Thursday, May 05, 2016

“Early on in my rabbinate, I sat in a room of survivors who shared stories of abuse, and heard how rabbis and Jewish institutions had failed these survivors over and over again,” he told me. “I feel like it has to change. Religious institutions should be places of healing, places of hope and protection for people — not the other way around.”

“It can take a lifetime to learn how to speak up to Jewish authority,” Kabakov told me as she drove home from Albany. “It can silence people. It silenced me.” ....

 Will New Jewish Effort Force New York To Change Sex Abuse Laws at Last?

Sara Kabakov had never done this before. Never driven three hours from her home in Ithaca, N.Y., to the state capitol in Albany nearly 200 miles away, never tried to enter the mosh pit of lobbying lawmakers, never thought of herself as a political activist.

But there she was yesterday at the capitol, seeking an audience with her state senator, meeting with other legislators, learning from other advocates, all in service of persuading them to protect victims of child sexual abuse.

She was moved to do this by a simple act of bravery: Last January, Kabakov shared her own story of sexual abuse at the hands of Marc Gafni, the former rabbi and spiritual guru. “I am the woman Gafni molested when she was 13 years old,” she wrote in an exclusive essay for the Forward . “This is the first time I am telling my story in my own name.”

Gafni was a Yeshiva University rabbinical student five or six years her senior, who regularly molested her at night in her bed when he would stay at the Kabakov family home for Shabbat. The abuse continued for months; the pain and confusion lasted for many years, exacerbated by the refusal of an array of Jewish leaders to take Kabakov’s story seriously. By the time she was able to fully address what happened, she was 38 years old.

And in New York State, that was 15 years too late.
That’s because New York has one of the most cruel, reactionary laws in the nation, ranking right down there with Mississippi, Michigan and Alabama as states that advocates say are the worst for victims and the best for predators. Victims of sexual abuse in New York have only until the age of 23 to bring either criminal charges or file a civil lawsuit against their alleged abusers, one of the shortest windows in the country.

While other states have reformed their laws — Georgia did so last year — legislators in Albany have rebuffed repeated attempts by the indefatigable Queens assemblywoman Margaret Markey. Since 2006, she has championed the Child Victims Act , which in its current iteration eliminates the civil statute of limitations in the future and creates a one-year window when older abuse victims can bring their claims. A companion bill would eliminate the SOL in criminal cases in the future.

The measures have passed the state House and have been left to die in the state Senate, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stayed uncharacteristically silent.

Sensing a growing national disgust with this kind of harmful politics, Markey and State senator Brad Hoylman from Manhattan, both Demcorats, organized a two-day lobbying blitz continuing today. The lawmakers and their supporters are veritable Davids battling the Goliath of the Catholic Church on this, and the church’s compatriot in blocking real reform, Agudath Israel of America, which represents ultra-Orthodox Jews.

But rabbis and other Jewish leaders are beginning to fight back. Just last week, Rabbi Ari Hart of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale was the first to sign a petition he organized with the group Kol v’Oz supporting the Child Victims Act; now there are 161 names below his, representing all denominations.

Hart was in Albany yesterday, too. He considers this advocacy part of his rabbinate — not only because of his pastoral obligation to hear and heal the pain of fellow Jews, but out of the shameful recognition that too many Jewish leaders have denied the seriousness of child abuse for too long.

“Early on in my rabbinate, I sat in a room of survivors who shared stories of abuse, and heard how rabbis and Jewish institutions had failed these survivors over and over again,” he told me. “I feel like it has to change. Religious institutions should be places of healing, places of hope and protection for people — not the other way around.”

This urge to protect institutions from allegations of abuse that may have happened long ago is rooted in ignorance and fear. There’s no need for either anymore. We know from research and countless human examples that it may take an abuse victim decades to be able to even verbalize the experience, especially when the abuser was a person held in high esteem, like a rabbi or teacher.

“It can take a lifetime to learn how to speak up to Jewish authority,” Kabakov told me as she drove home from Albany. “It can silence people. It silenced me.”

Besides ignorance, there is fear that opening a window to claims from the past will unleash a torrent of frivolous lawsuits that will bankrupt churches, yeshivas and other institutions. But none of that has happened in the states where the SOL has been reformed or eliminated.

And then there’s a deeper fear that Kabakov names, one that especially afflicts Jews and other minorities — fear of bringing shame onto one’s own. “That’s probably one of the biggest barriers to changing the paradigm of silence,” she said. “Everyone is afraid of persecution, of stigma, and we don’t want to add to it.”

We simply have to get over it, if for no other reason than suppression of abuse inevitably leads to more harm and more communal shame. The Jewish advocates in Albany yesterday, along with their coalition partners from other faiths, are not disrespecting their communities and traditions by lobbying on behalf of child victims. They are acting out of love made desperate by denial and suffering.

Do the right thing, New York. Allow the victims their voices. Let their stories be heard.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The suit names Greer and the two schools he founded and runs — the Gan School, a mixed-gender elementary school; and the Yeshiva of New Haven, a boarding high school for boys — as defendants.

Paul Bass Photo
Rabbi Greer
A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Rabbi Daniel Greer —  who revived a declining neighborhood and has publicly crusaded against gay rights, prostitution, and coed university dorms   —  of repeatedly raping and molesting students at his yeshiva at Elm and Norton streets.
Greer, through his attorney, denied the allegations.

An attorney for Eliyahu Mirlis, the alleged victim, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Haven.

The suit names Greer and the two schools he founded and runs   —  the Gan School, a mixed-gender elementary school; and the Yeshiva of New Haven, a boarding high school for boys   —  as defendants.

The case has already started fraying a tight-knit religious family community centered around the yeshiva, in the former Roger Sherman School building at 765 Elm St. Through a series of corporations, Greer and his family bought, renovated, and have since rented out some four dozen multi-family homes on surrounding blocks, many of them notable for their eight-foot-high stockade fences. Passionate minyanim, or prayer services, occur daily in the morning and evening on the second floor of the school, which has doubled as a small neighborhood synagogue. Enrollment at the yeshiva dwindled to close to zero in recent months as word about the allegations spread through the Orthodox Jewish community. Officials resigned from the boards of the schools and the real estate corporations.

