Thursday, March 31, 2011

Paying for dialysis when it doesn't prolong life?


NYTimes

Of all the terrible chronic diseases, only one — end-stage kidney disease — gets special treatment by the federal government. A law passed by Congress 39 years ago provides nearly free care to almost all patients whose kidneys have failed, regardless of their age or ability to pay.

But the law has had unintended consequences, kidney experts say. It was meant to keep young and middle-aged people alive and productive. Instead, many of the patients who take advantage of the law are old and have other medical problems, often suffering through dialysis as a replacement for their failed kidneys but not living long because the other chronic diseases kill them.

Kidney specialists are pushing doctors to be more forthright with elderly people who have other serious medical conditions, to tell the patients that even though they are entitled to dialysis, they may want to decline such treatment and enter a hospice instead. In the end, it is always the patient’s choice.

One idea, promoted by leading specialists, is to change the way doctors refer to the decision to forgo dialysis. Instead of saying that a patient is withdrawing from dialysis or agreeing not to start it, these specialists say the patient has chosen “medical management without dialysis.” [...]


Does major change always require causing a stink?

Just had a discussion regarding the tactics to use in bringing about change in a community. Can one act with derech eretz and a concern with truth or is the only effective way to be rude and abrasive and to have a blatant disregard of truth? The point of contention are the views of Saul Alinsky.


NYTimes

Saul Alinsky, the Chicago activist and writer whose street-smart tactics influenced generations of community organizers, most famously the current president, could not have been more clear about which side he was on. In his 1971 text, “Rules for Radicals,” Mr. Alinsky, who died in 1972, explains his purpose: “What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. ‘The Prince’ was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. ‘Rules for Radicals’ is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.” [...]

Make yourself look as big and scary as possible:

For an elementary illustration of tactics, take parts of your face as the point of reference; your eyes, your ears, and your nose. First the eyes; if you have organized a vast, mass-based people’s organization, you can parade it visibly before the enemy and openly show your power. Second the ears; if your organization is small in numbers, then do what Gideon did: conceal the members in the dark but raise a din and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization numbers many more than it does. Third, the nose; if your organization is too tiny even for noise, stink up the place.


Abuse: Yosef Kolko case - Should beis din's social worker have to testify?


APP

A former yeshiva teacher and camp counselor spoke in detail about sexual abuse accusations against him to a social worker hired by a rabbinical council months before the case was brought to law enforcement, according to testimony in Superior Court Wednesday.

Now, an assistant prosecutor wants the social worker to be able to testify against the teacher, Yosef Kolko, at upcoming criminal proceedings regarding accusations that he molested a boy he met while a camp counselor.

Kolko's attorney, Michael E. Wilbert, argues that his client, as a patient, is entitled to confidentiality.

Sexual abuse case sheds light on Emmanuel’s ethnic tensions


JPost

A sexual abuse case recently made public is shedding some new light on the development of the ethnic tensions that exploded in Emmanuel last year.

Channel 2 reported on Monday that the principal of Emmanuel's Ashkenazi elementary school for boys, Rabbi Moshe Nussboim, is currently on trial behind closed doors in the Kfar Saba Magistrate's Court on suspicion of sexually abusing three boys from Sephardi families in his school between the years 2002-2008.

The Emmanuel affair took off in 2007, when a partition was erected in the middle of the local Beit Ya'acov girls' school building to separate between girls in a "hassidic track," composed of primarily Slonimer Hassidim, and the rest of the girls.

A High Court petition by Yoav Laloum and his Noar Kahalacha NGO charging ethnic discrimination led to the court ordering that the wall be taken down, and the Independent Education Center, which runs the school, obeyed.[....]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

4 Palestinians falsely accused of raping 11-year-old


YNET

Police released four Palestinians residing illegally in Israel, who were arrested Tuesday on suspicion that they had raped an 11-year old Israeli boy, when it turned out the latter had been lying.

The four men denied the allegations from the first, prompting police investigators to question the boy again before a scheduled lineup. During the second round of questioning, the boy admitted that some of the claims he had made were false, and also supplied a different description of the men

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Two opposing views: Must you listen to rabbis to violate the Torah?

From Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

The following shows that the commonly accepted view of rabbinic authority is based on the Sifre which is not the authoritative view since it is rejected by  the Bavli & Yerushalmi and is not mentioned by Rambam and Shulchan Aruch.

Ramban (Devarim 17:11):
Left and Right.  Rashi explains that even if the Sanhedrin tell you that right is left or left is right – [you must obey them]. Meaning that even if you are certain that the Sanhedrin has erred and it is as obvious to you as the difference between your right and left – you still must comply with their understanding of the Torah. In other words you can’t argue, “How can I eat that  which is prohibited by the Torah or how can I execute this person when I know he has not transgressed?” Rather your attitude must be, “The absolute obedience to the rulings of the Sanhedrin is what G d has commanded me and I must observe the mitzvos exactly as the Sanhedrin (which is in G d’s presence in the Temple) says. The Torah was given to me according to their understanding – even if they err.”  This is what happened when R’ Yehoshau had a dispute with the Sanhedrin as to what day was Yom Kippur. R’ Gamliel the head of the Sanhedrin ordered R’ Yehoshua to appear before him on the day that he thought was Yom Kippur (Rosh HaShanna 25a). the necessity for this mitzva is very great. That is because the Torah was given to us in writing and it is known that people don’t think identically in all matters. Therefore it would be natural for disputes over what the Torah means to continually multiply and it would end up that there would be many Torahs instead of one. That is why this verse tells you that one must obey the Sanhedrin which convenes in G d’s presence in the Temple – in everything they say concerning the understanding of the Torah. There is no difference in the requrement to obey whether this Torah understanding is part of the Tradition which goes back what G d told Moshe or what their understanding of the meaning or intent of a Torah verse.  This requirement to accept their Torah understanding is because the Torah was in fact given to us according to their understanding. Therefore they must be obeyed even if their view contrasts with your understanding as left contrasts with right and surely if you agree with their understanding. That is because G d’s spirit is on those who serve in His Temple and He does not desert His pious ones. G d always protects them from error and mistake. The Sifri (Shoftim 154) says that you must obey them even if appears that they have reversed right with left and left with right.

Yad HaMelech (Hilchos Maamrim 1:2): …It is clear that according to the understanding of Rashi and the Mizrachi the intent of the Sifre [that one must listen to the rabbis even when it apparently involves Torah prohibitions] is against the view of the Babylonian Talmud and also against the Yerushalmi. Furthermore since the Rambam omits mention of this Sifre therefore we have only the halachic view that is explicit in the Bavli and Yerushalmi.  Thus all halachic rulings which appear to contradict the words of the Torah e.g., eating prohibited fats or killing an innocent man – irrespective as to the authority of the rabbi giving the ruling they are not to be accepted. It is stated explicitly in the Yerushalmi and also the Bavli that if someone errs in this matter and thinks it is an obligation to listen to these rabbis to eat fat prohibited by the Torah because he thinks it is a mitzva to always obey the rabbis – this individual is obligated to bring a sacrifice as he would be for eating any Torah prohibited food in error.
  
