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NYC's Radicalized Hasidic Community

LFC's Photo LFC 13 October 2020 - 09:28 AM

Over on the Coronavirus thread I posted about this extremist who is leading a community of Orthodox Hasidic Jews in a fight against any and all things that might help reduce the spread of COVID. This is the same community that was most responsible for the spread of measles a few years earlier.

Here's a further analysis that explains their behavior and also explains many of the MAGAts in our nation. The need to blame one's own failings onto outside, nefarious forces and play the victim is strong among some.


Like most things in politics, this explosion of anger did not come out of nowhere. Rather, as one community member who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Daily Beast, this rage “has been building for years.”

In fact, Tischler’s rhetoric is not so different from the rhetoric that has come from many Haredi leaders for years.

As the community member explained, for over a decade, some Hasidic community groups have repeatedly used a simple argument to distract from their failures: They are coming for you.

“They always framed every failure as the government coming after them. And what’s happening now is that these people grew up with this messaging, and so they’re now acting on it,” the community member told The Daily Beast. “Whether it was leadership by the measles crisis, by education reform, [controversial circumcision ritual] metzitzah b’peh… they framed it as ‘we’re hated.’”

All of these examples are moments when the government attempted to restrict the Haredi community, and when their leaders spread the message that the problem wasn’t communal. For instance, the problem was not anti-vaxx sentiments leading to the measles crisis. The problem wasn’t poverty caused by the lack of secular education in the community. The problem wasn’t the dangers of the practice of sucking the blood from a baby’s circumcision.

Instead, leaders said, the government—whether it was Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, or someone else—had it in for the Jews.

The rise of Heshy Tischler, then—a nobody wannabe City Council candidate—should be seen as the logical extension of a rhetoric that simply hasn’t fully been acted upon until now. As Asher Lovy, an anti-abuse activist who grew up in Orthodox Borough Park, put it, “I don’t think it starts with Tischler. It just ends with him.”

In other words, the way grievances of the Haredi and Hasidic communities in Brooklyn have been long nursed by self-interested leaders could be considered analogous or even deeply tied to the existential fear many Trump supporters feel about losing their version of America.

Both groups have largely been manipulated and used by leaders who have failed them repeatedly and who then translated those failures into an Us vs. Them argument—one where the evil others are pushing to destroy their way of life.

A few years ago, Republicans learned that they couldn’t control the logical result of this rhetoric: Donald Trump. Here was a man who said the things they said in hushed tones and winks but with shouts and screams, and a demand that something be done.

This is what is currently happening with the COVID-19 crisis rocking the Hasidic community.

Lovy pointed out to me, as did other voices within the community, that Haredi protests, including violent protests, are not out of the norm… in Israel. The reason, in those cases: the push to get Haredim drafted into the army at 18 along with the rest of Israeli Jewry. This was and is seen as an existential threat to their way of life, as it’s a direct throughway into the secular world.

Many people have trouble grasping how incredibly impactful COVID-19 restrictions are for people who see communal Jewish observance as what gives them life. Combine that with the strongly held belief among these communities—despite how hard hit they have been—that COVID-19 dangers are overblown, and you have a combination that leads to a belief that Jewish communities are being targeted in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Nazis.

However implausible it may seem that the second coming of Hitler is somehow embodied in the combination of politicians like de Blasio and Cuomo, Haredi leaders have built up an enemy that must be fought—and fought hard.

In the community member’s words, “They hate their leadership. They’re screaming, ‘Why isn’t anyone doing anything?!’... Heshy is doing something.”

LFC's Photo LFC 14 October 2020 - 10:49 AM

WhatsApp is being used in this community to spread piles of fake rumors. They're just like the MAGAts.


In the hundreds-strong WhatsApp group chats used by many members of Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, fake news has become a contagion unto itself.

“MUST WATCH DR USES VAPE TO SHOW MASKS DON’T WORK,” blared one video recently forwarded in the discussion thread of a prominent Hasidic family based in the neighborhood of Borough Park, where coronavirus rates have spiked in recent weeks.

“BREAKING Jewish journalist Jacob Kornbluh was just found dead by the NYPD in his apartment in Brooklyn. Sources say it might be suicide," read a false update another community insider relayed from a popular chat group on Monday, referring to the Jewish Insider reporter assaulted during a demonstration against new restrictions aimed at the outbreak there.

Kornbluh is very much alive, and declined to comment on the message besides calling it “stupid” and “unfortunate.” The source of the message, like several The Daily Beast consulted for this article, requested anonymity out of fear of getting targeted themselves.

Another image asserted in a mix of English, Hebrew, and Yiddish that unnamed religious authorities had issued a prohibition against testing for COVID-19.