Sunday, August 30, 2015


I have written much, and for more than a decade about the blatant ignorance & evil of Jewish clergy on a host of social topics that negatively affect our families, destroy children, and create dire poverty with limiting or eliminating secular education and with their kollel businesses that impoverish generations....

These same evil people, yes very evil, who have covered up child sex abuse in every disgusting, unimaginable ways; Kaminetzky, Salomon, Kotler, Aron Schechter - dare to challenge the vast majority of doctors, scientists, and mountains of evidence and statistics about the importance of vaccinating your children from deadly infectious and communicable diseases. THEY ARE CHARLATANS BEYOND IMAGINATION AND ARE A DANGER TO SOCIETY AT LARGE!

Yet, nothing is 100% foolproof and can be compatible with every individual's genetic composition. Therefore you have doctors who have devoted their lives to the prevention and curing of diseases.

If your doctor tells you NOT to vaccinate your child, get a second opinion, as most intelligent people do with major medical decisions.


If you received advice from a rabbi NOT to vaccinate your child or force schools to admit children that were not vaccinated, in many states and jurisdictions that is now ILLEGAL!



Rabbis Instruct: Vaccinate the Kids
Illustration photo by Keerati
The Orthodox Union (OU) and Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) strongly called on Jewish parents to vaccinate their children.


Orthodox Jewish parents, like responsible parents across the United States, overwhelmingly vaccinate their children against measles, mumps, rubella, polio and the other childhood diseases for which inoculations are now almost miraculously commonplace.

As in many communities, a small minority of parents chooses not to do so. The ongoing measles outbreak demonstrates how this could bear very serious consequences, not only for their own children but others’ too, especially those medically unable to be vaccinated.

The Orthodox Union (OU) and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) strongly urge all parents to vaccinate their healthy children on the timetable recommended by their pediatrician.

Parents who choose to not vaccinate often cite a medical study that purported to link autism and the MMR vaccine. The study was discovered to be fraudulent and was withdrawn; its lead author was found to have acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly," and his license to practice medicine in Britain was revoked.

Judaism places the highest value on preserving human life. It is well known that those facing even a potential life or death situation are instructed to set aside the Sabbath and other key tenets of halachic (Jewish law) observance until the emergency has passed.

Prayers for good health and for the complete and perfect healing of the ill are an ages-old aspect of Jewish tradition. But prayers must go hand-in-hand with availing oneself of medical science, including vaccination.

There are halachic obligations to care for one’s own health as well as to take measures to prevent harm and illness to others, and Jewish law defers to the consensus of medical experts in determining and prescribing appropriate medical responses to illness and prevention.

Therefore, the consensus of major poskim (halachic decisors) supports the vaccination of children to protect them from disease, to eradicate illness from the larger community through so-called herd immunity, and thus to protect others who may be vulnerable.  

The vaccination of children who can medically be vaccinated is absolutely the only responsible course of action. *

"Beyond these arguments is our refusal to allow people to elect out of other crucial aspects of public health law on the basis of religion. You cannot object to a drunken-driving arrest, for instance, on the grounds that you worship Bacchus and feel encouraged to have six shots of bourbon before getting in a Chevy. You cannot refuse to wear seatbelts because your spiritual beliefs reject confinement.

In a well-argued essay, “Vaccination in Halakhah and in Practice in the Orthodox Community,” published in Hakirah, The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought, Asher Bush, a rabbi, made the implicit point that on the subject of vaccines we are in some sense regressing. He pointed to the case of an Orthodox Jew who was arrested in 1896 in London for refusing to vaccinate his child on the grounds that his religion forbade him. The prosecutor in the case, who was also Jewish, sought guidance from the chief rabbi of Britain. The rabbi’s conclusion, essentially, was that the man’s contention was hogwash."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Most die quietly. Sometimes, it is days before they are found... it’s with a loud cry: you can’t catch me anymore...

No one knows how many ultra-orthodox men and women kill themselves every year. It’s hard to know when there are so many ways to die in silence, by drugs, by overdose, by drowning. The victims leave no note, and it all goes by—the announcement, the burial—as if it were an accident, just another self-destructive tragedy. 

I remember one man who jumped at dawn, right in middle of our ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Borough Park. A body fell from the seventh floor of Avenue Plaza hotel. It was November 2009. The groom, a religious young man married 48 hours before, had climbed over the balcony as his bride slept, oblivious, nearby.

Shockwaves rippled through the community, of grief, alarm, denial. From the outside, reporters came, storming the gates of an insular world. The story was displayed in newspapers and on screens in all its blood and gory: Groom’s Death-Plunge; Tears for Suicide-Plunge Groom; Suicide Groom Told Friend He Was Molested.

But for us, from within, this was no news. We knew that what felt like a loud bang had really been a final whimper, the victim’s last exhausted cry. Ten months later, Hush, a book I’d been working on for three years, was published. The book told the story of a Chassidic girl whose best friend hangs herself after suffering sexual abuse for years.

Publishing this book was the most painful experience of my life. Quickly, I found myself stumbling, attempting to walk an unsteady line between two worlds: the denial of the ultraorthodox on one side, and the sensationalist spin of the mainstream press on the other. Our nightmare was their drama—a reality show watched from afar.

In the four years that have passed, there have been more suicides. Within the community, there have been many changes. But in the process something inside me broke. After years of writing about the tormented and suffering, I withdrew. I could not bear to walk among the gravestones anymore.

I wanted to write about life, about joy and triumph. That had been my world too. I felt strong when I wrote about miracles. I felt good, even happy, when I wrote about my brother. And I wanted to tell his story—of a boy who could not speak, who was afflicted with a strange madness, and of my parents who refused to let him go. No. Matter. What.

It took me three years to write my memoir, This Is Not a Love Story. I laughed a lot. Memories came back that I’d forgotten, and for those moments, I was a child again. Just two weeks ago, interviews were scheduled in which I was to discuss the nuanced and complex aspects of ultra-orthodox life. Things were going to be good.

