Sunday, May 31, 2009

Abuse - Female teachers as predators

Time Magazine

[...] "This isn't an 'affair,' it's abuse, and we have to shift that paradigm," says Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation (SESAME) in Nevada. "We say, 'Bully for the boy and his conquest of the geometry teacher,' but that makes it harder for boys to vocalize their victimization." Indeed, studies by psychologists like Julie Hislop, author of the 2001 book Female Sex Offenders: What Therapists, Law Enforcement and Child Protective Services Need to Know, note that boys who are sexually abused by women often develop alcoholism, depression and their own sexual dysfunctions, including rape, as men. [...]

Halacha supercedes ethical principles /Chazon Ish


Chazon Ish(Emuna and Bitachon 3:1-2):
Moral imperatives are sometimes halachic issues. In such cases the halacha decides what is prohibited and what is permitted. For example it says in Bava Basra (21b) that teachers are not protected by laws against competition. If a community has truly dedicated teachers and then teachers come from another city - the natural response is not to be happy with the original teachers. Therefore there will be interest in hiring the new teachers and the established teachers will lose their livelihood. The natural response is for the established teachers to hate the new teachers and because of this hatred to try and find and to speak about defects and problems in the new teachers. It will degenerate to a point where the original teachers will make up slander and try to arouse mercy from the residents of the community against the cruel newcomers. This will result in disputes and controversy and at times revenge when they see an opportunity. All of this activity of the former teachers would appear to be justified and free of sin – if in fact the halacha was in agreement with them that they had the right to restrain the new teachers. It would be justifiable if the new teachers were sinners and had violated the halacha of the Torah. Thus the defense against the new teachers – based on moral principles – would not involve prohibited disputes or lashon harah or gratuitous hatred. Consequently it would seem that this is a fight for justice. But in fact the halacha has clearly decided that the governing principle is that jealousy of teachers leads to greater wisdom. This principle overrules the welfare of the individual teachers. Thus the newcomers are actually correct according to the halacha and those who fight against them are spilling innocent blood. The hatred of the original teachers against the newcomers in fact is violating the Torah principle of not hating one’s brother in your heart. When the old teachers speak badly about the new teachers they are violating the prohibition of lashon harah. When the old teachers rally the community to their side they are violating the principle of “not being like Korach.” When they take revenge against the new teachers they are violating the Torah principle of not taking revenge. When Bava Basra (21b) says that the old teachers cannot prevent the hiring of the new ones – many ethical principles are affected. 2) It is one of the obligations of the ethical person to try and establish in his heart this great principle. In every case where people harm each other, it is necessary to establish according to the halacha who is the aggressor and who is the victim. Focus entirely on the ethical consideration create a sensitivity and love for the victim and bitter anger to the aggressor. However there is great danger when this ethical consideration ignores the halacha which gives just the opposite understanding. In the eyes of halacha the pursuer becomes the pursued and the pursued becomes the pursuer. The only true understanding is that of halacha which has been transmitted to us by our Sages.

Divorce & Chareidi women


Haaretz

She left an encouraging meeting with the matchmaker and waited patiently for her daughters, aged 7 and 6, to finish their art therapy workshop. Aliza (not her real name) is a 27, ultra-Orthodox, and she is sharp, self-confident, with a ready smile. She received her get, or Jewish bill of divorce, a year ago, but she separated years before from the man she had married young and is raising their daughters alone. Like all the women interviewed for this article, she brings her children to the Em Habanim center several times a week, mostly in the afternoon. She recently participated in a series of psychodrama sessions "to increase consciousness in preparation for remarriage," and will soon complete real estate agent training, in preparation for a second, more lucrative career.

On one recent morning her daughter cried all the way to preschool. Aliza overheard the teachers telling each other that there is nothing to be done, that's how it is with girls whose parents are divorced. "Sometimes I feel as fragile as an egg, and yet I must soldier on, be strong, be the mom and the dad," says Aliza. "Shabbat is the hardest. Even though I have a warm family and friends and today there is much more openness toward divorce in Haredi society, nothing can make you get used to the feeling of loneliness on Shabbat."

For Aliza and more than 300 other Haredi women who belong to Em Habanim, the nonprofit organization is more than a recreational center. Some of the families here spend Shabbatot and holidays together under its auspices, and the women operate a social group that continues long past the center's hours and includes Internet forums for divorced Haredi women.

"Coming here is a joy. It doesn't solve my problems, and doesn't increase my child support payments. The main thing here is dealing with things together, and the fact that the staff put their hearts and souls into it. It's a heavy load; it grows much lighter together," Aliza says. During a hallway chat, one of the staffers unthinkingly uttered the phrase "broken home," and it was clear he was referring to family, any family, post-divorce. In Haredi society, and also outside it, this term is still part of learned explanations as to why a boy from a "broken home" will not be admitted to a sought-after educational institution, or why another boy is not excelling in school, and why both are likely, in a few years, to marry women who likewise came from "broken homes." [...]

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eiruv Tavshilin - Don't Forget!

Aish HaTorah

1. Which activities does the eiruv permit?
All activities that are permitted on Yom Tov -- e.g. cooking, grinding and sorting, as well as washing dishes and lighting candles. Activities that are forbidden on Yom Tov do not become permitted due to the eiruv, such as turning on lights.

2. Who has to make an eiruv tavshilin?
Usually, every individual is obligated in this mitzvah. In practice, when the head of the household makes an eiruv, all the family members are included.

3. Who does not require an eiruv tavshilin?
A person who does not intend making any preparations on Friday for Shabbat, and does not need to kindle Shabbat lights. A person who needs only to kindle Shabbat lights, should make an eiruv without a blessing. This may be relevant for a person who is staying in a hotel or is invited out for all the Shabbat meals.

4. Is a visitor included in the host's eiruv?
No. Therefore, he must make his own eiruv if he intends to do some Shabbat preparations on Friday. Alternatively, he can become a partner in the family's eiruv by acquiring a share in the food.

DESIGNATING THE EIRUV

5. Which blessing is recited upon making the eiruv tavshilin?
While standing, and holding the food in the right hand, say:

Baruch ata Ado-noi Elo-heinu melech ha-olam, Asher kid-shanu bi-mitzvo-tav, Vi-tzee-vanu al mitzvat eiruv. Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us in the mitzvah of eiruv.

6. Is anything else said?
Yes. Following the blessing, a declaration must be made describing the purpose of the eiruv foods. This declaration is traditionally said in Aramaic, but it must be said in a language that one understands. So if one does not understand the Aramaic words, he should say the following translation:

By means of these eiruv foods, we will be permitted to bake, cook, keep foods warm, light candles, carry, and do all that we need on Yom Tov for Shabbat.

7. Should the eiruv foods be held when reciting the blessing and eiruv declaration?
Yes. If you forgot to hold the foods, you should pick up the foods and repeat the declaration, but not the blessing.

Hello is now a hug


NYTimes

There is so much hugging at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, N.J., that students have broken down the hugs by type:

There is the basic friend hug, probably the most popular, and the bear hug, of course. But now there is also the bear claw, when a boy embraces a girl awkwardly with his elbows poking out.

There is the hug that starts with a high-five, then moves into a fist bump, followed by a slap on the back and an embrace.

There’s the shake and lean; the hug from behind; and, the newest addition, the triple — any combination of three girls and boys hugging at once.

“We’re not afraid, we just get in and hug,” said Danny Schneider, a junior at the school, where hallway hugging began shortly after 7 a.m. on a recent morning as students arrived. “The guy friends, we don’t care. You just get right in there and jump in.”

There are romantic hugs, too, but that is not what these teenagers are talking about. [...]

HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita - Shavuos

My Sefer on Abuse - Chapter Outline

Outline- Abuse - Final Version

Israel jails American to give Get

In a groundbreaking ruling, the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court had the final say this week in the divorce case of a Jewish American couple that has dragged on for six years, as the husband has refused to grant his wife a get (Jewish divorce).

