Thursday, April 28, 2016

Binah Magazine writer criticizes the view that authority must not be questioned - even if corrupt and against halacha

I just came across the letters section in the current Binah magazine. It clearly is relevant to the Kaminetsky- Greenblatt Heter for Tamar Epstein. A reader strongly attacks  Binah for publishing a story in which the school principal was corrupt and did things against the Torah - and the heroine was the school secretary who obtained guidance from her rav how to deal with it. This reader's point  being that one does not raise the possibility in students minds that the principal can make mistakes that one needs to do something about it. Furthermore she asserts that it is
wrong to question the system - but rather we must ignore these
corrupt deviations.[disclaimer - I did not read the story]. I was very impressed by the response of the story's writer - and for Binah for publishing the original story and the author's response presented below.
Sara Wiederblank responds:

Dear Fellow Teacher,

I am glad to have this opportunity to discuss my intentions when writing The Secretary. The point I was trying to make is this: When
someone in authority fails to live up to his or her sacred charge, what are the bystanders to do? For some of those among us who have experienced the tragedy of failed leadership, the trauma of these discoveries is so great that they are left doubting the entire system. This serial was intended to show the responsibilities and potential of the average bystander, and also to demonstrate that when the halachic process is followed, the community's good can be served and we can all emerge from the experience whole and proud. 
 You claim that what the principal did was "quite minor" and perhaps "grossly blown out of proportion." I disagree. Lifnei iver lo siten michshol charges an advisor to only provide advice that is in the best interests of the seeker. Mrs. Hertzberg failed to do that most egregiously. Not only was she swayed by her own negios, she actively lied to pursue her own agenda. This is unacceptable in a leader and is not mitigated by her many years of outstanding service.

In fact, the Torah warns us against the likelihood that we will be hesitant to approach wayward leaders because of their history of impeccable service. In the topic of navi sheker, the false prophet, the Torah warns us not to be swayed by the man's Illustrious history of prophecy (see Ohr  Hachaim on Devarim 13:3).

Moreover, I take issue with your claim that it is terrible to allow the possibility for students to ever question authority.

I agree with your concern that people might rush to issue such judgments on their own educational leaders. This is a legitimate concern that I have kept in mind throughout writing this serial, and because of its seriousness I worked in close consultation with Binah's content director.

I hope that no one uses this story as an excuse to declare open hunting season on their own mechanchos. However, that concern is one side of a coin; the other side is passively standing by while corruption rules. That, too, is a tragic situation that this serial addresses.

You suggest that the goal of the serial was to please people who would think, "Good! Finally someone is putting the principal in her place." I certainly hope that there weren't many readers who felt this way. Indeed, I have gotten a lot of feedback from people who sympathized with Mrs. Hertzberg, and realized that she was not an evil person, merely a complex person with a mixture of good and bad, as most of us are. She is not a villain whom we rejoiced in trouncing. However, she  needed to be checked - and she was.

You also claim that going to the Rav was inappropriate and made the situation a bigger deal than was necessary. However, Ariella behaved correctly. Lo saamod al dam rei'acha demands that if you see something, you say something, to the appropriate  party, as Ariella did, 

I would like our readership to be aware that Ariella's actions were guided by my consultation with two Rabbanim, and Rabbi Eisen's response was based on their explanations of how a Torah leader should handle claims such as Ariella's. I included his detailed explanation to show readers that this is a Torah matter and has to be handled by daas Torah.
Certainly, Rabbi Eisen acknowledged the possibility that nothing untoward happened - this was no witch hunt - but the Torah demanded that he properly investigate, to avoid innocent people being hurt , I don't see how going to a Rav with a serious concern could ever it be construed as "over-responding"': it is the responsible thing for a Torah Jew to do when faced potentially serious concern.
The fact that Ariella is the heroine of this story should not detract from the daily heroism of our teachers and principals. To point to one failed leader is not to condemn them all. Is is because we so revere our leaders that we need guidance as to live with the possiblity that one of their members is perhaps not what we had hoped.
May we always maintain our respect for our leaders, and maintain our discernment for retzon Hashem 

Sara Wiederblank

Mindfulness therapy works as well as anti-depressant drugs, major new study finds

Therapy based on the controversial concept of ‘mindfulness’ works as well as some anti-depressant drugs, according to a major new study.

Inspired in part by Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness involves training the brain to deal with negative emotions using techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises and yoga.

Some critics have claimed mindfulness techniques can bring on panic attacks and lead to paranoia, delusions or depression.

But the new study – the largest-ever analysis of research on the subject - found mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helped people just as much as commonly prescribed anti-depressant drugs and that there was no evidence of any harmful effects.

People suffering from depression who received MBCT were 31 per cent less likely to suffer a relapse during the next 60 weeks, the researchers reported in a paper in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

House committee votes to require women to register for draft

The House Armed Services Committee approved a measure Wednesday requiring women to register for the military draft, a move that comes just a few months after the Defense Department lifted all gender-based restrictions on front-line combat units.

In a twist that presages how contentious further debate may be, the author of the amendment voted against his own measure. It passed the committee by a vote of 32-30.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a former Marine who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, doesn’t support drafting women into combat and he’s opposed to opening infantry and special operations positions to women. He said he offered the measure to trigger a discussion about how the Pentagon’s decision in December to rescind gender restrictions on military service failed to consider whether the exclusion on drafting women also should be lifted. [...]

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said she supported Hunter’s measure.

“I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” she said. [...]

Hunter’s amendment will be included in the defense policy bill that authorizes the defense budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The full House will take up the bill soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pesach- Acharie Mot 76 – Aaron and the 4 Keys of Well-Being by Allan Katz

For some, happiness and well-being is a goal in life. For Torah Jews, this is in a sense a preoccupation with the ' self' and that happiness and well-being should rather be viewed as a vehicle for becoming greater, kinder and more compassionate human beings. Dr Richard Davidson says that neuroscientists show that we can change our brains –due to the plasticity of the brain – by creating more, new and stronger neural circuits by using the keys or skills for well- being in a deep and emotional way. The 4 keys are Resilience, Outlook, Attention and Generosity. It seems that Aaron the High Priest is the Torah's role model for these well-being keys.

