Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thoughts about the Burqa Sect Abuse Case
It has been in pained silence that I have read the horrifying details of the "chareidi" child abuse case unfolding in Jerusalem. Two children, a four year old and a three year old were hospitalised in the wake of the abuse. The three year old remains in a coma with slim prospects of recovery.
It was was not a single individual perpetrating this abuse, but the head of a sect of women who had adopted a variant of the burqa worn by some Muslim women. This burqa spinoff was so restrictive that the women wearing it needed assistance in crossing busy streets. The abuse allegedly meted out to the children was prescribed by a so called "rabbi" who said that the children needed "correction"
If convicted, the couple who perpetrated this horrific abuse should be held responsible. Their soul searching and that of those among whom they lived should be separate processes. It is unfortunate that such offenses are not subject in Israel to the death penalty.
How could a group form in which such bizarre and injurious practices were the norm? There is a tendency that can develop in religious groups of trying to come up with the strictest interpretations of religious law. What starts out as a framework for approaching G-d becomes a bizarre spinoff on "keeping up with the Joneses". Lost in the shuffle is the idea that we show our love for G-d by being kind to each other. Dietary laws and dress codes can create social cohesion. They can also cause social fragmentation when people try to outdo each other.
The Burqa ladies of Beit Shemesh are a warning to us all of what can happen when we scorn each other and forget about G-d. It is a good idea to look for the good in someone who doesn't run with your crowd. Someone of another faith or level of religious observance can model compassion, kindness or any number of virtues that they might have learned or acquired.
Independent thinking does not negate reflecting on the wisdom of the majority. The community among whom the burqa ladies lives already adhere to demanding standards of modesty. Can pride in strictness resemble the pride some have in flashy clothes or sport cars?
I have learned one thing from driving a car. When you are driving down the street and all the traffic lights are facing the wrong way, then you are probably going the wrong way. It seems that the burqa ladies failed to heed this lesson with catastrophic results.
Millions of people go to see violent movies with no visibly lasting ill effects. A tiny minority watching such films are spurred to commit horrible crimes. It is proper to therefore be critical of violence in cinema.
It is likewise proper to be critical of religious behavior that is taken by a tiny minority to sick extremes. Those of us in the various shades of religious orthodoxy should not dismiss this wake up call by smugly comparing ourselves to society at large. This psycho-spiritual malady of piety without G-d has already put many adolescents at risk of leaving Judaism. Now we see that even toddlers in homes afflicted with this sickness are in danger not only of their spiritual lives but their physical well being too. This most virulent mutation of this psychospiritual plague leaves a toddler in Jerusalem clinging to life.
Those who belonged to that bizarre and abusive sect will have to live with this incident for the rest of their lives. We can redeem this horrible occurrence in Beit Shemesh by learning from it the proper lessons in correcting ourselves as a community and caring for instead of scorning each other.
Copyright 2008 By Magdeburger Joe
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have inadvertently merged two separate child abuse cases. One is of a mother in Jerusalem who followed the dictates of a mad,sadistic cult leader by either permitting or actually executing extreme, tortuous physical abuse on her two toddlers, one of whom is in a coma. The other allegedly abusive mother is herself the leader of a cult of women who cover their entire bodies, including their faces in multiple layers of thick clothing. She lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh. None of her children was hospitalized but they were apparently severely neglected and abused too. Her children also reportedly committed incest among themselves with the mother's knowledge.
The burqa mother is now under house arrest but forbidden from having any contact with her children. The Jerusalem mother has not been released from jail and will probably remain in custody until the end of the proceedings because of the severity of the alleged abuse.(e.g. locking the children in a suitcase for days at a time, feeding them feces, burning their limbs on a heater and then pouring alcohol on the burns, and much more)