Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rav Moshe Feinstein at Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv

This was my sole personal encounter with Rav Moshe Feinstein. I took
this picture at Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv when he came for a bris

Monday, May 30, 2011

National-religious rabbi slams blind obedience to rabbis


Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau has called on the national-religious public to reduce its dependence on rabbis and become "free". According to Lau, the blind obedience which has infiltrated the Zionist-religious society in recent years is an inappropriate phenomenon stemming from a "paralysis of fear".

Threat of violence keeps police out of Jerusalem Haredi neighborhood


Police are reluctant to enter the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She'arim because of residents' violence, a police spokesman said during a recent court hearing over the remand of a neighborhood resident.

A police official said in court Thursday that the reason the police had not arrested a wanted man for more than a month, despite knowing where in Mea She'arim he was, was that every time they go into the neighborhood police property is damaged and they do not want unnecessary confrontations. [....]

Kupat HaIr wants tzedaka store near Rav Chaim Kanievsky

מלחמת הנדל(נ)יסטים: חנות צדקה בבית הגר"ח?
דירת הגר"ג נדל זצ"ל - שכנו של הגר"ח קנייבסקי - עמדה שוממה • אחד מבניו השכיר חדר ל'קופת העיר' • למרות התנגדות המשפחה - העבודות נמשכות • ומה אומר הגר"ח?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Italian seismologists face manslaughter for not predicting earthquake


No one can predict earthquakes. But six seismologists and a government official are being tried for manslaughter in the deaths of more than 300 people in the 2009 tremblor in L'Aquila, Italy. The city's public prosecutor says the scientists downplayed the possibility of a quake to an extent that townsfolk did not take precautions that could have saved their lives. A judge has just set the trial to begin on September 20.

The case, which was brought in 2010, hinges on the statements of Bernardo De Bernardinis of Italy's Civil Protection Agency at a press conference a week before the quake. His agency had asked the scientists to convene and discuss whether the increasing seismic activity in the area might indicate a risk of a major quake.

At the subsequent press conference, De Bernardinis, who is being tried along with the scientists, told the crowd, “The scientific community tells me there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favorable.” (via Nature News) People say that as a result of this reassurance, they didn't leave their homes or take other precautions against the quake struck. [....]

Krauthammer: What Obama did to Israel

Washington Post

Every Arab-Israeli negotiation contains a fundamental asymmetry: Israel gives up land, which is tangible; the Arabs make promises, which are ephemeral. The long-standing American solution has been to nonetheless urge Israel to take risks for peace while America balances things by giving assurances of U.S. support for Israel’s security and diplomatic needs.

It’s on the basis of such solemn assurances that Israel undertook, for example, the Gaza withdrawal. In order to mitigate this risk, President George W. Bush gave a written commitment that America supported Israel absorbing major settlement blocs in any peace agreement, opposed any return to the 1967 lines and stood firm against the so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel.

For 2 1 / 2 years, the Obama administration has refused to recognize and reaffirm these assurances. Then last week in his State Department speech, President Obama definitively trashed them. He declared that the Arab-Israeli conflict should indeed be resolved along “the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” [...]

Agudath Israel Affirms Abuse Cases Go First To Rabbi

Forward           (hat tip Baruch Pelta)

One of America’s leading ultra-Orthodox groups has reaffirmed that its followers must consult a rabbi before going to law enforcement authorities with suspicions of sexual abuse committed by community members.

The admonitions, from speakers at a conference sponsored by Agudath Israel of America, came even though a recent rabbinic edict permits reporting such crimes to secular authorities. A New Jersey district attorney with many Orthodox constituents said the advice given at the conference could be a violation of state law, though that view wasn’t shared by the district attorney for Brooklyn, where many other Orthodox Jews live.

At the daylong “Halacha Conference for Professionals,” held in Brooklyn on May 15, speakers elaborated on a recent ruling by Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, one of ultra-Orthodoxy’s foremost authorities on Jewish religious law, or Halacha. Elyashiv recently decreed that Jews with reasonable suspicions that a case of sexual abuse has occurred are permitted to go to secular law enforcement authorities, notwithstanding traditional religious prohibitions against mesirah, or informing on fellow Jews.

But at a panel discussion titled “Molestation Issues and Reporting: Current Halachic Thinking,” the panel’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Gottesman, cautioned that Elyashiv never explained what constitutes “reasonable suspicion.” To establish this, Gottesman said, a person should consult a rabbi “who has experience in these issues” before going to secular authorities.

Orthodox Jew asks: Does acknowledging being out of touch with reality help or hinder us?

One of the participants at the White Conference on abuse made the effort to contact me to clarify a number of points I made at the Conference. One of the comments she made struck me as a very cogent expression of what many Orthodox Jews think or act as if they hold such a view. I wasn't sure how to respond.

Lastly, it was repeatedly stated that we, orthodox Jewry, are out of touch with reality. Though this may be true (examples cited were scrutinizing others during the matchmaking process and being involved in irrelevant details such as tablecloths) does it actively help us? Does acknowledging this provide any practical benefit? Might it deflect us from properly addressing these problems and allow us to accept the situation as it is? It seems that it might simply dismiss the problem. Is it possible to clarify what benefit this sort of statement brings?

Rabbi's follower clashes with New Square burn victim's family


Early in the news conference, a six-year New Square resident, Shulem Sofer, began screaming that Sussman was lying. He yelled out that Rottenberg broke the community's rules and that it was justifiable to try to burn down Rottenberg's home, but not to injure the man.

"The rabbi never said to do fire to people," Sofer screamed in a high-pitched voice. "It's anti-Semitism. It's anti-New Square."

Sussman countered that people in the United States are free to pray where they want, but Sofer said he followed the grand rebbe's rules.

"I am from Jew land," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. [....]

White Conference in the Press: Rabbis finally break silence on sex abuse

London Jewish Chronicle

The groundbreaking event took place at the William Alanson White Institute, a top psychoanalytic training and treatment centre, on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

The rabbis explained the halachic view of sexual abuse, mental health experts explained its psychological consequences, while survivors described lives traumatised by guilt, shame and betrayal.

Dr Alison Feit, director of the Jewish Centre for Trauma and Recovery, told the 120 members of the audience: "For too long family and communal concerns have been prioritised over the needs of the victims. [...]

Sex abuse coverups - interview with ex-cop


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Drugging the Vulnerable: Atypical Antipsychotics in Children and the Elderly


Pharmaceutical companies have recently paid out the largest legal settlements in U.S. history — including the largest criminal fines ever imposed on corporations — for illegally marketing antipsychotic drugs. The payouts totaled more than $5 billion. But the worst costs of the drugs are being borne by the most vulnerable patients: children and teens in psychiatric hospitals, foster care and juvenile prisons, as well as elderly people in nursing homes. They are medicated for conditions for which the drugs haven't been proven safe or effective — in some cases, with death known as a known possible outcome.

The benefit for drug companies is cold profit. Antipsychotics bring in some $14 billion a year. So-called "atypical" or "second-generation" antipsychotics like Geodon, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Risperdal rake in more money than any other class of medication on the market and, dollar for dollar, they are the biggest selling drugs in America. Although these medications are primarily approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which combined affect 3% of the population, in 2010 there were 56 million prescriptions filled for atypical antipsychotics.

