Monday, January 4, 2010

Between a rock and a hard place

The present situation is one fraught with dangers and opportunities. The above phrase originated in the 1920's in America to describe coal miners who were forced to work in dangerous conditions in the mines or to suffer starvation and unemployment. There are in fact many problems with society and there are many problematic individuals.  There are also beautiful pleople as well as flawed people who sometimes do fantastic things. Whether, how and if they should be dealt with is not an easy decision. No matter what is done - somebody is hurt or humilated while trying to help and improve the lot of someone else. It is definitely not a win-win situation in terms of human perception - though it clearly is from the view of Heaven.

I have recently been sent a number of emails describing the problematic actions of rabbis, loving parents who are also child molesters, thiefs and other deviants. At the same time I have received a steady stream of complaints from people that clearly agree with how I see reality and what has to be done but strongly (euphemism) denounce me and predict that I am going to a warm place in the Next World for violating their understanding of the Chofetz Chaim or for getting in the mud to get the wagons going again. They question whether there is a heter because of to'eles for printing the information that I am. That even if my information is correct, all talmidei chachom are presumed to do tshuva within 12 hours and there are alternative ways of dealing with it, or this is Olam HaZeh and G-d will take care of His vineyard.

People! It is time to realize we are living in a self produced bubble that has insulated us from reality. It is our obligation to correct our society and not wait for Moshiach coming and cleaning up the mess.

On the other hand, to be effect I can't lose the good elements of our society and get labeled as a garbage can spewing forth filth. This blog is a very delicate balancing act and I don't claim to always get it right - but I sure don't have the right not to try because I have in fact been effective in accomplishing things that could not be accomplished in more subtle ways.

Therefore please continue to send in your comments, but try not to get so mad if I don't publish your latest discovery of a scandal or remove posts that offend someone.


  1. Funny, I always imagined there was an especially warm place for those who wrap themselves up in the Torah on someone else's cheshbon (or as iirc the story told by Rabbi Amital since before Yeshivat Har Etzion's inception, that one's study of Torah needs to sensitize one to the "Crying baby" of the Jewish people.)

    and guess what -life is complex and one needs to continually balance seemingly conflicting Torah values. Keep up the good fight.
    Joel Rich

  2. meinyan leinyan beosso inyanJanuary 4, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    Rav Eidensohn, I would have thought there is a difference between any new expose in the velt arein and something that you specifically requested documentation for.

  3. meinyan leinyan beosso inyan said...

    Rav Eidensohn, I would have thought there is a difference between any new expose in the velt arein and something that you specifically requested documentation for.
    your information was requested and is very important. However it is also a very difficult problem which will detracts or undermines dealing with Tropper.

    Hopefully I can try dealing with it appropriately in the near future.

  4. You are doing an exceptional job on the balancing act and with triage. It's like trying to walk a straight line during a hurricane, given all that's coming down right now.

  5. Rav Eidensohn-

    You are not really caught between a rock and a hard place. In fact, you have remained remarkably clear and consistent on the issues under discussion. You have provided much clarity even as others strive mightily to fog the arena.

    Those who stand al regel achas are the ones between a rock and a hard place. The gyrations and gymnastics are interesting- and amusing- to watch. It is they who must explain away not only outrageous behaviors but they must justify turning a blind eye as well. All the while they musrt appear to be scrupulously 'erlich'.

    This is Korach all over again. The end of this debacle and chilul hashem will be the same. They will be swallowed whole by an aggrieved community.

    In the end it will be clear who is really between the rock and hard place.

  6. Maybe a better title would be Between a Frock and a hard place.

  7. Is the Barros from South Fallsburg related to Rabbi Gershom Barros in Providence?

  8. Gershom & Yaakov may be brothers or cousins. The question is did Yaakov live on African-Portugese island of Cape Verde before Brazil. In any case, many of the people in both these places look similar as they are melting pots of mixed races, Black, Hispanic and White Europeans.

    It's not exactly clear how Gershom Barros in Rhode Island is a "rabbi", or even mainstream orthodox, even though he is in charge of the chevra kadisha and acts as chaplain in the prisons.

