Like the repeatedly pummeled victim of depraved bullies who decides it might just be best to stay away from the schoolyard during recess, Israel recently opted to not show up to be judged by the United Nations Human Rights Council, a body with venerated members like Congo, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Malaysia and Qatar.
The UN body and a number of individual countries, including the United States, pleaded with Israel to not be the first country to refuse to appear for an HRC “Universal Periodic Review.” But the Israeli government, in its chutzpah, decided to just say no to presenting itself for assault yet again by a group that has demonstrated a deep and troubling fixation on one political dispute in a world in which, elsewhere, authorities routinely amputate body parts, blithely murder citizens, incarcerate innocent people without trial and look the other way as human beings are enslaved and sold like sides of beef.
The New York Times, predictably, did its own huffing, munificently conceding that the HRC is “not without faults” but asserting all the same that the Middle East’s only stable and free democracy was showing “an unwillingness to undergo the same scrutiny as all other … Read More >>
He was as direct, forceful and iconoclastic in death as he was in life. Not halachically committed during his lifetime, he ensured that an entire world would understand that the core of his self-definition was his Jewishness.
His rabbi was Orthodox, but he never represented himself as observant. Yet, he sat shivah for a parent at Gracie Mansion. Not given to backing down from a position because of what others would think, he treated Torah differently. Thus, when the media once learned that he had choked at a restaurant, he created a white lie around the incident. The offending food had been pork, but he explained later that far be it for him to publicly advertise his disregard for this most basic requirement of kashrus. He evidenced thereby the midah of shame/ boshes that the gemara in Yevamos tells us is one of the three national characteristics of authentic Jews.
When his rabbi tried to find him a more traditional Jewish place of interment, he turned down several alternatives, preferring not to leave Manhattan, and to park himself among the common folks in Washington Heights.
He selected the text for his tombstone … Read More >>
Well-informed, they say, is well-prepared; and knowledge is power. An exception, though – at least in the judgment of some – seems to be when Jewish women in Israel are contemplating ending their pregnancies.
When an Israeli magazine announced it would bestow an award on a group called Efrat, “pro-choice” advocates (seldom have “scare quotes” been so appropriate) howled in outrage.
Efrat provides women with information about abortion, as well as financial support for mothers-to-be who are under economic pressure to terminate their pregnancies. The group’s detractors characterize it as preying on women at an emotionally vulnerable time.
Efrat, however, does not parade with offensive placards in front of medical facilities like some American groups. Nor does it seek to shame women in any way. Its goal is simply to advance “a woman’s right to free choice,” by providing expectant women who want it with accurate information about medical matters and the development of the lives growing within them; it also offers needy such women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term things like food packages, cribs and strollers. The group claims that, since its founding in 1977, 50,000 babies were born as a result of … Read More >>
[Editor's note: An earlier post provided the video link to Yair Lapid's presentation to the haredi law track at Kiryat Ono College. Realizing that many readers were eager to evaluate the message without investing a half-hour's worth of time to watch the video, I obtained an English- language transcript of the speech, through MakomIsrael.org which created the English subtitles for the video. Our thanks to Robbie Gringras of Makom for making the transcript available.]
There was a competition in Israel for Israeli-ness that lasted over a century, since the second wave of immigration, and in the end you won.
We lost and you won.
For decades it was a Mexican standoff, where each one waits for the other guy to give in,about which Avi Ravitsky, a religious man, wrote: “The status quo was based on the false assumption” which was accepted by both sides, “that the opposition camp was doomed to dwindle away “and perhaps even disappear.”
I know that’s what the Haredim thought about the secular, that they’re doomed to extinction. But that’s what we thought about you, too, that you’re a sort of living museum, like the Ramat Gan Zoo. There’s a … Read More >>
Even with protective cover from Senator Charles E. Schumer – as determined a defender of Israel as there ever was – and even speaking only for myself, I hesitate to address the overwrought reaction in some corners to President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. I don’t want to be labeled an anti-Semite too.
Not that there wasn’t or isn’t cause for some concern about Mr. Hagel. He is famously on record as having once referred to AIPAC as the “Jewish lobby,” and in the past questioned the wisdom of too hastily employing military force against Iran. But such things – you might want to sit down – do not an anti-Semite or unconscionable isolationist make.
