Saturday, February 27, 2010

From Skinhead to Orthodox Jew


NYTImes

WARSAW — When Pawel looks into the mirror, he can still sometimes see a neo-Nazi skinhead staring back, the man he once was before he covered his shaved head with a yarmulke, shed his fascist ideology for the Torah and renounced violence and hatred in favor of God.

“I still struggle every day to discard my past ideas,” said Pawel, a 33-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew and former truck driver, noting with little irony that he had to stop hating Jews in order to become one. [...]


Benefits of depression & negative moods


NYTIMES

The Victorians had many names for depression, and Charles Darwin used them all. There were his “fits” brought on by “excitements,” “flurries” leading to an “uncomfortable palpitation of the heart” and “air fatigues” that triggered his “head symptoms.” In one particularly pitiful letter, written to a specialist in “psychological medicine,” he confessed to “extreme spasmodic daily and nightly flatulence” and “hysterical crying” whenever Emma, his devoted wife, left him alone.

While there has been endless speculation about Darwin’s mysterious ailment — his symptoms have been attributed to everything from lactose intolerance to Chagas disease — Darwin himself was most troubled by his recurring mental problems. His depression left him “not able to do anything one day out of three,” choking on his “bitter mortification.” He despaired of the weakness of mind that ran in his family. “The ‘race is for the strong,’ ” Darwin wrote. “I shall probably do little more but be content to admire the strides others made in Science.”[...]

Former Takana member discusses Elon scandal


Haaretz

Dr. Hana Kehat began her fight against sexual harassment within Israel's religious sector even before initiating the Takana forum, from which she has now resigned in the wake of the Rabbi Mordechai Elon affair. Kehat is a founder and board member of Kolech - a feminist, religious Zionist movement established more than 20 years ago which aims to achieve equality for women within the religious community.

Kehat, a lecturer in Bible and Israeli thought, started taking on sexual harassment at Kolech, where she exposed how such harassment on the part of Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen, head of the women's religious college at Bar-Ilan University, had been handled. The affair nearly led to her firing from Orot College by its director, Rabbi Neria Guttel, and demonstrated the great need to establish the Takana forum. Kolech put pressure on Bar-Ilan; as a result the university set up an investigatory committee headed by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, today one of Takana's leaders. [...]

Dual justice system for secular and religious Jews


Haaretz

Religious Zionism presents: a show of arrogance. For about three years, they kept their dirty laundry at home, but now they have been so kind as to display it for everyone to see. The fact that in the State of Israel there is an alternative law enforcement system such as the Takana forum, which investigates and metes out punishment only to religious Zionists, is intolerable. The fact that this system is run by the heads of a movement that in vain regulates to itself what is morally, ethically and culturally permissible is another sign of its arrogance.

A high school teacher at a secular school who sexually assaults his students would be turned over to the police. A rabbi at a yeshiva suspected of the same thing would be turned over to Takana. Perish any connection between them, but the criminal underworld also has its own judicial system with the means to investigate and punish. In that respect, there is no difference between the underworld and Takana. [...]


Friday, February 26, 2010

Chareidi society & challenge of the internet


Haaretz

There is no clearer sign that leaders have lost control than when they and their people can no longer trust each other. This breach of trust is at the root of an increasingly frantic campaign on the part of ultra-Orthodox rabbis against the Internet. The latest edict, announced at a gathering of rabbis and senior Haredi educators this week in Jerusalem, demands that all parents enrolling their children in ultra-Orthodox schools sign a written commitment that their home computers are not connected in any way to the poisonous web.[...]

Secular Israeli society & violence


YNET

Last week, an 18-year old boy went out to a movie at a Petach Tikva mall with two friends. They encountered a group of teens demanding a cigarette. The boy said he did not have one. The response came immediately: Blows to his entire body that prompted his hospitalization, putting his life at risk. The boy underwent three surgeries and regained his consciousness only five days later.

And it happened because he said he had no cigarette.

Two days later, the victim's father was interviewed. The interviewer referred to the attackers as "normative teens" from "good families." In the news, after the violent attacks, they are always described that way. Yet the truth is that a more fitting description would be "human animals devoid of morality and values" and perhaps also "violent whippersnappers." Describing them as "normative boys" is outrageous. [...]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bill against sexual harrassment by rabbis


YNET

MK Orlev, who initiated bill, says: From now on, rabbis will not be able to shirk their responsibility and maintain limitations on preventing sexual harassment. Orlev careful to deny any connection between timing of bill and Rabbi Mordechai Elon harassment affair

The Knesset plenum on Wednesday passed two similar bills in a preliminary reading stipulating that offers or treatment of a sexual nature suggested by religious or spiritual instructors to their students be considered sexual harassment. This also would apply if the recipient does not expressly decline the offer.[...]

Hamas founder's son was agent for Shin Bet


Haaretz
-----
Commentary & critique of main article


The son of a leading Hamas figure, who famously converted to Christianity, served for over a decade as the Shin Bet security service's most valuable source in the militant organization's leadership, Haaretz has learned.

Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas founder and one of its leaders in the West Bank. The intelligence he supplied Israel led to the exposure of a number of terrorist cells, and to the prevention of dozens of suicide bombings and assassination attempts on Israeli figures. [...]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

R' Yair Hoffman audio :Grossman execution

Oylem Goylem wrote: Could Rav Eidensohn possibly give R. Hoffman's audio it's own post?

After the op-ed he wrote for VIN, here is the audio of R. Yair Hoffman speaking on the Martin Grossman saga on the Dov Hikind show.

He's makdim with showering praise on attorney Zweibel and the Moetzes, that he agrees with them on everything except this. A smart move since he would be blacklisted otherwise or worse.

He cites the Noda Bihudah that murderers must be killed otherwise murders will become a hefkerus.

He says that rabbonim were misled with biased information from Grossman's lawyers overstating the case in favor of their client.

He argues there are so many other causes of pikuach nefesh we should get together to fight for first before Grossman - causes that are 100% justified and not "ekeldik" where someone beat a woman to death and burned her body.

This case created tremendous aivah since:

A. Goyim see frum Jews advocate for the death penalty except when it is one of their own

B. Killing of women and police officers generates a lot of moral outrage among the public

R. Hoffman mentioned how numerous meshugoyim had attacked and harassed not only Gov. Crist but also the family of the murdered officer.

At this point, Dov Hikind's behavior was more than I could stomach. He vociferously protested that there are no such thing as meshugoyim in the frum community, (pandering for obvious reasons) especially not among his radio show audience. He got his assistant Charnie to chime in seconding his motion. Why won't many be surprised what a politician does here for votes and ad dollars?

Dr. Katz from the 5 Towns speaks up at this point saying that there has never been a jury who acquitted someone purposely murdering a woman police officer and opines that trying to save Grossman's life goes against dina demalchusa.

We get some comic relief with Dov Hikind mistakenly referring to Shafran as "Dr." Avi Shafran.

Dr. Lipner's critique of the Elon scandal

I recently asked Dr. Asher Lipner whether he would have handled the Elon case differently. Below is his reply which he has given me permission to publish.

Dr. Lipner wrote:

I would have publicized it as soon as I knew there was Ragalyaim Ladavar and avoided two things.

1. Elon's ability to hurt more people.

2.The Chillul Hashem of people seeing that Orthodox Jews prefer to cover up their mistakes rather than protect people. Not only do they not care about others....they don't even care about their own children. Like a police officer in Baltimore said "Jewish parents are worse than Catholics. They protect their rabbis rather than their own children." We are back to the times of Aycha where "the hands of righteous women cooked their own children."

