Wednesday, April 25, 2018

This Idiot Is Dead Wrong ....AGAIN!

Is Swordfish Kosher?

Photo Credit: Jewish Press
The commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch say dag ha’cherev [literally, “the fish of the sword”] is kasher.
Why is it widely considered to be not kosher, then?
Because around 60-70 years ago, they asked Rabbi [Moshe] Tendler if he could make a list of which fish are kosher and which aren’t. Rabbi Tender decided to list swordfish as a treife fish because he called up an expert who told him scales on a swordfish are a different consistency – or something like that – from those of other fish. So he decided it was a treife fish.
But that’s absolutely not correct. The commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch say dag hacherev is kasher. Professor [Shlomo] Sternberg, a big genius in learning and math, published an essay maybe 20 years ago in which he writes that Rabbi Soloveitchik asked him to conduct research on the status of swordfish. He did. He showed Rabbi Soloveitchik the scales of a swordfish and Rav Soloveitchik said, “It’s a kashere fish!”
Professsor Sternberg writes that he still has the envelope with the scales he showed Rav Soloveitchik in his Gemara Chullin.
If the commentaries on the Shuchan Aruch say dag ha’cherev is kosher, how can Rabbi Tendler claim it isn’t?
Rabbi Tendler claims “dag hacherev” is a different fish. It’s not true.
But Rabbi Tendler did a service to the Orthodox Jewish community because at the time there were Conservative rabbis who were giving hashgachas, so he laughed them out of existence and said they don’t know what they’re talking because [they were giving swordfish a hechsher when] swordfish is really treif. So the Orthodox realized you can’t rely on the Conservatives.
L’maaseh, the Conservatives were right on this issue, but Rabbi Tendler accomplished his goal.

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) does not seem to have scales when one looks at a sample. Some say that it has scales that are embedded to such an extent that it is impossible to remove them without making a hole. Others say that it has kosher scales on parts of its body which fall off during its development. Still others claim that it may have some kosher scales even at the time of harvest.

The Orthodox Union traditionally treats swordfish as non-kosher.

(See Sh’ailos and Teshuvos Tzitz Eliezer 9:40 who discusses a statement made by the Knesses HaGedolah about “cherev hadag” and explains why we cannot use the statement to permit swordfish.)



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Police arrest haredi man who hit Beit Shemesh women with pipe Extremist haredi man arrested after video showing him hitting women with pipe as part of 'modesty patrol' shocked the country.

Police have arrested a haredi man from Ramat Beit Shemesh who was videoed hitting women with a pipe as part of a vigilante 'modesty patrol'.

The man can be seen in the video ordering the horrified women to "go home" on the eve of Yom Ha'atzmaut while menacingly wielding a rubber pipe. The clip went viral in Israel, racking up hundreds of thousands of views and causing an outcry on social media.

On Saturday night, the man was arrested by police, who told the Behadrei Haredim website that he was well known to local authorities due to his radical activities. He was released shortly after on bail and police have opened an investigation.

Ramat Beit Shemesh has been the center of increasingly divisive battles over the past few years as a large influx of radical haredim have battled with the Religious Zionist and secular residents over the city's nature.


Monday, April 23, 2018

“God can be incarnated in a human being, in the form of the tzadik,” one of his followers explained to Haaretz. This is a mantra for his most dedicated followers who see the rabbi as God incarnated, and state he is allowed to do anything....

We’ve met Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the tzadik (“holy man”) of the Shuvu Banim Hasidic sect, in these pages before. In 2015, after years of globetrotting while he was evading Israeli prosecutors, Berland was finally forced to return to his home country. There, he stood trial on three sex-crime charges, including sexual assault. A court in Israel sentenced him to 18 months’ imprisonment, but the rabbi served less than three in an actual jail cell on account of his poor health. After being under house arrest for another nine months, he was paroled.

Whatever his erstwhile medical issues, Berland, 80, is firmly back in the saddle these days:
“He can pray and study while standing for many straight hours without getting tired,” says one of those close to him. “Have we ever seen such things?”

That’s one of the tamer quotes in a new Haaretz article about Berland and his acolytes. To hear his delirious devotees tell it, Eliezer Berland is God made flesh. A glass of water he drank from cured a desperately sick patient when she put it to her lips. The rabbi can make his followers impervious to bullets. One time, Berland entered a hole in a frozen Ukraine river and didn’t come out. When his devotees began to fear he had drowned, recounts a sect member, “we turned around and saw him come out of the ground.”

Other religious people no doubt appreciate their clergy too, but the veneration for Berland is in a class by itself because he believes he is God — and thousands of believers think he’s right.
“God can be incarnated in a human being, in the form of the tzadik,” one of his followers explained to Haaretz. This is a mantra for his most dedicated followers who see the rabbi as God incarnated, and state he is allowed to do anything.
Whenever he makes his appearance among the faithful, the scene is barely distinguishable from a Justin Bieber autograph session.
The excitement hit its peak. One of the followers ran to him and managed to touch the rabbi’s tallit [prayer shawl]. The rest of the men pushed and shoved, climbed on chairs and even trampled those standing in the way between them and Berland. The few who succeeded returned to their seats beaming with excitement and with glazed eyes. …
When he leaves home, dozens of his supporters rush after him in their cars. When he leaves for events, they chase after him too. During Sabbath services he often throws slips of paper, newsletters, and spices at his followers — and the crowds fight and shove to have the honor of catching them, or just touching things that the rabbi has touched. The children present at such events hang on the railings, packed in tightly, even climbing over the heads of those praying to receive a white kippa from the tzadik.
Haaretz says that Berland lost some followers while the court case against him played out, but that only leaves the hardcore
beliebersbelievers who simply will not hear the slightest criticism of their idol.
“The rabbi didn’t do any of the things they say about him,” one of the women … told Haaretz, after she received permission from her husband to speak. “The rabbi is a supremely righteous man, whatever he does is all for the good of the heavens.”
That’s despite the fact that Berland confessed to rape. Clarifies one of his students,
“If people tell me that cats and elephants are dancing now outside, of course I will think they are crazy. This is exactly what I think when all sorts of people tell stories about the rabbi. It simply cannot be. Not possible.”
Not even damning audio recordings that Haaretz obtained can change their minds, though the god-man is revealed at his most murderous. At one point,
He can be heard raising his voice, and even screaming, at one of his followers concerning appointments in the community’s institutions. “I didn’t appoint them. They’re fired. I’ll shoot them. Bring me a pistol, I’ll shoot them. I’ll murder you too. If you didn’t understand that I’ll shoot you. I’ll serve a life sentence.
In another recording, Berland says about one of his opponents: “I’m going to sentence him to death now. I’m saying now that it is permitted to murder him.”
Totally holy.

Up to a thousand Israeli families are believed to be under his sway, and a few hundred of them are considered part of his “inner circle.” What craziness will they perform when he dies? What will they do if he tells them to obliterate the sect’s enemies? How will they respond if he begins spouting doomsday gibberish, Jim Jones-style?

Meanwhile, how will this serial sex offender behave around girls and women who are taught to believe that their holy man, their God, is allowed to do literally “anything”?

A great deal of concern is warranted.


Friday, April 20, 2018

If the message Trump is sending to Assad is that he can go on killing people — though not with chemical weapons — that is just as much of an abdication of America’s moral authority as Obama’s spineless responses....

