Home » Anthony Frosh, Community Life, Rachel Sacks-Davis

Ode to the Moshiach Dancers

June 18, 2009 – 10:44 pm21 Comments

By Anthony Frosh and Rachel Sacks-Davis

Living in the heart of St Kilda East, a mere ball throw from any Lubavitcher yeshiva in Melbourne, there are few things that give us as much joy as the daily sight of the Moshiach Dancers. On the corner of Inkerman Rd and Hotham St, or occasionally Carlisle St and Hotham St, we like the familiar sight of four bearded men, dressed to the tilt with Jester’s hats and fluorescent yellow safety vests (construction worker style), dancing and singing.

We must admit that we have never honked when confronted with your “HONK FOR THE MOSHIACH!” sign but in fairness to us, our primary source of transport is the bicycle.

A fairly philo-Semitic work colleague who lives off Inkerman Road even approached one half of Frochel to ask “What is the deal with those guys dancing?” It was explained to her that “They’re just kind of, you know, your hard-core spiritual messianic kind of guys.” So you see that the Moshiach Dancers have become an icon.

We have gotten the impression that this embarrasses some members of the Jewish community, and we have seen Jew and non-Jew alike walk past them as though they are not even there. Personally, we don’t share in this embarrassment. We like the way that this adds further colour to the neighbourhood. Our only disappointment that there is not a Hare Krishna dance circle on the other side of the street to complement them.

We are interested in hearing in your views and any related anecdotes that you might have.

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21 Comments »

  • Daniel Levy says:

    The problem is that such dancing is not to everyone’s tastes, and when you do it on a busy road, it can be a violation of personal space. Some people just do not appreciate this type of dancing, and so the unsolicited display as they attempt to go about their daily lives can be somewhat embarrassing/inconvenient.

  • paroggan says:

    I honked for Moshiach!

  • Daniel,

    They are just exercising their right to free speech and expression in a *public* place. While they have been called everything from “religious fanatics” to “a mental health issue”, they have just as much right as anyone to express their feelings.

    Would you feel the same about them if they weren’t Jewish? Was that fellow who used to walk up and down Carlisle St with the Jesus cart also violating your personal space?

  • Baum says:

    Well i have to say, my children absolutely love them! My daughter once asked me when stopped at another intersection why the traffic light technicians in yellow vests weren’t dancing.

    Although i would not wish to be caught dead wearing the fluorescent fashion statement, nor would i call their performances talented, i nevertheless admire their dedication, passion and determination to spread their ruach!

  • Ittay says:

    Like Parragon, Baum and David, I to have no problem with the mashicah dancers. They are rather cute and harmless in a way that poses no concern to anyone.

    What I do have problem with though, are some of the ideas that the yellow mashiach flag has come to represent, specifically in relationship to the State of Israel.
    The current issue of Moment magazine dedicates its “Ask the Rabbis” section to the question “How Should Jews Treat Their Arab Neighbors?”
    (http://www.momentmag.com/Exclusive/2009/2009-06/200906-Ask_Rabbis.html)
    Rabbis from various denominations offered responses, but it’s the final one — from a Chabad rabbi, Manis Friedman may alarm many readers of this blog. He answered:
    “I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral.
    The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).
    The first Israeli prime minister who declares that he will follow the Old Testament will finally bring peace to the Middle East. …”
    Whilst I am aware that this is a very extreme view and not representative of moderate chabadniks, I think that the Melbourne community should be clear in its relations with the wider community that the views represented by those who hold the yellow mashiach flag are but one of many answers the Torah gives to how we should relate to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

    You can read more about the reaction to Rabbi Freemans comments and his response here: http://www.forward.com/articles/107112/

  • sensiblejew says:

    Hi Daniel.

    A pretty good rule of thumb for a decent society, is that if actions are not hurting anyone or creating an environment conducive to crime or other sorts of anti-social behaviour, then it really does need to be a case of live and let live. There are so many things that annoy us each day. There are plenty of things that inconvenience us. We have to put up with it, because the alternative – to scream at the offending parties to cease and desist – actually contributes the unpleasantness of the atmosphere.

    I’ve never seen these Messianic types myself. I’m about as secular as they come, but I feel heartened when I read about their activities. That they can dance and sing so openly and publicly is a great test of the area’s tolerance. They’re almost our canaries in the coalmine of diversity. That such vocal and visible examples of difference from the Aussie norm are not abused by passers by is a great comfort to me.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Where did I ever say that they should stop? I simply stated that their dancing does cause people to become uncomfortable. If you’re going to flamboyantly dance in the street, you had better be prepared for people not liking what you’re doing. That’s the other side of freedom of speech/expression. People don’t have to like what you’re saying/doing and will express that dislike…

  • Ittay,

    You have linked two theological issues that don’t go hand in hand. The “mashiach issue” has divided Chabad in recent years, and the dancers represent an extreme view in that debate.

    Manis Friedman’s comments regarding the halachic status of the war against those who wish to destroy Israel is (a) a minority view and not reflective of Chabad in general, and (b) totally independent of whatever his philosophy might be regarding mashiach.

    His comments are more aligned to a Kahana view and should be considered as such.

  • ABM says:

    There are a few assumptions being made here.

