Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Orthodox Jewish Drunk Drivers

Wow! Finally some sanity on a serious issue - the irresponsible consumption of alcohol by religious Jewish young people.

This is of course not the first time Rabbanim have spoken out on this issue. But for every Rav that speaks out about it, it seems that there is another that does not consider it a real problem - and even encourages drinking at Simchos... or on Purim ...or on Simchas Torah.

There was a serious and outspoken criticism of this probem by at least one Rav (and from his words - I assume he is Charedi) It was becuase of an incident that occurred in New York. A 19 year old teenager who learns in a prominent Yeshiva was caught by the police driving while intoxicated. This happened in Flatbush - a very Orthodox section of Brooklyn. Flatbush is where Yeshivas Chaim Berlin is located. (I don't know if this is the 'prominent Yeshiva' this young man attends. I mention it by way of identifying one such Yeshiva that is located there.)

In any case here is a post from YWN in its entirety! It is one post on YWN with which I completely agree:

A Yeshiva Bochur returning from his friends Chasunah was arrested for DWI, Tuesday night.

According to our sources, the boy was stopped by officers from the NYPD in the Flatbush area, after displaying signs of being intoxicated. The 19-year-old Bochur, who is a student at a prominent Yeshiva was taken into custody, and will now need to face the consequences of his irresponsible, and potentially deadly actions.

Thankfully, he did not hurt or kill anyone – including himself – while at the wheel.

YWN spoke with a leading Rov on Wednesday morning to hear his thoughts on this story.
“It’s time people dig their heads out of the sand, and deal with this issue head-on”, he said.
“This story should be a wake-up call for Klal Yisroel, and no I don’t mean to discuss it at an Agudah Convention. I mean to DEAL WITH THE ISSUE, and once and for all eradicate this plague of Yeshiva Bochrim drinking at weddings, vorts, shabbos meals etc.”

He added that “Klal Yisroel should give Shevah V’hodaah to the Robono Shel Olam that this Bochur ended up in police car, rather than in an emergency room or worse, Chas Veshalom”.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Good Old Days

Why can't we go back to the good old days... when Gedolim and their families looked normal - like this photo of Rav Ovaidia Yosef and his family when they were all relatively young?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The Genius of Rabbi Berel Wein

I wish I had said this.

Well... actually I have. Many times. His words follow:

I think that one of the more difficult situations that exists in the Jewish world of today, especially, in my humble opinion, in the Diaspora, is the widening disconnect between the vast bulk of the population and the rabbinic leadership.

While there are many rabbinic pronouncements on the minutiae of Jewish law, customs and observance there is very little that is said and heard about the major problems that face the Jewish world – the security of the Jewish state, the dire financial situation that threatens the entire system of Jewish education, the astounding rate of poverty and unemployment (voluntary and involuntary) in religious Jewish society, children at risk because of one-size-fits-all educational institutions, growing rates of divorce and family dysfunction, an unhealthy and misogynic system of dating and marriage, growing anti-Semitism and a seemingly unstoppable rate of assimilation, secularization and intermarriage that guarantees a shrinking Jewish population in a few generations.

Rather than address these terribly difficult issues, Jewish leadership is engaged in fighting over – again - the battles that destroyed the Jewish world of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whether we like it or not, whether it is theologically acceptable to us or not, the State of Israel is a reality where six million Jews live. The predictions by many Jewish leaders made in the 1950s that the state would not survive for twenty, thirty or fifty years have all proven to have been incorrect.

We have no choice but to support the state with all of our might, prayers, talents and resources. So why don’t we hear that call from our leadership, whether it be from any grouping of the Jewish people? The disconnect from reality is truly astounding!

The tuition rates for attending Jewish schools are rapidly reaching the breaking point. A small percentage of parents – those who pay full or almost full tuition at schools – are subsidizing the rest of the parent body who cannot afford the astronomical amounts that are termed full tuition. But that group of people – those who can and do pay full tuition – is a rapidly diminishing breed. Instead of addressing this problem – the true time bomb that threatens the future of Torah education – we spread our wealth so thin that we are unable to help the situation.

