The Halo Effect and Good Fences-The Weberman Case and Abuse Prevention in Our Community – Part Two

by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Imagine entering a nearly deserted shul one morning and seeing a fellow taking a number of dollar bills from the pushka (charity) box. Would you suspect that he was stealing charity money? Well, it depends. If the person is attractive, well-dressed, and “your type,” you will probably assume he had put a large-denomination bill in the pushka and was merely taking change. However, if it was an unsavory character, you would be quite certain that he was helping himself to some of the charity funds.

The logic that drove your thinking was coined “The Halo Effect” by Edward Thorndike, former president of the American Psychological Association, in an article published in 1920, where he described it as, “A generalization from the perception of one outstanding personality trait to an overly favorable evaluation of the whole personality.”

He based his findings on a study conducted on two commanding officers who were asked to evaluate their solders in terms of physical qualities (such as neatness and bearing), intellect, leadership skills, and personal qualities (including responsibility, selflessness, and cooperation). He discovered that once a soldier was given a high rating in his physical qualities, he was far … Read More >>

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Reacting to the Weberman Case

by Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz

[Editor's note: Presumably, CC readers are not interested in sitting in judgment about events they have neither the knowledge nor the authority to judge. Many of us, however, do need to learn much more about the parameters of abuse, and the possibility of witness intimidation. A high-profile trial (with others waiting in the wing) in the frum community increases our awareness of problems with death-dealing consequences. Since I have the pleasure of speaking at times with Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, who possesses a rare blend of experience, professionalism and courage, I encouraged him to submit some reaction. He first offered to submit an original piece; when that proved impracticable for him, we agreed to post the essay he published on his own blog. Here is Part One -YA]

Dear Readers:

Many of you have asked tough questions regarding my advocacy on behalf of Weberman’s victim and I would like to thank those of you who took the time to write and ask them. From my vantage point, questions are a quintessential sign of respect; it means you considered the issues to be worthy of your time and thoughts.

Here are some of the questions … Read More >>

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Torah Values, Right – Wing Politics, and Health Reform

by Micah Segelman

Socially conservative principles and strong rhetorical support for Israel, among other factors, attract many in the Orthodox world to the GOP. While in of itself this is perfectly reasonable it’s a serious mistake, too often made, to conflate Torah values with right wing politics as a whole. While the right shares some of our values they betray others. Admittedly, with the Republican Party’s current disarray following the election and years of infighting it’s difficult to define a coherent Republican platform to evaluate. But it seems that one of the defining positions of the GOP since Obama’s 2008 election – their stark opposition to health reform in 2009 – 2010 – is inconsistent with our principles.

A Jewish society run according to Jewish law would be required to provide health care for those who can’t afford it. This is apparent from the Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed (3:3) and the Tzitz Eliezer (15:40:17). The Tzitz Eliezer writes that, “…the government, which must be concerned with the health of the population as one of its top priorities, must set aside funds …” (for more background see Noam Solomon’s “Concierge Medicine in Halacha”). The degree to which someone must … Read More >>

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Chasing Away The Sandman – The Hurricane Sandy Wakeup Call

by Yehuda L. Oppenheimer

Much has been, and will continue to be written, about the calamity that was Hurricane Sandy. Thousands rendered homeless, millions without power; an incalculable loss of money, possessions, any sense of security. . . the full extent of the suffering is really beyond comprehension. Economists claim: “There has not been such devastation affecting so many participants in the US economy before.” That is to say, even when compared to the trauma of 9/11/2001. Although there was far more loss of life at that awful time, the calamity did not directly injure as many people as Sandy has. For the American Orthodox Jewish community in particular, I am not aware of any incident that directly affected so many with serious hardship as this hurricane. In fact, as time goes on, it seems that the impact is growing, as the scope grows larger and larger.

