Friday, July 30, 2010

Pedophiles in the Jewish Community Are Going Unpunished

In a recent article published in the Yiddish Forward, journalist Rukhl Schaechter reports on the problem of unreported abuse and cover-ups within the Charedi community.

Below are links to the original article in Yiddish and an English translation commissioned by SFJ (Survivors for Justice) and approved by Ms. Schaechter.
=================== Forward 
Listening to the popular New York Jewish radio program, "The Zev Brenner Show," one suddenly heard the following commercial narrated by a woman speaking in authentic Hasidic Yiddish:"I am the mother of Yoeli Engelman. Yoeli is a survivor of sexual molestation. 15 years ago, when he was a child in cheder (elementary school), he was molested by his principal. This very principal today teaches in the same cheder, and the administration unashamedly defends him. This terrible crime and severe chilul Hashem (desecration of God's name) can only be dealt with by the Child Victims Act, which will force the administration to protect the innocent children instead of the guilty teacher. Fathers and mothers, Remember! Our children need us! Thank you." This commercial, aired by the SFJ (Survivors for Justice) -- an organization that combats sexual abuse in the orthodox world, mentions only one example of a serious problem in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world: Countless numbers of children, specifically boys, are sexually molested by their teachers, rabbis and other authority figures in the community, but little is being done to punish the perpetrators..

Vacation halachic guidance


Senior haredi rabbis advise on Halacha matters pertaining to yeshiva students' holiday period between Tisha B'Av and Rosh Chodesh Elul

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Steinman, one of the leaders of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community ruled recently that during flights one is best advised to pray the Amidah prayer (The Standing Prayer) sitting down, restfully, rather than standing up.

This was his answer to haredi yeshiva students currently in the midst of the "Bein Hazmanim" holiday period - a break between Tisha B'Av and the beginning of Elul. Busy planning overseas vacations, the students were concerned about difficulties in saying all the customary prayers on board planes.[...]

Some Orthodox rabbis call for acceptance of homosexuals


Dozens of Orthodox rabbis have signed a statement of principles saying that religious communities must accept those of its members who are "active homosexuals" and their biological or adopted children, and that they must not be encouraged to undergo "change therapies" or marry someone of the opposite sex.

The statement was formulated following a panel held by the "rashei yeshiva ramim" six months ago in New York. The panel included three homosexual graduates of the Yeshiva University, and was hosted by its spiritual supervisor, Rabbi Yosef Blau. [...]

Grad rocket hit Ashkelon today


Military officials hope Friday morning's Grad rocket in Ashkelon was lone incident which will not be followed by escalation in south, although two mortar shells land in Eshkol Regional Council several hours later. 'They have longer range missiles,' head of Home Front Command's southern district tells Ynet [...]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Incest: Yichud of brothers & sisters

Igros Moshe1(E.H. 4:65.11): Concerning the permissibility of a brother and sister being secluded together alone occasionally - whether this also applies in a situation where they are living in their parents home which therefore means it a fixed arrangement. When they are alone together in the house is this considered on occasion and therefore permitted or since he is in fact living with her in a fixed manner it is not permitted for them to be alone - even though the seclusion is only occasional. It seems that the practice of the world is to permit this. Even when the parents have only one son and one daughter who are old enough to be obligated in mitzvos, they leave them alone in the house for hours even at night. No one is concerned about the issue of yichud in these circumstances for brother and sister - even religious people. It would seem that this leniency is implied by Rashi who writes (Kiddushin 81b) that "brother and sister can be secluded together occasionally but he does not dwell with her constantly in the house".... this implies that the permissibility of seclusion with a sister is even when they dwell together for an extended time. However the prohibition of seclusion with his sister is only if they are alone constantly together but if it is only occasionally that they are alone then it is permitted even when they are living together for an extended time. That is the reason for the widespread leniency in this matter. However there is no question that they are not to be left alone in the house for an extended time at nights on frequent occasions until this is viewed as the normal situation - and not just an occasional occurrence. In this matter it is not possible to specify the exact number of hours or times that it is prohibited. Rather each one needs to recognize in his sons and daughters what is appropriate.

