Thursday, January 31, 2013

R' Yoel Malik arrested for sexual abuse of yeshiva students

Wall Street Journal    A rabbi at a religious school in New York's ultra-orthodox Jewish community has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing students, a law enforcement official says.

The arrest of Yoel Malik, 33, of Brooklyn comes amid mounting pressure to report allegations of abuse within the insular, secretive community, the largest outside Israel, and barely a week after a respected religious counselor in the same sect was sentenced to 103 years in prison for sexually abusing a girl.

Both cases come from within the Satmar Hasidic sect, the official said.

Malik was taken into custody Wednesday after reports he may have brought two students to motels for sexual liaisons, said the official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the case and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A third encounter was reported in a car. The official said the victims were all teenage boys, ages 14 to 16, and the encounters took place between March of last year and last week. [...]

Yeshiva teacher - Evan Zauder pleads guilty to sex abuse

NY Daily News   A former New Jersey teacher faces 27 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to possessing child pornography and having sex with a minor.

Evan Zauder, 27, has been held without bail since his arrest in May.

He was charged with possessing kiddie porn after the FBI found hundreds of images of underage boys engaged in sex acts on his home computer in Manhattan.

He was also charged with having a seven-month affair in 2011 with a 14-year-old New Jersey boy. Sources said the victim was not a student.

Who’s afraid of Hassidic Jews? Everyone!

Times of Israel  by Rabbi David Eliezrie

The ominous image of two Hassidim in a dark forbidding background appears in an advertisement asking for support for the American Jewish University. The liberal Jewish college sits astride the hills of the Sepulveda Pass dividing Los Angeles from the San Fernando Valley. In the ad’s foreground are the backs of two Hassidic Jews, their large round hats, peyos side curls and dark clothing. A headline in bold white letters across the page poses the question “Will They be the only Jews left in 100 Years?” Against a black background slicing across the bottom we read that the “American Jewish University is a center of ingenuity and vision, dedicated to Pluralism in the open society.” It will insure a future for a dynamic Judaism.

The subliminal message is more portentous. We are the bastion of progressive ideas against the menacing and rising number of “ultra-Orthodox.” It’s our innovation that will chart the course for the future. We stand ready to stem the black hatted fundamentalist tide. [....]

Britain's Hidden Orthodox Child Abuse - Channel 4 Video

London chareidim respond to program

Channel 4   A victim of child sex abuse in one of Britain's religious communities goes undercover to expose the way his community has for decades been dealing with paedophilia.

In a year-long investigation, other victims of child abuse from this closed community express their anger about the lack of justice caused by their leaders' misguided approach to dealing with the issue.

In some cases those brave enough to complain to the police about their abusers have even been harassed, spat at and ostracised by other community members.

This Channel 4 Dispatches special report also reveals that an alleged child abuser was allowed to continue working with children, despite complaints from his victim.

And other victims, frustrated by their inability to bring child abusers to justice, tell Dispatches they've threatened and attacked those they believe to be paedophiles.

Chazon Ish: Shielded from knowledge of Holocaust?!

Rabbi Grylak (Mishpacha Magazine (Jan 21, 2013)) defends Chareidi exemption from the army because they are providing greater protection through their Torah learning. He tells the following unbelievable story to support his thesis.
As I write, I recall a story I heard from talmidim of the Chazon Ish some forty-five years ago, when I was collecting material for the biography Pe’er HaDor: the Chazon Ish was irate over the fact that, in order to spare him pain, his talmidim and family hid the facts from him about what was happening to the Jews of Europe under the Nazi reign of terror. When he learned the true extent of the disaster he blamed them for not informing him. His brother-in-law, Rav Shmuel Greineman, quotes him in his book on the Chafetz Chaim as saying that had he known, “Men nit gelozt” (We wouldn’t have let it happen).

What exactly the Chazon Ish meant by this remark, I cannot presume to say. But at the least, it indicates the strength of the Jewish belief in what Torah study can effect in this world.

Note the following assertions 1) Chazon Ish did not know what was happening in Europe during the Holocaust. 2) He didn't know because he was shielded from information which was common knowledge by his family and students 3) Furthermore he was upset when he found out the truth - not because he was shielded - but because he apparently could have stopped the Holocaust had he been aware of it!

This is shows the power of Torah learning!?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

R Manis Friedman's problematic views of sexual abuse

Audio that is missing from the beginning of the video

Secret Squads enforce modesty in Williamsburg

NY Times    The rules are spoken and unspoken, enforced by social pressure but also, in ways that some find increasingly disturbing, by the modesty committees. Their power is evident in the fact that of the half dozen women’s clothing stores along Lee Avenue, only one features mannequins, and those are relatively shapeless, fully clothed torsos.

The groups have long been a part of daily life in the ultra-Orthodox communities that dot Brooklyn and other corners of the Jewish world. But they sprang into public view with the trial of Nechemya Weberman, a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidim in Brooklyn, who last week was sentenced to 103 years in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing a young girl sent to him for counseling. [...]

The details were startling: a witness for Mr. Weberman’s defense, Baila Gluck, testified that masked men representing a modesty committee in the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, N.Y., 50 miles northwest of New York City, broke into her bedroom about seven years ago and confiscated her cellphone. 

The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, who prosecuted the Weberman case, has now received allegations that members of a modesty committee forced their way into a home in the borough, confiscating an iPad and computer equipment deemed inappropriate for Orthodox children, officials say. Allegations have also surfaced that a modesty committee threatened to publicly shame a married man who was having an affair unless he paid the members money for what they described as therapy.[...]