At least not to reasonable eyes. Unfortunately, some tend to the visceral rather than the rational in such matters, prisoners of their own preconceptions. Despite the clear and ample evidence to the contrary, they just can’t stop pegging the president as less than committed to Israel’s wellbeing, and can be counted on to shoot at anything that moves if Mr. Obama set it into motion. So Mr. Hagel was immediately judged by some as bad for Israel, if for no … Read More >>
Here are two items to think about, without getting too political. The first depicts a one person’s experience of Israel’s first elections after statehood, in 1949. It is arguably true that things were different then. In fact, what separates different camps within the Orthodox world is articulating just what has changed. The second is a link to a speech that the biggest surprise winner in yesterday’s election gave last March in front of a haredi crowd, before Yair Lapid became a candidate. Reasonable people might disagree about what to believe concerning a speech given by a politician. Nonetheless, many of our readers will find themselves identifying with the essential upshot of his argument, even while finding the historical development somewhat wanting. After winning a stunning 19 seats, some of us are going to be scrambling to get a handle on the man and his vision.
A Recollection of Israel’s First Election (thanks to Caren May)
The following item was taken from the diary of Rabbi Moses Yekutiel Alpert of blessed memory who was a teacher in the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem and lived from l917 – 1955. Due to his knowledge of foreign languages and his sterling character … Read More >>
Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.
Ein mayim elah Torah. The water that slakes the ultimate inner thirst is Torah. The annual convention of the Association of Outreach Programs (AJOP) a week ago was awash with Torah. Hundreds of motivated and capable baristas of our life-giving elixir were on hand, serving up chizuk to each other. There was plenty of Torah to drink
A year ago, AJOP’s indomitable leader, Rabbi Yitzchok Lowenbraun, thought of opening the doors of this kiruv gathering to the FFB world. He reasoned that kiruv workers had done much of the heavy lifting in thinking through the issues, and formulating responses that made Torah life attractive to the uninitiated. Those same responses should be valuable in making Torah attractive to “lifers” who for various reasons found themselves in need of some passion and enthusiasm in their avodah. The inreach program last year was a sellout, and he expanded it this year to include a Shabbos before the program for kiruv workers began. He also invited in a wonderful national program of inreach to Orthodox students on campus, called Jewish Learning Initiative on … Read More >>
Barry Rubin of the Gloria Center, one of the Middle East’s shrewdest analysts, was in an unkind mood last week, as he himself admitted. The common element joining President Obama’s three appointments last week – Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, and John Brennan as Director of the CIA – is, in Rubin’s view, that “they are all stupid people” of the worst sort – “stupid, arrogant people, with terrible ideas.”
Unfortunately, there is little to contradict Rubin’s harsh judgment. Each holds views that make it impossible for them to understand Middle East reality, much less do anything about it. Hagel, for instance, is a “realist,” which is a doctrine having nothing to do with reality. Among the central planks of realist doctrine is that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is at the center of all the Middle East’s problems, and that the United States’ interests are significantly damaged by the lack of resolution of that conflict.
Speaking at “J Street’s” first annual conference in 2009, Hagel said, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central, not peripheral, to U.S. vital security interests in combating terrorism, preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, stability in the Middle East and … Read More >>
American politicians tainted by scandal and forced to resign their positions usually explain that they want “to spend more time with their families.” Issam al-Aryan, a top advisor to Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who recently tendered his own resignation said he is overly “occupied with my work as head of the Freedom and Justice Party bloc in the Shura Council.” He must not lack for family time.
The scandal that attached itself to Mr. al-Aryan was that he had publicly invited Israeli Jews of Egyptian descent to return to their erstwhile home. “Egypt,” he told Jews who had fled Egypt over the years, “is worthier of you than Israel,” which, he explained, is a “racist, occupying entity.”
There was no rush of Egypt-born Israelis to take up Mr. al-Aryan’s offer, or for that matter any evidence of even a single Jewish individual who was enticed by the prospect of leaving a modern, prosperous country, not to mention his ancestral homeland, for a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated pit of poverty and political upheaval. What did come quickly, though, was the backlash against the Egyptian politician for his impudent invitation.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan, for example, lambasted Mr. al-Aryan, insisting that “Egyptian … Read More >>
We’ve just been through an extensive discussion about a single offhand remark, made privately to Rabbi Adlerstein, concerning a single comment on a single website, read uncharitably, from which we then extrapolate an entire “train of thought” which, with no further evidence, we are to assume is endemic to the charedi community — and whether that Torah personality’s offhand remark should have been made publicly, and further, whether the failure to make said remark publicly reflects a fear of Gedolim to speak their minds. The best reaction to this was probably that of the writer using the moniker kman: “Maybe it’s just me, but we have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.”
