Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama - War vet's endorsement of McCain

If the election came down to YouTube viewers, a pro-John McCain video would be the winner.

A short yet powerful video of an Iraq war veteran giving his endorsement to McCain has become the site's most watched election video, with over 11 million views.

The video opens with a young man with close-cropped hair standing outside in casual clothes next to an American flag.

"Dear Mr. Obama," he says, and describes himself as an Iraq war veteran, whose yearlong tour convinced him that Iraqis are "just like us" in seeking freedom.

"Are they better off today than they were in 2002? You bet," he says.

The man proceeds to list the reasons he doesn't agree with Obama's policies toward Iraq and instead is endorsing John McCain for president, "because he understands the fundamental truth, freedom is always worth the price."

The man then walks away from the camera, revealing he has a prosthetic left leg.

Obama - lead slipping

Fox news reports:

As the candidates make their closing arguments before the election, therace has tightened with Barack Obama now leading John McCain by 47percent to 44 percent among likely voters, according to a FOX News pollreleased Thursday. Last week Obama led by 49-40 percent among likelyvoters.

Child Abuse - Tzemach Tzedek/a Chabad view

There has been much puzzlement concerning the teshuva of the Tzemach Tzedak that I posted recently. A clear act of sexual abuse was dismissed based on an amasla which simply isn't convincing. Various suggestions have been offered such as 1) child abuse was unknown in the 1800's and in that context the amasla made sense 2) TT was viewing it as a normal person

I just spoke with a Chabad rav [who does not want his name revealed] - one who is intimately knowledgeable with Chabad chassidus. He offered the following which he said I could post "in the name of a Lubavitcher rav".
"You have to understand that it was Purim. During Purim a person's fantasies and thoughts which he keeps in check the whole year get released. There are many homosexual pedophiles out there who don't act on their desires. This rav expressed his repressed sexual desires. The question the Tzemach Tzedak faced was how to respond to this clear breach of halacha by someone who was a major talmid chacham. The major consideration was whether this was a one time event because of Purim or whether he represented a danger in the future. As a **Rebbe** the Tzemach Tzedek knew that this was a one time aberration and it would not happen again. Therefore the amasla is acceptable as representing his repressed fantasies that were temporarily released by Purim. Only a Rebbe could make such an evaluation. Without this explanation that it was as a Rebbe that the Tzemach Tzedek poskened - the teshuva makes no sense."

Child Abuse - Dov Hikind's progress

Jewish Star reports: Issue of Oct. 31, 2008 / 2 Cheshvan 5769

Assemblyman Dov Hikind says he has selected a new leader for his task force to combat sexual abuse in the orthodox Jewish community.While Hikind said the name would only be available later this week, he elaborated that the new leader’s responsibilities will consist of gathering and organizing the information about sexual abuse that Hikind intends to present to the national Rabbinical leaders.

The new leader’s role seems different from that of Rabbi BentzionTwerski, the task force’s high profile initial leader, who resigned after a week because of family pressure.

On his radio program last Saturday night, Hikind gave a deadline of January for the end of “Phase 1” of his campaign, which consists of creating a dossier of information about sexual abuse in the OrthodoxJewish community, in particular the Chareidi community, culled from interviews with abuse victims, therapists and even accused pedophiles.Hikind is convinced that once he presents the information to the Rabbinical leadership, they will act.

“People are skeptical about the Rabbis,” Hikind said. “I prefer not to believe that, but we’ll find out soon enough. I’m committed to this.The more I listen, [the more] I can’t imagine anyone not being committed.”

Hikind intends to create multi-faceted approach to the sexual abuse problem including prevention aspects for schools and parents as well as the creation of a network so other schools would know when a teacher was fired for sexual misconduct.

Hikind said that he spoke to the Agudath Israel of America, to take up the issue, but was declined. Rabbi David Zweibel, Agudath Israel’s Executive Vice President for Government and Public Affairs, said thatthe characterization was not correct, but did confirm a preliminary discussion with Hikind.

Hikind also stressed that his office has been covertly dealing with the sexual abuse problem, by meeting with accused pedophiles and getting them into therapy.

“I have one pedophile that calls me every single day to say ‘am I okay?’ ‘Have you heard anything?’” Hikind said

The issue of sexual abuse has always been a difficult topic in the Chassidic community. High social pressure to conform, social stigmatization and a fear of secular authorities has made identifying and stopping sexual abuse difficult. While all information about sexual abuse in the Orthodox community is anecdotal, Hikind called the issue“a disaster”.Hikind also said that nearly everyone who comes to his office is not willing to press charges. [...]

Obama - "Tell me what is right - I'll sell it!"

Fox News reports:

Barack Obama cultivated the image of a cool and collected leader during the height of the economic crisis last month, when lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled to draft a workable bailout package after a meltdown on Wall Street. And when John McCain suspended his campaign to dive head first into the fray, Obama's campaign accused the Republican of being "unsteady."But to hear Bill Clinton tell it, the Democratic nominee didn't quite have a handle on the situation himself.

"I haven't cleared this with him and he may even be mad at me for saying this so close to the election, but I know what else he said to his economic advisers (during the crisis)," Clinton told the crowd at a Wednesday night rally with Obama in Florida. "He said, 'Tell me what the right thing to do is. What's the right thing for America? Don't tell me what's popular. You tell me what's right -- I'll figure out how to sell it.'" Clinton said when the crisis broke, Obama called his own advisers as well as those of the former two-term president, Hillary Clinton, Warren Buffet and others. "He called those people. You know why? Because he knew it was complicated and before he said anything he wanted to understand," Clinton said."That's what a president does in a crisis."

The seeming praise may come off as a backhanded compliment, especially since Obama repeatedly accuses McCain of admitting he doesn't know much about the economy. McCain's campaign said Clinton's remark shows Obama was uncertain when Wall Street seemed to be on the verge of crumbling. "Barack Obama had no idea what the right thing to do is or at least that's Bill Clinton's impression," McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb said.

"It's disturbing that ... Barack Obama's response to this is 'Tell me what to do and I will sell it,'" Goldfarb added. "That's been Barack Obama's entire campaign -- is one big sales job."

Oldest Hebrew inscription found?

Haaretz reported:
An Israeli archaeologist digging at a hilltop south of Jerusalem believes a ceramic shard found in the ruins of an ancient town bears the oldest Hebrew inscription ever discovered, a find that could provide an important glimpse into the culture and language of the Holy Land at the time of the Bible.

The five lines of faded characters written 3,000 years ago, and the ruins of the fortified settlement where they were found, are indications that a powerful Israelite kingdom existed at the time of the Old Testament's King David, says Yossi Garfinkel, the Hebrew University archaeologist in charge of the new dig at Hirbet Qeiyafa.

Other scholars are hesitant to embrace Garfinkel's interpretation of the finds, made public on Thursday. The discoveries are already being wielded in a vigorous and ongoing argument over whether the Bible's account of events and geography is meant to be taken literally.

Hirbet Qeiyafa sits near the city of Beit Shemesh in the Judean foothills, an area that was once the frontier between the hill-dwelling Israelites and their enemies, the coastal Philistines. The site overlooks the Elah Valley, said to be the scene of the slingshot showdown between David and the Philistine giant Goliath, and lies near the ruins of Goliath's hometown in the Philistine metropolis of Gath.

