Charedim Behaving Badly

Once again Orthodox Jews are in the headlines for causing trouble on a plane.

Unfortunately a group of “strictly-orthodox men” refused to take their seats as they were next to women. Furthermore, in a move that can only be described as exceedingly heimish, one member of the party “ plugged a mobile phone into the plane’s control panel in a “foolish attempt to charge it”, causing the exit light to switch on.” Read more about the “worst ever Israel easyJet flight” here.

Once news broke this was shared online, and even made it’s way to the Daily Mail and many people took this as a great opportunity to do some Charedi bashing. Gleefully decrying that this was a “Chillul Hashem” — Desecration of God’s name, I’m sure everyone felt a little bit better about themselves!

But why is it that people just enjoy a good opportunity to expose Charedi misbehaviour?

I believe there are a few reasons.

The first, in my opinion, is that it is a resentment issue. People believe that Ultra Orthodox Jews (using the term to encompass Charedi and Chassidic communities) believe that the lives they lead are the actual fulfillment of God’s wish for humanity as passed down from Sinai in an unbroken chain. They believe they wear the clothes they wear, go to the schools they go to, daven in the shuls they daven in as part of this. They believe that “these Ultra Orthodox Jews” think they are so special and holy. They are sooo frum. So when a bunch of them hit the news for negative reasons it is a good chance to expose these frauds. “See! They aren’t so holy, they aren’t better than us, they should stop walking around judging us when they aren’t so special” This obviously derives from the misconception that all Ultra Orthodox Jews are judgmental and look down upon anyone who doesn’t lead a strictly observant lifetime. (They don’t, I assure you).

There is another reason though. At the end of the day, for better of for worse, Ultra Orthodox Jews (and Orthodox Jews) are the flag bearers for Judaism. They are the most instantly recognisable Jews on the streets. An Ultra Orthodox Jew doesn’t need to say that they are Jewish, people know. All stereotypes of Orthodox Jews are based on them. So when they do something bad, it let’s the whole team down. Like, “come on dude, you’re making us all look bad”. When someone who dresses “modern” without a head covering misbehaves on a plane, it’s just another person, but when it’s an Ultra Orthodox person it’s kind of all of us.

Finally there is also a sense of disappointment. People respect Ultra Orthodox Jews, for whatever reason, they see their clinging to the traditions of their forefathers, brought all the way from Eastern Europe as someone respect worthy. So when they see news like this, I believe some people think “you are better than that”. At the end of the day, if you are able to keep Shabbat, and Kosher, and even Sha’atnez, can you not just hold it together for a 5 hour flight to London. At the end of the day, there are laws that regulate how we interact with other people just as much as there are laws that govern how long we need to wait between milk and meat.

There are a bunch of reasons why people are up in arms and need to have a rant in light of such news. Unfortunately I think the first reason is the most commonplace. A good chance to make people feel good about themselves, ease that chip on their shoulder.

However, this isn’t helping anything. A good Charedi bashing session won’t help either side and obviously won’t help reduce the baseless hatred across all of Jewry.

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