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Friday, September 13, 2019

Across Orthodox Judaism as a whole, a 2018 study by Harvard psychologist David H. Rosmarin found that among formerly Orthodox individuals, rates of abuse were nearly twice the national estimate for both boys and girls....

Secrets and Lies

Sexual abuse in the world of Orthodox Judaism


In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

Photograph by Sarah Teller

Jay Goldberg, who attended Yeshiva from 1980 to 1984, says that he endured years of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse from Finkelstein. The rabbi, he said, forced him and others to wrestle with him while he became sexually aroused, and demanded that they hit him repeatedly. Neither Goldberg nor Singer ever reported Finkelstein’s behavior to the school; when one student, identified in a future lawsuit as John Doe 14, finally did, in 1986, Finkelstein allegedly pulled him out of class in a rage, shoved him against a wall, punched him, and threatened him with expulsion. The school took no action during those years other than removing Finkelstein’s office door. In 1991, he was promoted to principal.

During those same decades, another Yeshiva rabbi, Macy Gordon, was also reportedly sexually abusing students. One accuser, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe 2, claims that Gordon sodomized him in his dorm room in 1980. The rabbi “said he was going to punish me for missing class,” the accuser told me. “He laid me across his lap and took my toothbrush and plowed it in and out of my rectum, and it burned. I remember it burned for a very long time after. I can’t go back in time and tell you what I was thinking, but I can only tell you that it lasts forever.” He told me that Gordon also sprayed Chloraseptic on his genitals, remarking that he showed “signs,” by which Gordon meant signs of puberty. Later that year, John Doe 2 tried to kill himself.

In total, Finkelstein and Gordon are suspected of hundreds of acts of sexual abuse at Yeshiva, though they never faced any legal repercussions. Finkelstein was discreetly forced out of Yeshiva in 1995 but quickly found work as the dean of a Jewish day school in Florida and later as the director general of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, although allegations of abuse followed him to each of these new positions.

Gordon, for his part, enjoyed a thirty-plus-year career at Yeshiva. He also eventually moved to Jerusalem, where, according to the New York Times, he served alongside Finkelstein on the advisory board of the National Council of Young Israel, an organization promoting Orthodox Judaism to liberal American Jews. (The current president of the organization claims that neither rabbi had been involved with the group “to my knowledge.”) In 2002, Dr. Jonathan Zizmor—a celebrity dermatologist whose advertisements were a staple of New York City subway cars for decades—set up a $250,000 scholarship fund in Gordon’s name for future generations of Yeshiva students. (Zizmor claims he knew nothing of the abuse at the time, and when allegations surfaced, he maintained that Gordon was “a great teacher, a great man.”)

In 2013, thirty-four of Finkelstein’s and Gordon’s victims—including Singer, Goldberg, John Doe 14, and John Doe 2—filed a $680 million lawsuit against Yeshiva, alleging that sexual misconduct occurred for decades with the knowledge of the administration and without recourse for victims or punishment for the perpetrators. But by the time the suit was filed, the statute of limitations had expired, and the case was dismissed.

This past February, however, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed the Child Victims Act (C.V.A.), which modifies the state’s statute of limitations such that many cases previously dismissed because of the length of time since the alleged crime can now be relitigated. As of this writing, attorneys for the former Yeshiva students—now numbering forty-one—planned to refile the lawsuit with new evidence on August 14, the day the law was scheduled to go into effect. Their hope, one of the attorneys, Michael Dowd, told me, is for Yeshiva to “finally be held accountable for their craven, repugnant, and unconscionable behavior in letting known sexual predators have unfettered access to scores of innocent and unsuspecting boys.” But even if they succeed, it’s far from certain whether the C.V.A. will be able to fundamentally change the culture of secrets and lies that has given rise to scandals such as the one at Yeshiva in the first place.

Stories of abusive Catholic priests are commonplace, but a similar, less publicly familiar crisis has also been unfolding in certain Orthodox Jewish communities—particularly in New York—over the past several decades. Like their Catholic counterparts, rabbis accused of sexually assaulting minors or shielding other predators have been protected and transferred in order to save the reputations and financial well-being of the religious institutions they serve. Some of these institutions, such as Yeshiva, are aligned with the mainstream of Orthodox Judaism, while others are affiliated with ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, traditions. Given the insularity and secrecy that characterize Haredi life, there are few reliable statistics about just how prevalent the problem is. Ben Hirsch, the cofounder of Survivors for Justice, an organization that advocates for victims of sexual abuse in Orthodox communities, suggested that the rate of abuse could exceed 50 percent for boys within Hasidic enclaves. (Hasidism is a movement within Haredi Judaism particularly common in New York.) Across Orthodox Judaism as a whole, a 2018 study by Harvard psychologist David H. Rosmarin found that among formerly Orthodox individuals, rates of abuse were nearly twice the national estimate for both boys and girls.

Getting the full scope of the problem, particularly among the ultra-Orthodox, is close to impossible. Part of the reason for the lack of dependable data is the concept of mesirah—a violation of rabbinical law in which one Jew reports another for a crime to nonreligious, civil authorities. The roots of mesirah go back to the days of ancient Roman rule, but the prohibition was especially prominent during the Middle Ages, when Jews were being hunted and persecuted by anti-Semitic gentile authorities in Europe and parts of the Middle East.

Today, the notion of mesirah persists within ultra-Orthodox sects and has been used to frighten victims of sexual assault, as well as their families, into remaining silent. One victim, who chose to remain anonymous, described to me being sexually assaulted at the age of nine by a seventeen-year-old named Stefan Colmer in the New Jersey home of Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, the chaplain of several medical centers and the New Jersey State Police, and the executive director of Rutgers Chabad House. The rabbi’s son walked in on the incident and reported it to his father, but Carlebach refused to contact the police and instead pressured the victim’s family into keeping quiet about it. “I would have been his last victim,” he told me of Colmer, who has since been convicted of sexually abusing two thirteen-year-old boys. (A spokesperson for Rabbi Carlebach told me that “in hindsight, Rabbi Carlebach believes he might have handled the situation differently. But this was twenty-six years ago. Everyone did what they thought was right at the time.”)

When abuse is actually reported to internal religious institutions, the allegations are frequently dismissed out of hand. According to one Hasidic rabbi I spoke with, “The attitude is, ‘minors before bar mitzvah are considered not trustworthy, so why should we believe them?’ ” Other times, making an accusation of sexual assault can result in ostracism by the community, even financial ruin. “The schools in the ultra-Orthodox world have connections to each other,” Hirsch explained. “Students can’t go from one school to another without clearances from previous schools. If the school bad-mouths a student, they will not be accepted—no high school, no higher education.”

Not only can accusers be denied the opportunity to make a living, they can be prevented from establishing their own family. “The first threat is always marriage,” said Hirsch. “The schools have tremendous power, so in a community where arranged marriages are the norm, the threat that ‘you are not going to ever get married if you open your mouth’ is very intimidating.”

Compounding these problems is the fact that many young people are unaware that they’re being sexually abused in the first place. Particularly among the ultra-Orthodox, children and teenagers are kept isolated from the opposite sex and are denied access to popular culture—TV, internet, radio—through which other American kids often begin to learn about sex. “It’s designed to keep them apart,” one advocate told me. “They are worried about all outside information filtering in. I tell you, it’s North Korea!” There is no formal sex education in ultra-Orthodox schools, and even when one is old enough to meet a potential spouse—chosen by a matchmaker—physical contact is forbidden, and all encounters take place in a rigidly controlled environment, usually in the company of the woman’s family. When one’s sexual education begins at marriage, can one reasonably be expected to identify sexually abusive behavior as a child?

