Thursday, November 29, 2012
The image problem we have [Weberman trial] (GUEST POST)
"I have mixed and conflicted feelings about this case. I am absolutely convinced that a Hasidic looking man cannot get a fair trial anywhere when accused of such crimes, but in this case I have my doubts as to Weberman’s guilt. That’s all, “doubts,” and doubts does not mean convinced, no need to jump on me. No competent criminal lawyer permits a police abuse case or a Hasid sex case (or even fraud case) to stand before a jury and counsel often chooses a bench trial. (Why Weberman’s lawyer let his client go before a jury should give us pause - and we should speculate as to why). I don’t know Weberman personally but he is a distant cousin, so when I asked numerous mutual cousins that I share with him and know him personally they all told me that if he is guilty he should rot in jail. Since the term “if” has come into the conversation so many times, that tells me that my “doubt” is shared by a great many others.
We in the Hasidic community must look inward why we're looked upon so unfavorably. Of course there is the age old problem of antisemitism, as well as the hate of the secular for the frum, (repulsed is a better term) added to the general worldwide dislike of the overly devout, of every religion. As more and more of our people get caught up in the Justice system, avoidance of this problem and blaming others is not an option. We must face juries that are selected out of the general population. From my own observation on how our community has developed socially and politically I get the feeling that the social attitude our community projects outwardly towards our neighbors and fellow citizens has - especially in New York - poisoned the jury pool. We live in one of the most tolerant and generous cities in the world, but what do most of the residents of the City know about us and our way of life? I would venture to say that millions of people around the Metropolitan NYC area know us for just a few things; we are opposed to gay marriage. Oh yes, let me add and we support Israel. On both issues we come off as strident, brooking a no nuanced approach; no "live and let live." No, we come off as angry and suspicious (no president named Hussein will defend Israel) The electoral graphic map published by the NY Times says is all. The red dots of Romney voters stand out as one solid core of naysayer's in opposition to the cultural and political sensitivities of most New Yorkers. By our votes and our interactions with local politicians we have projected an image of a community that is intolerant and one that does not care about the more vulnerable ones living side by side with us.
Then there are the simple day to day interactions; how do we tip the taxicab driver, the grocery delivery boy, our workers, our cleaners? These people, their children and members of their family end up as jurors of people like Weberman and they will be charged to decide his fate. I have long detected a strong attitudinal shift, especially among the young in our community, from a feeling of mutual communal responsibility combined with traditional fear of “what will the goyim say,” to an attitude of triumphalism and of an arrogant projection of entitlement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but whenever I bring up these issues among my young acquaintances I get the look as if I fell off the moon. I have no doubt that one day we will have to take on these dire issues, that if not dealt with in a sensible way will grow worse and worse, until we will have no choice. Of course we might avoid giving any thought to this issue and suffer without the benefit of self analysis to re-examine our place in this country. Even if Weberman is guilty of some criminal improper behavior within the indictment there is a strong possibility that he is not guilty of the more severe charges. This is where a socially poisoned jury really matters. It is reasonable to doubt and suspect that Weberman is guilty of some of the charges, likewise it also reasonable to speculate that the girl and her supporters have an incentive to pile on charges. For a victim it might be easy to morally rationalize the piling on of more accusations, in order to make at least something stick. Brooklyn’s DA Charlie Hynes office is so politicized and his integrity is so compromised that it makes me share Tzig's doubts. This trial gives me the shivers, not only about what might be the outcome for those directly involved, but I tremble about what the outcome will bring and what effect it will have on the rest of the Haredi community here and around the world."