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Jewish Journal

Israel US Embassy Diplomat Discriminated Against Jewish Ultra-Orthodox

by Pini Herman

February 4, 2013 | 3:52 pm

Full-time Torah Scholars Need Not Line Up and Apply

Mark Paredes a Mormon journalist who boasted in his Jewish Journal blog of refusing tourist visas to the U.S. to Haredim, Jewish Ultra-Orthodox, as a matter of his personal policy.  Parades recounts when as a U.S. State Department Consular diplomat in Tel Aviv he encountered any Haredi households where the man studied and only the Haredi wife was employed, he would always deny visas.  These actions and like actions by other US diplomats may have the effect of blocking the Brad Sherman introduced  pro-Israel House Bill 300 or the Visa Waiver for Israel Act of 2013, a similar 2003 Visa Waiver Program for Israel was rejected by the Senate on the basis of Israel's high rate (6%) of visa application rejection which needed to be no greater than 3%.

Parades portrays Haredi males as deadbeats in spite of the fact that the Haredi wife was gainfully employed, in a culturally accepted division of labor within the Haredi community.

As past careful demographic and economic analysis about “migratory undesirables” such as Eastern European Jews, undocumented Mexican immigrants has repeatedly proven, the U.S. has gained much materially through their migration.  I would argue that granting US tourism or immigrant visas to Haredim would prove to be a net gain for the U.S. Unfortunately, Parades used his Mormon theology to tip the US Consulate’s scales and cost many Israeli Haredi time and money lost in useless visa applications which can come under the Talmudic description of thievery.

Parades’ narrative is reminiscent of the "binders of women" cultural blindness displayed by a prominent Mormon in the last US presidential election.  A family unit where the "wrong" gender is the breadwinner gets filed in the "unacceptable binder" in Parades’ mind, and unfortunately our US taxpayer money was funding, Parades, a dysfunctional U.S. consular clerk in Tel Aviv who seemed to be practicing a Mormon worldview.  It is useful to remember that the bees on beehives symbolizing industry in Mormonism are females.

(The 1846 Mormon Battalion was the only religiously based unit in United States military history. ...As the volunteer Mormon men were given a government paid uniform allowance at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., of US$42 each, paid in advance, for their one-year enlistment and as they were allowed to wear their civilian clothing for the march, the bulk of those funds were immediately donated to a general LDS Church fund. These funds were used to purchase wagons, teams, and other necessities for the American exodus (Actual wages paid over the next year to the Mormon Battallion totaled nearly $30,000).

Fortunately Congress is now considering taking away such discretion from clerks like Parades by enabling Israelis to travel to the US without a visa.

 

Mormonism and gender inequality are synonymous, but they are not comparable or identical to the gender inequality Parades witnessed in the Haredi community. I would even suspect that Parades cultural and religious blindness were not benign as evidence by his actions as a State Department employee.

While Parades may display his bona-fides as a philo-Semite, as evidenced by his employ by an Israeli Consulate, where hopefully he was not tasked with visa granting duties.  Parades by hitching a Mormon worldview to Yair Lapid’s demand of parity of compulsory military service for Israel’s Haredim rushed in with a too familiar stereotype and tale which speaks which makes me very uncomfortable.

An interchage with Parades:

Pini - as I indicated above, I was willing to give visas to Haredi women who worked, and almost always did so. You can rant against Mormons all you want, but at least we don’t expect the rest of society to subsidize our religious practices. Please don’t try to distort what I have written. Once again = working Haredi women got visas, unemployed Haredi men didn’t.

Comment by myself:

But Mark, you do expect society to subsidize your religious practice.  The LDS church enjoys tax exempt and deductible status, which means that all the streets, sewers and other infrastructure around impressive LDS Temples are paid for or foregone by all tax payers. You use an LDS chaplain in the military, prison, publicly funded hospital, etc., your religious practice has been publicly subsidized.

How in the world would a Haredi Torah-studying man enjoy greater subsidies in the U.S. than you enjoy as a Mormon?  Lack of Haredi Israeli military service raised by Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid is no excuse for you to engage in a rant about a distinctly Jewish group.

