Monthly Archives: December 2005

Rebel Rabbi England’s Top Jew Of All Time

The UPI reports:

Jews in Britain have voted a controversial 85-year-old rabbi from Manchester as the greatest member of their community.

The winner in the poll by The Jewish Chronicle was Louis Jacobs, a ground-breaking Jewish thinker noted for his attempt to reconcile modern scholarship and Orthodox teachings, reports the Independent newspaper.

He won over other illustrious British Jews including Harold Pinter, Isaiah Berlin and Benjamin Disraeli. His victory was heralded as a "stinging rebuke to fundamentalism," which could upset some in the Orthodox establishment.

The polling was done to celebrate next year’s 350th anniversary of the readmission of Jews to England by Oliver Cromwell, the report said.

Jacobs said: "I feel both embarrassed and daft. I am overwhelmed and feel totally unworthy."

In the 1960s and 1970s, Jacobs’ attempt to combine traditional theology with biblical criticism led to his leaving the United Synagogue and in the rise of the more liberal Masorti Judaism in Britain.

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Forward Reports Rabbi Who Resigned From RCA In Support Of Rabbi Mordechai Tendler Is Rabbi Tendler’s Wife’s Cousin – Did Not Disclose Relationship When Publicly Criticizing RCA

The Forward reports:

Last week the Brooklyn-based Jewish Press published an open letter from
Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz announcing his resignation from the RCA in
connection to the Tendler controversy. Faskowitz quit the RCA after a
Jerusalem regional rabbinical court characterized the organization as
being in violation of its rulings.

Tendler had filed a complaint with the Jerusalem court in July, claiming that the RCA had violated rabbinic law by expelling him without bringing the charges to an independent rabbinical court. The RCA has responded that according to rabbinic law, a summons is not to be sent from one city to another if both litigants live in one city, and that therefore the Jerusalem court has no jurisdiction in the matter.

[The RCA’s president Rabbi Dale] Polakoff said that his office had received no notice of an official resignation from Faskowitz or anybody else.

RCA sources say that Faskowitz is actually a cousin of Mordecai
Tendler’s wife, Michelle. Faskowitz could not be reached for comment.

If true, this lack of disclosure is another black eye for the wider Tendler-Feinstein family. The RCA should be happy to be rid of Rabbi Faskowitz.

UPDATE: Jason Maoz, editor of the Jewish Press, tells Steven I. Weiss that Rabbi Faskowitz did not inform the RCA of his resignation or discuss resigning with them before his "open letter" appeared in the Jewish Press. Rabbi Faskowitz used the Jewish Press to ambush the RCA and specifically forbade the Jewish Press from seeking comment from the RCA before his "open letter" ran. This type of conduct is reprehensible and unethical.

Is this another black eye for the Tendler-Feinstein family? You bet it is.

Continue reading

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Filed under Crime, Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Lies, Spin and 'Creative' PR, Modern Orthodoxy

Rabbis Dance To Nirvana

Rabbis dance to Nirvana. Is that Rav Shteinman in the front row? Pretty hip for a guy who didn’t know how a credit card works.

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Rabbi Moshe Tendler Backs Intelligent Design Quid-Pro-Quo Deal To Save Son Accused Of Abuse?

Mariah Blake of the Miami New Times reports :

On a recent Tuesday evening, Moshe Tendler, an influential Orthodox rabbi and Yeshiva University biology professor, ambled onto the stage at Kovens Conference Center in North Miami. A stately figure with a wispy white beard and heavy glasses, he surveyed the 300-strong crowd of scientists and intellectuals — most clad in yarmulkes and dark suits with tallith tassels dangling about their waists — and urged them to spread the word that Darwin was wrong. "It is our task to inform the world [about intelligent design]," he implored. "Or the child growing up will grow up with unintelligent design…. Unintelligent design is our ignorance, our stupidity."

This may seem an unlikely message from a prominent Jewish biologist. After all, intelligent design theory — which holds that life is too complex to be a fluke of evolution — has been crafted primarily by evangelical Christians and spurned by most scientists.

But some Jewish leaders, like Tendler, have begun to quietly embrace the theory. And several of them went public with their support during the Sixth Miami International Conference on Torah and Science, which ran from December 13 to 15 and was hosted by Florida International University’s religious studies department, the Shul of Bal Harbour, and B’Or Ha’Torah journal of science. In an area with the second highest concentration of Jews after New York — there are 113,000 in Miami-Dade alone — the event attracted about 1000 Jewish researchers, intellectuals, teachers, and students. There was also one prominent evangelical: Intelligent design luminary William Dembski was among the event’s featured speakers.