After three nights in jail and a ban preventing him from leaving the country, however, the wanton husband - who is not an Israeli citizen - finally succumbed to the demands of the Rabbinic Court Administration (RCA) and agreed to free his wife from their marriage. It was the first time that Israel's religious court system has ever flexed its muscles in a case involving Jews from abroad.

"This is the first time that the Rabbinic Court Administration has imposed such sanctions on a person who is not a citizen of Israel," said a spokeswoman for the RCA, adding that the husband had "never really believed that the religious courts had this power, because he is not a citizen of this country."

She explained that a change in legislation three years ago gave the RCA jurisdiction over cases involving Jews residing here who are not citizens.

According to the information published Wednesday by the RCA, the man had been traveling back and forth between Israel and the US for the past two years, and therefore, under Israeli law, had established Israel as the center of his life.

Just over a year ago, the wife petitioned the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court, asking the administration to impose sanctions on her husband to obtain a get. The RCA then began the standard process of demands on husbands who refuse to agree to a divorce.[...]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gay marriage ban upheld in California


NYTimes

The California Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage today, ratifying a decision made by voters last year at a time when several state governments have moved in an opposite direction.

The decision, however, preserves the 18,000 marriages performed between the court’s decision last May that same-sex marriage was lawful and the passage by voters in November of Proposition 8, which banned it. Supporters of the proposition argued that the marriages should no longer be recognized.[...]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chareidi surrogate motherhood - kosher!


YNET reports:

For the first time in Israel an ultra-Orthodox woman will serve as a surrogate mother, after receiving authorization to do so from a rabbi.

The woman, a widowed mother from southern Israel, started making inquiries about the possibility of becoming a surrogate mother several years ago, seeking to help a childless couple bring a baby into the world. But the woman was concerned of her neighbors' reactions should she become pregnant, and asked the Institute of Fertility and Medicine According to Halacha to arrange a halachic approval from a rabbi explaining her condition and guaranteeing she was not "promiscuous." Rabbi Menachem Borshtein, head of the institute, said that such an approval was given by Rabbi Zalman Nehamia Goldberg, and this gave the woman the green light to continue with the procedure. [,,,]

Danger from internet predators - factors


CNN reports

Study identifies risk factors from Internet predators

Childhood abuse, use of sexy images puts girls at increased risk

These factors more crucial than Internet naivete or sexual innocence,

Authors urge caregivers to carefully monitor how girls present themselves online


(CNN) -- A history of childhood abuse and use of a provocative online identity increase the risk that girls will be victimized by someone they meet on the Internet, according to a study appearing in the June issue of
Pediatrics.

While highlighting the dangers that exist for adolescent girls, the study's authors also offer a word to parents: You can lessen the risks to your children by monitoring their Internet use.The authors sought to identify risk factors connected to increased rates of Internet-initiated victimization of girls. They also wanted to find out whether abuse victims showed increased vulnerability to online victimization.

They found that girls are more likely to experience online sexual advances or have offline encounters if they have previously been abused or have a provocative avatar, which is a digital image meant to represent the user online. Those two factors pose a greater risk to adolescents than perhaps more traditionally considered risks, such as Internet naivete and sexual innocence, the study says.

The authors say many Internet-initiated sex crimes originate on social networking sites, which require users to create online identities.[...]

Monday, May 25, 2009

Man of halacha - R' Moshe Soloveitchik


Rav Shurkin tells the following story in Megged Givos Olam,

Rav Moshe Soloveitchik first learned of the petira of his father Rav Chaim from the newspapers. Rav Moshe poskened that one should not believe anying published in a newspaper and thus it was not considered notification. As a result he did not sit shiva but rather took the dangerous journey [during World War I] to Warsaw where Rav Chaim had died. After 10 days he returned suddenly to his house with a pale face and a terrible appearance and said he had received reliable testimony that his father in fact was niftar and he started observing aveilus. After a number of days he received a letter of condolence from Rav Hirsch the son in law of the Chofetz Chaim who was a very close friend. He wanted to know why Rav Moshe had not believed the newspapers to sit shiva - since it was a matter which was readily verifiable? Rav Moshe wrote back the following. Concerning the verses describing the death of Eliyahu and the response of Elisha and the bnei neviim - despite Elisha seeing his rebbe going into Heaven and the bnei neviim reporting Eliyahu's death - they wanted to search after Eliyahu as if he were alive? Rav Moshe said you learn from this that one is prohibited to believe that one's rebbe had died. When Rav Hirsch received this letter he showed it to his father-in-law, the Chofetz Chaim and he agreed with it and praised it.

Shas - Reform conversions will attract Palestinians


Haaretz

The religious parties in the Knesset are demanding that the government amend the law to make the Chief Rabbinate the only body authorized to deal with matters of conversion in Israel.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, warned that if non-Orthodox conversion is recognized in Israel, "there are hundreds of foreign workers and Palestinians who will take advantage of the Reform conversion in order to gain Israeli citizenship."

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who heads conversions in Israel, along with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, held an emergency meeting at their office on Sunday, attended by the religious ministers and MKs, in order to formulate a response to last week's Supreme Court ruling affecting conversion.

In its decision, the Supreme Court ordered the state to fund conversion centers that are being run by the Reform movement in Israel.

Amar warned that the Supreme Court ruling is part of a broader effort by the court to undermine the power of the Chief Rabbinate and of Jewish orthodoxy in Israel.

"The next step of the Supreme Court will be to recognize Reform conversions," Amar said.

Currently the state does not recognize reform or conservative conversions, unless these are started with studies in recognized Reform and Conservative centers out of the country and given a final test and seal of approval from the Orthodox Rabbinate here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rav Sternbuch - Protesting against gay marriage


TRANSLATED FROM HEBREW

In reply to your query if we are obliged to protest against the new law of legalizing the marriage of Sodom which apparently seems that it does not affect us, the Raavad HoRav Sternbuch said this is an egregious law.

Don’t mistakenly think that this doesn’t affect us. Because if this is accepted as law, it will spread the influence of impurity to other places in America and cause great damage even in our homes. Our commentators explained that in the Generation of the Flood – that even the animals coupled unnaturally with different species - because of the influence of the spiritual impurity that abounded then. Isolating ourselves from the rest of society does not stop the spread of the influence of this impurity.

In addition, there is the tremendous chillul HaShem of our standing by silently. They are pushing the acceptance of the idea that lowly animalistic relationships should have the same legitimacy and status of marriage, as the bond of marriage between man and woman. The Jewish People have the duty to serve as “Light to the World” – how can we be silent in the face of this abomination?

We turn to our Father in Heaven that He should at least hear the voice of great protest from the community - and the decree should be nullified.

We should soon merit the mercy of Heaven and the complete Redemption.

Gay marriage - legal consequences


NYTimes

The movement toward legalizing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire has hit a bump. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, said last week that he would sign a same-sex marriage bill only if it included new language expanding protection for religious institutions that might object to same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, the state’s House of Representatives rejected that amendment. So for the moment, the matter is stalled in New Hampshire.

But whatever the outcome, Mr. Lynch may have moved the debate over same-sex marriage forward, at least by isolating it from the question of how it affects religious groups.

For some time, scholars have debated this issue, and some are now urging states considering same-sex marriage laws to include strong protections for religious organizations. Some are even suggesting protections for individuals and small businesses who offer services for weddings — like photographers, florists, caterers, bakers, wedding planners and musicians. The argument is that these individuals and businesses might have religious objections to gay couples’ marrying and could be exposed to sizable fines or strong penalties under nondiscrimination statutes.

