The ‘anti Jewish’ News and Rabbi Telsner

It’s not just the anti-Jewish News otherwise known as the AJN that is guilty of poor journalism. I won’t expand on that.

What I will say is the following (and these are my personal views)

  1. Rabbi Telsner is highly versed in Torah
  2. Rabbi Telsner and his wife have worked tirelessly often behind the scenes to help anyone in a rut
  3. Rabbi Telsner and his wife have a home which supports people who don’t have a place to sleep or eat, any time any day
  4. Rabbi Telsner and his wife have no car, and walk by foot to perform outstanding pastoral care at all times of the day and night
  5. Rabbi Telsner was born to be either a Rosh Yeshivah or Rosh Kollel, I am not sure why he didn’t go down those lines.
  6. Rabbi Telsner is NOT the Rabbi of the Shule. He was appointed as a Dayan (Judge). I don’t know the Beth Din, but that’s the title.
  7. There are many Shules at the Yeshivah Centre. In fact the main one probably has one of the smaller attendances. His approach isn’t followed uniformly by any stretch.
  8. Rabbi Telsner is an emotional man, He cares.
  9. Rabbi Telsner cries at the drop of a hat when he talks about things affecting the community, Jewry, or about his father in law
  10. Rabbi Telsner is not a diplomat
  11. Rabbi Telsner is not a politician
  12. Rabbi Telsner is not a singing and dancing pulpit Rabbi.
  13. Rabbi Telsner gives a good shiur but is not what one would call an orator of note.
  14. Rabbi Telsner is prone to old-fashioned responses to halachic issues. The Responsa literature makes him look mild* in comparison. The AJN wouldn’t know what Responsa are. That’s too Jewish for the AJN.
  15. Rabbi Telsner is fully devoted to Torah and Mitzvos. The notion of a Chilul Hashem made him resign. I have no doubt whatsoever. He put himself second, and the Yeshivah first.
  16. Rabbi Telsner is a Meshichist who believes that the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory is the only person who can redeem Jews as the Messiah
  17. Rabbi Telsner hasn’t got a bad bone in his body. He sometimes shoots back too quickly before an extra moment of contemplation would be better advised. I suffer from the same.
  18. Rabbi Telsner protects the rights of women with vigour.
  19. Rabbi Telsner cares about Jews and Judaism with enormous passion
  20. Rabbi Telsner over-worried that some people might succeed in destroying the Yeshiva Centre. Those people cannot and will not. They do have their legitimate issues, and those will and should be dealt with. Some may have already. Others need to be. The centre will flourish once more. There is no doubt whatsoever.
  21. Rabbi Telsner is often misunderstood because he is goaded by those who know he can be goaded
  22. I have goaded Rabbi Telsner on Halachic issues and he has yelled and screamed at me in Shule. I don’t get offended. I’m not thin-skinned and I know where he comes from. He screams Torah, but some take it as insults.
  23. Rabbi Telsner and his wife have done more than plenty of good. I doubt many Rabbis in Melbourne have the open home that they do. He doesn’t quote Plato or fancy poets: his is the Torah only way. It’s an approach. It may not be everyone’s approach, but I’d be embarrassed if my Rabbi quoted more poets and philosophers than he did real Torah.
  24. There is, to my knowledge, zero evidence that has been tendered that Rabbi Telsner sent Malka Leifer away (as the AJN wrote). The courts may decide how that happened, but I don’t believe Rabbi Telsner opined that she should be sent away. The AJN of course knows better.
  25. Rabbi Telsner has always supported women’s activities and shiurim and ensured they are accorded respect through their own functions at Yeshivah mirroring ones which in the past were just the domain of males.
  26. It is not a sin to hold a view that same gender preference is something that may be addressed (successfully or otherwise). There are a few respected experts in the field who do have such a view under particular conditions and have a PhD and peer-reviewed papers in the area, including people who see them. One can disagree with such approaches, but one can’t condemn a person for subscribing to such  (unless they are Fascists or Communists who condemn discourse and dialogue and want to shut up everyone’s mouth). Only a fool thinks that advances in Science and Medicine are frozen in 2015.
  27. Rabbi Telsner should have a special Kiddush thanking him for the many fantastic things that he has achieved, and for putting himself second when he could easily have revealed some troubling things in context.
  • On the matter of the sharpness of Rabbinic tongues, check this out from a great of the greats, Rav Yaakov Emden. He would have been sacked in a minute!

    “One time I heard a learned chazzan who wanted to show off the great precision with which he led the prayers. When he reached the blessing of ‘Hashkiveinu’ he said ‘shemor tzei’atecha‘ (meaning ‘your excrement’ instead of ‘your travels’). I said to him, ‘You watch over what comes out of your mouth, and ‘go back and cover your excrement’ [Devarim 23:14].

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 AJN attack on Orthodox opinion

The AJN is perfectly entitled to have views. These are widely considered anti–religious for many years by many. In fact, each year we ask ourselves why we buy it.

Whatever the case may be, the AJN needs to acknowledge that nobody contends that homosexuality is an illness. It is a preference, call it a predilection. I don’t have it, so I can’t claim any expertise nor am I a therapist of any sort. The preference itself, as is well-known by the AJN is not considered sinful according to Torah Judaism (I don’t conclude man-made reformations of Judaism here as they are of minor interest if any). People are born with predilections. There is the nature vs nurture conundrum which is far from settled. Acting on the preference and performing the homosexual act is described as sinful by the Torah and Codifiers. There can be no argument about that fact in any form of Orthodoxy. Reformers have their own religion.

