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September 09, 1988 - Image 93

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

INSIGHT

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SONNY BRASS

"All that the name implies...









Inner World

Draperies
Bedspreads
Blankets (cleaned or laundered)
Window Shades
Lampshades
Pillows
Venetian Blinds

Continued from preceding page

(cleaned. retaped & re-corded)

estimates
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.

MARIETTA & ERNEST DRUCKER
AND STAFF
WISH THEIR CUSTOMERS
AND FRIENDS
A HAPPY AND HEALTHY
NEW YEAR

Executive Custom Shirtmakers, Inc.
207 S. Woodward Ave.
Birmingham, MI 48011 642-0460

168

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1988

like Monsey and Monroe. (The buses are
segregated by sex — women sit in the
back — and no private buses run between
Williamsburg, which is Satmar country,
and Crown Heights, which is Lubavitcher
turf.)
More deeply, young Chasidim do occa-
sionally "intermarry" across sect lines,
bringing even adversarial Lubavitcher and
Satmar members into the same wedding
hall. And by the way, marriages are ar-
ranged by matchmakers just as they have
been for centuries, although prospective
mates do have veto power if the chemistry
isn't right. Not surprisingly, Chasidim ex-
plain their innate drive toward pan-
Chasidic, not to mention pan-Jewish
solidarity, in cosmic terms.
"On Yom Kippur," explains Rabbi Alter
Metzger, a Lubavitcher scholar and pro-
fessor of Jewish studies at Stern College,
"all Jews recount their sins, because all
Jews are part of a collective identity. One
person may be having a mystical ex-
perience in Jerusalem. Another person
may be intermarrying or taking drugs. The
actions of each individual affect the whole
of Israel equally."
This lesson in strength through unity
has found its practical as well as spiritual
applications. In the free, and free-swinging,
climates of modern Israel and America,
Chasidim have begun to master a game of
hardball politics and exert a political clout
that would have been utterly undreamed
of in old Europe.
In Israel, the growing demonstrative-
ness of the ultra-Orthodox, which has
become almost synonymous with
Chasidism, provoked a violent backlash
- last year after religious arsonists demol-
ished bus shelters displaying ads deemed
too sexually provocative and protesters in-
veighed against the showing of movies on
Friday night
In the United States, Chasidic leaders,
exploiting the tightly structured respon-
siveness of the communities under their
aegis, have gathered their flocks into
powerful and attention-getting voter blocs.
And no politician running for mayor of
New York City, governor of New York State
or President of the United States would
dream of facing election day without hav-
ing paid a photo opportunity visit to the
Lubavitcher Rebbe.
"Chasidim are more comfortable in socie-
ty, more rooted," explains Rabbi Morris
Shmidman, executive director of the Coun-
cil of Jewish Organizations of Borough
Park, an umbrella group encompassing 170
religious, educational and human services
agencies. "It's their last stop. A spirit of
activism has grown throughout the com-
munity, over a little more than a decade,
because the community is their vital con-
cern."
A major expression of that activism is
getting more government money funneled

into Chasidic neighborhoods for social
staples such as housing, police and clinics.
Beyond these basics, Chasidim, with their
innate conservatism, have bought easily
into the country's swing to the right dur-
ing the past several years.
In Rabbi Shmidman's Borough Park
area, for example, 70 per cent of the
Chasidic vote went to Reagan in 1984, a
figure several percentage points higher
than the national average and far higher
than the percentage for Jews overall. Pat
Robertson, despite his evangelical career,
is favored by a number of Chasidim for his
fundamentalist beliefs.
On a more local level, the old Jewish
allegiances to the traditionally liberal
Democratic Party held up a little better.
New York Chasidim split their ticket in re-
cent regional elections, sharing their sup-
port for Reagan with conservative
Republican Sen. Alphonse D'Amato, while
solidly backing liberal Democrat Mario
Cuomo in gubernatorial contests.
In Kiryas Joel, the Satmar land parcel
inside the suburban town of Monroe, New
York, Chasidim failed to bar female bus
drivers employed by the local school
district from transporting Satmar boys to
their yeshiva.
And in Williamsburg, community pro-
tests led to a court order preventing the
New York City Board of Education from
walling off Satmar girls in a remedial
reading class held at a local public school.
Both decisions hearkened to constitu-
tional safeguards against religious
favoritism in the public sphere.
Chasidim are not strangers, either, to the
raucous ethnic politics that contribute
heavily to the American urban scene. In
Crown Heights last year, years of simmer-
ing tensions between blacks and Luba-
vitcher residents pushed uncomfortably
close to the exploding point with charges
of harassment, angry demonstrations and
typically inflamatory intrusions by New
York Mayor Ed Koch.
A deal involving the formation of a novel
integrated citizens' anti-crime patrol
helped defuse animosities, though many
blacks remain disgruntled by aggressive
Lubavitcher moves to expand their hous-
ing base in the neighborhood, and by
Chabad's formidable political muscle that,
blacks charge, diverts badly needed human
services from the black to the Jewish
neighborhoods.
Worldly Confrontations
Chasidim have fought hard to preserve
their neighborhoods and to salvage a socie-
ty from what they regard as crumbling
moral values. In Williamsburg, they
agitated unsuccessfully to kill plans for an
environmentally controversial garbage
recycling plant, drawing analogies between
the toxic gasses they said the plant would
discharge and the Zyklon-B of Auschwitz.
Again, without success, many Chasidim

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