Sunday, September 28, 2008

L'Shana Tova!

Summary by Wikipedia:

The Republic contains Plato's Allegory of the cave with which he explains his concept of The Forms as an answer to the problem of universals. The allegory of the cave is an attempt to justify the philosopher's place in society.

Plato imagines a group of people who have lived in a cave all of their lives, chained to a wall in the subterranean so they cannot see outside nor look behind them. Behind these prisoners is a constant flame that illuminates various statues that are moved by others, which cause shadows to flicker around the cave.

When the people of the cave see these shadows they realize how imitative they are of human life, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows such as either "dog" or "cat". The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality, according to Plato.

Plato then goes on to explain how the philosopher is a former prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all. He sees that the fire and the statues which cause the shadows are indeed more real than the shadows themselves, and therefore apprehends how the prisoners are so easily deceived.

Plato then imagines that the freedman is taken outside of the cave and into the real world. The prisoner is initially blinded by the light. However when he adjusts to the brightness, he eventually understands that all of the real objects around him are illuminated by the sun (which represents the Form of the Good, the form which has caused the brightness). He also realizes it is the sun to which he is indebted for being able to see the beauty and goodness in the objects around him. The freedman is finally cognizant that the fire and statues in the cave were just copies of the real objects in the world.

The prisoner's stages of understanding correlate with the levels on the divided line that Plato imagines. The line is divided into what is the visible world, and what the intelligible world is, with the divider being the Sun. When the prisoner is in the cave, he is obviously in the visible realm that receives no sunlight, and outside he comes to be in the intelligible realm.

The shadows in the cave that the prisoners can see correspond to the lowest level on Plato's line, that of imagination and conjecture. Once the prisoner is freed and spots the fire's reflection onto the statues which causes the shadows in the cave, he reaches the second stage on the divided line, and that is the stage of belief, as the freedman comes to believe that the statues in the cave are real as can be.

On leaving the cave however, the prisoner comes to see objects more real than the statues inside of the cave, and this correlates with the third stage on Plato's line as being understanding. The prisoner is therefore able to ascribe Forms to objects as they exist outside of the cave. Lastly, the prisoner turns to the sun which he grasps as the source of truth, or the Form of the Good, and this last stage, named as dialectic, is the highest possible stage on the line. The prisoner, as a result of the Form of the Good, can begin to understand all other forms in reality.

Allegorically, Plato reasons that the freedman is the philosopher, who is the only person able to discern the Form of the Good, and thus absolute goodness and truth. At the end of this allegory, Plato asserts that it is the philosopher's burden to reenter the cave.

Those who have seen the ideal world, he says, have the duty to educate those in the material world, or spread the light to those in darkness. Since the philosopher is the only one able to recognize what is truly good, and only he can reach the last stage on the divided line, only he is fit to rule and educate society according to Plato.


UOJ Profile - March 5, 2005 - ..."The critiques are in no way to be construed as critical of Judaism. My intent is to expose the practices and the conflicts that have so denigrated our religion; hopefully leading to a drastic change in the way we select our "leaders"..."

With gratitude to the Ribono Shel Olam and with the greatest love for Am Yisroel...

L'Shana Tova U'Bracha,



Omelet Fresser said...


WASHINGTON -- The Humane Society of the United States petitioned the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the nation's largest egg producers, alleging that their animal-welfare program masked an illegal plan to limit supply and raise egg prices.

Egg producers also faced a growing number of lawsuits from customers seeking to recover alleged overcharges. Several of the lawsuits seek class-action status and could bring large damage awards if they prevail.

Egg prices are up 41% in two years

Anonymous said...

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — When Nebraska lawmakers passed a unique "safe-haven" law that allowed parents to abandon children as old as 18, they never seriously thought such dropoffs would become common.

But their worst fears have come true: At least 16 children, some of them teenagers, have been abandoned since the law took effect in July. Now elected officials are considering revising the law, and at least one anguished parent said he only surrendered his kids because he felt he had no choice.

"If we see another family being left off, then we're going to have to do something immediately," said state Sen. Arnie Stuthman, who introduced legislation that was the basis for the law.

Stuthman said lawmakers need to set a maximum age for children who can be handed over to the state, and he's not sure whether it can wait until the Legislature reconvenes in January.

But it's not clear whether Gov. Dave Heineman will call a special session to modify the law, even though he has said it should be changed.

For now, the law permits caregivers to abandon children at state-certified hospitals without fear of prosecution. It was intended to protect infants, but was amended to include the word "child," which isn't defined. So some have concluded the law covers all minors, which in Nebraska includes anyone under the age of 19.

The latest example happened Wednesday, when an out-of-work widower left nine of his 10 children at an Omaha hospital, saying he was overwhelmed by family responsibilities.

Gary Staton went to Creighton University Medical Center to surrender his five sons and four of his daughters, who ranged in age from 1 to 17. He did not bring his oldest daughter, 18.

