Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yeshiva student pleads guilty to molesting 2 fourth-graders

 New York Post
Hillel Selznick, 25 of Flushing, admitted to Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter that he inappropriately touched a set of eight-year-old girls -- over a year-long period -- during private tutoring lessons inside the victim's homes.

Selznick, who was a student at Rabbinical Seminary of America, pleaded to two counts of course sexual misconduct against a child and will be sentenced on April 17 to six months in jail, 10 years probation, complete a sex offender program and register as sex offender.

Pedophile Rabbi David Kaye trapped by Dateline TV

Washington Jewish Week  Conservative Rabbi

Live Journal he received 6.5 years in federal prison

Rav Dovid Grossman discusses kiruv with Yair Lapid

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ezras Nashim: Women's ambulance service being formed

The all-male Hatzolah EMT crew snubbed them — so a group of Brooklyn Jewish women are starting their own ladies-only ambulance service.

Borough Park lawyer Rachel Freier, 46, held the first recruitment drive Sunday for Ezras Nashim — Hebrew for “assisting women” — in her dining room. She signed up 50 members from across the borough.

“If women are having an emergency, they should have the option of calling a woman,” Freier said.

Ezras Nashim will focus on helping mothers in labor. Their goal is to train 50 EMTs and birthing assistants by the planned September launch.

Special yeshiva helps mentally ill find their way

The Shaf Yativ yeshiva opened five years ago – a yeshiva for religious men with mental health problems. What seems like a regular yeshiva is actually a special care program that uses Torah learning to rehabilitate the mentally ill and help them rejoin normative society. It is named for a Synagogue in ancient Babel, made of stones from the Temple .

"A mental health start up," is how Rabbi Guy Avihod calls his life's work. Rabbi Avihod who is the head of the yeshiva says that "the yeshiva got going completely by accident. At a lesson given by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu I met Udi Marili who told me that he works at the Health Ministry with the mentally ill, trying to find them employment.  

Yoga & Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here

The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world’s fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of “self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat.”[...]

But this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal. Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught? 

One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.[...]

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dr. Klafter's critique of Rav Zilberstein's psak against therapy with opposite sex client

The noted frum psychiatrist - Dr. Nachum Klafter - submitted the following essay for posting on this blog regarding the recent psak of Rav Zilberstein [discussed here and here]. He requested that the reader be aware of two things: 1) This is a current draft of an essay that is be prepared for written publication, therefore any corrections or disagreements are welcome. 2) The essay is directed toward psychotherapists, and therefore may tend to over-explain some of the halakhic ideas as many of the readers are not rabbonim, and may under-explain some of the psychological content because the readers are trained psychotherapists. Dr. Klafter can be reached at

Murderers taking care of senile fellow prisoners

Secel Montgomery Sr. stabbed a woman in the stomach, chest and throat so fiercely that he lost count of the wounds he inflicted. In the nearly 25 years he has been serving a life sentence, he has gotten into fights, threatened a prison official and been caught with marijuana.  

Despite that, he has recently been entrusted with an extraordinary responsibility. He and other convicted killers at the California Men’s Colony help care for prisoners with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, assisting ailing inmates with the most intimate tasks: showering, shaving, applying deodorant, even changing adult diapers.[...]

Rabbi Orlofsky: Chinuch in a world that has changed

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dr. Bunzel's explanation of Rav Zilberstein's teshuva

Before presenting Dr. Klafter's criticism of this pask, I think it is only fair to present a translation of the original article that I had posted to my blog recently. It not only presents Rav Zilberstein's justification for his psak that therapists should only treat clients of the same gender - but Dr. Bunzel's justification for asking the question and why he thinks the clear heter given for hundreds of years by gedolim - is now to be rejected. The translation is mine. It can't be emphasized too much that this psak is radical and represents a major shift in the separation of the sexes. It is not being presented as one that applies to Bnei Brak or Williamsburg - but a universal psak that every religious Jew is obligated to follow - despite ruling to the contrary by gedolim or one's own personal rav.
What are the parameters for psychotherapy according to Halacha?
Written by Benjamin J. Rabinowitz | 13:11 | 24 of Shevat 5792

This psak Halacha written by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, and signed  by the great sages of Israel and very important rabbis and judges, shlita, states for the first time, clear and binding boundaries with regard to psychological treatments, and states that is "a duty on the therapeutic manager to look after the separation" between therapist and patient of the opposite sex. Furthermore "If that is not possible it is necessary to consult with the rav of the hospital as to what to do in each particular case."

These things came as answers to questions raised by Dr. Michael Bunzel Director of Psychiatry at the Medical Center "Maayanei Hayeshua" and director of community clinic "Sheba".
Before we bring before the reader the long conversation we had with Dr. Bunzel, we present the question as presented to Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein shlita:
 "In the treatment of mental health clinic, there are treatments that require a deep connection with the patient - longer than standard treatments. For example the treatment of anxiety or mild depression does not require entering into marriage issues or sensitive private material, however personal problems and crises of life at times require a deep connection between therapist and patient. In the clinic we need to determine whether it is better to have the therapist and patient be the same gender or are patients to be referred entirely based on professional criteria? The questions that constant occure are: 1. Does the age of the therapist and/or patient make a difference? 2. Is there a difference if the patient prefers someone of the opposite sex? 3. Do I as a manager, I have a duty to maintain this complete separation of sexes despite opposition of therapists who are not members of the yeshiva community? "
Concerning these questions Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein shlita answered at length spelling out the basics from Torah and the Sages, and concluded with the summary as quoted above.
This letter was cosigned by the following gedolim, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman Shlita, Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner Shlita, Rabbi Nissim Karelitz Shlita, Rabbi Chaim Knievsky , Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach shlita, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein Shlita, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch Shlita, Rabbi Shimon Adani Shlita, Rabbi Israel Levi Belsky Shlita, Rabbi Mordechai Gross Shlita, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shafran, shlita, and Rabbi Yehuda Silman, shlita.

As mentioned, we had a long and fascinating conversation with Dr. Bunzel. In his introductory remarks, he emphasized that although these guidelines are primarily aimed at managers of psychiatric departments, medical doctors and psychologists, but the gedolim have instructed that these  teachings be brought to  the entire charedi public's attention, in order that they know and act according to these guidelines.

Dr. Bunzel stated, "Because not everyone understands why specifically the issue of psychotherapy caused the gedolim and important rabbis to come to a decisive and unambiguous conclusion, therefore it is very important to not only state the guidelines themselves, but what lies behind them."

At the beginning of the conversation we asked to hear from Dr. Bunzel, what led him to now raise the important question. "Some psychologists assert - and bring references from all kinds of rabbis they found - that there is no problem, and they rely on the halachic principle known that “a worker is involved in doing his job.”

