Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chareidi violence abating

It is important to note that JPost, Haaretz and YNet - did not report that Rav Sternbuch had come out against the violence - despite the fact that I sent them a copy of his letter. I guess they didn't have room for it.


After days of some of the worst haredi rioting in Jerusalem in years, a Jerusalem court on Friday placed a woman suspected of abusing her child under house arrest, leading to a dramatic drop in violence over the weekend.

The woman, who is alleged to have nearly starved her three-year-old son to death, was released on NIS 400,000 bail by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court as part of a court-prodded accord between the two sides worked out by court president Judge Shlomit Dotan, which will see the suspect undergo a psychiatric evaluation on Sunday.

The woman's family and lawyers previously opposed such an examination.

The woman, a resident of the city's Mea She'arim neighborhood who is a member of the Toldot Aharon community, is believed to be suffering from Munchausen-syndrome-by-proxy, a psychiatric disorder in which a person deliberately abuses someone else, typically a child, in order to draw attention or sympathy to themselves.

News of the mother's arrest had sparked three days of intense rioting in the capital in which hundreds of protesters vandalized public property and pelted police and motorists with stones.

Saturday did not pass without violence, however, as four people were hurt on Rehov Bar-Ilan when their cab was pelted with stones by haredim, police said. Two of the passengers were hit in the head by the stones in the attack.[...]

US passports can't say Jerusalem Israel


NEW YORK - Parents of a Jerusalem-born American boy who want "Israel" listed as their son's country of birth on his passport have been dealt another blow with the dismissal of their case by a US court of appeals.

The US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, on July 10 upheld a lower court's decision that the courts lack jurisdiction in the matter because foreign policy - including the recognition of foreign governments - belongs exclusively in the domain of the executive branch. According to the State Department, US passports for those born in Jerusalem do not list a country because doing so would interfere with and pre-judge Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The case had been filed by an American couple living in Israel, Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky, on behalf of their son, Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, born in 2002.

Reached by telephone during a recent trip to Ethiopia, Ari Zivotofsky told The Jerusalem Post that though his son's American passport is valid, the outcome of the case is laden with symbolism. "This is about the US recognizing the sovereignty of Israel over any [part] of Jerusalem," he said. "We like to believe the US is our strongest ally, yet something so fundamental like this, even that little bit, our strongest ally refuses to recognize, it just sends a message," he said.

The Zivotofskys have two older children who were born in the US. An attorney for the family, Nathan Lewin, said they were mulling an appeal to the US Supreme Court. "I'm appalled by the decision," he said. "The court is clearly wrong that it's a political question... It's clearly a matter of law." [...]

Obama orders Israel to stop building in Jerusalem


A senior Israeli diplomatic official on Sunday morning said that Israel would continue to build in Jerusalem, responding to a demand from the US that the government put an end to a housing project to be built in east Jerusalem.

Following a complaint by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren was summoned to a meeting at the US State Department over the week-end where he was told that the Obama administration wanted Israel to put an end to work at the site of the historic Shepherd's Hotel in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The compound, which was acquired by American businessman Irwin Moskowitz in the 1980s, originally belonged to Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, and then served as a hotel from 1945 until the 1967 Six Day War. Most recently, the site was rented to the Jerusalem border police as a base.

Abbas reportedly told the Americans that allowing Jewish housing in the Muslim neighborhood would shift the demographic balance in east Jerusalem.

According to the diplomatic official, "Israel builds in Jerusalem and will continue to do so in the future as well. Those in charge of this are Israeli enforcement and planning officials.[...]

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rav Sternbuch's letter regarding the riots

Rav Sternbuch Protest Letter-1

Rav Sternbuch - Leaders require passion for Truth

Arrested woman's family calls for end to violent protests

Yeshiva News reports

Moshe Friedman, who is a member of the Munchausen mother’s family has released a message calling for calm and an end to the violence. “I repeat, in the name of the rabbonim and the family, please, stop, the violence is counter-productive and hurts our case. It diverts the public’s attention”. Friedman calls for calm law-abiding protest, tefilla, and tehillim.

Mayor's chareidi advisor accused of collaboration


Long before it became a synonym for computer spy programs, a Trojan horse was a metaphor for an ingenious weapon that takes the enemy by surprise. In ancient Greece, the Trojan horse was used to bring a beautiful woman back home. But today in politics, it is not unusual to find representatives from one side giving advice to the other side.

