Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Arrest of Rabbi Lior -shows right to free speech is only for professors not rabbis with Torah views


YNet

As for the claim that no man is above the law, especially at a time when so many senior public figures have been brought before the courts, Ganot said:

"There is no one above the law, but who can investigate the Torah?
 "Is there one judge in this generation capable of investigating the Torah? Why are they so afraid of opening up this issue to public debate? Why come out in this fashion and arrest the rabbi? There is no justification."

Yair Shreider, 29, who was injured during Operation Cast Lead while serving in a paratrooper regiment; he was also scornful of the claim. According to Shreider:

"The president was arrested and tried for rape, prime ministers were investigated for theft and criminal issues; Rabbi Lior was investigated not for theft, rape or murder. He was investigated over his opinion.
 
'What about Beersheba professor?'
"I have yet to see an arrest warrant or investigation of a professor with a certain opinion. We are a democratic country and every person has a right to express their opinion, as long as they don't break the law." [....]

When Rabbis Blunder: - Attacking Bris Milah?


5tjt

This morning upon perusing the Jewish news sites, I actually rubbed my eyes in amazement.  Could it really be that an Orthodox Rabbi had really written these words?  Surely this is some kind of bizarre, cruel, prank – a modern orthodox Rabbi attacking Bris Milah, giving the anti-circumcision movement fodder to attack and gloat –in the pages of the Jewish Week?

The Rabbi writes:  “Circumcision is unsettling. As the actor Russell Crowe wrote on Twitter: “I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats but stop cutting yr babies.” Despite the politically incorrect tone, Crowe reminds us why the anti-circumcision movement is here to stay: circumcisions are bloody and make babies cry. Even the committed among us are uncomfortable, and we look down nervously when the mohel begins the ceremony. It’s painful to enter the Covenant of Abraham.”

WHAT?  Circumcision is unsettling?  In a generation of tongue piercings, triple and quadruple earrings, branding, and tattooing, a Rabbi calls circumcision unsettling when its health benefits are undisputed in three recent AIDS transmission studies? [....]

Treasurer of Aish Kodesh in Woodmere Accused of Pilfering $600K From Temple Coffers

NBC News

A treasurer for a Long Island Hasidic congregation is accused of stealing more than $600,000 from its bank accounts.    

Nassau County police say Isaac Zucker of Woodmere, was arrested around 2 a.m. Wednesday and charged with grand larceny. He is to be arraigned later Wednesday.    

It's not immediately known if he has a lawyer.    

The 47-year-old Zucker served as a treasurer for the Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere.  [...]

DA: Bethpage Pediatrician sexually abused patients


newday

A grand jury has indicted a Bethpage pediatrician on charges that he sexually abused girls as young as 11 under the guise of medical examinations, and also secretly videotaped and photographed them, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Dr. Rakesh Punn, 53, of Bethpage, has been in jail since he was arrested on pornography charges last July. [....]

Divorce recalcitrant gets unlimited jail term


YNet

In an unprecedented ruling, the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court has sentenced a divorce recalcitrant to an unlimited prison term – until he agrees to give his wife a "get".

The man had already served a 10-year prison sentence, and yet was adamant not to grant his wife a divorce. [...]

Netanyahu responds to Rabbi Dov Lior's arrest: Israeli law applies to all citizens


Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the arrest of Rabbi Dov Lior on Tuesday, saying that “Israel is a law-abiding state”. He added that “the law includes everyone and I call on all Israel’s citizens to uphold it.”

Lior was arrested, questioned, and released on Monday after refusing to appear for an inquiry for his endorsement of the controversial book, “Torat Hamelech”, which justifies killing non-Jews.

Netanyahu refrained from commenting on several contentious issues in his statement, including the fact that Lior evaded arrest for two months before he was brought in by police for questioning. Also notably missing from his statement was an endorsement of Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who has come under harsh criticism from Israel’s right for steps taken against Lior.  [....]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Skverer Rebbe disputes lawsuit filed against him in fiery NY attack

wall street journal

 The chief rabbi in a Hasidic village north of New York City says a lawsuit filed against him after a resident was burned in a fiery attack is without merit.

A resident of New Square who was badly burned in May had alleged Grand Rebbe David Twersky directed the attack. Plaintiff Aron Rottenberg claimed Twersky targeted him because he had begun praying at a synagogue other than the principal one in the insular village of 7,000 residents. [...]

LoHud

Monday, June 27, 2011

Brooklyn chasid surrenders in abuse case


NYPost

A Brooklyn teen, accompanied by his rabbi and a lawyer, surrendered today in the molestation of a youngster in the basement of a Borough Park synagogue. Menachem Deutsch, 19, was charged with unlawful imprisonment and child endangerment in the June 22 attack, authorities said. [...]


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Police keep J'lem street open despite Haredi protest

JPost

Haredi riots aimed at preventing civilian traffic on Rehov Hanevi’im reached a new height on Saturday afternoon, when over a hundred men of various sects tried to scare secular residents into steering clear of the Jerusalem thoroughfare, shouting “Shabbes,” pelting cars with stones and spitting on passersby.

At least one secular man was arrested after being accused by police of “provocation.” [...]

In Medicine, New Isn’t Always Improved


nytimes

IT is an American impulse to covet the new and improved — whether it's a faster computer, a smarter cellphone or a more fuel-efficient car. And in medicine, too, new drugs, devices and procedures have advanced patient care.

