Wednesday, June 30, 2010

5TJT DA Hynes speaks about Rubashkin case


In a video interview with the Five Towns Jewish Times, Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes speaks out about the harsh Rubashkin jail sentence.  He also compared some of the differences between federal cases and local cases, explaining why the local system is in many ways superior. [...] 

Believing abuser will stop?

Of interest is the question of believing that a child molester will stop because he said he did teshuva or that he claims he really is sorry it won't happen again. Apparently most studies assume that molesters are liars or incapable of controlling themselves. Are Jewish molesters different or are promises made to the rabbical authorites more likely to be kept?

Update: I came across an interresting Meiri that insists that the victim needs to forgive him before we can assume he has done teshuva.

Meiri (Berachos 19a): Concerning a talmid chachom one is not allowed to suspected him of sinning even if you saw him sin at night it is prohibited to suspect that he will continue sinning in the day. Rather one is required to assume that he has repented from sinning by the day. When do we make this assumption of repentance? It is only for sins between him and G-d but for those sins against other men you can assume he will continue sinning until it is known that the one he has sinned against has forgiven him

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Speaking lashon harah about rabbis - to preserve emunas chachomim

Rabbeinu Yonah(Mishlei 24:28): Don’t be a gratuitous witness of your fellow man – ...This principle is stated in Berachos (19a), If you see a talmid chachom sinning at night, do not suspect of him of sinning anymore by the day because he will surely have repented by then. Since he has the reputation of a person who is fearful of sinning and he is upset and regrets that his lust overcame him. However if the talmid chachom is in fact a wicked person who is mistakenly thought by the people to be righteous – he is not only to be criticized to those who know how to keep quiet – but in fact it is a mitzva to publicize his deeds until they are well known to the public. That is because severe harm occurs when wicked people are honored because he will turn many away from the proper path and denigrate the honor of the righteous and encourages sinning. There is in fact profanation of G‑d’s name by honoring the wicked because some people will be aware of the sins the wicked do and will concluded that there is nothing wrong with sinning and that it doesn’t lower one’s stature (Yoma 86b)…

Monday, June 28, 2010

Abuse: Pope vs Belgium - Problems with self-policing


A little more than a fortnight ago, Pope Benedict XVI asked for "forgiveness from God" regarding the sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church. His words aimed to turn the tide of public opinion back in favor of the church during what is turning out to be the Vatican's annus horribilis — a year punctuated by revelations of horrific abuse by pedophile priests in Ireland, the U.S., Austria and Germany that took place during the papacy of John Paul II and earlier.

But when a Belgian bishops' meeting was raided last week by police investigating renewed claims of child sexual abuse, the Vatican responded with outrage that seemed at odds with the apparent contrition in mid-June. The Pope himself described the searches as "surprising and deplorable" in a letter to the head of the Belgian Church, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, on June 27. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone went further, saying the Belgian police's detention of bishops for nine hours without access to their cell phones was "serious and unbelievable" and akin to the practices of communist regimes. And after the police drilled into the tombs of two Cardinals, Léonard likened the actions to a schlock crime thriller. "It's worthy of The Da Vinci Code," Léonard said. (See church sex-abuse scandals around the world.) [...]

Abuse: Cyberbullies - the danger of technology


The girl’s parents, wild with outrage and fear, showed the principal the text messages: a dozen shocking, sexually explicit threats, sent to their daughter the previous Saturday night from the cellphone of a 12-year-old boy. Both children were sixth graders at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J.

Punish him, insisted the parents. “I said, ‘This occurred out of school, on a weekend,’ ” recalled the principal, Tony Orsini. “We can’t discipline him.” [...]

Friday, June 25, 2010

Abuse: Expressing outrage or supressing response

When Yaakov’s daughter Dinah was raped and abused by their neighbor Shechem – there were two reactions. Yaakov reacted with silence, “And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; and his sons were with his cattle in the field; and Jacob held his peace until they came.” (Bereishis 34:5). Her brothers, however, reacted with outrage, “And the sons of Yaakov came from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry, because Shechem had done an outrageous deed in Israel by raping Jacob’s daughter; something which should not to be done.” (Bereishis 34:7).

Furthermore we see that Yaakov’s sons not only expressed anger but they acted on their outrage and killed Shechem and his clan. Yaakov protested against this revenge by saying, “And Yaakov said to [his sons] Shimon and Levi, You have brought trouble on me to make me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and I being few in number, they shall gather together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house” (Bereishis 34:30). His sons responded to their father’s protest by simply saying, “ And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?” (Bereishis 34:31).

Rav Sternbuch - Reconciling Opposites

Rav Moshe Sternbuch-Opposites

Rav Sternbuch - Korach- Duplicity

Rav Moshe Sternbuch Duplicity-4

Hebrew Charter Schools:Success & danger

New York Times

Every so often, Aalim Moody, 5, and his twin sister, Aalima, break into a kind of secret code, chatting in a language their father does not understand.

