They do not represent us

Protecting our women from 'modesty police' and restoring our honor.

By YAKOV HOROWITZ
March 17, 2009 19:56
4 minute read.
domestic abuse 88

domestic abuse 88. (photo credit: )

 
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On Sunday, Elhanan Buzaglo was sentenced to four years imprisonment for the vicious beating of a woman nine months ago in Jerusalem's Ma'alot Dafna neighborhood. Buzaglo, a member of a haredi mishmar hazniyut, a self-appointed modesty squad, pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain struck with the State Attorney's Office. Buzaglo, who broke into the 31-year-old divorcé's apartment along with four other men, was convicted of receiving $2,000 from the mishmar hazniyut for his role in the attack, which was intended to intimidate her into leaving the predominantly haredi neighborhood. Judge Noam Solberg wrote in his decision that "the punishment must reflect the abhorrence of his acts... and deter him and others like him." Even though the Jerusalem District Court described the assailants as an "armed militia," Buzaglo, 29, was the only defendant to be convicted in this barbaric attack. According to newspaper reports last October, a series of flaws in the investigation, including a problem with the recording device, enabled Buzaglo's dispatchers - the modesty patrol members - to evade indictments. From my vantage point, it is unfortunate that all those who participated in the vicious beating of a defenseless woman are not facing long prison sentences. But it is a great step forward and hopefully will mark a turning point in the attitude of law enforcement officials to these thugs. AS AN EDUCATOR and a proud member of the haredi community, I appeal to all haredi Knesset members to display moxie and genuine leadership by calling a joint press conference where they repudiate all forms of violence and vow to bring to justice all those who perpetrate these types of attacks from this day forward. They should bring all law enforcement resources to bear to bring law and order to the streets of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak and other areas where these people operate. If elected officials cannot commit themselves to protecting innocent women from vicious beatings, they should all resign and be replaced by people who will. There is no question in my mind that the vast, overwhelming majority of haredi Jews worldwide feel as I do: disgraced and shamed when these events occur, and frustrated that there seems to be little that we can do to remove this stain from our shirts. Many members of our community are reluctant to speak out publicly, fearing that doing so will cause a hillul Hashem, a desecration of God's name. However, I propose that remaining silent in the face of violent and lawless acts perpetrated by individuals purporting to represent Torah values is the greatest hillul Hashem of all. The time has come for us to speak out, telling our children and students in unequivocal terms, "These people are criminals and sinners - and do not represent us!" Our publications should begin reporting these incidents in the news sections of our papers, condemn them in our editorials and call upon the police to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law. We should stop using politically correct terms like "misguided youths" to describe cowards who beat women for sitting in the "wrong" sections of buses and physically assault peaceful citizens who do not dress according to their standards - observant or otherwise. "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 these acts - or the terrorist mentality that glorifies them. THE VIOLENT MEMBERS of these self-appointed modesty patrols are, in fact, a modern-day version of the Sadducee sect - having long ago veered off the path of our Torah and formed their own cult. They kneel to the idol of intolerance and bring the blood and bruised bodies of their victims on the altar of hatred. They only lack the intellectual honestly to declare themselves a new, nonreligious movement divorced of any rabbinic teaching and tradition. But violence corrupts not only the souls of the perpetrators, but also those of the silent majority of decent people who sit by and allow it to take place. And in this 24-hour news cycle and worldwide digital communication, like it or not, admit it or not, these thugs have replaced our venerable sages as ambassadors of our haredi community to the world at large (a Google search of the words haredi and violence generates 26,200 hits). To our great shame, we have allowed these evil people to represent us before the world media instead of our noble sages from whom we receive inspiration and guidance. The Hafetz Haim and Rabbi Aryeh Levine of blessed memory have been replaced by Yasser Arafat and Hassan Nasrallah. Burning garbage cans and hurled stones have supplanted Torah learning and acts of kindness. We must clearly and unequivocally condemn the violence each time it happens in the strongest language. Halachic rulings ought to be issued that those who commit violence against innocent people are rodfim (individuals who present a real and present danger to others), and one is obligated by our Torah to defend the victim and report the criminals to the police. I am posting this column on my Web site (www.rabbihorowitz.com) and I respectfully call upon haredim worldwide to post a comment at the bottom with your name and the city where you live supporting the sentiments expressed here. If enough Torah-observant individuals stand up, distance ourselves from these criminals and demand action from our elected officials, we might affect changes which will restore honor to God's name and end these acts of terror that plague us. The writer is the dean of a yeshiva in the New York area and has authored books on parenting and Torah thoughts. He recently received the 2008 Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education.

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