The story thus far.
A few weeks ago a rabbi from Baltimore, Maryland by the name of Aharon Feldman decided to pick on MK Dov Lipman. Lipman had made a proposal that about the educational content that should be included in the curriculum of Israeli ultra-orthodox Yeshivot and Feldman was incensed by it. Now, if all Mr. Feldman wanted to do was critique MK Lipman’s policies this column would have never been written. Everyone has a right to speak -even rabbis from far away places- and dissent is the mother’s milk of a vibrant civil society. But no, civil is the last word that comes to mind when reading Feldman’s words.
Feldman decided to brand MK Lipman a rasha, and evil man. Labels such as these carry a lot of weight in Haredi society and being labelled thus by a renowned rabbi is especially ignominious and it amounted to bullying at its most naked. The insult was intended to delegitimize and intimidate a fellow Haredi man into backtracking on idea that the good ol’ rabbi found offensive. And what were those policies? The very reasonable request that students in Yeshivot learn, in addition to Torah, some math and some English with a view that they might be minimally competent in the world outside of 24/7 Torah scholarship.
A few days after the original statements Feldman changed his tune; he decided that MK Lipman was not so much rasha as he was shogeg, one that sins through ignorance. Knesset Member Lipman also happens to be a rabbi in his own right, so idly calling him ignorant is literally adding insult to injury.
Rabbi Lipman does not need me to come to his defense. He’s a grown man and I’ll pay him the compliment of assuming that he can take care of himself just fine. As it happens, I do not agree with MK Lipman’s policy proposal. As welcome as it is, I think it overly timid and ill-drawn. Furthermore, I have never met the Lipman (although I can hope that will change in the near future). So what follows is not written in defense of Rabbi Lipman; it is written in defense of Israeli democracy. What Feldman did, his heavy-handed attempt at bullying Israeli parliamentarians into doing his bidding is simply wrong. Beyond the ridiculousness embedded in having a resident of Maryland dictating policy in Israel there’s the condescending attitude, the arrogance, the naked power grab.
Anti-bullying studies point out that the most effective techniques to stop bullying often come not from the intended victim but from those around him. By openly opposing the bully, society has the power to make him stop. So Mr. Feldman, go home. Really, go home. You’re an embarrassment to yourself and a most unwelcome distraction to the rest of us.
The Bully from Baltimore
(A poem in mixed metric and awful rhyme written in honor of the Most Honorable, Respected, Revered, Learned and Wise Rabbi Aharon Feldman of Baltimore, Maryland)
I know of an old man, from the town of Bo’more,
he’s learned, respected, he’s famous and more.
He hails from Maryland, that’s the Seventh State,
he’s also a bully, and make no mistake.
He’s called Rabbi Feldman, and he likes to whine,
about MKs in Israel that get out of line.
He likes to insult, libel, disown,
Israeli rabbis with a mind of their own.
And what do they call you, your fellows, your flock?
As you cast aspersions, as you swing muck?
Do they call you rabbi? Do they call you teacher?
At the end of the day, you’re just a hateful preacher.
What you said about Lipman was nasty and base,
you called a man evil, and not to his face.
You like giving labels, you think they’re a hoot?
You’re a bully, a coward and a dullard to boot.
You don’t like math or English composition.
It’s all Gemmara but not simple addition?
You have a problem with grammar, syntax, and language?
You live in the States, how do you manage?
You can say what you will, that is your right.
But keep this in mind before you pick a fight,
What do they call you, I ask as I finish,
Is there a word for douchebag in Yiddish?