By Gabi Crouse
I grew up in a traditional Jewish South African home. Our family was not religious at all albeit loving and close. My social environment was not affiliated with Judaism at all. Friday nights I went out and Saturday mornings was shopping / movies / coffee with friends. I remember seeing religious Jews on the street and feeling sorry for them – all in their sleeves on a hot day – and thinking, “what a bunch of nerds!”
To cut a long story short. I now live in Israel as an observant Jew and I am now the nerd.
The fact that I was able to turn my life in a different direction was based on the ability to ask hard questions and face the answers I didn’t like. I am part of millions of Jews who now call themselves Baale Teshuva. A group of people I am proud to be a part of. The turning points in a change of way of life requires sacrifice – and that is never painless.
I feel there is a serious pandemic in the world today and I am NOT talking about Covid. I am talking about intolerance – real intolerance.
I write this with a heavy heart – and it’s the weight of what I saw that drives me to put a message out, even if it’s a whisper.
Intolerance – Home | Facebook
I am part of a neighborhood group on Facebook and one morning I read a post put on there by a community member who had serious questions about vaccinating children under the age of 12. Before I say another word, I need to make abundantly clear that my opinions on the vaccine are irrelevant here and I beg you to not presume to know my position. I am not interested in the vaccine here at all. I am interested in Jewish behaviour based on the comments on this particular post.
To my horror I saw fellow Jews bashing this man. Comments like:
“Anti vaxxers aren’t welcome here”
“This comment has no place on this neighborhood group”
“You (not the post) should be permanently removed from the group”
These comments were condoned by another demanding a public apology.
I could not believe how this seemingly innocent post was met. It affected me so badly that later in the day, I went back to check if there were further comments but the post had been removed.
Whether or not that post had a place on that particular group is completely irrelevant. If I see a post I don’t agree with or think is stupid, I simply keep scrolling. But to take the time to comment means people obviously feel strongly about their opposing positions.
At what point did Jews forget how to be a Jew?!
The entire premise of Judaism is to question, challenge and ASK! Ask and ask until what you think you know becomes something you KNOW you know. And even after that you still question. Is it not the trait of a Jew to disagree?
The man who commented on the vaccine obviously has not accepted entirely nor is he convinced of what he has been told about the vaccine and still has reservations about giving it to his children. Perhaps he has been exposed to scary data that isn’t trending on twitter or headlines on mainstream news. It is not farfetched to question the good intentions of a government. Last I checked, he not only has a God given right to ask and check, but he has a responsibility to his family to be sure about something like a vaccine before he goes ahead with it. He may eventually arrive at the point where he feels confident in the vaccine for his children. But the bottom line is, the man wants to protect his family and who am I to assume anything else of him. Unfortunately, now he is no clearer on his position on the vaccine but he now knows exactly where he stands with his community – charem. It’s disgraceful.
It’s completely unrealistic to expect all people to agree on everything. We are allowed to argue, we are allowed to ask. We are allowed to think and have different opinions but we should never be allowed to be disrespectful.
This disrespectful nature and ‘cancel culture’ mentality is deeply disturbing. Popular opinion is not always noble. As Jews, we should know better. Never throughout history has there been a time where any government has been completely uncorrupted and transparent with its constituents. Propaganda is a reality that should never be ignored – perhaps if German society didn’t swallow up the garbage they were fed on their national media, fewer of them would have stood idly by while six million of our people were murdered. To quote Albert Einstein:
“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth”.
We say never again to our enemies but sadly our enemies have emerged within the community! What is going on when we oust a Jew for thinking differently to the ‘majority’? Maybe he is wrong, but then is it not our responsibility to educate him in a reverent manner?
Why does this seem to be too much to ask?
The beauty about the Jewish faith is that we are encouraged to question. The more we ask, the more we uncover layers of God’s glorious truths. Anyone who has struggled and questioned their way through a concept in the Torah knows the beauty of that.
This is a skill that is applied to in all areas of life.
Careful consideration goes into what we chose to study, who we marry, which school we send our children and so on. Having an open mind does not mean you have to commit to any idea that seems right, nor do we need to be precious over it and protect it – because let’s face it, sometimes we are wrong, and that’s okay!
People are afraid to voice their opinions today even if they are slightly outside the “accepted opinion”. People are being bullied into obedient agreeable thoughtless slaves; too quick to jump to conclusions and too slow to make genuine assessments. “When the arguments is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser” – a quote found all over the internet. I think the next time you find yourself resorting to slander, you might want to ask yourself:
How far you have come from knowing what you know.
It has no place in a civilized community.
I am a Jew; I am a descendant of Avraham. Avraham challenged all the ideas of authorities, including those of his parents. Avraham asked; Avraham challenged his own beliefs; Avraham changed his ways.
But it was never Jews who threw him into the furnace.
About the writer:
Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations as well as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).