Friday, November 30, 2012

After UN vote on Palestine - Has anything changed?

NYTimes   Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, recently said that the day after Palestine gained recognition as a nonmember state at the United Nations, “Life will not be the same.”

True, there would still be the occupation, he said; Israeli settlement and closing policies would continue. But no Israeli official could argue that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem were disputed territories, he said, adding, “Palestine will become a country under occupation. The terms of reference for any negotiations become withdrawal.” [...]

“They got a state without end of conflict,” a top Israeli official said. “This sets new terms of reference that will never allow negotiations to start.”

The absence of negotiations may then open the way for a more confrontational approach. [...]

Israel has said that any punitive measures after the United Nations maneuver would depend on the future actions of the Palestinians. Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said that Israel would “work by the book” and would only take steps that did not violate any signed accords.

One possibility, he said, was deducting debts owed by the Palestinian Authority to Israeli utility companies from the tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the authority. “We can, so we may,” he said.

Weberman trial: Illegal picture taking of accuser

NYTimes   The trial of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish counselor accused of repeatedly molesting a girl was disrupted on Thursday afternoon when four spectators in a Brooklyn courtroom were accused of taking pictures with their cellphones of the accuser on the witness stand. [...]

The accuser, who is now 17, has testified that she and her family had faced a pattern of intimidation from the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, since she alleged last year that Nechemya Weberman, the unlicensed therapist her parents had sent her to for counseling, repeatedly forced her to have oral sex during their sessions together from the time she was 12 until she turned 15. [...]

Mr. Weberman’s accuser had already been provided with increased security after onlookers said they spotted Mr. Weberman staring at her threateningly through the window of a conference room as she rested during a break in the court session on Wednesday, said Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. The defense denies that Mr. Weberman did this.[...]

The phones of the four men arrested had photos of the teenager that had been taken in the courtroom, and one photo appeared to have already been posted to Twitter, Mr. Schmetterer said. David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the court, said that Judge Ingram also admonished the men before allowing the trial to continue.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nahloat - the worst case of abuse or a witch hunt?

Tablet Magazine   Right now, Binyamin Satz, Benzion Primashelanu, and Zalman Cohen are in jail, charged with sodomy and violence against Israeli children. Six other men have been arrested, questioned on suspicions of the same, and released. A 70-year-old woman named Sarah Vorst was violently beaten by five men in February, her apartment ransacked, and her computer and telephone stolen—according to many because her attackers believed she was a mastermind behind the pedophiles’ plot.

To date, more than 70 children, nearly all from Haredi families in the tight-knit community of Nahlaot, have been interviewed by Social Services and have claimed to suffer severe sexual, psychological, physical, and ritual abuse at the hands of nearly 60 individuals. At least another 50 children have claimed abuse, though they were not interviewed by Social Services. The children have identified the perpetrators either by name or by telling characteristics: the one with the ponytail, the one who exercises, the filmer, the one with a walker, the one who wears a knitted kippah, and so on. Those accused include American immigrants, middle-aged men, elderly women (nearly half of those accused are female), geriatric couples, teenagers, mother-son teams, mentally handicapped individuals, at least one Arab, suspected Christian missionaries, and, more recently, a few prominent members of the community, including a rabbi. Some of those who have been identified by one or more children are unaware, or appear to be unaware, that they have been accused.

There was no hint of pedophilia in the community before October 2010. But the Haredi community in Nahlaot now believes that the highly organized ring has been operating secretly for years—possibly generations—and is governed by an elaborate hierarchy. According to community members with whom I’ve spoken over the past year, they believe that a small number of masterminds, including the 70-year-old Vorst, a convert to Judaism who directs Ohel Sarah Imenu, an organization that facilitates Haredi conversions, used formerly abused teenagers and mentally handicapped locals as scouts for the victims. Community members believe that these scouts watched the children and parents from outdoor locations that offered prime vantage points—under the guise of tending gardens, doing calisthenics, or panhandling—and memorized their schedules, recording when the children would be unsupervised. The pedophiles noted the schedules of various homeowners, residents of Nahlaot claim, and they allegedly snuck into dozens of apartments and sheds in the neighborhood in order to abuse the children, who have pointed out these locations to their parents. Many are convinced that there are Christian missionary motivations at play here and that false converts have infiltrated their community. A number of locals told me they believe that the videos and media produced by the pedophile ring are being sold for tens of thousands of dollars or more.[...[]

In the wake of these allegations, the neighborhood underwent an immediately noticeable change of spirit. No one could be trusted. Parents were daily being informed by their children and friends that neighbors they’d known for years, invited over for Shabbat meals, or given charity to, were actually perverted sadistic pedophiles who had been terrorizing their children in ways no one could imagine. At this point, seemingly no family has gone unaffected: In certain sections of the neighborhood, 100 percent of families have children, and often more than one, who have been reportedly abused. I have heard reports of a family with 10 children, all claiming abuse. [...]

