Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cycling & Parkinson's disease

NYTImes

The man had had Parkinson’s disease for 10 years, and it had progressed until he was severely affected. Parkinson’s, a neurological disorder in which some of the brain cells that control movement die, had made him unable to walk. He trembled and could walk only a few steps before falling. He froze in place, his feet feeling as if they were bolted to the floor.

But the man told Dr. Bloem something amazing: he said he was a regular exerciser — a cyclist, in fact — something that should not be possible for patients at his stage of the disease, Dr. Bloem thought.

“He said, ‘Just yesterday I rode my bicycle for 10 kilometers’ — six miles,” Dr. Bloem said. “He said he rides his bicycle for miles and miles every day.” [...]


Monday, March 29, 2010

Tom Kaplan successfully invests in gold

Forbes

This March two of the world's biggest investors became believers in a company with next to no revenues and $352 million in losses over three years. Funds run by billionaires George Soros and John Paulson invested a combined $175 million in NovaGold Resources. Both Soros and Paulson are seriously bullish on gold, but why did they bet on a Vancouver mining company with an unimpressive history?

They were following the lead of Thomas Kaplan, 47, a little-known New York City billionaire investor who thinks gold's bull run is far from over. An Oxford-trained historian, Kaplan believes that the last 40 years, when gold was not the world's reserve currency, were an aberration and that gold will revert to the top store of value as it was for 5,000 years. He means it: Kaplan's family office, Tigris Financial Group, manages close to $2 billion in gold assets. [...]


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Child Abuse: R' Silman - force abuser to pay for therapy (translation)


This is my translation of part of the recent Yeschurun article.

R’ Yehuda Silman (Yeschurun page 589-590): Is there an obligation for the molester to pay for psychotherapy? One major talmid chachom questioned whether psychotherapy is included in the payment for ripoi (cure). That is because he claims that we know from experience that those who are molested as children or as teenagers are rarely cured. He says that in the majority of cases the treatment that takes place over many years only helps to deal with the associated problems [and isn’t a cure]. I disagree with this position. The fact is that in a large percentage of cases there is fact full recovery and in almost all cases there is at least benefit from the therapy and thus it is obvious in my opinion that psychotherapy is included in the category of ripoi (cure). Consider the case of someone who was physically assaulted but there is no cure to his wounds and consequently he is required to have treatment for the rest of his life – would anyone seriously think that this treatment is not called ripoi (cure) – of course not!

This answer would seem to be relevant only for those e.g., Sephardim who follow the view of Rav Yosef Karo. He states in the Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 1:2) that the contemporary beis din judges and exacts payment for unemployment (sheves) and cure (ripoi). However this apparently is not applicable for those who follow the view of the Rema who rules that we don’t judge and exact payment today in these matters. In fact there is no practical difference between the two positions. The Rema continues by saying, ”We force the assailant to placate the victim and we fine him according to what is deemed appropriate by beis din as is explained in sif 5.” There the Shulchan Aruch states, “Even though judges who don’t have semicha in Israel do not collect fines nevertheless we ostracize (nidoi) the assailant until they placate the victim and when they give the appropriate amount then we free them.” Today when we don’t ostracize (nidoi) the advisable approach is to put pressure on the assailant that he is to be ostracized in various ways as a substitute for nidoi. In the case where the assailant has signed an agreement which includes the right of the judge to decide what is best then it is also possible to obligate him to pay money.

Also a good suggestion is that where there is communication between the sides such as in the case of teachers (the majority of cases of abuse are these types) – one should insert an explicit clause in the agreement between the two sides which states that the abuser is obligated to pay according to the decision of the judge. It is also a good idea to specify that the plaintiff is the parent of the child and where that is not possible or if they don’t want to - then the principal should be listed.


Politics & Happiness Research

New Yorker

In 1978, a trio of psychologists curious about happiness assembled two groups of subjects. In the first were winners of the Illinois state lottery. These men and women had received jackpots of between fifty thousand and a million dollars. In the second group were victims of devastating accidents. Some had been left paralyzed from the waist down. For the others, paralysis started at the neck.