The deliberations in New Hampshire could have implications for New York, where the legalization of same-sex marriage hovers on the brink without the kind of protection for religious groups that Mr. Lynch demanded. New Hampshire’s experience may also affect current debates in the District of Columbia and Rhode Island, or even in California, if the State Supreme Court there rules next week either to overturn Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that passed last November or to uphold the marriages performed for 18,000 same-sex couples before November.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have frequently said it threatens to penalize members of the clergy who refuse to solemnize such unions or who preach against them. Legal experts almost unanimously dismiss such alarms. Refusals to officiate or to mute a religious doctrine, they say, are solidly protected by the First Amendment.

But that is not where the real issue lies. What would be the impact of legalizing same-sex marriage on a broader range of religious institutions?

Would Catholic universities now providing housing for married couples be required to accommodate same-sex couples? Would church or synagogue facilities used for wedding receptions have to be equally available for same-sex celebrations? How would provisions forbidding discrimination on the grounds of marital status affect employment and benefits policies or adoption services like the specialized adoption services that Catholic Charities in Massachusetts suspended after the state legalized same-sex marriage and ordered the church group to place children with gay couples? [...]

Religious observance vs. campus temptations


JPost wrote:


They're young, intelligent, good-looking and single - and their libidos are at a peak. They meet others like themselves on campus, in class, in the cafeteria and during activities held by the students' unions. Sometimes the result is just flirtation, but sometimes it goes farther.

Life on the campuses of the nation's colleges and universities is not just about scholarship and book-knowledge. For some secular-minded students, free sex is a rite of passage, a phase in one's development. But for an increasing number of religious youths, the encounter with the secular world results in culture shock that can totally undermine a religious world-view still in its formative stages.

"My rabbis warned me before I went to learn in university," said one religious female student. "They told me that the lecturers and professor there teach apostasy and ideas that contradict religious faith.

"I've been at university for two years and have never been taught ideas subversive to my faith. Nevertheless, my [level of observance] has plummeted. The danger is not in the classroom; it is during the breaks, around campus, on the lawn, in the coffee shop. The atmosphere here is very secular. And it is very tempting."

This religious student's testimony is one of several quoted by Yona Goodman, a veteran religious Zionist educator, in a controversial article entitled "Culture Shock." The article, which appeared in the recent edition of Tzohar, an influential periodical written by and for religious Zionist rabbis, has aroused a flurry of interest and controversy in modern Orthodox circles.[...]

Friday, May 22, 2009

R' Tendler & Temple Mount


Lashon HaRah - saves life /Tzitz Eliezer


Tzitz Eliezer(15:13.1):
Question: A doctor discovered that his patient has defective vision which can cause him to have auto accidents when driving under certain circumstances – such as under the conditions of his job or at night….The patient doesn’t want to stop driving or to change his job. Is the doctor obligated to keep this confidential or is he obligated to notify the appropriate agency (whether governmental or his employer) concerning this matter? It is likely that this information will cause his patient economic damage or his interaction with society. What if the patient asks him to keep this confidential and he promises to stop from driving under the dangerous circumstances – but the doctor is not convinced that he can be believed to stop driving? Answer: There is no question that the doctor is obligated to notify the appropriate governmental agency or employer so that they can have the patient drive within his limitation. Even if the patient requests the doctor to keep his illness a secret and promises to stop driving… As long as the doctor is not convinced that he will do so – he is obligated to notify the agencies. It is also not only obvious that if the doctor is summoned to testify concerning this that he must go and testify. [Furthermore his oath as a doctor to keep medical information secret does not apply to these cases nor does a private oath to the patient. That is because it would mean that he is taking an oath to nullify a mitzva and thus it is simply invalid. His oath as a doctor shouldn’t apply to information which if it is withheld would constitute a crime. (All this is discussed in greater detail in Tzitz Eliezer 3:81 part 2 and 3.)]. But even if he was not summoned he is still obligated to take the initiative to inform the appropriate agencies because otherwise the patient might be a danger to the lives of others. If the doctor refrains from notifying the agencies than he has transgressed the Torah command of “not standing by the blood of your fellow.” Therefore the doctor should not take into consideration that his act of informing might cause economic or social damage. That is because nothing stands in the way of saving life (pikuach nefesh). I want to add to this what I found in the Pischei Teshuva (O.C. 156): “And I want to comment on the issue that all the mussar books make a big deal about speaking lashon harah, but I want to make a big deal about the opposite. That is the greater and more common sin of refraining from speaking lashon harah when it is needed to save a person from harm …” These words express much clearer and forcefully what I have been saying. The Pischei Teshuva notes that a person’s intent should not be to harm the person he is speaking about but rather for the benefit of the person he is telling and others that he is saving from harm. Because by focusing on helping he fulfills a great inestimable mitzva. I also found a similar case in the Chelkas Yaakov (3:136) concerning a young man who the doctor found had cancer. The young man and his family didn’t know about it at all. The man was engaged to marry a young woman. His question was whether the doctor was obligated to reveal the sickness to his fiancée as well as well as the fact that he only had at most one or two years to live. It was obvious that if she found out this information she would not marry him. The Chelkas Yaakov replied that the doctor was obligated to inform the fiancée because the main halacha issue is that the doctor should not violate the mitzva of “not standing by the blood of your fellow.” He based his psak on the Rambam (Hilchos Rotzeach 1:14) and Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 426)…. So surely this is true in our case where the matter might cause actual danger to the lives of others. So there is absolutely no question that if the doctor does not reveal the information to the appropriate agencies now, he will be transgressing by this withholding - of the prohibition of “not standing by the blood of your fellow.” Therefore it is absolutely permitted for the doctor and also is clearly obligatory for him to notify the appropriate government agency or employer concerning the limitation of his patients vision.

Abuse - Molesters and jail time


David Mandel (Director of Ohel)
in the September 2007 Jewish Observer

That most perpetrators do not go to jail is not a Jewish phenomenon. Former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro was noted for her aggressive pursuit of pedophiles. In six years of sting operations, 1999-2005, she succeeded in the arrests of 111 men with a 100% conviction rate. The overwhelming majority received probation with only eight perpetrators sentenced to jail (New York Times, 10.13.06).

However that New York Times article noted that Pirro's conviction rate was inflated by plea bargaining which minimizes the likelihood of going to jail. Other district attorneys had a higher rate of prison sentences

While Ms. Pirro’s press releases repeatedly pointed out that the crimes were felonies punishable by up to four years in state prison for each count, a review of the cases shows that the overwhelming majority of people received sentences that let them avoid extensive jail time.

In most nearby counties, prosecutors have had a higher rate of felony convictions in similar cases, because Ms. Pirro allowed nearly one in five defendants to plead down from felonies to misdemeanors, according to prosecutors’ statistics.

Only eight of the men prosecuted by Ms. Pirro were given outright prison sentences by judges, according to records from the district attorney’s office. The rest, 93 percent, received some form of probation. “In many cases, we asked for jail time and didn’t get it,” Ms. Pirro said.

According to Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the current Westchester district attorney, Janet DiFiore, who has continued the sting program, 54 people indicted in the operation under Ms. Pirro received only probation, generally of five years. Mr. Chalfen said 46 others received so-called shock probation, which called for weekends behind bars.

Two cases went to trial. Both defendants were convicted, but one conviction was overturned on appeal, and the other will be appealed on similar grounds.[...]

Other district attorneys’ offices in counties of comparable size, like Nassau, as well as in larger ones, like Manhattan and Brooklyn, that have prosecuted Internet sex crimes involving the same statute that Ms. Pirro’s office used — attempting to disseminate indecent material to a minor — seem more resistant to bargaining with defendants.

The Nassau County district attorney, Kathleen Rice, said that of the 40 individuals charged by her office since 2001 for trying to sexually entice minors over the Internet, 34 pleaded guilty to the initial felony charge and only one pleaded to a lesser count, harassment. Of the others, one was found guilty, one died and three cases are pending.

“When we have someone arrested on the top count, my general position is, absolutely no pleas,” Ms. Rice said.

