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

Posts Tagged ‘the government’

Canada Cuts Non-Christian Prison Clergy

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Canadian rabbis want the Canadian federal government to reconsider cuts to the federal prison chaplaincy program, which would eliminate non-Christian clergy.

If the cuts are enacted, non-Christian federal inmates will be expected to turn to Christian prison chaplains for religious counsel and guidance.

Canada has about 80 full-time prison chaplains, all but one of whom are Christian; there are about 100 part-time chaplains, 20 of whom are non-Christians, according to CBC News.

In an e-mail to reporters on Thursday, the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, sought to explain the cost-cutting move.

While the government “strongly supports the freedom of religion for all Canadians, including prisoners…[it] is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding,” he wrote. As a result, the minister continued, chaplains in the Correctional Service of Canada “must provide services to inmates of all faiths.”

Less than one percent of Canada’s 15,000 federal prisoners are Jewish, according to corrections data from the last fiscal year.

The Canadian Rabbinic Caucus on Friday called on Toews to reconsider the cuts, saying in a statement that its members “are deeply concerned that non-Christian inmates will be deprived of religiously specific spiritual nourishment at a time in their lives when they most clearly need it.”

Monique Marchand, president of the Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy, which advises the correctional service on the spiritual care of inmates, said the full-time prison chaplains now will be “coordinating” the pastoral care of minority faith inmates. That means, she explained, that they will request local clergy to donate their services at no charge to the government.

Civil Administration Refusing to Allow Jews Back into their Legally Purchased Hebron Home

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Machpela House, at the heart of the city of Hebron, has been standing empty since the rapid evacuation of its legal owners in April. The Jewish residents entered the house back then, claiming they purchased it from its Palestinian owner. But since the territories to the right of the 1949 armistice line, also known as the “green line,” are not subject to Israeli civil law but rather to military law, each real estate acquisition in Judea and Samaria must be approved by the Civil Administration, which is under the auspices of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Not a friend of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, Barak ordered the swift evacuation of those Jewish families, pending a review and an approval of the purchase documents.

As of Thursday morning, it appears that these Jewish families will not return to their home any time soon. In recent days, they received a detailed document from the Civil Administration, arguing that that there were defects in the acquisition transaction. Among other things, the document stated that the Jewish purchasers presented only proof of ownership over a portion of the property, which allegedly belongs to several owners. Citing this confusion, the Authority claims that it is not clear which the structure exactly is covered in the acquisition agreement.

Orit Struck (pronounced “strook”), representing the Jewish community of Hebron, rejected those claims, saying that the military and the government are looking for excuses to block the deal.

“The document was clearly written based on a directive from above,” she told The Jewish Press. “Someone told them to look for flaws in the transaction, so they searched and found minimal defects.”

“The house was purchased legally from the person who inherited it legally and sold it to us legally, but now they’re finding all sorts of nonsense and excuses.”

Struck blames the entire miscarriage of justice on the fact that the Netanyahu government is yet to adopt the recommendations of the Levy committee, which called for applying Israeli law in all the areas of Jewish residence in Judea and Samaria.

Struck told The Jewish Press that the Jewish residence will be applying to an appeals committee which is staffed by uniformed jurists. But even if they manage to overcome the hurdle of convincing a military committee, appointed with the approval of the Ministry of Defense – the local commander may still refuse to carry out the committee’s ruling without having to give cause.

Struck argued that these abuses will continue until the government—which is founded on a largely right wing coalition whose MKs support Jewish settlement—will adopt the Levy recommendations.

To Inform or Not to Inform – That is the Question

Friday, September 14th, 2012

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has just come out with a statement joining Agudah in opposition to the proposed NYC legislation requiring  “informed consent” before going ahead with Metzitza B’Peh (MbP). This is in spite of the fact that they do not recommend the procedure for their own constituents.

I assume the reason for this is that they believe this to be a church state issue. And that they believe that even signing a consent form about a religious practice is a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to practice one’s religion freely. And that it may be a slippery slope to further – more serious intervention in religious rights.

I don’t want to re-hash the whole argument here. But I have to admit being conflicted about it – because both sides have valid issues.