The researchers asked the members of both groups a battery of questions about their lives. On a scale of “the best and worst things that could happen,” how did the members of the first group rank becoming rich and the second wheelchair-bound? How happy had they been before these events? How about now? How happy did they expect to be in a couple of years? How much pleasure did they take in daily experiences such as talking with a friend, hearing a joke, or reading a magazine? (The lottery winners were also asked how much they enjoyed buying clothes, a question that was omitted in the case of the quadriplegics.) For a control, the psychologists assembled a third group, made up of Illinois residents selected at random from the phone book.[...]


Child abuse: R' Gartner Calling police

The full article is in the current Yeschurun

Child abuse: R' Shafran force payment for therapy

The full article is in the current Yeschurun

Child abuse: Baruch Lebovitz sentencing

Baruch Lebovits Sentencing Put Off Until Monday, April 12 « FRUM FOLLIES by Yerachmiel Lopin
Sentencing of Baruch (Mordechai) Lebovits for eight Class D Felonies of child sexual assault was originally scheduled for Monday, March 29, Erev Pesach. Supporters of both the defendant and the victim requested a postponement because this is a very difficult day to get to a court house with all the necessary work preceding Passover.

I have urged all of you concerned about molesting in our community to write letters to the judge and to show up in the courtroom. If you are sympathetic but have not yet committed to either of these courses of action you have another chance to act.[...]


Friday, March 26, 2010

A Pesach story


Shlomo Singer wrote:

As an Assistant Prosecutor in Essex County, New Jersey, I get to see and hear many “interesting” things on a regular basis. Newark, is not a dull city.   However, something happened to me this week which I will remember for years to come.

Felix is a 60ish year old defense attorney. I had the opportunity to prosecute a case against him previously, and I found him to be a pretty good guy- as defense attorneys go. This Monday, I was doing some bail hearings when, lo and behold, Felix shows up.   He motioned to me and said, “I’ve gotta tell you something…”   so I came along, we found an empty courtroom, and Felix told me an amazing story.

“I grew up around Jews,” he started.   When I heard this, I immediately became suspicious.   I’ve spent my whole life being an identifiable Jew.   I’m the guy who people say “shalom” to in the elevators because it makes them feel better.   I’m the guy who has to hear observations from everyone who believes that my Yarmulka is some lighting rod for confessions about religion.

Nonetheless, Felix continued “I grew up on the Lower East Side.”   I had to smile.   When one thinks of the Lower East Side of Manhattan that existed in the 1940’s, one can’t help but smile.   Felix gave a big smile too and, while making motions that made me think that he was giving a closing statement to a jury, said “I’ve got a story for you!” And so it began…

Felix told me that his father immigrated to the US from Puerto Rico in the 1930’s.   When he arrived, like many immigrants, Felix’s dad came by himself with hopes of earning money that would bring his family over to the “ goldenda medina .” However, as his first holiday season approached, pops became lonely.   He missed his family and his wife.; So Felix’s dad did what he could to remind him of his family at the holiday season- he went out and purchased a Christmas tree.   Now, when he got home, he looked around and all he saw was lights. So pops said to himself: “I’ve got to be a real American!” He went out and purchased some lights. Pops felt so happy, he was both reminding himself of his family and being a “real American” at the same time.

Felix’s dad continued this practice with the tree and the lights for the holiday season.   3 years later, a friend came to the apartment during Christmas-time and looked around in horror.   “What the heck are you doing?!” the friend asked. “I’m being a real American!   I have my tree and my lights!” dad answered.   The friend laughed and replied “You fool!   That’s a menorah!”

Felix continued and told me that he has continued on his dad’s tradition of having both a tree and a menorah come holiday time.   This tradition continued to the extent that when he moved to the suburbs, a neighbor asked Felix- who has a most un-Jewish surname- whether he was Jewish.

I knew that there was a point to hearing this story before pesach .   (Aside from the fact that it was funny.) The haggadah tells us “ chayiv adam l’rios es asmo c’ilu hu yatsa mi’mitzayim .”   Translated, “a person is obligated to see oneself as if he left Egypt.”   When we sit down for the seder , do we do all the motions, do we recline, do we hide the afikomen , because our dad did them - like Felix?   Do we just do things because they remind us of prior generations?

Or worse- do we do things because we look out the window and see what the Joneses or Goldsteins are doing - like Felix’s dad?   Do we say, “their seder went until 11pm, I bet we can beat that!” Do we turn Maxwell House or Artscroll into our source of all our pesach customs?