How do we think about such a tragedy from a theological perspective? What message is Hashem sending us with such a large megaphone? Although I claim no special insight into His inscrutable ways, it would seem that Chapters 40 and 41 of Yeshayahu are particularly germane. Chapter 40 begins with the famous … Read More >>

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Staying Still to Serve

By Binyamin Ehrenkranz

When He finished speaking with Avraham, G-d left [him]. Avraham then returned to his place. — Gen. 18:33

Frank took me to the Oval Office (my first view of it) . Henry Kissinger was also there, with Nixon, and when the exchange had gone on for about fifteen minutes Dwight Chapin (appointments secretary and dirty trickster) entered discreetly and handed the President a note.

I instantly inferred that this was the procedure by which guests were signalled to leave, and was therefore surprised when Nixon said to Chapin, “Tell him to wait just a minute,” and resumed his conversation with me. Upon the conclusion of the point he was making, I rose and said the usual thing about how busy the President was, we all shook hands, and I left. As Frank and I walked away from the White House, he told me that I had violated protocol. “The way it works is you never terminate a session with the President, he terminates it . As long as he says nothing abortive, it signifies that he wants things to continue as they are, and the tradition is that we are all there at the pleasure … Read More >>

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Death: A Nice Opportunity for Regret

by Erica Brown

THOMAS ARNOLD KEMP was executed this past April through lethal injection. He stole $200 from a college student in Tucson in 1992 and then murdered him. It took seven minutes for Mr. Kemp to die. His last words: “I regret nothing.”

Really?

I have been thinking about Mr. Kemp and death and regret, perhaps obsessively. Regret incites us to review and reflect on our actions; when we miss the mark, regret generates disappointment and grief. Regret would not have kept Mr. Kemp alive. But it might have kept him decent.

Regret is an essential part of repentance in Jewish law, and, as a Jewish educator, I find myself thinking about regret each year before Yom Kippur. As part of my research into the subject this year, I handed out index cards to my students from age 18 to over 80, and asked them to list a small regret and a large regret.

Here is a random sampling.

In the small-regret category:

I didn’t participate more in school.

I am sorry I didn’t take more vacations.

I was nasty to people.

I regret not trying harder in college.

I should have paused to notice a stranger and … Read More >>

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The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

by Steven Pruzansky

The most charitable way of explaining the election results of 2012 is that Americans voted for the status quo – for the incumbent President and for a divided Congress. They must enjoy gridlock, partisanship, incompetence, economic stagnation and avoidance of responsibility. And fewer people voted. As I write, with almost all the votes counted, President Obama has won fewer votes than John McCain won in 2008, and more than ten million off his own 2008 total.

But as we awake from the nightmare, it is important to eschew the facile explanations for the Romney defeat that will prevail among the chattering classes. Romney did not lose because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy that devastated this area, nor did he lose because he ran a poor campaign, nor did he lose because the Republicans could have chosen better candidates, nor did he lose because Obama benefited from a slight uptick in the economy due to the business cycle.

Romney lost because he didn’t get enough votes to win.

That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate. The notion of the “Reagan Democrat” is one cliché that should be permanently retired.

Ronald Reagan himself could not win an election in today’s America.

The simplest reason why Romney lost was because it is impossible to compete against free stuff. Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentivizes looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote; so too those who anticipate “free” health care, who expect the government to pay their mortgages, who look for the government to give them jobs. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.

Imagine two restaurants side by side. One sells its customers fine cuisine at a reasonable price, and the other offers a free buffet, all-you-can-eat as long as supplies last. Few – including me – could resist the attraction of the free food. Now imagine that the second restaurant stays in business because the first restaurant is forced to provide it with the food for the free buffet, and we have the current economy, until, at least, the first restaurant decides to go out of business. (Then, the government takes over the provision of free food to its patrons.)

The defining moment of the whole campaign was the revelation (by the amoral Obama team) of the secretly-recorded video in which Romney acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election in which “47% of the people” start off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive money – “free stuff” – from the government. Almost half of the population has no skin in the game – they don’t care about high taxes, promoting business, or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese. They just want the free stuff that comes their way at someone else’s expense. In the end, that 47% leaves very little margin for error for any Republican, and does not bode well for the future.