“One of the real tragedies of these cases is that once contamination takes place, you can’t undo it,” said Lanning. And it is clear that the case in Nahlaot has been contaminated—in other words, the facts can no longer be reliably determined—whether by the parents, whom police say are at fault for asking their children leading questions, or the police, whom the community says provided no guidance and were generally incompetent. “I believe that in most of these cases, maybe not all of them, there are seeds of truth, something happened here,” says Lanning. “And then through a complicated process, however sadly and unfortunately, the whole thing got exaggerated and embellished, and the sad result may be that someone who did bad things to children may now get away with it.” [....]a

Sexual Misconduct of Rabbi/Therapist by Dr. Klafter

Guest Post by Dr. Nachum Klafter:
[see related Dr. Klafter's critique of Rav Zilberstein's proposal for same gender therapist-client
Nachum Klafter, M.D., is Director of Psychotherapy Training at the University of Cincinnati Psychiatry Residency Training Program.  Dr. Klafter received his M.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  He completed his specialty training in psychiatry at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, where he also served as Chief Resident.  Dr. Klafter maintains a private practice in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.  He is the Vice President of the Cincinnati Hebrew Day School Board.  He is an active member of the Nefesh International network of Orthodox Jewish Mental Health Professionals.  Dr. Klafter’s interest in child advocacy stems from his experiences as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst, through which he has learned in intimate detail the tragic, long-term impact of child sexual abuse on its victims.  He resides in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and four daughters- He also contributed a chapter to my sefer Child and Domestic Abuse Volume I
Sexual Misconduct and the Question of Rehabilitation [v3]

Hebrew U offers preparatory program for Chareidim

Jpost   The Hebrew University launched a special pre-academic preparatory program this week aimed at members of the haredi community wishing to enroll in institutions of higher education.

A project of the university’s Magid Institute for Continuing Education, the initiative was created in response to the national challenge issued by the Council for Higher Education in Israel to increase ultra-Orthodox society’s access to higher education.

Twenty haredi men began their studies on Wednesday in a newly renovated building near the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, and a contingent of women are expected to join the program later this year. [...]

In a recent study, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies found that the failure of haredi schools to teach core curriculum subjects was one of the main factors in low male haredi employment.

According to the Bank of Israel, the rate of employment for haredi men in 2011 was 45.6 percent, as compared to a national average of 77.7%.

Weberman trial - video

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Weberman trial - Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal Weberman is accused of sexually abusing the girl dozens of times in his home and office over a three-year span beginning when she was 12 years old. The girl, who turns 18 next week, is not being identified because she is the victim of a sexual-abuse crime.

The teen testified she was taken to see Weberman after school leaders deemed her a problem after she questioned her religion.

“I had a lot of questions about religion. … How do you know God exists?” she said, adding that in response her teacher “yelled at me and sent me to the principal. It happened to me a lot of times.”

She started seeing Weberman in March 2007, first twice a week and sometimes up to four times a week.

Speaking in almost inaudible tones and at times struggling to hold back tears, she described the alleged abuse in detail for more than three hours.

“I just froze,” she said about their first encounter. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know how to fight back. I was numb.”

“He would continue touching me all the time,” she said, adding later, “I wanted to die rather than live with myself.”

Weberman trial - first day of testimony

NYTimes   This time, people said that they came because they had read on victims’ advocacy blogs that the victim needed support or heard about her case through publicity surrounding a fund-raiser for Mr. Weberman in May. 

Though the young woman’s parents had asked her to drop the case as recently as this spring, the victim testified, about 20 members of her family came to show their support in court. 

“The anger has reached a level where people have decided to put an end to making the victim into the villain,” said Judy Genut, an advocate for abuse victims in Williamsburg. 

The testimony of the young woman, who turns 18 next week, lasted for hours. 

She recalled in detail her first meeting with Mr. Weberman, now 54, at an apartment he used as an office. Her father, she testified, had brought her there for counseling at age 12 because he falsely believed she was having a physical relationship with a 16-year-old neighbor named Shimmy.[...]

She said nothing to her father when he came to pick her up, she testified under cross-examination. Nor did she tell her family she wanted to stop going to sessions, though she said the abuse went on for years, in four-hour sessions that sometimes were held several times a week. In 2011, she reported being abused to a licensed therapist, who brought her to the police. 

Psychotherapy: Branding or product problem?

Time Magazine    In a recent Sunday’s  NY Times article a psychotherapist with a freshly hung shingle describes the challenges of earning clients in a market crowded with professionals willing to listen, but with a dwindling number of patients. Her solution? Turning to a “branding consultant” who advises her, among other things, to sell herself as a specialist treating a particular type of patient and to start doing “life coaching” instead. But the trend toward “branding” may be diverting attention away from deeper problems with psychotherapy that are dissuading people from trying it and discouraging insurers from paying for sessions.

In the article, therapist Lori Gottlieb writes:
    What nobody taught me in grad school was that psychotherapy, a practice that had sustained itself for more than a century, is losing its customers. If this came as a shock to me, the American Psychological Association tried to send out warnings in a 2010 paper titled, “Where Has all the Psychotherapy Gone?”

    According to the author, 30 percent fewer patients received psychological interventions in 2008 than they did 11 years earlier; since the 1990s, managed care has increasingly limited visits and reimbursements for talk therapy but not for drug treatment…Three months into private practice, I had exactly four regular weekly clients.

Her branding consultant tells her “Nobody wants to buy therapy anymore. They want to buy a solution to a problem.” [...]

[However] If therapists like Gottlieb want to attract patients, they need to consider that sometimes the problem isn’t the branding, but the product itself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jacob Ostreicher case: High Bolivian official arrested

Boston Globe   LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A high-ranking Bolivian official was arrested Monday for alleged illegal enrichment from the sale of rice seized from a U.S. businessman who has been jailed for 18 months without charge.

