Tuesday, July 31, 2012

30 suspected pedophiles arrested in sting operation

YNet  According to the police, more than 30 suspects have been arrested as part of the investigation, headed by the National Fraud Unit, and described as the first and largest of its kind to ever take place in the country. 

The majority of the suspects have no criminal record; and include students, civil servants, a defense establishment official, a former police officer and an agronomist – to name a few.

According to the police, they range in age from 20-57 and reside all over Israel. "We can't put our finger on anything specific and say 'this is the profile,''" a source privy to the investigation said.
The investigation was launched in April, after the police were able to recruit an "expert witness" – a pedophile who was arrested and agreed to collaborate with the police.

The suspect provided investigators with certain behavioral codes common in Israel's online pedophilia community, thus enabling them to construct a virtual profile of a 12-year-old girl.

Fear of cutting down fruit trees

NYTimes In certain Orthodox Jewish communities, from Borough Park to Monsey, N.Y., rabbis say, there is a strong aversion to chopping down fruit trees, which results from some combination of biblical verses, Jewish law and mystical documents that prohibit destroying them wantonly. In New York City, where space is tight and the option to build out in another direction generally does not exist, that means friendly neighborhood foliage can present an especially hard challenge.

“It’s an extraordinary reminder of the kind of spiritual consciousness people need to be able to sustain, particularly in urban settings,” said Rabbi Saul J. Berman, an associate professor of Jewish studies at Yeshiva University. “You see this tree and the way it’s being guarded, and suddenly you realize there’s something going on here besides just human needs.”

This broader consideration, however, does not always come cheaply, as Mr. Wieder can attest to, or easily. 

Others have wrapped more than just a staircase around a tree in the name of keeping it alive — like, for example, an entire building. 

At Shloimy’s Bake Shoppe on 12th Avenue in Brooklyn, where flaky perfection can be found in the form of hand-rolled rugelach, there is a glass enclosure toward the back, right behind a giant oven and stacks of baking trays. Inside this glass box, which is open to the sky, is a berry tree. 

“When we bought this place, we thought we would build all the way back, and then it became summer,” said Joe Leiberman, whose family owns the bakery. “We saw it was a fruit tree, and we changed all the plans.” 

Interpretations may vary, but several rabbis, including Rabbi Berman, Rabbi Mayer Schiller and Rabbi Gavriel Zinner, who has written more than two dozen books on Jewish law and tradition, say this practice emerged from a passage in Deuteronomy: Even in wartime, one should not chop down your enemies’ fruit trees. There are also Talmudic sources, some said. And a mystical document called the Will of Rabbi Yehudah HaChosid, which dates back nearly 1,000 years and tends to hold more sway in Hasidic communities, took it further. 

“He very cryptically asserted that it’s really dangerous to cut down a fruit-bearing tree because you’re tampering with God’s property,” Rabbi Berman said. “And if you want to tamper with God’s property, be cautious.”

Rabbinic court permits "divorcee" to marry Cohen

Ynet   Jewish law states unequivocally that a Cohen cannot marry a divorced woman, but there are exceptions. The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court last week ruled that it would approve the divorce of two people who married in a civil service in the US – but that the divorce would not interfere with the woman's marriage to a Cohen.

Israeli law determines that the act of divorce between two people must go through the Rabbinical Court. The couple married in January 2006 in a ceremony with a Christian judge, in the presence of the bride, the groom, and one of the bride's friends. 

Both sides and their relatives testified that they were told the marriage was for the purpose of getting the woman a work visa in the US. The couple lived together for four months.  

Now the couple sought to end their marriage and define themselves as divorcees – without the husband giving her a 'Get' (Jewish divorce document). The woman testified that she has been in a relationship with a Cohen for over a year and that she wishes to marry him according to Jewish tradition. The husband also stated that if he were to marry in the future he would choose to marry according to Jewish tradition.

In light of the circumstances, the court decided to respond to the couple's request. The Dayanim ruled that the woman's request to marry a Cohen meant that she was in the halachic state of 'Shaat Dachak' (time of distress) where it is possible to facilitate their request and enact a divorce without a 'Get.'

Monday, July 30, 2012

Feeling Hopeless, a Tisha B'Av Writing

I just received the following letter with an attachment which I am publishing here.
Guest Post: I have been following your blog for quite some time now, and I feel really grateful for all the postive work you are doing. I was wondering if you would be ok with posting the attached letter that I wrote this Tisha B'Av on your blog.  Many thanks. 

Mishpacha strongly advocates alternative medicine

There is a bizarre debate going on in Mishpacha magazine regarding one of their columnists who is a strong advocate of alternative medicines and a strong critic of conventional medicine. This is even more bizarre considering an excellent article published in Mishpacha by Debbie Shapiro in 2010 regarding a person who nearly died from an alternative "cure" that disregarded conventional medicine. The columnist defends himself by stating that he is just presenting information and it is up to the reader to decide how to use it. I find that rather a poor excuse especially when the columnist is presented as a rabbi in a magazine which emphasizes rabbinical authority in all areas of life. Here are the recent exchanges of letters which were published in the Hebrew Mishpacha.

Aleppo Codex - who stole it? II

NY Times  The story of what happened next — how the codex came to Israel and where the missing pages might have gone — is a murky and often contradictory one, told by many self-serving or unreliable narrators. In his book, “The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible,” published in May by Algonquin Books, the Canadian-Israeli journalist Matti Friedman presents a compelling and thoroughly researched account of the story, some of which served as the catalyst for additional reporting here. [...]

“The official version of the story, the one I knew at the outset, states that the Aleppo Codex was given willingly to the State of Israel,” Friedman told me. “But that never happened. It was taken. The state authorities believed they were representatives of the entire Jewish people and that they were thus the book’s rightful owners, and also, perhaps, that they could care for it better. But those considerations don’t change the mechanics of the true story — government officials engineered a sophisticated, international maneuver in which the codex was seized from the Jews of Aleppo, and then arranged a remarkably successful cover-up of the fascinating and unpleasant details of the affair.” [...]

During the course of the work, which took six years, Maggen, the head of the museum’s paper-conservation lab, discovered something of major significance: Until then, the story that had been officially told was that the missing pages were destroyed in the blaze at the Aleppo synagogue, a theory supported by the purple signs of charring that existed on the edges of the rescued pages. But Maggen found that the purple markings were not caused by fire at all, but rather by a mold that discolored the pages. If these pages weren’t damaged by fire, then how could the others have been destroyed?[...]