Of the 49 people indicted on the felony charge of attempting to disseminate indecent material to a minor in Manhattan between July 1999 and the end of 2005, all but three were convicted on that charge, said Barbara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau. [...]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Economic crisis


Published in Yated Ne'eman

No greater happiness than resolving uncertainty


NYTimes

Seventy-six years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took to the inaugural dais and reminded a nation that its recent troubles “concern, thank God, only material things.” In the midst of the Depression, he urged Americans to remember that “happiness lies not in the mere possession of money” and to recognize “the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success.”

“The only thing we have to fear,” he claimed, “is fear itself.”

As it turned out, Americans had a great deal more to fear than that, and their innocent belief that money buys happiness was entirely correct. Psychologists and economists now know that although the very rich are no happier than the merely rich, for the other 99 percent of us, happiness is greatly enhanced by a few quaint assets, like shelter, sustenance and security. Those who think the material is immaterial have probably never stood in a breadline. [...]

Our national gloom is real enough, but it isn’t a matter of insufficient funds. It’s a matter of insufficient certainty. Americans have been perfectly happy with far less wealth than most of us have now, and we could quickly become those Americans again — if only we knew we had to.

Deprogramming terrorists


Haaretz

Professor Arie Kruglanski, co-director of the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, has interviewed Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in jails in the Philippines and Singapore, among them prisoners who had planned attacks on Israeli embassies. "It's not enough to lock them up in order to punish them," he says. "One should, and can, persuade them to rehabilitate."

Kruglanski, a cognitive social psychologist, has been working with several other researchers from the University of Maryland on a new study financed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The research is aimed to help the administration cope with Muslim detainees who have adhered to the global Jihad ideology; Homeland Security has earmarked $12 million for the project.

The researchers interviewed terrorists of the Abu Sayyaf group and the Moro Liberation Front, both based in the Philippines, as well as the Southeast Asian group Jamaa Islamiya, but have not been allowed to meet the Al-Qaida and Afghani detainees held in Guantanamo - the prison the new U.S. administration is seeking to shut down.

"We are trying to understand," says Kruglanski, "what would persuade detained terrorists to desist from returning to violence." He says initial results indicate at least two primary motives that might cause what is called 'de-radicalization.' One group of motives is intellectual-cognitive and the other is emotional. "On the intellectual-cognitive level, we try to present theological arguments that they might accept. We try to convince them Islam is a religion that forbids harming innocent people. This approach is more effective when you speak with terrorist leaders who possess religious authority. However, in order to persuade them, you have to bring in senior religious personalities whose authority they will accept. You can call it a theological battle of the minds."

This method proved itself, especially in Egypt. Over the past decade, the Egyptian authorities succeeded in convincing Muslim militant groups such as Jamaa Islamiya and the Jihadists to abandon the armed struggle. Those authorities managed to do so with the help of distinguished religious leaders from the Al-Azhar University, who held long meetings with senior leaders from those two terror organizations. After the terrorist leaders were convinced - through the help of theological arguments - they published articles, books and manifests, calling upon their followers to cease terror and violence, and concentrate on political activity and religious studies only.

The second method used to rehabilitate terrorists has been appealing to their emotions. "Terrorists tire in jails," says Kruglanski, "and this opens the door to offer them an alternative. For that you need, of course, to treat their families fairly, and teach them [the reformed terrorists] a profession with which they could make a living and be absorbed into society once they are released from jail."  [...]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lashon harah & fear of reporting abuse


Chofetz Chaim(Lashon HaRah - Introduction):
What is the reason that the prohibition of lashon harah is so widely ignored - by many people? This apparently is the result of a number of reasons – that are different for the masses and the Torah scholars. The masses simply don’t know that the prohibition of lashon harah applies even if the statement is true. There are many talmidei chachomim – even those who have studied the laws thoroughly and are fully aware that it applies even for true statement – who are misled by their yetzer harah in other aspects. First, the yetzer harah immediately convinces him that the person that he is speaking lashon harah about is a phony and it is a mitzva to publicize when a person is phony or evil. Sometimes the yetzer harah tells him that the person being talked about causes disputes, and therefore it is permitted to say lashon harah about him. Sometimes it seduces him by telling him that there is a leniency since it was said before three people. Sometimes the yetzer harah says that there is a leniency if it said in the presence of the person being talked about – and since he would be willing to say it in the presence of the that person - it is permitted. The yetzer harah reveals to the talmid chachom the relevant sources that seem to support his action [see Principles 2,3 and 8). Sometimes the talmid chachom is seduced by the rationale that this matter isn’t included in the prohibition of lashon harah. For example, what many people commonly do because of our many sins - that they publicize that someone isn’t really a sage. [This is discussed in Principle 5]. In sum, the yetzer harah works in one of two ways. Either it seduces by saying that what is being said is not really lashon harah or that the Torah did not prohibit speaking lashon harah about this particular person. And if the yetzer harah sees that it can’t win by minimizing the prohibition - then it goes in the opposite direction. It convinces the person to take a very strict approach and thus all speech is prohibited as lashon harah. Therefore the person concludes that it is simply impossible to participate in society while observing the prohibition of lashon harah . This is like the advice of the cunning Serpent (Bereishis 3:1); You should eat the fruit of the tree – even though G‑d said that it is forbidden.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Abuse by school officials


CBS News

A new federal study, released exclusively to CBS News, reveals hundreds of cases of abuse of students at the hands of school officials -- and even deaths

The report, done by the Government Accountability Office, finds incidents of abuse of restraints and seclusion, among other forms of mistreatment, in public and private schools alike, all across the country, says CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

A congressional panel has scheduled a hearing about the findings for Tuesday, and child advocates are calling for better laws to protect students. [...] The GAO probe finds hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death in schools over the past 20 years, Cordes says -- everything from carpet burns from being dragged to a seclusion room, to bruises from being pinned to the ground. Many of the victims were, like Cedric, children with disabilities.

"Seclusion and restraint should only be used in an emergency situation," says Deborah Ziegler of the Council for Exceptional Children.

And the tactics are used more often than parents might think, Cordes points out. In the 2007-2008 school year alone, the Texas public school system reported 18,741 cases of children being restrained.

Laws vary from state-to-state, Cordes, says, and about half the states have no laws at all. [...]

Internet trained converts


JPost

Rabbinic Conversion Court judges are more likely to reject prospective converts who were partially trained via the Internet, a senior source in the Conversion Authority said Sunday.

According to the source, about 70% of prospective converts who are interviewed by the conversion court are accepted. However, among prospective converts who were trained in part via the Internet, only about half are accepted, said the source.

An interview by a panel of three rabbinical judges is the final stage of the conversion process before the convert is circumcised, immersed in a ritual bath and accepted as a full member of the Jewish people.

In preparation for their meeting with the judges, prospective converts must gain extensive theoretical and practical knowledge about Orthodox Judaism through book learning and participation.

Use of the Internet has been found to be beneficial for some prospective converts, said Prof. Binyamin Ish-Shalom, chairman of the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies, the largest institute for the training of converts.

"We use it primarily with university students who have good learning skills and can make better headway studying independently," said Ish-Shalom.

"Young, bright people do not need to spend as much time in the classroom. So there is no reason for them to be physically present throughout all of the learning process," added Ish-Shalom, who said the Internet was not a substitute for in-person meetings with educators but was used as a supplement.

"Internet is a tool that helps us logistically and educationally," said Ish-Shalom.

However, rabbinical judges strongly oppose the use of Internet training for converts.

"Conversion is not just about collecting a bunch of information," said a conversion court source. "It is about forming significant relationships with rabbis, educators, religious families and members of Orthodox communities. [...]

