Monday, July 27, 2009

Exactly How Out of Touch Is Agudas Yisroel? Updated 3x

This much!

The mind boggles! The recent scandals in the frum community do warrant introspection and even an emerdzshency asifeh. However, choosing Rabbi Avremel Schorr, one of the rabbis behind the international chilul Hashem that was the Lipa concert ban, to be the public face of propriety here smacks of tone-deafness at best and hypocrisy at worst. For shame!

UPDATE: And if you thought they couldn't make it any worse...

A writes:
Seeing just a few words about last night's Agudah "asifa", I now rest my case. Everything I have complained about for years, about how Agudah is an enabler by restraining criticism and PR about violators and honoring ex-cons, has been proven true in one fell swoop. Schorr, the Spinker Rebbe, and Brafman on a single bill? Why did they diss Kolko?

Can you even imagine how they would have crowed had YU invited Madoff, Tendler & Boesky to chair an event?

The unmitigated chutzpa of these "shaina yidden" who sit in their shteebels on mizrach with ex-cons, who have the first-class dining room at the Agudah convention, stroking their paunches with self-satifaction while they look down at the "amcha" that actually live Torah lives while they act frum but act like the proverbial "tzaddik in peltz" not dealing with the real world.

For several years now there has been an effort to stop the illegal posting of ads on lightposts, especially since the great majority of violators were Frum organizations.

To spread the word on the very important Agudah meeting combatting illegal behavior, guess where they posted the ads?


You just can't make this stuff up.
A Yeshiva World report and audio of the speeches is here.


The Spinka Rebbe apologized publicly, Nathaniel Popper reports for the Forward's Bintel Blog. he writes:
The most surprising moment of the night came at the very beginning, when the Grand Rabbi of the Spinka sect, Naftali Tzi Weisz, at right, took the stage for an unscheduled appearance. Weisz was arrested in a separate money-laundering case in 2007, and just last week he pleaded guilty, reportedly accepting a jail term. Before heading off to serve that term, Weisz delivered an obviously emotional mea culpa for his wrong-doings, first in Yiddish and then in awkwardly translated English.

“Unfortunately we have to admit in public that things happened that were not supposed to happen,” Weisz told the men in attendance (women were not invited to the forum). “We must have to express our wish that these matters will never happen — we have to commit that in the future this will never happen again.”

Weisz spoke in great detail about the compliance program that the Spinka board has entered with the government and he said, “Our community, baruch hashem, is not lacking in smart experienced lawyers and accountants that are willing to teach the tzibur [community], how to conduct their communal affairs in a manner that is in compliance with the law in all respects.”

I've checked out the video of the Spinka Rebbe's speech and I'm on the fence about this one. I'm leaning towards Tzig's characterization of it. I'm not sure there was a point.

In following up, I've seen people raise two other issues that are relevant to this discussion. These are: 1) the choice of venue and 2) one of the methods for publicizing the event.

With regard to the venue, there is an ongoing battle between the Visnitz Yeshivah's management and the neighbors. (For more on this, see here, for example.) In my opinion, Agudah choose poorly in this regard. Remember, the event took place during the Nine Days, when there are no weddings in the community. There was no shortage of other venue options. The message sent, presumably inadvertently, is unfortunate and undermined the theme of the asifah.

With regard to the illegal posting of flyers on streetlamps... I've commented in the past on this and it's just wrong. Again, the message sent is that laws do not need to be obeyed, which again undermined the ideas the asifah was meant to convey.

In short, Agudah took a worthwhile concept, and through poor handling, turned it into a caricature. For an organization that claims to be politically savvy, this was a huge misjudgment and yet another self-inflicted black-eye.