(Translated from Hebrew to English)
As a Charedi (ultra-orthodox) child he had been through a series of molestations and attempted rapes. Even after he left the religious life, he suffered from nightmares and sleepless nights. Now Menachem Lang decided to gather his courage, confront his attackers, and force the Charedi world to deal with its demons. Dressed as a Charedi, he infiltrated Bnei-Brak and followed them--until he managed to squeeze a detailed admission and request for forgiveness; all in front of the cameras.
Menachem Lang was born as a Charedi in Bnei-Brak. Already at a young age he was discovered as someone who possessed a unique voice for Chazanut (leading the community in religious song)and became the wonder child of the Charedi world. However, alongside the success, Lang was hiding a relentless dark secret.
"The first time was when I was 7 years old," tells Lang. "The attacker took me to the bathroom and spent five hours with me there. He rubbed against me and touched me, breathed like a drunkard. I just lowered my eyes and waited for it to be over." This week, almost 20 years later, Lang went back to the streets of Bnei-Brak--and this time as a non-religious Jew dressed as a Charedi--in order to confront the people who sexually assaulted him.
Menachem, 25 years old, is an actor in the Ensemble of Herzelia Theater, went on the shuddering trip into his past accompanied by Channel 10 reporter Guy Lerer. "I always wanted to do this," he says, "it hurt me that these people are walking free. It haunted me nights, but I didn't have the courage to do this because I didn't have anyone to do it with. I made the decision when Lerer came to me to prepare a report on the show I participate in. I told him about my dream and he immediately told me 'we're doing this!'. During the shooting we walked into the Satmar borough dressed as Charedis, the same Chassidic group that sent its people to meet with Ahmad Nigahd. It is a hard, violent place."
"I am regretful!"
About two weeks ago, Landg and Lerer, outfitted with a hidden camera, arrived in a neighborhood in Bnei-Brak. He waited under one of the houses, dressed as a Charedi. A few minutes later, a familiar figure approaches up the street. Menachem identifys "A", the man who attacked him violently and molested him when he was 13. He goes to him and calls him to stop. "A" turns and flees, Menachem runs after him. Several tens of meters later, he catches him, and the two begin to fight. When "A" understands that he has no place to run to, he stops, and after he calms down a bit an exchange develops between Menachem and him.
Tzemach Atlas has posted a great video of Bob Dylan singing Idot Wind live in 1976. I searched YouTube for more videos from that concert and found 16 live videos made in 1976. I'm posting one, Shelter From The Storm, here. The rest can be viewed on YouTube. These are really great. Enjoy.
The New York Post's Alex Ginsberg reports:
A devious cabal that included a pedophile rabbi stole a half-million-dollar home from a cancer-stricken woman, using a forged power of attorney to sell it and pocket the profits, Brooklyn prosecutors charged yesterday.
According to investigators, Margaret Franklin's Crown Heights home was stolen in August 2004 after Nathen Farkas, 31, forged a power of attorney, signing Franklin's name, that effectively handed control of her assets to co-defendant Russell Pitt.
The power of attorney was notarized by a third defendant, Jerry Brauner, 53, a rabbi who had been on probation since 2002 for the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old boy.
Pitt then "sold" the property to the fourth defendant, Winston Roche, 59, and a $476,000 mortgage was split among Roche, Pitt and Farkas.
"Margaret Franklin never got a nickel," said Assistant DA Michael Vaccaro. "Then she died."
Farkas was ordered held in lieu of $85,000 bail and Roche on $45,000. Pitt is still at large.
Brauner was held in lieu of $85,000 bail for lying about prior sex-abuse convictions when he applied for his notary's license.
Lawyers for the three men arraigned yesterday denied that their clients knew anything sinister was going on, suggesting Pitt was the mastermind.
[Hat Tip: Michelle.]
Remember that haredi rabbi who illegally used police lights and sirens to get through traffic in NYC, not for any emergency, but for everyday business. Someone has posted the CBS video of this creep on YouTube:
Best part? The guy's a diamond dealer.
The Rebbe's first cousin, a daughter of the Rebbe's father's brother, was Israeli poet Zelda Schneerson Mishkovsky. Known simply as Zelda, she won the Bialik Prize and was widely read – and loved. Born in Russia in 1912, she passed away in Jerusalem in 1984. She had made aliya with her mother in 1926. Marcia Falk has translated a her poems, and a bilingual edition has been published. The following poem is taken from that work (you can click on the image for a larger version):
Zelda remained Orthodox her entire life. Marcia Falk's book contains a brief biogrophy that should be of interest to many Chabadniks.
A special thank you to Schneur for his help on the genealogy of Zelda and it's link to the Rebbe.
Author Patty Friedmann lives in and writes about New Orleans. Last week the Katrina-ravaged city got a heavy rain, the worst since last year's hurricane. The city's pumping system failed and the streets and some homes flooded. I asked her about this and she was kind enough to write a small piece on her out-of-New-Orleans-family and the current flood. Read The Gigi and Fritzl Show after the jump:
And this at a conference sponsored by the OU's West Coast division, no less. Luke Ford was there and – unlike Rabbi Adlerstein – has posted audio of Prager's talk, Adlerstein's response, Prager's response, the Q & A, and Prager's closing remarks. Rabbi Adlerstein on CrossCurrents will not even list Prager's challenges to current halakhic practice. He writes:
He cited example after example of halachic areas he thought problematic. I hesitate to publicize on this blog what are essentially blows at the very heart of our mesorah (tradition).
And he does not mention even one of Prager's challenges to current halakhic practice.
Luke also has audio of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Michael Broyde and others. Unfortunately, his website doesn't allow for linking in the way a blog does. You'll just have to go over there and check it out.
By the way, Prager makes a valid point about Chabad outreach as compared to mitnagdish kiruv. Basically, it boils down to this: Chabad values Jews whether they're frum or not. Mitnagdim value only frum Jews. Largely true. Of course, fame and money are much appreciated by both.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel's spokesman, says this about pilegish:
While conceding that the practice is not a sin, Rabbi Shafran said “many things are permitted but not engaged in. This is not anything that is normative in the Jewish world. The definition of a marriage is between a man and one wife, like the first man and his wife.” He was referring to Adam and Eve.
Shafran is a fool. Abraham had a pilegish. Jacob had two. Throughout First Temple times, pilegish was normal, and it was commonly used after that until several hundred years after the Second Temple was destroyed. And, even after that it was still used.
I don't write this to encourage people to go out and become or find a pilegish. But Shafran's response is simply stupid.
As some of you may know, an anonymous blogger has found instances of plagiarism committed by uber-JBlogger DovBear. DovBear has apologized and corrected many of the 14 posts in question. (At least two examples given by DB's antagonist were not plagiarism at all.) DB notes that his antagonist did not contact him with the allegations – he simply put up a blog attacking DB and sent an email announcing it to 53 JBloggers, including myself.
DB has done the proper thing and both apologized and fixed any posts that were questionable. And DB added this:
… I am hereby extending two invitations. First, to DovWeasel: Sir, though you chose to go about this in a roundabout way, I am inviting you to come into the open and to face my readers directly. You are welcome, at any time, to submit a guest post to this blog which presents your point of view. Provided that what you write is true and fair it will be published unedited. I sincerely hope that you accept this invitation.