Staton's wife died in early 2007, shortly after giving birth to their 10th child. The man told police he hasn't worked since July and was struggling to make ends meet.

"I was with her for 17 years, and then she was gone. What was I going to do?" Staton said to Omaha television station KETV. "We raised them together. I didn't think I could do it alone. I fell apart. I couldn't take care of them."

Calls by The Associated Press to a number listed for Staton went unanswered Friday.

A number of relatives have volunteered to take the Staton siblings, said Kathie Osterman, a spokeswoman for the state department of Health and Human Services. She said the children may be temporarily placed with those family members until a judge decides on permanent custody.

Osterman said Staton never asked relatives for help.

Todd Landry, director of the division of Children and Family Services, said the safe-haven law was designed to help children who are in danger, but none of the kids who were dropped off had been in harm's way.

In addition to Staton's kids, two unrelated boys were left Wednesday at a different Omaha hospital.

Landry said he empathizes with parents who struggle to raise their families, but "it is the job of a parent to be a parent." He said there are resources to help them.

James Blue, president and CEO of the Lincoln-based nonprofit Cedars, which works with abused and neglected children, said he's been inundated with calls ever since the safe-haven law took effect.

He said the group gets more than 10 calls a day from struggling parents, and its temporary shelter is at its capacity of 15.

"While this (law) has, I think, exposed an underbelly of our society of families that are dropping teenagers off forever at a hospital, it has also given a message to families that there is help out there," Blue said.

He said it's important for the state to have a safe-haven law, but there needs to be an age limit for the children who are left behind.

Nebraska lawmakers tried for years to pass the law, and they succeeded this year only after intense debate. Senators worried that an age limit was too arbitrary and that it might endanger youngsters who were just a week too old.

"It does open a door to older children being left off," Sen. Gwen Howard said during debate of the bill. But she added: "I don't see that being a problem."

She acknowledged Friday that the lack of an age limit had become an issue, but insisted it offers the state an opportunity to reach out to struggling families.

"We need to look at the bigger picture of what's going on with parents and children," Howard said.

Sen. Ernie Chambers, who cast the lone vote against the law, said Friday that lawmakers will be forced to revisit a bad bill.

"I knew it would have broad results, and they would have to come back and readdress the issue," he said.

Nebraska was the last state to adopt a safe-haven law. Most other states have focused their laws on protecting infants.

For years, child-welfare experts have disagreed about whether safe-haven laws reduce the total number of abandoned children.

Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and an opponent of safe-haven laws, said he's never seen anything like what's happening in Nebraska.

"What we're seeing is the unfolding of a policy that wasn't well thought-out," he said.

Bill (Laid Off from WaMu) said...

I asked "Attorney Bernie" Feldman if there are any openings at Rubashkin but he said they don't need any Affirmative Action poster boys to do commercials.


Wachovia, the fourth largest bank in the US, was under pressure from equity investors and bondholders on growing fears over its $120bn portfolio of mortgage securities.

Its shares had lost nearly a third of their value by the close in New York, while the cost of protecting against a default surged. Wachovia’s $125bn of outstanding bonds were trading at about half their par value, according to traders.

Other regional banks with big holdings of troubled mortgage securities, such as Ohio-based National City and Fifth Third were also lower.

Among Wall Street banks, Morgan Stanley’s shares ended the day down 8.7 per cent and the cost of its credit protection rose.

The market reversal prompted John Mack, chief executive, to reassure employees in a memorandum that a planned $8bn-plus capital injection from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group would be announced soon.

Wachovia and Menachem Lubinsky tried to allay customers’ and investors’ fears, saying that its core businesses were performing well.

But traders said the collapse of WaMu after a precipitous drop in its shares and large deposit withdrawals showed large banks could fail with devastating consequences for both equity and debt holders.

They added that the ban on short selling of financial stocks enacted by US regulators this week had prompted many bank bears to move aggressively into credit derivatives, exacerbating movements in those markets.

Financial Times said...

By Francesco Guerrera, Julie MacIntosh and Henny Sender in New York

Published: September 27 2008 01:00 | Last updated: September 27 2008 01:00

Wachovia approached potential buyers, including Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Spain’s Banco Santander, on Friday after a 27 per cent plunge in its shares deepened fears over the future of the sixth-largest US bank.

Worst Deal in History? said...


Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings and loan, was seized by regulators on Thursday and most of its deposits and bank branches sold to J.P. Morgan Chase for $1.9 billion.

Whether J.P. Morgan emerges a winner in all this is still to be determined.

But it is clear who is a big loser: The private equity giant TPG, formerly Texas-Pacific Group, took a stake of $2 billion in Washington Mutual, which has now been wiped out. And the financial impact may even be greater.

Dan Primack on PEHub.com notes that there has been speculation "that some of TPG's limited partners may have doubled down via co-investments."

Primack calls this "the worst deal in private equity history."

The Dedicated Soldier said...

shana tova, brothers. may this year be the year that the light is shined down upon us and we are all relieved of this heavy burden.

long live the truth

harav hagoan yehuda kolko said...

i would like to wish all the kids out there a happy and healthy and sweet and delicious new year! you are the apple to my honey.

