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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More Economic Terrorism

I find the economic terrorism coming out of the Chareidi community to be particularly infuriating, especially in light of recent reports regarding the employment and state of poverty in this community. The Chareidi entrepreneur and business owner does not just have to deal with the usual headaches of red tape and tax. The Chareidi entrepreneur has to deal with self-appointed Vaadim that look to enforce standards of tzniut through duress. I believe this would be a bigger headache than dealing with just about any other red tape. Even if the business owner has secured permits, completed legal paper, and paid their taxes, the businessman always has to watch their back as idle and unstable men with plenty of time on their hands look to "enforce tznius standards."

Since I've started this blog, I've seen so many stories of businesses attacked by these self-appointed Vaadim. Anything relating to women seems particularly susceptible. In Israel, we've seen stories of clothing boutiques being threatened and even set on fire. A popular vocation for kollel wives in Israel is cosmetician services. But don't dare advertise your business in Modiin Ilit! The kehilla committee, has told publications that they are not to publish advertisements for eyebrow shaping, even if the ad is text only. Pharmacy and grocery stores in Israel face special challenges regarding kashrut demands and specific opening hours. Under normal circumstances the market would dictate things like opening hours or even having separate shopping hours or areas for which feminine products are to be secluded. But the Chareidi business man or the business man looking to establish a store in a Charieidi area knows that demands must be met even if the market might dictate a different policy. American pharmacy owners in areas like Boro Park or Lakewood also face similar challenges.

Even in America, a boycott was announcement when the owner of sheitel shop on the same street as Yeshiva Chaim Berlin refused the demand of some man to remove framed pictures (I guess this is better than requesting the removal of real live women walking around in the same sheitels).

So what is the newest report of economic terrorism? It regards an ice cream store (!)-- not a sheitel shop, not a women's education program, not a call center manned by Chareidi women, a cosmetician advertising eyebrow shaping services, a women looking to sell clothing, a woman looking to teach the arts to other women and girls, or a pharmacy being told to keep the pads out of public view or remove/cover a picture of a teen star (in a sheitel of her own no less).

As per this report published today, a new ice cream and candy store, Zisalek of Geulah, has found itself in the middle of a hashgacha battle and has faced protests regarding tznius, hashkafa, and ruchniyus. The store owner met with protesters and agree to institute the following to appease them:

1. The store won’t sell on Erev Shabbos after 1 p.m. ice cream that can be eaten immediately, such as ice cream cones, and will only sell at that point packaged ice cream that can be bought for families for Shabbos.
2. The store will not open on Motzoei Shabbos.
3. The store will close at 10:30 p.m. each night.

The store owner wouldn't agree to have female employees only sell to females and male employees only sell to males. (The quick way to bankruptcy!)

Running a business and making a profit is very difficult work! Profit margins in nearly every industry are normally very slim and adding demands that increase the most costly area of business (payroll) is sure to topple a business. To place demand upon demand upon Chareidi entrepreneurs looking to support their families in dignity is nothing but Economic Terrorism. The market will decide if it is in the best interest of a store to close at 10:30pm! The market will decide if it is in the best of the store to have an employee scooping ice cream after 1pm on Erev Shabbat!

I think it is obvious that self-appointed tzniut vaadim aren't the least bit interested in the financial health of their communities. (I'd argue that being self-supporting is integral to tzniut/dignity. "Hustling" certainly lacks dignity). Leaders, both lay and Gedolim, who are interested in the financial health of the community MUST tackle this issue with courage and allow businesses to function and prosper.


Anonymous said...

In the real world, if a neighborhood makes it too difficult to run a business there, well, that neighborhood won't have businesses.

In the 70's and 80's, there were areas in NYC where the incidence of robbery was just so high that stores simply could not survive there. Guess what, those stores closed, and the neighborhoods lost their local stored. Then a few years later, the term "underserved communities" was invented for such neighborhoods.


ProfK said...

