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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘schools’

The Degradation of Christian Women under Islam

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

The degradation of Christian women living in the Islamic world continued in the month of June. In Syria, after the al-Qaeda linked rebel group conquered Qusair, a city of the governate of Homs, 15-year-old Mariam was kidnapped, repeatedly gang raped according to a fatwa legitimizing the rape of non-Sunni women by any Muslim waging jihad against Syria’s government, and then executed.

According to Agenzia Fides, “The commander of the battalion ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’ in Qusair took Mariam, married and raped her. Then he repudiated her. The next day the young woman was forced to marry another Islamic militant. He also raped her and then repudiated her. The same trend was repeated for 15 days, and Mariam was raped by 15 different men. This psychologically destabilized her and made her insane. Mariam became mentally unstable and was eventually killed.”

In Pakistan, Muslim men stormed the home of three Christian women, beat them, stripped them naked and tortured them, and then paraded them in the nude in a village in the Kasur district. Days earlier, it seems the goats of the Christian family had accidentally trespassed onto Muslim land; Muslims sought to make an example of the Christian family, who, as third-class citizens, must know their place at all times.

The rest of June’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not according to severity:

Attacks on Christian Worship: Churches and Monasteries

Iraq: During the middle of the night, armed men attacked St. Mary’s Assyrian Catholic Church in Baghdad; they wounded two Christian guards, one seriously. Later the same day, bombs were set off at two Christian-owned businesses, both near the church; they killed one Christian shop owner, a parishioner at St. Mary’s. Since the U.S. “liberation” of Iraq in 2003, 73 churches have been attacked or bombed, and more than half of the country’s Christian population has either fled or been killed.

Kenya: Motorbike assailants hurled an explosive device into the Earthquake Miracle Ministries Church in Mrima village church compound during the Sunday of June 9, injuring 15 people, including one pastor who had both his legs broken, another pastor who sustained serious injuries, and a 10-year-old child. Said another church leader, “The Christians living around the scene of the incident are still in shock and are wondering as to the mission behind the attack, while several pastors looked demoralized. But others said prayers will help them stand strong in sharing the Christian faith.” Islamic extremists from Somalia’s jihadi organization Al Shabaab are suspected of this and other attacks on Christians in the coastal areas of Kenya.

Nigeria: Four churches were burned in an attack committed by members of the jihadi group Boko Haram in Borno State in the Muslim-majority north of the country. According to Agenzia Fides, “A group of armed men with improvised explosive devices and petrol bombs attacked the Hwa’a, Kunde, Gathahure and Gjigga communities on Gwoza Hills, burning the 4 churches, raiding and looting cattle and grain reserves belonging to the population.” Discussing the ongoing terrorism Christians in the north are exposed to, one pastor lamented, “There are Christian villages that have been completely wiped out by these Muslim terrorists… Christian fellowship activities and evangelism outreaches are no longer possible…. For a number of years, the attacks on Christians in these three local government areas have caused the displacement of thousands of Christians there. There is a very lamentable problem, as we are no longer able to worship God as Christians in this part of Nigeria.”

Syria: An Islamic jihadi rebel wearing a suicide belt reportedly detonated himself outside the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in an old Christian quarter in Damascus; the attack left four people dead and several injured. Rebel sources confirmed the attack but said it was caused by a mortar bomb. Around the same time, jihadi rebels massacred the Christian village of al-Duwair near Homs, while destroying its churches. Also, according to Agenzia Fides, a Belgian Catholic priest, Fr. Daniel Maes, 74, of the religious Order of “Canons Regular Premonstratensian,” was last reported as being “in the sights of jihadi groups who intend to eliminate him and invade the monastery of San James mutilated in Qara,” which dates back to the fifth century. Earlier the priest had denounced the “ethnic cleansing” carried out on Christians in Qusair, after the town was taken by the rebels and jihadi groups: “The surrounding Christian villages were destroyed and all the faithful who were caught were killed, according to a logic of sectarian hatred… For decades, Christians and Muslims lived in peace in Syria. If criminal gangs can roam and terrorize civilians, is this not against international laws? Who will protect the innocent and ensure the future of this country? … Young people are disappointed, because foreign powers dictate their agenda. Moderate Muslims are worried, because Salafists and fundamentalists want to impose a totalitarian dictatorship of religious nature. The citizens are terrified because they are innocent victims of armed gangs.”

Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytism

Indonesia: The Indonesian Ulema Council in Tegal issued a fatwa against Catholic schools, saying they are “forbidden” and “morally unsound” for young Muslim students, despite its pupils, both Muslim and Christian, routinely scoring higher than in other schools. “For the schools,” reported Asia News, “the fatwa is a great blow, coming in the wake of attacks from Muslim extremists and local governments that included threats of closure that were however eventually dropped… [M]any Muslim families have come to the defence of the two schools, claiming their right to a quality education. In fact, many schools run by nuns, priests and lay Catholics offer such excellence in education that they are sought after by non-Christians.” Earlier the influential Indonesian Ulema Council lashed out during flag-raising “because Mohammed never did it;” before that announcement, the Islamic clerics “launched anathemas against Facebook for its ‘amoral’ nature, as well as yoga, smoking and voting rights, in particular for women.”