I know that the job of every pulpit rabbi (which I am not) is to take a quasi-hilarious story and to turn it into a serious discussion. I’m guilty!   (How often to you hear a prosecutor say that?)   But, in all reality, please laugh like Felix and I did when he recounted this story.

Realize what some people do with their holidays and traditions. Acknowledge that we can bastardize the rituals that are most closely related to our service to G-d.   But recognize that if we don’t turn the pesach seder into a real, living, process, we might as well pull out the Christmas trees and the electric menorahs….for our children and grandkids.
 
A Kosher Pesach
-SYS


Matzav filter is blocking Rav Sternbuch's articles

I apologize if you can't see Rav Sternbuch's articles.  I am using an internet connection with a Matzav filter which unfortunately is blocking a number of sites which are needed to post pdf - as well as other valuable sites.

It could be that some of you can see the articles - but I can't

Rav Sternbuch: All Jews are one

Rav Sternbuch:Every Jew is a living Temple

Obama abuses Netanyahu

Times of London

For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said. [...]




Thursday, March 25, 2010

Electronic medical records are not secure

Wall Street Journal

I learned about the lack of health privacy when I hung out my shingle as a psychiatrist. Patients asked if I could keep their records private if they paid for care themselves. They had lost jobs or reputations because what they said in the doctor's office didn't always stay in the doctor's office. That was 35 years ago, in the age of paper. In today's digital world the problem has only grown worse.

A patient's sensitive information should not be shared without his consent. But this is not the case now, as the country moves toward a system of electronic medical records.[...]


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Israeli relationship with America

CNN

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it insulting to the United States earlier this month that the Jewish state announced new construction on disputed land while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting. Not only did the Israeli declaration seem designed to torpedo indirect peace talks with the Palestinians, which the United States had just painstakingly arranged, but it came during a trip by the highest-ranking member of the Obama administration yet to visit the country.



Psychiatrists (and rabbis) and Skype

Time

Kanina Chavez lives an hour away from Children's Hospital in Seattle and used to have to take a whole day off from work whenever her daughter, Rachel, had an appointment with a psychiatrist. Rachel was a teenager when she started treatment for bipolar disorder roughly six years ago. Back then, she and her mother had never heard of telepsychiatry. But now they're using real-time videoconferencing in Olympia, Wash., to make it easier for Rachel to remain in the care of experts in Seattle. During the videoconferencing sessions, her psychiatrist can monitor how Rachel is doing, and Kanina can sit beside her daughter and take notes on the recommended adjustments to her daughter's medications. "I was a little apprehensive about my daughter not being face to face with the doctor," says Chavez. "But the conversation was just as good as if we were in person." (See how to prevent illness at any age.) [...]



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Krauthammer: The Biden incident

JPOST

Why did President Barack Obama choose to turn a gaffe into a crisis in US-Israeli relations?

And a gaffe it was: the announcement by a bureaucrat in the Interior Ministry of a housing expansion in a Jewish neighborhood in north Jerusalem. The timing could not have been worse: Vice President Joe Biden was visiting, Jerusalem is a touchy subject and you don’t bring up touchy subjects that might embarrass an honored guest.

But it was no more than a gaffe. It was certainly not a policy change, let alone a betrayal. The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.[...]


Monday, March 22, 2010

Child abuse: Portrait of a clergyman

Irish Times

Since Brendan Smyth’s death 13 years ago, the spectre of the relentless child abuser has haunted both his victims and those in the Catholic Church who failed to halt his crimes. With Smyth at the centre of a new controversy involving Cardinal Seán Brady, Gerry Moriarty , Northern Editor, outlines the late priest’s grim history

HERE’S AN image. It’s still dark, pre-dawn, in late August 1997. A graveside in the Co Cavan countryside at 4.15am, seven silhouetted Norbertine priests and a few locals gathered around, four gardaí standing in the background, the lights from a hearse illuminating the scene as the coffin of Fr Brendan Smyth is lowered into the ground.

It’s like a picture conjured by a modern-day Bram Stoker, only worse because you know it’s real. They buried Smyth for sure, but his pernicious legacy lives on. He destroyed lives, toppled a government, and – with the other paedophile priests allied to the church’s own criminal mismanagement – brought Irish Catholicism to its knees. Now Cardinal Seán Brady prays, reflects and wrestles with his conscience over whether he should step down as primate of Ireland because of Smyth. [...]