Then on July 20, 30-year-old Faigy Mayer jumped over the ledge of a building, and fell 20 floors down until she hit silence and death. And, like that, my miracle was gone. My stories of joy were consumed, sucked in by the sheer gravitational force of the tragedy and the too-many-suicides before. Conversations that were to be about life turned into ones of death; interviews in which I’d have discussed love and the complexities of a religious family were now focused, laser-like, on abuse, depression, denial, leaving, transition, struggle, all that.

Coming out of the ultra-orthodox world is like emerging from an isolated fortress in which one room is on fire. The inhabitants refuse to believe there is a fire. Those burnt by the heat are driven out to seek help elsewhere, screaming of an inferno. Only when strangers come with hoses do the fortress’s inhabitants agree that perhaps indeed, there is some smoke and flames. And that they can put it out themselves.
But the strangers outside know nothing of the myriad other lives being lived inside the fortress. It’s hard to see the complexities of a distinct world through the smoke. We who come from within know of kindness and love, of charity and faith. For years we hold on to the powerful and deeply rooted forces of heritage and family until slowly, we learn to let go. It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to destroy one. With passion and conviction, the ultra-orthodox have done both.

Still, our lives are not lived through the pixels of your TV screen. The stories of those who stay and those who leave are made up of so much more than the space allowed in today’s paper.

After Faigy jumped, reporters and curious writers asked me for the connection between my story and hers. Links were made between the past ignorance of the community regarding special children and the complicated nightmare that is mental illness today. Lines were drawn which don’t exist, from a family devoted to their child in impossible circumstances, to one that shunned their daughter for being different. Sexual abuse. Special children. Depression. Leaving. 

The media wanted to merge all these stories into one.

I tried to explain that my story, the one being published now, is not about ignorance; it’s about triumphing over ignorance from within the ultra-orthodox world. I tried to explain that yes, victims of abuse face a nightmarish reality, but no, I did not know Faigy Mayer personally, and will not dare speak in her name. Yes, transitioning out of the only world you know is like moving to a different planet; but no, not everything is terrible. There are happy moments and good memories too. Yes, many families shun those who leave, but there are other complicated issues that might factor in. Yes, I once wrote a story about a little girl who hangs herself—but look, here is my lovely new book about a boy who finds himself, also in the ultra-orthodox world.

It hurts, because others will continue to die, some by overdose, some by hanging, some by letting go a rooftop ledge. Leaving the ultra-orthodox world is an enormous struggle. For those suffering from depression, or abuse—so is staying. 

It’s complicated. Beneath the black and white Chassidic garb, all sorts of people live: the intelligent and the disabled, the curious and the obtuse, the sugar eaters, the vegetable lovers, the gentle ones walking by similarly garbed folks who see the world in red. There are people who struggle with autism and those who suffer from depression, and the reaction to those two issues are completely different. The first, the community has largely embraced, the second is still a tortuous process. Leaving is a third and separate story. Sometimes the issues merge; sometimes they don’t. It’s a discussion I wonder if we’ll ever be able to have.

Most die quietly. Sometimes, it is days before they are found. Others fall in broad daylight. When they jump off the balcony of a hotel in Borough Park or the rooftop bar of Manhattan, it’s with a loud cry: you can’t catch me anymore. There is no separating the living from the dead. Their agony tramples us all. My joy and triumph would have to wait. The dead, you see, come first.

Judy Brown is the author of This Is Not a Love Story and Hush


Thursday, August 27, 2015



For three and a half hours this past Saturday night, Rabbi Amram Vaknin, a 76-year-old Israeli mystic, fell to the floor as he received a warning from the next world.

From approximately 9 PM until 12:30 AM, in his modest home in the port city of Ashdod, Rabbi Vaknin was cautioned that war is coming to Israel very soon, the rabbi’s student revealed to Breaking Israel News

The most recent revelation from Heaven was given over to the rabbi from a small group, including the prophet Elijah and his own deceased rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Zrihan, along with Rabbi Vaknin’s father and grandmother.

As previously reported by Breaking Israel News, Rabbi Vaknin receives periodic messages from the Next World, warning about events in Israel. Gil Nachman, a close student of Rabbi Vaknin’s, told Breaking Israel News, “Pray that it’s not going to be today, tomorrow or in two weeks.”

Nachman recounted the specifics that Rabbi Vaknin received in the message. “The Muslims are going to contaminate the water, the fruits and vegetables.They are going to damage the electricity,” he said. “And there are going to be people dying in the streets, thousands of people all over Israel.” 

Nachman urged that the Israeli water company, the electric company and food importers should be prepared for these attacks.

According to Nachman, Rabbi Vaknin was told that Arab citizen of Israel and Member of Knesset Hanin Zoabi is the one planning it. Vaknin stated his belief that Zoabi is a spy for ISIS and Hamas and is providing the terror groups all the information they need to plan the attacks.

Why is this happening? According to Nachman, it is because the leaders of the generation “don’t want to do teshuva (to repent). They aren’t waking up. Hashem (God) wants to lead them in the right path. We all need to do teshuva.”

Nachman said that in the past, Jewish leaders such as Moses and King David knew about decrees against the Jewish people before they happened. These great leaders took it upon themselves to repent first, but the leaders of today are telling others to repent without doing it themselves. 

“Our weapon is not Tzahal (IDF), not Netanyahu, nobody. Only teshuva,” Nachman urgently told Breaking Israel News.

When asked what Rabbi Vaknin said people should concentrate their repentance on, Nachman mentioned four things. Repent for “the inner sins that you hide away from people and the sins that people see. And kibud av v’eim (honoring your father and mother) is one of the most important things. And always say the truth of what’s in your heart. Be real. It’s all about emet (truth).”

Rabbi Amram Vaknin giving a blessing. (Photo: Gil Nachman)
Rabbi Amram Vaknin giving a blessing. (Photo: Gil Nachman)
“The war is very close. We have no choice. The teshuva of Am Yisrael (the Jewish nation) will determine the rachamim (mercy). But war is definitely coming,” Nachman insisted. “We beg Am Yisrael to do teshuva as soon as possible, because we don’t want to see people dying. Stop thinking about material things. That’s not going to give you life. When Moshiach (Messiah) comes, material is not going to mean anything to anybody.”

