Monthly Archives: November 2006

The Russian Dark Ages

The Jewish Week writes in an unsigned editorial:

… Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to consolidate his power and snuff out feeble flickers of democracy. Dissent is dangerous, a fact that may underlie the bizarre case of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, fatally poisoned in London with a rare radioactive substance, only weeks after the murder of a fearless journalist who wrote of trauma in Chechnya. [And now, another Putin critic has apparently been poisoned.] And with it, ultra-nationalism is on the rise, inevitably producing a rise in anti-Semitic incidents.

Right now, the primary targets of the ascendant ultra-nationalists are people from Central Asia and the Caucusus, but it would be folly to assume that Russia’s Jews will somehow be immune.

A Russia swimming in oil and gas profits wants to play a bigger role on the world scene, but more often than not, Putin’s foreign policy contributes to conflict and instability, not peace.

Russia, a major supplier of nuclear technology to Tehran, continues to thwart international efforts to slow that country’s quest for nuclear weapons. The surface-to-air missiles Russia is sending to Iran might someday be used to shoot down American or Israeli planes seeking to achieve what diplomacy failed to do.

A battered, beset Bush administration has been too willing to ignore Russia’s descent from democracy and its increasingly disruptive role on the international scene. That needs to change — for the sake of U.S. interests around the world and for the minorities that will inevitably suffer if Russia returns to the traditionally toxic mix of authoritarian rule and ultra-nationalism.

Only a handful of Jewish groups — led by NCSJ, a human rights group dealing with the former Soviet Union — are closely following ominous developments in Russia. That, too, needs to change if we are to protect a large and endangered Russian Jewish community that could be standing at the brink of a new dark age.

And the religious group that gives Vladimir Putin diplomatic and moral cover? Chabad, the very same group of dancing rabbis and cholent eaters so many of you love.

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Filed under Chabad Theology, Court Jews & Quislings

It’s Up To The Government

Elliot Pasik, who worked with the RCA on its Clergy Abuse resolution and is also close to haredi leadership writes:

The Torah demands a justice system. Tsedek tsedek tirdof… Its incumbent upon the Jews and the umos ha’olam. Might there be occasional error? Of course, but G-d tells us to establish courts in any event.

The child sex abuse literature I have read indicates that the vast majority of reported cases are true. I recommend, Salter, "Predators". Where false accusations do occur is in the age range below 5 or 6, where toddlers can be coached by social workers and psychologists hired by DAs. That’s what happened in the Mass. case, the one I think Tal Benschar is referring to. I’m unfamiliar with the NJ case.

Every case of child sex abuse allegations that I’ve read about, or have become personally aware of, made by frum children, has been true, in my professional opionion.

Other than the criminal justice system, which will put a sex offender on the government registries, there is no mechanism in the Jewish world for barring violent and sexual offenders from our schools. So there are no "other ways" to handle this situation, as Tal Benschar writes, and when it has been attempted in the past, there have been tragic results -continued child abuse in other school venues.

I‘ve been adocating for a yeshiva/day school-wide mechanism for several years, and it has not been done, and based on Aguda’s Thursday night session, I do not expect it will be done. It is apparent that far greater Government oversight over the nonpublic schools is required.
Elliot Pasik, Esq.

But haredi political influence gained through block voting and Agudath Israel have consistently blocked this governmental oversight. It will take criminal indictments of rabbis who cover up abuse to change anything. And that cannot come soon enough.

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Filed under Crime, Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Mikva Abuse

Allen Mastbaum, ztz’l

My friend Allen Mastbaum recently passed away. Mastbaum’s mother was a cousin of the pre-WW2 Belzer Rebbe, and that rebbe gave him a blessing for long life. Allen Mastbaum lived for 98 1/2 years, surviving the Holocaust and post-war pogroms, including the Kielce pogrom.