Early marriage

Haaretz

Last year, a matchmaker approached Ayala Suchi, 18, from Yitzhar, with a potential husband. While many people feel a woman her age is too young for marriage, in Ayala's family and circle of friends, no one was surprised by her decision to become a teenage bride. Her younger sister had married at 17, and a cousin did so at an even younger age.

"Here in the hills of Judea and Samaria, this is the way we are raised," explains Suchi, who now lives in the illegal outpost of Givat Ronen, south of Nablus. "People are more idealistic and they have a very clear idea of their priorities. A 15-year-old girl in the hills region doesn't go to movies like city girls; instead, she takes part in the fight for the Land of Israel. And that kind of activity makes you mature rapidly."[...]



Sunday, March 21, 2010

Israel is standing firm against Obama


CNN


Israel has no intention of backing down in its argument with the United States over Israeli plans to build 1,600 apartments on disputed land in largely Arab East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

"Our policy regarding Jerusalem is the same as it was over the past 42 years. We have made it clear to the Americans that for us, building there is just like building in Tel Aviv," Netanyahu said. Israel captured the land in question in the spring of 1967, nearly 43 years ago. [...]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Expert's evaluation is like a beis din & witnesses



Igros Moshe(Y.D. 2:103): Concerning the matter of a teacher who wants to punish a student that he has warned (Makkos 8b)… Certainly a teacher needs to punish a student for that which he clearly did - but not for mere suspicions. This is also true even if the teacher thinks that there is clearly circumstantial evidence that the student committed the prohibited act. It is not permitted for any person in the world to rely on his own opinion in order to punish even the slightest – unless he has clear knowledge and witnesses. Even for a matter which is only worth pennies (peruta) it is necessary to have witnesses and surely for corporal punishment which is worth more than money. In fact the teacher’s right to punish is not any different then a beis din for which mere suspicion is irrelevant to punish. However there is an apparent contradiction found in Makkos (8b) that even though a student has learned his lesson it is still permitted to punish him? But that is only if according to the student’s ability he is able to learn more Torah than he does because he is lazy and doesn’t work hard. In such a case he can be punished even though the student in fact had learned his lesson and doesn’t waste his time. But if the student does not look deeply into the matter because of his laziness then it is appropriate to punish him. This action is based only on the evaluation of the teacher because his expertise makes this something obvious to him and it is within his competence to judge these matters and it is impossible to go to beis din to judge this matter. There are obviously other matters that occur regularly to either a rav or a teacher and his students that they judge according to their understanding without bringing in witnesses and judges. These judgments that a rav or a teacher make without testimony of witnesses before a beis din is similar to what we find in Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 35:14) that in circumstances where men don’t typically go – there is an ancient decree to believe women. And similarly a rav or a teacher and his students, it is a very common that he is forced to rely on his expert opinion alone in deciding what actions to take. Nevertheless this knowledge has to be something that is clear to him and not mere suspicions. Furthermore if there are any doubt or suspicions concerning one of his students in a matter that is improper, it is necessary to first speak to him in a way that draws him closer to Torah and keeps him away from the suspected behavior. However if it clearly known to the teacher that it is necessary for the student to be punished, then it is proper to punish him calmly and not with anger or upset….

R' Eliashiv prohibits moving graves for emergency room


JPost

Plans to build a rocket- and missile-proof new emergency room at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center were dealt a blow on Thursday when Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the top rabbinic authority for the Lithuanian haredi community, told Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman not to be complicit in moving graves to make room for the structure.[...]


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Israel objects to U.S. demands


NYTIMES

The discord between the United States and Israel over Jewish building in East Jerusalem deepened Tuesday with Israeli officials saying they would reject demands by Washington and expressing anger over the public upbraiding of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the Obama administration.

On a day of scattered disturbances by Palestinians in East Jerusalem, news emerged that Israel was moving ahead with a second building project there. A notice on the Web site of the Israel Lands Authority invited bids on construction of 309 new homes in the Jewish suburb of Neve Yaakov, in northeast Jerusalem.

