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October 26, 2016 / 24 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘issue’

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

In what may appear as one of the more interesting ironies to some, the Forward has chosen Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel (pictured here with Senator Joseph Lieberman) as one of the top 5 most influential Jews in America. (They did not say which position he holds on that short list.)

To that end they are showing short videos of each of those top 5. They have started off with one on Rabbi Zwiebel. (Could he be at the top of the list?) These 5 Jews head a list called the Forward 50. Which as the title suggest adds another 45 influential names. Rabbi Zweibel’s video can be seen below.

I use the word irony because of the fact that the Forward is often singled out by Charedim as very anti Charedi. Rabbi Zwiebel – for those who don’t know – is the executive director of one of the most publicly active Charedi organizations in the world, Agudath Israel of America.

This list has been heavily criticized in the past for choosing people who many of us in Orthodoxy never even heard of – to the exclusion of people many of us feel are quite a bit greater than those they have chosen. Like various Roshei Yeshiva and Poskim.

Agree or disagree – the Forward has its own guidelines for measuring impact (which they are certainly entitled to have) and they have chosen accordingly.

As executive director of Agudah he promotes the policies dictated to him by his organization’s Rabbinic authorities, which they term the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah – loosely translated as the Council of Torah Sages.

Rabbi Zweibel certainly has his detractors in wider Orthodoxy. There are issues that have stirred controversy. While all of Orthodoxy has more that unites us than divides us, there are some issues that are so controversial that they threaten to tear us apart and separate us forever. Among them are two of 3 which Rabbi Zweibel was asked about.

One is the issue of requiring all suspicions of sex abuse be first reported to a Rabbi before being reported to the police. That is so that the rabbi can determine whether the evidence is credible enough to over-ride the Issur of Mesirah. Even if one holds that Mesirah is still applicable in our era.

Rabbi Zweibel spoke eloquently about this vetting process. But as I have indicated in the past, I disagree with it. My difference with Agudah is that if there is going to be any vetting process about what is and isn’t credible evidence, it ought not be a rabbi that determines it. It ought to be mental health professionals and the police who regularly deal with sex abuse. As I recall it was R’ Elyashiv who Paskined that there are no Mesirah issues when there are Raglayim L’Davar (credible evidence). And he never said that it should be a rabbi that determines it.

The other controversial issue is MbP (Metzitza B’Peh – oral suction of the blood from a circumcision wound). Agudah is fighting New York City’s Health Department requirement of informed consent. Meaning that a Mohel has to warn parents about the dangers of transmitting diseases of the mouth via direct oral contact with the wound.

Again, I have profound differences on this issue. But I hear his argument. For Chasidim – a segment of Orthodoxy that believes MbP is an integral requirement of Bris Milah – asking their Mohalim to warn parents about it sends a message that a Halachic requirement is in fact dangerous! A danger they believe is practically nonexistent.

Although I understand their position and that of Agudah one has to weigh the message’s negative implications for them against the right of a parent to be informed about the possible dangers, rare though they may be. Rabbi Zweibel seems to say that two constitutional freedoms are at stake here. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I guess this is the argument they will make in the courts in order to overturn the health department’s informed consent requirement.

We’ll see how that plays out.

A 3rd issue mentioned in the interview was an offshoot of the Siyum HaShas. That Agudah managed to fill a football stadium to overflow crowds of mostly Charedim – seems to indicate that American Jewry’s growth is trending towards a more insular way of life. Thus we are less able to influence greater society by directly participating in it.

Harry Maryles

The Broader Implications of the Petraeus Resignation: Personal Behavior and Public Office

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

General David Petraeus was the hero of the victorious surge strategy in Iraq. But he also has the distinction of becoming America’s first Politically Correct field commander. His strategy in Afghanistan was in line with that of the Obama Administration by putting the emphasis on winning Muslim hearts and minds as a higher priority than military victories or even at times the safety of American soldiers. There’s a reason why President Barack Obama made him CIA director.

