Saturday, March 29, 2014

Good Chanifa (chanufa) - the basis of personal mental health and a healthy society

update see talmid chachom should conceal his true feelings
Last week Dr. Shulem I were discussing the issue of Psychology and Judaism. The question was raised regarding the mental dynamics that a rabbi and a psychologist have to assess and prescribe changes when a person reports not functioning well.

One of the issues that I have noted is the ignorance of the multiple roles that a healthy and successful Jew lives with. For example Rabbi Yitzchok Berkowitz once discussed the condemnation by Rav Schach of Rabbi Steinzaltz when he described certain Biblical figures as having human motivations. He noted that this was an example of not knowing, "what issues to discuss over chulent at a Shabbos seuda and what should be published in a book." It is not that the issues raised were wrong - but they were brought up in the wrong forum. Of course this is issue applies also to non-Jewish groups also when dealing with a wide range of information.

Another example is the kollel avreich who commented to me that he was in major trouble with his wife. The day before he had had a rough day in kollel. The gemora didn't make sense to him. His chavrusa was in an antagonistic mood and in general the day hadn't worked out. He went home and lamented that fact that "his learning wasn't working out and he felt in a rut." His wife went ballistic and said, "I have been slaving and sacrificing for 20 years so you can learn in kollel and now you tell me you are not getting anything out of it!"

רע"ב על מסכת אבות פרק א משנה ה
 מכאן אמרו חכמים - רבינו הקדוש בסדר המשניות כתבה מדברי חכם זה שאמר ואל תרבה שיחה עם האשה למדו חכמים לומר כל זמן שאדם מרבה שיחה עם האשה גורם רעה לעצמו. מצאתי כתוב כשאדם מספר לאשתו קורותיו כך וכך אירע לי עם פלוני היא מלמדתו לחרחר ריב. כגון קרח שספר לאשתו מה שעשה משה שהניף את הלוים תנופה והביאתו בדברים לידי מחלוקת. א"נ מתוך שהוא מספר לה שחבריו גנוהו וביישוהו אף היא מבזה אותו בלבה וזה גורם רעה לעצמו:

Another example is the man who came to me with a destroyed marriage. It turns out he was very insistent on total honesty. His marriage was destroyed from the beginning when he told his new bride in the yichud room that she was so wonderful - "that she was almost everything he had spent 20 years looking for in a wife."

These examples are indicative that it is important not to present information in many situations without considering the consequences. This spin or modification of presenting the truth is described by our sages as chanifa (translated as hypocrisy or false flattery or saying one thing with your mouth but thinking something different in your heart). Most people think that chanifa is bad. In fact Chazal tell use that it is permitted to say lashon harah about those who are engaged in chanifa. That they lose their olam habah- in fact Rabbeinu Yonah describes 9 examples of chanifa.

But in fact there is good chanifa and bad chanifa. Kesubos (17a) is another example of good chanifa. "The gemoras asks praise should one say before a kallah at the wedding. And Beis Hillel answers that you should say that she is wonderful and kind. Beis Shamai asks , "But what if that is a lie." Beis  Hillel persists and says that this is the way that any normal member of society should react to the choice that another persons makes - whether it is buying a car or chosing a wife." The Sages say we learn from this that a person should always be me'urav im habrios [which seems to be chanifa]. So even though geneivas daas is prohibited, it is in fact required in some situations.

Good chanifa is widely used in education.

Bava Metzia (85a): Rabbi chanced to visit the town of R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon.14 ‘Did that righteous man leave a son?’ he inquired. ‘Yes,’ they replied; ‘and every harlot whose hire is two [zuz], hires him for eight.’15 So he had him brought [before him], ordained him a Rabbi,16 and entrusted him to R. Simeon b. Issi b. Lakonia, his mother's brother [to be educated]. Every day he would say, ‘I am going to my town; to which he [his instructor] replied, ‘They have made you a Sage, spread over you a gold trimmed cloak [at the ceremony of ordination] and designated you "Rabbi", and yet you say, I am going back to my town!’ Said he, ‘I swear that this [my desire] has been abandoned.’ When he became a great [scholar], he went and sat in Rabbi's academy. On hearing his voice, he [Rabbi] observed: ‘This voice is similar to that of R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon.’ ‘He is his son,’ they [his disciples] told him. Thereupon he applied to him the verse, The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.17 [Thus:] ‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life’ — this refers to R. Jose, the son of R. Eleazar, the son of R. Simeon;18 ‘And he that winneth souls is wise’ — to R. Simeon b. Issi b. Lakonia. When he died, he was carried to his father's burial vault, which was encompassed by a snake. ‘O snake, O snake,’ they adjured it, ‘open thy mouth and let the son enter to his father;’ but it would not uncoil for them. Now, the people thought that one was greater than the other,19 but there issued a Heavenly Voice, proclaiming: ‘It is not because one is greater than the other, but because one underwent the suffering of the cave, and the other did not.

Menoras HaMe'or(Chapter 20 Derech Eretz): A person should always mix properly with others. That means rejoicing with those who are celebrating, worrying with those who are upset, and suffering with the sufferers. He should not jest with those who are crying nor cry with those who are jesting. He should not be awake amongst those who are sleeping nor sleep amongst those who are awake. He should not stand amongst those who are sitting not sit amongst those who are standing. The general rule is that a person should not exhibit characteristics that differ from others if his intent is for good and for the sake of heaven. He should be tolerant and forbearing and nullify his will before the will of others.

