Social Psychology of New Square Violence
Social psychology examines the interaction of individuals in society. As the famous poet John Donne wrote in 1623, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” (Donne, 1623/2011). The principles of social psychology can be applied to all aspects of human behavior. This paper will utilize these principles to explore a recent act of violence in New Square, New York. New Square is an incorporated village in Rockland County founded in the 1950’s. The residents of New Square practice Skveric Hasidism, a form of ultra-orthodox Judaism. The village is self-sustainable and residents are expected to stay within the community; outsiders are not welcome. The Grand Rebbe is the religious leader who conducts services at the main synagogue; his dictates are considered law. In the fall of 2010, residents at a nearby nursing home wished to form a prayer group to conduct services at their facility. Aron Rottenberg, a resident of New Square, stopped attending services at the main synagogue to pray with the nursing home residents. Shortly after Rottenberg’s defection, his family became the target for harassment and ostracism ("Troubling pattern in New Square," 2011). In May of 2011, the violence escalated with an incident of arson and attempted murder. Shaul Spitzer, the butler of Grand Rebbe Twersky, attempted to firebomb the Rottenberg home. However, Rottenberg spotted Spitzer on surveillance cameras and confronted him; consequently, Rottenberg suffered 3rd degree burns on over 50% of his body (Young, 2011). Significant research has been conducted on group polarization. This principle states that likeminded groups tend to reinforce shared attitudes and behaviors, “discussion typically strengthens the average inclination of group members” (Myers, 2009, p. 209). Group polarization significantly contributed to the atmosphere of intolerance within New Square. Members of this...
References: Cohen, S., & Lieberman, S. (2011, June 4). Group of devotees enforces obedience to grand rebbe in New Square, residents say. The Journal News. Retrieved from http://www.lohud.com/article/20110605/NEWS01/106050380
Myers, D. G. (2009). Exploring social psychology (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Stern, G. (2011, June 22). Hasidic arson victim describes living with threats in ’isolated’ New Square. The Journal News, p. 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.lohud.com/article/20110623/NEWS03/106230412
Troubling pattern in New Square. (2011, June 2). The Journal News. Retrieved from http://www.lohud.com/article/20110603/OPINION/106030307
Young, L. (2011). New Square arson victim blames attack on community’s religious intolerance. Retrieved from http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/06/08/new-square-arson-victim-blames-attack-on-communitys-religious-intolerance/
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