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May 24, 2016 / 16 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘community’

Double Standards on Facebook

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Some things, you have to see to believe.  I was alerted by a friend, a couple of days ago, to the existence of a truly revolting, anti-Semitic Facebook page called “The Untold History,” which, according to Facebook, does not violate Facebook’s standards.

We practice link hygiene here at TOC, so I offer this write-up from the Online Hate Prevention Project (OHPP) website, which contains a link to the offensive Facebook page.  If you can stomach another round of anti-Semitic imagery, cast a glance at the image copied in this post from the Facebook page – one of quite a few.  The page has 833 “Likes” as of this writing.

We don’t know how many users have reported this page for “hate speech,” against which Facebook has a policy.  But several of those who have reported the page have posted in the comments at OHPP’s Facebook page that the response they received was like this one (posted by OHPP):

fb-response

The text reads:

Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards.  Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment.  We reviewed the page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn’t violate our community standard on hate speech.

(This is the response I received as well.)

I tend toward the libertarian when it comes to freedom of expression; as long as Facebook is a private company, I believe it has the right to host or not host what seems proper to its leadership and shareholders.  Facebook can afford its users the latitude of expression it prefers, even when the expression in question is really offensive; the customer base can then decide to participate or not accordingly.

But since Facebook has a policy on hate speech, what is the company’s standard for latitude in freedom of expression?  What doesn’t get to remain on Facebook?  Where does the arbiter make the cut-off, and can users trust that it’s being done fairly?  This week, we have been given a unique opportunity to do a comparison with what did get banned at Facebook – if only for a few days.

On 9 August, author and columnist Ruthie Blum posted a column in which she recounted her recent adventures in being banned by Facebook:

For the past two months, I have intermittently been barred from Facebook.

The first time it happened was in June, when I tried to post my Israel Hayom column. Suddenly, a window popped up, telling me that inappropriate material had been found on, and removed from, my page. I was warned that if I continued violating Facebook’s “community standards,” I would be banned from the social network for good.

The notice included a link specifying these standards, and a demand that I click to acknowledge I had read and understood them. Failure to do so, it said, would result in my inability even to open Facebook to read my newsfeed. I complied.

Ms. Blum worked through the wickets Facebook set up for restoring her account to its good graces, but was unable to determine what, exactly, had violated its standards.  She was barred from Facebook for 24 hours at one point, and then for three days.

Her columns, she observes, are political in nature.  (Ms. Blum was formerly an editor at The Jerusalem Post.)  I append links to samples of them from the relevant timeframe here, here, here, here, and here.  She writes responsibly, in measured tones, and with reason and documentation; there is nothing intemperate or inflammatory about her content.  You might disagree with its political perspective, but you could not reasonably consider it “hate speech,” violence, threats, or bullying.  One thing it is completely free of:  graphics depicting anyone, or depicting anyone’s ethnic or religious symbols, surrounded by dead bodies and blood.

Here’s a screen cap from one of her recent columns at Israel Hayom:

blum-1

Contrast the tone and presentation of the type of content she was trying to link to with a random sampling of the content at The Untold History’s Facebook page:

J. E. Dyer

New Republic Article on Feminism from Zion Is All About the Stakes

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The new issue of The New Republic cover story (The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism) is about us. It is about Haredim, modern Orthodox, and women. These are things we discuss regularly online and at our Shabbos tables, and in our coffee rooms. The story is remarkably accurate and balanced, displaying a very deep understanding of the issues in Israel today. I recommend reading the article immediately.

Imagine a spectrum of religious fundamentalism in the orthodox Jewish community. On one end you have extreme Haredi sects and on the other end you have completely secular Israelis. On most things and for most of time the people in the middle, let’s call them modern orthodox, skewed their allegiences toward the Haredi side. Orthodoxy is the great uniter. The assumption is that any two orthodox people will have more common interests than an orthodox and a secular Jew. This is how things were.

In essence, the article argues that while naturally aligned with their fellow orthodox Jews, women from the modern orthodox community in Israel are finding themselves aligned with secular feminist Jews in Israel. The collective pain that is felt due to the oppressiveness toward women in the extreme and not so extreme Haredi world is taking a toll. Women have been attacked physically, verbally, and psychologically for a long time and it is starting to create a negative reaction.

