Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Part of the World or Not? Us Against the Goyim

My sister told me about a speech given by Attorney Ben Braffman at a recent "Asifah" of several thousand on erev Tisha B'av run by the Agudah. (She saw the link on Yeshiva World News. I'm not a regular YWN reader.)
I have no idea what the Agudah thought when they invited Attorney Braffman. As a noted Orthodox criminal defense attorney who has defended many, many frum people, I think that they wanted him to scare the crowd into legal behavior. What they got instead (or in addition), was an extensive rant against the underlying values of the Chareidi world: no jobs, no education, hiding from the secular world. He makes every Modern Orthodox complaint against the chareidi world out there - and he was invited by the Agudah to do it!
Over and over again he says, "You live in a secular world. You have to take part in that world. You can't only take. You have to give back as well."
"We no longer can use the Shoah as an excuse. We can and should never forget...but you can't continue in this generation to say 'I lie because my parents lied to get out of Germany.' They had a right - it was mesiras nefesh, because the government was trying to exterminate the Jews. That's not how it is in the United States in 2009"
All well and good. I agree wholeheartedly.
But listening to Mr. Braffman speak, underlying his entire speech was the very "us verses them" mentality that contributes to the elitsm that enables frum Jews to convince themselves that there's nothing wrong with lying and cheating from the government. After all, they're only "goyim."
The following are some direct quotes from Mr. Braffman's talk:
"It's always been that way, there's always been an Amalek who wanted to kill us."
"...goyishe law firms that thirty-five years ago wouldn't hire a Jew."
"You don't have a goyishe kopp..." (Why aren't there more frum/Chareidi doctors and lawyers?)
"I'd be very happy to represent goyim for the rest of my life."
"The media always sees Jewish blood as cheap, and it's biased and it's anti-Semitic, and that's just the way it is. Jewish blood is cheap, especially in the media."
"Who puts on the lights - you? The Goyim who work for ConEdison do it."
"A friend of mine who is a goy..."
The "everyone hates the Jews" mentality is precisely the social environment that fosters government or insurance fraud. "It's only from the goyim. And they hate us and want to kill us, so why not steal from them." (my paraphrase).
Is there anti-Semitism? Of course there is. But just like we can't use the Shoah as an excuse to lie, steal and cheat, we can't use the crutch of the "goyim" either.
I would have expected a respected lawyer like Mr. Braffman to know that as much as anyone.