תולדות יצחק בראשית לז

הספק השלישי, מה הכוונה במה שאמר כי בן זקונים הוא לו, שאם הכוונה שנולד לעת זקנתו, גם כל בניו נולדו לזקוניו, ויששכר וזבולן אינם גדולים מיוסף רק בשנה, וכמו שהקשה הרמב"ן, ואם הכוונה בר חכים הוא ליה, למה אמר "לו", שמי שהוא חכם לכל העולם הוא חכם:

התשובה שרז"ל אמרו לא יהא אדם עומד בין היושבים ולא יושב בין העומדים ולא עצב בין השמחים ולא שמח בין העצבים אלא לעולם תהא דעתו של אדם מעורבת עם הבריות [עי' כתובות יז א, דא"ז ה], לזה אמר שיוסף היה גאה עם הגאים ונער עם הנערים וחכם עם החכמים, וזהו היה רועה את אחיו שהיו גאים היה רועה ומנהיגם ומשתרר עליהם והם אחיו בני לאה, ועם בני בלהה ובני זלפה שהיו עושים מעשה נערות היה נער עמהם ומסלסל בשערו:

וישראל אהב את יוסף מכל בניו כי בן זקונים הוא לו שהיה זקן עמו, וזהו לו שעמו היה חכם:

There are many other examples of good chanifa - and in fact it seems that society can  not function without it. Even G-d is reported to have lied for the sake of Avraham's shalom bayis. A person who doesn't know how and when to be involved in "presentational spin" will not be a successful or healthy member of society. If a person mechanically reports the same facts to his kids as he says to his wife or the same facts to a stranger that he shares with his wife - he is in big trouble.

What we both realized is the bizarre fact that neither of us was aware where the importance and centrality of good chanifa is discussed in the Torah literature or in the psychological literature. Sources would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: Sarah's guest post regarding Rabbi Biderman

Sarah promised to discuss the Schlesinger Twins case with Rabbi Biderman if I posted his written testimony to the  court from 2012. I have fulfilled that condition  and I am looking forward to her guest post describing that discussion. I would also accept a guest post from Rabbi Biderman himself or from Dr. Schlesinger or one of his supporters.

 Allan Katz  has raised the central issue
R-Biederman, even if the kids were doing well with the father is it not important for the kids to have a relationship with a mother beyond the once a week visits, which have on several times being cancelled- especially at this tender age. Why does the father not remarry - being looked after by 2 fillipinos is not a home for them. Where is the ahavas yisroel for Beth - Is it because she is an outsider , there are no feelings for the plight of the mother. We are taught not to learn from the midos of the people of Canaan - apply this to Austria and Germany. The father is waging a war against his wife on the backs of his kids- he wants custody not because he can provide a better home and family life - 2 fillipinos - but to make Beth's life as miseable as possible. 
There are a number of issues that need clarification (besides those listed below).

1. Was his testimony based on his own observations or was he relying primarily on information from Dr. Michael Schlesinger

2. Does he view himself impartial or is he openly taking Dr. Schlesinger's side against Beth.

3. How does he think the twins are doing now relative to their peers - in language, psychological, social and developmental issues? It is two years since his written testimony have they significantly changed?.

4. Are the twins receiving therapy for their obvious language problems?

5. Is he against Beth regaining custody and why?


  • Anyone who is brainwashed or corrupt (or both) will always deny it when confronted, just like Sarah has done. She also refuses to comment on the following:

    1) Rabbi Biderman has made voluntary statements to the court (most notably in May 2012) under his own name (not from the kindergarten office), in support of the father. Why would he do this? He clearly HAS involved himself so it is impossible for him now to claim he is impartial.

    2) If Rabbi Biderman’s position is justifiable, why are you defending him under anonymous comments on a blog? Why doesn’t he speak for himself and write a statement explaining his position as a guest blog post. This case has reached a large enough audience around the world with enough people posing genuine questions, for ‘Rabbi’ Biderman to be a man and answer some of them. His silence raises even more questions than the one’s posed to him here.

    Until these points are addressed, we all are entirely justifiable in being angry at Rabbi Biderman and his Chabad colleagues for being silent in the face of such an injustice.

  • when you show me said letters, I will personally call him and ask him!

    hows that?

  • Transformative Mediation: Professor Baruch Busch describes his theory and practice

    Thursday, March 27, 2014

    Schlesinger Twins: Rabbi Biderman's testimony regarding the twins

    I, Rabbi Jacob Biderman, born on 28.11.1957 declare the following in testimony to the court:

    Due to requests for the voluntary testimony that Rabbi Biderman - the head of the kindergarten that the twins attend - gave to the court, I am posting this translation from the German

    ---------------- Dated 15.5.2012
    In the last few days I was contacted by a Rabbinic colleague in England who informed me that an acquaintance of Beth Schlesinger has initiated a media campaign which is about to be publicised. The media campaign claims that this is a 'horror story,' that the twins Samuel and Benjamin Schlesinger are in a very bad state with their father and that their father is endangering them. They further claim that this is demonstrated by the fact that Samuel needed a number of teeth removed. I refuted these claims and told this Rabbi that the director of the Lauder Chabad Kindergarten, which is under my authority, has told me not only about how well the children have settled into kindergarten since Autumn but also how much they have developed psychologically. I also told my English colleague that these false and one-sided claims illustrate amateur journalism and above all, harm the children Furthermore, I am being harassed by different Rabbonim from England, Israel and Australia who have contacted me to ask me to help the mother because - according to her - the children are in a terrible state.
    Rabbi Jacob Biderman ----------------

    Schlesinger Twins: Rebbitzen Rosenberg comes to Vienna community to help Beth and her children

    Guest post by Rebbetzin Miriam Rosenberg. 

