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Posts Tagged ‘Chilul Hashem’

Whose Values Do They Represent?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

I don’t see how anyone can claim that they are extremists who are an exception to the rule – amounting to only a small handful of Haredim. I am talking about people who are constantly degrading the values of those they disagree with by acting in truly disgusting ways.

It has happened again. From Israel Hayom:

Shear Yashuv residents inflamed to find haredi tourists bathing in a memorial fountain near the town, which was dedicated to 73 IDF soldiers who lost their lives in a terrible 1997 helicopter accident • Haredi tourists: “Memorials constitute idolatry.”

This kind of thing happens so frequently and in so many different places, it cannot possibly be attributed to a bunch of extremists that are not representative of Haredi values. And yet every time something like this gets reported in the media, there is always a Haredi apologist out there somewhere telling us we shouldn’t judge all Haredim by the actions of a few.

I of course agree with that in principle. And as I have said many times, most Haredim don’t do these kinds of things. Certainly not moderate Haredim but even right wing Haredim. They realize it is a Chilul HaShem. However – as I’ve said many times – the behavior though not approved of actually occurs precisely because of the Haredi values exemplified by the above response of those Chareid tourists.

Is there anyone who thinks that the sentiment expressed by them isn’t believed by them? It expresses a value of the majority of Haredi community.

I don’t know that the majority of the Haredi world actually considers such memorials to be idolatry. But I think it’s safe to say that they do completely characterize such memorials at the very least as un-Jewish. And something we ought not recognize in any way. The only difference between those Haredi bathers and the media apologists is that the apologists realize that disrespecting the memorial will be seen by the entire rest of the world as disrespecting the dead being memorialized.

So Rebbeim in Yeshivos advise their students never do anything that will be seen to dishonor lost loved ones in public. That would be considered a Chilul HaShem.

But those tourists probably think it is a Chilul HaShem – NOT to stand up for the truth. They therefore acted the way they did  with pride – having no problem desecrating that memorial by bathing in it.

The idea of showing one face to the public and another one internally was illustrated recently when a  Rosh Yeshiva or Rebbe described what he tells his students about how to act when sirens sound on Yom HaZikaron. He said when the sirens sound while they are in the confines of the Yeshiva, they are to be ignored. When they are out in public, they should stand silently along with the rest of the country. Why? Because it is not a Jewish way to memorialize the dead. Doing so in private therefore has no meaning to them. In public, however, they are to ‘play along’.

One may ask, what’s so terrible about that? What’s wrong with teaching students about the proper Jewish way to mourn the dead? There is of course nothing wrong and everything right about that.

What is wrong here is that it is more than about teaching proper Jewish thought.They aren’t just teaching their students how to properly mourn the dead. They are teaching them that Israel is run by a bunch of Apikurism (heretics) who ‘ape the Goyim’. Students are taught to disrespect everything about the government of Israel and Israeli society. Israel is constantly being vilified to Haredi students by their Haredi teachers.

The smarter ones also realize that there should be no public displays of disrespect to the Israeli populace. For example in how they mourn their dead. That would be a Chilul HaShem. Nonetheless the lesson constantly taught and heard over and over again by students is that Israel is evil and if not for the Chilul HaShem it is indeed correct to dishonor the ‘Goyishe way’ in which Israel does everything. Including the way in which the dead are memorialized.

There are of course some Mechanchim who do not make those caveats to their students. Especially in places like Meah Shearim. Is it any wonder then that there are Haredim who feel free to desecrate a memorial in the way these Haredim did? They are merely expressing their true Hashkafos – oblivious to the Chilul HaShem – thinking that it is a Kiddush HaShem!

That is why when these bathing tourists were asked about it, they responded the way they did. It is the same kind of thinking had by Haredim who held a barbecue in a public park this past Yom HaZikaron while the rest of Israel was somberly mourning soldiers killed in action. ‘It’s not the Jewish way to mourn this way – and by golly we’re going to teach these ‘evil’- or at best ignorant Jews by example what we really think of it!’

It’s the same kind of thinking that goes on when a woman get’s spat upon because the spitter does not approve of the way she dresses. This too happened recently in the city of Ashdod recently. From Ynet:

A, a 15-year-old girl and her mother complained that a haredi man asked the girl not to walk by a yeshiva located in the city center, and even spat on her because of the way she was dressed.

The girl was walking along the street Monday, as she does everyday, to pick up her 6-year-old little sister from kindergarten. At a distance of a kilometer and a half away from her home, the girl – who wore a tank top and a skirt – was approached by a haredi man who yelled at her: “Walk behind the parking lot’s wall”

At first, A., did not understand what he was talking about, and asked the man “Why?” to which he replied “Because you’re immodest, there are people studying Torah here.”

A., who did not want to confront the man picked up her pace and defiantly told him “I’m not going to,” to which he answered “Why are you so stubborn?” and then spat on her.

