Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New rabbinical court aims to empower agunot

Jewish Week     In what appears to be a major breakthrough in the long, tortuous effort to solve the problem of agunot (or, chained wives), an international bet din (religious court) is in formation, headed by a highly respected Orthodox rabbi, with the goal of freeing women trapped in broken marriages.

Blu Greenberg, a longtime activist on this issue and founder of JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance), announced at the group’s international conference this week that Rabbi Simcha Krauss, former rabbi of the Young Israel of Hillcrest and now living in Israel, has agreed to serve as the head of an independent rabbinic court in formation seeking “systemic halachic solutions” to the problem.

A major figure in centrist Orthodoxy who was president of the Religious Zionist of America, Rabbi Krauss made aliyah in 2005 and is affiliated with Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi in Jerusalem. He is well respected for his Torah knowledge and integrity by a wide swath of the Orthodox community.

But the key to the new court’s success may well rest on one of the two leading Israeli rabbis associated with the haredi community who have given their imprimatur to Rabbi Krauss. Most significant is Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, a rosh yeshiva, posek (religious decisor) and chief justice of the rabbinical high court in Jerusalem.

The other is She’ar Yashuv Cohen, former chief rabbi of Haifa and president of its rabbinic courts. A third prominent Israeli rosh yeshiva has also signaled his support for Rabbi Krauss but prefers to remain anonymous at this time.

Highly respected by all segments of the Orthodox community, Rabbi Goldberg was the first to sign on to the Rabbinical Council of America’s pre-nuptial agreement program, to prevent agunah cases, and helped give it credibility.

“As long as Rav Zalman Nechemiah is on board with Rabbi Krauss,” the new venture is “untouchable,” noted an expert on the issue. But he added that haredi elements opposed to the new bet din could put strong pressure on Rabbi Goldberg to retract his support.

“Most of all,” the source said, “it must be truly independent.”

Rabbi Krauss, in an exclusive interview, said on Monday that while he is somewhat concerned about the criticism sure to be leveled at the new court from those on the right, he is prepared to go forward and hopes the court, which at least initially is slated to be based in the U.S., will begin its work in 2014.

“I am not a revolutionary, and I understand that halacha [Jewish law] moves slowly,” he said, “but it’s been too slow. It’s time.”

He noted that in his extensive experience as a pulpit rabbi in America he saw too many cases where small bet din courts, particularly in Brooklyn, were subject to “corruption, bribery and utter falsification” in championing the husband and unwilling to free the wife from broken marriages.
“The numbers [of agunot] are real, and big, and they are tragic,” he said. (While precise numbers are hard to come by, Jeremy Stern of ORA, Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, says his New York-based group receives about 150 calls a year from women seeking help, and is working on about 50 cases at any given time.) [...]

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rav Shach's condemnation of "Shaarei Talmud Torah"