The yeshiva building at 765 Elm.
The fates of both the two schools and the portfolio of around 125 apartments in the neighborhood remain unclear in the wake of the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Mirlis attended the yeshiva and lived in Greer-owned housing from 2001 to 2005.
Greer, who is 75 today and was in his 60s at the time, “repeatedly and continuously sexually abused, exploited, and assaulted” Mirlis during his sophomore through senior years, when he was 15 to 17 years old, according to the complaint. It describes the abuse as “acts of sex ... including forced fellatio, anal sex, fondling and masturbation.”

“Rabbi Greer frequently gave Eli alcohol at the time he raped and assaulted his child victim,” the complaint charges.

“Rabbi Greer showed Eli pornographic films. Rabbi Greer anally raped, sodomized and in other ways sexually assaulted, abused and molested Eli dozens and dozens of times, with each incident lasting on average from one to four hours, and sometimes all night.

“Rabbi Greer raped, sodomized and sexually assaulted, abused and molested Eli on school property, in the bedroom of the Rabbi’s private residence, at motels in Branford, Connecticut and Paoli and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on land in Hamden, Connecticut, and at rental properties in New Haven owned and managed by Yeshiva of New Haven, Inc., The Gan School, Inc., and other non-stock Connecticut corporations of which Rabbi Greer was the President, Director and Treasurer, including properties located at 777 Elm Street, 203, 209 and 211 Norton Street, 139 West Park Avenue, 439 Edgewood Avenue, and 193 Maple Street.”

The school’s “senior officials” “knew and/or should have known that the Rabbi was raping, sodomizing and sexually assaulting, abusing and molesting the minor boy; and they did nothing to stop it,” the complaint charges. “At all relevant times, administrators and officials of The School failed to safeguard the keys to the rental properties, providing Rabbi Greer with multiple places where he could rape and assault his child victim at his leisure without fear of being discovered or stopped.” The complaint specifically cites an unnamed assistant principal as having had knowledge of the abuse but not taking action.

The suit further charges that “during the years prior to his sexual molestation of Eli, Greer sexually abused, molested and exploited at least one other minor boy in the care and custody of The School.”
State law — Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 17-38a — required school officials to notify authorities about suspicions about child abuse taking place, the complaint continues.

“The School employed a pedophile, and allowed that pedophile free reign to gratify his perverse sexual desires by molesting a young vulnerable boy in The School’s care and custody,” the state alleges.

The suit claims that the abuse has left Mirlis with “severe emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and anguish, anxiety, panic, sexual dysfunction, PTSD, depression, hyper-vigilance, shame, and low self-esteem” that have “permanently damaged” his “educational and career prospects.” The suit does not specify an amount sought for damages beyond Mirlis, who is 28 years old and lives in New Jersey, is represented in the suit by attorney Antonio Ponvert III of the Bridgeport firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder.

Rabbi Greer, who has maintained a confident position of innocence amid the allegations, referred a request for comment for this article to his attorney, William Ward.

Ward denied the accusations on Greer’s behalf in a conversation late Tuesday morning with the Independent.

“It only takes a moment to make allegations with despicable indifference to the consequences of the damage they would cause to my client, his family, and his reputation that he spent a lifetime building in his community. This is a difficult time for my client and his family. But I would remind the public to ask for evidence before rushing to judgment, as my client is now burdened with the task of proving something did not happen 14 years ago, as alleged by Mr. Mirlis,” Ward said.

“Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis would wait 14 years. Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis, well into his adulthood, repeatedly honored the man he now accuses. Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis, an Orthodox Jew, would not seek redress form a rabbinical arbitration court. Ask yourself why Mr. Mirlis’s first stop was his lawyer’s office to seek money. And finally ask yourself why his attorney would issue a press release.”

Attorney Ponvert responded that victims of childhood sexual abuse often take years to come to grips with what happened to them and come forward with allegations, and in the meantime may maintain contact with their abusers. He said his client felt his best chance for justice lay in the civil courts.

“The waiting, first of all, is a well-known consequence of the infliction of childhood sexual abuse. If children were able to understand what was happening to them when they were being groomed and manipulated by an adult for that adult’s sexual gratification—if the children understood that at the time most of these would be reported when they happened. That doesn’t usually happen, because adults who sexually molest children tend to be very persuasive, very calculated, and very adept at choosing vulnerable victims who do not have the ability to get out of the relationship,” Ponvert said.

He said that one reason Mirlis “waited 14 years was because of the power that this man held over him. This your rabbi. This is the principal of your school. This is a 60-year-old man who is showing affection to you you’re not getting anywhere else in the world. He’s chosen you. You now have this person who has chosen you for this special relationship which he is telling you every day that it occurs is healthy and good. The time lag between that and the reporting is evidence of how good a molester and manipulator that Greer is.”
Police Will Look Into Case
The statute of limitations to file a federal suit is 30 years from the time of the alleged incident. The same is true for the state of Connecticut to pursue criminal charges, under the Connecticut General Statutes section 54-193a.

Ponvert said Mirlis has not sought to pursue criminal charges. But if the police or state’s attorney decide to pursue an investigation, “obviously my client will fully cooperate,” Ponvert said.

Upon the announcement of this information, the department will be reaching out to the plaintiff’s attorney,” Police Chief Dean Esserman told the Independent Tuesday.

Ponvert said his client chose a lawsuit rather than a criminal complaint to pursue his complaint because “he has the ability to attempt to control getting justice in the civil arena.”

The assistant principal named in the lawsuit did not return calls for this story. He has retained a local attorney, who, according to a secretary, is out of the country and unavailable. The assistant stepped down from his job in 2015.

Neighborhood Builder

Paul Bass File Photo

Since Daniel Greer returned to New Haven in the 1970s, he has fought to create and preserve his visions of both urban neighborhoods and sexual morality.
Greer first came to New Haven to attend Yale Law School, where he roomed with future California governor and presidential candidate Jerry Brown. He then moved to New York City, where he served as an official (deputy commissioner for ports and terminals) for Mayor John Lindsay. He also led a successful campaign to force the United States to pressure the Soviet Union into allowing Jewish “refuseniks” to emigrate here and start new, freer lives.

Back in New Haven, he set out to create a walkable, safe enclave in the Edgewood neighborhood where he and his wife could create an Orthodox school for their children and other Jewish children.

