Religion Magazine

Gutterman Needs to Learn to Dance

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
Yaakov Gutterman, mayor of Modiin Ilit, has an interesting position on Haredi housing.
Gutterman thinks it is wrong to build Haredi cities and towns. Rather, Haredi neighborhoods should be built in existing cities. Cities should be given [tax and other] incentives to build housing and attract Haredim.
Gutterman explains the problem is that people think that Haredim do not work and are not creative and do not pay arnona, and that being the case they obviously do not want to bring such people to their cities. As well, anybody possibly bringing many Haredim to his city is worried that by changing the demographics he is putting his own position as mayor at risk in future elections.
Gutterman needs to learn to dance
Gutterman says the only thing that will work is to give tax incentives, as well as working to abolish the stigma, and instead of thinking Haredim will ruin their cities, they will realize that Haredim will bring blessing to their cities.
source: Kooker
Gutterman is right, but only partially, I think. Those are concerns, and they should be dealt with. Haredi communities should join other cities, in addition to having their own cities that are [mostly] Haredi.
What Gutterman does not mention is another concern city officials have when approached about building for Haredim, and I've heard this a number of times - they are worried that the Haredim will change the style and culture of those cities. They are worried that if they bring in neighborhoods of Haredim they will suddenly find themselves with signs about tzniyus, women being censored, problems on the buses with women being intimidated or sent to the back, roads closed on Shabbos, and in some places maybe fights over businesses on Shabbos and kashrut issues, etc. etc..
In other words, there are more concerns than just demographics and arnona. They are often concerned about changing the atmosphere and bringing in people who will act against the lifestyle the previous residents want and always lived by.
To that end, whatever can be done to educate the relevant mayors and people as to how and where those concerns are unfounded should be done. However, it is also, at least partially, true. Haredim live a different lifestyle, and bringing in significant numbers will naturally effect change in the city -0 change that they may see as undesired.
Breaking stigmas and changing attitudes should not just bea one way street. According to Gutterman, the cities, the mayors, the secular, should be made to understand that Haredim are good and productive. And of course paying them off with tax incentives also helps. According to Gutterman, it is incumbent on everyone else to get used to the Haredim. I would say it is also incumbent on the Haredi community to learn to get along with everyone else. Find a way to convince others that you can be good neighbors, that you wont demand closing their streets on Shabbos, that you won't throw pashkevilim all over the streets every Friday afternoon, that you won't harass their women about tzniyus, and whatever else.
It takes two to tango.
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