Friday, March 13, 2009

Conversion - Schism between Modern Orthodox Rabbis


Recipients and Publicity - see "Attention Please! New challenger to the establishe...": for additional comments

Rabbi Avi Weiss and the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy versus the RCA on geirus reveals schism among American Modern Orthodox rabbis.

It's not just about Rabbi Bomzer.

This must result in two official American Modern Orthodox rabbinates which already exhists de facto, with Rabbis Avi Weiss, Saul Berman, (of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah), Marc Angel and Shlomo Riskin heading the left wing versus the Centrists headed by Rabbi Hershel Shechter and the YU and RCA establishment that has ties to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

"RCA Backtracks On Conversion Policy

by Rabbi Avi Weiss

A year ago, in a Jewish Week dialogue of Opinion pieces, I criticized the Rabbinical Council of America’s (RCA) new conversion standards [see "Agreement elevates the elite, weakens rabbis in the trenches" article below] as it “scrutinizes” conversions performed before their new system was put into place.

Writing in defense of the RCA, the chairman of its Geirus (Conversion), Policies and Standards (GPS) committee, strenuously objected to my position, stating that “it is important to emphasize that nothing in this system is designed to change anyone’s previous status as a convert” (The Chief Rabbinate - RCA Deal: Two Views,” March 7, 2008).

I know now firsthand that I was, unfortunately, correct, as the RCA has refused to affirm a conversion that I, together with two other rabbis, performed. To make matters worse, the RCA made its ruling without notifying or consulting me or any other member of the converting Beit Din (Rabbinic Tribunal).

The case involved a young woman who attended my synagogue’s supplementary Jewish Youth Encounter Program (JYEP). This is not an unusual case as, over the years, the JYEP has had a profound impact on the religious lives of hundreds of young men and women. Subsequent to the conversion, this woman fell in love with a man whose rabbi turned to the RCA to validate her conversion. The RCA refused to do so, insisting that for its validation, the young women needs to convert once again. This refusal to validate without reconversion is being interpreted by the community, in the current climate (created by the GPS), as an invalidation of this convert’s Jewish status. [... ]

Past 2008 article from Jweekly.com:

"Agreement elevates the elite, weakens rabbis in the trenches

Friday, March 7, 2008 | by rabbi marc angel & rabbi avraham weiss | opinions

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Rabbinical Council of America have concluded an agreement related to conversion that will allow the two groups to work together. This solves a problem that reached its peak when Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, announced in April 2006 that he would no longer automatically recognize conversions performed by rabbis belonging to the RCA, the main union of Orthodox rabbis in America. [...]

5 comments:

  1. Has the RCA explained its action in this case?
    KT
    Joel Rich

    ReplyDelete
  2. The RCA didn't have to explain their actions.

    Avi Weiss convened a Beis Din that wasn't authorized or approved by the RCA to perform a conversion to standards different from the RCA.

    Why should they approve it?

    Your question is like asking why the United States doesn't explain why it won't accept Mexican Citizens as US Citizens without even giving the Mexicans a chance to explain themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  3. the Monsey TzadikMarch 14, 2009 at 6:57 PM

    The RCA probably thought that can kill two birds in one stone, first to humiliate rabbi Weiss and second to score brownie points with the rabbanut and the EJF.

    Unfortunately for them that did not work out because the Energizer shakran Tropper/Roni (who is apparently under the grace of r’ Eisenstein again) is up to his shticks again:

    Rabbis from the US-based Rabbinical Council of America have "converted" to Judaism a woman who openly declared her loyalty to Christian beliefs…..

    Spokesmen for Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l and Eternal Jewish Family expressed astonishment over the shamelessness of converting someone who did not conceal her loyalty to Christianity.

    Eternal Jewish Family is voicing grave concerns over the RCA's conduct and has reiterated calls by gedolei Yisroel zt"l vylct"a not to perform false or dubious conversions that lack legitimate oversight and raze the walls of Kerem Beis Yisroel.


    http://chareidi.shemayisrael.com/TZV69aconvert.htm

    I do not have any knowledge on that case but I am sure it is one of Tropper's lies.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Recipients and PublicityMarch 15, 2009 at 5:24 PM

    Rabbis Tropper and Eisenstein declare war on Modern Orthodoxy's conversions in the USA. EJF attacks the RCA head on, with the full backing of the VAAD HORABBONIM HAOLAMI LEINYONEI GIYUR.

