Thursday, October 5, 2006

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Erin Aubry Kaplan: Juan Williams, Turncoat

She writes in the LA Times:

For years I've tried to be cool and close ranks, as dictated by a tradition of African American survival and tenuous solidarity.

...Williams is a veteran reporter for newspapers and radio, the man who wrote the companion book to the vaunted "Eyes on the Prize" public television series on the civil rights movement. He is also one of a disturbing new breed of black social critics who, after having spent their careers trying to lift up the race, has decided that black people are pretty much responsible for their own decline and for perpetuating a broken culture of bling and victim politics, to name but two.

...Expanding on Bill Cosby's impromptu condemnation of poor black folks a couple of years ago, Williams insists that blacks of all economic stripes are oppressing themselves with outdated notions of structural racism (and with leaders who reinforce those notions while getting paid to perpetuate them). He also says the heart of black problems lies not in history but in skewed modern values that lead to girls having babies out of wedlock and gangster-minded boys wearing their pants too low.

There's a word for people such as Erin Aubry Kaplan who strive to never criticize a member of their own group -- primitive.

Aish HaTorah Appraised

"If the way back to Orthodoxy is through Aish, then today's young Jews would be wise to keep running."

My most pleasurable experiences of Judaism have been through Aish HaTorah (and I'm not only talking about the women I met there). I've never known such love (before and since). I remember (circa 1995) Richard Horowitz (West Coast Aish Director) gave up three hours of his workday (and offered to pay for my probable parking ticket) to talk to me.

In the end, however, I wasn't willing to make the sacrifices necessary to remain a part of that community. It's my loss.

H. writes:

Give me a break. I saw your link to the nutty British jewish socialists-- most of whom are probably married out. Their readers are so Jewishly illiterate they have to define "shabatonim" in the article. Do you actually believe the crap they write or do you just link up to aish bashers even when you don't believe what they are saying? I know guys who dropped huge bucks (seven figures) to fund the costa rica trip, and they make it out in the article like people were held there in the jungle against their will. A bunch of baloney. Whatever you may think is wrong with aish, you can't seriously think that the problems are articulated in the hatchet job you link up to. You've written some funny things in the past. Are you that lacking in material now that you have to link up to this crap?

The Coming Legal Superstorm Against Bloggers Gathers Force

My attorney Justin Levine writes 10/306:

USA Today notes the rise in libel lawsuits against bloggers, as predicted some time ago here.

Meanwhile, Socallawblog has seemingly become ground-zero in the discussion over the Todd Hollis lawsuit that is discussed in the USA Today article.

My advice: Don't trust anything anyone says about anybody in the comments section of that post unless you have independent verification of it (except for my stellar legal analysis of course).

How's My New Book Coming Along?

Because the white slave trade has such a bad name, I find it embarrassing to tell people how I truly earn a living, so I usually just say I'm a spy or that I'm working on a book on American-Jewish literature.

I'm interviewing a lot of authors but have no idea how I'm going to tie it all into a book. So, in short, I'm making no progress. But thank you for being a member of my faith community.

I'm Glad You're A Member Of My Faith Community

A rabbi used the term "faith community" the other day. I can't hear that term in a Jewish context without laughing (because Judaism is primarily about behavior not beliefs).

What Would The Luke Ford Reality TV Show Look Like?

* My search for a wife
* Luke Ford Literary Salon
* Hang out on 3rd St Promenade, UCLA, West LA and use my interview template (I employ variations of it with almost everyone, including chicks I date) on beautiful young women.
* Go back to UCLA and sit in on a few economics classes and interview an economist or two.
* Drive around my neighborhood at 3 a.m. and bang on the doors of various rabbis and announce, "You're on the Luke Ford Show. What do you think about this week's Torah portion?"
* Help blacks and illegal Mexican immigrants better understand each other and the white racist Republican man. As John Derbyshire says, there are millions of people in the United States who don't like blacks, and most of these people vote Republican.

I got a mate of mine from shul to play my father on my new TV show. He's only 12 years older than me but looks so haggard (from raising daughters) he could pass as my dad.

Jewish Journal's Amy Klein Investigating Rabbi Steven Weil

What's the happiest day in a rabbi's life? When he finds out that it is the Jewish Journal who's investigating him.

Since taking over Beth Jacob in 2000, Rabbi Weil has ejected about 70 people.

Amy's interviewed such ejectees as Aaron Biston and Gadi Shapiro.

The Jewish Journal was looking at this same story (Rabbi Weil ejecting people) in 2001 but never published anything.

Gadi Pickholz of the Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council (IFRAC) emails (and I've removed most of the names for my well being):

... is never going to win the Spiritual Leader of the Year Award from the IFRAC. Both in his capacity as a pulpit rabbi as well as West Coast Executive Director of the RCA there exist many points of contention between us. Nevertheless, his arguments are always intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate to our postion even when disagreeing, and above all meticulously professional in demeanor. We have never received a complaint from an IFRAC member regarding ..., despite his clearly being far from a Friend of Divorced Jewish Fathers. If any rabbi in the LA community runs his congregation, it would be ..., who has the longest running tenure on the local pulpits and eseentially a contract for life. If anyone can claim to shepherd their spiritual flock and maintain a spiritual safety zone that goes far beyond the parameters of halacha, it would be Muskin at YICC. Despite this, we have never received a single complaint. The hotspot at Beth Jacob has nothing to do with these pretenses.

The same argument can be made of ...., who presides over the other major orthodox congregation in the community --and deals with a significant presence of Jewish Orthodox Feminists of American (JOFA). .... has disappointed us on occassion, but we have never received a complaint from a member about him. Not one.

We had a similar case to Beth Jacob a few years ago in Northern California, in which an orthodox rabbi was on a witch hunt of throwing all divorced fathers out of the shul in the name of family values and concern of their being potential sexual predator for the innocent women in the community. It turns out that he was a child of a very bitter divorce and was utilizing the pulpit to act out his own internal aggressions. The shul board finally intervened, and there has been no problem there since, but it literally took an initial filing of clerical malpractice in civil court before the board was willing to Do The Right Thing and make it all go away.

At Beth Jacob, the coincidence of the financial pressures of a major building fund with rabbinic impropriety is no coincidence at all. There is extreme financial pressure on the board of directors to do nothing, look away, and hope it all blows over at this very vulnerable financial time for Beth Jacob. Regretably, they are not a likely bunch to consider doing what is proper and ethical without a gun to their head. Such is the nature of Rabbinics Transformed into Big Business, and the inevitable outcome of rabbis like Weil hired for their MBA coming into a major building campaign rather than a community embracing rabbinic hashkafa.

Cock 'N' Bull

My friend Jeff* was sitting at home Friday night and he just couldn't face the loneliness, so he jumped in his mate's car and they drove off to the British pub Cock 'N' Bull for the Grand Final of Australian Rules Football.

"I might be getting my own reality TV show," says Jeff. "It'll be a kiddish HaShem (sanctification of God's name). I'll shed the light of Torah."

"Will the crew works on Shabbos?" asks Jeff's friend.

"I would never ask them to do that. I won't be filmed on Shabbos."

"Why not?"

"It would violate Jewish law."

Dennis Prager At Nessah

Once a month, Dennis Prager speaks at the Orthodox Persian shul Nessah in Beverly Hills. The shul advertises this in the Jewish Journal.

For a while, Prager would drive to the shul to speak, which violates Orthodox Jewish law. So the shul got a lot of heat and they had to ask Prager not to drive to the shul.

Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again

Audio (Quality starts out horrible but improves two minutes in when I moved to the front row.)

This Snopes.com report says that Annie Jacobsen's famous report was false.

From David Horowitz's email promoting Thursday night's talk:

The Center is hosting a special evening event on Thursday, September 28th featuring Annie Jacobsen who will speak on her new book Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again.

ANNIE JACOBSEN's harrowing first-hand account of her flight with a group of suspected terrorists forces us to ask: Could 9/11 happen again? On June 29, 2004, Jacobsen, traveling with her family on Northwest Airlines flight 327, witnessed what she believed was a terrorist "dry run." The blogosphere quickly made world news of Jacobsen’s article on her terrifying experience, launching her on a year-long investigation.

In Terror in the Skies, Jacobsen tells, for the first time, the full story of the events on Northwest 327 and the investigation that followed. What happened on her flight, she discovered, was not an isolated incident, and if our air security does not improve, 9/11 is likely to happen again.

Annie Jacobsen is a regular columnist for Women's Wall Street where her controversial "Terror in the Skies" columns were first published. After over a dozen installments, Spence Publications contacted her to write a book of the same title.

I chitchat with Janet Levy, a firebrand conservative political consultant who was jolted out of apathy by Israel's second Intifada (in August 2001) and galvanized to fight Islamic terrorism (after a long career in software).

Her husband's a liberal. They must have interesting conversations over dinner.

Janet delivers the introduction: "The role that political correctness plays in airline security is shocking."

She protests the Transportation Safety Administration giving CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) a special tour. "We shouldn't be talking to Muslims," she says.

She protests Muslim sensitivity programs for airport screeners.

She protests the view that Jihad is an inner struggle rather than a worldwide violent one against non-Muslims.

I sit next to Kevin Jacobsen, the speaker's actor-husband.

I'm bummed because there's no dessert and no tea and no coffee. I take comfort in cheese and crackers.

Annie says the Department of Homeland Security does nothing to protect us and is all about ego, money and control.

Annie talks about various flights with male Muslim passengers who behaved suspiciously.

"Flight attendants all sign waivers that they may not discuss flight accidents or incidents with members of the press."

The Washington Times reported in 2004:

The Homeland Security Department's sense of fashion is endangering the lives of federal air marshals by making them conspicuous to terrorists, says the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. Marshals, they say, must follow a strict dress code and military grooming that is enforced by the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). According to memos obtained by The Washington Times, marshals must wear a suit, or a coat and tie, when flying from all cities, even traditionally casual locations such as Orlando, Fla. Their hair must be worn in a conservative style. No beards are allowed, and dress shoes are required for both men and women.

This dress code was only repealed a month ago, after four years of lobbying by air marshals, hundreds of articles, and 20-months of Congressional investigation.

Foothills writes on Amazon.com:

Does the accumulation of four years without further terrorist attacks make you feel safer when you fly? It shouldn't. The Bureaucratic Bunglers are out in full force and with them in charge you don't have a prayer. Or rather, all you do have is prayer. According to Annie Jacobsen, we'd better do our homework on this one because there is no one watching out for us.

Back in April, Gates of Vienna posted on Ms. Jacobsen's tenacity and her willingness to follow this story wherever it led. That post, "Silence of the Sheep," proved that the author is a sheepdog indeed. Her interviews with other passengers, with government agencies, with the House Judiciary Committee, with airline personnel, and with individual people who bear the day-to-day hazard of working in this field, have made her case. The tale of her experiences is documented well in "Terror in the Skies".

This is a top-down problem. The guys in harm's way - the pilots and flight attendants - know the problems but they have no more power to address them than you do. Less than two percent of pilots are armed. Want to know why? Because in order to actually carry a firearm on board, the firearms training must be done on the pilot's own time and it has to be done in a place far from home, squeezed into his holiday time or vacation. And flight attendants?