“We’re getting close to the big day of Moshiach. Before that happens, Hashem wants us to do teshuva. We have to be ready and prepared,” pleaded Nachman. “When we do real teshuva, Hashem will fight for us.”

Nachman concluded by recounting a teaching from the Talmud, the primary source of Judaism’s rabbinic tradition. The eagle approaches his baby eaglets in the nest very slowly. He makes sure that they notice him gradually, so as not to shock them, because they can die from such fear. Similarly, God does not want to hurt us. He’s warning us to wake up because He’s about to rule the world, so He’s warning us little by little, in order that we recognize His approach. Every earthquake, every terrorist incident, every battle, is a warning to wake up. 

Through previous messages from Heaven, Rabbi Vaknin accurately predicted the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” in May, 2010, the deadly fire in the Carmel forest in December of 2010 as well as Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Read more  http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/47613/message-from-the-next-world-comes-to-israeli-mystical-rabbi-warns-of-imminent-war-jerusalem/#kEqx0gWot7PHlPtR.99

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why not Jewish plumbers against the deal and Jewish lawyers for the deal and Jewish doctors against the deal and Jewish teachers for the deal and Jewish hairdressers against the deal and Jewish gardeners for the deal?


Imagine the following headline: 340 Jewish plumbers urge Congress to disapprove Iran Nuclear Deal

The US Congress (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

I have nothing against Rabbis. In fact, some of my best friends, and some of the wisest people I know, and many other good people, are Rabbis. I also have nothing against plumbers, even though, one must admit one’s shortcomings, I don’t have any plumber friends. But I have employed more than my fair share of plumbers, and some of them were fine people, smart and funny, efficient and useful.

 Truth must be told: when there’s a leak, a plumber is more useful than a Rabbi. Here's proof:

There are also times – so I’m told – when  a Rabbi can be more useful than a plumber (Not quite sure about this). 

One thing is quite certain: Rabbis have no advantage over plumbers when it comes to understanding and assessing the agreement with Iran.

 They have no better professional qualifications and no more relevant experience. Thus, when 340 rabbis signed a letter urging Congress to approve the Iran nuclear deal I shrugged. So what if they did?

Let me say it again: I have great appreciation for Rabbis. I talk to a rabbi every week to learn about the weekly Parsha. I study the Talmud with the assistance of Rabbis. But when I need to fix something in my bathroom I do not consult with a Rabbi. And when I need to understand the ups and downs of an agreement with Iran I do not call a Rabbi – nor should you, nor should Congress.

I understand why the Rabbis signed the letter to Congress. They wanted to demonstrate to the public and to the legislators, that the Jewish community is split on the Iran deal, that many within the community support the deal. They signed the letter as leaders of the community. And this raises a serious question: should Rabbis play the role of political leaders in the Jewish community?

Of course, no one would doubt that Rabbis should be spiritual leaders of the Jewish community, and educational leaders of the Jewish community. This is what they are trained to do. But politics is a different field. Politics is the field of, well, political leaders. Is it not?

The questions about the role of a Rabbi in a community are quite serious and interesting. Take Israel as an example, and test your own views on this matter: do you think that it is good for Israel to have political parties that get their marching orders from Rabbis? Or does it seem annoying to you that Israel has such parties and such Rabbis?

I suspect that many of the Rabbis who signed the letter to Congress – generally speaking we are talking about Rabbis associated with progressive streams of Judaism – would not really hesitate to also sign a letter denouncing the Israeli parties that adhere to Rabbinic rule. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they would only sign a letter denouncing the policies of these parties, and not their habit of adhering to Rabbinic rule. Namely, maybe they would argue with the rulings of these politically engaged Rabbis but not with the fact that Rabbis are the ones that dictate the policies of political parties.

And what if we find 1500 Rabbis in opposition to the deal and only 1300 Rabbis supportive of the deal – would that be counted as a definitive Rabbinical decision? And what if we find that most Rabbis support the deal but most Cantors oppose the deal – would that make any difference?

340 Rabbis is a lot – but I don’t think it should be a problem to find 340 Rabbis who oppose the deal. In fact, some Rabbis who oppose the deal – Rabbis who belong to the OU and the RCA – have already expressed their views. I should say that their negation of the deal has no more merit than the more recent support expressed by the group of 340.

To conclude:

We know that the Jewish community is split on the issue of Iran. We know it from surveys and from articles. We know that many liberal Rabbis, and congregants (some of whom, perhaps, are plumbers), “fully support this historic nuclear accord”. The Rabbis’ letter did not much add to our knowledge.

We also know that there are arguments with which to support the deal: the Obama administration has made these arguments known to the public, and experts of all types have been volunteering additions and variations to these arguments. Here, again, the Rabbis’ letter does not add much to our knowledge.

Rabbis in America and in Israel are used to speaking about political issues. They do it all the time. Do I want Rabbis in America – not that it matters if I do – not to speak about Israel from the pulpit? Not to encourage their congregants to support Israel in certain times? Not to speak for human rights? Not to speak against BDS or anti-Semitism?

Rabbis in America and in Israel talk about political issues all the time, and maybe it is appropriate to ask whether that is a good policy for them and for the community.

Of course, it is somewhat suspicious that I tend to this issue following a letter that supports a view with which I do not agree. I plead guilty: the content of the letter was annoying, and that is why I began thinking about the role of Rabbis in debates about political issues. I also admit that it is not easy to argue that Rabbis should never speak about political matters. It is not easy for a practical reason: because Rabbis have the habit of doing so and would be hard pressed to give it up. It is not easy for a more inherent reason: because all matters are political matters. Even a Dvar Torah is – in some way – political.

Then again, why should it be just Rabbis? Why not the members of other professions? Why not Jewish plumbers against the deal and Jewish lawyers for the deal and Jewish doctors against the deal and Jewish teachers for the deal and Jewish hairdressers against the deal and Jewish gardeners for the deal?

