Friday, July 31, 2009

Understanding the Spinka scandal

I think the following makes too much of too little - but it is useful to understanding the context of recent scandals. The Rebbe pleaded guilty last week. In addition he spoke at the recent Aguda conference where he publically admitted his guilt and suggested honest alternatives.

Forward - Allan Nalder

The Hasidic Rebbe, or "Grand Rabbi," is no ordinary Jewish spiritual leader. Unlike rabbis in other denominations, from Reform to the fervently Orthodox, the Rebbe in Hasidic communities is much more than a teacher, adjudicator of Jewish law and community leader. He is nothing less than a conduit between his followers and the Heavens; a man believed by the faithful to be immaculately holy, endowed with a direct line to God Himself and thereby blessed with supernatural powers that include miracle-healing, divination and the magical granting of every imaginable human need, from bequeathing children to the clinically barren to endowing wealth to the chronically impecunious. A classic Hasidic adage assures that it is within the Rebbe's power to bestow believers with "offspring, long-life and sustenance."

And speaking of “sustenance,” at least one contemporary Hasidic Rebbe is allegedly also blessed with the power to grant sophisticated money-laundering and tax-evasion services to his supporters. When the Grand Rabbi of the Boro Park clan of the Spinka Hasidic dynasty, 59-year-old Naftali Zvi Weisz — or as he is reverently known to his followers, “His Honored Holiness our Master, Teacher and Rabbi of Spinka, Shlita” — was busted by federal agents in Los Angeles on December 19, along with his gabbai, or personal assistant, Rabbi Moshe Zigelman, and four co-conspirators, on charges of having defrauded the American government of almost $35 million, the Hasidic world entered into paroxysms of shock, dismay and anger. The mood of this deeply insular ultra-Orthodox community only darkened further as copies of the 45-page federal indictment detailing no fewer than 37 criminal charges against the Rebbe and his cohorts, as well as the juicy FBI transcripts richly documenting the surveillance methods employed to uncover the Spinker Rebbe’s elaborate schemes, hit the Internet.

But the lion’s share of the Hasidic community’s anger was directed not at the alleged crimes of their Rebbe, but rather at the FBI’s informant. Referred to in FBI documents only as “RK,” the informant cut an immunity deal with the government years ago and was the key figure in blowing the whistle on the Rebbe’s alleged scam. The New York Yiddish weeklies published under Hasidic auspices, as well as numerous comments on a variety of Hasidic Web sites, all cried foul — demanding a community-wide inquest to unmask and root out the “evil spy and informer” who betrayed and defamed the Holy Spinker Rebbe, Shlita. [...]

Polish government forces Jews to accept convert

Time Magazine Monday, Mar. 28, 1932

Jewry does not seek converts. It even discourages those few non-Jews who seek to join. Nevertheless, as sometimes happens, Jewry was petitioned in Warsaw by a Roman Catholic named Antoni-Stefan Raczynski. The Warsaw Rabbinate refused the application, was backed by the Minister of Education who cited a Tsarist ukase of 1905 granting religious liberty save to native Christians who wished to adopt non-Christian faiths. But Pan (Mr.) Raczynski appealed his case to the Supreme Administrative Tribunal at Warsaw, which three weeks ago reversed the previous decisions. Let the Rabbinate admit Pan Raczynski. The Tsarist ukase, said the Tribunal, meant "Greek Orthodox" when it said "Christian." Hence any Roman Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist or whatnot might become a Jew if he wished.

Last week The American Jewish World viewed the conversion of Pan Raczynski as a "strange case." It said: "For centuries it was considered [by civil authorities] a crime for Jews to accept a Christian convert. At certain periods in history, it constituted a capital crime. Now we have a decision of a Supreme Tribunal whose members are probably all Catholics, denying to the Rabbinate the legal right to refuse a Catholic conversion to Judaism. Verily, the world does change!"[...]

Eternal Jewish Family - Phoenix 2007

Jewish News of Phoenix online Jonathan Rosenblum - speaker at Phoenix
EJF Phoenix 2007

US Consulate in Jerusalem - Palestinian territory?!

Rap sent the following
Jihad Watch: "US Consulate in Jerusalem website assumes Jerusalem is Palestinian, says nothing about Israel"

Wash Post crticizes Obama's policy on Israel

Wash Post

ONE OF THE MORE striking results of the Obama administration's first six months is that only one country has worse relations with the United States than it did in January: Israel. The new administration has pushed a reset button with Russia and sent new ambassadors to Syria and Venezuela; it has offered olive branches to Cuba and Burma. But for nearly three months it has been locked in a public confrontation with Israel over Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank. To a less visible extent, the two governments also have differed over policy toward Iran.

This week a parade of senior U.S. officials has been visiting Jerusalem to tackle the issues: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Middle East envoy George J. Mitchell, national security adviser James L. Jones and senior aide Dennis Ross. But the tensions persist, and public opinion is following: The Pew Global Attitudes Project reported last week that Israel was the only country among 25 surveyed where the public's image of the United States was getting worse rather than better.

In part the trouble was unavoidable: Taking office with a commitment to pursuing Middle East peace, Mr. Obama faced a new, right-wing Israeli government whose prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has refused to accept the goal of Palestinian statehood. In part it was tactical: By making plain his disagreements with Mr. Netanyahu on statehood and Jewish settlements, Mr. Obama hoped to force an Israeli retreat while building credibility with Arab governments -- two advances that he arguably needs to set the stage for a serious peace process.

But the administration also is guilty of missteps. Rather than pocketing Mr. Netanyahu's initial concessions -- he gave a speech on Palestinian statehood and suggested parameters for curtailing settlements accepted by previous U.S. administrations -- Mr. Obama chose to insist on an absolutist demand for a settlement "freeze." Palestinian and Arab leaders who had accepted previous compromises immediately hardened their positions; they also balked at delivering the "confidence-building" concessions to Israel that the administration seeks. Israeli public opinion, which normally leans against the settler movement, has rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu. And Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which were active during the Bush administration's final year, have yet to resume.[...]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Obama administration drops voter intimidation charges against Black Panthers

Washington Times- Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the No. 3 official in the Obama Justice Department, was consulted and ultimately approved a decision in May to reverse course and drop a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party of intimidating voters in Philadelphia during November's election, according to interviews.

The department's career lawyers in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division who pursued the complaint for five months had recommended that Justice seek sanctions against the party and three of its members after the government had already won a default judgment in federal court against the men.

Front-line lawyers were in the final stages of completing that work when they were unexpectedly told by their superiors in late April to seek a delay after a meeting between political appointees and career supervisors, according to federal records and interviews.[...]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rav Sternbuch - Preparing for Moshiach

Proselytization - R' Celso Cukierkorn

Proselytization - R Jonathan Ginsburg

West Bank - Natural growth /NYT

General Colin Powell - arguing with the police

Yahoo news

WASHINGTON – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was mildly critical Tuesday of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., whose angry response to a Cambridge, Mass., police officer touched off a national debate involving President Barack Obama.

Powell, interviewed by CNN's Larry King, criticized the way Gates dealt with Sgt. James Crowley, a white officer who responded to reports of a possible break-in by arresting the black professor at his home on a charge of disorderly conduct. The charge was soon dropped.

Gates "might have waited a while, come outside, talked to the officer, and that might have been the end of it," said Powell, one of the nation's most prominent African Americans.

"I think he should have reflected on whether or not this was the time to make that big a deal," he said.

But, Powell said, Gates was just home from China and New York and "all he wanted to do was get to bed."

When asked about the incident at a news conference, Obama said the police acted stupidly. The president subsequently toned down his criticism but not his denunciation of racial profiling generally.

