As Purim approaches, thousands of Israeli children and families grapple with poverty
In the midst of preparations for the grand Satmar chassunah held on Wednesday, October 17, another grandchild of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, became engaged. On October 15, Zvi Hersh Meisels was engaged to the daughter of Rabbi Naftali Meir Babad, Tarnopol Rav in Kensington and Tartikov Rosh Beis Din; son of Rabbi Asher Aleksander Babad, zt”l (1910-1985), Tartikover Rav, and son-in-law of Rabbi Kalman Pinter, zt”l (d. 2009), Sulzberger Rav.
The chassan is the son of Rabbi Shimon Zev Meisels, Rav of the Beirach Moshe district of Kiryas Yoel and author of Sefer Binyan Shimon. The chassan is the grandson of Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Meisels, Seagate Rav, as well as of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe. The engagement was formalized in the home of the kallah’s father in Boro Park. In Kiryas Yoel, long lines led to the home of the Satmar Rebbe where well-wishers gave their joyous mazel tovs.
Women And Hatzolah
Rachel Freier, an attorney representing women in the greater Boro Park community, had long felt there was a need for emergency services for women in labor to conform to our community’s level of modesty. The idea “has nothing to do with feminism, it has to do with the dignity of women and their modesty,” said Mrs. Freier.
Though turned down by Hatzolah, she was careful to avoid framing the proposal as a critique of the widely praised organization, whose work she respects greatly. Instead, she said it was a matter of reclaiming a “job that has been the role of women for thousands of years [that of a midwife].” We are proud of Hatzolah,” she said, adding, “Hatzolah leaders do not fully understand what a woman feels like when she is in labor.”
Ezras Nashim, Hebrew for “women’s section,” the name of the new organization, is modeled after a program created two years ago in New Square. Hatzolah’s four-member rabbinical board released a memo for members saying they would not engage in discussions on the matter. A similar proposal had been rejected some 25 years ago.
Mrs. Freier had attempted to reach Hatzolah’s leaders to arrange a meeting. “The initial plan was for me to meet with Hatzolah and explain the need for women to join,” she said. “However, I was told that the policy of women not joining Hatzolah was set years ago…. We’re just trying to make a great organization even better. We’re not filing a complaint. We’re coming with a suggestion.”
On February 26 of this year, Mrs. Freier opened a recruitment drive for Ezras Nashim and a number of women indicated strong interest in joining. In total, Ezras Nashim had at its outset more than 200 women with various levels of medical training in its ranks. Mrs. Freier continued discussions on the matter with rabbinical leaders in the community. The new organization has the blessing of several rabbis.
Women And Burkas
In Israel, small groups of women living in some observant neighborhoods have chosen to wear burkas (a loose garment covering the entire body worn by Muslim women) in order to achieve maximum tznius. Not one recognized rabbi has endorsed burkas for Jewish women. On the contrary, several leading rabbis have strongly expressed their opposition to the strange behavior.
On Sunday, October 14, one of the “shawl women” was in the throes of childbirth and refused to be taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for fear of chillul Shabbos.
The story began when a man rushed into the shul on Avraham Ben-David Street early Shabbos morning calling for assistance for his pregnant wife. A member of Ichud Hatzalah of Bnei Brak went with the man. As they were running to the apartment, an ambulance was summoned.
The husband, however, told the Hatzolah member to cancel the call, explaining that his wife would refuse an ambulance since it was Shabbos.
The husband and the Hatzolah member were met by a second the Hatzolah member when they reached the apartment. They tried persuading the mother to travel to the hospital by ambulance, but she refused.
The first Hatzolah member called his mother, a midwife, and the delivery took place at the apartment. After the delivery they again attempted to persuade the new mother to be taken by ambulance but she remained obstinate.