Every time an argument is made by one side which all seem like good arguments – the other side comes out with an equally good argument for their side. Here are the questions:

Where do you draw the line between protecting your citizens and freedom of religion?

On the other hand – how does signing a consent form interfere with religion?

On the other hand -when the risk is so low, is there really a need for a consent form?

On the other hand – why not inform even if the risk is low – if it is really there?

On the other hand – if informing the public about this is the main concern, why not simply require that parents be informed? Why require government documentation?

On the other hand –  will a policy of informing the public actually be implemented without the government requirement to document it?

On the other hand – if one segment feels that MbP is a religious requirement and the risk is so low, maybe those people should not be required to sign a consent form – since it might scare people away from it unnecessarily?

For me, preventing the mouth from coming into contact with an open wound makes a lot of sense. Even if there never was a single case of herpes ever reported – doing something like that seems like the height of folly!

With all the bacteria a mouth is known to contain – and the possibility that it might contain bacteria or viruses that are very harmful to a vulnerable 8-day-old child while an adult carrier might not even be aware of it – it is not exactly rocket science to know that putting your mouth on an open wound is not a good idea. Add to that the recent cases of Herpes that government health agencies like the CDC believe to be caused by MbP - opposition to it seems like a no brainer.

But then there are the arguments put forth by others based on different medical experts who say the statistical probability of contracting a disease from the mouth of a Mohel is so low and that reported cases of MbP infection by a Mohel remain unproven, that any regulation at all – even signing a consent form is an unnecessary infringement by the government on the religious rights of its citizens.Add to that the fear of the ‘slippery slope’ argument and all the tumult in the world about circumcision in general (e.g. the ban on it by a German court in Cologne until the age of consent) – and it seems like that is a good argument to fight that proposed legislation.

So after taking another look at it – at this point I am just not sure. I still tend to side with not opposing the legislation because I don’t think there is a slippery slope here. Nor do I think that interferes with the right of a parent to go ahead with MbP if he chooses to. All it does is inform him about the possible dangers.

Will it scare him away? If he is a Chasid, probably not. If he is not a Chasid, let it scare him away. What is lost if he does Metzitza in a more hygienic way without direct oral contact? [Note:  an overview of how metzitza b'peh is not halachically required previously on this blog].

I can actually hear both sides of the argument. But it may be a moot point. It appears the city of New York has just approved the legislation.

Hebron’s Beit HaShalom to Return to its Jewish Owners

Friday, September 14th, 2012

After an expulsion and a lengthy 5 year battle, the Jerusalem District Court finally made a ruling on “Beit Hashalom” in Hebron. Judge Baram ordered the State to prepare to return the building to its rightful Jewish owners.

In 2007, the building was purchased from its Arab owners.

At the time, the Arab sellers, despite being secretly videotaped, denied the transaction had ever been completed once they realized the buyers were Jews who purchased the building through an intermediary.

In 2008, the army forcibly evicted the Jewish residents until the court would decide who owned the building.

Hebron residents are hoping this is the first step in the return of other buildings they’ve purchased and were evicted from by the government and IDF.

Nachi Eyal, CEO of the Forum for the Land of Israel welcomed the court’s decision and that the purchase of the house was legal. He added, “The Minister of Defense and representatives of the State Prosecutor need to apologize and compensate the owners in Hebron.”

Despite the conclusions of the court, Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now, called on Ehud Barak to not let the Jews back into the building.

When Good People Cheat

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

I truly hate writing about such things. The community of Satmar has many great things about it. Their Bikur Cholim Society is legendary. They visit their sick brethren and bend over backwards to see that all their needs are met. And they do not discriminate. Any Jew, Satmar or not; religious or otherwise gets the same benevolent treatment. They are also a very warm and welcoming community and are about as hospitable as can be to all guests.

Very few would ever doubt their commitment to Mitzvah observance. They go the extra mile to make sure that every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ dotted in every ritual they perform. And express great joy in doing so. They probably spend more time – and money – on Hidur Mitzvah than most any other segment of Orthodox Jewry.

And they go to great lengths to shelter themselves from all the negative influences of society. That is what being a Chasid is all about. Which is why the story in the New York Times is so sad… and why I hate writing about it.

