Friday, March 31, 2017

Allegations that Nunes lies about his sources in an attempt to defend Trump against congressional investigation he is conducting

A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Mr. Nunes then discussed with Mr. Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

It is the latest twist of a bizarre Washington drama that began after dark on March 21, when Mr. Nunes got a call from a person he has described only as a source. The call came as he was riding across town in an Uber car, and he quickly diverted to the White House. The next day, Mr. Nunes gave a hastily arranged news conference before going to brief Mr. Trump on what he had learned the night before from — as it turns out — White House officials.

The chain of events — and who helped provide the intelligence to Mr. Nunes — was detailed to The New York Times by four American officials.

Since disclosing the existence of the intelligence reports, Mr. Nunes has refused to identify his sources, saying he needed to protect them so others would feel safe going to the committee with sensitive information. In his public comments, he has described his sources as whistle-blowers trying to expose wrongdoing at great risk to themselves.

That does not appear to be the case. Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and was previously counsel to Mr. Nunes’s committee. Though neither has been accused of breaking any laws, they do appear to have sought to use intelligence to advance the political goals of the Trump administration.

Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, refused to confirm or deny at his daily briefing that Mr. Ellis and Mr. Cohen-Watnick were Mr. Nunes’s sources. The administration’s concern was the substance of the intelligence reports, not how they ended up in Mr. Nunes’s hands, Mr. Spicer said.
The “obsession with who talked to whom, and when, is not the answer,” Mr. Spicer said. “It should be the substance.”

Jack Langer, a spokesman for Mr. Nunes, said in a statement, “As he’s stated many times, Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his source’s identity, and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources.”

Mr. Cohen-Watnick, 30, is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who served on the Trump transition team and was originally brought to the White House by Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.

He was nearly pushed out of his job this month by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who replaced Mr. Flynn as national security adviser, but survived after the intervention of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.

The officials who detailed the newly disclosed White House role said that this month, shortly after Mr. Trump claimed on Twitter that he was wiretapped during the campaign on the orders of President Barack Obama, Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials.

There were conflicting accounts of what prompted Mr. Cohen-Watnick to dig into the intelligence. One official with direct knowledge of the events said Mr. Cohen-Watnick began combing through intelligence reports this month in an effort to find evidence that would justify Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts about wiretapping.

But another person who was briefed on the events said Mr. Cohen-Watnick came upon the information as he was reviewing how widely intelligence reports on intercepts were shared within the American spy agencies. He then alerted the N.S.C. general counsel, but the official said Mr. Cohen-Watnick was not the person who showed the reports to Mr. Nunes.

That person and a third official said it was then Mr. Ellis who allowed Mr. Nunes to view the material. [...]

The High Price of Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Life

On Thursdays, the nonprofit organization Footsteps hosts a drop-in group for its membership of formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews, who mostly refer to themselves as “off the derech.” “Derech” means “path” in Hebrew, and “off the derech,” or O.T.D. for short, is how their ultra-Orthodox families and friends refer to them when they break away from these tight-knit, impermeable communities, as in: “Did you hear that Shaindel’s daughter Rivkie is off the derech? I heard she has a smartphone and has been going to museums.” So even though the term is burdened with the yoke of the very thing they are trying to flee, members remain huddled together under “O.T.D.” on their blogs and in their Facebook groups, where their favored hashtag is #itgetsbesser — besser meaning “better” in Yiddish. Sometimes someone will pop up on a message board or in an email group and say, “Shouldn’t we decide to call ourselves something else?” But it never takes. Reclamations are messy.

At the drop-in session I attended, 10 men and women in their 20s and 30s sat around a coffee table. Some of them were dressed like me, in jeans and American casualwear, and others wore the clothing of their upbringings: long skirts and high-collared shirts for women; black velvet skullcaps and long, virgin beards and payot (untrimmed side locks) for men. Half of them had extricated themselves from their communities and were navigating new, secular lives. But half still lived among their Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox sects in areas of New York City, New Jersey and the Hudson Valley and were secretly dipping their toes into the secular world — attending these meetings, but also doing things as simple as walking down the street without head coverings, or trying on pants in a clothing store, or eating a nonkosher doughnut, or using the internet. They had families at home who believed they were in evening Torah learning sessions, or out for a walk, or at synagogue for evening prayers. On the coffee table were two pizzas, one kosher, one nonkosher. The kosher pizza tasted better, but only a couple of people ate it.

The group was facilitated by a Footsteps social worker, Jesse Pietroniro, soft-spoken and kind, who had told me that he had his own conflicted religious upbringing. He allowed the attendees to democratically settle on a loose theme for the evening. One woman in her early 20s brought up sexuality. She had started to date and wasn’t quite sure what the norms were. A young man talked about how hard it was for him to interact with women casually outside his community, since he was taught that sexual desire outside the intent to procreate means that one is a sexual predator, so anytime he was attracted to someone, he worried he was going to do something untoward, or that he was a kind of monster. The young woman who had suggested the theme said she didn’t know when exactly to submit to kissing — the first date? The second? Is she a slut if she kisses at all? Is it still bad nowadays to be a slut? She’d heard girls talking on the subway and calling each other sluts, and they were laughing. Are there rules for this? A few of them made sex jokes. The O.T.D.ers, newly alive in a world of puns and innuendo, love a junior-high-grade sex joke. The social worker narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips and tapped a finger to his chin and nodded and opened the question up to the group. (I was allowed to document the meeting on the condition that I wouldn’t publish anyone’s name or descriptive information.)

Another woman in her early 20s, sitting on the sofa in jeans with one leg slung over its arm, told us she had spent most of her life being molested by her father. She told the group that recently she had taken to advertising online, saying she followed the laws of family purity — going to a ritual bath after menstruation, not having sex during her “unclean” week — and that she was available for sex in exchange for money. Ultra-Orthodox men visited her at all hours, and they cheated on their wives, having sex with this ritually pure young woman in her apartment. When the men finished, they told her what a shame it was that she was off the derech, that she seemed nice, that she should try again at a religious life.

A man, 30ish, still with a beard that he now trimmed closely to his face, talked about staying with his religious wife, who knew he was no longer religious but wouldn’t join him on the other side. He knew the marriage should be over, but he wouldn’t leave, and he couldn’t bring himself to cheat on her, and he wanted to know if he was unable to cheat on her because he was bound up by his religious values or because he was innately a good person. Another married man said that you don’t need to be taught in a religious context not to cheat on your wife — it’s a tenet of secular marriage as well, and what the whole operation often depends on.