Pakistan: A 16-year-old boy who converted to Christianity from Islam a year ago, and began attending Bible lessons in a Protestant community, was abducted in Peshawar. Local sources said he was kidnapped by Taliban-linked Islamic militants “and his fate may already be marked, as he is considered ‘guilty of apostasy,’” the penalty of which is death. As one Pakistani pastor explained: “If a young Muslim converts to Christianity in Pakistan, he is forced to live in hiding. Every Muslim might feel compelled to kill him. The change of religion is not punished by the civil law, it is punishable by Islamic law. For this reason cases of Muslim conversion to Christianity are very rare and some convert in secret.”

Somalia: Islamic terrorists from Al Shabaab (“The Youth”) publicly executed a 28-year-old man after determining that he had in fact become a Christian. Aiming at his head, he was shot “to death.” As Morning Star News explains, “Somalis are considered Muslim by birth, and apostasy, or leaving Islam, is punishable by death.” After the execution, the man’s parents, widow and son fled the region. The Al-Qaeda linked Al Shabaab has vowed to cleanse Somalia of all Christian presence, and its members have murdered dozens of Muslim converts to Christianity.

Uzbekistan: Four police officers raided the home of a 76-year-old Christian woman, ill with Parkinson’s disease. After removing her from her bed and without producing a search warrant, they “turned everything in the home upside down,” and confiscated her Bible and other Christian materials. Since then, the woman has been subjected to innumerable legal proceedings. Most recently, she was convicted of “Illegal production, storage, or import into Uzbekistan with a purpose to distribute or distribution of religious materials by physical persons.” The judge ordered that her Bible, 14 Christian books, six DVDs and a video be destroyed. She was told by court officials, “This is a Muslim country and all of your Christian books including the Bible are outlawed.” Because these proceedings have caused her extreme anxiety, after one hearing an ambulance was called for her.

Dhimmitude: A Climate of Hate and Contempt

Bangladesh: A mob of some “60 extremists” raided a predominantly Christian village. According to the Barnabas Aid group, “they plundered the residents’ livestock and other possessions and threatened to return to burn down homes. The attackers then moved on to nearby Bolakipur and targeted a Christian seminary. Battering down the doors, they forced their way into the building and severely beat the rector and a number of students. The previous day, two church leaders from Tumilia were beaten and robbed.”

Egypt: “Unknown persons” kidnapped a 7-year-old Christian girl in Dakhaleya Province in northern Egypt. The girl, Jessica Nadi Gabriel, was attending a wedding ceremony with her family when she was seized and torn away. Her father later revealed that the 7-year-old girl’s abductors called him demanding a ransom of 650,000 Egyptian Pounds (nearly $100,000 USD). Two weeks earlier, a 6-year-old Coptic boy who was kidnapped and held for ransom, was still killed and discarded in the sewer—even after his family paid the Muslim kidnapper the demanded ransom. Also, a Coptic Christian man named Milad, living in Tanta, said that “unknown persons” invited him and his family to renounce Christianity and submit to Islam and convert. According to widely-read Egyptian newspaper, Youm7, “They also snatched at the crucifix he was wearing around his neck, and threatened to kidnap his children and wife if he refused to convert to Islam.” As they wore the trademark white robes and long beards, the man identified them as members of the Salafi movement in Egypt. Meanwhile, U.S. ambassador Anne Patterson was urging the Coptic pope to forbid the Copts from protesting against Muslim Brotherhood rule — even though they, as Christians, would suffer under it most — while Al Azhar, the world’s oldest Islamic university, based in Cairo, called on new Catholic Pope, Francis I, to declare that “Islam is a peaceful religion.”

Iran: According to a June 19 Morning Star News report, “Six more Christians were sentenced for practicing their faith last week, while Iran’s presidential election of a moderate politician was not expected to soften the regime’s persecution of religious minorities.” The same six Christians had been arrested earlier in February 2012, when police raided their house-church meeting. Officials rejected their appeal for release on bail; they are being held in Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, which houses hardened criminals and often lacks heating or health facilities, and where officials routinely deny medical treatment to prisoners.