In a presentation this week at an American Psychiatric Association meeting, Dr. John Goethe, director of the Burlingame Center for Psychiatric Research in Connecticut, reported that over the last 10 years, more than half of all children aged 5 to 12 in psychiatric hospitals were prescribed antipsychotics — and 95% of these prescriptions were for second-generation antipsychotics.

Many of these children didn't have a condition for which the drugs have been shown to be helpful: 44% of youngsters with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 45% of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were treated with them. [...]

Expert warns national-religious educators of denial of sexual abuse


The denial and complacency within the national-religious sector regarding sexual assault of minors is wrong and harmful to the victims, an expert warned a forum of educators on Wednesday – emphasizing the danger of the belief that a rabbinic figure would not molest a child.

Speaking at the Rehovot campus of Orot Teachers’ College on their annual conference dedicated to leadership, Adi Fishman, an Education Ministry expert on preventing and treating sexual assault, specializing in the national-religious sector, said “the religious public’s feeling – as though its children are more protected from sexual assault than those of other populaces – is wrong.”

“When, indeed, nothing has yet happened, that feeling can be a convenient defense mechanism. But once a sexual assault does occur, the belief that ‘things like that don’t happen in our society’ can mar the educator or parent’s ability to assist the victimized child,” she added. “An educator must first and foremost be aware that there is a good [likelihood] that there is a sexually assaulted child in his classroom. We know that one of every four girls, and five boys, will be sexually assaulted.” [...]

Religious dispute in New Square leads to severe burning of dissident


An orthodox Jewish father of four said he was apparently punished for worshipping his own way after an attack left him with burns covering 50 percent of his body.

CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported a rift exploded into a fiery confrontation in Rockland County Sunday morning.

“His upper body is third-degree burns all over,” the victim’s son-in-law, Moshe Elbaum, said.

Elbaum said the top half of Aron Rottenberg’s body is covered in excruciatingly painful burn wounds. He said his father-in-law suffered the burns defending his family, confronting a man who police said was trying to fire bomb their home.

“He tried to murder people who were sleeping in the house,” Elbaum said.

Early Sunday morning, Rottenberg, 43, was sleeping in his Truman Avenue home in New Square when a family member saw an intruder in the backyard.

Rottenberg, a plumber, went outside to face the suspect, who police said had a device with flammable liquid and a long, improvised fuse. In the struggle, the device caught fire, injuring both men.

Police arrested 18-year-old Shaul Spitzer, also of New Square, and charged him with first-degree attempted arson and first-degree assault, both felonies.

Elizabeth Smart's molester sentenced to life: In only minority of cases molester is a stranger


Earlier this month, Robert Steele, Mitchell's attorney, appealed to the court to lighten Mitchell’s sentencing because despite the actions of his client, “in a legal sense, the story is not the extreme psychological injury. The story is her overcoming the extreme conduct of my client.”

Mitchell’s attorney had hoped his client is detained in a federal mental facility instead of a prison.

It has been nine years since Smart’s kidnapping because the case hit a few legal hurdles after the former street preacher was declared mentally ill and unfit in to stand trial in state court.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind?


In any other set of twins, the natural conclusion about the two events — Krista’s drinking, Tatiana’s reaction — would be that they were coincidental: a gulp, a twinge, random simultaneous happenstance. But Krista and Tatiana are not like most other sets of twins. They are connected at their heads, where their skulls merge under a mass of shaggy brown bangs. The girls run and play and go down their backyard slide, but whatever they do, they do together, their heads forever inclined toward each other’s, their neck muscles strong and sinuous from a never-ending workout.

Twins joined at the head — the medical term is craniopagus — are one in 2.5 million, of which only a fraction survive. The way the girls’ brains formed beneath the surface of their fused skulls, however, makes them beyond rare: their neural anatomy is unique, at least in the annals of recorded scientific literature. Their brain images reveal what looks like an attenuated line stretching between the two organs, a piece of anatomy their neurosurgeon, Douglas Cochrane of British Columbia Children’s Hospital, has called a thalamic bridge, because he believes it links the thalamus of one girl to the thalamus of her sister. The thalamus is a kind of switchboard, a two-lobed organ that filters most sensory input and has long been thought to be essential in the neural loops that create consciousness. Because the thalamus functions as a relay station, the girls’ doctors believe it is entirely possible that the sensory input that one girl receives could somehow cross that bridge into the brain of the other. One girl drinks, another girl feels it.

What actually happens in moments like the one I witnessed is, at this point, theoretical guesswork of the most fascinating order. No controlled studies have been done; because the girls are so young and because of the challenges involved in studying two conjoined heads, all the advanced imaging technology available has not yet been applied to their brains. Brain imaging is inscrutable enough that numerous neuroscientists, after seeing only one image of hundreds, were reluctant to confirm the specific neuro­anatomy that Cochrane described; but many were inclined to believe, based on that one image, that the brains were most likely connected by a live wire that could allow for some connection of a nature previously unknown. A mere glimpse of that attenuated line between the two brains reduced accomplished neurologists to sputtering incredulities. “OMG!!” Todd Feinberg, a professor of clinical psychiatry and neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, wrote in an e-mail. “Absolutely fantastic. Unbelievable. Unprecedented as far as I know.” A neuroscientist in Kelowna, a city in British Columbia near Vernon, described their case as “ridiculously compelling.” Juliette Hukin, their pediatric neurologist at BC Children’s Hospital, who sees them about once a year, described their brain structure as “mind-blowing.” [...]

Psychiatrists who offer public comments about public figures


Of course, it’s only natural for the media to seek comment from experts. But as a psychiatrist, I cringe at statements like these, for they cross an ethical line that goes back to a presidential campaign nearly half a century ago.

Just before the 1964 election, a muckraking magazine called Fact decided to survey members of the American Psychiatric Association for their professional assessment of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican nominee against President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Ralph Ginzburg, the magazine’s notoriously provocative publisher, had heavily advertised the issue in advance, saying it would call Mr. Goldwater’s character into question.

A.P.A. members were asked whether they thought Mr. Goldwater was fit to be president and what their psychiatric impressions of him were. It was not American psychiatry’s finest hour. [...]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Report about Sunday's White Institutes Conference on Sexual Abuse in Orthodox World

It was truly an amazing conference. I think everyone was inspired and encouraged to do more. The conference was clearly a remarkable achievement.

Richard B. Gartner, Ph.D.
Training and Supervising Analyst, Faculty, and Founding Director of Sexual Abuse Service, William Alanson White Institute for Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology, New York City

Yesterday's conference, "Understanding and Treating Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish World," was a groundbreaking, extraordinary event. In a short time, the Sexual Abuse Service, headed by Conference Chair and Service Director Julie Marcuse and Conference Co-chair Alison Feit, put together a very full, tightly-run conference that included messages from two prominent rabbis (Daniel Eidensohn and Yosef Blau) ; personal statements from three survivors of sexual abuse; keynotes by Julie, Ali, and myself; small groups led by various members of the Service; further panel papers by Abby Stein, Julie, and Ernesto Mujica, and a brief summing up by Alan Slomowitz.

