Thursday, 5 December 2013
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Knesset members claimed that zealots never spat on women, but you can see the truth here in front of your eyes.
חברי כנסת טענו כי קנאים לא ירקו על נשים, אבל אתה יכול לראות את האמת כאן מול העיניים שלך.
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Sunday, 1 December 2013
Dear R. Baddiel,
As a former talmid of yours, I was extremely disappointed to read your recent letter to Rav Winegarten. It appears that you have failed to appreciate the seriousness with which the local rabbonim take their moral responsibility to the kehilloh. It is most unfortunate that you do not realise that from the perspective of one who has been convinced that Chaim Halpern is indeed guilty of exploiting vulnerable individuals for his own gratification, the very tame means that have been adopted to warn people away from him are certainly justified.
Indeed, one would have to possess a warped moral compass to suggest that, if the allegations against him are true, then his continued presence in Golders Green is anything but a dagger in the back of the entire kehilloh,and that anyone working to allow him to continue functioning in his current role is not himself a “chover le’ish mashchis”.
The only valid question you raise is whether there is good reason to believe that Halpern did in fact engage in the behaviour he is accused of. After all, if he did, then the blame for the “machlokes” that has ensued is entirely his –the moral obligation of one who learns that another is exploiting vulnerable individuals is not alleviated because the exploiter decides he will not “go down without a fight”.
As one who has unfortunately been exposed to some of the evidence (including multiple reliable testimonies) against him, I can affirm that this is indeed the case beyond doubt. It is clear from your vigorous defence of Halpern that you are not even aware of the things he has admitted to (and has been recorded doing so) –such as his fictitious “therapy” involving arm-wrestling married women (and never men, of course), or of the photos of women in various states of undress that were discovered in the ‘sent items’ section of his email account.
The fact that you have styled yourself as such an avid defender of Halpern without engaging in even the most perfunctory research into his behaviour makes it clear that your motives are the polar opposite of tzedek, emes and sholom.
It is astounding that you adopt the position that his guilt or otherwise in the eyes of halocho should be decided by the police. You seem to misunderstand the very basis of this unfortunate episode. Under English law, there is no prohibition whatsoever for a powerful man in a position of influence to convince vulnerable women that it will be “beneficial” for him to have his way with them. The lack of legal censure makes this no less abhorrent in the eyes of either morality or halocho.
Furthermore, most of his victims are from Stamford Hill, where cooperation with the authorities on issues of abuse (and all the more so where the perpetrator is a prominent rov) would earn them the wrath of many of their neighbours.
Others who have spoken out against Halpern in the past have been the victims of tire-slashing and a barrage of threatening phone calls. To ensure that my family is not on the receiving end of similar behaviour, I have chosen not to disclose my identity to you in this letter.Sincerely
79 PRINCES PARK AVENUE
LONDON NW11 0JS
Telephone and fax number: 0208455 5657
Rabbi S Winegarten
23 Sneath Avenue
London NW11 9AJ
21 November, ’13
Dear Rabbi Winegarten שליט"א
It is most upsetting that I have to bother you concerning the same business that I wrote to you about back in July.
On Sunday morning, some of the Mispallelim asked me why the Sidra and Haftorah sheets had not been sent out on Friday as usual. I asked Eric Brunner and he told me that he hadn’t received them from me (which I know to be not true). On further questioning, he then told me that “the Committee” (Martin Younger and Shmaya Stimler) had taken the decision to stop the Torah sheets from being sent out. I approached Martin Younger on Sunday evening and he told me that he and Shmaya Stimler had decided that “the Rov had to be supported” and that therefore these Torah sheets could no longer be sent out because I davvened “across the road.”I said that it was sad that because of this horrible Machlokkes, now even Torah sheets were being denied to people who really enjoyed them and learned from them and found them interesting.
I reminded Martin Younger that even the Police, who had been trying their hardest
for the past year to pin something — anything — on Reb Chaim, had given up and dropped all charges. He seemed surprised to hear this, as if it was news to him. It’s hardly to be expected that the anti-Semitic BBC would report that Rabbi Halpern had been released from police bail as prominently as they had reported on the six o’clock news that he had been arrested (which was subsequently on the World News — what a Chillul HaShem!) but I did notice that Martin Younger did not seem to be at all relieved to hear that a fellow-Jew, a prominent Rabbi at that, had beenreleased from Police harassment.