Walking along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, they make out the lettering on kosher food shops and yeshiva buses, showing off all they learn at the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Midwood, where they both attend kindergarten.

Ask Aalim his favorite song and he will happily belt out:

“Eretz Yisrael sheli yaffa v’gam porachat!” — My land of Israel is beautiful and blossoming! — and then he continues in Hebrew:[...]

Robots encourage women to have babies in Japan

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Technology is hurting off-line relationships


In an age of perpetual digital connectedness, why do people seem so disconnected? In a Duke University study, researchers found that from 1985 to 2004, the percentage of people who said there was no one with whom they discussed important matters tripled, to 25%; the same study found that overall, Americans had one-third fewer friends and confidants than they did two decades ago.

Another recent study, by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that college students today have significantly less empathy — the ability to understand and share the feelings of another — than students of generations past did. The reason, psychologists speculate, may have something to do with our increasing reliance on digital communication and other forms of new media. (Read "Online Dating Enters the iPad Age.")[...]

Rubashkin:Open response to US Attorney Rose

Five Towns Jewish Times

Dear Ms. Rose, your service in fighting crime in this country is both very necessary and most appreciated.  It truly is.  However, at times, a prosecutor can get a bit carried away.  Your open letter to the public about the prosecution of Sholom Rubashkin paints a vile portrait indeed.  The question is, however, is the narrative in your open letter in any way skewed or slanted?  A representative of the government has a responsibility to present truth – not a vision that is distorted by imbalanced descriptions, nuances, and superlatives.   The perspectives and perceptions in your narrative is revealing of the zeal involved in this prosecution – a zeal that, truth to tell, has been denounced by no less than six United States Attorneys General.

What follows is a line by line analysis of your open letter. It is not meant to be a defense of the criminal activities of Mr. Rubashkin.  He was guilty of crimes, true.  What this analysis is meant to do is to reveal the underlying motives for the excessive zeal and ardor involved in this entire affair.[...]

Afghanistan: What's Second Prize? Tom Friedman

New York Times

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s trashing of his civilian colleagues was unprofessional and may cost him his job. If so, it will be a sad end to a fine career. But no general is indispensable. What is indispensable is that when taking America surging deeper into war in Afghanistan, President Obama has to be able to answer the most simple questions at a gut level: Do our interests merit such an escalation and do I have the allies to achieve victory? President Obama never had good answers for these questions, but he went ahead anyway. The ugly truth is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it — or had the courage to pull the plug. That is not a sufficient reason to take the country deeper into war in the most inhospitable terrain in the world. You know you’re in trouble when you’re in a war in which the only party whose objectives are clear, whose rhetoric is consistent and whose will to fight never seems to diminish is your enemy: the Taliban. [...]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Death Penalty for Child Molesters?


In the state that is the nation's undisputed death penalty leader, Texas, you might think there is no such thing as a punishment considered too harsh. But as legislators there consider joining the small but growing number of states making certain convicted pedophiles eligible for the death penalty, a surprisingly vocal group of critics has emerged, arguing that the measure is shortsighted, counterproductive and probably unconstitutional.

"There's tough. And then there's Texas tough," Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared at his January inauguration as he pledged to press for mandatory 25-year sentences and a two-strikes death-penalty provision for convicted child predators. The proposal is a more extreme version of the so-called " Jessica's Law " passed by the Florida legislature in the wake of the February 2005 rape and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford. That landmark statute imposed mandatory 25-year prison terms and life electronic monitoring for sex offenders, and since its passage in May 2005 42 states and Congress have implemented or are considering their own very similar laws. [...]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Analyzing the Rubashkin sentence

Five Towns Jewish Times

It is clear to anyone who read Judge Reade’s fifty page sentencing memorandum that she is aware that she needs to explain herself.  This is perhaps why she released the instant sentencing memorandum a day earlier.  Judge Reade does, in fact, attempt to explain herself stating that there are sentencing guidelines that need to be followed, and that there is a system here that works with something called “Offense Level Points.” 

The question is whether or not Judge Reade could have exercised more leeway in her sentencing memorandum to give Mr. Rubashkin a less draconian sentence. For federal prison sentences, let us recall, there is no parole.  These figures are real and quite, quite painful.   Also, after a while, people tend to forget about those who languish in federal prisons [....]

Man sentenced to 9 years for killing alleged abuser

CBS News

(CBS/KPIX) A judge showed no mercy Tuesday in sentencing 32-year old Aaron Vargas to nine years in prison, for murdering the man he claimed sexually molested him as a child.