Powell said he was the target of racial profiling many times and he sometimes got mad.

On one such occasion, he said, he tried to meet someone at Reagan National Airport "and nobody thought I could be the national security adviser to the president. I was just a black guy."
Asked how he dealt with the situation, Powell said "You just suck it up. What are you going to do?"

"There is no African American in this country who has not been exposed to this kind of situation," Powell said.

But, he said, "when you are faced with an officer trying to do his job and get to the bottom of something, this is not the time to get in an argument with him. I was taught that as a child.

"You don't argue with a police officer," Powell said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

EJF - Do rabbis know it converts mixed couples?

Aaron commented to "EJF - attracting non-Jews to proselytize - is permitted...":

Roni/R Tropper; I want to ask you , can you tell me with the full truth ,that all the Rabonim associated with the EJF including the beautiful dais that was shown at the confrence last week,are aware that the purpose of EJF is to be megayer these goyim in an intermarried couple? I have strong reason to beleive that they are being told one thing and the EJF is doing something else?

Michal bas Avraham commented to "EJF - attracting non-Jews to proselytize - is permitted...":


You are right they are not being told that the organization is there to convert intermarrieds. They are being told that they are trying to raise the standards of conversion. Last Shabbos, I was at someone's house and the husband told me three men in his kollel took some course to be on their baytai din. This is what they were told. Also, the RCA standards are actually higher. They know who is on their baytai din, real rabbis who have done conversions but, not the one before them. Whereas now we see about EJF.

The EJF doesn't provide mentoring. They make you bring them your shul rabbi. They ask him to find you a mentor. They also ask him to "watch your attendance in shul." This is ridiculous. Anyone can go to shul and go home to watch TV. However, I've heard this from rabbis. They say, you have to live in my area so I can make sure you go to shul every week. Also, what about Brooklyn? In Brooklyn, a woman who goes to shul is like a prostitute that's how UNacceptable it is to go to shul.

I have blogged about EJF and I will do it again. They are this organization that just formed itself and run around with their ego telling everyone they better and have higher standards. Actually, they don't.

Psychiatrist in abuse case retracts evaulation


Dr. Yaakov Weill, who wrote the psychiatric evaluation of the mother suspected of starving her three-year-old son, has changed his mind and now says the woman does pose a threat to her children.

Weill's opinion, among other factors, contributed to the court's decision to release the suspect to house arrest with her children

Following his meeting with the mother last week, Dr. Weill concluded she was not dangerous to her children. However, in a letter recently sent to the rabbis who assisted the mother during her arrest, the psychiatrist wrote that he wishes to recant on his earlier estimate that the mother "can continue carrying out her parental duties to her children without risk."

"I did not have the sufficient tools to determine this," Weill said in a letter to Rabbi Avraham Froelich, who hosted the woman after she was remanded to house arrest.

"I wish to stress that I did not consider myself an expert witness appointed by the court, but was merely obliging you, the rabbis, who asked me to examine her," he added. [...]

Hunches save soldiers' lives


The sight was not that unusual, at least not for Mosul, Iraq, on a summer morning: a car parked on the sidewalk, facing opposite traffic, its windows rolled up tight. Two young boys stared out the back window, kindergarten age maybe, their faces leaning together as if to share a whisper.

The soldier patrolling closest to the car stopped. It had to be hot in there; it was 120 degrees outside. "Permission to approach, sir, to give them some water," the soldier said to Sgt. First Class Edward Tierney, who led the nine-man patrol that morning.

"I said no — no," Sergeant Tierney said in a telephone interview from Afghanistan. He said he had an urge to move back before he knew why: "My body suddenly got cooler; you know, that danger feeling."

The United States military has spent billions on hardware, like signal jamming technology, to detect and destroy what the military calls improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, the roadside bombs that have proved to be the greatest threat in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, where Sergeant Tierney is training soldiers to foil bomb attacks.

Still, high-tech gear, while helping to reduce casualties, remains a mere supplement to the most sensitive detection system of all — the human brain. Troops on the ground, using only their senses and experience, are responsible for foiling many I.E.D. attacks, and, like Sergeant Tierney, they often cite a gut feeling or a hunch as their first clue.

Everyone has hunches — about friends' motives, about the stock market, about when to fold a hand of poker and when to hold it. But United States troops are now at the center of a large effort to understand how it is that in a life-or-death situation, some people's brains can sense danger and act on it well before others' do.

Experience matters, of course: if you have seen something before, you are more likely to anticipate it the next time. And yet, recent research suggests that something else is at work, too.

Small differences in how the brain processes images, how well it reads emotions and how it manages surges in stress hormones help explain why some people sense imminent danger before most others do.[...]

Hadassah Hospital officials harassed


Anonymous callers are continuing to harass the families of senior Hadassah Hospital officials in the case of the three-year-old Jerusalem boy who doctors believe was nearly starved to death by his mother, according to a tape recording of the latest call released Monday.

The harassment, which follows death threats made against Hadassah staff, persisted Sunday night, even though the child was discharged from the hospital earlier in the day.

In the latest telephone harassment, an English-speaking caller, who said that he was calling from the United States, told the sister-in-law of Hadassah Deputy Director-General Dr. Yair Birnbaum at her Haifa residence that Birenbaum was carrying out experiments on the child with chemotherapy.

"You should know that people are disgusted with him and the way he is behaving with Orthodox Jewish people," the caller said in heavy English, according to a tape of the call played on Israel Radio's lunchtime newsreel on Monday.

"He should know that there will be demonstrations in the US, the UK and Australia against Hadassah Hospital," he continued.

The caller, who has phoned the Hadassah family member's residence for four straight nights, went on to justify comparisons between Hadassah officials and the infamous Nazi known as Dr. Mengele who performed medical experiments on inmates.

"He says he feels offended by being called Mengele," the caller said. "Well, he is trying all sorts of experiments on this innocent child...and treated him with chemotherapy." [...]

Missionaries targeting the elderly


A Holocaust survivor who was suffering from dementia was deceived by those hired to help her, family members said, because they claimed they converted her to their Messianic Christian religion.

The two women who were hired to play music and speak with 94-year-old Sara told her daughter Goldie Maxwell weeks after Sara died that they were both Messianic Jews, that they had played and sung songs from the New Testament when Maxwell and her husband were not around, and that at the end of her life, Sara had a revelation and acknowledged Jesus as the messiah.

They also recorded these statements in a document they gave to Maxwell after Sara's death in March.

"I sensed that they had betrayed me, because I let them into the house on certain assumptions, but even more, the betrayal of my mother and of who she was," Maxwell told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "They knew who she [Sara] was." [...]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Abuse: Questions to ask your local rabbi

1. In a case where a father finds out that his son is being molested by a teacher and this is corroborated by several of his classmates. The abuse has been going on for a number of months. Thus there is absolutely no question that the abuser is active and the danger is present for the foreseeable future.

--- Since in my opinion I have clear and unequivocal evidence that the molesting is taking place - can I go directly to the police. Or do I need rabbinic approval first?

---- Is there a difference whether the likelihood of another incident is clearcut and urgent or whether there is clearly time to consult rav?

2. A person reported Reuben as an abuser or attacked Reuven because he reasonable thought Reuven was a rodef and needed to save Reuven's apparent victim from harm and he hurt Reuven in the process. It was discovered that the Reuven not in fact an abuser or rodef – is the person liable for damages? For example I see a man and woman fighting and the woman is screaming. I go over and warn to guy to stop but he tells me to mind my own business. the women seems to be in danger and the ownly way I can stop the attacker is by taking a baseball bat and knocking him out. It turns out they are married and the wife sues me for hurting her husband.

