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May 25, 2016 / 17 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Council’

Getting Serious About Get-Refusal

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

It’s human nature to hide our heads in the sand. That may be because we are mostly optimistic. We believe everything will be all right even when we know we are taking a chance.

On the flip side, it’s emotionally very difficult to admit we have a problem. We are worried about how others will regard us. Moreover, addressing a problem entails gathering strength to go about solving it. It’s so much easier to hide our heads in the sand.

About ten years ago, at a rabbinic convention in Israel, I was introduced to a well-known American Orthodox rabbi as a to’enet rabbanit – rabbinical court advocate. The rav politely asked me what I do. I briefly explained how I work with dayanim in Israeli batei din on cases of Get-refusal they have difficulty resolving. I stressed my focus on prenuptial agreements to prevent the agunah problem from arising in the first place, through the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel.

“Oh, I know all about prenups” the rabbi replied. “My daughter just got married but I didn’t tell her to sign one. We don’t need these things.”

This rav, one of the most effective leaders in the American Orthodox world, did not recognize the very real agunah problem in his community. In fact, I have received cries for help (even though I am in Israel) from women who belong to every manner of Orthodox community in the U.S., from chassidishe and haredi to Modern Orthodox and everything in between.

Truth be told, it is difficult for a rav to admit publicly to a problem of Get-refusal in his community when no one is admitting it in the other communities. It is more comforting to imagine that should an agunah case arise, the community will take care of it. However, individuals who begin to tread the path of a me’agen are becoming more and more resistant to communal pressure or even rabbinic influence.

By recognizing the potential for the problem and arranging the signing of prenuptial agreements for its prevention, communal and rabbinic influence can be restored. The problem needs to be prevented from taking root in each individual case before it is too late.

Nevertheless, the practice is to hope for the best, rationalizing the agunah problem with statistics. “What,” we think, “are the chances of this happening to me or to my daughter?”

And yet our communities have overcome deep-seated reluctance in order to deal with other widespread problems. To cut down on the number of cases of genetic disease afflicting the Orthodox community, for example, practical yet dignified solutions were found. The community needed to find a way to assist individuals on a communal level and so now many Orthodox educational institutions routinely bring professionals into twelfth-grade classes to administer blood tests.

In this manner, the individual understands the implicit stamp of approval by the rabbanim and the fear of “what will others think?” is erased, since all are working toward the prevention of the problem.

Similarly, the leadership of each of the various Orthodox communities can make practical arrangements for prenup education with every educational institution – high school, yeshiva gedolah, seminary or college.

A service should be provided whereby every student, man or woman, who becomes engaged is called in. The school’s rabbi or counselor can present the couple with a halachic prenuptial agreement together with an explanation, and arrange for notarization services in the school’s office. In this manner the community will quickly understand that all are expected to sign a prenuptial agreement. It will become “automatic” – one of the things you have to arrange before you get married.

Even those who marry later, while no longer under the aegis of educational institutions, will remember to sign a prenuptial agreement since it will have become a standard part of the shidduch process.

Twenty-one rabbanim of one of Americas’ Orthodox communities – roshei yeshiva of Yeshiva University – recently signed a (second) kol koreh calling on all rabbis and the Orthodox community to promote the standard use of a halachic prenuptial agreement. They were spurred to do so by the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. There are those who may feel YU or ORA is not their derech, but that does not relieve them of the responsibility to address the agunah problem in their own communities.

Dr. Rachel Levmore

A Curious Gambit

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

We were struck by a petition drive launched by the National Jewish Democratic Council demanding that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican Party reject contributions from billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson.

The NJDC claims Mr. Adelson’s money is tainted, based on unproven allegations in a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled former employee as well as other claims that Mr. Adelson was personally aware of and condoned unsavory conduct in several of his companies. Coming at a time when the media are reporting problems with President Obama’s reelection fund-raising efforts and, in contrast, a flourishing money drive by Mr. Romney, we can’t help but detect a sense of panic. This is especially so since Mr. Adelson has announced plans for huge infusions in contributions to Republican coffers in the run-up to the November election. But the outcry over Mr. Adelson may end up being a Pandora’s Box for the president.

As noted, the NJDC campaign invokes unproven charges against Mr. Adelson. Yet major Democratic contributor George Soros was convicted in 2002 by a French court of insider trading and fined some 2.2 million Euros. No similar calls have been made to reject or return his contributions. The NJDC effort is also likely to resurrect the controversy over President Obama’s refusal to return a million-dollar contribution from comedian Bill Maher following his outrageous derogatory public references to Sarah Palin and other prominent Republican women.