Second, to the readers of this blog: In the past, we've had a fine time pillorying all sorts of villians -some large, some small - in the comments of this blog. Now, I suppose it's my turn. Fair is fair, after all. You are invited, therefore, to make your thoughts and opinions known here, in the comments of this post. As usual, they will not be edited, or deleted. As usual, I expect fierce debate and cutting commentary as ideas are vigirously exchanged. Tha[t], above all, is what this blog is about, after all, and I hope it will be always thus.
It's often stated that blogs are the modern day equivalent of pamphlets, like those (largely anonymous) pamphlets we know today as the Federalist Papers. I wonder what the world would look like today if blogs and the Internet had existed 2000 years ago. Would Jewish the rabbis have blogged? Would the Sadducees? Beit Hillel? Beit Shammai? The Essenes? I don't know. I tend to think most of these groups would have reacted to the Internet and blogs much the way Gary Rosenblatt of the NY Jewish Week does, treating blogs with disdain and using the Internet to promote his own agenda while disdaining other's.
But I do think Jesus (or, at the very least, his close disciples) would have blogged. Much of Jesus' life was dedicated to righting what he felt had gone wrong within the Pharisaic movement, particularly the positions and behavior of the Beit Shammai faction. He would have screamed in the courtyard of the Temple and blogged about it that night. To many Jews, what I just wrote treifes blogging. But it should not. Why?
Just look at the numbers. Christianity has grown in leaps and bounds, both during times of persecution and during times of plenty while Judaism has shrunk, almost without exception. Christianity has always been based on bringing its message to the masses, while Judaism has largely been about favoring the rich and influential at the expense of the masses. (Yes, I know this goes against the Torah, but it is our history, nonetheless.)
Blogs and the Internet (and their technological progeny) are here to stay. Is Judaism? If you look at the numbers and speak to teens and college students, the answer would have to be no. They see no relevancy to Judaism and feel no uplift from Jewish leadership. We're stagnant and vapid, and we're vested in maintaining institutions and not maintaining Jews.
Tonight, as you eat Chinese food and talk with your friends about how glad you are not to be goyyim, remember this. Also remember that every Jew alive 500 years ago has at least as many non-Jewish descendants as Jewish ones. And the reason for that goes well beyond persecution. It is the elitism of Jewish leadership coupled with the vapidness of their message that has done the most damage.
A Freilichen Nittlenacht.
My old friend Allen Feld's mother, Judy Feld Carr, is profiled in today's Jerusalem Post:
In 1972, Toronto high school music teacher Judy Feld Carr came across a news article in The Jerusalem Post that told of the tragic deaths of 12 young Syrian Jewish men who ran across a minefield while attempting to flee Syria across the Turkish border.
"I saw the article and I couldn't get over it," Carr recalled last week in a phone interview with the Post 34 years after that fateful publication. The daughter of an independent-minded fur trader from Sudbury, Ontario, she could not sit helpless while Syria's Jewish community suffered. "So my late husband and I decided we had to do something about it." And she did. Spectacularly. Over the next 28 years, Carr masterminded from her Toronto home an international smuggling operation, complete with elaborate secret codes, meetings overseas with foreign agents and extensive bribes for Syrian officials, which rescued 3,228 Jews from persecution.…
Judy Feld Carr is a very special, kind person. She should be a household name. That she is not says much for what the Jewish community values – and what it does not.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz writes:
Since my “Keeping Our Children Safe From Sexual Abuse” column was posted, I received many emails from compassionate people looking to become part of the solution and help fund the abuse-prevention booklet that I wrote about at the end of my column. In fact, an editor who works in graphic design even offered his services to this project pro bono.
Quite a number of people requested that I create a venue for those who wish to make donations to this particular project (the abuse-prevention booklet) and/or for those who wish to fund some of the projects that I have been writing about in my columns over the past months and years.
To honor these requests and to help actualize many of my dreams for the enhancement of educational and social opportunities for Jewish children around the world, I am pleased to inform my readers that I am initiating the "Bright Beginnings Program." (Within 30 days, I hope to post a mission statement for Bright Beginnings on my website and list details regarding some of the programs that I would like to move from concept to reality.)
In order to provide prudent financial management and oversight, I asked two highly respected askanim (lay leaders), Mr. Barry Ray (Chicago) and Mr. Mendel Zilberberg, (Brooklyn), to serve as trustees and Co-Chairman of the Bright Beginnings Program. Michael Stein, CPA, a partner at the accounting firm of Brand Sonnenschine LLP, (New York, New York) has graciously volunteered his services pro bono and will be serving as Treasurer of Bright Beginnings.
In order to provide financial reporting and transparency to current and prospective donors, Mr. Stein will be posting interim quarterly financial statements of Bright Beginnings on my website, and will be engaging the services of an outside accounting firm to conduct an annual, year-end audit, which will also be posted on my website.
Bright Beginnings will be a division of The Center for Jewish Family Life, a 501-c3 that I founded several years ago to support Jewish families in the quest to raise self-confident, well-adjusted children. Bright Beginnings will operate as a separate entity and 100% of your donation will go to funding its programs.
We welcome those who wish to contribute to the publication and (free) dissemination of the sexual abuse prevention booklet to send their contributions to:
c/o Mr. Michael Stein
377 Broadway, 9th floor
N.Y., N.Y. 10013
Please make checks payable to Bright Beginnings and indicate on the stub that the funds are dedicated for the abuse prevention booklet, should you wish them to be designated for that purpose.
Thank you for your interest and may Hashem grant us our most fervent wish - that all His children realize their fullest potential.
I recently spent a few minutes on the phone with Rabbi Horowitz. I found him to be credible. More than that, he seems to be a very good man. For those of you interested in funding haredi projects (against my often-stated advice), perhaps this project is worthy of your attention and support.
I have not had time to look into the matter thoroughly. However a quick check of Stembergers “Introduction to Talmud and Midrash” the standard handbook of modern scholarship of rabbinic literature suggests that R. Zevieli has been rather selective in his citation of the scholarly literature on the topic of megilat Antiochus. Stemberger writes:
“Kaddari proposes to date the work for linguistic reasons between the second and fifth centuries, but most would assume the eighth or ninth century and regard the language as a literary imitation of targum Onqelos. (Similarly A. Kasher, along with other authors… considers… the text to be… redacted in polemical reaction against the karaites, who rejected this feast, this text could not have been composed before the second half of the eighth century…)”
In short, Kaddari is at best, a daas yachid on the issue, whose opinion has not been accepted. That does not make him wrong, of course.
As for other sources for the nes chanuka, there is only one, the famous “mai chanuka” baraita in masseches Shabbos. A similar text appears in many version of megilat taanit, but numerous scholars, most recently vered noam, in her edition of megillat taanit, argue that this is a latter interpolation from the [Talmud] Bavli and not an independent source. These scholars rely in part on the fact that the Or Zarua cites megillat taanit with out any reference to the nes pach hashemen.
Even if we accept that this baraita did in fact originate in Eretz Yisrael around the third century, (not a simple assumption given that neither the Yerushalmi nor any EY midrashim, even those as late a pesikta rabbati, seem to have been aware of this baraita) this still places it centuries after the time of the hasmonean revolt and much latter than many other accounts of origins of chanuka. Lets not evade the issue of the nes pach shemen, it’s a problem.
A friend in New Jersey writes about possible haredi corruption and fraud in Lakewood, which has the first haredi mayor in the US. (I've edited this and changed some of the wording for clarity):
In 2000, Rabbi Meir Hertz pleaded guilty to filing a false federal income tax return. As part of a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney, he was required to resign as executive director of the Lakewood Housing Authority. Nevertheless, Lakewood Township has a contract with the Lakewood Tenants Organization whose executive director is? The very same Rabbi Meir Hertz. What does the LTO under Rabbi Hertz do? It operates a Section 8 program.