3. In a case where a rav said not to report a case of abuse and as a result the child suffered severe physical and psychological damage – is there any liability for either the rav or the person who listened to the rav?

4. In a case where a person reasonable concluded that a child is being molested and a rav told him not to report it – should the person report it anyway?

Kidneys for sale - is it immoral?

Wall Street Journal

Even by New Jersey standards, Thursday's roundup of three mayors, five rabbis and 36 others on charges of money laundering and public corruption was big. But what put this FBI dragnet head and shoulders above the rest are the charges of trafficking in human body parts.

According to a federal criminal complaint filed in district court in New Jersey, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn conspired to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant. The cost was $160,000 to the recipient of the transplant, of which the donor got $10,000. According to the complaint, Mr. Rosenbaum said he had brokered such sales many times over the past 10 years.

"That it could happen in this country is so shocking," said Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the Red Cross.

No, it isn't. When I needed a kidney several years ago and had no donor in sight, I would have considered doing business with someone like Mr. Rosenbaum. The current law—the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984—gave me little choice. I would be a felon if I compensated a donor who was willing to spare me years of life-draining dialysis and premature death.

The early responses to the New Jersey scandal leave me dismayed, though not surprised. "We really have to crack down," the co-director of the Joint Council of Europe/United Nations Study on Trafficking in Organs and Body Parts told MSNBC. That strategy is doomed, of course. It ignores the time-tested fact that efforts to stamp out underground markets either drive corruption further underground or causes it to flourish elsewhere.

The illicit organ trade is booming across the globe. It will only recede when the critical shortage of organs for transplants disappears. The best way to make that happen is to give legitimate incentives to people who might be willing to donate. Instead, I fear that Congress will merely raise the penalties for underground organ sales without simultaneously establishing a legal mechanism to incentivize donors.

Al Gore, then a Tennessee congressman who spearheaded the National Organ Transplant Act, spoke of using "a voucher system or a tax credit to a donor's estate" if "efforts to improve voluntary donation are unsuccessful." After 25 years, it is clear they have been unsuccessful.

More than 80,000 Americans now wait for a kidney, according the United Network for Organ Sharing. Thirteen of them die daily; the rest languish for years on dialysis. The number of donors last year was lower than in 2005, despite decades of work to encourage people to sign donor cards and donate to loved ones. [...]

Why Obamacare is sinking/Krauthammer


What happened to Obamacare? Rhetoric met reality. As both candidate and president, the master rhetorician could conjure a world in which he bestows upon you health care nirvana: more coverage, less cost.

But you can't fake it in legislation. Once you commit your fantasies to words and numbers, the Congressional Budget Office comes along and declares that the emperor has no clothes.

President Obama premised the need for reform on the claim that medical costs are destroying the economy. True. But now we learn - surprise! - that universal coverage increases costs. The congressional Democrats' health care plans, says the CBO, increase costs in the range of $1 trillion plus.

In response, the president retreated to a demand that any bill he sign be revenue neutral. But that's classic misdirection: If the fierce urgency of health care reform is to radically reduce costs that are producing budget-destroying deficits, revenue neutrality (by definition) leaves us on precisely the same path to insolvency that Obama himself declares unsustainable.[...]

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Aish HaTorah & Anusim

Aish HaTorah has published yet another article indicating the anusim or marranos are somehow Jews.

From my family I am the only one who "returned" to embrace Judaism. But I choose to focus on the positive things my ancestors did accomplish. I feel the very reason I am today a Jew must be because ultimately they did something right. I have no doubt that it was because of the merit of my ancestors dying "al Kiddush Hashem," sanctifying God's name, that I have the privilege to become a full-fledged Jew.

Conversion - is there age discrimination?

Sara asked

I am a 58 year old candidate for geirus. I have been trying for the last 4 years to convert. Despite the fact I have taken all the courses and have been shomer mitzovs for a number of years - the beis din does not seem very interested in converting me. I have sacrificed a lot to convert - in particular I have lost my connection with my family because I am trying to convert. I would like to know if there are older single women who are having a difficult time converting. I suspect it is because of my age and that if I was young, had money or children, I know I would have a valid conversion already. I also believe that if I was in a relationship with a Jew that I also would have been converted already. I also have observed that those who claim to be Jewish - i.e., have a Jewish father or have think that they have Jewish ancestry are also more readily converted. Is there anything I can do to facilitate the matter? For example can anyone recommend a respected beis din that might be more interested in convering me? I am not concerned whether it is Modern Orthodox or Haredi - I would like to be converted already. Finaly I have a close friend who is also trying to convert. But she says that her mother was actually Jewish but she can't prove it. Are there any services that can help her provide evidence that a beis din would find acceptable? Are there any internet resources that could be used?

Again, thank you for your time,

Informing on Others to a Just Government

Rabbi Michael J. Broyde - [page 43-45 Journal of Halacha]

5. A Jew is knowingly and intentionally cheating on his United States taxes. May one inform on him to the Internal Revenue Service? According to the view of Rabbi Waldenberg, such conduct permitted because informing is not wrong to a just government. According to Rabbi Batzri, such informing is prohibited and makes the informer a pursuer, as it will land the tax cheater in jail, and that is prohibited. According to Rabbi Wosner, although such conduct is not informing, it is prohibited under the rubric of doing gratuitous harm to another,and would only be permitted when the informer stands to benefit concretely from the arrest,94 or when it was one's job to detect such people or when being silent leads to desecration of G-d's name or informing leads to a sanctification of G-d's name, in which case informing is mandatory.95 According to Rabbi Feinstein, such informing is prohibited and makes the informer a pursuer (unless this conduct is one's job, and if he did not do it, someone else would and the person would be detected

94. Such as when the government knows about the cheating and actually suspects the informant of being the cheater. 95. See Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 266:1. 96. Rabbi Shmelkes' view is hard to determine. Cheating Medicaid or Medicare would seem to be no different than cheating on taxes. Consider a simple case of a doctor who is in a medical practice with another doctor who is forging the first doctor's signature on Medicare reimbursement forms; may the first doctor inform on the second? This case is relatively simple as informing is the only certain way the first doctor can preserve his own Medicare rights. He is informing for direct personal benefit, and thus such conduct would be permitted, even more so since Medicare fraud only very rarely results in jail sentences. A much harder hypothetical involves a Jew who is involved in non-violent criminal activity with a group of Jews and who – alone – is caught by the police. The other members of the criminal ring are not caught and their identities are still unknown. The District Attorney offers this defendant a deal, in which if he reveals the identity of his fellow criminals he will serve no jail time. Otherwise, a full penalty will be imposed. While a full analysis of this matter is quite complex, it is clear that one who informs out of fear of being punished himself anyway).is not generally deemed an informer; Choshen Mishpat 388:2. However, many authorities deem such conduct a sin; see Pitchai Choshen volume 5 Chapter 4, notes 31 and 32 and Chapter 12, paragraph 5 and 27. According to the view of Rabbi Waldenberg, such conduct is permitted as informing is not wrong in a just government. According to Rabbi Batzri, this conduct saves one's life, while endangering the life of others, and is wrong. According to Rabbi Wosner's approach, if this is an area where the authority of the secular law is valid in the eyes of Jewish law, such conduct is permitted. According to Rabbi Feinstein, such informing is prohibited and perhaps even makes the informer a pursuer.