What Do You Lack? Probably Vitamin D

New York Times

Vitamin D promises to be the most talked-about and written-about supplement of the decade. While studies continue to refine optimal blood levels and recommended dietary amounts, the fact remains that a huge part of the population — from robust newborns to the frail elderly, and many others in between — are deficient in this essential nutrient.

If the findings of existing clinical trials hold up in future research, the potential consequences of this deficiency are likely to go far beyond inadequate bone development and excessive bone loss that can result in falls and fractures. Every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system, has receptors for vitamin D, meaning that this nutrient is needed at proper levels for these tissues to function well.[...]

Rethinking Criminal Sentences


A federal conviction for white-collar fraud is no guarantee of a heavy prison sentence. When five defendants in the fraud case involving the American International Group were sentenced, they could have faced life in prison; instead, a judge handed down sentences of one to four years for causing more than $500 million in losses. A Ponzi-scheme criminal who caused more than $40 million in losses got 25 years. A man convicted of securities fraud that caused more than $50 million in losses got a three-and-a-half-year sentence. [...]

Conversion:Supreme Court vs. Rabbinate

Jewish Star hat tip to RaP

Although some American Jewish leaders said this week that they will be entering upcoming negotiations over the proposed Israeli conversion bill free of preconceptions, a leader of Reform Jewry said there remains a “red line” for his movement.

“The critical point will be giving ultimate authority to the Chief Rabbinate, which is a fundamental violation of the status quo,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “In my opinion, that is the red line.

“If you write in the law [as currently proposed] that the Chief Rabbinate has the ultimate authority over conversions, 30 years of legal decisions [by Israel’s High Court of Justice] are thrown out,” Rabbi Yoffie continued. “For us, that is the most significant issue; everything else should be negotiated.”[...]

Student threatened with expulsion because of religious beliefs about homosexuality

ABC News

A Georgia student studying counseling says her university went too far in requiring her to change her Christian beliefs on homosexuality before she's allowed to graduate.

Backed by the Alliance Defense Fund, Jennifer Keeton has filed suit against Augusta State University after, she said, school officials threatened to dismiss her from its counseling program when she refused to participate in a "remediation" plan to increase her tolerance of gays and lesbians after she made it known that she believed homosexuality was a personal choice.

According to the lawsuit, filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, school officials told Keeton that she was failing to conform to professional standards because of her views on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.[...]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Experts answer questions about internet privacy


Last week, we asked readers to submit questions to Michael Fertik, founder of ReputationDefender, and Paul Ohm, a law professor at the University of Colorado, in response to The New York Times Magazine article “The Web Means the End of Forgetting.”  Below are their responses. In some cases, we shortened the questions and fixed typos.

What is the best way to maintain an online alias for any material that you do not wish to be publicly connected to you, while still allowing friends and some acquaintances to stay in contact? [...]

Monday, July 26, 2010

Science & Free Will


In an influential article in the Annual Review of Neuroscience, Joshua Gold of the University of Pennsylvania and Michael Shadlen of the University of Washington sum up experiments aimed at discovering the neural basis of decision-making. In one set of experiments, researchers attached sensors to the parts of monkeys’ brains responsible for visual pattern recognition. The monkeys were then taught to respond to a cue by choosing to look at one of two patterns. Computers reading the sensors were able to register the decision a fraction of a second before the monkeys’ eyes turned to the pattern. As the monkeys were not deliberating, but rather reacting to visual stimuli, researchers were able to plausibly claim that the computer could successfully predict the monkeys’ reaction. In other words, the computer was reading the monkeys’ minds and knew before they did what their decision would be. [...]

Fleur de Lis - A Jewish symbol?!

5 Towns wrote:

What does the oylam think?