*** Even Ramban might hold Sifre only applies if  Sanhedrin rejects your view ***

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabiah Omer Y.D. 6:7.2): … The Yerushalmi (Horious 1:1) states, that you might think even if they tell you that “right” is “left” and that “left” is “right” that they must be obeyed. Therefore the Torah says that you should only obey them if they say that “right” is “right” and “left” is “left”. But this is the opposite of the Sifre [that you must obey them even if they tell you that “right” is “left” and “left” is “right”…. However according to the explanation of the Ramban (Sefer HaMitzvos Shoreh I) and those who support him [Ran Sanhedrin 87a] there is a reconcilation. According to the Ramban as long as the dissenting view has not been directly presented to the Sanhedrin [or Rabbinic authority] then he must refuse to eat that which the Sanhedrin insists is kosher. [If he eats food that he regards as unkosher because he is relying on the Sanhedrin he must bring a korbon] However once he has directly discussed the issue with the Sanhedrin and they have rejected his view [despite his best efforts] then the halacha becomes that he must obey them [even if he is still convinced he is right.]

Riva (Devarim 17:11): Don’t deviate from what they tell you left or right – Rashi explains,“You must obey them even if they tell you right is left and left is right and surely if they tell you right is right and left is left.”  This is an astounding statement. Are we really required to listen to a rabbi who tells you that something that is impure is pure or that something which is prohibited really permitted?! The answer is that this command does not concern Torah obligations but rather Rabbinic decrees. Thus “the right that is really left” is referring to decrees such as not doing the Torah mitzva of blowing shofar because of the concern of profaning Shabbos. The meaning of “the left that is really right” is referring to decrees such as prohibiting marriage to someone who is permitted by the Torah.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Experts Get the Future Wrong


NYTimes

What does the future hold? To answer that question, human beings have looked to stars and to dreams; to cards, dice and the Delphic oracle; to animal entrails, Alan Green­span, mathematical models, the palms of our hands. As the number and variety of these soothsaying techniques suggest, we have a deep, probably intrinsic desire to know the future. Unfortunately for us, the future is deeply, intrinsically unknowable.

This is the problem Dan Gardner tackles in “Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better.” Gardner, a Canadian journalist and author of “The Science of Fear,” takes as his starting point the work of Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Beginning in the 1980s, Tetlock examined 27,451 forecasts by 284 academics, pundits and other prognosticators. The study was complex, but the conclusion can be summarized simply: the experts bombed. Not only were they worse than statistical models, they could barely eke out a tie with the proverbial dart-throwing chimps.

The most generous conclusion Tetlock could draw was that some experts were less awful than others. Isaiah Berlin once quoted the Greek poet Archilochus to distinguish between two types of thinkers: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin admired both ways of thinking, but Tetlock borrowed the metaphor to account for why some experts fared better. The least accurate forecasters, he found, were hedgehogs: “thinkers who ‘know one big thing,’ aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains” and “display bristly impatience with those who ‘do not get it,’ ” he wrote. Better experts “look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things,” “are skeptical of grand schemes” and are “diffident about their own forecasting prowess.” [...]

Spiritual leader of Syrian Jewish community enters guilty plea

YNet

The spiritual leader for the Syrian Jewish community in the United States has entered a guilty plea in a massive federal corruption probe in New Jersey.

Rabbi Saul Kassin of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty in a Trenton federal courtroom Monday to one count of unauthorized money transmitting.

The 89-year-old is the chief rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
 
Kassin was among five rabbis arrested in July 2009 and charged with money laundering using charitable non-profit groups they or their synagogues controlled.

 


Emmanuel: allegations that sex abuse is behind segregation

Channel 2 news Hat tip Joel Katz
Here's a heads-up on a Israel Channel 2 TV program "360" investigative report.

what was really behind the segregation in Emmanuel's school.

360 reports that the origin of the conflict involved allegations of sexual abuse by rabbi in Emmanuel.

The allegations created conflict between the 'ba'aleh teshuva' population and the haredi population.

Only later did the segregation take place.

Channel 2 http://reshet.ynet.co.il/Shows/360/ Monday 21:00 March 28, 2011.

Joel


Emmanuel: allegations that sex abuse is behind segregation

Channel 2 news Hat tip Joel Katz
Here's a heads-up on a Israel Channel 2 TV program "360" investigative report.

what was really behind the segregation in Emmanuel's school.

360 reports that the origin of the conflict involved allegations of sexual abuse by rabbi in Emmanuel.

The allegations created conflict between the 'ba'aleh teshuva' population and the haredi population.

Only later did the segregation take place.

Channel 2 http://reshet.ynet.co.il/Shows/360/ Monday 21:00 March 28, 2011.

Joel


The Eruv crisis in the Hamptons:The thin Jew LIne



City Show

Readership - South Korea & Iran

Just noticed in my statistics of readership by country - that there are a significant number of readers from South Korea & Iran. 


I would appreciate hearing from these readers what they find of interest?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Supreme Court to Weigh Sociology Issue in Wal-Mart Discrimination Case


NYTimes

When the Supreme Court considers on Tuesday whether hundreds of thousands of women can band together in an employment discrimination suit against Wal-Mart, the argument may hinge on the validity of the hotly disputed conclusions of a Chicago sociologist.

Plaintiffs in the class-action suit, who claim that Wal-Mart owes billions of dollars to as many as 1.5 million women who they say were unfairly treated on pay and promotions, enlisted the support of William T. Bielby, an academic specializing in "social framework analysis."

A central question in the case is whether he should have been allowed, in preliminary proceedings, to go beyond describing general research about gender stereotypes in the workplace to draw specific conclusions about what he called flaws in Wal-Mart's personnel policies.

"Bielby made a conclusion that he had no basis to make," said Laurens Walker, one of two University of Virginia professors who coined the term for the analysis almost 25 years ago. "He hasn't done the research." [...]
   

The alienation of American Muslims


CNN


The community is growing more defensive in the face of what many here say is a national climate of suspicion reminiscent of the period immediately after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Graves in Yaffo are apparently not Jewish

YNET

The tombs uncovered near Andromeda Hill in Jaffa belong to pagan worshipers buried next to domesticated pigs, according to the latest findings revealed during excavation works at the site.

For the past year, the site has become a political and religious hotspot, with ultra-Orthodox frequently protesting what they claimed was the desecration of Jewish graves.

BCHOL
עצמות יהודים? התמונה אומרת הכל! • צפו והזדזעו
'אתרא קדישא' נערך לטקס קבורה פומבי לעצמות שפונו ממתחם אנדרדומה ביפו • עדות שצולמה במקום מוכיחה באופן חותך: מדובר בעצמות נוצרים • צפו

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Abuse: Cyberbullying:5 Essential Parenting Tips


Time

Cyberbullying is back in the news, most recently because of a so-called "smut list" published online that targeted 100 teenage girls, some as young as 14, for being promiscuous. So Healthland asked two bullying experts — Elizabeth Englander, author of Understanding Violence, and Jonathan Singer at the Temple University School of Social Work — for tips for helping parents teach kids to avoid, cope with and understand the harm of digital abuse:

Make sure your kids know cyberbullying is wrong. Many kids don't understand that when they write down and disseminate feelings of frustration, jealousy or anger toward others online, it can quickly escalate into problems in the real world. They also tend to think that what happens digitally "doesn't count" and that digital abuse doesn't hurt, especially since parents usually focus on their kids' behavior in person.


Lawsuit:Magnets defeat push button locks


NYTimes

Yeshai M. Kutoff was house-proud, having bought a home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, for his family of five. And as an Orthodox Jew, he bought push-button locks for the doors — an accommodation for the Sabbath, when many of the devout do not carry keys.