Money laundering case will lower donations to yeshivos


Government sources believe that one of the aftereffects of the massive money-laundering and illegal organ trading case that broke this week will be a sharp decline in donations to Israeli yeshivas, particularly those linked with the ultra-Orthodox party Shas and its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Three New Jersey mayors and several rabbis were arrested last Thursday in a sweeping federal investigation into political corruption that also uncovered human kidney sales and money laundering from Brooklyn to Israel.

Sources say that the wave of donations received by Israel's Sephardic yeshivas will significantly diminish as the scandal breaks, even by Jewish bodies unrelated to the affair who want to distance themselves from it.

One of the main suspects in the money laundering case is Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Haim, who is a close associate of Rabbi David Yosef, Ovadia Yosef's son. Ben Haim is also very active in the Yechavei Da'at organization, headed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's family.

David Yosef heads the Yechavei Da'at kolel, an institute for advanced studies of the Talmud and rabbinic literature, in Jerusalem. Ben-Haim has helped elicit donations from rich U.S. Jews for the institution in the past. These donations are expected to cease. [...]

FBI Corruption scandal ITN video

Shas restarts Ethiopian immigration - mistake?


Quietly, without fanfare or any sort of serious debate, the government is resuming Falashmura immigration from Ethiopia, a year after it was ended by the previous administration.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, the man who holds the keys to the gates of Israeli citizenship, is sending officials to Ethiopia to restart the process of examining the eligibility of potential immigrants. They will be looking at Falashmura claiming to be descendants of Jews who for some reason or other converted to Christianity generations ago.

In the first stage, they will review the cases of 3,000 Falashmura who were apparently left out of the process, but ultimately Yishai wants to enable all the inhabitants of the Falashmura compound in Gondar, which has an official population of 8,700, to apply for citizenship.

Thus, in typical Israeli fashion, a whole government policy been overturned without a cabinet meeting to discuss the various ramifications, nor has there been any inter-departmental discussion to plan all the contingencies. So what if the entire immigration and absorption setup - operated jointly by the interior and absorption ministries, the embassy in Addis Ababa and the Jewish Agency - has been dismantled and nobody knows where the funding for rebuilding it is going to come from, for how long it is expected to operate again and for how many immigrants? Screw long-term planning.

The pressure groups pressed, the rabbis ruled and the minister gave the order. The word is out in Ethiopia, the disappointed multitudes who left the Gondar compound are returning, and more family members will be joining them. The Israelis are opening the gates again.

It is hardly surprising. The Operation Solomon airlift in May, 1991 was to have finished the saga of Ethiopian Jewry once and for all, but despite four government committees and countless policy decisions since, all it took was one ministerial dictate to change the situation.

The cabinet decided in 2005 to set a firm date after which the Falashmura immigration would end and to limit the total numbers of migrants who would be allowed in. So what? The influential Falashmura lobby predicted that all it was needed was change of government to re-open the process and they were right. An absurd coalition has grown up around the Falashmura cause. Liberal American Jews who want Israel to do their tikun olam (healing the world) by accepting black citizens with a vague connection to the Jewish people join religious right-wingers who see the Ethiopians as the ultimate antidote to the Palestinian demographic problem. And Shas rabbis clinging to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's original ruling, 35 years ago, in which he recognized the Falashmura as Jews, have also banded with them.

Former interior minister Meir Sheetrit opposed them, with the backing of Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, but no one is going to stop his successor now. Benjamin Netanyahu is certainly not going to endanger his increasingly shaky coalition by fighting Shas on this issue; many of those around him have long been fans of the Falashmura cause.

Neither is he going to open up another front with American Jewish leaders. He needs their support now more than ever as the strategic relationship with Washington plumbs new depths. Can you imagine what it would look like if Israel denied the rights of "black Jews" while the son of a Kenyan sits in the Oval Office?

Of course no one has taken the trouble to consult with the impressive group of professionals, and Jewish Agency and Foreign Ministry veterans who worked in Ethiopia for years and have a clear position on the issue. They would have told them that there is no finite number of Falashmura who can claim a tenuous link to Jewish roots. The family structure and marriage norms of Ethiopian society are of a fluidity incomprehensible in the West and every new immigrant who is allowed in opens up the opportunity for former spouses and stepchildren who will demand family reunification.[...]

R' Avraham Goldstein - discusses geirus

Yiddeleclips - Shaul Gromer

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rav Sternbuch - freedom of speech

Obama stokes racism by comments

Fox News

The white police sergeant accused of racial profiling after he arrested renowned black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his home was hand-picked by a black police commissioner to teach recruits about avoiding racial profiling.

Gates accused the 11-year department veteran Sgt. James Crowley of being an unyielding, race-baiting authoritarian after Crowley arrested and charged him with disorderly conduct last week.

Crowley confronted Gates in his home after a woman passing by summoned police for a possible burglary. The sergeant said he arrested Gates after the scholar repeatedly accused him of racism and made derogatory remarks about his mother, allegations the professor challenges

Gates has labeled Crowley a "rogue cop," demanded an apology and said he may sue the police department.

Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas, in his first public comments on the arrest, said Thursday that Crowley was a decorated officer who followed procedure. The department is putting together an independent panel to review the arrest, but Haas said he did not think the whole story had been told.

"Sgt. Crowley is a stellar member of this department. I rely on his judgment every day. ... I don't consider him a rogue cop in any way," Haas said. "I think he basically did the best in the situation that was presented to him."

Haas said Crowley's actions were in no way motivated by racism.

On Wednesday, President Obama elevated the dispute, when he said Cambridge Police "acted stupidly" during the encounter. [...]


The police sergeant whom President Obama accused of acting "stupidly" in arresting a prominent black Harvard professor offered his own account of the incident on Thursday, adding a new dimension to a drama that has transfixed the nation.

The arrest of the professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., was dominating talk shows and dinner conversations even before Mr. Obama discussed it on Wednesday at his news conference. But the president's comments seemed to further polarize the national debate over whether the sergeant, James Crowley, who is white, was right to arrest Professor Gates for disorderly conduct while investigating a possible break-in at the professor's home in Cambridge, Mass.[...]

Chillul HaShem - Money laundering & corruption


Illegal sales of body parts. Furtive negotiations in diners, parking lots, and boiler rooms. Nervous jokes about “patting down” a man who turned out to indeed be an informant. And, again and again, piles of cash being passed along — once in a box of Apple Jacks cereal stuffed with $97,000

In this world of underhanded dealing and illicit promises, corrupt payments were “invitations” and approvals for development projects were “opportunities.”

Those were just some details of a sprawling corruption scandal, stretching from New Jersey to Brooklyn and beyond, that were revealed in court papers Thursday. Forty-four people were arrested, including three New Jersey mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis, the authorities said.[...]

Yeshiva World News editorial
Over the past 2 years, many small non-profits in Israel – ranging from yeshivot to medical organizations – have fallen under scrutiny from the IRS. For the past 2 years, Israeli non-profits couldn't understand the scrutiny. Today it became clear: No Jewish non-profit could be trusted to be legitimate. [...]

Psychiatrist concludes mother is fit to stand trial


A court-commissioned psychiatric evaluation of the ultra-Orthodox mother suspected of starving her son did not support claims that she was unfit to stand trial, the examining psychiatrist said.

Jerusalem's District Psychiatrist said he did not accept the results of Dr. Yaakov Meir Weil's examination.

Weil performed the examination at the home of the woman's rabbi, where she is staying in house arrest. Weil, who came there at the request of rabbis from the woman's religious sect as per an agreement between the woman and a judge who arraigned her, also said he could not diagnose the woman "based on a two-hour" talk.