For example, if you are a prime minister you might like to keep on hand an expert in haredi affairs in order to prevent painful errors.

The same goes for a mayor. And ours nominated a young and some say ambitious young haredi to advise him on how to handle delicate issues regarding the haredi community in the city.

Our adviser is a fine young man, known and appreciated by his haredi peers and by secular figures in the media. Until recently, a bright future was predicted for him by all. Until, that is, the Kikar Safra parking-lot issue erupted and dimmed Uri Kroizer's prospects.

Whatever the reasons were that compelled him to act the way he did - naivete or lack of deep understanding of the society he grew up in - the results, so far, are rather gloomy. Last week Kroizer (and his family) were accused of desecrating Shabbat, causing blasphemy and, perhaps the worst accusation of all, having become a collaborator with evil forces.[...]

Haaretz protests collective punishment against chareidim


Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat presents himself as the secular leader who came to rescue Israel's capital from the control of the ultra-Orthodox and give it an open, pluralistic character. But his announcement that he is halting municipal services to the neighborhoods of Geula and Mea She'arim in response to violent rioting by some of these neighborhoods' residents constitutes collective punishment, which will merely further inflame already stormy tempers.

For several weeks now, Barkat has been facing off against the Eda Haredit - a group of sects and rabbinical courts that reject the Zionist state and boycott its institutions. In an effort to score points on the ultra-Orthodox street, the Eda Haredit launched a battle against the opening of the municipality's Safra parking garage on Shabbat and won support from the most important ultra-Orthodox rabbis and halakhic arbiters. Barkat, rightly, stood up to them: He refused to give in to the demonstrations and left the parking garage open.

The protests against the parking garage waned, and no protests developed against the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem. But then the ultra-Orthodox found a new pretext for battling the authorities: the arrest of a woman from an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood on suspicions of starving and abusing her infant son. Harshly worded posters against the police and the welfare services appeared in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, and rumors were spread that the baby had been the victim of a medical experiment and that the police had exploited the mother's visit to a welfare office to ambush and arrest her.

This time, the protests deteriorated into open violence, which included rioting, vandalizing municipal welfare offices, torching trash bins, damaging sanitary equipment and violent demonstrations by thousands of ultra-Orthodox residents.

Barkat responded by announcing a halt in the provision of municipal services to the two ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods where the riots took place, Mea She'arim and Geula. He justified this decision by the need to protect municipal workers from attacks, given the vandalizing of the welfare offices. But his hasty announcement was a mistake. Both neighborhoods are inhabited by tens of thousands of people, of which only a tiny minority participated in the violence. There is no reason to punish the many for the sins of the few.

One can understand Barkat's fears for the safety of municipal welfare and sanitation workers, but the solution is not collective punishment of the ultra-Orthodox community. Instead, he could have the welfare offices guarded and bar trash collection when and where demonstrations are occurring. But for the municipality to declare war on an entire community will only further inflame passions and push Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community into a "them or us" stance toward the authorities. And this is happening at a time when the violent riots over this issue, unlike the protests against the parking garage, have failed to win the backing of the rabbis - not even those of the most extremist factions. [...]

Rosh Yeshiva teaches conversion is desirable

Anonymous wrote:

my rosh yeshivah said it is better for a goy to convert than even to keep the sheva mitzvos bnei noach because they s'char for being a Jew is greater. What issur is there to proselytize? As long as you tell, like Shulchan Aruch says, "why do you want to be Jewish, don't you see there is anti-semitism, don't you know you have to keep mitzvos now, before you could eat what you want, now only kosher, there is gan eden but also gehinom" you fulfill what you need to push away, then you have to draw near like the shulchan aruch says "kdai l'chababan l'mitzvos". Too many people push away yosair m'dai and they are making new amalek like when Timna went to Eisav. If we don't make kosher gerus, then too many people will wind up going to reform and conservative r"l. As long as they will be frum it is a mitzvah v'ahavtem es hager!

I wish someone would show me a halachah somewhere that it is assur to proselytize - it is only assur to do gerus without kabalas hamitzvos, but if we can make them frum, it is a mitzvah!

Violence & leadership in the Chareidi world

I have received inquiries from a number of people who have asked questions concerning why the gedolim of the chareidi world have not said or done anything to stop the riots. In fact there have been apparently only two voices - Rav Eliashiv and Rav Sternbuch - and their statements seemed not to have had much impact. In addition they presented their views in an indirect manner. There has also been much scholarly pontification about the nature of the chareidi world in the secular press and about their desire for the secular world not to intervene with their people. The following quotes are typical of the questions that are being asked.

