Thursday, February 6, 2014

Weiss Dodelson: Divorce settlement required the Weiss's to ask me to take down blog posts

Just received the following letter which I will discuss with a number of talmidei chachomim before deciding what to do. Would appreciate reader feedback also. 

I am not sure why the Dodelson's required Rabbi Weiss to ask me - the Dodelson's could have asked themselves.  I assume that indicates that the Dodelson's think that I am an agent of the Weiss Family just as Shira Dicker was an agent of the Dodelson's. 

It simply isn't true. In fact my concern was to present both sides - not to force the Dodelson's to concede defeat - as Shira Dicker tried to do to the Weiss Family. I sincerely tried to present the Dodelson's viewpoint - including having guest posts from their supporters and posting their supporters comments.
Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

Our family greatly appreciates your standing up for Torah, halachah and your convictions in supporting Avrohom Meir Weiss and our family throughout these past many months.

We are very well aware that you are completely independent from our family, and that you took up this cause on on your own, as a matter of conscience.

However, as a preclude to the get, the two parties entered into a mutual consent order, and we committed to request that you remove any references to this dispute from your website.

We respectfully request that you do so.
Thank you,
Yisroel Weiss

Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky's letter to the Dodelsons saying his previous letter was not criticizing them

The most recent letter addressed to the Dodleson family of erev rosh chodesh Shevat Tav Shin Ayin "daleth says that ,
... I would like to convey to you in a clear language that, I am not coming to condemn you on what you did along the whole time of this painful saga. I am aware that you did get help and support for what you have done along that time, myself amongst them. It is clear that you have done what you did according to Daas Torah...
Which is a clarification of this letter  Daas Torah Blog posting 
Update: See letter from Rav Shlomo Miller

In the letter addressed at the prior date of E.S. Chanuka of Nov-19-'13,
... it was brought to my attention that the public smear campaign against the Weiss family continues with my support. It is not supported by me and the campaign should cease and desist. It is unacceptable. R' S.K.

N Y Post:" Victory! Orthodox Jewish woman finally gets her divorce"

NY Post     An Orthodox Jewish woman who has been fighting for a religious divorce from her husband has finally gotten her wish.

Gital Dodelson, 25, has been granted a “get” by her ex-husband, Avrohom Meir Weiss.

Her publicist, Shira Dicker, said Wednesday that she got the surprise news from Dodelson’s mom, Saki.

“She calls, giggling, ‘Gital has her get,’ ” Dicker told The Post. 

The Post broke the story of Dodelson’s divorce nightmare three months ago.[...]

Dodelson recalled her ex-husband’s motive in not granting her a legal Jewish divorce: “On my last mission to ask for a get, a month ago, Avrohom said, ‘I can’t give you a get — how else would I control you?’ I think that’s the key to it all. He insists the marriage isn’t over until he says it’s over,” she told The Post in November.

After The Post report, Dodelson got a wave of public support.

The Facebook group “Free Gital: Tell Avrohom Meir Weiss to Give His Wife a ‘Get’ ” was created and grew to 14,000 supporters worldwide.

Dicker could not say Wednesday why Weiss had changed his mind and now granted the religious divorce.

The Weiss family declined to comment.

Three days after The Post story first appeared, the father and uncle of her estranged husband, Rabbi Yosaif Asher Weiss and Rabbi Yisroel Weiss, were forced to resign from their lofty editor positions at Jewish publisher, ArtScroll, under intense pressure from the outraged Jewish community.

The Weiss family is part of an esteemed rabbinic family; Avrohom Meir Weiss’s great-grandfather was the great Talmudic scholar Moshe Feinstein, who ironically was a vocal champion of the rights of Jewish women to divorce.

“The world became consumed after the NY Post story,” says Dicker. “The Post did this because of her face — how amazingly human and relatable it is. It could have been just another story, but Gital became everybody’s sister, daughter and friend,” she says, adding, “It was a grassroots thing; community opinion.”

Now, Saki Dodelson has vowed to start a nonprofit helping other women to win freedom from their recalcitrant husbands. “The family isn’t just skipping into the sunset,” Dicker says. “There’s a real sense of responsibility here.”

Can a get be obtained by ostracizing the husband?