The American, Jacob Ostreicher, was arrested in a money-laundering investigation but no evidence has been presented in court to support the case against him. He claims his incarceration has allowed corrupt officials to fleece him, seizing 18,000 metric tons of rice from his farming venture and selling most of it.

The man arrested Monday and accused of receiving $9,900 in proceeds in a personal bank account from the sale of some of Ostreicher’s rice is Jose Manuel Antezana, an official in the Presidential Ministry who was named to the board of directors of the state-run Cartonbol cardboard company in 2010.

Prosecutor Javier Monasterios told reporters that authorities were investigating others in the case.

Ostreicher told The Associated Press that prosecutors told him there would be more arrests and that 11 people ‘‘who work for the government are under suspicion’’ for allegedly abuses of authority in his case.

Weberman abuse trial starts in Brooklyn

NYTimes   The abuse began when the girl was 12 years old, prosecutors in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn said on Monday. She was sent to a prominent man in her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community for counseling, and prosecutors said the man sexually molested her over the next three years.

But lawyers defending the man, Nechemya Weberman, 54, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, told a far different story during the opening arguments of his trial. The girl, a defense lawyer told the jury, had hatched the sordid tale of abuse as an act of revenge against Mr. Weberman and against a religious community she found stifling and rulebound. 

As proceedings began during the trial of Mr. Weberman, who is accused of 88 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, it became clear that the community itself, as well as Mr. Weberman, would undergo scrutiny during what is expected to be an emotional week of sexually explicit and culturally intricate testimony.

Both the prosecution and the defense informed the jury that the Satmar Hasidic community, to which Mr. Weberman and the girl belonged, was so rigid that questions from a young girl about something as simple as the proper length of a skirt could lead to mandatory counseling, and even expulsion from school. The accuser in this case, both sides said, was just that kind of girl: a free spirit whose questioning and challenges to authority landed her in trouble. [...]

רבי חיים במכתב: להוציא קובץ של הרב גרוס מהבית

kikarhashabat   מרן שר התורה הגאון רבי חיים קניבסקי יוצא הבוקר במכתב חריף נגד קובץ תשובות הלכתי של גאב"ד 'חניכי הישיבות' הרב מרדכי גרוס, וקורא להוציאו מהבית בשל דברים שנדפסו בו של חילול שבת. בתגובה, הורה הרב גרוס לאנשיו לבטל את המנוי ל'יתד נאמן' (חרדים

ויכוח הלכתי סוער או קרע פוליטי חריף? נראה שבציבור הליטאי, בצורה זו או אחרת הכל בסופו של דבר קשור זה בזה.
בעיתון 'יתד נאמן' מופיע הבוקר (רביעי) מכתב חריף ממרן שר התורה הגאון רבי חיים קניבסקי שליט"א נגד קובץ תשובות הלכתי של גאב"ד 'חניכי הישיבות' הרב מרדכי גרוס.

update November 27 2012
דברי הרב דרזי

The following is the article that is being criticized- downloading & printer options turned off

Electricity Watermeters & Air Conditioners

Rav Lazerson's kuntres explaining Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's views

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rav Wolbe:Near death experiences and Judaism

This is an excerpt taken from Rav Shlomo Wolbe "Psychiatry and Religion" pages 83-84 Relevant to neurosurgeon's near death experience
פסיכיאטרית ודת - הרב שלמת וולבח
בטיפול בגוססים

הפסיכיאטרית א. קיבלר·רוס ( E. Kubler-Ross ) הביאה על-ידי ספרי' להתעוררת לעזרו לפציינטים הנוטים למות. עוד זאת: ורב בני אדם מתים היום בבית החולים ולא בחיק משפחתם. עובדה זאת מעמידה אח האחים והאחיות של ביה"ח בפני הבעי', כיצד מטפלים בנוטה למות? הרי שאלה: כיצד מכינים אדם למות?

מהו האספקט החדש של השאלה? בני אדם ש"מתו" מוות קליני והוחזרו אל החיים, מספרים כולם על חוויות עילאיות דווקא בזמן שהיו "מתים". הם מספרים, שה"אני" שלהם חי' רוחף מעל גופה שלהם, מבלי להדגיש כל כאב, ההכרה מתרחבת מאד ומרגישה נעימות עצומה. כאשר הנסיון להחיותם מצליח וה"אני" מוחזר לתוך הגוף, אין זו הרגשה נעימה כלל, ורק בעל-כרחו חוא חוזר לחיים - ולכאבים המתחילים אז. פרופסור לנוירולוגי' שהיתה לו חוי' זו, כחב עלי' ספר 66 , דוחו"ת רבים על חויות אלה נאספו ונותחו 67 , אין ספק במהימנות הדוחו"ת והספורים בענין זה.

‏דברים אלה הביאו למבט חדש על הגוסס המוטל במיטה, כנראה בלי הכרה, פניו מעוותות מכאבים והתכווצויות, הנשימה - נשימת גוססים. והנה כל הדוחו"ת והסיפורים הנ"ל נותנים לכו להבין, כי דווקא כעת מגיע הגוסס הזה לחוויות העדינות ביותר בחייו, חרף הרושם העגום של גופו ההולך ומתבטל! זה מטיל חיוב על המטפלים בגוסס, להקדיש לו מקסימום של זהירות, וגם הוא נותן מקום לחולה עצמו להתכונן לקראת מןתו: הרי הוא הולך לקראת הרגעים שיהיו אולי הנעלים ביותר בחייו: לא התבטלות וכאב, אלא התעלות היא המיתה! 