“I guess I just don’t know if I’m a good person because I’m a good person,” said the guy who wanted to cheat but might not, “or if I’m a good person because I was taught to be a good person.”

They went around in circles for many minutes, most of them summoning scriptural sources on whether morality is inherent, then other sources to make or disprove that point, then laughing at the fact that they’d summoned Scripture. The married man who was deciding if he should have sex outside his marriage put his head in his hands, then through his hair and made a great, guttural noise of frustration.[...]

Footsteps was started in 2003 by a college student named Malkie Schwartz, who grew up in the Lubavitch sect in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and who knew after high school that she wanted to step off the community’s moving walkway to marriage and motherhood. She moved in with a grandmother who wasn’t religious and enrolled at Hunter College on the Upper East Side.

But just because she left her community didn’t mean that she felt part of the secular one. She started Footsteps as a drop-in group right there at Hunter and told a couple of formerly religious friends what she was doing. About 20 people showed up to the first meeting. Soon they had a G.E.D. study group — and a human-sexuality-and-relationships group, so that they could learn about sex education, which was normally taught to the ultra-Orthodox only in the days leading up to their weddings. Footsteps became a chrysalis for them through which they would leap into their new lives, just as soon as they figured out exactly how to live them.

Schwartz eventually left the organization in the hands of nonprofit professionals — Footsteps was a chrysalis for her, too — and went to law school. Today, Footsteps is a 501(c)(3) with an executive director, social workers, scholarships, court-companion programs and special events like fashion nights, at which members learn about modern style outside the realm of black-and-white dresses and suits and hats. Ultra-Orthodox communities, whose leaders stand vigil against outside influences, know about Footsteps; about half the people I met in Footsteps first heard of it when they were accused by someone in their family of being a member.

It’s hard to talk about O.T.D.ers as a group, because like the rest of us, like ultra-Orthodox people, too, they are individuals. No two people who practice religion do it exactly the same way, despite how much it seems to the secular world that they rally around sameness; and no one who leaves it leaves the same way, either. In the region of New York City, New Jersey, and the Hudson Valley that Footsteps serves, 546,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews live in one of about five different sects. With a few exceptions, like the Skver sect in New Square, N.Y., which has actual boundaries and operates its own schools, the ultra-Orthodox live not in cloistered neighborhoods, but among secular America in Crown Heights, Flatbush and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and beyond. Perhaps it’s easiest to think of them as living in a different dimension — occupying the same space but speaking a different language (Yiddish, for the most part), attending different schools, seeing their own doctors, handling judicial issues among themselves and eating their own food from their own markets.

So once they leave, if they leave, they learn how ill equipped they are for survival outside their home neighborhoods, and that has a lot to do with the ways that ultra-Orthodox communities are valuable and good: the daily cycle of prayer and school and learning; how people share goals about family and values; how neighbors support one another during times of need. Once that’s gone, and all a person has is her mostly Judaic-studies education and little familial support and no real skills, life gets scary. For those who leave and are married with children, the community tends to embrace the spouse left behind and help raise funds for legal support to help that person retain custody of the children. You could be someone with a spouse and children one day and find yourself completely alone the next.

I learned about Footsteps in 2015, after the very public suicide of one of its young members. Her name was Faigy Mayer, and on a hot night in July, she went to the top of 230 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron district, where there’s a rooftop bar, and jumped. In death, she became something of a brief symbol (and also a lightning rod) for the O.T.D. movement, with her story plastered across local papers, many illustrated by a Facebook image of her holding a paintbrush and standing in front of a newly painted mural that said “Life is Beautiful.”[...]

Feeling sad is ‘new normal’ in Trump’s America, therapists say

Jewish mental health professionals like Rubenstein say they have seen an unprecedented increase in stress, sadness and other negative feelings that clients are directly tying to the election and its aftermath.

Their testimonies speak to a larger trend: A January study by the American Psychological Association found that more than half of all Americans cited the political climate as a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

Elections usually lead to discontent from the losing side, but not anxiety and depression, said Sam Menahem, a psychologist based in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

“Every election people might talk about it a little bit, they don’t like the candidate that won, but it doesn’t make them more anxious or depressed,” said Menahem, who has been practicing psychology for 44 years. “They didn’t get their way, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, but I’ve never seen anything like this — never.”

He estimated that 60% of his patients were “experiencing exacerbation or worsening of symptoms after the election.”

Indeed, the APA survey found that the average stress level saw its first “statistically significant increase” since it was first conducted a decade ago: from 4.8 to 5.1 on a 1-10 scale in the period of August 2016-January 2017.

Much of the anxiety can be traced to the surprise victory of an unusually polarizing candidate over the apparent front-runner and more conventional politician, Hillary Clinton. Jewish voters supported Clinton over Trump by a margin of 3-1. Consequently, they are overrepresented among people disappointed by Trump’s victory.

As to the degree of that disappointment, mental health professionals and patients point to all the things that make Trump unconventional: his impulsive tweets, his thin skin, his embrace of various conspiracy theories, his lack of political experience and the apparent chaos surrounding his inner circle in his first months in office, to name a few.[...]

Political polarization has spilled into people’s personal lives, threatening to tear apart close relationships, said Nancy Kislin, a social worker in Chatham, New Jersey.

Kislin said that she had clients who had ended romantic relationships based on disagreements over Trump.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Kislin, noting that she had worked in private practice for 13 years, during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Seth Grobman, a clinical psychologist in Davie, Florida, said patients have ended relationships with family members and friends due to post-election political disagreements. To be sure, political polarization isn’t the only factor in play, he said, noting that widespread social media use was also to blame.[...]

Thursday, March 30, 2017

IDF threatens to punish soldiers who protest co-ed combat units

Arutz 7

The IDF is taking a surprisingly strident, and even threatening, tone against soldiers who, on their off-time, protest the army's increasing integration of women in combat units.

Hesder yeshiva soldiers have begun distributing literature explaining the dangers of mixed-gender combat units, and of women in combat roles altogether.