Leaving aside the question of the resignation’s relationship to the Benghazi debacle, in some ways, his fall is more discouraging than the election results. Don’t these powerful people feel that their duty is more important than their personal self-aggrandizement or pleasure? We should remember, too, that Petraeus’s predecessor in Afghanistan was brought down because of some incautious things said in a magazine interview.

Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Herman Caine, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, Larry Craig, Richard Nixon, and other politicians supposedly represented certain ideas, policies, and the hopes and dreams of millions of people who have worked hard for them and put their trust in them. Can’t they put aside what they might also desire for the sake of those things?

I have seen with my own two eyes Kennedy drunk on the floor of the Senate and I know a lot from first-hand observation about the private adventures of former Senator Chris Dodd and Hart. And all of the above hasn’t begun to touch on financial corruption.

Of course, many do behave differently and far better. A few years ago I’d have said that perhaps the media has become too willing and able to expose the foibles of those at the top. Yet after the spectacle of a Teflon Obama and his entourage it would be more correct to say that the media only exposes those it wants to for political purposes. Then, too, Clinton and Kennedy didn’t suffer at all from their amorousness and bad driving.

If I’m not mistaken, there are now Democratic senators from Connecticut and Massachusetts who lied about their military records. The latter one, Senator John Kerry, may soon be secretary of state, which will be a global disaster of major proportions. There is also now a Democratic senator from Massachusetts who clearly lied about being a Cherokee in order to get preferential treatment in getting a job.

I have seen in the National Archives the OSS report during World War Two that a Danish journalist was a Nazi spy. And this is the woman with whom John F. Kennedy had an affair and for that reason was shipped out by his father to the Pacific front, where he would be made a hero through a combination of his bad navigation and subsequent brave behavior in the sinking of PT-109. General Dwight Eisenhower’s and President Franklin Roosevelt’s affairs during World War Two are today well known. But those were times when things remained quiet.

Why, though, are these personal matters anyone else’s business? The debate usually focuses around an argument between what is proper morality and whether Americans are too puritanical. The French, we are told, rejoice when their politicians get naughty.

But there is another far more important issue altogether that is rarely aired. If a politician or major public figure believes in what he’s doing and knows that exposure of his misdeed would destroy that mission, how can they give in to temptation if they really believe in the importance of that mission or of the importance of keeping faith with those who are relying on them?

And if they don’t care at all about those things, how can they be worthy of wielding power? It is not so much a question of personal morality as it is of character, not an issue of private life but of whether one takes seriously the concept of duty. If, for example, Bill Clinton was willing to risk his presidency for having some sort of relations–even if he could define them as not having had sex in some physiological sense–with Monica Lewinsky and then, according to the court finding, committing perjury about his behavior, that is not the sort of person one should want to be president. The fact that he escaped impeachment for the latter offense is not the point. His being willing to take that chance is the issue.

There is also something in the character of those who lust for power and fame—and I write this from long observation growing up in Washington DC—that very much distorts one’s personality. Such people almost inevitably feel superior to others, arrogant that they can get away with anything, coming to take for granted that they deserve privileges but that the rules don’t apply to them. That’s why the founders of America wanted to limit government and the power of those who ran it.

Such wisdom is even older, though it has only rarely done humanity much good. “Put not your trust in princes,” says Psalm 146. Rabbi Hillel said almost two thousand years ago that the obsessively ambitious end up by destroying themselves.

Today, it isn’t so much that Republicans are more upstanding. The difference is that they pay for their sins because the media is so quick to devour them. If, say, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri says something stupid once, he’s finished. If a Democrat does so, even repeatedly racialist statements, he gets to be vice-president for another four years. That’s reality.

Before the revolution it was clearly defined in France which classes whose members could or could not be legally tortured. This distinction now applies to public figures along partisan and ideological lines as well.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Barry Rubin

CDC: Mumps Outbreak Due to Yeshiva Learning Style

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

A massive outbreak of mumps among Orthodox Jews in 2009 was due to the system of learning in yeshivas, according to a report by NPR.