    The Rebbetzin is the wife of Rav Sariel Rosenberg from Bnei Brak -  a major talmid chachom and posek who is a member of the beis din of Rav Karelitz. She is very actively involved in helping woman who have lost the custody of their children. She has visited Vienna a number of times and spent much time investigating Beth's case and she was appalled at the lack of support for  Beth as well as how the twins have suffered. I asked her to write a guest post of what she has found.

    Below is her 5 page letter translated in full from the Hebrew followed by the Hebrew original she sent me for posting here. In the first part she describes the tragic story of Yael which led her to Vienna to raise money for lawyers and where she found out about Beth. She describes in great detail the great miscarriage of justice and the reasons the community - which is known for it kindness and generosity - has failed to intervene.


      חוות דעת משפחת שלזינגר, וינה by Rebbetzin Miriam Rosenberg

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Interview of Rabbi Yitzchak Goodman on his New Translation of “Marvels of our Blessed G-d’s Torah”

    Five Towns Jewish Times by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

    YH: So Rabbi Goodman, I understand that you have recently translated what has been described as “Rav Aharon Kotler’s favorite Sefer.”

    RG:  Yes, I was always fascinated by that sefer, “Niflaos MiToras Hashem Yisboroch” ever since I heard Rav Aharon Kotler greatly praised it and called it a segulah for Yiras Shamayim.

    YH: What does the sefer do exactly?

    RG: He proves that nobody but Hashem could have written the Torah because many enigmatic or unclear sentences become perfectly clear when you realize that they allude to events in the days of Dovid or Shlomo centuries after the Torah was given. [....]

    Rav Triebitz's Introduction to my Daas Torah - cited by Dr. Sperber

    Seforim Blog  excerpt from Dr. Sperber's , On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker. From Chapter 4

    Here we may also call attention to R. Meir Triebitz’s insightful analysis (in his introduction to R. Daniel Eidensohn’s Daas Torah: A Jewish Sourcebook [Jerusalem: 2005, 31–35]). He begins by noting that God commands us twice to study Torah: once in Deuteronomy 11:19, and again in Deuteronomy 4:9–11. He analyzes the differences between these two formulations in all their details – e.g., one in the plural and the other in the singular; one talks of teaching, the other telling; one focuses on parents to children, while the other lists three generations. He concludes that “the two verses which obligate us to learn the Torah actually refer to two types of study. One refers to the study of the legal part of Torah, and the other to the study of Torah’s theology. Each form of study is deemed a separate scholarly enterprise.” He characterizes these two forms of study as “legal” (i.e., halachic) study, and “faith” study, which he states “deals primarily with Aggadic parts of the Torah.” But for our purposes it is important to emphasize that both verses, that is to say both classes of study, require the student also to be a teacher, and to pass on his learning to future generations. Hence, Torah study has a social aspect too.

    Holy amnesia: remembering religious sages as super humans or as simply human

    University of Portsmouth reprints by Yohai Hakak (2009)

    The last decade has witnessed a wave of Haredi literature dealing with the education of children and youth in particular. A common question raised in this literature is that of the proper way to describe the Torah sages of previous generations, i.e., what needs to be remembered and what should be forgotten about them. Many of the writers criticize the ways of writing customary up to our time, which tended to describe Torah sages as superhuman and as lacking any weaknesses or failings; raising educational concerns, they call for a change in these ways of portrayal. In this article, I apply Mary Douglas’s theoretical model of ‘‘enclave culture’’ to the current social circumstances of the Haredi community, in an attempt to explain both the origins of this trend as well as the sources of opposition to these new ways of writing history within the Haredi community.

    In 2002 , Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky’s book Making of a Godol was published. The title of the book suggests the writer’s intention to demonstrate that even the greatest Torah sages did not come into the world with all the attributes of greatness, but rather went through a long process of struggle with human difficulties and weaknesses. The book raised a storm and within a short time was banned. The great Torah sages of Israel, headed by Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, demanded that the author cease its distribution.

    In a letter banning the book, signed by the greatest Lithuanian rabbis in Israel, the book is described thus:

    It is full of grave humiliations, flippancies, and mockeries and creates a bad name for some of our greatest rabbis who are the holiest of the luminaries of Israel of the last generations. For they are the ‘ancients [who are] like angels’ and from their words all Israel lives [...] and the greatness of their honour and holiness is rooted in the heart of every God-fearing Jew. And this book seeks to abolish this through slander, disgrace and humiliation of their glorified honour, which is also the honour of our blessed God and our holy Torah.

    page 17:

    Rabbi Hutner’s comments continued to make waves. Rabbi Yechiel Ya’acob-amongst the most prominent Haredi educators, also referred to this issue. In his lectures, he would often proclaim that ‘‘one should remove the Torah sages from the Burial Society,’’ when hinting at the fact that their current description in Haredi biographies causes children and youth to despair and in fact ‘‘buries’’ them alive. Rabbi Ya’acobson claims in his lectures that ‘‘one cannot educate through lies’’ and mentions that the Bible and the Talmud are replete with uncomplimentary descriptions about the nation’s illustrious figures.