According to CBS affiliate KPIX, Vargas testified that 63-year-old Darrell McNeill sexually abused him when he was 11 and continued to pursue him into adulthood. Vargas shot McNeill in February 2009 with a Civil War-style pistol and watched him take his last breath while the victim's wife, Elizabeth McNeill, stood nearby.[...]

Rubashkin to get 27 years


DES MOINES, Iowa — A former vice president of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse will be sentenced to 27 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $27 million restitution for his conviction on financial fraud charges, a federal judge said Monday.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Linda R. Reade released the memorandum outlining the sentence she will hand down for Sholom Rubashkin during the former Agriprocessor's Inc. manager on Tuesday in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

A jury found Rubashkin guilty last fall on 86 federal financial fraud charges. Prosecutors had sought a 25-year sentence. Rubashkin's attorney, Guy Cook, said the sentence is longer than necessary and plans to appeal.[...]

Rabbinical Court drops Emmanuel case after Laloum snub


The likelihood of a breakthrough in the Emmanuel case seemed meager on Monday afternoon as negotiations fell through for an agreement between the Hassidic parents and a foundation that strives for equality between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in the haredi school system.

Each side blamed the other for the failure of the talks, with the Rabbinical Court that had called for integration canceling a hearing on the matter after Yoav Laloum, the man who originally sued the school, failed to drop his case with the High Court as he was asked to do.[...]

Monday, June 21, 2010

Additional abuse charges against Baruch Lebovitz

Daily News

New sex abuse allegations - at least one stretching back more than a decade - are surfacing against a once-respected Brooklyn rabbi recently convicted of molesting a teen.

A 29-year-old Borough Park man went to cops last week saying that Rabbi Baruch Lebovits fondled him in a ritual bath, known as a mikvah, when he was just a teen.

Several more men have reached out to police to share stories of sexual abuse at the hands of Lebovits, sources said.

"What he is charged with is the tip of the iceberg," said one law enforcement source.[...]

Social Reading: Reading is to combat loneliness:

New York Times

“THE point of books is to combat loneliness,” David Foster Wallace observes near the beginning of “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,” David Lipsky’s recently published, book-length interview with him.

If you happen to be reading the book on the Kindle from Amazon, Mr. Wallace’s observation has an extra emphasis: a dotted underline running below the phrase. Not because Mr. Wallace or Mr. Lipsky felt that the point was worth stressing, but because a dozen or so other readers have highlighted the passage on their Kindles, making it one of the more “popular” passages in the book.

Amazon calls this new feature “popular highlights.” It may sound innocuous enough, but it augurs even bigger changes to come. [...]

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chazon Ish on fish worms

Could someone explain what the Chazon Ish is talking about? In
particular the last line.

Aging & sickness vs medical treatment:Stopping pacemaker


One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked. [...]

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Chabad Representatives To Mumbai

Chabad News hat tip Rabbi Oliver

Rabbi Chanoch and Leah Gechtman are the newly named Chabad representatives to Mumbai. Before details of their appointment were made public, they shared a candid conversation with Baila Olidort, Editor-in-Chief of News Service, about their decision to accept this appointment. [...]

Rav Dessler - Point of Free-Will Michtav M'Eliayahu (1:113)

Michtav M’Eliyahu(1:113):Point of free‑will- When two peoples are fighting each other their war is at their point of contact. Whatever is behind the army of one side – it is totally under their control and there is no opponent at all. Similarly whatever is behind the second army is entirely under the control of the second nation. If one side defeats the other side and pushes them farther back – then the renewed battle takes place where the armies now meet each other. However at the former point of confrontation – there is no longer battle taking place because it is now under one sides control. Therefore in reality there is only one front but potentially the entire area of the two countries can be the place of battle. The same thing can be said about free‑will. Everyone has free‑will – which is the point of meeting of his truth with the imagined truth – the outcome of falsehood. However most of his deeds are not at a place where truth and falsehood meet each other at all. For example there is much truth that man is educated to do and it would never occur to him to do the opposite. Similarly there are is much evil and lies which he is not aware that it is not fitting to do. Free‑will is only applicable at the point of contact between the armies of the yetzer hatov and the yetzer harah. Many people are constantly transgressing the laws of lashon harah because of habit and it never occurs to them that this is bad behavior. At the same time these people have no temptation to transgress Shabbos or not to pray or to ignore tzitzis or tefilin and other such things. That is because they have been educated and habituated in Shabbos, tefilin, tzitzis and other such things to such a degree that the yetzer harah has no chance of influencing them. However this point of free‑will does not stand constantly at one place. That is because if a person choses good a person goes up in level. Therefore by chosing good – those places that were previously under the influence of the yetzer harah – now come under the domain of the yetzer hatov. Those good deeds will now be done without any war or free‑will choice at all. This is what is meant by “mitzva causing mitzva”. Similarly the reverse is true. If he chooses bad, it pushes the yetzer hatov away from its place. Then when he continues to do bad, it will be done without free‑will choice because the yetzer tov had no presence in that place. This is what is meant in Avos (4:2) that “sin causes sin” and also “If a person does a sin and repeats it it because like it was permitted” (Yoma 86b).