In view of the fact that Shira Dicker - Dodelson's PR consultant - claims that Gital obtained the Get  only after she conducted a massive media attack on R' A. M. Weiss. One whose purpose was to humiliate him and his family and cause his father and uncle to lose their jobs and to close down Rav Reuven Feinstein's yeshiva  as well as to change the accepted halacha etc etc. This was done in concert with a massive arm twisting campaign against many rabbis conducted by Rav Malkiel Kotler resulting in the infamous Kol Koreh which made a mockery of halacha and showed the willingness of these rabbis to dance and jump to an inappropriate tune [see the recent letter from Rav Shlomo Miller]. It is appropriate to review the halacha and to note that if that in fact this campaign were the cause of R A.M. Weissw giving the Get - then it is posul as a Get Me'usa.

However I belief contrary to Dicker that the Get is valid because R' A. M. Weiss refused giving the Get under these pressures and only gave it after negotiating a settlement under the direction and mediation of Rabbi Ronny Greenwald and Rabbi Sholom Kaminetsky.

Guest post by Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn

May a GET be Coerced with Passive Ostracizing?

The laws of coercing a GET are in Even Hoezer 154. Paragraph 21 tells us that the Talmud sometimes permits a coercion of a GET with a beating or severe pressure such as putting  the husband in Nidui. Sometimes this is too strong a coercion and beatings and Nidui are forbidden, but we may tell the husband that he is a wicked person. The Talmud has ordered him to divorce his wife and he refuses. This applies to any case where the Talmud demands a GET but does not explicitly permit beatings or Nidui. There are other cases where the Talmud has not commanded the husband to divorce with a GET. In such circumstances, there is no permission for any type of coercion.

Briefly, as we will show, there are three categories of husbands in our question about ostracizing to force a GET. Those husbands who are commanded by the Talmud to give a GET or face a beating may be coerced to give a GET with passive ostracizing. Even active ostracizing is probably permitted because the Beth Din is permitted to beat the husband. The second level of husband who refuses to give a GET is when the Talmud commands the husband to give his wife a GET, but the Talmud does not say to beat him or apply the highest level of coercion. Such a person may not be coerced with humiliation, physical abuse, or Nidui. But he may be told, “You are a wicked person because the Talmud commands  you to give your wife a GET and you refuse it.” That is, we may tell the husband this but public humiliations such as a crowd of people shouting at him about this is forbidden because humiliation is a very serious kind of coercion and permitted only when beatings are permitted.

The third level is when the wife demands a GET because “my husband repels me” and I can’t remain in marriage with him. In such a case no coercion at all is permitted see EH 77 2;3 and all of the commentators there besides the Shulchan Aruch and Ramo who say “If the husband wants he can divorce and if he does not want he does not give a GET.” This is from the Rashbo teshuva VII:414 and accepted by the Radvaz, Beis Yosef EH 154 and Chazon Ish. The Gro #5 says that nobody permits coercion in MOUS OLEI “my husband repels me.” Meaning, nobody from the recent generations of the Shulchan Aruch, etc. In such a case nobody mentions any kind of coercion that is permitted. And nobody mentions ostracizing of Rabbeinu Tam. This is only mentioned by the Ramo in the laws of Gittin as it applies to somebody who is commanded by the Talmud to divorce, not by somebody who is free not to divorce.

Those who seek excuses to coerce husbands where the Shulchan Aruch says not to coerce him, often refer to Rabbeinu Tam and his permission to ostracize a husband in a passive manner. We want therefore to deal with the common type of demand of the wife for a GET, when she says MOUS OLEI, my husband repels me. In such a case coercion is forbidden, but coercion is usually active coercion. But is it forbidden to coerce passively by ostracizing the husband?

The laws of a woman demanding a GET when we do not coerce the husband to divorce her are dealt with not in the laws of Gittin in the above chapter 154, but in another chapter and another section of Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer about the laws of KESUBOSE or issues among married people. See EH 77 paragraph 2,3. Both the Ashkenazi and the Sefardic commentator do not permit coercion if the woman claims my husband repels me or MOUS OLEI. If so, even the Ramo who permits ostracizing in the Laws of Gittin only permits it in the case where the Talmud demands a GET. But, in the vast majority of cases, surely MOUS OLEI, it is forbidden to ostracize the husband to coerce a GET even with passive ostracizing.

The Vilna Gaon says furthermore in his commentatory to the above section of Laws of Gittin, that we only permit coercion to divorce with passive ostracizing when the husband can leave the city and be safe. But if a general ostracizing is proclaimed in every city, and the husband cannot leave his city and be safe, it is forbidden.

The Shach in Gevuras Anoshim says that when the husband cannot function like a man, and the Talmud commands a GET, we do not beat him or make  NIDUI but we may ostracize him in a passive manner, but only if he can escape the ostracizing by going to another place. However, afterwards, the Shach says that because some disagree with this and forbid any kind of ostracizing because it is a very powerful coercion, it may invalidate the GET and we should not do it at all, unless the Talmud clearly states that a person may be beaten.

