A new Jordanian cartoon series, Ben and Izzy aims for coexistence between Jews and Arabs. The series target market? American cable TV, the New York Times reports.
The Agudath Israel of America rabbi of a midwestern town told his congregation today that metzitza b'peh, the controversial circumcision rite that has the mohel suck blood out of the open circumcision wound, is safe and its practice comes under fealty to Torah. When challenged about its safety, the rabbi responded that the practice is safe, because "daas Torah" (the rulings of haredi "gedolim," which have the status of near-prophecy) says it is.
The rabbi in question plays a national role with Agudath Israel of America.
A British Messianic "rabbi" has taken 7 wives – all at the same time – because he believes God has ordered him to live like a biblical king. His messianic congregation is outraged, and has removed him as their "rabbi."
… For all of our community’s love of “social action,” there may not be a Jewish neighborhood anywhere that has created more grass-roots acts of “social action” than has Williamsburg. According to David Pollock, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, “almost all” of New York’s hallmark chesed organizations — Hatzoloh, the volunteer ambulance service; Bikur Cholim, caring for the sick, including hospital visitations and home-cooked meals for mostly non-Satmar Jews; Kimpaturin, rest homes for new mothers and their babies; Tomche Shabbos, volunteers anonymously delivering Shabbat meals to the poor — “are modeled on institutions founded by the Satmar in Williamsburg.”And this is true in Jerusalem, as well, where, for many years the Satmar sponsored soup kitchen was the best and largest in the city. I worked with several American olim who fell on hard times and had no one to turn to. Invariably, they would go to Chabad's (New City) soup kitchen and then Satmar's. All made Satmar their home after a few days of trying out both. Satmar helped them with food, with warm clothes, and often with a bed for a night or two. Chabad did none of those things, other than food. On the other hand, all liked the the non-official Kotel Chabad soup kitchen that ran on Shabbos and Yom Tov, becuase the baal habayit was a kind, gentle man who gave from the heart. But official Chaabd was largely set up to serve Chabadniks. In my time in Israel, that is exactly what they did. Even non-Hebrew, non-Yiddish-speaking Chabd olim felt shut out.
Yes, Satmar’s anti-Zionism is “the elephant” in Satmar’s room. To be fair, they are not Neturei Karta, with whom they are confused, a group that has sought alliances with Arabs who are violently anti-Israel. Rebbe Teitelbaum said, through a spokesman, “whoever associates with [Palestinian terrorists] is a killer.” True, he condemned Religious Zionism and Israel’s secular-based government as “false messianism,” but the Satmar rebbe visited Israel and he always cared deeply for the safety of Jewish lives, in Jerusalem as in Kiryas Joel. The rebbe’s critique was theological, believing that the end of the heavenly decreed exile was being unduly and dangerously hastened before its time.
Whether we agree or not — and we don’t — the fact is that we’ve come to accept as brothers and sisters those among us who care not a whit for the most basic Jewish laws and values. Strange then to despise or dismiss Satmar for anti-Zionism at a time when non-Zionism and post-Zionism have become accepted by so many of us.…
The Fighting Teitlebaums
Jonathan Mark of the NY Jewish Week has the best background article I've seen on Satmar, although I'm sure some of the finer points will be debated by readers.
From the NY Daily News: Fists Fly At Satmar Rebbe's Funeral.
Meanwhile, Adam Dickter, also of the NY Jewish Week, has a detailed blow-by-blow account of the conflict, including rival side's PR firms and street warfare. It closes this way:
“[Williamsburg] is not a community where people move to the Five Towns or to Flatbush. You have four generations davening together in the same shul. There are very few dropouts. This is the great strength of Satmar and chasidism in general.”
In many ways, Satmar is the polar opposite of Chabad. Both had few members in 1950. (Chabad was actually larger than Satmar then.) Satmar now numbers about 100,000 worldwide. Chabad, about half that. But Chabad has thousands of supporters who, while not themselves fully observant, appreciate the good Chabad does – and the slick PR. Chabad also has within its ranks thousands of ba'alei teshuva; Satmar has few. A Lubavitcher hasid from 100 years ago would not recognize today's Chabad or most of it's hasidut. A Hungarian hasid from 100 years ago would find little different about Satmar lifestyle and theology.
Which path is dearer to God?
Joe Schick writes:
Later, in 1943, the surviving members of my mother's family were forced to flee France for Italy. By then, my mother's mother was pregnant with her first child, and a Catholic priest arranged for refuge for the family in villages around Cuneo, Italy. The men were with the partisans fighting the Nazis and fascists, with the women and children hidden elsewhere.So the matriarch of one of the most important families in the American Orthodox world was saved by a Catholic priest. Yet, see this post, where I noted:
Two years ago, I was speaking with a Yeshiva University rosh yeshiva about a halakhic matter. Suddenly, while commenting on the Catholic Church's view of an issue, the rosh yeshiva blurted out, "The Pope, yemach shemo, …." ["The Pope, may his name be blotted out," a traditional curse reserved for the greatest enemies of the Jewish people, like Hitler and Haman, now directed at Pope John Paul 2, the Pope who had done the most to restore relations with the Jewish people.] Can one imagine Rabbi Joseph Ber Soleveitchik speaking about the Pope this way?I wonder how many anti-Nazi gentiles the Va'ad Hatzalah saved? How many retarded? How many Gypsies? Actually, I know the answer: zero. You would think the Va'ad along with Lubavitch and the other Orthodox groups would have saved a few of the non-Jews who were also targeted by Hitler. But they did not. Why?
For more background on the issue of the Church and the Holocaust, read David Dalin's book, The Myth of Hitler's Pope.
Yuval Ne'eman, a former science minister and a founder of the Tehiya political party has passed away after suffering a massive stroke. He was 81.
Mattew Wagner of the Jerusalem Post reports on the split in Satmar between supporters of two of the late Rebbe's sons and the fight for hundreds of millions of dollars in property and assets:
Ostensibly, the split between the Aharonis and the Zalmanis is ideological. Zalmanis accuse Aharon of straying from the strict anti-Zionist Satmar ideology set down by their founder, Rabbi Yoel Moshe Teitelbaum.