The Hesder soldiers are generally considered the army's best, and their campaign has taken off over just the past few days.
"In the face of all logic," the distributed pamphlets state, "and "ignoring expert opinions and research, the IDF is undergoing a transformation that harms its female soldiers, impairs its combat abilities, and detracts from the safety of all of us. It is not logical, it is not moral, it is not humane."
The name of the new campaign: "Saving the IDF."
The IDF, which has now set as one of its primary objectives the full integration of women throughout the military, responded harshly. The IDF Spokesman's Office even compared the new campaign with that of the extremist haredi group that says one must be killed rather than register for the draft: "The call to 'Save the IDF' is similar to the calls coming from the extremists in the haredi community that oppose enlistment in the IDF and the fulfillment of the laws of the country."

That is, the IDF Spokesman's Office compares the mass protests and campaign to oppose at all costs even registering with the IDF, on the one hand, to those who seek to warn, from within, against dangers in the IDF, and advocate a short delay, at most, in enlisting in the IDF.
The Spokesman's statement continues: "The IDF views with gravity, and condemns any attempt at any form of refusal. Calls for division with the IDF and insults to the honor of people must be opposed and uprooted. Everything must be done to continue to defend the State of Israel by all those who serve, from all sectors of Israeli society. Participation in this act is forbidden to IDF soldiers, and the subject will be intensively investigated and treated with severity."
The campaign against mixed combat units also cites the physiological differences between men and women, and the consequent differences in the way in which they are trained. While men must run with two canteens and five bullet cartridges in order to qualify as a combat soldier, females need run with only one canteen and two bullet cartridges to qualify for the same.
In addition, men must jump and climb over a wall, while women are permitted to stand on a bench in order to qualify for the wall-climbing test.

Former IDF Generals Yiftach Ron-Tal and Avigdor Kahalani are quoted in opposing the IDF's new gender-integration policies.

Monday, March 27, 2017

רשת השתקה למעשים חמורים במגזר: 22 חשודים חרדים נעצרו

. המשטרה פשטה על בתיהם של 22 חרדים החשודים בעבירות חמורות בירושלים, בית שמש, ביתר ובני ברק לאחר חקירה סמויה וממושכת בה נחשפה רשת שעל פי החשד סייעה להשתקה ומסמוס תלונות על מעשים קשים 

עם סיומה של חקירה סמויה יצא לפועל הבוקר (שני) מבצע מעצרים וחיפוש ממוקד במהלכו נעצרו 22 תושבי ירושלים, בית שמש, בית"ר עלית ובני ברק בחשד לביצוע עבירות חמורות בילדים ובנשים שלא דווחו למשטרה ולרשויות הרווחה.

הבוקר, עם סיום איסוף הממצאים וכשבידי השוטרים צווי מעצר וחיפוש שהוצאו ע"י בית המשפט כנגד 22 חשודים, פשטה המשטרה על בתיהם, ביצעה חיפוש ועצרה אותם. כלל החשודים הובאו לחקירה ביחידה המרכזית של המשטרה ונחקרים בגין חשד לביצוע עבירות חמורות בילדים, נערים צעירים ונשים במהלך השנתיים האחרונות.  

ראשיתה של החקירה באיסוף מידע ממוקד שהצביע על פעילות שביצעו גורמים במגזר החרדי שפעלו למען 'טוהר המגזר'. הגורמים הללו פעלו, על פי החשד, באישור ובהסכמת מנהיגי הפלגים והזרמים השונים במגזר, קיבלו ואספו מידע אודות אנשים שתקפו ועשו מעשים חמורים, וניהלו נגדם הליך פנימי שבסופו קבעו והחליטו מה יהיה על החשודים לעשות על מנת שהאירוע ייסגר ולא יועבר לטיפול המשטרה. ברוב הפעמים הורו לחשודים לקבל טיפול כזה או אחר אצל גורמים בקהילה,
כל זאת ניהלו תוך רישום האירועים ופרטי המעורבים בעשרות פנקסים שנתפסו ע"י המשטרה.

בשיטה זו נהגו, עפ"י החשד, כלפי עשרות אנשים שתקפו אחרים, חלקם במספר הזדמנויות ובמספר רב של קורבנות, בהם ילדים וקטינים - כל זאת מבלי שהועבר דיווח לגורמי רווחה ולמשטרה.

כאמור החל משעות הבוקר המוקדמות עצרה המשטרה 22 חשודים בגילאי 20-60 שלכל אחד מהם מיוחסות פגיעות ועבירות חמורות באירועים שונים במהלך השנתיים האחרונות. עם כניסת הכוחות לביצוע המעצרים בירושלים החלה התגודדות של חרדים סביבם, כשחלקם ניסו לשבש את ביצוע המעצרים - יודו לעברם אבנים, הושלכו חפצים וקראו לעברם בקריאות גנאי. שני חלונות של ניידות נופצו מאבנים שיודו במקום. כאמור, כלל החשודים נחקרים במשטרה בסיומה יובאו מי מהם בפני בית המשפט לדיון בעניינם.  


In a raid conducted by Israeli Police forces early Monday morning, 22 Charedim were arrested on suspicion of sexual crimes against women and children over the past two years. The suspects had undergone internal proceedings conducted by a Charedi organization called “Tohar Hamachane” (also known as the Tznius police), who ‘treat’ the offenders but do not alert the police or child protective services.

The police raided the 22 Charedi residents of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Beitar Illit with a search and arrest warrant based on an investigation. The investigation was launched after the police seized notebooks from Tohar Hamachane which included lists of victims and their crimes. Tohar Hamachane is a central body which works together with various faction leaders of the communities.

The suspects were arrested on suspicions of sexual offenses against women, minors and small children. The victims received no treatment by the Charedi authorities, according to police investigators.

During the arrest, surrounding Charedim mobilized in attempt to disrupt the police, shouting slurs and hurling stones and objects, which broke two windows of the police vehicles.

The suspects were not subjected to any punishment by the internal Charedi authorities, instead being allowed psychological and psychiatric treatment towards rehabilitation. The Charedi faction leaders submit offenders in their congregations to the Charedi authorities in exchange for said authorities agreeing not to report the crimes to the police.

“This exposure will first and foremost stop these offenders from abusing any further victims,” said the police in a statement. “At the same time, the police are working to make the suspects stand trial in court and mete justice upon them for any crimes to which they are connected.”

According to an army radio report, there are over 100 known victims and some of the suspects have already confessed to the police.

The sect that wasn’t:The false claims of Satanic Abuse in Sanhedria Murchevet

After more than two years of in-depth investigation, the police has reached a conclusion that the rumors regarding the existence of a sect, the members of which torture children and make them convert to Christianity, are nothing but baseless rumors. 

