Monday, March 17, 2014

How Science Mimics Faith

Scientific American   Religion provides a sense of meaning and comfort for believers, and studies show that such beliefs intensify during threatening situations. Now research suggests that some people's faith in science may serve the same role.

Miguel Farias and other researchers at the University of Oxford and Yale University investigated whether it is belief in religion that is beneficial or in fact any belief about the world's order and our place in it. In two related experiments published in November 2013 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the scientists developed a scale to measure belief in science—the view that scientific inquiry offers a superior guide to reality. As expected, belief in science was inversely correlated with religious beliefs. Next the researchers assessed whether belief in science increased in threatening situations.. [...]

“It is likely that some people use their ideas about science to make sense of the world and for emotional compensation in difficult situations in the same way that religious people use their supernatural beliefs,” Farias says. “Our findings suggest that it may be belief itself, regardless of its content, that helps people deal with adverse situations.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A psychiatric examination of Dr. Schlesinger should decisively resolve the custody fight

After spending  countless hours dealing with this sad case, I think it is necessary to take stock and ask a simple question. What will resolve the dispute? From the many comments of the supporters of Beth and Michael - it is clear that many perhaps most commentators on both sides really have no idea of what has gone on and what is going on now. However there are a significant number that clearly have knowledge about the events and the people. 

After having seen the documents involved it becomes clear that what is going on is a dispute by two sincere intelligent individuals who have totally different understanding of reality.  In other words one of these parties has a serious misunderstanding of objective reality in this case. The result is not only pain for both of them, but their children are being destroyed.While I hope to publish the main documents with translation in the near future, I don't think that is going to resolve the issue. Let me explain why.

One of the most forceful and cogent opponents of Beth is a commentator name Bubbe.   see comments here. Bubbe obviously has full access to Dr. Schlesinger's inner most thoughts as well the documents in this case. In fact she/he sounds amazingly similar to Dr. Schlesinger himself. Nevertheless Bubbe's understanding of events is not that of Beth nor is it consistent with my understanding or that of of others familiar with the case. Thus publishing the documents probably will not resolve anything.

It is very important to note the incredible fact that through all of this - Dr. Schlesinger has not been given a psychiatric examination.  Clearly either he or Beth is seriously misunderstanding reality. Beth has already been examined by a professional and declared to be free of mental illness. 

 I think that the final resolution of this matter would come about if Dr. Schlesinger agrees to be  given a mental health evaluation by a neutral psychiatrist (i.e. has no ties to him or his family or judges who are connected to his family). If he is declared to have a serious problem in understanding the reality in this case that would validate Beth's position. On the other hand if he gets a clean bill of mental health - I don't think that Beth would have any further basis for continuing her fight.

Therefore I call on both parties to reach an agreement as to what conditions the fighting will stop - which includes as a minimum as psychiatric evaluation of Dr. Schlesinger. I think in addition that it would also be important if the twins are given a full mental health and developmental evaluation. The goal of the evaluation should be to determine what is in the best interest of the twins.

If the evaluations determine that the fault lies with Beth - as Bubbe claims - then I think she shoud agree to stop fighting for her children. On the other hand if the fault lies with Dr. Schlesinger - he should give up custody and Beth should be allowed to return with them to England.  

Update: I am not calling for a public posting of anyone's psychiatric reports. I am simply requesting that Michael have an evaluation as mandated by the Vienna Appeals and Supreme Courts and which was never done.  

It is important to note that this proposal is my own and I have not discussed it with either Beth or Dr. Schlesinger.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The New York Asifa by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

update: Rabbi Hoffman's rebuttal of Rabbi Slifkin's comments

update Rabbi Slifkin sent me this rebuttal

Five Towns Jewish Time   This is a response to my good friend Reb Barry Jacobson’s remarks on the Asifa this past Sunday in Manhattan.  It also addresses his inquiry printed in the Five Towns Jewish Times about Torah sources regarding Bnei Torah continuing to study rather than serving in the army.  There is no question, of course, that the soldiers who are protecting the nation against the enemies of the Jewish people are fulfilling a remarkable task and a holy role.  Certainly, all of us who are beneficiaries of their bravery and dedication should express our sincere hakaras haTov and pray for their welfare and well-being.

The leading sages of America, Degel HaTorah, Agudah in Eretz Yisroel and the sages of Shas – the Sefardic Torah organization had all signed on for the call to join in the mass gathering in the Wall Street area.  The mass gathering was to show solidarity with the Torah community in Israel that is facing the unprecedented law in the state of Israel’s history to draft Yeshiva students into the armed forces.