This psak takes the new position that there is something unique about psychotherapy and asserts that it is not comparable to other professions. Because of this unique aspect it requires greater caution and restriction than other professions.

Dr. Bonzel emphasized this point throughout the interview. The essence of deep psychological treatment (as opposed to mild cases of anxiety and mild depression), is the need to create a relationship between patient and analyst, and this eventually leads to dependence. 

"One of the most important rabbis said: The main reason that the Chazon Ish was opposed to national service would not that a girl shouldn’t leave the house for somewhere else, but her dependence on those who were are in charge of her. All creation of such dependency puts her into danger. This is exactly what happens in therapy, too. The creation of total dependence of the patient for the therapist and this is exactly the great danger in it. All of psychological treatment is built on and requires a deep and long-term relationship with the patient. The therapist gradually builds this relationship, and the success of treatment is primarily a result of the depth of the relationship between therapist - psychologist, and the patient.” 

The psak of the gedolim explicitly states that the director of the clinic has a duty to take to make sure that a woman does not get referred to a male therapist or a man to a woman therapist. You can not automatically refer a client to those who most available or by a professional classification - because there is the problem of building a relationship, and the spirit of the chachomim is not pleased with this happening. This mixing of the genders is only possible when there is no alternative, but even then there is a requirement to first consult with rav as to what to do in each particular case. "

[I deleted details about Dr. Bunzel’s person life and his description of the change in the nature of therapy]

"When I began to work in this profession, I turned with many questions to Rav Yitzchok Silberstein shlita, who has worked in the area of medicine and halacha for decades. But early on he told me that from the time of the incident of the Get of Cleves (250 years ago) this area of psychiatry and halacha has not been developed. There is almost nothing written in the area of halacha dealing with this topic during this time - even though it has important implication for the halacha concerning cheresh, shoteh and koton.  In fact even today we have no clear undertanding of the definition of a shoteh. 

"Therefore this psak which has now been signed by gedolim, can be legitimately viewed as an event of historic nature as being the first definitive psak since the Get of Cleves in which all the gedolim joined together and offered their views concerning psychitatric treatment. This psak gives support and encouragement to those in the chareidi community who suffer a problem. They can now obtain relief  and response from this field which was not possible in the past. However it is necessary that this treatment be done according to the guidelines of halacha so that chas v’shalom there should not be a creation of a severe stumbling block.

"In this field of psychology and psychiatry, there are very serious detailed ethical regulations concerning the relationship between therapist and patient. We - the Chareidi community - are also allowed to have regulations of psak halacha concerning this therapy. This is exactly what this psak halacha [concerning the separation of the sexes in therapy] has begun. In passing I just want to note that there are also rabbis who are not considered part of the Chareidi community who give halachic rulings to people who are not part of the Chareidi community to conduct themselves exactly as expressed in this psak halacha. That is because they are understand well this severe problems that can result it these guidelines are not followed."
This ruling of Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein has been agreed to by the following gedolim: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Shimon Adani, Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky, Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, Rabbi Mordechai Gross, Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rabbi Dov Landau, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shafran, Rabbi Yehuda Silman, Rabbi Pollack.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Problematic tshuva of gender separation in therapy

I recently posted an article interviewing Dr. Bunzel - a psychiatrist in Bnei Brak - and the teshuva he got from Rav Zilberstein regarding psychotherapy. It has been circulating the internet amongst frum therapist and has caused a significant amount of consternation. I have been debating whether to answer what I consider as a very poorly written teshuva and egregious attitude  to gender separation and therapy or to just ignore it as many are. Someone sent me  this morning an erudite and cogent response to the issue by Dr Klafter - a frum psychiatrist who contributed a chapter to my book on abuse - which effectively refutes the premises of the article and teshuva. I just sent a request to Dr. Klafter for permission his reply here on this blog. I assume he will give permission and will post it. Otherwise I will post the halachic concerns that he raises on my own.

[update: Dr. Klafter has agreed to my request - click link to access his article ]

Dr. Klafter's critique

Alan Dershowitz: Friends Seminary & Anti-Semitism

The Friends Seminary of New York, which invited the notorious anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon to one of its classes, and assigned its students to read his hate-filled writings, has now backed out of an agreement to invite me to the school to talk to the students about the evils of anti-Semitism.

The headmaster of the Friends Seminary, a school which is supposed to be committed to honesty and integrity, has broken his solemn promise to me, and to members of its own community, to allow its students to hear both sides of an issue that really has only one side: namely, the illegitimacy of bringing hate-mongers into high school classrooms.

Report on IPad factories: Are Chinese sweatshops evil?

New York Times

The second enlightening twist, for me, was a note sent to me from a young man, born in China and now attending an American university.
My aunt worked several years in what Americans call “sweat shops.” It was hard work. Long hours, “small” wage, “poor” working conditions. Do you know what my aunt did before she worked in one of these factories? She was a prostitute.
Circumstances of birth are unfortunately random, and she was born in a very rural region. Most jobs were agricultural and family owned, and most of the jobs were held by men. Women and young girls, because of lack of educational and economic opportunities, had to find other “employment.”
The idea of working in a “sweat shop” compared to that old lifestyle is an improvement, in my opinion. I know that my aunt would rather be “exploited” by an evil capitalist boss for a couple of dollars than have her body be exploited by several men for pennies.
 ABC expose

Secular arguments for abolishing Chareidi exemption from military service

Haaretz by Nechemiah Strasler

If we had real leaders, they would stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes and tell us the truth to our faces - that everyone has to serve in the army. With no exceptions. It is no longer possible to continue with the Haredi cowardice and evasion. It is not possible to continue with a situation in which only Haredi mothers are able to sleep well at night. Or, as Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said this week: "From a civilian and moral point of view, I am deeply and profoundly perplexed why all of the public does not have to participate in being exposed to sacrifice. This echoes the words of Moses: 'Will your brothers go to war while you sit here?'"

The answer to Rubinstein (and to Netanyahu, Barak, Livni and Lapid ) is clear. The ultra-Orthodox activists know it well. The Haredi public also understands. They know that Haredi activists deliver the most important goods to them - their lives. They know that military funerals never leave from Bnei Brak, that there are no Haredi wounded in Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, and no shell-shocked men in Ramat Beit Shemesh. From their point of view, let the secular donkey and the religious fool continue to sacrifice their lives in order to protect those who are better than others, the yeshiva students.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Netanya Principal suspected of rape denies allegations

The Kfar Saba Magistrate's Court on Thursday extended the remand of the principal of a haredi school for girls in Netanya who is suspected of sexually assaulting students. The suspect denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, the family of a 20-year-old teacher at the school complained that the principal had abused his power to have sexual relations with her, Ynet learned.

