Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The New Format

I had a poll up asking people if they liked the new design of this blog. The poll is now closed and the new design has won the competition. The spread was pretty even (except for 'dislike it' category - which no one voted for) But 'Love it' garnered twice as many votes any of the others.

Here is the percentage breakdown in each category:

Love it - 40%
Like it - 20%
Neutral - 20%
Dislike it - 0%
Hate it - 20%

So for the time being the new look is here to stay. There may yet be some additional tweaking but this is basically it.

If there is any further critiquing of the new look please do it now in the comments section. Why do you: love/like/dislike or hate - the new design. If there is something specific please tell me what that is and explain why you do or don't like it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Lonely Position on Jerusalem

Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim – Tishkach Yimini!

I am so tired of the ‘world’ telling me that Jerusalem is not ‘my home’ and is up for grabs. That’s what this AP ‘
editorial’ says. Israel has every right to claim ‘East’ Jerusalem as its eternal capital. That Palestinians contest it is their business. That the ‘world’ sides with them on this issue just mean they are wrong. Do we judge truth only by what ‘the world’ thinks?

Whether Israel should allow construction there as part of the ‘settlement freeze’ is a separate issue. But how on earth can anyone with any sense of history –Jewish or otherwise - say that the Jewish people have no special claim or right to live in Jerusalem and call it their capital?! …especially if they respect the bible?

That said I agree with the fact that there are certain people that have contributed to this attitude – stirring up resentment with their actions as the end of this editorial points out. But that doesn’t justify the view that Jerusalem isn’t ours. And I don’t care if it is a lonely position.

What follows is the article in question… and Yes. It makes me angry. And I am a ‘land for peace’ guy!

JERUSALEM (AP) — If there is ever to be Middle East peace, here's a knot that must somehow be undone.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have moved to sprawling Jewish areas in east Jerusalem believe they are ordinary residents of their capital who will never be asked to vacate their homes. It's a sentiment shared by most of their countrymen and affirmed by lawmakers who voted this week to limit a government's ability to ever pull out.

But it's a lonely position: no other government recognizes Israel's 43-year-old annexation of east Jerusalem, and the Palestinians are increasingly vocal about insisting that what Israelis universally call "neighborhoods" are in fact illegal "settlements."

Eight years ago, Herzl Yechezkel, an Israeli lawyer, was one of the first residents to move into the new Har Homa neighborhood, built on land Israel captured in 1967.

"Our neighborhood is inside the Jerusalem municipal area, and it's legitimate to build in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people," he said Tuesday, a day after the Knesset voted to require a special majority or a referendum before any pullout in east Jerusalem. "The Americans see Washington as their capital. Jerusalem is the same."

Few outside of Israel see it that way, though the issue of Israeli construction in east Jerusalem long took a back seat to the controversy over the more populous settlements in the West Bank and to the more explosive dispute over the walled Old City with its holy sites and echoes of biblical history.

But it is now taking center stage amid efforts to restart peace talks. The U.S. is pressing Israel to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank to draw the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Israel wants written assurances that east Jerusalem will be exempt, while Palestinians — who see it as their future capital — insist it be included.

In Monday's Knesset vote, lawmakers passed a measure requiring any future pullout from Israeli territory, including east Jerusalem, be approved by a two-thirds majority. If that fails, the matter would then go to a national referendum, where it would likely face an uphill battle.

While most Israelis recognize that Israel will have to withdraw from much of the West Bank and uproot at least some settlements, the Jewish areas of east Jerusalem are seen as part of the capital. Most residents were drawn by affordable prices and quality of life, rather than ideology, and many seem hardly to be aware that the areas are in dispute.

In past peace talks, Palestinians quietly acknowledged these neighborhoods would remain part of Israel under a final accord. The Oslo peace process of the 1990s went ahead while Israel built freely in east Jerusalem.

But the east Jerusalem neighborhoods have become increasingly contentious since the Obama administration put a spotlight on settlement construction and called for a full halt after taking office.
Palestinians have since demanded the freeze as a condition for talks, a position that lies at the heart of the current impasse.

Since the 1967 war, Israel has built a dozen Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, a semicircle of sorts ringing the Old City and filling in gaps between Arab areas.

Distant from the ancient holy sites at the city's heart, they are mundane urban neighborhoods of apartment buildings faced with beige stone, dotted with small shopping plazas. They are now home to 200,000 people, more than a quarter of Jerusalem's population.

Another 250,000 Arabs live in east Jerusalem, and 300,000 Jews live in the city's western sector.
Har Homa, in southern Jerusalem, is a good example of how integrated these areas have become. When the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot ranked the hottest neighborhoods in the country earlier this month, Har Homa — where housing prices have doubled in eight years — came in third. The paper made no mention of political complications.

On Tuesday, bulldozers started clearing land for 1,000 new housing units to expand Har Homa's population by a quarter. What might not have drawn much attention several years ago, however, drew reprimands this month from the U.S., the Palestinians and other countries.

While the Palestinians always viewed Israel's Jerusalem project "with great concern," said Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian pollster and analyst, only recently did they come to top the agenda of the political elite. The change, he said, is connected to a generational shift to a younger leadership more sensitive to the threat posed by settlements to a future Palestinian state.

"The issue of insisting that Jerusalem settlements must be included in any freeze is something that has developed over time," Shikaki said. "A new leadership has emerged. The old guard is no longer in the driver's seat."

Palestinian officials have begun to lobby journalists to stop using the term "neighborhoods" when describing east Jerusalem.

"Israel's attempt to deceive the international consensus, and to redraw that consensus, has not been successful," said Husam Zomlot, a Palestinian spokesman. "These are not neighborhoods. They are illegal colonies, extraterritorial entities on occupied territory."
If Israel has lost international understanding where the east Jerusalem neighborhoods are concerned, it has itself at least partly to blame, said Yitzhak Reiter, an Israeli expert on Jerusalem at the Ashkelon Academic College.

For decades, Jews in east Jerusalem lived only in Jewish neighborhoods, largely avoiding daily friction with Arab residents. But in the last decade, several thousand ideological Jewish settlers have moved into the heart of Arab neighborhoods, where they live in isolated enclaves under heavy guard.

"In these places there is tension and violence that move the conflict back 40 years," Reiter said. "This is helping to end the quiet acceptance of the new reality Israel created in the older Jewish neighborhoods."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thank You Christians

I don’t agree with everything Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says in this op-ed. But I do agree with his take on Evangelical Christians - and the IFCJ (International Fellowship of Christians and Jews) that my friend Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein founded and leads.

And lead he does - to the tune of 100 million Christian dollars donated to Israel and other Jewish causes every year. As Shmuley says, this is a staggering amount of ‘no strings attached’ money! And it is money that we - the Jewish people would never otherwise see! I am therefore pleased to present this Jerusalem Post op-ed in its entirety!

Every year, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews raises about $100 million from mostly evangelical Christians in the US for distribution to social-welfare projects in Israel and the former Soviet Union. This is a staggering sum, making the IFCJ arguably the largest foundation for needy Jews in the world. One would think that the Jewish community would show immense gratitude to our Christian brothers and sisters for such love. I therefore found it extraordinary to hear that there is a campaign in the Israeli rabbinate to discredit the organization and forbid Jewish groups from benefiting from its funds.

In our religion, the worst of all character traits is to be an ingrate. Denying the goodness that others perform on your behalf leads to a closing of the human heart. No one wants to be taken for granted. So great is the Jewish emphasis on appreciation that our greatest prophet, Moses, was commanded by God not to strike the Nile River and turn it into blood (in the first plague against the Egyptians) because that same river had saved his life when he was a baby. Later, in plague number three, God warned Moses against smiting the dust of Egypt (and turning it into lice) because that dust had saved his life when he had to bury the body of a murderous Egyptian taskmaster.

Imagine that. A man who spoke to God “face to face” was told he must show thanks to water and dust. Such is the extent to which Judaism demands gratitude.

Over the past two decades, evangelical Christians have emerged as Israel’s most reliable friends. Pastors like John Hagee, my friend Pat Robertson and countless others have galvanized colossal Christian support for Israel. Even in the worst bombings of the second intifada, when tourism to Israel fell off a cliff, Christians still came in their millions. The same is true of stalwart Christian political support.

While President Barack Obama continues to bully Israel over apartments in Israel’s undivided and eternal capital, many American Christians have a litmus test for their elected leaders: You don’t support Israel? You’re out.

As I write these lines, former president George W. Bush is enjoying a public renaissance in America with the publication of his book, Decision Points. The best friend Israel ever had in the White House makes clear, at the beginning of his book, how he turned his life over to Jesus, and there can be no question that there is a direct link between his deep Christian faith and his unyielding support for Israel against those who, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seek its annihilation.