Again, they have to arrange self-defense training on their own time, at their own expense and without the cooperation of the airlines themselves. Think of it this way: what if Brink's hired drivers and gave them no training in handling attempted robberies? What if they expected their employees to get training - if any - on their own time and their own dime? How long do you think Brink's would be in business? That's the situation we have in the friendly skies of America.

When you add to that the cruel joke of the Federal Air Marshals, the lackadaisical behavior of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the farce we all know as the Department of Homeland Insecurity, it's enough to make you want to stay home and do your business by long-distance and email.

Let's take just one: FAMS. This is bureaucratese for the Federal Air Marshal program. You know the old joke that goes "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny"? Well, for this program, the first part may or may not be the case, but for the second premise - being dressed funny - you can count on FAMS. Due to the boneheaded policies of those in charge, Federal Air Marshals are required to wear sport coats and collared shirts. Yes, that's right: they must look like Federal Air Marshals at all times because they are a reflection of FAMS and dressing in a slovenly disguise would somehow bring disgrace to the organization. Comments about being a lovely corpse would be appropriate here. Then there's what they do after they're up and dressed. Remember, they're carrying guns, right? So obviously they can't go through security. However, there's a second obvious thing they can do - they can fight the current and walk through the exit lanes for deplaning passengers. How's that for subterfuge?

Let's see, what other behaviors might they carry out to make themselves more obvious? Pre-boarding is one trick they have down well. So is always riding in first class. And there you have the FAMS spotter information: check out the guys in first class in the sports coats who got on the plane before you. But don't worry. Any terrorists on board sussed to their tricks a long time ago. They know exactly who they have to take out first, provided that any "taking out" is even necessary. If you're going to detonate in the restroom, what do you care where the Federal Marshals are? They're coming with you anyway.

Annie Jacobsen makes a good case for the fact that her flight, 327 on Northwest Airlines, was a "probe," a dry run practice. And she backs up her contention with:

* eyewitnesses who were on the plane with her,
*a four hour FBI interrogation in which they admitted her intuition was correct,
* contact from other passengers on other planes who decry the lack of security and the lack of follow-up in their cases, and
* communications from frustrated and fearful pilots, flight attendants, and others in the business who know the skies are anything but safe, that they are being probed all the time, and that it is only a matter of time before planes fall from the sky.

Near the end of the book Ms. Jacobsen recounts a conversation with an air marshal. She asked him to explain what he meant when he said "it was all for show." Here' what he told her: "You know how youd go to the airport, before 9/11, and an agent there, somebody who worked for the airlines would say to you, 'Did you pack your own bags?' Well, it was all for show. Those agents weren't trained in detecting whether or not someone was lying. The procedure was there to make the flying public feel good. That's what happened with 327. They all came running like in the movies, but it was all for show. Who interviewed the men? FAMS. We're not trained in interviewing terror suspects. We don't know what to look for.

And the FBI at the airport? I won't go there. Who really should have been there? ICE. Period. ICE. But they weren't. Why? Because management says probes aren't happening on airplanes. The guys were there to make the passengers feet good, nothing more, nothing less.

Two years ago, I had a probing incident. It may have been one of the first. After it happened, no one knew what to do, there was no protocol. The guys involved in the incident sailed off into the crowd. What was I going to do? Run up, tap the guy on the shoulder and say, 'I almost shot you, now I'd like to interview you?' Instead, I filed a report about my probing incident. Basically I was told 'it didn't happen.' Well, it did happen. Probes have been happening ever since. I doubt anybody ever even remotely considered you'd attract the kind of press you did. But you did. That's a good thing." Now you know.

Annie Jacobsen's intuitions about Flight 327 were correct. But you know even more: the official response to 9/11 is all for show - boondoggle and brouhaha and folderol and CYA.

Perhaps we should fly the friendly skies of El Al. They know security; they take it in with their mothers' milk.

After Annie's talk, an old woman asks what can be done about Arabs' emotional volatility. She fears that if they are scrutinized at airports, they could become lethally enraged.

I say that the solution lies in a hug. Have you hugged a Muslim today and told him how glad you are that he lives in your country and that you want him to bring over all his relatives?

The Truth about Rabbi Ben Zion Sobel (Part 2)

Adam Harishon writes:

I don’t usually read blogs, especially these. However, when someone brought to my attention that there was a lot of inaccurate accusations being hurled at Rabbi Sobel, I checked it out and decided to reply. Naively, I thought that if I take the time to present the facts as they really are, bloggers and their readers would be satisfied and would stop spreading misinformation and would even remove his name from the blogs completely. Therefore I decided to take the time and respond only once – although I gave my email address for anyone who might still have had some issues to deal with (and it was used by some honest people). I really did not intend to reply again since I don’t have the time, especially during this holiday season.

However, since a former student of Neveh (I’m pretty sure I know who he is) had the audacity to argue that what I am writing is not true and that he has the real facts, which he admits himself are based on rumors, I felt that I had to reply once more.

I am not saying that he is lying – I believe that he heard these things said – but that does not make them true, no matter how many times he may have heard them. I am not Rabbi Sobel but I did check all of my facts with him (I mentioned that his reaction was that he deserves the international embarrassment and did not want me to fight it at first until I convinced him that it could hurt his innocent family more than they have already been hurt. Everyone who knows his Rebbetzin knows that she is an absolute tzadeikus and that their children are very fine. They certainly don’t deserve to have their lives destroyed because of his mistakes).

I call myself Adam Harishon because I was with Rabbi Sobel from the very beginning of this very sad parsha. I have a file of all of the events with names, dates and sometimes even the times that they occurred (many of the meetings I witnessed myself). No one can argue with me based on rumors he heard. I don’t deny that there were many, many rumors. But they are not true.

Although this former student (for a short period of time) wants us to depend on his reliability, he doesn’t even know the name of the yeshiva. He repeats the often mistaken claim that Neveh Yehoshua was renamed Neveh Zion after Rabbi Sobel left, in an effort to hide its identity. Anyone who knows anything about the basic history of the yeshiva knows that it was named Neveh Yehoshua when it was founded by Itri in 1977 on Moshav Bet Yehoshua, and was renamed Neveh Zion 4 years later, in 1981, when it became independent of Itri and moved to Telz-Stone. In 1985, Rabbi Sobel left.

He further claims that he knows better what kind of boy the yeshiva was made for – troubled teenagers – and tells a story about a student who left to Diaspora and spoke against Rabbi Sobel but was not heeded.

Anyone who learned in Neveh and attended the very first orientation (as well as the initial interviews before being accepted) knows of the “I.E.s” = “Instant Expulsion.” One of them was drugs. As a matter of fact, the boy he is referring to was sent away because he used drugs and that’s why he went to Diaspora Yeshiva where it was tolerated. Of course he was angry at Rabbi Sobel for sending him away and spoke against him then. But he straightened out over the years and today runs a program to train avraichim for Kiruv in Chutz La’aretz – AND HE INVITED RABBI SOBEL TO SPEAK FOR THEM, SEVERAL TIMES! Does that tell you anything?

He also argues that Rabbi Sobel didn’t leave willingly. There were many newspaper outcries demanding that he leave.

I’m not sure on what planet he, or anyone, saw these newspapers. On another blog, Rabbi Blau himself mentioned that there was absolutely no media coverage – and that is the truth. Rabbi Sobel left so quickly and quietly (a few days after he spoke with Rav Shach on Shushan Purim) that most people had no idea why he had left. The rumor was that he had embezzled money from the yeshiva.

He continues to argue that Rabbi Sobel comes from Baltimore because “we all heard it.” Unfortunately, in spite of what you heard and how many times, Rabbi Sobel never studied there nor taught there. I’m sorry if the facts disagree with the rumors and you choose to believe the rumors.

He insists that Rabbi Sobel was indeed caught with his driver – whom he knows personally. Well, I know him personally too. First of all, he didn’t have “A driver.” No driver could last more than one day of his unbelievable hectic schedule – from early morning till late at night – and he had a different driver every day. Yes, it is true that some of the (few – less than 10) guys he got involved with drove him around occasionally, but they were never caught - period! One of his victims went to Rabbi Svei and exposed him. I know the guy and I know what he said. That’s it. Sorry, but no dramatics. (Why don’t you write me his name to my email Hamashgiach@yahoo.com and I’ll check the story with him. I would like to see if he’ll tell ME that he was ever caught with Rabbi Sobel.)

And as far as LA is concerned, hey, I am the one who made all of the arrangements for his stay in LA. I know every house he was at and everything that went on there. And he was not caught anywhere! (I understand how this rumor may have gotten started since right after he met with Rav Svei he went to LA, and then the story began to break in some places so they probably assumed that something must have happened in LA which caused it. But the driver story is total hogwash.)

I must admit to one thing though. This guy claims that the students of Neveh were confused. Well, he’s certainly convinced us that he was, and apparently still is, quite confused. And now I understand where most of the misinformation on these blogs has been coming from.

Finally, he admits that what really bothers him is “how the community covered for him at the time, which was rather than press charges, etc, they quickly got him a job at Feldheim, since after all, ‘he was a rosh yeshiva.’”

More misinformation. I was the guy who personally interceded for Rabbi Sobel with “the community,” and let me tell you, no one covered up for him and no one pitied him. There were no charges to be pressed since the boys were all legal adults. But they threw him out on his behind with absolutely no mercy. No one got him a job at Feldheim. He and his family had no food to eat for a long time including after he found himself the job at Feldheim (about a year later) which paid him a very meager salary for a job that, at the beginning, was in no way respectable. Little by little, Hashem had rachmanus on him (no one else did), since he did teshuvah, and he built himself up to be able to support his large family.

And there was no public apology or admission is because Rabbi Sobel contacted everyone he could and asked their forgiveness and offered them restitution. This does not have to be done publicly since it is a matter strictly between him and them and is of no one else’s concern. (By the way, you may find it interesting to note that Rabbi Sobel told me many times that he does not expect them to forgive him nor does he feel that he deserves it. Nevertheless, he feels that he owes it to them to humble himself before them and try to be mefayes them even if they will not accept his pius.)

But you know what; all of this is totally irrelevant. If you want to believe that his past was much worse than it actually was; go ahead and believe what you want. I won’t confuse you with the facts if you’ve already made up your mind.

If you want to believe that he was not healed; go ahead and continue to be choshed him. Never come too close to him if you think it’s dangerous.

But you cannot argue with the fact that today he is not a threat to any student anywhere and no one has to be warned. He has not even attempted to get back into chinuch since he left Neveh over 20 years ago and I challenge everyone to find one person who will say, “Yeah, he called me and asked if he could teach in my yeshiva,” or anything like that. No one is discussing whether or not he should be trusted again with children. That is not the issue at all. He is supporting his family by helping Klal Yisroel in a way that is healthy and safe and we should use him as an example of what we expect other people in his situation to do.

Someone asked why Rabbi Sobel works in the office of a yeshiva where he is subject to maris ayin? I guess he didn’t read what I wrote last time. He is not in a building where the office is downstairs and the students are upstairs. He works in Jerusalem where only the administrative offices are – 2 hours away from the campus where the children are. He has zero to do with them and there isn’t any maris ayin for anyone who has proper vision! Every news article put up on the blogs declared that he is a FUND RAISER who works in the offices in Jerusalem. He has nothing to do with the students or the campers or even the staff of the school.

