What really happened to the Valis baby? Story and meta-story.

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There is more than one story in the Valis case, and I would like to add my own comments to what R’ Yakov Menken wrote.

Story One, the death of an infant:
The first story is the tragic story of a baby’s death. The young father is accused of having killed his baby in a fit of rage over the baby’s crying, while others say the father was playing with his baby, threw the baby up in the air playfully as fathers do, and then tragically lost his grip, with the baby landing hard on the floor, emergency called, baby rushed to the hospital and dying in the emergency room.

Either this case was one of horrible abuse and murder, or it was a tragic, heartbreaking accident. The case is not clear, not yet proven one way or another. Demonstrations demanding the accused’s release were therefore at best premature.

I consider it unlikely that the young father is guilty, but it is certainly possible. I believe that abuse is extremely uncommon in charedi circles, but it does happen. Statistically, babies are FAR more likely to be killed by unrelated males (with Mommy’s boyfriend being by far the most common culprit) but it is not unknown or impossible for a father to kill his own baby, even a father with long payos.

Story Two, the meta-story
The second story is the meta-story of how the case has been portrayed in the press and how the charedi community responds to news coverage.

Here you have an Alice-through-the-looking-glass world, a Spy vs Spy Mad Magazine routine or a bizarre fun-house mirror world, take your pick of metaphor.

The Israeli press is routinely hostile and antagonistic to charedim, wherefore charedim assume that the press is lying or sensationalizing when they accuse a young chareidi father of murder. Likewise, the police are known to be anti-religious, thuggish and often vicious, and therefore any accusation of police mistreatment or police brutality is immediately assumed to be true by the charedi public. That is why the father’s confession is discounted by many charedim — it may have been coerced. OTOH the same confession, in the eyes of the media, is proof of guilt and makes rabbinic support for the young man look incredibly perverse.

On the other side of the looking glass, the charedi public is known to be wary of outsiders, protective of its own and suspicious of police, wherefore the press is quick to credit any report of chareidi misconduct and cover-up, and the police assume that an accused charedi is a guilty charedi. In addition, secular people (this is very common in America too) eagerly seize on any report, however rare, of crime and violence in the religious community as “proof” that religious people are no better, and maybe even worse, than people who are not bound by religious strictures.

Because of the way the media and police view charedim, and because of the way charedim view the media and police — with so much mutual hostility and suspicion — it is virtually impossible to cut through the fog in any particular case to find out what the truth is.

(BTW, it’s ironic that the Israeli press and the police are on the same side. Normally the mainstream media are antagonistic and skeptical towards the police, just as they are in the U.S. It’s only in regard to religious Jews that the media take a police report at face value. Had an accused Arab signed a confession under police interrogation, you may be sure that the press coverage would have been quite different.)

The truth in the meta-story is that charedim are mostly innocent of the horrendous domestic abuse and violence which the secular media habitually ascribe to them. The truth in the instant case is that this time, the particular man accused of abuse and violence may in fact be guilty.

Meanwhile, it is still the law in America, in Israel and in halacha that a man is innocent until proven guilty. The rabbanim who have become involved in the Valis case have called upon anyone with exculpatory knowledge or evidence to step forward. My own hope is that he is innocent and that it will be so proven. But I will add that IF he is guilty, then I hope he will NOT go free. If it was an accident, his own grief and guilt will torment him for the rest of his life. If it was an act of rage and violence, it would be a terrible miscarriage of justice for the killer to escape punishment.

In any case, R’ Menken linked to an article which stated that the young father’s friends were jubilant when the police released the young man to house arrest. They may well be relieved, but jubilation is not called for: the baby is still dead, and a young couple’s life shattered and shadowed forever by this tragic loss.

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44 Responses

  1. Michoel says:

    One could easily imagine that a new young father would prefer to be know as a murderer (and might even be able to convince himself that he was a murderer) than to confront having accidentally killing his child. The workings of the human mind in such circumstances should not be assumed to run in a normal, linear fashion. I attach very little significance to the confession.

  2. Yaakov Menken says:

    Elliot,

    We are, of course, welcome to reach our own determination of guilt or innocence based upon the evidence at hand, but this does not mean we toss the presumption of innocence (known in Halacha has Havei Dan es Kol Adam L’Kaf Zechut, Judge every man towards the side of merit) out the window. We merely substitute our own judgement for that of a jury.

    Even without Dan L’Kaf Zechut, it is incumbent upon us to address all the evidence. As David put it, “A professor who is the Head of the Department of Neurology in Tel Aviv hospital and a professor at T.A. University has testified in writing there were no bite marks or signs of previous abuse.” Taking the police report at face value is a bad idea, when you have an expert saying the exact opposite.