The mother, a Haredi woman from the Eda Haredit group in Jerusalem, was arrested after hospital officials at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, saw her remove a feeding tube from her severely underweight three-year-old child on a hidden camera. She claims that she was trying to feed her son solid foods.

One of the things that Weil had come to ascertain was the possibility that the woman is suffering from Munchausen syndrome - a psychiatric disorder wherein sufferers feign or create disease, illness, or psychological trauma in themselves or in loved ones in order to draw attention or sympathy.

But in a talk with Haaretz, Weil criticized police and doctors at Hadassah who speculated that the mother suffered from this condition. "I hope we can see each other in the future so I can help her. The environment she comes from is not used to requiring psychological services but maybe I can meet her in the future to reach a diagnosis based on the relationship I have with them," he said. "People in Hadassah diagnosed her without her ever meeting a psychiatrist. The talk about the Munchausen syndrome is gossip as far as I'm concerned."

Weil added that the syndrome was "not something that can be diagnosed through a two-hour talk or any sort of simple psychiatric interview."

"In our talk, I saw nothing to convince me she is unfit to stand trial, psychotic or has trouble telling right from wrong," he added.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Privacy and sensitity towards Chareidim?


Mental disease is not a crime. Society's role is not to banish mental patients, but to care for them while recognizing the patient's human rights and the need to safeguard the public. A society's attitude toward the mentally ill reflects its moral standards, values…
- Former supreme court chief justice Aharon Barak

By this criterion how should Israeli society, and the media in particular, evaluate its performance in the case of the mother suspected of starving her toddler son due to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP)?

In this rare disorder, which is almost impossible to diagnose and cannot be treated, an adult caregiver deliberately causes harm to a vulnerable dependent - most often a child. The underlying cause is a morbid craving for attention.

MSP is either a personality or a psychiatric disorder - experts disagree - though it can have criminal consequences. Most professionals believe that a mother with MSP does have the capacity to control her urges. We cannot know what impelled this mother to allegedly inflict suffering on her child. Her psychiatric evaluation began only Monday night.

After the mother was arrested by police, the family obtained a court order barring publication of the story. Somehow a Hebrew tabloid got wind of the news, challenged the injunction and won. Perhaps the court acted precipitously in lifting the gag order, robbing authorities and community leaders of the opportunity to resolve their differences away from the limelight.

The tabloid then sought and obtained a comment from Hadassah hospital. Subsequent coverage by the press emphasized that the family involved was from an insular anti-Zionist haredi sect - Toldot Aharon. Coming on the heels of the so-called Taliban mother from Ramat Beit Shemesh and several other instances of child abuse among the ultra-Orthodox, the haredi angle to the Munchausen Syndrome story grabbed the headlines and wouldn't let go.

SO THERE are two issues here. One is whether the right to privacy of the suspect - who is also allegedly mentally ill - was violated; the other is whether the haredi angle was overplayed.

Should Israel's 1981 Privacy Protection Law and 1996 Patients' Rights Law have shielded the presumed MSP mother from having her condition exposed to public scrutiny? While her name hasn't been published, her identity is known within her own neighborhood. [...]

Supreme Court convicts yeshiva student in hit-and-run


The Supreme Court on Thursday convicted Yeshiva student Itamar Biton for running over Ethiopian-Israeli parking lot cashier Noga Zoarish, overruling last week's acquittal by Jerusalem District Court judge Moshe Drori.

In addition to the 150 hours of community service that were, nevertheless, ordered by Drori, the Supreme Court added a one-year suspended sentence.

In a 350-page ruling heavily criticized last week by Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, Drori had written that he made the decision because the defendant, the son of the Hadera chief rabbi, wanted to become a dayan (religious court judge).

Drori also wrote that as a result of being run over by the defendant, whose name had been banned from publication until Wednesday night, Zoraish, had become a full-fledged member of society, because she had been treated respectfully throughout the legal proceedings. He also ruled that since the young driver's apology had been accepted by the Ethiopian woman, there was no need to determine that the driver's offense constituted moral turpitude.

The Jerusalem District Court judge had also under pressure from Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), with the latter saying that a conviction would ruin Biton's rabbinic future.

The controversial decision could well have ruined Drori's chances of getting himself appointed to the High Court of Justice. [...]

Charedi health minister criticized for not backing Hadassah Hospital


Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman visited the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem on Thursday morning, following riots in Jerusalem over the arrest of a woman suspected of starving her toddler son. The child is still hospitalized.

At the start of the visit, the hospital's Director-General Shlomo Mor Yosef asked Litzman why he had avoided condemning the ultra-Orthodox community's attacks on the hospital.

"There is no reason to refer to the deputy director-general with these names – Mengele, a filthy traitor," Mor Yosef told Litzman. "The hospital is a place of grace, not of war… No one speaks and not one utters anything. Is this what the State of Israel has to say to its doctors?"

Litzman responded, "I give all the backing needed to Hadassah and its doctors." He added that pashkavilim (wall posters) has been published against him too and that he has been attacked by many.

Chareidi consensus? Jonathan Rosenblum


[...] But it is absolutely false to state that there is any kind of consensus that the mother is innocent or a categorical rejection of the claims of Hadassah. In yesterday's Mishpacha, by far the largest circulation haredi weekly, Rabbi Mordechai Gotfarb of the Toldot Aharon community is quoted, "Of course, if she were diagnosed with Munchausen, then we would understand that the child would have to be taken away."

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, head of the Eda Haredit rabbinical court, did not reject out of hand police claims in a statement issued last Friday: "If their allegations are true, this woman deserves the appropriate medical treatment, but not to sit in a prison cell with such subhuman treatment." He went on to categorically reject "any talk of boycotting the hospital" as "against Halacha and self-damaging" in light of the fact that "many in our community receive their services with great care."

That does not mean, of course, that every claim of the hospital and police is accepted at face value. Many haredim would still like to know what were the presenting symptoms when the boy in question was placed in Hadassah's children's oncology ward, and how his mother could have prevented him from eating under the noses of the hospital staff during the nearly seven months he has been hospitalized. But there is a willingness to wait until trial for the full presentation of the facts.

IF THERE is one thing, however, about which there is a nearly unanimous agreement across all sectors of the haredi community, it is condemnation of violent actions, such as throwing stones at police and burning garbage cans. From the beginning of the Shabbat demonstrations, after Mayor Nir Barkat's bombastic announcement of the opening of a municipal parking lot, as if he were the secular Saracen recapturing the city from the haredim, Sternbuch has issued countless public proclamations stating clearly, "Anyone who commits acts of violence declares that he doesn't belong to our community."[...]

Mother accused of abuse - mentally fit for trial


The psychiatrist who evaluated the Jerusalem haredi mother suspected of nearly starving her three-year-old son to death was expected to announce Thursday that she does not pose a threat to her two other children and is fit to stand trial.

According to various local media reports, Dr. Yaakov Weill, the psychiatrist appointed to evaluate her, was set to refute claims that the woman was suffering from Munchausen's-by-proxy.

The Jerusalem's Magistrate's Court will convene later Thursday to discuss the woman's house arrest conditions after the psychiatrist presents his findings.

The court placed the woman under house arrest last week on condition that she take the test, and her refusal to carry it out on Sunday put that agreement in jeopardy.

The woman eventually showed up for a series of psychiatric examinations which commenced on Tuesday night in the city's Arnona neighborhood. It came despite pressure from some members of the extremist Eda Haredit organization not to do so until she was allowed to meet with her children, or until her child was removed from Jerusalem's Hadassah-University Medical Center at Ein Kerem.

The mother, who is five months pregnant, is suspected of severely abusing her child for two years, until he weighed a mere 7 kilograms.