Richard Greenstein & Shalom Mizrahi said...


Richard Greenstein, 41, earned more than $300,000 in 2007, as a real estate title insurance sales executive, on Long Island, prosecutors say. He is charged with stealing more than $89,000 in welfare payments Food Stamps and Medicaid benefits, from January 2005 to May 2008. Charges against him include second degree welfare fraud, second degree grand larcency and five counts of first degree offering a false instrument for filing. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

Shalom Mizrahi, 33, is the owner and president of a successful women’s loungewear company with an office in the Empire State Building. He is charged with filing false documents and illegally collecting more than $34,000 in Medicaid, over a three-year period, between January 2005 and May 2008.

Charges against Mizrahi include third degree grand larceny, first degree offering a false instrument and third degree welfare fraud. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

steve said...

To UOJ and Friends,

Wishing you all a K’siva V’Chasima Tova! May Hashem answer all our prayers and fulfill our wishes!

Anonymous said...

CONFIRMED: Akiva Kagan, suspected child molester in the Ramat Bet Shemesh "Torat Eliyahu" school, has now been picked up by police for questioning.

And yet Kagan remains teaching more young children in Torat Eliyahu.

This exposes Torat Eliahu's claims, to concerned parents, that the school themselves have

"fully investigate the allegations" against Kagan, and found him "totally innocent" -

"We know for certain that this fine teacher presents absolutly no risk to the children".

"there is no police file, nor any other official complaints"

"there was 'just' one 'crazy' parent who complained"

...which is how the school minahlim justified their decision to worried parents, to employ this teacher while under police investigation for serious crimes against children...

...as outrageous and preposterous lies.

Suspicions that Torat Eliyahu have been covering up a serial child molester, who taught in their school for seven years, are mounting.

The call is going out for a third party investigation of the schools cover-up - with criminal and civil claims looming against them.

Anonymous said...

CONFIRMED: Akiva Kagan, suspected child molester in the Ramat Bet Shemesh "Torat Eliyahu" school, has now been picked up by police for questioning.

And yet Kagan remains teaching more young children in Torat Eliyahu.

This exposes Torat Eliahu's claims, to concerned parents, that the school themselves have

"fully investigate the allegations" against Kagan, and found him "totally innocent" -

"We know for certain that this fine teacher presents absolutly no risk to the children".

"there is no police file, nor any other official complaints"

"there was 'just' one 'crazy' parent who complained"

...which is how the school minahlim justified their decision to worried parents, to employ this teacher while under police investigation for serious crimes against children...

...as outrageous and preposterous lies.

Suspicions that Torat Eliyahu have been covering up a serial child molester, who taught in their school for seven years, are mounting.

The call is going out for a third party investigation of the schools cover-up - with criminal and civil claims looming against them.

Shmuely Boteach said...


The key witness in the case against my nephew Efraim Diveroli has been found found dead on a remote dirt road.

Sruly Singer said...


Lubavitchers have succeeded by filling the spiritual and institutional void left by the disintegration of the traditional infrastructure of Jewish life in New York City. The modern Orthodox community, with its arid pseudo-intellectualism and high-priced schools, is an unlikely wellspring of Jewish revival. Reform and Conservative Judaism look increasingly like relics of the nineteenth and twentieth centures, respectively. It’s an open secret in the Jewish community that the galaxy of Manhattan-based Jewish organizations with impressive-sounding names like the World Jewish Congress exist for the most part only on paper.

Arthur said...

SEC: 'Guru' Gary J. Gross bilked faithful
The SEC said Gary J. Gross pocketed $700,000, in part, by defrauding Chabad of Boca Raton parishioners.

A self-styled investment guru accused of recruiting clients from a synagogue where he worshiped was charged with using ''abusive sales practices'' to cheat them of hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The 17-page enforcement action accuses Gary J. Gross, 56, of churning clients' accounts with unauthorized and unsuitable trades, reaping $700,000 in the scheme, including buying risky penny stocks and other investments, the SEC said.

To cover up what he was doing, Gross doctored account records to make clients think they had more than they actually did, the agency said.

'Many of Gross' customers often were elderly, unsophisticated investors who wanted only to preserve their principal and grow their portfolio while investing with minimal risk,'' said the SEC complaint. ``Instead of helping these people pursue their goals, Gross defrauded them.''


Former clients said they waited for years for regulators to act.

''Hallelujah,'' said Joan Ezersky, 76, who said she thought her life was over the day she learned her $500,000 investment with Gross had shrunk to $468. ``What took 'em so long?''

''We're happy to see the SEC beginning to hold people responsible for the public's losses,'' said Scott Silver, a Coral Springs lawyer who represents Ezersky and other former clients of Gross.

The SEC said Gross caused more than $2.7 million in investor losses, but did not say how many of his clients at Boca Raton's Axiom Capital Management were victims.

Gross worked at Axiom for five years until complaints against him piled up last year.