Today “Chadrei Charedim” is revealing the workings of the criminal group. In order to understand it better, let us go back in time to August 2011, when the biggest ever case of attacks recorded in Israel was revealed to the public. The prosecution pressed charges against three suspects, who were indicted for attacking dozens of children aged 3-12 and extorting money from them in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot.

The tension in the neighborhood was not alleviated after the enquiry and the indictment. The residents claimed that the police is disqualifying testimonies and releasing suspects, and that there are still dangerous people roaming the neighborhood and harming the children. 

Stories were told of one of the neighborhood residents, who was 72 at the time, claiming the existence of a basement filled with missionary literature. The elderly woman was attacked and severely harmed”.

This case stirred Jerusalem in general and the Charedi community in particular, and thus it served as a fertile ground for extorting money. According to the police, that is when D. began her activity on a large scale, persuading many Sanhedria residents that there is an active Christian sect operating in the neighborhood, serving large Christian organizations, whose goal is to convert the children, to kidnap them to monasteries and to torture them.

We received information regarding a known Charedi Talmud Torah receiving an offer from the suspect, claiming that since there are dangerous people operating in the neighborhood, she would be prepared to donate a limited number of security cameras to be installed in the cheder, for “catching the suspects”. The administration of the cheder was persuaded and allowed for the security cameras to be installed. However, this caused an utter panic among the parents, who demanded that the director of the cheder invests more in providing security for the children. The administration gave in to the pressure and purchased dozens of additional cameras- However, suspicious people never showed up in the camera recordings.

It appears that while the parents were panicking, D. approached the neighborhood rabbis, and carried on about the “terrible deeds” that are taking place in the neighborhood, and the rumor began to travel at a double speed. D. approached the parents and the administration of the cheder, regarding specific children who, according to her, were “in need of a treatment”.

As the police suspects, D. proceeded to refer them to B., who is also originally from abroad, who is a certified therapist, and she began seeing the children. In accordance with the testimonies which we have received, it appears that by means of specifically formulated questions the “therapist” managed to eventually influence the children, and to install in their minds a “memory” of being kidnapped, transported to a monastery, and tortured. Which, needless to say, never took place. She showed them pictures of monasteries, asking, “which one of these did they take you to?” at first, the children denied that such events ever took place; however, with time, they were persuaded that these things really took place.

One of the rabbis in the neighborhood and two businessmen were accordingly persuaded, and composed a list of hundreds of children, who were “harmed by the sect”, however, they refused to cooperate with any investigation efforts, since, as they claimed, the Christians managed to bribe the authorities, making it futile to seek help with the official agents of the law.

While this was taking place, there were others who refused to buy into the “cult” narrative, among them - the judges from the Eida charedis, the activists from the “Neighborhood purity committee” (Vaad Le-Tohar Ha-Machane), and other rabbis. 

About a year and a half ago, it was publicized that parts of the security cameras recordings were deleted, since they recorded indecent acts taking place in the cheder. The police proceeded to open an investigation; however, within a short time they proved the suspicion to be ungrounded. Obviously, this did not help the parents to feel reassured as to the safety of their children. Many of them proceeded to enrol their children in other institutions.

As it seems from the primary investigation, the suspect in collaboration with her partners in crime, managed to gather vast donations from abroad as well as from within Israel, claiming the existence of the cult and the battle that was being waged against it. The funds she managed to obtain, including the payments for the “therapy”, measure well above 1.5 USD. 

The police performed a complex, lengthy and thorough investigation, as necessary in the light of the severity of the claims. Yesterday, when the investigation was finally completed, three suspects were arrested and questioned by the police, regarding the allegations of child abuse, (i.e. persuading them that they were kidnapped and causing them emotional trauma constitutes child abuse) and unlawful obtaining of donations
The investigation was supervised by the Jerusalem district attorneys and the social services. D. and another man were brought in today to the district court in Jerusalem where they were ordered under home arrest until the next hearing, which is scheduled to take place next Tuesday.  [...]

Rabbis Baum and rabbi Berkowitz, who are community rabbis, said that they were involved in dealing with this issue, and now that it has been taken care of, surely this school is as safe as any other.

Attorney Yinon Sartel, who is representing the defendant, has addressed the allegations, and said in a statement to the Chadrei Charedim, that the suspect has been waging a lengthy battle on behalf of the children who have suffered from indecent acts and harassment. “She has been working in collaboration with the social services, and ensured that the children received appropriate therapy, she involved a Knesset committee, inviting them for a tour of the neighborhood of Nachlaot; and even persuaded many children to file a complaint at the police station - and some of the complaints ended in conviction.” 

“She was the only hope for many children in those neighborhoods. She complained time and again about the police lack of action and competence in their dealings with the issue, therefore she was forced to gather donations from generous people, to fill in the gap left by the police inaction.”

According to him, evidence was gathered in order to bring the criminals to court only thanks to the efforts of the private investigator she hired. “So it seems, that her filling the void that was left by their inaction, irritated them, and they proceeded to make up this whole thing, as if she lied to the donors when describing the issues, there is nothing more outrageous than this claim”. 

Sartel says, “From her point of view, this struggle is essential; how can one come now and call her a liar - she believes this with her whole heart, and she has plenty of evidence available to prove that this activity is really taking place, but the police chooses the path of inaction. Instead of going after the true perpetrators of these crimes, they decided to attack her, and to level baseless accusation on her. 

The judge did not accept the claims presented by the police, and did not extend her detention by four days as requested, but stated that the case is a “legitimate weak suspicion”, and released her under home arrest.”  [...]

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Apologizes For Promoting 'Pizzagate' regarding false child abuse claims

Longtime conspiracy theorist and propagator Alex Jones has apologized to the Washington, D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong and its owner James Alefantis for his show's role in promoting the false "pizzagate" conspiracy theory involving a child sex-abuse ring.

Jones, the host of the radio and web show bearing his name and the owner of the website Infowars, said from a prepared statement that to his knowledge, "neither Mr. Alefantis, nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate that were being written about in many media outlets and which we commented upon."

He continued: "I want our viewers and listeners to know that we regret any negative impact our commentaries may have had on Mr. Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong, or its employees. We apologize to the extent our commentaries could be construed as negative statements about Mr. Alefantis or Comet Ping Pong, and we hope that anyone else involved in commenting on Pizzagate will do the same thing."

