"...no one talked about the real issue, the victims."
November 5, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

The Shame of Borough Park by Rachel Aviv [The New Yorker] After a child-molestation case, many leaders of the Hasidic community turned against the whistle-blower.
posted by Fizz (27 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I read this today and felt sick. Not just because this is happening miles from where I live, but because I was raised Jewish as well. These are not Jewish values.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:27 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Keeping problems within the community and ostracizing those who dare expose them to the goyim is absolutely a Jewish value. Claiming that it's not doesn't make it go away. It's real, its roots run deep, it is wrong, and it must be dealt with.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:07 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]


I read this yesterday and it's been rolling around in my brain since. Kellner comes across as such an honorable person that this story, while also confirming my worst fears about humanity, gave me a flash of hope too. The part where my heart and cynical outer shell cracked simultaneously was this:
At night, unable to sleep, Kellner paced his house, going over all the details of his indictment. At times, he almost admired the Lebovits sons for spending so much money to save their father. "They honored their father so much," he said. "You can't take that away from anyone." He described their activities as if recounting the chess moves of an opponent. "They masterfully put this thing together," he said. "Amazing stuff." His anger was directed largely toward the district attorney's office. "A thug can only go so far on his own," he told me.
It makes my mind bend a bit to think about having that kind of perspective on people who're trying to frame you for having falsely claimed your son was molested in an effort to extort money. As a species humanity can't be all bad if it can produce individuals like Kellner.
posted by Kattullus at 4:18 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fuck these assholes. Makes me wish there was a hell.
posted by lalochezia at 6:25 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Alabama legislates against Sharia law, while New York encourages private Jewish law. sigh
posted by irisclara at 8:07 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


This has been common knowledge in Brooklyn for years since it got into the community papers here. The Times wouldn't print anything about this for a very long time...

Luckily we threw out the DA. His posters were relentlessly grafittied ("Protects pederasts" was the usual) and not by political operatives, I saw locals doing it.

I've lived next to the Hasids for most of three decades, and, well, if you can't think of anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:58 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's a fun exercise: take any story about Jews or Muslims and replace every reference to anything Jewish with the Muslim equivalent, every reference to anything Muslim with the Jewish equivalent. Then read the story again.
posted by fredludd at 11:54 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Keeping problems within the community and ostracizing those who dare expose them to the goyim is absolutely a Jewish value.

No it isn't. This comment is both incorrect as well as deeply offensive and I'm utterly disgusted and dismayed that six mefites have favourited it and no-one has called it out.

I suppose it could be true that this kind of illegal and immoral behaviour is more common in insular ultra-orthodox communities, but I'd want to see some evidence and understand exactly what it's being compared with.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 5:34 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I recommend taking a look at the references in this Wikipedia article. It's happening, it's real, and yes it is part of the ultra-orthodox culture to handle "such matters" internally.
posted by disclaimer at 6:59 AM on November 6, 2014


> Here's a fun exercise: take any story about Jews or Muslims and replace every reference to anything Jewish with the Muslim equivalent, every reference to anything Muslim with the Jewish equivalent. Then read the story again

Uh... why? I tried it with the first few paragraphs and nothing interesting happened.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:04 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dan Brilliant, take a look at the Failed Messiah website. This is all very real. The shit that the ultra-Orthodox get away with in both the US and Israel is unbelievable. (I think the school-board voting scandal in East Ramapo, NY made NPR a few weeks ago.)
posted by Melismata at 7:20 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I recommend taking a look at the references in this Wikipedia article. It's happening, it's real, and yes it is part of the ultra-orthodox culture to handle "such matters" internally

I didn't say that it doesn't happen or that it isn't real and I haven't claimed it's not part of ultra-orthodox culture. I said that these are not Jewish values.

Dan Brilliant, take a look at the Failed Messiah website. This is all very real. The shit that the ultra-Orthodox get away with in both the US and Israel is unbelievable. (I think the school-board voting scandal in East Ramapo, NY made NPR a few weeks ago.)

I took a look, was suitably incensed and I don't deny that it's real. I maintain and repeat that these are not Jewish values.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 7:39 AM on November 6, 2014 [7 favorites]


I spent a few hours last night reading around this issue. It's fascinating and troubling.

" ...these are not Jewish values" indeed. Every expose I read last night (and there were a lot of them), came from a Jewish author. Many of them having put in years of work while receiving grief in return.
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 8:03 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, lying and stealing, and bribery and blackmail are not Jewish values. Being a moser, though is clearly forbidden in halacha. I [and many many Jewish scholars, rabbis, etc] would argue that in a modern nation applying procedural justice, where Jewish courts cannot physically punish/confine, that mesirah is permitted. Further, even where the law of mesirah might be applicable, there has always been an exception for one who is a meitzar hatzibbur-a menace to the community. It's easy to see how such a concept came up and how forbidding reporting the tax-dodger in your community stayed useful in the history of Jewish communities in hostile countries [drawing attention to that indvidual and community in ways that would create punishment and suffering far greater than the initial crime]. It's also easy to see how insular communities and powerful internal and external politics, with a dash of a shanda fur die goyim/not airing ones dirty laundry in public have applied the laws of Mesirah in crazy [I think horrifyingly innappropriate] ways.
But I think it's dangerous to say that they are "not Jewish values". Not reporting the crimes/misdeeds of a Jew to the secular authorities is a Jewish value. It's misapplication here and perversion of its use to keep the powerful in power [Jewish religious courts CAN'T punish this sort of acitivity and a child molester is clearly a menace to the community] doesn't mean that Mesirah isn't a thing. A Jewish thing.
posted by atomicstone at 8:22 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


Of course they don't stamp out Jews on an assembly line in a factory in Minsk any more than they do any ethnic group or religious community. So on one level it's kind of pointless to talk about whether X is a value of community Y. Some might hold a given value while others are horrified by it. Protecting child molesters from secular justice was obviously not a value of the definitely Jewish Mr. Kellner.