Trump’s Syria Strikes Are Not Enough

The remains of the Syrian regime’s Scientific Research Centre in Damascus

JNS.org – If the sole criteria by which Donald Trump’s actions in Syria should be judged are to be compared with his predecessor, then perhaps the claim of “mission accomplished” might be accurate.
Stacked up against President Barack Obama’s epic failures in Syria, Trump doesn’t look so bad. But even if he were not describing the American-led strikes on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons capability with that cringe-inducing phrase, we would still have to judge Trump’s actions as — at this point in time — very much a mission left unaccomplished.

As the White House has made clear, the missile strikes were strictly a one-off event, entirely disconnected from any overall strategy to deal with the threat posed by a Syria dominated by Russia and occupied by Iranian forces determined to turn that country into a front against Israel. Just as troubling is the signal from Washington that the president is planning, despite appeals from his national-security team and American allies, to pull all US forces out of Syria after the defeat of ISIS is deemed complete.

While Trump was moved, as he should have been, by Assad’s atrocities against civilians — and decided to strike at the Syrian dictator’s forces — he isn’t prepared to do anything more than that or act in a meaningful way to stop the slaughter in that country.

Despite the missiles, Trump is maintaining Obama’s policy of punting Syria to Russia, and treating Iran’s takeover as something of no interest to the United States. He’s also apparently prepared to stand by and let a successor Islamist group fill the vacuum left by the United States withdrawal, just as happened after Obama pulled out of Iraq and stayed out of Syria — the exact events that led to the rise of ISIS.

Americans can take some satisfaction that the United States is not prepared to let the use of chemical weapons go unpunished, as was the case with Obama’s humiliating “red line” retreat. By the same token, they should applaud the progress that American-led forces have made in the fight against ISIS. Trump’s loosening of the rules of engagement transformed the stalemate he inherited from Obama into a rout of the Islamists.

But no one should be fooled by the spectacle of the allied attacks on Assad’s chemical-weapons capability into thinking that America is doing anything meaningful about what is arguably the worst human-rights catastrophe of the 21st century. Nor should it escape anyone’s notice that Trump’s policies are essentially leaving Israel alone to face a deadly threat on its northern border.

The problem here is just the opposite of the chaos obsessed over by the president’s detractors. The issue in Syria is Trump’s unwillingness to confront a basic contradiction in his foreign-policy outlook that has been glaringly obvious since he first began campaigning for the presidency. He still can’t seem to grasp that you can’t be tough on Iran while being soft on Russia.

If the United States is to mount a meaningful campaign — as Trump has often said he would — to roll back Iran’s efforts to achieve regional hegemony by a nuclear deal that has enriched and empowered it, this must be part of an approach that takes into account that Tehran’s most dangerous conduct is being enabled by Russia.

The other contradiction is that while Trump has been extremely supportive of Israel in many ways, he’s also ignoring what is rapidly becoming the most lethal threat to its security: Iran’s presence in Syria.

Friends of Israel should be grateful to Trump for discarding the foreign-policy establishment’s warnings about recognizing Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital, and for ending Obama’s policy of trying to put “daylight” between America and its sole democratic ally. He’s also right — and the supposed “adults” wrong — when he speaks of the dangers inherent in an Iran nuclear deal that must be renegotiated if Tehran is to be prevented from eventually gaining nuclear weapons.

But that doesn’t give him a pass for deciding that Syria is merely a theater for dramatic US gestures, rather than the pivotal issue that may decide whether another war in the Middle East is inevitable.
If the message Trump is sending to Assad is that he can go on killing people — though not with chemical weapons — that is just as much of an abdication of America’s moral authority as Obama’s spineless responses.

Just as troubling is the idea that the message Trump is sending to Russia is that it shouldn’t interpret the president’s histrionics as an indication that the United States is still interested in engaging in the region.

Worst of all is that Iran is likely interpreting Trump’s gestures as a sign that the United States doesn’t regard its building of military bases and weapons factories in Syria as an issue it cares about. If America is telling Russia that it won’t demand that Vladimir Putin restrain Iran or push it out of Syria, then Israel is being left to fend for itself as a problem the Americans helped create gets out of control.

For all of the good Trump has done for Israel in the last 14 months, leaving it alone to deal with Iran and Russia in Syria is simply too dangerous. Israel must balance the need to maintain relations with Russia — now the region’s leading power — with the imperative to prevent Iran from threatening its safety. If Trump doesn’t understand that simply abandoning Israel in this manner is an invitation to Iranian aggression and a new Middle East war, and that this is profoundly precarious for US interests and security, then he’s just as foolish as his enemies claim.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS — the Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathans_tobin.

 by Jonathan S. Tobin / JNS.org

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Role of the Counselor in Keeping Camp Safe

ASAP - Jewish Sexual Abuse Prevention and Treatment - CLICK.

Camp can be an amazing experience.... or it can be a nightmare. Your actions are what will make the difference. Parents - learn more about how to protect your children from abuse this summer. Camp directors - create a safe camp environment with clear policies and training. Visit our website to access our free safety programs.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It is my impression that many Orthodox Jews (simply) lack information, exposure, and context, all of which would enable us to develop a more informed, nuanced, and accurate perspective of the reality. ...

In 1982, Nancy Reagan visited the Longfellow Elementary School in Oakland, CA, as she embarked on her historic national anti-drug campaign.  During this visit, she was asked by a young schoolgirl what she should do if she was offered drugs. The First Lady responded, "just say no."  The rest, as they say, is history. "Just Say No" clubs and organizations were established all over the country and one of the most famous slogans in modern times was born.  The "Just Say No" rallying cry has since become ingrained in the minds of hundreds of millions of people, spanning all races, ethnicities, and religions.

I wonder however if the Orthodox community has taken Nancy Reagan's instructions a bit too far. Indeed, we can all agree that the only proper response from one who has been solicited to accept drugs is "no." Too often, however, many of us express "no" to the mere suggestion that we discuss drugs at all. Many of us naively believe that the Orthodox community is, more or less, unaffected by the drug epidemic, which so dreadfully affects the general population.

Consider the manner in which many well-intentioned members of our community would likely respond to the following questions:
  • Do substance and alcohol abuse and addiction affect members of the Orthodox community, to any significant degree?
  • Should we, as a community, organize public gatherings to discuss how best to detect alcohol and substance abuse and introduce methods of intervention and treatment?
  • Do substance abuse and addiction afflict individuals who come from supportive families and functional households?
  • Do people who are committed to a life of Torah observance and seek to embrace Torah values abuse alcohol or drugs?
  • Do individuals who truly appreciate the value of self-control struggle with alcohol or drug addictions?
Did you answer "no" to any of these questions?  If you are like most of us, then you probably have.  The uncomfortable truth, however, is that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding "yes."
  • Yes, substance and alcohol abuse and addiction undeniably affect a significant population within the Orthodox community.
  • Yes, we must absolutely come together as a community and discuss methods of detection, intervention, and treatment of alcohol and substance abuse.
  • Yes, substance abuse and addiction often affect members of supportive families and functional households.
  • Yes, it is not uncommon for individuals who are genuinely committed to Torah observance and values to develop addictions to alcohol and drugs.
  • Yes, most often, individuals who struggle with alcohol and drug addictions thoroughly and deeply understand, appreciate, and value the virtue of self-control, despite their destructive behaviors.
But why the disconnect?  Why does our community so glaringly miss the mark on this particular issue? After all, our community consistently displays profound sensitivity to the needy and disadvantaged, demonstrates care and concern for the weak and vulnerable, and is typically proactive in addressing the myriad of social issues that affect the members of our community. Why then do we seem to possess a lapse in awareness and deficient sensitivity when it comes to the issue of alcohol and substance abuse and addiction?