A review of hundreds of records by The Miami Herald earlier this year show the losses attributable to Gross, who now lives in Far Rockaway, N.Y., appear much larger than the SEC's total.

The newspaper reported in February that over the past decade, Gross' ex-clients have filed lawsuits and arbitration cases alleging losses of nearly $20 million. The FBI is now investigating.


Gross, who recruited many of his clients from the Chabad of Boca Raton where he once belonged, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year.

Nearly 100 of Gross' ex-clients at Axiom, including Happy Days actor Henry Winkler, filed claims as creditors. Other alleged victims included a rabbi and an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor.

The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction against Gross. The agency also wants Gross fined and ordered to disgorge his ``ill-gotten gains.''

Gross could not be reached for a comment. Previously, he denied any wrongdoing, saying his clients were upset they lost money.


Though investors filed complaints with the state Office of Financial Regulation, state agents never revoked Gross' license, despite a lengthy investigation and settlements with victims exceeding $1 million.

Instead, state regulators placed him on heightened supervision -- a form of probation -- in 2003, allowing him to stay in the business.

Though complaints continued, state regulators never followed up to make sure Gross was abiding by the terms of his license, records show.

To this day, Gross has one of the longest records of complaints in the industry.

A Miami Herald analysis of nearly 600,000 stockbrokers across the country found that Gross had more complaints against him as of January 2007 than 99 percent of all brokers. Since then, his complaint count has doubled.

Anonymous said...

Gmar Chasima Tova!

Akiva Kagan was taken into the police and questioned!

He received a temporary restraining order to be out of the school and away from all children.

The investigation continues. Let's hope justice is served.

There are rumors that the school isn't complying.

Ralph Herzka said...

Fishman must be sorry he's not working for me anymore at Meridian.


Creditors in Washington Mutual Inc.'s bankruptcy could go after a $16.5 million cash severance payment promised to ousted CEO Kerry Killinger, experts said.

While federal regulators seized WaMu's banking operations last week and sold most of them to JPMorgan Chase, the WaMu holding company that previously owned the bank filed for bankruptcy protection and now will be scrutinized by creditors with more than $5 billion in claims.

In trying to get back some of their money, they can challenge payments made to corporate insiders during the year before bankruptcy, several experts said.

That includes Killinger's severance payment and a $7.5 million signing bonus for his successor, Alan Fishman, who ran the bank for 18 days before it failed.

Arthur said...

How success ruined the New York Jew

Against this thesis, it can be argued that the growth of the Brooklyn-based Lubavitch movement is the most significant development in Jewish communal life in the last 40 years.
David Samuels/N.Y. Mag
New York Jew is a kind of universally acknowledged wizard, like a Swiss banker, an English tailor, or a Parisian couturier. Fast-talking, funny, obnoxious, able to conjure some shimmering, tantalizing brilliance on the fly while complaining about the stale Danish and bad coffee and waving a folded copy of the New York Times at the oncoming traffic, with one foot planted firmly on the cracked sidewalk and the other tapping on the curb.

Everyone who comes to New York City in 2008 becomes a little bit Jewish by osmosis. New Yorkers eat Thai food, buy condoms in Korean delis, and face death at the hands of insanely reckless Nigerian cabdrivers, but they inhabit a moral universe in which certainty and doubt are balanced according to a particular mathematics that is intimately familiar to Jews and not quite so familiar to other tribes.

The glass towers of midtown Manhattan are filled with Jewish magicians who manipulate abstract symbols that shape the contents of people’s characters and opinions as well as the contents of their wallets and can seemingly be transformed at will into other markers of value in a dizzying progression that destroys the certainties of blood and soil on which life is founded for ordinary villagers.

Ivy League graduates who move to New York often find themselves thinking about how their Jewish friends, co-workers, and bosses are different from their neighbors back home—less polite, more exciting, more exacting and didactic, with different ideas about pleasure and sin.

Future historians will record that the Jews replaced the old Protestant elite, who had run the city off and on since the eighteenth century until their power was finally shattered by the cultural metamorphosis of 1968, followed by the financial collapse of 1974. John Lindsay, New York’s last Wasp mayor, presided over a city falling into bankruptcy and seemingly irreconcilable racial and class tensions. Academics and residents agreed that New York City was dead—a mid-century idea on which the clock had finally run out. Lindsay’s successor, Abe Beame, was the first Jewish mayor of a city where Jews would assume the leading positions of political, economic, and cultural power.

It takes a certain amount of effort to remember that it was not surprising even into the late sixties for Jews to be excluded from top-tier jobs at the commercial banks, ad agencies, and insurance companies that formed the elite of the city’s business class, and from the boards of the city’s major charities and cultural institutions.

Jews were barred from membership in midtown social clubs, from golf courses and tennis clubs, and from buying apartments in desirable buildings on Park Avenue. Universities like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale did their best not to employ Jews on their faculty and made “character” (by which they meant a lack of Jewishness) a criterion for admission. The Jews of New York City had their own banks, their own law firms, their own social clubs, and their own charities, which enabled them to function as a kind of parallel elite, making their exclusion from the apex of social, cultural, and political power all the more glaring.