מכתבים ומאמרים ממרן הגאון רבי אלעזר מנחם מן שך זצוק"ל

חלק א' עמוד ק"ז
חינוך וישיבות

אזהרה לגנוז ספר אחד שמביע דעת נגד מסורת הישיבות
בס"ד יום א' י"ז לחדש הרחמים והסליחות תשמ"ב
אזהרה להסיר מכשול
הביאו לפני ספר בשם "שערי תלמוד תורה" מאיזה רב ד"ר אשר  מפיצים אותו ברבים בעיקר לבני הישיבות שיחי' : ראיתי ונזדעזעתי, אשר  כל כולו הוא ספר הסתה לבני תורה על החובה שיתנו מזמנם גם ללימודי  אומנות וגם ללימודים משארי חכמות כמו רפואה ועוד ועוד מהדברים הנצרכים לחיים, ותמך יסודו ממה שאסף מכמה מאמרי חז"ל המדברים  בשבח המלאכה, וגם מהרבה ספרים המדברים במעלת הנהנה מיגיע כפיו,  והצורך בידיעת מדע הטבע.
והנה אין כאן המקום לנהל ויכוחים עם הנ"ל, ונזכיר רק מאמרם ז"ל  כמנחות צ"ט, שאל בן דמה וכו' כגון אני שלמדתי כל התורה כולה מהו  שאלמד חכמה יונית, קרא עליו לא ימוש ספר התורה הזה מפיך והגית בו יומם ולילה, צא ובדוק שעה שאינה לא יום ולא לילה וכו', ועון ביטול תורה הוא נורא ואיום מאד, ואמרו חז"ל בירושלמי הובא בשע"ת לרבינו יונה ז"ל ויתר הקב"ה על ע"ז וכו' ולא ויתר על עון ביטול תורה, וכל ענין  מלאכה שהזכירו חז"ל הוא על מי שא"א לו להסתדר בפרנסה בלא זה אבל  כל זמן שיכול ללמוד ודאי ח"ו להפסיק מתורה"ק ושקידתה בשכיל העתיד  דדי' לצרה בשעתה, ועון פלילי הוא לנתק בן תורה מהתורה תורתו של  הקב"ה.
וכן החמישה שערים הראשונים שכותכ דרך הלימוד וצורת קיום מצות לימוד התורה יש בהם דברים שאינם נכונים שהוא כותכ נגד המקובל לנו, שלמדו לעצמן וגם עם התלמידים לעיין בהם בעומק ובהבנה ישרה ובפלפולה של תורה כמובן שלא ע"מ לקנטר, וזהו מצות לשמה שביאר  בספר הקדוש נפש החיים שלשמה הוא הפירוש לדעת התורה, ובכלל מצות  ושננתם הוא שיהי' דברי תורה מחודדים בפיך אף על ידי פלפולה כדאיתא  בנדרים דל"ח ע"ש בפירוש הרא"ש, ומה שכותב על מה שכתב גאון הדור  שלפני פנינו הוא הגר"י סלנטר זצקללה"ה ב"התבונה" בענין למוד בפלפול,  שלא מצא לו חבר לזה וחולק על דבריו, אין זה אלא רמות רוחא.

ומאד מאד אני מצטער על אחד שיעיז להביע דעה נגד המסורה לנו  והמקובל לנו מגאונינו רבותינו שעל פיהם נתיסדו הישיבות שמאז ומתמיד כולם החזיקו ישיבות, ואנן תלמידי תלמידיהם של גאון הגאונים רבן של כל  ישראל רבי חיים וולאזינר זצקללה"ה שיסד הישיבה בוולאזין ע"פ הסכמת  הגר"א זצקללה"ה הנחשב כאחד מן הראשונים המשמשים לפניו במרום,  וכך נמשכו הדורות עד היום, ובטח הם כולם ידעו את כל המאמרים בחז"ל,  וכל מעשיהם אינם צריכים חיזוק מאיתנו שרוח הקודש שרתה על כל מה  שעשו. ובפרט בתקופתינו שכל כך רבה העזובה בכל מה שנוגע ללימוד  התורה, שאחוז קטן מכל הצעירים המתחנכים בבתי החינוך נשארים בהישיבות וח"ו אם גם הם לא יתמסרו כל כולם ללימוד ולעלי' בתורה ח"ו  תשתכח תורה מישראל, ובמה גדול כוחו שיבוא להורות דרך לרבים ולסכן  את כל קיום התורה ועם ישראל .
אלעזר מנחם מן שך
יעקב ישראל קניבסקי

Rav Nosson Kaminetsky told me that Rav Shach had called to tell him that he had to write a condemnation for the sefer - but he wanted to make sure he did not saying anything that would insult his father. He asked him to check the letter before he published it

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Psak: First use commonsense to understand facts - before applying halacha

update below When I was writing my books on child abuse, I was puzzled by poskim such as Rav Menashe Klein and Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg who avoided the issue because cases didn't have halachic significance. They claimed that if there weren't two kosher witnesses, or there wasn't a violation of a Torah prohibition whose punishment was as severe as jail, they basically ignored the problem.

Rav Moshe Sternbuch disagreed with their approach and told me that in poskening halacha that Rav Abramsky had said that one first needed to use common sense to understand the facts before apply halacha.  Thus if there was even a rumor of a child being hurt, that rumor needed to be investigated - and a responsible person could not hide behind the excuse he didn't want to listen to lashon harah or there weren't 2 witnesses.

My son just pointed out another source for this very important idea in שו"ת חבצלת השרון חלק ב. click here for Hebrew Books for full teshuva.  [update]  He also noted, " I just checked the מנחת יצחק it’s ח”ט סק”נ he copies the whole חבצלת השרון and says that he heard this כלל numerous times from מהר”ש ענגיל מרדישמולא who is considered the biggest galicaner posek before the war. So it’s seems that it was wide spread in Galicia.   