And then there are the very public embraces of the racial arsonist Al Sharpton by the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder. That’s the Reverend Al Sharpton of Tawana Brawley, Crown Heights and Freddie’s Fashion Mart fame. Most recently, Mr. Sharpton stretched to find a racial dimension to the congressional vote holding Mr. Holder in contempt for failure to turn over requested documents:

As I marched this past Sunday with tens of thousands in New York in opposition to the abhorrent practice of stop & frisk, I couldn’t help but think of our attorney general. Tattered down and publicly humiliated, AG Holder has been mishandled just like the young Black and Latino men (and women) who are demonized on our streets everyday….

From the president on down, Democrats have ignored these notorious actions, which are matters of public knowledge. If Mr. Adelson is a fitting target for rebuke, why not those from the Democratic side? And a word or two about the NJDC’s reliance on mere allegations might also be in order.

Editorial Board

Obama Administration Stabs Israel in the Back

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

The Founders in their wisdom divided the powers of government; some to the Executive, some to the Legislative. The power of the purse went to Congress; diplomacy to the Executive.

How that shakes out matters to the U.S. and our democratic allies.

The democracy of Israel, for example, had a good week with Congress. The Senate adopted, by unanimous consent (and 69 sponsors), a bill increasing coordination in the fields of missile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence, and cyber-security. It also called for enhancing Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), a difficult-to-measure state of affairs, but a concept that friends of Israel appreciate. The House already passed its version of the same legislation.

The practicality of the bill is striking: do things, share things, develop things, produce things, and protect things. These are security enhancements that can only be done with an ally. Congress wants to do them with Israel.

President Obama, on the other hand, has been doing diplomacy, which by its nature skirts the concrete. Many administrations, including this one, believe speech is action. Diplomats fear they won’t get credit for damage avoided, so they often choose to produce no outcome all – just another meeting set for later – and never end the “process.” Playing for compromise – or even a respectable loss – can be satisfactory. Talking can replace doing. That may work for the United States, a big country with room to maneuver when it makes mistakes, but Israel lives much closer to the edge. Diplomatic trouble can quickly become economic, political or military trouble.

The UN Security Council has not managed to have a discussion about Syria since April, but the President has finally figured out how to have the Council “briefed” on the subject by Navi Pillai – a renowned Israel-basher. The French wanted to discuss Syria. The Russians were willing only if the US-French-British adventure in Libya was on the docket. Rotating member Pakistan wanted to hang Israel. And so a deal was done – give up Israel for Syria – protecting the French, skirting the Russians, and accommodating our friends the Pakistanis. As a veto-wielding member, the U.S. could have nixed the program, but instead insisted only that the Syrian meeting be held in the morning and the Israel-bashing in the afternoon; Ms. Pillai will have time in between for lunch.

Read the unparalleled Anne Bayevsky for the details.

France, by the way, was the only European country to agree that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem should be listed as a Palestinian UNESCO Heritage Site. The US is not a member of the World Heritage Committee. Our delegate campaigned against the vote, but lost. We are accustomed to losing in the UN, and it seems not to bother us much as it should for a country that covers nearly a quarter of the U.N.’s payroll with a blank check, no questions asked (or, more accurately, no answers given).

In the UN Human Rights Council, our representative Eileen Donahoe again remonstrated the Council for its “biased and disproportionate focus on Israel, as exemplified by this standing agenda item.”

The “standing agenda item” is Item 7, “Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab territories.” It mandates that every discussion in the Council have a component devoted to (castigating) Israel. Ms. Donahoe objects – but she knows (her boss, the President, knows) she will lose every time because she is sitting with the likes of Congo, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Qatar, Cuba, the PRC and Malaysia. Players rotate (terms on the Council are three years), but the number of countries with unspeakable human rights records far exceeds the number of democratic countries, and the number of countries that vote en bloc (Arab/Muslim/African) far exceeds the number voting independently. The Council will always contain a preponderance of authoritarian countries whose governments engage in human rights abuses and have nothing to lose by castigating Israel.

President Obama stated that the U.S. would engage the Syrian uprising in the context of UN-sponsored discussion and UN-sponsored plans. Over last weekend, the UN-sponsored Syria Action Group convened in Geneva. Neither the Syrian government nor the opposition attended. The final communiqué told both how to behave; both rejected the tutorial. The U.S. and Russia also have also publicly disagreed about the implications of the document.