It is impossible to imagine a conservative candidate winning against such overwhelming odds. People do vote their pocketbooks. In essence, the people vote for a Congress who will not raise their taxes, and for a President who will give them free stuff, never mind who has to pay for it.

That engenders the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that the electorate is dumb – ignorant, and uninformed. Indeed, it does not pay to be an informed voter, because most other voters – the clear majority – are unintelligent and easily swayed by emotion and raw populism. That is the indelicate way of saying that too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads. That is why Obama did not have to produce a second term agenda, or even defend his first-term record. He needed only to portray Mitt Romney as a rapacious capitalist who throws elderly women over a cliff, when he is not just snatching away their cancer medication, while starving the poor and cutting taxes for the rich. Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending. Obama could get away with it because he knew he was talking to dunces waving signs and squealing at any sight of him.

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back: “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!” Truer words were never spoken.

Continue reading → The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

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Personal Invitation to an Orthodox Community Bloc Party

by Shlomie Boehm

Our community is being invited to a party. Valuable party favors will be distributed. There is just one caveat — the community must show up en masse, for ten to fifteen minutes per person. I am talking about the November 6 elections.

Just a few days remain until the 2012 elections, and political fever has gripped the country in a manner unprecedented since perhaps the Civil War. Everywhere you turn people are debating the pros and cons of candidates, frequently with passionate views on both sides of the debate. The presidential race is currently viewed as a dead heat, and many local New York elections, as well as local elections around the country, are similarly a dead heat. Candidates, particularly for State Senate and Assembly positions, as well as candidates running for the United States House of Representatives, are so desperate for every vote that they are happy to meet with even small groups of constituents in the hopes of garnering those one or two elusive votes that may decide their campaigns. Importantly, close elections are wonderful news for bloc constituencies, such as the Orthodox community.

A “bloc constituency” is a group of voters that … Read More >>

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Genesis and the Higgs Boson

by Daniel Korobkin

Jews worldwide have just begun again the weekly Torah reading cycle with the book of Genesis and the story of creation. This comes on the heels of this summer’s most important announcement in physics of the last 30 years, the discovery of the Higgs boson particle.

In layman’s terms, here’s how it’s explained: for decades in the 20th century, physicists have theorized the existence of subatomic particles that make up all that exists in our universe. Some of these particles have mass, like electrons, and some have no mass, like photons, the particles that comprise light. These particles were first created during the Big Bang, some 15-20 billion years ago according to the current scientific understanding, and formed the basic building blocks of all matter and energy that we find in our universe today. This theory is known as the Standard Model of particle physics. Over the last several decades, scientists have been able to verify the existence of many of these subatomic particles using a big machine called a particle accelerator collider, which, by generating a huge amount of energy, causes particles to collide. Scientists observe the results of these collisions and can thus confirm … Read More >>

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Metzitzah and the Halachic Process

by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

The Metzitzah controversy is nothing new.

In the 1800’s, in Germany, the elements of Reform sought to ban circumcision entirely, attacking the “barbaric” practice of Metzitzah b’peh (MBP), where a Mohel would suck the blood away from the circumcision site.

A little earlier history is in order. The Talmud requires that after a Bris is performed, the blood must be suctioned away from the wound. The reason given is for the safety of the baby. Presumably, the purpose of Metzitzah is to cleanse the wound area of any germs and prevent infection.

It is easy to understand the claim that using the Mohel’s mouth to clean the wound is counterproductive. Some children were becoming ill in the 1800’s and Metzitzah was being blamed. Due to the controversy over Metzitzah b’Peh, many of the Sages of that time permitted the use of a tube to suction the blood.

This innovation was controversial, but many of the greatest authorities of that time and more recent times accepted it.

