Is Jonathan Rosenblum ‘Schizo’?

First, I must apologize for using such a crass, insensitive, and medically inaccurate word in my title. However, the word “schizo” is in quotes for a reason. It is because the title is an ironic twist on a similarly titled article written by the my title’s subject, Jonathan Rosenblum, in a recent issue of Mishpacha magazine. The article, titled “Is Yair Lapid Schizo” was a pathetically failed attempt to tar the leader of the new Yesh Atid party as having a split personality with respect to the issue of the need for certain segments of the population to equally share the burden of serving their country. Rosenblum’s specious claim was that since the new legislation being encouraged by Yesh Atid has a criminal component, it flies in the face of Lapid’s attempt to show that he cares about that community. Had Rosenblum done a modicum of research he’d have understood that the bill could not pass any legal muster without a criminal penalty, as watered down as this one is. So, if Lapid believes that this bill is truly for the benefit of both this community and the country at large, it’s perfectly consistent to do all he can to make sure it passes and can stand up to legal scrutiny.

Poor Jonathan. It’s actually his writing that exhibits qualities of a “split personality”. Of course, our Yale educated columnist is capable of understanding the nuances of democratic law-making. In fact, when Jonathan writes about politics, especially U.S. politics, he’s astute and insightful. He truly shines in those articles. On the other hand when he’s writing in his role as apologist for his adopted faith community his writing is often drab, uninspired, inaccurate, and shallow. It must be so frustrating to have to defend the indefensible .

However, the true conflict appears when he writes, as he has claimed to me, as an agent of change for that same community. He’s so desperate for things to be different, better, less fanatic, and more normal. Yet, he always has to fly just under the radar of his spiritual overlords and his reactionary audience, or so he claims, which always leaves these “self-critiques” lacking.

Apparently, Rosenblum was dispatched in his lapdog role to write a disgraceful screed in the Yated Ne’eman. As an aside, the Yated is a cross between the truthlessness of the former Soviet Union’s Pravda and any religious fundamentlist Islamicst paper you can find. Why a self-respecting, intelligent, author would write for such a rag is beyond me. But this goes to the heart of the conflict that I see. Like someone who suffers from Stockholm Syndrome, maybe he just can’t help himself.

In this latest missive the radically religious Yated, bizarrely, uses Jonathan to attempt to affect the policy of the modern orthodox Rabinical Council Of America. What’s the RCA’s crime? Asking US-born, newly elected MK Rabbi Dov Lipman to speak at an upcoming convention.

Rabbi Lipman has become the whipping boy of the Yated and their ilk for daring to challenge the established ways that are causing the Yated’s Israeli constituency to careen out of control economically and sociologically. Ironically, Rabbi Lipman is advocating some of the very same changes that Rosenblum pushes for in his more lucid moments. However, and sadly, lucidity was nowhere to be found here. Rosenblum builds his house of cards on inaccuracies and falsehoods.

I don’t want to bore you with the entire litany, as the list is long. So I’ll just analyze one that I know of first-hand. Rosenblum states,

In a widely circulated video last year, Lipman is seen leading a woman whose attire was guaranteed to provoke an angry response past a shul in the “Yerushalmi” neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh.

What Rosenblum is referring to is a video taken on the first day of classes at the Orot Banot school in Beit Shemesh in September 2011 that was the focus of protest and assault on children by religious fanatics who bitterly opposed the opening of a National Religious Yeshiva on their “turf”. There is almost nothing about this statement that’s true:

  • Rabbi Lipman was not “leading the woman”. She was one of many parents and neighbors, including myself, who showed up that day to protect children from threatened protests by local fanatics. She and Rabbi Lipman had walked ahead together to asses the situation as a short time later a few young girls would have to pass that way as school let out.
  • The fanatics had gathered and were already yelling like lunatics long before Rabbi Lipman arrived. Thus there was no “provocation”.
  • The woman, wearing a long skirt and hat, was hardly dressed provocatively. Women regularly jog up that sidewalk wearing far more “provocative” outfits without getting Rosenblum’s “guaranteed” reaction.
  • There is no visible or known “shul” on that block.
  • Ramat Bet Shemesh is not solely a Yerushalmi neighborhood. 
Some of the fanatics who had gathered to harass young girls walking from their school to a bus stop.
(Photo credit: Michael Lipkin)

Pretty good, no? Five “inaccuracies” in one sentence! You can just imagine how factually accurate the remainder of the article is. I would never accuse Jonathan of intentionally lying as I’m not in his head. But suffice to it to say that I spoke to him at least twice during the time of these protests and explained, in detail as a first-hand witness, what occurred on that and subsequent days. Maybe he forgot, maybe playing to an audience that can’t handle accurate information affected his judgement, maybe, as a columnist who desperately needed to create an issue, he bent reality to fit his narrative, or maybe living this double life is more than he can handle. Who knows?

Of course, I don’t really believe that Jonathan Rosenblum suffers from schizophrenia, nor do I think he has a clinically split personality. Through his writing, however, it’s easy to discern real internal conflict. I do feel sorry for Jonathan as he seems to suffer from “buyer’s remorse” in having chosen this particular community. He should know that there are more open communities that would appreciate his Yale education and talents, and would allow him to practice his religion as he would like without always having to wish it were something else.

About the Author
Michael Lipkin made Aliyah in 2004 from Edison, NJ to Beit Shemesh with his wife and four children. Since moving to Israel, Michael and his wife have been blessed with two new sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, nine grandchildren and a sabra of their own! Michael currently works as a tech liaison for a financial web site.
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