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Dec 12 2012

Corruption and ‘Purity’ in Hasidic Communities

I’ve written before about some of the truly twisted things that routinely go on within insular orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities in and around New York. And a lot of interesting information is coming out in the trial of a rabbi accused of sexually assaulting a girl who was sent to him for counseling. The Jewish Week reports:

Indeed, ever since she reported the abuse, the alleged victim of Nechemya Weberman — an unlicensed “therapist” to whom, testimony has indicated, Satmar schools referred “wayward” girls for “help” — has been subjected to intense pressure to withdraw her claim, including intimidation, harassment, social ostracism of her family and even a reported $500,000 bribe. Last spring, members of the Satmar community held a lavish fundraiser for Weberman’s defense. Not long after, four men were arrested and charged with witness tampering in connection with the case. And last Thursday, four chasidic men were arrested for taking the young woman’s picture — which was then posted online — as she testified in the courtroom…

However, many people with ties to the chasidic community believe there is something even more important about the Weberman case — namely, what it exposes about the larger communal role played by chasidic “modesty committees” in communities like Williamsburg, Borough Park and Kiryas Joel. These groups — to which, sources say, Weberman was connected — originated years ago to guard the “purity” of the community by enforcing strict dress and behavior codes that characterize the insular chasidic lifestyle. But, insiders say, the tactics of these self-appointed, freelance modesty patrols have evolved from public shaming to extortion and threats…

However, community members and observers believe that Weberman’s connection to the modesty committee (or Vaad HaTznius; tznius is Hebrew for modesty,) and his ties to the Satmar schools make this case about more than one woman’s allegations of sexual abuse against a man ostensibly charged with helping her.

According to Yerachmiel Lopin, who blogs at FrumFollies and has been reporting on the case for two years, “UTA was in effect, extorting money for Weberman. I strongly suspect they kept some of it. Given widespread rumors about his sexual misconduct, Satmar was in effect pimping its girls to Weberman, adding insult to injury by making the victim pay to be victimized.”…

According to Engelman, one of the roles of the Vaad — which comprises various “divisions” and whose members’ names are not publicized — is to conduct surveillance on those who are thought to be transgressing. Examples include local businesses that may be featuring immodest window displays or creating an atmosphere conducive to mixed-sex socializing. Young people who are spending time with members of the opposite sex or leaving the community to attend movies or go to bars or clubs are also targets, as are those who are having affairs.

Armed with their “evidence,” Vaad members then approach their subjects and, according to Engelman, attempt to persuade them to pay for therapy — with “therapists” they select — or risk public exposure. Wayward spouses are also given the option of paying members of the Vaad to fund “therapy” for their wronged mates.

Sounds like a combination of the Saudi religious police and a Mafia shakedown.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Didaktylos

    Isn’t that always the way of it – official busybodies always expect to do well out of doing good.

  2. 2
    Draken

    When convicted, they could be made to share a cell with convicted Taliban criminals. They certainly share some values.

  3. 3
    Bronze Dog

    I’m tempted to use “moral busybody” and “pervert” interchangeably.

  4. 4
    Modusoperandi

    Examples include local businesses that may be featuring immodest window displays or creating an atmosphere conducive to mixed-sex socializing.

    Look at that lawn mover! Just sitting there…handle leaning seductively back…grass bag empty but yearning to be filled…throttle, ready to be pinched…wanting…wanting…wanting to be revved…”Yes, yes, yes!”, it’s ’20% off’ sign says, pleading for more!
    It’s disgusting! When is somebody going to crack down on this filth?! Perverts! Perverts everywhere!

  5. 5
    busterggi

    All the Abrahamic religions are totally screwed up terrified of sexuality despite their belief that their god made them sexual and told them to go out and be fruitful. John Milton in ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ was right in his near climax monologue.

  6. 6
    Rob F

    Fundamentalist/conservative Abrahamic religion causes sexual abuse. It’s one of the reasons why those sorts of people shouldn’t be allowed to oppress women and girls. Religion is a choice, and therefore no one is being forced to oppress women. Women’s rights ought to overrule religious “rights” 100% of the time. “Freedom of religion” is not freedom to rape/sexually abuse or freedom to oppress women and girls.

  7. 7
    noastronomer

    *All* religion is *all* about power and control. It should hardly be surprising that males would use that power for sexual purposes. In fact I would consider it inevitable.

