Thursday, January 5, 2012

Speaking out against Jewish extremists

Jewish extremists in Israel have been making the news again and, not surprisingly, it hasn't been for good things (is it ever?). These self assigned defenders of the faith have continued to harass women who—horrors!—dare to go out in public in clothes which don't meet ultra orthodox approval. And they even—yes, it's hard to believe—want to sit at the front of the bus, in plain view of the men. There's been a lot more than that, but you get the idea.

Liberal Jews have been quick to condem these despicable acts. And, Israeli politicians have been, too (if you're cynical, you might think that has to do with upcoming elections). But, it's nice that some Rabbis from the Orthodox world are speaking up, too, as Rabbi Shmuley Boteach did recently on Huffpost*:
There is a common thread uniting these stories. Religious extremism festers when decent lay people are cowed into submission by fanatics whom they falsely believe to be more religious than them. But there is nothing holy about Rabbis refusing to teach 2500 young Jews who are pining for Jewish knowledge. More importantly, it is an abomination to faith for men to treat women abusively. A black coat will never redeem a dark heart and a long beard is poor compensation for a shriveled soul.
Their defenders pointed out that these heinous acts are perpetrated by only a small number of Haredim. True. But in the face of Islamic terror outrages we in the West rightly demand that mainstream Islamic leaders condemn the extremists, lest their silence make them complicit in the violence. The Jewish community must be judged by the same standard and Rabbis of every stripe must condemn this abuse as sickening and contrary to the core of Judaism.
* If you click through, then be warned - I have NO idea why he starts talking about the UK Chief Rabbinate, about halfway through. But, until then, I'm all-in with him.

Yes, it may be another case of shooting fish in a barrel, preaching the choir or whatever you want to call it. But, it's worth a second to speak out and say that narrow-minded, petty, hateful, destructive people do not speak for me. And they certainly don't speak for God.

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