Friday, October 9, 2015

Chief Rabbi warns against Open Orthodox speakers at synagogues

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has warned United Synagogue rabbis to avoid inviting “inappropriate” speakers in a confidential memo sent to them and the chairmen of their synagogues a few days ago.

He wrote that it had been prompted by a number of recent developments in communities which had cause him “great concern”.

He said that he had previously made rabbis aware of the importance of not offering a platform “to speakers who are inappropriate” at his rabbinical conference in July.

Synagogues should not host speakers who represent an outlook “which encourages practices which run contrary to our normative United Synagogue approach”. [...]

International Beis Din for Agunos: Rabbi Krauss' attempted rebutal of critics

I just received the following letter from Rabbi Gordimer

Yasher koach to Rabbi Student for his superb response to Rabbi Krauss' attempted rebuttal. The sheer emptiness of R Krauss' piece, in which he had every opportunity to defend his position but was totally silent on the material issues and instead resorted to insult and emotion, is the greatest indictment of the IBD's legitimacy:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tamar Epstein: Predictions of Mark Oppenheimer of NYT from 2 years ago

Blog December 20, 2013   NO, TAMAR EPSTEIN DID NOT GET A GET

Is Tamar Epstein free?

The Modern Orthodox, agunah-minded, and Jewish/religious/feminist blogospheres (a small and particular world, admittedly) were abuzz yesterday with the news that Tamar Epstein, whom I in the Times dubbed the country’s most famous agunah, or chained wife (that is, her husband has withheld from her a religious divorce) is now “free.” This news appeared on her Facebook page and in a press release e-mailed widely by activist group ORA, the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot.

But several people with intimate knowledge of the situation have confirmed for me that Epstein did not in fact receive a get, the writ of religious divorce. One could infer this from the wording that she is now ”free,” with no mention of a get. Rather — and I am a bit fuzzier on the details here — it seems that a beit din, or religious court, has anulled her marriage, ruling that it was never valid.[...] It seems that Epstein has finally found some grounds to persuade a beit din to annul the marriage. What were the grounds? Nobody is talking. [...]

This declaration could prompt a real schism between some Orthodox and other, more right-leaning Orthodox Jews. If this case sets a precedent, rabbinic courts may begin “freeing” more women, who go on to re-marry, while their husbands are convinced the old marriage is still in effect. Then, the children produced by the new marriages will be considered mamserim, or bastards — a huge stigma in Judaism. The children will be shunned, the mothers will be shunned, and the rabbis who performed the women’s second marriages will be written out of some precincts of Orthodoxy.

To which those women, and their rabbis, and their male and female supporters, could say: “Who cares?” And if they have a critical mass of support, it is they, not their ex-husbands and their supporters, who will be marginalized. I once asked a prominent Orthodox rabbi how many rabbis it would take to support new, more liberal measures to free agunot. “90 percent,” he answered. “If 90 percent of Orthodox rabbis were with us, the other 10 percent could scream ‘Mamersim!’ all they wanted, but they’d fall in line.”

Riverdale Synagogue Appoints Second Woman As Rabba

Jewish Week   Move at HIR seems to renege on Rabbi Avi Weiss’ promise; drives further wedge between centrist and ‘open’ Orthodoxy

While Rabba Sara Hurwitz of Riverdale’s Hebrew Institute (HIR) made headlines in 2010 as America’s first Orthodox “Rabba,” the negotiated title for female rabbi, she now has company.
In its newsletter last week, the 600-family Orthodox congregation in the Bronx welcomed the newly appointed Rabba Dr. Anat Sharbat, the second woman to assume the role in the congregation. In her part-time capacity, Rabba Sharbat, who holds a doctorate in Talmud from Bar-Ilan University, will be assuming all pastoral responsibilities, including counseling, lecturing, and presiding at lifecycle events. She could not be reached for comment.

