Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rav Belsky: Lipa Ban (A Little Bit) Forged

Vos Iz Neias reports that Rav Belskey has issued a letter about the Lipa concert ban.

He writes:
In his newly-released public letter, Rabbi Belsky explains that the text of the final proclamation containing his and others' signatures contained wording that he was not shown—specifically, the phrase banning all concerts. Rabbi Belsky issued his letter to assert that while all the rabbonim did in fact sign the ban, their intention was only to block The Big Event for reasons explained in the letter, not all concerts in general.
Here's the letter.

The letter is vague. It's vague about the specific reason the Big Event concert was deemed inappropriate. It's vague about who misrepresented the Rabbonim's position. And, Rav Belsky is the only signator. As well, the letter is dated weeks ago. Why wasn't it made public then?

This seems like an attempt at damage control, given the fact that so many concerts have either been announced or happened since the Lipa ban, and it's clear that they will continue to happen. This saves face by presenting an alternate narrative.

1) The rabbis were opposed to the Big Event for unspecified "leitzanus".
2) The published ban didn't represent their views on concerts in general.

On the surface, it seems nice and neat. Plus, by not being specific about what the problem was, they preserve the ability to arbitrarily ban another event (or defend a ban after the fact if they are manipulated into signing on to one).

It's not convincing though. It may well represent Rav Belsky's view of what happened, but it doesn't represent the views of those ban signers who do wish to ban all concerts (and some of them do). To avoid ambiguity, all of the ban signers need to publicly clarify that the ban was only on the "Big Event."

The letter also doesn't assign responsibility for the "forgery" to the forger. If Asher Friedman "forged" the final text, Rav Belsky has an obligation to identify him, so that the public (including newspaper editors accepting ads) will know to discount anything he says. This holds true no matter who the "forger" was. Finally, Rav Belsky needs to delineate what specifically was wrong with this event, both so that the public can make "appropriate decisions" and so that producers/performers will know what is/isn't acceptable.

On additional point. Rav Belsky's letter does not address the fact that the "Big Event" show had been advertised for months with no comment from the rabbonim. Why didn't they address the specific issues they had with that show right away? Both the language and timing of the ban were meant to hurt Lipa. Rav Belsky is now distancing himself from the line banning all concerts. He ought to be concerned about --and distance himself from -- the violent language of the ban, and the timing of the ban to inflict maximum financial loss (even if this was not intended) as well.

If Rav Belsky had come out with this when the ban was announced, it might have carried some more weight. But if this is the best he can offer --publicizing this excuse two months late -- color me less than impressed.

It feels like he waited to see if this would blow over, and since it hasn't, he's trying to make it go away. It's too little, too late.

I think over time, members and observers of the NYC area Chareidi community will come to view the Lipa concert ban as a "tipping point" with ramifications to their community that far outweigh any possible perceived benefit of the ban.

Hat Tip, "LG5000."