A teenage volunteer found the curved pottery shard, 15 centimeters by 15 centimeters, in July near the stairs and stone washtub of an excavated home. It was later discovered to bear five lines of characters known as proto-Canaanite, a precursor of the Hebrew alphabet.

Carbon-14 analysis of burnt olive pits found in the same layer of the site dated them to between 1,000 and 975 B.C., the same time as the Biblical golden age of David's rule in Jerusalem.

Scholars have identified other, smaller Hebrew fragments from the 10th century B.C., but the script, which Garfinkel suggests might be part of a letter,
predates the next significant Hebrew inscription by between 100 and 200 years. History's best-known Hebrew texts, the Dead Sea scrolls, were penned on parchment beginning 850 years later.[...]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Child abuse - Historical Background

In dealling with the issue of child abuse it is important to understand that society wasn't always concerned about the welfare of children. The following indicates that child rights were derivative of animals rights. It would seem that there was a major change in society in the 1800's regarding not just the abolition of slavery but also concerns for the welfare of animals and then children. There seems to be a parallel in the Jewish worlds also as the first two teshuvos dealing with abuse are both from the mid 1800's.

American Humane society - Protecting Children & Animals since 1877

Mary Ellen Wilson

How One Girl's Plight Started the Child-Protection Movement

The sufferings of the little girl, Mary Ellen, led to the founding of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the first organization of its kind, in 1874. In 1877, the New York SPCC and several Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals from throughout the country joined together to form the American Humane Association.

Mary Ellen’s story marked the beginning of a world-wide crusade to save children. Over the years, in the re-telling of Mary Ellen Wilson’s story, myth has often been confused with fact. Some of the inaccuracies stem from colorful but erroneous journalism, others from simple misunderstanding of the facts, and still others from the complex history of the child protection movement in the United States and Great Britain and its link to the animal welfare movement. While it is true that Henry Bergh, president of the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), was instrumental in ensuring Mary Ellen’s removal from an abusive home, it is not true that her attorney—who also worked for the ASPCA—argued that she deserved help because she was “a member of the animal kingdom.”

The real story—which can be pieced together from court documents, newspaper articles, and personal accounts—is quite compelling, and it illustrates the impact that a caring and committed individual can have on the life of a child.

Mary Ellen Wilson was born in 1864 to Francis and Thomas Wilson of New York City. Soon thereafter, Thomas died, and his widow took a job. No longer able to stay at home and care for her infant daughter, Francis boarded Mary Ellen (a common practice at the time) with a woman named Mary Score. As Francis’s economic situation deteriorated, she slipped further into poverty, falling behind in payments for and missing visits with her daughter. As a result, Mary Score turned two-year-old Mary Ellen over to the city’s Department of Charities.

The Department made a decision that would have grave consequences for little Mary Ellen; it placed her illegally, without proper documentation of the relationship, and with inadequate oversight in the home of Mary and Thomas McCormack, who claimed to be the child’s biological father. In an eerie repetition of events, Thomas died shortly thereafter. His widow married Francis Connolly, and the new family moved to a tenement on West 41st Street.

Mary McCormack Connolly badly mistreated Mary Ellen, and neighbors in the apartment building were aware of the child’s plight. The Connollys soon moved to another tenement, but in 1874, one of their original neighbors asked Etta Angell Wheeler, a caring Methodist mission worker who visited the impoverished residents of the tenements regularly, to check on the child. At the new address, Etta encountered a chronically ill and homebound tenant, Mary Smitt, who confirmed that she often heard the cries of a child across the hall. Under the pretext of asking for help for Mrs. Smitt, Etta Wheeler introduced herself to Mary Connolly. She saw Mary Ellen’s condition for herself. The 10-year-old appeared dirty and thin, was dressed in threadbare clothing, and had bruises and scars along her bare arms and legs. Ms. Wheeler began to explore how to seek legal redress and protection for Mary Ellen. Click here to read Etta Wheeler’s account of Mary Ellen.

At that time, some jurisdictions in the United States had laws that prohibited excessive physical discipline of children. New York, in fact, had a law that permitted the state to remove children who were neglected by their caregivers. Based on their interpretation of the laws and Mary Ellen’s circumstances, however, New York City authorities were reluctant to intervene. Etta Wheeler continued her efforts to rescue Mary Ellen and, after much deliberation, turned to Henry Bergh, a leader of the animal humane movement in the United States and founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). It was Ms. Wheeler’s niece who convinced her to contact Mr. Bergh by stating, “You are so troubled over that abused child, why not go to Mr. Bergh? She is a little animal surely” (p. 3 Wheeler in Watkins, 1990).[...]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

High Court - rightists' rally in Arab city permitted

YNet reports:

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday ruled in favor of extreme right-wingers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel's petition to hold a rally in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm.

According to the ruling, the procession will take place some time after the municipal elections, scheduled for November 11.

Police said it would allow the rightists to march providing that they refrain from entering center of the Arab-Israeli city. The Shin Bit recommended that the rally be called off altogether for fear of Jewish-Arab clashes in Umm al-Fahm and other cities across Israel.

Ben-Gvir said prior to the hearing "we must not surrender to threats of terror and violence, and just as thousands of police officers were deployed to secure the gay parade (in Jerusalem), it should be the same in this case as well.

During the hearing Justice Edmond Levy asked the prosecution to "keep in mind that Umm al-Fahm is under Israel's jurisdiction."

Following the hearing Ben-Gvir told Ynet, "We are very pleased. In its ruling the court stated very clearly that rightists are entitled to the same rights the Leftists enjoy.

Palestinians are really Jews!

Haaretz reports:
Four Palestinians from the Hebron Hills contacted a group of rabbis on Tuesday and claimed to be the descendents of Jews who were forced to convert to Islam.

The Palestinians were accompanied by Zvi Mesini, a researcher who wrote a book on the subject and assisted them in learning more about Judaism. According to the Palestinians, their families had removed mezuzahs from their doors in order to avoid harassment by their neighbors.

One of the Palestinians said he kept a tefillin he received from his father's uncle and another told the rabbis that his family had once secretly lit candles on the Sabbath and for Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights.

Mesini told the rabbis, members of a group called the New Sanhedrin, that he believes hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are descended from Jews.

"Such evidence renders the conflict redundant," Mesini said. "It proves that Judea and Samaria belongs to both the recognized Jews and the unrecognized Jews."

Mesini accused authorities of being indifferent to his findings.

The New Sanhedrin is known as a right-wing organization that claims to be the rightful successors of the supreme Jewish court of antiquity. Its goal is to create a state based upon Jewish law that will replace the current State of Israel.

Obama - Broke his promise

CNN - Campbell Brown said:

You may have heard that Wednesday night Barack Obamawill be on five different TV networks speaking directly to the Americanpeople. He bought 30 minutes of airtime from the differentnetworks, a very expensive purchase. But hey, he can afford it. BarackObama is loaded, way more loaded than John McCain, way more loaded thanany presidential candidate has ever been at this stage of the campaign. Justto throw a number out: He has raised well over $600 million since thestart of his campaign, close to what George Bush and John Kerry raisedcombined in 2004. Without question, Obama has set the bar at newheight with a truly staggering sum of cash. And that is why as weapproach this November, it is worth reminding ourselves what BarackObama said last November.

One year ago, he made a promise. Hepledged to accept public financing and to work with the Republicannominee to ensure that they both operated within those limits.Then it became clear to Sen. Obamaand his campaign that he was going to be able to raise on his own farmore cash than he would get with public financing. So Obama went backon his word.

