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Are Jewish bloggers Antisemitic? Or just Cowards?

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bag manPop Chossid posting the following post on his blog in which he enters the business of attacking other bloggers, it’s a good business, because I shared it on my facebook wall and everyone started fighting with each other. Fink got in the mix, shared it on his wall and his readers also tore Elad a new one. Basically, Pop Chossid did with this post exactly what other bloggers do with theirs. He attacked some folks in the name of good, they attacked him and then the conversation degraded into name calling and rampant unfriending, blocking, and ignoring. Like I said, attacking other bloggers is great for business, but he does have a point, whether or not I agree is a different story. Read the post below and tell me whether or not you agree.

The Cowards of the Jewish Blogoshpere: by Elad Nehorai

When a Hasidic Jew is caught wearing a plastic bag in a plane, they’re there.

When a group of anti-internet Jews gather in a stadium, they’re there.

When Jews in Mea Shearim wear blurry glasses to help them avoid eyeing the ladies, they’re there.

Who are they?

They’re the “Easy Target Brigade”.

The Easy Target Brigade, as I’ve come to dub them, are the Jewish writers, bloggers, and news outlets that consistently attack orthodox Jews doing ridiculous things.

Often, these folks are branded as heroic. As fighting for just causes and rationality and other generally nice sounding things.

I don’t think they’re brave.

I think they’re cowards.

Why? Let’s take the Hasidic Jew wearing a plastic bag on a plane as an example.

A few months ago, a Hasidic Jew was captured on camera wearing a protective sheet of plastic over himself on a plane. This image instantly became an internet sensation. Its viral origins were on Reddit, but it eventually spread to places like the Huffington Post and Gothamist.

Eventually, it became clear that he did it because some rav somewhere told him that since he was a Cohen, he needed to do whatever he could to avoid the possibility of coming in touch with the impurity of dead people. Even in the air.

Pretty crazy, I suppose.

Throughout this whole saga, the Easy Target Brigade swooped in whenever the opportunity arose to attack, “condemn”, and generally malign this fellow.

This Hasidic Jew, one out of thousands of other Hasidic Jews who travel on planes and never wrap plastic over themselves, was a perfect target for the Brigade. Why? He had the two elements that make a perfect “easy target”.
1. He couldn’t fight back.

No Hasidic Jew that is wrapping himself in plastic is sufficiently equipped to respond to bloggers or even news outlets. The dude has surely moved on with his life, uninterested in the secular world’s judgment of him.
2. He was being obviously ridiculous.

It’s nice to have somebody that won’t fight back, but what is even more important to the ETB is someone (or someones) that everyone in their audience feels equally angered by. This person represented something everyone in this camp loves to attack: the silly Hasidic Jew whose extra religiosity makes him (in their eyes) a fanatic.

The advantages of attacking those who can’t fight back, and going after someone everybody agrees is wrong are huge for a blogger or news outlet.

First of all, the topics like the man in the plastic bag and the Asifa are hot topics. They’re topics that boil people’s blood, and that they love chatting about on social networks.

So, by picking to write about these topics, these bloggers are guaranteed success. They could just write a title like, “Why The Asifa Is Stupid!” or “Ultra-Orthodox Jews Wearing Glasses To Blur Women? What?!”, attach a picture, and literally fill their article with gibberish… and they would still receive at least 100 Facebook shares.

Secondly, since the targets can’t fight back, there is no one left who is interested in challenging them. Even the people that have a problem with the way the ETB write don’t want to be seen as favoring people with bags over themselves or anti-internet.

Thirdly, if no change happens, if they don’t accomplish anything with their writing, they aren’t blamed. Because, well, what do you expect from the fools they’re attacking, right?

And so these bloggers are hailed as heroes. Fighters for justice! Warriors!

And of course, they’re anything but.

They’re cowards riding a wave of anger to more hits, more Facebook likes, more noise.

It’s possible that, in theory, they hope that their writing might actually make some real change. Maybe they went into this whole thing with starry eyes and hopes of transforming the world in which they saw so much darkness.

But instead, they’ve allowed themselves to be taken in by the social media bubble. The world of onlookers and cheerers-on who applaud every low blow, every easy attack with cheers and whistles like audiences in Roman gladiator matches cheering for the easy death of the weakling.

