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Perhaps this is why this case baffles me so.
We have built an infrastructure that successfully weeds out any negative elements that could harm our children, our families and our community. We do everything possible to shelter our young ones from foreign influences. Yet in this one area, we have chosen to look the other way and to neglect our communal responsibility. Instead, we have preferred to remain passive in the face of this obvious aggression, even though it severely affects the sanctity of our precious children. It just doesn’t make sense.
There are those among us who choose to defend the accused simply because their natural inclination cannot accept the fact that these things have happened. There are those who are simply too mortified to accept that this epidemic exists. I understand their feelings; I, too, am horrified beyond words.
The world is watching us, make no mistake about it. As someone who is engaged in the world of public relations and public opinion, I am sensing that the collateral damage of this trial has substantially affected the Orthodox Jewish community. And believe me when I tell you — public opinion matters.
Even Moses understood this. When Hashem chose him to advocate on behalf of klal yisroel, all of Israel, before Pharaoh, his response was that he was ”aral sefosayim” — meaning that he had a speech impediment. Moses recognized the significance of advocating for the Jewish people and knew that their case must be presented carefully and with clarity. Even in biblical times, public opinion mattered.
In modern-day warfare, battles are raged, lives are lost and territories are conquered. But the barometer of victory and defeat is not necessarily measured by the number of casualties or the land gained; it is measured more by the indiscriminate judgment of world opinion. The winner is the one who has gathered more positive comments on websites and social media and has conquered people’s hearts.
Be that as it may, the news media must also bear some responsibility for fanning the flames during the current fiasco. Quick to paint our entire community with a broad brush of defamation, they eagerly pounce on every story of an Orthodox Jew who is being investigated for any reason. The general tendency is to publish a large photo that plainly identifies the individual as a member of our community, coupled with an insulting headline. More often than not, they randomly choose to classify him as a “rabbi” or “community leader.”