He broke his promise and he explained it by arguingthat the system is broken and that Republicans know how to work thesystem to their advantage. He argued he would need all that cash tofight the ruthless attacks of 527s, those independent groups like theSwift Boat Veterans. It's funny though, those attacks never reallymaterialized.[...]

The courageous among Obama's ownsupporters concede this decision was really made for one reason, simplybecause it was to Obama's financial advantage. On this issuetoday, former Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, an Obama supporter, writesin The New York Post, "a hypocrite is a person who puts on a falseappearance of virtue -- who acts in contradiction to his or her statedbeliefs or feelings. And that, it seems to me, is what we are doingnow."

For this last week, Sen. Obama will be rolling in dough.His commercials, his get-out-the-vote effort will, as the pundits havesaid, dwarf the McCain campaign's final push. But in fairness, you haveto admit, he is getting there in part on a broken promise.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama - Stance on Iran "utterly immature"

Haaretz reprots:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama's positions on Iran, according to reports that have reached Israel's government.

Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate's stance on Iran as "utterly immature" and comprised of "formulations empty of all content."

Obama visited Paris in July, and the Iranian issue was at the heart of his meeting with Sarkozy. At a joint press conference afterward, Obama urged Iran to accept the West's proposal on its nuclear program, saying that Iran was creating a serious situation that endangered both Israel and the West.

According to the reports reaching Israel, Sarkozy told Obama at that meeting that if the new American president elected in November changed his country's policy toward Iran, that would be "very problematic."

Until now, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have tried to maintain a united front on Iran. But according to the senior Israeli source, Sarkozy fears that Obama might "arrogantly" ignore the other members of this front and open a direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions.

Following their July meeting, Sarkozy repeatedly expressed disappointment with Obama's positions on Iran, concluding that they were "not crystallized, and therefore many issues remain open," the Israeli source said. Advisors to the French president who held separate meetings with Obama's advisors came away with similar impressions and expressed similar disappointment. [...]

King Solomon's mines found? Bible & History

Newsweek reports:

King Solomon, who assumed the throne of the kingdom of Israel after the death of his father King David, was renowned for his great wealth no less than for his great wisdom. But as always with the Bible, scholars have a field day arguing over the account’s historical accuracy. On one count, at least—the story of King Solomon’s mines—archaeologists think they have evidence that the story was more than a legend.

An excavation led by Thomas Levy of the University of California, San Diego, and Mohammad Najjar of Jordan’s Friends of Archaeology has unearthed what they identify as an ancient center for copper production at Khirbat en-Nahas. Located in the lowlands of a desolate, arid region south of the Dead Sea in what was once the Kingdom of Edom, which the Old Testament describes as a foe of Israel, it is now the Faynan district of Jordan. As they are reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, radiocarbon analysis dates the site as from the 10th century BCE, when David and Solomon would have ruled and about 300 years earlier than scholars thought. It is by no means certain that Solomon (or David) controlled the mines, but at least the dates now match.

Earlier work by Levy and Najjar, The New York Times reported in 2006, “len[t] credence to biblical accounts of the rivalry between Edom and the Israelites in what was then known as Judah. . . . [T]his supported the tradition that Judah itself had by the time of David and Solomon, in the early 10th century, emerged as a kingdom with ambition and the means of fighting off the Edomites.” [...]

Palestinian TV - Western funded hate

JPost - Palestianian Media Watch reports:

Would you sign a check for $120 million and hand it over to a former terrorist without carefully supervising what he was doing with your money? That's exactly what Norway, chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee that co-ordinates international funding to the Palestinian Authority, is doing with its taxpayers' money.

In response to extensive documentation by Palestinian Media Watch about the hate promotion on official Palestinian Authority-Fatah TV, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre recently made a series of statements defending PA TV that indicate he is totally ignorant of its content. Then, to put his money where his misinformed mouth is, he wrote another check for 85 million kroner to the PA under Mahmoud Abbas, whose office controls PA TV.

The Norwegian foreign minister is certainly not evil. Neither are other Europeans. Neither are the Americans, whose recent agreement to give the PA an additional $150 million puts their 2008 aid to the PAat more than $700 million - more than the US pledged at a donors' conference in December 2007.

But these countries throw money at Abbas's feet with such infatuation you'd think he was a clone of Mother Teresa. Unfortunately,if his messages to Palestinian children are any indicator, Abbas seems far more like the clone of his predecessor, the terror lord Yasser Arafat, than a peacemaker.

Defending his Abbas spending spree, Støre said: "This [PA-FatahTV] channel cannot be said to engage in indoctrination of children or denying Israel's right to exist..." and he added his objection to TV being used for "spreading hate or inciting terrorism," which he indicated is not being done by PA TV.

UNFORTUNATELY HE is completely wrong. During the 11 years of PMW's existence, there has never been a period of such intense demonization of Israel, continuous hate promotion and denial of Israel's existence by the PA (Fatah)-controlled media as during the 11months since the Annapolis Conference.

Jews and Israelis are being demonized by the PA through malicious libels - including the lies that Israel intentionally spreads AIDS and drugs among Palestinians, conducts Nazi-like medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners, took Palestinian babies in 1948to bring up as Jews and is planning to destroy the Aksa Mosque. A PA TV"historical" documentary featured hateful fabrications, including videos of dead bodies filmed in Lebanon in 1982 that PA TV falsely presented as evidence of a so-called Israeli "massacre" in 1948. Israelis even said to be breeding supernatural rats to chase Arabs who live in Jerusalem.

As far as recognizing Israel, Abbas's TV is no different than Hamas TV - unequivocally denying Israel's existence and right to exist.Note these recent TV examples in which young Palestinian children were given scripts repeating that Israel from Metulla to Eilat is "occupied Palestine," eventually to be "returned."[...]

AS LONG as PA leaders see the current process as a stage towardthe destruction of Israel, the PA is not worthy of any financial support. The onus is on the PA to prove that it's promoting peace to its own people in Arabic - not just talking peace in English when the cameras are rolling.

Let the world not forget that it was the Palestinian Authority hate machine, funded by the West from 1994 to 2000, that led to the longest systematic terror war in history. At the helm were Yasser Arafat and his close confidant, Mahmoud Abbas. Has Abbas changed since then? While his English voice is peaceful, his voice through his Arabic media is more venomous and hateful than ever.

It is time that the Western funders of the PA be held morally,legally and financially responsible for the terror crimes of the PA,just as the funders of Hamas are being held financially responsible to Hamas terror victims in courts around the world. They are guilty of criminal negligence, and thus are morally responsible for the war and terror yet to be carried out by this generation of PA children, being raised and indoctrinated to hate with US and European money.

I was asked by a journalist after my presentation in parliament if I thought it was right for Norway to interfere with Palestinian freedom of expression. My answer is very straightforward: The Palestinians have the inalienable right to indoctrinate their kids to blind evil and hate, but Norway and the West have the moral obligation to stop paying for it.

Obama - who is he? II

LATimes - Peter Nicholas wrote:

[...] For the last year and a half I've covered the presidentialrace, focusing first on Hillary Clinton, then moving over to Obama.

AfterClinton's defeat in the Iowa caucuses, she decided she needed anemergency reinvention. She began mixing with reporters, sipping a glassof wine late at night in the aisle of her campaign plane andunburdening herself about the state of the race. As her prospectsdimmed, her accessibility grew. Sometimes she was off the record, butyou can't say she wasn't fun.