Thus, the Shach and the Vilna Gaon both forbid ostracizing in a passive manner if the husband cannot leave his city and go somewhere else. Today, where communication and organized Aguna organizations reach a husband outside his original city, the Shach and Vilna Gaon would forbid coercion with ostracizing even when the husband is commanded to give a GET by the Talmud. But to coerce in MOUS OLEI is surely forbidden by the Ramo, the Vilna Gaon and the Shach, who forbids it completely.

Thus nobody permits ostracizing a husband if he does not divorce when the wife claims “he repels me.” And if the husband has a condition whereby he cannot be a husband and the Talmud commands him to divorce his wife, the Shach and Chazon Ish forbid ostracizing in a passive manner to force him to divorce. But if the Talmud does not command the husband to divorce, such as when the wife claims “he repels me, “ nobody permits coercion, and certainly not such a strong coercion as being publicly ostracized until he divorces his wife.

If the husband is commanded to divorce by the Talmud as when he has problems fulfilling the marriage, the Ramo permits passive ostracizing, but the Gro and Shach insist that this is only true if the husband can escape the ostracizing by going to a different city. The Shach in Gevuras Anoshim says that a major authority says that it was unheard of to coerce with Rabbeinu Tam’s ostracizing, and the Shach rules that we should not use it today even if the husband is commanded by the Talmud to give a GET, unless the Talmud suggests beating the husband.

Therefore, the habit of some people to invent leniencies to coerce by seizing upon Rabbeinu Tam and ostracizing are wrong because of the great authorities who forbid it even when the Talmud commands a GET and certainly ostracizing is forbidden with MOUS OLEI when the Talmud does not command a GET.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It is official - Gital Dodelson received a Get today

Friedman Epstein divorce: A new Divorce Bill in Washington D.C. to force a get

Washington Jewish WeekA bill being debated in the Washington, D.C., city council targets men who refuse to grant a Jewish divorce, sending them to civil court for preventing their former wives from remarrying.

The Justice for Ex-Spouses Act was introduced by Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser in December. The bill has been sent to the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, but a hearing date has not yet been scheduled.

The bill, which was co-introduced by three other council members, does not only apply to Jewish divorce, known as a get. Its aim is to “provide justice to ex-spouses whose ability to remarry is interfered with” by malicious conduct, according to a press release from Bowser.

“We must protect the freedom and ability of ex-spouses to remarry from unjustifiable interference,” Bowser said, adding, that the “bill empowers women in our city to prevent further harassment.”

Under the proposed law, if one member of a divorced couple maliciously interferes with the other’s ability to remarry, a civil cause of action could be brought against the offending member.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom -The National Synagogue and attorney Nathan Lewin were influential in having the issue of Jewish divorce added to the bill. [...]

The concept of a get has been in the news here for many years following the 2010 civil divorce of Tamar Epstein and Aharon Friedman, who lived in Silver Spring while married. Epstein has since moved with the couple’s child to the Philadelphia suburbs.

The couple’s dispute took a turn recently when the Organization for the Resolution of the Agunot declared Epstein free to remarry, although Friedman still has not granted a get.

According to several sources, Epstein considers herself unchained under the concept of mekach taus, which means she was married under erroneous circumstances. While this concept usually is applied when a husband turns out to be impotent or gay, in this case it is believed that Epstein is saying that her marriage was a mistaken transaction as she wouldn’t have entered into the marriage if she knew that Friedman would have withheld a get. [...]

A young man asks, "What qualities to look for in a wife?"

Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

How are you?
As you know, I am looking for a wife these days.  I also have a keen interest in avoiding the kind of terrible situations you have blogged about recently where husband and wife become estranged and enemies.  Do you have advice for avoiding this outcome?  Do you believe it's avoidable (in some cases, most cases, all cases)?  What is your advice both for during the marriage and also proactive steps that can be taken beforehand in the process itself of seeking a wife.   Ie, are there particular traits or attitudes to be wary of, how to discern them in the prospective partner, etc.  Or a certain dynamic between the two people that will more likely lead to these problems later on? 
On the subject of how to achieve a fulfilling a relationship, I enjoyed the TED video you posted.  Granted it was a short talk, but I don't think she ever gave an actual suggestion or a solution for how "erotic couples" as she termed it (sexually and emotionally fulfilled) strike the balance between love and desire (reliability / mystery, responsibility/ freedom, etc).   The first thought that entered my mind was that the laws of nidda would be conducive to rekindling the desire through distance and separation as she described in the healthy couples and when they most desire their spouse (when they're away).   But yet we see, as you stated, these problems exist also in the Orthodox community.  So it must be more than that.  What would you say is the missing link here that is causing it to not work in the frum world?
What resources would you suggest for learning more about this subject as I aim to build a positive relationship that will succeed?
On one last point, I didn't quite understand why you cited that particular psak of Rav Moshe because it sounded like he only permitted this type of learning in the few days before the marriage for groom-to-be (because at other times it could lead to fantasies when we are not supposed to be preoccupied with those thoughts).   But by posting the video I would think you encourage this learning at any time to understand how a relationship should work. For example, I wouldn't need to wait until 3 days before marriage to view the TED talk.  It seems you take a more liberal view than Rav Moshe based on your professional experience.  Or am I not interpreting the cited psak correctly?

