The story was told by the great Magid of Yerushalayim, Rav Shalom Schwadron z”l, of his finding a child standing alone in an alleyway and crying to himself.
“What is wrong, little boy?” asked Rav Schwadron. “I am playing hide and seek,” answered the boy. “So what’s the problem?” inquired a bewildered Rav Schwadron. “No one is looking for me!” sobbed the little boy.
It is an awful feeling to feel abandoned, that no one cares for you or even misses you. The Torah, in Parshas Ki Savo (D’varim 28:68), toward the very end of the Tochachah, the frightful prediction of calamity, warns that “…You will offer yourselves as slaves and maidservants but there will be no buyer.” That is the culmination of all the terrifying omens, that there will be no one who has any interest in you.
Last week, a frum lawyer I know told me that he was in court representing a frum client who was suing a frum woman over a contractual dispute. At one point, the woman’s lawyer, a secular Jew, blurted out, “Your Honor, this whole case is about Orthodox society not being able to tolerate the success of a woman!”
The lawyer told me that the judge remained silent in response to that comment and simply asked if there is a way in which the case can be settled amicably. At that point, the lawyer reacted in full-throttled anger and told the judge that he could not possibly negotiate with the other side when their legal counsel is full of hatred against his client’s entire community.
The judge acknowledged those words and the woman’s lawyer sheepishly apologized. The lawyer tells me he regrets not challenging the bigoted lawyer by asking if he would have made a similar remark against any other ethnic group: Muslim, Asian, or African American.
We Jews are subject to the highest rate of racial hatred, yet we are cared about the least – and Orthodox Jews even less, often the recipients of hate from other Jews.
One of the New York tabloids is conservative in their editorial outlook and supportive of Israel, yet feels they have open season with Orthodox Jewry. They never fail to hype any story to embarrass Orthodox Jews and their institutions. I sent an email a few years ago expressing that to one of their Jewish columnists, who described a story involving animal cruelty and made sure to describe the perpetrator as an Orthodox Jew, totally not germane to the story. He did not bother responding.
Now we have the hatred coming out of CUNY Law School. The president of the school was supposed to show up twice to a City Council meeting on the issue but was a no-show both times. Imagine him doing that to an investigation of hate against any other ethnic group! He would have been removed from office in a flash.
Yet in the CUNY case, the only one who remained continuously outspoken (as far as I know) was freshman councilwoman Inna Vernikov, a Russian-born Jewess. Once again, we need to ask, where is everyone else? Where is the ADL and all the other established Jewish organizations (including the Orthodox) – you know who they are. Where are the politicians who otherwise are the first to condemn racism? They would have been all over the story had the hatred been in reverse.
Vernikov has shown real leadership on this and many issues. Yet the established Jewish political organizations in Brooklyn did not endorse her candidacy. Why not? See last week’s column (“Machers”).
I continue to hope that Queens will show political fortitude and support those candidates who have been supportive of us and our values. It’s bad enough that we are abandoned by the mainstream. Let’s not abandon ourselves.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, and former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens.