So the year 12 Results are out

As expected, there is the usual back slapping and congratulating students on their results. I understand that. A year or so ago we had Yesodei HaTorah listing the names of the Yeshivas their students were admitted to  (not that I know any of them) and then a nondescript line about their results void of statistics. Not exactly “Torah Im Derech Eretz”, but some modern Litvak way of saying what’s important and what is not.

As usual, the Jewish News were more interested in the advertising dollar, and simply published the carefully crafted statistics each school put out.

It’s a pity the Jewish News couldn’t give guidelines as to which bands and statistics were to be supplied. Even things like Class sizes are never mentioned, making it nigh on impossible to make one to one comparisons for those who like to do so.

I don’t know what sorts of projects our “Roof Bodies” do, but one which I think I’d like to see each year is the “6 years hence” statistics. Each Orthodox Shule, or Reform/Conservative Temple, or Shira Chadasha? would have a record of marriages. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see under each School’s name, the percentage of those who are known to be married within the faith? I’d be fascinated.

Imagine getting 50 for text and tradition and then marrying out. Would today’s parent accept that? No names, of course, but the trends would also become visible and we would see for the first? time what it means to be a JEWISH School and pay the fees. Yes, I know the home is critical, but the home has assigned the school this aspect in the main.

Are we impressed that someone gets 50 for Ivrit or Yiddish and marries out?

Yes, marrying out is the end game. Schools are halachically the agents of parents for these critical years. The students need to build an identity that can confidently answer and resist the many isms, they will confront in life.

We correctly pull up a School if they have been involved in something not right. Let’s see our “Roof Bodies” … the great unelected, hire demographers to follow these statistics.

Yes, I am aware that an argument can be put forward that some students in some schools are not technically Jewish in the first place. Let’s see if they marry such untechnically Jews later as well. Those are the statistics I’d like to see.

Can Chabad do ANYTHING right?

[I didn’t want to write on this topic as it’s too depressing and generates spite and heat. That’s not my intention. I won’t publish comments unless they are sufficiently motivated by language that is positive and helpful. I’m not writing to create a huge argument. Like all my posts, I just write what’s on my mind at some time]

There has been a lot of press and talk about the happenings (hopefully soon in the past) of a lack of requisite and proper immediate action in respect of cases of sexual abuse which occurred over time, some years ago. People certainly made horrid mistakes: sometimes it was out of sheer unbelievable ignorance about the ways of the world (sheltered lives void of Western Morals, which are Halachically mandated in such cases according to the Ramban as a Torah command?), and other times it was a clumsy or “too clever” misguided attempt to cover up, in the hope that it will “just go away”. Neither reason is an excuse or acceptable. Unfortunately, victims often take years to tell their stories. That’s apparently a known side-effect and a sad one as it means things are dealt with years later. Pedophiles spread their sick urges like uncontrollable vermin, wherever you place them. I do not know if they can be cured. This is not my area. Nor do I know the confidence intervals of such “cures”. I’m not sure if anyone knows.

Certainly, those who are and have been friends with a victim, and are able to express social compassion and support, outside of any governance structures, should continue to do so or see if they can commence doing so. [For my part, I spent many hours helping to out  a shocking, perhaps the worst, pedophile (and those in the know, are well aware), and I really didn’t and don’t know victims on any personal let alone social level.] I hope there are many people of their age group, peers and friends, and I hope those people make an extra point engaging them, as I’m confident that can only contribute to them feeling less ostracised.

Those who were part of the YBR governance structure and knew of wrong doings, ought to move out of any governance role in any and all committee or decision-making roles. How long do they stay out of such positions or roles? I do not know. I expect it depends on the person and any metamorphosis they may undergo due to education and sincere Tshuva and Kapporo (accepted atonement).  I’m not sure they have to be banished to a pseudo city of refuge, but they do need to undertake continuing education and deep introspection and I would go as far as suggesting they undertake voluntary pastoral roles where appropriate counselling and helping general victims (they don’t have to be Jewish) or if they are Jewish, we know that there were victims from a number of Schools in Melbourne that they can try to show they have acquired the requisite understanding and skills to empathise and support such people cope with living. Ultimately, I mean a pastoral role. Most victims will, I suspect, require psychological and/or psychiatric assistance to get them through the damage they experienced. I’d avoid counsellors. There are a myriad ways anyone can become a counsellor (you can even take a quick course for $900) and these courses lack scientific rigour or a proper roof body that can punish people for ethical breaches. There are many shonks out there.

That the Jewish News focusses negatively almost solely on Chabad is not surprising. Their approach has long been considered  (on unrelated happenings) as anti-Orthodox and they have no qualms using a JEWISH News to advertise anti-Jewish practice. When Judaism morphs to solely Zionism, or some other single mode of expression more akin to culture, then the Jewish News will be part culpable for the alarming assimilation rate. In the USA it is, I believe 70% assimilation. Think about it. It’s an epic disaster

Today, Love conquers all. “What can I do?” you hear the mother or Booba saying … When a boy brings home someone from another religion in a relationship, it no longer has stigma because “what can I do“. Once upon a time a kid knew they couldn’t do this and this actually prevented the mountain of growth of questionable conversions for a relationship. Once upon a time the boy was not permitted to come to the front door with that intention and was told by his parents to “fly a kite”. People were even afraid to consider assimilation because it meant saying goodbye to family. Yes, there is more to it, especially the new religions of egalitarianism, equality, “tikkun olam” and social justice and that’s that. Ironically, many who do convert sincerely, can’t get their husbands to go along with them. A house of holes and hypocrisy is born, and children who see this are statistically known to be more likely to intermarry or become fundamentalist.

When a girl is allowed to bring home a boy from another religion, then it’s “not so bad” (at least, the kids they might have are Jewish so all is “good”) although you won’t hear the champions of egalitarian approaches complaining about that. Matrilineal descent is fine, its only been Halacha for thousands of years. Reform recognise patrilineal descent, and we know that they are now forced to move more and more to tradition in order to proffer some Tachlis to their communities (who intermarry more than any; patrilineal descent has not helped at all). It is a plain fact that most households assume that to compromise for “family unity” is the answer. “What can I do?” is the refrain. What they are doing, is setting up a framework for Judaism to die in the ensuing generations just so they can eat a Seder together or Latkes on Chanuka and in some cases delude themselves that their grandchildren are Jewish. They don’t see that far ahead. Why? That’s a complex answer and another post. As to Yohr Tzeit and Yizkor? The next generation seems to take the money and run.

So how does Chabad fall into this discussion?  I sense a reaction to the debacle of the pedophile issue, which also seeks to minimise all the good that Chabad has done and continues to do in preserving Jewish identity, by sparingly reporting positively on their work (save the usual pictures of an event). Chabad literally built Judaism in Melbourne. They are ubiquitous. They are unceasing in their efforts, non judgemental with irreligious people, but won’t leave you alone. They are nudniks when it comes to Jewish observance. They want you to connect to your roots so you can light up the world. That’s their way. You can’t change it, and there is no point even wanting or trying to change that approach.

I’m not a Chabad (or any) Chassid (I don’t fit) and am wary of any underlying philosophy proclaiming that there is only one way, but I am also loathe to support an undercurrent of “anti” Chabad to persist, even after they (hopefully) sort out their issues, and yes, it’s taking way too long because of a void in leadership.

Chabad don’t in general join other Rabbinic Organisations; Melbourne was exceptional because that’s just about all there was,  so perhaps we’ve reached a point where they aren’t worried they don’t dominate these and don’t care if they resign. Those Rabbinic Organisations however are a reflection of what we are. The best they seem to be able to do is issue statements. Contrast this to the RCA and OU where education is at the forefront even though statements are made. Don’t even mention the Council of Orthodox Synagogues of Victoria, apart from the Eruv. That organisation is also crying out for new authentic leadership.

Where is the weekly lesson from the members of these  Rabbinic organisations? Why aren’t sermons and shiurim podcasted later or published? Much more can be done.

I detect, with few exceptions, that Jewish Education, and here I mean the type which doesn’t just seek to indoctrinate, but simply learn for learning’s sake so that people can see the incredible beauty of the written and oral law and the commentaries surrounding these, has fallen by the wayside. It is the essence of Judaism, not the Kreplach, Choolent, Gefilte Fish and Chicken Soup.

I’d like a dollar for every Bar Mitzvah boy’s speech which isn’t about sport. Judaism just seems to have disappeared (together with the Rabbis who used to be at these events, and the Kosher Food that was a must at any Jewish Simcha … and yes, there are Jewish Simchas hosted by the very wealthy which are simply Trayf … uber fancy cuisine or the use of custom herds comes before heritage and tradition: great-grandparents turn in their graves).

Today, we see new ways (mostly copied) to draw people into a Shule, through some type of “program” which includes kids and food. For the older generation, it’s enough to offer whisky and herring and they flock. This is all fine. If, however, it doesn’t lead to further involvement, sans these ingredients, it has a limited shelf life and a shallow precarious continuation. Torah Education must be the cornerstone.

Many Rabbis, non Chabad and some Chabad, simply don’t engage their congregational youth in a serious study of Torah. Some can’t relate to the kids because they haven’t lived in a Western world or understand it. They need to. The Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Soloveitchik certainly understood the need to understand the Western worlds they lived in and studied in University. It’s not just about classes for a bride before she gets married.

Kids break their heads so that they can get an Aliya on their Bar Mitzvah and learn Haftora like a parrot. Would it not be better to have a policy in a Shule, in fact all Orthodox shules, that they only need to get an Aliyah without Haftorah, but should attend a weekly one hour shiur with the Rabbi (or some proper assistant) for a year to augment what they may (or may not study at School). Parents should be encouraged to attend too. This should also be provided to Bat Mitzvah girls (who I understand in many cases already have privately done such things) but they too should have a year-long initiation to Jewish Orthodox Learning, which after all, is the basis for everything and represents the true tradition from Moses to this day. The other flavours are western influenced portable religions that don’t survive the test of time. The USA experience has taught us that.

Chabad has done and continues to do much good. The Jewish News (and some blogs, and I honestly haven’t read these blogs, nor seek Facebook posts on the topic because I get too upset with the often generated unnecessary, anonymous and ad hominem attacks) really should also undergo a Bar Mitzvah for their staff journalists. I challenge them to have a weekly column which describes something a Chabadnik has done to touch and ignite Jewish souls in our community. There is plenty of material. Is it not newsworthy? It’s at least as newsworthy as pictures at a cultural event. Alternatively, let a capable Chabadnik give a weekly Shiur to journalists of the Jewish News?

My own feeling is that most want Chabad to get its house in order and continue the overwhelming good that they achieved. If they have papers like the Jewish News (and various web sites, and of course the left-wing Jewish Friendly “the Age”) seeking to minimise their enormous contribution to the community over decades, they will still survive, whether they are part of a Rabbinic Board or not. They will still have a profound positive effect. But, and I caution this most seriously: they must remove the stains, and embrace the reforms that are necessary, as we’ve seen across the spectrum of various Jewish and non-Jewish communities, and recognise that protection of children and education of educators and staff, are simply not negotiable and must be taken as seriously, if not more, than an infraction of eating Ham. If they do that effectively, and manage to sideline those who should have known better, and seek to re-engage (not just for PR) with victims (not all will want or be able to) of the past, then they will effectively continue their efforts to bring the redemption earlier. Jewish studies teachers without degrees should at least undertake correspondence courses in formal Education if they can’t/won’t attend University personally. I don’t see why it’s different to Kashrus, where Kosher Australia sponsored staff to undertake a Food Science degree at RMIT.

My own view is that they need to import a very talented, world standard, and worldly, Chabad Rabbi to re-invigorate and re-align the institutions. Yes, it will cost, but in the long run, it’s either that, or they will wallow in mediocrity.

If they do not do this, and continue to over argue little points that really should not be on the table, and keep faceless people and rampant nepotism, they will remain in this state of constant flux.

Chabad have done too much for Australia to stay in such a continued state of harmful flux, and I dare say, that some of the victims may actually agree with me. There were some aspects of their education and certain educators that left them with positive outcomes (at least I hope so! … their friends and family will know).

Here is something [Hat tip NB] just written by a Conservative rabbi (I don’t know the source)

Last Sunday night I checked the annual Chabad Kinus Sheluchim off of my bucket list – the annual gathering of Chabad emissaries from around the world. Over 4,500 rabbis from 90 countries convening for what is considered to be the largest such annual gathering of Jews in North America. Seventy-five years since the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of blessed memory, arrived in America from war-torn Europe, Chabad is the fastest growing Jewish religious movement of our time. From Bangkok to Kenya, UCLA to Middlebury, Chabad houses, schools and mitzva tanks abound in numbers and vitality. The big announcement of the dinner was the appointment of Mendel and Mussie Alperowitz to Sioux Falls, South Dakota – a placement that secures a full-time Chabad presence in every single state.

As a Conservative rabbi I sat there marveling at the wonder that is Chabad. Not just its meteoric growth and ubiquitous presence, or its impassioned focus on the Rebbe.

Chabad’s secret sauce is personal relationships – on a street corner, a heimischy Friday night campus meal, or a one-on-one study session in a downtown office. The mission of a Chabad rabbi or rebbetzin is to draw out the pintele yid – the divine spark embedded in each and every Jew. What became clear to me last Sunday night is that the institution Chabad cares most about is not 770 Eastern Parkway or any campus Chabad; rather it is the institution of each and every unique Jewish soul yearning for expression.

The target audience of Chabad and the Conservative Movement is one and the same, our tactics are just different. The recently published Hertog study on Chabad on Campus makes clear that Chabad’s impact is greatest for those raised in Conservative and Reform households.

On a certain level, it makes no sense. Why would a movement that overlooks the Enlightenment, promotes a non-egalitarian expression of Jewish practice, is positively parochial in its posture and small “c” conservative in its politics captivate a liberally minded and often disengaged American Jewry? And yet, as the Hertog study explains, it is precisely these elements that help explain Chabad’s appeal.

In a frenetically paced world of online and superficial connection, where all of us stand to be alienated from each other and ourselves, Chabad provides an intimacy that is a deeply valued commodity. The free food and drink on campus undoubtedly doesn’t hurt, but it is the prospect of a finding a personal connection, the belief that you matter to someone that speaks to the soul of American Jewry. One does not need to be a chabadnik or social scientist to understand the importance of cultivating individual relationships; that community building is a retail business, one person, one Shabbat table at a time.

And yet for all its successes, it is also by understanding Chabad’s limitations that one sheds light on the distinctive role of the Conservative Movement. The Hertog study documents that virtually no students affected positively by Chabad choose a Chabad lifestyle after college. Why? Because sensitive as Chabad may be to the soul of American Jewry, neither its theology nor its lifestyle reflect the hyphenated lives that American Jews actually lead. Chabad does not embrace the non-Jewish members of our Jewish families. Chabad does not seek to draw in Jews of patrilineal descent.

Chabad does not engage with all the counterclaims, intellectual and otherwise, that modernity brings.

Embracing as Chabad may be, it is not pluralistic.

These observations are not meant to be criticisms. They merely signal the need for a religious movement that can walk side-by-side with American Jewry throughout their Jewish journey; a religious movement both single-minded and open-minded in its efforts to draw out the pintele yid hidden within.

Conservative rabbis complain when their lay leaders provide financial support for Chabad when neither they, nor their children have any intention or desire to live a Chabad lifestyle. What we fail to see in our kvetching is that we ourselves have failed to provide a compelling alternative worthy of our leaders’ investment.

What if the Conservative Movement were able to adopt some of Chabad’s insights? What if we were able to corral an army of Jewish educators and set in motion home study sessions; for singles, young couples, empty nesters, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons or home-bound seniors? What if the Conservative Movement redoubled its outreach to interfaith couples, individuals exploring Judaism, considering conversion or maybe just trying to figure out how to get a foothold in the Jewish community? What if our community were able to rethink congregational education to include opportunities for families to learn with each other – building both Jewish literacy and community at the same time, one living room at a time? What if there were hours enough in a day that Conservative congregational rabbis could enter the offices, homes and lives of our congregants campaigning for nothing other than their Jewish souls? It would require a dramatic rethinking of how we conducted business and allocated resources.
But given the stakes – the infinite value of a Jewish soul – why wouldn’t we be filled with a mesirus nefesh, a missionary zeal for the Jewish future? The Jewish world would be strengthened by way of having parallel efforts working in concert with each other. As my Chabad friend said to me at the dinner the other night: “Elliot, you and I are traveling down the same highway, but our windows are rolled up.” Lets roll down the windows and work together, learn from each other, respect each other, celebrating each other’s achievements even as we recognize our differences. There is room enough for us all, more than enough lost sparks looking to light up the dark. Most of all, let’s recognize that we are all on the same team looking to build up the individual and collective soul of American Jewry.

The author is the senior rabbi of Park Avenue Synagogue, Manhattan.

Satmar in Melbourne. Is it different?

I’m accused by what I suspect to be elements of the Adass Israel Congregation of being “anti charedi”. Let’s be clear. The term “anti charedi” use used to maximise the impression of an irrational opposition to a specific approach to Judaism. It should be noted that Rav Kook זצ׳ל was definitely also Charedi. Whilst there is a common element encapsulated in the term Charedi, and that is something that sociologists observe, as well as halachists, the use of catch calls like “anti charedi” is creating a diversion from the specificity of philosophies and actions which occur among specific groups, that may be described as Charedi.

The Adass Israel community in Melbourne is unique,  I believe, in our current Jewish world. Borne by founders who may not recognise some of the direction that it has now taken, it represented a specific firm adherence to religious tenets and approaches that were brought from Europe to Melbourne. It was very common that the children of the founders of Adass, were encouraged to obtain secular education. If my memory serves me correctly, a number attended Prahran Technical School in order to obtain certifications required to make a living which didn’t require seeking handouts in order to survive. I see some  of those people, today, and  interact with them freely and in a friendly manner. They tend to understand the world and the different types of people comprising the world, not to mention the Chochma BaGoyim (the wisdom of a gentile population) as opportunities as opposed to hindrances to their development. Certainly, many of the original members were clean shaven (often with a moustache) and their children, often sport a neat beard, or no beard. Some have morphed into Litvaks. They do respect the Chassidic Adass community that eventually integrated into Adass, but they don’t necessarily share the more extreme range of views expressed by elements of that community. They generally, and sometimes diplomatically, keep their thoughts to themselves. For reasons of cohesiveness, and indeed economic survival, this may well be a necessarily formula, and a secret of success.

