If Charedi rabbis banned broccoli, overnight no one would buy broccoli

Broccoli  (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)
Broccoli (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

The government made allowances for houses of worship to remain open, provided they are COVID compliant. Many shuls made the tough decision to close, emphasising that congregant safety comes first. But, in some shuls, the only way you would know we are mid pandemic is the ever growing list of sick people to pray for. Shul services, barmitzvahs and weddings carried on as normal with a total disregard for the law which led to the report in last week’s Jewish News.

The leadership in the Charedi community can issue a ban on broccoli and from one day to the next it will be embarrassing to be seen buying broccoli. They can issue a warning against travelling and travel will cease. Yet instead of issuing clear guidance on the COVID regulations, the guidance posted into every Shomer Shabbat household focused on loopholes that would bypass government regulation. The fault is not with the people that followed this warped “guidance” but with the leadership that developed and promoted it, even hailing its author as a ‘national hero’.

The attitudes are all too familiar to me. Having grown up in Stamford Hill, I can understand why the majority of people are falling prey to disinformation. It comes from people you trust.

People you trust with important parts of life like: education, kashrut, marriages, finances and spiritual needs. Rabbinic leadership is also about pastoral care to the extent that the UOHC arranges cut price package weddings to save the finances for bigger families. One assumes, nay knows, that they have only the best intentions. But their “guidance” is more about control.

After all, if they can control The narrative outside the community to external agencies, then they can control it inside *to* the community and hand over the laws internally. When you can control where people walk, what is read, what is worn and how you parent, then what comes next is inevitable. The priorities of leadership will not be in the best interests of the community, but in keeping them together and keeping their information coming from that controlled source.

On a recent blog by Eli Spitzer he said “Being an extremist in London doesn’t mean you hate the British government, it means you ignore it”. I totally agree. We were brought up to consider ourselves better than anyone who wasn’t just like us – including other Jews.

This included our neighbours, the police, medical professionals and the government. We are taught and reminded daily we must preserve our way of life by all means, as if we are in imminent danger. But this came at a great cost.  With the leadership so busy maintaining the status quo they are trampling the vulnerable and the abused.

These very same leaders are those that prevent victims of sexual abuse from reporting to the authorities, lobby government agencies against Relationship & Sex Education and that ‘manage’ sex offenders in the community.

Those who have experienced sexual abuse have to make a choice so far from anything they have ever had to do before. You must choose to reveal a secret that you may even struggle to articulate, and know that you will lose everything you’ve ever known, or you will spend an infinite amount of energy trying to live with the unresolved trauma.

It is a complete paradox, the very people that profess to be concerned with all your life needs are the people silencing you, invalidating you and ultimately sacrificing your emotional needs and mental health for maintaining order in the community.

This Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week it is imperative we can equally call out leadership for their failings to prioritise the safety of individual members, as much as we praise these very same people for all the good they and their organisations might do.

About the Author
Yehudis Goldsobel is the Chief Executive of Migdal Emunah & Founder of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week
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