When a neighbor told him that the locks he had bought could be opened by a powerful magnet costing about $30, Mr. Kutoff was perturbed. “It does bother me that other people could easily figure it out,” he said. Mr. Kutoff did not buy a magnet to see for himself. “It doesn’t interest me to know how to break into my own lock,” he said.

If this were a problem with security software instead of errant bits of steel, a company could send out a patch. If this was someplace other than the United States in the 21st century, Mr. Kutoff might have called a locksmith. But because it is the United States in the 21st century, lawyers are involved.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jesuits Settle Sex Abuse Claims For $166 Million


NRP

In one of the largest settlements in the Catholic church's sweeping sex abuse scandal, an order of priests agreed Friday to pay $166.1 million to hundreds of Native Americans and Alaska Natives who were abused at the order's schools around the Pacific Northwest.

The settlement between more than 450 victims and the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus also calls for a written apology to the victims and disclosure of documents to them, including their personal medical records.

"It's a day of reckoning and justice," said Clarita Vargas, who said she and her two sisters were abused by the head of St. Mary's Mission and School, a former Jesuit-run Indian boarding school on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak, Wash., in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The abuse began when they were as young as 6 or 7, she said. "My spirit was wounded, and this makes it feel better." [...]

Brain-Damaged Mom Granted Visitation Rights With Triplets


Fox News

A judge issued a tentative written order Friday allowing a woman so badly brain damaged by medical errors during childbirth that she can no longer walk, talk or eat temporary visitation with her 4-year-old triplets.

Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Shaller issued the ruling after a two-week court hearing over the parental rights of Abbie Dorn, a 34-year-old who is being cared for by her parents at their Myrtle Beach, S.C., home. The order will stand until a trial date is set in the case, said Dorn's attorney, Lisa Helfend Meyer.

Dorn's parents, who are suing for permanent visitation, want the children to visit for two weeks every summer and a week in the fall and spring, but an attorney for Dorn's ex-husband argued during a hearing earlier this week that their mother was so badly injured giving birth that she is no longer capable of being a parent. [...]

Jews were given Torah because of their arrogance

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Maharsha (Nedarim 20a): The fear of Him should be on your faces – this is shyness – … This is one of the inherent qualities of Jews and it is a desirable personality trait for a person to be shy but in regards to the nature of learning our Sages (Avos 2:5) say that a shy person can’t learn. However we note in Beitza (25b) that the Torah was given to Jews because they are inherently arrogant. We can explain both these gemora. The Torah was in fact given because of two reasons. Since Jews are inherently arrogant they are natural students because they are not ashamed to ask question. Secondly it was given to them because the Torah diminishes arrogance as it says that fear of G d should be on their faces which is shyness.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Abuse: Israeli court convicts 4 who didn't try to help lynch victim


YNET

IDF soldier Or Levy and three young Arab-Israeli men were convicted Wednesday for neglecting to prevent a crime during the brutal killing of Leonard (Arik) Karp in August 2009, describe by some as outright lynching.

The defendants, Fadi Jaber, Fuad Musa, Mahmud Ades and Levy, were convicted for standing by and not doing anything while their friends attacked and killed Karp. [...]

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Not believing in free-will reduces moral behavior


NYTimes

“Free will guides people’s choices toward being more moral and better performers,” Dr. Vohs said. “It’s adaptive for societies and individuals to hold a belief in free will, as it helps people adhere to cultural codes of conduct that portend healthy, wealthy and happy life outcomes.”


Monday, March 21, 2011

Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated


NYTimes

WE all enjoy speculating about which Arab regime will be toppled next, but maybe we should  be looking closer to home. High unemployment? Check. Out-of-touch elites? Check. Frustrated young people? As a 24-year-old American, I can testify that this rich democracy has plenty of those too.

About one-fourth of Egyptian workers under 25 are unemployed, a statistic that is often cited as a reason for the revolution there. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January an official unemployment rate of 21 percent for workers ages 16 to 24. [...]

Mullah in Debate of Tradition vs. Modern Schooling


NYTimes

On opposite sides of a dusty road, thousands of Muslim students in this remote farming town are preparing for very different futures. On one side, inside a traditional Islamic seminary, teenage boys in skullcaps are studying ancient texts to become imams. On the other, students are hunched before computers in college classrooms, learning to become doctors, pharmacists and engineers.

The distance between them is about 50 feet, but it could be five centuries. In the middle is a bearded Muslim cleric, Mullah Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi, who has spent the past decade bridging the divide between traditional and modern education for Muslims. From his main campuses here in Akkalkuwa, he has built a network of religious schools, hospitals and colleges with more than 150,000 students across the country, and earned a reputation among India’s Muslim clerics as a reformer. [...]

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Maureen Dowd: Avenging Altar Boy


NYTimes

It’s understandable if the former altar boy at St. Carthage in West Philly needs to light a votive. The 44-year-old Catholic, who still attends Mass with his family at the same church, now called St. Cyprian, is the first U.S. prosecutor to charge a church official for a sickeningly commonplace sin: Endangering children whom the Roman Catholic Church was supposed to protect by shuffling pedophile priests to different parishes where they could find fresh prey.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reform converts more acceptable to Israel than Orthodox ones


Haaretz

According to a High Court decision, the civil registry must grant Reform and Conservative converts to Judaism the status of new Jewish immigrants, but paradoxically, the court determined that the Israeli rabbinate would retain jurisdiction over conversions conducted by Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora.

At the meeting, Horowitz pointed out the irony: The Orthodox rabbinate is thus actually pushing prospective immigrants to opt for Conservative or Reform conversions instead. [....]

Dry Bones: Obama & the Itamar Massacre

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tradition - not Talmudic derivation- is source of halachos


Doros Rishonim (4:13):
The Rambam’s words which are focused on the general principles of the nature of Tradition and the interpretation of the verses (drashos) indicate that the drashos and the format of the drashos as well as the given and take of the gemora regarding the drashos don’t constitute proof that the halacha under discussion is a Torah halacha. The proof whether a halacha is a Torah halacha can only be determined within the context of the discussion in the gemora. If analysis indicates that it is a Torah law then we conclude that the tradition is that this a Torah law. However if the analysis shows us that this is a rabbinic law then we can not conclude the contrary  from the fact that the gemora is describing it as being learnt from a drasha of Torah verse. That is because the Tradition is foundation of everything. Therefore in this case the drasha and limud is only serving as an asmachta (memory device). Thus the status of a halacha as being from the Torah is not determined by how it is seems to be derived - but rather that is what our Tradition says. Thus if  our Tradition says a halacha is rabbinic – it is rabbinic even though there are many interpretations from Torah verse. The form of apparent deriviation does not add or subtract from the status established by Tradition that it is rabbinic.

Doros Rishonim (Chapter 11): Concerning all the dershos, they are only to provide support for a halacha which is known by Tradition and the derasha is simply to show that there is nothing which is not alluded to by the Torah. They are also used to support a halacha which has been decided from concepts found in the Mishna or from a Tradition transmitted by their teachers or because of logical reasoning based on the concepts of the Torah [but the derasha is not the source of the halacha].