Aharon married the Viznitz Rebbe's daughter, who learned at the Hebrew-speaking Beit Ya'acov School for girls. Satmar refrain from conversing in Hebrew, the holy language, in protest against Zionism. They strongly oppose Beit Ya'acov schools that teach in Hebrew.
"Aharon is not fit to be the next Satmar rebbe because he broke the Satmar rule against speaking Hebrew in the home," said Der Yid's Weiss, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post in fluent Hebrew. "After the death of our rebbe we will continue to wave the anti-Zionist flag. That is one of our main goals."
Wagner notes something that differentiates Satmar from other haredim in a good way:
Unlike the general haredi community, most Satmar Hassidim work. They have international business connections and are active in the diamond trade, real estate, computers and industry such as nylon production, furniture, brush production, and crystal products.
The late Satmar Rebbe served as the president of Edah Charedis, the Jerusalem-based umbrella group of anti-Zionist haredim. Rabbi Halberstam of Edah Charedis also passed away this week. How will this effect Edah Charedis?
Teitelbaum served as the president of the Edah Haredit, an amalgamation of ultra-orthodox sects both hassidic and Lithuanian, many of whom predate the establishment of the State of Israel. His death may result in a leadership crisis.
"We are in an uncomfortable situation now," said Shmuel Popenheim, editor of Ha'edah, an Edah Haredit publication. "Until now the rebbe was a unifying force and the Edah did not have to take sides in the conflict between Aharon and Zalman Leib.
"But know it will be difficult to avoid hurting one or the other side's feelings." Popenheim, a Hassid of Toldot Aharon, which is loosely related to Satmar [and also, surprisingly, to Chabad], does not expect violence among Satmar Hassidim in Israel as a result of the split. "Most of the action is going to be in America."
Many were surprised that Teitelbaum's funeral in New York was conducted peacefully. But it is widely expected that when the seven-day mourning period ends on Sunday and the conflict heats up, there will be violent incidents, as there have been in the past between the camps in New York.
"In Israel," says Popenheim, "people will stop praying in the same shuls, they will stop sending their children to the same educational institutions they might even break off into separate neighborhoods. But they won't beat each other up."
Popenheim may not expect violence. If Vegas were making a line on this, no violence would be a 10,000 to 1 shot. Safe money is on war.
Shlomo Shamos is reporting that "Grand Rabbi Moshe Halbersatam" has passed away. I believe this is the same Rabbi Moshe Halberstam from Eidah Charedis who is also the Rosh Yeshiva of Divrei Chaim (Techakover). The funeral will begin in Kikar Shabbat at 3:30 PM today.
UPDATE: 4-28-06: Matthew Wagner of the Jerusalem Post writes:
Unlike Satmar Hassidim, Halbershtam was more open to Jews outside the confines of the Edah Haredit, said David "Duki" Greenwald, chairman of Hatzolah, a haredi paramedic organization that operates ambulances and first aid motorcycles all over the country.
Halbershtam, who specialized in halachic questions related to medicine, was Hatzolah's rabbi.
"Unlike other rabbis in the Edah Haredit, he was a consensus rabbi who answered the questions of a diverse group of religious Jews from religious Zionist to Sephardi," added Greenwald who was one of the last people to see Halbershtam alive.…
Tens of thousands took part in the funeral procession from Edah Haredit headquarters on Rehov Strauss in downtown Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the preeminent halachic authority for haredi Jews in Israel.
In addition to serving on the Edah Haredit's Beit Din (rabbinic court), Halbershtam also headed the Council of Rabbis for Charity together with Elyashiv.
"He worked tirelessly to improve the lot of poverty stricken Jews", said Matisiyahu Deutsche, Halbershtam's grandson, who said the charity committee managed to raise NIS 370 million during the past 10 years since it was established. "Twenty-four hours a day he was sensitive to the needs of the poor."
Deutsche said that his grandfather had at least 500 students who served as rabbis in posts all over the world.
"The Bais Yisrael [Rabbi Israel Alter the fifth Gerer Rebbe who died in 1977] once said of my grandfather that every halachic decision he made received approval in heaven."
The Pundik family's escape journey took four days from the time they left their home in Copenhagen to the moment they boarded the boat in which they crossed the narrow strip of sea to the safe shores of Sweden. They moved from one hiding place to the next, but when they reached the Danish shore the departure was postponed because of a series of difficulties. Once they were afraid of a German patrol, once the fishing boat was late and once the suspicion arose that Danish informers were moving around in the area.Why? As Ha'aretz explains, the Germans were allowed to occupy Denmark in effect without and occupying force with the provision that no Danish citizens would be singled out by race or groupings by the Germans. The only significant minority group in Denmark at that time were the Jews. Almost three years later, the Germans decided to abrogate the agreement and round up the Jews and ship them to the death camps. It was then that a German diplomat, Georg F. Duckwitz first tried to get the new decree voided. When that failed, he convinced the Prime Minister of Sweden to give the Jews asylum and warned friendly Danes who in turn warned the Jews and facilitated the exodus to Sweden.
During the four days of trouble before they boarded the boat they were helped by dozens of people - drivers who drove them, families that hid them, fisherman who tried to take them across and failed, until the fourth time they succeeded.
This was the personal journey of the Pundik family, but there were hundreds like it. From this it is possible to conclude that thousands - and perhaps tens of thousands - of Danish citizens were involved, whether by deed or by knowledge, in the smuggling of more than 6,000 Danish Jews to Sweden. A great many of them did this in the clear knowledge that it was liable to cost them their lives. They knew very well what had happened during the previous 10 years in neighboring Germany and they were prepared to risk everything. Thus Denmark became the only country in occupied Europe where nearly all the Jews - 99 percent - were saved.
There were a few Jews who remained in their homes and were rounded up by the Germans. After two and a half years of German rule, during the course of which the lives of the Jews had continued undisturbed, they could not believe that anything bad would happen to them. There were Jews in Copenhagen who had fled to Sweden immediately upon the German invasion, but when they saw that there was no danger - had returned to their homes. Few were caught during the escape. Almost all of those who were caught - either in their homes or while trying to escape - altogether 474 Jews - were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp not far from Prague, and of them 50 died of illness and old age.