    Another educator to relate to the subject was Rabbi Yitzhak Hershkowitz,35 in his book She’ifot(‘‘Strivings’’) (2003 p. c) he devotes the 14 pages of the introduction to his voluminous book to shattering the delusion regarding the path of the Torah sages. As part of this effort,he introduces tales that testify to Torah sages’ struggles with the evil inclination andto the immense effort they had to invest in in order to become renowned in Torah.Thus, for example, he offers comments made by the Vilna Gaon to his student, the Magid MiDubnow, who asked to be bestowed with his evil inclination. In reply to the request, Hershkowitz quotes the Vilna Gaon as saying (2003, p. 3): ‘‘My child, may the Lord protect you from my evil inclination; it burns in me like fire!’’ On page 6, under the heading ‘‘Most Torah Sages Did Not Have Talent’’ he describes the tremendous efforts that befell whoever became a Torah sage and the travail that was the lot of those achieving this status...

    How is Empathy different from Sympathy - Dr. Brene Brown

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

    Time-Out or Time-In by Allan Katz

    Allan Katz    Time-outs are a popular discipline tool as they can be implemented immediately and can be over in a couple of minutes. Time-outs are described as 'Punishment Lite' .They are  less destructive than other punishments such as spanking. The term is derived from 'time-out from positive reinforcements' techniques used with animals and the idea is that we use love withdrawal or not give attention when the child is misbehaving. Kids are rewarded with attention ,love and connection when they behave and don't get the love , connection and attention when they misbehave. The down side is that kids  feel their parents' love is conditional on how they behave, they are shown less love,  feel abandoned, rejected and confused. For parents the word time-out is easier to swallow than forced solitary confinement, which is what actually happens   when a kid is banished to his room. The idea is that kids should also use this time and reflect on what they did and how it impacted on others.

    There seems to be a basis for ' forced solitary confinement from this week's portion-parasha Tazria. The person = Metzorah sinned by speaking badly about other people and as a result of his 'lashon ha'ra = evil speech, he developed a skin disease erroneously called leprosy. He was removed from people and put into solitary confinement. He would be able then to appreciate the importance of other people family, friends and community in giving him  'life' and how destructive and divisive his actions were to interpersonal relations and people.  In fact the Metzrorah who has the disease and is in solitary confinement is considered as having no life and as if he were dead. This is not because of his suffering due to the disease says Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, but due to him being in solitary confinement. Reb Isaac Sher explains that the disease = Tzara'at is only visiteupon  righteous people who had sinned. Without sin, their skins shone as if the divine presence was reflected in them. But when they sinned the divine presence left them and their skins lost their brightness and developed spots and marks. Fools and wicked people were not on the highest levels so they could be subject to this type of   divine intervention. Also in solitary confinement these people would just feel sorry for themselves , and not reflect on how their actions impacted on others and then repent.

    When kids are forced to do ' time-outs the last thing they do is reflect on what they did and feel sorry for others or a sibling. The now feel sorry for themselves, think their parents are mean and plan to get revenge against  his brother. In any case the focus is now on complying with the time-out and on the 'mean' parent and not on the problem that gave rise to the time-out. This leads to power struggles , kids running away when they hear the word time-out, or keep on asking if they can get up, and worst of all because parents find themselves using time-outs repeatedly and often for the same offence. When time-outs don't work parents find themselves doing moretime-outs  and more harsh versions of the same thing.
    Instead parents trying to feel in control parents should aim for ' connection' and cooperation. They should be pro-active and 'not in the moment'  try to collaboratively solve problems that are predictably giving rise to challenging behavior. And even' in the moment', instead of threatening a kid with a time-out, they can do a 'time –in ' and ask what's going on and remind the kid that what he does has an impact on other people, explain that some ways of acting are just unacceptable and then try to solve the problem where kids are likely to feel that their needs are being considered. Parents can also use time -in to  empathize with a kid's feelings, helping them to process their feelings which all maybe needed to help the storm pass over. We could also suggest another activity and with toddlers try to distract or redirect them. [...]

    Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows as Playthings, but These Shoot

    NY Times    Once upon a time, Grace Maher twirled around the house in Disney princess costumes, a vision of sequins, tiaras and pink.

    She’s 8 now and done with all that. The only pink left is her new bow and arrow.

    That would be her Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Exclusive Golden Edge Bow by Hasbro, a petunia-colored weapon with gold and white trim that shoots colorful foam darts. Forget Ariel, the beautiful mermaid princess. Grace’s new role model is Katniss Everdeen, the (also beautiful) huntress/survivor in the “Hunger Games” trilogy of books and movies.

    Heroines for young girls are rapidly changing, and the toy industry — long adept at capitalizing on gender stereotypes — is scrambling to catch up.

    Toy makers have begun marketing a more aggressive line of playthings and weaponry for girls — inspired by a succession of female warrior heroes like Katniss, the Black Widow of “The Avengers,” Merida of “Brave” and now, Tris of the book and new movie “Divergent” — even as the industry still clings to every shade of pink. [...]

    Yosef Kolko pidyon shvuyim fund in Lakewood


    Reb Daniel,

    I'm sorry to report, that apparently your blog is not widely read in Lakewood...

    Even after you published that the פדיון שבוים is for Kolko, the sign is still up in two shuls that I visited over Shabbos!?!

