Tuesday, March 31, 2015

שיעור הלכות גיטין #2 TONIGHT 5 PM instructions below‎

Shiur tonight [Wednesday March 31 5 p.m. New York time] with Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn about coerced Gittin and the various opinions.

To participate in Shiur on Laws of Gittin especially forced Gittin call 605-562-3130 then type in code 822322#.

If  you are typing or making any noise be sure to mute your phone. We hope to record it. We will make breaks for questions. Tonight we study about a woman who claims that her husband disgusts her. May she coerce a GET from her husband? What circumstances are involved and what opinions? 
What is the halacha in the Shulchan Aruch?

For questions and comments call Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn at 845-578-1917.
Thank you and a Good Yom Tov.

Rav Zeff Lev - How to Fulfill One's Obligation to Feel YOU Left Mitzrayim:

President of World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, visits Vienna

President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder addressed the Viennese Jewish community at an event held Sunday evening, an informal dialogue with former President of the community, Ariel Muzicant.

Mr Lauder, son of Estee Lauder, founder of the Estee Lauder Companies, spoke about his time in Vienna as US ambassador from 1986 to 1987. Other topics included anti-semitism in Europe as well as Lauder's peace negotiations with Syrian leader Hafez al-Asad in 1998.

Mr Lauder spoke proudly about his philanthropic work to revive Jewish life in Europe and the 17 schools and institutions he has founded, including the Lauder Business School in Vienna. The only problem, he admitted, was that students were leaving for the US after their studies.

'We have enough people in the States,' he said. 'Young people are needed here to build up the community.'

Mr Muzicant spoke about the Viennese approach to integrating outsiders.

'Our community, more than any other European city does the most to welcome in new immigrants and integrate them into our community. We are a community who really care about everyone,' he said.

At the end of the discussion, the tragic plight of UK mother, Beth Alexander was raised with Mr Lauder. The President acknowledged that he was aware of the situation and told Beth personally he would 'look into it further.'

Rabbinic Authority and Psak Halacha by A. Prager

Guest Post by A. Prager

What exactly is psak halacha, and what does it achieve? This issue is and remains ambiguous to many. The nature and effect of psak is something ethereal, undefined and apparently abstract. What actually happens when the Rav issues his ruling, how do his words oblige the שואל, and what is the halachic and existential nature of Piskei Halacha?

In this post I would like to share some essential facts and information to unravel this unnecessarily elusive issue. Built upon the words of Rishonim, Poskim and Shu”t, I will explain that psak is a halachic reality, and examine how it is that a halachic ruling can obligate the questioner.

Cherry-Picking Poskim

A well-known Gemara (Avoda Zara 7a) states that once one halachic authority is questioned and rules regarding the halachic status of an item, no other authority should be questioned to procure a differing ruling:

"ת"ר: הנשאל לחכם וטימא - לא ישאל לחכם ויטהר, לחכם ואסר – לא ישאל לחכם ויתיר"

There is a fundamental dispute amongst the Rishonim as to the understanding of the reason for this Beraisa, and accordingly we will be able to shed light on the nature of psak.

The Ravad (cited by numerous Rishonim ibid) explains that the שואל cannot ask again because: “שויה חתיכה דאיסורא”; the first authority has “created an item of איסור”; that can’t be undone by another authority. In other words, the psak has had a tangible effect of the actual halachic status of the item asked about. This is a tremendous idea. You bring a questionable piece of meat to the Rav, the Rav issues his psak he turns it into a piece of treif. If he would’ve asked a different Rabbi, and received a lenient ruling it would be completely מותר; the Rabbi has redefined the halachic existence of the item. ([1] It is necessary to note that here is not synonymous with the same expression used in Kesubos (22a) and in Nedarim regarding the קבלה, the acceptance, of the שואל. The Ravad is not saying that the questioner is obliged to follow the ruling of the Rabbi because we assume that by asking he accepts the psak. This is not the understanding of the Ravad and the Poskim who follow his approach, as I will demonstrate through the examples below. See however the response of R’ Shimshon Raphael Hirsch “Shemesh U’Marpeh” Y.D. 52, who does seem to be of this understanding)

The Ran’s approach, however, in the above Beraisa, is based on כבוד מורה הראשון; it is considered to be an insult to the כבוד of the first authority to ask another Rabbi after the first has made his own ruling; it’s as if the שואל doesn’t rely on the knowledge and abilities of the first.

A Halachic Reality

I would like to demonstrate how essential this machlokes is by examining the different practical outcomes which result from this machlokes:

If the first authority would be consulted, and subsequently agree to the questioner asking another authority, according to the Ran there would be no impediment to ask again, as his honor is not diminished by doing so since he has agreed. However, in the Ravad’s understanding, it is an impossibility to redefine the existence of the item once it has been created (Ran ibid). ([2] With the exception of where a mistake has been made by the Rav, in which case the initial ruling had no potency. See the Ritva there and the Rema and Shach (cited below), for a discussion of which mistakes this is true for.)

What about monetary issues, where there is no ruling on a specific item “Kosher” or “Treif”, pure or impure, rather a psak of who is חייב to pay? The Ran and the Rashba (Chulin 44b) write that according to the Ravad there is nothing to stop him from asking again to asking again in monetary issues, since there is no חתיכה דאיסורא in ממונות. However, in the understanding of the Ran there is the same concern for the honor of the first Rabbi.

A final example, which is a very good illustration of the differing opinions above is a reversal of the above case. What if the first Rav ruled Kosher, and the questioner wishes to ask a second Rav – perhaps he will rule that the item is Treif. Now, according to the Ran there should be no difference; it is not befitting the honor of the first Rabbi to ask a second, regardless of the ruling of the first. However, if the reasoning is that there has been a “חלות” i.e. a halachic change or happening in the item itself, this only holds true when something becomes אסור. The psak of the Rav can only determine היתר but cannot create it, not so his ruling to forbid something. So in this case, when the first Rabbi ruled that it was permitted, there would be no problem seeking the advice of another authority; maybe he would be machmir (Ritva Avodah Zara ibid).


Le’maaseh: The Shach (Y.D. 242:58,59) and the Chochmas Odom (52) both rule like the Ravad. This position is also reinforced by the Netziv (Meshiv Davar 2,9). The Rema, however, (seemingly) follows the understanding of the Ran. When Hagaon R’ Moshe Sternbuch was consulted about the halacha, he told me we follow both rulings, l’chumra. That’s important to know. As I explained above how we understand the nature of psak is going to have important practical differences in the application of the halacha.

