Gentiles at the Gates

The Internet Changed Everything in the Hasidic World

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published October 25, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 5)

Chani’s mother knew something was wrong as soon as she came downstairs. Only an hour had passed, but she knew a terrible thing had happened when she found her daughter hunched over the computer screen, staring at emaciated children, some with limbs hacked off, others lying still on the ground, large eyes staring blankly at the lens. Miriam knew she’d made a horrible mistake in allowing Chani to go online when she saw tears streaming down her daughter’s face, tears that were not for Jews.

Miriam immediately shut off the computer, but Chani had gone into shock. When Miriam wasn’t looking, she searched obsessively for the genocides of the past century: Sudan, Rwanda, Armenia, Serbia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Guinea. Miriam realized this only two weeks later, when she checked the browser history. But by then Chani had questions, questions about God, misery and the stunning discovery that Jews, after all, held no monopoly on suffering.

It was a betrayal devastating to her faith. Up until that evening, Chani had known with certainty that only Jews really suffered, because we are the chosen people. The rest of the jealous planet, therefore, wanted to destroy us because they hated our morality.

But now, others suffered horribly, too. So, were they, too, chosen? And if not, then was suffering indiscriminate, random, thrown on innocents by God? The agony she had seen could not be a punishment for hurting the Jews, because the Sudanese toddlers had never hurt the Jews. In fact, the Germans, who nearly exterminated the Jews, suffered no such fate, and were indeed doing better than ever.

It was a traumatizing ordeal for a devout Jewish mother, watching the daughter she’d lovingly raised to care only for her own show the same compassion for others.

Eventually Miriam had had enough. She wanted her daughter back. She wanted the pious Chani who cared deeply but for the right folks, who had a generous heart but clear priorities. She wanted the girl for whom the world ended where her knowledge did, and who did not care about what she was not supposed to know. The computer had done a terrible thing: It had allowed her child to encounter humanity up close, eye to suffering eye, and in the deceiving light of that reality, it was impossible to properly tell the superior from the inferior. Agony looked the same everywhere.

Miriam tried explaining it. It wasn’t that others didn’t suffer, she said, but that we suffered more, and for better reasons. They because of sin, we because we were chosen.

So Miriam threw out the computer, as her rav advised her to do. Though a return to ignorance was difficult, he explained, nothing was impossible. The gates of repentance were always open, and with time, they hoped, her daughter would forget about a country called Sudan and its suffering.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.