In the rare cases in which victims are both able to recognize abuse and willing to brave the ire of the community by committing mesirah, they often find themselves stonewalled by the legal system. In New York, politically ambitious prosecutors fear alienating the Orthodox voting bloc—some 493,000 people in the New York metro area. The result is that the vast majority of cases never go to trial because they are never reported, and when they are, charges are often not filed. As one former detective told Newsday, “In Brooklyn, it almost seemed like there were two penal codes, one for the Hasidic community and one for everyone else.”1 In most instances, the accusers end up deprived of justice, doomed to suffer the punishments meted out by their community.

1 One former Brooklyn D.A., Charles Hynes, was accused 
of refusing to prosecute ultra-Orthodox Jews alleged to have committed 
child abuse and of shielding the names of the few who were convicted. 
According to a 2012 New York Times article, Hynes was close to a 
prominent rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, who has argued that adherent Jews 
should not report abuse until a rabbi has determined their accusations 
to be credible. With the staunch backing of the Orthodox community, 
Hynes won six elections for D.A.
 
With so little recourse, some members of New York’s Orthodox communities have taken it upon themselves to catalogue and warn others about rabbis suspected of abusive behavior, despite the potential repercussions. Thirty-year-old Meyer Seewald is the founder of Jewish Community Watch (J.C.W.), a global advocacy organization whose website features a “Wall of Shame” listing names of those in the Jewish community whom J.C.W. has, through independent investigations, determined to be abusers. Seewald told me he has personally confronted over one hundred child molesters, many of whom openly confessed to him. J.C.W. is now his full-time job, and, in addition to its New York office, the organization has staff in California, Florida, and Israel, along with a global team of volunteers. The J.C.W. website claims that it has never wrongfully exposed anyone. (The one individual who threatened to sue over the release of information about his conviction in Israel was added to the New York State sex-offender registry a few months ago.)

Seewald was motivated to create the organization after discovering that Rabbi Moshe Keller, the father of Seewald’s deceased best friend, was rumored to be a pedophile. “I got a call from a teenager who said he’d been molested by Keller,” said Seewald. “Even though he was like a father to me, I started investigating him.” After asking a number of his childhood friends about Keller, Seewald started hearing repeated stories about molestation. He eventually found out that Keller had been accused of sexually abusing children since his days in Israel, two decades earlier, though not a single Israeli rabbi had informed anyone in New York of the allegations when Keller relocated. In 2011, Keller was arrested in Brooklyn for sexually assaulting a teenage boy and was charged with “harassment,” “acting in a manner to injure a child under seventeen,” and “attempted sexual assault.” His ultimate sentence: three years of probation.

Another well-known outlet for reporting abusers is a hotline and blog run by the sixty-nine-year-old Brooklyn rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, which posts videos and photos with accusations against alleged ultra-Orthodox predators. The homepage warns, “This Blog is here for a purpose—to fight pedophilia and znus [lechery], not for snide remarks, filthy comments or threats.” Rosenberg launched the hotline in 1998 after children told him that they were being abused in the mikvahs (ritual baths). Members of the community began opening up to him, admitting that they too had been assaulted, and alleging that, in many cases, their rabbis had been paid off by their abusers.

Rosenberg—who was once quoted in a Vice article describing the sexual-abuse problem in the community as a “child-rape assembly line”—has faced harsh retribution for his efforts. He was beaten up and shunned by fellow members of his ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect. In 2014, a fishmonger named Meilech Schnitzler threw bleach into his face in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A shopkeeper was able to pour water into Rosenberg’s eyes, likely saving his vision, according to the doctor who treated him for burns at the hospital. The police concluded that Schnitzler’s attack had been motivated by the fact that his father had been named as a sexual predator on Rosenberg’s site.

“They have threatened me many times,” Rosenberg told me. “They told all the small children to run after me and spit at me, and had cars pretend they were running me over. They said, ‘If you don’t close your hotline, I’ll shoot if you walk on the Williamsburg Bridge!’ The U.S. government should know how much hate crime goes on in these communities. They picked me up and threw me out of the shul like a piece of dirt. Then they had posters about five-foot high—pictures of me—how they should chop off my head.” Schnitzler, who’d faced multiple charges for the attack on Rosenberg, was allowed to plead guilty to a single count of assault. He received no jail time and just five years of probation.2

2 Ben Hirsch told me that he complained about the 
Schnitzler sentencing to the then ­chief assistant district attorney, 
Eric Gonzalez, and was largely ignored. When I contacted Gonzalez, who 
is now the Brooklyn D.A., his press representative emailed me to say 
that my questions concerning Hirsch’s claims “bordered on 
anti-Semitism.”
 
Like Finkelstein and Gordon, many Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox men—including rabbis—who have been outed as abusers by activists have evaded the U.S. legal system by fleeing to Israel. Under the 1950 Law of Return, Jews across the world are able to apply for Israeli residency and citizenship. Once in Israel, abusers enjoy significant protections—some Israeli cell phones, for instance, are programmed to block calls going to centers for sexual-abuse survivors. (A lawsuit under way in Israel claims that the telecom companies agreed to this at the behest of a committee of rabbis, in exchange for its business.)

Seewald’s Jewish Community Watch estimates that at least sixty-five Jews suspected or convicted of sexual abuse—the vast majority of them Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox—have relocated to Israel in the past decade. “As in many other close-knit religious communities,” said Shana Aaronson, chief operating officer of J.C.W., “abusers have often taken to moving from one community to the next when things start heating up for them.” Beyond Israel, J.C.W. has tracked some thirty other abusers moving between nations such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, to say nothing of those moving between different towns and cities within those countries. “As long as members of the community refuse to actively warn the community of the impending move and danger,” Aaronson told me, “the abuser will be accepted with few questions asked and sometimes even be given a position working with children.”

When the 2013 lawsuit against Yeshiva was filed, the law stipulated that, in most cases, criminal charges and civil complaints could be brought only before the victims turned twenty-three. (Complaints made against institutions rather than individuals could be filed only if the victims were under twenty-one.) Nevertheless, the Yeshiva plaintiffs went ahead with the suit under the argument that the statute of limitations period shouldn’t have begun until 2012, when an exposé in the Jewish-American Forward first detailed Yeshiva’s knowledge of, and indifference to, the sexual abuse allegedly committed by Finkelstein and Gordon. The court saw it differently, ruling that the victims’ own knowledge of Yeshiva’s conduct set the statutory clock ticking decades earlier. Under the new C.V.A., however, all victims are given a one-year “look-back window”—no matter when the abuse occurred—to file a civil suit. Moreover, most victims can now file a criminal complaint until they’re twenty-eight, anyone under the age of twenty-two when the bill went into effect can sue until age fifty-five, and anyone who was sexually abused at any time in his or her life can file a suit within a year of the law’s enactment.

Past efforts to pass such a bill, tirelessly led by the former Democratic Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey of Queens, had been knocked down for years by the then Republican-led New York State Senate. Time and time again, the legislature caved to various interests for whom the C.V.A. would signal a significant financial burden—the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Orthodox community, among others. (One report by a group of lawyers estimated that the Catholic Church has spent over $10 million fighting such bills nationwide since 2011.) Both Hirsch and Seewald blame Agudath Israel of America, an organization that advocates for Jewish religious and civil rights, and which opposed the law out of a concern that it might “jeopardize the ongoing viability” of yeshivas, summer camps, and synagogue youth programs. With Democrats winning the State Senate in 2018, however, the bill secured enough votes for passage. “For many years, institutions ignored voices of child-abuse victims when they begged for justice,” Seewald noted. “Now they’re begging institutions to go easy on them.