The suspect, 47, is a prominent figure in Netanya. He was arrested earlier this week after two former students at the establishment filed complaints against him saying he sexually assaulted them. Police suspect him of indecent acts, sodomy, sexual misconduct, nonconsensual sex and rape. The acts involved both minor and adult victims.[...]

Rabbi Ronnie Greenwald: Children at Risk /Aguda Convention

Stolen Valor Act: Freedom of speech vs Lying about being a hero

Over the course of an hourlong argument on Wednesday, the Supreme Court seemed gradually to accept that it might be able to uphold a federal law that makes it a crime to lie about military honors, notwithstanding the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees. The justices were aided by suggestions from the government about how to limit the scope of a possible ruling in its favor and by significant concessions from a lawyer for the defendant.

The case arose from a lie told in 2007 at a public meeting by Xavier Alvarez, an elected member of the board of directors of a water district in Southern California. 

“I’m a retired Marine of 25 years,” he said. “I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy.” 

That was all false, and Mr. Alvarez was prosecuted under a 2005 law, the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to say falsely that one has “been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States.” Mr. Alvarez argued that his remarks were protected by the First Amendment.
In a related issue of a person falsely claiming to be a hero on 9/11

Israeli Court Invalidates a Military Exemption

The Israeli Supreme Court has invalidated a law that exempted from military service ultra-Orthodox Jews engaged in religious studies, adding a new urgency to the government’s negotiations with religious parties over a more equitable distribution of the burdens of citizenship. 

The 6-to-3 decision, handed down late Tuesday, declared the so-called Tal Law unconstitutional at a time of growing tension in Israel over the place of the ultra-Orthodox. The law, in effect since 2002, granted exemptions to tens of thousands of religious academy students. It was widely viewed as a failure, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already said it would not be renewed when it expired this summer.  

Still, the ruling will now force the government’s hand to come up with a new way forward, one that will be strongly resisted by religious party coalition members. 

Departing Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, writing for the court majority, said the law had failed to live up to its aim of increasing the number of ultra-Orthodox in the army. Using data presented by the army, the decision noted that last year fewer than 1,300 ultra-Orthodox youths enlisted out of a pool of 8,500, a rate of 15 percent. Among the rest of the Jewish population, the enlistment rate is 75 percent.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chazon Ish: True moderation can only be achieved as failure to achieve perfection

Chazon Ish(Letters 3:61): Just as the unvarnished facts and truth are synonymous so are uncompromising perfectionism and greatness. Perfectionism means to develop something to the ultimate degree. One who advocates moderation and despises perfectionism, his lot is with the frauds or with those lacking understanding. Without perfectionism, there can be no completion and if there is no perfection, there is no beginning. The beginning is with constant questions and replies. The perfecter is the brilliant respondent who orders everything in its rightful place. We regularly hear announcements from well‑known groups that they have nothing to do with uncompromising perfectionists. They nevertheless describe themselves as being the true Jews with appropriate faith to Torah. We simply note, however, that just as there is no such thing amongst lovers of wisdom as love for minimum knowledge and hate for the very wise there is similarly no such thing as loving Torah and mitzvos moderately and hating the uncompromising perfectionists. All the foundations of emuna, the 13 principles and their derivatives, are inherently incompatible with the lightweight wisdom and superficial life that exists in this world. In contrast clear recognition, energetic involvement; high precision in emuna is the hallmark of the perfectionist. Those who proudly testify on themselves that they have not tasted the sweetness of uncompromising perfection are simultaneously testifying that they are missing emuna in the foundation of religion both intellectually and emotionally. Their attachment is only lukewarm. The perfectionists, who despite their genuine wish to have pity on these doctrinaire moderates, do not honor and respect their opponents. The yawning abyss that separates them is naturally only widened as the result of the disputes that occur when they interact with each other. The only true moderation that can exist is that which results naturally to those who love the perfection and strive towards it and educate their children to strive for the peak. In contrast how unfortunate are those “moderates” who cast aspersions on the perfectionists. The obligation of our education is to perfection. The only genuine protection of the educational system is to be contemptuous and to ridicule those who denigrate perfection. However given the burning spirit of youth it is not appropriate to strongly condemn specific individuals amongst the unfortunates. Instead, the youth should be developed to have true love of Torah that requires personal effort and heavenly pleasantness and they should not have obstacles placed on this road. Those schools that are labeled as moderate schools, they are not successful because of the fraud that is inherent in moderation…

The terrorism of Off the Derech children in Bnei Brak

 In response to RaP's comment:

There are organization dealing with this. In fact when I was in Boro Park this past year - at least once a week an appeal was made for such organizations in the shul of Rav Menashe Klein where I davened every day. They were specifically for chassidic youth.

Workers in these programs in American told me that 70-80 per cent of the members of these programs have been abused.

There are programs here in Israel also. I remember once - several years ago - a rav who runs one of these organizations made an appeal in Rav Sternbuch's shul and noted that the Chazon Ish said that it is not necessarily the nebach but in fact it was the brightest and best adjusted who went off the Derech.

I also once was visiting Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach with a friend of mine whose father was a very prominent rosh yeshiva in America - but he had become a Breslavor chasid. When Rav Shlomo Zalman heard the name of his father he literally jumped out of his seat. I later asked my friend why he had reacted that way. He said, of the yeshiva class of Rav Shlomo Zalman at Eitz Chaim - most of his classmates when off the derech.  It upset him to see that I had not followed in my father's path - not that he had a problem with Breslov itsef. 

Finally Rav Menachem Porush's son - who is involved in politics and social action - once mentioned at a conference on the subject the following.
"It is not that we have more drop outs than in previous years. The issue is that in previous years the drop out left the community - 'he went to visit his aunt in California.' However today the drop outs are kept in the yeshivos and beis yaakov's and where they are a corrosive element to the others students."
A friend of mine noted that Meah Sharim has retained basically the same number of apartments for a hundred years - despite the fact that they have always had large families. He said this was primarily due to the children going off the derech in large numbers and leaving the community.

So yes there are families who kick out there children when they go off the derech- but there are also many who try to keep them in - sending them to special yeshivos to try to help them. Har Nof itself has a number of seminaries and yeshivos which deal specifically with this problem.

BTW Rabbi Greenwald - as well as his sons are recognized experts in dealing with this problem in the Chareidi world and their services are definitely being used.

