Sunday, April 15, 2018

Statement by Orthodox Organizations about Extremist Attacks

One of the many Orthodox organizations that have condemned extremist violence
American Orthodox Jewish organizations have stepped forward to condemn the recent attacks perpetrated by Israeli religious extremists towards the IDF and Israeli police. The leadership of the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Council of America and National Council of Young Israel have issued official statements at the behest of David Nyer, Orthodox activist. Over the last few months, there has been an increase in violent attacks against religious IDF soldiers and Israeli police.

Moishe Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, warns that “violence by one Jew against another, whether physical or otherwise, is an assault on the Torah values that have been passed down through our mesorah (tradition), from generation to generation. Any such attack by Jews against soldiers of the IDF, to whom every Jew owes immeasurable respect and gratitude, is an attack against each and every member of the Jewish community, and provokes shame and regret in us all.”


Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice president of the RCA, states further, “These attacks against both Israeli soldiers and police are violations of Jewish law and show a gross lack of appreciation and respect for those who defend all the citizens of the State of Israel. These attacks further divide and alienate segments of the Jewish community from each other and from Torah.”


Just this past week, a religious IDF soldier and his family were pelted with stones in the Mea She’arim neighborhood and had to be extricated by the police. Farley Weiss, President of the National Council of Young Israel, strongly believes this ought to be “the responsibility of the community itself to protect soldiers instead of needing the police to intervene.” Dozens of bystanders have been reportedly observing while these acts of violent extremism are committed. Jewish leaders in the United States urge witnesses to safely take an active role in protecting those who protect the country of Israel, stressing the Torah obligation and moral imperative.


There have been instances where both soldiers and police have been injured by extremists. In January, an IDF soldier was taken to the hospital as a result of being struck by stones when driving through Ramat Beit Shemesh. Haredi extremists have a history of attacking IDF soldiers who enter their neighborhoods, claiming that the soldiers’ presence is an affront to their belief that religious men should not serve in the army. Another such incident was reported in February when an Orthodox soldier was attacked when praying in a synagogue in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood of Jerusalem. Mr. Weiss asserts that, “those who commit acts of violence against the IDF or police must be prosecuted to the fullest extent afforded by the law.”  


The Orthodox Jewish leadership in Israel has been largely quiet on this issue. Mr. Weiss appeals, “to all Jewish Rabbinical and communal leaders in Israel to join us in condemning these reprehensible actions and we must do all in our power to prevent these attacks.”


Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesman for the Agudath Israel of America, was approached by Nyer and asked for a response to the situation. AIA serves as an umbrella organization for Charedi Orthodox Jewry in America. Rabbi Shafran declared unequivocally that, “such unwarranted violence and abuse against any fellow Jew is beyond outrageous.  Assault of Jewish brethren, especially those who have dedicated themselves to the protection of Klal Yisrael in Eretz Yisroel such as IDF soldiers and Israeli police, is indefensible, ugly and wrong.”


Nyer asked for Shafran’s position on the role of eyewitnesses observing extremist violence. Rabbi Shafran stressed that he is not a posek but that it “would seem that, if it could be done safely, bystanders would have a chiyuv (obligation) to intervene and protect anyone placed in harm’s way.” When questioned what he believes the appropriate response to these perpetrators should be, Shafran concurred that, “these individuals who assault the IDF or police must be prosecuted to the fullest extent afforded by the law.”


This initiative was spearheaded by David Nyer, LCSW, an Orthodox activist. He can be reached via email at djn415@aol.com for any questions or comments.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Polish Antisemtism


1946 U.S. document reveals Poles treated Jews as badly as Germans did 

Polish President Andrzej Sebastian Duda 
The following Jerusalem Post article says it all. It needs no further comment from me.

A declassified US State Department report from 1946 documented the abhorrent treatment of Poland’s Jews before, during and after World War II. The report equated Polish and Nazi treatment of the Jewish population and said many Jews preferred to flee, even to Germany, after the war.

The document, titled “The Jews in Poland Since the Liberation,” was obtained by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and shown exclusively to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, the same day a Polish governmental delegation arrived in Israel to discuss Warsaw’s contentious “Holocaust law,” which has caused a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

“There is little doubt that the current anti-Jewish manifestations in Poland represent a continuation of activities by rightwing groups that were at work before 1939, when even major political parties had antisemitic programs,” the report said. “In other words, there is not much that is essentially new or different in the current antisemitic agitation.

