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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘lakewood’

FBI Arrests NY Rabbis for Beating Husbands Who Refuse Divorce

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

The FBI raided a Monsey yeshiva Wednesday night and arrested four mean, including two rabbis, who allegedly kidnapped and beat recalcitrant husbands who had refused to grant their wives religious divorces and thereby prohibit them from re-marrying under Jewish law.

The “executors” used by the divorce gang included “electric cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and placed plastic bags over the heads of husbands,” the complaint charge stated.

The status of stranded Jewish women is known as “aguna” and is a problem that has received deserved focus in Israel and the Diaspora in recent years.

The FBI investigation and arrests bring to national attention the anguished situation of “aguna” women and perhaps will help put legal pressure on husbands who have separated from their wives but refuse to allow them to re-marry.

The suspects were arrested after a month-long sting operation in which a female FBI agent posed as an Orthodox woman trying to get a religious divorce from her husband. Another undercover agent posed as her brother.

Rabbis Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark, along with Ariel Potash and a fourth individual known as Yaakov, appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. Six others could be charged, according to reports.

The FBI also raided Yeshiva Sha’arei Torah in Monsey and a yeshiva in Lakewood, N.J., Brooklyn and elsewhere.

The rabbis allegedly charged $10,000 to persuade the rabbis on the rabbinical court to approve kidnapping husbands, and another up to $60,000 to pay for others to abduct and beat husbands.

The FBI agents called Rabbi Wolmark in August and said they were “desperate for a religious divorce and were willing to pay a large sum of money to obtain a divorce,” according to the charge sheet.

“There are a couple of ways to do that,” Wolmark allegedly said in a recorded phone conversation. “You have to, we have to, convene a special Bet Din and see if there are grounds to, to, to coerce him on the ‘get’ [divorce decree].”

Wolmark allegedly added, “You need to get him to New York where someone either can harass him or nail him. Plain and simple,” he said, according to the complaint. The rabbi then set up a meeting between the undercover agents and Rabbi Epstein. A recorded conversation revealed that Rabbi Epstein spoke about “kidnapping, beating and torturing husbands in order to force a divorce.’

He allegedly added, “Basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the ‘get.’”

One of the “tough guys,” supposedly Rabbi Epstein’s son, “uses his karate skills” on the victims, court papers said.

The FBI said the “divorce gang” has been operating for 20 years and that Rabbi Epstein said he carries out approximately one kidnapping a year.

Forcing husbands to grant a divorce is permitted under Jewish law, a rabbi told The Jewish Press Thursday. “Jewish law does not always seem humane, but it really is humane because physical force often is the only way to force angry husbands to release their wives from virtual bondage and to allow them to-remarry,” he said.

The rabbi added that rabbis often are blamed for the situation of the agunot but also are criticized for using force, recognized under Jewish law, to solve their dilemma.

He pointed out that force can be used only if a Bet Din [religious court] authorizes it and only if there are substantial reasons to order a divorce.

Fox that Attacked Lakewood Girl Infected with Rabies

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

New Jersey officials have confirmed that the fox that attack a four-year-old Lakewood girl last week had rabies, but the family already was set decided not to take any chances and began a series of injections against the disease.

“Foxes are normally afraid and shy of people and its behavior, attacking someone without provocation, certainly gave us concern that it was rabid. Rabies prophylaxis was begun immediately which will continue for 14 days,” Orange County health official Daniel E. Regenye told New Jersey’s 101.5 news station.

The girl was saved from a more vicious attack thanks to an unidentified bystander, who kicked the fox away after it lightly wounded the girl.

A police officer who responded to the incident was forced to shoot and kill the fox when it attacked him and an animal control official.

Fox Shot Dead after Attacking 4-Year-old Girl in Lakewood

Monday, July 29th, 2013

A fox attacked a four-year-old girl in Lakewood, New Jersey on Saturday and later was shot dead when it tried to attack a policeman and an animal control officer who were called to the scene.