It may be important to help a father of a daughter to raise many thousands of dollars to buy an apartment for her and her prospective husband in Israel but it certainly is more important to provide for Jewish education to one’s own children and for one’s own community. This is part of the current disconnect – the inability to view the forest and remain fixated on the trees or even the bushes.

The fact that there is an enormous proliferation of small yeshivot, all of which are basically similar in curriculum, method and purpose is not only very inefficient and enormously costly but it has yet to prove that its educational accomplishments and scholarship are in any way superior to a large institution that would prove much less costly per student to maintain. Part of the problem is that there is such a surplus of kollel “graduates” who have no other employment potential except for yeshiva teaching so that somehow there have to be many such institutions simply to absorb some of this surplus of talent and scholarship. This is also part of the disconnect that exists in our world.

Having just recently completed the production of a documentary film about the Jewish world of the 1930’s, I am very concerned about the similarities of the anti-Semitic mood of the present decade to that past decade. It is much more insidious today because this anti-Semitism is encased in the pious cloak of anti-Israel rhetoric and policy. And unfortunately there are many Jews who are themselves entrapped in this self-destructive dance. And many of these Jews live in Israel!

But again all voices against this threat are muted and very little leadership is exhibited to address the problem. This is not merely a matter for the Anti-Defamation League to fight. We are all in a precarious and vulnerable position. Our leadership should warn us about this situation.

Again, silence is a great example of the disconnect that afflicts us. We should demand more from those that claim the ability and knowledge to lead us. Connection to the true large problems that face us is and should be a basic requirement of leadership and serious opinion.

Shabat shalom.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Great Orthodox Comeback

The following article by Lawrence Grossman in 'Jewish Ideas Daily' makes some profound observations in my view.

The resurgence of Orthodoxy may be the most profound, and is certainly the most surprising, transformation of Judaism in the past 60 years. Even more surprising, the most energetic part of it is not "modern" Orthodoxy but a culturally insular Orthodoxy—made up of Hasidic courts, men educated exclusively in Talmud, and a culture suspicious or even dismissive of secular society. This is the Haredi world.

The growing importance of the Haredim is especially evident in Israel, where Haredi political clout shapes public policy and antagonizes the less Orthodox. Even in America, where one form of Judaism cannot dictate to another, the Orthodox upsurge is palpable and has political implications: Orthodox Jews vote Republican even more overwhelmingly than other Jews vote Democratic.

At the end of World War II, no one would have predicted this. The Nazis had destroyed Eastern Europe's great centers of Orthodox culture. Moreover, Orthodoxy had been in decline for more than a century. In central Europe, it fell victim to emancipation, acculturation, and emergent Reform Judaism. In Russia, beginning in the 19th century, many children of the Orthodox defected to socialism and secular Zionism while others emigrated, often abandoning religion altogether.

So, how to explain the Orthodox comeback?

The Orthodox themselves give a two-fold answer. They believe that Orthodoxy is the only sustainable Judaism because it is the only "true" Judaism; and, because they believe it, they work to make it true. Scholars who prefer more impersonal explanations see the Orthodox resurgence as part of the broader erosion of Western liberalism and strengthening of religious fundamentalism: Haredim are, mutatis mutandis, the Jewish equivalents of Islamists and Christian Evangelicals.

Perhaps both explanations are wrong, or at least incomplete. Although "great man" theories of history are out of fashion, Benjamin Brown of the Hebrew University contends that a single man played a strategic, perhaps dispositive role in Orthodoxy's rise. His case is impressive.

This single man is Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (1878–1953), known as the Hazon Ish (hazon means vision; ish means man and is the Hebrew acronym for the rabbi's first and middle names). Brown's new book about him, written in Hebrew with a five-page English abstract, is The Hazon Ish: Halakhist, Believer, and Leader of the Haredi Revolution. Based on Brown's doctoral dissertation, the book is massive, learned, and comprehensive. Brown is equally at home in the complex halakhic issues that the Hazon Ish addressed and the works of general legal philosophy and jurisprudence that provide context for them. Admiring his subject without necessarily sharing his views, Brown avoids the hagiography of much of the earlier literature on the Hazon Ish and presents an objective assessment of the man. It is not too much to say that this biography marks a new era of critical scholarship in the history of 20th-century Orthodoxy.