Not so with Obama. One of thestriking ironies is that a man who draws tens of thousands of people tohis rallies, whose charisma is likened to that of John F. Kennedy, canbe sort of a bore.

Discipline is essential for candidates whowant to drive home a consistent message, or avoid the self-sabotagethat comes with a careless answer. A steely perseverance helps explainwhy Obama at this point stands a better than even chance of becomingthe 44th president. But when you're exposed to the guy 18 hours a day,it's a bit maddening. You want him to loosen up.

I've watchedObama demonstrate a soccer kick to his daughter in Chicago; devour acheesesteak in Philly; navigate a roller rink in Indiana; drive abumper car; and catapult 125 feet in the air on an amusement-park ridecalled "Big Ben." He's done it all with dogged professionalism, butwith little show of spontaneity. After all this time with him, I stillcan't say with certainty who he is.

A couple of images from the long campaign stay with me.

Onewas watching Obama enter an apartment building near his Chicago homefor a morning workout. He wore dark sweats, a gray T-shirt and abaseball cap pulled low over his forehead. In those few seconds it tookhim to walk from the car to the building, with his head down, thin andsolitary, he looked nothing like the adored politician presiding overrallies. It was a reminder that behind the hype and the TV ads is thisone rather vulnerable-looking guy. And in that moment came thequestion: Is he really ready to take over the toughest job on theplanet?

The other was a hot summer afternoon in Iowa. Obamawas flipping burgers at a backyard barbecue, in what the campaign hopedwould be an exquisite photo opportunity. A fly began circling his head.Then more flies. Pretty soon flies were swarming him, the burgers --everything. It was awful to watch. But in rhythmic fashion he beganwaving them off with his hand. He scooped up the burgers and headedback to the picnic table, as if nothing had gone wrong. That smallepisode told me something about Obama's temperament. I would havewanted to fling the grill over the fence in frustration.

Both impressions came from a distance. A cordon of aides ensures nothing more intimate is available to the traveling press. [...]

First Clinton, then John McCain made the argument that Obama is someonewe don't really know. Obama's supporters counter that we have hisrecord in the U.S. and Illinois senates, two memoirs that reveal hisinner thinking and a vast trove of public speaking. Ironically, thoseof us who were sent out to take his measure in person can't offer muchhelp in answering who he is, or if he is ready. The barriers set inplace between us and him were just too great.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama - wealth redistribution bombshell

Michelle Malkin reports:
The blogosphere is buzzing about this video posted on YouTube Sunday night. It’s Barack Obama musing about how best to redistribute wealth in America in a Chicago Public Radio interview in 2001.

Not whether, but how: Through the courts or through legislation?

A caller asks The One to explain how he would do “reparative economic work.” Obama gives the legislative route two thumbs up as his preferred method of “breaking free of the constraints” placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution and then burbles about cobbling together the “actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.”

Joe The Plumber, you barely scratched the surface:

Obama said the following:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I’d be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendancy to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

Israelis return - American dream shattered

YNet reported:
Global financial crisis prompts thousands of Israelis living abroad to return to Jewish state. Immigrant Absorption Ministry foresees 15,000 homecomings by end of 2009

The silver lining: The global financial crisis hitting world markets seems to have one favorable effect as far as is Israel concerned, as thousands of Israelis who have been living abroad for the past few years head back to their homeland.

According to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, some 15,000 Israelis are expected to return to the Jewish state by the end of 2009.

The ministry launched a campaign encouraging Israelis living abroad to do just that in August of 2007, as part of the nation's 60th anniversary celebrations, offering a NIS 100 million (about $24 million) incentives package.

"The last few weeks have been crazy," Tali Naveh, who heads New York's Israel House, which tends to New York-based Israelis who wish to return, told Yedioth Ahronoth. "The phone has been ringing off the hook, and not just here, in all of out 10 centers on North America. People here have their American dream shattered."

Some 2,000 Israelis have returned home between August and mid October alone – a 50% rise from the same time last year.[...]

Child abuse - Valas case

YNet reported:
Knesset Member and Jerusalem mayoral hopeful Meir Porush testified Monday before the Jerusalem District Court, on behalf of Israel Valas, an ultra-Orthodox man convicted of killing his three-month-old son.

Porush, along with several other prominent figures in the ultra-Orthodox community, was a character witnessed for the defense, which is trying to convince the court to order a light sentence.

Valas, who was convicted of manslaughter in July, was arrested in April on 2006 on suspicion of abusing and subsequently killing his infant son. His arrest sparked

The defense denied any wrongdoing on Valas' part, but according to doctors' testimony, the baby presented with severe signs cerebral edema, which could only have been caused by someone forcibly shaking him.

"The defendant is a good man, I can't say a bad word about him," said Porush, adding that he was "marked for great things" within the ultra-Orthodox community.

Porush told the court that he has been acquainted with Valas and his family for six years, and that Valas was one of the "finest yeshiva boys" he had ever encountered. Another character witness for the defense was former MK and religious radio personality Israel Eichler. The latter testified he has been helping the family since the young patriarch's arrest, and warned that should he face prison time, it might "bring about the home's destruction and bring about a destruction of the Second Temple."

Other character witnesses included Menachem Porush, MK Porush's father who was a Knesset member for 35 years, and Rabbi Ben-Zion Gutfarb, who heads Valas' alma mater – the Matmidim Yeshiva.

Obama - who is he?

But in the Oval Office, Mr. Obama would have a new set of deficits.Just 47 years old and only four years into a national political career,he has never run anything larger than his campaign. He began his run for president while he was still getting lost in Washington, a city he does not yet know well. His promises are as vast as his résumé is short, and some of his pledges are competing ones: progressive rule and centrist red-blue fusion; wholesale transformation and down-to-earth pragmatism.

Mr. Obama’s ambition and confidence have long confounded critics and annoyed rivals. In 2006, the still-new United States senator appeared before Washington’s elite at the spring dinner of the storied Gridiron Club, and as tradition dictated, roasted himself. He ticked off the evidence of his popularity: the Democratic convention speech that had won him national celebrity, the best-selling books, the magazine covers.

“Really, what else is there to do?” he said in mock innocence. “Well, I guess I could pass a law or something.”

He passed a few. By the end of the year, he was running for president.[...]

There is little Mr. Obama has controlled more tightly than his own story and message. Just as he was planning his entry into politics, he used “Dreams From My Father” to cast his peripatetic, confusing childhood into a lyrical journey. When he was elected to the United States Senatein 2004, Mr. Obama wrote his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,”laying out his political philosophy. It meant getting only three or four hours of sleep at night, his editor said, but he insisted on writing the entire thing himself’. (He not only read policy books to prepare, but also some of the articles cited in their footnotes.) For his presidential campaign speechwriter, he chose a 26-year-old who describes his job as channeling the thoughts of a boss who already knows what he wants to say.[...]

US attacks Syria - 8 dead

JPost reported:

Syria called the US attack within its borders on Sunday evening a heinous crime and a statement issued by Damascus said the country was reserving the right to respond as it would see fit. Damascus claimed that the four US helicopters that entered Syria attacked an "agricultural farm," Israel Radio reported.

Syrian ambassador to Britain Sami Al Khiyami said he was convinced the US was hunting for terrorists based on false intelligence.

At least eight people were killed when US military helicopters bombed targets in a Syrian border town near Iraq after global jihad operatives allegedly crossed the border into Syria.