This response is an explanation and a historical overview about the confluence of army service and Torah study.   Not everyone will agree with the explanations and positions set forth here.  However, those that do not agree must realize that they do come from a very different socio-religious milieu than those in the Chareido world who have been brought up with and raised with a deep appreciation of Torah being the only definition of true life.

Serious-minded Chareidi Jews do not merely recite the words of the blessings of the Shma perfunctorily.  No.  When they recite the words, “Ki haim chayeinu – for they are our life – v’orech yameinu and the pathways of our life..” – they truly mean it. [...]

What is missing in all this, however, is the realization that we are all children of the same mother and father.  We are all parts of the same body and we should treat each other with the respect and love that we must have for our family members – even if we do disagree as to what approach should be emphasized or adopted.   Recently, we have seen two conflicting PR Youtube videos to a song entitled “Anu Mashkimim v’haim Mashkimim.”  The song explains how we awaken early for the right purposes, they awaken early for useless purposes.  The song was used by both sides of the debate to denigrate the other side.  Both uses of the song are wrong.  We stand now in the month of Adar.  The Manos HaLevi, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz, explains that the concept of Shalach Manos is to further brotherly love and ahavas Yisroel among ourselves.  It is to counter the statement of Haman that the Jewish nation is Mefuzar and Mefurad throughout the nations because of their lack of unity.  The month of Adar should counter the spirit of disunity and contribute to family love.

May Hashem speedily grant mutual respect and unity among us.  Amain!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: Excerpts from court documents regarding Dr. Schlesinger

The following are excerpts from court documents relating to Dr Schlesinger's attempt to have his wife committed to a mental hospital falsely claiming she was a paranod schizophrenic and  that he was a psychiatrist. There are a number of facts cited from documents which clearly indicate problems with Dr. Schlesinger - that were ignored by the judge who awarded him custody.

Failure of the courts to take any account of Schlesinger’s abuse of the mother and its traumatising effect on the children
  1. Not only did Schlesinger enlist his friend, high court Judge Konstanz Thau to assist him in wresting the children from my care, he also manipulated his medical friend and colleague, Dr Paul Földes, head of psychiatry in the Wilheminen Hospital where the father was doing his traineeship to support Schlesinger´s plan to falsely diagnose me and have me sectioned.
  2. Göttlicher held a hearing on 9 August 2011 to hear the witnesses – police officers, police psychiatrist and paramedics who were present the day the father tried to commit me to a mental hospital. After hearing their evidence, Göttlicher could have been in no doubt that I was not mentally ill and the diagnosis was fabricated by the father and his friend and colleague with whom he colluded, Paul Földes. In fact Göttlicher herself stated the following in her order granting the father unsupervised access, 31.7.2010:
Die Feststellungen, zum Umstand, dass haben weder Amtsarztin noch einschreitender Sanitater einer psychischen Erkrankrung der Mutter sahen, stutz sich zum einem auf vorliegenden Polizeibericht samt amtsartzlicher Bescheinigung nach $ 6 UbG, ON 3, sowie auf die zeugenschgaftlichen Einvernahmen dieser beiden Personen im Scheidungsverfahren der Streitteile”
It can be concluded that neither the police psychiatrist, not the paramedics that were present saw any indication of mental illness in the mother, which is supported by the documented police reports, the medical report by the police psychiatrist, as well as their witness testimonies in the process of the divorce proceedings.”