    Mike.

  8. 8
    baal

    originated years ago to guard the “purity” of the community

    Censorship is a risky business. We should all watch out for ‘purity’ arguments and check our selves to see if we’re being rational at that point. “X is a not a good ____ist since X says “____”. That’s a purity argument and should be a red flag for an incoming bad idea.

    It’s human to think this way.

  9. 9
    Michael Heath

    I always thought absolute purity requires sans clothes.

  10. 10
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Corruption and ‘Purity’ in Hasidic Communities

    Censorship is a risky business. We should all watch out for ‘purity’ arguments and check our selves to see if we’re being rational at that point. “X is a not a good ____ist since X says “____”. That’s a purity argument and should be a red flag for an incoming bad idea.

    It’s human to think this way.

    On that note, while the Reynolds number of an incoming fluid flow across a flat plate increases linearly (to a first approximation, assuming smoothness) with length, flow in a pipe or conduit tends to become “fully developed” close to the entrance, with the Reynolds number more or less remaining constant through the middle section (again to a first approximation).

  11. 11
    dingojack

    Azkyroth – really? What a drag!
    How about the flow over a wingnut?

    Dingo
    ——-
    Psst. Don’t tell them that only about 1/10th of ‘their bodies’ are them. The rest are filthy, disease and decay causing bacteria, fungi and protists (and the like). The only cure is the massive internal consumption of bleach and disinfectants.
    Oh sure they’ll die, but hoo-boy will they be pure. ;)

  12. 12
    fwtbc

    Psst. Don’t tell them that only about 1/10th of ‘their bodies’ are them. The rest are filthy, disease and decay causing bacteria, fungi and protists (and the like). The only cure is the massive internal consumption of bleach and disinfectants.

    Speaking of bleach and disinfectant…

    http://gothamist.com/2012/12/11/ultra-orthodox_advocate_for_victims.php

  13. 13
    =8)-DX

    Look at that lawn mover! [..] Perverts! Perverts everywhere!

    Absolutely. Not long ago I walked past a store with – you wouldn’t guess – rows and rows of shoes simply lined up in the window! Talk about overt sexual display!

  14. 14
    billyeager

    The ‘support’ of the community for this sexual predator is beyond disturbing. Some refer to such response as being borne of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, but I believe that Stockholm Syndrome was borne of the submission required by theism.

  15. 15
    bradleybetts

    @noastronomer #7

    “*All* religion is *all* about power and control. It should hardly be surprising that males would use that power for sexual purposes. In fact I would consider it inevitable”

    It bloody well should be suprising. In a world where every single male is a sex-crazed misogynist it would be inevitable, but we’re not, so it isn’t. I agree with your initial statement regarding religion being about control, but I dislike the fact that you seem to think that anyone with a penis and a bit of power will immediately become a sex offender.

    To be clear, I’m not some MRA moron; I just dislike unfair characterisations and whitewash jobs against entire groups of people. Especially ones which paint me in a bad light when you’ve never met me.

    Anyway, moving on to the subject at hand: this right here is the biggest problem with religion, and it ties into noastronomer’s comment about power. This man has done a bad thing. But the people in his community are protecting him because he’s a man of God, and if a man of God is shown to be less than fallible it places doubt on the entire system. And they need the system to force others to follow their ridiculous moral code, so that can’t be allowed to happen. The worst thing about it is it’s self-perpetuating. The last generation of fuckwads taught them to be that way, and now they’re busy doing the same to the next generation. The whole thing winds me up no end.

  16. 16
    RW Ahrens

    ” In a world where every single male is a sex-crazed misogynist it would be inevitable, but we’re not…”

    Au contrare, my friend. In the world of the ultra-orthodox, little boys are taught from infancy that women are to be seen as property to be used as men desire, and sexual desire is suppressed and shamed, so as to keep it behind closed doors. Little wonder that so many of the fundamentalist stripe in leadership positions are eventually caught with their hands (and other parts) in the honey pot! So it is no surprise that men in influential positions in the ultra-orthodox communities would also be placed in such positions of temptation. After all, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely! In the world of the ultra-fundamentalist religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, misogyny is the order of the day.

    The wonder is that so few in those communities have been exposed to date – and this story is illustrating just how that works.

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