Pakistan: Three months after a mob of 3,000 Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, burning down two churches and 160 Christian homes, few of the perpetrators are in prison. Hundreds of those detained immediately after the incident were released; of the 83 who were arrested, 31 have been released on bail. “Most of the people who were stopped after the attack were declared innocent by the police and immediately released, for corruption or political pressure,” said a Christian lawyer. Meanwhile, the Christian whose arrest on blasphemy charges was the occasion for the rampage has gone on trial, even as he insists he never insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Palestinian Authority: Five schools in Gaza—two Catholic and three Christian—face closure if the Hamas government follows through on an order forbidding co-educational institutions. According to Fr. Faysal Hijazin: “This will be a big problem. We hope they will not go through with it, but if they do, we will be in big trouble. We don’t have the space and we don’t have the money to divide our schools.” In addition to finding additional space, he said, the schools face having to hire more teachers. Under Islamic law, men and women teachers would not be allowed to teach classes to members of the opposite sex older than the age of 10. “It is a concern that in education things are getting more conservative,” said the priest. “It reflects the whole society. This is of concern to both Christians and moderate Muslims. It is not easy to be there.”

Tanzania: Two Christian pastors were attacked by Muslims. On the night of Sunday, June 2, a Muslim mob broke into the home of Robert Ngai, the pastor of the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church in northeastern Tanzania, and attacked him with machetes. The pastor received serious cuts on his hands and arms when he raised them to protect his head from the blows; when last heard of, he was in the intensive care unit. Two nights earlier, the home of Daudi Nzumbi, Pastor of the Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania congregation in Geita, also came under attack. However, the attackers fled after they were confronted by Pastor Nzumbi’s large, barking dogs. When Nzumbi called police, the officer in charge told him, “I cannot protect every pastor!”

About this Series

Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:

1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.

2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.

Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws that criminalize and punish with death those who “offend” Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.

Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to India in the East, and throughout the West wherever there are Muslims—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.

France: “Secularism Charter” in Every School

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

“Nothing could be worse than posting a secularism charter on the wall and then the students see around them that what actually happens in school life is the exact opposite of what we tell them.” — Philippe Tournier, Secretary General, French Teachers Union.

The French government has announced a plan to post a “secularism charter” in all public schools in France by the end of September.

The document — which is to appear in a prominent location in all of the 55,000 public schools in France — would serve to remind students and teachers of a list of secular principles underpinning the separation of mosque and state.

Although the initiative has enjoyed a generally positive reception, many observers are saying they doubt the Socialist government of French President François Hollande will have the political willpower actually to enforce secular principles in French schools — with or without a charter.

This skepticism stems from the fact that Muslim children constitute an increasingly large proportion of the 10 million students in the French public school system — and because Muslim parents make up an increasingly important voting bloc in French politics. Muslims, in fact, cast the deciding vote that thrust Hollande into the Elysée Palace in May 2012.

French Education Minister Vincent Peillon, who announced the plan in an interview with the French daily newspaper L’Est Républicain on August 26, said, “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not to dispute lessons or to skip classes [for religious reasons]. The charter will be a reminder of [secular] principles. It will be posted in all schools in late September. The law provides for a moral and civic education that promotes freedom from judgment, the capacity to emancipate, and rights and duties. I want to see the return of those values of the [French] Republic in schools in 2013.”

Although the final content of the charter will not be made public until the middle of September, a draft of the list which contains a total of 17 paragraphs has been circulating since July 11.

The first section of the draft list is entitled “The Republic is Secular,” and consists of six rather straightforward paragraphs that mostly echo the French Constitution. Paragraph 2 of the draft, for example, states that, “France is a republic that is indivisible, secular, democratic and social. It ensures equality before the law, on the whole of its territory, for all citizens. It respects all creeds.”

According to Paragraph 3, “The secular Republic is based upon the separation of religion and state. The state is neutral with regard to religious or spiritual beliefs. There is no state religion.” Paragraph 4 states that “Secularism guarantees freedom of conscience for all. Everyone is free to believe or not to believe. It allows the free expression of his beliefs, respecting those of others within the limits of public order.” And so on.

The second section of the list, entitled “The School is Secular,” changes tack by directly confronting Muslim students who take to disrupting classes whenever they do not agree with their teachers on certain subjects.

Paragraph 14 states: “Lessons are secular. To ensure that students are as objectively open as possible to the diversity of worldviews as well as to the extent and accuracy of knowledge, no subject is a priori excluded from scientific and educational inquiry.”

According to Paragraph 15, “No student may invoke religious or political convictions to challenge and/or to prevent a teacher from teaching certain parts of the curriculum.” Paragraph 16 states that “the wearing of conspicuous symbols or dress by pupils as relates to their religious affiliation is prohibited in public schools.”

The draft charter also states that “the secular school offers students the conditions to forge their own personality, exercise their free will and learn about citizenship. It protects them from proselytizing and from any pressure that prevents them from making their own choices.”

Reactions to the announcement have been mixed, with some questioning if or how the measure will be enforced.

