Time for Real Jewish Leadership

January 2, 2012 12:54 pm 2 comments

Photo: Effi B.

I am proud that my children attend a Modern Orthodox yeshiva and receive an education that I never had. I am proud to be involved in my local Orthodox community and synagogues.  Eating kosher, observing mitzvot and being religiously involved has grown increasingly important to me in recent years. Owning a public relations agency, I have always been keenly aware of being in the public eye and how the obligations to be forthright, honest, and not to cheat, steal or lie are important values on which to base our lives.

Watching some of the activities within “religious” communities, both first-hand and in the media, I am disheartened.  It is not enough to dress the part, or merely practice those outward exercises, such as fervent prayer and study of Torah, but it is also important to live a life that exemplifies what it means to be Jewish.

The Gemara says that a potential convert once came to Rabbi Hillel and asked to be taught the entire Torah while Rabbi Hillel stood on one leg. Hillel responded, “What is hateful to you do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary.” Through these words, Rabbi Hillel showed us the essence of being a Jew.  The violent Haredim we see in Jerusalem/Beit Shemesh, the flag-burning Neturei Karta, and Levi Aron or any rabbi who molest children are unequivocally not acting Jewish.

Does God ask us to spit and curse at an 8-year-old girl, as she walks to school, because her arms are showing?  Is God pleased that a female soldier who defends Israel is called a whore for sitting on a bus with people who rush to judge, but run from defending the land God granted his people - the very land they live in and live off?

The sickening demonstrations of Haredi children dressed in outfits reminiscent of the Holocaust, with “Jude” patches or yellow stars to protest what they see as persecution by the secular Jews constitutes a new low point.  Six million Jews were butchered by the Nazis – how dare anyone equate a civil struggle in a modern democracy with the Nazi killers? The subjugation of women in those communities, the blocking of women from the ballot boxes, the abuse of those who don’t practice as they do, the shoving of a living baby in a carriage in front of a bus to stop it from moving all echo the intolerances for which we atone every Yom Kippur.

The religious Jewish world needs real leaders – honest, courageous, and  pious people who will confront the vulgar, violent, dishonest and immoral amongst us. Press releases are good for public image – and it is good that Agudath Israel says such behavior “is beyond the bounds of decent, moral – Jewish behavior.” But how about a real effort to confront these matters in front of the camera, or where it is really needed, in the yeshivot and synagogues where these people learn this behavior? That will do more than any press release, as actions speak louder than words.

We need some form of honest and transparent Jewish courts to police our religion somehow. Just as certain communities rightfully shun those who refuse to provide a Get, shouldn’t there be punishment for the  “religious” scoundrels?

For all the rabbis who interpret Jewish law today, isn’t it more vital to safeguard our values in an open and authentic way?

While we see attempts to spread Sharia law through the Middle East and shudder to think what it would mean if we were to find ourselves living under those rules, we fail to see the subtle similarities within Haredi communities. While Jews and non-Jews alike see religious Jews desecrate the name of God, religious leadership needs to be concerned about “Judaism.”

Being religious means being a good person, being honest, being decent, and caring for others, as well as donning Tefillin, eating kosher and studying Torah; the latter, however, does not cancel the need for the former.  If these are the people that represent Judaism, who will want to identify with it?

I pray for the day when all Jews can live up to the standard of Rabbi Hillel, but as a Jew, I expect it from those who claim to represent the most Orthodox or religious among us.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR, a Top 25 PR Agency and author of best-selling PR book “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations,” available for purchase here.

2 Comments

  • Jonathan Kramers

    There’s no reason to be religious if it means being a crook like so many dosim are today. Its sickening.
    They need a PR agency to stop their hatred from being so public.

  • frania kryszpel block

    What a great article. A just anger. you are so right. There is a right and wrong in life. Honest,courageous leaders to confront the immoral among us would do much good for the religion. Faith lost through confusion could again be reborn. The costume of clothes the religious wear,whether a black hat, a kippah alienates when it is used as a mask to cover unholy behavior. As you say, it is not enough to dress the part and do the outer actions but to live in such a way that exemplifies the best virtues of man. And for the ones who cannot, unmask them. Expose them. They are cause of people leaving on different paths …searching for a religion that means something more

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.