Resilience – Resilience is the rapidity with which people recover from adversity. People who show a more rapid recovery in key neural circuits have higher levels of well-being. The problem is that our brains have a negativity bias to cope with threats and avoid danger. The brain sucks in negative interactions and their impact on the brain is said to be 5 times more powerful than positive experiences. We don't only suffer from negative experiences, but we tend to self –inflict, brood over it for the rest of the day, becoming more negativistic, stressed out, depressive, pessimistic and self- critical. Self-compassion is a skill that helps people recover and get back on track. People who see mistakes, falling and failure as opportunities for growth turn these negative experiences into positive experiences and when they repent and do Teshuva they can transform negative actions into positive actions. Aaron lost his 2 sons during the inauguration ceremony of the Tabernacle. Moses consoled Aaron and Aaron's response was to accept the Divine decree and remain silent- וידם אהרן. In order to deal with painful situations, we have to first accept the new reality. This liberates us emotionally – and instead of fighting reality, we are now in a position to be creative in handling the new situation.

Outlook – This refers to the ability to see the positive in others, their innate basic goodness, the positive side of situations and events and the ability to take positive facts and convert them into deep emotional experiences which people savor and enjoy. We also see the ' hidden miracles ' in our personal and national worlds as the Ramban explains – the great and open miracles particularly those from the exodus from Egypt teach us to look for the hidden miracles in our lives. Aaron had a compassionate approach to people. He had the ability to see the good in each person, convey it to others and also ascribe more positive attributes and motives to people's negative actions. In this way, he was able to resolve conflict, make peace between people and in this way he engaged people during Golden calf episode.

Attention. A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Instead of being mindful, connected and attentive, a large amount of people's waking life is spent not paying attention, going through physical motions in an automatic way, doing things just to get something else - reach a milestone or pass a test as there is nothing intrinsically valuable in what we are doing, and therefore we are not connected to what we are doing etc.,. The Mitzvoth we do become – מצוות אנשים מלומדה - without any emotional input, automatic and in a rote manner. When it comes to our personal interactions we should focus on deep listening and being present with the other person, and also read their non-verbal messages. Paying attention and being mindful are skills that were never taught to people. But what makes the situation worse is routine and doing things out of habit. Aaron is warned – ואל יבוא בכל עת אל הקודש – not to enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur at all times of the day but only when he carries out the sacrificial service of the day. The Divine spirit rests there and Aaron should not make entering there, a habit, but be mindful of the holiness of the place and the presence of the Divine spirit. The same idea is expressed by the commandment that on the festivals people should not leave temple using the gate that they entered the temple. Familiarity breeds contempt if we are not careful to invest in relationships and quality of our actions.

Generosity –When individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. These circuits get activated in a way that is more enduring than the way they would respond to other positive incentives such as winning a game or earning a prize. The Rambam says something similar -– we experience true joy and happiness, when we act in a generous and altruistic way and have needy people at our festive meals. Aaron not only promoted peaceful relationships between people, but was very generous in the way he approached and received people, which changed their self-worth and self-esteem.

When we interact with our children, we should be aware that we are building the neural circuits for well –being or enhancing neural structures that are negative and aggressive. By giving our kids the 4 well-being keys Resilience, Outlook, Attention and Generosity we are helping them to become better and happier people who are also concerned with the happiness and well-being of others.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Investigating child abuse in Chabad schools - The Leonard Lopate Show

Arsenic, rice and your baby’s diet

Ask any mom or dad to name their baby’s first food. The likely answer? Rice cereal. What’s a common go-to “healthy” snack for toddlers and kiddos? Rice cakes.

Yet a growing amount of scientific evidence is pointing to an alarming connection between inorganic arsenic in brown and white rice and harm to children’s immune systems and intellectual development.

Concentrations of arsenic were twice as high in the urine of infants who ate white or brown rice than those who ate no rice, according to research published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. Arsenic levels were highest in babies who ate rice cereal, often given several times a day to introduce babies to solids.

In April, the FDA proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal. That proposal is still in the public comment phase. The European Food Safety Authority has already moved to limit inorganic arsenic in rice products to that level.

“Arsenic is a known carcinogen that can influence risk of cardiovascular, immune and other diseases,” said Margaret Karagas, an epidemiologist who studies the effects of toxic metals at Dartmouth College, and the lead researcher on the new study. “There’s a growing body of evidence that even relatively low levels of exposure can have an adverse impact on young children.” [...]

Arsenic is a natural element found in soil, water and air, with the inorganic form being the most toxic. (“Inorganic” is a chemical term and has nothing to do with the method of farming.) Because rice is grown in water, it is especially good at absorbing inorganic arsenic and, according to the Food and Drug Administration, has the highest concentration of any food. [...]

And in this case, brown and wild rice are the worst offenders, because the bleaching process used to create white rice removes the outer hull, where much of the arsenic concentrates. [...]

Pediatrician Tanya Altmann, author of “What to Feed Your Baby: A Pediatrician’s Guide to the 11 Essential Foods to Guarantee Veggie-Loving, No-Fuss, Healthy-Eating Kids,” said she’s changed her guidance on first foods. She recommends “tossing white rice cereal, as there is little nutritional benefit and it simply primes young palates for a lifetime of eating white carbs, not to mention the arsenic issue, which this study confirms.”

She echoes the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advises parents to offer a wide variety of foods including grains such as oats, barley, wheat and quinoa.

“Best first foods for infants are avocado, pureed veggies, peanut-butter oatmeal and salmon,” Altmann said. “They all provide important nutrients that babies need, help develop their taste buds to prefer healthy food and may decrease food allergies.”

Rabbi Marc Schneier resigning, reportedly under pressure

Rabbi Marc Schneier, one of New York’s higher-profile spiritual leaders, is resigning from The Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach after 26 years, with one report saying he was leaving under pressure.

Schneier, 57, went public with his decision to step down this summer from the Orthodox synagogue he founded in a letter emailed to congregants earlier this month. In the letter, the rabbi said he “wants to dedicate more time and resources to my work to strengthen relations between Muslims and Jews.” The New York Jewish Week published the letter on its website. [...]

However, the New York Post reported Sunday that Schneier resigned "under pressure from well-heeled synagogue members threatening to withhold pledges and payments until he was off the pulpit."

Last June, Schneier was expelled from the Rabbinical Council of America following an ethics inquiry into his behavior prompted by reports in the New York tabloids that he had had an extramarital affair with a woman, Gitty Leiner, who in 2013 became his fifth wife. [...]

Saudi family therapist gives advice on wife beating

Arutz 7   Saudi therapist, Khaled Al-Saqaby, claims women's desire for equality causes marital strife.

Saudi family therapist Khaled Al-Saqaby has provided strange advice on marital strife, in an online video footage salvaged and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

According to Al-Saqaby, beating one's wife should be intended as a means of discipline, rather than to vent one's anger, and should be carried out not with a rod or a sharp object, but with a tooth-cleaning twig or a handkerchief.