Jones' apology Friday came the same day a 28-year-old man pleaded guilty to charges related to a December incident when he brought an AR-15 rifle and other weapons into the restaurant and fired shots inside. Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C., said he drove from his home to the Washington restaurant to "self-investigate" the conspiracy theory.

False rumors on the Internet included allegations that a child sex ring was operating out of the restaurant's nonexistent basement and that it involved Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chairman John Podesta. Employees of Comet have received many threatening phone calls and have been the targets of online harassment and death threats.

The Daily Beast reported that Welch was a Facebook fan of Jones and Infowars, and Welch told The New York Times he had listened to Jones' radio show.

Multiple times in the statement, Jones says that "many media outlets" were reporting on the theories; it could be seen as an attempt to minimize the role his show played in their promotion.

Despite Jones' claim that the reason for the apology is because "we think it is the right thing to do," it may have more to do with the perceived threat of legal action from Alefantis, who wrote to Jones in February asking for several retractions. The Washington Post's Paul Farhi explains:
"Under Texas law, the Austin-based Jones had to retract or apologize for the stories by Friday — one full month after receiving Alefantis's letter — to avoid exposing InfoWars to punitive damages in a libel suit."
It's rare for Jones to make a public apology. The Infowars website has a correction section. There are only two entries, of which the Comet apology is one.

Infowars describes the mission of Jones and the website as "seeking the truth and exposing the scientifically engineered lies of the globalists and their ultimate goal of enslaving humanity."
NPR's David Folkenflik noted other conspiracy theories Jones has discussed:
"Jones has claimed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were an inside job, that the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax, and that President Obama would round up people into concentration camps."
Jones was not the originator of "pizzagate," however, which has spread on social media and on sites like Reddit. [...]

Social psychology professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University told NPR's Michel Martin that it's hard to change someone's belief once that person accepts a conspiracy theory. "We look for evidence that fits what we already know or what we already believe, and we try to avoid information or evidence that we either disagree with or that we know doesn't fit with our perspective," he said. "And if someone comes along and says, here's the evidence, your natural tendency's actually to rehearse arguments against that evidence."

"Donald, This I Will Tell You" [Trump is a fraud and a victim of the Republican party]

NY Times   by Maureen Dowd

Dear Donald,

We’ve known each other a long time, so I think I can be blunt.

You know how you said at campaign rallies that you did not like being identified as a politician?

Don’t worry. No one will ever mistake you for a politician.

After this past week, they won’t even mistake you for a top-notch negotiator.[...]

And you, Donald, are getting a reputation as a sucker. And worse, a sucker who is a tool of the D.C. establishment.

Your whole campaign was mocking your rivals and the D.C. elite, jawing about how Americans had turned into losers, with our bad deals and open borders and the Obamacare “disaster.”

And you were going to fly in on your gilded plane and fix all that in a snap.

You mused that a good role model would be Ronald Reagan. As you saw it, Reagan was a big, good-looking guy with a famous pompadour; he had also been a Democrat and an entertainer. But Reagan had one key quality that you don’t have: He knew what he didn’t know.

You both resembled Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons, floating above the nitty-gritty and focusing on a few big thoughts. But President Reagan was confident enough to accept that he needed experts below, deftly maneuvering the strings.

You’re just careering around on your own, crashing into buildings and losing altitude, growling at the cameras and spewing nasty conspiracy theories, instead of offering a sunny smile, bipartisanship, optimism and professionalism.

You promised to get the best people around you in the White House, the best of the best. In fact, “best” is one of your favorite words.

Instead, you dragged that motley skeleton crew into the White House and let them create a feuding, leaking, belligerent, conspiratorial, sycophantic atmosphere. Instead of a smooth, classy operator like James Baker, you have a Manichaean anarchist in Steve Bannon.

You knew the Republicans were full of hot air. They haven’t had to pass anything in a long time, and they have no aptitude for governing. To paraphrase an old Barney Frank line, asking the Republicans to govern is like asking Frank to judge the Miss America contest — “If your heart’s not in it, you don’t do a very good job.”

You knew that Paul Ryan’s vaunted reputation as a policy wonk was fake news. Republicans have been running on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years and they never even bothered to come up with a valid alternative.

And neither did you, despite all your promises to replace Obamacare with “something terrific” because you wanted everyone to be covered.

Instead, you sold the D.O.A. bill the Irish undertaker gave you as though it were a luxury condo, ignoring the fact that it was a cruel flimflam, a huge tax cut for the rich disguised as a health care bill. You were so concerned with the “win” that you forgot your “forgotten” Americans, the older, poorer people in rural areas who would be hurt by the bill.

As The Times’s chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse put it, the G.O.P. falls into clover with a lock on the White House and both houses of Congress, and what’s the first thing it does? Slip on a banana peel. Incompetence Inc.[...]

You’re all about flashy marketing so you didn’t notice that the bill was junk, so lame that even Republicans skittered away.

You were humiliated right out of the chute by the establishment guys who hooked you into their agenda — a massive transfer of wealth to rich people — and drew you away from your own.

You sold yourself as the businessman who could shake things up and make Washington work again. Instead, you got worked over by the Republican leadership and the business community, who set you up to do their bidding.

That’s why they’re putting up with all your craziness about Russia and wiretapping and unending lies and rattling our allies.

They’re counting on you being a delusional dupe who didn’t even know what was in the bill because you’re sitting around in a bathrobe getting your information from wackadoodles on Fox News and then, as The Post reported, peppering aides with the query, “Is this really a good bill?”
You got played.

It took W. years to smash everything. You’re way ahead of schedule.

And I can say you’re doing badly, because I’m a columnist, and you’re not. Say hello to everybody, O.K.?

Sincerely, Maureen

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and the editors of Cross-Currents are in Cherem

Guest post   Cross-Currents

Update: Objections were raised regarding the term Cherem. The more correct term is Nidoi - which is a form of cherem . It was also objected that the author presented no source that someone who is not a dayan should be punished for writing a letter supporting a phony seruv. Rav Reuven Feinstin only proposed that there should be such a takana. However the author of the guest post responded that Rav Gestetner clearly says that those who publicize the false seruv also deserves nidoi. He cites the Responsa of Chaim BeYad (88) as his source.Rav Gestetner (2nd to last paragraph). I just corrected the text to note that Rav Feinstein is proposing that at takana be made to punish with nidoi those who write letters supporting a phony seruv but that Rav Gestetner based on Chaim BeYad (88) says that one who publicizes a phony heter is to be placed in Nidoi.