High Court rules 'Tal Law' for yeshiva student deferrals - can't be extended

n a majority ruling of six justices against three, the High Court determined that the law, whose full title is the 'Deferral of Service for Yeshiva Students for whom Torah is their Profession Law' is not constitutional, and therefore the Knesset cannot extend it in its present form when it expires on August 1st. The law was originally passed as a temporary law requiring renewal every five years.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Principal suspected of sexually assaulting students


Former student in haredi establishment accuses principal of indecent acts, says others assaulted too. Police suspect senior haredi leaders tried to keep affair under wraps

Monday, February 20, 2012

Placebo works as well as anti-depressants for mild depression

Ben Gurion U Conference on Children: "There is not a day in which there is not a report of sexual abuse in the chareidi community"

מנהל השירות הפסיכולוגי־חינוכי במודיעין עילית, ישי שליף, אמר כי למד עם השנים שיש צורך להתמודד עם הבעיה של פגיעה מינית במגזר החרדי. לדבריו, בגיבויו של הרב יוסף שלום אלישיב התקבלה פסיקה לגבי הצורך בדיווח בנושא, בעקבותיה "אין יום שעובר ללא דיווח".

מנהלת מרכז "בלבנו" לטיפול בילדים ונוער שנפגעו מינית, בת שבע שיינין, הוסיפה כי החברה החרדית נבדלת מרצון, מה שמייצר סיכון גדול יותר לילד החרדי. "הילד החרדי לומד מגיל אפס לציית, בלי לשאול למה. ילדים לא ייספרו על דברים רעים מחשש ללשון הרע".

שיינין הוסיפה ואמרה כי קיים הבדל בין ילדים בעלי תשובה לילדים חרדים, בכמות הדיווחים, לטובת בעלי התשובה, להם קל יותר לדווח.

מנהלת מרכז הסיוע לנשים דתיות, דבי גרוס, חשפה כי בשנה שעברה הופעלו כ־2,000 סדנאות לילדים חרדים בגילאי שלוש עד 18 בנושא מניעת פגיעות מיניות.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rav Zilberstein - cautions & restrictions of psychotherapy involving male therapists & female clients

Translation posted here
פסק הלכה עליו חתם הגאון רבי יצחק זילברשטיין שליט"א, ואליו הצטרפו מרנן גדולי ישראל וחשובי הרבנים והדיינים שליט"א, קובע לראשונה, סייגים ברורים ומחייבים בכל הנוגע לטיפולים פסיכולוגיים, וכי "מוטלת חובה על המנהל להשגיח על הפרדה" בין מטפל ומטופל מהמין השני, "ואם אי אפשר צריך להיוועץ עם רב בית החולים מה לעשות בכל מקרה ומקרה".

Atheists seeking the benefits of religion

A Jewish hockey player - whose family suffered from Nazis - plays for Germany -

A hockey jersey hung in each player’s locker. It bore Germany’s national colors, black trimmed in red and gold. The front was emblazoned with an eagle above the word Deutschland. This would be Evan Kaufmann’s first time wearing the jersey. He removed it from the hanger and turned it around to see his family name spelled in capital letters. 

He would recall feeling a tingle of excitement. He felt something else, too, emotions that crisscrossed like the laces of his skates. He was proud to wear the jersey but also solemn about what history had done to the name on the back. His great-grandfather starved to death by the Nazis. His great-grandmother herded to extermination on a train to Auschwitz. His grandfather shuttled between ghettos and concentration camps, surviving somehow, finding a displaced sister after the war, pushing her from a hospital in a wheelbarrow after her lower left leg was amputated because of frostbite. 

On Feb. 10, Kaufmann finished dressing and skated onto the ice at a tournament in Belarus. With his initial shift, he became one of the few Jews to represent Germany in elite international sports since World War II, the first in ice hockey since the 1930s and perhaps the most visible to have had family members murdered in the Holocaust, according to sports historians and Jewish officials.

A Palestinian’s trial & military justice - is there an alternative?

A year ago, Islam Dar Ayyoub was a sociable ninth grader and a good student, according to his father, Saleh, a Palestinian laborer in this small village near Ramallah. 

Then, one night in January 2011, about 20 Israeli soldiers surrounded the dilapidated Dar Ayyoub home and pounded vigorously on the door. Islam, who was 14 at the time, said he thought they had come for his older brother. Instead, they had come for him. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and whisked away in a jeep. 

From that moment, Islam’s childhood was over. Catapulted into the Israeli military justice system, an arm of Israel’s 44-year-old occupation of the West Bank, Islam became embroiled in a legal process as challenging and perplexing as the world in which he has grown up. The young man was interrogated and pressed to inform on his relatives, neighbors and friends.[...]

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Alleged Australian child molesters David Kramer & Zev Sero - now in America

A child sex abuse scandal in Australia’s Jewish community has spilled into America, as a pending extradition, arrests in Australia and a slew of cover-up allegations put that community’s response to molestation under scrutiny.

Australian police are seeking to extradite convicted child molester David Kramer, currently in jail in Farmington, Mo., on suspicion of having abused children at a Chabad school in Melbourne during the 1990s. [...]

Waks, 35, who has been the catalyst for revelations about the Melbourne abuse scandal, told the Forward he was molested by Velvel Serebryanski, son of a prominent Chabad rabbi, at two Melbourne synagogues during the late 1980s.

Serebryanski, who goes by the name Zev Sero in New York, did not deny the allegations when a Forward reporter asked him about them at his Brooklyn home. [...]

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rav Shwadron: Yeshivos are hashchasa!- the problem of institutional learning

A number of years ago, Rav Shwadron visited Monsey. My brother came to him with a problem. A video store had just opened in Monsey and it obviously was a serious threat to the spirituality of the community. When my brother told him the problem he didn't seem to be upset. My brother thought perhaps he didn't understand what a video store was - so he explained it to him. "Video stores are hashchasa - they cause spiritual destruction." Rav Shwadron replied, "Video stores are hashchasa? - yeshivos are hashchasa!"

Obviously Rav Shwadron who was a product and supporter of yeshivos didn't mean that a yeshiva is no different than a video store. However he obviously was bothered by a negative aspect of yeshivos. In this he was not alone.

Rav Hutner  seemed to have a similar concern. In a drasha in the back of the Pachad Yitzchok for Shavuos is the presentation he gave at a conference on education. To paraphrase:

 We Jews are very proud of our educational institutions. We take pride that when the European were primitive barbarians we were a cultured and educated people. However we should realize that the institutional education of yeshivos was only plan B. It was instituted by Chazal at a time when plan A wasn't working. Plan A was that fathers and the home were to provide the Jewish education. When the home environment became corrupt by secular culture and values - the children were taken from the home and educated in an isolated environment. However that doesn't change the fact that the yeshiva is plan B - and that ideally the home should do the education.

I was also told that Rav Hutner said - in Sedom there was bed that guests were invited to use. However if the guest was too short he was stretched to fit the bed and if he was too long is feet were chopped off. We have a similar process called yeshiva education - but if the child doesn't fit we don't chop off the feet - we chop off the head.