The hospital claims it has footage of the woman disconnecting her son's feeding tube.

Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman told Israel Radio on Thursday that if the woman is indeed deemed mentally stable, she shouldn't need to stand trial. Litzman said that a Health Ministry committee would examine the hospital's conduct in the case. [...]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A driver without a license is threat to life

VIN reports an discussion between Rav Chaim Kanievsky and a bochur who drove without a license and had an accident.

This is discussed by Rav Sternbuch in volume 1 #850. A similar conclusion that the driver is a rodef and can be reported to the police is found in Minchas Yitzchok, Tzitz Eliezar and Rav Ovadiya Yosef.

Rav Sternbuch quotes the Steipler as follows:
...(R’ Yaakov Kaniefsky was very angry with those who violated traffic laws whose purpose is to protect the lives of the members of society. I heard that someone once came to him because he was worried that he was about to receive a very severe punishment because he had violated the traffic laws. He wanted to receive a beracha that he would be free of the punishment. R’ Kaniefsky replied with a very sharp admonition and told him that in truth he deserved to be punished!) (This was even though R’ Kaniefsky was not necessarily in agreement with the secular laws in general). Therefore it would appear that if the person is considered a danger to society and since we can’t punish him ourselves, he should be reported to the police – with the permission of beis din or the rabbi of the community. This is in fact a mitzva since it is saving the community from harm and possible death.

Chareidi modesty squads intimidate merchants

Haaretz reports

Ultra-Orthodox modesty patrols in Netivot are threatening local business with boycotts unless they conform to strict religious standards. The group's actions are stoking religious tensions in the normally calm southern town and police opened a criminal investigation into the matter Tuesday following a Haaretz Hebrew edition report.

The gang members - whom ultra-Orthodox residents of the city say are a minority group not supported by the rabbis and community - enter local businesses, assess the situation and complain about the employees' dress. They approach the store manager and warn him that if the saleswomen do not switch to completely modest clothes, they will see to a boycott of the store.

Some of the local store owners capitulate to the demands and in return receive a faux kashrut certification in the form of a sticker that states: "The king's daughter is glorious within. Daughter of Israel, you are the daughter of a king - dress accordingly," which is affixed to dozens of store windows around town.
"The guy came into my store and saw one of my female workers wearing a small shirt," said the owner of a shoe store, "it wasn't a tank top, just a small shirt. But he started shouting that if the worker did not dress appropriately, he would cause financial damage, and claimed 'just as you can tell the workers when to come and when to go, you can tell them what to wear.' I didn't want to hurt my business and therefore I agreed, and I received certification."

Another local merchant, the owner of housewares store, described what happened to him. "Two weeks ago one of the guys came into my store," he said. "'I have the entire ultra-Orthodox community behind me. If you don't sign this paper and affix the sticker, we will boycott you,' he said to me. I didn't give in to his degenerate blackmail, but I didn't want to get into a fight with the whole ultra-Orthodox community and that's why I didn't file a complaint with the police." The ultra-Orthodox community in Netivot, which comprises about 25 percent of the city, denounced the phenomenon. [...]

R Avraham Goldstein & his Puerto Rican Community

Chareidi boycott of Hadassah - a bluff


Although anonymous haredi groups have publicly claimed they are boycotting Jerusalem's two Hadassah-University Medical Centers (in Ein Kerem and on Mount Scopus) due to the Hadassah Medical Organization's handling of the "starved haredi toddler" case, on Tuesday both Hadassah and Shaare Zedek Medical Center, the city's other major hospital, reported no indications of a boycott.

A Hadassah spokeswoman said that while there may have been a handful of haredim who had told Magen David Adom ambulance drivers to head for Shaare Zedek instead of Hadassah because of their "anger" over the affair, its emergency room has "not seen any decline" in the number of haredim coming for medical care in the past week.

The spokeswoman for Shaare Zedek confirmed that it had not noted any increase in haredi patients coming to its own emergency room in the past week.

Despite media reports that Hadassah wanted to "strike a deal" by discharging the three-and-a-half-year-old child or transferring him to another hospital in exchange for a cancellation of "the haredi boycott," the Hadassah spokeswoman said it would continue to treat the boy, whose physical condition has improved significantly since his mother was barred from the pediatrics ward two weeks ago. He has gained three kilos beyond his then seven-kilo bodyweight and is functioning much better. Channel 1 reported Tuesday night that the boy would be transferred to Tel Hashomer hospital by Thursday. [...]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rap's posting on Proselytization in Latin America

I am really curious about the continuing high level of interest in this article- according to the Blog's statistics. Relative to the times this post has been read there have been rather few comments. Most of those who read the post arrive at this blog by Google with the search terms Rabbi Avraham Goldstein,Mishpacha. The article was posted over two weeks ago - what is the reason for the interest in this article? In addition few of those interested are from Latin America.

Chareidi Riots in Jerusalem

You don't have to be Chareidi to believe Conspiracy Theories!

Time Magazine - Ten Conspiracy Theories

# The JFK Assassination
# 9/11 Cover-up
# Area 51 and the Aliens
# Paul is Dead
# Secret Societies Control the World
# The Moon Landings Were Faked
# Jesus and Mary Magdalene
# Holocaust Revisionism
# The CIA and AIDS
# The Reptilian Elite

Obama - the squandered stimulus

Washington Post - Robert J. Samuelson

It's not surprising that the much-ballyhooed "economic stimulus" hasn't done much stimulating. President Obama and his aides argue that it's too early to expect startling results. They have a point. A $14 trillion economy won't revive in a nanosecond. But the defects of the $787 billion package go deeper and won't be cured by time. The program crafted by Obama and the Democratic Congress wasn't engineered to maximize its economic impact. It was mostly a political exercise, designed to claim credit for any recovery, shower benefits on favored constituencies and signal support for fashionable causes. As a result, much of the stimulus's potential benefit has been squandered. Spending increases and tax cuts are sprinkled in too many places and, all too often, are too delayed to do much good now. Nor do they concentrate on reviving the economy's most depressed sectors: state and local governments; the housing and auto industries. None of this means the stimulus won't help or precludes a recovery, but the help will be weaker than necessary [...] Here, as elsewhere, there's a gap between Obama's high-minded rhetoric and his performance. In February, Obama denounced "politics as usual" in constructing the stimulus. But that's what we got, and Obama likes the result. Interviewed recently by ABC's Jake Tapper, he was asked whether he would change anything. Obama seemed to invoke a doctrine of presidential infallibility. "There's nothing that we would have done differently," he said.

Insensitivity and bias against chareidim


[...] It's easy, too easy, to slam the haredim. They are the classic candidates for xenophobia. Even liberal Israelis, who are outraged by patronizing remarks made by a judge to a young Ethiopian woman, by the expulsion of emigrants, or by the abuse of Palestinians, hate haredim with a clear conscience. It's commensurate with the bon-ton.

The "starving mother" affair is a clear example. The first incisive questions about her should have been directed to the hospital: Why did so much time pass before suspicions emerged that the problem has to do with the mother and not with the child? What sort of needless and damaging treatments did he undergo? What did the hospital's social work department do about the case? Was there an effort to handle this grave matter in cooperation with the community?

A hospitalized child is under the responsibility of the hospital, rather than his mother. Before we turn her into a monster, perhaps we should look at what the hospital did with the responsibility given to it.

Hadassah's hospitals make a living from the haredim. They have extensive experience in treating them. Many problems, including mental problems, were solved there over the years in a discrete manner, through dialogue with the rabbis. Even a radical haredim-hater won't believe that a haredi rabbi would want to see the death of a haredi child.

