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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

Likely Compromise Found in Coalition Rift over Reform, Conservative Mikvahs

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) on Monday morning presented a compromise solution for the problem caused by last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling siding with the demands of Reform and Conservative petitioners for equal access to state-run mikvahs-ritual baths. Last February, the Supreme Court ruled that local religious councils must make state-run mikvahs available for conversion ceremonies run by Israeli Reform and Conservative clergy.

Last week, the Knesset Interior Committee debated a bill proposed by Shas and UTJ, the two ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, determining that the use of public mikvahs in Israel will be conducted strictly according to halakha and under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) for his part on Friday announced that he plans to submit the bill in order to prevent the implementation of the court’s ruling. This would be in keeping with the coalition agreement between UTJ and Likud, which says that each time the Supreme Court issues a ruling that jeopardizes issues close to the heart of the Orthodox-Jewish party, the government must submit a bill to bypass the court.

Gafni, who argued that the court’s new ruling violates the national status quo on issues of religion and state, also cited the coalition’s obligation to maintain the same status quo.

Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, an Orthodox Jew who was part of the unanimous decision in favor of the Reform and Conservative petitioners, suggested in his ruling that the religious council in question, in Be’er Sheva, illegally segregated against Israeli citizens. “From the moment the state has constructed public mikvahs and made them available to the public — including for use in conversions — it cannot practice inequality in their usage,” Elyakim wrote. Rubinstein added that “the state’s decision not to supervise dipping in the mikvah that is conducted as part of a private conversion does not justify preventing it.”

One of the other two judges on the panel was Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab. Chief Justice Miriam Naor was the third judge. It should be noted that while last week Ha’aretz complained about a decision by Judge Rubinstein favoring the Chief Rabbinate, implying he should have recused himself from deciding Orthodox Jewish issues because he wears a yarmulke (sic), the same paper did not make a similar complaint in this case.

The MK Bitan compromise will suspend the application of the Mikvah law for nine months, during which time two to four mikvahs would be built for the Reform and Conservative public. The Jewish Agency is expected to bear the costs of construction. Meanwhile, the coalition would work on a softer version of the Shas-UTJ bill, which would skirt the Supreme Court ruling but not actually bypass it. The first draft was scheduled to be presented to the Interior committee Monday morning.

According to MK Bitan, “We are not planning to pass a Supreme Court bypassing law, but instead to find solutions to the problems raised by the court’s ruling. According to the understanding, we will build between two to four mikvahs in various locations in the country for the Reform and Conservative public so they can dip there according to their method.” Bitan stressed that “we must maintain equality for everyone in spending resources.”

A Haredi party source that spoke to JNi.media on the condition of anonymity said the Bitan compromise will most likely be accepted since it does not actually compel religious councils to share existing mikvahs with the Reform and Conservative, but allocates to them new mikvahs. Nevertheless, the Haredi coalition parties are likely going to be subjected to attacks from the Haredi media, which see the very idea of allowing the two non-Orthodox movement a foot in the door as ushering disaster. Some in the Haredi media, such as Ha’peles, would like to see the Haredi parties using their critical role in Netanyahu’s small coalition to extract deeper concessions regarding the non-Orthodox mikvahs.

JNi.Media

Survey: 95 Conservative Rabbis Say They Would Conduct Intermarriage Weddings

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

(JNi.media) An organization named “Big Tent Judaism” which seeks to embrace intermarried families in the Jewish fold (presumably without the expectation of a conversion of the non-Jewish spouse down the road), sponsored a survey of 249 Conservative rabbis which found that 38 percent— 95 rabbis, would officiate at the marriage of a Jew and non-Jew if the Conservative movement lifted its prohibition on these unions. This sample corresponds to roughly 15% or the Rabbinical Assembly’s approximately 1,700 members.

The survey finds that intermarriage is part of the daily reality addressed by Conservative rabbis and Conservative congregations. Eight in ten respondents have an intermarried family member; seven in ten work with an intermarried volunteer leader in their congregation. Four in ten respondents have attended interfaith weddings, usually of close family members; a handful already officiates at interfaith weddings under some conditions.