It is my impression that many Orthodox Jews (simply) lack information, exposure, and context, all of which would enable us to develop a more informed, nuanced, and accurate perspective of the reality.  Our detachment from the facts on the ground does not reflect insensitivity or indifference. Rather, our disconnect is, among other things, a reflection of our limited exposure, inadequate education, and impaired understanding.

Whatever the underlying causes of our disconnect may be, its effects, albeit unintended, are no less harmful and destructive. The common misconceptions that we, as a community, continue to harbor and, at times promulgate, clearly and predictability obstruct our collective ability to responsibly and effectively address substance abuse and addiction. The longer we maintain the belief that members of our community are either immune to or unaffected by alcohol and drug abuse, we fuel the fires of stigmatization, causing our very own friends and neighbors to shoulder their hefty burden alone. The longer we allow ourselves to view the families of those who suffer from addictions with prejudice and presume their shared culpability in their child's/spouse's/sibling's/parent's addiction, the further we estrange those who desperately need comfort, support and reassurance.

The longer we view alcohol and substance addiction as a failure of character, rather than what it actually is - a physiological illness, we further alienate members of our community who may already feel helpless and ashamed.

As individuals, we must band together and inspire a paradigm shift in the way we approach alcohol and drug addiction, recognizing it for the illness it is.  As a community, we must hold ourselves accountable, knowing that there are those among us who are afraid to come forward and step into the light, lest they be unfairly judged, mislabeled, and misunderstood. We must learn to encourage and embrace those struggling with addiction, as well as their families, assisting and supporting them on their road towards healing and recovery.

Needless to say, success in achieving such a radical and fundamental shift in thinking and action will take time, effort, and coordination to actualize. But we need to start and that time is now.  Please join me on April 22 at 8 p.m. at TABC, for an important community awareness event, coordinated in conjunction with Amudim.  Participants of this event will become more informed and enlightened regarding the growing epidemic of substance abuse and addiction within our community.  With your participation, this event can be a major step forward for our community.  However successful this event may ultimately be, it will be a starting point, with more work to follow.  I hope this event will inspire our community to slowly but surely create an environment where families can comfortably seek and easily discover support.  And then we, a more attentive and informed community, will more naturally strive to sustain and nurture that supportive environment.  I hope and pray that we demonstrate the courage, commitment and resolve to restore peace and health to all in our midst.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Daniel Ambash, a cult leader who in 2013 was convicted of raping and abusing his wives and children....

Wives of jailed polygamous yarmulke wearing cult leader demand conjugal visits

Four of the six spouses of Daniel Ambash, convicted of routine sadistic abuse and sexual assault of his family members, want to meet with him and have more of his children. (Let's Have a Conversation About Crazy)

Aderet (L) and Shiran Ambash, two of the wives of cult leader Daniel Ambash who in 2013 was convicted of raping and abusing his wives and children. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Aderet (L) and Shiran Ambash, two of the wives of cult leader Daniel Ambash who in 2013 was convicted of raping and abusing his wives and children. 

Four wives of a polygamous cult leader who was convicted of sadistic abuse of his family members five years ago have demanded that Israel grant them conjugal visits.

In 2013 Daniel Ambash was sentenced to 26 years in jail in what has been described as one of the most shocking abuse cases in the country’s history. His six wives and many children were kept by Ambash and his assistants in slavery conditions, forcibly confined and routinely punished with rape, electric shocks and beatings.

But most of the wives have never renounced Ambash, a Bratslav ultra-Orthodox Jew. They still live together, view themselves as his wives and revere him. The four have claimed the entire case was fabricated.
“They created false witnesses by pressure in the interrogation room, threats and violence,” Aderet Ambash, one of the women who made the demand for a conjugal visit, told Channel 10 news Monday.

The four wives claim it is their “basic right” to meet Ambash and have more kids with him. They have demanded that the Israel Prisons Service let them meet him both separately and all together to “preserve the special nature” of their polygamous marriage, Channel 10 reported.

Daniel Ambash, a cult leader who in 2013 was convicted of raping and abusing his wives and children.

“Our story is a special story. I won’t make a request just for myself,” one of the wives was quoted as saying, adding that each of the other wives was “my partner’s partner.”

The case was exposed in 2011 after one of Ambash’s wives spoke out about what was happening in the cult.

Following an investigation and a court case, Ambash was convicted on 18 of the 20 charges against him in October 2013, including sexual offenses, abuse of minors, incarceration and sadistic violence.
According to the court ruling, on one occasion, Ambash took one of his wives outside the house, naked, in the middle of the night, and splashed water on her and dragged her by the hair. In another incident, he shoved the head of one of his wives into the toilet and flushed it as she suffocated.
He also raped his daughter on another occasion in front of his whole family, including several children, claiming it was “part of her duty in family life.”

The Israel Prisons Service said in response to the request: “An inmate is allowed to receive a conjugal visit from their permanent and publicly known partner. It should be remembered that such a visit is a benefit and not a right.”


Monday, April 16, 2018

Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? - twenty possible explanations

Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? - twenty possible explanations

Ashkenazi Jews are smart. Shockingly brilliant, in general. Impressive in brain power. How did they get that way? Ashkenazi Jews, aka Ashkenazim, are the descendants of Jews from medieval Alsace and the Rhine Valley, and later, from throughout Eastern Europe.  Originally, of course, they were from Israel. Genetic research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggests that the Ashkenazi bloodline branched away from other Jewish groups there 2,500 years ago, and that 40% of them are descended from only four Jewish mothers.

 Approximately 80% of the Jews in the world today are Ashkenazim, with the remainder primarily Sephardic.
Researchers who study the Ashkenazim agree that the children of Abraham are on top of the IQ chart. Steven Pinker – who lectured on “Jews, Genes, and Intelligence” in 2007 - says “their average IQ has been measured at 108-115.” Richard Lynn, author of “The Intelligence of American Jews” in 2004, says it is “only” a half-standard higher: 107.5.  Henry Harpending, Jason Hardy, and Gregory Cochran, University of Utah authors of the 2005 research report, “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence,” state that their subjects, “score .75 to 1.0 standard deviations above the general European average, corresponding to an IQ of 112-115.” Charles Murray, in his 2007 essay “Jewish Genius,” says “their mean is somewhere in the range of 107-115, with 110 being a plausible compromise.”

A Jewish average IQ of 115 is 8 points higher than the generally accepted IQ of their closest rivals—Northeast Asians—and approximately 40% higher than the global average IQ of 79.1 calculated by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen in IQ and Global Inequity.