Later, the woman, 31, was reported to be a resident of Yavniel, a community with a large Breslov and baalei teshuvah community. She had come to Bnei Brak for a Shabbos family simcha. The new baby was her second child
Chadrei Chareidim, a religious news service in Israel, quoted “Bnei Brak rabbonim” as expressing anger over the woman’s refusal, which they insisted is not in keeping with halachah. She should have immediately agreed to be taken to a hospital by ambulance, an action fully justified for a woman in active labor on Shabbos.
Rabbinic Conference On Abused Children
A milestone event in the fight against child molestation in the observant community took place on Sunday, October 21, at Congregation Kneseth Israel (the White Shul) in Far Rockaway, New York. Sponsored by the Task Force on Families and Children At Risk, the event featured as headline speakers Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Philadelphia Rosh Yeshiva; Rabbi Herschel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon (YU); and Rabbi Dovid Cohen, Rav of Congregation Gvul Yaavetz.
Other important speakers and presenters included Eli Shapiro, LCSW, Madraigos clinical director; Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Rav of the White Shul; Gavriel Fagin, LCSW, Tikunim Counseling Services clinician; David Pelcovitz, Ph.D., professor of psychology, YU; Sylvan Schaffer, Ph.D. J.D., Hofstra Medical School; Marcel Biberfeld, DSW, Maimonides Medical Center; Joel Rosenshein, Ph.D., Task Force founder; Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Project YES; and Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz, national director of Torah Umesorah.
A clear message was given: Victims of abuse must be helped and supported; every effort must be made to prevent child molestation; and molestation must be reported directly and immediately to proper authorities. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l (1849-1932), chief rabbi of the Eidah Hacharedis of Yerushalayim, was once asked to allow the child molester to continue in his post as a melamed in order to feed his family. Rabbi Sonnenfeld angrily responded: “Am I to feed him more innocent children?”
The conference was the latest step in the ongoing fight against child molestation in the frum community. On March 1, 2009, Assemblyman Dov Hikind conducted a public forum at the Boro Park Y to support victims, the first of such events.
This was followed by a public seminar sponsored by the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children (JABC) and other leading organizations on October 17, 2009 in Chicago; a public seminar sponsored by JABC and other organizations on October 24, 2009 at B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Brooklyn; a public seminar sponsored by JABC and others on January 2, 2011 at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills in Queens; Pesach sedarim for victims and their supporters sponsored by the Voice of Justice and other organizations on April 14 and 15, 2011 at B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Brooklyn; and a model Pesach Seder for victims and their supporters sponsored by the Voice of Justice and other leading organizations on March 29, 2012 at B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Brooklyn.
Several sessions at the annual Agudath Israel Conventions were devoted to the campaign as well. Rabbi Yosef Blau, Mashgiach Ruchani Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon (YU), and Mark Meyer Appel of the Voice of Justice have taking leading roles on this issue. The Igud Horabbonim/Rabbinical Alliance of America devoted two Rosh Chodesh Conference sessions to review and discuss the subject. (This writer serves as director of the Igud.)
Member agencies of the Task Force on Families and Children At Risk are: A C.O.A.C.H., Achiezer Community Resource Center, Agudath Israel of America, Bikur Cholim of Rockland County, Bikur Cholim Chesed Organization, Boro Park Counseling Center, Chai Lifeline, Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, Counterforce, Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, FEGS, Hatzolah, Hebrew Academy for Special Children, Interborough Developmental & Consultation Center, Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services, Jewish Family Services, Lakewood Community Services, M.A.S.K., Madraigos, Magen New York, Maimonides Medical Center, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, National Council of Young Israel, Nefesh International, Ohel Children’s Home & Family Services Tikvah, Orthodox Union, Otsar Family Services, P’Tach, Pesach Tikvah, Project Eden, Project Kol Tzedek, Project Sarah, Psychiatric First Responders, Rachel’s Place, Relief, SAVI Takanot Program, Sephardic Community Center, Sephardic Bikur Cholim, Shalom Task Force, Shomrim, Sister to Sister, SOVRI Hotline, Torah Umesorah, Women’s League Community Residence, Yeled V’Yalda Early Childhood Center and Yitti Leibel Helpline.
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