As for why he chose this profession, I will tell you something interesting. Anyone who heard his very marvelous sichot (which guys came from all around Israel to hear) must have heard him say many times that a person should dedicate his life to Torah. The best way, he said, is by learning and teaching. But if one cannot or does not want to do that, there are plenty of other ways of proliferating Torah; by supporting it or being an askan or the like. Then he would say, “If I could not teach Torah, I would raise funds for a yeshiva that does!”

At the time, we thought he was just making a point. Years later, in retrospect, we realized that he had apparently been planning to leave chinuch because of his problem and was preparing for his next undertaking in life to which he would dedicate himself fully for the sake of Torah.

There is absolutely no heter in the world to embarrass his family in public and make them problems concerning shidduchim and the like. It is not our job to punish anyone or take revenge for sins of the past. That is solely Hashem’s department. If someone is a danger to society we must protect them from him (according to the ways the Torah allows) but that is not the case here.

I appeal to all bloggers to recognize the truth of my words and ignore rumors which were spread by slanderers. I think that it would be a big zechus for Yom Kippur if the story of Rabbi Sobel’s unfortunate past were removed from all blogs since it is not relevant to anyone today.

Where Do Sexual Predators Pray On Yom Kippur?

Jewish Survivors blog wants to know.

"Rarely does the abuser or the enablers take responsibility for what occured. A formal insincere apology need not be taken seriously. It is often part of a manipulation to reverse things and make the survivor feel guilty." -- Rabbi Yosef Blau

Author Michelle Goldberg

Traveling a hyperbolic trajectory from Buffalo to Brooklyn (and many points outside of it), Michelle Goldberg has made a name for herself as a senior writer for Salon.com covering everything from pop culture to politics. Her first book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, will be the focus of her October 5 discussion at the 92nd Street Y with Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League of B nai Brith. You can read an excerpt here and she offers more of its insight with this Gothamist interview that you should definitely read.

The History of Child Abuse

"1969 Organization: New York Radical Feminists was founded by Shulamith Firestone. She is older sister of [Mordecai Gafni's supporter] Rabbi Tirzah Firestone."

Kendra Jade's Book Club

She calls me back Sept. 24.

Kendra: "When I was younger, every little thing that would go wrong, I'd say, 'That's it. This is over. I can't do this anymore.' I'd break up with him every three days. In therapy, I learned that it's not that you really want to break up. You want reassurance. I grew up f---ed up. I wanted people to prove that they cared."

Luke: "What are you reading these days?"

Kendra: "I'm reading Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. It's touched me in a lot of nice places. I need to read things that are in agreement with what I'm feeling. I'm also reading The Count of Monte Cristo."

Luke: "Have you read Aphrodite Jones?"

Kendra: "I love her. She has a way of writing for an unintelligent reader. It's not complicated. It draws you in. The reader can relate.

"You need someone who can relate to what you do. That's a problem in my relationships because I don't even know what I do anymore."

Charlie emails:

Hey Luke, I can't tell you how much I look forward to seeing this on the back of an Aphrodite Jones paperback in the future:

"She has a way of writing for an unintelligent reader."—Kendra Jade

[Aphrodite's] quite good on TV too. Haven't seen her much since Scott Peterson, though. She'd be a great person to hook up with for a PROPER scandals book. I'd love to do that. It would sell like crazy.

I'll Be in My Trailer: The Creative Wars Between Directors and Actors by John Badham and Craig Modderno

According to the back cover, Craig's "3,000 plus bylines have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times..."

Here's the most awkward sentence I've read in a while: "After we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1965 I took several jobs while in high school to support our family once my father died two years later." (Craig Modderno)

Later: "Since I was an only child whose father died two weeks prior to the start of my senior year and a prime lottery candidate for a winning ticket to the front lines of Vietnam, Woody's extreme kindness and patience whle explaining his filmmaking process was a noble gesture towards a confused young man seeking his way in life."

Later: "I got an assignment to do a cover story with Paul Reiser..."

Does Craig mean they are writing it together? No, he means a "cover story on Paul Reiser."

Later: ""What are they really like?" is the question I'm most asked of the celebrities I've spoken with."

Shouldn't that be "about the celebrities..."?

"We may all lead a simple life, but Hollywood does its best to shed some perspective on the glamorous life that we're missing. So when John Badham, a nice and bright man who has directed several films that I like, asked me to co-write this book with him I was instantly interested."

That's the best he can say about his co-author?

"Bette Davis, who had a respect for and love of her craft even long after she was offered the quality roles in which to prove it..."

"Hopefully this book will give some fresh insights..."

The version of the book I have is riddled with typos.

Rabbi J. Hershy Worch

He emails me from Chicago September 25, 2006:

Rosh Hashana 5767 - Sept '06

(Deut 30:1) It shall happen, when all these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you will take them to heart...

What needs to be taken to heart is that the curse also contains some blessing. (The Rebbe of Izbicy 1801-1859)

Dear Reader,

Two years ago I was accused in the media, anonymously, of criminal and contemptible offenses. Most specifically that I use cult-like and manipulative, mind controlling behaviors to entice women to my home where I assault them. The attack was an outright slander, a lie without one iota of truth in it.

The accusation was embellished with details of my private, work and public life, added to make the allegation sound more believable. Since 1985 I have published work, mostly poetry and short stories using pen names, Moonish and Chapt Schleck. And it was under these names that I maintained and moderated a number of websites and bulletin boards specifically for Orthodox Jews on the farthest fringes of the community. One such website was "Kinky-Shiduchin", a place for Orthodox Jews with particular and peculiar needs to find their match in a safe, anonymous environment. Much of the writing published under the name Moonish is provocative, loud, erotic, iconoclastic and most certainly not the sort of writing I could publish under my own name as an Orthodox man without radical consequences. That fact alone was used to attribute to me all sorts of scurrilous, offensive and nasty material I never wrote, as well as selectively quoted fragments from my writings all brought to prove my violent and predatory nature.

I don't have a violent or predatory nature. The purpose of the libel was to hurt me; to damage my reputation and ruin my career. It largely succeeded; these past two years have been very trying and disheartening. Whoever spoke up for me or attempted to show how the accusations might not be true was attacked, ridiculed and defamed. Doors once open were closed to me. In the age of Google, one has only to do a cursory internet search of my name to be overwhelmed with evidence of its savage efficacy.

Finding the blessing hidden in this curse is a great challenge. When every indiscretion and misdeed I may have committed since childhood is trumpeted and broadcast in the media and no area of my life remains private, where is the blessing? There is certainly no shortage of sins with which to castigate me, and I provided most of the ammunition being used against me now.

Divorce is often a process bringing out the best and worst in people, at times in acrimony and bitterness. There are marriages and relationships which ended with my having to make difficult and painful amends. But no one to whom I have apologized has ever accused me of malice, violence or cruelty.

If there remains anyone who feels I have not addressed their grievance, please seek me out and confront me with my wrongdoing. If it was a criminal act, report me to the police. Accuse me to my face. Don't attack me anonymously, using depraved people and shameless websites to take revenge.

If there is a blessing in the curse it may be twofold. First I'm grateful for all the people who have been directed to me only because of the notoriety surrounding my name, and second, for the friendships and loves which have stood the test of time and in having endured trouble are grown stronger. But, if being or becoming the blessing requires that I say it was all worth it, I'm afraid I'm far from being there yet.

I won't mar this page with the names of my tormentors, you know who you are. I bless you with all the good things a good life enjoys in abundance. May this High Holiday festival season be one of joy and healing wherever and however you celebrate them. Undo as much of the damage and remove the causes of as much of my pain as you possibly can, please.

From associates, friends and those around me who have suffered because of me, because of this and other things which have brought disgrace upon me, from you I ask forgiveness in the deepest contrition.

J. Hershy Worch

Novelist Andrea Seigel

We did this via email (Andrea returned the answers Sept 23).

* To what extent do you identify with your protagonists in your two novels?

they're all, at the very least, slivers of me. so if i didn't identify with them, then i'd be someone completely alienated from herself.

* How did your friends and families react to your novels? Particularly the first one?

everybody was congratulatory. they expect this kind of shit from me.

* How long have you had this cynical persona? What things are you naive about?

i've had it internally since, probably fifth grade. externally since, probably, ninth grade. i'm naive about what "being in love" means to other people.

* You signed your email "andreaa." Why the extra "a" at the end?

that's kind of a long, boring story, but it's partly because 1. when typed, i dislike the visual symmetry of my name (starts low, swoops up, returns with an equal and constant lowness on the other side) and 2. because in the days before the internet i used to be a bbs'er, and my handle was "andreaa," so i got really used to signing off that way.

* How do you feel about the work of Brett Easton Ellis?

i think it's genius, and not in the empty way that a lot of people throw around genius. i literally think what he's doing with his endless combinations of various levels of assholes are evidence of an extraordinary intelligence.

* What causes your right eye to twitch? I have the same thing. For me it is lack of sleep.

i have no idea, but it hasn't been twitching since i returned from new york.

* How do you feel about your author photos and how do you choose them?

i'm pretty indifferent toward the first one. i'm living with the second. i chose the first because i had this look on my face like, "what can you possibly want from me?" which i thought was appropriate. when 'panda' came out, this girl in a book club called to tell me that the members of her club had spent a half-hour discussing how bad that author photo was. they thought i looked like an unattractive slob. they wondered why i "hadn't done more with myself." i chose the second because it was one in a set of ten that all looked almost exactly identical, so there wasn't all that much of a choice. i wore a smocked strapless romper-type thing that i liked because it reminded me of my childhood, but my publisher cropped out my clothing. i generally don't like any photos of myself.

* In your blog, you say looking sad is your nature. Is that true? Do you struggle with depression?

yes. this is true. i have a naturally sad face when it's at rest. some people confuse sad with mean. i would say that i struggle with manic-depression, minus the bouts of stealing.

* How did you like Catcher in the Rye?

i liked it fine. it's not one of my favorite books. it was one of the smoother reads on my sophomore year a.p. english syllabus.

* When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

a lawyer.

* What did your parents want most for you and from you?

what they want most for me: stable success from me: a softer nature

* What's the story of you and God and Judaism?

oh my god, this is like writing my torah portion speech. i can't do it again. the short story: i was bat mitzvahed right around the time i became an atheist. when i get on a plane, i talk to something and say, "please, please, please let this be okay." i think that if there's any sort of power capable of hearing those kinds of thoughts coming from all people, then that power doesn't give a shit about who's following what kinds of rules or rituals, since it can obviously see straight into people's psyches and figure out the truth of that person's beliefs within a nanosecond.

* What are the juiciest things your peers say about writing and their careers as writers?

they say nothing juicy. i'm serious. i mean, we often talk shit on specific people, but there's nothing particularly scandalous to be said about writing. it's one of the unsexiest endeavors ever.

* In what ways are your perceptions of life keener than other people's?

i can't answer this question without sounding like an asshole, and while i often sound like an asshole-- i'm just not there tonight.