The Secretary General of the French Teachers Union, Philippe Tournier, told Radio Europe 1 that while he welcomed the secularism charter in principle, he worried about its implementation. “The intentions are quite positive, but the essential thing still remains: putting into force what [the charter] affirms,” he said. “Nothing could be worse than posting a secularism charter on the wall, and then the students see around them that what actually happens in school life is the exact opposite of what we tell them.”

Egypt Coptic Christian Leadership Condemns Western Media Coverage

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

In the face of an unprecedented wave of violence directed against Coptic Christians amid the turmoil in Egypt that has left hundred’s dead, the church’s leadership issued a statement condemning the Western media’s biased coverage of the events in Egypt.

“We strongly denounce the fallacies broadcasted by the Western media and invite them to review the facts objectively regarding these bloody radical organizations and their affiliates instead of legitimizing them with global support and political protection while they attempt to spread devastation and destruction in our dear land,” reads the statement, according to a Google translation.

“We request that the international and western media adhere to providing a comprehensive account of all events with truth, accuracy, and honesty,” the statement added.

The Coptic Church also reaffirmed its support for the military-backed government, calling on the army and security forces to continue their fight against the “armed violent groups and black terrorism.”

One of the oldest communities in Christianity, Coptic Christians have survived numerous persecutions in the past. But the recent violence is unprecedented. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent human rights organization, has documented 39 attacks against Coptic Christian churches, schools, monasteries and businesses since late last week, NPR reported.

Coptic Christians constituted a majority of Egypt’s population until the Middle Ages, when Islam, introduced by the Arab invasions in the 7th century, eclipsed their religion. Today, Coptic Christianity comprises nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, making it the largest single Christian community remaining in the Middle East.

When Good Children Go OTD

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The problem seems to be far worse than anyone thinks. We may even be at an epidemic level. Everywhere I turn these days it seems, I find a family where at least one child has gone OTD (Off the Derech–away from the religious path). Or at least does not follow the Hashkafic path laid out by their parents.

Many of them are all from fine families. Exemplars of great parenting. Nothing dysfunctional about them. The parents have many children all the rest of which are the obvious results child rearing by 2 great parents. Most of their children do fine in the Hashkafic milieu in which they were raised and in which they live. And yet it seem to be increasingly the case that at least one child has no interest in towing the family religious line.

In the families that I know about it seems the problems tend to begin in mid to late elementary school or early high school.

The question is why is this happening? What is it that is driving this OTD phenomenon in good families? It is very understandable when this happens in dysfunctional families where physical or mental abuse exists either between parents; between a parent and child; or both. It does not take rocket science to see why a child associates their strife their parent’s lifestyle. If they are a religious family, then religion is associated with that strife.

But what about the good families with good children where one of them does not want to have anything to do with their family’s religious way of life? Unfortunately I know of far too many situations like these. Hashkafos don’t seem to matter that much. I know families with an OTD child that are very right wing, moderate Charedi, and right wing Modern Orthodox. None of them are so strict as to warrant the kind of rebellion they have experienced from at least one child.

I have no real explanation. But I suspect it has something to do with the current pressure that schools and thereby parents put on their children to excel in their religiosity, Limudei Kodesh or Limudei Chol. I am constantly hearing about how schools of all Hashkafos are ‘rasining’ their standards. That is impacted negatively by the times in which we live. By that I mean the great distractions that now exists that did not exist in the past. Distractions that expose children to a much easier lifestyle than their parents insist upon. Distractions that take away from their study time. Distractions that cause them to question matters of faith. These are distractions that those of us over the age of 30 never had when we were growing up.

The internet, its ease of use and availability, and the ability to easily hide one’s involvement with it puts pressure on young people now – as never before. No matter how much we try to discourage it, limit it, or ban it, it is so pervasive that it is impossible to avoid the influence it has on children. Children can access anything they want as quickly as they can delete it from a screen. A child now has an unprecedented and unfettered window to the entire world. A little curiosity about a taboo subject will beget websites and images that can easily pull a child away from their parents’ influences. It is amazing that there aren’t even more OTD children than there are.

Coupled with this is the increased pressure put upon children in our day to be more religious and be better students than ever before.

The pressure to excel and adopt ever increasing Churmos into our lives has become so ingrained that not conform to these new standards is unacceptable.For example violating a Chumra is as painful to a family as violating a Halacha. I know one family that feels great pain that a child now uses non Chalav Yisroel products. I hasten to add that they are a very loving family – accepting of that child and allowing her to bring non Chalav Yisroel products into the home and use them freely. But it still pains them internally.

And how can any self respecting parent not want their child to excel in school? So with every increase in the amount of material to be mastered, there is a parental motive to see to it that their child measures up. Whether it is the Charedi standard of Limudei Kodesh or the MO academic standard. And in many cases – both.

If you combine the two phenomenon of increased pressure (whether religious or in the level of study)in the home and in school with the ubiquity of the internet – I think one can understand why the OTD phenomenon even in good homes might be near epidemic levels.

