Watchdogs vs Rabbis

Rabbi Yaakov Menken writes (these paragraphs since deleted from his blog):

I will make one comment about the so-called “watchdog” mentality, as applied to a well-known scandal of a few years back. The newspaper editor who “broke” that story insisted that he “went public” not because he wanted to sell papers and enhance his own reputation as a journalist, but because “nothing was being done.”

Then, two years later, he “broke” a similar story after a whole set of steps were taken, and, in fact, the first line of his story was that a Bais Din was about to be convened in order to find out the truth.

This tells you something about the truthfulness of the so-called “justification” for his publication of the first set of allegations. I am not saying that those who should have done better supervision are not worthy of criticism – but I’m saying something about the motivations of self-appointed watchdogs.

Rabbi Menken is talking about Gary Rosenblatt and the rabbi Baruch Lanner affair.

JewishWhistleblower responds to rabbi Menken:

I've criticized Rosenblatt publically (and deservingly) but when it comes to the Rabbi Baruch Lanner and Rabbi Matis Weinberg cases, he should get a medal. He protected children/young women/men from sexual predators something that in both cases rabbonim involved were incapable of. These predators preyed on our community for decades.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken what you have written shames us all. You owe Rosenblatt a public apology.

What research have you done in these cases? Have you spoken to the victims? Does the truth even matter to you?

It wasn't a beit din at all and it wasn't convened to find out the truth.

It was merely a tribunal that gave permission to forward the allegations to a beis din in Israel that refused to hear the matter.

Steven Weiss weighs in here and here.

Luke's Reality Show

Helpful writes:

Riddle: What goes SLAM!, SLAM!, SLAM!, SLAM!?
Answer: The doors to every temple in the San Fernando Valley once Luke's reality show airs.

Is the producer a homo? Maybe he's teasing you with a show to get you on the casting coach. Proceed with caution.

Time to start throwing around proposed names for this snooze fest:

T'fillin Groovy
Mi Hovel Su Hovel (Telemundo version)
Shomer ... After dark

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Thailand Update

Khunrum writes: Ms Sopee and I were walking back from breakfast this morning and saw a guy coming towards us with a neck brace. I asked him if he had been in Phukett. He, a fellow American, replied in the affirmative and told us he and his wife were lucky to be alive.

Then he lifted up his tee shirt and showed us the damage. He was black and blue with huge welts and abrasions all over his chest and legs. He said his wife was beat up too and had suffered torn ligaments on both her legs. They were in their hotel when the waves hit and were underwater for awhile. He said he was rolling around from the force of the surge and thought he had snapped his neck. He said the things that bump into you like furniture and other debris cause the damage. That is, if you don't drown first.

I shook his hand and commented that it was a Happy New Year for him in advance. He smiled and agreed. There but for fortune eh! what?

Rabbi Hershie Billet To The Rescue?

Young Israel of Woodmere rabbi Hershie Billet (past president of the RCA) is taking over the Rabbinical Council of America (centrist Orthodox body) investigation of rabbi Mordecai Tendler and is going to try to get the women who've complained about Tendler to interview over again (some of them have been through it with rabbi Mark Dratch and the Praesidium team, not the sharpest group around).
The RCA is run by rabbi Basil Herring who bears responsibility for turning over the RCA's complete file on Tendler to Tendler.
The women who spoke to the RCA and its investigators believed that the RCA had assured them on anonymity, which is normal for these type of investigations, as opposed to criminal investigations where a person tried has the right to confront his accusers.
Rabbi Tendler then sicced his lawyers on to some of the women who complained that Tendler coerced them into bed in exchange for a divorce or some other favor.
The RCA's investigation into rabbi Tendler has run tens of thousands of dollars and is being paid for by special donations. The RCA doesn't have the resources (without special contributions) to do these investigations, especially not ones on powerful rabbis like Mordecai Tendler, who have their own fiefdom and their own expensive lawyers ready to get rough and dirty with their opponents.
I sent rabbi Billet an email a few days ago to discuss rabbinical sex abuse. He did not respond.

Awesome New Orthodox Blog

I'm blown away by the quality of the rabbis recruited to blog on www.cross-currents.com, including: Emmanuel Feldman, Jonathan Rosenblum, Yaakov Yosef Reinman, and Yitzchok Adlerstein.

These are men I've been reading for years.

Let good blogging drive out bad blogging (of which I've contributed more than my share).

Baltimore Jewish Times article here on the new blog.

The founder of the blog is rabbi Yaakov Menken of Torah.org. He's tied in with the Ner Israel crowd and is a staunch supporter (or, "not totally clueless" to give another perspective) of rabbis Eliezer Eisgrau, Matis Weinberg, and Mordecai Tendler.

Rabbi Menken writes about the Eisgrau case here:

Right now, there is a web site carrying extremely serious allegations about a member of our community, allegations which, if believed, would result in the immediate termination of that individual’s employment – or great damage to the company that employs him. The “evidence” against this person comes entirely from a blog (and another web page created by the blogger), which also contains a series of allegations against various rabbis and others who are “protecting” this individual.

Anyone who knows any of these people knows that the allegations are ludicrous. If the allegations had a hint of truth to them, then (given their nature) the rabbis in question would be first to tell him he must leave his job. The allegations were discredited long ago – but certain people don’t care. They would rather besmirch the innocent based upon “testimony” which changes substantially each time the story is re-told.

I posted in reply:

Dear rabbi Menken,

Congratulations on your new site and on the stellar credentials of your contributors.

There is no beautiful teaching that can not be abused. Judaism's laws and teachings about forbidden speech, about lashon hara, are not a shield from independent scrutiny, nor a club to beat away all inconvenient facts. The prophet Nathan had no problem saying to King David, thou art the man.

Judaism is a constellation of values and practices. You can't seize one interpretation of Jewish law (the Chafetz Chaim's teachings on lashon hara) and claim it trumps all other values.

For instance, when there is a life at stake, that value trumps all of Jewish law but for three laws.

The record of the Orthodox community in Baltimore regarding rabbinic abuse is not stellar. Some disinterested reporting (so long as it is accurate) may be a good thing for your community.

The links rabbi Menken refers to are here and here.

The evidence against Eisgrau was serious enough (coming from Eisgrau's daughter and others) that it initiated a lengthy police investigation. The detective who conducted the investigation has told people that he believed the charges had credibility but he encountered a stonewall of no cooperation from the Baltimore Orthodox community, and so was not able to do his job.

A couple of persons in Baltimore who investigated the charges independently were hounded and harassed by the Baltimore Orthodox establishment and cowered into silence (not because they believe Eisgrau is innocent).

One interesting thing I've encountered in the reactions of Orthodox rabbis to The Awareness Center and reporting on sex abuse is that many of them cheer on reporting on certain colleagues (such as Mordecai Gafni) but abhor it on other colleagues. And frequently it does not seem to be a matter of misreporting facts that bothers them. Rather they want scrutiny on fellow rabbis they view as a danger and little scrutiny on rabbis they view as good.

As Gary Rosenblatt laid bare in his reporting on rabbi Baruch Lanner, the Orthodox Union protected a child abuser for about three decades.

Certainly there is a dramatic difference in the facts on the ground in the Lanner, Gafni and Eisgrau cases. Lanner was convicted of crimes and imprisoned. Gafni confessed to statutory rape. As for Eisgrau, the case is more murky. Accusations were made by several persons, a detective investigated, but no charges were filed. Nobody wants to come forward by name to say that they were harmed by rabbi Eisgrau who retains the trust of Baltimore's Orthodox establishment.

Rabbi Menken on his new blog makes one of those cheap shots that immediately alerts me that somebody is not thinking but rather looking to make a cheap shot and score rhetorical points at the expense of truth and merit.
He writes: "...about the motivations of self-appointed watchdogs."
I reply:

Aside from appointments by God, whose appointing should we respect? Who appointed you to start this website? Whoever it is, does that, in and of itself, make your website and your writing more valuable? If The Los Angeles Times appoints a reporter to do a story, does that, in and of itself, make it superior to a story chosen by a freelancer? When Dan Rather and CBS News appointed itself to run a false story about George Bush and his medical records and military service, was that false story, because it was appointed by a corporate news entity, make it superior to the accurate stories by bloggers who appointed themselves to the story? Of course not.
If the great rabbis of our generation appointed you to set-up this website, it does not make any of your posts necessarily more important, more true, more in line with Torah values, than the rantings of somebody in California. A blog, an article, a book, a speech, a painting, have to stand on their own merit, and not on the merit of who appoints them.

Regarding Rabbi Menken's comment: "I would prefer (strongly) that we not discuss individuals."
Thankfully this attitude widespread in the Orthodox world and other circles does not permeate Judaism's sacred texts. From the Bible to the Talmud, Judaism's sacred texts are filled with discussions and descriptions of the intimate (and often bad) behavior of individuals. Jewish sacred text has no compunction about holding Jewish leaders accountable for not only their public decisions, but their private lives (certainly to the extent that their private behavior affects the public).
My fervent wish is that respectable Jewish weeklies were as lively as the Torah and numerous Talmudic discussions.
Shmarya tried to post to the new site:

If Rosenblatt had not broken the Lanner story, Lanner would still be abusing children. Further, Lanner had a history of abuse that went back almost 30 years, the OU had heard many complaints about him over that time period, but the OU did NOTHING until The Jewish Week published its story.

Rosenblatt held that story for a long time before publishing it. During that time, Lanner abused more children.

Perhaps Rosenblatt has decided that waiting for rabbis to police their own ranks is no longer justified. Indeed, the rather long comment you deleted contains Halakhic support for making that decision.

Perhaps you could address those Halakhic points. After all, they are right on topic.

I was not offended that Shmarya's post has yet to appear on the Cross-Currents site nor that one of my own was deleted for violating its protocols. Cross-currents is the home of various Orthodox rabbis and they have every right -- moral, Jewish and personal -- to moderate the comments. I (and Judaism) have no problem with certain forms of censorship, if one wants to call this that.

Rabbi Menken writes: "Luke - You want to criticize ideas? Public statements? Fine. But to publicize the wrongdoing of an individual without Torah sanction violates an explicit Torah prohibition. It’s not the Chofetz Chaim’s interpretation, it’s black-and-white. That’s being a self-appointed watchdog – arrogating for one’s self that which only a communal entity (in the Torah world, a Bais Din) can do. Anyone can critize an idea – even mine. But there are rules about impugning individuals. And thus that thread is closed."

There are rules but all rules have to be applied in a context and weighed against other rules and other values. Plenty of Bais Dins have been wrong (think about the number that protected rabbi Baruch Lanner and humiliated those who brought truthful and important allegations against him) and plenty of individuals have been right (think of those pushing to bring Baruch Lanner to justice). In the end, you can't take refuge in one Jewish law as interpreted by certain rabbis as an excuse to stand by while the blood of your neighbor is shed. In the end, you have to do what is right (which should be informed by sacred text which has stood the test of time, by community, by your conscience), even if your particular Bais Din does not approve. Only God is all good and all knowing, not a group of rabbis.

The Chafetz Chaim and his peers (the Orthodox rabbis who ran Europe's observant communities) condemned thousands of Jews to death by telling them to stay in Europe (in the approximately 50 years before the Holocaust). Observant Jews stayed (while more secular Jews left for America) and they were slaughtered by the Nazis.

The Orthodox rabbinic establishment was overwhelmingly opposed to the creation of the modern state of Israel. Without it, thousands more Jews, observant and otherwise, would have died in the past 50 years and probably another six million Jews would have ceased identifying as Jews.

Orthodox rabbinic establishments are fallible and they can not be allowed to be the sole determinant of right and wrong. Orthodox Jews can not skip the agonies of moral choice by seeking refuge in the rulings of particular rabbis (even though such rabbis should be consulted).

A Few Words About The Tsunami

As Your Moral Leader, I must speak on this important matter.
Why did so many have to die?
I need to tell you what I honestly believe, based on my long years of study of sacred text.
To quote Comrade Amalek, God wanted some more angels to look over the rest of us, so he harvested a few hundred thousand of his most favorite people to be near him.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I Want To Reconnect

Chaim writes: "I think you finally have a home in the lexicon of disability. Seriously, you can just about check off all the symptoms. You can now reconnect with all the people you have pissed off over the years with this news and expect their understanding and pity. It is your due."

Why have I not shared with you my personal reaction to the death of Susan Sontag?

I loathed this leftist radical and her opposition to America's response to 9/11.

Let me quote quote Sun Tzu:

"Sit by the river long enough and the body of your enemy will float by."

Mendel Slutsky writes: "Why do you read what slant-eyed goyim have to say? You should read only the sacred texts, lest you be tainted with goyishe ideas."

Khunrum Lives!

My friend Khunrum was once in the Peace Corps. Now he teaches at a community college in the South. Several times a year, he flies to Thailand to distribute alms to the needy.
Due to my Asperger's Syndrome, I did not even think how this recent tsunami could affect my friend Khunrum who likes to celebrate every year in Southeast Asia the birth of the Christ child.
Friend: "So is Rum floating a dozen miles or so off the shore of Thailand or what? The more time that passes without any communication from him, the more possible it is that he was washed out to sea."
I emailed Khunrum and he responded:

I am high and dry in Bangkok. My girlfriend and I were up country in Udon Than when the waves hit. I didn't even know about it until the next day.
It's a terrible tragedy. Your concern is well appreciated. A very Happy and prosperous New Year to you. I'll be back on the 10th and look forward to another year serving on the Luke Ford Advisory Committee.

Should we place rabbis on a pederastal?

Just wondering...
Chaim writes: "Being a rabbi is hard work. So what's the harm in a rabbi having a little bit of fun?"

Why The Indifference To The Killer Tsunami?

Over 50,000 dead. Do white people care? I'm not sure.
"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." Josef Stalin
"We naturally tend to be more affected by events that concern people who look like us." Chaim Amalek

Jewry's Indifference To Rabbinic Abuse?

Charlotte Schwab writes in her book Sex, Lies, and Rabbis: Breaking a Sacred Trust:

When I was asked to contribute to the article Lilith magazine was preparing about Carlebach's alleged sexual misconduct, I refused, asking why they would not publish articles about living rabbis who have transgressed, who still transgress, rather than writing about a deceased rabbi, about cases which cannot be investigated formally because the accused rabbi is deceased. They chose not to write about living rabbis who are accused of sexual misconduct. I had the same experience with Moment magazine. I was told they would not publish anything "against" rabbis. An assistant editor there told me that a rabbi who was regular contributor to the magazine had effectively "killed" the article I submitted to them which she, and possibly others there, wanted to see them publish. Further, in trying to find a publisher for this book, several large publishing houses told my agent that they "would not 'take on' the rabbinic establishment."

The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America

On the morning of January 25, 2002, I placed a telephone call to the Orthodox Union in New York City to see if anything had changed as a result of the Rabbi Baruch Lanner case... I informed the receptionist who answered that this was a long distance call, and that I wanted information about whether the Orthodox Union or Rabbinical Council of America has a policy regarding rabbis' sexual misconduct. The call was given to a man who sounded angry from the minute he answered, and became angrier by the minute. I repeated to him that I was calling to ask if the Orthodox Union or the Rabbinical Council of America has a policy regarding sexual misconduct by their rabbis. He said, "I do not know what that means." Then, he snapped, "Any behavior that is contrary to halacha is not permitted." I asked what that meant. He said, abruptly, angrier, "Any behavior contrary to Jewish law or civil law is not permitted." I asked how a woman who has a complaint would proceed. He said, angrily, curtly, "Send me a letter; I presume your name will beon it," assuming I have a complaint. I asked, "What is your name?" He barked, "Rabbi Steven Dworken." I asked him to spell it. He did, curtly.
I asked, "What will be done with the letter? Is there any written down procedure? Who will be involved? How will you handle it?" He said, tersely, still sounding very angry, "We'll see. This is an internal matter. Shabbat shalom!" He sounded almost as if he were spitting the latter words out. The words, which mean have a peaceful Shabbat, and his tone were in entire contradiction. I could only shudder at what a woman who might call about having been abused by a rabbi would do at such a hostile response, and I could imagine her fear, her tears.

Luke's New Evaluation

I have finally learned what is wrong with me. I have Asperger's Syndrome.

So to those of you who want me to change, the news is that I cannot.

Do I Remind You Of Mother Theresa?

I make the San Fernando Valley my New Delhi. I walk around picking up young women, put them to bed, and study the Bible with them. Yet this comparison is never made. Why must I incessantly be compared to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? To other geniuses with a touch of madness? How long until my philanthropic works are recognized as widely as my intelligence and photography?

All I can do is just offer you my love.

And isn't that enough?