I am well aware of our differences with the Christian evangelical community, and would venture to say that I have conducted more debates with leading Christian scholars and missionaries – like my friend Dr. Michael Brown – on the messiahship of Jesus and the evangelical insistence that only Christians go to heaven than any other American rabbi over the past decade.

Jesus was a devout and observant Jew for every day of his life. He ate kosher, honored the Sabbath, donned tefillin and insisted on the indivisible unity of God. It would behoove our Christian brothers and sisters to conclude that they have much to learn about the historical Jesus from Jews.

Indeed, not only must attempts to convert Jews be emphatically resisted by the Jewish community, but precisely the opposite is true; Christians must learn from the Jews to reject any deification of Jesus – something which he would have seen as the ultimate sacrilege, and which is the subject of my upcoming book. They must follow Jesus as teacher and prophet rather than as God. Every human being is a child of God, as the Bible makes clear in Deuteronomy.

But whatever our theological differences, nothing negates the unparalleled kindness and friendship these Christians show Jews and the Jewish community.To say they do this merely to convert us, or because gathering Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse, is to perpetrate sacrilegious character assassination.

I was disheartened, in a recent visit to a mega-church in North Carolina, to hear even a renowned Christian scholar tell me the only reason American evangelicals send money to Israel is because they mistakenly believe that the funds are used to proselytize Jews.

Bullocks. I meet these evangelicals all the time. I have travelled with great men like Glen Megill of Rock of Africa on Christian relief missions to Zimbabwe, the poorest country on earth, and have listened as they told me their first commandment as Christians is to love and protect the Jewish people – for no other reason than that God commanded it.

Israel is a nation that dwells alone, with few friends and many enemies. Rather than rabbis and lay leaders attacking Christians for having nefarious motives for their charity, we should offer thanks and gratitude to all the hardworking Americans of faith who believe, as the Bible says, that through Israel all the Earth is blessed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yeshivos and Kollelim

The following is a practical view of the reality of the Yeshiva system. It is not based on my views of Torah uMada which sees Mada as having intrinsic value that should be studied L’Shma.

Let me begin by saying that I have profound respect for all Roshei yeshiva as the leaders of Klal Israel. I believe that they are responsible for providing us with the next generation of Roshei Yeshiva and Gedolim. They provide the guidance spiritually - and a place to learn and thereby produce individuals who are capable of becoming our future leaders.

I would, also, like to make it known that my son is currently learning full time in Yeshivas Mir Yerushalyim, and is a Shoel uMeishiv to a Beis HaMedrash of over four hundred students in a new Beis HaMedrash there. He also has my full support to learn full time for the rest of his life, if he so chooses. This should give you some idea of my perspective. I am not a Yeshiva or Kollel basher.

The Problem

The problem is the systemic abuse of the Kollel and the Yeshiva in the sense that many Avreichim stay there far too long, and when they finally do leave they have virtually no training to enable them to compete in the Job market. I have spoken to many Roshei Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel about this problem and, so far, they privately agree with me. They, however, do not want to go on record.

To date as far as I know the only Rosh HaYeshiva who went on record was Rav Aaron Soloveichik, ZTL. He stated publicly as well as in print that not everyone is meant to learn full time, that learning full time is meant for the Yechidei Segula. " Vehogeisa Bo Yomim Va Lailos" is an imperative for them, in that fashion. The rest of us can fulfill our obligation of "Vehogiso" by being Koveiah Itim (setting aside time) both in the daytime and at night for learning Torah. One can theoretically even fulfill his obligation to learn Torah by reciting Krias Shema.

There are some Avreichim who don't have what it takes to make it in learning and, nevertheless, continue to doing so trying to “make it” despite years of not succeeding, instead of perhaps going into a field where they can contribute to a much higher degree to serve God and Klal Israel ( i.e. be more productive! ) Change is needed. The attitude needs to be developed that it is OK to get a job. It's not the end of the world if you want to support your family. In fact it is a very positive thing.

The problem is that The Roshei Kollel and Roshei Yeshiva are encouraging a “Torah only” approach as the only legitimate approach to Torah study. This attitude is based on the writings of Rabbi E. E. Dessler: Throw 1000 Bachurim into a Beis HaMedrash and if one rises to the top and the others fail, so be it! This is the “price” of creating a Gadol! 999 Bachurim or Yungeleit, who don’t make the grade don’t matter because: we need Gedolim!

I don’t agree that this is the “price”. Yes we need Gedolim, but we shouldn’t have to sacrifice anyone. A Torah nation requires the full spectrum of goods and services that all of society requires and we should be encouraging our students to follow their “calling”. If, for example a student has a certain facility for science, why not encourage him to go into medicine or scientific research?

Maybe that student is bright enough to be a big Talmud Chacham, but his real brilliance may be in medicine. Under the prevailing conditions in the Yeshiva system, that student’s desire to go into medicine or science will be discouraged.

The Solution

As I have said many times all Bnei Torah should spend time learning full time after high school for perhaps at least 5 years. But in most cases there should be preparation for some of that time, in conjunction with learning, for one's Parnassa. Although I believe all Bachurim need to learn post high school for at least a year or two without any of the distractions of college etc.) I believe that the Roshei Yeshiva who in many cases are surrogate fathers to these Bachurim should be more proactive in guiding those who do not "have what it takes in learning" into other areas.

Any Rosh HaYeshiva worth his salt knows which of his students are destined for greatness (and should be encouraged to stay in learning full time) and which of his students are not destined for greatness in learning. They should be guided into Parnassa.

The benefit of such an approach is immeasurable. In addition to contributing to Klal Yisroel in a better way ( each individual custom tailoring his contribution), the money needed to support the vast amounts of people presently in Kollel will be freed up and better distributed to those Avreichim who DO have what it takes.

They currently learn with great material sacrifice to themselves and their families. Why shouldn't they be able to learn full time L’Shma and not have to struggle for their own material well being and that of their families? Wouldn't their learning improve if they didn't have to worry about how they were going to get their next rent check?

A former Avreich confided in me that the peer pressure to stay in Kollel is enormous, and that while one is in Kollel the impression is made on the Yungeleit that leaving learning is a terrible thing. He was able to leave and found out that it wasn't that terrible, and in fact he is pretty well accepted by all of his Kollel friends.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


That's all I can say about this Kiddush HaShem. Wow! Saw it on Hirhurim. Watch it and feel proud of our people.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peace - Above All!

This video has received over a million hits. If it does not bring a tear to your eye, you're not human.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Did Someone Say It's 10:10?

It is at the very moment of this posting
10:10 0n 10/10/10

How often does THAT happen?!

Just thought I'd mention it!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When Shmuley’s Right…. He's Right

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is one of those people I truly have ambivalent feelings about. On the one hand I more often agree with him than not. He is a great communicator. And his message is often my message.

On the other hand his fawning over the Lubavitcher Rebbe as though he were the Messiah (No - I don’t think he’s a Meshichist – it’s just an expression) is a big turn off. Nor do I like his fawning all over celebrities. His relationship with Michael Jackson for example was downright embarrassing.

I’m not sure how I feel about his custom of inviting non Jewish celebrities over for Shabbos meals almost every week either. What exactly is he trying to accomplish with that other than buying their affection? How does that enhance his Shabbos table?

His book ‘Kosher Sex’ is an embarrassment as well.

And though I understood his point his fawning praise of Noah Feldman who married out of the faith was grossly out of place.

It is almost as though his life’s goal is self promotion.

But… I have to give Rabbi Boteach his due. When he’s right – he’s usually very right. That is the case in his latest op-ed in the Jerusalem Post. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Come to Israel for Succot and there are many things you’ll see at night on Rehov Ben-Yehuda, Jerusalem’s premiere recreational thoroughfare. You’ll experience outstanding cafés and mouth-watering restaurants, families with strollers and tourists buying souvenirs. Wait till later and you’ll see American teenagers taking over the street, many of them drunk.

You’ll see friends guiding their inebriated colleagues home, navigating broken glass and discarded bottles. But one thing you will likely not see are their yeshiva and program heads, those responsible for their supervision. Yes, the kids are alone, away from mom and dad and away from nearly any kind of responsible supervision.

Welcome to the Israeli-American religious-industrial complex, where a year abroad for many American Jewish youths means enrolling in a program that costs their parents over $20,000 and is supposed to enhance their religious commitment, but in reality is just a year-long opportunity to drink and behave like hooligans.

Let me be fair. There are many American Jewish youths who avail themselves of the opportunity to study the great Jewish texts and immerse themselves in serious study and religious reflection. They emerge immeasurably enriched by the experience, and infinitely more attached to the Jewish state. But for the hundreds who gather nightly on Ben-Yehuda, the idea of spiritual uplift is about as distant as Jerusalem is from Malibu.