At Theresienstadt the Danish Jews received packages of clothing and food sent from their country, an act without precedent in the Nazi concentration camps. Whereas most of the Jews who were held in Theresienstadt were sent to Auschwitz and murdered - not a single one of the Jews from Denmark was sent from there for extermination.
Ib Katznelson, an acquaintance of Herbert's who now serves in a senior position at the Danish Finance Ministry, was a child in Theresienstadt. While the adults in the camp went out to work he was sent with the other children to a daycare center. One day he was surprised to discover that the daycare center had emptied. All of his friends had been taken out of the center and later it emerged they had been sent to their deaths. Only he remained, alone. This was very strange, but everyone knew it was forbidden to send any Jew from Denmark to Auschwitz.
The Danish Jews spent 19 months in southern Sweden - and waited for the day when they could return home. Susy Ginsburg, who eventually became Herbert Pundik's wife and whose family also escaped to Sweden, says that when they returned home to Copenhagen they were surprised to find that the neighbors had scrupulously kept watch over their house and their possessions. They had even watered and tended the plants in the garden.
This story has been told by many different Danish Jewish families, because the story happened to many different Danish Jewish families. The Ginsburg's neighbors acted like hundreds of other Danish families. The Danes are a very special people indeed.
Does anyone know what attempts, if any, were made to save mentally ill, disabled and retarded Jews during the Holocaust? We know of rescues of a few important people, rabbis and community leaders. Were any disabled or retarded people rescued? Are their stories in print? Does anyone know? Please cite sources. Thank you.
The haredi man who admitted to killing his disabled infant son may be released to house arrest because he no longer poses a threat to anyone, because the 3 month old boy is already dead. Ha'aretz reports:
The parole service will recommend releasing Yisrael Vales, the 19-year-old ultra-Orthodox man accused of killing his three-month-old son a month ago.
A parole review prepared at the request of the Jerusalem district prosecutor's office will be submitted to the Jerusalem District Court at Vales' remand extension hearing Tuesday morning.
Prosecution sources said Monday night they had yet to finalize their position on releasing Vales from custody. An effort apparently will be made to find an arrangement that will enable his delivery into the custody of individuals who will vouch for him.
Vales was indicted two weeks ago on manslaughter charges. The indictment, which initially included charges of abusing a minor, assaulting a minor, and causing grievous bodily harm, was amended after the baby died of injuries at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem.
Just hours after he was arrested at the hospital, Vales admitted to ongoing abuse of his baby son, Yitzhak Shmuel. The baby was rushed to the hospital at the beginning of this month unconscious and suffering from cerebral and eye hemorrhages, and died several days later.
Vales gave interrogators three reasons for the abuse: the baby's ceaseless crying, anger at his wife for working nights at a clothing store and disgust at his son's congenital muscular torticollis, a deformity of the neck.
Vales detailed the abuse in a written police statement made public on Monday on Channel 10 news. He admitted to bashing the baby against the wall, punching and slapping him, pinching his neck and chest, and biting him on the neck.
Vales said he began abusing the baby about two weeks before the final incident. He denied any abuse of his wife, but admitted that he slapped her occasionally.
After Vales' arrest, ultra-Orthodox groups mounted violent demonstrations in Jerusalem in an effort to secure his release.
The Jerusalem district attorney, Eli Abarbanel, met with ultra-Orthodox representatives Sunday to discuss the matter.
A previously scheduled meeting was canceled due to the violent protests. The prosecution stressed there were no negotiations over Vales' release, and the purpose of the meeting was simply to listen to the Haredi representatives who had requested it.
The prosecution announced that its position on releasing Vales would be determined according to standard procedure and after receiving a custody review from the parole service, but sources were in no hurry to join the parole service's recommendation last night.
The review deals with the question of whether Vales is dangerous, and concludes that he no longer poses a threat to anyone.
Haredim rally in capital
An ultra-Orthodox group Monday evening demonstrated opposite the Russian Compound police facility in Jerusalem, where Vales is being held.
The demonstration's organizers, members of the Atra Kadisha organization, protested the intention to release Vales under certain restrictions, demanding that all proceedings against him be dropped.
Vales' family said in response that "the demonstration is superfluous."
According to understandings reached prior to today's court hearing, Vales would remain under house arrest at his grandmother's home in the Mea She'arim neighborhood.
Vales was visited in jail Monday by his wife's brother-in-law, Zvi Eisenstein, who has been serving as spokesman for the family.
Eisenstein said that Vales requested that there be no celebrations in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She'arim after his anticipated release Tuesday, because he and his wife are still in mourning for their son.
It is true Vales release poses no apparent threat to any individual – but I believe that release does pose a threat to Israeli society as a whole.
Vales clearly viewed his infant son as not fully human. I believe that if the baby had not been disabled, few, if any, haredi rabbis would be supporting Vales. But because the baby was disabled, and because the baby's future as a student of Torah did not appear to be bright (and perhaps it was not even possible), Vales' crime is cheapened in their eyes.
A man who admits to murdering a defenseless infant, especially an infant whose disability "disgusted" the murderer, should not walk free. Yet it appears Vales will be released to the comfort of his grandmother's home.
Tonight is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The first step in Hitler's genocide was taken against mentally and physically "defective" people – people like the Vales infant.
Yisroel Vales should not walk free.
Professor Daniel Sperber of Bar Illan University has a new book out (in Hebrew) on the everyday objects, from beds to clothes, used by Jews in Israel at the time of the Mishna and Talmud. Some of his work has been translated into English, including a book on the sources of minhagim (Jewish customs):
Accused Child Murderer
A halakhic ruling issued before the weekend by rabbinical sages of the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem exonerates a yeshiva student, 19, charged with the killing of his three-months-old baby.
The ruling, issued by rabbis Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Shmuel Auerbach and Chaim Kniyevski was delivered to Jerusalem Police Chief Maj. Gen. Ilan Franco on Friday.
The halakhic ruling threatens to renew the violent demonstrations held ten days ago in the Me'ah Shearim ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. The ruling describes the charge sheet against Vales as "blood libel."