Today, it is hard to think of a single institution in the city that doesn’t open its doors wide to Jews (and not just a few token Jews, or the “right kind” of Jews)—Citibank, the board of the New York Philharmonic, the New York Times (a newspaper owned by Jews-turned-Episcopalians whose first Jewish editor, A. M. Rosenthal, was appointed in 1969), The New Yorker (once the home of Cheever-style gentility, now edited by a Jew who writes regularly about Philip Roth, the State of Israel, and other family business), the Metropolitan Club, the Century Club, whatever. Who would want to belong to a club in New York that didn’t accept Jews as members? What on earth would you do there?

The Jews owe a debt to David Rockefeller, who eased their path onto the boards of prominent cultural institutions like MoMA and helped create a new finance-based economy for the city that rewarded the Jewish talent for abstraction, and to Edward Koch, who fused the familiar voice of the Jewish underdog with a policy of large tax breaks for the kinds of businesses that would become the foundation of the city’s future. Without these two men, New York might have gone the goyish way of Baltimore or Philadelphia, the kind of place that no one in his right mind would want to visit even for the funeral of his enemies.

The ascendancy of the Jews of New York can be viewed as a Hollywood-style triumph, but it can also be read as the tragedy of a group of brilliant outsiders who remade a city in their own image, only to cut themselves off from the roots of their tribal genius, ensuring that the future will belong to the children of the new outsiders—Koreans, Indians, Russians, and Chinese.

modern Passover service centered on the experience of the Jews of New York City might begin by reminding an audience of bored Bennington sophomores and their parents (one of whom was born Protestant in New England, the other one of whom blathers on about Grandma Sadie who worked in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory before the tragic fire of 1911) that their forefathers were once members of a poor and oppressed minority. Well before the Holocaust, the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Ukraine at the beginning of the twentieth century were a galvanizing human-rights cause—the Darfur of their time.

We think less about those uprooted Eastern European immigrants than their children, whose secular brilliance was diffused into the common culture by dozens of Nobel Prize laureates who graduated from New York City public high schools, including Stuyvesant (four), Bronx Science (seven), Abraham Lincoln (three), James Madison (three), Brooklyn Tech (two), and Erasmus Hall (two), with a few non-Jews mixed in for good measure, of course. By contrast, the number of Nobel Prize winners who have graduated from elite Manhattan private schools such as Trinity, Dalton, Fieldston, Collegiate, and Horace Mann, where New York’s Jewish elite now scrambles to send its children, is exactly zero.

The children of Jewish immigrants who became Nobel laureates and Supreme Court justices succeeded precisely because they were not accepted in private schools and private clubs. The exclusion allowed the brightest minds of the tribe to gain a sharper angle on the received wisdom of the wider culture and turn it upside down. By the sixties, the Jewish outsider culture of New York—a home-brewed concoction of Talmudic irony, psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo, disenchanted Marxism, the symbolic language of modernism, the bitter ironies of Yiddish humor, sexual openness, and aggression, downed with a wry, European-style shrug—was admired and imitated by the rest of the world. The city’s artists, writers, thinkers, and critics were famous for a magpie genius that reshaped every aspect of American culture. Bob Dylan took Woody Guthrie’s wandering spirit and ran it through his bookish imagination of American history and the collective psyche of Greenwich Village bohemia, and it came out as a weird, inspired commentary on our longing for God. Lou Reed did the same for Andy Warhol’s Factory. Jerry Wexler helped invent rhythm and blues for Atlantic Records and then signed Led Zeppelin, whose heavy blues hooks were pillaged by Rick Rubin, who helped take rap music from the Bronx to the rest of the world.

The best writers were Jews who lived in New York and who injected a worldly, ironic, and often despairing Central and Eastern European sensibility into a more hopeful and lunatic American vein. Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976, followed by Isaac Bashevis Singer in 1978. John Updike wrote a series of very good novels in which he impersonated a Jewish writer in order to prove that he was every bit as good a writer as Bellow or Philip Roth—who this year or next year will hopefully win the Nobel Prize. Then the U.S. Postal Service will issue a long-overdue set of stamps featuring Bellow, Singer, Roth, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, and Bernard Malamud—all made their mark in New York after the war, and their names were on the tip of every literary aspirant’s tongue in New York City in 1968.

Who would want to belong to a club that didn’t accept Jews? What on earth would you do there?

New York may now be a center of global finance, but it is difficult to locate any equivalent, specifically Jewish, genius in the arts today. The collision of Jewish specificity and postmodernity will continue to give off sparks, no doubt, but the story of Jewish cultural life in New York City over the last 40 years is a story of triumph, then decline. If the rest of the world liked Jews better as victims and outsiders, it is possible—if great art, music, and literature is what you care about—that they may have had a point. As the barriers to Jewish acceptance fell away, so did our connection to shared communal values and the traditions of intellectual work that formed the common cultural inheritance of our grandparents.

