I have learned the hard way that any comment on COVID-19 that doesn’t start, continue and end with a passionate denunciation of people who don’t social distance will be met with a torrent of ‘offensive nonsense’, ‘defending the indefensible’ and ‘ignorant bluster’. I was ready for more of the same when I responded to the fallout of WeddingGate, but what took me more by surprise was the backlash I got on Stamford Hill WhatsApp groups for this tweet, in which I commented positively on the journalistic standards of the infamous Jewish News expose. Though this was left out of the screenshots whizzing their way around local social media, my point was to demonstrate by way of comparison the sheer disgrace of how the Jewish Chronicle has responded. In a forthcoming article, I will explain why I think the proposed boycott of the Jewish News is a bad idea, but first I want to draw attention here to what really hostile media coverage looks like.

Whilst the Jewish News observed journalistic ethics as they are generally understood, the same absolutely cannot be said of the Jewish Chronicle. At the same time as the Jewish News was putting together its detailed report, the JC went straight to the gutter, sending cameramen to stand outside grocery shops and take snaps of minors, which they then splashed – Daily Star style – all over their home page. 

This, however, was just the first step, for what followed was an opinion piece by Daniel Greenberg calling on Charedim to be disowned by all other Jews on the grounds that they have “no connection with Jewish law or values and has become simply a self-indulgent and dangerous sect.” Daniel Greenberg’s complicated and emotionally fraught relationship with the Charedi community is a subject in and of itself. He has a developed a religious vision, that he has elaborated on his blog, which consists of Judaism returning to its core values by jettisoning an ill-defined and constantly expanding list of anachronistic practices. He is, of course, welcome to search for his ideal Judaism wherever he wishes, but what makes his argument truly sick is his insistence that Charedim, by merely existing, are standing in the way of his vision and must be kicked out so a better world can emerge. This is the same twisted mentality behind every kind of persecution and all Greenberg had to do to get the Jewish Chronicle to publish it was to tack on a few lines about lockdown violations.

After sending out the signal that Charedim are an exception to the general taboo on publishing deranged hate rants about groups of people you don’t like, the Jewish Chronicle decided to go the whole hog and penned a leader accusing Charedim of causing antisemitism based on the ‘mistaken impression’ that the good and pure Jews of Bushey have anything to do with us. It is not possible here to fully plumb the depravity of this allegation, but I will attempt to outline the main points.

First of all, the idea is entirely surreal and reveals only the unhealthy, paranoid mindset of those that hold it. Strong support for COVID-lockdown is overwhelmingly concentrated among the educated middle and upper classes, precisely those who are the most queasy about holding minority groups collectively responsible for anything. It is nothing more than a fever dream to suppose that these same people will start blaming the wider Jewish community for the actions of the Charedim. No respectable Jewish Chronicle reader needs to be worried about being disinvited to a prestigious ZOOM seminar about how the new Biden administration will improve diversity in yoga because someone got them mixed up with a Charedi

Secondly, the Chronicle is completely ignoring the fact that the left-wing anti-zionists who account for the growth of anti-semitism in recent years typically go out of their way to emphasise that they don’t have any problem with Charedim. Despite my own personal support for the state of Israel, I am periodically contacted by Corbynist media outlets who assume that, because I wear a shtreimel, I must be their ally. Indeed, throughout the Corbyn saga, the Charedi community had the option to cut a separate deal with Momentum. Only one man took this deal and his biggest platform was the Chronicle itself. Instead, as a community, we stood side by side with the rest of Anglo Jewry in defending their right not to be bullied at university campuses or Labour party meetings, things of barely any relevance to Stamford Hill.

Third, and most importantly, in making this allegation, the Chronicle makes an outright mockery of the principles upon which they pretend to base their campaigning against anti-semitism. Over and over again they have declared that Jews are never responsible for anti-semitism, only to reveal that only their kind of Jews were included in this category. Over and over again, they attacked the tendency of the Labour leadership to excuse anti-semitic language as the understandable excesses of those angry at Zionism, but they didn’t mean it. When it comes to being angry at Charedim, being outraged means you can say whatever you want.

By contrast, the Jewish News has been careful this time not to allow people who hate Charedim to use COVID as an opportunity to vent their hate, even calling out others who do so. However much we might wish their expose did not exist, we don’t have a leg to stand on in opposing it. What we can, and very much should, do, however, is object to people who feel sick at the sight of someone with peyos and are using these revelations as an excuse to vent decades of built up loathing.

After years of jealously protecting its reputation as a bulwark against bigotry, the Jewish Chronicle, and a fair chunk of the Anglo Jewish community, has let the mask slip: they can’t stand us and they don’t mind saying so. That’s not something anyone else in British society has to put up with and there’s no reason we should be the exception.

12 thoughts on “The Mask Slips

  1. What do you think about the organization “Nahamu”, which claims to fight against “extremism” and regularly attacks Charedim? Are you familiar with this “new” group?

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  2. The Covid Opportunists
    – by L.E.

    Between Kosov an Viznitz
    an old bridge is present,
    Carrying many passerby
    both nobleman and peasant.

    One fine day the poor bridge
    It sounds a high-pitched creak,
    The engineer inspects and claims
    Oh my, it quite weak.

    From today – henceforth
    It’s strictly forbidden,
    for the bridge to be crossed
    Be it walked or ridden.

    Furthermore we decree
    All other bridges in the land
    Must be treated the same,
    Lest this get out of hand.

    Likewise we proclaim
    No-one shall trek or travel
    For this bridge-awful problem
    Will surely rapidly unravel.