שו"ת חיים ביד סימן פח
לאיסטאנקייו אייר התרכ"ה ליצירה.
שאלה מעשה שהיה כך היה בעיר אחת שאמר ראובן לשמעון מתוך מחלוקת ושינאה שהיה ביניהם שרב הגדול אשר בעיר ואם בישראל החרים אותך על ככה ושמעון הנז' כשומעו את הדבר הזה התעצב עד מאד ויחר לו כי איך יתכן שרב גדול בתורה יחרים אותו בלי דרישה וחקירה אם ראוי להחרים ותכף כתב אגרת להרב הנז' אם אמת הדבר והיתה תגובת הרב כי לא היו דברים מעולם ושקר ענה באחיו העל אלה דינא קבעי שמעון על ראובן שיחרימו אותו על אשר דיבר סרה להוציא עליו ש"ר =שם רע= יודיענו מה דינו.
תשובה איתא בגמ' פ"ק דקדושין כ"ח ע"א הקורא לחבירו עבד חייב נידוי ממזר סופג את ארבעים וכתבו התוס' שם שהוא מידה כנגד מידה הוא קרא לחבירו עבד דהוא ארור מקללין אותו בארור דהיינו נידוי וכ"כ הריטב"א ז"ל שם בחי' מידה כנ"מ =כנגד מידה= דאיהו מוקים ליה בארור כדכתיב ארור כנען ולפיכך מנדין אותו בנידוי בו אלה בו חרם ע"כ והרי אם בקורא לחבירו עבד דלא משמע להו לאינשי שהוא ארור עכ"ז מנדין אותו שעבד כנעני נאמר בו ארור כנען כ"ש אם קורא אותו ארור בהדייא דודאי דחייב נידוי ואם גם בקורא לחבירו ארור בהדייא מצי להפטר בהתנצלות כי שוגג כי לא ידע שחרור בו חרם ויהיה נאמן כמ"ש הרב כנה"ג בח"מ סימן ת"ך הגה"ט אות ע' והרב בני חיי שם הגב"י אות ל"א כמו שיע"ש ועיין עוד שם בכנה"ג ובספר בני חיי ובס' דבר משה ח"ב סימן צ"ג ד"ק ע"א ובס' חשק שלמה חח"מ רס"י ז"ך בהגה"ט אות א'. דהקורא לחבירו ארור בהדייא מנדין אותו זולת כשמתרץ בדיבוריה כי לא ידע כי בשם ארור בו חרם משא"כ בנ"ד שאמר בפירוש שהרב החרימו שהטיל עליו שם חרם והרי כתב הרב מוהראנ"ח ז"ל בתשו' ח"א סימן צ"ג והביאו הרב כנה"ג שם בח"מ סי' ת"ך הגה"ט אות נ"ב והרב בני חיי שם הגב"י אות ט"ו הקורא לחבירו מוחרם מנודה חייב נידוי יע"ש וכ"כ מוהרש"ל ביש"ש בב"ק פ' החובל סי' מ"ד דפ"ו ע"ג וז"ל וה"נ מי שקראו לחבירו מנודה או אמ"ל אתה עברת על החרם חייב בנידוי ל' יום כמו שקראו עבד מטעם מידה כנגד מידה יע"ש. ועיין עוד מ"ש מוהראנ"ח בתשו' ח"ב סימן כ"ד והביאו הרב כנה"ג שם אות ג"ן דהאומר לחבירו שהוא מנודה תלוי במחלוקת רש"י ותוס' שלדעת רש"י הוי כמו קורא אותו רשע ולדעת התוס' חייב נידוי יע"ש.

ונראה לומר דיותר הסברא נותנת דחייב כשהוציא ש"ר ודבר שקר לומר שהוא מוחרם מפי אדם גדול שמחזיק החרם בכח גדול דהגם שכתב מוהראנ"ח שם בח"א סימן צ"ה שמה שקרא אותו מנודה ומוחרם שאין לדון אותו כדין המנדה את חבירו שלא כדין שהוא לא נידה ולא החרים אותו אלא שאמר שהוא מנודה ומוחרם מ"מ גם בכיוצא בזה איכא עונש נידוי ואמינא לה מההיא דהקורא לחבירו עבד יהא בנידוי וכו' יע"ש כ"ש כשאמר לו שהוא מוחרם מפי אדם גדול הרי הוא ממש כמי שקראו מנודה ומחורם יותר מפי עצמו ובודאי דחייב נידוי ועוד איכא להחמיר בנ"ד כי מאחר שדיבר שקר שהרב נידהו הרי הוא כפוגע בכבוד הרב שנידה לאדם על לא חמס בכפיו והוי מנדה למי שאינו חייב נידוי כי בכה"ג גם הרב מוהראנ"ח מודה כי הוא חייב נידוי הן מצד שעשאו להרב שמנדה למי שאינו חייב הן שנגע בכבוד הרב שמדבר עליו שקר כי כן שורת הדין נותנת כי זה האיש אשר הוציא דיבה רעה על חבירו שהרב נידהו ולא היו דברים מעולם שיקבל עצמו התרה וקודם כל ילך ויפייס לחבירו על הדבר הזה והמוחל לא יהיה אכזרי וימחול לו ויעשו לו התרה והרב גם כן יעשה לו התרה וימחול לו. ואני אמרתי מוסר השכל במסיבת הועד של ראשי המדינה הביטו וראו ראשונים כמלאכים ואת אחרונים פוסקי הלכות סידרו אחר הלכות נידוי וחרם. הלכות בק"ח וקריעה והספד ואבלות לרמוז דהחי יתן אל לבו בין המנדה בין המנודה דסופו ליפול במשכב וימות ויספדו לו ויתאבלו עליו ועל מה זה יהיה קשה כארז ולא יהיה רך כקנה כי אדם להבל דמה ימיו כצל עובר ומי גבר יחיה ולא יראה מות. האל ברחמיו יזכינו. להכיר מיעוט ערכנו. ולעשות בכל דבר כרצון אבינו שבשמים אכי"ר.
Daas Torah

Daas Torah

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein endorsed, publicized, and even added his own further accusations to the baseless “seruv” against Aharon Friedman issued by R. Aryeh Ralbag and his enterprise doing business as the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada.