On the whole, according to the survey, Conservative rabbis will not marry a person of patrilineal Jewish descent to another Jew, citing halacha, but the survey suggests “their views on Jewish identity are nuanced, as many distinguish between Jewish identity and halachic status.”

In the hypothetical scenario that the Conservative movement’s policy would change, just under four in ten rabbis would officiate at interfaith weddings. Also, according to the survey, almost half of Conservative rabbis interviewed feel that some discussion of their movement’s position on interfaith marriages, recognizing patrilineal descent, and admitting intermarried rabbinical candidates is warranted.

Respondents in small Jewish communities are more likely (45%) to see themselves officiating in interfaith weddings if RA rules changed, compared with respondents in large Jewish communities (33%). Female pulpit rabbis are almost twice as likely to change their practices if RA rules changed (56%) when compared to male rabbis (35%).

Here’s a counter-intuitive discovery: when comparing respondents by age and ordination date, the survey found that respondents over 50 years old and those ordained before the year 2000 are slightly more likely to officiate at interfaith weddings. The authors suggest that the difference can perhaps be explained by the fact that older, more seasoned rabbis have “softened” their attitude toward interfaith weddings after having had to repeatedly turn away intermarried couples.

The survey’s presentation is rife with opinion, not to the point of skewing the results, but certainly to add spin to the numbers. The line in the above paragraph, explaining why older Conservative rabbis are more likely to conduct an intermarriage wedding, actually says the differences are explained “by the fact that older, more seasoned rabbis have “softened” their attitude toward interfaith officiation after having to repeatedly turn away intermarried couples, many of whom would have created Jewish homes.”

Paul Golin, Big Tent’s associate executive director, says the group isn’t advocating that the Rabbinical Assembly change its policy, but rather that it should open a conversation on it. But God—and advocacy—are in the details.

The section headed, “Half of Conservative rabbis believe discussion of some RA rules is warranted” is dizzyingly biased:

“The survey asked Conservative rabbis for their view on whether three specific issues should be opened for discussion among members of the Rabbinical Assembly: allowing officiating at interfaith weddings, recognizing Jews of patrilineal descent, and accepting intermarried rabbinical candidates to Conservative seminaries. Four in ten (39%) respondents agreed that the RA should open for discussion among its members the issue of officiating at interfaith weddings; a third (33%) agreed that the RA should open for discussion the issue of accepting patrilineal descent; and one in seven (14%) agreed that the issue of admitting intermarried or inter-partnered rabbinical candidates should also be opened for discussion. Half (51%) of the respondents disagree with all three statements and think that none of these issues should be open for discussion.”

JNi.Media

Analysis: New Pew Report Has Seen the Jewish American Future and It’s Orthodox

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

(JNi.media) The Pew Research Center has issued a further analysis of its 2013 survey of US Jews which, at the time, shattered some people’s long held beliefs about the Jewish community in America. The 2013 survey found that Orthodox Jews comprise 10% of the 5.3 million Jewish adults (ages 18 and older) in the US, but, as the new report puts is, “a survey is a snapshot in time that, by itself, cannot show growth in the size of a population.” What the new report is showing, based on the same findings, is that Orthodox Jews are likely “growing, both in absolute number and as a percentage of the US Jewish community.” In the race to dominate the Jewish community in America, the Orthodox are miles ahead of everyone else:

• The median age of Orthodox adults (40 years old) is better than a decade younger than the median age of other Jewish adults (52).

• More than two-thirds of Orthodox adults are married (69%), compared with less than half of other Jewish adults (49%).

• The Orthodox get married younger and bear at least twice as many children as other Jews (4.1 vs. 1.7 children ever born to adults ages 40-59).

• The Orthodox are more likely than other Jews to have large families: almost half (48%) of child bearing Orthodox Jews have four or more children—a mere 9% of other Jewish parents have this size families.

• Finally: practically all Orthodox Jewish parents (98%) say they raise their children Jewish, compared with 78% of other Jewish parents. Orthodox Jews are much more likely than other Jews to have attended a Jewish day school, yeshiva or Jewish summer camp while growing up, and they are more likely to send their children to the same programs.