Having just quoted someone who contributed using a moniker, I’m going to criticize the practice. There is a discussion about anonymity that is long overdue, but that one wasn’t it.
Put succinctly, I think the use of pen names has reduced the overall quality of comments and level of dialogue of this journal. This is not universally true, but I believe that if one weighs the cost and benefit, anonymous comments have done more harm than good.
A few months ago, I prevailed … Read More >>
Dear Reb Yoel,
You should take great satisfaction in the discussion generated by your cogent and respectful submission. What ever else divides us, we both love Torah Judaism and the Jewish people. We both agree that an essential part of dealing with the problems that beset any sizable community is open and frank discussion. I hope that good things will come from the challenging questions that you posed, and from some of the ideas that they will spawn.
The very fact that you were able to reach across the divide between our subgroups (what an awful thing, to have to talk about divisions between Torah Jews!) is empowering and positive. I hope that I can return the favor, and you can help me publish some of the observations I have about standards and phenomena in your hashkafic neighborhood that are perplexing to me. Perhaps we can take this process to the next step, and converse publicly in real time in the same spirit of brotherly concern, absent the usual admixture of one-upmanship common to such dialogue.
I will try to address your questions serially, to the best of my ability. In some cases, the question will be better … Read More >>
I was heartened by the responses I received to my essay last week, in which I suggested that Jews of good will on each side of the issue of women’s prayer groups at the Kosel Ma’aravi make an effort to empathize with those on the other.
Even as someone who wishes to see the Jewish religious tradition of millennia upheld at that holy spot, I still consider it important to try to appreciate how women used to women’s or mixed-sex services might feel in a segregated national Jewish prayer area where the only group services are men’s. And I expressed my hope that those women, too, will try to put themselves in the shoes of men who embrace halacha and thus may not hear women’s voices raised in song. Where such empathy might lead was not my point; the empathy itself was.
I heard, among others, from several non-Orthodox rabbis who (even though they prefer a different setup at the Kosel than I) expressed their appreciation for what I wrote. Heartening too was that I didn’t receive a single communication from anyone in my own charedi community eschewing empathy for those unlike us. (Perhaps that shouldn’t have been surprising, … Read More >>
By Yoel Finkelman
[Editor’s Note: As mentioned a few days ago, Dr. Yoel Finkelman submitted a thoughtful but challenging reaction to an earlier piece that spoke of an anonymous Torah Voice. Others will certainly disagree, but I firmly believe that we fail in our mission if we cannot listen to tough criticism couched respectfully. We need either to refute it, or to concede and change when problems are pointed out to us. The best criticism often comes from people outside our arba amos. I hope to find the time in a few days, BEH, to pen a response, unless readers beat me to making whatever points I plan to make.]
Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,
Once again, I find myself impressed with your writing and with your recent post about the significant Torah personality who took his community to task. A young observant man, an amateur boxer and Israeli champion, refused to take part in a Shabbat weigh-in and was disqualified from an international tournament. Rather than appreciate the mesirut nefesh, some lambasted him for ever getting involved in boxing. That Torah personality challenged the community’s small-mindedness and lack of bein adam lechaveiro. He boldly insisted that God has granted people … Read More >>
It’s easy to dismiss the antics of Warrior of the Wall Anat Hoffman. Her guerrilla gatherings of women in vocal prayer services at the Kosel Maaravi, or Western Wall, in defiance of an Israeli Supreme Court decision and in affront to the traditional Jewish men and women who most frequent the prayer site, are legend. That’s largely because Ms. Hoffman, head of “Women of the Wall” and executive director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, makes sure the media are summoned and present to record her activities and detainments, which number eight at last count. She can bank, too, on the support – although some of it is uneasy – from the non-Orthodox American Jewish community.
Even those of us, however, who see danger and disunity in Ms. Hoffman’s goal of “liberating” the Wall from Jewish religious tradition – halacha forbids Jewish men from hearing the voices of women singing or chanting – would do well to realize that not all the women who flock to the activist’s side are political agitators. Some are surely sincere, and deserve our own sincere consideration.
Imagine a woman raised in a Reform or Conservative environment, who read from the Torah … Read More >>
In retrospect, the phenomenon of Internet-trained Rabbis serving in Conservative and Reform congregations was bound to happen.