What are Talmudic disputes - if halacha is learned from Tradition?


from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Malbim (Introduction Toras Cohanim): There has been much confusion and concern of scholars throughout the generations about the origin of what we call the Oral Torah. It is clear to all who are familiar with the Jewish texts that the Oral Torah is constantly connected with verses and interpretation from verses. This is the obvious pattern that is found in such works as the Sifre, Sifra and Mechilta as well as the Babylonian Talmud and the Yerushalmi Talmud. However when the meaning of the verses are examined and compared to the lessons that are drawn from them it often seems as if there is no clear and necessary connection between the two. In fact we find in most cases that not only is there no obvious justification for the halachic interpretation which is learned from the verse but that there are times when the verse actually contradicts and opposes the halachic conclusion. In addition in most cases we find strong and sweeping conclusions built upon minor and far-fetched justification. Thus we find major halachic concepts which are established because of a single word or even a single letter – which despite great effort and thorough analysis no necessary justification for these conclusions can be found. And even if you accept that the word or letter is the basis for the halachic understanding, the question arises why other instances of the word or letter are not viewed as having the same significance for other Halachos? In addition we find at times that a particular analysis of a verse is done in one place but in other places that the word is interpreted to imply just the opposite. Thus it seems to be that the interpretations are totally dependent on the whim of the moment and that matters of substance are justified by trivialities. When we ask how this issue was understood by the scholars of the ancient times we see that they said that the words of the verse which are brought as proof for the halacha are simply arbitrary signs and mnemonic devices which were selected in order to aid recall of the halacha. In fact these ancient Torah scholars claimed that halacha was not learned from textual analyses but were known from oral tradition. However this answer seems very far-fetched because we see that Chazal were always asking where a particular halacha was learned from and they always answered with specific Torah verses. And there often was a dispute with one saying that verse was incorrect and a different one was the source. The typical interchange involved attempts by all parties to justify their verse and to show that the verse and proofs chosen by others was wrong. It makes no sense that Chazal would engage in such intensive arguments concerning something which was merely an allusion or mnemonic device!.. It is clear therefore that the verses are in fact the sources of the halacha and are not mere mnemonic devices. In fact the Rambam (Introduction to Mishna) distinguishes between those Halachos which are not derived from verses which he calls Halacha LeMoshe and between those halacha which are derived from verses. These two categories are different from each other for a number of reasons… The Rambam counts the halachos which are Halacha LeMoshe and shows that they are few. The vast majority of Halachos are in fact learned from Torah verses and grounded in them. Thus these two explanations of halacha being learned from Tradition and being learned from verses are simply incompatible. This matter is not only astonishing to the masses but Jewish heretics utilize this contradiction to cause difficulties and to undermine the validity of our Tradition. However even amongst scholars it causes severe difficulties because they end up with two opposing paradigms which they are constantly switching between. Sometimes they focus on the language of the verses and the interpretation of drash is viewed as external and artificial. But other times they are drawn after the drash and Tradition and argue with those who focus on the rules of syntax and understanding of the verses. Thus there is a constant fight of the brothers - the meaning of the verse and the drash. Both sides murmur in their tents and there is no reconciliation….

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dr. Lynn Margulis: Symbiotic evolution


Third Culture excerpt

Symbiosis is a physical association between organisms, the living together of organisms of different species in the same place at the same time. My work in symbiosis comes out of cytoplasmic genetic systems. We were all taught that the genes were in the nucleus and that the nucleus is the central control of the cell. Early in my study of genetics, I became aware that other genetic systems with different inheritance patterns exist. From the beginning, I was curious about these unruly genes that weren't in the nucleus. The most famous of them was a cytoplasmic gene called "killer," which, in the protist Paramecium aurelia, followed certain rules of inheritance. The killer gene, after twenty years of intense work and shifting paradigmatic ideas, turns out to be in a virus inside a symbiotic bacterium. Nearly all extranuclear genes are derived from bacteria or other sorts of microbes. In the search for what genes outside the nucleus really are, I became more and more aware that they're cohabiting entities, live beings. Live small cells reside inside the larger cells. Understanding that led me and others to study modern symbioses.

Symbiosis has nothing to do with cost or benefit. The benefit/cost people have perverted the science with invidious economic analogies. The contention is not over modern symbioses, simply the living together of unlike organisms, but over whether "symbiogenesis" — long-term symbioses that lead to new forms of life — has occurred and is still occurring. The importance of symbiogenesis as a major source of evolutionary change is what is debated. I contend that symbiogenesis is the result of long-term living together — staying together, especially involving microbes- -and that it's the major evolutionary innovator in all lineages of larger nonbacterial organisms.

First senior church official in court for charges of abuse cover up


NYTimes

In what is believed to be the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal in the United States, a senior church official is to appear in court Monday on charges of covering up the activities of predator priests.

Several priests have been tried and jailed over the years on charges of sexually abusing minors. But Msgr. William J. Lynn, a pastor who headed the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s office of clergy from 1992 to 2004, is believed to be the first managerial-level official in the country to be charged not with abusing minors himself but with protecting those who did.[...]


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Zero Tolerance, Zero Sense


Time

Two good kids. Two broken rules. Two parables of justice, except one offers a bracing lesson in honor and the other just leaves you heartsick at the latest evidence that zero tolerance often makes zero sense.

One kid made headlines: Brandon Davies, star Brigham Young basketball player whose team was heading toward its first Final Four ever — until it emerged that he had violated the Mormon school's strict honor code, with its injunction to "live a chaste and virtuous life." He had apparently slept with his girlfriend, an act that would barely register on most campuses, where athletes' failing grades, drunken sprees and loutish behavior are ignored as long as the players keep putting points on the board. BYU could have let Davies keep playing while the honor-code office "investigated," but school officials were steadfast. Davies' teammates, whose hopes were also crushed, said they bore him no malice and considered him a brother. The crowd roared in ovation when he returned to the arena, in street clothes, to cheer on his team. (Is the BYU controversy good for college sports?)

It would have been so easy to excuse him just this once — win a championship, reap the glory. But the players did the hard work that true forgiveness requires, offered it even as they lost their next game by 18 points, saw their championship hopes fade, knew potential recruits would surely pause. "BYU knows all this stuff, and it suspended the kid anyway," noted Los Angeles Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke, "and if you don't believe in its code, you have to love its honor." [...]

Earthquakes in America: Should you worry about potential megadisasters?


NYTimes

Mr. Wong noted that the Pacific Northwest is at considerable risk of a strong earthquake from the Cascadia fault, which lies off the coast under the seabed. And while the coastal zone of the Northwest does not have as much residential and business development as that slammed by the Japanese tsunami, the earthquake risks farther inland along the Pacific Northwest could well end up sustaining severe damage, he said. Nearly a thousand Oregon schools built in the last century have poor earthquake resilience, and many vulnerable dams protect urban areas in the region. Oregon is moving to shore up its schools, but the program is not slated for completion until 2032. The federal government is working to address dam issues, but the pace is deliberate, he said.

“Steps are being taken, but there’s a lot of dams, there’s a lot of fixing that needs to be done,” Mr. Wong said. “We’re decades away from being able to fix all our dams.”

The sobering fact is that megadisasters like the Japanese earthquake can overcome the best efforts of our species to protect against them. No matter how high the levee or how flexible the foundation, disaster experts say, nature bats last. Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, warned that an earthquake in the United States along the New Madrid fault, which caused strong earthquakes early in the 19th century, could kill tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people in the more densely populated cities surrounding the Mississippi River.

At State-Run Homes, Abuse and Impunity


NYTimes

Nearly 40 years after New York emptied its scandal-ridden warehouses for the developmentally disabled, the far-flung network of small group homes that replaced them operates with scant oversight and few consequences for employees who abuse the vulnerable population.

A New York Times investigation over the past year has found widespread problems in the more than 2,000 state-run homes. In hundreds of cases reviewed by The Times, employees who sexually abused, beat or taunted residents were rarely fired, even after repeated offenses, and in many cases, were simply transferred to other group homes run by the state.