Psychiatry debates whether the pain of loss is really depression

The pain of losing a loved one can be a searing, gut-wrenching hurt and a long-lasting blow to a person's mood, concentration and ability to function. But is grief the same as depression?

That's a lively debate right now, as the psychiatric profession considers a key change in the forthcoming rewrite of its diagnostic "Bible." That proposed modification -- one of many -- would allow mental health providers to label the psychic pain of bereavement a mood disorder and act quickly to treat it, in some cases, with medication. With the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual's fifth edition set for completion by the end of this year, the editors of the British journal The Lancet have come out in strong opposition to the new language, calling grief a natural and healthy response to loss, not a pathological state.

"Grief is not an illness. It is more usefully thought of as part of being human, and a normal response to the death of a loved one," writes the editor of The Lancet. "Most people who experience the death of someone  they love do not need treatment by a psychiatrist or indeed by any doctor. For those who are grieving, doctors would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance, and empathy, than pills."

Companies find that regular down time from internet increases productivity

Some employers, however, are now attempting to flip the “off” switch. Companies from Atos, the French information technology services giant, to Deutsche Telekom to Google have recently adopted measures that force workers toward a better work-life balance, with scheduled breaks from the Internet and constant connectivity. Just last month, Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest automaker, pledged to deactivate emails on German staff BlackBerries during non-office hours. In a bid to combat employee burnout, staff at Volkswagen will be limited to only receiving emails on their devices from half an hour before they start work until half an hour after they leave for the day, and will be in blackout mode the rest of the time.

“Employers are recognizing that it is helpful for employees to have boundaries,” says Stewart Friedman, a Wharton practice professor of management. “The challenges of distraction in the digital world are massive…. The big issue is attention. In this digital age — which has really only just begun — we are starting the process of learning how to create useful boundaries that allow us to pay attention to the things that matter, when they matter.”

These new policies signal that while corporations care about the psychological well-being of their workers, they are not totally altruistic. Evidence suggests that regular downtime leads to greater productivity. And although our addiction to digital devices is powerful — there is a reason, after all, that the BlackBerry is known as a “crackberry” — and we need some help breaking bad habits, it is not completely the responsibility of employers.

Queens public school teacher charged with sexually abusing boys

 A computer teacher with a history of inappropriately touching children was arrested Thursday on charges of sexually abusing two boys at a Queens elementary school, the authorities said.

A spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney said the teacher, Wilbert Cortez, 49, touched the genitals and the buttocks of an 8-year-old and a 9-year-old over their clothes in his classroom at Public School 174 in Rego Park on at least two occasions during the 2010-11 school year. [...]

Los Angeles public schools failed to deal properly with child abuse

The arrest of a public school teacher here early this month came with plenty of vivid details, thanks to hundreds of photographs that the police say show the teacher covering the eyes and mouths of children with tape and allowing cockroaches to crawl over faces. 

Those accusations alone were enough to prompt outrage. But more came: Another teacher at the same school was arrested on charges of sexually abusing children. Then came news reports that two aides at the school had been fired after being accused of abuse, and that one had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

Within days, other allegations surfaced at schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District: A high school music teacher was removed after being accused of showering with students; a third-grade teacher was being investigated for more than a dozen accusations of sexual abuse; an elementary school janitor was arrested and accused of lewd acts against a child. And on Wednesday, a high school softball coach and special education teacher was arrested on charges of sending inappropriate messages to children over the Internet.[...]

'Unorthodox' Author’s Claim Of Murder Cover-up Rebutted

With allegations of communal cover-ups involving child sexual abuse dogging the haredi community over the past several years, it may not be much of a stretch for some readers to believe a gruesome story that appears in a new memoir about growing up in, and leaving, the Satmar community.

The story, recounted by Deborah Feldman in “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” (Simon and Schuster), involves the alleged mutilation and murder of a boy by his own father — supposedly for masturbating — and the subsequent cover-up of the crime by Hatzolah, the community’s volunteer ambulance service.

The only problem, however, is that based on information obtained by The Jewish Week, the seems not be true.[...]

Thursday, February 16, 2012

For Punishment of Elder’s Misdeeds, Afghan Girl Pays the Price

ASADABAD, Kunar Province — Shakila, 8 at the time, was drifting off to sleep when a group of men carrying AK-47s barged in through the door. She recalls them complaining, as they dragged her off into the darkness, about how their family had been dishonored and about how they had not been paid.

It turns out that Shakila, who was abducted along with her cousin as part of a traditional Afghan form of justice known as “baad,” was the payment. 

Although baad (also known as baadi) is illegal under Afghan and, most religious scholars say, Islamic law, the taking of girls as payment for misdeeds committed by their elders still appears to be flourishing. Shakila, because one of her uncles had run away with the wife of a district strongman, was taken and held for about a year. It was the district leader, furious at the dishonor that had been done to him, who sent his men to abduct her.

Rav M. Feinstein: For Moshe seeing not more real than hearing - Contradiction?

Igros Moshe(Y.D. 1:223): You bring from Sefer HaIkkarim (4:15) that the reason that Moshe did  not break the Tablets immediately when G‑d told him that the Jews had made the Golden Calf was because seeing is more powerfully real than knowledge. In my humble opinion, G‑d forbid to say that when Moshe heard about the Golden Calf that it was less significant to him than when he saw it himself - even in terms of emotional response. A possible explanation of why he broke the Tablets only after seeing the Golden Calf, because G‑d did not tell him about their enthusiastic dancing and therefore he thought it would be enough if they saw him - to completely repent immediately. However when he saw their enthusiastic dancing he realized that they would not so readily repent and therefore he broke the Tablets. You can also say that that he waited to break them so that the Jewish people could see him break the Tablets and realize the great loss they had caused because of the sin of the Golden Calf. This is stated explicitly in Devorim (9:14), “I broke the Tablets before their eyes.” This implies that he deliberately did it before their eyes. In addition it says later more explicitly in Devarim (34:12), “Before the eyes of all Israel.” Rashi explains this verse to mean that he intended to break the Tablets before their eyes. If so he had don possibility of breaking it when he first heard from G‑d about the Calf before he descended from  the mountain. He was thus forced to wait until he descended so they could all see that he was breaking the Tablets. In contrast regarding hearing something from another person it is definitely true that seeing is more powerful in eliciting emotions and there is no need to bring a proof to something so obvious.

Igros Moshe(O.C. 3:50): I replied to you many years ago and my reply was printed in my Igros Moshe (1:223) that G‑d forbid to say about Moshe that what he saw with his own eyes was much more real than what he heard from G‑d and that is the reason that he only broke the Tablets after he saw the Golden Calf with his own eyes. Now you write to me that the Akeidas Yitzchok also shares the view of the Sefer HaIkkarim. I in fact looked into the Sefer HaIkkarim and I saw that in fact he agrees with my view that there is no difference between hearing information from G‑d to seeing it oneself. He brings a medrash that the reason that Moshe didn’t break the Tablets previously was in order to inform the Jews that it is prohibited to act on knowledge – even absolutely certain knowledge until it is directly witnessed… The Akeidas Yitzchok himself wanted to say that Moshe wanted to break the Tablets in front of the Jews in order to magnify the message to increase their discomfort at sinning. This is a strong reason and I my explanation anticipates this as I wrote previously.

