Monthly Archives: August 2006

Israeli Employee of Atlanta Consulate Arrested For Child Sodomy, Child Porn

Ynet reports:

An Israeli diplomat was arrested Friday in the American city of Atlanta on suspicion of computer related offences linked to pornography and the sexual exploitation of children.

Captain Steve Morris, of the Columbia District Police in Georgia, told Ynet that the arrestee was a worker in the Israeli Consulate. He was arrested upon leaving his home and transferred into custody at a distance from Atlanta.

Daniel Craig, the District Attorney of Augusta, in the state of Georgia, announced that the suspected diplomat used the internet and email in order to persuade a child to carry out illegal acts such as sodomy and severe sexual abuse.…

The Foreign Ministry said in response that they were aware of the episode and were looking into details. It was also said that the suspect holds a diplomatic license but is not an employee of the Foreign Ministry.…

[Hat tip: JWB.]

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Filed under Crime, Israel

The Dishonesty of OU Kosher – Plus, A Kosher Quiz

This week’s Forward has a response written by the head of OU Kosher, Rabbi Menachem Genack, to Marc Shapiro’s piece criticizing the OU’s move to more stringent kosher standards, specifically to glatt-only meat. Rabbi Genack, also a YU rosh yeshiva, is both disingenuous and dishonest in his response. Here’s why.

Rabbi Genack writes:

Discerning kosher consumers began to demand glatt kosher meat, which was more carefully controlled — not because they wanted glatt per se, but because they wanted to be assured that the meat was indeed kosher. Thus it was consumer demand that made glatt the dominant standard in the marketplace, not some fiat by the O.U.

But kosher meat production by its very definition means any production will produce glatt, non-glatt and non-kosher product. The production’s glatt output is only as good as its regular kosher output – both depend on the quality of supervision. If the OU’s glatt was kosher, so then was its non-glatt.

What Rabbi Genack does not tell you is the OU’s move to glatt only opened up the regular kosher market to rabbis who saw themselves as making kosher for Conservative and Reform Jews. What this meant was a wholesale lowering of existing standards and in turn a large increase in fraud. As I heard first hand twenty-plus years ago from schochtim, mashgichim and kosher producers alike, “It’s okay! Orthodox Jews don’t eat this stuff, anyway.”

The OU’s shift to glatt-only created that situation. It also made the OU appear “more frum,” and – according to what some claim – allowed the OU to charge more for its supervision, and have greater penetration in haredi areas of Brooklyn.

Marc Shapiro also noted the OU’s ahalakhic shift from certifying products produced on dairy equipment but themselves containing no dairy with an OU to the now-standard OU-D (dairy) designation. Rabbi Genack responds:

Mixing meat and dairy, Shapiro also criticizes the OU-D designation, as if to imply this is part of a further rightward move by the O.U. The OU-D designation was created so that the consumer could easily identify dairy products and not have to rely on reading, and at times interpreting, ingredient listings. Products that contain no dairy ingredients, but which are produced on dairy equipment, are also designated OU-D so as to ensure that they will not be eaten at a meat meal. There is no hidden ideology here, just honest information.

Again, Rabbi Genack is simply disingenuous. Many hashgachot used the D.E. (dairy equipment) designation. The OU could have done so as well, but chose not to. It is this choice Shapiro rightly criticizes.

Now, a Yoreh Dayah quiz for you. You make rice in a clean dairy pot, thinking you’ll serve it for dinner in a dairy Indian recipe. At last minute, you remember Aunt Millie’s meat chili, sitting in the refrigerator for the last three days. You change your mind and decide to have the chili. But you have no more rice. Can you eat the meat chili together with the rice made in the dairy pot? If yes, why? If no, why not?

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Filed under Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Modern Orthodoxy

Kosher Class Action Lawsuit?

Ha’aretz reports:

A woman and her daughter petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court Monday to recognize a suit they were filing against Elite-Strauss and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate as a class action. The two, residents of Givat Shmuel, keep kosher.

The grounds for the suit are a claim that some of the company’s products – including Milki and Daniella dairy desserts and Ski whipped cream cheese – contain imported gelatin produced from beef bones. According to this claim, the animals from which the gelatin was produced were not certified as kosher.

However, the Chief Rabbinate had marked the products in question as kosher.…

I wonder if consumers would have grounds for a class action against Rubashkin and the OU, KAJ, UMK, etc. No one buying Rubashkin expected to be eating animals whose throats were ripped out with meat hooks. It seems as if the rabbinic imprimaturs intentionally mislead consumers – Jewish and non-Jewish alike. Perhaps some bright young attorney would like to give this case a try …

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Filed under Israel, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal

The Lesson Of Abraham Our Father

A nursing home resident, a woman of about 90, went to the State Fair today with her daughter. She saw just-born calves and sheep, and an array of farm animals, all up close for the first time. This woman belonged for most of her adult life to a Conservative synagogue, one that has, for the last 35 years or so, been on the leftward fringe of the Conservative Movement. Despite that, she kept kosher (until her late 60’s, when she gave it up), and was and still is actively involved in Jewish life.