Let Us Now Praise Basil Herring

Rabbi Basil Herring, the CEO of the Rabbinical Council of America, came to Los Angeles this past weekend with his divrei Torah and black hat for the Orthodox Union convention held each year on the weekend closest to Christmas.
As the executive vice-president of the RCA, rabbi Herring was, in the final analysis if not in the specifics, responsible for the leak of the RCA's file on rabbi Mordecai Tendler's to rabbi Mordecai Tendler, whose attorneys proceeded to send off threatening letters to the women complaining about the rabbi's alleged misuse of rabbinical power to get laid.
The women who allege the sexual misconduct of rabbi Tendler say they were promised anonymity by the RCA investigators and were furious when they were found out they had been lied to.
Rabbi Herring, as you would expect in these matters, is not commenting about this repeat of the RCA's sorry handling of the long-running rabbi Baruch Lanner affair.
So does anyone care about rabbi Herrings's misuse of power? Not in LA it seems. The LA Orthodox community could not pile enough honors on him. The introductory speeches he received could not have been more extravagant.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Brown Bunny

I am about to watch an excerpt of the Vincent Gallo (he reminds me of myself) movie The Brown Bunny (2003).
Though I'm only going to see three minutes worth of the film, I want to share my feelings with you in real time.
Oh my. This is so wrong. Stop! Quit that Chloe! Won't somebody do something? We're defining deviancy down at a time when we should be raising moral standards not lowering them.
Won't somebody please think of the children.
What would the prophet Michah say? Let righteousness flow like a mighty stream.
Can you believe she's doing that in a real movie? Whatever happened to human dignity? The sanctity of marriage?
I'm closing my eyes now. This has all been a big mistake.

My Big Black Wedding

Normally my life is an endless cycle of grim duties and stern responsibilities. Pleasure is something I think of as best left to the goyim.
One of the grimmest duties in my life, next to daily prayer, is going to the Post Office. Usually I am served incompetently by scowling affirmative-action hires.
Of late, however, a little ray of black sunshine has shone into my life. My local Post Office has a beautiful black woman behind the counter. She has never serviced me, but at least I get to look at her while I wait in line. She smiles and laughs with almost everyone. Her white teeth flash and her eyes make merry. She has no wedding ring.
But the good times don't stop here.
Librarians tend to be the one group of civil servants who are helpful. Of late my local library has had a beautiful young black woman behind the counter. I always hope that she will be the one who will check out my books and tapes.
I notice the Orthodox Jewish guys are always flirting with her. I want to feel like one of the kehilla, so I do too.
I remember this one black girl told me in 1995 that she had a problem with Orthodox Jewish men. Most of them wouldn't touch her, not even shake her hand. One man said that while he could not have --- with her, she could ---- him.
I met this Puerto Rican woman at a Dennis Prager singles event. She was warned by the secular Jews in her law office that she should stay away from Orthodox Jewish guys at Prager's event because they will only want to ---- her.
I believe I was able to show this woman a kinder gentler Orthodoxy.
That's me. Saving the world one woman at a time.
I wonder if either of these women (at the Post Office or the library) are interested in living in my hovel and converting to Orthodox Judaism through my own Beit Din (composed of Putative Marc, Chaim Amalek and Khunrum)?
If I were only married to a black woman, nobody could accuse me of racism. With such artistic freedom, I'd be sure to win a Pulitzer.
I could then classify my writing as a business owned by a black female, and we'd pull in major government contracts.
Maybe it would just be easier to stop writing unfunny, lame-ass prose in the voice of a 12-year-old girl?

He's Just Not That Into You

I just endured another singles column by Esther D. Kustanowitz of The Jewish Week. She reviewed the new book "He's Just Not That Into You."
My bias: While I have not read the book, I have dated and talked to women about dating, and I think the wisdom in the title is a gift to women (and men who obsess endlessly over why a woman rejected him, if only he had done something different, etc). With few exceptions (for painfully shy, troubled or insecure men like me), if a man is truly interested in a woman, he will find ways to see her. And if he doesn't call and if he doesn't find ways to run into her, the odds are 99-1 that he's just not that into her.
If someone does not return your call, it is not because they are too busy. Almost nobody is so busy that they can't spare 60-seconds to call you. Somebody who does not return your call is simply saying that you are not important to them. If somebody does that to you, you should simply face that cold hard truth and not ask more of a relationship than the other person is willing to give.
Esther writes: "I just can’t bring myself to embrace the approach."
The approach of the book is the cold hard truth of reality and to reject it is to reject reality.
Esther writes:

Because HJNTIY is written by two very funny people, Liz Tuccillo and Greg Behrendt, it’s absolutely laugh worthy. Behrendt presents a harsh argument; Tuccillo’s touch balances the tone. She has her issues with the approach, but points out that every women could use a reminder “that she’s smart and valuable and worthy and gorgeous and deserving of everything she ever wanted.”
“Better than nothing is not good enough,” Behrendt says, and at the risk of sounding elitist, he’s right.

Not every woman (or man) is smart. Not every woman (or man) is valuable (in the dating market sense, yes, in God's eyes, every human being who conducts himself honorably is worth a whole universe, but God's eyes are not the same as the eyes of those who want to get married). Not every woman (or man) is worthy of the one she desires. Not every woman (or man) is gorgeous. Not every woman (or man) is "deserving of everything she ever wanted." To think otherwise is to willfully delude oneself.
Esther writes: "...Behrendt insists, women must keep their standards high."
No higher than men should. Keeping your standards too high for your own relative match-attracting worth is self-destructive.
Esther writes: "The truth is, there’s no painless way to tell someone, at any stage of a relationship, that you’re not really interested. I’ve been on both ends of that conversation, and I’d rather have dental surgery than experience either again."
I can't speak for Esther, but for me and for everyone I've had an honest discussion with on this (mainly men) -- when you are the dumper, the pain is minimal compared to the pain of being dumped. Yet I hear women all the time claiming that how painful it was for them to dump someone. I think that often this is a way women have of deluding themselves that they are so wonderful and sensitive.
Women are the choosers in the dating game. They initiate two-thirds of divorces. I bet they initiate most break-ups of long ongoing relationships as well.
Esther writes: "I’d like to believe that a woman should ask a man out if she wants."
Sure, but most of the time it won't work for her. When women become the aggressor in the dating chase, men tend to shut down. I do. Though much of this reaction in me might have to do with my age. I feel tired much of the time and prefer to be the passive partner. Perhaps I would chase women more if only my van would start (that was both a literal statement and a metaphor). Doggone it if a five degree slope doesn't mean I will be cranking the starter 25 times to get going.
I need a woman who will give me a car that runs right. I need a woman to give me an oil change every 3,000 miles. I need a woman to tune me up every 15,000 miles (changing all my fluids and lubing my chassis). Is this too much to ask, Esther?
Esther writes: "To hail a mantra as the solution to your romantic problems is to deny nuance and uniqueness in your fellow daters."
A cliche like much of her article.
Esther's column reminds me of the general ethos of Jewish papers -- Jews are swell and why don't we all lie down like lambs and love each other platonically as we overflow with the feeling that every Jew is unique and of infinite worth and deserving of a good marriage.
As for my view, I think many Jews are scum, that bad Jews (needlessly cruel) have little worth, that all good Jews are not going to get along, that most Jews, like most humans, delude themselves with respect to their unduly high view of their own character, and that many Jews have made choices (or have been burdened with DNA or crappy upbringings) that makes it exceedingly difficult for them to marry and find happiness.
All these criticisms being said, I continue to read Esther every so often (about once a month) because I get the sense from her writing that she is a fundamentally decent and kind person and a good Jew. These qualities far outweigh her tendencies to indulge in self-serving cliches and fantasies about the ways men and women relate.
I read "The Committed Marriage" by rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. The rebbetzin is single and available. Perhaps, as a commenter suggests, this Esther is the one for me. Why should 40 years age difference disturb me? I like 18-year olds, why not older?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Dinner At Kate's

I must be a good person because I get invited to cool parties.
Last night, Cathy Seipp, Cecile and I had dinner with LA Times food critic Charles Perry at the home of TV producer Kate Coe.
I had to park half a mile away and hike uphill past Adam Parfrey's place because my van has trouble starting unless it is parked on the flat (even then it can be a heart-stopping experience, good thing I haven't had a date in a while).
For a man who has published books translating medieval Arabic cookbooks (Charles is literate in almost all the languages of the Middle East and knows how to cast Harry Potter-type spells), Perry is woefully ignorant when it comes to Jamba Juice. Those elitist Timesers.
For me the perfect meal is a Jamba Chocolate Moo (large) and a vegetarian tostada from the Good Earth. In that order.
Charles worked for Rolling Stone for about a decade (circa 1966-76) as a copy editor and writer. He got to know Tom Wolfe (said he had a smile and a manner that just made people want to talk to him), Joe Esterhausz, and Hunter S. Thompson (Charles copy-edited his 1972 political coverage that turned into the book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail). Charles recalls all the Rolling Stone editors reading Thompson's book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at once and it made the world seem more vivid, colorful and exciting.
We discussed Alfred Kinsey and his courageous exploration of inter-generational and inter-species ---. Nothing like talk of ---------- to help the digestion. I contributed some heartwarming anecdotes that I had heard through my vast journalistic explorations.
From Cathy Seipp's party report: The Coes have a big Christmas tree in the living room, so this was Luke's cue to toss his seasonal insult in my direction: "How does it feel to be among your fellow gentiles?"
I did NOT say that, Cathy. I turned to the goyim as we were leaving and said, "This time of year is a big deal for you goyim, isn't it?"
Sheesh, you make me sound so insensitive. I was not talking to you Cathy for you are a proud (though Judaicly ignorant and non-observant yid who eats pork) Jew. I was talking to the ones God did not choose.
Another woman complains about my invading her dreams.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Painful Confession

The real reason I have not wanted to pass along Cathy Seipp's complaints about the Century City Westfield Shoppingtown to my fellow Aussie Orthodox Jew is that I've been making a few extra shekels there during this holiday season working as a Santa Claus. Yes, I've tucked my tzitzit in and allowed beautiful young women to bounce up and down on my lap while I holler, "Ho! Ho! Ho! Have you been a naughty girl?"

Monday, December 20, 2004

'Get A Bed'

I met a girl at shul. She's 25. She's getting a masters in Interior Design. I baited her with how appalling my hovel is. She took the bait and offered to redesign it for free. I accepted.
She came over today. When she stepped inside, she was shocked and horrified. For the next 90-minutes, she kept repeating, "Get a bed." She said she felt scared. I think she was glad to leave after a lunch of a shared bagel with peanut butter (she turned up her nose at the offer of the chocolate soy milk).
When I showed her my van, her esteem for me did not rise.
I failed to communicate to her that worldly possessions hold no interest to me because I am so spiritual.
I remember I met a beautiful woman for coffee about three years ago. The place was closing. We walked to her car. I asked her if she wanted to come back to my place. She said yes.
She walked in. She was appalled, particularly by the large stack of AVN magazines by the door (I threw them out the next day). Within a couple of minutes, she said she wasn't feeling comfortable in my hovel and could we walk around the block.
A Jewish woman I loved (several years ago) said to me her idea of roughing it was a three star hotel. One Friday night, I brought her over to the hovel to light metaphorical Shabbos candles but she was appalled and made an exit as soon as politely possible.
I think this is all kinda cool because I am a rock. I am an island. And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.


Shabbaton with a child molester this weekend at Temple Beth Zion, Brookline, MA. $50 for those under 13.

Chaim writes Luke: Lately you've been combining 2 posts as one, which have nothing to do with each other - usually one is your personal life (a lovely afternoon with Cathy, inviting a pretty young lady in to redesign your home) with the religious (a gay Jew and his dog, child molestation.) Get it together and set those boundaries, boy.

Highlights From Rabbi Wolpe's Chanukkah Panel

Rabbi David Wolpe of Temple Sinai (C) served as moderator: "Did Chanukhah happen? And if so, what does it mean?"
Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben (of a Reconstructionist shul): "Yes. My approach to all sacred text is like... I expect that everyone sitting at the table has had the experience of being quoted and then looked at it in the newspaper or periodical and thought, that isn't what I said or meant."
Rabbi Naomi Levy (Conservative): "Rabbi Wolpe knows a lot about that."
Rabbi Reuben: "The likelihood that people are quoted accurately in texts that are thousands of years old are not high. These texts can retain their holiness in part because they are old..."
Rabbi Pinchas Giller (Orthodox rabbi who works as a professor of Jewish mysticism at the University of Judaism): "There are difficulties with the question. There was definitely a violent war that took place at the end of the dark ages period, the 200 years between the end of the stories of the Tanach and the Maccabean wars. We just don't know what happened. We have little record of that.
"One group of that war were religious zealots who [made war] on Jews [who had assimilated]. There are two pages in the Talmud on Chanukkah. There are more pages on how to go to the bathroom. They had such discomfort with the violence of the narrative that they coined the notion of the miracle. And that came into being as the reason for Chanukkah. A thousand years later, the sage Ramban said that Chanukkah is all about that moment where the priest in the temple lights the menorah. That silent moment is the essence of Chanukkah. The original event is one thing. The way it has been taken later on is another thing.
"If Chanukkah were re-enacted today, the [Orthodox] Jews of the settlements on the West Bank, and of the Borough Park neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Williamsburg and the junction of La Brea and Beverly [Blvds] would pour out of their neighborhoods and hold guns to the heads of assimilated and liberal Jews and say, be like us or we will kill you. That's what it would be like to re-enact the actual story. That's the part that actually happened. It certainly has evolved."
Rabbi Levy: "All our holidays are constructed that same way. There are legends that we make that gather around some little points in our history. They may grow out of an agricultural festival... Judaism's response to darkness is to light a candle."
Rabbi Reuben: "Some people would say it was the zealotry of the Maccabees who wouldn't be my congregation, a liberal congregation, who kept Judaism alive."
"It wouldn't be any of the liberal strands of Judaism who would be the assimilationists. All of us in the room who are wrestling with what does it mean to be Jewish are on the other side [against the assimilationists]."
Because Jews have been a minority wherever they have lived for the past 1800 years, Jews have come to define themselves by what behaviors and attitudes distinguish them from the non-Jewish majority. Thus, Jews are much more obsessed with how Jewish they are, and that other Jews are not being Jewish enough, than are Christians or Muslims (where Islam is the majority religion).
Rabbi Wolpe: "Pinchas, what was there in Greek culture that Jews could not take on?"
Rabbi Giller: "That religion was cosmetic, that you could move in and out of. That everyone does what they feel like doing and everything is ok. That there are no immutable lines. If you are going to secede everything, that is one thing, but if you try to straddle a fence, to carry on Judaism but let the world in, that's a hard place to be. There are people who would rather close up their Judaism.
"Nietzsche said that when you find something humorous, it means that something inside you has died. When you see people still responding to Judaism...[it means that Judaism is alive and that is a miracle]. When I see some of my colleagues being jaded to [the enormous enthusiasm of people discovering Judaism for the first time], I wonder what in you has died.
"I was brought up in a small town in the South. My family was active in the civil rights movement. There are many small town Jews out there. Once you get past LA, it is not a comfortable place for a Jewish child. They don't speak so benignly about the warm fuzzy experience of Christmas. It is a time when many of them are imposed upon, interceded with. We are in a culture now that is hurtling towards blurring the line between church and state. Many Jews are taking a short-term approach that that is good for us. It is not good for us. It is not good for that little kid in middle America, the only Jewish child in his high school. Chanukkah [reminds] us that we have to hold out. We have to hold against.
"My sense of dislocation about the Gentile culture I was brought up in, particularly having to do with my childhood the civil rights movement, expanded out to a general suspicion of the culture that dovetailed into life in the late '60s which led me towards a fuller realization of Judaism.
"We have to honor that aspect of Chanukkah about drawing lines, before we say we're all clergy, we're all religions incorporation. We're all working together. Sometimes that is not true."
Rabbi Wolpe: "You don't evaluate your religious outlook the way you evaluate a medical decision. Faith is an orientation towards life. It is not a toting up of results. It is an encounter, not a rational decision. Anything you approach as rational, you must first separate from yourself."


Jeffrey writes: NY Times: Childless gay Jew hosts "Bark Mizvah" for his dog. The Times approves, of course.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hollywood Loves ---- ---

I went to see this cartoon (The Incredibles) with my friend Cathy Seipp who insisted on it. (I wanted to see the new Alexander Payne movie Sideways but Cathy says she would not feel comfortable seeing any film with me that is racier than PG (though she did insist on Psycho several months ago, was was rated R).

I understood the movie as a parable of my relationship to Dennis Prager. I was the creepy vengeful Buddy Pine/Syndrome and Dennis was Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible. My unauthorized biography was my revenge on my hero.