Earlier Thursday, Jerusalem District police chief Aharon Franco voiced harsh criticism over the failure of the Haredi leadership to speak out against the violent riots…."There is not one sane voice within the Haredi community that will rise up and cry out against this phenomenon," Franco said. "They have rabbis, they have leadership, and I haven't heard the rabbis or sages crying out."

Garnel Ironheart asked
Maybe someone can explain this to me. I hear over and over again: The Gedolim have Daat Torah. The Gedolim have Ruach HaKodesh. Listening to them is like listening to God. Disobeying them is like disobeying God. Over and over again. Whenever a non-Chareidi Jew challenges the latest chumra of the week, we're are told: But the Gedolim said so, so you have to! So Rav Eliashiv has come out against the riots. Rav Sternbuch has come out against the riots. And the rioters aren't listening. Aren't they Chareidim?

It is true that that many in the chareidi world think these riots are justified - even if they are not happy with the level of violence. They object to the heavy handed manner that the police have acted in that they have taken a respected pregnant mother from her family and put her in jail with common criminals. The police acknowledge the truth of this but say it is because she hasn't cooperated.

However I would like to discuss another critical factor - one which will not please some - but one which needs to be addressed. That is the issue of violence and threats of violence by elements in the chareidi world - against other chareidim. These threats also include threats against the life of rabbonim who disagree with these elements. Consequently the leaders are silent. Most of this has been addressed by someone with an intimate knowledge of this world who insists on being identified only as Aaron.

Aaron wrote:
There are two concerns. One is the fear of the outsider – especially secular authorizes such as the police and doctors. Distortions and outright lies are believed because they fit the stereotype of the outsider who hates and wants to hurt frum Jews. For example, most people on the street believe the wall posters that this is a "blood libel". People are really stupid. This claim definitely causes hatred to the frum community in the Hadassah hospital – because of its unfairness to many who genuinely try to help heal and accommodate the needs of frum Jews. So even if there was no bias against frum yidden it sure encourages it. This talk about “blood libel” is totally forbidden. These people are going on a witch-hunt, trying to portray Hadassah as a place with hatred towards the frum people. I have spent a lot of time there – both during the day and at night. These charges are an outright slander against the hospital. The hospital staff in fact treats frum people very well. While there are medical mistakes made, but this is typical of every hospital in the world. People have bought the story that the hospital is against frum people and they believe this nonsense. Unfortunately it becomes a self-fulfilling belief when doctors and nurses become angry when all their efforts and care are forgotten and they are accused of these disgusting lies.

The second concern is that of violence and intimidation by the low lives of chareidi society against other chareidim. This is a fact that everyone must come to terms with. One needs to acknowledge that besides the tzadikim and the talmidei chachomim and those who work hard to help others - every society has their dropouts. Our society is being dragged around by a bunch of renegade hooligans. They aren’t representative of the whole society but they have a very strong impact on the way the community is perceived and on the type of responses the people – especially the leaders can do. It is very sad that it has come to this.

Rav Sternbuch has consistently and repeatedly denounced acts of violence in our community. There was even a long quote in a recent Mishpacha magazine in which he strongly condemned any types of violence and especially in demonstrations. His demonstrations against the gay parade were totally without violence. Rav Sternbuch stated that anyone who acts violently demonstrates that he does not belong in our community

Regarding why Rav Sternbuch has not been more direct and forceful in denouncing these riots, the simple answer is that he realizes that he is taking his life into his hands. So while he feels an obligation to try and change the situation - but he does it cautiously. The statement he gave denouncing the riots could cause him much trouble when these hooligans find out about it. They are likely to call him a collaborator or moser – they have no respect for any rav who doesn’t do what they expect. There are many rabbanim – chareidim and non-chareidim who could and should have condemned these riots – but they haven’t. Basically everyone is scared for their lives and safety from these guys – it is very sad.

I remember a number of years ago when the Bedatz was investigating the issue of heart transplants. They wanted to discuss the issue with some doctors – and some hooligans said no. The issue was decided when the dayanim of the Bedatz found a bullet hole in the door of their meeting room. There was no further discussion of the issue.