    Avrohom Ravitz’s statement is indeed troubling, but only because it is so true. They subjected a 19-year-old father, who had just lost his only son, to ten hours of interrogation with no lawyer present. In an American courtroom this confession would fly like a lead balloon.

    Please don’t join in a rush to judgement.

  3. Elliot B. Pasik, Esq. says:

    “Innocent until proven guilty” is an evidentiary rule of presumption applicable only within the four walls of a courtroom. In a criminal prosecution, the plaintiff is “The People of the State of…”, and they have the burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, to prove guilt. Thus, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty – in the courtroom.

    In the “courtroom” of public opinion, you and I can ignore this rule. We can make judgments all the time about the guilt or innocence of those arrested and waiting trial, and even those never arrested. We do this all the time. Hitler, Stalin, Nasser, Arafat, Saddam Hussein have all never been convicted of any crimes – but surely they are guilty, based on what we read in newspapers, magazines, and history books. We can say the same about OJ Simpson, and other contemporary villains who escape guilty verdicts.

    I agree that newspapers do need to be read carefully. However, the facts in the Vales case, as reported in Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post — respectable, although not perfect newspapers — do on their face, appear accurate, particularly given their official source, the police and the hospital. There were bruise marks on the baby’s body, a bite mark on his neck, brain swelling (edema), and brain bleeding (hemorrage). There was a confession. The 19 year old father said he hated the 3 three month old baby because of a birth defect, his weakened neck muscles, and also his crying kept him awake at neck. He threw him violently against a wall. The combination of all of these facts — and I’m sure there are more — persuades me, even at this early juncture, that the father is criminally responsible for the death of the infant. Is it possible that I and others who share my opinion may, as more facts unfold, be shown to be wrong? Yes, but I doubt it. Fathers do not usually toss very fragile 3 month old babies into the air, as someone suggested; and if they foolishly do, they won’t throw them too high; and if they do that, they don’t usually drop them; and if they drop them, babies do not get these types of death-causing injuries.

    So I don’t “get” this article, nor Yaakov Menken’s article. Nor do I “get” MK Avrohom Ravitz’s troubling statement (he belongs to UTJ)about Vales’s confession, something to the effect, Under Israeli police questioning, he might have confessed to killing Jesus.

    It is ironic that as a lawyer I’m saying this, but the focus should not be on fine tuning legal arguments, but on fixing the abuse problem in the orthodox community; in making our leading rabbis aware of the truth of the problem; and in making our wider community aware that violent demonstrations are not the answer. Cheshbon hanefesh, yes, as Rabbi Horowitz put it. And to paraphrase Senator Moynihan, we shouldn’t be defining Jewish deviancy down.

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    “I pray that the death is determined to be accidental”

    per the gedolim, it already has

  5. David says:

    Yaakov posted the link to a report of a medical examination by a professor of neurology, which stated that there were “no signs of chronic or acute abuse on the skin of the child.”

    A professor who is the Head of the Department of Neurology in Tel Aviv hospital and a professor at T.A. University has tesified in writing there were no bite marks or signs of previous abuse!

    Have the police or social workers shown any evidence of their claim from medical examiners?

    It is significant to note that the letter from the professor was dated April 6, and the “Sacred Cry” of the Rabbis in Yaakov’s post was dated 23 Nissan (April 21). The whole time the young man sat in jail, until April 25.

    Why was no mention of this letter made in any newspaper? They mention only “police report that…”

    As far as Valis’ confession is concerned: I remember a few years back reading a report about two Israeli Arabs who served years for murder, tried and convicted based on their confession, until they were released after the real murderer was found. This case made a big stink in the press for awhile about the methods used by Israeli police to extract confessions. The press seems to have forgotten this problem when it concerns a hareidi.

  6. Rabbi Zvi says:

    Unfortunately we are not immune to the ills of society. As my father ZTL often pointed out, “If jews were incapable of killing, the Torah would not have to forbid it.”

    That being said, I am highly concerned about the chillul HaShem and its ramifications – including the future difficulties in dealing with the authorities and governments in Israel and elsewhere. Who will take our complaints seriously if we conduct ourselves as wild, uncontrolled hooligans? Indeed, the police probably feel vindicated as a result.

    I pray that the death is determined to be accidental.

  7. Yaakov Menken says:

    Seth quotes: “Man, maybe I should count my blessings that I went to a tough inner-city public high school with gangbangers and the like.”

    That’s a response. Insane, but a response. Gil Student went to a left-wing, Modern Orthodox school which was influenced by the standards of American secular high schools. That case had, and has, no bearing here — except that you claim that any failure of Orthodox teenagers is somehow evidence that they are more violent than others: “Why don’t other communities have the same ‘quite unrepresentative’ ‘proportion’ of members with the same propensity?”