Okay, I must be having a very dense moment, but please explain to me how selling an ice cream cone to be eaten after 1:00 pm on a Friday in any way, shape or form has anything to do with hashgochah, halacha, tsnius or ruchnius?! Sorry, but someone has a screw loose somewhere, many screws loose. And with this many loose screws the "machinery" of these communities is going to crash and burn, taking the communities with them.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Many screws loose. Lettem. But we should all be shouting loudly and repeatedly that this has NOTHING to do with Torah or Judaism. What's more, intimidating innocent businessmen and imposing unnecessary restrictions on them is possibly a violation of the Torah's concern for businesses and property.

Does anyone actually think this is what Hashem wants for Am Yisrael?

Anonymous said...

See this somewhat related post from Frum Satire.

Ben-David said...

There is a direct connection between this nonsense and the charedi community's disconnect from economic reality.

If they were working and earning like everyone else, they'd regain a sense of proportion. They'd also have some other basis for their self-esteem other than humra-based one-upmanship.

tesyaa said...

Okay, I must be having a very dense moment, but please explain to me how selling an ice cream cone to be eaten after 1:00 pm on a Friday in any way, shape or form has anything to do with hashgochah, halacha, tsnius or ruchnius?!

Maybe they want to make sure that the store closes up on time and workers have the opportunity to get home well before Shabbos starts. Maybe they don't open Motzaei Shabbos because of fear of chillul Shabbos; workers might prepare to come in while it's still Shabbos. I don't know why they want a 10:30 closing on weeknights; this seems the most unreasonable to me.

rachel q said...

make sure the women remain ugly, badly dressed, and ignorant. remove any outlet for the men, then complain when the men had affairs

Anonymous said...

The motzei Shabbos closing is to prevent teenagers and young people from meeting eachother there after Shabbos - the pizza shop problem in Lakewood. The closing at 10:30 p.m. likewise. I recall the song in The Music Man "Trouble" about pool halls and the danger they pose to the youth. We used to meet in the library Friday afternoon in high school - great hang out! But the chareidim managed to make the public library off limits these days.

BrooklynWolf said...

We used to meet in the library Friday afternoon in high school - great hang out!

Heh. That's how I met my wife. :)

Maybe they want to make sure that the store closes up on time and workers have the opportunity to get home well before Shabbos starts.

Doubtful. Were that the case, then the "decree" would be to close by 1PM, not to ban certain types of ice cream from being sold.

The Wolf

Miami Al said...

If you want to open an Italian Restaurant in Little Italy, you need to deal with Cosa Nostra.

Police were run out of parts of New York through people like Al Sharpton and incidents like Tawana Brawley.

The Chareidim are simply following the 1960s-1980s inner city ethnic politics...

They don't learn real history, just whitewashed history, so they don't learn how devastating this behavior was to those communities, but hey, to each their own.

The Christians observe their "Sabbath" (technically the Lord's Day on the first of the week, but called the Sabbath in the vernacular since the Church banned observing Shabbat as the Sabbath over 1000 years ago -- but note that the Latin derived name for Saturday in Spanish is Sabado), the Jews observe it from Friday at Sundown until Saturday at nightfall, and the Chareidim observe a 48 Sabbath (at least for Ice Cream shops) from 1 PM on Friday until noon or whenever it opens on Sunday.

I try not to judge people for having a different religion than myself.

The Charedim are certain "Jews," but none of this behavior is anymore Jewish or Orthodox than the Reform Jews consumption of pork, but they are still Jews and we don't focus our efforts on their economic behaviors.

JS said...

I think the issue is the ice cream cone itself. Think about it. All that lick, lick, licking.

Highly non-tznius.

Ilana said...

If you had not the used the word Chareidi, I would have assumed it was referring to the repressive Muslim countries.

Bob Miller said...

Would a Jewish ice cream truck solve the "problem"? Jewish communities need both ice cream and good humor.

Anonymous said...

In my area, we have no kosher resturants, despite a fairly large Jewish community, due to interference from the local rabbinical counsel. People complain, including one of these rabbis, about having to travel to New York for a resturant meal and falsely claim that Jews in our area just arn't cultured enough to appreaciate a good meal.

