Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You Might End Up Dead

The following is reprinted with permission from here.

Ezzie: It might be a good idea for people to e-mail this to or print this out and bring to places like shul for others who might not otherwise see it to read; it's a very important piece.

You Might End Up Dead
R' Yakov Horowitz

Once again, charedi Jews worldwide were shamed and disgraced by association due to the actions of a few violent criminals.

This time, it was two weeks ago in Beit Shemesh, where, according to reports in Israeli papers, a group of five charedi young men assaulted a woman for refusing to move to the back of a ‘charedi’ bus where the front seats were reserved exclusively for men and a male soldier seated next to the woman was also assaulted. When police arrived to arrest the individuals, dozens of other chareidi men attacked the police officers and punctured the tires of a police car, according to the newspaper reports.

This once again represents a colossal desecration of Hashem’s name, especially since the criminals who committed this despicable act claim that their violent actions chas v’shalom (G-d forbid) represent Torah values. Nothing could be further from the truth. They disgrace our holy Torah and bring shame to all of us. This is the third high-profile incident of brutal violence committed by charedi men on buses in Eretz Yisroel in less than a year – not counting the lawlessness in the streets during the gay-parade-protest riots.

Two weeks ago, the night the incident occurred, I prepared this column for publication in The Jewish Press. The next morning, I decided not to submit it, as I was reluctant to add to the horrific desecration of Hashem’s name that occurred when the incident was widely reported in the secular Israeli press.

Then, this past Friday morning, there it was for all to see in The New York Times, read by countless millions of people worldwide.

In a generally positive, 1,400-word column on charedi purchasing habits, the writer described, Beit Shemesh, …, a modern, attractive town of 73,000 people. There is a more secular part, with a large mall, and an ultra-Orthodox district, Ramat Beit Shemesh, which is divided into two. Bet, or B, is very strict, with 15,700 people. Aleph, or A, up the hill, is somewhat more flexible and contains 17,100 people… Though the sections look similar, there are more wall posters and angry graffiti in B, and streets are quieter, with fewer women visible…”

“The Egged bus company has special routes for the ultra-Orthodox, so that men and women are segregated, sometimes in separate buses. But there have been riots in Ramat Beit Shemesh B over certain bus routes, with graffiti comparing the company and the police to Nazis and calling Israel “the regime of the apostates,” rejecting the government as nonreligious. On Oct. 21, five ultra-Orthodox Jews assaulted a woman and an Israeli soldier on a bus bound for Beit Shemesh. The men demanded that the woman sit in the back of the bus; when she refused and asked the soldier to sit next to her, they beat them both. When the police came, dozens of ultra-Orthodox men attacked them while the assailants escaped.”

Later in the column, there was talk of the tensions between the two ultra-Orthodox communities, describing the harrowing experience of Ilan Shmueli, 35, who runs ‘American Pizza’ in Beit Shemesh A.

“He opened in the stricter B in August 2005, based on his work in a Deal, N.J., pizzeria.

After six months, he said, “the problems started — they began to throw things at us: tomatoes from the market, hot oil, gasoline.” Some ultra-Orthodox from B were customers, but “the Hasidim, who were a bit nuts,” started demonstrations, which became violent. His sin was to sit men and women in the same restaurant. “I went to their rabbi and I said, ‘Look, it’s like the war of Gog and Magog,’” Mr. Shmueli said. “And he said, ‘You might end up dead.’”

He closed at a big loss, then reopened in A last December with his father’s help. “Lots of very pleasant ultra-Orthodox people come in,” he said, especially new American immigrants.”

I believe that the vast, overwhelming majority of charedi Jews worldwide feel as I do; disgraced and shamed when these events occur. We also feel frustrated; as there is little that we can do to remove this collective stain from our shirts. We do not seem to have a voice in this process at all.

But there is much that we can do to distance ourselves from these thugs, teach our children right from wrong, and l’man Hashem, start protecting our women and children.