In an interview shown in 1993 on Israel national TV, Moussaieff recalled: “They put the suitcase on the bed, opened it, opened a silky paper that was covering it. All of a sudden, my eyes popped out. I saw between 70 and 100 parchment pages lying on top of each other, inscribed with black ink that because of time had reddened slightly. In large letters, about double the size of a Torah scroll’s letters, with vowels. The handwriting was a little like a dancing handwriting. . . . I have no doubt that what I saw was part of the Aleppo Codex.”

The two argued over the price, and Moussaieff finally offered to buy only part of the manuscript, to which Schneebalg replied that it was all or nothing. In retrospect, Moussaieff would admit that he made a huge mistake. As he told a reporter from an Israeli newspaper in 1993: “I was greedy. I tried to make a lower offer, thinking perhaps they would agree to take less. The price they were asking wasn’t sky-high, but I tried to bargain with them. That’s how I lost the codex. Another buyer paid $100,000 more than I was ready to pay. . . . It’s with an ultra-Orthodox Jew in London. I have no intention of revealing his name.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mother flees to protect her child from female "husband"

The biological mother in a lesbian relationships decides to repent and leaves her partner to whom she is legally married to in Vermont. The partner demands visitation rights - and the mother flees the country with her daughter to save her from her immoral partner.

NYTimes  Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Falls Church, Va., in 1997. In later interviews, with supporters and her lawyers, Ms. Miller described growing up with a mentally unstable mother and dealing with her own problems of pill addictions, food disorders and self-mutilation. After a failed marriage and a suicide attempt, she said, she began seeing women.
Ms. Jenkins, when they met, had recently ended a long-term relationship with a woman.

“It was a normal courtship, and we fell in love,” Ms. Jenkins recalled. “We wanted to have a family and spend the rest of our lives together.” 

They became pioneers of sorts: in 2000, soon after Vermont became the first state to offer civil unions, they traveled there to seal the relationship, adopting the joint surname Miller-Jenkins. 

When Ms. Miller decided to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, they picked a donor with Ms. Jenkins’s green eyes. Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins was born in Virginia on April 16, 2002. Ms. Jenkins cut the umbilical cord as her own mother, Ruth, stood in the room. 

Preferring to raise a family in a state that endorsed same-sex relationships, the couple moved to southern Vermont. They bought a two-story house within walking distance of a grade school in Fair Haven, a small town known for Victorian houses and summer music on the village green. 

Ms. Miller later said in interviews that even before the move, she was rediscovering Christianity and questioning her lesbianism. During her difficult pregnancy with Isabella, “I promised God that if he would save my baby, I would leave the homosexual lifestyle,” she said in notes she left for one of her lawyers, Rena M. Lindevaldsen, associate dean of the Liberty University Law School. Ms. Lindevaldsen describes the notes in “Only One Mommy,” New Revolution Publishers, her 2011 book on Ms. Miller and what she calls the threat of “the homosexual lifestyle.”

Friday, July 27, 2012

Polygamy - a Mormon family with 3 wives

Time Magazine  Polygamy is one of the few practices that still evoke genuine disgust in people. It’s a watchword for ignorance, sexual depredation, oppression of women and weird, culty outfits. But spurred on by the same-sex marriage debate and more-sympathetic portrayals of polygamists and polyamorists in our larger culture, some plural families are coming out of the shadows and beginning to advocate for their way of life.

One of these families, the Dargers, independent fundamentalist Mormons, invited me into their home to check out how they live. I report about it in the Aug. 6 issue of TIME, which subscribers can read here. The Dargers are a model non-monogamous family. They’re attractive, they dress well, and they labor mightily to provide for their 23 kids.

This helps because their setup is pretty weird: Joe, the patriarch, is married to three women, two of whom are identical twin sisters. He married one of those sisters (Vicki) and another woman (Alina) at the same time, after dating them at the same time, all at the women’s consent. It gets weirder. Val, the other twin, was married to another polygamous guy and had five kids with him before she fled. Vicki and Alina told Joe that he should marry her too, they say. So he did.

But for a deeply unconventional family, they look pretty normal. (Watch a video about their life here.) They live together in a cheerfully messy house outside Salt Lake City, with three master bedrooms, boatloads of items bought in bulk and eye-watering amounts of laundry.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pilegesh: Sh.Aruch E.H. 26:1 - Summary of Views

The basic question is whether pilegesh represents an alternative form of marriage based on equality rather than subordination - which has minimum responsibility and benefits but is also readily ended without the problem of Aguna  or whether it constitutes a relationship based primarily on lust and irresponsibility and thus is harmful to society, family and the individual. In the following posting I plan to summaries the different views as found in Otzer haPoskim.

Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 26:1): A woman is not considered an eishes ish (married woman) except by means of kiddushin in which she is properly sanctified. However if their relation is just fornication - not for the sake of kiddushin – she is not considered a married woman at all. Even if they have sexual relations for the purpose of marriage – which they agree to privately between them – she is not considered his wife even if he designates her to be exclusively for him. In fact not only is she not considered his wife but we force him to remove her from his house. Rema:  That is because a woman in such a relationship will be embarrassed to go to mikveh and consequently they will have sexual relations when she is a niddah (Tur). However if she is designated for an exclusive relationship with him and she goes to mikve there are those that say that is the pilegesh mentioned in the Torah  (Ravad). And some say (Rambam, Rosh  and Tur)  that such a relationship is punished by lashes because it violates the prohibition of kadesha (prostitute) Devarim (23:18).

 Does a pilegesh have kiddushin or not? If there is no kiddushin does that mean that a get is not required? Kesubos 51 states that a pilegesh has no kiddushin and has no kesuba. This question ultimately is whether a pilegesh is an eishes ish or not.  If she is not an eishes eish then does that mean she is a kadesha or zona?

The Otzer haPoskim simon 26 divdes the halachic views into a number of groups

1) Pilgesh is prohibited because we have a positive command to have kiddushin

2) Pilegesh is prohibited because she is not an eishes ish which can only be produced through kiddushin and therefore she is considered a prostitute

3) Pilegesh is only permitted for a king - and there is no kiddushin or kesuba - for an ordinary person she is considered a prostitute.

4) Pilegesh is prohibited by rabbinic decree

5) Pilegesh is permitted

6) Pilegesh is permitted by the Torah but it is morally destructive and therefore it is prohibited.

7) Pilgesh is permitted by the Torah but it constitutes an additional wife which is prohibited by Rabbeinu Gershom

8) Pilegesh is in fact permitted but has not been done for many years - but in situations of need it can be permitted.