Karelitz was the home-schooled son of a small-town Lithuanian rabbi. Withdrawn and single-mindedly devoted to rabbinic scholarship, the young man was married off to an older woman who ran a store while he spent all his waking hours in study. The marriage was unhappy and childless. Until he was 55, Karelitz lived in Vilna. He published four books there but held no rabbinic office and remained out of the public eye. Much of what we know about his Vilna years comes from the great Yiddish writer Chaim Grade, who studied privately with him for several years and fictionalized him as Rabbi Yeshayahu Kossover in his masterful novel The Yeshiva.

Karelitz arrived in Israel in 1933 and began attracting attention with his steady stream of publications, including innovative responses to practical questions: Should Jews in East Asia take into account the International Date Line when observing the Jewish calendar? May Jews sell their Palestinian land holdings to Gentiles for the sabbatical year, thus exempting them from the biblical injunction that they lie fallow? How should we calculate the amounts of substances used for ritual purposes, such as wine for kiddush and matzah at the Passover seder?

After World War II, the Hazon Ish came to be acknowledged as the Gadol Hador—the great man of the generation, the pre-eminent authority on halakhah. The once-retiring Hazon Ish also took upon himself the religio-political leadership of non-Zionist Orthodoxy in Palestine, later Israel. This status was confirmed by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion himself, who, in an event that became legendary among the Haredim, visited the home of the Hazon Ish in 1952 hoping to formulate a modus vivendi between the traditional Orthodox community and the secular Zionist state.

While no actual modus vivendi emerged from that encounter, the Hazon Ish developed a communal strategy that was adopted by mainstream Haredi Jewry: neither to accede to Zionist nationalism nor, like Neturei Karta, to fight it actively. The Hazon Ish accepted the legitimacy of the state of Israel and directed his efforts toward what Brown calls "spiritual fortification": building a strictly Orthodox subculture within the state through a network of yeshivas and kollels. Brown believes that if Haredi Jews had not followed this "middle path," they would not be in the strong position they hold today.

Before his death, the Hazon Ish fought and won critical political battles to exempt yeshiva students from the army and to keep strictly Orthodox girls from any form of national service. Yet these very successes lead Brown to end his book on a doubtful note. The Hazon Ish crafted a strategy meant to provide an independent social space for Haredim within Israel, yet today it increasingly entangles them in Israeli secular life. When he called for army exemptions for the 400 yeshiva students in 1949, did he dream that the number would multiply to 62,500 by 2010, triggering intense resentment among their fellow citizens? Would he have been satisfied to see that many of the Orthodox women he tried to protect from the secular world have become deeply involved in this world to support their husbands learning Talmud full-time?

Perhaps the Haredi case is one more example of a recurring phenomenon, the revolution so successful that it betrays its architect.

Lawrence Grossman is the director of publications at the American Jewish Committee.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Think Again: Mayor Abutbul – say no to extremism

The following article by Jonathan Rosenblum appeared the September 9th edition of the Jeruslaem Post. With the exception of one gratuitous slam against the secular media - calling it anti Charedi - it is a home run!

Mutuality is not just a basic moral intuition; it is a fundamental principle of the Torah

In September 1998, a two-room school opened up in Tzoran – a residential community of 1,500 young families, nestled among the agricultural settlements east of Netanya – for 25 six- and seven-year-olds. When they arrived in school that first day, the children were confronted by a chanting mob of 60 adults, some of whom had tied attack dogs to the school gates. Despite the heat, the principal had no choice but to close the windows, as curses and stones rained down on the school.

The same scene was repeated every morning for the first few months of the school’s existence, and the premises were defaced and repeatedly vandalized over the course of the year. The demonstrators’ purpose was to terrorize little children by forcing them to run a daily gauntlet of verbal abuse and physical menace.

The confrontation in Tzoran was not widely reported in the Israeli press, certainly not compared to the efforts by a group of religious extremists to prevent the opening of a national religious girls’ school in Beit Shemesh last week on a plot long designated for the school and lying adjacent to both haredi and national religious neighborhoods.

