Open Letter to David Harris of the American Jewish Congress and Covid-19

AJCongress official dies - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

“You shall not stand idly by the blood of your fellow”; and by the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim, the redemption of the captive; and by the rabbinic dictum “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh”- “all Jews are responsible for one another” as found in Sifra (to Lev. 26:37) and the Talmud (Shevout 39a).

THE DANGERS OF JEWISH LEADERS PUBLISHING ABOUT CONSPIRACIES WHEN JEWISH PRACTITIONERS ARE LIVING IN GLASS HOUSES!

by Julie D. Globus

Dear Mr. Harris:

In the early 90’s, this blogger had the great pleasure of working for Rabbi David Clayman  (z”l) then Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress. I worked as an intern in Jerusalem, editing speeches, papers, organizing events and attending meetings. At the time, I was exploring religious beliefs; finding a path that I could call my own and and obtaining a Masters Degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Rabbi Clayman taught me more from his activities, viewpoints and unwavering sense of integrity than I have learned from almost any single person before or after. 

Rabbi Clayman was a remarkable man with a perspective of the world that far surpassed his Jewish political colleagues at the time, our then neighbors AIPAC and so many others. Rabbi Clayman delivered speeches about the responsibility of Israel for its then plight with the Palestinians both within and without Israel’s borders. He spoke of holding ourselves accountable, of accepting blame where we are blameworthy. He said the Talmud demanded it of us. He maintained that by accepting our own place in our peril, others would be required to reciprocate and do the same; and only then could we find a common ground. Rabbi Clayman often pondered the bridge that divided Israel and the Diaspora and the gap that divided the Haredi and all other Jewish communities from the same lens. He posited that in order to bridge the divides we were required to accept responsibility and be accountable. 

My takeaway from his guidance, something I will always hope I got right, was largely that all roads led to that same abyss, the one where we are forced to look into the mirror and to determine how we can change ourselves in order to do better for others.

I write to you to respectfully disagree, both with your thesis and the conclusions you draw in your mailing of today and the position you took in the Times of Israel. Your thesis, as I understood it, is largely that the anti-Semitic conspiracies of September 11, 2001 and various plagues are similar to what is happening now with Covid-19, namely that Jews are being victimized by a blind and unfounded hatred and anti-Semitism. I maintain that while anti-Semitism is horrific, is rising and that something must be done, using Covid-19 as a sounding board is akin to throwing stones from a glass house.

Why? Because a small group of Haredi Jews are not abiding by the rules of social distancing and in so defying laws are doing harm. True. Jews are not alone. There are churches that are continuing to gather, preachers accepting that Covid-19 may be overblown, kids going to beaches and other acts of defiance that are equally as damaging. But they are not as blatant, as arrogant or as disaffecting.

The group of Haredi Jews who are not following the directives are by their very dress drawing attention to themselves and their behavior. It is like waving a red flag at  a bull and expecting the bull to not charge. It is my view that if you are going to dress like someone who is observant and pious, you have an obligation to behave better, to be held to a higher standard. By claiming a path of greater observance, the part of better Jews, Haredim have a duty to Jews everywhere to indeed be not only better Jews but better people. 

The small group of Jews who are continuing to gather when social distancing is the only way to keep us all safe at this juncture, are carrying a time bomb. They are no better than any religious fundamentalist who straps a vest full of explosives on his back and goes to a crowded place. Covid-19 is a time bomb. The defiant Haredi who goes from his Minyan to the supermarket doesn’t know when the bomb has exploded and how many victims he has amassed.    

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Biased Intimidation – Propoganda, Jackson Township Residents Being Victimized

Dear Readers:

The following was posted to the Jackson Community Watchdog News Facebook site. It was also forwarded to us.

Hat Tip to the tipster and please see as follows:

This is an example of the frequently victimized turning into the abusers with the help of a consortium of people who seem to think that disenfranchising a secular community is an acceptable response to bogus claims of anti-Semitism.

