The Rubashkin Case: Doers Vs. Bloggers

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rav_aryeh_zev_ginzbergBy Rav Aryeh Zev Ginzberg

The world has always been divided into two categories, the doers and the non-doers: the minority who dedicate their days and nights for the community at large, and the majority who are content to just sit on the sidelines and be passive observers to all that goes on around them.

It is no different for K’lal Yisrael. There are a minority of Yidden who live for others, whether it’s delivery for Tomchei Shabbos, giving up their Shabbos and yom tov menuchah to go on Hatzalah calls, or even dedicating the little free time that they have to work for their shul or local yeshiva. This minority comprises, for the most part, passionate and concerned people who want to make a difference in the world during their few years that Hashem has awarded them with health, wealth, and the ability to do for others.

Then there are the majority of Yidden, who busy themselves with their own lives and the lives of those closest to them, and generally have no interest in the greater needs of the community. Maybe they are not indifferent, but they surely are not passionate about getting out there to help make changes for the general community.

This is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just the way it has always been. Look at your shul, for example. For every hundred families, most often it’s five or ten that shoulder the bulk of the burden and expend great efforts to do what needs to get done, while the silent majority are content to be just that, silent. They don’t really feel too strongly one way or the other.

In the last few years, that has changed. With the introduction of blogs into the world-in particular the Torah world-we now have a new category of people. There are people who do care about the general community and are indeed passionate about their beliefs and feelings, but rather than becoming “doers,” they are satisfied to just become “bloggers.”

They hide behind the anonymity of the computer screen, where they can say what they want, how they want, and when they want, regardless of the consequences. Many of these bloggers are indeed passionate about what they believe in and what needs to be corrected, but many express themselves in a brutal and cruel fashion.

A case in point is the painful tragedy of the Sholom Rubashkin trial. Here is a man who has been for years a pillar of the community, a renowned ba’al chesed, and a son, husband, and father of a large family who is facing (Rachmanah litzlan) a life sentence. Here again, the doers in K’lal Yisrael (a small minority, as always) have come together to try to help him and his family in whatever way possible during this terrible ordeal. Then we have the silent majority who see but don’t want to be heard; it’s not their problem.

Now we have the new group of bloggers, who have spent valuable time with hundreds of blogs and comments on whether he deserves or doesn’t deserve this terrible fate. What has happened to us? Where is the Yiddishe compassion for a Jew, and for his wife and children? What makes one Jew spend his time attacking another Jew and judging him in the most brutal terms, all while hiding behind a computer screen?

In truth, often we are our own worst enemy. There is an observation by the Targum Yonasan ben Uziel that is extremely painful to read, but unfortunately has much truth to it. In Parashas Bo (Sh’mos 10:28) Pharaoh tells Moshe Rabbeinu, “for on the day that you see my countenance, you will die.” Explains the Targum Yonasan that Pharaoh threatened Moshe that if he would see him again, he would deliver him into the hands of Dasan and Aviram, who previously wanted to kill him.

Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita, in his sefer Ta’am V’daas, explains that we can see from this that it is worse to fall into the hands of an evil person in Yisrael than into the hands of a gentile, for in many instances the evil Jew bears more animosity towards his righteous brethren than does a gentile.

How frightening, how devastating-and, yes, how true. To read some of the comments on a blog (that have been sent to me) from Torah-orientated Jews who speak with such bitterness, hatred, and dismissal of so many wonderful people, organizations, and even, chas v’shalom, of gedolei Yisrael, almost always in an anonymous fashion, is to witness a frightening phenomenon in K’lal Yisrael that hasn’t existed before.

Do the bloggers think that HaKadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t know how to tap into the world of blogs? Do any of the bloggers believe that lashon ha’ra against other Jews and organizations will go unpunished, and that in the world of cyberspace “leis din v’leis dayan” (there is no law and no judge)?

I read recently a great story about the rosh yeshiva of Sh’or Yoshuv, Rav Shlomo Freifeld, zt’l. He was once sitting with a group of talmidim, during the Yom Kippur War, when someone made a disparaging remark about the soldiers, commenting that they didn’t keep the mitzvos. Rav Shlomo pounded upon the table and thundered his protest: “In Egypt we were at the 49th level of tumah, in the depth of impurity, and a mere seven weeks later we stood at Har Sinai. Be careful how you talk about a Yid!”

I wonder what the rosh yeshiva would say if he read some of the thoughts expressed in these anonymous blogs and the disparaging remarks made about Torah-orientated Jews by other Jews-often about gedolei Yisrael or leaders of the community who dedicate their days and nights on behalf of K’lal Yisrael. In truth, he probably wouldn’t say anything; he would just tear k’riyah.

While I have long been disturbed by this assault upon our Torah values by the infiltration of the “bloggers” in our community and the great harm that it has brought us, recently that concern has been significantly increased. I attended a simcha several days after returning from the Agudah convention on Thanksgiving weekend. I met an old friend, who is a leader in his field and a prominent philanthropist as well. Several years ago, I tried to convince him to join me at that year’s Agudah convention, where I felt his acumen and concern for the community at large would make him a perfect candidate to benefit from and provide guidance to the convention. He agreed to join, and only a last-minute family conflict forced him to cancel his reservation.