But when a member of one segment of Orthodox Jewry messes up – it reflects poorly on all of Orthodox Jewry. So I must protest it when it happens. I do so again here.

The New York Times reports that Rabbi Leib Glanz, a prominent member of the Satmar community pleaded guilty to “stealing more than $220,000 over 15 years in housing subsidies from the Section 8 program, which is intended to assist low-income people.”

The question is the following: How is it possible that a man who is so intimately involved in Gemilas Chasodim – acts of kindness – capable of knowingly stealing from the government? People who are involved constantly in acts of kindness tend to be good people all the way around?!

The fact is that Rabbi Glanz is a Baal Chesed. He goes out of his way for the Jewish people. During his tenure as a chaplain for the New York City jails he had helped a religious inmate arrange a lavish jailhouse bar mitzvah for the inmate’s son.  I wrote about the incident at the time. I believe that the negative publicity of that excess is what led to his dismissal as a chaplain. But he saw nothing wrong with that. He saw it as helping a fellow Jew who was “Nebech” in prison.

I am not judging that particular event here. The point is that his goal was to help a fellow Jew that he saw in dire straits. And that was the goal with this fraud. He wanted to help his Yeshiva. From the New York Times:

Prosecutors had charged that the rabbi’s brother was approved for federal subsidies in the mid-1990s so that he, his wife and two children could reside in a duplex apartment at 85 Ross Street in Brooklyn. He listed his income at $6,630 and submitted annual paperwork certifying that he lived at the address, the government said.

But in fact, he lived elsewhere and Rabbi Glanz lived in the apartment, according to a criminal complaint filed last year by the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

The complaint said the housing subsidies were paid to the apartment’s owner, the United Talmudical Academy, where Rabbi Glanz worked and for a time was executive director.

In court, Rabbi Glanz told Judge P. Kevin Castel that in 1996 through 2000, he signed several contracts with the New York City Housing Authority, which administered the Section 8 program for the federal government, for benefits to be paid to the academy on the basis that his brother would live in the apartment.

Rabbi Glantz did this knowing full well it was illegal he admitted as much. He knew he was wrong and did it anyway.

I wish I could say that this is an anomaly. …that this is the exception that proves the rule that Chasidim from Satmar-like communities would never cheat the government so purposefully and so directly. This was not a simple tax evasion case. This was a fraud! But Rabbi Glanz is proabably not seen as a criminal in the eyes of his own community.

I’m pretty sure they will see him as a hero – who got caught. They will say that what he did was not so wrong since that money ordinarily gets spent on the ‘dregs’ of society anyway. Why shouldn’t ‘we’ get a chunk of it …by hook or by crook?! Why shouldn’t the Yeshivos of Satmar benefit from funds that would otherwise be wasted on unwed mothers, drug addicts, and other ‘low-lifes’?!

Egyptian Army Claiming Success in the Sinai, But Most Terrorists Are Still Roaming Free

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

The Egyptian army has slowed down its all-out attack on terrorist enclaves in the Sinai, several weeks after its initial, aggressive spurt on August 5, reports Al Ahram, which claims that the terrorist culprits who murdered 15 Egyptian Border Guards remain at large, and seems to insinuate that the lack of progress is rooted in political uncertainty back in Cairo.

Here’s one unexpected aspect of what was touted as a jihad against the murderers: the Egyptian government is going through unofficial channels, employing negotiators to talk to the Sinai terrorists. This has enraged the secular law and order types at home, who blasted the notion of negotiating with terrorists, and are concerned about the Sinai jihadists’ influence on national policy.

It appears that no one knows who is to blame for the bloody attack in early August: was it the Hamas government in Gaza? Al Ahram cites Ramallah-based officials who say so, pointing to the proliferation of Hamas agents in the Sinai in recent years.

Hamas officials deny the charge, saying they are supporting President Morsi and will never do anything to damage his government. Indeed, Hamas has been on good behavior since the Morsi election, confirms Al Ahram.

So things are murky on the Sinai front. Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sobhi Sidqi has met tribal chiefs, in an attempt to get them on the side of the army, especially to buy their cooperation with the intelligence services.

President Morsi sent in his official vehicles a delegation of mediators, including well-known Islamists, to go to Sinai and try to talk sense into the militants. Al Ahram knows about preparations for a meeting in Cairo this week, to hammer out an agreement on ending the violence in the Sinai.