When it was all finished, the credits were rolling and we could leave so I could return to my Talmud (and get the Cowboys score, they lost 12-7 to Philadelphia), she asked me if I enjoyed it.

"Yes," I said, seeing no choice in my answer (I did laugh a few times).

"See?" she said, happy to point out a moral to the story. "Every movie doesn't need to have a ------ ---- scene."

Earlier, she had referred to the ---- ---- scene in Lawrence of Arabia. I don't remember any such scene. I think Cathy is more sensitive to suggestions of ---- --- than most people. During the HIV-crisis this Spring, she had me explain to her the meaning of the mysterious phrase "------ ----."

It was quite the talking point between us for a good ten minutes.

Dear Cathy stays awake some nights wondering who is more weird -- our new friend Lewis Fein or me.

Cathy has a long list of complaints that she wants me to bring up with an Australian Orthodox Jew in my community, Peter Lowy, owner of Westfield Shopping Center (and leader of the University of Judaism board).

My reply to Cathy:

* I agree with many of your complaints. I don't like the name Westfield Shoppingtown. I prefer the old name -- Century City Shopping Center. I prefered to be able to park my van in the center. I prefered the old parking rates. But when compared to moral decline sweeping across America, and the need for a local synagogue to have windows so God can properly look in on Peter Lowy's son's bar mitzvah, these are minor matters.

* I don't like to complain to anyone, particularly not a member of my community. Peter donates a lot of money to good causes, so I'm not going to bother the man.

* It is the purpose of business to make as much profit as possible (while staying within the law).

* It is forbidden by almost all theaters to bring in outside food and drink.

* I hate the AMC movie chain because it runs about 10-15 minutes of commercials before every movie, in addition to 10-15 minutes of previews (and many of their screens are small).

* Jesus suffered on the cross so that we could live with him forever. Just as Jesus suffered, so must we. We all have our crosses to bear, and $3 parking for staying six minutes too long at Westfield is minor compared to what the son of God did for us two thousand years ago.

Cathy wanted to bring Sunday's New York Times to lunch with us but I said no. In response, she insisted that I snap out of my affectless staring-out-into-space manner which she attributes to medication but it is really the result of years of deep spiritual work on my part.

Religious people like me do not need to go to cartoons to put some excitement in our lives. For me, getting up at an ungodly hour every morning, stumbling to shul unshaved and unwashed, wrapping myself in leather straps so tightly that it cuts off the blood to my left arm, and repeating the same prayers I've said 5000 times before is about all the excitement I can handle, particularly if there is an attractive 70-year woman saying kaddish in the corner.

The recurring theme of my meetings with Cathy is that the world (and fellow writers in particular) would be a much better place if everyone listened to Cathy, who knows so much more than the average mortal (and you ------- know I'm right, she says).

Cathy wants me to:

* Get a bed.
* Lose my affectless manner and be genuine with people instead of holding them off with irony and sarcasm
* Get a new car
* To submit articles to publications that pay (instead of blogging and self-publishing through IUniverse)
* Be more supportive

Which brings me to Rob Eshman's column in the Jewish Journal this week:

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, took umbrage. “A lot of Catholics in this town are saying, ‘Is that how Jews are looking at us,’” he told The Jewish Week, “‘that you scratch a Catholic and out comes a latent anti-Semite?’”

Last week, Donohue provided the answer to his rhetorical question. And the answer is, in his case, yes.

In a Dec. 10 appearance on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country,” Donohue railed against the possibility that Michael Moore’s documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” would receive an Oscar nomination, while Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” would not.

“Who really cares what Hollywood thinks?” Donohue said. “All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It’s not a secret, OK? And I’m not afraid to say it. That’s why they hate this movie. It’s about Jesus Christ, and it’s about truth. It’s about the messiah.”

Donohue continued: “Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common.”

The host for this Jew-bashing fest was — surprise! — Pat Buchanan. Instead of calling Donohue out, he turned to panelist Rabbi Shmuely Boteach and asked why secular Jews hate America and love Michael Moore.

Read the transcript, and you’ll begin to wonder what looking glass you’ve fallen through. Boteach did a superb job in the role of Moses Nachmanides, the 13th-century scholar who was forced into public disputations over religion with Christian opponents.

“I’m amazed that we’ve made this a discussion about secular Jews,” Boteach said. “I have got to tell you that Bill Donohue, who I otherwise love and so respect, ought to be ashamed of himself, the way he’s spoken about secular Jews hating Christians. That is a bunch of crap, OK?”

Donohue’s accusations, goaded on by Buchanan, turned nastier:

Boteach: The fact is that Jewish people are incredibly charitable, good, decent family people.

Donohue: I didn’t question that.

Boteach: Hollywood has become a cesspit because it’s secular, period. Don’t do this — don’t tell us that it’s secular Jews.

Donohue: So the Catholics are running Hollywood, huh?

Boteach: Soon, you’re going to start telling us that the NBA is violent because it’s black people, all right, Bill? No, no, no. When people behave badly, just hold them individually accountable.

Donohue is clearly on the right flank of the Catholic world, but he is far from a fringe character. His organization, based in New York, claims a membership of 350,000 and has some significant mainstream names attached to it.

On the group’s Web site, Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, offers this endorsement: “I encourage you to join the Catholic League, which defends not only the interests of Catholics but of all victims of anti-religious bigotry.”

Um, almost all.

So far, Donohue hasn’t apologized, and Mahony and others haven’t publicly chastised him, resigned their memberships or done anything to indicate that blaming “secular Jews” for all that is rotten in contemporary culture is perhaps out of bounds.

The comments buzzed through the entertainment community, evoking equal measures of outrage, disbelief and humor. Suffice it to say that in the wake of the scandals concerning priestly pederasty, Donohue didn’t get a pass for his “anal sex” remark.

It seems indecent to have to point out the obvious, but here’s a quick reality check for Donohue:

1. Jews don’t control Hollywood, corporations do. If you have a problem with smut on TV, tell Rupert Murdoch — not a Jew — to sink “Temptation Island.”

2. Hollywood is profit-friendly and risk-averse. Religion and politics are risky subjects. Knowing what they know now, 99.9 percent of studio execs would have green-lit “The Passion” faster than you could say “Scary Movie 7.”

3. The vast majority of Hollywood movies are positive, uplifting and moralistic, anyway. “Ray,” “The Incredibles,” the upcoming “Lemony Snicket” — great entertainment and great values.

I've thought about this a lot and I just can't disagree with Donohue over anything he said. Secular Jews do run Hollywood (about two-thirds of the leading players behind the scenes are secular Jews). They do tend to be hostile to organized religion. The most organized form of religion in America is Roman Catholicism. As some thinker put it, anti-Catholicism is the new anti-Semitism.
I agree with Dennis Prager that if every Jew left Hollywood, it would not raise its moral tone.
Orthodox Jew, talk radio host and movie critic Michael Medved, in his book Hollywood vs America, developed these themes at greater length. As did Dr. William Pierce.

David writes: "Correct me if I'm wrong, but are you citing Medved as an example of someone responsibly looking into the culture of Hollywood, and William Pierce as an, umm, irresponsible example? Thus, an exploration of the role that secular Jews, as such, play in Hollywood can be done legitimately, or as in the case of Pierce, as fuel to bigotry? If so, its a good point."

Yes, that was my point. I never felt comfortable with Pierce's exterminationist thingy.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Interview With Sex Victims Advocate Vicki Polin

She runs The Awareness Center.

Yori Yanover writes that the interview is my latest failure.

Here are three comments left on Yori's blog that he deleted:

Anonymous said: It's sad that to protect your Rebbe you've chosen to
embrace False Memory Syndrome arguments. I guess you'll ignore "...the vast, aching literature of remembering and forgetting among Holocaust survivors..." if it helps your Rebbe. Even if such arguments are at the expense of the memories of my
relatives and yours, both those that were murdered by the Nazis and those that survived after the most horrible of tortures of the Holocaust.

The buzz-words are false memory syndrome.
February 17, 1997
The Scotsman
page 11

But is it a ploy by accused adults to explain away allegations of abuse by their grown-up children?

THE first time the notion of false memory syndrome was successfully fielded in a British trial was in 1994 when the father of a 33-year-old care assistant, Fiona
Reay, was acquitted at Teesside Crown Court in the north of England of sex offences against his daughter committed throughout her childhood.

The father was a middle-aged Scottish seafarer whose lawyers discredited his daughter's testimony by suggesting that she was the victim not of her father
but of false memories planted by "regression therapy". Defence barrister Toby Hedworth told the court about a "worrying phenomena" of people believing "phantom
memories" induced by therapists. After hearing this hypothesis the jury took only 27 minutes to dismiss the charges of rape and indecent assault. It is odd that this case does not feature in a new book by the American journalist Mark Prendergast, Victims of Memory. More than 700 pages long, it promises to be an encyclopaedic survey of "false memory" in the English-speaking world, a contagion spreading
throughout the English-speaking world.

Why then does Prendergast's book omit Fiona Reay's case, the first in Britain, particularly since - unusually - in this debate we can hear from both
sides: the accused and the accuser and other witnesses, with a professional or personal stake in the story. The Fiona Reay story uniquely satisfies
journalistic manners - the duty to tell not only the "who, what, where and when," but also to report conflicting versions of events. It relieves the journalists of the problem of belief - for or against "false memory" - and returns us to the real stuff, the actual sequence of events.

The medical records in Fiona Reay's case - first told in full in The Scotsman - confound the false memory hypothesis. She didn't magically "recover" buried
memories. Her tragedy was that she had never forgotten. It's all there in her medical records.

Toby Hedworth and the father's solicitor, David Smee, had seen Fiona Reay's medical records and therefore, knew that this could not be a case of "false memory".

"Did I say that it was?" said David Smee when it was put to him after the trial. His job, he said, was not to pursue the truth but to protect his client, to get
him off.

This landmark case does not trouble Mark Prendergast. He ignores it. Despite its vast length, his book makes no concessions to journalistic etiquette.

"False memory" is a new concept. It is not a scientific concept, it has not been adopted as a clinical diagnosis. It was formulated by accused adults to explain away allegations of abuse made by their grown-up children.

Some of its advocates were already familiar figures in the sexual abuse war zone: a founder of the American movement is Ralph Underwager, a Lutheran pastor who
says he gives evidence in hundreds of child abuse cases a year - always for the accused adult. He was the only American expert witness to appear before the
Butler-Sloss judicial inquiry into the Cleveland child abuse controversy in 1987, when he said that social workers "lie" and "fabricate" evidence of child abuse.

Most allegations, he says, are not merely unproven: they are false.

In the Nineties, Underwager's crusade against false allegations by children was extended to false memories among adults - usually induced by therapists. Hundreds
of accused adults found sanctuary in the movement inspired by Underwager, a veteran of the courts and the campaign trail. So confident was Underwager that he gave a long interview with the Dutch paedophile magazine Paedika pronouncing that paedophiles should be "more positive" in promoting paedophilia as "God's
will" and blaming feminists for a jealous hostility to men's interest in boys. He had to quit the False Memory Syndrome Board. Undaunted, the movement spread
to Britain in 1993, promoted by a retired naval officer turned property developer, Roger Scotford, who was faced with accusations by two of his daughters. Traumatic amnesia or repression doesn't happen, he says.

Based in his spacious Georgian home in the midst of Wiltshire countryside, Scotford encourages journalists to hear his story, including his detailed re-telling
of specific acts of alleged abuse, and to listen to an Ansaphone tape recording of his daughter shouting at him and demanding that he leave her alone. The tape is
played as evidence that his daughter is hysterical. Scotford admits, however, that she is protesting against his bombardment with false memory material.

Scotford went public after private encounters with his daughters. His campaign houses around 800 files from accused adults. He claims these are all false memory
cases. However, a random reading of the files reveals something rather different: simply letters from accused adults protesting their innocence.

The British Psychological Society, fearful that bad therapy might be yielding a crop of "false memories", went to work on Scotford's files and discovered that
three-quarters contained no reference to "recovered memory". Those that did included no references to how memories had been retrieved. The rest are merely adults denying allegations of abuse: many files were "sketchy", others were just notes of telephone

The BPS then canvassed the professional community and found that a fifth reported recovered memories of abuse after amnesia - but before seeing any therapists. Even more, a third, had clients who recovered memories of other traumatic experiences.
Concerned with the impact of the debate on services for abused adults and children, NCH - Action for Children, one of Britain's big children's charities, conducted its own research among clients and found that fewer than 10 per cent had ever forgotten. The issue, then, is not so much forgetting as remembering.

Where did this leave the debate? Like Roger Scotford, Mark Prendergast has been accused by his own daughters. His reply to them is this book. The book is
not about false memory: it does not show how this misty process is supposed to happen. It isn't a journalistic investigation, it doesn't give both sides
of an argument - indeed you would not know there was a debate at all from this book. Its thesis is less concerned with false memory as such than the cultural
revolution that has allowed the abuse of children to become knowable.

Prendergast's target is everyone who has revealed childhood abuse: there isn't as much sexual abuse as the survivor movements say there is; there's no such thing as repression or traumatic amnesia; and in any case its effects aren't so bad after all.

11:47 AM
Anonymous said...
Yori's Rebbe = Moonish = Rabbi Jeremy Hershy Worch

If you take the link to an archived version of
Moonish's webpage, look at the phone number

Do a reverse phone search:

See the link:

Not the New York Times
The Rabbi Eliezer Incident
Eeryone present around that famous seder table was
recovering from a bloodless revolution
By Yori Yanover and Larry Yudelson. Research by Rabbi
Hershy Worch

12:40 PM
Anonymous said...
"In that context, we loom to our Jewish >publications to help us gather information on all subjects so >that we may make informed decisions.But Yoram doesn't
want you to have all the information."
----- He has left out the reason he is attacking the
Awareness Center and Luke Ford.

The reason Yoram Yanover is upset with Luke Ford? A
profile of his friend that Luke is writing for an
upcoming book. see:

The reason Yoram Yanover is upset with the Awareness Center? An unamed case they've posted about his friend.http://theawarenesscenter.org/wrprabbi.html

"In all areas, a balanced and educated approach should be encouraged, but in the hot area of allegations of sexual abuse by clergy we expect of our own media to
be balanced, rational and careful. Luke Ford's uninspired questioning of a figure which has come to represent the most aggressive brand of activism in this field is leaving us, the readers, misinformed, if not outright disinformed."

-----Except Yoram doesn't disclose his interest in this "story" he's posted. His aim? To protect his Rebbe and friend at all costs.

Book Sales For October

The Producers: Profiles in Frustration: 3
XXX-Communicated: A Rebel Without A Shul: 2
Yesterday's News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism: 3
Total royalties for the month: $42:31

Regarding my next book, I get this email: "Everyone has a yetzer hara. To cast aspersions on the Rabbinate because some of them have been sexual predators is a character assasination on all rabbis. Just because someone has succumbed to this low level, does not mean he did acts because he was a rabbi. I think you should reconsider your book."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Paris Hilton, Orthodox Jew?

Compare and contrast these pictures.

Jewish Dirt

A new site on Jewish dating -- JDirt.com.

Chakira writes: This page is taken from a book called Otzar HaBrachos, by Rabbi Michael Peretz of Mexico City, Mexico.[1] Obviously, the image is patently offensive. Should we see the funky, presumably homeless, and very black man in the picture we are, according to Peretz, obligated in the blessing of Meshana HaBriyos (MhB). This is a blessing which Artscroll limits to “exceptionally strange-looking people or animals,” and which Artscroll translates as “who makes the creatures different.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Rabbi's ex-wife tells all in exposé of abusive clergy

From JewishSF.com:

"Sunday, the Rabbi Assaulted His Wife," is the grimly ironic first-chapter title of Charlotte Schwab's book "Sex, Lies and Rabbis: Breaking a Sacred Trust." The wife in question is the author herself.

Schwab's analysis is borne out by her personal and professional experience, and by cases that have gained notoriety. When Robert Kirschner, senior rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, was accused in 1991 of harassing, exploiting and abusing female congregants, students and an employee, the board of directors voted to keep the matter secret for the sake of everyone involved, especially Kirschner's wife and children.

That is a disastrous mistake, says Schwab -- silence is what destroys the rabbi's family. She interviewed Michele Samit, author of the 1993 book "No Sanctuary: The True Story of a Rabbi's Deadly Affair," about the murder of her friend Anita Green by a hit man on Oct. 20, 1990, after she'd spent the night with Rabbi Steven Jacobs. Green's abusive husband, Melvin, was convicted of the crime.

Jacobs' congregants in the San Fernando Valley concealed his affair with Green while it was going on, and kept silent even after her murder. "This is the same silence," writes Schwab, "that I and other women found/find when we reported/report our experiences to rabbinic authorities." It was silence, Samit believed, that killed Green and Carol Neulander.