Secondly, if, bedieved, I had screwed it up, I certainly would not BRAG about it the way Rabbi Lichtenstien did, saying that "our first most important priority was to keep it quiet and protect the reputation of the alleged sinner". First of all, I'm not sure why this is a priority at all, other than the real reason that all rabbis want to protect the image of other rabbis because it protects their own power. Secondly, it certainly is not the first priority of a civilized people, especially ones who are commanded by their G-d to protect innocent people, save lives, love neighbors, heal the sick, stop sin, pursue justice, speak the truth, etc.

Let's make this simple: Hillel said that you should not do to others what you don't want them to do to you.  That's the WHOLE Torah. If the Takana gang had family members who were going to Elon over the past four years for "private counseling" (no matter where he had been 'banished' to) would they have allowed that to go on undeterred? I think not. I suspect that they would warn their own friends and family to stay far, far away. How could it be then that these "Torah observant" Jews, refrained from warning OTHER people's friends and family's? The letter published by one mother of a victim full of shock and pain was enough for anyone with an ounce of compassion to realize the travesty that was done in Israel. Rabbi Lichtenstien actually cried publicly about what? About his mistake? About the people who were traumatized? Nope. About the fact that he was forced to do a mitzvah! That he had to stop the rasha and protect innocent people.He should have been making a seudas hoda'a that he had such a zchus. The Torah, once again, has been distorted, twisted and bastardized into some form of Avoda Zara that is cruel and inhuman. What is practiced today is barbaric.  It is not Judaism. It is a much more dangerous thing than Reform or Conservative Judaism which do not claim to be the mesorah.

On the positive side, at least Takana did eventually admit the truth because it was about to be exposed by the secular press.  This shows they still maintain a degree of "busha" one of the three midos that define a Jew.  There is therefore some hope for the Modern Orthodox to get back on track, learn from this fiasco and not let it happen again. The Agudah Gedolim on the other hand....not so much. They have no busha left. None. They will never admit they goofed with Tropper. I told Rabbi H. that "Daas Torah means never having to say you're sorry." He corrected me. "Daas Torah means you never did anything wrong to begin with."

Unusual therapy for spouse abuse (excerpt)



OUTSIDE THE BOX by Dr. Baruch Shulem


One of the saddest unintended findings of this book is that “psychotherapy” is not the answer for abusive men. It is, on occasion, but only ‘on occasion’ the answer. We believe any ‘real expert’ in the treatment of abuse will have a wide variety of possible solutions for the highly complex problems found within the single name “abuse”. We have identified a wide variety of interventions that can be called ‘remedial’. They start with a simple verbal warning and move to more intense intrusive interventions of psychotherapy, chemical castration, electronic oversight, professional supervision, using the courts, community prevention programs, changing professions of the abuser, police, and even imprisonment.

We call this flexible approach ‘thinking outside the box’. Unfortunately ‘inside the box’ has been almost solely rabbinic supervision or psychotherapy. Being confronted by both the complexity of the problem of abuse and its depressing rate of recidivism it is apparent that alternative methods must be identified, implemented and evaluated as to their effectiveness.

In my own limited way I have tried to use this book to step ‘outside the box’ of my professional training which can be summarized as “you are (only) a psychotherapist”. I would like to present another attempt on my part at ‘stepping out’: a rather unusual therapy case – in which we only talked, but I did not use the standard operating procedure generally associated with talk therapy. This is a version of an article I wrote and published in Tales of Solutions: A Collection of Hope-Inspiring Stories, editors: Insoo Kim Berg and Yvonne Dolan, W.W. Norton, N.Y., 2001

STAYING SICK AND BUT GETTING BETTER

A woman in her late fifties came to see me about getting help for herself. She put three pre-conditions down as the basis of our working together. These conditions are frequently encountered in the Chareidi world. The first was that I would not notify anyone of what was happening to her; Second, we would not discuss divorce as an option; Thirdly, I would not involve her husband in the therapy. I said I would be willing to start but would be free at any time to withdraw from our work if I thought it was inappropriate for me to continue because of these conditions. That was my condition.

She told a story of being abused from her wedding night on, both physically and emotionally. She said that she was young and inexperienced [continued in the Abuse Book]

Depression: Does psychiatry treat it scientifically?


New Yorker

You arrive for work and someone informs you that you have until five o’clock to clean out your office. You have been laid off. At first, your family is brave and supportive, and although you’re in shock, you convince yourself that you were ready for something new. Then you start waking up at 3 A.M., apparently in order to stare at the ceiling. You can’t stop picturing the face of the employee who was deputized to give you the bad news. He does not look like George Clooney. You have fantasies of terrible things happening to him, to your boss, to George Clooney. You find—a novel recognition—not only that you have no sex drive but that you don’t care. You react irritably when friends advise you to let go and move on. After a week, you have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. After two weeks, you have a hard time getting out of the house. You go see a doctor. The doctor hears your story and prescribes an antidepressant. Do you take it?

However you go about making this decision, do not read the psychiatric literature. Everything in it, from the science (do the meds really work?) to the metaphysics (is depression really a disease?), will confuse you. There is little agreement about what causes depression and no consensus about what cures it. Virtually no scientist subscribes to the man-in-the-waiting-room theory, which is that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin, but many people report that they feel better when they take drugs that affect serotonin and other brain chemicals. [...]

Technology & Torah: Are Luddites good Jews?


Five Towns Jewish Times

There is a growing tendency among the Torah world to reject technology and innovation.  The rejection has reached an extremeness bordering on a Talibanesque fundamentalism, unseen throughout our history.  A good case can be made that this rejection runs counter to true Torah Judaism, and should not be subsumed under the rubric of Ailu veAilu divrei Elokim Chaim.

Before we examine and analyze it, it may be instructive to examine a well known Gemorah in Meseches Avodah Zarah (2b).  The Talmud tells us that in the future the western powers will stand before Hashem and declare that all their technological innovations were made by them for the sole purpose of enabling Klal Yisroel to learn Torah.  Hashem responds, “You are the greatest fools in the world!  You paved streets and created side streets for your own licentious purposes!  You built bathhouses for your own pleasures!” [...]

Brain differences and cultural neuroscience


Newsweek

By now, it should come as no surprise when scientists discover yet another case of experience changing the brain. From the sensory information we absorb to the movements we make, our lives leave footprints on the bumps and fissures of our cortex, so much so that experiences can alter "hard-wired" brain structures. Through rehab, stroke patients can coax a region of the motor cortex on the opposite side of the damaged region to pinch-hit, restoring lost mobility; volunteers who are blindfolded for just five days can reprogram their visual cortex to process sound and touch.

Still, scientists have been surprised at how deeply culture—the language we speak, the values we absorb—shapes the brain, and are rethinking findings derived from studies of Westerners. To take one recent example, a region behind the forehead called the medial prefrontal cortex supposedly represents the self: it is active when we ("we" being the Americans in the study) think of our own identity and traits. But with Chinese volunteers, the results were strikingly different. The "me" circuit hummed not only when they thought whether a particular adjective described themselves, but also when they considered whether it described their mother. The Westerners showed no such overlap between self and mom. Depending whether one lives in a culture that views the self as autonomous and unique or as connected to and part of a larger whole, this neural circuit takes on quite different functions. [...]


Abuse book - "A survivor's story" [excerpt]

After much thinking I decided to write my story. After reading it, some may call it dramatic; professionals will call it traumatic but to me and others who have gone through this road will say its pure horror. I am sharing it with the world, so others may learn something and I hope it will prevent others from this horror.

