Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another Bias Attack...

In New Square, New York, a man was badly burned during an arson attack on his home. The motivation for the attack appears to have been religious.

A New Square man who was severely burned early Sunday during an attack on his home had been the victim of growing harassment for more than a year because he did not attend the community's main synagogue.

Aron Rottenberg, 43, who suffered third-degree burns to half his body, visited The Journal News office in November to express concerns about his safety.
Rottenberg had been ostracized by the Skver Hasidic sect that runs New Square because he did not worship at the community's main synagogue, headed by Grand Rebbe David Twersky.

The alleged perpetrator of the attack on Mr. Rottenberg, Shaul Spitzer (18), another member of the New Square Hasidic community. has been arrested by police. Local officials, most of whom are members of the Hasidic community - and presumably, followers of the Rebbe, were quick to deny any link between the arson attack and Mr. Rottenberg's claims of intimidation.

Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said he was assured by New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer that Sunday's attack was an isolated incident, the result of a private dispute and not part of a campaign of retribution.

Yossi Gestetner, a Monsey-based journalist who works with the Hasidic community, said New Square leaders would never condone such violence.

"Did the rabbinical leadership have issues with Mr. Rottenberg? Yes," Gestetner said. "But to conclude they would sanction violence is wrong."

But other members of the community disagree:

"If you don't follow the rules, this is what happens," said Elbaum, a former New Square resident.

Dirnfeld said he had little faith in local law enforcement because of its ties to New Square. He called for a federal investigation.

"I know there will be retaliation against me for speaking up, but as there is no responsible leadership, someone has to," he wrote.

One New Square woman said she and her friends were waiting for New Square's leadership to condemn Sunday's act and were bitterly disappointed that nothing was said.

"No one has come out to condemn the action of that boy," she said. "The girls went back to school. The boys went back to yeshiva. Nothing. It is against Judaism, against the Torah."

There are a number of Hasidic communities in upstate New York and elsewhere across the US, that are, for all practical purposes, separate nations unto themselves. The local government and law enforcement agencies are composed and controlled the by the congregation and the rules that get enforced are those of the religion. (This is also true for some other religious groups, like Mormons in the Southwest, and various Protestant sects in the south and midwest. Soon it will be true for Muslims in places like Dearborn, MI, too.) Permitting this sort of thing has traditionally had little overall effect for the US, but as the population fragments demographically and religiously, and more strident religious sects - ie Muslims - grow in numbers, we can expect to see a lot more communities like New Square in America's future.

New Square also presents evidence that pretty much any religious group will behave intolerantly toward others once its views are, at least locally, in the supermajority, and few religious leaders will hesitate to use government to squelch dissent if the option is available. Human behavior - and religious group behavior - is consistent, which is why a limited government is best.


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