What are we doing here? Do we strive for recognition, do we seek approval? Do we have a plan to influence the community we live in? Are we just observes of the Jewish chronology? Can we influence the course of our communities? Certainly the "mainstream press" thinks they are interpreting the course of history. They think of themselves as powerful enough to appoint presidents and assign success. What is the place and purpose of the Jewish blogosphere?
Blogging is just another form of communication. We are here for the same reason we talk to friends and strangers. We want to share our experience, teach others, and learn from them. We want to warn people away from danger and recommend good things. It is not the primary purpose of my blogging to morally improve the Jewish people. Just as it is not the purpose of driving to drive safely (to use an illustration of Dennis Prager). You drive to get somewhere. You blog to get somewhere.
The purpose of life and of blogging is to enjoy it (in the best and deepest and most meaningful sense of the word). I wish I had Tom Wolfe's eye for status details but I don't. My obsession is with meaning. I try to unlock and share what is meaningful to improve our lives (and morality is just one aspect, though the most important part, of a good life).
It is not the purpose of marriage to act ethically with each other. Though that is an indispensable part, it is not the end-all and be-all of the relationship. Same with blogging.
If I have a gift as an interviewer and a writer, it is opening people up and getting them to share what is deepest and most important. Moral inspiration is only a part of this process and it is not the part that I do best. I do best trying to reveal reality and to share a few laughs about it. Due to my colorful past and present, I can't help but bring disrepute to any cause I espouse. So I concentrate on telling the stories of our lives and leave the moral inspiration to those who do it better than I.
Here's one technique that I use with trying to understand people who say things that seem impossible.
What do we do as Orthodox Jews when we encounter Jewish text that says things that we can not fathom? That seems wrong. That violates our common sense. Do we dismiss the Torah as wrong? No. If we have texts that conflict, do we say that they were composed in different eras and reflect the differing perspectives of the different strands of Biblical thought? No.
We don't rest until we have reconciled seemingly irreconcilable texts, until we have made sense of texts that seem the opposite of sense.
A similar technique helps one understand and communicate more effectively with those who say things that you are sure are wrong.
If you really want to understand the Torah or another person, assume that what they are saying is true, and then seek ways for understanding how it could be true.
If you do that, you can come to understand almost anyone you want to understand.
If you say you can't understand a particular person or point of view, you are really saying that you don't want to go to the effort of understanding them.
One technique to better understand a blogger who seems outrageous is to ask whether they are being ironic, sarcastic, histrionic or humorous? Have they experienced a different emotional reality in Judaism than you have, things that have shaped the writer to express emotions and thoughts you find incomprehensible?
Now, understanding people is exhausting and time consuming. We only have finite resources to do this and we have to choose with care which persons we truly want to understand. Frankly, I don't try to understand most people I talk to. With the exception of charity cases, work and social obligations, I only want to understand people who are smarter and more learned than I am.
Here's the scoop on the Luke Ford - Shabbat - Halloween experience.
Friday night. I attend special minyan marking the tenth anniversary of rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's passing. The crowd is three times the size of normal. There's excitement in the air. Five guys are on the bima leading the davening. The guy who sits next to me on Shabbos mornings appears in shul on a Friday night for the first time I remember (aside from Yom Kippur).
The singing leads me to book down my book and participate.
Afterwards, a friend asks me if I have a place for Shabbat dinner. I say no. I feel embarrassed. He says he'll fix me up.
I wait with him at the back of the shul feeling clingy. After five minutes, I slip away and go home alone.
The next day, I notice my shul has the pretty security guard. I meet the guy who was going to host me last night before I fled. I read my books. I walk my community. I nap.
Saturday night, I drive an hour to Santa Clarita and the high desert to celebrate Halloween at the home of a Gentile couple who have been very kind to me over the years. Seems to be all locals at the party. Nobody is Jewish. There is a straightforward Mid-Western type of kindness to them. It's a relatively small community and people are friendly and unpretentious.
There are lots of dogs around. My allergies act up. I'm sneezing and wheezing and blowing my nose all night. It's cold. Most people are busy preparing the scary Halloween accountrement.
I feel awkward and out of place. I retreat to a corner and study a book on Monet. I leave at 9:30pm and feel safe only when I am back in my hovel.
The hosts write:
"Thanks again for making the trek all the way out here to attend the party. I am just sorry that I was running behind with things and didn't get to spend more time with you. You did make quite the impression, however, as several of the girls that were there asked who you were and why you hadn't been out before.
"We'll have to repay the favor of you driving all the way up here and head down there and take you out to dinner some time."
An Orthodox friend asks me what is Halloween. I reply: "It is held on October 31st every year and has become the most observed holiday in America after Christmas. Halloween is a combination pagan/Christian holiday that today is 99.9% pagan but still many churches and Christians participate in it for the fun. Children go around to homes in their neighborhood, dressed in costumes that are frequently meant to be scary, and say "trick or treat!" The homes then give them a treat, such as candy, lest they be the recipient of a nasty trick (which almost never happens)."
Sunday morning, I get an extra hour in bed before going to minyan. The Cowboys win 31-21 over Detroit. My headache lifts.
An attractive female friend says she has an extra ticket to tonight's concert (Rich Recht Band from St. Louis and the Moshav Band from a Shlomo Carleback hippie-style commune in Israel) at the University of Judaism.
Twelve years ago I was a goy and living in an isolated part of Northern California (45 minutes drive north of Sacramento). I wanted to be Jewish. I was developing Jewish friends and Jewish practice. I read R. Yosef Blau, Jonathan Sarna, Gary Rosenblatt.
Now I can talk to those guys. I can lead a Jewish life. I live in a town rich with Jewish religion and culture. To be within 30 minutes drive of something called the University of Judaism is awesome.
I'm on the old end of the Young Professionals event. There are lots of young women. I move with them during the concerts. I adore:
* Women with shiny lip gloss
* Women in tight blue jeans
* Persian women with their dark exotic looks and shapely bodies and traditional values
* Women with skirts near the floor
* Women with mini-skirts long enough to cover the essentials while short enough to keep your interest.
Beautiful women are great. I can't get enough of them. Particularly the smart ones.
Occasionally I meet dynamic attractive young women who don't look after themselves. They have dandruff. They're sloppily attired. Their make-up is sloppily applied. They are ten pounds overweight. I don't like this. So I'm no prize. A man can dream, can't he?
I couldn't write like this if I were a Seventh Day Adventist. As a Protestant, you are not supposed to admit to lustful thoughts. Judaism, on the other hand, focuses more on behavior than on motives. That enables me to be more honest about life as I encounter it, and my feelings as I encounter them, while maintaining clarity on what behavior is permissable.
I like to think of myself as a moralist. In many ways, I live a stern life. I'm poor. I sleep on the floor. I don't drink or gamble. My biggest vice is that I enjoy the attention of beautiful women.
The Rick Recht Band has a couple of guys (on bass guitar and drums) who appear to be Gentiles. Rick is short but filled with enthusiasm. He has a good soul. His lyrics are simple and easy. He intermixes pop songs. He says "Y'all."
It feels like Jewish camp. I never had a chance to go to Jewish camp, but this is must be what it is like -- swaying arm-in-arm singing the same song.
In Adventism, dancing is a sin. Though I've shaken off the religion of my childhood, it still affects me in many ways. I've never learned to dance comfortably. I'm awkward. I have no sense of rhythym.
I look at the young women gyrating around the floor and I'm amazed. Perhaps their moves are no big deal to somebody with a more normal upbringing than mine, but to me they are mindblowing. How do they coordinate their arms and legs and bodies like that?
A girl in a white singlet and faded blue jeans gets on stage with Rick and claps and sways and leads us in dancing. She's young. She's hot. She's acrobatic.
She inspires me.
I love the way these young women embrace each other. Totally hot.
This combination of the sensual and the spiritual, without the onerous demands of halacah, is a delightful part of Reform and Conservative.
The one downer in my UJ experience tonight -- my discovery that UJ has unisex bathrooms. Gross. Judaism believes in separation. Now I admit that I like shelving some of those separations at times, but not in this area. What God has put asunder (mens rooms, ladies rooms) let not man put together (to invert a favorite line of my father which he invoked to me about the unity of the Old Testament with the New Testament).
The compassionate psychologist looks around the circle of men, wishes us a good Shabbos and suggests that we introduce ourselves and then say whatever it is we want to say. He nods to the man on his right to begin. I sit directly to the left of the psychologist, which means that I will be last to speak.
Mr. White says: "Gam zu L'tova. Which means that in the end God has a plan and it is for the best. We cannot know this plan, we cannot understand it, but we must have emunah, faith. He says, "My son died when I was in Israel. I feel guilty about this. Could I have done something if I was with him? No, of course not. But still I feel guilty."
Mr. White, in his mid-sixties, a Boro Park businessman, rambles for a good five minutes. He quotes one verse after another. He lectures the one Reform Jew in our group, as if we who are observant have this absolute right. It is condescending and I am embarrassed by this utterly inappropriate behavior. Yet I say nothing because this man's son died and we all go a bit crazy as we live out our lives as orphan fathers. To his credit, the young Reform man, next to speak, is exquisitely polite.
Eight copies of The Producers and four copies of XXX-Communicated sold in September.
The Producers: Profiles in Frustration (published in July 2004): 55
XXX-Communicated: A Rebel Without A Shul (published in June 2004): 71
Many people accuse YU being a close-minded and intolerant institution. But here the YU student paper opens its pages to an advocate of racial separation, one who makes common cause with white supremacist groups. I find Orthodox life far more tolerant of such racial thinking as that blacks are less intelligent, on average, than whites. Other sectors of Jewish life tend to be intolerant of these views.
I suppose that racism is one of those sweet delights that the Almighty allows those who follow his Torah as a partial recompense for the harshness of the Oral law.
I remember when a class from the liberal temple Ohr HaTorah took a class at YULA (Yeshiva University Los Angeles) with a Frum From Birth Monsey-raised rabbi. The rabbi brought up as the most natural analogy to something in the sacred text that some people believe that blacks are less intelligent because of genetics while others believe that they are less intelligent because of the way society has treated them.
Needless to say, at least one of these Reform Jews was offended and never came back. The next week the rabbi apologized for his remark. If he had made it in an Orthodox environment, and I am sure he had, then it would've gone unnoticed.
Different Jewish groups are tolerant and intolerant of different things.
"There's this one rabbi I know - rabbi Mayer Schiller. You'll find some of his stuff posted on The Third Way page. He reviewed a biography of Strom Thurmond where he mourns the cowardice of Strom Thurmond for giving up segregation. For the loathsomeness of his ideas, at least he can laugh at himself. We get along. I have a high threshold for things so long as the person does not always take himself seriously. Go forth and sin no more.
"The best about Rabbi Schiller is that he sets the standards for misbehavior so high, I feel like nothing I can do will get me into trouble. If I have made some comments about Israel that have got me in trouble, well, Rabbi Schiller is a fellow traveler with the Neturei Karta (anti-Israel ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect)."
Rabbi Schiller, 49, has made common cause with and spoken before a cast of characters and organizations that would send most American Jews running to the Anti- Defamation League: American white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists, Conrad Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and right-wing European nationalists.
In a series of interviews with the Forward, Rabbi Schiller declined to discuss for the record his published views on race. Officials at Yeshiva University High School, also known as MTA, said Rabbi Schiller's silence stems from an agreement that he made with school administrators five years ago, prohibiting Rabbi Schiller from discussing racial issues with students or in any public forum.
Several years ago, for example, when we were looking into the fact that a high school rebbe had published deeply racist views in white supremacist journals, the top administrator at the school where he teaches called to tell me that he knew about the rebbe’s views, but if we published such a story, I would be responsible for the firing of this highly talented and effective rebbe. Why me? I asked. Because, the administrator said, the resulting publicity and outcry would force him to terminate the rebbe, and it would be on my head.
In the end, we held off because we found no proof that the rebbe discussed his views with his students. But I found the phone call, and its logic, deeply disturbing.
I recently went to hear a prominent rabbi give a talk on Torah perspectives on sexual abuse, and he was adamant in asserting that Jewish law was “unequivocal in its condemnation” of various forms of “this terrible crime.” He was insistent that victims be supported and protected, and that perpetrators be held responsible for their crimes because there is “zero tolerance in Jewish law.”
An important message from an important leader. The problem was that he was a key and controversial figure in the Rabbi Lanner story, criticized for not only defending him over the years but for being dismissive of and accusatory toward those victims brave enough to speak out.
Is it against the Torah to advocate racial separation? Certainly the Torah calls on Jews to be a separate people. Separate but equal got a bad rap because of the 1950s US Supreme Court ruling that separate inherently means unequal. But separate does not have to mean unequal. We have separate bathrooms for men and women. I don't think you can make a strong argument from Jewish text that racial separation is against Torah.
Yes, I understand that Jews are not a race. That Jews are composed of all races from black to brown to yellow. But Jewish laws against Jews bathing with non-Jews and all such laws that Kahane advocated for Israel are deeply rooted in Jewish text, which would seem to have some sympathy for rabbi Schiller's views.
Date: Fri. Feb 2, 2001 7:18 a.m.
Subject: Epiphanic question time
I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Dryhump, Kentucky, the day is ove, Let's say I'm a Mashglach for the Star-K or something like that, It's "Yes, Rabbi" this, and "No, Rabbi" that all day long.
His name is Brian, a reddish blonde Shaygetz of the most impossibly alluring sort. Do you know what kind of world it is out there in the interior of America? Do you know how invisible the Jewish World has become since I got into my car at the beginning of the week and drove west by south?
Here I am asked, whyt are the Israelis and Palestinians fighting each other for God's sake, they're all Jews over there aren't they? I tell him, No, Israelis and Palestinians are not the same, one is Jew the other Arab. But I can see he remains
perplexed. Small difference, he mutters. I know for certain that there is not one person in a hundred in this factory who can find Israel on a map of the world.
But back to Brian. He is dressed in starched whites like all workers in this super-sterile environment. Food-grade sterile. My kinda whites, almost transparent, almost fluorescent, I can see the individual vertabrae rippling through his jacket back, almost read the label on his underpants. "Hi Brian," I say. "Oh Rabbi you remembered my name." He smiles and I can smell the feel of the stubble on his cheeks, red and gold.
I want to lock him into one of the two hundred huge stainless steel hoppers which feed whatever it is that gets manufactured here in this plant. I want to hear
him beg me to let him out, I want control. I'm thinking to myself, I might cause an international incident if I were to do any one of the mulitiplicity of violent and kinkily sexual scenarios I have in mind even moderate justice in this sleepy hillbilly town.
I did not take my plastic Star-K numbered sealing tags and bind his wrists to the pipes in the boiler room so that I might rape his mouth. I did not clamp his
hipples with the small electrical clips or the ring widgets or the abrasive tape or the rubber compound coating sealant or the other accoutrements of torture available to Rabbis in strange places. I kashered the inlet nozzles and stuck my seals on bags of feedstuffs for export to Israel. No dismembered 22 year old shaygetz with a smile on his face and strange metal objects in his rectum found his way into my sealed cartons, No food grade quality control Paqid in the Holy Land need fear encountering my gory leftovers next week in Holon or Metullah.
But I cannot still the question asking itself over and over in my mind. What are you going to do, Schleck, with your double triple quadruple identity crisis?
When you giv eyour little D'var Torah'le before Musaf, Schleck, are you going to mention that you yourself, like personally, like deep down where you know yourself, would have been among those who preferred to remain in Egypt than leave to be given a code of living in the wilderness that includes such gems as "Thou shalt not commit adultery." or the ban against taking a woman and her sister or a woman and her
daughter? Should I mention it in passing this Shabbat? This Shabbos?
Should I mention that I have a slave? That I hurt her passionately. Hurt? I torture her quite deliberately. Her name is J and she too is a member of this OBDSM list. I'm the one who brought her to massive orgasms with my savage crocodile clips. Should I mention it in passing at the end of the d'rosho?
When Aish-Hatorah puts me up on their website and Links theirr page to mine for the downloadable Torahs, what would happen if I linked it to my erotic mind-control stories? D'you think the discerning reader would make the connection between my penchant for erotic mind-control and my theosophistical theories about worshipping God, power exchange, 24/7 humiliation and bondage scenes and real abandonment of
the self and the will to God my Higher Power?
Neh! It'll never happen......
Somewhere in all this there has to be a Rav I can ask, a rosh yeshiva I can talk it all through with. And don't you go telling me that I'm it. I want a real
rabbi, one who's never put his hand below his belt in his lifetime, who's never masturbated or fantasized about his wife's sister or thought about going into
the Ladies Shul and taking his pick. I want a rabbi who never went into the dirty washing hamper and tried rubbing his scrotum with his sister's satiny bra and
pants when he was twelve years old, who never peeped and wished and dreamed and longed.
I guess I won't find her on this list.
Love and Pain,
I find the "dismembering" part of the above fantasy disturbing and the reveling in doing violence to innocents. Yes, it is only fantasy, but it is fantasy written down and published.
Even the most high-brow of Jewish blogs - whose bloggers offer self-righteous meanderings and other mind-blowing insights into modern Judaism - are part of the sensationalistic blog culture.
During a past peruse down Jewish blogger lane, the following topics were repeatedly the center of conversation: details of recent scandals involving menacing rabbis who had allegedly sexually exploited women; more comments on indiscretion; rampant Haredi and "Jews-not-like-us" bashing; conversations that were certainly meant to be private were blogged. Last year in particular, one notorious blog carried a fallacious story about a group of unbecoming Yeshiva students, which made its way half way around the world.
Accurate Lashon hara (harmful though true gossip) has a similarity to free trade. The price paid is obvious and steep to the subject of the lashon hara while the benefits of the lashon hara (a more informed group can make better decisions) are diffused. So those who are the targets of lashon hara, such as rabbis Gafni and Worch, can loudly and eloquently complain that they are victims, while the beneficiaries of this lashon hara, those who make better decisions on the basis of more accurate information, tend to keep quiet.
With free trade, any country that participates in it is better off as a whole. But with free trade, small compact groups are directly and adversely affected, and thus they have an incentive to loudly protest. The beneficiaries of free trade, like the beneficiaries of lashon hara, have no incentive to loudly state their case.
Thus, making the case for lashon hara is a lonely one in Jewish religious life, even though it frequently works for the good of the community.
In my research for my book on Jewish journalism -- Yesterday's News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism -- I found that cries of "lashon hara" by those negatively affected were usually the first refuge of scoundrels. Complaints of "lashon hara" in Jewish life tend to most often come from those who want to protect their privileged place in the community and want to avoid scrutiny and accountability.
Let me be clear. I believe, with Judaism, that much of the time it is wrong to spread hurtful though true details about a person. The exception is when the information (gossip) can help the innocent to make better decisions.
After fighting through traffic for an hour, I was grumpy and questioning whether it was all worth it by the time I set foot inside Cathy's home at 7:10 pm Tuesday.
"Do you see Matt Welch much?" I asked Cathy.
"Now and then," she replied. "Why? He lives just down the street. If you want me to drop something off to him..."
"Yeah, here's the hardcopy edition of my new book," I say quietly, but filled with pride inside.
"Did you bring me one?" asked Cathy.
"No," I said. "Only those who wrote something for the book."
I asked Cathy to write a foreword but she didn't. Frankly, she's shown minimal interest in my whole Jewish journalism project.
Frankly, most of my friends have shown minimal interest, if not downright hostility, to my last three books. It's a big mistake to write books to impress friends and family. It rarely works. Certainly hasn't in my case.
I could write the number one book on a certain topic and many of those closest to me would still be convinced I was an idiot who needed to be bossed around.
I'm listening to the book A BEAUTIFUL MIND on tape. John Nash reminds me of me without the genius.
I sit in the kitchen as Cathy puts the final touches on tonight's bean casserole. I drink Cecile du Bois' lemonade.
"You shouldn't have dressed up for me," I say.
Cathy wears faded bluejeans and an indifferent (though plunging) long-sleeved green top.
"What?" she says. "What's wrong with this?"
"It's very nice, Cathy. I don't want you to think that I don't appreciate it.
"I do remember the days when you always put on a fresh dress and some make-up before I came over. You'd greet me in high heels [and a black whip]."
Yesterday seems so far away.
Cathy's bean casserole is delicious. She points out how it is superior to the bean dishes I grew up with. She's competitive in everything, even her beans.
Over dinner, I show my book Yesterday's News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism to Cathy's father Harvey. He's fascinated. He starts paging through it. This gets Cathy's attention. It's the most she's ever paid to my last project.
I read her sections where she is quoted or discussed. This rivets her.