    Thanks Monsey Tzadik for bringing this to our attention. The answer to your question as to why Tropper and Eisenstein are doing some stuff together -- and it's only window-dressing really because we already know that Eisenstein does not automatically accept Tropper's converts -- is because this is a smokescreen distraction, like Obama talking about Rush Limbaugh rather than facing the financial meltdown, and EJF with Tropper and Eisenstein have been totally humiliated and have had their pants pulled down by the Guma Aguiar scandal and how they covered that up, that Guma was living with and having kids with a woman who refused to get and EJF conversion from them, all the while they were milking Guma and his wife Jamie for millions of dollars to make their cockamamie EJF concerts and were flying and hence bribing rabbis to concerts and hosting and toasting gentiles hitched to Jews and hence proselytizing goyim in the hope of getting them to become ultra-Haredi converts under Tropper's watch, all the while they knew that Guma and his wife Jamie were laughing at them as they gave Tropper and Eisenstein money to have altra-Haredi jihadi-style conventions where Eisenstein could attack Modern Orthodox rabbis and their views in shamelessly in public to their faces.

    So this is now a nice diversion from the main shock and news that Tropper and EJF are frauds and forgers and that Eisenstein was involved with this, got their money and now, like hypocrites and ingrates, they are shouting even louder at the Modern Orthodox rabbis of the RCA for exact same things that Tropper and Eisenstein did (kol haposel, posel bemumo) when they knew full well that Jami Aguiar was refusing to get an ultra-frum conversion from them yet they, like big hypocri, kept quiet because Jamie's husband Guma Aguiar was feeding them tens of millions of dollars, no questions asked. This is the kind of sad and cynical world we live in.

    Looking at the Vaad Haolomi/EJF announcement, it was not conveyed in the usual way by first being posted and appearing on the Dei'ah veDibur's home page where articles usually sit for a while. Rather, this time, as if they were trying to sneak this in and keep under the radar for some odd reason, the latest announcement was posted to the Vaad Haolami section on the Dei'ah veDibur website. But it was a very serious announcement and is posted here in full, and see it reviewed afterwords with comments by "RaP":

    "American RCA "Converts" Loyal Christian

    By Yechiel Sever
    9 Adar 5769 - March 5, 2009

    Rabbis from the US-based Rabbinical Council of America have "converted" to Judaism a woman who openly declared her loyalty to Christian beliefs.

    Just over six months ago the woman, who was engaged to an assimilated Jew, took her first exam on the way to conversion. When asked about her belief in the holy Torah and the Jewish religion she unambiguously replied that she believes in Judaism "but also in the New Testament." Despite this, the Rabbis went ahead with her conversion.

    Three months ago the conversion candidate in question, who studies at a university in northern New Jersey, was on her winter break. According to testimonials that even reached the rabbis in charge of her conversion at the time, she took part in Christmas celebrations with her Christian parents and family.

    When she contacted the head of the RCA beis din, he appointed to his bench two rabbis involved in wholesale conversions, setting up a "special beis din" to convert her. These rabbis are sadly well-known in the American Torah world for their compromising approach to halacha. They have converted dozens of non-Jews without examining their real intent, thereby increasing the threat of assimilation spreading throughout the US.

    Spokesmen for Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l and Eternal Jewish Family expressed astonishment over the shamelessness of converting someone who did not conceal her loyalty to Christianity.

    In another development, the RCA granted a problematic rabbi from their ranks permission to perform conversions. This rabbi is well-known in the US for allowing low mechitzos in botei knesses, Torah readings in women's minyanim and he even advised appointing a woman posek in every shul "to avoid discriminating against women."

    When this rabbi became involved in conversions a few years ago, chareidi rabbonim in the US came out against him, saying his conversions cannot be relied on at all. Nevertheless the RCA has now given him permission to perform conversions.

    Eternal Jewish Family is voicing grave concerns over the RCA's conduct and has reiterated calls by gedolei Yisroel zt"l vylct"a not to perform false or dubious conversions that lack legitimate oversight and raze the walls of Kerem Beis Yisroel.

    The Israeli Chief Rabbinate sent a letter to the U.S. stating that it does not recognize these conversions.

    According to reports, the RCA has been disseminating misleading information on rabbonim approved by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to perform conversions outside of Israel, creating the false impression that certain rabbonim are authorized to perform conversions though their names have never appeared on the list of approved conversion rabbis."

    ~~~~~

    "American RCA "Converts" Loyal Christian"

    RaP: Such shameless smearing and abusive language against the RCA and by implication all of Modern Orthodoxy will NOT "win friends and influence people" at the RCA or anywhere in the vast Modern Orthodox communities across North America.