Witness testimony of events of 11.2.2010 and 16.2.2010

  1. Statement by the police psychiatrist, Dr Schreitl:
Es ist richtig, es war ein Bekannter des Ehemannes, ein Psychiater (anm. Dr. Földes), dabei, der auch sagte, dass die Frau eingewiesen gehört. Der war auch vor Ort. … Ich habe danach auch noch am Gang mit ihm gesprochen und habe ihn gefragt, wie er auf die Idee kommt. Er sagte mir, dass er die Geschichte nur vom Ehemann weiß und dass er selbst die Frau nicht exploriert hat. …. Ich habe ihn darauf hingewiesen, dass er sich zunächst selbst ein psychiatrisches Bild zu machen hat.“
Ich war daraufhin nicht unbedingt freundlichen am Gang. Ich habe ihn auf seine Kompetenzen als Psychiater hingewiesen und darauf, dass er ein Facharzt ist, dass man so fachkundig nicht vorgehen kann, und dass er nahe am Rufmord vorbeischrammt. …. Ich habe ihn darauf hingewiesen, dass er sich zunächst selbst ein psychiatrisches Bild zu machen hat.“
Translation: “It is true that there was a colleague of the father, a psychiatrist (Dr Földes) there, who also stated that the wife must be sectioned. He was also there...I then spoke to him in the corridor and asked him how he came to such a conclusion. He told me that he knew the story from the husband but that he himself had not examined the wife.......I told him that he was then obliged to carry out his own psychiatric assessment.
I wasn't completely unfriendly after that. I questioned his competence as a psychiatrist and said that as a specialist, such an expert he could not behave in that way and he had totally abused his powers....”
  1. Further statement from Dr Schreitl demonstrating that the father fabricated the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia:
  2. Auf Frage der KV an Dr. Schreitel, wie es dazu kam, dass ich in Richtung einer Erkrankung aus dem paranoid-schizophrenen Formenkreis zu untersuchen sei, sagte Dr. Schreitl:
Die Polizisten haben mir gesagt, der Ehemann hätte ihnen das so erklärt.“
Translation: In response to the question to Dr Schreitl how it came about that I examined the mother for evidence of paranoid schizophrenia, Dr Schreitl replied:
The police told me so, the husband had claimed it.”
  1. Statement by Police Inspector Aigner:
Es hat uns wieder der Ehemann empfangen und uns mitgeteilt, dass die Frau krank ist und dass sie eingewiesen gehört.“
„…Da ist der Ehemann dann in die Küche gegangen und hat dem Rettungsdienst immer wieder das Telefon hingehalten und gemeint, sie sollten am Telefon mit jemanden sprechen, mit einem Arzt (Dr. Földes).“
Translation: The husband repeatedly insisted that his wife was mentally ill and needed to be sectioned....
then the husband went into the kitchen and kept telling the paramedics they must speak to someoone who was on the phone, to a doctor (Dr Foldes)