You can click on the image to enlarge the text:

Kielce_2

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Filed under History, Poetry

Why Our Haredi Chief Rabbis Must Go

An Orthodox convert from Canada makes so much sense, it’s painful. Barbara Crook puts Sefardic Chief Rabbi and haredi stooge Shlomo Amar in a corner and beats the stuffing out of him:

I’m a Jew by choice. It’s the most important choice I ever made in my life, and perhaps the most important choice I will ever make.

Almost eight years after my husband and I completed Orthodox conversions in Canada, every action in my life is defined by my Jewish identity and my desire to be on the front lines for Israel.

I’ve been on numerous Jewish boards, including that of an Orthodox outreach organization, was named woman of the year by my local chapter of Emunah and have lectured about Jewish leadership across Canada. And whom do my Jewish-born friends call when they have questions about Jewish laws or tradition? The convert, of course.

I’ve been to Israel 18 times since my first trip in May 2003, have led missions to Israel and taught Canadian and American university students how to defend Israel. I spend most of my vacations studying Hebrew in Jerusalem, and work for an Israeli organization that has defended Israel in parliaments and conferences around the world.

According to Jewish law, I have all the obligations and privileges of any Jew born of a Jewish mother. But if Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar gets his way, when the time comes to make aliya I will be denied the basic right of equality to other Jews under the Law of Return. Rabbi Amar wants to change Israeli law so that only Jews born to a Jewish mother would be entitled to automatic citizenship.

"[Converts] are able to come as citizens through other laws, and that is fine… of course they will be considered," he told Israel Radio.

In other words, all Jews are equal, but some Jews are less equal than others.…

[Ms. Crook then lists the copious instances where the Torah demands respect for and protection of the convert, including the then (and, aparently now) novel concept that converts and born Jews are equal under the law.]

The Torah codifies and champions something that Rabbi Amar has failed to grasp: my fundamental right as part of our nation to join my people under equal terms and settle in the Land of Israel.

The future of Israel and the Jewish people depends on Jews who embrace Judaism and are proud to be Jews – whether by birth or by conscious decision. I have made my choice and God has recognized my choice. My right to the land is no less than Rabbi Amar’s. God gave me that right. Rabbi Amar cannot take it away.

At this point, I hope our next chief rabbis come from the Reform Movement. Even if they don’t, Shlomo Amar and his ethically, legally and morally challenged Ashkenazic counterpart need to be removed ASAP.

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Filed under Haredim, Israel, Jewish Leadership, Sefardim

Was The Rebbe A “Good Guy”?

Sholomanarchy writes:

There is a pervasive mentality in the Frum world of "I don’t like the direction that Lubavitch has taken since his death, but the Rebbe was a great man." I hear this expressed repeatedly in many different forms, and I wholeheartedly disagree.

One does not become a god overnight, there is a deification process that takes place. In a Western (Jeroboamite) theological context, deification requires two primary elements – the establishment of a godlike ideal, and the rejection of all others; אנכי and לא יהיה לך.

Yerov’om is viewed in the Talmud as a חוטא ומחטיא את הרבים, a sinner who causes others to sin. Yerov’om was a sinner because he rejected the original לא יהיה לך with his declaration of הנה אלהיך ישראל אשר העלוך מארץ מצריים.

He is considered a מחטיא את הרבים because, due to political motivation, he outlawed pilgrimage to the Yahwistic temple in Jerusalem; thereby coercing others into worshipping his twin idols, as stated elsewhere.

By implicitly or explicitly encouraging the various rites of deification associated with his life and teachings, the Rebbe turned himself into an idol. He built a "cult of personality" around himself, or allowed one to be built around him.…

This is difficult to argue with. It is spot on and as perceptive as one can possibly be. This is a true portrait of the last Chabad-Lubavitch rebbe and, by extension, of those who still follow him.

