The Crisis of Authority in Haredi Ranks and the Void Left Behind – Covid-19

ORTHODOX JEWS IN BROOKLYN ON APRIL 29, 2020. SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES.

American Orthodoxy’s Twilight of Authority

When the established rabbis go silent, others, including civic-minded philanthropists and charismatic outsiders with inflammatory social-media presences, fill the void.

The events this autumn in Brooklyn’s ḥaredi (Orthodox) communities have been quite extraordinary, even revelatory. Contrary to popular hope, herd immunity to the coronavirus has not been achieved; the city government’s response to the new second wave has been heavy-handed and possibly discriminatory; and in turn its legitimate attempts to enforce closures, social distancing, and mask wearing have been spurned rather than obeyed, thanks in part to the emergence of the since-arrested agitator Heshy Tischler as an outspoken voice for what he hopes constitutes the silent majority of the ḥaredi world. That this convict-turned-politician-turned-radio-host-turned-riot-inciter has found significant—though by no means total or even majority—support for his combative message reflects important and overlooked changes in the ḥaredi community in recent years, most notably the appearance of a serious crisis of authority in its ranks. This is most revelatory of all. As America at large is dealing with the hollowing out of institutions and the rise of politicians with inflammatory social-media presence, the ḥaredi world is too, even if the institutions are rabbinic and the social-media platform is more likely to be WhatsApp than Twitter.

Ḥaredi attitudes toward leadership have long differed from those of their surrounding communities, Jewish or gentile. Much of the community subscribes to a theology of Daas Torah (“knowledge of Torah”), whereby leading rabbis—those with the greatest degree of Torah knowledge and therefore the greatest degree of insight into the divine mind—are empowered to make all major communal decisions. We see this approach very much in effect today in Israel, where the two senior rabbinic authorities—Rabbi Gershon Edelstein and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky—are engaged in political negotiations through the ḥaredi parties, in determining when to reopen yeshivas, and simultaneously in messaging to their communities on how to proceed. The two rabbis having often been at odds with each other in recent months notwithstanding, the fact remains that the prevailing ideology of Daas Torah dictates that these rabbis (and their courts and handlers) make policy on nearly every issue for their ḥaredi followers. In America, a similar rabbinic seat of authority rests with the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, the council of great rabbinic sages, which is affiliated with the Agudath Israel of America. (The organization lost its leader, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, “the Novominsker rebbe,” to COVID-19 in April, added several members in September, in a move towards relative youth, and lost Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, one of its elder statesmen, just two weeks ago.)

For as long as there have been rabbis, those possessing expertise in Torah knowledge have been consulted on issues large and small in their areas of training—Talmud and halakhah (Jewish law). Daas Torah goes well beyond that, into a presumption that their training in Torah qualifies leading rabbis as experts to be consulted on all worldly issues. There is some controversy as to when exactly the approach took hold. Lawrence Kaplan and Jacob Katz, two historians of Jewish law, have argued that this is an innovation of the modern period, possibly stemming from the 18th-century revolution of Ḥasidism. Others, like the rabbi Alfred Cohen, have argued for roots in the pre-modern period.

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Covid-19 – Community Truth Suppression – A Game of Infection Numbers

Under Threat Of Lockdown, Some Orthodox Neighborhoods Seek To Downplay Coronavirus Rates

Reported by LostMessiah

[EXCERPTED FROM Gothamist ]

With the threat of targeted lockdowns hanging over Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, community leaders are scrambling to contain the growing rate of COVID infections — and in some cases appear to be taking steps to artificially downplay the severity of transmission.

Residents of Borough Park and Williamsburg received anonymous robocalls this week urging them against getting tested, “as this drives up the numbers,” according to a Yiddish recording shared with Gothamist. On Wednesday, leaders of the Bobov Hasidic dynasty asked congregates who previously had the virus, and are thus less likely to be currently infected, to get swabbed at a neighborhood clinic immediately.

Perhaps most alarmingly, sources in the Orthodox medical community say that some healthcare providers in Borough Park are withholding COVID-19 test results from public health authorities — despite recent advisories from the state and city clarifying that such reporting is legally required.

Gothamist, click here.
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Israel’s Vizhnitz – War of Attrition – Flouting Covid-19 Rules. Fait Accompli.

Hasidic rabbi calls for ‘war of attrition’ against virus restrictions

Head of the Vizhnitz hasidic sect rejects government limits to curb coronavirus spread, calls on followers to continue as usual.

World Israel News, click here.

“Let us prepare for a war of attrition,” said Rabbi Yisroel Hager, the spiritual leader of the Vizhnitz hasidic sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews, after police broke up a large indoor gathering of his followers earlier this week in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak.

“Yesterday we should have prevented them [the police] from entering,” Hager told his followers. “I will not allow the closing of ritual baths, synagogues and educational institutions.”

A phone call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not able to assuage Hager’s anger over the national lockdown despite the high infection rates in many ultra-orthodox communities.

World Israel News, click here.

[EXCERPTED]

Shlezigner discovered that the hasidic sects are opting for herd immunity as a “deliberate and conscious policy” under which the adults and those at risk will take care of themselves, but the young will continue as usual.

With Hasidism built on the community where the spiritual leader, the “rebbe,” is at the center, it is inconceivable for his followers not to be able to approach their rabbi or pray with him for many months, Shlezinger wrote. Living in densely crowded neighborhoods, they consider it just a matter of time before everyone gets infected.

The ‘herd immunity’ policy of the followers is a fait accompli,” Shlezinger said. “The questions are only if, when and how it will affect the entire country.”

World Israel News, click here.

Govs Murphy and Cuomo Pandering to Their Voting Bloc, Covid-19

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy sets off on a tour around the Red Bank Middle School Friday morning, September 25, 2020.  He was there to get an update on how things are going with coronavirus in the new school year.
Asbury Park Press Photo, click here.

BOTH GOVERNOR MURPHY AND GOVERNOR CUOMO ARE FOOLING THEMSELVES IF THEY THINK THE ASSURANCES OF COMPLIANCE ARE ANYTHING MORE THAN LIP SERVICE.

Last night we posted a poster in Yiddish requesting, nay demanding, that 100% healthy ultra-Orthodox Jews get tested at several available testing sights in Yeshivas and Community Centers in Williamsburg, New York. The purpose, by the very words of the flyer – to alter the statistical positive rate. In other words, play a game of numbers and fool government officials in New York into believing that the community [Satmar] is being respectful and that there is a low positive to testing rate.

This morning we posted a similar request in New Jersey – test healthy people. These communities are not run by fools. Nor, in our view, are they the leaders particularly pious individuals – but that’s another story. Pikuah Nefesh is a fundamental principal in Jewish law – protect human life, all human life. They are putting their own people at risk. Worst still, they are placing the rest of us at risk; and with that are increasing a legitimate resentment against Jews.

https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10164470322285078&set=pcb.10164470322370078

That is a tragedy marked by people more interested in ritual than religion with little care for the lives of others. That is a quintessential definition of wholly morally bankrupt behavior.

But condemnation of the leaders of these communities is not enough. That Governor Cuomo in New York and Governor Murphy in New Jersey are not putting their foot down and enforcing complete segregation and lockdowns,

limiting travel of members of these communities, jailing people if necessary is a testament to the power that the religious leaders have over government. They represent a powerful voting bloc, one that ingratiates governmental officials such that lawlessness is par for the course.

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