And, despite a state law requiring that incidents in which a crime may have been committed be reported to law enforcement, such referrals are rare: State records show that of some 13,000 allegations of abuse in 2009 within state-operated and licensed homes, fewer than 5 percent were referred to law enforcement. The hundreds of files examined by The Times contained shocking examples of abuse of residents with conditions like Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy. [...]

Phil Jacobs & Scott Rosenfelt expose sexual abuse in Baltimore


BaltimoreCityPaper

Sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has been a topic of public debate for at least a decade, but word of molestation in the Orthodox Jewish community has been slower to emerge, often because its members have had a tendency to keep such scandal under wraps. But, increasingly, publications such as New York City’s Jewish Week have begun to explore the topic, while victims have started going to the police. In the last several years, at least four books have been published on sexual molestation in the Orthodox world, and several prominent rabbis have publicly addressed the need for the community to face the problem. In Baltimore, the dubious privilege of shining a light on the subject has fallen to Jacobs.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bush Terminal: Trouble for Abraham Fruchthandler i.e., Yeshiva Chaim Berlin

Hat tip to RaP
Real Estate

A $300 million loan on the Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, NY has been transferred to a special servicer due to monetary default, according to Fitch.

According to the documents related to the loan, it is secured by a first mortgage encumbering Bush Terminal, which is located on various blocks between 32nd and 41st Streets and 1st through 3rd Avenues in Brooklyn. The Bush Terminal Property consists of 16 multi-story office, loft and industrial buildings containing a total of 6.15 million sf of gross building area. The buildings were constructed at various times starting in 1904 on approximately 35 acres of land. The Bush Terminal Property was 85 percent occupied by tenants such as the NYC DCAS HRA (2.9% of NRSF), Virginia Dare Extract Co. Inc. (2.6%) and NYC Department of Finance (2.5%) when the loan was secured.

The borrowers are 1-10 Industry Associates LLC and 19-20 Industry City Associates, LLC, each a single-purpose, single-asset entity. The sponsors of the borrowers are Rubin Schron and Abraham Fruchthandler. At the time the loan was distributed, Rubin Schron had approximately $1.5 billion of equity in more than 40 residential, retail, commercial and healthcare assets primarily located throughout the New York metropolitan area, including over 15 million sf of industrial space.

Wall Street Journal

The Schron group is hopeful it will be able to restructure the debt and hold onto the property, according to people familiar with the property.

Mr. Schron's group, which today includes Abraham Fruchthandler, anticipated when the initial loan was made that the property could generate an annual net operating income of about $37.9 million as they released space at higher rents, according to Realpoint. Instead the property's net operating income for the six months ended in June 2010 was about $5.8 million. During that same time period, debt service was about $9.6 million, according to Realpoint.

The property's history can be traced back to the early 1900s when industrialist Irving T. Bush began building on the land his family owned. It was billed by some accounts as a city within a city with a railroad, trolleys and as many as 35,000 workers.

Mr. Schron's group is in default on the $300 million in debt, according to Realpoint, a credit-rating firm and a unit of Morningstar. The debt was reported 30 days delinquent earlier this month by the special servicer charged with managing the loan, according to Realpoint.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Foster care:Mother wants Orthodox & judge rules for non-Jewish supported by rabbi & her partner


Jewish World

A battle over two Jewish children is brewing in the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services (RCDSS), the county’s family court and pitting the Troy Orthodox and Reform Jewish communities at odds over how Jewish children should be raised.

The battle centers on a foster care case where an infant girl only a few months old and a two-year-old boy have been placed in foster care, which means providing a temporary home for children in need, with the hope is that the child will eventually return to their birth family.

The Mother’s Profile

The biological mother is said to be in her 20s, grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, identifies with the Orthodox Jewish community in Troy, is a known drug addict and had her children out of wedlock. While the baby boy was not born addicted to drugs, the girl was born with a chemical dependency to heroin, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

At the urging of the Manhattan-based Agudath Israel of America (AIA) and Leible Morrison, the spiritual leader of the Beth Tephilah Orthodox congregation in Troy, the mother is requesting that her children be placed in a Jewish household and raised in an Orthodox lifestyle. AIA is a Jewish communal organization representing sectors of Chasidic Judaism. [...]

Rav Sternbuch: Shailos UTeshuvos 2

Wallposter:Avoiding Trouble

Rav Sternbuch: Heavenly Hierarchies

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Israeli rabbis launch initiative to marry gay men to lesbian women


Haaretz

Rabbis from the religious Zionist community have launched an initiative to marry gay men to lesbian women - with some surprising successes.

So far, 11 marriages have been performed. Haaretz conducted an email interview with one such couple, Etti and Roni (not their real names ).

Etti and Roni, both religious, were married five years ago. Though they were honest with each other about their sexual orientations from their first meeting, to the outside world, they portray themselves as a normal heterosexual couple. Today, they have two children, and are thrilled with the results.

Ohr HaChaim: Moshe got everything - yet Rabbi Akiva said chidushim he didn't know!?

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Ohr HaChaim  (Vayikra 13:37): I would like to reconcile the apparent contradiction between two opposing views found in the Medrashim. In Vayikra Rabbah (22:1) it states that everything was given to Moshe at Sinai – even that which a student would innovate in the future. However Bamibar Rabbah (19:7) says that Rabbi Akiva gave interpretations that Moshe didn’t know. There are many other sources regarding these two views. It would appear that the reconciliation of these views is that in truth that all the Torah was told to Moshe. And therefore no scholar can possibly know more than Moshe did. And that is true across the generations from the day the Torah was given until the Messianic days – there were no new Halachos that weren’t known to Moshe. The explanation is that G d in fact gave Moshe the Written and Oral Torah. G d in His wisdom also encoded in the Written Torah the entire Oral Torah that he had taught Moshe. However He did not tell Moshe how the Oral Torah was encoded in the Written Torah. Ascertaining this encoding is in fact the work for all those engaged in Torah study. They are to determine where the halacha which was given to Moshe and the secrets and interpretations are alluded to in the Written Torah. Thus we find that the Tanaim came and composed works such as Torah Cohanim and the Sifre. Thus all their analyses of the verses are to determine where the known halacha is encoded in the Written Torah. This work which continues until the present is the holy work of Torah scholars to investigate the verses of the Bible and reconcile them with the Oral Torah. This effort is call Eretz HaChaim. This knowledge of exactly how the Oral Law was encoded in the Written Law was not given by G d to Moshe. It is in reference to this encoding that our Sages state that Rabbi Akiva made interpretations that Moshe didn’t know. This doesn’t mean that Moshe didn’t know the basis of the interpretations since after all everything was transmitted by him even that which a student would say in the future. However he didn’t know how the Oral Law was hinted at in the Written Law. This is the key to understanding the present issue where Hillel expounded the halacha from the verse that which was said to Moshe orally and G d did not reveal this halacha to Moshe from the verse. It was left for Hillel to find how this halacha was encoded in the verse.

One in four Jewish women suffer abuse in the home


Jewish Chronicle

One in four Jewish women are victims of domestic abuse, according to the largest survey of its kind.

The Jewish Women's Aid study, You know a Jewish woman suffering from domestic abuse: Domestic abuse and the British Jewish community, found that 26 per cent of the 842 people surveyed had personally experienced domestic abuse.

