liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
[personal profile] liv
There's a weird Jewish sect called Chabad, who are pretty much the Jewish equivalent of Jehovah's Witnesses. They're very very not mainstream, and they proselytize, up to and including doorstepping people to tell them the good news. One of the things they do is send missionaries to small communities, provide them with both material and educational resources, and gradually turn them over to the Chabad way of doing things, to the detriment of the community's own history and traditions. They've been trying to conquer our shul for years, but the community, while tiny and somewhat lacking in Jewish knowledge, has been strong enough to keep them out.

They left us alone for a bit because the rabbi of the geographically nearest community was in prison for fraudulently pretending to be a psychiatrist. But now he has been paroled they are back to trying to lean on us to do things the Chabad way instead of our way. They managed to get hold of a phone directory from a naive member 10 years ago, so they've been repeatedly calling anyone who hasn't changed their phone number in the past 10 years trying to invite themselves for Purim. And everyone who's been approached in this way has said either "thanks but no thanks" or "over my dead body!", depending just how badly they hate the organization. But they've persisted, ramping up to multiple phonecalls daily over the last week or so.

This evening, about 20 people showed up, many in fancy dress, ready to hear me read the megillah, the Purim story. I allowed enough time for everybody to take photos of the costumes and socialize and so on, and I'd just got the community settled and opened my mouth to recite the blessings before the reading when there was a knock on the door. In spite of repeated and vehement refusals, a bunch of Chabad missionaries had showed up to "help" us read the megillah. We sort of slightly panicked, because it's really quite hard to get rid of people when they're actually on your doorstep, but nobody wanted them. Thankfully our President and another community leader had the gumption to go to the door and say no firmly and unwaveringly. The missionaries told some sob story about how an entirely fictitious person had apparently called them begging them to come and read the megillah for his poor ailing father. They tried guilt-tripping us about the fact that they'd driven all this way in the freezing cold, and they tried bribing us with food (luckily we know their food is so glatt kosher it tastes of nothing but sawdust, so we weren't very tempted). The President and his companion shut the synagogue gates in their faces and told them, for about the fiftieth time, to go away.

So I read the megillah as planned. With silly voices, and summaries in English at the end of each chapter. And I continued to be a woman (in drag for the festival) right there on the bimah touching sacred scrolls and speaking in mixed company, and everybody was happy. And then we ate kosher but not super-duper-mega-ultra glatt kosher hamentaschen, and kept up our own anglo-Orthodox tradition for one more year. But that really was a close shave!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 01:53 am (UTC)
kass: the megillah of Esther (megillah)
From: [personal profile] kass
Well, kol hakavod to you for chanting megillah with silly voices and English summaries and being a woman in drag. I for one thoroughly approve.

Chag sameach!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 02:30 am (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
Well done on protecting your boundaries, though it would (as always in such things) have been better if you hadn't needed to and could have just celebrated the holiday.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 03:20 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Holy crap! I had no idea Chabad were such schmucks.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 03:45 am (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatam_soferet
They can be much, much worse than this.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 07:39 am (UTC)
lethargic_man: (serious)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
I've never had that kind of experience with Chabad. Maybe they're worse for very small communities of that sort. My parents' community, being a small (though not so small) provincial community has been in the situation for the last fifteen odd years of not being able to get a rabbi except for a Lubavitch one, as they are prepared to go and serve anywhere. (When we finally land on Mars, we'll find a Chabad House already there, opposite the McDonalds.) But they tell each rabbi you do what you want at home, in your public role you follow our customs, and so far each of the three they have had has listened and obeyed.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 09:43 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
That would make sense. I wonder if it's also very variable with whoever happens to be running a local chapter. I assumed they'd be a lot more centralised than that, but it would explain why the chapter run by the guy who just got out of prison for unethical behaviour was disproportionately harassing?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 10:02 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
*hugs*

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-09 03:07 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
My brain is still hiccuping on the whole there are Jews who proselytize thing.

Growing up, I heard a certain amount of sanctimony how we were better than Christians, because we Jews didn't do that sort of thing.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-10 08:11 pm (UTC)
lethargic_man: (capel)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
They only proselytise to other Jews. Judaism is not an externally-proselytising religion, because it holds that any non-Jew can gain a place in the World to Come provided they abide by the seven Noachide laws and are a Good Bean™.

However, Jews are beholden to 613 commandments, and Chabad's ethos is to try and increase the level of observance of other Jews.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 09:47 am (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
*hugs* Yay for fun religion.

PS. You shouldn't dwell on this, but how bad could Chabad get before calling the police is a sensible option? Repeatedly ringing up vulnerable people until they do what they want seems like pretty clear harrassment. Or do they have any central oversight this particular guy is breaking? I know lying low is probably better, but I feel compelled to say something, just in case. *hugs*

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 11:28 am (UTC)
iddewes: (animal)
From: [personal profile] iddewes
Good grief. I haven't had much to do with Chabad so didn't realise they were THAT bad. :S

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 12:45 pm (UTC)
iddewes: (squirrel)
From: [personal profile] iddewes
Well, that's good, and I think they have done some good in Russia, for example. Although it's a bit like the sort of good Xtian missionaries have done in the developing world. You can say they've helped out, but they have an agenda.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 02:43 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
They have an agenda, and it's important, if difficult, to look at the whole of what they've done. Not just "what are their motivations?" but how it's distributed. For example, is the helping people celebrate things they want to celebrate outweighed by the increase in gender essentialism and restricted roles for women in this case? (I'd say, in general, no, but if the effects are mostly the former, it's not as obvious.)

In the case of some Christian missionaries, that may be weighing people taught to read, or some genuinely useful public health work, against anti-condom propaganda or missionaries encouraging the imprisonment or murder of gay people. (This is the explicit agenda of some American Protestant missionaries who are influential in part of Africa: calling the murders "executions" and having them carried out officially by the government makes it worse, not better.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] daharyn
There's a 24/7 webcam from the big important Chabad house in Brooklyn; it is seriously one of the most unintentionally hilarious things on the internet.

They've been trying to stake a foothold at my graduate school. The first event they sponsored was "for Jews only," according to the advertisements. The student government, which had agreed to chip in a bit of cash for the food, made them change the language--you can't use student monies & then discriminate on the basis of religion. Since then, I've very much wanted to #occupy one of their Shabbos dinners with all the various types of people who go to school here...

I'm glad your community took a stand and set up a situation in which you could all celebrate the holiday as you saw fit.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 06:46 pm (UTC)
ajnabieh: The text "My Marxist feminist dialective brings all the boys to the yard."   (Default)
From: [personal profile] ajnabieh
Gee, and I just thought of them as those guys who stand on the street corner asking me if I'm Jewish. (My Jewish friends tend to respond, "Yes, and no I don't want to [do whatever mitzvah you're going to try to impose on me]" while marching away haughtily.) Ugh--what a shame that they showed up and made your holiday a little less pleasant.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-17 09:34 am (UTC)
atreic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] atreic
I'm sure this is just me not understanding, but a literal reading of your post - 'trying to invite themselves' and 'we told them to go away' doesn't spell out what I guess was the actual problem - they didn't just want to come to your service, they only wanted to come to your service if you did it differently? *hugs* Sorry you got caught up in this.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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