‏הדברים תואמים את מה שהורונו חכמי ישראל. ישנו פרק בתהילים המתאר יממה בקוסמוס. פרק זה מתחיל: "ברכי נפשי אח ה'! ה' אלקי, גדלת מאד, הוד והדך לבשת!" 68 וחז"ל אומרים 6P כי דוד המלך חיבר פרק זה כאשר "הסתכל ביום המיתה". הבינו חז"ל, כי למבט גרנדיוזי כזה על בורא ובריאה יכול אדם להגיע רק "ביום המיתה". רק כשהוא עומד על סף יציאתו מן העולם מתגלה לאדם גדלותו האמיתיח של הקב"ה, ורק אז הוא מגיע למבט מקיף על הקוסמוס. ובתוך פרק זה עצמו נאמר גם דבר נפלא על המיתה: "תסתיר פניך - יבהלון, תוסף רוחם - יגועון ואל עפרם ישובון 69 , חכמי ישראל פירשו אח זה, כי סמוך למיתתו מקבל האדם תוספת עצומה ברוחו, והוא רואה מה שלא הורשה לראות בחייו, ומתוך עצמת הראי' נפרדת נפשו מתוך גופו.

‏מסתמא לא כולם זוכים לכן. ההלכה קובעת: "וגוסס הרי הוא כחי לכל דבר" o ד. הגסיסה היא המשך החיים. אדם קטנוני בשאר קטנוני עד הרגע האחרון שהוא בהכרה. אבל כשההכרה עוזבת אותו - מי יודע מה צפוי לו אז! נוראי יש לטפל בו בזהירות רבה, כפי שההלכה קובעת ‏(אסור לנגוע בו!).

Neurosurgeon's near-death revelation is a best-seller

NYTimes   For years Dr. Eben Alexander III had dismissed near-death revelations of God and heaven as explainable by the hard wiring of the human brain. He was, after all, a neurosurgeon with sophisticated medical training. 

But then in 2008 Dr. Alexander contracted bacterial meningitis. The deadly infection soaked his brain and sent him into a deep coma

During that week, as life slipped away, he now says, he was living intensely in his mind. He was reborn into a primitive mucky Jell-o-like substance and then guided by “a beautiful girl with high cheekbones and deep blue eyes” on the wings of a butterfly to an “immense void” that is both “pitch black” and “brimming with light” coming from an “orb” that interprets for an all-loving God.

Dr. Alexander, 58, was so changed by the experience that he felt compelled to write a book, “Proof of Heaven,” that recounts his experience. He knew full well that he was gambling his professional reputation by writing it, but his hope is that his expertise will be enough to persuade skeptics, particularly medical skeptics, as he used to be, to open their minds to an afterworld. 

See Rav Wolbe's discussion of near death experience

Chinese diplomat saved thousands during WWII

YNet   The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has posthumously honored Dr. Feng Shan Ho, a Chinese diplomat who issued thousands of visas to Jewish refugees during World War II.

The ADL Jan Karski Courage to Care Award, established in 1987 to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era, was presented posthumously to Dr. Ho on November 15 at the League’s Annual Meeting in Chicago where more than 500 leaders gathered.

The award was accepted by his daughter, Manli Ho, who conducted research and documentation for 15 years on her father’s story.

“Ho was among the first of a small number of diplomatic rescuers who took extraordinary measures and personal risk to do the right thing,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. “During one of the darkest times in world history, this man stood up against a powerful evil, jeopardizing his own career, without recognition or compensation.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why have a defective child? - problem of genetic tests

Times of Israel   Expectant mothers have long faced the choice of learning their babies’ gender while they’re still in the womb.

But what if parents could get a list of all the genes and chromosomes of their unborn children, forecasting everything from possible autism and future genetic diseases to intelligence level and eye color?

The technology to do just that — prenatal whole genome sequencing, which can detect all 20,000 to 25,000 genes in the genome from fetal blood present in the mother’s bloodstream — is already in laboratories. While not yet available in clinical settings because of the cost, once the price falls below $1,000, it is likely to become common, according to a report by the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research institute. [...]

“Our real concern will be massive increases in the number of abortions,” said Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor of bioethics at Yeshiva University. “You have a young couple, 22, 23, 24 years old, and they don’t plan to have more than two or three children. Why take a defective child? I call it the perfect baby syndrome. The perfect baby does not exist.” [...]

The difference between prenatal sequencing and current genetic testing is the amount of information and its usefulness. Current tests look for specific genetic disorders. Prenatal sequencing is a fishing expedition, looking at everything.

Iran sending more rockets to Gaza

Haaretz   Israeli spy satellites have spotted an Iranian ship being loaded with missiles that analysts say may be headed for Gaza, The Sunday Times reported.

According to the report, the cargo may include Fajr-5 rockets, like those that were fired by Hamas toward Israel and the stockpiles of which the Israel Defense Forces depleted during the recent round of fighting across the Gaza border, in addition to Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, which could be stationed in Sudan to pose a direct threat to Israel.  [....]

“Regardless of the cease-fire agreement, we will attack and destroy any shipment of arms to Gaza once we have spotted it,” an Israeli defense source told the Times.