Rav Chaim Kanievsky prohibits artificial insemination - Rav Eliashiv permitted it

Kikar haShabat   Update -  text below and original letter and translation

ספר חדש מפרסם את דעתו של הגר"ח קנייבסקי בנושא טיפולי פוריות. במכתב המתפרסם לראשונה הוא כותב כי "טיפולי פוריות - תועבה. הבנים שיצאו עלולים להיות פושעים גמורים" ● בניגוד לדעת הגר"ח, חמיו הגרי"ש אלישיב סבור כי בנים הנולדים על-ידי הטיפולים הללו כשרים לבוא בקהל ה'..

"טיפולי פוריות הם תועבה, הבנים שיצאו מזה עלולים להיות רשעים ופושעים גמורים", כך פוסק מרן הגר"ח קנייבסקי, בספר חדש העוסק בטיפולי פוריות והפריות מלאכותיות.
דעת הגר"ח קנייבסקי, כפי שעולה מן הספר, היא שכל טיפולי הפוריות לסוגיהם השונים - אסורים על-פי ההלכה בתכלית האיסור. הגר"ח מתבטא במכתביו השונים כי הטיפולים הללו הם "תועבה", וקובע נחרצות כי "בודאי הבנים שיצאו מזה עלולים להיות רשעים ופושעים וגרועים".
בשנים האחרונות חלה התקדמות משמעותית במגזר החרדי בכל הקשור לטיפולים הללו. כך קמו ארגונים אשר שמו להם למטרה להקל על הזוגות חשוכי הילדים ולפתור את מצוקתם במציאת פתרונות הלכתיים.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Change in Israeli child custody laws to correct bias against fathers

YNET   The changes in regulations for divorced parents are set to be implemented, despite them not including the absolute cancelation of the Infancy Custody Clause.

A change in the clause, however, will allow fathers to take custody over children who have reached the age of two years, compared to the previous clause of six years.

Professor Dan Shanit, who headed the committee on changes regarding divorced parents, said the Infancy Custody Clause needed to be canceled completely, which says that children up to the age of six can only be under the custody of the mother.

Former justice minister Yaakov Ne'eman had already sent out the memo last year on the Parents and Children Law, which was based on Shanit's conference. The clause that stood out in the memo was the change in the custody law. It received a lot of criticism, mainly from women's organizations.

According to the law, when parents divorce and can't reach an agreement on who will be considered the children's guardian, the courts can establish that children under the age of six will remain with their mother, under the Infancy Custody Clause. As a result, the other, older siblings also remain under the custody of the mother so as not to separate them. Divorced fathers have been condemning the clause for many years, claiming it is automatically discriminatory. [...]

Friday, December 6, 2013

Why is Rav Kook neglected by Chareidim?

Guest post by Chaim Bornstein

Brief background on the author:

Chaim Bornstein is in his mid-twenties. He is learning in a prestigious Kollel in the Tri-State area. He is currently pursuing a rabbinic ordination and a Master’s Degree in School Administration. 

Chaim is against being categorized. However, if you must know, he wears a black hat and went to the Internet Asifah. He did so because his Rosh Kollel told him to do so, and he believes it’s a mitzvah to listen to the words of chachomim. He did not believe there was anything for him to gain from the asifah and continues to feel uninspired by the event.  (Chaim has had Spector Pro and E-Blaster on every PC he has ever owned and had the Internet on his Blackberry blocked since he purchased it in 2010...)

Chaim was born in the U.S. to a chashuv Kollel couple hailing from one of the prestigious American Yeshivos. In 1992 his parents made Aliyah and have lived in several Chareidi communities in Israel since...

He went to a well known cheder in Jerusalem and attended Yeshiva Ketana in Eretz Yisrael as well.  Chaim returned to the U.S. in 2003 and obtained a high school diploma.  He received his Undergraduate Degree in 2011. He currently resides in the N.Y. Metro area, where he is B"H happily married with three children.