You might say: because Rabbis are special. And I agree – they are special? But one might argue that hearing them speak about issues on which their knowledge is limited to what most other people also know makes them less special, not more special.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bronx Rabbi Who Took Boys Naked to Sauna Will Keep His Job

A (prominent) Orthodox rabbi in the Bronx who was the focus of scrutiny for having taken young boys naked to a sauna will keep his job, after his synagogue’s board changed course and decided not to seek his removal.

The rabbi, Jonathan Rosenblatt of the Riverdale Jewish Center, had fought efforts to remove him and apologized for lapses in judgment (decades long) , and seemed to have the support of most of the 700-member congregation.

“After carefully considering various scenarios over the last several weeks, we firmly believe that the approach laid out by Rabbi Rosenblatt is an effective and appropriate way forward,” the board’s president and chairman wrote in an email to members last Thursday. The rabbi, the board said, had “shared his vision” about strengthening bonds among members and maintaining the synagogue’s financial stability.  (Moral and ethical conduct be damned)

The email was reported on Monday by The Times of Israel.

 Many of the congregation members are unhappy with the process and have begun holding services at each other’s homes instead of at the synagogue.

Some of those congregants from the late 1980s and early ’90s said he gawked at them in ways that they found disturbing. Another said that in clothed chat sessions the rabbi often touched him in a manipulative and seductive way. The rabbi was never accused of sexual misconduct. He eventually agreed to stop taking congregants to the sauna.

In the wake of the article, at least 45 members signed a petition urging Rabbi Rosenblatt to step down. But more than 200 members signed another one urging him to stay.

In early June, the board voted to try to buy out Rabbi Rosenblatt’s contract, and he initially agreed to negotiate. Two weeks later, though, in an emotional and contrite speech to the congregation, the rabbi said, “I still believe I have contributions to make and surely, with God’s grace, I am ready to serve you.” The congregation applauded the speech.

A lawyer for Rabbi Rosenblatt, Benjamin Brafman, said on Tuesday, “We are obviously pleased with the board’s decision, and it was clearly the right decision as there were never any grounds for his removal.”
But one board member, who did not want his name published because of the inflammatory nature of the issue, said that the about-face was forced on the board by the president and chairman.

In June, the board voted by a wide margin — 34 to 8, reportedly — to seek the rabbi’s removal. At a board meeting last Wednesday, though, the member said, the chairman and president presented the decision to keep the rabbi as a done deal and would not allow a vote. The board member said he resigned after the meeting.

 Another member, who also did want her name published, said she did the same. Both board members said that at least three others had resigned. The president, Samson Fine, and the chairman, Donald Liss, did not return voice mail messages on Tuesday.

Some rank-and-file members, too, have decided that if Rabbi Rosenblatt stays, they will leave. A group has been holding services at each other’s homes for the last six weeks or so; two people who have been attending said the services typically attract 50 to 80 people.

One of them, Steven Bayme, a program official at the American Jewish Committee, worshiped at Riverdale Jewish Center for 38 years and had given lectures at Rabbi Rosenblatt’s invitation.

“He’s caused a schism in the congregation that he aspires to lead,” Mr. Bayme said. He called his decision to leave the congregation “extremely painful.”


Monday, August 17, 2015

Obama's Lap Dog Barks --- Obama's Latest "Trade Deal" - Op Ed by Lew, Goes To Western Wall Incognito...

The High Price of Rejecting the Iran Deal

WASHINGTON — THE Iran nuclear deal offers a long-term solution to one of the most urgent threats of our time. Without this deal, Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, would be less than 90 days away from having enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. This deal greatly reduces the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, making Iran’s breakout time four times as long, securing unprecedented access to ensure that we will know if Iran cheats and giving us the leverage to hold it to its commitments.

Those calling on Congress to scrap the deal argue that the United States could have gotten a better deal, and still could, if we unilaterally ramped up existing sanctions, enough to force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program or even alter the character of its regime wholesale. This assumption is a dangerous fantasy, flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality.

To be sure, the United States does have tremendous economic influence. But it was not this influence alone that persuaded countries across Europe and Asia to join the current sanction policy, one that required them to make costly sacrifices, curtail their purchases of Iran’s oil, and put Iran’s foreign reserves in escrow. They joined us because we made the case that Iran’s nuclear program was an uncontained threat to global stability and, most important, because we offered a concrete path to address it diplomatically — which we did.

In the eyes of the world, the nuclear agreement — endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and more than 90 other countries — addresses the threat of Iran’s nuclear program by constraining it for the long term and ensuring that it will be exclusively peaceful. If Congress now rejects this deal, the elements that were fundamental in establishing that international consensus will be gone.

The simple fact is that, after two years of testing Iran in negotiations, the international community does not believe that ramping up sanctions will persuade Iran to eradicate all traces of its hard-won civil nuclear program or sever its ties to its armed proxies in the region. Foreign governments will not continue to make costly sacrifices at our demand.

Indeed, they would more likely blame us for walking away from a credible solution to one of the world’s greatest security threats, and would continue to re-engage with Iran. Instead of toughening the sanctions, a decision by Congress to unilaterally reject the deal would end a decade of isolation of Iran and put the United States at odds with the rest of the world.

Some critics nevertheless argue that we can force the hands of these countries by imposing powerful secondary sanctions against those that refuse to follow our lead.

But that would be a disaster. The countries whose cooperation we need — including those in the European Union, China, Japan, India and South Korea, as well as the companies and banks that handle their oil purchases and hold foreign reserves — are among the largest economies in the world. If we were to cut them off from the American dollar and our financial system, we would set off extensive financial hemorrhaging, not just in our partner countries but in the United States as well.

Our strong, open economic relations with these countries constitute a foundation of the global economy. Nearly 40 percent of American exports go to the European Union, China, Japan, India and Korea — trade that cannot continue without banking connections.

The major importers of Iranian oil — China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — together account for nearly a fifth of our goods exports and own 47 percent of foreign-held American treasuries. They will not agree to indefinite economic sacrifices in the name of an illusory better deal. We should think very seriously before threatening to cripple the largest banks and companies in these countries.

