Elke Weiss

March of Folly

Watching the “Protest March” on the Lake of Lakewood brought back long forgotten and rather terrible memories from my schooling.

I remembered the eighth grade teacher who obnoxiously prayed loudly next to me, as if to amalgamate me when I would sit quietly.

I remember the minyan lady who would demand I pray even though I was being respectfully silent.

I remembered the principal who called me an “intellectual fraud” and attempted to humiliate me for not believing.

I doubt they remember me. They’re still teaching and likely have no idea the pain they caused. If they did know, I imagine they believe they did it for my own good. That doesn’t negate how much damage they wrecked against many of their own students.

I wish I could say I forgive them, but I honestly curse them with all the suffering they inflicted on those around them until they apologize themselves and make amends for their actions. Although I have mostly forgotten them, besides to mock them when I need a good laugh, many of their victims remain traumatized.

Perhaps I’m being too sharp. I speak so harshly, because I want these people to understand how much damage a person can unleash in their self righteousness charade of marching en mass to protest teenagers hanging out.

I’m sure the people felt very noble, they were standing up for the honor of the Torah and showing the evil sinners a thing or two! Yes, obviously chanting at them would instantly fix their lack of faith, I’m sure the peals of laughter heard on the video were just cries of repentance.

Seriously, shame on every single person who marched. The kids in Lakewood who go to the lake are likely the kids who are the most vulnerable, the most isolated and the most in need of kindness.

Not a single person thought that bringing them sandwiches and sitting down with them to listen to them?

No one thought that this type of sanctimony is likely to be what drives kids to run away from their family?

Yes, the signs posted said that ”Please make sure that all interactions with any individuals, whomever they may be, are respectful, [a word] to the wise is sufficient.” But the entire event was disrespectful to those kids, who already feel marginalized by being triangle pegs in a world of square holes.

Even if we can argue that it wasn’t the intention, I doubt any teenager who witnessed the march felt any more kindly towards religion.

I believe that the religious Jewish community is often unfairly maligned. I’ve listened to hateful and Anti-semitic bigots spew the most vile lies about the Hareidi Jewish community, ignoring the wonderful, warm and beautiful culture that lies at the best of it.

I may have my critiques (and I have a long list) but I see these people as my family. Their suffering is my suffering, their joy is my joy. I only want to help them in a positive way, as part of my family. That’s why I would never lead a march through their communities, but would met them on their terms and talk to them.

Because that’s what you do when you feel your family is in crisis. You make sure they know you’re there for them. You don’t take joy in their suffering. You don’t shame them. You stand with them, hold their hand and say “I know you’re suffering, how can I help you?”

We march with our family, not against them.

About the Author
Elke Weiss is currently an Israel Government Fellow, working in Biodiversity. In her spare time, she's the Content Director for Act For Israel, an Iengage Fellow for the Shalom Hartman Center, a Media Fellow for Chinese Media Center, a novelist and a rabble rouser.