I would add that the fact that as the religious population increases, so too do the number of children going OTD – even if the percentages may be the same. But if I had to guess the percentages have increases too and not only the numbers.

I don’t know how to solve any of these problems. But I do have a few thoughts about it. First we ought to be aware of the problems and to recognize that we live in unprecedented times. One cannot for example ignore the internet. Nor can it be successfully banned. But one should do the best they can to set up parental controls, rules, and guidelines about its use. And avoid giving very young children hand held devices.

Of course the most important factor is to love our children unconditionally. Even – and perhaps especially – if they are at risk or OTD. They must know that they will always be loved; part of the family; and welcomed in the homes. Even if they are Mechalel Shabbos, and eat Treif. A bare headed son or daughter whose modesty does not measure up to family or community standards must be accepted. No matter what others in your community think! That may not bring them back. But it will for sure not push them away should they ever want to come back.

Another much harder thing to accomplish is to change the current penchant of religious schools to demand ever increasing religious standards for – not only their students but their parents.

The same thing is to be said with the ever increasing academic standards; or Torah study standards. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be top schools in an area of study in either Limudei Kodesh or Limudei Chol. But they should be special schools reserved for the very best, brightest and most highly motivated students among us. Putting a child that does not have those qualifications into schools like those will almost certainly set up them up for failure. And failure should never be an option.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Ner Israel Rosh Yeshiva: Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman ‘Wicked’

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

I recently had the unfortunate experience of listening to Ner Israel Rabbinical College dean Rav Aharon Feldman’s condemnation of Rabbi Dov Lipman. Rabbi Lipman received his rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel in Baltimore, the Yeshiva which R’ Feldman now heads.

I was terribly pained by what I heard since I consider Rabbi Lipman a courageous man – a hero who as a self described Haredi – nevertheless stood up for a little girl from a Dati Leumi/Religious Zionist family in Israel that was spat upon and called a whore by extremist Meah Shearim type residents of Beit Shemesh.

This did not go unnoticed by the media – and more importantly by an upstart politician by the name of Yair Lapid. He asked Rabbi Lipman to join his newly formed party, Yesh Atid. Rabbi Lipman accepted. He is now a member of the Israeli Knesset.

What is Rabbi Lipman’s sin? It is his position on limudei hol (secular studies) for Haredim. He said in an interview that if it were up to him, he would close down any Haredi school that does not offer a basic core curriculum of secular studies.* [It turns out he only said the government should not fund such schools, not necessarily close them down, see below -.ed]

If one listens to Rav Feldman’s recorded words (available below) one can hear the pain in his voice. I can understand why someone so married to the system of Haredi education in Israel might feel pain about this. Many Haredim do not believe in providing secular education of any kind in their schools for their male students beyond 8th grade. Even in elementary schools the only secular education students get is basic arithmetic and Hebrew grammar.

What I do not understand is the harshness of his condemnation. Disagreement? Yes. But condemnation??!

It isn’t only that he was condemned. The words used by R’ Feldman are among the most hurtful a religious Jew educated in a yeshiva could hear. He called Rabbi Lipman a “shana u’porush”! This epithet is usually reserved for people who have learned Torah, understand it, but nevertheless reject its teachings. He also called him a “rasha,” a word usually reserved for people who try to destroy Judaism. As in Haman HaRasha in the Book of Esther.

Coming from a man who heads a Yeshiva that facilitates their students to go to college while attending their school – it is a bit surprising to hear this. But not entirely.

A few years ago, I think it was at a Torah U’Mesorah convention, Rav Feldman was challenged to defend his Yeshiva’s policy of having a secular studies program and having all kinds of relationships with local universities so that Ner Israel students can attend them and get legitimate degrees efficiently.

Rav Feldman defended his yeshiva. But in the process he lamented the fact that Yeshivos in the United States do not have a track that allows exceptional students to skip all secular studies. He pointed to his own grandson in Israel who in high school mastered all of the tosophos (one of the commentaries) in meseches kesuvos (a tractate of talmud) learning them by heart at age 16. He ended by claiming it is therefore unlikely for America to produce someone like his grandson in high school.

Rav Feldman had made Aliyah many years ago and his years in Israel surely influenced him. He has obviously adopted the Israeli Haredi paradigm of high school education as the optimum one. This – even though he presides over a Yeshiva with a reputation of excellence in secular studies, and the fact that he was himself an exceptional student of limudei hol growing up in Baltimore. (I wonder if he now regrets the time ‘wasted’ on limudei hol? I doubt it).

To his credit, Telshe Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav A.C. Levine, responded to him and stood up for secular studies in high school. Telshe, he said, has always had a policy of including secular studies all the way back to its founding in Europe. He then challenged anyone to say that his bachurim (boys) in Telshe were any less talmidei hachamim (Torah scholars) because they studied limudei hol in high school.