His success in stabilizing a declining neighborhood has inspired clergy from other faiths to try the same approach in other parts of town plagued by absentee slumlords.

From the start, Greer understood the need for political and community ties to succeed with his mission. He cultivated corporate donors, some of whom could contribute to his group’s not-for-profit real-estate efforts through the state Neighborhood Assistance Act. The annual yeshiva community dinner has honored leaders in the broader community and drawn political leaders from throughout the state.

He served on city boards and commissions. He played an important role as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners in hearings that exposed massive illegal NHPD wiretapping of government dissidents and political opponents. He later served on the Redevelopment Authority board as well.

Greer and the Gan School’s members and supporters organized neighborhood campaigns and got out the vote for candidates in ward elections. Working with police and prosecutors, Greer and his allies successfully pressed for the shutdown of a brothel and publicly posted the names of johns arrested for patronizing street hookers, sweeping public prostitution from the neighborhood. After Greer’s son was assaulted during an uptick in crime, his organization formed an armed “defense patrol” along with the Guardian Angels. The patrol, though short-lived, made national news and forced the city to police the neighborhood better.

Most recently, Greer blasted city officials for ending a lease for a police substation at a Greer-owned building at Whalley and Norton, and for not taking action against commercial slumlords in the neighborhood.

Greer was also outspoken about sexual mores. He railed to a crowd against the evils of homosexuality and gay marriage at a rally at the state capitol. Gan members also testified in New Haven against a domestic partnership law.
Jew vs. Jew
When Greer’s daughter attended Yale, he led a legal fight in 1997 against co-ed dorms, which he depicted as dens of immorality. He didn’t prevail in court. But he embarrassed Yale with national news coverage of the “Yale 5” case, including a lengthy New York Times Magazine story that author Samuel Freedman expanded into a central part of his book Jew vs. Jew.

In recent weeks, Greer has threatened legal action against a local blogger, Lawrence Dressler, who has published accusations against Greer on his site.

Ward, Greer’s attorney, sent an April 18 cease-and-desist letter to Dressler, who used to pray at the yeshiva minyan and launched the blog after serving 20 months in prison on a mortgage fraud-related charge. The letter requested that Dressler publish a “retraction and apology” for what he’d written about Greer and the yeshiva, and refrain from making “any further false statements about Rabbi Greer and the Yeshiva of New Haven.” He also called the accusations “defamatory.”

“These statements have caused great distress to my client and have damaged the reputation of the Yeshiva and Rabbi Greer,” Ward wrote.

Joseph Merly, an attorney in the New Haven law firm headed by John R. Williams, responded on April 20 with a letter written on Dressler’s behalf. “Mr. Dressler has no intention of retracting any statements ...” the letter informed Ward. “The statements which Mr. Dressler made are completely true and accurate and as you know, truth is the best defense to a claim of defamation. In fact, Mr. Dressler intends to expand his efforts to bring forth victims of your clients and publishing their stories and to continue alerting the community to your clients’ crimes.”

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

It is also long past time that Jewish leaders came to grips with the fact that rather being a source of healing for victims of child sexual abuse, sometimes our religious institutions and leaders have been part of the problem. Too often, they have discouraged victims from going to the police. Too often, they have been enablers or even perpetrators of abuse...

Rabbi Ari Hart: Why Jewish leaders want abusers to pay

  Rabbi Ari Hart --- NEW YORK DAILY NEWS 

Fix the law

Fix the law

The famous joke goes: two Jews, three opinions. Yet last week, more than 100 Jewish leaders from across the religious and ideological divides came together, with one voice, to declare their support for statute of limitations reform for child abuse victims in New York State.

Why statute of limitations reform, and why are Jewish leaders lining up behind this bill? Because it’s our obligation as men and women of faith who purport to help people heal. And it is, I believe, our obligation as followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

After decades of denial, cover-ups and darkness, the light is finally shining on the scourge of child sexual abuse. Today, we better understand the high rate of its prevalence, the lasting and far-reaching damage caused by abusers, and the extreme difficulty survivors face in coming forward and seek justice. Tragically, New York State’s regressive laws prevent many victims from getting the justice they deserve and from stopping abusers from causing more harm.

While mental health experts have shown that it can take decades for a victim of child sexual abuse to overcome the fear, shame and trauma of abuse and come forward, our statutes allow someone to pursue criminal or civil justice only until the victim turns 23.

As a rabbi, I have met people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are only now coming to grips with what happened to them as children, and only now able to come forward. New York law fails these victims by giving a victim only five years from the time they enter adulthood to act.

New York state has been ranked among the very worst, alongside Mississippi, Alabama and Michigan, for how the courts and criminal justice system treat survivors of child sex abuse.

We take this stand not only as New Yorkers and Americans, but as Jews.

Judaism is a religion as concerned with what happens in the courthouse with what happens in the synagogue. Fairness, justice and protecting the vulnerable are hallmarks of the Torah — calls made in our sacred texts over and over again.

In addition, Jewish law does not recognize the concept of a statute of limitations: If a wrong was committed, if someone has harmed, they always have the right to seek justice.

It is also long past time that Jewish leaders came to grips with the fact that rather being a source of healing for victims of child sexual abuse, sometimes our religious institutions and leaders have been part of the problem. Too often, they have discouraged victims from going to the police. Too often, they have been enablers or even perpetrators of abuse.

Shamefully, it has been religious groups that have played the most prominent role in blocking the passage of statute of limitations reform in New York State until now. Why? Enacting this legislation puts many institutions, religious and otherwise, at financial risk for actions that protected abusers, ignored abuse claims or directly perpetrated abuse in the past.

But if the passage of statute of limitations reform means that religious institutions will have to bear the burden of increased financial risk, that is a burden we must find a way to bear. Have victims with profound emotional scars, shattered faith and more not paid a price beyond any dollar amount?

We must ask ourselves: to which bottom line are we accountable? Those of profits, of those of the prophets?

The Torah teaches: Tzedek tzedek tirdof, justice justice you shall pursue. Though we cannot undo the pain that was done, often under our own auspices, faith leaders can stand with victims of child sexual abuse in their quest for justice. Faith leaders can fulfill our mandate to be relentless pursuers of justice by calling on Albany to pass the Child Victim’s Act.

Hart is an Orthodox rabbi.