Margaret said...

My tentative guess would that the ruling is in place because someone has assumed that people can't count hours themselves, and so will be milchig come shabbos unless the rabbis intervene and close the shop early enough. (Note the helpful assumption that everyone waits 6 hours between meat and dairy.)

joerambam said...

I apologize for not emailing you directly but I don't know how to reach you.

You are a truly incredibly rational person with in the Jewish Community. I'm not sure how familiar you are with Baltimore but Yeshivat Rambam is an incredibly important part of the community and it is being threatened as we speak. Please help us out by posting information about this blog:

You can link the blog, post the posts verbatim, anything. We need the community to see these posts.

Please help us.

Rambam Lives 2010

Tizku L'mitzvot

Get off your high horse said...

Wow. Did everyone forget their high school teachings? There is an apparently little-known psak halacha in the Mishna Brurah (a contemporary Torah scholar whose rulings most Orthodox would follow) that says that we shouldn't really eat anything after Chatzot (noon per hebrew times). That could be one reason they're hiding behind.

A more likely line of reasoning would be that they don't want men and women socializing in the ice cream shop together on Friday afternoon either, since most of the boys/girls are off Friday afternoon in Israel. That would also explain why the store can't be open on Saturday night. I'm not suggesting that this is definitely the reason, but it's probably a pretty good guess.

My next guess would have been Margaret's.

I think it's patently ridiculous that this is the way they are applying the laws of Judaism and I would never follow these rules for myself, but at the same time I do respect their right to want these rules for themselves. After all, we're all chuckling at them like they're fools, but they're probably right... leaving the pizza shops and ice cream stores open does lead to inappropriate conversations (in their views) between men and women. Can we just allow them to live their lives the way they want without ridiculing them?

Now, the next question is why are they attaching their beliefs to the ice cream store owner? Did they throw a brick through his window or simply informed him that they wouldn't give him a hechsher? Multiple posters have written that it's a free world and the markets should dictate when the store is open... that's exactly what is happening. This ice cream shop is entitled to be open, but is not entitled to this group's hechsher. The last time I checked, a hechsher is a copyrighted trademark for the group to use as it sees fit. And if they didn't want their hechsher associated with a store that is potentially encouraging men and women hanging out together, it's their right and prerogative to yank the hechsher. And so they did.

It's the store owner's desire to remain in their good graces that brought him back to the bargaining table. He willingly changed his hours, etc., because he knows that the market will NOT support his store unless he does.

That's what we call "using your economic muscle", and it's pretty much the definition of capitalism, isn't it? I would have felt much better about it if they hadn't done anything, but they aren't required to support the store.

Did no one else see it this way? Is it just "they're charedis, so they must be crazy and wrong?" They had the customers, they had the ability to steer the customers away from the ice cream shop, they used their power to get the store to conform. Sounds about right to me. The owner is entitled to open his store any way he sees fit, but he's not entitled to their customers.

aml said...

This is one of the main reasons we moved out of a large Haredi community. We'd rather live in galut than deal with this nonsense. These people think they represent God??

Mike S. said...

One really ought to distinguish between violence and threats of violence, which might properly be called economic terrorism, and boycotts, denial of hechshers and the like, which would properly be called using the market. A rabbinic organization that organized a boycott or denies a hechsher to an establishment that does not conform to their sense of modesty is no more practicing terrorism than is a health advocacy group running anti-smoking ads to try to persuade people to stop buying tobacco products.

One can certainly argue about the merits of the group's goals and standards, but withholding patronage and trying to persuade others to do the same is an entirely legitimate tactic in the marketplace. Smashing windows, burning stores, throwing bleach and the like are not.

anon1 said...

The authorities and the market are not quite the same, if the actual preferences of the market are being overridden by the authorities. It's the clout that authorities have vis-a-vis public behavior that induces the merchant to negotiate.