“There are quite a few men, especially in Williamsburg, who consider themselves Gut’s polizei,” said Yosef Rapaport, a Hasidic journalist, using the words for “God’s police.”

“It’s somebody who is a busybody, and they’re quite a few of them — zealots who take it upon themselves and they just enforce. They’re considered crazy, but people don’t want to confront them.” 

Police intimidation against social activists

Haaretz Editorial Last summer's protests drew hundreds of thousands of people who filled the streets and exercised their basic right to protest social injustice. The demonstrators did not merely make do with criticizing the situation, but put forward ideas for change. Never before had a civil protest left such a deep impression on the reality of our lives. The possibility that these demonstrations may return in the coming weeks apparently seems threatening to the powers that be, which are preparing for them.

Summoning prominent activists in those protests to be questioned by police in an effort to ascertain if and how they will act in the coming weeks is an illegitimate act. The summonses given to the activists did not state the purpose of the questioning; as the police itself admits, it was not a proper investigation of suspected crimes that were committed in the past or might be committed in the future, but an effort "to better prepare for the summer months." 

This attempt to collect information about the protests is not innocent. As the activists questioned tell it, the police warned them a month ago against "stretching the boundaries" and made it clear that at whichever events might be planned, they would be the first to be arrested. It looks as if the police had hoped that "marking" the protest leaders and scaring them would put a damper on efforts to renew the protests. In a society in which one is permitted to demonstrate, at least for now, such threats are not acceptable. 

Incest: Prevalence & challenges for society

The Atlantic   Here are some statistics that should be familiar to us all, but aren't, either because they're too mind-boggling to be absorbed easily, or because they're not publicized enough. One in three-to-four girls, and one in five-to-seven boys are sexually abused before they turn 18, an overwhelming incidence of which happens within the family. These statistics are well known among industry professionals, who are often quick to add, "and this is a notoriously underreported crime."

Incest is a subject that makes people recoil. The word alone causes many to squirm, and it's telling that of all of the individual and groups of perpetrators who've made national headlines to date, virtually none have been related to their victims. They've been trusted or fatherly figures (some in a more literal sense than others) from institutions close to home, but not actual fathers, step-fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, or cousins (or mothers and female relatives, for that matter). While all abuse is traumatizing, people outside of a child's home and family—the Sanduskys, the teachers and the priests—account for far fewer cases of child sexual abuse.

To answer the questions always following such scandals—why did the victims remain silent for so long, how and why were the offending adults protected, why weren't the police involved, how could a whole community be in such denial?—one need only realize that these institutions are mirroring the long-established patterns and responses to sexual abuse within the family. Which are: Deal with it internally instead of seeking legal justice and protection; keep kids quiet while adults remain protected and free to abuse again. [...]

Given the prevalence of incest, and that the family is the basic unit upon which society rests, imagine what would happen if every kid currently being abused—and every adult who was abused but stayed silent—came out of the woodwork, insisted on justice, and saw that justice meted out. The very fabric of society would be torn. Everyone would be affected, personally and professionally, as family members, friends, colleagues, and public officials suddenly found themselves on trial, removed from their homes, in jail, on probation, or unable to live and work in proximity to children; society would be fundamentally changed, certainly halted for a time, on federal, state, local, and family levels. Consciously and unconsciously, collectively and individually, accepting and dealing with the full depth and scope of incest is not something society is prepared to do.

In fact society has already unraveled; the general public just hasn't realized it yet. Ninety-five percent of teen prostitutes and at least one-third of female prisoners were abused as kids. Sexually abused youth are twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense as adults, are at twice the risk for lifelong mental health issues, and are twice as likely to attempt or commit teen suicide. The list goes on. Incest is the single biggest commonality between drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, teenage and adult prostitution, criminal activity, and eating disorders. Abused youths don't go quietly into the night. They grow up—and 18 isn't a restart button.

Channel 4 film: Reporting abuse to police in London

channel4    [Update Program shown here Wednesday Jan 30]  An undercover investigation by Channel 4 Dispatches reveals that some rabbis in the Strictly Orthodox Jewish community forbid or discourage alleged victims of child abuse from going to the police.

There is no suggestion that child sex abuse is any worse in this religious community. However, the film exposes how the Strictly Orthodox, or Charedi, community's approach to child protection can leave children at risk and shield abusers from justice.
The programme, airing on Wednesday 30th January on Channel 4, includes:
  • Secret filming showing Rabbi Ephraim Padwa - who leads the Charedi community in London's Stamford Hill - instructing an alleged victim of child sexual abuse not to go to the police describing it as ‘mesira’, which means it's forbidden to report a Jew to non-Jewish authority.
  • Hears about a family that reported an alleged child abuser to the police and was then harassed and driven out of the community - as one Rabbi says: "they would be cursed and spat at in the street and called informer”.
  • Interviews members of a group of young Charedi men who became so disillusioned with the failure of rabbis to deal with complaints of abuse they have taken the law into their own hands by threatening and attacking alleged perpetrators.
On the eve of the broadcast - two leading British rabbinical authorities representing a wider spectrum of the Jewish community, have issued statements and guidance to their communities on how to report child sexual abuse – emphasising the importance of reporting such allegations to the police.[...]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Starling Murmuration in the skies over Israel

Ethiopian immigrants:Typically given birth control injections

LA Times     Rocked by a scandal involving birth-control treatments for Ethiopian Jews, Israel's health ministry issued new guidelines on the use of the injections known commercially as Depo-Provera.

In a recent letter to the country's four HMOs reported Sunday, Ron Gamzu, director general of the health ministry, instructed gynecologists against renewing prescriptions in cases where the patient does not fully understand the treatment's implications.

