Speaking Up for Our Rights

We, the Jewish people, have always sought to preserve our independence, and our own values. Our uniqueness is the set of values set forth by the Torah, not subject to the trend of the times. We are a nation deep-rooted in ideals that might not be shared by the rest of the nations. It is for this that the Torah defines us as the Am Hanivchar, chosen and able to exist as a minority between nations.

We live in a society that emphasizes the concept of ideological equality. While in some ways this is a formidable and positive development, there is a significant downside as well.

When the rest of society adopts values that we do not appreciate and cannot accept, we want to have the ability — in the name of equality and freedom — to preserve and live according to our own set of values.

The Torah commands us to compromise in monetary matters as well as in the repair of interpersonal relationships. In fact, pragmatism in economic and political arenas was our way of ensuring our survival in the millennia of galus. But when we witness a major shift in values, when what is pure for some is the ultimate impurity for us, there is no room for compromise.

Precisely because we live in a society that claims that individuals and minorities have the right to live in accordance with their own values and not have interference with their way of life, we should be granted the same.

Throughout our long sojourns in exile, we have faced innumerable challenges and tribulations. In many periods in our history, the forces of destruction were ideological in nature. It seems almost inconceivable for us today to comprehend how so many of our youth were swept away in movements such as communism, radical socialism, and secular Zionism, yet for the Jews of yesteryear, this was the painful reality of their time. Living under trying economic conditions, exciting new ideologies promised a better future.

Although contemporary American Jews face no shortage of momentous spiritual challenges, they primarily aren’t of the economic or ideological sort. For those of our brethren afflicted with the devastating plague of intermarriage and assimilation, the root of the problem is ignorance — usually due to no fault of their own — of what a Torah life is all about and a resultant total disconnect from our glorious heritage.

On the other hand, those living a Torah-true life are currently facing challenges of a very different sort, challenges that only a few years ago would have been unthinkable. Civil rights was once a noble idea, which was originally intended to protect the rights of minorities and provide them with equal opportunities. Nowadays this noble idea is being used as a pretext to promote depravity and eradicate the last vestiges of morality from American culture. In a radical shift to the extreme left, what was once considered criminally insane is now the new normal, and what was long considered to be reprehensible is now perfectly acceptable.

At the same time, the official policies of local, state, and federal governments have begun to reflect this new radical reality, creating a very real danger to our community. This danger now exists well beyond the political arena; it now threatens both our physical safety as well as our ability to live a Torah life.

Many of the new regulations do not contain any sort of religious exemptions. Which means that residents can face prosecution — and very large fines — if they refuse to provide services that violate their religious beliefs, or rent out premises for usages that are prohibited according to their religion. The same applies to whom they choose to hire. It is illegal to refuse to employ an individual on account of his objectionable lifestyle, even if the position is one that entails taking care of and influencing children.

To top it off, New York City recently announced that it is undertaking a citywide advertising campaign to inform New Yorkers of a little-known law that essentially makes it illegal to limit a specific restroom for the usage of ladies or men. This law applies equally to all “public accommodations,” whether it is a city-owned facility, or a privately owned wedding hall or supermarket.

It would be gross negligence on our part if we would remain silent when our religious liberties — as well as safety — are threatened by such outrageous regulations. The representatives of Torah Jews must clearly declare that regardless of what is to be considered the norm on the streets, we will not allow ourselves to be dragged down by practical considerations. It is imperative that those who seek to represent our community do all they possibly can to counter these efforts in every way possible.

There are many areas in which we can and should seek to compromise, but when it comes to public safety and our rights to freely practice our religion, there can be no room for negotiations, nor is it a time to worry about being politically correct. In addition to our unequivocal response being our sacred obligation, standing firm for our principles will only gain us the respect of elected officials.

May Hashem grant us the resilience to pass the tests of our era, and grant our representatives the courage and the wisdom to make the right decisions and take the right steps to counter these challenges.