Shoshana Bryen

Day Two of the Presidential Conference Closes with Pessimism about the Global Economy

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson, President of the Council of Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, and Financial Times Reporter Martin Wolf headlined a panel led by Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer.

The panel, which focused on the future of the global economy was highlighted by a general sense of pessimism, with several members noting that tough times lay ahead, particularly for Europe.

When the discussion turned to the strength of the Eurozone, an especially grim picture emerged.

“If things are just left to unfold as they are now,” said Wolf, “with the resources they put up for it – the Euro zone is going to fail.”

Ferguson echoed this stormy forecast, noting that the current stagnation may be a precursor for larger problems, saying, “We ain’t seen nothing yet. The flash crash (of 2008) will be nothing compared to the next crash.”

The session also included Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Alan Bollard and was preceded by an address from Alassane Ouatarra, President of the Ivory Coast.

While the panelists tended to see a bleak picture, President Outarra’s address was filled with optimism in the strength and potential of the growing African economies, calling them the “African Lions.” Yet, he too recognized that economic prosperity needs stability.

“The democratic process is irreversible,” said Ouatarra, “but we need to win the war of security for economic development so that the next generation can benefit too.”

Jewish Press Staff

My Machberes

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Cemetery Restoration:
The Jewish Press At The Forefront

With the contributions of Torah Editor (and rav of Khal Bnei Matisyahu) Rabbi Yaakov Klass and the editorial leadership of Senior Editor Jason Maoz, The Jewish Press and this column have been privileged to assist in the resolution of cemetery preservation efforts abroad.

We are particularly proud to have been of assistance in the cemetery preservation and restoration impasse deliberations in Romania and Spain that were favorably moved ahead and successfully resolved. The following press release from the Admas Kodesh organization reflects the positive results of the many efforts invested:

Admas Kodesh Resolution on Jewish Cemeteries
Ratified by the Council of Europe

At the initiative of Admas Kodesh, the Standing Committee of the Council of Europe has unanimously adopted a landmark resolution on the protection of Jewish cemeteries at its meeting in Tirana, Albania, on May 25, 2012.

This milestone has been reached after a seven-year campaign of intense lobbying at this major European body based in Strasbourg, representing 47 European member states and composed of 636 parliamentarians.

Brooklyn-based Admas Kodeshis the American arm of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, also known as C.P.J.C.E., has extensive legal and political experience in the fields of human rights, freedom of religion, protection and preservation of cultural heritage, and education. This leadership has been recognized in the Council’s resolution.

The initiative for this important resolution, which will hopefully have a major effect on the protection of hundreds of thousands of Jewish graves in Europe, came from Rabbi Abraham Ginsburg, secretary general of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe. Having actively been involved in campaigns to protect Jewish cemeteries and mass graves in a number of Eastern and Western European towns, Rabbi Abraham Ginsburg realized that recognition of the importance of protecting Jewish cemeteries must be addressed within a European political and legal framework.

With the active support of the revered Rosh Yeshiva and President of the C.P.J.C.E., Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger, and Rabbi Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld, Mattersdorfer Rov and leading member of the American Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah, and Rabbi Yitzchok Zekel Pollak, Dayan of Machsike Hadass Kehila of Antwerp, together with Rabbi Chaim David Zweibel and David Moskowitz of New York, Mr. Nathan Rothschild of Zurich, and Professor Zvi Loonstein of Amsterdam, the long slow bureaucratic processes of Council of Europe were gradually set into motion, leading to this significant outcome.

Raising awareness of the particular Jewish sanctity of all Jewish burial sites including Jewish mass graves made a tremendous Kiddush Hashem throughout the Council’s different committees involved.

Admas Kodesh praises the open-mindedness of Council delegates who were presented for the first time with a comprehensive explanation of the Jewish laws pertaining to burial sites. They truly marveled at the beauty of the halacha.

The necessity of consulting with world-recognized Rabbonim on questions relating to Jewish burial sites at risk was emphasized, and C.P.J.C.E. compiled a special treatise on “The Sacred Obligation of Burial and Life After Death in Jewish Belief,” containing explanatory notes on this subject written by Rabbi Schlesinger, revered Rosh Yeshiva Horomo in London, and head of the CPJCE’s Rabbinical Board. The role and dedication of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe has been highlighted in the resolution and its leadership in this field has been recognized.

The massive legal research involved in this campaign was conducted by Professor Christians, expert in religious freedom at Louvain-La-Neuve University, who also compiled, at the request of Admas Kodesh, a major study on “Protection and Preservation of Jewish cemeteries and Mass graves in European and national law.”

Meeting with the consul general of Romania.

