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October 26, 2014 / 2 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘lakewood’

Funeral Begins from Lakewood Yeshiva Student Aaron Sofer

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Thousands of mourners turned out Friday morning for the funeral of Lakewood, New Jersey yeshiva student Aaron Sofer whose body was found Thursday after seven days of searching since he was reported missing last Friday evening.

His parents said they were “overwhelmed” by the sad news, which also brought a certain relief from the week-long anxiety that was deepened by fears that Sofer, 23, had been kidnapped by terrorists.

The funeral began with eulogies in the Ezrat Torah neighborhood of Jerusalem, and Sofer is to be buried later in the day in Beit Shemesh.

His disappearance, after he and a hiking friend had separated in the hills of Jerusalem, brought out passionate pleas from New Jersey community and political leaders for the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) to conduct massive search for Sofer.

Search and rescue workers found his partially decomposed body Thursday afternoon. Sofer did not have a cell phone, and if he was alive after he fell, the inability to communicate by phone may have left him doomed to death by dehydration.

“Ever since Aaron went missing, communities throughout the United States, Israel, and beyond gathered in worship on behalf of Aaron,” said New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

“During this period of mourning, I hope the Sofer family can be comforted with the knowledge that countless people, friends and strangers alike, prayed for Aaron’s well-being, and those acts of devotion will only continue,” he added. “It has become clear to me that everyone who knew Aaron saw tremendous promise in this young man who was committed to his family, his Jewish faith and his community of Lakewood.”

The Reason These Boys Were Kidnapped Is…

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Here we go again. Once again we are beginning to hear ‘the reason’ for a tragedy. In this case the kidnapping of three Yeshiva students in Israel about 10 ten days ago.  What is that reason? It is Divine punishment, of course.

For what, you ask? Well that depends on who you are talking to. If you are Charedi, then the reason is because of the new law drafting Charedim.  If you are a Religious Zionist, it is anti religious legislation and the willingness of Israel to give up parts of Eretz Yisroel for peace. I’m surprised no one has raised the Tznius issue as a reason yet.

Looking for a spiritual cause of a tragedy is a time honored tradition in Judaism. As God’s chosen people, we are told that whenever there is a great tragedy in the world, in addition to the reasons that specifically apply to them, God also intends His people to get a message out of it. Legend has it that when the Chofetz Chaim heard that there was a devastating earthquake in Japan where many people died, he sought a message out of that for the Jewish people.

But  today, it seems that this kind of thinking has been taken to a new level. Now, when just about anything goes wrong blame is placed on an agenda being thwarted.  There is never any thought that there might be other spiritual reasons. It is always the issue of the day that is focused upon. So that when tragedy befalls the Jewish people – well that is God being upset that our agenda has been thwarted.  Which is then used as ‘proof’ of the rectitude of that agenda.

I’m reminded of the recent meeting in Lakewood that addressed a rash of accidents in that area. The culprit? Long wigs. God was sending us a message about that by hurting innocent people in accidents. Women were told that if they shorten their wigs, all would improve. And sure enough – on cue, the very next week the claim was made (falsely as it turns out) that there were no serious accidents that week.

Segulos work the same way. It is an appeal to those in need by offering a spiritual solution in exchange for a contribution of a specific amount of money. Tzedaka organizations have been using Segulos to increase charitable contributions for years now. You want spiritual help for your problem? Give us your money and will perform this great Segula for you. Bnei Brak’s Kupat Ha’ir is notorious for doing things like that. They made such a pitch just before Shevuos, advertising widely across all the religious media.

To me all these Segula ads are one big fraud. And though fraud is not the intent of blaming a tragedy on a thwarted agenda, it is equally erroneous to make that claim. There are no Nevi’im today. Prophecy is gone. We cannot know why God allowed a tragedy to happen. To presume you know or to even suggest that it is likely – is the height of arrogance to me.That different groups use their own agendas as the ones being thwarted proves it. It is no different that trying to explain the reasons for the Holocaust as some do.

