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.”


Monday, April 18, 2016

“Before you were elected to the Knesset, I was in Kollel (religious seminary for married men), and could not support my growing family,” he began. “So I went to work. But I felt like a second-class citizen when I did so, and was made to feel that way by those around me who were still in Kollel. It got so bad that when I saw someone who knew me walking by the place where I worked, I would hide so they would not see me working.”

Who Is Really Endangering the Future of Judaism in Israel?


A yeshiva student. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
A yeshiva student
"The American ultra-Orthodox and yeshiva community must wake up!" 

Every Friday night, I help run a “Carlebach” service in Beit Shemesh. It’s a unique service that brings together Jews from all backgrounds to pray, sing and dance on a weekly basis. While closing up the synagogue this past Friday night, a Hasidic man in his early thirties who was at this service  for the first time approached me and introduced himself.

“Before you were elected to the Knesset, I was in Kollel (religious seminary for married men), and could not support my growing family,” he began. “So I went to work. But I felt like a second-class citizen when I did so, and was made to feel that way by those around me who were still in Kollel.  It got so bad that when I saw someone who knew me walking by the place where I worked, I would hide so they would not see me working.”

I began telling him how bad I felt for him, but he cut me off.

“Don’t worry, it all changed when you came into office. The moment you changed the government’s policies and cut the stipends, and it was no longer financially worthwhile to stay in learning instead of working, massive numbers of Kollel guys began working. This made it acceptable in our community to work, and I no longer felt like a second-class citizen and I did not have to hide any longer.”

He said that despite the protests against the stipend cuts from many in the ultra-Orthodox community, he and many others supported our effort. He also agreed that working to support your family with dignity is not only consistent with being a Talmudic scholar and fervently religious, but is actually the ideal.

My new Hasidic friend then said that while he was thankful he had a job, it was not not the type of job he wanted. He blamed this on his inability to speak English, and was frustrated that many religious schools in Israel don’t teach English. “Why didn’t they teach us English? What could possibly be wrong with English?”

I told him that he was correct, and that was why my political party, Yesh Atid, cut into the funding of schools that did not teach English, and pushed to introduce English instruction in all schools.

I said that I needed to start walking home, and he asked if he could join me to ask one last question.

“Those young men with the knitted kippot and untucked white shirts who were in that service just now — are any of them IDF soldiers?”

I told him that many are active soldiers, and that two or three of them were home from their first week of basic training.

“Unbelievable,” he replied. “They have it all. The way they danced and prayed, they are clearly very spiritual and religious. They are serving the country. And they, no doubt, have a general education.

They have all that, while half of my cousins who were presented with a life of Torah-only are no longer religious. Had they known that an option of balance was available, they would still be religious.”

I told him that many in Israel are aware of the problem, and reassured him that we are committed to correcting it — and that this was among the reasons I entered politics in the first place.

This remarkable conversation reminded me to tune out the propaganda and rhetoric coming from the ultra-Orthodox media and its political leadership, and to keep on working at the important task at hand.

The American ultra-Orthodox and yeshiva community must wake up and recognize that this Hasid was not an aberration. He is a part of the silent majority whose voices have been stifled but are crying for help. We must not fight them; but help them. This is what will ensure the continuity of Judaism for generations to come.

Rabbi Dov Lipman served in the Israeli Knesset (2013-2015) with the Yesh Atid party, the first American born MK in 30 years. He holds rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel Rabbinical College and a Masters Degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University and currently serves as Director of Public Diplomacy in the vice chairman’s office of the World Zionist Organization.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Stopping the enemies of Jewish tradition - (Where the author uses charedi or yeshivish, I take exception to that if they are in fact worldly, educated in the sciences, and believe that each child must be lead on the path that suits him or her best - PM)

There is a certain group within the Jewish people that over and over again stray from our holy tradition.  These people act as if they have very little regard to many of the statements and teachings made throughout Jewish scripture and subsequent Rabbinic literature.  The existence and prominence of these people is a definite threat to the future of Judaism, and if we do not act quickly it may be too late.

The group that I am referring to is, of course, Jewish Fundamentalists (or Chassidim.) 

 These people, including but not limited to: the Charedei world, most of the Yeshivish community, and even some Jews that consider themselves to be more “modern”, are sadly a growing phenomenon within Jewish demographics.  While there are many reasons why I strongly feel that these groups are a major break from classical Jewish tradition, I would like to focus on one idea that I feel can summarize most of the others.