But the promise of innovation can also prove a trap, a situation now playing out with dire consequences for possibly tens of thousands of people who received artificial hips intended to let them remain active.

The implants, known as metal-on-metal hips, were regarded by device makers and surgeons as a major advance over previous designs that used both metal and plastic. Now federal regulators and medical researchers are scrambling to determine how many implant recipients have been injured by the devices, which can shed dangerous metallic debris through wear.  [....]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Australian school's sex abuse secret probed


Australian    Age

POLICE are trying to breach a wall of secrecy at a private boys school in St Kilda East over allegations of sex crimes by a former teacher who is now in jail in the United States.

David Kramer fled Australia in the early 1990s after accusations from parents that he had sexually abused boys at Yeshivah College, an Orthodox Jewish school. The school did not report the complaints to police.

Former students, who have spoken to The Age on condition of anonymity, said the allegations were covered up by the school. ''Parents were threatened they would be thrown out of the school if they told police,'' one said.

However, several alleged victims have come forward after Kramer, 50, was jailed for seven years in the US for molesting a 12-year-old boy while conducting a youth program at a synagogue in St Louis in 2007 [...]



Friday, June 24, 2011

"walking quadriplegic’’ completes Ironman triathalon

nytimes


Finishing an Ironman triathlon, which consists of a a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon, is a remarkable feat for any athlete. But 30-year-old John Carson, who will retire from the sport after this weekend's Ironman in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, is no ordinary athlete.

Two years ago, Mr. Carson was training on his bicycle near his home on Long Island, N.Y., when a sport utility vehicle smashed into him from behind. He remembers fading in and out of consciousness and waking up in the intensive care unit as a quadriplegic.

"When I was a younger guy, to me the thought of being paralyzed, I was the first person to say I'd rather be dead,'' Mr. Carson said. "I remember waking up in the I.C..U., my wife being there, my mom and my family, and being so thankful for being alive.''

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Texting on Saturdays seen as increasingly common ‘addiction.’


jewish week

At a recent campgrounds Shabbaton sponsored by a local Modern Orthodox high school, the teenage participants broke into small groups after the meals, as is usual, to talk with their friends.

On their cell phones.

Of the 17 students who attended the weekend program, said 17-year-old Julia, a junior at the day school, most sent text messages on Shabbat – a violation of the halachic ban on using electricity in non-emergency situations.

"Only three [of the 17 students] didn't text on Shabbos," Julia says. Most did it "out in the open," sitting at picnic tables. "They weren't hiding it."

The students at the Shabbaton were not the exception for their age group. According to interviews with several students and administrators at Modern Orthodox day schools, the practice of texting on Shabbat is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially, but not exclusively, among Modern Orthodox teens.

It's a literally hot-button issue that teachers and principals at yeshiva day schools, whose academic year ends this week, acknowledge and deal with it in both tacit and oblique ways. For the most part, they extol the virtues of keeping Shabbat rather than chastising those who violate it. [....]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz - Speaking to your children about personal safety

Speaking To Your Kids About Personal Safety from Yakov Horowitz on Vimeo.

The Silver Segulah ring advertised in Mishpacha - is not validated by Rav Sternbuch

The following notice appeared in this week's Mishpacha magazine
regarding a two page ad that was printed in the previous edition. The ad
asserted that the ring helps many serious problems and that it was
endorsed by Rav Moshe Sternbuch and other rabbis. This is the response
provided by Rav Sternbuch.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dueling ad on fish worms - Please explain this contradictory two part Yated ad

On June 7, 2011 the Hamodia published two ads concerning fish worms - one by those who prohibit fish because of the worms and  one by those who don't. Yated published only the ad that prohibited. However a closer look at the ad which appeared on page 41 - from those who prohibit fish with worms - seems to indicate that it is not one ad but rather it reflects two  disparate views . Furthermore the  two parts of the same ad in fact contradict each other.

I would appreciate feedback as to how these ads are to be understood The statement at the top of the page, with Rav Eliashiv shlita's, signature, seems to saying that the fish are forbidden. But the bottom part says only that some fish are only of concern. Furthermore I have also been told by experts in the field that the list in the second part is based on very haphazard and subjective data and that in fact no systematic scientific study has been done. (For example they didn't examine 100 cans of salmon and determine the frequency with which worms appeared.) I would greatly appreciate clarification of exactly what means were used to determined whether a particular type of fish is infected or is clean. I would also like to know how the two parts of the ad can be reconciled. Are they saying the fish are definitely prohibited (part 1) or is the prohibition because of a sofek (part 2)?

The Doctor Who Performed on Rav Elyashiv

5tjt

He is one of America’s top doctors and was voted so in 2007 by a group of peers.  Dr. Daniel Clair is Chairman of the Department of Vascular Surgery and a Vascular Surgeon practicing at Cleveland Clinic's main campus.  He is also the surgeon who successfully operated on the Gadol HaDor Rav Sholom Moshe Elyashiv this past Sunday.

Dr. Clair specializes in carotid artery surgery and thoraco-abdominal aortic repair and reconstruction. This was a surgery that he had performed on Rav Elyashiv seven years ago, and one that he required once again.  Both times Dr. Clair flew to Eretz Yisroel, himself, his team and his equipment.  Prior to this surgery which took place at Hadassa Hospital in Jerusalem (at 1:30 PM New York City time), Dr. Clair had asked for a blessing from Rav Elyashiv for a successful surgery.  Rav Ekyashiv gave a bracha that he should be a successful shliach. [....]