A spokesman for the Jerusalem municipality said building and planning across the city were moving ahead. “For us, it is business as usual,” the spokesman, Stephan Miller, said.[...]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Obama bashes Israel to please Arabs


Washington Post

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S Middle East diplomacy failed in his first year in part because he chose to engage in an unnecessary and unwinnable public confrontation with Israel over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Over the past six months Mr. Obama's envoys gingerly retreated from that fight and worked to build better relations with the government of Binyamin Netanyahu. Last week the administration finally managed to strike a deal for the launching of indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks. So it has been startling -- and a little puzzling -- to see Mr. Obama deliberately plunge into another public brawl with the Jewish state.

True, this U.S.-Israel crisis began with a provocation from Jerusalem: the announcement by the Interior Ministry of plans for 1,600 more Jewish homes beyond Israel's 1967 border. Vice President Biden, who was visiting when the news broke, was embarrassed; he quickly responded with a statement of condemnation. He then appeared to accept the public apology of Mr. Netanyahu, who said he, too, had been surprised by the announcement.[...]

Arabs protest rebuilding of shul they destroyed


NYTIMES

In what appeared to be a case of unfortunate timing, Israel officially inaugurated a rebuilt synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday, entangling what was intended to be a festive cultural event with the diplomatic row over new Israeli construction in the contested territory.

The restoration of the Hurva Synagogue, which was destroyed by Jordanian forces during the 1948 war, has been under way for years. But its reopening ceremony coincided with a crisis in Israel-American relations over plans for new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem that were announced during a visit here last week by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.[...]

Monday, March 15, 2010

Worst crisis in US-Israel ties in 35 years


Haaretz

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has told the country's diplomats there that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, despite attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office to project a sense of "business as usual." [...]

Abuse: Praising the abuser


YNET

Nachman Stal, who fled to Britain after being accused of sodomizing a youth of 14 years, was sentenced Sunday to 13 years behind bars.

Stal, who was extradited to Israel in July last year, received 12 years' imprisonment for sexual offenses and an additional year for evading justice. Tel Aviv District Court also criticized rabbis who had come to Stal's defense. [...]

Friday, March 12, 2010

Million dollar fund for abuse program in Brooklyn


NYDaily News

The state has earmarked $950,000 since April 2009 to fund Assemblyman Dov Hikind's plans to teach H asidic Jews to speak up against child molestation.

But the money sits untouched as Hikind figures out the details of Shomrei Yeldainu - Hebrew for "Guardians of our Children" - the Daily News has learned.

"You have to develop something that is done correctly working with the rabbis and leaders," said Hikind (D-Brooklyn). [...]

Getting Chareidim to work


Jewish Chronicle

The large buildings and symmetrical streets in Modiin Illit are a world away from the crowded flats found in other Charedi neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. And according to new figures, the environment is directly contributing to a growing enthusiasm for work.

Israel's fast-growing Charedi community is traditionally characterised by low employment, high poverty and dependence on charity and benefits. How to change this has become a perennial question of Israeli politics.[...]

Rav Sternbuch: Giving with joy

Thursday, March 11, 2010

British social services failed to stop incest over 35 years


Times on LIne

A father who repeatedly raped his two daughters and made them pregnant 18 times during a tyrannical 35-year campaign of physical and sexual abuse escaped detection because of a litany of failings by care professionals, a report revealed yesterday.

Agencies involved with the family failed to confront the man even though they strongly suspected for many years that he was the father of the girls’ seven babies, some of them born with severe genetic defects.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why isn't all punishment publicized as a deterrent?

One thing that I am puzzled by is the fact that the Torah lists four crimes whose death penalty is to be publicized so that the "people will hear and be afraid" and will learn a lesson not to commit a sin in the future. Why are these four crimes singled out? Why aren't all punishment publicized for its educational and social value?

Rambam(Hilchos Mamrim 3:8):How is a rebellious elder dealt with? …[once he is convicted] he is not to be executed by the beis din of his city or the Sanhedrin which is located outside of Jerusalem. Rather he is to be taken to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. There is to be imprisoned until one of the 3 pilgrimage festivals as it says that “all of the Jewish nation shall hear about it and be fearful. This implies that the execution required public announcement. In fact there are four executions which require public announcement – a rebellious elder, those who false testimony to try to cause e someone executed, a missionary, and a rebellious son (ben sorer u’morah) That is because the Torah says about all of them, “So that the people will hear and be afraid.