Several times the article mentions signs that tell women how to dress. We have become accustomed to these signs. But the women in the article argue that the signs give license to thugs who want to make a statement to women. To them, the signs mean much more than “Please be sensitive to our religious beliefs.” Part of that is because these standards are entering the public sphere and are no longer just limited to the private insular neighborhoods. But the other part of it is that the signs are somehow justifying the negativity and violence toward women.

What has happened is that women who feel hurt and abused are turning to secular and Reform Jews for salvation. Feminism is a dirty word in many orthodox communities, even in some places within the modern orthodox community. But it’s becoming a necessary evil for modern orthodox women who are not feminists at all to ask for help from feminists. It’s odd when orthodox people are funding they have more in common with secular and very liberal Jews than fellow orthodox Jews. But that is what is happening.

The article also talks about modern orthodox women who sympathize with the Women of the Wall. I wish they would be more vocal but i was heartened to hear it.

Last week I wrote about finding common ground and room for dialogue between modern orthodox and yeshivish Jews in America. (See:
Maybe Rabbi Birnbaum Has a Point: A Solution) I think what we are seeing in the article in TNR is what will happen if we can’t work together. If the people in the middle start to feel like the liberal and secular Jews are more sympathetic to their way of life, the great split that has been predicted for years, will finally happen. Modern orthodox Judaism will become an independent group.

Some might say, what’s so bad about that? Well there are plenty negative consequences to mention. But I will mention the two biggest issues. First, the Haredi institutions will fall without modern orthodox support. Some might say that’s not so bad either. I disagree. Their services are necessary, as is their trap door into engagement with society. On the other side, without a connection the Haredi community, the modern orthodox community will be hard pressed to support its own institutions for lack of qualified teachers and rabbis.

It’s not in our best interests to see a formal split. It might happen in Israel and it might happen in America. I think we should do everything we can to prevent it. The first thing we need to do, is get together and talk.

Visit Fink or Swim.

The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

Faces of Israel: Yariv Vizner, Founder of ‘Little Heroes’

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Though a defense attorney by trade, Yariv Vizner always had a dream to give back to the community. When he was a child his mother volunteered and assisted with the mentally challenged  so he enlisted his son Adam to help him in starting an organization called Giborim Ktanim (Little Heroes) consisting entirely of volunteers who work to pair ordinary Israelis with mentally challenged children, with the goal of helping such children to better fit into Israeli society.Giborim Ktanim collaborates with over 20 schools in Israel to provide children with  the opportunity to go on trips throughout Israel. “There are children that don’t communicate with society and people don’t understand them, yet here on these trips people understand them and relate to them,” says Yariv. Since many of these children come from disadvantaged backgrounds; these trips may be their only chance to do something like this.

One of the things that Giborim Ktanim prides itself on is helping mentally challenged children to feel like they are part of Israeli society, even if they are unable to do what most other children their age can. Giborim Ktanim also seeks to help prepare mentally challenged children to learn a trade, so that they can support themselves when they grow up, yet also seeks to protect them from being exploited. One such job that mentally challenged adults in Israel often take on is being bus boys at Aroma, a popular Israeli chain of cafes.

In addition, Giborim Katanim seeks to support mentally challenged children by providing the skills necessary to have a Jewish life, despite the fact that mentally challenged children are not capable of being honored by being called up to the Torah or having a Bar Mitzvah. Giborim Ktanim arranges special Bar Mitzvahs at the Kotel for mentally challenged children, providing them with that crucial step in the life of every young Jewish boy.

Another way that Giborim Ktanim helps mentally challenged children to become part of Israeli society is to give them the support that they will need in order to be able to serve in the Israel Defense Forces where they serve despite their disability. “The army is the best school to teach them to be better citizens,” Vinzer said.

The families of these children are very appreciative of the work that Giborim Ktanim does. Vinzer stated that when he arrived at the Kotel to witness a group of mentally challenged children receiving their Bar Mitzvah, he saw one father of one of the children cry “because it was something so important to him that his child standing there can be a part of something like that. It is something very emotional.” He continued, “For me, it is something that I can’t forget, even though it is the twelfth time we did it at the Kotel.”

Visit United with Israel.