The Chofetz Chaim quotes the opinion of the Yad Eliezer, who permitted blood to be pressed out of the wound with an absorbent cloth, such as a … Read More >>

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The Other Obama-Romney Debate

by David Luchins

[Editor's note: Mishpacha has hosted a fascinating exchange about the attractiveness of President Obama's candidacy to the Orthodox community. The combatants have been our own Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum and Dr. David Luchins. Jonathan is a regular contributor to Mishpacha, and did have some home-turf advantage. While Mishpacha did allow Dr Luchins to respond through a lengthy letter to the editor, it was still edited for size. Since Jonathan's Mishpacha article was republished on Cross-Currents, David asked us for the right to respond with the full, unedited response he had prepared, and also to allow a fuller flow of comments than Mishpacha could handle as a print medium. We are happy, of course, to allow the reciprocity]

I was flattered to see that my wise friend Yonasan Rosenblum felt I could make “the best case” for re-electing President Obama (Mishpacha, September 3, 2012), but I do wish he had stayed to the end of the debate, when I addressed several of the points he raises in the article.

Yonasan is correct that I have not voted for a second term President since Richard Nixon in 1972, when, on Hubert Humprey’s personal recommendation, I was the youngest … Read More >>

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From Informing to Inculcating

by Micha Berger

You will know today and answer to your heart that Hashem is the G-d in the heavens above and on the earth below – there is none other. – Devarim 4:39

There has been much attention given lately to the “crisis of connection”. We are a generation where the observant community is more informed than any before (perhaps since King Chizkiyahu; c.f. Sanhedrin 94b), but we mourn our lack of the kind of connection with the Almighty that came more readily to our parents and grandparents. We have started exploring ways to not only inform, to put concepts into our heads, but inculcate values into our hearts. Knowing something is a bad idea doesn’t always translate into making right decisions. (Otherwise, I would have lost that extra weight a long time ago!) Somehow we have to get ideas from the head into the heart, into our passions and motivations.

This need is also a critical part of dealing with another topic that the community has (finally) started realize it’s full life-changing potential — living in a world where the internet plays an increasing role, despite the challenges the internet makes all too available. We need to … Read More >>

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Yeshiva Day School Financing: A Case Study

by Micah Segelman

Amid the recent avalanche of attention that the issues of tuition and the financing of chinuch have received, I wanted to share some experiences from my children’s small yeshiva day school in the “out of town” community of Rochester, NY. While Derech HaTorah of Rochester (DHR) is very far from “solving” the problem of financing chinuch, lessons can be learned from the many good ideas and successes of numerous mosdos and it’s in that spirit that I present this case study. My point here isn’t to directly address the issue of tuition reductions for children of mechanchim. Rather my intent is to examine solutions to the overall issue granting that raising tuition for the full tuition payers is off the table.

First, some data. DHR started 9 years ago with just over 30 students and has approximately tripled in size since then. Boys and girls are separated in the older grades and to accommodate this, older grades are combined for select subjects. Despite the inefficiency inherent in the small class size necessitated by the size of the school, DHR strikingly spends an average of only about $7000 per student. The denominator of this ratio does … Read More >>

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I Am Charedi

by Yaakov Rosenblatt

I am charedi. I was born in Brooklyn, went to mainstream charedi elementary and high schools, spent two years in Mir Yerushalayim and attended Kollel at Beth Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. I wear a black hat on Shabbos and dark pants and a white shirt much of the week. My yarmulke is large, black and velvet and being a frum and inspired Jew is my most basic self-definition, on par with being human and being male.

Am I charedi? I believe in the utter supremacy of Torah wisdom to secular knowledge. But I also believe that one can see Hashem through analysis of the physical world and that many committed Jews who engage the sciences have a richer appreciation of Hashem because of it.

Am I charedi? I believe that Torah study is a most worthy pursuit and the community should support and lionize scholars whose wisdom is clear and vision is pure. Writing s’forim, debating s’voros, and forging new paths in Torah is an effort worthy of a significant portion of our charitable dollars.