Though the appointment met with a unanimous vote of approval from the synagogue’s board of trustees (with three abstentions), the move seems to renege on a prior agreement made between Rabbi Avi Weiss, rabbi emeritus of HIR, and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest coalition of Orthodox rabbis, that Rabba Hurwitz would be the one and only “rabba.” Subsequently the term “maharat” was used, a Hebrew acronym for “leader of Jewish law, spirituality and Torah.”

In 2010, Rabbi Weiss, then a member of the RCA, backtracked from his near-ordination of female rabbis under extreme pressure from the Orthodox right, agreeing instead to the rabba designation. At the time, the RCA expressed satisfaction at the controversy’s resolution and support for “appropriate” leadership roles for women. [...]

Refuah Shleima needed for Rav Nota Greenblatt

This sign has been hanging in Lakewood Yeshiva for several day - and was posted on R Yudel Shain's blog R Yudel Shain's blog.

Does anyone know why it is not being publicized elsewhere?

Austria's obscene brand of justice: Holocaust historians condemn Austria jailing of Jewish writer

BBC    Holocaust historians have hit out at the Austrian government after a Jewish writer, who catalogued the state's failure to return properties seized by the Nazis, was jailed in Vienna.

Stephan Templ, 54, has begun a one-year sentence for defrauding the state.

He was convicted in 2013 after omitting the name of an estranged aunt in an application on behalf of his mother for the return of property seized in 1938.

But legal experts said it was not his responsibility to find other heirs.

The lengthy case has drawn widespread condemnation amid allegations Austria has not done enough to return property looted under the Third Reich.

Historian Efraim Zuroff, renowned for his efforts at bringing Nazi war criminals to court, told the BBC on Tuesday the jailing of Templ was "absolutely outrageous".

Meanwhile, Templ's lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, described it as "outright injustice".
Vienna prosecutors have not commented on the case. [...]

Meanwhile Efraim Zuroff, one of 75 Holocaust historians who signed a letter urging the government to cancel the sentence, criticised Austria's handling of cases relating to the Third Reich - including the prosecution of Nazi war criminals. 

"This a country that has a really very twisted way of dealing with Holocaust related issues," he said.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tamar Epstein: Conjecture on how Rabbi Greenblatt decided that Aharon Friedman was not fit to be a husband?

Tamar Epstein has gotten remarried without a Get - the question is how? I would like to offer some conjecture on the matter since Rabbi Greenblatt has refused to explain the matter -  as has Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky and Rabbi Shalom Kaminetsky. I repeat that this is conjecture - and I welcome evidence that either supports or refutes it.

It is clearly on the basis of unknown rabbis paskening  - kiddushei ta'us - that her marriage to Aharon Friedman was viewed by them as a mistake and thus had no validity and she was therefore not an eishis ish. The question is on what basis did they determine this. The gemora does not provide such a solution nor does Shulchan Aruch. 

In recent years some rabbis have claimed to rely on the psak of Rav Moshe Feinstein to declare marriages to be non-existent. The most notorious of these rabbis was Rabbi Rackman - whose beis din and heterim were widely despised and discredited. As Rabbi Bleich wrote in his critique, according to Rabbi Rackman the mere fact that a husband refused to give a get was a sign that he was a cruel person and if the wife had known he was so cruel she would never have married him. Thus the marriage is a mistake. Thus any marriage where the husband refuses to give a Get is considered a mistake and there is no need for a get!

In general Reb Moshe requires the establishment of 3 factors. 1) The husband has a serious condition that preexisted the marriage that the wife did not know about- such as homosexuality or schizophrenia. 2) The condition has to be so severe that most women would not be able to deal with it 3) As soon as the wife discovered this condition she left her husband. 

Obvious number 3 is the most easy to establish. Did Tamar Epstein leave her husband upon finding that he had an impossible condition? For the sake of argument let us assume that at some point a rabbi or psychologist or friend or family member told her that he was never going to be capable of being the person she wanted. Upon hearing this she left him. That should be sufficient to fulfill this condition. She clearly did leave him - though it has not been established that that was the motivating factor. But let's assume it was fulfilled.