I once heard from a talmid chochom in Eretz Yisroel, albeit a krumme one vos halt zich a talmid fun Shloime Goren, that the Fleur de Lis symbol was mistomme adopted by the Notzrim in France because they brought it back from the Crusades.

I was surprised to see in a seforim store today, kiddush bechers being sold with the symbol on them. When I inquired, it was brushed off as being a "Jewish" symbol on klei koydesh that has been on things for a "long time". I didn't buy it, especially because I have never seen it before on anything Yiddish.

From what I can find on the internet, it was takke adopted by French kings in the 1100s. The royal propaganda had it that it shtams from the coronation of King Clovis in 493, the first king of Gaul (old France) to be megayer to Catholicism. Historians don't seem to believe it and make choyzek that the Catholics made up a bubbe mayseh so they could convince the hamon am to be maaminim that it was given over to Clovis by Yoshke alein al yedei the Pope.

Historian Anne Lombard-Jourdan associates the emblem with the Cathedral Basilica of Saint-Denis, which is one of biggest mekomos "hakedoshim" in Catholic France.

Historian Fox-Davies says it is associated with the "besulah", imo Miriam, and King Louis VI started using it as a symbol for "Saints".

England also uses Fleur de Lis on the Crown Jewels which are religious in nature. The set that we know today has been around since the 1200s, the time of the Crusades.

Pastorneau says they were embedded in icons of Yoshke in the 1200s. F.R. Webber said the Notzrim considered the Fleur to represent the Trinity.

The only "Jewish" usage I could find anywhere was adopted by the Tzionim on badges for חיל המודיעין which is a branch of Israeli Intelligence under Tzahal.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rav Moshe Sternbuch - Jurisprudence

The following was written by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis based on a drasha given by Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Rosh Av Beis Din of the Eidah Hachareidis of Yerushalayim.
• • • • •

"Do not show favor in judgment, listen carefully to small and large cases, do not be afraid of anyone, for mishpot is in the jurisdiction of Elokim..."
Sefer Devorim starts off by describing the type of judicial system that we should establish. After listing a number of requirements, the Torah substantiates its requirements by writing that mishpot is in the jurisdiction of Elokim. What is the deeper meaning of this idea?

Moshe Rabbeinu is instructed to set up these courts, and to find judges who can decide cases between one Jew and another. On the surface, it might appear as though this mitzvah pales in comparison to Shabbos, kashrus, and other such Torah commandments that govern man's direct relationship with his Creator. These are the areas that would seem to deserve much more focus and attention.

For this reason, the Torah states the direct association between mishpot and Elokim. In connecting judicial law to His Divine name, the Torah is saying that someone who downplays the mitzvos involving interpersonal relationships should recognize that his actions are an affront to Elokim. This is why the neviim repeatedly warned the Jewish people to make sure that they were not lax regarding this category of mitzvos.

There is also a more hidden aspect to this association: On occasion, a person might come to bais din thinking that he has an open and shut case, one hundred percent sure that he will be victorious. Yet, when the p'sak is issued, it is actually his opponent who is rendered the victor. How can he come to terms with what seems to be a clear perversion of justice?

The Zohar explains that this is the deeper connection between mishpot and Elokim. At times, there are debts that need to be repaid from other gilgulim, i.e., previous occasions that we lived in this world. Through some minor financial losses in this world, Elokim makes sure that a person can go into the next world free of previous debts.

Every Jew who experiences seemingly undeserved suffering in this world should keep the above concept in mind. Nothing in this world is for naught. Any travails that a person experiences during his lifetimes lessen the necessity for punishment in the next world.

Rav Sternbuch remembers seeing Rav Mordechai Pogramansky during the last days of his life. Although Rav Pogramansky was stricken with stomach cancer, was already blind, and suffered from unbearable pain, he did not complain at all. On the contrary, he pleaded with Hashem that He should allow him to pay off all of his debts in this world and come to the next world clean.

Rav Pogramansky's actions are certainly an extremely high level and far beyond the reach of most Jews in this generation. Yet, there is an important message in his words, even for us today. All of Hashem's actions are just, and if we can swallow what He sends us, we will definitely be remunerated with acceptance in the next world.

