Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and Child Sexual Abuse

According to Luke Ford, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, a haredi, LA-based rabbi and polemicist, has this to say about blogs and abuse:

“Halakhicly, you should not read blogs. It is not our business to punish people. Vengeance is not a Jewish idea except for in a court of law.”

“In some cases, a cover-up is not the worst thing.”

“Discretion is not the worst thing.”

“Cities should put together a special law court, beit din, for issues of abuse. Chicago put together a special beit din for issues of abuse. I guess there will be such a thing in Los Angeles.”

“Journalistic exposure is a last resort. The zeal to go after an accused abuser [often leads to bad results].”

While it is true Adlerstein dismisses the idea that halakha forbids going to police or warning others about abusers, his "solution" to the abuse problem is foolish at best. This type of "solution" is what gave us 40 years of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko’s abuse, and Kolko is not a lone example.

But one piece of Rabbi Adlerstein’s advice is good. He holds blogs should not be read. I suggest you all take him up on that by refusing to read the blog he and his fellow abuse coverup expert Avi Shafran write for.



Filed under Crime, Haredim, Mikva Abuse

Who Owns The Holocaust?



Twelve years ago, the British Union of Jewish Students launched a project called 50 Days For 50 Years, an effort to commemorate the Holocaust by having Jews learn something each day for 50 days in memory of a Jew murdered in the Holocaust. A book of 50 essays written by leading (Orthodox) rabbis and scholars was published and the program was launched. In 2005, TRIBE, a section of the British United Synagogue (Modern Orthodox, Jonathan Sacks is their chief rabbi) relaunched the program under a new name, 60 Days For 60 Years. It then changed the name to 60 Days For 6 Million and "syndicated" the program to communities around the world.

Fine. To a point. Now groups like Aish and Ohr Somayach have gotten on the bandwagon (please see the pictures above for an example), and use this program as a way to draw non-Orthodox Jews to Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodox Jews to haredism.

But the problem with this program is deeper than subterfuge from Orthodox outreach organizations. First of all, many of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were secular or non-Orthodox, and they were secular or non-Orthodox by choice. They were Jews who left the backwaters of shtetl Orthodoxy for the bright lights of the Enlightenment. Is the proper way to remember those Jews learning Orthodox theology and theodicy?

Some of you will argue it is, claiming that Orthodoxy has a monopoly on theological truth. I beg to differ. Leaving aside the overwhelming failure of Orthodox rabbinic leaders leading up to the Holocaust (please see our discussion here), I would still argue that an Orthodox monopoly on this endeavor is wrong. Why? To me, it is too much like the Mormon baptisms of long-dead non-Mormons.

The proper way to do this, I think, is to take a Jewish text we all accept and study it or sections of it. For example, take the Pentateuch. Use the text to show how traditional commentary (like Rashi and Ibn Ezra) work, show how halakha is derived, codified and implemented. Show how the Documentary Hypothesis works, how modern Biblical Criticism works, and how Orthodoxy (for the most part) rejects it.

Another possibility is to deal with the exact issues the 60 Days program does, but bring varied, pluralistic responses to each one.

Of course, when an Orthodox organization sponsors an event like this, one expects the viewpoints to be Orthodox. That is why I don’t have much of a problem when the OU sponsors 60 Days, or the British United Synagogue does. But when Orthodox outreach organizations get involved, especially when those organizations have a history of deception and when their involvement is partially masked by community organizations like the Jewish Community Relations Council (please see above pictures) or the non-Orthodox day school, I think a line has been crossed.

Should the Holocaust be used as a marketing tool to bring Jews to Orthodoxy? If you think it should, shouldn’t information like Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman’s letter (which I first read in the Aish HaTorah beis midrash) and the behavior of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe be presented right along with it?