Rachel Avraham

The Outreach Revolution

Friday, April 26th, 2013

I think I’ve said this before – or something like it. Jack Wertheimer is one of my favorite Conservative Jews. A recent article of his in Commentary Magazine could not be more positive about Orthodox outreach. In fact I think he is even more supportive of it than many Orthodox Jews.

Why would a prominent Conservative Jew be so supportive of Orthodox kiruv? I suppose that he believes in the values of Torah and mitzvot. Despite popular notions to the contrary, Conservative Judaism is not opposed to doing mitzvot. They actually support it. At least on paper. How they define mitzvah observance is where the problem lies. Another problem with Conservative mitzvah observance are the percentages of those who actually observe…

My guess is that the percentage of Conservative Jews who observe Shabbot in any meaningful Halachic sense – is very small. I believe that Professor Wertheimer is a part of that minority.

Theological differences exist too. But those problematic views are not mandated… and thus surmountable in an individual. That they are tolerated by the movement is beyond the scope of this essay.

Professor Wertheimer has done an excellent job of studying and analyzing Orthodox kiruv – in virtually all of its incarnations. He discusses its history, financing, appeal, and examines why it flourishes. He credits the Lubavitcher Rebbe for starting this revolution. And he correctly notes that many non-Habad kiruv workers have learned from Habad.

From Habad; to Aish HaTorah; to Torah U’Mesorah; to community kollelim; to Modern Orthodox kiruv… he lauds it all. He even concludes that Orthodoxy underestimates its own success. Success that he views with a very positive eye.

He also notes the friction created between Conservative rabbis who lead synagogues and kiruv workers. The claim is that Habad (for example) will set up shop and undermine the Conservative shul business structure by offering smaller friendlier shuls with little or no synagogue dues. They also offer to provide Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies without any minimum shul religious class attendance requirement (typically 3 years). Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations are a drawing card for membership. True to form, it seems that Professor Wertheimer has no problem with Habad doing that.

The realities of 21st century life in America have caused lofty kiruv goals of bringing Jews to full observance to be lowered. One of those realities is the massive attrition of Jews from the Conservative movement into secular lifestyles. The pool of Jewish kiruv targets from there has been diminished. Conservative Jews tended to give their children at least a minimal Jewish identity making them more receptive to kiruv. Those who have left it to become completely secular makes it much harder for them to be attracted to an observant lifestyle. I agree with him.

That the expectations have been lowered and that the Lubavitch model of linear success is increasingly becoming the model for non Lubavitch kiruv. Any increase at all in their level of commitment is now viewed a success. As such Professor Wertheimer contends that Orthodox Kiruv is having far more impact on American Jewry than anyone might imagine. Those who have come into contact with Orthodox outreach programs but do not become Orthdodox themselves take that knowledge and impart it to other non-Orthodox Jew is their shuls. These Jews might never come into contact with Orthodox outreach. Thus there is a sort of multiplier effect.

Professor Wertheimer has the highest praise for Habad. They seem to be the most successful and the most organized. For example he points out their JLI program:

Of particular note is the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), by far the largest internationally coordinated adult-education program on Jewish topics, offering the same set of courses at hundreds of Chabad locations around the world, all on the same schedule. This means that Jews who are traveling can follow the same course from session to session, even if they find themselves in a different city each week. In the fall of 2012, nearly 14,000 American Jews were enrolled in JLI courses, and overall close to 26,000 participated in Chabad’s teen- and adult-education programs.

The Chabad network is striving to create a seamless transition, so that young people who attended its camps or schools will gravitate to a Chabad campus center when they arrive at college and later, as adults, will join Chabad synagogue centers. No other Jewish movement offers this kind of cradle-to-grave set of services. The participants in these programs, needless to say, range in their Jewish commitments, but with the exception of a small minority, all are drawn from the ranks of the non-Orthodox.

But he also notes the explosion of non-Habad Kiruv organziations as well – including the far more insular world of Haredim. There are about 50 or so community kollelim that do outreach. My only real quibble with Professor Wertheimer is that these kollels are really more about in-reach than outreach (although they do outreach too). They tend to reach the already observant world and raise the level of observance and limud Torah. There are drawbacks to this too which I have discussed in the past but are also beyond the scope of this essay.