I said that if he, Martin Younger, really meant to “support the Rov” then he should see to it that the Rov himself is kept aloof from all this Machlokkes and Chillul HaShem rather than to invoke your name in perpetuating and spreading more strife and conflict in our community. I said that the Kehilloh is rent apart enough without people fuelling the Machlokkes further, that I found it difficult to believe that this action was taken with your consent, let alone your encouragement, that surely you yourself were above this ugly vendetta. When I tackled Shmaya Stimler on Tuesday morning about this and said I wondered whether this action was with your knowledge, he said yes, it was. I told him of your agreement in July that the sheets should go out but he said that nevertheless this is the decision of “the Committee.” I prefer to be charitable and say that he is mistaken and misguided in his eagerness to “support the Rov” and that this is not your wish. I beg you to please rein in your “Committee” that at last this sorry fight, like that of Korach and his crowd, can be allowed at last to sink into the ground. In my altercation with Martin Younger I also pointed out that by no means was I the only one who davvened at Reb Chaim’s and that there were quite a number of other people who davvened in our Beth Hamedrash and also “across the road.” I told him, as I wrote to you in July, that as far as I know it was a Kosher Minyan, that this kind of pressure by “the BLBH heavies” was quite unacceptable and that I wonder whether it is this coercion and pressure on ordinary people who don’t have the guts to stand up to them (but claiming instead that they “don’t want to get involved”) rather than any true conviction that there has been any wrongdoing, that is the reason for people deserting Reb Chaim’s. I said that this kind of action is what is destroying our Kehilloh and that it’s time to let the hate die down.
You will probably have heard that ordinary Baalei Battim are now quoting you as their “Daas Torah,” that they say that they have a “Psak Din” from you that they should not patronize those people who davven at Reb Chaim’s because by davvening at Reb Chaim’s, “they are supporting a Rohshoh.” So now, in your name, it’s alright to harm a fellow-Jew’s Parnossoh because he davvens in a particular Beis Medrash. That is what this Machlokkes has done: unlearned and
ignorant little people now dare to openly call a venerable Talmid Chochom and district Rov “a Rohshoh”! If Rabbonim have their differences, that’s one thing.
When Ammei Ha’aretz and Johnny-come-lately “Baalay Teshoovoh” dare to denigrate an Oved HaShem, a man who has done so much to bring warm Yiddishkeit and Chassidus into this area, when this happens, then I do think (as do many others, too) that it’s time for the Rabbonim themselves to call a halt to this destruction of our Kehilloh. Nothing — but nothing! — can be worth destroying the Yiddishkeit and the respect for Torah and Rabbonim of all the people — but especially the youngsters — in this whole district. But as I said in my previous letter to you, no-one has ever heard Reb Chaim say even a single word against all his detractors and haters: all the hatred and denigration is from the one direction. And on top of it all, there has not been even a shred of real evidence or credible testimony, not a single true witness (despite weekly posters and advertisements openly pleading for anybody to come forward with any kind of evidence at all!) of any wrongdoing, only innuendo and the “it’s better you don’t ask” kind of slandermongering.
Rabbi Winegarten, as the senior Rov in this district, you could call a halt to the open hatred that is spreading and destroying our Kehilloh. You are also aware that the knowledge of this Machlokkes has spread over the whole world and is a terrible ongoing Chillul HaShem. Without a doubt, the instigators of this campaign against Reb Chaim never dreamed that it would explode into this monster. But now they blame Reb Chaim for the Chillul HaShem simply because he stubbornly refuses to lie down and die.
Rabbi Winegarten, the world will be thankful to you if you can rise above all this dirt and hatred. Let there be peace. I’m afraid that if this Machlokkes is not ended, it will smoulder and burn until instead of Yidden being united by our love for each other we will be united as victims of a terrible hatred by others for us all.