Cathy wants to know if there's an index so she can check which pages she's mentioned on.
"I will give you a copy, Cathy, if you will read it and write about it on your blog."
I run to my car. There's a six-foot torrent of water, about two-inches deep flowing down Cathy's street. I'm soaked as the rain pours down.
I bring her back her book.
We sit in the living room. I want us to read to each our favorite selections from Yesterday's News Tomorrow but Cathy insists that our entire conversation must not revolve around me.
Cathy's dog Linda licks our plates clean. That is the custom in the Seipp home. If you eat there, I encourage you to bring your own dishes.
Cecile takes a bath and goes to bed. Cathy gets annoyed that Cecile did not leave the water in the tub so she could bathe too.
Another Seipp family custom.
I sit back and take great pleasure in watching Harvey enjoy my book. He wants to buy four copies. He asks me for a discount.
I fear that I am softening. For a number of weeks now, certain stern moral positions that I have maintained throughout my journey before God have been twisted into hitherto unrecognizable shapes by the physical positions She-Woman has imposed on me. I feel that I am on the cusp of sin so great that only a Moses or a Spielberg could get away with it in the eyes of those whose respect I covet. I turn to my friends for help, and get none. Cathy, why hast thou forsaken thy Luke in his hour of moral weakness? If only you had sought to fix me up with one of your brainy Jewish friends, I would today be a contented man, bound by laws both Oral and Written to my challah. And what of you, Chaim, why dost thou seek to counsel Luke into temptation?
I was talking to this girl who graduated Stern (Orthodox college for women in Manhattan) a few years ago. She told some amusing stories about walking with her girlfriends to a comedy club on Shabbos and telling the guard they couldn't pay because they couldn't touch money on Shabbos.
Eventually the black Wayan brothers blew through and took the girls with them.
My friend ended up in the hotel room sitting in a corner, she wasn't as attractive then as she is now, watching the Wayans go to town on her friends on the holy Shabbat.
Anyway, my friend has been sick for a week. She's been watching TV and movies. I told her she should listen to books on tape. I said I was listening to A BEAUTIFUL MIND about John Nash. She told me that was gay. What if I listened to a book called A BEAUTIFUL ***? She said that would be even more gay. Luckily, I am secure with who I am and what I study, that I have not been deterred from my pursuit of intellectual growth.
While I am busy at Protocols obsessing over the doings of a tiny and obscure group of people, Chaim Amalek is nailing his indictment of George Bush all over the web:
1. He has failed to re-establish control over our border with Mexico, thereby permitting millions of persons unknown to infiltrate our country. Bush just does not care.
2. He has yet to articulate any sort of a plan to meaningfully reduce our deadly dependence upon foreign oil.
3. He chose to invade a country - Iraq - that we did not need to invade, and with increasingly dire consequences.
4. He has been spending money like a democrat on crack, running up $500,000,000,000 budget deficits.
5. He has done nothing to defend American businesses against foreign competition. The result? $400,000,000,000 trade deficits.
6. He cares not that our industrial might is going overseas or to the third world, and our wealth with it.
7. He is nowhere to be found on the issue of CEO pay. Corporate CEOs, working under the cover of compliant boards, are looting their companies, paying themselves 400 times what their average employee is earning. Not a peep from Bush about putting an end to this rot.
8. He has failed to reverse the Clinton era cutbacks in our military manpower, with terrible results in Iraq.
9. He has not a clue how to reduce the bill we pay for medical care in this country.
10. He simply isn't up to the demands of this moment in our history.
I've got hair growing out of my ears. What do I do? What does the Torah say? Would plucking the hairs be acting like a woman?
It's really all Janine Zecharia's fault. She of The New Republic, The Jerusalem Report fame.
I was sitting home all alone Sunday night with my gemara when a vision of Janine's long silky black hair passed before my eyes, just as I was dealing with a particularly notty matter on Bava Metzia 47A. And as I found myself entranced by Janine's hair, my own hair started to grow, but out of my ears. It's sticking out about three inches, but not in an attractive way.
My mother said I kept enough dirt back there to grow potatoes. So perhaps it is not Janine's fault after all.
I think I'll email Alana Newhouse, culture czar at the Forward and HAFTR princess. She would know what to do about these pressing matters of personal grooming.
Travis writes: "Luke, this is private. So I know you won't post it. I don't think you will be very successful bedding the woman with your current strategy."
Trav, have no fear. When Janine reads this, she'll melt into my cyber-arms.
When I decided to hitch my wagon to Luke Ford's serial killer van, I did so in the expectation that soon I would be zooming toward fame, fortune, and moral enlightenment in Our Moral Leader's slipstream.
Yet here I sit one year later and I swear we haven't gone anywhere. No fame, no fortune, and no moral enlightenment.
...[W]hat we get are countless stories about the sexual transgressions of rabbis. Why? Voyeurism can't be the answer. Obviously not! Our Moral Leader isn't that kind of dude. I suppose his posts are intended as moral uplift by way of demonstration of what not to do. Yet the probability that I will convert to Judaism, become a rabbi, and start having sex with 12 year olds is, at best, 50:50.
Teresa Heinz Kerry, all by herself, presides over greater assets involved in the funding of shadow political activities than the three chief conservative foundations – Scaife, Olin and Bradley – combined. While, these conservative foundations have combined assets of $809 million, the three Heinz Endowments, in whose boardrooms Teresa Heinz Kerry speaks with a voice louder than all others, have total assets of $1.2 billion. Mrs. Kerry also sits on the board of the Carnegie Corporation, which as this report reveals is also an active funder of the political left and which has assets of $1.6 billion. In other words, Mrs. Kerry has a say in the disposition of funds earmarked for the left which are more than three times greater than the celebrated funders of the right combined.
A recent blog entry counseled single women against keeping cats, unless a rodent problem was in evidence. Of course, it did not occur to me that any woman would consider sleeping with a cat, until I received the following fairly horrifying response from a dear friend who I shall not name here:
"What if she's a divorced or widowed woman? What if the dog sleeps on the bed and the cat sleeps on a chair in the kitchen? Is that OK with you, Luke? (Or should I say, "Link?")"
The thought of a woman sleeping with a dog is a horror that I had not considered in drafting my responsa. A dog is an unclean animal, both to Judaism and to Islam (our cousin faith). Consider that no dog has ever mastered the art of wiping itself clean with toilet paper after canine defecation. This means that the dog that sleeps in bed with you brings with it exposed fecal particles that must inevitably soil the bed. And the uncleanliness does not end there. We all know that dogs like to slobber. Revulsion prevents me from delving deeper into this, but it should suffice to say that nothing good can come from a lonely woman sleeping with a dog. So great is this horror that if she must choose between sleeping with a cat and sleeping with a dog, a single woman may sleep with the cat, but only if the alternative is that she will be sleeping with dogs.
Better that she sleep with a good man and raise his children.
"This past year has been an incredible drain on my time, energy, and emotions," Diehl said. "Now that Karen and I have unwrapped all the gifts, opened a joint checking account, and bought a house, I finally have some time to focus on me—on what I want. And what I want right now is hot, attachment-free sex with young, good-looking women."
Unless she has a rodent problem, the single woman should not keep cats. It is too easy for the single woman to curl up at night with her cat, when it is the Will of HaShem (God) that she go to bed with a man.
(Worch, a Lubavitch rabbi living in Australia, visited the Abayudaya in Uganda last August. Following, in Part II, are excerpts from his writings. Part I , describing his discovery of a 70-year-old mikveh, appeared in the previous newsletter.)
It was more than three hours past midnight on a Friday night. I am in Africa, a few minutes north of the Equator, close to the source of the River Nile. I am sitting on a wicker chair with my friends the Bayudaya. As I told a story, all around me on the red earthen floor they were taut with listening. The oldest and youngest of the group snored softly on their bamboo mats. I finished my story.
The dark was overwhelming, palpable; I could not make out a hand in front of my face. It was time for us to retire, to rest, to sleep. But we were much too excited.
"Shall we dance?" I asked. For an answer there came a swish, a rustling of clothing, shuffling feet, and we were dancing. Mine were the only feet in shoes that night as we all danced and danced.
I began singing a simple melody I remembered from my childhood. I had heard it from the Sekulener Rebbe 30, maybe more, years ago. We held hands and stomped our feet, singing quietly, "U'Vyoim Ha'Shabbes, Shabbes Koidesh, Sissu V'Simchu...."
A little to one side stood the women, Mamma Debra, Mamma Naom, Mamma Erina and other intrepid mothers of the tribe, swaying, listening, humming, with their fingers interlaced, their heads nodding.
These women, the tribal mothers, fast too much. If one has a bad dream she declares a fast. When prayers must be answered -- a child is sick, a crop is failing -- they fast, days and weeks. And perhaps I am too judgmental, but I gave them a rabbinical ruling: Fasts may be subsumed by cash. A few shillings donated to charity is equal to one day of fasting.
I had thought of telling them about the popular European Jewish sublimation, "chai" the number "18", but I stopped myself just in time. There are nearly one thousand Ugandan Shillings to the dollar, but 18 is much too much to suggest as a pidyon (redemption) to these holy women who survive by subsistence-farming.
Eventually we slept. In the morning we prayed and I read the Torah. They asked me to speak yet again after davening, but I had already explained the Torah readings as I had gone through them. "Any rabbi," quipped I, "can speechify at the drop of a hat. But only a truly great rabbi knows when to be quiet."
So, wow, your book is intense. You lay yourself bare. Naked. It's full on. You are willing to look at yourself with the same scrutiny with which you focus on others. It's a compulsive desire.
Funny, sad, curious. Is sarcasm contagious? I will keep an eye on it.
Luke, Luke, Luke. I didn't realise you were as much a slut as I, masquerading behind a facade of morality. I've nearly met my match.
Now I must surround myself with wholesome goodness to reclaim my sense of happiness and contentment.
You're funny with the hovel and car thing. You like to test. I've met others who do this. Sometimes the testing never ends. New barriers are erected and the challenge posed: "We'll see if you still like me like this."
This is a surprise announcement that we have been holding back for some time.
Vicki Polin and I are getting married next month at Ner Israel in Baltimore. We want you all to come dance at our chupah. Applying our philosophy of forgive-and-forget, we're having rabbi Mordecai Gafni oversee our nuptials, and rabbis Joseph Telushkin and Saul Berman sign our ketuba, and I want cantor Michael Segelstein to render the chazzanut. Put Sunday, November 14, at 7 pm on your calendars, and God bless you in all of your legitimate endeavors.
I've read postings by "ScrawnyBuddha" [using the posting name of hydrargirium] on R. Worch-related BDSM sites. I contacted "ScrawnyBuddha" and this is part of what "ScrawnyBuddha" emailed me back:
Just to clear the ground from misconceptions, since my spiritual standing seems to have been mistaken in several instances. I am not a Jew, I am not a Christian and I am not a Muslim, was raised as none, and the link you sent me brought me to places that remind me of the reason why I stand in so much abhorrence of the Religions of the Book. Groups who appear to be only concerned with themselves, deaf to all but
their own language. Like I said once to the object of your inquiry, your language is not inclusive but exclusive, and even when you are an apostate you (Jews, Christians, Muslims) are and remain the followers of a jealous god, bound by chains.
I find myself uncomfortable with people who define themselves by a creed or a nationality and define the entire universe consequently. I find myself uncomfortable with people who belong too much, because I have seen it be cause of the worst that Man can do, to himself and others.
I am an analytical psychologist and my province is the care of souls in the manner of personal dialogue. This implies the opposite of group therapies of any kind, which seems much to be what is happening here.
My acquaintance with Mr. Worch is limited. We had some exchanges starting with our disagreement on hypnosis and then about mystical things, not to great results as it is likely between people who speak really different tongues. I never met him and never spoke to him, and what I know of his life and practices is only what I read on his LJ journal and on his website, plus what some of his friends said about him. Nothing of what I know can be called sexual abuse; the use of hypnosis as a toy is in my view an irresponsible act, but one for which both parties bear the blame
unless the hypnotizee's suggestibility is one of the symptoms of mental illness.
It seems to me that this matter, as is presented, is an issue among Jews and of Jews, about the unorthodox teachings of what you call an Orthodox rabbi. Sexual (mis)conduct in this context certainly has a different meaning than for most other people, straight or kinky. But aliens cannot be invited to have a say, because they might well question the very tenets of your Weltanschauung.
I asked BDSM expert Ira Levine aka Ernest Greene (husband of Nina Hartley) what he thought about the practices imputed to R. Hershie Worch. He replied:
Wow. I thought I'd seen it all. Guess that's never a safe assumption. None
of this stuff looks familiar to me, although some standard BDSM culture
language is appropriated, weirdly indeed, along with religious terminology.
It's strange enough that one warped mind could figure out how to reconcile
all these contradictions, but the fact that this guy appears to have some
kind of following truly amazing. Body-modification and Talmudic Law? I don't
I suppose I have run onto some variation of the hynotism-sex thing. We had
one very odd client who used to come into a pro-dom club where I worked as a
manager when I first got out here. He used to pay girls to dress up like his
mother and pretend to hypnotize him and order him to masturbate. Some sort
of cripto-Freudian do-it-yourself-therapy kind of thing. Needless to say,
not a lot of the girls would do him. Creepy to be sure, but harmless enough,
and unlikely to inspire imitation.
I don't know, Luke. This is definitely a visit to an alternative universe
where I wouldn't want to spend much time.
The type of behavior you describe is exaclty the opposite of what's considered normal in the BDSM world. The leather community's entire ethic is built on informed consent. No situation in which an individual is drugged, hypnotized, coerced or otherwise made incapable of granting such consent and then subjected to sexual abuse is considered anything but criminal by any community standard.
Criminality of this kind is rare among BDSM people, who tend to be wary and alert with strangers and quick to call out what they regard as inappropriate conduct. This is supported by a close-knit social culture in which secretive activity is difficult. BDSM players don't tolerate predators and don't make good victims.
Not to evade your direct question, however, I think the kind of fantasy you're talking about is extremely rare, but not inconceivable. A younger generation of BDSM players in particular seems to enjoy some fantasy input from Clive Barker, et al, as a feature of their more goth-leaning conception of kinky eroticism. I have to say I don't get it myself, and I suspect some of it is affected for shock-value, but there is some overlap between the younger kinksters and gore-hounds.
A reader not familiar with the Luke Ford œuvre may wonder what he got for his $35.95 (hardcover), $25.95 (softcover) or $6 (eBook) after reading comments like: "I don't understand what you are doing here. Who's your publisher?" (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach), or "Dear Mr. Ford: I do not wish to be included in your book. If there is anything negative about me or my family in your book you will hear from my attorney” (Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman).
Such opening remarks don't inspire a lot of confidence in Mr Ford's stature as a player in the world of Jewish journalism. But they're not nearly as damning as Robert Avrech and Matt Welch's Forewords, which are brutal -- totally, absolutely, heartbreakingly brutal. Poor Mr Ford, I thought. These are your friends and yet they write terrible things about you...
(All-thanks to Chaim Amalek for his hard work in cobbling this together. I suggest you print this out and carefully consider where the two major candidates stand on each of these issues.)
1. America is not Mexico. Re-establish our borders with Mexico (and Latin America) by sealing them off against illegal immigration. Use our soldiers in Korea for this purpose, if need be. How could this be done? By offering an award of $1,000 for information leading to the deportation of each and every illegal alien in the United States, with the idea of deporting ALL the illegals from the United States, and by fining CEOs ten thousand dollars for every illegal found to be working for him.
2. Severely restrict legal immigration. With almost 300,000,000 people here that we know about, this country is now FULL, and we really don't need millions of Muslims from the failed civilization of Islam coming here. Let them go to France if they have their heart set on living in a society that was established by Christians.
3. No more outsourcing work that Americans want to do. To begin with, we should alter the tax code to severely punish CEOs who ship jobs that pay more than the median wage (jobs that by definition, Americans want to do) to foreign lands.
4. In 1980 the average Fortune 500 CEO paid himself about 12 - 40 times the pay of the median employee under his command. Now he (or she, as in the case of HP) pays himself about 450 times the median employee salary. This means that money is going where it isn't needed, instead of to R&D, marketing, manufacture, and other more productive activities. Establish a commission to regulate the salary of all CEOs.
5. Tax the very rich to death.
6. And speaking of death, we need an inheritance tax that will put an end to the political power of both the Bush and the Kennedy clans.
7. Tax gasoline so that tiny women in the suburbs stop driving really big trucks (SUVs) that burn both gasoline and the blood of American heroes in Iraq.
8. And speaking of Iraq, we ought not sacrifice any of our fine young sons and daughters to bring the blessings of democracy to any Arab or Muslim people. If they want this on their own that's fine - maybe we can send them some books on the topic - but as for imposing this on them, that is out of the question. Let's just buy their oil and leave it at that.
9. A bigger military, in case we need to destroy some other nation.
10. A draft to staff same, if needed. This would not include women who belong at home raising babies.
11. Means testing for ALL government programs, beginning with social security and strict Medicare tests.
12. Greatly increasing taxes on casino winnings and revenues in the event 13 proves unfeasible.
13. National health care of some sort for American CITIZENS.
14. More and better nuclear power. We have to generate power by means other than burning coal and other hydrocarbon. Let's get this done today, not tomorrow.
15. More diverse supplies of vaccines. We could do this by guaranteeing to purchase all the stock a company makes up to some reasonable level based on actual need, if not demand. Where estimated need = demand, this would cost nothing to implement.
16. Tort reform so that no lawyer can become rich by suing others.
17. Vouchers for every kid (whose parents make less than the top 30%) who is stuck in a school that is below average.
18. Use the bully pulpit to encourage the strengthening of unions in the private sector.
19. Tariffs on imports to protect strategically important industries.
20. Get us out of NAFTA NOW. No normal human being wants to hear a giant sucking sound from south of the border.
21. Return copyrights to the twenty years or so they used to be. Screw Disney. And while we are at it, encourage downloading music off the internet as a means of defunding our cultural elites.
22. Forbid both lawyers and investment bankers from working more than 40 hours a week, and watch America breath a sigh of relief.
23. Everyone else may work more than 40 hours a week, but would have to be paid double time for it.
24. A space program worthy of our nation. I propose the resurrection of Apollo, going to the moon, and establishing fuel depots there to make further exploration less expensive. All without international cooperation (except, maybe, from the British). This would be paid for by new taxes on rich people, casinos, alcohol, and tobacco.
25. Ban abortions based on gender, ban late term abortions (unless the mother is sure to die otherwise), otherwise leave abortion law as is.
26. Start a real national discussion on our drugs laws. Acknowledge that perhaps some drugs ought to be legalized.
27. Affirmative action for the smart poor, no matter their race.
28. No gay marriage, unless we permit polygamy as well.
29. Salary caps of $1,000,000/year on athletes and other entertainers. Before we bring the pain of socialism to the masses, let's visit it on our coddled elites.
30. Withdraw our troops from Korea. The Republic of Korea is so many times wealthier and stronger than North Korea that they ought to be able to stand on their own two feet. And if they refuse to and fall to the North Koreans, well, that's so much less competition for our industries.
31. Whatever form of trade is most beneficial to America, free trade or not. No trade with China unless it is balanced or in our favor.
That's my start. I am pretty damn sure that most of America would go along with most of this, and I'm equally sure that neither Bush nor Kerry would agree with more than one or two things on this list. Your comments would be most appreciated. Send them off to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If only a fraction of the anecdotal evidence is to be credited I am endowed with awesome hypnotic powers that cause women to tear their clothes off and force me to take cold showers... I'm only sorry they never greatly affected either my previous landlords or employers, and have had precious little effect on either of my ex-wives.
The overwhelming exhaustion that has washed over me from existing as a victim for the past eighteen years has ultimately been my silencer. Any remaining strength is channeled into the necessary tasks of parenting and daily survival. I will no longer be a victim.
The better part of my childhood was spent lost and invisible. My earliest recollections are of pleading to an unnamed supreme being.
“Please,” I’d say, “I’ll do anything, anything at all if you’ll let her find me. I know she must be looking for me.”
I’d scream and cry into my pillow at night. I remember waiting at the door. Anger was not an issue. If I was angry with anyone, it was the other “she”, the one who had taken me away. That was how my childhood psyche worked. Adoption was not a warm fuzzy word defined by “we really wanted you”. I read it as; the one person who truly mattered didn’t, couldn’t or was convinced not to.
So, I kept searching for my mother, for someone to love me the way I needed to be loved.
Along came Judaism, JPSY and Mordechai Winiarz.
