insinuate that anyone to the left of them is "not a real Jew". I'll quote from an article by Norman Lamm:

Let me record a personal note: A few years ago I met with one of the most prominent Hasidic rabbis. In the course of a pleasant conversation, I complained about an article by the editor of a newspaper published by this group, in which he wrote that he is doesn’t understand why there is such a tumult about Kelal Yisrael (a term denoting the totality of the Jewish people), when after all, "according to our calculation there are no more than about a million people who belong in this group." I asked the Rebbe if I and my parents and wife and children and grandchildren are considered part of Kelal Yisrael. His painfully ambiguous and evasive answer was, "Rav Lamm, ihr fregt tzu harb a kashe" (Yiddish for: "Rabbi Lamm, you are posing too difficult a question.")