I am writing this with a tremendous amount of pain. Not an hour went by in the last 20 years that I wasn’t thinking about my sexual abuse. I live a life of pain, shame, humiliation and above all a tremendous amount of guilt. I feel guilty that I caused my father and siblings so much pain while never telling them what’s going on so they can act on it and stop it. I feel very guilty that I got married to the most beautiful woman and not telling her at the time that I was abused. She is holding me strong while she is suffering a great deal. Worst of all I can never forgive myself for not running to the police. I had the power to stop my abuse. How can I ever face the other victims who were so viciously violated by my abuser? If I would only be given the right guidance by the rebbe that I told of the abuse or by the other rabbyim he told it thereafter he would have been stopped. I can forgive them for not knowing what to do. I will never forgive them for not listening. I will never forgive them for not wanting to know. I will never forgive them for not asking more questions. I understand that you don’t have to believe right away an accusation but how am I allowed to forgive him for calling me a liar and not investigating after I was sexually abused in the most horrific way possible, after I was beaten and threatened with my life all while I didn’t have a mother to cry to. I am going to sleep every single night thinking of the victims I could have prevented. I have nightmares that they will never forgive me for what I have not done to save them. So I am writing my story and hopefully it will ease a little bit of my pain hoping it will save at least one child in the future.

Here is my story:
.
My name is Pinny. I grew up in a very chasidish family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. I was the sixth of nine children. I was always considered the happiest of the bunch, always joked around and friends with everyone. My mother always showered us with love. She was soft spoken; she was everything you can wish from a mom. My father loved us just as much, but he was very chasidish, frum and strict.

When I was 10 years old my mother fell ill to colon cancer. While she was fighting her life battle, she was always strong and taught us to be strong, never to give up. She was fighting her cancer until a month and a half before my Bar Mitzvah, when she passed away. My bar mitzvah of course was very different then others but it were the happiest day for me.

After the bar mitzvah I continued learning in the same yeshiva in Williamsburg since nursery until the age of 14, Pasach 1989. On the advice from a few good men helping our family, I was sent to Israel to yeshiva. They decided that since we have a large family and no mother it will be easier for my father and me if I am abroad in a structured environment. I was very excided going to Israel to yeshiva but after a month or so I felt very homesick. My mother passed away a year ago and here I am away from my family. I insisted on coming back home for the next zman. For the following winter zman I was placed in a yeshiva in Boro Park. It was a pretty average chasidish yeshiva. I adjusted well and made friends right away. As a matter of fact I quickly became one of the more popular kids.[rest to be published in Abuse Book]

Arab students harass Israeli Ambassador

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mrs Yitta Schwartz a.h. - had 2000 descendants


WHEN Yitta Schwartz died last month at 93, she left behind 15 children, more than 200 grandchildren and so many great- and great-great-grandchildren that, by her family’s count, she could claim perhaps 2,000 living descendants.

Mrs. Schwartz was a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose couples have nine children on average and whose ranks of descendants can multiply exponentially. But even among Satmars, the size of Mrs. Schwartz’s family is astonishing. A round-faced woman with a high-voltage smile, she may have generated one of the largest clans of any survivor of the Holocaust — a thumb in the eye of the Nazis.

Abuse book - American Legal System - Shlomo Singer assist D.A.



This article will be divided into several parts. The first section will discuss my background in dealing with sexually violent predators (SVPs) and what I have learned from working within New Jersery’s SVP scheme. The second section will delineate some of the specific factors within the frum community which must change in order to address the current situation. Last, I will provide some basic advice for people dealing with sexual predators. After graduating from law school, I served as the law clerk to the Honorable Philip Freedman and Serena Perretti. Judges Freedman and Perretti were Superior Court judges in New Jersey; however unlike other judges they were the only judges in the state to hear cases under New Jersey’s Sexually Violent Predator Act

By way of a brief background the SVPA was enacted for the purpose of civilly committing offenders who had completed their prison terms but were still deemed to pose a significant risk of reoffending. While New Jersey has a prison specifically set up for sexual offenders, it has been proven that incarceration alone will not “cure” SVPs. Therefore, prior to an offender’s release from prison, the State has the right to petition for commitment under the SVPA. Respondents are entitled to an initial hearing, and, if committed, yearly hearings to determine whether they are still SVPs. While conducting these hearings, the State normally provides testimony of both a psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist to assist the judge in formulating his or her opinion. The doctors’ opinions are formulated based on the offender’s convictions, unreported deviant activity, and participation in therapy. The standard that must be met is that the committee must have a “mental condition that affects [his] emotional, cognitive or volitional capacity in a manner that predisposes [him] to commit acts of sexual violence.” The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that “A finding of a total lack of control is not necessary. Instead, a showing of an impaired ability to control sexually dangerous behavior will suffice….”

While I do not have statistics, it is fair to state that the State has rarely, if ever, been unsuccessful on its initial petition to have an offender committed as an SVP. This is so because the Attorney General, who prosecutes these cases for the State, controlled which cases it prosecuted. It was evident that few SVPs were ever released from their civil commitment. Moreover, those who were released were subject to community supervision for life. One of the major reasons why committees were not released was because of their unsatisfactory participation in treatment. Another issue that was routinely brought to light was committees minimizing their deviance. Observationally, it seemed somewhat oxymoronic to criticize people with diagnosed mental abnormalities for not properly participating in treatment.

Aside from the SVPA scheme, New Jersey’s Megan’s Law mandates different levels (referred to as tiering in the legal field) of registration and limitations for people convicted of sex offenses. Failure to register as required constitutes a third degree crime. Megan’s Law also requires notification of neighbors in certain instances. It is unclear what percentage of persons charged with Megan’s Law crimes plead guilty to crimes that do not require registration. Nonetheless, prosecutors who specialize in this field are usually weary of amending a charge which would require registration without the presence of extraordinary circumstances.

Based on the hundreds of hours of testimony that I witnessed, some of my personal observations from my clerkship are as follows: [...]

R' Balkany arrested for extortion

Courthousenews

NYTimes

Rabbi Milton Balkany, the director of a Brooklyn Jewish day school, was on the phone last month with a proposition for a man he had never met, the president of a giant Connecticut hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, The New York Times’s Alan Feuer reports.

The matter required tact. The rabbi, who often counsels Jewish inmates, had recently met a prisoner at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution, a prison in Orange County, N.Y., who had told him that the hedge fund had been trading on illegal information. Rabbi Balkany was calling now, the government contends, to make a deal: $4 million for two religious schools in Brooklyn — one of them his own — in exchange for the prisoner’s silence. [...]

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rav Sternbuch: Life in Prison

High price of religious defection


Spiegel

The community of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel is half a million strong and growing. They live in a parallel universe cut off from the modern world in tight-knit communities where everything revolves around religion. Only a few dare to abandon this life -- and the price for doing so is high.

When she left, she left everything behind -- even her name. She no longer wanted to be known as Sarah, the name her parents had given her. She'd felt imprisoned by that name for too long; it made her feel different and subject to laws that others imposed upon her. So, she started her new life with a new name, Mayan, the Hebrew word for "source."[...]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For the times they are a-changin'


Title from Bob Dylan

In the last two days I had conversations with two people who approached me to thank me for my blog and what I am trying to do as well as how I do it. While it was nice to be complemented - neither of them are people who I would have imagined  read my blog. I never would have guessed that they shared my concerns and understanding of what is going on now in the Jewish community.

Both acknowledged that they sense a loss of direction - or even the perception that someone is in charge. That we live in very troubled times and that the scandals are not just accidents but are reflective of a deeper malaise. We need to do something different. Orthodoxy can't continue with patching up the old system - a new direction is needed.

One of them is a gevir who told me that he normally gives money to Toldos Aaron - even though he is Modern Orthodox -  because they have many hungry families who genuinely need assistance. However because of the riots he told the Rebbe that he was canceling his support. He didn't accept the excuse that these were hooligans. He told the Rebbe it was his responsiblity to deal with the hooligans. This is the second gevir I have heard this from.

He also said that while he feels it is important to give tzedaka - but he no longer gives simply because the organization is associated with gedolim or is a major organization. He said that he now uses his tzedaka money to maximize the impact on society. If there are two ways to deal with off the derech kids - he picks the one that is most  efficient and cost effective. He also supports issues that strengthen the society -  not just because someone has a need.