I could not agree more.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Apology NOT accepted!

Stone apologized today for his moronic comments about Jewish control of the media and the foolish comments about Hitler and the holocaust.

That's nice. But as one report I saw said in the name of one of the Jewish organizations - I don't recall which one - his words may or may not express true contrition. he said them in a moment of candor. He is now guilty until proven innocent. Frankly I don't believe his apology. If he follows them up with deeds to match his apologetic rhetoric - I will accept them. Until then his apology is meaningless to me.

What kind of deeds? Well... he can start by making a positive movie about Israel and the Jewish people. He can follow that up by donating the proceeds of that film to the Weisenthal Center. After that... we'll see.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oliver Stone - Fool!

What a moron!

Ever since his idiotic movie JFK I had always though Oliver Stone had smoked one dubie too many. Hence his last name is Stone. It should have a 'd' placed at the end of it to more accurately reflect his usual state of mind.) Now I'm certain of it. The Jews control the media and therefore there is no open debate about the holocaust? Is he out of his mind?! Either that or he is clearly an anti Semite.

It isn't that some of his comments aren't valid. Of course the holocaust is a lot more complex than blaming the whole thing on one man - Adolf Hitler. But to say that Jews prevent that kind of discussion is as ridiculous as his conclusions about conspiracies everywhere he looks.

Thank God the vast majority of American people see this guy for the idiot that he is. Unfortunately there is a sizable minority that actually listen to morons like this as though they really know something. But as I said they are a small minority. Nonetheless whenever idiotic statements like this come out by prominent figures - they cannot go unchallenged. They have to be put in their proper place - the trashcan!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Police Brutality?

text to follow on main blog.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

America – I Love You!

Why am I so in love with this country? Because of its people.

There has been much discussion recently about eroding support for the Jewish State. The signs are everywhere. Academia - permeated with leftist ideologues- is rife with anti Israel –pro Palestinian sentiment.

Some entertainers have succumbed to pressure to boycott Israel too by left leaning pro-Palestinian groups. Most recently Meg Ryan canceled an appearance there.

And some mainstream Christian Churches have been advocating divestment with Israel too because of the ‘occupation’.

Not to mention the Obama administration’s recent fallout with the Jewish State over settlement issues. (That has been somewhat reversed.)

And the mainstream media forever focuses on the plight of the underdog Palestinians while criticizing Israel.

And then there some of are our own people- like J-Street and the Peter Beinarts of the world - who may as well just join the Palestinian Authority since their views about peace are so closely aligned with theirs.

But the American people are not buying any of it. How do I know? George Gallop told me:

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Support for Israel among Americans is at a near record high, a new poll showed.

According to the Gallup Poll, 63 percent of Americans say their sympathies in the Middle East conflict are with Israel, while 15 percent side with the Palestinians. The rest favor both sides, neither side or have no opinion.

Support for Israel was higher only in 1991, shortly after Israel was hit with Scud missiles during the Gulf War, when it was at 64 percent.

The poll, conducted in early February, was part of Gallup’s annual World Affairs survey in which Americans were asked a series of questions about their opinions of 20 countries or entities, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s ranking, at 67 percent favorable, was among the highest of the countries surveyed. The Palestinian Authority, at 20 percent, was among the lowest.

Support for Israel increased more among Republicans and independents than Democrats, the poll showed. Since 2001, there has been an increase of 25 points among Republicans and 18 points among independents. Support for Israel among Democrats has stayed about the same.

Asked whether peace eventually will be reached in the Middle East, 67 percent of respondents answered “doubtful” and 30 percent said “there will come a time” when there will be peace.

In a general trend over the past 10 years, Democrats were more optimistic than Republicans about the chances for peace. Thirty-nine percent of Democrats said it will come; 25 percent of Republicans agreed.

Pollsters conducted telephone interviews with a random sampling of 1,025 American adults between Feb. 1 and 3. The poll has a 4 percent margin of error.

Monday, May 24, 2010

We Will Fill the Jails

Protestors were arrested to the tune of dozens of detainees. Including a Chasidic Rebbe Rav Avraham Chanun Shlita. Their response? “We will fill the jails!” …as if to say we wear these arrests as a badge of honor.

Baruch HaShem. The Chasidim of Meah Shearim are finally co-operating. I firmly believe that we should honor their wishes and arrest as many of these Charedi looking gang members as participate in the disruption of society.

What’s more Edah HaCharedis head HaGaon HaRav Y. T. Weiss Shlita will be leading another protest in Jerusalem. Hopefully he will be arrested too.

Ma Rabu Ma’asecha HaShem!

If all the jails fill up in Israel with these thugs I hear Guantanamo will soon be available. I hope that the Obama administration will have the common decency to offer it to the Israelis.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Meah Shearim Mob

There is an op-ed in Ha’aretz about the mob violence in Meah Shearim . Nothing really new there. Here is the opening paragraph:

Soldiers patrolling through the streets of Mea She'arim during Passover week found themselves in a situation they generally encounter only on the Palestinian side of the border. Local residents, the hard core of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community, began hurling stones at them. The soldiers were at a loss. The police were called in and were greeted by similar violence. The assailants explained to the ultra-Orthodox media that the army was using the neighborhood to simulate operations in an inner-city environment, and the Haredim didn't want to let the authorities ruin the holiday atmosphere.

The article goes on to say that there is hardly a week that goes by without some sort of violence these days. And gives examples of other incidents of violence. It then criticizes the police for treating these people with ‘kid gloves’ because of Charedi politics.

Unfortunately this op-ed was written by Shahar Ilan a secular Jew. This means that it will be totally discounted as anti Charedi bias by Charedim. He will be labeled a Rasha – an evil person. But is that fair? Is it fair to call someone a Rasha just because he tells you an unpleasant truth? I don’t think so. He may or may not be a Rasha - but he does speak the truth. I have said virtually the same things he has. And so have some Charedi writers.

This article should be added to the many others that have reported on this issue and it should not be discounted. The truth exists where ever you find it. Even in dark clouds like this one.

But in every cloud there is a silver lining. The increase in violence increases media attention to it. That makes the public more aware. Maybe all this negative publicity will spur action. If not by the Charedi world - then maybe by the police. At least I hope it does.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Are Ashkenazi Charedim Racist?

If this story in YWN doesn’t say it all, nothing does:

“In chareidi education, we don’t accept Sephardim, monkeys, Russians and Ethiopians”.

This was a comment supposedly in jest made by Jerusalem Councilman Yitzchak Pindrus who is himself Charedi.

There’s more:

When questioned regarding the incident on Wednesday by Haaretz, Pindrus is quoted as stating, “The readers of Haaretz are not my constituency so I have no interest in even apologizing.”

Although there were witnesses to the remark he later denied making it.


What was that about Ashkenazi Charedim and prejudice against Sephardim? Did someone say it doesn’t exist? …That a segregation case against a Beis Yaakov in Emmanuel pending before the Israeli courts is a nothing more than an attempt for the government to get a foothold in the Charedi educational system? …That the Agudah Moetzes in Amercia is screaming bloody murder about – calling it interference by the secular government into religious Charedi education – which ‘we must fight with all our strength’?

Hello? I can’t hear you…!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Can These Seven Patriots All Be Wrong?

What do Nicholas Katzenbach, Ramsey Clark, Edwin Meese, Richard Thornburgh, William Barr, Janet Reno and Kenneth Starr have in common with the Agudah, the OU, Chabad, and Young Israel?

They have all signed on to the notion that the proposed life sentence the prosecution has recommended for Shalom Rubashkin is excessive and that a much lighter sentence is warranted.

If those names are familiar it is because six of them were attorneys general in both Democratic and Republican administrations ranging back to President Johnson all the way up to the Clinton administration. And Ken Starr too said he will sign a letter to that effect (already signed by those attorneys general). He was the lead prosecutor in the investigation of President Clinton that lead to his impeachment in the US House of Representatives. It should be noted that the politics of these individuals vary widely.

Here is a portion of the letter that they have signed:

“We cannot fathom how truly sound and sensible sentencing rules could call for a life sentence -- or anything close to it -- for Mr. Rubashkin, a 51-year-old, first-time, non-violent offender whose case involves many mitigating factors and whose personal history and extraordinary family circumstances suggest that a sentence of a modest number of years could and would be more than sufficient to serve any and all applicable sentencing purposes”

This should tell you something about justice in this case. I hope the judge in that case takes notice and follows their lead.

Perhaps just as important is to note the lack of any anti-Semitism among these great American patriots on both the left and the right.

Monday, April 26, 2010

No Need to Apologize, General

You know, I really think Abe Foxman ought to get a life. He was apparently upset by a Jewish joke made during an address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy - by Jim Jones, National Security Advisor to the President. If one reads the joke, it is actually pretty funny. But Abe Foxman thought it was anti-Semitic.