New York Jews circa 2008 are wealthy white people whose protestations of outsiderness inspire blank stares or impatient eye rolling. We are no longer outsiders able to effortlessly sketch the inner logic of a culture while standing with one foot in and one foot out, looking nervously around us. I remember being in kindergarten during the Yom Kippur War as the shofar sounded in synagogue and news of the unfolding tragedy traveled around the pews in shocked whispers. I wondered if the Jews would have to leave Brooklyn in the same way that my father left Russia, where the rest of his family was slaughtered during the war. I wondered which of our neighbors would hide us behind a false wall, like Anne Frank’s family, and which would turn us over to the American Gestapo when they came to Jay Street. I would be appalled if Jewish children in today’s New York City were growing up with these same fears. We enjoy the luxury of the powerful, which is to feel at home.

The drama of Jewish acceptance into gentile society that played itself out in such a bloody and destructive way in twentieth-century Europe has been successfully transformed in America into an inner conflict about how to present oneself to the outside world that has fueled countless episodes of Sex and the City, Seinfeld, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as the more primal riffs of Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen. I know plenty of Jews who protest the tribal insularity of their community and deny any attachment to religion while proclaiming their fervent attachment to universal values. They fear what it is that makes them signify so powerfully to others. They root for the Mets and vote Democratic out of an atavistic attachment to the idea of the underdog. There is something ineffably sad and utterly American about the communal progression from tribal Judaism to a vague and watered-down idea of “Jewishness.” It’s like watching a family sell the old farmhouse to buy a drywall palace in the suburbs with twice the square footage and shiny new appliances.

Against this thesis, it can be argued that the growth of the Brooklyn-based Lubavitch movement is the most significant development in Jewish communal life in the last 40 years. But the success of Lubavitch may equally be understood as a mark of a larger collapse: The Lubavitchers have succeeded by filling the spiritual and institutional void left by the disintegration of the traditional infrastructure of Jewish life in New York City. The modern Orthodox community, with its arid pseudo-intellectualism and high-priced schools, is an unlikely wellspring of Jewish revival. Reform and Conservative Judaism look increasingly like relics of the nineteenth and twentieth centures, respectively. It’s an open secret in the Jewish community that the galaxy of Manhattan-based Jewish organizations with impressive-sounding names like the World Jewish Congress exist for the most part only on paper.

Anyone who wishes to gauge the true strength of Jewish communal feeling in Manhattan can also try to count the number of authentic old-fashioned Jewish delis left in New York City. When I go out with my Uncle Myron—an old gangster from Newark whose father grew up with Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel—I am reminded of the fact that the Jews were once a working-class ethnic people who danced the mambo and the meringue and the cha-cha, and mixed easily with their Greek and Italian neighbors. Uncle Myron takes me out to kosher Bukharan restaurants in Queens. We eat chicken soup and lamb fat on skewers. The delis are gone, as are the Jewish gangsters, Jewish tailors, and Jewish union organizers, the German Jewish bakeries of the Upper West Side, the Yiddish-language newspapers, and other humble markers of the Jewish ethnic presence in New York. The fact that the best bagels in the city are made by H&H, the bakery founded by Helmer Toro, a Puerto Rican businessman who grew up cutting sugarcane on his father’s farm, is a tribute to the genius of the Puerto Ricans—not the Jews.

The idea that Jews are a different kind of American—that they are Americans while also being something else—feels like an insult, or an accusation of treason. Does history matter if you are ignorant of history, or you reject history? Yes, yes, say the voices of our grandparents. History will find you. You can believe that, or you can share my own personal sorrow about the fate of the Harvard-educated Brahmins I admired in my youth, who cherished their belief in liberal openness while licking at the bleached bones of their family romances. Their mansions are threadbare and drafty, and stickers on their salt-eaten Volvos advertise the cause of zero population growth. It’s hard to imagine that their ancestors sailed clipper ships to China and wrote great books and built great companies and ran spies behind enemy lines in Europe.

Jews of New York City, we don’t have to go out like that. Now that the stock market has crashed, Ahmadinejad dines in New York, and Goldman Sachs answers to Warren Buffett, perhaps we can finally relinquish our fantasies of universalistic omnipotence and return to the prickly insularity that made us great. We can reopen the delis and bakeries, and celebrate the wisdom of our sages who knew that worldly success is fleeting, and that the secret to happiness is fear of God, a bowl of hot chicken soup, and a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn.

High Octane Putz said...

MIAMI, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Brazilian race car driver Helio Castroneves and his sister were indicted in Miami on Thursday on charges of conspiring to defraud the United States of income taxes, prosecutors said.
The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and his sister, Katiucia Castroneves, were also charged with six counts of income tax evasion for the years 1999 through 2004.
The indictment alleged they used a Panamanian shell corporation to fraudulently conceal from the Internal Revenue Service income received from Penske Racing and another company.
Castroneves, 33, lives in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables.
He won fame outside the auto racing world last year when he beat out English pop singer Melanie Brown to win "Dancing with the Stars," an ABC television show in which celebrities compete in ballroom dancing contests.