    Given that the behavior mentioned by Gil is duplicated across US high schools (whether or not it was found in yours), and nowhere in Meah Shearim, you are clearly out to bash rather than making reasoned arguments.

    FosterParent, your comments are well taken. As stated previously, a lower, even much lower, incidence of abuse does not mean it doesn’t exist. I know otherwise. But Valis deserves a presumption of innocence like any other defendant, and given the level of threat he posed it was unreasonable to detain him throughout Pesach.

    In the other thread someone just posted this link: http://hydepark.hevre.co.il/hydepark/topic.asp?whichpage=9&topic_id=1867614 . The report says “when it come to single injuries, it is impossible to distinguish between an intentional and accidental injury,” and therefore he cannot make a positive determination. But he makes no mention of bite marks.

  8. FosterParent says:

    As a former foster parent of a frum baby who was severely abused, I would like to address myself to those who cited the love for children that exists in the Orthodox world.

    For sure, this is true without a doubt. But those of us who have fostered frum children or who work in social service within the chareidi world know first hand that there are those among us that are aggressive and prone to violence.

    Our communities’ children marry very young and become young parents. Quite often they are unprepared to deal with the stress of finances, shalom bayis, and crying babies. It is quite miraculous that the overwhelming majority of our young couples do weather these storms, but there are a significant number who don’t.

    It is a myth that our communities don’t suffer from these ills. Unfortunately, many of our community leaders believe the myth as well.

    When I read this story, my first reaction was that it was probably true. How else could you explain the nature of the reported injuries? Radiologists and Pathologists are trained to recognize signs of abuse. I also was quite puzzled how the gedolim cited could state that the accused was innocent. But Mr. Valis deserves a fair and just investigation into the death of his baby. I hope he gets one.

    The reaction that ensued in the streets is unacceptable and a chillul Hashem.

  9. Seth Gordon says:

    Clarification to Rabbi Menken and to erin: I know the school Rabbi Gil Student attended was not charedi. I included that example to show that my outrage does not come from anti-charedi bias.

    If you read Rabbi Student’s posting, you see the same style of apologetics that Rabbi Menken uses above: “To clarify, is it wrong? Of course! Does it represent bad midos? Without a doubt. Should whoever do it be punished, if possible? Certainly. Is it the worst thing in the world? No. Is it a condemnation of a school or a community? No. It happens in plenty of places.”

    And if you read the comments to that posting, you see myself and several other people making the same kind of point that I make above. E.g.: “Man, maybe I should count my blessings that I went to a tough inner-city public high school with gangbangers and the like.”

  10. ja says:

    “It is also possible (and not at all unreasonable to believe) that the police, based upon the ME’s conclusion, then coerced a confession which they believed revealed the truth, but is in reality anything but.”

    But we are being asked to believe that the business about finding bite marks on the baby was also made up by the police out of wholecloth. That’s possible, but seems odd. They could coerce a confession without fabricating that.

  11. David Gold says:

    Whether Valis killed his child or not is, at this point, almost irrelevant.
    For argument’s sake, assuming he did, there are sick people in every society.
    The question then is, how does his society deal with it. Even if the ME was wrong — and I have a hard time understanding how a rabbi could know this — there are ways and means to go about addressing human error or bias.
    Riots are not the way.

  12. Sarah m says:

    Toby Katz wrote: “My answer to that is no [,I do not have any statistsics about domestic abuse in the Jewish community] . . .The media that regularly report a high rate of abuse in the religious community do not have any statistics, either.”

    Check out the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA) at http://www.jcada.org
    They report that “domestic abuse occurs in Jewish families at about the same rate as in the general community – about 15% and the abuse takes place among all branches of Judaism and at all socio-economic levels.”

    The only difference they report with regard to the Jewish community is “Jewish women tend to stay in abusive relationships 2 to 3 times longer than those in the general population. Non-Jewish women stay from 3-5 years, Jewish women from 7-13 years.”

  13. SephardiLady says:

    Exactly R. Menken. Rushing to judgement is unwise and it is also unwise for people to rush to judgement on the police in Israel.

    In the meantime, I will just use this case as a reminder of how important it is to put a child down and leave the premises when we start to feel frustrated.

  14. erin says:

    1. “..However, many non-Orthodox communities are not so violent. I was raised among such people. I have never participated in, or even witnessed, a violent anti-WTO demonstration, a violent strike, or violent sports fans. Even as an unpopular middle- and high-school student, I never suffered the kind of hazing that many kids in Orthodox high schools received.

    The school in LA gil refers to is very expensive (16K a year), very modern Orthodox school. You cannot blame charedim for that.