The relatively smaller size of the Melbourne Community, together with the economic reality of needing to live within such a community, means that Adass incorporates a cornucopia of different types. The reverence for Rav Beck is a hallmark and something to be admired. There have been a number of leaders ranging from the charismatic Rav Ashkenazi to the Genius Halachist Rav Betzalel Stern, the B’Tzel Hachochma.

Bearing this in mind, we read about different communities around the world where there is homogeneity. Especially in the USA, and to some extent the UK, particular Chassidic groups are grouped entirely amongst themselves. There will be a Satmar, Belz, Munkatcher, Vishnitzer, et al community. They will have their own organisations and pray in their own Shules and Shteiblach.

Melbourne is unique in that all these groups are housed and cooperate together, and the economic reality perhaps dictates that they must remain so, at least for the foreseeable future. It is true there has been one more radical breakaway (Divrei Emina). This may portend future developments, although I prefer an eschatological reality, where we are united in Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh, well before such events occur.

A number of my readers sent me the article where young groups of both Satmar Chassidim (there are two Rebbes who are brothers) were displaying acts of loathing and violence towards anything to do with the State of Israel. I had seen these and found them a repeat of many other regrettable approaches to education that are used to channel children into a line of thinking where the love of a fellow Jew, dissipates into a hate-filled, dark room of horror. On occasion when I’ve been at Adass, I’ve discretly listened in to lessons to young children and have been disturbed by the time spent on running down the “sinners” and effectively sending them to a fiery hell.

Would the acts reported in the electronic media happen in Melbourne? My answer is that while there may be small pockets of like-minded people, it is unlikely that the collective whole, which comprises Adass, would allow this to occur. Let us not forget that many are also reliant on business dealings with the very same people they consider beyond the pale. There is no doubt this is at least one reason why a documentary featuring especially chosen people from Adass featured on Melbourne Television. (I didn’t watch it; about the only television I watch is a St Kilda or Liverpool game or cricket). Economic reality is a potent force. In addition, Melbourne has been a veritable bastion of pro-Israel sentiment, especially due to the sadly dwindling, but once enormous group of charismatic and determined Holocaust survivors, many of whom sported long payos, and untouched beards before the war.

Adass, like any community, has its occasional crisis or issue. At the moment, there is a concern about the number of divorces and, to their credit, Adass have brought out two experts, to address issues related to this as a means to stem the tide. These experts would have been chosen in the context of meeting the specific environment that Adass couples live within.

If Adass were to splinter, and say, a Satmar group became self-sufficient and had its own organisations, I expect that the same sort of offensive behaviour we have seen splashed over web pages, of children throwing eggs and more, may indeed become part of the Melbourne landscape.

I think its in everyone’s interests that Adass stays together. One group has a grounding and moderating effect on the other; it’s like a semi-forced integration. The concept of being true to one’s ideals and yet be able to compromise on things that are not seriously important, is a plus.

I wouldn’t like to see Adass splinter. Indeed, I have the same view of the Chabad offshoot “Cheder Levi Yitzchok”. In my own dealings with a paraprofessional who helped me health wise when I sustained some serious ankle injury, I am amazed, that due to our respectful interaction, he now sees me as his “oracle” on matters Jewish. I will receive texts out of the blue asking me questions, and where I am able to answer without consulting expert Rabbi’s I do so. I am able to do so because I know him. I know his way of thinking, and I know his challenges. This comes through interaction. At the same time, I also know and recognise some of his qualities. Splintering means the side effect of cutting oneself off from the broader community. With apathy and assimilation from the children and grandchildren of challenged and sometimes disturbed holocaust survivors, it has been my view that one needs to find “kosher” ways of reaching out and incorporating people into Yahadus. I feel this is essentially the process of Teshuva, and indeed, the formula for Geulah. It is clearly stated in Shas and the Rambam. We can sit on our hands, and focus on Bein Odom Lamokom, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Aybishter is quite interested in our ability to relate to Chavero, their fellow Jew. We don’t know how to admonish, and in any case, admonishments have zero effect today.

The answer is not, of course, to make plasticine out of Judaism, and find academic loop holes, some of which are questionable, in order to make Judaism fit the modern world, the world of Science, the world of Philosophy, the world of Linguistics, etc none of which I see as a threat to my belief system and the practices that flow from it. Rather, the answer is to mould people,  and that can only done by engagement, interaction, and above all setting an example. That example has been damaged through the open world we live in, which is able to promulgate every act of every crooked religious person, and thereby lesson Kavod HaTorah. It is easy for the not yet committed Jew to feel let down by people they thought were respectable.

Especially in a world which looks at religion as the cause of all terror and misery, it is critical that we, as Jew, work in the opposite direction.

How many of us, will pass a Jew, let alone a gentile, and simply not say Good Morning? Why not? These small acts, have potentially great outcomes.

Leifer again, sigh

[Hat tip NB]

Adass Yisroel “unaware” of Leifer funding

by Henry Benjamin

A member of Melbourne’s Adass Yisroel community has told J-Wire that no-one is aware of anyone within the community funding Malka Leifer who lives in Israel but is wanted by authorities in Australia to face 74 charges of child sexual abuse.

The offences took place when Leifer was employed by the Adass Yisroel school as its principal . She fled Melbourne in 2008 when allegations were surfacing and has avoided extradition on ten occasions to Australia failing to appear in court on psychiatric grounds.

Melbourne’s “The Herald Sun” has reported that it “can reveal a bank account linked to Mrs Leifer is being topped up by Adass community members here”.

The report stated that “deposits are being made over the counter at a bank in Elsternwick”. Elsternwick borders the suburb of Ripponlea, home to the Adass community.

Leifer has been ordered to undergo psychiatric assessment in Israel…a process which could take up to ten years. The court has ordered assessments to be produced every six months.

Malka Leifer
Shlomo Abelesz, featured in the recent SBS documentary on Melbourne’s Adass community Untold Story – Strictly Jewish.

He told J-Wire: “No-one I have spoken to within Adass is aware of this and we are as shocked as the rest of the community. If someone is doing it privately, it is possible. We would be surprised if it is true.”

Ablest said that if it were true someone, somewhere “had broken privacy laws”. He added: “I haven’t heard of one person within Adass who has heard of this account. Mrs Leifer was not very popular. There would be very people who would be wanting to support her within Adass. The story sounds to me like fabrication and until I see proof of it I would say it’s a beat-up. Everyone is disgusted with her. No-one in any official position in Adass has ever heard of this account.”

It’s interesting to see secular privacy laws of the country allegedly being mentioned. Torah Law may say something else. Check with your own Rabbi.

Prayers for Malka Leifer

If you haven’t read ‘she’s free to go’ in Israel until she gets better.

I’m waiting for the Adass Israel community to call for a day of prayer, so that Leifer, accused of 72 accounts of pedophilia gets better sooner so that her continued existence in this sick mental state subsides and the daily profanation of God’s name doesn’t continue to recur.

Does anybody want to take betting odds that this prayer day won’t occur and that it didn’t occur on the last prayer-filled event last week at the Hungarian Ultra Orthodox Haredi establishment in Melbourne? 

I will bet her name wasn’t even mentioned in a prayer for a Refuah Shelema.

Let justice take its path.

If she God forbids, lures a victim, now that she is free to roam, I’d be applying to have her institutionalised in an asylum with appropriate mental care.

The Israeli court system is to blame for Malka Leifer?

Watch this. I do not understand how the Israeli secular court system has done anything wrong except uphold the law of Israel. In this case it has conflicting evidence of Leifer’s alleged mental condition and is now seeking a court-based independent assessment before extradition. Is that not proper? Will the psychiatrist be considered biased if he/she concludes that Leifer is some sort of unfit mental maniac?

Video below from the ABC. It took a long time till victims came forward, and it takes a long bow to allege that Israel is dragging its feet on this and to say so on television. The case is proceeding as it should, and my expectation is that she will be found to be fit and extradited for trial. If it wasn’t a  Jew who made this claim about the Israeli Court System, some might call the comments anti-semitic. There are processes, and they must be followed. Prime Ministers and Presidents are put in prison in Israel.

It takes time.

The law isn’t the fastest runner on the block and these are weighty issues.

People need to choose their words more carefully.

 

How many Jews in Melbourne hold these perverted views?

Does the Adass breakaway, “Divrei Emineh”?

Do Satmar and the Neturei Karta in Adass?

How many only disagree in as much as they shouldn’t be saying this (out loud), but actually subscribe to this discredited view of R’ Yoelish of Satmar? Emphasis is mine. Text is from my Mashgiach, Rav Rivlin שליט’’א

The Gemara in Ketubot (111a) derives from the triple mention of the pasuk, “I have bound you in oath, O daughters of Jerusalem” (Shir Hashirim), that Hashem bound Am Yisrael and the nations of the world with three oaths. The first oath is, “shelo yaalu bachoma,” that the Jews should not forcibly, “break through the wall,” and enter Eretz Yisrael. The second is that the Jews should not rebel against the nations. The third is that the nations of the world should not oppress Yisrael too much over the course of the exile. According to R. Zera, there are three additional oaths which relate to the ultimate redemption. The Gemara concludes with the threat that if Israel violates these oaths, their flesh will be made free like wild animals in the field, i.e., Hashem would bring upon them great suffering and physical destruction.

The Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, claims in “Vayoel Moshe” that Hashem brought about the Holocaust because the Zionist movement caused the Jews to violate the “Three Oaths.” Since the Jewish people forcefully went to resettle Eretz Yisrael, Hashem brought upon them massive destruction, as the Gemara warns in its conclusion. Rav Shlomo Aviner compiled thirteen answers to this claim, amongst them the following:

1) Rav Teitelbaum’s claim rests on the fact that there was a “choma,” that the nations of the world prohibited the Jews from settling in the land of Israel. The Avnei Nezer writes that this oath does not apply when the nations give Yisrael permission to return. Following the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo Conference, in which the nations of the world determined that the Jewish people have a right to settle the land of Israel, the oaths do not apply. The Midrash hints to this idea, that if Bnei Yisrael have permission to enter the land they do not violate the oaths.

2) Another answer is that once there is a sign from Hashem to return to the land, the oaths no longer apply. In addition to the permission given by the nations, the national reawakening and birth of modern Zionism can be viewed as a sign from Hashem that it is permissible to return to the land. The oaths were not an “issur” (absolute prohibition), but rather national tendencies that Hashem instilled within Klal Yisrael which would cause them to remain unmotivated to return to their land. Also, throughout most of the exile, it was very difficult physically for Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael. Once a wide scale movement with an objective to return to Eretz Yisrael began, and it was physically possible to begin Aliya to Eretz Yisrael, it became clear that the oath was no longer in effect.

3) The Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) says that when Eretz Yisrael gives forth fruit abundantly, it is a sure sign that the redemption is coming. Eretz Yisrael, in the time of the Zionist movement, began blooming and giving forth fruits unlike any previous time since the destruction of the land. This sign of redemption showed that the oath was no longer in effect.

3) Rav Teichtal, in his work, “Em Habanim Smeicha,” offers another explanation. Although the Jews were sworn not to enter Eretz Yisrael forcefully, the nations of the world were also sworn not to persecute the Jews too much. Over the course of the exile, the Jews were severely persecuted by the gentiles. Because the gentiles violated their oath, the Jews were no longer bound by their oath.

4) According to some opinions, the only way to violate the oath would be if people came to Eretz Yisrael in very large groups. Since the Jews entered the land slowly, and over the course of many years, they did not violate the oath.

5) The author of the “Hafla’ah” maintains that the oaths only apply to those who are in the exile of Bavel, and not in other lands.

6) R’ Chaim Vital explains that the oath only applied for 1000 years, not longer.

7) The Gra writes that the oath applies only to building the Beit Hamikdash, not to entering Eretz Yisrael.

8) Elsewhere in the Gemara there are other, conflicting, sources. Furthermore, the Gemara regarding the “Three Oaths” is aggada, and we do not decide halacha based on aggada. [I add that this isn’t even from Torah and Neviim, but from Kesuvim, the weakest link in determining Halacha]

Based on all of these explanations, there is ample basis to say that the movement to return to Eretz Yisrael was a positive, not a negative, one. In fact, others maintain just the opposite, that the Holocaust was because Jews became entrenched in galut and did not return to Eretz Yisrael. Since we are not living in a generation of prophecy, it is very difficult for us to determine exactly why Hashem brings specific punishments to the world. However, the Gemara does teach us that when we are afflicted with punishment, we should look into our actions, and try to fix our bad deeds. By looking at the Akeida, we may gain some insight regarding the Holocaust.

One of the most famous tests of Avraham was Akeidat Yitzchak. We constantly mention the Akeida in our prayers, and we still reap the benefits of this test. The question is asked, what is so special about this test? Avraham did not even do any great action of sacrifice, because in the end he did not slaughter his son. There were many other tests which Avraham actually fulfilled which are not so commonly mentioned!

Furthermore, Rav Dessler questions the very concept of “zechut Avot” (merit of the Patriarchs). If two criminals violated the same law, one coming from a dysfunctional family and one from a normal background, logic dictates that the one from a normal background should be punished more severely. When we come to Hashem and tell Him that we are descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, this should work against us! Why is there zechut? In fact, Rabbeinu Bachya says that sometimes it is best not to mention zechut avot. After the sin of the spies, Moshe pleaded to Hashem and did not mention that Hashem is “notzer chesed la’alafim,” that He rewards for good deeds for generations to come. Moshe did not want Hashem to say, “If Bnei Yisrael came from such great people, why did they sin?”

Perhaps this insight can explain why we ask Hashem to remember the Akeida, as opposed to other tests of Avraham. Many times Am Yisrael does not live up to the other tests which Avraham was tested with. Through our entire history, however, Am Yisrael lived up to the test of the Akeida, and on many occasions Jews were willing to die “al kiddush Hashem” (in sanctification of G-d’s name).

The Torah introduces the story of the Akeida with the phrase, “It happened after these things.” (Bereishit 22:1) The parsha directly before the Akeida is the story in which Avraham makes a peace-covenant with Avimelech. The Rashbam explains that Avraham was tested with the Akeida because he did not have a sufficiently strong connection with Eretz Yisrael, and was willing to make a pact with Avimelech, thereby forfeiting some of his right to the land. The Tanna D’vei Eliyahu writes that any nation which has a serious conflict with Yisrael, does so only because of the pact which Avraham signed with Avimelech. Hashem always had a two-part covenant with Yisrael: descendants and Eretz Yisrael. Because Avraham was willing to give part of Eretz Yisrael, Hashem said, “I will take the other half of the pact — your son.”

Although we are not prophets, and we cannot determine which punishments correspond to which sins, we must try to learn lessons from events which happen in this world. Today it is clear that our bond to Eretz Yisrael still needs strengthening. If we pray and strengthen our connection to Eretz Yisrael, there will be an end to all of the Akeidot.

For those who want to seriously understand why Satmar and these clowns are dead wrong, read this from the Seforim Blog.

I note they don’t mention Gog and Magog, and the Jewish Redemption where their friends will be beholden to the Beis Hamikdash and Elokus. Politically, they don’t mention that, because they are of course afraid. These are the Jews about which the Torah says “stay home, you are afraid to go to war and you are an impedance”. Help your wives with the washing, cooking and food provision.

I notice Issy Weiss of Neturei Karta wears the palestinian scarf. Why doesn’t he put a Kaffiyeh on and add tzitzis to the corners. Now there’s solidarity.

 

Don’t support Satmar ever

These chassidim occupy a religion which has many connections to orthodox judaism, but they are also the biggest group that causes problems. Purim wouldn’t have occurred if Mordechai was a Satmar Chosid or Esther was one of them. He would have been told to cower to the enemy and suck it it all up and Esther would have been hidden in a bunker. These people who base their religion on R’ Yoelish’s discredited V’Yoel Moshe continue to be a thorn in the side of Jewish continuity and unity. They are everywhere and their polemic is offensive and untimely. While rockets rain from Gaza this is what they say.

In Melbourne, they are in Adass Yisrael. Don’t forget it. On Yom Ha’atzmaut, their Rabbi commanded that they say Tachanun at a Bris!

When they come to collect “Peerim Gelt” ask who they are. If they are Satmar. Give them ten cents. Give your money to poor people in the community who don’t follow this perverted philosophy. Which philosophy? The one which gives strength to the enemy. They haven’t learned that sucking up to those who actually don’t like you, will never help in the long run. Read this from ynet, and tell me if it doesn’t annoy you as much as it does me (emphasis is mine).

I don’t know which permission Rabbi Teitelbaum used to visit Israel and then leave. It seems to me that this is patently against Jewish law. I know of no permission to do so because of a grandson’s bar mitzvah. Love to read his halachic defence. It’s all politics; not halacha.

Disclaimer: I don’t have a clue how many in Melbourne’s Adass community follow him versus his (beloved) brother Zalman, but they both share the same hate for the Jewish State and do enormous damage with their sharp unbridled tongues.

Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum visits Israel and rails against settlers and ultra-Orthodox recruits who join the ID.
Kobi Nachshoni
Published: 03.11.16, 17:33 / Israel Jewish Scene
As terror attacks continue to strike Israel, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum said on Tuesday that “the real culprits are the settlers in Israel who agitate the nations of the world in the country and throughout the world, which causes serious hatred of Israel and the severe wave of attacks.”