Plus, contemplate this astounding tidbit: Ashkenazi “visual-spatial” IQ scores are only mediocre; in one study their median in this category was a below-average 98. They surmount this liability by logging astronomic figures in “verbal IQ”, which includes verbal reasoning, comprehension, working memory and mathematical skill; a 1958 survey of yeshiva students discovered a median verbal IQ of 125.6.
What does it mean that Ashkenazim have a high IQ, in terms of producing “geniuses”?  With their population so small - a mere 0.25 of the world total - does it make any serious difference?  The answer is YES.  A “bell curve” is used to illustrate IQ percentile in a specific group – in a “general population” where IQ average is 100 the curve assumes these proportions:
less than 70 IQ  - 2.5%
70-85 IQ - 12.5%
86-100 IQ - 35%
101-115 IQ – 35%
116-130 IQ – 12.5%
greater than 130 IQ – 2.5%
Applying the same bell curve for Ashkenazim, but with a 17-point upward lift in median IQ (using the From Chance To Choice digit) produces the IQ upgrade below:
less than 87 IQ – 2.5%
88-102 IQ – 12.5%
103-117 IQ – 35%
118-132 IQ – 35%
133-148 IQ – 12.5%
greater than 148 IQ – 2.5%
This shifting upward of the bell curve by more than a standard deviation (15 points) means that more than five times as many Ashkenazim are eligible for Mensa (minimum 130 IQ) and more than five times as many have the average IQ of an Ivy League graduate.
In reality, Ashkenazim are enrolled in the Ivies by a proportion ten times greater than their numbers; for example they represent 30% of Yale students, 27% of Harvard, 23% of Brown, 32% of Columbia, and 31% of Pennsylvania.
This suggests that either the “bell’s curve” is lifted for the Ashkenazi a bit longer at the high end or there are additional factors that enhance their ability to succeed. Regarding the first possibility, Charles Murray notes that “the proportion of Jews with IQs of 140 or higher is somewhere around six times the proportion of everyone else.” Harpending, Hardy
and Cochran sport roughly the same equation; “4 out of every 1,000 Northern European is 140+ IQ, but 23 out of every 1,000 Jew is 140+.” Murray also relays a report from sky-high up in the genius range, when he notes that a 1954 survey of New York public school children with 170+ IQs revealed that 24 of the 28 were… Jewish.
Ashkenazi Child
 Now that I’ve established that Ashkenazi have superlative IQ scores, let’s observe what they’ve accomplished with their highly functional brains.
In the 19th century, Mark Twain noted that:
[The Jews] are peculiarly and conspicuously the world’s intellectual aristocracy… [Jewish] contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world… and has done it with his hands tied behind him.
Twain’s observation is not dated. Ashkenazi Jews have continued to mentally out-compete other demographics since his statement, often suffering horrendous consequences for their toil. Here is a brief list of Ashkenazi accomplishments in the last 90 years.

Melodic Minds: Music has been revered in Jewish religious traditions for 3,000 years. Klezmer “reached a very high level of sophistication and ornamentation,” according to the Jewish Music Institute, and Ashkenazi composers and instrumentalists contribute hugely to Western classical music (one history site declares,  “The Jews ‘Own’ the Violin”). Have centuries of practice paid off? Researchers today believe music training optimizes neuron development and improves brain function in math, analysis, memory, creativity, stress management, concentration, motivation, and science. Additional information about the benefits of musical training can be found in the following chapters: “Early Years” and “School Years.”

 Education Emphasized, Way Back in B.C. – Jeremiah Unterman of Jerusalem informed me that the Torah instructs every Jewish father to teach the Torah to his children, and Marisa Landau notes on a futurepundit.com 6/4/05 discussion that it’s forbidden by the Jewish religion to keep child illiterate. Additionally, Landau  reports that Jewish women learned to read and write, a phenomenon that was unique in the ancient world. Landau also mentions that it has long been a custom among Jews to provide a full pension - for up to 10 years – to an intelligent son-in-law who wishes to entirely devote himself to study. The Jews, it seems, invented the notion of “scholarships.”

In the medieval era, the French monk, Peter Abelard (1079-1142) penned this about Jewish education: “A Jew, however poor, even if he had ten sons, would get them all to letters, not for gain as the Christians do, but for understanding of God’s law.  And not only for his sons, but his daughters.”
Nobel Prizes: Since 1950, 29% of the awards have gone to Ashkenazim, even though they represent only a small fraction of humanity. Ashkenazi achievement in this arena is 117 times greater than their population.  This pace isn’t slowing down; it is accelerating. In the 21st century, they’ve received 32% of the total, and in 2011, five of the thirteen Nobel Prize winners were Jewish – 38.5%.
Hungary in the 1930s: Ashkenazim were 6% of the population, but they comprised 55.7% of physicians, 49.2% of attorneys, 30.4% of engineers, and 59.4% of bank officers; plus, they owned 49.4% of the metallurgy industry, 41.6% of machine manufacturing, 72.8% of clothing manufacturing, and, as housing owners, they received 45.1% of Budapest rental income. Jews were similarly successful in nearby nations, like Poland and Germany.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Origins of the Non-Jewish Custom Of ‘Shlissel Challah’ (Key Bread)

The Origins of the Non-Jewish Custom Of ‘Shlissel Challah’ (Key Bread)

“The Loaf of Idolatry?”

By Shelomo Alfassa

Every year Jewish women, young and old, partake in an Ashkenazi[1] custom to place a key (such as a door key to a home), inside the dough of a loaf of bread that they bake.[2] This custom is known as shlissel challahshlissel from the German language shlüssel (key) and challah or hallah from the Hebrew for bread.[3] While a metal key is often baked within the bread, some form the bread itself into the shape of a key or even arrange sesame seeds on top in the form of a key.[4] Often times, these women gather in celebratory groups with the common belief that baking the shlissel challah will bring blessing into their homes, and specifically, the blessing of increased fiscal livelihood. There is also a seemingly new ‘custom’ of baking shlissel challah in the “merit” of a sick person, as a way of helping them recover from physical disease or trauma.[5] A poll on the popular Orthodox Jewish website imamother.com asked participants: “How do you make your schlissel [sic] challah?”[6] The 88 respondants reported: In the shape of a key 13% [12]; With a key baked in it 61% [54]; Neither, I don't do this 17% [15]; Other 7% [7].

Non-Jewish Origins
The baking of a key inside a bread is a non-Jewish custom which has its foundation in Christian, and possibly even earlier, pagan culture. At least one old Irish source tells how at times when a town was under attack, the men said, “let our women-folk be instructed in the art of baking cakes containing keys.”[7]

Keys were traditionally manufactured in the form of a cross, the traditional symbol of Christianity,[8] a physical item all Christian commoners would posses in their home.[9] On Easter, the Christian holiday which celebrates the idea of Jesus ‘rising’ from the dead, they would bake the symbol of Jesus—the key shaped like a cross—into or onto a rising loaf.[10] This was not only a religious gesture, but the bread was a special holiday treat. Sometimes these breads were wholly formed in the shape of a cross; other times the shape of a cross was made out of dough and applied on top. In the context of historically baking a key into bread—the key itself, intrinsically, was a symbol of Christianity and by extension symbolized Jesus ‘rising’ in the dough.[11]

Connection to Passover
The modern Jewish custom of baking the symbolic shlissel challah, annually takes place on the shabbat immediately following the holiday of Pessah, when tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of religiously observant Jewish women[12] practice this observance.

In Christianity, baked goods associated with keys are commonly called ‘Easter breads,’[13] and in Europe they are also known as ‘Paschals,’[14] as the holiday of Easter in the East is known as ‘Pascha’ or ‘Pascua.’ This is most likely the reason Christians often call Easter breads baked with keys Paschals.[15] Before the Romans destroyed the Beit HaMikdash (the holy Temple) in Jerusalem, the focus of the Passover holiday for the Jewish people was the Korban Pessah (lit. Pessah sacrifice, also known as the Paschal Lamb[16]). Within Christianity, Jesus is known as the ‘Paschal Lamb.’