The dead fox is being tested for the rabies, and the girl suffered light scratched on her arm, leg and lip before an unidentified man kicked the fox away, the Asbury Park Press reported.

Jewish Camp Counselor Admits Sexual Abuse

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

A former counselor at a summer camp run by Yeshiva Bais Hatorah School in Lakewood, N.J., pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and child endangerment, and state Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson revoked his $125,000 bail.

Yosef Kolko, 39, made the admission on Monday after two more victims, a male and a female, came forward, the Asbury Park Press reported.

Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Laura Pierro said she was contacted late Friday afternoon by a young woman who claimed she was victimized by Kolko, and the attorney for a young man who also claimed to be a victim. Pierro said she met with the additional victims and would have sought to admit their testimony, had the trial proceeded.

Sheriff’s officers handcuffed Kolko and took him to the County Jail.

Kolko was on trial for sexually abusing a boy, now 16, when he was 11 and 12, in 2008 and 2009. He was calm and unemotional when he admitted committing a variety of sexual acts on the boy.

In exchange for Kolko’s guilty plea, the state would not proceed with additional charges related to the additional victims, ADA Pierro said.

Kolko’s attorney, Michael Bachner, said his client was “extremely remorseful,” apologizes to the victim and hopes after treatment “to return to society as a benefit to it,” The Associated Press reported.

Kolko, who also worked as a teacher at Yeshiva Orchos Chaim in Lakewood, could receive up to 40 years in prison, but Judge Hodgson has said he would consider no more than 15 years, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Before sentencing, Kolko will be evaluated at the state Corrections Department’s Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in the Avenel section of Woodbridge to determine if he is a repetitive and compulsive sexual offender, according to the newspaper.

The Kolko Case: A Stain on Lakewood

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The trial of Yosef Kolko is about to begin. Rabbi Kolko has been accused of child molestation. According to Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, “Kolko has already confessed to the social worker who will be required to testify.” The social worker was hired at the behest of the Lakewood rabbis investigating the charges. This fellow allegedly committed sex crimes multiple times on a young boy in his charge while in a religious summer camp.

Rabbi Kolko has plead not guilty. Not sure how he can do that now if a social worker will indeed testify in court that he admitted the abuse actually took place. Rabbi Kolko faces up to 60 years in prison if found guilty.

Lakewood’s rabbinic leadership has responded to this by coming out full force in defense of Rabbi Kolko – insisting on his innocence and claiming to have proof that he did not do this. They have made all kinds of threats to his accuser using the Shulchan Aruch’s language about mesirah (informing) as a hammer. Language that says that informing on a fellow Jew to secular authorities means losing your chelek in olam habah – your place in the world to come! (Although many Poskim say that Mesirah does not apply in a country like ours that has a fair system of justice.)

They have enlisted the aid of two rabbinic figures of great stature – one in Israel and one here – to weigh in on this matter. Based on what these leaders were told, they have come out with very harsh condemnations of the victim’s father… claiming that he violated Halachah by not dealing with this “in-house.” They said he should have gone to a beis din (religious court). They are the ones who are equipped to handle these things Halachicly.

It’s nice that these rabbinic leaders have so much compassion for the accused. But what about the victim? And how have they expressed their compassion to his father- the accuser?

The victim’s his father is not your average ba’al habos. I don’t know his identity. But I am told by people who do, that if his identity were made known to me, I would recognize the name since he is originally from Chicago.

According to my sources the father is a major talmid hacham (Torah scholar)who until this happened was a respected figure in the Lakewood community. No one can say that he has no ne’emanus (faith) and dismiss the case out of hand. He has also secured the support of another posek (jurist of Jewish law) outside of the Lakewood community that has much respect in the Haredi world. It is also not clear to me whether he did not attempt to go to a beis din first. There are conflicting stories about that depending on which source you believe.