  15. Baruch Horowitz says:

    ” ….. However, our charedi community’s response to this incident was clear and loud: Trash fires, threats to “Make Jerusalem burn,” 140,000 shekels in damage to public property. A cheshbon hanefesh is long, long overdue. This type of lawless behavior is, in my opinion, a disgrace to our Torah “- Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz

    “I agree with him that this type of behavior is a chillul Hashem but I take strong exception to his characterizing this lawless behavior as “our community’s response.”
    “Our community”—the community of bnai Torah, of which both Rabbi Horowitz and I are part—did NOT riot and demonstrate, as a community. — Toby Katz

    ” …. What do you call what happens around U Maryland each time they compete in the NCAA Basketball finals, win or lose? ….It is the responsibility of the charedi community to adhere to a far higher standard. But to point fingers uniquely at the charedim, as if they were worse, is bias. They’re not worse, it’s merely that we should expect them to be better. Despite all Rabbinic calls to the contrary, there are those who act unreasonably, and their behavior disgraces G-d’s Name” –Rabbi Yaakov Menken

    I agree with Rabbis Horowitz and Menken, and with Toby Katz(BTW, I am of no relation to Rabbi Horowitz). Notwithstanding the backwards compliment apparent in this statement regarding University students(“reu ma bein bni l’vein chami” ), it is unfortunate that we have to look to the University of Maryland to put the issue in perspective, even if only to point out a media bias. This situation has been going on for far to long, and results in both richuk rechokim and richuk kerovim.

    To illustrate, I heard the following incident approximately two years ago at the keynote session of the Thanksgiving convention of a major American Orthodox organization in Yerushalayim, where I happened to be visiting at the time. The keynote speaker, as I recall, related the comments made by his granddaughter when she witnessed the actions of a small, radical fringe group which was protesting the public Charedi gathering held in honor of the visit of an Israeli Torah sage (the protesters– who basically represent no one– were apparently angered by this Gadol’s support of Nachal Charedi). The speaker related that his granddaughter–who was a “good kid”– stated that she felt no pride in being Jewish at that particular time! I think many people would feel likewise(although I would immediately point(‘a la Rav Eliezer Silver) to the thousands who did show proper kavod hatorah).

    I am wondering if there is anything that lay people in chuzt l’aretz can do to correct this situation. The first thing, I think, is to recognize that any sociological group–Jewish or non-Jewish– has difficulty in separating itself from , and protesting against its own fringe elements. After all, those who burn trash bins are(at least outwardly) Charedi shomrei torah u’mitzvos lemhadrin in every other respect(although Rav Shimon Schwab and others would appear to disagree with this last statement). Parenthetically, for this very reason, I think we should be sympathetic and understanding if and when we ask Lubavitch to protest Meshichists, Satmar to make peace among itself, or even certain non-Jewish communities to speak out against problems which exist in their societies.

    I do not mean to lay this at their door step, however, I think that Agudath Israel of America, because of their organizational skills and connection with the charedi Rabbinic and organizational lay leadership, is uniquely positioned to bring improvement to the Israeli scene in this regard . The American Agudah has been successful in the Charedi hasbara effort, and is also significantly involved in trying to make a dent in solving the underlying causes of Israeli Charedi poverty. Perhaps they could work with Israeli Rabbonim and political organizations to brainstorm on how to make, for example, a “Kiddush Hashem campaign” (bumper stickers and all) which will result in the ostracizing of improper public decorum, the same way public slander or pritzus is frowned upon.

    Any effective change would have to be done over time, and would probably be incremental and evolutionary in nature. Until such improvement occurs, we should remember, as was pointed out, that the vast majority of bnei torah–whether in Boro Park or Meah Shearim– abhor such conduct. Also, we should focus on the tremendous Charedi Chessed(kindness) that exists both in America and in Israel, as well as on the wise observation of the Gadol who said that he started out in his younger years wanting to change the whole world, but later realized that the only life that he could really control was his very own.

  16. Yaakov Menken says:

    Seth, the community in which Gil was raised is, most emphatically, not that of Meah Shearim. It is interesting that you bring up violence in schools, because Israel’s secular high schools are beset by an ongoing epidemic of violence as well as drug and alcohol use. This is used as a selling point to encourage parents to send their children to Torah schools.

    I don’t know what non-Orthodox community you lived in, but among the academic elite at Princeton University I witnessed (and barely avoided) behavior nearly identical to what Gil describes. Where do you think Orthodox kids learned to behave that way, from their Rebbeim? That is a clearly American-style high school hazing, hardly started by, much less particular to, the Orthodox.