On General Issues

One final caveat. The whole discussion here about the essence and power of psak only holds true to a ruling made on a specific item: e.g. the Rav is consulted about the kashrus of the chicken; or the beracha on a food, however, regarding a general halachic enquiry: for example, what is the halacha if I forget יעלה ויבא on Rosh Chodesh, should I follow a certain practice or minhag, the above discussion is not relevant. In such a situation there is no physical item for a חלות of psak to become active (Chut Shani, Y.D. 188). I look forward to sharing, in a future post, how it is in such questions that a ruling can obligate the שואל to follow the words of the Rabbi.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Public shaming as blood sport has to stop - Monica Lewinsky

New Yorker   Monica Lewinsky and the Shame Game

A frightening, terrible thing about shame is how difficult it is to dispel. Guilt, at least, can be absolved through action. You apologize to the friend you gossiped about; you donate ten per cent of the $6.3 million cash bonus you got as the C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs to charity. Guilt is the discomfort that comes from recognizing that you’ve done something wrong, or failed to do something right. It’s an emotional accountability mechanism—the way that the self takes itself to task.

Shame, on the other hand, is a social feeling, born from a perception of other people’s disgust, a susceptibility to their contempt and derision. You see yourself from the point of view of your detractors; you pelt yourself with their revulsion, and as you do you begin, like Cassio, to lose track of the self altogether. Someone else’s narrow, stiffened vision of who you are replaces your own mottled, expansive one. As Lewinsky listened to the recordings of her phone calls, she tells us, she heard her voice as if it belonged to a different person: “My sometimes catty, sometimes churlish, sometimes silly self being cruel, unforgiving, uncouth.” It was “the worst version of myself, a self I didn’t even recognize.”

That feeling of estrangement from the true, variegated self is expressed time and time again in “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” a new book by the journalist Jon Ronson, to be published by Riverhead next week. Ronson interviewed scores of people who have been cut down by collective vilification in our post-Lewinsky, social-media-soaked age. He wants to trace the shame phenomenon to its root, and the taxonomy that he comes up with includes those who have been shamed for doing dumb things in the professional realm (Jonah Lehrer making up those Bob Dylan quotes; the former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey creating a bogus official post for his secret male Israeli lover); those who have been shamed for doing dumb things in what they mistakenly considered to be the private realm (Justine Sacco, the P.R. person who sent out an unfortunate joke about AIDS in Africa to her two-hundred-odd Twitter followers before boarding a plane to Johannesburg, only to discover, when she landed, that her tweet had gone viral and that she had lost her job); those who have been shamed for doing things that seem perfectly acceptable by any common measure, public or private; and those who have been shamed for spuriously shaming others. (These last two are linked in a kind of reputation murder-suicide, in which a woman at a tech conference, overhearing a man making an anodyne joke to his friend, published his photo on her blog along with a post claiming that he had made her feel unsafe. He immediately lost his job; in what passes for virtual justice, she was then flooded with rape and death threats, and was fired in turn.) [...]

Epstein Torture for Get trial: Rabbi Jachter testifies -(not as reported Rav Herschel Schacter)

NJ.com    The son of a Lakewood rabbi accused of arranging the beatings of men who wouldn't give their wives religious divorces was in a meeting in Ohio when one of the attacks occurred, a business associate told jurors in an ongoing federal kidnapping and conspiracy trial.

The testimony of Greg Emmer, vice president and chief marketing officer for Kaeser & Blair Inc., was offered Thursday as an alibi for David "Ari" Epstein, who is accused of participating in the Aug. 22, 2011, attack on a Brooklyn man who would not give his wife a religious divorce.

That man, Usher Chaimowitz, eventually agreed to the divorce after hours of beatings. Chaimowitz's roommate, Menachem Teitelbaum, who was also beaten in the attack, testified earlier in the trial that he heard one of the assailants yell, "Epstein, call your father."

Federal prosecutors contend the reference was to David Epstein and his father, Mendel Epstein, a prominent Lakewood rabbi who specializes in divorce proceedings. The father and son, along with rabbis Binyamin Stimler and Jay Goldstein, are on trial on kidnapping and conspiracy charges that grew out of a federal sting..[...]

Another defense witness, Rabbi Howard Jachter, discussed the process of obtaining religious divorces. Attorney Nathan Lewin, who represents Stimler, asked Jachter about items taken from vehicles when several men including Stimler, were arrested after a sting operation in Edison in October 2013. [...]

The sting involved an undercover FBI agent posing as an Orthodox Jewish woman whose husband wouldn't grant her a religious divorce. The men were arrested at a warehouse in Edison where federal prosecutors contend they were ready to beat the husband until he relented. [...]

Federal prosecutors displayed on a large television screen photographs of Stimler wearing a face mask and Goldstein's son Avrohom Goldstein, wearing a Halloween mask, that they allegedly wore at the Edison warehouse.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Frum Survivor Tells Her Story Publicly - For the First Time Jewish Community Watch

Nissan Miracles, Netanyahu and the Charedim: Ending a Two Year Estrangement by RaP

Guest post by RaP

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is a very interesting man. He is the only person to serve as prime minister of Israel four times. His name is also unique. The original family name was Milikowsky and his ancestors include famous Lithuanian rabbis. The Hebrew family name itself means "God Gave" or a "Giving God" as if somehow God has chosen this person to channel something important not just to the Jewish and Israeli people, but to the world at large. It was fascinating to watch recently as hundreds of non-Jewish political leaders in the United States looked up to him as a voice not just for Israel on the world stage but for the Western World as it is faces unprecedented challenges from an aggressive Islamic and Arab world bent on world conquest by means if a global Jihad. Only the famous World War Two British Prime Minister Winston Churchill has, as Netanyahu has, spoken three different times to a joint session of the US Congress.

Netanyahu is not a perfect man, far from it, he has gone through and survived many personal and political failures. It is not even clear how truly Jewishly religious he is. While he is always depicted as being respectful of Orthodox Jews and Judaism, in his personal and family life he certainly is not a model of what Torah-true Judaism requires of its adherents.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu has always shown a great affinity and insight into how to ally himself with the Charedi, Sefardic and Chasidic worlds, as his benefactor and mentor Prime Minister Menachem Begin did to his great success. When Netanyahu served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations first gaining fame, he went to visit the last Lubavitcher Rebbe in Crown Heights. There are famous videos of him standing on line to talk with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe and no doubt like many other politicians he spent quality time there as well. When Netanyahu first ran for the prime ministership of Israel he was promoted and supported by the famous Lubavitch Gutnick family from Australia that poured money into his election coffers. The Charedim were always a trusted part of his various governments.

