Is the Chareidi press good for us?
by Jonathan Rosenblum
December 19, 2002
One of the defining characteristics of the chareidi community is the great care taken to keep out of our homes anything that may have a negative influence on our children or on us. No chareidi home would ever have a TV, chas ve’shalom, and many do not even have a radio. The gedolei Yisrael have banned Internet in the home in order to shut off access to a host of adverse influences.
Needless to say, we would be horrified to find our children avidly reading about sports and the entire Greek culture that surrounds professional sports. Yet every weekend, many chareidi families bring into their homes a slew of weekend advertising sheets and newspapers whose principal subject is chareidi politics, usually the bitter infighting within the chareidi world.
Chareidi politics has become for many of our young people the equivalent of the sports page for secular youth. Every Erev Shabbos for who knows how many years, these papers have been filled with the internal struggles in Shas. No sneeze of Aryeh Deri has gone unreported. Over the last year, there has not been a week without some mention of the rotation agreement in Agudath Israel, and the compliance or lack thereof of the various parties. Meanwhile each week some chareidi politician sells his wares and takes a few potshots at various competitors, usually within his own party, as well.
Even assuming that every word printed is true – an impossibility since the papers are filled with charges and countercharges – we would still have to ask ourselves whether this is something to which we want to expose our children. And let no one suggest that this is for the adults. We all know that the most eager readers are our teenagers and yeshiva students, and that there is nothing that comes into the house that is safe from their eyes. Nor is there any reason to believe that what harms them does not harm us equally.
A non-Jewish humorist once remarked that there are two things that no one should ever see being prepared – sausage (naknikiot) and the news. I would add a third area where viewing the process will do little to increase the appetite for the final product: chareidi politics.
The noble ideal upon which Agudath Israel was founded at Kattowitz was that of all the streams of chareidi Jewry mobilized and unified under the leadership of the gedolei Yisrael. Is that the image that a young reader of our weekend papers would gain? Or will he or she instead come to view our parties as a loose confederation of tribal fiefdoms, each concerned primarily with the preservation of its own power rather than with the good of the whole?
Moreinu Yaakov Rosenheim led the world Agudah movement for decades and Rabbi Moshe Sherer did the same for Agudath Israel of America. No one asked what faction they represented. They enjoyed the absolute confidence of the gedolei Yisrael, who recognized them as the most competent servants of the chareidi tzibur.
Will our children also grow up viewing our askanim as being picked for their competence rather than their affiliations to this group or that? What will they think when they read that the most talented and admired chareidi public official, Bnei Brak Mayor Mottel Karelitz, may lose his job as part of a rotation agreement?
The most important questions that we should be asking ourselves are: Do the constant news items about individual Knesset members – not to mention weekly popularity polls – heighten their image as the shlichim of the gedolim or detract from it? Do the many stories about the involvement of great Torah figures in every step of the political process increase the aura of awe that surrounds these holy men or does it diminish it?
Perhaps our filtering process for keeping unwanted influences out of our homes is not as successful as we would like to think.
Related Topics: Jewish Ethics
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