However, the antisemitic overtones in prewar Polish politics predisposed many Poles to the acceptance of Nazi racial theories, and there is evidence that Poles persecuted the Jews as vigorously as did the Germans during the occupation. The retreating Nazis, moreover, left in their wake a heavy residue of their racial theories.

Even before the liberation of Poland, antisemitic propaganda emerged in Polish émigré circles.”

The Intelligence Research report, dated May 15, 1946, was distributed by the US Office of Intelligence Coordination and Liaison as a restricted document.

It was declassified in 1983.

It describes how antisemitism “reached such dimensions in the Polish Army under General Wladyslaw Anders that many Jewish soldiers felt compelled to desert those forces and seek enlistment with other Allied armies.”

By mid-1944, it said, widespread antisemitism was reported in Lublin and other parts of Poland. By April 1945, “more reports were current and a dozen Polish towns were named as places where Jews had been killed, allegedly by members of the Polish Home Guard (Armia Krajowa), the armed force formed by and loyal to the Government-in-Exile.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Wiesenthal Center, said the documents directly contradict current arguments by Polish leaders that antisemitism was the result of communism.

He pointed to a part of the report that discussed rampant antisemitism and treatment of Jews as second-class citizens long before the communists took power in Poland and indeed, well before the war, with religious leaders, political parties and both high and low-level officials preaching and practicing antisemitism.

“In the jockeying for political preference in Poland after 1919, most of the major political parties – with the exception of leftist groups – followed an antisemitic line,” the report reads. “Catholic Church leaders, from Cardinal Hlond down, preached antisemitism and favored an economic boycott of the Jews.

Polish nationalists sought to win peasant and working-class support by attributing many of Poland’s internal difficulties to the Jews.” Lawless elements attacked Jews, adding physical peril to the already discouraging social and economic conditions.”

A widespread Polish argument in the current disagreement with Israel over Holocaust history acknowledges that some Poles may have acted badly during WWII, but denies that antisemitism was prevalent in Polish society. “This is absolutely not true,” Hier stressed. Some members of the Polish government have said only Israel holds this view of Poland’s history, he noted, but the impartial report written by the US government soon after WWII “absolutely tells a different story and one that would be very difficult for the president of Poland to deny.”

The report also referred to the post-war era, when some Jews opted to move to Germany rather than remain in Poland.

“So violent have been the antisemitic incidents reported – and so widespread is the fear for their lives among the handful of Jewish survivors – that some Polish Jews have been reported seeking to escape to the American Zone in Germany rather than remain in Poland,” the report said.

“Others, who have gone back to Poland, are reported to be returning to Western Germany after only a short stay.

Polish Jews in displaced persons centers in Germany have, moreover, almost unanimously declined to return to their former homeland,” the document said.

Hier said, “It’s very important that this report be made public so that people all over the world can read what a 1946 assessment of the issue of how Polish Jews were treated in Poland.”

Copies of the report are currently being held at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide in London and in the US National Archives in Washington.

While the report is accessible, it has remained widely unknown until now.

The Wiesenthal Center obtained the document in the course of research while publishing books about the Holocaust.

Hier said he believes widespread knowledge of the report can provide insight into why Jews are upset by the new law. He emphasized that his organization is not an enemy of Poland, but a group that brings hundreds of visitors to the country. “They have to acknowledge that antisemitism in Poland was a problem of longevity. You just have to read this report, which was not written by Jews, to see how real antisemitism was in Poland,” he said.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Evils of Expulsion

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
I have had differences of opinion with Rabbi Steven Pruzansky on various issues. Some of them very strong. But I consider him an honorable man whose views are Torah based, sincere, and well intended. As a man of honor and integrity he will admit to being wrong when evidence points him in that direction. This was the case with a recent article published at The Jewish Link and republished at UOJ where I first encountered it. I completely agree with his reconsidered view. But rather than paraphrasing it. I have republished here as well. It follows:

For some time now, we have heard that many of our youth are in a bad way—drinking, drugs, scandalous behavior—all of which have given rise to problems in schools. There have been conferences and seminars, calls for better education and improved communication. And the schools have generally responded to credible accusations of misconduct with a quick but somewhat selective trigger finger—especially in their use of expulsions. 