Yet, two years ago, something very bizarre happened when for the first time, Netanyahu was forced to cut loose his usual Charedi partners and allied himself with Lapid of the secular anti-Charedi Yesh Atid party. That union did not end well as Netanyahu found out the hard way when Lapid started to plot to oust Netanyahu, whereupon Netanyahu struck first and fired Lapid, bringing down his own coalition, and heading to new elections, that has now seen the picture come full-circle, with the Charedim being among the top promoters and allies of Netanyahu once more. No surprise really, because the rate of secularization and assimilation into a totally gentile and anti-religious mentality especially by the Labor and leftist parties has proceeded at a rapid pace. Charedim can only hope to find allies now in the right-wing camps.

So here we are, Erev Pesach 5775, with the most cooperative and mature allies of Netanyahu being the Charedi parties UTJ and SHAS acting very statesmanlike and patiently waiting for the new government to be formed and sworn in. This is coming as a very rude awakening and shock to the anti-Torah elements in all the parties. Within the Likud there are grumbles that they want more cabinet seats as everyone wants to be a VIP with a front-row seat in the Knesset, while in those parties that have already officially informed President Rivlin of Israel that they are with Netanyahu, amazingly each one wants to be a "Defense Minister" and a "Foreign Minister" and a "Finance Minister" seeing only themselves and forgetting that in a COALITION government ministries and important posts have to be given to EVERY party (yes, even to Charedim if they are part of the coalition) and that not everyone can get all the top posts, because the price for retaining allies in a coalition is to give them the just political rewards they have earned.

Naftali Bennett of the Bayit Yehudi party even still wants to be the "Minister of Religion/s" little realizing that his days as the "religious one" at Netanyahu's side are now history since others such as the members of UTJ and SHAS are in no mood for games and will treat what goes on under the rubric of a "Religious Affairs Ministry" as deadly serious business that cannot be left in the hands of amateurs and opportunists.

There is too much at stake such as removing the ridiculous "criminal" penalties for religious boys who are yeshiva students; stop interfering with the appointment of Dayanim and the running of Batei Din; stop the inroads of Reform; not meddling in the affairs of the Chief Rabbinate and its functions serving the people of Israel; allowing the full practice of Orthodox Judaism in the army and the Israeli workplace; finding ways to limit the pro-secular bias and activism of the Israeli Supreme Court; dealing with the over 300,000 émigrés from the former USSR who are not Halachic "Jews"; ensuring funding for Charedi Yeshivas and educational institutions that were mercilessly cut; that Charedi society receives the same social welfare benefits of all Israelis; removing and burying once and for all the absurd slogan of "shivyon banetel" ("sharing the burden") that demonizes Charedim; making secular society aware that they have as much an obligation to study Torah as they demand of religious Jews to "integrate" into Israeli society and much, much more. Yet so few seem to have the maturity to realize this as they jockey for the prestige of being top honchos with Volvos.

But one thing is obvious to all, and to their great credit the Charedi parties realize this all too well, that the time for playing games is over. There are too many dangers facing the Jews in Israel and worldwide. Not just in France and Russia, but in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States which have all seen a steep rise in vicious anti-Semitism and massive efforts to destroy Israel economically through the "BDS" ("boycott, divestment, sanctions") campaigns, and the constant military threats through Hamas, Hezbola, ISIS and Iran and many other cut-throats plotting Israel's demise. There is just too much for the Jewish people to face up to in and outside of Israel, to play political games of "mine" that suits children, something that Israeli leaders must face up or the consequences could be severe.

Let us hope and pray that Netanyahu will continue to get and take the valuable guidance and support from the Charedi parties who are guided by their Torah sages and who will hopefully bring HKB"H's Blessings to all of Israel and the Jewish People and the World.

Wishing everyone a Chag Pesach Kosher VeSameach and may the Nissim ("miracles") of the month of Nissan continue and culminate with the ultimate Redemption, Amen!

How to Be a Better Spouse - Scientific American

Before you get married, everyone tells you that marriage takes work. I never really believed it until my husband and I landed in therapy after four years, two kids and one seismically stressful cross-country move. Turns out you really can't just flip the switch to autopilot and trust love to take care of itself; you have to devote actual time and effort to understanding and appreciating your spouse. Anyone who is married knows that's not always a simple feat. Here's what relationship research (and a touch of game theory) tells us about how to become a better spouse.

#1 Be nice as often as you can. A lot of modern relationship therapy is based on the research of John Gottman, a prolific psychologist famous for videotaping thousands of couples and dissecting their interactions into quantifiable data. One of his most concrete findings was that happier couples had a ratio of five positive interactions to every negative interaction. “That just leapt off the pages of the data analysis,” he says. It was true in very different types of relationships, including those in which the people were very independent and even distant or argumentative. These positive interactions don't have to be grand gestures: “A smile, a head nod, even just grunting to show you're listening to your partner—those are all positive,” Gottman says.

#2 Think about what your partner needs, even when fighting. [...] In 1950 mathematician John Nash proved there was another, better outcome: a solution in which the parties may have to compromise, but in the end all of them come out satisfied. (This now famous “Nash equilibrium” won him a Nobel Prize in 1994.) I'm reminded of a recent situation in my own marriage—my husband hated the house we bought a couple of years ago and wanted to move to a different neighborhood; I liked the house just fine and didn't want to go anywhere. After much discussion, we realized that what we both really want is to settle in somewhere for the long haul. If the current house is not a place my husband feels he can settle in, then I can't truly settle in either. So we're moving next month, for both our sakes! Find the Nash equilibrium in your conflict, and you'll both get your needs met.

#3 Just notice them. “People are always making attempts to get their partners' attention and interest,” Gottman says. In his research, he has found that couples who stay happy (at least during the first seven years) pick up on these cues for attention and give it 86 percent of the time. Pairs who ended up divorced did so 33 percent of the time. [...]

#4 Ignore the bad, praise the good. Observations of couples at home reveal that people who focus on the negative miss many of the positive things that their partners are doing. Happy spouses, however, ignore the annoyances and focus on the good. [...]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rabbi Schachter's letter regarding Tamar Epstein - 3 problematic issues

 Rabbi Schachter's letter     and the circulation of that letter by ORA and Rabbi Jeremy Stern, raise at least three sets of issues. One issue is whether the letter accurately reflects halacha. A seond issue is whether the letter is consistent with Rabbi Schachter's own publicly declared principles regarding gittin, as well as those of ORA and Rabbi Jeremy Stern. A third issue is whether Rabbi Schachter, ORA, and Rabbi Jeremy Stern, have violated Federal criminal law in writing and circulating this letter. This post addresses the first of these issues.