He asked me about this year’s convention, and with great enthusiasm I shared with him the highlights of what was a remarkable convention. Difficult and painful subjects were discussed publicly, and important solutions and ideas were presented and implemented. I told him how important it is for him to come and participate in these workshops and symposiums, as so much has been accomplished and can be accomplished as a result of these frank and open discussions.

He responded that he doesn’t need to participate, because he does so in a different venue. He described to me his “blog name” and how he feels liberated to say whatever he feels and thinks to an open forum, without anyone knowing its source. He then took the liberty to show me some of his blog comments over the last week.

I could not conceal my disappointment in both the choice of venue that he had made to express his thoughts and the great loss that the greater community has as a result of qualified people with so much to contribute, in word and in deed, having left the “world of doers” and entered into the “world of bloggers.” They accomplish nothing, but create a venue for others to vent their frustration and hatred towards the individual and/or the community at large.

The Agudah convention was a great kiddush Hashem. Hundreds of Yidden all joined together to hear from gedolei Yisrael, to talk openly of our problems and of our faults, and to discuss how to help solve these problems. Issues are discussed in open forums, where every person can voice his or her position and show concern for K’lal Yisrael. Each year, new ideas from those discussions are put forth and put into motion to make a real difference in the Torah world. Shuvu, Vaad l’Hatzolas Nidchei Yisroel, and, last year, the Emergency Parnossah Initiative are just a few of the wonderful organizations that had their conception at an Agudah convention.

And here this wonderful, bright, and dedicated and concerned Jew doesn’t feel motivated to become a “doer” like his father and grandfather before him, but is content on using these talents to become an anonymous blogger.

K’lal Yisrael has a myriad of problems, and we have enough non-doers. What we desperately need are more doers. One thing we definitely do not need is more bloggers in our community. May HaKadosh Baruch Hu protect us from ourselves.

The above article first appeared in the Five Towns Jewish Times, published by Mr. Larry Gordon.

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  1. The first line is already grossly inaccurate and inappropriate (and I didn’t read further yet): “the minority who dedicate their days and nights for the community at large, and the majority who are content to just sit on the sidelines and be passive observers to all that goes on around them.”

    So if you are not from the first group you’re probebly from the other… That is NOT true. A lot of people would do anything they can, except most people don’t have the opertunity to spend “their days and nights for the community at large”, they have obligations and responsibilities to their families which are not ‘covered’ or ‘sponsered’.

    Now let me read the rest, maybe we’ll figure it out…

  2. Ok. True. Bloggs do bring out to the forfront some thoughts that you wouldn’t believe could come from a Torah Jew.

    But bloggs isn’t THE problem, and there’s also a lot of good to the bloggs. The fact that there are different opinions about Rubashkin isn’t the problem of Klal Yisroel, and I don’t think any one in his right mind says it isn’t a Mitzva and a Chiyuv do help in any way we can. There just are differences of opinion when it comes to PUBLIC identification and orgenizational efforts, which one could definately hear both sides.

    [BTW – I work for a living. I edit Seforim and I’m very backed up on my work! but when I see something that bothers me I ‘blogg’, and yes, I do feel I’m helping shape the public in the little way that I have, just as the writer of this article feels he is…]

  3. “They accomplish nothing”
    There must be some social utility to blogging. Is there a more balanced view of some of the positives of blogging? We must Dan L’kaf Zcus for the bloggers as well, no?

  4. Regardings shuls, there are people who are good at delegating, and those who don’t know how. I have been a member of shuls of both kinds. On the one hand, if the handful of people who are naturally inclined to be in leadership roles know how to delegate, they can successfully bring in others to get involved and take on responsibility. On the other hand, a member may even offer to get involved and be rebuffed by the handful of leaders in some shuls, who prefer to run things the way see fit, although it means handling all the work (and the honor?) themselves…..

  5. WADR to the Rov, this article is simply “blaming the messenger”. maybe if erliche looking yidden stopped getting themselves in trouble, there would be nothing to blog about.
    On a different note, our Neviim, preached about the misdeeds of the Jews loud and clear, maybe todays bloggers can serve a similar purpose.

  6. How dare you accuse the majority of Klal yisrael just sitting back and being silent? Do you know each and every individual that is not in the limelight? How many of klal yisrael who wish to remain anonymous, help others in need without the media showfare and honoring at dinners? Take a look at most askanim. They are either very wealthy and have the money, time and resources to help out. Most simple Jews have their own challenges, families, parnassah and worries to deal with. What kind of chutzpah do you have to criticize those that are seemingly silent? You raise a valid point that there are bloggers out there that are anti Torah, but that gives you no excuse to bashmutz the majority of klal yisrael. You need to respond to my allegations, otherwise your article is persona non grata and void of any substance.

  7. I tend to disagree. In many respects, bloggers are doers. Abusers that were able to ply their trade for years, were ousted from their positions PRIMARILY due to relentless bloggers.