 Video sparks allegations of child sex abuse in Kiryas Joel

A disturbing new video has sparked allegations of child sex abuse allegedly from inside an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Orange County.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella group representing Orthodox Jewish groups, joined the Catholic Church in successfully lobbying to derail the proposed law...

Coalition of Jewish leaders backs Child Victims Act, demand end to New York’s statute of limitation


Not Released (NR) The use of Washington Post images for political advertising or endorsements is not permitted.

Chaim Levin, of the anti-abuse group Kol Voz, wants "to give people the power of the court to hold their abuser accountable.”


A coalition of more than 130 Jewish leaders now back the Child Victims Act which would eliminate the statute of limitation in New York — allowing countless child sex abuse victims to seek justice as adults
The show of support on Thursday comes just days before advocates of the bill plan a two-day lobbying effort in Albany to win passage of the long-languishing legislation.

“After decades of denial, coverups and darkness across New York State, light is finally being shone on the scourge of child sexual abuse,” read the petition signed by scores of high-profile leaders.

“The lasting and far-reaching damage caused by abusers is intolerable, and it is incumbent upon all the citizens of New York State to work to reduce it.”

The writers also acknowledged the role played by "religious institutions" in blocking the legislation in past years.

Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger (seen with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, in September 2015) is among those signing the petition. 

Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger (seen with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, in September 2015) is among those signing the petition.

Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella group representing Orthodox Jewish groups, joined the Catholic Church in successfully lobbying to derail the proposed law.

The bill was first introduced a decade ago by state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens), and has failed to pass in four previous tries.

Nine Jewish organizations are planning a trip to Albany to add their voices to the chorus supporting a change in the law on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The most exciting thing about it is the range of voices — from right wing Orthodox to left-wing, secular Jews and everything in between,” Rabbi Ari Hart said.


Queens Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (second from left) introduced the bill a decade ago. 

Queens Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (second from left) introduced the bill a decade ago.

Among those signing the petition were close to 100 rabbis and former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger.

“We need to demonstrate that some large groups who oppose this bill don’t speak for everyone,” said Chaim Levin, 26, of the group Kol Voz — a new global organization attempting to combat abuse in Jewish communities.

“We want to show our lawmakers that the Agudath does not represent everyone,” the Crown Height resident continued. “One of the most important parts of dealing with abuse is to give people the power of the court to hold their abuser accountable.”

Current New York law gives the victims up until the age of 23 to seek recourse in the court system — although many victims need years to deal with their abuse, and miss the deadline.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fugitive Rabbi Accused of Sex Crimes Wants 'Guarantees' if Extradited to Israel -- Delusional, Criminal Rabbinical Circus - Comedy Show Comes To a South African Court Room!

Fugitive Rabbi Accused of Sex Crimes Wants 'Guarantees' if Extradited to Israel

Lawyer for Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 78, gets into shouting match with magistrate.

JOHANNESBURG – The attorney for Israeli Rabbi Eliezer Berland, a fugitive accused of serial sex crimes, closed his case at the rabbi’s bail hearing in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, mounting an impassioned plea that the rabbi be given bail, especially since it is Passover.

Lawyer Themba Langa said the rabbi was a man of elevated spirituality and probity, and “in the normal course of events” would have returned to Israel to deal with the allegations of sexual assault made against him by followers.

“But,” said Langa, “I have been instructed by the rabbi that he needs certain guarantees before he can return to Israel. The Israeli state has moved against certain people. We all know the name Ariel Sharon, who was injected and put into a four-year [sic] coma. And the state has also targeted a Rabbi Pinto …”

Langa did not offer any further explanation. But it is understood he was referring to the late prime minister Sharon, who died of natural causes, and to Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto of Mosdot Shuva Israel, who last year was found guilty of bribery, attempted bribery, obstruction of justice and started his prison sentence on February 16.

Berland, 78, one of the leaders of the Bratslav Hasidic movement in Israel and considered a holy man by his followers, has been on the run since 2012 when allegations were made by female followers in Israel that he had variously raped or sexually harassed them. Berland has managed to live under the noses of authorities from Morocco to the Netherlands and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, prior to his arrest on April 7, he had been staying at hotels and golf estates. He is followed by about 40 families, to whom he is a spiritual guru.

The day’s business began with Langa saying that South African authorities had botched the extradition process by moving to a bail hearing before a proper inquiry was held into the charges brought against Berland. “This being the case,” said Langa, “keeping him in custody now is therefore irregular. And he should be released.”

Regional Magistrate Pravina Raghunandan, who had earlier in the morning called the legal teams to her chambers to let them know that she herself was “concerned” about whether the court had the authority to hold a bail hearing, clearly took offense at Langa introducing her concern as his own legal argument – and asked when he had discovered that the court process might be flawed and why he had not raised the matter before.

Magistrate: 'Don't point fingers at court!'

This dialogue descended into a shouting match, with Langa apparently losing his temper and Raghunandan telling him not “to point his fingers at the court, not to shout at the court and not to call the court incompetent.” The prosecutor, advocate Nerisha Naidoo, said the decision to hold a bail hearing urgently was as a result of submissions from Langa, who had said some weeks ago that it was “in the interests of justice” to hold a bail hearing for Berland.

Langa then closed his case, telling the court why Berland was not a flight risk. “The rabbi has hired lawyers, attended court, given a home address, surrendered to investigators, and never tried to avoid arrest,” said Langa.

“Moreover,” he continued, “he has an immense worldwide following of about 1.3-million people and is a wonderful spiritual healer. He has been incarcerated for 19 days. In addition, the allegations brought against him seem to have been of the sort that can be easily defended. Clearly some women were uncomfortable but these things happen and can be worked out.”

Naidoo countered that Berland’s Ivory Coast passport was a fake, his Israeli passport belonged to a deceased person, and his entry permit into South Africa had terminated in February; that Berland had repeatedly tried to mislead the court by claiming, for example, that he had applied for political asylum in South Africa, for which there was no proof; that the charges he faced in Israel were in fact serious ones; and that he had given as his permanent address in South Africa a property belonging to someone called Henry Kruger, who had allegedly been an “apartheid-era spy,” and chartered his plane to people who needed to cross borders with a minimum of fuss.