At that time, my family was in constant turmoil. My father had brushed with death far too many times. In 1985 he underwent his second open-heart surgery – a quadruple by-pass. I hit puberty and my emotions, hormones and home-life were in shambles.
Mordechai Winiarz paid attention to me. He told me how intelligent and special I was. I spent many Shabbat lunches with him and his wife feeling like I had finally found a family. I began keeping kosher and abiding by the laws of modesty.
Mordechai had awarded me JPSYer of the Year. My sadness and isolation at home had me frustrated and doing poorly academically. I asked Mordechai if I could live with him and his wife. At the time I was hoping for a more permanent arrangement, but we agreed on taking things one week at a time. I had just turned sixteen when I moved in with them the first time.
The week went by rather uneventfully with one exception. I awoke one evening from a disturbing dream. It was maybe midnight and I heard someone awake upstairs. I decided to get some milk and try and relax and think. I soon realized it was Mordechai who was awake. He heard me in the kitchen and asked me to talk to him. When I approached the study, Mordechai was in his robe, preparing a shiur on something.
“Why are you still awake?” he asked me. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing” I said. “I just needed a drink.”
“I can tell there is something wrong, talk to me.”
“Really, it’s O.K.; I just had a bad dream. I am going back to sleep.”
“You’ll never be able to sleep if you don’t tell me.”
He wouldn’t give up. I felt trapped. Not physically mind you, but emotionally. I enjoyed talking and sharing with him because he listened, but the dream I had was strange, it involved me as a young child and the typical scenario of walking in on your parents’ lovemaking (in the dream he and his wife were my parents). I had had general dreams involving them as my parents previously. I didn’t want to share it. I wanted time to think about it. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. When I finally described my dream to him, he interpreted it as my being sexually attracted to him. I felt he was completely off base. I quickly changed the topic and was able to return to bed.
After the agreed upon weeks’ stay came to a close, my parents insisted I come back. So, much to my chagrin, I returned home. Things there went from bad to worse when my mother fell at work and was hospitalized with a broken hip. Now my mother was hospitalized and my father was trying to recoup from open-heart surgery. I felt helpless and lost. I couldn’t cope. I had no siblings and no family lived nearby. So off I ran – back to Mordechai, his wife, and the warmth and safety I felt there.
This time however, it was very different. It was Tuesday evening after at school when he made his first trip into what was then my bedroom - the basement. It was very late and I had already been asleep when the door opened. From the door, he said, “You look like you need a hug”. I pretended to remain asleep. He approached the bed and repeated himself. I still did not answer and conveniently I was turned away from him. My mind was racing. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to say. I was shomeret negiah (abiding by the stringent Jewish laws prohibiting premarital touch). Why was he in my bedroom? Why was he asking to touch me at all? I knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong – didn’t he? Certainly I needed a hug, I always needed a hug, but a hug from him was wrong. Wasn’t it? If it were so wrong, why would he have offered it? I could not keep up with the fears and questions flying around inside my brain.
Before I could process them, react or respond he was sitting on my bed. I sat up to tell him “No, it’s O.K. I don’t need a hug. And why are you even offering?” when he put his arms around me. For a brief moment it felt good - like I was a little kid and my daddy was giving me a hug. Then I realized this was not right I tried to pull away but he held onto me and fell on top of me. He began touching me under my nightclothes. I said “No.” and tried to move his hand away. He kept fondling me. I said “No.” again and he stopped, abruptly stopped. It was the most bizarre thing. He rose from the bed, told me not to say anything about what happened because no one would understand. He promised me it wouldn’t happen again. And I believed him. I had to.
Thursday was an early release day from school. I was emotionally exhausted and went straight downstairs for a nap. Mordechai was at the house. I thought that was odd – why was he not working? He tried to stop me, to talk again. I told him to leave me alone – I was tired and I needed rest. I had been asleep no longer than 30 minutes when Mordechai arrived in my room once again. Now he was in robe. He didn’t bother to knock. He stood at the door and said something to wake me. I startled. He arrogantly stated, “You know what you want.”
“What?” I asked. I truly had no clue what he was talking about and why the hell was he in his robe in the middle of the day?
“You know what you want. I will go out of this room and come back in. You just give me a sign.” He stepped out and closed the door.
The shaking started again. What the hell should I do? What did he say? I was half asleep. I sat up in bed. I was fully clothed, under a thick blanket, warm and uncomfortable. I had layered my clothes so that my elbows would be covered. I removed one layer, completely covered myself up to my neck with the comforter and turned to stare at the wall hoping that he’d just not come back. I felt like such a child. I wanted him to love me, but not like this. I wanted to be their child, just start over with a new family who paid attention, cared and understood.
Then he was there in my room, standing over me at my bedside in only his underwear. I had not even heard him come in the door. He lay down next to me and began touching me again, like he had previously. I said, “Mordechai, no, this is wrong.” It was as if he didn’t even hear me. I just shut down and let him do what he was going to do. He continued fondling me, took off all of my clothes and his. He positioned himself on top of me ready for intercourse.
“When did you get your last period?” he asked. What a weird question. I wasn’t sure of the answer. I just made something up. “That’s no good.” He replied. “You know I could get you pregnant.” He seemed disappointed as he lay beside me. Mordechai took my hand and forced me to help him climax. I had never done anything like that before. I had never even seen a man naked. He ejaculated all over me. I felt horrible. When he was finished he stood abruptly.
“Get cleaned up and come upstairs,” he ordered and left the room.
I was now shaking so fiercely I could barely follow the instructions. When I finally ascended from the basement, he was waiting in the living room, in his typical starched white shirt and dark dress pants. “We are going for a walk,” he said.
We walked around Flatbush for the better part of an hour. First he attempted to make me think that nothing ever happened; that it was all a figment of my imagination. When that didn’t work he tried to convince me that I would never be believed because he was a Rabbi and I was just a kid. Who was more credible? He asked rhetorically. He was still unsure that I was buying his argument so he moved on to threats. He would destroy my life. I would never learn in yeshiva, never get married, on and on. Now he had my attention. What was he capable of? I couldn’t be certain. But I knew one thing - I was scared. Emotionally destroyed, hating myself, and hating him, just wanted to disappear.
He left me there at the house and headed toward Manhattan. I was alone in every sense of the word. I knew his wife would be home from work soon. I went to the kitchen, found the sharpest knife I could find and sat on the dining room floor screaming, crying and trying desperately to break the skin of my wrist with the blade. I had just made a few superficial cuts when his wife walked in.
My gut instinct was that he had already told her some crazy story about me. She saw me there curled in ball on the floor crying. She didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Maybe she couldn’t. She just walked by and went into their bedroom. I knew I needed to tell someone. I called Susan (a JPSY advisor and friend) three or four times before I reached her. I went to school the next day in shock. I was due at Susan’s house for Shabbat later that evening. The evening before, I had told her briefly what had occurred. When I returned to his home after school to pack for Shabbat he was there. Again, he insisted I not tell anyone. He made me promise not to.
The train ride to Susan’s house was surreal. I was crying and shaking all the way from Brooklyn to Queens. I had never been so confused. I desperately wanted to tell Susan everything that had happened but I was afraid. I felt like I was drowning, like I could barely breathe.
There were other girls there that Shabbat and I could not find the privacy necessary to continue discussing what had happened. I fell asleep crying, hoping that things could just go back to the way they had been only days before. When Motzei Shabbat arrived one of the other girls left and only one other JPSY teenager and I remained. I talked Susan’s ear off about nonsense until the other girl nodded off, and then I told her the details of what happened with Mordechai. I was shaking like a leaf.
It was then that Susan told me that she had already heard from Mordechai. He had called her prior to Shabbat “warning” her about my “delusional” stories, my emotional instability and attempting to compel her into allegiance. Susan diligently listened to the facts, my fears, and unequivocally assured me of her loyalty and confidence in my credibility. She told me that he had made inappropriate advances to her in the past.
Susan was there for me through what would be the remaining eighteen months of hell. We were kids trying to figure out how to handle this trauma with no help or support from our parents or the community. I don’t remember much after that conversation.
I do remember telling my parents with Susan by my side what had occurred.
I remember how they blamed me since it was I who left the house to begin with. I remember the next year and a half of harassment and mental games. I clearly recollect the “camps” of people who believed what really happened and those who refused to. I remember the telephone calls at all hours of the evening – the hang-ups, the heavy breathing. Then the photos of naked men arriving at our home because Mordechai had taken out a personal add in a gay men’s magazine using our P.O. Box address as the return. I remember the Rabbis telling us to “let things go” and “move on”: Kenneth Hain, Yitzchok Adler, and Sholomo Riskin. I remember the ridiculous meeting held at Yeshiva University at which I had to bare my soul to men I had neither previously met nor trusted.
People keep telling me that times are different now. People will listen. Things will change. I don’t know. I want to believe that. I want to believe that he will be stopped. That he will no longer hurt anyone. All the talking, emails and articles seem very empty to me.
I am placing the truth out into the world once more and putting it formally into print. If this gives other young people the courage to speak out when they are betrayed, hurt or violated by an adult maybe something good will come out of this. Maybe others perpetrators will be stopped. Maybe community leaders will learn to take a stand on crucial issues before victims accumulate in silence, erupting unpredictably later in life with unified inner-strength and piercingly powerful voices. I won’t be silenced again. I’m no longer a victim, I have a voice.
Why is it that whenever I read these sentiments, they come from leftists rather than rights by two-to-one?
I wonder which countries Eshman thinks can hold elections and chew gum at the same time? Israel? France? Sweden?
Eshman devotes his column to analyzing Bush's roadmap to peace and Israel's security. Rob has no comparative advantage in writing this stuff. It's already done better in The NYT. He should be writing about what he knows -- Jewish Los Angeles.
The cover of the October 15, 2004 issue of the Jewish Journal was a repetition of a theme played out endlessly at the left-of-center paper -- violence bad, peace good, Arab-Israeli cooperation good.
The cover read: "A Brutal Attack on a Symbol of Peace May Lead to More Israeli-Arab Cooperation."
If Janine (a beautiful and fascinating woman) wants to be truly happy, she should marry me, move into the hovel, and have my babies. Then she could exercise her influence on international relations in the kitchen and the bedroom (in my hovel, everything is the same room) as God and nature intended (credit for that pungent thought goes to Chaim Amalek).
I don't want to go this entire post without praising something in the Journal. There is a picture of a cute dog on the back.
Luke Launches Triumphant Anti-Inter-Dating Lecture Tour
I have experienced first-hand the damage to the yiddishe neshama (Jewish soul) that flows from dating a tall blonde sweet kind loving buxom Gentile beauty. Within a few days, I was no longer wrapping tefillin. I started eating vegetarian in non-kosher restaurants and began watching R-rated movies.
I am sure I am not alone. Energized by my experience to combat this threat to Jewish continuity, I am launching a lecture tour around North America to speak out against inter-dating. Thank you to Young Israel and Aish HaTorah for sponsoring me. Book me into your shul now. Due to the severity of this crisis, I'm willing to speak in non-Orthodox synagogues.
When you see me, please don't just offer your hand. Why shouldn't we have a hug? "It all begins with a date."
The Luke Ford Family of Blogs has grown so large that, in light of my obligations as a Jew, I have chosen to farm out some of the work from time to time. In the case of this blog, much of the political commentary is provided by others. (In particular, Rabbi Gadol is the one who drafted the political platform, a platform that I heartily endorse - although I do not loath George Bush as much as he, and likely will vote for Bush.) However, my writings on personal matters remain personal to me, and your responses here do count, if you meet the base-line criteria I set forth. Please note that these criteria are mandated by the Torah, lest I find myself spilling seed where it cannot possibly do me or the Jewish people any good.
When I came to Los Angeles in March 1994, I began hitting hard on women. I hooked up with a girl who'd been on my dorm floor in UCLA in 1988. It was the culmination of a six-year longing.
I got around but I was scared and lonely in the big city.
I dated on-and-off this classy good beautiful Gentile women ten years older than me. I took her to temple a few times and to the movies. She wouldn't sleep with me.
One Sunday afternoon, I took her to Legends of the Fall. I cried through the last half of the movie -- after the beautiful young mother died. I don't think any movie has moved me so much. It indicates how lost and lonely I was. I was still snivelling an hour after the end of the movie. The movie touched on some of my core issues.
I never did sleep with the woman.
Tears are not an effective way of seducing women.
In January of 2004, I went to see Big Fish with a woman I had dated on and off. I loved the movie and cried at the end. She was not moved by the movie. She wouldn't sleep with me that night.
It was the last time we went out.
I saw Legends of the Fall on video. It was only my second viewing. I barely cried.
This week, I rented Big Fish. I watched a bit Thursday over lunch on my TV screen. Then I watched the last 40 minutes over lunch today. I interrupted it to take a long phone call. I ate my lunch. But when the movie culminated, and I had put my salad aside, the tears streamed down my face. I was more moved than ever. The funeral scene dissolved me.
I think it helps to have a troubled relationship with your father to appreciate Big Fish.
Part of me aches to believe my father's stories are true.
Four years ago, in their Friday weekend magazine, they profiled me. Now they profile Mordecai.
I suspect it is the same mocking tone but I can't read Hebrew well enough to know.
Maariv article is out on Mordecai Gafni. It makes him look bad. The reporter Sari Makover is clearly creeped out by him.
She starts the article with Judy's complaint (from the Gary Rosenblatt article). She says how old she was (below the age of consent) when he walked in and did various things to her.
When Sari Makover visited Gafni's house, there were five women sitting on the floor barefoot meditating. She hestitatingly sticks out her hand to shake his hand. He says, 'Why have a handshake when we can have a hug?'
Gafni says that he believes it is good for people to marry and divorce. He used to deny he was married three times. After being corrected numerous times, he's turned divorce into a mitzvah.
It's good to fall in love. It's good to marry. It's good to divorce. Different souls are for different people at different times. He quotes Rebbe Nahum of Bretslav -- sometimes love is right for a minute. I'm sure the good rebbe had Mordecai Gafni in mind when he said that.
Mordecai says Rabbi Blau has a vendetta against him and his critics are jealous of him.
The article says rabbi Mordecai Gafni is trying to be a media star and has political ambitions but now has to face sexual harassment stories from his past. One of his defenses is that he likes to take chances for love. Therefore, he's going to hug people and do whatever he needs to do, because he's taking chances for love.
It appears that Mordecai has developed a theology of eros to defend his sexual indiscretions. Reminds me of Jacob Frank.
Maariv article says that Mordecai Gafni's third wife, his present wife, lives in San Francisco. It sounds like a marriage of convenience.
Gafni says that R. Blau and Vicki Polin are traveling around the country saying bad things about him. I believe R. Blau and Vicki have met only once.
A translation of the opening of the Maariv article on Mordecai Gafni:
Ways of Pleasantness
Charismatic, Media-Savvy and Original, he Loathes the Religious Establishment and is the leader of the "New Home" Congregation. He is Unabashedly Politically Ambitious. He is also a great advocate of petting and touching, all out of brotherly love, of course. For the first time, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni steps up to address the many unresolved episodes from his past that attribute him with sexual abuse and sexual harassment, from which he has managed to escape uncharged but not unhurt. "I believe that every person should decide where to take risks. And I prefer to take risks
By Sherri Makover-Balikov
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, the God-fearing leader of the "Bayit Hadash" (New Home) Movement, receives me in his bohemian-elegant beit midrash in Jaffa,; he sits ensconced among colorful embroidered cushions, barefoot, meditating young ladies and crystals. I greet him modestly with "shalom" and tentatively extend my hand. Gafni the altruist is deeply offended. "Why shake hands, sweetie? Come, give me a hug," he says, and embraces me with great emotion, drawing me to him in paroxysms of affection.
From deep among the folds of the ADMOR (term used for Chassidic leader - here it is used cynically) Gafni's vest, I wonder: What is better, a hidden Tzaddik who speaks to women from behind a curtain, or a cheerful blue-eyed rabbi who gives out hugs for the sake of heaven?
We sit opposite one another, across an antique wood table laden with Chassidic tracts brimming with spiritual insight. But even from a distance the pious rabbi makes sure that I feel comfortable, so from time to time he places a hand on my shoulder. How fortunate I am - he even occasionally pats my head, which is humbly engrossed in my paper (for writing).
SMB: "With all due respect - this is not the way a rabbi behaves."
MG: "According to Halacha, hugging a woman without sexual intent is a legitimate option. Not all rabbis agree with me but modesty is always an interesting subject for debate. In my opinion, when a woman wears close-fitting charedi (ultra orthodox) garb, and her dress clings perfectly to her ass, it's as if the woman is broadcasting "fuck me" - despite her modest dress. On the other hand, a man can hug a woman according to halacha if his sexuality emanates from a deep pure place and flows naturally."
SMB: "Halacha allows hugging women?"
MG:"I know with 100% certainty that there are orthodox rabbis who shake hands with women, even in Israel. I won't name names, I will only say that they are among the greatest rabbis. I have seen some of them give hugs to women. I hug all men and women in my community, and I communicate the same love for an old woman of 97 as I would for a young lady of 18. I am not prepared to live in a world without hugs.
"In the charedi world all sexual energy is illegitimate. All erotic meaning is unacceptable. However even the Chassidic masters said that swaying during prayer is a mating gesture, a sexual gesture. Is it chutzpah to say this? The Baal Shem Tov himself said that prayer is mating. I am not saying that prayer is sex, I am only saying that prayer is an experience of complete presence, one that can only be achieved via the act of love. Both in prayer and in making love one achieves a situation of being completely inside and feels the other. [The individual can] leave narrow egocentrism and love another."
SMB: "That is how you feel when you pray?"
MG My entire congregation feels this way when they pray. We sit in pairs, men across from women, with no regard for marital status, and we start to read the words of the prayers. Then we look deep into each other's eyes and we feel great love. This is not a sexual act. It is an act of love between a man and a woman in prayer. In Bayit Chadash prayer is an erotic experience.
"I am not saying that you should get carried away. Even by us there are limits. I have heard of a religious movement that has nude cross gender mikvah bathing. This won't happen in our community. We all remain clothed, and all physical touch is a caress of love."
SMB: "Even this small (touch) is foreign and strange to the orthodox world."
MG: "I know, I know. But I believe everyone needs to decide where he will take
his risks. I prefer to take risks in love."
Why Are People Telling Stories about Him?
Perhaps Rabbi Gafni has taken his risks for love too far, for indeed, the reason for our meeting is the recent wave of persistent publicity tying him to harassment of a sexual nature. It should be said at the outset that two of the central episodes occurred around twenty years ago, and according to Gafni's statements and documents, they may well be the result of persecution by a group of people who envy his success. But it is very hard to justify (or, clear) the Rabbi who so gushes with love when his most pronounced behaviors are characterized by hugging and touching and his main topics of conversation revolve around sex, eros and erotica. In any case, as Gafni's successful Torah community expands, these episodes have emerged, and today they have began to bob to the surface once again, threatening to sully the
reputation of the man whose students consider him a great scholar of Torah and Halacha.
"There are people who say, 'Gafni has gone too far in loving his fellow man,'" says the blushing young leader of the community, bubbling over with sorrow and rustling documents that attest to his innocence. "There are those who try to invalidate me out of jealously and pettiness, and because you can't invalidate a person for their ideas, they say 'Rabbi Gafni is an egomaniac, there are stories about him and sexual abuse.' In order to destroy the Bayit Hadash Congregation and distance me from he Rabbinate, they dredge up these old episodes all over and each time add new, piquant
"We have no problem whatsoever with Rabbi Mordechai Gafni's success," says one Rabbi who presently resides in the U.S. (the name is withheld by the editor). "We have a very serious problem with the testimony of women who have been hurt by him. I have known Gafni for over thirty years, and we were once friends. Even when he was very young, all sorts of rumors surrounded him involving women, and especially young girls upon whom he put his rabbinic authority to ill use, harassing and abusing them sexually, but there was never any proof. Every complaint was explained away by documents Gafni presented to testify to his innocence.
"Several years ago, it became public knowledge that Rabbi Baruch Lanner, who was until that point considered a highly successful figure on the New York educational scene and who had worked with youth, had in fact been harassing girls for thirty years. A Jewish Week reporter succeeded in interviewing several of Lanner's victims and exposing this serial abuser. Lanner was fired, formal complaints were lodged with the police, and Rabbi Lanner is presently in prison. Immediately after this case came into the public eye, women were empowered, and began talking openly about other rabbis who abuse women. The first on the list was Rabbi Gafni.
"Three women approached Vicki Polin, an activist in the Baltimore Jewish community who assist charedi victims of rape and sexual assault, and lodged complaints against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni. Polin sought out Rabbi Yosef Blau, Mashgiach Ruchani at Yeshiva University, and we all spoke to these young women and helped them in their recovery. At the end of the process, we all understood that Rabbi Gafni had destroyed their lives.
