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Hearts and Minds

When Chabad arrived in an upscale Tel Aviv neighborhood, its liberal residents didn’t respond with open arms

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Ramat Aviv(Daniel Estrin)

  The Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement is known for its outreach among non-Orthodox Jews, encouraging them to become more religious. Chabadniks are posted to about 75 countries, where their efforts are generally met with curiosity, indifference, or, at worst, irritation. But in Ramat Aviv, an upscale, liberal, and famously secular neighborhood of Tel Aviv, the sect’s arrival has prompted a much stronger reaction: fury. Chabad’s presence in Ramat Aviv is growing, and secular residents—who in the fall formed a residents association to oppose the Chabad incursion—are convinced that the Hasidim are trying to brainwash their children and take over the neighborhood. Now, every Friday, the two camps face off outside schools and in other public spaces, where Chabad representatives approach passersby, mostly kids, and invite them to wrap tefillin and pray. The battle has caught the attention of the Israeli press, even prompting an angry column, accusing the secular residents of anti-Semitism, from one of the country’s best-known columnists, Gideon Levy. Tablet contributor Daniel Estrin filed a report on the growing conflict in Ramat Aviv.

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Rivkah says:

There is nothing wrong with presenting young people with the experience of praying with Teffillin. It is part of their heritage. They can choose if they want to continue or not, with parental guidance.

Jeffrey Tobias says:

Children learn and get older,and can think for themselves.Once there 18,they can fly with Eagles,which are Chabad,or fly with Turkeys.Im sorry,but too walk on the Path of Godly Soul,one must get rid and Squash,the ANIMAL SOUL,and learen for themselves,excluding Parents,that think CHABAD,is brainwashing there children.Please Parents,have you walked the Path of,Jews walking the Path to do Mitsvahs? Jeffrey Tobias

The is a lot wrong with presenting children with any experience that has not been approved by their parents. Hanging around schools, outside the eyes of school administrators, teachers, and parents, sounds skeevy and immoral, no matter what they are selling. Let the Chabad people set up a shop and let the kids, with parental permission, visit the, Don;t lay in wait near school and entice kids with candy

I think it’s creepy that adults are approaching other people’s kids trying to get them to do something regardless of what it is.

Hester says:

I agree with Blu and Larry. Don’t hang around at schools and approach kids. I’m all for new experiences, etc., but these should be chosen, not forced upon.

Jeffrey Tobias says:

My Rabbi who Raised me who was only Orthodox,lived in Beverly Hills,California,you upscale liberals.He talked to Chabad,Orthodox,and Reformed,and in his Group home, Helped non-Jews,to help them,to become a better person.Put that in your pipe and smoke it.He was Rabbi Isaac Yellin.Alex Yellin,carried a Chabad Torah,2 miles,3 years ago,and put a letter on it.He is from ,YOUNG ISRAEL,HHHmmmm? He also,was a co-founder,of Inglewood boys home,helping incarcerated Juveniles.Sholom,Jeffrey Tobias

Marianne Hightman says:

It is unfortunate that they would adopt a Hare Krishna type method of awareness; it is good to bring awareness to a number of rituals that seem to have fallen by the wayside, a different approach would be beneficial.

Jeffrey Tobias says:

Not one person,put a Gun to my head,and said you must join.One uses there own ,CERREBELLUM,get it,or is this way over your head.
Hare Krishna,as ,Scientology,Need a check-up from the neck up.THATS ALL FOLKS,JEFFREY TOBIAS

Until i moved to Israel, in 1982, it was impossible to understand the distaste secular Israelis have for Chabad – in the diaspora chabadniks seem like nice, caring souls who only want to do good ………….but once one witnesses first hand what Chabad does in Israel supposedly in G-d’s name – from telling Israelis how to vote “Bibi is good for the Jews”….to racist slogans and practices, etc ……..one realizes Chabad is a political movement masquerading as something else … and believe me, it is not the humanistic judaism that we know in the diaspora which is “a light to the nations” ….but an abberation

Chabad may do a lot of good but sometimes, as in this instance, they go too far.

David Srour says:

It seems we could agree that this report has two primary elements themes. One, Chabad approaching children and the other Chabad approaching secular adults.

As a parent and as a Jew, it is impossible to understand how, when a parent has said “no, this contact is not allowed”, that anyone can sanction this contact with a child. On the other hand, approaching adults with new ideas and practices, even more than once, would seem generally fine.

With that said, it does seem that the Chabad has had a positive Jewish influence. Nonetheless, contact with children outside of parental approval should not be allowed.

My experience with Chabad has been very appropriate…. but that is my personal perspective from the US as an adult.

Scott Howard says:

I agree with David. As a parent, I believe that I should have the choice about the environments in which my child is placed and the influences to which she is exposed. The law agrees with me. That’s why I get to choose her school, approve or disapprove of her clubs, activities, and even friends. While some may question my judgement, as is their right, the law in every developed country is resolute – unless there is abuse, the right of the parent is inviolate.