Tznius Squad now (sometimes) turns sexual predators over to police

Kikar haShabat

לפני כשבוע, הוגש כתב אישום קשה נגד בן למשפחת אדמו"רים שהתחזה לבודק מסיכות אב"כ ותקף אישה חרדית. פעילי הוועד לטוהר המחנה שלכדו אותו, החליטו להעביר את האיש לטיפול במשטרה. בשיחה ל'כיכר השבת', מציג פעיל בארגון את משנתו, ואומר כי פעיליו דווקא מעודדים תלונות במשטרה

זה שנים רבות ש'הוועד לטוהר המחנה', או בכינויו הפנים חרדי "משמרת הצניעות", פועל למיגור תופעת הפגיעה בילדים ונשים בתוך המגזר החרדי. לטענתם, הם פועלים בשליחותם של גדולי ישראל ובראשם בית הדין של העדה החרדית בירושלים.
בשבוע שעבר, הופיעו בתקשורת דיווחים על דבר מעצרו של תושב חרדי מבית שמש, בן למשפחת אדמורי"ם, שהתחזה ל"בודק מסכות אב"כ" ותקף באכזריות אשה חרדית בתוך ביתה. לא כולם יודעים, אבל דווקא הוועד לטוהר המחנה - הוא שהביא למעצרו.
תלונה שהתקבלה בוועד לטוהר המחנה הביאה את פעיליו להגיע אל "בודק מסכות האב"כ", אלו פנו יחד עם האישה המותקפת למשטרה וזאת עצרה את החשוד והגישה נגדו כתב אישום. 
בעקבות המעצר, "כיכר השבת" פנה בשבוע האחרון לפעילים בוועד לטוהר המחנה בניסיון לשמוע מהם פרטים על שיתוף הפעולה הלא צפוי עם המשטרה, לאחר פניות רבות שנענו בסירוב, נאות פעיל מרכזי בארגון לדבר

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Serving Ice Cream to the Morbidly Obese by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

5 Towns Jewish Times    Q. My husband and I have an ice-cream store. We heard you wrote a sefer on lifnei iver, and we have a lifnei iver question: If someone is morbidly obese and comes in and orders an ice cream such as “cookies and cream,” is it forbidden for us to serve him? Are we obligated to suggest that he try a fat-free, sugar-free type instead?

A. This is a good question. According to the American Obesity Association, 127 million adults in the U.S. are overweight, 60 million are clinically obese, and 9 million are severely obese. Your question probably deals with the last 9 million. It is a growing issue.

You are in luck, because we were able to pose your question to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, and we have his answer on video and in writing. Our editor, Larry Gordon, presented your question, along with seven other halachic queries, to Rav Kanievsky this past Tuesday. But let’s first discuss some pertinent issues. [...]

So what is our conclusion, since you asked? The Mishnah Berurah would forbid it and Rav Feinstein would permit it if there were another factor that one could add to the leniency. What might that be? The Shach (YD 151:6) seems to rule that the prohibition of mesaya only applies to observant Jews. If it is questionable whether the person is observant or not, then this is a factor that would make it permitted according to Rav Feinstein’s view. Thus our conclusion is that if it is a morbidly obese religious Jewish man, you must suggest the dietetic alternative—even according to the more lenient view of Rav Feinstein. [...]

החתונה שמסעירה את בני ברק: החתן יישא אשת איש?Is a forced get kosher

Kikar haShabat

אדמו"רים, רבנים, דיינים ועסקנים יושבים על המדוכה בשאלת כשרות נישואין שייערכו הערב בבני-ברק • החתן, המקורב לאדמו"ר מויז'ניץ, אמור ליישא אישה גרושה שבעלה טוען כי מעולם לא גירשה וכי הגט הוצא ממנו בכפייה • שני הצדדים מציגים רבנים ודיינים המצדדים בעמדתם • הסיפור המלא (חרדים, בארץ)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mendel Epstein: Bad Rabbi: Tales of Extortion and Torture Depict a Divorce Broker's Brutal Grip on the Orthodox Community

Village Voice     This much Abraham Rubin knew: He was lying, blindfolded and handcuffed, in the back of a van. He could feel it winding through the streets. He figured at least three men were in there with him, plus the driver. There was the one who'd stepped out of nowhere and punched him in the face as he walked down 56th Street in Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood just a few minutes earlier. And two, maybe three others who'd bull-rushed him and threw him into the van.
"We only want you to be a Jew," one of them said in Yiddish.

The van stopped. Rubin heard a door open and the men getting out. "The rabbi is coming," one said. Then the sound of two or more men climbing in beside him.[...]

In Borough Park, few to'anim were as prominent as Mendel Epstein.

Epstein, now 68, was known to many in the Orthodox Jewish community as a devoted feminist. Stout and bald, with a bushy beard and a steely demeanor, he specialized in divorces. Over three decades he built a reputation for effectively representing women. Says one local rabbi, "He presented himself as a champion for the underdog."

