A Faded Star


toldos-avrohom-yitzchok-rebbeThe following article by Rabbi Yosef Shubert appears in this week’s American Yated Ne’eman:

 I was bowled over by what was written in an Orthodox Jewish publication and cannot help but express some words of protest. I’d prefer to stick to general issues of Torah, hashkafa and other topics, but I have no choice but to make my voice heard in standing up for kavod haTorah.

In an editorial titled “Is This Really A Smart Move?” a Five Towns publication, with dripping sarcasm and sheer disrespect, disgraces the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok and Toldos Aharon Rebbes, making generalizations about them and their chassidim.

Whether one is a chossid is irrelevant when one reads words of revulsion about a chassidic leader – in an Orthodox newspaper no less.

People bought into the contemptuous offensive crusade without bothering to be confounded by the fact that both of the rabbeim are peaceful men, themselves targeted by the very radicals the instigator paired them with in his ravaging onslaught.

I quote a number of excerpts from the editorial:

The smart money says criticism of this weekend’s visit to Lawrence by an anti-Zionist chassidic rebbe from Jerusalem aligned with the Neturei Karta will be dismissed by some as the work of troublemaking bloggers (or perhaps of a muckraking newspaper that’s too modern for its own good).

“What chutzpah! defenders of the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe will fume. Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Kohn is an adom gadol – a great man – a tzaddik, a talmid chachom, and a paragon of Yiras Shamayim and gemilas chasodim, too.

“Very likely, that’s all true.

“It is, however, not at all the point.

“The Rebbe’s followers – at least a good number of them – are thugs and criminals who created an unprecedented desecration of G-d’s name with their violent street protests in Jerusalem.

“A good number of them… Thugs and criminals…”

How many? Based on whose evidence?

Does the writer of the article even know? Or is this just conjecture?

The editorial, which basically paints the groups of Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok and Toldos Aharon Rebbes as hooligans and goons, brings not one source.

The article continues:

“In a few short weeks they managed to undo and turn around – v’nahafoch hu – a general perception of observant Jews as peaceful and genteel. In some cases they even altered our own self-perception; more than a few frum Jews this summer reported feeling discomfort at being seen as kin to the Orthodox hooligans in the news.

“Yet, this weekend, in a display of shocking naïveté, the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe is to be feted and honored – and funded – at Cong. Shaaray Tefila in Lawrence, even as the Rebbe’s brother, the even more extreme Toldos Aharon Rebbe, is making his own appearances in the New York area.

“Make no mistake: there are female members of nearly every shul in this region who would run the real risk of being physically attacked, were they to walk in their everyday street clothes through neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh these rebbes control.

“While well-meaning people in the Five Towns are proffering respect and kavod haTorah to someone who looks very different from them but ostensibly observes the same Torah, ask yourself if the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok or the Toldos Aharon communities would be terribly likely to extend the same courtesy in the reverse? Same tefillin, same mikvah, same Shabbos, same kosher. But not to them. Does that make us forgiving or foolish?

The article goes on to make a point about reserving tzedakah dollars for those in need in one’s own communities, but even if that argument has some merit, I was so appalled by the total bizayon haTorah demonstrated by the tone and content of this shameful editorial that I couldn’t digest anymore.

I was also confused: Was the message of the editorial that “the Rebbe’s followers are thugs” or that “charity begins at home”? If the message was the latter, why the utter disrespect for the Rebbe?

And exactly what research did the author conduct before spewing words of slander about these chassidic leaders? How many of the chassidim had he spoken to? Any? Or does he merely rely on hearsay and what he’s read or seen on blogs?

I’m afraid I know the answer.

The answer, in short, is that those who despise Torah and Torah leaders allow the truth to emerge on occasion. They may masquerade as supporters of the Torah community, but from time to time, their true feelings come to the fore, as they did in this case. The rabbeim of Toldos Aharon and Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok were meekly vilified by heirs to the maskilim, who never miss an opportunity to mock ehrliche Yidden and their leaders. Without permitting facts to interfere with allegations, they wave spurious charges, paint caricatures, and feed a pedestrian desire to depress love for fellow Jews.

toldos-aharon-rebbe-eyThe truth is that the quotes above need know no response or refutation. The words themselves are so saturated with hate that the intent is clear. Any straight-thinking individual can easily identify what the motive of the writer is.

Has the writer ever been to the home of Toldos Aharon and Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok chassidim?

Well, I have. I have eaten in their homes and conversed with them countless times.

I used to think that such language and tone were reserved for blogs which are devoted to anti-chareidi, anti-frum hate speech, 24/7, or have no moderation to speak of. I guess I was wrong. That a supposedly frum newspaper could actually publish such an editorial is beyond the pale.

This newspaper claims that it “is distinguished from its competitors by its commitment to the highest standards of accuracy, integrity and ethics in its journalistic pursuits. By offering unbiased coverage and thorough treatment of sensitive and critical issues, the paper acts as an impetus to effect positive change,” it states.

Ethics? Integrity? Accuracy? Unbiased?

Perhaps the newspaper should rewrite its charter to truly reflect the nature of the publication and dispense with the “positive change” that it claims to be effecting.

 {Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Thanks to Rabbi Shubert, if that is his real name, for bringing our recent editorial about the issues of chilul Hashem and aniyei ircha kodmim to a wider audience, both online and in the esteemed pages of the Yated.

