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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘the government’

Metzitza B’Peh: Infant Russian Roulette

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

The most recent issue of Ami Magazine called on readers to oppose New York City’s proposed law requiring informed parental consent before performing Metzitza B’Peh.

Just when I thought there was nothing more to say on the issue of Metzitza B’Peh (MbP), the cover story in Ami Magazine compels me to comment.

The ultimate analogy to MbP is the following. Take a gun that has a 1 million bullet capacity. Place one bullet in one of the chambers leaving the rest empty. Take that gun, point it at the head of your 8 day old infant and pull the trigger.

Is there a sane person in the world that would do that? I think the answer is obvious.You would have to be literally insane to do such a thing even though the odds of killing the baby are statistically insignificant. Why would anyone do such a foolish thing? There is a loaded gun and a chance that the bullet will end up in your child’s head!

And yet that is precisely the argument being made by those who oppose the proposed New York City law requiring informed consent by parents before allowing a Mohel to do Metzitza B’Peh. The argument is that the percentage of infants found to have been infected by herpes due to MbP is statistically so insignificant that requiring parents be informed about the danger is an unwarranted governmental interference in the practice of Judaism.

The logic of this argument truly escapes me. I wonder how they would answer the question I posed? Would they tell you that you should point a loaded gun to your child and pull the trigger? Even if the chances are 1 in a million that the bullet will not be fired? I think I know what their answer would be.

Another argument they make is that there is no absolute incontrovertible evidence connecting the herpes contracted by the infant to the Mohel. This is true. Furthermore they say that in any case the Mohel washes his mouth out with an antiseptic mouthwash like Listerine.

The problem with these arguments is that they lack any common sense. Is there any question that it is possible that a Mohel with an active herpes virus (unbeknownst to him) can transmit it to a child via oral contact with an open wound? Even people with the most rudimentary knowledge of medical science know that it is possible.The fact that there is no conclusive proof that this was the case in the cases cited above doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. The circumstantial evidence that they did pass it on to the infant was very persuasive to the CDC. Furthermore washing a mouth out with a strong mouthwash like Listerine has no effect on viruses. Antiseptics only work on bacteria.

My friends, performing MbP is playing Russian roulette with your child’s life! Are you willing to pull that trigger?

And yet there is a religious argument to be made in favor of it. This is what is really at stake here. Chasidim are adamant that MbP is an absolute religious requirement! If I understand correctly – they view a Bris done without MbP to be invalid! Leaving out the fact that that is certainly not the universal view in Judaism – including the view of many Gedolim of the past and present, let us grant them their right to believe that. They therefore argue that this is a church-state issue.

The problem with this argument is that the constitutional right to freedom of religion is not absolute. When there is a compelling interest of society that contradicts a religious ritual, the government has a right to interfere. To put this point in stark relief I will use an extreme example. If there was a religion that required human sacrifice, the government would certainly be within its rights to legislate against it. While MbP is nowhere near human sacrifice, the principle is the same. Where to draw the line of “compelling interest” is beyond my pay-scale and I will leave it to constitutional scholars to sort out.

That said, I would be opposed to the government legislating against doing MbP. That it is considered so vital by so large a segment of Jewry combined by the low probability of a child ever contracting herpes moves me to oppose it. In this case I do feel that banning the procedure would be an unconstitutional impediment to freedom of religion.

Tunisian Spring Is Turning Into a Jewish Winter

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Back in December, Tunisia-born Vice Prime Minister of Israel Silvan Shalom called on the Jews still living in Tunisia to immigrate to Israel. That call was rejected with much derision by the remnants of Tunisia’s once thriving Jewish community.

But with new legislation being proposed in the Islamist Ennahda led government, Tunisian Jews may need to rethink their loyalty to a country that no longer wants them.

The Tunisian Parliament is working to pass a law that will prohibit the import of religious books, kosher food, and even visitors from Israel.

The Jews of Tunisia are working to reach a compromise with the government to prevent the parliament from passing the law in a few months time.

In an interview with Makor Rishon, Rav Haim Biton, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in Tunisia said, “Today, the government lets us bring in food, medicine, religious and educational books from Israel. If this law passes, our condition will completely change.”

He continued on to say that they are trying to explain to the government that if the law passes, in a few months from now, their relatives from Israel won’t be able to visit, they will not have much needed kosher food items, and, of course, they won’t be able to bring in religious and educational materials.