Perhaps the greatest punishment that the Jewish people have received as a nation was the destruction of both the first and second Botei Mikdosh. On Tisha B'Av, we spend the entire day recognizing this tragedy. Yet, our mourning goes far beyond that: Tisha B'Av is also the day to remember all of the many tragedies that Klal Yisroel has experienced throughout history.
The Medrash describes Tisha B'Av as a day of mourning and as a mo'ed, a festival. We can understand why Tisha B'Av is viewed as a sad day, given all of the travails we suffered on that day, but what about Tisha B'Av classifies it as a festival?
When the Bais Hamikdosh stood, Divine judgment was much stronger. Since we were able to witness constant miracles there, any doubt in emunah was considered a major breach in our relationship with Hashem. Transgressions during this time quite seriously aroused His anger, and the attribute of din was very prominent.
After the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh, the full extent of the Shechinah's Presence is no longer felt. Because of this, Divine retribution is much less harsh. While His face is hidden, Hashem expects much less of us.
For this very reason, Tisha B'Av is also considered to be a festival. In today's world, where the Shechinah is almost completely veiled, any mitzvah we perform is considered a major accomplishment. Even the smallest act is looked upon as something extraordinary.

On the other hand, because there is so much impurity in the world, our transgressions are viewed as less serious. What once required many fasts and other forms of abstention to gain atonement can now be achieved with relative ease. The same destruction that is a reason to mourn can simultaneously be viewed in a different and more positive light.

As we approach the coming of Moshiach, we can strengthen ourselves by keeping the dual nature of this time in mind. We should never let the craziness of the world around us pull us into the abyss of modern day society. Our lowly state should not be a cause for depression. Rather, we should use it to lift ourselves up and empower ourselves to strive forward during this final chapter of Jewish history.
• • • • •
Rabbi Travis is a rosh kollel of Kollel Toras Chaim in Yerushalayim, and is the author of Shaylos U'Teshuvos Toras Chaim and "Praying With Joy - A Daily Tefilla Companion," a practical daily guide to improving one's prayers, available from Feldheim Publishers. Rav Shternbuch's weekly shiurim on the parsha, compiled and edited by Rabbi Travis, are now available as a sefer titled "A Voice in the Darkness." For more information about his work, contact


The same destruction that is a reason to mourn can simultaneously be viewed in a different and more positive light.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rumors, Cyberbullying & Anonymity


So I thought this week, I'd share with you a piece of another interview for that segment. This time, the subject is John Palfrey, Harvard Law School professor, co-director of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and author of "Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives."

David Pogue: What experience do you bring to the Internet rumors issue?

John Palfrey: I study, in particular, how young people use technology, how they relate to one another. And one of the big things is they've moved their social lives, by and large, online. Places like Facebook and on services like Twitter, they're spreading a lot of information, including rumors about one another.[...]

Gay rights outweigh religious rights


A proposed ordinance in Memphis, Tenn., that would ban discrimination against gays is causing outrage among some local critics who say the ordinance itself would be discriminatory -- against people who oppose homosexuality because of their religious beliefs.

A proposed ordinance in Memphis, Tenn., that would ban discrimination against gays is causing outrage among some local critics who say the ordinance itself would be discriminatory -- against people who oppose homosexuality because of their religious beliefs.

"It's going to discriminate against people of faith who are Christians in their worldview, and I believe with all my heart that they have rights too," says Bellevue Baptist Church Pastor Steven Gaines. [...]

Korean War & concern for civilian causalities


North Korea, like Cuba, is a country suspended in time, one that exists off modernity’s grid. It’s a place where the cold war never ended, where the heirloom paranoia is taken down and polished daily.

Korea’s cold war chill is heating up. Four months ago a South Korean warship was sunk, and a South Korean-led international investigative team concluded that North Korea was responsible. Next week the United States and South Korea will begin large-scale naval exercises off the coasts of the Korean Peninsula and Japan in a show of force.