In contrast in Darash Moshe (Yisro):  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

French court acknowledges fraud of iconic al-Dura killing

The French Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted an Israeli doctor accused of slandering a Palestinian man who claimed he was injured by the IDF during the second intifada.

The Palestinian man, Jamal al-Dura, and his 12-year-old son Muhammad, became the symbol of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, when the two were caught in a fire exchange in the Netzarim Junction. The boy was killed in the incident, triggering a blame game: The Palestinians accused Israel for Muhammad's death, while Israeli officials claimed he was hit by Palestinian fire.

Child Abuse: Why the leniency for pedophiles?


According to data disclosed at this week's Beersheba Conference on Child Welfare, some 2,500 complaints are filed annually in Israel regarding sexual assaults against minors under 14. Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, paints a darker picture yet, estimating that over the past several years no fewer than 100,000 of this country's children have suffered some degree of sexual molestation. Most cases never reach the courts and most offenders aren't brought to justice. Yet in those that are, sentences meted out to pedophiles tend to be exceptionally lenient. Even hardcore repeat offenders are hardly supervised after they are released back to society. Legislation adopted to keep track of them remains largely unimplemented. Studies conducted recently for the council, Kadman reported, indicated that not only do judges sometimes impose ludicrously mild punishments for pedophilia but they often fail to impose even the minimum stipulated by law. Incomprehensibly, punishment for offenses against children tends to be significantly lighter than for offenses against adults. The lightest penalties are reserved for crimes within the family. The greatest leniency appears in plea bargains. While judges sometimes criticize such bargains, they nevertheless (in 99% of the cases, according to Kadman) acquiesce to them. This despite the fact that legislation enacted a decade ago fixed minimum sentences for certain sex crimes. Moreover, the law demands a clear explanation in cases where the minimum is disregarded. [...]

Haredim increasingly open to addressing sexual abuse

Specialists and professionals this week highlighted a changing attitude within the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community toward reporting suspected sexual abuse of minors.[...]

“More and more people within the haredi sector are willing to say that there is a problem,” Kadman told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “Within the community, the first thing someone does in many aspects of life is consult a rabbi. Today, many rabbis are advising people to file complaints with the police or social workers, which wasn’t the case in the past.”

According to Kadman, the number of reports of minors suffering possible sexual abuse in that community is lower than the national average, but he said this was likely due to cultural practices and taboos surrounding the issue within the haredi sector. [...

Mormon Church apologizes for baptism of dead Jews

The Mormon Church on Tuesday apologized that its members had performed posthumous baptisms into Mormonism of the long-dead Jewish parents of famed Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal.

The baptisms "by proxy" were performed last month in Mormon temples in Utah, Arizona and Idaho, according to the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization named after the man who hunted down more than 1,000 Nazi war criminals in the years following the Holocaust.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told Reuters the baptisms were "unacceptable," adding that people who lost everyone and everything and were murdered for being Jewish during the Holocaust should not have their souls hijacked by another religion.[...]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ben Gurion U Conference on Children: Charedim endangered because of concern for lashon harah


בכנס השנתי של המועצה לשלום הילד שנפתח היום (ב') באוניברסיטת בן גוריון בבאר שבע ויינעל מחר בערב, התבטאו פסיכולוגים, עובדים סוציאליים ועובדים במרכזי סיוע לנפגעי תקיפה מינית, באשר לעבירות המין המצויות במגזר החרדי

מנהל השירות הפסיכולוגי-חינוכי במודיעין עלית, ישי שליף, אמר כי "יש צורך להתמודד עם בעיית הפגיעה המינית במגזר החרדי". לדברי שליף, בעבר התקבלה פסיקה בגיבוי הרב יוסף שלום אלישיב בנוגע לצורך בדיווח על מקרים מסוג זה.

העובדת הסוציאלית לחוק הנוער במשרד הרווחה, חנה סלוצקי, ציינה כי עד לפני עשור דיון כזה לא יכול היה להתקיים כלל. "המגזר החרדי עשה כברת דרך ארוכה בהתפתחות שלו להתעמת עם הבעיה, והרשויות עצמן צריכות להיפתח עתה במקביל על מנת לטפל בבעיה 'טיפול רגיש תרבות'", הוסיפה סלוצקי.

מנהלת מרכז "בליבנו" לטיפול בילדים ונוער שנפגעו מינית, בת שבע שיינין, הדגישה כי החברה החרדית נבדלת מרצון מהחברה החילונית, דבר שמייצר סיכון גדול יותר עבור הילדים החרדים.

"הילד החרדי לומד מגיל אפס לציית, וזאת בלי לשאול למה", הוסיפה, "ילדים לא יספרו לעולם על דברים מסוג זה מחשש ללשון הרע". עוד ציינה שיינין כי יש הבדל בין ילדים להורים חוזרים בתשובה לבין ילדים להורים חרדים באשר לכמות הדיווחים. לדבריה, לבעלי תשובה קל יותר לדווח


Monday, February 13, 2012

DNA Results Are In: Canned Sardines Are Kosher

Just so you know: Canned sardines are kosher.

This judgment would appear to be definitive, based on DNA evidence. Genetic testing by a parasitologist at the American Museum of Natural History has confirmed that the recent discovery of small worms in canned sardines does not render them treyf, or unkosher. It may render them unappetizing, but that judgment is up to the consumer (more on that later).

The museum got involved last March when rabbis from the Orthodox Union, which certifies as kosher hundreds of thousands of products across the world, sought scientific help in resolving a question that arose when they began finding the worms, or nematodes, in cans of sardines. [...]

Evolution and change in Halacha by Rabbi Mordechai Willig part 1part II & part III

Rav Ovadia Yosef & changes to greater stringency in tznius

This picture of Rav Ovadia Yosef and his family was recently published on YNET. The article is not written in a respectful manner. This post is to defend Rav Yosef against the claims of the article. The claim is made that Rav Yosef's wife is not dressed according to the laws of modesty. I just want to point out that there is no question that the standards of tznius have changed to be much more machmir. But her hair covering is halachically correct according to the Chasam Sofer and Rav Moshe Feinstein - and obviously according to Rav Yosef. It is interesting to note that in Rabbi Falk's book on Modesty he claims that this tshuva of Rav Moshe was only meant for the particular individual who asked the question. A reading of the Igros indicates that that is not so even though he has a letter from Rav Dovid Feinstein supporting him. The dress is also according to the acceptable standards of modesty of those times. Thus this is clearly an example of shifting standards of halacha but the bottom line is that she fullfilled the halacha and standards of those days - even though such is not be acceptable today. It also is not possible to rely on this to ignore todays standards.