The problem with the slumlords is as follows: Lakewood has a large number of undocumented aliens who build the housing for the Orthodox community. Due to their illegal status, they are poorly paid. They rent single family homes from slumlords (often Orthodox Jews) who charge exorbitant rents, taking advantage of the illegal's status. In order to pay the rent, other similarly situated persons are invited to share the place. You then have a situation of 15 people living in a single family house with one bathroom, together with excess garbage, noise, drinking, public urination, unregistered cars parked on the lawn, grass not cut, etc. etc. The Lakewood Code Enforcement Officers in response to complaints from neighbors then cite the landlords. But that is often useless. Why? Several reasons:
1. Many landlords claim as their mailing address every property they own. It makes it difficult and often impossible for Lakewood to find these slumlords.
2. Slumlords frequently get multiple letters because of multiple violations at multiple properties.
3. Sometimes Lakewood issues summonses but they are not much of a deterrent. Why? The slumlords don't always show up at their court dates.
In fact, these slumlords are now suing the Township over the overcrowding issue on the grounds that its ordinances are unconstitutionally vague. I am told that a settlement will soon be reached and I doubt I'll like it.
The chronic nature of these unsolved problems causes neighbors to move out. When they do, the slumlords frequently buy the property and make the situation in that neighborhood even worse.
I should also mention that tenants have been found living in closets, attics, and basements. All of this is documented in reports with pictures in in Lakewood's files.
Sever Plocker writes:
…An Israeli student finishes high school without ever hearing the name "Genrikh Yagoda," the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century, the GPU's deputy commander and the founder and commander of the NKVD. Yagoda diligently implemented Stalin's collectivization orders and is responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people. His Jewish deputies established and managed the Gulag system. After Stalin no longer viewed him favorably, Yagoda was demoted and executed, and was replaced as chief hangman in 1936 by Yezhov, the "bloodthirsty dwarf."
Yezhov was not Jewish but was blessed with an active Jewish wife. In his Book "Stalin: Court of the Red Star", Jewish historian Sebag Montefiore writes that during the darkest period of terror, when the Communist killing machine worked in full force, Stalin was surrounded by beautiful, young Jewish women.
Stalin's close associates and loyalists included member of the Central Committee and Politburo Lazar Kaganovich. Montefiore characterizes him as the "first Stalinist" and adds that those starving to death in Ukraine, an unparalleled tragedy in the history of human kind aside from the Nazi horrors and Mao's terror in China, did not move Kaganovich.
Many Jews sold their soul to the devil of the Communist revolution and have blood on their hands for eternity. We'll mention just one more: Leonid Reichman, head of the NKVD's special department and the organization's chief interrogator, who was a particularly cruel sadist.
In 1934, according to published statistics, 38.5 percent of those holding the most senior posts in the Soviet security apparatuses were of Jewish origin. They too, of course, were gradually eliminated in the next purges. In a fascinating lecture at a Tel Aviv University convention this week, Dr. Halfin described the waves of soviet terror as a "carnival of mass murder," "fantasy of purges", and "[m]essianism of evil." Turns out that Jews too, when they become captivated by messianic ideology, can become great murderers, among the greatest known by modern history.…
Some of those 38.5% were former Chabad hasidim, including the men who arrested the 6th Lubavitcher rebbe in the event we know as Yud Beis Tammuz.
[Hat Tip: Tzemach Atlas.]
Chabad was viciously anti-Zionist until after the founding of the State of Israel. When Jews could have fled Europe and gone to Israel or America, Lubavitch rebbes opposed leaving Europe. The 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, a vicious anti-Zionist in his own right, told followers there would be no war and that it was safe to stay in Europe. He did this from Warsaw in the summer of 1939, less than four months before WW2 began with the bombing and invasion of Poland. He was rescued by the American government. What did he ask for as he was brought to safety from amidst the destruction and horror? To save more Jews? No. The man asked for the rescue of his silver collection and his rare book collection – Sherlock Holmes in Yiddish translation along side of "sefarim". Not a peep from the holy man's mouth about saving Jews.
Click on the continuation link to read his father's – the Rashab, the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe' – infamous letter on anti-Zionism, written about 1900 and widely circulated:
An Ethiopian Jew is jailed with 52 other Jews in Sudan. He is a small boy, five years old, but he is beaten and tortured. Why was he in Sudan? He was escaping with his family to Israel. Israel mounts a rescue operation (still classified) and saves the 53 Jews, but brings them to Ethiopia, not Israel. The Jews wait another year in Ethiopia before finally being taken to Jerusalem.
Flash forward. This Jew is a Prisoner of Zion, just like Natan Scharansky. He suffered along with his family for promoting Zionism and Israel. There are 2,203 Prisoners of Zion now living in Israel. Most are from the former Soviet Union. But more than 15%, 369, are from Ethiopia. The problem? He's embarrassed to show his official government-issued Prisoner of Zion I.D.
Why? Because so few people realize that there are black Prisoners of Zion, he fears being laughed at and having the whole thing treated as a joke. His face still bears scars from the beatings in Sudan. His soul bears scars from Israel's callous treatment of true heroes with otherly-pigmented skin.
When you are taught by a person you respect that the world is nothing and the path to reach the devine is right in front of your nose it is so seductive that makes the rat race around you look soo meaningless that you just go for it. When the person who is teaching you pretends (and 99% are pretending) that they really live like that and look, they have a nice family with cute curls it is all the more seductive. Add a little maise, a little lechaim and magic happens, a new BT is born. I have a professor who told us that it always amazes her that in criminal investigations the interrogator who is taught which buttons to press and he does it and BAM magic happens, people confess, even if they did not do it. It's the same sort of process with Tanya or Olga or Bagavat Gita.
That’s how it works. The person who has seen this process and knows that this is what will happen and does not warn the new victim ex. "please don't take this to mean that you have to drop everything and really nobody lives like this, its a high ideal but there is reality, please don't drop everything, take this as another bit in the grand Jewish mosaic that makes life interesting and meaningful!" is either stupid or a criminal. The few who do warn you are often tepid and cautious but are remembered fondly.
But I've spent a few years in chabad yeshivas and a few years on shlihus…
People spend so much personal energy and time (me personally only 8 plus years but its enough, I assure you) you have to be blind not to see it. People understand that life is not a picnic. But we also understand that we should not have to spend the rest of our lives with sanctimonious assholes in order to feel "really Jewish". This is by the way why there are not a lot of BTs. A lot of people see the truth beyond the smoke screen.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz writes:
…To address your first question of, “How prevalent is abuse in our community?” my response is that it is far more prevalent than we care to accept or believe. I assure you that things will not improve until we gather the energy and courage to change the culture of denial and stop the destructive habit of hoping that problems will self-correct and go away. I am equally certain that if we do not act to eradicate abuse from our community, others will continue to do it for us in very public and embarrassing ways.…
How many children are we talking about? How many abuse victims are there? I posed this question to the three experts mentioned above. Each of them responded by saying that there is no research that they know of in the frum community and they have no hard numbers. But when I asked if they would say that there are a) tens, b) hundreds or c) thousands [of abused children], each responded that there are surely hundreds. In fact, Dr. Pelcovitz mentioned that he gets about 5 calls per week from parents seeking help for their abused children – or from adults seeking counseling from scars left from childhood abuse. These numbers concur with my understanding of the magnitude of the problem.
