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October 24, 2016 / 22 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘orthodox’

300 Orthodox Rabbis Unite To Combat Child Sexual Abuse Epidemic

Monday, August 29th, 2016

In an unprecedented step, 300 Orthodox rabbis signed a proclamation regarding child safety in the Orthodox Jewish community. In it, the rabbis call upon synagogues and schools are called upon to adopt certain preventative measures outlined in the document in order to deter child abuse and child sexual abuse. The signatories invited to sign this proclamation consisted of member rabbis of the Orthodox Union (OU), Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and Yeshiva University (YU).

Some of the proclamation’s prominent signers include: Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Av Beth Din, Beth Din of America; Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, RCA; Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO, OU Kosher; Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President Emeritus, OU; Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, Dean Emeritus, RIETS, YU; Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and Principal at Ramaz School; and Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta. Rabbi Mark Dratch, who assisted in spearheading this initiative, applauded the “overwhelming support” of the signers and appeals to all communities “to implement the policies advocated in this statement.”

The proclamation commences by honoring the memories of the individuals in the Orthodox Jewish community who tragically have committed suicide as a result of enduring child sexual abuse. The gravity of this issue is linked in the proclamation to a passage in the Torah, “Do not stand by while your fellow’s blood is being spilled” (Leviticus). Prominent signer Rabbi Hershel Billet, Rabbi, Young Israel of Woodmere, succinctly expressed the gravity of the effects of child sexual abuse: “Every sexual abuser is a potential murderer. They destroy the souls of their victims and at times cause the death of their victims.”

The proclamation stresses, “We condemn attempts to ignore allegations of child sexual abuse. These efforts are harmful, contrary to Jewish law, and immoral. The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse and neglect directly and promptly to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law.” Exclusive to this proclamation is the clear assertion that, “there is no need for people acting responsibly to seek rabbinic approval prior to reporting.”

“Since abuse of children is a life threatening crime, we must report immediately,” Rabbi Billet said. “We must trust responsible civil authorities in a just country to be able to separate fact from fiction.” Claims that “snitching” to secular authorities about a Jewish sex offender is prohibited clearly has no basis in Jewish law. Michael Salamon, PhD, clinical psychologist and noted expert in this field, said, “The longer it takes to report the more time the abuser has to keep abusing and creating alibis. Only trained investigators with proper professional team support (e.g. police, medical, etc.) can investigate. Asking anyone else about reporting just delays or confounds or completely derails a proper investigation. That is why so many abusers have been able to move to different communities and continue to abuse.” Signer Rabbi Yosef Blau, Senior Mashgiach Ruchani, RIETS/YU, said, “Requiring a victim of sexual abuse to first gain approval from a rabbi or therapist before reporting the abuse to the authorities is damaging to the victim, whose credibility has been questioned, and hampers the investigation by possibly affecting the description of what occurred.

“Rabbis who have been consulted have often used concerns for the image of the community to discourage the victim and his or her family from speaking to the police.” Dr. Salamon said that “Therapists can lose their license if they attempt to investigate. Be aware that the overwhelming majority of reports – in the vicinity of 95%, or more – are accurate. It takes a lot for someone to finally come forward and tell someone that they have been abused.” The fear that without rabbis sifting through allegations there would be a high percentage of false allegations is similarly incorrect.

Jewish Press Staff

Analysis: Leftwing Orthodox Rabbis Attack Trump, Cite the Yerushalmi

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Forty five US rabbis identified with the leftwing of the Orthodox movement — two of them women who received ordination — on Friday issued a statement titled, “Orthodox Rabbinic Statement Against Hateful Rhetoric and Principles,” in which they condemn Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his attacks on Mexicans and on Muslims.

“In the current presidential election, we have been deeply troubled to hear proposals that condemn whole groups and which are justified by pointing to evil behaviors by members of that group or religion,” the rabbis wrote. “Wholesale condemnations—such as the proposal to ban all Muslim immigration into the United States—violate the principle of individual responsibility and violate the fundamental religious principle of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ which is one of the greatest commandments of Judaism (see Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). These proposals violate the biblical prohibitions to spread hatred or slander about groups and individuals and violate the oft-repeated biblical command to love the stranger.”

The quote from the Yerushalmi is the famous note by Rabbi Akiva that “Love your friend as you would yourself” is a great Torah principle. It is, but it refers exclusively to Jews, as can be easily discerned from the complete verse: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against the people of your nation (B’nei Amecha), and love your friend (Re’acha) as you would yourself, I am God.” Of course, there are universal interpretations of this verse, but as it happens, the Yerushalmi chapter the group cited actually emphasizes one line earlier the idea of the verse referring to the people of your own nation, meaning Jews.