I find it offensive that Chabdniks should feel that they have the right to second guess me and my judgement as a parent. I am not even sure that they have the right in Judaism, since the Torah does say to honor your mother and father. So here they are, possibly inducing children to do otherwise. And how would they know, since they never ask the parents…

And why is it that the posters who support chabad here consistently feel the need to capitalize their responses while those who feel otherwise obey the rules of web decorum. Might there be a link beween observing decorum here and in the real world?????

Elon says:

Sadly, Chabad is often perceived as an innocuous, do-good organization, even though underneath they are bigoted and intolerant of others. They present themselves as “authentic” but forget that Jewish tradition has always evolved through the ages. Hitting the “pause” button around the year 1750 or so is not the Jewish way. Moses did not wear a streimel. Chabad should not impose their views on other Jews.

georgianna says:

Wow, enticing children to pray. Terrible. I would bet the child they are approaching is a boy who is already bar mitzvah.

I remember when I went to a lecture and told someone that I was going to go to a Talmud class taught by a Chabad rabbi. “Stay away from them! They’re a cult!” was the response. Thank goodness, I make my own decisions. The rabbi who taught the class was most certainly observant to the ‘nth’ degree, but the class was made up of people from various backgrounds, not all chabadniks, to be sure. He seemed like someone who was ready to explain the details, if you wanted to know, but his main purpose was to reach out to his fellow Jews, wherever they were in their spiritual journey. That was my experience with Chabad.

rowena says:

In response to Jeffry’s comments, lots of spelling mistakes there. My children went to a Chabad school for 5 years and while I have a lot of good things to say about the school I was shocked at how badly educated the teachers were and how many of them mis-spelled the noted I received from them, or worse, the comments they wrote on my childrens’ work in their school books. I realised that while some of them were lovely people they were basically ignorant and it frightened me to think they were trying to educate my children (who are now in different schools).

Beverly Newhouse says:

Chabad is a wonderful organization not committed in
to entice secular children to be chabadnicks. They
believe in the mitzvah of keruv. They will never tell
any child to go against their parents. We have supported
Chabad for forty years and find them to be a group that
encourages you to learn understand and decide. Why is
this wrong???

rowena says:

Beverly I will tell you why I think this is wrong. First of all they do encourage people to go against their parents, I have seen this first hand. Also they are very secretive about their messianic beliefs so you never really know who belives that Shneerson is the Messiah and who doesn’t and those who do are clearly following avodah zarah which is beyond the pale in Judaism as far as I am concerned. Yes there are wonderful people in Chabad but as an organisation I find it disturbing and at times mis-representative of authentic orthodox Judaism.

Jeffrey Tobias says:

ROWENA-I am taken care of for lifetime,are you? I have a Music Catalog,Merrilie we roll along,Looney Tunes.And i have many people,calling me and Emailing me,what Stock should i buy? I put many,into ,NTRI,at 6,in 6 months it was 70.I put many 15 years ago,in CA,at 5,it went to 60.You have the Adacity,to call someone ignorant? My family,was very Famous Lyricist,inducted into,ASCAP,The Songwriters Hall of Fame.I Inherited there Fortune,and have something,the rest of my life.I didnt go to Chabad,till 2003,at 47.I Graduated at Santa Monica City college,and high School. I had many in my family,tell me i could turn a Bankrupt Company,around.I know alot more Business,then you could ever Reach.Misspelled words,has nothing to do,about investing,get it? By the Way,Rowena,you misspelled Realised,Its Realized.Dont comment,you misspelled words yourself.Look up Charles,Harry,Henry,Fred Tobias,and then open your mouth.I say,your ignorant,by saying,look hes ignorant,misspelled words,you did also.How is your future? Hope you have Someone,or a Education,to provide for you.Sholom,Jeffrey Ben Mary Davis

rowena says:

Actually there are two ways to spell realised/realized – one is the American spelling and the other is European. But don’t let it worry you.

Jeffrey Tobias says:

Rowena-Again,you misspelled,Organisation,its Organization,i already have seen you attack,teachers at ,Chabad.You need a check up from the neck up,before attacking teachers,and people who do Mitsvahs.

J Ben mary Davis says:

Im a American Jew,I dont need the European way,i live in beautiful America,with Beautiful,lubavetures,that walk on the path,of Mitsvahs,doing good Deeds.They are a Shining light,in a World thats Dark. J Ben Mary Davis

Medication time, Jeffrey, medication time.

J Ben mary Davis says:

Another wonderful thing Chabad did.When Russias Reactor,Exploded,in 1986,

Nifty says:

It is sad that Chabad is compared to Hare Krishna and labeled as intolerant etc etc.

While I can understand that some parents would rather not have their children perform Jewish rituals – especially in Israel where people have very “black and white” opinions on everything – this really appears like an overreaction.
If the Chabadniks are pressuring the children then steps should be taken to stop them. But if they are merely presenting an option I think it is the parents who are intolerant and scared of something different.

will edwards says:

I am all for encouraging folks to lean to a more orthodox understanding, but the Haredi scare me because of what I have seen and read about here in the United States. I want my family to embrace their heritage and their faith, but I don’t want some people hailing from Eastern Europe filling the heads of my children with the nonsense ranging from sexual abuse to intentional starvation under the guise of religion Judaism or not. I have seen some horrible examples of extreme Judaism that isn’t Judaism at all and that is what I am worried about. I find nothing wrong with tefillin or prayer… I just need some more information and a better understanding.