Rabbi Teitelbaum, also known as the Satmar Rebbe, and his brother lead the world’s largest Hasidic movement, landed in Israel on Tuesday and spoke sharply to his followers, at his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Jerusalem. The city had which suffered a serious attack shortly before that, alongside two other attacks that night. “In recent months, the blood of Israel is spilling like water,” he said. “We cry every day for those dead and wounded. ”

The rabbi also addressed the growing numbers of ultra-Orthodox recruits in the IDF. “It is true that there is no coercion,” he said, “but via soft words there is an increase in recruits to the IDF, which is a source of evil , and especially when the young men are not as strong spirituality. What is new is that no one here screams out loud that there is a prohibition to enlist in the IDF, which is is a place of destruction.”

The anti-Zionist rabbi attacked in his speech all the ultra-Orthodox political parties that participate in state institutions, are partners in the government, and enjoy its budgets. “You are always hearing about what’s happening here in Israel, and especially the conscription law, there there are agreements with the government,” he said. “We will stand firm so that the yeshivas will not be destroyed. ”

“The agreements – there are some who say they are good, some say they are bad, and they need a lawyer to teach them, but the reality is that since that law there has been a rise in ultra-Orthodox recruits. One should know that the main sin in enlistment is
those who go there will not return (i.e. will become alienated from religion – KN).”

Jewish Care Responds to Article Published in The Age Feb 10 2016

Bill Appleby, Jewish Care CEO formally responds to an article that has been published in The Age newspaper on February 10, 2016 entitled Yeshivah Centre Abuse Victims Fear Bullying, Intimidation:

Last December, we announced that we would assist the Yeshivah Centre in the operation of their Redress Scheme which was established to offer assistance to victims of child sexual abuse.
Jewish Care agreed to operate a confidential 1800 number and email address for abuse victims. In addition, our President Mike Debinski was engaged in a personal and separate capacity to oversee the operation of the Scheme.
Our Board agreed to assist Yeshivah because we felt that we were uniquely and appropriately placed to offer assistance to the victims and that we have the relevant expertise in the area to most effectively respond to survivors of abuse; ensuring a caring and empathetic initial response to what is no doubt a traumatic disclosure.
The Board and I are extremely disappointed with the article as it contains a number of serious factual errors. Unfortunately, Jewish Care has been mentioned in The Age article as having breached a victim’s trust after an email sent to the Board of Jewish Care was sent to a member of the Committee of Management at the Yeshivah Centre.
It is absolutely vital to understand that the author of the email mentioned in the article did not identify as a victim, nor did the email contain any victim information. The content of the email only raised an issue of perceived governance concerns. Those concerns have been clarified by the Board with the assistance of independent legal advice.
The article also stated that Jewish Care is the administrator of the new sexual abuse Redress Scheme. This is incorrect. Jewish Care is not the administrator of the Yeshivah Redress Scheme. The Scheme is administered independently of Jewish Care and I have previously described our limited role above.
We believe the implication that Jewish Care Directors released information about a victim to another body is defamatory and formally requested The Age newspaper on the 9th February to immediately retract these inaccuracies.

In closing, I want to give our community, clients, residents, staff and volunteers absolute confidence that we respect and keep confidential all client information in accordance with our statutory responsibilities. This is as you would expect.
As we have done for 168 years, we continue to serve the community professionally, providing vital support for those who are most in need.We remain ready to assist and continue with our efforts on behalf of all those in the Victorian Jewish community who need our assistance.

We believe the implication that Jewish Care Directors released information about a victim to another body is defamatory and formally requested The Age newspaper on the 9th February to immediately retract these inaccuracies.
In closing, I want to give our community, clients, residents, staff and volunteers absolute confidence that we respect and keep confidential all client information in accordance with our statutory responsibilities. This is as you would expect.

The sordid affair(s) of Malka Leifer

Removed immediately at the request of the poor girl who had to suffer this HELL

I was SO incensed by the lies revealed by the judge from so called frum yidden, that I initially just cut and pasted. That was a mistake; poor judgement due to my disgust at the “Klei Kodesh” and the “Askonim” and then forgetting there was a name in there as well. If Rabbi Telsner resigned, there are PLENTY at Adass/Beis HaTalmud who should also resign immediately. They won’t, is my bet. To think there are schools who have “teachers” who aren’t registered with VIT is outrageous. This is not the 1700’s and neither are the kids from that era. Get your qualifications and THEN teach. There is more to it than translating Chumash and Rashi. If you don’t like it, go to Israel, the country you love to hate. And how do they get around דינא דמלכותא דינא here in Australia? Through lies and games?

Thanks to those who noted what I had missed in my haste and alerting me.

Rabbi Telsner resigns

He has made a few mistakes, and it makes interesting reading seeing the different reports from the Age Newspaper versus the Sun. They obviously have different sources whispering in their ears. The anti-Jewish News will have the story just in time to splash on the front page and triumphantly blow its horn as the harbinger of morality (sic).

The Yeshivah Centre is undergoing change, no doubt. However, I’m not going to say any thing on the Rabbi Telsner issue because if I do, some will certainly misunderstand my words and it will make no different how I state them.

I am sure Rabbi Telsner has learned from this, and will contribute in a way using the gifts God gave him.

Rabbi Telsner is a card carrying Meshichist, as is his brother in law, R’ Chaim Tzvi Groner. There is no place in a Shule for screaming signs that no longer belong. There is no Mesora for placards in Shules, and it’s also a failure of Maimonides 13 principles of faith which clearly imply that we believe in Mashiach coming. Mashiach is a term for someone God chooses, it is not a euphemism for one and only one holy person in the Garden of Eden. Denying God this choice is in my opinion Kefirah. Meshichisten will not, cannot, and do not believe it is remotely possible for God to decide whomsoever He chooses from the physically living. That is pretty close to Kefirah. It is also a pseudo Kefirah for them to even entertain that there may well be someone else chosen because they won’t appear as a loyal Lubavitcher.

As for me, as I have said many times I couldn’t care less who it is. Eliyahu HaNavi will tell us.

Yeshivah has lurched to the right. It needs to bounce back to the centre and concentrate on quality education. It cannot afford to be a front for a Mesivta. There is obviously a need for a Mesivta. Let them find premises and build themselves on certain backers finances. The School itself needs to stress the qualities unique in Chabad, and there are many. Let the students be known for being fine examples of the Midos that are imparted by this philosophy. By all means it needs to stay a Chabad school, but one grounded in the realities of Melbourne. Failing that it should stop marketing itself as a community school.

Ironically, the School failed dismally to effectively educate Russian immigrants, years ago, and no longer does it serve many who are not religious. That’s their raison detre!

Too many New Yorkers have infiltrated and married in and tried to turn it into a fancier version of Oholei Torah in Brooklyn. Bad mistake. This is not New York.

I think it’s also time to pull down the rather pointless Yechi sign at the back of the Shule. Those who feel the need to scream this message to the world can bounce on the corner of the street, or wear a yarmulka (which they can’t then wear in a bathroom) wave yellow flags, wear cheap badges and all manner of paraphernalia not mentioned in Shulchan Aruch.

It does turn people off, and I include people from outside the Yeshivah centre. Those who really want to experience that type of experience can just go down the road to Dudu Leider’s Israeli Chabad house. They will love it. I’m told they chant Yechi more times than Shma Yisroel, over there, by a factor of 100.

 

The internet and the streets simply must open up the world to Charedim

Here is a fascinating story of the grandson of the Satmar Rebbe who joined the Israeli army. Yes, it’s true, that there is no family that is immune from a child taking a different direction. This is a fact of life.

I don’t like the word blame in the context. I prefer to think that the concept where ‘one size fits all’ and clueless teachers and/or parents cause much of this reality. חנוך על פי דרכו teach according to their acuities, is something harder to achieve in a “my way or the highway” approach.

You should read the article HERE [hat time CMW]

Another article, of interest, describes what appears to be a growing phenomenon is from the Huffington Post, and reproduced here [Hat tip Krakower]

I Escaped Hasidic Judaism and Went From Living on the Streets to Being a Hollywood Actor

In June 2008, exactly three years after I got married, I decided to get a divorce. I didn’t fall out of love with my wife. In fact, I never fell in love with her in the first place. I simply no longer wanted to have the life I had with her and everyone surrounding her.

My wife was a Hasidic Jew, and when I married her, so was I. But that was no longer the case. I was a 22-year-old man with a long beard and side curls (payes) and all the other markings of a Hasid, but I was an atheist. An atheist surrounded by Orthodox Hasidic Jews. Surrounded by their certainty, their food, their self-righteousness and their minivans.

I hated all of it, so I left and entered a world full of uncertainty and a broad spectrum of ideas about right and wrong.

I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no education beyond Jewish Talmudic studies. I had no friends outside of the Hasidic world beyond a few I met at Footsteps, an organization that supports Orthodox Jews attempting to escape. I had no marketable skill beyond being able to charm your pants off. I had never been on a date. I had never heard of The Beatles. And I thought, “May the Force be with you” meant “May God be with you.”

“For most of my life, I believed that all non-Jews hate us and want to kill us.”

After leaving the Hasidic world, I spent seven years in various stages of decay. I slept in a tent in Bushwick for several months, lived in a rented Volkswagen Jetta for as long as my credit card limit allowed and crashed with friends. I starved in the harsh street of New York City. When I used my last subway fare to make my way to my sister’s (one of eleven siblings) house for leftovers from Shabbat meals, she wouldn’t let me in the house because I was wearing jeans.

When I went on dates, I had nothing in common with the women. I knew nothing about their culture, and they knew nothing about mine. I thought all shiksas were prostitutes, and they thought all Hasidim were landlords and diamond dealers.

Let me answer some revealing questions about Hasidic Judaism. Does it withhold a broad education from their children in order to keep the children narrow-minded and uneducated? Yes. Does it vilify the outside world in order to keep its members from joining it? Definitely. Does it have a fear and/or doomsday element to it? Of course. Is there ex-communication for those who dare to leave? Oh yeah.

I still have not received anything past a 5th grade education. In fact, since I never attended a regular school, I don’t actually know what a 5th grade education is — I just picked a grade that seemed right. I don’t know what algebra is; I know I can Google it but I wasn’t made to care enough to do so.

“After leaving the Hasidic world, I spent seven years in various stages of decay.”

For most of my life, I believed that all non-Jews hate us and want to kill us. I believed that all goyim are murderers, rapists, degenerates and dirty second-class citizens. Of course, they/we aren’t but I was taught that in order to make the secular lifestyle less appealing. I was told horrible things would happen to me in this world and the “next world” if I leave. I was told I would end up a criminal or drug addict. Many members of my family refuse to speak to me to this day.

I have had to transition both out of Hasidism and transition into mainstream culture. I have had to find a replacement for the void left by the lack of community and warmth. I had to replace my family, my friends and my moral compass. It was hard leaving everything behind but it was even harder to find something to replace it all with.

Thankfully, as an actor, my professional community is very friendly and inclusive (albeit competitive). I’ve replaced my biological family with actors and Footsteps members. I have managed to date, to have my heart broken, to have broken some hearts and to grow because of all of it.

I get asked all the time: “Are you happy now?” The answer is an unequivocal, “Yes!” I have friends who love me for who I am, for who I was and for who I am trying to become.

“I had to replace my family, my friends and my moral compass.”

Career-wise, it seems I have sought the path of most resistance, deciding to work in a field full of multi-talented human specimens with high cheekbones and jaguar physiques. I’m five foot seven inches, unathletic and have a heavy Yiddish accent. And yet, I’ve been getting work. My latest film, “Felix and Meira,” just beat David Cronenberg at the Toronto International Film Festival for “Best Canadian Feature Film,” and I won “Best Actor” at the Torino Film Festival. Next, I will appear in a recurring role in the upcoming season of “Transparent” on Amazon Prime.

But those achievements pale in comparison to the responses I get from people within the Hasidic community who have snuck out to go see the film. They have been yearning to break away but have been told that if they do, they will end up in jail or in rehab, and they believed it. But now, they can counter that with success stories like mine and those of others like me.

The Hasidic community isn’t what it used to be even five years ago. With the Internet, every person has access to every flavor of every forbidden fruit his or her heart desires, including my story. It won’t be long before the Empire falls. It might not fall completely, but it certainly will be forced to adapt to the 21st century.

The Empire won’t go down easy. The Empire will strike back. For evidence, watch the comments section below.

Follow Luzer Twersky on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@twersky

In my opinion unless subtle changes are introduced into Charedi education this will become more prevalent. It is nigh on impossible to live in a Cocoon these days. I know of schools that redact every book with pen or gluing pages together. The effect is that the students are more certain to find the original text and be exposed. I’m not sure that approach works. Kids are far more connected than they ever were.

Indeed, there has been a new (undesirable) ban now on whatsapp [Hat tip BA]. I surmise this is because the kosher filters cannot filter such messages. whatsapp is wonderful, it keeps families closer and informed, especially when they are spread around the world. Anything can be used for bad or for good. That is the central tenet in my understanding.

I’m not getting into the latest abomination any further

It’s become a horribly repetitive and deflating refrain. Children abused, abused unfairly treated and often ostracised, all sorts of Askonim and Rabonim are accused and shown to have done the wrong thing. Papers such as the AJN have a field day.

Some get away with it, others are punished accordingly. Psychologically, the Chillul Hashem is all too heavy to carry at the minute. I feel embarrassed to be a Jew in רשות הרבים when it’s pasted all over the Sun and AJN.

One thing though: if anyone even remotely tries to pressure the courageous girl who came forward and lifted the lid on probably the most closed community in Melbourne, they should be sent לעזאזל with due legislated gusto.

I’m not taking comments on this post. The matter is before the courts and will be decided appropriately.

Where are you Immanuel, Israel?

We will now have daily descriptions of a Chillul Hashem, but what is Leifer doing and has she been doing since then. לא תעמד על דם רעך. She is clearly a danger to society. This is so depressing to read, both from the victims side and the obvious  חילול ה. No institution is above these low lives lurking in their midst or taking advantage of their then lack of protocol, but there is no excuse for any institution religious or otherwise to adopt worlds best practice (which includes reporting directly to Police). Will we hear Rabbi Beck announce such?

Today’s Herald Sun, read

GIRLS from an ultra orthodox Jewish school were routinely sexually abused by their headmistress who told them she was preparing them for marriage, a court has heard.

Explosive allegations against former Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer were aired publicly for the first time today in a lawsuit brought against her and the school by a former student.

The student alleges she and two of her sisters were abused by Mrs Leifer who “ruled the school with an iron rod” while she was principal between 2002 and 2008.

She told the Supreme Court today she was too fearful to complain about the abuse because of the power the former principal wielded in the ultra-orthodox community.

“She was seen as the head of the school and the whole community looked up to her and basically idolised her,” she said.

“She was seen as someone who was holier than holy,” she said.

The plaintiff, now 27, said she had complete trust in Ms Leifer and had felt “special” after the principal took a liking to her and offered to give her private tuition.

She said she was told not to disclose the tuition to other students and said Mrs Leifer would take her out of class to abuse her at her home.

“I remember her being very scared her husband would come home and find us there. I remember her locking the doors.

“She I remember wondering if she realised what she was doing.

“She would tell me that she loved me and that she really cared for me.

“She would tell me it was her way of telling me she loved me.”

The Supreme Court heard that in line with strict orthodox beliefs the girl had never watched TV, listened to the radio, used the internet or read a newspaper.

She was segregated from males outside of her immediate family and had no sex education.

The girl said she was abused in Mrs Leifer’s office, her home and on school camps.

She said she believed other teachers knew about the abuse.

“She liked to hug me like a baby, and rock me,” she said.

“She said I should consider her like a mother who loved me, and that I was special.”

It is also alleged school officials failed to report allegations of abuse to police but instead allowed Ms Leifer to flee to Israel with her family just days after allegations were levelled at her in 2008.

She is currently under house arrest in Israel where extradition proceedings at the request of Victoria Police have started in an attempt to have her returned to Melbourne to face criminal charges.

It is understood Ms Leifer could face dozens of charges of indecent assault and rape.

The trial continues.

This article from the age concerning Malka Leifer upset me

I can’t say how low I felt about reading this article. All I can pray is that people wake up finally that this is an area where there can be no compromise and where someone even appears to have offended, we don’t cover up. Go straight to the police and let them sort out guilt or otherwise.

This is most upsetting to read. Again, I wonder if Mrs Leifer teaches at all at Immanuel in Israel or has contact with kids. Even if it’s not proven (yet) can someone please assure me that this is not the case and the community leaves her in the kitchen baking challahs

Another Shande and Charpe.

My Whys over Pesach?

The AJN target Yeshivah and are not at all even handed.

[UPDATED: I was not aware that my post (in good faith, by a friend) was published on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook except in a private professional capacity to stay in touch with my 450+ postgraduate alumni of nearly 3 decades as it is a most convenient forum.

I understand some people had nice, not nice, and some scathing comments to make about my “Whys”. It’s only a relatively a free country, however, and as author of my thoughts I reserve the right to publish and/or respond to anyone reacting to these. Accordingly, if you feel like it (and frankly it is not my aim to attract comments) and are ready to put a real name to your comment (unless you are, of course a victim of crime) I will moderate your comment according to my understanding of Halacha and common law. If such an arrangement does not suit you, go ahead and write a critique. I won’t be engaging in debate, as this is not why I write. If I want my blood pressure to rise, I have a myriad of better techniques at my disposal 🙂 ]

Onto the article, which I will now proof-read in anticipation of a wider audience than I would normally expect.

Both before and during Pesach I found myself full of pitputim that I needed to express. I held myself back for reasons that aren’t worth recording. One of these was that I didn’t think it was permitted on Chol Hamoed. Maybe I was the proverbial תם (simpleton) of the Hagadda and should have fired thoughts as soon as they occupied my neurones, but, for various reasons, I held back and wrote them immediately after Pesach (when I undoubtedly should have helped my wife). Undoubtedly that was not the right timing, but let’s not go there (thanks CBN).

Some of the responses to these questions need people to retrospect through new glasses; as such I was reticent. This is a hard job, Accordingly, I’m going to frame some of my thoughts as a series of why’s as opposed to proffering cheap advice.

