Mazel Tov, Orthodox Montreal Clergy – Woman – RABBA

ORTHODOX MONTREAL CLERGYWOMAN CHANGES HER TITLE TO ‘RABBA’

Six years after serving Congregation Shaar Hashomayim as its first female clergy member, Rachel Kohl Finegold is changing her title from “maharat” to “rabba,” because she is confident her community is now ready for it.

In a June 27 article in The Forward – headlined I am an Orthodox Clergywoman, and I am Changing My Title – she explains the reasons for her decision.

To her, the title “rabba” recognizes that she “can fill a rabbinic position without compromising my adherence to the halakhic parameters for women.”

The Shaar is the largest and second-oldest congregation in Montreal.

In 2013, Rabba Kohl Finegold was one of three women in the inaugural graduating class of Yeshivat Maharat in New York, which was the first institution in the world to train and ordain Orthodox women as spiritual leaders and halakhic authorities.

The New York native, now 39, has been serving the Shaar as director of education and spiritual enrichment since then.

“Maharat” is a Hebrew acronym denoting a female “leader of Jewish law, spirituality and Torah.” “Rabba,” which is used by some ordained women in Orthodoxy’s liberal wing, has been contentious because of its similarity to the word “rabbi.”

The ordination of women is not recognized by mainstream Orthodox bodies, such as the Orthodox Union or the Rabbinical Council of America.

Rabba Kohl Finegold writes: “I have found the title (maharat) to be unsatisfying for those on all sides of the issue of Orthodox women’s ordination. More liberal-minded Jewish feminists may feel it does not sound rabbinic enough, that it shies away from the fact that I have the same ordination as any Orthodox rabbi.

“Traditionalists, on the other hand, those who object to the ordination of Orthodox women regardless of the title, may feel the title ‘maharat’ might be masking some hidden agenda that I have not been honest about, or even, at some point down the line, that I intend to violate halakhic norms.”

She notes that “maharat” is “an invented acronym only a decade old.” It is little understood, she says, and is difficult to pronounce.

“The time is ripe for me to move toward a title that is more rabbinic to the ear, and more familiar to the tongue,” she writes.

Rabba Kohl Finegold says she has the support of her synagogue’s leadership and even the more traditional congregants now accept that the term “rabba” more accurately reflects her clerical role.

In addition to her educational and programming duties, she can officiate at weddings (but not sign as a witness on the ketubbah) and at funerals (but not be counted among the minyan for Kaddish).

The title “rabba” was first used by Sara Hurwitz, who was the first woman ordained by Yeshivat Maharat founder Rabbi Avi Weiss, a few years before the inaugural class. It stirred considerable controversy.

Those in Rabba Kohl Finegold’s inaugural class could choose the title they wanted. One of the other two graduates was Abby Brown Scheier, the wife of the Shaar’s Rabbi Adam Scheier and an educator, who has been using the title “rabba” for a couple of years. She is not on the synagogue’s staff.

Rabba Kohl Finegold says she always hoped for a title that was a feminized version of the word “rabbi,” but put that aside in favour of the less contentious word “maharat” when she was hired by the Shaar.

“This community was taking a risk on me. They would be the first congregation in North America to hire an institutionally ordained Orthodox woman as part of the clergy,” she writes. “As they took this courageous step, they needed to ensure that this monumental change would be accepted, and that my title would not be divisive.”

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Ill Repute Puts All Jewish Charities at Risk – Chabad UK a Potential Fraud, Another Scheming Charity

Orthodox man convicted over £10 million charity scam

Edward Cohen, 67, illegally sold medication – including viagra – through Jewish charities

 

An Orthodox man has been convicted of laundering proceeds from the illegal sale of medication totalling more than £10 million through Jewish charities. 

Edward Cohen, 67, funnelled “huge sums of money” – from sales and charitable donations – through an international network of firms, bank accounts and currency exchanges.

Southwark Crown Court heard that the medication sold included Viagra, slimming pills and prescription medication.

Edward Cohen fled the country ahead of the start of the trial and was convicted in his absence. 

Edward Cohen’s son David, a 38-year-old teacher, was cleared of money laundering charges and supplying false information to the Charity Commission.

But he was convicted of providing false information for the purposes of obtaining benefits. 

David Cohen, of Ashbourne Avenue, in Temple Fortune, North London, was granted bail.

Both men will be sentenced on July 4. 

The trial partly concerns the financial activity of charity Chabad UK – which is entirely separate from Chabad Lubavitch UK, and not part of the official Chabad movement.

Data obtained by police investigators show that in one financial year – 2012/13 – Chabad UK’s income jumped from £1.26 million to just under £8 million, almost £7 million of which came from merchant accounts linked to sales.

The following year, Chabad received £2.85 million from merchant accounts, out of a total income of £3.4 million.

It contrasted with the period from 2008 until 2012, when merchant account proceeds accounted for 2.5 per cent of an income of £6.05 million.

