While it is patently obvious, the loss suffered by the Stark Family, the Williamsburg community, and Orthodox Jewry is staggering and must be recognized.
However, the points I wish to address are those that are not readily apparent, or have not been appropriately articulated in the media.
While there has been an outcry regarding the lack of sensitivity of various media outlets, I think that it is appropriate to focus on both the prevailing winds that allow for such coverage, and more importantly the reaction and comments on newspaper sites as well as various blogs.
As a predicate matter, I am a proponent of “free speech.” However, the right of free speech does not mean that everything a person thinks or says is appropriate. The very thought of confusing the “right” with the “propriety” is patently absurd.
Even if one does not understand the difference, there should be a certain level of understanding that freedom of speech should not mean that a person can say whatever they want while maintaining anonymity. Frankly, from my perspective, if one is not ready to stand behind what they are saying, both the speaker and society are most certainly better served if they remain silent. In addition it demonstrates a significant measure of cowardice and allows for real concern for the truth of the statements.
Newspaper articles that are replete with allegations, unnamed sources, and quotes from people who are too cowardly to put a name behind their unsubstantiated attacks are unjustifiable, particularly when they are leveled against people who cannot defend themselves.
To go into a little more detail, I ask anyone who was ever involved with home renovation if they felt that all of the contractors that they used were deserving of the payments they demanded.
I ask if anyone who owns a multifamily rental property or manages one really expects to have a low income or middle income rental property free of building department violations or ECB’s. Both in my law practice and in my affiliation with the title industry I can tell you that clearing up violations of this sort are generally not even a requirement for a seller to do before a sale except in cases where the number of violations very significantly exceed the amounts reported on a per property basis.
The absurdity to suggest that defaulting on commercial real estate mortgages (which are traditionally made by institutional lenders) could somehow create personal levels of animosity that would effect a borrowers physical safety suggests a level of animus that is alarming.
If this suggestion had the smallest kernel of truth, individuals and businesses filing for bankruptcy should appear before the court wearing Kevlar surrounded by bodyguards. It would suggest that people who have disagreements with their home-improvement contractors should seek police protection.
The mere suggestion that a person who stood ready to lend his co-religionists money when they needed it, something we know as Gemilus Chessed, (an act of kindness) is a loanshark, amply demonstrates that the proponent of that idea does not understand the concept of helping fellow man unless they have a significant personal benefit.
Finding a few people who have less than kind words to say about someone, hiding behind a curtain of anonymity, goes more to the bias and cowardice of the chatterers than the conduct and character of the person they are referring to.
The only possible conclusion is that there are unfortunately too many people both within and without the Orthodox and Jewish community who already have their particular biases firmly implanted. People who relish an opportunity to besmirch a person because of his choice of garb, religious affiliation or the mere fact that he is a chassidic Jew.
The bias is so palpable, that they are ready to paint a mural that consists of gross exaggeration, distortion, innuendo, unsupported allegations, and lacking even a scintilla of evidence.
The totality of the bias, deep-rooted hatred, and the comments thereto are the real hate that we have to deal with.
I think that improper behavior should be addressed. As there has been no real basis for the allegations of improper behavior leveled against the victim of a horrific crime that robbed him of his life, and that rendered his wife a widow and similarly rendered his children orphans, the only vile behavior that is certain is the conduct of the people who committed the crime and the people who stood ready to spew forth deep rooted bias and hatred – shame on you.
Mendel Zilberberg, an attorney who is admitted to the bar in New York, New Jersey and Florida. Comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.