Inside Haredi modesty patrols
Nechamya Weberman’s sex abuse trial brought to light the Va’ad Hatznius: the self-appointed arbiters of right and wrong in the Jewish American Satmar community.
One of the most striking ironies of the Nechemya Weberman trial, which ended with his conviction on 59 counts of sexual abuse, was the revelation that the unlicensed therapist was a member of the Va’ad Hatznius, or modesty patrol, the self-appointed arbiters of right and wrong in the Satmar community.
Until recently, the Va’ad Hatznius was little known outside the Hasidic community, but its actions have reverberated through the community for years. Although they ostensibly monitor the moral behavior of both sexes (men and women are both warned not to read English books, watch television or surf the Internet), most of their energies are directed toward ensuring that women and girls dress and behave modestly.
Where did the tradition of the Va‘ad Hatznius originate? And what do the Hasidim themselves think of it?