Polish Jewish community chooses an American as its new chief rabbi

By Carolyn Slutsky

WARSAW, Dec. 13 (JTA) -- The Polish Jewish community has turned to an American as its new spiritual leader, filling a post left empty since 1999.

The Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland appointed New York-born Michael Schudrich as chief rabbi of Poland late last week.

Schudrich would become the first person to hold Poland's top rabbinic position since the resignation of Menachem Joskowicz some five years ago.

Asked about the significance of an American rabbi assuming Poland's highest title, Piotr Kadlcik, the union's acting president, expressed no reservations.

"We have no Polish rabbis now, though we hope within two years to graduate two rabbis from the yeshiva," he told JTA. "We've known Rabbi Schudrich for years, and he knows Poland."

Schudrich, an energetic, bearded man with a perpetual smile, first came to Poland in 1973 as part of a United Synagogue Youth program that traveled throughout what was then Communist Eastern Europe.


A Very Narrow Bridge Into the Wordless Haredi World by Chakira

Curious About Your Intent

A Jewish woman writes:

Okay Mr. Luke Ford...

Chances are likely that either a) your account will regard this email as spam or b) your own eyes--undoubtedly due to dealing with thousands of incoming furious emails daily--will also regard this as spam and you won't bother reading it in any case. But because of a class on midrash & ethics I'm taking and a section we're doing on lashon hara I just read your shocking expose of Gafni--by whom I admit I was also fooled once upon a time. So then I tried to figure out who you are that you could write all this, and I discovered your website and related links, where I found mentions of your next book about rabbis who molest girls.

So here's my question:

What do you get out of all this?

I mean, besides fame and money, the obvious answers, I suppose--

But really, do you get some sort of fulfillment from waving around a red flag, pointing a great big finger and saying, "this one's a liar!" "this one's a rapist!" and so on and so forth? You must have some sort of beef against what you consider to be the "establishment", no? I mean I didn't read your other profiles in full, but are there any--is there anyone--you admire? Are there any you praise? Something must have brought you to Judaism, but now it looks like you're intent on destroying its leaders--and hey, in the Orthodox world, to be quite honest that's pretty much fine with me. And yes, yes, undoubtedly Gafni is a world-class creep and very dangerous to the kind of little girls who were never taught how to take care of themselves, and sure he needs to be exposed, so kol hakavod on that one, I guess. But haven't you noticed something about yourself, that this in particular seems to be your obsession? Especially after your creepy little blog about shaking hands with women, yeesh...I always thought the shomer negiah stuff was beyond idiotic, but I suppose if the majority of men are as ridiculous about these things as you are about that then clearly I need to think twice before I offer to shake hands with another man. But surely not all men are like that, and possibly, you know, the shomer negiah thing and the obsession with molesters is, well, related...and a little...well...taking things further than they need to go? You think?

I'm just curious about what you think you're really after here.

I reply:

I get emails like yours all the time.

I can't expect most people to know about the economics of book publishing, but there are a thousands things I could do that would make more money (work at McDonalds) or gain more fame (write about other topics etc).

The reason to write this (same reason for my other books) is that it is an important matter that nobody else is doing adequately. It is an important and compelling topic that I can do well and contribute to the world and to the Jewish community. That leaves me with a deep unshakeable sense of leading a meaningful life (that comes from doing what you do well in a way that is a blessing to others).

As for my own psychology, that is between me and my friends and my shrink and my rabbi etc.

As for my general motivation to create and to make laughter, I do what I do the best I can and know that some people will understand and appreciate it. I do not write to gain general approval. I write for the narrow audience that gets my work, and I do not worry about the 90% who do not.

When you have to explain humor, it ceases to be funny. You either get it or you don't. I'm not going to write in crayon with different colors to distinguish satire from straight reportage. You should not read a phone bill the same way you read a love letter. You have to have some literary sensitivity to different forms of writing.

Regarding people and institutions I adore, I've written about them in depth.

Regarding lashon hara, Judaism's sacred texts have no problem with holding Jewish leaders accountable for their behavior. "Thou art the man!"

When you expose misdeeds, you get heat from the narrow group of people affected negatively (as well as from people who have a kneejerk response to anything that is hurtful or smacks of gossip), but you rarely hear from the majority of people who are wiser and better informed because of your work (because they have no incentive to thank you because they don't think about who brought them the information, but those affected adversely have every incentive to complain).

Cheers, Luke

PS The deepest things I am after in life I am not likely to disclose to a stranger.

Unsatisfying Shakes With Women

I seek to live my life by Torah law. This means that I attempt to not shake hands with women or have any physical contact with these objects of temptation. Unfortunately, though I view myself as a moralist, I am susceptible to certain weaknesses of the flesh.
Thus, there have been times over the past few years when I've shaken hands with beautiful young women (the old bags I completely shun, not entirely for religious reasons). While my long periods of deprivation makes even the most fleeting forms of inter-sex contact a sensual experience, it is frequently lacking in satisfaction because many women only allow a squeeze of a few fingers, rather than the palm action that makes a proper handshake so satisfying.
When a man only squeezes my fingers instead of engaging my whole hand, I find that creepy. With women, it is disappointing. If I am going to sin, to quote Martin Luther, I might as well sin vigorously, but even more believe that no matter how many times I commit fornication or murder, I can still be forgiven if only I sing Christmas carols during Chanukkah with Chaim Amalek outside the homes of my favorite Orthodox rabbis.

You're Not A Man Of God

I've been seeking a title for my new book on Orthodox rabbis who are sexual predators. A friend suggested "Under the Pulpit."
I just thought of this line from the harrowing movie The Magdalene Sisters (2002): "You're Not a Man of God." The subtitle: "Orthodox Rabbis Who Are Sexual Predators."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Author Amy Sohn Annoyed With Questions About Her Husband

Amy, who married a Gentile, writes:

My web site is probably not the place for polemics on the modern state of American Judaism but let me say that if you ever want to turn a Jew off to institutional Judaism, make them do a JCC tour of America and see what happens. The closed-mindedness, conservatism, isolationism, elitism, xenophobia, and plain old rudeness are so endemic in this community I can see why so few Jewish people these days, especially young ones, are involved with Jewish life. And it is a shame because cultural, non-sectarian institutions like JCCs, which were founded to be open to everyone, should be the most welcoming of all. And yet very few are.

As I was saying to a friend of mine the other day, it is not the "Jew" part I have trouble with, but the "ism." American Judaism needs to find a way to be more welcoming, not less, but sadly it seems that in many of these communities those who speak the loudest are those who are most observant and also most closed-minded, and they spread a kind of negative elitism regarding which kind of Jew is better, and how non-Jews should be treated, that poisons the institutions as a whole.

Chaim Amalek writes: "She's right, of course. I have found New York Jews to be an especially elitist, closed-minded, inbred and even Indian-Giving/dreidel-stealing bunch. No wonder so many smart, nice Jewish people like this Amy end up married to gentiles. (And no wonder that a nice Jewish boy like you cannot and will not find a nice Jewish girl to love him. Perhaps the Almighty will rectify this situation by sending you a gentle gentile girl much like you, but younger and mentally healthier.) Increasingly I wonder what the experience of Palestinians living under Jewish rule is like on the West Bank."

Monday, December 13, 2004

Great Ethicists: Chaim Volozhin, Yisrael Meir Kagan, Burton Visotzky, Luke Ford

I saw my shrink today and was cleared to go for another three months of moral leadership and heavy bio-chemical numbing.

I did not tell him my new belief that I am Spiderman (or at least Peter Parker).

I've been listed on this page with great ethical teachers such as Chaim Volozhin, Yisrael Meir Kagan, and Burton Visotzky. It's about time my contributions are recognized (I wonder if this will get me back into Aish HaTorah?):

An ethicist is one whose judgement on ethics and ethical codes has come to be trusted by some community, and (importantly) is expressed in some way that makes it possible for others to mimic or approximate that judgement. Following the advice of ethicists is one means of acquiring knowledge (see argument from authority).

The term jurist describes an ethicist whose judgement on law becomes part of a legal code, or otherwise has force of lawde jure) state sanction.

Some jurists have less formal (de facto) backing by an ethical community, e.g. a religious communityIslamic Law, for instance, such a community following (taqlid) a specific jurisprudence (fiqh) of shariah mimics judgement of a prior jurist. Catholic Canon Lawtheologian or simply a prominent teacher. To those outside this tradition, the jurist is simply an ethicist who they may more freely disagree with, and whose input on any issue is advisory. However, they may find it hard to avoid a fatwa or excommunication or other such shunning by the religious community, so it may be hard advice to ignore.

Outside the legal professionspiritual traditionphilosophers or more practical mediatorideology. Modern ethicists often take the view that ethics is only about such resolution.

The list of ethicists demonstrates the extreme range of people who have made, or contributed to, ethical debates. It also demonstrates that not all individuals who do so can be considered to be good moral examples by all.

Great Music Can Take Several Listens

Great music is often not immediately accessible. Sometimes you have to listen several times to appreciate it.
I had that experience with the second CD in Air Supply's Greatest Hits twosome.
CD1 had the familiar favorites -- Lost in Love, Every Woman in the World, All Out Of Love, Chances, The One That You Love.
CD2 I listened to once and ignored it for six months. But now I've listened to it several times and I'm lost in love. It's every CD in the world to me.
The Air Supply Christmas album (1987) makes the perfect Chanukkah gift for that special Jew in your life.
I'm lobbying rabbi David Wolpe to bring Air Supply to Friday Night Live.

From an Amazon.com review: Love 'em or hate 'em, no one can argue that Air Supply wasn't one of the most prolific and popular soft-rock presences on the airwaves during the first half of the 80's decade. This group, or duo technically, of Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell had their lush and sometimes over-the-top productions consistantly occupy the top-5 for three years. Their tunes continued to appear on the charts less consistantly in the mid-80's but there's no denying the legacy they left. As popular as they were and still are to many, there are almost as many who despise their often syrupy, Spectorian in splendor, odes to love. They are second only perhaps to the Carpenters in the degree of love-hate they elicit from music listeners both now and in their heyday on the charts. If you are not a fan, then no collection of Air Supply's works would be of interest but for those who connect with these guys' music, selecting from the myriad of CD's available is the challange. For those seeking a "greatest hits"-type package, there are many available, however in spite of the parade of domestic collections, titles such as "ultimate" and "definitive' notwithstanding, there are still no truly complete domestic packages. For whatever reason, every domestic collection leaves off at least one of their charted hits yet with 18 or so tracks available on a CD, one wonders who is making these decisions to drop legitimate singles for b-sides and the like. This Taiwanese import is one of the few packages that does in fact contain all the American top-100 hits, including the domestically-evasive "Lonely Is The Night", Air Supply's last charting single. Beyond the American hit singles within the 36 tracks on two discs offered here are album cuts, Asian hits, a few Russell Hitchcock solo tracks and a few cuts from their "Greatests Hits Live" album. All in all, this represents about the best overview of Air Supply's music. Add in its decent sound quality and the substantial liner notes booklet with song-by-song commentary by Russell and Hitchcock, and you have the best overall package for these icons of 80's soft-rock and pop.

JR774 writes: All of the 36 songs featured on it are wonderful songs to listen to when you are in a sentimental mood, especially if your heart has just been broken! Brilliantly the lyrics to Air Supply songs seem to articulate human emotions to a tee.

Dennis Prager Eats At Dennys

Dennis says people are shocked when they find him eating at places like Dennys and Subway. Not because the place is trafe (not kosher) but because it is low-market.
Prager says he eats out on average once a day.
Dennis says he's intimidated by tip jars. He says he tips a couple of thousand dollars a year.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

How's My Chanukkah?

People keep asking me how is my Chanukkah. It is a perfectly normal question yet it leaves me nonplussed. If I were to answer honestly, I would reveal too much about myself.
Something happened inside of me in the last few months of 2001 and I haven't been the same since. What was once warm and loving and enthusiastic has turned cold. What was once soft is now hard. What was once done in joy is now done in obligation, if it is done at all. I don't want to say anymore.
Yet I will. You can believe you are prepared for things. You can believe you deserve punishment for your misdeeds. You can believe that you should shape up and not feel certain ways. Yet, in the end, you are what you are -- imperfect, callous and vindictive. The heart has reasons of its own that the mind (or conscience) can never understand. And sometimes those reasons can be petty and mean, and those nasty feelings can taint your divine service.
As I chose to stay in Egypt, I don't think I deserve Chanukkah.

Adventures in Judaism II

During the cocktail and latkes hour at Temple Sinai (Adventures in Judaism II program co-sponsored by the University of Judaism) Sunday afternoon from 4-5pm, I spent much of my time (while clutching David Horovitz's book Still Life With Bombers) talking to two women who are married.
Then I spotted a beautiful blonde with curly hair down past her shoulders. She had a peaches-and-cream complexion. She looked smart and witty and elegant. I was about to walk over and hit on her when I realized that she was rabbi Naomi Levy (author of two books I've enjoyed) and married to Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman.
At 5pm, rabbi David Wolpe moderated an hour-long panel discussion between Orthodox rabbi Pinchas Giller, a professor at the University of Judaism and an expert in kaballah, rabbi Levy and rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of the Reconstructionist shul Kehillat Israel.
Rabbi Wolpe has the ability to speak to people, particularly young people, in ways that no other rabbi can. I sensed a palpable disappointment in the Friday Night Live crowd a few months ago when he was away at the General Assembly (of Jewish organizations) in Cleveland.
Rabbi Wolpe began the panel by noting that as you grow up, you discover that everything you learned in Hebrew school was wrong.
I believe he referred, among other things, to the miracle of the oil (supposedly it was only enough to burn for one day, but it burned, according to Jewish legend, for seven days for the Maccabees over 2000 years ago so they could rededicate the Temple). A history professor at Yeshiva University was almost excommunicated in the 1960s for voicing disbelief in the miracle writes rabbi Joseph Telushkin in his book Jewish Literacy.
Scholars say that the Maccabees were trying to celebrate Succot when they cleansed the temple. Rather than their struggle being primarily against the Syrians and Greeks, it was against Helenizing Jews.
All Jewish holidays have historical, national, agricultural and religious elements interweaved, much of them based on pagan customs but transformed by the Jewish commitment to ethical monotheism.
That's why it is pointless to say Christmas is pagan. You can just as easily say Succot (a Jewish festival in the fall) is pagan. The important thing is that for the religious Christian and Jew, pagan rituals have been transformed by belief in the one God.
Rabbi Reuben talks about how people can misunderstand each other. It's not a big deal if historical events did not occur as the Bible depicts them.
Rabbi Wolpe says he knows about being misquoted.
What he did not say was how deeply he feels he was burned by Los Angeles Times reporter Teresa Watanabe, who, in the most famous article on Judaism in a decade, seemed to say that rabbi Wolpe told his congregants that the Exodus from Egypt did not occur.
What I believe the rabbi said, or certainly meant, was that the evidence suggests that the Exous did not occur as the Bible says it did.
Rabbi Wolpe pressed the panelists if they believed in the seven-day miracle of the burning oil, and if they believed in miracles against the laws of nature (such as the sun standing still in Joshua). The panelists all gave disappointingly vague answers. Frankly, they did not answer his question. They just orated about the miracles that around us every day, such as a child's smile.
I am agnostic about miracles happening against the laws of nature. I believe in God and that he created nature and that he has the ability to stop the sun from rotating around the earth and to raise the dead. I would never publicly dismiss any of the miracles of Jewish sacred text (that is part of my obligation in living within the Orthodox community, not to publicly dispute its essential teachings even if I privately have my doubts).
I found rabbi Giller the most interesting panelist. As an Orthodox Jew, he has obligations that are numerous and specific and frequently go against the bent of disinterested scholarship.
Rabbi Giller said the rabbis of the Talmud coined the notion of the miracle of the oil (I think he does not believe that a one-day supply burned for seven days, which would be heretical in fervent branches of Orthodoxy).
Nothing rabbi Giller said could be disputed by modern scholarship.
Rabbi Levy: I believe in the idea of the miracle.
I wonder how her husband would react if she said, "I believe in the idea of loving you."
It's like those leftists who say they believe in the idea of the United States. They believe in the Constituation. But when it comes down to practical matters, they diss America (credit this thought to Dennis Prager).
Rabbi Levy talked about the magic of meeting a Christian female pastor in Westwood who is married to a Jew. Rabbi Levy holds a monthly Friday night service in her church. Rabbi Levy felt magic when she met the women.
Rabbi Levy said she did not feel magic when she met her future husband. "It took him months of work. He wore me down."
Pinchas Giller pointed out that in the '50s and '60s, the religion of most non-Orthodox Jews was Israel. Then it became the Holocaust, so that Holocaust scholars became pundits (does he mean Michael Berenbaum?). Now it's spirituality.
Rabbi Giller looked perplexed through much of the discussion. His lips formed silent responses as the other rabbis spoke.