That’s a strategy for domination. The numbers may not show it today, but one generation at these respective rates of growth could wipe the distance between the Orthodox and the other denominations.

And as competitions usually tend to go, as the Orthodox “threat” continues to loom, attacks on every aspect of the Orthodox, especially ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, will be forthcoming from a fast shrinking non-Orthodox community, as well as from unaffiliated Jews.

The Pew analysis itself already uses the kind of belligerent language US Orthodox Jews should expect from traditionally liberal to left-wing Jewish publications: “Indeed, in a few ways, Orthodox Jews more closely resemble white evangelical Protestants than they resemble other US Jews,” notes the new Pew report, carelessly blending the religious Jewish tradition with a tradition Jews consider repugnant for some of its “pagan” values.

The new Pew report states: “For example, similarly large majorities of Orthodox Jews (83%) and white evangelicals (86%) say that religion is very important in their lives, while only about one-fifth of other Jewish Americans (20%) say the same.” But the term “religion” means very different things to Orthodox Jews than to other communities: to Orthodox Jews, religion means adherence to a complex set of laws and a lifetime engagement in studying those laws as an intellectual pursuit for its own sake. Also, to many Orthodox Jews, their Jewishness is not so much a religion as a familial connection to their own ilk, to being a link in a historic chain, and to remaining socially isolated from non-Jews. To the evangelicals, “religion” might mean the reverse of that: a literal adherence to biblical law, rather than an interpretive approach; and spreading and expanding their faith among as many strangers as they can. Both communities practice “religion” the same way both gazelles and lions practice running–for very different reasons.

JNi.Media

Rabbinate Court Forces Woman Who Did Not Have Orthodox Wedding to Have Orthodox Divorce or Face Prison

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

(JNi.media) Natali Lesterger (48) earlier this week posted a moving facebook message, which she began urgently enough:

“I’ll start from the end: My name is Natalie — and I need your help minutes before I go to jail!

“Listen up: an arrest warrant was issued against me by the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, and I may be arrested anywhere, anytime.”

Natalie then relates how she grew up in a religious Zionist environment, got married, had three children, and, twenty years ago, had a painful divorce.

After that traumatic procedure, she wrote, “when I left the rabbinical court a divorced woman, I swore by everything that’s precious to me that I would never set foot in the rabbinate in any way whatsoever. Never. And if the day would come that I would wish to marry again, I will do it without the rabbinic establishment.”

Long story short, 12 years ago Natalie met her second love, “M,” with his four children, and they agreed that, should the time come for a divorce, they would do it through the Masorti movement, which is the Conservative movement in Israel.

After more than a decade, Natalie continued, “I found myself in the process of separation again.” And, as if to make matters worse, she discovered that “M” had filed for divorce in the rabbinical court in Jerusalem — contrary to their pre-marital agreement. And even though the Ministry of the Interior honored her report and changed her status in the population registry “divorced,” the Rabbinical Court still had the power to force her to receive a halachic get (divorce).

“And if disagree?” Natalie wrote, “I should expect severe penalties and sanctions, and even jail!”

Indeed, the rabbinical judges did not wait around, and immediately issued an order prohibiting her exit from the country, “and now I received Subpoenaed / Arrest Warrant, to be executed any place and any time to make sure that I appear in court.”

Natalie’s problem stems from the fact that Jewish divorces in Israel are the purview of the Rabbinate.

And so, because the Jewish State follows the Torah law through the Chief Rabbinate, the Rabbinate indeed has the power to force every Jewish person separating from their spouse to undergo a halachic divorce.

The Rabbinical Court’s aggressive response (see enclosed arrest warrant) is surpassing, considering the fact that they had a perfect out in this case:

Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote several responsa about the Halachic status of Reform wedding ceremonies. In addition to the lack of valid witnesses in such weddings, Rav Moshe argues that Reform marriages are invalid because “they do not perform an act of Kidushin (sanctifying). Rather he merely responds ‘yes’ to the Rabbi’s question, ‘Do you wish to take this woman as your wife?’ … These are not words of Kidushin [such as the required phrase, ‘Behold you are betrothed to me with this ring’]; rather, these words express consent to joining in marriage. [The man and woman] subsequently exchange rings as an expression of their marriage, which they believe to have been contracted already by answering ‘yes.’”

