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Jerusalem - Silencing Dissent, Hushing Up Scandal

Published on: September 16, 2008 10:21 AM
By: Jpost by Michael J. Salamon
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Jerusalem - Two items recently crossed my desk. The first was an article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post written by Matthew Wagner entitled “Haredim move to silence ‘treif’ music”. It was about a movement to ban musicians who produce or perform any music which the Guardians of Sanctity and Education deem inappropriate. Musicians playing such music would be banned from playing in wedding halls, their CDs would be banned and their concerts disallowed.

The other item was a breaking news piece indicating that Rabbi Benzion Twerski had resigned from a task force in formation being brought together to deal with sexual abuse in the Orthodox community. New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, also an Orthodox Jew, is establishing the task force to deal with this scourge. Twerski resigned because of the many threats against him and his family made by several individuals from his community.

When taken together these two items suggest such a profound and disturbing conflict regarding the current goals of the Orthodox world, of which I am a member. If music is so important, is not the emotional welfare of members of the community even more so? How can music be a threat and abuse not be? While some may argue that this is not the message to be learned, that the insular community is seeking ways to deal with the sexual abuse problem discreetly, it is clearly not so when someone as prominent and discreet as Twerski can be so horrifically threatened. But, he is not the only one to receive threats. Apparently so have musicians. The canceling of a recent concert is evidence of this.


IN MY work I too have received threats, most recently for suggesting that the rigid shidduch approach to dating seems not to be working. What this approach has accomplished in recent years is to increase rigidity and unrealistic demands for a spouse; rates of domestic violence are increasing and so are the divorce rates.

There seems to be little balance left in the Orthodox world. There is no allowance made for harmless pleasure and those who abuse are given a free pass. Those who attempt to stand up are threatened.

Still there is a commandment that states “V’chai bahem”; we should live by the rules. That command, however, requires that the rules are such that one can live according to them. Additionally, we have lost sight of the adage “yesh chochma bagoyim,” there is knowledge, as well as arts and music, among the nations of the world that is meant for us to share. I believe that is why much of our liturgical music comes from a host of sources including the church. And our great rabbis have not simply accepted it but enjoyed and encouraged this music.

When I look at the increasing rigidity that these events objectify, I think of how we are pushing people away instead of bringing people closer to the core values of Judaism. I also reflect on the experience of Ayan Hirsi Ali, currently a member of the Dutch Parliament, reared as a devout Muslim who was forced to evaluate the oppressiveness of her religion. She became a vocal critic of the religion to the point where she has had to go into hiding. At the end of the day, she may be the model that our children follow if we do not find a way to balance the needs of our society with those of a firmly religious leaning. Pushing people too hard will only force them to push back.

To suggest that the decisions of a few vocal individuals make are the only correct approach and allow them to steer us away from doing what must be done is simply illogical. Every society has its ills. So does ours. We must find productive ways to deal with these ills if we are to survive.

More of today's headlines

New York City - I have seen some scary reports about the number of cell phones left in cabs before, but 31,544 in a six-month period? That's incredible. Now, just think... Petah Tikva, Israel - An Israeli city is using DNA analysis of dog droppings to reward and punish pet owners. Under a six-month trial program just launched, the city...



Read Comments (23)  —  Post Yours »


 Sep 16, 2008 at 10:57 AM Houlihan Says:

What a breath of fresh air.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 11:04 AM mccain palin 08 Says:

I know some people are going to write omg what a chilul hahsem we made for bringing it out in public.

only people who care about their self image would say that.

kol hakavod dov and the people who do the research for you and you know who they are! everything your doing is l'shem shamayim may hashem pay you back ten fold


 Sep 16, 2008 at 11:03 AM Anonymous Says:

You are right on the one count. The terrible avlah of suppressing the righteous voice of R' BenZion Twerski.