Image may contain: one or more people, table, living room and indoor

BIASED INTIMIDATION = THE advertisement that defamed an entire town @GurbirGrewalNJ, intimidating texts, emails, and a constant barrage of HATE is directed toward Jackson residents. The legality is questionable, the fact that Governor Murphy or AG Grewal has not denounced this HATE toward Jackson residents speaks volumes. Or can it be that Dr. Roberts deep pockets is more important than the citizens those leaders have sword to represent.

FOR THE RECORD: The propaganda piece you may have seen today is not about Anti-Semitism, its about the lawsuits and an attempt to force Jackson leaders to settle. Well here’s the FIRST two pages of Agudath of Israel’s settlement: every zone in Jackson will be changed to accommodate schools, dormitories, and houses of worship. YES, a School in the 3 bedroom 2 bathroom home next to you. This is what our Jackson Government is protecting – OUR QUALITY IF LIFE!

 

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Shutting Down Voices on Social Media Will Not Shut Down Sentiment, Despite the Efforts of the Haredim [LETTER]

To our Readers:

We received the following letter to the Editor below. We have been asked to post anonymously and are so doing. We made very few edits, only to correct for grammar and spelling, if necessary.

The opinion is that of the author and the author alone.

We do not necessarily endorse the positions the author has taken and our publication should not be deemed to be said endorsement. We always appreciate reader involvement and hope to be able to provide a voice to those who want one, without judgment as to the soundness of the arguments. We wholeheartedly welcome letter like the one below, in the interest of civil discourse.

There is a common thread in many comments, namely that the Haredi community wants “inclusion” but then demands segregation, wants respect but then offers none in return, wants to be able to uphold religious values without upholding civic values and lacks a general civility in many of its practices.

We offer to the Haredi community some insight through these letters. We hope that they will, in the interest of core Jewish values of decency, honesty and integrity, understand that we have been trying to approach these issues respectfully.

LM

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

Shutting down RUOC and the likes will not change widespread public perception of the Haredi community’s behavior. I am a child of immigrants, a native NYer born on the UES, a 33 year resident of the Jersey Shore and someone who has been very close to individuals from the Jewish community both personally and professionally throughout her life. I have had very close friends in the past from all the segments of the Jewish community – Modern Orthodox, Israeli, Conservative, Reformed and the like. There is nothing in my background that would have been a recipe to breed anti-Semitism. I also have multiple graduate degrees and research publications so I am well educated, well read, and informed. I do not succumb to stereotypes or prejudices easily without examining them thoroughly though I am still human like
everyone else.

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Haredim, Not Ultra-Orthodox, A Linguistic Change and “Otherness”

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2014.

Valid Point, Ultra-Orthodox May be Derogatory. Thanks for the Clarification – But Which Jew is the “Other”?

Dear Reader:

We have been using the term Ultra-Orthodox since this blog’s inception, primarily because Hared, Haredi or plural Haredim are Hebrew words; and because knowing the difference between those who view themselves as “Hasidim” and those who do not is simply too hard to define. We have not intentionally been trying to offend, demean or place any group into the category of an “other”. When we have referred to radical – we have used the term “radical” or “fundamentalist”. 

However, the point of the opinion below, posted in the NY Times is very valid and we thank Avi Shafran for pointing out something many of us did not know. We also apologize for the offense.

As to his comments about the “bloc” however, we beg to disagree. The Haredi community tends to vote as a bloc, at least in Rockland County, New York, Lakewood, New Jersey, London, England, throughout Israel, and in other areas where there are a large population of Haredim living together. The numbers speak to that point. We therefore believe that to take offense to the term “bloc” is hyper-sensitive. A voting bloc is a function of mathematics and nothing more.  That said, we are not Haredim so far be it for us to judge; and we will do our best to respect the sensitivity.