This is probably the most important issue. All major institutions need money. In the past the donors were flattered and given kavod - but they were told that the gedolim would decide what programs were needed and where the money was spent. There is a growing revolt against this with the donors dictating what needs to be done and simply not funding programs that are bloated and unproductive. Funding goes to innovative programs which they see are producing results.

I have been told that despite the failure of the gedolim to condemn tropper  - those organizations that were associated with him have been suffering a large drop in funding. Tropper corrupted through money - the antidote seems to be that the donors have to show the way out of this mess by redirecting and rewarding healthy projects.

R' M. Feinstein & Maharam Shick:Legitimacy of capital punishment

This is a response to the unfortunate and irresponsible actions take to try and stop the Grossman execution where it was asserted that everything must be done - even calling the governor a Nazi and harrasing the victim's family - to save a Jew's live no matter what crime he committed and that the execution was against the Torah.

Here are the words of Rav Moshe Feinstein in a letter to the governor of New York explaining that the strict Torah law on execution only applied historically in the limited case of a well ordered society. But there is a legitimate use of capital punishment to defend society - even where the Torah law is not fulfilled. There are other issues such as aivah - the back lash against Jews which need to be considered. A secular society has the right to protect itself and that includes a secular or non-Jewish one. There is no question that it was legitimate to ask to the governor to convert the sentence to life imprisonment - but the assumption is that all is permitted to achieve that goal - it simply isn't so. It is also problematic that this cold blooded murderer is now being viewed and promoted as a martyr to inspire people to be sensitive to the laws of interpersonal relationships. Whether he truly did teshuva is for G-d to say - but there are no lack of more appropriate role models out there.


Igros Moshe(C.M. 2:68): … The Torah reserves capital punishment for those sins which are very serious such as murder, kidnapping, sexually prohibited relations and idolatry. The perpetrator in these cases is unrestrained and is capable of doing whatever disgusting and cruel acts in the world that are in his heart that he thinks are for his benefit. However the death penalty is not administered out of hatred to evildoers or fear for the welfare of society because Bava Metzia (83b) tells us that G‑d will punish transgressors. That in fact is the halacha as poskened by the Rambam (Hilchos Chovel u’Mazik 8:9) as well as all other poskim. So on the one hand the purpose of capital punishment is to let people know the severity of these prohibitions so that they will not transgress them. On the other hand the laws of capital punishment emphasize the importance of each soul and other concerns. Therefore we are commanded that only the Sanhedrin with proper semicha can judge these cases. Only the greatest people in Torah scholarship and other knowledge receives this semicha. In addition to their knowledge they also need to have perfected their character and be very humble as well as G‑d fearing people. They also need to hate money and love the truth as well as wonderful people who are beloved by all…They don’t have any imperfections or bad reputations and they are very merciful. That is why very old people are not appointed judges because they have forgotten the stress of raising children. Also people without children are not appointed because they lack mercy to some degree and they will be too angry at those who have committed sins.

Even these great and good people cannot judge unless they constitute a Sanhedrin of 23 people.However it is not enough there are 23 such people to make a Sanhedrin. They also need to have before them 3 rows of very great Torah scholars who are not yet great enough to be part of the Sanhedrin – but are almost great enough. This is to protect the Sanhedrin from making a mistake in judgment. That is because when these three rows of scholars think that the Sanhedrin is mistaken in their ruling of innocence they will protest and will not listen at all to their words. Another safeguard against making a mistake is that they do not convict based on circumstantial evidence – no matter how convincing. They only convict a person based on two valid witnesses who have not the slightest bias in the matter... Furthermore the witnesses are warned concerning the severity of the sin of false testimony as well as the seriousness of the sin of murder so that they are very afraid of mistakenly convicting or mistakenly declaring the suspected murderer innocent. Even with all of this the witnesses also have to warn the person against murder and the suspected murderer has to acknowledge the warning by saying that even though he is aware of the seriousness off the crime he is still doing it. As a consequence of all these safeguards, only once in many years would someone be convicted of murder. In addition it was impossible to judge capital cases unless the Temple existed and that the Sanhedrin of 71 of the greatest scholars was in session on the Temple Mount. In fact capital cases were not judged even in those countries where the king gave the Jews permission to judge their own people according to the law of the Torah.

As a consequence of these two factors there were almost no Jewish murderers because of the awareness of the severity of the prohibition of murder and because they were educated by means of the Torah and the punishments of the Torah to understand the seriousness of the crime. They were not simply afraid of punishment in the sense of getting caught but were afraid of the crime itself.

However this use of the Torah system to run society was only when the crime of murder was not common but was simply the result of someone’s great lust or some quarrel concerning money or honor. But when people killed simply because it was viewed as an insignificant thing and the murderer was simply a callous and cruel person or similarly if there was a great deal of murders and wickedness – then a different system of law was utilized that was concerned with the pragmatic question of stopping killing and the goal became saving the society.


Maharam Shick(C.M. #50):
Concerning the incident in which a man’s brother suddenly died and his wife’s brother was suspected of having poisoned her husband. There was some circumstantial evidence as well as a partial confession. Also she was suspected of being involved with another man who apparently participated with her in the murder. You write that gedolim of our country have written to you expressing great surprise at the silence concerning this matter. According to them it is a mitzva to destroy the evil and not have mercy on them. The Torah’s principle is life for a life and one who spills the blood of another person his blood is required to be spilled… Based on Bava Metzia (83b) regarding R’ Eliezer catching Jewish robbers for the Roman the halacha would allow reporting her to the police.]. While that is the halacha, nevertheless that gemora itself indicates that it is inappropriate for gedolim to be the ones to report the transgressor to the secular authorities. This is also the view of the Rashba cited by the Beis Yosef (C.M. 388). An even greater proof against reporting transgressors to secular authorities – even when there is a possible danger in not reporting – is found in the Rambam. The Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 5:5) writes that if non‑Jews specify which Jew they want and they will kill all the Jews if he isn’t handed over – they should give him over. However the Rambam notes that if that wanted Jew deserves the death penalty he can be given over to save the others – but this halacha is not to be publicized. This is also the view of the Yerushalmi (Terumos 8:4)….

Consequently while one should not protest against those who follow the straight halacha and report the criminal to the authorities - which has many poskim to rely on - nevertheless the gedolim should not get involved in reporting these crimes but rather should be passive. This is as we saw with Shimon ben Shetach who did not have proper evidence that someone was a murderer - even though it was obvious – and therefore he did nothing. Also look at Sheilas Yaavetz (2:9)…

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Avoiding police in abuse cases: Takana vs R Elon:


JPost

Rabbi Mordechai Elon had sexual relations with male students in the past, a rabbinical forum that works to prevent sexual abuse in the national-religious sector said in a statement on Wednesday

The Takana forum held an emergency meeting Tuesday night to discuss the allegations facing Elon, following an announcement they posted Monday demanding Elon step down from all rabbinical, teaching and community responsibilities, warning he is a threat to the public.

Elon admitted to the acts during the emergency meeting, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a member of Takana told Army Radio Wednesday, adding that the rabbi's confession is documented in the forum's protocol.[...]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Abuse Book: Rav Meir Triebitz - Two concepts of yashrus


Instinctual versus acquired ethical knowledge and the irreducible rights and respect for the individual in society: two concepts of “yashrus”  by Rabbi Meir Triebitz

This book is an extensive collection of sources covering all aspects of child abuse as it affects the traditional Jewish community. They range from medical and psychological issues to halachic and theological ones. It presents us with an impressive, almost overwhelming array of facts which open up an entire world which heretofore has remained hidden and obscured to most except to those individuals who have unfortunately been forced to confront its horrible realities.