It is particularly galling to me is how this has been handled. Everything I have read about it tells me that Lakewood’s rabbinic establishment has no concern for the victim at all. And that they do not believe him or his father. They are concerned only for the welfare of the accused. The war waged against the victim’s father is relentless and harsh. Here is just one example written in a letter written by a prominent Rav which has been made public:

After conducting a thorough investigation I am absolutely certain that R’ Y.K.[Yosef Kolko],may his light shine, is perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever. And not only is he innocent but it is also as clear to me that all these allegations are fabrications made by [REDACTED].

Further, all the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting blame for their[the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek to cleanse their reputation by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds.

There have been equally harsh words published by anonymous “askanim” (dealers) in Lakewood along these lines. Not to mention the letter from a respected rabbinic leader in Israel saying that what the accuser was doing is forbidden by Torah law and that he should bring the matter first to a religious court.

Lakewood’s $10 Million Coup

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

This is one of those stories that worry me. VIN and NJ.com report that Lakewood Yeshiva (BMG) has been approved by the State of New Jersey for an over ten million dollar grant in what Governor Chris Christie is calling a “new era” for the state’s institutions of higher learning.

I’m sure that Lakewood applied for that grant legally and truthfully. I do not believe for a second that there was any fraud involved. And I congratulate them on a successful outcome. Lakewood certainly needs the money. But I remain with some serious concerns.

The grant was given for the construction of a library and research center. Governor Christie’s goal is “keeping New Jersey’s “best” and “brightest” in-state, while attracting new research and business partners who will bring new and better paying jobs.”

What worries me is that in spite of what I am sure was a completely honest presentation of Lakewood’s plans to the state; I am not convinced that the state’s purpose in granting them that money is even a dream in the back of the minds of Lakewood’s leaders. Nor do I believe for a minute that such a library will serve any other purpose than the stated mission of such an institution – Torah study. The kind of research that library will offer will no doubt be only in that vein. Neither am I convinced that it will result in anything near attracting new business partners.

This project will help to retain some of the finest minds in Torah Judaism. Lakewood is the premier “Torah Only” Yeshiva in the United States. It attracts the best and brightest among its constituents. Expansion means attracting more of the same. Some of whom may settle there and eventually have good jobs (and some – not such great jobs).

But even so, Lakewood cannot claim that as its goal. It can only say that this is a by-product of their ‘Torah Only” system. This is a yeshiva that forbids its students to take any secular courses while enrolled there and discourages it even after they leave. This is a yeshiva whose rosh yeshiva (dean) made disparaging remarks about someone who has been a pioneer in providing higher education for students of yeshivos like Lakewood so that they could get decent jobs… basically referring to him as a second class citizen (…full time students of Torah being first class citizens). One might even say that the rosh yeshiva would view someone like that as undermining the goals of Lakewood!

It is also no secret that Lakewood uses the welfare system legally for students who qualify for aid. Most of them probably do – since they do not have jobs but do have large families. Even those whose wives work (most of them, I’m sure) do not make enough money to disqualify them from some sort of government assistance. Again, nothing legally wrong with that.

I have to ask, is there not a moral or ethical issue of misrepresenting yourself to the world in this way – even if you qualify legally? Is there not something wrong with able bodied people choosing not to work and using the welfare system as a means of income?

And by the same token, is there not something wrong with taking over $10 million knowing what the government thinks you are going to do with that money – and using it for something else – even though it technically qualifies? A Beis HaMedrash may be a library. But is a $10 million Beis HaMedrash going to attract business partners who will bring new and better paying jobs?

Even if it truly a research library and not a Beis HaMedrash – it will certainly only contain Seforim – religious books – even if some of them will be in English. What kind of research will this foster – other than research in Torah studies?

I of course have no problem with such a library. I think it will be a valuable resource for student of Torah. But is this what the State of New Jersey had in mind in approving $10 million dollars to Lakewood?