    This is no way to go about dealing with, let alone solving, such monumental challenges like conversion, especially in open, free and democratic North America which is not a confined country like Israel.

    The RCA is a very reputable organizati built up by Rav J.B. Soloveitchik zt" who quit the American Agudath Israel's Moetzes to do so, that has fought long and hard to retian high standards in Halacha in all spheres, so why someone now feels they can go ahead with a wholesale smearing of hundreds of rabbis, actually over one thousand at least, is mind-boggling.

    It is known that both Rabbi Tropper and Rav Eisenstein hate Modern Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodox rabbis with a vehemet and venomous passion bordering on xenophobia, but do they honestly think that by attacking, shredding and demonizing the leaders of Modern Orthodoxy in North American they are going to influence and change them in in way to come on board the Charedi Chumra train?

    "By Yechiel Sever"

    RaP: He should hang his head in shame for stating such unverified invective by not reporting from neutral and reliable third party sources before he metaphorically buries hundreds of Modern Orthodox rabbis many of whom head Batei Din and have Yadin-Yadin semicha and are major magidei shiur at YU and in other Modern Orthodox schools.

    "Rabbis from the US-based Rabbinical Council of America have "converted" to Judaism a woman who openly declared her loyalty to Christian beliefs."

    RaP: Makes it sound like they "all" did this. This is like the current reports of sexual abuse in the Haredi and Hasidic communities in America and Israel that the secular media uses to tar and feather all Haredi and Hasidic Jews when it is only a few individual who are guilty of PROVEN sexual abuse. Yet, this article on this Haredi website is doing the exact same thing the secular media does by smearing ALL RCA rabbis and making them all collectively guilty for what at most three members are ALLEGED to have done.

    Has the world gone totally mad and does sinas chinam know no bounds that now the fraudulent EJF itself a spurious and deceitful organization is acting as the "holier-than-thou" source and voice to attack ethically above board rabbis from the RCA when EJF itself guilty of proseltyzation, not answering to accusations against it by the BADATS and others, and having perpetrated falsehoods and fraud?

    "Just over six months ago the woman, who was engaged to an assimilated Jew, took her first exam on the way to conversion. When asked about her belief in the holy Torah and the Jewish religion she unambiguously replied that she believes in Judaism "but also in the New Testament." Despite this, the Rabbis went ahead with her conversion."

    RaP: This may all be true. But pray tell who is the one that has been privy to this information FIRST HAND and revealed here so publicly? Who is the rabbi that was there on this bais din to reveal this kind of very private and personal detailed information?

    These are serious allegations that must be evalutaed but when they are reported on Dei'ah veDibur, which is not a blog after all, and add to that that the Dei'ah veDibur website is under the thumb of Rav Eisenstein, so how is anyone to know for sure that this is not a a made up cock-and-bull story that is just hear-say being used on a whime to shmeer the RCA?

    At least state the reliable source that can confirm the truth of this by being called on the phone or contacted by Email or snail mail.

    "Three months ago the conversion candidate in question, who studies at a university in northern New Jersey, was on her winter break. According to testimonials that even reached the rabbis in charge of her conversion at the time, she took part in Christmas celebrations with her Christian parents and family."

    RaP: Again, who is is the first-hand witness to all these serious allegations? Many gerim and potential gerim keep in touch with their prior families in America. This no chiddush. It is a tough call to know if indeed this person was doing it for social and "derech eretz" reasons since not every posek holds that a ger must totally cut themselves off from their past family or was it laden with Christian religious significance for her as well? For many Americans Christmas is not even a perly religious holiday as it has become commercilaized and secularized as a ntionl holiday and not just a Christian religious holiday. Some Blacks celebrate Quanza on that day. America is a hodge-podge and mish-mash of a melting pot. Indeed some gerim who have become yeshiva bochurim have brought their parents to meet with the roshei yeshiva, after vbecoming gerim, all in the name of keeping sholem and allowing a peacefull transition into Yiddishkeit in the complex process of geirus which is not like an "on-off" button that is pressed and presto the goy is a ger, something that a person like Tropper is likely to overlook in his demands for central-control and immediate submission to his tyranical personality.

    So while becoming and "instant Jew" is true for the process of tevila, it's not true for the more complex human process that often takes much more time to stabilize.

    "When she contacted the head of the RCA beis din, he appointed to his bench two rabbis involved in wholesale conversions, setting up a "special beis din" to convert her. These rabbis are sadly well-known in the American Torah world for their compromising approach to halacha. They have converted dozens of non-Jews without examining their real intent, thereby increasing the threat of assimilation spreading throughout the US."