  1. Why has the disgraceful Australian Jewish News continued to remain the mouthpiece of few, as opposed to a faithful unbiased reporter of Jewish news allowing for a wider range of reporting of fact. To give but one example, anyone on Facebook (and I am not on Facebook except with my University alumni although I have an account I originally set up to see pics of my grandchildren) can look up Avi Yemini and find most serious accusations which he apparently alleges will now be formalised via the police against his father Steven (aka Tzefania) Waks. Why Steve? Well, he has clearly shown a preference to a centrist orthodox way of life, dispensing with charedi garb and beard. For the record, I am often regarded as centrist and my name is Isaac. Some persist in calling me יצחק and from my perspective both are quite ok. Indeed, halachically speaking one cannot will away a name that one was called formally even if done via deed but lets not go to that area of Halacha. More to the point:Why is the Australian Jewish News seemingly ignorant of Avi Yemini and his siblings and their views of the father of Manny Waks? I met his siblings in Miami and it wasn’t a pretty description, and backed up Avi. Indeed, they don’t like to talk about it. Guess what AJN? That (comparative silence) in of itself is news, and should be reported. Why didn’t you do that? There is more, but I won’t write it.
  2. Why is Tzedek “off the map?” I did see an advertisement this week, which is good but there is no denying the demise of Tzedek and it worries me. At best, it served as an important encouragement to those who have been abused (earlier in their lives) to give voice to that abuse; and encourage others to give voice. This is critical to unveiling the mask of perpetrators and ensuring educational programs become de jure in organisations to recognise and prevent such perverts. We don’t hear comparatively less from Tzedek since their controversial CEO resigned, although I have absolutely nothing against those running it now and I am sure they are as committed to the cause as those who preceded them; irrespective of whether some were victims. I am not a victim of abuse, but I pursued Cyprys until his veil was lifted. I believe Kramer was after my time, and I certainly didn’t experience any abuse from any of my teachers, be they religious or secular in my 12 years in the School and neither did my siblings.
  3. Why are victims creating websites? The manifestation of private websites authored by professed victims serves good in my eyes only if it’s cathartic for them and not investigative. I’m not a psychiatrist but I’d hope their psychiatric advice would be to pursue such channels only if it was part of their healing. There are existing channels. I’m not sure why they aren’t apparently being used. Shouldn’t they channel their life long challenges to established professionals and professional organisations? I don’t think personabused.com.au is the best idea on the planet and furthermore many will see it as self-serving gold-digging. There are formal community and private bodies to help deal with these life long issues and give aid using the best professional methods, as they are developed. At worst it may give the impression that those abused seek to make a career from being abused and I doubt that this is their intention. Well, I hope not. If it indeed is their sublime intention, then I suggest they need even more professional help than they realise.
  4. Why is it that The Australian Jewish News seems to only report one school and institution-the Yeshivah Centre. We all know that the Yeshivah Centre and Chabad in general have done more than arguably any group for Torah observance, Kiruv, and the welfare of those in need. They are not judgemental. Their mantra is love albeit played through the love strings of their Rebbe’s violin. This is their great strength. They do, in the main follow, a system which was typified by their late and great Rebbe. They have rotten apples. No group is immune from that reality. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe (and his father in law) didn’t join groups (e.g. Aguda) and felt they could achieve their aims through an independent well-structured agenda: bringing Jews and Judaism to Torah and Mitzvos through spreading Chassidus Chabad. He rarely (to my knowledge) interfered with the nitty-gritty of problems in his myriad of institutions but was surely bombarded by such (indeed I once did so). He expected that same independence and intellectual purity to be demonstrated by his trained and faithful emissaries. Sure, they asked his advice, but he wasn’t aware of cleaners and locksmiths and groomers of kids in Mikvaos irrespective of the stories you hear of his greatness and vision.Now, it is clear to all, that the SCHOOLS, (Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah) which are really the raison d’être of the entire organisation are employing best practice, to the extent that they are perhaps overly strict. It is known that they are allegedly being sued by some employees who step out of a very strict line and who don’t allegedly practice world’s best standards. This was instituted before the Royal Commission and as soon as word of the criminals Cyprys and Kramer became love children for the reporters of “the Age”. The other love children of “the Age” are Israel and the “Palestinians”. I know some of the reporters from the Age. They hunkered for Jewish stories and used to call me (and read my blog) as I am straight on these matters and always tried to be. Indeed Mr Waks senior rang me almost daily in my pursuit of Cyprys. As a board member of Elwood Shule, I felt an extreme responsibility to stop this pariah from parading in the way he did.
  5. Why is Yeshivah singled out for its particular mode of governance, when all Chabad Houses still function in a similar way and have not been abandoned in any way. Few complain, because they trust the Rabbi and his advisors and they all benefit. Are some going to conduct an audit of a Rabbi Raskin/Engel/You-name-them and their specialised Chabad Houses, or, say Rabbi Lieder who works tirelessly for Israeli back packers (and ironically leave Melbourne with more knowledge of Judaism than what they learned when in Tel Aviv?) No. I don’t hear any call from the Jewish News or the holier than thou’s asking for a different form of transparent governance. Why not? Is it a matter of amount or principle? Don’t get me wrong here. I think they should all, without exception, including Adass’s offshoot extreme school, subscribe to the strictest codes especially given the Chillul Hashem we have endured. I also happen to disagree with the mode of governance but having grown up witnessing the hopeless squalor that Rabbi Groner lived in, I never considered him to have anything other than the institution in his mind. Indeed, when my father gave him some money before Pesach, the next day there was a receipt from the Yeshivah Centre.
  6. [Please note] The information about Heichal Hatorah (Rabbi Donnenbaum) was miscommunicated. It isn’t based on video surveillance. There is a policy, as I understand it being developed by professionals which as I am informed will be an approved policy that can stand up to accepted standards.  We apologise for that previous innacuracy.
  7. Why only Chabad? It’s not just Chabad. Rabbi Kohn, a controversial figure himself, runs what is effectively the identical model of a Chabad house, except that his is a private business like Meir Gershon Rabi. Will anyone ever know the finances? Cyprys went to Kohn’s minyan! I heard Rabbi Kohn say he learnt his craft from R’ Nochum Zalman Gurevich, who we all knew and loved. Well he learned some of it, the bits that garnered donations. Yes, Kohn’s bent could be described as non Hasidic or anti Hasidic, but who audits his books? What real governance exists? What standards do they use there? Is there a community list—even a Shomer Shabbos list—of every single place that has an acceptable verifiable standard. Let’s not forget, people like Cyprys would try to hire a Shule Hall or a Youth Hall and use that as their modus operandi. He worked for the CSG no less and they had no clue.2015 is not 1985 or 1995 or earlier. The world has changed we must completely eradicate this scourge of scum. It is in fact far worse overseas, if you can believe it because they are so much “holier” and use cattle prongs to elicit a gett as long as you pay through your teeth.
  8. Why are Adass Israel ignored? Peyos don’t make the man. Malka Leifer, has strangely not been a constant focus of those affected by Cyprys and/or Kramer and she runs free allegedly in Immanuel in Israel. Credible rumors abound that she is seeking to avoid extradition to face serious charges on the grounds that the “West Bank” where she resides is not Israel! and Australia has no extradition treaty. Can you believe such a Chutzpah? If true, this is a clever but grossly offensive defence by smart attorneys. I ask why the silence from the Adass Congregation that provides us with so many products and producers. Is it only about food and profit? You cannot get Adass to do anything until you hit their hip pocket. The rest of us are unwanted pimples of the Sitra Achra. Don’t be mistaken. This is what they are taught. I have heard it from the number 2 in the Rabbinic side of the organisation. The youth of Adass are not the old generation. They have little love and are taught thatAhavasYisroel only exists for aShomer Shabbos.There are some wealthy people in Adass. Why isn’t Leifer’s picture in the local Immanuel paper weekly saying “Beware of this person. There are serious allegations of lesbian pedophilia against her”. Should she be teaching or ever left alone even with her own children? Has she even admitted she was wrong, short of fleeing the next day. I asked arguably the third most senior Rabbi at Adass and he shrugged his shoulders saying “What can we do”. I urge you to ask them when you bump into them at various establishments. Ask at the bakeries, ask at the fish shops, ask at the next function you attend. You can do plenty Adass but you thumb your nose at the non charedi community and now also deny that many of your own are “off the derech” something you prided yourself with and now send away so “nobody will notice”.
  9. Why aren’t other schools in the frame? I was informed reliably by someone at the Royal Commission that there were n students of Mt Scopus abused some time ago and a then headmaster was approached and said “Shoosh” it will cause a Chillul Hashem. Sound familiar? I know the AJN were at the Royal Commission. Was there an order barring the names of other schools affected by the despicable reprehensible pedophiles to be reported. I had wondered about the timing of a later letter by Rabbi Kennard (who reads my blog). He didn’t reply. Why? Rabbi Kennards letter was correct and proper but should have been written at least 6 months earlier.
  10. Why don’t people re-internalise that Yeshivah was a one man band. An incredibly wonderful one-man band with more success than people could ever imagine. It was the late and great Rabbi Groner, who whilst consulting with professionals, would not today remotely repeat his approach if he had his time again. Is there anyone game enough to say he would? There was always a committee, but they were and are toothless tigers who took ultimate direction from Rabbi Groner. If he said “no” the committee could proverbially jump. He told them what he thought they needed to know. I have no doubt there were many private things he took his grave. Tonight is his birthday as I just saw from an email.Much was in his head and certainly never on paper. He was the Shaliach. People were only too happy to call him their friend and get his calls in hospital while he was in hospital himself, and come to functions in his honour and he is on the record as vociferously castigating some of the parents whose children became victims (and they ignored him on occasion). Is there a real need to destroy the man after his passing, together with his significant life work, now, while the place has initiated a process to modernise its governance when ill-timed votes threaten its existence financially? Sure, if their new governance is a façade, go for it, but for crying out loud, give them a chance to go through a process. It doesn’t happen over night.
  11. I know of another very well-known (real) clergy (not charedi) who the Jewish News chose NOT to name over allegations of past pedophilia. The name would shock. He was by no means “ultra” orthodox. In that case the AJN (correctly) did not name the person because he couldn’t defend himself against the odious claims. Why only Yeshivah? Because some Rabbis showed themselves to be second-rate and/or clever by half?
  12. Why are there so many (self-proclaimed) counsellors permitted to discuss all manner of most serious topics to congregations and groups “as if” they are experts. If you are a counsellor, then register with the Australian Counselling Association and/or other similar bodies. Your commerce degree isn’t enough. There are enough complaints about counsellors themselves but if, unlike psychologists, some can get away with a load of ill-advised counselling, and more, without being answerable to a formal board, then no Jewish organisation should let them into their four walls to speak and nobody should seek them for any advice except which chewing gum to buy. Some maybe okay, but others are straight out charlatans, Register! Did victims go to a psychiatrist and spill their guts out and get medication where indicated or did they run rings around the counselling option of people who don’t answer to a board of counsellors.
  13. Why are people skeptical about those who sit on Yeshiva’s board or sat on that board? I have emails from about a decade ago where (it now turns out) some victims and others were looking to change things while Rabbi Groner was alive. One hears all types of stories of “this board member” being stubborn, “that one” being nepotistic etc. Some of it is true especially in a vacuüm. I know three former board members and I don’t think they aligned with any of the above. I know they gave thousands of hours of their lives to keep the institutions above water and growing in a way that no Jewish child was ever turned away. Remember, I happen NOT to be a card-carrying member of the “Chabad only” approach to Judaism, although members of my family happen do. We live in peace and in harmony. It’s not hard.There is a review of governance allegedly taking place. It doesn’t and can’t take 5 minutes. Instead, I hear people saying “it’s a PR trick”. How do they know that? I know a serious person who is looking at the structure and they are definitely not looking at it from a PR point of view. Yeshivah is in transition. It had to happen after Rabbi Groner’s passing following that of his mentor. It’s a shock and terrible that the spectre of pedophilia needed to be the back-breaking catalyst, but in the words of a good friend “it is what it is”. So people why don’t you sit back and see what comes forth. By all means if it isn’t transparent and in keeping with the law, bleat and bleat and bleat. Until then, surely wait a little while.
  14. Why do people feel that beating Rabbi Telsner or Rabbi Glick is the answer? It isn’t. It’s 2015. I especially rang Rabbi Telsner because I wanted to know exactly what he said that got the Jewish news positively apoplectic on their front page and what was said to him. How the AJN could then say “tell us it’s not so Rabbi Telsner” is beyond me. Rabbi Telsner and I have a love/less love relationship. He doesn’t like it when I raise Chabad issues with him (halachic) and he’s not my Posek but he doesn’t deserve to be manipulated.
  15. Why isn’t the Association of Jewish Psychologists being used more. They respond. They don’t go looking for work. I went to a talk and was very impressed with Dr Dan Gordon. He is someone who every School should use for an in-service for their teachers. Why was this a well attended event by Rabbis and religious people and yet so poorly attended by others including headmasters and/or vice-principals? I have a feeling my wife may have been the only senior teacher there. These are specialist psychologists, with PhDs and experience; they have authority and wisdom and aren’t running shonky practices. Listen to their professional wisdom.
  16. Why is the AJN becoming more of a left-wing “Age” newspaper seemingly only haranguing religious institutions (except Adass who don’t buy their paper and buy Hamodia). Religious groups certainly deserve it in some cases, but as I’ve pointed out the AJN are transparently biased. I dislike Hamodia with a passion because it is such a fake fairy tale “feel good” paper full of omissions. I saw a new paper emerge over the break. I hope it takes form. To be honest, I wouldn’t be unhappy if the AJN disappeared if it didn’t seriously reform to become a properly neutral paper instead of a harbinger of an agenda together with pictures of who attended what. I’m tempted to cancel my subscription and my advertising. If it’s possible and the AJN is listening, let me know and I will cancel. Call me tomorrow. My blood pressure will be healthier without your articles and the predictable Henry Herzog et al propaganda that we all skip and are sick to death of.

Don’t give Satmar a cent

From Ha’aretz. Be under NO illusion. There are many in Melbourne’s Adass Community who support this group completely. Others are even more right-wing.

Why would you say anything, even if you disagreed. They are the right-wing version of J-Street.

They live separate lives to the rest of us. They should not come to my door whether brought by master driver Osher Ehrlichster and others, all whom make a nice commission from these collectors. I will give them a dollar if they sing HaTikvah even with modified words (like I do).

If you expect a rebuttsl or disagreement with Rabbi Beck, forget it,

If it wasn’t for the fact that Yankel Unfanger was such a Tzadik, I’d have nothing to do with their products. He’s normal. Many of the rest are not. They are extreme zealots who should live on Gibraltar. They have a monopoly on Chalav Yisrael. That’s life.

Sicko Satmars

Some 3,000 followers of the Satmar Rebbe in Williamsburg took it to the streets of Manhattan Tuesday evening to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his speech to Congress and his claim that he’s an emissary on behalf of world Jewry to warn of a nuclear Iran.

The protest, held outside the Israeli Consulate on 2nd avenue and 42nd street in Midtown Manhattan, was organized by the Central Rabbinical Congress of the USA and Canada and attended by the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum.

Signs at the protest included statements such as “Bibi – don’t drag American Jewry into your provocative politics”, “”Bibi Netanyahu does not speak for us”, and “we are ably represented, we don’t need a Bibi-sitter.”

“When Netanyahu professes to speak on our behalf, we have to speak out and say this is not the case,” Rabbi David Neiderman told the thousands assembled. “Benjamin Netanyahu, stop speaking on our behalf and directing us what to do.”

“We in America and Jews all over the world are loyal citizens in the respective countries we reside in, and no other foreign government can claim to represent us or speak on our behalf,” he proclaimed.

Rabbi Neiderman went on to thank President Obama – whose name mentioning drew thunderous cheers – together with the Republican congressional leadership. “We are well represented and don’t need Netanyahu and his government’s representation,” he stated.

The speakers preceding Rabbi Neiderman were harsher in their attacks against the Israeli leader. They called him “Haman” and Amalek” and accused him of igniting antisemitism by his ‘reckless’ actions. One Rabbi went a step further to claim that he’s sacrificing the well-being of world Jewry for his political survival. The Satmar Shita against Zionism and the formation of a state in the land of Israel was only mentioned as a secondary reason to protest.

Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, a spokesperson for ‘Natruna’ and the “True Torah Jews” website, told JP that the protest was only aimed to contradict what Netanyahu said that he’s speaking in the name of all Jewish people. “Besides this being a lie, it’s a very dangerous thing for him to say,” Rabbi Shapiro asserted. “He wants to get into some brouhaha with the president, he’s a foreign minister, he can do whatever he wants. But why bring in the Jewish people into this? So, we are here contradicting what he said about us, and if somebody has a problem with what Netanyahu said he shouldn’t blame the Jewish people.”

“We are here to disassociate ourselves from the dangerous statements he’s making – statement that puts Jews in danger,” he added.

Rabbi Shapiro also lambasted those who compare Satmar – who is against Zionism – to Neturei Karta, who associate themselves with Iran and the Palestinians. “We don’t believe that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. And when a leader of a foreign country comes to America to trash the president and says he’s our representative, the question is not why us but where is everybody else?” he explained.

On the Royal Commission

I had previously written that I was so upset by the thing that I couldn’t bring myself to watch proceedings. Yesterday, towards the end of the day, for some reason I can’t explain, I decided to see what was happening, and caught about an hour of Yossi Feldman’s testimony. Some aspects of that testimony made me feel ill, quite literally. It disturbed my sleep last night significantly and I awoke in a nightmarish state imagining I had spent the night in the Royal Commission watching proceedings. I missed Shacharis because I was affected by what I had heard and seen in that one hour and woke in an agitated state.