  1. Statement by Paramedic, Thorsten Brandstetter (paramedic):
Er (Dr. Schlesinger) sagte uns dann auch, dass er mit einem Oberarzt telefoniert hat, und dass er will, dass sie ins Krankenhaus kommt.“
Translation: He (Dr Schlesinger) also then told us that he had called a specialist and that he also wants the wife to be hospitalised.
  1. On 11.2.2010, after I called the police because of the father's violence (he again pushed me as I was holding one of the babies) the father, a trainee doctor lied to the police that he was a psychiatrist.
  2. Statement by police inspector, Ing. Franz Trittremmel
Auf Frage unter Vorhalt, dass hier dokumentiert ist, der Ehemann habe sich als Psychiater genannt:
Ich neige nicht dazu, etwas zu erfinden. Ich würde so etwas nicht an der Haaren herbeiziehen. Für mich als Einschreiter ist es ja irrelevant, ob sich der Ehemann als Psychiater, Staatsanwalt oder sonst jemand bezeichnet. Ich gehe daher davon aus, dass das, was drinnen steht, so auch gefallen ist.“
Translation: In response to the event where it is documented the father (falsely) claimed he was a psychiatrist:
I do not invent things. I wouldn't document something as false. However, for me it is irrelevant if the husband is a psychiatrist, attorney general or something else. I can only state that if I wrote it, then that is what was said at the time.”
  1. Dr Krenn reported both Dr Schlesinger and Dr Foldes to the Medical Chamber for massive abuse of their powers but as far as I know, no action was taken against them.
  2. While he may not have been struck off as a doctor, his abuse of his doctor´s credentials as well as the subversive attempts to separate the the twins from their mother should, in any event, have excluded all possibility of the father ever gaining custody of the children. Indeed, he was prevented from unsupervised access for a whole year because of his actions on this day. (It is questionable why the Supreme Court decided to overturn his supervised access without any new evidence).
  3. Not only was this episode not taken into account by Göttlicher, it was later discovered that these documents are missing from the custody file. (This will be dealt with later in the report under 'suppression of evidence')
  4. The subsequent Appeal Courts have also failed to take any account of the father´s documented abuse in this shameful episode.
  5. Although all the other witnesses clearly heard Schlesinger and Földes falsely diagnose me with paranoid schizophrenia, (as above) Földes denied diagnosing me, stating that this is a serious diagnosis that he would not label people with lightly. QUOTE
  6. Göttlicher accepts Földes false testimony, ignoring the contradictory evidence of the police witnesses who clearly heard him diagnose me with paranoid schizophrenia and in her custody decision refers only to Földes’ own account that he was only of the opinion that the history and the situation at that time was “enough to result in a psychologically stressed situation.” The appeal court similarly stated, somewhat remarkably, that “the relationship problems between the mother and the father and the events surrounding the eviction of the father are no longer decisive elements.”
  7. Göttlicher refers in her Custody decision to my claims that Schlesinger was also violent generally during throughout the marriage. However she goes on to say that “the expert [Willinger] found nothing in the whole examination that indicated that the father might be aggressive, violent or not in control of his impulses. Göttlicher did not send Willinger copies of the police documents of this episode and all mention of it is omitted in her report.
  8. In the custody decision, Göttlicher failed to mention Willinger’s hypothesis as stated by her in the 10 hour court hearing, that either the mother is not mentally ill and everything she alleged about the violence is correct, or she is mentally ill and is paranoid. My lawyer asked what we could deduce about the father if I were not mentally ill and willinger stated this would be 'manipulation' by the father:
Wenn man die Gegenhypothese annimmt, dass die Mutter nicht krank ist, dann ist das Ereignis für sich allein eine Manipulation.
If we accept the opposing hypothesis, that the mother is not mentally ill, then the father's actions can be seen as manipulation.' Transcript, court hearing Willinger, 24.7.2011
As three further psychiatric reports (including a court commissioned one) all confirmed the mother is clearly not mentally ill, according to Willinger's reasoning, the father is manipulative.
  1. That Földes abused his position by relying on Schlesinger’s account without performing his own assessment is beyond question. The only question is what was his motive in doing so. The only logical explanation is that of collusion between Schlesinger and Földes, his colleague and friend. That Schlesinger is capable of manipulating friends in this way in an attempt to have his wife sectioned should surely have been an immense concern for the judge in evaluating his suitability to be given custody over children.
Effect of violence on children
  1. The children witnessed this entire barbaric episode: a team of 5-6 armed policemen in our apartment, a team of 3-4 paramedics, a police psychiatrist, Dr Földes, a violent father insitstent on the children´s mother being taken away. The children displayed signs of trauma immediately afterwards: sleeping and eating problems, clinginess and general insecurity.
  2. The Appeal Court (par x above) stated that events between parents and children were irrelevant to a custody decision.
  3. However, when questioned in court about the effect of witnessing domestic violence on children, Expert psychologist Dr Sinko-Sanz:
Auf Frage der Vertreterin der Mutter nach der Trennung der Eltern am 16.2.2010, und dass die Kinder in dieser Situation waren, ob das auch einen Einfluss auf die Entwicklung haben kann.
Das ist etwas, das ein Punkt sein kann und sicher zu berücksichtigen ist. Es ist bekannt, dass Kinder, die eine belastende Aaussensituation erleben, sich zurückziehen.“
In response to a question from the mother´s lawyer about the separation of the parents on 16.2.2010 and that the children were in this situation, whether that may have an impact on development.
This is something that can be a point and must surely be taken into consideration. It is known that children who have experienced a stressful situation, withdraw themselves.
  1. In fact, the expert states that her initial impression of the children was that they were underdeveloped because they were traumatised. She therefore recommended calm and stability:
Es ist vorstellbar, dass ein derartiges Sozialverhalten dann entsteht, wenn es eine schwere Traumatisierung in der frühen Kindheit gegeben hat. Das war meine erste Vermutung in der ersten Vermutungsdiagnose. Ich habe daher diese Empfehlung nach Ruhe und Gleichmäassigkeit gegeben.“
"It is conceivable that such a social behavior arises when there has been severe trauma in early childhood. That was my suspicion in the first diagnosis. Therefore I recommended calm and regularity. "
  1. It is therefore very likely that the father´s own violent behavior and actions towards me and the children was the very cause of the developmental delay in the children which is the main subject of Willinger´s report. Yet Willinger failed to take this into account.
  2. Expert Witness, Dr Sinko-Sanz, Court hearing 17 June 2011:
Auf Frage der Verteterin der Mutter, dass wenn Kinder Gewalt erlebt haben, ob das auch einen Einfluss haben kann:
Prinzipiell ja.
Auf Nachfrage der Vertreterin der Mutter, dass für den Fall, dass die Mutter verbale und psychische Gewalt erlebt hat und die Kinder die miterlebt haben, ob dann die Kinder in ihrer Entwicklung beeinträachtigt sein könnten:
Grundsätzlich ja, das ist vom ausmass, dem Alter und den umgebenden Konstellation abhängig.”
In response to the question posed by the mother´s lawyer that if children have experienced violence, whether that may have an impact:
In principle, yes.
In response to the further questioning by the mother´s lawyer that in the event that the mother has experienced verbal and psychological violence and the children have witnessed it, whether that also has an influence on the child´s development:
Basically, yes, that depends on the extent, the age, and the surrounding factors.”
  1. It is totally unclear why Willinger accepted the father´s testimony over mine when it had been proven he had repeatedly lied, even to the police that he was a psychiatrist when he was in fact a trainee doctor. His false diagnosis of me was fully disproven by the police psychiatrist and later by 2 further court psychiatrists, whereas nothing I have said has been disproven.
  2. Willinger claimed everything I said about the father was untrue:
Die Kindesmutter gibt an, tief getroffen von der Tatsache zu sein, dass der Kindes vater ihr eine psychische Erkrankung zuschreibe, und zeigt u.a.während der Befunderhebung eine herabgesetzte Stressbelastung auf (unvorhergesehene) Ereignisse…Darüber hinaus lässt sich eine herabgesetzte mentale Flexibilität in Bezug auf Inhalte, die den Kindesvater betrefen.“ P.75 Willinger report
The children's mother admits to being deeply affected by the fact that the children's father ascribes mental illness to her, but shows during the diagnostic assessment a reduced stress to (unexpected) events ... In addition, she showed a reduced mental flexibility in terms of content that concerns the children's father. "