But Tzoran has a lot to do with why I am so strongly opposed to the vandalism, taunts and threats used to prevent the Beit Shemesh girls’ school from opening. The small school in Tzoran, you see, was haredi-run, and I wrote in these pages at the time strongly condemning the demonstrators there.Mutual respect for the rights of others is the necessary basis for any democratic society. Mutuality is not just a basic moral intuition; it is a fundamental principle of the Torah. Hillel taught: That which is hateful to you do not do to others. One cannot with consistency condemn the demonstrators in Tzoran and turn a blind eye to the extremists in Beit Shemesh.

BUT I have an even more fundamental objection to these extremists: They distort the Torah and make it something ugly. They would exercise a territorial imperative – that we establish the rules wherever we live and adjacent thereto – that is more in tune with Islam. Islam is a religion of conquest, which divides the world into territory it has conquered, or dar al- Islam – in which Shari’a, Islamic law, must be imposed – and territory not yet conquered.Judaism, by contrast, was never a religion of conquest outside of Eretz Yisrael, and Jews have never viewed territorial conquest as the primary sign of Divine favor. More fundamentally, Jewish law recognizes the legitimacy of parallel legal systems, as expressed in the famous Talmud statement “dina d’malchuta dina” – the civil law of the country is the law.

Last week, I found myself praying Minha in Kiryat Sanz in Netanya, prior to spending a few hours at the separate beach across the road. Kiryat Sanz is a largely self-contained neighborhood of Klausenberger Hassidim, though the late Klausenberger Rebbe insisted from the beginning that there be a Sephardi community within it. Laniado Hospital, which the rebbe built, lies at the edge of the neighborhood.While in Kiryat Sanz, I noticed one or two women in decidedly non-hassidic dress walking through the neighborhood. No one paid them any attention.Just to make sure that my powers of observation were not waning, I called a doctor friend who lives there, and he told me a story of rabbi who once spent his summer vacation in the neighborhood.

After a week, he complained to the Klausenberger Rebbe, of blessed memory, that he was shocked by the presence of immodestly dressed women there.The rebbe replied, “That’s amazing. I’ve been here over 10 years, and I never saw anything like that.”My friend then told me another story that captures the ahavat Yisrael – the love for one’s fellow Jew – that the Rebbe made the animating value of his community, along with devotion to Torah study.

Once, the rebbe heard that some hassidim had shouted, “Shabbes!” at seaside bathers. He ordered them to cease and desist forever.“Nobody ever came closer to Torah because someone shouted at them,” he said. “Open your windows and sing Shabbos zemiros [songs] at the top of your lungs. That might have a positive effect.”How do I know that the relations between Kiryat Sanz and secular residents of Netanya are normative Torah behavior, and threats by a handful of newly arrived, self-proclaimed “zealots” in Beit Shemesh to their national religious neighbors that they’d better remove their TVs or else, are not? Because the Klausenberger Rebbe was a universally recognized giant of Torah scholarship, while the “zealots” listen to no rabbinic authority.

Rabbi Aharon Feldman, today the head of Ner Israel Yeshiva in Baltimore, once told me how, 30 years ago, he and a group of some of Jerusalem’s most distinguished younger talmidei hachamim tried to convince a group of kids throwing stones on the Ramot Road on Shabbat to stop. The kids just laughed at them.And my conclusion is confirmed by the dozens of places around the country where haredim live harmoniously with secular neighbors – in mixed cities like Petah Tikva, in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood with its large group of Stoliner Hassidim, or Arad with its large population of Gerrer Hassidim.Unfortunately harmony never garners media attention, perhaps because it does not further anti-haredi propaganda.

JEWS, UNLIKE Muslims, have a millennia-long history of living as a despised minority. Minority status has imbued us with some prudential values. Satmar Hassidim in Williamsburg, for instance, do not post dress code advisories in the elevators of buildings they share with Puerto Ricans.Despite its rapid growth – or perhaps because of it – the haredi population in Israel today is highly vulnerable.Secular Israelis fear haredi domination, just as many of those of native European stock fear the loss of their cultural patrimony to rapidly growing Muslim populations. And fear triggers backlashes.

