Thursday, May 8, 2008

On Lubavitch and Boycotts

To the right of my desktop is this week's copy of Mishpacha magazine. I am in the middle of yet another one of their fascinating articles. According to, I should boycott them because of criticisms of Lubavitch by a Rabbi Belsky that appeared in last week's Mishpacha English edition.
I read Rabbi Belsky's criticism. I live in Crown Heights and am exposed to a a spectrum of Lubavitch opinions. Though I am independent in my Orthodox Jewish orientation, Rabbi Belsky's opinions bother me. There are many who proudly describe themselves as Lubavitch who bear no resemblance to his description of a cultish bunch. Though extremist behavior needs to be understood and criticised, I wonder why Rabbi Belsky has painted his picture of Lubavitch with such a broad brush.
I am nevertheless troubled by the calls for a boycott of Mishpacha. Newspapers and magazines often become a flag of political loyalty instead of a source of information. I travel in circles where most of my friends share my political and religious opinions. One way I can go beyond my immediate circle is at the news stand. Mishpacha and Yated Neeman, (to choose two examples) represent strains of opinion not often voiced in my circle of friends. By reading their coverage of Torah and current events, I gain a sense of the opinion prevailing in the communities they represent. When I boycott them, I objectify and distance myself from other Jews.
Lubavitch did a great deal of work disseminating Torah teachings underground in the former Soviet Union. I have observed that this crucial contribution, at the cost of many lives has been systematically ignored by many historians and authors outside of Lubavitch. The Soviet authorities did similar violence to historical integrity in their treatment of history for reasons that were likewise political. I mention this simply to point out that orthodoxy outside of Lubavitch needs to listen to Lubavitch history and opinion.
There is a time and place for boycotts. For print media, such measures should be an extreme last resort. I do not believe such conditions exist now. I do not need a Hamas suicide bomber to tell me that we are one people. Many Jewish heads in Auschwitz were shorn of both fashion haircuts and long side curls. The generation that survived Auschwitz and Treblinka is sadly leaving us with the passage of time. I intend to honour their memory by striving to create a Jewish unity in love that they only experienced in torture and degradation. I am boycotting factionalism. I am boycotting needless hatred. Am Yisrael Ani ohev otchem !!! Am Yisrael, I love you!!
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe of and

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