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Thank You, Aviad Friedman, for Showing your True Colors

Eytan Kobre

I don’t often write about the Israeli scene, but I can’t silently pass over the interview with the manager of the Plesner Committee, Aviad Friedman, that appeared in these pages last week. The interviewee’s responses were embarrassingly ignorant, largely incoherent, deeply offensive, and entirely un-Jewish.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

kippasOthers more knowledgeable than me in Torah or, l’havdil, about Israeli politics may wish to respond substantively. I just want to make one point.

I know that the interviewer, in referring to Friedman’s learning and davening, his yichus and his chareidi family connections, intended to use all that only to set up and add more power to the following concluding sentence, the second half of which appeared boldly in red for emphasis: “But none of this prevents him from stating that he will do everything in his power to draft as many yeshivah bochurim as possible into the military.”

But I also believe that the writer made his point far too subtly, and some readers will come away with an impression very different from the one he sought to convey. I’m a simple person. When I hear someone who seeks the destruction of my community’s way of life and the values we hold more precious than life itself tout his religious credentials and commitment, I instinctively recoil. It is the worst sort of “some of my best friends are …” condescension, and it alerts me to be on guard.

Do you know why? Because I have been observing the Jewish scene for many years and here’s what I’ve seen: For the most part, the people who’ve done the most damage to Torah and the Torah community are, sadly, those with yarmulkes.

The editor of the most relentlessly anti-Orthodox American Jewish newspaper wears one. The fellow who is the reigning academic “expert on the Orthodox,” wears one; he’s the media’s go-to guy on the chareidim, and he’s “affable and empathetic” too, like Friedman. Having sat next to him during davening, I can tell you he also learns Mishnayos … and regularly smears without compunction countless good people he’s never met.

The academic in Jerusalemwhom the new head of the Reform movement considers his mentor wears one. The fellow who set up a kangaroo beis din to dissolve marriages without a get, whom Rav Moshe Feinstein personally pronounced a heretic, wore one too. So does the fellow who unleashed the “rabba ra’as ha’adam” upon us. I could go on and on. They all wear yarmulkes; I have no doubt most of them have some sort of learning seder, and at least one of them even wears a gartel, at least under his jacket.

So please, spare me the unctuous affirmations of belief that “Torah learning maintains the world” in the same breath as we are warned, like so many North Korean peasants, of the coming “sanctions on the Torah world.” Just the other week, the Forward, too, in the midst of arguing for denying milk subsidies to chareidi children to punish their parents for having them, fervently proclaimed that it is, of course, “important” to support Torah learning.”

 

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