This is becoming so common it almost as though it were the norm in Haredi circles. I can understand why a Haredi man concerned with the Kedusha of his Yeshiva would be upset at a woman wearing a tank top passing by. And even though I would disagree with him doing it since she has the right to dress as any she chooses in public – I would understand if he politely asked if she would in the future dress more modestly around the Yeshiva.

But when he demands it and then spits on her when she doesn’t comply, that is a Chilul HaShem even though in his own mind he thinks it is a Kiddush HaShem . As would all the spitters, screamers, and haters all over the world who would act the same way under similar circumstances.

As if that weren’t enough let us not forget about the bus ‘bombers’. No… not the Islamist  suicide bombers. The Haredi ones in Bet Shemesh who yesterday smashed the windsheild of a bus and broke other windows with a hammer after after a woman refused to sit apart from men. They later attacked two other buses by ‘bombing’ them with stones and breaking their windows.

So the next time you hear a Haredi spokesman say that these people do not represent them, I would take that with a huge grain of salt.

Update
The woman who was asked to move to the back of the bus was interviewed by a religious radio station in Israel. She described the situation as follows. As a new immigrant unfamiliar with sex segregated buses in her new community she sat down at the front of the bus with her young children and all the packages she was carrying.

She was then immediately but politely asked to move to the back by one of the Haredi women who came up to her. At first she refused because of all the packages and her children. She was offered help with all that and she then agreed to move. The bus driver became irate when he saw this and decided to call the police. That is apparently when all hell broke loose.

In my view, this changes little except the precipitating event caused by the bus driver. The bus driver may have been foolish and impetuous in making that call when the situations seemed to be taking care of itself.

But the rioting Haredim that responded by damaging that bus and other buses nearby is what ought to be focused on here. This is not a civilized response to a grievance against what a bus driver did. And although the bus driver should have perhaps not exacerbated the situation, clearly he too acted out of his indignation at what he thought was wrong.

If one will say that I too am being apologetic, I would only ask that you compare how the bus driver reacted to what he saw as an injustice – to how these Haredim reacted to what they saw as an injustice. Had those Haredim reacted in a similarly civilized manner, there would be no story. And no Chilul HaShem.

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Does Elu V’Elu Mean Tolerating the Intolerable?

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

These men, too, are my brothers.  Although it is getting more difficult than ever to think of them that way. Most people know the issues I have with Satmar. There are many. But for purposes of this essay I will focus on their strident opposition to the existence of the State of Israel.

As I have said many times, they have every right to believe as they do, and state their case loudly and clearly. It is a view based on the now deceased Satmar Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum. The  3 oaths mentioned in the Gemarah (Kesuvos 111a) prevent the Jewish people from any right to rule in the land of Israel. So under any condition, even if the state was ruled entirely by a Charedi government, they would still be opposed to it. As much as I vehemently disagree with them, I respect their right to hold these views. Elu V’Elu.

What I do not respect is the stridency by which they express those views… and the extent to which they go to make their point.

It started with the Satmar Rebbe himself, who referred to Rav Kook as an Ish Tzar V’Oyev because of his pro State views. This attitude has spread far beyond Satmar and is used to justify one Chilul HaShem after another by the Satmar Rebbe’s admirers in Meah Shearim and elsewhere. The very same attitude is responsible for the fringe Neturei Kartaniks who embrace people like Iran’s Ahmadinejad. Who espouses wiping Israel off the map… something I’m sure would get the approval of Satmar and all their sympathizers if done in a peaceful way. They have clearly stated that this is their goal.

Yesterday they did it again. They called for a rally in Manhattan. This was a rare moment of unity between the feuding brothers Teitelbaum – each claiming to be the heir to the Satmar throne. They called out their ‘troops’ in this cause. The result was a massive rally as can be seen in the photos at VIN. I’m sure they would call this a tremendous success and Kiddush HaShem.

Their stated purpose for this protest was their opposition to the Israeli draft of Charedim. In this they have the support of many Charedi rabbinic leaders. But their underlying antipathy for the State should not be over-looked. I believe this was true motivation for this rally. Here was yet another opportunity to bash Israel.  I’m sure they relished the moment.

The Centrist RCA condemned the rally. No surprise there. But many Charedi rabbinic leaders opposed that rally too, starting with R’ Aharon Leib Steinman. R’ Chaim Kanievsky added his name to R’ Steinman’s. And in America so too did Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky.

Back to Satmar. I do not see how a protest like this benefits Klal Yisroel in any way no matter how one feels about drafting Charedim. How is a public demonstration in Manhattan going to impact in any way on the government in Israel’s decision to equalize the draft? Especially if the protest was made by people who believe in dismantling the State?