Naidoo said Berland’s situation in South Africa was the same as it had been in the Netherlands. There, she said, he had skipped the country, forfeiting his bail of 50,000 euros. “He could do the same here,” she said. Naidoo said Berland had no followers in Nablus, as claimed, nor was he targeted by Israel – he was merely a fugitive from justice.

Raghunandan then adjourned the proceedings until tomorrow morning – today is Freedom Day, a South African holiday – when she will decide whether Berland can be given bail or must remain in custody. She said that Berland should therefore prepare to go to Johannesburg Prison (known sarcastically as “Sun City” by locals) where he had spent the weekend, including the first three days of Passover.

At this point Langa leapt to his feet and said it was “completely unacceptable” that an “old man who has suffered so much” should be sent to prison where his food has been stolen and three of his followers had been locked up for three hours on Friday night.

Langa spoke for 20 minutes, continually repeating angrily that the state would have “a dead man on its hands” if Berland were returned to Sun City. Despite objections from the prosecution, Raghunandan acquiesced and ordered that Berland be housed in the Randburg police station for the next two nights.

As the judge was leaving the court, Berland surfaced from reading and said to the court that he actually wanted to return to Sun City. “I don’t care about food,” he said, “I want the single cell I have at Sun City so that I can study.”

There was pandemonium in the court and Langa stalked out. An aide of Berland’s, known as Natan, said: “We must do what he wants. We didn’t know that he would prefer to study rather than eat.”


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Moshiach is Just Around The Corner ....Again! (Tip for the Real Estate Chevra, Buy The Corner & Build Condos) - On Passover Two Rabbis Drank Too Much Wine....

Major Rabbis Predicts Christians Will Be Source of Torah in Coming Days of Messiah


“For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the LORD to serve Him with one consent. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia shall they bring My suppliants even the daughter of My dispersed as Mine offering.” Zephaniah 3:9-10 (The Israel Bible™)
On Wednesday afternoon, two of the greatest rabbis of the generation met and discussed how very close the Messiah is, and how Christians and Muslims have an important role to play in that process.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch,Vice-President of the Rabbinical Court and the Head of the Edah HaChareidis in Jerusalem, paid a rare visit to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in Bnei Barak. They are two of the most prominent Torah figures alive today. Conversations between such great men have enormous significance and the Hebrew-language website Kikar Shabbat recorded the dialogue between these two great rabbis.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch (Photo: Flash90)
Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch
After warm greetings, the rabbis began to discuss the problems facing the Jews in this generation. Rabbi Kanievsky said that troubles were to be expected. “It is the days before Messiah,” he explained.

Rabbi Sternbuch agreed. “In the End of Days, those who fear God will despair and their hands will loosen from fighting God’s war against the sinners, and there will be no one to rely upon except God,” he said, adding, “We have to bring the Messiah.”

Rabbi Kanievsky answered that the Messiah should be arriving in the very near future. He quoted the Talmud (Megillah 17b) again, saying, “In the year after shmittah the Son of David will come.”

Rabbi Kanievsky was referring to a prediction he had made earlier in the year based on the Talmud. The shmittah (sabbatical) year comes once every seven years and ended this year on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. The year in which Rabbi Kanievsky predicted the Messiah would come, according to the Talmud, will end next Rosh Hashana, in September.

“The year after the Shemitta isn’t over,” he added.

Rabbi Sternbuch answered by quoting Jeremiah 8:2, which reads, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” – implying that according to the Talmud, the Messiah should have already arrived if it was truly coming in this year.

Rabbi Kanievsky insisted that the Messiah was indeed coming in this year. He opened the Talmud folio (Ketubot 112b) that contained the prediction and began to read out loud to Rabbi Sternbuch.
Rabbi Sternbuch considered this and responded with a different source.

“We have an ancient authenticated hand-written manuscript from the Rambam (a Spanish Torah authority from the twelfth century), in which he says that before the coming of the Messiah, the Christians and the Ishmaelites (Arabs) will come to Israel,” he pointed out.

The manuscript the rabbi referred to is a recent version of the Rambam’s Mishnah Torah, recently published with restored sections censored by medieval Christian authorities. 

Rabbi Sternbuch’s interpretation of the Rambam does seem to happening today. The creation of the State of Israel was a miraculous fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham, restoring the land of Israel to the Jewish people, but it also benefitted Christians, establishing a bubble of religious freedom in a region of the world that does not tolerate pluralism. Almost three million Christians come to Israel every year to visit their holy sites in a way that is not permitted in regions under Muslim rule, and the Jewish state is home to a considerable Christian population as well.

Father Gabriel Naddaf (Wikimedia Commons)
Father Gabriel Naddaf
Gabriel Naddaf,  an Israeli priest of the Greek Orthodox Church, said in an interview with the Algemeiner that “the Jewish state is the only country in the Middle East where Christians can practice their faith free from persecution”, noting, “The Christian community in Israel has more than quadrupled since independence in 1948, from 34,000 to 158,000 in 2012.”

Though not as positive or as beneficial as the Christian connection, the Arabs have also multiplied in the Land of Israel as the Messiah approaches. Before the British Mandate, Palestine, a neglected corner of the Ottoman Empire, had barely 700,000 people living in the country. As the Jewish population increased between World War One and World War Two, the Arab population also increased by 120 percent.

Rabbi Kanievsky continued reading in the Talmud, which described yet another aspect of the days preceding the Messiah.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. (Photo: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.
“In the days to come, all the non-fruit bearing trees in israel will bear fruit.” Rabbi Kanievsky explained, “When the Messiah comes, everyone will repent, and the people that ‘didn’t bear fruit’ will bear fruit and learn Torah.”

Rabbi Kanievsky seemed to be saying that in the Messianic era, Christians and Muslims will be a source of Torah learning – and this phenomenon is appearing as well. Many movements in Christianity are beginning to seek  out their roots in Torah and Judaism. Hebrew Roots and Bnai Yosef are growing movements that advocate doing Mitzvot and Torah study. 

Both Rabbi Kanievsky and Rabbi Sternbuch are brilliant Torah scholars whose decisions regarding Torah law are unquestionably authoritative. When rabbis of this stature agree that the Messiah is imminent, it is clearly a sign to sit up and take notice. (and weep)
Moshiach's Corner

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

“He is a good man that loves the Lord. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through.”

