[Naftuli Moster] This week I wrote an article for the NY Daily News that many in our community, especially Rabbi Yair Hoffman have perceived to be in poor taste. The gist of my article was that we should have a measure of understanding of the attackers of Taj Patterson, the black gay man who was beat up and partially blinded by a group of Hasidic youngsters in Williamsburg. In my piece I argued that to some extent, such behavior stems from a poor education and negative attitude towards “others” such as non-Jews and black people.
I would like to apologize to those who perceived it as an attack on the entire Hasidic community or as an attack on the Haredi Chinuch system. While I maintain, and no one is challenging me on this, that most Hasidic boys are not being provided with a proper secular education, I can see how my article appears to imply that violence is rampant in the Hasidic community as a result of the lack of education.
I don’t believe that is the case. In fact, what is so beautiful about the Hasidic community is that despite several systemic problems, such as the lack of secular education and child abuse cover-ups, the community is one of the safest places to be and the vast majority of community members are upstanding citizens.
That being said, as a member of the Hasidic community, I don’t want to settle for anything less than perfection, and neither should you. Would you be ok with one of your ten children being a criminal or being ill? No, we all strive for a perfect family, and we should strive for a perfect community as well.
So it’s time we acknowledge that the crimes committed by our youth and adults are mainly due to the lack of secular education. Whether it is beating up a black man due to blind hatred of the “other” or resorting to stealing from banks, government, and insurance companies to make ends meet.
With that, I hope you will join me in ensuring that our education system is improved quickly, so that our children can have brighter futures, better opportunities, and fulfilled lives.
Naftuli Moster is the executive director of Yaffed (Young Advocates for Fair Education).