Like vultures, they circle their easy target and swoop in while the maggots get their own bites in the meantime.

The interesting thing about all this is that it reveals our own fractured culture in sharp relief.

For example: when a radical Muslim blows up a building, other Muslims are quick to argue loudly and strongly that terrorists don’t represent all Muslims. They point out the billions of other Muslims leading healthy, normal, non-explosive lives.

And rightly so. Bravely so. Hurrah hurrah, good for them.

When certain Jews, or groups of Jews, do things everyone condemns, big or small, fanatic or otherwise, very few Jews stand up in unity. Instead, the Easy Target Brigade dominates the headlines, further reenforcing the idea that there are “sicknesses” and “viruses” in the Jewish community that must be eliminated, and oh G-d, we’re all in danger.

That’s not to say, of course, that we shouldn’t all try to change things, or that there aren’t problems in the religious community.

But what these folks are doing is creating a bubble of agreement. Their audience is people that have no ability to enact change because anyone with that ability is ostracized and maligned by them. If you aren’t an EBT, you are considered one of “them”; the enablers.

And so their cycle of ineffectual arguing stays closed, not changing a thing, and, in fact, making things worse. Further dividing people. Further enforcing a world of “us and them”.

That’s not bravery. That’s not fighting for justice. It’s a vacuum.

The Jewish community deserves better than the cowards. Here’s hoping that more brave bloggers and writers come to fore. Writers that know that change happens by affecting people from the inside and not the outside. That are interested in creation and not destruction. That know you can only fix the wrongs in communities by bringing people together, not breaking them apart.

The only way we’ll beat the EBT is with a different brigade. A bigger, stronger brigade. A brigade of unity and ahavat Yisrael.

May the day come soon.

My response:

I’d like to say that I definitely belong to the Easy Target Brigade, the only difference between me and many of those other ETB folks is that I’m generally good natured about it and don’t always agree with what I’m writing. The other thing to keep in mind is that I put up stuff from both sides of the fence, it wasn’t all anti or pro women of the wall, gays, baal teshuvas, chabad girls (can one really be anti chabad girls?) and vegan kiddush. Of course, I jump on the bandwagon and attack those crazy Jewish MFers, but it’s much more out of love than hate.

The other thing to remember is that taking Pop Chossid seems to be advocating for the Jew in the City, Chaya Kurtz approach, which is usually positive blog posts about the frum world written by clueless BT’s. My approach is very similar, which is to write about all the craziness and tell people that not everyone is nuts, I don’t choose to ignore the madness, I choose to confront it head on, shove people’s faces in it and than make fun of all those nut jobs. I believe that exposing the faults of our leaders is the only way to go. Case in point, have you noticed that no one in the frum world is talking about how Belsky treated that poor family that was victim to Yosef Kolko? This is precisely the reason why this breed of supposedly ETB bloggers is a necessity. I know this post is probably about Dov Bear, Fink, Unpious and Failed Messiah, but these are necessary soldiers in the fight against the Talibanization of Orthodox Judaism.

Most of those who are part of the ETB are merely expressing their love of Orthodoxy and their hatred towards those who marginalize it. Remember, those coward bloggers may be someone’s hero.

Find out more on 4torah.com

  • Dan

    I don’t read those blogs enough to know, but it was really cute seeing fink get all petty on facebook about it.

  • R.W.

    Here’s hoping that more brave bloggers and writers come to fore. Writers that know that change happens by affecting people from the inside and not the outside.
    Which is a vision that would have less than a snowman’s chance in hell, had it not been for all those ‘cowardly’ ETB folks who paved the way.

    • http://popchassid.com Elad

      This is an absolutely absurd statement.

  • Alter Cocker

    Wait a second, does anyone really view bloggers as warriors and heroes?

    Where is he getting this from?

    Bloggers are people posting their thoughts. That doesn’t make them heroes.

  • anon109

    It depends on the criticism. Take the “bag man” case. There are legitimate aspects of criticism. But, much of what religious Jews do is strange. Also, in that instance, there was a legitimate halachik issue. How can religious jews, who do really strange things (read: wave chickens over head, not use umbrella on Sabbath for rain etc.) mock someone as a crackpot for following halacha? I don’t understand why he took a flight where he was put in this situation, and I can understand intelligent criticism, but the mere derogatory comment like, “what a jackass”, is easy, stupid, and a little cowardly.