The ministry's new policy comes in response to a controversy exposed last month by local investigative journalist Gal Gabbay, who reported that Jewish Ethiopian women awaiting emigration to Israel in transit camps in Ethiopia were coaxed into the treatment with little medical explanation and led to understand this was a condition for moving to Israel. [...]

Immigrant women told the reporter this was the standard practice in the transit camps run by Jewish and Israeli agencies in Ethiopia in the last decade. Many women continued the course of treatment in Israel, where a sharp decline in birth rate has been noted among the Ethiopian community over the past decade. [...]

The expose sparked claims of mistreatment and racism, and prompted rights organizations to file official protests. The ministry official's letter stressed the new guidelines did not constitute a position on the claims and relate to all women, not just those from Ethiopian.

A Feud Between Biblical Archaeologists Goes to Court

Time Magazine   In the Old City of Jerusalem, no one ever went broke underestimating the proof required to help the faithful suspend disbelief — or in a modern twist, allow the skeptical to bolster their heterodoxy. A million-dollar lawsuit in Israel has become the latest vehicle in the unending quest to redefine faith as the substance of things seen.

Canadian documentary maker and biblical archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici is suing a retired scientist and former archaeological museum curator named Joe Zias, who has accused him of publicizing scientifically dubious theories. Many of Jacobovici’s documentaries have focused on artifacts that purport to reveal new interpretations of early Christianity, including the notion that the remains of Jesus and his family were buried in a tomb underneath modern-day Jerusalem. Jacobovici claims that Zias’ criticisms are libelous and have cost him television contracts and money. [...]

The son of Romanian holocaust survivors, Jacobovici is an Emmy-winning journalist who has produced several films in the past decade about new finds that supposedly illuminate the true history of early Christianity. Jacobovici’s first foray into the biblical-documentary genre was a 2002 film The Jesus Discovery that introduced the world to the James ossuary, a bone box with an ancient Aramaic inscription translated as James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. Even as Jacobovici’s film characterized the ossuary as an authentic archaeological discovery, scholars and the Israeli authorities claimed the inscription as a fake. Discovery Channel aired the film but, in 2008, it put the James ossuary on its list of the top 10 scientific hoaxes of all time. Last year, after an eight-year trial about biblical-relic forgery for profit, a judge acquitted two defendants of fraud (one of them had been accused of faking the inscription) but declined to rule on the alleged forgery itself.

Jacobovici then made a film about the so-called Talpiot Tomb — named after the Jerusalem neighborhood where it was excavated — contending that 10 ossuaries found inside it had held the bones of Christ and his immediate family, including Mary Magdalene. That project had backing from Hollywood’s James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar. Jacobovici then produced Nails of the Cross, a show that claimed that iron spikes excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) from a tomb in Jerusalem in 1990 were the very nails used to pin the Saviour to the cross. Nails of the Cross aired on Israeli TV and the History Channel.

In all this Zias, 71, has emerged as Jacobovici’s nemesis. Retired from his job as a professional anthropologist, he now makes a living guiding bike tours around the Israeli countryside. He knows the murky world of biblical-relic trading as well as anyone, having spent 25 years working for the IAA, the tiny Israeli agency charged with overseeing excavations in 30,000 archaeological sites. He lives in a three-room house in central Jerusalem with his wife and daughter. He says he can’t afford to pay the lawyer he’s hired to defend him and claims he is on the verge of bankruptcy because of the suit. [...]

Israeli Secularists Appear to Find Their Voice

NY Times   Now, Mr. Lapid’s stunning success in last week’s election, in which his new Yesh Atid became Israel’s second largest party, is being viewed by many voters, activists and analysts here as a victory for the secular mainstream in the intensifying identity battle gripping the country.

The catchphrase of Mr. Lapid’s populist campaign, and now a core principle of the negotiations to create Israel’s next governing coalition, is “sharing the burden.” That refers directly to lifting the widespread draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox, integrating them into the work force, and shifting the balance of who pays taxes and who receives government aid. But it is also code for a broader sociological shift, a call to push back against the ultra-Orthodox minority’s outsize influence in the public sphere, including efforts to gender-segregate buses, sidewalks and stores in their neighborhoods and strict rabbinical controls on marriage, divorce, conversion and adoption statewide.  

“All of a sudden there was a change in seculars in Israel — they see themselves also as a sector that needs to fight for themselves,” said Mickey Gitzin, director of Be Free Israel, a group founded in 2009 that advocates for equality and religious pluralism. “People say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t see myself as part of a society where women cannot sit in the front of the bus.’ People don’t want to be part of such an extreme society.” [...]

In the speech to the ultra-Orthodox at Ono Academic College, Mr. Lapid spoke pointedly about overhauling the draft and the core curriculum, but also called for a sort of détente.

“I realize you don’t want your kids to play with my kids in the public playground, and I try very hard not to take offense,” he said. “But there’s no reason why we can’t find a way to live next door to each other without my having to fear that you’ll proselytize my kids, and without you having to fear that I’ll corrupt your kids.”

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Child pornography & Restitution for a lifetime of shame

 This explores the issue of the consequences of the legal requirement to compensate victims of sex crimes - which can result in some cases of payments per victim of millions of dollars. In addition whether the payment should mitigate prison sentences? This also raises the question of whether themoney should simply be paid to the victim and her lawyer - where it could be used for unwise purposes - or whether it should be designated for things such as therapy. The article raises the uncomfortable question of victims of certain crimes becoming wealthy while those of other equally traumatic - receiving nothing. Finally the role of lawyers and their profit motive is very disquieting. It is a new type of ambulance chasing.