There is one thing we would like to point out to Mr. Shafran, for whom we have the utmost respect. The Haredim have chosen to live together in highly exclusionary communities. For the most part in areas like New Square, New York, and Kiryas Joel (n/k/a Palm Tree, New York) outsiders are wholly and entirely unwelcome into those communities. The people who have chosen to make a modern-day Shtetl out of a community cannot then complain about the lens from which the “outsiders” – everyone else –  view them, namely as others. That is not anti-Semitic. It is a function of feeling like a bean in a bag of rice.  Moreover, many of us feel an non-Haredi subtle “otehrness.”

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The Anti-Semitism Mantra and the Victimized, Who Really are the Victims?

 

Who is Really Creating the Narrative?

Weaponizing the anti-Semitism “Mantra”

For those readers who do not know the definition, a “Mantra” is a slogan that is repeated over and over again for the purposes of concentration or meditation. It is, in other words, a form of mind-control. Some might say it can be a form of brainwashing. At it’s purest, a Mantra can be powerful tool for self-awareness, calm, a sense of peace. But, like all else, the pendulum swings both ways. Yin has its Yang.

Anti-Semitism as a Mantra, when used in weaponized form by those who would prefer to  distract attention from their behavior, shields any and all scrutiny. Criticism of the behavior gets viewed through the lens of a hater and not simply an investigator. As such the group, however irrelevant to the narrative, gets to act with impunity. The constant repetitive use of the term anti-Semitism is tragic insofar as it diminishes the value of the events and circumstances in historical context that led to the very word’s development in Judeo-Christian lexicon, the slaughter of millions of Jews.

While there have been other mass slaughters of people in human history, there does not appear to be a similar term for those who hate or show hostility against a group of people. The events of September 11, 2001, rightfully or wrongfully, led to a fear of and hostility towards overtly religious Muslims; but there is no similar word that describes that “group-hate” mentality. While anti-Semite might apply, it has not developed to describe the hatred towards Muslims.

African Americans and People of Color (trying to be sensitive with word use here) were enslaved, tortured, bought and sold as chattel and yet actions against them did not lead to a single defined term. Those who hate people of color are simply bigots or racists. Those who hate Asians don’t get a special adjective to describe them, nor do those who hate… well, you get the general gist. Haters of any particular group for whatever reason are defined under a single umbrella – bigot or racist.

Anti-Semitism was uniquely created as a term by history. It is now being uniquely weaponized as a mantra by behavior. That is a frightening and tragic reality. 

We have stated before and will repeat our sentiments here that the insidious distrust and tensions pervading New York and New Jersey are not foundationally about anti-Semitism. They are about over-development, unequal treatment under the law, corruption, judicial impropriety and a whole host of other indignities being perpetrated upon a myriad of different communities, including Jews. That the perpetrators are in large part ultra-Orthodox Jews is a function of the crime statistics and not a function of the community viewing that group harshly.

At least it did not begin that way.

Anyone who wants to turn the scrutiny of the behavior of: developers, landlords, tenants, not-for-profits, LLC’s, school board members, community members, community leaders and the list goes on, into a discussion of hate is allowing crimes to be committed with impunity. The financial crimes are at epidemic levels in New York and New Jersey, and they are going unchecked; because by shining light we are allegedly declaring war on religious Jews, on all Jews. This is the greatest con in history. It is an outright gaming of our very lexicon to allow a community’s members to act with impunity.  As such we are complicit in fostering the use of the anti-Semitism Mantra as a weapon; and it is being used against each and every one of us. This is a very dangerous precedent. 

It is high time that law enforcement, the judiciary, government officials and even Facebook open your eyes to the improprieties that are being committed. It is a moral imperative for ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed and otherwise unaffiliated Jewish leaders to take a stand against the blanket use of a the anti-Semitism mantra as a weapon. By participating in the repetition of the term you assist in the perpetration of crimes against entire groups of people.

Inevitably this will lead to real, unadulterated hatred. It is just a matter of time. People are getting hurt. Communities are being plundered. This is not victim blaming unless you sit and contemplate who are the real victims in the equation.

Look outside the box that would otherwise group the perpetrators because it is wholly irrelevant that so many are visibly religious Jews. Don’t let them convince you of a different reality. Had they been visibly religious Muslims or FLDS, or any other visibly religious group, there would not be a special word, to be used to create smoke and mirrors. Anti-Semitism is not the problem. 