The attorneys for the Yeshiva victims—Michael Dowd, Kevin Mulhearn, and Paul Mones—look forward to a justified payday for their clients. “In our civil system,” Dowd told me, “the only redress is money.” Rabbi Rosenberg is keen to see the perpetrators finally face legal consequences. “It won’t be so easy to play around with kids anymore!” he said. “They should all just be locked up.” Many of the victims I’ve spoken to, though, are mainly eager for a long-awaited opportunity to shine a light on this dark corner of their community. Singer described to me his parents’ reaction when he and his co-plaintiffs brought the first lawsuit: “They were horrified. ‘You don’t really want to bankrupt Yeshiva, do you?’” In reality, his motives were far simpler. “I wasn’t looking for victory,” he said. “I just wanted a chance to speak.”

https://harpers.org/archive/2019/10/secrets-and-lies-sexual-abuse-orthodox-jews/?fbclid=IwAR12l7S5imbh2U0euUxek1PVPSgXCNZvNskB0kmb0Dqka12loRMyw_hYZEI

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Now, just weeks after the lookback clause went into effect, Jewish institutions across the denominational spectrum are facing legal retribution for allegedly mishandling allegations of child sexual abuse, with claims reaching as far back as the 1950s.



Through ‘Lookback Window,’ Jewish Orgs Face Retribution for Child Sex Abuse

 

As child abuse cases against yeshivas mount following a one-year lookback provision, questions turn to legal strategy. Are their fears of bankruptcy warranted?


Team USA volleyball player Sarah Powers-Barnhard speaks in support of the Child Victims Act on March 14, 2018 at the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York.  Getty Images


When a one-year lookback provision created by New York’s new Child Victims Act opened last month — temporarily lifting the statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases and allowing survivors of any age to pursue justice through the courts — youth-serving institutions across the state braced for legal fire. 

Now, just weeks after the lookback clause went into effect, Jewish institutions across the denominational spectrum are facing legal retribution for allegedly mishandling allegations of child sexual abuse, with claims reaching as far back as the 1950s. In the handful of cases filed thus far, prominent defendants include the National Ramah Commission, the Conservative movement’s camping arm; the Conservative movement’s flagship rabbinical school, Jewish Theological Seminary; Modern Orthodoxy’s flagship institution, Yeshiva University; prominent Modern Orthodox day school Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School (SAR); prominent Modern Orthodox day school Westchester Day School; Yeshiva Torah Temimah, a Brooklyn-based ultra-Orthodox school with a branch in Lakewood N.J.; Oholei Torah, a prominent Chabad yeshiva in Brooklyn; and Temple Beth Zion, a legacy Reform congregation in Buffalo. 

Claims leveled against these institutions include negligence in stopping or preventing sexual abuse; breach of fiduciary duties; and the intentional infliction of emotional distress against survivors of childhood sex abuse. Though details among the cases vary, leadership across institutions are alleged to have known about predatory behaviors and failed to act; helped alleged abusers gain entry to other youth-serving institutions; and engaged in intimidation tactics to prevent victims from coming forward.
Claims leveled against these institutions include negligence in stopping or preventing sexual abuse; breach of fiduciary duties; and the intentional infliction of emotional distress against survivors.
Yeshiva Torah Temimah, an all-boys charedi school based in Brooklyn, faces a new lawsuit for covering up the alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who taught at the school from the 1960s throughout the ’80s. Four ex-students previously sued the school, charging Kolko molested them from ages 11 to 13; at the time, the state court tossed the cases after determining claims fell outside the statute of limitations then in place.


(L-R) Barry Singer, Jay Goldberg, David Bressler three of the plaintiffs in the suit against Yeshiva University at a recent press conference announcing their suit against YU


(Previously, the school agreed to pay an unprecedented $2.1 million to two former students who accused Kolko of sexually assaulting them. Details of the secret settlements emerged in 2016 when the school failed to make payments. The case marked the first time a New York yeshiva paid off alleged victims of sex abuse, experts said. Kolko, now 72, received a controversial plea deal from then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in May 2012 after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment; he did not have to serve jail time or register as a sex-offender.)

Now, the case is being revived under the Child Victims Act. Alleged victim Baruch Sandhaus filed a complaint in Brooklyn Supreme Court last month, alleging that Kolko and another rabbi on staff “would inappropriately touch” his private parts on various occasions between 1978 and 1980, when he was a student at Torah Temimah. 

Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the yeshiva, said the alleged events occurred “40 years ago” and so have no connection to the current administration.

“Why would a new administration know anything about what took place decades ago?” he told The Jewish Week in a phone conversation. “It’s not going on today.” The school, he said, is “financially capable of dealing with a lawsuit” and will “continue to function and turn out Torah-trained young people.” 

Sheinkopf referred to the new roster of lawsuits — including the revived case against Torah Temimah — as “a trial lawyer game to make a lot of money.”

As cases begin to play out — a process that could take years — precedents set in other states that have adopted similar lookback provisions might provide a blueprint for what institutions, and survivors, might expect, lawyers say. 

“So far, every religious institution I’ve sued has told its constituents that lawsuits would lead to bankruptcies,” said Patrick Noaker, the attorney representing plaintiffs in a new lawsuit filed last week in Kings County Supreme Court against the Chabad boys yeshiva, Oholei Torah.



Yeshiva Torah Temima in Brooklyn, NY.


Noaker said the passage of the Child Victims Act won’t make it any easier for alleged victims to win cases. “Sometimes the time that has passed can make it hard to find witnesses and evidence that the school knew or should have known that children were in danger. We also have to prove damages,” he said. “The only thing the Child Victims Act does is open the court room doors. We still have to prove our case like any other,” he said.
“The only thing the Child Victims Act does is open the court room doors. We still have to prove our case like any other.
In February, shortly after the Child Victims Act bill passed, Agudath Israel of America — a large charedi umbrella group that long advocated against the bill alongside the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America — issued a statement warning its constituents that the look-back provision “could literally destroy schools, houses of worship that sponsor youth programs, summer camps and other institutions that are the very lifeblood of our community.”


Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, told The Jewish Week this week that “the fears certainly continue,” though he was not aware of how many suits had been filed against yeshivas. 


For Noaker, a Minneapolis-based lawyer who represented plaintiffs in a host of lawsuits against Catholic dioceses in Minnesota after the state passed a three-year lookback window in 2018, the line is familiar.
The argument is straight-up manipulation.
“The Catholics said lawsuits would shut down hospitals and homeless shelters — it never happened,” said Noaker. “The argument is straight-up manipulation.”

Though several of the cases he litigated did contribute to dioceses in Minnesota filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to settle hundreds of claims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, not one diocese ceased to function because of the financial decision.



Child victims and advocates during the debate in Albany in the run-up to a vote on the Child Victims Act earlier this year.

A major benefit he has seen for states, like Minnesota and California, that implemented similar look-back provisions is a “more robust sex offender registry”; suits previously barred by strict statues of limitations “identify predators that could still have access to children.” 

For Noaker, the case against Oholei Torah, which brings new allegations of child sex abuse against Rabbi Joseph (Yossi) Reizes — a religious instructor hired by Oholei Torah in the ’80s and dogged by allegations of sexual abuse — is his first venture representing plaintiffs from the Orthodox Jewish community. Noaker, who has represented victims of child sexual abuse for 20 years, said he has more lawsuits involving the Chabad-Lubavitch community “on the way.”

Oholei Torah did not respond to request for comment.

Chaya M. Gourarie, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the newly filed lawsuit against the National Ramah Commission, said the “ideal outcome” of these lawsuits is to “change policies, not bankrupt institutions.”
The deal outcome of these lawsuits is to ‘change policies, not bankrupt institutions.’
“We hope these lawsuits will usher in a new era where institutions put in safeguards to protect against child sexual abuse,” she said. “Sometimes, it takes a radical change in the law to force the culture change we need to see.”

The complaint, filed on Aug. 29 in the New York State Supreme Court, alleges that then-counselor-in-training Harvey Erlich was allowed “unrestricted and unsupervised access to campers, whom he repeatedly molested throughout the summer of 1971.” (Erlich was arrested on sex abuse charges in 2012 in Canada, which does not have a statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases. In 2015, Erlich pled guilty to sexually abusing four minors, aged 9 to 13.)