In addition there is a major dispute as to whether kiddushin and a Get is required. Furthermore there are some such as Tosfos (Gittin 6a) which imply that the problem with pilegesh is maris ayin (rather than eishis ish) because people think she is an eishes ish. Therefore it is the minhag not to take her back if she has an affair with other men and similarly that she is given a get if she wants to quit the relationship.
 [to be continued]

Molester Andrew Goodman now faces possible life sentence

NYDaily News  A convicted child molester who got off with a measly two-year sentence from a Brooklyn judge was slapped with federal charges Wednesday that could put him away for the rest of his life.

When Andrew Goodman was sentenced in state Supreme Court last month on 48 counts of sexually abusing two young brothers, the creep professed his love for one of the victims, who was present in the courtroom.

But Goodman now faces a damning complaint charging him with the interstate transportation of a minor for the purpose of sexual assault.

Goodman, 27, is accused of traveling with the then-15-year-old victim in February 2010 to Atlantic City where he raped and sodomized the boy in a hotel room. If convicted, Goodman faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life .

Chareidim flock to museum exhibit about Chassidim

JPost   The traditional way that hassidic men wear their coat is with the right side closed over the left side. This is because the right symbolizes mercy and the left symbolizes judgment, and they want their clothing to be an expression of the wish that God’s mercy will triumph over all.

This is just one of the tidbits from the Israel Museum’s exhibit on hassidic Judaism called “A World Apart Next Door: Glimpses into the Life of Hassidic Jews.” Surprisingly, though, the most enthusiastic visitors to the exhibit are not the secular public but haredim (ultra-Orthodox).

Despite the fact that the museum is open on Shabbat, haredim from all sects, both hassidic and non-hassidic, have come to the museum in record numbers since the exhibit opened on June 19. It runs until December 1.

Exhibit curator Ester Muschawsky-Schnapper, a 30- year veteran of the museum, believes haredim are drawn to the exhibit for two reasons. First, because their communities are fairly isolated even within haredi neighborhoods, and there’s the natural curiosity to see how other ultra- Orthodox sects celebrate their traditions. The second reason haredim are drawn to the exhibit is to understand how the outside world views their community.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Channel 10's report: Chareidim working on sly

YNet Tens of thousands of haredim are focused on studying the Torah in order to defend Israel, which is why they are exempt from military service under the Tal Law – but what is actually happening on the haredi street?

Israel's Channel 10 filmed an investigative report that shows how the military service deferral is exploited for profit at the State's expense.

When one yeshiva student candidate was asked if he had a problem with pay slips he responded that he did, because of the army. He then says that he was previously employed under the table. When asked how he was paid he explained that the pay slip went to someone else and eventually he received cash.

If it became known to the authorities that the student worked, he would not only have to pay income tax, but would also lose out on benefits worth thousands of shekels.

Black Hebrews of America & Conservative Judaism

The title of this article in the Forward is misleading as all it means is that they now view themselves as Jewish rather than a separate group and their acceptance is limited to Conservative & probably Reform Jews.

Forward  While they once called themselves Hebrew Israelites exclusively to distinguish themselves from Jews of European extraction, the black Jews now readily count themselves among the Jewish people without qualification. An increasing number seek out formal conversion, a practice previously seen only as a concession to the expectations of mainstream Jews. Some 85% of the members at Beth Shalom have done so, according to Rabbi Capers Funnye (pronounced Fun-NAY), their spiritual leader, who is himself a member of the mainstream Chicago Board of Rabbis (and cousin to First Lady Michelle Obama).[...]

The Hebrew Israelites’ Jewish practice began more than 90 years ago, when Wentworth A. Matthew, an immigrant to New York from the West Indies, established a Harlem congregation known as the Commandment Keepers in 1920. Matthew, revered as the founding rabbi of the movement, also created a precursor to the Israelite Rabbinical Academy, which trained rabbis to lead prayers and rituals fashioned after the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews who were his neighbors in Harlem. [...]

As if echoing history, black Jews in the US today feel a connection to African groups who identify as Jews. Funnye has traveled to Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda to connect with and assist in the education of the Lemba, Igbo, and Abayudyah — ethnic groups with members who assert a Jewish identity. A bridge-builder, Funnye is associate director of Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), a San Francisco-based nonprofit that advocates for inclusiveness and diversity among the Jewish people and sponsors his work in Africa.[...]

As he began rabbinical training, Brazelton chose for pragmatic reasons to undergo a Conservative conversion, although Hebrew Israelites feel it should not be necessary. “We think of it as ‘reversion,’ not conversion,” Yahath said. “I did it to remove any doubts in the minds of others.” Funnye, his mentor, was raised as a Methodist and had a formal conversion himself for the same reason. For those in his congregation, the process generally includes 18 months of study and meeting the requirements of Chicago’s Conservative beit din. There are no data on how many of the Hebrew Israelites, who Funnye says number some 10,000 nationally, have undergone formal conversions. [...]

Sholomo ben Levy, the Israelite Board of Rabbis president, sees lack of acceptance by mainstream Jews as a disappointment. But he believes the emerging awareness of diversity offers an opportunity. Levy, who also serves as spiritual leader of Beth Elohim in Queens, said, “We not only have a diversity of complexion, but a diversity of experiences. In the past, when [mainstream Jews] have reached out to us it was tentatively, wanting us to be more like them instead of asking what we can bring to Judaism that is part of our culture. If we can celebrate the diversity that exists, we will all be more successful.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Silicon Valley warns of device addiction

NYTimes  Stuart Crabb, a director in the executive offices of Facebook, naturally likes to extol the extraordinary benefits of computers and smartphones. But like a growing number of technology leaders, he offers a warning: log off once in a while, and put them down. 

In a place where technology is seen as an all-powerful answer, it is increasingly being seen as too powerful, even addictive.

