From Eastern Europe, the Center of Commerce, Religion, Charity and Education; How Did we Lose Our Way? An Opinion Piece…
by LostMessiah, March 26, 2016
[Note to reader: There are a number of people who share authorship on this page. Some might have written this piece a bit differently.]
For many Jews, growing up with parents who were either first generation or second generation U.S. citizens, education was the cornerstone of our belief system. The words spoken in our homes were, “You got a 99%, what happened to the other point?” For many college was a foregone conclusion and success meant marrying Jewish and being a professional in one form or another, not necessarily in that order. It was simple, understood and ripe with a drive for success. This was not to the exclusion of religion or tradition, rather, our days were made longer by Hebrew School classes (or Yiddish School classes). Our weeks included practicing instruments, piano, violin, flute, anything that would make us better and more well-rounded…. Jews.
Our summers meant time in sleep away camp where we did not sit still, except perhaps for midday watermelon and arts and crafts. This was all part of the structure of our Jewish lives. We were told stories of our great religious scholars in their homes of origin and the it was important that we carry on everything they started. And, there was no deviation.
Many of us, too, came from a lineage of Jewish Rabbis in Eastern Europe, Lodz, Vilnia, Galicia, Stechin, Besserabia, Sata Mar, Belz, Belarus… our grandfathers or great grandfathers, no less observant of the Torah or of the principles and tenets of a an all-encompassing Jewish life. They were streimels in their countries of origin, not to show off their means and great wealth (for a streimel is Mink, Sable or even fox) but to keep warm. We were meant to be modest in our means and in our dress, but not modest meaning covering up our bodies (which was also expected) but modest in terms of our wealth. Anything extra was to go toward Tzedukkah and to saving for our children’s future. Never again, were we told over and over, would we rely on subsidies and welfare. We were to be self-subsisting, honest, scholarly, educated and well-rounded. For, it was told to us over and over again, knowledge is strength and strength is power. Plain and simple.
Knowledge and religious observance was what it meant to be “Jewish” and of course learning Torah was important, perhaps most important; but certainly not to the exclusion of other subjects. We were raised to believe that it you did not know more than the next, you would NEVER succeed either as a person or as a race.
Math and science were studied with zeal, calculus and trigonometry, notions of quantum physics, study of the periodic charts of elements, biology, reading, often additional languages (after Hebrew, perhaps Yiddish) like Spanish or French, German or Japanese. Many Jewish children were raised to believe in studying multiple languages, an opening for worldwide success in a given profession. For, only in understanding another person’s language, and all of its nuances, was it possible to understand the people.
We were taught that this is why our historically Rabbinic families studied in their countries of origin, for a chance to give their children a brighter future. This is why we survived, perhaps fewer but still survived, from the Concentration Camps of Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Trablinka and so many others. It was said that our ultra-Religious lineage was kept alive so we could create, save, learn, study and above all else be Jews, remain Jews and love our culture and our new lands of origin.
There was never a concept of exclusion, of Torah study without the study of anything else. For those of us with grandparents or great-grandparents who were known and famous rabbis in their Eastern European homes, education was not a singular and directed belief in the study of Torah, without anything else. To the contrary, Torah was what enhanced us as people. It was what made our souls light and not dark. It was a form of learning that could be applied to all of our other studies, a form of the Socratic Method.
If we were to ascertain divinity, to prove ourselves to our Father in Heaven, we were to do so by leaving this world a better place than when we got here. We were to be the greats of our fields. We could only make Him proud if we somehow advanced society to be a better place and the study of Torah, to the exclusion of all else was not going to get us there. Rather, it would make us better people.
A religion, a culture, a way of life, that devoted its sole attention to the teachings of the Torah where no other education was taught would only lead to poverty; and Jews, in all of history, were supposed to be self-reliant as a people. We were taught to be better, to be more educated, to be more charitable; but not to diminish others, rather to help them achieve the highest standards of learning which we were taught. Only throughout goodness, honesty, charity, learning and work could we make the entire world a better, kinder and more understanding world. Most importantly, our learning did not mean either exclusionary nor did it mean “entitled.”
To the Twersky Jews of East Ramapo, The Jews of KJ, the Jews of Crown Heights and Boro-Park, the Jews who have tried to descend upon Lakewood and Toms River, you are not the righteous who are following the tenets of our forefathers, but rather the antithesis. You are not following the ways of our rabbis as they were found in their countries of origins, but rather have bastardized a fundamental cornerstones of Jewish Religion: Avoda (work), Tzedukkah (charity) and Gemilut Chassidim (acts of loving kindness).
You should feel shame… Your behavior is anything but charitable and acting with loving kindness. Your Rabbis, Rabbi Twersky and others have lost their way. Ask why you are living in near impoverished conditions and they are living like kings, anything but the Jewish system of ideals and beliefs. Ask how one can celebrate the burning of another without harsh treatment. Our religion has become bastardized by greed, a sense of entitlement and a void of uncharitable behavior.
Rabbi Twersky and those like you… You are not the Jews of our forefathers but rather the closest thing to the enemy of our people. You incite hatred and contempt. You limit the education of your people so that they know no better than to think you a G-d. Your people, for all intents and purposes, are idolators, and you their idol. You should feel shame.
It is our hope that one day, you will meet our Father in Heaven and it is our prayer that He will levy punishment. For now, those who follow you who live in poverty, the children who are getting raped and molested, suffering from drug and addiction, the impoverished among you as you rape and pillage your people, are suffering the sins of their father… you.