The following is an Opinion that was posted in Haaretz. It is posted behind a paywall so we will only post a few excerpts. It is worth the read.
The inevitable conclusion of the Opinion is that Donald Trump shares no values at all with Orthodox Jews (and we would comment he shares none with secular Jews either). To support him is to support, if not be complicit with the many atrocities of Donald Trump. The author maintains that as Jews, we should know this.
Please read further.
Donald Trump and Orthodox Jews Share No Values at All
Backing Trump is a morally disastrous decision for Orthodox Jews, and for Orthodox rabbis in particular. He stands against everything we believe in
A ‘rediscovered’ student of many years past caught me recently in a chance encounter. “As an Orthodox rabbi living in Israel – I imagine that you are supporting President Trump,” he stated.
But no, I immediately responded: as an Orthodox rabbi, I am compelled to vote him out. He stands against everything we believe in.
As a covenanted people, our theological DNA affirms the holiness of all human beings, while Trump makes common cause with racists and white supremacists; we have always allied ourselves with the best findings of scientific investigation and Trump ridicules that process and the scientists behind it; we believe in the preciousness of human life, while Trump indicates that as long as he is healthy, the rest of the country be damned.
The list goes on. I do not like to identify myself as a rabbi in political matters. I have seen both in the U.S. and in Israel the terrible damage of theocrats who push their religious agendas into every aspect of social and personal life. But facing the potential of four more years of terrible social strife and climactic cataclysm, we all need to speak from the deepest part of our knowledge.
In this case it is not only the holy books that speak to us, but our experience as a people. We know what it means and what can happen when democracy is eroded: public rallies based on hate; the deriding of a free press; the effort to deny voting; the imputation of wild conspiracies; and the refusal to accept a peaceful transfer of power when one loses an election.
Orthodox rabbis know all this, so why are they silent, or even complicit?To continue reading in Haaretz, click here.
Exclusive Orthodox Jewish Housing and the Opposition to It, Segregation, Elitism and Exceptionalism
UK and Elsewhere…
Experientially, to openly oppose housing that is exclusively designed for the “unique needs of orthodox Jews” is equated with being a racist, self-hating Jew, anti-Semite. Pick your poison, it likely applies or has already been said. But if each ethnic group in the US decided it wanted it’s own housing establishment to accord with its “unique needs”, the Constitutional implications would be staggering.
There is nothing unique to religious Judaism except a desire to remain secluded, with the single exception of the Eiruv – also a point of contention in many areas of the world but one that is easily rectifiable without need for segregated housing.
In the US if any other race, religion or culture demanded segregated housing one would slide down a remarkably slippery slope of institutionalized segregationist policy. Yet, somehow Jews are protected from the absurdity of it all, held above the fray. And with that, any criticism of the demands of ultra-Orthodox Jews and their unfettered and irresponsible building is frowned upon. Imprudence, misapplied zoning, payoffs, kickbacks and an imperialistic exceptionalism is oddly acceptable, if not supported by large Jewish organizations. Somehow, in the US (and apparently in the United Kingdom), the balance between a fear of being called an anti-Semite, and a notion of fairness tips in favor of fear, fairness be damned. There are no such “unique needs” of Judaism that could not be extended to every race, religion and culture. And there we are, again, sliding down that slippery slope.
A three-week-old infant, born to a Charedi family in Haifa, was brought to the Bnei Zion medical center in Haifa in serious condition. It is believed that the infant contracted the Herpes virus during his Bris Milah. The infection caused serious contamination in the young boy’s brain that caused seizures. Lab results showed that the infant was suffering from herpes.
Head of the Pediatrics Department in Bnei Zion, Professor Yitzchak Serugo said: “The infant has been hospitalized in serious condition. It appears that he has a brain infection that is causing prolonged seizures and a serious infection of his skin.”
The baby was rushed to the hospital by his parents who noticed the infection a number of days after his bris. During his time in the pediatrics department, the herpes virus was discovered in his spinal fluid, his brain, and on the lesions on his skin. The infant seized for the first three days after being hospitalized in spite of receiving anti-seizure medication.
According to Professor Serugo, the infant is receiving anti-viral treatment to remove the virus from his brain but will have to undergo continuing treatments for the next six months in order to eradicate the disease completely.
To continue reading click here.Hared
Sexual abuse in the world of Orthodox Judaism
In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”
“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.
Jay Goldberg, who attended Yeshiva from 1980 to 1984, says that he endured years of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse from Finkelstein. The rabbi, he said, forced him and others to wrestle with him while he became sexually aroused, and demanded that they hit him repeatedly. Neither Goldberg nor Singer ever reported Finkelstein’s behavior to the school; when one student, identified in a future lawsuit as John Doe 14, finally did, in 1986, Finkelstein allegedly pulled him out of class in a rage, shoved him against a wall, punched him, and threatened him with expulsion. The school took no action during those years other than removing Finkelstein’s office door. In 1991, he was promoted to principal.