The concern, voiced in conferences and in recent interviews with many top executives of technology companies, is that the lure of constant stimulation — the pervasive demand of pings, rings and updates — is creating a profound physical craving that can hurt productivity and personal interactions. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

R' Moshe Feinstein: Pilegesh no kiddushin or get

שו"ת אגרות משה אבן העזר חלק א סימן עד

ומה שמפקפק כתר"ה מהא דפילגש שהיא בלא קידושין ומשמע מגמ' סנהדרין דף כ"ב דצריכה כל אחת מהן גירושין שהוא גט להרמב"ם פ"ג ממלכים ה"ב שגם הפילגשים היו בכלל הי"ח נשים שהיו לדוד, הנה מפורש שם בלח"מ לדבר פשוט שלא היתה צריכה גט כיון דאין לו בה קידושין אלא יחוד בעלמא וכמה קשין גירושין שאמר בגמ' אינו בגט אלא לגרשה מביתו כדי ליקח אחרת נמי הם קשין. ועיין במאירי סנהדרין שבפלגשים של מלך מותרות למלך אחר ואפילו לבנו שכתב שאבישג היתה מותרת לשלמה ואפילו היתה נבעלת לדוד ומשום אשת אב אין כאן שהרי נושא אדם אנוסת ומפותת אביו, הרי מפורש דפילגש שבלא קידושין אינה בדין א"א כלל וא"כ ודאי אין שייך להצריכה גט. וכן מפורש ברלב"ג בפירושו לשמואל דאבשלום לא עבר איסור חמור דאשת אביו משום שפילגשים היו בלא קידושין. איברא דבאגדה איתא הובא בילקוט שמואל שאחיתופל יעץ שיבא על פילגשי אביו כדי שיתחייב מיתה על שבא על אשת אביו, וכן בירושלמי פ"ב דיבמות מוכיח מדוד שנשא רצפה בת איה שאשת חמיו אינה אסורה דין תורה הובא בתוס' יבמות דף כ"א, והרי רצפה בת איה היתה פילגש שאול ואם פילגש כיון שהיא בלא קידושין אין דינה כאשתו איזה ראיה היא לאשת חמיו שאינה אסורה, אבל לא קשה כלום דהירושלמי לטעמיה בכתובות פ' אף על פי ה"ב דפילגש היא נמי בקידושין עיין שם וא"כ פשוט שגם המאמר אגדה שבילקוט נמי סובר כהירושלמי דפילגש הוא בקידושין. והוא גם דלא כשירי קרבן שמחלק בין פילגשי הדיוט לפילגשי מלך דפילגשי מלך גם להירושלמי הם בלא קידושין דהא מירושלמי דרצפה בת איה מוכרח שסובר דגם של מלך היו בקידושין. על כל פנים מפורש בדברי רבותינו הראשונים דפילגש שבלא קידושין א"צ גט ומותרת לקרוביו כדין מפותתו והאגדה והירושלמי הוא משום שסברי דהיה בקידושין,

Faith or self-deception? - 20 burned at firewalk

NYTimes    Thousands participated in the walk, which stretched down 24 lanes, each around eight feet long. “It transformed people’s lives in a single night,” said Carolynn Graves, 50, a real estate agent from Toronto, who crossed the coals without injury. “It’s a metaphor for facing your fears and accomplishing your goals.” 

A person connected to the Robbins group who helps facilitate the walks over hot coals, but who did not want his name disclosed because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said, “This is not without risk.” Mr. Robbins, he added, “spends a couple of hours preparing people.” 

He suggested that those who were hurt must have “slowed down and stopped because they didn’t feel anything. Those are the folks who end up sometimes with hot spots.” Traditionally, he added, the coals reach a temperature of 2,000 degrees — “give or take 100 degrees.” 

“I won’t say it never happens,” the man said. “But I’ve never heard of anyone having third-degree burns. A couple of times people have had second-degree burns.” Mr. Robbins advises people “to soak their feet in cold water for 20 minutes,” he said. 

“People don’t come to this and not participate,” he added.

Pilegesh inTalmudic Texts - Kesubah & Kedushin?

This is 5 out 10 pages of an article which appeared in  Sinai #73 pages 127-137. The contradictory & unclear textual basis in Talmudic literature explains in part why there is such confusion as to the nature of pilegesh

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Letter of the Steipler to Rav Eliashiv regarding pilegesh

מכתב ממרן חגר''י קנייבםקי זצוק''ל למרן הברי"ש אלישיב שליט''א

בעניך איסור פילגש ובעניני גירות
יום עש"ק פרשת שמיני ה'תש"כ.

לכבוד מחותני הגאון הגדול פאר הדור וכ'· מוהררש"י [אלישיב] שליט''א 

אחרי הקדמת השלו'· בכל הכבוד כבוד התורה, הגיעני מכתב הדר"ג שליט"א בע"פ ותאורנה עיני בתשובתו הנפלאה לאמיתה של תורה, ורב תשו''ח לחדר"ג שליט"א, המקום ב"ה יהא בעזרו לרבות פעלים לתורה"ק
‏במה שכתבתי דאת"ל דאינה מקודשת כלל אין כאן איסור משהה אשה בלא כתובה, דהו''ל כפילגש מאחר שמיוחדת לו עכ"ל ודאי ידעתי שהרמב"ם ז"ל אוסר פילגש להדיוט, ויש השמטת דברים במכתבי, וצ"ל "להפוסקים דפילגש שרי להדיוט", וכעת עיינתי בסימן כ"ו ובח"מ וב"ש וביאור הגר''א ז"ל, וכנראה שרוב הפוסקים חולקים על הרמב"ם ז"ל בזה, וכ"כ בנוב"ת סימן קל"ב [שרמזו הפ"ת] שאין הלכה בזה כהרמב"ם ז"ל, ולעניך איסור דרבנן שכתב הח"מ, אולי בשעת הדחק יש לסמוך אהרמב"ן ז"ל ודעימיה שאפילו מדרבנן שרי, ומ"מ בחשש דאורייתא מי יקיל ראש נגד הרמב"ם ז"ל
‏והנה הדר"ג שליט"א השיג עלי ואפי' המתירים פילגש אינו אלא ביודע שאינה קנויה לו ומתכוין לשם "פילגש" ולא בקידושי טעות וראיה מדאמרינן בקידשה על תנאי ואין אדם עשוה ב"ז, ואס"ד דשרי בכה"ג א"כ אין זה ביאת זנות, ולכאו' תמהתי דאינו דומה כלל לנידון דידן, דודאי כשקידשה על תנאי ויודע הספק ומתכוין שאם אין הדבר כתנאו ישלחנה הו"ל ביא"ז, דהא עושה בעילתו בדרך אקראי [דאם לא יתקיים התנאי], ולא דרך אישות, אבל כשאינו יודע כלל מענין המום כנידון דידן, ובועל דרך אישות בתורת בעל גמור, אפשר דאין זה ביא"ז כיון שבעילתו דרך אישות ולא דרך אקראיי ולא גרע ממיוחדת לו
‏ולאחר העיון בזה ראיתי שהצדק עם כבוד הדר"ג שליט"א, שכן משמע בתשובת הרמב"ן ז"ל המיוחסות סימן רפ"ד [שרמזו הב"ש], דכל שאינו מייחדה לשם פילגש אלא רוצה שתהא אשתו, איכא איסור עשה אם בועל כשאינה מקודשת לו' יעויי"ש .