R Eric Yoffie: Legacy to Reform Judaism


In announcing that he will retire from the presidency of the Union for Reform Judaism in two years, Rabbi Eric Yoffie said that he aimed to give the URJ “ample time” to search for his successor. It’s a good thing, too.

That search will require careful thought. Given the longevity of those tasked with leading the Reform movement’s congregational arm — Yoffie will have been in the job 16 years when he steps down, while his two predecessors, Maurice Eisendrath and Alexander Schindler, served for 31 years and 23 years respectively — the choice seems likely to define Reform Judaism’s priorities and direction for a generation to come.

During their tenures, Eisendrath and Schindler focused on growing Reform Judaism, which today is America’s largest Jewish religious movement. They developed initiatives dealing with social action and religious outreach, and served as spokesmen for liberal Judaism around the world.

Yoffie, by contrast, has worked to turn Reform Judaism inward, urging its rank and file to focus on enriching their spiritual lives and expanding their knowledge of Judaism. “At this critical juncture in Jewish history,” he declared at his 1996 installation, “it is study of Torah, and prayer, and encouraging the mitzvot of home and family life that come before anything else.”

Yoav Laloum - filed suit against Emmanuel school system


Even someone who has been involved in as many struggles and conflicts as Yoav Laloum, the fearless fighter against discrimination in the ultra-Orthodox community, could not have foreseen the storm that erupted in the Haredi world this week. Nothing prepared Laloum for the huge protests that came in the wake of the High Court of Justice's ruling ordering the incarceration of parents of Ashkenazi girls in the Orthodox settlement of Immanuel if they continued discriminating against the Mizrahi girls in the Bais Yaakov school in the town. The demonstrations in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak were backed by the Haredi rabbinical establishment, and were accompanied by marches of support for the parents who are going to jail.

What hurt him most of all was the declaration of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who condemned the petition submitted to the court, and in effect aligned himself with the Ashkenazi rabbis. "Shas has abandoned me," said Laloum last night, who is now in hiding, after receiving death threats and being told by the police to leave his Jerusalem home. "In effect it has abandoned the Sephardi community. It should have waged this battle over discrimination, but they're also afraid." Later he said that "Rabbi Ovadia's statement is actually directed at me." [...]

Chilonim sometimes agree with Chareidim

If even Gideon Levi agrees, maybe there is hope!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rabbi Karp defends prohibition against worms

mlhv''l has left a new comment on your post "Rav Belsky's Tshuva on fish worms":

5 minutes in it starts, 6 minutes Rabbi Karp really loses his cool...
complete recording

Complete audio. Rabbi, how about you give some editorial feedback on this? 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 years since the Lanner expose - what has happened?

Jewish Times Gary Rosenblatt hat tip Jersey Girl

The tenth anniversary of the public exposure in these pages of the “Lanner scandal” provides an opportunity to reflect on, and appreciate, how much has changed for the better in the last decade in responding to rabbinic sexual abuse.

With it all, though, communal vigilance is still vital because the problem remains, as do the impulses to overlook or cover up allegations of wrongdoing in high places. And there are voices in the community calling for putting ethical standards in place in synagogues, schools and camps.

What follows is a recap of the story; a look at the impact of the affair on the institutions directly affected, as well as on American Orthodoxy and the larger Jewish society; and a personal note on what it has been like to be the focus of both praise and condemnation from one’s own community.[...]

Israel's Vital Security Needs JCPA Conference

5Towns Jewish Times

Four minutes. It takes four minutes for the average male to get dressed. Four minutes is all it takes to make popcorn in the microwave. Four minutes is also how long it would take for a Palestinian jet to fly over Israel and fire upon Israeli homes. On Wednesday, June 2, a conference was held in the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem. The topic of this conference was "Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace."

Dr. Dore Gold, the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., began the conference with a welcome and an introduction explaining Israel’s need to have peace and stability.[...]

Massive demonstrations Thursday over Emanuel ruling


"It will be the mother of all protests," Knesset Member Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) declared Wednesday referring to a haredi demonstration in Jerusalem's Yirmiyahu Bridge scheduled for Thursday.

MK Moses spoke in the Knesset plenum during a debate concerning the uproar caused by the High Court of Justice ruling on racial segregation in an all girls' school in Emanuel. The ultra-Orthodox MKs stressed they would not uphold verdicts which contradict their rabbis' rulings.

On Tuesday the High Court ruled that Ashkenazi parents who will fail to adhere to a previous ruling and not send their children to the Beit Yaakov school together with the Sephardic students will be jailed for a period of two weeks for contempt of the court. [...]