Yisrael Vales is suspected of beating his son and throwing him against the wall because the baby's cries annoyed him. The son died of his wounds two weeks ago.
The baby was hospitalized at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, in serious condition, with brain hemorrhaging, edema, signs of violence and bites on his body.
Vales was initially indicted at the Jerusalem District Court on two counts of abuse and cause of serious injuries to his son. Prosecutors now seek to change the charge to manslaughter.
During his second questioning, Vales admitted he slammed the baby against a wall and had previously attacked him numerous times, because he "wouldn't let him sleep." He said he would beat his son with his fists, slap him and bite him on the neck.
The Jerusalem District Court is scheduled Monday to decide on the extension of Vales' remand. Police say Vales had confessed to having committed the offenses with which he was charged.
Here is the report from the Jerusalem Post:
Jerusalem Rabbis Shalom Elyashiv and Haim Kanievski released a halachic decree Sunday morning stating that Yisrael Valis, the 19-year-old father accused of violently killing his infant son, was innocent.
One of the rabbis, speaking to Israel Radio, said that the basis for the decree was that Valis' wife was still supporting him, and that if he had indeed killed his son, she would not be at his side still.
Valis is facing manslaughter charges for beating his three-month old baby to death.
He allegedly hurled the baby against the wall after he started to cry, is suspected of repeatedly biting, beating, pinching and punching the infant since he was born because he "did not accept him" due to a defect the child was born with in his neck muscles, police said.
The rabbi also called Sunday for the release of Valis to house arrest, threatening that if he is not released then protests by the haredi community would resume.
Extremist elements in the haredi community had previously threatened to riot and to "make Jerusalem burn" if the suspected baby killer is not released from custody, even though police said that he has admitted beating his child.
In a previous effort to ease tensions, Rabbinical sages and Valis' family issued a statement two weeks ago calling on protesters to refrain from violence and from burning trash on the street.
Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling said last Saturday that haredi riots over the last week have caused NIS 140,000 in damage, including the destruction of 30 city garbage bins.
Haredim, wake up! Your rabbis are destroying you!
Rabbi Dr. David Berger writes:
In sum, this generation has presided over a historic transformation of the Jewish religion. We now live in a world in which Judaism affirms the possibility of the Second Coming of the Messiah - and perhaps even of his divinity - as a fully acceptable belief.…we will continue to acquiesce in the ongoing Christianization of the Jewish faith.
How can one argue with this?
Tempers in Mea Shearim are heating up as the date of the remand hearing approaches in the case of the young Haredi man charged with beating his three-month-old son to death. The Jerusalem district court will decide Monday whether to release the suspect until the end of the proceedings or keep him in custody. On Friday his supporters will hold a prayer service and a protest in Jerusalem's Russian Compound to press authorities to release the accused.
Also Thursday, dozens of Orthodox residents of Jerusalem assaulted an Egged bus driver at the Shabbat Plaza and blocked street traffic with garbage carts. Police forces that were called to the scene dispersed the crowd and brought the bus driver to safety.
On the eve of Passover and during the holiday Orthodox Jews set garbage bins alight and blocked Jerusalem streets numerous times in displays of protest. Thursday night hundreds gathered at the Zichron Moshe synagogue in Jerusalem’s Geulah neighborhood for a prayer service and protest.
Throughout Geulah and Mea Shearim posters were hung calling residents to participate in the assembly: “In light of the cruel campaign of persecution and oppression: A gentle-souled Yeshiva student was thrown in prison and put behind bars, he was framed in a disgraceful plot by the government whose aim is known: to oppress the torah observant public and to disrupt their lives, to soil and slander the name of the entire Haredi culture , ” the posters read.
Perhaps these haredi parasites should make a forced "aliya" – to Poland, Belarus, Hungary and Romania.
A long-secret document written in code by Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov from notes he made of a secret talk given by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov about the coming of the messiah is to be released after 200 years of secrecy. A Bar Illan University researcher has obtained a copy and decoded the manuscript.
The upshot? A messiah you will not recognize:
For those expecting a wrathful Messiah who will wreak vengeance on the nations of the world - or a rabbinic Messiah with a white beard - the Messiah of the scroll will come as a disappointment.
Rebbe Nachman, on that carriage ride long ago, predicted, instead, a Messiah whose appearance and identity would surprise the world: a Messiah who would begin his messianic mission as a young child. The scroll describes the Messiah's marriage, and his ascension to the throne as emperor while a teenager. The Messiah, according to the scroll, will eventually conquer the world without firing a single shot: his war will be a spiritual battle with a tidal wave of atheism that will have engulfed the world.
Rabbi Nachman's messianic vision includes no apocalypse and no mass destruction of evildoers. The Messiah's power will emanate from his genius for healing illness through new kinds of medicines he will synthesize from various compounds, and from his profound originality in the field of music: The Messiah will compose melodies with the power to arouse tremendous yearning and hunger for God. Rabbi Nachman's Messiah is universal: He comes not just to the Jews, but to all nations, and for the good of the whole world.
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan and a contender for Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, believes we must offer the Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount, and we must do so immediately. (Pesach Sheini?)
Rabbi Ariel said, "After the destruction of the First Temple, when the Jews began returning from Babylonia to the Holy Land, they brought the Paschal sacrifice during the course of 22 years even though there was no Holy Temple. They also were considered ritually impure - because there was no Red Heifer by which to become pure - yet they still brought it... There is currently no genuine impediment to bringing the Paschal sacrifice."
There have been other attempts to renew this sacrifice over the years, or at least to solve the Halakhic problems involved. Speaking about the rabbis who came to the Holy Land 700 years ago and sought to pave the way to offer the Pesach lamb, Rabbi Ariel said,
"It is simply disgraceful when we compare our actions with theirs. They were here after the Crusaders, when there were perhaps 1,000 Jews in the whole land, which was totally desolate, and tried to renew this commandment. And yet we have 5-6 million Jews, and we have an army with tanks and planes, and what are we doing? ... Over 2,000 years ago, the Jews were afraid to live in Jerusalem, yet they made it obligatory for one out of every ten men to work towards building the Holy Temple, and they started the sacrifice services amidst the ruins of the First Temple. And where are we? Should we not be ashamed?"
