De Shtetl has a very interesting post about censorship (and isolation) in haredi communities:

haredi-isolationists

The biggest enemy of frauds and charlatans is information, as the Talmud says: “one who wishes to deceive should keep the witnesses at a distance”. As such, Charedi leaders take the War on Information very seriously. This takes on many dimensions, and targets all stages of Charedi life.

From a very early age children are spoken to in a foreign language only, an archaic dialect of German. This helps to make them feel alienated from the rest of society, and it ensures that children born in this country to parents who were born in this country will only ever speak English as a second language, at most – if they do manage to learn some at a latter stage. Little Charedi children toddling along the streets of London will already feel the separation between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Them who who speak a language these little children don’t understand, and them who wouldn’t understand a Charedi child if it ever did speak to them.

It is in this context that Charedi children absorb the playground parlance regarding the ‘bad Goyim’. Such talk is rarely condemned and usually encouraged by observing adults. Charedi children will also be taught directly by their school authorities to fear goyim and not to trust them.

It’s a great read with much more that examines how this behavior leads to haredi extremism.

Though the article is not about Chabad, the parts about vilifying non-Jews reminded me of the time I spent there.  There was rarely a Shabbat or holiday when I didn’t hear the the Chabad rabbis (I use the term loosely) condemn “the goyim” for one thing or another.  All too often we heard that the ‘wicked goyim’ did this, and the ‘evil goyim’ want to do that, without naming a specific people, just a monolithic enemy called “the goyim.”  This was clearly a belief deeply internalized by the children of the Chabad shluchim. But I think for the Chabad outreach customers it was used more as an ‘us and them’ team-building marketing tool.

Oddly, when my own family fell on very hard times, it was non-Chabad Jews (yes, including some haredim) who came to our assistance.  The dean of my own children’s school is haredi, but doesn’t sell hatred of non-Jews.  He’s certainly not advocating intermarriage and assimilation, but his focus is on a love of our own culture and not on hatred of others.  He’s a great man and I have seen him praise the kindness of non-Jews and give handouts to non-Jewish homeless.

We also received a lot of help, offers of assistance, and simple acts of kindness from… yes… “the goyim.”  I was especially touched when one Chanukah a non-Jewish neighbor took the time to learn a little about kashrut and purchased kosher candy bars for my children.  They came delivered with a card expressing her gratitude for having good neighbors.  In contrast, Chabad sent us multiple emails soliciting donations throughout the same holiday.

I don’t teach my children about a world of yiddim and goyim.  I’d much rather bring their attention to a world of givers and takers.  You can’t be a ‘light unto the nations’ by being an isolationist.

(hat tip: H)

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