“In the above responsum, Rav Moshe suggests that double ring ceremonies raise concern about how the couple understands the wedding procedures. ‘Even though he gives her a ring,’ he writes, ‘she also gives him a ring, which demonstrates that his giving her a ring was merely a present in honor of their marriage, and there is no act of Kidushin.’” (Thanks to Rabbi Chaim Jachter, Bergen County Torah Academy).

In other words, the court could have just said there was no valid marriage here, and that would have been it. Instead, they sought to impose their authority over every Jewish marriage being conducted in Israel.

JNi.Media

Orthodox & Reform Rabbis Condemn Arab Violence against Settlers

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Orthodox Rabbis Asher Lopatin, Yitz Greenberg and David Kalb joined Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Renewal colleagues in decrying the daily assaults of Palestinian Arabs on the homes and cars of Jews living in Judea and Samaria.

“We cannot and will not remain silent,” said Rabbi Pam Frydman co-founder and International Co-Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall.

“Our hearts go out to the brave women and men who show true courage in upholding the Jewish tradition of fighting the forces of injustice and intolerance,” said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, President of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, New York.

Rabbi Lopatin concluded, “May Hashem give you all strength to continue this age old, noble struggle which God promises us will end in victory.”

“All leaders should stand together and condemn such acts and words of violence,” said Rabbi Andrew Strauss, senior rabbi of Temple Sinai in Oakland, California.

Rabbi David Kalb, International Co-Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall couldn’t agree more. “This attack against the home … the perpetrators and their entire community should be made aware that such behavior constitutes a a desecration of God’s name of the highest order. Such an act is completely forbidden in accordance with Jewish Law. I call on all of my fellow Orthodox Jews to condemn such behavior and demand that the criminals who performed this atrocity step forward, face justice and do Repentance.”

“With deep sadness I heard the news,” said Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, California. “When Arabs strike out against Jews–with stones, firebombs, knives and guns—the Hanukah lights are diminished. When rabbis do not speak out saying unequivocally that such threats and violence transgress the most foundational teachings of Torah and halacha, the lights of Hanukah are diminished. And more. If Arab clergy cannot or will not control their communities, it becomes the responsibility of the government of the State of Israel to ensure that patience and tolerance shine forth throughout our Jewish state.”

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, a Harvard Ph.D. and founding President Emeritus of CLAL, continued: “These violent undemocratic actions violate Israeli law and Jewish religious ethics. It is urgent that police take action to catch the lawbreakers and that Arab religious leaders condemn the threats and reject such behaviors.”

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, senior rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley California said, “An assault on the home of any Jew is an assault on every Jewish home. It is a basic obligation upon the global Jewish family to affirm the right of our sisters and brothers to pray and live in peace.”

“Those who perpetrated the shameful violation of a Jewish home need to know that Women of the Wall and its worldwide network of supporters will not be deterred in their quest for Jews everywhere in Israeli society.” said Rabbi Diane Elliot, Director of Wholly Present of the San Francisco Bay Area. “I hope the perpetrators will be caught and brought to justice.”

“So long as Jews are subjected to persecution, Israel is not living up to its potential,” said Rabbi Yocheved Mintz, spiritual leader of Congregation P’nai Tikvah of Las Vegas, Nevada and President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern Nevada.

Rabbi Amy Eilberg, the first woman ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary (New York, 1985) concluded: “Shame on those who committed this latest act of hateful vandalism against Jewish men and women in Judea and Samaria. Have we learned nothing from our history as a people and our tradition’s sacred teaching on the consequences of causeless hatred? To attack and threaten Jews in their own home is a violation of everything we stand for as Jews.”

Yori Yanover

GOP: Polls and the Hinge Points of History

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

What does it mean that recent polls show 7 in 10 respondents think Republicans are putting their agenda ahead of what’s good for the country, as opposed to the 5 in 10 respondents who think President Obama is doing the same?