When all is said and done (and even when all is implied and expanded and exaggerated) in the final analysis, anything that anyone has done is nowhere near as great an Avayroh as full-blown Messiroh or of inciting hatred in Yidden so that they should try to spoil other Yidden’s Parnossoh. But that is what is happening and now “the Committee” of Baalei Battim of the Bridge Lane Beth Hamedrash have decided, in their wisdom, to stop Torah sheets from being sent out because they think that in this way they are “supporting the Rov.” Please, Rabbi Winegarten, tell them that this is not what you want. Please tell Eric that he should resume sending out these Sidra and Haftorah sheets (incidentally, I don’t care for any acknowledgement and the sheets can go out anonymously for all I care) and that peace should be given a chance to heal our Kehilloh. In this connexion, I attach to this letter the Dinnim sheets and sundry articles and a story for Channukah for your approval to be sent out with the Sidra and Haftorah sheets as till now. As I said in my letter to you in July, surely the Dinnim sheets and Sidra and Haftorah sheets should be judged on their merits, not on where I davven and that the dissemination of Torah should be allowed to rise above all this tragic business.
In conclusion, I ask, with the greatest possible respect, that you please take the lead in starting the healing process instead of allowing others to use your name to promote hatred, strife and division. Please tell “the Committee” that you give your approval to the continued distribution of these Torah sheets to the members of our Beth Hamedrash and kindly inform Eric Brunner of your approval.
O Y Baddiel
Saturday, 30 November 2013
Thursday, 28 November 2013
ST-JÉRÔME — A Quebec Court judge has ordered the removal of 14 children aged 2 months to 16 years from the ultra-Orthodox sect Lev Tahor, to be placed in foster homes.
Judge Pierre Hamel issued the ruling Wednesday night, ordering the children be removed from the community and placed in foster homes immediately, for at least 30 days. He ordered members of the Lev Tahor community to refrain from contacting the children in any way, except for their parents, whose contact will be supervised by youth protection officials. Among the children ordered removed are a 16-year-old girl and her 2-month-old baby.
Each child will be given a full examination by a doctor, and their psychological needs will be assessed. Youth protection officials have alleged extreme neglect and malnutrition, as well as isolation, and a refusal by sect members to adhere to the Quebec curriculum. They claim the children, who are home schooled, are unable to do basic math, and don't understand English or French.
There is a publication ban on evidence presented Wednesday in court.
On Tuesday, a committee in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, heard gruesome details about the conditions in the sect from several former members. The website Behadrey Haredim reported that the hearing was told that children were hit with iron bars, denied food and forced to take psychiatric pills. The committee also heard that the sect achieved compliance by inflicting constant pain, by forcing members to wear shoes smaller than their shoe size. Members also spoke of forced divorce and marriage from the age of 14, involving age gaps,
including a 15-year-old boy marrying a 40-year-old woman, and vice versa. The minimum legal age of marriage in Canada is 16.
Wednesday's ruling followed a petition from Quebec's youth protection officials for an emergency ruling by the court after about 200 of the 240 members of the sect moved from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts to Chatham, Ont., in the early hours of Nov. 18, just before a youth court hearing. The three families of the children involved were ordered to appear in court on Wednesday morning, but they defied that order.
Speaking from Chatham, Uriel Goldman, a director of Lev Tahor, said members would defy the order because the Quebec Court has no jurisdiction in this matter, since the order to appear was issued after the group members moved to Ontario.
"It's a legal argument and they don't have to go there," Goldman said. "When the court papers were filed, it was when these families were already residents of Ontario."
Another member of the sect told The Gazette Tuesday from Ste-Agathe the community members left Quebec because the province's home-schooling regulations are too strict. He denied that there was any neglect suffered by the children. He said the whole ordeal has been orchestrated by authorities in Israel who persecute the group, because it denounces the formation of the state of Israel.
"(The youth protection director) was under tremendous pressure to find something in our houses because he got hundreds of phone calls and faxes from those people who persecute us for nothing," he said.
Denis Baraby, the director of youth protection services for the Laurentians, said extricating the children from Ontario may be tricky, but it's something the agency deals with often.
"Ontario authorities can take this decision now and get an order from a court," Baraby said. "We think there is a high possibility they will return them here."
Baraby said several families from the Jewish community have come forward to offer their homes for the children. The children have specific needs, since most only speak Yiddish and Hebrew.
