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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘law’

Gaming the System

Monday, November 5th, 2012

One of the more troubling issues for me about the current right-wing push for all of their students to learn Torah full time for as long as possible (well into their marriage and long after having a number of children to support) is the way in which this is financed.

I have long ago expressed my disagreement with this policy as it is currently applied. The idea of directing every single male in all of Jewry into a life of Torah study as the ideal (to the exclusion of any other productive endeavor) is anathema to the very idea of a Jewish nation.

I am not going to go into the details as to why I feel that way in this post other than to say that I do not believe God wants His people to not fully utilize all the individually different talents He has granted them. Every individual Jew is different with talents in a broad range of different fields. They ought to choose those fields where their talents lie.

For those whose talents are uniquely geared to Torah study – that is the best use of their time. But for those whose talents are suited elsewhere, they should find out what they are, utilize them that way and thus make a far greater contribution to God, Judaism, and the Jewish people.

The Lakewood ideal is to sublimate those talents into full time Torah study.

One of the terrible consequences of this push for every male to spend his life learning Torah is the material cost. This is most acutely felt in Israel. But Americans who do this aren’t exactly living the good life either. Learning full time means they do not earn any money outside of a meager stipend a Yeshiva like Lakewood pays. Those funds cannot possibly support them enough to put a roof over their heads, put food on the table, send their children to private religious schools (even those with very low tuition) and other expenses required just to live a bare-bones modest lifestyle.

While it is true that many Kollel wives work to support their husbands they rarely make enough to support their very large families. Sometimes there are parents and in-laws that help. But that too is not enough, and is drying up a source of income with every succeeding generation. More than ever young people are being convinced to spend their lives in a Beis HaMedrash well into their prime earning years.

One of the ways Lakewood helps its Avreichim is by teaching them how to game the system. By this I mean applying for every possible federal dollar available to students who need financial aid to continue their advanced studies beyond high school. One of the most commonly used federal programs is the Pell Grant.

The Pell Grant was created 40 years ago by then Senator Claiborne Pell to provide financial aid to low income students enabling them to access higher education. While these Avrechim do apparently qualify under Pell Grant guidelines I nevertheless find this to be a misuse of the system.

I do not accuse them of stealing from the government. But there is no way that the Pell grant was ever intended to be used as supplemental income. Which is for the most part how it is used.

A lengthy article in the Forward has taken a closer look at this situation. Here are some of their troubling observations.

Said Heather Valentine, vice president of public policy at the Council for Opportunity in Education put it:

“It’s not just about creating the access to higher education… It’s about making sure that students are… graduating and getting placed in jobs.”

I think that Lakewood and the rest of the Yeshiva world that promotes full time learning understands this. This is how they have addressed the issue:

Proponents of yeshiva education point out that critical thinking and argumentative skills that develop while poring over Talmud — not to mention grueling day-long study sessions broken only for prayer and meals — serve students well for careers in many professions, particularly business and law.

In her book, “Heart of the Stranger: A Portrait of Lakewood’s Orthodox Community,” Botein-Furrevig said the current CEO of BMG (Lakewood), Kotler’s grandson Aaron Kotler, told her that BMG has “a successful job placement service” for graduates and that many students go on to careers in “business, the rabbinate, academia, medicine, finance, law or technology.”

Is this not Gneivas Daas (deception)? I have no doubt that there have been and still are students who have attended Yeshivos like Lakewood and have gone on to a wide variety of successful careers like those mentioned by Lakewood CEO, Rabbi Aaron Kotler.

But to imply that they have a successful job placement service in the fields of medicine, law and technology when that is not the case is simply wrong.

I believe the opposite is true. With the exception of helping their students find jobs in Chinuch or similar jobs, they do nothing to support students seeking careers in any of those fields.

They don’t even approve of schools like Touro and consider a lifestyle outside of learning to be less than desirable. I will never forget the remarks Lakewood Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Malkiel Kotler made along those lines about Dr. Bernard Lander – founder of Touro upon his passing

I understand the need for Lakewood and similar Yeshivos to help their students find legitimate and legal sources of financial aid. But I do not understand misleading the public about how these schools live up to the expectations of helping their students find decent careers – when doing so is anathema to its philosophy.

If that isn’t Genivas Daas, I do know what is. Need based stealing does not justify doing it. Even if it is done for the lofty goal of learning Torah.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Did You Know This About Mormonism?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Did you know this about Mormonism?