Jewish fundamentalists (well really any religious fundamentalists) are the most closed minded people in the world.  They are closed minded in regards to science, empiricism, theology, or really any way of thinking that may, sort of, eventually, contradict many of their specious beliefs.

Let’s start at the beginning.

If we believe that God created the world, and the magnificent universe should draw us to the praise of God (Psalm 19), then it probably makes sense that we have some ability to understand the natural world – aka science.  This of course presents an immediate problem, as many of the ideas throughout the Torah directly contradict a scientific way of viewing and thinking about the world.  No I am not talking about one time events such as the splitting of the sea or some food falling from heaven – while these miracles clearly contradict science (and I personally do not believe that they ever happened) it is still somewhat reasonable to hold these beliefs to be true and accept a scientific view of the world.  I am talking big picture: age of the universe, evolution, our knowledge of the universe and the way it works.  It is in these fields that fundamentalists will close their eyes and their mind to any sort of logical or rational argument, branding all who disagree as either stupid or heretical.

In the past Judaism and biblical interpretation was never about trying to stick to the literal translation of the Bible at all costs – but rather it was a quest to learn more about the world and God.  When it came to learning about the natural world, many Jewish thinkers felt that an adequate knowledge of science and the universe was crucial to understanding God.   Some of these scholars wrote that a prophet was one who understood science (ever heard of the Rambam).  Science and ration was not viewed as the enemy in classical Judaism, rather it was viewed as necessary to fully understand the world.

The well known Torah Scholar Malbim actually TWICE changed his commentary of Genesis due to scientific discovery in his time.  If science revealed a secret about the world than we must use it to deepen our understanding of God and the Torah.  Over and over again the Rabbis in the Talmud use empirical evidence to try and determine facts in many different cases.  In some cases in the Talmud the Rabbis even admit that their understanding of a natural phenomenon is wrong and they are forced to re-evaluate their position (Pesachim 94b).  Other exegetes such as the Ibn Ezra or Rabbi Judah Hachassid talk about the possibility of anachronistic verses in the Torah being added in later – due to their literary analysis of the text.  Of course these fundamentalists feel so strongly that their world view is the “correct one” that many of them will even prohibit their students from reading these works.  In a famous ruling Rabbi Moshe Feinstein actually wrote that Rabbi Judah Hachassid’s work was a forgery (based off of zero evidence).  Other Yeshivot who do teach these classical Jewish sources will argue that these Rabbis did not really mean what they wrote or find other very creative ways to distort what they say.

When Jews who do realize that science is valuable try to fuse it into their understanding of Torah,  the Jewish Fundamentalists are quick to silence them (Natan Slifkin anyone).  And here is the main problem!  It is not just that these people simply disagree with science and the world of empiricism – rather they view anyone who does accept science as an enemy who must be stopped.  This is a major break from Jewish tradition.  The irony, of course, being that the group of people who feel in charge of defending this tradition are in many cases the biggest threat to its continuity.

In order for Judaism to continue to thrive we must act together to stop giving these people dominant voices in our community.   It is absolutely ridiculous that pre college students are sent to certain yeshivot in Israel where the Rabbis spend the entire year trying to convince these students to turn down college and remain in yeshiva instead.  Furthermore, once young men do enroll in a – God forbid – secular college, there are actually organization and people that will try and convince students to leave mid college to pursue yeshiva study.  The motive for these Rabbis is the belief that Torah study is the only important and worthwhile discipline for one to pursue in their life time.  It pains me that such teachers have seemingly never opened up the most important halachic work of all time.

One who makes up his mind to involve himself with Torah and not to work, and to support himself from charity, has profaned God’s Name and brought the Torah into contempt, extinguished the light of religion, brought evil upon himself, and has taken away his life from the World-to-Come… (Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:10)

Furthermore, many Jewish communities filled with doctors, scientists, and professors are lead by Yeshivish Rabbis who fundamentally disagree with the disciplines of the majority of their community!  How can a Rabbi denying evolution, inspire a group of doctors in their Judaism!

Many Modern Orthodox schools employ Yeshivish/Charedi Rabbis, worsening the already bad situation.  Does it make sense for a high school student to spend half his day learning science, math, and history – and the other half of his day being told that these things are false!?!