 As Rabbi Reuvain Feinstein noted, one who signs on to an invalid seruv [deserves] to be in Nidoi and he proposes that a takana be made for that]  Thus, Rabbi Adlerstein [deserves] to be in Nidoi. However according to Rav Gestetner there would be no need for a takana and in fact such a person should be placed in Nidoi according to Chaim Be Yad (88) [see above for the text.

In the article, Rabbi Adlerstein endorses the “seruv” against Aharon, and adds the further accusations that Aharon is mocking the “beleaguered halachic system” and manipulating halacha.

Tamar unilaterally relocated the parties’ child from Maryland, where the family lived, to Pennsylvania, over Aharon’s objections, and then perjured herself by falsely claiming to the court that she did not do so, before later acknowledging to the court that she had done so.  It is not generally a criminal offense for one parent to unilaterally relocate a child.  However, such action is regarded extremely negatively by the law and the courts. The unilateral relocation of a child by one parent is “reprehensible” and the law is meant to “ensure[] that abducting parents will not receive an advantage for their unjustifiable conduct” – including a “parent who abducts the child pre-decree.” Comment to Section 208 of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act [codified by nearly every State, including MD and PA].  In and of itself, it is quite remarkable that Rabbi Adlerstein did not think it relevant to mention the child abduction in writing about the matter.

Given the harsh manner in which the law views such child abductions and the remarks of the judge at an earlier emergency hearing in the case, there was every reason to believe that the child would be returned at a October 2008 pendete lite trial calendared in civil court.  Aharon nevertheless agreed to cancel that trial when Tamar agreed to have the matter adjudicated in the Baltimore Beis Din if the parties could not reach an agreement. The Baltimore Beis Din held three hearings in the matter with the participation of both parties.  Tamar then violated the orders of the Baltimore Beis Din regarding dismissing the case from civil court in order to have the matter decided by civil court instead of Beis Din.

Tamar successfully argued in civil court that the child should remain in Pennsylvania given the time that the child had already been in Pennsylvania before trial, and specifically argued that the time that had elapsed should be prejudicial because Aharon had voluntarily dismissed the earlier pendete lite trial to bring the case to Beis Din.  Thus, Tamar manipulated Aharon’s bringing the case to the Baltimore Beis Din to treat her abduction of the child as a fait accopmpli.

Even at the time of Rabbi Adlerstein’s Cross-Currents article it was known that the “seruv” was without any basis.

The Baltimore Beis Din had previously stated in the Washington Jewish Week: ”Currently, the Epstein-Friedman case remains open but dormant, as “neither party has approached” the Baltimore beit din, requesting that it reconvene, according to Rabbi Mordechai Shuchatowitz, a rabbi on the court. “Right now,” he said, “the ball is in [Epstein’s] court” because, as the party seeking the get, she is responsible for reinitiating proceedings. Since the court has yet officially to order a get, Shuchatowitz said, it’s “a bit premature” to be holding rallies and other events meant “to pressure [Friedman] because he’s not been given his day in court.” After all, “you can’t disobey something you’ve not been told to do.”

Furthermore as the Baltimore Beis Din later noted, even had the case never been brought before the Baltimore Beis Din, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis had no authority to issue a seruv against Aharon.

After failing to pressure the Baltimore Beis Din to order that a get be given, Tamar unsuccessfully attempted to have at least two other batei dinim, the Washington Beis Din and the Beis Din of America, intervene against Aharon. Failing to find an actual beis din to attack Aharon, she hired the criminal enterprise doing business as the Union of Orthodox Rabbis to issue a baseless “seruv” against Aharon.  Shamefully, Rabbi Adlerstein and the editors of Cross-Currents piled upon Aharon citing this baseless “seruv” and what they claimed were Tamar's "impressive list of rabbinic supporters." Even after the subsequent letter from the Baltimore Beis Din proclaiming Aharon's innocence and again stating that any attacks against Aharon were wrong, Rabbi Adlerstein and Cross-Currents have refused to retract their baseless attack against Aharon.

So in their baseless attack against Aharon, it is Rabbi Adlerstein and the editors of Cross-Currents who are guilty of mocking and manipulating halacha and the halachic system.  And, as noted by Rabbi Reuvain Feinstein [ a takana should be made while according to Rav Gestetner based on the Chaim BeYad (88),  Rabbi Adlerstein and the editors of Cross-Currents are therefore in cherem (nidoi).

Friday, March 24, 2017

Rep. Nunes Is a Lapdog in a Watchdog Role

Representative Devin Nunes looked uneasy. Mr. Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was struggling on Monday to elicit details from James Comey, the F.B.I. director, about his explosive revelation that the bureau is investigating whether Russia and the Trump administration colluded to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. That disclosure, Mr. Nunes said, had put “a big, gray cloud” over the White House.

On Wednesday, Mr. Nunes tried to replace that cloud with a smoke screen. In a possible violation of the law, Mr. Nunes described intelligence reports that he said had suggested that American intelligence agencies incidentally intercepted communications of then President-elect Trump and people close to him, and then disseminated the information widely throughout the intelligence community. His disclosures, which have destroyed the credibility of his committee in investigating Russian interference in the election, make clear that he is unfit for the job and should be replaced.

Mr. Nunes’s remarks, which appeared to be deliberately vague, gave President Trump cover for his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had illegally wiretapped his phones. After making his disclosures during a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Nunes went to the White House to brief the president. In a startling break with tradition, Mr. Nunes, a Republican, briefed reporters before sharing his findings with fellow members of the committee, who are from both parties. Mr. Trump portrayed the congressman’s assertions as a vindication of his widely discredited accusation. “I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found,” Mr. Trump said.[...]

Mr. Nunes unspooled his information on Wednesday over the course of two news conferences that had a strikingly improvisational air. At one point, he said he was referring to material that “appears to be all legally collected foreign intelligence.” Soon afterward, he proclaimed himself to be “actually alarmed by it.” It was hard to understand exactly what Mr. Nunes was alleging, perhaps because he didn’t have any truly alarming revelation to share.

Mr. Nunes’s remarks left the impression that American intelligence personnel may have been careless in redacting identifying information of American citizens whose communications were intercepted as part of the lawful monitoring of foreigners. He did not, however, claim that intelligence personnel broke rules.

