[By Barry Spitzer]
I had just finished a phone call with the father of Faigy Mayer, may her soul rest in peace, when I saw a pained look mixed with disbelief on my wife’s face. I asked her what was wrong; she replied that she just read a New York Post column and could not believe the lies and accusations leveled against Chasidic Jews based solely on comments from individuals who have left our community and clearly have an agenda to advance. Sadly, we have all become accustomed to lie-filled writings when it comes to Chasidim, but having just spoken to Faigy’s father and hearing the anguish in his voice, even while he told me that what was being written about him and his family did not bother him, I decided to take a look.
To be frank, what I read is a new low. The column relies on innuendo and lies masquerading as truth, without the slightest modicum of journalistic integrity. Of course, columnists write their opinion, not news, but we do have the right to expect at least some truth in their writings.
There are forty thousand suicides in the United States each year and yet this tragic case is the one chosen for dissection and interpretation. To sensationalize the tragic death of a young woman to further an intolerance and hatred of Chasidic Jews while blatantly disregarding the feelings of the family and the entire community who have just lived through a heartbreaking calamity is, quite frankly, despicable.
Rather than giving credence to the numerous lies and half-truths that fill the paragraphs of this, and other writings, I choose instead to educate you about what Chasidic Judaism is all about. Chasidic Judaism is about goodness, kindness and charitable work unparalleled in this city, and I venture to say, entire country. We educate thousands upon thousands of children around the world each year and almost all go on to become productive members of society. Our charitable organizations help the sick and needy without regard to level of observance. We are a caring, compassionate community.
The regular mocking of our traditions can only be responded to in one way: the way we live works. Our community is not known for teenage promiscuity, out-of-wedlock births, sexual assault and unfaithful marriages. The modesty standards by which we live help us avoid these issues. Our families are proud to dress according to Chassidic traditions. How would you rather have our community’s women dress? Piercings in all areas of the body, low cut jeans with their midriff showing or miniskirts barely wider than a belt? I say: no thanks.
As far as “insulation” goes; our children do not spend hours upon hours surfing the internet, filling their minds with all the trash out there. Nor do they spend their time playing violent video games or watching television shows & movies that glorify violence, sex and drugs. When was the last time a band of Chassidic youth were accused of assaulting someone? Or trashing a place of business? Or shoplifting? Or turnstile-jumping? Or drinking in public? There’s a reason we don’t feel the need to have our children go through metal detectors in our community’s schools.
It goes without saying that keeping these bad influences from our lives has a positive impact on our children’s future. It is something to be celebrated, not maligned and mocked. Going after our way of life is a product of hate and jealousy.
The Chasidic way of life is a vehicle to live in a spiritually uplifting manner, with a higher purpose that has been practiced for millennia. Very few feel the need to leave our community; those who do are the exception, not the rule. We are not bursting at the seams with people wanting to leave Chasidic Judaism because people are living happy and fulfilling lives and have no desire to abandon that.
A recurring theme in these stories is how these so-called “OTDs” feel ostracized by their families and communities. It is worthy to point out that they made a choice to leave. It is fair to ask what precisely they expected of the community they abandoned.
In households around the world, families have to make tough decisions when faced with a child that has gone off the beaten path. Do we try to get them back and hope for the best, thereby risking that their bad behavior will influence the other children who will try to emulate them? Or do we keep them at a distance and hope that they return? I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know that when that decision is made, it is made out of love, Chasidic or not.
Had this kind of coverage been about any other religious group, there would have been an outcry like we have never heard before. For some reason, when the Chassidic community is attacked, the silence is deafening. If the media wants to write bad things about Chassidim go right ahead and do it. But don’t use the tragic death of a young woman as a vehicle to spew hatred.
Barry Spitzer is a proud Chusid living in Borough Park, Brooklyn and can be written to at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @bspitzer
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN