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Fear is the Root Causes of Religious “Friction” in Rockland County

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

Mike Diederich's “Counter-Point” to a CWTDWYTK post of November 14, 2021

A post recently on CWTDWYTK seemed to be saying that hateful words spoken by an individual at a Haverstraw Planning Board meeting were uttered because of perceived lawlessness by Orthodox Jews. The post avoided using the words “Jew,” “ultraorthodox” or “Hasidic,” yet there can be no doubt that the subject group is the Hasidim.

The post went on to protest purported lawlessness of the Hasidim that is not being adequately addressed by public officials, and expressed the view that violence could result if the supposed lawlessness is not addressed.

The post provided few details and much rhetoric about District Attorney Thomas Walsh’s condemnation of what was said at the Planning Board meeting. A speaker at that meeting referenced a “sect of people” (ultraorthodox Jews) who wear no “reflective gear,” and thus he might “run one of them over” and he went on to say “of course I am going to back over them again, right?”

In my opinion DA Walsh was correct to condemn these words, as were the many other public officials who condemned the hate that they contained.

Let me turn now to some general and specific facts surrounding the public comment surrounding the Haverstraw Planning Board meeting.

First, no lawlessness was involved with a religious owner’s Planning Board application for a variance allowing a religious use. The application should be either granted or denied based upon whether or not the applicant meets the requirements for the grant of a variance. The applicant’s religion should be irrelevant.

However, it is legitimate to wonder if a religious sect is setting up infrastructure to later “create a Shtetl,” or if the planning board application is simply some citizens seeking to establish a religious school for their children to attend, just as Catholics might seek to create a parochial school.

The distinction is important in my view, as I explain in a paper I wrote on how to lawfully oppose a shtetl. It is the difference between acting as an anti-Semite versus acting as an opponent of segregation. Of being anti-Semitic versus being anti-theocracy.

Thus, accusing DA Walsh (and the many other public officials who spoke out) of condemning hate that it was for the purpose of “hunting for votes” appears to me to be cynical and ridiculous. Rather, it reflects the poisonous attitudes infecting our people both in national politics, and also at the county and local level.

Let me explain - I ran against DA Walsh in 2019 because I believe religious extremism and the accompanying power of the Bloc and the Bloc vote is bad for Rockland, the region and our democracy. However, I agree with DA Walsh 100% in opposing hate. Nothing good comes from fear of others based upon their race, ethnicity or religion. Fear results in hate, and hate is a destructive emotion.

Anyone with even a very superficial knowledge of world history should be aware of the many anti-Semitic falsehoods, generalizations and tropes that have subjected Jews to prejudice and hatred in so many place at so many times in human history.

It is with the above in mind that I submit that he “root cause” of friction in Rockland County is not lawlessness. Rather it is the insufficient education of BOTH the Hasidic AND the anti-Hasidic communities in this county.

From insufficient education comes fear!

If you “hate a Hasid,” you are a hater who is acting out of emotion and fear. This is quite un-American in my view. Likewise if you are Hasidic and you hate or fear an African-American or fear secular education and becoming part of the larger American society, you are likewise acting in an un-American fashion in my view.

Fear is the problem. The solution is lies in education.

The CWTDWYTK Facebook page has explored, and criticized, Hasidic behaviors over the years. I have criticized Hasidic culture and behaviors, particularly its insularity and refusal to provide its children with an adequate secular education. But in this post I would ask the critics of the Hasidim to engage in some introspection. Look at yourselves before judging others. It seems to me that the readers of CWTDWYTK are quick to judge those with whom they disagree. The comments are often outbursts of emotion.

What is meant by the word “friction” as used with respect to inter-community relations in Rockland County and how is DA Walsh ignoring the “root causes” of such friction?

I believe “friction” refers to relations between the Hasidic community and its non-Hasidic critics. Would the District Attorney be having a hissy fit by commenting on someone hypothesizing dragging an African-American by his neck behind a truck? Or hypothesizing the rape of a woman?

With all due respect to those who may disagree with me, the “root cause” of friction is not lawlessness, but ignorance. It is a lack of mutual understanding. It is an unwillingness by both Hasidics and non-Hasidics to become better educated in history, science and civics, and better educated about each other.

The enemy of the United States of America, and a society that benefits all, is ignorance, inflexibility and self-righteousness. This includes everyone who rejects education, facts and reason, but who instead embrace fantasy and fear. With education comes moderation and compromise—and the attitudes that bring people together.