    RaP: This is such a provocative paragraph. So now, obviously, Rabbis Tropper and Eisenstein are feeling emboldened that, in their mind, having dealt Rabbi Bomzer a blow with meaningless and forged declarations against him, they see it now as an open season of "turkey shoot" against any and all rabbis of the RCA that come into theirgun-sites and fire away at them with coarse insults, ugly allegations and vile words that are obviously meant to automatically rile up a conditioned Haredi reader against this, when in any case Haredi Jews have little or no contact with either RCA rabbis or Modern Orthodox communities.

    It's also very strange that EJF can be part of decrees against other Orthodox rabbis when Tropper as head of EJF has utterly failed to answer to the decrees and questions against itself for proselytizying from other Haredi rabbis. (Oh, Tropper comes on in the guise of Roni/Tropper on this blog and carries on with his vile verbiage and krumme krop and then expects that to be the "official answer" on behalf of Tropper/EJF when it's not as it creates more questions and less answers.)

    "Spokesmen for Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l and Eternal Jewish Family expressed astonishment over the shamelessness of converting someone who did not conceal her loyalty to Christianity."

    RaP: Tropper and EJF are proven forgers and frauds as admitted to by the head of the Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, so they have zero credibility and are making a laughing stock out of themselves.

    "In another development, the RCA granted a problematic rabbi from their ranks permission to perform conversions. This rabbi is well-known in the US for allowing low mechitzos in botei knesses, Torah readings in women's minyanim and he even advised appointing a woman posek in every shul "to avoid discriminating against women"."

    RaP: These are obviously desperation arguments that they hope that by throwing in the proverbial kitchen sink, that certain RCA rabbis and with them by association all the RCA rabbis can be subjected to mass charaacter assassination and marginalization. All these factors have nothing to do with qualifying as a rov to sit on a bais din for conversions. This is the old canard invented by Rav Eisenstein when he told the Modern Orthodox rabbis at the EJF conventions that rabbonim who wear colored shirts and light jackets or believe the world is older than 6000 are posul as dayanim. This is just continuing that same divisive line of attack against Modern Orthodoxy under the guise of "raising conversions standards."

    If it wasn't conversions it could be about secular education in yeshivas and bais yaakovs, music concerts and listening to frum singers, chalav yisroel, of glatt kosher shechita or about wearing a black hat. Once you start comparing "whose pisher is longer or can pish further" (to use an old Chasidishe argument against comparing whose Rebbe is greater) then these kinds of religious wars that claim to be done "leshem shomayim" for the sake of "higher standards" take on not just the tone but the language and methods of literal jihad and the Taliban and then it's no wonder that there are tzenius patrols in frum neighborhoods or on buses that think its perfectly ok to beat up women or throw acid in their faces or to burn down stores that sell items that are now "verboten" according to a distorted version of an "aryan supererioty" complex and councils worthy of propagandists pushing Nazi-type racial superiority and exclusivity theories and methods r"l.

    "When this rabbi became involved in conversions a few years ago, chareidi rabbonim in the US came out against him, saying his conversions cannot be relied on at all. Nevertheless the RCA has now given him permission to perform conversions."

    RaP: Is this Bomzer or another victim Tropper the inquisitor has decided to go after? Makes one wonder where this kind of reign of terror will end, doesn't it? This is not the way Yiddishkeit is practiced. "Holy wars" belong to the Iquisition, or to Muslims or to the Crusaders lehavdil and they are not befitting the Holy Nation of Am Yisrsoel who have better and more peaceful ways to solve internal problems.

    In Germany, with assimilation and shmad at top speed, Rav S. R. Hersh and the Haredi rabbonim of that era created a seperate gemeinde but they did not resort to vicious personal attacks and dirty tricks and acts of ugliness befitting thugs and the Mafia enforcing its onw "holier-than-thou" perverted "codes of honor" and attacking traitors as "outsiders" (nisht fun unzere mentschen) as if they were vermin like the American born ganster-influenced Tropper and Eisenstein seem to enjoy doing.

    Is this really what Rav Eliashiv has in mind when he sets Eisenstein and Tropper loose on the world? TZARICH IYUN GADOL!!!