The conversation proved divisive. Tendler kicked off the conference by attacking the idea that complex life could flow from "random evolution." "That is irrational," he said.

As soon as Tendler finished speaking, biologist Sheldon Gottlieb rushed to one of two microphones perched in the aisles. "We all know evolution is not random," he grumbled. "It goes through the filter of natural selection…. You cannot use those arguments with this audience." Tendler and Gottlieb sparred for about five minutes. Meanwhile long lines began to form at the mikes. But the moderator cut the question-and-answer session short and sent the crowd home.

Dembski, a slender man in a tweed blazer and a forest green oxford shirt, spoke the following morning, and more than 400 people packed in to see him. Besides Jewish scientists and intellectuals, the crowd included students from the Hebrew Academy and the Lubavitch Educational Center, as well as a busload of girls from Orthodox Beis Chana School, who arrived with Pumas and Nikes tucked beneath their ankle-length skirts.

Much of Dembski’s talk concentrated on the evidence of design in nature. He offered the classic example of the tiny flagella that bacteria use to propel themselves through their environment. "They can spin at 100,000 rpm," Dembski marveled. "And then in a quarter-turn, they’re spinning the other direction. Imagine if a blender could do that…. Is it such a stretch to think a real engineer was involved?"

After about 45 minutes, Dembski wrapped up his talk, and dozens of attendees swarmed the microphones again, many of them eager to air their objections. "Our speaker has fuzzied the main issue," complained Nathan Aviezar, who teaches physics at Bar Ilan University in Israel. "The whole enterprise of science is to explain life without invoking supernatural explanations. Intelligent design is not science, it’s religion, and it shouldn’t be taught in science class."

The contentious Q&A lasted 25 minutes. When it was done, dozens of scientists rushed to the front to pelt Dembski with questions. The hubbub lasted so long that Sholom Lipskar of the Shul was pushed off the agenda.

Lipskar, a soft-spoken man with a thick charcoal beard and wire-rim spectacles, ranks among Miami’s most influential rabbis. And like Tendler, he believes Jews should back the intelligent design movement. "The fundamental question the theory answers is, accidental or intentional?" he explains. "If it’s accidental, then what’s the point? But if there’s design, we’re here for a reason." Lipskar also advocates bringing intelligent design into Jewish classrooms. "It should be taught together with chemistry and physics," he says.

In fact much of the debate at Torah and Science turned to whether intelligent design should be integrated into Jewish-school science classes; Miami’s Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education even signed on as a sponsor. The organization’s president, Chaim Botwinick, says the event is a harbinger. "Many Jewish schools are beginning to discuss making intelligent design an integral part of their curriculum," he explains. Among them, he adds, are a handful of schools in Miami, a city that has long been a stronghold of traditional Judaism.

What do the students think? Many of those who heard Dembski speak said they would like to study his ideas in class. "His words make sense," commented Annale Fleisher, a seventeen-year-old senior at Miami Beach’s Hebrew Academy. "Saying life comes from evolution is like saying a library was made by someone spilling a bottle of ink."

Nathan Katz, who heads the Center for the Study of Spirituality at FIU and was one of the conference organizers, says the enthusiasm some Torah devotees express for intelligent design reflects a growing alliance between traditional Jews and evangelical Christians. The two groups have found themselves on the same side of many culture war battles. And evangelicals have funneled tens of millions of dollars into Israel. "The monstrous evangelical support for that country has led some Orthodox Jews to be willing to listen to evangelicals on other issues," Katz explains.

For his part, Dembski hopes the conversation that began at the Torah and Science conference will continue, and that some Jewish scientists will eventually lend their talents to the intelligent design movement. "It would be huge in terms of PR because it would give lie to this idea that this is just a conservative Christian thing," he explains. "It would also expand our talent pool immensely."

But critics in the audience at the conference chafed at the prospect of Jewish scientists contributing to a movement that has stated as its goal the "overthrow" of "scientific materialism." "We would be helping to eliminate science as a discipline," said Aviezar. "And that would put us back in the Fifteenth Century. It would be a disaster."