"Unfortunately, some wives want to live a life of equality with their husband," he said. "This is a very grave problem."

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Torah was concerned that the holy cohen gadol at the holiest moment of the year would lust for a married women and pray that her husband die

As we have noted a number of times before - the baalei mussar make a point of saying that the sins of great people are minor things which are described in an exaggerated manner because they are held to a more severe standard than everyone else.

Rav Silberstein notes a case which seems to strongly go against this view and in fact fits in clearly with the statement that the greater the person - the greater is his yetzer.

The Torah (Vayikra 21:14) tells us that a cohen gadol can not marry either a widow or a divorcee. The question is why? He notes that this question was asked by the Baalei Tosfos [the only source I could find is an attribution to Rav Yehuda HaChasid but I couldn't find it in Sefer Chasidim]. The answer they give is astounding and it illustrates the power of the yetzer harah.

"Because the Cohen Gadol would mention the special name of G-d, there was a danger that he might have lust for a married women and he would use the opportunity to wish for the death of her husband. Consequently the Torah prohibited him from marrying a widow and only allowed a virgin"

These astounding words have to be fully understood. We are talking about the holy cohen gadol who was more holy than all the other Jews. He is now standing in the most holy part of the Temple at the holies part of the year - Yom Kippur. And it is specifically at the time that he is mentioning G-d's special name. Is there any situation which surpasses this holiness?

Nevertheless the Torah is concerned  that he is lusting for a married woman at such a time and such a place and that he will take advantage of his situation to use G-d's special name to kill the husband. It is incredible to see the extent of the power of the yetzer harah.

Furthermore we see something else - how great the power of prayer is. That G-d is prepared to listen to even disgusting prayer such as this - whose whole nature is to cause evil to another who is totally innocent.

The Rav Avigdor Miller zt’l Hagaddah Shel Pesach - On Divorce

pp. 38-39

Now when we say hashta avdi – this year we’re slaves, l’shana haboah bnei chorin, what are we asking for? More liberty? We get more freedom to go and ruin more lives? We want more liberty, but only to be forced to do what’s right. Liberty is when you learn Yiras Shamayim, you learn Mesilas Yeshorim, and you learn good middos. Now, the good middos force you to move into a good neighborhood, to move out of the suburbs. When you move into a good neighborhood among frum Jews, and you join a kehilla of frum Jews, you’ll be ashamed to divorce your wife. It’s people who live out in the suburbs where one in five divorce. When they would come to a good neighborhood, they think, “What will my enemies say, the people in the shul who know me are enemies of mine. They’ll laugh at me, and therefore why should I give them an opportunity to ridicule me, when getting divorced.”

And therefore the sviva rescues people from tragedies. 40 years ago people were ashamed to divorce, and they lived off their years, and they took their grandchildren to the Chupa together and they’re buried together in the cemetery and if they were zoche to Olam Haba, they would live together in the next world too. But people have liberty today, and so if she doesn’t like her husband, she says “get out of the house,” and he says “why should I get out of the house?” And she goes and gets a writ of protection, calls in the police, and drives the husband out of the house.

Now she’s all alone. Now she’s “happy,” and now she has “liberty.” Now she has ruined her life. I met a girl like that. A girl came over to me on the street, I never saw her before. She came over to me and said, “You know Rabbi Miller, 20 years ago I demanded and got a divorce. I made a very big mistake in my life,” she said. Divorce is ruination, and that’s why women didn’t have the right to divorce according to the Torah. Only men, because women are excitable and if women can give gittin, they’ll give gittin all the time. No matter why, but the facts are the men are slower, more deliberate. It’s important. What kind of life would it be if women could give a Get? “It’s slavery” she said. That slavery is good for you. You’ll live long with your husband. You won’t have tzoros, and eventually, in the end you’ll see that it was the best thing for you to be together with your husband. You’ll grow old together and when the time comes he dies, you’ll weep and collect insurance, and you’ll be a happy person.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Israeli government threatens to hold chareidi parents accountaable for failure to give children secular education

Arutz 7

The State says that if a particular suit against if goes through, it will sue hareidi parents and yeshivot in turn.

The story is that 52 ex-hareidim have submitted a lawsuit against the State of Israel for the fact that they did not learn mathematics and English in their hareidi elementary schools, thus allegedly harming their ability to find work.

The State has now submitted its defense, the bottom line of which is this: "If the suit against us is accepted, we in turn will sue the parents and the schools."

The State's defense states, "The plaintiffs studied in schools chosen by themselves and their parents, and if they believe that their studies there caused them damage, it could have been expected that they would direct their complaints towards their parents or their schools."

The State acknowledges that the level of studies in haredi schools in comparison to public schools is relatively low, but that this is due to the preferences of the haredi public.

It would seem that the suit has no basis in fact, given the top scores of haredim who take rushed courses in math and English. As reported here a number of years ago, "A class of 30 haredi men scored overwhelmingly better than the national average on a recent psychometric exam - despite, or because of, their lack of general studies schooling

In September 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that haredi high schools need not teach core secular subjects. The plaintiffs had claimed that the situation "harms the ability of haredi students to integrate in society and the work force, and thus harms their constitutional rights to dignity and freedom of occupation." The hareidi schools thus continued to receive (only) 60% of the national budgetary allocations that other schools receive.[...]


קבוצת יוצאים בשאלה תובעת פיצוי מהמדינה על שלא למדו לימוד ליבה • המדינה מאיימת בתשובה לתבוע את הוריהם 


המדינה תתבע הורים חרדים? פרקליטות המדינה הודיעה כי תתבע הורים של 52 יוצאים בשאלה, שהגישו לפני כחצי שנה תביעת נזיקין נגד המדינה, כך מדווח 'הארץ'.

כפי שדווח לראשונה ב'בחדרי חרדים', קבוצה של יוצאים בשאלה, תבעה את המדינה בשל הנזק שנגרם לחבריה. לטענת חברי הקבוצה, המדינה אפשרה למוסדות החינוך החרדים לא ללמד את מקצועות הליבה, דבר שלדבריהם פגע ביכולתם להשתלב בשוק העבודה.

בתגובה לכך, הודיעה המדינה, באמצעות עו"ד מירית סביון מפרקליטות מחוז ירושלים, כי במידה והתביעה תתקבל, היא תתבע את הוריהם החרדים של התובעים, וכך גם כ-90 ישיבות ובתי ספר חרדיים שבהם הם למדו, זאת משום שלטענת המדינה אין לה אחריות למצב שמתארים היוצאים בשאלה, אלא להוריהם ולישיבות בהן למד

MK reveals alleged United Nations document requiring Israel to preserve haredi educational system.