The answer probably lies in an analysis of the ancillary question posed in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: do respondents agree or not with the statement that the GOP or the president is “demonstrating strong leadership and standing up for what they [he] believe[s] in”?

For Republicans, only 27% of respondents agreed with that statement.  For Obama, 46% of them agreed.

On the face of it, that’s actually a contradictory assessment about the Republicans.  Only 27% of respondents think Republicans are standing up for what they believe in – and yet more than 70% of respondents (the actual figure was 74%) think Republicans are putting their agenda ahead of what’s good for the country?  How can that be?

Here’s how: a meaningful number of the respondents are conservative Republicans (call them the “Tea Party,” for short) who are disappointed with GOP leaders, because the conservative respondents don’t think GOP leaders are standing up for Republican beliefs.  Those respondents add to the number who are predisposed to blame or dislike Republicans for other reasons.  But the “Tea Party” demographic despises GOP leadership because it thinks the party is doing too little to combat current trends in government, rather than too much.

I don’t think it can be disputed that the opinion-poll numbers are bad for Republicans.  But I do think the narrative that reflexively calls this a linear reaction to The Stupidity of Cruz is all wet.  For one thing, that narrative itself falls apart on examination.  The specialized thought process and the poll-respondent demographic just don’t exist to make it descriptive.

Equally important, however, is the key difference between Democrats and Republicans in October 2013, which is that Republicans are profoundly divided.

As long as the Democrats keep their communications reasonably disciplined, they can be sure of getting a unified set of characterizations across to the public without interference.  But the Republicans, who already find every talking point distorted by the media, have the added burden of genuine disagreement among themselves.  There’s no question that Republicans look, at this juncture, like we can’t get our act together.  This is because we can’t get our act together.  We don’t agree on what it should be.

Poll respondents are quite reasonable in recognizing that there would be no government shutdown if everyone in the GOP agreed with the Democrats on what should be done.  That’s really kind of a forehead-slapping “duh!” revelation, and I suspect it’s what the poll numbers are telling us.  Of course it’s the GOP’s fault that there has been a shutdown.  Of course the shutdown has been forced by political differences.

Does it follow that 74% of poll respondents – or of Americans in general, who may or may not be well represented in this poll – think “the” problem is the Tea Party, and that the way to resolve it is for the GOP to crush the “Tea Party wing” and get on with the business of agreeing with the Democrats?

No, it doesn’t – any more than it follows that the GOP should do the converse: rout the GOP “moderates” in a turkey-shoot from the right.  There is no such quantity out there as a 74% majority making it clear that Republican blame for the shutdown should translate into gigging Ted Cruz like a swamp-bottom frog, or into running John McCain out of town on a rail.

What there is instead is a profound dispute within the GOP about who we are and what our way forward is.

There may no longer be a unifying “center” to hold the GOP together.  If the GOP doesn’t encompass the limited-government views of the Tea Party, there is an essential sense in which the party no longer represents an alternative to the Democratic Party.

But there is still a sizable number of Republicans who see a viable future for a Republican Party that makes its name on what George Will has been calling “splittable differences” with the Democrats in Congress.  I admire Will’s broadly positive and genial take on the current impasse between the parties, and between the factions in the GOP.  But ultimately, I’m not convinced that being the party of “splittable differences” would be a big motivator or vote-getter for Republicans.

J. E. Dyer

YCT, Heterodoxy, and Agudah

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Agudath Israel has come out with a new statement about Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT). They are ‘deeply troubled’ that YCT is hosting a group of 4 non-Orthodox rabbis at the installation of their new president, Rabbi Asher Lopatin. They will be involved in a roundtable discussion entitled “Training New Rabbis for a New Generation”.

I have mixed emotions about this. But I am in fact pleased that Agudah has responded to it – even if in a negative way. This shows that they must recognize YCT as an Orthodox institution. Which it is, in my view. I don’t for example believe they would be criticizing the Conservative Movement if they invited Reform rabbis to a roundtable of their own.

My feelings about this issue are mixed for the following reasons.