    The fact is that Orthodox communities are far less violent. Without having any idea which day school Gil attended, I rest assured that it did not have fights as violent or as frequent as what sometimes broke out in the hallways of the prep school from which I graduated. That doesn’t mean violence doesn’t happen, but it does mean, as I just mentioned in the other thread, that any particular suspicious injury is that much more likely to have been of accidental rather than deliberate origin.

    It is, therefore, possible the ME reached the wrong conclusion. It is also possible (and not at all unreasonable to believe) that the police, based upon the ME’s conclusion, then coerced a confession which they believed revealed the truth, but is in reality anything but.

    It is simply too early to tell, and rushing to judgement is always unwise.

  17. Felix says:

    dear hillel
    first of all, i’ve read rav menkens post. no mention of “blood libel”! (and this is GOOD, because to my knowledge there were no “blood libel” accusations)
    second, the rabbanim want that everybody, who might help to prove the innocence of valis do so and they want the truth. BUT they have not failed any decision! thats how i understand the statement in rav menken’s translation.

    i don’t care about what is likely or not. either there is evidence or there is no evidence (probably not enough). things that are not 100% proved should not play any role in this issue. it is not proved that the police acted illegal. fullstop.

    Tzvi :
    “I read that R Chaim K based his psak on that ‘fact’ that the wife stood by her husband and supported him. If she thought he killed the baby she would be in revolt.
    I also read that at the funeral she spontaneously shouted, ‘I know you are innocent etc.’”
    could it be correct? i don’t think so. there are plenty of married murderer who commited offence against their kids. in my eyes this fact wouldn’t proved his innocence. anyway, would it be enough in the eyes of the halacha? i don’t know. but i doubt it. thats why i doubt that this is the only or even the strongest fact on which the decicion of rav kanievsky(if he made one)is based.

  18. Nachum says:

    All true. However, when people dress in a distinctive fashion and hold themselves out as the exemplars of religious life- and are surrounded by those they know will jump on any evidence to the contrary- they are rightly to be held to a much, much higher standard. And part of that standard, I think, extends to not complaining about being singled out in any way. The moment anyone creates a chillul hashem, cross-currents may not protest about any side issues.

  19. Menachem Petrushka says:

    This is a story that has repercussions that go far beyond the guilt and innocence of a young man or the meta-story surrounding the incident.

    What happens the next time a charedi child falls and hurts himself/herself badly. Will Charedi parents hesitate to seek medical attention immediately for fear of being accused of child abuse.
    Who is responsible if, G-d forbid, tragedy results.

    But as a believing Jew, I have trust that the Doresh Damim will sort out the claims and counterclaims and punish those who are truly guilty and protect the innocent.

  20. ja says:

    “Meanwhile, it is still the law in America, in Israel and in halacha that a man is innocent until proven guilty.”

    The difficulty with this case is that the papers report that there were bite marks on the baby. Is this being disputed?
    In a newspaper interview, one of the rabbis defending the father was asked about the abuse and said that the child didn’t die of bite marks. Are we dealing with a situation where the abuse is clear, and the only question is whether the child died accidentally or as a result of abuse?

    If the abuse is confirmed, is there a halachic imperative to aid the man in his defense against murder charges (assuming the former is confirmed and the latter in doubt)?

  21. TzviNoach says:

    What exactly was the kol koreh intended to accomplish? Aside from expressing support for the accused (and belief in his innocence), it called on the public “to help them, and every person should do what he can to work with them, and to also help the family because the expenses are great…” (emphasis in original proclamation).

    Notice that the focus seems to be less on financial help for the family, and more on other activities (activism?). While it may not have been the intent of the author(s) — leaving aside the question of whether it was in fact authored or approved by the rabbis whose names appear on the bottom — it is not hard to see how this would be taken by some as license to protest, and even to riot. And since, as mentioned by others, there has been an unfortunate history of such behavior in the community, this reaction would not be hard to foresee, and would certainly have been foreseen by our gedolim. Which is why I find it hard to believe they actually were the authors of such a kol koreh. It seems much more likely this was intended by agitators as a rabble-rousing cry. And if so, it worked as they intended! It roused the rabble, with the expected results.

  22. S. says:

    >Here in Miami there is at least one murdered baby a week in the newspapers (most of them killed by the boyfriend). The number of murdered Orthodox children since I’ve been living here—13 years—is so far zero, B”H.

    With all due respect, Toby, you are comparing two very different social groups. Whatever the true facts about Chareidim in EY, they are not basically the same social group as Orthodox Jews in Miami.

  23. S. says:

    >The Rabbis state that they have investigated Valis’ backgrounf and have concluded that it is highly-unlikely that he is guilty as charged. As Torah Jews, we believe that Torah sages have Siyata Di’Smaya (Divine assistance)—certainly in a life-or-death case, such as this.