Geographic Origins
Professor Marvin Herzog, a world renowned Yiddish linguist at Columbia University tells that dough twisted in the form of a key (among other shapes such as a ladder) were found to top challah loafs in Poland, “…the distribution of some of these things was a regional matter.”[17] As an example of the regionality, Prof. Herzog created a map demonstrating where dough was shaped as a ladder and placed on challah, and how it was specific only to certain communities and was not universal. Insomuch as a ladder motif was regional, it can be conjectured that the use of a key or key motif could have evolved the same way. Both a ladder and a key are symbolic as tools that could metaphysically help one attain heaven, as they both help ‘gain access.’

Lack of Sources
While the custom is said to be mentioned in the writings of Avraham Yehoshua Heshel (the “Apter Rav” 1748-1825) and in the Ta’amei ha-Minhagim (1891), there is no one clear source for shlissel challah. And while people will say there is a passuq attributed to it, there is not. And, even if there were, a passuq that can be linked to the practice is not the same as a source. Micha Berger, founder of the AishDas Society, [orthodox] calls this type of logic ‘reverse engineering,’ it’s like drawing a circle around an arrow in a tree, and subsequently declaring the arrow is a bullseye.[18] The idea of baking shlissel challah is not from the Torah; it’s not in the Tannaitic, Amoraitic, Savoraitic, Gaonic or Rishonic literature. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Israel’s Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim said that while baking challah with a key in it is not forbidden, “there is no meaning in doing so.”[19] Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim[20] of Mesora.Org [orthodox] teaches that:

The Torah teaches that Hashem punishes the wicked, and rewards the righteous. It does not say that challah baking or any other activity will help address our needs…When the matriarchs were barren, they did not resort to segulas, but introspected and prayed…Nothing in Torah supports this concept of segula; Torah sources reject the idea of a segula…baking challas with brachos cannot help…segulas are useless, and violate the Torah prohibition of Nichush [good luck charms]. It does not matter if the charm is a rabbit’s foot, a horseshoe, a challah, key or a red bendel. The practice assumes that forces exist, which do not, and it is idolatrous.[21]

Rabbi Reuven Mann, Principal of Yeshiva B'nei Torah in Far Rockaway, New York [orthodox] says one should ask themselves: “What connection is there between putting a key in the dough of a challah (schlissel challah) and the improvement of my material situation (parnasa)?”[22]

He says:
The dangers of deviation are very great. For by inventing new practices not prescribed by Torah one, in fact, implicitly denies the Torah. He is in effect saying that the Torah is not perfect, for it does not work in my case, and there are other man made practices out there which will work for me. In effect this is a negation of Torah and constitutes a form of idolatry, heaven forbid….[this] indicates that a person has lost faith in the authentic prescriptions of Torah. By performing these “unauthorized actions” one is implicitly affirming that there are other “forces” out there besides God which will respond to the needs of the performer of these ritualistic practices. This constitutes a form of “Avodah Zorah.”

Who Is Doing It?
As this is written in 2011, the concept and observance of shlissel challah continues to grow and be exploited, especially in the USA and among newly religious Jews who are being taught it is acceptable to use a loaf of bread and a machine made die-cut piece of brass as an intermediary between them and the Almighty.

The baking is conducted today across the Jewish spectrum. It is widely popular (but certainly not universally practiced) in both the Hassidic and non-Hassidic haredi communities.[23] It is also conducted by the Modern-Orthodox, among the ‘Yeshivish’ communities and by other American Orthodox Jews such as those with Lithuanian and German family ancestry.[24] The idea of shlissel challah is known to be taught in schools, but probably is upon the whim of the individual teacher. An informal telephone survey of 40 participants demonstrated that it has been taught in haredi educational institutions such as the Bais Yaakov and Bnos Yisroel schools in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and other locations. It is also taught by teachers in the Centrist / Zionistic Orthodox Jewish schools.[25]

After Pessah, shlissel challah can be found being sold in stores, a challah with a key right inside the bag! As the custom of shlissel challah continues to be passed along from mother to daughter and in social groups, it also has been popularized on Facebook, Twitter and promoted on other popular internet social media outlets. On the internet can even be found an anonymously distributed prayer, said to be specifically developed for those who make the key challah.[26]

An internet search will find dozens of articles and comments on shlissel challah:
·         Shlissel Challah is a segula, good omen, for parnassa, or livelihood. It's a very interesting custom with many sources and traditions.[27]
·         It's really bizarre, and EVERYONE is doing it. It was all the talk among the women at the playground. Mind you, the talk was about technique for making it, not whether the practice has any merit or makes any sense.[28]
·         My friend told me about this and we baked the key in the challah and this week we got a tax refund that we were not expecting![29]
·         I also shape a piece of dough in the shape of a key and place it lengthwise on the challah, from end to end, so that everyone can eat a piece of the key.[30]
·         I had a aunt who one year put a car key and got a new car and another year put a house key and bought a house that year.[31]
·         The economic downturn has affected virtually every community and Lakewood...For the Shabbos after Pesach, Lakewood Mayor R’ Menashe Miller arranged for a key to Lakewood’s Town Hall [to be used in schlissel challah][32]
·         This week is the week to bake shlissel challah, challah imprinted with or shaped like a key. It is a segulah for parnassah, and fun, too![33]

Halakhic Acceptance
Several clever ideas have been devised which attempt to connect the non-Jewish idea of ‘key bread’ to the Torah, however these all fail to bring a Jewish wrapper to a wholly non-Jewish tradition. A popular one attempts to inexplicably connect the idea of a spiritual “gate” to a physical “key,” during the period when Jews count the 49 days during the Omer up to the 50th day which is the holiday of Shavuot.[34] The idea of the 50th day represents the sha’ar hanun (50th gate), which according to kabbalah is known as the sha’ar binah (gate of understanding—and, since we are said to go {spiritually} from gate to gate,[35] this is why the focus is on a key, as a key will ‘unlock’ a gate.

Further, modern commentators have exploited the name of HaRambam (Maimonides), to indicate that he demonstrates an association between the idea of a key with challah.[36] Such alleged connections are baseless and are only meager attempts to legitimize the idea of shlissel challah. Nonetheless, it’s well known that HaRambam himself would have been utterly against the practice of baking a key into a bread which allegedly could influence the Almighty. It is one of HaRambam’s clear principles that any belief in an intermediary between man and God (including a physical object), is considered heretical to the Torah. He teaches that God is the only One we may serve and praise; that we may not act in this way toward anything beneath God, whether it be an angel, a star, or one of the elements; there are no intermediaries between us and God; that all our prayers should be directed towards God; and that nothing else should even be considered. This would certainly include baking a key inside a loaf of bread and/or shaping a bread in the form of a key, then expecting it to either change your fortune or influence your future.

It is up to each of us to halt legitimizing any extrahalakhic or even extraminhagic activities. The need for a quick ‘spiritual fix’ such as baking a bread with a key in it and hoping God rewards the baker(s), seems to have replaced the desire for pure prayer with kavanah (intrinsic intent). Increasingly, tefillot (prayer) is being trumped by what is ‘cool,’ ‘the in thing,’ or being ‘with it.’ The truth of the matter is, often in the observant Jewish world, people care more about ‘fitting in’ with their peers, then with God.