Frankly, even if one does not support Trump’s xenophobic attacks on “Rapist Mexicans” and “the Muslims,” a group of 45 learned rabbis could have come up with a more convincing, perhaps intellectually challenging argument, especially since they present the Trump proposals on banning—temporarily—Muslim immigration without context, as if the candidate just picked a fight with a billion and a half peaceful people who are minding their own business just worrying about grazing their camels and perfecting their hummus.

The 45 rabbis also say they were “shocked by the disrespect shown to parents who suffered the greatest pain—losing a son who died in the service of our country. The Torah commands us always to comfort mourners. The fact that the parents criticized a candidate does not justify harsh and hurtful retaliation.”

This time they didn’t go to the Yerushalmi to support their “always comfort mourners” point. It’s probably not true, as can be seen in the commandments regarding the beautiful war captive, where comforting her as she is mourning her killed parents is distinctly not part of the Jewish soldier’s obligations.

They also attack Trump for his “authoritarian tendencies” and “personal vendettas that come across as a dismissal of constitutional rights and legal processes.” They’re about a year late in comforting Prime Minister Netanyahu, who suffered from the personal vendettas of the current US president. Maybe there’s something in the Yerushalmi about that.

Finally, the Jerusalem Post ran its report of the announcement with the headline “40 New York Orthodox rabbis condemn Trump’s ‘hateful rhetoric’” illustrated with a picture of Satmar Hassidim, which is probably discussed at length in the Yerushalmi, concerning the prohibition on Gneivat Da’at (intellectual deceit).



David Israel

Bennett Relying on Orthodox to Lead Israel’s Jewish Identity Project for Diaspora Youth

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), Israel’s Minister of Education and of Diaspora Affairs recently announced a wide-ranging effort to “strengthen Jewish identity and the connection with Israel” for Jewish college students in diaspora. With a considerable budget of more than $30 million a year, a third picked up by the Israeli government and the rest by philanthropist groups, Bennett has made no bones about who, in his opinion, should be deposited with the responsibility for enhancing Jewish identity on campus — namely, the folks who are already doing it: Chabad, Olami and Hillel.

The fact that the first two of these organizations is completely Orthodox, while the third varies from one campus to another has irked many, in Israel and abroad. But, according to Bennett’s office, the project does not promote religion. As Bennett himself put it, “The activities on campuses throughout the world are the real answer to the growing anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel on campuses. For the first time since the founding of the state, the State of Israel understands that it’s not just the state of Israeli citizens, but the state of all Jews throughout the world.”

So, no religious instruction, but rather opportunities for Jewish students to feel more connected to their brothers and sisters in their home country and in Israel. Which would be a nice switch from the constant, anti-Israel drivel they encounter on so many campuses in the US, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Hillel’s foundation for Jewish campus life is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, working with thousands of college students globally.

Unlike Chabad, which enjoys an organic network of outreach institutions around the globe and a consistent and reliable Jewish agenda, Olami is more of a a network of local organization focusing on Jewish identity, including, most notably, Aish HaTorah.

Reform Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Reform Movement in North America, complained to Ha’aretz that the Bennett plan in its current scope does not appeal to more than about 20% of Jewish students in America. Another US Jewish official rebuked Israel for pouring its hard-earned shekels on a minority of north American Jewish activists on campus, and suggested it looked like Bennett was trying to export the Israeli disproportionate dominance of the Orthodox.


Orthodox Jewish Teen Girl to Try for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

An Orthodox Jewish teenage girl from West Hempstead, Long Island says she’s hoping to make the grade for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Estee Ackerman, 14, is Sabbath-observant, and missed out on going to the Olympics this time around. But she won double gold medals in last week’s Junior Olympics in table tennis competition in Houston, according to a post on The Jewish Week website.

Ackerman failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics, but won first place last week in the Amateur Athletic Union’s Junior Olympics instead. It’s not a bad prequel: The event attracts more than 15,000 athletes and coaches.

Ackerman won in two events: The under-16 girls singles division, and the under-16 girls doubles division, teaming with Amy Lu of Maryland.

The young competitor attends Yeshiva University High School for Girls.

Hana Levi Julian

IDF Appoints Orthodox Officer to Command Education Corps

Monday, July 25th, 2016

The IDF General Staff on Monday decided to appoint Brigadier General Zvika Fairaizen as Chief Education Officer. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s announcement, Fairaizen, an Air Force man, used to command a squadron of unmanned aerial vehicles and his last post was as head of section 40 of the IDF Operations Division.