NY Times    The detective spread out the photographs on the kitchen table, in front of Nicole, on a December morning in 2006. She was 17, but in the pictures, she saw the face of her 10-year-old self, a half-grown girl wearing make-up. The bodies in the images were broken up by pixelation, but Nicole could see the outline of her father, forcing himself on her. Her mother, sitting next to her, burst into sobs. 

 The detective spoke gently, but he had brutal news: the pictures had been downloaded onto thousands of computers via file-sharing services around the world. They were among the most widely circulated child pornography on the Internet. Also online were video clips, similarly notorious, in which Nicole spoke words her father had scripted for her, sometimes at the behest of other men. For years, investigators in the United States, Canada and Europe had been trying to identify the girl in the images. [...]

Marsh researched legal remedies for Amy. Combing through his casebooks, he found a provision in the Violence Against Women Act that he had never heard of before: it gave the victims of sex crimes, including child pornography, the right to restitution or compensation for the “full amount” of their losses. Enumerating what those losses could be, Congress listed psychiatric care, lost income and legal costs and concluded, “The issuance of a restitution order under this section is mandatory.”

The provision for restitution, enacted in 1994, had yet to be invoked in a case of child-pornography possession. The basis for such a claim wasn’t necessarily self-evident: how could Amy prove that her ongoing trauma was the fault of any one man who looked at her pictures, instead of her uncle, who abused her and made the pornography?

Marsh suggested that Amy see a forensic psychologist, Joyanna Silberg, who evaluated Amy and said she would need therapy throughout her life and could expect to work sporadically because of the likelihood of periodic setbacks. Silberg attributed these costs — Amy’s damages — to her awareness of the ongoing downloading and viewing. “Usually, we try to help survivors of child sexual abuse make a very strong distinction between the past and the present,” Silberg, who has given testimony on Amy’s behalf for restitution hearings, told me. “The idea is to contain the harm: it happened then, and it’s not happening anymore. But how do you do that when these images are still out there? The past is still the present, which turns the hallmarks of treatment on their head.” [...]

 Marsh put together a lifetime claim for Amy totaling almost $3.4 million. With the crime notices arriving in the mail, Marsh started tracking men charged with possession of her pictures. He looked, in particular, for wealthy defendants. He planned to use the concept of joint and several liability to argue that each defendant should be on the hook for the full amount of his client’s damages — that is, for millions of dollars. Joint and several liability is often used in pollution cases: when several companies dump toxic waste in a lake over time, a plaintiff can go after the company with the deepest pockets, and a judge can hold that single company responsible for the entire cost of the cleanup — with the understanding that it’s up to that polluter to sue the others to pay their share.

Zohar: Rav Kasher's discussion of its authenticity


תוכן המאמר:
א. השתלשלות הוויכוחים על הזוהר
ב. ביטול ההוכחות המייחסות את הזוהר לר"מ די ליאון
ג. יישוב לקושיות על סגנון לשונו של הזוהר
ד. כתבי היד שנתגלו מוכיחים קדמות הזוהר
מילואים - המשנה והזוהר
תקציר: המחבר מסביר את המחלוקת בשאלת הזוהר ומחברו, ומביע את דעתו האישית בנושא הנידון.

בשנת תש"א יצא לאור בירושלים ספר בשם
Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
מאת פרופ' ג' שלום, בו מברר באריכות שאלת הזוהר ומחברו ודעתו עם אלה המייחסים אותו לר' משה די ליאון ולא עם אלה שמקדימים אותו.