However the real story told by this book lies behinds its many facts. It is the story of a community which is more and more being forced to confront its very own ethical reality. The ever increasing   revelations of ethical and moral degeneracy seem to have brought about more confusion then resolve. This confusion is furthermore compounded when theological-legal arguments and excuses run contrary to commonsense logic and ethics. More and more people are increasingly feeling the tension of choosing between what they are told is right and what they instinctively believe to be true, or by being forced to choose between the prestige of institutions and the most basic respect for the individual.

The legitimacy of ethical commonsense and the irreducible respect for the rights of the individual is not an import from secular culture but is, in fact, a Torah concept itself whose origin is in Scripture and whose implications and consequences abound not only in the areas of Aggadata but also, if not primarily, in the realm of Halakha. It is to be found in Chazal, the classical commentaries, and in the Shulchan Aruch, the Jewish code of law. The common name given to both of the above concepts is yashrus. The very fact that two seemingly unrelated concepts are referred to by the same name is a clear indication of a deep relationship between the two which we will explore later. For the moment we will first introduce them. The first appears in a verse in Deuteronomy and is discussed in the Sifre. [...]

Bnei Brak is the capital of pedophiles: Refusing to report abuse

English version of article http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3850261,00.html
YNET

קדמן: "בני ברק מכונה בירת הפדופילים"

פרשת ההטרדות המיניות שיוחסו לרב מוטי אלון, מציפה מחדש את הקושי בדיווח על התעללות בקטינים בחברות סגורות. הבוקר פנו לקו הסיוע עשרות גברים נפגעי תקיפה מינית

חשיפת פרשיית המין בה היה מעורב לכאורה הרב מוטי אלון והטענות ל"השתקה" מצד גורמים שונים בחברה הדתית, מציפה מחדש את בעיית היעדר הדיווח על התעללות בילדים בחברות סגורות. "בני ברק זכתה לכינוי 'בירת הפדופילים של ישראל' כי אנשים יודעים שאין שם דיווח", אומרים במועצה לשלום הילד. מנגד טוענים בממסד הדתי כי החומות "דווקא מתחילות ליפול", ומגלגלים את האחריות לרשויות.

בכנס של המועצה לשלום הילד, שנערך אתמול (ב') באוניברסיטת בן-גוריון בבאר-שבע, נחשפו נתונים מדאיגים ולפיהם ממוצע הדיווחים על התעללות בילדים ביישובים חרדים ודתיים נמוך מאוד לעומת הממוצע הארצי. בעוד הממוצע הארצי עומד על 1.8% מקרי התעללות בקרב כלל הילדים, והממוצע ביישובים היהודים עומד על 2.1% - הממוצע ביישובים החרדים והדתיים הוא 0.8% בלבד.


Tropper concedes defeat to Monsey Rabbis


Five Towns Jewish Times

For many Orthodox Jews, it has been a very trying two months.

The confluence of the threefold factors of the shock at the appalling scandal, the silence of those who should not have been silent, and the idea of the acceptance of such lewd behavior by leading Rabbonim was too much for many to stomach.  Thankfully, the issues have been put to rest this past Sunday evening, with the signing of a notarized contract by Leib Tropper.

The results were not, by any means, a foregone conclusion.  The progression of events went as follows:

Last Tuesday afternoon, leading Rabbinic figures in Monsey met.   That meeting was put together by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat and was chaired by one of the most senior Roshei Yeshiva in Monsey,  HaGaon HaRav Moshe Green Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva D’Monsey. [...]
 ============================================

This is a link to the actual documents tropper signed

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tropper scandal - edited video


This is the link to a purported video of tropper. It has been edited for issues of modesty. It is only for those who still think that the audio recordings were forged and need additional proof. For those who are convinced already - there is no reason to watch it.

I have been requested to remove the link.

It can readily be found by search Youtube

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Corporal punishment: Psychology from non-Jewish sources

Is abuse an issue today because today's children are more delicate and easily damaged?

R’ Dessler(Michtav M’Eliyahu 3:361): ...My nephew told me that he saw in a sefer that even if the child obeys his parents it is still proper to find an excuse in order to hit him at least a small amount. … the Ibn Ezra (Shemos 20:14) has written that it is not relevant to talk about the love of a peasant to the king’s daughter. Also when the king punishes the peasant with a beating the peasant never thinks about taking revenge against the king and the only lesson he learns from being punished is to be more submissive. That is because it is obvious that he is totally subordinate to the king and the king has the right to punish - but not him. Similar when it is ingrained in a child’s heart the idea that the father is the ruler and total master over him and that he is subservient to his father then because of this subservience he will never learn to hit others just because his father hits him. However our education has become corrupted because the teachers now think that they need to be friends of their students and parents also think this and everything centers on the independence of the children. Because of this, when a father beats his son, the son will retaliate and hit his father or his small brothers… However the secular researchers in their search for new understanding and their desire to destroy the principle of education which were known even by non‑Jews and whose source is in G‑d’s Torah and Prophets - produce things which bring about a reversal of all these basic principles. They are educating future Nazis and brazen people. From this we see to what degree it is necessary to be careful with all aspects of innovation of the secular researchers concerning psychology and education and it is necessary to evaluate and ascertain whether their approach contradicts the words of Chazal and the Rishonim or Jewish practice which itself is Torah. If contradictions are found it is necessary to reject complete all their filthy innovations and not accept anything from them without first examining it with sharp examination and to evaluate it in the light of Torah and Chazal and the words of the gedolim of the Rishonim and Achronim.

Pardes Yosef(Shemos 15:26):Just as we find that medical treatment used in previous generations are not applicable today because they are harmful, so too we find with psychological and educational programs. We are no longer able to utilize corporal punishment and abusive treatment as they did in the past. That is because we find that instead of producing improvements they actually weaken Jewish society. So if previous generation were not burned even with boiling water, we find danger even in using lukewarm water. Therefore treatment and education needs to be mild and patient because the words of the sages are heard when presented pleasantly (Koheles 9:17).

Can a giyores marry a cohen?

Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

I am writing to seek your advise and your opinion on a situation I find myself in. I am a frum 36 years old woman living in New York. I came here to learn in a seminary and to find a shidduch. I have been looking for three and a half years, the process has been very very very hard and telling on me emotionally. I was very reluctant to go on line but did at the advise of an esteemed and respected rabbi in my community. There I met a very nice man that I am interested in marrying. The problem is that he is a Cohen and I am a convert. I know that this a forbidden marriage but have also learned that if the marriage were to take place it would be valid and the children would be legitimate. I understand as a religious and learned Jew that this in contrary to Torah but our situation is not an easy one.

On his part, he is over 40 and never married and is on the brink of marrying outside, chas v'shalom, since it is very hard for him to find a woman that is halachically permitted to him. Most of the woman offered to him given his age are divorced or not religious that have been with non-Jews. He comes from a traditional family and wants only to marry a religious woman.

On my part, I feel that I can no longer go through countless dates that amount to nothing. If I am contemplating such a thing it is because I look back at the quality of men that has been available to me and it is very hard to say no to this very nice man. Because of my age I get offered divorced men with issues and many children and little money. I have also had to deal with so many men that really really are not serious about marriage even though they go out on shidduchim. Many of the men I have met have seriousmental problems and some have been just very very simple and its hard for me to relate. This past summer I had such a crisis in shidduchim that I felt that I would just drop it all. I have lived a strict haredi life for almost six years now, have davenedand done all the right things but I feel I cannot take this anymore, Iwill be 37 this summer and my fertility is decreasing everyday now.

I want to ask you if it is at all possible to get a heter for such a marriage being that both our situations are very hard.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Racism?: Asian community upset with 'yellow' train line


Los Angeles Times

The "yellow" train line in Atlanta is now going to be called the "gold" line after members of the local Asian community complained that it wasracially insensitive.