Schlesinger Twins: Dr. Schlesinger refuses to let Chief Rabbi hand twins to mother

This is documentation that Dr. Schlesinger refuses to let the Chief Rabbi hand over the twins to their mother for free. He insists that she continue paying 50 euros to a government agent to do the same. See further information here

Schlesinger twins: Documentation of Dr. Schlesinger canceling a visit

A number of Dr. Schlesinger's supporters have denied that he has canceled Beth's visits with her children and have demanded documentary evidence. Here is an email from the latest cancellation.


From: Christine Schlotter
Date: 2014-03-09 19:08 GMT+01:00
Subject: AW: Besuchscafe Aneli mj. schlesinger
To: Beth Alexander

Sehr geehrte Frau Schlesinger,
ich bin nicht sicher, ob ich Ihnen schon gesagt habe:
Herr Schlesinger kann die Kinder am 16.3.2014 nicht bringen.
Nächster Termin ist 23.3.2014 9:00 Uhr.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Christine Schlotter

Dear Mrs Schlesinger,
I an not sure if I already told you:
Mr Schlesinger cannot bring the children on 16. 3.2014.
The next appointment is 23.3.2014 at 9am,
Kind Regards,
Christine Schlotter

Beth Schlesinger: Purim is not just about external enemies

 Guest Post by Beth Schlesinger

This Purim, like last year, I will not be spending with my children. My Sunday visit is cancelled. This year, like last year, I have no idea how Sammy and Benji will celebrate, if they even have a costume or if they will even be taken to a Purim party to be with all the other children. I sincerely hope so. Even if they can't celebrate this joyous day with their mother, I wish them all the fun, laughter and happiness in the world.  

As I think about my own personal tragedy, I reflect on the story of Purim and try to find new meaning behind the traditional and superficial story we tell our children. 

Since my boys attend the Chabad kindergarden, where better to look for a Purim lesson than in their teachings?

I found the following:

Purim teaches us that in a time of crisis, faced with a ruthless enemy like Haman, we must turn all the more tenaciously to our source of strength, and show that we are “the People of Mordechai, who would not kneel nor bow down” to anything that is contrary to Yiddishkeit.

As a child and even into adulthood, I was always taught and naively believed that our enemies are external; dangerously lurking on the other side of the fence ready to pounce, while we stand united with our Jewish brethren, smugly secure within the tightly protected confines of our communities. It is only now, as an adult after tasting the bitter pill of reality that I realise how childishly simplistic the story is told. Haman versus Mordechai, Vashti versus Esther. The goodies pitted squarely against the baddies, neatly delineated into 2 camps: Haman the evil gentile who tried to destroy us, the good and innocent Jewish victims. But we, the chosen People, stood together as one and defeated the menacing enemy. Everyone celebrated and was happy until the next existential threat rose up to conquer us once again.