The world will be watching, and here’s a book that American policymakers may hope it won’t be reading: Bruce Cumings’s “Korean War,” a powerful revisionist history of America’s intervention in Korea. Beneath its bland title, Mr. Cumings’s book is a squirm-inducing assault on America’s moral behavior during the Korean War, a conflict that he says is misremembered when it is remembered at all. It’s a book that puts the reflexive anti-Americanism of North Korea’s leaders into sympathetic historical context. [...]

Does Teen Drug Rehab Cure Addiction or Create It?

Time Magazine

"Matt Thomas" (a pseudonym) had only recently begun experimenting with marijuana when he got caught selling a few joints in the bathroom at his junior high school. It was no big deal, Thomas thought, especially considering that his parents — an investment banker and a homemaker — smoked pot too.

But Thomas' grades had already begun to slip, perhaps because of his increasing alcohol and marijuana use; that, coupled with his drug-dealing offense, was enough for the school to recommend that his parents place him in an inpatient drug-treatment program. Thomas, then 13, was sent to Parkview West, a residential rehab center located a few miles from his suburban Minneapolis home. (See pictures of teens in America.)

But rather than encouraging sobriety, Thomas says, his seven-week stint at Parkview West helped trigger a decades-long descent into severe addiction — from regular marijuana user to daily drinker to cocaine and methamphetamine addict. "It was [in rehab] that they told me that I was a drug addict and an alcoholic," says Thomas. "There was no turning back. The whole event solidified and created this notion in my own mind and in my social status. Who I was, was an alcoholic and drug addict." [...]

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Internet: The end of forgetting


Four years ago, Stacy Snyder, then a 25-year-old teacher in training at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa., posted a photo on her MySpace page that showed her at a party wearing a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup, with the caption “Drunken Pirate.” After discovering the page, her supervisor at the high school told her the photo was “unprofessional,” and the dean of Millersville University School of Education, where Snyder was enrolled, said she was promoting drinking in virtual view of her under-age students. As a result, days before Snyder’s scheduled graduation, the university denied her a teaching degree. Snyder sued, arguing that the university had violated her First Amendment rights by penalizing her for her (perfectly legal) after-hours behavior. But in 2008, a federal district judge rejected the claim, saying that because Snyder was a public employee whose photo didn’t relate to matters of public concern, her “Drunken Pirate” post was not protected speech.[...]

Rape by deception


Lawyers for the Arab man convicted of rape by deception and sentenced to 18 months in prison, say they are considering an appeal to the High Court of Justice.

Sabbar Kashur, 30, had consensual sex with a woman after he posed as a Jewish bachelor interested in a long-term relationship.

When the woman found Kashur was not a Jew but an Arab, she filed a police complaint that led to charges of rape and indecent assault.

Possible cover for abuse book

This is a possible cover - on a scale of 1 to 7 - do you like it 7, dislike it 1 or don't care 4 ?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lawsuits against bloggers for 3rd party postings

Citizen Media Law Project

The Communications Decency Act 

This prompted Congress to pass the Communications Decency Act in 1996. The Act contains deceptively simple language under the heading "Protection for Good Samaritan blocking and screening of offensive material":

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Section 230 further provides that "[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section."

Websites Covered by Section 230 

Is an "interactive computer service" some special type of website? No. For purposes of Section 230, an

"interactive computer service" means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server.

Most courts have held that through these provisions, Congress granted interactive services of all types, including blogs, forums, and listservs, immunity from tort liability so long as the information is provided by a third party.

As a result of Section 230, Internet publishers are treated differently from publishers in print, television, and radio. Let's look at these difference in more detail.[...]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Turkey's political elite tied to Flotilla sponsor

New York Times

ISTANBUL — The Turkish charity that led the flotilla involved in a deadly Israeli raid has extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite, and the group’s efforts to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said.