On the far end of the scale, it can be said that shlissel challah observance is a nothing less than ‘the way of the Amorites.’ It is precisely this type of behavior and observance which Jews are supposed to separate themselves from, so it doesn’t go on to influence our thoughts and deeds. Am Yisrael was not created to lose itself in such folklore, and Judaism without disciplined study is nothing but folklore. Judaism allows and encourages the use of our minds. It’s never too late to realign our path with Torah sources, not blind faith practices which are “trendy,” “in,” or “cool.”

Educated Jews should help to promote Torah sources to our friends and neighbors, not false practices which are of non-Jewish origin and have nothing to do with Judaism.

Shelomo Alfassa is a Judaic studies educator and author who focuses on history, rabbinics and talmud. He works at the Center for Jewish History in NYC.

[1] Jews with family roots in countries of Europe and Asia such as Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, etc. Note: In the once popular The Hallah Book, the author mentions that key bread originated in eighteenth century Ukraine, but did not provide a source or citation. See: Reider, Freda. The Hallah Book. New York: Ktav, 1986. 21
[2] Note: as of late, this custom is becoming increasingly common among Sephardic Jews as well due to co-mingling of communities and day-to-day social intercourse.
[3] aka shlisl khale
[4] A photograph of a shlissel challah exists in the Encyclopedia Judaica, 1972 edition, volume 6 page 1419. The loaf, with a long metal key impressed and left to bake on top, is captioned: “Hallah from Volhynia [Western Ukraine near Poland and Belarus] for the first Sabbath after Passover. The key placed on top of the loaf symbolizes the ‘gate of release’ which traditionally remains open for a month after the festival.”
[5] [Shlissel Challah for Refuah Shlaima] (Are you or anyone you know baking challah this week? Someone is trying to put together a group of 'bakers' for a zechus for a complete refuah shelayma for Rochel Leah Bas Miriam Toba[.] If you can participate, please email: sandyn@... Either way, please have her in mind in your tefillos.
Tizku L'mitzvos!) groups.yahoo.com/group/FrumSingleMoms/message/663
[6] imamother.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=111317 Poll was in April 2010
[7] O'Brien, Flann. The Best of Myles. Normal, IL; Dalkey Archive Press, 1968. 393
[8] Small breads with the sign of the cross have been found as far back as 79 CE in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum (see The New York Times March 31, 1912). This was when Christianity emerged in Roman Judea as a Jewish religious sect which gradually spread out of Jerusalem.
[9] This was no different than the poor Jews of the ‘old world,’ who often would not have holy books but would certainly have a mezuzah on their door which they considered a holy script in their own home.
[10] Another account mentions a key in a loaf: “In other parts of Esthonia [sic], again, the Christmas Boar [cake], as it is called, is baked of the first rye cut at harvest; it has a conical shape and a cross is impressed on it with a pig’s bone or a key, or three dints are made in it with a buckle or a piece of charcoal. It stands with a light beside it on the table all through the festival season.” See: Frazer, James George. The Golden Bough. London: Macmillan and Co., 1920. VII. Part 5. 302 (Thanks go to Rabbi Yossie Azose who led me to this mention. Rabbi Azose said: “It's a sad commentary on the state of Jewry today that such a custom [shlissel challah] has become so widespread and accepted; moreover that there are not more contemporary Torah leaders who are not decrying this practice.” Via email December 20, 2011.)
[11] Similar, there are modern non-Jewish customs, such as in Mexico, where a ‘baby Jesus’ figurine is baked into cupcakes; often, the child who finds it wins a prize. This is also practiced in the U.S. state of Louisiana beginning at Mardi Gras and practiced for 30 days after. There, a ‘baby Jesus’ toys baked into a whole cake, and whoever finds the baby in their piece has to buy the next day's cake. In Spain, there is a tradition of placing a small Jesus doll inside a cake and whoever finds it must take it to the nearest church on February 2, Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria), which celebrates the presentation of Jesus in Jerusalem.
[12] This includes women of all backgrounds, including Hassidic and non-Hassidic, Modern Orthodox, etc.
[13] Chandler, Richard. Travels in Asia Minor. London 1776. 158 (It’s been supposed the British custom of ‘cross-buns,’ small rolls with a cross on them eaten on the Christian holiday of Good Friday {the Day of the Cross}, probably arose from this.)
[14]Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin (103–165 CE), was an early Christian apologist. He depicted the paschal lamb as being offered in the form of a cross and he claimed that the manner in which the paschal lamb was slaughtered prefigured the crucifixion of Jesus. Some opinions indicate rabbinic evidence shows that in Jerusalem the Jewish paschal lamb was offered in a manner which resembled a crucifixion. (See: Tabory, Joseph. “From The Crucifixion of the Paschal Lamb.” The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 86, No. 3/4 (Jan.-Apr., 1996), pp. 395-406.
[15] Paschal derives from the Latin paschalis or pashalis, which means “relating to Easter,” from Latin pascha (‘Passover,’ i.e. the Easter Passover’), Greek Πάσχα, Aramaic pasḥā, in turn from the Hebrew pessah, which means “to be born on, or to be associated with, Passover day.” Since the Hebrew holiday Passover coincides closely with the later Christian holiday of Easter, the Latin word came to be used for both occasions.
[16] Driscoll, James F. “Paschal Lamb.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.
[17] Herzog, Marvin. The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History. Bloomington, Indiana University, 1965. 30-32.
[18] See. aishdas.org/avodah/vol25/v25n384.shtml & aishdas.org/avodah/vol28/v28n067.shtml#03
[19] ravaviner.com/2011/04/shut-sms-110.html
[20] Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim has been a Jewish educator for 25 years. He is the founder of www.Mesora.org and publisher of the JewishTimes.
[21] “Segulas: Open Letter about the Shliss Challah from Moshe Ben-Chaim” (Mesora.Org) reposted on aishdas.org/avodah/vol28/v28n067.shtml#12
[22] Mann, Reuven. “Segulas II: Be-emunah Shlaimah: With Perfect Faith.” mesora.org/segulasII.htm
[23] While some families have a minhag (tradition) of schlisshel challah, others have none.
[24] It also occasionally takes place by those in the Reform and Conservative synagogue movements and at ‘JCC’ Jewish Community Centers.
[25] Survey conducted by this author November 12, 2011-December 1, 2011 (This includes the Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn, NY, the first Orthodox Jewish elementary school for girls in North America).
[26] thefivetowns.com/images/schlisseltefillah.pdf
[27] thekosherchannel.com/kosher-recipes-blog.html
[28] backoftheshul.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=3581
[29] asimplejew.blogspot.com/2007/04/guest-posting-by-talmid-shlissel.html
[30] imamother.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=149108
[31] imamother.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2033
[32] jewishupdates.com/2011/05/09/key-to-lakewood%E2%80%99s-town-hall-used-for-shlissel-challah/
[33] metroimma.com/group/shabbatchallah
[34] You shall count for yourselves - from the day following the holiday, the day when you bring the omer as a wave-offering - for seven complete weeks. Until the after the seventh week you shall count - fifty days…. (Lev. 23:15-16)
[35] From Rabbi Jacob ben Sheshet of Spain, is where we find the the concept and idea that the fifty gates (examined by the original kabbalists in the milieu of where the Zohar was written), represent a way to understand the Torah, “Fifty gates consist of five sets of ten gates, each set explicating one of the five parts of the Pentateuch.” See: Idel, Moshe. Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah And Interpretation. Binghamton: Vail-Ballou Press, 2002. 212 / Also, this very subjective concept has its origin in the Talmud (Gemara RH 21b), and even there, there is more than one interpretation. Further, the connection to the Omer is clearly out of context, as what the Gemara says is that “Fifty gates of understanding were created in the world, and all were given to Moshe except one.” This, of course, is completely unrelated to the topic of the Omer.
[36] Purportedly we learn from the “Tzvi LaTzadik” that he lists at the beginning of his Hilkhot Hamets uMatsa, that there are 8 mitsvot (3 positive and 5 negative) involved with connecting the idea of a key with challah. The alleged indication is that the key that is put in the challah alludes to the letters מפתח (key) spell פ״ת ח׳ מ׳צות. (פ״ת is bread, representing the “hamets” and מ׳ is for matsa- these allude to Hilkhot Hamets uMatsa, and the ח׳ is the 8 mitsvot involved).