This was the post that I was responding to and has been removed by the author without any apology or acknowlegement on his part.  I feel think what Mark Paredes described was outrageous and merits a public apology from him, if not an attempt at restitution to all the people his US Consular discretion unfairly targeted.  Mark doesn't seem to feel anything is wrong.  To me, his actions seem faith-based with real consequences for real people. While I'm sure Mark was not ill-intentioned, what he wrote was not benign and deserves attention and reaction.

Lapid, Lazy Haredim, and American Visas

Posted by Mark Paredes
February 4, 2013 | 12:57 am

I have never commented publicly on the results of an Israeli election, even while speaking on behalf of the local Israeli Consulate General, but it’s hard to hide my glee at the success of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. In particular, I salute his determination to follow his father’s example by attempting to take on the corrupt political party Shas and the 45,000 deadbeats in the Haredi community who believe in studying Torah on the public dole.

I’ll never forget my first experience with a shiftless Haredi rabbi. I was conducting visa interviews at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, and had only been in Israel for a few weeks. After inquiring about his studies and family, including eight children, I noticed that he had left the “present occupation” space blank. When I asked him what he did for a living, he replied “I study Torah.” Incredulous, I asked who in his family was providing the money to raise the children. Without a hint of shame or embarrassment, he informed me that his wife worked while he studied all day. I denied him a visa, then told him that his wife was welcome to apply for a visa because she was working. His response? “I hope you join Jesus in hell.” This experience, combined with my witnessing Haredi students strewing broken glass on the streets of Jerusalem on the eve of Yom Kippur, didn’t exactly endear the ultra-Orthodox to me at first.

During my diplomatic tour in Tel Aviv, I denied a tourist visa to every single able-bodied Haredi man whose “job” was studying Torah and Talmud. This was not an easy policy for me to establish. After all, I cherish people’s freedom to do just about whatever they want in terms of religious practice without needing others’ approval. In addition, it was (and still is) up to Israelis to decide whether their tax dollars should subsidize laziness and sloth. Finally, I am someone who has engaged in a serious study of the scriptures, including the Hebrew Bible, for many years, and have enormous respect for those who dedicate a significant portion of their time to religious studies. That said, I will always believe that God’s commandment in the Torah for man to work by the sweat of his brow is an eternal one, and that it is unnatural for an able-bodied man to want to shift the burden of providing for his family to his wife and the government.

In the end I decided that it wasn’t fair to adjudicate visa applications according to my personal religious philosophy. However, it was perfectly acceptable to conclude that the Haredi lifestyle did not meet the requirements of American immigration law.

When a visa applicant stood in front of me, the burden of proving his/her intentions didn’t fall upon me. Instead, the applicant had to show me that he had ties to Israel that he would not willingly abandon. For able-bodied men around the world, a stable job is pretty much indispensable in order to show that he is a responsible member of society. For me, denying unemployed adult yeshiva students visas was not discrimination against their religion, but a refusal to grant them special privileges based on their peculiar religious practices. Having served as a consular officer in Guadalajara, I knew that if a 30-year-old Catholic Mexican man with several children applied for a visa and stated that he was unemployed, he would be laughed out of the consulate. There was no reason for a diplomat in Tel Aviv to make a different visa decision because the applicant in question wore a black hat instead of a sombrero.

Thankfully, I did go on to have positive experiences with some Haredis in Israel, including a few who took me to a wedding celebration in Kfar Chabad. I learned that the Haredi educational system leaves its graduates woefully unable to compete in the modern world, so that even if some of the yeshiva students wanted to leave their studies and find a good job, they would have a very difficult time doing so. Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef told the Torah scholars that they would be better off leaving the country than submitting to a military draft like their secular counterparts. One only wishes that Rabbi Yosef would lead by example on this one.

I wish Mr. Lapid well in his upcoming battle with Rabbi Yosef and the deadbeat supporters of his corrupt political machine. The term “Haredi” means “those who tremble before God.” Assuming that God values hard work and honest politics, many Haredi men will have a lot to tremble about in a coming day.

Mark Paredes has worked in Los Angeles for the Consulate General of Israel, American Jewish Congress and ZOA. You can contact Mark at deverareligione@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @jewsandmormons.

Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position and is a past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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