גם לדעת תלמידו י' תשבי בספרו "משנת הזוהר", שהופיע בירושלים בשנת תש"ט נתחברו החלקים העיקריים של הזוהר על ידי ר' משה די ליאון ואין בספר שום חלק שקדם לו. ובמבוא לספרו הוא מחליט, שיש לראות במסקנת רבו "חתימת המחלוקת הגדולה על חיבור הזוהר ומחברו, שנמשכה דורות רבים במדע היהדות".
הרבה שנים חיכיתי, שיעמוד מי מחכמי ישראל הנאמנים ויטפל בשאלה זו, ברם לשווא חיכיתי. כשאני לעצמי יש תחת ידי בכתב יד חומר לספר "מדרשי חז"ל והזוהר", בו דנתי על מאות מאמרי הזוהר שהבאתי בי"ז כרכי "תורה שלמה" על פי השוואות עם מדרשי חז"ל, בייחוד עמדתי שם על מאמרי חז"ל המובאים בראשונים ואינם במדרשי חז"ל שלפנינו ושייכים לספרות הזוהר ומדרש הנעלם. ר' דוד לוריא בספרו "קדמות ספר הזוהר", ענף שני, הביא מספר מאמרים כאלה להוכיח קדמות הזוהר ואני המשכתי בהבאות כאלו ובעיקר הראיתי על מדרשים וספרי קדמונים שנתגלו מכתבי יד בתקופות האחרונות. כן אני דן שם על הרבה שאלות וחקירות על הזוהר ועל היחס שבין הזוהר וספרי ר"מ די ליאון. וכיון שמרוב טרדותיי אינני פנוי עכשיו לסדר את כל החומר שנצטבר אצלי אמרתי: כדאי לעמוד, לכל הפחות, על נקודות אחדות בנושא חשוב זה.
ראשית כל, עלי להעיר שלאחר שעברתי בעיון על ספריהם של שלום ותשבי על המקורות שעליהם בנו השקפתם, מוצא אני שמאותם המקורות יש להכריע ממש להפך מדבריהם, שהרי נתברר לנו כעת מתוך ספריו הנדפסים של ר"מ די ליאון "הנפש והחכמה" ו"שקל הקודש" ובייחוד מתוך שני ספריו, שהם עדיין בכתב יד, ספר "הרמון" ו"משכן העדות", שאין שום ספק, שר"מ די ליאון לא חיבר את הזוהר, אלא השתמש הרבה בכתבי יד של הזוהר שלפניו ותירגם הרבה קטעים לעברית. בפרקים שלהלן אברר, ששלום ותשבי שגו ביסודות שעליהם בנו השקפתם בהשוואת ספרי ר' משה די ליאון אל הזוהר. ובדרך כלל כל הקורא בעיון בספרי ר' משה די ליאון ייווכח, שסגנונו, דרכי הבעה שלו, ביטויו, תיאור הנושאים ואופני ההסברה וההרצאה של ר"מ די ליאון רחוקים מדרכו של הזוהר כרחוק מזרח ממערב. אין היד שכתבה ספרים אלה מוכשרת ואינה מסוגלת לכתוב, לא רק את אלף ושבע מאות העמודים הנדפסים של הזוהר, אלא אפילו פרק אחד של הארמית המקורית והחיה שבזוהר.
הזוהר הוא יצירה ענקית מיוחדת במינה. סגולה נפלאה יש לו לספר זה לעורר ולהלהיב את בני אדם לקדושה עילאית. זהו ספר המדבר ללב האדם והילכך אהוב הוא ונערץ כל כך בכל הדורות אצל יראים ושלמים. ואין לו דמיון כלל לספרי ר' משה די ליאון, שהם ספרים רגילים, כמו שאר ספרים שנתחברו באותה תקופה במקצוע זה.
את האמת אגיד, שאיני יכול להבין מהלך מחשבתם של שני המחברים הנזכרים, לאחר ששלום עצמו כותב, שאנו מוכרחים להודות, שיש חלק גדול בזוהר, שהארמית שבו מצוינת ונשנית מפי חכמים, שהלשון הארמית חיה בפיהם. וגם תשבי כותב, שיש לו לזוהר סגולות ספרותיות מיוחדות פאתוס נשגב ונמלץ, לשון פיוטית ציורית, יצירה חיה ומגוונת וכו' וכו', הרי נשאלת השאלה: כלום אפשר למצוא אפילו אחת מכל אלו המעלות בספרי ר' משה די ליאון? וכיצד אפשר למצוא אפילו אחת מכל אלו המעלות בספרי ר' משה די ליאון? וכיצד אפשר תוך כדי כתיבה לשכוח הכל ולכתוב שכבר נפתר באופן מוחלט, שר' משה די ליאון חיבר את הזוהר ואין בספר שום חלק שקדם לו

Weberman: What is the message of 103 year sentence?

Wall Street Journal   Other close observers of the Satmar community worry about the outcome of the Weberman trial. Dovid Zwiebel, vice president of Agudath Israel America, a group that works closely with Brooklyn's Satmar population, said the case should have been handled more "delicately." 

"Many people felt it wasn't as if Mr. Weberman was on trial, it was as if the community was on trial," he said. 

Mr. Zwiebel, who said he applauded the crackdown on abuse, worried that a 103-year sentence might suggest "the system is rigged against Hasidic Jews."

"The reaction I've heard from many is maybe we shouldn't be cooperating with law-enforcement authorities," he added.

Mr. Hynes said his office asked for the maximum prison term knowing that the sentence—similar to those given to others convicted of such sex-abuse charges—would likely be cut to 50 years on appeal, which is typical in such cases. 

But that change might come too late to alter the perceptions of the community. 

Even Mr. Hikind, one of the most determined advocates for stepped-up prosecutions of sexual abuse within the Orthodox communities, questioned the wisdom of the sentence.

"As horrible as all of this is, I would have been happier if it would not have been 103," he said. "This almost says to people who already have a chip on their shoulder that the Orthodox community isn't getting a fair shake that they're right."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Judge rejects Torah Temima's attempt to settle in Kolko case

Thomson Reuters   A Brooklyn judge has rejected an Orthodox Jewish day school's attempt to settle a civil lawsuit brought by a boy who said he had been sexually abused by one of the school's teachers.

Supreme Court Justice Jack Battaglia denied Yeshiva & Mesivta Torah Temimah Inc's motion to enforce a confidential settlement because the parents of the alleged abuse victim changed their minds and rejected the deal after they signed it in 2011.

"The court cannot say on the record presented that the refusal of (plaintiff)'s parents to proceed with the settlement in accordance with the Feb. 15, 2011, settlement agreement is unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious," Battaglia wrote in a ruling Wednesday. [....]

In 2011, the parties reached a confidential settlement agreement, which was signed by the boy's parents, the ruling said. Days later, the parents reversed course and said they no longer agreed to the settlement, which they said had been signed under "duress," the ruling said.

The parents also said they had come under fire from some members of their community. A rabbi at the school told them they would "bankrupt" the yeshiva and destroy it in the way "the Nazis (have) destroyed" the "yeshiva in Europe," the ruling said.

Lawyers for the school disputed that the parents had signed under duress, according to the ruling. They moved for an order approving an infant compromise, which would allow the court to approve a settlement involving a claim brought by a minor.
Battaglia rejected the request.[...]

Kolko, a first-grade teacher who taught at the Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn, was indicted by local prosecutors in 2007 for sexually abusing a former student. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and was sentenced to three years' probation.. [...]