    I'm not sure what should be done next, but there is one thing I'm sure about. If these signs are allowed to linger for a while, the oilam will get used to seeing them. After a few weeks they will subtly add Kolkos name, thereby establishing that "he didn't commit a crime" as the communities conclusion!!! (Nobody came to empty the boxes, which can be attributed to incompetence. I'm afraid however, that they are leaving them out there for the PR campaign, which is far more valuable in the long run then the few dollars in the box.)

    Schlesinger Twins: Is Dr. Schlesinger concerned about the welfare of his kids?

    Dear All,                                                                                 May 11, 2012

    As you know Mr Schlesinger cancelled my visit on Thursday because the children had a dentist appointment. I asked for a substitute visit to take place this Sunday. The visiting centre wrote me an email today lo inform me that Mr Schlesinger has refused a substitute visit this Sunday or at any other time.

    The woman in charge informed me that Benji had an operation on his teeth but did not have any removed. She wrote that he developed a fever last night and there is no way he will be well enough to see me, his mother, on Sunday. No mention was made of Sammy's welfare but I have been denied access to him too.

    lt is horrific that I had to be informed by a total stranger - after the event - that my child had an operation (the same thing happened when Sammy's 4 teeth were removed). I have no idea what Benji's operation was for. Not only did Mr Schlesinger not think it appropriate to inform me, as the child's mother about such a major incident in his life, but he has denied this poor young boy, not yet 3 years old, access to his mother during and after such a traumatic event.

    When the children lived with me and I had to take them to hospital when they were ill, [ immediately called Mr Schlesinger to tell him and said that, as their father, of course he could come to the hospital to see them, which he did.

    Just before Pesach this year, I went in desperation to the Child Welfare Agency in Vienna to beg them to help. The head of the Agency agreed that this situation is intolerable for the children and said we must both go Lo mediation to find a way of communicating with one another for the sake of the children. 1 immediately accepted this offer as I was willing to try everything possible to improve the situation.

    I have already attempted communication with the children's father many times via email, and text messages but he just ignores me. When the children lived with met even suggested that we take them to the park together but he refused.

    The head of the Agency made separate appointments for each of us with an independent mediator, under a free service offered by the government. I kept my appointment but Mr Schlesinger did not, even though he had agreed with her in a telephone conversation that he would attend. He sent a letter to the Agency to say that he had changed his mind as he did not consider the mediator to be 'qualified enough.' He suggested his own private mediator, which was a family run business of mediators/ lawyers and there would be significant costs involved.

    The qualifications of his proposed mediator did not appear to be any better than the mediator I went to who has had over 20 years experience in family counselling and has a well respected position working for the State.

    Shabbat Shalom and best wishes,

    Beth Schlesinger

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

    Steven Pinker & Rebecca Goldstein: The long reach of reason

    Lonna Kin Divorce: Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another

    NY Times   The wedding was a modest affair, held in a reception hall overlooking an artificial lake tucked behind a suburban strip. But just minutes after it ended, the bride and groom hurriedly scurried past dozens of protesters here who were chanting “Bigamist!” and “Shame on you!” [...]

    Meir Kin, the new husband, has been divorced for more than seven years, under California’s civil law. But he has refused to give his previous wife the document known as a “get,” as required by Orthodox Jewish law to end a marriage. In the eyes of religious authorities, the woman he married in 2000 is what is called an agunah — Hebrew for chained wife. Without the get, the woman, Lonna Kin, is forbidden under Jewish law to remarry. [...]

    Ms. Kin, who runs a real estate company, and her supporters say that Mr. Kin, a physician assistant, is demanding $500,000 and full custody of their 12-year-old son in exchange for the divorce. And they cast doubt on whether he really has the support of 100 rabbis. Reached at his Las Vegas home on Thursday, as a photographer took pictures of him and his bride in the driveway, Mr. Kin declined to comment. [...]

    Instead, Mr. Kin, who in recent years moved to Las Vegas, has repeatedly insisted that Ms. Kin agree to binding arbitration from one particular religious court based in Monsey that is controversial and has been widely denounced by rabbinical authorities in the United States and Israel. Several leading rabbis, including the chief rabbinical office of Israel, have said they would not accept a divorce document signed by this particular court. Mr. Kin has said that the head of the beit din, Rabbi Tzvi Dov Abraham of Monsey, granted him dispensation to marry again. [....]

    Mr. Kin, according to several members of the small Las Vegas Orthodox community, has worshiped at two synagogues affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, which is known for welcoming a broad array of Jews. The rabbis at those synagogues do not count him toward a quorum needed for prayer because of the controversy over his divorce case, but they have declined to publicly rebuke him or force him out, according to Rabbi Shea Harlig, the head of Chabad of southern Nevada.[...]

    New Drugs May Transform Down Syndrome

    Scientific American   People born with Down syndrome have always been considered to be incurably developmentally delayed—until now. In the past few years a number of laboratories have uncovered critical drug targets within disabled chemical pathways in the brain that might be restored with medication. At least two clinical trials are currently studying the effects of such treatments on people with Down syndrome. Now geneticist Roger Reeves of Johns Hopkins University may have stumbled on another drug target—this one with the potential to correct the learning and memory deficits so central to the condition.[...]