‏ועל דברי הנתיבות המשפט סימן רל''ד סק"ג דאיסור דרבנן בשוגג אינו עבירה, ‏ראיתי מכבר באור שמח פ"א מהל' גירושין הי"ז שהשיג על זה טובא.

למעשה לבי נוקפי מאוד, ואפילו אם נעשה ספק ונתלה שאעפ"י שחושבת ברי שנבעלה מ"מ אינו אלא דמיון כוזב. כי באותה שעה לא שמח לב בקטנותה על מהות המעשה ממש כיצד היה, מ"מ אולי תאמר שהיה אז דם בתולים וזה הלא היה דבר מבורר אצלה בראיית עינים, ולא ידעתי איך אשיב שולחי דבר, כיון שהדר"ג שליט"א לא כתב לי מסקנא החלטית למעשה .

Rav Sternbuch:Pilegesh & Civil Marriage

Rav Moshe Sternbuch (2:642): Concerning one who has rejected religion it would seem that he does not require a Get from a civil marriage. This is according to the view of the Rogitshover who explains that in civil marriage there is a need for a get because she is considered a pilegesh. However it would seem that the case of civil marriage is not comparable to the case of pilegesh. That is because in the case of pilegesh the intent of the couple is to have a relationship according to the Torah. According to the Torah a pilegesh is exclusively for him and prohibited to others. This is not comparable to the modern irreligious people who have totally rejected the obligations of the Torah. In the case of a genuine pilegesh the woman is required to know that she is a pilegesh according to Torah law and that she is prohibited to others according to the Torah. In such a case she would be need a Get according to Torah law as is stated in the Bi’ur HaGra (260:26). In contrast in the case of someone who has rejected Torah and comes to us – my view is to be machmir l’chatchila only because of the reasons I mentioned above [that we are concerned for the minority view of Rav Huna that Chupa acquires]. However if insistence on a Get will create an aguna then there is no reason to be machmir as I stated previously

D.A. Hynes:Against Rabbincal screening

Jewish Week  Intimidation aside, what is your impression about how often rabbis are discouraging people from coming forward when asked for advice?
Hynes: What I’ve said to [Agudath Israel vice president] Chaim Dovid Zwiebel is that his suggestion that rabbis have to screen is wrong for two reasons: One, rabbis have no expertise in this area to determine what reaches a level for reporting, and what he’s doing is putting the rabbis in a very dangerous position; because one of these days a rabbi is going to make a mistake cross the line and tell someone under no circumstances are they to report abuse and they are going to be indicted for obstructing governmental administration. I made it very, very clear to Dovid that was my position.

Do you view this the same as witness tampering or witness intimidation? Are there constitutional issues protecting a rabbi’s advice?
Hynes: You’re changing the fact pattern. Why don’t you stay with my fact pattern? My fact pattern is, a rabbi says under no circumstances should you report this, that’s crossing a line. If a rabbi says mesirah prohibits you from reporting then that’s something I can’t deal with; I can’t  pierce that religious connection.
In fact in the legislation I submitted to state DA’s Association’s legislative committee — which has now been passed on to the executive committee for the summer — specifically says in cases of confession or confidential communication to a religious person, whether a rabbi or a minister that would not require mandatory reporting. Mandatory reporting would be finding out about abuse of a third party. There is no reason why clergy should not be mandatory reporters as far as I’m concerned. Twenty-six states in this country have mandatory requirements, only two of them have clergyman-penitent exception: Remarkably, 24 do not. In New Hampshire and West Virginia, despite the clergy-penitent exception they require mandatory reporting in those cases where sex abuse of a third party is involved. There is no reason you can’t have that here for clergy as well.

You said earlier that rabbis don’t have the judgment to assess cases. Agudath Israel has said they are offering training courses for rabbis.
Hynes: I think he has backed away from that. The danger in that … I don’t think a clergy person has the ability or even should have the authority to do screening. The only thing I can do to get around this is hope I can get support in the legislature to change the mandatory reporting to include members of the clergy.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Agressive police questioning caused false convictions?

Jewish Week by Hella Winston The Jewish Week also spoke to the mother of a boy who attended a class that produced 23 counts of sexual abuse against Jesse Friedman. The mother — who requested anonymity for fear of being “run out of town” by a few people who are “still uber sensitive” about the case, but who said she would allow her taped interview to be shared with the district attorney — told The Jewish Week that she always thought that “this wasn’t exactly right.”

“I would go into the classroom [all the time] and pick my kid up and say ‘ooh, what did you do today on the computer?’ and everything seemed fine,” she continued. “If something had happened, don’t you think the kids would have been upset? They wouldn’t have been sitting at the computer playing games like nothing happened.”

The mother also recounted how she came home one day to find two police officers in her living room. While the officers assured her that they had not yet spoken to her then 11-year-old son, they told her they wanted to question him about the classes. According to the mother, the officers “started to grill him … they hammered him for a while, [asking] him the same question 95 times in different ways. After a while I said, ‘I [almost] wanted to confess to something.’”

While her son “stuck to his guns,” the mother claims she “never believed anything after that interview, because I could see how they could drag stuff out of kids that didn’t happen.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Effects of False Allegation of Child Abuse on a Family

IPTForensic  ABSTRACT: The personal, clinical, and legal experience of an intact family of four in which which a false allegation of sexual abuse was made by the daughter toward the father was reported.  The family was followed for two years.  The experience destroyed the family and the parents and children all suffered depression, stress, rage, distress, hurt, and alienation.  This case study parallels the available literature which indicates that a false allegation of sexual abuse is destructive and traumatic.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More haredim to study in academia

YNet  The Council of Higher Education recently decided to open new study tracks that will allow haredi students to pursue academic degrees in engineering, exact sciences, optometry, banking, architecture and arts.

The reform aims to give the haredi public access to the academia, with the goal of doubling the number of haredi students from 6,000 to 12,000 by 2017. The reform, which will be supported by a budget of some NIS 180 million (about $45 million), was initiated by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Chair of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg.

Chareidim break silence about child abuse

YNETקשר השתיקה סביב תקיפות מיניות של ילדים חרדים הוא עדיין קונצנזוס הדוק בלב המגזר. ולא שאין חיה כזאת - פדופילים  חרדים פעילים, אלא שבתקשורת ובשיח ככלל, מעדיפים אידיאולוגית שלא לדבר על כך

את המדיניות הזו מכתיבים, איך לא, רבני המגזר – ואילו ההורים שילדיהם הותקפו מינית מעדיפים את שיתוף הפעולה. הם לא מתלוננים במשטרה הן כדי לחסוך את החקירה המשטרתית מילדיהם, והן כדי לתת להם סיכוי להינשא בשידוך ראוי. 