If we want to ensure the survival of Judaism we must stop those who break the valuable Jewish tradition of searching out for truth in the world.

 We must stop hiring these fundamentalists for any sort of teaching position whatsoever!   Just as the Charedi and Yeshivish world views modern Orthodoxy as a less religious version of Judaism, we must view them in the same manner.  If Judaism continues at the trajectory that it is headed now, more and more people will be turned off by the anti-science and anti-thinking attitudes that permeate the religious communities – and we will eventually be left with two groups: one of fundamentalists and one of non-religious and even anti-religious people.  The only people with the power to stop this phenomenon are those people who value both Judaism and its teachings, along with the rest of the academic world – something that was once known as Modern Orthodoxy.

To conclude, I feel the need to recall one of the most upsetting arguments I have ever had in my lifetime (and trust me I get into arguments with a solid amount of foolish people):

It was about a year ago on a regional NCSY Shabbaton where I was an advisor – in charge of teaching and inspiring high school students.  It is through this organization that I have had the pleasure of teaching and inspiring handfuls of turned-off high school students to learn more about Judaism, including helping them chose a yeshiva program or even thrive in their Judaism throughout their college years.  It was a Shabbat afternoon and I was chatting with one of the seniors about various Jewish topics.  The boy, lets call him J, to hide his identity, asked me a question regarding using magical amulets to cure illnesses ( a topic which the Talmud in Tractate Shabbat devotes much attention to).  As any Jewish educator should do, I explained to him the two major opinions in regards to the efficacy of such items.  The first being the opinion that they work and the second (that of the Rambam and many other greats in the “rationalist camp”) being that such items are bogus and at best a placebo and do not actually work.

The answer of the Rambam greatly interested J and apparently a few other students since when I finished giving my answer there was a group of 5-7 other students surrounding us.  Many of them expressed to me that they had never believed that there was such thing as magic and were overcome with joy that their were prominent Jewish scholars who had felt the same way.  After all, how would these students have know the Rambam’s view on such things?  They had only each been in Jewish day school since they were 4 and gone to Shul almost every week of their lives!

Anyways, the conversation evolved into talking about the Rambam’s view of magic and miracles in other contexts and that was when things turned sour.  A man, probably late twenties, wearing a suit and black hat, stepped in and said that the Rambam makes no sense –  “of course their is such thing as magic” he said confidently, “my rabbi told many stories which he has heard directly from descendants of the Chazon Ish, of the Chazon Ish himself performing crazy miracles”.  I politely asked this man to allow us to continue our conversation in peace,  when he snapped back that he was on of the few people in charge of the entire Shabbaton and he did not like the fact that I was teaching these children lies. I sighed and then asked him to go into further details about the “miracles” that the Chazon Ish performed.

I do not remember the full list, but I do remember that at the end of his list he stopped and said “Oh, yeah and the Chazon Ish discovered a cure for cancer at the end of his life due to his deep knowledge of Torah.”  Since then I have learned that this is a very common belief amongst many Jewish fundamentalists, but back then I had never heard this claim before so I then asked the question that any reasonable person would ask in response to this: “so where did the cure go?”  The man smiled and said that the Chazon Ish knew that the next illness was going to be much worse so he hid the cure for cancer and never revealed it.  At this point I could see the bewilderment of the group of the growing number of high school students who had taken interest in our discussion.  I rebutted that if the Chazon Ish knew the cure for cancer and refused to tell anyone then he should be viewed as a murderer.  The man’s face turned red, but before he could say anything I asked the next rational question.  “So based on the Chazon Ish’s actions do you think that we should be engaging in trying to find a cure for this deadly illness?”  I will never forget his answer.  He sort of shrugged his shoulders and said “well, I would never publicly say this, but if the Chazon Ish was against publicizing a cure, who are we to decide otherwise”

While this is an extreme example, this is the general direction of what the future of Judaism holds if we do not take a stand.  Imagine a world where the average age of death is 30, most babies die before turning 1, and our knowledge of the universe is based on ancient mythologies.  That my friends, is what the world would be like if it was run by fundamentalists who are anti human progress in any sense of the word.  Fundamentalists do not only break the Jewish tradition of truth seeking, healthy debate, and bettering humanity, but they wish to forcibly silence anyone who values these important Jewish pastimes.  We need to come together as a community and refuse to hire such people for positions within our community.  Just as there are no non-charedim teaching in schools in Meah Sharim, there should be no Charedim or Yeshivish teachers in our communities.  If one wants to live in a world that is anti-science, anti-ration, and anti human progress, with all who disagree stopped, then please go back in time to 15th century Europe or build a massive wall around your neighborhood or something- but please, do not pretend that you are continuing the tradition of our beloved Judaism.