During those same decades, another Yeshiva rabbi, Macy Gordon, was also reportedly sexually abusing students. One accuser, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe 2, claims that Gordon sodomized him in his dorm room in 1980. The rabbi “said he was going to punish me for missing class,” the accuser told me. “He laid me across his lap and took my toothbrush and plowed it in and out of my rectum, and it burned. I remember it burned for a very long time after. I can’t go back in time and tell you what I was thinking, but I can only tell you that it lasts forever.” He told me that Gordon also sprayed Chloraseptic on his genitals, remarking that he showed “signs,” by which Gordon meant signs of puberty. Later that year, John Doe 2 tried to kill himself.
In total, Finkelstein and Gordon are suspected of hundreds of acts of sexual abuse at Yeshiva, though they never faced any legal repercussions. Finkelstein was discreetly forced out of Yeshiva in 1995 but quickly found work as the dean of a Jewish day school in Florida and later as the director general of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, although allegations of abuse followed him to each of these new positions.
Gordon, for his part, enjoyed a thirty-plus-year career at Yeshiva. He also eventually moved to Jerusalem, where, according to the New York Times, he served alongside Finkelstein on the advisory board of the National Council of Young Israel, an organization promoting Orthodox Judaism to liberal American Jews. (The current president of the organization claims that neither rabbi had been involved with the group “to my knowledge.”) In 2002, Dr. Jonathan Zizmor—a celebrity dermatologist whose advertisements were a staple of New York City subway cars for decades—set up a $250,000 scholarship fund in Gordon’s name for future generations of Yeshiva students. (Zizmor claims he knew nothing of the abuse at the time, and when allegations surfaced, he maintained that Gordon was “a great teacher, a great man.”)
In 2013, thirty-four of Finkelstein’s and Gordon’s victims—including Singer, Goldberg, John Doe 14, and John Doe 2—filed a $680 million lawsuit against Yeshiva, alleging that sexual misconduct occurred for decades with the knowledge of the administration and without recourse for victims or punishment for the perpetrators. But by the time the suit was filed, the statute of limitations had expired, and the case was dismissed.
This past February, however, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed the Child Victims Act (C.V.A.), which modifies the state’s statute of limitations such that many cases previously dismissed because of the length of time since the alleged crime can now be relitigated. As of this writing, attorneys for the former Yeshiva students—now numbering forty-one—planned to refile the lawsuit with new evidence on August 14, the day the law was scheduled to go into effect. Their hope, one of the attorneys, Michael Dowd, told me, is for Yeshiva to “finally be held accountable for their craven, repugnant, and unconscionable behavior in letting known sexual predators have unfettered access to scores of innocent and unsuspecting boys.” But even if they succeed, it’s far from certain whether the C.V.A. will be able to fundamentally change the culture of secrets and lies that has given rise to scandals such as the one at Yeshiva in the first place.
As child abuse cases against yeshivas mount following a one-year lookback provision, questions turn to legal strategy. Are their fears of bankruptcy warranted?
When a one-year lookback provision created by New York’s new Child Victims Act opened last month — temporarily lifting the statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases and allowing survivors of any age to pursue justice through the courts — youth-serving institutions across the state braced for legal fire.
Now, just weeks after the lookback clause went into effect, Jewish institutions across the denominational spectrum are facing legal retribution for allegedly mishandling allegations of child sexual abuse, with claims reaching as far back as the 1950s. In the handful of cases filed thus far, prominent defendants include the National Ramah Commission, the Conservative movement’s camping arm; the Conservative movement’s flagship rabbinical school, Jewish Theological Seminary; Modern Orthodoxy’s flagship institution, Yeshiva University; prominent Modern Orthodox day school Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School (SAR); prominent Modern Orthodox day school Westchester Day School; Yeshiva Torah Temimah, a Brooklyn-based ultra-Orthodox school with a branch in Lakewood N.J.; Oholei Torah, a prominent Chabad yeshiva in Brooklyn; and Temple Beth Zion, a legacy Reform congregation in Buffalo.
Claims leveled against these institutions include negligence in stopping or preventing sexual abuse; breach of fiduciary duties; and the intentional infliction of emotional distress against survivors of childhood sex abuse. Though details among the cases vary, leadership across institutions are alleged to have known about predatory behaviors and failed to act; helped alleged abusers gain entry to other youth-serving institutions; and engaged in intimidation tactics to prevent victims from coming forward.
Yeshiva Torah Temimah, an all-boys charedi school based in Brooklyn, faces a new lawsuit for covering up the alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who taught at the school from the 1960s throughout the ’80s. Four ex-students previously sued the school, charging Kolko molested them from ages 11 to 13; at the time, the state court tossed the cases after determining claims fell outside the statute of limitations then in place.
(L-R) Barry Singer, Jay Goldberg, David Bressler three of the plaintiffs in the suit against Yeshiva University at a recent press conference announcing their suit against YU. Hannah Dreyfus/JW
(Previously, the school agreed to pay an unprecedented $2.1 million to two former students who accused Kolko of sexually assaulting them. Details of the secret settlements emerged in 2016 when the school failed to make payments. The case marked the first time a New York yeshiva paid off alleged victims of sex abuse, experts said. Kolko, now 72, received a controversial plea deal from then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in May 2012 after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child endangerment; he did not have to serve jail time or register as a sex-offender.)