Simcha Safety: Olomeinu's summer safety points for kids regarding protecting their bodies

Bracha Goetz provides safety advice against molesters for kids in a
mainstream Chareidi publication

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stoning a dog: False slow-news libel reaches ends of the earth


Rotter.net


  תמונות: עלילת הדם של בחדרי חרדים עושה גלים בכל העולם 
 
    הסיפור השקרי לחלוטין על בית דין שהורה לסקול כלב שהתחיל באתר בחדרי חרדים ועבר ל-Ynet באנגלית - עושה גלים בעולם הערבי, בעולם המערבי ואפילו בהודו. הסיפור הופץ מ-Ynet לניוזויירים הגדולים בעולם - AP ו-AFP ומשם ל-BBC ולשבועון TIME הנחשב. התגובות רובן ככולן אנטישמיות מובהקות.

I’m O.K., You’re a Psychopath


NYTimes

[...] If you aren't sure whether you are a psychopath, Ronson can help. He lists all the items on the standard diagnostic checklist, developed by the psychologist Robert Hare. You can score yourself on traits like "glibness/superficial charm," "lack of remorse or guilt," "promiscuous sexual behavior" and 17 other traits. As one psychologist tells Ronson, if you are bothered at the thought of scoring high, then don't worry. You're not a psychopath.

One of the traits on the checklist is "callous/lack of empathy." This is the focus of another new book, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty (Basic Books, $25.99), by Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge psychologist best known for his research on autism. Baron-Cohen begins by telling how, at the age of 7, he learned that the Nazis turned Jews into lampshades and bars of soap, and he goes on to provide other examples of human savagery. To explain such atrocities, he offers an ambitious theory grounded in the concept of empathy, which he defines as "our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion." For Baron-Cohen, evil is nothing more than "empathy erosion." [....]

I think there's a better approach, one that involves breaking empathy into two parts, understanding and feeling, as Baron-Cohen himself does elsewhere in his book. Individuals with autism are unable to understand the mental lives of other people. Psychopaths, by contrast, get into others' heads just fine; they are seducers, manipulators, con men . . . and often worse. (Ronson tells how one psychopath — "good-looking, neatly dressed," with "a bit of a twinkle in his eye" — encountered a troubled teenager and decided to provoke the kid into attacking his family with a baseball bat, killing one person.) The problem with psychopaths lies in their lack of compassion, their willingness to destroy lives out of self-interest, malice or even boredom. [....]


Chareidi women's response to wife abuse


Kikar Shabbat

יותר ויותר נשים חרדיות המתמודדות עם אלימות קשה, בוחרות לעשות לה סוף. שושי הלר יצאה בעקבות הנשים האמיצות והארגונים שמעניקים להן בית-חם. האם אפשר לזהות כבר במפגשי השידוכים נטייה לאלימות? מהן התכונות שחשוב לברר על הבחור, בנוסף למה שבודקים בדרך כלל? מיהם הגורמים שאליהם תפנה אישה חרדית הנתונה תחת אלימות?

Sexual identity: Gay advocate suddenly discovers he is straight


NYTimes

[....] It was a good question. Had part of me come to “save” my old friend from the clutches of the Christian right? Though I don’t doubt that sexual attraction can evolve, I was skeptical of Michael’s claim of heterosexuality — and I rejected his argument that “homosexuality prevents us from finding our true self within.” Besides, I had a hard time believing that Michael’s “true self” was a fundamentalist Christian who writes derogatorily about being gay. But whatever aspirations I had about persuading Michael to join the ranks of ex-ex-gays, they were no match for his eagerness to save me.

“God loves you more than any dude will ever love you,” he told me at the cafe. “Don’t put your faith in some man, some flesh. That’s what we do when we’re stuck in the gay identity, when we’re stuck in that cave. We go from guy to guy, looking for someone to love us and make us feel O.K., but God is so much better than all the other masters out there.”

Michael, who is 36, now often refers to gay life as a kind of cave — or cage. In an open letter to Ricky Martin, published on WorldNetDaily after Martin came out, he wrote, “Homosexuality is a cage in which you are trapped in an endless cycle of constantly wanting more — sexually — that you can never actually receive, constantly full of emptiness, trying to justify your twisted actions by politics and ‘feel good’ language.”

Had Michael been secretly unhappy as a gay man, and was he now projecting that onto all gay-identified people? I broached the question later that night at his small off-campus apartment, where we sat in his barren kitchen eating Oreo cookies. “Well, you can’t see how dark it is in a cave when you’re in it,” he said. “But, no, at the time I didn’t consider myself unhappy.” [....]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gentle chinuch - with horses


NYTimes

When the soulful cowboy philosopher Buck Brannaman talks, people — and horses — listen. The aw-shucks star and one of the two-legged attractions in the documentary “Buck,” Mr. Brannaman is a former trick rope performer who, after a childhood of pain, became something of a shaman and an inspiration for the novel and movie “The Horse Whisperer.” He doesn’t just talk to the animals; he also transforms snorting, bucking horses into companions who follow his lead without a tether and even join him in a graceful meadow duet. [....]