"After this, I kept my distance from Gafni. Earlier, I had asked to meet with him and speak to him. We sat together for five hours. Gafni had begun to establish himself in Israel and maintained contacts with many women and girls as a Torah authority. I was afraid for them. But Gafni insisted that Vicki Polin is crazy, and that the girls who complained were in love with him and turned against him because he had rebuffed their advances. He went so far as to compare himself to our forefather Joseph the Tzadik who withstood the enticement of Potiphar's wife. He carried on al along, shouting at the top of his lungs that everyone was jealous of him and his success in Israel.
"I said to him, 'Mordechai, listen. There are a lot of rabbis who are successful in Israel and people are not jealous of them. Why is that only about you there are these ugly stories?' He had no response. At one point in our conversation, I looked at him and said, 'Gafni, you need help. You are a sick person.' He, of course, did not accept what I said, so I backed away from him and disengaged."
The first episode took place 23 years ago, when Gafni was 20 years old. "I fell in love with a 14 year old girl," he reconstructs. "There was an incredible spiritual connection between us. She wrote me a letter describing her gentle and beautiful love. We were young and did nothing wrong except for a little fooling around. You know, some kissing and tits. We broke up after a year. I was not yet a rabbi then, and I never heard from that girl again.
"Five years ago, when the Bayit Hadash Congregation began to develop and gain public recognition, suddenly I was told that the girl was spreading lies about me, saying that I took advantage of her sexually when she was underage. A group of people who don't care for my ideology and the (spiritual) path of Bayit Hadash is publicizing these stories. When I was asked to respond, I said that to the best of memory, I was young and foolish and in love, and she was old beyond her years, and still I didn't do anything bad to her, and I have never in my life assaulted a woman, not sexually or in any other way."
"I was 13 and Gafni was 20," says the girl in a phone conversation from New York. "I was a little girl and didn't understand much. Gafni offered to help me with Talmud studies. Then he began to tell me that I am very special and he likes me. He also warned me not to tell anyone about his love, because they would all think that I am crazy and imagining things.
"One month later, he asked my parents' permission to sleep at our house. He said he wanted to go to a shul in the neighborhood. At night, he came into my room and woke me. He began to touch me and forced me to touch him. I started to cry and pushed him away, but he was much stronger than me. He said that if I told anyone he would hurt me and my parents.
"He did it every week for eight months. And every Shabbat morning he would pray intently and tell me that I should repent for what we did at night, because he also had prayed and repented. He didn't have sex with me because he was afraid I would get pregnant. At a certain point he was offered various shiduchim (arranged marriages) and he told me he was going to get married and all his problems would be over. Then he left me. Only years later I found the strength to tell some of my friends what had happened to me. With their help, I wrote a letter to a well-known rabbi who was friendly with Gafni in Israeland told him what had happened. But the rabbi has not answered my letter to this day."
A very interesting article in the Sofshavua (end of week) magazine supplement of the Friday Maariv. It seems Gafni intitiated this article to tell his side of the story. He does not come off well at all.
He basically claims everyone is jealous of his success.
Includes 2 huge giant color pictures (one is a 2 page photo spread, the other is the cover) that Gani posed for specifically for the story. I'm not sure what look Gafni was going for in these pictures. The cover has sitting in a chair arms and legs crossed with just a plain light bulb hanging from a wire in a completely empty blue room. He's wearing a white shirt and vest. He's not smiling. The 2 page spread has the same picture from his left side (no light bulb).
I don't know what he was going for, an intellectual look or the scary cult-leader in a blue prison cell look. I think he achieved the 2nd very well.
I would point out, as no one else has, that Gafni is also on the cover of the Friday Maariv (both the Israeli and international editions), he's right centre on the top cover under the Maariv header. With a caption for the article in the Sofshavua (end of week) magazine.
I'm getting questions from friendly and unfriendly persons about why I write so much about rabbinic sex abuse. Friends want assurance that I have noble motives. That I am doing it because I care so much about the victims or because I wish to further a particular Jewish value or because I want to better the Jewish community.
I don't like to claim noble motives. Most journalists don't. We're not good at explaining why we do what we do. We say our work should speak for itself.
A major purpose for journalism is that people make better decisions if they have better information. That's why we have a First Amendment.
Just because I do not phrase my motivations in noble terms does not mean I am not doing good. Let my actions speak. Motives are murky. I have been a journalist for more than 20 years. Whether I care for the victims and if that can even be measured is esoteric. I like to tell to people's stories. I prefer that they be compelling and important. Thus I seek out compelling and important stories, many of which revolve around sex and Orthodox Judaism.
I speak by phone October 12, 2004, with rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University.
"Mordecai Winiarz was a student [in the mid '70s] of rabbi Shlomo Riskin in his high school in Riverdale, Queens -- Ohr Hatorah AKA Manhattan Hebrew High School (MHS). Rabbi Riskin also operated a girls high school. My wife was principal of the girls high school - Dr. Rivkah Blau.
"Mordecai was close to rabbi Riskin.
"I first recall him seriously when he was running JPSY (circa 1983). My wife was now principal of a different school -- Shevach. He called her and asked her to take a girl [Judy] from JPSY who had been staying at his home. My wife took the girl into the school. Clearly, the young woman had issues. She arranged for the woman to see an Orthodox psychologist in Queens. The psychologist told my wife the story about what happened between Mordecai and herself. The psychologist reported to my wife that he believed the girls story.
"I recall a conversation from that time with another psychologist who had a child who was an advisor to JPSY. He had Judy stay at his home for Shabbos a couple of times. I discovered that he was aware of the story and that he believed the girl.
"My wife was very upset about the story.
"During this time, I received a call from Susan, who told me about the incident she described to you.
"At some point, I became aware of problems in his first marriage. I knew his first wife. She came from a small town in Maine. She was sweet and naive. He was a sharp operator. It did not seem like a good match.
"I know loads of people tried to convince the woman who became his second wife not to marry him.
"At one point, Mordecai came into my office and told me he'd get my wife. I was stern with him. He was threatening. That obviously solidified my concerns.
"JPSY came apart. The official story was that one of the major funders of the organization had economic reversals in the real estate market. There was resentment that Mordecai managed to protect himself financially but left others unpaid.
"He managed to get himself into an advanced kollel at Yeshiva University. I was perturbed about it. I realized that this was a troubled fellow who seemed to cause trouble for other people.
"Rabbi Riskin had a beis medresh. He was the only one to get semicha [rabbinic ordination] under that system. He studied under Riskin. Mordecai did not get semicha from YU.
"There is one rabbi who has repeated over the years that he won't give anybody semicha. He gave it once and regretted it eversince. It is thought that he is referring to Mordecai.
"Mordecai ingratiates himself with people. For two weeks, he was a star teacher at JSS (James Streir School, a school for baalei teshuva [returnees to Judaism] at YU. The kids were enamored with him. He made a wonderful first impression. And then it disintegrated. He didn't last the term.
"I know the administrator (with a background in psychology and social work) who made sure that Mordecai had nothing to do with YU anymore.
"Mordecai spent a short time in the rabbinate in a couple of different places. He was in Stamford, Connecticut, in-and-out quickly. He was in Boca Raton for a few months. He came into my office at YU one day to say that he was doing wonderful things at Boca and taking over the world and he is going into politics and he will become a senator from Florida. He is always grandiose. He was going to prove to me the enemy...
"Then something went wrong in Boca and he left suddenly. There were rumors of scandal.
"Recently, I called two people from the community. One said everything was fine. There was a difference of opinion on some issues. The second one was so apprehensive that before he would speak to me, he asked me a question about when I first met rabbi Kenneth Brander, the current rabbi of the Boca Raton Orthodox shul, and his wife. Rabbi Brander's wife was a student of my wife at MHS. So then he was fine.
"I asked him why he did this. He said I had no idea how powerful Mordecai is. How dangerous he is. He was nervous that maybe I was an agent for Mordecai. I couldn't get from him what happened except that Mordecai was evil.
"Mordecai moved to Israel and moved to Israel and changed his name. He was still married to his second wife. People would inform me of things. Mordecai applied to the Chief Rabbinate. Someone called me and asked me to speak to the Chief Rabbinate. I did.
"One night [circa 1995] Mordecai showed up at the Beis Medresh at YU. He walked over to me and said, 'I'm coming back. And when I'm back, I'm going to get you.'
[Circa 1999] I got a phone call from a private investigator in Israel. He said he was hired by a foundation which was considering giving Mordecai money for a television program. The head of the foundation is suspicious of him and wants me to do an investigation. He said he was coming to New York in two weeks.
"Sure enough, two weeks later, I got a phone call from the man. I went to meet him at his New York hotel. He takes out a volume of all the stuff he has. I said to him, why do you want to talk to me if you have all this material? He said, 'Because I have to be complete, and Mordecai had mentioned your name as going on a vendetta against him. And that he said your wife has always been jealous that he is rabbi Riskin's favorite and not him.'
"I said, that is absurd. She ran a school for rabbi Riskin for six years.
"I have the investigator's name -- Meir Palevsky of AMN Investigation Services in Tel Aviv. I have his card in my wallet. I have told people over the years to call the investigator in Israel. I've seen the man's name in the Israeli media.
"Meir told me two things. One, he was wasting his time because the daughter of the man who ran the foundation was enamored with Mordecai and he will get the money anyway. Two, he had an employee interview Mordecai. After Mordecai gave his version of the story -- that Judy propositioned him -- and that if he hugged her, it was only because he felt sorry for her. Mordecai then made some vulgar comment about the girl's anatomy.
"Over the years, people in Israel have sent people to talk to me about Mordecai. He keeps changing jobs and organizations.
"During this entire time [until circa 2001], he was still Orthodox. Saying that certain Orthodox people are opposed to him because he is no longer Orthodox is nonsense. Rabbi Billet was his teacher in high school. If you say people have a vendetta against him, it's an old one.
"Mordecai would reinvent himself. He was Carlebachian for a while. Then he became New Age. Periodically, people would show me articles he wrote. He managed to get his name in all kinds of publications. A number of the articles revolved around eros. Doing sins for God's sake. There was always a sexual component.
"My connection with the thing in The Jewish Week started several years ago. For the 50th anniversary of Israel, there was a special supplement and Mordecai came across as this new religious personality who was beyond everything else, was going to impact on the country. I was upset. I contacted Gary Rosenblatt [a longtime friend of R. Blau's] and said, you are giving such a troubled person a free ride.
"I called the late J.J. Greenberg [son of rabbi Yitz Greenberg]. He had worked for JPSY. 'J.J., nobody is going to accuse you of being right-wing Orthodox. Could you explain about Mordecai?' He said, everybody knew about Mordecai. This is not a secret. Unfortunately, J.J. was subsequently riding a bicycle and hit by a car and killed in Israel.
"After the Lanner scandal broke, several people contacted Gary Rosenblatt and said, why don't you write about Mordecai Gafni.
"Over the past year, I've spoken to the unnamed woman in Gary's article [who says that Gafni raped her]. The story was totally new to me.
"Someone from the Jewish Renewal movement contacted me a couple of years. He'd known Mordecai from Israel. He said this dangerous man is moving into the Renewal movement. I need to do something about it.
"Rabbi Siegal [from the Renewal movement] called me. I directed him to the private investigator in Israel. He said the people were taken with him but his son had come back from hearing him and said, there is something wrong with this guy.
"Rabbi Gafni applied for a job at Pardes. Rabbi Danny Landes liked him. He defended him in Gary's article. The three [Israeli] women rabbi Landes spoke to are different women from the three [Gary's article talks about]. There were and are teachers at Pardes who were upset [when Gafni came in to teach] because they knew his story. A friend of one of my son's who was teaching at Pardes quit over this.
"Mordecai came to American and spoke at some Hillel conferences. They weren't interested in him. Richard Joel [now president of YU, formerly head of Hillel, a Jewish organization on college campuses] says Mordecai came in and complained -- they're telling lies about me. Richard said, 'I have no idea what stories are true or not true. But I heard you speak and you said "I" 35 times and "God" no times. We're not interested.'
"At one point, Mordecai was going to have an article in a symposium in Tradition magazine. A YU student who had heard him at Hillel, and knew something about him, saw Mordecai's article and contacted me. I spoke out. The comment that came back from the editor was -- I knew about Mordecai Winiarz. I didn't know it was the same person. Mordecai's article didn't appear.
"Then I heard Mordecai was involved in Jewish-Buddhist things in Israel. Then Bayit-Chadash came.
"Over the past six months, I've had numerous telephone conversations with the three women [in Gary's article]. Most of it was me listening to them. You never know what affects people's lives. In two of the three cases, it has had a dramatically negative affect on their Jewishness and their other things. They're still traumatized and petrified.
"Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh from the Renewal movement contacted me. She spoke to one of the women. I was not taken by her. She complained about The Awareness Center and other things. She never called me back. I got an email from someone else in the Renewal movement who heard there was a controversy. I responded. I never heard back.
"Last year, rabbi Saul Berman came to see me. We're old friends. We had a long conversation. We are clearly not on the same page. I can't explain other people's attitudes. I told him about the women. I gave him the name of the private investigator.
"My wife and I went to a lecture given by rabbi Joseph Telushkin. We are close to the head of the organization that hosted the lecture. After the lecture, rabbi Telushkin came over and wanted to talk to me and my wife about Mordecai. What do we have against him? My wife did most of the speaking because she has known Mordecai longer and better than I. Afterwards, she thought he had understood. I said, no, he didn't. Unfortunately, I was right.
"They [rabbis Telushkin, Berman and Tirzah Firestone] said they did some kind of investigation. Rabbi Berman did speak to Judy. She thought that he understood her, but again, probably not. One of the other women called him a number of times and he didn't respond. To the best of my knowledge, rabbi Telushkin has spoken to none of these three. They are not the only ones. I don't have an investigative agency.
"My sense of Mordecai is that he is a profoundly troubled person who can be very dangerous. I have no reason to believe he's done teshuva. Every time he has to deal with a real case, he basically says, I didn't do it. He says he's changed. He's done teshuva. But for what? He says he's never done anything wrong.
"There are the same common patterns between Mordecai Gafni's situation and that of Baruch Lanner. Admitting a little bit one time and that you've stopped. The next time saying you've never admitted it. In the first article [The Jewish Week], he says: 'I don’t work with kids, I don’t counsel men or women and I don’t meet alone with women.' In the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles article, it is as though he did nothing wrong. His story changes. Arthur Green's letter says that he did terrible things 20 years but he's done teshuva. How would Arthur Green know aside from what Mordecai tells him? In the letter from rabbi Berman and Telushkin, it seems that he never did anything bad. This is classic pattern. Admit it when you have to. Deny it later.
"I've never fully understood the fear of Mordecai, but clearly many people see him as very powerful. When he threatened me, I didn't take it seriously. To take something seriously, you have to find it credible.
"Mordecai is good at bouncing back. He is not going to go away."
What did you think of Gary's article?
"Gary is a friend of mine. I've known him forever. We worked together on the Baruch Lanner thing. I would've preferred a stronger article.
"Most of these people bury themselves. Same thing with the article on Mattis Weinberg. It was the quote from R. Weinberg that was devastating. The arrogance of these people gets them. And they're all arrogant. It's part of what makes them what they are."
I wrote: "Most American Jewish newspapers (the Forward is the big exception) suck. They're controlled by the Jewish Federation and their idea of reporting is reprinting press releases. I'd rather be sodomized by ten of the surliest inmates of the California Penal System than praise such crap."
I plagiarized that line about being sodomized by surly inmates in the California Penal System from sentences Mike Albo wrote in various issues of Hustler Erotic Video Guide. I'm sorry.
Mike brought this to my attention this afternoon. He added: "May your wish come true."
I was thirteen, entering 9th grade at a yeshiva high school in NY. Mordechai Winiarz (now known as Marc Gafni) appeared at my parent's shabbat table, I think in early September. He was a Rabbinical student at YU. He offered to tutor me in Talmud, a new subject for girls in 9th grade in my school. He invited me over to Lincoln Square Synagogue, where he offered to help me out with learning Buba Metziah, if I would meet him on Shabbat afternoon in one of their class rooms.
After our first lesson, he walked me home, and proceeded to tell me how "special" I was, and that he really liked me. I got a weird feeling about this, but being completely inexperienced with adult men, I didn't have a clue about how to respond to this. I was a very sheltered religious girl. I wore long skirts and long sleeves, had told boys in 8th grade that I would not touch them as I believed in "negiah". I had no experience with boys, or men, for that matter, except for a few wonderful teachers I had in school.
Also, there was a lot going on for me and my family at the time. My mom was just getting over breast cancer, having gone through a year of chemotherapy. She was very sick and we were all frightened. My rather large family was in crisis due to this, and I would say that due to this trauma, not a lot of attention or attentiveness was being sent my way. Considering the circumstances, my family was doing the best they
could. Mordechai asked if I would like to "learn" with him, and I said OK.
Over the next month, he continued to tell me how much he liked me and how "special" I was, but told me that I must not tell any one that he felt this way. He told me that if my parents knew about it, they would blame me for associating with him, and that I would be shamed in my community. He told me that we had to keep it a secret, because most people just wouldn't understand. As far as I understood at that point,
we had a friendship, and I was getting some extra attention from an adult at a time when there wasn't a lot adult attention to go around in my family. My Dad was overworked, and my mom was recovering from cancer. I didn't quiet understand why I should be silent about the things Mordechai told me. He hadn't touched me yet, but was doing a fine job of "grooming me" into being silent and fearful. He convinced
me that I had to be loyal to him, and "not tell" about how he felt about me. I believed everything he told me. In retrospect, he calculatedly brainwashed me into silence, hooked me into an emotional trap, ensuring that I wouldn't tell my parents.
Then he asked my parents if he could stay at our house over shabbat, because he wanted to be able to walk to a synagogue in our part of the city. They said OK. (My parents had no idea that they should suspect him of anything. After all, he was a religious guy from YU.) It was then that he started coming into my room after I had fallen asleep, and waking me up. I remember clearly that when he tried to touch me, I pushed him away repeatedly. I remember saying, "no, no, no!" I knew intuitively that it just wasn't OK with me. But he was larger and stronger than me, and after a huge struggle, he overcame me. Week after week, he would come into my bedroom and woke me up in the middle of the night, and I would fight to keep him from touching me. Every time, I was overcome by him physically. He had already done the job of
convincing me that if I told one I would be shamed by my family and my community, so I kept silent about what was going on. I hated it, was disgusted by it, and I was terrified, but there was no place I could talk about it or get help. I also had no words for what was happening to me, it was horrible and indescribable. I think of myself back then as a 13 year old girl who had to become disconnected from the world
around her, it was full of contradiction and betrayal, and I had been trapped in this horrible situation with, as far as I could see, no way out. I walked around my neighborhood, a place that had always been familiar and safe for me, and I no longer felt connected to anything.
I remember on one of the nights that he came into my room, woke me up and was trying to molest me, he told me that he and his brother were abused by their mother, who was a holocaust survivor. He told me that she stuck their heads in the kitchen oven. There was a very clear message that because of what had happened to him, he couldn't help but doing what he was doing to me, and he pleaded with me to understand
that, have compassion with him, and comply. More than once, he told me what he was doing was because of the way I looked, or because he just couldn't control himself. He described the world to me as he saw it, full of boys and men who just could not control their sexual impulses, and like them, he really couldn't help himself- he just had to do what he was doing to me. He just had no choice. He added, as part of his rationalization, that the guys at YU were always masturbating, but no
one talked about it.
But he was tormented by the fact that he had no control over himself. Each morning after the molestation experience, I would wake up and walk into the living room, and see him shuckling wildly, beating his chest, doing "teshuva" for what he had done the night before. He told me that I should join him in doing teshuva too! Amazingly, he really believed that I was a partner in sin. Of course, I didn't "daven" or do "teshuva", but just stared at him in disbelief. And even after this fervent bout of repentance, he would wake me up in the middle of the night the next week.
I also remember him practicing sermons in front of me. He would pace around, gesticulating and dramatizing this or that phrase from the Torah. He wanted to be just like Rabbi Riskin, and he did a great job emulating Riskin's body language and speech patterns. He talked a lot about gaining popularity and getting to be a powerful leader. Mordechai made it clear that he wanted to be a "big Rabbi", a
"tzaddik". It seemed to me that he just loved to hear himself talk.