See my discussion of this issue on Avodah 11:29 
[note that the book on Modesty was written by Rabbi Falk & not Rabbi Wagschall]
There is also an important  comment by Rav Yehuda Henkin on this issue in Avodah 11:31

Rav Ovadia Yosef dedicates shiur to recovery of Rav Eliashiv


שני המנהיגים כיהנו זה לצד זה כחברים בבית הדין הרבני הגדול לערעורים במשך כעשור - בשנות ה-60 וה-70, אך עם השנים נתגלעו ביניהם מחלוקות הלכתיות, השקפתיות ופוליטיות רבות, ובמקרים קיצוניים אף נרשמו כמה עימותים פומביים ומתוקשרים ביניהם, האחרון – לפני כשנה, סביב אישור גיורי צה"ל, מאבק שהסתיים בפשרה. עם זאת, ועל אף המחלוקות - הם רוחשים כבוד והערכה זה לזה.

"זקוק לרחמי שמים מרובים"

בתוך כך מוסיף להיות קשה מאוד מצבו של הרב אלישיב, שעדיין מורדם ומונשם במחלקה לטיפול נמרץ לב ב"שערי צדק", לאחר שחש ברגע בתחילת השבוע, ופונה בניידת טיפול נמרץ לבית החולים. בדיקת רופאים העלתה הבוקר כי הוא בהכרה, אך הערב התברר כי הרב סובל גם מחום גוף גבוה ומזיהום בדם, ובצוות הרפואי מתקשים לגלות סימני אופטימיות לגבי האפשרות שיצליחו לנקז את המים מריאותיו.

Internal battle within Eida Chareidis with Sikrikim


In spite of the fact that Rav Weiss, the head of the Eida Chareidis,issued instructions that the community should prayer for the recovery of Rav Eliashiv - it was not publicized. It was determined that a group of Sikrikim extremists within the Eida blocked the publication of the announcement.... However in the Yated Neeman it was publicized this morning that Rav Weiss and Rav Sternbuch and the other members of the Bedatz instructed that prayers be said for Rav Eliashiv and prayers were also said in their own beis medrash....

הגאב"ד הורה להתפלל עבור הגרי"ש

מתברר שיש סיבה מדוע ה'עדה החרדית', אינה מפרסמת קריאה להתפלל עבור הגרי"ש: קבוצת הסיקריקים הקיצונית, מונעת זאת.

ביום שישי האחרון, ביקש גאב"ד 'העדה' הגרי"ט וייס מהנהלת 'העדה החרדית', כי ינסחו מכתב המורה להתפלל על הגרי"ש.

עיתון 'המבשר' אף הגדיל לעשות, ופרסם הבוקר כי אכן יצא לאור, קריאה מעין זו מבד"צ 'העדה החרדית', להתפלל עבור הגרי"ש.

אך מתברר כי המכתב לא פורסם. הגאב"ד התקשר להנהלת 'העדה' לברר מדוע המכתב לא פורסם ונענה כי "בישיבת הנהלה הוחלט כי לא מתאים שיפורסם כזה מכתב".

ל'בחדרי חרדים' נודע כי קבוצת סיקריקים היושבים בהנהלת 'העדה החרדית', היא שהחליטה להמרות את פי הגאב"ד ולא להוציא את המכתב.

מנגד העיתון 'יתד נאמן', פרסם הבוקר שהגאב"ד, הגרי"ט וייס, הראב"ד, הגר"מ שטרנבוך וחברי הבד"ץ הורו להתפלל על הגרי"ש, ואף ערכו תפילות בבית מדרשם בשבת האחרונה.

הערב (א') השמיע הגר"מ שטרנבוך דברים בכנס של 'העדה', שעסק בין היתר במאבק נגד תוכנית הליב"ה, ואמר: "הגרי"ש היה גדול הלוחמים בדורינו בנושא זה". הגר"מ שטרנבוך אף הוסיף, כי "מרן מאור חיינו במצב קשה, ובזכות שנתחזק בזה יבריא במהרה".

Problem of physical & sexual violence against Arab women in Israel

Reports of physical and sexual violence against Arab women were up 20 percent in 2011 over the previous year, the Center to Help Victims of Sexual and Physical Abuse said over the weekend. Some 45 percent of the women calling the center's hot line said it was the first time they had told anyone that they had been abused. [...]

Figures from the Public Security Ministry to be presented Monday show that in 2011, Arabs were involved in 76 percent of the murders committed and in 70 percent of the attempted murders. They were also involved in 38 percent of the aggravated assaults.

According to the Knesset Research and Information Center, in 2009, 126 people were murdered in Israel, of whom 61 were Arabs - 48 percent. This is significantly higher than their percentage of the population, which is 20 percent.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oprah Winfrey interviewed on Jewish.TV

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.

Israeli Psychological Association legitimizes conversion therapy but doesn't recommend it

Rabbis, therapists and religious homosexuals have welcomed conclusions published by the Israeli Psychological Association on "conversion therapy", defining the document as "good news".

According to the religious leaders, the important thing is the fact that the committee believes a patient should be presented with the existing knowledge, which warns against reparative therapy, but that the possibility to change a person's sexual orientation should not be ruled out completely.

Rabbi Berel Wein: Why Haredim Have An Image Problem With Most Israelis

[hat tip RaP]
The most dreaded status in Israeli society is to be considered a frier – a sucker, a boob, stupid and unable to withstand being taken advantage of.

The current backlash in Israeli society against haredim is not merely a matter of theology or of vastly different societal values, different dress and customs. That would prove insufficient to provoke the over the top reaction that has emerged over the past several weeks against haredim generally because of the abominable behavior of some haredim – with, unfortunately, the tacit approval of many other haredim.

The underlying motive for all this haredi bashing is that Israelis – religious, traditional, secular and haredi light – are tired and disgusted of being friers. They have had it with a large and growing section of the Israeli population that they feels is being supported by the general public while contributing next to nothing to the general good and welfare of society.

It is useless to protest that the study and observance of Torah and the continuity of Eastern European or Sephardic traditions is somehow the guarantee of the continued existence of the state of Israel. [...]

What is the Halacha about the separation of sexes?

The issue of the “exclusion of women” (hadarat nashim) in public spheres has greatly engaged Israeli society over the last several months. Unfortunately, under this big headline, numerous phenomena have been included. There is a big difference, from the perspectives of both Halacha and democracy, between allowing religious soldiers to excuse themselves from recreational concerts by women singers, to forcing non-religious women to sit in the back of an Egged bus or beating them for entering a certain neighborhood in immodest dress.