Consider the Bank of Japan, a key institutional holder of Iran’s foreign reserves. Cutting off Japan from the American banking system through sanctions would mean that we could not honor our sovereign responsibility to service and repay the more than $1 trillion in American treasuries held by Japan’s central bank. And those would be direct consequences of our sanctions, not to mention the economic aftershocks and the inevitable retaliation.

We must remember recent history. In 1996, in the absence of any other international support for imposing sanctions on Iran, Congress tried to force the hands of foreign companies, creating secondary sanctions that threatened to penalize them for investing in Iran’s energy sector. The idea was to force international oil companies to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States, with the expectation that all would choose us.

This outraged our foreign partners, particularly the European Union, which threatened retaliatory action and referral to the World Trade Organization and passed its own law prohibiting companies from complying. The largest oil companies of Europe and Asia stayed in Iran until, more than a decade later, we built a global consensus around the threat posed by Iran and put forward a realistic diplomatic means of addressing it.
The deal we reached last month is strong, unprecedented and good for America, with all the key elements the international community demanded to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Congress should approve this deal and ignore critics who offer no alternative.

Jacob J. Lew is the secretary of the Treasury.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Judaism's Power Struggle

Should the Jews have a pope? For most of the last 2,000 years, the answer has been “no.”

 Rabbinic authority has been decentralized, with each community choosing its own religious leaders to follow.

But now Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is seeking to monopolize and centralize control over Jewish law through the power of the state of Israel. A few Orthodox rabbis are fighting back, like those who announced a new conversion court this week. Because Israel won’t recognize the court, the battle is going to be joined in earnest.

And the stakes are big for 300,000 Israelis, descendants of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who identify as Jews but whose religious status under Orthodox Jewish law remains in question.

Start with the historical reasons Judaism doesn’t have a central authority like the Roman Catholic Church or a central leader like the pope. The answer isn’t in the Hebrew Bible, which has kings and high priests aplenty and envisions a functioning state, albeit one divided within a couple of generations into the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Decentralization within Judaism goes back to the rabbis who came to take a central position in Jewish religious life after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D., and the end of long-term Israelite sovereignty over what the Romans called Palestine. From the start, the rabbis had no Jewish state to call their own -- and if one had existed, they wouldn’t have ruled it.

With no state to enforce unity, it’s pretty hard for a religious authority to establish definitive control over believers. One of the brief moments in Jewish history in which rabbinic authority was somewhat centralized took place under the Abbasid caliphate in Iraq, where non-Jewish authorities recognized two chief rabbis, called Geonim, as the Jewish religious authorities. But it’s no coincidence that even then, there were two rabbis, not one, each the presiding authority over a separate Talmudic academy.

Thus, the rabbinic culture of disagreement and debate both fueled the diffusion of religious authority and also was shaped by it. Over the centuries, groups of rabbis would sometimes come together to issue collective legislation. But for the most part these were temporary coalitions.

In the 16th century, reacting to the Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492, a handful of rabbis gathered in Safed, Israel, and dreamt of unifying Jewish religious authority. They hoped to re-establish a chain of rabbinic ordination that they believed would enable them to exercise universally accepted authority. But their dream never became an accepted reality, and their efforts were met with as much rabbinic opposition as approbation.

The modern state of Israel created a new opportunity for centralizing religious authority -- at least in theory. The state acknowledged two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazic (European) in origin, the other Sephardic (roughly, Mediterranean). More important, the state by legislative act created a “Chief Rabbinate” and gave it legal authority over marriage and divorce for all Jews, regardless of whether they were devout or secular, Orthodox or free-thinking.

To this day, no Jew in Israel can marry without the permission of the rabbinate. This real-world power gave the Chief Rabbinate a crucial foothold. Because the rabbinate doesn’t recognize or acknowledge marriage between Jews and non-Jews, the power over marriage is simultaneously a power over defining who counts as a Jew for the purpose of making this most basic life decision.

For the first several decades of its existence, the rabbinate faced ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) opposition to the idea that it had this overarching authority. Haredi rabbis were often skeptical of the state’s claims, and sometimes even opposed the Zionist project itself. Their insistence on controlling their own marriages (not to mention kosher supervision, another big business) ensured that the Chief Rabbinate wasn’t the only game in town.

Gradually over the past 20 years, however, the situation has been changing. Haredi attitudes toward the state of Israel have been softening as Haredi political parties have gained greater power and the Haredi population has grown. Haredi rabbis now play a far more significant role within the rabbinate and through influence from the outside. Rather than ignoring the Chief Rabbinate, prominent Haredi rabbis would now like to control it.

The Chief Rabbinate has never acknowledged the validity of conversions to Judaism performed by Reform, Reconstructionist or Conservative rabbis, a source of dissatisfaction among those denominations, which remain small and peripheral in Israel even as they make up the majority of Jews in the U.S. But it was some source of relief to know that even within the Orthodox fold, the rabbinate didn’t have total control.

Now that, too, is changing as the rabbinate, with Haredi support, asserts greater control over conversion.

Recently Israel was on the brink of adopting a slightly more liberal conversion process, intended to make it easier for the children of Soviet-origin immigrants to undergo conversion. But Haredi parties successfully blocked the move, ensuring that all conversion in Israel be centrally controlled by the Chief Rabbinate.

A group of more moderately oriented Orthodox rabbis have responded by creating their own independent conversion court, an exercise of the rabbinic diversity that has predominated in Jewish history. But because the rabbinate won’t recognize its conversions, people converted to Judaism by that court still won’t be able to get married in Israel.

Obviously, a liberal democratic state shouldn’t be giving any group of rabbis final say over who can get married. But liberalism isn’t the only reason to think that the Chief Rabbinate should be disestablished. Even from the standpoint of traditional rabbinic Judaism, the rabbinate is violating the spirit of rabbinic equality and diversity.

As a diaspora religion, Judaism survived and even prospered because of its lack of central authority. The existence of the state of Israel shouldn’t be used as an excuse to quash that diversity and the religious creativity it fostered.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. (or this Blogger).