The Metro Atlanta RegionalTransit Authority, known as MARTA, announced the change Thursday. MARTArecently renamed its train lines with colors — yellow, red, blue andgreen.

The yellow line went to Doraville in thenortheast suburbs, an area that has a large Asian population. [...]


Rav Moshe Feinstein: Prohibition of social dating


Igros Moshe(E.H. 4:60): Concerning the issue of a young man who is not ready to get married and has no interest in getting married and he is interested in having social dates with young women who also are not ready to get married and have no interest in getting married. They say that since they are careful to avoid the prohibition of yichud (seclusion) there is no prohibition in dating. Even though they know that this is not nice but they say they are not interested in issues of piety and extra measures of modesty and they don’t want to listen to lectures of mussar and rebuke. However they say that they will stop if they hear from me that this is prohibited according to the halacha. Therefore I am forced to respond immediately because this applies to a current activity… There is also a severe prohibition from the Torah in close friendships between a young man and woman. That is even if they avoid hugging and kissing as well as touching and yichud. The problem is that he talks with her for extended times in expressing love and he gets pleasure from this and stares at her. Even according to the Ramban who disagrees with the Rambam and holds this is only a rabbinic prohibition nevertheless agrees that this is a severe prohibition since it has an asmachta from a verse and that it is punished with rabbinic flogging. It is clear that dating is done because of love of women and not because of ordinary friendship since he clearly prefers being with a woman then with male friends. Why is he interested in this woman when it doesn’t give him greater respect or a good name? It is obviously because of love of a woman because she is a woman. In addition even though she is unmarried, she is a nidah which is prohibited with the punishment of kares…

Rav Sternbuch:Preparing for Final Tests before Moshiach

Ex-Marrano Rabbi appointed emissary to Spanish Bnei Anusim community


JPOST

For the first time since the expulsion of Spain’s Jews in 1492, a descendant of Marrano Jewry who immigrated to Israel and received rabbinic ordination will return to Spain to serve as a rabbi.

Rabbi Nissan Ben-Avraham, a resident of Shiloh and father of 12, has been appointed a new emissary to the Marrano (or Bnei Anusim) community of Spain.[...]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Should one's child marry a ger?


Guest post: DK

I write this with a great deal of trepidation.  G-d Forbid that I should cause any more pain to any ger tzedek.

Some personal background.  I am an MO BT, not especially learned, with sons and daughters. 

1.  I have a general concern about any son or daughter marrying a ger tzedek.  What if the ger tzedek decides, two or five or ten years later, not to be Jewish anymore?  What happens to the children?  I realize that a similar issue could arise in the case of a BT or FFB who "falls Off The Derech".

2.  These days, there are people in apparent positions of authority in Klal Yisrael who claim they have the power to retroactively revoke conversions.  As those reading this post who are learned know better than I do, the consequences of such a revocation, particularly in the case of a female ger tzedek whose daughters have already married at the time the revocation occurs, can cause tragedies.  Until this issue is resolved, I would discourage a son from marrying any convert, no matter how much of a bat Yisrael she has become.  The issue is different for a daughter, as her children are Jews according to halacha regardless of who she marries.

[3. There is a also an extra requirement of loving a ger and not distressing a ger - in addition to that which applies to a Jew from birth. This however is a two edge sword. That means that if your husband or wife is a ger and things go well that you get extra reward for loving and not upsetttng them. But if you have on occasion a disagreement then you get punished more. In fact these additional mitzvos were given because a ger is psychologically more apt to be hurt so you also have to treat the spouse with much greater care. This itself can be be  the basis of fights since the attitude of I deserve to treated nicer than you are treating me - is amplified through the additional mitzvos of the Torah. DT ]

In sum, marrying a ger is not the same as marrying someone of a different race or different social class.

Internet bringing about social change


CNN

We witness today, at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, one of the most astonishing phenomena of the digital era: the consolidation of the social network, and even more, the empowerment of the worldwide youth thanks to these tools.

All of us certainly have a profile on Facebook or Twitter, and for sure we have seen dozens of videos on YouTube. Some of you only see on these tools the possibility to be connected with your relatives and your closest friends, exchange pictures and publish information about your activities.

But this is only the surface, the tip of the iceberg. What many people ignore is what is emerging underneath. These social media networks, whether we like it or not, are reshaping the way people communicate. [...]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

UK Jews divided on response to government defining Jewishness


JPost

LONDON - To fight or not to fight?

That question has bitterly divided the Jewish community in Britain following the Supreme Court ruling a month-and-a-half ago striking down a Jewish school’s policy of limiting admission to the children of Jewish mothers.

The ruling, which said that state-funded Jewish schools may not award places on the basis of whether a student’s parent is Jewish because it contravenes Britain’s Race Relations Act, went beyond forcing an expansion of admissions criteria to children whose Jewish identity is a matter of dispute between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews.[...]

Monsey Rabbonim continue Tropper investigation

Five Towns Jewish Times

Further evidence was introduced, reviewed, and discussed today in a meeting of Monsey Rabbonim, Roshei Yeshiva, and Askanim regarding the scandal surrounding Leib Tropper, the former head of the Eternal Jewish Family and Yeshiva Kol Yaakov. Tropper had ostensibly resigned last week, but it has been further reported that he continues to run and tend to the functions of the Yeshiva in an unchanged manner. Apparently, the inquiry has now widened to other areas as well. The meeting on Tuesday afternoon included some of the leading Rabbinic figures in Monsey and was chaired by one of the most senior Roshei Yeshiva in Monsey, HaGaon HaRav Moshe Green Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva D’Monsey.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Use of deception to get mitzvos & spiritual perfection



Shaarei Teshuva(482:2): It says in Bava Metzia (62a) that your needs come before that of other people even in a matters of life and death. This is learned by R’ Akiva in the case of two people in the desert with a single container of water from the verse of “Your brother shall live with you” - which means that his life is secondary to yours. So if this principle is true in physical issues then surely it is true in spiritual issues. (This is written in Igros Shmuel to Megila Ruth. He says that Boaz knew by ruach hakodesh that Ruth would be the ancestress of the Davidic kings and therefore he described her as a Moabite in order that she would be rejected for marriage and he could marry her and he would merit having the royal descendants. Even though it is prohibited for someone to deceive others even to take that which is rightfully his. But that prohibition is in monetary matters but not concerning mitzvos. Even though it is impossible to take a mitzva away from someone who already has obtained the rights to it such as mila, nevertheless if no one has actually claimed the mitzva yet then it is viewed as a wilderness and available to all and everyone has the obligation to perfect his soul and merit having mitzvos. We see this principle also with Yaakov and how he took the rights of the first-born and the berachos since he knew that Esav was headed to do evil and Yaakov needed them to reach spiritual perfection as is explained by the Akeidas Yitzchok…).

Abuse - Coerced pregnancy


Newsweek

About a decade ago, Elizabeth Miller remembers seeing a certain teenage girl at a hospital clinic for adolescents in Boston. The patient thought she might be pregnant and asked for a test. When it came out negative, Miller started asking the standard questions, inquiring as to whether her patient wanted to be pregnant (she didn't) and whether she was using contraceptives (she wasn't). So Miller explained all of the birth-control options and, as she describes it, "sent her on her merry way with a brown bag of condoms." It was, by most measures, a pretty routine appointment.

Except that, two weeks later, the same patient was back at the hospital, in the emergency room after her partner pushed her down the stairs. "That was the wake-up call where I started thinking there might be a relationship between the two situations," says Miller, now an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of California, Davis. "She was coming in for a pregnancy test, not wanting to be pregnant, and not wanting to use birth control. And now I'm wondering what's going on for her, knowing she was in a physically and sexually violent relationship. I started wondering whether I needed to be asking her about why [she isn't using birth control] at that visit." [...]