* How has your choice of vocation affected you, relationships?

it has nurtured already overwhelming loner tendencies in my personality. it has, i'm sure, prevented a lot of relationships and damaged some, too. it has been good for my thinking and bad for pretty much everything else in my life.

* How do you know when you've done good work?

a little voice in my head says, "good girl." i'm not kidding.

* What have you sacrificed to be a writer?

the excellent health coverage i was getting at the disney channel.

* What do you do best and worst as a writer?

best: voice. worst: plot.

* Why do you write what you write?

why do you rent the movies you rent?

* Were there any events in childhood that prefigured your adult work?

i think pretty much every single social gathering i encountered past the age where i was allowed to just sit in the corner and drool and talk to my stuffed dog went into making my adult work what it is.

* What do your books say that has not been said before?

again, another question requiring an assholic response that i just don't have the heart for tonight.

* Surely you feel that your view of life that is unique? How so? How do you find your understanding of life differs from everyone else?

i do. but you can't talk about these things. because supposedly everyone is a huge, fucking mess inside. that's what i hear. all i know is that while everyone may secretly be struggling in the room at a party, i'm repeatedly the only one in the room incapable of even attempting a public fake-out.

* How important is it that your reader sympathizes with your characters or likes them?

well if people are capable of simultaneously hating and loving themselves, then i'm fine with them hating my characters, too, since that doesn't preclude the love.

* How has your writing affected your life?

it's both sustained and wrecked it.

* Do you like your protagonists?

they have their moments.

Luke's Dating Anthem

We don't have to go synagogue to have a good time, oh no...

The Return Of The Luke Ford Fan Blog

So there I was reading one of the Luke Ford Family of Blogs™... and I see my ex-Moral Leader has written a new book called Lives on the Edge. Cool! It's got to be better than the last one, right? I mean Jewish journalism? What a lame topic for a book -- I read as far as paragraph two of page one before giving up due to severe drowsiness.

I rush over to Luke Ford's publisher's website to discover the book is a collection of Icky Boy's™ best interviews. Don't worry, I tell myself, the author has rated his work "For Everyone,"... Must be, I convince myself, a collection of super fascinating interviews with super brilliant intellectuals conducted by the super brilliant, super intellectual Luke "IQ 185"* Ford!

Read On.

The Day The Orthodox Rabbi Spoke About Global Warming

Second day Rosh Hashanah. "There's an elephant in the room," said the rabbi. "There's a menace to our congregation."

"Uh oh," I thought. "I'm going to get it now. The rabbi's been reading my blog."

But no. He launched into a sermon on global warming, tying it into the binding of Isaac story (the Torah reading for the day).

When Abraham's son saw his dad's knife heading towards his heart, I wonder if he had a flash about global warming?

The shul bulletin ("printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper") read: "Most of the scientific community...now believe that the green house effect is real, and that rising average global temperatures pose a long-term global threat to life as we know it."

"I want a rabbi who inspires me to repent, not recycle," groused a friend.

"But recycling is repentance," I wanted to rejoin. "It heals the broken vessels."

The last time the rabbi spoke out on such a political issue, he commanded us to love illegal immigrants because we had been immigrants in Egypt.

I was so stirred I was ready to cancel my non-existent Minute Man membership and start dating Mexicans (of the Orthodox variety of course).

As I walked out of shul Sunday (after putting in two hours), I told the Gentile security guards (yet again the goyim keep pious Jews from praying to God -- unless they have ticket to services), "Six hours of prayer is enough to make one turn Christian. A religious service for you lasts an hour. You should thank Jesus."

I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life

Al Goldstein writes on page 41:

I found the Hassidim in Williamsburg far more alien than blacks... I tried to knock Hasids over in my car. I hated them. The Hasidim were a cult of repressive scumbags, whereas Negroes represented freedom and abandon.

Page 44:

Al tells Ron Jeremy: "You are incapable of intimacy... You say you want to be a father, and you say you want a relationship. You have a very stunted relationship with Devon Shire, who is also stunted, so you two have a great combination.

"Devon, do you ever think of this man as being married, with children, in an intimate relationship of caring and concern?"

Page 93:

Ernest van den Haag testified against me in my first trial, but then we became friends. He always asked me to get him hookers.

Crack Dealer Only Tenant Landlord Can Depend On For Rent

CULVER CITY, CA—Despite owning 15 units in the central Los Angeles area, landlord Cathy Seipp can only count on receiving on-time rent payments from one of her tenants: full-time crack dealer Nathan "Buck" Cruz, 24.

Cruz and Seipp have a tenant–landlord "match made in heaven."

"I couldn't ask for a better tenant," said Seipp, 52, who praised Cruz for personally delivering his $950 monthly rent in cash. "He's dependable, quiet, and hardly ever has any complaints or repair issues. He's a property owner's dream."

Seipp said that Cruz was a stellar example of how a person of limited means in a low-income neighborhood can live responsibly, quietly, and with dignity. Along with what she called a "refreshing" example of personal and financial responsibility from such a young man, Seipp said she was amazed at Cruz' efforts to keep the apartment in excellent condition. Besides installing a brand-new, fully reinforced door at his own expense, neighbors have reported hearing Cruz vacuuming his apartment regularly, and occasionally detect a faint odor of cleaning solvents.

Novelist Francesca Segre

I call her Thursday afternoon, Sept 21.

She's just back from her honeymoon.

Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

Francesca: "A gymnast."

Francesca grew up in Austin. "I wasn't in the popular crowd. I was in the almost-popular crowd."

Luke: "When did you realize you were a writer?"

Francesca: "I had a situation come up (my mother was getting married for a second time while I had yet to marry) more than I had a burning desire to write. I had been doing television for ten years, writing to the pictures. TV suits me well because of my short attention span.

"Mine was an easy novel to write. I was just sticking my neck out there and seeing what happened rather than beating myself up over every word.

"My second book is a lot harder than my first one. Did I write one novel and luck out? Or am I a novelist?

"I don't think I'm giving you the answer you're looking for."

"I now spend more time writing than anything else. It's neat to be a part of a writer's community.

"I have no pretensions that I am a great novelist, a huge literary force. I hoped to write a book that would be fun for people and make them feel good and that they are not alone, that would not be difficult where they have to pull out their dictionary every two words, but something they can relax with and laugh with... People tell me they had a fun time reading the book."

Luke: "When you were younger, did you have people tell you that you were going to become a novelist?"

Francesca: "Never. I'm way too chatty to become a novelist. Novelists are comfortable spending a lot of time by themselves and having intense internal monologues. I am learning to become that way but generally I am energized by being around other people. The lifestyle of the writer is difficult for me."

Luke: "What do you love and hate about being interviewed?"

Francesca: "I just love it. I get to talk to people who are interested in me. I think that's fabulous. Given this lifestyle of talking to yourself all day, I love it when somebody calls me and asks me questions. Having been the interviewer for so long, it's nice to know all the answers."

Luke: "What are the qualities of a good interview?"

Francesca: "When the personality of both people can show through, which means that the interviewer makes the interviewee feel comfortable and friendly. A good human interaction will make for a good interview instead of asking questions that don't have personality, more direct questions. Sometimes when the interviewer reveals something about him or herself, that puts the interviewee at ease."

Francesca says her family helped her edit her novel. "My dad, had he been alive, would've been most proud of my novel. He published three academic books and one autobiography. He would've liked to have written a book that was sold in an airport and had commercial success."

In her essay in The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt, Francesca concluded her "Girl Meets Goy" piece with a reflection on her latest squeeze -- a Taiwanese guy she writes off immediately because he's not close to being Jewish. Being Muslim would be closer to being Jewish than being Taiwanese Buddhist Daohist.

This turned out to be the guy she married earlier this month. "It's the personality I need more than the religion. My husband is agnostic and very supportive of my Jewish cultural identity. Being with someone who's not Jewish highlights your Jewish identity and makes you think about your identity."

Luke: "You weren't intimidated by your mother's erudition?"

Francesca: "No. My mom can't even write a letter because she is so worried about what people will think and whether it is written well enough. I have no shame. I barrel forward. If people don't think I'm Dostoevsky, fine."

Luke: "You don't sound terribly angst ridden."

Francesca: "Is that the requirement for being a good writer? This second novel is kicking my ass. I'm worried about it."

Luke: "What are you best at with writing?"

Francesca laughs. "Dialogue? Is that what you're looking for? I'm a big talker. Writing a conversation comes easily to me. Figuring out a plot, that'll trip me up more.

"In journalism, you stick your neck out all the time and there's all kind of rejection and embarrassing situations. When you write a novel, you have thick skin already. I can get to the point."

Daughter of the Bride - Girl Meets Goy

The bride, 33, is the author of “Daughter of the Bride” (Penguin), a semi-autobiographical novel about a single woman helping to plan her mother’s wedding. She graduated cum laude from Brandeis.

Her mother was until 2002 an instructor in English literature at the continuing education branch of the University of California, Berkeley. The bride’s father was a professor of modern European history at the University of Texas and wrote essays and books, including “Atoms, Bombs and Eskimo Kisses” (Viking, 1995), about his life as the son of Emilio Segrè, the Nobel prize-winning physicist, who worked on the development of the atomic bomb. She is the stepdaughter of Marvin Weinstein.

Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents

Lionel Chetwynd calls me back Thursday, Sept. 21.

Lionel: "At a screening, an older guy said, 'I used to be the late night engineer at [one of L.A's independent television stations]. One night we ran High Noon. We had an old copy. There were these credit cards with the names scratched out [as producer].'"

"HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] was indefensible and Carl Foreman was a victim."

Luke: "How did you come to know Carl Foreman?"

Lionel: "He was living in England and a producer at Columbia Pictures when I worked there [1968-1972]. We would go for lunch. He'd give me advice on writing. He'd read my attempts at writing. If something was going on, I could always call Carl. He was a mentor."

Luke: "Why aren't you appalled that he was a former Communist and that he wouldn't name names?"

Lionel: "For me making judgments on former communists, the line is August 1939 when Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler. Carl left the Communist Party over the Hitler-Stalin pact. He woke up to Stalin. That's what he told me. He went before HUAC and said he was a Communist Party member but that he'd given his word to his friends that he wouldn't name names [of other Communist Party members] and so he didn't. It was a matter of personal honor.

"The Communist Party line was that you did not plead the Fifth Amendment [against incriminating yourself], you did not admit to being a Communist, and you did not recognize HUAC's authority to hold these hearings. The American Communist Party took its cues from the Soviet Union."

"The naming of names was a farce because HUAC already had the names."

"The film doesn't make a judgment. It presents the experience in his words and interviews those who were there at the time and are still alive. No one who was there at the time has come forward to say that this documentary is false. And I sent it around to a lot of people who were there at the time."

Luke: "Do you think Elia Kazan was wrong to name names?"

Lionel: "We're not talking about the film anymore.

"It's a personal calculus. Kazan is called to task for his hypocrisy of naming names. In the catalogue of the great sins of the period, I don't think he's outstanding. What Carl Foreman did was honorable."

"I do not speak well of those who destroyed people's lives for having been a member of the Communist Party."