[Hat tip: Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky.]
Tensions rise in Crown Heights as Jewish-owned housing expands into black areas. But is this all about real estate or is something more fundamental, like racism, at play?
[Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok "Yosi"] Jacobson, whose car has been broken into twice, thinks that the crime committed against Jews is serious.
“I don't think it's random because it happens in one direction,” he said. “It is African-American brothers who attack the Jews living here. I call them brothers because I believe that we are all children of one God.”
With spokespeople like Jacobson, the Jews of Crown Heights can only expect trouble - God forbid.
Chabad made seders in Havana. The hitch? Cuban customs confiscated the maror and the shank bone.
Israel is holding more than 40 Sudanese refugees who crossed into Israel from the Sinai and gave themselves up to the IDF, seeking asylum. Most are being held in military prison. 10 were released to the care of kibbutzim until asylum can be arranged in other countries. These people fled the genocide in Darfur and subsequent persecution in Egypt and other Arab countries. What should Israel do? Readers?
The New York Observer on the Boro Park riots:
During the Giuliani administration, the Orthodox community benefited from a large share of the limited supply of day-care vouchers. After a 1997 protest in which thousands of Borough Park Orthodox rioted when a sheriff tried to impound a Hasidic man’s car, there was a drop in the number of cars towed in the neighborhood for several months, one source said.
When a Mexican worker was killed in a building collapse in 1999, an investigation by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes examined whether Hasidic building contractors got special treatment from City Hall.…
Others, like Mandel Zitronbaum, a heavy-set 25-year-old, took pride in the protests. He said he saw the police confront Mr. Schick. “They were hitting him with sticks,” Mr. Zitronbaum said while sitting at the counter in the Dairy Luncheonette on 48th Street, eating a cheese Danish and then ordering a cheese sandwich. [This is completely inconsistent with Arthur Schick's "injuries" and could not have happened. One has to wonder whether Schick's brother Marvin will correct these lies in his next column. I doubt it.] “He started screaming that ‘this is what the Nazis did to me 60 years ago.’”
A woman behind the counter rolled her eyes.
Up the block on 49th Street, at the Famous Schwartz deli, a man with a long, graying beard and yarmulke wrote Passover Seder orders down right to left on a scrap of receipt. Like many of the people walking around Borough Park, he said the protest was really a response to police papering the neighborhood with tickets for parking violations.
“The thing is that here, they are giving tickets right and left. Even if you are sitting in the car, you get one. This is not right. This is why people are so upset. I think in the other neighborhoods, they don’t do this,” he said. “They take advantage here because the people are quiet and nice.”
“I just want to say clearly that the behavior of the young people in our community was a horror, it was inexcusable—I don’t tolerate excuses for anyone,” said Mr. Hikind. But he also said some of the blame rested with the overreaction of the police, especially members of a task force brought in to assist the members of the 66th Precinct. On Monday, videos showing police using aggressive tactics against some of the protesters made their way around the city. “I hope that their tactics to fight terrorism are more effective than what happened in Borough Park,” Mr. Hikind added.
Late Thursday afternoon, things seemed to have settled back to normal at the Bobov Yeshiva on 48th Street. Old men with phylacteries wrapped around their creased foreheads and books fanned opened under their noses sidestepped boys playing tag. Teenagers, many of whom stood on the street corners Tuesday night, taunting police and lighting fires, studied in libraries stacked to the ceiling with leather-bound religious texts.
“Everybody is saying different things. The story is messed up; you can’t get a straight story,” said Israel Solomon, an 18-year-old who had just stepped out of the yeshiva, where he had been studying when the protest broke out. “Everyone was itching for a fight.”
Undemocratic, thuggish behavior. Why? Perhaps because the rabbis who lead them are a bunch of thugs themselves. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Thursday night's haredi rioting was followed up with a day of riots on Friday. The Jerusalem Post reports:
For the second day in a row, scores of haredim rioted in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood on Friday, in protest over the arrest of a 19-year-old haredi man suspected of beating his infant son to death, police said.
The haredi demonstrators pelted police and motorists with stones, set garbage bins on fire and blocked traffic in a major neighborhood thoroughfare, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.
Five protesters were arrested in similar city disturbances on Thursday night.
The suspected baby killer, Yisrael Valis, is facing manslaughter charges for beating his three-month old baby to death.
Valis, who allegedly hurled the baby against the wall after he started to cry, is suspected of repeatedly biting, beating, pinching and punching the infant since he was born because he "did not accept him" due to a defect the child was born with in his neck muscles, police said.
In an effort to ease tensions, Rabbinical sages and Valis' family issued a statement Friday calling on the protesters to refrain from violence and from burning trash on the street.
Extremist elements in the haredi community had previously threatened to riot and to "make Jerusalem burn" if the suspected baby killer is not released from custody, even though police said that he has admitted beating his child.
Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling said Saturday that the haredi riots over the last week have caused NIS 140,000 in damage, including the destruction of 30 city garbage bins.
Those "extremists" include the head of the haredi Eidah Charedis religious court.
Continued from here.
Dov Bear has a post on gebrochts, the custom of not eating matza that has in any way become wet. Dov Bear's point, based in part on Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov (a Chabadnik), is that the custom has no halakhic source. If memory serves me, the Rema* mentions the custom and is also puzzled by its source, and posits that children saw their parents not eating wet matza on the first night of Passover and confused this custom, creating the new "minhag" of gebrochts. Why not eat wet matza on the first night of Pesach? An opinion of the Rambam (here brought by Amshinover in the comments to Dov Bear's post):
[W]e quote from Nefesh HaRav by R. Hershel Schachter, shlita, Rosh Kollel of R.I.E.T.S. This sefer represents the views of his rebbe, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt"l. R. Schachter writes (p. 18: "Even though mitnagdim [as opposed to Chassidim] are not accustomed to refrain from eating gebrockts (matza sheruya) on Passover, the Beit Halevi [the Gaon R. Yitzhak Zeev Soloveichik] and after him his son, the Gaon R. Chaim Soloveichik, were both careful to refrain from eating gebrockts on the first day of Passover because of Rambam`s ruling [in Hilchot Chametz U`Matza] that one should not eat matza ashira on the first day of Passover, even when not eating it for the specific purpose of mitzvat matza at the Seder. Cooked matza is likened to matza ashira in this regard, and this chumra (stringency) is a tradition from R. Chaim of Volozhin."
