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Op-Ed: Discrimination Against Hasidic Jews Is Also Anti-Semitism

kj[By Ronn Torossian]

Every so often I see a press release that causes a double take. Last week’s came from the Town of Mamakating, in upstate New York’s Sullivan County, when I noticed the curious statement, “We respect the Sullivan County Board of Elections for its commitment to ensure that all those who are eligible to vote in Bloomingburg today can vote – and only those who are eligible to vote can.”

What did Town Supervisor William Herrmann mean by this – Is it not obvious that eligible voters should vote? He continued on to say, “No one should be able to stuff the ballot boxes in the America of 2015.”  Strong words from an elected official, talking about “stuffing ballot boxes.”

As I soon learned, the village of Bloomingburg, and the town of Mamakating in upstate New York face a lawsuit that claims they are “engaging in a conspiracy to prevent Chassidic Jews from buying houses, establishing a private religious school, and operating businesses in their community.” The plantiffs allege that these claims are a consistent and systematic campaign to deprive Hasidic Jews of some basic rights.

News articles in the local Times Herald Record and other publications reveal that in the town, Jews have not been permitted to build a mikva (ritual bath), and have been stymied in their attempts to open a religious girls school. People may not like living near Hasidic Jews – and have the right to sell their homes. They don’t have the right to discriminate.

Bill Herrmann himself is quoted in the suit as allegedly claiming that, “the people elected me to stop the Jewish infiltration.” Seemingly, some are concerned about Hasidic Jews moving in. Yet, if these claims are accurate, it is despicable. It is racist and unacceptable to speak of people who “move in and proliferate in their town.”

A Newsweek headline recently claimed “New York County Doesn’t Want Hasidic Jews to Vote: Lawsuit”, which explained that a new Federal lawsuit claimed that the same village does not want Hasidic voters to cast ballots. I find it curious that more mainstream Jewish organizations aren’t backing the Hasidic community on these allegations – I am aware that similar issues also exist in Ramapo.

The Hasidic community undoubtedly brings with them large families, and unique communal needs. But they cannot be discriminated against.

When non-Orthodox Jews in the Pine Bush School district, which includes Mamakating sued the district because Jewish children were subject to persistent abuse, Jewish organizations rushed to condemn the district and called for action. Discrimination against Hasidic Jews must also be deemed unacceptable.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of America’s largest independent PR firms. 

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


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12 Responses

  1. I disagree with you. Yes, this is anti-semitism and it is discrimination. But from a Jewish perspective I do not believe we should be flocking into goyishe communities. If you were a goy who was living Mamakating for 40 years and suddenly it was threatening to look like Kiryas Joel, wouldn’t you be concerned? We have become so used to galus that we think we have all the rights as everyone else. We have to stay on the down-low. If certain yidden want to build a new community then they should do it in a new place – not in a vibrant goyishe town. Yidden should not be high in major political offices either for the same reason. And it’s strange how vehemently anti-Zionist communities who believe so strongly that we should not go to Eretz Yisroel “as a wall”, somehow feel that it’s okay to take over existing goyishe communities outside Eretz Yisroel and make much more noise than they would if they were in Eretz Yisroel.

  2. I don’t know if I agree with them but I kind of see where they are coming from. Chassidim aren’t necessarily the easiest to live around if you’re not one of them and they are taking over the nieghborhood. Even chilonim in Israel don’t feel confortable when their neighborhood is “mitchared”, can you imagine what goyim in America would think? I know I wouldn’t want a bunch of Arabs moving into my neighborhood, much less being able to affect local elections, why don’t they have the right to their own objections?

  3. #2/#3: How dare Jews move into a non-Jewish neighborhood. Jews have no such right. They should live in antholes. The never of the Jews to think they can live somewhere. They were booted out of Eretz Yisroel by the non-Jews, and now they have no right to live anywhere else either.

    Their ought to be a law! A law against Jews moving into where they don’t belong. Lock them up in their ghettos. And put walls around the ghettos. Keep ’em away from good gentiles and irreligious Jews-by-ethnicity-only.

  4. assurnet,

    Please speak for yourself. I have lived with gentiles, Christians a good part of my life. We really got along very well. It’s about time people of our community stop being devils advocate. This slander is stabbing you, me, and the rest of us. If you would’ve been non-Jewish you would’ve been considered an anti-Semite due to the rhetoric without basis. There was never an independent study done that proved anything other than people discriminating against jews are vicious anti-semites.

    The way the law works, if you have any complaint against someone, 1 don’t smear the entire race. 2, take them to court. Slander is utilized only when one knows he can’t win in a court of law, or when he knows he’s guilty of racism.

  5. Toras Moshe – I’m not applauding these people for what they’re doing, all I’m saying is I can see where they are coming from. I’m sure a lot of them weren’t anti-semetic to begin with, i.e. if they saw a Jew on the street they wouldn’t immediately think something bad. However if they feel they are having foreign surroundings and culture forced upon them it’s easy to see why they would feel resentment. Your average American Joe Goy probably finds most frum Jews a little strange and chassidim to be outright aliens from Mars. There are a lot of behaviors that are perfectly normal and acceptable in the chassidish world which would be viewed as pushy, rude, or outright offensive to non-Jews.

    I’m not trying to justify it but at the end of the day America isn’t our country. People can go on about the right to be accepted anywhere as a citizen of a western democracy, but ask your grandparents about how far being an equal citizen in the great civilized western modern democracy of Germany worked out for them. If people want to live in a place where we have the right try and dictate the rules then put your money where your mouth is and come to Israel. Otherwise like smile4life said just keep a low profile and don’t go around getting on people’s bad sides.

  6. I don’t think this is anti-semitism.

    Look at what happened in plenty of other areas. Look at Ramapo, where there are lawsuits over the school system. The non-Jewish residents lost almost their entire school system because the Chassidim who moved in took all the funding for themselves. The fact remains that Chassidim need to be respectful of their neighbors. That doesn’t just mean saying “Good morning” to someone. It means respecting their needs for public infrastructure and thinking of them when it comes to making decisions for an entire community.

    If I was living in Bloomingburg, even as a frum Jew, I’d be hesitant to welcome the chassidim to the area.

  7. Toras Moshe, Would you feel the same if a large mormon, black or other non-jewish group would buy up a whole section of boro park and want to start growing there? You have to look at it from their perspective. Chassidim openly admit they don’t like to mix with goyim or be neighbors with them. The goal is to take over the neighborhood and turn it into Kiryas Yoel. I think any sane non-jew would feel threatened by this. It is not anti-semitism.

  8. joe shmoe – do you realize how many many Jews here in Israel wouldn’t want chassidim to start moving into their neighborhood? Probably a great deal if not the majority of Tel Aviv. So what – are all them anti-semetic as well? I don’t know the full background behind this story, but if it happens to be that there was a well established community of a certain makeup, and all of a sudden the chemistry of that community is starting to be altered because of a sudden influx of starkly different and strange people (be the chassidim, chinese, or eskimo) why don’t they have a right to feel uncomfortable about that? Who says we all have to sit around the camp fire singing cumbaya? These people may have been working hard for a long time to make a common lives for themselves and build a place for themselves and their children and now that’s getting thrown out of whack. Why is it hard to conceive they might have some negative feelings?

    I agree it’s inappropriate to vilify them just for being chassidish, and personally I think any community that would welcome Jews in and accommodate them would see big bracha from shemayim, but if they don’t agree that’s their prerogative. Sometimes people are truly downright anti-semites, but we can’t have an automatic knee jerk reaction 100% of the time that they are. Every now and then people may have a reason behind their actions/feelings which, even if unjustifiable, is at least understandable.

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