Invoking God, Prominent GOP’ers Write Letters for Dennis Hastert, Sexual Abuser of Four Boys


More than 40 people of prominence have written letters to a judge, requesting mercy for Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House who is awaiting sentencing in a bank fraud and perjury case.

Formally, Hastert is merely facing the music for illegally-structured cash withdrawals, and for lying to federal authorities about what the cash was for. But it’s Hastert’s sexual abuse of at least four boys under his care that has most people a lot more upset. The cash was hush money that Hastert paid to someone who knew his secret. The statute of limitations has run out on the child abuse, so Hastert faces at most six month in jail — for skirting banking regulations, and for his fibs to the FBI.

But even that measly sentence is inhumane, believes Tom DeLay, the former U.S. House Majority Leader, and no stranger to financial shenanigans himself.

In a letter defending Hastert’s character, DeLay referenced not only Hastert’s ill health, but also his faith, writing:
“He is a good man that loves the Lord. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through.”
Four other congressmen also sent letters asking the court for leniency in Hastert’s sentencing. They are former California representatives John T. Doolittle and David Dreier, former Connecticut representative Porter Goss, and former Illinois representative Thomas Ewing. All are law-and-order Republicans.

My friend and fellow Patheos blogger Dan Fincke promptly and rightly mocked their concern on his Facebook page:
What has this country come to, what with its political correctness and insistence on actual liberty and justice for all, instead of only for powerful wealthy white Christian men who may abuse all others with impunity! Make America Great Again! Free Dennis Hastert!
The fabulously caustic Mrs. Betty Bowers, a conservative-Christian-impersonating comedian, also reacted to the news in fine style:
As you will recall, professional Christian scold Mike Huckabee asked the public to look the other way when it turned out that one of the Kardashians of Christ — Josh Duggar — is a child molester. Now, Tom DeLay has asked a judge to do likewise for Dennis Hastert.
Tom and Mike have just announced that they are forming a new lobbying group to be called “Politicians Exonerating Deviants Of Sin” (D/B/A “PEDOS”). PEDOS will help stanch the persecution of adults who touch children inappropriately, but only if those adults own Bibles, with the slogan: “Christians are nicer molesters!”

In fairness, we should keep in mind CBS News’ report that most of the letters of support for Hastert were written six to eight weeks ago, “before prosecutors had fully detailed the sexual abuse allegations leveled at Hastert.” That said, credible allegations about the abuse had been swirling since last year. And even if all Hastert had done was violate a banking law, it’s still an act of disturbing hubris for DeLay to say that his friend deserves a milder sentence because of his ostensible religious piety.

Hastert will be sentenced on Wednesday. Regardless of the term the judge imposes, his bigger punishment will be that many of his one-time supporters in Illinois, where the abuse took place several decades ago, have washed their hands of him. Case in point: Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., his alma mater, has already removed Hastert’s name from a public-policy center he helped create.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Take to Facebook to Combat Sex Crimes --- Reporting sexual abuse is no longer as taboo as it once was, thanks in part to a group of young Haredi Israelis fed up with the silence about such crimes in their community...

The scene captured by the surveillance camera shows an ultra-Orthodox man trying to force himself on a young boy in the narrow entrance of an apartment building.

It happened last month, on Purim, in the Israeli town of Bnei Brak. Within a few hours, the footage was posted on Facebook. Almost immediately, the assailant was identified, and two days later, he was under arrest.

That would not have been the normal course of events 10 years ago, five years ago or even six months ago. 

 But reporting sexual abuse is no longer as taboo as it once was in the ultra-Orthodox community, and among those who deserve credit for this change is a group of young Israeli crusaders fed up with the long-standing silence about such crimes in their midst.

Their newfound organization is aptly named Lo Tishtok (Thou Shalt Not Be Silent) — a reference to what they say is their unwritten 11th commandment. It was their organization that was first to receive the incriminating footage recorded on the surveillance camera, forwarded by an anonymous resident. “We immediately posted it on our Facebook group,” recounts Tzviki Fleishman, one of the founders of Lo Tishtok, “and asked that if anyone recognized the man in the picture to let us know. It didn’t take much time before someone identified him.”

But that’s when their special challenges began. Among Haredi Jews, Fleishman explains, those who report sexual crimes live in fear of being ostracized for serving as informers and maligning the community. “So we had to intervene with the police to ensure that the person who identified the assailant could maintain his anonymity,” he recounts. “Not only that, but he also refused to step foot inside the police station. So we had to bring an investigator to his house.”

Racheli Roshgold (L), Avigayil Karlinsky, Tzviki Fleishman and Yaakov Matan, the founders of Lo Tishtok, in Jerusalem.

Lo Tishtok began as a Facebook group last October and has since garnered close to 5,000 likes. Initially, it was meant to provide a safe forum for members of the ultra-Orthodox community wanting to hold discussions about what had hitherto been undiscussable. Today, the organization functions more as a support and counseling center for victims of sexual crimes. Currently run on a completely voluntary basis, Lo Tishtok is about to close a deal with a funding organization, its founders say, that would enable it to operate as a full-fledged non-profit.

The Israeli non-profit Tahel has for years provided support to religious victims of sexual abuse, but Lo Tishtok is the only organization in the world to date dedicated exclusively to the ultra-Orthodox community.

The four founders of Lo Tishtok defy common stereotypes linked to ultra-Orthodox Jews — women with large broods of children and men studying in yeshivas. Fleishman, a 26-year-old Chabadnik with one child, is serving belatedly in the Israeli army while pursuing a degree in psychology. Avigayil Karlinsky, a 27-year-old mother of two, just completed a seven-year stint as a programmer in the high-tech industry and is now studying for her bachelor’s in sociology. Racheli Roshgold, a 29-year-old divorced mother of three who was raised in the Ger Hasidic sect, is employed as a gynecological nurse at a religious hospital and as a sex therapist at a private clinic that serves the ultra-Orthodox. A victim of sexual abuse herself, and one not ashamed to speak out about her ordeal as a child, Roshgold is a rarity in her community. Yaakov Matan, a 30-year-old father of three, is employed as a counselor for troubled youth while studying for his degree in psychology.