On the other hand, if something is actually enshrined in the internal written law by which a community tries to live, that's probably about as close as we can get.
posted by Naberius at 8:59 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


It is completely ridiculous to paint this as "Jewish values" - and I'm being polite by using the word "ridiculous".

Generally, it's a terrible idea to paint all of one group with one brush - particularly when you're talking about "the Jews" which comprise one of the most geographically and politically diverse groups on Earth.

It's hard not to treat the Hasids as a monolithic group - they dress identically, they refuse almost all communication with half of humanity (the female half) and have only the most limited interactions with the other half, they live in locations isolated from the rest the world, and they vote monolithically.

So, yes, it might well be reasonable to say, "The Hasids do X". To extend that to "the Jews" is, as I said, ridiculous at best.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:09 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


To be clear, and I think I was, hiding child molesters from the authorities is and never was a prophet application of the laws of mesirah.
posted by atomicstone at 9:17 AM on November 6, 2014


I'm so frustrated by how this article---and a lot of the comments---use "Hasids" interchangeably with "Satmars", or even "Jews". Satmars are a very particular sect of Judaism, with values very different from other ultra-Orthodox (among other things, Satmars are fiercely anti-Israel). And a lot of Hasids and ultra-Orthodox hate them for it. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn is not a community; it's a bunch of different sects, whose relationship with one another is on a spectrum from aggrieved tolerance to unconcealed loathing.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:23 AM on November 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


atomicstone: wasn't really meaning to contradict your well-reasoned points about the historical background - but to say that applying these historical standards to the extremely diverse group that compromises "the Jews" in the world today is an overextension.

Robert Anton Wilson taught me to be very wary of "fungible groups" - as in "the Jews have property X". He says that you should always insert the world "sombunall" meaning "some but not all" in such statements - "some but not all Jews protect child molesters/are astronauts/keep kosher"....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:43 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I should add that I have a minor personal beef with the Satmars in my neighborhood... they illegally acquired a federal emergency siren and illegally run it twice on Fridays and on various high holy days as a shofar.

At least once, this happened within a few minutes of getting one of those scary "bad weather advisories" on my cell phone - the ones that you don't sign up for but get automatically anyway complete with a frightening buzzer(*). For about ten seconds, I started to panic, before realizing it was the fake siren. GRRR!

For years, I assumed that this was some overzealous bureaucrat in DHS doing testing - only in the last six months did I discover that this was our local community flaunting the law. Apparently, there have been many complaints (I'm a couple of miles away and I hear it clearly, it's much worse for people close), but, well, bloc voting has its privileges.

(* - interestingly enough, if you go into the guts of your phone, you can turn everything off except an enigmatic "Presidential" alert... I kept the bad weather alerts on but the frequency has dropped considerably, I think partly because there was pushback.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:51 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Keeping problems within the community and ostracizing those who dare expose them to the goyim is absolutely a Jewish value.

I'd say it's broadly a cultish value rather than one common to a single specific sect of religious extremists.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:03 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Keeping problems within the community and ostracizing those who dare expose them to the goyim is absolutely a Jewish value.

You see this shit in insular communities, period, and the more prominent the offender and the more insular the community the worse this is. You see it in the Amish communities that similarly protect child abusers and toss out victims who report, you see it in small towns who retaliate against the girl who went the police when a star high-school football player reports her. You see it in Happy Valley with the Penn State community that closed ranks around Joe Paterno, you see it in Hollywood with the continued adulation of Roman Polanski, you see it in Christian megachurches when a pastor is exposed for racketeering/domestic abuse/sexual abuse/take your pick and rather than condemn their religious leader they condemn the people who brought charges against him. There may be a Hebrew term that the Orthodox can twist to justify this behavior, but that behavior is seen all across the human species.
posted by schroedinger at 12:26 PM on November 6, 2014 [14 favorites]


Fuck any community that hides kiddie fiddlers from the real, actual, we've collectively agreed on it as a society and that's what it is, law. (I personally have beef with how the science fiction community in the 70s through 90s hid various ones.)

Religious law is such a bullshit thing to hide behind in abuse cases like these.

"He's a good man, we can't tarnish the community's honor..."

Shame on them all, catholic, muslim, hasidic, mormon, etc, etc. Shame is too kind punishment for perverting justice, and closure from abused victims. Shame is far too kind.
posted by Catblack at 4:46 PM on November 6, 2014


What special rights can the public government pass onto self-governing communities? I'm probably looking up the wrong terms on Google here.

I don't think it has much to do with religion. Any society with rigid structure/leadership and divisions between those in and outside the group has the potential to become corrupt. (Not that the wider public government is reliably less corrupt, but still.)
posted by halifix at 5:41 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fuck any community that hides kiddie fiddlers from the real, actual, we've collectively agreed on it as a society and that's what it is, law.

Previously.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:45 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


What a frustrating and disgusting story. Ugh.
posted by homunculus at 8:56 PM on November 7, 2014


This just makes me so angry. Yet another example of "if you report sexual abuse, the only one who gets in horrible trouble is YOU," except it's even worse this go-round. He's just trying to be a good dad and protect his kid and the community utterly betrays them for years on end, because god for fucking bid you go "outside" the wonderful, wonderful community.

GRRRRRRRRRRR.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:24 PM on November 8, 2014


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