But what happens when there is a Haman within our midst? When not everyone in the Jewish community is a Mordechai or Queen Esther? When elements within our own camp seek to mercilessly destroy us and rejoice over our downfall just like Haman tried and failed to do. What do you do when the lines blur so that you can no longer be sure who are your enemies and who are your supporters?

Kol Yisroel areivim zeh bazeh. All of Israel are responsible for one another, we are told. If only more people were to realize this dictum and take heed. 

Purim is an elusive festival. It is a story wrapped in disguise, hidden behind a costume, concealed behind a mask. While it may appear frivolous merry making from the outside, behind the costumes and spiels, a meta-story unfolds.  Just when Haman arrogantly believed his plot was all sewn up, everything suddenly turned on its head. Instead of destroying, he was the one destroyed. He tried to inspire hatred for the Jews but instead, he emerged as the hated one. 
Purim is traditionally associated with childish fun but there is also a serious adult message to take home.The word Purim comes from 'Pur;' the lots which Haman drew to murder the Jews but it is also related to the Hebrew word `porer, ' which means to dismantle, break, destroy, break into crumbs It is perhaps at times we assume we are most in control that we can be so wrong. Hashem may unexpectedly reveal His hidden hand at any moment and that is why even in the depths of darkness and despair, we must cling on to our faith and not lose hope. 

Purim Sameach

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The gender-free revolution crashes on the rock of reality

Time     This week marks the 40th anniversary of an event close to the hearts of gender activists everywhere. On March 11, 1974, ABC aired Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be…You and Me” — a musical program celebrating gender-free children. Thomas and her fellow co-neutralists envisioned a world where the sex distinction would melt away. Instead of “males” and “females,” there would be mutually respectful, non-gendered human persons. The project resulted in a platinum LP, a best-selling book, and an Emmy. More than that, the idea of gender liberation entered the national zeitgeist. Parents everywhere began giving their daughters trucks and sons baby dolls. Like so many dream boats floating on the utopian sea, this one crashed and sank when it hit the rocks of reality.
In one “Free to Be” song, two babies discuss their life goals: the female wants to be a fireman; the male, a cocktail waitress. Another tells about a girl who liked to say, “Ladies First” — only to wind up being the first to be eaten by tigers. The songs drive home the idea that we are all androgynous beings unfairly constrained by social stereotypes. “William‘s Doll” is memorable. “A doll, said William, is what I need. To wash and clean and dress and feed.” In the end his kindly grandmother buys him the coveted toy.[...]

In 2009, David Geary, a University of Missouri psychologist, published the second edition of Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences. This thorough, fair-minded, and comprehensive survey of the literature includes more than 50 pages of footnotes citing studies by neuroscientists, endocrinologists, geneticists, anthropologists, and psychologists showing a strong biological basis for many gender differences. And, as Geary recently told me, “One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes is children’s play preferences.” The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species. Researchers have found, for example, that female vervet monkeys play with dolls much more than their brothers, who prefer balls and toy cars. Nor can human reality be tossed aside. In all known societies, women tend to be the nurturers and men the warriors. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker points to the absurdity of ascribing these universal differences to socialization: “It would be an amazing coincidence that in every society the coin flip that assigns each sex to one set of roles would land the same way.” [...]

The writer Andrew Sullivan is right when he describes the sex difference as “so obvious no one really doubted it until very recently, when the blank-slate left emerged, merging self-righteousness with empirical delusion.” That delusion was jumpstarted in 1974 with the advent of “Free To Be… You and Me.” Today, an army of gender scholars and activists is marching in support of the genderless ideal. But these warriors forget that ignoring differences between boys and girls can be just as damaging as creating differences where none exist. “Free to Be” is a cautionary example of how an idealistic social fantasy can turn into a blueprint for repression.

Science and Objective Reality: "Is It Solipsistic in Here, or Is It Just Me?"

Scientific American     The book, Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn, is the story of my 17-year journey with my father to figure out the nature of ultimate reality and what we discovered, quite frankly, is not what any marketing team wants to hear. Quantum mechanics, relativity, black hole physics, cosmology and string theory all point to the same radical, paradigm-shifting conclusion: every observer’s reference frame defines its own universe, singular and complete, and even though any reference frame is as good as any other, we can only speak about one at a time. [...]

My belief in this cosmic solipsism is a sad lesson in irony, really, because this whole thing – my career, my universe, my book—began with a conversation. I was fifteen years old, having dinner in a Chinese restaurant, when my father leaned over and asked, “How would you define nothing?” He told me that he was trying to understand how you can get something from nothing, how a universe could be born. [...]

