Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Benzion Dunner's inquest is a wake-up call for the Charedi community

So Benzion Dunner, a pillar of Charedi society, had cocaine in his system when he died, according to his inquest. Whatever next?

The temptation for the Charedi community will be to suppress this genuinely shocking story, internally, altogether. But since it has been widely reported in the national press this may prove impossible.

And a good thing, too.

Benzion Dunner was not some kid smoking dope behind a bicycle shed, who can be dismissed as a “problem child” unrepresentative of the Charedi community. He was the best, the brightest, the kindest, the frummest, the richest, the most generous of his group. If a man of his calibre was taking drugs - and knew where to find them - you can sure there are many others. And while there is no suggestion he had a regular drug habit, are we really to believe that he had only ever tried it once – to celebrate Purim, the day before he died? Cocaine is a highly addictive Class A drug which is not for beginners – or anyone.

Last week, 200 Charedim chased an American rabbi down a street in Stamford Hill, because he campaigned against Charedi pedophiles. It is high time the community recognised that it is not immune to the addiction problems and social ills of the secular world. Because without admitting the problems, it has no chance of dealing with them.

If the tragedy of Benzion Dunner is not treated as a serious wake-up call, what will be?

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