The Enemy Within-Part Three-Chassidism Is Not Judaism

The Enemy Within-Part Three-Chassidism Is Not Judaism - From The UOJ Classics
Originally Posted January 30, 2007

Make no mistake, Chassidism is not part of authentic Judaism. In matter of fact it is closer to Christianity than to Judaism. Orthodox Jews believe that ALL of the principles of Judaism were given to Moshe at Sinai. The written Torah and the oral Torah were dictated to Moshe by Hashem for the forty days he was at Sinai. The roots of the Chassidic movement did not begin until the thirteenth century, when Moses De-Leon started the writings of the Zohar. About three hundred years later, Isaac Luria (ARI) started preaching this mystic garble. The Ari as he was known, was an enigma. He purported to preach the thoughts of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who lived fifteen hundred years earlier. The problem is that there was no known link of mesorah or chain of events, going back to that time, from RSBY to him or to De-Leon....


Thursday, April 14, 2016

How many women remember the Kobe Bryant case and don’t file a rape charge? “Sexual assault has always been one of the lowest reported crimes,” Steinhauser said. “There’s this mentality of blame the victim, but victims do enough blaming of themselves. So many victims decide it’s not worth it.”

The Legacy Of The Kobe Bryant Rape Case

 In this July 18, 2003, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, hold hands during a news conference at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
On June 30, 2003, Kobe Bryant arrived at the Cordillera Lodge and Spa in Edwards, Colorado. After a frustrating season that saw the Los Angeles Lakers fail to win a fourth straight championship, Bryant was in town for an operation on his knee.

A 19-year-old concierge at the hotel showed the superstar and his security team to their rooms, and caught his eye. Bryant, a new father of a six-month-old daughter, made small talk with the blonde, and once they arrived at his room, he took her aside and requested that she come back later to give him a private tour of the hotel. She obliged, and after the tour and mild flirtations, Bryant invited her into his hotel room.

Just five minutes later, the woman exited the room, disheveled and reportedly distraught. Her underwear was bloody, as was Bryant’s shirt.

She told her friend, a bellboy at the hotel, about the encounter that night, and after making sure the woman got home safely, the bellboy went home and told his father. The next day, after recounting the incident to her mother, the woman reported it to police.

Whether or not Bryant and the woman engaged in sexual activity that night is not in question — Bryant admitted to cheating on his wife, Vanessa. But the woman he claimed to have committed adultery with said she did not consent to that activity.

And thus, those five minutes became the center of one of the most high-profile rape cases of all time. As Jeffrey Scott Shapiro put it in his book, Kobe Bryant: The Game Of His Life, the case came down to two words: yes or no.

Bryant is set to play his final NBA game on Wednesday. Tickets are going for $25,000, and he’s being celebrated and honored by athletes and movie stars, rap artists and clothing brands. His career as a basketball player certainly merits that. In 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant won five NBA championships, one MVP award, and was named to the NBA All-Star team 18 times. He is, without a doubt, a legend.

But as fun as it is to reflect on his career and the mark he left on the sport, it’s also important to remember what happened off the court. Though the criminal charges were ultimately dropped after 15 months and the civil case was settled behind closed doors, the Kobe Bryant rape case left behind a legacy of victim blaming, media sensationalism, and image repair that still influences society — and other high-profile rape cases — to this day.

Victim Blaming


It didn’t take long for a bonafide media circus to descend upon the small Colorado town. On July 2, both the alleged victim and Bryant were taken to the hospital for examinations. There was a small bruise around her neck, and she had tears on her vaginal wall. An arrest warrant was issued for Bryant on July 4th, and on July 18th, charges were filed.

As soon as the charges against Bryant became public, media and fans alike honed in on the alleged victim. Who was this young girl who had the audacity to threaten one of the greatest, most well-respected athletes on the planet with life in prison?

She was a sexually active teenager who had attempted suicide twice and been briefly hospitalized for mental illness. She was an aspiring singer who had once tried out for American Idol. She had a lingering crush on her ex-boyfriend. So very quickly, a picture was painted of a fame-hungry, unstable woman who would do anything for attention.