By speaking expansively about intelligence gathering, Mr. Nunes may have broken the law by disclosing classified information, however obliquely. The congressman, who has assailed leaks to the press, said his information came from unnamed “sources who thought that we should know it.” That’s rich. [...]

But Mr. Nunes’s conduct stands out for his brazenness and heedlessness. His role as a committee chairman is to carry out responsible oversight of intelligence matters. Instead, he used his position to distract attention from the crucial question of whether Mr. Trump’s election was aided by collusion with an adversary.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump’s Defense of His Lies: ‘I’m President and You’re Not’

It is remarkable — and perhaps praiseworthy — that Donald Trump gave a long and detailed interview on the subject of his being a pathological liar. The interview, with Time’s Michael Scherer, covers a wide range of Trump’s lies, and features many of his own justifications for them. The truly revealing moment of the interview comes at the end, when Trump gives up the game. “But isn’t there, it strikes me there is still an issue of credibility,” asks Scherer, referencing Trump’s hallucinatory claims to have been surveilled by his predecessor, which his own intelligence officials have refuted. Trump rambles through various talking points, and lands on this conclusion: “I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.”

This small line is an important historical marker of the bizarre and disconcerting reality into which American politics has plunged. Trump is not merely making an attack on truth here. He is attacking the idea of truth. His statement is a frontal challenge to the notion that objective reality can be separated from power.

Trump and his officials have been dancing around this notion since November. When challenged on almost any of their lies, they point to the election, which proves that the credibility of the crooked Fake News media is nonexistent, and theirs is beyond reproach. Questions about veracity are met with responses about voting in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Trump made the argument explicit: The only measure of his veracity is power, which he has, and his critics do not. [...]

Jewish Center Bomb Threat Suspect is Jewish - Is Arrested in Israel

The police on Thursday arrested an Israeli teenager who holds American citizenship in connection with scores of threats to Jewish institutions, including dozens of community centers in the United States, law enforcement officials said.

A spokesman for the police here, Micky Rosenfeld, said the suspect, from the Ashkelon area of southern Israel, had also made threats to institutions in Australia and New Zealand, as well as to at least one commercial airline flight, forcing an emergency landing.

“This is the guy we are talking about,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.

The authorities did not immediately identify the teenager, who they said was Jewish and 19. Other reports put his age at 18. He was expected to appear in court later Thursday.

The suspect’s motives were not immediately clear. He was being questioned by the international investigations unit of the Israeli police.

The arrest took place after a monthslong investigation in cooperation with the F.B.I. and other police and security agencies in the United States and Europe, the Israeli police said in a statement.

“The investigation began in several countries at the same time, in which dozens of threatening calls were received at public places, events, synagogues and community buildings that caused panic and disrupted events and activities in various organizations,” the statement said.

Representatives of the F.B.I. and police organizations from various other countries arrived in Israel to take part in the investigation, the statement said, adding that technology was used to track the suspect down. [...]

Vayakhel 75 - School as a community by Allan Katz

Guest post by Allan Katz

The word for community – ke'hilah comes from the word vayakhel- ויקהל , the opening word of our parasha. There are different types of communities , some positive and some negative depending on their goals and common purpose.  And Moses assembled – vayakhel = ויקהל the people  so he could share with the community God's commandments to observe the Sabbath and build a mishkan – a tabernacle which would come from the contributions offered by the people. The Sabbath had to observed especially by being careful to focus on bonding through learning and not kindling a fire -  including the fire of argument and conflict in the community.  The Midrash explains that while community is very important, Moses is setting a precedent, that  community   life  must be based on  learning. People should gather on the Sabbath and Moses would teach them about the Sabbath and other laws of the Torah. Houses of prayer, like the study halls should be places of learning as well as for  prayer. Community projects like the building of the mishkan- the tabernacle or any other projects that serve the community  must be  seen in the context of spiritual development and commitment to the Torah. This context is created by communal learning and observing the Torah laws. So community must be based on cooperative learning and projects  and be    guided by spiritual beliefs. The ideal situation is that people are drawn to a Rabbi and his place of learning and because they learn together, they pray together and participate in communal projects.

Schools are the perfect setting for building a community based on cooperative learning and social projects. Unfortunately many schools are more about instilling obedience and having control .It is for sure not a place that gives kids a voice and tries to  inspire them  to make their school a better and nurturing place for all. Teachers will use extrinsic motivation like prizes, grades and competition to motivate kids to behave and learn. Kids learn to ask themselves what will I get or what will be done to me. Kids are ranked according to their test scores and how well they behave ,  and the competitive ones see others as obstacles to their success. It does not help to talk about good character and caring , if the environment is competitive and problems are solved using punishment or bribes. The school has to create an environment which promotes cooperation between kids and pro-social behavior. If we go beyond discipline and grades and focus on community  and cooperative learning, kids will learn to  ask how do my actions impact on others , how can I make a contribution, what type of school or classroom would I like?  Kids will be intrinsically more motivated and develop a love for learning when they can participate in deciding on the curriculum. As one student remarked, my teachers always had the ability to give us the feeling that we decided on what we were going to study and learn.   Excellence is not measured by test scores but by taking responsibility for other kids and sharing your learning. Kids see each other as learning resources and look to each for support and friendship. There is the understanding that only a unity of purpose , cooperation and a caring atmosphere where every child is needed and valued,  can a community  and individuals meet  their goals.

Progressive schools see the importance of creating a community of caring learners and the best way children learn is when they are engaged in real-life situations that are important to them. Schools can implement a Jobs Program which allows kids to learn by doing.

Each School Group has a specific job to perform that helps the school community function smoothly. Some groups will tutor and become buddies for younger kids, other groups can run the school newspaper, the school store which supplies stationary and text books , the school garden , be involved in  sign making and running the  print shop. The children have ample opportunity to practice and expand their academic skills, including mathematics, reading and writing, while further developing leadership, critical thinking and problem-solving tools. Because they are performing real jobs that meet real needs, the children also develop a genuine sense of ownership and pride in their school community.
Anyone working with or watching these children soon realizes the deeper psychological aspect of this type of program. It gives a child a sense of dignity and responsibility to be entrusted with a job whose importance he fully recognizes...All his abilities are called into play. He learns self-control, patience, self-discipline. He accepts the need for drill and for special work in areas where he is weak, so he will be better able to serve his customers and his community.” 
—Jean Murray, former principal of City &Country

When community is based on communal and cooperative learning, there is more growth, bonding and commitment to values and to be of service to other kids.