At the time Rabbi Schachter's letter was written, there was no finding against Aharon from any beis din whatsover. The matter of whether a get should be given in this case was jointly brought by both parties to the Baltimore Beis Din, which held several hearings with the participation of both parties. That Beis Din has never ruled that a get should be given. Tamar violated the Baltimore Beis Din's orders regarding dismissing the case from civil court, thereby causing severe damage to Aharon and the parties' child. The Av Beis Din of the Baltimore Beis Din was quoted at the time Rabbi Schachter wrote this letter stating that Aharon had not committed any wrongdoing, and that it was up to Tamar to bring the matter back to the Baltimore Beis Din.

Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn and Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn have written extensively on this blog on the general halachic paramaters of when pressure of various sorts may be brought against a husband to give a get. In addition to violating those general paramaters, the halachic basis of Rabbi Schachter's letter also rests both on the declarations of Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, who has extremely close and longstanding personal and financial ties to Tamar's family and Rabbi Schachter's novel halachic principle derived from "sod Hashem lerauv." This principle is addressed in a document issued by Beis Din Shar Hamishpat, a translation of which is below. This excerpt appears in page 3 of the original document.  http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2012/08/bitulseruv-aharon-friedman-rav-gestetner.html

Rabbi Schachter’s letter: What Rabbi Schachter wrote concerning Rabbi’s Kamenetsky’s letter “there already is a sage who’s instructed” makes a mockery and disgrace of the entire Torah. With such a meaningless statement one can erase all the Torah’s prohibitions, and nullify all integrity and justice, and issue decisions according to whatever one likes in contradiction to the Torah. One should wonder whether Rabbi Schachter would follow so blindly after Rabbi Kamenetsky had he instructed him to abandon his family since “there is a sage who has instructed” based on “sod Hashem lerauv” [the secrets of G-d are revealed to those who fear Him, and therefore the statements of such people represent the word of G-d]? Presumably not… But when it comes at the expense of others he has become a great “believer.”

Also, Rabbi Schachter’s pronouncement of “sod Hashem lerauv”is against the poskim who required that psakim [decisions of Jewish Law] be based on actual sources. [See the Mishpatim Yisharim: A judge who says “So it appears to me” and does not base his decision on actual sources is a false judge, and his opinions are worthless….] The pronouncement of “sod Hashem lerauv” shows that Rabbi Kamenetsky’s baseless psak [decision] is a painful mockery and a spewing malignancy. This “sod”[secret] reveals to everyone that Rabbi Kamenetsky has close ties to, and received benefits from, the Epstein family.

Rabbi Schachter’s conclusion “unless it is proven in error” shows that he admits that even though a “sage has instructed already” and “sod Hashem lerauv” if Rabbi Kamenetsky’s decision is proven wrong then that decision is totally worthless. We have already proven in our decision that ta’ah bdevrei mishna [he erred on a fundamental matter] and did so twice: Rabbi Kamenetsky erred in regard to the divorce obligation that he decreed on the husband [even if this was just between him and husband without public embarrassment] that clearly contradicts all poskim as the rule is that if a purported obligation to divorce is imposed on the husband, where no such obligation properly exists, any resulting get would be invalid. And he even more clearly erred when he issued the derogatory letters and the “seruv” against Aharon to permit all to shed his blood, which is considered complete coercion that invalidates any resulting get in this case. And now he should show some integrity and heed his own words and admit in public that there was such an error.

Epstein Torture for Get Trial: Rav Herschel Schacter

Rav Schachter has previously indicated that the use of force to encourage the husband to give a get is permitted - even without a ruling of beis din. His recording where he mentioned the appropriateness of the use of violence have been removed from the YU website. See his letter at the end of this post.
 From the end of the following post

The violent attack against Aharon Friedman was at least partially the result of the incitement to violence against Aharon by various rabbis and organizations.  In this letter (see link below) that was publicized by ORA, Rabbi Hershel Schachter calls for Aharon to be physically beaten.  It is not yet known whether Rabbi Schachter was involved in hiring the thugs that attacked and attempted to kidnap Aharon on Tisha B'av.

One of the sources Rabbi Schachter cites in the letter against Aharon (Rabbi Akiva Eiger) is referenced in an audio lecture by Rabbi Schachter that is on Yeshiva University’s website: http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/739308/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Options_for_Helping_Agunot# as grounds for beating someone over a get. (It is ironic that Rabbi Eiger writes about a husband who is leaving the city of the marital residence and that immediate action was necessary, whereas in this matter it was Epstein who left the city of marital residence with the child and abused the beis din process so that her abduction of the child would be treated as a fait accompli in court.)

In the letter, Rabbi Schachter says that Aharon's situation is the same as "a slave whose master provides for him a Canaanite maidservant, that until now it is has been permissible, and now it is forbidden." In the audio, he explains that in such a situation the slave, or, as he writes in the letter, Aharon, should be beaten. Furthermore, Rabbi Schachter specifically writes in the letter that any person can take the law into his own hands [to beat Aharon].

See in particular:
4:00 - beat someone over a get (citing Rabbi Akiva Eiger)
4:30 - beat a slave for wrongfully remaining married to maidservant, analogizing this case to the get case, and that anyone can take upon himself to take the law into their own hands to beat the person
9:10 - beat someone up over a get
10:20 - bludgeon someone to death over a get
13:33 - have right to beat someone over a get (citing Rabbi Akiva Eiger)
26:50 - beating for a get with a baseball bat

Rabbi Schachter’s letter can be found at Daas Torah here: http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2012/04/rav-schachter-i-relied-on-rav.html 

The reference to Bava Kama 28a in the letter is referring to beating a former slave to prevent him from sinning. It is permitted to beat him - even without the authorization of a beis din
Come and hear: Whence is derived the ruling that in the case of a [Hebrew] bondman whose term of service, that had been extended by the boring of his ear,9 has been terminated by the arrival of the Jubilee year10 if it so happened that his master, while insisting upon him to leave, injured him by inflicting a wound upon him, there is yet exemption? We learn it from the words, And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is . . . come again . . .11 implying that we should not adjudicate compensation for him that is determined to come again [as a servant].12 [Does not this prove that a man may take the law into his own hands for the protection of his interests?]7 We are dealing here with a case where the servant became suspected of intending to commit theft.13 But how is it that up to that time he did not commit any theft and just at that time14 he became suspected of intending to commit theft? Up to that time he had the fear of his master upon him, whereas from that time14 he is no more subject to his master's control.10 R. Nahman b. Isaac said: We are dealing with a bondman to whom his master assigned a Canaanite maidservant as wife:15 up to the expiration of the term this arrangement was lawful15 whereas from that time this becomes unlawful.16

Rav Eliashiv rejected the prenup because of Get Me'usa


Look at the original article plus there are are links to other articles on the topic at the bottom of the original article

Rav Elyashev's strong objections to the prenup is brought down by him in קובץ תשובות ח”ב סקס”ג