    On the one hand, you see him in this picture discussing the Providence eruv with R' Lazer Gibber, R' Yechezkel Yudkowsky & R' Moshe Heinemann, but on the other hand, he attended an interfaith Pesach Seder in 2008 at a Catholic Church that was led by a woman rabbi. This article about the Seder from the Boston Globe tells you about his background:

    The Jewish presence on Cape Verde can be traced back to its earliest days, when Portugal discovered and claimed the tiny chain of islands off the west coast of Africa in the mid-1400s. With the start of the Inquisition, many Jews, forced to convert or hide their identity, fled to Cape Verde and other Portuguese colonies in hopes of getting out from under the heel of the religious authorities.

    Starting in the mid-1800s, Jews from Morocco began going to the islands. While these newcomers eventually assimilated into the general population, their imprint remains in family names like Cohen, Levy, and Wahnon, a name borne by the country's first elected prime minister. There is also a village called Sinagoga (synagogue) and a few cemeteries with Hebrew inscriptions.

    Because the connection is so attenuated by time and intermarriage, it is nearly impossible to estimate the number of Cape Verdeans with Jewish ancestry. But the renewed interest has led some Cape Verdeans to acknowledge and explore what had only been suspicions.

    Schwartz said that when he took an informal poll at a Seder planning meeting, one-third of the Cape Verdeans said they thought they had Jewish ancestry, including people he had worked with for years. "I had no idea," he recalled.

    Other Cape Verdeans have long been aware of their Jewish background and proudly acknowledge it. "My father told us about the Jews in our family," said Jacinto Benros, who is 75 and lives in Providence. (New England is home to the largest population of Cape Verdean immigrants and descendants in the country, estimated by the US State Department at a few hundred thousand.)

    Other Cape Verdeans have taken recognition of their Jewish heritage much further. Gershom Barros, whose father was Cape Verdean, underwent the exhaustive process of converting to Orthodox Judaism. Barros didn't know his father had Jewish roots until after he died.

    "My mother told me she used to call my grandmother a crazy lady for lighting candles in the closet," he said, suggesting that she practiced secret Jewish customs passed down for generations, as has been noted among other descendants of Portuguese and Spanish Jews who were forced to hide their identities.

    Barros drove up to the Seder from Providence with his friend Pedro BenOliel, who was born in Cape Verde and also identifies himself as Jewish.

    All of this has fascinated Marilyn Halter, a Jewish history professor at Boston University who wrote a seminal book on Cape Verdean immigration to the United States, and married a Cape Verdean-American.

    "We're the model couple," said Halter, who helped organize this year's Seder.

  9. Rabbi Eidensohn, you're doing a superb job. You're a fish struggling to swim upstream, the way a kosher Jew is supposed to be. Tisku l'mitzvos.

  10. Rav Eidensohn, I think you are one of the precious brave few in the frum world who are able to do this sensitive balancing act. You give much chizuk to us in the middle who care deeply about Orthodox Judaism, yet feel there must be some changes instituted to solve some of our serious problems. Keep up the good work!

  11. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    Your dilemma is alas the dilemma facing the community, how to accomplish some necessary tikkun in the face of some individuals who have taken advantage of their chezkas kashrus. Regarding overnight tshuvah, that too is more applicable to some, especially those who are talmidei chachomim as evidenced by behaviors patterns of yiras shamayim. If such individuals get to flout the rules of tshuvah then a mockery is made of the idea of tshuvah.

    However we got into this situation, the way out cannot be found without a willingness to confront some misconduct. It makes no difference if those perpertrating the misconduct were the baggodim of chareidim.

    Perhaps the aftermath will be a deeper attention to the true substance of erlichkeit instead of being distracted by packaging.

    Thank you for your efforts. Notwithstanding our disagreements on some points I think you are right to say that there are things that must be dealt with.



  12. You are very wise to concentrate on the area where most crucial area of the cancer is, Tropper!

  13. While I've pretty much given up on 'Orthodox Judaism', I admire your sincere efforts to 'reform' (I really should think of a better word! ;) ) it.

  14. Shannon Orand's children have been attending Jewish day schools for the past two and a half years. Yet they are not Jewish.

    They are socializing with Jews and learning to act Jewish. Thanks to the Jewish education they are receiving they are very likely to cause an intermarriage some day.

    Who is paying the tuition for Shannon Orand's children? and the thousands of other non Jews who are in our yeshivas "learning" to be Jewish while their mothers are in the conversion process?

    Shannon Orand has for the past 2 1/2 years enjoyed constant Shabbos invitations as well.