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Filed under Chabad History, Chabad Theology

GUEST POST: Crown Heights Through the Eyes of a Child

Sholomanarchy writes:

I recall Yud Shevat 5753, during the height of the "balcony period". I was then a young boy in Cheder, and the messianic fervor had seized the Lubavitcher cult in its death grip. Walking to Oholei Torah that morning, I knew – WE knew – that today was going to be the day when the Rebbe finally reveals himself as Moshiach. I overheard Chaim Shaul Bruk (sp? Brook? Brooke? Burekeh? Burka? I don’t really give a damn, he was a kugel-thrower), the fat one, mention that people were waiting at the airport in Israel with a white donkey.

It wasn’t a hope, it wasn’t a desire. It was a well-known fact to us children, the תנוקות של בית רבן. That was all I could think about, as we listened to Rabbi Zeligson drone on out of the Ma’amor Bosi Legani during the Pre-Shachris Chasidus Shiur that was part of the holiday program. That’s what Itche Zalmanov and I spoke about during recess, instead of playing our usual 6th grade fantasyland games of "witchie" or "stupid robbers". When school let out early for the day, I ran the block and a half to 770 and squeezed my way through the masses of black Kapotes and blazers, hoping to get a good spot from which to view the long-awaited Hisgalus.

"Mincha now! Mincha now!" All over the neighborhood, Moshiach beepers go off; People run up Kingston towards Eastern Parkway. I pray with deep concentration, hoping that the Rebbe is watching me. Teka Beshoifar Godol Lecheiruseinu – it’s not just words, I can feel it; it’s about to happen. Perhaps if he notices how hard I’m trying to bring the redemption, he’ll help me out when he’s the king; I hope I get a candy-tree in my front yard.

The final Kaddish is said, the last "Amen" drowned out by the ocean of faithful admiration. Thousands of voices rise in song to praise their king and wish him eternal life. He makes a barely perceptible gesture with his left hand, the throngs react as if by instinct, and the singing becomes even more fervent. Faster and faster the mantra is repeated, the words grating against each other as thousands of Chasidim jump up and down on their toes, caught up in the spiritual ecstasy of the moment.

It is so close, so imminent. Today is the fifty-second anniversary of his becoming our leader. The Rebbe himself, the head of the children of Israel, had promised that we were the generation of redemption. He has told us that Moshiach is already here, that we just have to open our eyes.

My eyes are opened. I can see it, can envision it. Any moment now, the Rebbe will stand up. He will swing his arms in his signature gesture. Not the left-handed tremor, not a fist banging on his lectern, not even a one-armed swing; but a full-fledged two-armed swing that will bring the walls of Golus crashing down. He will regain his voice, and the first words out of his mouth will be a resounding הגיע זמן גאולתכם – the time for your redemption has arrived!

The Rebbe makes a gesture to his lackeys, and they swing the curtains shut on the farcical ceremony. Today was not the long-awaited redemption; it was merely another instance of mindless adoration by the sheeple. Tomorrow will be the same – the curtains will open, the curtains will shut, and the masses will have gotten another fix of opiates.

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Filed under Chabad History, Chabad Theology, Guest Posts

Another Strike Against Marvin Schick

At last week’s Agudah convention, Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon, speaking for the rabbinical and political leadership of Agudah, admitted there were many cases of rabbinic and other abuse haredi rabbinic leadership had handled quietly, dealing with the problem and then "sweeping it under the carpet" to avoid bad publicity, etc. The problems with this admission are many, not the least of which is that "sweeping [abuse] under the carpet" allows the abuser to relocate and continue abusing, something specifically alleged in at least two separate cases. But the admission also again proves Marvin Schick to be either willfully naive or a liar, or both. Perhaps it’s time for Marvin to apologize to the abuse victims and advocates he has so disparaged. What do you say, oh "day school and yeshiva ‘expert’"? Maybe you could use your Jewish Week "column" to apologize – if you have the guts, that is.

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Filed under Crime, Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Marvin Schick, Mikva Abuse