    Reeves's team injected newborn Down mice with a chemical that stimulates an important neurodevelopmental pathway that, among other things, orchestrates cerebellum growth. “We were not in fact surprised that we fixed the cerebellum. That was our working hypothesis,” Reeves says. Yet he had not anticipated that three months after treatment the mice with a restored cerebellum would be able to learn their way around a water maze—a function of learning and memory thought to be controlled by another part of the brain, the hippocampus. The researchers do not yet know whether they inadvertently repaired the hippocampus or whether the cerebellum might be responsible for more learning and memory functions than previously realized.

    In fact, other investigational treatments for Down syndrome target the hippocampus—but none target this particular chemical pathway. Reeves's study, published recently in Science Translational Medicine, may point to a pharmaceutical intervention that could allow those with Down syndrome to live more independent lives. “The possibility of actually giving Down syndrome people the ability to improve learning and memory significantly—that's something I never thought I'd see in my entire career,” he says. “And it's now happening. The game has changed.

    Friday, March 21, 2014

    TJC Inteview with Lonna Kin - one side of a two sided story

    TheJewishChannelTJC  Also see Rabbi Tzadok's post Problematic Seruv of Meir Kin 

    Schlesinger Twins: The Vienna community suffers from deafness and a stone heart

    Over the past 3 years, the inboxes of the leaders of the Viennese Jewish community have been flooded with emails of requests and emotional pleas to intervene to help relieve the continued suffering of Samuel and Benjamin. And yet the so-called leaders continue to bury their heads and refuse to take responsibility for this tragedy happening on their doorsteps while the rest of the world looks on in horror and disbelief, desperately doing all they can to help.

    With the writers’ permission to publish them, here are two of the most significant letters that fell on deaf ears:
    From: Jonathan Arkush
    Date: Mon, Nov 11, 2013 at 6:47 PM
    Subject: Alexander custody decision
    To: Beth Alexander; Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister; Chief Rabbi Paul Eisenberg ; Raimund Fastenbauer; Ariel Muzicant; Oskar Deutsch
    Cc: “‘President’ of British Board of Deputies“

     Dear Colleagues and Rabbonim,

    I am deeply troubled by the judgment, having been given its key points by a German speaking relative who read the full decision.  While I am an English rather than an Austrian lawyer, I do not believe our family law in this area to be dissimilar.  I continue to be at a loss to understand why the Court did not take as its starting position that the custody of young children should be with their mother.

    As I understand matters, the Court stated in the judgment that it disregarded all suggestions made by the father that the mother was suffering from any mental  illness or should be unfit in any other way.  The basis of the decision was simply that, after two years in the father’s custody, it was in their best interests that this continued.  This seems to me to be a very inadequate foundation for the decision that leaves these young children in the custody of the father, which in effect means child-minders for much of the day, and the mother with such restricted access.  The position is made worse by the father’s tendency to cancel access visits by the mother.

    I hope that I have not misrepresented the Court’s decision, as I have not yet seen a full translation.

    I would like to express on behalf of the British Jewish community deep disquiet and strong reservations about this latest decision.

    May I ask my colleagues who lead the Jewish community of Austria to make any suggestions as to what might be done to bring this deeply regrettable state of affairs to a just conclusion?

    I realise that the Court has made a decision, but is it too late even at this stage to persuade the father to agree to a community-supported mediation ?  I can assure you that we in England would do all in our power to assist the process if such mediation could be arranged.

    With cordial regards

    Jonathan Arkush Jonathan Arkush
    Vice President
    Board of Deputies of British Jews
     From: Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag
    Sent: 10 June 2012 22:42
    To: Chief Rabbi Eisenberg,Rabbi Josef Pardes, Chabad Rabbi Jacob Biderman
    Cc: Mag Raimund Fastenbauer (Secretary General of Board of Jewish Community Vienna)
    Subject: Beth nee Alexander


    נחום נתן גוטנטג
    רב דק”ק ווייטפילד

    Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag

    Whitefield, Manchester
    M45 7PD
    10th June 2012
    20th Sivan 5772
    Chief Rabbi Chaim Eisenberg
    Rabbi Yosef Pardes
    Chabad Rabbi Jacob Biderman

    Kvod Harabbonim hachashuvim shlita

    Please pardon me for intervening like this from the outside, but as you know the case of Beth nee Alexander formerly of Manchester is causing anxiety.

    From our perspective we can see a young lady living far away from her parents and family, having gone to get married in a foreign country and community, with that marriage broken down, now deprived of custody of and access to her children. She finds herself now set against a former spouse who has the advantage of local family support, natural community affinity, and knowledge of the civic law situation. Through the involvement of the civil authorities the mother has lost custody of her children and is now being deprived of access to them.

    It would appear that justification is being made for this situation, based inter alia on some allegations that there is mental health problem with Beth or her family.

    To an outsider these sound like biased accusations that would tend to get made in aggravated break down of a marriage. But they are simply not fair nor just. My wife taught Beth at Yavneh Girls High school in Manchester . She remembers her as a kindly, quiet and very fine student. Family Alexander in Manchester is a family with a good name for solidity and communal involvement. I believe that it is simply an unworthy slur for Beth and her family to be characterised in a manner that I understand that they are being portrayed, and most unfair. There are always two sides in any situation, and one would expect a kehilla and its leadership to ensure that reasonably fair play is being maintained. From what it appears in this situation, however, and for whatever reason, there is an unfairness and an injustice being perpetrated against Beth, a single woman in a foreign country, without proper support – pitted against a family, in a community with all the connections naturally available to them.

