Squaring Off in New Square
Following Rabbi Yaakov Yosef's passing in 1968, his son, Rabbi David Twersky, has been the Skvirer Rebbe.
As reported here, here and here, Aron Rottenberg, a resident of New Square, prefers to worship at a synagogue other than the one run by the Skvirer Rebbe. The venue where Rottenberg prefers to pray is an "orthodox" one, where men and women are separated by a structure (a mechitza).
[For the record, my own personal preferences: Except under the most extenuating circumstances, I will not pray in any minyan (group of at least 10 Jewish men) that is not a kosher minyan, that is, there must be some sort of physical separation between men and women. In my own congregation, the mechitza is made of several units on casters, which can be and are moved out of the way after the prayer service so that tables can be set up, et cetera; most of the men sit with their wives afterward. And our mechitza has curtains, through which the men can discern their wives on the womens' side, and vice versa.].
But Aron Rottenberg's venue of preference is not the Skvirer Rebbe's, and so, he and his family have been the objects of harassment in the insular community of New Square. The harassment, which has included slashed tires on the car, and broken windows, has now culminated in an arson attack, in which Rottenberg was burned over half his body.
Rottenberg has lawyered up, having retained Michael Sussman, Esq., to represent him.
In 2000, Hillary Clinton, following meetings with political apparatchiks from New Square, received 1359 out of 1369 New Square votes for her campaign for Senate. In 2001, some incarcerated fraudsters from New Square miraculously received some pardons from outgoing President William Jefferson Clinton.
Mike Sussman, Esq., believes (and I agree) that the local law enforcement authorities, who, I note, have been less than enthusiastic about responding to Rottenberg's complaints about vandalism at his house, cannot be counted upon to properly handle the situation, and that some Federal investigation is warranted.
The perpetuator, Shaul Spitzer, was the Skvirer Rebbe's butler and lives/lived in the Skvirer Rebbe's house.
My comments (in no particular order):
1. Spitzer, who now stands charged with assault, arson, and attempted murder, is also hospitalized with 3rd degree burns. Maybe he's a contender for the Darwin Award.
2. I have never personally met Rabbi Twersky, the Skvirer Rebbe, but a number of friends whose views I respect have met him. My tentative assessment of him (subject to adjustment upon receipt of further definitive and reliable information): He is not an inherently evil man, but his past inobjectivity is coming back to haunt him. He no doubt hoped that all of those inconvenient broken windows, slashed tires and verbal insults would induce the Rottenberg family to relocate to some place outside of New Square. He no doubt did not envision that matters would get out of hand the way they did.
3. Right now, Rabbi Twersky and the leadership of New Square are clearly in damage control mode. Mike Sussman, Esq. will likely exact some sort of significant financial tribute from Rabbi Twersky and/or organizations controlled by Rabbi Twersky. If Rabbi Twersky is praying for Aron Rottenberg's speedy recovery, it is motivated as much by his concern for asset conservation as it is by goodwill and decency.
4. Rabbi Twersky and the Skvirer Chassidim cannot have things both ways. If they wish to be insular in order to avoid the corruptive and evil influences of the outside world, then they cannot commit violent crimes and do other acts which cannot help but draw the attention of the outside world.
5. And, speaking of insularity, where did Shaul Spitzer, the Rabbi's butler, get it into his head to try to set fire to the Rottenberg homestead? Certainly not from the Internet, which is banned in New Square.
6. And, speaking of banning things in New Square, the Skvirer Rebbe's word is law in New Square. If he and his apparatchiks can deliver virtually all of the vote to a political candidate, then it cannot be said that he had no control over the vandalism and other depredations committed by his followers against the Rottenberg family.
7. I have more than a little discomfort over the concept of hate crime statutes. Not because acts motivated by hatred shouldn't be punished, but because there is too much potential for the hate crime statutes to be abused by prosecutors, and not applied in a uniform and even-handed manner. I nevertheless note, with applause and approval, that Mike Sussman, the Rottenberg's lawyer, has been using the term "hate crime" in his speeches and writings.
8. I have lived in communities where Jewish people were a small minority. Jew-on-Jew hatred such as that practiced in New Square is totally alien, totally offensive, and totally unthinkable to me.
9. If Aron Rottenberg gets the treatment he did for praying at a different venue than the Rebbe's own shul, then what treatment would be accorded to those who are known to vote for candidates other than those blessed by the Rebbe?
Aron Rottenberg's lawyer has been using the term "hate crime." But there is another term he should be thinking, if he is not actually saying it. And that term is "Racketeering!"