    If you hate the RCA and don't like their converts, then stay away from them and mind your own business and get on with your life. But running around the world with sharp hatchets looking literally under people's bedcovers like sicko Apartheid policemen enforcing racial laws (because that's how it looks to many people) causes guaranteed machlokes and chillul Hashem and it stinks to high heaven and is a recipe for communal disaster. Everyone will lose from such a confrontaional approach that's being foisted by Tropper and Eisenstein all as they seek to foster their own plans for forbidden proselytizations of gentiles.

    "Eternal Jewish Family is voicing grave concerns over the RCA's conduct and has reiterated calls by gedolei Yisroel zt"l vylct"a not to perform false or dubious conversions that lack legitimate oversight and raze the walls of Kerem Beis Yisroel."

    RaP: What a JOKE! This must be the bigggest joke of Addar and Purim! Of EJF "criticising" the RCA! It is just too hysterical for words!

    "The Israeli Chief Rabbinate sent a letter to the U.S. stating that it does not recognize these conversions."

    RCA: So? Who cares? They are not God! Let them get their own house in order first. There is enough to deal with in Israel.

    "According to reports, the RCA has been disseminating misleading information on rabbonim approved by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to perform conversions outside of Israel, creating the false impression that certain rabbonim are authorized to perform conversions though their names have never appeared on the list of approved conversion rabbis."

    RaP: Ho-Hum, the back and forth of this is all so exciting, um, boring. One day the Israeli Rabbanut loves the RCA and the next day it doesn't. It's the world's newest and longest love-hate relationship. The other is between Haredim and Zionists. One day they are friends and the next day someone says that they are enemies.

    PLEASE: Can someone get AN OFFICIAL spokesman from BOTH the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and from the RCA and get them to state for the record and in writing what they OFFICIALLY hold or maintain AS FIXED POLICY about each other and each other's rabbis and conversions.

    Otherwise, statements on the Dei'ah vDibur website, or from the Va'ad Haolami mean zero, and as for anything emanating from Tropper's EJF it is LESS than useless and has about as much import as a the croak of a sick, near to death, bird.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Recipients and PublicityMarch 15, 2009 at 7:54 PM

    EJF's/Tropper's/Eisenstein's dangerous ploy: Proof of the Kotzker Rebbe's words that "a frummer iz a 'rotzeach' ["murderer"], meaning frumkeit ["religious fanaticism"] is a destructive & dangerous force ! "

    As to where Tropper's and Eisenstein's extremism in the name of "higher standards" and falshe frumkeit that incites against those deemed "less frum" than you can chas vesholom lead, just see these three stories in today's Vos Iz Neias.com news.

    Note that not only do the 3 shocking items below describe how unchecked frumkeit "leshem shomayim" is dangerous to Jews that it targets or in its range of contact but how it can be and is unfortunately used to tar and smear by association all of HAREDI and HASIDIC Jewry who have nothing to do with such matters or happenings.

    So it ill behooves the Dei'ah veDibur website and the rabbis on it to attack the the rabbis of the RCA. Kicking people below the belt is perhaps the way business and politics is conducted in Israel with a "take no prisoners" confrontationary approach, but in democratic America where there is free speech and freedom of religion and an agreement to "agree to disagree" in political and religious matters, it is both stupid and counter-productive and outright boorish and dangerous to expect such an attitude and tactic to work in the hope that the Modern Orthodox rabbinate will somehow be "scared out of existence" which is not going to happen anytime soon, and certainly not in our lifetime:

    Story 1:

    "Israel - Member Of 'Mishmeres Hatznius' Gets 4 Years In Prison

    News Source: Ynet
    March 15th, 2009

    [Photo: A man walks by graffiti that equates fashion with promiscuity on the walls of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, east of Tel Aviv. [Ilan Mizrahi / The National]]

    Israel - The Jerusalem District Court sentenced Elhanan Buzaglo to four years in prison on Sunday, after finding him guilty of aggravated assault, extortion, aiding an extortion and intimidation. He was also ordered to pay the complainant against him NIS 10,000 (about $2,400) in damages.

    Buzaglo, a known member of the Jerusalem haredi neighborhoods' "Chastity Squad," pled guilty as part of a plea bargain struck with the State Prosecutor's Office.

    The "chastity squad" is a notorious group operating within the haredi community in the capital with the sole objective of fighting what it deems "female immodesty," and using methods of violence and intimidation to obtain its goal, if need be.

    According to the prosecution, Buzaglo was hired to assault and intimidate a 31-year-old divorcee, who the "Chastity Squad" believed had "defaulted" on the proper haredi lifestyle, and pressure her into leaving her current place of residence.

    The State alleged that Buzaglo, along with four accomplices, forced their way into the woman's home, gagged her, beat her and warned her that if she did not move she would be killed.

