Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Idiot Brigade Rides Again

I know I’m going to get flamed for this, but I have to do it. I’ll just enable comment moderation.

First, a disclaimer: I would eat Streits Matzah.

In the past week I’ve lost three friends who were all wonderful people, each unique but each a solid, productive person who brought good to the world and smiles to other people’s faces. Alex, you were the sweetest of the sweet. Howard, you were a mentsch’s mentsch, and always in a private, humble way. Joe, you combined love of learning and love of community so beautifully.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what people bring to the world around them.

And every time I read the incredibly stupid and hurtful allegations lodged against the Vaad of Queens for their stance on Streits – just look at some of the comments to my post on the Ugly Side of Kashrus Recommendations - it irritates me no end. Why did good people have to die, leaving behind these guys?

It doesn’t take skill, or dedication, or brains, to sit at a keyboard and write stupid things about volunteers who are trying to provide solid guidance for their communities. It just takes an idiot brigade of people who cannot contribute anything positive to the world, who cannot muster the force of will to try to build, and so, instead, resort to whiling away their hours tearing down others.

One poster hides behind an Anonymous tag, and even anonymizes his ISP, and Googles “Queens Vaad” on Blogsearch. Then, on each site he finds - including mine - he posts conspiracy theories as well as lists of other sites where he has posted his conspiracy theories.

His favorite plot is this: The rabbi who certifies Streits signed a letter a few months ago – along with ten other rabbis, mind you – criticizing the conversion process used by a certain rabbi in Brooklyn. That Brooklyn rabbi’s son is rabbi of an OU shul. The head of the Vaad of Queens’s kashrus division does some work for the OU’s kashrus division. Also, that Brooklyn rabbi’s son is a member of the 30-or-so-person executive committee of the RCA, and the RCA has cooperative projects with the OU. That’s why the Vaad of Queens decided not to recommend Streits.

I’m not kidding; look at the comments I linked before. I’m guessing he came up with this brilliant insight in the following conversation, probably during Musaf over Yom Tov:

Abe: Hey, did you hear this thing about Streits, the Vaad of Queens and the Five Towns Vaad saying Streits ain’t kosher enough for them?

Boruch: Yeah, ain’t it terrible? Rabbi Soloveitchik, he’s a giant! He’s the head of YU! How could they do that to him?

Chaim: No, that was Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik. He passed away years ago. This is his son.

Abe: You’re both idiots – it’s not his son, it’s his grandson. His son was Aaron, he’s the one who’s a historian, and his grandson is Moshe. Wonderful guy. And I was thinking. Why would they do that?

Boruch: I dunno. Maybe they found pork in the factory?

Abe: Are you kidding me? Come on. It’s gotta be a scam. They gotta have something to gain.

Chaim: Like what?

Abe: Money. Like, if Streits hires them to certify the matzah, instead of this Rabbi Soloveitchik.

Chaim: Can’t be. I looked up all the tax forms some guy keeps posting on the blogs. The rabbis on these Vaad things are volunteers. They don’t even do any supervision. No money in it for them.

Abe: Okay, fine. But then it’s something else. Maybe they hate the Soloveitchik family. I know – it’s Slifkin, Round II! They’re loony right-wingers, they remember the way Rabbi Soloveitchik protected Slifkin, and they want to make the Soloveitchik family look bad.

Boruch: Can’t be. Rabbi Soloveitchik refused to meet with Slifkin, or even read the guy’s books. Besides, most of these Vaad people are either YU grads or YU friendly.

Chaim: Wait, I got it!

(Chaim is shushed by people around him who cannot hear their own Musaf conversations.)

Chaim (in a lower voice): Okay, I got it. Listen: The Vaad has a deal going with Rubashkin. Rubashkin bought shares in Manischewitz. The Vaad shuts down Streits, that leaves Manischewitz with the monopoly – and Rubashkin gets rich.

Boruch: Ooooh, wait, even better: The Lubabs take the money they make, and pump it into Moshiach billboards with the Rebbe’s picture all across Thailand. What do you think?

Abe: I think you’re crazy, is what I think. Forget Rubashkin; they’re so 2008. I got it: Rabbi Soloveitchik, along with ten other rabbis, once signed a letter condemning someone’s conversions…

Disagree with their decision, fine – although I’d suggest actually finding out what happened first.
Disagree with their method of explaining themselves, sure.
Disagree with their timing, too.

But to vilify people because you don’t agree with them, concocting Rube Goldberg scandals with neither evidence nor logic, is just sickening. It makes you guilty of everything you accuse them of trying to do.

Personally, I know very little about the whole episode. I have only love and admiration for Rav Aharon Soloveitchik זצ"ל, and I have heard wonderful things about his son, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik. Further, on the basis of the rulings of rabbis with more knowledge than I possess, I believe that Streits is fine to use.

But I don’t think the Vaad of Queens was out to get anyone. And I do think that people who waste the world’s time, and create mountains of ill will, all for the sake of spreading machlokes (strife), will burn in a special place in Gehennom.

Flame on; comment moderation enabled.


  1. It at least shows what people believe correctly or not about Vaad Hakashruts and Rabbonim-and that in itself is a problem that Rabbonim should at least try and correct if possible.It is notenough to be naki lifnei hashem-one must be naki beeinei elokim veadam.

  2. Great post (if my comment goes through).

  3. Anonymous-
    Absolutely agreed. My problem is only with those who will go to the ends of the earth to tear down, but I agree 100% that there is a requirement of being naki meiHaShem umiYisrael.


  4. Interesting that not a single comment on that other post addressed the question you were actually talking about. Every single one talked about the topic that you explicitly said in the first paragraph you weren't offering an opinion on.

  5. Michael-
    I think a few of the early comments were on topic, but, yes, most were on the topic I did not intend to discuss. That's the nature of Torah sheBichtav, I know.