Heshy Worch said...


September 21, 2008

He seduced vulnerable women who came to him for spiritual enlightenment. Now Rabbi Hershy Worch is the one being exposed and shamed.

RABBI Hershy Worch did not look like a serial seducer. Short, fat and married, he favoured the white silk stockings, knee breeches and big fur hat - or "shtreimel" - worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews on the Sabbath.

But the rabbi could sing magnificently - and played a mean guitar. He was also an inspiring teacher of Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical doctrine famously studied by Madonna. Talented and charismatic, despite his homely looks, the "singing rabbi" attracted crowds of students of both sexes.

Women predominated because Worch specialised in teaching female students the Talmud - Jewish commentaries traditionally taught to men.

The English-born rabbi came to Melbourne from the United States in 1995 as a 41-year-old chaplain and mentor for Jewish students at Victorian university campuses. Now a new book by one of his former students, Melbourne writer Yvonne Fein, paints him as a manipulative seducer, a man who made sexual advances to his most vulnerable students and was psychologically abusive to many others.

The Torn Messiah is a novel, not a memoir or a work of investigative journalism, but it is an open secret in the Jewish community that it is a thinly disguised account of the effects of the maverick rabbi's sexual escapades.

The main character is "Rabbi Reuven Klein", not Hershy Worch. Meanwhile, Fein herself, the editor of the 1990s Jewish magazine Generations, appears in the novel as Freddie Rose, editor of the magazine Diaspora Dreaming. Its headquarters are downstairs from Rabbi Klein's office - just as Generations was downstairs from Rabbi Worch's office - and its location is "Ben Gurion House" in Kooyong Road, Caulfield, easily identifiable as the Beth Weizmann centre, a few blocks away on Hawthorn Road - the setting for many of Worch's classes.

HaMakom, the "alternative" orthodox synagogue Worch established, appears in the novel as "HaDrasha". The fictional Rabbi Klein has sexual relations with three of his students and tries to seduce others.

Fein openly admits that much of the novel's content is based on Worch. She made her fictional Rabbi Klein a "composite character", based on Worch and several other rabbis, because she feared she was unable to make a "short, fat and ugly" rabbi into a credible fictional seducer.

She wrote the story as a novel, she says, mainly to protect the identities of other women involved. Fein says her fictional rabbi and the real Rabbi Worch both played on the emotions of a group of young adults who were all children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.

"We were all consenting, tertiary-educated adults. But, in some sense, we were all damaged," Fein says. "(Jewish) Melbourne is still, in many ways, a Holocaust town. We were all looking for a way to be Jewish that was not defined by Holocaust suffering or by loyalty to Israel ... We wanted to find another way. And he came with another way."

Fein says she and others were vulnerable to someone who could teach Hebrew biblical texts "without butchering it".

"He came along with this Torah from heaven ... He made it poetic - and mysterious."

Women came to study early and late, and were often alone with the rabbi. It was then, Fein says, that he made sexual advances that several did not resist - but which later led to anger and distress.

Worch left Melbourne in 1997 because the Hillel Foundation - the Jewish student support organisation employing him - had run out of money to pay his salary. But in 2004 a few of Worch's former Melbourne students were contacted by a representative of the Baltimore-based Awareness Centre - a Jewish organisation specialising in helping sex abuse victims.

These women wrote a long, anonymous statement accusing the rabbi of "predatory" and "manipulative" behaviour and it was added to the Baltimore website's "Case of Rabbi Hershy Worch" listing.

The entry on Worch runs to several pages, noting his alleged 1998 dismissal from an Illinois teaching post and referring to allegations made against him in Chicago in 2004. It also alludes to complaints about him to the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

According to the Melbourne women's statement, Worch "proactively sought 'romantic' and sexual relationships with many, many women, specifically targeting those who were emotionally vulnerable and fostering acute dependency. He consistently used his role as counsellor to make sexual advances towards those who came to him in need.

"He had 'romantic' sexual relationships with married and unmarried women who ranged in age from 20 to 50."

The statement also says that his inappropriate behaviour towards female students included "physical sexual interactions", "predatory behaviour in the pursuit of women - late-night phone calls and invitations to teach women privately" and "using the teaching of Torah (bible) as a tool of seduction".

Worch, now 54, has married a third time since leaving Melbourne and lives in California where he runs online Kabbalah and Jewish scripture classes. Responding to The Sunday Age's questions by email, he said he couldn't talk about what was in a book he hadn't read. But, he added: "I, myself, am looking for a publisher for my novel, The Inner Shikseh, about a Hasidic rabbi who meets and ministers to the needs of kinky Jews, sabbath-observant queers, sadists and masochists, bondage freaks, masters and slaves, pain-givers and pain-cravers, humiliation artists and a plethora of other taboo-breakers."