To contact the author on this story:

Noah Feldman at nfeldman7@bloomberg.net


Thursday, August 13, 2015

14 Questions Democrats Should Consider on the Iran Deal

As Congress adjourns for its summer recess, Democratic lawmakers will be forced to assess and evaluate the Iran nuclear deal and its consequences. The Obama administration assured us on countless occasions that no deal was better than a bad deal, but in the words of Charles Krauthammer, the deal reached in Geneva with the mullahs represents the worst agreement in American diplomatic history. Here are some substantive and procedural points that congressional lawmakers will need to address when considering the merits of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

1) Under the JCPOA, Iran is permitted to have 24 days of advance notice before suspected nuclear sites can be inspected, giving them ample time to sanitize nuclear sites slated for scrutiny; does that sound intrusive?

2) Under the JCPOA, Iran is entitled to have access to intelligence information which leads analysts to suspect that the Iranians are cheating.  Will the Iranians be able to utilize that sensitive intelligence gathering information to circumvent detection methods in the future?

3) Article 10, Annex III of the JCPOA provides two clauses that compel the world powers to assist Iran in protecting its nuclear facilities against sabotage or other forms of attack. Does that mean that the United States must act to defend Iran against Israel if Israel decided to initiate a cyber or conventional attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities? And if the U.S. decides not to defend Iran, can Iran claim that the United States is materially breaching the terms of the JCPOA and unilaterally abrogate the accord, a scenario suggested by Senator Marco Rubio?

4) Secret agreements between the IAEA and Iran allow Iran to collect and hand over to the IAEA its own samples. Does that not materially taint the chain of custody?

5) Under the terms of the JCPOA, "snapback" sanctions can only be implemented after a lengthy and cumbersome procedure culminating in a UN Security Council vote and companies already doing business in Iran are retroactively exempted; does that sound like a "snapback" and is the U.S. willing to impose snapback sanctions for “minor,” incremental breaches or will it reserve its snapback sanctions for all but the most egregious violations?

6) Considering Iran’s past and its record of transferring of missile technology to Hezbollah, Syria and North Korea, why is Iran being entitled to sanctions relief from its ICBM program after 8 years? Why does Iran need ICBMs? What strategic purpose do ICBMs serve for Iran’s defense needs other than delivering a nuclear payload?

7) What will Iran do with the 150 billion dollars it receives when the JCPOA is implemented?

8) Have you considered the fact that Iran has been caught cheating during the interim accords on no less than four occasions and that Iran maintains a lengthy record of deceitfulness and treachery?

9) Have you considered the fact that Iran is currently sanitizing the Parchin nuclear site and claiming they're doing "road repair"?

10) Now that Charles Schumer, Eliot Engel, Steve Israel, Kathleen Rice, Nita Lowey, Grace Meng, Brad Sherman, Ted Deutch, Albio Sires as well as other Democrats have decided to vote in favor of a resolution of disapproval, does that mean that Democrats who are opposed to the JCPOA are caucusing with Iranian hardliners, as Mr. Obama implied about Republicans?

11) Now that Iran's military chief, Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi has issued his approval for the JCPOA, does that mean that Mr. Obama is caucusing with Iran's military chiefs?

12) Assuming Iran doesn't cheat, what will prevent Iran from legally becoming a threshold nuclear power after 8 to 10 years when most of the JCPOA's restrictions against Iran are lifted?

13) Mr. Obama referred the JCPOA for approval at the UN Security Council before Congress had a chance to review the accord; does that not demonstrate Mr. Obama’s contempt for Congress, the legislative process and the constitutional system of checks and balances?

14) The administration will not commit itself to following the law if Mr. Obama fails to override a congressional resolution of disapproval; see question thirteen.

Individually, each question raised presents serious flaws in the JCPOA and would justify voting in favor of a resolution of disapproval. Collectively, however, the issues raised present a damning indictment of a flawed negotiating process – some might classify it as a capitulation process – that gave the Islamic Republic everything it wanted on a silver platter and more. Questions surrounding the JCPOA also present a disturbing pattern demonstrating a level of contempt for the law, the legislative process and our constitutional system of government not seen since the Nixon administration.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Landmark! Private and Parochial Schools NOT Required to Admit Unvaccinated Student By Attorney General of MD

Be on the lookout for an exclusive BJL interview on the subject of vaccinating children with world renowned Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of the Division of Infectious

A private or parochial school is not required to admit “an unvaccinated student simply because the student asserts a religious exemption,” according to the Office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

Baltimore, MD - Aug. 11, 2015 - In a landmark clarification of Maryland law requested by the State Delegates serving much of Baltimore's Orthodox Jewish Community, Sandy Rosenberg and Shelly Hettleman, the Office of Maryland's Attorney General has advised our Delegates that a claimed "religious exemption" to the requirement that a child be vaccinated against specific childhood diseases is not applicable to private religious and other schools.

Be on the lookout for an exclusive BJL interview on the subject of vaccinating children with world renowned Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

This legal advice, in a letter to Delegates Shelly Hettleman and Samuel Rosenberg, addresses concerns raised by the Orthodox Jewish day schools in the metropolitan Baltimore area.  (Letter attached.)

A private or parochial school is not required to admit “an unvaccinated student simply because the student asserts a religious exemption,” according to the Office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

This legal advice, in a letter to Delegates Shelly Hettleman and Samuel Rosenberg, addresses concerns raised by the Orthodox Jewish day schools in the metropolitan Baltimore area.  (Letter attached.)
“If the State were to require non-public religious schools to accept the religious exemption claimed by a parent of a child who is not vaccinated, the State would be requiring the religious school to go against its own religious convictions,” declared Hillel Tendler an attorney for the religious schools.  “A parent’s religiously based anti-vaccination views should not be forced on a non-public religious school which does not share those beliefs.”

The Attorney General’s Office agreed, writing that the General Assembly did not intend that non-public schools be included in the requirement that schools allow an unvaccinated child to be admitted if the child’s parent or guardian claims a “religious exemption” to vaccinations.  Furthermore, the letter states, if a parochial school would be required to accommodate a religious belief and practice in conflict with its own, there is a risk that a court would find that to be in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“This is a very important health issue for the students, parents, teachers, and administrators in our schools,” stated Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, Annapolis representative for Agudath Israel of Maryland - Mid-Atlantic Region.  “Delegates Hettleman and Rosenberg understood the gravity of the concerns expressed by the schools and enabled them to convey those concerns directly to the Attorney General’s Office.”