…The Book of Mormon clearly states that Nephi built a temple modeled upon the temple of Solomon upon arriving in the Americas (2 Nephi 5:16).  In addition, the Book of Mormon says that other temples were built in the Americas (see 3 Nephi 11:1 and Helaman 3:14)…the Israelites in the Americas were trying to faithfully follow the law of Moses…

From a commentary:

Ne 5:16 I, Nephi, did build a temple

This temple was fashioned, as Nephi says, after the temple of Solomon. It is fair to conclude that they practiced the same forms of animal sacrifice that were performed in the temple in Jerusalem. The only difference between the administration of the temple of Solomon and Nephi’s temple is that the Nephites were not of the tribe of Levi, and therefore the priesthood they held was the Melchizedek priesthood (2 Ne 6:2). As Melchizedek priesthood holders, they could administer all the temple ordinances which were done according to the Levitical order.

And more.

Visit My Right Word.

Palestinian Statehood, Terror, and the US Election (Pt. 2)

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Whenever an insurgent group resorts to openly unjust means, its actions become incontestably terroristic. Even if the ritualistic Palestinian claim of a hostile Israeli “occupation” were somehow reasonable rather than invented, the corresponding right of entitlement to oppose Israel “by any means necessary” would be false.

Significantly, any openly unjust means would remain an obvious expression of terrorism, even if these means were sponsored by a now accepted sovereign state. Alternatively, in these post-independence circumstances, such means could also become a war crime.

Whatever the particular issue at hand, international law always has determinable form and content. Its principles and practices cannot be fashioned and re-fashioned by individual terror groups or by terror-supporting states in order to satisfy certain presumed geo-political interests. This is especially the case wherever terror violence purposely targets evidently fragile and vulnerable civilian populations.

Whatever their cause, national liberation movements that fail to meet the test of just means can never be protected as lawful or legitimate. Even if we could accept the intrinsically spurious argument that Hamas and/or Fatah are somehow able to fulfill the explicit criteria of “national liberation” movements, it would remain perfectly obvious that they still do not meet the recognizable standards of discrimination, proportionality, and military necessity. These authoritative standards of humanitarian international law are made most prominently applicable to insurgent organizations by the common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and also by the two 1977 Protocols to the Conventions.

These core standards are also binding upon all combatants by virtue of broader customary and conventional international law, including Article 1 of the Preamble to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907. This rule, generally called the “Martens Clause,” makes all persons responsible for upholding the “laws of humanity” and, reciprocally, the “dictates of public conscience.”

Under international law, the ends can never justify the means. As in the case of war between states, every use of force by insurgents must be judged twice, once with regard to the justness of the objective (in this case, a Palestinian state that seeks to be built upon the ruins of a correspondingly dismembered Israel), and once with regard to the justness of the means used toward achieving that annihilatory objective.

In law, murderers of mothers and young children who take an undisguised delight in the blood of their victims can never be “freedom fighters.” Indeed, if ever they should become entitled to such a laudatory designation, we would then have to recalculate the authentic meaning of international law. More precisely, we would have to concede that such law was really nothing more than a quaintly veneered authorization for unhindered evil.

American and European supporters of a Palestinian state continue to presume that Palestine would become an agreeable part of a two-state Solution. For these optimistic believers in “peace,” this 23rd Arab state will gratefully coexist with a still-standing Jewish state. Both U.S. presidential contenders should understand this presumption is plainly contradicted by the undisguised expectations of leading Palestinians, and is regularly dismissed everywhere else in the Arab/Islamic world.

Again, consider cartography. The official Map of Palestine at the PA website continues to include all of Israel. Significantly, there is only one state on this map. As readers may already know, it is not Israel.

The Palestine Liberation Organization was formed in 1964, three years before there were any “occupied territories.” What, exactly, was the PLO attempting to “liberate” between 1964 and 1967? There is no more important or primary question.

In all law, terrorist crimes mandate universal cooperation in both apprehension and punishment. As required punishers of “grave breaches” under a still-decentralized regime of international law, all states are required to search out and prosecute, or to extradite, individual terrorist perpetrators. In absolutely no circumstances are states permitted to characterize terrorists as “freedom fighters.” Any such characterization would reject the fixed obligations of international criminal law.

In absolutely no circumstances are states permitted to support terror violence or war crimes against other states.

This is most emphatically true for the United States, which incorporates all of international law as the “supreme law of the land” in Article 6 of the Constitution, and also in certain Supreme Court decisions. Though almost no one seems to be familiar with such an “arcane” history, this American nation was formed by its Founding Fathers according to the timeless legal principles of Blackstone’s Commentaries and in conformance with antecedent and universal Natural Law.

Working Toward Abuse-Free Yeshivas

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

What can a yeshiva do to institute practices that will help prevent any form of abuse?