A number of people have reported to me about a party that took place recently in the metropolitan area that attracted a lot of teens and involved mass drinking and revelry, with the parents of the host conveniently out-of-town. (There were probably many other and similar parties of which I am unaware.) And the schools have dutifully responded with the range of disciplines at their disposal, and applied to the great variety of offenders under their dominion in inconsistent ways.

I have always been a law-and-order man; schools should have rules just like life has rules because otherwise there is chaos and anarchy. But I think we have gone too far in these situations to the extent that I have changed my mind. I used to think that it was appropriate for schools to monitor their students’ behavior even off campus and react when there is degenerate behavior, and in an ideal world that would still hold true. But I no longer believe that. Schools should monitor what students do on their premises, and that’s it. And off premises? That is the responsibility of the parents. Remember them?

Parents used to have primary responsibility for parenting, discipline, and instilling values in their children. Sometime in the recent past, parents abdicated that responsibility to the schools, and the results have not been pretty. For example: What parent lets a teenager go to a party of teenagers that has no responsible adult in charge? (I say “responsible” because not all adults are responsible.) You would have to be insane to allow such a thing. My children were trustworthy, but I would never let them as teens go to an unsupervised party. My wife and I would monitor, as best as possible, with whom our children would socialize. That is elementary parenting.


Forget the schools. As far as I am concerned, it’s none of the school’s business what happens off campus. It’s the parents’ business—and parents have to reclaim their role. Indeed, parents have many more disciplinary tools in their arsenal than schools do. They should use them, without fear of losing their children as “buddies.”

That being said, I have reconsidered something else. Schools have to stop these willy-nilly expulsions of students, which have become (1) a marketing tool (“Look at us! We expelled two students for unacceptable behavior. Problem solved. Send your children to us!”), (2) a deterrent that has clearly failed given the widespread misconduct that apparently exists and (3) a tacit admission that schools don’t have the time, interest or energy to deal with every child with a problem. I was slow to come around to this but I have realized that was once unthinkable has become normative, and again, quite selectively applied. A few months ago, I was sent a video a few months ago of Rav Moshe Weinberger (the Rav of Aish Kodesh) pleading with principals to remember their own youth. “What were you like when you were 17?” Why are they pretending that all was so perfect that now we can just dispatch Jewish children into the spiritual wilderness?

My initial reaction was that it is easy for someone not in chinuch to make such a broad statement and encourage such a policy change—banning expulsions—but as I pondered his comments over the course of a few weeks, I realized that he was correct. Teens are teens, and even if the parameters of “acting out” have widened over the decades since I was a teenager, and mostly in very unsalutary ways, I do not doubt that there are today principals and Roshei Yeshiva, teachers and rabbis, who acted as teens in ways that they chalk up to adolescent hijinks. Yet, they—or their boards—do not want to give today’s children the same break or a compassionate hand. I certainly do not lay all the blame at the feet of the principals or administrators who are often confronted with conflicting pressures that cannot all be resolved to the satisfaction of all.

And then I started my research on my “Great Rabbis of the 20th Century” series and to my astonishment, I determined that these giants dealt with the same issues in a much more tolerant, loving and probably effective way. The Alter of Slabodka, for example, never agreed to expel a student. (Keep in mind that Slabodka had its share of students who desecrated Shabbat, who were Socialists trying to overthrow the Czar, who were students in the yeshiva who even rebelled against the Alter and tried to have him dismissed!) 

Yet, he would tell the Roshei Yeshiva, that we must look and find some good in them. He kept one student around, he told his colleagues, even though he wasn’t much of a student, because he liked to do favors for people. The Jewish people need that also. And when challenged about particular miscreants, he would cite the verse in Kohelet and the Midrash (Vayikra Raba 27:5) thereon: “‘G-d seeks out the pursued;’ even when the righteous pursue the wicked” G-d takes up the cause of the underdog. So find his good quality and help him. Don’t throw him away.

Similarly, Rav Ovadia Yosef said in an interview a year before he died that it is forbidden to expel a child from yeshiva. I quote: “Even if there is a student who behaves inappropriately, it is still forbidden to throw him out of school and instead we must exercise extreme patience… If we are patient with this student, one day he can grow up to be a talmid chochom. And if we send him away from the yeshiva where will he go? To a secular school and then what will become of him?”