Paradoxically the only way this situation can be corrected is through the police. There have been a number of violent incidences in the last two years in Meah Shearim that the police have not taken seriously. This includes not only property damage but also violence to people. If the police would have been concerned for the well being of frum yidden in those cases and have protected the innocent against the hoodlum – things might not have spiraled out of control as they have now. The hooligans are aware that they can get away with a lot – and the police won’t exert themselves. It is primarily when the modesty squads attack people who are not part of the frum community that the police get involved.

Therefore at the present moment – despite some arrests – the police are not viewed as a significant threat by the hooligans. In fact the police go from doing nothing in legitimate cases of extortion and threats to overreacting with brutality against the innocent. This is especially true regarding yeshiva bochurim that they think are attacking them with stones. The incredible insensitivity that this woman was treated is unfortunately viewed as typical brutal police action in the chareidi world. Therefore if the police dealt with the chareidi society with a greater sensitivity and showed a genuine interest in helping protect against these gangster – the frum society would be more cooperative with the police. Unfortunately the police and the chareidim are involved with demonizing each other – while in fact they truly need each other for a stable and productive society.

In sum the Eidah has no power to oppose these hooligans and there are those who think that the violent riots serve a genuine purpose. Rav Sternbuch has in fact showed much bravery by trying to protest this violence – especially since other rabbis who agree with him are afraid to do anything.

Hopefully a growing awareness of the dangers of allowing this vigilante action and the greater concern of the police – will lead to the necessary improvements.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

HaRav Sternbuch's statement on riots in Jerusalem

In response to my request for clarification of Rav Sternbuch's views on the current rioting connected with the arrest of a mother suspected child abuser I was authorized to report in his name the following:

He agrees that the rioting is wrong and he condemned the demonstrators are "mushugoyim". He said that it was in fact the duty of the hospital to report their findings to the authorities and thus they acted appropriately. He criticized the talk about boycotting the hospital in retaliation - as making no sense and and in fact being "very self-damaging." He asserted that the real point of contention is not whether this woman is guilty or innocent - but rather the way the police have dealt with her - chaining her hands and feet. If in fact it is true - as the police have claimed - that this woman is mentally ill, she should not have been placed in a cell together with dirty and dangerous criminals.

The reason that he hasn't issued a statement for the street or put up wall posters is simply that he knows he has very little influence on the people that are rioting - since they don't accept his authority. There are other people who in fact wield more influence - but they have yet to be convinced that the police have justification for what they have done. He is doing what he can behind the scenes to end the confrontation.

Rav Sternbuch - converting wife with invalid geirus

This is the type of case that Rav Eliashiv was referring to in his published teshuva (3:140) and it is the type of case that most poskim would agree that it is appropriate to convert the non-Jewish spouse. The insistence of having conventions and pursuing people who knowingly sinned by intermarriage is not validated by this approach. The attempt of Roni and R' Tropper to insist that leniencies such as this allow them to hold conventions to persuade intermarried couples to convert requires clearly stated teshuvos to that effect from Gedolim. Even their posek Rav Reuven Feinstein has not issued a heter for this nor has he stated publicly that it is permitted.As far as I can ascertain - Rav Reuven Feinstein does not disagree with Rav Sternbuch on this issue.

סימן ה:שבב

הערה נענין נישואין לבעלת תשובה

באו לפנינו מקרים של בני תורה שהתחתנו עם בעלות תשובה, ואח"כ נתברר שאם הכלה היא גיורת שנתגיירה ולא שמרה מצוות מעולם, ואומדנא דמוכח שלא נתכוונה בשעת גירותה לשמור מצוות, והפוסקים כתבו שלא חלה הגירות והיא עודנה בגויותה, וכן בתה, אף שהיא בעלת תשובה וצדקנית ונשואה לבן תורה, מ"מ מדין תורתה"ק היא גויה ובעלה חייב לפרוש ממנה, והטבלנו אותה בצינעא בפני בית דין לשם גירות, ובעלה קידשה ונשאה עוד פעם בפני עדים כדין. זה הוא אם אמה של הכלה נתגיירה ולא שמרה מצוות מעולם, אבל אם אמה של הכלה גופא החלה אח"כ לשמור מצוות, אין לי הכרעה, ומ"מ צריך לחומרא להטבילה...