The Rabbinical Council of America just issued a statement in support of evolution. Rabbi Tendler was a member of the RCA but has distanced himself from the group because of the RCA’s expulsion of Rabbi Tendler’s son after multipile sexual abuse allegations were made against him. Rabbi Tendler and his brother-in-law Rabbi Dovid Feinstein have worked to damage the RCA in any way possible. Could these two issues be linked? After all, Rabbi Feinstein was a leader of the ban (start from bottom of page and read upward) against Rabbi Slifkin and Rabbi Tendler did not speak up in Rabbi Slifkin’s behalf. Perhaps we have a kind of quid-pro-quo here.

Rabbi Tendler did not answer my earlier request for comment on Intelligent Design and his participation in this conference.

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Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Slifkin Book Ban, Science

Israel Admits White Orthodox Rabbis Descriminate Against Ordained Ethiopian Orthodox Rabbis – Prime Minister Mandates Change

In a shocking article, Matthew Wagner of the Jerusalem Post documents official discrimination against Ethiopian Rabbis by Israel’s religious councils and city rabbis:

PMO orders equality for Ethiopian rabbis

Matthew Wagner, THE JERUSALEM POST


Dec. 27, 2005

The Prime Minister’s Office ordered religious councils Monday to stop
what it called "apparent discrimination" against Ethiopian rabbis and
kessim (traditional Ethiopian spiritual leaders).

Meir Spiegler, head of the National Authority for Religious Services in
the Prime Minister’s Office, wrote a letter Sunday evening to all
religious council chairmen acknowledging the problem and issuing
"unambiguous directives."

The Prime Minister’s Office transferred NIS 5.823 million in 2005 for
the 71 Ethiopian spiritual leaders’ salaries, which means the average
gross monthly salary was NIS 6,834, significantly lower than other
comparably trained rabbis. Not all of this money, however, is being
transferred from the religious councils to the rabbis themselves,
according to attorney Sharon Abraham-Weiss of the Association for Civil
Rights in Israel.

Spiegler’s letter therefore ordered the religious councils to make
certain all of the funds transferred by the Prime Minister’s Office
reach their intended recipients.

The letter was the first official government document to acknowledge
discrimination against the rabbis and kessim by the religious councils,
said Abraham-Weiss.

"Finance Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office representatives admitted
there is discrimination during a meeting of the Knesset Committee for
Immigration, Absorption and the Diaspora. It is recorded in the
minutes. But now we also have an official document that says so," he
said.

Abraham-Weiss represents 13 Ethiopians ordained by the Israeli
Rabbinate who are employed by religious councils and 58 kessim who have
no Orthodox rabbinic training, but were spiritual leaders in Ethiopia.

"All 13 rabbis receive significantly lower salaries than the comparable
non-Ethiopian rabbis, even though they have the same training," said
Abraham-Weiss.

He cited as an example Rabbi Shai Ma’arad, an ordained rabbi who works
in Arad’s religious council, who receives NIS 4,522 a month, instead of
the NIS 7,074 received by his fellow workers. "Ma’arad’s situation is
representative of all the rabbis," said Abraham-Weiss.

"The status of the kessim is more complicated from a legal standpoint
because there is no comparable position for non-Ethiopians in religious
councils," he added.

Rabbi Moshe Rauchverger, Chairman of the Union of Neighborhood Rabbis, denied there was any discrimination.

"Kessim are not rabbis any more than reform rabbis or Christian priests
are rabbis," said Rauchverger, who claimed kessim had no real knowledge
of Orthodox Judaism and had strong Christian and pagan influences.

"If we were to recognize kessim, we would have recognize reform rabbis or Christian priests," he added.

Regarding the 13 ordained Ethiopian rabbis, Rauchverger said it was the
Prime Minister’s Office’s responsibility to make sure they got paid,
not the religious council’s.

Both kessim and ordained Ethiopian rabbis have an ambiguous legal
status. The rabbis and kessim were first hired by the state in 2002
based on a 1995 cabinet decision that created official spiritual
leadership functions for the Ethiopian community. Unlike other rabbis,
who receive 60 percent of their salary from religious councils and 40%
from the Prime Minister’s Office, Ethiopian rabbis receive 100% of
their salary from the Prime Minister’s office.

On Monday the Ethiopian spiritual leaders had planned a large
demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s Office to protest their
receiving less pay than their non-Ethiopian counterparts. They had also
planned to demonstrate against the rabbinic establishment’s ambiguous
stance on the Ethiopians’ halachic definition as Jews.