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lubavitcher Rebbe:R Chaim Rapoport's Review of biography

Seforim Blog

The Afterlife of Scholarship: A Critical Exploration of Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman’s Presentation of the Rebbe’s Life

Two Books for the Price of One
‘The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson’ by Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman (Princeton University Press, 2010), 382 pages.

This book is comprised of two studies. Firstly, we have a sociological study of the Lubavitch ‘mission establishment’ (shlichus); a layman’s guide to the now global phenomenon of shluchim,[1], shluchos and their Chabad Houses – at least as they have become consolidated over the last two or three decades. The authors describe the dedication of these emissaries; their ambitions, achievements and the (messianic) ethos that spurs them to work tirelessly with the aim of drawing the hearts of all Jewish People closer to their Father in Heaven. [...]

The scandal - Obama and the BP oil disaster

Rolling Stone

On May 27th, more than a month into the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Barack Obama strode to the podium in the East Room of the White House. For weeks, the administration had been insisting that BP alone was to blame for the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf – and the ongoing failure to stop the massive leak. "They have the technical expertise to plug the hole," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had said only six days earlier. "It is their responsibility." The president, Gibbs added, lacked the authority to play anything more than a supervisory role – a curious line of argument from an administration that has reserved the right to assassinate American citizens abroad and has nationalized much of the auto industry. "If BP is not accomplishing the task, can you just federalize it?" a reporter asked. "No," Gibbs replied.

Now, however, the president was suddenly standing up to take command of the cleanup effort. "In case you were wondering who's responsible," Obama told the nation, "I take responsibility." Sounding chastened, he acknowledged that his administration had failed to adequately reform the Minerals Management Service, the scandal-ridden federal agency that for years had essentially allowed the oil industry to self-regulate. "There wasn't sufficient urgency," the president said. "Absolutely I take responsibility for that." He also admitted that he had been too credulous of the oil giants: "I was wrong in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios." He unveiled a presidential commission to investigate the disaster, discussed the resignation of the head of MMS, and extended a moratorium on new deepwater drilling. "The buck," he reiterated the next day on the sullied Louisiana coastline, "stops with me."[...]

Monday, June 14, 2010

Challenges are good or to be avoided?

One of the major changes that I have seen in our society is the increased structuring of the community to minimize spiritual and intellectual challenges and threats. The following gemora seems to indicate that avoiding or going after challenges is a dispute amongst Amoraim.

Avoda Zara(17a): R. Hanina and R. Jonathan were walking on the road and came to a parting of ways, one of which led by the door of a place of idol-worship and the other led by a harlots’ place. Said the one to the other: Let us go [through the one leading] by the place of idolatry he inclination for which has been abolished.1 The other however said: Let us go [through that leading] by the harlots’ place and defy our inclination and have our reward. As they approached the place they saw the harlots withdraw2 at their presence. Said the one to the other: Whence didst thou know this?3 The other, in reply, quoted, She shall watch over thee, mezimmah [against lewdness], discernment shall guard thee.4

On the other hand the following gemora seems to be saying no one should seek out challenges.

 Sanhedrnin (107a):      Rab Judah said in Rab's name: One should never [intentionally] bring himself to the test, since David king of Israel did so, and fell. He said unto Him, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Why do we say [in prayer] "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," but not the God of David?’ He replied, ‘They were tried by me, but thou wast not.’ Then, replied he, ‘Sovereign of the Universe, examine and try me’ — as it is written, Examine me, O Lord, and try me.2 He answered ‘I will test thee, and yet grant thee a special privilege;3 for I did not inform them [of the nature of their trial beforehand], yet, I inform thee that I will try thee in a matter of adultery.’ Straightway, And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed etc.4 R. Johanan said: He changed his night couch to a day couch,5 but he forgot the halachah: there is a small organ in man which satisfies him in his hunger but makes him hunger when satisfied.

Any sources which discuss this issue would be appreciated.

Guidelines issued to register converts for marriage

Deah vDibur hat tip to RaP

The Chief Rabbinate has issued a set of concrete guidelines to rabbonim on the issue of registering engaged couples in cases where a questionable conversion certificate is presented. Released for the first time, the directives instruct the rov handling the marriage registration to transfer the case to the regional Rabbinate beis din to clarify whether the convert genuinely undertook Torah and mitzvas at the time of the conversion.[...]

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mila procedure blamed for infections

Jerusalem Post

The long-time practice by Israeli ritual circumcisers (mohelim) of using gauze for as long as 26 hours to stop penile bleeding is responsible for the significantly higher rate of urinary tract infections (UTIs) within a few weeks of the Jewish ritual.

