Friday, November 25, 2011

Inside the Ultra-Orthodox Shomrim Force 

When 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky went missing in Brooklyn last June, it
took two hours for anyone in Leiby's ultra-Orthodox neighborhood to
inform the police. The local volunteer Jewish security patrol heard
almost immediately.

The patrol, known as the Shomrim, organized a massive
posse to search Boro Park for the boy. But it was the police who found
him days later — hacked to pieces, in a nearby dumpster and in the
alleged murderer's freezer.

Jewish security patrols have existed for decades in
Orthodox enclaves in New York, but few have received as much outside
attention as the Boro Park volunteers in the days after Leiby's murder.
Early on, the Shomrim's rapid response drew praise, but after the praise came questions, some of them damning.

A new book by former Christian Science Monitor staff
reporter Matthew Shaer goes some way toward explaining why Leiby's
parents didn't call the cops when they lost their child. In Hasidic
Brooklyn, the Jewish Orthodox security patrol is more than just a
neighborhood watch: A powerful local force, it is central to communal
identity, and in a community eager to preserve its insularity, it forms a buffer against secular authorities.

Shaer's book, "Among Righteous Men: A Tale of
Vigilantes and Vindication in Hasidic Crown Heights," doesn't deal
directly with the Shomrim of Boro Park. Instead, it looks at a Lubavitch neighborhood in Crown Heights and digs deep into the culture and
context of a similar patrol that operates there.


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