Dear ....,

You are asking an important question - which doesn't have a clear cut answer. Let me answer you last point first. Rav Moshe Feinstein's teshuva that I cited is referring to specific information regarding physical relations between husband and wife. In contrast the TED talk is talking about the psychological dynamics involved. I don't see any reason to assume a disagreement. If talking about marriage and marriage issues is problematic - then you would need to prevent the learning of Kiddushin and Kesubos and other gemoras until after marriage.

update: Regarding your main question. Start studying Igros Moshe (Y.D. I. #90).

[to be continued]

P'tach: Finding the Missing Instruction Manual by Mordechai Schiller

Chinuch Innovators:  Finding The Missing Instruction Manual  by Mordechai Schiller

Wouldn't it be great if children came with instructions?

Shlomo Hamelech said "Chanoch lanaar al pi darko--Educate the child according to his way." But sometimes it seems you need the wisdom of Shlomo to do that!

Like new concepts in Torah Sheb'al Peh, cryptic instructions for chinuch were left for each generation to discover for itself. Dor ledor yeshabach maasecha. Every generation has its own chinuch innovators who rediscover the message of "Chanoch lanaar al pi darko" for the needs of the time.

Before the time of the Mishna, there were no "yeshivas" as we know them. Reb Yehoshua ben Gamla, "should be blessed," says the Gemara (Baba Basra 21a),  "for without him the Torah would have been forgotten in Israel." Yehoshua ben Gamla initiated the first system of public education for children. Before his time (a decade before the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash), parents taught their own children. Orphans were left with no schooling.

A century later, Reb Yehuda Hanasi broke new ground when he lifted the ban against writing down the Oral Torah and transcribed the Mishna to prevent it from being forgotten. Three centuries later, Ravina and Rav Ashi did the same for the Gemara.

No "Typical" Child

In later generations, we saw such innovations as the Shulchan Aruch, the Yeshiva of Volozhin, Bais Yaakov schools, Daf Yomi, Torah summer camps, day schools and the teshuva movement. Each generation according to its needs.

As secular education became more of a science, Torah leaders and educators learned to adapt its findings to the concept of al pi darko. We became more aware that there is no such thing as a "typical" child.

All children are unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses in learning. In the past teachers gave children who were "different" labels like "lazy," "dreamy," "ADD," or worse. But, says Dr. Judah Weller, Educational Director of P'tach, such labels are not only misleading, they are damaging. And they can be self-fulfilling prophecies, with children living up to their labels, true or not.

They are misleading because they oversimplify a complex range of behaviors. Labels like "ADD" are also harmful because they focus on weaknesses, not strengths. And they often doom children to a life of being classified as "abnormal." Labelers fail to recognize the ability of  the human mind to adapt and cope, using "bypass strategies" or "accommodations."

Opening the Door to Learning

In 1978, a group of concerned parents and educators--pioneers and innovators for discovering the potentials of a child's mind--joined together to create Parents for Torah for All Children. "P'tach," as the name implies, opened the door to learning for children who had once been closed out. And they insisted that every child can succeed.

"Rochel" (we'll call her) came from a P'tach elementary school program to a high school where she was placed in a special education program--with "mainstreaming" for several of her classes. During one class, Rochel raised her hand and explained to the teacher that she has a language processing and organization problem: "I need you to repeat some of the information for me so I can understand it."

The teacher was stunned by Rochel's grasp of her own weakness, and even more so by her ability to break down and specify exactly what she needed in  order to succeed. If another child had the same difficulties--but not the same training--she might have just thrown up her hands and said "I don't understand!" Today, the teacher uses Rochel's well-organized notes to show other girls how to break down and organize the information.