The audience was rapt and in almost all cases very open to what psychoanalysis has to offer the Orthodox community. One person said to me she was astonished to come to a meeting where psychoanalysts listened rather than judged the community and where so much helpful information was offered.  The conference was sold out and there were probably as many turned away as attended. The conference was aimed both at mental health practitioners in the community as well as what we call (thanks to Jill Bellinson's input) first responders in the Red Cross model (those to whom sexual abuse is first disclosed but who have had no training in how to deal with such a difficult subject with its multi-layered meanings in the Orthodox community).  The audience was clearly wanting more, and there have been some feelers already to have speakers come out to the community, as well as a clear desire for more offerings from the Institute.

Jill Bellinson did an absolutely knock-out job at organizing the details, rounding up and instructing the volunteers, and at every stage of the planning being a voice of clarity and reason as difficult choices were made.  Donations made it possible for us to offer glatt kosher food to the attendees, who in many cases made it clear they felt surprisingly comfortable in our milieu. Sondra Wilk as always was superb at making things happen.

In addition to all I have named, I want to recognize the efforts and contributions of people who led small groups, manned the safe room, participated in the planning (I am sure I will leave out some names, and I apologize to anyone I have forgotten): Gail Harris, Daniel Gensler, Sharon Kofman, Seth Aronson, Evelyn Hartman, and Rivki Jungreis; Shloimie (Stephen) Zimmermann, who was a willing and helpful (as well as brave) supervisee in a live consultation meeting with me; and a group of  wonderful volunteers.

It was a day about which the Sexual Abuse Service and the Institute can be very proud.

Dr. Asher Lipner

All I can add as an advocate for abuse prevention and treatment in the Orthodox community is that everyone I spoke to was equally as impressed as Dr. Gartner.  I too would like to take this opportunity to make the following remarks of thanks:

Thanks to Dr. Gartner for his remarks, his enlightening supervision, and his grasping the need and readiness of our community to learn from his wisdom.
Thanks to Dr. Julie Marcuse whose brainchild this was and who put her all into seeing it through.
Thanks to the awesome courageous survivors Esther Malka, Mark and Joel, who never disappoint and who need to keep taking their show on the road.  Next stop Oprah Winfrey? 
Thanks to Dr. Alison Feit for a brilliant overview of what we have all been learning over years about how and why abuse is allowed to occur in our community and the psychoanalytic explanation for the human behaviors involved.
Thanks to Dr. Shloimie Zimmerman for a "massive" case presentation that left all of us emotionally moved and more sensitive to the experiential real life challenge of doing clinical work with survivors.
Thanks to Dr. Mujica for being so cool, both as a presenter and as a support for the survivors who spoke.
Thanks to Rabbi Eidensohn for the Kiddush Hashem of showing that the Torah can be and should be the most powerful tool we can utilize to prevent and help survivors heal.
Thanks to Rabbi Blau for modeling what a rabbi should be in this day and age.
Thanks to Dr. Nosson Solomon, Past President and one of the cofounders of Nefesh for attending and participating.
Thanks to Rivkie Yungries, currently of Nefesh for publicizing the event on the Nefesh listserve.
Thanks to Sondra Wilk for helping my friend and I and I don't know who else, in "the safe room," where we had a shared moment of survivor support.

Thanks to all of us for showing all of us that we care, and we are starting to get it!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

,The Anisakis Worm Rears its Ugly Head Once More


Like the Anisakis worm in fresh salmon, it is the kashrus issue that never died.  Eighteen months ago, the debate raged in the Jewish community – may one consume fish that are infested with the Anisakis worm or must one  first removing them from the flesh of the fish?
The Brooklyn Vaad HaRabbonim, the Baltimore Kashrus agency, and a handful of other Kashrus agencies were stringent.  The Orthodox Union, in agreement with Rabbi Vay from Jerusalem, however, ruled that these worms while still in the flesh of the fish are kosher.  [The interview of Rabbi Vay may be seen at this link  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMtQLb1YmLo].  Even the lenient position is of the opinion that once the worm has left the fish it is no longer kosher.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

LaG BaOmer - An Overview

5tjt by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The Ramah Shulchan Aruch (OC 493:2) that on LaG BaOmer we engage slightly in Simcha – joy.  Commemorating LaG BaOmer is a serious matter.  The Mogen Avrohom cites the Kavanos HaArizal that discusses a certain individual who had the habit of reciting Nachem every day.  He continued to do so on LaG BaOmer as well.  For doing so he was punished.  We see, therefore, that one should take the words of the Ramah quite seriously.
A number of reasons are cited by Torah authorities for commemorating Lag BaOmer:

   1. It commemorates the students of Rabbi Akiva who ceased dying during this day – although the deaths persisted between Pesach and Shavuos. (Shla Psachim 525).
   2. This day is the Yartzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who revealed the inner secrets of the Torah (Chayei Adam Moadim 131:11)
   3. This is the day that Rabbi Akiva granted ordination to his five students – among them Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – they did not die in the plague that struck Rabbi Akiva’s other students (Pri Chadash OC 493)
   4. It also commemorates the Manna which began to fall on this day after the Bnei Yisroel left Egypt (Responsa Chsam Sofer YD #233 “Amnam Yadati”).

In this short essay, we will attempt to discuss each of the four reasons mentioned above.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fighting for the Right to Lie About Military Service


In 2009, a burly Colorado man named Rick Duncan was a rising star among local veterans groups, advocating on behalf of struggling soldiers and holding forth about his own powerful experiences returning from Iraq as a wounded Marine.

The problem was, none of it was true, not even his name.

Mr. Duncan was actually Richard G. Strandlof, a troubled drifter who had never served in the military. Instead, he used his bogus story to work his way into the company of prominent politicians and admiring veterans.

Mr. Strandlof was eventually arrested by the F.B.I. and charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act, a 2006 law that makes it a federal crime to lie about being a military hero.

But though he admitted conjuring the entire tale, Mr. Strandlof has been fighting the case against him, arguing that the law violates his right to free speech. Simply telling a lie, his lawyers assert, does not always constitute a crime.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Irrelevance of the Settlements

Cross currents Jonathan Rosenblum

Given all the attention focused on Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines (known colloquially and erroneously as the 1967 borders), one would never know how irrelevant they are to Israeli withdrawal from land captured in 1967. From his first day in office, President Obama seized on the settlements as the crucial issue in Palestinian-Israel peace process, as a means of signaling to the larger Muslim world that they have a friend in the White House. In so doing, he only succeeded in hardening Palestinian positions and convincing them that there was no need to negotiate with Israel because the United States will pressure Israel into withdrawal to the “1967 borders” with minor adjustments.

For many American Jews too, the settlements have taken on a role far out of proportion to any actual impact on peace. The settlements allow American Jews to indulge their Jewish guilt over the failure to achieve peace and to engage in a particularly Jewish form of hubris – the feeling that everything depends on us and that if were only better, more magnanimous, peace would be at hand.