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Heaven help us for this total distortion of Judaism!

Dear haredi Jew,

It is unacceptable for so many of you in Israel not to stand still when the siren sounds for the 6 million and for our fallen soldiers. Nor is it acceptable for you to ignore Israel's Independence Day.

Circulating the web in Israel is a video of an ultra-haredi journalist explaining in Hebrew why the haredi community doesn’t stand in respect when sirens are sounded throughout Israel on Holocaust Memorial Day and on Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers, and why they don’t celebrate Israel Independence Day.

The journalist states: “The haredim do not identify with Zionist ideology. We do not celebrate the independence of the State of Israel, nor mourn for the soldiers who fell on its behalf. We believe that observing the Torah is what safeguards the Jewish People.”

First of all, it is true that Hashem promises that the national observance of Torah safeguards the Jewish People. But the way Hashem does this is via the armies of Israel. From the time of Moses, Joshua, and King David, through the days of Mordechai, Yehuda the Maccabee, and Rabbi Akiva, the fighters of Israel have risked their lives in battling the enemies of the Jewish People.

Today, the holy task of defending the Jewish People is entrusted to the Israel Defense Forces, may Hashem watch over them. The Gemara states, “War is also the beginning of Redemption,” (Megilla 17B).  In our daily prayers, we refer to Hashem as, “Master of wars.” Mashiach, may he come soon, will lead the armies of Israel against all of its enemies, (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 11:4). The Torah itself cites a dozen commandments incumbent on Israel’s armed forces.

The assertion that, “The Torah will safeguard the Jewish People” is a hollow claim. The Torah didn’t safeguard the holy communities in Jerusalem and Hevron during the Arab Pogrom of 1929, nor did it save the pious communities in Europe from Nazi bullets and crematories. If not for the IDF, the haredi neighborhoods in Mea Shearim and Bnei Brak would last about five minutes.  

The haredi journalist continues: “The haredi narrative is not the Zionist narrative. Therefore, we have no reason to be joyous on Israel Independence Day, and we have no reason to mourn on Memorial Day.”

Our Sages have taught that someone who separates himself from the general community and doesn’t participate in its joys and sorrows, separates himself from the Nation and has no place in the World to Come.

The anti-Zionists among the haredim maintain that everything is in the hands of G-d, except the establishment of the State of Israel and the last 100 years of Jewish History – that’s all the work of the Satan.

Heaven help us for this total distortion of Judaism.

The haredi journalist states that standing in silent memory for fallen soldiers is a custom of the Gentiles, and that Jewish Law provides other ways of memorializing the dead. Assuming this is true, does Jewish Law allow for haredim to desecrate the name of G-d, and bring the Torah into shame, when, at the sounding of the memorial siren, many of them continue to go about their business while the rest of the Nation stands in gratitude and respect?

In all fairness, he emphasizes that the anti-social behavior is not a sign of disrespect for the fallen soldiers and murdered Jews, but rather the haredi community’s allegiance to the laws of the Torah – as they interpret them. After all, he adds, many haredi soldiers were killed in Israel’s wars, and in terrorist attacks, and haredi Jews filled Hitler’s gas chambers, although they were not called that then, along with everyone else. Rather, he explains, the haredi community has better ways to honor their memories, such as learning Torah and reciting Psalms, than by standing in silence.

To my way of thinking a religious person can do both. What’s the big deal? I recite Psalms while I stand. Why hold yourself aloof from your fellow Jews, especially when you know that your behavior only causes contempt for religious Jews and Torah?

If these “holier-than-thou” Jews don’t respect the feelings of the rest of the Nation, then instead of enjoying the benefits of living in the State of Israel and getting its government medical services, hospitals, yeshiva subsidies, unemployment benefits, electricity, water, plumbing, street cleaning, garbage pick-up, police and military security, and the like, let them pack their bags and join the infiltrators from Africa on government-paid flights to Uganda.

May the memory of the fallen be for a blessing, may their murders be avenged, and happy Yom Haatzmaut!


Wednesday, April 11, 2018


by Anonymous:


It was at the same time hilarious and loathsome to bystanders. On Friday afternoon, April 13, 2007 (two days after Passover 5767), a 31-year-old ultra-Orthodox lawyer jumped to his death from a 69th-floor office of the Empire State Building in NYC. "Only in New York," said a yokel bus driver, "Only in New York." Visiting tourists dashed to the 33rd street to take pictures of the leg severed below a knee, which sluggish cops didn't cover right away. Theresa Colon, a tourist from Virginia, shrieked: "I cried and got sick to my stomach, I pray he knew who God was."

That lawyer knew who God was. He knew it a lot better than silly southerner Ms. Colon would ever know. I know it because that lawyer was a gifted Jewish scholar and my long time chavrusa at the Ner Yisroel of Baltimore, Moshe Menachem Kanovsky zt"l. I recollect the sleepless nights we spent in Bais Midrash going over and over Gemara with Rashi, Tosafos, Rishonim, Acharonim, and Shulchan Aruch. Moshe Kanovsky polished off many masechtos and knew many Mussar books by heart. Moshe Menachem had really earned his Semicha (the rabbinical ordination).

The New York bus driver was also dead wrong. Not "only in New York." In fact, it started in Baltimore, at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College. And I know it started with rabbi Moshe Eisemann. I reminisce how he would unflaggingly approach Moshe Menachem, I recall that Moshe frequented him on Shabbosos. Was Moshe Kanovsky raped by rabbi Eisemann? I can't say for sure. And I will not make it up about my beloved dead chaver merely to get some people "excited" with the new evidence against gay and pedophile rabbi Moshe Eisemann. But something happened. And it happened when Moshe Kanovsky was a student at Ner Yisroel, and it had something to do with rabbi Moshe Eisemann.

Moshe Menachem suddenly became withdrawn and stopped coming to seder. Through much of the day he slept in his dorm room or listened to Rush Limbaugh's talk show. On one occasion he decided to pour out his heart to one of his rebbeim whom he trusted a lot - rabbi Shraga Neuberger. After that Moshe Kanovsky got even more disheartened. What did "rav Shragi" tell him? I talked with Moshe and his roommates who knew about that conversation. This is the story: rabbi Shraga Neuberger (his shaggy beard still proudly displaying bits of his last dinner) laughed off Moshe Menachem's plea for help and added with an acrimonious wink, "I wonder if you will ever find a shidduch (get married) in your lifetime!" I bear witness that those were rabbi Shraga Neuberger's precise words.