The attack, which was not confirmed by the US military, was the first-ever reported American strike on Syria, which called it a"serious aggression."

Iran also condemned the raid, saying on Monday that theviolation of the territorial integrity of any sovereign state was unacceptable.

Israeli defense officials said the incident was not connectedto Israel and confirmed that the American troops had been chasing global jihad suspects in Iraq.

The helicopters then crossed into Syria in pursuit of the terrorists.[...]

A US official, in confirming the raid, said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the US was now "taking matters into our own hands."

The US military official said the special forces raid targeted elements of a network that sends fighters from North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al-Qaida and other fighters. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said it summoned the charges d'affaires of the United States and Iraq to protest the strike.[...]

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama - Close relationship to ex PLO member

L.A. Times sits on video of Obama toasting radical Jew-basher

By Michelle Malkin • October 25, 2008 11:14 PM

Jim Hoft has the story on the damning video of Barack Obama that the L.A. Times refuses to release.

Writes Jim: “It’s hard to imagine that the LA Times would hold on to a video of Sarah Palin praising an anti-Semitic radical and former PLOoperative…”

Exactly. Guess the reporter doesn’t want to open himself up to the Joe the Plumber treatment.

Akko Yeshiva burnt

YNet reports:

Mass prayer to be held in Akko yeshiva

The Akko police authorised a mass prayer to be held Sunday evening near the Hesder yeshiva that was set on fire over night.


Some 400 people are expected to take part in the prayer, and some additional 150 police officers will be patroling the city over the next 24 hours.

Child Abuse - Tzemach Tzedek/ Dr. Klafter comments

The Tzemach Tzedek - the third Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote one of the first teshuvos regarding child abuse. It was included in a list of citation sent to me by jewishwhistleblower from a footnote #33 - by Prof. Marc Shapiro. [New link] The translation is that of Prof. Shapiro. I asked the psychiatrist Dr. Nachum Klafter - who is very familiar with the issue of child abuse as well as the Torah sources - how he understood this teshuva. He has given me permission to post part of his response. He raises a very critical issue regarding child abuse - to what degree is it necessary for poskim to consult with experts in the field? I recently asked a posek why the issue of child abuse is being handled differently now than it was a few years ago. He replied that the poskim are now becoming more informed of the seriousness of the harm to the child.

R. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (the third Lubavitcher Rebbe) in Tzemah Tzedek, Yoreh Deah, #237, was asked the following question:
A rabbi was playing with a young man on Purim and stuck his hands into the pants of the youth. The rabbi claimed that he did so because he was unable to perform sexually. He thought that this was due to his small testicles and he wanted to see if he was unusual in this regard. In other words, the rabbi was conducting a medical examination on the boy. The Tzemah Tzedek decided that the rabbi should not be removed from his position, as he provided a good explanation for his behavior.
The Chabad web site has the Hebrew original

צמח צדק (סימן רלז): לשו"ע סי' רמ"ו וסי' של"ד סמ"ב. ע"ד החשד שהיה על ההמ"צ דמחניכם ששחק עם נער א' בפורים והכניס ידו לתוך מכנסים של הנער אך נותן אמתלא ע"ז כי [הוא] חשוכי בנים מפני שאין לו ג"א מצד שהביצים שלו קטנים ביותר. ולכן רצה לידע אם כמ"כ הם אצל שארי אנשים:

הנה בירושלמי הביאו בב"י סס"י של"ד ובכ"מ פ"ז מהת"ת זקן שסרח אין מורידין אותו מגדולתו. לפ"ז מ"ש בש"ס שלנו במ"ק (די"ז) הכבד ושב בביתך. אין ר"ל להורידו מגדולתו כלל. והנה צ"ל דהפוסקים פסקו כר"ל דאמר ת"ח שסרח אין מנדין אותו כו'. ופסקו ג"כ כרב יהודה דשמתי' לההוא צורבא מרבנן דהוי סאני שומעני'. ושניהם במ"ק שם. והרי הם זה לעומת זה. הן אמת מדברי הרמב"ם נ' דהחילוק כך דפוסק כרב יהודה כמ"ש בפ"ו מהת"ת בסופו וז"ל חכם ששמועתו רעה ומ"ש רפ"ז מהת"ת אין מנדין היינו דוקא חכם זקן מופלג או אב"ד כו'. וכן מצאתי בב"י סי' של"ד שחילק בכה"ג בד"ה ומ"ש וכן כל ת"ח כו'. אך בטור שם משמע דמחלק בענין אחר והוא דרב יהודה מיירי בסני שומעני' דהיינו מתביישים משמועתו וזה גרע טפי מפני דה"ל חילול השם וכדאיתא ביומא דפ"ו. ומעתה בנד"ז י"ל דה"ל חילול השם. ויש להחמיר להרא"ש. אבל לפ"ד הרמב"ם כיון דהוא כמו אב"ד בעירו וראש העיר אין להעבירו כו'. ועיין בתשו' שער אפרים סי' ס"ד ס"ה. אך בנ"ד שנותן אמתלא טובה על הדבר י"ל דלכ"ע אין להעבירו כלל דאמתלא מהני בגמ' נגד כמה דברים

Dr. Klafter replied:
The Tzemach Tzedek, like all other human beings with no education about child sexual abuse or training in deviant sexuality, has a very limited capacity to imagine how a Rabbi would wish to do this to a boy. It is something which he himself, like all other normal human beings, would not find sexually gratifying or appealing. It is, to the contrary, instinctively horrifying and repugnant to him. Therefore, he is very ready to accept any rationalization or explanation, however implausible, which will allow him to deny the reality of homosexual pedophilia. This same psychological defensive style (which, again, is normal) is also what allows many misguided rabbonim to conclude that a Rebbe with a history of molesting bochurim has "done teshuva" and therefore will no longer be a risk to boys. To poskin that such a rabbi need not be removed from his position, the Tzemach Tzedek should have at least interviewed the victim to find out if he had complained of sexual dysfunction and if he was seeking the accused rabbi's assistance and guidance. If that was not done, it might be a further indication that there was an a priori wish to exonerate the Rabbi which is based on what appears to be a universal tendency to disbelieve, dismiss, and suppress from public awareness allegations of sexual abuse, rather than to take them seriously, investigate them. and implement.

Solutions are often placebos

NYTimes reported:

Half of all American doctors responding to a nationwide survey say they regularly prescribe placebos to patients. The results trouble medical ethicists, who say more research is needed to determine whether doctors must deceive patients in order for placebos to work.

The study involved 679 internists and rheumatologists chosen randomly from a national list of such doctors. In response to three questions included as part of the larger survey, about half reported recommending placebos regularly. Surveys in Denmark, Israel, Britain, Sweden and New Zealand have found similar results.

The most common placebos the American doctors reported using were headache pills and vitamins, but a significant number also reported prescribing antibiotics and sedatives. Although these drugs, contrary to the usual definition of placebos, are not inert, doctors reported using them for their effect on patients’ psyches, not their bodies.

In most cases, doctors who recommended placebos described them to patients as “a medicine not typically used for your condition but might benefit you,” the survey found. Only 5 percent described the treatment to patients as “a placebo.”

The study is being published in BMJ, formerly The British Medical Journal. One of the authors, Franklin G. Miller, was among the medical ethicists who said they were troubled by the results.