Sin of not saying lashon harah /Rav Yosef, shlita


Rav Ovadiah Yosef(Yechava Daas 4:60):
Question: A person trying to get a driver’s license has a medical condition that makes his driving dangerous. But the condition is not revealed by the normal medical tests. Is it permitted for the doctor himself or someone who definitely knows about his illness - to notify the licensing bureau to prevent him from getting a license? Is it permitted to reveal this information so that he won’t cause accidents and tragedies with his driving or perhaps the doctor is prevented because of the prohibition of rechilus and lashon harah? Answer: There is a Torah prohibition of not speaking lashon harah (bad things even though they are true)…. However it seems that the prohibition is only when the intent in saying it is to besmirch the person and to degrade him. However if he does it because of a specific benefit or to prevent damage it is permitted. Proof for this is found in the Rambam (Hilchos Rotzeach 1:14): Whoever has the ability to save someone and yet doesn’t - transgresses Vayikra (19:16): Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow man. … Or he heard that non‑Jews or informers were plotting to cause someone harm and yet didn’t warn the intended victim. Or he knows that a non‑Jew or influential person is upset with a fellow Jew and he has the ability to placate them and to eliminate their complaints and doesn’t placate them. And all similar situations which a person doesn’t save his fellowman when he had the ability to do so – has transgressed the prohibition of “don’t stand idly by the blood of your fellow man.” This is also the view of the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 426:1). Therefore in our case where he has a hidden medical condition such as epilepsy and he conceals this from the license bureau in order to obtain a license and it is possible that he will suffer an attack while he is driving and this might cause a dangerous accident – G‑d forbid! – it is certain that the person who knows about this condition has an obligation and mitzva to notify the license bureau about this illness to prevent damage and danger to society. Even though the doctor has an obligation of confidentiality, but in these circumstances it is a mitzva for him to notify the license bureau. There is not the slightest concern that this is prohibited. In fact this is the way to understand the verse regarding lashon harah. “Do not speak lashon harah but don’t stand idly by concerning the blood of your fellow.” Even though there is a prohibition of lashon harah, nevertheless the second clause of the verse tells you that it is conditional on this not causing harm. Therefore you are obligated to inform others regarding certain matters in order to them to guard against loss and danger. This is expressed in Nidah (61a) that even though it is prohibited to listen to lashon harah but you should protect yourself from the potential danger you hear about. The Rambam (Mitzva 297) says that protecting another’s money is also included in “don’t stand idly by concerning the blood of your fellow.” … Therefore even if there is only a financial loss, one should inform your fellow man in order that he can protect himself from those who want to harm him. And surely when there is a possible danger to an individual or a group. [See Rashba (Shabbos 44a)]. We find a similar view expressed by the Pischei Teshuva (O.C. 156): “The Magen Avraham and all the mussar book go into great detail about how serious the sin of lashon harah. However I want to describe the opposite issue. There is a greater sin than lashon harah and it is more common. It is refrain from revealing information from others in situations that they need to know to protect their property or themselves from harm – all because of the concern not to say lashon harah… These matters are given over to the heart. If the motivation of the speaker of lashon harah is to cause another harm – then that is prohibited. But if his intent is for the good to warn another person and save him – then it is a great mitzva and he will receive beracha for telling it.” We find this view also expressed by the Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Issurei Rechilus #9):”If you know about a business deal that will definitely cause someone a loss – you have an obligation to inform that person. Similarly if you know about a person with a serious disease who is interested in getting engaged to a particular woman – it is important to reveal this information to her parents. Of course it is important not to say more than what he actually knows and that his motivation is purely for the benefit of those concerned so that they will not be harmed. He should not have the intent to besmirch another because of jealously or hatred he has in his heart.”… Therefore in our case regarding the man with an undetectable medical condtion trying to get a driver’s license such as epilepsy – there is an obligation to notify the license bureau concerning what he knows in order to prevent damage to life and property. [See previous posts]

Obama gambles our future


Newsweek

[...] The Obama budgets flirt with deferred distress, though we can't know what form it might take or when it might occur. Present gain comes with the risk of future pain. As the present economic crisis shows, imprudent policies ultimately backfire, even if the reversal's timing and nature are unpredictable.

The wonder is that these issues have been so ignored. Imagine hypothetically that a President McCain had submitted a budget plan identical to Obama's. There would almost certainly have been a loud outcry: "McCain's Mortgaging Our Future." Obama should be held to no less exacting a standard.

Wife abuse vs spousal abuse/RaP


Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

I noticed that in your latest "mission statement" you state:

"...At the present time I am writing a source book dealing with the issue of child and wife abuse."

What about husbands, are they never abused? I would like to offer a suggestion and some reasons for it and I hope that you can act on it. Firstly, I would like to point out to you a blatant error on your part based on simple pure Torah hashkofa. And that is, that when HKB"H created Chava FROM Adam, the Torah says that she is to be an "ezer kenegdo" and as you know the chazal teach as reported by Rashi "ezer kenegdo" means that if the man/husband is zocheh she/the wife is an "ezer" and if not she will be "kenegdo". Thus, from this yesod we learn that there is a symbiotic interplay between a man/husband's zechusim and the woman/wife he gets, and that the woman is perfectly capable of being the cause of the downfall of a man/husband....

Secondly, another key lesson is from the events of the chet of Adam HaRishon, that it was Chava who brought about his downfall, after she was seduced (and raped) by the nachash, and in turn she and all womankind was cursed by HKB"H to be subservient to her husband as the posuk says "v'el isheich teshukoseich vehu yimshol bach".

The Torah says that the correct order is for the man/husband to rule his family and for the wife/woman to follow (of course, we know that the Torah then elevates women as in all the examples of the Imahos) but Torah Judaism does not subscribe to modern women's liberation and its various pro-women egalitarian agendas simply because it is not needed in a true Torah society and you should not, even inadvertently, be feeding into that current of advocating only for women/wives when it is a two way street and both men/husbands and women/wives need to be reminded EQUALLY how to respect each other and not abuse each other and to be respectful spouses.

Thirdly, you seem to be falling into the politically correct trap of only speaking out as an advocate for females/wives, when men/husbands need advocates as much as their female counterparts, just that men differ from women biologically as you know, so the focus is different. While women lack men's physical strength they are nevertheless fully capable of inflicting damaging and irreparable harm and pain on men in other emotional, mental and social ways.

Finally, as a psychologist you should be fully aware of the various non-verbal and sub-conscious ways that ALL women operate in all spheres and that when it comes to couples counseling the given principle, no matter what the present issues may seem to be between a couple, is that it is ALWAYS assumed to be 50-50 and in any problem between any couple the key is to accurately identify/diagnose and successfully cure (if possible) the source of the friction that the couple is creating between them as it never comes from the man/husband alone or vice versa. The couple is one unit and they are each other's spouses

Examples of husband and male abuse by women/wives in Orthodox and Haredi society can come in various ways, such as:1) Following outside society's immorality and slipping into infidelity and cheating on their husbands and hence producing mamzerim and the husbands who are fooled into thinking that a child is theirs when its not.

2) Siding with an outside person to "triangulate" against the husband, by aligning with interfering parents, nosy and busybody therapists, rebbetzins, rosh yeshivas or mashpi'im and friends who may be advising the woman to confront her husband and seek a divorce or alimony as weapons.

3) Ganging up with the children against the father and undermining his role as the "rosh hamishpocha" with devastating results for the father's ability to discipline his children and leading to his loss of self-esteem as a father and provider and maybe causing the father to lash out against his children when he is really trying to get at his wife but is afraid of her. This continues even after divorce where child custody is made difficult by the mother's (the ex-wife) actions alone and in demanding hefty divorce settlements in "gold-digger" style!

4) Cases of physical abuse also abound where women/wives react physically with either temper
tantrums, screaming, breaking objects and even hitting the children and the husband, all of which does happen and is recorded

5) Extreme cases where women attack their husbands violently, such as the "Lorena Bobbit case" (not Jewish I admit, but it is a threat) where she castrated her husband while he slept, or the recent case of a Jewish Bucharin woman in NYC jailed for life because she had hired a hit man to kill her husband over a child custody dispute and he did. There are many cases where it is the mothers who are abusing the children as well as abusing their husbands all in one stream of action.