If there’s nothing essentially remarkable about Buck Brannaman’s bad childhood, there is something exceptional about how he transcended it. After knocking around in his early 20s, he had his mind blown while watching a clinic with Ray Hunt and his teacher, Tom Dorrance, modern pioneers in a gentle training method — a philosophy, really — that’s called, perhaps paradoxically (as PETA might insist), natural horsemanship. Smitten by what he saw, Mr. Brannaman embraced these methods, became a disciple of the men and of Mr. Dorrance’s brother, Bill, and went on to spread the word. It’s a measure of the passion this approach inspires that in the book “The Greatest Horse Stories Ever Told,” one observer rhapsodizes: “Tom Dorrance is Yoda, Ray Hunt is Obi-Wan Kenobi and Buck Brannaman is Luke Skywalker!”

Having a gay orientation & religious identity: Living the Good Lie


NYTimes

Denis Flanigan isn’t hiding anything. A 42-year-old psychotherapist in Houston, he has a straightforward manner that meshes nicely with his no-nonsense buzz cut and neatly clipped goatee. Unlike many mental-health professionals, Flanigan puts personal items on display in his office, including a photo of his partner, who is attractive, and male. For his patients’ amusement he has on hand an S-and-M Barbie as well as a Tickle Me Freud doll. (“It’s so, so . . . wrong,” Flanigan told me, in a tone that signaled he believed it was exactly right.) Flanigan’s no-secrets policy extends to his Web site, where he writes that he “has frequently been asked to speak on the gay and lesbian experience and mental health, transgender concerns and body-modification issues.” A member of the American Psychological Association, Flanigan has also served as Mr. Prime Choice Texas, winning a contest “designed for men 40 years or older who represent the masculine aesthetic embraced by the leather/Levi/uniform/fetish community.” In his own words, he identifies as a “militant homosexual.”

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that when potential clients come to Flanigan’s office to discuss their sexual orientation — in particular whether they should reveal their homosexuality to friends, family or employers — his first response is to ask, in a neutral tone, “Why do you want to do that?” Flanigan has a 20-year history of gay activism behind him, so you might expect that his primary goal would be to help gay clients discover and cultivate their most authentic selves. As Jonathan Ned Katz wrote in “Gay American History” in 1976, “Therapists who do not help their homosexual patients to fully explore the possibility of homosexuality as a legitimate option have not helped to expand those individuals’ freedom.” [...]

In New Square where the arson attack occurred, the rebbe's word is law


New Jersey Jewish Standard

For years, this leafy chasidic village about an hour north of New York City has been a shtetl-like haven where residents could live their strictly Orthodox lifestyle far from the temptations and bustle of the nation’s largest city.

Out of view of all but very few, life in this community of some 7,000 Skverer chasidim has revolved around its spiritual leader, the Skverer rebbe, David Twersky.

In the wake of a recent arson attack that left a dissident New Square resident in the hospital with third-degree burns over more than half his body — and thrust this community into the harsh glare of media and police investigators — the question is whether the centrality of the rebbe to community life has created an atmosphere of dangerous coercion.

“We cannot encourage theocratic rule,” said Michael Sussman, the civil rights attorney representing the burn victim, Aron Rottenberg. “Yet by tolerating these communities, we’re doing that.” [....]

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Schools: Conflict over the nature of homework


NYTimes


After Donna Cushlanis’s son kept bursting into tears midway through his second-grade math problems, which one night took over an hour, she told him not to do all of his homework.

“How many times do you have to add seven plus two?” Ms. Cushlanis, 46, said. “I have no problem with doing homework, but that put us both over the edge. I got to the point that this is enough.”

Ms. Cushlanis, a secretary for the Galloway school district, complained to her boss, Annette C. Giaquinto, the superintendent. It turned out that the district, which serves 3,500 kindergarten through eighth-grade students, was already re-evaluating its homework practices. The school board will vote this summer on a proposal to limit weeknight homework to 10 minutes for each year of school — 20 minutes for second graders, and so forth — and ban assignments on weekends, holidays and school vacations. [...]

Bizarre collaboration with the Zionists to save the pashkevils


Haaretz

Yoel Krois decided in recent months to take a temporary break from the holy wars he ordinarily wages as the unofficial "sheriff" of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She'arim, in Jerusalem. The battles against men and women walking together on Mea She'arim's sidewalks, against bus company Egged, against the Gay Pride Parade and against the Haredi politicians who sit in the infidels' Knesset - all of these can evidently wait, because Krois, a member of the extremist religious faction Eda Haredit, has a burning mission that keeps him glued to his storage room for days and nights: uploading his personal archive of 20,000 pashkevils, or street posters, to the digital collection of the National Library of Israel.

The cooperation between the radical anti-Zionist activist and the national-academic institution is hardly self-evident, nor is the fact that the pashkevil - the medium of communication that has shaped the face of streets in Jerusalem for more than a century - will take its place in the national library's collection, at an investment of NIS 100,000. On top of this, the individual who served as middleman between Krois and the library is considered a bitter enemy of the Eda: Shuka Dorfman, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. [...]


Why the rabbis are hated


YNET

Reports that the salary of city rabbis will be raised to up to NIS 29,000 (roughly $8,500) per month prompted thousands of angry reactions. Several rabbis were genuinely wondering about the source of what they characterized as the “hatred” towards them. After all, they serve the public faithfully.
 
Hence, I will attempt here to present the arguments against the Rabbinate as reflected by the responses to the recent pay raise.

Firstly, the Rabbinate has become the “military wing” of the haredi community. Through it, the haredim abuse the rest of the population. Through the Rabbinate they force Israel’s citizens to get married, divorce, convert and set their clocks the haredi way. And as we know, depriving human beings of freedom provokes fury. Hence, one needs great chutzpa to force people to behave in ways they don’t wish to adopt.[...]