All four were friends on Facebook when in October of last year, Karlinsky wrote a post that started it all. It was just after the latest wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks had started, and many Israelis were feeling loath to walk the streets. In her widely shared post, Karlinsky compared the vulnerability Israelis in general were feeling those days, men included, to what women experience on a daily basis. “A terrorist sticks a knife in the body,” she wrote. “A rapist sticks a knife in the soul.”

Fleishman had previously spent a few years living in New York, where he had become familiar with the activities of Jewish Community Watch, an organization that works with victims of child sexual abuse. “At the time, this organization had succeeded in ousting the principal of a religious school who had abused children, and all I could think was, wow, these people are really doing something huge,” he recalls. “I knew that when I got back to Israel I wanted to do something like that.” After reading her post, Fleishman reached out to Karlinsky and suggested they create an organization that would combat sex crimes in their own Israeli community. Karlinsky was game.

Their next move was to enlist Roshgold, who had considerable experience with sexual abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox community through her various jobs. Matan, who had been briefly acquainted with Karlinsky and was quite shaken up by her post, asked to volunteer his services as well.

Since their Facebook page went live, says Fleishman, the group has been approached by “many dozens” of sexual abuse victims through private messages. To date, 10 police complaints have been filed on their behalf.

In some cases, those who reach out to Lo Tishtok are recent victims of abuse. In others, they are adults who have finally found the strength to talk about sexual abuse they suffered as children. The incidence of sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community, says Karlinsky, is not different from elsewhere, from what she and her partners have been able to ascertain. “But what is unique in the Haredi world is that boys are more likely to be victims than girls, and that’s because they’re easier prey. That is to say, they’re more likely to be in close range of potential abusers in the synagogue and yeshiva,” she says, because, with rare exceptions, the assailants are men who serve either as teachers, rabbis or both. These men have much less contact with girls in the ultra-Orthodox world, because girls are generally taught and mentored by women.

At times, the group intervenes to find police investigators sensitive to the particular challenges ultra-Orthodox Jews face when discussing a subject as taboo as sexual abuse. “We had a recent case of a woman who had been raped repeatedly by her brother-in-law, but who had finally gathered the courage to go to the police,” relates Fleishman. “The tone of the policewoman who questioned her, though, completely scared her off. We then approached a Haredi police investigator we knew, and once he was in the picture, this woman was willing to open up.”

Because of her professional experience, Roshgold is the first contact person for callers and is in charge of triage: She decides when a case should be referred to the police, the courts, medical personnel or psychologists. Sometimes, the victims are not seeking treatment or sanctions, but just an attentive ear, in which case she makes herself available to listen — and it can be at any time. “Even if it’s three in the morning, I’m there for them because I know if that’s when the need to speak strikes them, it’s important that I’m there to listen.”

The sexual abuse she suffered as a child, says Roshgold, left her terribly scarred. “But it has also given me the strength to help others,” she says, ”and working with other victims has helped cure the tormented little girl in me.”

Her parents are far from thrilled that this has become her new mission in life, she concedes, but that has not deterred her. “My mother always asks me why I need to talk about these things,” says Roshgold, “and I tell her it’s so that in a generation from now there won’t be any more parents who are embarrassed by daughters talking about such things. And besides that, I tell her, I’m not the one who should be embarrassed. It’s the person who did this to me who should.”

Judy Maltz - Haaretz Correspondent

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How is it, then, that we blithely send our children to institutions that lack effective safeguards against a widely recognized danger that causes untold damage to such a huge percentage of boys and girls everywhere? Why aren’t we speaking up, demanding that our schools and camps and synagogues implement basic protocols for preventing further incidents? Could anyone think that we can afford to remain in denial?

Child Sexual Abuse in the Jewish Community

Last week I attended a major three-day conference of hundreds of Jewish funders, where I participated in a panel discussion on how philanthropic foundations such as ours have succeeded in addressing various stigmatized social needs — issues that other funders seem to avoid. I spoke about our pioneering work in the field of mental health, and two colleagues representing other foundations described their groundbreaking work in helping people with disabilities and people with addictions.

The room in which our panel discussion took place was situated at the edge of the hotel grounds, quite a distance from the nerve center of the conference. I don’t doubt that the choice of location was purely coincidental, but the symbolism was hard to miss. Unsavory topics tend to hover on the fringes of Jewish philanthropy’s collective consciousness — perhaps because donors are loath to acknowledge that Jews succumb to the same sordid impulses as do the rest of humanity; or maybe these issues simply depress them. 

In the course of my presentation on our work in mental health, I elaborated on our recent activities addressing child sexual abuse within the Jewish community. Statistics point to incidence rates of 1 in 3 among girls and 1 in 7 among boys.

Just over a year ago, our foundation together with two others launched an organization called ASAP

Since that time, hundreds of child sexual abuse survivors in the US have come forward to request our help in accessing therapy, and thousands are being assisted by local NGOs. Similarly, programs that we support in Israel are experiencing an exponential increase in demand for their services. And yet, institutions where children congregate, such as schools, summer camps, synagogues and youth groups, lack effective policies to prevent incidents of child sexual abuse.

During that panel discussion’s question and answer session, while we fielded numerous questions from those in attendance, there was not one question about child sexual abuse. Despite all the publicity this issue has received, such as the movie Spotlight, the Penn State scandal and the current allegations against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the subject remains taboo.

Our efforts to promote awareness have made inroads with a handful of prestigious educational networks, whose administrations now realize that implementing effective child-safety policies — and soon — is vitally important and is in fact in their own best interests as well. We hope to support these efforts, monetarily, professionally and operationally, and to extend them to other institutions.

Yet our coalition of Jewish funders for this cause remains small. Interestingly, all of us are haredi. As an active member of this coalition, I have reached out to highly educated, progressive, deeply caring donors from across the Jewish spectrum to partner with us to combat this scourge, but with scant success. This puzzles me, for child sexual abuse is hardly a theoretical problem; the children and grandchildren of these very donors are vulnerable. All of our children are at risk.

How is it, then, that we blithely send our children to institutions that lack effective safeguards against a widely recognized danger that causes untold damage to such a huge percentage of boys and girls everywhere? Why aren’t we speaking up, demanding that our schools and camps and synagogues implement basic protocols for preventing further incidents? Could anyone think that we can afford to remain in denial?