עדויות תלמידי מרן הגרי"ש אלישיב זצ"ל
עדות הגרא"ד לוין שליט"א, ראב"ד בית הדין ירושלים לדיני ממונות ובירורי יוחסין, ובעהמ"ח פסקי דין ירושלים.
בס"ד. לכבוד הרב הגאון רבי פנחס שפירא שליט"א, נו"נ לגדולי ישראל בדורות האחרונים, אחדהש"ט.
מכיון שבקשתם ממני – ברוב ענוותנותכם – לחוות דעתי על מה שעומדים לאשר בחוקיהם לאפשר לכל הנישאים, גם אלו שנרשמים ברבנות, לחתום על הסכם קדם נישואים המחייב את האיש ואת האשה להתגרש כאשר יחליט אחד מהם לכך, ואם לא יחוייב בקנסות כספיים גדולים, שלפי דעתכם יש בזה חוק לעקירת הדת, שהרי מי שמגרש לאחר הסכם כזה נחשב למגרש בכפיה, שאם אין פס"ד של כפיה לגט אזי הגט הזה בטל לפי ההלכה, ובניה מאחר ממזרים!
לדאבון לבי, אני מכיר את הבעיה הזו גם בטרם נחקק חוק כזה בדיניהם, מאז ששימשתי כמנהל מחלקת הנישואין ברבנות ירושלים, בהוראת מרן הגרי"ש אלישיב זצ"ל, וכבר אז הגיעו אלי בני זוג להירשם לנישואין עם הסכמים כאלו ואחרים, ובהנחייתו של מרן זצ"ל לא הסכמתי לאשר אותם אם הם כללו סעיף של כפיה לגירושין שלא כדין.
קריאתכם וזעקתכם על סכנת הממזרות כתוצאה מהסכמים שיש בהם לגרום לגיטין מעושין שלא כדין, מובנת וברורה, וטוב עשיתם שהעליתם על הכתב את הדברים למען ילמדו תועים בינה.
וכבר יצא קול קורא לציבור היראים לדבר ה' מאת דייני בית דיננו שליט"א, שלפני שניגשים לשידוכין יש לברר אם אין ח"ו בעיית יוחסין כזו או אחרת, כי הבעיות רבות וחמורות!
לענ"ד, לאור המצב הקיים, בהם הרבנות הראשית כפופה לחוקיהם, לא נותר ליראי ה' אלא להתנתק ולנהל רישום נישואין וגירושין בבתי דין פרטיים שיבדקו תחילה את כשרות היוחסין כהלכה. כשתימצי לומר, אני קורא בזה להפרדת הדת מהמדינה על כל המשתמע מכך, עד כי יבא שילה ומלאה הארץ דעה.
תבורכו משמים, וכולנו תפילה לבנין ביהמ"ק בב"א.
המכבדכם ומעריככם, אברהם דוב לוין, אב בית דין ירושלים לדיני ממונות ולבירור יוחסין.

עדותו של הגר"נ איזנשטיין שליט"א, רב שכונת מעלות דפנה בירושלים, וראש ועד הרבנים העולמי לעני' גיורים.
לכ' הרב הגאון ר' פנחס שפירא שליט"א, אחדש"ה.
בנידון של מה שמכונה הסכם טרום נישואין שמעתי ממרן הגרי"ש זצוק"ל כמה וכמה פעמים התנגדות מוחלטת לכל סוגי הסכמים (חוץ מהסכם שכתוב בו אך ורק שהצדדים מתחייבים ללכת לבית דין רבני מסויים), שמלבד שלא הוה קידושין ע"פ רוח ישראל סבא לקדש אישה עם מחשבות כיצד להתגרש, אבל עוד יותר חמור שהתחיבויות כאלו עם סכומים של כסף מהווה אסמכתא (וגם לא יועיל קנין בבית דין חשוב ואין פה המקום להאריך בזה) ויגרום לגט מעושה, שידוע דעת מרן זצ"ל שעישוי ממון הוה עישוי (כמבואר בשו"ת תורת חיים), וחלילה יכול להרבות ממזרים בישראל. וע"ז בעה"ח נחום איזנשטיין

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pushing the false idea of Get on Demand - Activists Plan ‘Gett-Refusal’ Protest in Crown Heights

Rabbi Oliver told them the halacha
Crown Heights Info     update see also    YNET

A group of activists are planning a march in Crown Heights to raise “awareness and change for Jewish wives who are ‘chained.'” According to organizers, this march is in response to a so-called “crisis in our community.”

The march is being organized by Itta Werdiger-Roth online through a Facebook event page, and has around 200 people confirmed as ‘attending.’ Werdiger-Roth writes on the page that this event is targeted ‘against’ the Besht Shul and their Rabbi.

Much discussion has been generated in the form of Facebook comments arguing some of the merits pertaining to Gittin and Halacha – most of which were ceremoniously deleted, and even going as far as to ban and dismiss people from the group who disagreed with Werdiger-Roth’s opinions.

A poster named Yehoishophot Oliver wrote that he devoted many years to studying the Halachos of Gittin and Nisuin: “There is a vast Halachic literature discussing when a Beis Din, or anyone else, is allowed to require a get. It is simply untrue that Halacha can require a husband to divorce his wife simply because she demands so,” he wrote, directly contradicting one of the march’s main premises.

After deleting most of Oliver’s posts, Werdiger-Roth wrote “You are not welcome to comment any further on this thread or any of the pages associated with the POSITIVE change we are trying to make.” She later dismissively wrote that her thumb was getting tired deleting all his posts and that she will delete the rest later. [....]

Bitul Seruv of Aharon Friedman - Translation

 [originally posted 9/24/12]
The following is a translation of Rav Gestetner's bitul seruv concerning Aharon Friedman. It was shown to Rav Gestetner who approved the translation and its public distribution. Original Hebrew is here

Boston College Conference on Divorce :Changes in Orthodox Judaism

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dr Noblitt - garbage science of the Mind Control of the Satanic abuse ring panic in America

In 1992, at the height of a social hysteria now commonly referred to as “the Satanic Panic”, Dr. Noblitt — believing he could disentangle the coercive subliminal sounds of secret demonic code within popular music, as well as decrypt the hidden meanings behind seemingly mundane occurrences — testified for the prosecution, as an “expert” in the field of “ritual abuse”, against one Fran and Dan Keller, a couple accused of engaging in child abuse at their home-based day care center. With no physical evidence to support the accusations (which included claims of graveyard rituals and medically undetected limb transplants) the couple was convicted on the most dubious of testimony. The children themselves — ignored when they claimed they were not abused at all (as happened even in testimony) — were led by coercive and incompetent interrogations to produce claims of abuse which are nearly impossible to credit [see footage and analysis of one such interrogation embedded below]. Noblitt’s own fantastical testimony, of course, was no more credible than Noblitt himself.

