On My Mind; What the Hasidim Know

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    A follow-up to a discussion on the main site. This is a monumental article by the late A.M. Rosenthal, following the Crown Heights pogrom. Well worth reading and remembering.

    July 23, 1993

    On My Mind; What the Hasidim Know


    Let’s all put Crown Heights behind us — certainly, but not now, not yet.

    To walk away from Crown Heights now, with its real meaning and the real offense of New York City’s government still unstated and unexamined, would make it more likely that some other riot, some other pogrom, against some other group would be committed somewhere in America. There can be hope after Crown Heights — but, as always, only when reality is faced.

    We are told Crown Heights is a matter of Mayor David Dinkins’s incompetence. Or — it is a matter of malarkey, that cockamamie story that he did not know how bad it was, nobody told him. Or — the police brass were paralyzed by their own inefficiency and timorousness.

    All true, but they do not add up to the whole. What is left out is what the Hasidim know, why the feeling of betrayal is so deep in them. To understand the crime, understand the victim.

    The Mayor allowed one group of citizens to be persecuted, openly and violently, by another group of citizens without providing the victims with the protection of the law. What Hasidim know is this: That passiveness strikes at the essential difference between America and the countries they or their parents fled in fear and disgust.

    I doubt that any of the Hasidim are foolish enough to believe that in America they would find a land where religious or racial hatred had been eliminated.

    But they knew that in the old countries, the government and the police were on the side of the pogromists. And they believed that in America it was the other way around — officials or police did not have to love you, but they would protect you against the rioters. For them, that was the difference — the law as shield, not knife.

    In four days in 1991, they learned that was not true for them. In their own neighborhood, they were set upon, beaten, reviled, one of them murdered — while the police, knowing and seeing, failed to protect them.

    That is what Hasidim know Crown Heights was about — the destruction of the law, the destruction of faith in the law.

    The bitterness of black violence against Jews is that for both groups everything they fought and hope for rests on protection by the law, particularly against physical attack, in Selma or Brooklyn. Common self-interest in protective law brought Jews and blacks together in the civil rights struggle.

    I do not understand why some Jews do not understand what is in the hearts of the Hasidim, or are silent. They would not tolerate, for a moment, police or mayoral failure against riots in their own neighborhoods. 911 would damn well work. There would be no sympathetic clucks for “root cause” rationalizations.

    Are the Hasidim a little too Jewish for them? Maybe they think only a certain kind of Jew gets beaten up. Sweethearts, by you, you are Park Avenue, by your wife you are Park Avenue, but by an anti-Semite you are a Hasid.

    All right, we all know that Jews can be among the most suicidal of God’s ostriches. But does everybody else have to be that thick too?

    Why does Gov. Mario Cuomo say we should be grateful to the Mayor for all the riots that did not happen? Surely he jests; St. John’s turns out great lawyers, but lesser comedians.

    Why does even the Mayor’s opponent, Rudolph Giuliani, not get to the gut of it — not one man’s competence but belief and trust in the law?

    Why do not African-Americans, who have most to gain from the law’s protection against bigoted violence, not understand they have most to lose from the destruction of that shield?

    I understand the cheapjack black politicians who heat up the streets one day and talk unctuously about brotherhood the next. But New York has African-American officials, business people, journalists, clergy and union people who despise them, easily enough to take leadership away from the slicksters. They do not. Why?

    As for Mayor Dinkins, his future depends on his inner strength. Can he accept Crown Heights for what it was — not a mere chain of command foul-up, but his own failure to use the law to protect the oppressed or endangered? He did not stop the buck. He did break the faith.

    When that is understood by Mayor, public and press, New Yorkers can safely put those four days behind them; not now.


    “Sweethearts, by you, you are Park Avenue, by your wife you are Park Avenue, but by an anti-Semite you are a Hasid.”

    How true that is.


    Maybe because Hasidim “stick out” a bit too much? And the fact that most Jewish racists belong to Hasidic sectors of Jewish society?


    gmab, First of all, your comment sounds like it was made by an Anti-Semite. Replace, “Hasidim” with “Jews”.

    But more importantly, you missed the ENTIRE point of A.M. Rosenthal’s (who was a secular Jew) point.

    Rosenthal is saying that the secular Jews who think they are safe in their Park Avenue homes, and look at themselves as a success, and need not worry about the Anti-Semite attacks on their religious brethren, are fooling themselves.