Have we lost our ability to laugh at ourselves? This joke is what bothers Mr. Foxman?!

Please! There is no way that a joke like this is sourced in anti Semitism. I have heard anti Semitic jokes. This one doesn’t come close.

That General Jones felt he had to apologize is a very sad commentary on the hyper-sensitivity of people like Mr. Foxman. He should know a lot better than that. If anyone should know what real anti-Semitism entails it is the heads of the anti defamation League, Abe Foxman. Making an issue about this is foolish and counterproductive.

There are a lot of things to worry about with respect to the Obama administration that are legitimate issues for us – such as the President’s foreign policy decisions. Or the Presidents recent rather shabby treatment of the Israeli Prime Minister, or his warming up to the Arabs and cooling off to Israel. And his lack of a plan to deal with Iran now that his diplomatic efforts have proven fruitless.

If Mr. Foxman wants to worry about something these are a few of the things he ought to be thinking about. But this joke? Give me a break!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Completely Evil People

The following is reported in YWN. Here it is in its entirety:

A violent protest took place earlier in Bnei Brak, in front of Ponavez Yeshiva and the area of Chazon Ish and Yismach Moshe Streets as the nation marks Independence Day. According to reports, most of the participants are not areas residents, but from Yerushalayim.

An Israeli flag was set ablaze in front of police in front of the yeshiva, as a large flag waves on the pole above the yeshiva building as is the custom annually on Independence Day (reported earlier today by YWN Israel). At least one police car was damaged as a result of the protestors throwing rocks. At this time, it appears the main protest has dispersed but there are occasional reports of rock-throwing and minor disturbances.

I have no clue who these people were. The story says they were probably from Jerusalem. I assume they are Meah Shearimniks. But let us even assume that they are Ahmadinijad hugging Neturei Kartaniks whom everyonme condemns. Why are they tolerated? What possible justification is there for them to do these things? I get so angry when I see these kinds of things happening. It goes against every fiber of my being.

Flag burning may be legal. It may even be a form of free speech. But so is shunning these people as pariahs. They ought to be vocally condemned for what they do by their own leaders even if they agree with them in spirit. And certainly the Roshei Yeshiva at Ponevezh should. These people are nothing more than evil incarnate- Reshaim Gemurim! To the extent that what any of they did is illegal it would be a Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar to report them to the police and testify against them in court.

I don’t care how long their beards are. They will get their just deserts in the world to come. And it isn’t going to be the kind of 'deserts' they like.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not So Silent

I haven't posted on EvE II for awhile. Been busy with EvE I. But I just noticed that my last post about Matzav.com considering eliminating the comments section has in fact been resolved. One can still comment there more than six weeks after they considered stopping it.

It's nice to know that even a very Charedi blog like this allows the voice of the people to be heard.

Just thought I'd mention it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Silent Matzav

Matzav is thinking about removing their comments section. That will end up boring the heck out of people. But I understand why they are doing it. Many of their commenters have made some embarrassingly stupid comments. Some of them generating a real Chilul HaShem. On the other hand they have been an excellent resource providing me with material for some of my better posts!

It probably serves the greater good if they just cut that out and make it a Jewish news website. But will it reduce their readership? I think so. But I'm not sure it will reduce it significantly. I have no clue what their hit count is. But I think it's probably pretty high. It's going to go down.

The better solution for them would to better monitor the comments and not allow as many of them to be approved. But it's their call (or the call of their Poskim).

Anyway... I wish them Hatzlacha no matter which way they go.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Enlightened Rosh HaYeshiva

The following is the copy for this video located at YouTube:

yeshiva machane yisrael is a yeshiva for baalei teshuva in the beit yisrael section of jerusalem near the mir yeshiva. the rosh yeshiva is opposed to the use of computers, and therefore even the yeshiva office uses none. here we can see one of the many computer smashing ceremonies held at the yeshiva, with a brief introduction by the rosh yeshiva Rabbi Findler who explained how in this particular instance, the computer was used for purposes of earning a livelihood by the owner until he decided to make the move and dispose of his laptop. this is an exercise carried out by trained professionals, please don't try this at home but if you do please wear safety goggles!

When I first saw this video I had to laugh. I thought, “How primitive a response like this is to the problems with the internet!” The truth unfortunately is that it isn’t so funny. Not that I am all that surprised by it.

I am not going to go into the pros and cons of the internet. I’ve done that more times than I can count. But I do think it is important to see exactly what a Charedi Rosh HaYeshiva for Baalei Teshuva thinks is the appropriate way to show his contempt for it. He actually believed that a symbolic smashing of a laptop would make his point more valid. It seemed apparent from the video that he knew he was being videotaped. It is also fair to assume that the purpose of taking a video of this event was for the purpose of making his point to a wider audience.

Unfortunately for him, the message received is not really the one he wanted to send. He was trying to show what he thought ought to be done to this conduit of evil. But the general response to this video has been one of ridicule and laughter by just about everyone who has seen it – as far as I know.

I think this Rosh Yeshiva has clearly demonstrated why people who have this attitude about the internet and this methodology of dealing with it ought to be as marginalized as possible from the Torah world. By their actions they show just how shallow and backward they really are.

Judaism is not a religion of primitive fanatics that deal with problems by smashing valuable educational tools. I can respect their total opposition to the internet even if I don’t agree with it. But smashing a laptop only makes them look like ignorant fools. How exactly does this appeal to a potential Baal Teshuva? Is anyone with even a modicum of intelligence going to say, “This is the kind of religion I want!” “One that smashes laptops!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Clock is Ticking

An article on Matzav tells us of a last minute appeal from the Pope via Vatican official Archbishop Fernando Filoni. He like others who have been seeking to at least stay his execution until all appeals are exhausted argued that he has changed and is now a man of faith.

Indeed many people have accused the Orthodox Public service organziations now actively involved in this that they are only doing it because he is now a Frum Jew.

Really! Frum Jew? I’m not so sure about that. From Matzav:

Grossman, meanwhile, has declined the traditional last meal. Instead, he will have banana cream and peanut butter cookies, canned fruit punch and a chicken sandwich he bought himself from the inmate canteen, according to the Department of Corrections.

Is this what a Jewish man of faith does just before he is about to meet his Maker? Eat Treif?


Not saying we should give up trying to save him. I still believe that his sentence should be commuted to life in prison without parole.

But Wassupwidat?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who Was The Greatest?

And the Winner is… Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz. That’s who I believe had the greatest impact on Orthodox Jewry in the 20th century. Back to that later.

The poll closed yesterday and the results indicated otherwise. The results of the very unscientific poll showed Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe with 69 votes to have had the greatest impact, followed very closely by Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe who garnered 65 votes. There were 260 votes cast. Here is the breakdown:

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn 69 votes - 26% (of the total)
Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum 65 votes - 25%
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein 39 votes - 15%
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik 37 votes - 14%
Rabbi Aharon Kotler 25 votes - 9%
Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz 22 votes - 8%
Other 3 votes - 1%

The question must be asked as to why the top two vote getters received more than 50% of all the votes counted. Can it be that this represents the feeling of all Orthodox Jews? I doubt it. I think what probably happened here is that followers of these two great rabbinic figures somehow heard about this poll and had a ‘voting war’. My last poll only generated only 129 respondents – about half as many as this one did.

Now it is possible that these two rabbinic giants would have won anyway. But it is hard to know one way or another. Factoring out the top two winners it seems that Rav Moshe is seen as having had the greatest impact by a very slight and probably statistically insignificant margin over Rav Soloveitchik. I tend to question that result too since I presume that many if not most of my readers tend to be from the broad spectrum of Modern Orthodoxy. The lower vote of Rav Aharon Kotler I think might reflect the fewer numbers of Charedim that might read this blog.

So in the end, this poll proves absolutely nothing. Except that my choice was deemed least important of the candidates.

Why Reb Shraga Feivel? Let me start by statiing why not the others.

Anyone who reads my posts regularly knows that of all these great figures, I was most influenced by the writings of Rav Soloveitchik. None of the others had anywhere near his impact on me. But at the saem time I recognize that his impact did not really go beyond the world of Modern Orthodoxy, I’m not saying that he didn’t impact it at all. Fair minded people of all stripes will admit that he did. Some will say for the worse. But in the Orthodox world he is basically ignored by all but Modern Orthodox Jewry.

Rav Moshe is definitely the Posek Acharon for our times. Few people dare to disagree with his Psak on most issues and rarely do. There are some like the Satmar Rebbe who disagrees with R’ Moshe on some key issues but his views are mostly followed by his own constituents. Rav Moshe is by far the most universally recognized Posek of the post war 20th century and beyond. But as much as he impacted Psak, I don’t believe he impacted all of Orthodoxy in any way that was ‘game changing’. Orthodox Jewry would have more or less developed as it did without him. The void in Psak might have been filled by other Poskim. In most of the way we lead our daily lives Halachic observances would not be that significantly different.