Partial Excerpt from Abuse Book - Dr. Baruch Shulem


From Professional Clinician to Obligated Jew

Why?

This book is a partial fulfillment of a religious, emotional, and professional obligation that was forced upon me years ago by my clients who suffered from child abuse. I can’t remember one of them ever saying to me “you have to …” but their pain and questions were enough of a reprimand that I took upon myself to do more than just “talk.”

This book is more than ‘just about talk therapy and helping individuals;’ it is about advocacy, namely the pursuit of influencing outcomes that directly affect people’s lives. My clients were challenging my deeply held beliefs in Torah and Torah communities. Both in their eyes and in my own mind, I became the representative of the Orthodox Jewish community that had not adequately answered their cry for help. They were not only abused, but also abandoned by the community that makes up a significant part of the Orthodox ‘self. It is as if there is – beyond the pain of abuse – a psychological punishment of “Karet".

No secular therapist could understand this unique facet of the Jewish self: how the individual is indivisible from his or her community. The secular therapist would counsel the individual to be strong, independent, overcome, forget and maybe even forgive. But for us ‘Karet’ is too meaningful and too overwhelming to “go on with life.” There is no life after “Karet”, be it just psychological or heaven forbid otherwise.

This kind of ‘Karet’ inadvertently begins long before the abuse. It begins with the absence of a vocabulary of abuse. The source of this lacuna seems to be the belief that the Torah community and the Torah personality do not do these ‘things'.

They – the other groups be they religious, ethnic, or national - might do it, so why “open your mouth to the devil?” If you don’t talk about ‘it’ it doesn’t exist. Why voluntarily bring even the subject into our homes or schools? This approach is grounded also in a unique religious perspective, that in reality speech and actions are indivisible. In other words, talking facilitates doing. [this is page 1 of 10 page essay]

Women's conference for kosher internet use


YNET

Anglo-Israeli religious women to hold a one-day conference in Jerusalem on February 17 to discuss how Torah-observant people, organizations can use cutting-edge online technologies as tool to build their businesses [...]

Monday, February 8, 2010

Marketing Child & Spouse Abuse Book


I need some basic information in order to finalize the book.

 The size of the market. So I am setting up a widget to register how many of my readers are interested in purchasing the book.

1) I would like to know what to charge. Since as of today I have received $280 worth of contributions I estimate I will need to charge $45 for the book to possibly break even. But I would like to know how many people would buy it if it were $30 versus $45.

Thus there is a poll on the right side. Please check the highest price you would realistically pay for it. Price includes shipping and taxes.

2) A number of experts have told me that I need to keep the book to about 650 pages. That would mean that I would omit the Hebrew references and just include the English translation. Do you view that the Hebrew sources are indespensible and must be included with the book?

3) How many people are willing to order before it is published?


R' Dovid Bar-Chaim: Rabbinic Paralysis


During a student's first years in yeshiva he learns to think creatively and ask probing questions. However, when he embarks on his rabbinical studies, the rules change. Suddenly all that is a thing of the past. Now he is taught not to think, for his opinion is not important; he is now taught that he must simply accept. This approach, a far cry from the methodology of the Talmud, produces "rabbis" incapable of analyzing primary sources and reaching an independent conclusion. One tragic example is child abuse within the observant community.

Download Part 1


Download Part 2


Anonymous posts automatically deleted


Please take the time to give a name other than anonymous to your posts. It just causes confusion. I am returning to reinforcing my policy of automatically rejecting anonymous posts

Nurse prosecuted for mandated reporting against doctor


NYTimes

It occurred to Anne Mitchell as she was writing the letter that she might lose her job, which is why she chose not to sign it. But it was beyond her conception that she would be indicted and threatened with 10 years in prison for doing what she knew a nurse must: inform state regulators that a doctor at her rural hospital was practicing bad medicine.

When she was fingerprinted and photographed at the jail here last June, it felt as if she had entered a parallel universe, albeit one situated in this barren scrap of West Texas oil patch.[...]

Chareidi musical conservatory in Har Nof


JPost

A visit to the Ron Shulamit Music Conservatory in the haredi Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem may not melt away the animosity an anti-haredi feels toward the community, but it will certainly force him to use more than one flashlight when illuminating its largely veiled world. Besides training haredi girls to play and teach classical music and opening the doors for potential careers in the arts or music education, the 15-year-old institution is slowly changing perceptions – that of the girls and their families toward the outside secular world of culture, and also of society’s accepted but tainted view of the haredi world as a backward society where culture is disdained and scorned.[...]

Christian support of Israel - being loved to extinction


Jewish Journal

Israel may have become a punching bag for much of the world, but 50 million Americans back the Jewish state 100 percent, no ifs, buts or maybes.

As portrayed in the striking documentary “Waiting for Armageddon,” these supporters are Christian Evangelicals who are neither rural hicks nor ranting fanatics.

What they hold in common is an unshakeable faith that every inch of Israel/Palestine belongs to the Jews. “They want the Muslims to be evicted by the Jews, the Jews to rebuild the Temple of Solomon and then Christ to return and trump everyone,” one analyst explains in the film.[...]

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tropper scandal - What does it show?


I received this question from a well known expert on Jewish issues. I personally disagree but it is a widespread belief.

So Tropper is now gone. I think this whole affair has shown there we now have a system of checks and balances. The people, daas baalei batim, is now a check on the power of the gedolim. It was the people who pushed this issue. The rabbis would have swept it under the rug as they have done with similar things for years. But the hamon am wouldn't let them do it. And it was only the power of the internet the enabled this new structure of power in the community.
Do you agree with this analysis?

Science based shadchun?


NYTimes

IF finding true love were an exact science, we wouldn’t need matchmakers, singles bars or, of course, online dating services.

Like job seekers who take the Myers-Briggs personality test to help steer them to suitable professions, we’d simply take a relationship test, whose results would identify our most compatible types of mates and rule out the frogs. Problem solved.[...]

Stop all conversions?


JC.com Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet,

Tradition tells us that when the Israelites stood at Sinai and embraced the Torah, they were as converts. From that day till the present, the process of conversion entails a “Sinai moment”. By definition, just as the Israelites accepted upon themselves the obligation of mitzvot then, so too the modern-day convert must accept upon himself the same.

Over the past half a century the Jewish world has become mired in controversy over the definition of what that obligation entails. As the debate goes to the core of identifying who is a legitimate member of the Jewish faith, and as all Jewish people, without exceptions, are one entity, like one body with one heart and one soul, then the tragedy of this schism affects the totality of the Jewish people.[...]

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Consciousness in vegetative patients


NYTImes

He emerged from the car accident alive but alone, there and not there: a young man whose eyes opened yet whose brain seemed shut down. For five years he lay mute and immobile beneath a diagnosis — “vegetative state” — that all but ruled out the possibility of thought, much less recovery.

But in recent months at a clinic in Liège, Belgium, the patient, now 29, showed traces of brain activity in response to commands from doctors. Now, according to a new report, he has begun to communicate: in response to simple questions, like “Do you have any brothers?,” he showed distinct traces of activity on a brain imaging machine that represented either “yes” or “no.”[...]

R Bulka's observations on conversion crisis


CJnews

The Canadian Jewish News was right, and right on, in calling for unity (Jan. 14) in the face of the latest conversion crisis. Two articles on this matter also appeared, one by Rabbi Marc D. Angel in that same issue, and a followup rebuttal by Rabbi Reuven Tradburks on Jan. 21. In their disagreement, there was an obvious agreement that unity is vital. The question at hand is how best to achieve it.