Our community has become a focal point of scrutiny for not responding with greater fervor to the allegations and occurrence of sexual abuse. Not only does this create pain and suffering for victims and their families, it greatly undermines the very institutions built to help protect them. Yeshivas are bedrocks of our community, not only for education but also as a safe harbor for our children.

The following suggested course of action, though by no means comprehensive, provides a frame of reference for yeshivas, day-care centers and similar entities to adopt or to strengthen current action plans.

Establish standards: This gives principals, deans, executive directors and boards of directors an organized plan and a system to implement for both prevention and response.

In May 2003 Torah Umesorah issued its Statement on Behavioral Standards on the Prevention and Response to Child Molestation. Torah Umesorah reissued this in July 2007. Professor Aaron Twerski and I prepared these behavioral and reporting standards at the behest of roshei yeshiva “for principals to implement in their yeshivas and day schools, which, it is hoped, will strengthen the protection of students.”

Create a zero tolerance mindset: The proliferation of drugs in public schools in the 1980s led to the popularization of the drug-free school concept. This involved the development of a strong and active plan by administrators, faculty, parents, police and the community and greatly strengthened the ability to keep drugs out of schools, thus keeping children safer.

Key points of an abuse-free yeshiva include: training faculty in prevention and response; sending a clear message to students and parents that disclosure of any inappropriate conduct will be confidentially investigated; letting victims of abuse know they will be supported; and fostering a perception and understanding that perpetrators will be reported and prosecuted. All this creates a clear mindset of a zero tolerance policy.

Fingerprint all faculty and employees of the yeshiva: This is currently required in public schools, though not in private schools. True, it is an added expense, albeit an important one. This system would immediately alert the school of any employee previously convicted of any crime, including sexual abuse, as well as notify the school of any arrests that occur while s/he is in their employ.

There are too few child molesters in our community who have been arrested and prosecuted and few are registered sex offenders. Thus we are far away from a foolproof system. Yet if we collectively implement the fingerprinting of all yeshiva faculty and employees, yeshivas over time will become safer havens to teach and nurture our children.

Elliot Pasik, Esq, president of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children (JBAC) has long advocated for fingerprinting in schools and he stresses that one should not underestimate how favorably parents will view yeshivas that voluntarily undertake this important step as an additional measure to protect their children.

Follow the law: The Torah Umesorah guidelines state that when there is reason to believe such a violation has occurred, the reporting of fondling, touching or any form of lewdness is not considered mesirah.

Kol Tzedek, a program under the purview of the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, is a good resource for training faculty or providing guidance on mandated reporting law.

It is known that child molesters groom children, which first involves gaining their trust. This opens the door for the molester to abuse the child, subsequently instilling shame or fear in the youngster and inhibiting the victim from coming forward.

Following the law opens the door on reporting, thus hopefully closing the door on abuse.

David Mandel is chief executive officer of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services and can be reached at dm@ohelfamily.org.

Er, No, Obama Didn’t Win the Debate

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

We’ve reached a watershed here, where we either live in our own heads affirming reality, regardless of spurious inputs from demagoguery or sentiment, or we give up on reality and let demagoguery and sentiment take over at the decision table.  Did the president pull off a performance last night, in terms of sounding passionate and full of conviction?  To some extent, yes.  Does that mean he won the debate, or even achieved a draw with Romney?  No.

The mainstream media immediately launched a volley of positive soundbites about the president’s performance, but frankly, they were going to do that anyway.  As long as Obama didn’t collapse on the stage, they were going to say he had his mojo back.

The problem is that in order to sound passionate and full of conviction,Obama had to belt out a remarkable string of untruths.  Besides repeating the same tired lies about Romney’s policies that his campaign has been flogging for the last two months, the president simply lied – there’s nothing else to call it – about the trend of drilling permits under his administration (Romney is right; permits have been slashed).

Obama insisted to Romney that he had called the Benghazi attack terrorism on day one, when in fact, he had not.  He lied about the Arizona immigration-enforcement law, repeating a lie the Democrats have persisted in since the law was being debated in the Arizona statehouse.  The law is carefully and explicitly written to prohibit ethnic profiling stops by law-enforcement officers.  Immigration-status checks can only be done in connection with a stop on another, unrelated basis, such as a traffic stop.

Obama did try to assume the moral high ground on Libya with a riff on Americans’ safety and his responsibility, but it was a cringe-worthy performance from the man who waited until after the Benghazi attack to bring diplomatic-mission security up to a normal standard, and who professes, 36 days after the attack, to still be waiting to find out what happened.  If he really doesn’t know, he’s the only one who doesn’t.  His position that we’re still waiting to assess the attack isn’t judicious; it’s absurd.  Mentally substitute George W. Bush for Obama in this scenario, and try to imagine the MSM giving Bush the benefit of the doubt for 36 days and counting.