I have worked with the at-risk teen population for more than a decade now, and I think that I have a pretty good feel for the facts on the ground. I also fully understand the power of the written word and the ramifications of columns that are published. So, I am choosing my words very carefully. Here goes:
In my opinion, the number one risk factor – by far – for children abandoning Yiddishkeit is abuse and neglect.…
The Kashruth Council of Canada, COR, wishes to advise that Eden Frozen Brocolli, made by S. Bertram Corp. with the production date of July 2006 (on the package) has been recalled by the company due to infestation.
That's right, folks. That kosher, bug-free broccoli is infested with bugs (too small to be seen with the human eye) that now render this otherwise kosher vegetable "unkosher." Too bad we can't recall our rabbis as easily as we reall our veggies.
Marvin Schick has another disingenuous ad in the Jewish Week. In it, under the headline, "What's Wrong With Mesirah," (informing; telling the police, media or government about crimes committed by Jews) Schick tells us: everything is wrong with mesira.
Schick's argument is simple. American (and Israeli) justice is unfair and imperfect. Criminals are not given the option of restitution rather than jail. Therefore, you should not tell the police about crimes committed by Jews. Schick has one caveat to this blanket condemnation of reporting Jewish criminals to police.
He writes, "There are instances of spousal abuse, child abuse, and other situations where leading Orthodox rabbis have instructed that civil authorities be notified."
What Schick does not tell you in his carefully parsed language is that those instances are few and far between. Only one or two haredi rabbis of note have endorsed going to the police and that endorsement has been on a case by case basis. Indeed, a wide range of leading haredi rabbis both knew about Rabbi Kolko's abuse and forbade victims and parents from going to the police. Rabbis as diverse as Elya Svei, Avraham Pam, and ArtScroll's Nosson Scherman all are said to have known about the allegations. Pam and Scherman fought to have Kolko banned from teaching. None went to the police and Rabbi Kolko continued to abuse young boys. Take a moment and read the alleged history of Rabbi Kolko and the rabbinic coverup.
Schick continues, "The yeshiva deans who compromise the board of Torah Umesorah, the National Association of Hebrew Day Schools, adopted a policy statement …" What is this policy statement? It is an old statement about child abuse, in place during the last years of Rabbi Kolko's abuse but not enforced. Schick does not bring the meat of the policy statement. All we know from what he quotes is that Torah Umesorah agrees that child abuse is bad and that, according to a letter sent by the organization's executive director, "If there is indeed an allegation of child abuse, and that allegation proves to be true, and the matter that had come to your attention was not attended to, you will be liable both in the eyes of G-D and according to secular law."
What Schick does not tell you is that Agudath Israel of America and Torah Umesorah both opposed mandatory reporting law that would have made rabbis mandatory reporters of suspected abuse. If that law had been in place, many of the "gedolim" would now be facing criminal charges in the Kolko affair.
Schick concentrates much of this week's ad decrying the imprisonment of financial frauds, cheats and thieves. What Schick does not tell you is that his beloved nephew is one of them, having defrauded dozens of investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This would be a disclosure any journalist would need to make. Schick – who uses his bought and paid bully pulpit to club the press – does not make this necesary disclosure because he holds the press to a higher standard of honesty than he holds himself or his community.
Which brings us to the Jewish Week. Schick's 'columns' are paid advertisements, and need to be labeled as such by the Jewish Week. Indeed, the Jewish Week promised me months ago that they would begin doing so immediately. If you look at the PDF of the ad (Download schick_mesira.pdf ), you'll note that, within the borders of the ad there is one small line of type that reads, "This space is privately sponsored." No respectable publication would consider that a sufficient disclaimer. Indeed, the standard disclaimer on any ad of this type (something that does not look like display advertising) is to label it, "Paid Advertisement," and put that label above and under the ad to show the newspaper is not a party to the ad's contents, and to do so in a way that cannot easily be missed.
The Jewish Week ran Schick's paid ads – ads that in some cases libeled others – without a disclaimer. Now it runs them with a small, ambiguous note within the ad itself. Gary Rosenblatt and Company know better. Schick is a stain on the Jewish Week, and that stain is made measurably larger by this type of deceptive behavior. Put more simply, it makes you look dishonest, Gary.
[Hat Tips: Yisroel for the tip and Dr. R-F for the scan.]
Nathaniel Popper of the Forward writes that the Conservative rabbis report on Rubashkin's (AgriProcessors') worker abuses has been released:
The Conservative movement put together a commission to investigate the Forward’s allegations and made three trips to the plant. The report that came out of these visits said that the commission came across a number of concerns in speaking with workers and management.
The list of problems included: “Inadequate or non-existent worker safety training”; “concern about unsafe chemical use,” and “unclean and unsafe lunchroom conditions.”
Several members of the Conservative movement’s commission also visited the Empire Kosher Poulty plant in Pennsylvania, where they found “working conditions, safety conditions and general worker welfare and community relations not to be issues of concern.”
Other issues, like pay shorting, can only be confirmed by a criminal investigation. This may be happening as part of a wider Justice Department investigation into price fixing in the kosher meat industry. Sources claim Rubashkin is a target of that investigation.
The Conservative rabbis have also announced a “tsedek hekhsher,” or a justice certification, that would ensure kosher food producers “have met a set of standards that determine the social responsibility of kosher food producers, particularly in the area of workers rights.”
The head of the Conservative movement commission, Rabbi Morris Allen, said that any certification system would be a supplement — not a replacement — for current kosher supervision. Allen said the additional level of scrutiny is necessary for the religious bona-fides of the industry.
“We have reached a point where it not sufficient to teach and promote the whys of keeping kosher,” Allen said. “It is necessary to ensure we talk about how our kosher food is produced.”
Here is what the OU's Rabbi Menachem Genack says about this:
“There are lots of social issues that are really important that could be subsumed under some sort of super certification,” Genack said. “But if we just move away from strict concerns about kashruth — if we talk about what they pay workers — these kinds of standards can be less than 100% clear.”
After rolling on the floor convulsed in laughter, my only response to this innane statement by Rabbi Genack is to note that ripping the throats out of live animals with a meat hook – a process Rabbi Genack defended as 100% kosher – is far from 100% clearly kosher, yet the OU sanctioned it. Why? Money, the same reason they will not deal with Rubashkin's abuses or the abuses on the farming side of the meat industry. Making sure employees of kosher plants and the animals they slaughter are both (not to equate the two) treated humanely will raise the cost of kosher meat, which will drop sales, which will reduce the value of the OU's supervision, which will reduce the amount of money the OU gets to provide that supervision. Rabbi Genack himself says:
Genack also said that a major priority for the Orthodox Union was to make kosher food more widely available. “For us to set up a new amorphous standard in certain plants,” Genack said, “parts of the kosher industry are very fragile and could be adversely affected by this.”
In other words, your Orthodox rabbis are willing to ignore tzaar ba'alei hayyim law and all the halakhot surrounding the treatment of employees so you can buy (relatively) cheap kosher beef.
Orthodox Jews, understand this well. These are your rabbis. Run away from them.
UOJ wants to file a class action lawsuit against the rabbis and organizations whose corruption is destroying the haredi world from within. He also wants to summon them to a public beit din. More here.
Q: What do you make of the disproportionate number of Jewish writers who come from an Orthodox background?
A: Reading is fundamental, even reading nutty books written by terrified ancient nomads.…
Q: Did a rabbi ever touch you inappropriately? Are priests or rabbis more likely to molest kids?