Our first major breakthrough came when we realized that physics can pin down what’s real and what isn’t. It’s one of those things that’s somehow stupidly obvious and yet deeply profound: something is real if it’s invariant. That is, something is real if it remains unchanged from one reference frame to the next. Just look at a rainbow. You’ll see one in the sky if you’re in just the right reference frame with the Sun shining in from behind you, and droplets of water in the atmosphere refracting the light. It’s pretty, but good luck trying to grab it. A rainbow is not a physical object stapled to the sky. It’s a product of your reference frame. Which is to say, it’s not real.

Ok, so what is real? Space? Time? Particles? Forces? Well Einstein showed that space and time aren’t real– they change from one reference frame to another. However, something remains invariant in the process: a unified, four-dimensional spacetime. “Space by itself and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality,” the mathematician Hermann Minkowski declared.

And the thing my father and I learned is that ever since Einstein, theoretical physics has been one long death march for invariants. With his infamous discovery that black holes radiate, Stephen Hawking declared particles observer-dependent (along with fields and the quantum vacuum to boot). String theory did away with the invariance of dimensions and M-theory did away with the invariance of strings. By studying what happens when stuff falls into a black hole, Leonard Susskind discovered that the unified spacetime Einstein had left unscathed is itself observer-dependent. As for nature’s four fundamental forces, Einstein did away with gravity (“We are able to ‘produce’ a gravitational field merely by changing the system of coordinates,” he wrote) while the development of gauge theory took care of the other three. Every last one of the so-called fundamental ingredients of nature has turned out to be a shadow. Unreal.[...]

The death of the last remaining invariants is a new development in physics, but the specter of solipsism has been looming for decades, ever since the first generation of quantum physicists struggled to understand what the theory meant. “It is conceivable we must give up on any ‘one-world’ view of physics,” the legendary physicist John Archibald Wheeler scrawled in his journal as he wrestled with the mystery of the quantum. Quantum theory seems to go haywire when you assume that multiple observers occupy the same universe. I might open Schrodinger’s box to find a dead cat, but what if the cat, the box, and I are sitting inside an even bigger box, one that some other observer—my father, perhaps— hasn’t opened yet? To me, that cat is dead, but to my father it’s simultaneously dead and alive, and so am I. If there’s only one reality, which one is it? Quantum mechanics is just boxes within boxes – unless you stipulate that there’s only one box, in which case the whole issue of writing books becomes a little thorny.[...]

Advice for turning a manuscript into a published book

I thought the following description of the process of turning a manuscript into a book would be helpful to motivate some of you want to publish but really had no idea of how to do it. This is not to be construed as an endorsement of the services of Moshe Cohen as I have never used his services.

Guest post by Moshe Cohen

Before you publish...

Books distribute in two general paths:

1. A publisher thinks your book is a money maker and distributes it. Sometimes they even fund publishing. 2. The author or his agent does so, on his own dime.

A publisher or distributor will take a sefer only if he gauges it a winner. He can probably tell just from a sample. One person you might want to contact is Mr Yoni Posen of Y'fei Nof. He will give you his honest opinion on if your sefer is profitable. Most seforim are not.

On the other hand, although most books are not popular best-sellers, that does not mean they ought not be printed. Why?
  • People publish a book to establish themselves as an expert. An author is instantly an expert. Often, that turns into more clients.

  • A therapist will sell his client a workbook to cement their commitment, or to add another product to their service. In place of therapy alone, they offer a book too.

  • Speakers often sell their books from a small table in the back of the lecture room. 

  • People write to impact or inspire others - they want to get their message out.

  • Writing itself is often the goal. For some it spurs their growth - writing a book is an excellent focuser. For others its therapeutic, healing and enlightening.
Profit is nice, but not always essential. And besides, books can sell online too, cutting out the need for extensive distribution or printing many copies. So although most people dream of Feldheim, Gitler, Yfei Nof or Artscroll distributing their book, perhaps that focus is misplaced. (The publisher/distributor will often take three quarters of all profits. It may still be worthwhile, but be aware of this.) 

How to start:

Stage 1: Type the book. Hand written notes cannot be published. Type it out yourself, or give a typist your manuscript or audio. Typing is usually charged per character, expect to pay $2 for each thousand characters, meaning that a normal page is about $4.50, either Hebrew or English.