Many things struck me, but one was reverberating in my head as I drove in to work. When asked whether he had undertaken any specialised education since the issue became headlines, Yossi Feldman admitted had not but intended to do so in the near future. I could not understand why one, who by his own admission, had at best a very immature understanding of sexual crime involving minors (and I note that his answer of 13 years of age (Bar Mitzvah) was disingenuous even from a Jewish point of view because one is not a Bar Onshin (punishable) until they are 20 thereby making a person a “minor” in respect of punishment until they are 20 according to Jewish Law) had not undertaken any formal education in this area himself immediately. I recognise some live cloistered lives, but it is precisely those people who need that type of education more so than those who live in the real world. The world is a much crueller place than some imagine.

I then noticed the laudable statement from the Jewish Taskforce in Victoria this morning which stated

We have been following the Royal Commission into Child Abuse with concern as we hear the awful experiences people have gone through.
We feel deeply for all the victims and applaud their courage in coming forward to tell of the pain they suffered and continue to bear. We encourage all victims  and their families to reach out for support; whether that be in reporting to the police,
in seeking therapeutic assistance or for whatever else they require.

We would like to reiterate that all institutions must have appropriate policies in place to safeguard children so that there will be a clear understanding
of appropriate behaviors and the ramifications of not behaving in accordance with the law. We therefore encourage those organisations who have not yet put
policies in place to attend the JCCV training sessions, or similar appropriate ones. Child abuse is heinous and unacceptable. The responsibility lies with all of us as a community and society to ensure we take action to prevent it.

Debbie Wiener – Chair
Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence Inc.
Admin line: 03 9523 6850
Support line: 03 9523 2100
PO. Box 2439, Caulfield Junction, 3161
admin@jewishtaskforce.org.au
http://www.jewishtaskforce.com.au

and it dawned on me that perhaps there is no chapter of this organisation in New South Wales? If this is indeed the case, there is a strong argument simply based on one hour of what I watched, that all in positions where they educate the young or interact with the young etc undertake a series of courses as described by the Jewish Taskforce and often offered by them. Certainly, I would make it compulsory as part of Rabbinic Studies designed for communal leadership. If there is no such organisation in Sydney, then it’s time some from NSW came down and followed the processes used here to make such facilities available. It would be silly to assume that this problem only existed and will continue to manifest itself solely in Victoria and NSW. These types of education programs should be compulsory in every state, even those with fewer students. I extend this call to Bar/Bat Mitzvah teachers, those who give Shiurim in a Kollel or house of learning, and anyone in a position where they interact in a way that may be amenable to grooming or whether there is a power differential. Knowledge is power. People need to know and understand. Clearly some do not.

On the Royal Commission in Melbourne on child abuse

To be honest, the whole thing has long made me sick in my stomach. I don’t have the time to watch it live. Maybe I will read the full transcripts later, but I’m likely to get upset for multiple reasons.

I am glad that the importance of the issue is at the forefront and one can only hope that those who haven’t reported in the past would not hesitate to do so in the future and out a lurking sick criminal.

Unfortunately there will always be pedophiles. Medicine may one day have something to curb the sub human tendencies of offenders. I don’t know. But having observed them at close quarters, they actually live in a world of self-denial and delusion. They are a danger and I’m not at all convinced that after a prison sentence they are even capable of suppressing abominable tendencies they seem to have been born with.

I’d also hope that despite the natural urge, people aren’t focussed on triumphalism or expressing it. I have seen that, and whilst I understand why this has occurred I don’t see it as a positive development.

The key is the future and how communities learn from past mistakes huge and smaller. Education of children and educators and Rabbis more is the key.

It is ironic that the whole Din of Mesira was based on the concept that old time courts were biased or anti Semitic or amoral. I could understand that today with respect to a court in Saudi Arabia or Iran or even the UN etc but in a Malchus shel Chesed like eg Australia, it is nonsensical and indeed a chillul Hashem to be lectured or even need to be advised on basic morality by אומות העולם given we have to behave at a higher level. There is a מצווה of והלכת בדרכיו and we have been given a wake up call to be moral beacons as opposed to shtetl oriented subterfuges.

I may write no more than this. It’s too upsetting, really, in so many different ways. I’ve always tried to be fair: you make enemies on both sides as a result. I’m not a person who has a burning need for mountains of friends but I don’t want to enter a snake pit either.

Our holiday. Part 3: 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn New York

Dear Readers,

I’ve scribbled out part 1 (and thanks to a reader for the english correction wherein I learned that I had understood a word incorrectly all my life!)

I’m jumping to Part 3 before Part 2. Why am I doing so? Perhaps you will understand when I have finished writing. I apologise as always for errors but I don’t proof-read much if at all.

My dear father’s 2nd Yohr Tzeit is on Friday. Leading up to that has been somewhat teary. A way to cope is to try to divest from  thoughts and memories and ever presence. It only helps partly. Every which way life turns, the touch and influence of his Neshoma and memory is raw and palpable. Call it second generation holocaust survivor syndrome. It’s my existential reality; I can’t escape it.

This morning I had five injections in my feet (for plantar fascia) after enduring pain for way too long. The specialist kept saying, “this is going to hurt, this will hurt a lot more etc as he dug the needle and spread it around while squirting in places where needles don’t normally wander”. I answered each time. It doesn’t hurt. Just do what you have to do. When the procedure was finished and my feet felt like they had fallen asleep from the block used in my heels, he was ready to move on quickly (too quickly to his next patient). I stopped him and explained that nothing any doctor could do would cause me to show pain. He asked why? I replied that my parents are holocaust survivors in a world of insulting and sick denial, and their pain was far worse than anything I could ever imagine. Accordingly, I stridently refuse and refused to show visible pain; what I experienced was a drop in the ocean.

He stood there somewhat speechless. He asked me if my parents had passed away. I said my father had “just” passed away. That’s not true of course. His second yohr tzeit is in a few days and ברוך השם he is weaving his magic 2005-10-09_14-47-22 with השם and cajoling him to shower our family and wider family with Simcha after Simcha. To me though, it is like yesterday, and hence my instinctive but unintentionally dry incorrect answer.

So what has this to do with Crown Heights and Part 3 of a holiday? Is Isaac Balbin off on yet another emotional outpouring? Maybe he needs to see a shrink. Maybe I do need to see a shrink but not because of this 🙂

We were only in Crown Heights for a few days. The truly wonderful Tzirel Goldman led us on a walking tour of important places, and then our Mechutonim graciously took Leonie and I out to a very nice restaurant. Unfortunately due to a gig, I couldn’t make the wedding of their son, which had just taken place.

I felt an “agenda” happening yet I wasn’t in usual control. I was moving from place to place. The area was buzzing from Chanuka to Hey Teves (& silly meshichisten) and it was on for young and old. Let’s not forget to mention the aufruf I was looking forward to attending (oh and the Kiddush in Getzel’s Shule, someone I had heard lots about)

Suddenly, our Mechutonim, the Goldmans said, let’s go and introduce you to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky. I had momentarily forgotten he was their brother-in-law. I keep getting mixed up between Duchman and Kotlarsky for some reason, and Mendel Duchman (who I also met on this trip in Montreal) is also a Mechutan of the Chaitons.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky

I recognised his face, had seen him in Melbourne, and was aware that he supervised the shlichus operations for the Lubavitcher Rebbe זי’’ע. “Fine, I responded thinking perhaps I might just say a few niceties and perhaps share a tiny piece of Torah”. We came into his room and he is a big man in several ways. His office looked organised and tidy. Emails were constantly flowing in. He looked tired and weary as if the world was on his shoulders. We shook hands and I sat in front of his desk, with Rabbi Yossy Goldman, and the lady folk including Rabbi Kotlarsky’s wife (who is my mechuteniste’s sister), Leonie et al on the side.

After the usual platitudes. I mentioned to him things he (made out he didn’t know) about Rav Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg הי’’ד

The horrid Holtzberg Kvura

and we immediately had a rapport based on our collective experiences with these special korbanos tehoros. He asked me if I had been back to see what they had done to Nariman House. My response was “no” and I wasn’t sure I could anyway. On my last trip, I somehow managed to get into the bullet-riddled, blood-stained building and took a video, which I won’t show, as it is nauseating. I mentioned my chelek in the miracle that is Moshe Holtzberg and he nodded, seemingly knowingly. I had the impression that this figure knew a heap more than he was letting on. Nonetheless, I told him how Rav Gavriel’s parents majestically appeared in Melbourne for our daughter Talya’s wedding to Zalman Bassin. The others were moved, but he seemed to show less emotion. I had the feeling that he was “used to” these types of happenings and for him, they were but another confirmation of what he had experienced and what was driving him with a sense of unstoppable purpose.

Suddenly he turned to me and asked “Have you been to the Ohel?” 

I answered truthfully. A בית החיים gives me the heebee geebies and I avoid them. As a Cohen I am somewhat cocooned but that came to an abrupt end when my father passed away and a scene I had never been close to, invaded me with shock. I mentioned the opinion of the Gro and Beis HoRav (Soltoveitchik) and Mori Rav Schachter and explained I was a soul with a foot from Brisk and a foot from Amshinov. It’s a contradiction in terms, which might explain my often ebullient meshugassen and eccentricity (well maybe not, but it’s a good try :-). I explained that I find it very difficult to go to my father. I unashamedly attend the least of my entire family. He asked me for the reason, and I explained that I was ממש a nothing compared to him and feel emotionally distraught even from the distance, after which I would be disturbed for days. He asked why? “That’s a good Midda to have. One should feel useless when standing next to giants”. I countered that the giants are around even outside the בית החיים and that is a fundamental. Why did one need to effectively go to a “sack of bones” which was even Tomei to experience their special presence. I suggested that maybe people can achieve things in different ways.

He cajoled me undoubtedly through his demeanour and presence, to “not” leave Crown Heights without a visit.

I launched into the issue of Doresh Al HaMeisim (I can make grown Rabbis scream, but he was very calm) and that I had no Minhag to go to Mikvah, wear slippers and knock on doors. He responded that’s all unnecessary. You can go in the way you feel “comfortable”. I said that DAVKA at a Tziyun, there is a natural tendency to “ask” from the Niftar, and tried to side track him with Brich Shmei and Shalom Aleichem which aren’t said by some for similar reasons. He then said, “Nu, take a simple Maaneh Loshon and say that”. I heard what he said, and understood him well. He had more than a touch of charismatic “Rabbi Groner” about him.

When I go to my father’s Tziyun, I say very specific Tehillim. I do that to stop myself from ASKING my father to do things. You can’t do that, but it’s a very natural tendency. I said I’d consider it seriously, but if I did go, it would be a very great mental strain to stop myself from lapsing into Doresh Al Hameisim when standing in front of two people who were responsible for my Torah education and much more.

In another part, I will explain what eventuated in terms of decision time.

I then mentioned that I had written but once to the Lubavitcher Rebbe yet had never received a reply. He didn’t ask what I had written, but I was comfortable saying it. I said that Melbourne was going through a particularly difficult and potentially splitting moment where two icons were jousting and Lubavitch was splitting. I had mentioned my family history, and made it clear that I could not be considered a Chosid in any shape, but I knew that the only person who could resolve the issue was the Rebbe himself and I asked him to. I never got an answer, and the Rebbe then had a stroke. I always assumed that the reason I hadn’t received an answer was because the Rebbe was B’Sakono and wasn’t in any position to respond with the same immediacy and wisdom as people were accustomed. I left it as a תשבי. One day I’d find out.

At that moment, Rabbi Kotlarksy said but you did get an answer, you just didn’t know it. I will now tell you what happened. As a result of the momentum of letters such as mine (I don’t claim any special powers!), he was summoned immediately to the Lubavitcher Rebbe who instructed him to travel to Melbourne and sort out the “mess”.

Rabbi Kotlarsky then told me how he sorted it out, and he did so quickly. I was very impressed by the ביטול of Rabbi Y.D. Groner ז’’ל about whom I could never imagine as “lower” than anyone, given his towering presence. That was a new greatness that I discovered. I was blown away by what Rabbi Groner had done. I was also blown away by the fact that on this particular trip after our daughter married into a well-known family, I had about an hour with someone who I never expected (or had a desire/need) to meet. I had no common business, so to speak.

But “the Aybishter Firt Der Velt”, and it was השגחה that I was to unravel a long mystery. I liked Rabbi Kotlarsky. He gave me the impression that he’s someone who I could sit for five hours listening to at a farbrengen. His finger was literally on the Chabad pulse.

We said our good byes, and I thanked him for allowing us to interrupt his very busy schedule. He was due to spend Shabbos at the Ohel for Hay Teyves and seemed to always be on planes, in cars and any vehicular transport, as he explained to me.

I’ve obviously not gone into all details, as they aren’t necessary and help nobody today.

So I come home to the Golus of Melbourne, and I’m due to now go the Tziyun of my dear father. I’ve had a practice run, so to speak, and it was mentally draining for me to keep my thoughts halachically sound and emotionally relevant.

I have to admit, that I am still implacably against people who write “to” the Rebbe as I noticed in many letters (even though they were torn) the people either didn’t know the Halacha, or were never taught it properly by some single-minded teachers who probably assumed something transcending Halacha. I don’t change my views on that and don’t apologise. I understand Chassidim emulate, but I am sure that the Lubavitcher Rebbe never ever was Doresh directly of his father in law. He was a Medakdek B’Mitzvos K’Chut Ha’saaroh and could not be questioned on such issues. I feel this was also why he had a common thread with the Rav, who is also known as the איש ההלכה.

So, until my next post, I will try to do the things one should do to give my dear father’s Neshoma nachas, although I can’t help but feel that there ought to be a motive to pile these up during the year, and just unload so to speak on the Yohr Tzeit when the Neshoma will go up a level (or levels).

I hope I haven’t bored you too much, but most of my posts are rather selfish. I heal myself through writing them.

ואפילו בהסתרה … even when he is hidden?

There is a moving Breslov melody which is very popular. The words are from R’ Nachman in לקוטי מוהרן although I haven’t ever read that ספר חסידות, but so I am told. The gist of it is that even when God is hidden, as in ואנכי הסתר אסתיר את פני he is still there albeit בהסתרה.

My davening was very agitated at Shule today. In fact, during davening, when I read certain things, tears welled up in my eyes, and for reasons which probably aren’t entirely normal, I didn’t want anyone to notice my distress. I raised my voice for pesukim which condemned רשעים.

I asked a few people, what is the meaning of this song after the tragedy the latest tragedy. Rav Moshe Twersky הי’’ד for example, Rosh Yeshiva, was named after R’ Chaim Brisker’s elder son Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, the Rav’s father, whose Yohr Tzeit falls out on the same day as my father ע’’ה.

I asked others whether Breslav would be bopping in the streets of Beit Shemesh. How can anyone, even a Chossid bring שמחה to the table.

I noted to others, that in this case, they don’t do Tahara, and one is buried in their bloodied clothing. I don’t know what the din is, but my feeling was it would have been appropriate to bury the person in their Tefillin as well as their Tallis. אפילו בהסתרה was sounding so hollow to me. I couldn’t cope with it.

[Hat tip BA]

Here is a post from a lady close by

Some people wake up in the morning to the soft strains of the music on their alarm clock. This morning I woke up to the heart-stopping shrieks of multiple ambulances and police cars racing down my street on the way to Har Nof. Meanwhile my husband was in shule davening Shacharis. I hadn’t even said goodbye to him as he left while I was still asleep and was considerate enough not to wake me. Thank G-d my husband came home from shule. But my friends Chaya Levine and Breina Goldberg weren’t as fortunate. What do you say to a friend, the widow of a holy martyr, whose life has changed drastically in an instant? How can I smile at Salim, the friendly Arab worker at the grocery store across the road, without feeling suspicious? And how do I deal with the fact that for the first time in 24 years in Israel I no longer feel safe in my own backyard? May G-d comfort all of us in these trying times, and may we all appreciate every minute spent with our loved ones.

I just don’t want to hear God’s accountants telling us it is because of a) or b) or c). Do yourselves a favour and adopt וידום אהרון.

At times like these, I’m terribly reminded of horrible holocaust scenes . I’m left with extreme בהלה

What can one do? We can donate money to relevant organisations, but there are families that now comprise some 24 children without a father. What was the Aybishter doing hiding? Can we ask why? I say yes. I say we adopt Moshe Rabeinu’s attitude and say מחיני נא מספרך rub me out from your Torah if you have something against the Jews. This so soon after a Shabbos Kiddush Hashem, it defies logic, and yes, I know “that soul may have completed its purpose in this world” is often used, but I don’t know why that soul wasn’t allowed to complete more. Who does it harm?

Don’t anyone dare suggest it was because we didn’t follow Satmar’s incorrect views.

In Melbourne we have the wonderful CSG looking after Shules and Schools. Ironically, they don’t look after Chareidim who think that their negative attitude to Israel and Torah Learning etc will protect them. This is a reminder that אין סומכין על הנס and you have to protect yourself. Does someone really believe that two or three deranged chevra from this כת הרוצחים these ישמאלים ממזרים aren’t capable of a copy cat style operation. Both major political parties are supportive of improved security, but there is a limit to what can be done. And I hope nobody touches the latently anti-semitic, nevus socialist alliance party. Don’t give them one vote.

Parents, watch your kids. Watch yourselves.  I see kids in the Charedi area of Ripponlea walking at night alone or in two’s. They wouldn’t have a hope of protecting themselves from the type of attack that Zac Gomo endured. Zac was a חייל with training and that saved him. He spoke Arabic and knew how to close a wind pipe.

Maybe we need to introduce קרב מגע in every Jewish School. Obama isn’t going to help us, and neither is anyone else. We can’t be sanguine. We must act, speak up, and look after ourselves. At the same time, improving one’s own personal faults in עבודת השם and עבודת הזולת, which is a very personal thing, should be on everyone’s mind. The world is finely balanced, and as usual, we are on the עקידה and although it is commonly thought that Yitzchak didn’t die on the עקידה the Midrash/Peskikta explicitly says that פרחה נשמתו i.e. Yitzchok died before the knife cut, and when he was saved, a new Yitzchok was effectively born.