The jury heard that Chabad UK’s premises, on Oldhill Street in Stamford Hill, North London, were raided by police officers on September 1, 2014.

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The Couple and $33M to Jewish Orthodox Anti-Vaccine Community and Non-Doctor Who Doles Out Medical Advice

Bernard and Lisa Selz Finance Jewish Orthodox Anti-Vaccine Campaign: Report

Bernard and Lisa Selz, a wealthy Manhattan couple, contributed more than $3 million over the past few years to anti-immunization groups, including, this year, to two groups in New York’s Haredi community, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Bernard Selz, a hedge fund manager, and his wife, Lisa, have donated to the arts, culture, education and the environment, until, seven years ago, their foundation began to support groups that dispute government assurances on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

According to the Post, the Selz Foundation provides 75% of the funding for Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), which states it is “actively pursuing several avenues to improve the health and wellbeing of our population by exposing shortcomings with our vaccine program.”

ICAN promotes parental choice in vaccine decisions.

Health officials have blamed ICAN’s and other, similar groups’ influence, among other things falsely linking vaccines to autism—while downplaying the risks of measles—on the growing numbers of parents who refuse to inoculate their children, causing the potentially deadly disease to infect at least 1,044 individuals in the US this year—the highest number in 30 years.

According to a Bloomberg profile, Bernard Thierry Selz, who earned a BA from Columbia College in 1960, has more than 40 years of experience in the Securities Industry. He serves as Managing Member and Portfolio Manager at Selz Capital LLC, which he founded in November, 2003. Previously, he served as Senior Managing Director at ING Furman Selz Asset Management LLC from 1997 to 2003. Before that, Selz Co-founded Furman Selz LLC in 1973 and served as Chairman, Director of Research and Portfolio Manager of the firm from 1993 to 1997. Before that, he served as Director of Research and Chairman at Seiden & DeCuevas from 1967 to 1973. Prior to this, Selz was a Securities Analyst and Assistant Director of Research at Lazard Freres from 1960 to 1967.

Lisa Selz serves as president of ICAN, whose chief executive is Del Matthew Bigtree, a former daytime television show producer. Bigtree, who does not have medical credentials, dispenses expert advice on vaccine safety and the notion of a conspiracy perpetrated by the government and the pharmaceutical industry to cover up the dangers of drugs and vaccination.

Bigtree appears in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County, NY, both sources of large measles outbreaks.

Many contemporary poskim, including Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Yehoshua Newirth, Rav J. David Bleich, Rav Reuven Feinstein, Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Mordechai Willig, have ruled that there is no basis in halacha to suggest that vaccinations should be avoided.

On the contrary, it is prudent to vaccinate one’s child, and by doing so one fulfills the mitzvah of guarding one’s health. Many poskim view it as the physician’s obligation to attempt to persuade parents to act in the appropriate and prudent manner and have their children vaccinated. It is untrue to state that halacha does not allow vaccinations.

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The Farce of Ateres Chynka and Rabbi Handler’s Anti-Vaccine Propaganda and the Voices of Reason From Within

Ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn Residents Protest Anti-Vax Symposium

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Anna Barkovski, who came out Tuesday night in an attempt to change the minds of anti-vaxxers. (Gwynne Hogan / Gothamist / WNYC)

Ultra-Orthodox attendees of an anti-vaccination event in Borough Park on Tuesday night were confronted by members of their own community who hoped to dissuade them from attending—or convince them to reconsider their choice not to vaccinate.

Midwood resident Ben Rivlin got to the event, at the Ateres Chaya Hall, early so he could tape up his handmade sign reading “VACCINATION IS IMPORTANT! STOP THE PROPAGANDA AND LIES!!!”

“I want to send the message that Orthodox people do care about vaccines and health,” he said. Security guards soon made him remove the fliers.

“I’m not gonna get anybody to not go in,” Rivlin said. “But there should at least be noise that people are against this.”

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Anti-vaccination activists with a group calling itself “United Jewish Community Council” were hosting the vaccine symposium at a catering hall. The event featured regulars on the anti-vaccination circuit including Del Bigtree, who hosts an anti-vaccination Youtube channel. Bigtree headlined a similar gathering in Monsey last month and later attended a rally in Albany against the removal of religious exemptions to vaccines.

“I think it’s absurd to say I’ve had any impact on this community whatsoever and their decision whether or not to vaccinate,” Bigtree said, speaking to reporters before entering the venue Tuesday night. He went on describe a rise in autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders that he said, coincides with an increase in required vaccines.

“When you look at that coterminous event, what we’re seeing is the greatest decline in public health in human history and therefore I think we have got to question the medical establishment,” Bigtree said.

Vaccination advocate Anna Barkovski came armed with a stack of with pamphlets written by a group of Orthodox nurses debunking some of the highly cited anti-vaccination propaganda that’s targeted their community.