Also, why can't the religious community be trusted by its leaders?

Orthonomics said...

Can we just allow them to live their lives the way they want without ridiculing them?

I don't post this to ridicule. I receive numerous solicitations that break my heart. I want the Chareidi community to be able to prosper and to be a light upon the nations, as well as a shining example of Torah to the rest of the Jewish kehilla. Tying their hands economically is tragic. The Torah and Chazal are very concerned with property and business. I'm happy to place my concerns here, rather than with self-appointed committees that I think use underhanded tactics to constantly move the bar re: what is acceptable. This will certainly crush economic opportunity. Also, the comments in every article I have read indicate that many in the public feel they are held hostage by these self-appointed committees. See this quote regarding cosmeticians who are no longer allowed to advertise in Modiin Ilit: "If we allow these committees to forbid things that are not forbidden according to any posek or hashkafa, then what can we expect?”

Regarding Mike S's comments, I think boycotts are overused in this segment. It can be a legitimate tactic, but when every committee can declare that your business is bankruptcing the moral fiber of the community, it is a type of terrorism. And I think a lot of these boycotts are based on faulty premises and are shot from the hip, such as what happened to that big concert in NY.

Get off your high horse said...


Tying their hands economically is tragic.

I agree. Maybe we should allow the stores to open on Shabbat too. After all, that's 1/7 of the revenue per week they're forfeiting.

Of course, I'm being sarcastic to make a point, though I probably beat Miami Al to that suggestion.) I don't look at Shabbat as a lost opportunity for revenue because my religious beliefs tell me that I am better off without working on Shabbat.

Not to draw a comparison between Shabbat and ice cream hours, but if it's something you believe in, then who are we to comment on it? If the protestors want to say that they'd rather not have the revenue generation from an ice cream store that doesn't fit their core values, that's their right. Based on the tone of the article, the protestors acted in an appropriate way. They didn't break anything, they just expressed their opinion via protest.

Ortho, I think you're on the wrong side of this argument. Nothing's stopping the ice cream owner from staying open, but he's going to lose a lot of business if he doesn't play ball. Is it dissimilar from the Dunkin Donuts in Teaneck that chooses to be kosher because they know that it'll help their sales?

Mike S. said...

Having this or that Va'ad declare that your store should be boycotted because it is a threat to the moral fiber of the community is only a threat to your business if customers will listen to this or that va'ad. This isn't terrorism, or even close.

I agree with you completely about the wisdom of calling for so many boycotts. Also about whether these stores really are a threat to anyone's morals. But the Chareidi world will be vulnerable to this as long as everyone feels the need to look obsessively over his or her right shoulder. A little courage would go a long way in stopping this na'arischkeit; if everyone stopped being afraid that showing a little independence would render their relatives out to the 2nd cousins unmarriagable, this stuff would dissappear real fast.

Dave said...

"Any realtor who sells a home to a Jew will never get a listing from anyone who matters in this town again."

Would this be "using the market"?

Anonymous said...

I'm a lurker and comment rarely, I agree with most of your opinions on finance and would love to hear your opinion about my situation. Husband and I are in kiruv, self employed with four children KA"H, our combined income amounts to 46K, we are considering opting out of social security, do you think it is worth it for us? Provided of course, that we invest the equivalent properly.

Dave said...

How long have you been in Kiruv?

BrooklynWolf said...

I don't mean to take this off topic, but unless you meet one of the following criteria, it will be impossible to "opt-out" of Social Security:

1. You are a federal/state employee from before the 80s.

2. You live in one of three Texas counties that opted out.

3. You are a minister with a religious objection to SS.

Assuming your husband is ordained, he can opt-out, provided he can give a bona fide religious reason for his opting out. However, assuming you are Orthodox (from your kiruv work), I think you would be hard pressed to make the case that you are a minister.

Keep in mind that when you opt out of SS, you also opt out of eligibility for other federal programs, including Social Security and/or Medicare coverage, FEMA disaster assistance, government sponsored Pell Grants for education, welfare assistance, food stamps, and so on.