A: If telling a small child that a violent psychopath in the sky is going to punish him for eating cheese with meat passes as inappropriate touching - and I think that it does - then yes, I was touched inappropriately, and repeatedly, by many, many rabbis..…
Q: After you've finished trashing religion, what do you want to leave people with to live by? Are your kids going to have as rich a material to draw from as you did? Perhaps you should smack them more?
A: I've bookmarked your site. That oughta do it.
Q: There's nothing in halacah against burying a tattooed jew in a jewish cemetery, so why do you have a rabbi in The Metamorphosis claim there is?
A: Because that was what I was taught growing up. Also, on a related note, that wasn't the point of the story. (Hey, can I change my answer to Question #11? What depresses me most is getting dogmatic, legalistic, bickering questions about stories whose essential point is the intellectual stupidity and emotional damage caused by dogmatic, legalistic bickering. There, that's much better.)
6. The exclusive position of the marital union is with the wife lying on her back, facing up, and the husband lying upon her, facing down. This way of union is the select and most perfect union, which the Torah desires. This is called, "the face to face union." Any other position is almost certain to bring about the spilling of semen in vain. If the woman is on top of the man, this is considered brazenness (Shulchan Aruch, 240:5) and the pull of gravity will surely cause the wasting of semen. The same is true if they are standing or sitting. Anal intercourse is considered an act of loathsome brazenness. Besides the absolute spilling of semen in vain, this is considered in the Kabbalah like sacrificing one’s children to the idol Molech. Intercourse from the back is also brazenness, even if the organ of the Brit is inserted into the proper place, and the pull of gravity will cause the spilling of semen in vain from the wife, since she lies on her stomach. Furthermore, because the strongest of klipot surround the buttocks of the woman, when the Brit passes by this impure area, it will be polluted by klipot and these klipot will be transferred to the wife’s sexual organ and to the offspring of such a union. Only in the case of physical handicap or advanced pregnancy may this positioned be approved by a qualified rabbinic authority.
7. Oral sex is certainly not kosher, causing the eyes to see what is forbidden to see, and causing the spilling of semen in vain.
Rabbi Levy adds: "Please know my brother and friend that all of these unholy unions that are mentioned above, if they are engaged in, they are not kosher in their very essence [even though they are permitted by halakha – Shmarya] since they bring about the wasting of semen, and this in turn creates a multiplicity of evil spiritual forces which bring sickness, tribulations, and damage to one's livelihood, for all of the pain and sorrrow that befall the Jewish People in this world stem from unholy unions like these, may the L-rd save and guard us from them. Make an accounting of your soul, how much you will have to pay, and what needless sufferings come from these matters, that were done without thought, without a reverence for G-d, and without a feeling of shame, all of which cause sorrow to our Father in Heaven, and bring about a lessening of light and beneficence from the Shechina." …
9. As a warning, the wife should continue to lie on her back after marital relation for approximately ten minutes, and not turn on her stomach or side, and not immediately rise from the bed to go the bathroom, so that her husband’s semen should not flow out from her and cause the wasting of semen.
10. Similarly, the husband should not withdraw from his wife immediately after relations, but rather remain lying upon her another several minutes, and not withdraw while his organ is rigid, for this causes drops of semen to spill out.
Jews, these are your rabbis. Run away, as fast as you can.
From the Babylonian Talmud, Niddah 13b:
Our Rabbis taught: 'proselytes and those that play with children delay the advent of the Messiah'. The statement about proselytes may be understood on the lines of the view of R. Helbo, for R. Helbo said, 'proselytes are as hard for Israel to endure as a sore', what, however, could be meant by 'those that play with children'? If it be suggested: Those that practice pederasty. [it could well be objected]: Are not such people subject to stoning? [I.e., punishment by the court.] If, however, it be suggested: Those that practice masturbation through external contact [by rubbing against a child]. [it could be objected]: Are not such deserving destruction by flood [i.e., by the hand of God, not through the courts]?
The meaning rather is: Those that marry minors who are not capable of bearing children, for R. Jose stated: The Son of David will not come before all the souls in Guf will have been disposed of, since it is said, For the spirit that enwrappeth itself is from Me, and the souls which I have made. [In other words, his seed will be spilled with no chance of causing pregnancy. This is forbidden for mystical reasons, because our mission is to have as many children as possible, "bringing down" the souls waiting above to be born. When all those souls have been born, the messiah will come. Women were married before they were able to have children but those marriages were not consumated until she reached maturity.]
You'll remember Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg allegedly told victims and their parents that, because Rabbi Kolko had not penetrated the boys (no pederasty), it was not actionable under halakha. He allegedly went on to threaten these parents and victims, telling them that going to the police or media was a violation of lashon hara law and was also mesira, informing. There was another another incident where a beit din apparently found Kolko's actions unpublishable.
And the best part about all this? The gemara quoted above is smack dab in the middle of a small section of the Talmud that stresses the evil of masturbation, comparing it to, among other things, shedding blood. Most of the section deals with forbidding a man to ever touch his penis.
Rabbinic rot goes back a long way, it seems – in this case, 1500 years.
[A voice of sanity, so to speak, in this gemara is Rabbi Nachman, who ruled a married man did not need to worry about touching his penis. The idea behind this is, a married man has a better outlet, so to speak, than his hand and, if he does arouse himself, it won't be his exclusive sexual activity. Poskim who are lenient with regard to male-female oral sex are in part basing themselves on Rabbi Nachman – who was, by the way, the leading halakhist of his generation.
I'd be remiss if I didn't note the beginning of the gemara, which states:
MISHNAH. EVERY HAND THAT MAKES FREQUENT EXAMINATION IS IN THE CASE OF WOMEN PRAISEWORTHY, BUT IN THE CASE OF MEN IT OUGHT TO BE CUT OFF.
GEMARA. Wherein [in this respect] do women differ from men? — Women are not sensitive [i.e., they are not aroused by genital touch], hence they are praiseworthy, but in the case of men who are highly sensitive [their hands] ought to be cut off.
Women have changed much, it seems, over the years. And, by the way, Rabbi Tarfon holds the cutting off of hands should be understood literally. Think about that next time you wish for a theocracy.
This gemara should be mandatory reading for everyone before they get involved with Aish, Discovery, Chabad or any other kiruv group. Wouldn't hurt to make sure the Jewish Federations learned it before making their allocations, as well.]
How illogical is halakha? At first blush, one would say, not very. Halakha is, almost by its very definition, logical. And certainly that was the original intent. Even laws that had no understandable reason, like shatnez, were handled by halakha in a largely logical fashion. But today one can see halakha's original intent corrupted.
A case in point: many of the laws governing sex – and by this I do not mean biblical laws like the ban on male-male anal intercourse – have been twisted into a hardened, restrictive shell. The source for this increasingly restrictive halakha? The Zohar, that wonderful 13th century forgery beloved by hasidim, haredim and Sefardim alike. The idea that a male spilling seed is a worse sin than murder? That's right. You can trace that line of "reasoning" directly back to Rabbi Moshe DeLeon's creative writing project.
No serious scholar believes the Zohar is authentic; indeed, even most rabbis hold large parts of the "text" were added over centuries by various authors and is itself corrupted.
But, just for a moment, let's put aside fact and instead accept, just for the sake of argument, the "authenticity" of the Zohar. Now, let's ask a question: Can the Zohar be used to decide halakha?
The Zohar was "concealed" for more than 1000 years. During that time, the Mishna was redacted, as as the Talmud. Geonic codes were written. Rashi lived and wrote. Dozens of halakhic works were written and published and responsa literature flourished. All of these were written without knowledge of the Zohar.