    'Vile, despicable act'

    The prosecution sought a lengthy prison sentences, citing Buzaglo committed "a vile, despicable act for money."

    The defense claimed that community service was in order, since "the 'chastity squad' is ideologically motivated, and harsh punishment will not deter its members." Buzaglo, added the defense, was nothing but a "small bolt" in the machine.

    "The defendant's actions are grave," noted Judge Noam Sohlberg, presiding over the hearing, in his ruling. "He is a mercenary, known to be prone to violence and he means to beat and injure, threaten and intimidate.

    "Nevertheless, it is possible that he himself was a victim of this organization's violence, which is why he saw fit to join its ranks," concluded Judge Sohlberg, adding that his assumption led to court to exercise leniency."

    Story 2:

    New York - Husbands Who Use 'Hashem' And Religion As An Excuse To Abuse

    News Source: The Jewish Press "Mind, Body and Soul" magazine Article

    By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
    March 15th, 2009

    New York - Broken bones and black-and-blue marks on the skin are not the only signs of abuse by a husband against his wife; instead, the blows could be delivered to her psyche and soul, leaving no physical marks. But they hurt nevertheless – and perhaps more than if she had been beaten with fists.

    While physical, emotional, economic, sexual and verbal abuse and the limitation of personal freedom are known to be common methods of spousal mistreatment, a phenomenon has been identified recently within the Haredi community that uses God and faith as weapons.

    Dr. Nicole Dahan, a social worker at the Ariel University Center in Samaria, and Tzipi Levy, a social worker in the Jerusalem Municipality, have been among the first to identify the phenomenon of “spiritual abuse” in Israel.

    Cruelty to women, children and the elderly in the religious Jewish community was long denied, on the grounds that the Torah and Talmud forbid it, and that it is common in the secular camp.

    Two decades ago, no one in the Orthodox community would dream of speaking openly about violence in the religious family, just as psychiatric illnesses, mental retardation and various other problems have long been unmentionable due to concern that revelation could harm the family’s chances for shidduchim. However, hiding the existence of abuse in the family lends legitimacy to these phenomena.

    The claim that all’s well in the Orthodox community has been disproven by a string of horrendous cases of child abuse reported in Israel after arrests were made and shelters for battered women in Orthodox neighborhoods have been opened – even with rabbinic approval. The Torah-observant sector can no longer keep its “dirty laundry” hidden in the closet, and it has begun to get a public airing.

    Obviously, most religious Jewish men are good or excellent husbands and fathers. The two observant social workers in Israel say they cannot estimate how common spiritual abuse against wives is, as no data has yet been assembled. But Orthodox women in Jerusalem are finally speaking about it, and those who seek to escape spousal abuse with help from city services are now being screened for spiritual abuse as well, thanks to Levy’s efforts.

    Such spiritual abuse, they suggest, occurs solely in observant communities, mostly the ultra-Orthodox. Israeli Haredi men who spend all their time in a kollel (yeshiva for married men) and have a very low level of secular education may become jealous of their wives, who generally have to work outside the home and support their large families. A growing number of Orthodox wives attend vocational courses and colleges, earn degrees and work in advanced fields such as computers and even engineering. This can lead to anger and resentment – and abuse by their husbands.

    As an example, Levy describes an Orthodox man who told all the relatives invited to his daughter’s bat mitzva that his wife was “crazy” and proceeded to bad-mouth her even though this is strictly forbidden by Halacha.

    After running workshops for secular abused women in northern Jerusalem, she began to organize them for Orthodox women, who met regularly for a year-and-a-half and poured out their hearts about their suffering. Some told stories about husbands who denigrated their prayers. “One husband told his wife that her praying was a ‘waste of time,’ that ‘God doesn't listen’ to her prayers and that there was ‘no value’ to her supplications,” Levy recalls. One woman said her husband screamed at her in the middle of the night when she got out of bed “immodestly” in her bare feet to nurse her crying newborn.

    Another example of spiritual abuse was a woman who very much wanted to observe the commandment of “separating halla” – a commandment given especially to women. The moment of separating the dough and reciting a special blessing is viewed as an especially propitious moment for praying for one’s loved ones. Performing the commandment is regarded as a plea to God to protect the woman from sorrow and pain and a way to be blessed by an easy, safe birth and a good livelihood.

    But a husband belittled his wife for “wasting money on flour” and “making a mess on Friday afternoons” when she should have been cooking for Shabbat. Declaring that it was cheaper to buy readymade halla, the husband ordered a child to go to the nearest grocery and buy loaves.