We have no clue what the spiritual reasons are for any tragedy, either today or yesterday in the post prophesy era. All we can ever really know is the physical reality of what happened. Speculating about Godly reasons in our case can only add pain to those  most suffering from the ordeal: the kidnap victims and their families.  In essence what we are telling them is that even though those 3 teens were completely innocent of having any part in thwarting an agenda, God decided to send that message by making them suffer. How incredibly cruel  and self serving it is to do that.

The Wrong Stuff – Focusing on Minutiae

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

The longer I live the further to the right Orthodoxy seems to be going. It seems to never end. One might ask, what is wrong with becoming even more religious? After all isn’t that what God wants? Isn’t becoming more religious the whole idea behind the Torah?

Well, the answer to that is not so simple. It depends what you mean by more religious. Rav Ahron Soloveichik used to say in Yiddish, “Frum iz a Galach – Erlich iz a Yid.” Loosely translated this means anyone can be religious and perform the religious rituals of their faith.  What matters most to a Jew is not how extreme his piety is but how sincere he is in doing what is required of him in all matters between God and between man.

Unfortunately that lesson seems to have gotten lost in our day. It seems like now more than ever Frumkeit – religiosity – has replaced sincerity as the primary focus of the right. In fact there is a new phenomenon identified as a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) called scrupulosity. There are some Jews with obsessive compulsive tendencies that express them in ritual behavior. For example in overly long prayer sessions or in the constant ritual washing of the  hands.

Although not a common condition, there is no doubt in my  mind that an over-emphasis on Frumkeit is a contributor to this phenomenon.

The real problem however is that the right’s obsession with Frumkeit is spilling over into the rest of the religious world. So that the rest of Orthodoxy is unduly affected by it. Furthermore since the right is the fastest growing segment of Orthodoxy, a move to the right becomes almost standard practice for everyone. Or at least causes more moderate Orthodox Jews to move to the right themselves.

One of the biggest changes reflecting this phenomenon in post Holocaust America is how seating at wedding dinners are arranged. It used to be common practice for men and women to sit together. Some might say just because it was common practice doesn’t make it right. …that America’s rabbinic leadership had no real influence in those early days just after the Holocaust. That the Gedolim of that era would never attend a wedding where the seating was mixed… or if they did, they would just attend the ceremony and leave so as not to have to sit together with women at the same table. But eyewitness testimony will prove that view to be incorrect. From a Shiur by Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet (excepted in a past post):

I can never forget in my time, in Y.U. circles I never heard of separate seating, until I left America. It wasn’t shayach, not just [in] Y.U. [circles], [but also] in the Litvishe circles. Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Yaakov Kamenitzky, the Rav, how many weddings [did they attend] with absolute mixed seating. There was separate dancing, but mixed seating. It was normal. It was par for the course. For their own children, (I was at the weddings), there was mixed seating. There was no question about it. Each one’s kavod was with his rebbitzen. [They were proud to say], “This is my rebbitzen.” These were their joy.

I think that says it all with respect to the value of separate seating. There are those who would counter that were these great rabbinic figures alive today, they would never sit with their wives at a mixed table. That may be true, but it has nothing to do with Yiddishkeit. It has only to do with the new ‘standard’ set by Frumkeit. The fact is that there is no such thing as a mixed seating wedding in the Yeshiva world anymore. It is becoming harder and harder to find a wedding where the seating is mixed. That’s even becoming true the among some on the right wing of Modern Orthodox World!

But Frumkeit doesn’t stop there. I have just been informed about a Beis Yaakov elementary school that will no longer allow fathers to attend their daughters’ graduation. This after many years of allowing it with absolutely no objection by their Vaad HaChinuch – a rabbinic committee comprised of prominent right wing Poskim. All of a sudden it is no longer Tznius for a father to attend a ceremony where 8th grade girls will be receiving diplomas. This new edict came at the hands of parents who pointed to other schools who had this ‘standard’ and felt that any real  Beis Yaakov should have the highest standards of Tznius. (…as if this new ‘standard’ actually supported that contention!)

A new Shul has been built recently with separate  men’s and women’s entrances. As if entering the Shul with your wife or daughter is all of a sudden considered a violation of sexual mores. Not to be outdone, another Shul in the neighborhood has adopted this custom for themselves. In the past there was never a problem entering the Shul with your wife or daughter. Now, men and woman have to split up – with the two entrances on opposite’s sides of the building!