Eighteen months ago, when a police car was torched in Boro Park after an elderly Jew was treated roughly during a traffic stop, there were clear and unequivocal quotes of condemnation of those illegal acts and calls for us to act as law abiding citizens by the Noviminsker Rebbi shlita and Horav Rosenbloom shlita in a full-page editorial in the daily Hamodia newspaper and many rabbonim condemned those lawless acts in their Shabbos Hagadol speeches. I posted a column on my website (“Response to the Boro Park Riot”) the day the shameful event occurred condemning the violence and a few weeks later wrote an essay about it that was published in several charedi publications, “Before the Next Time”, where I asked some hard (still unanswered) questions as to why these events are occurring far too often in our community.

These are appropriate responses that ought to happen each and every time one of these horrible events that shame Hashem’s Torah occur. I think that every parent and educator who hears his (her) children/students discussing this matter must forcefully state in unequivocal terms, “These people do not represent us!”

Sadly, I believe the rabbi who told Mr. Shmueli that he might, “End up dead.” Make no mistake about it. These barbaric hooligans who are assaulting our women on buses and pouring hot oil on a decent fellow trying to make an honest living are capable of murder as well. Is that what we are waiting for to finally take action? For a woman to be permanently blinded by bleach poured on her? For someone with a heart condition to die as a result of an assault? Have we lost our minds? Why are we allowing this to go on? Why aren’t we demanding an end to this insanity?

I call upon all charedi publications to start reporting these incidents in the news sections of their papers when they occur and condemn them in their editorials. Additionally, we should treat these thugs like the ‘rodfim’ that they are and do our best to see that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We should stop using politically correct terms like “misguided youths” to describe the criminals who physically assault peaceful citizens – charedi or otherwise. We should use the same language that was used in our papers to describe the horrific beating of a 40-year-old rebbi in Lakewood, New Jersey last month with a baseball bat by a non-Jew. “Misguided youth” implies that they engaged in a prank like a water fight or that they went overboard in pursuit on a noble goal. There is nothing noble about hitting people – especially when a group of men cowardly attack a single woman. We must publicly state that violence is always wrong and it contradicts all the teachings of our holy Torah.

We should also stop blaming the press for reporting these incidents. We would be better served to turn inward and make a cheshbon hanefesh as to why they are happening.

Recently, I posted two columns on my website; Adults at Risk and Running out of Time describing the very real challenge that we face with well-adjusted adults and children leaving Yiddishkeit. Well; in my experience, there are few factors that contribute to this phenomenon (especially the adults who are leaving) more than the shame generated when decent Jews are asked by non-religious/non-Jewish colleagues or acquaintances to comment on or explain these thuggish acts purportedly committed in the name of our Torah.

I would like to see educators, rabbonim and lay leaders from across the charedi spectrum clearly and unequivocally condemn these acts of violence in the strongest language when they occur. I would like to see publicly issued halachic rulings that:

  • Those who commit violence constitute a real and present danger to the safety of the public and one is halachicly obligated to report them to the police (taking pictures of them if possible), and
  • If one finds himself in the presence of a violent act perpetrated by criminals, he is halachicly obligated to defend the victim as the Torah says, “Lo sa’amod al dam re’echa”

I would also like to see all charedi Knesset members call a joint press conference the next time such an incident occurs where they repudiate all forms of violence and vow to bring to justice all those who perpetrated these cowardly attacks.

If enough of us decent charedi individuals stand up, distance ourselves from these thugs, and put pressure on our elected officials to protect our women and children we might restore honor to Hashem’s name and end this senseless brutality.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved


  1. "quotes by the Noviminsker Rebbi shlita and Horav Rosenbloom shlita in a full-page editorial in the daily Hamodia newspaper "

    Why exactly do we need 'Gedolim' to tell us not to beat women? I think there is something wrong with these people's upbringing if there actually has to be a 'psak' about this.

  2. rea, he is not asking us to LISTEN to him but we, human being, are more likely to listen to very important person than "common" people so he is trying to give you a important person so u are more likely to listen and do something about it.

    I'll give you example, Guliani got major support from famous christian guy who deal with broadcast, why he wants his support because he KNEW his people will listen to this christian and will mostely likely to vote Guliani. It is human nature.