Harry Maryles

The Close-Knit Communities of Judea and Samaria

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Community is one of the concerns that many people consider when they scout out their potential new home in Israel. They are wondering if they will make friends and find neighbors who speak their language. Who will fill in for the lack of nearby family? Who will they spend their holidays with? Will they find help and support, while adapting to their new surroundings? Will their kids make friends?

Some people choose to start off in a place where they know that many Olim have settled before them. Some towns are known to have a high number of Olim from English speaking countries. Places like Efrat, Raanana and Neveh Aliza are some of them.

Although these are legitimate concerns, there are conflicting opinions on the value of starting off in an English speaking atmosphere. On one hand, it does offer a soft landing into the expected culture shock. Yes, you are coming from Western countries into a westernized Middle Eastern country. You will need some time to adjust to the weather, language, and societal issues – and it is nice to have people nearby who can relate to what you are going though, and who speak your mother tongue.

But do be aware that you might be paying a price for the comfort that you seek. Rents might be higher in some of the towns mentioned, but that’s not the only disadvantage. If you condition yourself to get by in English speaking surroundings, will you be stunting your integration into the Hebrew speaking society around you?

When I was a teen growing up in Maalot, the father of a good friend of mine was a man who had come to Israel from Morocco thirty years earlier, but who was know to all as “Oleh Chadash.” Due to his putting off learning to speak Hebrew for many years, when addressed by someone in Hebrew, he would say “Oleh Chadash” and excuse himself from the need to take part in any conversation. He had already achieved an important position in a local government agency, but still, his earlier procrastination in learning the language was not forgotten. Don’t be afraid to speak – even in broken Hebrew. Israelis will appreciate your effort, and will help you along.

Admittedly, though, community is important. It is one of the factors that has brought many people – Israelis and Olim – to come to live in the small towns of Judea and Samaria. In these places, the concept of community is very real. Everyone knows everyone, and although each family is responsible for our own homes and well being, we hold many common interests. People take an active part in local committees and events.

From the outside, many Yeshuvim in Judea and Samaria might look similar, but actually, each one has its own very special footprint, its unique micro-culture, and you, by making your home there, will be a part of forming that society.

David Ha'ivri

Weberman Found Guilty

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Satmar Rabbi Nechemya Weberman was found guilty of 59 counts of sexual abuse in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Monday.

Sentencing is set to begin January 9. Weberman faces up to 25 years in prison for one of the charges and may face even more by the time the sentencing hearings are completed.

The trial hinged on the testimony of an 18-year old girl who said Weberman was abusing her for years while she received counseling from him, starting from when she was 12.

The NY Daily News reported that she testified that “she was forced to perform oral sex and reenact porn scenes during closed-door counseling sessions that started in 2007.”

Weberman was not a licensed counselor.

The two-week trial was said to highlight how the Satmar community enforced its modesty and sexuality requirements.

The victim said she was referred to Weberman for counseling by her yeshiva because she broke modesty rules and asked critical theological questions.

The victim further testified that while she was under Weberman’s supervision, “I wanted to die,” the Daily News reported.

Weberman’s attorney Stacey Richman said the girl was a liar and that he would appeal.

The Satmar community also came under scrutiny throughout the ordeal because community fundraisers were held in support of Weberman and members of the community allegedly approached the victim seeking to pay her off to drop the claims.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Clinton: Significant Reductions of Iranian Crude Oil Purchases

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton released the following press statement:

The United States and the international community remain committed to maintaining pressure on the Iranian regime until it fully addresses concerns about its nuclear program. That’s why today I am pleased to announce that China, India, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Taiwan have again qualified for an exception to sanctions outlined in Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, based on additional reductions in the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran. As a result, I will report to the Congress that exceptions to sanctions pursuant to Section 1245 of the NDAA for certain transactions will apply to the financial institutions based in these countries for a potentially renewable period of 180 days.

A total of 20 countries and economies have continued to significantly reduce the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran. According to the latest U.S. Energy Information Administration report to Congress, Iran’s oil production fell by one million barrels per day in September and October 2012, compared to the same period in 2011. This has reduced Iran’s export volumes and oil revenues, which fund not only the nuclear program but its support for terror and destabilizing actions in the region. The message to the Iranian regime from the international community is clear: take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community through negotiations with the P5+1, or face increasing isolation and pressure.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/clinton-significant-reductions-of-iranian-crude-oil-purchases/2012/12/09/

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