  8. I blog sometimes ,and my daily mundane activity makes me a rubashkin soldier, and herres how I do every chance that I need meat or poultry I shop at rubashkins.I also tell my family at every chance I get to support them in this way.also I say a.kapitel tehilim daily for him.I encourage everyone who can should at least do these things for the rubashkins

  9. Where does one begin with this?
    Bloggers accomplish nothing? Baloney. Thanks to bloggers, not long ago, an organization publicly admitted it had failed for decades to address the unspeakable travesty and perversity of child abuse within its own ranks, perpetrated by its own affiliations. Amazing, don’t you agree?
    And now the next step is to admit that people have covered up that travesty all that time. Where do you think the pressure will come from? Bloggers, that’s who.

  10. Rabbi, you are missing the forest for the trees…

    While the agudah does great work and the conventions bring together many people all with the intent to help the klal, this is a completely separate issue.

    While some bloggers are anonymous – some are not. Some put forth their name and background for all to see. Why then do you paint them all with the same negative brush? You need to print a retraction/correction. Or perhaps you are confusing anonymous “comment posters” (like myself) with bloggers. In which case you really don’t understand much about the blogosphere.

    But besides all that were it not for the bloggers, we wouldn’t know about some very important things like the coverup of child abusers, scandals and chilulei H’.
    Perhaps if your preferred mediums like yated and hamodia wouldn’t squash such stories, or attempt to cover them up (or whitewash them) and would do their job by exposing evil, there wouldn’t be a need for “bloggers.”

    Perhaps its time to admit the internet exists, and chareidi orgs refusing to step onto the battlefield by pretending it does not exist-is not a good winning strategy, as who from ‘your side’ is there to defend your positions?

  11. To MD Shweks, post#2:

    If Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin was truly a brother to you, you would not hear both sides of the story. Your comment is reflective of where you stand vis a vis the Jewish People as a whole.

  12. “Issues are discussed in open forums, where every person can voice his or her position and show concern for K¬ílal Yisrael”.

    I am a respectful fan of Rav AZ Ginsburg and find that he is frank, open and involved in a positive way with Klal Yisroel.
    There is a major service to BLOGS, “every person can voice his/her position and show concern for Klal Yisroel”—issues are raised, discussed, money is raised, tefillos are begun as the blogging community is activated. It is a fallacy to say that the AGUDAH offers an open forum for every Jew to offer an opinion or even discuss events that are not close to the heart of Agudah. Can I discuss the construstion freeze and how it affects my brethren in Israel? Can I speak about Jonathan Pollard, Gilad Shalit, Rav Melamed, lack of jobs in Chinuch, poverty of Kollel couples, difficulties of women working, Mental issues that are shoved under the rug, EJF, etc.? and what if I can not afford the price of the Agudah convention weekend, how can my opinion be heard?

  13. See my comment under the YU thread – but basically I want to know why the word toeivah has become the word used to describe _______ but everyone seems to have forgotten the pesukim in Devarim (25:13-16):

    lo yiheh lechah bebeischa even va-aven gedolah ve-ketana. . . even shlemah va-tzedek yiheh lach, eifah shelemah vatzedek yiheh lach . . . ki TOAVAS HASHEM ELOKECHA kol oseh eleih kol oseh avel

    (and the drasha of chazal in Bava Basra on “hin tzedek” she-yehai hin shelcha tzedek ve-lav shelcha tzedek)

  14. Blogger’s are doers? They bring to light stuff that should have been addressed many years ago but the powers to be, just used all their effort and power to sweep it under the rug, but not solving or dealing with the real issue

    Without Bloggers child abusers in our community would still have a free hand. Only and only because of the bloggers has this issue come to light and forcing the powers to be to stop protecting the abusers and punishing the victims.

    maybe just maybe they will actually do something about this evil

  15. There are many reasons for anonymity especially living in certain communities, as appose to what this disingenuous article we are busy with our responsibilities in life, but we want to make a difference and address at times sensitive issues without difficulty of community pressure. The internet is a powerful tool and the community is beginning to using it effectively.

  16. A serious issue with Jewish blogging that seems to be ignored is the fact that we are opening our conversations up for anyone in the world to monitor. Including our worst enemies. But the blogs are an outgrowth of the “sweep it under the carpet” atmosphere of so many kehillos regarding their problems. People need to connect with one another somehow to share their burdens. Our issues don’t get addressed by vicariously watching members of meetings congratulate themselves.

  17. I once organized an event where audience participation was important. Several of us went to look over a hall and check out the acoustics. The podium had great microphones and amplification, but no matter what we tried, we could not get the mikes from the audience to work and project well to the room. So we gave up on that space.

    The matzav here is like that. Bloggers exist to amplify the sentiments that are not being heard and listened to. When the leadership is responsive enough the bloggers will lose their audience. But don’t blame the bloggers. Check your microphones from the audience,check your newspapers, and check on the attentiveness of those on the dais.

    The leadership knew about many problems before the bloggers. The bloggers just told the truth that was being ignored or covered up.

    Why are you not outraged about the cover-ups that cost children their neshomos and even their lives?


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