I doubt that R’ Feldman would call R’ Levine a “shana u’porush” or “rasha” even though his yeshiva, Telshe, is exactly the paradigm Rabbi Lipman has called for in Israel. This is something I have called for too. (I guess that makes me a rasha too.)

That said, I would not close down yeshivos if they did not offer any secular studies. But I would not necessarily fund them with taxpayer money either. The point is that not only is Rabbi Lipman not a shana u’porush and rasha, he is a man who is consistent in his views that the Haredi educational paradigm must change for the good of the country and the good of the Haredi world in Israel.

Rabbi Lipman is l’shma (he has no ulterior motives). There is no doubt about that in my mind. This is a man of character who is now being vilified for his beliefs. Beliefs based on the very same Torah R’ Feldman believes in. Rabbi Lipman does not want to destroy the Torah community. He wants to save it! Does he deserve to be called a Rasha for that – even if Rav Feldman believes he is wrong? It continues to be difficult for me to understand the level of animosity toward those who suggest even the slightest implementation of secular studies into the Haredi school curriculum.

As if to add insult to injury, the American Agudah has called for a day of prayer – protesting any change in the curriculum of the Haredi schools in Israel; and protesting the proposed budget cuts to the Haredi world. The American Agudah is comprised of many Roshei Yeshiva that have the very same curricula that they protest being added to Haredi schools in Israel!

I can understand that they sympathize with Israeli rabbinic leadership on this issue – even if they do not abide by that standard for themselves. But to pray that their own educational system not be implemented is praying against something they believe in! Would not Rav A.C. Levin not make the same argument for students in Israel that he made for his own students?

One might answer that Israel has its own standards and that asking them to reduce the time they spend on limudei kodesh (holy studies) is ultimately wrong in a world where ‘Torah Only’ is touted as the best way for a Jew to live. As legitimate as limudei chol is, it should never replace Torah study already in place. But if that is true, then Telshe should have as its goal to eventually wean their students entirely off any secular subjects. I do not think that is going to happen.

Rav Feldman says that Rabbi Lipman’s claim that he learned his hashkafos (outlook) in Ner Yisroel from the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Yaakov Weinberg – is false. That R’ Weinberg would have never approved of someone threatening to close down a Haredi school in Israel. I’m sure that’s true. But I also doubt that R’ Feldman’s hashkafos are the same as R’ Weinberg’s.

That Rabbi Lipman advocated not funding certain schools* is just an extension of beliefs learned in a Yeshiva that values secular education. He did not depart from the Torah’s ways and he is not a rasha for trying to implement educational policies based on his hashkafos. I only wish Rav Feldman would recognize that.
Click here for download of audio (From Matzav – approximately 4 minutes)

Winnipeg Rabbis Split on Bill Favoring Gay-Straight Clubs

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Two leading Orthodox rabbis in Winnipeg are split over part of a bill, proposed last December, which would require any school that receives provincial funding to allow students to create a gay-straight alliance club.

Fearing that Christian schools will be forced to accept such clubs, many Christian leaders in Manitoba have opposed the bill. But in the case of the province’s Jewish community, the two leading Orthodox rabbis have landed on opposite sides of the debate.

“The Torah rejects homosexuality,” Rabbi Avraham Altein, the longtime head of Chabad Lubavitch in Winnipeg, told the Canadian Jewish News. “Religious schools should not be forced to accept a gay rights group.”

But while Altein has written a letter to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger protesting the bill and taken to the airwaves to make his views heard, Winnipeg’s other prominent Orthodox rabbi has taken a much different approach.

Rabbi Ari Ellis, who leads Winnipeg’s largest Orthodox congregation, told the news agency that he originally planned not to get involved in the debate on the bill until he heard Altein claiming that the bill stood in opposition to Orthodox Judaism.

“As an Orthodox rabbi and a Jewish educator, it is my belief that a gay-straight alliance could be a welcome institution in our schools and communities,” Ellis told the newspaper.

Gray Academy of Jewish Education, the only K-12 Jewish private school in Winnipeg, has had a gay-straight alliance for several years, according to head of school Rory Paul.

The Shadow of the Gun

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Every day another one of the stories comes in. A teacher panicked by a plastic gun, an army man on a cupcake, a t-shirt, a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun or a finger gun hits the panic button. Suspensions and lectures quickly follow as the latest threat to the gun-free zone, usually in the form of a little boy, is tackled to the ground and lectured to within an inch of his life.

Tellingly these incidents rarely take place in the inner city schools where teenage gang members walk through metal detectors at the start of the day. The safety officers in those schools, big weary men with eyes that look everywhere at once, don’t waste their time on toys. Not unless those toys are full-size, painted black and filed down to look like real guns.