Over 3,5000 people got sick after an 11 year-old boy came home from the UK with the illness in June of 2009, prompting New York authorities to issue an additional shot of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to children who were already considered vaccinated.

Officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) determined that sitting for hours at a time with a chavruta – learning partner – could bombard the system with more of the illness than for which the vaccines generally provide immunity.

Malkah Fleisher

Israel Cabinet Passes “Full Protection”

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

In light of the ongoing attacks on civilian areas near Gaza, and the advancement of aggression by terrorist elements against the 200,000 person-strong ancient biblical city and modern-day metropolis of Be’ersheva, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet issued the following statement through the Government Press Office:

“The Cabinet, today (Sunday, 28 October 2012), unanimously approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal on full protection for all communities 4.5-7 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, at a cost of NIS 270 million. The Cabinet also authorized the Prime Minister to decide, within 30 days, on the sources of financing without the need to submit the issue for Cabinet approval.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “This will provide security for residents of the south. We are doing this because attacks by rockets and missiles at shorter distances are much greater in the area around the Gaza Strip than at other distances. I think that this is what residents of the south have been hoping for, they have been calling for it for a long time.””

Malkah Fleisher

Circumcision in Germany, An Update

Monday, October 22nd, 2012


Yishai presents a fascinating audio piece from the BBC about the issue of the legality of circumcision in Germany.  Be sure to tune in to stay informed!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Biden, Ryan Spar on Iran

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan clashed over Iran’s nuclear program during their televised debate.

Ryan assailed President Obama’s approach to the issue in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. The Wisconsin congressman accused administration officials of sending “mixed signals” to Iran about U.S. resolve.

“They say the military option’s on the table, but it’s not being viewed as credible, and the key to do this peacefully is to make sure that we have credibility,” Ryan said. “Under a Romney administration, we will have credibility on this issue.”

Biden responded by noting the president’s repeated public statements that the U.S. will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and touting the toughness of international sanctions that the administration has secured against the Islamic Republic. “These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period,” Biden said.

Biden asked Ryan: “You’re talking about doing more, are you going to war? Is that what you want to do now?” Ryan replied: “We want to prevent war.”

The Iranian nuclear issue was raised by the debate moderator, journalist Martha Raddatz, who said that “there’s really no bigger national security” issue facing the U.S. In their responses, the two candidates echoed the positions articulated by their respective running mates, with Ryan stressing that Iran must not be permitted a nuclear weapons “capability” and Biden emphasizing that Iran should be prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Ryan said that Iran was “four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability” and added that U.S. sanctions on Iran were only implemented by Congress “in spite of the administration.”

Regarding the possibility of U.S. military action, Biden said “we feel quite confident we could deal a serious blow to the Iranians.” But the vice president added that Iran is “a good way away” from getting a nuclear weapon, adding that “there is no difference” between the Israeli and American assessments on this point. Biden said that “both the Israelis and we will know if they start the process of building a weapon.”

Ryan also criticized Obama for not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his recent U.S. visit, to which Biden responded that Obama has “spoken to Bibi Netanyahu as much as he’s spoken to anybody.”

Referring to the Iranian bomb illustration that Netanyahu presented at the U.N. General Assembly, Biden said: “We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon. What Bibi held up there was: when they get to the point where they can enrich uranium enough to put into a weapon. They don’t have a weapon to put it into. Let’s all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office.”

The vice president criticized “all this loose talk about ‘All they have to do is get to enrich uranium in a certain amount and they have a weapon.’ Not true.” He added that “if we ever have to take action, unlike when we took office, we will have the world behind us, and that matters.”

Asked by Raddatz which would be worse, war or a nuclear-armed Iran, Ryan answered that the more dangerous scenario would be “a nuclear-armed Iran which triggers a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. This is the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism. They’ve dedicated themselves to wiping an entire country off the map. They call us the Great Satan, and if they get nuclear weapons, other people in the neighborhood will pursue their nuclear weapons as well.”