According to pediatricians and infectious diseases experts at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, by adopting a different, yet simple medical technique for stanching the bleeding, many UTIs can be prevented. Drs. Ori Toker, Shepard Schwartz, Gershom Segal, Nadia Godovitch, Yechiel Schlesinger and David Raveh published their findings in the May issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal (IMAJ), along with an editorial by Dr. Jacob Amir, a pediatrician at Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fish worms: Rav Eliashiv rules leniently on herring only

5 Towns Jewish Times

In a series of meetings with Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Karp and  others, both on Tuesday and today, Thursday, Rav Elyashiv Shlita issued two rulings:  He firmly reaffirmed the prohibition of consuming all fish species that have the Anisakis water nematode (worm) and he also ruled, however, that herring are permitted lechatchila.

According to both Rabbi Karp and others present, Rav Elyashiv stressed that the Anisakis is forbidden because of the clear evidence that it’s origin is clearly from outside of the flesh of the fish and are thus considered Sheretz HaMayim.  Other worms that develop inside the flesh of the fish are permitted, however, and fall under the rubric of the Talmudic dispensation of “Minei Gavli” (See tractate Chullin 67b).

The permissive ruling on the herring, according to Rabbi Karp was based up, at least, two factors:[...]

Belgian nurses kill patients (euthanasia) without request or consent

Vancouver Sun

Almost half of deaths by euthanasia in Belgium have involved patients who have not explicitly requested their lives to be ended by a doctor, a study has suggested.

A fifth of nurses interviewed by researchers admitted that they had been involved in the euthanasia of a patient based on the "assumption" they would want to die. Nearly half of the nurses - 120 of 248 - admitted they had taken part in "terminations without request or consent".

Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002. It accounts for two per cent of all deaths annually. The law states that patient consent must be given and that doctors must carry out the procedure. But the study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that the rules are routinely flouted and shows how doctors often delegate the administering of fatal drugs to nurses.[...]

Abuse by psychiatrists - drugging pre-school children

Metrowest Daily News

In 2001, Harry Markopolos repeatedly warned the authorities about Bernie Madoff. No one listened. Only a serious downturn in the economy led to Madoff's downfall. It's not a Ponzi scheme, but once again, no one is listening and the red flags are everywhere. This time the victims are our very young, innocent children in the millions. Today, children as young as 2, are being prescribed powerful anti-psychotic medications. Side effects include tics, drooling, and incessant eating. Some children have gained up to 100 pounds and often progress to becoming diabetic.

Virtually nothing is known about the long-term impact of these medications. And no one seems to care. Certainly not the drug companies pushing these drugs, nor the doctors who have been coerced by the pharmaceutical industry and panicking parents alike into prescribing them. The increase in the use of anti-psychotics is directly tied to the rising incidence of one particular diagnosis, bipolar disorder. Experts estimate that the number of kids with this diagnosis is now more than one million and rising, making it more common than autism and diabetes combined. To treat it, doctors are administering medications that have yet to be approved for children. Mothers are legally medicating their two-year-olds with Risperdal to quiet their tantrums, Trileptal to stabilize their moods, and Clonidine to help them sleep.

This is not the old story about ADD or ADHD and the use of Ritalin or other approved drugs in use since the 1970's. This is not about helping the child who fidgets and can't concentrate in their elementary school classroom. This is about tens of thousands of energetic, outgoing, healthy, and normal 3- and 4-year-olds who just won't sit still in Mommy and Me. It is those children who have now been diagnosed with a new and controversial diagnosis - Childhood Bipolar Disorder.

On Sept. 4, 2007, The New York Times stated that studies in the 1970s and 80s concluded bipolar disorder was rare in children, but between 1994 to 2003, there was an astounding 40-fold increase in the number of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder.[...]

Ashkenazim and Sefardim share many genes

New York Times

Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East share many genes inherited from the ancestral Jewish population that lived in the Middle East some 3,000 years ago, even though each community also carries genes from other sources — usually the country in which it lives.

That is the conclusion of two new genetic surveys, the first to use genome-wide scanning devices to compare many Jewish communities around the world.

A major surprise from both surveys is the genetic closeness of the two Jewish communities of Europe, the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. The Ashkenazim thrived in Northern and Eastern Europe until their devastation by the Hitler regime, and now live mostly in the United States and Israel. The Sephardim were exiled from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497 and moved to the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and the Netherlands.

The two genome surveys extend earlier studies based just on the Y chromosome, the genetic element carried by all men. They refute the suggestion made last year by the historian Shlomo Sand in his book “The Invention of the Jewish People” that Jews have no common origin but are a miscellany of people in Europe and Central Asia who converted to Judaism at various times.[...]