“This is the doctor-patient relationship, and our expectations about being truthful about what’s going on and about getting informed consent should give us pause about deception,” said Dr. Miller, director of the research ethics program in the department of bioethics at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. William Schreiber, an internist in Louisville, Ky., at first said in an interview that he did not believe the survey’s results, because, he said, few doctors he knows routinely prescribe placebos.

But when asked how he treated fibromyalgia or other conditions that many doctors suspect are largely psychosomatic, Dr. Schreiber changed his mind. “The problem is that most of those people are very difficult patients, and it’s a whole lot easier to give them something like a big dose of Aleve,” he said. “Is that a placebo treatment? Depending on how you define it, I guess it is.”

But antibiotics and sedatives are not placebos, he said.

The American Medical Association discourages the use of placebos by doctors when represented as helpful.

“In the clinical setting, the use of a placebo without the patient’s knowledge may undermine trust, compromise the patient-physician relationship and result in medical harm to the patient,” the group’s policy states.

Controlled clinical trials have hinted that placebos may have powerful effects. Some 30 percent to 40 percent of depressed patients who are given placebos get better, a treatment effect that antidepressants barely top. Placebos have also proved effective against hypertension and pain.

But despite much attention given to the power of placebos, basic questions about them remain unanswered: Are they any better than no treatment at all? Must people be deceived into believing that a treatment is active for a placebo to work?

Some studies have hinted at answers, but experts say far more work is needed.

Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch, in Galveston, said the popularity of alternative medical treatments had led many doctors to embrace placebos as a potentially useful tool. But, Dr. Brody said, doctors should resist using placebos, because they reinforce the deleterious notion that “when something is the matter with you, you will not get better unless you swallow pills.”

Earlier this year, a Maryland mother announced that she would start selling dextrose tablets as a children’s placebo called Obecalp, for “placebo” spelled backward.

Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, one of the study’s authors, said doctors should not prescribe antibiotics or sedatives as placebos, given those drugs’ risks. Use of less active placebos is understandable, he said, since risks are low.

“Everyone comes out happy: the doctor is happy, the patient is happy,” said Dr. Emanuel, chairman of the bioethics department at the health institutes. “But ethical challenges remain.”

Olmert's political comeback - again

YNet reported:
Kadima chairwoman's failure to form new government leaves prime minister four months to propel diplomatic, financial feats in form of progress in peace talks with Palestinians and Syria, stabilizing economy amid global crisis 

The beneficiary: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems to be one of the people who stand to benefit from Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni's decision to call for general elections.

Livni decided to opt for calling for elections on Saturday, after her attempts to form a new government, and the intense coalition negotiation which accompanied them, appeared to be deadlocked. She is expected to notify President Shimon Peres of her decision later Sunday.

Olmert now stands to preside as the prime minister over a transitional government for the remaining 111 days left until the elections, and is most likely to try and use the time to propel political moves, as well as various financial ones, aimed at preventing the global financial crisis from harming Israel's economy.

Olmert will apparently use the four months he has left in office to push motions pertaining to the peace process with both the Palestinians and the Syrians. One of the options reportedly being discussed is calling a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for later November, to mark a year since the Annapolis Summit.

A major breakthrough in the negotiations with Syria seems unlikely at this time, as Damascus awaits the results of the US presidential race, and now of the Israeli elections as well, to decided on its next move.[...]

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Treasury bailout is a fraud!

“Chase recently received $25 billion in federal funding. What effectwill that have on the business side and will it change our strategiclending policy?”

It was Oct. 17, just four days after JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon,agreed to take a $25 billion capital injection courtesy of the UnitedStates government, when a JPMorgan employee asked that question. Itcame toward the end of an employee-only conference call that had beenlargely devoted to meshing certain divisions of JPMorgan with its newacquisition, Washington Mutual.

Which, of course, it also got thanks to the federal government. Christmas came early at JPMorgan Chase.

The JPMorgan executive who was moderating the employee conferencecall didn’t hesitate to answer a question that was pretty politicallysensitive given the events of the previous few weeks.

Given the way, that is, that Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had decided to use the first installment of the $700 billion bailoutmoney to recapitalize banks instead of buying up their toxicsecurities, which he had then sold to Congress and the American peopleas the best and fastest way to get the banks to start making loansagain, and help prevent this recession from getting much, much worse.

In point of fact, the dirty little secret of the banking industry isthat it has no intention of using the money to make new loans. But thisexecutive was the first insider who’s been indiscreet enough to say itwithin earshot of a journalist.

(He didn’t mean to, of course, but I obtained the call-in number and listened to a recording.)

“Twenty-five billion dollars is obviously going to help the folkswho are struggling more than Chase,” he began. “What we do think itwill help us do is perhaps be a little bit more active on theacquisition side or opportunistic side for some banks who are stillstruggling. And I would not assume that we are done on the acquisitionside just because of the Washington Mutual and Bear Stearnsmergers. I think there are going to be some great opportunities for usto grow in this environment, and I think we have an opportunity to usethat $25 billion in that way and obviously depending on whetherrecession turns into depression or what happens in the future, youknow, we have that as a backstop.”

Read that answer as many times as you want — you are not going tofind a single word in there about making loans to help the Americaneconomy. On the contrary: at another point in the conference call, thesame executive (who I’m not naming because he didn’t know I would belistening in) explained that “loan dollars are down significantly.” Headded, “We would think that loan volume will continue to go down as wecontinue to tighten credit to fully reflect the high cost of pricing onthe loan side.” In other words JPMorgan has no intention of turning onthe lending spigot.

It is starting to appear as if one of Treasury’s key rationales forthe recapitalization program — namely, that it will cause banks tostart lending again — is a fig leaf, Treasury’s version of the weaponsof mass destruction.

In fact, Treasury wants banks to acquire each other and is using itspower to inject capital to force a new and wrenching round of bankconsolidation. As Mark Landler reported in The New York Times earlierthis week, “the government wants not only to stabilize the industry,but also to reshape it.” Now they tell us.

Indeed, Mr. Landler’s story noted that Treasury would even funnelsome of the bailout money to help banks buy other banks. And, in analmost unnoticed move, it recently put in place a new tax break, worthbillions to the banking industry, that has only one purpose: toencourage bank mergers. As a tax expert, Robert Willens, put it: “Itcouldn’t be clearer if they had taken out an ad.”[...]

Obama - Testing his mettle

Caroline Glick writes in JPost:

n a week and a half, American voters will elect the next US president. Their decision will impact the entire world.

Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama now enjoys a significant lead in the polls against Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. For McCain to win, a lot of Obama supporters will need to reassess their choice for president. This week, Obama's running-mate Senator Joseph Biden gave Obama supporters a good reason to change their minds.

In much-reported remarks to campaign donors in Seattle on Sunday, Biden warned that if Obama is elected to the White House, it will take America's adversaries no time at all to test him. In his words, "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama…. The world is looking…. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate."

Biden then continued, "And he's gonna need help….We're gonna need you to use your influence…within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

Many commentators have minimized the importance of Biden's remarks by claiming that all new leaders are tested. But this is not exactly correct. World leaders test their adversaries when they perceive them as weak. When Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected US president in 1952, the Soviet Union did not move quickly to test the man who had led Allied Forces in World War II. When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, the Iranian regime released the US hostages it had held for a year and a half.

In speaking as he did, Biden essentially acknowledged three things. First, he recognized that Obama projects an image of weakness and naiveté internationally that invite America's adversaries to challenge him.