He parried repeated requests to comment on the allegations about his time in Melbourne posted on the Baltimore website. "When a lady of quality ... chooses to divulge a sexual liaison, it's dashed bad form then to approach the man for corroboration," he wrote.

"I came to Australia to work with Jewish students on and off campus, to share my sense of excitement and discovery with them about the Torah ... I found Melbourne brimming with impassioned and enthused people of all ages and every possible religious persuasion, starving for someone to give them access to ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts."

On his own Live Journal blog, the rabbi has twice posted denials of the website's allegations against him. In 2006, he wrote of being "accused in the media, anonymously, of criminal and contemptible offences. Most specifically it was alleged that I use cult-like and manipulative, mind-controlling behaviours to entice women to my home where I assault them. The attack was an outright slander, a lie without one iota of truth in it."

Fein is adamant that Worch's actions, though not illegal, were exploitative and abusive, in that he took advantage of the power imbalance between rabbi and congregant. They were also a serious breach of Halacha (Jewish law), which forbids a rabbi from having illicit sexual liaisons.

Sam Lipski, editor of the Jewish News when Worch was in Melbourne, says that at the time of his sudden departure in 1997 no allegations of impropriety had come to the newspaper's attention.

At the time, influential businessman, rabbi and former Melbourne Football Club president Joseph Gutnick had offered to re-fund Hillel, the organisation that had been paying Worch, if it got rid of the radical rabbi. Gutnick had strongly objected to remarks he regarded as pro-Palestinian that Worch had made at a student meeting hosted by the businessman.

Several years passed before the first accounts of alleged sexual improprieties began to filter in from the US. Joseph Gutnick heard them, and also read testimonies from American and Australian women who reported inappropriate sexual overtures from Worch. The reports confirmed his opinion of the rabbi, Gutnick says now.

"He is a low-life and a heretic. What upsets me is that he uses religion to abuse women. There are numerous women who have suffered at his hands," Gutnick says.

So why didn't the Melbourne women complain to rabbinical authorities when Worch was here?

According to Fein, conversation about alleged impropriety began after the rabbi's sudden departure, when his shocked students gathered to "debrief".

Fein herself was only "intellectually seduced" by Worch, she says, meaning she did not sleep with him. But she was shattered that she had been manipulated by a religious leader .

"I was too ashamed to approach anyone official," she says. "Anyway, who would you go to? And what sort of hearing would you get?"

Another former student of Worch says the rabbi used his own vulnerability as a seduction technique. "He was clearly a damaged person," she says.

"He made inappropriate suggestions to me but I just ignored them." She still feels uncomfortable about her "complicity" with Worch's manipulative ways.

But Worch still has his supporters in Melbourne. Another former female student says she went to many group classes and never witnessed any hint of anything untoward.

"I had respect for what he taught us," she says. "If some women had a problem with him, they should have complained at the time."

At the time, says Fein, any Australian woman considering making allegations of abuse to rabbinical authorities would have first thought of the now notorious case of New York's Rabbi Baruch Lanner. In 1989, some of his congregants complained to a "beth din," or tribunal of rabbis, that Lanner had sexually abused teenagers. But they were not believed. They were not vindicated until 2000, when a Jewish newspaper's reports on the claims sparked a police investigation - and eventually a jail sentence for Lanner.

It is a poorly kept secret in the Jewish community that Lanner came to Melbourne in 1990 to be interviewed for a position as headmaster of a Jewish school. The interview was quietly cancelled after some calls to New York.

THE Torn Messiah took Fein more than five years to write. It took a further year to find a publisher.

"It took me a long time to get over (the Worch era)."

Jewish communities in Australia, says Fein, have been slow even to admit the possibility of clerical abuse.

She points to the secrecy surrounding sexual abuse claims against the principal of the Adass Israel Girls School in Elsternwick. The school board paid for the principal, Malka Leifer, to return to Israel, sacking her after investigating alleged sexual offences.

But Rabbi Meir Kluwgant, president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, says that his organisation is now facing up to the issue and has arranged for a small group of professional legal and psychological advisers to offer confidential advice and support to abuse victims.

In the past few months, the council has been investigating - or attempting to investigate - claims of "inappropriate physical contact" as well as "improper financial transactions" by a "trusted" religious official in the Jewish community.

In a front-page article in the Australian Jewish News in late March, Kluwgant provided a special phone number and urged the man's victims to come forward. Twenty people came forward with information, he says, but nobody was prepared to sign a statement.

Kluwgant says confidential advice and assistance will also be offered to any former congregants of Worch who want to come forward.

"There has been a shift in the rabbinate towards addressing the issue (of clerical abuse) openly and frankly and publicly," he says.

But Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Anton Block says there is still "not enough openness" in dealing with sex abuse thoroughly and publicly because of fear of fostering anti-semitism. Like any other community, the Jewish community does not like bad news published about itself .

"But we have the added concern that, when messages like this get out, it adds ammunition to those who want to hurt us and say 'look at the Jews'."