    Levy recounts the wife’s pained recollection: “He whispered to me: ‘When I say the kiddush [blessing on the wine], I will not include you!’” The woman was thus forced to eat without the required inclusion in this blessing that begins the Shabbat meal. Instead of saying a blessing on the homemade halla, he did so on the store-bought bread."

    Story 3:

    Jerusalem - Elior Chen And His Alleged Abuses

    News Source: Haaretz
    By Tamar Rotem
    March 14th, 2009

    Jerusalem - About a month ago, M. came to the Sarah Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem to visit her young son (the court has prohibited the publication of their names). For a year now the boy has been lying there unconscious and on a respirator. His mother has been under arrest ever since her son was hospitalized and the revelation of the child abuse - among the most shocking this country has known - by members of Elior Chen's cult, on his instructions if not with his participation.

    Chen's wife, Ruth, recently broke her silence, just before she traveled to Sao Paolo in Brazil, to where her husband fled and was arrested. Now he is awaiting the decision on Israel's request to extradite him. In a telephone conversation from Brazil, where she was staying until not long ago with Satmar Hasids, she denied the accusations against her husband. "We're being persecuted," she said. "The press likes to lynch ultra-Orthodox people especially if someone is called a rabbi."

    Of the abuses - "corrections" in the cult's terminology - she says they were educational methods. "Those children were animals. They behaved like wild beasts. They were uncivilized and rude. We made human beings out of them. They had had a faulty upbringing. Children who after they ate would get up to play, without saying a blessing. They were expelled from school. Except for one boy, they didn't want to learn. We tried to rehabilitate them. My husband is a gentle soul who wouldn't hurt a fly. We're not people who hit."

    The affair came to light a year ago in March 2008, when M.'s 4-year-old youngest son was rushed to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem in an unconscious state. At that time the mother was already at the hospital, sitting at the bedside of another son, only a year older than his brother, who was suffering from burns. The coincidence aroused the suspicions of the welfare personnel who were called in, and she was arrested on suspicion of abusing her children.

    Two days after the arrest, Chen fled to Canada and his wife joined him. He was later arrested in Brazil.

    Under questioning, M. told the police that it had been Chen who ordered the carrying out of "corrections in the children, the purpose of which is to exorcise the demons and ghouls from the children." The "corrections," she explained, were intended "to help the child overcome and change his bad characteristics."

    The systematic abuse detailed in the indictments includes beatings and burns, forcing the children to eat excrement and binding them with handcuffs and ropes. In one instance, they put one of the children in a suitcase, with his skullcap stuck in his mouth so he would not be able to scream.

    M., who was not aware of the details of the abuse, believed at that time in Chen's special powers and did not doubt him for a moment. The connection between them began in 2000 when M.'s husband, D., joined Chen - who called himself a rabbi - and his three disciples, who are also charged with abuse: Avraham Kugman, Shimon Gabai and Avraham Mascalchi. Later, D. fell out of favor and Chen saw to separating him from his wife. M. moved into Chen's apartment and even married him in an improvised ceremony.

    Due to a court order, it is not possible to interview the mother or anyone else involved in the affair, but at Chen's apartment in Betar Ilit documentation was found that details conversations between him and his disciples in 2005. The conversations centered around miraculous acts, healing and magic supposedly performed by Chen, and a lot about his relationship with M. The conversations were written down as questions and answers, sometimes with the disciples asking and Chen answering, and sometimes the other way around.

    "I had difficulty breathing," wrote M. "My chest hurt unbelievably. The rabbi told me to take my urine and smear it on my chest and this was very, very effective, and also to take a lemon and smear it on the place and also warm bread, which were less effective, and in the end everything felt better, thank G-d. G-d will strengthen the saintly rabbi's hands and continue to help the entire people of Israel."

    In a conversation about the fate of M. and D., apparently one of the disciples asked: "In the matter of my rabbi and teacher's feelings toward M., and the matter of D.'s passing away - is this supposed to happen the way it came to my rabbi and teacher in his thoughts, that D. will give a get [bill of divorce] and go to a distant place where he will commit suicide?"

    The answer: "There is truth in this."

    Question: "Is there rejoicing in heaven about the way the matter is progressing between the rabbi and M.?"

    Answer: "There is great rejoicing in heaven."

    Question: "What does the rabbi's wife [Ruth Chen] feel about the matter of M.?"

    Answer: "She has suspicions."