The United Nations guarantees haredi rights to an independent educational system in Israel, claims MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism).

In a recent interview with Merkaz Igud HaTatim, a journal distributed to haredi educators across Israel, Porush revealed what purports to be an official United Nations decision concerning cultural autonomy in Israel.

If verified, the document would be the first known official recognition by the international body of haredi rights to cultural autonomy within the Jewish state.

The decision was reportedly reached by the UN during the winter of 1947/1948, following lobbying efforts by a delegation of Agudat Yisrael representatives.

The delegation is said to have included Yaakov Rosenheim, Aharon Goodman, and Moshe Porush (Meir Porush’s grandfather) among others.

According to Porush, the document obligates “The State [of Israel] to provide proper education to Arabs and to Jews, each according to their language and traditions. The right of each community or group within a community to maintain their own educational institutions for their members in their own language shall not be violated or impinged upon, so long as they fulfill general educational requirements the state may impose.”

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Couple cannot leave Israel due to ‘Gett refuser’ son

A rabbinical court in Tel Aviv issued an exit deferment order against a haredi couple from the United States and confiscated their passports, claiming that they support their son's refusal to give his wife a Gett (divorce document) for many years.

The father of "divorce-refuser" Oded Gaz, a doctor of physics and a former lecturer at Bar Ilan University, was sentenced to a 30-day imprisonment after Gaz stopped appearing at Rabbinical Court hearings.

“Me and my husband are being punished for no reason,” said Gaz’s mother according to Walla! News. “Perhaps the Court is seeking to help an Agunah (Jewish woman who is "chained" to her marriage - ed.), but they are being cruel to the wrong people."

Never Too Old to Hurt From Parents’ Divorce

The divorce rate among couples 50 and older has soared. The number of individuals who are adults when their parents divorce is climbing with it. Yet the vast majority of recent research, and subsequent counseling, for divorcing couples is focused on young children. [...]

When Krista Mischo’s parents divorced after 45 years of marriage, she sought comfort from others in her situation. “I went to a divorce care group, but it was a meeting for adults going through divorces,” said Mrs. Mischo, who lives in Wisconsin and was 43 at the time. “The only group for children of divorce I could find was for young children.”

In 2012, she decided to create a group of her own, and began writing a blog, Time for Serenity ( Continue reading the main story
In a short time, she said, the blog had attracted more than 20,000 readers around the world. Mrs. Mischo, who stopped writing the blog after two years, said, “I think I really exhausted every possible topic I could think of, and therapeutically I have worked through almost every aspect of this, and I don’t want this to define me.” [...]

“My father told me I wasn’t sad enough about it,” Ms. Kutner said. “He would say, ‘I just got divorced.’ And I would say to him: ‘My parents just got divorced. I don’t know what to tell you.’”

Then her mother wanted to share details of her dates. Ms. Kutner had had enough.

“I have said so many times over the past year that I felt as though I had two 50-something-year-old children,” Ms. Kutner said. “And I have totally resented it.”

Both parents want the children to understand their pain and confusion. That’s not O.K., therapists say. Parent up, they say. [...]

Worse, many adult children begin to question whether they want children of their own, or if they have the ability to maintain a healthy relationship.

“I really have no interest in the idea of getting married,” Ms. Kutner said. “If my parents could end up not staying together, to me it really indicates that we live too long, and I have found a lot of peace in that. Some people really do outgrow each other, and the relationship is as long as it is and that might not be a lifetime.” [...]

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In the generaltion of Moshiach - talmidei chachomim there will be claims made against talmidei chachomim - Greenblatt-Kaminetsky Heter

It is interesting to note that criticizing talmidei chachoim is one of the signs of the time of Moshiach. On the one hand that could be understood as there will be unjustified attacks on rabbonim in the time of Moshiach. However it clearly also can be understood to mean that Moshiach will come when the masses  criticize gedolim who corrupt the halachic process and go against the Torah and as a result undermine emunas chachomim by their actions

Kesubos (112b) R. Zera said: R. Jeremiah b. Abba stated, ‘In the generation in which the son of David7 will come there will be prosecution8 against scholars’. When I repeated this statement in the presence of Samuel, he exclaimed, [There will be] test after test,9 for it is said in Scripture, And if there be yet a tenth in it, it shall again be eaten up.10

 כתובות (קיב:)  
אמר רבי זירא אמר רבי ירמיה בר אבא דור שבן דוד בא קטיגוריא בתלמידי חכמים כי אמריתה קמיה דשמואל אמר צירוף אחר צירוף שנאמר ועוד בה עשיריה ושבה והיתה לבער

Review of The Beys Din System Today by R’ Ari Marburger (published in Dialogue) -[ Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter]

Guest post by Yehuda

“It’s common when someone loses in Beys Din that he tells his friend his innocence and says, “You can see that I’m correct and Beys Din got it backward. If my case would have been in front of So-and-So who’s know as a wise man, he certainly would have seen who’s correct and wouldn’t have reached such a terrible backwards verdict!” He then continues cursing the Beys Din because of this in ways that aren’t fit to print.”

Frustration with Beys Din is not a new phenomenon, as the above quotation from the Chofetz Chaim (L”H 6’ 8’) indicates. No one likes to lose, and it’s a lot easier to blame the Beys Din than to admit to being wrong. Yet there are legitimate complaints about the modern Beys Din system in the United States, and recognition of the problem is always a prerequisite for finding solutions. Therefore it is a pleasure to see the issue discussed in Dialogue in what is promised to be the first of several articles. R’ Marburger is the director of the Business Halacha Institute and therefore focuses on Choshen Mishpat, but most of his discussion applies to Beys Din in general.

The article begins with a very important disclaimer: The fact that Beys Din has issues does not mean secular court becomes automatically permissible. We have had an illustrious visitor to this blog argue that Tamar Epstein was justified in going to secular court because Beys Din has problems. It was noted at the time that no Rabbonim permit such an indiscriminate amendment to the Shulchan Aruch, but the misconception is unfortunately widespread.

Before we get to the legitimate complaints, it is important to define several terms. A Beys Din Kavua is a Beys Din established with the consent of the community. A Zabla Beys Din is a process in which each litigant chooses one Dayan and then the two Dayanim choose a third Dayan. A Zabla Beys Din is more problematic than a Beys Din Kavua in all of the issues at hand.