Jonathan Silverman says:

The last part of the audio has a very interesting fact..that the arrival of chabad has increased jewish activity in the city anyway.

that bc chabad arrived in Ramat Aviv, the anti-chabad residents association decided to have a channukah candle lighting ceremony and build a sukkot. It’s ironic because there is no way out of being Jewish. So you don’t like those chasids so lets show them you are not less Jewish than they are and celebrate a jewish holiday which is what those nefarious chasids wanted to make us do anyway. But they don’t see that. The Jewish mental pathologies are so funny.

The other point is ….. everywhere else in the diaspora chabad is not meant with as much resistance as here in this city in Israel. That is also very ironic.

You need to look at his situation holistically. I don’t have the answers, but it’s good to look for the interesting questions.

Richard says:

The Chabadniks visited my home back in 1999, while I was in Cheyenne, WY. They were invited to stay for a night or two as they traveled across the state to speak with inmates at various prisons. With my two son (add two girls since), we wraped tefillin and prayed. It was a Jewish experience that I thought my children should have. Cooking their food on a grill they brought (Non-Kosher Kitchen)on the back porch was just another lesson for the kids. Being a Reform Jew, doesn’t mean I Love Judaism any less that they do. My inclusion of women, and my ability to embrace them will be the lesson my boys are more likely to follow. I think that by introducing them at a young age, and having an open conversation about their ways, both my boys have a better understanding and respect of other aspects of Judaism.

Rachel says:

I am amazed that people find it as offensive when Jews are teaching other Jews who are living in the Jewish state to follow their own Jewish tradition! What’s wrong in this picture? The ignorance of israeli secular population of their own roots.

izzy says:

thanks! this is the future of the fight to bring judaism to jews its hillarious these people cannot care if someone offered their kids a joint or drugs or even promiscuity but if someone offers their kids spiritual ideas its nazism

if you want jewish heritage why not in the plethora of ideas and democracy be offered what their grandparents had for thousands of years

Jack says:

The Chabad I know, some of whom are members of my family, are loving, kind people. I admire their culture and their faith, even if it’s quite different from the secular culture I was raised in. I’m glad to hear that they stop “kids” altho this word is ambiguous and some of the commentators go off on a rant based on their personal interpretation of the word; blame the author of the report, who has his own biases, apparently. When you think of how our secular culture stops kids with media messages and secular school interpretations of events (politically correct interpretations for the most part), what the Chabad does on, say, college campuses should not raise blood pressure but should raise money to support them.

Bryna Weiss says:

Whatever one thinks of Chabad, they have absolutely no right to approach children and young people. As another writer suggested, let them “set up shop” in a specific building and anyone who wants to come to them, can do so. I would be outraged if I were a resident of any area in Israel or the US, or any country for that matter, where Chabad was operating the way they are now.

Notice the kippah the child is wearing. In Hebrew, it states “Long Live our master, teacher and rebbe, king messiah for ever and ever,” also known as the Yehi slogan.

These are messianic Lubavitchers, who do not represent the mainstream of Chabad, let alone mainstream Orthodoxy.

Hineni says:

Chabad are brilliant marketers of a religion and lifestyle that is very close in style to Orthodox Judaism. Unfortunately, they are not committed to the idea of truth in advertising. Nor do they approach a contemporary sensibility on the role of women in Jewish life.

Continuing the marketing analogy, compare Chabad to Gillette. Give away the razor,(or in their case, the Shabbos dinner) so you can sell the blades forever. Have a few products for women in your line, but recognize that, for your product, men is where it’s at. And if your salesman can knock Schick off the shelf altogether, so much the better — it matters not whether what he tells the shopkeeper to accomplish it is true or not.

And of course remember that the center of gravity for attention to Chabad has moved from Eastern Parkway to Postville, where exploiting illegal immigrants became a way of life.

In Ramat-Gan, where the residents aren’t on a guilt trip about not being Jewish the same way their grandparents were, the presence of God is superfluous. Truth be told, it’s superfluous every where else as well.

(Mr) Abbie Lipschutz says:

As a Jewish atheist from an orthodox family, Chabad looks to me like a Hebrew Taliban. Stay away from any people who are convinced they know THE TRUTH.

Abbie Lipschutz
Houston, Texas

Leah says:

I had to laugh out loud at the end of the podcast, when the angry guy with the Chicago accent (lived in Ramat Aviv since age four) says, “Well last year we made our OWN sukkah, and we had our OWN menorah lighting!” Yeah, that’ll show those Chabadniks — we’re gonna keep mitzvot, too.

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Hearts and Minds

When Chabad arrived in an upscale Tel Aviv neighborhood, its liberal residents didn’t respond with open arms

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