No Israeli government will ever be able to evacuate a quarter of a million Jews from their homes beyond the 1949 armistice lines and an almost equal number from homes in new neighborhoods of so-called east Jerusalem without provoking a civil war. But even if there were not a single settlement, Israel could not return to the 1967 lines. That is a point that cannot be sufficiently emphasized.

NO MILITARY EXPERT considered Israel’s pre-1967 borders capable of being defended. Israel’s coastal plain, in which over 80% of its industrial capacity and 70% of its population is located, is no more than 15 miles wide and it narrows to as little as nine miles. No less crucial is Israel’s topographical vulnerability. Much of the central mountain range running through Judea and Samaria is over 3,000 feet about sea level, and thus overlooks the cities along the coastal plane. Not only is the entire coastal plane exposed, but so is Ben Gurion Airport and the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway.[...]

NY socialite pleads guilty to fraud charges

Wall Street Journal

A New York socialite pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge that she duped corporations out of millions of dollars.

Dina Wein Reis, 47, softly answered, "Guilty," when U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson asked her how she pleaded to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Reis could have faced up to five years in prison, but an agreement with prosecutors would cap her possible sentence at no more than 31 months if the judge accepts the deal, which she is not obligated to do. The plea agreement also limits the financial penalties Reis might have to pay to $7 million.[...]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Hasidic Guide to Love, Marriage and Finding a Bride


Wonderland delves into the Hasidic Jewish community of Stamford Hill, north London, where the people live in a unique world divided between 21st-century urban life and 18th-century traditions.

For the most part this community is reserved and publicity-shy, but filmmaker Paddy Wivell has spent three months with members of the community who have decided it is time to let the rest of the world inside their personal and religious lives. Father of five Avi Bresler invites him to his eldest son's wedding - a scene of religious solemnity, family gathering and drinking - and on his quest to find a wife for his second son.

Rav Elyashiv and Haircuts on Friday Before LaG BaOmer - a Halachic Analysis

5tjt Rabbi Yair Hoffman

There is a fascinating Remah (in Orech Chaim 493:2) that tells us that when LaG BaOmer falls on Friday, the custom is to allow getting a haircut on account of Kavod Shabbos.  The Ramah seems to cite the Maharil as the source for this ruling.  In fact, the parenthesis indicating the source was not penned by the Ramah but rather by a later editor.

Indeed, if one looks at the Maharil, one sees no such indication in his writings that this is correct.  What then is the source?  It comes from the Mahariv.[...]

Mahmoud Abbas’s formula for war

Wash Post

M iddle East diplomacy is settling into a familiar pattern. Desperate to jump-start an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Obama administration and its European allies are piling pressure on Israel's Binyamin Netanyahu, demanding that he offer a plan, concessions — something — that will provide the basis for starting negotiations with Palestinians.

As he has before, Netanyahu has responded, but cautiously and with obvious reluctance. On Monday he gave a speech suggesting that he was prepared to cede most of the West Bank to a Palestinian state — a step forward from his earlier refusal to spell out territorial terms.

Now, as Netanyahu heads to Washington, Israelis and Americans are debating, among themselves and with each other, whether Netanyahu has gone far enough (probably not) and whether President Obama should respond by putting his own plan on the table (probably he won't).

Meanwhile, short shrift is given, as usual, to Netanyahu's putative partner. Yet the leader of the Palestinian "moderate" branch, Mahmoud Abbas, is not only refusing to make any concessions of his own but is also turning his back on American diplomacy — and methodically setting the stage for another Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[...]

The distorted self-serving view of halacha at Sunday's Agudah conference

I listened in dismay to R' Shlomo Gottesman's presentation of halachic issues of child abuse. He picked a very narrow perspective in answering the question of whether halacha allows going to the police to report abuse. The presentation involved snippets from the collection of teshuvos found in volume 15 of Yeshurun. He concluded that it was in fact permitted to go to the police but only if a rabbi had established that there was some - deliberately vague - level of evidence  called raglayim ledavar and that this was for tikun olam (improvement to society). It was asserted that both these conditions could only be determined by a rabbi. In other words one risked being guilty of mesira (informing) and thus lose olam habah if reporting was done directly without first consulting a rabbi. Thus the focus  of his presentation was on preserving rabbinic authority in abuse cases when the rabbi is not capable of dealing with it and the police need to be involved.

He also claimed that requiring a rabbi  to decide whether abuse could be reported did not violate mandated reporting laws.  . He did not say how this is possible but just asked the audience to trust him that it was possible to reconcile the mandated reporting requirement to report abuse and the requirement to allow a rabbi to decide whether abuse is to be reported. It is astounding that he so glibly stated this since he is a very competent lawyer and presumably knows that this is very problematic and that he is unlikely to find any judge or secular social agency to agree with him. He also claimed that there was no need to utilize the concept of rodef  (self-protection) since a rabbi could decide on calling the police by tikun olam alone. That is strange since the concept of rodef is a significant factor even in the teshuvos of the gedolim that he was citing. Why would the gedolim utilize this concept if it wasn't necessary?

So what was really wrong with what he said? The fact is that by entirely focusing on the assertion that permission must first be gotten from a rabbi before contacting the police  - he avoided dealing with the complexity of the  issue of abuse as it happens in the Orthodox community. He obviously felt this was not of general interest but as he put it, this is what an individual needs to speak privately with a rabbi because each case is different.

Unfortunately he squandered an important opportunity. What he should have done was to ask a different question. Not under what conditions is calling the police mesira - but the real question is what does the Orthodox community need to do to protect the children? He failed to note that there are clearly times when a rabbi does not need to be consulted and that furthermore there are clearly times when a rabbi who says not to report should be ignored. He failed to address the more important issue of whether going to the police without community involvement and with pressure on parents not to file a complaint is really protecting the children. He failed to address the fear of reporting because of shidduchim and the danger that a child will be kicked out of school if he/she is found to have been abused. He failed to note that the Aguda has insisted that the financial well being of its institutions are more important than the welfare of the children. That cover ups to protect reputations of rabbis come before the sanity and safety of our children.

But perhaps his biggest failure was to address the betrayal of the abuse victims by the rabbis and community and the severe psychological &  religious damage this betrayal causes. It is commonly observed by those who work with off the derech children that most of these children have been abused.

So yes - there is a legitimate halachic problem of how to deal with mesira - but in reality the issue of abuse is not primarily about how to preserve rabbinic authority - but how to protect our children.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

John Jay College Study "blames Woodstock" for the abuse problem of the Church


A five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.

Instead, the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s.

Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church’s hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.
The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010. [...]

Recording of Agudah's conference on the child abuse

Just received this letter from Dr. Asher LIpner with permission to post it
Recording of the Aguda Conference May 16, 2011

Please be advised that I am still preparing my detailed response to the lecture.  It has raised many, many questions for me from a halachic perspective as well as a practical one.  Let me just ask the following for now, in the name of Rabbi Blau:

The lecture makes clear that according to Rabbi Gottesman's interpretation of halacha, abuse should never be reported without first consulting with a rabbi who is an expert on abuse for a halachic determination of the evidence.  However, in Lakewood the rabbis who were appointed to deal with this issue in an informal beis din have all resigned, and appear not to want that particular responsibility.  