Then, just before the turn of the 14th century, the Zohar is "discovered" by a lone rabbi who brings no verifiable proof for its authenticity. Should halakha take the Zohar's views into account? Should it become more strict on the Zohar's account?
Logic and fair play would say no. Unfortunately, rabbis said yes. Why did they do so? Rabbis adopted the Zohar as a quasi-halakhic text largely because of three men and their disciples: Shabbatai Zevi, The Ari, and the Ba'al Shem Tov.
The Ari lived almost 300 years after the "discovery" of the Zohar, and the Ari made the Zohar the cornerstone of his theology. He decided law like the Zohar and gave out mystical "tikkunim" based on it. (One of these tikkunim was quite popular among his disciples. It was used to cleanse onesself of the "impurity" caused by spilling seed. Another very popular one did the same for homosexual relations.) He taught for a very brief time and then died young in his thirties. His disciples – a handfull of students, no more – spread his teaching across the Jewish world. But those teachings remained non-normative until the appearance of Shabbatai Zevi.
Shabbatai Zevi, the most influential false messiah Judaism had until the end of the 20th century, was followed by most of the world's rabbis, and Shabbatai not only used the Zohar as a halakhic text, he used it to abrogate or radically change existing laws. After his conversion to Islam, most of his rabbi-followers went back to normative halakhic Judaism, but some went back as crypto-Sabbateans. Both groups used the Zohar as if it were halakha, and their influence was widely felt.
Indeed, the founder of the hasidic movement, the Ba'al Shem Tov came into prominence in an area of Europe that was a hotbed of both open Sabbateanism and of its crypto variety. His disciples elevated the Zohar to near-biblical status, and incorporated its views of sexual issues and ritual purity, codifying them as "halakha," and relying on crypto-Sabbatean works for guidance.
So, back to our question: Can a book of questionable provenience be inserted into halakhic discourse after more than 1000 years and with no contemporaneous mention of it in halakhic sources of the time of it's alleged authorship by Shimon Bar Yohai?
Logic, honesty and fair play would clearly say no, it cannot be used as a source of halakha and can play no role in halakha. Instead, the exact opposite has happened. Rabbis opted for the Zohar's strictness, and in the process threw logic and fair play out the window.
Jews deserve better than halakha based on this 13th century "find." Too bad our rabbis did not and do not understand this.
…When the Maccabees reached Jerusalem, they found the Holy Temple desecrated and defiled. In the face of this utter debasement of their values and beliefs, the Maccabees once again rose beyond the laws of logic, and refused to light the golden Menorah with ritually impure oil -- despite the fact that Torah law would have permitted them to do so. The Maccabees were absolutely determined to kindle the Menorah as perfectly as possible. So once again, God intervened in the natural order and made single jar of oil to last for eight days.
When I look at the miracle of Chanukah, I think not just of the military victory or the jug of oil which lasted eight nights. Rather, I think of the Maccabees' courage, self-sacrifice and profound faith in God, by which they were able to accomplish the impossible.
History is not always made through acts of pragmatism or logic. History is made through heroic people who stand up and are willing to forfeit everything for what they believe.
The story of Chanukah is a call to abandon the shackles and restraints of our logic, to forget what "makes sense," and to finally fight our wars. A nuclear Iran? Poverty and domestic strife? Assimilation? The potential to attain the achievement equal to the Maccabees is within every individual. We must fight against the impossibilities, because only then can we make a difference; only then can we actually change history. Our personal history, and that of the entire world.
Let's see. A little fairy tale about oil, invented by rabbis to shift the emphasis of Hanukka away from the Maccabee's military victories* (and the Sages lack of leadership and participation in same) now becomes the justification for acting rashly – and perhaps fatally.
This Aish piece sounds like a call for suicide bombers. Rabbi Noach Weinberg should be ashamed.
*Contrary to the haredi spin, the Maccabees' military campaign was well planned. They relied heavily on intelligence gathering and were brilliant tacticians familiar with current military theory. They were not pious fools from the Judean shtetl.
Jeffery Herman, attorney for the plaintiffs in the civil cases against Rabbi Yehuda Kolko and Yeshiva Torah Temimah, was on Zev Brenner's radio show tonight. Herman noted that one basis for the lawsuits was "fraudulent concealment" by Torah Temimah and others to protect Kolko and the yeshiva. He later noted that concealment was as bad as the worst of what he saw in the Catholic Church. But, Herman noted, it isn't the same, because there is not a central authority like a diocese pulling the strings.
I'm not so sure. If you look at this timetable of Kolko's crimes, you'll note several coverups. You'll also note many figures involved in these coverups play(ed) national roles with both Agudath Israel of America and Torah Umesorah. I think both can and should be targets of civil suits, and I don't see why criminal charges cannot be brought against their leaders, as well.
If you know a man is accused of abuse, not once but many times, and you let him alone with children nonetheless, that should reach the bar of criminal negligence. For example, when Rabbi Elya Svei allegedly refused to deal with Kolko's abuse, he was the senior rabbinic figure in Agudah and in Torah Umesora, and made his decision for Torah Umesorah, the organization of haredi day schools and yeshivot. How much more central can you get?
The policy Rabbi Svei set down – which, it is alleged, was meant to protect TU and Agudah from lawsuits – endangered children. Some of those endangered children were later abused by Kolko, including a 6 year old boy in 2003. This is like an ongoing criminal conspiracy and, as such, should not be covered under the statute of limitations.
Can the gedolim be charged? I hope they both can be and are.
Is the entire story used by the Maccabees as the basis for their rebillion nothing more than PR? Ha'aretz* reports:
…"The reason for Antiochus' oppression of the Jewish faith, attack on the Temple and prohibition of the Torah precepts is not explained by the existing historic sources," says Dr. Steven Weitzman, a lecturer of Judaism in the University of Indiana and the author of Surviving Sacrilege: Cultural Persistence in Jewish Antiquity.
Weitzman analyzes the description of the edicts in the Hanukkah tale, and concludes that the story was concocted by the Hasmonean kings as propaganda intended to legitimize their precarious rule. The Hasmoneans used literary tales dating back to ancient Eastern kingdoms as the basis for their story of Antiochus, he says.
Historians of ancient times agree that religious persecution was not customary among Hellenistic monarchs. Therefore the acts attributed to Antiochus, which every Jewish child learns about in the Hanukkah story, are historical anomalies. "His behavior is completely inexplicable," argues Weitzman.…
"The Maccabees have been considered heroes for so long, that it is hard to imagine that in their time, their rule was extremely controversial. They and their descendants, the Hasmonean dynasty, presented themselves as high priests, but did not belong to a family that held that position for a long time. Neither did they belong to the House of David dynasty, which was supposed to produce kings. Therefore many Jews did not recognize the Hasmoneans as legitimate rulers."
"The story of Antiochus' edicts is part of the effort to justify the Maccabee's rule. This is why they described themselves as protectors of the Jewish tradition, a tactic which many rulers and conquerors in the ancient East used to justify usurping power," he says.…
Weitzman is aware that his statements may anger Jews who see the Maccabees as righteous rulers and models of heroic resistance to oppression. "My thesis indicates that the Maccabees may have been very different from their present image," he says.
However, there is also a positive aspect to Weitzman's study, he says. "I say that the description of Antiochus' persecution, more than the story of Jewish survival, reflects Jewish imagination and its role in bringing about political change. Hanukkah is a reminder that the stories we tell can create a real change in our life," he says.