Therefore I hope I have made my point and I strongly suggest that you remove the word "wife abuse" and replace it with "spouse abuse" or "spousal abuse" that shows your neutrality in the matter and that in your research and source book you will also include the subject of how husbands can be and are abused by their wives, often in collusion with an outside person against the husband resulting in husband abuse that leads to troubled relationships, broken marriages, divorces, transgression of Halacha and even criminal acts and proceedings where the wife/woman is the guilty party and the husband/man is the innocent victim.
======================================
DT:
Thanks for your comments. Originally I was planning on doing spousal abuse as well as bullying of children etc. The issue came down to the fact that there is a lot of solid material in halachic sources for physical and sexual abuse - but very little dealing with the issue of psychological abuse which is more typical for husbands. There are cases of husband's being beaten - but it is not the typical case.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Beis Din ordered to justify annuled conversions


JPost followup of JPost

The High Court of Justice on Monday issued a suspended injunction to the Rabbinic Court ordering it to explain within 90 days why it nullified the conversions made by special courts headed by former National Conversion Authority chief Rabbi Haim Druckman and how it the authority to do so.

The ruling came in response to a petition filed jointly by the Center for Justice for Women, other organizations and two women whose conversions were invalidated.

In addition, the High Court extended the temporary injunction so that the appellants - whose Judaism was cast into doubt by the Rabbinic Court - could be removed from its list of people forbidden from marrying until a ruling is made on the matter.

The petitioners asked the High Court to obligate the country's rabbinic courts to recognize every conversion registered by the National Conversion Authority and by the Interior Ministry, and to instruct the rabbinic registry office to marry all converts who appear before them without raising doubts about their conversions or declaring them as forbidden for marriage.

The call to cancel the conversions was made by Dayan (religious court judge) Avraham Attia, a member of the Ashdod District Rabbinical Court, and was upheld in a ruling by Dayan Avraham Sherman of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in February 2008.

The ruling stemmed from a specific case in which the Ashdod court retroactively annulled a woman's conversion that was performed by Druckman 17 years ago.

The decision to annul the conversion was made after it became known that she never adhered to Orthodox Jewish practice after her conversion. As a result, the Jewish status of the woman's four children was annulled.[...]

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rav Shlomo Aviner - Reporting child abuse


Torat HaRav Aviner - #17 May 2009


We unfortunately see a phenomenon of unbridled parental child-beating, and there are also cases of parents or other relatives raping boys or girls. This heinous phenomenon exists in the same percentages amongst the religious as amongst the secular.[Couldn't find any statistics to support his assertion that there is greater incidence amongst religious and a number of psychologists who work with abuse said they never saw any data supporting this claim and so I deleted it] but it gets reported only when matters get too far out of hand, or it comes to light by itself, and by then many more cases crop up.

And why don’t people report it? “It constitutes forbidden gossip… It might destroy the lives of the abuser… it’s unsavory to report it… it will bring calamity on the abuser and his family…” Obviously, all this is wrong. This is the sort of report that one can and must make. After all, the child is small, and who will protect him? It’s one thing if abuse happens outside of a family. One can hope that perhaps the family will stop it and protect the child, but if it occurs within the family, the child has no one to save him. Therefore, whoever knows about it has to report it. Obviously, first one has to talk with the parents, or with the teacher if he is the abuser. If they stop and go for treatment, all the better. If not, however, one is required to report to the welfare department or the police. Some among the Chareidim argue that one is forbidden to report abuse in accordance with the Jewish law that one is forbidden to be a “mosser”, i.e., a person who “betrays a Jew to the non-Jewish courts”, which, by analogy, they apply to the courts of the State of Israel. Yet that is wrong as well, because the child’s life is at stake. The author of the book “Nishmat Avraham”, Rabbi Dr. A. Avraham, relates that he asked the illustrious rabbis of our generation, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg and Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv about this, and all of them said that it is a mitzvah to report the abuse, and the person who does so is no “mosser.”

Quite the contrary, the parents or family members or the teacher who commits the abuse, whether physical or sexual, is to be categorized as a “rodef,” an attacker, and one who reports a “rodef” is not to be classed as a “moser." Those same rabbis rule that even if, as a result, the child will be removed from his family and placed into a secular institution or adopted by secular parents, or – in cases abroad – even if he is placed in an institution of non-Jews – this is a matter of life and death. We must certainly strive to have the child not undergo such placement, but even if there is a chance it will happen, as noted, this is a matter of life and death (Nishmat Adam, Vol. 4, page 207). [...]

EJF promotes conversion for intermarried


Recipients and Publicity commentary on latest developments with EJF "Eternal Jewish Family - R' Tropper's blog":


EJF promotes conference with Kiruv organizations, while its theme is "Converting Intermarried Couples", yet is set to promote the toughest approach to conversion itself, as EJF and Rabbi Tropper are forced to issue an official public apology and explanation to the RCA over another conversion incident. Firstly the apology:

(1) EJF and Rabbi Tropper have issued the following on the official EJF website:

"EJF Updates 05/11/2009

EJF Clarifies Stand on RCA Geyrus

A media report that appeared to challenge the validity of a geyrus performed by a rabbi affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) was not authorized by EJF. The report made it appear as if EJF was critical of the geyrus, when in fact EJF was never privy to the circumstances behind the giyur. While questions were raised about the procedure that led up to the giyur, EJF at no time ruled on the status of the conversion. It likewise never authorized anyone affiliated with the organization to address the giyur in the media. EJF International apologizes for any misunderstanding, particularly in a case where the Rosh Bais Din who performed the conversion is a true Talmid Chacham. In commenting on the giyur, Rabbi Leib Tropper noted, “Our standards that are based on the halachic rulings of past and present gedolei yisroel are well known and not subject to compromise. Both EJF and RCA agree that any differences should be aired between rabbinic leaders of both organizations and not in the media.” [to finish reading click on this link and read comments]

Pischei Tshuva (O.C. 156): Not speaking lashon harah might be sinful

Pischei Tshuva (O.C. 156): I want to note here that while all the books of mussar are greatly concerned about the sin of lashon harah, I am greatly concerned about the opposite problem. I want to protest about the even greater and more common sin of refraining from speaking negatively when it is necessary to save someone from being harmed. For example if you saw a person waiting in ambush to kill someone or breaking into someone’s house or store at night. Is it conceivable that you would refrain from notifying the intended victim to protect himself from the assailant - because of the prohibition of speaking lashon harah? By not saying anything you commit the unbearable sin of transgressing the prohibition of Vayikra (19:16): Do not speak lashon harah [but] do not stand idly by when the blood of your fellow man is threatened? By not speaking up, you violate the mitzva of returning that which is lost to its owner Devarim (22:2). Now if you can understand the obvious necessity of speaking up in these cases then what is the difference between a robber breaking into someone’s house or store or seeing that his servants are secretly stealing from him or that his partner is deceiving him in their business or that another person is cheating him in commerce or that he is lending money to someone that you know doesn’t repay? How is this different from stopping a proposed marriage to someone you know is a wicked person who would be a horrible husband. Saving a person from these situations is clearly included in the command (Devarim 22:2) to return to the person himself or his money. From where do we get the mistaken idea that in the case of murder, I will speak up but that it is prohibited to say anything in other situations where someone is being harmed? The general principle is that these are matters which depend upon the speakers motivation. If the informant’s intent in relating these matters is entirely to cause harm that is lashon harah. However if his intent is to bring about benefit to the other person and to save him and to protect him – then it is a great mitzva. In my opinion this is the underlying intent of the Yerushalmi which the Magen Avraham brings which says that it is permitted to speak lashon harah about people who cause disputes. … It is obvious that even concerning those who cause disputes it is not permitted to speak lashon harah gratuitously about them in all matters. It is only permitted for those things directly related to the particular dispute. It is only permitted concerning that which they are trying to harm others. In such a case it is permitted to reveal degrading things about them in order to save others. … Unfortunately I have seen many times where someone witnesses another person trying to cause harm to someone – and he suppresses the information and says, “Why should I get involved in a matter which isn’t my business…However one needs to be very careful about these and similar matters. Our Sages have said – when the permissibility depends on motivation - it says, “And you should be afraid of your G‑d.”