That has certainly happened in Europe in response to the growing number of Muslim neighborhoods that are “no-go” zones for the police, the assaults and worse on European women who do not conform to Muslim dress codes, and the retention of Islamic customs, like honor killings, even when they contravene the criminal law. The leaders of Germany, France and Britain have all declared multiculturalism a failure. Anti-immigration parties are ascendant, and a number of countries have enacted restrictions on Muslim dress. Some observers warn that the blood of native European and Muslim immigrant combatants will flow in Europe’s streets.

Haredim in Israel cannot afford such a backlash.And nothing will do more to trigger one than assertions of territorial sovereignty by those who profess to believe that we are still living in galut (exile).

Contrary to what the protesters on Rothschild Boulevard may think, for instance, the haredi community suffers from a critical housing shortage.Haredim will have to move, many to mostly secular cities (which I view as largely positive development for a number of reasons). But many mayors have actively fought to prevent haredim from moving to their cities, in part motivated by fears that once haredim become a critical mass, they will demand that streets be closed on Shabbat and the like.

EVEN THE danger they represent to the larger haredi public is not, however, the greatest threat posed by the small group of “zealots.” I spoke last week to one of the veteran leaders of the Eda Haredit and a resident of Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood for more than 70 years, Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim. Ironically this outspoken opponent of violence was one of the prime movers behind the move of thousands of former Mea She’arim residents to Beit Shemesh, among them the group of “zealots” in question. “I envisioned them teaching Torah to their neighbors,” Rabbi Pappenheim told me.

In the course of the conversation, he shared the view of his teacher Rabbi Tzvi Yosef Dushinsky, the late chief rabbi of the Eda, that the coming of the Messiah only requires some spiritual arousal from below, not that every Jew first become Torah observant.

The latter is God’s business, not ours, and will only happen after the Messiah’s arrival, Rabbi Dushinsky taught.Anyone who makes the Torah ugly in the eyes of the broader public, in that view, is doing nothing less than stymieing the redemptive process itself.

I DON’T expect the “zealots” to be convinced by anything I write. They don’t listen to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv; why would they listen to me? But I do expect the haredi mayor of Beit Shemesh to take a strong stand that violence will not be allowed to establish facts on the grounds and that all the city’s residents will be treated fairly and equally. Doing so will constitute a powerful statement that the haredi public understands the requirement of mutual respect and tolerance in a diverse society, and allow us to maintain the moral upper hand when we demand fair treatment in places like Tzoran.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shmuley Does it Again!

No matter how much I see support of Israel and the Jewish people by Evangelical Christians, I am wowed every time I read about it. It seems like it's increasing exponentially every day. Shumley Boteach's report from CUFI is nothing short of amazing! As an important aside - it is also interesting to note how this avowed (but rejected) Lubavitcher seems to disavow in clear and unambiguous terms the idea that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is or ever will be Moshiach:

We can never accept the Messiahship of any personality, however noble or well-intended, who died without ushering in the age of physical redemption.

That was from a later portion of that article that was no excerpted. The following is what I DID excerpt. From today's Hufffington Post:

The Christians United for Israel dinner in Washington, DC was an experience I won't quickly forget. Until you sit in a room with five thousand Christian lovers of Israel and absorb their enthusiasm for the Jewish state and the Jewish people you would be hard pressed to think it possible. But there I was, surrounded by Christians from all over the nation waving Israeli and American flags, pledging eternal love and support to the most vilified country on earth.

The speeches came fast and furious. The statements bold and unapologetic. Israel must never trade land for peace. Every attempt to do so has led to terror bases for Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel is one of the freest and most democratic nations on earth. President Obama better stop pressuring Israel or pay for it at the polls. Iran is an existential threat to both Israel and the United States. Those who treat the Jews poorly are abandoned by G-d, as history has shown time and again. The American University campus has become a hub of anti-Israel hatred. We're deploying our legions to fight it.

Sheesh. I could scarcely sit down. Nearly every line deserved an ovation.

The crowd was anything but monolithic. The head of CUFI's campus operations is a young African-American student who pledged his life to fighting for Israel. Shades of all colors were to be found in the audience with a smattering of yarmulkes dotting the landscape as well. Glenn Beck, the keynote speaker, is a Mormon even though the vast majority of participants were evangelical Christians who are often suspicious of Mormonism.