It’s usually the schools where a shooting is wholly unlikely; where gun violence is not a daily reality, but an unlikely convergence of horror, that institutional vigilance hits an irrational peak as every school imagines that it could be the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook.

The NRA’s initial proposal of armed school guards was met with an irrational chorus of protests. More guns aren’t the answer, was the cry. And the leading crier was the White House’s expert skeet shooter. In a country where law enforcement is heavily armed and gunmen are stopped by gunmen in uniforms, a strange Swedenization had set in. The problem was not the man, it was the gun. Get rid of the guns and you stop the killing. Schools across the country are banning not the gun, but the idea of the gun. It is a conceptual prohibition that is meant to push away the threat of gun violence by eliminating any mention of the G word. Gun-free zones mean places where guns cannot be mentioned, depicted or even symbolized as if the refusal to concede the existence of a firearm will eliminate the threat of it being used on the premises.

This isn’t a precautionary attitude, but a pacifist one. Gun horror is not a productive emotion, but learned helplessness disguised as moral superiority. Rather than teaching children to hate killers, schools are instead teaching them to hate guns. And reducing murders to instruments rather than morals, children are left with no sense of right and wrong, only an instinctive horror of violence.

Pacifists have always demonized armies rather than invaders. During WWI they obsessed over gas. During WWII, it was the bomber and the tank. During the Cold War they demonized nuclear weapons. In the War on Terror, they target the drone. By dealing with the object rather than the subject, they are able to avoid the question of moral responsibility. Rather than hold the Nazis, Communists or Islamists accountable for their actions, they extended a blanket condemnation over the weapons-wielders.

The American G.I. was just as bad as the S.S. man or the Kamikaze pilot or the Political Commissar. The only difference was in who had the bigger guns. And the one with the bigger guns, was also the most to blame.

That same attitude can be seen today when Israel is blamed for every battle with Islamic terrorists because it has the bigger guns. Rather than evaluating the nature of a conflict and the values of both sides, the pacifists score every war based on firepower.

While the left likes to indulge in stereotypes of gun-toting rednecks and bomb-brandishing generals, the only people who judge the worth of a man by his weapon are the pacifists, the gun-fearers and gun-hiders who mythologize weapons as black agents of evil.

To believe that there is no such thing as constructive violence is to reject free will. Without accepting the necessity of constructive violence, there is no good and evil, only armed men and unarmed men. Without constructive violence, two boys playing cops and robbers in the schoolyard are not acting out a childish morality play, they are becoming desensitized to murder, and without it a child with a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun is on the way to being a school shooter.

If there is no such thing as constructive violence, then the police officer is not the solution to crime, he is part of the cycle of violence. And if that cycle of violence does not begin with a man choosing to use a gun for good or evil, then it must begin with the gun. The man becomes the object and the gun becomes the subject. American ICBMs become just as bad as Russian ballistic missiles. An Israeli soldier killing a suicide bomber is just as bad as the terrorist. There are no good guys with guns. To have a gun is to be the bad guy.

For decades the gun-control lobby has brandished assault rifles at press conferences and spent more time describing their killing power than their manufacturers have. The rifle has been upgraded to the assault rifle and now, in the latest Orwellian vernacular used by the White House and the entire media pyramid beneath it, weapons of war.

The dreaded assault rifle or weapon of war or killing machine of mass death actually kills rather few Americans. The average shooter doesn’t bring an AR-15 to a Chicago gangland dispute. Despite the number of these weapons in private hands, most of the killing takes place with handguns in the same parts of the country where large amounts of illegal drugs are sold, women trafficked and stores robbed.

Shootings in America are not caused by guns, they are caused by crime. Guns really do not walk off store shelves and go on killing sprees. That’s what criminals are for. But the trouble with that discussion is that it takes us into moral territory. Talking about guns is easy, talking about souls is not. If guns don’t kill people, then we have to ask the difficult question of what does kill people.

It’s a bigger question than just Adam Lanza pulling the trigger in a classroom full of children. It is a big question that encompasses the Nazi gas chambers and the Soviet gulags, the Rape of Nanking and September 11. It is a question as big as all of human history.

Pacifists once used to be able to address such questions, but they have become obsessed with the technology of violence, rather than the spiritual origin of violence. And the technology of violence is largely beside the point. Guns do not motivate people to kill. Nor do they represent that much of a quantum increase in death.

Some of history’s worst massacres happened long before firearms became useful for more than scaring off peasants. The heavily armed Americans of the 50s had lower per capita murder rates than medieval London. It isn’t the gun that makes the killer. It’s not the hand that kills, but the mind.

The gun-free society has little interest in individuals. Its technocratic philosopher-kings want big and comprehensive solutions. Their answer to gun violence is to feed a horror of guns. Their answer to obesity is to ban sodas. Their solutions invariably miss the point by treating people like objects and objects like people.