It is unclear if the boy in the criminal case is the same as the one in the civil lawsuit before Battaglia. It is unclear whether Kolko still teaches at Yeshiva Torah Temimah.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Father Gordon MacRae: "What the Jews know of Justice"

The following is an excerpt from a recent post by Father Gordon MacRae who has been imprisoned for 18 years  - apparently based on false charges. His comments underline the fact that the suffering of child abuse - both that of victims and the falsely accused - must be dealt with fully and openly as a society. When a community - whether Jewish or non-Jewish, secular or religious - betrays the victims and those falsely accused in order to  protect their public image  - the resulting soul searing anguish is perhaps worse than the abuse itself. The G-d given goal of society is justice to protect individuals - not to sacrifice them.

These Stone Walls   [...] WHAT THE JEWS KNOW OF JUSTICE [...]

One of our earliest TSW subscribers is Jacob, a devoutly Jewish man from the San Francisco Bay area. Jacob writes to me on occasion, though as usual I’m very delinquent in responding. One of Jacob’s letters has always stood out. He wrote that the pursuit of justice is valued very highly in the Jewish community. He wrote that the Torah admonishes us three times that, “Justice, justice, justice shalt thou seek.”

Catholics – and I’m not excluding bishops and priests – could learn a few things about justice from our spiritual ancestors, the Jews. Late last month, a TSW reader sent me an example in a surprising December 16 blog post entitled “Father Gordon MacRae – Imprisoned for Abuse Payoff?” It was posted by psychologist and rabbinical scholar, Daas Torah on his website of the same name. The site is subtitled “Issues of Jewish Identity.” Daas Torah has authored several books on child and domestic abuse in the Jewish community and is considered an expert in this field.

After a decade of official Catholic efforts to appear sufficiently harsh and unmerciful in heavy-handed condemnation of accused priests, Catholic leaders might take a cue from Daas Torah and the Jewish community’s grappling with these same issues. Some of the comments by Daas Torah’s readers on his post about me reveal a basic tenet of justice that somehow became lost as we addressed the burgeoning Catholic scandal a decade ago. Daas Torah’s Jewish readers are firm in their opinion that victims of real abuse are not at all served by presumptions of guilt and sabotaging the rights of the accused. Here’s an example by a commentator reacting to Daas Torah’s presentation of the case against me:
“Innocent victims who were targeted by false allegations . . . is another thing the victim community does not want to hear . . . Don’t assume that all victims consider themselves to be well-represented by the political activists. Many victims are exceptionally sensitive to injustice. This is also true in the Catholic community, where groups like SNAP want to bury cases like MacRae’s because they undermine sound-bite propaganda.”
Daas Torah’s post included a link to a 2012 update on this story. As a prisoner with no on-line access, I had only a printed version that was sent to me so I had to ask someone to go online to find out what this “update” link was. Surprisingly, it’s a link to an article by Ryan MacDonald entitled, “Judge Arthur Brennan Sentenced Father Gordon MacRae to Die in Prison.

Fellow Catholics, take note of this. Salvation came to us from the Jews. And lest any of us wonder whether Catholics are ready to hear another side of this decade of scandal in the Catholic Church, we need look no further than The Media Report which a few weeks ago posted its year end “Top Ten Stories of 2012.” In Part 2 of that post, the Top Five, The Media Report’s most visited and cited story of 2012 was David Pierre’s coverage of my defense in “Exclusive Report: Alarming New Evidence May Exonerate Imprisoned Priest.” [...]

Amazing dung beetles navigate by Milky Way star light

National Geographic   Moving in a straight line is crucial to dung beetles, which live in a rough-and-tumble world where competition for excrement is fierce. (Play “Dung Beetle Derby” on the National Geographic Kids website.)

Once the beetles sniff out a steaming pile, males painstakingly craft the dung into balls and roll them as far away from the chaotic mound as possible, often toting a female that they have also picked up. The pair bury the dung, which later becomes food for their babies. [...]

Scientists already knew that dung beetles can move in straight lines away from dung piles by detecting a symmetrical pattern of polarized light that appears around the sun. We can’t see this pattern, but insects can thanks to special photoreceptors in their eyes.

But less well-known was how beetles use visual cues at night, such as the moon and its much weaker polarized light pattern. So Warrant and colleagues went to a game farm in South Africa to observe the nocturnal African dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus. (Read another Weird & Wild post on why dung beetles dance.) [...]

Dung beetle researcher Sean D. Whipple, of the Entomology Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said by email that the “awesome results …. provide strong evidence for orientation by starlight in dung beetles.”

Weberman case: Satmar raising $1 million for Dershowitz appeal

BHOL   After the verdict yesterday (Tuesday) which sent Nehemiah Weberman to prison for rest of his life, Satmar went out on an operation to recruit huge donations for funding his court case.

The Brooklyn Court sent Weberman to serve 103 years in prison and under the heading "Redemption of Prisoners", Satmar chassidus is trying to recruit a total of a million dollars to appeal against the decision.

The goal is to harness for the appeal the senior lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who is signed on some spinning legal successes in the United States.

Chareidi father who forced sons into girl's school - more problems

BHOL   If the petition filed by Moshe Aryeh Friedman against the school, Bnos Yerushalayim, of Belze was not enough, following which the girls school was required to allow the two sons of Friedman to study together with students of the school, coming next: This coming Thursday the Antwerp Court is expected to decide on the petition Friedman filed demanding that the three older daughters will be accepted at the Yavne school, in the city.

In addition, the following Monday will be the first hearing in the appeal filed by the school administration 'Bnos Yerushalayim' - where Friedman's two sons are currently learning, against the court's decision which was received earlier this month that the school must enroll the boys in school, despite being designed for girls only, by virtue of the law.[....]