Rav Sternbuch (Teshuvos V'Hanhagos 5:322): Concerning a marriage to a baalas teshuva. We have cases coming before us of a ben Torah marrying a baalas teshuva and then afterwards it is discovered that the bride's mother was a giyorus who never observed mitzvos. It is reasonable to assume that the mother had no intention of observing mitzvos at the time she converted. The Poskim says that therefore the mother was never a convert and thus she is still a non-Jew and obviously so is her daughter the bride. This is so even if the bride is a genuine baalas teshuva and truly righteous and she has shown her sincerity by marrying a ben Torah. Nevertheless according to the law of the Torah she is a non-Jew and her husband must separate from her. However she is to be immersed in the mikva secretly before a beis din for the sake of conversion. Her husband needs to marry her a second time in the presence of kosher witnesses. This is if the bride's mother converted and never observed mitzvos. However if her mother eventually did come to observe mitzvos - it is not clear whether the daughter is Jewish but she should l'chumra be converted....

Chief Rabbi Amar validates cancelled conversion


In an encouraging sign for converts whose Jewishness has been questioned by the haredi-controlled rabbinic establishment, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar ruled this week that a conversion annulled by a Haifa Rabbinic Court was perfectly kosher.

Amar's ruling was handed down on Tuesday, just in time to allow the convert to wed the woman of his choice in a Jewish ceremony that was slated to take place Wednesday evening in Haifa.

More than 15 years ago, S.V., the groom, was converted as a child along with his mother by a Haifa Rabbinic Court, headed by former chief Sephardi Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron.

However, several months ago, when S.V. attempted to register for marriage at the Haifa Religious Council, he was rejected. The local registrar referred him to the local rabbinical court to verify his conversion.

The Haifa Rabbinic Court ruled that S.V.'s conversion was invalid since he had abandoned an Orthodox lifestyle when he reached bar mitzva age.

S.V. appealed to the Supreme Court against the rabbinical court decision. However, this past Monday the Supreme Court ruled that S.V. had to first exhaust his option of appealing to the Supreme Rabbinic Court before the Supreme Court could get involved.

The next day, S.V. appeared before Amar and two other judges: Rabbi Ezra Bar-Shalom, the son-in-law of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and Rabbi Zion Buaron.

The panel ruled that S.V. was a full-fledged Jew. [...]

Child abuse case leads to Chareidi protests

The accusations against the mother of child abuse been fully represented in the secular press along with a conjectured psychiatric diagnosis. In short she has been put on trial convicted and executed. However there is a second side of the story which alledges that the doctors have misdiagnosed and mistreated the child and that the insensitive manner of arresting her in public was disgusting.

Whichever version of events is true - there is no question that this is a public relations disaster for the Chareidi community. However the release of private and confidential information as well as rumors to the secular press - by the police, social workers and hospital - are not acceptable in a modern society even if the facts are in agreement with the hospital. This is not the first time that the secular forces have felt a need to violate confidentiality to have the chareidim vilified in the press and public opinion.

The obvious solution should be a joint committee - of Chareidi representatives and hospital official - to investigate the facts - not only of whether there was abuse - but how and why confidential information was given to the press. Even if the facts of abuse are correct - and they haven't been proven - this public campaign by the secular forces is not appropriate but neither are the disgusting riots which only serve to validate the campaign of villification against the chareidi population


[...] The woman's family claims the child has cancer and that his skeletal appearance is due to chemotherapy treatments, a claim vehemently denied by doctors, who have said that since the mother's arrest, the child's condition has improved and that he has begun to put on weight.

Dudu Zilbershlag, the family's media adviser, told Army Radio on Thursday morning that they had medical documents proving their claim and would reveal them in a matter of hours.

Dr. Yair Birnbaum, deputy director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, said that the boy had gained 20 percent of his weight since nearly two weeks ago, when the mother was arrested. [...]


"Jerusalem's 'Eda Haredit' will boycott Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital, since its medical team fabricates libels against our community members and abuses them," declared Yoel 'Yoelish' Kraus, the 'operations officer' of the staunchly anti-Zionist haredi communal organization.

Speaking on Army Radio Wednesday morning, Kraus's statement came after a night of haredi riots in the capital, protesting the arrest of a Jerusalem woman apparently suffering from a psychiatric disorder, whose arrest for allegedly near-starving her three-year-old son to death was made public by police on Tuesday.

The mother of four, a member of the extreme Natorei Karta hassidic sect in Jerusalem who is five months pregnant, is suspected of severely abusing her child for two years, until he weighed a mere 7 kilograms, according to police investigators.

She was arrested last week during a meeting with a social worker.

In response, scores of haredi protesters took to the streets Tuesday night, setting garbage bins on fire on Rehov Bar-Ilan and in the Mea She'arim neighborhood, snarling traffic in the area, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. [...]