R’ Marburger primarily discusses four issues: The cost of a Din Torah, the inability to appeal the Psak, private communication between the Dayanim and litigants, and the lack of a written explanation of the Psak. All four are against the Shulchan Aruch. Yet all four are common practice and therefore justified by the Acharonim on various grounds. However, the real question is not how is it permissible, but why are we looking for loopholes? Regarding cost, the answer is simple: Dayanim don’t get paid by the community or the government, so if they wouldn’t charge the litigants they would starve. R’ Marburger notes that Zablas cost more than a Beys Din Kavua and tend to take longer (the beauty of charging by the hour). The lack of appeal is also justified by the legal requirement that arbitration agreements be final. However, the other two problems are a lot harder to justify. R’ Marburger does not present a reason per se why a Beys Din would want to communicate privately with a litigant (other than the obvious, which we’d rather not think about), rather he presents a Halachik justification for Zablas to engage in this behavior. This leads to two important ramification: A Beys Din Kavua has no such Heter, and even a Zabla can be forced to abide by the original Halacha if a litigant insists beforehand. Finally, the most difficult issue to explain is why Beys Din often does not provide a written explanation of its psak. R’ Marburger provides three possible reasons: Cost, potential embarrassment to the losing party, and the possibility that someone will make fun of the psak. This third concern seems to be based loosely on the Gemora Avodah Zarah 35a or Igros Moshe Y’D 4’ 38’ 7’, which is primarily a concern that someone will not follow the psak, not that he’ll make fun of it. Whatever the reason for the custom, in today’s climate when people already have questions with the system, it seems counterproductive to ask for blind trust from litigants.

The article is certainly thought provoking, but something very curious appears after the article: an addendum from R’ Shlomo Miller that in some ways is more significant than the entire article. It represents the first time that a mainstream publication has published a rebuke of the actions of R’ Herschel Schachter and R’ Shmuel Kamenetzky against Aharon Friedman. No, R’ Miller does not say any names. But he states that no one other than a Beys Din Kavua can issue a Hazmana; in other words, Rabbis Schachter and Kamenetzky and certainly Martin Wolmark cannot issue a Hazmana to anyone, and if you can’t issue a Hazmana then you obviously can’t issue a Seruv for failure to respond. Ben Bno shel Kal V’Chomer that you can’t order that someone be beaten, as R’ Schachter stated publically about Aharon Friedman. R’ Miller also says that you can only force the opposing litigant to use Zabla when the Dayanim are distinguished people, but otherwise they do not have the status of what the Shulchan Aruch calls Zabla. This is a remarkable statement that allows more people who are leery of Zabla to avoid it.

So what are the Gedolim going to do to fix the problems? Ask not what the Gedolim can do for you; rather ask what you can do for the Gedolim(and klal yisrael)! According to R’ Marburger, the fix will have to come from the bottom-up. He states “Change will require… widespread grassroots insistence by the end-users of the system”. Sounds like a job for a blog!

Note: As per R’ Aharon Feldman, anyone who has something to add to the discussion is encouraged to write a Letter to the Editor of Dialogue.

Former Shomrim leader charged in federal court with bribing New York police officers.

A former leader of an Orthodox volunteer security patrol in Brooklyn has been charged in federal court with bribing New York police officers to “expedite” gun permit applications for members of the Orthodox community.

Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges Monday after an officer in the New York Police Department’s License Division allegedly confessed that he and a supervisor had accepted bribes from him, according to the New York Post.

The Forward reported that Lichtenstein — who was arrested Sunday at his home in Rockland County, a heavily Orthodox region an hour north of New York City — is the former coordinator of the Borough Park-based Shomrim security patrol. Citing court papers, the Forward said that at the time of his arrest, Lichtenstein was carrying an NYPD detective’s shield bearing the word “liaison” even though he is not an official NYPD liaison. [...]

Court papers say Lichtenstein was secretly recorded last week boasting about how his police connections had enabled him to secure 150 gun licenses. He reportedly offered another police officer $6,000 per gun permit after fearing that the FBI was cracking down on the officers who had previously helped him. [....]

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Yishai Schlissel convicted of murder at 2015 gay parade

Arutz 7   A Jerusalem district court found Yishai Schlissel guilty of murder on Tuesday in connection with the murder of a teenage girl in 2015.

Last July, Schlissel attacked the Jerusalem gay pride parade, stabbing seven participants. One of his victims, Shira Banki, died from her injuries three days after the attack.

Schlissel carried out the attack just three weeks after having been released from prison for a prior stabbing attack.

A father of four from the haredi town of Modi’in Illit, Schlissel had been convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a similar attack on the 2005 Jerusalem gay pride parade. Three people were wounded in that attack.

Schlissel was released early, however, after a court reduced his sentence by two years.

During his prison sentence for the 2005 stabbing attacks, Schlissel divorced his wife.

Secular education and Rav Shach

Relevant to our discussion of the relevancy of secular studies are two stories about Rav Shach - who was not shy about expressing his strong views on a wide variety of issues.

The first story I heard from Rabbi Gershenfeld - Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Shlomo in Har Nof. Rav Leff - the Rav of Mattisyahu is also the head of the high scholl Maarava - which provides high level of secular studies to its elite student body. Rav Leff took the job at the insistence of Rav Shach. One day Rav Leff heard that Rav Shach had made a strong attack on Maarva and secular study. He hurried to Bnei Brak to offer his resignation to Rav Shach. He told him he did not want to be part of an institution that Rav Shach opposed. Rav Shach responded. "You are to remain as the principal of Maarava and I will continue attacking it."

I was told that originally Maarava was created for students who didn't really fit in yeshiva and thus were going off the derech because they had no place. With the development of the school these misfits were able to be saved. However with time, people who were not misfits were attracted to the school. Students who would have been very successful in a Torah only environment - wanted to have careers and become professionals. This necessitated Rav Shach's attack which was to make clear that Maarva was only for those people who would have been lost otherwise. It was not an option for a successful student.

The second is mentioned in the autobiography of Prof Aharon Kirschenbaum. The biography itself can be downloaded here.teaching Jewish law

Monday, April 18, 2016

Prep Schools Wrestle With Sex Abuse Accusations Against Teachers

Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite New Hampshire boarding school whose prominent graduates include Daniel Webster and Mark Zuckerberg, disclosed last month that it had forced out a popular teacher in 2011 because of sexual misconduct in the 1970s and ’80s.

The school’s delayed announcement — officials said they had been protecting the victims’ privacy — brought forth allegations against other employees. And on Wednesday, Exeter announced that it had fired a second teacher who had admitted to sexual encounters with a student more than two decades ago.