Matza ashira (grape matza, egg matza, etc.) is extended – without precedent in any halakhic literature or practice – to include shemurah matza broken up into soup. This morphs into never eating any wet matza. Which morphs into the Chabad custom of not eating matza that has come into contact with any food. All of this because of the fear that unbaked flour within the matza will somehow rise when brought in contact with liquid (or, in the case of Chabad, solid as well).
But to really understand this custom, one needs to look back to its origin and then slightly before that. The custom is not much older than 500 years old, if that. And it began not long after another Passover custom got its start – thin, cracker-like matza. Before this time (and in many Sefardic communities to this day) matza was soft and thick, like a large Arabic flat bread. These matzot were sometimes several inches thick, but more commonly 1/2 to 1 inch in thickness. These were the standard matzot eaten by Jews the world over until a custom began in (where else) Eastern Europe among those identified with Ashkenazim – for fear of hametz being found in soft matzot. This probably took place after these communities first came in contact with Europeans who baked water crackers and saw what they felt was an advantage in the process. Soon matza was wafer thin and baked at extremely high heat. And our flat matza was born.
But all was not rosy in matza land. The rapid high temperature baking of the new matza often left pockets of under-baked dough within the matzot. Although halakhicly these matzot could not become hametz, the especially pious (and the ignorant) nonetheless feared the possibility. I believe it was then that the "custom" of gebrochts entered the Jewish community, and the memories of zeiydi who didn't eat gebrochts on the first night of Passover because of a stringent reading of the Rambam blurred into zeiydi who didn't eat gebrochts, period, because of fear of hametz.
There is no halakhic source for the custom. It is a custom described in halakhic literature as foolish. It was propagated largely by the then-nascent hasidic movement, whose hallmark was anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism. And now, the same people who rioted in Boro Park and Jerusalem are sitting around their Passover tables believing they are frummer than everyone else, in part because their matzot don't see the insides of soup bowls. And, perhaps even more absurd, thousand of Chabadniks all over the world eat their burned shemurah matza from plastic bags to prevent matza crumbs from contaminating their tables and tableware, just as Moses did in the Sinai desert 3300 years ago.
* Can anyone cite this souce?
Michael Rubiner: The Two-Minute Haggadah – a Passover service for the impatient.
In the eight months since EJF's establishment, he said, "we've done 70 conversions divided among various rabbinical courts, and we have another 130 candidates in the process of studying for conversion. We get an average of six applications per week on our Web site."
Tropper said batei din are functioning in Los Angeles, Lakewood, N.J., Monsey, N.Y., Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland and Jerusalem.
"We're also looking at Milwaukee, Miami and Boston, but making the beit din is secondary to inspiring mixed-marriage couples to come to us," he said. "The meat and potatoes of our program is getting intermarried couples to share the same passions. I travel all over the country to do that."…
Last month, EJF hosted a conference in Florida called "Universally Accepted Conversions in Intermarriage."
The event attracted 170 leading rabbis ranging from modern Orthodox to Lubavitch, including the chief rabbis of Israel and Poland.
"The notion circulating in the Jewish community that intermarried couples are unwelcome and that Orthodox rabbinical courts will not entertain their conversions is being quickly dispelled by the activities of this organization," conference chairman Marvin Jacob told JTA.
The group has established seven rabbinical courts in the United States and is in the process of creating more. As rabbis join the EJF, they become part of the network of courts, or batei din, that perform conversions, Jacob said.…
By standardizing the conversion process, EJF hopes to lure in mixed couples that vow to practice Orthodox Judaism and keep kosher.
"Sometimes, even if people are ready we push them off for months, if not years, to test their sincerity. People lose interest and go away," Jacob said. But if the judges are persuaded that the applicant is sincere about observing the commandments, "we urge that the conversion should take place immediately, because that's halacha."
Rabbi J. David Bleich has a long article in the first volume of Contemporary Halachic Problems that explains the ins and outs of this issue. The basic issue is the predominant rabbinic opinion that any conversion done for any reason other than a simple desire to be an observant Jew is invalid. This would include conversions done for the correct reason, but that also had incorrect motives – for marriage, to immigrate to Israel, financial, etc. – as well. Rabbi Bleich leans toward opposing conversions like these. But that was 30 years ago:
Another rabbi said the conference, and EJF itself, represent a sea change in thinking on the part of the U.S. Orthodox establishment.
"The trend here is to accept reality. There are about a million intermarried Jews out of 5.2 million Jews in America. What do you do with them?" said the rabbi, who asked that neither he nor his congregation be identified. "Many of these Jews would convert halachically, but until now, the Orthodox world has written them off."
Indeed, Orthodoxy largely turned away intermarried couples, or demanded months of separation before the conversion and then afterward until marriage. Many more simply refused to convert the non-Jewish spouse. And others refused to sanction a Jewish marriage between the newly-converted spouse and her husband. But all this has been slowly changing. Hundreds of thousands intermarriages later, in a small way, Orthodoxy is finally admitting it was wrong.
Haredim rioted in Jerusalem Thursday night in an attempt to gain the release of a 19-year-old man who has admitted beating his infant son to death. Haredim, led by Eidah Charedis and Rabbis Weiss and Moshe Shternbuch and Ulman are demanding the man be released immediately:
Leading ultra-Orthodox judges who visited a 19-year-old Orthodox man charged with manslaughter over the death of his 3-month-old son say they are convinced Israel Valas is not guilty of murder.…
"I spoke with the police chief in Jerusalem. I told him that for now we're against the protests. If he was a murderer, than obviously he should not be released for the safety of the public, but that's not the case," Rabbi Shternbuch said.