[See also Rav Sternbuch's teshuva on this subject]

Mussar becomes Life Coaching


YNet reports:

Beginning next school year, students at the Orot Aviv yeshiva in Tel Aviv will be offered personal life coaching sessions to help them "better connect with their Torah studies."

The lessons will be offered by the yeshiva's rabbis, who are currently undergoing training.

Rabbi Mishael Cohen, head of the Orot Aviv Yeshiva, stresses that the personal coaching project is aimed at providing the students with the "necessary tools to study Torah and work on his character

According to the yeshiva, in this era of television and the internet the students are finding it difficult to concentrate and relate to the texts, and are therefore in need of professional assistance. Rabbi Ettinger of the Orot Aviv yeshiva says the lessons will be based on "Jewish books that deal with morality, such as Mesilat Yesharim (Path of the Just)." [...]

Friday, May 15, 2009

Blog readership - worldwide - including Arabs


I was recently checking the blog statistics and I noticed an interesting change concerning the location of readers.

Besides getting readers from the United States and Canada,  I have regulars from Brazil and South America - aside from a certain Brazilan billionaire. There are many readers from London as well as Germany and even Shanghai and India. There are a few from Italy and Romania. However  I also notice that there are Arab readers from Jordan and Oman who seemed fascinated by an old post from Jersey Girl - Should Jews hate Arabs?


Rav Sternbuch, shlita - 600,000 leaders

Abuse: Difficult issues / Case of Colmer


Jewish Week

A married Jew with peyos and a black hat, Stefan Colmer used to spend hours, according to reports, reading the Talmud in the main study hall of the Mirrer Yeshiva on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. While there, he also befriended some boys in and around the yeshiva and, on occasion, invited a few of them to his nearby home.

And, according to a source close to the case, Colmer allegedly sexually abused several of them — in addition to other young boys from the “general neighborhood” near the yeshiva, a law enforcement source believes.

Colmer, 32, who moved to Israel in early 2007, weeks before any of his alleged victims approached the police, was extradited to Brooklyn in January 2008 and is now being held at Rikers Island, awaiting trial on charges that he sodomized two teenage boys, both 13 at the time, on numerous occasions. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted on all charges.

What isn’t in the criminal charges against Colmer is that, according to numerous sources familiar with the facts, several years before allegedly abusing the two victims named in the May 2007 indictment he was treated in the sex-offender program of a prominent Jewish agency — only to leave of his own volition before his treatment was completed.

Yet, until his arrest in June 2007, Colmer had never been reported by anyone to the police — not by his alleged victims, their parents or community members who knew of allegations against him — a fact confirmed by a law enforcement source who notes that, until 2007, Colmer had a “clean record.”

Further, because Colmer was never reported to the police and thus came to the agency, Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, without a mandate from the court, when he dropped out of its offender program around 2002, according to friends, Ohel was not required to report him to the authorities for non-compliance. For the same reason, his activities were not monitored and his name did not appear on any public registries designed to alert the public to those who might pose a danger to children.

The Colmer case and the way it was apparently handled illuminates a controversial debate raging in the Orthodox community in the wake of the cases of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, Avrohom Mondrowitz and others: whether suspected cases of child sexual abuse should be dealt with “internally” — even if only initially — by rabbis or professionals within the Orthodox community, or whether they should be handed directly over to law enforcement for investigation.

No one interviewed for this story suggested that Ohel did anything illegal by apparently not reporting Colmer to the authorities after he dropped out of treatment. Indeed, laws about confidentiality that govern the doctor-patient relationship limit what a psychologist can divulge about his patient. Nonetheless, there are those who believe that in a case like Colmer’s, reporting would not have constituted a breach of doctor-patient privilege.

Treating someone who has not been mandated by the courts is “a complex and dangerous situation,” said Dr. Michael Salamon, a New York-based psychologist who has had experience in this area. “As I learned it, and teach it to others [you are permitted] to report if there is any reasonable cause to suspect that this person is a danger to himself or others. If I were a supervisor in a case [where someone who was not mandated for treatment dropped out] I would insist on calling the state hotline [of Child Protective Services] for guidance.”

Given this, Colmer’s case raises several thorny questions: Should Ohel have agreed to treat Colmer, knowing that he had never been reported to the police? Is there a will on the part of the community and its institutions to reform reporting policies and practices to plug what appears to be a gaping hole in the reporting system, one that leaves children unprotected from men like Colmer? And, most pressing of all, who, in the end, should bear responsibility for what happened to the two innocent 13-year-old alleged victims of Colmer, whose lives will likely never be the same? [...]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meir Briskman - refuses to divorce wife

This item is from a year ago - unfortunately he hasn't been caught yet because he clearly has misguided figures who are providing him with support.

YNET reports: Rabbinical Court shuns divorce refuser.


Panel of judges, rabbis issue ads condemning Jerusalem resident for refusing to grant his wife divorce for five years, asking public to refrain from allowing him to join any congregation, associating with him, or granting him lodging. In an unprecedented move, the High Rabbinical Court on Sunday called on the observant public to shun a resident of Jerusalem who has been refusing to grant his wife a divorce for five years.

The man, Israel Meir Briskman, fled the country despite a hold-departure order filed against him, and is presumed to be residing in the United States. In ads published in Israel and abroad, a panel of rabbinical court judges calls out to the public to refrain from allowing Briskman to join a congregation or from associating with him for business or pleasure.

The judges also ask that the public refuse him any lodging, with or without pay, including patient visitation rights."The High Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem calls on the Israeli communities and the judges and rabbis of Israel wherever they may be to implement these rules of alienation and refuse the 'divorce refuser' Israel Meir Briskman any financial, physical, or legal aid until he carries out his sentence and grants his wife an unconditional, immediate divorce," the judges stated in the ad.

Briskman has been known to employ any and all tactics in order to evade the pending divorce. After the court granted his wife custody of their children, he announced that he would not allow for the divorce until he receives custody of his son. Later he made claims to property his wife's father was said to have promised the couple.

Briskman's sentence prevents him from receiving "permission by one hundred rabbis" to wed another woman, as the sentence to grant his wife a divorce has been forced upon him by the court. The court also sentenced Briskman to a prison term of up to one year, or until he grants the divorce.

If you know the whereabouts or other information regarding Yisrael Meir Briskman, please contact the Directorate of the Israeli Rabbinical Courts immediately:Tel: +972 – 2 – 6582823 Tel/Voicemail: +972 – 2- 6582833Fax: +972 – 2-6515499 Email: Panatz@rbc.gov.il

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Psychologist sues over false charges


NY Daily News

An Upper East Side psychologist is suing the city for $5 million, saying a false claim that he had a hidden camera in his office bathroom nearly destroyed his career.

"They say it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 20 minutes to destroy it," said Dr. Robert Reiner, an often-quoted expert on virtual reality therapy for phobias, who has appeared on "The Tyra Banks Show," MTV and NBC.

"This has been a nightmare," he said, after filing a notice of claim in Manhattan Supreme Court

Reiner was arrested on March 26, after a patient on his third visit spotted a camera in the bathroom light bulb in Reiner's E. 90th St. office and called cops.

The Manhattan district attorney's office found a camera hidden in a light bulb, but it did not work and was not hooked up to a monitoring device, court records show.

Reiner, 56, who runs a practice of nearly two dozen counselors, was cleared of all charges on May 1. But, he said, the attention from his arrest has had a "tremendous effect" on his business and family.

His chief of staff has quit. His latest book release was delayed. His patients are canceling. His kids are mocked at school.

And his boss at New York University Medical Center, where he has worked for more than 25 years, wrote him a letter, demanding an explanation.

