One of the 10 Commandments reads as "thou shalt not use God's name in vain". That's pretty much what the "modesty patrols" in the Satmar enclave of Williamsburg are doing, and which has now been covered by The Irish Times
Reports recently began to surface of increasingly violent “modesty squads” that threaten Lee Avenue businesses for such matters as displaying mannequins.
Only one shop on Lee now displays mannequins. Most shop windows display nothing.
“Lee wasn’t always like that,” said an Orthodox Jewish journalist from Williamsburg who asked to not be named. “But other Jewish sects moved out and now it’s Satmar territory.” Iit’s a shame a small group of “zealots” enforcing a code of modesty is giving Hasidism a bad name, he said.
It's a shame the Satmar are too, what with their anti-Zionist stance.
The Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada, housed in Williamsburg, issues guidelines on modesty but said it does not explicitly enforce any code.
Unless they're a Satmar outfit, that is.
“This kind of thing has always happened, the idea of safeguarding the word of God and making sure tradition is passed down and obeyed,” the journalist explained, adding that a “culture of acquiescence” exists in Hasidism.
“If you have someone come to you or put up a poster telling you what not to do, it’s easier to just follow it and not bring trouble into your everyday life,” he said.
“It could mean bad business and who needs that when they’re trying to feed a family?”
Those behind the posters sprang into public view only in recent months, with the trial of Nechemya Weberman, a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidim sentenced to 103 years in prison in January for sexually abusing, over three years, a girl sent to him for counselling.
He testified that children were regularly referred to him by “modesty committees” concerned about inappropriate attire and behaviour. Zealous members of these committees, who reportedly harass neighbours stepping out of line, have been dubbed “God’s police”. Orthodox Jews interviewed said that’s what the committee members think they’re doing: policing God’s word.
“It’s a small group that gained power from the fact that most people want to go about their daily lives,” said Rabbi Yankie Horowitz, a school principal who writes extensively about community abuse among Orthodox communities. “They’re emboldened by the inactive silent majority.”
Call it Kitty Genovese Syndrome, Haredi-style.
In Satmar Williamsburg it’s clear this majority prefers to live behind the veil of its customs and doesn’t really want to talk to you. There’s no way around sticking out like a sore thumb.
The irony of the Weberman trial was his membership in modesty patrols; and the great historical irony is that the Hasidim were once seen as the revolutionaries of Judaism.
But today, it's obvious that they're not. Not if their economic mindset was influenced by socialism, as per the way Russia was doing it.
Labels: haredi corruption, misogyny, New York, United States