The abuse went on through the year I was in 9th grade. The school year was almost over, I remember it was warm out. He called me on the phone one day to tell me that he would no longer be coming over. He realized that what he really needed was to get married soon, and he explained that this would give him a proper outlet for his sexuality. Its hard to describe how I felt at that moment, because it is complex. My molester finally decided to stop abusing me, to leave me alone, to move on. You
would imagine I would feel great relief, but actually the full weight of the abuse I had endured in silence came crashing down on me. Here I was, left with this horrible experience, still with no one to talk to about it, and no language for it anyway. And he wasn't retreating because I had some how managed to make him stop, but because he decided it just wasn't worth the risk any more. He was terrified that he would do more and make me pregnant- then there would be no way to keep his
secret. Until then, his abuse included exposing my body against my will, forcibly touching my breast, grabbing my hand and forcing me to touch his penis, and forced digital vaginal penetration. All were the most horrifying, degrading and painful experiences for me. All this only a year or so after my bat mitzvah.
After his phone call, I knew that I no longer had to endure his abuse, but now I had to figure out how to survive it, and what I really wanted to do was escape the world that had allowed this to happen to me. I understand that what I was going through is called post-traumatic stress these days. But in those days, and in my community, the words sexual violence, sexual abuse, or molestation, sexual trauma, were just
not house-hold concepts. I knew there was no way any one would believe my story, and if anything, what happened would be misunderstood or minimized and dismissed.
After a while, I figured the best thing to do was to "put the experience away" until I could figure out how to deal with it. During the abuse, I had, out of necessity, become pretty good at compartmentalizing myself, and leaving my body when something was happening to it that I hated, but couldn't control. I was also good at "putting away" the things that were just too complex and painful to deal with at the time. This is how I survived the rest of high school.
I tried to escape the trauma I had endured by spending the next school year in Israel, doing my best to push it out of my immediate reality. Upon returning from Israel for the 11th grade, I began to withdraw from the Orthodox world. I made it to college and embraced college life. My twenties were about getting as far away from what had happened to me as possible. I was determined to be free of a world that had betrayed me, and to embrace the world as a secular Jewish college kid. It wasn't until much later that I was really able to deal with the trauma of what
While in high school, I had told some of my siblings, who were shocked. No one knew what to do with my story. I told a male NCSY counselor, who had no response, except to look very uncomfortable. When I was 18, I told my parents, who were also shocked, and enraged. But no one knew how to deal with he information I was sharing.
It wasn't until about 10 years ago, that I began to speak out more widely about what had happened to me. In 1994, I wrote a letter to Rabbi Riskin, and told him my story. I never received a response from him. I continue to tell the story to any one who wants to know about it. Many people have contacted me over the years. People who had a "creepy" feeling about Mordechai, or who had heard rumors, but wanted to hear a first hand account.
I tell my story for the following reasons:
If there is any way I can protect another girl or woman from going through what I went through, I will do it. If there is any way I can protect a parent from having their child victimized, and having to deal with the pain and guilt of not having known enough to protect their child, I will do it.
Unfortunately, I knew Mordechai very well. He told me a lot about himself, and I knew him as a sexually compulsive, sexually violent man. After talking with counselors, lawyers, and professionals who advise and counsel sexual perpetrators, I learned that in 99% of cases, people who compulsively sexually abuse girls or women, especially those who were abused themselves as children, don't stop. These are dangerous people. The more we are silent about them, the more they have the
freedom to act out their sexual compulsions. Further first hand accounts show that Mordechai continued to molest young women after he was married. Unfortunately, marriage did not solve his problems. There is no reason for me to assume he is not still victimizing girls and women. Back when I knew him, he was a refined manipulator, "groomer", "brain-washer", and he used those skills in order to victimize girls and young women. I have no doubt that, years later, he has honed his skills as a predator.
A couple of years ago, Mordechai asked one of his supporters to contact me, to see if we could meet. I was told that he wanted to make peace with me. I read a letter that he wrote, stating that he regretted that our "relationship" didn't work out, and that he wished he had waited for me to come of age and had married me. He really thought that we had a mutually consenting relationship, and that I was hoping that he would take me as his bride! There was no acknowledgment that he did anything
against my will, and certainly no recognition of the gravity of his actions. He was trying to contact me because he knew I was telling my story, and he wanted to stop the bad PR, not because he wanted to make amends, do "teshuva", or own up in any way to what he did. His statements to Gary Rosenblatt, "I never forced her...she was 14 going on 35" are the farthest from the truth. Anyway, I expected that he would be smarter than to make these transparently self incriminating statements. Like your classic pedophile, he claimed that the child was consenting, loved him back, and really liked what was going on. There is no reason for me to believe that Gafni has reformed his ways. There is every reason for me to speak out and protect others from him.
Of all people, Mordechai should not be teaching people about Judaism - any "variety of Judaism" - Orthodox or Jewish Renewal, or any other Jewish trend. Yes, he is smart, charismatic, knows how to excite people, bring people in. Are we that desperate for someone to attract wayward Jews to Judaism, that we condone a sexual predator doing it?
Should Judaism be taught to spiritual seekers by someone who has molested minors and attacked young women? If we want a formula for misrepresentation...and turning people off to Judaism for good - we've got one.
One of the advantage of writing under a pseudonym is that one can say pretty much whatever he damn well feels like saying without fear of the consequences of offending others. It takes a man with tefillim (read “balls,” for the unchurched amongst you) of steel to use his true Christian name to do otherwise and, as became clear to me years ago, Luke Ford is that man.
Just consider this: here before you is a Jew who more than anything else in the world, craves acceptance by the Gedolim of American Jewish life, followed only at some remove by his desire for acceptance as a journalist among journalists. So what does he do? He writes a book that is guaranteed to piss off exactly these groups, and all for the greater good of each. How can you not respect that?
Likely the Gedolim of American Jewish life will not. I first became dimly aware of them when I was a yeshiva bachur (student at a Jewish Madrassa studying Midrash), working a day joy in Mendal Slutsky’s Coital Clothery on New York’s fabled Lower East Side. My job entailed drilling holes into the boards of wood then favored by the hyper-Orthodox as a means of introducing modesty into the marital bed. Less religious Jews favored mere cloth; the genius of my boss was in realizing that in the endless struggle to prove oneself more observant than the tzadik next door, Orthodox Jews would move past billowing cloth to more rigid, modest materials like plywood. For this to function, holes had to be drilled (and oh but their size was a contentious matter!), and I was the man with the surest means for drilling such holes into coital modesty shields.
But the work was, of course, nothing if not boring, so I started reading the old Jewish newspapers that were lying about. I began with The Jewish Press out of Brooklyn, and then graduated to the more mainstream papers based in Manhattan. They were all the same: worshipful of power, boring, afraid to tell the truth to the masses of generally ignorant Jews. Luke Ford is none of these things. He tells it like it is no matter what the consequences. But don’t you take my word for it – turn the page, and see for yourself.
“Chaim Amalek” is a Jewish apostate living on the Upper West Side.
Yesterday's News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism is the first book-length examination of contemporary American Jewish journalism.
“The history of Jewish journalism in the United States presents something of a challenge. Traditionally, historians like to recount the story of progress: development onward and upward from primitive origins to flourishing contemporary success. The history of Jewish journalism in the US, by contrast, represents, at least until recently, a story of marked decay.”
—Dr. Jonathan Sarna, Brandeis University
“Jewish newspapers would be more compelling if Jewish readers wanted a more compelling paper. I can’t tell you how many times over the years that I’ve heard readers say, ‘I read your paper on Shabbat. I don’t want to be disturbed. I just want to read nice Jewish news. I don’t want things to make me angry.’ That makes our role that much more difficult.”
—Marc S. Klein, editor of j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California
We are women and men, Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Hasidim, Europeans, Americans, Asians, Lithuanians, yeshiva educated and university graduates, old and young, passionate and cool. We share a fetish or kink in our makeup or proclivity. I.e. our appetites, leanings or tendencies require/desire Bondage or Domination or Submission or Sadism or Masochism or any permutation of the above for sexual function.
What are we OBDSMs doing?
We are practicing the following kinky/fetish/perverted behaviors in our personal sexual activities. Some of us, (lucky ones?) with consensual spouses, others look for it outside the home.
Acucullophallia (being cut)
Algolagnia (love of pain)
Altocalciphilia (high heels)
Arse – ass play
Asphyxiaphillia (breath play)
Breast and nipple torture
Cock and ball torture
Coprophilia (shit play)
Collar and lead
Cupping (suction of the skin)
Dacryphilia (arousal from tears)
Electro-torture (EMS TENS units)
Religious (Rebbe – rebbetzin play)
Retifism (shoes or boots)
Total power exchange (24/7)
Transvestitism (cross-gender dressing)
If you are wondering why so many of the hitherto anonymous activities you have been enjoying have weird Pseudo-Latin-Scientific names? It has been suggested that their purpose is simply to remind you that nothing you have done is so unique it has not already been named.
What could possibly be Orthodox Jewish in this context?
Orthodox Jewish describes you if you are trying to be Shomer Shabbat, Kashrut, Taharat HaMishpacha, and you don’t consider the UJA Kol Nidre appeal your first and only Tzedaka obligation.
Obviously, some of the activities mentioned above are explicitly forbidden Torah prohibitions. Some, such as those posing a risk to health, are covered by blanket prohibitions against dangerous activities, (V’Nishmartem M’Od L’Nafshoteichem). Others by prohibitions against disgusting behaviors, (B’Al Teshakatzu et Nafshoteichem) Most are prohibited even if they are permissible technically, (Naval Bi’Rishut HaTorah).
We do them anyway, and that is the reason for this List.
Many of us have felt internally self- exiled from the mainstream of Jewish life by our kinks. As practicing members of the Orthodox Jewish Community, our own synagogue society and Torah culture has prevented us from identifying and/or corresponding with one another. Many OBDSMs have expressed the sentiment that while they can imagine never having sex again, they cannot imagine surviving in the closet another day. This list attempts to provide safe place to chat and be heard.
What is OBDSM not?
This forum is not a place for mental health professionals to solicit business. It is not sex-therapy or group therapy. It is not a place to pick up sex-partners or exchange pictures. It is not Hefker!
Did I actually write that?
What is encouraged or discouraged on the OBDSM list?
Well, e.g. writing and asking about the Halachic controversy over anal-sex is ok. Ditto for writing and asking about body piercing or where to find a doctor who is sensitive to the concerns of Orthodox Jewish gay women and men, or how to address safety issues. Writing and telling people on this list what they may or may not do about anal-sex, body piercing or anything else is a no-no.
Also not ok is posting political screeds from either Peace-Now or YESHA. Announcements are ok. Advice is ok. Boring, repetitious posts concerning new virus alerts are not.
Talking about a compulsion to use a burning Shabbat candle in order to obey some extreme kinky desire is ok. Telling someone they are a Sheygetz/Shiksa because they use a particular brand of cling film that does not have an OU Hechsher is not ok.
Do you get the picture?
Is there an OBDSM bottom line?
Disrespectful posts about another member of this list will earn instant and permanent exclusion from the list, without warnings.
Must I write into the list?
Well, it would be nice hear from you once in a while. Especially when you first arrive. We’d like to know something, anything about you. Where you are, e.g. Williamsburg-Brooklyn, or Bondi-Beach- New South Wales. Tell us please what gender you are, and whatever information about yourself you feel safe telling other anonymous people. It’s ok to “lurk” on the list and not contribute anything, preferring to remain an observer. Feel free to jump in and say something about something you think is important.
What are OBDSM Munches?
Munches are monthly or occasional get-togethers, usually in a café or restaurant outside your local Jewish neighborhood where we meet for an hour or two of chat and non-cholov-yisroel coffee. Their purpose, like this list, is to break out of our isolation and help develop some type of network of like-minded people.
It has come to my attention that Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks who has had serious allegations involving the sexual molestation of young children (see website below) will again be speaking again at Young Israel of Briarwood, Thursday, October 14, 8:30 pm at 84-75 Daniels St., Briarwood, NY 11435 - Topic: 'Beginings -- How They Impact Our Daily Lives.'
1) I call upon the OU and the Young Israel organization to take immediate action to cancel the program scheduled Thursday, October 14, 8:30 pm at Young Israel of Briarwood featuring speaker Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks.
Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks has a long documented history of serious allegations of sexual abuse of young children and sexual exploitation of women he counsels.
This is not the first time Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks has spoken at this Young Israel. Mere weeks ago officials at Young Israel of Briarwood were informed of Rabbi Ephraim Bryks' scheduled program September 2, 2004 and failed to take any steps to cancel the program.
2) I call on the OU, Young Israel and the RCA to fully investigate this situation and take immediate steps to prevent further occurrence.
3) I call on the OU, Young Israel, RCA and youth organizations such as Hillel and NCSY to ban any programs involving the Bukharian Jewish Organization of Youth and all related Bukharian student organizations. The Bukharian Jewish Organization of Youth has been promoting Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks for the past years see:
One of the leaders of this organization is Shlomo Fuzaylov. Fuzaylov is a student of Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks from his days as principal at Queens Torah Academy. Fuzaylov was one of the leaders of student protests in support of Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks as administrators considered removing him from the school (which they ultimately did).
The Bukharian Jewish Organization of Youth has received funding and sponsorship from Astor Brokerage Limited, which I am told is associated with Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks' in-laws (he worked there in the 1990s).
4) Further, I call upon the Orthodox community and its leadership to end their tolerance and silence regarding Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks and his continuing activities in the Orthodox Jewish community.
a. Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks has a mikvah operated out of his home:
Name: Mikvah of Kew Gardens
Address: 84-33 116th St. Kew
b. Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks' Hachnosas Kallah G'mach is promoted by the
Vaad Harabonim of Queens website.
c. Rabbi Ephraim Boruch Bryks' continues to counsel women.
1994 - Documentary Transcript - CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
Program Prime Time News, Network CBC
Investigative documentary: "Unorthodox Conduct"
Date February 28, 1994 - Time 21:00:00 ET - End 22:00:00 ET
Guest Sara and Mortin Leven, parents; Kristen Balmer, Pychotherapist; Dr.Adrian Fein, friend of Bryks; Judy Silver, fmr. synagogue board member; Ephraim Bryks, rabbi; Kovi Smolak, fmr.student; Patti Cohen, teacher; Nathan Kabrinski, synagogue board member; Keith Cooper, director, Child and Family Services; 5 unidentified persons.
Host Peter Mansbridge and Pamela Wallin
Mansbridge: This is the story of a powerful man, and the shocking accusations that he abused that power with children he was supposed to protect. For more than 10 years, Rabbi Ephraim Bryks was the spiritual leader of a small synagogue in Winnipeg and principal of its school.
But now, in a joint investigation, Prime Time News and CBC Winnipeg have
uncovered some disturbing stories.
Four former students who accuse Rabbi Bryks of sexual abuse. A warning now, this documentary contains graphic language and its content may offend some viewers. You will also see some home video of school concerts, we want to stress that none of the children in those videos is the subject of our documentary.
Here's Danielle Keefler.
Judy Silver: We could not believe, it was hard to believe that this man would do anything wrong.
Mortin Leven: I think he's not just a fraud and -- not a charlatan, but really wicked. And I know how many people he's hurt.
Sara Leven: I was tremendously angry and so deeply hurt that someone should do that to a small child.
Danielle Keefler: The sounds of innocence that once filled the Torah Academy in Winnipeg are no more. The Orthodox Jewish day school closed its doors in 1991, more than 10 years after it was built from scratch by Rabbi Ephraim Bryks. But some former students say what happened to them at his hands has left haunting memories, and scarred lives.
Sara: He was a kid who always had a smile on his face.
Mortin: He was also very vivid and fun-loving.
Keefler: Innocent and trusting. Daniel Leven grew up in a close-kit Jewish Orthodox family; two brothers, two sister, parents Sara and Mortin, who wanted tradition, values instilled in their children. They enroled five-year-old Daniel in the Torah Academy.
Sara: Education is almost everything. It -- Jewish education teaches a person how to live for the rest of their life.
Keefler: Daniel went to the school from kindergarten to Grade 2. Then the Levens moved away to Montreal, later to Toronto. As a teenager, Daniel's smile masked his pain. His parents had separated. The boy was in distress, unable to concentrate in school, prone to explosive fits of rage. At 14, he started therapy. Three years later, he stunned his mother and father.
Sara: Last May, he started having -- May '93, he started having memories of being sexually abused by the rabbi and principal at Torah Academy. He was sitting on his lap, and the rabbi -- in his office in the rabbi's office, and the rabbi was -- it's so hard for me to say this --
Mortin: He was fondling.
Sara: He was fondling his genitals first over his clothes, and then he opened his pants. And afterwards, he gave him a candy. It was a peppermint one, with the blue wrapper, I think it says "Elite" on it. He even remembered the candy.
Mortin: The internal mechanism for a flash second said, "It's got to be a mistake here, I'm not hearing this." But instantly, I knew that he was telling me the truth.
Sara: And then he said he had a memory, and he started coughing and spitting out mucous, and he sat up, and we got tissues for him. And he was coughing and spitting up and spitting up, and he started crying. And he said that he was in the office, and Rabbi Bryks put his penis in Daniel's mouth. And he kept coughing, and I encouraged him to spit it up, spit everything up. That was another memory.
Mortin: He did say that Bryks said things. I wondered why he kept quiet. And then he said, "Well, Bryks said to me, God will punish you if you speak."
Keefler: After 10 years, Daniel's silence was broken. His childhood torment revealed. Last June, he went to the Toronto Police. He gave a statement on tape. His psychotherapist, Kristen Balmer was there.
Kristen Balmer: He said, "I don't want this to continue any more." He said, "I don't want any other person to have to go through what I went through," and I watched him cry, and there's no question he was telling the truth.
Keefler: Daniel tucked away his trauma, spoke of it rarely. But with paint, he let memories, images flow on to paper. In mid-September, Daniel's mother got an unexpected phone call, it was the Toronto Police, their tape machine was faulty, it hadn't recorded Daniel's statement.They wanted him to do it all over again.
Sara: The interview was supposed to take place, I guess, about a week later. A week -- I'm sorry, I can't say it. He never lived to make another interview.
Mortin: He took his own life on Yom Kippur in the afternoon.
Keefler: On the day of atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish year, Daniel hanged himself. Toronto Police had to drop the case, the complainant was dead. A month after Daniel's suicide, a memorial service in Winnipeg. A family friend delivered a message from Daniel's father, a message that hinted at what may have caused Daniel to take his own life.
Rabbi: Most of you here today didn't really know our son and brother Daniel, or at least not since he was very young. You're here to show concern for his family. Some of you may even be here because his death is a grim reminder of a bleakly sinister stain on the Jewish community.
Keefler: Ephraim Bryks grew up in Denver, Colorado. His father, Lejzor, was a respected Orthodox rabbi, a renowned scholar. In 1971, Lejzor Bryks hanged himself amid rumours of financial scandal. That same year, Ephraim began rabbinical studies. In 1978, he looked for work. The Herzalia Adas Yeshurun Synagogue in Winnipeg needed a rabbi --24-year-old Bryks got the job.
Dr. Adrian Fein: He's one of the most exceptional human beings I known.
Keefler: Dr. Adrian Fein became a close friend of the rabbi in Winnipeg.
Fein: An unbelievably hard worker, a person with tremendous interpersonal skills, and an ability to be quite exceptional with either young children or 90-year-old congregants.
Keefler: Bryks injected new life to the small orthodox congregation, new members flocked to synagogue, drawn in by his aura. Judy Silver was a synagogue board member.
Silver: I'd almost call it a cult, a cultish personality, where he was very
Home videotape of Ephraim Bryks: and now for the final moment to see who graduates and goes on to Grade 1.
Keefler: Within two years, Bryks started a Jewish say school. To many, he became a hero.
Home videotape of child: Without further delay, our very own Rabbi Bryks.
Home videotape of Bryks: I would like to express my thanks.
Keefler: Bryks had more than charisma. He had his own rules. Local orthodox practice wasn't good enough. He alone set the standard for his own followers -- what was kosher, what wasn't. He even set up his own religious court.
Fein: He made a stance on issues that he felt there was no compromise that could be allowed. So his critics, of course, could say he was a megalomania, or this is him wanting to set himself up. I don't think that was his agenda.
Keefler: To some, a visionary, to others, a man obsessed with power. The clash polarized the community. Bryks questioned other rabbi's Jewishness. The questioned his credibility.