 


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jewish Agency to decide on Orthodox conversions for aliya


JPost

The Interior Ministry has decided that the Jewish Agency will act as the arbitrator for Jewish communities abroad for recognizing Orthodox converts wishing to make aliya, while leaving the Chief Rabbinate as a potential consultant for the “isolated cases” in which questions regarding the converting rabbis arise.

In recent months, there has been a growing phenomenon of aliya requests by Orthodox converts from North America being rejected by the Interior Ministry. According to law, a person who undergoes a conversion in a recognized Jewish community abroad is eligible for aliya.

Despite a High Court decision several years ago, the Interior Ministry didn’t formulate an official policy on how to recognize a Jewish community, and operated on the basis of an internal memo drafted by its legal department in 2008, which determined that the ministry should consult with the head of the relevant religious community in Israel. [...]

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Science of Evil: Evil understood as lack of empathy


NYTimes

“The Science of Evil,” by Simon Baron-Cohen, seems likely to antagonize the victims of evil, the parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, at least a few of the dozens of researchers whose work he cites — not to mention critics of his views on evolutionary psychology or of his claims about the neurobiology of the sexes. “The Science of Evil” proposes a simple but persuasive hypothesis for a new way to think about evil.

“My main goal is to understand human cruelty, replacing the unscientific term ‘evil’ with the scientific term ‘empathy,’ ” he writes at the beginning of the book, which might be seen as expanding on the views on empathy expressed in his 1997 book, “Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind” (Bradford). Evil, he notes, has heretofore been defined in religious terms (with the concept differing in the major world religions), as a psychiatric condition (psychopathology) or, as he puts it, in “frustratingly circular” terms: “He did x because he is truly evil”). [...]

Dissidents leaders from Kiryas Yoel file lawsuit demanding villiage be dissolved


Times Herald Record

Dissident leaders from Kiryas Joel filed a federal lawsuit Monday accusing the Satmar Hasidic community’s majority faction of abusing its control over municipal affairs and demanding the 34-year-old village be dissolved.

The 59-page complaint catalogs grievances dating back a decade and depicts a religious faction exercising uncontested power in the secular realm. The case, brought by Goshen attorney Michael Sussman, calls Kiryas Joel a “theocracy” that violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against the establishment of religion.

“Religion is wonderful,” Sussman said at a press conference in his office Monday, seated beside Joseph Waldman, a plaintiff and longtime dissident leader. “But it cannot dominate the state. And that is what is happening in Kiryas Joel.” [...]

Arson attack victim files $18 million suit against Chasidic rabbi & assailant


JTA

The family of a man badly burned in an alleged arson attack filed a lawsuit against the grand rabbi of the Chasidic village of New Square, N.Y., accusing him of directing and condoning a campaign of harassment against them.

The suit, filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court on behalf of Aron Rottenberg and his family, lists two defendants: Shaul Spitzer, 18, the alleged arsonist; and David Twesky, the rebbe of the Skverer Chasidic sect. It urges the court to level an $18 million judgement agaisnt each of the two defendants.[...]

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Square arson victim to file lawsuit challenging grand rebbe's power


LoHud

The lawyer for Aron Rottenberg, the New Square man seriously burned in an arson attack on his home, said this afternoon that he will file a lawsuit tomorrow contending that New Square's grand rebbe is responsible for a campaign of intimidation against Rottenberg that sparked the attack.

Lawyer Michael Sussman said that Rottenberg is committed to breaking Grand Rebbe David Twersky's hold on power over everything that happens in the ultra-insular Hasidic village.

"That control, if it is going to be exerted as it has been, has to end," Sussman said. [...]

MK: Infiltrators will comprise 10% of TA's population


ynet

Committee chairman MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) said that some 35,000 infiltrators had entered Israel by the end of 2010. He added that 85% of them reside in south-central Israel and Tel Aviv.

Rabbi charged with raping 12-year-old girl


YNET

A Netanya rabbi was charged on Monday with raping a 12-year-old girl. David Hafuta, 64, who prayed at the same synagogue as the minor, allegedly assaulted her on several occasions between July 2010 and May of this year.
 
According to the indictment, the girl asked Hafuta questions about religious matters. In response, he told her that he wants to "reveal her purpose in the world," and for that she has to meet him. [...]

Some Gay-Rights Foes Claim They Now Are Bullied


Fox

As the gay-rights movement advances, there is increasing evidence of an intriguing role reversal: Today, it is the conservative opponents of that movement who seem eager to depict themselves as victims of intolerance.

To them, the gay-rights lobby has morphed into a relentless bully, pressuring companies and law firms into policy reversals, making it taboo in some circumstances to express opposition to same-sex marriage.

"They're advocating for a lot of changes in the name of tolerance," said Jim Campbell, an attorney with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund.

"Yet ironically the tolerance is not returned, for people of faith who don't agree with their agenda." [...]




Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beigel Busting: How to Spot a Tuna Beigel

for those who follow the Orthodox world the following is a cogent and accurate description of an important phenomenon.

yeshiva guy

Before you begin the Yeshiva Guy course in Beigel Busting, you must first learn what a Tuna Beigel is. A Tuna Beigel, or Beigel for short, is a colloquial term for a (former) member of an Ultra-Orthodox Chassidishe sect. Typically speaking, they are slightly clueless about the outside world due to their insulated upbringing. Technically, they may still consider themselves Chassidim, but in reality, they have severed most ties with their heritage long ago. It is precisely the links that they cannot break, however, that makes them so hilarious, and consequently so much fun to watch in action.[...]