The difficult problem is establishing condition 1 and 2. We do have a list from Tamar about the good and bad points that she saw in her husband [Tamar's diary entry]. None of them fit the description of an impossible condition - not even the claim that her parents didn't like him. At most they can be described as disappointment that while he was a good man he was not as good as she had hoped and that she thought she could do better. Clearly implying that if she didn't think she had a choice she could have learned to live with him - and been happy. She obviously was getting feedback from her parents and others that she was still young and she could find someone better to spend the rest of her life with.

It thus seems clear that awareness of this impossible condition did not come spontaneously from Tamar - but it is something that an outside source must have told her. Otherwise she would have left him sooner. I was told by Aharon that he and his wife went to two different therapists. Were they the cause? One clearly stated that he thought the marriage could be saved. Perhaps the second therapist thought it couldn't.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the second therapist told Tamar that he thought that Aharon had a personality disorder or mental health issue that he didn't think was amenable to change or that the change would not be great enough to make him the man she wanted. Is that enough? The answer is clearly no unless it was very severe - such as bipolar or schizophrenia - that was not amenable to psychotherapy or drugs. It is important to note that Tamar never mentioned such psychopathology in her complaints about Aharon. It was primarily that he was shy and introverted.  Thus if he in fact had such a severe diagnosis - it was not likely that it prexisted the marriage and not likely that it preexisted the visit to this therapist.

But let us assume for the sake of argument that one therapist did in fact tell Tamar privately that he thought Aharon was suffering from an incurable and unpleasant mental health condition. Is that enough according to Reb Moshe Feinstein to declare the marriage a mistake? The answer is no - because there are many married couples in which one of the spouses has such a diagnosis - and they remain married. It has to be determined that most women would not be able to put up with such a condition - and from Tamar's own description of Aharon - that is clearly not true.

But let us assume for the sake of argument that she did accept the diagnosis of the therapist and changed her perception of her husband and that henceforth she decided she could not live with him and in fact left. Is that enough to invalidate the marriage? The answer again is no. She would need to convince a beis din that in fact that is why she left and they would have to agree with her.

It is clear from the Baltimore Beis Din - which is the only beis din to be authorized to deal with the case - that Aharaon manifested no such condition in their extensive and intensive dealings with him and his wife. So such a psak obviously did not come from them. 

So who issued such a psak. It clearly wasn't Rabbi Greenblatt who never spoke with Aharon because he says he relied on gedolim that Tamar was not married. So who is the source for paskening that Aharon was not marriageable? It most have been Rabbi Shmuel and Rabbi Sholom Kaminetsky. But considering their considerable bias (because her father was a major supporter of the yeshiva as well as its doctor) in favor of Tamar getting a divorce - it would be rather unethical - though not against halacha - for them to issue such a statement.
It is reasonable that they tried being fair and consulted with therapists regarding the matter. But such therapists never spoke with Aharon and needed to rely entirely on the views of Tamar and the one therapist who had dealt with Aharon as well as the Kaminetskys. It is highly likely that such therapists were close with the Philly Yeshiva and wanted to please the Kaminetsky's. It is also quite possible that the therapists were friends of the Epstein family. 

Thus it is highly unlikely that that an unbiased professional with full knowledge of the the situation actually declared Aharon to be unmarriageable and that such a condition preexisted his marriage to Tamar. Without an unbiased authority - such an opinion in worthless. Finding a single therapist or therapists to make such a ruling is also worthless unless it can be established that most therapists would agree - something which is highly unlikely. In addition having spent significant time talking with Aharon as well as having many email exchanges - I as a psychologist do not see any evidence of a mental health problem that would preclude being a good husband.

To summarize. My conjecture - and that is all it is at this point - is that  Rabbi Greenblatt decided that Tamar could remarry based on  the psak of the Kaminetskys which was serverely biased because they were looking for a way to free Tamar from marriage. They have functioned from the beginning as her advocates and thus should not also serve as poskim. The psak was clearly not an objective evaluation of the full range of opinions of professionals in this matter but was a target drawn around the arrow after it had been shot. It is also not clear that whatever the blemish that they claim Aharon suffers from - is something that most women could not live with. It is also clear that Tamar would have been able to live with it - if her parents and friends had encouraged her to stay in the marriage - rather than to try for something better. In short - Tamar has no valid basis for viewing her marriage to Aharon as a mistake - and she is committing adultery in her second marriage.