And then he added: “What, are you throwing away a rock? These are precious souls! If you throw a child away, do you know what will be? Are you ready to take responsibility for what might happen?”

And in Rav Yissachar Frand’s Dvar Torah last week (the second essay) he made the same point. If all these great rabbis are addressing this issue, it tells me that there is a problem in Baltimore, Israel, the Five Towns, New Jersey – and everywhere else.

And who are we throwing away? The children of the Avot and Imahot of our people. Like Rambam says (Hilchot Sanhedrin 25:2), even the lowliest among us are “the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, the armies of G-d who took us out of Egypt with a great might and a powerful arm.”

I’m not an extremist. If a child is endangering another child, that is different. But short of that, there are other measures. Educate. Discipline. Suspend. Make a child repeat a class or a grade. (The thought alone of paying an extra year’s tuition will get the parents’ attention.) But don’t throw them away. G-d also took these children out of Egypt.

I would rather send my children to a school that deals with its children with problems than to a school that pretends it doesn’t have any children with problems.

And what should parents, now once again responsible for their children’s behavior, impress upon them? During the years of bondage in Egypt, we never lost our identity, our dignity, our sense of self-respect. We always knew, in the statement of the Mishna (Masechet Shabbat 111a), that “all Israel are the children of kings.” We are all princes and princesses. We never let the Egyptians, those debauched pagans, define us. We endured them, survived them and triumphed over them, and then the sense of inner freedom naturally emerged from us. It cannot be suppressed forever – in any of us.

That is the message for us and for our children. They should realize that all the attractions and allures of the world mean nothing compared to the great privilege of being part of a royal people. They need to be taught that when they act like reprobates, they have first and foremost let themselves down.

There is no greater deterrent to mischief than the realization that some conduct is beneath them and unworthy of them, of who they are supposed to be. When that realization sinks in, we will merit only blessings from all of our children.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Judge Freier on The Today Show

This video of Judge Freier speaks for itself:

 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Rabbi Sacks on the Status of Jerusalem

I wish I had said this... But that's what makes Lord Sacks - Lord Sacks and me - me. His eloquent words about US recognition of Israel follow: 

I welcome today’s decision by the United States to recognise as the capital of Israel, Jerusalem, whose name means “city of peace.” This recognition is an essential element in any lasting peace in the region.

Unlike other guardians of the city, from the Romans to the Crusaders to Jordan between 1949 and 1967, Israel has protected the holy sites of all three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam and guaranteed access to them. Today, Jerusalem remains one of the few places in the Middle East, where Jews, Christians and Muslims are able to pray in freedom, security and peace. 

The sustained denial, in many parts of the world, of the Jewish connection with Jerusalem is dishonest, unacceptable and a key element in the refusal to recognise the Jewish people’s right to exist in the land of their origins. Mentioned over 660 times in the Hebrew Bible, Jerusalem was the beating heart of Jewish faith more than a thousand years before the birth of Christianity, and two-and-a-half millennia before the birth of Islam. 

Since then, though dispersed around the world, Jews never ceased to pray about Jerusalem, face Jerusalem, speak the language of Jerusalem, remember it at every wedding they celebrated, in every home they built, and at the high and holiest moments of the Jewish year.

Outside the United Nations building in New York is a wall bearing the famous words of Isaiah: "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Too often the nations of the world forget the words that immediately precede these: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

Those words, spoken twenty-seven centuries ago, remain the greatest of all prayers for peace, and they remain humanity’s best hope for peace in the Middle East and the world.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Thunderclap? Or Whimper?

Special Council investigating the President, Robert Mueller
I've been saying all along that the investigation of the President with respect to his involvement with Russia prior to his election - is almost certainly political and will not bear the fruit his opponents (including-  and perhaps especially - the mainstream media) are hoping for. 

To be clear, I am not a fan of the President and did not vote for him. And I continue to believe he is an embarrassment to the country. But I agree with Alan Dershowitz. This investigation will end with a whimper. His words from a published article follow: 


The charge to which retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty may tell us a great deal about the Robert Mueller investigation.