“I think everybody’s responsible for their health choices but I want people’s choices to be based on science and on facts, not on some propaganda or fear mongering of [the] Pharma industry,” she said.

As the current measles outbreak has spread for more than seven months now, vaccination has become a lightning rod within the tight-knit ultra-Orthodox community; all but a handful of people who were sickened did not identify as Orthodox Jewish.

The vast majority of ultra-Orthodox NYC residents immunize their children, much the same as the general population. But a small but organized subset of the community, who have ties to the national anti-vaccination movement, have been organizing and spreading their anti-vaccination message through hotlines, conference calls, pamphlets and on the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp.

New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot took to Twitter to call out the event, writing, “To hold an anti-vaccination rally in the middle of an outbreak is beyond irresponsible, it is downright dangerous.”

Word about Tuesday’s event had spread through WhatsApp groups, word of mouth, flyers stuck to telephone poles and through recorded messages blasted from car speakers around Borough Park.

Other polemic speakers slated to address the crowd included Rabbi Hillel Handler, who in a speech at the recent anti-vaccine symposium in Monsey blamed “illegals,” for spreading disease, and said the focus on measles was a distraction crafted by Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom he called a “sneaky, sneaky fellow,” citing his German heritage.

Rabbi Handler’s messages that the city was targeting Jews instead of other groups seemed to have permeated at least some of the audience members. Heshy Friedman showed up to the event with his own signs that read “Why does the mayor not close down the gay movement that is spreading deadly AIDS but shut down yeshivas for measles that is not deadly?”

“We believe the mayor is harassing the Jewish community because he’s trying to shut our private Jewish schools for just measles…and yet he’s not gonna stop the gays from having their clubs and their parades,” Friedman said, drawing a false, homophobic connection between vaccinations, the AIDS virus, and the gay community.

 

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Anger Over Ultra-Orthodox Freeloading and Power of Minority “Kingmakers” Could Destroy Israel

It’s Thursday night at the Mahane Yehuda market in west Jerusalem, where the music is thumping and the drinks are flowing. When a bottle breaks, the crowds erupt with a chorus of “mazel tov”, or congratulations.

But as some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in traditional black suits, side locks, and thick skullcaps pass by, Ad Shamsi’s face sours. “What do they have to do here?” asks the 56-year-old Jewish Israeli, who is kicking off the weekend at an outside bar.

This is a glimpse of the intra-religious tension that in part led Israel’s parliament last week to dissolve itself and hold a fresh election – just seven weeks after the last one – following a deadlock between two rightwing factions at odds over a proposal to draft the ultra-Orthodox into Israel’s military.

Since Israel’s founding, the ultra-Orthodox – also called the Haredim – have been exempted from military service, which is mandatory for all Jewish Israeli school leavers. The various ultra-Orthodox sects see it as a religious commandment to only study Jewish texts and separate themselves from modern society. They consequently receive government subsidies to study rather than work, along with general social services and benefits relating to unemployment, poverty and their large numbers of children.

Today the ultra-Orthodox, an umbrella term for different sects and communities, are 10% of Israel’s population of more than 8.5 million – and are growing fast.

They have strategically cultivated a role as kingmakers in Israeli politics, making or breaking coalitions based on which politicians best support their interests.

The military symbolises the antithesis of traditional ultra-Orthodox principles. It represents time away from studying, a mixing of genders against religious prohibitions and a vast melting pot in which young people are taught to be a certain kind of Israeli. For average Jewish Israelis, to be a good citizen is to serve in the military. (Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20% of the population, are exempt from service because of the ongoing conflict.)

Shamsi is an avid supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, and his rightwing, national religious policies. He wears a kippa, or Jewish head covering, thinks shops should close on the Sabbath in keeping with strict Jewish law, and supports Israel’s presence in the occupied Palestinian Territories. He lives in Ramot, an increasingly ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem considered an illegal settlement under international law.

He has no patience with the ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not serve in the military yet receive subsidies from the government, all while not actually studying — in his mind epitomised by the young Haredi men coming to check out the secular bar scene on a Thursday night. “Why do I need to do three years [in the military] and him not?” Shamsi asks. “Why do I need to pay for everything and not them?”

A few minutes’ walk from the bars of Mahane Yehuda is Mea She’arim, historically the most intense ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Here, men dress in various styles of black hats and suits, depending on their sect, and walk fast, so as not to appear to be wasting time away from studying. Plastered on walls along narrow streets are posters listing deaths and other notices – a key source of information for communities that shun the internet.

A sign near a bustling supermarket informs passers-by: “It is forbidden to participate in elections.”

Some ultra-Orthodox sects do not recognise the state of Israel, saying the Bible prescribes that it can only come into existence with the coming of the Messiah. For others, there is a more pointed boycott of elections now in protest over what they see as the Haredi parties’ failure to be hardline enough on the issue of conscription.

 

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The Ultra-Orthodox Free-Loaders in Israel Posing Existential Threat to Israel and to Jews