The charity, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, often called I.H.H., has come under attack in Israel and the West for offering financial support to groups accused of terrorism. But in Turkey the group has helped Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shore up support from conservative Muslims ahead of critical elections next year and improve Turkey’s standing and influence in the Arab world.[...]

On Monday, Germany banned the charity’s offices, citing its support for Hamas, which Germany considers a terrorist organization. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said the charity abused donors’ good intentions “to support a terrorist organization with money supposedly donated for charitable purposes.” The newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said that from 2007 the charity collected $8.5 million and transferred money to six smaller organizations, two belonging directly to Hamas and four with close ties to it.[...]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writing an essay means making a collage


A friend who teaches at a well-known eastern university told me recently that plagiarism was turning him into a cop. He begins the semester collecting evidence, in the form of an in-class essay that gives him a sense of how well students think and write. He looks back at the samples later when students turn in papers that feature their own, less-than-perfect prose alongside expertly written passages lifted verbatim from the Web.

“I have to assume that in every class, someone will do it,” he said. “It doesn’t stop them if you say, ‘This is plagiarism. I won’t accept it.’ I have to tell them that it is a failing offense and could lead me to file a complaint with the university, which could lead to them being put on probation or being asked to leave.”

Not everyone who gets caught knows enough about what they did to be remorseful. Recently, for example, a student who plagiarized a sizable chunk of a paper essentially told my friend to keep his shirt on, that what he’d done was no big deal. Beyond that, the student said, he would be ashamed to go home to the family with an F.[...]

The return of R' Motti Elon


[...]An official response from the Takana forum was not available yesterday. But Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a Takana member involved in the Elon probe, told Haaretz, "The first obligation contained in the Torah and religious law is the one applying to the wounded; the question of Rabbi Elon's qualifications is secondary. That's the starting point from which Takana operated. The forum's mission and public role is, first and foremost, to care for the victims - that's what we do." Cherlow added: "I very much respect Rabbi Dichovsky, and I imagine he knows all of the details" [of the suspicions against Elon]. Elon's adviser Rimon said he "is at home in Migdal and has yet to decide on the matter."

When good people produce rotten kids


I don’t know what I’ve done wrong,” the patient told me.

She was an intelligent and articulate woman in her early 40s who came to see me for depression and anxiety. In discussing the stresses she faced, it was clear that her teenage son had been front and center for many years.

When he was growing up, she explained, he fought frequently with other children, had few close friends, and had a reputation for being mean. She always hoped he would change, but now that he was almost 17, she had a sinking feeling.[...]

Human identity & our bacteria

In 2008, Dr. Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, took on a patient suffering from a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile. She was crippled by constant diarrhea, which had left her in a wheelchair wearing diapers. Dr. Khoruts treated her with an assortment of antibiotics, but nothing could stop the bacteria. His patient was wasting away, losing 60 pounds over the course of eight months. “She was just dwindling down the drain, and she probably would have died,” Dr. Khoruts said.

Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.

Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since. [...]

Doctors don't report troubled colleagues

Google News

CHICAGO — Your doctor could be drunk, addicted to drugs or outright incompetent, but other physicians may not blow the whistle.

A new survey finds that many American physicians fail to report troubled colleagues to authorities, believing that someone else will take care of it, that nothing will happen if they act or that they could be targeted for retribution.

A surprising 17 percent of the doctors surveyed had direct, personal knowledge of an impaired or incompetent physician in their workplaces, said the study's lead author, Catherine DesRoches of Harvard Medical School. [...]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Abuse: Belgian Clergy Inquiry


WESTVLETEREN, Belgium — Behind an aggressive investigation of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Belgium that drew condemnation from the pope himself lies a stark family tragedy: the molestation, for years, of a youth by his uncle, the bishop of Bruges; the prelate’s abrupt resignation when a friend of the nephew finally threatened to make the abuse public; and now the grass-roots fury of almost 500 people complaining of abuse by priests.