Lakewood’s goal is not Governor Christie’s goal. Lakewood wants to expand its student base. The enormous growth in the numbers of Orthodox Jews, especially among Haredi Jews of the “Torah Only” persuasion, demands such an expansion. For some time now, Lakewood has been talking about doubling its capacity to over 10,000 students!

I guess they have found a way of doing that. But is it ethical? Will the state be happy with the results? And how will this be perceived by the secular public? Will they not see this as being unethical? Is this ultimately the wisest way of raising money for their cause? Will the potential negative fallout be worth it if it happens?

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Merging the Orthodox Streams

Monday, August 27th, 2012

As ridiculous as it may seem, one of the things that I wish would happen is a merger between Beth Medrash Gavoha (Lakewood) and Yeshiva University (YU). Although I can hear the howls of laughter and screams of protestation on both sides of the Hashkafic aisle, I really think this would solve a lot of the problems we have today in Orthodoxy.

The truth is that this is not as far fetched as one might imagine. At least from a purely Hashkafic perspective. If one looks back to the early days of American Chinuch post Holocaust, one would see exactly this kind of institution existing at the grass roots level.

Outside of New York – elementary schools catered to all kinds of students from all kinds of homes. My classmates came from Yeshivishe homes, Chasidic homes, Modern Orthodox homes, Lubavitch homes, and even non observant homes. Our teachers respected those differences and taught us accordingly. Learning Torah came first, but secular studies were considered very important and treated seriously. Even among those on the right. The idea of attending college was a given then in almost all circles. Parnassa, was the number one concern in those days.

How important was college to the right wing in those days? If one looks at Yeshivos like Chaim Berlin and Torah VoDaath, the vast majority of their students attended college while in the Yeshiva – usually at night. They got degrees in fields like accounting or went on to professional schools to become doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers… what have you! All while maintaining Yiras Shomayim and a strong commitment to Torah and Mitzvos.

The idea of learning full time for long periods of time well into marriage was an ideal reserved for very few people. Only the most elite and most motivated people would even consider doing that.

But somewhere along the line the paradigm started changing. As the religious communities grew new schools were created to cater to specific Hashkafos.

On the surface that might seem like a good idea. But that was the beginning of the divide that ‘keeps on giving’. We are moving further and further apart. As the community grows, there are new schools with even more fine tuned Hashkafos being formed – adding to the division. I believe that all this fine tuning is one of the most divisive forces in Orthodoxy.

There are now schools on the right that consider secular studies a waste of time at best. Secular studies are belittled! There are schools on the left that are pushing the envelope of ordaining women and allowing them to act as Chazanot in certain parts of Tefilah. Some may see these divisions as a plus. But I don’t.

I prefer an Orthodoxy that has a broad Hashkafic spectrum under one roof. While we may (and I emphasize the word “may”) lose some on the fringes of the right and left, the vast majority of Orthodox Jewry would experience a far greater sense of Achdus. We had a hint of that at the last DafYomi Siyum. Although it was sponsored by Agudah it was attended by almost the entire spectrum of Orthodox Jewry. And it was a positive experience for the vast majority of them – over 90% were inspired by it according to one poll (mine).

So in theory I think it is possible to create this hybrid. The practical benefits of such a merger would transcend even the sense of Achdus that it would generate.

Each Hashkafa has a weakness that is hurting it. On the right, the disdain for a decent secular education pushes their masses into a life of poverty. On the left the weakness is in the inability to produce enough great rabbinic leaders. While there are exceptions in both communities, I think that this is basically the rule.

On the right – the aggrandizement of full time Torah study for everyone and the default second class status of the working man has resulted in 1000s of families who are unable to make a decent living. Unless they have some family connection or have the courage and determination to do the unthinkable and go to college late in their lives, most of these people are qualified to do little else than go into Chinuch. And most of those are not properly trained to do so.

Why Help Build America When We Can Help Build the Land of the Jews?