The Hassidic branch the mother belongs to is radical and isolationist. Its members are considered anomalous even within the haredi street. However, the suspicion towards the establishments cuts across factions and exists in Orthodox camps that are an inseparable part of the State.

Many haredim truly believe that the secular Israel plots to exterminate them, and if not that, then to humiliate them, disparage them, and force them to betray their faith

A responsible Israeli establishment needs to disprove these suspicions, rather than reinforce them. In no way am I suggesting that we mitigate the punishment of a haredi abuser, that we turn a blind eye to vandalism, or that we capitulate in the face of the groundless campaign managed by elements within the Eda Haredit sect against the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat.[...]

Endangering life because of lies about Haddassah Hospital

Rav Sternbuch warned about the danger to life because of the lies spread about Hadassah Hospital. This is an example

YWN reported

A boy was struck by a bus in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon. Paramedics wanted to take him to the trauma unit of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital - the highest level trauma unit in the State of Israel. The medics also explained to the father that only Ein Kerem has certain diagnostic equipment for a head injury which is applicable in this case. Due to the ongoing conflict surrounding the case of the so-called Munchausen mom, the father, a member of the chareidi community, insisted his son be taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center.[...]

Jordan removes citizenship of Palestinians - 70% of population


Jordanian authorities have started revoking the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians living in Jordan to avoid a situation in which they would be "resettled" permanently in the kingdom, Jordanian and Palestinian officials revealed on Monday.

The new measure has increased tensions between Jordanians and Palestinians, who make up around 70 percent of the kingdom's population.

The tensions reached their peak over the weekend when tens of thousands of fans of Jordan's Al-Faisali soccer team chanted slogans condemning Palestinians as traitors and collaborators with Israel. Al-Faisali was playing the rival Wihdat soccer team, made up of Jordanian-Palestinians, in the Jordanian town of Zarqa.

Anti-riot policemen had to interfere to stop the Jordanian fans from lynching the Wihdat team members and their fans, eyewitnesses reported. They said the Jordanian fans of Al-Faisali hurled empty bottles and fireworks at the Palestinian players and their supporters.[...]

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wall posters slandering Hadassah Hospital

YNet JPost

Walls of haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem have been plastered with provocative street posters – pashkevils – over the past few days, since the case of the mother suspected of starving her three-year-old son has become public knowledge.

The instigative posters and flyers all make serious slanderous accusations against the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in the capital, which has been treating the toddler, accusing it with acts similar to the Nazi horrors of the Holocaust. One poster's title read "Hadassah Ein Kerem 2009 – A modern-day Dr. Mengele".

The pashkevils were signed by the "Public Committee for the Inquiry of the Hadassah Ein Kerem Crimes" and in it the committee states: "We demand a separate committee to investigate the crimes of the doctors, and that all of those who performed experiments on the child be put behind bars".

Obama following in Jimmy Carter's footsteps?

Washington Post

Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike. According to a July 13 CBS News poll, the once-unassailable president's approval rating now stands at 57 percent, down 11 points from April. Half of Americans think the recession will last an additional two years or more, 52 percent think Obama is trying to "accomplish too much," and 57 percent think the country is on the "wrong track."

From a lousy cap-and-trade bill awaiting death in the Senate to a health-care reform agenda already weak in the knees to the failure of the stimulus to deliver promised jobs and economic activity, what once looked like a hope-tastic juggernaut is showing all the horsepower of a Chevy Cobalt. "Give it to me!" the president egged on a Michigan audience last week, pledging to "solve problems" and not "gripe" about the economic hand he was dealt.

Despite such bravura, Obama must be furtively reviewing the history of recent Democratic administrations for some kind of road map out of his post-100-days ditch.

So far, he seems to be skipping the chapter on Bill Clinton and his generally free-market economic policies and instead flipping back to the themes and comportment of Jimmy Carter. Like the 39th president, Obama has inherited an awful economy, dizzying budget deficits and a geopolitical situation as promising as Kim Jong Il's health. Like Carter, Obama is smart, moralistic and enamored of alternative energy schemes that were nonstarters back when America's best-known peanut farmer was installing solar panels at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Like Carter, Obama faces as much effective opposition from his own party's left wing as he does from an ardent but diminished GOP.

And perhaps most important, as with Carter, his specific policies are genuinely unpopular. The auto bailout -- which, incidentally, is illegal, springing as it has from a fund specifically earmarked for financial institutions -- has been reviled from the get-go, with opposition consistently polling north of 60 percent. Majorities have said no to bank bailouts and to cap and trade if it would make electricity significantly more expensive.[...]

Secular feminist praises Chareidim

תודה עמוקה לחרדים

תודה לקהילה החרדית שעושה לאמהות והמשפחות המוחלשות והמושתקות את העבודה, כשהיא חושפת את המנגנונים שמאפשרים להמשיך לרמוס אותם
אסתר הרצוג

בעוד שמערכת הרווחה, המשטרה ובית החולים מפרסמים דיווחים מזעזעים על הילד המורעב והאמא (לא ההורים, לא האב) המרעיבה, וכבר הצמידו עיתונאים נאמנים לשלטונות את התיאוריה בדבר האמא המבקשת תשומת לב באמצעות פגיעה בילדה. לא הושמעה תגובת האם ולא תגובת בני המשפחה. עד להתקוממות החרדים, האם נותרה ללא קול והפכה לסמל, "האם המרעיבה". זדון שלטוני-תקשורתי גדול מזה לא יתואר. בלא משפט ובלא אינפורמציה אמיתית של ממש, בעוד דיווחים על מסירותה הרבה ואפשרות כשל של בית החולים מטפטפים מבעד למסך ההשמצות, כפי שביטא ישראל אייכלר - כבר נגזר דינה של האם בציבור כפושעת

Challenge to Gur's dominance of Chinuch Atzma'i


Rabbinic leaders of the Ashkenazi Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community will hold a rare summit in Jerusalem Monday to discuss the fate of the community's Hinuch Atzma'i school system.

The conference, the first in 29 years, is an open challenge to the Gur Hasidim, the largest Hasidic sect in Israel and one of the many sects within the broader Ashkenazi Haredi community.

Gur on Sunday tried to get the summit postponed, but failed. The community's leader, the admor, is therefore expected to stay home, though he may send a representative.

The battle for control of Hinuch Atzma'i - which is extremely influential and controls vast budgets - began in January 2008, when longtime executive director Meir Luria died suddenly, sparking an inheritance battle. However, the battle was not just personal: Rather, Gur was fighting to maintain its power against a coalition of smaller Hasidic sects plus the non-Hasidic "Lithuanians." The United Torah Judaism Knesset faction is composed of the Lithuanian Degel Hatorah party, along with the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael.

The coalition was led by veteran MK Meir Porush, who was then also running for mayor of Jerusalem. The Hasidic Porush had secured Degel Hatorah's backing for his mayoral bid via a secret deal in which he promised to restructure Hinuch Atzma'i's management such that Gur would lose its primacy and be reduced to a "proportionate share" based on its size.

That caused an internal Haredi rift which, inter alia, resulted in the Haredim losing the mayoralty: Porush was defeated by Nir Barkat after Gur withheld its support to retaliate for his deal with Degel Hatorah. It also prompted the opening of another Haredi daily, Hamevaser, representing the smaller Hasidic sects, on top of the veteran Hasidic daily Hamodia and the Lithuanian Yated Ne'eman. Finally it led UTJ to appoint MK Moshe Gafni (Degel Hatorah) as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee instead of MK Yaakov Litzman, the Gur Hasid who held this post in three previous Knessets. [...]