Luke: "What about destroying someone's life for being a member of the Nazi Party? What is wrong with destroying someone's life for having belonged to the Communist Party?"

Lionel: "I'm uncomfortable with the publication of books like Red Channels, where people who were not members of the Communist Party but had supported one movement or another suddenly found themselves published in this book and that this was used as evidence that they are subversive. Employment was denied them.

"Some parts of the civil rights movement was Communist. Paul Robeson was a Communist. But that doesn't mean that the entire civil rights movement of the period was a Communist front [which is essentially what Red Channels alleged]."

Luke: "Do you believe that the American Communist Party was a force for evil?"

Lionel: "Yes. Do I believe that everyone who belonged to the American Communist Party was a knowing agent of evil? No. In the 1930s, during a time of great economic upheaval, there were all manner of reasons why someone could've looked at the communist message and it held promise."

Luke: "Couldn't you say the same thing about the Nazis? And if not, why not?"

Lionel: "Because Nazism was at root a political ideology based on racial purity. Communism presented its face in the 1930s in the United States as a platform for economic equality. They were dealing with different issues."

Luke: "Where did you get the idea that making this Carl Foreman documentary would redeem you in Hollywood?"

Lionel: "I wasn't doing it for redemption. I thought that this would be the one thing I could do that they wouldn't attack me. This is something that even the Hollywood Left can embrace -- the story of a victim of the Blacklist and the evil that HUAC wrought. "

Luke: "You're saying that the Blacklist and HUAC were evil?"

Lionel: "I'm using the phrases of others.

"This is much more of a gotcha interview.

"I thought that much of what we were saying was consistent with the conventional wisdom of Hollywood about the Blacklist. We were doing it through Carl's eyes, not necessarily my eyes. It seemed to us that this project would resonate with the Hollywood Left in a way that our other projects would not."

Luke: "But there was some yearning to make nice with the powers that be?"

Lionel: "No."

Luke: "Why did you make the film?"

Lionel: "Because I owed it to Carl."

Luke: "His second wife [Eve Foreman now Eve Williams-Jones] was very pretty."

Lionel: "She turned his life around."

Luke: "I can see how."

Al Goldstein At His Bar Mitzvah

Al wore this bar mitzvah suit for his first hooker.

Goldstein has a new book out: I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life.

From page 17:

Gay Talese spent three months interviewing me for his epic history of the sexual revolution, Thy Neighbor's Wife. ...Gay was a champion stud. He f---ed my wife, Mary Philips. But my marriage was already ending. Mary got upset, told his wife Nan, and it created a furor. I remember having dinner at Gay's house with David Halberstam. I thought ours would be a lifetime friendship. But I failed to realize that every writer betrays his friends. As the saying goes: a writer either betrays his friends or himself. I was merely a subject to Gay Talese and Philip Roth; they examined me like a bug

UnOrthodox Jew Retires

The anonymous but influential blogger who broke stories about such predatory Orthodox rabbis as Yehuda Kolko has retired.

He writes Sept 17:

I love Judaism and can't stand to see what happened to it. The more I read about the goings on, the more I verified the despicable information coming across my desk, the more I realized the extent that "organized" Orthodox Judaism has been destroyed.

I choose to save whatever remnants of emunah (faith) remain in my possession; any more time I spend looking into the corruption and utter destruction of authentic Judaism, I risk losing all of my emunah. So I say farewell; I do not want to read anymore Jewish newspapers or magazines, I do not want to hear more and more of the destruction we are wreaking on our children and ourselves, and do not want to verify what I already know; Orthodox Judaism is on the precipice of self-destruction.

Jewish Survivors blogs:

I remember the first time UOJ sent me an e-mail regarding the Kolko case. This was prior to the famous New York Magazine article. I was apprehensive about what he was doing. He was a virtual unknown entity at the time. I had no idea if what he was saying for real or not.

As time progressed UOJ proved himself. He was definately doing what he could to advocate for those who were sexually victimized by Rabbi Yehuda Kolko.

UOJ definately is a HERO! Besides exposing the Kolko case, UOJ was instrumental in exposing the case of Rabbi Moshe Eiseman and advocating for him to be kicked out of Ner Israel. I don't think anyone else could have been so successful.

I wish there was a way of talking UOJ out of his retirement, yet I totally do understand his need to leave. This kind of work is extremely demanding, frustrating and sickening. UOJ will definately be missed. He is definately someone who deserves everyone's upmost respect. If he entered a room, he would definately be someone I would stand up for.

I just found the following comment on another blog that talks about UOJ's retirement, which you can find below?

The image “http://www.yutorah.org/_images/roshei_yeshiva/yosef_blau_o.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Rabbi Yosef Blau on UOJ
UOJ brought to the attention of the broader public the problem of sexual abuse, particularly from rabbis and teachers, in the Orthodox community. The rabbinical leadership has not been effective in dealing with serious accusations in the past. What is being done to protect the young and the vulnerable.

I agree that anonymous postings are a license for irresponsibility. That is no excuse for denying a real issue and for not developing serious mechanisms to prevent further abuse. Now that the establishment does not have to show that they are not responding to UOJ will they acknowledge that our community is not immune to a scourge that exists in all societies.

Will the response be again that there are no two witnesses to the abuse. Or that the boys or girls were not halakhicly minors. Anyone in contact with survivors of abuse is aware that they rarely get any support when they complain to rabbis. How many teachers have been fired from one school only to be hired by another. The true reason that they were let go was not revealed because the fellow needs to make a living and the scandal will hurt his family. Proper considerations but where is the concern for new victims and their families?

I am troubled by the gloating that perhaps would be in place if the real crisis had been resolved. The true losers are all of us as we allow the existing chillul hashem to continue.

Yosef Blau (my real name)

The end of free speech in Europe and possibly elsewhere

Fred writes:

Gentlemen: News stories, both recently and in the past seem to demonstrate that free speech is dying in Europe. Consider the following:

* Salman Rushdie forced to go into hiding for writing the Satanic Verses

* The Danish cartoonist forced into hiding for writing his cartoons (I think that's what happened--in any event, I don't think his newspaper will publish any more of his work on this subject because of the outcry)

* Van Gogh murdered (The Dutch film maker who made a film about Islamic misogyny)

* Oriana Falacci (Italian novelist essentially exiled from Italy for her book alleging that Europe has turned into Eurabia)

* And now the Pope himself. Free speech appears to have died in Europe without so much as a whimper.

Question 1: what is in store for the U.S. in light of these developments?

Question 2: What is in store for Europe in light of these developments?

Question 3: If Europe is not willing to try to preserve its own freedom of speech, can it really be said that they share our values, and that they are reliable allies?

Question 4: What does this portend for lukeford.net? Will Luke some day be silenced by the Saracen hordes? Do we need to set up a safe house for Luke in case he must go into hiding at a moment's notice? (If Luke tried to hide in the hovel, query how long it would take the mob to find him. Even if he hid in the master bathroom on the second floor, or perhaps under the billiards table in the game room, could the Saracen horde not find him there in short order?)

I'll Be in My Trailer: The Creative Wars Between Directors and Actors by John Badham

Book description: "Beneath the entertaining and instructive war stories lies the truth: how directors elicit the best performances from difficult and terrified actors. You'll learn how to use proven techniques to get actors to give their best performances - including the ten best and ten worst things to say - and what you can do when an actor won't or can't do what the director wants. Includes never before published stories from veteran director, John Badham, as well as Sydney Pollock, Mel Gibson, James Woods, Michael Mann and many more."

I interviewed John Badham five years ago.

Jerusalem Post: Only a quarter of haredi rabbis favor publicizing scandals involving their peers, but three-quarters admit muckraking is an effective deterrent

Rabbis said they were concerned that investigative reports on the misdoings of rabbis would desecrate God's name, said Dr. Yoel Cohen, of the Holon Institute of Technology, who conducted the study. "Generally speaking, religious people misunderstand the media. They think media has an ideological agenda when in reality it is driven by commercial concerns."

Stupid Goyim

A friend writes: "I was just at Whole Foods -- they have a Rosh Hashanah display where the most prominent item is matzah boxes."

Aaron Biston Vs. Rabbi Steven Weil

Aaron Biston (abi2003@sbcglobal.net) calls me at noon Sept 19. "My ex-wife's boyfriend sent a strong letter to Rabbi Weil. 'How dare you make my stepdaughter cry. How dare you impose upon her in public.' He called back my ex-wife to apologize. My ex-wife said, 'You have to apologize to her. It has to be in writing because she doesn't want to talk to you.'

"If anyone else has been ejected from Beth Jacob by Rabbi Weil, they should email me at abi2003@sbcglobal.net so that we can protect their rights.

"He talks about getting sexual predators out of the synagogue. People like him who kick people who are not predators out of synagogue are a menace to society. It's ethnic cleansing."

After talking to me, Aaron went home Tuesday night and found this email from Rabbi Weil sent at 11:27 a.m.

Dear Mr. Biston:

I am writing to apologize for the comments that I made to your daughter. Faced with the terrible things you were saying to me in her presence, I clearly responded inappropriately by directing comments about your character to her. I am not used to hearing the language you were using in a shul, whether directed at a rabbi or any other person. No matter how much you provoked me, however, there simply was no excuse for my response and I deeply regret making those comments.

I am writing this letter to you in spite of the complete fabrications that were attributed to you in a recent website posting. The fact is that I never touched you. The fact is that a jury found you guilty of fraud and assessed punitive damages against you. The fact is that only after the verdict was entered did you “settle” the case. The fact is that the victim of your fraud was a Beth Jacob member and you solicited that member’s investment in your fraudulent scheme on a Shabbat morning at Beth Jacob.

So that the record is clear, I stand by the initial decision to ask you to not attend Beth Jacob. It was a decision made jointly by the then president of Beth Jacob and me in accordance with a policy that had been established at Beth Jacob a number of years before. The general policy was adopted by the Executive Board and the decision with respect to you was also ultimately approved by the Executive Board.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Weil

Aaron disputes Rabbi Weil's statement of facts. Aaron says he was not found guilty of fraud. That no judgment was entered. That Aaron knew this member prior to coming to Beth Jacob, et al. That Aaron never discussed business with this member at shul.

Jack writes:

Why does every Rabbi have to sound like a lawyer? I am surprised Weil did not refer to the entry of judgment, the failure to appeal and the name of the law firm for Biston.

The reference to a decision of a past president begs the question as to whether the current board might like to be heard. Biston was found liable in a civil judgment. The purpose of civil courts is to order those who do certain wrongs to pay just (and if the conduct is particulary bad, punitive) damages. California law then says that your slate is clean.

Under the rules of Chosen Mishpat, at most, Biston is a wrongdoer. I see nowhere in the Torah where someone who is a thief and who makes payment is excluded from the Kahal Hashem. He is not a sexual predator, a violent person, or a bad seed. He is, as found by a court, a crooked businessperson. Welcome to the world, Rabbi Weil.

I do not see where a person who cuts corners on his investors is a danger to the community. Anyone investing with him in the future can do a search and find the judgment and then caveat emptor.

