Ethnic, racial and religious caricatures of oppressed minorities are commonly founded upon debunked but persistent stereotypes that contain trace elements of unpopular truths about them. However. when they are measured against the “great weight” of lies and misrepresentations, those tiny bits of truth often amount to nothing more than an esoteric footnote.
From wooden shtetel to “goldeneh medina”
You’ve heard it said about the Jews that they can be their own worst enemy at times. The most glaring problem with a statement of this sort is although the Jews of any contemporary period have much in common with each other ancestrally, this sharing of ancestry needn’t translate into cultural, political or religious unity.
On the contrary, as the divide between them deepens they become more unrecognizable to each other. The “ways of the fathers” either become an ever-aging distant memory or an opportunity to grasp onto a branch of tree of life to insure that Jews from all generations remain connected each to the other.
The divide widens. People made fundamental choices for themselves, their children and their children’s children. Many came to regard Sabbath observance and the adherance to the Jewish dietary laws as “hindrances” to their success in the “goldeneh medina” (Yiddish: literally, the “golden state”) where, rumor had it, the streets were “paved with gold”. Success of that sort collides head on with “shtetl Judaism” where Jews became “pious” rather than “powerful.”
Would they become Americans born of the era of the “melting pot” or American Jews? Some chose to dress as they had dressed in the Old World, a study in courage while others retained their religious garments but for whom they became a “mask” behind which to unknowingly hide how much they had fallen short of their grandfathers. Those who chose to live as Americans dressed as Americans.
This writer has heard it said by a rabbinic friend that there are Jews who pray, Jews who prey (upon others) and those who do both.
How we define “success” matters a great deal …
Rabbi Barry Freundel became a successful Jewish public figure and acknowledged expert in many areas of Jewish life but especially those pertaining to Orthodox conversions and Jewish dietary laws.
Over the years, Freundel’s reputation preceded him as many non-Jewish females chose the long-serving rabbi of Congregation Kesher Israel to be their rabbi/mentor in their conversion to Orthodox Judaism.
The extent of the damage for which Freundel now bears responsibiity is incalculable. What impact his betrayal will have on the lives of hundreds of female converts whose gerus (halachic conversion) he sponsored-for as long as twenty-five years and who have since resided in Israel-remains to be seen.
“More and more details are coming out and it looks like Freundel has been abusing women converts, treating them like his own person private property for a very long time, possibly decades — going back to the 1970s,” said Elana Sztokman, the past-president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. (“Freundel scandal highlights converts’ vulnerability” The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/freundel-scandal-highlights-converts-vulner… )
The Israeli Orthodox rabbinate-upon learning of Freundel’s arrest and consequent six charges of voyeurism being brought against him-acted swiftly in announcing that conversions done under his direction would not be adversely affected. Time will tell.
The fundamental concern is this: that a Jewish leader, who should have known better, didn’t-a leader who hadn’t gained mastery over himself but instead let his arrogance eclipse his horse sense.
Will Freundel’s misdeeds embolden the dark denizens who inhabit the subaltern Internet world of on-line antisemitism?
The damage he does to the rest of us can be measured in part by guaging the interest and coverage of this story by the professional Internet bigots, a class of people about whom, one might say, is the richly-deserving heir to the pseudo-intellectual legacy” of Julius Streicher, a Nazi party devotee, strong arm advocate I.of “The Final Solution” and publisher of “Der Sturmer”.
Under Streicher’s guidance, the pursuit of truth through the power of the written word had never sunk to such depths-having succumbed to the demonic fantasies of a man whose pedophilia and pathology did not prevent him from rising up in the ranks of the Nazi ruling class.
What’s more? “The Fuhrer” highly regarded him: “If I let Streicher fall, world Jewry would howl with glee. I will not give them that pleasure.”
With that in mind, save the date, January 16th, when Rabbi Freundel returns to court.