Am I charedi? I learned in Kollel for four years and am now in the business world. … Read More >>

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The Siyum in Verse, Twice

By Yossi Huttler

Daf Alef

nowhere to be found only in yeshiva shel ma’alah where neshamos’ unfinished corners are completed by the Teacher of teachers who fills in the unknowable of this world

(Daf) Alef

hidden like the end of the very first word in Sefer Vayikra reminding us how little we are ever to know b’olom hazeh

Yossi Huttler is the author of LaKol Z’man: A Poetical Journey Through the Jewish Year. His poems and essays have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Observer, the Forward, Jewish Action and Midstream

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POEM: (how to sleep on) Le’il Tisha B’Av

By Yossi Huttler

a pillow less or pillow-less a stone mai’avenei hamakom head rest for one’s temples can you really sleep like every other night of the year

Yossi Huttler is the author of LaKol Z’man: A Poetical Journey Through the Jewish Year. His poems and essays have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Observer, the Forward, Jewish Action and Midstream. This poem first appeared on Forward.com

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Blending Families

By Yakov Horowitz

These lines are written in loving memory of our dear father, Reb Shlomo Zev ben Reb Baruch Yehudah Nutovic a’h, whose first yahrtzeit is 7 Menachem Av. May the positive lessons learned from this essay be a zechus for his neshama.

Nearly fifty years ago, our mother’s life was turned upside down with the sudden passing of our father one spring evening in 1963. Suddenly she was transformed from a happily-married young woman to the single parent of three children under the age of five. With the active support of both extended families, our amazing mother made it through those difficult years with incredible dignity and grace.

In the summer of 1965, she married Abba, as we called him, and for the next 46 years, built a beautiful home together in an environment of mutual respect, tranquility and joy. Abba had a son from a previous marriage, and in 1966 Hashem graced them with a daughter together – so our blended family had the quintessential “Yours, mine and ours.”

To their enormous and eternal credit, they raised three sets of children as one seamless family – so much so that people often could not tell … Read More >>

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What A Wonderful World!*

by Robert Lebovits

In my professional world perception is reality. What individuals believe to be true forms the basis of their worldview and directs the choices they make. Consequently inaccurate perceptions can have profound effects on the course of one’s life and in some circumstances on the future of a community. The dialogue initiated by Rabbi Adlerstein and the response from Dr. Schick have generated an unprecedented outpouring of reactions from readers of all backgrounds. As Rabbi Adlerstein has noted, he has simply articulated the thoughts and feelings of many observant Jews struggling with the demands and economic pressures that living a frum lifestyle entails. The cost of providing for a child’s Jewish education is the focal point of this torrent of frustration but not its real source. I believe that to be something far more central and deeply-rooted in the competing hashkofos of our Torah values.

In order to examine the real issues underlying the resentments and developing rifts between the various groups in Orthodox society, we must first resolve the misdirection present in the discussion regarding tuition costs and the burden baalei batim experience resulting from the perk of “free” education given to the children of klei … Read More >>

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Nachal Charedi – Reality Check

by Akiva Paths

In the past I wrote about my Air Force Daughter. Since that time she has now been joined by Infantry Son.

Being ultra-orthodox, charedi if you will, we were not willing to throw our son into cultural morass of the Israeli Defense Forces at their whims. Since the IDF has been “preparing” for ultra-orthodox recruits, we targeted him at the ultra-orthodox infrantry program – Nachal Charedi / Netzach Yehuda – The Mighty Men of Judah infrantry combat unit.

Our son contacted a friend, a former yeshiva student in yeshiva with him, who was now a training sergeant in Nachal Charedi. He couldn’t help, letting us know “the battalion is full”. The battalion is full??? What if you’re ultra-orthodox and you want to fight in the army?

Next, by hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence), I was being picked up from the train station and was asked for a ride by someone from synagogue I recognized…in an army officers uniform. Turns out he’s an army chaplain and a captain. We asked him if he could help and he was able to put us in touch with Nachal Charedi’s battalion rabbi. The rabbi was able to get our son on the list.