אני הקטן don’t have anything of real value to contribute in this blog post except an outpouring of = extreme angst and aggravation that MY God was אפילו בהסתרה and if so, I say, no I beseech, that this game of hide and seek needs to stop through full גילוי אלוקות במהרה בימינו.

In the meanwhile, I would, even though it’s against intrernational law, not only demolish the houses, but evict all members of the family on a one way passage to Gaza. Let them rot there. I would investigate and include any Imam/Sheik who had influenced them (if they did) and do the same to them. The Balad party and all parties should swear allegiance to a JEWISH State, and if they can’t, they should leave to an Arab state.

End of Story.

Statement to clear the air and set the record straight

This may be relevant only to the dwindling number of members at Elwood Shule. Our family has been associated with Elwood for 60+ years. My father ע’’ה was Vice President and a very long-term board member, as well as regular mispallel. I joined the board several years ago, and functioned as the Ba’al Tefilla on Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur for many years. I accepted the role of leading Musaf and Kol Nidrei the year prior to the untimely death of Chazan Levy ע’’ה, the Shule’s last, full-time Chazan, in the year before he passed away. He then passed away on Rosh Hashono itself.

I worked assiduously at Board Level, and oversaw and edited the updated version of the constitution and assisted in the unfortunate but necessary legal fight for survival with our tenant. I was involved at many other levels.

I came to the conclusion, some 6 months ago that my tenure as a board member was no longer tenable. It had preyed on my mind for longer, but only emotional ties kept me going. I will not use this blog to discuss a range of issues that contributed to my decision. I later resigned from the board, as did three other board members, and of course, my father passed away, thereby making the board four fewer people than when it was constituted years earlier. When I informed long-term President Fred Antman that I had finally resigned, his comment was that I should have done so long ago, for reasons I won’t go into. He had encouraged me to resign many times and said my father would have told me the same.

Elwood is at a cross-road, where it says goodbye in the next years to Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, and welcomes a new Rabbi. Rabbi Karnowsky, the outreach Rabbi is assuming some of Rabbi Gutnick’s functions. Rabbi Karnowsky has a documented plan of what he was going to achieve as outreach Rabbi when he joined, and I assume remaining members of the board express a level of confidence in his achievements thus far.

Years ago, It was long-term President Fred Antman, who prevailed upon me, literally tens of times, to assume the function of Ba’al Tefila for Yomim Noroim. I also stepped in as needed on other occasions, willingly. I did not and never wanted to be the Ba’al Tefila. To be honest, I know my personal imperfections, and never felt worthy of representing this (or any) Kehilla. My children know too well, how, after members of the Shule passed away later during the year, that I took it personally. I might arrive home on Shabbos with bloodied knuckles and in tears or sloshed because I considered that Hashem had not listened to my prayers of מי יחיה or מי ימות and that this was due to me not being up to the spiritual level required to be a Ba’al Tefilla (or Chazan). I felt I wasn’t listened to and that my prayers were vacuous.

I was blessed with a good voice. This is not my achievement. My father ע’ה sang in the choir in the Rawa Mazowiecka Shtiebel with the Amshinover, R Zishe Shochet הי’’ד. My mother’s father played violin (as do I). These are not my achievements, they are some of Hashem’s Brachos.

A great source of personal happiness was descending the steps after Mussaf on Yom Kippur and spontaneously dancing with “Gandhi”, R’ Yossel ע’ה, a Buchenwald boy, as he was affectionately known. Of course, there was the scene of some 15+ Balbin offspring males sitting around my father on Kol Nidrei night, after he had carried the Torah during Kol Nidrei which I had intoned, and my father’s occasional glances at me. Upstairs a similar contingent of Balbin female offspring were present. My sons have beautiful life-long memories of walking with me and Zayda through thick and thin on a Shabbos (my father was, together with Rabbi Gutnick and Viggie Aron the only three people who walked a real distance on Shabbos to get to Shule and actually kept Shabbos). Nowadays, on Shabbos, Viggie only comes for layning, and Rabbi Gutnick mainly for Shabbos Shachris.

I vividly recall some feedback one year. I didn’t seek feedback. If proffered feedback I was happy to hear and sometimes listen. One man, whose face I knew, but whose name was not familiar, asked me why I kept stopping and starting during הנני העני ממעש. He sat in the front area, so he could presumably see my face, although I wear a Tallis over my head, as opposed to the more German style ecclesiastical headwear. Returning to the story, I couldn’t believe that this man hadn’t noticed that I was unable to resume my comportment at certain phrases, and often struggled not to weep. I am not talking about the iconic Chazanishe Krechtz or an “Oy yoi yoi” punctuated with a perfectly timed trill as choreographed according to the score (or iPod recording). I am talking about raw emotion.

I was shocked. That year, I decided I needed to “control myself”. I am sure I was wrong, but I consciously stopped myself thinking, perhaps over-thinking, about the meaning of the words I was uttering. At the same time, Rabbi Karnowsky approached me about incorporating his new sons in the service. I agreed (although musically, I felt they were young and raw). Nevertheless, it would be cute and perhaps would appeal to a majority of congregants who cannot follow or read a Machzor (we have 3 versions at Elwood and the Gabbay uses a fourth, and Davening is punctuated by annoyingly constant page call outs of different versions. I hope they have fixed this and settled on the magnificent Soloveitchik Machzorim, but I digress.)

Now, recall that I resigned from the board months before the High Holidays. In my letter of resignation, I also made it clear that the board should not feel encumbered in any way using my services as Ba’al Tefilla. I asked only that they inform me as soon as possible whether they required my services; a reasonable request.

Unfortunately, I was to find out that Mark Oyberman had asked around for people in Melbourne available to replace me, after which they settled on Shimon Wallis. I actually wrote to the board to confirm this as they had not communicated they were even looking let alone that they had already made a decision! Shimon has a fine voice, and his Nusach is derived from his grandfather ע’’ה, whom I enjoyed listening to on his rare visits. He was a Ba’al Tefilla with an authentic Yerushalmi Nusach. I wish him success.

What prompted me to post this article, was an Elwood promotional video I saw yesterday. I genuinely feared that some might assume that my absence from Shule was due to this new appointment.

Nothing could be further than the truth. I kept a seat at Elwood. I will hopefully be able to daven quietly and with some purpose this year. The reasons for my resignation as a board member are seemingly as valid now as they were then, and they will not be discussed in this blog post.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

The future of UJEB?

The following is from the left leaning, often anti semitic, Age Newspaper.

Jewish group fears new religious instruction rules threaten diversity in schools

Michelle Morgan, with daughter Kayla, supports Jewish instruction in schools.

The Jewish instruction provider for state schools is seeking legal advice to ensure its lessons remain available amid concerns new conditions will undermine cultural diversity.

The United Jewish Education Board has told parents it is exploring ”all avenues, including legal options” so Jewish children can continue to receive special religious instruction.

The letter to parents comes after the Education Department issued a new ministerial directive in May that said schools could withdraw from religious instruction programs if there were insufficient resources. The directive also said religious instruction sessions must be ”clearly opt-in” for parents.

”We are monitoring these developments very closely as we are concerned that some schools may not be in a position to deliver special religious instruction under the new framework,” the United Jewish Education Board letter said.

Principals must offer religious instruction to parents if their school is approached by accredited instructors who indicate they are available to run the sessions.

The board’s president, Yossi Goldfarb, said he was seeking legal advice about whether the impact of the new conditions would contravene the Multicultural Victoria Act. The board is now awaiting the advice of lawyers

Mr Goldfarb said cultural and religious diversity in schools would be threatened if principals began withdrawing religious instruction for Jewish children. ”We see it as a cornerstone of multicultural Victoria,” he said.

Mr Goldfarb said the number of Jewish state school students joining religious instruction had increased by about 30 per cent during the past five years.

The United Jewish Education Board operates in 37 state schools, attracting about 1300 students. It offers instruction to schools with as few as three Jewish students whose parents elect for their children to join the sessions.

Mr Goldfarb estimated more than 90 per cent of Jewish families in state schools receive religious instruction.

He said the instructors had no interest in proselytising but sought to convey the ”cultural, historical and national” aspects of Judaism. ”It’s more about a narrative of being Jewish.”

Students who participate in religious instruction must now also be supervised by a teacher from the school. But Mr Goldfarb said many Jewish instructors were already qualified teachers so it made little sense to have them supervised by another teacher.

Bentleigh East mother Michelle Morgan said she supported Jewish instruction for her six-year-old daughter, Kayla, because it ensured there was a base level of education in Judaism for Jewish children. ”They’re getting something out of it,” she said. ”It covers the basics.”

Ms Morgan has also enrolled her daughter in after-school classes in Judaism and Hebrew, but said they could be expensive.

Religions for Peace Australia chair Des Cahill said he was concerned that children from faiths with small numbers at schools could miss out on instruction in their religion because of the new directive.

His organisation co-ordinates instruction in the Buddhist, Baha’i, Greek Orthodox, Hindu and Sikh traditions in schools.

Professor Cahill, an RMIT expert in intercultural studies, said education about the world’s religions should be included in the general school curriculum.

An Education Department spokesman said the rules for special religious instruction (SRI) were the same for all providers.

”The decision as to whether SRI will occur based on available resources, following parental consent being sought, rests with the principal,” he said. ”Resourcing constraints are the only basis on which principals can determine not to offer SRI.”

Fairness in Religions in School campaign member Scott Hedges said he had not received any complaints from Jewish families about the content of the Jewish education board’s sessions. However, he said a small number of Jewish families had expressed their opposition to religious instruction in state schools, which must not exceed 30 minutes a week.

b.preiss@theage.com.au

 

Johannesburg and Melbourne

I have never been to South Africa. If you would have asked me 3 months ago whether I would have two future sons-in-law both born and bred in South Africa, I would have looked strangely at you.

My connection to South Africa commenced over 30 years ago when I was learning at Kerem B’Yavneh. Naturally, I found them “closer” to Australians, followed by the English, and the non New York, Americans: New Yorkers were another species altogether, as removed as Israelis. One of my Chavrusas back then was a young earnest Masmid (always learning) named Stanley Moffson, now known and loved throughout South Africa as Rabbi Shmuel Moffson of Ohr Someach fame. There were other South Africans, but I don’t even remember their names.

We could share cricket with the South Africans and Poms, but that was it. On Thursday nights we had Mishmar, where traditionally one would endeavour to learn all night. We didn’t learn all night, in general. By about 1am our brains were mush, and the words really just spun on the page (at least that’s true of me). We had a tradition of going to the basketball court, and playing 5 a side soccer for the rest of the night. Here again, the Poms and South Africans, Aussies, and Europeans studying at KBY would “go for it” as if we were representing our country. I still remember one mature English guy who used to play as sweeper and he had me on a string. I couldn’t ever get passed him: the memory still frustrates.

By the time my older son went to learn at KBY, they had a gym. This was a great idea. You need to have outlets, especially for the kids of our day, but I digress.

So, here I was an Avel no longer saying Kaddish, and our youngest daughter is engaged to a nice young man from J’Burg. We try to organise dates, but my wife is in New York for the engagement of our middle daughter, also to a J’Burger who has been in the States for a while. It was nigh on impossible to re-route and change things for my wife so she could also make the J’Burg engagement. I offered to try to book a flight which would take me to NY and then to J’Burg so I could be at both, but my wife insisted that if I’m at both, then she has to be at both. Fair enough too.

It was high season. I managed to get a flight on a full plane via Perth. On the way back I travelled on Kratzmech, and that was a Mechaye because there was plenty of room (and it was Qantas).

Arriving just after 5am in the morning, I was picked up by my daughter and the future Chosson. We dropped my daughter off, and I went to Shule on the Thursday. I didn’t realise it but I had sat (as I usually do) in the back of the Shule (the Chabad house in Sandton under Rabbi Yossi Hecht who was overseas), and the regulars thought that I was a Schnorrer. Now, if they had only had given me some Tzedoko!

I was called up to the Torah as Cohen, and although I’m uncomfortable saying HaGomel (according to the view of the Rav, Rav Soloveitchik given how relatively safe flying is), I did so and not become controversial. The Mechutan was also sitting in a back corner, and I didn’t notice him and hadn’t approached.

Davening ended and everyone shook my hand and said Sholom Aleichem and that was that. They remarked later that they were expecting me to pull out a few sheets of paper testifying that I was a genuine collector.

The thing that struck me was that apart from two dressed in dark suits, the rest of the Minyan looked “ordinary”. They weren’t bearded, were casually dressed, etc. I wondered what the attraction was to coming so early to Shule so early during the holidays. I know that mainstream Shules in Melbourne struggle to get a Minyan each day. The Mispallelim come three times a year and if you are lucky to a Yohr Tzeit. These guys, as I saw came for Shacharis and Mincha/Ma’ariv and I was to learn that this was not unusual.

As I was still technically an Avel, I did not allow myself to go touring and made do with the gym/jacuzzi/shvitz facilities at my hotel. That was therapeutic, and was a Menuchas HaNefesh and Guf which I really needed. My wife needed it as well, but she was in the snow of New York, wearing out the American Express card.

In my travels, I noticed that there seemed to be one and one only Kashrus organisation. There were no maverick entrepreneurial Rabbis who went off on their own for “utopian interests” which were really for “our” benefit. The result was that I could go into Woolworths and pick out items and find a stamp, a single stamp, in much the same way as the OU operates. What a Mechaye. Why was it happening here and in Melbourne we seem to have two Kashrus organisations: Kosher Australia and Adass, as well as the more recent  smaller maverick operation run by R’ Rabi. I won’t even start writing about the mess in Sydney where they simply can’t get their act together and separate Kashrus from Money, and agree on a single operation for all, without even a smell of self-interest.

I then asked where the so-called Charedi community “hung out”. I was to learn that J’Burg was pretty much void of (Hungarian) Chassidim. There was no “highest standard” Hechsher run by a separate Beis Din, where OO is EE, and separatism is a way of life. No, here, the Rabbinic institutions were set up by Litvaks. Even the Chief Rabbi claimed to be a Telzer, even though he apparently had learned only in South Africa.

What of Chabad? They certainly existed and were everywhere with really professional Chabad Houses augmenting the large choir-style Shules. I bumped into the charismatic R’ Sholom Ber Groner, who I knew in Melbourne. In fact, he gave me goose bumps each time I spoke with him in learning because so many of his mannerisms reminded me of his saintly father. He told me that the Ramash נ’’ע had written a letter to the Rabbonim many years ago that they should always work within the existing Rabbinical organisations and not separate themselves into another group. The Ramash was of course quite brilliant, and it came as no surprise that such sage advice was given. The result was that the Litvaks and Lubavitchers had mutual respect and genuine Chavivus. They worked together. The Beis Din is Litvak heavy but universally respected. There was a time when Chalav Yisrael was difficult to obtain, but they managed. They have “Mehadrin” Shechita which effectively means Chassidishe Shechitah. You can find that on menus in fleishig restaurants.

I guess the overall feeling had been of peace and fraternity between Rabonim, and I would argue that this is South Africa’s secret. There are no fifth columnists and private hashgochas and certainly no aspersions being cast around that “I’m frumer than you”.

The “Yavneh College” style school also impressed me. The primary school is mixed, but the high school is separate between males and females, and the males who want, have a Mesivta program where they can come back at 7pm for more learning. I was gob smacked. If something like this existed in Melbourne, with non Charedi teachers, I think Yavneh would really differentiate itself and move to a higher level of Chinuch. Again, I digress.

Yet, despite all this, many Jews from SA left. The apartheid was horrible and I detected racist feelings amongst Afrikaaners. When I suggested that it would take a generation or two of education and opportunity for reform (on the criminal level) to materialise, I was told “No, it will never change”. I loved watching the B’Nei Cham, with their ultra thick hair and perfect teeth walking around the Mandela mall. As someone who came from a persecuted people, I felt a natural affinity. I spoke with anyone who would talk to me. I could have done this for weeks. I loved them, I just felt that I had a duty to lift their morale and make them feel entirely comfortable. I tipped them too much, but what the heck. Their names were just wonderful. Names like Romeo, Delicious, Precious, etc were common place. The ones who worked in the Chabad houses were very well looked after and respected as human beings and I just loved being in that type of morality. The pejorative “Shvartzer” never passed my lips. What was Tzippora? What about Batsheva? What about our Sephardi brothers and sisters. Who are we to comment about any such things.

IMG_3058

Where was the Reform and Conservative movements, let alone the neo conservadox style movements? They barely existed. Why? In a place where Orthodoxy exudes peace, friendship and a typically Chabad and Ohr Sameach non judgemental approach to human relations, this is the most powerful antidote to counter these inaccurate and inauthentic branch offs from authentic traditional Judaism.

I came away with a great feeling. Yes, there are some security issues. Yes, you need to not go on your own without advice etc. There are challenges. As a community, though, I have to say that in general, although we might have more Kollels, their institutions achieve so much more and are more outward looking and manage to enfranchise individuals.

Disclaimer: I was only there for a week, and no doubt I was on a high, and perhaps ignorant and oblivious to various issues. This is my overall impression, however. In Melbourne, if you pass someone from a different “caste” you’d be lucky if they acknowledged you with a Good Shabbos when passing them. We have much to learn, not the least of which is learning to mind our own business and not whispering about every “bad” thing that happens in someone else’s family.

Jewish Spite filled Anti Semites

[Hat tip SH]

The Heimlich family is an honourable family in Adass Yisrael, full of Talmidei Chachomim, born and bred in the Charedi (hungarian) community in Melbourne, Australia. One of the sons, is a renowned Posek to whom most Adass folk turn to for their Sheylos today. He sits in the Gerrer Shitibel daily and learns, and is a fine man.

One brother Nachum is a Rosh Kollel in Satmar. You can hear his vituperative and spite filled anti zionist/jewish speech on youtube, where he tells the non Jews that we don’t need a country, we don’t need an army etc and publicly criticises Israel. To Nachum I say, come back to Australia. Your place isn’t in Israel. Why torture yourself by staying there.