Curbing The Male Sexual Predator

As somebody who interviews people all day most every day, it is pleasure to have others ask me my opinions of things. And when the questions become social and philosophical, I often cite George Gilder (author of Men and Marriage) that the most important question every society must answer is what do you do with the men. In particular, male sexual drive must be channeled into the marital bottle (to quote Dennis Prager).
Yes, I fail to live up to my own admonition as I am 38 and never married. But I still hold by the ideal, even if I haven't lived up to it.
I was reminded of this matter by a remark by rabbi David Wolpe at Friday Night Live at Temple Sinai in Westwood December 10. He pointed out that the service and its programming afterwards were aimed (and sponsored for) people aged 21-39, and while the synagogue did not want to discourage people older than that from attending a religious service, it did request that such persons at least bring a younger friend. And that afterwards, people older than the targeted demographic should leave so that programs aimed at people 21-39 could be enjoyed solely by that age group.
Rabbi Wolpe noted that the synagogue had received numerous complaints about older men trying to "socialize" with the young women, and that such men should have the dignity to remove themselves before they were asked to leave.
Applause immediately rippled through the synagogue, most of it from young women. At the same time, I sensed that many of the older men in the shul were offended.
I wholeheartedly agreed with rabbi Wolpe's sentiments but did not applause because it is against Jewish custom to applaud during a religious service (and because I think that as a journalist, I should be removed and reserved and monk-like, to quote J.J. Goldberg of the Forward).
I was sitting by one man who was near 50. He leaned over to me and said, "Does this mean we should leave now?"
Miffed, I replied, "I'm 38. I'm staying. This service is for people 21-39."
Have my sins written themselves on my sagging features so deeply?
During the socializing, I spoke to a couple of men in their 40s who were furious at rabbi Wolpe's remarks. They were furious that he had emphasized older men trying to socialize with young women. Such remarks were sexist, ageist, exclusionary and all sorts of horrible things.
A couple of women in their 30s told me that the rabbi's remarks were rude. Still, overall, I sensed widespread approval of the rabbi's remarks.
As I said to one man, men do tend to be sexually predatory. Men are far more likely to hit aggressively on women than vice versa.
What I did not say but passionately believe is that people should have enough dignity that they do not try to attend events explicitly designed for another age group. As I hit my 40s, I'm not going to be attending Friday Night Live anymore (please God, I'm going to be married).
Over the past couple of years, I've noticed an increasing number of older people, folks going into their 60s and beyond, coming to Friday Night Live and trying to hit on the young women. It's not right.
It's one thing to lie about your age on JDate (which I think is wrong), but it is even worse to invade religious services explicitly targeted at a group of people who tend to have little to do with organized Jewish life (young singles).
Friday Night Live used to be filled to overflowing with people 21-39. As the old people have moved in, the young people have fled. There are plenty of Jewish events for people over 40. Why not leave FNL alone?
For my sins, I've been exiled from four of my favorite Orthodox synagogues. Do I hang around these shuls? Do I try to walk in and see if anyone catches me? Do I harass them? Do I speak ill of them? Do I start campaigns against them or their rabbis? Do I threaten to write letters to the Jewish Journal against them (as I heard people threatening to do Friday night against rabbi Wolpe)? No way. (Well, I did sneak in once to a shul that had banned me (I write about that in my memoir). I got caught and vowed that I would never do it again.)
A confession: I have gone to several UCLA Hillel day of learning events (during Passover) explicitly aimed at people 18-30 (while I've been well into my 30s).
All my life I've been excluded from homes, organizations and the lives of people I wanted to be close to, because of nasty things I've written and said. I enjoy saying what I think, and I hope that I am willing to pay the price. I'd like to think I have some dignity, and when I am not wanted by someone or something, I stay away (unless my writing or other responsibilities oblige me to investigate).
Now, I have been clueless many times in not reading the signals of those who think I'm creep. I have been pretty aggressive with hitting on women (particularly in my younger days). Yet, I want to believe that my recognition of these flaws in my character better enables me to appreciate the wisdom of rabbi Wolpe's remarks.
Despite the rabbi's words, there were over a dozen men well over 40 walking around the FNL program after services. How are they going to feel when they eventually get tapped on the shoulder and asked to leave?

My Fifteen Minutes Is Ticking Down

Rodger Jacobs writes:

You market yourself aggressively and I don’t say that based on some secret understanding of you that the general public is blind to. I would take full advantage of any opportunity to promote the Jewish Journalism book because it already has three strikes against it: (1) expensive cover price; (2) expensive self-publishing deal that will probably negate you seeing profits from the book any time in the near future, compounded by (3) a subject matter with limited interest. This is an interesting passive-aggressive game you play, not too dissimilar to the time that editor wanted you to write a piece for the back page of his magazine and you protested that you don’t write “didactic essays” before you finally caved in and contributed something. Further, hanging in a corner of the room at a party while waiting for the “hot chicks” to hit on you does not qualify you as self-effacing. All of your web sites, in essence, are about you, you, glorious you. A “self-effacing Adventist” would never aspire to be anyone’s “moral leader” and assert rights to a moral purity that isn’t there in the harsh light of the day.

You know, you used to be amusing but lately I’ve been thinking that your fifteen minutes is ticking down to about fourteen and three quarters. I would take advantage of any opportunity to give some momentum to that last fifteen seconds.

Khunrum writes: "Excellent Luke, Stand your ground. Lecture the Hebes on the disproportional amount of Jews represented in the ---- biz...go get 'em tiger."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I Am Hershy Worch

I have a confession to make. Over the past two months, I've played a nasty trick. But now it is time that the truth be told. I am rabbi Hershy Worch. He is but a product of my imagination. "Rabbi Jeremy Hershy Worch" is no more real than Chaim Amalek or Cindy Plenum or Khunrum or Helpful or Fred Nek or Mordecai Tendler or any of the other colorful characters who fill my nightmares and populate my writings.

There are no Orthodox rabbis who are sexual predators. I've only been kidding about that. Rabbis would never do such a thing. They are beyond temptations of the flesh, as am I.

I Think I Might Be Spiderman

Sabbath afternoon, I stopped by a mate's place on my way to shul to daven mincha (pray the afternoon service). He and his teenage daughter were watching Spiderman. Between deep thoughts on Torah, I caught a few glimpses of the movie. My mate and daughter pointed out that the parallels between me and Peter Parker, Batman's alterego, are eery:

* We're both penniless practicioners of the news trade.
* We're both awkward with women and maintain our chastity for the sake of higher ideals.
* We both live in one-room hovels.

According to IMDB: "When bitten by a genetically modified spider, a nerdy high school student gains spider-like abilities which he must eventually use to fight evil as a superhero."

Then we heard his Orthodox wife and kids coming home and my mate quickly turned off the TV and computer and jumped into Shabbos-mode. I ambled off to pray.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Help Me, Please!

From the Luke Ford Fan Blog:

Probably the greatest disappointment in my life is that, at present, I live thousands of miles away from My Moral Leader's office (i.e., hovel). This is where Mr Ford dispenses advice to the forlorn and perplexed. Not that I want the sort of hands-on care that Mr Ford kindly shows his (many) female followers. Good grief, NO! But I really do need some sort of personal counselling from a trusted source: a wise man who not only knows the difference between right and wrong, but who also has the steely determination and boundless self-discipline to do the right thing at all times. This is where I fall down. My capacity to make good ethical decisions is severely lacking. I usually know what is the right thing to do, but when presented with a choice between the right and the easy thing, I always do the latter.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

"What's the most inappropriate place you've ever had an erection?"

Cathy Seipp recaps a conversation from last night:
Lewis: "That would have to be during my internship with the L.A. County Coroner's office. There was this 75-year-old African-American man laid out on a slab, and I couldn't help it, his pectoral muscles were just so well-developed..."
Me: "Lewis!"
Lewis: "OK, really, I guess it was when I walked in on my mother in the shower."

Protocols Party Report

The blog Protocols (primarily aimed at an Orthodox audience) held its swan song party Wednesday night, the last day of the blog.
Chaim Amalek, an elderly man, very heavy, with a cane and coarse gray hair, writes me:

Chaim: Well, I was there, at KGB bar.
Chaim: A very semitic looking crowd: short, dark, and not very friendly.
hanka444: how was it?
hanka444: any hot chicks?
Chaim: I sit down and this Jewess starts distributing stuff, first dreydels. She puts one on the table right in front of me, then quickly scoops it up to deposit on the table next to mine.
Chaim: Then she hands out some flyers touting the novel literary series "Novel Jews" to everyone. But me.
hanka444: What did she look like?
She was one of the Jewesses who emceed it. There was one hot chick there, a blonde, who left just as things got started. I suspect that she was not a Jewess.
Chaim: Like a standard Jewess. Maybe a bit taller than average; about 5'6:, short to medium black hair. Thin.
Chaim: They all look like one of three or four types.
hanka444: Did you talk to anyone interesting?
Chaim: A swarthy crowd in an establishment whose walls were festooned with propaganda posters from the failed Bolshevik disaster. Very fitting.
Chaim: In the center of the room sat a group of 8 or 9 older "inner party" types. They ignored me as I took careful notes.
hanka444: See Steven Weiss?
Chaim: That guy Steven Weiss lit the menorah. He has a beard,
Chaim: is younger than I thought, said the blessing.
Chaim: People mostly ignored me even when I attempted to start conversations.
Chaim: But I won't soon forget that unfriendly bitch who put a dreydel on my table and then removed it to give to others.
Chaim: Few skull caps except, I think, for that Weiss guy. His might have been the only one there.
hanka444: Does this treatment make you anti-Semitic?
Chaim: Well, I suspect that over the years similar has happened to you, has it not?
hanka444: yes
Chaim: And?
hanka444: I feel like you are a part of me.
hanka444: I try to keep it under control.
Chaim: Really, the most unfriendly crowds I encounter in NY are crowds of Jews. If they don't know you, if they cannot play Jewish Geography with you ("Oh, you went to camp with my cousin Shekey"), then they don't want to have a thing to do with you.
Chaim: I shouldn't complain. It's lots worse for Palestinians living near Zionists.
Chaim: Now, concerning all these "hip" jews celebrating their liberation in a bar festooned with posters from the old Soviet Union (mostly the Stalin years), I wonder how the victims of Bolshevik tyranny would view that scene.
Chaim: Imagine, if you will, a the reaction to a group of Christians celebrating Christmas in a bar decorated with swastikas.
I thought it very insensitive for Jews to celebrate anything surrounded by all that Stalinist propaganda. The late Dr. Pierce and Yggdrasil would each have had a field day with the scene.

Alana Newhouse replies: "Chaim -- I fear I swiped your dreidel, in what was clearly a misguided attempt to distribute the precious toys to the neediest cases. I apologize for the bad manners. And I'm sorry you didn't have much fun, though I still thank you for attending."

Chaim replies: "Hah! This woman did not give my dreidel to a child or to a homeless man (as if!); she gave it to a very prosperous looking group of Jewish doctors and lawyers. And then there was the matter of those announcements for "Novel Jews." Everyone around me got one - but me. And I mean everyone. You know, there would be less antisemitism in the world if you house hebrews learned to treat others as you would have them treat you. The goyim are watching more often than you know.
"I feel bad about mocking [Aboriginees]. We should treat all of God's Children with love and kindness. I guess the spirit of Christmas is within me now, exluding the savage spirit of Chanukkah.
"How can I get into the spirit of your holiday when a dreidel is placed before me and then snatched away to be given to more conventionally successful semites?
"See, whenever I try to connect with my Jewish roots, I am rebuffed. I just don't know how you manage."

Gary Rosenblatt On The RCA's Handling Of The Mordecai Tendler Case

From The Jewish Week:

The Jewish Week has learned that a committee from the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis in the country, has shared the findings of an eight-month investigation with the accused, Rabbi Mordechai Tendler, a well-known spiritual leader in the Monsey community, to allow him to prepare a defense.

It is alleged that the rabbi then contacted at least one of the women named in the report and sought to intimidate her, a charge denied by the rabbi’s attorney, Arnold Kriss.

Also under dispute is whether the women who spoke to the investigator knew that their names would be shared with the rabbi.

ME writes:

I'm putting together a few posts based on the RCA/Praesidium investigation.
I don't want to tell victims' stories or identify individual victims'
stories. But I'm completely disgusted by what the RCA and Tendler supporters
are doing. They're basically intimidating victims and trying to whitewash
the whole situation.

But I do want to send a message to Rabbi Mordechai Tendler and his
supporters that this will no longer be tolerated.

To do this I will be disclosing how Rabbi Mordechai Tendler operates. What
his MO is, how he grooms women he exploits, how he intimidates his critics.
I will be disclosing some of the "pick-up" lines he uses with married women
and agunot, where he likes to have sex and other tidbits. Some of this
information is salacious in nature but midah k'neged midah. If Tendler and
his goons want to intimidate victims they need to know there will be severe

It may take a few days to edit this material before I post it as I want to
be very careful.

I was approached about a year-and-a-half/2 years ago to look into this
situation. So be assured, I've dotted my i's and crossed my t's.

My information identifies 10 distinct female victims, only 9 have
co-operated with the RCA/Praesidium investigation. The 10th has signed a
confidentiality agreement with Rabbi Tendler for a reported $100,000 and an
agreement to turn over physical evdence to Tendler and to never discuss the
matter with anyone ever again.

Quintuple Bypass Of Kashrut Authority

Complicating the situation with Agriprocessors, writes Chakira.

FailedMessiah.com up to the minute reportage.

Ben Goldsmith from PETA writes Tzemach Atlas:

PETA received a whistleblower complaint about this slaughterhouse in 2003. Based on the complaint we were very concerned about the manner in which this particular slaughterhouse performed shechita, and we wanted very much to resolve this problem quickly and quietly with AgriProcessors to ensure that both kosher and federal laws were being upheld. We did everything in our power to work with AgriProcessors to improve conditions at their facility, but they refused to work with us (you can see these letters--ours and their attorney's. We then sent an undercover investigator to work in the slaughterhouse for several weeks, and what we found was far worse than we could have ever imagined. In fact, Dr. Temple Grandin, who has worked in more than 30 kosher slaughterhouses and who has been the subject of a very kind story about her work with shechita says this is the worst she's ever seen, is "horrific," and that everything this place could be doing wrong, they're doing wrong.

Have you watched the video? Don't you think this sort of cruelty should be addressed? I want to stress, again, that we tried to do this w/o fanfare; we were rebuffed.

PETA has conducted similar investigations into secular slaughterhouses and facilities all over the world, and this is in fact the first investigation that involved kosher slaughter in any way. Prior to this investigation PETA conducted an undercover investigation into a Kentucky Fried Chicken supplier slaughterhouse in Moorefield, West Virginia, and we have since been seeking changes to the slaughter process at this facility similar to those we are seeking in the case of AgriProcessors. In a country that raises and kills over 11 billion animals per year for consumption there will always be cruelty associated with the handling and slaughter process. In the the case of AgriProcessors we simply ask that they uphold the standards of Jewish and federal law to ensure that the animals die as painlessly as possible. Quite honestly, no one should be more upset at this moment that those who have trusted that seeing “kosher” on the label of this food meant there was no cruelty involved in its production, for that was a lie.

I am outraged and incensed by what I saw on this tape, as is my family and congregation. This kind of cruelty flies in the face of everything we stand for as Jews, and everything shechita stands for as a humane form of slaughter. As a Jew and one of the coordinators of this campaign I can assure you that our efforts carry with them no bias. Like compassionate people everywhere, we categorically oppose unnecessary cruelty and will fight it in any form.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Jewish Whistle Blower Blog

ME has a blog -- www.jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com

OU Mandates Changes At Agriprocessors

Shmarya writes: The OU has mandated at least three changes at the Rubashkin-owned AgriProcessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa.

No more trachea-pulling/throat-ripping.
A second cut to slash the arteries only. (I.e., no more #1.)
Stunning or killing animals still walking after slaughter.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Who Is Truly Penitent?

Me writes:

Apparently KosherToday questions Peta employee Tal Ronen's baal teshuva
, but on the same page it appears to accept thay a convicted and
self-confessed child rapist and murderer is a ''Torah-observant Jew''. Go

1) "PETA employee Tal Ronen misrepresented himself to Rabbi Shar Yoshuv
Cohen, Haifa's Chief Rabbi, as a baal teshuva (returnee to authentic
Judaism) interested in proper slaughter practices."