Despite a third admitting they thought abuse in the Jewish community would not be the same as the rest of society, the number of Jewish woman abused is two per cent higher than the national average.

Jewish leaders have criticised communal organisations for "sweeping this problem under the carpet" and said the report must act as a "wake-up call" to the community. [...]

Police in Los Angeles Step Up Efforts to Gain Muslims’ Trust


NYTimes

The question of whether American Muslims do, or do not, cooperate with law enforcement agents in preventing potential terrorist attacks is at the heart of Congressional hearings that begin Thursday in Washington. The hearings have been called by Representative Peter T. King, a Republican from Long Island, N.Y., and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He says that American Muslims do not cooperate, and that he will call witnesses who will prove it.

But in Los Angeles, home to one of the largest and most diverse Muslim populations in the country, the picture is far more encouraging, though there are still challenges. And it has one of the most assertive multidepartmental efforts in the country, along with New York, to overcome mistrust and engage Muslims as allies in preventing terrorism, according to law enforcement experts.

"We're not going to win the war against terrorism without Muslims," said Leroy D. Baca, the Los Angeles County sheriff, in an interview in his office. Mr. Baca will be called as a witness at the hearings on Thursday. [...]

David Schick: The Man With Two Faces; a Fraud Case Shocks


NYTimes 1996

Then came David Schick. A lawyer and father of 10 at age 36, his reputation as a doer of good deeds brought people to his home on Avenue I late at night seeking counsel on immigration law or trouble with a child. And Mr. Schick took the family's name far beyond Flatbush.

He was recently the honorary chairman of the annual meeting of the nation's largest Orthodox organization. He helped arrange for President Clinton to meet in March with donors to a large rabbinical college he supports. When Mr. Schick had early success as a real estate investor, word spread so fast through the Orthodox Jewish world that wealthy Jews around the globe were soon entrusting him with millions. To reassure the religious, his deals included a letter from a rabbinical court waiving the prohibition in Jewish law on Jews earning interest from each other.

"They were knocking his door down," said Robert Goldman, a lawyer representing investors in New York, California and Belgium.

Then on April 6, an investor called Mr. Schick to ask about his $1.7 million that was supposed to be parked securely in an escrow account. According to a complaint filed in Federal Court in Manhattan, Mr. Schick responded simply, "I took it." [...]

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chief Rabbi Amar's committee recommends ending Army conversion course


JPost

The rabbinic committee appointed by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar recommended that he terminate the Nativ course held for potential IDF converts, since Reform and Conservative teachers are part of its staff, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday.

“In this [Nativ] course about 10 of the staff of 170 teachers are Reform or Conservative. We perceive this as a severe problem, that casts a heavy shadow on all of the military conversions, and every effort should be made to cancel this course and/or to not have it as a precondition to the IDF process,” the report quoted from a letter the three-man advisory committee wrote.[...]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Establishing Paternity by Means of Blood Type Testing


MedEthics by Prof.Dov Frimer

A. Introduction

Significant developments have occurred in the field of hemato- logy during the past generation, and research in the area continues to advance. Scientists are firmly of the opinion that proper use of ABO blood type testing enables one to establish in most cases the negative determination of a paternity, namely that X is not the father of Y.[1] At the same time, the medical community acknow- ledges that a satisfactory method for positive, definite determin- ation that X is the father of Y, on the basis of ABO blood types, has yet to be developed.[2] Despite all this, judges in Anglo-Saxon countries are quite reluctant fully to accept paternity blood testing with all its ramifications. It is their opinion that the law should proceed cautiously when dealing with the adoption of new tests and examinations in an area which is under going rapid change and development.[3]

In this article I shall analyze and compare the attitudes of Jewish law and of Israeli law towards the use of blood testing in determining questions of paternity. To achieve this aim, three questions must be investigated: [...]


Philadelphia Archdiocese Suspends 21 Priests


NYTimes

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Tuesday that it had placed 21 priests on administrative leave from active ministry in connection with credible charges that they had sexually abused minors.

The mass suspension was one of the single most sweeping in the history of the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. It follows a damning grand jury report issued Feb. 10 that accused the archdiocese of a widespread cover-up of predatory priests stretching over decades and that said as many as 37 priests remained active in the ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse against them. [...]

Drawing U.S. Crowds With Anti-Islam Message


NYTimes

As a child growing up a Maronite Christian in war-torn southern Lebanon in the 1970s, Ms. Gabriel said, she had been left lying injured in rubble after Muslims mercilessly bombed her village. She found refuge in Israel and then moved to the United States, only to find that the Islamic radicals who had terrorized her in Lebanon, she said, were now bent on taking over America.

“America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America,” she said. “They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.”

Through her books, media appearances and speeches, and her organization, ACT! for America, Ms. Gabriel has become one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders. [...]

Monday, March 7, 2011

Is it child pornography if no child is abused in edited video?


NYTimes

People in this economically pressed town near Lake Michigan are divided into two camps: Those who think Evan Emory should pay hard for what he did, and those who think he should be let off easy.

Mr. Emory, 21, an aspiring singer and songwriter, became a household name here last month when he edited a video to make it appear that elementary school children in a local classroom were listening to him sing a song with graphic sexual lyrics. He then showed the video in a nightclub and posted it on YouTube.

Tony Tague, the Muskegon County prosecutor, stands firmly in the first camp: He charged Mr. Emory with manufacturing and distributing child pornography, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and 25 years on the sex offender registry.

“It is a serious, a huge violation,” said Charles Willick, whose 6-year-old daughter was one of the students, all readily identifiable, in the video. “He crossed the line when he used children.”







Rav Herzog to Rav Unterman regarding rejection of paternal blood test


Rav Yitzchok Herzog(Assia 5 page 196-197 translation by R’ Dov Frimer): I do not deny that I was almost embarrassed ... by what you wrote ... in such a deprecating manner towards blood tests, from a negative aspect. That is, with regard to the possibility that [a blood test can] clarify that X is not the son of Y. How can there be a question of the credibility of the doctors in a matter which has been clearly accepted by all the masters of medicine throughout the entire world! Our Sages nowhere say that it was a statement handed down to Moses on Sinai .... Moreover, this is impossible, since it is now as clear as the sun at high noon... . However, they .held it as a fact and built on this assumption, since Aristotle had so asserted and so had been accepted by all the scholars of his time. What vast differences there are between the science of medicine in their day and in ours, and between the contacts that exist between all parts of the world today, in contrast to the state of affairs in ancient times! I remember from my reading of medical literature that there is no doubt whatsoever concerning this matter. Yet in your letter you imply that there are differences of opinion among medical experts. With all due respect, you are completely mistaken. Here is a copy of a letter from the government’s medical-legal expert who is also an observant Jew. The husband has already come to me and asked that the judgment be executed. You do not accept this. We shall give him an extension, and I am arranging the matter here and will notify the parties through you as to when they must come. It is unfortunate that while science is progressively conquering worlds and discovering all sorts of secrets, although it too errs at times, we like ostriches bury our heads in sand. It is imperative that we encourage the ablest students of the yeshivot also to be educated as men of science in each discipline, so that we should not need to turn to others in matters of physiology, chemistry, electricity, etc. concerning things that relate to our sacred Torah. ...