On the other count, you are right about "yesh chochma bagoyim" and also that "yaft Elokim leYefes" which RSRH (among others) explains as referring to the arts and sciences which is abundance among the nations. But, how can you comapre, even church music which may (or may not) have been adapted into our liturgy, to the depraved music of today's rock and hip culture, which is being fed to our innocent youth? Music is the language of the heart. Do you want your children to have a rocker's heart? It will definitely be conducive to avodas HaShem. So, you need to knwo where to draw the line.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 11:13 AM Anonymous Says:

god should have mercy on these perps of justice.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 12:19 PM Anonymous Says:

If Hashem didn't want us to use it then He wouldn't let it be created. Hashem created and maintains the tevah and it is by OUR choice to use it. Self appointed guardians of our souls and bodies should be properly bodek - after all what may they be hiding?
Chaya's (not the women, the real animals) have to bully and posture to be leaders. This is why Reb Ben Zion is confronted on the street and over the phone and not in a forum or with contrary evidence.

It is well known that famous composers would stake out places in the shuls in Vienna to listen to the Rosh Hashonah choirs and the Succos choirs. Any music history course worth a penny will teach you that. Musicians borrow melodies from each other and outright steal melodies too. Yes, yesh chochma begoyim (the goyim do have intelligence and creativity) Hashem created it and they have found ways to use it to their advantage. By the way - the yidden are also called goyim, goy kodesh. Kesivah ve chasimah tovah.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 01:12 PM Chaim S. Says:

Is this called penny wise and pound foolish by worrying about music and hiding under the carpet abuse of children? And of course let's not forget that whenever anything goes wrong, it's the women who are at fault, the men are always holier than holy. And although we all say and believe Ani Maamin B'vias Hamoshiach, the posuk still says Hayom im bekoli sishmou. And allowing abuse of children to be swept under the rug isn't exactly what Hashem wants. Music on the other hand brings simcha. Which is what Hashem does want. Pnei hador k'pnei hakelev, or should we amend it to ostrich?


 Sep 16, 2008 at 01:44 PM Avraham Abba Says:

Dov Hikind, you are the one we are waiting for. You can read our feelings daily here at Vosizneias and you have undoubtedly noticed that the terrorists who threatened Rabbi Twerski are extremely few in number.
Are we going to act like Moslems and let the terrorists rule without any protest against them?
Let's see some action anf stand up to help our children, please. MIdah kneged midah! They like to be exposed...let's expose them. NOW!
Politicians are famous for promises.
I hope you will now be different and attack them instead of waiting to be motivated by the next horror story!!
Let's get the liars, terrorists, child molesters and the rest of the crooked bums OUT!
Please help us get our children back!
Thank you for forming a force. Now use it!!!


 Sep 16, 2008 at 01:49 PM Anonymous Says:

Agreed, except for the suggestion that becoming like Hirsi Ali is a negative. From what I have read, she is a role model of grace, courage, selflessness and intellect.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 03:06 PM Ploni Says:

Ali is no longer a member of Dutch Parliament. She fled in fear of her life from Muslims in Holland & went to a think tank in DC.
Michael Salamon has valid criticisms in this article but he has stopped short of making specific positive suggestions.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 03:57 PM mikey Says:

You write that the youth will start pushing back -

They have and do - that's why there are "kids" and adults "at risk" - that's why there are many hasidic kids in drug alcohol rehab and with eating disorders, that's why we have orthodox men and women in unmarried relationships with non-jews (this Jew past nisht but a goy doesn't count).

We have men and women going to college at night and please don't tell anyone I won't get a shidduch.

Above is only tip of iceberg - and if these hard line crazies persist in the community there will be a HUGE backlash.

The real godolim MUST silence these hard line nuts- where is that kol koreh??