    How you talk. As Torah Jews we believed that 23 rabbis, experts in halakhah, sit in judgement of life-or-death cases, and they hear evidence before making conclusions.

  24. Seth Gordon says:

    Rabbi Menken, there are certainly communities outside the Orthodox world (in the US and in Israel) who are violent beyond any stereotype of the charedim.

    However, many non-Orthodox communities are not so violent. I was raised among such people. I have never participated in, or even witnessed, a violent anti-WTO demonstration, a violent strike, or violent sports fans. Even as an unpopular middle- and high-school student, I never suffered the kind of hazing that many kids in Orthodox high schools received.

    So we have an interesting sociological question: when it comes to keeping teenage boys from violence, why don’t the charedi community leaders do at least as well as the white-bread middle-class nonobservant-Jewish subculture where I was raised?

    Saying “OK, in this respect the charedi community isn’t too great, but look at all these other communities that are even worse” does not strike me as a winning kiruv strategy. The obvious response would be “I don’t want to join any of those communities, either.”

  25. Katie B. says:

    Toby Katz writes:
    “When it comes to actually killing infants, a case like the Valis case (if he is even guilty) is extremely, extremely rare in the Orthodox community, charedi and non-charedi.”

    My problem with statements related to the rarity of abuse in different groups, not just Orthodox or religious, is that for those that are members of such groups and are in abusive situations, it makes them feel stigmatized and less comfortable with coming forward to ask for for help. Unfortunately for the abused, their abuse is real, painful, and dangerous, regardless of how rare to their community abuse may be.

    The simple fact that abuse is rare to a community should not have weight as to whether or not a person is guilty of abuse or murdering their child, rather the case should be weighed solely on its own facts. I worry that this isn’t happening in the Valis case.

  26. Yaakov Menken says:

    Seth, other communities don’t have young gangs? Let’s set aside, for the moment, that Meah Shearim is the safest low-income, inner-city neighborhood in Israel. Charedi gangstas burn garbage, B”H. What do you call what happens around U Maryland each time they compete in the NCAA Basketball finals, win or lose? Or Boston last year? The Yad Eliyahu sports stadium has floor-to-ceiling metal partitions between the sections to prevent fans of the opposing sides from killing each other.

    The last time the Ben-Gurion airport workers struck, they burned aircraft tires. The damage from the last 50 charedi demonstrations/riots might, in total, approach that. World Trade demonstrations were in vogue last year, I seem to recall a bit of trouble in Seattle…

    Their behavior was abominable, in all of the above cases. It is the responsibility of the charedi community to adhere to a far higher standard. But to point fingers uniquely at the charedim, as if they were worse, is bias. They’re not worse, it’s merely that we should expect them to be better. Despite all Rabbinic calls to the contrary, there are those who act unreasonably, and their behavior disgraces G-d’s Name.

    Micha, I don’t think anyone would argue your point that less frequent hardly means never. But it may not have happened in this case, and the rush to judgement was unreasonable — as was the claim that the Rabbis wanted to see a child-killer released.

    Tzvi, the point of my earlier post was that what you read may or may not bear some semblance to what the Rabbis actually said.

  27. Seth Gordon says:

    The milling young men who quickly form into wild gangs when such “fun” is afoot are juvenile delinquents with nothing much to do. They are a very small proportion of the youth in our communities, quite unrepresentative.

    Why don’t other communities have the same “quite unrepresentative” “proportion” of members with the same propensity? (Case in point: A lot of Jews across the spectrum feel that Jonathan Pollard has received an unfair sentence, but I didn’t hear of any of them creating a “minor riot by world riot standards” over the case.)

    Yes, the communities that failed to riot over Pollard have members who have embarrassed their rebbes in other ways. I would be happy to stipulate that every Jewish faction has bad and good people, and that while faithful service to Hashem makes you more of a mensch, joining a religious community (whatever its label) does not always lead to such faithful service; therefore, let all of us work on improving the many defects that we see in ourselves, and let us not invite the Evil Eye by praising ourselves too loudly.

    But Cross-Currents authors have been happy to compare their world with other communities when such comparisons favor them. (See here, here, here, and here.) They are in a poor position to cry foul when other people use comparisons running in the other direction to discredit the charedi community.

  28. Micha says:

    FWIW, Toby, R’ Avraham Twersky wrote an article in Jewish Action about the amount of abuse that goes on behind closed doors in our communities, and how our disbelief that it exists is preventing us from addressing it.

    As for your confidence in your purses safety… That’s because crime outside the home is very rare among observant Jews. And even in the home, it’s more rare than in general.