  • David

    My issue isn’t that there are Jews who engage in minhag shtut to excess. Its their life. More power to them. My issue is that the chumro brigade – especially the meshuggeh chumro brigade – tends to denigrate fully observant Jews who do not join them in their bizarro-world delusions of what is and isn’t required. A great many things that were merely middot chassidut in recent centuries are now considered the minimal standard to be considered a run of the mill baal habayit in a frum community. Case in point: kippot. Many rishonim and acharonim said it was middot hassidut to wear one. There were published and respected talmudei hokhamim who served on orthodox batei dinim who did not always wear kippot. Prior to the frum revisionist publishing craze, there were even covers of response with pictures of bare-headed hokhamim. And, let us not talk about the photos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in his student days that have since been Photoshopped to show a kippa! My point is, we live in a world where yehirut has run rampant and good Jews are being told they have to be Frumer-than-Moses just to be pass muster. So, while I find the trend of ridicule disturbing – and your right about there being some very suspect middot involved – I think a less personal and more academic criticism is called for. The question is, how does one strike the right tone. In my case, I would say: this Jew has decided to be Medal of Valor pious based on the following opinions, but those opinions don’t bind the rest of us and only an am haaretz would insist it did – with copious citations.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed but its all bs man. Its just bronze age nonsense.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      What about chazal sanctioned chumras like not eating meat and fish together?

      • David

        The tekanot of chazal were made with vested biblical authority. As a result, there is a question of lawfulness involved, and there are different shitot about how to deal with them. Rambam maintains they must be followed, even when they don’t apply in a given circumstance, because of “poretz geder.” At its core, the fact that they don’t apply in this circumstance doesn’t mean they won’t in another (and you’ll probably forget). Rabbeinu Tam maintains that, should the rationale behind the tekana doesn’t apply you can be lenient. They have taken different legal-philosophical stances to tekanot. This can be deduced from their positions on the tekana of gavinat akum. Even when we had a Sanhedrin and real semikha, a dayan yachid’s opinion wasn’t binding, and a beit din with binding authority was only considered valid if it has officers to enforce its rulings, and it could be overruled by a bigger, better beit din. We have no properly empowered batei dinim today (Israeli batei dinim who deal with personal status issues only have authority when the secular courts deign to give it to them). The rulings of post-sandhedrin rabbis who don’t have real semikha? Those are called opinions. Even when there is a clear majority of opinion, it remains opinion. The Talmud itself refers to our dayanim as mere shluchim of people with real authority and power. They have to convince us of the wisdom of their positions with humility, respect, and real lamdut. They don’t get to overturn or impose. We can tell them to jump in a lake if what they say makes no sense. A group of collected responsas is not a great court in a single room carrying out a debate on what the nation must do. Those who say it is are delusional and interested in maintaining hollow power structures, and have turned to the mantra of “minhag is inviolate” as their fallacy of choice. Remember the pasuk “there was no king in Israel and every man did as he pleased”? We are in the same situation. If an Ashkenazi baal habayit decides he’s going to one set of glass dishes and won’t be toiveling them three times between uses he has not violated the law. He may cause furor and outrage and the gnashing of teeth. He may be branded “not frum enough.” His friends may pray for forgiveness after they eat off his plates. But the simple fact is, his food is kosher, his dishes are kosher, and he is kosher. The system is broken and we in the orthodox world make play-pretend that we are living in days of old in our communities. The biggest day-dreamers are often the rabbis themselves.

        • For the Rabbi Tells Me So

          Bla bla beard! I love how Orthodox Jews try to sound smart by being able to sort out the pure confusion which is Orthodox halacha. In the end we are still talking about a book which has a talking donkey and snake which says the world is 6000 years old. All the don’t touch the ground or you will burn OCD laws and ugly term names won’t change that.

  • tesyaa

    I stopped reading at “vested biblical authority”

  • http://www.twitter.com/chayakurtz Chaya Kurtz

    Thanks for the shout out. Also, f*ck you!

    • Alter Cocker

      I gather you would like to sleep with Heshy.

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