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Friday, April 07, 2006

Riots III: Making Restitution and Making a Cheshbon HaNefesh
(My final post on the subject)

This is the last post I will make about the Boro Park riots. I am so disturbed by the silence and even more concerned by those who justify the riots, thereby excusing the property damage (one police cruiser was severely damaged, one was completely destroyed) and uncivilized, animalistic behavior. So far we have seen one public letter from Rabbi Yacov Horowitz, a menahel from Monsey and I have heard that HaModia published a repudiation of the riots. Considering that these riots were seen the world over on national television, it should go without saying that this repudiation lacks a punch. I am sure there is a great amount of condemnation taking place in Boro Park, but the rest of the world needs to know that the parents and leaders of that community are upset too.

Also disturbing is, 1. The chutzpah of the frum politicians refocusing the discussion off the rioters and onto the police chief who supposedly made an anti-semitic remark and used vulgarity (quite honestly too, if I had a riot on my hands, I'd use some vulgarity too). 2. The blaming of a non-Jew for starting the first fire. Besides the fact that the picture circulating is obviously a photoshop job, it is downright ridiculous, if true, to blame one perpetrator for the actions of the rest of them. Do these people jump off the Brooklyn Bridge when they see someone else try? No, I didn't think so.

Now that the riots are done, what should be our reaction? Here are my ideas:

1. Arrest and Prosecution: The perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted. I posted a comment at Beyond BT with the other ideas below, but Rabbi Horowitz felt strongly and stated that gedolim agree that the perpetrators should be prosecuted. The thought had not crossed my mind as a viable one that anyone would support. If it is a viable idea, I hope to see Rabbis letting the community know it is a viable and correct option. In my community there was some criminal action by youngsters and when I stated that they should be arrested, I was met with strong feelings the opposite way. I'm thrilled to here that prosecution is an option that Gedolim in America support.

2. Community Service Programs: Restitution must be made. The boys who set the fires and burned a police cruiser absolutely need to work off their debt to society (hopefully as part of their sentence).

The problems of property destruction are not limited to Boro Park. There seems to be a general disrespect in many communities. For example, in the school where I taught briefly, the desks were destroyed by graffiti caused by the students (there is no way to be dan l'chaf zechut when Adina, Ahuva, and Faigy are scribbled all over the desks). In my public school, if you were seen writing on the desk, you were forced to clean not only your desk, but other desks in the classroom over lunch or after school. Our school was clean and nice and beautiful. The school I taught in was a dump and was treated as a dump. My school also had a work program where disruptive students cleaned the grounds of the campus of trash. Needless to say, the program wasn't very large, by virtue of its very existence.

We need to enact common sense, tried and true policies in all of our own communal institutions to encourage better behavior: Behavior that is in conformance with halacha and the way B'nai Torah should act.

3. Cheshbon HaNefesh: I view the riots in Boro Park as a wake up call for all Orthodox Jews. We should all be doing a serious Cheshbon HaNefesh. We should all be trying to understand which underlying problems, attitudes, and behavior patterns are negative and counterproductive in our own lives and in our own communities.

Even if you or I believe that a riot could never take place in your community, this should not be a sign that everything is A-OK. This is a terrible blight on all Orthodox Jews and for it to happen before Pesach is quite devastating. We should definitely use it as a wake-up call when it precedes a holiday based around family and the chinuch family provides.


Steve brizel said...

Unfortunately, I agree with you 100%. Forget about "frum politicians." They have a knee jerk tendency to defend their community and to deflect blame elsewhere. Somehow,we have accepted their roles as shtadlanim when in fact many Gentile politicians understand our needs and problems in a far more profound manner over the years. Think of Senators Borah, Humphrey, Jackson and Moynihan. Think of Nixon and Reagan.

Charlie Hall said...

Doesn't halachah REQUIRE someone who loots or destroys property to make restitution?

kasamba said...