    To an anti-semite it ain’t matter if you are a Park Avenue secular Jew, a modren Orthodox Jew, or a Chasid. To the Anti-Semite, we are all Chasidim.

    Hitler didn’t exempt the Reform Jews from the final solution.



    Ah. I expected you’d comment. How’re you doing?


    Better since the PETA thread was closed.

    eli lev


    u should thank the hasidim for “sticking out”

    they give u enuf guts to wear a kipa in the street,otherwise maybe u would consider even that “sticking out”



    Yes, I surmised as much. What did you do that to me for?


    eli lev:

    THEY give me enough guts to wear a “kippah” in the street? You make me laugh! When I lived in Miami, I wore a yarmulke just the same (black velvet, yes), and there were barely ANY Hasidim there. And yes, I DO consider that to “stick out” but it’s not excessive. And no, I don’t wear a hat and jacket in the streets (or in shul, actually).


    gmab, was peta your little baby that you can’t do wothout?


    Re GMAB:

    Personally I’m proud to walk in public places with my Tzitzis right out, Capel on and if a non-jew comments even better, e can all do with a reminder that we are still in Galus and we shouldn’t be too comfortable here. Boruch Hashem I’ve never been started with physically maybe because of my strong and muscular look!!!


    That may be true in YOUR case. But Eli Lev makes a vaid point. How many Yidden wear a kipa only because of the Jews unafraid of looking like a Jew. If so many people walk in the streets dressed in full uniform like a Yid from 100’s of years ago, whats the big deal if I wear a kipa on the street?


    btw my last comment was a response to gmab.

    eli lev


    psycologicaly -u &others [subconsciously] may have worne a kipa in miami bec. u knew chasidim in ny & other places were sticking out…

    spiritually- when one jew is strict about his yidishkeit this gives energy to another jew [unknown to him] to also be more adherent to tora & halacha.


    eli lev:

    I happen to be frum from birth, black-hat type as well! No, I don’t wear a black hat, but that’s where I’m from. And I keep my tzitzis IN in public (and private).



    “gmab, was peta your little baby that you can’t do wothout?”

    1) Yes, it was.

    2) Mind your spelling and capitals. It should read “GMAB, was ‘PETA’ your little baby that you can’t do without?” to which I answer unequivocally “Yes.”


    Give Me a Break- I think it’s the Rambam who says that one must keep his Tzitzis outside at all times for various reasons. 1- to remind you of Hashem 2- to be proud you’re a Jew and not try to hide it 3- It’s not Kavod for them to be tucked in.

    Come on please make my day and post back that you’ve taken them out your pants…


    GMAB, why are you so makpid with the capitalization?

    2. Why was that thread so important to you (that you can’t discuss the same issues elsewhere)?



    1. Because we are not “texting” each other, nor are we e-mailing each other. It behooves us to “speak” civilized.

    2. Because “that thread” focused on a very crucial issue, which doesn’t fit in elsewhere.

    Why did you demand its closure?


    Give me a break!! Why do you wear inside and attitude on your forehead with your user name but refuse to wear your tzitis out?


    GMAB: And why is email less so?

    2. a. I disagree with your assesment regarding its crucialness. b. You were were continuously kicking it up with ridiculousness everytime it was dying down.

    eli lev

    to GMAB

    im also ffb but idont know what that has to do with my points above.

    so my earlier comments apply to both of us

    eli lev


    about wearing tsitsis IN/OUT

    please see shulchan aruch o.c. 8:11

    ???? ???? ?”? ?????? ?? ????? ??? ????? ????? ?????? ??????

    also see m.brura [25]about walking among goyim, which seems to be refering only to a danger.

    The m.brurah [26] has some strong words about those who hide this great gift [tsitsit] from hashem which hints to hs very name. One should be very proud to adorn it & show it in front of others…


    My minhag is NOT to wear my tzitzis out.


    Just kidding. Most of the time I wear my tzitzis out. But I make sure they don’t go flying about.


    I believe the Chasidim wear the tzitzis inside, do so based upon the Arizal who held it should be inside (based upon kabbalah.)


    “who held it should be inside (based upon kabbalah.”

    But we have a Chiyuv to go like our Shulchan Aruch Kupshtoi that one has to wear them outside.


    By the way, I said MOST of the time – when I’m among Jews.

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