It seems that it will take more time for the Jewish philanthropic community to realize the extent of the problem. We must be patient, as this happens every time our foundation identifies and tackles an unaddressed need. It happened in 2007, when we began helping haredim in Israel integrate into the workforce, and no one else was interested. It happened again in 2009, when we began helping victims of domestic violence start a new life – not a popular cause back then. In each of these cases, eventually, the broader community caught up.

And the community will certainly catch up with our deep concern for child sexual abuse as well. The only question is, How many more of our children will need to suffer before that happens?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Honoring Albert Einstein on his Yahrzeit

Albert Einstein: A Jewish-American Hero


Albert Einstein is, of course, remembered as one of the greatest physicists of all time. But this Jewish scientist also had a prolific love of music, politics, and writing, and a profoundly deep love for Israel.

Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in the German city of Ulm. As a young child he moved to Munich with his family—Jewish parents Hermann and Pauline Einstein. Hermann was a salesman and engineer, moving the family to found a company that manufactured electric equipment utilizing direct current, the unidirectional flow of electric charge.

Clearly, an appreciation for the sciences ran in the family. Young Albert attended advanced classes in primary and secondary school, building models and mechanical apparatuses for fun in his spare time.
At the age of 10, Einstein met Max Talmud, a Jewish medical student who introduced the future Nobel laureate to a variety of science, math and philosophy texts.

He kept kosher at age 12
Young Einstein went through an observant phase at 12, even though his parents were secular Ashkenazi German Jews. He didn’t stay interested in Judaism long enough to have a bar mitzvah though. A Jewish medical student and family friend — named, ironically enough, Max Talmud — introduced the creative boy to popular science books, which Einstein saw as contradicting religious teachings. At age twelve he discovered geometry (the study of points, lines, and surfaces) and was taken by its clear and certain proofs.Einstein developed an appreciation of music at an early age. His mother played the piano reasonably well and wanted her son to learn the violin, not only to instill in him a love of music but also to help him assimilate into German culture. According to conductor Leon Botstein, Einstein is said to have begun playing when he was 5, although he did not enjoy it at that age.[106]

When he turned 13 he discovered the violin sonatas of Mozart, whereupon "Einstein fell in love" with Mozart's music and studied music more willingly. He taught himself to play without "ever practicing systematically", he said, deciding that "love is a better teacher than a sense of duty."[106] At age 17, he was heard by a school examiner in Aarau as he played Beethoven's violin sonatas, the examiner stating afterward that his playing was "remarkable and revealing of 'great insight'." What struck the examiner, writes Botstein, was that Einstein "displayed a deep love of the music, a quality that was and remains in short supply. Music possessed an unusual meaning for this student."[106]

Music took on a pivotal and permanent role in Einstein's life from that period on. Although the idea of becoming a professional himself was not on his mind at any time, among those with whom Einstein played chamber music were a few professionals, and he performed for private audiences and friends. Chamber music had also become a regular part of his social life while living in Bern, Zürich, and Berlin, where he played with Max Planck and his son, among others. He is sometimes erroneously credited as the editor of the 1937 edition of the Köchel catalogue of Mozart's work; that edition was actually prepared by Alfred Einstein,[citation needed] who may have been a distant relation.[107][108]

In 1931, while engaged in research at the California Institute of Technology, he visited the Zoellner family conservatory in Los Angeles, where he played some of Beethoven and Mozart's works with members of the Zoellner Quartet.[109][110] Near the end of his life, when the young Juilliard Quartet visited him in Princeton, he played his violin with them, and the quartet was "impressed by Einstein's level of coordination and intonation."[106]

As a teenager, Einstein moved with his family once more, first to Milan, then Pavia in northern Italy. Once the family settled in Pavia, Einstein returned to Munich to finish his secondary studies.

At 16, Einstein was accepted to the Aargau Cantonal School in Aarau, Switzerland, then a year later began studies at ETH Zurich to earn a four-year degree in mathematics and physics teaching.

During this period Einstein met his future wife, Mileva Maric. Maric was also studying under the math and physics teaching program. The couple had a child, daughter Lieserl, in 1902, who was either adopted or died of scarlet fever.

In 1903, Einstein married Mileva. Over the next few years the pair had two sons, but the couple divorced in 1919. During that time, Einstein worked on his theory of general relativity, prompting his summation that light from various stars would bend with the sun’s gravity.

In 1921, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the photoelectric effect.


Over the next few years, Einstein traveled extensively, making a much-heralded first trip to New York City in 1921. He traveled through Asia and then-Palestine, the only trip he would make to Israel.

He said at the time, “I consider this the greatest day of my life. Before, I have always found something to regret in the Jewish soul, and that is the forgetfulness of its own people. Today, I have been made happy by the sight of the Jewish people learning to recognize themselves and to make themselves recognized as a force in the world.”

Einstein remarried shortly after his divorce from Mileva, to Elsa Lowenthal. The Einsteins stayed in the US following a trip in 1933, choosing not to return to a Germany becoming swept up in Hitler-furor.

The physicist wrote to a friend at the time: “For me the most beautiful thing is to be in contact with a few fine Jews—a few millennia of a civilized past do mean something after all.” In a separate letter he wrote, “In my whole life I have never felt so Jewish as now.”

Einstein became associated with the Manhattan Project in 1939, an elite group of scientists organized to develop an atomic weapon. It would become a source or regret for Einstein in later years, though he still felt vindicated in making a move to urge President Roosevelt to take action.

“I made one great mistake in my life — when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification — the danger that the Germans would make them,” he reportedly told a friend later in life.

In 1940, Einstein officially became an American citizen. He also joined the NAACP at Princeton and campaigned for equal rights for the nation’s African American community.

Einstein passed away on April 18, 1955, at the age of 76, after suffering a rupture of an aortic aneurysm.

In the last days of his life, the iconic scientist was working on an address commemorating Israel’s seventh anniversary, meant for broadcast to the American people. Einstein carried the draft pages of the speech with him to the hospital to undergo surgery for the rupture, but died before he was able to publicly give his address.

In the draft pages, Einstein wrote, “International policies for the Middle East should be dominated by efforts to secure peace for Israel…this would conform with the universal ideals of peace and brotherhood which have been the most significant contribution of the people of Israel in its long history.”

Famous quotes from Einstein:

“We must enhance the light, not fight the darkness.”

“Tragedy is the difference between what is and what could have been.”

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

“A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.”