 “Allowing an unvaccinated student to come to school poses a very serious health risk to everyone else in the school building and their families as well,” stated Delegates Hettleman and Rosenberg.  “We were glad to assist in making the case to Attorney General Brian Frosh that the existing policy should be reversed for private and parochial schools.”

 For further information:
Delegate Shelly Hettleman    410-608-8016   shelly@shellyhettleman.com
Delegate Sandy Rosenberg   delsandy@aol.com
Read the clarification below or click here


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The myths the anti-vax movement is infamous for spreading....

Vaccines: Making strides in converting deniers

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Credit: American Academy of Pediatricians

August is National Immunization Month which seems as good a time as any to evaluate how we are doing at getting the science based message about vaccines out to the public. Numbers actually show we are doing a good job in converting anti-vaxxers. A poll conducted by the University of Michigan found that:
  1. 34 percent of parents think vaccines have more benefit than they did one year ago
  2. 25 percent of parents believe vaccines are safer than they were one year ago
  3. 35 percent of parents report more support for daycare and school vaccine requirements than one year ago
These data show that in the last year alone a lot of parents have changed their views on vaccines. A recent Pew study found that two thirds of the public supports mandatory vaccines. Although to some, this may sound high, in reality even one anti-vax can do too much damage. Look at the effect Andrew Wakefield has had on rejuvenating the anti-vax movement.

It’s therefore important to understand how these changes in the public perception of vaccines have occurred.

 One recent study found that the best way to change opinions on vaccines is to focus on the risks of not vaccinating, instead of focusing on correcting directly the myths the anti-vax movement is infamous for spreading.

Researchers working at the University of Illinois polled subjects on their vaccine views and then separated them into three groups: one received literature challenging the anti-vax group, one received literature focused on the diseases vaccines protect against and one received literature on a non-vaccine topic. After after parents read their respective literature, they were re-polled and the researchers found that many in the second group changed their opinions on vaccinations.

Lead researcher Zachary Horne said of their results: “We found that directing people’s attention to the risks posed by not getting vaccinated, like getting measles, mumps and rubella and the complications associated with those diseases, changed people’s attitudes positively towards vaccination — and that was for even the most skeptical participants in the study. Actually, the largest effect sizes were for people who were the most skeptical.”

This idea is not new and is often put in a historical context. People stood in long lines in the mid 20th century to get themselves and their children vaccinated against the flu and polio, but this was a time when both of these diseases caused very visible epidemics. Yet the last case of polio in the United States was in 1979, almost 40 years ago, so it is understandably harder for people under the age of 40 to grasp the risks of acquiring one of these vaccine preventable diseases.

Think about the aforementioned Michigan study in light of last year’s Disneyland measles outbreak. Measles became a more public, tangible disease to many people, in particular young parents. This outbreak and the publicity it garnered may explain why the Michigan study found such a drastic movement away from anti-vax views among parents.

With this idea in mind and in the spirit of National Immunization Month, the American Academy of Pediatrics has started a month long campaign to remind people of the risks of not getting vaccinated. The campaign, entitled “Medicine Before Vaccines” features a collection of stories from physicians who remember what pediatric medicine was like before vaccines. It should serve as a lesson to many young parents that vaccine preventable diseases are something to be feared, as they have been for most of human history.


Monday, August 10, 2015

That’s the best we can do to negotiate a deal (which the Iranians have already said they will break anyway) on which the life and death of Wendy’s people, the Jews of Israel, depends?

  by Ben Stein -

Ben Stein: I'm Not Sure Obama Is 'In Good Mental Health'

My mother, God rest her soul, went with my father to Red China in the mid 1970s, before the capitalist Revolution there. Mom and Pop were taken around the country by Communist Party cadres who lectured them about how great Communism was. Of course, this was after Mao had murdered about 80 million Chinese civilians.

My mother, an extremely astute observer politically, and a fervent anti-communist, wrote to me a letter noting that the look on the faces of the Chinese Red women cadres was extremely similar to the looks on the faces of the leftist women at Columbia in the 1930s and in Silver Spring in the 1940s and 1950s.

Since then, I have noticed that I can always, and I mean ALWAYS, tell a woman’s political orientation by her facial features, expression, hair, jewelry (always silver), and clothing.

I point this out because last night I watched C-SPAN and saw a woman named Wendy Sherman testify before a Senate committee about the Iran sellout. This woman, aged roughly fifty something, maybe a bit older, was cut from the cookie cutter mold of wealthy Jewish leftists, thought I as I watched. She looked like the identical twin of an extremely leftist close friend of my wife here in Beverly Hills.

I looked her up, and sure enough, she was a big time leftist, big time anti-life, big time community organizer, close pal of Hillary Clinton and Barry Obama, with long experience fighting for the “right” of women to murder their children. From a rich Jewish family.

Of course, she defended the sellout to Iran. She lied about every single detail, including about the notorious fraud of “inspections anytime, anywhere” and the secret protocols with the IAEA which supersede anything in the agreement with the USA. She was a pitiful, weak liar, though, and started to cry at one point when a Republican questioned her closely.

I had the horrifying thoughts go through my head: This is who we had negotiating for us in Austria? An American Princess named “Wendy” who cries when she is confronted? Who is acting explicitly as an advocate for the Iranians? Who is the Edward Bennett Williams of the Mullahs? That’s the best we can do to negotiate a deal (which the Iranians have already said they will break anyway) on which the life and death of Wendy’s people, the Jews of Israel, depends? This is just plain pitiful. Heart breaking.

Today, I felt ill most of the day. My wife has been extremely ill for days and maybe I have caught it. But I went all over town to fetch things for my wife, especially various kids of milkshakes. That’s all she’ll eat when she’s sick.

As I was coming back from a store called Millions of Milkshakes, I took a short cut through a Chase bank. I stopped to cash a check. An attractive blond woman stood near me and asked the teller if he would let her pay her bill in Serbian money.