    In my community the vast majority of Shomer Shabbat Jewish families have had to put their children in public school due to the financial crisis.

    Most of the families in our community are struggling to make Shabbat as well.

    Perhaps Rabbi Wender's community which is obviously so flush with cash and other resources that they are so generously hosting non Jews, would like to send some aid out to the other Jewish communities where families are struggling.

  15. 1.It is hard to imagine that ANY potential convert on the planet hasn't heard of EJF a simple Google search is the beginning of the path for most

    2. In my city, (I am an out of town rav like Rabbi Wender) the EJF agressively reached out to converts who I was involved with, EVEN THOUGH NEITHER I OR THE BEIS DIN EVER APPROVED. So how they met is not a question.

    3. I applaud the fact that Rabbi Wender doesn't take any money for Giyur or any outreach money from EJF/Horizons, however, I believe that they should not be applauded for the Millions distributed around the country, because it appears that it was "agendized" Shochad.
    For example , They gave at least one community Kollel over $70,000 to study Hilchos Geirus and supported another av Beis Din to write a sefer on geirus. They sent and subsizied full time kiruv workers in communities and offered lavish accomadations and pay for Rabbinic Participation in their events.

  16. For example , They gave at least one community Kollel over $70,000 to study Hilchos Geirus and supported another av Beis Din to write a sefer on geirus.

    Underwriting directed halachic study is not intrinsically a conflict of interest. Corporations, non-profits, foundations and individuals endow research in specific areas at just about every major university. The two questions are whether or not the research is truly independent and intellectually honest and whether or not continued funding is contingent on producing results that are favored by the patron.

  17. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    I also applaud your work, and beg you not to have any qualms about what you are doing.

    Today's Yated (distributed for free on Tuesdays) again has headlines about how Big Brother is going to make sure that anyone who uses the Internet will not have his children admitted to Haredi schools.

    The cover-up continues, itself proof enough that there is something to cover up.

    Please keep providing a respectible outlet for Emes.

  18. For Barros, go back to Vinas, use your Word editor to change "Vinas" to "Barros" and there you will have the whole story.

    This is a nationwide phenomenon that has been going on for two decades. They have run out of Sephardic synagogues to steal and now they are taking Ashkenazic shuls too.

    The actual Jews are either oblivious to the fact that their shuls, schools and mikvoth have been "body snatched" or they are praying at home, educating their children in public schools and doing tevila in fiberglass shower shells converted into basement mikvoth.

    The assets of two generations of Jewish philanthropy are being used to "outreach" and "convert" Christians to Judaism, in the process converting Judaism to Christianity.

  19. I'm not sure why Jersey Girl is attacking the children of people in the conversion process. The parents cannot convert unless the young children are also conditioned and converted. I'm especially not sure why she is unsettled by a conversion candidate being invited for a Shabbos meal.

    As far as schooling, public school is not an option for religious Jews. The "shomer Shabbat" people in JG's community should be ashamed of themselves. JG is worried about intermarriage? That is exactly what her neighbors are causing to their own children. At least some of these people opt for public school because they will not part with certain material "needs" or conveniences.

  20. Now let me tell you a true story where a giyores was treated to methods that Jersey Girl advocates.

    EJF was not involved whatsoever in this case. The av beis din is a big machmir who rejects most candidates. She was told she must make her primary residence inside the eruv. So she rented an apartment while trying to sell her home. There was a real estate glut and she was not able to sell while paying the mortgage + rent, as well as a difficult situation with the homeowner's association where she had to leave all kinds of lights on while not living there. Every time they went off she was fined heavily under the by-laws.

    She pleaded with the dayan that she was going to be bankrupted and asked if she could get rid of the rental and stay with friends until she sells the home. He refused and coldly told her it is her choice but she will not be converted if she drops the rental. When the house finally went to closing, she not only didn't make a cent, but had to bring tens of thousands of dollars to the table to unload it.

    Prior to this she was told she must go to seminary in Israel for a year. The seminary would not give her one red cent off tuition. She scrounged everywhere she could to pay for it. More than half of the born Jewish girls in this seminary simply refuse to pay a dime even if they can afford it so the seminary comes to America to shnorr. One of their first stops was the giyores who they refused to help whatsoever and they started giving her guilt trips that she must subsidize the freeloaders who get a 100% break. They managed to pry money out of her that she didn't even have with their despicable pressure tactics.