The Satmar Rebbe truly did impact the 20th century significantly. He basically single handedly transferred Satmar from Europe to the United States and Israel and shepparded it into exponential growth. It is a world unto itself whose members are unique and dedicated Chasidim. I would even venture to say that if not for Satmar, I’m not sure any of the other Chasidic groups would have grown as much – at least in the US. I will agree that in Israel, the Gerer Rebbe is the one who might have that title.

But all of his aceivements are primarily in the world of Chasidus only. The vast majority of Orthodox Jews, while respecting him in both torah knowledge and leadership capacities, are not influenced by him.

The Lubavicher Rebbe too is limited in his influence. His impact is in the world of Kiruv and his opwn Chasidim. Of all the rabbis listed, he is the one who is most venerated by his Chasidim. In some cases obsessively so – to the point of calling him Moshiach. His movement grew from a miscule one into one of the largest and most powerful ones in the world. But even with all the secular Jews who have been convinced to become Frum, it is only Lubavitch that sees him as a leader. Even the Baalei Teshuva he brought in were brought in as Lubavitchers. His impact on Orthodox Jews outside of Lubavitch therefore is realatively small.

By contrast Rav Ahron Kotler’s impact is felt by Orthodox Jews all over the world. He recreated the world of post high school Yeshivos and Kollelim in America. Without that accomplishment, Orthdoxy as we know it today would not exist – at least here in America. Even though Israel had its’ own builders of Orthodoxy like the Poneviszhe Rav, the Chazon Ish, and the Brisker Rav… they focused only on Israel which was a much smaller community then.

That community has indeed grown today and is possibly even bigger than the one Rav Ahron Kotler built in America. But I don’t think Israel would be what it is today without Rav Ahron Kotler. His influence in America has created a mindset in many young men who choose to go to Israeli Yeshivos like Mir and Brisk instead of Lakewood. Many of those stayed on and live there. I don’t think Israel would have the high numbers of Lomdei Torah today without him.

In my view, Reb Shraga Feivel’s accomplishments are even greater. He created a school system that enabled virtually all of Orthodox Jewry to get an Orthodox Jewish elementary education. These were the feeder schools to places like Lakewood. Without Reb Sharga Feivel I don’t believe Orthodoxy would have anywhere near the numbers we do today. To the extent it would exist at all it would look nothing like it does now.

That said there were day schools established before Reb Sharga Feival. But they were few in number and not that popular. And they were Hashkafa specific – mostly being either Modern Orthodox or Lubavitch. Reb Shraga Feivel had only one goal: to teach Judaism to Jews at the earliest ages. He did not see his mission in Hashkafa specific terms.

Though a school system like this may have emerged anyway since the demand for them rose after the holocaust- he is the one who actually did it. He is truly the one who in my view built the foundation of Orhtodoxy catering to the widest spectrum of all of Jewry across America – which had the largest population of Jews were at that time. By far.

There are other heroes that had similar accomplishments. One cannot minimize the accomplishments of Rabbi Bernard Revel who founded Yeshiva College which has since become Yeshiva University. If not for him - I’m not sure there would be a legitimate and vibrant Modern Orthodoxy today.

And then there is Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan. She was a protégé of Rebbetzin Sara Schenirer and established the Beis Yaakov school system for girl’s education that we have today. While other school systems exist some of which actually predate her - to the best of my knowledge this one is by far the largest. She is perhaps the only person that can rival Reb Sharga Feivel’s achievement. I was remiss in not including her.

But although it is close - I still put him ahead of her. His accomplishments were at the entry level of Jewish education for all Jews of both sexes. His first religious day school was the prototype for the majority of all day schools across the country. That day school was in Detroit and is my alma mater Yeshivath Beth Yehuda.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Their Impact on Orthodox Jewry

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein
Rabbi Aharon Kotler
Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum

The list is of course incomplete. There were many great figures that impacted Judaism in the post holocaust 20th century. I could probably add a dozen or more names. But in my mind these six were probably the most influential. Some names are controversial. But no one can deny they each had a major impact. For me it would be almost impossible to say which one of these contributed the most. Although I do have a choice. I am curious to find out what others think? Do one of these stands out more than the rest?

A brief bio of each might be in order.

Rabbi Feinstein is perhaps considered the greatest Posek of the 20th century.

Rabbi Kotler established Lakewood Yeshiva which has been the standard bearer for Right Wing Orhtodoxy.

Rabbi Mendlowitz is responsible for the establishment of religious day school education in America.*

Rabbi Schneersohn is responsible for bringing masses of Jewry to observance.

Rabbi Soloveitchik was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University which is the standard bearer of modern Orhtodoxy - a movement that he helped define and led for decades.

Rabbi Teitelbaum is responsible for establishing and leading the largest and most dominant Chasidus in the world.

* Reb Shraga Feival (as he was lovingly known - he shunned the title Rav or Rabbi) died in 1948, just a couple of years after the holocaust. The others lived well beyond that. But R’ Shraga Feivel’s contributions were mostly felt after his death so I include him on this list.

Obviously these descriptions fall very short. Many might say it is unimportant to know who contributed the most - that they all made major contributions and there are no contests about greatness in Judaism. I understand and kind of agree. But there is the concept of Gadol HaDor which is a recognized one throughout our existence - starting with Moshe Rabbenu. I am merely expanding on this idea here.

Others may feel that I emphasized the wrong thing about one or more of them. I will concede that point. People have different perspectives and focus on different things. But in the interests of keeping this post brief I limited it to what I think was at least one major aspect of their lives.

I have set up a poll on the right margin. After you’ve voted if you are so inclined you can explain your vote in the comments. If you feel there are others greater than those I listed. Please feel free to mention them and tell me why you think so.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Digging the Hole Deeper

You know…. Sometimes it is just better to say nothing. The more explanations I read about why there has been reluctance to act on the part of the rabbinic establishment with respect to Tropper, the more skeptical I become.

Rabbi Dovid Ribiat has granted another interview to the 5 Towns Jewish Times where he further explains why the rabbinic establishment has been so reluctant to do or say anything.

The gist of his argument is that there is just not enough Halachic evidence to do or say anything. Rabbanim have a responsibility to follow the Halachic parameters of Jewish Jurisprudence and do their due diligence. This is what they are doing now. In the meantime they must allow things to go on as they are – as though Tropper were completely innocent of any wrong doing. And he adds:

We do recognize that Rabbi Tropper has also made positive contributions in the past.

In other words - let’s not forget that Al Capone was a Big Baal Tzedaka.

I’m sorry. It all sounds like one big tap dance at this point.

In the meantime Tropper remains in his position as the Rosh HaYeshiva of Kol Yaakov. He is teaching Baalei Teshuva how to be Jewish. They look up to him as a man of honor and integrity while the establishment is ‘being careful’.

Students best learn by example more than they do by word. By now I’m sure many if not most or - even all - of his students have heard the ‘rumors’. He has of course vehemently denied them privately. One of his former students that I am very close to asked his ‘Rebbe’ if the rumors were true. Can anyone guess what Tropper told him?

Perhaps they are buying it now. But it is only a matter of time before this man will be fully exposed for the fraud he is. What will that do to his ‘students’? What message will they learn from the experience? How many will become jaded by it, turn around to mock him, and thereby the Torah he claimed to be following?

‘Why’ …they will ask, ‘were we not warned about this man sooner?’ Why was he allowed to teach us holiness when he was the opposite of holy by his actions?’ Why was there silence?’

This is not due diligence. This is dragging their feet. At the very least they should have privately and publicly asked Tropper to take a leave of absence from Kol Yaakov until this issue is resolved. Even if Tropper declined to do that. At least they would have been on record as doing… something. They would have at least publicly expressed their concern about a man whose character is being challenged by strong evidence of conduct unbecoming of a Rosh HaYeshiva.

Instead there is silence and excuses. Which is why I continue to have a problem with the rabbinic establishment.

Rabbi Ribiat’s explanations does not really address the problem at all It in fact just raises the greater issue of the lack of leadership. All he ends up doing explaining away their behavior.

The evidentiary questions that are holding back condemnation didn’t seem to bother Rav Sternbuch or Rav Dunner. They quickly and without hesitation condemned Tropper and explained why they believed him to be guilty. Is he saying the rabbinic establishment in Monsey or New York is more careful in deliberating this issue than Rav Sternbuch or Rav Dunner? That his ‘Gedolim’ are more concerned with the Halachic aspects than Rav Sternbuch and Rav Dunner?