Mr. Rosenberg said in a conversation with B'Chadrei Charedim, that he presented before the State Attorney's Office several arguments, including the fact that the children are forced to migrate from apartment to apartment, after the second time it turned out that their father took a lease fraud and refuses to pay the rent.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rabbi Padwa recorded saying not to go to police

Times of Israel   The leader of Britain’s Haredi community has been caught on video advising an alleged victim of sexual abuse not to report the claim to police.

Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, was recorded by a community member using a hidden camera as part of a Channel 4 documentary on Haredi child abuse.

In a scene that will air Wednesday, the insider, who hails from the Haredi London neighborhood of Stamford Hill, tells Padwa, “Someone who you may know of . . . sexually abused me when I was younger, when I was a child,” and asks how to proceed.

After Padwa responds, “We are dealing with this,” the insider asks whether he should go to the police.

“Oh no,” Padwa answers, explaining that doing so would constitute “mesirah,” or turning a Jew over to secular authorities. He adds in Yiddish, “People mustn’t tell tales.”

Asked to comment by The Times of Israel, a spokesman for Padwa questioned the credibility of Channel 4’s undercover insider, saying the allegations had already been investigated and dismissed as “malicious” by social services in the borough of Hackney. They were investigated again in 2007.

Padwa’s on-camera advice about avoiding the police was made, the spokesman said, with that in mind.

Winds of change: Meet new MK Ayelet Shaked

Guest post from RaP The next Knesset is going to have 53 new members, and they are educated, sophisticated and many are accomplished social activists and have big hearts with great dreams for the success of the Jewish people.

Mercifully, the wild-eyed Amnon Yitzhak has been kept out of the Knesset, but there will be saner Jewish voices preaching traditional Jewish values from some very unlikely sources, such as from Knesset newcomer the dynamic Ayelet Shaked (born 1976) a symbol of the "winds of change" that will blow in the new Knesset.

She is a leader in Naftali Bennett's Bayit HaYehudi party that is trying to be a more open version of the old National Religious Party. She is not frum but respects the religious. Her guide is former IDF chief rabbi Ronsky. See the fascinating interview with her at     "An Interview With Ayelet Shaked - ..." (Algemeiner, August 16, 2012) and best of all watch her talk for four minutes as she gets a prize for her views about the problems with the Israeli media:

(4 minutes. In Hebrew with English sub-titles)

Benefit of study Agada & Kabbala - even without understanding/ Noda B' Yehuda

Tzlach (Introduction): There is a critically important benefit of learning agada of the Talmud and medrashim - the profound thoughts of our Sages - which they presented in a concealed and obscure manner. They obviously were fully aware that such profound secrets would not be totally comprehended even by a very wise man. Nevertheless despite all the concealment there is in fact a major benefit when we should merit that it should be fulfilled in us  "He kissed me with the kisses of His mouth". And that the exalted spirit manifests itself in us and we hear the words of the Living G-d. Then we will comprehend and know the great good which we obtain by the means of our study of the words of agada even though we don’t properly understand them.  
 Let me explain how one can benefit from studying material he doesn't understand. A child when he starts school - the first thing the teacher does before beginning formal learning - is to teach him the forms of the letters.  He teaches him what letter is an aleph and which is a beis - as well as all the rest of the letters. Once the child has mastered the letters he teaches him the different vowel sounds. When the child has mastered the letters and the vowels he teaches him the combination of the letters and the vowels. All this requires tremendous effort to master something which seems to have no inherent value. In fact in the child had a mature intellect he would find this study boring and repulsive. He would view himself as slave occupied in a totally meaningless task. He would object and say that he sees no significance in knowing whether the letter is read as oh or ah. He would protest simply because he is not able to comprehend the great accomplishment of knowing how to read. Therefore ironically we find that a child - because of his inferior understanding - is actually superior to this task to a mature mind. He is able because the weakness of his understanding to study the letters with great enthusiasm and fully master them This is obviously a critically important accomplishment. 

In fact there is a true story in which there were highly educated men traveling on a ship and with them was a pregnant woman. When the ship was well out to sea a great storm arose that transported the ship to a certain place which was uninhabited and had never been seen by man before. In that isolated place the ship broke up and the men and the woman were saved by going on the dry land. The remained there many days. After the passage of time the woman  gave birth to a boy. He grew up there. The men did not have any books with them. Nor did they have any writing material. When the boy grew up he was taught various knowledge by the men. The boy did not know anything about reading and writing at all - since he never saw it. Then one day one of the men came to him and said to him - I am going to teach you something. He began by teaching him the letters of the alphabet and how to pronounce them. He taught the boy in the same way the small children who first start school are taught the letters. However this boy who was born in the ship who already had grown up. He objected and demanded to know what the significance of this study was. He began to angrily argue with the teacher and denounced the study as a complete waste of time. He demanded to know what possible benefit came from studying the letters since it was pure mechanical memorization without any wisdom or intelligence. However the teacher told him that when they returned to civilization the boy would be able to read books as a result of mastering the alphabet and then he would appreciate the great good that is the result of this knowledge. Consequently he forced the boy to learn despite his objections - until the boy had mastered the alphabet. Eventually G-d had mercy on these people and they saw a ship which rescued them. When the boy returned to civilization he found there books of profound wisdom which he was able to study because of his mastery of the alphabet. He learned new things which he had never conceived of. Only then he realized and appreciated having learned the alphabet. He expressed his deep appreciation and gratitude to the teacher who had forced him to learn the alphabet. 