Pull out, I say. Get your kinsman out of Israel. Cross the border into Ramallah. Go live there in peace and harmony. Get the heck out of Israel. It’s really Avi Avos HaTumah for you and means nothing to you. Get lost!

Shame on you Rabbi Nochum Tzvi Heimlich on the youtube (listen at about 10:42) The Australian accent is unmistakeable. What a Chillul Hashem. Remove your sackcloth, and come wear Australian sheepskin.

Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 11.23.41 pm

I call on his brother in Melbourne to condemn his statements. I doubt it will happen any more than the clandestine visits of Rabbi Beck to his infamous extremist brother.

We in Melbourne are fools for supporting and allowing these extremist elements to take our money through their various businesses. Next time you deal with one, ask him whether he supports Satmar and Toldos Aron or similar. This is a Shandeh.

I call on Adass to distance itself explicitly in the press from these extremists and condemn them and their sentiments.

The good work of Rabbis is often invisible

The reality is that newspapers and reporters are seemingly more likely to report and aggrandise horror stories and mistakes than they are to report excellent outcomes and outstanding effort, especially when it comes to Orthodox Rabbinic work. Sure, if a philanthropist donates money, they will report that as a big story with a nice picture spread. You won’t, however, find the headline on the front cover

“Reform rabbi speaks in favour of the anti-zionist BDS-supporting AJDS”

The “passionate” support of the Reform rabbi happened. It was mentioned in an article about the meeting of the ECAJ. I’d suggest such a view and display of passion has bigger ramifications for the reform movement and the opinion of many Jews than a Zablo that was screwed up and set aside by a NSW court. We should have had a transcript of what she had said.

As Rabbis Ullman and Moshe Gutnick noted in their letters to the Australian Jewish News, the focus on positive work and outcomes of Orthodox Rabbis seems to occupy no space in the AJN.

I wonder how the left-wing, and Limmud Oz supporters would react if it was suggested that they invite the following Neturei Karta people to speak about why we should be appeasing Ahmadinajad and dismantle the State in favour of Palestinian Arabs. After all, it’s all about tolerance, diversity and giving everyone a fair go to express their views?

No, Limmud Oz wouldn’t ever invite Neturei Karta, even remotely by video conference. Why not? I wonder if the AJDS would support them being invited? I imagine they would. After all, democracy is their religion. And yet, Limmud Oz invited Slezak! I don’t see much difference. In retrospect, there is a significant difference. Slezak is taken more seriously, especially by the young and green, and the young and green are mainly behind Limmud Oz.

People like Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, principal of Bialik College in Melbourne, writing in an article in the Australian Jewish News that amounts to a whitewash of a serious error by Limmud Oz in inviting Slezak, should now support Neturei Karta using his own arguments. Would Stowe-Lindner also use an error of inviting Neturei Karta to promote his agenda of sidelining denominational issues to the category of personally baked pareve cheese cake?

I know of recent cases where the Victorian Rabbinate, through the Beth Din, have solved very serious and long running cases of recalcitrant husbands not giving a Get. Was that a front page story? Heck, no.

It’s also the Rabbinate’s fault. They need a PR person in this day and age. In addition, they should have supplied statistics about the number of mediations they have overseen over the last few years which have been successful and not been challenged and compare those with  secular mediations and arbitrations that have been challenged.

No, you won’t see any of this in our Australian Jewish News. They are in the business of selling papers, and horror stories especially about Orthodoxy are better.

[AJDS really should rename themselves ADJS because I struggle to find Judaism in their politics. Left-wing democracy would seem to be their religion.]

R’ Nochem Zalman Gurewicz ז’ל

 

This last Shabbos, I was in two minds concerning which Shule to attend. Generally, I daven at Elwood Shule every second week, and the main Chabad Yeshivah Shule in Melbourne on the other week. Recently, I have davened at Elwood more often, feeling the need to show support.

The plan was to daven at Elwood, and like many, follow davening with an in-house Kiddush, Mincha, and eventually to a late lunch leading into the Taanis. After reading Emmanuel Althaus’s excellent e-mail of community events, it was apparent that Shabbos was R’ Nochem’s Yohr Tzeit on Tisha B’Av, and that a Kiddush/Farbrengen would be held at Yeshivah after davening given that the fast was moved to Sunday. R’ Nochem was one of my teachers; I had to attend the Kiddush.

R’ Nochem left an indelible mark on me (and others, of course). In what way does a teacher of year 11 and year 12 do that? Was it just because he was a good teacher? Why indelible? Let me be up front. R’ Nochem was not a Geonic teacher who dazzled the class with exquisitely crafted Pilpulim on the Gemora. He’d usually sit at the front of the class, stroking his beard, while uttering an elongated “Yeh”. We knew that during this time he was dealing with the Pshat in the Gemora or the Pshat in a Tosfos. We saw him struggle with these at times. That’s not to say that he had any unnatural difficulty learning. Rather, what we witnessed was an honest and open interaction between R’ Nochem and the Gemora. He hadn’t spent hours in preparation.

How was this helpful? Surely a student ought to see their teacher in absolute control of their material? Teaching a new subject this semester at University, one of the things terrifying me is not being in “complete” control of the material. Will a student ask a question for which there is no apparent response? Will I become tongue-tied at one of my bullet points because a mental blank clouds the ability to convey meaning and intention adequately? It’s not merely an egotistical fear; subconsciously, as a University professor, we are expected to know what we are talking about. It need not be that way, however. R’ Nochem had no such tickets on himself. His was an exercise: a journey of educational engagement. It was as if he was saying

I’m learning the Gemora and Tosfos, and you will learn it with me. We will make mistakes together, but we will learn and eventually come to an understanding.

Pedagogically, there is nothing second-rate about this mode of learning and teaching. Indeed, provided that a student is mature, some would consider it superior. There was more, however, to R” Nochem’s classes than Gemora and Tosfos.

Reb Nochem Zalman Gurewicz ז’ל

R’ Nochem came across, primarily, as an ordinary human being; a Tomim (simple and humble personage). Whether he did so consciously, I’ll never know, but his stories entranced and regaled. In a moment, we were transported from a difficult piece of Talmudic logic into the world of a Jewish soldier in the Soviet communist army. Pursued by the NKVD or “EnKaVehDeh” as he pronounced it, we were at once in Soviet Russia feeling his challenges, his pain and his hunger. R’ Nochem didn’t talk about himself exclusively by any stretch of the imagination. There were a wide array of personalities that somehow, almost star trek like, entered the door of that simple class room at 92 Hotham Street in Melbourne, Australia.

R’ Nochem’s Lubavitch was somewhat different to the one many of us are exposed to today. His was not a pastuerised and homogenised existence. Like Rabbi Groner ז’ל there was a keen reverence for Rebbes and Tzadikim of other groups. We heard stories about R’ Meir Premishlaner and R’ Zushe extending to contemporaries about whom he conjured an almost personal interaction. He showed great joy when expounding a good vort, even if it wasn’t derived from traditional Lubavitch sources. Yet, he was also a real Chosid. He knew his personal faults and never hid them. He was self-effacing and paradoxically charming at the same time. This contradictory infusion only increased a charismatic magnetism, discussion of which he would find most embarrassing.

As youngsters, we knew he “schnorred” for the Yeshivah. He had worked in knitwear earlier. He mixed with the Smorgons and other paragons of the community. Yet, that job description connoted a pariah-like existence to young teenagers and was considered derogatory. Today, employees are known by the more professional and acceptable title of “fund-raisers”.

R’ Nochem toiled as a worker. Rising well before the crack of dawn, he seemed to be davening in every minyan: from the first through to the last. No word in the siddur escaped his attention, and each was lovingly given due reverence. In R’ Nochem’s “spare” time, and this included his infamous vehicular conveyancing, an undercurrent of Tehillim was murmured in that idiosyncratic tone. Every time his car was fixed by the panel beater, we placed bets on how long it would be before it once more looked like he’d been in a serious accident. Without exaggeration, if you were “lucky” enough to hitch a ride with R’ Nochem, benching Gomel, B’Sheim U’Malchus was assuredly advised.

I remember once when in early high school, he called for volunteers to help on a mission to Carlton. I put my hand up. It was certainly a better proposition than the boring three R’s. The ride took an eternity. R’ Nochem meandered through many wrong turns. Finally we arrived outside an old Edwardian half-house in a quiet Carlton side street. We wondered what our task was to be. The deceased had apparently left his “estate” to the Yeshivah, and our job was to assist in loading a clapped out panel van with anything that appeared to be of value. I don’t remember many things impressing us as being any real value, although we did enjoy an interesting time rummaging through draws, finding ancient writing implements and the like. Of course, we also shlepped. We made it back in one piece, but it wasn’t always clear on that return journey that this would indeed be the case.

R’ Nochem was the “pinchy man”. He adored children, and the level of this adoration extended to an often painful pinch of the cheek. Ironically, in our more enlightened society, he would probably have been charged with harassment and battery, but what would they know about genuine affection. At least one of my children, Tzvi Yehuda, experienced this form of “love” and I’m glad he did!

R’ Nochem was spotless. This was a man whose suits, shirts, shoes and ubiquitous beige cardigan were at all times salubrious. His beard was always “clean”, his breath never unpleasant. We took these things for granted but when one looks around today and sees people in respected positions, with their shirts out, tzitzis dangling wildly in unkempt and gay abandon, jackets barely able to enclose an extended girth, pockets filled with the days takings, squished, dusty, off-colour fedoras and more, one comes to appreciate that N’Kiyus, cleanliness, is not anathema to a Chosid. I should add, that both R’ Zalman, R’ Isser and others were also immaculately groomed at all times.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. At times, R’ Nochem would blow up unceremoniously at a recalcitrant Talmid. These were not “ordinary” Talmidim. They were children of holocaust survivors whose parents essentially “deposited” their sons and daughters at the doors of the Yeshivah, praying that an educational experience be imparted. These parents worked 24/7 and mostly had neither the time, patience or Menuchas HaNefesh to cope or deal with children in a new country, let alone in a more modern era. One colourful character, whose name will remain anonymous, had a tendency to incessantly disturb the pervasively calm class ambience. Enraged, R’ Nochem grabbed his black umbrella hurling it towards the back of the class and almost impaling the said Talmid. Well, it was funny at the time, but yes, we know it could have ended badly. With R’ Nochem, you saw what you got and you got what you saw.

I was rebellious but not in the sense that I didn’t want to learn. Rather, I became somewhat estranged from the curriculum on Fridays. I didn’t have the presence of mind or a mature appreciation of Friday’s chassidic sicha. I used to slink off to the back of the class and learn basic Chumash/Rashi together with a little Sefer written in the style of “Itturei Torah” whose ditties on psukim I quite enjoyed. Determined to “do my own thing”, I put my black bag (“techke”) on the desk in front of me, effectively cutting myself off from what others were learning. Okay, okay, I hear your pseudo-psychological assessment of my behaviour and your assertion that not much has changed since then …. this article isn’t about me, though. R’ Nochem in his wisdom, accepted my position. He said:

As long as you are learning, it’s okay with me

How many teachers, including myself would tolerate such insolence? These days, when I lecture and see a student seemingly not paying attention because they are peering at an open laptop, I gravitate towards their seat and say

If you are looking at my overheads, they are in front of you on the screen, so please close your laptop or you will miss important information

In a word, R’ Nochem was tolerant. He had a clear sense of mission. His mission was simply to build the organisation. He worked tirelessly. He didn’t live in a grandiose setting and was humble until his last days in our world. R’ Nochem was always the first person at someone else’s Minyan when there was a Shivah. He was a source of comfort to so many people. I recall going to his flat in Alexandra Road when he was sitting Shivah—I don’t remember for whom. I was struck by the absolute simplicity of his flat. There were no trappings. This was a humble existence. He wasn’t “Rabbi” Nochem Zalman. Alas, I didn’t know his Rebbetzin. I firmly believe, though, that behind every good man, there is an even better woman.

His son, Mulik, otherwise known as Mr G, in keeping with the education imparted by both of his parents began his delivery at the kiddush by speaking not about his father, but about the other co-sponsor of the Kiddush, who also had a Yohr Tzeit. This struck me at the time as consonant with the example set by his parents. Somebody else always came first. Mulik mentioned (and I’ve heard this from him many times) that his father was very frum and a big medakdek b’mitzvos. I surmise that one of the reasons why Mulik refuses to be called “Rabbi” is because he couldn’t possibly see himself as being seen to be “more” than his father.

In the words of one of R’ Nochem’s grandchildren, as relayed to me yesterday

They don’t make them like that anymore

יהי זכרו ברוך

Myths and Facts: Yesodei Hatorah vs Elwood Shule

[Apologies: Many of you submitted comments, but I couldn’t turn comments off for this post. I had never intended that this post would induce discussion as this would just end up as flame fodder]

In a previous post, I mentioned that the truth will come out. I will resist the temptation to be more expansive and limit myself to incontrovertible cold facts. Do not ask me to expand on these as I don’t wish to reignite. Rather, my intention is to go on the record so that rampant misinformation doesn’t permeate.

Below, ETTC stands for Elwood Talmud Torah Congregation (Elwood Shule). YHT stands for Yesodei Hatorah College, as led by Messrs Lipkies and Casen, on behalf of their board.

Myth:  ETTC never got along with YHT and tried to close down the School
Fact:  ETTC tried for a number of years to conclude an ordinary long term lease for YHT based on reasonable commercial rates.

Myth: ETTC did not support the school in tangible ways
Fact:  ETTC supported both the original establishment of the School and provided a most favourable rental fee for use of ETTC buildings. In fact, YHT paid no rent for many years, and when they later agreed to a nominal rental of $20,000 per annum in return for providing regular mispallelim for ETTC’s daily minyanim, YHT failed to honour this commitment. The bottom line: when compared to normal rental fees over the years, ETTC has supported YHT to the tune of more than 1.5 million dollars.

Myth: ETTC should have offered a better deal to YHT when discussions about a more permanent lease began and none of the litigation from YHT would have transpired.
Fact: ETTC made offers more generous than that ultimately accepted by YHT. All of these offers were rejected by YHT

Myth: ETTC initiated court action against YHT
Fact: YHT brought the legal proceedings against ETTC and ETTC was obliged to defend itself.

Myth: ETTC forced YHT to go to arbitration
Fact: ETTC had no choice but to go to arbitration and in doing so prevented YHT from effectively taking over the premises

Myth: The issue was simply over the existence of a lease
Fact: YHT sought damages of more than 1 million dollars against ETTC

Myth: YHT actually had a lease and ETTC were being difficult
Fact: After a thorough and lengthy arbitration hearing ex Federal Court Judge, the Honourable Alan Goldberg AO QC,  ruled decisively in ETTC’s favour and awarded ETTC the costs of arbitration

Myth: After Goldberg’s findings ETTC went after more money from YHT
Fact: YHT did not accept the umpire’s decision and appealed on a technicality to the Supreme Court (one assumes they had Halachic permission to do so?)

Myth: ETTC wasted money by defending itself in the Supreme Court
Fact: YHT hired arguably the most expensive and high-profiled QC in Victoria who eventually unearthed a technicality that questioned but one aspect of Goldberg’s findings. ETTC had no choice but to defend itself once more.

Myth: The appeal in the Supreme Court found in favour of YHT
Fact: The appeal was allowed (on a procedural issue) but made no substantive findings

Myth: ETTC will be in a worse financial situation because it vigorously defended itself against YHT’s claims
Fact: ETTC will recoup over $2m in rent as per the new lease which will more than cover its costs and provide a much needed injection of fresh income for new projects to reinvigorate the Shule.

Myth: ETTC and YHT are sworn enemies
Fact: ETTC hopes that relations with YHT will be harmonious and is very sad that YHT sought the action that they did and that they chose to reject a deal put on the table by the current ETTC board which would have seen YHT with a much better outcome than what transpired.

Disclaimer: I am a board member and long-term member of Elwood Shule. This post, however, was not approved of by the Board and is not to be seen as representing anything but my own summary.

They must be excommunicated

Are there billboard announcements all around Meah Shearim denouncing this Nidetrechtige Oysvoorf? Are we only going to see announcements about the denier level of stockings, or could we perhaps have the Satmar Rebbe’s come out and openly disassociate themselves from this mohammedan brown tongue?

Watch this video (in his polished Ivrit no less-another example of hypocrisy). If it doesn’t bother you, then perhaps you need to take another look at yourself and ask why you are desensitised to such debasement and such a profound חילול השם.

Question: Is there a group in Melbourne’s Adass community who support this guy and his philosophy and approach? Who are they? Here we are on the eve of the great day that Hashem wrought open miracles and allowed us to re-unite Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, and this low life calls it “al-quds”. I’m profoundly sickened by people who harbour such philosophies and spread them around the world in the way that this חזיר does.

«Hat tip to Krakovian Ezra»

The truth will come out

Various sprinklings of disinformation, sock puppeting and outright lies find their way across the internet about the court case where two individuals from the governing “board” of Yesodei Hatorah College (YHT), took Elwood Shule to court because they didn’t like the Arbitrators ruling . The Arbitrator was an eminent Judge and QC of the highest rank who ruled against YHT and ordered it to pay Elwood’s costs. That’s not to cast aspersions on the School itself and its educators, who I understand do a sterling job, especially for children who have challenging special needs. There is definitely a place in our community for an American style Aguda school.

Ironically, it was those two members of their “board” who insisted that all matters be kept secret. Elwood never entertained such secrecy but reluctantly had to sign on in order for Arbitration to proceed. We have had, and continue to have nothing to hide. Make no mistake: Elwood will not only survive this, but they will become a shining example to other communities through innovative programs that enfranchise those elements of the community who are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the fiercely Zionist Holocaust survivors who paid for and built every brick of the Shule.

In good time, with Hashem’s blessing, the real story about these two interlocutors will come out, and hopefully they will donate their money to the School and not lining lawyer’s pockets. We would be happy if, as per the Arbitrator’s ruling, the College goes from strength to strength in their eventual own premises and Elwood Shule is able to carry out its ambitious renaissance program, unencumbered and designed for its own membership.