Biden said that “war should always be the absolute last resort” and stressed that sanctions are crippling for Iran. Echoing Obama’s past statements on the issue of all options being on the table, Biden said: “We’ve made it clear: Big nations can’t bluff. This president doesn’t bluff.”


What Some Islamists Have Been Up To

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Sometimes the global efforts of the Islamists pay dividends for them. Sometimes they are frustrated by the authorities. Nothing happens very quickly in the battle against them. And no one can seriously claim they are being defeated; on the contrary. Here are some snapshots.


Reuters says one of several Islamists behind a September 19 grenade attack on a Jewish store in the Paris suburbs was shot and killed by police in the northeastern French city of Strasbourg today. Eleven other people were detained in what prosecutors called a “vast anti-terrorist operation”. The dead French man, Jérémie Louis-Sydney, 33, had served prison time for drug-dealing and had been convicted of membership in a radical Islamist movement. When police entered Sidney’s apartment around dawn, he opened fire. He was found to be equipped with a .357 Magnum revolver and reserves of ammunition.

Reuters says that in the course of the round-ups today, the police found Al-Qaeda literature, 27,000 euros in cash, and a list of Jewish organizations in Paris (the French-language reports, according to a friend of ours in Paris, used the archaic term “israélite” leading to most of the news agency reports saying the targets were Israeli, but they were actually French-Jewish) at the homes of the suspects. Among the others taken in by police is a woman described as one of Sidney’s two wives. Three of the others have criminal records for drugs, theft and violence. One of the men was arrested in the Paris region as he returned from morning prayers and was carrying a “ready to fire” 22-caliber pistol.


Melbourne’s Age newspaper has an interview today (it’s the lead story at this hour) with an Islamist preacher, Abdul Rahman Ayub, who acknowledges that he was sent to Australia in 1997 to recruit jihadists at the request of Abu Bakar Bashir, the notorious Indonesian terrorist currently serving a lengthy prison sentence. The Age calls Bashir “Indonesia’s godfather of terrorism”. Ayub co-founded the Australian wing of Jemaah Islamiah and says he personally “indoctrinated” a group of about 100 people in “the ways of violent jihad”. One of them, an Australian Moslem convert called Jack Roche (alias Paul George Holland) was later convicted in 2002 for conspiring to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra. In today’s interview he says he has gotten over his terrorism.

There were about 30 active “radicals” in Australia when he left there in 2002, he says, and while ”I don’t know about their recent development, whether they’re still active or not… I believe they are still there.” Ayub says he is no longer in favour of “violent jihad” and thinks Moslems “should fight only as soldiers in a war zone” whatever that means. Elsewhere in today’s Age [“J is for Jihad“], one of its foreign correspondents in Asia points out that “Indonesia’s prisons are a breeding ground for terrorists, and so are some of the Islamic boarding schools. But despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, the Indonesian state shows little interest in tackling this issue.”

UK and US

The one-eyed Sunni Islamist cleric with a hook for a hand, Abu Hamza al-Masri (sometimes known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa), was finally extradited to the United States on Friday after his eight-year legal battle to avoid deportation ended in failure. He was jailed by the British for incitement to murder (of “non-believers”). He became famous for his hate-filled sermons in the years that he was the imam of the Islamist hot-bed, the Finsbury Park Mosque, in north London. He loved the UK, calling it “a paradise, where you could do anything you wanted” [source], and he meant it.

British taxpayers have contributed several million dollars to the man in the form of welfare payments and government-funded legal services. The Americans have charged the preacher with hostage taking, conspiracy to establish a militant training camp in the US state of Oregon and calling for holy war in Afghanistan [source]. The British prime minister [source] marked the occasion with a brief appreciation of the man and his achievements:

I’m absolutely delighted that Abu Hamza is now out of this country. Like the rest of the public I’m sick to the back teeth of people who come here, threaten our country, who stay at vast expense to the taxpayer and we can’t get rid of them. I’m delighted on this occasion we’ve managed to send this person off to a country where he will face justice.

Visit This Ongoing War.

Frimet and Arnold Roth

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