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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘standards’

“Go For Your Dreams And Don’t Compromise Your Religious Standards”: Rachel Freier Is Not Your Typical Civil Court Candidate

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

It was the week of erev Shavuos and Rachel “Ruchie” Freier was getting ready for the holiday just as any typical chassidic homemaker would. Over our conversation on the phone, she told me how she was busy preparing to bake challah, kugel, and other sumptuous delicacies for Yom Tov. Her children and grandchildren living nearby her home in Brooklyn were expected to be there for the seudos.

All this seems typical, but Ruchie Freier is not your typical Borough Park balabusta. The married mother of six is a real estate attorney, a community activist, and a current candidate for civil court judge in Brooklyn’s fifth judicial district, which includes Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Ocean Parkway and 21 other Brooklyn neighborhoods. If elected, Freier will likely be the first chassidic female judge in New York, perhaps in the United States.

“My mother always said that as long as it’s legal, moral and not against the Torah, just do it and do it the best way you can,” Freier said. “I grew up believing that I would do whatever I am allowed to do and succeed with Hashem’s help.”

The other contenders for the post include Mordy Avigdor, a former counsel to Agudath Israel of America who also has worked with former Congressman Anthony Weiner and current Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, and Jill Epstein, who currently serves as principal law clerk to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes. The election will take place in the September 13 primary.

At her law offices in Brooklyn and Monroe, Freier specializes in transactions, financing properties, and residential and commercial properties. She is licensed in New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, and has experience in both the private and pro bono sectors.

“My knowledge and experience is broad-ranging,” she said. “I have years of experience in contracts and closings, transactional law, litigation, corporate law, trust and estates, family law and personal injury.”

Freier’s experience in the legal field started with modest beginnings. Born and bred in Brooklyn, Freier began her career as a legal secretary after graduating from the Bais Yaakov of Borough Park. She then started working as a legal secretary, advanced to become a paralegal, and eventually continued on to college and law school, all while raising her growing family.

Freier explained, “Attending college after high school was not the norm and at the time there were no separate women’s college programs in Brooklyn. Because graduates didn’t go to college, our high school trained us in legal stenography. I worked in the legal field for a number of years and loved it! After my husband finished his studies at kollel and received his BA from Touro, I realized it was now my turn. I began Touro College at age 30 and graduated six years later, majoring in political science and directing the Women’s Pre-Law Society. Afterward I attended Brooklyn Law School.”

It was at law school when Freier became intrigued with the idea of becoming a judge. “Since I was a kid, I wanted to become a lawyer,” she explained. “Then as I was studying law, the idea of becoming a judge began to percolate…. My interest in becoming a judge was a natural progression.”

The seeds began when she studied Constitutional Law. She remarked, “In law school I really appreciated the opportunity to learn Constitutional Law under William Hellerstein; he made the law come alive through his enthusiastic teaching style. And as a Jew, I believe that we have a mission to carry out justice in the world.”

Among her role models are her uncle Judge David Schmidt (now retired), as well as Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Noach Dear. “Without my uncle’s encouragement and the encouragement I received from my husband and family, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have already,” she said.

Atara Arbesfeld

Facebook: ‘Kill Jews’ Not Violation of Community Standards

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Facebook has always been the most accessible tool available to the average person for means of freedom of speech. Turns out terror organizations like Hamas are very aware of that, and largely use it to their advantage. Being a huge fan of freedom of speech, Facebook has made its terms of usage very, shall we say, flexible. For that reason, five families, Israeli and American, all of whom lost a family member in the recent murderous wave of terror, are suing Facebook for $1 billion. The lawsuit was brought under the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act that prohibits American businesses from providing any material support, including services, to designated terrorist groups and their leaders. In this case, that would apply to giving terror a stage on Facebook through memes, groups, pages, and viral hateful posts of incitement (all of which can be found in the hundreds on your favorite social media site).