Gevald!!! The sounds of silence after Gedolim approve the marriage of an eishes ish.

Disclaimer: I am willing to publicize any reasoned defense of the rabbonim and couple involved as well as any reasoned condemnation.

Update - My brother spoke a 2nd time with Rabbi Greenblatt - but he still refuses to divulge the names of the gedolim that he relied on in order to officiate at the 2nd marriage of Tamar Epstein - even though she has not been divorced from Aharon Friedman. 

This is very unfortunate as it seriously undermines the credibility of these rabbis who have been supporting her as well as the perceived competence of Rabbi Greenblatt.

Update    Background information

 marriage licenses issued in Memphis
         Adam P. Fleischer, 38; Tamar E. Epstein, 32.

For the last few years we have covered a number of unpleasant divorce cases. Cases where public relations have been used to compensate for the lack of halachic justification. Cases where respected gedolim have either chosen to ignore halacha or were unfortunately pressured to take a stance which not only has not halachic justification - but was clearly wrong according to the Shulchan Aruch.

Concerning one of the more notorious cases -that of Tamar Epstein - her rabbinic advisers claimed after 4 years of trying to pressure her husband to giver her a Get - with the aid of ORA and various rabbonim who had no jurisdiction in the case - that in fact there was no need for a Get. They claimed that the marriage was retroactively annulled because she and her family found that he was a bit socially awkward. Despite the fact that she had nice things to say about him she had decided that she could do better. 

After her husband Aharon Friedman refused to give a Get until more equitable custody arrangements were made - it was decided to get the young lady out of the marriage without a Get. The only possible justification that I can think of that they could rationalize is to rely on modern psychology. There are some who claim that it is enough to fit a diagnostic category in the DSM-V to be declared incapable of concluding a halachically valid marriage. However this is far from being an objective proof and in fact such a diagnosis by itself has no halachic significance. Anyone familiar with the DSM-V knows that it doesn't fit the requirements set down by Rav Moshe Feinstein. Nonetheless it has been confirmed that she has in fact remarried without a Get.

From  Wikipedia
While the DSM has been praised for standardizing psychiatric diagnostic categories and criteria, it has also generated controversy and criticism. Critics, including the National Institute of Mental Health, argue that the DSM represents an unscientific and subjective system.[1] There are ongoing issues concerning the validity and reliability of the diagnostic categories; the reliance on superficial symptoms; the use of artificial dividing lines between categories and from "normality"; possible cultural bias; and medicalization of human distress.[2][3][4][5][6] The publication of the DSM, with tightly guarded copyrights, now makes APA over $5 million a year, historically totaling over $100 million.[7]

From  Wikipedia
Despite caveats in the introduction to the DSM, it has long been argued that its system of classification makes unjustified categorical distinctions between disorders and uses arbitrary cut-offs between normal and abnormal. A 2009 psychiatric review noted that attempts to demonstrate natural boundaries between related DSM syndromes, or between a common DSM syndrome and normality, have failed.[3] Some argue that rather than a categorical approach, a fully dimensional, spectrum or complaint-oriented approach would better reflect the evidence.[65][66][67][68]
In addition, it is argued that the current approach based on exceeding a threshold of symptoms does not adequately take into account the context in which a person is living, and to what extent there is internal disorder of an individual versus a psychological response to adverse situations.[69][70] The DSM does include a step ("Axis IV") for outlining "Psychosocial and environmental factors contributing to the disorder" once someone is diagnosed with that particular disorder.
 Because an individual's degree of impairment is often not correlated with symptom counts and can stem from various individual and social factors, the DSM's standard of distress or disability can often produce false positives.[71] On the other hand, individuals who do not meet symptom counts may nevertheless experience comparable distress or disability in their life.
So what does a woman do when one of the gedolim tells her that she has no need for a Get? What does that woman do when her rabbis say to trust them and get remarried without a Get? What does a man do when faced with the reality that he will be declared to be in an adulterous relationship as the result of the marriage? Is is an indication of great emunas chachomim to in fact remarry without a Get and face the reality that any children will be considered mamzerim? or is it stupidity?

