The annual televised Chabad Telethon will air in thr U.S. this month. Chabad is a branch of the Jewish ultra-orthodox Hasidic movement. Chabad in turn is divided into various sects that have a history of intense and violent rivalry with each other. However, they all have some common traditions such as perpetrating obscurantism by allowing only a minimal secular education for their followers and by fostering a belief within each sect that its founder is the Messiah. The men wear black suits and the women wear headscarves and long dresses. Followers also have large families which is the result of official opposition and enforced ignorance for its members about birth control, along with a patriarchal social structure resulting in limitation of women's roles and rights. The latter not only includes their expected function as serial child bearers but also the prohibition of their participation in Torah study and ordination as rabbis (Note the striking doctrinal similarities in this regard with Catholicism and Mormonism).
Of course this is not the image that Chabad and its ilk present to the public, especially when seeking contributions. The logo of the program is a symbol or silhouette of a Chabad "rebbe" (rabbi) dancing in spiritual joy.(Of course this avatar doesn't include his perpetually pregnant wife.)
But one would have to be practically living in a cave not to know that there's more to the story behind that facade. So why do many non-Orthodox and even non-observant Jews give undue
deference and in the case of the telethon, donations to the Ultra-Orthodox and its leaders? Could it
be due to feelings of inferiority and / or guilt about not
being "observant enough", e.g. not keeping kosher, such that members
of devout sects are looked up to as "real Jews"? And considering that
this respect for these "holy" men is not reciprocal , it's stranger
One rationale for elevated status of Chabad is the supposed "good works" that it does not just for Jews but for the community at large. So the telethon includes non-Jewish celebrities as well in order to appeal to a wider audience and so to appear ecumenical.
Yet there are many other charitable sectarian and nonsectarian organizations who likewise perform diverse and extensive services to the public without imposing the baggage of unenlightenment and oppressively strict behavior codes on their congregants on one hand while displaying a deceitfully benign mask to the outside world with the other. In short, the mere visibility of its representatives on TV does not compensate for Chabad's lack of transparency about the medieval culture and stifling lifestyle to which its members are expected to devote their lives.
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