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December 16, 2007

Kiryas Joel in the New York Times

Dan Levin of the New York Times has an update on the Satmar couple in Kiryas Joel who were threatened and harassed because the 25-year-old wife wore, gasp!, denim skirts and stockings without seams. Their cars were vandalized and they were each threatened. No one would cooperate with police and now, four months after the incidents, the case has been closed.

This is far from unusual:

…Hella Winston, the author of “Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels,” said that it was not uncommon for women who defy their strictly codified role in such communities to become targets.

Ms. Winston, an assistant professor of sociology at Queens College, said that because these sects can not legally discipline nonconformists, they must resort to public shaming. “Their power is in fear and intimidation,” she said, though “blacklisting children from schools can at times cross the line into threats and violence.”…

Who enforces these "modesty" rules?

…Occasionally someone defies the social mores — whether it is a young man frequenting bars in the nearby village of Monroe or a woman dressing inappropriately or flirting. That is when the “vaad hatznius,” the rabbinically appointed modesty committee that enforces the village’s rules of behavior and appearance, intervenes.

“If we find they have a TV or a married woman won’t wear a wig, we will invite them to speak with us and try to convince them it’s unacceptable, or next year we will not accept their children into the school system,” said David Ekstein, the vice president of the village’s leading congregation, Yetev Lev, and one of eight men who make up the committee, hand-picked by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, the town’s spiritual leader.

Mr. Ekstein, 62, the president of an insurance company, said that the committee was widely respected for its role in protecting the community, especially children. “There has to be some kind of watchdog,” he said. “But do we have any real power? We’re not a government.”…

What you just read is an admission of illegal activity. No town can enforce "modesty" rules of this type, rules that really are religious strictures. If Kiryas Joel were a private enclave or a commune, it could enforce these rules. But Kiray Joel is a town, a town that incorporated and formed in order to receive state and federal funds. To receive those funds, Kiryas Jooel must obey the law.

The federal government and the State of New York have an obligation to enforce the law, including the civil rights laws Kiryas Joel violates every day.

Rabbi Aaron Titelbaum and his thugs belong in jail. The sooner this happens the better.

Comments

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Self hating Shmarya and his ilk belong in jail. The sooner this happens the better.

It's the Satmar sect. What do you expect? Not all Orthodox sects are that stringent, and you know it. I say this as someone who is not Orthodox myself, but who intermingles with the community.

The govt will never get involved to protect these people as long as the town's residents continue to vote in a bloc as their rabbi tells them to.

oh scottie,
I am sure if all the resident of the country where as law abiding as yourself we would lice in a utopia

sarah whos side r u on?

I think it's disgraceful when they try to force their crazy stringencies on others through fear and abuse.
What is it their business what others have in their homes? It sounds like a crazy cult.

Too bad. Don't live here. Stupid.

It sounds like a crazy cult.

Sounds like?

Its not as simple as that. It is a town that was organized with a purpose - namely where people with similar religious views and practices can live together separated from outsiders. If you don't buy into their views of life and religion you shouldn't live their. Nonetheless, vandalizing cars because someone wears denim does seem a bit overboard (and illegal) to me. Its a slippery slope question.

wait until u guys see the way I covered this satmar stuff in my blog! XD

Kiryas Joel is my home. We are mostly Hasim from Satmare. However other Hasidim make their home here. We love America and it's citezens. We love all people and we pray every day that God should bless all residents of America. We love Americans even if they appear different on the outside. We know the outside is only a small layer. We know that inside all Americans are good.
I feel bad if someone is insulted by us. We really don't mean harm. We are like the Amish and Menonites of Pennselvania. We are not predijuced. We just want to pass on our heritage. We love all Jews and gentiles. Please do not be insulted since we wish to live keeping to ourselves. It is not because we do not like you. Please don't be insulted.

Big Moish: it's not your desire to live separate that insults people, it's the actions you take in furtherance of it. I read Hella Winston's book, and it is very good - and shocking.

Question - is KJ's school system that they are keeping kids out of a publicly funded one? Or is it a private institution?

If these were ' outsiders' trying to live there then that is one thing but they belong to that community and chose to live there and be part of that community however backward that it is.

If these were ' outsiders' trying to live there then that is one thing but they belong to that community and chose to live there and be part of that community however backward that it is.

I feel bad if someone is insulted by us. We really don't mean harm. We are like the Amish and Menonites of Pennselvania. We are not predijuced. We just want to pass on our heritage. We love all Jews and gentiles. Please do not be insulted since we wish to live keeping to ourselves. It is not because we do not like you. Please don't be insulted.