All Education Should Be Special

Rochel's success was a delight--but no surprise--to Dr. Weller, who insists that there is nothing "special" about special education. "It is simply superior education!" And once you make a child aware of her strengths and weaknesses, she has the tools to cope and succeed.

A P'tach-trained student who is now married, took the adapting skills she learned in school and applied them to her home life. Her mother recently called to thank P'tach for turning her daughter into a "real balabusta!" Her secret? She plans out everything in her home on index cards--a skill she was taught to help her accommodate a weakness in organization!

Rochel and the balabusta are what Dr. Mel Levine would call "self-attuned." Dr. Levine is professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School and director of the university's Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning. Levine, author of A Mind at a Time and The Myth of Laziness, is cofounder of All Kinds of Minds, a movement to train educators to recognize and address learning differences--and help every child succeed.

In his introduction to A Mind at a Time, Levine writes: "This could not have been written decades ago. It is only in recent years that, fortified with a wealth of research into learning, brain function and school failure, we have been able to develop approaches to the understanding of children's minds"

One of the building blocks of All Kinds of Minds is Levine's emphasis on what he calls "Demystification": getting rid of the labels and gobbledygook that confuse children and make them feel bad about themselves. Instead, Levine teaches teachers and parents how to explain to children precisely what problems they are experiencing... and what techniques they can use to overcome those problems.

The goal is to make a child realize he isn't "bad" or defective. (How many of our children were taught that they were "bad"... then wound up believing it and became "children at risk"?!)

Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses. And everybody can learn, al pi darko. Demystified students become optimistic about their future instead of giving up. Like Rochel, who learned to take break down information and take detailed notes, instead of getting labeled "disorganized."

A teacher attuned to a child's kind of mind might say specifically "Look right at me while I explain this," instead of an ill-defined and unhelpful demand to "pay attention."

Following Levine's approach, Dr. Weller insists that there are "no learning disabilities... only differences." And  he has made it P'tach's mission to give all Jewish students the benefit of "a superior education."

According to Dr. Weller, All Kinds of Minds is a program that puts Chanoch lanaar al pi darko into action. To that end, Dr. Weller introduced the All Kinds of Minds "Schools Attuned"© to Jewish educators from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Schools Attuned program teaches teachers, training them to meet the diverse needs of all students in their schools. Classroom teachers are on the front line to observe the different ways children learn. Schools Attuned training sensitizes teachers and helps them help their students to learn. It also makes teachers tuned in to who needs special help.

The day schools program teaches the All Kinds of Minds philosophy through an intensive 35-hour staff development program for Rabbeim and teachers. Since 2002 P'tach has been instrumental in training over 500 Jewish educators from the New York area in a custom tailored Jewish Schools Attuned program.

What are the results?

Possibly the main result is that teachers are trained never to give up on a child or let the child give up on himself. Every child has strengths that can be harnessed for learning. And they no longer expect children to all learn using the same method. What's more, one of the key messages is "Help one... Help many!" Contrary to popular belief, a teacher helping one child learn isn't detracting from the class. Helping one child "get it" helps others get it too.

Teachers report back that Schools Attuned has changed their whole view of thinking. One rebbi said "I used to think that teaching for 15 years,  I knew it all...." Anticipating eventual burnout, the teacher added frustration over "never getting to some kids... I couldn't understand them. What a waste!"

But after the Schools Attuned program, the same rebbi said "I've been rejuiced up. Now I have new ammunition to get to everyone. Maybe I'm not stale after all. I will make a big difference! Even in my personal life, I now evaluate my own children with deeper insight and knowledge!... Thank you so much for the opportunity. I hope I have the time to constantly use the skill and management to help for many years."

Another said "There were students who were falling through the cracks, but I was powerless to help them.... many of them would not be able to function in a classroom. We just needed to keep them floating." But the program taught him "There is a way to get to all of them. There is a way to convince other teachers, the administration and the students themselves that they can be successful! We can pinpoint their problems and help them overcome those problems."

One rebbi summed it up saying, now he felt "empowered to do so  much more than just teach information. I have a tremendous ability to help my students in so many ways... Chanoch lanaar al pi darko!"

Some educators comment that there's nothing new under the sun, but Dr. Weller responds, "Schools Attuned organizes and structures what we know in a user-friendly way and helps teachers bring out the best in our children."