Marci Hamilton, founder and CEO of Child USA, a nonprofit that works to prevent child abuse, stressed that “across the country, there has been no cause-and-effect relationship between statute of limitation reform and bankruptcy.”
Across the country, there has been no cause-and-effect relationship between statute of limitation reform and bankruptcy.
With new legislation passed in over 20 states and 44 states considering new legislation around statute of limitations reform, “We’ve finally reached a tipping point,” Hamilton said.

“It took a quantum of information to be out in the public square to reach this moment,” she said, mentioning the grand jury investigation of Catholic Church sex abuse in Pennsylvania, released last year; the unfolding of hundreds of allegations against Larry Nassar, the former  USA Gymnastics doctor, in 2017; and, finally, the developing allegations of child sex trafficking against financier Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide last month.

“The issue has become impossible to ignore,” said Hamilton. “None of this is terribly surprising for those of us who have been in the trenches for two decades, but it’s certainly gratifying.” 
More on the Child Victims Act here.


https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/jewish-institutions-that-mishandled-abuse-cases-decades-ago-now-fear-bankruptcy/?fbclid=IwAR21N6R4HzGfeQsWUovLVo_ZFp4kznsadUm_aevn6diMpfa6-b9_oNh_vdQ

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Never Forget - Never Forgive!




 On this day... 18 years ago 246 people went to sleep in preparation for their morning flights. 2,606 people went to sleep in preparation for work in the morning. 343 firefighters went to sleep in preparation for their morning shift. 60 police officers went to sleep in preparation for morning patrol. 8 paramedics went to sleep in preparation for the morning shift. None of them saw past 10:00am Sept 11, 2001. In one single moment life may never be the same. As you live and enjoy the breaths you take today and tonight before you go to sleep in preparation for your life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, and never take one second of your life for granted.
#wewillneverforget



 SEE WHAT THE WORLD IS UP AGAINST:

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9898973/ashura-festival-blood-devout-muslims-knives-heads/

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The ex-aides of a messianic, sex-convict rabbi fight from within to cast him out Bratslav hasidic leaders have issued a rare ban on Eliezer Berland, a cult leader seen as a modern ‘Sabbatai Tzvi’; the rest of the Haredi world is proving reluctant to follow suit...



This is the story of a venerated rabbi who is also a convicted sex offender, of the courageous ex-aides and former students who exposed his crimes at tremendous personal cost, and of the small sector of his ultra-Orthodox community that eventually recognized his guilt and shunned him. It is also the story of the wider community that still won’t openly condemn him, and of victims who’ve escaped his clutches and those who’ve stayed loyal. It is the story of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, a self-styled messiah who, after a year behind bars, is today again a free man.


READ THE ESSAY: 
https://www.timesofisrael.com/the-ex-aides-of-a-messianic-sex-convict-rabbi-fight-from-within-to-cast-him-out/?fbclid=IwAR0ZR1JFfhPUsr67RCMnwdAVhz7kGOS65Xk_ZKP03rjNvAyyrlXk4HJ4VD4

Monday, September 09, 2019

The best way to reintroduce Torah im Derech Eretz is to restore R’ Hirsch’s ideals, both in theory and in practice, at the high school level. Specifically, this includes teaching R’ Hirsch’s classic sefer, “The Nineteen Letters,” which contains the core of R’ Hirsch’s views on the world and Torah. R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz told his students in America, “I cannot understand how it is possible for an American yeshiva student to be Jewish without ‘The Nineteen Letters’” ...

Return to Basics: A Call to Revitalize R’ Hirsch’s Torah im Derech Eretz



How is it that over the past few decades, Yeshivos all over the United States have produced students that are “un-Jewish” (to use a Hirschian phrase)?

 By that I mean that, after twelve years of a Jewish education, many of them are not committed to Judaism at all. Not until after high school, when students learn in Bais Medrash/Seminary for a year or two (often in Israel), do they become committed to a Torah lifestyle. A second problem that presents itself comes as a result of the Yeshiva day school system naturally feeding into a kollel lifestyle. This lifestyle has become automatic for many Yeshiva/Bais Yaakov graduates: they do not decide as individuals whether or not a kollel lifestyle is appropriate for them. These two problems not only afflict the Yeshiva world; they also affect the insular Chassidish world.

Based on my own experiences in Yeshiva and upon anecdotal evidence heard from neighbors and friends, I can list a number of reasons why these problems exist. These include: Appearances (some parents force their children to fit into a “Yeshivish lifestyle” regardless of their child (ren)’s personality and leanings); Peer Pressure (both students and their parents desire to be like everybody else, which has resulted in a “cookie cutter” society); Apathy (today’s students are indifferent toward Judaism due to either superficial study or multiple distractions/outside temptations); Judgmentalism/ Fear (intellectually curious students are often branded as heretics for asking questions); and Insularity (studying anything other than Gemara is considered, at best, a waste of time). These ideas are probably familiar to the reader from his/her own personal experiences.

An effective solution to “un-Jewish students” or to students who have mindlessly “chosen” a kollel lifestyle, is a return to R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch’s educational system. Both the modern day Yeshiva system for boys and the Bais Yaakov movement for girls are based on R’ Hirsch’s ideal of Torah im Derech Eretz. In fact, without R’ Hirsch’s successful educational program (in the 1800s in Germany), the Bais Yaakov movement would likely not have been started and the modern day Yeshiva system would not exist as it does. Unfortunately, today’s Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs have strayed far from their original forebear’s weltanschauung. This is undoubtedly due to a takeover of the Yeshiva system and its ideology into every phase of life – and the Hirschian school of thought has seemingly lost this struggle. To a large extent, even the supposed successors of R’ Hirsch have given up on him. What then, can be expected of everybody else?

If one learns and examines R’ Hirsch’s works, one understands that R’ Hirsch’s writings are as apropos now as they were in the 1800s. Although we do not need to confront the (now dying) Reform movement (as R’ Hirsch did), similar conditions to R’ Hirsch’s era (religious, political, technological, and social) continue to develop and expand in today’s society.

What does Torah im Derech Eretz have to offer? It provides one with an ability and wherewithal to regulate one’s interaction with this secular and material world in every phase of one’s busy and active life through Torah. Although many branches of today’s Yeshiva system choose to replicate the model of the pre-Churban Eastern European Ghetto, by rejecting this world and insulating themselves against it (these see the yeshiva/the Jewish home as a ‘taivah’), most students today seek to engage the world around them. They wish to replicate the Western European model of R’ Hirsch’s day, where Jews were out in the secular world and needed to blend their Torah values with their lives within general society. My experience has found that teenagers, in particular, are not willing to ignore the world around them, nor should they need to do so. In fact, a careful examination of the pre-Churban European Yeshiva system reveals that it was initially meant to create an elite group of Torah giants.

Most members of European Orthodox Jewish society were not expected to be successful in this elite system. Although most frum Jewish men strove to incorporate daily Torah study within their busy lives, most were not considered to have the ability to be part of that elite group of Bais Medrash/Kollel students. R’ Hirsch’s Torah im Derech Eretz system, on the other hand, is applicable to every Jewish individual and shows each one, on his/her own level, how to live a life of Torah. R’ Hirsch’s view of life is a “middle of the road” path available to all.

The best way to reintroduce Torah im Derech Eretz is to restore R’ Hirsch’s ideals, both in theory and in practice, at the high school level. Specifically, this includes teaching R’ Hirsch’s classic sefer, “The Nineteen Letters,” which contains the core of R’ Hirsch’s views on the world and Torah. R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz told his students in America, “I cannot understand how it is possible for an American yeshiva student to be Jewish without ‘The Nineteen Letters’” (Klugman, 1998). Study of this seminal work will form the basis for a strong Hashkafic underpinning for all yeshiva/Bais Yaakov students. 