And that, I'm afraid, explains much of Jewish history.
[Hat Tip: Danya on Jewschool.]
* Ha'aretz has a stub up instead of the story, even though it was published Saturday. The link above is to the cached version on Google.
According to Access Israel:
…95 percent of the cafes don't have accessible bathrooms and only five beaches are accessible.
There are problems with post offices and stores as well." He says only 26 percent of 500,000 handicapped people are employed in any way…
This is despite years of pleading by Diaspora Jews and the intervention of people like Isaac Stern. If you were to check shuls and yeshivot, I think the number inaccessible would approach 100%.
There is no excuse for this. The number of wounded Israeli soldiers who are unable to go to shul or a café is heartbreaking. And no one really cares.
Ha'aretz reports on the story we brought to you last week (via DovBear). An Orthodox woman was beaten by a group of haredi men on a Jerusalem bus because she would not give up her seat for a man. Many of the details of this story have already been confirmed by haredi spokesman Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum, and the Ha'aretz report contains other eyewitness testimony confirming Miriam Shear's story. But, even so, the bus driver, who was wearing a black velvet kippa at the time of the attack, claims Shear wasn't physically attacked. Israeli police are reported to be working mightly on their investigation which, if like most of their efforts, will lead nowhere very slowly – kind of like most criminal investigations in Brooklyn.
Here is the Ha'aretz report:
[Hat Tip: Mobius.]
The NY Post reports:
December 14, 2006 -- For the second time in a week, a respected Brooklyn rabbi has been accused of sexually abusing a boy student at a religious school.
A suit filed Tuesday in Brooklyn Supreme Court accuses Avraham Mordecai Lazerewitz, described as the spiritual supervisor at the Gere[r] Misivta Bais Yisroel school, of touching a student in April. Lazerewitz groped and improperly touched the victim during a one-on-one help session in the rabbi's office in the Borough Park secondary school, says the unidentified boy's lawyer, Eric Green.
School officials did not return a telephone message. Last week, authorities accused Brooklyn Rabbi Joel Kolko of fondling a student, 6, and a 31-year-old former pupil.
UOJ notes the Gerer Rebbe helped this (alleged) creep escape to Israel. If true, perhaps the Gerer Rebbe should be sued.
Perhaps, my friends, the dam is breaking.
[Hat Tips: UOJ and Dr. R-F.]
My old friend David Makovsky skewers former President Carter's horrible book on the Middle East. Carter was arguably the worst president of the 20th century (and perhaps most of the 19th, as well). Read Makovsky and you'll see why. (This is not that everything revolves around Israel. Carter's moral and mental flaws are simply laid bare in this case for all to easily see.)
A kosher meat coop that promises cruelty-free, grass fed beef that is humanely raised, transported and slaughtered is about to launch in NYC. This might be a good option for those of you who, after the Rubashkin scandal(s), will still eat beef.
Steven I. Weiss reports for the Forward:
…The state Health Department issued its own ban on the mohel in February 2005, but withdrew it in April, after receiving a written assurance from a Hasidic businessman, Jacob Spitzer, that the community was instituting its own self-policing procedures, according to documents obtained by the Forward.
[New York City Health Commissioner Thomas] Frieden briefly considered relaxing his ban, but reversed himself in November, after an infant was hospitalized with a herpes infection that had spread to his spinal column according to sources in the city government and the Orthodox community. The state health commissioner, Antonia Novello, reached an agreement in separate negotiations with Hasidic leaders in June to continue under an agreed-upon safety protocol. However, an investigation by the Forward has found that the protocol adopted by Novello relied on measures that medical experts say would do little to reduce the risk of orally transmitting the herpes virus.
Novello, a Republican, served as surgeon general in the late 1980s, during the first Bush administration. She was appointed New York state health commissioner in 1999 by Pataki, who later touted her as a “strong candidate” to challenge Senator Hillary Clinton for re-election. Pataki has been known for his extremely strong ties to the Orthodox community since his days as a state senator, when he represented heavily Orthodox Rockland County.
State records show that at her January 18 meeting with Hasidic leaders, Novello proposed a protocol closely mirroring suggestions that had been circulating for months in the Hasidic world. Among other procedures, she proposed placing the anti-viral drug Valacyclovir on the circumcision wound. The drug is used to treat herpes symptoms in those carrying the virus, and experts say it has no impact on the transmission of the virus. The final protocol eventually announced in Albany last spring removed the Valacyclovir suggestion but included several other measures — including an antibiotic ointment — that experts consulted by the Forward insist do not significantly reduce the risk of herpes transmission.
Authors of the three medical papers cited in Novello’s protocol in support of its conclusions said they were not contacted by Novello’s office when it developed the protocol. Those authors and their associates emphasized in interviews with the Forward that the measures recommended by Novello would not make the ritual safe from neonatal herpes infection.…
So Republican and haredi corruption risks the very lives of Jewish babies. Sick. And those so-called "self-protecting procedures"? You can count on those like you could count on haredi rabbis protecting children from Kolko. That means, not at all.
SIW has documents not posted by the Forward on his own blog, here. The entire Forward article, which contains much more detail, including quotes from the scientists whose work was misued by that Republican hack, is posted here.
Steven I. Weiss has done us all a service by putting Agudath Israel's press release on the Conservative movement's gay rabbi debate up on the web:
AGUDATH ISRAEL LAMENTS
CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT DECISION
“An Abandonment of All Pretense of Fealty to Judaism”
NEW YORK – Noting with sorrow the Conservative movement’s “Committee on Jewish Law and Standards”’ shameless endorsement of a position permitting “commitment ceremonies” between people of the same gender and the ordination as Conservative rabbis of people living openly homosexual lives, a spokesman for Agudath Israel of America called the decision “an abandonment of all pretense of fealty to Judaism.”
Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel’s director of public affairs, stated that “this ruling doesn’t conserve the Jewish tradition, it defies it.”
“The entire corpus of halacha, or Jewish religious law,” he said, “makes abundantly clear that homosexual behavior is sinful. That a movement claiming to uphold the Jewish religious tradition can arrogate to stand halachic Judaism on its head is tragic. It will no doubt cheer those who place contemporary mores above the Jewish mandate, but in the end, it seals the fate of a movement long mired in muddle and malaise.”
“While every Jew is precious in the eyes of Heaven,” Rabbi Shafran continued, “and while some of us may face more difficult challenges than others as we strive to live by the Torah’s prescriptions, that striving is the very essence of what it means to be a Jew committed to Judaism.”
Now the facts. 1. The only homosexual behavior called sinful (actually, an "abomination") by the Torah is male-male anal intercourse. 2. Homosexuals are not called sinful or abominations. 3. Oral sex is not forbidden by the Torah. Neither is masturbatory sex. Indeed, poskim allow married heterosexual couples to do both, without worry about "spilling seed." The Conservative Movement's new position is based on these points, and is in no way "an abandonment of all pretense of fealty to Judaism."
Agudath Israel – whose leading sages either covered for or ignored a serial pedophile who perpetrated rabbi-on-boy sexual abuse for almost 40 years – has no business commenting on the actions of the Conservative Movement, especially when Shafran and Agudah fell silent when asked to comment on the rabbi-on-boy sex abuse.
But this is not only about Agudath Israel and its snake-oiled spokesman. In truth, what we have here is homophobia dressed in the guise of Judaism. From the RCA's condemnation to UTJ's, one thing stands out – a lack of compassion and concern for those born gay who seek, nonetheless, to lead a committed Jewish life.