An orthodox Rabbi gave the opening benediction. My friend Dennis Prager addressed the crowd the night before the banquet, and my friend Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, gave a moving historical account of Christians over the last century who were moved to support Israel based on Biblical teaching.

Israeli music filled the room, sung by Christians from Texas whom I could swear sounded indistinguishable from musical acts from Tel Aviv. "I am an Israeli," declared CUFI founder Pastor John Hagee, swearing to forever defend Israel against attack at the risk of life and limb. "It's not only the support we offer Israel," said Beck, "that matters. The reason for doing so is also important. We can't do this because we think it will bring final salvation or for any other reason.

Rather, it's about love. Why did Ruth declare to Naomi, "Where you go I'll go. You're G-d is my G-d. Where you die I'll die, and there I'll be buried. Because she loved her. This has to be about love." His words directly addressed the discomfort some Jews feel with Christian support for Israel as being based on end-of-days prophecy and a necessary precursor for the return of Christ.

I sat there thinking, if only the Jewish community could offer such unequivocal support for Israel...

Evangelical Christians have emerged as Israel's most stalwart backers. They have been at the forefront of calling out President Obama for his pressure on Israel to make concessions while requiring little if anything of the Palestinians. While many Jews made peace with President Obama's reference to Israel's 1967 borders, evangelicals have refused to give an inch.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lawlessness and Disorder

What do you get when there are so many people saying that their values supersede the values of the nation? You get lawlessness.

There is so much anti government or anti police feeling among various opposing factions in Israel that even if they are at each other’s throats, they will stand as one when it comes to calling the police thugs, Nazis, …what have you.

Charedim and Religious Zionist extremists can’t be farther apart ideologically. But when it comes to the police - they are all on the same page. That’s why there were 2 lawless protests when two religious Zionist rabbis were questioned by police. There are no 2 ideologies further apart than the Eida HaCharedis and Religious Zionism. But the Eida jumped at the opportunity to join forces with the them so they could protest the government.

The end product of this kind of disdain for the government is lawlessness and vigilantism by ideologues.

The government is ignored because they know popular support is waning. Especially when mainstream respected personalities join in the severe criticism against them. The following story from Ynet is just the latest example of that:

Who is trying to hurt Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch? The Western Wall rabbi received a personal bodyguard several weeks ago after getting telephone threats and being harassed on a regular basis for the past few months.

In the past month, unknown assailants threw stones at the rabbi's car. Luckily, he wasn't hurt. In a separate incident, the car's tires were slashed.

"There are radical groups of settlers and haredim which are trying to hurt the rabbi," says a source involved in the affair. "They opposed his activity at Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's tomb on Mount Meron, when he tried to find a solution for the control struggles around the complex, and the
renovation of Joseph's Tomb by Arabs, which the rabbi was responsible for.

"Settlers have been making statements against the rabbi, like 'If you harm the Land of Israel – you'll be harmed."

In the past, the rabbi was attacked by an angry mob, members of the extreme Eda Haredit faction, while leaving the home of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.

The Prime Minister's Office, which the Western Wall rabbi is subject to, is funding Rabinovitch's security expenses following the police's evaluation of the situation.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shmuley - in the Jewish Journal

The growing anti-Semitic images and caricatures associated with the attempt to ban circumcision in San Francisco are disturbing. These include the highly inflammatory “Foreskin Man” comic, depicting a superhero saving innocent boys from evil circumcisers, which the Jerusalem Post reported to have been produced by Matthew Hess, “one of the central backers of the anti-circumcision measures.”

Indeed, the attempt to ban circumcision in San Francisco smacks of a nefarious campaign on the part of the ban’s organizers to portray circumcision as genital mutilation that gives the lie that Judaism and Jewish practice would ever harm a child. I debated Lloyd Schofield, the main man behind the ban, on CNN. I later respectfully asked him to debate me in public where we would have more time and, after he penned a friendly email which curiously implied that there is not much difference between our two positions, he suddenly declined.

But if the case against circumcision is so clear-cut, and it is a grievous assault on a harmless infant, then why decline the debate? Perhaps it is because the organizers know that in any debate their attempt to correlate the excising of the male foreskin with the removal of the female clitoris – a point they have repeatedly made – will be shown up to be a malicious and absurd lie. Female circumcision is all about removing a woman’s ability to have pleasure during sexual relations and is a barbarous act of mutilation that has no corollary to its male counterpart.

