Here’s a fascinating piece in Haaretz on Satmar Jewish attitudes, stemming from the recent murder of a Brooklyn landlord named Menachem Stark, 39, who is said to have been generous inside the Satmar community but ruthless outside it, treating tenants and others with contempt. (The New York Post angered many in the Satmar community by headlining a piece on Stark, “Who wouldn’t want this man dead?”) The Haaretz reporter is Debra Nussbaum Cohen:
Sources say that in fact there is no contradiction between the role Stark played in his Satmar community of Williamsburg, and how some tenants and legal documents say he behaved outside it.
“What you do to the goyim is not the same as what you do to Jews,” said Samuel Heilman, an expert on Hasidic communities like Satmar. Heilman, author of “Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry” and a distinguished professor of sociology at Queens College, is currently at work on a book about succession battles in Hasidic courts.
That attitude stems from days when Jews were actively persecuted, he said. “Part of the collective mind-set in the crucible of history when this part of Jewry was formed, the outside world was filled with anti-Semitism and persecutors. The whole understanding of that was that you need to keep a distance from them, that they are a different level of human being,” Heilman told Haaretz.
According to Samuel Katz, who was brought up as a Satmar but later became secular, boys in the community are taught that non-Jews aren’t quite human. Speaking from Berlin, where he is doing biomedical research on a Fulbright fellowship, Katz explained that growing up in such a community, “you don’t see commonality with people who aren’t Jewish. There is a completely different taxonomy of people. There are Jews and then there are non-Jews, who don’t have souls.”
When the messiah comes, “every boy is taught that the bad goyim will be killed and the good gentiles will have the privilege of serving us, of being our slaves,” he told Haaretz. “The way Stark dealt with tenants is part of that world view… It’s not taking advantage of them, [rather] that is the world order you’re taught to expect.”
“It informs your moral compass. Like all good people Stark was benevolent and generous to the people who he saw were like himself,” but not to other people, added Katz. “There’s an empathy ‘blind spot’ that imbues the Haredi outlook.”
P.S. I generally avoid pieces about nutty Orthodox teachings because I think all religious fundamentalists are crazy; but as Tolstoy said, every family is unhappy in its own way, and one Jewish issue I struggle with here is exceptionalism, superiority. Also note that one of Max Blumenthal’s alleged sins in his landmark investigation, Goliath, was the chapter title, “How to Kill Goyim and Influence People” describing an Orthodox tract in Israel laying out the circumstances under which it is permissible to kill non-Jews.