Watch this space when the dust settles. In the meanwhile, just don’t believe everything that you read.

Disclaimer: I am a board member and long-term member of Elwood Shule. This post, however, was not approved of by the Board and is not to be seen as representing anything but my own private opinion.

The Eda Charedis is imploding

Hat tip to Dovid, reports coming to hand indicate that there have been a series of arrests at 4:30am in Meah Shearim involving the Shamash of the Av Beis Din, R’ Tuvia Weiss. After a long investigation, it would seem that there has been a massive money laundering operation happening through the offices of the Shamash, Amram Shapira. Also arrested were Shmuel Lubatzki who ran the “charity” known as HaVaad HaArtzi as well as Yossele Sheinberger and Ya’acov Eisenbach. The charges are serious and involve many millions. Through their representative, Yitzchak Shlomo Blau, the Eda have sent a message to the Israeli police that all bets are off, and communication lines are now closed.

I expect that there will be a new ferocious round of violence, tyre and rubbish burning and mass demonstrations. Worse, our friends at Satmar, who are philosophically aligned with the Eda, have suggested that Chassidim demonstrate in the USA against the “religious persecution” of minorities. Will they demonstrate in Australia too?

In the meanwhile, one of the two Satmar Rebbes, R’ Zalman Leib?, has condemned the Belzer Rebbe because the latter dared to suggest that violence may not be the way to deal with the issues being faced. In a rambling tirade, lacking  Torah sources or halachic veracity, the Satmar Rebbe basically said that you can’t fight a lack of kedusha (read Tumah) by adding Kedusha elsewhere. He suggested that one had to “confront” the Tumah. He’s right, but he hasn’t explained why confronting can’t be achieved by increasing Kedusha. He seems to think that Kedusha can’t permeate. We know that is simply wrong! We live in times where the most powerful method to deal with the opposite of kedusha is to bring kedusha to it! You can’t mandate Kedusha through fiat. That’s a medieval approach, at best. It doesn’t work in the free world. Period.

Next time you consider Satmar, remember that although they do great things in Chesed, they are aligned with the Eda Charedis in no uncertain fashion.They are implacably against Israel and their world view is one that is increasingly aggressive against anyone who doesn’t allow their spreading tentacles to transform and supplant an existing landscape with their definitions of Tzniyus etc. It’s in our midst too. Today, in East St. Kilda, as I got out of my car, 3 little boys from the Adass offshoot school said “look the Tziyoni is here” after which they quickly scuttled back up their drive way. Who is teaching these kids such disgraceful hate laden invective? Am I also the Tumah that the Satmar Rebbe and the Eda Charedis wants to “attack”? Are the women wearing Sheytels and Tichels and little girls going to School in Bet Shemesh, the Kochos HaTumah?

We are in big trouble. These extremists have gone way too far. The market needs a correction.

Responses to Zealotry

Some definitions:

Extremist:  a person who favours or resorts to immoderate, uncompromising, or fanatical methods or behaviour, especially in being politically radical

Fanatic: refers to persons showing more than ordinary support for, adherence to, or interest in a cause, point of view, or activity.

Zealot: stresses vigorous, aggressive support for or opposition to a plan or ideal and suggests a combative stance.

Taking stance that is “not the norm” can be viewed as extremist. In a community of meat-eaters, a vegetarian who is uncompromising may be seen as adhering to an extremist view. Once a community comprises more vegetarians, they cease to be called fanatics. Their behaviour becomes an acceptable norm, albeit of a minority view. In either case, some vegetarians are more vocal than others. We accept the views of someone who is passionate about their vegetarianism. We don’t have a problem with the existence of vegetarian-only restaurants. There are lines, though. Where does society draw those lines?

  • It would be unacceptable to enter a vegetarian restaurant and demand to eat meat.
  • It would be unacceptable to enter a meat restaurant and demand that they cease serving meat.

Why is it unacceptable? Simply because we recognise the right of free choice: an inalienable right; a God-given right. Free choice is the basis of our existence as humans and is the eco-system through which we are able to rise or fall.

Kosher-style restaurants or take-aways are not kosher. It is forbidden by Halacha to eat food prepared in such establishments. Yet, some people on the fringe, do so. You find yourself in an environment where Kosher-style is presented to you. The food is unacceptable and yet your host insists that you partake. They cannot understand what is wrong. There is no pork. It’s supposedly a kosher fish with side salad. What can be wrong with the dressing? You decline. Your host may well be upset, yet you may not be in a position to adequately explain why you cannot take part. Your host may not be in a position to understand or accept your stance. It would be wrong for your host to become angry. Equally, it would be wrong for you to show anger towards your host. There is a gap between your views and theirs. You may also both be somewhat fanatical in your views. You may not understand each other. You may both even be somewhat fanatical in not accepting or understanding the rationale; but there is still a line. This line is the glue which keeps society together. When that line is crossed, we are in danger of falling apart as a unit. The line is crossed when someone is a zealot. You become a zealot when you take an aggressive or combative stance.

Sometimes, in rare cases, a Jew is commanded to sacrifice their life and not compromise their ideals. This is קידוש ה, the sanctification of God’s name that is wrought through death. It is a form of passive aggression. We aspire, though, to live. In regards sanctifying God’s name through living our lives, the Talmud in Yoma quotes a verse and interprets it as follows:

ואהבת את ה’ אלוקיך you shall love Hashem, your God. [This means]

שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך that the name of Heaven [God] should become beloved through your hands [actions]

Ultimately, your actions need to be ones which cause the name of God to remain/become beloved through the mode of your adherence to Torah and Mitzvos. The Talmud then provides some examples:

  • Your business dealings should be honest and upright
  • You should adhere to righteous Jews and learn from their ways and their Torah
  • You should speak with pleasantness

This list is not exhaustive. Clearly, there are many other things that have the potential to both sully or exalt respect for the practice of Judaism. The resultant potential love of Heaven is induced thereby.

The greater test is to stay an honourable, practicing and believing Jew during one’s life. As incredible as Isaac’s preparedness to allow himself to be sacrificed by his father, Abraham, the test for Abraham, who would have had to live with what he did for the rest of his life, was greater. The test to go on living is usually protracted and far more stressful. Similarly,causing God’s name and Judaism to be loved by one’s actions is greater and more challenging through the mode of one’s life and the way one lives.

I am convinced the events of the last few weeks involving a section of the ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist, community in Israel have caused the name of God and the image of Judaism to be severely tarnished. Halachically,

  • one does not spit at little girls (or anyone for that matter)
  • one does not ask a woman to move to the back of the bus, whether she is dressed according to one’s own acceptable levels of modesty or not.
  • one does not throw stones at people who are not keeping Shabbos
  • one does not yell at people who don’t adhere to a certain standard of dress, even in one’s own backyard
  • one does not compare Jews to Nazis—ever.
  • one does not use the holocaust in an abhorrent pantomime to advance an agenda

To be sure, the anti-Zionist zealots, comprising so-called Sikrikim, Neturei Karta, Toldos Aaron and the others believe that they are “defending” God’s honour. They are, of course, wrong. Their behaviour is nothing short of odious and against Halacha. These zealots  do not act alone. They receive the silent, or “behind closed doors” blessings of their Rabbinic leaders. They will not listen to anyone; we are all Treyf. In their mind, they have a complete mortgage on the truth.

What can we do?

  • We must recognise that there is a sizeable number of “black hats” and “thick stocking” style people, who are also disgusted by this thuggish minority of misguided individuals.
  • We must ask our own Rabbis, yes, each and every one of them, to explicitly make a statement in writing and in sermons to their congregations rejecting the ideology of the zealots as outside the pale of normative Judaism. Statements should be without prevarication. There is no need to speak about anything else. For example, the statement by the RCA is sensibly crafted, whereas the one from the Aguda is disingenuous.
  • There is a group in our own community, constituting a section of Adass Israel Congregation, who fully agree with the philosophy of the zealots. A few days ago, I was accosted in the street, next door to my parents’ house, by a brain-washed boy , who yelled at the top of his lungs “Zionists are Pigs” (in Yiddish). Do not forget that this group of zealots are in our midst. Pockets exist in most Jewish communities around the world.
  • When asking for a statement/response from your Rabbi, it is important to not only include members of the Rabbinic Council of Victoria or the Organisation of Rabbis of Australia. One should also approach the Rabbis of Adass, Beth HaTalmud and other non-affiliated congregations and ask specific questions with no wriggle room. In particular, ask if it is ever appropriate to demand that a woman “move to the back of the bus” even if she is on one of those bus lines where such an pseudo-mechitza is implemented.
  • When a collector comes to your door, ask them the same question. If you don’t like their answers, give them less and someone else more.
  • Avoid apologetics. There is absolutely no justification for this disgraceful anti-halachic behaviour.

Let me end with a story about a true sage, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ז’ל. In his neighbourhood of Sha’arei Chesed a lady persisted in driving through the otherwise empty streets on Shabbos. Surrounded by the “holy” ones, he was asked, “Surely you have a Torah obligation to protest against this desecration of Shabbos?”. R’ Shlomo Zalman responded that indeed he did have a responsibility to express his dislike for what was occurring. He advised them, however, that throwing stones, or surrounding/blocking the car and/or yelling “Shabbos” achieved nothing. It only served to further aggravate the situation. “So in what way are you protesting?” they asked. R” Shlomo Zalman was quiet. Over the next few weeks, rather than accosting the women who drove through the neighbourhood, they observed R’ Shlomo Zalman as he walked in the street after Shule and came face to face with the car. A look of genuine pain was seen on his face. The lady noticed this look from R’ Shlomo Zalman’s face over the next few weeks, and apparently decided that she didn’t want to cause any angst to this old and pious man. If you are respectful to people, they will also respect you. Don’t cross lines.

We Jews who also try to keep Halacha to the best of our ability must vehemently reject and ostracise this group of unsound zealots and let them know that we are not with them in any shape or form, and that their corrupt version of Judaism is simply an invalid aberration.

Enough is Enough.

A new attempt to evict Meshichisten

We have credible information that Rabbis Shem Tov et al, have initiated the serving of new writs to the Crown Heights 770 Meshichisten (including the Gabbai) with a view to having this group permanently removed from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s ז’ל original headquarters.

The divide between the Meshichisten and regular Chabadniks is set to widen. Even if not successful, this new action is likely to cause many closet Meshichisten (who are outwardly silent for reasons of diplomacy and financial consideration) to become more public and outspoken.

Yeshivah College in Melbourne remains hopelessly contradictory and continues to allow the daily morning thrice recital of “Yechi” followed by “Ad Mosai” (now prior to T’kias Shofar) in the School’s Beis Medrash and Mesivtah Minyan and openly flouts the clear Psak of Rabbi Groner ז’ל.

Not to be outdone, Rabbi Moshe Kahn  of Melbourne’s Chabad Youth takes this two steps further by allowing the recital of Yechi thrice, three times a day at camps (at a minimum) although Rabbi Kahn is not a Meshichist himself.

It is hoped that Chabad, led by what I consider to be the more realistic types, returns to its roots as a once glorious movement that inspires the world-over with overflowing love and a commitment to reconnecting all Jews with Torah and Mitzvos (yes, they also want them to connect to Chassidus, and that doesn’t bother me in the slightest even though I know zero Chassidus).

Meanwhile in Melbourne two of the four individuals seem to no longer dance and prance like a ridiculous Bananas in Pyjamas parody, on the corner of Balaclava and Hotham. Only the “father and son” tag-team remains to be out of control and active. Not much can be done to rein them in, however.

Many members of the Vaad Ruchni in Melbourne are overt and covert Meshichisten. I wonder with whom they will side when the news of the new writ hits the airways?

In that general context, I’ll sign off with the wise words of R’ Aharon Soloveichik ז’ל (HaRebbi Melech HaMoshiach, David Berger, Urim Publications, 2005. p.75, note 7)

To my great dismay. . . publications affiliated with the Lubavitch movement have persisted in stating that I validate their belief that a Jewish Messiah may be resurrected from the dead. I completely reject and vigorously deny any such claim. As I have already stated publicly. . . such a belief is repugnant to Judaism and is the antithesis of the truth. My intent in signing the original letter . . . was merely to express my opinion that we should not label subscribers to these beliefs as heretics. Any statements in that letter which imply an endorsement of their view were not shown to me at the time I signed and I once again repudiate any such ridiculous claim

An education revolution?

[Hat tip to Dovid]

The following, is my free translation of a statement issued by Rabbi Yosef Avrohom Heller, Rosh Kollel of Crown Heights and one of the most prominent (if not the most prominent) Poskim in Chabad today. (His views on other matters, such as “Who is Moshiach” are well known).

Rabbi Yosef Avrohom Heller

There are dozens of children wandering and lost, and thank God we are blessed with many institutions established to bring them back through Torah.

But these are not only the only misguided ones: many young people in Yeshivos are perplexed and in danger of dropping out.

This is not only dangerous, but the simple fact that they are lost and confused – is itself a great loss, as we must expend all our powers to keep them and guide them. Because everyone should succeed in Torah study and Mitzvos, and we should not be focussed only on those who are already in a proverbial deep hole.

We should give them our full attention and show them the beauty and wondrous taste of Torah.

There are still many students who ostensibly behave as they should, but since we are not in reality educating them in a proper way and do not give them the necessary tailored spiritual needs, they may turn down the road and become lost, and the debt is imposed on each of us to pay attention to their suffering and help them.

How is this done?

Each child is different

The first rule is that every child is different, each has a potentially different learning path and outcome from the other, and our expectation is different from child to child. This applies to both learning Torah and and serving God.

If we can show each child what they can achieve on a personal level, the child will feel a hundred percent successful in their achievements.

But if the child gains the feeling that they were “unsuccessful” or feel they have to live up to an unreasonable expectation, then in addition to the grief that the child is suffering, there is a danger that because they are not seen to be successful, they will seek success elsewhere.

The truth is that it is hard to expect institutions to look after and devote themselves personally to each student according to their  value, since this is nearly impossible. So, the responsibility is on the parents, neighbors and friends, to see that each achieves their individual potential.

Gemorah? Is not for everyone!

Previously there was no concept of people learning all day. Only very few people did this, and others set time for Torah and the rest of the day they were at work.

Today there is a new concept that has no source in the Torah that everyone should specifically learn Gemara. One who studies Mishnayos is considered a lesser individual!

There was never anything like this in the past:  one studied Talmud, another Mishnayos. Is it conceivable to say that the latter is less of a Talmid Chacham than the former?

A third studied Chumash with Rashi and also had a place of honour in the Beit Midrash.

It is the same with the study of Talmud itself: the first is studying the first Sugya in Pesachim and another is learning the last chapter. Is the latter therefore considered to be less than the first? We can not all learn the same thing, because God did not create everyone as clones of each other.

For every student to succeed, according to their ability, they must  feel their success according to their potential ability. If this is the case, they will feel satisfaction and pleasure in learning. They need not aspire to be a great “genius”.

But if they learn matters which are more complex than their innate ability or matters which do not challenge them adequately they will not feel satisfaction in the classroom.

For example, for one student it may be grossly inadequate to painstakingly teach them one Mishna a day, explaining each part with examples and illustrations. For another student, this may be exactly the approach that is required and they will feel fulfilled and not lacking in self-esteem.

The mathematician, philosopher and technician

Therefore, an entire class cannot assume a one size fits all approach. It does not work.

As an example: the mathematician, philosopher and engineer, are three types all of whom can excel. They each have different ways of thinking. Is one less wise than the other? This is the way God created the world. Two heads are not identical. Every person is wise within their God-given boundaries.

So when learning a complex issue involving a dispute between two Tanaim, the Gemara brings about a dispute between two Amoraim on their interpretation Now we have four views. Then the Gemara brings a different interpretation of the Amoraim and we now have eight approaches.  Then there is a dispute between Rashi and Tosfos – and we have 16 opinions. This can then extend to different understanding in Rashi and Tosfos which leads to 32 approaches.

A student who can understand all these methods is mathematically gifted, but how many are born with this ability?

However another student could resolve a conflict between two different Gemoras because they had a more philosophical (abstract learning) ability. And others may have practical more applied sense, and can apply the principles to conclude practical halachic ramifications in our daily lives.

So when Yeshivos deliver complex shiurim with hair-splitting logical minutiae, many students do not have the tools to deal with this approach. But if you were studying with them issues of Jewish law  tracing the Gemora through Tanaim and Amoraim and Rishonim and Acharonim until they could see and understand the conclusions in Shulchan Aruch they would feel experts in that field, and they will importantly derive much satisfaction and fulfilment.

Different children’s institutions

The conclusion is that there must be different departments in each Yeshivah. For example, children of the same age will have one group studying Gemorah, a second group learning Mishnayos and a third group learning Halacha.

The institution itself must have a framework and provide options so that students select what is suitable for them and is fulfilling.

If you do not give him the opportunity – it’s like the philosopher being forced to become a mathematician, and instead of becoming successful in their chosen field, they end up not being successful at all.

We need to open many types of such institutions, and there are a lot of donors willing to support it, since they were disappointed that they had suffered and were not successful in their own learning.

We need to explain to people that this is a real life-death situation, and if we lack money, then by Halacha we have to sell all the scrolls in the synagogue so that each synagogue will only have one, and thus finance the costs.

There is a recent great awakening to write Torah scrolls, and almost every month in our neighborhood there is one more new Torah Scroll. So certainly they would be willing to donate money for new institutions. This is more important than the new Torah scrolls.

One story tells of a woman who wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe that they wish to contribute a Torah in loving memory of her relatives, and the Rebbe responded (אגרות קודש ח”ל ע’ צב)  that if she will support a yeshiva student who studies Torah, then the souls will be raised more than through buying a Torah scroll. And how much more so in regard to save the lives of children in Israel.

So parents need to know that if their child is not succeeding in a given Yeshivah no matter how hard they try, they should take the child out of that Yeshivah. This is פיקוח נפש.