We breathed a sigh of religious relief, if not parental worry. Our son was going to be in a proper religious environment, while putting his life on the line to defend all the Jewish people and non-Jewish citizens living here.

Two and a half weeks before his enlistment date we got a harbinger of things to come. I received call… “hello, is this (Reb Akiva’s son’s father)? Your son has to report for basic training tomorrow”. “What??? His orders say 2 1/2 weeks from now. We haven’t prepared him (done the preliminary army supply shopping), it’s not what his orders say.” “He has to report tomorrow, the orders are changed by this call. He should report to (normal Jerusalem enlistment point A).”

What can you do? I took off work, ran home, grabbed my boy and headed to the mall. Why? As we learned with Air Force Daughter, there are things your child needs for army service that the army doesn’t provide. Some are obvious (a cell phone to call home), some less so (a durable watch with a timer function). We also had feedback from her on what’s a waste of money (like dirty laundry bags) and what’s good to have (boot polish).

Enlistment day is a big deal in Israel. It’s normal for a number of family members to join the enlistee in going to the enlistment point. But everyone was ready for that in 2 1/2 weeks…so he lost out.

That evening we got a call… “your son has to report to (unusual Jerusalem enlistment point B) tomorrow.” “What, we were told (normal enlistment point A).” “The orders are changed by this call, (click).” I didn’t even know where enlistment point B was!

He made the point, we said goodbye and off he went to be a soldier.

Continue reading → Nachal Charedi – Reality Check

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Walden Ponder

by Dovid Landesman

Last week, my wife and I had the distinct pleasure of attending the induction ceremony of the Netzach Yehudah [a.k.a. Nachal Chareidi] brigade. Our youngest son is the brigade’s sergeant major and as such, was in charge of the event. This was no little boy playing soldier. My wife and I witnessed a mature, trained and dedicated chayal, cognizant of his responsibilities as an NCO and a ben-Torah, leading those under his command with the authority and presence that is a manifestation of the interdependence of those roles. We also attended in loco parentis for a young man from the US who is living with us and was one of the inductees.

The ceremony itself was typical of the IDF’s disdain for pomp and order; I can only imagine how your typical American drill sergeants would have reacted seeing the inability of the soldiers to march in even – let alone perfect – groups. Nonetheless, I was greatly moved and there were a number of elements that gave me much to reflect upon.

The main speaker was the commander of the I.D.F.’s Kfir division; Netzach Yehudah is a unit within that group. Although he was not … Read More >>

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Coney Island Memoirs – Affirmative Action

by Philip Lefkowitz

It was the 1960s, a tumultuous time for the civil rights movement in the United States. Cities were burning, race riots where breaking out everywhere. In New York City, Mayor John Lindsey was doing his utmost to placate the simmering anger boiling over in the Black community. And I, a young Rabbi of 23, was the Rabbi of the Beis Medrash Machzekie Rav, better known as the 31st Street Talmud Torah in the heart of Coney Island.

For years Coney Island had a significant and active Jewish community. In the 60s that community had largely disappeared. Yet from Stillwell Avenue to Seagate there were still several Synagogues, most with part-time Rabbis. The majority of the population of Coney Island was African American and Puerto Rican. It was the hood – a tough ghetto style neighborhood.

Other than those Jews who lived in the City’s middle class housing project on Surf Avenue, across the street from the Brooklyn Hebrew Home and Hospital for the Aged, the former Half Moon Hotel, and attended the Young Israel of Coney Island, its Rabbi now Rosh Bet Din of the Igud Harabonim, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock shlit”a, … Read More >>

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Naomi Ragen Ordered to Pay ₪233,000 for Plagiarism

from Roberta Chester

Judge Yosef Shapira accepted a settlement on Tuesday between American-Israeli authors Naomi Ragen and Sarah Shapiro, whereby Ragen was ordered to pay Shapiro 233,000 NIS (over $62,500) for copyright infringement, representing an unprecedented amount in a plagiarism case in Israel.