21 years later, the Kellers still sit in prison, their case on appeal.

Dr. Evan Harrington, Associate Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, wrote the below letter [following the embedded videos] — on behalf of the Kellers’ recent appeal — to the 14th District Court in Travis County, Texas, outlining the absurdities, shoddy methods, and scientific ignorance demonstrated by Dr. Randy Noblitt, concluding, “His opinions have been scientifically discredited, and are not shared by the vast majority of clinicians and researchers within the field of psychology.” The letter, bearing signatures of support from various esteemed social and behavioral scientists, reveals a disturbing portrait of Dr. Noblitt as a delusional man obstinately oblivious to any and all facts that serve to disconfirm his paranoid theories. The letter is a damning indictment against the institutions that would recognize such a clearly problematic character for an “expert”. The letter further raises grave doubts regarding the credibility of Alliant University, where Dr. Noblitt serves on faculty, still purveying the irrational narrative of a long discredited, thoroughly debunked hysteria.

Aharon Friedman assaulted in wife's driveway when returning child

Update: March 23, 2015  NJ.Com

 Fredric Goldfein told jurors in the federal conspiracy and kidnapping trial of Rabbi Mendel Epstein that in his efforts to get a Maryland man to agree to a divorce, Epstein instructed him to wire $60,000 to two of the congregations he led.
A few days after the money was transferred to Epstein's congregations, the husband, Aharon Friedman, was attacked on July 29, 2012, by three men at the home of his former in-laws in Pennsylvania in an attempt to force him to issue the divorce.
Goldfein, who is a rabbi, said he was led to believe the money was to go to the husband, Friedman, as part of his agreement to grant his wife a religious divorce so that she would eventually be permitted to remarry in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Entering their sixth week of trial, federal prosecutors on Monday showed bank records indicating four payments totaling $60,000 to Epstein's congregations in March and April of 2012, Congregation Kol Reuven and Congregation Beth Jacob, and Goldfein said Friedman did not receive the $60,000.

Update: March 20 2015 Tamar Epstein's lawyer Fredric Goldfein, is being asked to testify in the Mendel Epstein Torture for Get Trial. The U.S. Attorney is assuming he will take the 5th regarding whether Tamar had hired someone to beat her husband  - something which Goldfein has preveiously denied.

Concerned • a year ago
Tamar Epstein's lawyer continues to mislead (to put it charitably) in new Washington Jewish Week article: Epstein’s attorney, Fredric Goldfein, gave an emphatic “no” when asked if Epstein had hired anyone to beat Friedman, adding he wasn’t even sure Friedman’s allegations “amounted to anything.”


Guest Post August 5, 2012:  the police number is 1207290113 it is missing on the police blotter available on the internet as are many other numbers as it is an ongoing investigation

Don't cast aspersions on the accuracy of the information that is posted by Rabbi Eidensohn.  Aharon was attacked last  Sunday (Tisha B'Av) on the Epstein's property as he returned his loving child to the Epstein's house.  Those calling for Rabbi Eidensohn to apologize for supposedly posting a fabricated incident, themselves owe an apology to Aharon, and Rabbi Eidensohn - not to mention the child, who was nearby when the attack occurred.

 As a result of the attack there was an emergency change in the custody arrangements.According to the Maryland court docket system, which is available on the Internet, the docket for the case has an entry dated 8//3/12 stating:


Docket Date:
08/03/2012 Docket Number: 179
Docket Type: Motion Filed By: Plaintiff Status: Granted
Reference Docket(s): Ruling: 181

Docket Date: 08/03/2012 Docket Number: 180
Docket Description: SUMMONS ISSUED
Docket Type: Docket Filed By: Court

Docket Date: 08/03/2012 Docket Number: 181
Docket Description: HEARING
Docket Type: Ruling Filed By: Court Status: Granted
Ruling Judge: SALANT, STEVEN G
Reference Docket(s): Motion: 179
Audio Media: 15-080312 Start: 14:40:51 Stop: 15:13:41


Guest Post: On Tisha B’av, a vicious attempted abduction of Aharon Friedman took place in on the property of Mrs. Cheryl Epstein, where Tamar Epstein and Aharon and Tamar's child currently reside. The attempted abduction took place as Aharon was leaving the property having returned his child to Mrs. Cheryl Epstein’s residence, pursuant to a court order. This vicious assault appears to be a continuation of the Epsteins’ ongoing efforts to prevent the child from having a relationship with her loving and dedicated father, which began over four years ago when Tamar Epstein abducted the child from Silver Spring to her mother’s home in Pennsylvania

The Epsteins’ campaign, coordinated with ORA, has included many threats against Aharon and ongoing harassment of him, his family, and his employer. In fact, various family members who have helped transport the child to ensure that Aharon can see her at all per a court order have been harassed at the very location where the assault took place, the property of Mrs. Cheryl Epstein. The child spent this past weekend of Shabbos Chazon with Aharon. By the order of the court, acting at Tamar’s request, father and child were restricted to the Philadelphia area. They spent Shabbos in a motel room, and Sunday, Tisha B’av, was spent 'walking the streets' as the Epsteins have, for over four years, made Aharon a pariah in the Philadelphia area and threatened anyone who would even think of providing a place to stay for Aharon and his child. The need for revenge has blinded Tamar and her family to the suffering she is inflicting on her child

Per the court order, Aharon brought the child to Mrs. Cheryl Epstein‘s home at 6 PM on Tisha B’av. Contrary to her usual lack of reception, when Aharon arrived, Mrs. Cheryl Epstein inquired about the child, speaking to Aharon for the first time in years. In fact, in an unprecedented instruction, she told the child to go back outside and give her father a kiss, calling into question her motivation, given what was to happen moments later on her own driveway. With the child nearby, two or three masked thugs hit Aharon over the head and knocked him to the ground. Did the Epstein family plan this attack on Aharon when he would be in a weakened state from fasting and be handicapped by wearing Tisha B‘av shoes? The thugs smashed his glasses and beat him. Miraculously,with Hashem’s chesed, Aharon escaped. The police were summoned and verified the incident with an eyewitness.

Mrs. Epstein resides in an upscale neighborhood with a low crime rate. Because Aharon’s car was intact and the car keys were on the ground, the motive cannot be construed as an attempted robbery. Aharon was sent to a local hospital for tests and treatment.
There have been numerous tragic incidents of Jewish fathers being abducted and beaten, but this time the thugs did not succeed in abducting Aharon. Are we to surmise that there is more to come?
Additional guest post comments:

Rabbi Hershel Schachter's incitement to violence against Aharon

The violent attack against Aharon Friedman was at least partially the result of the incitement to violence against Aharon by various rabbis and organizations.  In this letter (see link below) that was publicized by ORA, Rabbi Hershel Schachter calls for Aharon to be physically beaten.  It is not yet known whether Rabbi Schachter was involved in hiring the thugs that attacked and attempted to kidnap Aharon on Tisha B'av.