She described her outing to me and then excitedly said, “It was so wonderful to see those baby calves and sheep. You can really see God’s handiwork by seeing them, by seeing God’s creation.”

This was Avraham Avinu’s (Abraham’s) lesson, taught anew by one of his grandchildren.

Somewhere tonight, a certain Zoo Rabbi is smiling.

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Filed under Divre Torah

What Were The Rishonim Thinking?

Rabbi Eli Monsour asks an important question. From DailyHalacha.com:

Many Rishonim (Medieval sages) raised the question of why the Rabbis did not ordain the recitation of a Beracha over the Mitzva of Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick), as they did for other Mitzvot. …

The Rashba (Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aderet, Spain, 1235-1310) answers this question by establishing a basic principle regarding the Berachot recited over Mitzvot. He claims that the Rabbis did not ordain the recitation of a Beracha over a Mitzva whose performance depends upon two different people. Tzedaka, for example, requires the participation of both the donor and recipient. If a person would recite a Beracha before giving charity, then if the poor person refuses the donation the Beracha would become a “Beracha Le’vatala” (a “wasted” Beracha, which is forbidden to recite). Similarly, if a person recites a Beracha before entering the patient’s room to pay a visit, and the patient asks him to leave, his Beracha would be “Le’vatala.” The Rabbis therefore chose not to ordain the recitation of a Beracha over these and other Mitzvot that depend upon the consent of a second party.

The Or Zarua (Rabbi Yitzchak of Vienna, 1180-1250) suggests a different reason why no Beracha is recited over the Mitzva of visiting the sick, claiming that no Beracha is recited over a Mitzva that can be performed at any time.…

Others suggested that the Rabbis did not ordain the recitation of a Beracha over Mitzvot that are intuitively logical, which even the gentiles acknowledge.… [E]ven the gentiles – who were not “sanctified with His commandments” – acknowledge and perform this Mitzva.…

I find these answers weak, and was happy to see that Rabbi Monsour suggests what I also belive to be the correct – and the obvious – answer:

We may suggest an additional reason, namely, that it would be inappropriate to recite a Beracha over a Mitzva that presents itself as a result of the pain and suffering of another person. As a person enters the room to visit his ailing friend, he should not joyfully express his gratitude to God for enabling him to perform this Mitzva, which came about because of another person’s pain.

This seems so obvious, I wonder why Rishonim did not mention it. Readers? Any thoughts on this?

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Filed under Divre Torah, History

Why Most Of You Should Pray Rabbi Lau Is Not Israel’s Next President

A scandal? Nope. Under qualified? No. A bad guy? No. What, then, you ask? This:

… Ultimately, the choice of presidential candidate will indicate where Kadima and Olmert are headed. If they still go for Lau, it means that they still think the realignment plan [evacuating settlements] has a chance. If they switch to Rubinstein, it will signal that realignment is off for now and they’ve got to placate those who voted for another round of withdrawals.

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Filed under Israel, Jewish Leadership

Head Of Pupa Hasidic Community Slapped For Real Estate Tax Evasion

A reader writes:

Businessman Herman Oberlander is very rich – it is said he is worth over $200 million. Herman – known in the yiddishe velt as Mechel – is Rosh HaKahal [head of the community, president] of the Pupa chasidic sect based in Williamsburg. His son Gedalia Oberlander of Monsey is a Lubavitcher who runs Heichal Menachem, a Chabad library named after the late Rebbe located in Monsey.

Herman Oberlander doesn’t live in Monsey, but he keeps a summer home there at 4 Roman Blvd. Oberlander was trying to get out of paying taxes, so he claimed that he has a synagogue and is its rabbi. (The township can’t locate the synagogue – because it does not exist!) He also claimed all his tenants – who are, incidentally, also his grandchildren – as his ‘assistants.’

Nothing Herman Oberlander claimed is true. He does not have a synagogue. He is not the rabbi of a synagogue. His grandchildren are not synagogue rabbis either.

Herman’s son Gedalia Oberlander, the Lubavitcher, also claimed to be a rabbi of a synagogue called, get this, Merkoz Halacha (center of Jewish law!). He also claimed his tenants as his ‘assistants.’ Although he might call himself rabbi, Gedalia Oberlander is not a rabbi at any synagogue. His tenants are not synagogue rabbis either.

Chazal (our sages) say that a father should teach his son good working skills. Well, Pupa’s Rosh HaKahal adhered to our sages – he taught his son how to steal from the government, just like tattie.

But the government caught them and stopped their scams.

The Oberlanders have no economic hardship. So why steal? To paraphrase Pirkei Avos, I think the answer is they believe what you have is rightfully theirs, not yours, and what they have is theirs as well.

[As a bonus, here’s a link to a Pupa property in Queens jointly owned, it seems, by Gedalia Oberlander’s company. And one of Herman Oberlander’s businesses was retail heating oil.]

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Filed under Chabad Theology, Crime, Haredim