Monday, July 20, 2009

Chareidim unite in abuse case with media experts


Out of a deep feeling that the secular public is out to vilify and persecute them, the entire haredi public - from the most extreme and insular hassidic sects to the most mainstream elements - formed a united front over the weekend to support the Jerusalem mother who allegedly starved her three-year-old boy.

Although many mainstream haredim may still believe police, doctors and social workers that there is reason to suspect that the mother severely harmed her child, they believe the secular news media were too ready to blame and that authorities were insensitive to haredi cultural norms.

"When a secular newscaster on Army Radio starts calling our demographic growth 'haredi cancer,' it becomes clear to anyone with a little sense that the secular media have blown things totally out of proportion in an attempt to disparage the entire haredi public," a senior editor of a large haredi daily, who preferred to remain anonymous, said Sunday.

The senior editor said that in a meeting with President Shimon Peres last week, he had warned that the mother had to be released from prison to house arrest.

"Otherwise thousands of haredim would file complaints with the United Nations and the International Court in The Hague against the State of Israel for persecuting the haredi population. Peres understood what we were saying," he said.

Last week reactions among haredi representatives were subdued when police, doctors and social workers publicized the horrific, incriminatory details of how a mother - a member of the Toldot Aharon hassidic sect, perhaps the most tightly knit, socially cohesive and parochial of the groups that make up haredi society - had, according to the charges, systematically starved her little boy.

At first most haredi media outlets ignored the story, uncertain how to react. Even haredi reporters had difficulty obtaining information from the closed sect. A few reported on the angry, violent demonstrations staged by Toldot Aharon and the Eda Haredit, which were criticized by haredi rabbinic figures such as Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel, head of the Mir Yeshiva.[...]

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