אם לא די בכך, הרי שגם התקשורת החרדית הממוסדת, הכוללת את עיתוני המגזר ותחנות הרדיו החרדיות, שומרות על קשר השתיקה. אלא שזה החל להיסדק לאחרונה עם התקשורת האינטרנטית, שמעזה לעורר שיח במקומות שבהם השמרנות החרדית קפאה

מי שפרץ לראשונה את חומת השתיקה התקשורתית הוא צעיר חרדי בן 21, בשם ישי (ישראל) כהן, העובד כעיתונאי באתר החרדי "כיכר השבת". לפני כחודשיים החל לפרסם סדרת כתבות על פדופילים הפוגעים בילדים בשכונות חרדיות

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who should be mandated to report child abuse?

silive  If enacted, the bill would make every adult resident of South Carolina the equivalent of New York’s mandated reporters, minus, of course, their professional expertise. Granted, some instances of child abuse are so blatant that they’d be apparent to the most benighted layperson. Conceptually, however, child abuse and neglect are imprecise terms, their incidences often susceptible to lively debate among professionals in the field. 

To expect the average person to analyze every potential situation and make a reasonable judgment as to whether child abuse or neglect likely exists is unrealistic; to punish him for wrongly concluding that it doesn’t when, in fact, it actually does is unconscionable.

Making everybody a mandated reporter also invites abuse by those inclined to use the requirement as a pretext to maliciously defame others. 

False accusations of child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, have already become the nuclear option for desperate combatants in custody and visitation cases. They and similarly unscrupulous types would be further emboldened under a broad reporting mandate.

Unity Government Disbanding Over Dispute on Draft

NYTimes  The national unity government formed in Israel two months ago unraveled Tuesday when the head of the centrist Kadima Party, Shaul Mofaz, announced he was withdrawing because of intractable differences with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party over a proposed universal draft law. 

The broad coalition, which had given Mr. Netanyahu a supermajority of 94 of the Parliament’s 120 members and led Time Magazine to dub him “King of Israel,” has been in turmoil for weeks over the issue of how to draft more ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as Arab citizens into either the military or civilian service. 

Mr. Netanyahu remains extremely popular in Israel, and most here see his re-election as all but assured. The key question is what will become of Kadima, a centrist party that broke away from the Likud in 2005 and has recently lost traction in public polls.

Can We Trust Psychological Research?

Time Magazine  Psychologist Dirk Smeesters does fascinating work, the kind that lends itself to practical, and particularly business, applications. Earlier this year, the Dutch researcher published a study that showed that varying the perspective of advertisements from the third person to the first person, such as making it seem as if we were looking out through the TV through our own eyes, makes people weigh certain information more heavily in their consumer choices. The results appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a top American Psychological Association (APA) journal. Last year, Smeesters published a different study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggesting that even manipulating colors such as blue and red can make us bend one way or another.

 Except that apparently none of it is true. Last month, after being exposed by Uri Simonsohn at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Smeesters acknowledged manipulating his data, an admission that been the subject of fervent discussions in the scientific community. Dr. Smeesters has resigned from his position and his university has asked that the respective papers be retracted from the journals. The whole affair might be written off as one unfortunate case, except that, as Smeesters himself pointed out in his defense in Discover Magazine, the academic atmosphere in the social sciences, and particularly in psychology, effectively encourages such data manipulation to produce “statistically significant” outcomes.[...]\\

Many psychologists are aware of these issues and very concerned about them—in fact, most of the concern about this problem has been raised from within the scholarly community itself. This is how science works, by identifying problems and trying to correct them. Our field needs to change the culture wherein null results are undervalued and scholars should submit their data along with their manuscripts for statistical peer review when trying to get published. And we need to continue to look for ways of moving past “statistical significance” into more sophisticated discussions of how our results may or may not have real world impact. These are problems that can be fixed with greater rigor and open discussion. Without any attempt to do so, however, our field risks becoming little more than opinions with numbers.

Fiduciary relationship - free-will or rape?

I recently received the following letter
I am writing to you about finding sources in halacha regarding sexual abuse. I have an adult client who was molested by an adult from the age of 12-18. This adult man was responsible for her housing and care. She was told by her rabbi that she bears no responsibility even though she sometimes took the initiative. She clearly has emotional and psychological problems and a low I.Q. However she understands right from wrong and knows that after 12 she is an adult. She doesn't understand why she is responsible if she transgresses Shabbos or doesn't say a beracha before she eats but she is not responsible in this area. She definitely is very upset by what she did as well as being told she didn't sin.
 Any suggestions of where I might look to find this information?
 In secular law there is a concept called a fiduciary relationship where one person is dependent on another because of trust or expertise or authority. It accepts that because the relationship is not equal one party will submit to doing things against their free-will and is therefore not held accountable. Thus in the realm of sexual abuse a commanding officer having a sexual relationship with a subordinate would be considered rape rather than an act of free-will.  It sometimes also applies teachers and students, employers and employees as well as rabbi's and congregants. Is there a comparable view in halacha?

All I could find is that the seduction of a child is considered rape by all authorities - except for the Rambam. For an adult the only exemption is if she is a shoteh. Any suggestions?

Recent lawsuit concerning whether in NY State - rabbi-congregant is considered fiduciary relationship
Update - these are the halachic issues that need clarification:

Questions 1) Tinok shenishba (Shabbos 68a) : If she lives a life sheltered from knowledge of sexuality – has she sinned by participating in sexual activity? In other words is she a tinok shenishba in regards to sexuality? In fact this is even more of an excuse than tinok shenishba in that she has been taught by authority figures that the sexual activity is permitted.

Question 2) yetzer elabasha  (Kesubos 51b) - Even if she knows it is wrong do we say that if she were abused as a child but she enjoys and participates as as 12 year – do we say “at first it was rape but then it becomes willing and therefore she is patur? Would we also say this if she was first abused as a 12 year old? Or is this leniency only for a single act of intercourse but it doesn’t carry over to the future? The Hafla’ah (Panim Yofos Vayikra 20:17) says that she is guilty only if she was warned in between sexual acts - while Kerisos (15a) indicates that each maaseh bi’ah is viewed separately.

Question 3) Does halacha acknowledge that there are authority figures such as a father or rav whose authority or trust overcomes free-will and therefore seduction by an authority figure is considered rape – even for an adult?