A sound society is one that has sound government. We need to remember that it is “we the voters” who elect our governmental officials. We elect the representatives whom the majority believes reflect our interests and values. We could vote for and vigorously support someone whom we think will better serve us. If we have not, the fault lies with us. For many of us, our contribution to better government is one trip to the polling place on Election Day. Some of us think casual comments on CWTDWYTK is a contribution. It is not. Democracy requires more.

It seems to me that the Anonymous Writer raised the specter of an risk of violence in Rockland based upon the observation that elected officials were not addressing the anger that appears to be growing throughout Rockland County and which was clearly seen in the incident at the Haverstraw Planning Board meeting and the attendees reactions.

This, in my opinion, is not an accurate assessment of the level of community fear that exists in Rockland County today. The reality is the most Rockland County residents do not yet perceive a threat of theocracy in Rockland. But the citizenry is not examining the situation close enough.

Here is my personal observation as to the level of community fear. I ran for town supervisor in Stony Point (which town adjoins Haverstraw), and during my campaign I mailed every household in the town literature explaining my opposition to theocracy developing in Rockland county and potentially my town, and my intention, if elected, to lawfully resist the creation of theocracy. The voters elected my opponent by a wide margin. My opponent claimed my concerns were “scare tactics.”

From this, I think it is fair to conclude that the concerns about any sort of impending risk of civil unrest or violence resulting from currently existing fear is not on the minds of the majority of the voting public today, all protestations uttered on CWTDWYTK notwithstanding.

In my view, the general public is oblivious to the risk of theocracy, and at the same time the CWTDWYTK readership is reacting emotionally (out of fear) and not rationally.

I believe that theocracy poses a huge risk to our society. Somehow we need the voting public to understand this. But not by fear mongering. I think that civil discussion and education, not hyperbole and fear, are the better means to address the subject of unconstitutional theocracy.

But in this, we need people to direct their energy in a productive manner. We should remember the countless veterans who sacrificed so much in defending our nation and its core values, and with this in mind, try to contribute just a fraction of that sacrifice to helping Rockland avoid theocracy (while at the same time becoming a better place to live for all).

DA Walsh has sacrificed for the larger society. He served as an assistant county attorney, as a judge and now as a prosecutor. He could have made more financially by remaining in the private sector; yet he is engaged in public service. It seems to me he is doing a sound job as District Attorney.

However, he would be doing a better job, in my view, if he took up the suggestion I made when I opposed him in the recent DA race and empaneled a grand jury to examine what is in many people’s eyes organized criminal activities or systemic public welfare benefits abuse by some members of the ultraorthodox community. I also proposed prosecuting educational neglect of children as a crime. I said that if elected I would prosecute housing violations if these reached the level of a crime. Yet in prosecuting cases, it is vitally important to separate fact from fiction, and not to view perceptions and anecdotes as reality. A prosecutor cannot allow himself or herself to become a persecutor.

The practical reality is that District Attorney Walsh has a small staff and has only the limited legal tools of the criminal law at his disposal—far fewer resources than, say, the U.S. Department of Justice, the local U.S. Attorney’s Office or the N.Y.S. Attorney General’s Office. The voters elected Mr. Walsh, and thus he is entitled to focus on his priorities.

An attack on DA Walsh reflects an even larger problem than what ultraorthodox theocracy poses today. An attack on DA Walsh demonstrates ignorance as to what it takes for American democracy to work. Democracy requires the ability of people to civilly talk to each other; to compromise, to be moderate; and to seek the “better angels of our human nature.” Hate and fear divide. As future president Abraham Lincoln warned in 1858, “a nation divided against itself cannot stand.” Nor can our civil society here in Rockland County.

Perceptions can become reality in people’s minds. Ignorance and hate can turn to violence. If you read the book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” you will see how a very civil and educated society can succumb to mob rule, hate and fear. The result was the Holocaust. We must be mindful, lest our republic follow the example of the Weimar Republic.

In my observation, fear is consuming too many Americans today. It is controlling too much of our politics nationally, helping create the hyper-partisanship.

𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘄𝗲 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗥𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗳𝗲𝘄𝗲𝗿 𝗳𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗶𝘀𝗮𝗻𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗳𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗽𝗮𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗼𝘁𝘀—𝗰𝗶𝘁𝗶𝘇𝗲𝗻𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗰𝘂𝘀𝘀 𝗶𝘀𝘀𝘂𝗲𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝘀, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗺𝗶𝘀𝗲. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗰𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗹!

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