I know both these distinguished rabbis and am singularly aware of their passionate commitment to the long-range welfare of our community – here, in Israel and everywhere else. So what I share with you herein is in no way to be construed as criticism of these rabbis. It’s more a personal reflection on the issue as it has developed and on the background of what once was.[...]

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tropper resigns as rosh yeshiva of Kol Yaakov


Five Towns Jewish Times

Late this morning Leib Tropper, the head of Yeshiva Kol Yaakov in Monsey resigned his position as Rosh Yeshiva of the institution. The new incoming Rosh Yeshiva is Rabbi Dovid Stefansky Shlita, a maggid shiur in the Yeshiva. Kol Yaakov is staffed by fine Talmidei Chachomim among whom are some quite distinguished Torah scholars.

Tropper indicated that he was resigning so that the Monsey-based Bais Din will not continue their investigations into allegations against him.[...]

Tropper scandal: Investigating beis din threatened


5 Towns Jewish Times


Members of the Monsey based Bais Din investigating the charges against Leib Tropper has been receiving a series of threatening phone calls from people. The threats have ranged from threats of utterly destroying the Rabbis to getting people to pray for the downfall and destruction of the Rabbis involved in the investigation. [...]

Is beis din obligated to convert non-Jews?

Restitution in sexual abuse cases


NYTIMES

When Amy was a little girl, her uncle made her famous in the worst way: as a star in the netherworld of child pornography. Photographs and videos known as “the Misty series” depicting her abuse have circulated on the Internet for more than 10 years, and often turn up in the collections of those arrested for possession of illegal images.

Now, with the help of an inventive lawyer, the young woman known as Amy — her real name has been withheld in court to prevent harassment — is fighting back.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Conversion - best beis din & Jerusalem seminary?



I just received this letter. Would appreciate help in providing him with answers.
================
Rabbi,

Your blogs often discuss issues concerning conversions. But mostly all criticism.  Who in Jerusalem and who in New  York would you recommend an interested guir candidate, daughter of a Jewish father and goy mother to speak with and  learn from?  What beis din in New York City and Jerusalem is ideal in your estimation?  Is the RCA preferable over EJF? What seminary in Jerusalem is best for a md-20s girl giur candidate to learn at in your estimation?

 I could really use your advice.

Gedolim & Placebos: Danger of destroying false expectations

While this article deals with the significance of the placebo effect on depression - it is equally valid concerning revealing the truth in other areas. If a person is happy and functioning well - should you provide him with information that some of his foundation beliefs are simply not true? For example that investments that return 30% interest are probably ponzi schemes or that all rabbis will protect your children from being harmed or that rabbis don't give into lust and greed or that gedolim are infallible or that if you think you have bitachon - the physical world  never matters? These are very real questions as is clear that all people have fundamental beliefs about reality which are not true. In other words does the requirement of "not standing idly by the blood of your brother" include protecting their illusions or to pop them?

Newsweek

Although the year is young, it has already brought my first moral dilemma. In early January a friend mentioned that his New Year's resolution was to beat his chronic depression once and for all. Over the years he had tried a medicine chest's worth of antidepressants, but none had really helped in any enduring way, and when the side effects became so unpleasant that he stopped taking them, the withdrawal symptoms (cramps, dizziness, headaches) were torture. Did I know of any research that might help him decide whether a new antidepressant his doctor recommended might finally lift his chronic darkness at noon?

The moral dilemma was this: oh, yes, I knew of 20-plus years of research on antidepressants, from the old tricyclics to the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that target serotonin (Zoloft, Paxil, and the granddaddy of them all, Prozac, as well as their generic descendants) to even newer ones that also target norepinephrine (Effexor, Wellbutrin). The research had shown that antidepressants help about three quarters of people with depression who take them, a consistent finding that serves as the basis for the oft-repeated mantra "There is no question that the safety and efficacy of antidepressants rest on solid scientific evidence," as psychiatry professor Richard Friedman of Weill Cornell Medical College recently wrote in The New York Times. But ever since a seminal study in 1998, whose findings were reinforced by landmark research in The Journal of the American Medical Association last month, that evidence has come with a big asterisk. Yes, the drugs are effective, in that they lift depression in most patients. But that benefit is hardly more than what patients get when they, unknowingly and as part of a study, take a dummy pill—a placebo. As more and more scientists who study depression and the drugs that treat it are concluding, that suggests that antidepressants are basically expensive Tic Tacs.[,,,]
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World of the Ger VIII - saying they are baalei teshuva


I was recently told by a baal teshuva who is married to a giyorus that he was advised to tell shadchanim that his wife is a baalas teshuva and not mention that she is a giyorus. He said that he had been given this advice by a number of rabbis. Is this deception? Why should it be permitted? What happens when someone finds out the truth?

Rav Eliashiv: Calling the police for theft

Rav Eliashiv(Divrei Sinai page 45-46): Question: On a number of occasions money has been stolen from the local religious affairs office. It appears that the thief is one of the employees. However we don’t have the means of bringing about a confession. The question is whether it is permitted to turn to the police who after investigation - if they are successful in getting a confession - will bring the person to judgment in a secular court. The consequences of this would be very serious since we suspect someone who has a large family and in addition since he is someone who is involved in religious work it will result in chilul hashem (desecration of G‑d’s name), Heaven forbid! On the other hand, public money is missing and who knows what else.

Answer: See Panim Me’eros (2:155) concerning our issue in which someone found an open chest from which much was stolen. There is reasonable circumstantial evidence that one of the workers was the thief. He was asked whether it was permissible to inform the secular authorities and that this will lead to him to confess … However at the end the Panim Me’eros concludes, “It is improper to turn a Jew over to secular authorities as our Sages say they will treat him like a trapped animal and there is concern that if he confesses they will kill him.”  From here it is clear that this ruling is not applicable in our times. Therefore it is permitted to turn to the police. However since you raise the concern that this will lead to a chilul hashem, I can’t render an opinion concerning this since I don’t know how to evaluate it and therefore the matter must be determined by your evaluation.

Fish oil might prevent schizophrenia


ABC NEWS

A new study suggests that fish oil could be the key to a safe and effective form of treatment for young people with schizophrenia.

For young people at risk of developing the mental illness, early treatment is generally seen as the best way to avoid full-blown psychosis down the track.


Only Chief Rabbi has power to nullifying conversions?


YNET

Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar signed over the weekend new measures stipulating that rabbinical courts will no longer deliberate misgivings regarding the validity of conversions, and instead will transfer such files to a special panel chosen by the rabbi himself, Ynet learned.
 
As part of his role as chief rabbi, Rabbi Amar serves as president of the Great Rabbinical Court and as the supreme rabbinical authority on the State conversion layout.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Attempts to terminate Tropper investigation?


Press release has been edited.


Special to the Jewish News Datawire

One was formerly the head of an orthodox Jewish organization that dealt with facilitating the conversion process to Orthodox Judaism. He resigned amid allegations of impropriety with a candidate for conversion.  The other was a wealthy businessman who was [recently acquitted of all charges] that he had molested two women by pretending to be a gynecologist.

Leib Tropper is the former.  Zalman Leib Silber is the latter.  ....  Apparently, this past Sunday, the latter paid an unannounced visit to some of the Rabbis conducting an investigation into Leib Tropper’s behavior, asking that they drop the investigation.

Leib Tropper is the former head of the Eternal Jewish Foundation (EJF), an organization that has in the past successfully promoted the conversion process to Orthodox Judaism to couples that are intermarried.  EJF, among its other activities, provides scholarships for intermarried couples to attend seminars in Judaism at various hotels throughout the country, to promote their conversion to Orthodox Judaism promoting something that they term “Universally Recognized Conversions.”[...]

“The real scandal here is not the association between the two, but that someone would have the temerity to interfere with an investigation conducted by leading and respected Rabbis,” remarked a former colleague of Tropper.