Clearly, however, many of the phenomena are deplorable, and require redress on three levels: (1) rectifying the massive desecration of God’s reputation (Hillul Hashem) created by extremists like the Sikarikim group and their neighbors who fail to condemn their actions; (2) creating greater understanding on the relationship between Halacha, democracy, and tolerance; and (3) clarifying the halachic sources related to these matters, the latter of which will be the focus of this essay.

An orgy of hatred by liberal secular Jews against the chareidim

In recent days I’ve been quarreling with all my friends. They are good people, these friends – liberal, tolerant, moderate and sensitive to any injustice. These are people that in our complex reality were never confused between good and bad. This is why I love them, among other things. I’d like to think that we are cut from the same cloth. That’s why I’m so amazed to see how uncaring and hateful they become when a group of people known as the haredim comes up for discussion.

My liberal friends propose various steps against the haredim and religious: A cadet who cannot bear female singing will not be an officer in the IDF, said one friend. As simple as that (“as simple as that” or “at once” are words that always accompany discussions about the haredim.) A segregated bus shall be stopped! The driver and bus operators should be sent to jail. A yeshiva that will not teach the core curriculum shall be closed at once! We shall not allow primitive ignoramuses to be raised here, and at our expense no less. A neighborhood that features separate sidewalks for women shall immediately lose its municipal services! They can go ahead and choke in their own garbage.[...]

Saturday, February 11, 2012

French parents teach politeness & patience - Americans don't

      [see also Time Why American kids are brats]
[...] But for all its problems, France is the perfect foil for the current problems in American parenting. Middle-class French parents (I didn't follow the very rich or poor) have values that look familiar to me. They are zealous about talking to their kids, showing them nature and reading them lots of books. They take them to tennis lessons, painting classes and interactive science museums.

Yet the French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. "For me, the evenings are for the parents," one Parisian mother told me. "My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it's adult time." French parents want their kids to be stimulated, but not all the time. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are—by design—toddling around by themselves. [...]

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. Their parents don't pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat. (French kids consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m.) [...]

Renegade kano'im - Denounced by Toldos Aaron Rebbe, shlita

 This post from July 2008 is still relevant today

No, Israel Isn’t Turning into an Iran-Style Theocracy

New Republic Prof. Gil Troy

In the popular media, in both Israel and abroad, images of rock-throwing, gender-segregating, yellow-star-wearing extremists obscure these good works—and a more accurate picture. Noah Efron, a Bar Ilan University philosopher and historian, has explored the ingrained prejudice and popular revulsion against haredim. “The Jewish fight against ultra-Orthodoxy is part of a long-running struggle about what legitimately counts as Jewish,” Professor Efron says. “The modern forms of Judaism have so won the day that this need to continue fighting the battle seems neurotic.” Nevertheless, emphasizing the bad behavior of haredi Jews—who epitomize the stereotypical Jew—makes modern Jews and non-Jews feel better, less judged, suggesting that “these ostensibly superior Jews are actually inferior,” Efron says. “We continually prove our own probity to ourselves by proving the depravity of those people.”

More broadly, these stories provoke secular Westerners’ condescension toward religious people. Reading many of the American and European blogs about the haredi tensions this winter, Efron has been “stunned” by “the depths of the hatred and the crassness of the arguments. The attacks reflect a toxic mix of old style anti-Semitism and contemporary anti-Zionism, with a new style modern anti-anything-that-is-not-secular-liberal-and-Western added.”

Why the secular Israeli fears a chareidi majority

Capital punishment is not the issue. Two other issues are far more important in addressing concerns that Israel could become Talibanized. The first is that not everyone listens to Moshe Grylak – or his gemara. You can argue that the community should not be held responsible for the escapades of kano’im and Sikrikim – but they aren’t doing a very good job holding them in check either – or even speaking out against them. Why wouldn’t a chiloni Israel look at their activities with concern that as the Chareidi community grows, there will be more on these zealots, who will become even more brazen in time?

 More important is the gemara that Rabbi Grylak does not quote: Rosh Hashanah 6, and elsewhere, which establishes the authority of the Jewish court to compel people to perform mitzvos. The plain meaning of the text is that people who are reluctant to perform mitzvos can be compelled through grievous bodily force to obey the law. Couple this with the authority of beis din to act le-afrushei me-issura/ to distance a potential sinner from his ability to sin, and you have a license for batei din to compel full observance of the Torah, both affirmative and proscriptive obligations. No witnesses, no forewarning, none of Rabbi Grylak’s niceties that calmed his secular friends. Why should they not anticipate groups of people jumping out of vans, forcing tefillin and tzitzis on their bodies, and bulldozing their soccer stadiums?

For members of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Gur sect, sex is a sin

According to Dr. Benjamin Brown, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, criticism of the regulations laid down by the late Rabbi Israel Alter (also known as the Beis Yisroel ), who led Gur from 1948 to 1977, goes back as far as the 1960s. Among the critics was Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (1899-1985 ), known as the Steipler. Kanievsy was the brother-in-law of the world-renowned rabbinical authority Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (the "Hazon Ish," who lived 1878-1953 ) and the father of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the leading rabbinical authorities in Bnei Brak today.

The Steipler wrote that one should not necessarily act according to the sect's strict regulations, which he said mainly cause suffering to women. To this day his views are studied in instruction sessions for bridegrooms in the Lithuanian (non-Hasidic ) ultra-Orthodox community, who are encouraged not to refrain from sexual relations. Among other things, the Steipler wrote: "It is known that a woman's main hope in her world is to have a husband who loves her ... but heaven forfend that he observe the measure of prishut, whereby he hurts his wife."

A Rabbi’s Teachings on Addiction Recovery Find a Wide Audience

For six years, Rabbi Taub, 37, has been teaching and writing about the spiritual component of recovery from addiction. He had begun within the Jewish community, specifically the Chabad movement, and yet providence or serendipity or destiny has brought him increasing recognition and influence well beyond it.

So it was that Father Boes asked him to address a half-dozen staff members, some of them clergy and some of them therapists, who lead recovery programs at Boys Town. Once a refuge for children neglected or abandoned due primarily to poverty, it now deals extensively with boys and girls who have abused alcohol and drugs. And while Boys Town from its origin had been nondenominational and opposed to religious compulsion of any kind, it has always considered faith a central element for repairing damaged lives. [...]

Tying together the whole discourse was Rabbi Taub’s thesis, the central insight of his teaching and writing. Addiction, he argues, is less a chemical dependency or a mental illness than the consequence of an individual’s absence from God and of the psychic pain that absence inflicts.[...]

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