The women who came to Epstein often had a singular problem: Their husbands refused to grant them a get, a document without which an Orthodox Jewish marriage cannot be dissolved. The rule can be traced to the biblical Book of Deuteronomy, and its sway remains stifling: Without a get, a woman who remarries is considered adulterous. Any children fathered by her new husband are illegitimate under Orthodox law and prohibited from marrying within the faith.[...]

"The get is often the last vestige of control that an abusive man has over his wife," says Rabbi Jeremy Stern, director of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, a nonprofit advocacy group for chained women. "Agunot are among the most vulnerable members of the Jewish community." [...]

Epstein publicly advocated for women's empowerment. In 1989 he published a book, A Woman's Guide to the Get Process, which advised wives on their religiously sanctioned options when seeking divorce. He wrote columns on the subject for the Jewish Press. Earlier this year, he codified his philosophy, unveiling "The Bill of Rights of a Jewish Wife" in the pages of the 5 Towns. One right states, "A wife must be treated with respect and not be abused. A woman in an abusive relationship has a right to seek a get." Another: "A husband is obligated to honor and respect his wife's parents." A third: "She is entitled to be supported by her husband." [...]

There were some exceptions. In 1997, for example, Neustein met with a woman named Libby. She came from a poor family, Libby said, but her husband was a wealthy, well-known member of the Orthodox community. He was also abusive: When she was six months pregnant, Libby told Neustein, he beat her until she miscarried. Desperate, Libby turned to Mendel Epstein. The rabbi offered one solution: He'd have her husband give her $10,000 if she left the country and promised to keep quiet.[...]

Meanwhile, in a one-room office in Crown Heights, a family therapist named Monty Weinstein was hearing stories, too. Weinstein founded Father's Rights Metro, a nonprofit group that assisted men in custody disputes. Weinstein remembers the first time he heard Epstein's name: In the mid-1980s, an Orthodox Jew approached him with a farfetched tale about how he'd been jumped by thugs and beaten until he agreed to recite the get oath.

"I was skeptical," Weinstein says. "In fact, I didn't believe it. I knew this guy must be a kook."

Several weeks later, though, another man came in with the same story. Then another. Some told of beatings, others of threatening phone calls: Grant the get or you'll be accused of child abuse; grant the get or you'll never see your kids again; grant the get, or else. By the time Weinstein shuttered the nonprofit in 1995, he says, he'd encountered more than a dozen men who'd been assaulted or intimidated over a get. [...]

After years of operating with seeming impunity, Epstein himself wasn't exactly secretive about his unconventional methods. In an interview for the 2011 documentary Women Unchained, the rabbi told of a desperate wife who came to him after her husband took off with their child. "She heard I have an ability to do things outside the normal parameters, outside normal channels," he said.

By the logic Epstein presented, he was a righteous vigilante, defending helpless women who had nowhere else to turn.

"He took advantage of their vulnerability," says Stern, adding that Epstein's motivation was not about advancing women's rights, but about enlarging his own bank account. "A gun for hire," he says.[...]

On November 16 and December 10, 1996, a "Rabbi Wieder" made calls to Belsky. In a transcript of the conversations, translated from Yiddish to English and later filed in court, Belsky describes what he knew about Rubin: "We heard this person is such a rotten animal that there is no equal on this earth." Belsky goes on to explain that he and other rabbis held a tribunal and "the verdict was that there should be compulsion." He stresses that he was not present at the beating but says, "I was in agreement, after many weeks and weeks of consideration and discussing the compulsion itself."

"If he deserves the beatings, then he deserves it," the man masquerading as Wieder responds. "You felt that he deserves it, then good."

"Yes, it's very hard on my heart," Belsky replies. "I don't keep a record, but it was the first time which I have agreed to such a thing." (Belsky, who denied in court having participated in the attack, did not respond to interview requests from the Voice. Neither did his lawyer, Robert Rimberg.) [...]

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What's next Rabbi Wallerstein? by Allan Katz

Guest post by   Allan Katz
The centrality of Torah study and learning is expressed by Ya'akov's decision to send Yehudah to establish a Beis Hamedrash – a house of learning in Egypt, ahead of the family. It is no wonder that a talk by Rabbi  Wallerstein on Jewish education in the USA aroused so much interest. He said that competition, tests,grades and  homework and that different parts of Torah learning are considered as ' subjects ' and separate disciplines were responsible for kids not accessing and becoming excited about the beauty of the Torah. However there was one big omission in his talk  – how schools handle discipline problems. Many kids are falling through the cracks and are becoming  Lost at School  because of a punitive approach to discipline. Discipline only got a mention in passing  when he said that his father was a marine and he believed that kids should get consequences ( a euphemism for punishments). The question people are asking – what's next Rabbi Wallerstein ?

