Is that a beeping sound I am hearing? It sounds like the beeping sounds that trucks make as they back up. Is that a beeping sound because someone is backing up? Is the beeping getting louder? I think it is. You do not even have to strain to hear it you can all hear it very clearly- just listen. Yes, I am being just a bit too cynical but I can hear it. It’s the sound of people being backed out of their position of power; away from the two decades long choke hold monopoly they have had on certain aspects of life that is now showing signs of slipping away from them. It is the sound that comes from those who are threatened by the loss of their allegedly immutable beliefs as others stand up to them and say “No, you are not correct. Time to open your eyes and broaden your view, there are other ways, ways that G-d approves of, ways that are also part of our joint mesorah.”
I heard a lot of beeping last week when I and my kippah serugah wearing co-religionists were referred to as Amalek by one such person. Even though I wrote about it I was not as terribly hurt by it as much as others were by the accusation because that particular beeping triggered three responses in me. The first was that I knew that someone, either the Rabbi who accused us of being Amalek or one of the rabbis own minions would find a way to spin the Amalek accusation to suggest that I/we had misinterpreted him. Of course, that happened a day or so later when a member of his own family did just that. Another reason that I was not overly offended was that I was personally accustomed to that type of diatribe. I had been implicitly called a Nazi not that long ago by someone who took offense with a book I wrote – Abuse in the Jewish Community. That person who freely labeled me as Nazi never read the book but was completely convinced that I was evil incarnate, he even suggested it more than once in an editorial written for a magazine that he is responsible for publishing. The third reason that I did not react personally to the accusation that I am a member of the nation of Amalek was because I simply do not care what I am called if I have evidence to indicate that I am correct. In terms of abuse in our communities I have compiled a great deal of evidence and included it in the book and have watched as some of my accusers recently started to “beep” as they now write about protecting victims from abusers. Don’t get me wrong they have not admitted to the scope or the level of the problem, nor are they acting to protect individuals by reporting abusers to the authorities to the degree that they should but they are at least finally acknowledging abuse exists as a problem. So they beeped at me when I stood up to them and exposed the problem and they beep as they very slowly back in to and come around to admitting the existence of the problem.
Am I an Amalekite because my kippah is knitted or is it because I have a bigger tent willing to admit more individuals even those with somewhat different views? Am I Amalek because I stand by my convictions and beliefs while still allowing others their own? Am I Amalek because I believe that we are truly all in this together?
Sometime this week there will be a new Chief Rabbi. Hopefully it will be someone who is more flexible and willing to make the changes so necessary.
I hear their beeping again. There was a time when the leaders of the Hareidi world, while firmly standing their religious ground acted in a much more inclusive fashion. Too bad that this generation has become so entrenched in their divisiveness and have not followed in the footsteps of many of their own mentors; they would not be beeping so loudly if they were more accepting of others and followed their elders instead of creating new rigidities that push people away. You know what happens when you push away – those being pushed either leave completely or they push back even harder. When the pushback commences that is when the backups begin, and when the backups begin that is when the beeping starts.