On Saturday, Reuters reported that senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said Hamas would continue to arm itself with the help of Iran, though the truce signed in Cairo calls for a cessation of rocket fire at Israel, which Israel gave as its reason for launching its attacks in mid-November.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hamas & Egypt have little victory to celebrate

Telegraph    Yet perhaps, behind the public face, and certainly as Hamas leaders sheltered from Israeli smart missiles in their bunkers, the reality of Hamas's victory was less clear cut. Once again, Israeli F16 fighter aircraft, naval vessels, tanks and Apache helicopters have rained destruction on Gaza, much of it carefully targeted, creating hundreds of craters and reducing homes and government buildings to rubble. 

In more than 1,500 strikes, the Israeli military says it successfully targeted 30 factional leaders, 19 Hamas command centres and countless ministries. The network of smuggling tunnels to Egypt, which not only delivered arms to the Hamas government but also brought substantial revenue through a cash levy on everything transported, has been badly damaged. 

That certainly is the view in Jerusalem. Dan Meridor, Israel's urbane intelligence minister, was particularly scathing about the claims of both Hamas and the more radical Islamic Jihad to have brought fear to the heart of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with missiles which struck their suburbs. 

"What happened in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?" he said. " Nothing. They said the Gates of Hell would open. Well if that is Hell, it isn't such a bad place." 

More significantly, perhaps, is the secondary strategic result Israel has achieved. For with Hamas's new-found respectability also comes a responsibility - if not for Hamas, then at least for Egypt. 

Since last year's revolution, and the loss of its ally Hosni Mubarak, Israel has feared for its vital diplomatic partnership with its huge neighbour. The rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and its new president, Mohammed Morsi, a man who refuses to mention Israel by name, is what really sends shudders through the minds of Israeli politicians, not Hamas's inaccurate, Iranian-made missiles. 

For now, Mr Morsi faces troubles of his own - his attempts to cut through the morass that is Egypt's new constitutional settlement ended in riots across the country on Friday. 

Perhaps that is why Israel has faced him with his new test now. The praise heaped on Mr Morsi for his brokering of the peace deal obscures the fact he has now taken on a task Mr Mubarak never attempted and Egypt has long sought to avoid - becoming a guarantor of Israel's security by preventing remilitarisation of Gaza. 

Israel's demand, in return for an easing of its long blockade on Gaza, is that Egypt stop further rocket smuggling into Gaza through the Sinai. 

Much now depends on the lifting of the blockade, particularly among a Gazan civilian population already growing restive at Hamas's authoritarian rule.

Technology facilitates joint custody after divorce

NYTimes   MOST divorced couples would probably prefer not to see each other. Ever again. But when you share custody of your children, you have to assume a certain amount of face-to-face time amid the endless back-and-forthing. [...]

Let’s just say that no matter how well ex-spouses and still-parents coordinate, there’s a good chance of teary phone calls, angry exchanges during drop-off, and all-out fights about who’s not saving enough for college, often played out smack in front of the children.

Unless, of course, it’s all done remotely. These days, the cool aloofness of technology is helping temper sticky emotional exchanges between former spouses. And for the most part, according to divorce lawyers and joint-custody bearers, handling the details via high tech is a serious upgrade. [...]

E-mail and texting alone have practically revolutionized postdivorce family relationships. “E-mail absolutely takes away the in-your-face aggravation and emotional side of joint custody,” said Lubov Stark, a divorce lawyer on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “You just write, ‘I want to pick up Kimmy at 5, but I’m running late and will be there at 6.’ It’s the best thing ever.” [...]

Such arrangements are increasingly necessary. Unlike the “Kramer vs. Kramer” 1970s, when mothers won primary custody almost by default, today’s postdivorce “bi-nuclear family” setups are more egalitarian. Almost all states now offer some kind of joint custody. Joint legal custody, in which parents share or split decision-making, is almost the norm. And while laws vary widely by state, joint physical custody, where children divide their time between their father’s and mother’s homes, is increasingly common.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Israeli Arab arrested as alleged bus bomber

YNet   A man suspected of carrying out the bombing attack on a bus in central Tel Aviv Wednesday was apprehended by Israeli security forces within hours of the attack.The suspected terrorist was apprehended in a joint operation conducted by the Shin Bet, Israel Police and the IDF. Twenty-nine people were injured in the attack.

The Shin Bet said Thursday that the terrorist, an Israeli citizen who previously lived in the West Bank and was allowed to settle in Tayibe under the family reunification law, was recruited by a terror cell from the village of Beit Liqya, near Ramallah.

According to the Shin Bet, the suspect planted the bomb on the bus and then called the terror cell's commander in Beit Liqya, who then activated the device via mobile phone. More arrests are expected.

 During their interrogation the terror cell members, who are affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, admitted to preparing the explosive device and selecting Tel Aviv as the target. They purchased cell phones that were later used to detonate the device by remote control. A gag order has been issued over the suspects' identities.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Israel dominates the new Middle East

Washington Post   by Fareed Zakaria    In a thorough 2010 study, “The Arab-Israeli Military Balance,” Anthony Cordesman and Aram Nerguizian document how over the past decade Israel has outstripped its neighbors in every dimension of warfare. The authors attribute this to Israel’s “combination of national expenditures, massive external funding, national industrial capacity and effective strategy and force planning.” Israel’s military expenditures in 2009 were about $10 billion, which is three times Egypt’s military spending and larger than the combined defense expenditures of all its neighbors — Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. (This advantage is helped by the fact that Israel receives $3 billion in military assistance from Washington.)