Now, the case is being revived under the Child Victims Act. Alleged victim Baruch Sandhaus filed a complaint in Brooklyn Supreme Court last month, alleging that Kolko and another rabbi on staff “would inappropriately touch” his private parts on various occasions between 1978 and 1980, when he was a student at Torah Temimah.
Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the yeshiva, said the alleged events occurred “40 years ago” and so have no connection to the current administration.
“Why would a new administration know anything about what took place decades ago?” he told The Jewish Week in a phone conversation. “It’s not going on today.” The school, he said, is “financially capable of dealing with a lawsuit” and will “continue to function and turn out Torah-trained young people.”
Sheinkopf referred to the new roster of lawsuits — including the revived case against Torah Temimah — as “a trial lawyer game to make a lot of money.”
As cases begin to play out — a process that could take years — precedents set in other states that have adopted similar lookback provisions might provide a blueprint for what institutions, and survivors, might expect, lawyers say.
“So far, every religious institution I’ve sued has told its constituents that lawsuits would lead to bankruptcies,” said Patrick Noaker, the attorney representing plaintiffs in a new lawsuit filed last week in Kings County Supreme Court against the Chabad boys yeshiva, Oholei Torah.
Yeshiva Torah Temima in Brooklyn, NY. Wikimedia Commons/Jim.henderson
Noaker said the passage of the Child Victims Act won’t make it any easier for alleged victims to win cases. “Sometimes the time that has passed can make it hard to find witnesses and evidence that the school knew or should have known that children were in danger. We also have to prove damages,” he said. “The only thing the Child Victims Act does is open the court room doors. We still have to prove our case like any other,” he said.
“The only thing the Child Victims Act does is open the court room doors. We still have to prove our case like any other.
In February, shortly after the Child Victims Act bill passed, Agudath Israel of America — a large charedi umbrella group that long advocated against the bill alongside the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America — issued a statement warning its constituents that the look-back provision “could literally destroy schools, houses of worship that sponsor youth programs, summer camps and other institutions that are the very lifeblood of our community.”
Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, told The Jewish Week this week that “the fears certainly continue,” though he was not aware of how many suits had been filed against yeshivas.
For Noaker, a Minneapolis-based lawyer who represented plaintiffs in a host of lawsuits against Catholic dioceses in Minnesota after the state passed a three-year lookback window in 2018, the line is familiar.
The argument is straight-up manipulation.
“The Catholics said lawsuits would shut down hospitals and homeless shelters — it never happened,” said Noaker. “The argument is straight-up manipulation.”
Though several of the cases he litigated did contribute to dioceses in Minnesota filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to settle hundreds of claims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, not one diocese ceased to function because of the financial decision.
To continue reading click here.
More on the Child Victims Act here.
Anyone familiar with the late Reb Shlomo Carlebach, the famous Jewish composer and singer, is aware that he managed to attract countless followers. His influence reached all corners of the Jewish world, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, and his tunes and hymns are used to this day by many congregations around the world to welcome the Jewish Sabbath every Friday evening.
With Carlebach’s eclectic approach of bringing Jews closer to Jewish practice through song, a myth and legend developed. It became accepted throughout much of the ultra-Orthodox world that Carlebach had himself kicked out of the prestigious Lakewood Yeshiva, formerly known as “Beth Medrash Govoha,” founded by Rabbi Aharon Kotler in 1943. It was also said that Carlebach had composed his inspiring but quite somber song “Lulaei Torascha” while sitting on the steps outside the yeshivah after his expulsion.
As poetic as the myth may be, Rabbi Kotler’s grandson, whose name is also Aharon, shattered it to pieces in a recent interview.
“Shlomo Carlebach was never kicked out of Lakewood,” said the young Rabbi Kotler, now president of the Lakewood Yeshiva. The yeshivah is an accredited institution of higher education in the state of New Jersey, and has approximately 7,000 students and 13,000 alumni, many of whom are leaders and builders of Jewish communities all over the world.
“Rav Aharon loved him,” said Rabbi Kotler. “He was, as we all know, exceptionally musically inclined … I can imagine that at some point in his life, his musical interests and drive exceeded his desire to learn inyeshivah.”
In fact, Reb Carlebach maintained a close connection with the elder Rabbi Kotler’s family.
“He played guitar at my parents’ sheva brochos [“Seven Blessings,” a Jewish wedding tradition],” said Rabbi Kotler. “They made a kumzits [evening gathering]. They closed the lights in the room, he sat on the floor.”
“One of the important things to remember is that Lakewood is not a life system,” he added. “Neither is kollel [an institute for full-time, advanced Talmud study] a life system for everybody, and certainly in Rav Aharon’s days people were in yeshiva for a number of years and then they eventually left. That was the norm. So I have never checked the enrollment records of Shlomo Carlebach, whether he stayed longer than the norm or shorter than the norm—but he certainly was not kicked out of Lakewood.”
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