I decided to test Facebook’s innocence (or lack thereof). I searched the social network for anti-Semitic groups and pages to report. I was disappointed, but not surprised, at how easily I came across “juicy” material. Firstly, I found a user whose profile name was followed by “(Kill Jews).” He actually decided to blatantly state his murderous views on Facebook, and had thus far not been called out for it. I proudly reported the profile to Facebook, assuming they had simply not yet seen this hateful profile name, claiming it to be “sharing inappropriate or offensive posts” (the closest option Facebook has to offer).

Next I found a large photo posted by a news page on Facebook called “Pure Stream.” This page has over 10,000 likes. The picture shows an “innocent” Palestinian child being “viciously attacked by an Israeli monster tank,” with the large bold text “Death to Israel.” This post had close to 200 shares, and close to 400 likes. That means, thanks to Facebook, this post was seen by tens of thousands of people, many of whom had no previous knowledge about Israel. And you know what they say about first impressions.

The most important viewers of this photo are the teenage Palestinians, raised to hate Israel and everything it stands for. When they are exposed to a photo stating “Death to Israel” with hundreds of likes and shares, this only strengthens their views and may very well push them over the edge from sitting in front of their computer to stabbing a mother and child in the streets. Once again, naively assuming Facebook had simply missed this hateful and blood-thirsty post, I reported it, claiming it to be a violent hate speech.

After about half an hour I received messages from Facebook regarding both of my reports. I was astonished, and yet not surprised, at Facebook’s uncaring response:

Facebook response

Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the photo you reported for promoting graphic violence and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”

So now you know that “Death to Israel” and “Kill Jews” are both well within proper community standards, and no, the year is not 1942.

Asher Schwartz

Double Standards on Facebook

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Some things, you have to see to believe.  I was alerted by a friend, a couple of days ago, to the existence of a truly revolting, anti-Semitic Facebook page called “The Untold History,” which, according to Facebook, does not violate Facebook’s standards.

We practice link hygiene here at TOC, so I offer this write-up from the Online Hate Prevention Project (OHPP) website, which contains a link to the offensive Facebook page.  If you can stomach another round of anti-Semitic imagery, cast a glance at the image copied in this post from the Facebook page – one of quite a few.  The page has 833 “Likes” as of this writing.

We don’t know how many users have reported this page for “hate speech,” against which Facebook has a policy.  But several of those who have reported the page have posted in the comments at OHPP’s Facebook page that the response they received was like this one (posted by OHPP):

fb-response

The text reads:

Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards.  Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment.  We reviewed the page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn’t violate our community standard on hate speech.

(This is the response I received as well.)

I tend toward the libertarian when it comes to freedom of expression; as long as Facebook is a private company, I believe it has the right to host or not host what seems proper to its leadership and shareholders.  Facebook can afford its users the latitude of expression it prefers, even when the expression in question is really offensive; the customer base can then decide to participate or not accordingly.

But since Facebook has a policy on hate speech, what is the company’s standard for latitude in freedom of expression?  What doesn’t get to remain on Facebook?  Where does the arbiter make the cut-off, and can users trust that it’s being done fairly?  This week, we have been given a unique opportunity to do a comparison with what did get banned at Facebook – if only for a few days.

On 9 August, author and columnist Ruthie Blum posted a column in which she recounted her recent adventures in being banned by Facebook:

For the past two months, I have intermittently been barred from Facebook.

The first time it happened was in June, when I tried to post my Israel Hayom column. Suddenly, a window popped up, telling me that inappropriate material had been found on, and removed from, my page. I was warned that if I continued violating Facebook’s “community standards,” I would be banned from the social network for good.

The notice included a link specifying these standards, and a demand that I click to acknowledge I had read and understood them. Failure to do so, it said, would result in my inability even to open Facebook to read my newsfeed. I complied.

Ms. Blum worked through the wickets Facebook set up for restoring her account to its good graces, but was unable to determine what, exactly, had violated its standards.  She was barred from Facebook for 24 hours at one point, and then for three days.