When asked about biting signs on the infant's body, the rabbi said: "The bite wasn't something that endangered the child."
Right. I suppose the bite marks (apparently matching the father) are not indications of violence, either. Oh and note that Rabbi Shternbuch is against protests "for now." What's "now"? One day, it seems:
On Sunday, a large, official ultra-Orthodox protest is planned to express support for the father. In the past week, leading figures in the Orthodox community have been trying to enlist the support of the entire Orthodox community, and have been meeting with influential rabbis to that end.
Accused Child Murderer
How delusional is the haredi community? Read the comments of the infant's maternal grandmother:
The infant's grandmother on the mother's side, Liba Weinstock, told Ynet: "It's very difficult for the mother to handle this
alone without her husband. They didn't let him out for the Seder…we're certain he's innocent."
The family also says the infant did not receive any treatment for eight hours after being brought to the hospital.
"He arrived at the hospital at 11 p.m. and nobody checked him until 9 a.m. They put all their efforts into investigating what happened and not into taking care of the child," the grandmother said.
However, her testimony comes in direct contradiction to the words of Hadassah Ein Kerem's Intensive Care director Ido Yatsiv.
The director said the infant received immediate treatment after arriving at the hospital unconscious and suffering from hemorrhages in the left side of his face.
"It was clear there was a serious blow, but the direction wasn't clear," Yatsiv said. "At that time the pupils responded to light and there was a bit of spontaneous movement of the hands, but he didn't open his eyes of his own accord and was still unconscious."
Rabbis Weiss, Shterbuch, Ulman–Feh!
A wonderful piece by Shahar Smooha in the Columbia Journalist:
Three times in the last three years, Yosi Levi asked his rabbi if he should go back to Israel. The rabbi, who has been dead for 12 years now, each time said no.The only dissapointment of note is this line: "A small but very vocal group still believes that Schneerson is the Messiah and that he will reveal himself to the world when the time is right." That "small-but vocal group" are the Israeli Tzfasniks and their followers. The regular messianists and the so-called "anti-messianists" all believe the Rebbe is the messiah. They differ over if and how to publicize this "fact."
Levi thought perhaps he could get permission to return home for his brother’s wedding. After all, this was his closest sibling and he had promised to attend. But the rabbi wouldn’t hear of it.
It’s easy to communicate with the late Lubavitcher rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. All Levi has to do is to write his questions on a piece of paper and place it in one of the rabbi’s 23 Q&A books called “Igrot Kodesh,” or holy epistles. Then, he interprets how the rabbi has answered other people’s questions and applies them to his own. “You insert your note into a random page of a random book and then you see what the rabbi wrote you,” said Levi, who believes the dead rabbi is the Messiah.
Levi immediately cancelled the plane ticket and notified his brother. “He understood,” he said. “He knows what the rabbi means for me.”
Was Levi disappointed? Did he feel a pinch in his heart? “Maybe a little one,” he admitted while fondling his brown beard “But I’m a soldier. I follow orders.”…
The current anti-scientific climate makes a mockery of Judaism's constant search for truth. The very idea that rabbis might excommunicate people for teaching that the world is more than 5766 years old, or for supporting the truth of evolution, must be repudiated loudly and clearly.
The accumulation of incontrovertible evidence of the great antiquity of the earth has led to the broad rabbinic acceptance of the accuracy of an early interpretation of the word “day” in the Genesis story as meaning “an indeterminate period of time,” rather than “a day of twenty-four hours.”
There will always be some resistance to this approach from people who deny that reason is a valid source of truth. Also, from those whose misplaced loyalty to a particular understanding of a revealed text leads them to the rejection of otherwise established scientific truths.
But for most of us, the depth of our religious commitment and our openness to the process of scientific inquiry, go hand in hand as full partners in our lifelong quest for truth.
After explaining why the Torah's account of the Exodus does not fit the historical or archeological records, archeologist Stephen Rosenberg (no relation) writes:
My proposal is that this miraculous account of the Exodus is describing a series of events that took place over more than 300 years, when Semitic foreigners, including the Jews, left Egypt in wave after wave. Some came and went with the Hyksos, and destroyed Jericho on their way back. Some were expelled by Queen Hatshepsut and 480 years later helped to build Solomon's Temple. Some came after the Hyksos and were forced to build Pithom and Ramesses, and then left in haste to get to Canaan before Merenptah could claim to have destroyed Israel in their land. And some perhaps never left at all and stayed on to tell the tale from an Egyptian point of view, with an Egyptian slant to the agriculture of Canaan and an Egyptian description of the Mishkan.Rosenberg ascribes the Torah's account to "mnemo-history," a form of folk memory where myth (in its classical sense, not as falsehood) compacts various related historical events into a compact whole. For more on this understanding of mnemo-history, read When They Severed Earth From Sky: How The Human Mind Shapes Myth.
Haredim want the 19 year old haredi man who has admitted murdering his infant son by battering him, slamming him into a wall and biting him on the neck released from police custody tonight. If not, the haredi Kol Chai radio station reports, "Jerusalem [will] burn."
The man beat and tortured his son because the child's crying kept him awake and because of a birth defect in the infant's neck muscles, which disgusted him.
Haredi leaders call the arrest a "blood libel":
Rabbi Yitzhak Weiss, halachic authority and spiritual leader for Jerusalem's virulently anti-Zionist Eda Haredit community, said the indictment of the yeshiva student was "identical to the blood libels concocted by the evil Europeans against Jews before Pessah."…
"[The father] says the baby fell from his arms and Rabbi Weiss believes him," said Shmuel Popenheim, editor-in-chief of Ha'edah, the Eda Haredit's weekly. "There are people who will purposely lie to disparage us."
Mordechai Minzberg, an Eda Haredit activist, said that Weiss' accusation was very rare. "If it weren't Pessah eve, all the streets adjacent to Mea She'arim would be blocked and there would be demonstrations," he said.
The baby was buried Monday afternoon…
… Without an autopsy:
The baby [who] was hospitalized at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, in serious condition, with brain hemorrhaging, edema, signs of violence and bites on his body. The baby's body will not undergo an autopsy.