Shortly thereafter Moshe Kanovsky left Baltimore for New York City. I doubt that Moshe went there with an intent to be with his father Yaakov. He was always closer to his mother and siblings who lived in Silver Spring (his parents got divorced in Philadelphia when Moshe was eight). Most likely, he assumed that he would get help from his famed uncle rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe and head of the Agudath Israel of America. Later I discovered that the Rebbe didn't help Moshe Menachem. Was that because his nephew was less important for "der Rebbe" than his relationship with the powerful NIRC, Agudath Israel, and rabbi Moshe Eisemann? I believe so.

Moshe was an educator, a rabbi, a lecturer, Jack-of-all-religious-trades but not a lawyer. Law was never his passion. He had to go to the Cardozo Law School because ostentatiously holy NYC and Baltimore rabbis with much blood on their hands were afraid of his lofty moral standards and did everything in their power to keep him out of the "klei kodesh" field. They also did an outstanding job to fulfill rabbi Shraga Neuberger's after-dinner "prophecy" ("I wonder if you will ever find a shidduch in your lifetime!"). But anyhow Moshe Menachem spent most of his free time learning Torah and helping poor people in NYC with free legal advice and Torah classes.

I had never been a big fan of conspiracy theories, muckraking, or sensationalism. However, I was wholly unprepared to learn about Moshe Kanovsky's suicide. I knew him well as a highly intelligent, kind-hearted, and soft-spoken soul, who knew fairly well even prior to becoming a rabbi what the Jewish Law warns about suicide, and I doubt he could have done it even taking into consideration possible manic depression / post-molestation effects. Likewise, as stated by the newspapers, all his family and friends didn't notice "any significant changes in his emotional state, even as he started working part-time for an attorney in the Empire State Building."

Many posters on the Internet acknowledged that he didn't jump but was pushed out of the window as it appeared from the security cameras' footage. At first it sounds crazy and distorted, but reason out who was that last "client" whom Moshe saw before abruptly interrupting his meeting with him and going to "another room" to jump out of the window? Why were there wrangling statements from Moshe's law firm denying that he ever worked there? What's more, two days prior to Moshe's death, right after Passover, the Vaad Harabbonim (Rabbinical Council of Greater Baltimore) mailed their infamous letter to the members of Baltimore's Orthodox community on the issue of sexual abuse. Moreover, Moshe Menachem died on the day the Baltimore Jewish Times published its cover story on the contemptible sexual predator rabbi Ephraim F. Shapiro!

Questions. Questions with no definitive answers... We want to rid our religion of child molesters, but we disregard the fact that they are not pure rapists. They deliver inspiring lectures, possess a compelling writing style, raise generations of students, establish important connections. Make an effort to uproot these potentates! The iniquitous child-molesting rabbis groom many disciples wholly saturated with their venom who later occupy positions of authority to safeguard their teachers. A parallel comes to mind with the students of the wicked Balaam (who was a sexual pervert too and, according to Sanhedrin 105b, even had relations with his donkey). Balaam's disciples of today also fit nicely with their definition in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:22) as having "an evil eye," "an arrogant spirit," and "a greedy soul."

A small number of people cover up for rapists because they sincerely believe the molesters were slandered, other craven underlings lick the ass of the mighty and powerful because they are no different than them. We know that a person who is a sexual predator or enabler flouts his own religious doctrines. That's the reason the Agudath Israel is a cringing supporter of all Catholic bills - the people whose ancestors were systematically tortured to death and burned at the stake by that very Catholic Church itself!

Eisemanns are covered up by hobnobbing Ner Yisroel and Baltimore Mafia leaders because they are one and the same: all of them need to live in luxury edifices, take expensive vacations, and be "respectable." Learn from the Agudath Israel! That name means "a bundle" or "a bunch" in Hebrew. In truth, they do work like a bunch of thugs. We also need to group together. Until that happens, we will be ignominiously defeated every step of the way! Firing single email shots from behind your browser can't help a great deal. We need to establish an incorruptible, powerful, and brave organization outside the Internet. We need a place to go to where we will never be betrayed by our leaders who are in reality self-appointed narcissistic cowards!

Until that happens, we will be doomed. What happens when you speak up in Baltimore against the "religious" atrocities of explosive, disgruntled, but still "infallible" leaders, who effectively hold all power in their hands? You will be chased out of all shuls by their NIRC-dependent bellowing from the pulpit mealy-mouthed rabbis, ostracized by the indignated and held in thrall to the establishment "community," get threats in the mail, and face mud-slinging and character assassination. You will be forced out of town like rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau's daughter who was molested by her dad. Because at this point in the real (not virtual!) world only these criminals have the real dominance.

The gist of Passover is freedom. One very unwell person on the Internet made a crafty calculation that Moshe Kanovsky was falling down from the Empire State Building for 4.9254203994149455 seconds. It's really irrelevant if Moshe Menachem jumped himself or was plunged by mobsters, because we know who is responsible for his death, which in actuality started many years ago at NIRC. But I believe that in those final five seconds of his short bright life he (like the Jewish children in the days of the Talmud who jumped off the Roman ship to drown themselves in order to escape molestation) was really free. Free from rabbi Moshe Eisemann's sexual improprieties, free from rabbi Shraga Neuberger's sardonic laughter, free from his uncle's hypocrisy. Free from that heinous tinged with cynicism lie that we now call "Orthodox Judaism," which is in reality inimical to every single thing the Torah-true Judaism stood for all the erstwhile generations of our pure grandparents. And those five seconds of freedom were worth an entire life in this world.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

82 year old Renee Rabinowitz—a Holocaust survivor—sued El Al for making her move, and won a $14,000 court judgment

Israeli airports won’t tell women that they don’t have to change seats at the request of ultra-Orthodox Jews


People might be surprised to find that, although Israel is seen as a "Jewish state," how secular it really is. As Phil Zuckerman notes in the article I mentioned the other day:
The only nation of secular significance in the Middle East is Israel; 37 percent of Israelis are atheist or agnostic (Kedem 1995) and 75 percent of Israelis define themselves as ‘‘not religious’’ or having a ‘‘non-religious orientation.’’ (Dashefsky et al. 2003).
That's a lot more secular than the U.S., but not a surprise to many Jews. As the old joke goes, "What do you call a Jew who doesn't believe in God?" Answer: "A Jew."  But Israel still caters to its Orthodox minority, even when simple decency says that it shouldn't.
A case in point, documented by both The Guardian and Newsweek, involves a subject I've written about before: ultra-Orthodox ("Haredi") Jews refusing to sit by women, and airlines trying to accommodate these religionists by moving the women. (See my posts here, here, here, here, and here.)  In the most recent case, documented in the last two links, 82 year old Renee Rabinowitz—a Holocaust survivor—sued El Al for making her move, and won a $14,000 court judgment with the help of the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC), the Israeli equivalent of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. That judgment also prohibited gender discrimination in seating.
But recently the IRAC wanted to put up ads at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, letting women know that they had the legal right to keep their seats despite the complaints of bigoted religionists. (The ruling against gender discrimination in seating applies to both buses and planes, by decree of the Israeli supreme court.) Sadly, the airport refused, which is tantamount to refuse to inform women of their legal rights.  The Israeli airport authority banned the ads as being "politically divisive."
Here's the ad that was banned:
Well, it's not at all politically divisive. It may be religiously divisive, but I think most of us agree that where religious dictum conflicts with civil rights, the latter must win. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. I hope the airports reconsider, as their refusal to tell women of their rights allows religious sentiments to trump civil liberties.
IRAC also had a campaign video, which I've embedded below. The narrator turns into Woody Allen at about 1:20:

URL: https://wp.me/ppUXF-YBc