    These Rabbis are very important and they are not one you mess up with, you could disagree with it but you are more likely to agree with them because according to majority of the people, they are tzedick and if tzedick say this, people realized, "hey he believed this, maybe i should believed this" - Gedolim only told you the part of whole picture, he also trying to said to you if you see a man who is beating a woman, you should run to help this woman, surprisely most people don't do that, bc they are scared, but gedolim is making serious statements and trying to wake us up or why he bother to tell us. For example, torah told us to not eat the bugs, ewwwww! of course this law don't apply to me i will never do that but there are people out there will eats bugs, therefore there is people who beat the woman out there and heard this rabbis who they might respect to may stop beating the women. Esp Chardi people at bus scenes.

    I hope i make sense! let me know if u are confused.

  3. It seems to me he is not talking about people needing g'dolim to say it, so they stop doing it.

    Rather when g'dolim speak out against this terrible actions, they create a Kiddush Hashem which somewhat compensates for the Chillul Hashem created by those actions.

    It says loud and clear for all to hear( no pun intended;>) that these actions absolutely do NOT represent Judaism and are NOT condoned by it.

  4. There was a "dati" demonstration against the lunatic violence of RBS-Bet.

    Unfortunately, even though the vast majority of RBS-Aleph hates the violence (and not even everyone in RBS-Bet is a lunatic)...only the dati'im were present at the demonstration.

    The Chareidim (and even chardalim) are not going to come out full force and condemn this, even if they disagree. And no, there havent been any Chareidi MKs disagreeing either.

    Everyone's afraid of the RBS-Bet kanaoim.

  5. Subborn - We need the Torah to tell us not to eat bugs and you compare that to needing the Torah to tell us not to beat women??? Did I not understand that correctly? And why are most people scared to help a woman that getting beaten, as you say. This all has nothing to do with Judaism. It has to do with an upbrining and lack of social standards.

  6. Saw the NYTimes article. It really made me angry. Not at the Times, but at the Jews. Do they really think this is what Hashem wants from them?

  7. psrea - ok that was bad example, i am trying to say that there are laws don't really apply to us for example most of us are not capable to murder another human but yet there are people do it easily. But these chardim do it bec they think they did right thing but gedolim told them, "no, it is not right thing to do!" and really trying express this statement very strongly and seriously. Who u rather to listen this halacha? rabbi who learns and knows about this halacha or just friend who just happen to know it. These geodlim are very learned and trying to convince all the world this is not right thing to do and talking to this specific group...

    You will be surprise that people don't have gut to help another person who got beaten by husband, stranger and so on... Because for two reasons 1) they expected another person will take care of this problem so therefore they don't have to help at all. 2) They are basically scared of the person who beat somebody and will beat them if they interfered, that takes a lot courage to approach someone who is daugourous. (i know many people would say they will stop this but if you put this situtation in front of them, they wouldn't lift a finger bc they might be shocked, if you saw a person who took charge of this situtation are most admireable bc they got over thier shock very quickly or react this very quickly, same situation when someone who got accident and need 911 very badly, you will see people will stared at acceident and can't move a thing and expect someone will take charge of this problem, which is rare.)I wonder who stop this chardim to stop beat this woman...... (beside police who is well trained) Anybody could tell me this?

    Torah help us to be good person, yes we need Torah to help to find the right path for us. Rabbis are more personal and more same level to people then Torah and so it is little easier to listen another human then from the book. We need Jusidiam to help to get through this life and be moral person. Why do we need government? Why we need law enforcement? According to John locke (i think) "without government, people will be full of the choas" Without torah, too many choas out there, you notice without listen to torah, it will be choas like these chardim who did not listen to torah, they think they are protecting torah but really they are not listening the torah at all. Everybody have different view of the torah but the question is which is right and who is wrong which is very differcult amoung all the jews because we all fight against each other and not accepting to each other. Torah says, "you shall love your neighbood as yourself" do we listen this or not? Life is not black and white that's why we need torah and (right kind that you agree with)rabbis to help to get through grey matter.

    Again, please let me know if i making sense.

    Ezzie, if you want me to stop, i'll stop. I am not being disrepectful just trying to explain my point of the view but i am welcome to hear different views.

  8. Personally, I think that it's no different than any other community leader speaking out about an issue. It's not that people don't know it's wrong, but it's showing that the community leaders are vehemently against this.

  9. So I'd like to know why the holy gedolim in Israel(R'Elyshiv, et al, who love to stick their noses in everyone else's business) don't say a peep when any of these incidents occur.