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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Inviting Ridicule, Deservedly So!

On Lag B'Omer of this year was host to the a most terrible evil: the attempted murder of the Rottenberg family in their home while they slept. With Hashem's great kindness, the family was saved, although Mr. Rottenberg was left with terrible burns all over his body.

There have been other terrible events of recent memory, especially the murder of little Leiby, but I call this one the most terrible because the reporting was followed up by defense of the perpetrator. While little should surprise me anymore, defending someone who throws douses a family deck with gas at 4AM ranks is something I never expected anyone to defend, even in a defend-a-yid-no-matter-the-act-world. Blog commentators on VIN, Matzav, and other sites actually defended this bochur and vilified the family, someone who perpetuated what every single Jew and non-Jew I associate with would call by its proper name: EVIL.

Worse yet, an event that I would consider pivitol, was virtually ignored in frum print media, although the silence was later broken by a piece in of "journalism" in AMI Magazine extolling the greatness of the kehilla and its Rebbe. The hard hitting questions. . . . frum print media seems unable to deal with such, much less the social commentary. A near murder in the name of defending the Rebbe's honor, and the response is silence followed by more hagiography when the the interviewing editor got goosebumps upon meeting the Rebbe?

Well, as we seem to continually see, things seem to go from bad to even worse. (Hat Tip: VIN) What could be even worse that a near murder of 6 sleeping people followed by a whitewashed piece of journalism? How about a letter going out months after the crime to New Square followers and friends calling the boy's heineous act some Lag B'Omer teenage "mischief". The letter states: "the most important thing we have learned is that the teenage boy never intended to harm anyone."

This letter, for which the letters writers do not even have the humanity to name the victim, Mr. Chaim Aron Rottenberg, by name and calls the event an "accident", nearly handing the blame for the explosion on Mr. Rottenberg himself. After all, the device was "too primitive to do any real damage." As the teenagers might say, puhleeze!!! Entire blocks of homes have been burned and sections of large cities evacuated when an unthinking driver has thrown a single lit cigarette out of a car window.

What's the letter really about. . . . . . well, you be the judge:

But just as a man has been unjustly harmed, so too has the Skevere community. It is not right to belittle a community of thousands of sincere pious Jews. It is not right to disgrace in terrible terms the honor of a Tzadik and holy leader.

Ridicule is invited with such a letter. The letter drips with arrogance. There is no contrition nor introspection. There is no responsibility taken. But blame is easy to hand out.

So, why is this event and the letter which followed months later begging English speakers not to punish the community for the act of one mischievous teenager who didn't really mean any harm important to non-Skever, of any importance to Orthodox Jews outside of the most immediate community? Here are some reasons:

1. Well, for one, money talks. For a while now, we've continued to see a cult of Rabbi/Rebbe worship developing. We've seen the formula of Tanach of teshuvah-tefillah-tzedakah turned on it's head as quick fixes are bandied about in advertisements that not only bring us segulot in a smorgasbord form to sample! We can buy prayers for whatever we need salvation from/for. We can drink segula wine and wear a silver segula ring that has been dunked 3 times in the mikvah, some of the most egregious. And, for only $12 a month , good children GUARANTEED. . . and if we are lucky, we will win some dollar bills or a room in the penthouse suite too. When we spend our money, we send messages.

2. Two, cult and cultish behavior is alive an well. We need to learn to recognize it and deal with it. And where we see signs of things gone awry, we need to seek normalization.

3. Many shtetle life isn't so romantic afterall. Just the mere fact that this letter could be released with the express goal of quelling some of the criticism and ridicule, and keeping friends and followers, demonstrates the problem of living in a bubble.


Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Makes you wonder who is really off the derech?

G*3 said...

> After all, the device was "too primitive to do any real damage."

The Great Chicago Fire started when a cow kicked over a lantern. It doesn’t get much more primitive than that.

Anonymous said...

No offense, G*3, but that's an urban legend. The reporter who wrote that later admitted he made it up.

JS said...

Letter is pretty outrageous. Blame the victim for his injuries. Don't even name the victim. Paint the perpetrator as misguided and a victim of childhood innocence and mischief.

The reason for the letter is obvious. It's as obvious as the fact that the letter is in English. Donations have fallen. Specifically, donations from the English speaking community of Orthodox Jews.

I don't think money should be going to those communities to begin with, especially when our own communities are hurting for money (see R. Schacter's recent talks), but it especially shouldn't go to such unrepentant sinners.

If they were smart, they wouldn't be disseminating a semi-apology, they would be talking about the great powers of the Skvere Rebbe.

Maybe something like this is just obnoxious and outrageous enough:


On Lag B'Omer disaster almost struck for the Rottenberg family. FIRE! Their house was damaged. Sleeping family members nearly died. The family's father was burned.

They were only saved by the great power of the Skvere Rebbe! As interviews have conclusively shown in his moment of true sakanah Mr. Rottenberg thought of the Rebbe! This mamash saved his life and the lives of his sleeping family members. A true disaster was averted!

Rachmana L'tzlan fires afflict our community every year and thousands are injured and their houses destroyed.

For only $18 a month, the Skvere Rebbe and his holy talmidim will pray for your safety and your family's safety from fire.

Home insurance can cost hundreds a year! And still disaster can strike. For only $18 you have a guarantee against any tragedy befalling your house from fires.

Anonymous said...


I think you've given yourself away. That was too good to be merely an imitation of the art. So tell us, which segulah organization do you work for?


Zach Kessin said...

Well clearly his house jumped in front of that poor innocent boy's Molotov cocktail.


I rather hope that the kid who did this will end up in front of the US District court for the Southern District of New York facing hate crime charges.

aaron from L.A. said...

what,you never heard of"verbrente" chassidim?

Anonymous said...

I read that his lawyer has not authorised this letter and this will not be the boys defence. This boy deserves punishment but at the same time these letter writers going over the head of his lawyer are only making it worse for him. Because their finances are in a shambles their BP branch is bankrupt owing millions to food shops and they are not getting any credit at all they think this boys life and long prison term doesnt count. The rebbe has already put people in prison who have died there, so its not wonder he is sacrificing this boy as well.