Ramban(Devarim 21:18): Concerning a ben sorer u’morah -…In general he is not executed because of a sin he has done but rather because of the sin he will do (Sanhedrin 71a). This is why the verse says “And all of Israel shall hear and fear” because he isn’t executed because of the greatness of his sin but rather to provide a lesson for the masses and so that he won’t be a stumbling block for others. And so it is the manner of the Torah verse when it warns about the death penalty that it is a deterrent to help others. Thus it is mentioned here regarding a rebellious elder (Devarim 17:13) since there is nothing deserving capital punishment in his teaching a minority view of halacha. His severe punishment is only to remove a dispute over the Torah as I explained in verse 11. This is also true concerning false witnesses (Devarim 19:20) who are given capital punishment only for trying to have another executed and not if they succeeded. This is also true of a missionary (Devarim 13:12) since he is executed only for saying things - even if those he spoke to did not actually worship idols or did not listen to him. In fact his execution is to provide a lesson for the rest of society. Thus it is with this mitzva that it is an innovation and a derivation of the basic mitzva of honoring (Shemos 20:12) and fearing parents (Vayikra 10:3).

The main problem is unemployment - not healthcare


The Obama administration and Democrats in general are in trouble because they are not urgently and effectively addressing the issue that most Americans want them to: the frightening economic insecurity that has put a chokehold on millions of American families. 

The economy shed 36,000 jobs last month, and that was trumpeted in the press as good news. Well, after your house has burned down I suppose it’s good news that the flames may finally be flickering out. But once you realize that it will take 11 million or more new jobs to get us back to where we were when the recession began, you begin to understand that we’re not really making any headway at all.

It’s also widely known by now that the official employment statistics drastically understate the problem. Once we take off the statistical rose-colored glasses, we’re left with the awful reality of millions upon millions of Americans who have lost — or are losing — their jobs, their homes, their small businesses, and their hopes for a brighter future.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reform Movement & intermarried couples


A Reform Jewish task force on intermarriage said Monday that the movement should do more to encourage mixed-faith couples to be active in Jewish life, including creating special blessings for major life events such as weddings and funerals.

The panel proposed no changes in the movement's policy on officiating at interfaith weddings. Reform Judaism formally opposes the practice but allows each rabbi to decide.

Instead, the panel proposed other steps, including educating rabbis on how they can engage intermarried families, and creating blessings for ceremonies that involve a non-Jewish spouse.[...]

Church faces growing abuse scandal in Europe


ROME — Defending itself against a growing child sexual abuse scandal in Europe, one that has even come close to the brother of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican said Tuesday that local European churches had addressed the issue with “timely and decisive action.”
In a note read on Vatican Radio, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, cautioned against limiting the concerns over child sexual abuse to Roman Catholic institutions, noting that the problem also affected the broader society.
A wave of church sexual abuse scandals has emerged in recent weeks in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, adding to the fallout from a broad abuse investigation in Ireland.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Interruption of blogging due to travel plans.


I am in the process of traveling to America for an extended visit. Therefore for the next few days there will be few if any posts and I might not have an opportunity to approve the comments. Hopefully by the end of the week things will get back to normal.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lemba's of Zimbabwe claim Jewish ancestry


BBC

In many ways, the Lemba tribe of Zimbabwe and South Africa are just like their neighbours.

But in other ways their customs are remarkably similar to Jewish ones.

They do not eat pork, they practise male circumcision, they ritually slaughter their animals, some of their men wear skull caps and they put the Star of David on their gravestones.

Their oral traditions claim that their ancestors were Jews who fled the Holy Land about 2,500 years ago.[...]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bait Shel Tikva - For mildly retarded girls

Allow us to ask your support for a unique institution in Israel: The nonprofit organization “Bait Shel Tikva”. Bait shel Tikva was established in 2007 by a private initiative for girls with developmental retardation, CP, in the ages of 15 – 20 years old, and to respond to the distress of many of their families. The idea came up because we have a paralyzed daughter ourselves of 16 years in a very difficult situation. After the publication in the press about the idea of the above-mentioned institution, many parents called us saying they were on the verge of collapsing under the heavy burden and the day-to-day difficulties. They literally told us: “We beg you to save us by establishing such an institution”. Hostels like Bait Shel Tikva don’t exist in Israel. There are only institutions for severely retarded girls from over 21 years old; and even over this age – not every time. We strongly believe that this is the wrong environment for the much younger, far less retarded girls who will, no doubt, feel isolated and sad in such a place – unable to communicate with the other girls living there. Therefore, because for us this is a case of life and death, we decided not to wait any longer and to establish the home by our own means, in a private manner.