New Square: Context of the arson attack


Forward

[...] On May 22, the group’s longstanding complaints about harassment and intimidation by Twersky’s followers were starkly highlighted when Aron Rottenberg, one of its members, almost died in an arson attack on his home. Rottenberg suffered third-degree burns over half of his body when he confronted an intruder carrying a plastic bag full of gasoline and a torch at 4:12 a.m. Shaul Spitzer, the 18-year-old suspect apprehended by police, also suffered serious injuries in their struggle. Both men remain hospitalized, with Spitzer free on $300,000 bond. At the time of the incident, Spitzer worked for Twersky in his home. Rottenberg’s friends and family members say that the 43-year-old local plumber sought only to pray outside the village’s main synagogue, an act that provoked the ire of New Square’s leaders. They say local police and political officials ignored earlier attacks on him and others due to the political clout of Twersky, who directs New Square’s large bloc vote. [....]

New Square Arson Victim Blames Attack On Community’s Religious Intolerance


CBS

After being the victim of a frightening arson attack, New Square resident Aron Rottenberg spoke from his hospital bed in an interview on May 29 exclusively obtained by CBS 2.

In the interview conducted with an investigator working for his lawyer one week after the May 22 attack , Rottenberg said he blames the leaders of a Hasidic sect for creating the intolerant atmosphere that led to his injuries. [....]

Friday, June 10, 2011

Maharal:G-d's tears & science - earthquakes & G-d's influence on nature

Berachos(59a): As R’ Kattina passed the gates of the magician Oba Timei an earthquake occurred. He said: Does Oba Timei know what the reason for earthquakes? The magician replied: Of course I know. When G‑d thinks about His children who are sunk in suffering amongst the nations of the world, He sheds two tears into the ocean and the earthquake is the resulting sound that reverberates from one end of the world to the other. R’ Kattina replied:” The magician is a liar and his words are wrong because according to his explanation the earthquake should be followed by the aftershock of the second tear!” In fact however earthquakes are followed by an aftershock and the reason why R’ Kattina did not acknowledge the correctness of the explanation was so that people should not pay attention to the magician. R’ Kattina explained earthquakes resulting from G‑d clapping His hands together out of anger. R’ Nathan explained them as resulting from G‑d sighing from sadness. The Rabbis said that it is G‑d walking on the Heavens. R’ Acha b. Yaakov said: It results from G‑d pressing His feet together beneath His throne. …


Maharal (Be’er HaGolah #4): Berachos (59a): As R' Kattina passed the gates of the magician Oba Timei an earthquake occurred. … To properly understand this gemora you must be aware that our sages were not primarily concerned with a scientific description of the physical world. Even though it is obvious that there is a physical basis of earthquakes, our sages focused not on the laws of nature but rather G d's influence on the physical mechanism…G d in fact controls everything but works through the processes of nature…. This is an extremely fundamental principle on which is built the principle of faith… In contrast, the scientists when they investigate physical phenomenon such as earthquakes, thunder etc., assume that nature is all there is. They look at proximate causal relations and ignore the ultimate cause—the Creator of nature. However, our Sages …learned from Moshe Rabbeinu that the view of the scientists was incomplete. … Therefore, our Sages knew that these things are produced by natural processes, however G d is the initiator of all natural phenomena and thus nature is merely a messenger for G d. It is important to know that wherever the Sages use this type of language, they don't intended to actually describe G d, Heaven forbid! The description is simply a form that is comprehensible to the human mind. Thus, they are describing things from the point of view of the audience. This is an incredibly important principle which manifests itself in esoteric medrashim….

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Trees: The Real Meaning of a Shavuos Minhag

5tjt translated by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Rav Moshe Wolfson is the Mashgiach Ruchani of Yeshivas Torah V’Daas, and Rebbe of Congregation Emunas Yisroel in Boro Park. He is also the author of a three volume work on the Parshios of Chumash and the Moadim entitled “Emunas Itecha.”  The translation and annotation is provided as a public service in honor of the impending Yom Tov.

The Mogain Avrohom (Orech Chaim 494) cites a custom to bring trees into our homes and synagogues on the holiday of Shavuos.  He writes that he believes the reason for this custom is because on this holiday we are judged on the fruits of trees.  This is done so that we will pray for the trees [to have a plentiful bounty].

Rav Moshe Wolfson Shlita explains: It is clear that the type of trees that we bring into our homes and shuls must perforce be barren, non-fruit-bearing trees. Why is this true?  If it was otherwise, it would be a halachic impossibility, as there is a Torah prohibition of cutting down fruit trees - Bal Tashchis  (See Dvarim 20:19 and tractate Bava Kamma 91a). .[....]

Should Men Be Allowed to Father Children After They're Dead?


Time

Fertility-treatment innovations mean that all sorts of people who would not have been able to have a baby a generation ago are now able to bring life into the world. Now, some are arguing the ranks of the newly fertile should include dead people.

In Australia, a woman was granted permission last month to use her dead husband's sperm in an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) attempt to create a child. In Israel, grieving grandparents are petitioning a court to allow them to use their dead son's sperm to conceive a grandchild. And in California, a woman is due in three months with her husband's child — even though her husband died not long before she got pregnant. [...]