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rav Belsky's Tshuva on fish worms

Rav Belskys Teshuva About Worms in Fish

Mental price of internet & cell phones

When one of the most important e-mail messages of his life landed in his in-box a few years ago, Kord Campbell overlooked it
Not just for a day or two, but 12 days. He finally saw it while sifting through old messages: a big company wanted to buy his Internet start-up.
“I stood up from my desk and said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Mr. Campbell said. “It’s kind of hard to miss an e-mail like that, but I did.”
The message had slipped by him amid an electronic flood: two computer screens alive with e-mail, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing.[...]

Reuters crops out knives from "peace activists"

Little Green Footballs

Another Cropped Reuters Photo Deletes Another Knife - And a Pool of Blood
One picture cropped to remove a knife might be explained as incompetence or a simple mistake. But now we have two pictures from the “peace activists” that were cropped by someone at Reuters to remove knives in the hands of the activists, as they attempted to take soldiers hostage. More...
Did Reuters Crop a Photo to Remove a Peace Activist's Weapon?
That’s a very interesting way to crop the photo. Most people would consider that knife an important part of the context. There was a huge controversy over whether the activists were armed. Cropping out a knife, in a picture showing a soldier who’s apparently been stabbed, seems like a very odd editorial decision. Unless someone was trying to hide it. More...

Chasam Sofer & Self-Estem Problems

This attempt to understand Rashi is the earliest mention of problems caused by self-esteem that I have found. It is a quote ascribed to him by one of his students and published in Toras Moshe by his grandson. The relevant phrase is "If a person values himself more than he really is or the opposite, in the eyes of other people people he will be valued less then he actually is"

Egypt to strip men married to Israelis of citizenship

Yahoo News hat tip to RaP

A Cairo court on Saturday upheld a ruling to strip Egyptian men married to Israeli women of their citizenship in a case that has highlighted national sentiment towards Israel.

Judge Mohammed al-Husseini, sitting on the Supreme Administrative Court, said the interior ministry must ask the cabinet to take the necessary steps to strip Egyptian men married to Israeli women, and their children, of their citizenship.

The court said that each case should be considered separately, in a ruling that cannot be appealed.

The ruling reflects Egyptian sentiment towards Israel, more than 30 years after Egypt signed an unpopular peace deal with the Jewish state.[...]

Chasam Sofer - First reference to self-esteem problem?

Toras Moshe (Bamidbar 13:33)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tom Kaplan - Billionaire backer of Eternal Jewish Family

Wall Street Journal

Gold is setting records again, boosting the holdings of central banks, Armageddon worrywarts, and ordinary people who own gold bars, coins and jewelry.

But few individuals stand to benefit as much as low-profile billionaire Thomas Kaplan. A New York-born commodities magnate who earned a doctorate in British colonial history at Oxford, Mr. Kaplan oversees an empire devoted largely to gold.[...] Mr. Kaplan is also president of the board of directors at New York's 92nd Street Y, a prominent cultural organization that is a magnet for New York's elite. And he is a benefactor of Eternal Jewish Family, a group dedicated to uniform rules governing conversions to Judaism whose leader resigned last year amid an alleged sex scandal. [...]

Krauthammer: Those troublesome Jews

Washington Post

The world is outraged at Israel's blockade of Gaza. Turkey denounces its illegality, inhumanity, barbarity, etc. The usual U.N. suspects, Third World and European, join in. The Obama administration dithers.

But as Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, writes, the blockade is not just perfectly rational, it is perfectly legal. Gaza under Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel -- a declaration backed up by more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian territory. Yet having pledged itself to unceasing belligerency, Hamas claims victimhood when Israel imposes a blockade to prevent Hamas from arming itself with still more rockets.

In World War II, with full international legality, the United States blockaded Germany and Japan. And during the October 1962 missile crisis, we blockaded ("quarantined") Cuba. Arms-bearing Russian ships headed to Cuba turned back because the Soviets knew that the U.S. Navy would either board them or sink them. Yet Israel is accused of international criminality for doing precisely what John Kennedy did: impose a naval blockade to prevent a hostile state from acquiring lethal weaponry.[...]

Flotilla Choir presents: We Con the World

hat tip to RaP. Warning there are a few moments of kol isha so just be prepared. All the words are given as subtitles so you can just turn off the sound

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lithuania 'rewriting Holocaust history'

Abuse - Fingerprint option unused by yeshivot

Jewish Star

Of nearly 400 Jewish schools in New York State, only one, North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, uses a state law that allows private schools to check fingerprints to weed out potentially abusive faculty and staff. Elliot Pasik, an attorney and president of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, who championed the law through Albany, filed a freedom of information request and is very upset about what he discovered. [...]

Ambassador to US: An Assault on Israel Cloaked in Peace


PEACE activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis - both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas - and to destroy any hope of peace.

Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these "activists" chanting "Khaibar! Khaibar!"- a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.