(I believe there were two reasons for their resignation and disbanding the beis din.  The rabbi apparently realized that in a case of a false allegation they could be held liable, and since they are not trained forensically, or psychologically or legally in the area of sexual abuse, their expertise in halacha does not qualify them as experts and they would have no leg to stand on should they be sued, which actually did happen once. 

Furthermore, an Asbury Park Press article quoted the Ocean County Prosecutor Collen Lynch as saying that it is illegal for rabbis to hear allegations of abuse and not report it to child protective services.  The reason she said this because in New Jersey they are mandated reporters, and failure to report is a crime punishable with a fine and possible jail time.)

So, the question is, if you can't go to the rabbis as this tape advises, and you can't go to the police without talking to the rabbis as this tape advises, Rabbi Blau and I and many, many people in Lakewood would like to know, is there anything at all that people are allowed to do to stop abusers in Lakewood, New Jersey according to halacha? 

Growth Chemical Leads to Exploding Watermelons in China


Safety goggles may become required for eating watermelons. It seems the wrong chemicals in the hands of the wrong farmers can lead to some pretty fascinating results, such as exploding watermelons. Yup, exploding watermelons. And this isn't some science experiment gone wrong—or right, depending on how fun your science teacher was—this is farming in China.

According to The Guardian, farmers tending fields throughout eastern China injected forcholorfenuron, a growth accelerator, into their crops of watermelons. The result had these ultra-plump melons literally bursting at the seams, unable to contain their own chemically laden power.[...]

Vatican Gets Tough on Child Abuse, but Not Tough Enough


When the Vatican issued a letter on Monday ordering bishops across the world to draw up tough guidelines for dealing with priests who rape or molest children, it addressed only half the scandal that has been rocking the Catholic Church.

To be sure, when it comes to the abusive clerics, the Vatican's new edict takes a firm stand, obliging local bishops to cooperate with local law enforcement in reporting sex crimes and recommending that policies be put in place to exclude accused priests from public ministry if they pose a continued danger to minors or could be a "cause of scandal for the community."

But what Monday's letter fails to do is put in place any sanctions on the bishops who oversee those clerics, should they fail to follow through with the recommendations. Child abuse is by no means unique to the Catholic Church. What sets the scandal apart is the sustained and widespread effort by church authorities to cover up for and protect the accused. And, in this regard, the new guidelines change little. "No threat of penalty will deter a child molester from committing a child sex crime," says David Clohessy, national director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which criticized the proposal as too lax. "But penalties can deter bishops from ignoring or concealing those crimes."

'Defiant' Wendi Runge receives 10 years for fraud


Wendy Weiner Runge tried to appear contrite Tuesday as she faced sentencing for fraud, telling a judge she was truly sorry for deceiving the state while trying to make movies in Iowa.

But outside the Polk County courtroom, the Minnesota filmmaker has been defiant about her culpability in Iowa's long-running film tax-incentive debacle - a move that got the 46-year-old mother of four a 10-year sentence in the Mitchellville women's prison.

Judge Douglas Staskal criticized Runge, the head of Polynation Pictures, for attacking prosecutors and judges in public statements she has made and blaming her plight on anti-Semitism and "some sort of political conspiracy."

Staskal said sentencing Runge to 10 years was a difficult decision because she had no prior criminal history, but he could not ignore the "complete arrogant and defiant" way in which she had denied responsibility for her crime. [...]

Another Ponzi scheme - "smart" investors lose $30 million

Hartford Courant

The architect of one of the state's biggest financial frauds — an investment scheme that could result in $30 million in losses and already has cost victims their homes, retirements and college education funds — was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

Michael Goldberg, 40, of Wethersfield, was accused of operating a Ponzi scheme that began by attracting small sums from friends and neighbors and ultimately collapsed under the weight of as much as $25 million put up by so-called sophisticated Florida investors.

Law enforcement experts say they believe that more than $100 million changed hands over the life of the scheme, which began in 1987 and ended in October 2009, when Goldberg turned himself in — first to his lawyer, Richard Brown of Hartford, and days later to the FBI.

Brown said Monday at U.S. District Court that Goldberg confessed because he is a "moral person" who had become consumed by the guilt associated with "living a lie for so long a period of time." But Assistant U.S. Attorney David Novick argued that Goldberg confessed because he could not keep up with the so-called interest payments he was obligated to make to the Florida investors who had begun to sue. [,,,,]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Behind the Israel Protest Turmoil: A Middle East Without a Peace Process


Welcome to the post-peace process: The drama that unfolded on Israel's boundaries on Sunday as 12 Palestinians were killed in a wave of unarmed civil disobedience was but a taste of things to come. That was the warning from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Sunday night, and he's certainly got reason to worry: Rather than pin their hopes on a moribund peace process, Palestinians have begun instead to align themselves with the Arab Spring  by pressing for their own rights through acts of people power. Even if there's no immediate followup to Sunday's protests, they represent a political crisis of epic proportions, not only for Israel and the United States, but also potentially even for the Palestinian leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas (and even, possibly, for his new Hamas partners in government).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Eye for an Eye: Iran's Blinding Justice System


Iran's judiciary has postponed the blinding of a man as punishment for throwing acid in the face of a young woman in 2004, after she rejected his offer of marriage. The delay came in the face of mounting outcry both inside Iran and in the West over the sentencing, which is permissible under qesas, a principle of Islamic law allowing victims analogous retribution for violent crimes.

The case has stirred passionate interest in Iran since 2004, when Majid Movahedi, a university student, accosted Ameneh Bahrami on a Tehran street and tossed a red bucket of sulfuric acid in her face. Bahrami, an attractive young engineer, had repeatedly spurned Movahedi's proposals and reported his harassment to the police. She was blinded and severely disfigured in the attack, and has spent the intervening years between Iran and Spain undergoing numerous unsuccessful operations to reconstruct her face and repair her sight. [...]

It is hate speech in Denmark to comment on child abuse and violence against women in Muslim culture


Another bad blow against freedom in the west. Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Press Society and The International Free Press Society, was yesterday found guilty of hate speech under the Danish penal code. His crime – as I wrote previously here,  here and here – was to draw attention to child abuse  and violence against women in Muslim culture. The day after the interview, he stressed that his opinions were about Islam and not intended to refer to all Muslims. [....]

Fairfax teacher still suffering from false molestation allegations

Washington Post

Sean Lanigan’s nightmare began in January 2010, when the principal at Centre Ridge Elementary School pulled him out of the physical education class he was teaching and quietly walked him into an interrogation with two Fairfax County police detectives.

He had no warning that a 12-year-old girl at the Centreville school had accused him of groping and molesting her in the gym.

The girl, angry at Lanigan about something else entirely, had made the whole thing up. But her accusations launched a soul-sapping rollercoaster ride that still hasn’t ended.