I would say to Rabbi Weil the words of that pariah Jesus (aka Ben Stada), ye without sin cast the first stone. However, I need not rely on the writings of a heretic. I can rely on the old Jewish spiritual sung on Yom Kippur, namely, in about two weeks, the Rabbi (or whoever does Kol Nidrei at the super-uptight Beth Jacob), will proclaim in a very loud and majestic voice with the executive board standing next to him with all the torahs, that "with the authority of the Divine Court and of any other lowly court, permission is given to pray with wrongdoers."

I assume the Executive Board of Beth Jacob is not accorded higher juridical status than God's own court. To exclude someone a mere wrongdoer from a Kahal is not even a step that the Divine Court takes.

Jewish Whistleblower writes:

While I cannot comment on the majority of your post, not being familiar with the referenced events nor having read court materials referred to, I am intrigued by the fact that apparently a process exists to have people banned from this synagogue. Could I trouble you to assist me in determining the method for submitting names for such a process, the mechanisms of the process, contact information for those involved in the process and could you find someone to assist me in presenting whatever materials are necessary to initiate this process?

I am very interested and feel it is very important in having Rabbi Aron Tendler publicly banned and while we are at it the are several other names on the Awareness Center website including his brother Mordecai that should be similarily banned, just in case they should attempt to attend this synagogue. We can provide photos of many of these individuals to assist security.

Lionel Chetwynd - Biography - Wikipedia

We talk on the phone Monday, September 18, 2006.

Luke: "When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

Lionel stumbles. "Boy, nobody's ever asked me that. I didn't have a pleasant childhood. I wanted to get a job. I wanted out. You know what? I can't answer that question. That's interesting. Can we move on?"

Luke: "What did your parents want from you and for you?"

Lionel laughs. "I didn't have a close relationship with my parents. They didn't like me. My father wasn't around much, which left my mother in a state of existential franticness. I was born in England in the East End of London. We were cockneys.

"We emigrated to Canada in 1952. I grew up in Montreal. I left school at 14. My father had gotten into trouble and money was needed. I went back to school and got expelled. I went to work in a telephone manufacturing [plant]."

Luke: "What did your mother want for you and from you?"

Lionel: "Just a contribution to the weekly household funds. I understand the question but it's not within the context the life we led. She had no ambition for me whatsoever. 'Go out and get a bloody job and bring your pay packet home.' I understood that to be the order of things. When I joined the Army, I sent money home."

Luke: "Did you hate authority?"

Lionel: "By the time I got to highschool, that was a problem, but by the time I got into the Army, I embraced authority."

Luke: "Did you get into trouble?"

Lionel: "Yes, for rambunctious behavior. Today they'd pump me full of ritalin. My teachers resented me."

According to Wikipedia:

Problems within his dysfunctional family led to him quitting school at age fourteen and eventually getting into trouble with the law. Charged with auto theft, the Court gave him a choice: reform school or the Canadian Army. He chose the Army. Serving with The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, Chetwynd turned his life around, passed exams that allowed him to enroll in college and excelled to the point that he earned a scholarship to Montreal's McGill University Law School. After obtaining his degree, he did graduate work in law in the United Kingdom at Trinity College, Oxford.

After completing his studies Chetwynd remained in London, working for Columbia Pictures' distribution branch where he worked his way up to assistant managing director. Pursuing an interest in writing screenplays, after he met Canadian film director Ted Kotcheff, Chetwynd co-wrote the script for the film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz with fellow Montrealer Mordecai Richler who had written the novel from which it was adapted.

Lionel: "As a conditional student, I got into junior college without finishing highschool. I got my B.A. from St. George.

"Since my days in the Army, I nurtured this fantasy of being a writer. There's a lot of spare time in the Army."

"I had narrow horizons for most of my life. You're asking me big questions. I didn't frame things in those terms. It took me a while to see myself as having sufficient autonomy to form those choices."

"When I got to college, I got involved with the socialist end of things, the New Democratic party. I did some union organizing. Then there was a seismic shift in Canadian politics with people such as Pierre Trudeau (the most famous member of the "three wise men from Quebec" along with Jean Marchand and Gerard Pelletier) leaving the regular left and went to the Liberal party [left-of-center]."

Luke: "What kind of Jewish involvement did you have?"

Lionel: "Not nearly as much as I do today. Montreal was and is a continuum of ghettos between the English and French. The English are then divided into Protestants, Catholics and Jews. Within the Jews, there were various economic distinctions. I was not given to going to the Jewish summer camps. Certainly the Canadian Army was not a great center for Jews."

Luke: "Where was God in your life?"

Lionel: "I always believed in God but it was not shaped by religiosity or ritual. I did organize my own bar mitzvah."

Luke: "Did your relationship with God make life less lonely?"

Lionel: "Yes. I always had a sense of the future. I had a sense of my own destiny. That I could be more than I was. A lot of that came from my instinctual belief in God, which I did not get from my upbringing or my parents."

Luke: "Where your did your facility with words come from?"

Lionel: "No idea."

Luke: "Did you have relatives in your life?"

Lionel: "No. [British activist, writer, and broadcaster] Claire Rayner is my sister. My father's family was successful."

Lionel's parents died within a few days of each other circa 1981. "At their request, they were buried in an Anglican churchyard. Much of the time they did not acknowledge they were Jews."

Luke: "How did you get your first Hollywood credit [co-screenwriter for The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz]?

Lionel: "I was living in London. I met [fellow Canadian] Ted Kotcheff. He directed my first effort - a stageplay called Maybe That's Your Problem. Not a magnificent success. I still have the reviews. They were the worst reviews one could imagine. That I had the courage to walk down the street in London after these reviews is amazing.

"As Canadian expatriates tend to know, Ted and I talked about how small-minded Canada could be. I told him there was only one Canadian novel of significance -- The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. He said that he owned the rights to the novel and gave me the opportunity to write the screenplay."

Luke: "Why did you say Duddy was the only significant Canadian novel?"

Lionel: "Canadian novels had been of the Robertson Davies variety in which nobody goes to the bathroom and nobody has sex. We used to say that Canada is a Scottish country. It was settled by the Scots and it has all the marks of that world -- dour, quiet, constrained, proper, Presbyterian world. The Kiwis are the middle-class English of the 1930s and the Australians are the Irish -- where the men beat up the women and then go see a porn movie. We always envied the Australians. They seemed so carefree compared to us. We were a tight-ass people.

"When it came time to study Canadian literature, you'd study Robertson Davies. It was all meditations on nature. Stephen Leacock represented the boundaries of Canadian daring.

"Duddy Kravitz was Mordechai Richler's first. He wrote the same novel over and over again. Duddy Kravitz was a new voice for Canada. A non-dour, non-Scottish novel in the spirit of Philip Roth speaking about an ethnic experience that didn't exist in Canadian literature. You read the novel and said, 'My God. Does this mean that we belong?' It was a novel about Canadians like me.

"Suddenly I was making money writing. It was a joyous experience. If you can take the ego hits, you can lead a good life around your kids at home.

"After I spent a year away from home to make [1978's] Two Solitudes, I made that decision to concentrate on writing and I did not direct again until Hanoi Hilton [1987].

"I had an agent, Bill Haber, who told me, 'You have no star desire.' At the time, I thought, 'Like hell I don't. I'll show you.' In retrospect, he was right.

"It was the height of the me-generation. People are more forgiving now of those who want to have families and lives and normal things."

Luke: "Did you have a relationship with Mordecai Richler?"

Lionel: "No. He always resented my involvement. He wasn't a pleasant guy. He was frequently petty."

Luke: "How did you journey from left to right?"

Lionel: "Jimmy Carter was president. I had supported Jimmy Carter. I had two young kids. I was struggling to make my way. It's hard to be faced with a double digit inflation rate. Interest rates were 16%. Stagflation. A disaster. I cared about the Cold War, Israel, Russian Jews. Everywhere you look, we were losing.

"He gave this moral lassitude (malaise) speech. He said it was our fault. Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to Ronald Reagan. I was mesmerized by the optimism, by his clear moral sense. I had the opportunity to write some speeches for him, particularly on the Middle East."

Luke: How did you come to write 1981's Miracle on Ice?

Lionel: "Frank Von Zerneck called me. I grew up with hockey. I love it. There was no familiarity time. When I got to Herb Brooks, I was up and running. Our time together was exponentially levered."

Luke: "What did you think about Miracle?"

Lionel: "There was a sense of deja vu with Miracle. When I heard Miracle was happening, and I read the script, I asked the Writer's Guild for an arbitration but they wouldn't give it to me. Herb Brooks is a wonderful guy but not a verbal man. I met with Herb for hours. I provided lockerroom speeches for him in the film but they weren't what he told he'd said. Then these speeches showed up, these quotes. Let me stop here. I want to take the high road.

"Miracle is about Herb Brooks. Miracle on Ice is about the players."

"I'm so distrustful of the [interview] process, Luke. You've got to forgive me. It's stressful. Nothing personal."

Luke: "Right."

Lionel: "No. At this point, you are supposed to reassure me."

Luke: "Right. I acknowledge your feelings."

Lionel: "Now I feel a lot better."

Luke: "I'm a friend of Cathy's."

Lionel: "You sound like Mike Wallice. 'But I'm a Jew. How can you suggest that I did anything wrong with that Ahmadinejad interview?'

"You're a Jew this week. You're a friend of Cathy's. That's good."

Luke: "How did you get brought on to the Sadat project?"

Lionel: "I pitched myself to producer Dan Blatt and enumerated all the reasons why nobody else could do Sadat like I could do Sadat.

"After it aired, I was put on trial in Egypt [in absentia] for bringing shame to an Arab nation. I claim that the reason I was put on trial was because I did such a good job of telling Sadat's story. I was sentenced in absentia.

"We had the original story of how Carter agreed to give up the Shah for the hostages to assure his reelection. I wasn't on set in Sonora and they canceled those sequences. And they added a scene that implies that Sadat went to Jerusalem because he was deeply moved by a letter he got from Jimmy Carter."

Luke: "After Miracle on Ice, you developed the niche of writing movies quickly after the historical event."

Lionel: "I see. The implication being what? That I'm a shlockmeister who can do it quicker?

"One cannot deny the obvious. That's true. I work quickly. I annotate my scripts. I have several sources for each scene. It sounds like Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Path to 9/11) should've annotated more thoroughly."

Luke: "Were there any special obstacles writing the Carl Foreman movie?"

Lionel: "Yes. The second Mrs. [Stanley] Kramer [Anne P. Kramer]. She was a winner. Carl [Foreman] was a mentor to me.

"The second Mrs. Kramer knew nothing about what had gone on [Carl was blacklisted]. She decided that we had no right to discuss this.

"PBS decided that this wasn't a good movie to have out there because it impugned the great liberal god Stanley Kramer.

"I established this rule that we would only interview people who could speak firsthand about what had gone on. She couldn't do that because she wasn't there.

"The central thesis of our film was that the blacklist was frequently used to settle personal accounts."

Luke: "In which of your products has the final product been most disappointing?"

Lionel: "So Proudly We Hail represents the biggest lost opportunity. I never pulled it off. I wrote and directed it so it is my own fault. I was given every opportunity but it didn't work. I don't know why it didn't work."

Luke: "What did you think of Fahrenheit 9/11?"