I am not going to discuss the negative impact on ALL kids, not only the academically weaker ones of competition,tests, grades and homework. I recommend reading the article by Dr Benzion Sorotzkin The Dangers of Rewards and Competition and listening to a short Radio interview of Alfie Kohn on awards and grades He  also briefly discusses the alternatives.
Here are some guidelines from Alfie Kohn  based on the best practices of progressive schools, education in Finland and the discipline code being implemented in many schools in the USA and especially in Maine, created by Ross Greene - Collaborative problem solving model  Here, unlike kids at traditional schools who find no value in the learning itself and only study to get a good grade, kids enjoy learning, find value in the learning and are intrinsically motivated to learn.

The Major problem with traditional schools is the learning is driven by extrinsic motivation. The belief  that 'lo lishmah' – extrinsic motivation automatically leads to kids learning 'lishmah -enjoying what they learn, and seeing the value and beauty in it does not help. Discipline is maintained also through ' extrinsic motivation' –' doing to' kids with rewards, punishments and consequences teaching kids to ask ' what will I get ' or 'what will be done to me ' and what's in it for me. Consequences don't help a kid reflect on what type of person I want to be, do my actions reflect my values or how they impact- the consequences  on others.

The more focused we are on kids' 'behaviors', the more we end up missing the kids themselves – along with their needs, their lagging skills, motives , reasons or any problems that underlie their actions. Instead of discipline, solve problems in a collaborative way, ' working with kids'. In this way we teach lagging skills, solve problems in a durable way, and  enhance the trust and relationship between the teacher and kid . We also  give the kid the space to engage in an autonomous way in the moral act of restitution and making amends. We help the kid to do  Teshuvah  and  give him a vision for the future .

Assessment  - What replaces Grades and Tests
The more kids are led to focus on how WELL   they are doing in school , the less engaged they will tend to be with WHAT they are doing in school . So for sure they will miss out on the beauty, enjoyment and the intrinsic value of their learning. If the focus is on achievement and performance, rather than the process of learning , then the learning is not about understanding and discovery. Joe Bower said that assessment is not a rubric but a conversation. The kid needs feedback which will improve his learning and a discussion how to go forward.

Jerome Bruner once said that we should try to create an environment where students can  experience   success and failure not as reward and punishment but as information. So Rabbi Wallerstein  is going in the right direction when he recommends a conversation with a kid on a test he brought home. The conversation is in learning, not about grades. But he gets it wrong by talking about 'achievement ' – the positive .Kids need to be taught that mistakes are our friends.We don't make progress in Torah and learning unless we fail. 'Lo omdim ul divrei Torah ud she nechshalim bahem.'  There is no positive or negative.

The best evidence we have of whether we are succeeding as educators comes from observing children's learning rather than from test scores or grades. A teacher said that' I assess my students by looking at their work, by talking with them, by making informal observations on the way. I don't need any means of appraisal outside of my observations and the student's work, which is demonstration enough of their thinking, their growth, their knowledge and their attitudes over time.' It also comes from watching to see whether they continue arguing animatedly about an issue raised in class after the class is over, whether they come home chattering about something they discovered in school, whether they read on their own time. Where interest is sparked, skills are usually acquired. Of course, interest is difficult to quantify, but the solution is not to return to more conventional measuring methods; it is to acknowledge the limits of measurement. The best way to see a kid's progress in Gemorah is by the questions he asks and that we can't test or measure.

A kid can demonstrate his learning through projects, designing experiments for a science fair, writing a play and then giving a performance, making a 'movie' on what is being studied. A student can share and reflect on his work by using a 'portfolio'.

 Since the research says there are no academic benefits for homework for kids below 15 and only negative effects on the love for learning, the default should be no homework unless the homework is really deemed beneficial to kids.

Deborah Meir said that teaching is mostly listening and learning is mostly talking. So kids should do more of the talking than the teachers, and that depends on the how the teacher has managed to engage the kids' interest in the topic and their excitement about learning in general.  Learning should be organized around problems, projects and questions, especially students' questions – not around text books, lists of facts or skills or separate disciplines. Learning becomes multi-disciplinary with all areas of learning connecting to each other.