Reiner said he used the bulb/camera to monitor his five children near the trampoline and pool at their Westchester County home. He said he brought it to work because he needed the code number on the camera to order a new one.

A contractor working in the office at night as part of an office expansion project told investigators he could not find a bulb when the light blew out in the bathroom, so he screwed in the broken one he found on Reiner's desk.

Reiner's lawyer, Neil Wollerstein, said his client's office was full of patients when officers stormed in with guns out to confiscate the practice's computers, including patients' confidential records. [...]

Libel suits & Unintended Consequences


Going through the various thoughtful and erudite comments regarding freedom of speech certain practical conclusions can be drawn.

1) One has total freedom of speech if no one cares what you say

2) Anonymous statements and blogs are much freer and safer than those blogs or media in which the author is known. This is because there is a major barrier to first identifying the person you might want to sue.

3) Comments that are clearly seen by the average person as motivated totally to hurt another are much more readily restricted than those that are possibly motivated by good or neutral intentions.

4) Comments made about rich and powerful people are more risky than about someone who has no money and is not influential.

5) Free speech is much more likely to be allowed if the attempts to suppress it leads to a more negative view of the focus of the comments than the comments itself.

7) Free speech is more likely if the publicity around the attempt to suppress it brings to light negative information that is more harmful to the person's reputation than the original claims.

8) Newspapers and other public media are much safer places to express views which are critical of others. While the blogs are very accessible and cost nothing to express views - they are completely vulnerable to extortion of those who have the time and money to sue or at least threaten to sue.

In view of the above, it would seem that if the issues recently suppressed were picked up by newspapers or anonymous blogs, the likelihood of free speech being suppressed would be much less. The fear of antagonizing a newspaper - because of the negative publicity that would be generated and uncovered - would minimize the likelihood of attack and also would minimize the likelihood of successfully suppressing the view. In addition the newspaper has the resources that would make any attack a financially costly and uncertain enterprise

It is ironic that the recipients of the greatest benefit from this situation are Rabbi Tropper and Thomas Kaplan. It is also interesting that the issues being criticized were introduced by the R' Tropper's ardent defender - Roni. The person who precipitated the present situation will must likely find that it has become a tar baby. A classic case of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

NY Assembly passes gay marriage bill


NY Times

ALBANY — The State Assembly approved legislation on Tuesday night that would make New York the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage — a pivotal vote that shifts the debate to the State Senate, where gay rights advocates and conservative groups alike are redoubling their efforts.

In a sign of how opinion in Albany has shifted on the issue, several members of the Assembly who voted against the measure in 2007 voted in favor of it on Tuesday. The final vote was 89 to 52, including the backing of five Republicans.

Supporters of the bill aggressively sought new votes, particularly from Assembly members whose districts lie within Senate districts where a senator’s vote is believed to be in play. As a matter of strategy, same-sex marriage advocates said that they hoped to use those votes as a way to leverage support from senators who are worried that supporting the measure could cost them politically.

“The margin of victory and the balance of where the people come from who voted for this is broadening,” said Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Democratic assemblyman from the Upper West Side who led the effort in the Assembly to gain support for the bill. “The state is demanding that we provide equality, and that’s the message here.”As the Assembly prepared to vote on Tuesday, advocates on both sides of the issue were gearing up for campaigns to sway undecided senators.[...]

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Prohibitions - need to desire & yet avoid them


Shaloh (Asarah Mamaros 3-4:28): ... Chullin (109b): Yalsa said to her husband R’ Nachman: “We have a rule that whatever the Torah prohibits there is something similar to it which is permitted. Blood is prohibited while liver is permitted. A woman is prohibited as a nidah but is permitted when she is pure, of a domesticated animal is prohibited but is permitted from non‑domesticated beasts, pig is prohibited by the similar tasting shebuta is permitted, the girutha bird is prohibited but the similar tasting tongue of fish is permitted, a married woman is prohibited but a divorce is permitted even though her former husband is alive, one’s sister in law is prohibited but she is permitted when the brother dies, a non‑Jewish woman is prohibited but a yofas to’ar is permitted. I want to know what it is like to eat meat cooked in milk?” R’ Nachman told the cook to prepare fried udder for her. This seems problematic. Why was such a distinguished woman such as Yalsa discussing such an apparently trivial topic with her husband? It is doubly puzzling why our Sages saw fit to record this in the Talmud? My father explained that this is based on the principle that all that is prohibited is because G‑d wants it prohibited – not because it isn't pleasurable. Therefore the sole reason for not enjoying these pleasures is because G‑d prohibited them. This is similar to Toras Cohanim(Kedoshim): A person should not say that it is impossible to eat pig but he should say that it is possible but what can he do since G‑d has prohibited him from eating it. Yalsa wanted to know what she was missing by observing the prohibition of meat and milk. By knowing what pleasure she was prohibited she could have a genuine desire for the prohibited pleasure that she would refrain from solely because of G‑d's command. That is why the taste of the shebuta fish is like that of pork so that a person can no what pork tastes like and know that it is good and desire it but at the same time refrain from eating it solely because G‑d told him not to eat it. The Torah has forbidden us to eat meat and milk. She wanted to know what meat and milk tasted like so she could desire and then not eat it because G‑d said not to. Therefore her husband told her to eat fried udder which has the taste of meat and milk.

Rambam(Shemona Perakim 6): We find that to have a strong desire to sin is much better and perfect than not having any desire and not suffering from avoiding the sin. … In fact our Sages say that,“the greater the person is the greater is his yetzer harah.” Not only that but they say that the reward for self‑control is proportional to effort required for that self‑control, “According to the suffering is the reward.” Furthermore they caution a person from saying, “I naturally don’t have a desire for this sin even if the Torah hadn’t prohibited this.” That is expressed by R’ Shimon ben Gamliel:” A person should not say that it is impossible for me to eat meat and milk together or that it is impossible for me to wear shatnez or that it is impossible for me to have sexual relations with this woman who is prohibited by the Torah. But in fact it is possible but G‑d has decreed that it is prohibited.”… However those things that the philosophers say are bad and that it is much better that a person not have desire for them – that refers to things which are widely perceived by people to be bad - such as murder, robbery, stealing, fraud, harming an innocent person, harming someone who has helped you, ridiculing parents and other similar matters. These well known things are what our Sages said: “That even if they had not been prohibited by the Torah it would have been assumed that they were prohibited.”… These well known wrongs are called by some scholars as “rational mitzvos”. One who desires to violate a “rational mitzva” is obviously an imperfect being. That is because a perfected person has absolutely no desire to do this type of evil and is not upset by avoiding them. However those things which our Sages were saying that it is best to overcome a desire for them - are the religious mitzvos. Because if the Torah had not been given they would not be viewed as bad at all. For this type our Sage say that it is it is only the Torah which prevents a person from doing them.

Chareidi housing disaster


YNET reports

Following a High Court ruling, the Defense Ministry decided two weeks ago to hand over to the residents of the West Bank village of Bilin 185 acres which they claimed had been expropriated from them, a move leading to a possible new route separation fence route.

The direct result of the ministry's decision is that a project including 1,100 housing units for the ultra-Orthodox public in Modiin Illit's Matityahu neighborhood is slated to be canceled.

"This may worsen the housing shortage in the haredi sector, which has yet to receive a constitutional response," says Dr. Rina Degani, research director and managing director at Geocartography, which recently examined the situation of the haredi housing market.

According to the findings of a Geocartography survey, the growth rate in the haredi sector creates a fixed demand for some 6,500 housing deals a year – about 6.5% of all deals in the residential real estate field carried out in the past two years.

Modiin illit has some 40,000 residents due to the comfortable housing prices and the communal fabric, which meets the target audience's demands.

According to a study carried out by Geocartography's economic division, the demand for apartments in the haredi sector requires the construction of at least 4,000 new flats every year, in addition to some 2,500 second-hand apartments. [...]