I am surprised and dismayed that my friend and colleague Max L. Kleinman saw fit to castigate the “deplorable parochialism” of Satmar chasidim (As I See It, “Beyond the Pale: the deplorable parochialism of Satmar chasidim,” May 7).
His column was wrong for several reasons. We may and do differ with our co-religionists but it serves no constructive purpose to publicize our differences in a public forum, especially when it won’t change anything. Kleinman’s only apparent goal was to show how parochial the Satmar are. That charge can be leveled at any number of minority religious groups, from the Amish to the Mormons.
The catalyst for Kleinman’s outburst was the large crowd at a Brooklyn funeral and N.Y. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s criticism about the lack of social distancing, which he directed against the entire Jewish community. De Blasio’s intemperate response in a moment of frustration was unfortunate. He apologized and the chasidim sought to play it down by not reacting — unlike many others, including many Jewish groups. The Satmar decided not to fan the flames by entering the fray.
From this, Kleinman extrapolates how the Satmar chasidim have “disassociated from the fabric of the Jewish people.” They are criticized for not criticizing the mayor. From here Kleinman goes off on a litany of ways that Satmar is different than and isolated from the Jewish community. This is not the place to argue the richness of the varieties of Jewish experience. His critique is uncalled for.
However I may strongly disagree with Satmar chasidim on many issues, they did resurrect a destroyed community after the Shoah. They built the largest network of schools and charity organizations. Prior to the current pandemic, busloads of women from the Satmar Bikur Cholim descend on the hospitals of Manhattan to visit Jewish patients and provide them with some company, nosh, and religious articles.
There are all types of fringe groups in America. For example, there were armed individuals who stormed some state capitals and seek an end to social distancing, and there are groups who advocate for lucre over health and safety. Are they not also beyond the pale ? It would be nice if we all lived in a kumbaya world where everyone got along. Alas, the Messiah has not yet arrived. In the meantime we need to love our neighbor as ourselves, even if he is not like ourselves.
I would have expected more from a Jewish communal leader and a Pelham Parkway boy.
Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene