Op-Ed: Stop The Obsession With Our Religion [Responding To A NY Post Column By Maureen Callahan]

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ywe[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

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24 COMMENTS

  1. 1. Secular Jews are our mortal enemies.Our continued existence is an affront to their civilization.

    2. Given the increasingly anti-religious bias in the “blue” states, we should be moving out of northeast, and especially away from New York City.

  2. Excellent article! I don’t read the NY Post and have no idea what happened but I can guess. Remember the whole tumult with the headline they ran, after Mr. Stark was murdered? The Post is known to hate Frum Jews like poison and will always make a mountain out of a molehill. As throughout history, it was always the Shoneh Uperush that caused us the most Tzaros.
    Thank you Mr. Spitzer for standing up for the kavod of Kllal Yisroel.

  3. She must have been very unhappy. Her family rejected her and she must have have missed them terribly. If a child from a frum home leaves the “derech” the family should always leave the door open for him/her and not shun him/her. As a parent I would always show unconditional love for my child.

  4. Well said. Here’s an idea. I don’t know why but the Post is the paper of choice of many Chasidim. How about they all boycott the paper? Money talks and the higher ups there look at the bottom line. And if they see their #’s drop by several thousands per day they will put an end to Chasidic bashing.

  5. This is so good! If Barry Spitzer really wrote this all by himself then we really could be proud of Chasidim! Was this posted anywhere in the secular media?

  6. Yes we do alot of Chesed, but only to other Yidden. Even though we know that the Creator keeps on creating all Humans every minute, every single day. We must emphasise the beauty of Chesed and kindness towards all People. Hashem Yerachem.

  7. Good job barry.

    Yes it is indeed very painfull when a member of the tribe abandons the faith. Otd’s usually end up being at the forefront of our ill wishers. Great point after abandoning us they hit us for not running after them (isn’t this what they had in mind when they said they want nothing to do with us?)

  8. When it comes to sensationized stories with utter disregard for the truth, the Post is second only to Fox News.
    BTW Both are owned by that pillar of Pulitzer journalism, Rupert Murdoch.

  9. What an excellent piece of writing. It would be equally possible to change the word “Chasidic” for Torah observant Jew in most of the contexts. The Yeshivish, Litvish and certainly Sephardic frum communities also have their minhogim and dress codes, which may not be as obvious to outsiders as those of the Chassidim, but the trust of the article certainly applies to those communities as well. The reason why this terrible suicide, and every suicide is terrible, is being dissected is because eisov sonei es Yaakov, and that will not change however many excellent articles like this are written and however many kiddushei Hashem, Hatzola and similar organizations make.

  10. Excellent article and most “Chassidim and Frum people in general reflect it. All you hear in the press is the negatives.

    akuperma: As to secular Jews, their attitudes are better than they were in the past.

    As to #2. Why do you live in such an environment if you feel that way. Just because it’s not NY? Jews are more accepted in NY than most other places, since they have political clout and political acumen. There are very few Jews in Baltimore that have those political skills and you don’t have the numbers or influence as NY Jews do.

  11. Barry, I like the fact that you wrote in response to the POST, as it’s none of their business to expose to world our internal community shortcomings, as we all know they don’t do it out of love for us or our way of life.

    However as long as we will continue to be ignorant and in complete denial of whats really going on in the community and properly deal with our issues, we are the ones giving trash tabloids the fuel to trash us.

    You’re article is a perfect example of what’s wrong with our so called leadership. If you would have simply written that although our community is not perfect by any means and we make plenty mistakes, our overall way of life is more beautiful and stable then any other, and we take seriously wake-up call events and strive to better ourselves and our systems, it would have been a nice article. But you couldn’t write that, since that would be a blatant lie (and you know it), so you chose to do what we do best, deny deny deny that anything is wrong.

    If untruths is a problem with you, you should have checked some other facts before writing. For example, although the suicide rate in the USA is about 0.000125% (40k/320mm), that rate is almost double in our Heimishe community to the tune of about 0.000268%, because the tragic suicide of Faigy was not the only one within the last year, but there were about another 29. Because those were not 20 floor drops it wasn’t as sensational, no post article, so we the community felt quite comfortable to simply ignore it and pretend that it’s all good.

    You are also factually wrong on most other issues as well, but too numerous for a factual rebuttal in this forum.

    Barry, I know you personally and I know you meant well when writing this article and trying to protect the community. However the community would be much better served should people like you do some real fact checking, by speaking to community ASKANIM (most of them doing tireless work LO AL MENAS LEKABEL PRAS), get educated, and then with our heads held up high admit to our shortcoming, roll up our sleeves, and offer to help out for real. Becasue writing articles that simply once again tries to shove everything under the rug will bring no benefit but ultimately lead to bigger problem.

    May H’ help you in all your positive endeavors.

  12. On a side note:
    “Judaism is not a religion but a lifestyle. For what religion describes ‘their Torah’ as ‘life’? As Avos D’Rebbe Nosson (34:11) says, ‘Torah is called Life,’ as it is stated, “It is a tree of life for those who grasp it and its supporters are praiseworthy.” [(Mishlei 3:18 and 4:2) see also Devarim 4:10 and Medrash Tanchumah, Parshas Ki Savo 2.]

  13. I don’t get what the big deal is. Not only is the article full of blatant lies that could easily be disproved, but the lies aren’t even consistent — there are contradictions within the article.

  14. Basmelech: you should never be tested. Although I don’t agree with sending a child away you can’t be so sure you wouldn’t do that if your not in that situation. You should never know
    Ader: what are you saying that’s what chessed is helping another Jew of course we should treat everyone nicely but the mitzvah of chessed IS to help another Jew.