In order to prevent conflict and confusion in a student’s mind, secular studies must be approached from a Torah perspective. R’ Hirsch advocated having Rabbaim and frum individuals teach as many secular courses as possible. In fact, a general paradigm shift in our community’s approach to secular studies is needed. Students must be able to make a connection between secular studies and Torah. Why should students, especially young men, feel as if they are wasting their time (bittul Torah) all afternoon? One brief example as to how one aspect of secular studies broadens one’s mind will suffice. R’ Hirsch stresses how closely history is related to Torah. This means that one can see how HaShem runs the world by examining history: if one understands Torah (the foundation of all of history for all mankind), man’s place in the world, and the place of our nation, we can see HaShem’s guiding hand throughout time.

 By beginning one’s study of history with the careful study of Tanach, one sees that history is nothing more than HaShem’s hashgacha. If one does not study history with this focus, a student will not be able to truly know him/herself, nor his/her place within society. Also, by emphasizing the creation of all beings by the Oneness of the Divine Being, one’s appreciation of oneself, of all humanity, and of all facets of creation, is increased.

Once the importance of all Jewish individuals and their individual talents and endeavors is taught, a work ethic can be reinstituted. Instead of the “working boy/earner” being disparaged, as in our current yeshiva system, respect can be restored to those who combine Torah values within their workplace ethic. R’ Hirsch acknowledges that not every individual must be an exact replica of every other individual within a Torah community. In R’ Hirsch’s system, every type of individual is needed for every position. Whatever work one is doing is not considered bittul Torah; it is part of an active avodah of how one serves HaShem, as the Torah calls all Jews to an active life in this world. R’ Hirsch expresses this idea beautifully when he describes how different each of the Shevatim was (each had a unique path to HaShem), yet all twelve Shevatim were the sons of Yaakov Avinu. The Jewish people needs every kind of individual working in its “labor” force. (See for example, R’ Hirsch’s Collective Writings, Volume II, pages 361-362; Volume VII, pages 325-326; and R’ Hirsch on Bereshis 49:28).

R’ Hirsch was never afraid to examine any subject under the light of Torah. If an idea did not stand up to Torah, he dismissed it. If it did stand up under the scrutiny of Torah, that idea gave insight into HaShem’s universe. Today’s students often have keen questions in which they seek to resolve conflicts between Torah and secular perspectives. Our schools desperately need individuals who are expert enough in Torah and secular subjects, who are able to answer such questions and can assist students to examine the world with a discerning eye. Students have the right to ask questions and to receive honest answers. More importantly, students themselves have the right to be empowered to achieve this understanding. To quote R’ Hirsch:

On the other hand, it is equally true that the requirements of the child’s future occupation, and the specialized and general skills that will prepare him for it, must not in any manner be neglected. We say this not merely out of deference to his future secular career, but because our calling as Jews, the preservation of Torah-true Judaism in our era, urgently demands that its adherents must not in any way lag behind when it comes to modern, secular education. Again, this is necessary not merely so that they may be able to represent their sacred heritage in a manner that will command respect from wider social circles but, above all, in order that they may be able to view the intellectual, ethical and social developments of their time in true perspective, neither overrating nor underrating their significance but seeing them from the vantage point of Judaism in their rightful place within the Kingdom of God. Knowledge will protect our children from preconceived notions and from the errors in either direction to which the ignorant inevitably fall prey. Only the ignorant can be dazzled by spurious glitter or intimidated by empty pretense. Conversely, only the ignorant can be moved to throw away what is good and true in modern developments along with what is empty and evil. The only weapon against these pitfalls is knowledge (Hirsch, 1997).

Baruch Hashem, the study of Torah continues to be on the rise. This study of Torah must be balanced with action. As mentioned earlier, R’ Hirsch constantly stressed how Torah is applicable to the world, here and now. He neither advocated living an insular lifestyle nor keeping focused solely on the world to come. This idea of engaging with our world, which runs throughout the Torah, is in sharp contradistinction to the ideas of Christianity and Islam that stress asceticism in this world and a focus on the next world. Rabbaim must teach their students how to conduct themselves in this world and not to let the world pass them by. To quote R’ Hirsch, “I almost believe that all you homebodies would one day have to atone for your staying indoors, and when you would desire entrance to see the marvels of heaven, they would ask you, ‘Did you see the marvels of God on earth?’ Then, ashamed, you would mumble, ‘We missed the opportunity’” (Hirsch, 1997). To R’ Hirsch, putting Torah into action is its purpose.

Will R’ Hirsch’s answer be a solution for every single person? Undoubtedly, a solution that fits every single individual does not exist. Those elite individuals who desire to be completely involved in Torah exclusively are to be commended. However, demanding that level of commitment from every Jew is neither possible nor desirable. The Gemara in Brachos (35b), states that while many tried, unsuccessfully, to follow Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, many others successfully followed Rabbi Yishmael. R’ Breuer, in his essay, “The Relevancy of the Torah im Derech Eretz Ideal,” ponders the following pertinent question: “How many victims may have been claimed by the rejection of the Torah im Derech Eretz ideology?” (Breuer, 2010). The attrition rate away from Judaism by those who have followed R’ Hirsch’s system is extremely minimal. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Yeshiva system. This fact has been recognized both by proponents of and antagonists to Torah im Derceh Eretz (such as Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler (see Tradition, Spring 1997, R. Shimon Schwab: “A Letter Regarding the “Frankfurt” Approach”).

R’ Hirsch’s words are as pertinent now as ever, “…but Torah im Derech Eretz is nevertheless the one true principle conducive to “truth and peace,” to healing and recovery from all ills and religious confusion. The principle of Torah im Derech Eretz can fulfill this function because it is not part of troubled, time bound notions; it represents the ancient wisdom of our Sages that has stood the test everywhere and at all times.” Like it or not, we live in the ultimate Western World. Today’s latest social and technological challenges (for example, cell phones, smart technology, and the Internet) can be met utilizing R’ Hirsch’s approach. A return to a pre-technological age (for example, banning use of technology) is neither practical nor effective. Such measures will not return disaffected Jews to Judaism. Torah im Derech Eretz is an alternative, proven approach. It has already saved the world once; it is time we allow it to do that again.

Daniel Adler studied at Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns. He attained his Bachelor’s Degree from Touro College in Psychology and is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. He has taught for CAHAL at Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, is an ardent follower of R’ Hirsch’s Torah im Derech Eretz ideal, and has created a syllabus to teach R’ Hirsch’s ‘Nineteen Letters’.

https://tidesociety.blogspot.com/2019/09/r-shraga-feivel-mendlowitz.html

19 LETTERS OF RAV HIRSCH:
https://www.sefaria.org/Nineteen_Letters.1?ven=Bernard_Drachman_translation,_1899&lang=bi

Even more difficult to assess, as far as spreading the word of Hirsch is concerned, is Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz. Despite vocal opposition from his Eastern European colleagues, Mendelovitz taught Hirsch’s writings to his students at Torah Vodaath and hired likeminded educators to teach at his school.74 And, like Bernard Drachman, Mendelovitz, according to his biographer, encouraged his students to learn German in order to study Hirsch’s original writings.75 Mention should also be made of the support and encouragement lent by Mendelovitz to Philipp Feldheim, when the latter established his fi rst bookstore on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1939. Feldheim was most instrumental in disseminating English translations of Hirsch’s writings in America, but not until a sizable German Orthodox community emerged in America.76 Nonetheless, Mendelovitz’s lasting infl uence on Torah Vodaath was mitigated by Eastern European elements that took control of the school and steered the institution away from Western thinkers like Hirsch.77

MORE: http://traditionarchive.org/news/_pdfs/0035-0053.pdf

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Charging Up To $1800 Per Seat, and $100,000 for a Suite, At An Upcoming Orthodox Jewish Gathering Is Not Rooted in Jewish Tradition, Reeks of Hypocrisy, Lacks Jewish Values, is Not Just--- and Smacks of Christian Events!