The resolution, based on these major essays, declares: “The Assembly asserts that right of freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights upholds the right of the deceased to rest in peace in accordance with their religious belief and the responsibility to protect human dignity in a broader sense, by ensuring that deceased persons are preserved in their place of burial in a manner compatible with their religious practice.”

The explanatory memorandum of the resolution has been built on a detailed report written by C.P.J.C.E. experts. It contains a description of Jewish burial sites, the threats they face, consequences of desecration, case studies, examples of difficult cases and good practices for protection of Jewish burial places.

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

Israel Cuts Contacts with UN Human Rights Council

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Israel has officially decided to end all contact and cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council and will not permit the entry of the Council’s ‘fact-finding’ observers, after passage of a resolution calling for a probe of Israel’s conduct in Judea and Samaria.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced the decision on Monday.

The UN body resolved “to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission” to “investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the…right of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.” The resolution, the first ‘fact-finding mission’ authorized by the 47-member Council, was adopted by a vote of 36 to 1, with 10 abstentions. The United States was the lone dissenter.

The Israeli government has not said if and how it intends to sanction the Palestinians, who initiated the resolution.

Israel Radio reported on Sunday that Israel was considering suspending tax transfers to the Palestinians and, according to a report in Yediot Ahronot, freezing an initiative to allocate 5,000 new work permits to Palestinians.

“We have many resources but we will act with discretion and will not shoot from the hip,” Deputy FM Danny Ayalon responded when asked what measures Israel might take.

Solomon Burke

Outraged Israeli Leaders Pledge Boycott of UN Human Rights Council, Punitive Measures Against Palestinians

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The fury sparked in Israel by the UN Human Rights Council’s passage of a resolution Thursday – which ordered a fact-finding inquiry into Israeli settlements and their infringement on the rights of Palestinians – has shown no signs of abating, as the Israeli security cabinet is set to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss possible punitive measures.

The UN body resolved “to dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission” to “investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the…right of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.” The resolution, the first ‘fact-finding mission’ authorized by the 47-member Council, was adopted by a vote of 36 to 1, with 10 abstentions. The United States was the lone dissenter. Beyond the predictable reflexive anti-Israel votes (Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Norway), Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium were among those that voted for the resolution. Even those countries that have stood with Israel in past UN votes (Czech Republic, Poland, Guatemala, Hungary) only managed to cast abstentions, which in UN forums is often the closest Israel can get to an expression of support.

In the same session, the Council also approved four other resolutions against Israel: on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (44 for, 1 against [USA], two abstentions [Cameroon, Guatemala]); on the Right of the Palestinian People to Self-Determination (46 for, 1 against [USA]); on the Follow-up to UN Fact-Finding Mission to Gaza (29 for, 1 against [USA], and 17 abstentions); and on Human Rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan (33 for, 1 against [USA], and 13 abstentions). All except for the last resolution were submitted by ‘Palestine’.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that Israel would not be cooperating with the Council: “We have no reason to continue cooperating with a hypocritical organization which specializes in double-speak and has a mission to smear us…We know in advance what their conclusions will be.”  Israel Radio reported that Israel is considering simply barring entry to delegates of the Council. Ayalon also warned the Palestinian Authority that it should not expect “cooperation” from Israel “while it is fighting it in international forums.”

Israel Radio also reported on Sunday that Israel was considering punitive measures against the Palestinians like suspending tax transfers and, according to a report in Yediot Ahronot, freezing an initiative to allocate 5,000 new work permits to Palestinians.

“We have many resources but we will act with discretion and will not shoot from the hip,” Ayalon responded when asked what measures Israel might take.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu responded angrily to the vote, saying the Council “should be ashamed of itself…the Council has made 91 decisions, 39 of which dealt with Israel, three with Syria and one with Iran.”

Avigdor lieberman, speaking to Israel Radio while on a visit to Singapore said, “[t]his hypocritical organization has nothing to do with human rights. Its bias and lack of objectivity are obvious…We will not be actors in this theatre of the absurd, where 70 percent of the council’s decisions are hostile to Israel.”

Lieberman continued to blast the Council on Sunday, saying: “We are considering asking free countries like the United States to withdraw from this organization.” But the US State Department quickly quashed this possibility by issuing a statement that appeared to defend the Council’s work, saying that it had “helped spur action on a series of important human rights situations around the world,” but added that the US condemns the Council’s anti-Israel bias which “continues to unnecessarily politicize the Council’s human rights agenda.”

 

 

 

 

Rafi Harkham

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