You might say it's the missing instruction manual for chinuch.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Should intermarriage be viewed as a type of kiruv?

update: Regarding Eddie's recent comment that proselytising should be viewed as kiruv - this article presents a related viewed that intermarriage should be viewed a kiruv. Accepting intermarriage is viewed as holding on to Jews who would normally either leave the community or be driven away. I also means holding on to the 25% of their children who identify as Jews. Holding on to Jews who would otherwise be lost is called kiruv!

update     Head of Reform movement - intermarriage and kiruv

Forward  [...] Reform rabbis in particular receive no clear guidance on this issue from their denominational leaders. The decision of whether to officiate interfaith marriages is left to the clergy themselves and to their understanding of Jewish theology, of the right path for American Judaism and primarily of the needs of their own community. For some, like Zemel, coming out in support of marriage of Jewish and non-Jewish couples took the form of a letter to the community. Others took to the pulpit during prime-time High Holy Days sermons to explain their move.

“After long and deliberate consideration, I have reached this decision: Going forward, when a Jew and a non-Jew in our community here at Temple Israel come to me and state that both partners are willing to commit to a Jewish future, Jewish education for their children and the creation of a Jewish home, I will officiate happily at their chuppah,” Rabbi John Rosove stated in his 2012 Rosh Hashanah sermon at Los Angeles’s Temple Israel of Hollywood.

The stakes for Ponet were probably higher than for others. His decision in July 2010 to perform the wedding of Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky made him the rabbinic public face of interfaith marriages. “I outed myself,” he said, “and I knew it would impact the dialogue.”

Reaction to the high-profile celebrity interfaith wedding was mixed. Many expressed their support, while others saw it as a “terrible betrayal,” he recounted. Looking back, Ponet believes that performing the wedding was the right move, and that sticking to old beliefs about intermarriage contradicts the rabbinical mission of attending to the Jewish needs of Jewish people. “We were neglecting Jewish individuals for the sake of some theory of demography,” he said.

The demographic predictions that Ponet and others refer to are based primarily on studies showing that intermarriage is a key indicator for the loss of Jewish identity in the second generation. The recent survey by the Pew Research Center does find an increase in Jewish identity among individuals born to interfaith families in recent years, thanks, presumably, to a greater effort on behalf of the Jewish community to welcome intermarried families. But the numbers still show a significant difference between Jewish identification and behavior of in-married and out-married families.

“I know the statistics that only 25% of children of intermarried families will identify as Jewish, but I want to keep these 25% in our community,” Rosove said.

The Reform movement, America’s largest Jewish denomination, has become increasingly tolerant of rabbis officiating interfaith weddings. Though the movement does not have a clear policy on the issue, it is estimated that half of the 2,000 members of its rabbinic arm, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, now perform marriages between Jews and non-Jews.

But in Conservative Judaism, American Jewry’s other major liberal religious stream, rabbis struggling with this issue face a more complicated situation. The movement maintains an absolute prohibition against rabbis conducting interfaith ceremonies — or even attending such a ceremony. Violators of this ban are subject to being thrown out of the Rabbinical Assembly, Conservative Judaism’s rabbinic organization. [...]

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Oporto Community of Portugal objects to activities of Michael Freund/Shavei Israel

Dear Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn,


We would like to present the following situation.

1 – Ecumenism is being used by Shavei Israel as a weapon in favour of its proselytizing objectives.

2 – In February, Michael Freund intends to go to London with priest Agostinho Jardim Moreira to speak with "great rabbis", including the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Having no credibility whatsoever amongst Jewish religious circles, Freund will face difficulty in talking to them. However, if he asks us, we ourselves will request those meetings for him.

3 – What does Freund want to speak about with "great rabbis"? Ask if the proselytism is allowed? Ask if the conversions of false Marranos he supported in Portugal are valid? Ask whether the falsification of news and documents is acceptable? NO. He just wants to go to London and abstractly speak of "ecumenism and interreligious dialogue", but in our opinion this is nothing bet a trap for the unwary rabbis who have the misfortune of receiving him, because, in the following days, false news will be published on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, on the Arutz Sheva, etc., saying "Great London rabbis support the priest’s project", "The Jewish Community of Oporto is isolated", etc.

4 – The Jewish Community of Oporto is not against ecumenism, but rather against Shavei Israel proselytism and against the projects of this organization in Oporto. This organization was expelled from our community by Jews who have lived  in Oporto for over 50 years and by a Religious Committee of shomer mitzvot Jews. Now it is again seeking to have headquarters in this city  for its proselytizing activities, joining the Priest's project.
5 – The Shavei Israel proselytizing philosophy is subversive both to Judaism and to Christianity because there would be no Christians left in Portugal if Shavei Israel converted all Jews’ descendants in the country. Scholars believe that almost all Portuguese citizens are descendants of Jews.