    After the gerus, she became so destitute that she was anyway forced to give up her rental and move in with friends and literally did not have money for food. She was getting more in the hole every month with student loan payments, etc. Then the seminary came shnorring again and this time really ratcheted up the pressure and guilt trips to squeeze her for money. This time she told them off.

    She was rescued in a way by getting engaged but did not have one cent for any wedding needs. This means she literally did not have a cent. Her credit cards were maxed out and she did not have money for even a 50 cent package of ramen noodles or to take the bus.

    Years later she is still tremendously hurt by all this and I cannot think of a worse example of lo sonu es hager.

  21. I find the discussion on this thread regarding the distinction between a bribe and a legitimate payment fascinating and very relevant to the current situation regarding R' Tropper.

    The fact is, there's nothing better from the persective of a briber for the bribe to be made in the form of a legitimate payment. In this way, the briber has ironclad deniability against any charges that he is attempting to illicitly influence the recipient of the funds. The question is, can legitimate payments fall under the halachic category of "shochad"? I have no idea.

    Let's say Shimon is an employee of Reuven (i.e. funds are being transferred from Reuven to Shimon for a legitimate purpose). In a legal case involving Reuven, 1) can Shimon be called as an eid? 2) can Shimon preside over the case as a dayan?

  22. Also, thank you R' Eidensohn for providing a forum in which the situation regarding R' Tropper is being discussed within a halachic rubric. I, too, have been astounded by the silence of the rabbinic leadership regarding this matter.

  23. i have decided to stop commenting becuse i relize that just a handfull of people take this place seriosely and bloggers like men in white coats . am haoretz (watch) etc are all the same guy so good bye. i should look later for some good ridance posts

    p.s the tread on convertion process and ejf involvent and rabbi wenders post are the only ones that are worth having, all the rest are plain old motzei shem rah loshon horah mevazah chaveiro berabbim etc

    but again its the polotics of personal destruction that has made it to our community

  24. Kol ha-posel be-mumo poselJanuary 5, 2010 at 8:41 PM

    Or maybe the real reason he's bugging out is because orthodoxjew was outed as using the alter ego "hocker" which is why he's projecting this tactic on others.

    He should also take the blinder off his face that forces him to yell "lashon hara" as an instant reflex.

  25. "between a roack and a hard place" is actually an anglicising of the term "Between Scylla and Charibodis." when traversing the straits of Messina. Doesn't anyone read Homer anymore?

  26. Talmid of Rabbi T.January 6, 2010 at 1:52 AM

    Rabbi E, you are doing a great job. It is a glimmer of hope to see your blog while all the rest are silent, complicit, or worse... Just want to express my overall solidarity with what you are trying to do.

  27. Ombudsman- you state "public school is not an option for religious Jews."

    Recent statistics from Sephardic Bikur Holim said that 80% of Shomer Shabbat Sephardic Jews have their kids in public school and our family is a good example of why.

    My siblings and I went to public school and a community Talmud Torah during release time, after school and on Sundays. My parents wanted to put us in the day school, but there was no tuition aid available then and unfortunately, nothing has changed.

    My brother also recently took his kids out of yeshiva because he could not afford to pay 12k per child anymore either. My sister is a widow who works as a school nurse in Lakewood. She was given 8k per child on her 45k per year salary. Her children are also in public school. One of my brothers can afford to pay tuition and he does. But he cannot afford to pay for the whole extended family.

    My children are/were homeschooled.

    You speak of "parting with certain material needs and conveniences", do you consider food, electricity, rent, medical care or clothing to be among those "extras"?

    I am happy to share our family's finances so that you might perhaps either help me to better manage my money so that I can afford to pay yeshiva tuition or understand why this is simply not an option for many observant Jewish families.

    My husband and I have a family business. We work 6 days a week including most evenings. We earned 110k this year. B'H. We did much better than most of our peers in similar businesses.

    Our housing expense with taxes and insurance is 24k per year. We live in one of the least expensive Jewish communities in the US in a 3 bdrm.

  28. Our utilities (electric, phone and water) were $13k this year. We use half of the State average of water per person. Our electric usage per person is also below average. We do not have cable.

    Our medical insurance which only covers major medical is 10k per year. We have a 10k per year deductible.