    As for the number of children killed in your local Orthodox neighborhood. First, the population is smaller. Second, the percentage of poor is also smaller, and uneducated FAR smaller. And last, we don’t know if a baby who was put down as a victim of SIDS wasn’t. They performed an autopsy on my daughter a”h, but most infants aren’t checked — particularly ones from clean, middle income, educated homes.

    Less frequent doesn’t mean “never”. And when it may have happened, it needs to be checked, lest evil thrive.

  29. Toby Katz says:

    Hillel wrote:

    “Chaim Kanievsky said that the father was innocent. If the choice is between Rav Chaim and the Amona-scarred Police, I’ll take Rav Chaim.”

    But on this one I’m with Felix, who asked “how could rav kanievsky know whether he is innocent or not?” I wonder what R’ Kanievsky based his assumption on. The fact that the young man’s friends and acquaintances attest to his fine reputation is not, by itself, proof of innocence.

    R’ Horowitz wrote:

    “However, our charedi community’s response to this incident was clear and loud: Trash fires, threats to “Make Jerusalem burn,” 140,000 shekels in damage to public property. A cheshbon hanefesh is long, long overdue. This type of lawless behavior is, in my opinion, a disgrace to our Torah.”

    I agree with him that this type of behavior is a chillul Hashem but I take strong exception to his characterizing this lawless behavior as “our community’s response.”

    “Our community” — the community of bnai Torah, of which both Rabbi Horowitz and I are part — did NOT riot and demonstrate, as a community.

    Menachem Lipkin wrote:

    “The violent response of the protesters were not “demonstrations”, they were riots.”

    What has been called a “riot” was really very mild by world riot standards. I hasten to add that by our Jewish standards it was completely unacceptable behavior — and the rabbanim quickly put a stop to it. (Needless to say they never actually issued a call for riots in the first place!)

    The milling young men who quickly form into wild gangs when such “fun” is afoot are juvenile delinquents with nothing much to do. They are a very small proportion of the youth in our communities, quite unrepresentative. Yes, some of them are out of control and should be brought under control (and in this case, they quickly were), and yes, we should be looking at whether wild young men with no sitzfleish for learning should perhaps be provided with more wholesome forms of recreation and occupation than milling about and setting trashcans on fire.

    But the media reports were as usual disgracefully biased and exaggerated, implying that the entire charedi community was rioting, that the Rabbanim and Gedolim had called for riots, and that all of Jerusalem was in flames, with ordinary secular residents cowering in fear for their lives.

    Finally, I had written:

    “The truth in the meta-story is that charedim are mostly innocent of the horrendous domestic abuse and violence which the secular media habitually ascribe to them.”

    To which Menachem Lipkin responded,

    “Do you have any statistics to back this up?”

    My answer to that is no, and nor do I have any statistics to back up my belief that when I see young men approaching me at night, coming out of shul with their tzitzis out, my pocketbook is safe.

    We all make reasonable assumptions based on life experiences.

    The media that regularly report a high rate of abuse in the religious community do not have any statistics, either.

    Even Rabbi Twersky, who writes so eloquently about the need to confront and deal with abuse in the Orthodox community, does not have statistics, but only anecdotal evidence based on his case load — which BTW skews his perceptions, too, because all the hard cases find their way to him.

    One problem with statistics is the extreme difficulty of defining abuse. Broadly defined to include shouting and table thumping, abuse is surely very common in all circles.

    When it comes to actually killing infants, a case like the Valis case (if he is even guilty) is extremely, extremely rare in the Orthodox community, charedi and non-charedi.

    Here in Miami there is at least one murdered baby a week in the newspapers (most of them killed by the boyfriend). The number of murdered Orthodox children since I’ve been living here — 13 years — is so far zero, B”H.

  30. Eliezer Barzilai says:

    “It seems that Israeli society is a lot more sectarian than the US.”

    Well, think about it. Israel was founded by two groups, each of which sacrificed life and limb to turn a long-dead land into their vision of Utopia: on the one hand, the fervently religious, ranging from religious nationalists to religous anti-nationalists, and on the other, rabidly anti-religious socialists, currently personified by Lapid and Aloni et al.

    VIsualize Yaakov and Eisav forced to live in constant contact, and you have a good picture of why Israeli society is hopelessly dysfunctional.

  31. Erin says:

    A friend of mind was a juror in a similar case. As I understand from her it is very easy to know if the baby was hit or he fell. One way is to see if the baby’s eyes bulged out completely. There is no way for a normal fall to create such a pressure. So if this is what they saw in the ER, I guess they have a good reason to suspect that the baby was hit.

    BTW, in the states there is one expert witness who makes her living by going around the country and testifying in those cases that it can happen in a normal fall.

  32. Tzvi says:

    I read that R Chaim K based his psak on that ‘fact’ that the wife stood by her husband and supported him. If she thought he killed the baby she would be in revolt.
    I also read that at the funeral she spontaneously shouted, ‘I know you are innocent etc.’

