by Lou Cespedes*
The events of the last weeks between Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio, and the antics of a guy named Heshy provide the perfect bookend to my series on the “Plagues of East Flatbush”. As infections spread in “zip codes” (shorthand for Orthodox communities) the perfect storm of Language, Religion and Politics thundered inside the borders of Borough Park. Protests took root. A frum (religious) journalist was beaten by his own brethren and labeled a “moser” (informant). Shamefully, as to be expected, the NYPD not only protected the assaulters, they provided them with more space, and eventually left the scene. Not one arrest, not one summons, not a scratch or even an admonishment, as they witnessed a man get assaulted by a mob. One officer said, “We stayed way too fucking long. There was no way we were breaking that up”.
As “requests” for compliance on congregation limits and mandated use of mask enforcement made their way from Excelsior downstate, lawsuits were filed claiming “religious freedoms” had been violated. The instigator leading the mob, who called First Lady McCray a “coon and a retard” was arrested later in the week for instigating a riot. When the police arrived to arrest him, he recorded himself on his cellphone saying “… you were supposed to arrest me tomorrow. We had a deal.” No cops in riot gear, no helicopters flying overhead.
When was the last time you remember such deference given to a Black man?
On local radio and television, reports from news outlets could be heard calling this POS thug a “city council candidate”. It is truly spectacular and unbelievable for some of us that seek public office, (often termed by the media as “activists” or “community organizers”) to hear the title of “candidate” bestowed freely upon a “religious Zealot” and given free air-time. As I mentioned in my last article, religion complicates our ability to define and articulate a consolidated community agenda. In the vacuum, a dangerously confused political narrative develops that uses religious “language”, the church and local clergy as “props” for political leaders”. This came into sharp relief as the Orthodox community rallied and succeeded in defying law enforcement, local, and state government at the urging of a “RODEF” (pursuer).
Catholics also filed suit against the Governor, with Bishop DiMarzio claiming that Andrew Cuomo’s “philosophy” on restrictions to congregate was erred, implying that he was a “bad Catholic”. This public and legal spectacle has not only laid bare the double standard used to indiscriminately target and criminalize black and brown communities, it demonstrates how impotent secular leadership, absent language, faith, and power, (“activists”) have abetted abuse from law enforcement and curtailed our ability to coherently defend our interests and our very lives. Ever content to let Governor Cuomo be the “boogeyman”, what we heard from the Public Advocate, Mayoral candidates, Congress, State Assembly, and NY Senate members and everyone down the food chain, was SILENCE! That silence amounts to “fear” – as our politicians cower to a voting bloc. Imagine! Everyone, from the halls of Albany to the very feet of our councilmember in the 45th district, is powerless to speak out as our neighbors’ actions impact us directly.
Politics is the third plague in our community. Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz so eloquently said in his recent Op-Ed for Yeshiva World “We can always agree to disagree and there are judicial and political mediums that we can exhaust”.In his arguments against the events in Borough Park, Rechnitz quipped, “Did we learn this new behavior from the BLM movement?” As I argued on Twitter with a fellow Jewish writer, “Surely suing could’ve preceded the agitation in Borough Park if respectful disagreement, not division, was the goal”.https://twitter.com/loufor45/status/1315454519841615875
In 2 Chronicles, Chapter 7 v.13-18 (emphasis on v.14) reads:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Without getting into specifics about who G-d is calling “my people”, we can ALL agree that the qualifiers – “humble” “pray”, & “turn from wickedness”, were not operative in the events of Borough Park. For the goy, (gentiles) as our Jewish brothers call us non-Jews, our responsibility is to speak out loudly and clearly against those actions without fear, armed by our own faith, and mastery of G-d’s Word (language). We need to do this across all of the conditions in our community as well; Gun and Gang Violence, Poverty, Police Abuse, Education and Misogyny, seeking justice and righteousness among and for ourselves, the goyim, just as our Jewish friends have done.
Then, in verse 17-18, G-d tells Solomon the “King” (a ruler or political leader that is sovereign):
And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel.
I doubt very seriously Heshy is the guy G-d had in mind. He is not a leader. Furthermore, leaders (political and religious in E. Flatbush, Midwood) that remain silent are also not in keeping with the covenant G-d has made with “Us”. Those of “Us” that speak within His covenant are “the people called by His name”, and those that rule us are commanded by G-d to “observe my statutes and my judgements”. The consequences of failure are described in later verses.
If the crisis in our community could be solved, and if an agenda could be consolidated among our residents to redeem our community, it would have to be forged on the common premise that the language of faith not religion, will purge wickedness in our politics and “heal our land”. We need leaders that command politics through language and faith – not leaders that use language and religion to exploit politics. Our community needs makers not bull-horn talkers; we need problem solvers, not activists.
* Lou Cespedes is a Christian, Building Professional and Urban Planner, Entrepreneur, Mentor, Op-Ed writer, and City Council Candidate for Brooklyn’s 45th District.
I Corinthians Chapter 1 Twitter: @loufor45 Instagram: Loucespedes