But money doesn’t begin to describe Israel’s real advantages, which are in the quality and effectiveness of its military, in terms of both weapons and people. Despite being dwarfed by the Arab population, Israel’s army plus its high-quality reservists vastly outnumber those of the Arab nations. Its weapons are far more sophisticated, often a generation ahead of those used by its adversaries. Israel’s technology advantage has profound implications on the modern battlefield. [...]

These are the realities of the Middle East today. Israel’s astonishing economic growth, its technological prowess, its military preparedness and its tight relationship with the United States have set it a league apart from its Arab adversaries. Peace between the Palestinians and Israelis will come only when Israel decides that it wants to make peace. Wise Israeli politicians, from Ariel Sharon to Ehud Olmert to Ehud Barak, have wanted to take risks to make that peace because they have worried about Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. This is what is in danger, not Israel’s existence.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Terror attack: Tel Aviv bus blown up - 16 wounded

Times of Israel   A bus in central Tel Aviv was blown up in a terror attack at around noon on Wednesday — the first bombing attack in the city since April 2006. At least 16 people were injured in the bombing, three of them in serious condition.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the blast, according to reports from Gaza, and celebratory gunfire was heard in the Strip as the bombing was reported on the radio.

‘Safe rooms’ save lives in two direct rocket strikes

Times of Israel   If, as rumors had it, Israel and Hamas were close to a ceasefire deal on Tuesday evening, it was not apparent to the residents of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Rishon Lezion. All three towns were pounded by rocket fire from Gaza and all sustained direct hits — an unhappy first for Rishon, and a sadly familiar blight for Ashdod and Ashkelon. Beersheba, the rocket-battered capital of the Negev, for its part, sustained 30 rockets in two hours earlier in the day — including a direct hit on a home — with no serious injuries.

Stas Misezhnikov, Israel’s tourism minister, stood outside a devastated apartment building in Rishon, his home town, and spoke of “an absolute miracle that no one was killed here.” The owner and his wife were in the apartment on the sixth and top floor when it was hit — taking refuge, as the Home Front Command requires, in the “safe room” that is legally required in modern apartment buildings. The rocket smashed directly into the apartment, “exactly where they were sitting,” said Misezhnikov, “and yet they came out alive.”

Home owner Amir emerged a little later, indeed, to say, with remarkable stoicism, “we followed the instructions. We heard the huge explosion. We knew the house had been hit. We came out; really, everything was destroyed. I calmed my wife, and we walked downstairs.”

The rocket — said to be carrying 90 kilograms of explosives — penetrated through three floors of the building, causing immense damage, but no serious injuries, because all the residents were in their safe rooms.

Central Park Rape: Damage of false convictions

NYTimes    Exiled from New York, his hometown, Mr. McCray was last seen in public two decades ago as a skinny 16-year-old, practically drowning in a suit that he wore to the Manhattan courthouse where he was tried on charges that he was part of a mob that raped a jogger in Central Park and beat her nearly to death in April 1989. In the television news footage, he often held his mother’s hand as he walked past screaming demonstrators. 

With four other Harlem boys, all of whom refused plea bargains, he was convicted of attacking the jogger and sent to prison. More than a decade later, the convictions of all five were overturned. Another man — a serial rapist and killer who was unknown to any of the five — had convincingly implicated himself as the sole attacker of the jogger. DNA evidence backed his story.[....]

The film lays out the intricacies of the case, the sights and sounds of a brittle era; it will be full of revelations for those who never knew about the crime and how its life-bending effects were multiplied as the wrong people were prosecuted while the right man continued to maim, murder and rape on the Upper East Side.

Prominent London rabbi resigns in sex scandal

Times of Israel   A leading British rabbi accused of sexual misconduct stepped down from most of his public positions Monday night, following extensive attempts to oust him, The Times of Israel has learned.

Rabbi Chaim Halpern, who is considered one of London’s most senior Haredi leaders, has left Kedassia, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, where he was a religious judge. He is still the head of his Golders Green synagogue, Beis Hamedrash Divrei Chaim, in the heart of Jewish London, but will no longer act as the rabbinic adviser to Beis Yaacov Primary School, the Hatzolah emergency medical service or Chana, an infertility charity.

Accusations that he had engaged in “inappropriate” contact with at least one woman surfaced during the high holidays, in October, when a local rabbi confronted him and tried to drive him from the neighborhood. Since then, sources say that about 30 women, most of whom had gone to Halpern for counseling, have also made allegations, and several have apparently given statements to a solicitor at Teacher Stern, a top London legal firm. The London Metropolitan Police are still assessing whether the claims warrant a criminal investigation.[...]
See also the Jewish Chronicle

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Iron Dome - how it works

Reuters - additional information

Babysitter gets 80 years for deadly day care fire

USA Today A Texas woman was sentenced to 80 years Tuesday for her felony murder conviction in the death of one of four children killed in a fire at her home day care in Houston.

Jessica Tata, 24, was convicted last week in connection with the death of 16-month-old Elias Castillo. Authorities say Elias was one of seven children whom Tata left unsupervised at her home while she went to a nearby Target store. Prosecutors say she left a pan of oil cooking atop a stovetop burner and that this ignited the February 2011 blaze. Three other children were seriously injured.