THE WINDSOR STAR CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
RELATED from WindsorStar
Jewish sect members told to return to Quebec after fleeing here during child protection probe (With video)
Quebec urging action from Ontario on Lev Tahor group that fled province
Jewish sect labelled radical, extreme, ‘utter neglect of children’ cited
Radical Jewish group settles in Chatham, Windsor (With Video)
RELATED from WindsorStar
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Ruth Calderon of Yesh Atid lambastes yeshiva students who come to watch parliment sessions rather than study Torah
Ultra-Orthodox citizens who sit and watch the Knesset sessions while dressed in yeshiva student’s cloths are a disgrace to Jewish values, as they are not engaged in Torah study, Yesh Atid party MK Ruth Calderon said in a bewildering speech Monday.
During the closing comments of her speech at the Knesset podium, Calderon seemed distressed as she demanded that the yeshiva students leave the parliament building at once.
“The last thing I want to talk about is the daily blasphemy by the people dressed as scholars, sitting here in the plenum, idle, without a book, hour after hour,” Calderon said.
“It’s driving me crazy,” she replied to a bewildered MK Tamar Rozin (Meretz), who voiced her disdain over Calderon’s unusual comments.
“It insults the attire of a scholar, it is a disgrace to the value of Torah study, and I’m asking you to either bring books or to go study and learn,” the Yesh Atid MK charged, raising her eyes at the ultra-Orthodox spectators.
In their seats above the Knesset plenum, the ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students were visibly amused while Meretz and Labor MKs vocally defended ultra-Orthodox community members’ right to attend Knesset discussions.
“Why does it interest you?” MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) asked Calderon.
Calderon did not back down, as she was being urged back to her seat by fellow party members, and once again lashed out at the yeshiva student audience.
“It’s a disgrace,” she said, shaking her hand at the observant viewers. “I’m not cursing. Shame for the Torah! Take off those clothes!”
Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) who lead the session, criticized Calderon, but called on the Knesset Members to let the incident pass.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen, there is no doubt that what MK Ruth Calderon said was out of order, no doubt,” he said. ”Sitting here and watching are so many citizens, and this is their legitimate right.”
Calderon was lauded by many Israelis for a moving inaugural address which included a call for the widespread study of Jewish and Hebrew texts as the basis for a new Hebrew culture, but has since attracted media attention mostly for her Facebook gaffes, not unlike other figures in her party.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Discover the connection between the style and lifestyle of Hasidic Jews in StyleLikeU's Uniform feature on the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.
Monday, 25 November 2013
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Police have arrested four men in connection with an assault in Brooklyn.
The suspects allegedly hit the victim without warning, similar to recent incidents related to the so-called "knockout game" in which mobs of young people randomly sucker-punch innocent people for fun.
Around 2:45 a.m. Friday, investigators said a 24-year-old Jewish man was surrounded by four men and punched in the face on 18th Avenue in Borough Park. NYPD officers were nearby in an unmarked police car, commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday afternoon.
The victim told investigators he heard one of the attackers say, "I'll do it to this guy," right before he was surrounded and punched, sources told CBS 2.
The suspects fled, but were quickly apprehended and taken into police custody, sources said. The victim identified the suspects, police said.
"I commend the excellent police work that we saw this morning," Assemblyman Dov Hikind said in a statement. "I am grateful that these four thugs are off the streets and am hopeful that they will be treated with the severity of the law. I urge continuing diligence in dealing with this issue."
Hate crime detectives were interviewing the four suspects — three Hispanic men and one Indian male — and the victim at the 66th Precinct, sources said.
The four men face assault charges, but those may be upgraded, CBS 2′s Don Champion reported.
The suspects range in age from 28 to 38, police said.
There have been seven so-called "knockout" or "polar bear" assaults in the Crown Heights and Midwood sections of Brooklyn since October, Kelly said Wednesday. The alternate name "polar bearing" comes from the fact that the victims are white.
Councilman David Greenfield said the attacks have targeted Jewish people, with victims ranging from a 12-year-old boy to a 78-year-old woman.
