For many of you, this post is nothing new. Indeed, for me it should have been nothing new. Nonetheless, the incident shook me up. Yesterday I was about to get into my car in a street which has a sizeable number of Hungarian Haredi residents. From the distance, a boy on a bike called out, “Mr Balbin, Mr Balbin, do you remember me from xxx’s wedding? Do you still do weddings”. I waited till he and various other boys who were riding on their bikes approached. After apologising that I didn’t recognise him because I perform at many weddings and it’s hard for me to remember a single face in a crowd, we continued chatting amiably. There were 6 to 10 boys on their bikes in total. Their ages spanned (what looked to me to be) from 7 to 12 years of age. By now, each boy was staring at me. I asked each what type of chasid he was, expecting a range of responses. It turned out that they were all Satmar. We chatted and I informed them that I wasn’t a fan of Satmar ideology vis a vis the State of Israel and Satmar’s attitude towards people who were not yet frum. I explained that Hakadosh Baruch Hu had effectively paskened that the State of Israel is part of his plans and this is plain for all to see. I added that I don’t (at least I try not to) “hate” any Jews. I wasn’t quite ready for the outpouring of pre-canned volcanic hate that subsequently erupted, although I hear you saying that I was asking for it by daring to question their views.
I was informed (in rather yelling tones) that
- the ציונים are Kofrim
- the ציונים dig up kvaros to build hospitals
- the ציונים caused the holocaust because they went against the Shalosh Sh’vuos
- the ציונים should be hated not loved
- and did I know Lubavitchers think their dead Rebbe is Moshiach (I think they brought this up because I said all Yidden should be loved)
Big deal, I hear you say. Haven’t you ever been to Meah Shearim or Williamsburg or “name a Satmar enclave”? This is Melbourne, though. Melbourne is/was unique. Even the Haredim are more tolerant of each other.
I tried to tell them that
- they should consider loving all Jews because all Jews were created B’Zelem Elokim (to which the response was “except the Zionim”)
- there are people who question whether there are indeed Jewish graves being dug up, but more importantly there are authoritative Poskim who say that it’s okay to dig up and even if they disagree and their Poskim say that they shouldn’t, it’s no reason to “hate” and “carry on” against Yidden who are acting according to a written Psak Din
- that the Shalosh Shvuos is widely held to be not L’Halacha but either way, I suggested that they acquaint themselves with the views of those who hold that the Shalosh Shvuos doesn’t apply and to “open their eyes”.
They looked at me like I was from planet mars, and asked me “where do you daven”. I saw this as a leading question. It would lead to the criticising of any Shule/community I davened with, as a means of discrediting anything that I said. This is how the ’thought’ processes worked. I told them that I daven “wherever people let me in”. That threw them off the track.
Perhaps what bothered me most was that the younger the kid, the more yelling took place about the ציונים. I asked myself where were they learning to espouse views with such a hatred and lack of tolerance? Is it at their School? Perhaps these kids are part of the so called new דברי אמונה school which has opened up because the local Haredi Adass school is no longer considered extreme enough. Is this what their Melamdim teach? Even if they hold these views, why are such views being inculcated at an age where they simply do not know enough to make head or tail of weighty issues? Are they being encouraged to speak like this at home? Perhaps. I do know that at least one of their parents refused to buy a blue and white havdala candle because it’s too much like the colours of ציונים. If a child is with their father in a store and hears that attitude, then of course plenty of unbridled hate must rub off.
Ironically, they asked me “if it wasn’t the ציונים then why did the holocaust happen” to which I answered וידום אהרּן. We were speaking throughout in Yiddish, and it was clear that they didn’t know what I was talking about. I retold them the story of Aaron’s sons, and Aaron’s reaction. I got into my car with their wide eyes following my every move. I couldn’t help but be overcome with genuine sadness. Is this חינוך? Was this the vision of R’ Yoel? Did R’ Yoel envision the creation of robotic, hate-filled, automata?