On the one hand – there is the rather well known decision by the Gedolei HaDor of the previous generation to forbid any interaction with non Orthodox movements. The fear was that by doing so, it would tacitly imply recognizing their legitimacy. Orthodoxy rejects heterodox movements and considers them illegitimate.

It is also rather well known that Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik made a distinction between interacting with them on any theological matters – which he also forbade; and interacting with them on non theological matters that impacted on the welfare of all of Jewry – which he permitted.

I agree with Rav Soloveitchik’s perspective. The question is whether this round table falls into the category of theological discussion or not. I’m not sure – but if I had to peg it, I would lean toward putting such a roundtable on the theological side of the argument and thus forbid it.

That said, I wonder if that would be true if matters of actual theology were expressly left out of the discussion. And the round table was limited to a discussion of practical non-theological rabbinics. Like psychological counseling or how to go about giving advice to congregants. The truth is that heterodox rabbis probably have a lot to offer in the realm of practical non theological rabbinics. As would say a mental health professional or even a priest or minister for that matter.

On the other hand, since this is a Yeshiva hosting heterodox rabbis I would be hard pressed to say that there would be no theological aspect to it. It is a virtual impossibility to completely leave out theology in such a discussion. Which is why I would be opposed to it.

There is, however, another thing to consider. What is extant today was not extant when the Gedolei HaDor forbade such interactions. Times have changed in ways which make me wonder if we should re-examine our positions. Let me hasten to add that I do not advocate the policies of Open Orthodoxy that YCT represents. They have rejected the prohibition of interacting with non-Orthodox rabbis and now freely advocate full engagement with them at all levels – including theological ones.

But I think it is fair to evaluate the reasons they have done it. Times have indeed changed. When the prohibition was made, it was a time that Reform and Conservative movements were on the ascendancy. They were a real threat to Orthodox Judaism. Orthodoxy in America was in relative infancy then. To wit – Rav Aharon Kotler who was the driving force behind the prohibition headed a Yeshiva of about 300 students when he died. Today there are over 6000 students there and they are growing exponentially. There are also now many smaller Yeshivos like Lakewood that are now thriving. They did not exist at that time.

There is no question that the small group of Orthodox Jews at the time were seen by most non Orthodox observers as a dying relic of an ancient past. While Heterodox movements were flourishing and growing by leaps and bounds. It is very understandable that the Gedolei HaDor did not want to give any semblance of recognition to them. Their ‘David’ was fighting a very large Goliath.

But today – the tables have turned. We are the ones growing. They are either shrinking (Conservative) or redefining Jewishness to include non Halachic Jews (Reform).

It is therefore a fact that heterodoxy is no longer the threat to Orthodoxy it once was – if at all. It is now apathy and indifference that is the enemy. Jews are leaving Judaism in droves. They do not see any denomination as relevant to their lives. They see themselves as secular human beings in the brotherhood of man – without the slightest connection to Judaism. One might even say that Conservative and even Reform Judaism today is at least trying to get them to retain their Jewish identity if nothing else.

In the light of all this, perhaps this is a Hora’as Shah – time to act and change the paradigm. Maybe YCT is not so terribly wrong headed in partnering up with these movements. I do not see legitimizing them as a danger anymore. The danger is in the growing numbers of unaffiliated Jews who have no problem with intermarriage and tend to buy into the ‘Apartheid’ narrative about Israel found in the secular liberal/leftist environment in which they live.

This is not to say that I agree with YCT. I don’t. I am not qualified to make judgments about Hora’as Shah. I am just thinking out loud. For example one might argue that giving them legitimacy in any setting, no less a Yeshiva, is forbidden in principal – having nothing to do with whether doing so is some sort of existential danger to Orthodoxy. I can just as easily see this argument as I can YCT’s argument.

Perhaps the fact that there is another aspect to this now that did not exist before is why Agudah has not thrown YCT out of Orthodoxy – as publications like the Yated have advocated. They must realize that they are Orthodox in that they follow Halacha… and that their intentions with respect to heterodoxy are good – even if badly mistaken for the reasons stated. And for that, I applaud them.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Harry Maryles

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