The Zionist Conspiracy
Friday, April 04, 2008
Rabbi Lipa Pinschutz: We're Not In Lakewood Anymore
The Zionist Conspiracy, with permission of the author and with the haskama of Rabbi Ike Lewis, proudly reprints the following essay by Rabbi Lipa Pinschutz:
It was the talk of town wherever religious Jews congregated. Did you hear about that guy in Woodmere? How could he have pulled it off? There has to be more to the story. A man from Lakewood impersonating a Woodmere lawyer? It just can’t be.
The story was told that a man facing trouble in Lakewood conned his way into the Woodmere modern Orthodox community without anyone catching on to him. The charade lasted a number of years before the man from Lakewood ran out of steam and gave it up.
How bizarre. It really is strange. Fact can be stranger than fiction. But can it be that a Lakewooder blended into the Five Towns without raising anyone’s suspicions?
We like to think that we are so singular and unique that no one can imitate us. We like to think that the way we lead our lives cannot be duplicated by someone outside the fold.
There are just too many details to keep track of, too many cultural nuances to master. Which outsider would even notice the myriad telltale idiosyncrasies characteristic of our community - much less be able to mimic them? A faker would be exposed in seconds.
Or would he?
It would be a sad world if we suddenly were forced to check into every person we came into contact with.
In this case, good people befriended the new neighbors, took their children into school, and did their best to be mekareiv them. People took their money, clothing and food in good faith, and they are to be commended.
Although in the beginning, as the story began to unravel, people believed that the man was a total imposter, spy or worse, it may very well turn out to be true that the family thought they had undergone a genuine conversion. This doesn’t excuse any other deceptions they may have perpetrated, but how does it implicate the rest of us?
What ahavas Yisroel! What inclusiveness and acceptance of strangers! The family was showered with shul membership, shabbos lunch invitations, and every gesture of kindness, without anyone checking their brokerage accounts.
People are wondering whether it can really be that a learned black-hatter showed up in town, schmoozed in shul, complained about his bonus, and everyone fell for him. Can it be that all one has to do is learn to read a sports section - in this case this Daily News - and mimic the crowd?
People say that perhaps we are too superficial and perfunctory in our observance of mitzvos and in the way we interact with our fellows. We are often accused by our detractors of being provincial and self-absorbed, failing to pay attention to those who live among us but are different than us. The gentleman from Lakewood proved them wrong. Here came a family as if blown in by a tornado from a land most people in the Five Towns can’t even find on a map, and they are welcomed with open arms. Nobody asks to see their college degree, nobody tests them on their baseball knowledge, and nobody delves deep enough to find out where they really came from or how much equity they have in their home.
We have to learn to ask questions when we are unsure in matters related to gashmiyus. When things are incongruous, when something seems suspicious, we must probe for an explanation. If things don’t add up, we must speak up. There is no shame in asking questions repeatedly until we feel safe and secure that what we are doing is proper and just.
Can it be that if we weren’t so superficial in our relationships, we could have perceived that there was something very wrong with this family and the facade they presented to the world?
I am not suggesting that the fact that the Lakewood deception succeeded for a number of years reflects shortcomings on our side. This incident could have happened in any community. This man could have been my neighbor or yours. But as the rumors continue to fly, and as people conjecture and speculate about what really happened and who this mysterious man truly is, I am merely thinking aloud that perhaps there is a lesson here for us.