Rosh (55:9): Jewish vs Secular thought

from Daas Torah - copyrighted translation

Rosh (55:9):
This that you wrote concerning the conclusions of intellectual analysis and the conclusions of religion thought – what shall I reply to this? The fact is that our Torah is not like your idle chatter. From secular logic - which all religious scholars distance themselves from - you cite proofs that cause an obligation or give rights or prohibit or permit. But it is an established fact that the ones who laid the foundation for the system of logic did not believe in Moshe nor in the righteous laws and statues which he transmitted to us – either in writing or through tradition. So how can those who are the intellectual heirs of a system which denies the importance of Moshe and his teachings bring a proof to support a particular statute or law of Moshe and to decide laws based on analogies and deductions which are characteristic of the study of logic? Of course this is not possible! In my day and my place are Halachos decided on the basic of solely on logical models – G-d forbid! As long as I live there will be Torah amongst the Jews and proof will be based on Mishnah, and the Babylonian and Yerushalmi Talmuds. There is absolutely no need for secular logic. That is because secular philosophical analysis is not the same as Torah thought and law - the wisdom of the Torah is a Tradition that was given to Moshe at Sinai. A Torah scholar generates conclusions based on the traditional hermeneutic rules as well as by drawing analogies and making deductions – even though these are not necessarily what would be found by the use of secular human intellect – we conduct ourselves according to Tradition. In contrast philosophy is entirely natural. They have great scholars and they rigorously follow pure human intellect. With their great intellect they delve deeply and of necessity contradict the Torah of Moshe since the Torah is simply not based on human intellect but Tradition. This is expressed by the verse, “Be simply pure with G d”. In other words even if the Torah directs us to go against human intellect we should not question our Tradition but should follow in total obedience to the dictates of G d. Therefore we do not bring proof from secular scholars against the upright laws of G d. Concerning this Mishlei (2:19) says, “None that go to the alien woman ever returns.” In other words all those who get involved with secular analysis are not able to escape from its influence and cannot bring the wisdom of Torah into their hearts because they have become accustomed to the secular way of thinking which is inherently more attractive than Torah. As a result of the influence of secular thinking, they are not able to fully comprehend the wisdom of the Torah which is the true path of life. That is because their minds are constantly dominated by natural thinking and wisdom and they assume that the wisdom of Torah and secular thinking are equivalent and compatible. They thus believe that is possible to bring a proof from one to the other – and as a consequence they corrupt the correct halacha. The fact is that these two modes of thinking are opposed to each other and thus incompatible – they can not coexist….

No Crime, but an Arrest and Two Strip-Searches


NYTimes

Albert W. Florence believes that black men who drive nice cars in New Jersey run a risk of being questioned by the police. For that reason, he kept handy a 2003 document showing he had paid a court-imposed fine stemming from a traffic offense, just in case.

It did not seem to help.

In March 2005, Mr. Florence was in the passenger seat of his BMW when a state trooper pulled it over for speeding. His wife, April, was driving. His 4-year-old son, Shamar, was in the back.

The trooper ran a records search, and he found an outstanding warrant based on the supposedly unpaid fine. Mr. Florence showed the trooper the document, but he was arrested anyway. [...]

Jewish student sues UC Berkeley for not protecting her


JPost

A student has brought a federal civil rights lawsuit against the University of California, Berkeley, saying the university did not protect her from being attacked because she is Jewish.

Lawyers for Jessica Felber, 20, say the case, filed in US District Court in Oakland, Calif., on March 4 against the university, the regents of the University of California and their ranking officials, is the first of its kind.

Her suit alleges that Husam Zakharia, a fellow student and the head of Students for Justice in Palestine, rammed into her with a metal cart because of the pro-Israel sign she was holding during a pro-Israel demonstration on the Berkeley campus on March 5, 2010. [...]

Jewish Week's reply to Ohel's response


Jewish Week

The Jewish Week finds itself, unfortunately, in a war of words with Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services.

To be clear: we have no animus toward the Brooklyn-based social service agency or any other Jewish organization; our mission and goal is to report the truth and inform and strengthen the Jewish community. Sometimes that makes for hard feelings.

Over the years we have reported allegations that Ohel’s policies in dealing with sex abuse has put the community’s children at risk. As a result, the agency appears to have concluded that we are biased against them, and worse. [...]


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz’s Campaign – And Why We Ought To Support It


Cross Currents - Rabbi Adlerstein

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz announced a new weapon in the struggle against abuse. For most people, the obvious reason to support him will be sufficient. It might be worthwhile to consider some of the other reasons as well.

Rabbi Horowitz is a trusted name in the world of chinuch. He has earned a justified reputation for speaking his mind, particularly about topics that generate lockjaw (in the closed position) for others. He has demonstrated enormous concern and sensitivity for the victims of abuse, and holds it responsible for producing a great part of the off-the-derech population. In a high-profile case now in progress, he anticipates a large showing in court from members of a closed community – on behalf of the accused. Understanding the impact that this will have on the victims (and victims in unrelated cases!), he urges at least a parallel show of support and concern for them. Whatever one believes regarding offering assistance to accused (but untried and unconvicted) felons, such assistance should not give the impression that accused criminals are more important to us than real victims. (At a conference for rabbanim in LA last week, Dr. David Pelcowitz shared a chilling finding. He related that child welfare personnel in community after community all ask him the same question: "Why is your community more concerned with protecting its image than protecting children?) [....]

Rosh(55:9): Jewish vs Secular thought

James Gleick's "The Information"


NYTimes

"The Information” is so ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical that it will amount to aspirational reading for many of those who have the mettle to tackle it. Don’t make the mistake of reading it quickly. Imagine luxuriating on a Wi-Fi-equipped desert island with Mr. Gleick’s book, a search engine and no distractions. “The Information” is to the nature, history and significance of data what the beach is to sand.

In this relaxed setting, take the time to differentiate among the Brownian (motion), Bodleian (library) and Boolean (logic) while following Mr. Gleick’s version of what Einstein called “spukhafte Fernwirkung,” or “spooky action at a distance.” Einstein wasn’t precise about what this meant, and Mr. Gleick isn’t always precise either. His ambitions for this book are diffuse and far flung, to the point where providing a thumbnail description of “The Information” is impossible. [...]

Ohel's response to The Jewish Week regarding mandated reporting


OHEL

The Jewish Week Has It Wrong, Again.


A Heinous Crime and A History of Proactive Prevention

Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime. While unashamedly denied or ignored by many in the community for too long, OHEL has for decades tirelessly treated victims and raised community-wide awareness - long before child sexual abuse became media headlines. OHEL initiated hundreds of prevention workshops, provided local and national consultations with schools and communities, distributed a multitude of videos, books and other supporting materials, while providing on-going treatment and support to victims and their families. The media has a very important role to play in boldly tackling issues such as child sexual abuse and all other social ills. However, The Jewish Week’s inflammatory coverage of OHEL, most recently in the article “Abuse Case Tests OHEL’s Adherence To Reporting Laws” once again demonstrates a complete disregard for facts driven by a very misguided agenda, and, at worst, a reckless disregard for a patients right to privacy.

Fundamental Misrepresentations in Jewish Week Article [...]



Saturday, March 5, 2011

Brooklyn camp counselor charged in kid-sex case

Kenyon Schraeder wrote: A 65-year-old man's entire life, reputation and freedom are at stake here and since there's just this one alleged incident to go on at this point and since the Dept. of Ed found nothing disciplinary in his folder over almost 20 years, I'd say he was entitled, at the very least, to the benefit of the doubt, some objectivity and a fair trial by a jury of his peers BEFORE pronouncing him "guilty as charged"

NYPost

a retired New York City schoolteacher known by the nickname "Uncle Joe," is accused of molesting a 5-year-old boy in a bathroom last summer, authorities said.

