Are the Orthodox Fair Target?

Rabbi_E_MayOh it’s those ultras they look different. There is a strange hypocrisy in the Jewish community. Jewish groups are willing to lift the banner of protest at the smallest hint of anti-Semitism. But if the target is the so called “ultra-Orthodox,” all is quiet on the PR front (the very term ultra is deeply offensive).The day before Passover was a double whammy. CNN exposed the “ultra-Orthodox” community in Jerusalem, the host of “Believer,”  Reza Alslan, saying they are the greatest threat to modern democratic Israel.

The most outrageous attack was that of Politico. On the same day it published an absurd anti-Semitic article claiming the Chabad lingers in the deep background between the Trump and Putin. According to Politico, Jewish leaders in Russia, where Chabad is the dominant influence are connected to Putin. Jared Kushner was active at Chabad at Harvard and not only attends a Chabad Shul in Washington… Presto they are all part of the same secret society that has a nefarious agenda.

One has to ask who do so-called responsible media outlets publish such lies. The CNN story never explored the variety of Haredi groups in Israel, including those who serve in the Army. It simply labeled all of them extreme and a menace. Politico did not do even the smallest amount of due diligence in its reporting. Even the most basic fact checking would have revealed that Chabad is never involved in politics. Chabad never issues statements about any domestic or international political issues. Not in the US, nor is the other 90 countries where it has a permanent presence. Its role is Jewish education, the assistance of others and supporting Jewish life.

Both CNN and Politico are not much different than the anti-Semites of old, who lied about Jewish beliefs and practices. Historically anti-Semitism targeted all Jews. Today observant Jews, or the ominous sounding “ultra-Orthodox”  are now the fair target. Media would never dare write such diatribes about other Jews. This new brand of anti-Semitism is not challenged by many liberal establishment groups. Partly because some Jews feel resentment towards their more observant brethren. There is the lingering attitude “if they would not so Jewish they would not attract negative attention.” This willingness to tolerate this brand of prejudice may be reflective of some latent insecurities that some have. As the old saying goes, “anyone more observant than me is a fanatic, and anyone less is a Goy.”

We can debate within the Jewish community, left and the right, the liberal changes to Jewish tradition and those who hold dear to ancient Jewish principles. However, when Politico creates a concoction that there is Jewish cabal between Moscow and Washington it’s a threat to all Jews. When CNN denigrates Jewish observance, it’s a vilification of age old principles of tradition.

 

Rabbi David Eliezrie is at Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen/Chabad. His email is rabbi@ocjewish.com.

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