    I believe that you as the rabbinic leadership of the Vienna kehilla have it within your power to provide fairness to the situation and relief to Beth and her family. I write to you collectively dear honoured rabbonim, to appeal to you – please do that which is in your power to have this matter sorted in a manner which will reflect fairness and justice and uphold the good name of the esteemed Vienna kehilla.

    The hanhogo of a kehilla is in the joint hands of rabbonim and baaley battim, and for that reason you will I am sure agree that it is correct and appropriate for me to write at the same time to the lay leadership of the kehilla, which as you can I have done.

    With many thanks
    Bevirkos kol tov

    Jonathan Guttentag

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

    Chasam Sofer: Seek truth - don't be concerned to please others and win their approval

    Rabbi Simcha Friedman (Emunat Hakhmim in Tradition 27:4): ... I model myself upon what I have learned from R. Moshe  Sofer in a responsum written after R. Zevi Hirsch Chajes had presented him  with a copy of his book, Torat ha-Nevi'im. In his introduction, R. Chajes ex­pressed the fear that critics will reproach him with the argument that he had innovated nothing new, and therefore there seemed no purpose in his writ­ing what he did. The Hatam Sofer, however, encouraged him to publish his  book, for his intention is to increase Torah knowledge. He found support  for his position in an incident involving R. Abba (Beitzah 38a-b). Prior to his aliyah to the Land of Israel, R. Abba uttered the prayer: "May it be Thy will  that I say things which are acceptable to the Sages of the Land of Israel. "  The Talmud explains, however, that his prayer went unanswered, for during  course of a certain encounter in a bet midrash in Israel, R. Abba was ridiculed for a particular proof he had brought. The Hatam Sofer drew a comparison between R. Abba's prayer which went unanswered and a simi­lar prayer of R. Nehunya ben ha-Kanah (Berakhot 28b), who also requested, prior to teaching Torah, that he not stumble in matters of halakhah and that  felIow scholars rejoice in him and which was granted. The Hatam Sofer exlained the difference between the two in the fact that R. Abba sought to  find favor on the part of those who would hear him and was therefore un­successful, while R. Nehunya ben Ha-Kanah prayed simply to be guided  toward the truth of the halacha, but was not concerned with the approval of his listeners – and therefore succeeded. The Hatam Sofer inferred from this that as long as the intention of the disputants is to determine the truth of their views, there is a chance that each side will act with intellectual honesty in order to clarify the matter. However, once their aim is purely to convince the other party of the validity of their position, the desire to win the argument is likely to result in the lack of objective judtgment and therefore they will be unsuccessful.[Chasam Sofer #208]

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Schlesinger Twins: Why am I reminded of the Emperor's new clothes?

    Wikipedia. The phrase "emperor's new clothes" has become an idiom about logical fallacies.[28] The story may be explained by pluralistic ignorance.[29] The story is about a situation where "no one believes, but everyone believes that everyone else believes. Or alternatively, everyone is ignorant to whether the Emperor has clothes on or not, but believes that everyone else is not ignorant."[30]

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    How Science Mimics Faith

    Scientific American   Religion provides a sense of meaning and comfort for believers, and studies show that such beliefs intensify during threatening situations. Now research suggests that some people's faith in science may serve the same role.

    Miguel Farias and other researchers at the University of Oxford and Yale University investigated whether it is belief in religion that is beneficial or in fact any belief about the world's order and our place in it. In two related experiments published in November 2013 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the scientists developed a scale to measure belief in science—the view that scientific inquiry offers a superior guide to reality. As expected, belief in science was inversely correlated with religious beliefs. Next the researchers assessed whether belief in science increased in threatening situations.. [...]

    “It is likely that some people use their ideas about science to make sense of the world and for emotional compensation in difficult situations in the same way that religious people use their supernatural beliefs,” Farias says. “Our findings suggest that it may be belief itself, regardless of its content, that helps people deal with adverse situations.”

    Saturday, March 15, 2014

    The New York Asifa by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

    update: Rabbi Hoffman's rebuttal of Rabbi Slifkin's comments

    update Rabbi Slifkin sent me this rebuttal

    Five Towns Jewish Time   This is a response to my good friend Reb Barry Jacobson’s remarks on the Asifa this past Sunday in Manhattan.  It also addresses his inquiry printed in the Five Towns Jewish Times about Torah sources regarding Bnei Torah continuing to study rather than serving in the army.  There is no question, of course, that the soldiers who are protecting the nation against the enemies of the Jewish people are fulfilling a remarkable task and a holy role.  Certainly, all of us who are beneficiaries of their bravery and dedication should express our sincere hakaras haTov and pray for their welfare and well-being.

    The leading sages of America, Degel HaTorah, Agudah in Eretz Yisroel and the sages of Shas – the Sefardic Torah organization had all signed on for the call to join in the mass gathering in the Wall Street area.  The mass gathering was to show solidarity with the Torah community in Israel that is facing the unprecedented law in the state of Israel’s history to draft Yeshiva students into the armed forces.

    This response is an explanation and a historical overview about the confluence of army service and Torah study.   Not everyone will agree with the explanations and positions set forth here.  However, those that do not agree must realize that they do come from a very different socio-religious milieu than those in the Chareido world who have been brought up with and raised with a deep appreciation of Torah being the only definition of true life.