This article might be useful to read:

The Wolf

Dave said...

You have to swear under oath that you have a religious objection; practical objections are invalid.

And you have to do it by April 15th of your second year in Ministry, so if you've been doing Kiruv for longer than that, it's too late.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments. We can opt out within two years of when we started working in the field, we are within that time frame.

BrooklynWolf said...

I'm very curious as to what your religious objection is.

The Wolf

Dave said...

Where is the "should we" coming from anyway (especially on a blog focused on economic factors).

You either have a religious objection to government assistance, or you don't.

If you have the objection, file the paperwork. If you don't, don't.

If you are pondering economic benefits, that is explicitly forbidden by law, and what you are contemplating involves perjury and fraud.

Nice kiruv. Makes me want to become Observant, it does.

tesyaa said...

As an aside, religious objections are often used as an excuse for general objections. Think about the many families who don't vaccinate. (I know that the mumps outbreak has affected some people who were vaccinated, but the cases I know of personally were kids who were not vaccinated).

Anonymous said...

If that is the only way to opt out we will not do so, I do not have a religious objection to social security of course and neither I nor my husband will lie in order to opt out. I had understood from my accountant that there were other basis for opting out which is why I've been researching the issue and why I posed my question here. Calm down Dave, not all orthodox people are crooks.

Dave said...

Fair enough.

On the other hand, I'd start looking for another accountant.

BrooklynWolf said...

Absent a religious objection, your best bet is to move to Brazoria, Galveston, or Matagorda counties in Texas.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

Opting out of social security also means opting out of social security disability insurance. I would price individual non-cancellable disability policies before opting out and I'm sure you will conclude its not worth it. There are other hidden benefits to social security - i.e. payments can't be attached and you can't lose your payments in bankruptcy. No matter how diligent and cautious you are about saving what you would otherwise pay into the social security system, you could easily lose everthing if you have a string of bad luck.

It seems to me that risking impoverishing yourself is not the religious thing to do.

Mike S. said...


To answer your question of 12:46, although that is using the market it is doing so in a way that is unjust and, in the US, specifically illegal.

I really don't intend to defend all these boycotts, va'adim and the like. Most of these boycotts are silly at best, and many seem to me to be against the halacha. But if the word "terrorism" is to have any useful meaning, it ought to be restricted to things far more coercive than withholding patronage from a store whose policy one doesn't like. Nor do I think that Sephardi Lady is right to distinguish between "the market" deciding what hours a store should open and a boycott. The latter can only succeed if the organizers can line up enough customers to make that a market decision (or if the owners fear they can and prefer not to press the point.)

My father refused to patronize a major department store for decades after they treated him in a way he thought was unfair. He had some dispute over billing, on which they quickly agreed with him, and refunded the disputed amount. However, they refused to refund a $.50 finance charge on the disputed amount. I believe he convinced a few friends and family members to join him. Was he a terrorist? Would he have been if his boycott had been more successful? You are entitled to your opinion, but my answer would be a resounding no. Nor were those who boycotted the Montgomery buses. The only distinction between the bus boycott, and a boycott of an ice cream parlor that is open when some teenagers might want to hang out is the justice of the cause, not the nature of the tactics.

RAM said...

I think the main point of this discussion is not about legality but about people's tolerance for social control by community leaders or aspiring community leaders. This blog and its commenters as a group appear to be a bit more free-spirited and free-enterprise-oriented than the Chareidim under discussion. Different strokes...for different communities? That leaves a potential problem for community members who would fit in better in some other type of community.

RAM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RAM said...

My last comment ties in with the famous/infamous 1969 campaign by Norman Mailer for Mayor of NYC on a ticket with Jimmy Breslin. A Mailer slogan was "all power to the neighborhoods". The idea here was that diverse neighborhoods should be run on diverse principles of their choice, tailored to the wants and needs of the residents. Such a system, aside from being anarchic (by design!?) would leave dissenters no choice but to conform or move out.