The first resignation of a European bishop for abusing a child relative came unexpectedly on April 23. At 73, the Bruges bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, Belgium’s longest-serving prelate, tersely announced his retirement and acknowledged molesting “a boy in my close entourage.”

The boy, not named, was his own nephew, now in his early 40s.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Home computers are educational disasters for low income families


MIDDLE SCHOOL students are champion time-wasters. And the personal computer may be the ultimate time-wasting appliance. Put the two together at home, without hovering supervision, and logic suggests that you won’t witness a miraculous educational transformation.

Still, wherever there is a low-income household unboxing the family’s very first personal computer, there is an automatic inclination to think of the machine in its most idealized form, as the Great Equalizer. In developing countries, computers are outfitted with grand educational hopes, like those that animate the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which was examined in this space in April. The same is true of computers that go to poor households in the United States.

Economists are trying to measure a home computer’s educational impact on schoolchildren in low-income households. Taking widely varying routes, they are arriving at similar conclusions: little or no educational benefit is found. Worse, computers seem to have further separated children in low-income households, whose test scores often decline after the machine arrives, from their more privileged counterparts.[...]

Lashon harah:Outing the transgendered?

NYTIMES The Ethicist

I am a straight woman, and I was set up on a date with a man. We got along well initially, but I grew concerned about how evasive he was about his past. I did some sophisticated checking online — I do research professionally — and discovered that he is a female-to-male transgender ed individual. I then ended our relationship. He and I live in Orthodox Jewish communities.  (I believe he converted shortly after he became a man.) I think he continues to date women within our group. Should I urge our rabbi to out this person? [...]

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Abuse: Bullies & cyberbullies - what to do?


What do you do if your child is traumatized by online bullying? And what can be done to help bullies understand the impact of their actions? Those are among the questions about cyberbullying readers asked our expert, Elizabeth K. Englander. Dr. Englander is a professor of psychology and the founder and director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State College, which provides anti-bullying and anti-violence training programs and resources to schools and families.[...]

CNN drops senior editor for praising Hezbollah leader

New York Times

CNN on Wednesday removed its senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs, Octavia Nasr, from her job after she published a Twitter message saying that she respected the Shiite cleric the Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who died on Sunday.

Ms. Nasr left her CNN office in Atlanta on Wednesday. Parisa Khosravi, the senior vice president for CNN International Newsgathering, said in an internal memorandum that she “had a conversation” with Ms. Nasr on Wednesday morning and that “we have decided that she will be leaving the company."

Ms. Nasr, a 20-year veteran of CNN, wrote on Twitter after the cleric died on Sunday, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Does G-d cause sexual abuse & transgression?

I am looking for examples where G-d causes someone to be sexually abused or to be involved in sexual transgressions. The following are some examples.

1) Esther
2) R' Meir sister in law was Divinely punished to be a prostitute
3) Dovid was forced in relation with Batsheva to encourage baaeli teshuva
4) Yehuda and Tamar
5) Dina and Shechem
6) Lot & his daughters necessary for Moshiach
7) Yael & Sisra

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ever a good idea to cover up sexual abuse?

Aderet (Me’ane Eliyahu #32 1895): A disgusting event occurred here in the Mir community. A young man, the son of the tailor, fell in love with a servant…however she was not interested in him and rejected him. One Shabbos night after the meal, she went for a walk with one of her relatives outside the city and he accompanied them. When they were far from other people, they were suddenly attacked by two young men. These assailants threatened to stab the two men who had accompanied her - if they attempted to put up any resistance. Out of fear for their lives the two men who had accompanied her ran away – and she was left alone with the assailants. They grabbed her and raped her – despite her struggling against them with all her strength they overpowered her. They severely beat her despite her screams for help. After the brazen assailants fled, the two young men returned to her and brought her wounded and beaten to a doctor for treatment. The community was outraged by this act. Her relatives wanted to press charges with the police so that the assailants should be properly punished. They came to me and I spoke with them to quiet the matter so that it should not disgrace the Jews in the eyes of the non‑Jews by the wanton act of our youth that they would rape, transgress Shabbos and threaten to kill.  There was also the danger that could result from  going against these brazen youth. The relatives listened to me and did not go to the police. However it seemed that the whole thing was plotted by the youth that was in love with her. He apparently hoped that by degrading her she would finally accept him. Therefore an agreement was worked out with the relatives of the girl, this youth and the relatives of her assailants. The rapist would pay 100 rubles as a dowry, the youth who loved her would marry her as soon as possible lest he find her disgusting because of the rape. Finally the father of the youth signed a promissory note to provide two hundred ruble only after they got married. However a question arose how she could get married immediately since the halacha seemed to require that she needed to wait 3 months to make sure that she wasn’t pregnant from the rapist….