One of the sources Rabbi Schachter cites in the letter against Aharon (Rabbi Akiva Eiger) is referenced in an audio lecture by Rabbi Schachter that is on Yeshiva University’s website: http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/739308/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Options_for_Helping_Agunot# as grounds for beating someone over a get. (It is ironic that Rabbi Eiger writes about a husband who is leaving the city of the marital residence and that immediate action was necessary, whereas in this matter it was Epstein who left the city of marital residence with the child and abused the beis din process so that her abduction of the child would be treated as a fait accompli in court.)

In the letter, Rabbi Schachter says that Aharon's situation is the same as "a slave whose master provides for him a Canaanite maidservant, that until now it is has been permissible, and now it is forbidden." In the audio, he explains that in such a situation the slave, or, as he writes in the letter, Aharon, should be beaten. Furthermore, Rabbi Schachter specifically writes in the letter that any person can take the law into his own hands [to beat Aharon].

See in particular:
4:00 - beat someone over a get (citing Rabbi Akiva Eiger)
4:30 - beat a slave for wrongfully remaining married to maidservant, analogizing this case to the get case, and that anyone can take upon himself to take the law into their own hands to beat the person
9:10 - beat someone up over a get
10:20 - bludgeon someone to death over a get
13:33 - have right to beat someone over a get (citing Rabbi Akiva Eiger)
26:50 - beating for a get with a baseball bat

Rabbi Schachter’s letter can be found at Daas Torah here: http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2012/04/rav-schachter-i-relied-on-rav.html

Lynch Mob - The self-righteous pleasure of killing an innocent person

Washington Post    Afghan woman, killed by a mob for a crime she didn’t commit, becomes a rallying point for activists

Four days ago, an Afghan woman named Farkhunda lay on the ground beneath the flailing, kicking feet of dozens of men. Her face swollen and bright with blood, she attempted to stand and plead for mercy. But her attackers, who accused her of burning a Koran, kicked her back and exchanged their feet for stones and wooden planks. Before it was over, Farkhunda’s body would be thrown from a rooftop, run over by a car and then set ablaze on a bank of the muddy Kabul River.

On Sunday, Farkhunda’s body lay in a coffin carried on the shoulders of several black-clad Afghan women. Bucking tradition, these pallbearers took on a role usually designated to men, conveying Farkhunda’s coffin to an open-air prayer ground and then to her grave.[...]

But General Mohammad Zahir, the head of the interior ministry’s criminal investigation directorate, said at the funeral Sunday he had reviewed the evidence and concluded Farkhunda was “totally innocent.”

“Last night I went through all documents and evidence once again, but I couldn’t find any evidence to say Farkhunda burnt the Holy Koran,” he told reporters. [...]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Muslim Scholar, Looking to ‘Speak the Truth,’ Teaches the Holocaust and Islam

NY Times    Early in the summer of 2007, a doctoral student named Mehnaz M. Afridi traveled from her California home to a conference in southern Germany. Her official role was to deliver a paper on anti-Semitism in Egyptian literature, a rather loaded subject for a Muslim scholar. Seventy miles away, she had another appointment, and an even riskier agenda.

After the conference concluded, Ms. Afridi drove to the former concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. As she stood before the dun bricks of a crematorium, she prayed. “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un,” she said in Arabic, meaning, “Surely we belong to God and to him shall we return.”

“I didn’t know that moment would be defining my role,” Dr. Afridi, 44, said a few weeks ago. “I didn’t even realize then that I was at a crossroads. People see the Holocaust and Islam as two separate things, but these stories of faith and catastrophe are not opposites. They are companions.”

Dr. Afridi has made these seeming irreconcilables into companions in her life’s work. An assistant professor of religion at Manhattan College, she teaches courses about both Islam and the Holocaust, and she is director of the college’s Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center. Her book “Shoah Through Muslim Eyes,” referring to an alternative term for the Holocaust, will be published in July, and she is a member of the ethics and religion committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Such roles have made Dr. Afridi both a valued intermediary and a visible target in the troubled relations between Muslims and Jews. As her research unflinchingly shows, a strain of Holocaust denial runs deep in the Arab-Muslim world. Holocaust recognition among Arabs and Muslims, less noticed but equally divisive, has also served as a means of delegitimizing Israel and Zionism. By this line of reasoning, which ignores the historical ties of Jews to Israel, the Holocaust was a crime inflicted by Europeans for which Palestinians paid the price.[...]

"Unchained at Last": Organization helps women escape forced marriages

NY Times    Unchained at Last operates in the contested crossroad between the modern secular concept of marriage for love between consenting adults and longstanding ethnic or communal customs of arranged marriage. Religion does not require such marriage, but is very often invoked to provide moral justification for it. And the laws of certain faiths, Orthodox Judaism in particular, give a husband the sole right to grant a divorce.

A reliable estimate of arranged marriages is difficult because the definition is inexact. But the Tahirih Justice Center, an advocacy group for immigrant women, reported that about 3,000 cases of “forced marriage” took place in the United States from 2009 through 2011.

Almost all of the 90 women whom Unchained at Last has helped had been pressured into marriage by their religious community: Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Unification Church. Most lived in the New York area, though one was in Arizona. The women’s nations of origin stretch through Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

On a basic level, Unchained at Last provides legal services because most of the women’s cases involve divorce and child custody litigation, and some extend into immigration status and restraining orders against a violent spouse. Because the clients’ situations can be so catastrophic — forced at gunpoint to accept a marriage, raped by a husband, essentially imprisoned within the home as a domestic servant — Unchained at Last also provides mentoring, access to therapy and cash stipends for everything from basic clothing to English as a second language class. [...]

Epstein Torture for Get trial:Judge Wolfson rejects defense of violence for religious purpose

Some excerpts: ... On the face of the Indictment, it is unclear whether all non-violent methods were exhausted before the alleged kidnappings took place here. That fact, however, does not change this Court’s analysis. Indeed, if Defendants had acceptable religious alternatives -- instead of resorting to violating the criminal laws -- I find that the Government’s application of the kidnapping laws to Defendants here does not substantially Defendants’ religious exercise. Nevertheless, even if Defendants had exhausted all other available non-violent means of coercing a husband to give his wife a get, and the only remaining method of coercion, as argued by Defendants, is through violence or force, i.e., kidnapping, I remain convinced that would not amount to a substantial burden. This Court has not found any authority condoning the use of violence under the guise of religion, and more importantly, no case has found the Government’s application of violent crime laws to certain religious practices is a substantial burden. 