Jose Revilla, right, a member of NBA star Kobe Bryant's security team, leads the way as Bryant, left, and his attorney Pamela Mackey, center, head into court for a pretrial hearing on Bryant's sexual assault charge at the Justice Center in Eagle, Colo., on Monday, July 19, 2004.
Kobe Bryant, left, and his attorney Pamela Mackey, center.

Unfortunately, narratives like this seem to emerge almost any time a woman accuses a famous man of violence. But what made the Bryant case notable was the lengths to which the defense team would go to encourage that victim-blaming narrative.

“In the Kobe Bryant case, it was abominable how the accuser was treated. Everyone was at fault,” Mark Shaw, an attorney and author who covered the case for ESPN and USA Today, told ThinkProgress. “This poor woman, they wore her down, and it happened from the first hearings.”

The preliminary hearing in October 2003 was supposed to merely be a chance for the judge to decide whether there was enough evidence to require a trial. But Bryant’s attorney, Pamela Mackey, used it as a chance to smear the alleged victim’s reputation.

Not only did Mackey use the alleged victim’s name a staggering six times during the hearing, but when she was presented with the woman’s vaginal injuries, Mackey used the victim’s sexual history against her. The high-powered lawyer brought the hearing to a screeching halt, asking, “Could it be that [the alleged victim’s] injuries were caused by having sex with three men in three days?”

As Shapiro wrote in his book, Mackey’s tactic was an effective one, because that became the story of the day, and not the evidence displayed by Deputy District Attorney Gregg Crittenden and Eagle County Sheriff’s Detective Doug Winters.

And that evidence, such as the retelling of the statements the alleged victim gave to officers the day after the attack, deserved attention.
When Bryant began groping her, the woman said she tried to flee but the athlete barred her way and grabbed her by the neck, Winters said. “She was afraid that he was going to choke her.”
Then, the woman said, Bryant turned her around, pushed her against a chair, pulled down her panties and raped her. She tearfully said “no” twice but was ignored, Winters said. At one point, Bryant “stated that he liked Vail, Colo.,” he said.
Five minutes later, it was over, Winters said, and Bryant made her kiss his genitals. Then he told her to “go clean up.”
Just days before the criminal case went to trial, the alleged victim decided to stop cooperating and the charges were dropped. Up until that moment, she had been put through the ringer. She had friends, acquaintances, and even strangers accept money from the tabloids or gifts from television producers to tell stories — some the truth with a spin to it, others outright lies. Photos of the alleged victim were also leaked and plastered all over magazines in the supermarket. Even the Eagle County court contributed to the onslaught, by inadvertently making private court documents public.

As Shaw wrote at the time, “with her identity known, her past sex life revealed, her mental state common knowledge, and her life in shambles due to constant anguish about the motive behind the charges, it is no wonder that she threw in the towel.”

Because the case received so much coverage, everyone, even those not paying close attention, saw what happened to the alleged victim. It’s nearly impossible to measure that impact. According to Shapiro’s book, however, there are other women who had similar encounters with Bryant — one in particular who was able to escape before an assault occurred — who wouldn’t cooperate with the Colorado trial because of how the alleged victim in that case was treated.

In the immediate aftermath of the hearing, it was no surprise that sexual assault reporting declined dramatically at the alleged victim’s school, the University of Northern Colorado.

“How many women remember the Kobe Bryant case and don’t file a rape charge?” Shaw said.

It’s hard to tell if this case impacted national reporting statistics, but 68 percent of rapes still go unreported. And it’s worth noting that in other cases where a high-profile athlete — such as Greg Hardy, Ben Roethlisberger, and Patrick Kane — has been accused of violence against women, the alleged victims have been smeared in a similar way. In the Kane case, it was leaked that traces of DNA from other men were found in the alleged victim’s underwear. Hardy’s alleged victim had her drug use and relationship with rapper Nelly dragged through the media. One of the two women who accused Roethlisberger of rape was said to have a “history of using sex and lies to get what she wanted.” None of these women decided to cooperate with or pursue criminal charges.

One positive, if there is such a thing, to come out of the Bryant case was the improved rape shield laws in Colorado. Rape shield laws are supposed to protect the victim’s identity in cases and limit the ability for her past sexual activity to be brought into evidence. According to Karen Steinhauser, a Family Law and Criminal Defense attorney in Colorado, at the time of the Bryant hearing, rape shield laws didn’t apply to preliminary hearings in the state, which is why Mackey could push the envelope so far. Now they do.