"These are anti-Semitic knockout attacks and it's not a game," said Councilman David Greenfield, who is calling on the men arrested early Friday morning to face gang assault charges.
"The message we want to send is very clear, it's not funny, it's not a game," Greenfield added. "'Knockout' is a serious attack, it's not a game. If you keep doing it you will get caught and you will get sent to prison for a very long time."
Brooklyn residents told CBS 2′s Champion that they were pleased to hear about the arrests.
"We've been talking about it a lot. People were very happy today in synagogue that it was taken care of," Ezra Brown said.
Brown added that people in the neighborhood are hoping to reclaim their sense of security.
"Up to now you could walk on a street at night and you're perfectly calm," he said. "Now you have to look behind your back."
On Thursday, a New York state legislator introduced a bill that would classify such attacks as a gang assault. Under the bill, attackers could face up to 25 years in prison and young people could also be charged as adults.
Police patrols have been stepped up in central Brooklyn in response to the incidents. The attacks are being investigated by the NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force.
Kelly said several victims have not reported the incidents because no robbery is involved.
"I would like to urge anyone who has been victimized by this to come forward and let us know," said the police commissioner. "In order for us to respond, we have to have this information."
Saturday, 23 November 2013
Friday, 22 November 2013
It seems we have an epidemic on hand. Sex abuse seems to be more prevalent today than at any time in history. Or is it…?
My guess is that it is as prevalent today as it was in the past. It has always been an epidemic. The difference today is that we know about it. The media is all over it and the internet spreads the word widely and quickly. Everyone knows about it instantly. And thank God for that.
I say ‘Thank God’ even though it makes the Torah world look bad by being no different than other communities that have these problems. But ‘knowledge is power’. Now that we know more we can do more to prevent it and to help survivors better deal with it.
Although we have a long way to go, things have been slowly changing for the better as some survivors have come forward to expose their abusers and testify against them in court. And major Orthodox religious organizations like the RCA and the OU have publicly supported reporting abuse to the police immediately. Even Agudah and Lakewood support it in theory as long as you consult with a rabbi first. (That this is woefully inadequate is beyond the scope of this post.) The only religious groups who outright forbid it are major Chasidic enclaves like Satmar, Ger, and Toldos Aharon.
As recently as the late 1970s, it was widely believed that sex abuse in our world was extremely rare. To the extent that it existed at all, it was thought to be the rarest of aberrations. People like serial sex abuser Avreimal Mondrowitz were thought to the exception that proved the rule. We believed that our religious values and simple fear of Heaven would prevent all of us (with rare exception) from doing this.
But as we now see, there is a new story of sex abuse almost every day. And it doesn’t matter a bit how religious the abuser acts. It doesn’t matter if he is Jewish or not. I believe that the percentage of abusers per every type of population base is the same. I further believe that there is a lot more sexual abuse than is being reported. Who knows how many untold stories there are?! Sex abuse is under reported for many reasons - even though it would mean putting an abuser behind bars. It takes a lot of courage for a survivor to come forward.
You would think that the religious values of abusers would prevent religious people from doing it. But that is clearly not the case. If an individual has an aberrant sexual appetite and lacks the ability to control his impulses, he will seek to satisfy his lust clandestinely all the time, even as he might feel guilty about it. He thus become a predator. It doesn’t matter how pious he is. Nor does it matter what Hashkafa he has. Or what denomination he belongs to. Or even what his religion is. Or what stature he has in his community.
Which brings me to Rabbi Yakov Yitzchak Roth. I believe this is the first religious leader to have served a 16 year sentence for ‘raping, sodomizing and sexually assaulting a child relative…’
Who is Rabbi Yitzchak Roth? He is the Chasidic Rebbe of Shomrei Emunim. Shomrei Emunim was founded by Rabbi Roth’s father Rav Chaim Roth, son of Toldos Aharon founder Rav Aharon Roth. Rabbi Yitzchok Yakov Roth is R' Chaim Roth’s son and one of the current Rebbes of Shomrei Emunim. They are primarily located in Meah Sheraim and Bnei Brak.
His conviction of sexual abuse has now come to light because Rabbi Roth has applied for a visa to come to New York. He lied on his visa application swearing that he had never been arrested or convicted of a sex crime. He was arrested by the New York police Special Victims Squad.