But, a warning for the weary, tread that fine line of scrutiny and criticism carefully and be mindful. It is a treacherous road to travel. There are many innocent and visibly religious Jews who are being harmed both by the crime epidemic and by the repetition of the mantra. And they are worse off than everyone else.

Was Rise Up’s Private Page Removed by FB or Hacked? Rise Up’s Website

rise up ocean county

Dear Readers:

We are not sure that Facebook unceremoniously removed the private group of Rise Up Ocean Count, but as of this afternoon it was gone. So, we would direct you to their website: 

www.riseupoceancounty.com

Again, while we did not endorse many of the comments on the Facebook page, we admired much of the investigative work that was being done on behalf of the disenfranchised in Ocean County. 

We are also firm believers in free speech. We believe that it should not be chilled, neither by lawsuit nor by removal unless there is a risk of violence or a threat of life and limb. We do not like hate speech. We don’t tolerate it here, beyond some measure of allowing people to vent. 

Once you go down the silence path, it is a very, very slippery slope that ends somewhere on the cliff of Americans being denied other constitutional rights, due process, for instance. We are also all too aware that money buys almost anything and everyone seems to have a price. We don’t.

Or, Americans who are sick being carted off in boxes.  See Video of Chinese response to Caronavirus here.

We are also of the firm belief that anti-Semitism is a really easy and apparently thorough mantra to sling around when you want to be able to hide criminal endeavors. Scary stuff…. The industriousness of it all is somewhat shocking.  But its use as a mantel on which to hang one’s hat also diminishes the value of the history that gave meaning to that term. 

To the 18k + followers of Rise Up Ocean County, we are hereby advising that we will accept stories dealing with fraud and criminal endeavors after independently verifying the research. We will not publish anything based solely on articles in print. We will also try and direct our readers. 

Free Speech at Zuckerberg’s Convenience, Not Free at All – the Hypocrisy and the NJ Politburo [RUOC]

Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a podium at Georgetown University

Facebook’s Hypocrisy and the Chilling of the Free Speech of Eighteen Thousand Followers – an Opinion

Dear Readers, 

The following is a small portion of a text of commentary addressing comments made by Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg during his soiree with Congress. It speaks to the limits of his abilities to, on the one hand, promote free speech and on the other hand continue to run a company without pandering to powerful forces that want speech censored. Conversely, it questions the legitimacy of Zuckerberg’s claims to support free speech when Facebook’s add’s algorithms filter what a viewer sees to guide the direction of speech. We will not address the converse point here.

This blogger wholeheartedly maintains that there is a vast difference between censoring sites that assist terrorist organizations with recruitment (inciting violence or acting toward the commission of a crime) and censoring sites that shine light on the disenfranchisement of an entire community (even if it does, ultimately target a specific group because that’s the lay of the land). 

It is one thing to live in a country where speech is not expected to be free so when free speech is permitted, it is a surprise to everyone [China/Russia, for example]. It is a whole other thing to live in a country where the principles of the First Amendment’s freedoms of speech and press which are well tested in the courts, have settled on a summary that speech should always be free unless it incites violence, is used in the commission of a crime or is defamatory. That last one remains free, however, but can be subject to redress and is carved out by the need to defend one’s statements.

This past week under pressure from New Jersey’s Governor and Attorney General, Facebook removed a group – Rise Up Ocean County. The site was supported by 18K followers, mostly from New Jersey and New York. It was reviled in large part by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community because the goal of the site crossed paths with ultra-Orthodox Jews by virtue of the Ocean County, New Jersey landscape.

In the end the voices of 18K people were not free at all. And, all of the work and research that went into that site, investigatory material that should have been viewed by law enforcement as a means to enforce laws, was chilled. The people on that site were not terrorists looking to recruit. They were not inciting violence. Their speech should have been protected and Zuckerberg should have used that as a cause célèbre for his alleged support of free speech.

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