But Kiryas Joel is an incorporated town. So, legally, no town residents can enforce religious or cultural practices on anyone else or "keep to themselves" to the exclusion of others. In fact, as an incorporated town, anyone of any faith is legally allowed to live there and live as they so choose - even if that includes men jogging shirtless down the street and women wearing mini-skirts.

If Kiryas Joel residents really want to be able to control one another's lives, then they should cease to be an incorporated town and turn the land into privately held land restricted to those who they wish to allow to reside there. Of course, that means giving up tax breaks and government money, but if Kiryas Joel residents are really and truly committed to their religious practices and the continuance of their particular culture, then money should not really be an issue.

So, Big Moish, I wish you and the residents of Kiryas Joel well on your upcoming change of status from incorporated town to a closed community on private land, as I'm sure you will all do the right thing.

Its not as simple as that. It is a town that was organized with a purpose - namely where people with similar religious views and practices can live together separated from outsiders. If you don't buy into their views of life and religion you shouldn't live their. Nonetheless, vandalizing cars because someone wears denim does seem a bit overboard (and illegal) to me. Its a slippery slope question.

Anon -

No.

We do not have "theme towns" in the U.S. Anyone is allowed to live anywhere they can chose (and afford to). Anyone who drives them out or harasses them is violating their civil rights.

What we do have are "gated communities" which are private developments which pre-approve residents and require residents to agree to live by certain sets of rules.

Kiryas Joel is incorporated as a town, not a gated community. Therefore, anyone is legally allowed to live there and they are legally allowed to live (and dress) as they chose.

So, instead of "If you don't buy into their views of life and religion you shouldn't live there," it is really this: If the residents of Kiryas Joel doesn't buy into the personal freedoms and civil rights that all residents of all towns, hamlets, villages, and cities in the U.S. are granted, then they shouldn't be incorporated as a town.

I wish I knew where the Greenberg family lived, so I could put them in touch with Footsteps. That organization has saved many a Satmar from decrepit insular lives controled by a cadre of pseudo-jews living in the grip of a 17th century mindset. I feel so bad for their children. They're going to grow up in a state of sadness and irrationality.

As Pericles said, "Happiness depends on freedom and freedom depends on courage". To surrender your mind ( and self-respect) to someone else is one's right,I suppose, but only a fool would think that choice comes without a price.Sometimes it's pay as you go and sometimes it's a balloon payment at the end.

Big Moish, I though Satmar chasids were banned from the Internet. What are you doing reading this blog?

I think we're missing something here. Even if Kiryas Joel was a gated community, how is public shaming, vandalism and assault legal Torah behaviour? What, respect for your fellow Jew only applies when you feel like it? The real problem here is that a few fanatics in the Satmar community (I hope it's just a few fanatics but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt) have establish a Taliban-like climate of fear and conformism and declared that to be Torah behaviour.

"Big Moish, I though Satmar chasids were banned from the Internet. What are you doing reading this blog?"

Neo-Conservaguy
this is called mumar leteiavon. a mere small sin that doesn't even command careis :-)
the funniest/sadest part is when they go:
"ata beichartonu mikol haomim"
and take it seriously thinking they are better than anybody else. yiikes

Big Moish,
I find your message touching and I have to admit that I am surprised to read it.
But really your people appear to have a problem with abiding with law of the land, and violence towards anybody even minutely different from you.
By most, this is not love to the others. My former Rabbi Z'L maintained that he was yet to see in his lifetime a person doing tshuva as a result of receiving a stone on the head. Is this the way of Tora?

i think big moish hasn't returned back on rthe net due to the big leaders of KJ smashing his car in and then locking him up for daring to have internet access.

Kiryas Joel is a third world country.

Those who live in a community that takes care of them ( and that's good) need to consider what the late President Ford said, "A government ( read community) that is powerful enough to give you everything you want, is powerful enough to take away everything you have."

A person also has a right to live in south central LA, and dress and jog however they want, but I dont think most people would want to do that either. THere are plenty of places in the country we cannot live because of social patterns and behaviors that are hostile to foreigners. THis doesn't excuse the behavior, but just realize that KJ isn't the only place where this occurs.

The fact that religious fanatics (of any religion) enjoy 'shunning' and intimidation I think is the most telling factor. If a sect came together and quietly mourned having to inform a citizen that because of their behavior they could no longer participate in communal activity... well, that never happens. People get a rush out of being mindless and mindlessly violent.