In my book Kosher Sex I demonstrated conclusively that Judaism celebrates the sexual, intimate, and erotic bond between husband and wife and the attempts to malign circumcision as a method of denying a man’s sexual pleasure are ignorant and biased.

San Francisco is supposed to be the city of live-and-let-live even as it now betrays a curious attachment to the male foreskin, with its ludicrous attempt to punish its large Jewish community with a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail for simply honoring the oldest of all Jewish practices and rituals.

When I lived in Western Europe for 11 years it was common to hear attacks on circumcision and shechita coming together, as if there was some correlation between the humane slaughtering of an animal with the cutting of a child’s foreskin. Sweden has a reputation of being a pretty laid-back nation but it stiffens in the face of circumcision.

In 2001 when it enacted a draconian law requiring a medical doctor or an anesthesia nurse to accompany a registered circumciser and for an anesthetic to be applied to a baby beforehand. Swedish Jews and Muslim banded together to object and the World Jewish Congress condemned the law as “the first legal restriction on Jewish religious practice in Europe since the Nazi era.”

All this, of course, belies the medical facts. Circumcision has been proven as the second most effective means – after a condom – to stop the transmission of HIV-AIDS, with the British Medical Journal reporting that circumcised men are 8 times less likely to contract the infection. Circumcision removes Langerhans cells in the foreskin with special receptors that may grant the virus access into the body.

Circumcision also significantly reduces the transmission of other STD’s like genital herpes and syphilis and also reduces the risk of urinary-tract infection, and me who are circumcised have 100 percent immunity from contracting penile cancer.

Male circumcision is much healthier for women, significantly reducing the risk of cervical cancer by at least twenty percent according to an article in the British Medical Journal in April 2002. Cancer of the cervix in women is due to the Human Papilloma Virus which can thrive under and on the foreskin from where it can be transmitted during intercourse.

So why the effort to ban circumcision? Simple. Radical secularists for whom Judaism is a target of choice wish to portray religion as so barbarous that it excises any pleasure in sex, reducing copulation to a cold and sterile act of baby-making.

The lie that religion frowns on sexual pleasure is widespread. In fact, deeply fulfilling, ecstatic, and climactic sex is a must in Jewish law which makes it a sin for a man to have sex with his wife without pleasuring her first. Judaism insists that sex be accompanied by exhilaration and pleasure as a bonding experience that leads to emotional connection and intimacy.

Indeed, we Jews could teach even the highly sexually adventurous people of the Golden Gate City a thing or two about great sex, the proof of which is that we alone, among all the nations of the world, are still here after thousands of years, due to the fact that our circumcised ancestors were pretty good at doing it.

Had Messrs. Schofield and Hess canvassed Jewish husbands and wives before they got the attempted circumcision ban on the ballot, they would have discovered that we Jews are doing just fine in the sexual department and could really do without their bothersome assault on our ancient rituals and the privacy of our sexual connection.

Circumcised Jewish men are great lovers and I would strongly advise Schofield and Hess to keep their nose in their own business and maybe even read my other two books The Kosher Sutra and Kosher Adultery to receive some great Jewish advice for take-me-to-the-moon-and-back sex which might rescue them from their own repression that necessitates their peering into other people’s bedrooms.

Monday, May 30, 2011

As I Was Saying…

From Ha'aretz:

Police are reluctant to enter the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She'arim because of residents' violence, a police spokesman said during a recent court hearing over the remand of a neighborhood resident.

A police official said in court Thursday that the reason the police had not arrested a wanted man for more than a month, despite knowing where in Mea She'arim he was, was that every time they go into the neighborhood police property is damaged and they do not want unnecessary confrontations.

Police issued an arrest warrant on April 13 for Shalom Baruch Roset, who is accused of assault, property damage and making threats.

The official said police have "often tried to detain suspects for questioning" who belong to the same group as Roset, with the result that "we were attacked and the station chief sustained a head injury as a result of a stone thrown at him."