Filed under Chabad and the Holocaust, Haredim, History, Modern Orthodoxy, Outreach

The Problem With Haredi Education

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz writes:

… I think that this analogy of bicycle riding and training wheels carries profound lessons for us as we chart a course for the chinuch of our precious children in these challenging times. If one takes a few steps back and surveys the overall landscape of how we impart Torah teaching to children and adults, one might be struck by a puzzling dichotomy. We seem to be offering our children a significant array of learning assistance and support after some form of educational failure has occurred. However, very few of these tools are offered to children who are in the critical ‘training-wheels’ phase of their learning experience.

Going back to the bicycle analogy; that would seem to be like having our children start riding their bicycles without the benefit of training wheels, and only providing them to those who severely injure themselves by falling off their bicycles repeatedly.…

This is about as spot on as it gets, I think.


Filed under Haredim

Mohel Who Maimed Baby Is Baby’s Father

Vos Iz Neias reports that the mohel in this sad story turns out to be the baby’s own father. Was he licensed? Trained? Experienced? I doubt it. I also doubt he was – or is – sane. Perhaps that insanity will keep him out of jail …


Filed under Circumcision Controversy, Crime, Haredim, Israel

Haredim and the Holocaust, 2

UOJ quotes the infamous letter written by Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman telling a student not to go to YU or HTC (Skokie), even though it would get him safely out of Europe:

"I received your letter, but unfortunately there is nothing I can do. The yeshivos in America which can bring talmidim from overseas are the yeshivah of Dr. Revel (YU) and [HTC in Chicago]. However, both are places of spiritual danger because they are run in a spirit of disloyalty to the Torah. Therefore, of what benefit would it be to escape [Europe] from physical danger to spiritual danger."…

UOJ notes that later in the letter, Rabbi Wasserman suggests the student contact Rabbi Shlomo Hymen at Yeshiva Torah Vodas who, Rabbi Wasserman writes, will help him. But then UOJ continues:

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman was urged [by Rabbi Henkin] to bring over all of his students to Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Rabbi Shlomo Hyman had agreed to step aside as the Rosh Hayeshiva and gladly have R’ Elchonon take his place. Instead he went back to Europe where he was slaughtered along with his students . He is quoted in his "Kovetz Maamarim" as saying he intended himself and his students to be a "korbon" or a sacrifice, on behalf of American Jewry. So much for "daas Torah" and "gedolim infallibility".

Rabbis gave notoriously poor advice all during WW2; the above is only one example out of many rabbinic failures. From Hungarian hasidim to Chabad, from Litvaks to Galitzianers, rabbis failed. You can say this means God "hid" the truth from them, or you can say God never spoke to them in the first place. My money is on option number two.


Filed under Haredim, History, Modern Orthodoxy

Settlers At Play Again …

This video was taken in Hebron. The voices are of international observers there to protect Palestinian families from out of control settlers like this.

We need to make a choice. Behavior like this cannot be tolerated; neither can the atmosphere that causes it. Settlers teach their children hatred. It is true this is in part a reaction to the Intifada, but it is noxious, nonetheless. It is destroying Israel from within, and making Judaism not much different than the long line of fascist ideologies that oppressed us. If this type of behavior is the price of keeping Hebron, we must give it up. No piece of land, no matter how holy, is worth this.

[Hat Tip: Neo-Conservaguy.]


Filed under Crime, Israel, Modern Orthodoxy

Rabbis: It’s The Fault Of Provocative Women, Not Ill Behaved Men

According to Arutz Sheva, our dear rabbis of the reconstituted ‘sanhedrin’ have this to say about former Justice Minister Haim Ramon’s conviction for sexual harassment:

The Ramon verdict is a judicial evil, said the rabbis. “After the complainant’s picture was published as it was published,” they said, “there is no reason to expect different behavior on the part of the defendant, in a society in which there is no fear of God and moral restraint.”

Got that, ladies? According to the rabbis, if you’re too pretty, if your blouse is too tight or your skirt too short, it’s your fault. Judaism, meet Stone Age.

[Hat Tip: Pilegesh.org.]


Filed under Crime, Israel, Jewish Leadership