This is the moshol. This itself is the nimshol regarding Agada which have been taught to us by our Sages. All of them are in fact allegory which conceal within them great light. We unfortunately lack the ability to see this light and understand it. However without the superficial awareness we have from the agada it would be impossible for us to see this light and understand it in the future. In other words the agada is the material for the form that will be comprehended in the future. Nevertheless we have to realize that the agada which introduces us to this wisdom is in fact very far from being the wisdom itself. It is comparable to the relationship of the alphabet that the child learns to the wisdom contained in the holy books. In the future when the material is separated from its form then we will grasp and understand how wonderful it is that we learned the relatively superficial lesson of the agada. Without the preliminary superficial understanding obtained from the agada it would be impossible to understand - when we are in Heaven - the words of the Living G-d which are concealed in the agada. It will be at that time that we will understand and give thanks to our Sages who taught us the agada. We will then be able to recognize the great good that has done for us through the study of agada that are included in the Talmud and medrashim. 

Similar to this I heard in my youth from the great tzadik Rabbi Noach Levi of Brody concerning the 10 Sefiros and other issues of kabbala - all of them are merely introductions that are comparable to learning the alphabet with a child. By means of our exposure to them in this world we will merit in the Future World when the materialistic aspects have been removed from us - we will be capable of grasping and understanding their wisdom and give praise and appreciation to our G-d. It is then we will truly comprehend the profound secrets of the Torah. We will  know the truth. The ways of G-d are upright and the righteous go in them. Amen

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Invitation to discuss Zohar & Kabbala

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim basically disagreed with the Kabbala/Zohar discussion that Rabbi Tzadok has posted. I invited him to write a guest post to present his views. He initially agreed to do so but I just received the following e-mail from him. It is an invitation to move the discussion to his website.
This Blog's author was gracious enough to invite my words regarding this recent Zoharic/Kabbala debate, which cannot be decided based on a halachik mechanism of "majority rule". My thoughts grew to more than a page in length, so I have posted it here for those of you interested in reviewing my thoughts:

I also cannot seem to subscribe here, as I see no "email" link on my Mac/Safari browser. Therefore, I am happy to continue on the Mesora website in the Discussions tab:  under the forum: Judaism's Fundamentals>Zohar & Kabbala: The Heresy

May we each cleave to emess, abandon falsehood when we realize it, and adhere meticulously to God's words. May we each show kavod to God's habriyos and learn in order to help others, not for self-aggrandizement, and certainly not l'kantare. may God show us all His intelligent truths.

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim, Founder / The JewishTimes
(516)569-8888 ph

Jerusalem man indicted on abusing chareidi kids

JPost   A 43-year-old Jerusalem man was indicted by the Jerusalem District Court Wednesday morning on two counts of sodomy and other indecent acts with young children.

Binyamin Schatz, who lived alone on Hanatziv Street in a haredi neighborhood of the capital, confessed to police that he had abused children around his current apartment and in another neighborhood in Jerusalem where he used to live. He said when his neighbors found out that he was a serial child molester, they forced him to move to another area of the city or they would report him to the police.

After his arrest, other parents came to the police station and reported more instances of abuse and sodomy with their children.

Elections: Bibi - Religious or Secular government?

haaretz   Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu claimed 31 seats, Yesh Atid 19, Labor 15, Shas 11, Habayit Hayehudi 11, United Torah Judaism 7, Hatnuah 6, Meretz 6, United Arab List-Ta’al 5, Balad 3, and Kadima likely to win 2 seats.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Weberman sentenced to 103 years for abuse

NyTimes    An unlicensed therapist who was a prominent member of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was sentenced on Tuesday to 103 years in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing a young woman, beginning the attacks when she was 12. 

Nechemya Weberman, 54, a member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg, did not react as the judge sentenced him. The victim, now 18, who delivered an impassioned statement asking for maximum sentence to be imposed, dabbed away tears.

“The message should go out to all victims of sexual abuse that your cries will be heard and justice will be done,” said State Supreme Court Justice John G. Ingram before imposing the sentence, close to the longest permissible to him by law. He praised the young victim’s “courage and bravery in coming forward.” 

Mr. Weberman, who wore his traditional black suit and head covering, did not speak before the sentencing, but his lawyer, George Farkas, said he was “innocent of the crimes charged.” The defense is planning to appeal.

Church documents reveal high-level abuse coverup

NYTIMES   The retired archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and other high-ranking clergymen in the archdiocese worked quietly to keep evidence of child molesting away from law enforcement officials and shield abusive priests from criminal prosecution more than a decade before the scandal became public, according to confidential church records. 

The documents, filed in court as part of lawsuit against the archdiocese and posted online by The Los Angeles Times on Monday, offer the clearest glimpse yet of how the archdiocese dealt with abusive priests in the decades before the scandal broke, including Cardinal Mahony’s personal involvement in covering up their crimes.  

Rather than defrocking priests and contacting the police, the archdiocese sent priests who had molested children to out-of-state treatment facilities, in large part because therapists in California were legally obligated to report any evidence of child abuse to the police, the files make clear.  [...]

In a written statement released on Monday, Cardinal Mahony, who took over the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1985 and retired in 2011, apologized to the victims of the sexual abuse. 

“Various steps toward safeguarding all children in the church began here in 1987 and progressed year by year as we learned more about those who abused and the ineffectiveness of so-called ‘treatments’ at the time,” the statement said. “Nonetheless, even as we began to confront the problem, I remained naïve myself about the full and lasting impact these horrible acts would have on the lives of those who were abused by men who were supposed to be their spiritual guides.” 

Cardinal Mahony said he came to understand that impact only two decades later, when he met with almost 100 victims of sexual abuse by priests under his charge. He now keeps an index card for each one of those victims, praying for each one every day, he said in the statement.