    Yes, there is the undeniable issue of freedom of speech. However, just because many of you pass this group every now and then, and class their comical dancing and singing as entertainment, does not take into account that they may be an aural imposition thrust upon the surrounding residents.

    David, maybe you would like to enlighten us as to why they were “encouraged” to leave Yeshiva shul? If it wasn’t hurting anyone, why weren’t they allowed to continue there?

    My better half lives metres from that corner and has no choice but to put up with the constant repetition of singing, shouting and honking, over and over. This occurs either early in the morning, when one would generally enjoy a quiet, peaceful start to the day and in the evening, when one is returning home from work and trying to relax.

    Honking car horns may indeed be a national pastime in Israel, where it is the first thing learnt when going for a driving lesson (“you press here and hold for a while, till everyone else joins in. Think of your car as a whale. It need this to breathe”). However, here in Oz it is (usually) employed in anticipation of danger. Otherwise, it can get REALLY ANNOYING.

    To help her out with this dilemma, I have made some suggestions to my better half:

    – If they trot out the old “freedom of speech” line, gather an ensemble cast of musical talent outside their houses at an inconvenient (ungodly?) hour – say, 7:00am on a Saturday/Sunday morning? Proceed to belt out all the main tunes from Jesus Christ Superstar. As drums are hardly portable, have a few people use their car horns for percussive accompaniment.

    – Set up a rival group, outnumbering them, to protest on the same corner. Proclaim that “we don’t think now is the right economic climate for Moshiach, and it would be fiscally irresponsible to encourage his arrival”. If there’s a problem assembling the troops, let Protesters 4 Hire (aka Socialist Alternative, Australians 4 Palestine etc) know that there is a group of Jews with placards and flags out in public. Like a red rag to a bull, they’ll be there. Keep an eye out for the feature article in the next day’s Age: “Jews occupying majority of land in East.St.Kilda”.

    – If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And while you’re at it, teach them some new tunes. In keeping with the construction worker theme, why not some Village People? (“Moshiach, Moshiach man, I want to bring, Moshiach man”…”You can’t stop Moshiach, nobody can stop Moshiach”)

    Despite all of this, there are some upsides. My better half has been able to forgo her need of a Jewish calendar, relying solely on the movements of the Moshiach Dancers. When live music is allowed, they are there. When it is forbidden, they are not. This puts her in the somewhat unique position of being the only Jew in Melbourne that actually looks forward to Sfirat Ha’omer, the Three Weeks and Yom Kippur.

  • frochel says:

    Firstly, a number of you wrote very humorous comments that brought smiles to our faces. From Parragon’s “confession of a honker”, the delightful story of Baum’s daughter, and ABM’s hilarious Village People remix (which had Frochel singing them out loud) , it seems the Moshiach Dancers have touched us all.

    Since posting, we have become aware of a possible shift in messianic attitudes within the local Chabad community in reaction to the Moshiach dancers. We intend to blog about this in more detail at a later date. If anyone else has information on this topic or knows anyone who would be willing to speak to us about this, please post a comment or shoot an email to frochele@gmail.com

  • ABM,

    They were asked to leave Yeshivah shul because their regular pronouncements and singing caused friction, and they did not comply with instructions from the Rabbis regarding these practices.

    Their departure caused a lot of angst within the community, and my own blog on the issue had lots of heated feedback.

    If people find their behaviour disruptive, then they can always call the police, or setup shop themselves as you suggest.

  • frochel says:

    Hi Ittay,

    We read the letter by the anonymous neighbours, and they don’t seem to mention the Moshiach Dancers. Their complaint is focussed on Chabad Youth (and in particular their sub-group DaMinyan).

    We are also concerned about the activities of DaMinyan, but for very different reasons. However, these concerns of ours are off the topic, and thus we will not discuss them in this thread.

  • Gillgy says:

    I agree with the above posts and I generally think those guys are funny. But, I really don’t enjoy getting woken up by them (and all that beeping) at 10am on a Sunday morning.

    ABM, I’m tempted to take up your second suggestion.

  • sensiblejew says:

    Hi Gillgy, and welcome. I completely retract all my previous statements regarding tolerance if we’re talking about early Sunday morning shennanigans.

  • Malki says:

    Every week I have to hear a hoarde of “gentlemen” from the pub leave in a fit of ‘football anthem chanting’.. loudly, drunkly, constantly.. and surprisingly.. always on tune!

    Its annoying, always when I’m asleep, and never the carlton anthem.

    The question is does it only bother me because I am not rejoicing with them and if I were to feel the same way about their teams victory as they do, would the whole thing not bother me nearly as much?

    I ask this to the people who take issue with the Moshiach dancers?

    They are happy, dedicated, passionate, not disorderly or drunk, sometimes even in tune… really isn’t it much the same as putting up with hearing footy anthems 3 times a weekend and at 3 in the morning *?

    * oh and the Moshiach dancers at least dont rejoice at 3am!

  • Gugs says:

    BTW Jesus guy is still around. His house on Hotham between Nepean Highway and Glen Eira are still covered in the signs.

  • Moshiach says:

    Nice and informative post.

  • Identity theft monitor says:

    Galus Australis,

    You may need to make some inquiries about the identity of the previous commenter on this thread. It appears that s/he has assumed an identity that is not his/her own.

  • Moshiach says:

    Nice and informative article.

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