Keefler: In a community journal, Bryks boasted a degree there of law from the state of Israel, that he sat as a member of a religious court in Israel, and had a court room. The truth is, he was a rabbinical student, not a judge. And the state doesn't give out law degrees. In "The Jewish Post and News," Bryks plagiarized newspaper columns copied word for word from another rabbi's book. No permission, no credit. In November 1987, Winnipeg's council of Rabbis wrote a scathing letter to the editor. They accused Bryks of simple "plagiarism," "theft." Bryks' lawyer threatened the newspaper with a lawsuit if the letter were published. It was never printed.
videotape of Bryks: You should all have a program in front of you.
Keefler: That was just the first time lawyers would jump to Bryks' defence. Within weeks, the rabbi again faced serious accusations, his reputation on the line; spiritual leader, school principal, suspected of questionable behaviour with students.
Kovi Smolak: He would be sitting on the bench, and he'd be saying hello to kids, saying good morning, and he'd pick one kid out of the group coming in, and he would say hello and put them on his lap, and tickle them, and you know -- and he's laugh, and be very extra friendly towards them, including me sometimes. And he would tickle them along the whole-- along their bodies.
Keefler: Former student Kovi Smolak says Bryks also played games with boys in their bathing suits at the swimming pool.
Smolak: He would kind of like make a cracking noise, and then he would run his fingers like that, like along here, or shoulders or here, down -- sometimes he would stop here, or sometimes he would just continue going on just down the legs, like that. Like moving his fingers around.
Keefler: For the eight years Smolak was a Torah Academy student. He saw nothing wrong with Bryks' incessant touching. And many teachers and parents welcomed his warm, demonstrative style. When teacher Patti Cohen saw Bryks with a girl on his lap in the school hallway, she didn't like it.
Patti Cohen: I felt uncomfortable with it. I mentioned it to one or two people at the time. And they thought I was being too uptight about it.
Keefler: What people didn't see, many didn't believe. Bryks counselled women, studied with teenage girls, all behind his closed office door. Orthodox Jewish law forbids men from touching or even being alone with a female over the age of three who isn't family. A 14-year-old complained the rabbi often sat on her lap, touch her, tickled her, and talked about sex.
Once, she says, he even licked her face. Synagogue board member Nathan Kabrinski heard the girl's story.
Nathan Kabrinski: This struck me as very inappropriate, and I felt that it should be dealt with.
Keefler: The board didn't go to the police. Didn't contact child welfare agencies. Instead, board members set up their own private inquiry.
Silver: We were trying to try him without it going public. We were trying to protect the synagogue.
Keefler: That December 1987, the board, Bryks and his lawyer heard the evidence. The teenager repeated her story. Two women also came forward, accused Bryks of making unwanted sexual advances. They weren't believed.
Kabrinski: The people who brought forth these concerns against the rabbi were publicly humiliated and insulted and called liars. It was at this point that I felt that the whole process that I was participating in was a sham.
Keefler: For three nights, accusations, legal threats, personal attacks.
Kabrinski: We were being threatened collectively for taking a position against the rabbi, that would result in a legal suit. And second of all, we were being threatened individually, because of information that the rabbi had about us and our personal lives, that would be used against us.
Silver: He said quite clearly, I have secrets on all of you.
Keefler: On New Years Day 1988, a final board meeting. Word got out, more than a hundred people rushed to the synagogue. They feared Bryks would be fired.
Kabrinski: The whole auditorium of the synagogue was filled with people shouting and screaming.
Keefler: Board members cast their ballots. The rabbi wasn't fired. Judy Silver and eight other members quit in protest. They paid a price.
Silver: The community at large was incensed. His supporters were even more incensed, and I and my children were shunned. My child was spat on in the synagogue.
Keefler: Dr. Adrian Fein says Bryks' opponents were on a witch hunt.
Fein: Rational, sane, friendly, good people, "God-fearing people" became rabid seekers of the destruction of the rabbi, thinking that he had done these terrible things.
Keefler: The board backed Bryks, but finally asked Winnipeg child and family services to investigate. For two months, social workers talked to 45 people, students, teachers and parents. When the agency issued its report in March 1988, the rabbi supporters called it an exoneration. The board considered the case closed. Bryks kept his job.
Kabrinski: He created the community and he could do no wrong. And so calling him into question was really calling the community into question. It was just not acceptable to do that.
Keefler: The report found Bryks hadn't broken any criminal law. But it did find his tickling and touching "neither appropriate nor professional." And it warned, "If there is a child in the school that is currently being abused, the dynamics of the reaction of staff, fellow students and other adults over the past couple of months might prevent any child from coming forth with disclosure." That's exactly what happened to one girl, who didn't want to be interviewed on camera. A former student told us what she didn't tell Child and Family Services, that Rabbi Bryks fondled her breasts, once laid completely on top of her, touched her, tickled her all the time. When a social worker asked questions, the girl kept quiet. She wasn't the only student who kept a secret. We found another child who claimed he was victimized. In 1989, a year after the Child and Family Services investigation, a seven-year-old boy went to the Winnipeg Police. His parents watched from the next room, listened, as the boy using a doll, alleged Rabbi Bryks molested him in Grade 1. The couple is disguised to protect their son's identity.
Unidentified Parent 1: He showed on the dolls that he had been basically --
I guess, fondled, masturbated --
Unidentified Parent 2: Rubbed.
Unidentified Parent 1: Rubbed, rubbed would be the word. He used the word
Unidentified Parent 2: The rabbi would comment -- get him out of the classroom during a session of class, take him up to the office.
Unidentified Parent 1: And he threatened him.
Unidentified Parent 2: He threatened him that if he were to say this to anyone, the big boys would come and beat him up.
Keefler: Bryks was brought in for questioning by the police. Then let go. Police asked Manitoba's senior crown attorney for an opinion. The word came back, no charges.
Unidentified Parent 1: We were called one day and told that the crown wasn't going to prosecute.
Father: Because they felt that it would be a child's word against the rabbi's word.
Keefler: We asked Child and Family Services why it didn't reopen its investigation into the Torah Academy after the boy went to the police.
CFS director Keith Cooper.
Keith Cooper: It was decided that it would not be productive to try and go in and talk to all the children in the school because of the highly charged atmosphere. That just sort of blocked off children's ability to respond and so on.
Keefler: That atmosphere took its toll on the school, children were pulled out. Bryks stayed on until 1990. Then left Winnipeg. The Torah Academy closed. But we found another child who can't close that chapter of her life. A fourth student, this couple's daughter claims she was molested.
Unidentified Parent 3: It's horrifying, and it's unbelievable.
Keefler: When we come back, we'll have that girl's story, and where Rabbi
Keefler: The name of the school has been wiped from the building, but memories are etched in the mind of a 14-year-old girl.
Unidentified Parent 3: I felt unbelievably numb.
Keefler: Last November, this couple's daughter told them she was molested by
Rabbi Bryks in Grade 2. They're disguised to protect the girl's identity.
Unidentified Parent 3: Rabbi Bryks would take her out of class and would take her into his office during school time, and he would make her take off her underwear and -- her stockings, and then he would fondle, her genitalia. She remembers it happening many times. She told me that he told her that if she ever told anybody, that God would punish her.
Unidentified Parent 4: The most painful recent event since her disclosure for me was going up to see how she was in her bedroom. It was just quiet, and I just wanted to see how she was. Going into her bedroom, she was sitting in her closet curled up in a fetal ball listening to Barney tapes with a little Barney book in her hand. I couldn't deal with that.
Keefler: The 14-year-old is in counselling. Her parents say she isn't ready to go to the police.
Unidentified Parent 3: I mean, she's so fragile that this has to be on her own time.
Unidentified Parent 4: She also knows about another boy who did go to the police and nothing happened. Rabbi Bryks is still out there, still teaching school.
Keefler: After Bryks left Winnipeg, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Montreal planned to hire him as principal. A group of parents protested. They'd learned of the investigations by police and Child and Family Services in Winnipeg. The Rabbi wasn't hired. Rabbi Bryks' job search took him across the border to New York City. In 1990, a new Jewish high school also called the Torah Academy opened in Queens. It offers Grade 7 to 12 for both young men and women, most of whom are recent immigrants. In spite of the controversy that followed Bryks from Winnipeg to Montreal, he was hired as the high school's principal. Today, Rabbi Bryks is a success story in Queens' Orthodox community. The school was desperate for a principal, desperate to give young Russian Jews a place to study. Bryks started with an empty building. He now has 400 students, a familiar story, a story we wanted
to talk to him about. Over the phone, he said that "Winnipeg is a part of my life that's behind me" and refused to be interviewed. W
e went to see him in person. Rabbi Bryks, I'm Danielle Keefler with CBC Television. I just wanted to have a moment of your time, Sir, to give you some information on some very serious allegations that have come to our attention.
Bryks: Thank you, but as I mentioned to you yesterday, I really prefer not to discuss this.
Keefler: Daniel Levin, a boy who was at your school, Torah Academy --
Bryks: Thank you very much. I wish you a lot of success.
Keefler: He alleges that you sexually abused him, sir. Did you sexually abuse Daniel Levin?
Bryks: I do not wish to discuss this. Thank you.
Keefler: Did you sexually abuse any children at the Torah Academy?
Bryks: I really have no comment, thank you.
Keefler: Sir, we've spoken to a number of families. A number of their children have come forward and, in great detail, have alleged that you sexually abused them. How do you explain that?
Bryks: I really have no comment.
Keefler: These are very serious allegations, and they're coming forward in
great detail. Are you saying these children are lying?
Bryks: I have no comment.
Keefler: Is there anything you'd like to say also?
Bryks: No. Thank you.
Keefler: Bryks' employers in New York say they checked out his past, and all
they dug up was unsubstantiated rumour, but they knew Child and Family Services investigated the man in Winnipeg, knew he wasn't hired in Montreal. The national body that services all Jewish day schools in North America has no authority over who is hired. The schools are on their own. In Winnipeg, the school's ward, the community, stood by Rabbi Bryks. Many people still do. Joel Mislovski, the board's president at the time, and other board members refused to be interviewed. In a letter, the board defended its decision to keep Bryks on, saying "There were no further occurrences." Many in the Jewish community want the door on the Bryks' affair kept shut, but not the victims' parents.
Unidentified Parent 1: It's time for the community to stop covering it up.
I think there's a -- great fear in the Jewish community because of anti-Semitism that we can't air our dirty laundry, and it's time -- and the Jewish community really has a lot to answer for here.
Keefler: Former board member Judy Silver has many regrets.
Silver: We thought we could keep it among ourselves, keep it a secret, that
no one ever has to know that this happened in our synagogue. Yes, we were ashamed. We were ashamed that we hired this man and let this happen.
Mortin: The irony is you send your child to a school where you think, this of all places, he will be safe.
Sara: We have lost a child through this and nothing, nothing that is ever done to Rabbi Bryks could ever bring him back. Daniel can never come back. His life was destroyed by this.
Keefler: Mortin Levin reaches out to his son every day, a prayer to help guide Daniel's departed soul. Sara Levin mourns through paint therapy.
After a year of mourning, a headstone will replace a simple marker in a Toronto cemetery, Daniel Levin's final resting place. For Prime Time News, I'm Danielle Keefler.
Copyright Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1994. All rights reserved. For
duplication, distribution or exhibition rights to any material contained
herein, copyright release must be received from the Canadian Broadcasting
Rabbi Hershie Worch based in Chicago is an interesting man with an interesting following. I believe he may have been ordained by R. Shlomo Carlebach but in some ways he outdoes his mentor. Any and all information on this rabbi is welcome. His ability to put people into a trance is amazing and the places he takes them -- is it into or out of the land of bondage?
R. Worch tranlsated the sefer Aish Kodesh by Kalman Kolonymous Shapira, the Piaczezna Rebbe (a series of discources given by the Rebbe in the Warsaw Ghetto), called 'Sacred Fire'.
tagbuch der oberabiner
Name: Moonish Lunar
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Bio: I'm an out-of-the-closet-Jewish man; (no, not gay, dummy, out-of-the-closet-Jewish!) single, unattached, available and not currently cheating on anyone, even myself.
I will not get into another long-distance relationshit...
I will not get into another long-distance relationshit...
I will not get into another long-distance relationshit...
I will not get into another long-distance relationshit...
I will not get into another long-distance relationshit...
I am easily distracted and have the attention span of a common or garden butterfly. I have a soul from the Olam HaTohu World of Chaos, and I hate rules, on principle.
I'm a musician and singer and I'm trying to assemble a band interested in developing music performances on BDSM themes, in Chicago.
I aspire to kewl, to sardonic, to couldn't-care-lessness, but it's all a facade. Don't be fooled. Inside it's all slave.
Interests: 55: abayudaya, bashert, body modification and halacha, cabala, chassidism, d/s, discworld, dried frog pills, erotic mind control, face slapping, feminist kabbalah, frum sadism, georgette heyer, golem making, hebrew, hypnoeroticism, i am lonely, izbicy, jpex, judaism, kabala, kabalah, kabbala, kabbalah, kulanu, merkaba, mysticism, nachman of breslov, nashga"z, niddah, obdsm, onemorealias, orangutans, pashtu, qabalah, qabbalah, rincewind, rogers park, ruach, s&m, sefer yetzirah, sepher yetzirah, sonnets, strathnairn, susan death, talmud, terry pratchett, torah, trance, tree of life, wooden boats, writing, zawel kwartin, zohar, ????.
A woman named Susan, who at the time was a 22-year-old adviser in JPSY, said she believed Judy’s account. She said that when she took Judy’s side, Gafni made harassing phone calls and threats against her.
“He told me I would regret it,” Susan said, adding that the rabbi made inappropriate advances to her, as well.
Susan: "I became an advisor for JPSY (Jewish Public School Youth) in 1985. I was 21. I was responsible for a club at a high school in Queens, NY. Mordecai Winiarz was the head of JPSY. There were Shabbatonim -- weekends when all the Jewish public school kids were invited to experience a Shabbat together.... The goal was to help these young adults become connected with Judaism.
"My initial impression of Mordecai Winiarz was that he was charismatic, appealing to kids, and successful as a speaker. He's engaging. These characteristics are typical of people who have been accused of the things he has been accused of. He knows how to capture people's attention. The kids were enthralled by him.
"I developed a relationship with one of the kids quoted in the [Gary Rosenblatt] article named Judy."
The second woman, Judy, said that when she was 16 and deeply unhappy at home, she joined a popular Orthodox outreach group for teens that Gafni was leading called JPSY (Jewish Public School Youth), and was drawn to his charisma and concern for her.
During a two-week period when she ran away from home and was staying with Rabbi Gafni, who was then 25 and married, Judy said he abused her sexually on two occasions. Even more upsetting, she said, was that afterward, the rabbi tried to convince her the encounter did not happen, and then harassed her for many months. He threatened to keep her out of Jewish schools (she was seeking to transfer from public school to a yeshiva), called her home at all hours of the night and then hung up, mailed pictures to her home of naked men and had her followed.
“He attempted to destroy my life for a year and a half,” she said.
Gafni said that Judy was a troubled, unstable teenager who fabricated the story after he rebuffed her advances.
Susan: "She came from a troubled home, so she was excited about JPSY. Mordecai took a great interest in reaching out to her.
"At that time, Mordecai had married his second wife. They lived in Brooklyn and they took Judy into their home. Judy was happy living in their basement. It gave her a feeling of worth. Wow, she was living with Mordecai.
"I remember once hearing Mordecai speak [Susan was in her teens] and I remember thinking of him then what you wrote in one of your articles. Yes, he was charismatic, but there was something about him that cult-like.
"When I started working at JPSY, I heard from people that he was peculiar. When you wrote that he's a creep, I thought wow, I've also heard that word [applied to Gafni] several times.
"[Gafni's second wife] had been a JPSY adviser. Mordecai was single. So many people were warning her to stay away from him because there were so many questions about his character -- That he was a dangerous person. That he had a dark side. That he had a sordid past. It was something that some of the JPSY advisers were talking about. People were taking her aside and warning her not to marry the guy.
"They married November 13, 1985. They invited all the JPSY kids to the wedding. I was asked to take a group of kids to the wedding. It was on Long Island. I remember the aura of disbelief among the advisors. People were worried for his wife-to-be..
"I didn't have that much to do with him. He was always very warm and friendly. He always had a way of looking at people and making them feel important. He would joke around a lot with me. He's witty and I can be witty. We would have our repartee. I was never interested in him. It was never an issue.
"We were having a meeting at my home at 6 p.m. one Sunday in May 1986. Mordecai was supposed to be there as the head of JPSY along with several other advisers and me. About 4:30 p.m., I was the only one at home. I hadn't gotten ready yet. I was wearing a robe. Just a regular robe. And the doorbell rang. I got the door. Mordecai was standing at my front door in a dark suit with a yarmulke on his head, holding a large gemara in his hand. I just looked at him, 'Mordecai, what are you doing here? Our meeting is at six o'clock.' He said, 'Oh, I was the neighborhood. I figured I'd stop by early. Don't mind me. I have my gemara. I'll just learn while you're getting ready.'
"I was shocked. I was uncomfortable. I had no idea what it would be like to have him waiting in the living room while I was getting ready for the meeting. It seemed very odd (and somewhat rude) to me that he had come by so early, but. I didn't know how to say that his presence made me feel uncomfortable and that I would have preferred that he leave. Afterall, he I worked for him, and he was 'the rabbi,' so I said, ok, Mordecai. Please stay in the living room. I didn't know you were coming this early, so I need you to stay put here.
"I ushered him into the living room. I closed the french doors .I went back to my room to get dressed. No sooner did I get to my room than I turned around because he had left the living room and walked all the way to my bedroom , opened the door and said, 'Susan, Male Sexual Health,' as he pointed to a book he had taken from a shelf in in the corridor near my room.
"He had taken a book off the shelf right near my room. My father is a psychologist and had many books in the hallway right near my room. Mordecai had taken a book off the shelf entitled, Male Sexual Health. He held it in front of me and said, 'Male Sexual Health. I bet there's a lot you could teach me about that.'
"I was shocked. There he was standing so inappropriately and looking at me with what seemed to me to be a suggestive stare. I didn't know how to handle it. I felt scared but felt I needed to remain calm. I just looked at him and said, 'Mordecai, what are you doing here? You were supposed to stay in the living room. I'm trying to get ready.' Please leave. I purposely didn't even respond directly to his crass comment.
"So he put the book back on the shelf and walked a few steps closer to me. He said, 'You really shouldn't be wearing that robe because it shows me your shape.'
"I just felt this shudder go through me. I said, 'Mordecai, please leave right now.' He was just trying to get a response from me to see if there was any interest. It was clear that he realized that there was none.
"I was shocked and frightened.
"He ended up returning to the living room. I closed the door. I threw on my clothes.
"I was uncomfortable throughout the meeting. Did I approach Mordecai afterwards about it? No. Because nothing happened. And I was scared of the look he had given me during the incident. He had given me a look that terrified me.
"Soon after that, Judy called me. 'I'm shocked. Mordecai came downstairs to the basement and he started touching me.' She ended up crying to me about the two experience she had had with Mordecai. Soon she started telling me the details about what happened to her, which did involve a lot of sexual contact [but no intercourse]. I think he was smart enough to know that she was 16. She told me that he asked her when she had last gotten her period at a point when he seemed positioned for intercourse.
"It immediately clicked with me that this guy is so capable of that because I knew how he had been with me. I knew that so many people talked about his past. The rumors I had heard began to make sense. I realized what could have happened had I not made it clear to Mordechai that he was to stay away from me.
"It was totally unacceptable and immoral behavior Although she was enthralled by the guy and enamoured by his charm, what made her incredibly angry and hurt and terrified was the way he planned the subsequent mind games.
"He came back downstairs and said to her, Judy, I'm worried about you. I think you're imagining that something happened between us.
"When he began playing mind games with her--making her think that she was crazy--fabricating everything, everything started to fall apart for her. Mordechai and (Wife #2) had been parenting her. She had placed her trust in him. She could not believe what had occurred. He made her think that she was crazy and fabricating the whole thing. That, in addition to destroying her trust in him, frightened her. He started to threaten her. 'I don't know what you think happened here, but you will be sorry and I will destroy you if you tell anyone stories about what you think happened. I will make sure that you will never get into any Jewish school. Your reputation will be destroyed.'
"Of course I wasn't in the room when this happened. People in his position do not invite witnesses to observe their behavior. They don't sell tickets for the event. But as an intelligent person who had experienced Mordecai's inappropriate behavior and had heard a lot allusions to his past, I believed that this guy was capable of what Judy described.
"To validate my thoughts, Mordecai called me. 'Susan, it's Mordecai. I need to talk to you. It's really important.' This was right after I had hung up with Judy. 'Susan, you're one of my top advisers. You're terrific. I'm really worried about Judy. My wife and I took her in.... I'm a friendly guy. I went downstairs to say goodnight to her one night. She thinks that something happened. Something physical. Some sort of a relationship. If she says anything to you, please let me know.'