“Emotionally, a part of me has died inside,” Lanigan said in a recent interview. “I’m physically and mentally exhausted all the time, how the whole process has been dragged out to this date. It certainly has affected the quality of life for me and my family at home.”

Lanigan remains in limbo, nearly a year after a jury’s acquittal. The Fairfax School District transferred him from Centre Ridge in a move that ultimately forced his wife to quit her job. School officials are now transferring him again. And the district has refused to pay his $125,000 in legal fees, even though Virginia law allows reimbursement for employees who are cleared of wrongdoing on the job. [...]

Reb Amos Bunim Zatzal - A Tribute

5tjt by Rabbi Yair Hoffmann

Unfortunately, this past Shabbos, Reb Amos Bunim a”h passed away in Mount Sinai hospital.

There is a TaZ in Hilchos Aveilus that states that one can lie a little bit when one is eulogizing a deceased individual.  The TaZ explains that it is permitted to do so, because it could be true.  There is no need to do so here.  If anything, we are dealing with a man – who not enough could be said about.

To say that Rabbi Amos Bunim zt”l was an Askan for Klal Yisroel would be an understatement.  He lived and breathed doing for Klal Yisroel.  His exuberance and energy infused and enlivened each and every project that he touched. The world would have been a different place without him.  And the world will now be a vastly different place without him.

Reb Amos had a remarkable sense of right and wrong, combined with a Temimus – a gentleness combined with compassion and concern.  He possessed a moral clarity - rare among people. Yidden loved him.  Goyim loved him.  Politicians and businessmen knew that here was a man who was sincere and passionate in his beliefs.  A man whose unimpeachable honesty was genuine and indisputably authentic.  Reb Amos’ moral convictions and determination to face and confront evil and apathy was legendary.

It was also inspiring.

Which is probably how he got others to do things with him.  Somehow, one never felt alone when Reb Amos was standing with you on a project.  He also made everyone else feel good about what they did. [...]

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mystics & psychics are good at taking your money


"The scam is tremendous," said Lt. Manny Hernandez, of the detective
squad at the Sixth Precinct, in Manhattan. Adam Brown, a lawyer suing
Ms. Mitchell, called the business "organized psychic crime."

Grand larceny is historically a clear-cut crime, like stealing a purse
in a bar. Some psychic cases would seem harder to prosecute: The squad
is also looking for a psychic named Angela from a West 18th Street
parlor who they say persuaded a client to give her $9,000 for some magic
coins that the two, in a cleansing ritual, later threw into an upstate

A rabbi who claims his understanding supercedes the texts

Is Israel Using Gay Rights to Excuse Its Policy on Palestine?


Next month is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month, an international season of parades, cultural festivals and street parties celebrating gay rights. But amid all the good cheer, tensions are rising over a controversial issue that is splintering LGBT communities. Around the world, major Pride events are being used as battle grounds to combat what some pro-Palestinian, progay activists are calling pink washing: Israel's promotion of its progressive gay-rights record as a way to cover up ongoing human-rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.

The accusations stem from efforts over the past half-decade by the Israeli government to weave the country's gay-friendly policies — including national hate-crime laws, employment protection for LGBT workers and openly gay military service — into its larger national-rebranding strategy, in the hopes of redirecting its global image away from politics, terrorism and the occupied territories. "The Israeli government and its propaganda organs ... insist on advertising and exaggerating its recent record on LGBT rights ... to fend off international condemnation of its violations of the rights of the Palestinian people," says Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York City.

Prestigious school sued: A school psychologist is accused of affair with client's mother


The father of a kindergartner at Sidwell Friends, one of the most prestigious private schools in Washington, filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the school and its former psychologist, claiming that the psychologist had an affair with his wife while treating his daughter.

The psychologist, James F. Huntington, was fired from Sidwell in February, the complaint says, nearly a year after the kindergartner’s father, Arthur G. Newmyer, raised his concern about the matter with the school’s chairman, who then notified the school’s lawyer.

At the time of the firing, the principal of the middle school e-mailed parents saying that Dr. Huntington had “served the school community with distinction and warmth for 10 years, and we are grateful for his many contributions,” according to the lawsuit. [....]

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Religious belief is human nature: Oxford University massive study claims


Religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings, a massive new study of cultures all around the world suggests.

"We tend to see purpose in the world," Oxford University professor Roger Trigg said Thursday. "We see agency. We think that something is there even if you can't see it. ... All this tends to build up to a religious way of thinking." [....]

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beware: Anonymous comments are being deleted

I have been lax in enforcing my policy of not publishing anonymous comments. However today I am working on deleting them.

If your anonymous comment did not get publish - simply send it again - with any name other than "anonymous" 

It is simply impossible to keep track of different viewpoints if they
are all called anonymous!

Is encouraging others to commit suicide a crime?


On Nov. 27, 2005, a man in Faribault, Minn., received an e-mail with a subject line that read, "Melissa goodbye to Li Dao." It was a suicide note, scribbled digitally, sent by a woman to her online pen pal who had actively encouraged her to embrace death. The only catch: Li Dao was not a real person, and, according to authorities, the virtual advice was not an act of empathy but an attempt to manipulate Melissa into taking her own life — all for what the man told the police was the "the thrill of the chase."

Li Dao was one of the several aliases used by 48-year-old William Melchert-Dinkel, who would impersonate a female nurse and advise people on suicide methods in online chat rooms. Melissa was one of the dozens of victims he encouraged to commit suicide by feigning compassion. "Having your support is going to help me muster up the strength to go through with this," Melissa wrote to him. Melchert-Dinkel (who was a registered nurse at the time) then replied, advising Melissa to stay calm while she took her own life: "Just let yourself down on the rope and let go."[....]

Peace Corps' history of silencing the victim in sexual assault cases


Jess Smochek arrived in Bangladesh in 2004 as a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer with dreams of teaching English and “helping the world.” She left six weeks later a rape victim after being brutalized in an alley by a knife-wielding gang.

When she returned to the United States, the reception she received from Peace Corps officials was as devastating, she said, as the rape itself. In Bangladesh, she had been given scant medical care; in Washington, a counselor implied that she was to blame for the attack. For years she kept quiet, feeling “ashamed and embarrassed and guilty.” [...]

Just published: "Child & Domestic Abuse - Compact Practical Guide Edition"

In preparation for the presentation I am giving Lag B'Omer at the White Institute conference on abuse in the Orthodox community and in response to those who  just want to know the basic halachic parameters of abuse in an inexpensive volume - I have just published a compact practical guide to abuse. This contains the text of Volume I including the Synopsis of Rav Sternbuch's views and the Practical Guide and my essays. However it does not contain the  important essays contributed by  rabbis, psychologists, and lawyers which fully describe the nuances of the psychological and legal issues. I also included the teshuvos of contemporary gedolim from Volume II dealing with abuse and calling the police or social agencies - both the translation and Hebrew source. However it doesn't include the many texts describing important associated issues. Thus I have selected 150 pages of the basic core material from the 800 pages published in Volumes I & II. This compact guide can serve as a stand alone source book or as an introduction/review of Volume I and II. Currently it is only available from the Amazon Createspace store (click link to order) - but should be available on Amazon  in another week. Volumes I & II are currently available from Amazon

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reporting the "atrocity" of photoshopping women - leitzanus for a slow news day

Hirhurim - by Rabbi Gil Student

I never thought I’d be in the position of defending extreme Chasidic “modesty” but I have no choice. The mocking condemnations of the Chasidic newspaper Di Tzeitung that are flying through cyberspace due to the paper’s removal of women from a picture are so lacking in self-awareness that someone needs to point out that the two parties in this discussion are flip sides of the same coin.