And recently there was a gathering in Lakewood to get women to cut their long wigs.

Why do I care about what the Charedi world is doing? As I said they are the dominant culture in Orthodoxy now and their increase in numbers outpace any other branch of Orthodoxy. But even more than that, extremes when incorporated wholesale into communities eventually become the norm. Just look at mixed seating at weddings. That used to be the norm. Now it is considered to be a less than Tznius event. Some Charedi leaders will not even attend such a wedding!

I understand that in some communities these extremes of Tznius are the norm… and probably have been the norm for many decades or perhaps longer. Meah Shearim and Bnei Brak come to mind. But what is the norm for them was not the norm for everyone else in Orthodoxy. Until it was… and is!

Can anyone have imagined having two separate entrances to a Shul just a few short yeas ago? Or not allowing a father to attend his daughter’s 8th grade graduation?

There are serious issues affecting Klal Yisroel today that need out attention. So many Frum Jews are in prison for financial improprieties or worse that one can easily find a Minyan for Davening in some places. Sex abuse and children going OTD are problems that are far greater than anyone ever imagined. And the right is worried that a father might attend his daughter’s elementary graduation?!

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah . / Harry Maryles

Extremism in Defense of Tznius

Friday, June 6th, 2014

People often ask me what I consider extreme Charedism. The answer is not really that simple. I’m tempted to use Supreme Court  Justice Potter Stewart’s response to a similar question about pornography:  I know it when I see it.

The reason I find it difficult to define is because extremism is sometimes defined by context. In one environment a certain activity might be considered normal while in another it would be considered extreme.  So when I use the term extremist or extremism, it has to be taken in the context of the post.

But as the retort by Potter Stewart indicates, there are times when extreme behavior is such in any context.

One of the things I constantly advocate here is normalcy. I am a firm believer in leading one’s life in ways that are considered normal by two measures. One is Halacha. And the other is by societal standards. Obviously Halacha comes first. But often Halacha has broad interpretation. And it is sometimes interpreted by societal standards. One Halacha that is a prime example of this is Tznius. Or more precisely modesty in dress.

I believe that modern psychology accepts the notion that there are generally (there are always exceptions) differences in how men and women are sexually aroused. Without getting into long detail, men are aroused by the visual.  Women… not so much. Halacha recognizes this. So men are commanded not to gaze at women for purposes of enjoyment. Women are asked to dress in ways that will not initiate thoughts of arousal in men. That is what the laws of Tznius are based upon. One can see expressions of this not only in Judaism, but in the 3 major faiths. The most extreme example of this is Islam. The more religious sects ask their women to wear face covering Burkas that are basically tents that cover the entire body.

Where does Judaism come in on this? Well that’s where local custom comes in. There are basic laws that require certain parts of the body to be covered up called Erva (nakedness). The rest depends on the culture in which one lives. For practical purposes, then,  Iran or Saudia Arabia might require a Jewish woman that lives there to wear a Burka in accordance with the modesty customs of those countries. In the United States, I think it is safe to say that the modesty standards do not go beyond the minimum standards of Erva.

I should add that there is a requirement for a married woman to cover her hair because  ‘Erva’. But the Erva in the case of hair is a horse of an entirely different color. The reasons for which are beyond the scope of this post. But the accepted Halacha is that the uncovered hair of a married woman is considered Erva. And most if not all of it must be covered.

So how should Jewish women in this country dress in order to fulfill the laws of Tznius? One would think that no matter what faction of Judaism one is from, the customs should be the same. But that is far from the case. If one travels to Williamsburg, one will see one style of dress for Orthodox women. And if one travels to Teaneck, one will see another.  But I think it is safe to say that in the vast majority of cases there is a lot of overlap. Most Orthodox women in America dress by covering just below the neck line, covering their arms at least 3/4s of their length and wear skirts that cover the knees .  And most cover their hair.  Those are the basics. There are of course variations of this theme

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/fox-shot-dead-after-attacking-4-year-old-girl-in-lakewood/2013/07/29/

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