The revelations at Exeter are the latest to rock the insular, privileged world of American prep schools. In the past decade, sex abuse allegations have tarnished a litany of top private schools, including Horace Mann in the Bronx, Deerfield Academy in western Massachusetts and the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. Since December, more than 40 alumni of St. George’s School, an elite boarding school in Rhode Island, have reported several cases of molestation and rape, mostly in the 1970s and ’80s.

Sexual misconduct is, of course, not limited to select private schools. Educators say that it occurs with alarming frequency across all types of educational institutions. [...]

A 2004 analysis of the scant research on sex abuse estimated that 9.6 percent of students in public schools experience some form of educator sexual misconduct, ranging from offensive comments to rape, between kindergarten and 12th grade.

“Boarding schools are fertile ground for predatory behavior, mostly because you’re with the kids all the time,” said Eric MacLeish, a lawyer representing several alumni who say they were sexually abused at St. George’s.

“It is accepted that teachers will get very, very close to students as they become mentors,” he said. “They work out together, eat together, take trips together, go to Europe together with the school choir. Many live on campus and are dorm parents.”

Hawk Cramer, 48, an elementary school principal in Seattle who said he was molested by a faculty member at St. George’s when he was a student there in the early 1980s, agreed that the unfettered access to students at boarding schools can allow a pedophile to groom victims.

“You can call kids into your home, you can be alone with them, and kids think you have control over their future,” he said.

And students are loath to report the abuse, at least in real time. “Students are embarrassed and under huge pressure to perform,” Mr. Cramer said. “They don’t want anyone to think they aren’t measuring up or that they’re a victim.”[...]

“I do think a lot of schools are grappling now in a way they haven’t before with what are the best practices in terms of providing safety and enough prevention, training and education,” said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. [...]

He and others attributed the changes in part to liability concerns stemming from the explosive Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State in 2011. Mr. Sandusky, a coach who was convicted of abusing 10 boys over 15 years, has cost the university more than $92 million in settlement costs.

More recently, the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight,” an account of The Boston Globe’s exposé of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests and the subsequent cover-up, may be spurring a new round of reporting. [...]

The importance of secular studies

I would like to bring some sources which indicate that secular learning is important - not just because it is required by the government. I will be adding sources and commentaries over a few days - so check back for updates.

[I] Shabbos(75a): R. Zutra b. Tobiah said in Rab's name: … he who is able to calculate the cycles4 and planetary courses but does not, one may not praise him … R. Simeon b. Pazzi said in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi on the authority of Bar Kappara: He who knows how to calculate the cycles and planetary courses, but does not, of him Scripture saith, but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither have they considered the operation of his hands.7 R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in R. Johanan's name: How do we know that it is one's duty to calculate the cycles and planetary courses? Because it is written (Devarim 4:6), "for this is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples", what wisdom and understanding is in the sight of the peoples?9 Say, that it is the science of cycles and planets.

Rashi (Shabbos 75a): In the eyes of the nations – because it is a self-evident wisdom because the accuracy of his words is testified by the movement of the sun and constellations. For example he says that this year will be rainy and it is is in fact so or that this year will be hot and it is so. That is because the nature of the seasons are determined by the movement of the sun and the constellations and their influence. Everything is determined by the stars and the time that the sun moves and interacts with the stars

We see from the above that it is important for a Jew to be knowledgeable about astronomy and astrology

1) The goyim view it as wisdom and therefore a Jew who lacks this wisdom is viewed as inferior This principle means that a Jew does not have basic knowledge of science, history or biology is viewed as inferior and surely if he has trouble speaking or reading the lanuage of the land. This is a chilul Hashem.

2) Being able to predict events because they are caused by the mechanical and fixed movements of the stars shows that idolatry is wrong. That is because the predictions from the movements are rule governed and thus there is no need for appealing to the god of the sun or other heavenly bodies. 

[II] Rav Yisroel Belsky told me that his success in dealing with kashrus processes - and his ability to deal with these issues better than other rabbis - was due to the fact that he took his secular studies seriously.  It is obviously that if one wants to deal with metzius issues that one needs to have the basic background in physics, biology, and chemistry. A basic understanding of the scientific method of validation. Being able to read precisely and to be able to communicate accurately in writing as well as speech.

 From Making of a Gadol
My father related that he was told by someone whose oldest son had just reached school age that he had decided not to send the child to a school with secular studies so that the boy would be able to devote all his time to learning Torah. My father protested, "But your son will be unable to read even the street signs to know where he is standing." When the unbending father replied, "R' Hayyim Soloveichik also did not read Russian," our protagonist, who felt that the child's development would be impeded altogether by the abnormal education his father was charting for him, argued, "Yes, but R' Hayyim had a shamosh who knew Russian and read the signs while escorting him through the streets. Do you expect your son to have a shamosh when he grows up?"
 It is noteworthy that when asked as an octogenarian whether young students at a Monsey yeshiva may be permitted to read light English literature (which would pass faculty censorship), my father- with the caveat that he would be "considered a leftist" for the ruling - referred to this experience of his own to prove that such reading is not harmful. He mentioned that he read Russian translations of such classics as the science fantasies of Jules Verne and the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle :. He added that the licentiousness of present-day society and literature mandates that contemporary secular books be carefully screened before being put onto a permitted-reading list. The principal of the secular department in Mesivta Torah Vodaath, R' Moshe Lonner, reported d that my father suggested students study certain plays by Shakespeare "because in olden times there was less reference to topics to which yeshiva bahurim should not be exposed", and referred to his own reading of these classics in the Russian language. (He added at the time that we should not think that people of the Elizabethan and Victorian ages were better than those of latter times - "there was simply more ,nr, [shame] then".)
 Also like my father, R' Aaron Kotler dabbled in secular studies at this time. He was more interested in literature than in the sciences which attracted my father's interest. My father stated to his son-in-law R' Yisrael Shurin that R' Aaron was proficient in all of classical Russian literature'L This was corroborated when, during a visit with a young, intellectual protoge of the Hazon-Ish who headed a yeshiva in Ramlah, R' Aaron blurted out, "This was expounded by Aleksander Pushkin" - as reported to this author by the yeshiva head '. The Ramlah Yeshiva was visited by R' Aaron Kotler, R' Shmuel Graineman and the Kopycznitzer Rebbe, R' Avrohm-Yehoshua' Heschel, in the summer of 5714 (1954). At the same time, Moshe Bar-Sela', director of the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and a Pushkin buff, dropped by for a glass of tea and a chat - people were wont to stop off in Ramlah on the then long drive from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. When Bar-Sela' quoted a line from the poem Yevgeni On'yegin without naming the author, R' Aaron reacted as reported. (Pushkin was a Russian author favored in Jewish intellectual circles. This author came across an interview of French Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas by Francois Poiri in "Emmanuel Levinas, Qui etes-vous?? ''° which has the thinker relating, "A few years ago an Israeli born in Eastern Europe paid me a visit. Upon entering my home, he noticed that I had the complete works of Pushkin on the bookshelves. 'You can see right away,' he said, 'that this is a Jewish home.'"

