Friday, July 15, 2016
There have been many requests that I crack open the culture of corruption that exists in today's batei din. It's not one or two batei din that are impossibly corrupt, there are only a handful that perhaps you can trust. The vast majority of batei din are run by crooks and hooligans. If I went after all of them, I would not have time to eat, never mind tend to my personal life.
So...I decided to open my own online bais din. Hazmanas are free, and there is no charge for a psak din. The criteria for "UOJ - House Of True Din" to accept a case, is that the case has to be unusual.
If you want to know if your neighbor has a right to open a ladies clothing store in his basement, where he or she would be selling tube socks that you have in your basement mens store (an ugly case of hasagat g'vul), ask your local posek.
But if you want to know if your kid should be sent to a boot camp because he wears a kipa sruga, that's where the "UOJ - House Of True Din" will render a psak without consulting with the former SS guard Aaron Schachter from Coney Island Avenue.
So, I hope you get the drift of what the UOJ bais din will focus on.
Having said that, I'm certain that there will be cases that I will need to consult with "real ppposkim -- gggggedoiiilei Torah", and I will. (I always stutter when I say those words, I wonder why?) I have no ego issues; if you wanted to know, for example, if you should invest your last dime with Leib Pinter's mortgage company, I would be certain to call Shmuel Kaminetzky, and if for some strange reason he refuses to come to the phone, I would rely on his precedent ppppsak as applied to the Pinter case..."If Pinter did not scam someone in the last three months, one would have to assume Pinter did teshuva"... so by all means invest your last dime with him.
Another case that the UOJ bais din could consider even though it enters into the realm of medicine. If you had the fear of flying in an airplane, and you had a heart condition where you could drop dead if your plane had to land safely in a body of water, but the pilot was Captain Sully, there's a better than even chance I would try to get Avi Shafran on the phone. (As long as I had him on the phone I'll check on your investments with Madoff - no charge)
Now the next one is a tough one, but we will NOT shirk from our responsibility to Klal Yisroel. Your wife gets pregnant, but you DID NOT have relations with her for 9 years; after consultation with the ppppposkim in Los Angeles, Monsey and Baltimore, the UOJ psak would be -- wait until the kid is born, if it looks like Sholom, Mordecai or Aron Tendler -- the UOJ - House Of True Din would pasken that the collective Tendler families would be liable for that kid's tuition, bar/bat mitzvah, wedding, and a lifetime in kollel.
One final example, just to make certain that you understand the depth and breadth of the UOJ bais din and the diverse range of topics we're willing to tackle. You want to know if you are permitted to picket your child's school, because the principal and 4 rebbes were gang-banging your son in the back of the bais midrash after mishmar -- I would certainly consult with the Novominsker Rebbe, although he and I may not see eye to eye on this one.
Send in your shailos, no unorthodox shaila will go without a psak din from the UOJ - House Of True Din.
Respectfully and humbly submitted,
Av Bais Din - UOJ PPPPPosssek.
Look for the (Triple K) KKK hashgacha on every authentic UOJ psak. Accept no substitutes! KOSHER - from corruption. KOSHER - from bribes. KOSHER from mattress gelt.
Rely only on the KKK. Our yarmulkes are black!
Heading towards the Next Charedi Woman’s Suicide?
After Esti Weinstein was found lifeless in her car, discussions raged online about what motivated her to end her life. Some blamed the restrictive Gerrer community for the creating the circumstances that led her suicide. Others rushed to say, “We cannot judge! It is their lifestyle! It is their culture.” As if somehow, they are an alien culture beyond our understanding or concern. As if calling out damaging behaviors of a community is the same as hating a community.
But this is not about “lifestyle.” This is about abuse, at many levels. And there are times when the Jewish community is not only allowed to pass judgement, but required to do so.
Ger promulgates an extreme set of rules called takanot. Instituted after World War II in a number of Hasidic sects, the takanot of Ger are the most restrictive and are even at odds with Jewish law, according to most, in the area of marital intimacy. They control the lives of the Hasidim (followers) in everything from wives having to walk behind their husbands, to husbands not calling their wives by name, to how often a couple can be intimate (no more than twice each month).