THIS SAME GROUP OF RABBIS CAME OUT WITH A DECREE AGAINST "OVERBURDENING FINANCIAL STRAIN ON OUR NEIGHBORS, FRIENDS AND FAMILY" - "OUR LIVES ARE GOVERNED BY TORAH VALUES AND MUST BE INFORMED BY RESTRAINT"....
Toward a Just Religious Leadership


Rabbi Marc D. Angel


"And you shall not take a bribe; for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous."

The Torah demands as high a level of justice as is humanly possible. It calls upon judges to be fair--not to tilt away from justice due to favoritism or external pressures. Our commentators note that right after instructing judges to be honest, the Torah forbids idolatrous acts. They conclude: the sin of perversion of justice is equated to the sin of idolatry.  When a society has corrupt judges, the entire social system is undermined--materially and spiritually. God's name is profaned.

The Torah knows that bribery will lead to overt or subconscious influence on the judge. Judicial independence is compromised. But bribery can take different forms. It need not be simply a cash payment to the judge.

A judge might be "bribed" by the desire to gain popularity among various constituents; or to advance professionally; or to do that which is "politically correct" rather than that which is right and true. All sorts of external pressures may be brought to bear by one party or the other--or both.  

What if we felt we could not trust the impartiality and fairness of our judges, our rabbis, our religious authorities? What if we thought that their decisions were tainted by external pressures,  by their desire to conform to the opinions of an "in-crowd" rather than to stand up for truth in its purity? What if we came to think that religious leadership--whether in Israel or the diaspora--was unduly influenced by political and financial considerations, and that they no longer have the courage to withstand the "bribes"?  What if we concluded that many of their decisions were not rooted in justice and compassion, but were dictated by the pressures on them not to appear less "religious" than the most stringent of rabbinic decisors?

If people come to think that the religious establishment is corrupt and is susceptible to undue external influence, then the foundations of religious life are seriously eroded. If religious leaders sell out their independence in the desire to curry favor with this or that religious "in-group"--then Judaism and the Jewish people suffer the consequences.

I often remember a conversation I had with Rabbi Haim David Halevy, of blessed memory, in 1984. He served for many years as Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo, and was one of the most prolific and brilliant rabbinic authors of his generation. Because of his incredible strength of character, Rabbi Halevy was not willing to play politics, or to compromise his halakhic independence. He sought Truth. He tried to judge clearly, fairly, independently.  Because of his independent views, he often felt isolated in rabbinic circles. He lamented the tendency toward conformity and authoritarianism, recognizing that this tendency served to suppress independent and honest judgment.  There was a "thought police" that blackballed those who did not conform to the rulings and views of a certain clique of right-wing rabbis.  

The Torah commands judges to be just. But it also commands the community to ensure that it appoints judges who have integrity.  Ultimately, the community bears responsibility for the religious leadership that it has. If the community tolerates an unjust system then the community as a whole shares in the responsibility for the corruption of justice and religion.

If we want judges/rabbis/religious leaders who are just and good, independent and courageous--then we need to appoint such people to positions of leadership and depose those who do not meet these standards of excellence. We need to be sure that our religious leaders are not susceptible to bribes or external pressures--but that they can devote themselves fairly and honestly to the pursuit of justice and truth.

If we are to have a religious leadership that reaches for the ideals espoused by the Torah, we need a religious community that insists on implementing these ideals. 

 Closing our eyes to the problems we face is not a viable option.

https://www.jewishideas.org/toward-just-religious-leadership-thoughts-parashat-shofetim


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Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz zt"l - In Memoriam - His Yahrzeit - The Third Day Of Elul


Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz was born in the town of Willig in Hungary in 1886 into a family of G-d-fearing Sanzer chassidim. At a young age -- when he was already studying Shulchan Oruch Yore De'ah with Shach, Taz and the Pri Megadim -- he had acquired a name as a scholar who brimmed with deep religious passion. He studied under the Arugas Habosem, the B'eer Shmuel, and the Shevet Sofer, Rav Simcha Bunim Sofer --the three leading gedolim of Hungary at the time, and received semichah from them.

A person of deep complexity and contemplation, he pursued Jewish philosophy and mussar privately, and at a young age had completed the entire works of the Maharal, Kuzari, Mesilas Yeshorim, and works of chassidus. He avidly studied the works of Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch in the original German. He saw Rav Hirsch as his ideal because Hirsch had successfully devised a religious Jewish weltanschauung that could stand up to the challenges of modernity. (Nothing showed his diverse interests more than the fact that he spent his entire wedding dowry on buying a set of Zev Yaavetz's history books.)

Although Rav Shraga Feivel appeared an unassuming young man, he had a rare strain of boundless idealism running through his fabric. When he came across the statement in the gemora that, "Were Israel to keep two Shabbosim in a row, the Redemption would immediately come" he promised himself then and there that he would work to draw the hearts of Jews back to their Father in Heaven.

In the early years of the twentieth century, when Jews all over the world were blindly rushing to embrace enlightenment, communism, socialism and every other "ism" besides their ancestral heritage, his dream appeared as unpractical, wishful thinking.

At age 22 he married, and settled near his father's home in the town of Humina. In 1913, he decided to leave for the U.S. for reasons never clearly defined by him. Before he left, he received a brocho from Rav Yeshaya of Krestira, who foretold that he would accomplish great things in America.

The first few years in the U.S. Rav Shraga Feivel spent trying his hand at different professions. Although an expert at the laws of shechita, he saw after a day that this profession did not suit him. He taught in talmud Torahs in New York, Bridgeport and Scranton, before he returned to New York and opened an ice cream business.

Although he still dreamed of opening a yeshiva, he had discovered that in the U.S., all the power was concentrated in the hands of a talmud Torah's president and board of directors, and the principal and teachers were viewed as merely low level servants. He dreamed of succeeding in his business and with the funds, opening his own yeshiva. However, his business was not succeeding as planned, possibly because his head was more in his Torah studies than in ice cream.

Kashruth and educating the public

Rav Shraga Feivel was a lover of Jewish liturgical music; he and chazzan Yossele Rosenblatt became friends and together created The Jewish Light (Dos Yiddishe Licht) newspaper. The intent was to inform the Jewish public about the awareness of their heritage, shmiras hamitzvas, the importance of keeping the kashruth laws; and they wanted to give their secular brothers an alternative to The Forward (and The Workmen's Circle/Bund). He was way ahead of his times; the public was not interested for the most part in their message, and the paper folded leaving them deep in debt.

Rav Shraga Feivel, realizing that his business enterprises were failing, in the summer of 1921, after being pursued by various members of the board, he finally agreed to take a teaching job at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, which at the time was a "talmud Torah" rather than a yeshiva. Many of the teachers were not shomrei Torah and mitzvos, a very sore spot in the side of Rav Shraga Feivel, and added to his hesitancy of joining the school. He was certain that the Torah could only be learned, if taught by frum teachers. A series of illnesses that struck him didn't allow him to take the job until Elul 1923, when he was appointed to teach the eighth grade class.

Rav Nesanel Quinn, a student who had arrived the year before and later became principal of Jewish studies in the yeshiva, recounts, "In the first days after he came to the yeshiva, even the worst students began to feel more positive about their Jewish studies. He tried -- and succeeded -- in making Torah study beloved to them, and in giving them the feeling of closeness to Hashem. They began to keep mitzvos not out of habit but out of deep feeling. He imbued one with pride to study Torah, and that nothing in this world could compare to Torah study."

The Yeshiva Leaps Spiritually

The board hired Reb Shraga Feivel for just six months on a trial basis instead of a year, as they had done with all the previous principals, and if they weren't satisfied, they could fire him. To their surprise, Reb Shraga Feivel told them that he wasn't even interested in a six-month contract. He offered that they could hire him on the basis that if at any point they were dissatisfied, they could fire him on the spot. All the previous principals had insisted on a detailed contract for an entire year.