For decades, the liberal movements have tightly managed their Rabbinic placements. The size of each class at HUC or JTS (plus Ziegler in LA) is limited, and each year’s graduates band together as an informal cartel, setting acceptable starting salaries for congregations of different sizes. While this has made it difficult or impossible for smaller congregations to afford a Rabbi, it has also ensured that the Rabbis are able to quickly repay the roughly $100,000 they spent for five years of training — and make quite a decent living from then on.
I recall over a decade ago that there was some controversy when new, “non-denominational” Rabbinic schools were founded. But now, these “non-movement” schools constitute a movement of their own, churning out new rabbis at an impressive rate. All you have to do is commit two or three hours a week (and $8000), and write a 2000 word paper at the end on “any Jewish topic” to prove you’ve learned something, and that’s it, you’re ready to be called Rabbi. And some of those rabbis are, says the Forward, … Read More >>
[YA - Rabbi Ilan Feldman’s contribution to the new issue of Klal Perspectives continues attract the most attention. Our plan at KP is to collect both letters and longer responses to the issue, and publish them as a separate, special issue.
Some responses can’t or shouldn’t wait. Rabbi Michael Broyde is a neighbor of Rabbi Feldman’s in Atlanta. He communicated a strong caveat to Rabbi Feldman’s piece to which I was privileged to be included. (Full disclosure: both of them are friends of mine.) I urged both of them to share the exchange; they both agreed. They have edited the original only slightly to make it better understood by readers. My guess is that it will stir up some healthy debate.]
Ilan, I read your piece today in Klal Perspectives and I enjoyed it very much. It was well written and persuasive and made a few excellent points — it was very very nice. Congratulations!
I write a criticism of it in two parts, not because I did not agree with what it said, but because I thought it was missing two central issues which temper it.
First, I think that you think that many people … Read More >>
Not everyday do you get a call from a Torah personality asking you to spend more time on the internet, rather than less. But that is just what happened to me a few days ago.
I can’t mention his name. Nor can I tell you how he happened to come across a story that touched his curiosity. Once he read it – or, more accurately, once he saw reader reaction to it – he was so disturbed that he asked me to write about it, since he couldn’t do so himself.
Akiva Finkelstein is an 18 year old from Bet El. An honor student in a dati Leumi school, he trained for eight years, and became Israel’s welterweight champion, and representative at an international competition in Armenia. Scheduled to fight motza’ei Shabbos, a change in the rules demanded that he be weighed in on Shabbos itself. His father flew in to help argue the case for him, and convinced the powers that be that Akiva could not get on the scale, but it would be OK if the officials lifted him on to the scale. At the appointed hour, the overall boss balked at this in a … Read More >>
Most people, asked if there was any specific Jewish connection to the recent horrific murder of 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, would probably respond “Noah Pozner,” one of the six-year-old casualties.
There’s another Jewish connection, though, or at least an imagined one, to the massacre. Even while the slaughtered innocents were still being prepared for burial, neo-Nazi websites began to assert, on the sole basis of their operators’ fevered imaginations and an ugly sort of wishful thinking, that Adam Lanza, the mass murderer, was a Jew.
Or at least, the bloggers claimed, a half-Jew (although from which half the evil emerged was left unclear).
One site proffered evidence, too: The name “Adam,” it explained, is exclusively used by Jews. (How clueless we’ve all been about, among others, Adam Smith and Adam Clayton Powell.)
An Iranian website, Qodsna.com, quickly joined the contemptible chorus, adding the accusation that the notoriously self-censoring Western media, which had provided nary a word about Mr. Lanza’s alleged Jewish parentage, had actively conspired to hide it. The article was revealingly titled “The Common Roots of the Palestine and Sandy Hook Crimes.” (A second article on the … Read More >>
Rabbi Ilan Feldman’s piece continues to dominate in the popularity race of the new issue, both in terms of numbers of downloads, and in the responses come in. One reader, whose identity I do not know, offered a striking parallel from the works of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch. Klal Perspectives editor, Rabbi Dovid Goldman, was kind enough to scan it. It is delectable enough to present to our readership, and adds one more reason why I am proud to consider myself to some extent a Hirschian. It is from The Collected Writings, Vol.2, Kislev IV:
There is one other particular danger which is to be feared by a Jewish minority. It is what we would like to call a certain intellectual narrow-mindedness. This danger becomes especially acute the more closely a minority clings to its cause and the more anxious it is to preserve that cause. We have already pointed out that, by virtue of its weak position, a minority depends for its survival on whether it can further and foster within all its members the spirit of the cause it represents. In order to prevail, a minority must be wholly imbued with the truth for which it … Read More >>