Do they think Netanyahu will say, ‘Oh, Satmar is opposed to the draft… What was I thinking?!’ Or do they just think a rally like this will catch on with the greater Charedi public because of their leaders’ own strident opposition to the draft? Or perhaps they believe that a massive demonstration by a monolithic group of Chasidim that have separated themselves from the rest of the civilized world will somehow strike a chord with the American people?

Why did they do it? The answer to this is – I believe – of an entirely different nature. This was simply an opportunity to capitalize on something they thought would have universal appeal in the Charedi world. It is a sort of ‘I told you so’ moment… saying, ‘See how evil the Israeli government is?’ ‘You thought co-operating with them and getting funded was worth it?!’ ‘Well… what do you say now?!’ ‘Come join us in our goal to dismantle the Jewish State.’

I don’t think it worked. As I said, mainstream Orthodoxy condemned it, and Charedi rabbinic leaders were opposed to it. I hope they were as appalled at this demonstration as I was. But even if they were as appalled as I was and expressed it publicly, I doubt that that would sway Satmar in any way.
The only question is – how is this going to affect the relationship between mainstream Charedim and Satmar in the future? Will there ever again be a call from a Lakewood Rosh Yeshiva (or Mashgiach) to invite Satmar to one of its own rallies? … as was the case with the internet Asifa last year? Will they still chase down Satmar and capitulate to all their demands on how to conduct an Asifa, just to get them to attend?

Isn’t it about time to realize that Satmar is so far away from mainstream Orthodoxy – and even mainstream Charedim – that they should never again want to participate with them on any matters? Isn’t standing on the same stage with them in some way legitimizing them? I have heard that said in other contexts!

Like I said, this is not about Elu V’Elu anymore. This is about tolerating antics that are anathema to the Torah world in the name of their Shitos. In my view it should not be any more acceptable to stand with Satmar than it is to stand with Neturei Karta who have made clear their love affair with the President of Iran.  They may not go that far themselves. But the hatred of the Jewish state is the same.

Update
Apparently the speaker in the photo above is Rav Eli Ber Wachtfogel. He is a Litvishe Charedi Rosh HaYeshiva. I’m told that there were also many other non Chasidic Litvishe type Charedi rabbinic leaders there too – like Chaim Berlin’s Rosh HaYeshiva, R’ Aharon Schecther.

Rav Schechter has walked in lockstep with Litvishe Charedi rabbinic leaders in Israel with respect to their bans. I recall his strident attack against Rabbi Natan Slifkin at an event held at a Modern Orthodox Shul in Teaneck a few years ago.  Rabbi Slifkin was viciously attacked for having the Chutzpah to challenge Israeli Gedolim with respect to the ban on his books. And yet yesterday he decided to ignore the call by some of these very same Gedolim to not participate in this demonstration. I find this very hard to reconcile.

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An Existential Analysis

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

There were 4488 page views (‘hits’) on my blog yesterday. Of those 1429 were unique visitors. Unique visitors are the actual number of people who accessed my blog during Monday’s 24 hour period. Of those, 307 voted on my poll. Which asked to choose the biggest existential threat to Judaism from a list of 7 possible choices. The results were: Chilul HaShem 78 (25%) Education 127 (41%) Feminism 11 (3%) Internet 13 (4%) Poverty 22 (7%) Sex Abuse 14 (4%) Tuition 42 (13%)

Not surprisingly the largest number of votes by far – 127 (41%) went to educational concerns. A full 25% of the votes went to concerns about Chilul HaShem. The third biggest concern was the Tuition crisis. The rest of the respondents were in single digit percentages poverty being the biggest concern among those.

The bottom three concerns were about the impact of sex abuse, the internet, and feminism.

First let me address the fact that a lot of factors were not included. Among them were: going OTD, divorce rates, dysfunctional families, sexism, the move to the right, the move to the left, the Shiddach crisis, assimilationist influences, isolationist influences, the State of Israel, increased divisiveness between Hashkafos… all serious challenges to Judaism. I could not list them all. That would have made the poll almost meaningless dividing the vote into small and insignificant numbers. I chose these because I believe that although they are not all inclusive – they do represent a wide variety of issues often cited as existential threats.

Not that these results are all that significant. The sample was relatively small and not random. It was also heavily biased in that respondents were people who read my blog. And only a small fraction of those actually voted. So for these and many other reasons, this poll cannot be taken as representing what the actual percentages of all Jews believe regarding any of these issues.

That said, I like to think that my readership consists mostly of Orthodox Jews that are intelligent, well educated, care greatly and have strong feelings about issues affecting the Jewish world. Although this blog’s demographic skews heavily in favor of Modern Orthodox Jews, there are many Charedim among my readers too. As well as non Orthodox Jews and even a few non Jews. I strongly feel that the majority of those (at least of those who comment) are fair minded, keen observers of the Jewish world whose opinions should be valued. So even though this is not a random sample of all Jews, it is a sample of thinking and caring Jews.

