A reader writes:
"A culture war within a minority." Really?! C'mon Andrew. I'm a secular'ish 35-year-old Jew living in Brooklyn, and I can assure you that there's not much of a culture war going on here. Brooklyn remains the same old cultural "sponge" (as opposed to "melting pot") that it has always been. Thank God. I'm a few blocks walk from Lubovitch Crown Heights and I'm living in Hipster/yuppie/Caribbean Prospect Heights. Relax, I can assure you that we're all living happily (relatively) together, one amongst millions of billboards notwithstanding.
I agree, that Hebrew billboard exhorting ultra-Orthodox Jews to avert their eyes upon entering Manhattan is disturbing. But I have a slightly different take on what this billboard represents.
The attitude expressed in the billboard is that the outside world and outside ideas are dangerous and must be shut out. A similar message was delivered to 40,000 ultra-Orthdox Jews last May at a sold-out rally condemning the Internet. The billboard is not reflective of a culture war of the ultra-Orthodox versus the non-Orthodox Jewish populations – at least, not in New York. The non-Orthodox Jews are just one other dangerous influence among many that must be avoided.
In the US, the two groups have relatively little interaction; they exist in separate communities and there is no need or desire for the communities to engage with each other. In Israel, on the other hand, the two sides are forced to interact because of the Orthodox influence within government and their monopoly control in critical areas: conversions, marriage licenses, burials, Kashrut standards for food, etc. and this leads to much conflict.
Your post on the "Shield your eyes" billboard in NYC is perfect for what we saw yesterday in the heart of Jewish Los Angeles. I’ll try to get a photo of the billboard, but the Stop $30 Billion (to Israel) group has placed a billboard on La Cienega in LA, literally in a stretch of West LA that includes MANY synagogues and Jewish schools. [Above] is what the billboard looks like (not sure when I can snap and send a photo). My wife and I nearly crashed our car. Where I live this takes some huge, pachyderm-sized testicles.