Other community members were less optimistic as they believe this is the government trying to cut off Jews from their culture. “Behind this law to prohibit the import of kosher products and visiting relatives is their desire to cut off our connection to Israel,” they said.

In November, Tunisia passed a separate law limiting NGOs to importing medicine only from foreign sources in with diplomatic ties with Tunisia, which, obviously, excluded Israel.

Despite the fact that the new proposed law hasn’t yet been passed, Israeli citizens who have requested permission to visit Tunisia recently have been repeatedly turned down, while eight months ago, they could visit.

Tunisia’s Jewish community is divided over the best way to fight the proposed legislation: quietly and behind the scenes, or with public petitions.

The opposition to the petition proposal sees no chance the law will pass, with less than two months before the end of the term of the interim government. They prefer to keep a low profile and to avoid conflicts with the new government.

Tunisia is set to hold elections on October 23rd, assuming they don’t delay them again as they did in July. If this law passes, it will be a clear failure of Tunisia’s fledgling democracy and its ability to protect the basic rights of its minority citizens.

At its peak Tunisia had 110,000 Jews. Fewer than 2000 Jews remain today in one of the Diaspora’s oldest Jewish communities, which some sources say was first settled by Jews around the time the First Temple was destroyed.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Levites living in Djerba, Tunisia, didn’t listen to Ezra the Scribe’s call to return to Israel. Maybe this time Tunisia’s Jews should listen to Silvan Shalom.

Wake Up, America, It Ain’t 1895

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

http://rubinreports.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/wake-up-america-it-aint-1895.html

I had two interesting responses to my article on Baltimore and the decay of America and because my energy level is very low now as I begin treatment for cancer allow me to respond briefly.

One friend asks why you believe that Romney and Ryan have answers for fixing America. Because America must decide whether it is going to be a society of productivity, making new things and wealth, or merely looting and passing around the ruins of Rome. A city like Baltimore will not be rebuilt by taking money to lower living standards in the suburbs but by creating great new enterprises that produce goods and services people want.

Another polite reader put the following in the nicest possible way—I’m not being sarcastic—don’t the Republicans and Romney just represent nineteenth century plutocratic greedy capitalism dressed up as free enterprise? Millions of Americans believe this and unless they change their minds America will not change.

Yes, that evil Romney who wants to buy another 100 Rolls Royces not like those modest-living Kennedys, Gores, and all the rest, including a serious Democratic presidential candidate who betrayed his cancer-stricken wife after making a fortune on rather questionable legal actions. And I seem to recall a great lionized hero who–let’s face it there’s no doubt, murdered a poor young working-class woman and left her to drown without ever paying for his crime. Sure there are bad conservatives and bad Republicans, corrupt and immoral people, but for goodness sake you aren’t treating them as great tribunes of the masses, as the friends of the exploiters, as they line their pockets from yours.

It’s time to rethink the reality we live in.

Look, it ain’t 1895 any more. Does the American government tremble because of Ford, General Motors, U.S. Steel, Standard Oil of New Jersey, the Pennsylvania Railroad and other mighty enterprises many of which have collapsed completely?

No. It is the opposite, the corporations tremble before the government regulators who have the power to tie them into knots. And their main response is not to fight but to flee abroad.

Oh, mighty General Motors saved by the great Obama (Hooray! Hooray! For the great messiah of business) with billions of your taxpaying dollars in order to create employment…in China!

Do workers living in hovels fear the boss telling them they are now out of work with no unemployment or pension; that their hours are increased, that they are going to be thrown out of their company homes because they were ten minutes late at work?

No, it is the unions—at least where such things survive in the heavy industry—that have the whip hand. The government is 100 percent on their side. Do the big-bellied capitalists blow cigar smoke into the faces of newspaper editors and threaten to cut off advertising unless scandals are covered up? No, it is the government’s scandals that are covered up. And if anything the companies are made to face unfair charges.

The corporate executives want to look good. They want people to say and write nice things about them. They want to be regarded as good corporate citizens. They spend money running image ads about how they feed songbirds than on doing breakthrough research.

They can’t even get oil-drilling going off most of the coast at a time when America has no energy independence, prices are sky high, and the economy needs a boost.

What is reality here? Yes, there were such times in America of bullying plutocratic greedy polluting capitalist super-villains but that just isn’t 2012. And yes, too, there was a time when some redistribution of wealth was needed. That was decades ago, too. Know why? Because working stiffs had to buy all those cars, toasters, refrigerators, and other consumer goods rolling out of the factories. That’s why advertising was a good thing. That’s why America flourished after World War Two.