A tree fell recently in Memphis - and there was no sound - because the rabbis don't want to hear about it. 
My brother Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn just wrote the following:

Today Thursday Chol HaMoed Succos I received a call that Rabbi Notto Greenblatt  of Memphis married Tamar Epstein to somebody although she had no GET from Aharon Friedman her  husband.  I called Rabbi Greenblatt and he said that he had performed the ceremony. When I told him that great rabbis forbad the remarriage without a GET he replied that Gedolim had permitted her to remarry. He told me that if Rabbi Elyashev zt”l would disagree it would not change his mind, and that the rabbis who disagree with his “Gedolim” just have chutzpah. He asked me what a person like me has to do with this that I disagree with him. I told him that  the Gaon Rab Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l gave me a semicha to have a Beth Din for Gittin and further he gave permission for me to use his name for it.

 I called up a Rov who was intensely involved in the couple when they discussed their marital problems, and I asked him if there was any chance that the husband has some kind of defect that could have cancelled the marriage and thus allowed her to remarry. He told me there was no such defect and that if the woman has any children they will be mamzerim.

I quoted to Rabbi Greenblatt from him the pesak of Chazon Ish EH 99:12 that if the Torah does not require a husband to be coerced to divorce his wife but a Beth Din told the husband he is worthy of being forced to divorce and he gives the GET because of that statement, the GET is invalid. First it is invalid because the Torah did not require a coercion and the Beth Din did require a coercion. Thus, the Beth Din coerced the GET in violation of the Torah and the coercion is invalid and the GET is invalid. Secondly, the husband gave the GET under false pretenses thinking that he must be coerced to give a GET. Therefore, the GET is invalid by the Torah not just rabbinic level.  Anyone who learns carefully the laws of Gittin regarding this issue knows that there was no source to permit a married woman to just remarry and the “Gedolim” like Rabbi Greenblatt who permit these things are just making mamzerim. I wonder how many mamzerim Rabbi Greenblatt has made. Any woman married with his special inventions should ask a proper Beth Din if she is permitted to remain with her husband and if her children are mamzerim.

But the main problem is that married women cannot remarry without a GET or the death of their husband. Reb Moshe Feinstein was asked about a husband who was discovered to be strongly addicted to homosexuality and the wife ran away. He said that the great authorities of all generations had refused to permit her to remarry for various reasons. But he showed that in this extreme case there is room for leniency but since the great authorities disagreed with him he ruled that the woman must do everything possible to get a GET. Only if all fails does he permit this. And this only in this extreme case and with the understanding the no other great authority in centuries permitted it.

In this case , I spoke to the husband months before and he told me he would give a GET if the wife would allow him proper custody rights. Therefore, Reb Moshe would never have permitted her to remarry. Therefore, in this case, not only do all of the great rabbis of the generations forbid the woman to remarry without a GET, but even even if there were a preexisting disorder in this case, even Reb Moshe would not permit remarriage without a get because a get would be available if the custody arrangements were appropriate. Reb Moshe would forbid it until she gave in to the custody demands.

I can be reached at 845-578-1917 or

Chief rabbinate rejection of US conversion ‘casts shadow over American Orthodox institutions’

JPost   A Jewish convert from the US who made aliyah to Israel had her conversion rejected by the Chief Rabbinate’s department for matrimony and conversion earlier this year, despite having a conversion approval certificate from a rabbinical court presided over by the head of the Beth Din of America, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz.

Although her conversion was subsequently approved by the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court, the incident is the latest in a series of such rejections, which are being viewed in some quarters as a rebuff by the Chief Rabbinate of the legitimacy of Orthodox Jewish institutions in the US. Hauna, 24, converted in Minnesota in 2006 with senior Chabad emissary Rabbi Moshe Feller. She received a conversion approval certificate from the rabbinical court of the Chicago Rabbinical Council in 2009 before she emigrated to Israel in 2010. [...]