"I began to plead with other rabbis in the Jewish community [to do something about Mordecai]. His position enabled him to be in constant contact with young women and kids, and what I knew firsthand and, as a confidante of Judy was enough to make me feel that rabbis in the Jewish community needed to do something. Rabbi Kenneth Hain is a friend of Mordecai's. It was clear that Mordecai was dangerous and needed to be stopped based on what I knew at that point. (At this time I did not know about his repeated sexual assaults on the thirteen year old girl- over nine months earlier in his life--sexual contact to which Winiarz/Gafni admitted in Gary's article. He [Mordecai] needed to be stopped in his tracks.
"Rabbi Hain called me to to tell stop what I was doing, which was taking Judy's and my experiences to the appropriate people at Yeshiva University, the main group supporting JPSY. I cried on the phone to Rabbi Hain.. I told him exactly what had happened to me, and I told him how Mordechai had been threatening both Judy and me.
"Rabbi Hain knew me. There was no reason for me to fabricate a story. I had heard of all these other stories of people who had various negative experiences with Mordecai. Rabbi Hain said to me in his deep voice, 'Sometimes the bigger person is the one who can just let things go.' He kept telling me to move on.
"I was shocked and disgusted. He knew I was trying to reach the right people [to do something about Mordecai]. I did not have a lot of support. People were telling me be quiet. How dare rabbinic leaders turn their eyes and ears away from crying victims! How dare anyone say that Mordecai was exonerated! There was never any Bet Din nor were there any attempts to contact me or us to do "teshuvah" as (Mordecai) claims he did. And it is not for Rabbis Berman and Telushkin and the others to claim to know who has done teshuva. They are not G-d. G-d handles exoneration of sins, and we women were never contacted by anyone supposedly exploring this case.
"There was a rabbi in Jamaica Estates, Rabbi Yitzchak Adler, who also told me to move on. Since I wasn't there, [when Judy says Mordecai got sexual with her]. I had no right to spread lashon hara.
"I am learned. I have a strong Judaic background. I went to yeshiva. I know the laws of lashon hara. I know when it is permitted and not permitted to speak ill of someone. There are certain situations when it is required [to bring up harmful details about somebody's past to protect innocent people in the present].
"[In the summer of 1986] I was on an Israel program. I went to Efrat, where rabbi [Shlomo] Riskin was rabbi. He ultimately revoked [in 2004] Mordecai's ordination [after earlier being a big supporter of Mordecai]. I told rabbi Riskin everything. He was extremely unsupportive. I think that these rabbis were afraid of what a scandal might mean for the Orthodox rabbinate. He listened to me and I think he believed what I told him, but for some reason he didn't want to do anything about it.
"I met with JPSY advisers and filled them in on what I knew. There was a meeting at YU [not a Beit Din]. Shalom Lamm, the son of the president of YU, Norman Lamm, was there. Judy and I told of our experiences. Soon after that, Mordecai was ousted from JPSY. Throughout the process, as soon as he knew that I was making known to the appropriate people what he had done, I received harassing and threatening phone calls at my phone at home. One was traced by the Annoyance Call Bureau (which had put a tap on my phone) to Mordecai's home. The others came from pay phones. I would get heavy breathing. I would get the sounds of someone smashing a hammer into something. I couldn't press charges since the Annoyance Call Bureau needed three phonecalls traced to the same number. The calls I received were traced to different numbers. It was almost as if Mordecai knew how to make harrassing phone calls without being caught.
"He would also call me and say that he was going to make sure that I was sorry. That he was going to sue me for libel. I remember thinking, for an intelligent guy, why are you using the word 'libel'? I haven't written anything.
"He said I was trying to destroy his marriage. That I had no basis. That I was making everything up."
Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman moderated a debate Monday night at Temple Sinai (C) between conservative talkshow host Dennis Prager and the leftist editor of the Forward, J.J. Goldberg.
It was a polite civil discussion that lacked drama and verbal fireworks.
Near the end, Eshman ask people to raise their hand if their mind had been changed by the debate. Nobody raised their hand.
The responses by Prager were completely predictable to anyone who listens regularly to his radio show. J.J., a journalist, was more empirical. He cited facts and figures while Prager spent more time elaborating on ideas.
I walk in at 6:40 p.m., 20 minutes before the debate is due to start. Eshman and Prager walk in together ten minutes later.
Eshman is moderating a ton of political debates over the next month and Prager is flying all over America to rally Jews for Bush. Dennis says that it if a Jew's primary concern is the well being of Israel, he must vote for Bush.
There are 100 chairs set out. Most are occupied. There's a long line of people waiting to pay $10 to get in.
J.J. Goldberg arrives at 7:15. The debate begins ten minutes later. There are now about 400 people on hand.
Eshman asks people to raise their hands if they are voting for Bush. About 40% do. For Kerry, about 40% do. The average age of the audience seems to be early 30s. This is primarily a young adults event.
J.J. makes these disturbing lizard-like movements with his tongue, bulging out his lips and cheeks. Prager is a more polished public speaker.
The two seem to like each other. They share a best friend - rabbi Joseph Telushkin, who's going to end up eating his words of support for rabbi Marc Gafni in the weeks ahead. I've got enough information to bury Gafni and all the rabbis like Telushkin who've enabled him.
Rob Eshman has this weird fixation with stem cell research (which most if not all Jewish organizations support while the president has drawn strict limits, probably because messing with embryos freaks out the Christian right as playing with life) as a major problem for Jews who would otherwise vote for Bush. I have never heard a Jew say he could not vote for Bush based on the president's stem cell research position.
Dennis says he is ambivalent on the stem cell research question but he didn't think it would be a dealbreaker for Jews who'd otherwise vote for Bush (about 25% of American Jewry who can vote).
Dennis said he does not believe that Kerry's more aggressive views on stem cell research will diminish the sanctity of life in America if Kerry is elected.
J.J. said he lives his life by Torah. (He davens at a Conservative minyan. I think he's agnostic about the existence of God.) J.J. says he does not drive on Shabbos (but he lives with his girlfriend of many years).
DP: "You live in Manhattan, right?"
DP: "Do you drive on Wednesdays?"
J.J. and everyone seemed to get the point that J.J. did not drive seven days a week.
DP admitted he drove on Shabbos (a violation of Jewish law).
This is the first time J.J. and Dennis have debated each other. J.J. debates a lot with right-wing Jewish Exponent editor Jonathan Tobin.
DP claims that the secular Jewish creator of PETA is the only guest he's had on his radio show in 22 years that he has yelled at. DP thought the guy inhuman for comparing the slaughter of six million chickens in America to the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
J.J. several times agrees with Dennis. He agrees that liberal have to get over their instinctive fear of the Christian right. DP says he subscribes to the Forward and reads it every week. He describes it as a fascinating publication. He's done radio shows based on information he learned in the Forward.
J.J. brought up several times that China is lending the U.S. federal government money to support its debt and J.J. worried what would happen if China called in its debts.
Rob Eshman is a courteous thoughtful moderator but the event was not spellbinding. J.J. and Dennis made their mini speeches and there wasn't much cut-and-thrust. I sensed a restlessness in much of the crowd.
The crowd was courteous. Their applause was scattered and brief. Nobody yelled.
The debate ended after 90-minutes. The crowd tore through the meager dessert offerings in ten minutes.
Frequent Prager radio show guest Dr. Steven Marmer and his wife were in the audience as was Prager's male intern and Prager's radio producer Alan Estrin.
Following the debate, Prager, Goldberg and Estrin had a chat (something about getting their voices into the Forward).
Rob Eshman introduces me to his former assistant who just quit last week to pursue her dream - make-up. She only has good things to say about Rob, who doesn't like anyone to bring him coffee. But his new assistant, Mary, comes to his door every morning with coffee.
Rob has this nasty open sore on his hand from a climbing accident.
I'm reading The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis by Jeffrey Meyers. I feel like I've found a soulmate. Wyndham says (in words that could be my credo): "I am all in favor of a young man behaving rudely to everyone in sight. This may not be good for the young man, but it's good for everyone else."
Robert L. replies: Luke -- wasn't it I who brought Wyndham Lewis to your attention? Now that I reflect upon it, indeed, I'm quite certain it was I. Lewis, after all, made delicously scathing remarks about that preening effete little pack of blowhards known as the Bloomsbury Group (Virginia Woolf, member Exhibit A).
In any event -- speaking of spirits kidred to Lewis -- I think this is my all-time favorite John Derbyshire weblog statement. Laconic -- and so Derb:
Because to plead guilty to sins of sloth, selfishness and narcissism are too painful.
Wise Sarah writes: I'm writing because I'm confused about some of your most recent postings on your Protocols blog. My confusion stems from your admission to me that you do not write about your dating life because it is holy and highly personal. Yet you so freely write about your hormonal lustings! What confuses me is why you see dating and relationships as private, yet you make your primitive desires so easily public. In Judaism, one's primitive desires are actually meant to be more private than one's thoughts and words.
Your hashkafa, I suspect, may be due to your prolonged exposure and involvement in the p--nography business, where hormonal lustings and sex are freely protrayed in the absence of any emotional intimacy or communication. You continue to support this hashkafa (not really the best term, but applicable-enough here) when you only post about your physical lustings for various women you encounter. This does not support a picture of you as a thoughtful and spiritual man who appreciates relationships with others, especially women. You instead come off as a horny intellectual-elitist who views women solely as objects of physical desire.
A good counter-balance might be to post some of your actual conversations with women so that we can get a picture of your interest in women outside of the physical.
Luke replies: I think it is easier for me to confess to desires of the flesh than to write about my unfulfilled desires for the quality Orthodox women I meet who awake so many yearning in me on a soul and intellectual and social level... To confess this neediness would be too humiliating. It is one thing to confess to seeing beautiful women I want to sleep with and to know that they reject me, but to confess to meeting Orthodox Jewish women that I want to marry and to know that they would not date me, this is a humiliation too painful to publish.
My last three days of the hagim were more socially fulfilling for me than the lonely first three days.
Simchat Torah night. 6-9 pm. Modern Orthodox shul. Women dancing with Torah scrolls. They don't hold them right. They cradle them like they are babies.
I spot the NYT Hollywood correspondent and family.
Alcohol is banned.
At 9pm, I wander over to the shtible minyan at Workman's Circle. It's jammed. Average age is about 30. About half the crowd is from the University of Judaism and Hebrew Union College Los Angeles (mainly rabbinical students). Mixed dancing. I leave my shomer negiya status at the door and hold hands with fertile chicks and twirl around.
I see History prof Dr. David Myers from UCLA. A philosophy professor from UCI. The beautiful female rabbi of Ikar. About 20% of the crowd was at my Orthodox shul earlier. Lots of drinking. Finishes at midnight. Sin never felt so good.
I was at temple the other day. I got into a conversation with a woman. A few minutes in, she said she had been warned about me. Nothing new. Except that she was warned about me by a guy I was friendly with. Then I thought about it. That's not new either.
I was at Temple Sinai (C) in Westwood the other day talking to two women. They were disappointed that rabbi David Wolpe had not stopped by the room so they could talk to him.
Rabbi Wolpe is such a great orator that he can't help but go through life disappointing people. There were over 1000 Jews in the house and I bet half of them would've enjoyed talking to him.
My father is a great orator. When some people listen to him, they feel like they can close their eyes and think they are listening to the voice of God. They feel like he is speaking to them individually even when he is addressing a thousand people at once. They feel like he truly understands them and holds the keys to their salvation.
Jewish speakers in Los Angeles who have this similar star quality include rabbi Mordecai Finley, rabbi Yitzhok Adlerstein, Dennis Prager and Wolpe. Prager and R. Adlerstein are pretty much the same in one-on-one interaction as they are from the pulpit.
Still, their oratorical abilities stimulate such enormous longings for wholeness and healing in people that they raise impossible expectations. Thus, a certain type of follower of their's is always disappointed. People wrongly expect that because somebody is a great speaker, he is the answer to their problems. That he truly understands them. That he has the time to listen to their problems. That he truly cares what they have to say.
Now, almost everybody appreciates appreciation. But unless you are on the level of rabbis Finley and Adlerstein and Wolpe, as well as Prager, in their chosen fields, you should not expect these speakers to be as interested in what you have to say as you are in what they have to say. Yet I sense that many people, including myself, sometimes get so excited about learning from these teachers, that they want to give something back by instructing their teachers in some narrow area to prove to themselves that they can "give" too. This is setting oneself up for disappointment.
I saw a troubled woman I used to date dissolve in tears in front of R. Wolpe and dozens of other people at Friday Night Live. His sermon had obviously touched the deepest recesses of her soul. He was gracious and told her to call him during the week. But I doubt that he's going to be able to solve her problems. Just by giving her a few minutes of his time, however, I'm sure he could give her a great gift.
I used to ask my father why he took so much time counseling individuals. Why not just concentrate on his speeches to a wider audience? He answered with a metaphor. Speaking before a thousand people is like pouring a jug of water into one thousand glasses. Each glass only gets a few drops. Counseling someone individually is like pouring the water into one glass.
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez Fan Group Infiltrated By Neo-Nazi?
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez writes to her Yahoo group: It has come to my attention that a hostile entity has somehow infiltrated our little group. I believe he joined, took everyone's email addresses, and is now sending you personal, nasty email.
I apologize for this. If someone has sent a kind email to my web site, they get an invitation. This person apparently had nothing better to do than pretend to be a fan. From his email, I get the sense he is a bitter journalist. No surprise there. Lots of them are bitter and nuts about the fact that I escaped newspapers. Not to
generalize, but that's my sense about it. Probably a frustrated
novelist, or a neo nazi.
Just delete his email and ignore him. Incidentally, I personally
hear from this kind of lunatic all the time.
While I have always believed in saving physical intimacy for marriage, and have long sought in my potential mate a true fervor for God and goodness and Torah, I have come to realize over the years that the desires of many men, such as my friend Robert, are for baser things.
Robert writes: "Given the "relationship troubles" concerning this girl I'm madly in love with* -- unrequited, I might add (thus, leaving me most days to feel emotionally wasted, gouged, and eviscerated) -- I was reminded of this amusing, diverting little flick. Perhaps something I ought see again."
Dex : Do you want to have sex with this woman?
Dave : Definitely.
Dex : Okay, then you're violating the first rule of being Steve.
Dave : Who?
Dex : You must learn to eliminate your desire.
Rick : It's Buddhist.
Dex : I think the Taoists said it first.
Rick : Hey, are we gonna have a seminar or are we gonna play golf?
Dex : Just a short seminar on the elimination of desire, okay? If you're out with this girl and even THINKING about getting laid, you're finished, cuz women can smell an agenda like shit on a shoe.
Syd : What do you look for in a woman?
Dex : Uh,... Low Standards.
Dave : Okay, so if I'm not a Steve, then what am I?
Dex : You... You're ... a Stu.
Dex : Look at me. Look at me, okay? Technically, I shouldn't be getting laid, but I do. And do you know why, Dave? Because when I'm hanging out with a woman, that's all I'm doing is hanging out, talking, listening. I'm not sitting there thinking about how to get in bed with her. And this completely confuses them because they're saying "Wait a minute. I'm so much better looking than this guy. Isn't he attracted to me?" The basic principle: We pursue that which retreats from us.
Rick : It's from Heidegger.
Unnamed Guy Playing Poker: Groucho Marks said the same thing. "Act like a woman can't join your club, and she'll do almost anything to get in."
Julie : You have so many great books.
Dex : [Mumbling] The better to seduce you with.
Julie : What?
Dex : The better to deduce the truth with.
Dex : Dating's so tricky, that's all. And you're really cool. You have a great personality. I just don't wanna... I just don't wanna mess up our friendship.
Julie : Friendship? We just met!
Syd : I made a schedule on my computer.
Dex : How Marcia Brady of you!
Dex : How can you not love a British rock band consisting of four teenage bumble bees.
Rick : Can I talk to you second?
Dex : I'm blanching the butter.
Rick : Okay, Martha Stewart. When you're done?
Dex : But I think seriously that most people want a composite of the opposite sex. Ya know, cuz you gals aren't ever going to find Antonio Banderas with the personality of Fred MacMurray. And I'm never going to get Rachel Welch with the personality of Lucille Ball.
Syd : What's wrong with just Lucille Ball?
Rick : What's wrong with just Rachel Welch?
Dex : Amen! I mean my biggest fear is that I'm gonna marry the woman that I want to hang out with and talk to in my golden years and then die in a fiery car crash when I'm forty and I miss all those years of having sex.
Maggie : [to Dex] But you've never been happy with any women you've dated.
Dex : Well, that's Male Insanity Syndrome. Ya know, that is just you're with a woman and no matter how cool she is, you're always thinking "Maybe I could do a little better or I could trade up somehow.
Syd : "Trade up?"
Rick : Dex is just bitter because he's never been in love.
Dex : [Offended] I love my dog.
[Dex takes a substantial hit off a bong at 7:30am]
Syd : Would you describe this as a typical morning for you?
Dex : [Trying not to exhale] Hell no. Usually I spend this time cross-training.
Syd : So, you smoke pot for breakfast, you work part time, and you ...
Dex : ... have limited potential.
Dex : Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler. He did a lot. But don't we all wish he woulda just stayed home and gotten stoned?
Syd : Oh, I see. So you're only options are to get stoned or commit genocide?
Dex : I'm serious. If you're hanging out with women as friends, your doing your research in the wrong library.
Dave : What's wrong with being friends with women?
Dex : Nothing, but getting out of that category of 'friend' is harder than like getting out of Alcatraz.
Dex : And this takes us to the second rule of Being Steve: You have to do something excellent in her presence, thus demonstrating your sexual worthiness.
Syd : Don Giovanni slept with thousands of women because he was afraid he wouldn't be loved by one.
Dex : Steve is the prototypical cool American male. Y'know, I'm talking about Steve McGarrett, alright? Steve Austin, Steve McQueen. Y'know, he's the guy on his horse, the guy alone. He has his own code of honor, his own code of ethics, his own rules of living, man. He never, ever tries to impress the women but he always gets the girl.
Dave : F--- you, man. You're all Steve's and I'm Gomer F---ing Pyle, man? F--- that. Screw you guys.
Dex : Awwww, dude, there's a certain order you're supposed to do things in, and telling someone you love them is definitely last in that order.
Dave : Well, when are you supposed to tell 'em?
Dex : I dunno. Maybe your 40th wedding anniversary or something?
Dex : I'm gonna tell you this one last time and maybe you should tattoo it on your dick so you don't forget, okay? "We pursue that which retreats from us."
Dex : And that takes us to Part III of the Tao of Steve, okay? Alright, after you've eliminated your desire, and after you've been excellent in her presence, then you must retreat. Okay?
Dex : You couldn't resist my powerful penetrating stare, could you?
Syd : No, I wanted to tell you, you had a huge glob of guacamole on your shirt.
Syd : Okay, so, if you're falling in love with me, then why are you with all these other women?
Dex : Oh, come on. Am I supposed to remain celibate while I bask in like the warm glow of your annihilating contempt?
Dex : You think it's more honest to pretend to listen to a woman when you're just thinking about getting laid.
Dave : I think it's more honest than pretending I don't wanna get laid, ya know?
Dex : That's the whole point. Don't pretend, man. Just really let go of your desire.
Dave : I'm not looking for enlightenment, Dex. I'm looking for a girlfriend.
Rick : There'll be walking.
Dex : [Unimpressed] Yeah?
Rick : And climbing.
Dex : I know.
Rick : Outdoors.
Dex : Shut the f--- up.
[At night, in their tents]
Dex : Good night, Rick!
Rick : Good night, Dex.
Dex : Good night, Maggie!
Maggie : Good night, John Boy.
Dex : Goodnight, Syd.
Syd : MY GOD DO YOU EVER STOP TALKING!?
Rick : This is almost as ridiculous as your sleeping diet.
Dex : That time I lost 30 pounds.
Rick : You also lost your job.
Dave : I'M A TAOIST!
Dave : [Paraphrasing the Tao of Steve] "Be desireless. Be excellent. Be gone."
Dex : The Tao of Steve isn't about picking up lots of women. It's about being the best person you can be, and I'm not.
Dex : You think all Buddhist monks are like the Dalai Lama? I mean, you don't there are guys in Nepal, right, who are like, "What should I do? Should I carry packs of heavy shit for Westerners up to the top of the base camp on Mt. Everest, or should I stay down here in Katmandu and maybe just chant all day and check out chicks and pretend to be holy?"