I had my concerns about Romney’s performance last night, if only a couple.  Probably the biggest was that he tended to put his most powerful material at the end of each statement, and got cut off just as he was articulating it.  The response to the woman who asked about keeping jobs in the US was a case in point: Romney made a rather convoluted case about China as a currency manipulator, and only after dealing with that arcane topic mentioned that if we want to keep America job-friendly, we have to stop regulating ourselves into an economic coma.  He got cut off saying it; that should have been his opening point.  The American people can dosomething about that.  And whether or not the point about regulation resonated with that particular questioner, it would resonate far and wide among other Americans.

Romney is typically succinct and direct on the economy, and he should apply that style to everything he says in a debate.  He would have made the point about Obama’s own passive investment in China much better by simply stating it outright, rather than repeating the same question to the president – “Have you looked at your pension lately?” – until it began sounding like a second-grader’s taunt.  Just make the assertion, already.  “Mr. President,your pension is invested in China.”  That simple – and, without the weird build-up, slyly devastating.

But rhetorical glitches aside, Romney had substance last night.  He whaled it out of the park on energy and immigration, and came off as genial and presidential.  Interestingly, the Frank Luntz panel saw the same thing.  The MSM’s assessment this morning that the president staged a comeback in this debate is information about the MSM, not about the candidates or the debate.  It’s like they’re narrating some invisible drama that no one else can see.

I don’t think Romney dominated last night’s debate as he did the first one.  But neither did I see the debate as a draw.  Only if it counts as successful communication to use demagoguery to create itch-scratching images for your own base did Obama’s performance equal Romney’s.  Obama’s statements would have had little appeal outside his own base.  And indeed, so many of them were simply false that, to my mind, it requires assuming that your fellow Americans are fools, to think that his communications were probably more effective with them than they were with you.

Palestinian Statehood, Terror, And The U.S. Presidential Election (First of Two Parts)

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

President Obama and Governor Romney strongly disagree on many issues but the daylight between them is especially great in the imminent matter of Palestinian statehood. For his part, the president still believes in a two-state solution, and in a corollary willingness of the Palestinian side to negotiate fairly. His opponent is unambiguous in a fully contrary insistence that the Palestinians are not interested in peace.

One thing is certain. Jurisprudentially and strategically, Romney’s position here is substantially more compelling. After all, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are clear in their continuing commitment to use force for “self-determination” and “national liberation.” For these two contending factions, this belligerent commitment would make sense even after a formal granting of Palestinian sovereignty. This is because, in their view, and on their maps, all of Israel proper would still remain “Occupied Palestine.”

What would be the legal status of any such post-independence expressions of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens (noncombatants)? In broad terms, these expressions would be determinably criminal. More narrowly, they would constitute terrorism.

Under binding international law, a fully constituted or at least a UN-birthed state of Palestine would be unable to justify any linguistic transformations of an impermissible insurgency into permissible “self-defense.”

Terrorism, as I have pointed out in the past, is a codified and customary crime under international law. Its explicit criminalization can be discovered in all of the authoritative sources of international law listed at Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Now, though unacknowledged by President Obama, whenever Palestinian “militants” claim the right to use “any means necessary” against an alleged Israeli “occupation,” their arguments are legally unsupportable and crudely contrived.

Both Obama and Romney should always be prepared to look behind the news. Even if Palestinian claims for “national self-determination” should soon be supported at the UN, most likely, it seems, as a non-member state, there will still remain ascertainable and firm limits on the allowable targets of insurgent violence, and on the permissible levels of such violence. This is the case even though any post-independence Palestinian resorts to force would now be more or less state-supported.

Both candidates should understand: Palestine’s most probable future is written in its well-documented and bloody past. The strictly limited rights of insurgency under international law can never include the use of nail-filled bombs directed at children and other innocent noncombatants. (Sometimes these projectiles have first been dipped painstakingly in rat poison.)

Under even their most generous definition in jurisprudence, these particular and restricted rights to the use of force can never supplant the settled or peremptory rules of humanitarian international law. More popularly, these rules are known as the law of war, or the law of armed conflict.

At its heart, of course, international law intends to “make sense.” Nowhere is it written that certain political goals are so flagrantly worthy of implementation that their satisfaction can ever allow the deliberate incineration of infants in their cribs, or of children in school or at play. One doesn’t need to be a professor of international law to understand such an elementary expectation of human decency. Further, under international law, it won’t matter at all if such conspicuously murderous strategies are launched by a now recognized sovereign state.