American opposition to building mosques after 9/11


They're separated by thousands of miles, but they share a common controversy: Mosques.

Murfreesboro, Tenn., has joined a growing list of midsized towns in the U.S. that are embroiled in conflicts over proposed mosques being built or bought in their neighborhoods.

Including Murfreesboro, residents have risen up against mosques in two other Tennessee towns; in Staten Island, N.Y.; Sheboygan County, Wis.; and the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, as well as the proposed mosque and Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero, which has garnered some of the most heated battles.[...]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Technology that elicits emotional bonding


Nothing Eileen Oldaker tried could calm her mother when she called from the nursing home, disoriented and distressed in what was likely the early stages of dementia. So Ms. Oldaker hung up, dialed the nurses’ station and begged them to get Paro.

Paro is a robot modeled after a baby harp seal. It trills and paddles when petted, blinks when the lights go up, opens its eyes at loud noises and yelps when handled roughly or held upside down. Two microprocessors under its artificial white fur adjust its behavior based on information from dozens of hidden sensors that monitor sound, light, temperature and touch. It perks up at the sound of its name, praise and, over time, the words it hears frequently.

“Oh, there’s my baby,” Ms. Oldaker’s mother, Millie Lesek, exclaimed that night last winter when a staff member delivered the seal to her. “Here, Paro, come to me.” [...]

Ben Gurion U professor dismissed for offending gay students


Ben-Gurion University cancels bioethics course after Dr. Yeruham Leavitt says children of same-sex couples deprived of 'normal' upbringing. Lecturer: Personal opinions allowed in ethics courses. [...]


Ben Gurion University's dismissal of Dr. Yeruham Leavitt, a lecturer and resident of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba who made anti-gay remarks during class, sparked outrage among many groups in Israeli society Sunday. [...]

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July: Gratitude for America's freedom & laws

LISTVYANKA, Russia — On the edge of this Siberian village is a resort with a veiled guest list and armed guards at the front gate. When local officials have expressed unease about what goes on inside, the reply has always been the same: do not interfere.

Two and half years ago, the village’s mayor, Tatyana Kazakova, had enough. A major construction project at the resort had exposed a hot water main, threatening the heating supply for the entire village as temperatures plunged to 30 degrees below zero.

Ms. Kazakova was not a typical bureaucrat. She was one of the most successful businesswomen in this vast region, a real-estate magnate with a blond ponytail who represented a new breed of Russian entrepreneur.

She filed a lawsuit against the resort, and asked the regional prosecutor to open a criminal inquiry.

A criminal inquiry was indeed opened — against Ms. Kazakova.

The resort belongs to the F.S.B., the main successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B., and the F.S.B. arrested her and had her prosecuted.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Personal safety - Talking to our children

Jewish Press by Bracha Goetz

Here are signs to protect our children from danger: In 95% of cases, the molester's not a stranger. He's someone you know and respect.  He's disarming. He is drawn to children.  And he's awfully charming.

 This is a handy little jingle for parents to keep in mind, but even though it's short, my rhyme is not for little children.  In order to adequately prepare our children, however, first we need to be aware of the red flags ourselves.  Then we simply need to schedule an "annual check-up" time to clearly and calmly bring up the subject of personal safety with our children. [...]