What the videos don't show, however, are several curious aspects Israeli authorities are now investigating. First, about 100 of those detained from the boats were carrying immense sums in their pockets - nearly a million euros in total. Second, Israel discovered spent bullet cartridges on the Mavi Marmara that are of a caliber not used by the Israeli commandos, some of whom suffered gunshot wounds. Also found on the boat were propaganda clips showing passengers "injured" by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.[...]

Rav Sternbuch Change No You Can't

Rav Sternbuch's view on the fish worm issue

I received the following unofficial letter purporting to represent the view of Rav Sternbuch to the current fish worm question

First grade teacher suspected of abusing students


הותר לפרסום: גבר בן 33 מאלעד, מורה בבית ספר פרטי בעיר, נעצר בחשד לביצוע מעשים מגונים בקטינים, תלמידי כיתה א' אותם לימד. החשוד נעצר בשבוע שעבר והבוקר הוא יובא להארכת מעצרו בבית משפט השלום בפתח תקווה.

מעצרו של החשוד התאפשר בעקבות מספר תלונות של שישה הורים לתלמידים שהוגשו במשטרה. על פי החשד, נהג החשוד לגעת בתלמידיו באופן שיעורר בו גירוי מיני ולאחר מכן היה הולך למקום אחר כדי להגיע לסיפוקו, ושלא בנוכחות הקטינים.

במהלך השבוע האחרון תושאלו הקטינים על ידי חוקרים של משרד הרווחה והתבקשו למסור פרטים על המעשים. החשוד עצמו, ללא עבר פלילי קודם, הודה בחקירתו במיוחס לו ושיתף פעולה באופן מלא במהלך החקירה.

Police not trained to handle abuse cases

Responding to concerns that sexual assault complaints have been mishandled by the police in New York, a task force appointed by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has recommended new training protocols for officers dealing with sex crime victims.

The task force has called for a video to be shown to officers that emphasizes the Police Department’s policies mandating that crime reports be taken, and the procedures and sensitivity required in dealing with victims of sex crimes, said Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman.

The task force, which began its review in April, is also looking at specific cases to check if complaints were handled appropriately by the police. The task force is expected to meet with Mr. Kelly on Thursday to present its initial list of recommendations.[...]

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Supreme Court:Miranda right to silence must be requested


The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that suspects must explicitly tell police they want to be silent to invoke Miranda protections during criminal interrogations, a decision one dissenting justice said turns defendants' rights ''upside down.''

A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are the first of the Miranda rights warnings, which police recite to suspects during arrests and interrogations. But the justices said in a 5-4 decision that suspects must tell police they are going to remain silent to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.

The ruling comes in a case where a suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, remained mostly silent for a three-hour police interrogation before implicating himself in a Jan. 10, 2000, murder in Southfield, Mich. He appealed his conviction, saying that he invoked his Miranda right to remain silent by remaining silent.[...]

Teacher falsely accused of molesting girl

Washington Post

A Fairfax County jury needed only 47 minutes Thursday to find a popular schoolteacher not guilty of molesting a 12-year-old girl in their school gym this year.

Sean Lanigan, 43, smiled and tears flowed among his dozens of supporters in the courtroom as the verdicts were read clearing Lanigan of charges of aggravated sexual battery and abduction. The case against him hinged on the testimony of two sixth-grade girls at Centre Ridge Elementary School in Centreville, who said Lanigan had scooped up one of the girls in the middle of the school gym, carried her into an equipment room, laid her down on a mat and massaged her shoulders, groping her in the process. [...]
Rav Eliashiv(Kovetz Teshuvos 3:231): … Question: If someone is sexually abusing a boy a girl in circumstances which we don’t have the means to stop him from continuing his evil deeds – is it permissible to notify the government authorities? Answer: [Yes] … However, it is permitted to notify the government authorities only in the case which it is certain that the accused has been sexually abusing children. Informing the authorities in such a case is clearly something for the well being of the society (tikun olam). However in a case where there is no proof that this activity is happening but it is merely a conjecture or suspicion, if we permit the calling of the authorities - not only would it not be an improvement (tikun olam) - but it would destroy society. That is because it is possible that allegations are being made solely because of some bitterness the student has against his teacher or because of some unfounded fantasy. As a result of these false allegations the accused will be placed in a situation for which death is better than life – even though he is innocent. Therefore I do not see any justification for calling the authorities in such circumstances.

Egypt opens Gaza border after IDF raid on aid flotilla


Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, letting Palestinians cross until further notice amid a storm of international criticism of Israel's blockade of the enclave, officials in Egypt and Gaza said.

The move, urged by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas against whom the embargo has been directed, prompted dozens of people to race to the crossing point in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, though the gates appeared still to be closed.

It is the only point on Gaza's borders that is not fully controlled by Israel. Cairo, coordinating with Israel, has opened it only sparingly since Hamas Islamists, who are allied to Egypt's opposition, seized control of Gaza three years ago. [...]