Her columns, she observes, are political in nature.  (Ms. Blum was formerly an editor at The Jerusalem Post.)  I append links to samples of them from the relevant timeframe here, here, here, here, and here.  She writes responsibly, in measured tones, and with reason and documentation; there is nothing intemperate or inflammatory about her content.  You might disagree with its political perspective, but you could not reasonably consider it “hate speech,” violence, threats, or bullying.  One thing it is completely free of:  graphics depicting anyone, or depicting anyone’s ethnic or religious symbols, surrounded by dead bodies and blood.

Here’s a screen cap from one of her recent columns at Israel Hayom:

blum-1

Contrast the tone and presentation of the type of content she was trying to link to with a random sampling of the content at The Untold History’s Facebook page:

J. E. Dyer

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 .

Harry Maryles

Rethinking Standards in Jewish Education

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Now that the issues of unaffordable yeshiva tuition and youth who opt out of Jewish observance have reached “crisis” proportions, the Jewish community is finally willing to admit that such problems exist. My pessimistic side wonders what calamities must still befall us before all the pontificating will finally give way to meaningful, courageous action. Talk, after all, is cheap.

My optimistic side, however, draws hope from the fact that the blinders seem to be finally coming off. Now if we can only influence people to focus on the real issues, the real problems, perhaps we can make progress toward a brighter future.

One of the most prevalent views of contemporary Jewish education is a rosy one: “Today there are more people learning Torah, more yeshivas, and more new seforim being published than ever before. We are living in a golden age of Torah!”

Those who take this view will also point to the influx of newly observant Jews as evidence of the progress of Torah-true Judaism in our generation.

One must respectfully observe, however, that despite the increased quantity of Torah study, our generation lacks a strong, universally recognized gadol hador who transcends political considerations, petty controversies, and factionalism; who is actively involved in addressing the many critical issues facing the Jewish people today; and who is proactive in seeing that problems are actually solved.

This observation, when it is expressed publicly, is immediately squelched for being sacrilegious (despite no supporting evidence to the contrary) and the world marches blissfully on.

But the burning question remains: If more people are learning Torah today than ever before, shouldn’t we have more and greater talmidei chachamim than ever before? And if one will counter that it is spiritually impossible for that to occur due to an inevitable decline in generations (an analysis one might dispute based on the ebb and flow of Torah scholarship and observance throughout the ages), shouldn’t we at least have more and greater talmidei chachamim than we have right now?

The only conclusion, if one is going to be honest about it, is that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way Torah is being taught and studied.

Further, one must also counter the glowing remarks about the “kiruv movement” with the observation that the already-observant community is hemorrhaging with dropouts. Any mention of this phenomenon is usually met with diatribes against television, the Internet, secular studies, and anything else that can’t be viewed in the nearest mirror. Is it sacrilegious to consider the possibility that the observant community bears at least part of the blame for the disaffection of many of its own members?

There are too many things wrong with the way Torah is being taught and studied to adequately address in a single article. Problems of great magnitude and scope can’t be neatly reduced to a few hundred words, nor do sound bites make effective solutions. If we are truly interested in addressing the needs of our generation, we must think deliberately and then act decisively – not the reverse.

The two most striking problems with Jewish education that few seem to be talking about are 1) a lak of appreciation for the unparalleled mission that is entrusted to teachers, and 2) a lack of professionalism and accountability in the way schools are run.

Everyone innately knows that teachers are vitally important to the educational process, yet the way people tend to relate to teachers reveals a casual, dismissive perception of teachers and their profession. Look no further than the ads for teachers in Orthodox newspapers. It’s not unheard of for a school to boast that its teachers are paid on time. That’s an actual selling point to prospective teachers. Wow, sign me up!

Chananya Weissman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/rethinking-standards-in-jewish-education/2006/12/20/

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