Friday, May 11th, 2012

In his current article in The Jewish Press, “A New Song,” Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt advocates finding “a new rallying call, a new idea with which to inspire the troops and turn values into action.”

“Each generation speaks its own language and needs its own message,” he writes.

So far, so good. However, I would like to offer a different rallying call than the one he ultimately chooses.

“Hewed by Hashem into the core of our soul is the need to effect change in the world we inhabit,” he continues.

This too is very true. In my opinion, however, the question is, where should we, in this generation, focus our efforts? In strengthening Jewish life among the gentiles in a foreign land – as he proposes – or in striving to build a Torah society in the Land of Israel, as advocated by the Torah and the Prophets of Israel? What is the message that we should teach our children? That their future is in America, being productive American Jews, or in Eretz Yisrael being productive Jews in the Holy Land?

Rabbi Rosenblatt wrestles with this question in the course of his thought-provoking article, writing, “I feel a primal need for perspective, to understand who I am, who we are, and where our community is headed.”

In my mind, the meaning of “our community” should not only be America’s Orthodox/Haredi community, but the community of all of American Jewry, for, as our Sages teach, every Jew is responsible for his fellow. It is no secret that American Jewry is being decimated by assimilation. The longer the Jewish community remains in America the more the assimilation will grow. So I ask – what’s the point in working to strengthen something that is destined to dwindle out and end? The exile is a curse which is not supposed to continue forever. Now that Hashem, in His great kindness, has re-opened the gates to the Land of Israel and has given us our own Jewish State, isn’t it time to come home? True, for adults who are already established in their ways, moving to a new country is a difficult challenge, but our children have the wherewithal to fulfill the great mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel, a mitzvah which our Sages teach is equal in weight to all the commandments of the Torah (Sifre, Reah 80).

Encouraging Jewish youth to be accountants, or businessmen, or scientists in America, is well and good, but it can’t be compared with playing a part in the Redemption of Israel and becoming of a building of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael. In my humble opinion, this is the new call we need to rally and inspire our troops!

Yes, in recent generations, the Orthodox Jews of America have done wonders in guarding and strengthening the observance of Torah. As Rabbi Rosenblatt notes, his parents’ generation built Flatbush, and his generation built Lakewood. Certainly, these are praiseworthy achievements. But that was before the establishment of the State of Israel and shortly after its birth, when we didn’t have a choice. But in the face of the subsequent modernization and miraculous development of Medinat Yisrael, instead of adding on to Flatbush and Lakewood, or sending out battalions of Haredi “laypeople” to win a spot in the American marketplace, as the author of the article advices, why not put our efforts into re-locating these holy and talented young people to Eretz Yisrael?

This is especially true when the author writes: “As a result of our weak secular education and greater insularity, our generation is struggling to make ends meet. Parnassah options are often limited. If not employed in klei kodesh, most of us work for or start small businesses, frequently competing with each other to service the needs of our community. We are often recipients of governmental aid, a possibility our parents’ generation wouldn’t have considered.”

Rabbi Rosenblatt writes a great deal about Kiddush Hashem, but being dependent on handouts from the gentiles is the very opposite. In fact, as the Prophet Ezekiel teaches, the presence of Jews in the Diaspora is one big problematic disgrace:

“And when they came to the nations into which they came, they profaned My Holy Name, in that men said of them: These are the people of the Lord, and they are gone out of His land” (Ezekiel, 36:20).

This prophecy informs us that the unnatural situation of Jews living outside the Land of Israel is a desecration of God. Why? Because in the eyes of the gentiles, our presence in the Diaspora proclaims that God lacks the power to keep us in His Land. That was back then in Ezekiel’s days. Now, in our time, when God has returned the Land of Israel to the Jews, the situation is even worse, for it seems, in the eyes of the gentiles, that in clinging to our Diaspora communities, we prefer foreign lands to His.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/why-help-build-america-when-we-can-help-build-the-land-of-the-jews/2012/05/11/

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