As usual Sehardilady, you are right on target- it's time for us to look into ourselves and clean our spiritual homes as well as our physical ones.

SephardiLady said...

Charlie-I believe that the halacha does. I hope that the community steps up to the plate.

Kasamba-Thanks. :)

queeniesmom said...

As long as there is a sense of entitlement "magiah le' and we are better than everyone else this boorish behavior will continue.

what are all these "bachors" learning in their various yeshivot that enables them to believe this is acceptable behavior?! we have truly lost A LOT if this is what our yeshivot are turning out. Couple this with the drinking on Purim and you begin to wonder what is being taught. It definately isn't what I was taught!

So what are you cooking for pesach?Lamb? Out of couriosity - what is in your charoset? I'm fascinated by all the different versions. Like you I'm Sephard but have realized over the years that there are so many different things put in that there isn't one sephard charost.


Eshet Chayil said...

Speaking as someone who was there, the media blew this thing way out of proportion. I agree with a lot of what you said, but I also think that ot everything was out of line. When you're pushed, do you fall or fight back? I'm not in any way saying I dont agree with what you said, but I was there, and it wasn't all what was written about.

SephardiLady said...

Hi QueenieMom-I should really write a Pesach food post. Our charoset uses apples, raisins, almonds, and wine. There are so many versions, including some with bananas and prunes I think.

We eat meat patties made with leeks, called Prasa (Ladino for Leeks). We also eat some Ashkenazi foods for good measure too, like matzah ball soup.

I'd love to hear about your customs too!

Eshet Chayil-I read your version. It still was a chilul Hashem, even if the media went crazy.

Esther said...

SephardiLady, it is great that you really took on this issue. (And apparently have ticked off a few people!) I know we talked about the classroom vandalism issue when the school I worked at was also regularly trashed and graffitied by the high school boys. The response I got when I contacted the principal was, "Just call the cleaning company to take care of it." No concern about the middos or halacha involved.

It is unfortunate that so many in the frum world are see constructive criticism of our community as a threat or "bashing Gedolim," and immediately rejecting any solutions because it involves admitting a problem. This situation happened - so either deal with it in a Torah-appropriate way or else the community is stating that the Torah lifestyle allows it! (No need to get started on the implications of that...)

Charlie Hall said...

'So what are you cooking for pesach?Lamb?'

My wife and I are hosting our first seder :-) and have 8 guests confirmed. We are serving fish. (Our kitchen, even for Pesach, is dairy/pareve.) We also have shmurah matzah made of wheat, spelt, and oats!

What I'd really like to serve is RICE! I miss rice more than I miss bread. I wish I were Sefardic right now.

SephardiLady said...

Hello Esther,
I was just accused on cross current of having a blog that bashes gedolim. Besides the fact that my blog has done none of the above (unless, looking for ways to make tuition more affordable, putting forward ideas on how to save money on Pesach or Weddings, and talking about common tax issues is bashing gedolim--I don't think so), it is ridiculous to stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything is hunky dorry because our Gedolim aren't currently dealing with these issues.

And, yes, allowing kids to destroy property while looking the other way is, in the mind of a child, a sure sign that we endorse behavior.

Charlie--Looking for more guests? I love dairy foods! Also, unfortunately, not all Sephardim eat rice. But, Chacham Ovadia, I believe, is of the opinion that we all can.

Chag Sameach!

Anonymous said...

children of BT's tend to struggle b/c their parents are absolutists, never looking the other way. These kids need to be educated not punished. Part of educating is looking the other way sometimes and letting the kid learn for himself.

SephardiLady said...

Anon-What does this discussion have to do with being a child of a BT?

And, even if the kids in Boro Park buring police cruisers and causing mayhem are the children of BT's, what are you teaching them by looking the other way?

Anonymous said...
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Brooklynite said...

SL - Keep up the good work.

SephardiLady said...

Thanks brooklynite. I am finally back and it is great to see a positive email on top of the hate mails from anon.