He added that efforts to send police patrols into the neighborhood have "failed."
Roset was arrested last week, an hour after arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport, where he was planning to catch a flight to England. Police asked for Roset to be held in custody for six days.

Roset, 54, is considered to be one of the leaders of a radical Neturei Karta faction in Mea She'arim known by some as the Sicarii, after the Jewish zealots who fought the Romans in Jerusalem around the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

Roset's group has a running dispute with the Gur Hasidim, who they say are trying to push them out of the "Warsaw homes," 150 19th-century homes in the neighborhood that are designated for Jews from Poland.

Roset was arrested over what police said was a leading role in an April 13 fight that has come to be known as the Warsaw Homes Pogrom, in which a group of Hasidim broke into a home, destroyed the kitchen, poured kerosene on a 1-year-old girl and tried to light the home on fire.

Several violent altercations followed the incident.

I recently wrote a post on my main blog expressing my view that certain types of Chasidim are virtually consumed with violence and that they will often use fire in service to that end. After reading this news report - need I say more?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thank You Mr. President

I would like to thank the President of the United States for his statements last week with respect to Israel. He is truly a friend in ways he could not possibly have imagined. And he probably didn't imagine them when he made those statements.

Last week he said what had never been said before by an American President: Israel must move back to the pre 67 lines. (He added that land swaps would accommodate border settlements built during the period between then and now).

I had written this off as meaningless rhetoric that added nothing new to the conversation. He suggested offering Palestinians something that has already offered to Palestinians by Israel itself almost 10 years ago. But it was the first time the words '67 lines' were said.

That has opened a firestorm of support for Israel (mostly from the President's political and ideological opponents) the likes of which I haven't seen since... well 1967. (See for example here.) But never in such a unified and singular fashion coming fast and furious. It actually makes me 'Kvell' with pride in my countryman. And for the first time in a long time the critics included some media pundits who are usually on the other side of the issue.

I loved it. If only it can be sustained.

This is not to say that the President didn't have his supporters. He did. Nor am I even critical of the support he's getting. Like I said, he hadn't really added anything that wasn't there in theory already. But still... support of this magnitude is very hard to come by.

In any case - thank you Mr. President.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Thin Jew Line

OK. I'll add my blog to the 5 million Jewish blogs that have already featured this very funny bit on the Daily Show. Watch it and laugh.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bethooven's 7th Symphony - 2nd Movement

Why Beethoven is the greatest composer who ever lived:

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Friend From Antwerp

There was a comment on Matzav that said that the real purpose of a visit if some Roshei Yeshiva to a West Virginia prison was not primarily for the stated reason of giving encouragement to Jewish prisoners. The commenter said that It was reported in a Yiddish language newspaper that it was to deliver a personal letter from the head of the Eida HaCharedis, Rav Tuvia Weiss. Here is the comment in it's entirety:

According to Die Tzitung this visit was specifically for R. Yisroel Moshe Weingarten and a letter of support was delivered from Rav Tuvia Weiss, GAVAD of the Eida Charedis in Yerushalayim. They printed the letter in which R. Weiss spoke fondly of RYMW as his friend from Antwerp.

If this is true, it is one of the most disgusting things I can ever imagine about a religious leader of Rav Weiss's stature. Yisroel Weingarten, a Satmar Chasid, was convicted in an Amercian court of law of raping his daughter for years! She is no longer religious and will likely suffer from this trauma for the rest of her life! Mr. Weingarten is serving a 30 year prison term for his offense.

I don't see how a rabbinic leader from any segment of Judaism would ever want to comfort a piece of human slime like this! The only rationale I can possibly conceive of is that Rav Weiss has decided to believe the father who has denied this accusation form the very beginning and continues to do so. He claims his daughter has been lying about this from the very beginning. Perhaps Rav Weiss feels that the daughter - who is no longer religious cannot be believed over the father - who is religious. In other words she has no Ne'emanus and since he is Frum he has a Chezkas Kashrus and therefore Ne'emanus.

Talk about burying your head in the sand! Has anyone read the victim impact statement to Rav Weiss - or to any of those Rabbanim who visited Weingarten in prison? Or the fact that there had been some knowledge about the sex abuse in the past - where apparently nothing was done? I can't believe the extent of denial, that goes on in these circles!