Why PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is now being called PTS


Time

For years, the U.S. military has referred to the constellation of anxiety, depression and anger many combat troops suffer when they return home as PTSD -- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But in recent months, senior Pentagon officials seem to have gone on a search-and-destroy mission to kill the D -- Disorder -- and now prefer to call the syndrome simply Post-Traumatic Stress.

For good or for ill, the amputation of disorder represents a change in military nomenclature worth noting.

"This is a normal reaction to a very serious set of events in their life," Lieut. General Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, said of PTSD back in 2008. Well, if it's normal, why is it called a disorder, Battleland asked him at the time. Schoomaker, a thoughtful guy, pondered the obvious question for a moment. "Maybe we're not as sensitive as we might be to communicating things like disorder and the like," he finally said. "You raise a very interesting point. I'll have to talk that over with my psychiatric colleagues to see if there's a way of using different terminology that doesn't have people stigmatized by it." [...]



The forced acceptance of Torah at Sinai was to make it irrevocable

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Maharal (Shemos 19:17): … I found in a medrash that when G d  gave the Torah He forced the Jews to accept it. Since the law of a raped woman is that she can not be forcibly divorced, consequently G d can never reject the Jews. It is important to note that the medrash is not saying that the covenant at Sinai was a form of rape. We obviously can not learn from the sinful conduct of human beings the nature of the covenant with G d. However, the medrash is teaching us that the punishment the Torah gives to a rapist is that he can never divorce the woman — and not some other punishment — because the punishment is appropriate to the deed. That is because every deed which is forced is irreversible while a voluntary deed is reversible. Thus the forced relationship with a woman is also irreversible…That is the reason that G d’s relationship with us was done in a forced manner so that it would not be reversible. Therefore even though the Jews had initially accepted the Torah willingly by saying “We will do and we will understand” — the essential relationship was one that had to be and thus it had to be forced.

Why G d waited 3 months after Egypt to give Torah to the Jews

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Ohr HaChaim (Shemos 19:1):
In the third month after the redemption of the children of Israel…on that same day they came to Sinai. It is difficult to understand why G d — despite His great love for the Jews and strong desire to give them their bride the Torah —  waited until the third month after the redemption from Egypt.  If you suggest that it was because of the distance that needed to be traveled, but we saw G d miraculously shorted the distance to speed up Rifka’s marriage to Yitzchok (Bereishis Rabbah 59:11).  We would surely have expected that G d would have done the same for the Jewish people. Consequently G d gave a  justification for the delay. It  was not the result of a lack of desire of the bride but rather that the groom (the Jewish people) were not properly prepared. The Jews were not prepared for the wedding with Torah since they had spent years in a spiritually polluted land  and had absorbed its pollution. Consequently they  needed to count for a 7 week period in a manner similar to a woman before she becomes purified. The Zohar indicates that this 7 week period between Pesach and Shavuos should be viewed as 7 times the normal 7 day period of purification. Therefore when this verse says “3 months of the leaving of Egypt”, it means the delay of 3 months was because of fact that they had left Egypt [and they needed extra purification]. A proof for this understanding is that this verse states when they had almost recovered spiritually — which was the first day of the 3rd month — they immediately arrived at Sinai. …

Monday, June 6, 2011

Schism in a Hasidic Village, a Series of Attacks, and an Attempted-Murder Arrest


NYTimes

Last September, Aron Rottenberg did something radical.

Along with some friends, he began worshiping not at the grand synagogue at the center of this ultra-Orthodox Skver Hasidic community in Rockland County, but outside the village at a residence for the elderly.

Before long, a rabbinical court ruled that praying outside the synagogue was a serious violation of community rules.

Next, groups outside Mr. Rottenberg’s house smashed windows and dumped his daughter’s school desk and books on the front porch. And on May 22, an early-morning attack left Mr. Rottenberg with third-degree burns over most of his body. [...]

Sunday, June 5, 2011

State to compensate sexual abuse victims?


YNET

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation stands to debate a bill put forward by MK Orly Levy (Yisrael Beiteinu) and the National Council for the Child (NCC) regarding monetary restitution to victims of sexual assault.

The bill suggests that should felons who are ordered to pay their victims default on the court's order, the State should be the one to compensate the victims. [...\

Hasidic sect takes succession war to the Internet


Haaretz

As the succession war in Haifa's Seret-Viznitz Hasidic sect heats up, one of the warring parties has resorted to the Internet as a weapon.

In recent weeks, video footage has begun circulating in emails and on the ultra-Orthodox website Behadrei Haredim that shows Rabbi Baruch Hager, grandson of the sect's current admor (rabbinic leader ), maligning key leaders of Haifa's Viznitz community to his 86-year-old grandfather and even managing to get the admor to speak out against them.

Hager's allies say the recordings are fake, and that they are being distributed by another grandson of the admor - Baruch Hager's cousin, Yisrael Shpitatz - who hopes to ensure that his father, a Neturei Karta Hasid, will inherit instead. [....]

Friday, June 3, 2011

Judge rules gay athletic club can discriminate again heterosexuals


Courthouse News Service

The North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association can limit the number of heterosexuals on its teams, according to a federal judge's order, which also ushers forward claims by three bisexual men who say they were kicked out of the Gay Softball World Series because they weren't gay enough.
     The three men were playing for a San Francisco softball team in the finals when a rival team challenged their sexuality, citing the rule that limits no more that two heterosexuals per team.
     The men were "summoned to a hearing room to answer questions about their sexual interests or attractions, purportedly to determine their sexual orientation, in front of a group of more than twenty-five people, many of whom plaintiffs did not know," according to their federal complaint. The men say organizers told them: "This is the Gay World Series, not the Bisexual World Series."
     They filed suit against the athletic association, saying it violated Washington state's laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation and race. Two of the plaintiffs are black and one is black and Filipino. [....]