In theory, any couple can opt not to follow any rule that they do not like. However, in actuality, the structure of the community and the expected obedience often leaves couples without choice. This is not unique to Ger. In Satmar, customs such as head-shaving for married women is enforced by community leaders with modesty patrols and mikveh attendants who are charged with enforcement and snitching.
In this way, the community is kept under the control of the leadership, and people who do not follow the rules find themselves threatened with things such as isolation, children’s expulsion from school, or loss of a job.
After Esti’s suicide, investigative articles and the book she had penned about her life reported details of a difficult marriage and her struggle with the takanot’s effect on her as a person and on her marriage. She also wrote of the extreme suffering she endured from her forced isolation (post-divorce) from six of her seven children. It was this isolation, she claimed, as the reason she could not go on. The same alienation commanded by community leadership has been the major factor in the suffering and even suicide of other women and men who have left Hasidic marriages and communities.
The Next Esti?
Rachel is another Gerrer Hasida who also wanted out of her marriage. Divorce, despite being permitted by Jewish law, is forcefully discouraged in Ger and other Hasidic sects. After Rachel requested a divorce, the rabbis sent her to therapists and psychologists who tried to convince that her she was crazy — to the point of pressuring her to take psychiatric medication.
After Rachel mustered the courage to file for divorce in the Israel’s rabbinic court, the heads of the hasidic community called for everyone close to Rachel to sever ties with her, including her grown children, parents, and siblings. And they did.
Over the course of the years during which she sought assistance from the court, Rachel continued to live in her home with her husband and children. Under directives from community leaders, the family ignored her existence. She ate meals alone in one room while her husband sat at the shabbat table with their children in another.
Despite begging, Rachel’s husband refused to divorce her. He went on to accuse her of being a rebellious wife (a halachic term that has specific ramifications) and committing adultery. Though this was the perfect opportunity for the court to order her husband to give Rachel her divorce, the court instead allowed him to deny her and keep her in the home as a ‘shifcha’ (maidservant), to keep house but not be a wife.
Rachel continued to suffer near complete isolation and get refusal with Israel’s Rabbinic Court in Ashdod and its dayanim complicit in both. It wasn’t until Rachel, represented by the Center for Women’s Justice, filed a suit in a secular court for emotional damages that her husband agreed to a divorce, on condition that she pay hundreds of thousands of shekels in extortion money.
Rachel got her divorce. But she is still being tormented. The rabbinic court is now deciding on custody of her minor children and once again, it is allowing the Gerrer leadership to run the show.
Unlike Esti, Rachel remains a dedicated Gerrer follower. And yet, for the crime of divorcing against the will of the Rabbi, she is being alienated from her children who miss her. See this heartbreaking letter from her son who states that he loves his mother but is being forced to not speak to her out of fear of what they will do to him if he disobeys.
The community has sent letters to the rabbinic court saying that Rachel is not a good enough chasidah (female chasid) to have custody of her children, letters which the dayanim have accepted as evidence but refuse to include in the official case files. This is illegal and a breach of court procedures.
Now, one of Rachel’s children is about to get married. Rachel was not invited to the wedding, and is experiencing deep pain because of it. During court proceedings, the father announced that the Rabbi of Ger in Ashdod is the one who will decide if Rachel can come to the wedding. And so, she waits, her fate in the hands of those who seem want to make an example out of her.In both cases of Esti and Rachel, Gerrer leadership violated Jewish law and falsely presented the people involved. In Esti’s case, her husband forced her into abusive sexual encounters with other men against her will, yet they turned her into the one who to shun for violating Jewish law for fleeing. In Rachel’s case, her husband was obliged to divorce her based on numerous factors, yet they did their best to prevent it. In both cases, they worked to alienate the children and vilify the mother. They violated halacha in favor of control.
Not Our Problem?
There are many villains here. From the leadership of the community that commands the abuse, to the community that fulfills its command. From the dayanim on the religious courts that add legal strength to the abuse, to the the silent majority who says nothing and does nothing to save the Estis and Rachels of the Jewish community.
To ignore this abuse is to be a party to it.
To say, “We cannot judge,” is to discard our morality and God-given intellect and obligation to discern right from wrong.
We are obligated as Jews, to stand up for those being harmed.
If we are silent, if we allow this to happen, we cannot react with shock when we find the next Esti: alone, bereft, and unable to suffer any longer, alienated from her children by the leadership and community that betrayed her and the silent majority that allowed it to happen.