6 – The trip to London is a continuation of a move that Freund tried in Oporto a few weeks ago, to break, by force, the resistance of the Jewish Community of Oporto to the project of a Jewish Memory Interpretation Centre run by a priest and Shavei Israel. Shavei Israel led the priest to arrange an "Interreligious meeting" in order to make the public presentation of the project and the meeting was scheduled for January 14, 2014, with the convening of the Portuguese press and other Jewish communities from Portugal, fact that was immediately reported in the newspapers. Of course the Jewish communities were invited to the "Interreligious meeting" without knowing that the Jewish Community of Oporto opposed the Interpretation Centre project, that is to say, they were deceived and instrumentalized to unwittingly play the role opposing the Jewish Community of Oporto.

7 – It seemed impossible to stop Shavei Israel's plan, but the strong public opposition of the Jewish Community of Oporto made the Church intervene and the "interreligious meeting" to be cancelled. Too bad for Shavei Israel. 

8 – When Shavei Israel saw its plan had failed, at once started pressuring the priest to write letters to the rabbis who are friends of the Pope, complaining about the rabbi of the Jewish Community of Oporto. The priest resisted, as he has already understood something is not right. The priest is a victim of Shavei Israel and he will have many difficulties in setting free in the future.

9 – The Jewish Community of Oporto has given Shavei Israel many proofs of benevolence, handling this issue only within the Jewish institutions. The situation will change if Shavei Israel insists on bringing the issue in the public square. We will have access to the foreign media we want and even if members who do not want protagonism (because they do not like being buffoons) have to speak publicly, they will do it in the press and wherever necessary, dismantling all the scams and demanding legal pursuit of those who have prevaricated. One must put an end to such huge, repeated evils.

10 – The Shamash and security man of the Oporto Synagogue has long written the Rabbi of Shavei Israel explaining in detail what happened with fake Marranos converted with the support of such organization. There was obviously no response. Maybe it will soon be necessary for us to publish these significant explanations and other documents in the Daas Torah. It will be disappointing to unwary benefactors who give Shavei Israel money to find “lost Jews” in Portugal.

We invite Freund, on his journey to London, to visit the Beis Din and say what he wants. We will be there waiting for him and we will use the opportunity to discuss the validity of many of the conversions supported by Shavei Israel (as for as the rabbis believe that people supported by Shavei Israel are "lost Jews", therefore the conversions are done almost automatically), including the conversion one of his converted rabbis, a former evangelic priest.

Rabbi Daniel Litvak
Religious Committee
Board of Directors

Shalom Bayis: There is no such thing as constructive criticism by Allan Katz

Guest post by Allan Katz      There is no such thing as constructive criticism – it is criticism and destructive to shalom bayis as various experts have said. Instead why not engage in CPS – collaborative problem solving and work on a mutually satisfying solution. The process is not easy , but we can avoid the following mistakes -  don't try to solve problems in the heat of the moment, talk about concerns and  problems – not behaviors . Once we have a clear understanding of the concerns of both parties, only then we can talk about solutions. 

CPS - Collaborative problem solving between spouses 

The following comment by Terisa Atkins made me appreciate how valuable a tool CPS – collaborative problem solving is for families – not only for solving problems between parents and kids and of course between kids themselves but also important for the marriage relationship. So raising kids with CPS, prepares them for life and especially for marriage.

'All too often, women think that talking to our husbands is the way to make them see how their behavior affects us. If the behavior doesn't change when we first bring it up, we want to talk more, longer, or louder because we think maybe they didn't get it the first time. One of the biggest pet peeves for men is that feeling of being nagged or badgered, especially if they don't know what the problem really is. Also, the rules of polite, kind, nice conversation that women try to follow often come off as indirect, manipulative and mysterious to men. Women often conclude that their husbands don't care because they haven't changed after a particular conversation.
What really amazed me was that same lack of skills that parents display when trying to solve problems with kids is evident when trying to solve a problem with a spouse. The husband is coming out of the conversation not really knowing what the problem really is and the woman comes off as indirect and mysterious.

This is because the woman has difficulty in articulating the problem and her concerns and in most cases is being too general and vague. She may be talking about behaviors which can be happening in many different situations and  contexts, such as 'not helping' and with this type of ' clumping '  of problems together , the man does not have a clue what the woman is saying. When the problem is too general and vague the man will have difficulty in responding in an effective manner. The response will be defensive and vague. Problems can only be solved when they are defined, are very specific and in detail.