Dex : Both men and women want to have sex. It's natural, except we're on different timetables. Women want to have sex, like, y'know, fifteen minutes after us, so alright, if you hold out for twenty she'll be chasing you for five.
Dex : Y'know, no one ever says, "Hey, God, how was your day? What can I do for you, God?" Or, "Hey, God, did you catch Letterman last night?"
Syd : Oh, and I suppose you talk to God like that?
Dex : Always. All the time.
Syd : And what does God say?
Dex : He says, "You know what? I saw Letterman and it sucked."
Dex : You can't just go up to a woman and say, 'Hi! I'm Dave! I like smoking pot, reading the sports page on the john...wanna have sex with me?'
Normally I never read books about suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders and other such self-destructive behavior.
I suspect that these are primarily secular problems. I find it hard to believe that religious homes that do not have a television have the same percentage of daughters with eating disorders (I understand that anorexia nervosa and the like is primarily a white disease).
I heard Dennis Prager citing his wife Fran as saying that anorexia nervosa and the like are primarily attempts to avoid growing up and taking on adult responsibility.
For months now, I've been enjoying Lori Gottlieb's columns in the Jewish Journal. It's the best stuff these days in the Journal.
One night when I couldn't sleep, I began listening.
It starts out thus: "I'm Lori Gottlieb and what you are about to hear are entries from my diaries when I was eleven years old."
I immediately thought, "No way!" No way could this book be entries from her diaries when she was eleven years old.
As I got caught up in the book's vivid scene-by-scene construction, I was renewed in my belief that there is no way that there is more than a paragraph or two in what I had heard that was unchanged from her diary. This book, as many reviewers point out, reads like a novel. As many of the customer reviews on Amazon put it, it reads like the sensibility of an accomplished woman in her twenties writing a novel.
So I arose at about 3 a.m. and Googled the book. In all the press about the book, I couldn't find any examples of a reporter looking at Gottlieb's original diary and comparing it the published book. Instead, in every interview on this, Gottlieb sticks to her claim that the writing is from when she was 11. It was then edited by her to form a narrative.
Then I thought - what's the big deal? Memoir is a genre that exists between fact and fiction.
But it still bothers me that the book presents itself as the diary of an eleven year old girl when it reads like the novel of an accomplished writer of, say, 27.
Maybe I am so bothered because I'm jealous. Because I still can't write as well as Lori does in this book, let alone when when I was eleven.
She relates this comment from somebody looking at her book: "Wow, this picture's so glamorous. It doesn't look like you at all."
While that remark was rude and I don't think I would ever say something like that, Lori does look completely different in person from her press photos. In her press picture, she has chubby cheeks. In person, she's slender (which is why she still gets bothered by boors asking if she's eating enough).
The pictures I use on the top of this blog and in my books are all from 1994-95 (the last time I was professionally photographed (for my acting head shots) and got a copy). When you put yourself out there as much as I do, and Lori does, one has to expect comments on one's looks and if one's pictures are misrepresenting one's reality.
I wholeheartedly agree with Lori that just because one publishes intimate and touchy information about oneself, that does not make it ok for others to throw it in your face. Publishing sensitive information about oneself does not make it significantly less sensitive for oneself. Good manners requires that you use the same tact in dealing with a person's personal stuff whether it is published or not.
Now I'm off to read Lori's latest book -- Inside the Cult of Kibu.
JMT advises: "Don't let these lofty sales figures go to your head. Your forthcoming Jewish journalism book will probably not sell quite so well, since it is aimed at a narrower market niche.
"Another thing you should think about is trying to leverage the iUniverse vanity press stable. Amazon.com offers package deals, so why shouldn't you? You know, buy the new Amy Fisher autobiography, or William F. Buckley Jr.'s spy stories book, and get The Producers for an additional $3. Or buy The Magician by Sol Stein (that's probably a Jew, right?), and get A Rebel Without A Shul for $1 ($1.25 for author-autographed copy)."
Chaim Amalek writes: "You really ought to hire some street vendors to hawk your books. Have them set up shop in the Farmers Markets. You should have a book hawking the Luke Ford Library at every shul event where such would be tolerated. Finally, why not lecture to the wannabe masses on all that you've learned in the course of writing these fine books? I'll be there is something like a Gotham Writer's Workshop or an Open University where you could do this."
Tika Massala of Bangalore writes: "I think you take perverse pride in failure. You spend too much time onanisticly looking over your life (the latter book), and not enough time pushing projects (like the former book) that might actually make a success of that life. The clock is ticking on you, Luke. I suggest that you accept the dining invitations that you have recently received from those with whom you might yet have a full social relationship, and stop begging for them from those who want little social intercourse with you."
The number one place to meet single young Orthodox women in Los Angeles is Beth Jacob. Too bad I'm banned.
There's a new single woman in Young Israel of Century City who has all the single men ga-ga. She's beautiful, dresses invariably in hot pink and is so religious that she even comes to mincha and shalosh seudos on Shabbos. This woman is the Jewish Cameron Diaz and only 22 or so.
Due to an expansion in its membership, Beth Jacob had to move the Happy Minyan on and out. The HM now meets at Magen David, which became Orthodox about four years ago.
Jacob Ner-David, Avraham Leader, Neil Markowitz -- board members of Bayit Chadash -- emailed board members of American Friends of Bayit Chadash:
As we shared with you recently a group of people -who for the past twenty years have been sadly but determinedly antagonistic to Rabbi Gafni and all he represents - viewing him as a threat to the future of Orthodoxy - have done all they could to remove him from public discourse. Their accusations are simply not true; they have been looked at carefully and dismissed by every fair minded person who has encountered them.
Attached please find a letter to the Editor written by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Rabbi Saul Berman and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone which summarized and rebuffs the false accusations leveled in the Jewish Week article.
We are in fully constructive Bayit Chadash mode...engaging in all of our forms of teaching; television production, student classes, book projects, public festivals and events and of course funding raising as well.
As you can imagine - in this trying time your support of Bayit Chadash in general and of Rabbi Gafni personally is essential. We will walk past this break in the road, gently and confidently and with God’s help reach heights we never dreamed were possible.
Here's the letter from rabbis Telushkin, Berman and Firestone:
To the Editor,
Words can elevate and words can destroy.
There was a time when the Jewish community too glibly and carelessly disregarded words of accusation of sexual abuse against clergy. That was clearly wrong, and Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week helped to correct that. The pendulum has now
swung to the opposite extreme, as evidenced in Rosenblatt’s column (The Re-Invented Rabbi, 9/24/04).
The column reports an allegation concerning a relationship from twenty-five years ago – when Rabbi Mordechai Gafni was 19 and 20 and not yet a rabbi – in a situation where he had no pastoral relationship with the person in question. Rabbi Gafni has a completely different account of what happened which was not clearly related in the article (including the fact that nothing even vaguely resembling sexual relations took place).
Furthermore, we can attest first hand that several years ago Rabbi Gafni made serious attempts to contact this woman in a therapeutically-mediated context—to clarify the huge gulf in their understandings of what happened and, if necessary, to apologize for any way in which she felt hurt. This offer was rejected and the decision was apparently made that the press was a more appropriate vehicle for conversation.
The story also reports unsubstantiated allegations which are twenty-years old. The story critically omits the fact that the professional to whom Rabbi Gafni (then Winiarz) was responsible at the time conducted an investigation, and drew the following conclusions in a formal report which was accepted by his superiors:
“I’ve known Rabbi Winiarz for the past six years, and I believe I speak of his character from a position of knowledge and reliability… In his work as director of Jewish Public School Youth, allegations were made as to his improper conduct with a teenage girl and a young female adult [referred to in the article as Judy and Susan]… For several months, in the spring and summer of 1986, I delved into the accusations and had numerous conversations with a number of people who were associated with Rabbi Winiarz both professionally and personally. I also talked to the accusing parties as well as members of their families, rabbis close to them and agency personnel involved in the work of JPSY. I also, of course, spoke at length to Rabbi Winiarz about these matters. It was my conclusion, based on clear and compelling reasons, that the accusations were not true and were not substantiated. I might add that this was also the view of a clinical psychologist who interviewed Rabbi Winiarz and the teenager after the alleged incident.”
We have collectively looked at this issue again in the last six months, and come to a similar conclusion. Further, Rabbi Gafni has long expressed his desire to meet with any of the parties who feel he has wronged them—even when he has a completely different account of the situation.
We, like Gary Rosenblatt, have struggled with the question of what gravity to assign to persistent rumors. Our conclusion differs from that of Mr. Rosenblatt. We have collectively, over many years, spoken to virtually everyone who would speak to us who was directly involved in order to examine the accusations against Rabbi Gafni. We have found them totally not convincing. Further, there is simply no evidence that Rabbi Gafni’s public role constitutes a risk to Jewish women, or to anyone for that matter.
We pray that this unfair scandalous moment will soon be forgotten and that Rabbi Gafni will be able to free his spiritual energy and formidable intellect in order to help build Jewish consciousness and commitment.
Rabbi Saul J. Berman, Director of Edah
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Jewish Literacy and The Book of Jewish Values
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Congregation Nevei Kodesh, author of With Roots in Heaven and
Re Gafni's claims:
1) teaching graduate seminars on mysticism at Oxford University in England
Gafni has spoken on mysticism at my seminar, at my invitation. It could be misleading to describe this as "teaching graduate seminars", since this might be taken to imply that he is or has been a member of staff here, which is incorrect.
2) a fellow at the Oriental Institute of Oxford University
Gafni is not and never has been a fellow at the Oriental Institute (in fact there is no such category).
3) an Oxford-trained scholar
He has worked towards a D.Phil (we have no degree of Ph.D.) under my supervision, but has not not submitted.
4) he also holds a Ph.D. from Oxford
He does not hold a Ph.D. from Oxford. Should it be confirmed that he has made such a spurious claim it would be regarded here as an extremely serious breach of discipline.
Oxford professor Joanna Weinberg emails me back: "Gafni taught a seminar which was not part of the university curriculum - he simply used the premises of the Oriental Institute. He is not a fellow at the Oriental Institute - we don't have fellows.
He is writing his Ph. D at Oxford under the supervision of Rabbi Norman Solomon. As far as I know, he has not yet received his doctorate."
Barbara asks the panelists to tell what keeps their pen moving and to read a paragraph or two from their latest book.
Gayle speaks for five minutes.
Alisa speaks for fifteen minutes: "I've been wanting to write a novel since I was 14. I fell into newspapers because it was somewhere you could get paid to write. It was an education to see the way people were categorized in the mainstream media and the labels that were used the impacts that words had to create social realities in a way that I didn't like. In my case, it was that anybody would be predictable by virtue of their belonging to a group. With Hispanic and Latino, we didn't use the word Hispanic in the United States until the late 1970s. I had ten years of my life where I wasn't Hispanic. I was just Alisa Valdes with a Cuban dad and a weird mom. It was interesting to me to be in newspapers and to have all these assumptions about who I was and what I could cover and how I could cover it based on my name. Hearing things like a suspect being described as a latino man and wondering what that meant.
"With my first novel, I wanted to describe a little bit of the diversity that Latino America is. Racial diversity. Gender diversity. Language diversity. Religious diversity. I sat down with a census. It was a world I was trying to write at newspapers and getting my wrists slapped down at every turn. You're bad, you're bad, you're bad. You don't know what you're talking about and furthermore, you're crazy. That is what I was hearing. There is a Latino community and they all share a brain [LF wonders if that mythical brain is Frank del Olmo's?]. They all have the same opinions. There's a Latino vote and it's exactly the same. That's dumb.
"I looked at the census at how the pie broke down. The largest percentage was Mexican-American. I had two Mexican-Americans. One identified as Spanish. The other thought she was Aztec. They kinda looked alike. I had my black Colombian lesbian.
"I had been buying Latino novels in English [Alisa is not literate in Spanish] and not finding experiences like mine -- college educated and professional. I was finding beautiful writing that was about a miserable experience.
"I wrote the book I wanted to read and couldn't find -- The Dirty Girls Social Club.
"The second book (Playing With Boys) explores more of that diversity. I feel like I could write about Latinos for the rest of my life and never duplicate a culture.
"Dean Koontz, my favorite writer, can write about white men for all his career and he is just assumed to be writing about individuals and someone like me is assumed to be representative of a group, which is totally wrong.
"Within the book, I talk about stereotypes a lot. I set out to explore my own stereotypes and create a lead character who was the kind of person I'd be afraid of. By virtue of my upbringing, the people I was afraid of were Republican right-wing Christian Bible-thumping NRA members. On my first book tour, I had quite a few fans who would fit into that category, particularly in Texas. My lead character is a Mexican-American from Dallas, a sorority girl and debutante, a right-wing Christian who's been transplanted to LA.
"It's funny now when people come up to me and say, how could you be a Republican? I feel like I did my job.
"I'll just read one or two paragraphs of each character [every other author on the panel only read one paragraph from their work]. I write in the first-person from each point of view.
"I realized that the only stories I wrote that impacted people were first-person essays. They were the only ones I was getting calls on. I am so pleased to read reviews of my work that call it light and fluffy and beach reading."
Seranella is about to clap but Alisa won't stop reading.
Finally, Seranell and Revoyr speak for five minutes each.
So I get to Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, and find out that not only have they spelled my name wrong on the store web site and in the local newspaper, I've been billed as a "bi-lingual" event....
This comes a little more than a week after the NY Press billed my New York reading as "bilingual," saying that I was "bringing the third world just what it needs - chick lit!" I should say that I called the reporter on that particular piece of stupidity, to ask her what, exactly, about me was "third world", and she defended herself by saying it was "a joke."
I am so powerfully attracted to a girl that it hurts me. It hurts me in such a tender spot that I am embarrassed to talk about it. I can only write about it. Unfortunately for my health (mental and physical), my Torah observance does not allow me to do anything about my attraction for this woman as we are not yet married. I had to take two Advils today just to be able to walk. I wonder if my life is at stake, pikuah nefesh, and if so, if that would sanction a little fooling with her around short of biah (penetration)? Your help urgently needed. I feel like I am about to explode. May God have mercy on me and bring the redemption soon.
There might well be a fair solution to the problems between Palestinian and Jew right here in an essay that Chaim Amalek assures me is Rabbi Gadol at his best. What I, as a Jew who aspires to be a Torah Jew, like most about it, is that it would restore the situation to what most of the Gedolim of a hundred years back felt it ought to be, while reserving for Jews a place of refuge for when they need it. And it would greatly lessen tensions in the mideast (but not completely eliminate them).
A friend writes: You don’t need such boring details in a book about YOU. You can just leave it at the fact that you have [a friend]!
seriously luke please leave me out of your book out except for non specific references to... Also I think it would be very considerate of you to just refer to your .... as ‘my .....’ – it doesn’t add anything to your story to identify him by name or go into his autobiographical details. Otherwise you book will be seized upon by .....’s enemies and be used against him. We are all such tiny little fish in the scheme of things it seems quite funny to be going to print at all - raises the question ‘why’? What would you think if you learned I was writing a book about my life? My life has been very interesting for me but I doubt it would interest others except for the wrong reasons. Is it a symptom of narcissism? If so, should it be resisted rather than indulged? Is it the best use of time and energy?
Patrick O'Brian: Master and Commander: B
Tom Landry: Tom Landry: F
Skip Bayless: God's Coach: The Hymns, Hype and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry's Cowboys: A
Bob St. John: Landry: The Legacy, The Legend: F
Mordecai Richler: Barney's Version: B
I want to read Lori Gottlieb's memoir Stick Figure and I tried to read Jonathan Rosen's novel Eve's Apple but I just can't enjoy stuff that centers of vomiting (eating disorders).
I am often asked by people to be kept out of my writing. Would they say the same thing to Samuel Pepys or Jean-Jacques Rousseau? (Barney's Version)
Pinchus writes: "I never get any invitations, either. But rather than whine, why didn't YOU invite some of your betters to your hovel? Either you'd have had the pleasure of their complany, or you would have guilt-tripped them into not inviting you over for a meal. You need to think like a Jew here, Luke."
I was walking home from shul Friday night with a new friend. He asked me if I was set up for all my holiday meals. It took me about 30 seconds to choke out no. It was supremely embarrassing. So I had lunch at his place today. Then I lent him my memoir.
My blogger friend Matt tells himself and the world that he’s an Orthodox Jew. He doesn’t blog on Shabbos. He walks to his Orthodox shul. He’s a member in good standing. He tries to keep his sins quiet.
Unfortunately for Matt, not many people buy his “Orthodox” act. Certainly not his Orthodox community (what there is left of it).
So when Wednesday, September 29, came around, Matt faced a dilemma. He faced three holy days in a row (the first two days of Succoth, and then the Sabbath) without any invitations for meals. Matt doesn’t get invited out much because he’s an ass. At his last meal, the hosts put him on time-out with the kids because he was telling stories about marching with Martin Luther King that struck some of listeners as patronizing at best and racist at worst.
Wednesday night, Matt faced a choice. He could sit at home and celebrate Succot by read the Mordecai Richler novel Barney’s Version. Or he could live Barney’s Version by sneaking out to the LA Press Club/Reason magazine party in Beverly Hills.
Given his empty social calendar, Matt really wanted to go to the party. But he felt like he would be betraying his religion if he did.
Matt has been in this situation many times in the past. What usually happens is that Matt decides to do what he wants, and then thinks up ingenious excuses for his misbehavior.
Matt faced the problem that he had already piously emailed his LAPC friends that his religious obligations would preclude him from attending the party. So what’s a Jew to do?
Well, it’s only three miles away from where Matt lives. He could plausibly say he was just stopping by the party (which began at 6 p.m., while Succoth began at 6:25 p.m.) for a few minutes on his way to a mythical Succot dinner just up the street where he would follow in the 4000-year-old tradition of his ancestors.
Then Matt remembered how the presence of God accompanied him everywhere he went, and that he could conceive of this presence as a Succah, a booth, and therefore he wouldn’t be lying if he said he was on his way to a Succah.
The party proceeded swimmingly. Matt looked around for some chicks to hit on. Melissa from Reason pointed across the party to a woman called Mary, who was the Reason receptionist. And single.
Matt ambled over and interrupted the conversation between Mary and Kevin Bleyer, a writer for the Dennis Miller show. They were finishing off a book on relationships for St. Martins Press.
Matt launched into a graphic lecture on why he didn’t like to go down on women and followed it up with an elaborate complaint that American women move too much in bed. He said what he was really looking for in a woman was good values.
“You should meet Lori Gottlieb,” said Kevin.
“Lori Gottlieb?” said Matt. “I’ve got a crush on her. She’s a great writer. I read her columns in the Jewish Journal.”
And then Matt returned to detailing his sexual obsessions. When he paused to take a breath, he let his eyes travel down Mary’s neck, below her chest, to her name tag, which read, “Lori Gottlieb.”
Matt flushed bright red. While talking filth to a receptionist was perfectly ok in Matt’s morality, it was not the way he wanted to introduce himself to author Lori Gottlieb.
“I think I might get a column out of this,” said Lori (who doesn’t look anything like her picture), walking off.
Rabbi Gadol writes: "Both the CDC and the helpful lesbians at Toys in Babeland agree: oral sex is not safe sex. When you go down on a woman and satisfy her carnal urges not with your penis, as God intended, but in the manner of a Frenchman - with your mouth - you are exposing your mouth to every kind of bacteria and virus that the "Sex in the City"-watching woman has to offer. And yes, they can infect you. Unlike torah sex, there is no condom that you can slip on the organs in questions to protect yourself. No my friends, oral sex is not safe sex, and the wise man avoids it at all costs. In fact, I am pretty sure that oral sex has sickened more men than has eating at Taco Bell. (Don't give me any lectures on the use of dental dams - it's one thing to slip a tube of rubber on something that we cannot see - our penis - and quite another to be staring at a sheet of plastic during sex, and tasting same. Blech. It's like looking at a brochure from the CDC warning you not to have oral sex while having oral sex.) So ladies, stop whining for us to do that to you, unless we are married to you or set to get married to you. And even then, most men hate doing this for most women."
Archimedes once said "give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I will move the Earth."
He left out the fulcrum, but no matter - this web site is my fulcrum, the internet is my place to stand, and here is the lever with which I shall move the world. I have articulated a sensible platform for America that most decent people can support, be they liberal or conservative. No, not your obnoxious friends who would rather be witty than be right, but the rest of us Christian folk who eat much of our meat at McDonald's and who struggle with paying our bills and who don't want to be crushed into latter-day Chinese coolies by the Iron Heel of big business interests. The politician who gets behind this platform today is destined to become the leader who has power tomorrow.