It is one thing to say that we - the common clay of the earth (otherwise known as Am Haratzim) - are unqualified to make these judgments. That we should not judge the rabbinic establishment unfavorably. They are Daas Torah. We are not. They know the Halachic issues and act accordingly. We do not.

Rabbi Ribiat can say that about us. But by implication - isn’t he then saying the same thing about Rabbis Sternbuch and Dunner? I guess so.

I didn’t know Rav Sternbuch was such an Am Ha’artez. Nor did I know Rav Dunner was. Good to know. I’ll make a note of that for future use. Thank you Rabbi Ribiat!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rabba Hurwitz?

Rabba? What’s next? Rava? This is really getting ridiculous.

Rabbi Avi Weiss has ordained the first female Orthodox rabbi. Her name is Sara Hurwitz.

We can discuss whether what he did was appropriate and what the impact is on overall Orthodoxy. There is debate about whether that is a good idea or a bad one. One can discuss the legitimacy of ordaining women.

As I have said in the past I do not see anything Halachicly wrong with it since today’s version of Semicha has absolutely no basis in Halacha.

It is just recognition that one has studied and mastered certain sections of the Shuchan Aruch, knows how to learn Gemarah, has successfully studied it along with Rishonim and Poskim for many years, has exemplary Midos, and will faithfully promote and beautify the ideals of Torah.

Passing tests to that effect grants one permission to serve as a rabbi in any Orthodox community.

As I have said before - I am nevertheless opposed it for various reasons. I’m not going to rehash them all here. Suffice it to say that I do not believe it is normative Judaism even if it is technically not against Halacha.

But like it or not the fact is that Rabbi Weiss has by his own admission conferred Semicha upon Ms. Hurwitz. That makes her a rabbi. Not a Maharat. Not a Rabba. But a Rabbi. An Orthodox one. It is insulting to call her anything else and I challenge him to rectify that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Multiple Choice Quiz

Can anyone identify who made the following comment?

Because the Jewish people remain witnesses to God’s presence and to divine revelation at Sinai, Hitler knew that to destroy God and God’s moral law, he needed to murder the Jewish people first. This is an enormously significant theological statement, acknowledging that Jews and Judaism continue to play an essential role in the unfolding of God’s plan for humanity.

Let me help with a list of possible candidates:

A) Ghandi
B) Abraham Foxman
C) Pope Benedict
D) Rabbi Marvin Hier
E) Rabbi Elya Ber Wachtfogel
F) President Barack Obama

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Analysis of my Latest Poll

The poll to the right closed yesterday. I have analyzed the results on my primary blog Emes Ve-Emunah where it will get more attention because I think the results of this poll are important. I am reposting it here for convenience.

There were 129 respondents to to a poll asking what issues are the most important ones affecting Orthodox Judaism in our day.
First the standard disclaimer: This poll was not scientific. I realize that it is not necessarily representative of all of Orthodox Jewry. For one thing the number of respondents is less than a tenth of my readership. And my readership is heavily weighted toward right wing modern Orthodox and moderate Charedim (as per my last poll results). Nonetheless I somehow think that it more or less reflects Orthodox thinking - even if not in the exact proportion that the poll indicated. Here are the categories - in alphabetical order - and the breakdown:

Agunos 0%

Cheating the government 9%

Kids at risk 6%

Poverty 10%

Sex abuse 10%

Shiduchim 1%

The slide to the right 26%

Tuitions 36%
Here is my homegrown analysis.
Considering the fact that every other category has either devastating effects on the family or is responsible for major Chilul HaShem, it was a bit surprising that tuition costs were the number one concern. 36% of those who responded indicated that tuition is the biggest problem facing Orthodoxy in our day.
I suppose that most people realize that most of the other problems on the list are more devastating to those individuals personally affected by them. But I guess when you get hit in the pocket book that is what you feel the most. I also realize that tuition obligations are back breaking to most families. Very few of us pay full tuition. And tuition costs hit everyone (i.e. - those with children). That is perhaps why this category received the greatest number of votes.
$100,000 sounds like a pretty good income. But is it? A typical family like that with say 5 children at a cost of $10,000 (minimally) per child will have a tuition bill $50,000. How many people even make $100, 000 per year? And yet - is it even a consideration that such a family pay half of their pre-tax income for tuition? Of course it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean they don’t pay anything. Families like these are asked to pay as much of that $50,000 as they can. That means sacrificing a lot.
Most families make less than six figure incomes and more than a few have more than 5 children. They are squeezed the most. I guess I shouldn’t wonder why parents seem to be focusing on this issue. Financial pressures can break down a family. Squeezing parents like this does not help.

To the average tuition paying parent this is what is what seems to be on their daily plate. How are they going to be able to afford to pay tuition? How will they be able to live a half way decent middle class lifestyle without maximizing debt – even at $100,000 per year?And yet from the school’s perspective – how can they ask for less? The teachers deserve to be paid. By not maximizing tuition schools run the risk of falling short in their payroll - especially in this economy where fund raising efforts are being negatively affected.
Of course I have been through all this before. The cost of Jewish education is definitely a major issue for our time - a fact that I have never disputed. And one that seems to defy solution. It’s just that some of these other problems seem to be a so much more serious in the over-all scheme of things.
Is not sex abuse a bigger issue?
Or the poverty that is rampant in the more Charedi sectors – especially among the Avreichim in Israel?

What about Shiduchim? How many young women – and even some young men - are there that are single and desperately trying to get married and getting older with every passing moment? That population seems to be growing by leaps and bounds in all segments of Orthodoxy.
What about the slide to the right? Doesn’t that affect us all? Taken to its logical conclusion, doesn’t living in a world full of isolationism, ignorance, and Chumra scare anyone? On the other hand this category got the second highest number of votes at 26%. But that is still a full 10 points lower than the concern over the cost of Jewish education.

What about the rampant disregard for the laws of the land that result in cheating the government? Is the huge Chilul HaShem resulting form that a cause for great concern? Does that not increase anti-Semitism in the world? That affects all of us.
What about Agunos? OK, I realize that as a percentage of the population they are very small. But what does it matter how small the numbers are when it God forbid happens to you? Can anyone imagine what it is like to be an Agunah? Never being able to marry again? This category received no votes at all!
Last but obviously not least what about the Kids at risk phenomenon? This category does not have small numbers. I’m sure that everyone knows at least one family that has a child who is at risk of going off the Derech – or worse. The numbers are so huge that they have evolved into an entire community of their own. One that some experts say is here to stay. Is that not a bigger problem for Orthodoxy than tuition costs.

Please do not misunderstand. The high cost of Jewish education is definitely an important issuee. One which I have addressed many times in the past. But I just didn’t realize it was the number one item on most people’s minds. I guess I was wrong.

I guess the question now is - what do we do about it?
Notice: I will shortly (hopefully) have a new poll up.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Murder Ain't Beanbag

Post of the Day

The story is unbelievable. Mercy is being asked by activists. They want the governor to commute his sentence. According to this report this man is truly remorseful and has done Teshuva. He is currently as observant as possible under his imprisonment conditions.

While I’m sure he is sincere, he did brutally murder someone. And although he was under the influence of drugs at the time - murder ain’t beanbag (to paraphrase Congressman Tip O’Neil of the Reagan era).

He has also asked for a Kosher burial after his execution now scheduled for February 16th. I don’t think that should be a problem. What a sad sad story!

From VIN:

Florida - On January 12, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed a death warrant for Martin Grossman, convicted of murdering a Pinellas County wildlife officer in 1984. Grossman was 19 years old when he and a friend went to a wooded area in Pinellas County, Florida to shoot a stolen handgun.

Grossman, who was on probation for burglary when the event occurred, pleaded with Florida Wildlife Officer Margaret Park not to report the incident as both possession of the weapon and being outside of Pasco Country, were violations of his parole agreement. When Park attempted to radio for help, Grossman struck her, while his accomplice beat Park. Grossman, who was high on drugs when the incident occurred, wrestled Park’s gun away from her and shot her in the back of the head.

Activists, who argue that while Grossman is guilty of murder, he never should have been found guilty of murder one or placed on death row, are gearing up to ask Governor Crist to commute Grossman’s death sentence. Grossman is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on February 16th at 6 PM.

VIN News has learned that Grossman, who practices Judaism as much as possible in the Florida prison, has requested a proper Jewish burial.

Rabbi Menachem Katz of The Aleph Institute, an organization that provides for the needs of Jewish inmates and their families told VIN News that there is a strong case to be made for commuting Grossman’s death sentence. According to Rabbi Katz, not only was this not a premeditated murder, but Grossman was high on numerous drugs at the time of the crime, had a very difficult upbringing which affected him psychologically and is not the same person he was 25 years ago.