The 3 C's of  Intrinsic Motivation
When the needs of kids for autonomy, competence and relatedness are supported and kids find meaning and purpose in what they are doing , they become self- determined and intrinsically motivated 

Collaboration- students are connected to their peers within a safe and supportive community of learners ,see their peers as ' learning resources' , and learning is cooperative ( chavrusa) not competitive
Choice – student autonomy is supported by inviting kids to participate in decisions about what they are learning and classroom life. Kids learn to be responsible and make good decisions by making decisions and not by following instructions.
Content – the curriculum should be meaningful, engaging and relevant so sparks student interest and curiosity.
Change is best when done slowly and in a cooperative way. Principals, teachers and parents should always have their long term goals for their kids in mind. If we want to raise G-d fearing kids who are caring and responsible, have a love for learning and feel unconditionally accepted and loved by adults in their lives , we have to help kids focus on WHAT they are doing and not HOW WELL they are doing. In this way they will see the beauty of the Torah and take 'ownership' of their learning.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Weiss Dodelson: Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky "Smear campaign against the Weiss Family should cease and desist"

Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky released this letter on Friday November 29, 2013

Guest Post from a concerned friend of the Weiss Family

This letter is far more important than one may think

Rav Shmuel writes that “as of two weeks ago, serious negotiations have been underway to resolve the Weiss-Dodelson, dispute” and therefore the “public smear campaign against the Weiss family...should cease and desist. It is unacceptable."

Weiss supporters are delighted that Rav Shmuel has taken a public stance after he and his son Rav Sholom have over the past two weeks experienced first hand how the Dodelsons “negotiate in good faith."

But what does this letter really say?

It says that although there is no formal binding arbitration taking place, so long as there are serious negotiations, the Weisses may not be attacked. Certainly Rav Shmuel is not suggesting that the Dodelsons may unilaterally disrupt the negotiations and resume their “smear campaign”; if he were saying that his letter would merely be a tool to encourage the breakdown of negotiations. No one would accuse him of that.

But what if “serious negotiations” were actually taking place earlier? It would seem that Rav Shmuel’s denouncement of the smear campaign would apply to that time, too.

There is ample email documentation of ongoing interaction between the Dodelson’s lawyers and other representatives with Rabbi Greenwald from June through mid-October showing that “serious negotiations” were, in fact taking place. All the while, the Dodelsons were engaged in an extensive “smear campaign,” including establishing numerous websites, doing mailings, and hiring a public relations.

Then, in mid-October the process was unilaterally scuttled by the Dodelsons, and their New York Post story trashing the frum community and their Newsweek story attacking halachah ran.

But the truth is, even a year ago the two sides went to Rav Yaakov Bender, but he was pressured by the Dodelsons to withdraw from arbitrating the case. Maybe Rav Shmuel’s psak should start back then.

The bottom line is that Rav Shmuel’s letter seems to support Rav Dovid Feinstein’s psak.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Arrival of the Mir Yeshiva Boys from Shanghai – An Interview

5 Towns Jewish Times    by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Their ordeal is well known and well-documented. Students from the Mir Yeshiva escaped the clutches of the Nazis by a hairsbreadth – and went to Kobe, Japan and then spent the war years in Shanghai, China. But how did these Yeshiva boys arrive in the United States? An 18 year old Sally Cohen (now Mrs. Hirsch) traveled with the Mir Yeshiva from Shanghai to the United States. The ship they traveled on was the SS General M.C. Meigs, a US Navy ship. It departed on January 1st, 1949 and arrived on January 24th, 1949. The Mir students and Miss Cohen traveled third class. She shared her experience with the Five Towns Jewish Times.

YH: Mrs. Hirsch, how did you come in contact with the Mir Yeshiva?

SH: While we were in Shanghai – the Mir students gave classes and taught the local Sefardic Jewish community all sorts of Torah classes. They would teach us in the main Sefardic shul in Shanghai. They were single bochurim and they made us all frummer. One of their names was Rabbi Schechter, another Rabbi Borgen.. I don’t remember all their names anymore but many of them became important Rabbis later on in America.

YH: Are you still in touch with any of them?
SH: I did run into them throughout the years, but there is hardly anyone left anymore.
YH: Where did the Mir boys stay?
SH: In Shanghai they lived in a ghetto called Honque. They would come to the Sefardic community often and they had their own minyan for Maariv later in the Sefardic shul.. They also had all their weddings there during the night.
YH: The Japanese had occupied China at the time?
SH: Yes. All the American Mir bochurim had to wear a big A on their clothing.. The British had to wear a B. They called us Naquni – which meant All foreigners in Japanese.. But the Mir boys were all in the Honque. [...]

