The portrayals are far from flattering and thrust us into a dilemma. Do we ignore the unsavory stories or do we report on them? Do we publicly dissociate ourselves from individuals who have brazenly betrayed Torah ideals but continue to claim to represent our community?
How do we deal with the problem of people in our community who engage in dishonorable conduct? By ignoring it and by remaining silent, we are communicating a message that we tolerate and even condone the conduct. Is that the message we want to send?
We need to assess what we are doing wrong so that we can halt a pernicious trend and improve our people, their future, and the way we are being perceived by the world around us.
We also need to distance ourselves, publicly and privately, from people whom we know to be engaging in improper conduct and giving us all a black eye. There are prominent people who speak in the name of our community, whom we are quick to criticize and disown when speaking among close friends, but whom, for some reason, we never condemn publicly.
The media and bloggers have a field day painting these miscreants as representative of all religious Jews and rabbis. While many of them are motivated by pure hatred, how can we condemn them, as long as we continue to convey the impression through our silence that we are all of one stripe? If we do not disavow them, how can we expect the media and people removed from our community to differentiate between us?
Perhaps we remain silent out of fear. The notion that these people are arrogant and vindictive and will come after us is intimidating. Also, no one wants to be seen as a troublemaker. It can ruin our children’s prospects for shidduchim if we engage in activities which would allow unscrupulous people to paint us as baalei machlokes. People will say that we are negative, cynical, obstinate and arrogant. So we sit off to the side and permit these frauds to parade as Orthodox Jews in good standing.
Prominent shady characters are given carte blanche to enact their agendas and the dishonest are permitted to continue their detrimental behavior and actions. We beat gingerly around the bush, dancing around the edges, afraid to proclaim the truth.
What are we afraid of? Why are we silent? How can we live with ourselves as we see yet another rabbi or religious Jew creating yet another chillul Hashem? It would be bad enough if we waited until the scandal hit the papers and only then took corrective steps, but we haven’t mustered the courage to do even that.
We are beset by so many problems in our community, but if we are prevented from honestly assessing and addressing them, we will not be able to solve them. As any edifice built on a shaky foundation cannot endure over time, an ideological house of cards built on illusions will not survive. Closing our eyes to the facts won’t change them and will not remove the rot at the core.
Dealing with superficial issues which are merely symptoms of the malady while failing to invest time and energy in remedying the underlying causes is as effective as slapping a band-aid over gaping wounds.