Rabbi Katz, who visited Grossman last week on death watch and received special permission from the warden to allow Grossman to put on Tefillin, says that Grossman “has changed a great deal and is highly remorseful.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Suicide Bomber or Orthodx Jew?

This is from Ha'aretz. But it has been widely reported. Should one put on Teffilin in a plane if that is the only time he will be able to do it that day? One young Orthodox passenger thought it was OK and did. What happened to him? Read on.

A U.S. Airways passenger plane was diverted to Philadelphia on Thursday after a religious item worn by a Jewish passenger was mistaken as a bomb, Philadelphia police said.

A passenger was alarmed by the phylacteries, religious items which observant Jews strap around their arms and heads as part of morning prayers, on the flight from New York's La Guardia airport heading to Louisville.

"Someone on the plane construed it as some kind of device," said officer Christine O'Brien, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia police department.

No one was arrested or charged, O'Brien said.

The plane landed without incident and the passengers and crew were taken off the plane, a spokesman for U.S. Airways said.

Phylacteries, called tefillin in Hebrew, are two small black boxes with black straps attached to them. Observant Jewish men are required to place one box on their head and tie the other one on their arm each weekday morning.

Thursday's incident was the latest of several false alarms on U.S. flights since the Dec. 25 incident in which a Nigerian man attempted to detonate a bomb in his underpants from materials he smuggled onto the plane just as his flight was about to land in Detroit, authorities said.

The device did not explode and only burned the man, who was pounced on by fellow passengers. Since then several flights have been diverted by security scares that have turned out to be harmless.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rules of the Road

This little gem was written by a Baal Teshuva. But these are words of wisdom most everyone should hear. From Beyond BT it is my 'post of the day'.

1. Listen to the wise advice of Pirkei Avos. Make yourself a rabbi and acquire yourself a friend. It’s essential to have a reachable rabbi who has a good brain, a good heart, a sense of humor and lots of practical good sense. It’s also important to have an understanding and patient friend whom you can cry on, vent on and kvetch on.

2. Don’t be like the guy who’s always changing the hands on his wristwatch whenever he spots a different time on someone else’s. Maybe, just maybe, the other guy is wrong! And that’s even if the other guy is an FFB going back to the Vilna Gaon. That’s why you need the reachable rabbi and the patient friend mentioned in #1.

3. Having too much money will never be a problem again.

4. Having too much leisure time will also never be a problem again.

5. Angels are perfect. Human beings, even if they wear black hats or sheitels, are not.

6. It is the most wonderful experience in the world to be a grandparent to frum from birth grandchildren. Unfortunately, you first have to pass through a stage known as Being a Parent. Being a parent to frum children is a three-way race to see what you lose first: all your sanity, all your money, or all your hair.

7. Parts of New York are their own planet.

8. Do one tremendous awesome Yom Kippur to atone for all of those sins in your previous non-frum existence. From then on, take it one year at a time.

9. Learn to read Hebrew. You don’t need to actually speak it, unless you’re planning on moving to Israel. You do, however, need to learn frummisher sprach (all of those Yiddish-Yinglish-whatever slangy expressions which are sprinkled through FFB speech). “Our b’chor won Chosson Bereishis on Simchas Torah at his Yeshiva Gedola by pledging to learn two thousand blatt.” “Bli ayin harah, my machatenesta is in remission from yenem’s machalah.” “The rav’s aynekel’s bris was on Shabbos Chol Hamoed, so they invited the entire kehillah to a fleishige seudah in the shul sukkah.” English, of course, right? But would anyone not part of our culture understand what you were trying to say?

10. Reach out beyond your reachable rabbi and your patient friend to a support group, like the people right here at Beyond BT dot com.

11. Distinguish between those family members who are supportive and those who are toxic. Spend quality time with those who are supportive and caring. Send Rosh Hashanah cards once a year to those who are not.

12. Gehinnom was created on Erev Shabbos. That’s why Fridays are frantic and stress-filled no matter whether sunset is four-thirty or eight-thirty.

13. Bosses are generally more willing to let you leave early on Friday if you work late on Thursday. The problem is, that’s also when you have to shop and cook for Shabbos. So say goodbye to any chance of getting to sleep at a decent hour Thursday nights.

14. If you have two cents the kids’ yeshivos will take it. See Number Three above.

15. Find a spouse who’s in it for the long haul.

16. Pray to G-d a lot.

I’m sure my fellow BT’s out there will have their own tips, strategies and survival secrets to pass along to new BT’s (hopefully without scaring them off).

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Kind of Orthodox Jew Are You?

I have just concluded a poll on this blog that asked what the Hashkafa of my readers are. It is not a scientific poll. Far from it. For one thing not everyone who reads this blog participated. There were only 112 respondents. I have thousands of readers on my primary blog Emes Ve-Emunah on a regular basis. But I still think that the results are probably fairly accurate. They more or less matched my expectations.

In the categories I listed here is the breakdown:

Chasidic: 4%
Right Wing Charedi: 2%
Moderate Charedi: 26%
Right Wing Modern Orthodox: 31%
Left Wing Modern Orthodox: 23%
Lubavitch: 6%
Orthoprax: 5%

Here is my very unscientific analysis.

Most of my readership is drawn from those who generally agree with me and are closest to my Hashkafa. I am basically a Right Wing Orthodox Jew (with an asterisk – in some things I might be in the moderate Charedi camp and in others I may be in the LWMO camp).

At 31% - it is the largest percentage and seems to be drawn from this group.

At 26%- Moderate Charedim are a close second which to me indicates that they pretty much tend to like what I write and identify with many (but not all) of my positions. In conversations with moderate Charedim who have mentioned that they read my blog - this is what they say.

I would also note that the close numbers between RWMO and moderate Charedim supports my theory that our values and views are similar. That – in turn - supports my theory that these two groups are well suited for the integration that is going on. The two categories combine form a majorty of the posters who responded

At 23% - I was a bit surprised that LWMO had such high numbers. I guess there are many from that demographic that identify with my views on the Issues. That is an encouraging sign. That said, it is also very possible that my readership does not support me at all and just reads my blog to see my views – agree or not.

At 4% - I was a surprised at the low numbers of Chasidim. I guess my strong criticisms of Chasidim like Satmar and Toldos Ahron in Meah Sheraim and Chasidic Rebbes like the Spinka Rebbe pushed many of them away.

At 2% - I was not at all surprised by the low numbers of RW Charedim. They are understandably turned off by my questioning their hard core values

Lubavitch obviously has a problem with me. I have been very critical of them and continue to be. Boyotting me is therefore not al that surprising. On the other had – at 6% they were the largest of thsoe who only garnered single digits.

Orthoprax Jews got 5% of the vote. I suppose that these observant skeptics do not consider my views about the Torah to be Emes. They probably see them as being more about Emunah. But at the same time they must also see that I do not question the sincerity of their doubt. And do not dismiss them as just a bunch of Kofrim.

So, I am a bit surprised at just how their proportion is here.

Those are some of my observations. YMMV (Your mileage may vary). I fully accept that these numbers may in fact not be accurate and that my analysis may be off.

Update: (1/19/10 - 10:27am CST): A new poll is up.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Michael Medved's Kiddush HaShem

The Tonight Show and the personalities surrounding it have been in the news a lot lately. NBC has become an object of ridicule of late because of all the controversy about the hosts and the changing time slots . But here is an inspiring story involving that show that happened many years ago. It was both materially rewarding, a Kiddush HaShem, and a tribute to Michael Medved.

Hat tip: Saul Z. Neuman

When The Tonight Show invited the Sabbath-observant Medved to discuss his awful movies, he had to beg off because it was scheduled for the night of the second Passover Seder. The producer suggested an alternate date, but that date was on the last days of Passover, which also precluded participation. At this point, the disbelieving producer said that there would be no more alternative dates.

Desperate, Medved read the producer the biblical passage forbidding work at the end of Passover, and the producer relented. Medved's eventual appearance was viewed by another producer, of Sneak Previews, who offered Medved a spot on the show. Of course, the episode on which Medved appeared was the only time that year the Sneak Previews producer had watched The Tonight Show, making this the 20th-century equivalent of a Hasidic tale, where strict observance begets material success.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Setting the Record Straight

Post of the Day

Occasionally I will be putting up what I believe is the best or most interesting post I have seen while perusing some of the blogs I regularly read. Today is one of those days.

The post of the day is the Shannon Orand story on Failed Messiah. Here is it is in her own words:

I was married to Charles Brady Orand. Brady had several affairs. I was very much a Christian. I believed if I prayed enough God would change him. That wasn’t going to happen.

My husband had wanted some sexual things that I wasn't comfortable with but did because they were important to him.