Rav Matisyahu Solomon: The machlokes of Israel should not come to America and all gedolim need to be respected

This is an excerpt of the  words of Rav Matisyahu Solomon that were spoken in Lakewood regarding the issue of macholekes of gedolei Torah. It was translated from Yiddish and was published last week in Hapeles - the newspaper of Rav Shmuel Auerbach. His message is that the dispute of gedolim should not spread to America and that all gedolim should be respected and the concern should be for truth and peace. 

The obvious problem is that the gedolim themselves are  not respecting each other. Thus it is difficult to understand how one can respect gedolim that your gadol doesn't respect?

"כמובן שאין הפירוש לעשות שלום מתוך וויתור על דעותיו ועקרונותיו, כל אחד צריך לשמור על יחוידותו ושיטתו, ולעשות את שלו, בדרך שלום. ובכך, למרות שכל אחד ממשיך לדבוק בשיטתו ובאמת שלו, אך בכל זאת עדיין אין בכך סתירה להמשך הקיום המשותף ביניהם בדרך השלום והאחוה. באופנים ובעניינים שאין סתירה ואפשר להסכים ביחד - מסכימים ביחד .ובדברים שיש חילוקי דעות - נחלקים בדעותיהם. והאמת והשלום אהבו". 

בסיום דבריו נשא המשגיח דלייקוווד שליט"א דברים נרגשים על הלקח שעלינו ללמוד מכך : "איני יודע אם צריך לדבר בזה, אך זה בחינה אצלי של 'אוי לי אם אומר, אוי לי אם לא אומר'. יודעים אתם שבא"י במחנה התורה יש שטיקל רעש, ויש חילוקי דעות - ב"ה שזה עדיין לא נכנס בעולם התורה שלנו, וצריך להזהר שזה לא יכנס לעולם התורה שלנו ח"ו.

"אבל מה שקורה זה דבר שמעולם לא היה בכלל ישראל .אפילו בזמנים של המחלוקות הגדולות, הרי שבעולם התורה היה תמיד נשאר 'האמת והשלום אהבו . אפשר שיהיו חילוקי עדות, אבל כך לבטל אחד את השני באופן כזה ? או אפילו לגעת במי שהיו מקובלים אצלנו כקדושים ויקרים לנו ?"

 "בכל דור היו כמה גדולי תורה שהיו מתבוננים עליהם כלפי מעלה, והיו יודעים כי אסור לגעת בהם, והחילול של לגעת בשמות קדושים, הוא דבר שצריך להזהר ממנו מאד מאד. שהרי קנין דעת תורה הולכת עם מעלת 'מבקשי השם'. הרי קודשא בריך הוא ואורייתא חד הוא! הרי זה תורה של הקב"ה! הלא מדובר בדעת תורה של גדולי תורה ששנים על גבי שנים התייגעו רק בתורה, שדעתם כל כולו תורה. אפילו שהם מחולקים זה על זה, אך לבוא ולעשות מזה זלזול ? - זה שייך לרחוב, איז לזה שייכות לבית מדרש".

"בית שמאי ובית הלל היו תמיד 'פייער' (אש) זה עם זה, אבל היסוד היה ביקוש האמת, היסוד היה למען האמת. היסוד היה שאין כאז 'ניצוח', לא לעשות מזה עניינים של 'למי היכולת לנצח,' 'אני אוחז ממנו ואני ממנו' וכו'"

"יש להיזהר ולהישמר שלא לקבל הלשון הרע והרכילות שמסתובב בחוץ, לא לקבל ולא להתעסק בזה. לדעת שאנו בני תורה, בני תורה הם הבנים של התורה. יש לנו רק את הדרך שהתורה מלמדת אותנו. ואנו הולכים רק בדרך התורה. והתורה אומרת, אם רוצים אתם בבנין בית המקדש - 'והאמת והשלום אהבו'! גם אם יש מחלוקת, בסוף צריך להיות שלום. כל המבט צריך להיות מבט של אמת ושלום!'.

 "הקב"ה יעזור, שכל אחר יוכל וירצה וישאר בשלו, ויחד עם זאת אנו נמשיך להכניע עצמנו לכל גדולי ישראל. זה היה מאן ומעולם דרכם של כלל ישראל, וכך זה צריך להימשך"