Lionel: "The story was that Michael Moore got so pissed at DC 9/11 that he made Fahrenheit 9/11. It's a propaganda movie. I did Celsius 41.11[: The Temperature at Which the Brain... Begins to Die], which certainly got less attention. It's also a propaganda movie.

"If I'm looking for verisimilitude, I shouldn't be going to his movies."

Luke: "Didn't you find some part of his movie entertaining?"

Lionel: "He's as entertaining as hell. That's the problem. That's why you've got to hate him."

Luke: "That footage of Wolfowitz licking his comb."

Lionel: "That's cheap. That's what his films are about. Wolfowitz has a life of distinguished public service."

Luke: "What's it like to grow old in Hollywood and still find work?"

Lionel: "I don't know yet being such a young child... So many of my friends no longer work. It's troubling. It's been said, 'In Hollywood, you do not retire. You are retired. They'll let you know when it's over.' One day I'll be just another guy in white shoes sitting in Nate 'n Al's [Beverly Hills deli] having breakfast and wondering who those young kids are over there. That hasn't come yet and I'm not going to contemplate it until I have to.

"The town is unforgiving about age. As we say: 'Whatever happened to him?' 'It dried up.' It was decided that his soul had leprosy and he was no longer needed."

Luke: "How much has your conservative politics affected your career?"

Lionel laughs. "It has not been helpful."

Luke: "Yet you have a huge list of credits."

Lionel: "Yes. But you'll notice a period of interruption [from 1987-1991].

"My wife smoked during her pregnancies because that's what people did then. Our youngest son teases her, 'Do you know what I could've been?' He has a fine law degree. He was a columnist for a national magazine. He was covering the White House at 23 for the Wall Street Journal. He was professional baseball player. He's 6'2".

"There were places where I was denied work. The famous remark by a gay executive, a major buyer, about me: 'We don't hire him here because he's a conservative and they can not write caring characters.'

"I forced the guy to have lunch with me because we had the same lawyer and I confronted him with what he said. He freaked out and wouldn't say anything. I said, 'Relax. I'm not going to sue you. But I'd have thought that you as a gay man would've shied away from that kind of vicious stereotyping.' He clammed up. I had dessert and coffee. I made him stick it out.

"I won't say his name. One can figure it out if one checks on my credits. It will become apparent where I didn't work.

"People hire in their own image.

"One reason I have a lot of credits is there a certain thing I do, which I do well. Historical material. But there are disadvantages to not being in the mainstream in Hollywood.

"Opposing the Writer's Guild strikes in the 1980s, more than anything, turned my world upside down. It was interpreted as an expression of right-wing politics, which it wasn't. I'm a big believer in the Guild. It was an expression of my dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Guild at that moment."

Author/Comic Wendy Spero

Wendy returns my call Sunday, September 10, from the Portland airport. She's on her way to San Francisco.

Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

Wendy: "A psychologist and therapist."

Luke: "Just like your mom. What did she want for you?"

Wendy: "For me to be a businesswoman, a lawyer or doctor. It was important that I be professional and make money. Nothing artistic."

Luke: "What crowd did you hang out with in highschool?"

Wendy: "I had my down to earth friends. I'm more similar now to the way I was as a little kid than how I was in highschool and college, when I was very academic. I was obsessed with getting good grades. I never did anything extracurricular or fun. When I was little, I was creative. I liked to draw and make up things and write funny stories."

Luke: "Were there many Jews at your Trinity High School [in New York, nominally Episcopalian]?"

Wendy: "It was about 70% Jewish. There was a big cross in the front lobby. We had required religion classes. They had a chapel service but it was more like an assembly."

"I studied Psychology at Wesleyan [College]."

She began doing standup comedy in 2000. "I had all these thoughts and memories and stories in my mind. For years, I felt like I was going to burst. Being able to write them down and share them with people and make people laugh was like a drug."

"Writing the book was isolating. I didn't have an audience. I felt like I was perpetually bombing because I was all alone."

"The more I started performing, the less I performed in daily life. I stopped being a ham in daily life. I felt less of a need to perform in my personal life. I'd like to say that [success] made me a more confident person, but I don't think that's true. The more you put yourself out there, with the book, there's a whole new realm of paranoia. It just added to my neuroses. You're constantly worried. The amount of vulnerability is high. You felt like people were judging you. Everyone wants to be liked. It's tortuous. I had a lot of stage fright. Every time I was about to perform, I'd be sick to my stomach for hours beforehand. If I could do anything else, I would because it's painful to the psyche and physically draining. My stomach. I get very nervous. It's so masochistic."

12:13 p.m. 9/18/06. Wendy calls me back. "I'm confused. I'm exhausted. I just woke up."

Luke: "Great. I'll get you when you're vulnerable."

Wendy: "Oh geez, who's calling me?

"I moved to L.A. from Manhattan about two years ago. I left the little world I created. I got a book deal. It was a lot of learning curves at once. I had to learn how to drive and how to write.

"I had a short period of time to write the book. I wish there could be a disclaimer -- 'I'm never done this before.'

"The driving, there was a lot of honking around me at all times. I put a sign in the back of the car that says, 'New to driving.' Those in the back can see the sign and they don't yell at me as much. Those in the front and sides, I've gotten a lot of road rage.

"In New York, if I was going to a deli, there was no chance that I would kill someone. If I go on a minor errand in Los Angeles, I may kill someone. I feel that I am too neurotic and small to have that much responsibility and metal."

I hear a man's voice. "A package for Wendy Spero."

Wendy: "There's this man creepily wandering around the house. What's he doing?

"I took a door off a Mercedes on Melrose when I first got out here.

"Whenever I get into a car, I feel like I'm playing a game of pretend grown-up.

"You can see the evolution of my time in Los Angeles based on every dent in the car."

Luke: "What do you love and hate about living in LA?"

Wendy: "I'm getting a kick out of buying in bulk. In New York, you have to decide between the detergent and the juice. I'm small. I can't take home more than one large item at a time. There's something enormously empowering about going to this massive supermarket and loading up the cart with a 24-pack of toilet paper and feeling like the most accomplished person on the planet.

"I have a garbage disposal. I'm getting a kick out of the small things of suburban life. There's a pleasantness of LA It's both good and slightly boring. It's slightly isolating here because everyone is so spread out. I miss the people watching in New York. Unless you're at the Grove watching people by the fountain, I don't feel like there is a place for me to go and watch people."

"I was a psych major. I'm into cognitive therapy but I'm not into analysis."

Luke: "Success hasn't changed anything for you?"

Wendy: "My boyfriend would confirm that I am just as neurotic as when I first started. I don't even know what I'm trying to do."

"I got married (September 3 in New Mexico) during my book tour. There was no honeymoon. My husband said last night, 'I feel like you are going to leave at any moment.'"

Luke: "Is your boyfriend the same person as your husband?"

Wendy: "Yes. The word 'husband' is very weird. I don't feel grown up enough to have a husband."

"I'm not very religious. I am really Jewish. We had a very Jewish ceremony because we're both very Jewish in identity but not really in religion. I did have a bat mitzvah. I do sort of believe in something but I don't pray or think about God. The service was alternative. We had a female rabbi. She kept the word 'God' out."

Slapdown - Aaron Biston Vs. Rabbi Steven Weil

I've known Aaron Biston (abi2003@sbcglobal.net) since about 1994. We're friendly. I've eaten meals at his home about a half dozen times.

I talked to him on the phone Monday, September 18, 2006, about his situation at Beth Jacob. A few months previous, he'd told me he'd been ejected from the shul.

(I emailed Rabbi Weil for comment before I published this story. I did not hear back from him. If he does comment for publication, I will put that immediately on my website.)

Aaron: "In March of 2005, [Rabbi Weil] told me to no longer pray there because I had lawsuits with a member of the shul.

"A week later, I go to the rabbi with my version. He says his decision is the same.

"In the negotiations to settle the lawsuits [in secular courts for about three years], this member of the shul wanted to make it a matter of settlement that I could no longer pray at Beth Jacob. The judge said that this is not to be negotiated.

"Those lawsuits have since been settled.

"Rabbi X [I am not using his real name] is another rabbi at Beth Jacob. He's known me for 25 years. He'll vouch for my character. Rabbi X called several rabbis and says that they said that what was done to me was not appropriate.

"My attorney wrote Rabbi Weil a letter. Nothing happened.

"In February, Jackie Mason wrote a long letter to Beth Jacob and all the board members explaining that he's known me for over 30 years and that he vouches for my character and that [the expulsion] is inappropriate. My 13-year old daughter wrote a letter saying that she's been davening at Beth Jacob since she was four. Now she's affected because she can't go there because her daddy can't go there. They have a teenage minyan that she'd like to participate in.

"I had another rabbi write a letter of halacha [Jewish law]. I sent all four letters to the board.

"The board said they convened to see if they could overrule the rabbi's decision.

"Nothing that was done to me was in writing. It was all verbal. I asked the rabbi to give it to me in writing. He said no.

"A month later, the board said they have not made a decision. They stopped returning my phone calls.

"Rabbi X says they are trying to wear down my resolve. They don't know who I am. Once I grab on to something, I never let go.

"I went to Beth Jacob three weeks ago. Rabbi Weil was not there. I went to Rabbi X's lecture. Rabbi X gave me and my daughter a hug and said you are always welcome to come to our shul.

"I go to Beth Jacob this Shabbos (Sept. 16) and I'm sitting there at the kiddish (snacks after the prayers) for half an hour. Rabbi Weil comes to me by himself and says, 'Please Mr. Biston. You must leave this shul.' I said, 'I'm sorry but you and I should not be talking to each other. You should have your attorney talk to my attorney. Please walk away.'

"He's not walking away. He's standing there. He's harassing me. He says, 'Mr. Biston, leave this shul this minute.' I said, 'You and I should not be talking, but if you insist, my daughter might be willing to talk to you. She's right next to me.'

"Rabbi Weil starts telling her what a bad man I am. That I'm sick. That I'm a thief. All these epithets other than four letter words. My daughter started to cry hysterically.

"I told him to 'Go f--- yourself.' He slapped me in my face, a light slap. I have a scratch on my face. As I'm walking out, I'm trying to walk into where Rabbi X is but Rabbi Weil and a security guard prevent me from going any further. I don't want to use any physical force.

"I walk with a cane because I had polio as a child. I was tempted to whack him in the face and kill him, but that's something beyond me.

"I went to the police. I filed a [battery] report. My daughter told the cop that Rabbi Weil slapped me.

"The community must know what kind of rabbi is running this synagogue.

"I'm considering filing a class action lawsuit against Rabbi Weil with all the [good] people he's ejected from Beth Jacob.

"I come from a family of rabbis. If you want to eject someone from a synagogue, you have to assemble a Bet Din (Jewish law court). This was not done in my case.

"I called all the Bet Dins in Los Angeles to call Rabbi Weil to a Bet Din. Nobody would take it."

Aaron says he's never been banned from a shul before. "I'm angry because I give tzeddakah (charity) to so many communities, from Aish Ha Torah to Rabbi Schwartzie's Chai Center to Chabad... I have a good name. I want to protect my name.