[to be continued]

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ross Greene Ph.D Why so many kids are being diagnosed today and why diagnosis can be limiting

For more information on special needs support visit

For more information on special needs support visit

Why Is This Matzo Different From All Other Matzos? An unintended side effect of kosher law: better tasting food

SEVERAL years ago, at a family Seder, I tasted a matzo I actually liked. It was misshapen and lightly burned, distinguishing it from the machine-made matzo of my youth. And this one possessed something that I had never experienced with matzo: It had flavor. What can I say? Up until that moment, the best matzo of my life was not much better than the worst matzo of my life; you could taste the struggle in every bite. For the first time I ate matzo and thought, This is delicious.

In the spirit of the Four Questions, which the youngest child always asks at the Passover Seder, and which begin with: Why is this night different from all other nights? I asked myself, “Why is this matzo different from all other matzos?”

I’m a chef, so of course I was tempted to credit the baker. [...]

A visit to the bakery where the matzo was made, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, allowed me to see how this law plays out on the ground. There were roughly 40 workers, with earlocks and yarmulkes, white shirts and black pants. For each batch of matzo, from the moment the water met flour, the workers frantically mixed, rolled and baked — all within 18 minutes — guaranteeing no fermentation.

The precision was impressive. But the recipe was just a hurried mix of flour and water. Not even a kiss of salt — nothing to explain that bravura taste, apart from the grain itself.

The bakery, I learned, specialized in an elite class of matzo called “shmurah,” meaning “guarded” or “watched,” which Orthodox communities prescribe for the first night of Passover. For shmurah matzo, the guarding against chametz begins not in the bakery but in the field, with rabbis overseeing the grain from harvest through to milling. Maybe, I thought, the matzo owed its flavor to this rabbinical scrutiny.

So several months later, I drove to upstate New York to visit one of the bakery’s suppliers, Klaas Martens, a grain farmer whom, coincidentally, I’ve known for many years. It was early July, and he was waiting to harvest kosher spelt for shmurah matzo. (Spelt isn’t typical matzo material, but it is one of the five biblical grains permitted in Passover tradition.) [...]

“What was remarkable to me is that being constrained by the rules of the rabbi, it forced us to figure out how to better preserve the quality of the grain,” Klaas said. [...]

Convinced that the matzo I’d tasted must be proof not just of a higher understanding of agriculture but also of a higher understanding of deliciousness, I asked the rabbi if he believed that any of the kosher laws ended up producing better-tasting food.

“No. Absolutely not,” he said. “It’s just kosher law.” [...]

I was beginning to see how the annual shmurah harvest improved Klaas’s farming for the rest of the year. It encouraged him to diversify crops, for instance, ridding his fields of weeds and improving the soil for everything else he grew. [...]

As we started down the last row of the 30-acre field, I watched the rabbi study the spelt left to cut. At the end of this hot, grueling day, he didn’t ease into the last few minutes of the harvest. If anything, he looked closer, examining the spelt so carefully, so faithfully, he might have been reading ancient scrolls.

I can’t shake that image because of something Klaas told me many years ago: “The history of wheat in a question is ‘How do we grow this and make it easier?’ ”

We’ve been spectacularly successful. After all, wheat built Western civilization. We eat a lot of the stuff — in the United States, more than 130 pounds per person each year. Worldwide, it covers more acreage than any other crop.

The rabbi, however, was not interested in making wheat easier. And his stone-faced inspection reminded me of what that pursuit has left us with: 

chemicals, denuded wheat, depleted soils and a host of other problems with our food system.
Everyone has his own standards — for food and faith — but that image of the rabbi gave me hope that the solution for a problem centuries in the making is within reach. Call it a fifth question: Instead of making something easier, why not make it more delicious? There’s room at the table for that.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Rav Herschel Schachter to give shiur at the Epstein's shul on Sunday

=================from a year ago =================

(Wynnewood, PA) – Lankenau Medical Center (LMC), part of Main Line Health, recently held a dedication of its Shabbat Suite, which was attended by community members, hospital administrators, physicians and staff. Lankenau Medical Center is located within a populous Jewish community in the western suburbs where the need is great for Jewish families to be able to observe Shabbat, religious holidays and Jewish religious law while their loved ones are in the hospital. 

The suite was designed to help patients’ families adhere to specific activities that Orthodox and other observant Jews refrain from during the Sabbath, which includes driving and cooking. The suite has two sleeping rooms, each with a private bathroom, which allows family members to stay near their loved one in the hospital on the Sabbath, which starts at sundown on Friday and ends at nightfall on Saturday. The new suite also has a kosher pantry and kitchen accommodations. Both the sleeping accommodations and kosher pantry are also available during religious holidays and during other patient stays.
“The dedication of this special suite would not have been possible without the efforts of Lankenau physician leadership and our partners in the Jewish community whose coordinated efforts have created a special place for patient families to observe Shabbat while their loved ones are hospitalized,” said Phil Robinson, President, Lankenau Medical Center. “The Shabbat Suite is one example of our commitment to delivering a personalized experience to all who entrust their care here.”
The Bikur Cholim Reception Area was dedicated in memory of David E. Epstein, MD, an esteemed former Lankenau Medical Center physician who passed away in 2010. In a drive spearheaded by Rebetzin Choni Levene of Lower Merion Synagogue, where Dr. Epstein and his wife Cheryl worshipped, its members donated close to $50,000, and his family made a special gift of $25,000 in his memory. Stephen M. Gollomp, MD, Lankenau Medical Center Neurology, and his wife Randie, dedicated the Prayer Room in memory of his parents, Renee and Bernard Gollomp. Over 25 Lankenau physicians committed to gifts of $1,800 or more in support of the Shabbat Suite. [....]