Tell me, is America’s problem today that there is a vast working class—even a vast poor class—that cannot buy cheap computers and expensive sports’ shoes?

And finally don’t forget small business, all those millions of people who aren’t big moguls trying to make a living for themselves and their families and their employees.

The Three Worst Pre-Retirement Planning Mistakes

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

How do you visualize your retirement years? Most people hope that they will finally be able to do the things that they never had time to do during their working years. Very frequently, folks anticipate retirement will be a worry-free time, full of enjoyment, and ample time to spend with family and friends.

As a financial adviser, I am often saddened to see retirees facing a different picture. I’m talking about people who are getting older but who can’t stop working because they don’t have enough savings to support themselves. The shortfall may come from a lack of savings, or may come from a lack of foresight in using their once ample funds. For instance, there are generous parents who give their children so much financial support that there is nothing left for them when they need it.

Very often, these are people who have worked hard and earned well. They have worked diligently to support their families, but unfortunately they have also made some disastrous mistakes. The three worst pre-retirement planning mistakes are:

1. Relying on government pensions. Even though you have paid your taxes faithfully over the years, the amount you receive back from the government should be considered a (small) supplement to your retirement income, not the only source. Social security was originally intended to provide financial support for only a few years, but with increased life expectancies, it’s becoming harder for Uncle Sam to continue making payments to all retirees. There’s much talk about pension size decreasing… so to be financially secure during retirement, it’s wise to make sure that you will have another source of income, such as a pension, IRA, 401(k), and other investments.

2. Thinking that you will never retire. You may really enjoy your work, and you are strong and healthy, so you are absolutely sure that you will always be working forever. Sadly, you don’t have a crystal ball and you don’t know what will happen. Counting on working until the day before your funeral isn’t a good financial plan.

3. Believing that you are too young to start thinking about retirement. You are never too young to think about retirement. In fact the younger you start, the better. Think of all the money you can save in a pension plan over 40 years as opposed to 20. The beauty of compound interest means that the earlier you begin saving, the harder your money can work for you.

To learn more about planning for old age, read why living too long may be a financial disaster.

Jews March against Anti-Semitism in Sweden

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

A few hundred Jews and non-Jews marched in the southern-Swedish city of Malmo to protest intolerance and anti-Semitic attacks in Sweden.

Malmo, with a large immigrant Muslim community, saw a surge in hate crimes against Jews after Israel’s operation in Gaza in 2009.

Some marchers wore a kippa.

Willy Silberstein of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, which organized the march, described it as a success. The march ended without incident.

“It was impressive. There was much more people than we expected,” Silberstein said, adding that most of the participants were not Jewish.

Sweden’s minister for EU affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson, walked in the march. In her speech to the marchers she declared that Malmo was open to everyone, regardless of background or beliefs.

In recent years, Sweden’s government has been criticized for failing to protect the country’s Jewish community from anti-Semitism. But last year the government allocated funds to this end.

It is estimated that 20,000 Jews live in Sweden.

Informed Consent

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/informed-consent.html

“There’s nothing about filing a consent form that is inherently in conflict with [Jewish law]”

This statement by Agudah Executive Director, Rabbi Dovid Zweibel  should be the beginning and end of a conversation about a proposed law requiring written informed consent to do MbP (Metzitza B’Peh) – oral suction of blood from the wound during a ritual circumcision (Bris Milah).

The controversy continues however. I am not going to rehash the arguments made in previous posts about the danger of a Mohel unknowingly transferring to the infant the sometimes deadly herpes simplex virus (HSV–1) via this method of Metzitza. Nor do I want to debate whether the low statistical probability of MbP justifies continuing a centuries old practice. The statistical chances for infection are indeed very low.

Despite the fact that major Poskim spanning several generations declare that the lack of MbP does not invalidate Bris Milah – some even requiring alternative safer methods – the fact remains that there is a strongly held view mostly among Chasidim that MbP is an absolute requirement of Bris Milah. They even go so far as to say that it is forbidden to substitute other methods like a sterile pipette or gauze to withdraw blood from the wound – that it must be done by mouth!

There is no point in trying to convince them out of this notion.  Much as I would like to, it’s not going to happen. They would do MbP underground if it were outlawed. And my personal opinion is that the government should not be passing laws that interfere with Bris Milah in any way including a ban on MbP. I would rather see our own Poskim banning it or at least discouraging it. But that’s not going to happen either.