    Question: "Should my rabbi and teacher get married to M?"

    Answer: "Yes."

    Question: "And what about her husband, D.?"

    Answer: "He will pass from the world."

    In the police search of Chen's home in April, 2008, heating stoves, a hammer and knives were found that according to the suspicions were used in some of the abusive acts. "Don't you have a knife in your home? A hammer? A heating stove?" responded his wife Ruth. "Are these signs that anyone was abusive? We helped the family, we took care of them in all innocence," she lamented.

    "They lived with us, and with us they found refuge from their crazy father. Their father is insane. My husband tried to help him in all innocence. The father would go to cemeteries all the time to prostrate himself on the graves of saints. Then he ran away. His wife was left without means of support. They stayed with us for a month and a half. Who gave food to those children? I did. Who checked them for lice while their mother was going around the stores outside? Me and my husband."

    "Our educational method was the personal example of my husband, a cultured and supportive individual who radiates light. For 24 hours a day we gave those children hugs, kisses, love - as though they were our own children. We hardly got any sleep. The whole day was spent caring, preparing food, laundering and tidying the house. Me and my husband and friends ... everything pleasantly and joyously. Here it works in a loving way."

    Of M., she says: "She was a very good friend of mine. I still love her. But she came too far into our lives."

    And of the husband, D.: "From the moment he came into our house I hated him. He came as a friend and made himself a student, but he was a betraying and loathsome student. How my husband tried to bring about domestic harmony, and they have brought a holocaust down upon us."

    When visiting her son at the hospital, M. has already learned to ignore the stares at her and her retinue: lawyers and police who accompany her from the Neveh Tirza prison. On entering the room, she picked up her son who lay there limply and took him in her arms. For about two hours she sat with him in an armchair and sang Sabbath songs to him.

    "She doesn't let herself break down near him, or cry. She is totally focused on taking care of him," says Dvora Atia, her lawyer, who was present during the visit. "Maybe it is difficult to hear this, but she is a loving mother."

    Nevertheless, even after she was arrested, for many months M. was still under the influence of Chen, who had ordered the abuse, and she defended him. Last week, however, a month after the visit to her son, she signed a plea bargain to the effect that she would testify against Chen and his followers. In the wake of her consent, the number of charges in her indictment has been reduced from 21 in the initial indictment to six in the amended version. She is no longer charged with active involvement in the deeds together with Chen's disciples as she was initially, but only of not having prevented the abuse, and accordingly she can expect a lighter punishment: a prison sentence of five years.

    The details of M.'s testimony in the context of the plea bargain are still confidential, but the prosecution is convinced that by means of her testimony it will be able to base the evidence against Chen, which will bring about his extradition. M., apparently, is now changing her attitude toward him and is prepared to testify against the man whom, to herself, she called "my Lord Messiah the king."

    Attorney Reuben Bar-Haim, who is representing M. together with Atia, says that "absurdly, she believed in all innocence that the deeds that were being done to her children, by him or at his command, were done for their benefit, to exorcise demons and ghouls from them."

    And indeed, the initial information about the affair was provided by the children, not by her. Hours of talking with a psychologist, the shock of the encounter with prison and the distance from Chen have proven effective. As her frequent rocking back and forth over her prayer book ceased, and her Breslav garb was replaced by a denim skirt, she realized the seriousness of what she had done.

    In the deepest sense, the meaning of the plea bargain is the realization that her sin was silence and concealment, and her "correction" is in speaking out and revealing the abuse of her children. All this was possible only following a process of freeing herself from the spell of Chen, of whom, Atia is convinced, she has also understood she is a victim. In the past, says Atia, she asked to testify from behind a screen, so that she would not have to face him. "Today she is not afraid of him."

    Attorney Ariel Atari, who is representing Chen, has said that "If the mother testifies truthfully, Elior Chen can rest easy. If she decides to lie - if a trial is held, I would estimate that her lies will be easily revealed and Chen will be acquitted."

    Attorney Avigdor Feldman, who is representing Avraham Krugman, has refused to comment, while attorney Yehudah Shushan, who is representing Avraham Mascalchi, says that his client's involvement was minor, adding that the procedure "is unworthy from the legal perspective in light of the fact that the child's testimony was conditioned on him not testifying against the mother, which in effect forced the state to arrive at a plea bargain with the mother."

    Attorney Yair Nehorai, who is representing Shimon Gabai, has said that in his opinion "it appears that it will not be possible to avoid a request to have many of the witnesses who already testified testify again and, in a certain sense, to reopen the trial"."

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