Matthew Wagner of the Jerusalem Post reports:
Dissenting camps within Chabad voiced mutual accusations a day after a huge Sunday night rally, entitled "Reception of the righteous messiah" drew 10,000 to Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena.
"There was an amazing turnout," said Yoni Kahana, one of the organizers of the evening. "Everyone came away with renewed faith in the imminent coming of the rebbe, our messiah. He may not have come on Sunday night. But he will truly be revealed any second."
However, leading Chabad figures, among them Menahem Brod, the group's official spokesman, claimed the rally and its organizers were unauthorized.
"They are perpetrators of deception and fraud," said Brod. "They have no permission to use Chabad's name* in connection with their activities."
The event was organized by the messianic elements within Chabad. Participants prayed for the quick revealing of Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson as messiah and a celebrated his 104th birthday. Schneerson died in June 1994.
Advertisements for the celebration, which including performances by leading haredi pop stars, such as Ya'acov Shwaki, Perchai Miami and Sephardi singer Yechiel Nahari, called it a "reception for the messiah" and were dominated by pictures of a smiling Schneerson.
Both messianic Chabad hassidim and their less messianic mainstream brethren believe that Schneerson's birthday, 11 Nissan, is a special day. But the two camps have different takes on the meaning of the day.
For instance, Chaim Galinsky, who writes for a mainstream Chabad news magazine, said it is a day to accept resolutions to do good.
"When you accept upon yourself an additional good deed, it has more import," Galinsky said. "The rebbe is the supreme spiritual leader of this generation. I am not saying he is alive**, but his soul, which came down into this world on the 11th of Nissan, was a special soul. It lent to this day special powers . So this is a propitious day to increase Chabad's activities."
However, more messianic Chabad hassidim like Rabbi Zalman Notik, a spiritual director at Torat Emet Yeshiva in Jerusalem***, talked openly of Schneerson as the messiah.
"The messiah may come from either the living or the dead," he said. "We believe the rebbe is still with us and is waiting to be revealed. Every mitzva that a Jew does brings us all a little closer to redemption.
"And the most important mitzva is to publicize the idea that the rebbe is messiah. Intensifying the expectation of the messiah's coming hastens the actual coming. There is no better day to do this than on the 11th of Nissan."
Brod said his main objection to the concert was not the messianic message rather the lax religious environment.****
"The messianic Chabad hassidim used the evening to demonstrate their strength," he said. "But many of the people who came were just a bunch of young hooligans. There is no real education value to the evening, its just a collection of pop singers."
Despite Brod's accusations, organizers were careful to separate men and women and several rabbis, such as Yosef Pizam of Haifa, Yosef Yitzhak Vilshansky of Safed, Gedalia Axelrod and Ya'acov Yosef, son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,***** gave short speeches.
*This is a struggle over power and control, not over ideology. Please see footnote 3 and it's referenced text.
**Note Galinsky still considers the late Rebbe to be the "supreme religious leader of this generation." Galinsky also did not say the Rebbe is deceased.
*** This is the main Chabad yeshiva in Jerusalem and the oldest of Chabad's yeshivot in the Holy Land.
**** In other words, the issue is not whether the Rebbe is the messiah – he is. The issue is only whether we should make a public campaign promoting this.
***** Ovadia Yosef is opposed to Chabad and Chabad messianism. His son, Yaakov, broke with his father many years ago, while the late Rebbe was still alive.
The JTA has more detail on Chabad's "Chief Rabbi of Russia," Berel Lazar's citizenship issues.
It seems Putin gave Lazar special citizenship in 2000, opening the door for Chabad a few days later to make Lazar "Chief Rabbi of Russia," in a bid to force out Putin critic Vladimir Gussinsky and the real chief rabbi, Adolph Shayevitch.
Very recently, Lazar has for the first time been mildly critical of the Putin regime's weak response to antisemitic incidents, including a knife attack at a Chabad synagogue that wounded nine Jews, some very seriously. This "citizenship inquiry" may be retaliation for Lazar's belated and weak attempt to speak up.
Look for Putin to "save" Lazar from this "trouble" and Lazar to extoll the virtues of Putin. Otherwise, expect Lazar to spend some time in New York or Israel on an enforced "vacation," like Moscow's Chief Rabbi, Pinkhas Goldschmidt.
Search this site with Google:
The New York Times: "The legal conflict has revealed a deep tension within the Orthodox community that has been reported in the Jewish weekly press, and has been the almost exclusive topic of discussion on some Orthodox Jewish Web sites like failedmessiah.com and unorthodoxjew.blogspot.com in the months since Mr. Hikind brought up sexual abuse."
The New York Times: "In Postville, residents were dismayed by a report posted on a Jewish Web site, FailedMessiah.com, saying that Sholom Rubashkin held a celebration in Postville last week after he was released from detention on $1 million bail."
THE COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW: "[Jeff] Abbas passed the video to Shmarya Rosenberg, a blogger in St. Paul, Minnesota, who has provided some of the best coverage of the raid and its aftermath; a few days later, the video was referenced in The New York Times."
The Forward: Postville’s City Council initially voted to support the idea of a community benefits agreement, but later voted to withdraw support for such an agreement — a development first reported on the blog Failed Messiah.
Samuel Freedman in the Jerusalem Post: "[T]the scandal of Agriprocessors has been chronicled from Stephen Bloom's book Postville to Nathaniel Popper's investigative reports in the Forward to Julia Preston's coverage in The New York Times to the muckraking blogger FailedMessiah.com."
Religion In The News: "So authoritative has Rosenberg become that he is now regularly quoted by the Register; and his site has been referenced by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and both the Forward and the JTA."
Tablet Magazine: “If you’re Jewish and you were married five years ago, you have not confronted the problem that exists today,” Rosenberg says. “The problem is much worse for anyone who isn’t Orthodox. As the Haredi strength grows and their control grows, that’ll become clearer.”
Religion Dispatches: "The best collection of articles I’ve found can be perused at failedmessiah.com, the blog of Shmarya Rosenberg, who, with the perspective of insider turned disillusioned outsider, has been probing the nuances and hypocrisies of the ultra-Orthodox establishment since 2004."