How does a man like this retain any respect in his community? Even after spending 16 years in prison. I guess the answer to that his followers do not believe it. They think he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit in a court which they do not recognize as valid.
And I’m sure they view those who reported him and testified against him Mosrim (informants). Which they consider to be a capital offense. They do not believe that a man who they see as holy; a man that is exemplary in his public behavior; a man that they see as an icon the son of an icon and grandson of an icon to be holy.
I’m sure that his every public act and his every publicly uttered word is pure Torah. I’m sure he exudes extreme piety. I’m sure that he advises people on how to live holier lives via Tznius and other religious practices that go beyond the letter of the law. I’m sure that he is as Machmir on Shabbos and Kashrus as possible. I’m sure that Chalav Akum or Chalav Stam has never touched his lips. I’m sure he lives in modest dwellings and lives a modest lifestyle. And never speaks a word of Lashon Hara.
With such an image constantly displayed, how is it possible that he sodomized anyone?! The mere thought is sacrilegious! But he was convicted of that in a court of law. It is highly unlikely that he was innocent – even though I’ll bet he still denies it. As we all know they all deny it.
The list seems endless and as I said crosses all lines. From Catholic priests, to evangelical preachers. Rabbis of all Jewish denominations including Orthodox Rabbis, Poskim and Dayanim. It includes all Hashkafos: From Modern Orthodox Kiruv workers to Chasidic Rebbes; from Religious Zionist Mechanchim, to Chabad; from Satmar to Ger; from principals and teachers in Modern Orthodox schools to principals and teachers in Charedi schools. It doesn’t matter what station in life they had. And it doesn’t matter how exemplary their reputations were or how charismatic they were.
I too used to think that people like this were incapable of sexually abusing anyone. Their piety spoke volumes to me. But unfortunately that image has been shattered to me so many times that it no longer surprises me when I hear about it. Although I admit that there is a part of me that still finds such stories incredible.
How many more people in prominent religious positions are there out there, that are yet to be exposed? And how many victims are there who have still not come forward? How many are suffering in silence in all of these communities? How many more are yet to be abused by these predators?
I can’t even imagine the pain of suffering in silence. And I’m afraid to think about just how big the numbers might be. And to make matters worse - is it any wonder that a typical survivor goes OTD when trusted religious icons end up sexually abusing them? It would not surprise me that the vast majority of young people who have gone OTD have done so because they were sexually abused. And frankly, I don’t think we are doing enough about it. We need to do more. But what?
Thursday, 21 November 2013
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
A judge in Brooklyn agreed to delay a decision on a possible retrial of Baruch Levovits.
Critics of outgoing Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes have complained he has not aggressively pursed sex abuse cases in the orthodox community.
Hynes agreed to let his successor Kenneth Thompson decide how to prosecute the case of Baruch Lebovits, which has divided the community.
Baruch Lebovits was hoping the child-sex charges would quietly go-away.
But Brooklyn prosecutors abruptly stepped-aside Tuesday morning and put the case on-hold at the request of the incoming district attorney.
"Based upon the serious allegations in the case, I request that no disposition be offered to the defendant, no guilty plea be allowed, [I]t is important that I have a full opportunity to review the Lebovits matter." Ken Thompson said.
Ken Thompson ran for Brooklyn DA claiming the office was corrupt, and insisting that incumbent DA Charles Hynes was not tough enough on ultra-orthodox pedophiles. Thompson's supporters applauded his decision.
"They were going to give him a three-year deal and they would have probably said that because he was already in jail a year and a year on house arrest, and because he only served two terms, before you know it he would have been on the streets!" said Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, a Brooklyn activist.
But Hynes has defended his office, claiming he's prosecuted a series of ultra-orthodox defendants in cases that are often difficult to prove.
Lebovits was one of them, but his conviction for molesting a young boy was overturned on appeal. Now the incoming DA will decide whether to offer him a deal or a new trial.
"We hope that everybody here will keep an open mind, and listen to the evidence, and let the case be decided on the basis of the facts and of the law and not of any political considerations," said Alan Dershowitz, Lebovits' attorney.