2) Ralph Benning, 40, a ''Torah-observant Jew'' who is an inmate in a
Georgia prison can wear a yarmulke at all times and be served kosher food,
the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled.

Courtesy of the Awareness Center YahooGroup:
Case of Ralph Harrison Benning, Fulton County, Georgia
Abuse victims often get less therapy than molester `No follow-up
unless parents have money,' says DA
by Gayle White Staff Writer
Atlanta Journal and Constitution
January 10, 1987
- In September 1985, Ralph Harrison Benning, 23, pleaded guilty to molesting
and murdering Peter Downing Howell Jr., 8. Benning told police he killed
Howell on the site where he was molested as a child. "Assaulting Downing was
like a re-enactment of something that had happened to him," a police officer
GDC ID: 0000427174
HEIGHT: 6'03''


CASE NO: 198322
CASE NO: 198322
10/09/1986 ACTIVE

Jewish Links

Every Critic A Nazi?


Rabbi Shapira to Pres Katsav: Sharon Causes Insubordination

Postmortem on the slaughter at Aaaron's Best

Analyzing Shechita at Rubashkins

Supporting Shochtim

The end of European Jewry is near

Sex Whacko Steve

An interview with the writing partner of Ari Goes Down.

Rabbi Basil Herring Hangs Up

Shmarya called rabbi Basil Herring about the kosher slaughtering case with PETA vs Agriprocessors in Iowa. Rabbi Herring hung up on him. Shmarya called him back and asked him about the leaked file in the rabbi Mordecai Tendler case. Rabbi Herring said he could not talk about it and hung up again.

Rabbi Jeremy Hershy Worch = Sexual Predator?

I got this note from a group of men and women in Australia who prefer to remain anonymous regarding rabbi Jeremy Hershy Worch:

Hershy Worch came to Melbourne, Australia with his wife and young family in 1995. He was initially employed by the Hillel Foundation. As rabbi of the Hamakom Synagogue, he was then financially supported by members of his community from the years 1995-1997. During this time both his behaviour and demeanour with his female students were consistently predatory, manipulative and abusive. He proactively sought 'romantic' and sexual relationships wtih many many women, specifically targeting those who were emotionally vulnerable and fostering acute dependency. He consistently used his role as counselor to make sexual advances towards those who came to him in need. He had 'romantic' sexual relationships with married and unmarried women who ranged in age from 20 to 50.

His inappropriate behaviour towards female students included:
Physical sexual interactions
Predatory behavior in the pursuit of women: e.g. late night phone calls and invitations to teach women privately.
Using the teaching of Torah as a tool of seduction.
Using group situations with himself at the centre - that utilized his musical, vocal and narrative 'talents' - to manipulate individuals and create a cultic environment around 'Kabbalah' classes.
Using his relationships with students to influence them to 'rescue' him by financially and publically supporting and defending him.

His abuse of his position as rabbi, chazzan and counselor traumatized this community leaving wounds that took and are still taking many years to heal. Reputations were publicly compromised and personal lives were taken over.

Those who have followed his career since he left Australia and returned to the United States have observed a repetition of these patterns.

We trust that with our testimony and others you will do everything within your power to expose Hershy Worch and warn individuals and communities who may be vulnerable to his 'teachings' and promises of insight and enlightenment.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Miami Boys Choir

Jack writes: Yerachmiel Begun, the owner of the "Miami Boys Choir" company, doesn't pay the boys at all. If anything, they pay for the privilege of making him money.

Creeps in Malls

Me writes:

I don't like the fact that we can't let our children use the bathrooms unsupervised at malls because of nonsense like this.

Note: Michael Katz, 48, of Wyckoff, development director for United Jewish
Communities (Charles Kusher used to be a board member).

1+2 deal with arrest
3 background on Katz
4 mandatory Charles Kushner connection

Mall restroom sting nets 5 on lewdness
Thursday, December 2, 2004

PARAMUS - Five men were arrested and charged with lewdness and criminal sexual contact for masturbating in a restroom at the Bergen Mall.

The five men arrested were Robert Callahan, 73, of Dumont, Larry
Eisenberg, 70, of Englewood, Michael Katz, 48, of Wyckoff, Bernard Kearny,
38, of Wallington and Nestor Santos, 53, of Englewood.

The lewdness charge, a disorderly person's offense, relates to exposing

The criminal sexual contact charge, a misdemeanor, stems from touching
oneself sexually in front of someone who does not consent to watch, Cary

Five men arrested in mall restroom
Thursday, December 2, 2004
PARAMUS - Five men were caught masturbating in a public restroom Tuesday
afternoon during an undercover sweep at the Bergen Mall, authorities said.

Police arrested Bernard Kearny, 38, a salesman from Wallington; Dr. Larry
Eisenberg, 70, of Englewood, a freelance anesthesiologist; Robert Callahan,
73, a retired banker from Dumont; Michael Katz, 48, of Wyckoff, development
director for United Jewish Communities; and Nestor Santos, 53, a data-entry
clerk from Englewood.

Mission seeks to expand local ties with beleaguered Argentineans
Wiener, Robert. Jewish News. Whippany, N.J.: Jul 1, 2004.Vol.LVIII, Iss. 27;
pg. 8

Saddened by much of what they witnessed, yet heartened by the ways a
troubled people is fighting back, 13 members of the UJA Campaign's Young
Leadership Division returned June 18 from six days in Argentina.

"Argentina had a very active Jewish community," said Michael Katz, associate
UJA Campaign director at United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey.
"Then, in 2001, the economy went into a freefall."

Katz said experts at the Ariel Job Placement Center in Buenos Aires told his
delegation that before the collapse Argentina had 4,000 Jews they considered
poor. After the collapse, the number rose to 38,000.

"The middle and upper-middle classes were literally driven into poverty,"
said Katz. "People who were poor to begin with were devastated completely.
It did not just affect Jews. It was across the board. But our job as a
Jewish federation is to reach out to Jews in need, wherever they may be, and
try to help them."

With that aim in mind, the 13 men from MetroWest flew to Buenos Aires on
June 13, then to the federation's embattled sister city of Tucuman.

"We've developed a relationship there with the rabbi and the day schools and
the Jewish community center and various organizations, so we have a hands-on
feel," Katz explained.

"Not only do we offer them money through the [American Jewish] Joint
Distribution Committee, but we can come in and assess a special need. For
instance, in a building that provides community assistance, we installed an
elevator so that people -- especially the elderly -- could get to the third
floor where food packages were being distributed."

Robert Wiener can be reached at rwiener@njjewishnews.com

Article copyright New Jersey Jewish News.

Kushner Fallout Unclear; Scandal's effect on philanthropist's giving 'open
Dickter, Adam. The New York Jewish Week. (Manhattan edition). New York,
N.Y.: Jul 23, 2004.Vol.217, Iss. 08; pg. 1

When mega-philanthropist Charles Kushner was charged last week with conspiring against his brother-in-law in a sex video scandal, New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine wasted no time returning more than $80,000 of the billionaire developer's campaign contributions. His New York colleague, Charles Schumer, gave some $4,000 of Kushner cash to charity, according to press reports.

The accusations against Kushner, one of the marquis names in American Jewish philanthropy, have also placed New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey in a bind, having received $1.5 million in donations from the embattled businessman over the years. McGreevey and a Democratic campaign committee this week gave a total of some $13,000 in donations from Kushner to a medical research foundation.

Kushner is most closely associated with the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in
Livingston, named for his father, a Holocaust survivor, and the Kushner
Hebrew High School. He is also a board member of Touro College in New York,
the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, N.J., Yeshiva University's
Stern College for Women and the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Orthodox Union Responds To PETA

I am writing this letter to keep you informed about allegations made by
an animal rights group known as People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA) and what the Orthodox Union is doing in response to those

Earlier this week, PETA released an undercover video showing scenes of
cows staggering and bellowing in agony for several minutes after their
throats were cut by the shochet. PETA focused its attention on one
particular plant, AgriProcessors, Inc., but these accusations have
implications for all kosher shechita, particularly because the video has
received attention in the media world, beginning with an article in The
New York Times, on Tuesday, November 30th.

The Orthodox Union is very concerned about these accusations. We are
sensitive to the inhumane treatment of animals, and empathize with those
who are upset by the images of cruelty recorded on this video. As you
well know, the Jewish faith abjures cruelty to animals and enjoins us to
be as humane as possible in our legitimate utilization of animals. That
shechita is a very humane method of slaughtering animals has been
substantiated over the past century by numerous scholarly articles and
scientific opinion.

We are therefore carefully studying the video and reviewing the
procedures at the AgriProcessors plant. Meanwhile, an additional
supervisor has been put on duty at the facility in question, to monitor
that all proper kashrut and humane practices are being followed.

We wish to draw your attention to the following facts which help provide
a perspective on this matter for you and your congregants:

1. While unnecessary cruelty to even one animal is intolerable, one has
to look at the total picture before judging the matter. During the time
span that the video was taken, thousands of animals were slaughtered by
the plant in question. We have no way of knowing what percentage of
that number resulted in the kinds of scenes that were seen on the video.
Viewers of the video will note that it does show regular instances of
shechita where the animal expired rapidly, without the suffering
observed in other animals.

2. The United States Department of Agriculture supervises this
slaughterhouse and has found nothing amiss in its practices. We have a
very cooperative working relationship with the USDA, and know that USDA
officials visited the plant subsequent to the release of this video, and
were satisfied with the slaughtering that they scrutinized.

3. Slaughtering animals for human consumption is never a pretty sight.
An abattoir is obviously a place where one will see living, vibrant
animals transformed into meat. This is generally a bloody and
unpleasant experience, but this is universal. Indeed, PETA acknowledges
that the shechita process is better than most general slaughtering.

4. The Orthodox Union will not engage in maligning PETA in any way, nor
in questioning their motives. PETA and its adherents have a view of
animal rights to which they are entitled and which they can legitimately
espouse in a free and open society such as ours. We do, however, assert
that religious entities such as ours, or our Moslem cousins, also have
rights within a free society. Those rights, grounded in the U.S.
Constitution, include the ability to prepare animals for consumption in
the religiously prescribed manner.

5. We continue to vouch for the kashrut of all of the meat prepared by
AgriProcessors, which was never compromised. Like all the more than
6,000 plants-producing all kinds of foodstuffs-that are certified by the
OU, it has always been under our regular supervision.

At this point the Orthodox Union:

a) is committed to maintaining the highest ritual standards of shechita
without compromising the halacha one whit. That being said, we will
strive to the best of our ability to see to it that any cruel or
inhumane practices, which are by definition separate from the shechita
process itself, do not occur;

b) is coordinating with other kashrut agencies, and rabbinic and
communal organizations, to assure the most effective response to this

c) is preparing "talking points" which will be made available to members
of the Orthodox Union and the interested public;

d) will be placing educational materials regarding shechita on our
website, www.ou.org;

e) is proceeding with the good counsel of professional consultants and a
range of community leaders to effectively respond to the world-wide
concern about this matter.

Finally, we request that no one present himself to the press as an
expert on this matter, since several rabbinic figures have commented to
the press in ways that have confused the press and the public. Please
refer all such queries to Rabbi Menachem Genack, who heads OU Kashrut,
at 212-613-8125, or to my office, 212-613-8264.

Of course, we remain open to input and suggestions from each of you.

I close with best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Chanukah.


Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

Executive Vice President

Friday, December 03, 2004

PETA vs Agriprocessors

Bruce Friedrich from PETA writes:

Watch the video here:

Best Web Log on the issue:

For Immediate Release:
December 3, 2004


PETA Vows to Push for OU Policy Commitment, Prosecution of Iowa Slaughterhouse

Things turned south for AgriProcessors yesterday as the United States Department of Agriculture sent inspectors to the plant to investigate charges of illegal cruelty to animals and top kosher authorities condemned the practices. The world’s largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse and the only one in the U.S. certified to ship to Israel has been, for days, hiding behind the USDA and its kosher certifiers, both of which moved to distance themselves from the plant yesterday.

The USDA, which inspects and approves the plant, announced that it had launched what it said would be a comprehensive investigation, which will include investigation into the actions of its own plant supervisors.

PETA’s investigation found that standard practice at Agriprocessors includes shocking animals in the face with electric prods, ripping their tracheas and esophagi out of the throats within 5 seconds, and dumping them from the restraint, at which point some struggle to stand, bellow in agony, and attempt to flee, with the tracheas and esophagi hanging from their throats, some for as long as three minutes. PETA has arrayed veterinary, academic, rabbinic, and slaughterhouse inspector experts who say that these animals are fully conscious the entire time.

The chief rabbinate of Israel told the Jerusalem Post that meat from the animals in PETA’s video is “not kosher” and said, about animals stumbling and still conscious for minutes after their throats are slit open, that “it normally takes 30 seconds to a minute for the cow to lose consciousness if shechita [the cut] is done properly. . . he did not cut one of the jugular veins, so blood is still flowing… It looks as though the animal wasn't slaughtered properly.”

The Orthodox Union, the world’s largest kosher certifier, which had been defending the practices, reversed course yesterday, telling the New York Times (Friday edition), that “the video ‘raises all sorts of questions.’” Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the OU’s executive vice president, “said he found the procedure ‘especially inhumane’ and ‘generally unacceptable’ but wanted to investigate how regularly it happened.”

Also yesterday, Iowa Department of Agriculture veterinary supervisor Mike Miller told the Waterloo Courier that kosher slaughter, done properly, is, in direct contrast to what PETA found to be standard at AgriProcessors, “‘fairly quick’… He estimated animals feel pain for 10 to 15 seconds and no more than half a minute.”

“Recognizing that there is a problem is better than denying it, of course,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “But these animals were treated in ways that would warrant felony cruelty to animals charges if these were dogs or cats, and this was in gross violation of both Federal and kosher laws, as well as basic human decency, and all this happened on the OU's watch. The horrific cruelty that the OU permitted for so long requires serious corrective action and a policy from the OU to make sure these horrors never happen again.”

Part I: What the Experts Say About Animal Consciousness at AgriProcessors, Inc.

PETA’s investigation into an AgriProcessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, revealed egregiously cruel slaughter methods being used—where cattle suffered after having their throats cut and being dismembered while still fully conscious. Many instances of prolonged consciousness were documented after animals had their tracheas and other internal organs gouged out with a hook and knife. Experts from academic, veterinary, meat industry, and religious disciplines had the following comments about the degree of consciousness demonstrated by animals in the footage:

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University
Dr. Grandin is internationally regarded as one of the leading experts on farmed-animal slaughter, handling, and welfare. She has served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Meat Institute and has visited 30 kosher slaughterhouses and countless nonkosher plants.

? “This tape shows atrocious procedures that are NOT performed in any other kosher operation. Removal of the trachea and other internal parts before the animal has become insensible would cause great suffering and pain. Many of the cattle on this tape had this dressing procedure performed when they were still fully sensible. Several cattle were walking around with the trachea and other parts hanging out of them.”

? “In conclusion, many of the cattle that had their trachea removed were fully conscious and fully sensible. The duration of complete sensibility was probably prolonged by the pain of having their inner tissues cut and pulled during this dressing procedure.”

Holly Cheever, D.V.M.
Voorheesville, New York
Dr. Cheever received her A.B. from Harvard and D.V.M. from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University with a class rank of #1. She has worked as a dairy practitioner and has vast experience with cattle, including in a slaughterhouse setting.

? “I have watched cattle die from a barbiturate overdose, from the use of firearms, from cardiopulmonary failure, from meningitis, and also from stunning and slaughter in a slaughterhouse. Therefore, I am well qualified to discuss the behaviors of the cattle depicted in this distressing film footage, which unequivocally and unarguably indicate that the cattle were conscious and suffering an agonal and inhumane death.”

? “There is overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence that the majority of the cattle shown in these many incidents are fully conscious as they are dumped from the apparatus [with their throats cut and tracheas removed]. Some actually make conscious, directional attempts to escape … [one] actually manages to walk and crawl through a doorway, away from the killing area …. Some try to escape through the front of the restraint apparatus after their throats are cut and before they are dumped out …. While on the floor, many make very conscious attempts to stand and crawl forward, even with repeated attempts, but can’t due to the slippery bloody floor and their failing strength. Their thrashing is desperate and clearly directed at attempts to rise …, rather than the uncoordinated random neuromuscular firing of a dead animal. Others are too weak and in shock to attempt to stand, but struggle to right themselves and to adopt a sternal (i.e. lying on the chest) position with head thrusts and attempts to roll upright …. Some clearly react to stimuli: [one] startles in response to a blow from a worker, [another] resists the repeated attempts of a worker to push him/her over and re-rights himself/herself each time. Even more disturbing than the actual evidence of their consciousness is the length of time it can persist: [one animal] is still clearly alive after 3 minutes as the shackle is attached to its leg, and [another] lies immobile for one and a half minutes, then tries to struggle into the sternal position after almost 2 minutes.”