Before I share in a real problem in the home, here are some tips to help one be more successful problem solvers. CPS is a skill and needs practice. click here for rest of post

Hungarian Neo Nazis leader becomes frum Jew

סיפורו של המנהיג הניאו נאצי שחזר בתשובה from on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dr. John Gottman: Marriage counseling often destroys the marriage

(Continuation of the thread that divorce is used to often as a solution for a bad marriage - which can typically be saved if the couple has more realistic information about the nature of marriage and what to expect.)
see also Esther Perel

Couples are often advised to go to marital counselling by rabbis/rebbetzins and friends. The assumption being that a popular therapist [or wise rabbi or rebbetzin] will be the best way to save the marriage - if there is what to save. If the therapist can't help then it is assumed that divorce is the only solution.

Dr. John Gottman takes a approach that is different and makes a lot of sense - and often works. 
Gottman found that the four negative behaviors that most predict divorce are criticism of partners’ personality, contempt (from a position of superiority), defensiveness, and stonewalling, or emotional withdrawal from interaction. On the other hand, stable couples handle conflicts in gentle, positive ways, and are supportive of each other.[5]

He developed the Gottman Method Couple’s Therapy based on his research findings. The therapy aims to increase respect, affection, and closeness, break through and resolve conflict, generate greater understandings, and to keep conflict discussions calm.[6] The Gottman Method seeks to help couples build happy and stable marriages.
 The following is one of the reviews of his books.
Amazon Review  I practiced psychotherapy in New York City for fourteen years. Though I had training as a marriage counselor in addition to my main training as a psychotherapist, I turned away more couples than I accepted. Most years, I didn't take on more than one or two couples, if that. 

There were many reasons for this, but fundamentally it was that marriage counseling rarely works. (About thirty-five to forty percent of the time, and half of those relapse, according to the best research.) I had made a vow when I went into training that I would never take on patients that I did not honestly believe I could help. (I can't say that I kept that vow sterling, being human--but I tried.) Most couples, I believed, could not be helped, so I didn't want to take their money or waste their time. 

In hard, cold truth, most of what most marriage counselors teach is just made up. Concocted. Without any sound research base. That's just a fact. When I was in training, I was utterly shocked at this. I was appalled at the simple-minded dogmatism of marriage-counseling orthodoxy. 

Most mental health care has a flimsier basis in research than its proponents admit (or even know, often), but in marriage counseling, the paucity of good research was almost total. (This evaluation of the low scientific basis of mental health care is not some private crackpot theory of mine; I wrote it up in my book "Cultures of Healing," which was published by the book-publishing arm of Scientific American in 1995 and will be republished, under a different title--"Health and Suffering in America: The Context and Content of Mental Health Care"--next year by Transaction Publishers/Rutgers. My point here is not to plug my book so much as to tell you that I know whereof I speak, and to encourage you to take my recommendation here seriously.) 

If I had known John Gottman's work back then, I would have had an entirely different approach to treating couples, and I would have taken more of them on. (No one in my three years of training ever mentioned Gottman, and I went to a pretty respectable institute. Gottman is just so at odds with conventional wisdom in the field that he wasn't even taken seriously.) 

Gottman's opinions--though he denies that they are opinions--are based on admirable, extensive, carefully analyzed research. While there is much to criticize methodologically about this research, and it certainly is nowhere near as conclusive as he says, at least he has done real work--not sat around making stuff up and pawning it off on students and patients. His is the best research of which I (now, many years later) know. Even if it isn't knock-down-drag-out conclusive, it is much better to have opinions based on extensive research and attempts to understand it rigorously than on no research, wild speculation, wishful thinking, and wooly feelings. Gotttman's opinions are very good, for the most part. 

This book does a nice job of conveying the gist of his work, in clear, practical form. 

In my experience, most marriage counselors do more harm than good and teach more made-up nonsense that practical wisdom. So unless you can find someone who trained with Gottman, I'd say DON'T go to a marriage counselor--buy this book.[...]

$680 Million sex abuse suit against Yeshiva University is thrown out

NY Daily News     The $680 million sexual-abuse lawsuit brought forth by 34 former Yeshiva University prep school students against the Washington Heights institution has been tossed out.

Manhattan Federal Judge John Koeltl ruled Thursday the claims in the lawsuit are barred by statutes of limitation because the alleged abuse by Yeshiva University High School staff occurred decades ago. The decision infuriated the plaintiffs, who plan to appeal. [...]

The state statute for negligence is three years from the time of injury and Koeltl applied the same limit to the sexual-harassment claim the plaintiffs brought under federal law. [...]

Yeshiva University is “gratified that the federal court recognized the validity of our arguments,” the school said.