Rav Shraga Feivel began the next day. He found a group of cool, impassive teachers whose resentment of him bristled under the surface. The teachers too were all of Polish or Russian extraction, and they could not respect the Hungarian man who "lacked up-to-date scholastic and educational training" and proudly sported a beard and payos.

But as the following weeks unfolded, and each teacher had the occasion to meet and discuss topics with him, they soon stood open-mouthed before Rav Shraga Feivel's vast knowledge. The teacher who was expert in Hebrew grammar soon discovered that Rav Shraga Feivel was a giant in dikduk. The teacher whose specialty was Jewish history soon discovered that Rav Shraga Feivel knew far more than he.

Within a few weeks, the entire staff was united in their reverence and respect for the new principal who each admitted towered far above him. Rav Shraga Feivel began his innovative program right away.

On his first day as principal, Rav Shraga Feivel dictated a letter to the members of the board. He wrote them that a person cannot be balabos (board member) over a yeshiva unless he appreciates Torah. He demanded that every one of them attend a Torah shiur at least twice a week. The board members were astonished -- but they complied.

Rav Shraga Feivel gave a shiur in the home of Reb Benzion Weberman where he impressed the committee members with his deep religious, educational and personal ideals. They began to understand that it wasn't sufficient for a child to have a Jewish education only until his bar mitzva years, which was the standard in America until then.

In addition to winning over the rebbes and the parents, Rav Shraga Feivel soon was idolized by the students. They had never seen a principal who taught with such heart and neshomoh. On holidays he made assemblies and parties, and would dance with the students. He would sing soulful songs "Kadsheinu" and "Vetaheir libeinu" with such ecstasy that all the students were swept up with the same emotion.

"It isn't the slightest exaggeration to say that Rav Shraga Feivel blew a new soul into us, of a natural Jewish approach to our Torah. We could clearly sense how the Shechina was present in every class. A new spirit blew in the life of the yeshiva -- and all this he did quietly, without noise, without giving orders."

Torah Vodaath's name began to spread far and wide in New York. There was no longer any need to recruit bochurim for the yeshiva and the problem now became how to find enough room for all the boys. The crowding forced the committee to open classes in rented apartments around the district. Classes were held in the Keap Street beis hamedrash, the Lincoln business school, and the Beis Aaron shtiebel on Division Avenue. At the same time, the spiritual growth fostered by Rav Shraga Feivel kept pace with the physical growth of the yeshiva.

The Mesivta is Founded

The idea of a Jewish high school was still far-fetched. When the end of the year drew near, Rav Shraga Feivel persuaded the parents of the eighth-grade boys to keep their sons in the yeshiva for "just one more year." Rav Shraga Feivel arranged for the youths to study in a local high school at night where courses were offered for adults who had not completed their high school diploma. He knew such a school would have less of an influence on his students than learning in a public school with youth their age. Besides the hours at night devoted to secular studies, the boys studied Jewish studies from early in the morning and even late at night after they finished their secular studies.

When the end of the year came around again, Rav Shraga Feivel convinced the parents to agree to just one more year. And when that year finished, the parents were willing to agree to another year. At that point, he found himself with a group of high school youths whose dedication to Torah study remained strong and unswerving.

Says Rav Nesanel Quinn, one of the students of this group, "Our study day was long and exhausting, but Rav Shraga Feivel pushed us to study Torah additional hours, on our own initiative, as it were, until late at night. I remember that he sat and studied Torah with us every Thursday night until almost midnight, and we felt that Torah study was so sweet that we almost didn't feel tired. Our load of studies was not easy, particularly if you compared it to the study program in a public school. But none of us ever complained. The frequent recesses of course helped to release the tension, but mainly what helped was that in our society, everyone was working hard and no one had it easy. So the heavy load on us wasn't viewed as anything extraordinary. We were so busy with our studies that we virtually had no time to spend on small talk."

When Rav Shraga Feivel was ready to implement his next educational endeavor -- the Mesivta -- he already had a group of older boys who had spent 12 years in intense Jewish education and the idea of continuing Jewish studies after elementary school was becoming more palatable.

When Rav Shraga Feivel asked to open a full high school division, with structured Jewish and secular studies offered within the format of the school in 1927, his request met with resistance from the board. The board, truth to tell, had nobly maintained the elementary school through unflagging and exhaustive efforts, but to undertake the support of a high school on top of that was a burden that the members saw as overwhelmingly difficult and perhaps unjustified.

Mr. Avrohom Lewin, a board member backed Rav Shraga Feivel. Despite the failure of Mr. Lewin's business during the growing Depression that hit America in those years, he staunchly agreed to buy a building at 505 Bedford Avenue for the Mesivta (as Rav Shraga Feivel called the high school to differentiate it from the elementary school, which was called "the yeshiva").

Shortly after Mr. Lewin purchased it, taking out large loans in his name, a real estate agent offered to buy it back from him at a much higher price -- that would have landed him a profit equal to three years of livelihood. But Mr. Lewin passed the difficult trial, and made the building available to the yeshiva. Eventually, the committee board agreed to take the Mesivta under its wing and pay for its cost. However, the burden of running and maintaining it fell upon Rav Shraga Feivel.

It must be emphasized what an immense achievement this was. Not only had Yeshiva Torah Vodaath acquired a sterling name as a yeshiva with undiluted Torah values, but it was the only yeshiva at the time with an excellent high school program. The other yeshiva schools, such as Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef, Rav Shlomo Kluger and Tiferes Yerushalayim, were only elementary schools with at best afternoon programs for public high school students.

Rav Shraga Feivel's concept of the Mesivta program had no parallel in any yeshiva in the world -- and not just because he incorporated secular studies and a high school degree into the yeshiva. This in itself was an act of genius. He understood that for American Jewry to flourish, yeshiva boys must have a secular education. He insisted that his talmidim excel in the secular program as well. When he asked the European gedolim about the issue of secular studies in the yeshiva, the only shaila was could it be housed in the same building as used for limudei kodesh.(There were fanatics on the board, that insisted the yeshiva change its name from Torah Vodaath to a name that did not imply that there was daas outside of Torah. He strongly disagreed with that premise, as did Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch and the Rambam/Maimonides). 

 (Maimonides studied secular subjects like astronomy, medicine, mathematics and philosophy — a medieval “liberal arts” curriculum. He was particularly captivated by the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plotinus; their ideas persuaded him that reasoned inquiry was not only reconcilable with Judaism, but in fact its central discipline. He had little patience for those who cared more about the prestige of scholars than the merits of their assertions and admonished his students: “You should listen to the truth, whoever may have said it.”) (Commentary on the Mishnah, Tractate Neziqin)

Besides gemora being taught on a high level, he insisted that the curriculum include Chumash and Novi with their commentaries, the meanings of the prayers, knowledge of the 613 mitzvos, Jewish law, and sifrei yirah and mussar such as Sha'arei Teshuvah, Mesilas Yeshorim, and for select students, even Doros Harishonim, the detailed Jewish history book written by Rav Y. Halevi. Many of the latter courses he personally taught. He saw the utter importance of giving his students a solid foundation in Jewish faith and hashkofo that was taken for granted in the European yeshivos.

The atmosphere of the yeshiva was an unusual mix of Litvish learning taught by great Litvish scholars some of whom he brought over from Europe, with chassidic enthusiasm and soul which he himself injected. He integrated different approaches from various groups in Klal Yisroel and knew how to create a harmonious synthesis that appealed to his American students.

Although his influence permeated the yeshiva and every student in it, he humbly kept himself to the sidelines and refused to accept the title of "Rosh Mesivta" or even the more routine title of "Rabbi." He could not be found at the Mizrach of the beis hamedrash during prayers. He was the hinge on which the entire yeshiva turned, but to the unknowing eye, he seemed just an unassuming person filling a nondescript role. Who had ever heard of a man who built an entire yeshiva with mesiras nefesh -- only to refuse to take the mantle of honor it would bequeath to him?