This lack of compassion – as so clearly demonstrated during the vitriolic opposition to Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade – again shows Orthodoxy in all its forms to be far more concerned about laws dealing with man's relationship to God, like the ban on male-male anal intercourse, than it is about the laws of conduct between people. This is why convicted haredi criminals lead haredi communities and are given seats of honor at communal functions, while openly gay men who seek to live the most honest and committed Orthodox life they can are ridiculed and often exiled from their communities.
What do you think God hates more? A convicted swindler with a 30 year record of fraud leading a haredi rabbinic organization and writing a weekly column in an Orthodox newspaper or two openly gay men trying desperately to carve out a life for themselves within Orthodoxy? If you have trouble answering this question you have failed Judaism 101.
Rabbi Nota Schiller is a co-founder of and rosh yeshiva at Ohr Somayach, the "Harvard" of BT yeshivot. Rabbi Schiller was educated at Ner Israel in Baltimore, and has been a leading exponent of kiruv (missionizing) and haredism for 40 years. Yet, in a fanciful attempt to prove both the need for Jewish Otherness – separation from non-Jews – and the validity of the Oral Torah, Rabbi Schiller displays a level of ignorance that, even now, is truly shocking. In his attempt to explain what the midrash means when it says, "Write upon the horn of an ox that you have no portion in the God of Israel," Rabbi Schiller writes:
Historically, at Chanukah, the Jews warred with the Greeks, yet there is no megillah, no written work chronicling that battle. Why? Because it is a story that must be transmitted orally, for at the center of this battle was the Greeks' attempt to destroy the Oral Torah. Instead of being conquered, we persevered and created a new holiday that could only have been orchestrated through the mechanism of the Oral Torah.
The blessing we say when lighting the Chanukah lights is "…Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to light the flame of Chanukah." Where are we commanded? Which verse in the Torah mandates such? The oblique origin of this mitzvah is its very strength: Because the Torah endows our Sages with the initiative in each generation to legislate for the Jewish People, a mitzvah such as Chanukah symbolizes the power of the Oral Torah. That which the Greeks sought to extinguish is symbolized in the light that illuminates the darkness of exile.
Well, no Rabbi Schiller, there are written works from those days describing the war and the victory of Hanukka. They're known as 1 & 2 Maccabees. We did not canonize them, although we use them. Why weren't they canonized? Because, one can easily argue, the books show two things clearly; 1. The sages did not participate in the war (if they even existed) and played no role in national life and, 2. the miracle of Hanuka was the victory. There is no mention in these contemporaneous documents written by believing Jews of any miracle of lights. In fact, mention of the "miracle" does not appear anywhere until more than 100 years later.
The holiday of Hanukka was this: The Maccabees were about to take back the Temple and expected they would in time for the Succor celebrations. They were delayed and took the Temple too late for Succor. To make up for the missed Succor celebrations and to remember the victory, they instituted Hanuka. (That's why Hanukka is 8 days long – 7 days of Sukkot, 1 day of Shemini Atzeret.) That is what out Hanuka megillot say.
And there is no proof at all for Rabbi Schiller's assertion that the "Greeks" sought to destroy the Oral Torah. It is unclear whether the Oral Torah even existed at the time of the Maccabees.
Rabbi Schiller continues with his foolishness:
Each holiday that Jews approach is like a way station along the turnpike of history. The largest distance on the highway had been between Succos and Pesach, between which there was no holiday to stop off and refuel. In the darkness of exile, G-d in His wisdom provided us with two more fueling stations, Chanukah and Purim. When we celebrate Chanukah, we celebrate a holiday that reminds us that it is the wisdom and genius of the Jew, expressed and refined through the Oral Torah, that makes us Jewish.
Again, simply untrue. We had holidays then that are not celebrated now, or are "celebrated" by not saying certain prayers connected to sadness. One such holiday is Tu B'Shvat, which falls smack dab in the middle of the Succot - Pesach "gap."
Rabbi Schiller is a fool.
For DK's coverage of Schiller's idiocy, see his post.
[Hat Tip: DK.]
Haredi spokesperson Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum writes:
Last week someone sent me a first-person account of an alleged incident, in which a woman riding the number 2 bus from the Kotel after davening at the Haneitz Minyan describes how she was roughed up by four men after she declined their request to move to the back of the bus. The account mentioned that she was from Har Nof (my neighborhood), and when I did not find her name in the Har Nof directory, I briefly entertained hopes that the whole thing was a fabrication. No such luck. Last night, she called me and we spoke for nearly an hour.
The woman in question is a fifty-year old grandmother who was visiting Israel from Canada, and studying privately with one of Eretz Yisrael’s most esteemed women teachers of Torah. While in Israel, she davened at the Kosel every morning. At least the broad outlines of her story were confirmed by a friend of my wife’s who also davens regularly at the Haneitz Minyan.
According to what the victim told me, this incident will be the subject of a lenghty article in the coming Weekend edition of a left-wing paper (I would guess Ha’aretz) and features prominently in a petition asking the Supreme Court to review Egged’s “Mehadrin” separate seating bus lines (the bus in question was not officially Mehadrin). (Too bad the victim did not follow her host’s advice and call me before going to the media.)
When I asked her what she hoped to gain from the publicity of this incident, the victim told me that she wants the rabbinic leaders of those who shoved her, punched her in the face, and took off her hair covering to tell their followers that they must treat people decently. I would guess that news of the Ha’aretz story, and even the Supreme Court petition, are unlikely to reach those rabbis or the perpetrators of this attack.
I keep coming back to the same sociological insight: The more insular we are—the more cut off from any Jews not exactly like ourselves—the less we are to think of Torah in terms of hora’a, teaching, and ask ourselves how our actions comport with the teachings of the Torah and what impression our actions are making on those who will judge the Torah by our behavior.
Note that Rosenblum would have kept this stoy out of the media and off blogs. Of course, that's his job, deplorable as it is.
[Hat Tip: Tzemach Atlas.]
Unidentified Neturei Karta rabbi in Tehran with Iranian president Ahmadinejad.[Photo Hat Tip: MB.]
RebelJew is back with his first post in nearly 6 months. What took him out of retirement? Neturei Karta's enabling of the Muslim world's Holocaust denial:
… But what draws me out of retirement are the Charedim that applauded along with the creme de la scum of the world, as they did for the late Yasser Arafat, nephew and huge fan of Nazi Haj Amin al Husseini. In their vitriolic, but political, hatred of "Zionist" Israel, they also tacitly agreed publicly that the Holocaust is a myth and that millions of Jews should be exterminated. Congratulations gentlemen, vitriolic vicious antisemitism is now authentic Judaism. Disgusting? Revolting? Sickening? Projectile Vomit inducing? Is there an adjective for such an attitude? And you wonder why it is difficult to mekarev yidden into today's "yiddishkeit". If these people are the true shomrei Torah then I hereby KOFER THEIR TORAH AND THEIR GODS, and I am calling the mohel to SEW IT BACK ON!!!! Naturai Karta and those Charedim who support you, you are bitter enemies of the Jewish people!!!
Sure, NK is only a small group of several hundred active members and a few thousand sympathizers. But their theology is drawn directly from the world of the Minchat Elazar (the pre-war Munkatcher rebbe),, The Rashab (the 5th Lubavitcher rebbe), and Rabbi Yoel Titelbaum (the 1st Satmar rebbe and a disciple of the Munkatcher and admirer of the Rashab). In other words, NK's hatred has bona fide haredi yichus.
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."