After having consulted with numerous existing institutions in Israel dealing with retardation and rehabilitation we found out that one cannot establish such an institution with the help of the Ministry of Labor and Relief in the first stage, and one cannot expect to get any budget from a government source before several years of existence on a private status. All those institutions were run in the beginning with their own resources.

So far we were able to successfully cover the costs of the installation of the premises. Now, we’re in need of another estimated yearly $222,800 to cover the costs of the maintenance of the premises. We need your help to cover these maintenance costs. Your support will help many physically disabled girls with a slight to medium retardation find a house adjusted to their needs.

In case you would be interested in helping us in our endeavor of providing a warm home with all the up to date medical facilities and therapeutic activities to those fine girls, we would be happy to provide you with additional information about our project in the form of Bait shel Tikva’s detailed prospect, as well as a recommendation of “Gedolei Israel”.

We thank you for considering contributing to our cause. Please write your check, money order or cashier's check to

“Friends of Shaarei Torah va’Hesed”
Harei Yehudah 65/1
Ganei-Tikva 55900 Israel

We would like to remind you that your giving is tax deductible. Federal Tax I.D. number: 26-0209937/ “Friends of Shaarei Torah va’Hesed”.

For questions please contact our organization’s secretary David Blumenthal at 972 (0)50 4136140 or 972 (0)3 535 2751.

Any amount in which you wish to contribute to our organization will be acceptable.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi Inon Levy, Chairman

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Re-examining the Pollard Issue


R Yair Hoffman

This is yet another article that will probably generate controversy in some circles within the Jewish community.   Our history, however, since the rise of the Talmud and before, has always been one of intense analysis, debate, thought and discussion.  This political issue is no different, and it is perhaps time for another point of view to be presented.

Pollard was a United States civilian intelligence analyst convicted in 1987 of handing over state secrets in spying for Israel.  He was sentenced in March of 1987 to life in prison.  Since then, numerous Jewish organizations have stood completely behind Jonathan Pollard – not just in terms of advocating for his freedom, but in actually advocating for his outlook and perspective as well.[...]


Monday, March 1, 2010

Israel: Russian immigrants


MARINA from Belarus and Ida from Ukraine were selling jewelry on fold-up tables by the beach, alongside Malka from Georgia. On the way over, I had met Natalya from Russia and Igor from Uzbekistan, who were holding hands as they strolled around a hilltop park, sunning themselves on a sparkling winter afternoon. Should it have been any surprise that Yana, the saleswoman at the nearby mall, grew up in Azerbaijan?

All around me in the Israeli city of Ashdod, people were chatting in Russian, darting in and out of stores with signs in Cyrillic, living the lives that they had once lived, as if they were in a mythical, far-flung former Soviet republic. I had come from Moscow to explore Israel, but when I reached Ashdod, a port on the Mediterranean that is shunned by most guidebooks, I almost felt as if I were back where I had started. Minus the snow. [...]

Attacks against beis din by Orthodox Jews


Haaretz

It starts with a distant, dull roar along Rabbi Akiva Street in the largely Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv. Gradually the noise grows louder and infiltrates the half-open window of courtroom A. The proceedings lapse into silence, as the dayanim - judges in a religious court - the litigants and everyone else present listen attentively. It's almost 9:30 P.M., and the speaker system on the roof of a rented vehicle is broadcasting a recorded message. When the people in the courtroom are able to make out the words being blasted  through the speakers, they discover that the announcement is not about the funeral of an important rabbi or a pious woman.


At least 100 decibels burst through the half-open window, shaking the courtroom. The voices represent one side in a war  being waged by dayanim in a bid to maintain the exclusive power of the religious courts among the Haredi public. At this late hour, they are urging everyone to attend a demonstration being held that night against Zvi Bialostosky, "who is raising a hand against the Torah of Moses." [...]

Ad displays on the Kotel


Haaretz

Most people go to the Western Wall to pray, but now some will also head there to pay. 

The cabinet is set to approve a plan that would allow for sponsorship messages to be beamed onto the Western Wall, sources in the Prime Minister's Office told Haaretz Saturday.[...]