The demonstration was later called off due to bad weather, but not before Spiegler issued the letter.

Spiegler’s letter also called on religious councils to adhere to a
Supreme Court ruling issued in July 2004 ordering all marriage
registrars to treat Ethiopians like any other Israeli citizen.

"Most religious council registrars refuse to serve Ethiopians," said
Jasmine Keshet of Tebeka, a pro bono legal advocacy organization for
the Ethiopian community.

"Every Ethiopian couple that applies for a marriage certificate is
referred to Rabbi Yosef Hadana, who has an office in Tel Aviv. Couples
and their witnesses are forced to travel long distances from Haifa,
Ashdod, Arad, Safed and other cities to register," she said. Although
certain rabbinic councils in places such as Netanya marry Ethiopian
couples without a conversion, these councils only have authority over
couples that live in their area; all others must go to Hadana’s office
in Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Reuven Yasu, an Ethiopian rabbi who helps Ethiopian couples
register for marriage in Beit Shemesh and Gedera by proving they are
Jewish according to halachic standards, said that the rabbinic
establishment refuses to take a stand on Ethiopian Jewry’s halachic
status. This causes hardship for hundreds of Ethiopian couples wishing
to be married by the rabbinate, he said.

"The chief rabbis of some towns and cities accept the halachic decision
issued by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Shlomo Goren that Beta Israel
Ethiopians, as opposed to Falash Muras, are full-fledged Jews and are
not obligated to immerse themselves in a mikve [ritual bath]," he said.
"In these towns there is no problem for Ethiopian couples who prove
they are from Beta Israel to get married."

Most towns and cities, however, follow the Chief Rabbinic Council’s
directive in 1985 that demanded all Beta Israel Ethiopians immerse in a
mikve before they are registered for marriage, he said.

No Ethiopians agree to undergoing conversions prior to marriage
nowadays, Yasu said, "so everybody is sent to Rabbi Hadana, who accepts
Beta Israel Ethiopians without immersion in a mikve. That means many
are forced to travel a long distance to get to Rabbi Hadana."

"The rabbinate has to decide once and for all whether Ethiopians are
Jews or not. I’m not trying to tell them what to do. If they say
Ethiopians have to be immersed in a mikve that’s fine, but they should
come out and say it clearly."

Here are the pay rates in US dollars:

White Orthodox rabbi – $1,540
Black Orthodox rabbi –  $  985

While not all rabbis are racist, most certainly are. Ethiopian rabbis have been complaining about this discrimination for years. Outside of one or two Sefardi rabbis, no one stood up for them – and this includes the rabbis of the settler movement and modern orthodoxy, along with the ‘gedolim’ of the haredi world. Shame on them all.

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Filed under Ethiopian Jews, Haredim, Israel, Jewish Leadership, Modern Orthodoxy

More Deceptive Advertising From Oorah & Kars4Kids

Kars4kids_email_1

[Please click on image to enlarge.]

Oorah sent the above e-mail to its list today. Note what it says:

Proceeds benefit Joy for Our Youth. J.O.Y. is an international organization providing for the physical, emotional,  and spiritual needs of distressed and at-risk youth.

Again, J.O.Y. gifts all of its money to Oorah. Oorah is a sectarian missionary organization whose sole declared purpose according to it’s IRS filings is "kiruv," Jewish religious outreach, and related educational scholarships to Orthodox Jewish Schools. And Oorah gives less than 38% of its income to those causes and shows extremely high expenses.

Oorah, J.O.Y. and Kars4Kids are all run by Rabbis Chaim and Eliyohu Mintz. Kars4Kids and J.O.Y. serve as front-organizations for Oorah, allowing Oorah to raise money from non-Jews and from Jews who would not support Oorah’s programs. Kars4Kids and J.O.Y. gets those people to give money to what appears to be a non-sectarian charity that aids children who are really in distress – homeless, abused, abondoned, etc. – but in reality all the money is gifted to Oorah for Orthodox Jewish missionary activity. Kars4kids is also using a Kirbycard e-mail address. Kirby Card is owned by Cucumber Communications which is a totally owned subsidiary of Oorah. Cucumber claims:

Cucumber Communications is one long distance provider that makes it easy for busy people to support causes they care about.                                          

Cucumber Communications is a division of Oorah inc.