    Tourists would make our population
    With a certain percent grow
    Putting our dear bridge
    On a definite death-row.

    Three or more people
    Must not convene together
    As a bridge they might cross
    Thereby causing it to sever.

    We will order the production
    Of quite special nails
    Every bridge gets two,
    To ensure it never fails.

    Even strong and healthy bridges
    Will get these extra bores –
    Thought the extra holes
    May well weaken their cores.

    How dare you simpleton
    To lecture our sir architect
    Even if thought you might differ
    One mustn’t disrespect.

    Hail our heros,
    Our proudest bravest men.
    Protecting those weak bridges
    All day, time and again.

    How dare you ignoramus,
    Give comments and questions.
    Do you really think,
    We need your suggestions?

    Our architect after all,
    Is a great expert on bridges.
    So surely he must also be
    Righteous, wise and deeply religious.

    Let us all recognize,
    His moral ideals are great.
    He’s a builder after all
    Let’s crown him head-of-state.

    The bridges are the vulnerable,
    Its age the underlying condition.
    The architects are the virologists
    And we followers – fanatical ideologists.

    Let us not be fooled –
    By so called experts to be schooled,
    Come start a revolution of enlightenment,
    To claim back our lives, our innate entitlement.

    Revolution is always born
    From within an oppressed society.
    We The People will shed the government’s burden
    Of unnecessary vigilance and extreme anxiety.

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  3. “the Jewish Chronicle, and a fair chunk of the Anglo Jewish community, has let the mask slip: they can’t stand us and they don’t mind saying so.”

    Decidedly odd that after a typically long winded rant about the JC being unfairly generalistic and anti-Charedi, you decide to pick the quote of one person online and define it as “a fair chunk of the Anglo Jewish community”!

    On the other hand, if you are right, then your attention should not be focused solely on the JC but rather on the “fair chunk of AJ community”. Ask yourself why indeed would so many people say they can’t stand Charedim.

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    1. @LEYZER

      The JC aren’t writing in a vacuum. They know what sells. They are writing content and in a style that appeals to their readership and I would guess that their readership is “a fair chunk of the Anglo Jewish community”.

      There is a certain reporter for the JC whose page consists of two topics. Pointing out everything the “frummers” do wrong and praising the reform/liberal movements to the hilt. It is abundantly clear which side of the fence the JC stands and, dare I say it, are responsible for more Jew hate than the frummers in Stamford Hill.

      As to why “so many people say they can’t stand Charedim”, this, I believe, is a philosophical discussion I would like to see debated by smarter people than myself.

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      1. Quoted Chazal that every Jew is jealous and has guilty conscience of their brethren who are more pious that themselves and who are more adherent to Torah and Mitzvos.

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  4. Sheea,

    The term frum comes from the Middle German for pious. Nowadays it in mainly used sarcastically by non Chareidim as suggesting that the piousness of Chareidi Jews is false piety. The accusation is that all the long davening, the meticulous keeping of shabbos and Yomtov, care in tznius and teharus hamishpocho and mitzvos bein adam le Makom in general are of no value if that lifestyle is only sustainable through welfare and mortgage fraud and economic exploitation of society. This accusation of false piety and hypocrisy against religious Jews (and nowadays fundamentalists of all religions) has a long history and is a theme of the New Testament through to Marx. Hypocrisy is the only modern sin and its practitioners will be subjected to disgust even if they have other ‘protected characteristics’ which it is taboo to mock. Mainstream Jews do not spend every moment of their lives advertising their Jewishness through their levush and Yiddish. That is why mainstream Jews are so angry about this chillul hashem because they do not want to be tarred by association with hypocrisy.

    It is why Chareidi, object to being called Ultra Orthodox as the term ‘Ultra’ is used sarcastically.

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  5. To be honest, this is nothing new. How do you think the Yekke Jews viewed the ‘Ostjuden’ during the times of the Third Reich? Yes, I am fed up with lockdown but I don’t agree with all these mass gatherings.

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  6. Thank you for your excellent in depth response to the current tendency in Jewish mainstream and left responses to the weddings and other lockdown lawbreaking in Stamford Hill. I’m interested to know whether you know what proportion of London’s Charedi and Chassidic Jews are engaged in such floutings of the pandemic rules. For example, it’s clear that both Belz and UOHC people are involved. But that doesn’t tell us whether it’s all or some of those groups. Do you know how many frum weddings would have taken place in Stamford Hill and elsewhere in this period in another year? It’s clear that Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman and a large group of highly respected Charedi Dayanim and Rabbonim have issued statements urging following the rules and justifying doing so as essential in halocho. Do you know of other groups who are also actively following the rules?

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  7. Am I right that the only person to die under the the age of 50 in the NW4/NW11/M7/M25/NE8/HA8 Charedi and Charedi-ish communities was a gentleman who very tragically took his own life? I believe this to be accurate but if I am wrong please correct me.

    Of course Covid has killed many people aged over 50 and their lives are very important and not disposable. I am also aware of a number of under 50 year old men who came very close to death indeed.

    My point is that there is a huge asymmetry with the vast majority of the mental and fiscal burden of lockdown being placed on parents and workers and the vast health benefits of locking down being felt by the over 50s. The financial bill will have to be settled by our generation as well.

    Some gratitude and some attempt at generational fiscal justice would surely be in order. I mentioned this to an older gentleman and he was suprised and told me he thought we were all in this together.

    But we really aren’t. We have been affected in very different ways. That needs dealing with, including in hard cash.

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