? “In conclusion, it is my professional opinion that these animals as cited above showed clear evidence of consciousness and therefore would experience terror, pain, and extreme suffering, some for as long as 3 minutes, after their throats are cut.”

Gary Dahl, Representative
U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal Meat and Poultry Inspectors Union
(American Federation of Government Employees)
Mr. Dahl has worked as an inspector for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service for 21 years, including 11 years in slaughter production. Mr. Dahl does not speak for the USDA, but for himself and those he represents.

? “Put it this way, most of the animals shown on the tape were so conscious and aware of what was happening that if the floor wasn’t slippery with blood and the door was open, they would have made a beeline for daylight in order to escape.”

? “I have reviewed the kosher slaughterhouse footage you sent me and the suffering of these animals was obvious, as was their consciousness after they had their tracheas removed. For animals to be allowed to remain mobile and be able to thrash around after this procedure is uncalled for and inhumane.”

? “The amount of time that [one particular] animal is fully conscious on the floor, partly dismembered, causes the animal pain and suffering.”

? “[One particular] animal was dumped from the restraining device totally conscious and aware, with his trachea hanging out. The animal was totally mobile. If an animal comes out of the device totally conscious and walking around in the manner of this one, then that animal should be desensitized through a knocking procedure. To be subjected to this kind of dismemberment while still fully aware and conscious is not fair to this animal.”

? “After being dumped from the [restraining device with his throat cut, one particular] animal then gets up and moves around. The animal is aware and alert to everything that is being done to her.”

Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen
Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel
? “I was surprised to see that immediately after the [religious slaughterer] makes the cut, a worker who is probably not Jewish jumps to the animal and tears away its entire throat. Also, I was surprised to see that even after that brutal act, the animal seems to still be alive and walked a few steps, and then it took about four minutes until it fell down and died … This procedure is not only cruel and therefore unacceptable by Jewish religious law. It also cannot be certified as Kosher, as the animal must die as a direct result of the ritual cut.”

Shimon Cohen, Shechita UK
?The New York Times, December 1, 2004
? “[A] spokesman for Shechita U.K., a British lobbying group that defends ritual slaughter against the protests of animal rights advocates, said after watching the tape with a rabbi and a British shochet that he ‘felt queasy,’ and added, ‘I don’t know what that is, but it’s not shechita.’ The spokesman, Shimon Cohen, said that in Britain an animal must be restrained for 30 seconds to bleed, and no second cut is allowed. Done correctly, Mr. Cohen said, a shochet’s cut must produce instantaneous unconsciousness, so AgriProcessors’ meat could not be considered kosher.”

Rabbi Ezra Raful, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate
?Jerusalem Post, December 2, 2004
? “Israel’s Chief Rabbinate … told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that it would not consider as kosher cows that appear in an undercover video of ritual slaughtering at the AgriProcessors Inc. plant in Postville, Iowa. . . .‘You see there, it looks like he ripped out the trachea and esophagus. We do not allow the animal to be touched after the shehita until the main part of the bleeding stops …’”
? “Raful, who has supervised kosher slaughterhouses all over the world, including at AgriProcessors, said he has never seen the ripped throat practice before … ‘Look,’ noted Raful, ‘he did not cut one of the jugular veins, so blood is still flowing. That’s another reason for not accepting that shehita. It looks as though the animal wasn’t slaughtered properly.’ Raful said it normally takes 30 seconds to a minute for the cow to lose consciousness if shehita is done properly.”

Rabbi David Rosen, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland
?The Forward, December 3, 2004
? “‘I certainly saw enough evidence of mobility on the part of the animal to conclude that it is not dead,’ said Rabbi David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland and one of the rabbis whose comments are used in PETA’s literature. Also troubling for Rosen was what he saw as the ‘pulling out of the trachea and esophagus by hand’ after the incision had been made. ‘I’ve been in many slaughterhouses in my time,’ he said, ‘and I’ve never seen anything like that.’ On the whole, Rosen concluded, what is shown in the video is a ‘flagrant violation’ of Jewish law, or halacha.”

Part II: What Science Says About Signs of Consciousness Demonstrated by Animals at AgriProcessors, Inc.

Science has conclusively established universally recognized signs of consciousness—including righting reflexes, head lifting, rhythmic breathing, blinking, and coordinated movement such as walking and standing. All of these were clearly demonstrated by animals in PETA’s footage from AgriProcessors. Below is just a small sample of the readily available literature from scientists about these indicators:

The European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare, made up of eight experts in the field, was asked by the European Commission to prepare a report on the welfare aspects of slaughter. In the document, “Welfare Aspects of Animal Stunning and Killing Methods,” the authors conclude that signs of consciousness include rhythmic breathing, corneal reflex, righting reflex, and attempts to raise the head.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has issued a document, “Guidelines for Humane Handling, Transport and Slaughter of Livestock,” which states that signs of consciousness in stunned animals include regular breathing, a blink reflex, and righting reflexes.

The National Assembly for Wales’ Agriculture Policy Division issued slaughter guidelines stating that if a stun to render an animal unconscious is effective, the animal “will not attempt to stand up” and “[n]ormal rhythmic breathing will stop.” It goes on to state that animals who deviate from this have not been rendered unconscious properly and must be re-stunned.

The Australian Department of Education, Training, and Youth Affairs discusses both ritual slaughter and slaughter with stunning and provides guidelines for operators in its document titled Oversee Humane Handling of Animals. It found that signs of consciousness include “blinking,” “rhythmic breathing,” and “any attempt by the animal to raise its head.”

The New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry states in one of its “Code of Recommendations” that ineffective attempts at rendering an animal unconscious through stunning can be recognized if the animal demonstrates “persistent and rhythmic breathing” or attempts “to raise the head.”

The Danish Meat Research Institute found in 2001 that in a slaughterhouse setting, “behavioural and different physiological reflexes” to evaluate degrees of consciousness included “corneal reflex …, regular respiration, excitation …, spontaneous blinking of the eye …, and attempts to stand up” where “regular respiration” was defined as being “deep and having regular intervals, i.e., different from superficial and occasional gasps.”

The Institute of Meat Science and Technology and the Institute of Zoology at Universidad Austral de Chile’s Veterinary Science Faculty published an article in Archivos de Medicina Veterinaria in 2003 examining sensibility in cattle at the slaughterhouse and used the following “sensibility signs” to quantify their findings: “rhythmical breathing, vocalization, corneal reflex and eye movement, [and] attempt to stand up or head elevation.”

An article published in Research in Veterinary Science by D.K. Blackmore (1984) looked at the onset of insensibility during the slaughter of unstunned cattle and used “coordinated body movements” as a criterion in the study.

Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University, advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wrote that signs of sensibility in all types of stunning and for ritual slaughter include rhythmic breathing, spontaneous natural blinking, righting reflexes, raising of the head, and a tongue that “goes in and out.”

All of the behaviors discussed above (including animals who stand up or walk away) are demonstrated by cattle at AgriProcessors after having their throats cut and tracheas removed. This provides scientific confirmation that these animals were conscious for significant lengths of time, several minutes in some cases, resulting in prolonged agony.

Chanukkah and the Soul

Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, writes:

It would seem a promising premise for story about Chelm, Jewish folklore's fabled town of the clueless. The resident philosopher sagely informs his fellow citizens that since he can't perceive his own face directly he must not have one. Besides, he explains to the townsfolk, as anyone can plainly see, what seems to be his face clearly resides in his mirror.

The Chelm tale idea is inspired not by hopeless simpletons but by celebrated scientists. Like Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom, the author of a new book, "Descartes' Baby," about, as its subtitle puts it, "what makes us human." In a New York Times op-ed, Professor Bloom lamented human beings' stubborn commitment to "dualism," the philosophical idea that people possess both physical and spiritual components. He pities those who, like his six-year-old son, insist on pretending that there is an "I" somehow separate from the physical cells of one's body and brain.

The boy's father, though, knows that his son's intuition is wrong. "The qualities of mental life that we associate with souls are purely corporeal," he asserts confidently. "They emerge from biochemical processes in the brain."

Joining the call to re-educate and enlighten the backward masses is Professor Bloom's admirer at Harvard, the gifted psychology professor Steven Pinker, who, in a newsmagazine essay of his own, mocks those who think of the brain as "a pocket PC for the soul, managing information at the behest of a ghostly user." Professor Pinker advises us to set aside such "childlike intuitions and traditional dogmas" and recognize that what we conceive of as the soul is nothing more than "the activity of the brain."

Or, as they might say back at the University of Chelm, since the soul seems perceptible only through the brain, the brain, perforce, must be the soul.

Sometimes, though, intuitions are right and interpretations of evidence (especially the lack of it) wrong. Scientists, after all, as the noted British psychologist H. J. Eyesenck famously observed, can be "just as ordinary, pig-headed and unreasonable as anybody else, and their unusually high intelligence only makes their prejudices all the more dangerous." Some, moreover, are prone to a perilous folly: the confidence - despite the long and what-should-be chastening history of science, littered with beliefs once coddled, then discarded - that they have, eureka, arrived at conclusive knowledge.

Were the contemporary dualism debate merely academic, we might reasonably choose to ignore it. Unfortunately, though, the denial of humanity's specialness - the unmistakable ghost in the Bloom/Pinker philosophy-machine - is of all too formidable import.

The negation of the concept of a soul - the holy spark of the divine that was infused into the first man and that makes all his descendants special, requiring them to act in a special way - has had, and continues to have, deep repercussions in broader society.

The idea of the soul goes to the very heart of many a contemporary social issue. It directly influences society's attitudes regarding a universe of moral concerns, from animal rights to abortion; from the meaning of marriage to the treatment of the terminally ill.

In the absence of the concept of a human soul, there is simply nothing to justify considering humans inherently more worthy than animals, nothing to prevent us from casually terminating a yet-unborn life, nothing to prevent us from considering any "personal lifestyle" less proper than any other, nothing to prevent us from coldly ending the life of a patient in extremis. Indeed, employing our brains just a bit further, neither would we be justified to consider any insect our inferior, nor prevented from embracing unbridled immorality or wanton murder. Put succinctly, without affirmation of the soul, society is, in the word's deepest sense, soulless.

There is no escaping the fact; the game's zero-sum: Either humans are something qualitatively different from the rest of the biosphere, sublimated by their souls and the responsibilities that attend them; or they are not. And a society that chooses to believe the latter is a society where no person has any reason to aspire to anything beyond the gratification of the instincts or desires we share with the animal sphere. A world in denial of the soul might craft a utilitarian social contract. But right and wrong would have no meaning at all; for the individual, there would be only the cold calculus of biological survival and the pursuit of pleasure.

The notion is hardly novel, of course. Humanity has encountered "materialists"-those who see reality as limited entirely to the physical - on a number of occasions. Men bent on de-spiritualizing humanity's essence were the high priests of the Age of Reason and the glory days of Communism.

The very first "materialists," though, may well have been the ancient Greeks, who placed capricious gods where, today, some professors seek to ensconce nerves and synapses.

Hellas, focused as it was on reason and inquiry, produced unprecedented celebration of the physical world. Hundreds of years before the Common Era, Erastothenes calculated the earth's circumference to within one percent; Euclid conceived and developed geometry; Aristarchus proposed a heliocentric theory of the solar system. And the early Greeks' investigation of the physical world included as well, and prominently, the human being. But only as a physical specimen, essentially an animal.

Accordingly, much of Hellenist thought revolved around the belief that the enjoyment of life was the most worthwhile goal of man. The words "cynic," "epicurean," and "hedonist" all stem from Greek philosophical schools.

And so it followed almost logically that the culture that was Greece saw the Jewish focus on the divine as an affront. The Sabbath denied the unstopping nature of the physical world; circumcision implied that the body is imperfect; the Jewish calendar imparted holiness where there is only mundane periodicity; and modesty or any sort of limits on indulgence in physical pleasure were simply unnatural.

The Greeks had their "gods," of course, but they were diametric to holiness, modeled entirely on the worst examples of human beings, evidencing the basest of inclinations. And while Hellenist philosophers spoke of a "soul," they employed the word to refer only to what we would call the personality or intellect. The idea of a being "in the image of G-d, of a soul that can make choices and merit eternal existence, was utterly indigestible to the Greek world-view.

As it is indispensable to the Jewish one. With the passage of centuries and the example of those who lived the Jewish faith, humanity became heir to the earth-shattering idea that it is in fact special within creation, and charged with living as special; that our souls are eternal and what we do makes a difference.

Chanukah is when we focus on the crucial difference between the ideals that animated the Jewish people and those that embodied Hellenism. May the holiness that seeps into the world this year through the Chanukah candles of Jewish homes everywhere help counter the modern-day attempts to deny reality, and leave a more soulful world in its wake.

Rabbi Basil Herring

Who financed this RCA investigation of Mordecai Tendler because the RCA apparently did not have the funds to do this without special help?

Before the Tendler case happened, the Orthodox Union hired Praesidium for another case. Praesidium was extensively used by the Catholic church. There was a lot of controversy about the competence of the Praesidium. The OU was warned about the Praesidium. The RCA was warned about Praesidium but hired them anyway.

I asked RCA executive vice president (aka CEO), rabbi Basil Herring, via email, about the RCA leak to rabbi Mordecai Tendler of its file on rabbi Mordecai Tendler (and the sexual misdeeds alleged against Tendler). He did not reply.

I sent him this question: "I'm curious why you leaked the Mordecai Tendler file to Mordecai Tendler?"

Rabbi Basil Herring is married to the niece of philanthropist Stella K. Abraham.

Rabbi Basil Herring, Executive Chairman of the Orthodox Caucus, delivered the keynote remarks at the Stella K. Abraham HS (SKA) Health Fair which took place in April 2001. His talk discusses health and substance abuse issues.


Vicki Polin emails TheAwarenessCenter@yahoogroups.com:

It has come to the attention of The Awareness Center that confidential information regarding individuals who have made allegations against Rabbi Mordechai Tendler has been handed over to him by a high ranking member of the RCA.

The alleged survivors of this case were not consulted prior to this incident. The alleged survivors did NOT have legal representation during the investigative period. There was no one representing each of their own personal interests. For more information regarding this please go to:

Case of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler (AKA: Mordechai Tendler) (Monsey, NY)

The following recommendations have been made:

1) The Rabbi who gave the victims' confidential information to Tendler should be removed from the RCA publicly at once.

2) Rabbi Tendler should be immediately expelled as well for taking that information.

3) The RCA should publicly appologize for the damage they've done and take full responsibility. That means every Rabbi involved in this process, personally and publicly.

4) The RCA should immediately bring in an independent investigator to investigate the conduct of RCA officials in the Tendler affair. The outdside investigators should have the authority to produce a public report with recommendations.

5) Any alleged survivor of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, and of any other case being investigated by the RCA should be immediately notified. They should also consult with a personal injury attorney (of their choice) regarding this matter. Attorney fees should be payed by the RCA.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

PETA vs Agriprocessors

The OU's Rabbi Belsky On The Postville Scandal

KAJ's position

Tzemach Atlas reports

Yaakov writes:

Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen has become a focus of the Schita controversy over the past days. To make the halachic declaration he made and then to retract it
seems reckless to me.

1) Mudslinging Mars Israel's Campaign For Chief Rabbis
by David Hoffman
Washington Post Foreign Service
880 words
20 February 1993
The Washington Post

Hardball elections have long been a feature of Israel's secular politics,
but the campaign that ends this weekend for the country's two chief rabbis
has been marked by an unprecedented bout of mudslinging.

The front-running candidate for Ashkenazic chief rabbi has been accused of
making romantic advances to a woman who was not his wife. Another candidate
is fending off charges that he was a coward during Israel's war of
independence. There have been allegations of wiretapping and of slander -
and a tone that many Israelis have found more than a little unsettling for
an institution that is supposed to carry high moral authority.

The contest became unseemly enough that this week an appeal was made to
Israel's high court to delay the election, but the court refused. On Sunday,
80 rabbis and 70 public figures, many of them secular, will choose the two
chief rabbis, who serve 10-year terms. One is for the Ashkenazic Jews, of
European origin; the other, for the Sephardic Jews, of Oriental extraction.

Lau's supporters have also blamed his chief rival, Shear-Yashuv
Cohen, for spreading the reports, a charge Cohen denied.