Along with the prison sentence, Tata was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Sirens sound again in Jerusalem today

 Today the sirens in Jerusalem sounded at 2 p.m. - just after I got off the light train in front of city hall. There was no panic - much like a sudden rain storm - with everyone crowding into nearby store fronts. On the one hand the Palestinians are destroying their own existence in order to irritate the Jews but at the same time the Jews are over reacting. I head yesterday that there are Seminary Girls who are going back to America because they had to go to a bomb shelter on Shabbos. There are yeshiva guys who have left - because they don't want to be in a "war zone." I remember back a decade ago when we had the Gulf War and frumma Yidden were crowding Ben Gurion airport to get out from the rain of missiles. The gedolim said, "the chareidim have always claimed that they don't need to serve in the army because their learning is a greater shield against rockets. But now when things get dangerous our brothers and sisters are deserting us." There were roshei yeshiva who were so furious at this betrayal - that they said whoever leaves during war time should never come back

Arutz 7   A rocket exploded in an open area near an Arab village in Gush Etzion around 2:15 p.m. as sirens wailed in Jerusalem during another barrage of rockets and missiles unleashed by Hamas.

The missile exploded in an open area, and no one was injured.

At least one missile was aimed at Jerusalem last week and reportedly exploded in an open area next to an Arab village in Gush Etzion, located south of the capital.

Jesse Friedman- was he wrongly convicted of abuse?

CBS    [See also Jewish Week]     Capturing the Friedmans A Long Island man who pleaded guilty to abusing youngsters 25 years ago says he was wrongly convicted and is now hoping for exoneration by the Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

Rice reopened the case in August 2010, but the man whose fate hangs in the balance, Jesse Friedman, explained exclusively to CBS 2′s Carolyn Gusoff on Wednesday why he knows he’s innocent.

“I’ve been waiting 25 years for an opportunity to prove my innocence,” Friedman said. [...]

Friedman served 13 years and is free now, but wants his name cleared. The Oscar-nominated documentary “Capturing the Friedmans” uncovered suggestive tactics used by police to elicit the flood of charges from children — tactics the court called flawed.

Now, Friedman’s legal team has set up a hotline, seeking new ledes in the old case. The hotline number is  516-660-4385 .

“The methods used for Jesse’s conviction and Jesse’s arrest was wrong and this is an opportunity to make it right,” private investigator Jay Salpeter said.

Friedman isn’t the only one now awaiting the DA’s decision. Some of the victims, now adults, stand by their claims that Jesse molested them.

Sal Marinello represented four of them.

“They were sexually abused during periods of time and they also indicated the son was involved,” Marinello said.

$123M settlement in Del. child abuse case

St Louis Post-Dispatch  A judge has approved a $123 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of young children who were sexually abused by former Delaware pediatrician Earl Bradley.

New Castle County Superior Court Judge Joseph Slights III issued his ruling Monday after holding a hearing last week.

The settlement resolves claims against a southern Delaware hospital where Bradley had physician privileges, the Medical Society of Delaware, and five physicians accused by the plaintiffs of not reporting suspicions about Bradley to authorities.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Maharal: Wife easily hurt if not treated as equal

Maharal (Bava Metzia 59a): Rav said that a person should always be carefully not to oppress his wife because she is sensitive and readily cries so it is easy to make her feel oppressed. Thus we see that it is only his wife that he needs to be exceedingly careful not to hurt her feelings since she is ruled by him and therefore is much more likely to cry than other people who are not so easily oppressed. In other words because his wife is under his control she is more likely to be hurt by his words and cry when he wrongs her. In contrast a non‑Jewish slave is by nature not so affected by oppression and even a female Jewish slave does not readily cry because she has accepted the servitude to her master. Furthermore a female slave was not created for the purpose of being under his domain. It is only the wife who was created to be under the rule of her husband and as it says (Bereishis 3:16), And he shall rule over you. Therefore when she is oppressed it has a very strong impact on her. Furthermore in truth a wife does not accept being ruled by her husband because she views herself as his equal. In contrast a slave fully accepts that his master rules over him and therefore is not impacted as much as a wife who views herself as important and therefore is devastated when she is not treated with care.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l – the Early Years

5towns jewish times part 1   By Rabbi Yair Hoffman part 2    part 3

Every so often, individuals emerge in Jewish history who, by dint of their personality and intellect, are able to literally change the topography of Jewish life.

One such person was Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l – the founder of Beth Medrash

Interestingly enough, although the name of Rav Aharon Kotler is well known in Torah circles, very little biographical information of his earlier life in Europe is actually available. This is especially true for the English reading public. In honor of the fiftieth yartzeit of Rav Kotler, the Five Towns Jewish Times is presenting much new biographical material in this mini-biography in a three part series. The information was culled from a wide range of sources including new documents available now.

Rav Aharon was born in the town of Sislevich or Svisloch in Belarus on the 2nd of Shvat in 5652 (Sunday January 31, 1892 although in the Julian calendar used in Russia at the time it would have been Sunday, January 19, 1892). There are actually two towns with the name Svisloch, one lies 154 miles west of Minsk, the other lies 66 miles east of Minsk.

Rav Aharon was the fourth child of the famed Pinnes family, having two older brothers who passed away at young ages, and an older sister Malkah. His father, Rav Shneur Zalman Pinnes, was one of two of the Rabbonim of this community, which was in the Grodno section of Czarist Russia, not far from Minsk. The other Rav was Rav Mordechai Shatz the son of Rabbi Meir Yonah who had published a copy of the Baal HaIttur.