Stage 2: After the typing, edit. Rearrange the content into the most logical sequence, add or subtract material and add a table of contents and index. Do it yourself or get a pro. Anywhere between $10 and $30 an hour is reasonable.

Stage 3: Proofreading: check for mistakes and typos. Again, can be hired out.

Stage 4: Typesetting, or layout is $2 to $5 per page, depending on if its a single text, or multi-text, such as a main text and a perush or footnotes. This will also furnish that professional look a real sefer has, with its varied fonts and typefaces.

At this point you can admire your finished, handsome, print-ready pdf file.

Stage 5: Cover design. This is for a pro, unless you have something really plain in mind. Graphics for a sefer run $200 to $500

Stage 6: Printing. What paper are you using? How many pages? Oh well. Ballpark, printing can be $4 to $9 each book.

Often graphics are incorporated in the sefer [not just the cover]. Allocate pages for haskomos, iluy nishmas, divider pages between chapters and so on. Just saying...
You will notice that each stage can be done alone. It can be done part by part, as your time and resources permit. Do take note of that, for many worthwhile seforim went unwritten because the author thought its all or nothing. (It was Nothing...)

What are some bear-traps and problems to look out for?

When you come to an agreement with an editor, take pains to ensure that the agreement is understood the same way on both sides. Did you intend that your editor would recast the text, but he thought to skim over it with a light hand, only taking out obvious errors? Well, you are heading for a misunderstanding and disappointment.
When you are making a cover, you surely have some picture in mind. Does your graphic artist share that picture. Are you SURE? When one of you speak English and the other Hebrew, please double check everything. Yes, it does seem redundant.... until you receive the wrong color imprint for your cover!!!! (Actually happened to us!)
Ok, thats pretty much it. With so much time and resources needed, sometimes Yiush sets in, and the bustle of life blocks this worthwhile endeavor. There are people who specialize in all this hachanah l'dfus, and do explore using them. They are working with editors, typesetters and printers regularly, and can often save you much time, money and effort!

About the author: Moshe Cohen prepares books and seforim for print and looks forward to working with you. Contact him at moshe @ His website is

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

First of alleged Epstein-Wohlmark Get torture ring - confesses

update NY Times   (Reuters) - Two Brooklyn brothers have admitted participating in a violent ring with rabbis that threatened Jewish husbands to agree to grant their wives a religious divorce, and they face possible lengthy prison terms, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Avrohom Goldstein, 34, and Moshe Goldstein, 31, were among 10 men, including their father and two Orthodox Jewish rabbis, arrested last fall in the alleged scheme in which they hired themselves out to unhappy wives who wanted their husbands kidnapped and beaten until they agreed to divorce, according to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. [...]

 Last week, David Hellman, 31, a New York personal trainer, also pleaded guilty to being part of the violent ring. Hellman's sentencing is set for June 12.
Wall Street Journal  A Brooklyn man has admitted to traveling to New Jersey to coerce a Jewish man to give his wife a religious divorce - called a 'get' - through threats of violence.

The U.S. attorney's office says David Hellman pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Trenton.

Prosecutors say the 31-year-old personal trainer was part of an alleged plot involving several men, including two rabbis, which arranged religious divorces through torture and kidnapping.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12

Huffington Post   The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics state infants aged 0-2 years should not have any exposure to technology, 3-5 years be restricted to one hour per day, and 6-18 years restricted to 2 hours per day (AAP 2001/13, CPS 2010). Children and youth use 4-5 times the recommended amount of technology, with serious and often life threatening consequences (Kaiser Foundation 2010, Active Healthy Kids Canada 2012). Handheld devices (cell phones, tablets, electronic games) have dramatically increased the accessibility and usage of technology, especially by very young children (Common Sense Media, 2013). As a pediatric occupational therapist, I'm calling on parents, teachers and governments to ban the use of all handheld devices for children under the age of 12 years. Following are 10 research-based reasons for this ban. Please visit to view the Zone'in Fact Sheet for referenced research. 

1. Rapid brain growth
Between 0 and 2 years, infant's brains triple in size, and continue in a state of rapid development to 21 years of age (Christakis 2011). Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli, or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010). 

2. Delayed Development
Technology use restricts movement, which can result in delayed development. One in three children now enter school developmentally delayed, negatively impacting literacy and academic achievement (HELP EDI Maps 2013). Movement enhances attention and learning ability (Ratey 2008). Use of technology under the age of 12 years is detrimental to child development and learning (Rowan 2010). [...]