    Serious-minded Chareidi Jews do not merely recite the words of the blessings of the Shma perfunctorily.  No.  When they recite the words, “Ki haim chayeinu – for they are our life – v’orech yameinu and the pathways of our life..” – they truly mean it. [...]

    What is missing in all this, however, is the realization that we are all children of the same mother and father.  We are all parts of the same body and we should treat each other with the respect and love that we must have for our family members – even if we do disagree as to what approach should be emphasized or adopted.   Recently, we have seen two conflicting PR Youtube videos to a song entitled “Anu Mashkimim v’haim Mashkimim.”  The song explains how we awaken early for the right purposes, they awaken early for useless purposes.  The song was used by both sides of the debate to denigrate the other side.  Both uses of the song are wrong.  We stand now in the month of Adar.  The Manos HaLevi, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz, explains that the concept of Shalach Manos is to further brotherly love and ahavas Yisroel among ourselves.  It is to counter the statement of Haman that the Jewish nation is Mefuzar and Mefurad throughout the nations because of their lack of unity.  The month of Adar should counter the spirit of disunity and contribute to family love.

    May Hashem speedily grant mutual respect and unity among us.  Amain!

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Schlesinger Twins: Dr. Schlesinger refuses to let Chief Rabbi hand twins to mother

    This is documentation that Dr. Schlesinger refuses to let the Chief Rabbi hand over the twins to their mother for free. He insists that she continue paying 50 euros to a government agent to do the same. See further information here

    Schlesinger twins: Documentation of Dr. Schlesinger canceling a visit

    A number of Dr. Schlesinger's supporters have denied that he has canceled Beth's visits with her children and have demanded documentary evidence. Here is an email from the latest cancellation.


    From: Christine Schlotter
    Date: 2014-03-09 19:08 GMT+01:00
    Subject: AW: Besuchscafe Aneli mj. schlesinger
    To: Beth Alexander

    Sehr geehrte Frau Schlesinger,
    ich bin nicht sicher, ob ich Ihnen schon gesagt habe:
    Herr Schlesinger kann die Kinder am 16.3.2014 nicht bringen.
    Nächster Termin ist 23.3.2014 9:00 Uhr.
    Mit freundlichen Grüßen
    Christine Schlotter

    Dear Mrs Schlesinger,
    I an not sure if I already told you:
    Mr Schlesinger cannot bring the children on 16. 3.2014.
    The next appointment is 23.3.2014 at 9am,
    Kind Regards,
    Christine Schlotter

    Beth Schlesinger: Purim is not just about external enemies

     Guest Post by Beth Schlesinger

    This Purim, like last year, I will not be spending with my children. My Sunday visit is cancelled. This year, like last year, I have no idea how Sammy and Benji will celebrate, if they even have a costume or if they will even be taken to a Purim party to be with all the other children. I sincerely hope so. Even if they can't celebrate this joyous day with their mother, I wish them all the fun, laughter and happiness in the world.  

    As I think about my own personal tragedy, I reflect on the story of Purim and try to find new meaning behind the traditional and superficial story we tell our children. 

    Since my boys attend the Chabad kindergarden, where better to look for a Purim lesson than in their teachings?

    I found the following:

    Purim teaches us that in a time of crisis, faced with a ruthless enemy like Haman, we must turn all the more tenaciously to our source of strength, and show that we are “the People of Mordechai, who would not kneel nor bow down” to anything that is contrary to Yiddishkeit.

    As a child and even into adulthood, I was always taught and naively believed that our enemies are external; dangerously lurking on the other side of the fence ready to pounce, while we stand united with our Jewish brethren, smugly secure within the tightly protected confines of our communities. It is only now, as an adult after tasting the bitter pill of reality that I realise how childishly simplistic the story is told. Haman versus Mordechai, Vashti versus Esther. The goodies pitted squarely against the baddies, neatly delineated into 2 camps: Haman the evil gentile who tried to destroy us, the good and innocent Jewish victims. But we, the chosen People, stood together as one and defeated the menacing enemy. Everyone celebrated and was happy until the next existential threat rose up to conquer us once again.

    But what happens when there is a Haman within our midst? When not everyone in the Jewish community is a Mordechai or Queen Esther? When elements within our own camp seek to mercilessly destroy us and rejoice over our downfall just like Haman tried and failed to do. What do you do when the lines blur so that you can no longer be sure who are your enemies and who are your supporters?

    Kol Yisroel areivim zeh bazeh. All of Israel are responsible for one another, we are told. If only more people were to realize this dictum and take heed. 

    Purim is an elusive festival. It is a story wrapped in disguise, hidden behind a costume, concealed behind a mask. While it may appear frivolous merry making from the outside, behind the costumes and spiels, a meta-story unfolds.  Just when Haman arrogantly believed his plot was all sewn up, everything suddenly turned on its head. Instead of destroying, he was the one destroyed. He tried to inspire hatred for the Jews but instead, he emerged as the hated one. 
    Purim is traditionally associated with childish fun but there is also a serious adult message to take home.The word Purim comes from 'Pur;' the lots which Haman drew to murder the Jews but it is also related to the Hebrew word `porer, ' which means to dismantle, break, destroy, break into crumbs It is perhaps at times we assume we are most in control that we can be so wrong. Hashem may unexpectedly reveal His hidden hand at any moment and that is why even in the depths of darkness and despair, we must cling on to our faith and not lose hope. 

    Purim Sameach