"Jackie Mason told me in February, 'Aaron, you are wasting your time trying to be Mr. Nice Guy, and write all these letters. You need to hire somebody to file a class action lawsuit or a libel lawsuit.'

"He gave me his partner Raoul Felder. Raoul referred me to an attorney in L.A.

"My daughter is going to a therapist now. My ex-wife is taking her to make sure she doesn't have any emotional trauma.

"If anyone has to leave, it is Rabbi Weil who must be banned from the shul.

"I plan to continue to come to Beth Jacob but I plan to come with two big black bodyguards next time.

"I'm going to Beth Jacob on Rosh Hashanah and I'm going to hand out the four letters (one from Jackie Mason, one from Aaron, one from a rabbi, etc).

"As Rabbi Weil talked to my daughter, he threatened to call the police. I think it's a civil matter, not a criminal matter. I asked the police if they would come. They said yes, you could be trespassing. Who decides if I'm trespassing? Only the board can decide that. Not the rabbi.

"I want an apology. Now I want a public apology."

From 1994 - 2001, I went irregularly (from a few times a year to every day in late 1997, early 1998 when I davened shacharit there and took a Daf Yomi class) to the Beverly Hills synagogue Beth Jacob.

With 800 members, it is the largest Orthodox shul west of the Mississippi.

In June of 2001, I was ejected from Young Israel of Century City (link) and began praying regularly at Beth Jacob.

One Sabbath morning, I heard Rabbi Steven Weil speak to the Happy Minyan (then housed at Beth Jacob) about creating a safe community and that to do that he's asked anyone (a dozen people at the time? two dozen? three dozen?) who might be a threat to stay away from the shul.

Afterwards, I pulled aside Rabbi Weil and told him that I agreed with the main idea of his speech -- that a shul should be a safe place. I told him a little bit about my story. Rabbi Weil said my situation was under review.

A few weeks later, Rabbi Weil asked me to stay away from Beth Jacob. I did. I found another shul to call home.

There are two types of organization structures for synagogues -- rabbi-run and board-run. Young Israel of Century City and Anshe Emes are run by their rabbis (Anshe is owned by the family of its rabbi). Most synagogues are run by their boards and the synagogue rabbi abides by the board's decisions.

Power can shift. For instance, five years ago at Beth Jacob, the board may have had had final word, but over the years, Rabbi Weil probably built up increasing power to the point where his word, most of the time, is law.

Bob writes:

This may be too big for you to chew. Aron Tendler is like the Rosato brothers, he is small potatoes. You could go after him, even if he was not guilty, and take him down.

Rabbi Weil is a different story. You know the old saying don't bring a knife to a gunfight? Well, when Rabbi Weil boots someone out of the shul it is not him having his kicks. He is acting as a bounty hunter for a very big macher. You take him on, you take on the macher. And if that macher should put in a call to your rabbi, you may be praying at an Agape shul soon. Watch yourself, 'cause no one else is.

I believe Rabbi Weil took over Beth Jacob in late 2000. As he did in Detroit (creating much controversy), Rabbi Weil immediately started kicking people out of Beth Jacob to create a safe community. His predecessor, Rabbi Abner Weiss, (almost?) never kicked anyone out.

Some of those ejected by Rabbi Weil in 2001 got angry and talked about going to the Jewish Journal with their complaints. No story was ever published.

There's been a growing pressure cooker of steam underneath this story of Rabbi Weil's ejections for at least five years but only now, thanks to Aaron Biston, has it blown up.

Gadi (Gary) Pickholz (gp212@columbia.edu) writes:

Luke, I just read your piece on Weil and Beth Jacob. Excellent. Kol Hakavod. Don't let the pressure get to you on this one. I have known Aaron Biston for many years, and enjoyed many a shabbat meal together. I can almost top his story with Weil, going back to December 2000 when I was there -- although I lacked the theatrics of a slapped face.

Weil has created a bizarre star chamber of throwing people out of his country club for two consistently identifiable reasons: they are divorced fathers, which as a group he openly views as a "threat to the vulnerable single women in the community" and he needs to personally protect their safety in the community and/or are in litigation with a rich member/donor of the shul.

What I did not know at the time was that he got into considerable trouble in Detroit prior to coming to LA for the very same reasons.... With impecable timing, LA suddenly opened and the rest is history.

You can quote me down to my allegations about Detriot, because I have no basis of fact that I can [not] prove from here, simply discoveries that have now come my way via the Executive of the Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council (IFRAC) -- the largest organization of jewish divorced fathers in the world. Weil is a real problem for IFRAC, and apparently the statistical coincidence of the hotspot goes back to the Detroit community. His statistical problem is simply way out of proportion with other mainstream modern orthodox rabbis, and we treat these rabbis like oncologists discovering that everyone on a residential block developed intestinal cancer.

You can quote me as the new chairman for 2006-8 of IFRAC that he is statistically off the scale in terms of problems of throwing divorced fathers out of his shuls, and his openly discussing with me that he needed to protect the innocent and impressionable single women of his community from the threat of divorced fathers. We still use that in our brochures as an indication of how ingrained rabbinic bigotry is within the orhtodox community despite today's divorce rates. No problem in that regard.

You can quote me that in my case he significantly attempted to interfere in the California judicial process of divorce, to an actionable degree, and it was only at the pleadings of board members that I did not pursue the matter.

You can quote me that he falsely accused me of sexual impropriety of an unstated nature with a congregant of unstated name (how convenient) in an attempt to get me out of his shul.

You can quote me that he publicized that I was withholding a get [divorce] from my ex wife in an attempt to shame me into compliance, and used that as an excuse for wanting me out of the shul to inquiring board members, when it was complete nonsense -- to the point that the Bet Din had to issue a letter to that effect because of his maliciousness, and had to instruct him to recuse himself completely from anything to do with me. He needs to listen to Bet Din, which was a strategy I comprehended that Aaron Biston has not yet grasped.

Then I left for Israel the following week, and have stayed ever since, so that matter became moot on a personal basis but kept cropping up in complaints of other divorced fathers. And like Aaron, I was involved in litigation with a major member/donor that preceded Weil by years, but while Rabbi Weiss was a far more senior and intelligent spiritual leader who insisted that in shul we all shake hands every shabbat and leave the litigation to courtrooms (a positive pressure that led to many settlements of shul member vs shul member cases, I might add), Weil was openly and unapologetically political in terms of these cases.

I actually had to discuss the matter with the then president of the shul, who was a member of the California bar. In my case, again, it became moot as I moved to the other side of the planet, but Mark conceded that Weil was miles outside of fair territory, and concurred that his behavior and actions were a real potential shul lawsuit waiting to happen -- he just wanted to make sure it was not from me. In the end I was approached by some very senior people in the shul, in addition to two of the Dayanim [judges] of my Bet din, who stated that Weil was not the "ba'al habayit" of Beth Jacob, simply the rabbi, and that he had overstepped all bounds of both halacha and decency by declaring me personna non grata. The point was underscored by my being asked again to serve as the kahal's baal tefila (I was finishing kaddish for my father at the time) so that there was a very public statement regarding my status, which was a very gracious and intelligent apology that I accepted. But that was simply because ther Bet Din came down on him like a ton of bricks in my case.

Now he is not a new rabbi, he is established. Now, for whatever reasons, the community has remained silent while he has conducted nothing short of a McCarthy witch hunt in purging over 75 people and the entire happy minyan en massse to "protect his flock" from all he does not want for any and all reasons. What is even more disconcerting, however, is that he has repeatedly purged people involved in litigation with his major donors under pretense of rabbinic concerns rather than admitting he is running a country club. This violates all halacha, this violates all guidelines of the OU and this violates all guidelines of the shul charter. It is also, most likely, an inevitable invitation for a lawsuit against the shul one day.

As I noted to him in our final conversation, after he had to sit through yet another mincha in which I was the shaliyach tzibur after his failed attempt to remove me, the opening chapter of the Zohar Bereshit notes that the Satan has no greater eweapon than convincing a man of his own self-righteousness relative to others, and that the halacha regarding a shul is explicitly that there is no knesset yisrael without the sinners of yisrael --and the sentence is intentionally vague as everyone in the shul is convinced that the OTHER guy is the sinner, not himself. Then I got on a plane to Israel and never returned.

Hope that helps, but you are still a too politically savvy for your own good stinker for ducking every single topic relating to the hot potato of divorce -- and divorced fathers in particular -- within the orthodox community today. We keep a list of those hot spots as well, and the statistical probability of your having written zero on the topic to date is as improbable as Weil's in his handling of these cases.

The Orthodox Union of America has both a va'ad hakavod and a bet din for dealing with matters within its member congregations that violate halacha or OU guidelines. They cannot turn your case down, and this is a topic well known to them. They have sanctioned Rabbis and Congregations in the past, as significant as Kenny Brander in Boca Raton (now no LONGER in Boca Raton or any pulpit after the legal liabilities he created in some cases). If you are a paid member of an OU shul and have a grievance against the Rabbi or shul in terms of its conduct under its own charter or the OU's they cannot turn you away.

The Rabbinical Council of America and Bet Din of America, on the other hand, is a farce. Stay away. We cannot find a single case in 20 years in which they ruled against a member Rabbi on any topic vs. a lay member. Any. Simply criminal. If you think the RCC is a farce, wait until you meet the RCA.

The enablers in all of this are reporters and journalists such as yourself unwilling to print Tidbits & Outrages such as judges and court appointed psychologists in Jerusalem declaring that all dati fathers are, by definition, sexual predators towards their own daughters because they have no sexual outlet in their culture after years of regular sex. How can you then be surprised when Steven Weil says the same thing as his pretense of filtering all divorced men from his shul until after they remarry and "rejoin the family values inherent in this congregation" and "cease to be a threat to the vulnerable single women in this community whom we must provide safe haven", and the majority of his congregation nod their heads in bigoted consent? Weil can only tell me that I am certainly sleeping with his female congregants because, in his eyes, it is preposterous for a "man with needs after 18 years of marital sex" to maintain abstinence, and therefore we are all guilty by default and a threat to the women he has taken under his wing...

While he was kicking out people (mainly single men) for being a threat to his community, Rabbi Steven Weil continued the annual practice of Beth Jacob of honoring sexual predator Aron Tendler. Aron would be seated Shabbos morning on the bima and Rabbi Weil would say a few laudatory words about him.

West Hollywood Book Fair

I caught the 11 a.m. panel (9/16/06), "L.A. is my Beat."

Moderator Charles Fleming says that when you reveal you're a writer in Europe, people are fascinated to hear about your books.

In the United States, you are likely to hear, "Have you written anything I might've read?"

Rick Copp says that when you say you are a writer in L.A., people assume you write for film.

Marissa Batt says the L.A. D.A.'s office is the largest prosecutorial body in the world.

At noon, I took the 90-minute memoir-writing workshop with Harold Robbins' third wife Jann. She's got a book coming out about her relationship with Harold. She says he did not care about bad reviews but they drove her crazy.

Jann's working on a book with the widow Erica McClaine. It's told in the voice of Erica's late husband Clive, the British pornographer. The couple spent over $100,000 for useless alternative remedies for Clive's brain cancer.