When Down Is Up

I had a rebbi in 7th grade who learned in the yeshivah in Philadelphia during its early days. He said that in the 1950s there was once a burglary in the yeshivah overnight that left damage. Best of all, the burglars, all too young to act, or to be tried, as adults but, obviously, old enough to do the crime, were still on premises.

Some yeshivah bachurim held down the kids until police arrived. When Philly’s finest came to do their duty, they told the bachurim to leave the teeny intruders alone. They took them outside the campus, then slapped handcuffs on them and said what had to be said in those pre-Miranda days.

“If we arrest them in the building,” the candid cop told the befuddled Talmudic students, “you could be charged with kidnapping.”

Back in the 1980s when we heard the story, we all had a good laugh. Could you imagine? The victim getting blamed! Ha. Reminded us of the cartoon in our social studies book depicting a train marked as the government steamrolling over a body tagged “victim,”with the media standing and cheerleading the train on.

But fast forward to 2013 and here we have it. Poor Jesse Daniels sticking those future Rikers denizens in the closet and confiscating — confiscating! — their hammers brought the full spectrum of the law down on his head.

“Vandals caught, victim charged,” is the best headline I’ve seen on this.

Paul Bowler, the father of the four children, was asked if he was planning on disciplining his sweeties.

“No,” he said. “I’m going to let the courts do that.”

The courts, not the parents. His is a child’s dream home.

Equally dense was the mayor of the small village. During a press conference Daniels held to protest his arrest, none other than Clide Mayor Jerry Fremouw attended — along with the arresting officer.

“Jesse and I are good friends,” Fremouw said. “We’re all friends with Jesse. A lot of us support Jesse. It’s not us against Jesse. The police department acted appropriately. They did what they were told to do. They did what the law says they have to do.”

The law.

I could settle into a philosophical lecture of where the country is headed, how liberalism is morally bankrupting us into thinking that right is wrong and up is down. Children act like adults and adults treat them like children.

But we know that already. We see it in the countless cases of the “wrong” person ending as the fall guy while the head honcho gets a free ride. Rubashkin sits in prison while tax cheats head the Treasury. Pollard is serving a life sentence while bin Ladennephews get charter planes out of Boston on 9/12.

But the story still teaches us more about society than the facts of the story itself. Yidden strive to give the best to their children. If a certain yeshivah has a better rebbi or derech halimud, they will pull any string to get their child in.

I recall reading a Holocaust book as a teen in which the author, who lived with her infant daughter in Budapest, was forced to present herself as a non-Jew in order to survive. She was suspected of being a Jew, she writes, by the way she hovered solicitously over her child, asking for some extra fruits for “my baby.”

Is it a Jewish trait to be so attentive to one’s children?

Shortly after the United States attacked Afghanistan in 2001, when John Walker Lindh — the “American Taliban” who stupefied the nation for converting to Islam and fighting alongside the enemy — was captured, a New York City radio show host was asking his listeners if Lindh’s parents were correct in trying to get their child out on bail.

When an obviously Jewish caller dialed in to say that he believed that Jews should be there for their children through thick and thin, the host ridiculed him before slamming down the phone.

While that may be extreme, is it a Jewish trait to be so caring about one’s children?

It is hard to believe that any Jewish parent would allow this to happen.