Sunday, August 11, 2013

Revolutionary use by Hassidim of Internet to improve relations with non-Jews - through Kiddush HaShem

The following are excerpts from a Mishpacha (August 7, 2013) article Rights and Wrongs in Montreal. It describes some radical changes in the way chassidic community activists deal with non-Jews as well as government. In particular the recognition of the need for transparency is amazing. Behind doors political deals are out and Kiddush HaShem is in. Of critical importance is the recognition of the unavoidable use of the tools of the Internet - especially to counter Internet anti-Semitism.
[...] It's not every day that chassidim dance for elderly non-Jewish res­idents of a retirement home, but the state of relations between Jews and non-Jews in Outremont has called for creative measures. Since about 2001, chassidim and community activists have faced off over the configuration of buses, expanding synagogues, and the legality of eiruvim. Tensions have flared, especially during Purim in 2012 when Celine Forget, a provocateur and city council member, showed up among the festivities to plant herself, camera in hand, to record any violation of city bylaws. When chassidim reacted with calls of "Forget, get out," the discord between chassidim and the local pop­ulation made headlines across Canada.

Into this maelstrom have stepped a new crop of Jewish commu­nity activists who have decided on a different approach. Rather than allow tensions to boil over, the chassidic residents of Outremont have engaged in an active campaign of Kiddush Hashem. In addition to the visits to retirement homes, community members have established an online site.joined a political party, and founded a community organization, all with the goals of easing misunderstandings and introducing non-Jewish residents to the chassidic way of life.

"Today, even politicians who were sym­pathetic to us in the past are not willing to stand up for us out of fear of being labeled as rubbing shoulders with the 'Jewish lob­byists:" Belzer chassid Cheskie Weiss explains. "Well, if we won't stand up for ourselves and engage the public and media to expose all the lies and misinformation being hurled against our community, no­body else will,"[...]

Pollak would be one of a number of chas­sidim who, together with Marshy, estab­lished Friends of Hutchison, a grassroots organization named after a street in the neighborhood. Its purpose is to engage chassidim and their non-Jewish neighbors in honest dialogue in order to dispel the lies and misconceptions being promulgated by Forget, Lacerte, and their followers.

Within the year, the number of individ­uals following Friends of Hutchison's site,filled with the smiling faces of chassidic children,jumped from 200 to 650.[..]

Battle in Cyberspace When Weiss and Bobover Boruch Shimon Posner first created an online site in May 2012 called with the intention of directly engaging the public, they had few expectations. Today, they are astounded by its success. "The perception that chassidim are all hated, well - that's been blown away," Weiss says.

Following the 2012 Purim fiasco, Weiss was shocked at the degree of animosity directed at chassidim through the Internet. He decided to fight fire with fire. "We are living in the Internet era," he says. "People like Forget and Lacerte would nev­er have a voice if not for their blogs. Because of the Internet, thousands of people are exposed to their lies and misinformation and the media catches on to this be­cause they're seeking controversy." The Internet, he states, both empowers and victimizes us and we must learn to use it to our advantage.[...]

Still, he is amazed by the positive changes in attitude, especially in the Quebec media and by those voiced on his blog.He was recently moved by a letter posted by a "non-prac­ticing Muslim." She wrote,
"I applaud your genuine words ... I believe that the prob­lem is that many people want to vilify the Hasidim because they don't understand the culture and the customs ... More people support you than you think. ... I got very upset when some neighbor dropped a pamphlet at my door asking me to stop the synagogue expansion [the Bobover shul Shaar on Hutchison Street], but I was more upset that the Hassidic community wasn't doing anything to fight back."[...]

Taking the Next Step Chassidim's approach to dealing with government, Weiss maintains, must also change. He differentiates between the old ways of conducting politics, quietly working is­ sues out behind the scene with politicians, and the new way. "The old way is no longer possible. Because of the Internet, nothing can remain hidden. Today, we understand that nothing can be worked out with politicians if we ourselves cannot explain, sell, and defend our position to the public and and the media. Everything else can be made to appear shady. [...]


  1. why are chassidim willing to reach out to these people but not to srugim in efrat, beit el, or herziliya? (don't take this as criticism of the program; it ain't.)

    1. That is obvious. I onced asked a Lubavitcher living in Crown Heighbts why he didn't move to a safer neighborhood or at least one with Jewish neighbors.

      He replied, "I have no problem with having non-Jewish neighbors - because they have no influence on me or my children. In fact it is clear to my children that we are totally different than our neighbors. However if I lived next to a wonderful Reform or Conservative Jew - I would have a serious problem trying to explain why we don't agree with them. My children might want to marry them. Here is it simply not an issue."

      So the answer is because the "srugim in efrat etc" are too similar to "real" Jews and thus they might not be perceived as unacceptably different.

    2. a litvak in manchester england, a very respectable yid, a mensch, learns regularly, works in a good profession, once told me basically the same thing as to why he won't move to israel.

    3. Ben. If your yiddishkiet disappears because of another yids shitta then your chinuch System needs a major overhaul.

    4. A treifa shitta. Not all "shittas" are valid.

    5. hershy you lost me. who said anything about disappearing?

    6. The chassidim and all charedim living in Israel, particularly in ultra orthodox enclaves; Yerushalayim, Bnei Braq, Beitar, Kiryat Sefer, etc., are extreme radicals who have little, if any, tolerance to others, and classify anyone not of their circles - be they kippa sruga wearing, gun toting zealots from Kiryat Arba or be they shomer hatzair secular kibutzniks - on par with the cossacks of yore - if we must, we smile and greet them politely in the street, but keep contact as brief as possible, and certainly limit any association with them as much as possible.

      It appears from this article, that the chassidim of Canada, at least those residing in Montreal, are not as radical as their Israeli counterparts, and have taken a positive step in promoting themselves positively.

  2. Is this talking about Lubavitchers or mainstream Chasidim?

  3. Ben. You could not have said it any better. The fact remains that our chinuch. For. The most part does need a major overhaul. Its in total shambles. The problem is that it wont change so quick because then It shows that our system has been flawed for a long time and that is problamatic for many

    1. We have one of the best chinuch systems possible. Even the best possible isn't perfect.


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