 Even assuming Defendants could prove a substantial burden on their religion as a result of their prosecution, the RFRA challenge fails under the remaining two prongs of the test. As to the first of the two elements, the Government has the burden of demonstrating that the law which constitutes a substantial burden on an individual’s religion furthers a compelling governmental interest. Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418, 429 (2006). On this issue, Stimler posits that “deterrence of possible future efforts to use violent means to coerce recalcitrant husbands to authorize the writing of a ‘get’” is not a compelling interest. Stimler Br. at 11. To contrary, the Government maintains that prosecuting crimes of violence is compelling. Gov’t Br. at 16. 

When determining whether a government action serves a compelling interest, it is not sufficient to use broad terms; RFRA “contemplates a more focused inquiry.” Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2751, 2779 (2014). Thus, even if the government can show that the law is in furtherance of a generalized compelling interest, the government must prove that “the compelling interest is satisfied through application of the law ‘to the Person’ — the particular claimant whose sincere exercise of religion is being substantially burdened.” Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita, 546 U.S. 418, 430–31 (2006). 

 ... Defendants’ purported use of force to effectuate a mitzvah involves kidnapping and even physical violence to others. Even more compelling, the Supreme Court in O Centro found that there was little evidence to demonstrate the type of harm to the religious personal drug users that the government there proffered. Thus, the Court found that the government’s stated interest to protect the health of those religious users was not a compelling one. To the contrary, the Government’s interest, here, is to protect the health and safety of those individuals who were victims of Defendants’ alleged violence and kidnapping. Accordingly, I find O Centro distinguishable. 

... The least-restrictive-means standard requires a showing that the government “lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by the objecting parties.” Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. 134 S. Ct. 2751, 2780 (2014). As stated above, the Government has a compelling interest in the uniform prevention of violence. Stimler has argued, as discussed supra, that the law burdens the “mitzvah” of using force, if necessary, to obtain a get; thus, there is no method by which the Government could enforce its interest in preventing violence without burdening Defendants’ religious exercise. In that regard, in this case, any effective means to prevent violence would necessarily prevent Defendants from using the force, which, according to Defendants, is permitted by Orthodox Judaism. ...


Top violator of women's rights around the world? It's Israel says UN

Guess who is the number one violator of women’s rights in the world today?  Israel.  Violating the rights of Palestinian women.

At least that is the view of the UN’s top women’s rights body, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).  CSW ends its annual meeting on Friday, March 20 by condemning only one of the 193 UN member states for violating women’s rights – Israel.

Not Syria. Where government forces routinely employ rape and other sexual violence and torture against women as a tactic of war. Where in 2014 the Assad regime starved, tortured and killed at least 24,000 civilians, and three million people – mostly women and children – are refugees. 

Not Saudi Arabia. Where women are physically punished if not wearing compulsory clothing, are almost entirely excluded from political life, cannot drive, cannot travel without a male relative, receive half the inheritance of their brothers, and where their testimony counts for half that of a man’s.

Not Sudan.  Where domestic violence is not prohibited.  There is no minimum age for “consensual” sex.  The legal age of marriage for girls is ten. 88% of women under 50 have undergone female genital mutilation. And women are denied equal rights in marriage, inheritance and divorce.

Not Iran. Where every woman who registered as a presidential candidate in the last election was disqualified.  “Adultery” is punishable by death by stoning.  Women who fight back against rapists and kill their attackers are executed. The constitution bars female judges. And women must obtain the consent of their husbands to work outside the home.

In fact, not only is there no possibility that the UN Commission on the Status of Women will criticize Iran, Iran is an elected member of CSW.  Sudan – whose president has been indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity – is currently a CSW Vice-Chair.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Downs Syndrome: "I didn't know I would be able to love her the way I do"

CBS News  I got the call two years ago that no expecting parent wants.

The genetic counselor told me the baby girl I was carrying would have Down syndrome. I felt like I had been sucker-punched. I sobbed, mourning the loss of the child I thought I was supposed to have.[...]

I recognized from the moment I began considering ending my pregnancy that the decision was based more on sparing myself and my husband the pain of raising a child with Down syndrome rather than sparing our child.
I knew I could quietly end the pregnancy, tell friends and family I had miscarried and start again. We could put the whole thing behind us and pretend it never happened. I could get a do-over.
Fortunately for my daughter, my husband wasn't on board with that plan. When I whined it wasn't fair we had been dealt a crappy hand, he said, "Fair? What's fair? What does that even mean?" Still, he was scared about our future, too. [...]

Still, I needed more information. One of the best pieces of advice I found online was from a parent blog encouraging me to seek out a local Down syndrome support group where I could connect with actual families. A quick Google search led me to Gigi's Playhouse in New York City.[...]

My thinking changed after that one visit. To say Gigi's Playhouse helped save my daughter's life may sound dramatic, but it's true. We were welcomed into the community. And I could see first hand that many of my fears were unfounded. These kids played and acted just like other children. They laughed, danced, wrestled with each other, whined and cried just like kids I knew who had the standard 46 chromosomes.[...]

One thing I want to make clear. There's nothing particularly special about my husband or me. We wanted a baby and that's exactly what we got. She may not be the baby we expected, but then again that's what being a parent is all about. As much as we like to believe we can control who our children will become or that we can protect them from disease or a cruel world unwilling to accept them, the basic truth is, we can't. For some parents it takes years or decades to accept this. My husband and I just had to come to terms with it before our daughter was even born.

Still, I understand this is scary stuff, facing the unknown of a life with a child who has an intellectual impairment and could possibly have a host of physical ailments. But 18 months into this mom gig, I can tell you it's not nearly as daunting as I imagined.

I'm exhausted and stressed out a lot. But it's not because my daughter has Down syndrome. In fact, my husband and I enjoy our baby girl so much, we decided to have another baby when she was only four months old. So if you bump into me on the street and I look over-tired and disheveled, it's because I have a very active 18-month-old daughter, a five-month-old son who still doesn't sleep through the night, and I work full time.

It's true my daughter has some developmental delays. And she receives a bevy of therapies through Early Intervention to help keep her on track. But she's also wonderful. She has a twinkle in her eye and an infectious grin that makes even the most miserable looking people on the subway smile when she stares them down. When she puts her head on my shoulder as I rock her to sleep each night, my heart melts no matter what kind of day I've had. I do think she is more special than other children, but it's not because she has Down syndrome. It's because I'm a completely biased and doting mother who thinks no one could possibly be as adorable, bright or funny as my own child.

And her name is Margot.