The Odd Couple

By Eli Valley

Published January 13, 2010, issue of January 22, 2010.

Eli Valley takes a satirical look at ultra-Orthodox Judaism, outreach to young, secular Jews, and perceptions and misconceptions of authentic Jewish life.

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Eli Valley is finishing his first novel. His column, “Comics Rescued From a Burning Synagogue in Bialystok and Hidden in a Salt Mine Until After the War,” appears monthly in the Forward. His Web site is www.evcomics.com.


























Note.
The quotations in this comic are all based on real quotations. Below, each subject is linked to its original source.

1) Intolerance of other Jewish groups.
In response to the Neeman Commission on conversion, certain Orthodox leaders gave voice to their opinion on other forms of Judaism. Rabbi Andrew Sacks in the Jerusalem Post reports:

Rabbi Yisrael Eichler, a spokesperson in the Haredi world, wrote that “Reform Rabbis are further from Judaism than Christians and Muslims and that they should be considered as filthy, lying, shekotzim who are criminals, who brought about the holocaust on the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said, “Reform Jews should be vomited up…and thrown out of the country.”

Both Sacks and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quote an advertisement signed by Orthodox leaders including Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, the leading halachic authority of the haredi community, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’ spiritual mentor:

As darkness covers the earth, the Reform and Conservative sects that are the destroyers of the religion are trying to dig their nails into the Holy Land and receive recognition as though they were streams of Judaism, God forbid. We hereby pronounce da’at Torah [this Torah opinion] that it is inconceivable to grant them any recognition whatsoever, and it is forbidden to conduct any negotiations with the destroyers that counterfeit Torah…

2) Intolerance of women’s prayers.
Yediot Aharonot (October 24, 2001) reported Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s understanding of women’s prayer. Prof. David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem noted at the time that Yosef, “one of the foremost halakhic authorities in the world and spiritual leader of the Shas party,” distinguishes between Michal, daughter of King Saul, who put on tefillin every day despite not being obliged to, and:

these wicked women, the Reform, who do everything in order to bash Judaism … they should be wrapped in a tallit and buried.

His comments last year were more moderately couched but amount to a similar condemnation. This year, in response to the recent events where a woman worshiper was arrested, Haaretz reports that Haredim have been shouting “Nazis” at women worshipers at the Kotel.

3) Lack of respect for secular and temporal power.
Many places reported Chabad rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe saying in Tel Aviv that “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other Israeli officials should be ‘hanged from the gallows.’” His remarks, in January 2008, were widely condemned by Chabad as well as others. The same rabbi said similar things more recently in the video here.

4) The power of prayer.
Ohr Somayach tells of a legend where devout prayer turns a black chicken into a white chicken!

5) Preventing evil by any means necessary.
Akiva Eldar recently reported in Haaretz about the settlement of Yitzhar and Od Yosef Chai Shechem yeshiva, the settlement’s “crowning glory.” He notes:

This is the same yeshiva whose rabbi said it is permissible to kill gentile babies because of “the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.”

6) Intolerance of homosexuality.
In the wake of the fatal shooting attacks against homosexuals in Tel Aviv last year Haredim were blamed for incitement. A Jerusalem Post article commented that these communities felt scapegoated but both the Jerusalem Post and FailedMessiah made a note of some of the comments that had led to them being blamed for incitement. Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev is quoted as saying, for example, that homosexuality is a “plague that may destroy Jewish Israel,” adding that this “plague” should be dealt with “just as the Health Ministry is dealing with bird flu.” More similar comments were reported throughout 2009.

7) Intolerance of Islam and Arabs.
In a protest against the expansion of a bi-lingual Arabic Hebrew school in 2006, Rabbi David Batzri was quoted by Ynet as saying:

The people of Israel are pure and Arabs are a nation of asses. The question must be asked, why didn’t God give them four legs, because they are asses.

Although he later apologized, and Chabad HQ issued a rare statement of condemnation, Manis Friedman, in the May/June issue of Moment magazine, responded to the question posed to a number of rabbis “How should Jews treat their Arab neighbours?” by saying “Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).”
Some more context for Friedman’s response to this “Ask the Rabbis” question was also provided by Josh Nathan-Kazis writing for New Voices.



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