From the beginning, supporters of Palestinian terror against Israelis have argued, disingenuously, that the desired end of their “sacred” insurgency (Palestinian independence) automatically justifies their adopted means (willful and indiscriminate attacks on Jewish civilians). Leaving aside the everyday and ordinary ethical standards by which any such argument must be manifestly unacceptable, the ends can never justify the means under conventional or customary international law. Never.

For more than two thousand years, the binding principles of world law have stipulated that intentional forms of violence that are directed against the innocent are always repugnant. Hence, prima facie, these forms are always prohibited.

One person’s terrorist can never be another person’s freedom fighter. Though it’s fashionable to insist at university or embassy cocktail parties that one person’s terrorist can indeed be another person’s freedom fighter, this popular expression is utterly facile, a thoroughly empty witticism devoid of any meaningful legal content.

While it is true that certain insurgencies can be judged per se lawful (after all, the idea of “just cause” can be found, inter alia, in the Declaration of Independence of the United States), these residually permissible resorts to force must nonetheless conform to the longstanding laws of war.

…To Be Continued Next Week

Expressing Ourselves Inside And Outside The Walls

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Editor’s Note: In our July 13 front-page essay, “Birth of a Leather-Kippah Jew,” Mordecai Bienstock described his personal journey on the path to becoming what he called a “Leather Kippah Jew.” Here he elaborates on that vision.

Two centuries ago Napoleon’s armies swept through Europe, tearing down ghetto walls along their way. A river of Jewish souls flowed out, washed out to sea in the roiling waters of enlightenment and assimilation.

Today we have rebuilt those walls. They stand strong. From the simple brick of Brooklyn and Lakewood to the gold and platinum of Long Island and Northern New Jersey, the new ghetto walls provide not only shelter from the excesses of modern society but also space for us to develop, create, and express our own values.

Life within the walls is a model of modesty, virtue and justice.

But all of us travel, in one way or another, outside of those walls. We vote, we pay taxes, we earn our daily bread. We read the newspapers, travel the buses and drive the highways. We search the Internet.

Some of us find ourselves, entirely by accident, walking alone and late at night outside of the walls’ protection. Others willingly seek the world outside, feeling trapped by the walls around them.

On the other hand, many millions of Jews live entirely outside the walls, with no means of understanding or accessing the wonders within. In a generation, these millions will be entirely lost to the Jewish people.

I do not propose that we change the world within the walls. The opposite is true. I propose that we channel the same zeal and dedication that has invigorated our lives within these walls to shine brightly to the world without, so that it infuses our broader relationships with society.

I do not propose that we reduce the role of Torah in the world. I propose that we expand it, using established Torah models to express our values as citizens and members of society.

Orthodox Judaism it today triply blessed.

First, we have created extraordinary institutions of Torah study and observance. The depth of Torah learning and quality of Torah observance in the frum community is unprecedented on this continent.

Second, we live in a unique period of history in which Orthodox Jews are unusually welcome to participate fully in American society. Orthodox Jews have served as leaders across every avenue of society – including as a vice-presidential candidate and a White House chief of staff.

They hold these positions not because of their religious identity and not despite it, but rather because of the kind of people their religious identity has enabled them to be.

Thus, the second pillar is that, as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught, living a life of Torah and mitzvahs can create Jews who are the greatest of citizens; Jews who participate in society at the highest levels.

Third, we live in a period in which Orthodox Jews are free to pursue professions and trades and interests that are particular to their own identities. We can be truly ourselves in all of our pursuits, expressing the wonderful individualistic neshamahs Hashem has granted us through the application of our special natures in the physical world, what the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples discovered as the basis for avodah b’gashmiyut.

In other words, we live in a world where one can combine the learning and diligence of the Lithuanian yeshiva with the social consciousness of the German-Jewish tradition and the spiritual intensity of chassidus. We can be Litvish chassidish Yekkes.

We live, as the Chinese curse has it, in interesting times. A technological revolution is increasingly bringing the world outside to us, even as challenging economic conditions are forcing us back out into the world.

We live in danger of discovering one day that our walls are not really built of bricks or stone or precious metals at all; they are only virtual walls. No army will be needed to breach them – only a few clicks on a smart phone or some suddenly insolvent fathers-in-law.

As the walls are threatened, it may perhaps be useful to have at our disposal a more fully developed model for expressing our Torah values as part of society, not only apart from it. That, in my view, is the role of the Leather-Kippah Jew.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/expressing-ourselves-inside-and-outside-the-walls/2012/10/17/

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