I asked her if she were kidding. She said she wasn’t, that her father was just back from Serbia and she had dinars she wanted to use. I offered to lend her money for a taxi.

In the meanwhile, a homeless man came in and overheard the conversation.

“Serbia,” he said. “That’s where World War II began. The people there are all Nazis.”

“No, it was World War I and the Serbs were mostly anti-Nazis. The Croatians were close to the Nazis.”
“Well, then Communists,” he said. He glowered at the girl. “Is your father a Communist?” he asked.
“That was a long time ago,” I said.

“No. Once a Commie always a Commie,” he retorted, with some truth. “They killed the Archbishop of somewhere and that started the war.”

“No, the Archduke,” I said.

“Well, whatever, some big Arch something and now they’re all Communists.”

As I walked out of the bank with the young woman, I said to her, “This town, this whole town, is one big outdoor mental hospital.”

She agreed.

Okay. Topic A. The GOP debates. Fox should have kicked Trump’s pompous ass right off the stage as soon as he would not pledge to support the party and the candidate. Once he said he would consider running as a third party candidate, he proved what everyone is saying, that he’s just a hireling for the Clintons, just signed on to make trouble and get publicity.

Then, later he bragged about putting some of his companies into bankruptcy. Just so you know, he didn’t just do that because he lost his job. He didn’t just declare BK because Atlantic City was in trouble.

He went to great lengths to snooker his own stockholders, to whom he had a fiduciary obligation, and to be a deadbeat to his lenders, to whom he owed a contractual obligation. (I wrote about it in Barron’s in 1989.) This was fine, he said, because it made his family rich.

What a loathsome man. To even consider him as a President is deeply disturbing.

Everyone else was great. I especially like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. Outspoken. Sensible. Fine men. Serious about standing up to the Russians and the terrorists.

The problem is that none of them has a solution. None has a plan. None will come out for higher taxes to pay for an adequate defense. The GOP has been hijacked by the tax cutters and it’s killing the national defense as the sequester bites ever deeper into the muscle and bone of the military.

“An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan,” says Warren Buffett. And we in the GOP have no plans at all. Mr. Obama has plans for national suicide. We have words, but no plans, for national salvation.

No one said a word, not one single word, about the catastrophe in the black world. The black male kids are largely illiterate, almost totally unable to use math, for the most part unprepared for modern life, addicted to drugs and crime. They are our brothers and fellow Americans, and our politicians — especially Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton — whip them up to anger, but do nothing to prepare them for real life. Something has got to give or we are heading for anarchy.

Oh, by the way, this afternoon we had the lower-ranked GOP candidates debate, and they were great.

Especially Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum. But they also said not a peep about raising taxes and not a peep about raising the lives of our black men from misery to prosperity. Is it possible there is nothing to be done? No, because blacks were making real progress until the mid 1960s. Then the attitudes of entitlement, blaming whitey, drugs, and a culture of irresponsibility set in. Mr. Obama could have done something about it. He didn’t. They say he plans to be the first billionaire ex-President.


Friday, August 07, 2015

The President would be well advised to stop attacking his critics and to start answering their hard questions with specific and credible answers....

President Obama, in his desperation to save his Iran deal, has taken to attacking its opponents in personal ways. He has accused critics of his deal of being the same Republican warmongers who drove us into the ground war against Iraq and has warned that they would offer "overheated" and often dishonest arguments. He has complained about the influence of lobbyists and money on the process of deciding this important issue, as if lobbying and money were not involved in other important matters before Congress.

These types of ad hominem arguments are becoming less and less convincing as more Democratic members of Congress, more liberal supporters of the President, more nuclear experts and more foreign policy gurus are expressing deep concern about, and sometimes strong opposition to, the deal that is currently before Congress.

I, myself, am a liberal Democrat who twice voted for President Obama and who was opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Part of the reason I was opposed was because I considered, and still consider, Iran a much greater threat to the security of the world and to the stability of the Middle East than Iraq ever was. In my newly published e-book The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran From Getting Nukes?, I make arguments that I believe are honest, fair and compelling. I recognize some advantages in the deal, but strongly believe that the disadvantages considerably outweigh them and that the risks of failure are considerable. My assessment is shared by a considerable number of other academics, policy experts and other liberal Democrats who support President Obama's domestic policies, who admire Secretary Kerry for his determination, and who do not see evil intentions in the deal.

The President would be well advised to stop attacking his critics and to start answering their hard questions with specific and credible answers. Questions that need answering include the following:

1. Even after the expiration of the nuclear agreement, will American policy remain that Iran will never under any circumstances be allowed to develop nuclear weapons? Or is it now our policy that Iran will be free to do whatever it wants to do once the deal expires?

2. After the major constraints contained in the deal end, or were the deal to collapse at any point, how long would it take Iran to produce a deliverable nuclear bomb?

3. Would the United States allow Iran to begin production of a nuclear arsenal when the major constraints of the deal end?

4. Does the deal reflect a reversal in policy from President Obama's pre-reelection promise that "My policy is not containment; my policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon"?

5. If not, will President Obama now announce that it is still the policy of the United States that Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon?

6. How exactly will the inspections regime work? Precisely how much time will the Iranians have between a request for inspection and the inspection itself? What precisely will they be permitted to do during this hiatus? And why do they need so much time if they don't plan to cheat?

7. What will President Obama do if Iran is caught cheating on this deal during his administration?

8. Precisely when will which sanctions be lifted under the agreement? Do provisions that prevent the P5+1 from imposing new sanctions apply even if Iran is found to be in violation of its commitments under the agreement? When exactly will sanctions prohibiting the sale of weapons, and particularly missile technology, be lifted?

If and when these and other important questions about the deal are answered — directly, candidly, and unambiguously — Congress will be in a better position to answer the fundamental questions now before it: would rejecting this deeply flawed deal produce more dangerous results than not rejecting it? If so, what can we now do to assure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear arsenal? The answers to those questions may profoundly affect the future of the world.

So the President should spend more time on substance and less on personal attacks.
Alan Dershowitz is an emeritus professor of law at Harvard Law School. His new e-book, The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran From Getting Nukes?, is now available.
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