Second, by stating that if Obama is tested a crisis will ensue, Biden made clear that Obama will fail the tests he is handed as a newly inaugurated president. After all, when an able leader is tested, he acts wisely and secures his nation's interests while averting a crisis.

Finally, Biden made clear that Obama's failure will be widely noted, and hence, "it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

IN LIGHT of Biden's dire warning about his running-mate, the central question that Americans ought to be asking themselves is whether or not Biden is correct. Is it true that Obama projects a posture of weakness and incompetence internationally and is it likely that this posture reflects reality?

Unfortunately, it appears that Biden knows exactly what he is talking about.[...]

Friday, October 24, 2008

Conversion & Aliyah Seth Farber

During the past year, conversion to Judaism has been the subject of much press and analysis. The crises surrounding the recognition of conversion and the annulment of conversion have rocked the Jewish world to its core. Ironically, in the past six months, it is Orthodox converts from overseas in particular that are being deliberately persecuted by the State of Israel. In the present environment, both the Interior Ministry and the rabbinate have engaged in a misinformation campaign, which has befuddled even the most acute analysts of Jewish life in Israel. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Two criteria related to conversion delegitimize even the most serious of Orthodox converts. The first - which is reasonable in its conception but not in its realization - prevents Orthodox converts from making aliya subsequent to their conversion. Since the State of Israel (as differentiated from the rabbinate) accepts conversions from all the denominations, and since conversion overseas entitles a convert to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, the Interior Ministry lives in constant fear that foreign workers (now numbering more than 100,000) will take advantage of "quickie conversions" or "pop-over conversions" overseas and then become citizens.

TO STEM this, the ministry has maintained a policy that insists that converts reside in their sponsoring community for a full year following their conversions. Individuals like Rachel Del Conte (The Jerusalem Report, March 18), who converted Orthodox but were encouraged by their rabbinical courts or communities to move to Israel are being rejected as Jews by the state - even in cases where the Chief Rabbinate accepts them as Jews. The organization I direct, ITIM, has petitioned the High Court against the Interior Ministry, and won a temporary injunction, with a full hearing scheduled on November 26. The rejection Rachel feels is felt by dozens if not hundreds of Orthodox converts each year, who are told that they are not Jewish enough to make aliya (even if, ironically, they are Jewish enough to be married in Israel).

But a second criterion is even more deleterious to the Jewish fabric of the state. In the past two years, the Chief Rabbinate has radically downsized the list of recognized Orthodox rabbis whose conversions will be confirmed for purposes of marriage. Now, while ITIM has serious reservations regarding the sensibility of this move, there is little question that it can act unilaterally. However, what is shocking is that the Interior Ministry has determined that the Chief Rabbinate is the sole source by which Orthodox conversions can be certified for purposes of aliya. In other words, if someone converted through their local Orthodox rabbi - either recently or in the past - then if the rabbinate does not accept this conversion, neither will the state. The rabbinate's list for North America at present includes approximately 15 rabbis. You do the math.

MEN LIKE Jose Portendo (The Jerusalem Post, October 5) could have made aliya six or seven years ago without a problem. They would have met all the criteria. But the state has begun to cower before rabbinical authorities whose agenda is unclear, whose understanding of the North American Orthodox culture is minimal and whose approach is fundamentalist. Ironically, if Jose had converted to Judaism in a Reform or Conservative ceremony, the state would have consulted with the organized American Jewish community structures and approved his aliya. Only the Orthodox need suffer.

This need not be the case. At present, there are no written guidelines for how conversions are recognized by the state, and thus converts' futures are subject to the whims of Interior Ministry clerks. Consider that a Jerusalem Post reporter was told that the list of "certified Orthodox rabbis" was held by the Conversion Authority of the state. Not only does the Conversion Authority not maintain such a list, but it also, by law, is not allowed to be involved in any conversions from overseas. The state is simply persecuting Orthodox converts.[...]

Shas - Rabbinical courts for Civil Disputes too

Haaretz wrote:
Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni has reportedly said she would discuss a demand from Shas to extend the rabbinical courts' jurisdiction to civil disputes between couples to try to persuade the ultra-Orthodox party to join the coalition. Consequently, Shas reported some progress in the coalition negotiations on Thursday.

Livni set an ultimatum on Thursday, giving her potential coalition partners three days to join a new government under her leadership or face the prospect of new elections.

Shas had previously demanded expanding the rabbinical courts' jurisdiction during 2006 coalition negotiation with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. However Olmert, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog objected to this demand, which they said would infringe on the secular public's rights and undermine the status quo.

If Shas' demand is met, Livni may have to face opposition from within the Labor Party and strain the already tense relations with Friedmann.

As far as Shas is concerned, the move is a coup - bolstering the rabbinical courts that would be able to rule on property issues between couples, among other things.

Shas has recently raised this demand in talks with Livni, arguing that an agreement on this issue had already been reached and must be kept.

Livni also agreed to revoke the reduction in the yeshiva budget, estimated at NIS 400 million, for 2009. However, Shas is still dissatisfied with Livni's offer regarding child allowances. Shas is demanding NIS 1 billion while Livni is willing to give NIS 600 million in the 2009 budget and give Shas NIS 350 million for sectorial needs detailed in the coalition agreement.

Shas' spiritual mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, is now expected to decide whether the party can join the coalition.

Livni, who under law has until Nov. 3 to put together a parliamentary majority, informed President Shimon Peres of her decision.

Eternal Jewish Family - 2 day conference (Lubicom)

Yeshiva World Reports:

A distinguished group of Dayanim from Eretz Yisroel and Europe will participate in a two-day conference on November 2-4 at the Downtown Marriott in Philadelphia. The third Dayanim Conference is sponsored by the Eternal Jewish Family International and the Lillian Jean Kaplan Jewish Pride Through Education Project of Horizons, an internationally recognized kiruv and Torah education center based in Monsey, headed by Harav Leib Tropper, Rosh Yeshiva of Kol Yaakov.

The overseas guests will include Dayan Avrohom Sherman, Chief Dayan of Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court, Dayan Raphoel Eliyahu Aisherig (Chief Rabbinate, Israel),  Dayan Chanoch Ehrentrau, Chairman of the Conference of European Rabbis and Dayan Menachem Gelley (UK). Some 40 dayanim and Roshei Yeshiva will participate in the conference which will air some of the important emerging halachic issues that constantly come to the fore on universally accepted conversion standards in intermarriage. All but some of the dayanim at the conference are part of a growing network of independent batei din in North America that have adopted the geirus standards of leading poskim, as is being promulgated by EJF International.

The conference will be opened by Harav Shmuel Kaminetsky, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Philadelphia and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Agudas Yisroel. Also addressing the conference will be Harav Reuven Feinstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta of Staten Island and Chairman of the Halachic Committee of EJF, Harav Dovid Olewski, Rosh Yeshiva of the Gerer Mesivta (Brooklyn) Harav Betzalel Tuvia Wettenstein (Belzer Dayan of Monsey)and Rabbi Eliyahu Levin (Lakewood).

The topics to be aired will include halachic and practical applications of many contemporary issues, such as children of mixed marriages, including enrollment in yeshivas and Jewish day schools; adopted non-Jewish children who reach Bar/Bas Mitzvah; working with Jewish spouses who were either frum from birth or baalei tshuvah; administering a bais din that is involved in geirus; and what constitutes geirus lechumrah and geirus al pi sofek.