Chareidim unite in abuse case with media experts


Out of a deep feeling that the secular public is out to vilify and persecute them, the entire haredi public - from the most extreme and insular hassidic sects to the most mainstream elements - formed a united front over the weekend to support the Jerusalem mother who allegedly starved her three-year-old boy.

Although many mainstream haredim may still believe police, doctors and social workers that there is reason to suspect that the mother severely harmed her child, they believe the secular news media were too ready to blame and that authorities were insensitive to haredi cultural norms.

"When a secular newscaster on Army Radio starts calling our demographic growth 'haredi cancer,' it becomes clear to anyone with a little sense that the secular media have blown things totally out of proportion in an attempt to disparage the entire haredi public," a senior editor of a large haredi daily, who preferred to remain anonymous, said Sunday.

The senior editor said that in a meeting with President Shimon Peres last week, he had warned that the mother had to be released from prison to house arrest.

"Otherwise thousands of haredim would file complaints with the United Nations and the International Court in The Hague against the State of Israel for persecuting the haredi population. Peres understood what we were saying," he said.

Last week reactions among haredi representatives were subdued when police, doctors and social workers publicized the horrific, incriminatory details of how a mother - a member of the Toldot Aharon hassidic sect, perhaps the most tightly knit, socially cohesive and parochial of the groups that make up haredi society - had, according to the charges, systematically starved her little boy.

At first most haredi media outlets ignored the story, uncertain how to react. Even haredi reporters had difficulty obtaining information from the closed sect. A few reported on the angry, violent demonstrations staged by Toldot Aharon and the Eda Haredit, which were criticized by haredi rabbinic figures such as Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel, head of the Mir Yeshiva.[...]

Latin American conversion issues

Moshe commented to "RaP: Proselytization in Latin America":

I read this blog and was in shock by the tenore of the entire story. Without a doubt there is a sense in RaP that the Askenazic community are more "blue blood" than the Sephardic community. I will admit,that they have been more prone to deal with conversions in an overwhelming level in the Askenazic community. In Latin America, many Rabbi have prohibited conversions there for various reasons, but have always been open to recieve great sums of money for would be converts. One such family who came out of colombia, had to pay $20,000 and still was not properly converted until they arrived in the US without being converted, and financially weighing less than their non-hispanic counter part. After some direction, they did achieve their conversion in the US under a Beit Din that is recognized by Israel.

The attitude of those wanting to convert to Judaism from hispanic or Latin American Countries has always been skewed with suspicion from the certain groups inside the halls of Jewry (as so beautifully demonstrated in this blog by RaP). Had I known Mr Torres before he changed his last name to one that would be more acceptable to the Ashkenazic community, I would have told him to not even waste your time. You will alway be looked at as the "spic" that you are.Be proud of your surname, which may have more Yichus than some in the ashkenazic community. But one thing is cleare having a Sephardic Surname, as an Askenazic Surname does not make one a Jew. This who have been force to live in a culture which underminded the legacy of the Jews of Spanish is a part of history which has been purposely slighted in the history of a post holocaust world. Unlike the holocaust where millions of Jews died (Kiddush Hashem), hundreds of thousands of Jews took upon themselves to live outwardly as Christians and inside had to live as secretive Jews. And to their children on a word, a customs and practise remain as a string to remind them where they came from. Why this "fad", as you put it, is sweeping the Hispanic World? Simply because it was always there. But the information was not at there reach to connect the dotts. And know the Jewish world is about to experience of Hispanics who are lining up for convesion when in fact they should be directed to check their geneological tree, so if they can show 3-4 generations of unbroken linage back to the Jews, there may not even be a need to under go conversion. A conversion which throughout Jewish History was always possible, except in countries where our fellow tribesmen decided to market the female elements for business purposes. And in those country, such conversion where prohibited because, we could not have Jews marrying into lo zenut nashim, and in fact that is what began to happen. Horrified, many Rabbis placed takkanots to prohibit such actions with threats of cherem. This all swept under the rug. I do applaude Rabbi Goldenstein (Torres) effort. If he is in fact of Jewish descendants, and went through the conversion process,then your argument about a ger is not authorized to be involved in conversion is a mute issue. And what remains is raw discrimination and fear that those you may call hispanic goy have in fact a Sephardic Yiddishe Neshama which have been surpressed all these years. Sephardic Rabbis of the Spanish Portugese traditions should read this blog which sends an alarm, it is the Sephardic community responsability to deal with this issue, not a Beit Din who by and large is Askenazic and poskim accordingly. A Sephardic renewal is on it ways, and it is sending a wave of concern in the Jewish Community. Let them practice Judaism, and follow Judaism and be recognized as Jews, as long as it is done by halakhah. And alway keep in mind, that among the blue blood Syrian lavi community, even the Askenazic community is considered from the khazar, or descendants of converts.

Rav Sternbuch's letter finally reported in the media

Arutz Sheva July 19, 209

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, renowned authority on Jewish law and president of the hareidi-religious Eida Hareidit organization, condemned violent protests due to the arrest of a mother for suspected withholding nourishment from her child.

Rabbi Sternbuch wrote in a letter published Friday: "What we have to strongly protest here, in a peaceful manner, are the barbaric actions of the police force in arresting a woman who is allegedly sick according to their claims, and chaining her, putting her in a cell with dangerous criminals. If their allegations are true, then this woman deserves the appropriate medical treatment, but not to sit in a prison cell, with such subhuman treatment." The rabbinic leader additionally stated, "We condemn any types of violence, I have stressed this many times before. Anyone who commits acts of violence declares that he doesn't belong to our community. Any talk of boycotting the hospital is against the Halacha [Jewish law] and 'very self-damaging.' We have nothing against the Hadassah hospital, and many in our community receive their services in the Hadassah hospital with great care."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Death threats against Hadassah deputy in abuse case


Dr. Yair Birnbaum, deputy director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, has received telephone death threats over the case of the haredi mother suspected of starving her three-year-old son.

Israel Radio reported Sunday night that police were taking the threats extremely seriously and that security guards were protecting the doctor. [...]

Hebrew discussion of Rav Sternbuch's letter

chadrei charedim has a discussion of the claims against Hadassa and Rav Sternbuch's letter

Another discussion is on L'daat forum

Police blamed for recent violence


[...]Welfare Ministry Director-General Nahum Itzkovitch is scheduled to meet later this week with Jerusalem District Police Commander Major General Aharon Franco amid claims that it was the police's conduct that caused the rift between the social workers and the haredi community.[...]

Abusive Beit Shemesh mother convicted


A Beit Shemesh woman was convicted on Sunday of severely abusing six of her 12 children. Her husband was convicted of taking part in the abuse and failing to prevent it.

The decision of the Jerusalem District Court was given behind closed doors in order to protect the identity of the children.

According to the indictment, the woman, dubbed "Taliban Mother" in the Israeli media due to her custom of wearing multiple layers of clothing cover her whole body and face, abused her young children "at least" 25 separate times.

According to the charge sheet, the woman repeatedly beat and otherwise physically abused her children, giving them electric shocks and hitting them with belts and sticks.

In one instance, the charge sheet said, the woman beat one of her daughters in the face with a rolling pin and slammed her face into the marble kitchen countertop.

She was also accused of forcing her children to sleep outside in a locked shed when she felt they had come home late, tying up her mentally impaired son for hours at a time and ignoring his cries for help, cutting her daughters' hair as punishment, and throwing water on her children to wake them up.

In addition, the physically and psychologically abused children committed incest when they were locked up in the shed, the indictment stated. [...]