When Guys Are Thugs…

I was doing a lot of thinking and discussing with my husband over Shabbos, specifically about the small mob of “Chareidi” guys who acted despicably on Friday at the Kotel. Because of their terrible actions, the thousands of religious girls who came to let their voice be heard were all but ignored, or worse, lumped together with the nasty thugs. And of course, the thugs there were just a small fraction of the guys there on Friday, but biased press made it seem like all the guys were violent and nasty, when a good chunk were just quietly praying, or fighting back the mob, trying to get them to behave.

But those guys were just thugs, plain and simple. Thugs, that just happened to be Chareidi. (In name. Not in action. Chareidi should mean strictly following the Torah, but what they did was not following the Torah.)

My husband works as a security guard in schools, and he’s moved from school to school, has worked in Chareidi schools, dati leumi schools, and chiloni schools… and from his experience there, and elsewhere, there are thugs in every single group. Chareidi culture doesn’t hold the monopoly on thugs.

Chareidi thugs are guys like the guys who did this on Friday. Dati leumi thugs are the guys who do “tag mechir” (retaliation against Arabs/Arab property after terrorist attacks, etc…). Chiloni thugs are the guys who do drugs, are involved in stabbings, shootings, and other illegal activities.

I need to point out that when the media says “Chareidi guys attacked WoW”, in other words, painting the entire chareidi population as being violen thugs, what they’re doing is wrong, just as wrong as it would be if they said “Group of black guys attacked women”- its lumping people together, and is racism/religious discrimination, putting a whole group of people in a bad light when they had nothing to do with the bad actions of a few. That’s just wrong. And blaming the entire chareidi community for these thugs is just as wrong as blaming the entire secular world for their thugs or blaming the entire dati leumi community for their thugs.

My husband and I were discussing thugs, and what they have in common, what they do and why they do it, in the hopes that maybe something can be done to prevent thuggish behavior.

First off, I wanted to say that thugs almost always are guys. The girls at the Kotel on Friday were all well behaved. The only ones misbehaving were guys. And mostly between the ages of 15 and mid twenties. In other words, the time of raging testosterone, causing aggression. That is generally the age and sex of most thugs, no matter their religious affiliation.

So, what is the reason for all this? What is the reasons that thugs act thuggishly?

Well, my husband and I think that they’re doing it for two reasons:

Attention seeking, and trying to take control.

Because face it- that’s what they get. They get plenty of attention- they get their friends cheering them on for being “daring” and they get negative attention from media and other people. Lots and lots of attention.

And they certainly are controlling things, to an extent.

But what exactly would make a group of guys feel they need attention and to be in control so bad that they’re willing to stoop to such low levels that they do something so negative and thuggish?

In my opinion: low self esteem, plain and simple.

This goes for any thugs. Dati leumi, chiloni, and chareidi.


What causes low self esteem?

Oh, there are whole books written on the subject. Bad parenting is one.

But bad schooling is also a biggie. And bad disciplinary methods in school, such as shaming into behaving. Shaming into behaving is one sure way to get people who feel worthless about themselves, have really bad self esteem, and are likely to grow up to be thugs. And though the rate of corporal punishments in the chareidi system has gone down, there is still much improvement needed in that system.

And from what my husband sees daily in the schools he works in, while chareidi schools have issues in how they are teaching and disciplining kids, there are just as many issues in chiloni and dati leumi schools.

Which, by the way, is why I homeschool my kids. I don’t want to put my kids through a school system, which, by its very nature, causes low self esteem in the students as an inevitable by-product. And no, non Chareidi school systems aren’t any better in turning out kids with good self images- all schools have big issues with that!

I would love to start a project, together with other members of Women For the Wall, to have workshops in Chareidi communities about instilling kids with positive self image. Maybe, maybe it might help change things from the inside out. Maybe it’ll help schools work on finding disciplinary methods that help keep self esteem intact instead of stomping on it until it is non existent. And even if not, maybe it’ll help parents reverse the damage that the schools are causing. And then maybe it’ll help Chareidi kids grow up with better self worth. Because with self worth, you won’t find chareidi guys acting thuggishly, doing terrible things like they did on Friday, as well as many other times in the past.


As for the question- “Do chareidim have more thugs than other groups, and if so, why?”- that’ll be addressed in another post in the near future.

About the Author
Ronit Peskin is a chareidi single mother of 4 living in Kochav Yaakov, activist for mental health awareness, blogger at PennilessParenting.com about living a life with mindful spending, and foraging instructor, attempting to make a kiddush Hashem every day via her interactions with others.