Harav Tropper, chairman of the Rabbinic Committee of EJF, said that this important conference will allow the rabbonim and dayanim the opportunity to hear divrei halacha from prominent dayanim in the field as well as to exchange experiences of the various botei din. The conference discussions will be based on the principles of geirus as dictated by such leading Torah luminaries as Harav Sholem Yosef Elyashiv and the piskei halacha of the late venerable sage Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, as is conveyed by his son Harav Reuven Feinstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva of Staten Island, who serves as the chairman of the halachic committee of EJF.

The presence of the dayanim from Europe is particularly noteworthy in light of the recent partnership between the Conference of European Rabbis, headed by Dayan Eherentrau and the Eternal Jewish Family International, headed by Harav Tropper, to step up efforts in Europe to head off problematic conversions in intermarriage. While EJF does not set up Botei Din, it works closely with a network of Botei Din in Israel and Europe. In the US, the Botei Din function in such cities as Baltimore, Monsey, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New York,  Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Montreal, Miami, Lakewood, Dallas, Toronto, Houston, and Vancouver

Concurrent with the Dayanim Conference will be a pilot one-day seminar for women mentors who work with women candidates for geirus in intermarriage. Many of the mentors who will be participating from all over the country are also involved in kiruv work in general while others are specifically focused on the education of conversion candidates once a decision is made to pursue a universally accepted conversion. The seminar, coordinated by Mrs. Leah Roberts of EJF, will delve into many important issues that the mentors confront on a daily basis.

(Lubicom Press Release)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Schnorring gets harder

JPost reports:

The holiday season is a time for giving. Some of the most important pro-Israel philanthropic appeals take place in North America between Rosh Hashana and Succot. Some of the year's biggest pledges are made.

There is the Kol Nidrei Appeal and the Yizkor Appeal. Seasoned fundraisers know how to strum an emotional chord in people's hearts. But not surprisingly, according to veteran fundraisers, this year's North American appeals yielded particularly flat results. Financial markets are in a tumult. Investors and businessmen are reeling. Even the warmest, most generous North American Jew is reevaluating his or her commitment to Israel's institutions.

"This year's lackluster holiday appeal is particularly worrisome because it is an indicator of the future and it comes after the devaluation of the dollar," said Meir Bunder, a veteran educator and fundraiser who recently immigrated to Israel from Florida.

"Donors have already made it clear that they will not compensate for the weak dollar. Now it seems unlikely that they will even match last year's donations in dollar terms." The haredim have been the hardest hurt by the financial crisis. Haredi educational institutions refuse to adopt the curriculum requirements dictated by the Education Ministry. As a result, they receive only partial state funding. The missing funds needed to run these institutions are supplied by tuitions and donations.

Married haredi men pursue extended Torah educations well into their 30s and rely on stipends funded almost exclusively by North American philanthropists and a few dozen big donors from Britain, France and Belgium. Rabbi Avraham Pinzel, administrative head of Chochmas Shlomo, one of the largest Talmud Torah elementary schools in Jerusalem, said that a number of factors have come together to make it nearly impossible to keep his institution afloat. "With fuel prices skyrocketing, our transportation costs have risen by 50 percent," said Pinzel. "Food costs are also rising, which means it is more expensive to feed our students. Combine that with the fact that the vast majority of our donations are in dollars. "In addition, many of the fathers of our students learn in Kollel. They get paid in dollars. They simply cannot pay shekel denominated tuitions," he went on. "Now there is the financial crisis. I have not been to the States [for fundraising] since the crisis. But I've heard plenty of stories." Nonetheless, he said, "we have always lived on miracles. We have God Almighty's promise that no matter what happens, Torah scholarship will continue."In haredi circles, financial matters have become an obsession. For instance, rumors were circulated that a prominent hassidic leader in the US had his car repossessed over the holidays after he failed to pay leasing costs.

However, there has been little talk among haredi leaders about making changes in haredi society that would reduce its inordinate dependence on philanthropy. There have been tough times in the past, and we have never seen a significant change in the haredi way of life," said a senior administrator connected with the yeshiva world. "If anything, when the economy is good, there is more of a temptation to leave the yeshiva and get a job. But when there is a recession, all the opportunities dry up."

Child abuse - A sefer on the Jewish perspective

I have just started working on a sefer dealing with child abuse - with my chavrusa of many years - Dr. Baruch Shulem.

We are interested in producing a comprehensive presentation both from the psychological (as we are both psychologists) and the Torah perspective (we are both Orthodox Jews). With extensive citation from both worlds.

I would appreciate any clear references in the Torah literature (not sermons or blog postings) which explicitly deal with the issues as well as any quality secular studies  concerned with  definition, history of concern with abuse, treatment and prognosis. {I can be contacted at]

We both feel that in order for real change to come about in the Orthodox world - the issue has to be treated in a more comprehensive and scholarly manner. Without clearly defining the issues and the parameters there is really little basis for communication or action.

Presidential race & Influential Jews

Haaretz reports:

The John McCain-Barack Obama contest has been one in which the issues of Wall Street and fitness for the presidency have far overshadowed the subject of Israel. But the Jewish vote remains a key element in battleground states, and, playing a wide variety of roles, Jews have helped to shape the campaigns. Thirty-six of them are mentioned below. This list is by no means all-inclusive, and, for considerations of space, many Jews who have played active parts in the campaigns do not appear - among them Obama surrogate U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Obama advisor and ex-California congressman Mel Levine.

Also missing are a number of Jews who have played minor roles, but merit mention for the interest they have attracted - in particular, Sandra Froman, the first Jewish president of the National Rifle Association (2005-7), and a steering committee member of Sportsmen for McCain; and Linda Lingle, the first Jewish governor of Hawaii and an early defender of Sarah Palin.

It should be noted that perhaps the most significant name that appears on the list belongs to a man, Henry Lehman, who has been dead for 153 years, and has thus remained uncounted among the living.

Following is the list, in alphabetical order:

Sheldon Adelson: He is Republican, neoconservative and a mega-donor, however, a combination of financial reverses and internal disputes has muted his contribution to the McCain effort.

David Axelrod: Chief strategist and media advisor for the Obama campaign, he has harnessed grassroots support through "viral" media, new technology and emphasis on the theme of change.

Steven Bob and Sam Gordon: The two Reform rabbis from the Chicago area founded Rabbis for Obama, which has persuaded hundreds of rabbinical colleagues to go on record by name supporting the candidate. The group's influence on the Jewish electorate has been difficult to gauge. [...]

Barney Frank: The Massachusetts Democratic congressman is one of the most visible, outspoken liberals in the House. He is openly gay and a frequent target of pro-McCain commentators, particularly on Fox News, where, because of his role as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, he has been said to bear crucial responsibility for the sub-prime lending crisis. He played a key role in negotiating the Wall Street bailout package.

Malcolm Hoenlein: Formally nonpartisan as professional chief of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, he invited Sarah Palin to speak at an anti-Ahmadinejad rally at the UN, then bowed to pressure to rescind the invitation. He is seen to have aided the McCain campaign in terms of some Jewish undecideds.

Cheryl Jacobs: A McCain campaign co-chair in Broward County, Florida, the Conservative rabbi, a longtime Democrat, supported Hillary Clinton's primary race for president, but then switched to McCain.

Henry Kissinger: The New York Times calls the former secretary of state a "close outside adviser" to McCain's campaign. He is regularly called upon by the candidate for advice on foreign affairs, and held a high-profile briefing session with Palin prior to the vice-presidential debate. [...]