Critics of the government are looking for more resolute ways of imposing law and order, preferably with less cajoling of members of violent groups.

Ashraf Al-Hefni, of the Revolutionary Socialists movement, declared: “The affiliation of the men currently involved in the negotiations is well known. It would have been more advisable for the government to prosecute those who embrace jihadist thinking instead of talking to them and trying to influence their thinking. There are some families in Sinai who have lost sons because of the violence.”

Al-Hefni promised: “We will support the government if it takes action against extremism and its manifestations.”

According to Sinai activist Mosaad Abu Fajr, government induced violence is the real problem, and that the government continues to deal with the wrong people. The mediators, sanctioned by the government, are preferring to hold talks with violent groups that dream of an Islamic state in Sinai, he said.

“This is an expression of failure. The state is not being defeated by social forces with a different political approach. It is being defeated by groups involved in violence,” Abu Fajr declared.

“What is hampering security in Sinai is not the Camp David accords, or the security addendum of the peace treaty. What is hampering security in Sinai is the lack of political imagination … Shall we address the Sinai with the imagination of Nelson Mandela? Should we forget about the mindsets of Abdel-Nasser, Mubarak, and Morsi, and think instead outside the box? Unless we do that, we may lose Sinai forever,” Abu Fajr argued.

The army is not particularly concerned with its critics. It has been talking to the Israelis, the Bedouins and the Palestinians, and has slowed down, if only temporarily, ‘Operation Eagle,’ the military campaign to eradicate terrorist hangouts in mountainous areas.

Squads of police, army, and intelligence services are still searching for suspects in the areas around Rafah, Sheikh Zoweid and Al-Arish, according to Sinai lawyer and activist Islam Kodeir.

Several suspects, including Palestinians, have been arrested. They had incriminating images on their smartphones, which connect them with the Rafah incidents.

The suspects are being interrogated.

Military expert Talaat Mosallam told Al Ahram that Operation Eagle has been a success in several ways. Just the presence of the army has helped track down some terrorist cells, even if by sheer coincidence, he said. The operation has also blocked trafficking lanes and shut down many of the tunnels that were used to smuggle arms and drugs to and from Gaza.

Netanyahu Touts Economic Achievements in Face Global Crisis

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

At the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touted his government’s economic accomplishments and the strength of the Israeli economy relative to the global economy.

“The world is still in a continuing economic crisis, the worst to strike the global economy in 80 years, Netanyahu said. “We are obliged to tighten our belt in order to maintain the Israeli economy.”

Nevertheless, Netanyahu said the government has taken action to increase social welfare programs including making education free starting at age three, which just took affect and providing free dental care for children up to age 12.

The Prime Minister said that extending free education to children to the age of three would save the average household NIS 800 ($200) a month.

He also pointed to the reforms in cellar phone market forcing cell phone companies to share their infrastructure, which has allowed several new companies to emerge offering unlimited cell phone plans at NIS 100 ($25) per month or less.

Netanyahu said these moves were “the most social thing” to do, referencing the attacks made on the government by social justice protestors and Labor party leader Shelly Yachamovitch.

In addition, Netanyahu cited the most recent unemployment report putting the unemployment rate for July at 6.5%, which Netanyahu said was “lower than the unemployment rate in the US, Europe and almost every other developed state.”

Netanyahu also addressed Iran’s nuclear program, reiterating his position that diplomacy has failed because the world has not set clear red lines.

The IAEA “report confirms what we have been saying for some time,” Netanyahu said. “While the international sanctions are indeed making things difficult for the Iranian economy, they are not delaying the progress of the Iranian nuclear project.”

According to the report, Iran doubled the number of centrifuges in its nuclear facility near Qom, which is buried deep in a mountain and considered immune to Israeli attack.

Although not all these centrifuges are operational, according to The New York Times, the facility has three-fourths the amount of centrifuges it would need to be completely operational.

The Times also reported that the agency found evidence of an extensive clean up  at another cite where IAEA inspectors believe explosives tests may have been conducted.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/netanyahu-touts-economic-achievements-in-face-global-crisis/2012/09/03/

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