  33. DovBear says:

    Had an accused Arab signed a confession under police interrogation, you may be sure that the press coverage would have been quite different

    Fair point, but wouldn’t your reaction have been different as well? I mean, if an Arab had confessed to killing his child, would you be yelling “innocent until proven guilty?”

  34. HILLEL says:

    Felix:

    See Yaakov Menken’s post, just before this one. There, you will see a public declaration by the most prominent Torah leaders in Israel calling upon all Torah Jews to assist the Valis family in fighting the blood libel against this 19-year-old young man.

    The Rabbis state that they have investigated Valis’ backgrounf and have concluded that it is highly-unlikely that he is guilty as charged. As Torah Jews, we believe that Torah sages have Siyata Di’Smaya (Divine assistance)–certainly in a life-or-death case, such as this.

    The Amona incident provided a rare insight into the brutal and arbitrary methods of the Israeli Police. Their Police-State tactics there were reminiscent of the NKVD in Russia, who, as we know, were notorious for extracting confessions from totally-innocent people.

    It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that the Police used threats and intimidation to get this naive and inexperienced young man to sign a paper, the implications of which he did not fully understand.

  35. SephardiLady says:

    I agree with Rabbi Horowitz that the lawless behavior is a disgrace to us all. I too would like to know more about the evidence and the case before drawing any conclusions of my own. But, let’s not act like a bunch of hoodlums and let the world draw conclusions about us in the meantime.

  36. Steve Brizel says:

    Let’s agree that the reactions and riots were an extreme reaction. Let’s leave aside statements as to the absence or presence of abuse in certain families. IMO, they are irrelevant to the facts and legal issues.

    That being said, what about the evidence itself? I would hope that someone other than myself is skeptical about a confession that may have been elicited and obtained under what may have been extreme stress and anxiety and possibly not in the presence of counsel. In a US court at least, any savvy lawyer would have requested a hearing as to the bonafides of such a confession and quashing it if the same was obtained in violation of what we know are the required “Miranda warnings.” I also found the rush to diagnose the cause of death by the medical examiner’s office a bit disturbing, especially considering its strained relationship with the Charedi communities.

  37. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Horowitz made an excellent point in post #5 above.

    It seems as if a radical fringe is holding communities and their leaders hostage. Those within these communities, and especially the recognized leaders, need to stand up for Torah and put the agitators in their place.

  38. Felix says:

    how could rav kanievsky know whether he is innocent or not? how often rav kanievsky has to do with murderers? is he a forensic expert? is he a witness? on which facts he based his decision? where have you read about his opinion on this case?

  39. Menachem Lipkin says:

    From Toby Katz:

    “Demonstrations demanding the accused’s release were therefore at best premature.”

    The violent response of the protesters were not “demonstrations”, they were riots. Fires were set, trash bins were overturned, police and civilian cars were stoned, and a bus driver was assaulted. This leads to a flaw in your “looking glass” ananlogy. You’ve left out a perception by the non-Chareidi public that is created by such behavior, a behavior which is becoming more common.

    “The truth in the meta-story is that charedim are mostly innocent of the horrendous domestic abuse and violence which the secular media habitually ascribe to them.”

    Do you have any statistics to back this up?

  40. Yakov Horowitz says:

    The father’s status seems to be the topic of discussion, and the subject of various opinions.

    However, our charedi community’s response to this incident was clear and loud: Trash fires, threats to “Make Jerusalem burn,” 140,000 shekels in damage to public property.

    A cheshbon hanefesh is long, long overdue. This type of lawless behavior is, in my opinion, a disgrace to our Torah.

    (Rabbi) Yakov Horowitz
    Monsey, NY

  41. HILLEL says:

    Rav Chaim Kanievsky said that the father was innocent. If the choice is between Rav Chaim and the Amona-scarred Police, I’ll take Rav Chaim.

  42. Bob Miller says:

    There’s a stupid idea in the press that a grave accusation creates a presumption of guilt and makes the defenders of the accused guilty, too. But this idea is only used against members of groups that the press dislikes.

  43. Ori Pomerantz says:

    It seems that Israeli society is a lot more sectarian than the US. In the US, people are a lot more likely to have the attitude of: “you’re different, that’s OK – live and let live”. In Israel, the attitude seems to be: “everybody should be like us, and if you’re not, there is something wrong with you, and we can’t trust you”.

  44. Rafi G says:

    By the way, innocent until proven guilty is not relevant when there is a confession of guilt. They do not have to prove anything because he confessed.
    Yaakov Menkens post, however, throws a new twist in, being Valis is now claiming his confession was coerced.