Over the weekend, actress Amber Tamblyn (best known for her role in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) tweeted that she was nearly run over by a Hasidic man in a van while pushing her daughter in her stroller across a street in Brooklyn earlier that day. She was hoping the police would catch the man who allegedly did this and then drove away.
While the first tweet was necessary to possibly catch the assailant, what was not necessary was her subsequent tweet: “This is not the first time a man from the Hasidic community in NYC has attempted to harm me or other women I know. Any woman riding a bike through South Williamsburg can attest.” Several people on Twitter rightfully called her out for her prejudicial statement, lumping an entire community together based on the misdeeds of a few individuals.
I took the topic to some members of Makom. These are people who mostly grew up Hasidic, but did not have good experiences in the community, and even they were appalled at Tamblyn’s tweet. “Just replace the word ‘Hasidic’ with the word ‘Black’ and see how that sounds,” one of the men remarked. Another member who drives a car for a living said, “As someone who drives a lot, all over New York, I can attest that this has nothing to do with Hasidim or Jews at all. It’s called a New York driver, and that’s where the rudeness comes from.”
A female member of Makom made an excellent point I hadn’t heard or considered yet. She was most disturbed by Tamblyn’s implication that Hasidic men are specifically targeting women in order to harm them as if there is a widespread problem in the Hasidic community of men trying to run over women with their cars. “This is not the first time a man from the Hasidic community in NYC has attempted to harm me or other women.” Eek!
Tamblyn took to Twitter once more to assure the public she in fact is not an anti-Semite and wrote, “I’ll say this once. To anyone suggesting I’m anti-Semitic for identifying a man as Hasidic who hit my daughter’s stroller in a crosswalk with a car then rolled his window down, wagged his finger and told me “Watch where you’re going”: I will not be bullied or intimidated by you.”
First off, Tamblyn may not be an anti-Semite, but she sure seems to be anti-Hasidic. Second, in this final tweet she notes that the driver told her to watch where she was going. Not exactly the kind of language used by a person who is “attempting to harm women.”
How can Tamblyn, a woman who spends much of her life fighting for justice and equality, be so blind to her own prejudices? I kind of get it. She is immersed in a society where the worst stories of the Hasidic world regularly hit the papers. They already were the enemy before she had a run in with the driver. I was a proud secular Jew growing up, not self-hating at all, yet I had a very low opinion of the Hasidic community, and I believed that the feeling was mutual. My opinions were not based on any personal interactions but rather the headlines I saw, the characters depicted in TV and movies, and the rumors that permeated my world.
That is not to say the Hasidic community is a perfect place. I am regularly hearing horror stories from the members of Makom which I take quite seriously. But I don’t lump dysfunction and corrupt, ill people with an entire society. I see the problems as the problems and I see the healthy, happy people as the ideal. And I was only able to understand the nuance by taking time to meet people up close.
While I hope Tamblyn doesn’t have any more negative encounters with Hasidim, it would be nice if she attempted to find a way to have a positive one. Perhaps then she would have the chance to meet a Hasidic man who attempts to help women.
Editor’s note: In an earlier version the headline contained quotation marks which were removed to better indicate the the headline is a paraphrase.