ALL our profits [this appears to be false – see here] are directed to non-profit groups working for human rights and children’s education. Through our long distance services, customers can generate progressive donations for non-profit groups just by doing what they do every day – best of all, it costs you the customer not a penny more.

With Cucumber, every call you make builds a better world.

Oorah is endorsed by almost every leading rabbi in the Orthodox world.

In most states, this is criminal fraud, and it certainly violates IRS rules.

Will Oorah lose its IRS 501 (c) (3) status? Will Oorah’s board be prosecuted? Only time will tell.

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Filed under Crime, Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Oorah Kars4Kids

The Little Menorah That Didn’t, #2

Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school questions why we say the full Hallel prayer every day of Hanukka:

There are two distinct mitzvos that we perform on Chanukah, the mitzvah of hadlakas neiros and the mitzvah of krias Hallel. It is not surprising that Chazal instituted two different mitzvos to commemorate the events of Chanukah, since two miracles occurred that we are celebrating. The miracle of the oil is commemorated by lighting Chanukah candles, whereas the victory of the battle against the Yeavnim is marked by reciting Hallel. Chazal tell us (Megillah 14a) that we recite Hallel when we are saved through a miracle. As great as the miraculous events of the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash were, these events would not cause us to recite Hallel. Only the events of the battlefield preceding the restoration of the Beis Hamikdash should warrant the recitation of Hallel.

Each day of Succos we complete the Hallel, whereas on Pesach we recite an abridged form on Chol Hamoed and the concluding days. Chazal (Taanis 28b) explain that this difference reflects a basic distinction between Succos and Pesach. Each day of Succos is a separate yom tov since the korbanos that are offered each day differ from the previous day. On Pesach the identical korbanos are offered each day, therefore the entire week of Pesach is viewed as one yom tov. Therefore, once a complete Hallel is recited on the first day there is no need to repeat it on subsequent days. Tosafos raises the problem that according to this criterion we should only complete the Hallel on the first day of Chanukah. Why do we view each day of Chanukah as a separate entity? Tosafos concludes that the miracle of the oil was renewed each day. Since each day the oil lasted was a new miracle, we commemorate each miracle with a daily completion of Hallel. The solution of Tosafos seems difficult – since the recitation of Hallel relates to the victory on the battlefield, why is the daily nature of the miracle of the oil relevant? It would seem that the complete Hallel should only be recited once, since we were only saved once.

Those of you who have read my previous post on this issue already know the factual answer to this question. However, Rabbi Sobolofsky chooses to answer the question with a new myth:

When the war ended, it was obvious that the Chashmonaim were victorious on the battlefield. However, it was not apparent who had won the spiritual conflict. Perhaps the Chashmonaim had defeated their enemies with their swords, but it still had to be determined who would emerge victorious in the battle between Torah and Yavan. Hashem performed a second miracle that would prove that the spiritual battle had also been won. Chazal associate the light of the menorah with the light of Torah. If pure oil could burn for eight days despite the defilement of the Beis Hamikdash by the Yevanim, the pure light of Torah had emerged victorious from the darkness of Yavan. The miracle of the oil was not distinct from the miracle on the battlefield, but rather it was the completion of the physical struggle that occurred. The Chashmonaim emerged victorious on the physical and spiritual battlefields. Lighting the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash was not just a mitzvah, but rather the victory in the spiritual war. Being saved from spiritual annihilation warrants reciting Hallel just as a physical deliverance does.

Tosofot did not have the resources we have. They had no history books, no archaeological digs, no Josephus, no 1 and 2 Maccabees, no Philo, etc. Their mistake is understandable.

But we must be clear – there is no record of a "miracle of oil" in any ancient source. The first mention of it is in the Talmud, written at least 600 years after the events took place. In contrast, 1 and 2 Maccabees were written by Jews within a few years of the events of Hanukka, and only the military victory is mentioned – no "miracle of oil." Josephus, written just over 200 years after Hanukka has no mention of the "miracle of oil." I repeat, nowhere in any ancient source, rabbinic or otherwise, is a "miracle of oil" mentioned.

Full Hallel is said each day of Hanukka because Hanukka was both a rededication of the Temple/victory celebration and a replacement for the recent Succot festival the Jews had missed because of the Greeks. That is exactly what Judah Maccabee said when he instituted Hanukka. It answers Tosofot’s question without tortured logic and sleight of hand. And it is the truth.

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Filed under Hanukka, History, Jewish Leadership, Modern Orthodoxy