The newspaper’s decision is objectionable on many points, including copyright law, sensitivity and honesty. I can’t defend it. But rather than mock I can try to understand it. Satire can be insightful even when it is merciless. However, too often it is merely getting a cheap laugh or an easy position of outrage at the expense of thoughtful consideration.

Osama Bin Laden's sea burial condemned by leading Muslims

CNN  By Abdal Hakim Murad is a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University, England. In 2010 he was voted Britain's most influential Muslim thinker by Jordan's Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center. His latest book, Bombing without Moonlight, is about the religious meaning of suicide bombing.

The death and disposal of the Middle East's "Dark Lord," was always going to be an iconic moment. Its symbolism would provide a particular twist to the way he was remembered. Doubtless this was realized by President Obama's strategists. Yet there are good reasons, pragmatic as well as idealistic, to suggest that the final showdown with Osama bin Laden was dangerously mismanaged.

The burial at sea was a sad miscalculation. It is not clear where the Pentagon finds its information on Islamic rituals. It cannot ignore, however, the fact that Muslim leaders have found the procedure by which the cadaver was tipped into the sea, following an unspecified Muslim ceremony, entirely unacceptable.

The leading scholarly institution in the Muslim world is Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. And the Muslim world has heard, with disquiet, Al-Azhar's judgement on the "sea burial." [....]

Monday, May 9, 2011

When doctors bully nurses - patients suffer & die


But while most doctors clearly respect their colleagues on the nursing staff, every nurse knows at least one, if not many, who don’t.

Indeed, every nurse has a story like mine, and most of us have several. A nurse I know, attempting to clarify an order, was told, “When you have ‘M.D.’ after your name, then you can talk to me.” A doctor dismissed another’s complaint by simply saying, “I’m important.”

When a doctor thoughtlessly dresses down a nurse in front of patients or their families, it’s not just a personal affront, it’s an incredible distraction, taking our minds away from our patients, focusing them instead on how powerless we are.

That said, the most damaging bullying is not flagrant and does not fit the stereotype of a surgeon having a tantrum in the operating room. It is passive, like not answering pages or phone calls, and tends toward the subtle: condescension rather than outright abuse, and aggressive or sarcastic remarks rather than straightforward insults.

Halachic Analysis: Mitzvah of Kivud Av V'aim


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Toppling Mubarak brings sharp increase in Muslim-Christian violence

Al Jazeera

Egypt's military rulers have detained 190 people in connection with the clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo in which at least 12 people have been killed and more than 230 others wounded.

The situation remained tense on Sunday, a day after violence first erupted in the Egyptian capital's northwestern neighbourhood of Imbaba.

Witnesses said the clashes broke out after a mob of conservative Muslims marched on a Coptic Christian church in Imbaba.

The march began over an apparent relationship between a Coptic woman and a Muslim man, amid reports that the woman was being held inside against her will and prevented from converting to Islam.

The verbal clash soon developed into a full-fledged confrontation where the two sides exchanged gunfire, firebombs and stones, and another church nearby was set on fire.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Yated publishes ban against Mishpacha

Kikkar HaShabbat

קוראיו הוותיקים של העיתון "יתד נאמן", בטאון ´דגל התורה´, שפשפו הבוקר (שני) את עיניהם בתדהמה. בעמוד השער, התנוסס מכתבו של לא אחר מאשר גאב"ד בית דין צדק בני ברק, הגאון רבי ניסים קרליץ.

במכתבו, יוצא הגר"נ קרליץ חוצץ נגד השבועונים החרדיים לסוגיהם. "כל השבועונים והחינמונים, כולל עיתון "משפחה", מסלפים ומטשטשים את השקפת תורתנו הקדושה שקיבלו מרבותינו, וחלילה להכניס עיתונים מסוג זה לבית, או לסייע בידם בכל אופן שהוא", כותב רבי ניסים קרליץ.

לצד מכתבו של הגר"נ קרליץ, הופיע מכתבם של מספר ראשי ישיבות, גם הוא נגד השבועונים, אשר גורמים "נזק רב לערכים נעלים ומקודשים אותם אנו עמלים להנחיל. על כן יש להתרחק מהם ומכל השבועונים למיניהם", לשון מכתב ראשי הישיבות.

New mechanism for converts to marry


After over a year of an impassioned court debate, the state and ITIM – The Jewish Life Information Center have agreed on a mechanism set to ensure converts are registered for marriage by city rabbis in a way that is nearly identical to the procedure other Israeli Jews go through.

Last September, the state suggested that four regional rabbis would bear the the capacity to function as marriage registrars for converts from anywhere in the country.

The solution came in the wake of the phenomenon of some city rabbis refusing to register state-approved converts for marriage. This situation was what had prompted Alina Sardiyokov, a convert to Judaism, and her husband, Maxim, ITIM and three other public petitioners last March to file a High Court of Justice petition against the rabbinate and four city rabbis. [...]

Rav Eliashiv refuses to ban women speaking on cellphones in public


הרב קופשיץ, גיסו של הגר"נ קרליץ, החתים את גיסו על מכתב נגד שבועון 'משפחה'. המכתב הוכחש, ופורסם בשנית, ופרטים אודות הסאגה המדוברת תוכלו לקרוא בהרחבה במדור עיתונות ותקשורת באתר 'בחדרי חרדים'.

אחד מבאי ביתו של הגרי"ש אלישיב, סיפר היום (ה') ל'בחדרי חרדים' סיפור מעניין שהתרחש לא מכבר.

בצהרי יום אביבי, הגיע הרב קופשיץ לבית הגרי"ש אלישיב. לאחר שנכנס לחדרו של הרב, סיפר לו כי דורנו לוקה במגפה נוראה ההולכת ומתפשטת.

"מהי המגיפה?" התענין הגרי"ש

"בנות סמינר הולכות ברחוב", סיפר הרב, "והן מדברות בפלאפון בקול רם. זהו מחזה לא כשר ההולך ומתפשט. הבאתי מכתב נגד התופעה ואני מעוניין שהרב יחתום עליו".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rabbi found guilty in plane grope incident


A touchy-feely Orthodox rabbi was found guilty today by a federal judge for groping a female Israel Defense Forces officer during a flight aboard a commercial jetliner bound for New York.

Gavriel Bidany, 48, a father of 11 children, was traveling on a Delta flight from Tel Aviv and seated next to the young woman, who had fallen asleep. [...]