Gathering together to inform non-conformists that they must leave, and doing it respectfully and sadly, probably happens among the Amish, who are respectful and courteous to a fault. It does not describe Satmar, who seem to have more than their fair share of fairly violent and unhappy members, and who regularly display their hatred and contempt for the "other," i.e. everyone else on earth. This is not Judaism, it never was, it never will be, and I hope they all do the tshuvah they're supposed to. But they won't, since inward reflection, maturity, musar and tshuvah are not their cup of tea.

"woman won’t wear a wig"

Is this an accurate quote?

In Satmar you are not allowed to ware a wig!

Something’s wrong!

I think we're missing something here. Even if Kiryas Joel was a gated community, how is public shaming, vandalism and assault legal Torah behaviour? What, respect for your fellow Jew only applies when you feel like it? The real problem here is that a few fanatics in the Satmar community (I hope it's just a few fanatics but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt) have establish a Taliban-like climate of fear and conformism and declared that to be Torah behaviour.

I don't consider the residents of Kiryas Joel to be practicing legal Torah behavior. Yes, they are Jews according to halacha, but they are, in my view, members of a cult that makes uses of Jewish practice. For me, to bring up "legal Torah behavior" would mean dissecting Satmar theology as a whole.

Actually, that they are not in a gated community makes it worse. Since they are in an incorporated town, each and every resident of that town is legally entitled to live their lives as they so choose. So, the Vaad, individual residents, the religious leadership, etc. has no legal right whatsoever to intimidate or coerce people, or to institute a dress code.

If they dropped their incorporated status and converted the town into a private religious compound, then they would have more freedom to impose dress codes, etc. (much as private schools may). Each person could sign a waiver and they could follow and impose their cult teachings on each other to the limit that the law allows (since even cult members in compounds legally have civil rights), just like other cults do.

Is it not ironic how opposed the Satmar are to the founding of the Jewish (albeit secular Zionist) state? They seem to have their own little "statehood" in Monroe. Am I wrong?

My father is from the region of Satmar. He is now 82 and still remembers R' Yoilish bribing the regional governor to ban B'nei Akivah. Many of the local Rebbeim went with their people to the camps and comforted them, supported them, until the very end. Teitelbaum was spirited off to Switzerland by the very Zionists he so despised. After 46 years of, unfortunately, having dealings with the Satmar community my general impression has been that they are often ignorant, hateful and despise other Jews tremendously. Those that are more tolerant and decent among them are often forced to keep their views closeted so they don't suffer derision and loss of livelihood. The one thing they sure can't be compared to is: Amish.

My father is from the region of Satmar. He is now 82 and still remembers R' Yoilish bribing the regional governor to ban B'nei Akivah. Many of the local Rebbeim went with their people to the camps and comforted them, supported them, until the very end. Teitelbaum was spirited off to Switzerland by the very Zionists he so despised. After 46 years of, unfortunately, having dealings with the Satmar community my general impression has been that they are often ignorant, hateful and despise other Jews tremendously. Those that are more tolerant and decent among them are often forced to keep their views closeted so they don't suffer derision and loss of livelihood. The one thing they sure can't be compared to is: Amish.

"A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of [consequences of] leaving it,, etc) designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community."
-Louis Jolyon West
(expert on cult methods, brainwashing, mind control methods)

B"H
Shmaryah
To exclude children from a private religious school because their parents don't follow is the rules is not in any way criminal activity.
There are non Satmar schools that have similar rules.
PS. Vandalism of cars assault on people etc. is criminal activity. This comment only addresses last hysterical point made by Shmaryah about David Ekstein "admiting to criminal activity" in the post above.

Ariel -

Read the cult definition above.

". . . employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures . . ."

Banning kids from school in order to get their parents to toe the line falls into this category.

It might not be criminal, but it is cult-like and unethical.

B"H
I only commented that Shmarya's statement is incorect as far as it is being "admision of criminal activity" and his standard call on government to crackdown on this.
I didn't comment if this is cult-like or un-ethical undesirable etc.
When Jewish community had the power to do so they could force closing of Jewish owned stores on Shabbat for example even in exile
. What can or should be done in any particular case primarily depends on the power of the community see the following letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on this subject:
http://moshiachtv.blogspot.com/2007/05/moshiach-and-zionism.html

PS. I don't think that Satmars care too much if you, me or Shmaryah think their practices can be termed "cult like" or un-ethical by people who don't share their values , background and outlook to life.

It reminds me of a time, about 15 years ago, a friend was trying to set up a manufacturing business overseas. A Chabadnik offered to use the Chabad House system to surface his funds overseas for a 10% commission.

People are people. Anyone can be tempted by greed and "easy money"

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