Question 4) Does halacha acknowledge that sexual abuse – where there is psychological trauma and strong conflicting feelings that involve guilt and shame – that the victim isn’t viewed as sinning even if at some point he/she initiates the activity?

Pilegesh permitted by rav if wife is sterile

bhol   אב בית הדין הרבני בירושלים, הרב אליהו אברג'יל, בפסק הלכה חדשני: במקרים שבהם אין לגבר ילדים, אם אשתו אינה יכולה   ללדת ילדים, הוא רשאי לקחת פילגש.

בעיתון "ישראל היום" פורסמה הוראה שנכתבה בספרו החדש "דברות אליהו", שם כתב הרב: "הקמת משפחה זו מצווה חשובה.

"אישה שמסרבת או שאינה יכולה להביא ילדים לעולם, ולא מוכנה לתת גט לבעלה, מעכבת אותו מלבנות משפחה ולהמשיך את זרעו. במקרה שכזה הבעל רשאי לקחת לו פילגש ואין עם זה שום בעיה הלכתית. הדבר יסייע לאותם בעלים לקיים את מצוות פרו ורבו גם במחיר של לקיחת פילגש על בסיס קבוע. אותה פילגש יכולה גם לגור יחד עם בני הזוג", כך בספר.

Myerson Get: Rav Sternbuch & Rav Karelitz

Eida Chareidis handcuffs kids to protest Draft

Monday, July 16, 2012

On Vigilantism & AMI's embarrassing Editorial

Vos Iz Neias by Rabbi Yair Hoffman   With due respect, I would like to take issue with Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter’s recent editorial (Ami Magazine p. 8 July 11, 2012) regarding religious vigilantism, Jewish history, and bloggers.  Rabbi Frankfurter has distinguished himself as a highly intelligent thinker on the Jewish scene, with a sensitivity to the Torah’s values on some very important issues that have arisen in our community. 

Nonetheless, it is my feeling that he has taken an incorrect position in this editorial on the issue of recent acts of religiously motivated vigilantism that have been highlighted in the media, primarily in Israel, but even here in New York

Rabbi Frankfurter writes, “contrary to what some bloggers might think, religious vigilantism over Jewish history was not an altogether negative phenomenon.”

It must be clearly understood that “vigilantism” was never a protective shield.  It has always undermined the notion of law and order and is antithetical to one of the principal notions of the seven Noachide laws – the establishment of a legal system.  Indeed, even the killing of Zimri by Pinchas, as Rabbi Frankfurter paradoxically points out, was not an act of vigilantism – the Halacha itself clearly dictates that Kanaim Pogim Bo is part of the Torah’s system of jurisprudence.

30% of sex crimes target minors

YNET  The Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women is set to debate a new report on how the school system deals with sexual violence, Ynet learned Monday.

The report states that 30% out of the crisis centers' 40,000 reports of sexual assaults in 2011 involved children under the age of 12. Almost half of the reports were of rape or attempted rape, some 25% were reports of incest and 20% were of sexual harassment.

The report also includes police statistics about sexual violence: In 2011, 4,563 sexual assault complaints were filed, 47% of them by minors.

In 20% of the cases, the suspect was a minor. In 18% of the cases, the assaults allegedly took place on school grounds. 

HaPeles challenges Yated's leadership

JPost  A new chapter has been opened in the struggle for public opinion among the haredi community, with the publication of Israel’s newest daily newspaper, HaPeles, on Friday.

Following the recent power struggle over the influential Yated Ne’eman haredi daily, HaPeles was published on Friday to compete for the ear of the target audience, members of the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” haredi community.

HaPeles, whose editor-inchief is Grossman, means straight or level, which Labin says reflects the desire to present straight and direct opinions and perspectives on the haredi world.

The upheaval at Yated Ne’eman, the most important paper in the haredi world, occurred as a result of a broader struggle for the leadership of the community – in light of the continued hospitalization and incapacitation of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, 102, the undisputed leader of non-hassidic haredim until now.

Rav Bulman's 10thYahrtzeit - R Malinowitz & R' Leff

Tonight in Jerusalem Rav Chaim Malinowitz and Rav Zeff Leff discussed the legacy of Rav Bulman in the connection with the issue of 

"The Role of English Speaking Kehillos in Eretz Yisrael"

The were introducted by Rav Bulman's son. Rav Berkowitz was unable to attend because he is an avel.

This is the recording of the event - there are a few minutes missing from the Introduction

Click following link to play or to download

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Economic & family deficits from being unmarried

NYTimes  Jessica Schairer has so much in common with her boss, Chris Faulkner, that a visitor to the day care center they run might get them confused.

 They are both friendly white women from modest Midwestern backgrounds who left for college with conventional hopes of marriage, motherhood and career. They both have children in elementary school. They pass their days in similar ways: juggling toddlers, coaching teachers and swapping small secrets that mark them as friends. They even got tattoos together. Though Ms. Faulkner, as the boss, earns more money, the difference is a gap, not a chasm. 

But a friendship that evokes parity by day becomes a study of inequality at night and a testament to the way family structure deepens class divides. Ms. Faulkner is married and living on two paychecks, while Ms. Schairer is raising her children by herself. That gives the Faulkner family a profound advantage in income and nurturing time, and makes their children statistically more likely to finish college, find good jobs and form stable marriages. 

Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes.

Millions of Africans view themselves Jews

YNet  Millions of African citizens could come knocking on Israel's door in the next few years, demanding to be recognized as Jews, warns Dr. Shalva Weil. According to Weil, the past 15 years have seen a sharp rise in the number of tribes throughout Africa who are "rediscovering" their Jewish heritage.

Weil, from the Research Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is an anthropologist and expert on Ethiopian Jewry who has spent years studying the Ethiopian community and its acclimation into Israeli society.

Weil explains that every one of the African groups has a unique story. For example, the Lemba people of South Africa, Zimbabwe and in Mozambique and Malawi numbers some 70,000 Christians, but its leaders claim that they are the descendants of Yemenite Jews who migrated to South Africa. The Lemba people are seeking recognition as the descendants of Jews and have even appealed to the South African Jewish community for financial support to build synagogues.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Internet makes us crazy"- The Misuse of Poor Science

Time Magazine   Sociologists call them moral panics — when a population pins its unanchored fear in uncertain times on a selected demon, whether or not the target is really a threat to society. Drugs are a frequent focus of these societal anxiety attacks, but this week, Newsweek tries to foment a classic panic against a more universal foe: the Internet.