How to View Bin Ladin's Death from a Jewish Perspective


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

It is a verse in the 24th chapter of Mishlei.  In the falling (death) of your enemy – do not rejoice.  And the concept discussed in the verse is being examined throughout the world – from the Huffington Post to internal presidential cabinet discussions.

AP News reports, for example, that a certain Hyojin Jenny Hwang wrote on Facebook that she was saddened by the sight of young Americans like herself jubilantly cheering Osama bin Laden’s death, the angry response was swift, even from friends.

“One friend told me she felt judged for feeling happy,” said the 30-year-old mother from New Jersey. “And another one simply unfriended me on Facebook.”

From a Torah perspective the question arises:  Osama Bin Ladin, the murderer of 3000 Americans, is dead.  How exuberant should we be?

We must also keep in mind another seemingly contradictory earlier verse then the one mentioned in Chapter 24 of Mishlei.  It was also written by Shlomo HaMelech – “In the death of evil-doers – exhuberance! (Mishlei 11:10).  How are these two verses to be understood together? [...]

Monday, May 2, 2011

Incestual abuse - revealing it to in-laws

A rabbi who received this question sent it to me for my opinion on the
matter and gave me permission to publish it on this blog.
Dear Rebbi,

I hope all is well.

Q. MY wife and I are wondering if we can tell my Mother about my wife
having been molested by her Dad.
The reasons are
- that the therapist first of all thinks we should, because if word gets
out (about my father in law) and my parents find out, they may
be"humiliated and upset we didn't tell them earlier.
- They would finally understand why we really are staying in Israel for
now and counting on their financial support.
- My wife would feel better if someone like my mom knew this, because it
would explain a lot of things my wife has a hard time with.

Shavua tov

I made the following comments.

A number of issues arise. 1) Did the father-in-law confess or is there
any evidence other than the wife's statement that the molesting took
place? 2) can the benefits be obtained without mentioning that it was
her father who was the molester? 3) if it wasn't likely that word would
get out does the therapist think there is any need to tell? 4) why is
financial support dependent upon the knowledge of molesting by the
father-in-law? 5) why isn't it enough for the wife that the therapist
know 6) did the father have therapy and is he considered a danger to
others? 7) Does the mother-in-law know that her daughter was molested by
her husband?

It seems that the reasons presented for revealing this information don't
seem natural and that it appears that the expected benefits can be
obtained without revealing the identity of the molester.

To answer your question - there is no question that if needed the
information can be revealed but as presented it seems to be that the
context has not been laid down properly. Therefore it shouldn't be done
since it would cause more harm than benefit unless more preparation is
done. I am also not sure the therapist is competent to deal with this

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Conservative & Reform rabbis' employment in danger in many communities

Jewish Week

One of the little-discussed effects of the economic recession on the Jewish community is that more rabbis in the later stages of their careers are finding themselves out of work.

And that’s causing a good deal of bitterness and concern in the rabbinic community about the dwindling, and changing nature, of the profession.

“We’re seeing the end of the rabbinate as we know it,” a 56-year-old Reform rabbi insisted, noting that congregations today are looking for “comfort,” not challenges. “The intellectual tradition of the pulpit has died,” said the rabbi, who asked not to be named out of concern for the prospects for his next job search.

The data is sketchy and the reasons differ as to just why the rabbinic market is falling. But a number of people close to the situation say that with Conservative and Reform synagogues losing an estimated 20 to 30 percent of their membership, rabbis increasingly are the sacrificial lambs on the altar of congregational cost-saving.

Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era:


Jews originated as a national and religious group in the Middle East during the second millennium BCE1 and have maintained continuous genetic, cultural, and religious traditions since that time, despite a series of Diasporas.2 Middle Eastern (Iranian and Iraqi) Jews date from communities that were formed in the Babylon and Persian Empires in the fourth to sixth centuries BCE.3,4 Jewish communities in the Balkans, Italy, North Africa, and Syria were formed during classical antiquity and then admixed with Sephardic Jews who migrated after their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula in the late 15th century.5 Ashkenazi Jews are thought to have settled in the Rhine Valley during the first millennium of the Common Era, then to have migrated into Eastern Europe between the 11th and 15th centuries, although alternative theories involving descent from Sorbs (Slavic speakers in Germany) and Khazars have also been proposed.6,7 Admixture with surrounding populations had an early role in shaping world Jewry, but, during the past 2000 years, may have been limited by religious law as Judaism evolved from a proselytizing to an inward-looking religion.8

Earlier genetic studies on blood groups and serum markers suggested that Jewish Diaspora populations had Middle Eastern origin, with greater genetic similarity between paired Jewish populations than with non-Jewish populations.9–11 These studies differed in their interpretation of the degree of admixture with local populations. Recent studies of Y chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA haplotypes have pointed to founder effects of both Middle Eastern and local origin, yet the issue of how to characterize Jewish people as mere coreligionists or as genetic isolates that may be closely or loosely related remains unresolved.12–16 To improve the understanding about the relatedness of contemporary Jewish groups, genome-wide analysis and comparison with neighboring populations was performed for representatives of three major groups of the Jewish Diaspora: Eastern European Ashkenazim; Italian, Greek, and Turkish Sephardim; and Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian Mizrahim (Middle Easterners).

Mental health needs of senior citizens are greatly neglected


Now, a growing number of experts are calling for integrating mental health professionals into all levels of communities for the rising population of aging Americans, from nursing homes to assisted-living centers.

Gary Kennedy, the director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, says psychological care is “equally if not more important than” medical care for this group. “Health policy continues to lag behind the reality that these are now mental health facilities,” Dr. Kennedy said of communities for the elderly.

While Alzheimer’s receives the lion’s share of public attention, garden-variety depression, anxiety and sleep disorders also accompany old age. Particularly for late-life depression, Dr. Agronin points to data assembled by the psychiatry department at the University of California, San Francisco, supporting behavioral and group therapy, treatment rarely tried with patients from generations typically considered averse to discussing such issues.

But treatment that focuses on talking, rather than on medical procedures, has a lower Medicare reimbursement rate. The economic difficulties may explain why more doctors have not entered the time-intensive field.

Trivialization of the Holocaust by making it the Lesson on All Evils


Before you are submerged within the museum’s theatrically darkened central galleries, before you learn how the cafes and intellectual life of the Weimar Republic gradually gave way to the annihilationist racial fantasies Hitler outlined in “Mein Kampf” — before, that is, you experience a variation of the Holocaust narrative with its wrenching genocidal climax — there are other trials a visitor to the Museum of Tolerance here must pass through.

You must first choose a door. One is invitingly labeled “Unprejudiced”; the other, illuminated in red, screams “Prejudiced.” No contest. But one door doesn’t open; the other does. Here, evidently, we must admit we are all prejudiced, not just the guards at Auschwitz.

As proof, below a streaming news ticker (“Gay Basher Gets 12 Years”) are panels about “Confronting Hate in America”: Two Latinos are beaten on Long Island; a white supremacist shoots Jews in Los Angeles; a Sikh is murdered in a post-9/11 “hate crime”; a homosexual student is brutally murdered in Wyoming. On one panel is a description of the Oklahoma City bombing; on another, the attacks of 9/11. [....]