CONFLICTED SILENCE – By Davin Rosenblatt

It occurs to me that even the most politically correct around me have no issue with talking ill of the Hassidic Jews in the region where I live. The non-politically correct do as well.  When neighbors get together and the prospect of the Hassidim moving in comes up it is almost always unified against them.
I should give a bit of background perhaps. In my region there is a neighborhood called Kiryas Joel.  It is almost exclusively Hassidic Jews. If you go there wearing a short skirt they will certainly make you feel unwelcome. It is their enclave and they have no problem trying to make you  conform to their religious preference.  They also vote as a block so they have a lot political power. Politicians bend to meet their needs therefore they receive a lot of tax dollars. Dollars that other communities do not get. This creates resentment.
They also move into other areas and try and get on school boards. Their children do not go to the public schools. They go to private school called Yeshivas.  They try and get on the school board and then do not want to invest tax payer dollars back into the school system. Then the school system fails.  Now this is not all Hassidim but it does seem to be how a lot of them operate in my region.
When rumors surface that they are planning to buy property in the local communities a sense of dread falls over the locals. Including people that are very close to me.  For my part I don’t want public schools defunded and I really don’t like a homogenous population of any type around me. I like diversity. I don’t like a pack like attitude. Anyway, local towns have actually changed laws to make sure they can limit the power an influx of Hassidim would have. It is like people look at their town as a crop and the Hassidim are locusts about to descend and leave nothing but an empty husk.
Still, if Puerto Ricans or African Americans practiced the same approach as the local Hassidim would people be so open about their disdain? Would it be acceptable? Would people say it in hushed tones to me? I don’t think they would. I know some think what they are doing is wrong because I say nothing. I just listen and then they feel the need to try and clean up what they said. The clean up is almost always parts of what I outlined above. But does justifying ones bigotry excuse it? I don’t think it does. I can’t say I am much better. I don’t want the Hassidim moving in and doing what they have done other places. I don’t campaign against them. I am more of the wait and see approach. If they try those tactics I will do all in my political power to put an end to it. I don’t want one political block having say over my whole town. Maybe I am too trusting. Maybe I should be more proactive.
Still it just strikes me as wrong to speak openly and negatively about a whole group of people I have not met. It strikes me as some think it is acceptable because they are Jews and history shows us bigotry against Jews is always more tolerated. When they speak negatively about the Hassidim I don’t stick up for the Hassidim. If I was sure what they did was right I think I would. I am conflicted.
The anti-Hassidim feeling very well could lead to open hostility if they move in. This could make the Hassidim even more insulated and less likely to consider what it means to be a good neighbor. It is not hard to see that once you are hostile to one type of Jew that it could easily spread to other Jews. Anti-semitism could rapidly increase.   I think both the Hassidim and the community are victims here. The Hassidim are victims of being judged without getting to know them individually while some communities have become victims of the Hassidim playing the political game better than everybody else.  It does strike me that some who detest how the Hassidim have played the game praise the president when he finds loopholes and work arounds to get exactly what he wants. Maybe it is fine when you are not personally on the short end or maybe it is fine if it is not a Jew gaming the system.
History tells us this will not end well for the Jews. If it does get worse I hope it becomes clearer to me that I should say something. That I should not let people think I will give these feelings of hate an audience. For now I will probably continue to remain silent. My silence seems to give people the feeling that I am not on board with them and the feeling that they need to clarify. Maybe my internal doubt can manifest itself into others doubting that it is alright to talk about strangers in such a way of disdain.

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