It should be noted that Brigadier General Fairaizen wears a knitted yarmulke, which constitutes an extremely meaningful change in the IDF’s recent attitude regarding Religious Zionism, following both the transfer of many educational functions from the military rabbinate to the education corps, and the controversy over the appointment of Rabbi Eyal Krim as the IDF chief rabbi.

Fairaizen is a resident of Neve Tzuf in Judea and Samaria, and graduated from a hesder yeshiva in Karnay Shomron. He was the first navigator in the IAF history to be appointed squadron commander.

Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Eizenkot preferred to appoint Fairaizen, whose background combined combat operations and religious Jewish education, to lead the education corps over the head of the corps’s education department, Colonel Yael Hess, who in the past was criticized for promoting religious pluralism in the IDF. Rabbi Yigal Levinshtein, head of the pre-military yeshiva in Eli, who has himself come under much criticism from the left, has been critical of Hess, who is married to the CEO of the Conservative movement in Israel, for being “a self-declared Reform Jew, who is the number one authority in the IDF today on educating soldiers on faith and ideas.”

Maj. Gen. Eizenkot has recently removed the Dept. of Jewish Studies from the IDF chief rabbinate to the education corps.

David Israel

8 Women Receive Orthodox Ordination in Largely Political Endeavor

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.

One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned. Or more simply, because she has a PhD, but no ordination.

No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become a Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.

The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).

In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:

“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.

“Yes, but can they pasken on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:

Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halakha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”

So, basically, no paskening on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”

Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else.


Orthodox Shul Will Keep LGBT Shabbaton Despite Neighborhood Rabbis’ Objection

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

The members of the Stanton Street Shul community on Thursday night received an email from their board announcing that the inclusive event of hosting Orthodox LGBT in an Eshel Downtown Shabbaton. This despite a warning letter from neighborhood Orthodox rabbis who declared that “No Jewish institution that allies itself with such a group can rightfully claim to be Orthodox.” (See: Lower East Side Rabbis Hint at Excommunicating Orthodox Shul for LGBT Shabbaton)

The Stanton Street Shul board wrote: “We want to take this opportunity to affirm our commitment to hosting the Eshel Shabbaton this Shabbat and to being an Orthodox shul where all Jews can feel safe praying, learning Torah, and finding fellowship with each other — a place where all are welcome and all feel welcome. We are proud of our members, our rabbi, and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue for fostering the kind of inclusive community that respects the dignity of all people, recognizing that we are all created b’tzelem Elokim, in God’s image.

“We encourage you to show your support by coming to shul this Shabbat for services and for the Shabbaton programming, and we welcome your feedback, questions, and notes of support.”

However, the Stanton Street Shul website’s page announcing the Eshel Shabbaton has been removed.

For its part, the Eshel organization, whose mission is to integrate Orthodox LGBT in the community, started a petition online titled: Support Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino (the spiritual leaders of the Stanton and Sixth Streets shuls). The petition reads:

“Dear Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino,

“We are Orthodox LGBTQ Jews, parents and family members of LGBTQ Jews, and allies. We believe in inclusive Orthodox communities that welcome LGBTQ Jews and their families.

“We are disheartened to learn that both of you have been attacked for hosting Eshel in your synagogues. However, we want both of you, and your synagogue members, to know how much we support you and appreciate your efforts on our behalf.

“We thank you, Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino, for giving us hope with your commitment to Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests). We thank the leadership and membership of both synagogues for agreeing to host us. You are a model for what warm, compassionate, and inclusive leadership should be.”

As of Friday morning, the petition has received 259 signatures.

In our original story, JNi.media referred to the local Lower East Side rabbis’ letter as hinting excommunication of the “erring” shul. But in the reality of a diminishing Orthodox Jewish presence on the Lower East Side, which comes with the weakening of the Orthodox “establishment” in the neighborhood, it’s hard to imagine what steps the local rabbis might take to make good on such a threat. The relationship between the shul and the neighborhood Orthodox leadership (as opposed to the neighborhood rank and file Orthodox Jews) has always been tense, with the Haredi leaders being critical of the Stanton Street Shul’s egalitarian policy regarding women (the shul maintains women’s minyanim several times a year; shul women dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah; the shul invites women scholars in residence for Shabbat lectures). The dispute over the LGBT Shabbaton may just fizzle away without any tangible negative consequences. At the same time, as has been expressed several times in online debates over the story Thursday, there’s also little chance of an honest dialog between the Stanton Street Shul community and the neighborhood rabbis over the serious issues facing the declining Orthodox community on the Lower East Side.


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/orthodox-shul-will-keep-lgbt-shabbaton-despite-neighborhood-rabbis-objection/2016/06/03/

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