A gesture to honor Monsey hero ended up in controversy; here is why – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on February 17, 2020

A few weeks ago, Joseph Gluck made headlines as the hero who stopped a horrifying antisemitic attack that targeted a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York. Gluck threw a table at the attacker as he was stabbing multiple people at Rabbi Chaim Rottenbergs home-synagogue, known as Rabbi Rottenbergs Shul. He also managed to write down the numbers of the attackers license plate, allowing the police to identify the suspect.Five people were stabbed in the attack, one critically, and the event become a moment that seem to be able to bring together Jews from all across the spectrum, reunited in the solidarity with the victims and in denouncing the rampant antisemitism that in the past two years has grown exponentially in the United States.

For many, the spotlight on the ultra-orthodox community that followed the attack was also an opportunity to denounce how antisemitic attacks at a lower intensity such as insults on the street had too often targeted ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are very easily identifiable, without an adequate response.

However, a gesture that might have been considered the result of this general solidarity, a $20,000 prize granted to Gluck for his heroism by the Jewish Federation of Rockland County and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), ended up in controversy after he decided to turn it down in light of the Zionist values embodied by the organizations.

I was not willing to offer my soul for $20,000," Gluck told News 12 Brooklyn last week. "My identity for $20,000 was not for sale.

His decision should not come as a surprise.

Rabbi Rottenberg and his followers belong to the Kosov Hassidim, a group that originated in Hungary, moved to America between the Wars and shares its origin with the far-larger and better known Vishnitz Hassidim.

Hassidism refers to a Jewish movement that was originated by the teachings of Rabbi Yisrael Ba'al Shem Tov in the 18th century. Over the generations, the followers of the movement split into communities led by different spiritual leaders, known as rebbes. Today, traditional hassidic groups and their followers live an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, while ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not follow hassidic teachings are usually called Litvaks or Lithuanians, from the country where the counter-movement to hassidism spread.

The Kosov is a very small group. When it comes to Zionism, they follow a mainstream hassidic position they are not pro, but they are not especially anti as other communities. However, I think this episode sheds light on the status of hassidic communities in America at large, Rabbi Levi Cooper who teaches hassidism at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and has written his doctoral dissertation on the interaction between hassidism and halacha, told The Jerusalem Post.

The biggest and most influential [hassidic sect] in America is Satmar, and they are very anti-Zionist, often setting the tone for the others, he added.

For example, the Vishnitz community in Israel takes money from the state and is involved, but the Vishnitz in Monsey identify more as anti-Zionist.

The ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist attitude depends on the fact that for these communities, Jews are supposed to be brought back to Israel by God at the time of redemption. Moreover, Israel should be a state fully governed by halacha.

However, as Samuel Heilman, a professor of Sociology at Queens College of the City University of New York and an expert on contemporary Orthodox movements, told the Post, even in America the anti-Zionism attitude might have to do more with the optics than with the reality.

In the ultra-Orthodox world, political Zionism is problematic, explained Heilman. We also have to keep in mind that this is a community where the pressure to conform is extremely high.

According to Heilman, the public nature of Monsey attack and what followed is a key to understand also Glucks decision to turn down the prize.

The hassidic communities here receive funds from federal and local institutions, and many of its members work, so they are wealthier than in Israel. But they do also accept money from Jewish federations and similar Jewish institutions connected to Israel they just do it quietly, he added.

Within the spectrum of hassidic communities, including in the US, there are different nuances.

The most notable exception is represented by the most well-known hassidic group in the world: Chabad-Lubavitch, who fully cooperate with the State of Israel and its institutions, even though Heilman notes that at the core of its ideology, Chabad also presents an anti-Zionist position, very evident in all the Rebbes teachings.

As the line between Modern and ultra-Orthodox becomes more pronounced, another kind of movement has developed, the so called hardali from the merging of the Hebrew word haredi and dati leumi, national-religious who are ultra-Orthodox in lifestyle but Zionist in ideology.

Moreover, it is important not to forget that in Israel, the vast majority of ultra-Orthodox groups have reached some form of acknowledgment, if not cooperation, with the state, in some cases even as members of Knesset or ministers sitting in coalition with Zionist parties, such as the case of Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman, a member of the Gerrer Hassidim.

After turning down the prize from the Federation and the ADL, Gluck still received an equivalent sum raised by his community at an event to honor him in Williamsburg last Thursday according to Yeshiva World.

The report added that Rabbi Dovid Feldman, a man known for his ferocious anti-Zionism, which has brought him to meet with figures such as former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also attended the event.

According to JTA, he gave a statement to News 12 saying that the ADL and Jewish Federation were about to issue a statement to encourage and promote the Zionist idea of Jewish self-defense, of fighting back, of fighting our enemies, which happens to be contrary to our tradition.

With the rising of antisemitism in America and in most of the Western World, fighting back like Gluck did when he chased out the perpetrator of the attack in Monsey may instead become more and more of a necessity, not only physically or with weapons but also with a higher level of solidarity and support across the political and religious divides in the Jewish community. The spirit of cohesion that was raised after Monsey should not be lost.

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A gesture to honor Monsey hero ended up in controversy; here is why - The Jerusalem Post

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