His father’s family had spent time in the town of Ilya, also in Belarus It was a town that produced a prodigious amount of Torah scholars. Rav Yitzchok Pinnes, Rav Aharon’s paternal uncle, became the Av Beis Din in Minsk.< They were both the children of Rav Moshe Pinnes. Rav Moshe Pinnes’ ancestor was Rav Yitzchok Pinnes who was the Av Beis Din of Minsk from 1819 until 1836.

Svisloch was originally, a moderately sized small town in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s with a population of between 200 and 300 people during these times.  The Jews of the town made their money primarily through trade of timber, grains and some real estate.  The town had fairs as well.  In 1830, a Great Fire destroyed most of the businesses, and the Jewish community had great difficulty recovering financially, as the fairs were no longer held. In 1850 there were about 970 Jewish residents in Svisloch. After four decades of economic stagnation, the Jews of Svisloch decided to specialize in the tanning industry. They invited German craftsmen, experts in the field, to assist them in setting up a tannery. It was very successful. Soon Svisloch had eight large tanneries and a number of smaller shops. The Jewish population more than doubled, and the Jews constituted two thirds of the residents of this town.

Jews came from the surrounding towns to work in Svisloch as well.  Conditions in the tanneries were not ideal for the workers There were tanners, tailors, shoemakers, carpenters. Many of the Jewish workers were not paid well and the Bund movement soon developed in Svisloch.

Sometime in 1895, Rav Aharon’s mother passed away. Rav Aharon was just three years old. As a young child many in his town sought to involve him in the new paths that were emerging in the society around them, and these individuals were not such a good influence on the young man, who was soon developing a reputation as being a remarkable prodigy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

China's biggest problem? Too many men

CNN   Throughout history, a surplus of young men often heralded violence. The American frontier earned its "Wild West" reputation for lawlessness because its towns overflowed with men, yet marriageable women were vanishingly rare. In The Chivalrous Society, historian Georges Duby argued that European expansionism, from the Crusades to colonialism, was fueled by a surplus of ambitious and aggressive young men with otherwise poor reproductive prospects.

China is already feeling the effects of so many bare branches. The economist Lena Edlund estimates that every one percent increase in the sex ratio results in a six percent increase in the rates of violent and property crime. In addition, the parts of China with the most male-biased sex ratios are experiencing a variety of other maladies, all tied to the presence of too many young men. Gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, kidnapping and trafficking of women are rising steeply in China.

The bare branch problem will be compounded as income inequality rises. China's Gini coefficient of income inequality has risen from less than 0.3, 25 years ago, to almost 0.5 today. On the Gini scale, 0 represents perfect equality while a score of 1 represents complete inequality.

It would be difficult to overstate the urgent need for China to emulate South Korea in eliminating sex-biased abortion and neglect.

But just as urgently, China needs creative large-scale solutions to the problems that unprecedented cohorts of bare branches will cause as they come of age over the next two decades. Those millions of disaffected young men will not only present a danger to themselves, but those living alongside them. And, as Hudson and den Boer have been arguing for some time, the bare branches will also make perfect fodder for political agitation, fundamentalism and possibly terrorism.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is man born in sin? Tehilim 51:7

Tehilim(51:7):. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

Rashi (Tehilim 51:7): Behold I was formed in transgression – So how could I not sin. The basis of my being formed was my parents sexual intercouse and through intercourse it is possible to be involved in a number of trangression. And alternative explanation, my principle formation was from male and female – both of them are full of sins. However there are other interprative readings to this verse and they do not conform to the subect matter of the verse.

Vayikra Rabbah (14:5): Another understanding of Vayikra (12:2), If a woman conceives and bears a male child...  Dovid alluded to this understanding in Tehilim (51:7), Behold I was formed in sin and in sin my mother conceived me. Rav Acha explained, Even if a person is the most pious of the pious – it is impossible that he doesn’t have an aspect of sin in him. Dovid said to G‑d, “Master of the Universe, did my father Yishai have the intention to bring me into the world – when he had intercourse with my mother. The fact is that he was only thinking about his own sexual enjoyment.The proof for my assertion is that after they both had satisfied their desires he turned his face in one direction and she turned her face in the opposite direction. And it was only You who caused every single drop of semen to enter.” This assertion is alluded to by Dovid in (Tehilim 27:10), For though my father and my mother deserted me, G‑d did gather me in.

Ibn Ezra (Tehilim 51:7): Behold – because of the lust which are planted in the heart of man  it is equivalent to “being formed in sin.” The reason is that at the moment of birth, the evil inclination (yetzer harah) is planted in the heart...

Redak(Tehilim 51:7): Behold in sin I was formed. The Ibn Ezra says it is because of the lust which is planted in man’s heart that is is equivalent to “being formed in sin.” The reason is that at the moment of birth the evil inclination is planted in the heart. However others say that this an allusion to Eve who did not give birth until after she had sinned. 

Alshich (Tehilim 51:7): Behold in sin I was formed – From the time it decreed that I should be born by means of the sin of Lot’s daughter who had an incestual relation with her father which is disgusting and terrible sin – but that is how I was formed. As it says in Bereishis Rabbah (50:16), “I found Dovid My servant” where was he found? In Sedom.  And in sin my mother conceived me  - that is referring to Ruth who is referred to as mother as it says in Bava Basra (91b)... she was the mother of the Davidic monarchy.  From the time when she got the idea of lying at the feet of Boaz which was the sin of chilul Hashem as we see in Ruth Rabbah (6:1) that Boaz prayed that no one would know that she came to the threshing floor. And You G‑d did not consider it bad since You knew the motivation was good....