Headlined online “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?” the article begins with the story of Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind the “Kony2012″ video about the African cult-leader and warlord Joseph Kony. After the video went viral and suddenly brought Russell international fame, he wound up naked and ranting on a San Diego street corner. To make the case that the Internet caused Russell’s psychotic break, the Newsweek article rapidly generalizes from rare, extreme experiences like Russell’s and wends through a selective reading of the research to argue, in the words of one quoted source, that the Net, “encourages — and even promotes — insanity.”

The problem is, this conclusion runs counter to what the research data actually show.

Dokoupil makes much of brain scan studies suggesting that Internet use “rewires” the brain in ways that look similar to changes seen in drug addiction. The reality is that any enjoyable activity leads to changes in the brain’s pleasure regions if a person engages in it frequently enough. Indeed, any activity we perform repeatedly will lead to brain changes: that’s known as learning. Riding a bicycle and playing the violin also rewire the brain, but we don’t choose to refer to these changes as “damage.”

As yet, there is no brain scan that can clearly determine whether certain brain changes signify addiction or simple, harmless enjoyment. Nor can brain scans predict, in the case of addiction, who will be able to regain control over their behavior and who will not. [...]

The truth is, we really don’t know much about how our online lives are affecting us. It’s quite possible that Internet use has the deleterious effects critics suggest — certainly some people do have difficulty controlling the amount of time they spend online. But is it the addictive effect of the Internet that keeps us checking our work emails on vacation or during evenings and weekends — or is it the fact that we fear we may lose our jobs if we don’t?

The Internet might indeed be a cause of our societal worries, but not necessarily because we’re addicted to it. And creating a moral panic based on flimsy evidence isn’t going to help, no matter what the real cause of our problems.

California: Should a child have 4 legal parents?

NYTimes  Bill Delaney’s two little girls spend three nights a week with their fathers, at the home Mr. Delaney shares with his husband in San Francisco. The other nights, they stay with their mothers, a lesbian couple who live nearby. 

The girls have four parents — a result of a kind of nontraditional family arrangement that has become increasingly common. But officially, California, like most other states, recognizes no more than two legal parents.  

That limit could soon be lifted.

A bill moving through the California Legislature would allow judges to recognize more than two legal parents for a given child, opening the door for alternative families to seek legal recognition of their relationships.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Alleged attacker of women in Bnei Brak captured

האם נעצר התוקף הסדרתי שמאיים על שלוותן של תושבות בני-ברק? בחודשים האחרונים התרחשו מספר רב של תקיפת נערות חרדיות, בעיקר באזור שבו פועלים אולמי השמחות בעיר התורה.
המותקפות סיפרו על צעיר בלבוש חסידי, שתקף אותן בשעות הערב בסימטאות ובחדרי מדרגות. עסקנים שמעו על כך, נחרדו מהעדויות ומיהרו לערב את משטרת מרחב ירקון, ובראשה את אלברט אוחיון
אתמול, הגיעה החקירה לנקודת מפנה משמעותית. בעקבות מידע מודיעיני הגיעה המשטרה לישיבה חסידית מוכרת בבני-ברק ועצרה את אחד הבחורים בזמן ארוחת הערב.
כשהחשוד הבחין בכוחות המשטרה, הוא נמלט לחדר האוכל - שם הסתיים המרדף הקצר במעצרו.
בחקירתו, הודה החשוד במעורבות בכמה מהתקיפות, אולם המשטרה חושדת שהתמונה רחבה עוד יותר.

5 indicted in haredi website 'extortion' affair

JPost  Police announced Thursday it had found sufficient evidence to warrant an indictment against five suspects in the Hadrei Haredim website extortion affair.

Police suspected that over the last two years, the five members of staff working for the haredi news site extorted large sums of money from businessmen, rabbis, organizations and large companies, who paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The five suspects comprise the director-general of the website, his deputy and three other employees.

The suspects allegedly threatened to publish content that would damage people's reputations unless they paid them large sums of money.

Rav Sternbuch - Psak to Report Molester

A clear Psak requiring Reporting is needed to stop Abuse

I just finished a long trans-Atlantic call with an American rav whose grandson was recently abused in a shul in Europe during davening. He was distressed by a number of developments besides the fact that his grandson had been abused. 1) the community rav who had been consulted said that the perpetrator had suffered enough embarrassment already and thus nothing more should be done. The rav stated clearly that the matter should be dropped and if the police were involved it would be mesira. He was clearly ignorant of the rulings of Rav Eliashiv and other gedolim on the matter. 2) Despite this the parents reported the abuse to the police  - but they didn't seem interested in getting involved either.  3) To make the matter more distressing the family has been informed that the alleged abuser has been observed  in the past - touching kids inappropriately in the mikveh - but nothing was done. 4) The parents of the child are now being harassed and threatened by the community as trouble makers and informants.

This American rav is well aware of the halachic and psychological issues and suggested something which is very simple - but should be very effective in changing the dynamics of the situation. Most people would have no problem of reporting if they witnessed a child being raped or severely beaten. In fact they probably would physically intervene to stop the abuse. The events of Penn State have hopefully taught us that good people don't act unless they know that they must act and are informed in advance what constitutes abuse. Similarly most rabbonim today acknowledge the importance of reporting abuse - to the local rabbi or police - but they would not necessarily recognize that inappropriate touching or fondling is abuse

Therefore the American rav suggested that the community needs that important poskim publicly proclaim in a written declaration what actions constitute abuse that we need to report. The  proclamation must state clearly and unambiguously that abuse is wrong - even if it doesn't involve rape. It must list the halachic requirements to prevent harm by reporting. And finally it needs a clear and unambiguous list of specific actions that constitute abuse that need to be reported.

Here is a tentative text regarding what is abuse:

You must report the following to your rav and/or police department. If you see a child being touched  inappropriately in the mikveh, playground, summer camp or school or neighbor's home. Not only must you report inappropriate adult fondling of a child - but also such actions between  children - even if they are the same age. You must report not only what you yourself observe but also when you hear rumors or your children tell you - it needs to be reported in order to verify and stop it. In sum - all awareness of abuse that you know about -  must be reported to someone. However it is not enough to just report that you witnessed or heard about abuse. If the person you report to doesn't follow through - whether it is a parent, teacher, principal, rav or police - you must persist either with that authority or find someone else who will listen and act. It is clear that a child's well being is not to be sacrificed to avoid chilul hashem, financial loss to a yeshiva or synagogue, or the embarrassment to the family of the abuser or even a prison sentence for the perpetrator. There is no prohibition of lashon harah to report these issues, nor is there a prohibition of mesira. A Rav or community leader is obligated to listen to any and all alleged incidents of abuse. Every member of the community is obligated to make sure that children are protected and that perpetrators are stopped.