However, rape shield laws are still far from perfect, and many still allow judges plenty of loopholes to permit an alleged victim’s sexual history into evidence. Linda Seabrook, general counsel for Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit that aims to end domestic violence and sexual assault, said those loopholes perpetuate the mistrust of the judicial system. And that mistrust will lead fewer victims to seek justice.

“Sexual assault has always been one of the lowest reported crimes,” Steinhauser said. “There’s this mentality of blame the victim, but victims do enough blaming of themselves. So many victims decide it’s not worth it.”

The Media’s Ability To Perpetuate Rape Myths


While Bryant’s defense team and the tabloids were certainly responsible for festering the victim-blaming culture of the case, the mainstream media itself didn’t do much to squelch it.

“The media in the Bryant case was as guilty as anyone else,” Shaw said. “They were enamored by Kobe, a good looking star, married with a baby. They wanted to get an interview with him, and the poor girl was left to suffer.”

Renae Franiuk, a professor of psychology at Aurora University and an avid sports fan, watched the media coverage of the case with interest, and noticed that a lot of it seemed to be slanted against the alleged victim. She was curious as to whether she was just overly sensitive to it due to her job, or if it was an actual problem, so she set out to do a study.

For the study, Franiuk honed in on rape myths, which are “generalized and widely held beliefs about sexual assault that serve to trivialize the sexual assault or suggest that a sexual assault did not actually occur.”

She then divided the myths into standard common categories, and studied both articles and headlines about the Bryant case for endorsements or challenges of these myths. She also studied the articles for positive and negative statements about the alleged victim and Bryant, and headlines for the choice of the word “accuser” versus “alleged victim,” since the former has been proven to elicit sympathy with the accused.


Franiuk’s findings were staggering. First of all, only 13 of the 156 articles studied actually countered rape myths — that is, mentioned how rarely women lie about rape, or how entering a hotel room with a man isn’t the same as consenting to sex with him. On average, there were 1.66 myth-endorsing statements per article, with over 65 percent of the articles having at least one endorsing statement.

Additionally, 27 percent of the articles studied had positive comments about Bryant as a person or an athlete, while only 5 percent of the articles had positive statements about the victim as a person. And whereas 42.3 percent of the articles questioned the victim’s honesty, only 7.7 percent questioned Kobe’s.

Though less extreme, a similar pattern was discovered in headlines, which are often the only information readers take in. Almost 10 percent of the headlines studied endorsed rape myths. Headlines used the word “accuser” 23 percent of the time, compared to about 1 percent each for “alleged victim” or “victim.” Overall, 11 percent of the headlines were pro-Bryant, while only 5.2 percent pro-alleged victim.

Why does this even matter? Well, Franiuk’s study accounted for that too, and found that after reading articles that endorsed rape myths, people were far more likely to side with the accused than the alleged victim. Whether they intended to or not, the media shaped the public’s perception of the case.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, right, holds up balloons that his family brought out to him during a ceremony to celebrate Bryant becoming third on the NBA all-time scoring list.
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, right, holds up balloons that his family brought out to him during a ceremony to celebrate Bryant becoming third on the NBA all-time scoring list.

“The rape myths perpetuated in the media are a reflection of women’s inferior status in our culture and our culture’s defensive reaction to a heinous crime,” she wrote in the study. “Moreover, rape myths in the media teach rape myths to those who do not already hold them, strengthen rape myths in those who already do, and trigger rape myths in those who are ready to use them.”

While there haven’t been similar studies on recent rape cases, there is reason to believe that many of the problems in Franiuk’s 2008 study are still present in media today. When NHL star Patrick Kane was accused of rape last fall, many reporters chose to focus on his athletic talents while perpetuating rape myths and spreading unsubstantiated rumors about the alleged victim. Meanwhile, when alleged victims don’t go through with pressing charges or an undisclosed civil settlement is reached, athletes such as Ben Roethlisberger, who was accused of sexual assault by two women, are allowed to let their performance in their chosen sport serve as redemption.

“These people believing these myths don’t want people to be sexually assaulted, and, ironically, that’s why they don’t believe the women,” Franiuk said. “It’s easier to believe the myths because you don’t want to believe that sexual assault is possible, but then that disbelief just makes the problem of sexual assault worse.”