Brady was working in Ohio and coming home every other weekend. I decided to surprise him for Valentine’s one year and went up there and met all of his friends in a bar up there – a get-together party I went to.We fought while I was up there and we decided to get divorced.

When I got back I got calls from two women. They told me I’d done the right thing. Brady had been sleeping with both of them and neither knew about the other or that he was married. So I separated, took the kids and went to an apartment.

I had kind of left Christianity and was not doing much at all religiously…

There are rumors I had affairs. That’s not true … I started seeing a secular Israeli guy…very anti-religious, very against everything I now stand for.…He was also separated and going for a divorce.

He wanted to take me to Israel to meet all his friends over there.When I was in Tel Aviv I contacted my mother. She was very religious, very Christian, and she was complaining I was spending all my time in Tel Aviv partying, going to clubs and meeting his friends and family, and on the beach. You’re in Israel and you’re not going to see the places Jesus was? So I decided to spend one day in Jerusalem. When I came back I started going back to a messianic synagogue – I had been involved in the messianic movement but not so seriously – and at the same time I started studying all the counter-missionary stuff. And then I started my studies [for conversion to Orthodox Judaism]. That started my studies.

During the separation Brady molested my daughter. She was mine before I married him. She’s from my first marriage. My son is from my second marriage to Brady. She knew him as daddy. So when we were separated, that was her house, too, and she wanted to go back to visit and she wanted to see him. We had two kids – she didn’t know him as a stepdad.When she had weekends available, she would go visit just like my son would go visit, just like a normal visitation, even though she wasn’t his child.

She was ten. My son was five.One of the times, she came back, and nothing happened. But the next week – it was vacation, it was the 4th of July – she was supposed to go with him because I had to work and then go with my mother for the rest of the week, but she said no, I don’t want to go to daddy, I want to say here. We tried to talk her into it. She got very upset and said she can’t go. She pulled my niece aside and said you’ve got to help me. You’ve got to tell grandma not to let me go to daddy’s.

The next day my mother called me and said we have to talk. The reason my daughter didn’t want to go is because on the last visit he got into bed with her and messed with her. He fingered her and he hurt her. She said, “Daddy you’re hurting me,” but he wouldn’t stop.

My son and my daughter were in bed together when Brady abused my daughter. My daughter got away from him by asking to use the bathroom, and she tried to stay in the bathroom for a long time hoping he would fall asleep. But then she went back in the bed. We asked her why and she said, “Because my brother was there, I didn’t want him to hurt him. He was going to hurt my brother.” Brady was charged. We prepared for the trial. The prosecution had the doctor’s report of my daughter’s medical examination. It showed the physical damage. The first day of the trial he decided to take the plea bargain, which was ten years probation. So he didn’t have to serve time.

I was abused as a kid. I was so young, it wasn’t as if I was being violated – it was all that I knew. My daughter was old enough to know she was being violated. It started when I was three and I didn’t know anything was wrong until I was nine years old and there was a McGruff the Crime Dog program at school telling kids what’s wrong and what’s right. If anyone does this to you you go to an adult. That was the first time I knew anything was wrong and I right away said someone does that to me! A much older step-brother, my mother’s husband’s son.

My abuse was long-term. My daughter’s was one time, maybe. I thought maybe she wouldn’t suffer so much, but she did. She suffered terribly.She chose to go to an all girls school just to avoid being around boys. She used to put up booby traps in her room when she’d sleep so no one could get in. She’s been affected very, very much.It was a long divorce. He told friends that it wasn’t true, that he didn’t abuse my daughter, and that that this was all about me wanting to get half of the house. So I ended up dropping everything and signing the divorce papers right away and left with nothing and threw all of my focus into my daughter’s case. And then we went to the criminal trial.He pled guilty in 2007. I agreed to the plea bargain that was in print. There were special restrictions for sex offenders. One of those was that he could not have any access to children under the age of eighteen.

While they were in front of the judge, his attorney said he wanted to add a line on there: “With the exception of my son, if the family court permits.” So he hand-wrote that on there.

The judge looked at that and said, that’s for the family courts to decide, and okayed it, not knowing there was already a standing court order – which was a divorce – which was a standard custody just like any other father gets, full access to my son.

So the DA took me out and said this was approved, this was put in there, you go to a family court right away and get this changed, so he can’t have access to your son. And that’s what I did.

He fought it and said he wants standard visitation. I wanted to leave Houston and get as far away from him as I can so he couldn’t have access to my son. My attorney said you’re going to have to take this to trial, and the trial is going to cost you at least $20,000. I went to friends. I went to advocacy organizations. I tried to find someone to take the case pro bono. She tried to bide time while I tried to come up with the $20,000. It wasn’t working and we had a deadline.

She said: Either you come up with the money for the trial or we have to withdraw the case – and then it reverts back to the family court order and he gets full access to your son. And that is when I approached Rabbi Tropper, who was overseeing my conversion. He had access to money. He’s an organization and he had access to Tom Kaplan. He was a rabbi. I ended up crying to him about everything. I even told him about my husband's sexual demands. Tropper offered to help me. That was May 2009.

He created a job for me with EJF. He brought me to Monsey to meet everybody in the office, to have meetings with Rabbi Jacobs and Rabbi Medows about how I could help. I was going to raise money and I was going to run programs in Houston. That was June. He started pressuring me.The video was the first recording I did. It was in Monsey on that trip. That’s when I bought the camera. I didn’t have time to set it up. The date’s wrong on the video. When I saw it I said, oh, that’s wrong.

He wanted to get me together with his wife. He said he wouldn’t touch me. I didn’t know if she was going to do it. He asked what it would take to get me together with his wife. I said it made me very uncomfortable. I tried to get out of it a little bit and Tropper could tell I was uncomfortable. He said: Maybe if I wasn’t there you’d be more comfortable. Then I talked to Leba and found out she’d never really been with a woman. She’d just been making up stories to please Tropper. They were just lies. She’s very submissive. She’s a victim in all this. So I told Tropper I’d be much more comfortable if he wasn’t there, and if it would be an ‘encounter’ we’d tell him about later. Tropper wanted to be there for the last five minutes. He still said he wasn’t going to touch me but I wasn’t so sure, so I went out and bought the camera. Leba and I didn’t do anything. We just rehearsed our story, the story we would tell Tropper. When he called to say he was coming we got undressed and waited.

I knew someone who was well-connected in Israel with the rabbis. The tapes were supposed to go to leading rabbis and everything was supposed to be handled internally. And it was working. Rabbi Amar broke with EJF and the European rabbis publicly condemned EJF.

But someone leaked the tapes.I didn’t know my name was on one until you told me on the phone. It was horrible. The trial was supposed to conclude Monday. My daughter was supposed to testify in the morning and then the verdict would have been that afternoon. When we got to court my ex-husband’s attorney had copies of the New York Post article. Because it said the money Tropper was giving me was for legal fees, it was admissible. My ex-husband’s attorney had been terrible throughout the trial. We’d been living as frum Jews for years, and his attorney used that against us. He played up Orthodoxy as some kind of religious cult. He made Modern Orthodoxy seem like hasidim. He also kept saying it was only one time, and that’s horrific to me, because how many times is okay for a father to rape a ten year old girl?

There was child porn. I found a lot of it [before the molestation]. He came up with excuses why it was there I fell for.My attorney pulled me aside and said I’d have to explain the article on the stand. I said, “No, I can’t. This is a different case. It’s not relevant. It has nothing to do with my children. Somehow you’ve got to get it out of there.” But she said, no, it’s totally relevant. In there it says the money you received went to the attorneys. My attorneys had been in touch with Tropper all the time. Tropper is a control freak. He had constant contact with them wanting to know what was going on, and he was sending the checks. And they knew all the money was coming from him. And that put us in a tough spot, because we’d have to say the money came from him.

This would have extended the trial, and I was already $10,000 negative – the money Tropper wasn’t going to give me. She said, “Gosh, you can’t afford this, another week or two or three at $2,000 per day for me to represent you. The audios are going to have to come out.”She said, “Your only choice is to settle. You’re going to have to allow visitation.”I’m looking at a picture of me and Tropper being distributed all over the courthouse. I panicked and I freaked. To me, settlement was the only option we had. There’s no way I could get on the stand and go through all this stuff. I didn’t know until the Friday you called me that my name was connected to it.

They wanted regular visits with his wife as supervisor. I said no way. She’s never going to tell if something is wrong and she has to sleep sometime. She can’t stay awake for seventy-two hours three days straight. My son and my daughter were in the bed together when he abused her, and he had a girlfriend in the house. So just because she’s there it’s not going to protect my kid. So then it was, he can have visitation but no overnight visits. That’s what it ended up being. He can have them for the three days and his wife is the supervisor but he can’t keep them overnight.“It was horrible watching my daughter fall apart like that. She’s just now getting better.”