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reporting even a suspected abuser to the police

For those who wish to see additional sources they are in my books on child abuse


Rav Yehuda Silman(Yeschurun volume 15 page 662): 5) It is obvious in these matters of child abuse that it not necessary to have formal witnesses. As we see in Bava Metzia (83) that R’ Eliezer bar R’ Shimon had the Romans arrest those who were drinking in the tavern and were sleepy. … The commentaries explain that the obvious reason for not needing witnesses but they could rely even on circumstantial evidence is because this was not a court procedure to punish wrongdoers. Rather it was either done to obey the law of the kingdom or it was to stop someone from sinning. The Rashba is cited in the Beis Yosef that witnesses are not needed in such a case…”. That is because we are concerned only with the knowledge of truth in order to stop the harm and to make protective measures against iniquity. Furthermore according to what I said that even a doubtful rodef is permitted to be killed it is obvious that it is permitted for us to take protective action even if we have unresolved doubts.

Rav Yehuda Silman(Yeschurun 15): Nevertheless the decision to report the perpetrator to the police is not given to everyone to decide. Rather as the Yam Shel Shlomo has said it is given to a rabbi or to a distinguished layman who will judge the matter objectively.[ R' Gottesman of the Aguda said we posken like this Yam Shel Shlomo and don't require a beis din]

Rav Yehuda Silman(Yeschurun 22): Question: I had previously received a query from America concerning the issue of informing the government authorities in a case of a teacher sexually abusing his student. The question was whether it is permitted or even a mitzva to be involved in reporting the matter to the secular authorities. I replied [Yeschurun 15 page 661] that there are number of different ways to judge the matter. 1) Viewing the abuser as a rodef (pursuer) [I mentioned in the previous article that this does not apply in the case of a male above the age of 13 or a girl above the age of 12 when the adult does it with their consent.]. 2) Stopping the abuser from sinning. I brought the dispute between the Ketzos and the Nesivos HaMishpat…and the Yam Shel Shlomo and the Chasam Sofer. However it is agreed by all of these sources is that a person of distinguished status (chashiv) is able to stop another from committing a prohibited act. 3) The position of Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 2) that a beis din is able to flog and punish in order to protect society – in a manner which is not prescribed by the Torah. Therefore in a case like ours in which experience has shown that a sex abuser is able to ruin many people – everyone agrees that beis din can punish in ways not prescribed by the Torah.[In the earlier article I pointed out there are significant differences between these approaches. If you take the perspective of separating the abuser from sinning then if the teacher is fired then there is no longer a need to act since he has lost his primary opportunity to sin but of course it depends on the nature of the crime. In contrast if the concern is protecting society then the perpetrator should still be reported even if he has been fired.] 4) The view expressed in Bava Metzia (83b) concerning R’ Eliezar bar Rav Shimon who was involved in capturing thieves because the king had commanded him to do so. I brought the dispute amongst the rishonim was to whether or not the halacha is in accord with R’ Eliezar or not. In the original article I was inclined to the view that in the case of sexual abuse since the perpetrator is not executed but is imprisoned to protect society then perhaps all would agree that it is permitted to report him to the authorities.
  
Rav Yehuda Silman(Yeschurun volume 15 page 663): The laws that have emerged from our discussion concerning child molesters. We see that there are two separate issues 1) Concerning removing the perpetrator from his job. In this issue we establish that the halacha follows the view of the Sho’el u’Meishiv that it is enough that there are bad rumors and there is concern because of doubts. It seems that in such a case where there seems to be a basis for these rumors it is possible to remove him from his job even in the middle of the year and he does not receive any compensation for the remainder of his contract or for loss of job. 2) Concerning reporting him to the secular authorities. If the circumstances are that it is sufficient to remove him from the job and there is no concern that he will continue attacking children, then that is what should be done and he should not be reported. 3) However if there is a concern that he will continue to molest children, then at least because of the requirement to stop him from sinning it is permitted to report him even if he does not molest in a way that he transgresses actual Torah prohibitions and is therefore not considered a rodef. But since in our days prison is not considered life threatening it is permitted to cause him to be imprisoned. 4) However the decision as to whether to report a molester is not given to everyone as the Yam Shel Shlomo said Rather it is given to a dayan or an important person.  5) Furthermore, the understanding of the facts of the situation as to what actions are needed can be based upon the evidence of children or any other evidence which arouses a serious question such as tape recordings, letters, or polygraph tests. In general without this - if there is no evidence even according to what is accepted by secular law – there can be no punishment. The point is that there is no requirement that the evidence must be valid according to the Torah. 6) However if the suspect is prepared to accept therapy that will make him better - such as psychotherapy, or chemicals which suppress his sex drive – if it seems to the dayan that he will do what he promised [and sometimes with appropriate supervision] then treatment is preferable to reporting him to the police. However even if the molester is given the alternative of treatment and supervision instead of jail - he needs to quit his job which involves contact with children. 7) Outside of Israel where secular law is relevant there are additional reasons to be lenient and allow reporting to the police. 8) It is a good idea to establish a dayan or a beis din to make the decisions about the above issues and therefore men should be selected for this purpose who are experienced in these matters because of the serious of the matter which requires special expertise.