The only way to stop this cycle, according to Franiuk, is by getting educated about the issue and speaking up about it. Everyone needs to be educated about both healthy sex and sexual assault at a young age, and journalists in particular need to know how to report it. (There are great resources available for reporters on the topic.) Once educated, they need to be outspoken against it — Franiuk particularly mentioned the significance of Terry Bradshaw passionately speaking out against Hardy last fall.

“We need media members to be more unapologetically vocal about this,” she said.

There Is Life After A Rape Accusation


Not even 24 hours after the charges were dropped in the Bryant rape case, the media had moved away from questions of guilt or innocence, motive and opportunity, and on to more pressing matters: Would Kobe ever be able to repair his image?

Despite the fact that the dust from the criminal case hadn’t even settled yet, it was a legitimate question. After all, both McDonalds and Sprite had suspended relationships with the superstar after the charges were filed, and even if people didn’t pay attention to the sordid details of the case — the alleged victim’s blood on his shirt, the vaginal tearing — there was still the fact that he had cheated on his wife. Bryant was no longer the NBA’s ultimate family man.

Nearly 13 years later, it’s safe to say that Kobe’s image is just fine. Last year, he was 10th on the Forbes list of highest-paid athletes, and between broadcasting and endorsements, coaching and management, his future is filled with opportunities all over the world.

“He’s got real international cachet and popularity,” Bob Dorfman, editor of the Sports Marketers Scouting Report, told CNN.

These days, most people seem to remember the infamous $4 million “apology ring” that Bryant bought his wife after the charges became public more than they remember the accusations. People remember that the charges were dropped, but they don’t remember the statement that Kobe released when they were:
Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.
Of course, Bryant’s privilege has a lot to do with how quickly he has bounced back, but it’s also worth noting that this theory — that women accuse high-profile athletes of rape or domestic violence to become rich and famous and destroy the life of the accused — doesn’t actually pan out in reality.

While Jameis Winston — who was accused of raping a fellow student at Florida State University — has gone on to be an NFL star, his alleged victim had to drop out of school due to the abuse she received. Hardy’s ex-girlfriend recently said that she’s had to move twice, change her phone number multiple times, and even consider changing her name due to the harassment she has received. Hardy, meanwhile, was signed with the Dallas Cowboys even after the domestic abuse allegations, and is reportedly only having a hard time finding a spot on an NFL team now because he was often late to practice. Kane’s alleged victim reportedly had to relocate as well, while Kane is winning awards for his play this season.

It’s impossible to know what Bryant’s present status would be if his rape case had gone differently — if the accuser’s past had not been viciously put on trial, if the media hadn’t irresponsibly condoned rape myths, and if Bryant and his alleged victim had both gotten their day in court.

President Barack Obama stands with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
 Barack Obama stands with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

There’s also no way of knowing what would happen if the charges had been brought today.

Ever since the video of NFL running back Ray Rice punching out his then-fiance in an Atlantic City elevator became public, the media has been slightly more careful with the language it uses when talking about alleged victims and violence against women. There is also an increased awareness about the inadequacies of the justice system, and more pressure on leagues such as the NBA to independently investigate and punish the personal conduct of its players. So if Bryant was charged with sexual assault presently, it’s likely the NBA would be under pressure to take disciplinary action.

However, that’s no guarantee that things would have turned out differently. After all, the victim-blaming tactics used in Kobe’s case, both by the defense team and the media, have been utilized in big-time cases recently, and the results have been similarly successful for the athletes.

All we know for sure is that 13 years ago, Bryant’s alleged victim was forced to move out of her hometown due to safety concerns. She was last seen during the civil case, married and pregnant, and hasn’t been heard of in public since, except for the occasional rumor on the underbelly of the internet.

Meanwhile, Bryant is now a father of two. He and Vanessa briefly filed for divorce, but have since reunited. Kobe was able to finish out his career with the Lakers, winning two more NBA championships and climbing to third on the list of all-time scorers in NBA history. He’s an icon of the sport, and of our culture.

But as the legend bids goodbye, those close to the case can’t help but wonder, “What if?”

“Every time I see Kobe Bryant on television playing basketball, I think about how lucky he is,” Shaw said. “Based on the evidence I knew about… he should be in prison.”