 Sep 16, 2008 at 04:10 PM Yonason Says:

Ploni - Making constructive criticism is more essential than ever. The point is that some thing must simply be stopped, such as horror to which Rabbi Twersky was subject . . . a horror not perpetrated by a band of zealots like the Vaad Mishmeres Hatznius, but by many ordinary Yidden. This is a crisis our generation will be known for if we don't fight back against our own "Taliban" - It is not an issue of coming up with alternatives


 Sep 16, 2008 at 04:51 PM miriam Says:

I wouldn't wait around for gedolim to do anything. If a particular style of music suits your family; enjoy it. The disapproval of these rabbis does not make it treif.
If the rigid shidduch system is not leading some individuals to the chuppah, then those individuals should find friends who will invite singles of both genders to Shabbos meals so that they can meet.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 05:33 PM Genius Says:

A Kol Koreh would be a start but it wont really work. Does anyone think that those who were/are the abusers and the ones who threatened R' Twerski wouldn't have done it if there was a K"K? Unfortunately the Gedolim in our generation are not respected my most people. What it will take is for each of us to stand up and voice our opinions & show our actions & stand up for the Torah & the Gedolim (NOT the abusers or the Jewish music taliBan.)


 Sep 16, 2008 at 04:46 PM Pachad Yitchok Says:

You have no clue how bad it's become.

Almost every Rabbi worth his weight, is afraid to issue any type of ruling, on a public issue, leaning toward leniency for he'll be crucified, insulted, threatned, abused, tel. calls in middle of night,etc. i.e. the Eiruv in Willie and BP.

Our Jewish Taliban and Hoodlums rule these forums.

A restaurant in Willie on opened recently "Grill on Lee" or something to that effect. It already became the latest JIHAD for the Willie Taliban. A fast food truck was effectively chased and closed on Bedford Ave. by these Lunatics!


 Sep 16, 2008 at 06:01 PM Anonymous Says:

By keeping quiet on areas of child abuse and other perversions, aren't we guilty of Lo Taamod al Dam Reecha? In essence these childrens' lives are at stake. Both physically and emotionally.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 08:04 PM Anonymous Says:

I think that to put so much energy into fighting molestation is overkill. Granted there are a few loose kooks in every community but we dont need to turn the city upside down. My suspicion is that there are some groups looking to cash in big time on programs that will be geared as therapy expenses. watch and see.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 10:29 PM ezra Says:

Jewish music is great.Lipa,Mordechai ben david Avram Fried bring people closer to yiddishkeit.


 Sep 16, 2008 at 11:23 PM shlepper Says:

A few points.

In no way am I here to stick up for the people who threatened Rabbi Twerski, whom I know personally as a great man. Nevertheless, I understand why some people are hesitant to let the system be run by psychologists and politicians. Rabbi Twerski himself knows of a story that a psychologist squeezed out of an innocent talmid chacham that the t"c did something to him and they wanted to arrest him. A chashiver dayan intervened and didn't let it happen. It therefore calls that rather, Rabbonim should run it, maybe and preferably with the help of chashiver erlicher psychologists like, and only like Rabbi Twerski himself. (Honestly, I must agree that I don't know which Rabbonim would volunteer.)

Regarding the music issue, we all know and today, it is even recognized by the secular media, that videos containg vulgar material or wild crime, have an effect on the viewer, although they didn't always acknowledge it.

It will only take time for them to realize that rock 'n roll music (and the likes) make an impression in the listener's mind and should therefore not be listened to by a nation that is proud to be 'not like one of those'. Or at least, in public places and/or recordings, they should be banned, as not to force it upon the one's who don't want to become 'like one of those'.


 Sep 17, 2008 at 03:08 AM destro613 Says:



 Sep 17, 2008 at 01:57 AM iowhiw Says:

" If Hashem didn't want us to use it then He wouldn't let it be created."

aha, Hashem created pig, so we must eat it?

And do you all know how many niggunim come prom Polish beer drinking songs sung at taverns and bars?



 Sep 17, 2008 at 12:54 AM Anonymous Says:

to : 09-16-2008 - 8:04 PM

You are extremely naive.


 Sep 17, 2008 at 05:52 PM Library Lover Says:

I am so glad to read this..finally, someone puts the pieces together and shows the whole horrifying picture...we continue to lose more ppl every day. Hashem should have rachmonus on us, and remove all these 'rabbis' from our midst...we would be much better off...


 Sep 18, 2008 at 03:15 PM Anonymous Says:

Brooklyn DA's action center...you see a problem in WB or BP - call 911, then call this number and do something. Obviously more people need to step up and say something.


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