Cohen too has been in the spotlight. Cohen was wounded and captured by the
Jordanians in the 1948 war of independence. But a monthly magazine recently
quoted a letter from one of his commanders, written at the time, alleging
that Cohen had tried to avoid dangerous combat situations and once had to be
threatened with a gun to take part. Cohen is viewed as far more liberal than
Lau and recently stirred the ire of the ultra-Orthodox by suggesting the
possibility of scrapping the requirement that all Israelis be married
according to strict religious tradition.

by CLYDE HABERMAN - New York Times News Service
21 February 1993
Portland Oregonian

3) One focus of this story that hasn't been addressed is the financial impact on
Agriprocessors. The articles below indicate that there may be liquidity problems.

1) Bank employee pleads guilty to fraud
23 March 2004
Associated Press Newswires

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - A former employee of Citizens State Bank in
Postville has been sentenced on her guilty pleas to two counts of bank
fraud, U.S. Attorney Charles W. Larson Sr. said Tuesday.

Teresa Downing, 43, of Postville, pleaded guilty last May, admitting in
federal court that, in 1998, she made false entries in the bank's records on
behalf of a customer.

Downing said she hid the fact that $1,140,000 in checks written on
Agriprocessors Inc.'s accounts in New York and deposited in the company's
account in Postville were not sufficient to cover the deposits.

She hid the insufficient fund checks by not debiting Agriprocessors'
account, resulting in unauthorized loans to the company.

The kosher meat plant is one of the largest employers in Postville, a town
of 2,273 people about 80 miles north of Cedar Rapids.

Downing also admitted to embezzling over $78,000 from the bank's accounts
for her own personal use, from 1992 to 1999.

4) Jewish Telegraphic Agency. New York: Apr 01, 2004.
A woman who worked at one of the country's largest kosher meat-packing
plants was sentenced to prison for bank fraud. Teresa Downing, 43, of
Postville, Iowa, who worked for Agriprocessors, one of the largest kosher
meat-packing plants in the country, was jailed this week for five months
after pleading guilty last May to hiding $1.14 million in bad checks from
the company's New York bank to its Postville accounts, which resulted in
unauthorized loans to the company, The Associated Press reported. She also
admitted to embezzling more than $78,000 from Agriprocessors, which is owned
by a Chasidic family.

Mordecai Tendler Update

A rabbi in the RCA gave their complete file on rabbi Mordecai Tendler to rabbi Mordecai Tendler. The women who accused Tendler were not allowed such access to the file. The women spoke to the Praesidium investigator on the belief that they would be kept anonymous. It feels like a bad rerun of the 1989 Baruch Lanner case.

Slim Fast. This is an interesting product. Ever wonder who owned this company before Nestle bought it? I wonder how much money they were paid for it?

S. Daniel Abraham got paid millions for Slim Fast.

Jewish Links

Miriam Shaviv writes:

Tamara, in turn, is just one of a growing number of Jewish women writing about their inner lives, their families, their passions and their Judaism in such diaries, commonly known as ‘web logs’ – or, more simply, as ‘blogs’. Together they offer an unprecedented insight into a sector of the Jewish population which has traditionally been under-represented in conventional media.

By means of blogging many women, particularly more Orthodox ones, have found a way to circumvent restrictions placed on them by their social circles, and gain a strong public voice. They are communicating directly with their peer group and with others, forming online communities and gaining personal followings. As blogging moves further into the mainstream, this can only increase; yet another indication of changing social structures within the Jewish community, the more assertive tendencies of women within today’s society – and a significant phenomenon with the power to change the way Jewish women of all walks of life perceive and are perceived.

Where does the notion come from that women's voices are not being heard in Jewish life? They have as much secular education as the men. They comprise half the students at Reform and Conservative seminaries. They work as rabbis at hundreds of synagogues.


OU Caught Red-Handed on PETA vs AGRIPROCESSORS?


The Prophet Joel and his Vision for RIETS


Simha writes:

There is currently a controversy raging about the practice of one particular
slaughterhouse. I have intentionally ignored the e-mails I've received about
this for the following reasons:

1. I don't know enough about the facts in this case. Even a legitimate video
put out by a respected non-partisan organization (and no one can honestly
call PETA respected or non-partisan) needs to be analyzed and considered.
Knee-jerk reactions by either side are rarely a good thing.

2. I know the people at the OU and they are good people. They are not going
to pass non-kosher meat off as kosher, regardless of the amount of money or
the number of jobs at stake. On the other hand, if they think there is a
problem they will do more than just say that there is a problem. They will
look to fix it if possible or find other alternatives.

3. I have broached the subject with my contacts and they are being wisely
cautious. When I hear something and I get permission to post it, I will.
Right now, all I've got is what the journalists have written and they are
not to be believed on complex matters of halakhah, particularly in defaming
people who have earned (not they need to earn it) the benefit of the doubt.


In an alliance of thoroughly improbable bedfellows, Israel's Chief Rabbinate is effectively backing an outspoken US animals' rights group and opposing a leading Orthodox kashrut supervisor in a much-publicized fray over practices at a US slaughterhouse.
Me writes:

1) This is a processing issue, not a kashrut or halachic issue.

There is no indication the initial schita was not done properly. Quite the
contrary, it appears by all indication to be acceptable.

The OU:
>Rabbis Menachem Genack and Yisroel Belsky, the chief experts for
>the Orthodox Union, which certifies over 600,000 products as kosher
>- including Aaron's Best meats - said the killings on the tape, while
>"gruesome," appeared kosher because the shochet checked to make sure he had
>severed both the trachea and esophagus.

The chief Rabbanute:
>"Technically, the shehita is kosher, but some of the things they do
>deviate from the rabbinate's guidelines," said Rabbi Ezra Raful, head
>of the rabbinate's international shehita supervision department, who
>watched the PETA video together with the Post.

Without inspection of the knife in person, it's impossible for any person
viewing this tape to make a determination of any problem.

At this point the animal is dead, at least halachically. No Tzar b'alei
chaim issues remain. Once the schita is done the animal is considered
dead/unconscious. While Peta/the US government or even other experts may
still consider the animal alive or conscious for a period of time,
halachically we don't.

Thus, the problem comes at this point. You can see there are differences in
processing attitudes (Australia they stun the animal at this point, in
Israel they don't speed up the bleeding process). These are not
halachic/kashrut issues. All the meat is fine at this point as long as it is
now koshered properly.

2) But clearly the way meat is processed is different at this plant than
many other plants (I'm not going to go into all the differences):
A. rotating drum so it can be killed while upside down
B. "You see there, it looks like he ripped out the trachea and esophagus. We
do not allow the animal to be touched after the shehita until the main part
of the bleeding stops."

It seems that A is as required by Orthodox rabbis in Israel (which is likely
why this was the only American plant allowed to export to Israel).

It's not clear to me why B is being done. I can only speculate:
a. this speeds up the process (time and money consideration).
b. gets more blood out
c. to remove the tongue immediately so that workers do not accidentally
spray it with warm water as they clean up the blood/animal/area (which would
make it impossible to kasher)

I suspect a combination of a and c is the real reason. Basically, to kill
the animals quickly. Kill one, clean up, kill the next.

Clearly I understand why some are upset about the way schita is done here.
If you consider the animal is still alive after schita for a few seconds or
minutes or accept the movement described as proof of life you should be
angry. But halachically, again, we consider the animal dead.

For some this is a scientific question, for some this is a religious
question and for others it's a mix of the two: When does life cease? When
does consciousness cease?

As people and groups differ on the answer, the debate and differences
between groups are both understandable and proper.

I don't think any party is doing anything wrong here.

Peta and others believe that life has not yet ended. Thus what they see is
cruel. They would prefer other methods to reduce the pain to the animal.

The problem is that others believe that the animal is dead. Thus there is no
cruelty. Further, halachically we believe that the stunning before schita
causes pain to the animal. As such we are against such cruelty.

Let me make it clear, Halachically, no unnecessary suffering can be caused
to the animal in the schita process. Anything, such suffering would render
the meat to be unusable.

The problem is Halachic Judaism differs from Peta in when death occurs and
what constitutes suffering. These are legitimate differences.

I would note that Halachically the unnecessary cruelty to animals without
purpose is forbidden (obviously the use of animals for a purpose of food /
clothing is not unnecessary cruelty). Whether it is a biblical or Rabbinic
prohibition is an open question. Regardless, it is prohibited.

Further, as noted above, in the use of animals for food we have very strict
laws that do not allow for causing pain to the animals prior to schita.
After that point, it is just a slab of food. We don't have the same attitude
towards animals as Peta and others do.

We believe that God has given us the right to use animals as a source of
food (now that we no longer live in Gan eden). Peta obviously takes a much
different view.

3) It is troubling that Rabbinical leaders are making reckless statements
outside of their competence without proper consideration. For example:

>More than a week ago, Ronnen showed the video to Rabbi
>She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, chief rabbi of Haifa, who issued a
>statement that "the procedure of this shehita is definitely
>unacceptable by halachic standards. This procedure is not
>only cruel and therefore unacceptable by Jewish religious
>law. It also cannot be certified as kosher, as the animal
>must die as the direct result of the ritual cut."
>But in a telephone interview with the Post, Cohen
>(who is a vegetarian) was much more equivocal. "I'm
>not an expert on the laws of cruelty to animals in Halacha,"
>he said. "AgriProcessors' kosher supervisor, Rabbi Haim
>Cohen, claims that tearing out the windpipe reduces the
>suffering of the animal," he added. "If that is true, the
>shehita is kosher."

This is very troubling. First it wasn't kosher, now it may be? Such
recklessness is unacceptable.

4) Claims of anti-semitism here are reckless and not helpful. It really
shows how poor our approach to dealing with the media and public concerns

5) It is clear to me that Rubashkin is acting properly here. He is simply
relying on what the Rabbinical supervisors/experts are determining should be

6) Despite my belief that halachically the schita is OK (or at least, I
don't see evidence of a halachic/kashrut problem), there is room to
institute processing changes that make animal slaughter more acceptable to
groups that differ as to when an animal is no longer alive/conscious. This
can be done without compromise to halacha or kashrut. The advantage as well
is that in the long run schita will be more acceptable publically.

We all have the same ends, reduce the suffering of the animal. We simply
differ on methods and definitions.

7) The above analysis is based on my assumption that the schita has been
done properly. Without inspecting the knife or watching it up close, I have
no choice but to rely on the schochtim/rabbonim involved. Actual schita
takes a split second and it is impossible to make any determination from a
mere video. There is nothing that I have seen or read that indicates to me

I don't believe the movement of the animal after schita proves
life/consciousness (at least from a halachic standpoint).

Once the shochet has used the single slice of his razor-sharp knife, the
animal is food not a baal chyim that feels pain or suffers. No matter how
grotesque or sickening the scene appears.

As I noted, I understand how others legitimately feel and believe otherwise.

8) I am open to other's opinions and criticism of my evaluation. But if you
disagree with me please base it on something and please be aware that not
everyone has the same beliefs as you. These are theological questions and I
believe there is room for differing opinions here.

9) I have not addressed more (what I consider) minor points in this
controversy. But I think my approach gives a basic overview of the

10) Everyone needs to take a step back here and more closely evaluate the
issues and seperate them out. This is a processing issue not a
kashrut/halachic issue. This is not a matter of treifut, this is an
arguement concerning when animals are no longer alive/conscious and how meat
is processed.

All are valid issues. But stop confusing them with kashrut.

Kashrut deals soley with the schita and kashering processes (and seperation
of meat and milk). Processing of the meat beyond that is a seperate
non-halachic, non-kashrut issue.

Bubbie and Zadeh Talk To Kids

NYT: Jewish children have no Santa Claus, but thanks to a Jewish guy in
Taiwan, they have Bubbie and Zadie (bubbieandzadie.blogspot.com).

Who? Daniel Halevi Bloom, a freelance editor and reporter, invented these Jewish grandparents (the names are Yiddish for Grandma and Grandpa) in 1983 to bring Hanukkah alive for children, particularly those without living grandparents. Back then the medium was snail mail, but Mr. Bloom reckons that today's Bubbie and Zadie are e-mail users.

Monday, November 15, 2004
Bubbie and Zadie Enliven Hannukah!

WHAT: Jewish kids are invited to write special Hannukah letters to a
special, magical (and maybe imaginary, who knows?) pair of Jewish
grandparents named Bubbie and Zadie. Yes, the Bubbie and Zadie of us
all! Kids can write, adults can write, anyone may write!


WHEN: Hannukah is Dec. 7-15, 2004 this year. Letters can be written
anytime from now on, .....before, during and after Hannukah.

EMPHASIS:: Children can write about their wishes and dreams
forHannukah, not so much about presents, please, but about family
get-togethers, feelings about relatives near and far, anything they
want. To life, to life, l'chayim!

IN RETURN: Bubbie and Zadie (the sort of imaginary, fictional
creations of a middle-aged Jewish dreamer) will reply with an Internet
email letter of their own. FREE OF CHARGE. This is NOT and NEVER WILL
BE a commercial site. Never will be. [This is not about making a
profit. This is about honoring our prophets.] Money does not fuel this
engine. Naches does. Not nachos, NACHES!

WHY? Why not! -- Jewish kids have been writing print letters to Bubbie
and Zadie since 1983, when the New York Times first "discovered" the
program in a feature article by Times reporter Nadine Brozan. Over
10,000 letters have been mailed to Bubbie and Zadie by Jewish children
in all 50 USA states, as well as from Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Europe
and around the world. The letters are priceless, heartwarming, amazing
artifacts of modern Jewish culture.

WILL BE. [The founder of this project is a silly young man who has no
sense of making money or business acumen. His head is always in the
clouds. He is a pure luftmensch. Go figure.]

WHO: The founder/creator of this program created Bubbie and Zadie as
fictional characters for Jewish children in 1983. Subject of 1983,
1984, 1985 major newspaper stories by New York Times, NewYork Daily
News, Washington Post, LA Times, Miami Herald, AP, Reuters,UPI, Jewish
Week, and Chicago Sun Times, Montreal Gazette, Toronto Sun, Jerusalem
Post -- over 400 media outlets worldwide reported on Bubbie and Zadie
in 1985. Kids still write letters to them each year, in print. But
now, in the Age of the Internet (who knew?) here we are on-line!!!
Yes, Bubbie and Zadie online. Read about us in the New York Times for
December 2, 2004. Google us there. [We made the Times that day, thanks
to some savvy PR juggling by our longtime benefactor, Danny Howie
Bloom. That guy sure knows how to plant stories, doesn't he!]

WHY NOW: 2004, 2005, 2006....forever and a day! -- The founder/creator
of this program said he wants to give Bubbie and Zadie a second life
online, using the Internet as a communication tool between Jewish kids
and their beloved"Bubbies and Zadies" nationwide, worldwide. The
Internet makes this possible. And now ... Bubbie and Zadie have an
Internet/email presence.

WHERE: everyWHERE! CyberSPACE is GLObal. Cosmic. E-ternal.

EMAIL: bubbie.zadie@gmail.com (This is GMAIL, also known as Gefilte Fish Mail)

FREE OF CHARGE. repeat: FREE OF CHARGE. The founder of this project is
doing this out the goodness of his heart. He doesnot need money.


Childen will sometimes receive a letter similar to the one below.
BUT...changes can also be made to tailor the letter replies to each
child. (Zadie is a retired tailor. Bubbie is a former typesetter for
the Brooklyn Eagle.) Some letters will be very personal and folksy.
Let us know what you want, what you need! We can work miracles! (and
we get lots of help from You Know Who! -- the name that cannot be

FOR EXAMPLE, the letter might look like this:

An online letter (what else?) from Bubbie and Zadie,

As Hannukah approacheth, December 2004

Dear ___________ ,

It is almost time for Hannukah again this year, and Bubbie and Zadie
are getting ready to visit you and your family -- through the power of
loving imagination, of course!

Are you ready?

As you know, Bubbie and Zadie love you and think of you often. Even
though we are getting up there in age, we still remember what it is
like to be young and excited about the coming of Hannukah -- the
family playing games together, spinning the dreidel, eating the
special Hannukah foods and, yes, those lovely little presents each
night of this wonderful holiday!

But the main thing about Hannukah, at least as far as Bubbie and Zadie
are concerned, is the love and compassion for others that emanates
from the glow of the candles on the menorah.

Yes, Hannukah is about Jewish culture, Jewish history, but it is also
about love -- the love that continues to go around the world year
after year, from parents to children, from brothers to sisters, and
from grandparents to everyone! So, dear children, have a very Happy
Hannukah this year, and please remember us to your folks, too. They
were once children, too -- as were we!


Happy Hannukah, everyone!

Love from,

Bubbie and Zadie



Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Ari Goes Down

An interview with bisexual Village Voice sex columnist Rachel Bussel Kramer.

An interview with the author (32yo single New Yorker from yeshiva background who now dishes sex advice) of the blog, Ari Goes Down.