The agreement followed a verdict issued December 11 determining that Ragen, the defendant, committed plagiarism in her novel “Sotah,” and had stolen both text and ideas from Shapiro’s autobiographical memoir of her life as a young orthodox mother, “Growing With My Children.” The court ruled that in writing “Sotah,” the fictional account of a young woman living in Jerusalem’s Haredi community and accused of committing adultery, Ragen had committed “theft, negligence, and a violation of copyright.”

In her defense, Ragen claimed that she “accidentally” copied Shapiro’s work, a claim the court rejected as being “unthinkable, unlikely, and unbelievable.” Following the December verdict, the court recommended that the two sides settle upon an exact amount. In addition, all phrases and sentences which violated Shapiro’s copyright will have to be eliminated from new editions of “Sotah.” [UPDATED: previous version stated in error that the material will not have to be removed.]

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Trembling Before Rashi – Redux

By Shaul Gold

[Editors’ note: We received a large volume of comments, which were held up in the queue until Rabbi Gold could pen a response to their general drift. We have still not determined why so many of our readers assumed that “trembling before Rashi” is somehow the equivalent of granting Rashi veto power over interpreting pesukim. Rabbi Gold wrote nothing of the sort. Clearly, many rishonim disagree with many other rishonim; many disagree with Rashi. Rabbi Gold commented upon the tendency of many (and I have heard this myself many times - YA) to be dismissive of Rashi as hopelessly stuck in a primitive, literalist mode that is beneath enlightened moderns, chas v’shalom. Rabbi Gold argued that whether accepting his pshat (from which we always have something to learn, or preferring another, Rashi (as well as other Rishonim, but especially Rashi considering the centrality of his work on Chumash in the life of so much parshanut that followed) must always be approached with reverence. We will let Rabbi Gold explain in his own words.]

I would like to address some of the comments that Purim prevented me from addressing. I was, and yet remain, confused as to … Read More >>

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Purim and Polarization

Young Writers Submission by Daniel Weiss

One of the claims that Haman leveled against the Jews was that they were “separate and scattered,” that they lacked togetherness. Of all the negative characteristics he could have singled out, he chose this as the defining feature with which to describe us to the King. The Midrash states that this is precisely what made the Jews vulnerable to annihilation, what opened the door to a decree of our death. It was significant then and it is still very much a reality today due to the diversity that is present across the Jewish spectrum. Yet, we were purposely born as a nation with twelve tribes because diversity has its benefits, benefits which are worth understanding.

In social psychology there is a concept called group polarization. The basic idea is that when members of a group have similar opinions about an issue, discussion within that group does not balance out their opinions but rather makes their opinions more extreme than they were going in. For example, if before going into the jury room, members of a jury all believe that an individual is guilty, then they will come out feeling even more strongly … Read More >>

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Trembling Before Rashi

By Shaul Gold

One of the defining moments in the development of my hashkafas hachaim (outlook on life) occurred during a Shiur Klali (weekly lecture) I attended as a talmid in Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim.

The Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Nochum Partzovitz, ZT”L, was a son-in-law of Rav Chaim Schmuelevitz, ZT”L, and one of the preeminent Maggidei Shiur that emerged after the War. He was one of the famed Mirrer talmidim from Shanghai and a talmid of R’ Boruch Ber Levovitz (Rosh Yeshivah in Kamenitz and a Talmid Muvhak of R’ Chaim Soloveitchik). R’ Nochum’s awe and reverence of R’ Boruch Ber and R’ Chaim Brisker was well known.

R’ Nochum suffered from arterial sclerosis and, when I arrived at the Yeshivah, was already confined to a wheelchair. He gave a daily shiur, a chaburah on Thursday nights, and a preview of the Shiur Klali on Motza’i Shabbos. The preview shiur was unique in that, while it was ostensibly a small gathering in his apartment, it was, in fact, attended by hundreds of talmidim from other Yeshivos that gathered in the hallway and stairway to hear the shiur. The shiur was a great strain for R’ Nochum physically, but was an … Read More >>

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