(From left) Standing before the plaque in her husband’s memory, Cheryl R. Epstein, widow of Dr. David Epstein and special donor to the dedication of the Bikur Cholim Reception Area in his memory; Tamar Epstein, daughter of David and Cheryl; and Suri Rabinovici, mother of Cheryl R. Epstein.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Allen J. Frances on the overdiagnosis of mental illness Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Hetter

Published on May 11, 2012
Psychiatrist and author, Allen J. Frances, believes that mental illnesses are being over-diagnosed. In his lecture, Diagnostic Inflation: Does Everyone Have a Mental Illness?, Dr. Frances outlines why he thinks the DSM-V will lead to millions of people being mislabeled with mental disorders. His lecture was part of Mental Health Matters, an initiative of TVO in association with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Metzorah- Pesach 76 - Leadership, Humility and Internalization by Allan Katz

 Guest Post by   Allan Katz

The Metzorah has to undergo purification, cleansing – tahara and atonement so that he can rejoin the nation and rededicate himself to the service of God. He attains kappara- atonement by removing part of his negative  personality and rejecting it – his self-pride, arrogance and haughtiness which is responsible for his contempt for other people and the underlying cause of his slander, gossip and la'shon ha'rah. The purification ritual is a process where the metzorah repents and changes from an arrogant person to become  a humble human being. The ritual includes the bringing of ושני תולעת ואזוב - scarlet thread which was dyed with a pigment made from a lowly creature and a low bush – the hyssop symbolizing the idea of humility. He also brings of cedar wood which grows tall and is imposing as a symbol of haughtiness. The question is asked - if our concern is to help a person become more humble, let him just bring the hyssop and the scarlet thread, why also  bring the cedar wood. ?
Being a humble ' nobody ' is not what the Torah wants of people. People are supposed to become leaders in their lives , strive for greatness, virtue and righteous and like the cedar in Lebanon grow tall - כארז בלבנון ישגה, but at the same time be humble. Humility is not taking credit for any achievements or success but acknowledging that without God's divine help and providence and the merit of the community he serves, he could not achieve in the world. But it goes further than this – humility is a precondition for great leadership. It gives one the courage to expose one's vulnerability and admit mistakes, learn from other people and listen to the concerns and perspectives of others. Being humble makes more space for others to come into his circle. A sign of Moses growth in stature was his going out and including his brothers in his circle of empathy – ויגדל משה ויצא. The arrogant person is concerned with protecting the image of his ' self', does not have the courage to expose his vulnerability, admit mistakes and listen to others. There is only place for himself in his circle and a fear of exposing himself makes him not willing to cooperate or support others and just be competitive . This breeds distrust and suspicion. People just don't connect with the person who is aloof and acts as if he is perfect. Leadership attracts people with  traits of humility and humanness – the courage to expose vulnerability.
The exodus from Egypt also required a purification process from the impurity of Egypt. A bundle of hyssop – אגודת אזוב, a symbol of humility was dipped in the blood of the Pesach sacrifice. It was an acknowledgment that only God's intervention would redeem them from Egypt and they had to demonstrate a unity which included as many people in their circle.
The ritual designed to cleanse and purify the metzorah focuses on humility. The question is asked – let the Kohen give a lecture to the metzorah on humility and tell him that he should become a humble person instead of him going through the ritual using symbols – 2 birds, spring water, cedar wood, scarlet thread and hyssop etc.? We cannot tell people to be humble. Becoming humble is an autonomous, self-directed internal process that comes from being reflective and making meaning of one's life. It means giving expression to values rooted in in his soul and inner-being. The symbols stimulate questions, making meaning and internalizing values. The Kohen as a leader and teacher has to create a learning environment and help with the process  where the metzorah can make meaning and internalize values. It goes beyond the old Chinese proverb - Tell me, I forget. Teach me, I remember, Involve me, I understand. We want internalization of values and in the case of the metzorah – it is becoming a person of stature who is also a  humble person. The ritual process helps him repent and be reflective. He sends away the bird a symbol of the person who talks badly about others, and the hyssop, cedar wood, scarlet thread and blood of the slaughtered bird are mixed with the spring water and then sprinkled – hazayah on him seven times
The Pesach Seider experience is about creating an environment which stimulates the curiosity of children to ask questions. It is questions, their questions and we challenging their thinking that drives the acquisition of knowledge that touches the heart and promotes the internalization of the underlying values. True freedom is becoming a humble leader who supports the needs and autonomy of others around him. As parents and teachers we should support kid's autonomy so that they become humble leaders who internalize the lessons of the Torah.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

39 Brooklyn yeshivos have been sued for not providing a useful secular education: Naftuli Moster of Yaffed says city is dragging its feet

Chaim Levin & report card - NY Times
Update: Just added a post dealing directly with the  Importance of secular studies

 update: added the original complaint
NY Times  A group representing parents and former students at ultra-Orthodox yeshivas accused the de Blasio administration on Wednesday of dragging its feet in investigating their schools, out of fear of alienating a constituency that the mayor has assiduously courted.

In July, 52 parents, former students and former teachers sent a letter to New York City’s Education Department saying that 39 yeshivas were violating state law by not providing students, particularly boys, an adequate education in secular subjects like English, math and science. The Education Department said then that it would conduct an investigation of the yeshivas, located in Brooklyn and Queens.

But on Wednesday, the group behind the letter held a news conference in front of City Hall to express its frustration with the lack of any apparent progress in the investigation.

“It’s eight months later, and there’s no sign of a serious investigation taking place,” Naftuli Moster, the leader of the group, Young Advocates for Fair Education, said. “In fact, all indications are that the D.O.E. is just stalling us. In the meantime, tens of thousands of boys — we estimate around 30,000 — are not getting a basic education.”


The group’s lawyer, Norman Siegel, a longtime advocate for civil liberties, said he believed the reason the investigation was stalled was that city officials did not want to cross ultra-Orthodox leaders. [...]

Chaim Levin, 26, who attended the news conference, said that when he was a child, his yeshiva, Oholei Torah in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, offered no English education at all. He showed his third-grade report card, which listed marks in prayer, the study of Torah and Talmud, Hebrew spelling, penmanship, Yiddish and Jewish history. He said he was now in his second semester of college and was hoping to become a lawyer, but that he was dreading having to take a math class, because he had never learned algebra.[...]


YAFFED is an advocacy group committed to improving educational curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools because we fervently believe that every child is entitled to a fair and equitable education. Our work involves raising awareness about the importance of general studies education, and encouraging the leadership of the ultra-Orthodox world to act responsibly in preparing their youth for economic sufficiency and for broad access to the resources of the modern world.

We encourage compliance with relevant state guidelines for education while maintaining respect for the primacy of Judaic studies and the unique cultural and religious values of the ultra-Orthodox community. Our mission is to ensure that all students receive the critical tools and skillsets needed for long-term personal growth and self-sufficient futures.