The bottom line for me – which I believe to be the most pragmatic approach – is to educate the public about the dangers in an honest fashion and not exaggerate them.  To clearly explain that they do exist and that opting out of MbP will eliminate any possibility – no matter how remote – of a Mohel ever transferring the disease.

But the government does want to get involved in a way, with which I have no issue… a way that may in fact get more people to look toward those Poskim who permit or even encourage more sterile method of MbP.  New York City’s Board of Health is set to vote on a proposal that would require parents to sign a consent form before subjecting their children to it. I think this is a good idea. In this way the government can inform people of the dangers without any actual interference in the practice of MbP itself.

But that is not the way the Chasidic world sees it. They see it as a declaration of war. They see it as an assault on Bris Milah itself. From the Forward:

“Unless the city is ready to subpoena mohels or break the doors in of synagogues around the city, I don’t really think they understand what they’re trying to do,” said Michael Tobman, a political consultant who is working as spokesman for a coalition that includes Agudath Israel, the large umbrella group that advocates for ultra-Orthodox organizations, and various Hasidic sects. “This is a community absolutely committed to resisting this ill-considered effort, up to and including civil disobedience.”

As noted – Agudah is helping them out in this cause.  In light of the opening line of this post I cannot understand why they would do this. If there is nothing Halachicly problematic with signing a consent form, why are they opposing it? Rabbi Zweibel has even gone so far as to say that if the law is passed the Agudah Moetzes will not call for outright civil disobedience. In my view they should go further and require all Jews to follow the law of the land.

If a consent form is required, not signing it would not only violate Dina D’Malchusa it would prevent people from knowing that there are dangers. People have a right to know that – even if those dangers are remote. What benefit is there to not knowing? What benefit would there be to defying the law by not signing a consent form? Is it any worse than signing any medical consent form where there are dangers involved?

Gov Cuomo Vetoes Orthodox-Endorsed Religious Special-Ed Bill

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have made it possible for many special-education students to be placed in private schools using public funds, the NY Post reports.

Under the school districts would have been obligated to consider a child’s religion when placing them in a school.

Under the current law, families of special-education students are able to get tuition reimbursement from the government if nearby public schools do not provide the services their child need.

According to Cuomo, the new bill created new criteria that were too open-ended.

Catholic and Orthodox Jewish groups had lobbied for the bill, arguing that children learn best in settings that resemble their home environment.

Public school advocates lobbied against the bill, saying it would start a slippery slope towards a voucher system.

“This bill unfairly places the burden on taxpayers to support the provision of a private education,” Cuomo said in his veto message.

He argued that the measure would “result in incalculable significant additional costs to be borne by every school district and taxpayer.”

The bill gave school districts 90 days to act on parents’ requests and 30 more days to reimburse the family for their child’s private-school tuition.

Israeli Government Seeking Bank to Manage Fund Spawning New Immigrant Businesses

Monday, July 30th, 2012

The Accountant General division of the Israeli Ministry of Finance, and the Entrepreneurship Department at the Absorption Ministry on Monday issued a tender to choose a commercial bank that would establish and operate a fund granting credit to businesses created by new immigrants and returning residents.

This is a significant step taken by the state to aid these populations, to encourage their economic integration in the Israeli economy, as well as encourage starting new businesses or bolstering existing businesses that would create new jobs in Israel. Encouraging entrepreneurial immigrants will also contribute to their absorption into Israeli society.

The new tender is expected to bring about a significant increase in loans granted to new immigrants and returning residents.

The state will place the sum of NIS 10 million a year, 30 million over three years, at the disposal of the fund, as loan guarantees to the bank that wins the tender with an option for a period of up to three additional years. The tender will go to the bank that puts up the largest credit fund and offers the lowest interest rates to startup businesses.

Utilizing the facilities of a commercial bank will extend the number and scope of loans given out to olim and returning Israelis, and the government guarantees will enable these entrepreneurs to receive loans when other sources may not be available or affordable to them. The government will also operate a fully financed fund to be used by the bank in special cases.

The tender was formulated by an inter-ministerial tenders committee, headed by Senior Vice to the general accountant Yair Tal, and led by Absorption Ministry Director
Dimitri Apartsev.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-government-seeking-bank-to-manage-fund-spawning-new-immigrant-businesses/2012/07/30/

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