After making aliyah, Hauna became engaged and, six weeks before the wedding date, approached her local rabbinate in Herzliya to approve her Jewish status and register her and her fiancé for marriage.[...]

But Rabbi Itamar Tubol, the director of the department under the auspices of Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, wrote in a letter to the Herzliya rabbinate that “after verification and clarification the conversion needs to be checked by a rabbinical court as to the essence of the matter.” [...]

In a response to The Jerusalem Post, the Chief Rabbinate said that Feller was not authorized to serve as a rabbinical judge and that the various officials Tubol spoke with were unaware of his conversion activities.

The Chief Rabbinate added that because the conversion approval certificate was from Schwartz’s rabbinical court they had not rejected the conversion out right but passed it on to the Tel Aviv rabbinical court. [...]

Farber also argued that Orthodox conversions in the US have always been done by local rabbis and ad hoc rabbinical courts, and that the Chief Rabbinate’s refusal to rely on Schwartz’s conversion approval violated the terms of a deal worked out between the Rabbinical Council of America, with which Beth Din of America is affiliated, and the Chief Rabbinate in 2008.[...]

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Why did Rabbi Nota Greenblatt condemn IBD for relying on a Ritva when he used a "heter" based on unreliable and halachically invalid views of a psychologist?

IsraelReader raises an important question. Rabbi Greenblatt just was mesader kedushin for a married woman based on a "heter" of the  DSM pychological diagnostic manual. Why should he be condemning the International Beis Din for Agunos for relying on a Ritva. Is a psychologist more authoritative than the Ritva?
Strange, that R' the same Notta Greenblatt who allegedly presided at the marriage of Tamar Epstein, signed a letter of protest against the incompetence of the IBD. How do understand this?
In other news:

Judge Dismisses Majority of Vaad’s Claim Against Kehot

A portion of a “seemingly never-ending dispute” in New York Federal Court came to an end when a district judge dismissed a major part of a lawsuit filed by Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos and Zalman Chanin against Merkos and Aguc”h over the printing of the Rebbe’s Sichos.

In a decision issued yesterday, the first day of Chol Hamoed Sukkos, senior district judge Frederic Block dismissed claims of copyright infringement and unfair competition which were brought by Chanin.

This lawsuit was originally brought by Vaad and Chanin as a challenge against Merkos’s trademark of the Kehot logo in 2001 and again in 2011 in federal court. The plaintiffs claimed that the logo was simply a ‘spiritual mark’ and was not that of a publishing house.

Both the U.S. Copyright Office and the United States District Court ruled against the plaintiffs and dismissed a lawsuit seeking $21 million, as well as granting Kehot exclusive use of their logo. The ruling was based on “the record [which] shows that both the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe… each took the business steps that any trademark owner would take with respect to a trademark, including filing for protection of the mark under the laws of New York State.”

Now, in a twenty-six page ruling, judge Block noted that “For the third time, the Court is called upon to adjudicate an aspect of the seemingly never-ending dispute precipitated by the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson” and that “Even a matter as final as death is a subject of debate in the Lubavitcher community, with some holding the “heartfelt belief that, notwithstanding his physical passing in 1994, the Rebbe still lives.””

He went on to say “Though perhaps more mundane, the matter before the Court is no less fiercely disputed. At issue is the right to publish the Likkutei Sichos…”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Karbanos of Sukkos: Mathematical trick or Torah insight??

Rabbi Shlomo Pollack

The Yalkut ילקוט שמעוני relates to us, how a particular Amora - ר' ברכיה - counted up the cows- The פרי החג - to arrive at the correct 70 number....

It would seem we are being introduced to a mathematical method to count up consecutive numbers, commonly referred to as "The Gauss Trick". Indeed that is the explanation given by the זית רענן (commentary on the page).

Could it be, that we are actually be given an insight into the Karbanos themselves??....

For questions or comments please email