The counselor was slapped with a slew of sex-abuse charges for the heinous July assault, in which he allegedly sneaked up behind his young victim and attacked him in front of a 4-year-old camper. [....]
 

Story of a victim:"The Man Who Molested Me"


NYTimes

Who might know a pedophile better than the child on whom he (it’s usually a he) has lavished his attention, sometimes for years? Who has studied him as intimately, allowing him his humanity as most of us refuse to do?

Child molesters, reviled even within prison caste systems, receive little sympathy from the adult world — so little it’s hard for most of us to imagine how long-term sexual abuse can be not only facilitated but perpetuated by a victim’s loyalty to his or her abuser. Children on whom pedophiles prey, often neglected and needy, advertise hearts as well as bodies to be plundered; for the child who loves his or her abuser the sexual price exacted for what is offered as affection represents a betrayal from which not every child recovers. The lesson learned — that to be loved one must endure violation — sows a lasting tolerance, even desire, for injury and subjugation. [...]

Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software


NYTimes

When five television studios became entangled in a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against CBS, the cost was immense. As part of the obscure task of “discovery” — providing documents relevant to a lawsuit — the studios examined six million documents at a cost of more than $2.2 million, much of it to pay for a platoon of lawyers and paralegals who worked for months at high hourly rates.

But that was in 1978. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. In January, for example, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, Calif., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000.

Some programs go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds. They can extract relevant concepts — like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East — even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents. [....]

Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns to Drugs


NYTimes

Alone with his psychiatrist, the patient confided that his newborn had serious health problems, his distraught wife was screaming at him and he had started drinking again. With his life and second marriage falling apart, the man said he needed help.

But the psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Levin, stopped him and said: "Hold it. I'm not your therapist. I could adjust your medications, but I don't think that's appropriate."

Like many of the nation's 48,000 psychiatrists, Dr. Levin, in large part because of changes in how much insurance will pay, no longer provides talk therapy, the form of psychiatry popularized by Sigmund Freud that dominated the profession for decades. Instead, he prescribes medication, usually after a brief consultation with each patient. So Dr. Levin sent the man away with a referral to a less costly therapist and a personal crisis unexplored and unresolved. [...]


Friday, March 4, 2011

Fear in Philadelphia That Abusive Priests Are Still Active


NYTimes

Three weeks after a scathing grand jury report accused the Philadelphia Archdiocese of providing safe haven for as many as 37 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior toward minors, most of those priests remain active in the ministry.

The possibility that even one predatory priest, not to mention three dozen, might still be serving in parishes — “on duty in the archdiocese today, with open access to new young prey,” as the grand jury put it — has unnerved many Roman Catholics here and sent the church reeling in the latest and one of the most damning episodes in the American church since it became engulfed in the sexual abuse scandal nearly a decade ago.

The extent of the scandal here, including a cover-up that the grand jury said stretched over many years, is so great that Philadelphia is “Boston reborn,” said David J. O’Brien, who teaches Catholic history at the University of Dayton, referring to the archdiocese where widespread sexual abuse exploded in public in 2002. [...]


Fence separates haredi, secular Jerusalem kids


YNET

The Jerusalem Municipality on Friday began constructing a separation fence between two kindergartens, an ultra-Orthodox and a secular one, highlighting the complex relations between the different communities living in the capital.

The children of the two adjacent kindergartens have been playing happily together for six months, and were somewhat unsettled by the mayhem upon arriving at the site Friday morning. The municipality plans to cover the fence with blue cloth so the children will no longer be able to see each other. [...]


Rav Sternbuch: Ben Torah Every Step of the Way

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Protection against abusers when only rumors are known

Torah always right in conflicts with perceived Reality

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Rav Shalom Shwadron (Daas Torah Orech Chaim - Shoneh Halachos page 8):
If witnesses come and testify that someone had been killed and there are other witnesses who contradict them the two pairs of witnesses cancel each other’s testimony. Even if the two contradict the testimony of thousands of witnesses – the testimony of the opposing sides is canceled because two witnesses are as valid as 100 or 1000 witnesses. However the case is different if the purported murder victim shows up alive. In fact this is just the opposite of the previous case. Because even if 1000 witnesses had testified that he was dead, it is obvious that what they said is false and therefore their testimony is completely invalidated. So why is it in the first case that 2 witnesses can invalidate thousands of witnesses while in the second case thousands of witnesses are simply ignored? The answer is simple and clear. Testimony has no significance except when there is a doubt that needs clarifying. However testimony is irrelevant when it contradicts reality which needs witnesses to establish it. Now we should understand that we in our incompetence think that the events of the world are reality and the words of Torah constitute testimony, therefore when we come across events in our lives where Torah is at variance to what we perceive as reality our heart becomes filled with all sorts of rationalizations and explanation that enable us to explain the words of Torah to be consistent with what we consider to be reality. This is because we feel that what we hear from the Torah cannot be of greater validity than what we see with our eyes….However the pious Torah scholars know the real truth which is that there is no reality in the world except for the holy Torah. And all the phenomena of the world are insignificant in comparison to even the point of a letter “yud” in the Torah. Therefore if you find anything in the world which the Torah contradicts then we are forced to say that we did not perceive the world correctly and therefore the testimony from the world is totally null and void in relationship to the reality of the Torah.

The Unrealistic Optimism of Cancer Patients


NYTimes

For almost four decades, researchers and patient advocates have debated the ethics of informed consent in early-phase clinical trials, studies that test only toxicity and dosing and offer little, if any, therapeutic benefit to those enrolled. A major part of the debate has focused on the motivations of patients who participate. Some research on patient motivations has had disturbing ethical implications, indicating that patients may never fully understand the purpose of trials, despite explanations by the researchers. Others have been more reassuring, noting that patients are driven by a sense of altruism and a desire to help others who may one day suffer from the same disease.

More recently, a few studies have offered what appears to be the happiest of hypotheses. Patients may simply be optimistic and have strong needs to express hope. And because optimism has long been considered an effective coping mechanism for patients with terminal diseases, other researchers have also then assumed that optimism in this context poses few ethical issues.

Now one group of ethicists has just published a study challenging that assumption. It turns out that when it comes to being hopeful, not all optimism is created equal. [...]

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Supreme Court rules for anti-gay protesters at military funerals


NYTimes

The case arose from a protest at the funeral of a Marine who had died in Iraq, Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder. As they had at hundreds of other funerals, members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., appeared with signs bearing messages like “America is Doomed” and “God Hates Fags.”

The church contends that God is punishing the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality.

The father of the fallen Marine, Albert Snyder, sued the protesters for, among other things, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and won a substantial jury award that was later overturned by an appeals court.

Supreme Court: Can police interview "abused" child without consent of parents?


Fox News

The facts of the case are fairly straightforward. In 2003, an investigator for the Oregon Department of Social Services had reason to believe that Nimrod Greene may have sexually abused his daughters. That investigator and a sheriff's deputy went to the school of the nine year old girl, described in court documents as S.G., and pulled her out of class to ask if she'd been harmed.

The young girl denied abuse for most of the interview but later said she changed her story in an effort to end the inquiry. Greene was indicted on several counts of felony sexual assault but those charges were dismissed after a jury couldn't reach a verdict. The father eventually pleaded guilty to another unrelated incident of sexual abuse.

The mother filed a lawsuit saying the investigator and deputy had no right to pull her daughter out of class without approval from her or a court. [...]