    We spent, per week per person on groceries, about the national average of $55. This is pretty good for a family that keeps kosher. I bake or make everything from scratch and we grow some of our own vegetables and raise chickens for their eggs.

    Our total grocery expenditure this year was about 37k.

    We drive a 4 year old van. We do not live in an area where there is public transportation so the car is a necessity. Between gas, insurance and repairs, we spent 10k this past year. This was without a car payment because our van is paid for.

    Our clothing expenses are less than half of the national average of $1800 per person and this includes Shabbat, Yom Tov and Simcha clothing. We spent 10k this past year on clothing for our family.

    As you can see, we have spent nearly every penny we have earned this year. There was nothing for entertainment, meals out of the house, vacations or anything else that was not absolutely basic and necessary.

    My husband had a several thousand dollar dental emergency and we had to do some unavoidable plumbing repairs as well.

    Our house is worth less than its mortgage and we have no savings because we used them previously to pay for uninsured medical expenses.

    I have, B'AH, eight school aged children and two adult children who live home.

    My oldest is working and has saved all of her earning for her own future and my second has a Business degree but cannot yet find a job.

    The cheapest tuition I have been given by any of the local schools is 7k per year, per child. That would be 56k per year for my B"Ah 8 school aged children.

    One Rabbi we approached suggested that we go to our parents for help paying tuition. Our parents have B"H, until 120, outlived their retirement savings which were greatly diminished by inflation to begin with.

    Another Rabbi suggested that we make aliyah for the free tuition. In Israel we would have free tuition, but no income as our business is in the US.

    This is not a complaint. B"H we have everything we really need. B"H we are not in debt. B"H we are healthy and able to work.

    I am only posting this for those who might actually believe that paying yeshiva tuition is a realistic "choice" for most families.

    We say in the Shema "And you should teach them diligently to your children". The yeshiva is not the ideal, it was originally started for orphans who did not have parents to teach them.

    However, I am not alone among Jewish parents who wonder why Tom Kaplan's millions were spent on proselytizing Gentiles to Judaism when we cannot afford to educate the Jewish children in our communities.

    And we must not forget that there are 800,000 Jewish children in Israel alone who suffer from hunger. Even Tom Kaplan's millions would not have made a dent in the tragic reality of our hungry children, but it would have been a start.

  29. Ombudsman, I think intermarriage/assimilation has more to do with attitudes picked up from others than actually being in a non-jewish environment. But I'm not saying public school is ok if it can be avoided. If one must attend public school, it should at least be one with a large Jewish population and some sort of Jewish student group.

    Jersey girl, money is tight for you simply because you have a large family. 110k earnings are not bad and would do an average family well. I'm not saying smaller families are better! My favorite family has seven children and money is tight for them as well but they are the happiest people I know. Most of the unhappy people I know are too fixated on money/career.
    By the way, I can't figure out how you spend only $55 per person per week on groceries. I suppose no one in your family is a weightlifter. They are expensive to feed.

    Rabbi Eidensohn, thanks for posting Rabbi Wender's statement and not allowing comments. Things got way out of hand previously. As his example shows, and as I keep saying, we should not be so quick to attack anyone with any sort of connection to EJF. The only person who deserves criticism is Tropper.

  30. Jersey Girl - Think of the reward you will get in Olam Haba! I know it can be difficult and frustrating. My ex cheated on me and stole from me, leaving me in a lousy spot. This summer, I came close to pulling my kids out of day schools, but B"H the administrators were agreeable to work with me, and they were very fair, despite the lousy financial plight they are in as well.
    Much of what you say, not just here, but in other posts like your comments on the Deal, NJ fiasco really resonate with me. I feel your pain. Please remember, Gam zu l'tova! itchiemayer

  31. Benjamin said "As his example shows, and as I keep saying, we should not be so quick to attack anyone with any sort of connection to EJF. The only person who deserves criticism is Tropper".

    I could not disagree with you more. I give Rabbi Wender the benefit of the doubt, but I am not naive to think there are not others (perhaps many others) who acted in an unsavory manner in this EJF/Tropper fiasco. If you want to fool yourself into thinking only Tropper deserves criticism here, please go right ahead. I can't do it. itchiemayer

  32. There goes Young Israel of Houston groupie Benjamin "the ostrich" Kusin again convincing himself that only Tropper can do evil in the eyes of G-d.


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