    It’s unfortunate but not terribly surprising that the writer resorted to the canard that anyone who raises a point of criticism in the frum world must be one of “those who despise Torah and Torah leaders.”

    Considering that The Jewish Star is a commercial enterprise that considers itself to be in the service of that same frum world, albeit from somewhat closer to the center, it would seem obvious that not publishing the editorial, or the front page story it accompanied, would have been the easier, safer route. His comment is insulting, as he intended.

    For the record, editorials need not cite sources. They are opinions. In this case, there was a news story as well, as noted. The story quoted two rabbonim, well known in the Five Towns, including one whose shul hosted the Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe. They offered pro and con opinions about the Rebbe’s stay in the Five Towns, providing important context. It seems safe to state most of the people who didn’t read the editorial in The Jewish Star itself, or on the paper’s website, also did not have the advantage of that context.

    If that’s not enough to satisfy the writer’s hunger for data, we would respectfully refer him to the published sampling of the many letters to the editor we received, which easily ran 8-1 in favor of the position the paper took in the editorial, and included several from people who live in Israel, including in Beit Shemesh. The letters clearly support the statements made in the paper. The letters are online at http://thejewishstar.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/letters-to-the-editor-8/

    Yours truly,

    Mayer Fertig
    Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
    The Jewish Star


  3. Thank you Reb Shubert.
    Since you have had the opportunity to visit and eat at the homes of the Ehrlicha Toldos Ahron Rebbeim, do you have an insider’s view that you can share with us?

  4. I generally agree with Rabbi Shubert, however, it must be noted that blame for the disease of Sinas Yisroel is indeed a two way street. I assume the main gripe generating the negative editorial against Toldos Aharon is due to its position of anti-Zionism, a position that not only I agree to, but, from an intellectual conceptual perspective I probably take it further. However, I harbor no animosity for Shomer Mitzvos Zionist Jews, I just think they are making a mistake. I love them and treat them as I would a Yeshiva or Chasidic Jew. UI try to convince them with logic and traditional sources that they are in error. In recent years, the spiritual failure of secular Zionism has convinced many that it was ill-concieved in the first place. Unfortunately, it is true, that many are derisive and lacking in Ahavas Yisroel for Jews of other stripes who may be mistaken or subscribe to different Hashkafos. I have no problem with attempts to voice opinions of what is proper and what is not. But I have a great problem with language and actions that engender Sinas Yisroel. That is exactly what happened 800 years ago when the sages of France burned the Rambam’s writings.

  5. A large amount of Hakoros HaTov is owed to Rabbi Yosef Shubert for standing up for Kovod Shem Shmaying, Kovod HaTorah, and making a line in the sand against Bizoyon HaTorah by a publication that is Jewish in name only.

    And Mayer Fertig (assuming that is his real name), indeed your article IS a Chillul Hashem and one of sheker to boot. “Journalism” and editorials do not give you license to trample on the Torah, the Shulchan Aruch, and Hilchos Loshon Hora, Motzei Shem Ra, and Rechilus.

    And I am surprised that your preaching to the choir resulted in only 8-1 support of the rag, rather than something more in line of 100-1 considering that fully Halachic Jews do not read loshon hora rags of your caliber.

  6. Thanks Matzav.com for posting this article. Its good to see we still have folks with real guts to take on the disgraceful write up it is referring to.

  7. I note that R. Shubert did not refute what was written in the Star. He just said that he talked many times with the Chassidim, without elaboration.

    He is giving a knee-jerk reaction here. A Rabbi that is allegedly defending kavod haTorah should make more sense though.

    In his book, if you criticize someone with a beard and streimel you are a ‘maskil’. Instead of hauling out the old canard that anyone who questions is a maskil, he should address the facts, and leave the rhetoric aside.

  8. #13, There was nothing to refute. The Star’s hit job was a bunch of hot air without a shred of evidence (as it was non-existent.)

    The Star was a typical knee-jerk MO reaction to Gedolei haTorah who point out the fallacies of zionism. Their ilk tried the same tactics against Rav Avigdor Miller, The Satmar Rebbe, and the Brisker Rov.

  9. Toras Hashem has been built and established on a foundation of QUESTIONS & ANSWERS. Blind faith has been reserved for the three cardinal acts.. If there are questions left unanswered or even worse, ignored,, anger-anxiety-frustration results. There should be an opportunity to ask any question WITH RESPECT., and an honest, polite, non judgemental answer should be given.

  10. Why is anyone taking the Star seriously? Isn’t this one of those rags they dump for free on street corners?

    Who even reads it? A couple dozen people? This is giving them more “airtime” then they are worth.

  11. I just love how biases come out – if this rebbe would be a zionist, he would be hallowed ‘a hasidic leader comes to the five towns’ would be the headline.

    Of course, when dealing with the avodah zara of zionist, anyone who stands in the way is automatically evil.

    Chaim – right on the mark. I once spoke to the son of a leader of a prominent religious zionist organization in america who was shcoked that I ould even have the have amina that someone was, chas veshalom, against zionism. He said he woudn’t even type the words ‘jews against zionism’ into his computer,so great was his love for the avodah zara. when asked, most retort – ‘anti zionist? you mean those neturei karta people, right?’ don’t you know? we would die for medinat yisrael!

    so great was his love for something called avodah zara by reb elchonon asserman, the gadol hador. oh well.