The first question is, why did Flynn lie? People who lie to the FBI generally do so because, if they told the truth, they would be admitting to a crime. But the two conversations that Flynn falsely denied having were not criminal. He may have believed they were criminal but, if he did, he was wrong.
Consider his request to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., to delay or oppose a United Nations Security Council vote on an anti-Israel resolution that the outgoing Obama administration refused to veto. Not only was that request not criminal, it was the right thing to do. 

President Obama's unilateral decision to change decades-long American policy by not vetoing a perniciously one-sided anti-Israel resolution was opposed by Congress and by most Americans. It was not good for America, for Israel or for peace. It was done out of Obama's personal pique against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rather than on principle.

Many Americans of both parties, including me, urged the lame-duck Obama not to tie the hands of the president-elect by allowing the passage of a resolution that would make it more difficult to achieve a negotiated peace in the Middle East.

As the president-elect, Donald Trump was constitutionally and politically entitled to try to protect his ability to broker a fair peace between the Israelis and Palestinians by urging all members of the Security Council to vote against or delay the enactment of the resolution. The fact that such efforts to do the right thing did not succeed does not diminish the correctness of the effort. I wish it had succeeded. We would be in a better place today.

Some left-wing pundits, who know better, are trotting out the Logan Act, which, if it were the law, would prohibit private citizens (including presidents-elect) from negotiating with foreign governments. But this anachronistic law hasn't been used for more than 200 years. Under the principle of desuetude - a legal doctrine that prohibits the selective resurrection of a statute that has not been used for many decades - it is dead-letter. Moreover, the Logan Act is unconstitutional insofar as it prohibits the exercise of free speech.

If it were good law, former Presidents Reagan and Carter would have been prosecuted: Reagan for negotiating with Iran's ayatollahs when he was president-elect, to delay releasing the American hostages until he was sworn in; Carter for advising Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to reject former President Clinton's peace offer in 2000-2001. Moreover, Jesse Jackson, Jane Fonda, Dennis Rodman and others who have negotiated with North Korea and other rogue regimes would have gone to prison.

So there was nothing criminal about Flynn's request of Kislyak, even if he were instructed to do so by higher-ups in the Trump transition team. The same is true of his discussions regarding sanctions. The president-elect is entitled to have different policies about sanctions and to have his transition team discuss them with Russian officials.

This is the way The New York Times has put it: "Mr. Flynn's discussions with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, were part of a coordinated effort by Mr. Trump's aides to create foreign policy before they were in power, documents released as part of Mr. Flynn's plea agreement show. Their efforts undermined the existing policy of President Barack Obama and flouted a warning from a senior Obama administration official to stop meddling in foreign affairs before the inauguration."

If that characterization is accurate, it demonstrates conclusively that the Flynn conversations were political and not criminal. Flouting a warning from the Obama administration to stop meddling may be a political sin (though some would call it a political virtue) but it most assuredly is not a crime.
So why did Flynn lie about these conversations, and were his lies even material to Mueller's criminal investigation if they were not about crimes?

The second question is why did Mueller charge Flynn only with lying? The last thing a prosecutor ever wants to do is to charge a key witness with lying.

A witness such as Flynn who has admitted he lied - whether or not to cover up a crime - is a tainted witness who is unlikely to be believed by jurors who know he's made a deal to protect himself and his son. They will suspect that he is not only "singing for his supper" but that he may be "composing" as well - that is, telling the prosecutor what he wants to hear, even if it is exaggerated or flat-out false. A "bought" witness knows that the "better" his testimony, the sweeter the deal he will get. That's why prosecutors postpone the sentencing until after the witness has testified, because experience has taught them that you can't "buy" a witness; you can only "rent" them for as long as you have the sword of Damocles hanging over them.

So, despite the banner headlines calling the Flynn guilty plea a "thunderclap," I think it may be a show of weakness on the part of the special counsel rather than a sign of strength. So far he has had to charge potential witnesses with crimes that bear little or no relationship to any possible crimes committed by current White House incumbents. Mueller would have much preferred to indict Flynn for conspiracy or some other crime directly involving other people, but he apparently lacks the evidence to do so.

I do not believe he will indict anyone under the Logan Act. If he were to do so, that would be unethical and irresponsible. Nor do I think he will charge President Trump with any crimes growing out of the president's exercise of his constitutional authority to fire the director of the FBI or to ask him not to prosecute Flynn.

The investigation will probably not end quickly, but it may end with, not a thunderclap, but several whimpers.