In the Middle Ages, rats were put on trial for eating crops. Today we put guns on trial for killing people. The left has tried to reduce people to economics, to class and then race, gender and sexual orientation. It has done its best to reduce people to the sum of their parts and then to tinker with those parts and it has failed badly. The best testimony of its profound spiritual failure is that the worst pockets of gun violence are in urban areas that have been under the influence of their sociologists, urban planners, psychologists, social justice activists, community organizers and political rope-pullers for generations. And what have those areas brought forth except malaise, despair, blight and murder?

Banning guns will do as much for those areas as banning drugs did. It is not the shadow of the gun that has fallen over Chicago, but an occlusion of the spirit. Social services have had generations to save the city and they have failed because the technocracy can reach the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

The gun-control activists drew the wrong lesson from Newtown as they drew the wrong lessons from WWII and September 11. The lesson is not that weapons are bad, the lesson is that people in the grip of evil ideas are capable of unimaginable horrors regardless of the tools at their disposal. A single man can kill a classroom full of children with a gun and a few men can kill thousands with a few box cutters. It isn’t the tool that matters. It’s the man.

Unwishing the gun brings us back to the sword. Unwishing the sword brings us back to the spear. Unwishing the spear brings us back to the stone club. And what then? When every weapon that ever existed or will exist is undone, all that remains is the deadliest weapon of all. The mind of man.

The gun, the sword, the spear and the club took countless lives and saved countless lives. Civilization has always balanced on a future made possible by little boys playing cops and robbers and playing with little green army men. They can either grow up to be the protectors of the future or the frightened men who will stand aside and do nothing when they hear the screams begin to come because they have been told that all violence is evil.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

That’s the Way the World Is…

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

I was talking to my son Elie about the Sandy Hook/Newtown tragedy and about some discussions I’ve been following on Twitter. The consensus of one group is that teachers should carry concealed weapons, making them better able to protect the children under their care.

“That’s stupid,” said Elie. “They need trained guards, and fences around the schools. And even if the security guard is killed…”

He continued but I got stuck at “even if the security guard is killed.” My sons are security guards. I can’t quite just walk past that statement of Elie’s without pausing but he was going on.

“And it would help the economy; give people jobs.”

He’s right. Securing schools in America so that they are all surrounded by fences and guarded by trained security would provide more jobs. But would America agree to live that way? The way we have been living for so long?

“That’s the way the world is,” Elie answered back. He’s too young to mourn the cynicism of that statement, too used to it being that way to know that it shouldn’t be natural to have to guard children with guns.

“I’m not even only talking about terrorism,” Elie continued while my brain took a quick trip down memory lane to when I was a child in the schools of America. “Even just against sick people.”

When I was a child, my school had a fence – around the playground area only – so that the balls didn’t go into neighboring properties. The schools were not locked; no guards, not metal detectors. There were no cameras, no monitors.

My children go to school behind fences, with an armed guard at the gates. A few times a year, and at times when security is heightened, policemen are added in front of the schools.

Part of me mourns that my children need to be protected in this way and part of me mourns that fact that it doesn’t bother them. The security guard is their friend; they know his name and greet him each day. That’s the way the world is…

Silly to wish it wasn’t but even sillier to ignore that it is. No, I do not believe teachers should be armed; that principals should be responsible for guarding children with their lives. If you put a security guard in front of a bank, then put one in front of your school. Your child should be the most precious part of your life.

In Israel, we have become accustomed to certain infringements on our lives. We go to a mall and do not hesitate to open the trunks of our cars, our purses. We empty our pockets. I sometimes feel “honored” to walk into the mall with Elie or Shmulik because they flash their ID and gun licenses and not only are they allowed to enter without being searched, but I get to go along for the ride.

The concept is logical – if he’s okay and he says you’re okay, go through. Years ago, an American security officer was explaining to an Israeli officer how they search every person. The Israeli answered, “if you search all, you search none.”

The goal here is not to be politically correct, it is to save lives. If a person who is acceptable and known to pose no security risk takes you through security, you are trusted too – but only so long as you are with them.

Actually, not really. Some of the people at the mall know that I am Elie and Shmulik’s mother and let me in without being checked – but it still feels like a privilege to me, something strange. For the most part, like all Israelis, I open my backpack or pocketbook; I walk through the metal detectors and answer the questions I am asked.

No, it is not a violation of my rights; it is a protection of my life and those around me. I can’t imagine the US putting security guards before their schools…and yet, I can’t avoid the reality that a security guard would have questioned and even blocked a young man who didn’t belong where he was going from entering the school.

Elie says, “that’s the way the world is.” I accepted long ago that this is the way we live here in Israel and it has never bothered me. I want that guard there because I have to know my children are being protected.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/thats-the-way-the-world-is/2012/12/23/

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