It was a little surprising to see how few people there were who thought that sex abuse was the most important issue of the day. Considering the fact that this issue is the most hotly debated issue in our day… and that the fact that the slightest taint of it in any institution will cause a tremendous outcry… and considering the damage that it causes to victims – sometimes permanent psychological damage… and the damage it causes to the victim’s families, and even the abuser’s family… and considering revelations about the far greater number of victims than anyone ever suspected… and the fact that so many of the victims go OTD… I would have thought sex abuse would have gotten a much bigger vote than 14 people.

I guess the reason for that is that as bad as sex abuse is… and as great the damage it does to so many people – even beyond the actual victim, that issue alone is not seen as an existential threat to Judaism itself. But still, the way religious leadership across the board has dealt with it in the past – and even now cannot but have a deleterious effect upon our existence. Many iconic names – religious leaders across the spectrum of Orthodoxy have – by word , deed, or lack of action – have disappointed victims and their advocates. This disillusions people about Orthodox Judaism. Sex abuse is a serious problem in need of our immediate attention. It should have ranked a lot higher than 5th out of 7 – totaling only 4% of the vote.

That Chilul HaShem ranked number 2 is no surprise. If anything can disillusion people, it is when prominent Jews get caught in wrong doing like fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering. Whether it is Rubashkin, the Spinka Rebbe, an elderly Sephardic Rabbi in New Jersey, or of late, Rabbi Yehoshua Pinto – it does not inspire a love of Judaism when such high profile rabbis who are supposed to be role models and teachers end up being crooks.

Surviving an IRS Audit in Israel

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Almost every American living in Israel is aware of the legendary “additional child tax credit” (ACTC) “tax credit/refund” of $1000 per child.

Over the years I’ve written about it on the blog; The IRS Taxman comethThe Apocalypse: Feds arrive in Israel, With Liberty and Passports for all, as well as the importance of filing the FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) — disclosure of all Financial Holdings and Bank accounts outside the United States that belong to American citizens that are in excess of $10,000.

Therefore, almost any American who has moved to Israel and has a pension fund or keren hishtalmut– is required to file the US FBAR.H

However….because there exists an entire underground “industry” of return preparers who have filed fraudulent returns, fabricating earned income in order for their clients to claim child credits, and have retroactively filed for tax credit refunds after children have been naturalized (not American by birth, but by being brought to the USA and made citizens there) — many tax practitioners in Israel have stated that the IRS has begun scrutinizing (read: AUDITING) all returns of Americans in Israel claiming the ACTC.Thankfully I have not (yet?) been audited, but with the IRS targeting everyone  — I am putting together this list on how to proactively prepare for an audit.

Step 1: Take a deep breathe, count to ten, and don’t panic. 

Assuming you used a reputable tax-preparer, didn’t count a kollel stipend as income,  and you didn’t retroactively try to claim the refund after bringing your kids to the US for naturalization — you should be able to survive the audit unscathed.

Step 2: The key for surviving the audit is to prepare now, even if you aren’t being audited.  Proactivity is the key.

You should prepare and gather the following information:

A letter from the comptroller of your company stating -

- Duration of your employment

- For the previous 3 years, your salary, income tax, health tax, and national insurance (ביטוח לאומי) payments

- The bank name, branch number, and acct. no. into which your salary was paid.

Your original form 106’s and authorized English translations** for the previous 3 years.

A letter from your family physician listing the names and date of births of all your kids, and a statement that s/he has been treating them for the previous how many years and that they reside with you and your spouse. The letter should be on Kupat Cholim stationary, preferably with an English letterhead.

A letter from each of the schools your kids attended during at least the previous 3 years indicating their names, date of births, the grade they’re currently studying in (if relevant), and a statement that you and your spouse are their primary care providers and that they reside with you. The letter should also indicate your address, that you paid their school fees, and that you attend parent-teacher meetings faithfully.

A copy of your marriage certificate. If married in the USA – your marriage license. If married in Israel, the registration form provided by the Minister of Religious Affairs when you got married, (not your Ketuba), and an authorized English translation.**

Copies of US passports for each member of the family.

Copies of IL passports for each member of the family.

Copies of Social Security cards for each child.

Copies of IL birth certificates for each child.

Copies of US Consular Report of Birth Abroad for each child.

**Authorized English Translation means you need an authorized translator (not yourself)  and it must be approved by a notary.   This may actually be cheaper in the US than in Israel because notary services in the US cost a fraction of notarization services in Israel (which are outrageous).

Step 3: Don’t try to deal with the audit by yourself. Pay a CPA in Israel — they have far more experience, and even if you get all the documentation above by yourself (which will save you much time and hassle), its still best to pay the CPA and let them be the interface to the IRS.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/surviving-an-irs-audit-in-israel/2012/08/09/

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