Now, many if not the vast majority of those professionals who see homosexuals professionally claim that the predilection is life long and cannot be altered. That may well be. There isn’t Science here, and extrapolation into the future is tenuous at best. Maimonides knew about predilections long ago.

The best counter case to nature, as quoted by arguably the most respected psychiatrist in the USA, Professor Abraham Twersky, and many others is the identical twin conundrum which has been studied extensively. All known biological markers were exactly the same, and yet one twin had a predilection and the other did not. There is currently no theory able to explain that. There is a minority view, and yes it is a minority (Dr Elon Karten comes to mind) that claims they have techniques which allow predilection change to materialise. Like Climate Skeptics they are attacked regularly. I’m not an expert, but as a Scientist, one would be a fool to think that in ten years time, our knowledge of these things will still be static. Accordingly, if Rabbi Telsner or anyone else subscribes to the view that predilection modification could occur, they do not deserve to be pilloried in the disrespectful tone of the AJN.

Pedophillia is also at least a predilection. Perhaps we will discover it is more likely a disease that is incurable except by using drastic means to make sure that those who seem to “enjoy” such things are simply incapable of (re)offending. In the meanwhile, one witnesses judges themselves releasing pedophiles back into the public after serving sentences, as if law makers believe they will be “safe” to society once  so released. Is that true? Evidence would suggest that re-offending is (too) common and perhaps techniques for rehabilitation are simply inadequate and not practical at this time.

Now, if Rabbi Telsner were to subscribe to an opinion that people with predilections can have them modified (and this could extend to those with life long fetishes), one can disagree, but one should not excoriate him in the way of the AJN, as a matter arising out of the Royal Commission.

Rav Schachter of the Modern Orthodox Yeshiva University always said that a “stock” Rosh Yeshivah or Rosh Kollel in general should not be a Posek (decisor) of Halacha because they sit in a cloistered environment and are often/mostly oblivious to the nuances of science and other disciplines. This was certainly the case in Lithuania where most Rabbi’s were not Halachic Decisors. There were some exceptions such as the Vilna Gaon and the Chazon Ish, but the late and great Chacham Ovadya Yosef did not consider the Chazon Ish a Posek of repute, because he sat cloistered and didn’t face the people, so to speak.

Either Rabbi Telsner has read some minority opinions or has been informed of such by some of his constituents. This can mean that the AJN, seeing itself to present current knowledge on such topics can disagree with the minority opinion, but it does not give then a license to excoriate a Rabbi for agreeing to such a minority opinion.

The last time I looked there were no Nobel Prize winners writing for the AJN, and aside from the occasional community brouhaha most of the news is stale, and unenlightening. Indeed we may have also recently witnessed an alleged breach of journalistic ethics which has allegedly resulted in a staff member being suspended initially. The mere fact that we are exposed to the weekly whining letters of Messrs Burd and Herzog, and others is bad enough. One could almost write their letter before reading it. I think the AJN do good things but there is room for improvement in some of its approaches. Yes, I know it’s good for selling papers, but Oilom Goilom believes everything.

The “what do you think” section is statistically unsound, and really just a copy of journalistic practice in low-level papers, like the Herald Sun and others. Is it going to make one iota of a difference if I know what the local butcher thinks of Bibi’s chances?

I’m digressing.

Back to the issue at hand. The AJN may not have liked elements of evidence tendered. As such, it should carefully analyse such in a calm and sanguine way. The majority of Rabbis are traumatised by the Royal Commission, and my sense is that things will never return to the situation before in respect to how they react if they are God forbid confronted with such information. We aren’t Catholics, and don’t have a box where one admits their sins and the Priest, Lehavdil, absolves the sin, says a few hail mary’s sends the perpetrator on their way and will never breach confidence.

It’s also not about Chabad. Don’t people read the internet? Modern Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel has pleaded guilty to secretly videoing some 57 women at the Mikva with secret cameras. Is he sick? Undoubtedly. Can he be rehabilitated? I don’t know. He will serve jail time. Does this paint all Rabbis as fetish-laden? Of course not.

Contrast this issue to the one about the “interfaith dialogue” we graphically saw and where Rabbi Ralph Genende as usual gushed forward with platitudes about how useful they were. Let’s look at the evidence AJN. What has ever changed because of these meetings. They were forbidden according to the scion of Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soltoveitchik for reasons which were absolutely sound then, and even more sound now. If it was a meeting to bring religions together to have a joint charity drive for the homeless,  or similar that’s fine. If it was about showing our religion to them and theirs to ours, what’s the point? Tolerance can be achieved without any interfaith dialogue as long as nobody considers us as monkeys behind trees that have to be killed. Was I blind, or did the AJN not notice that there was no muslim representative in the picture at that “feel good” meeting, or did I miss something.

Anyway, to make it clear, I usually do not agree with Rabbi Telsner but on some matters I don’t think he deserves the anti-religious excoriation meted out to him.

AJN and especially Rabbi Ralph Genende of the moderate left wing: check this out for a reality check while you read the Chazal quoted by Rashi הלכה עשיו שונה ליעקב. (Whiteout anyone?)

I’d love to hear the AJN and/or Rabbi Ralph’s commentary on this, or better still have his interfaith group muslim representative condemn this presentation from February 13th in Copenhagen as abominable in the extreme in the Western and Muslim Press.