In the shiurim Rav Shraga Feivel gave to the classes of the Mesivta he spoke constantly of Eretz Yisroel and the negative effect of college (he later altered his opinion, and asked Rabbi Hutner to apply for a college charter from New York State, under changing circumstances and an evolving necessity for many talmidim). Had he lived,  a college would have been built under the auspices of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE:


Courtesy of the Mendlowitz Family Archives and Philip Fishman
 MORE: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2014/02/in-1946-americas-top-non-hasidic-haredi-rabbis-wanted-to-combine-their-yeshivas-to-form-a-jewish-university-567.html

 In one shiur, to the astonished eyes of his students who didn't know if he was hallucinating or really meant it, he said that the day would come when he would found a kollel avreichim for them to continue their studies in Eretz Yisroel after their weddings. No one in their wildest dreams at the time even considered continuing their Torah studies after their weddings. Each student felt that his hands were full with just remaining in yeshiva for high school despite the disapproval of his parents, the mockery of his neighbors, the haughty looks of his more Americanized friends, and the spirit of materialism and heresy that blew in powerful gusts all around him.

The Mesivta grew, and Rav Shraga Feivel realized his dream of creating knowledgeable, deeply religious and committed Jews. Years later, he created Beis Midrash Elyon in an "unknown" town called Monsey near Spring Valley, where hand-picked married students engaged in high-level Jewish studies and where Torah students went in the summer for a combined program of summer relaxation and Torah study. This was the first kollel of its kind in the United States.

Wellsprings of the Mesivta

Rav Shraga Feivel created soldiers who went forth to Jewish communities outside of New York and founded yeshivas and saved the remnant of religious Jews from going lost. He sent students to found new yeshivos: Lakewood, Telz, and the Nitra Yeshiva, and he gave up his own sorely-needed supporters instructing them to help support new yeshivos that were opening up elsewhere. He founded Beis Midrash Elyon, for advanced Torah study at a kollel level. One of his greatest dreams came to fruition when Torah Umesorah, whose goal was to create day schools and yeshivos all over the world, was founded.

By the time Rav Shraga Feivel passed away in 1948, American religious Jewry was still small and tender, but had deep and strong roots. Yeshivas Torah Vodaath had sprouted numerous rabbis and activists that helped create the prominent religious Jewish communities that we see today spread out throughout the U.S. and Canada.

With the mighty personality of Rav Shlomo Heiman, the rosh yeshiva who taught the older bochurim of the Mesivta from the years 1933-1943, Rav Shraga Feivel produced the first team of Torah scholars of stature on American soil, all of whom had incubated in the classrooms of Torah Vodaath. They continued to reinvigorate Jewish religious life around the globe throughout the twentieth century.

The fabric of the American Jewish community began to change in the 1950s. The flood of survivors and the local religious community opened new yeshivos, the religious community burgeoned, a new religious-American weltanschauung developed which enabled a religious Jew to face American society with confidence and independence.

His love for his fellow Jew was expressed best by Rabbi Weissmandel in his book "The Unheeded Cry." "(Paraphrased) There was no rabbi in the U.S.A. that cared for the plight of European Jewry more than the saintly Rav Shraga Feivel, and helped greatly in the fundraising and hatzoloh efforts to save every Jew possible."

Rav Shraga Feivel took seriously ill in 1948. He was an ardent zionist; he urged his son in-law, Rabbi Alexander Linchner, to go to Israel and save the Sephardi children from secularism. Boys Town Jerusalem was established in 1949, the largest yeshiva/trade school of its kind anywhere in the world.

He asked that he be buried in a non-monumented grave in the Arugas Habosem cemetery on Long Island until the situation in Israel would enable his burial there. He was laid to rest in his final resting place in Bnei Brak. Rav Eliyahu Dessler zt"l, in his will, requested that he be buried next to Rav Shraga Feivel. Until this day, the Kehillas Arugas Habosem has left his original grave empty.

It is not an exaggeration to say that there was no man that impacted the American Jewish landscape with such purpose, clarity of thought, and vision, as the saintly Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zecher tzaddik v'kadosh levracha.


(Much of the material was taken from Shlucha DeRachmana (written in Hebrew) by R' Aaron Suraski who interviewed many family members. Mr. M. Samsonowitz gathered and had written much of the material. Although this piece had other important figures mentioned in the establishment of the American yeshiva movement, upon extensive research, I had discovered that they were greatly exaggerated to the point of being fabricated, and could not at all discern the true from the false, so I eliminated that material entirely. The above edited piece, is accurate, although not the entire story.)

Monday, September 02, 2019

Full Disclosure: While I Contributed and Corrected Some Misinformation - I Have No Idea What Is Contained In The Book. Rabbi Dalfin Is a Historian - I do Believe He Has Attempted To Be Accurate - But I Also Believe That His Leanings Are Chabad Oriented. In Addition - I Have Not and Will Not Receive Any Monetary Compensation Ever.


 

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1. 25 page 2. Hard Color Cover 3. Footnotes 4. Bibliography 5. 30+ Pics & Images 6. Off White Paper 7. Made in USA 8People in Book
Yosef Abrahams
Mordechai Altein
Yehoshua Balkany
Avraham Barnetsky
Yisrael Belsky
Philip Berg
Yehuda Biston
Zalman Blesofsky
Moshe Bogomilsky
Shmuel P Bogomilsky
Yitzchak Brandwein
Yaakov Peretz Bluming
Eli Chaim Carlebach
Shlomo Carlebach
Yossi Chazan
Yitzchak Chinn
Hirshel Chitrik
Mechel Diament
Mendel Feldman
Pinchus Feldman
Sholom Feldman
Yitzchak Feldman
Moshe Feller
Yitzchak Flohr
Yosef Flohr
Hershel Fogelman
Yehoshua Geldzahler
Alexander Gross
Zanvil Gertner
Nosson Elye Gertzulin
Nissan Gordon
Sholom Ber Gordon
Abba Gorelick
Yerucham Gorelick
Meir Greenberg
Sholom B. Gurary
Yaakov Halberstam
Berel Havlin
Avraham Hecht
Moshe Hecht
Peretz Hecht
Shlomo Zalman Hecht
Sholom Hecht
Yaakov Yehuda Hecht
Joel Hess
Azriel Heuman
Shimshon Heuman
Yoel Kahan
Joseph Kaminetsky
Moshe Kannar
Chaim Leib Katz
Eliezer Katzman
Yitzchak Kolodny
Moshe Y Konikov
Gedalia Korf
Shmuel Kuselewitz
Issac Lefkowitz
Shnayer Zalman Leiman
Berel Levy
Shmuel Lew
Alexander Linchner
Chaim Meir Lustig
Hershel Lustig
Menachem Mandel
Yaakov Mayteles
Feivel Mendlowitz
Paul Mendlowitz
Shmuel Mendlowitz
Shraga Mendlowitz
Avraham Pam
Meir Plotkin
Yehuda L Posner
Zalman Posner
Nesanel Quinn
Yosef Raices
Shmuel D. Raichik
Moshe Rapaport
Moshe Dovber Rivkin
Yisrael Rubin
Shraga Schiff
Gedalia Schorr
Yaakov Schorr
Velvel Schildkraut
Simcha Schustel
Elias Schwartz
Chaim Septimus
Louis Septimus
Menachem Shaingarten
Mordechai Sharfstein
Zelig Sharfstein
Hershel Shusterman
Elimelech Silberberg
Dovid Thaler
Nosson Meir Wachtfogel
Bentzion Weberman
Pinchus Weberman
Yehuda Weberman
Shlomo Weg
Chaim Werner
Simcha Werner
Binyamin Wilhelm
Yehoshua Wilhelm
Avraham Weingarten
Yaakov Winter
Dovid Yarmush
Meir Zainitz
Asher Zeilengold
Eliezer Zirkind