Monday, October 20, 2014

Should sexual abuse be accepted as an inherent part of football - Sayreville Scandal

NY Times    SAYREVILLE, N.J. — The freshmen were easy prey in the locker room. They slinked away when the older varsity boys barreled in, blasting their music, shooting each other with Nerf guns and stripping down with the kind of confidence that freshmen could only fake. Intimidated by the older boys, most played invisible. But on the day of the second game of the season, Sept. 19, the freshmen became targets in a pastime very different from football.

“Hootie hoo,” the older players yelled before their home game that night, flicking the lights on and off and on again. Then they tripped a freshman in a T-shirt and football pants, letting loud music muffle any noise the boy made as he fell. Two pinned the younger boy’s arms, while others punched and kicked him — not viciously, but hard enough to matter, two witnesses said. He curled into the fetal position and was groped by his attackers.

What happened during that episode and in three other locker room attacks in subsequent days at Sayreville War Memorial High School prompted the arrest of seven varsity players on hazing and sexual abuse allegations, the cancellation of the football season and another round of introspection about the sport and its recent spate of scandals. [...]

The freshmen may now be minimizing any abuse because of the scorn that has been directed their way. Prosecutors here face a challenge: building a case not on physical evidence, but on the testimony of teenagers who live in a world of often cruel peers, a place where threats of drop-kicking and jumping someone are as common as texting “LOL.” [...]

Some players said they thought that the attacks were just part of being on the team, a way for the varsity players to show that the chosen freshmen belonged to the Bombers family. They said the popular freshmen were targeted, not the weak ones. Yet others were scared of the older boys.

“They think they’re joking around, but I don’t think it was a joke,” a witness to the first attack said. “I said, ‘This is nasty.’ ” [...]

The "scientific" claim that Jack the Ripper was definitely Jewish - is false

It was recently reported that a scientist had proven through DNA that Jack the Ripper was Jewish. It is now being reported that the claim is false because it is based on an elementary but devasting error which renders the evaluations totally worthless.

The scientist who carried out the DNA analysis that identified Victorian-era serial killer "Jack the Ripper" as a Jewish barber named Aaron Kosminski has apparently made a fundamental error that fatally undermines his case, according to several top experts.

Scientist Jari Louhelainen is said to have put a decimal point in the wrong place when using a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) database to calculate the chances of a genetic match between DNA left on a shawl that allegedly belonged to one of Ripper's victims, Catherine Eddowes, and was supposedly discovered near her body, and DNA taken from descendants of Eddowes and Kosminski.

The apparent error, first noticed by amateur criminologists in Australia blogging on the casebook.org website, “has been highlighted by four experts with intimate knowledge of DNA analysis – including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the inventor of genetic fingerprinting,” according to The Independent.

Professor Walther Parson of the Institute of Legal Medicine in Innsbruck has reportedly “echoed” Professor Jeffreys' concerns, as have Mannis van Oven, professor of forensic molecular biology at Rotterdam's Erasmus University, and Hansi Weissensteiner, also at Innsbruck and one of the scientists behind the computer algorithm used by Dr Louhelainen to search the mtDNA database.

Louhelainen used the database at the Institute of Legal Medicine to match a DNA fragment from the shawl with Karen Miller, the three-times great-granddaughter of Eddowes. Another DNA fragment was matched to a descendant of Kosminski's sister who asked not to be identified.

The error seems to have been made in the calculations linking Eddowes and Miller. If the critics are right, Louhelainen's calculations were wrong and virtually anyone could have left the DNA that he insisted came from Eddowes. This means that Eddowes cannot be connected to the shawl, and that therefore, no DNA connection can be made between Kosminski and Eddowes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rabbi Barry Freundel - prominent Modern Orthodox leader - arrested on voyeruism charge

 update:Washington Jewish Week

According to a report by investigators with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) obtained by Washington Jewish Week, police were notified of the surreptitious recording device by an individual associated with the mikvah on Oct. 12, who also reported witnessing Freundel plugging in and operating the recording device secreted in a Dream Machine digital clock radio while she was setting up the mikvah’s showers. Freundel said that he was using it “for ventilation of the shower area.”

Police obtained a search warrant for the recording device on the very next day and reviewed numerous sets of recordings stored on the camera’s memory card.

The first three recordings on the camera’s memory card, timestamped June 2, capture three women separately “partially undressing” or changing clothes in view of the camera. The second occasion, timestamped Sept. 13, the camera recorded the face and voice of Freundel appearing to adjust the camera’s display time and “positioning it on the counter to face the shower stall area.” Six more recordings on the same day included four women “undressed or changing clothes” before entering the shower and drying off after.

A third set of videos dated Oct. 6, shows the rabbi again positioning the camera, followed by a video of when the camera was discovered. Because the camera was discovered on Oct. 12, at least on this day, the camera’s timestamp was behind by six days.

---------------------------------------------------------
update: October 17 2014 Washington Post Rabbi accused of voyeurism pored over questions of sex and ethics

If Barry Freundel secretly violated sexual ethics, in public he pored over them.

Allegations that the Georgetown rabbi hid a camera in a ritual bathing area have astonished people from Washington to Israel, in part because Freundel had positioned himself as an ethical beacon. The internationally known Orthodox rabbi served as spiritual guide to the likes of former U.S. senator Joseph I. Lieberman and Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse and proffered wisdom on a wide range of moral matters.

Freundel’s writings, interviews and sermons, however, reveal that he appeared deeply worried about the dangerous overlap between sex and ethics, especially where it concerns technology.

Technology, he told a 1999 congressional bio­ethics panel, is “value-neutral. You can use it for good, you can use it for bad; the concern is how you use it. Every technology is a tool given to us by God to improve the world, if we use it the right way.” Same with knowledge, he said. Jews “style ourselves the ‘People of the Book’ because we think knowledge is valuable. But are you using it ethically?”

“The lack of sexual morality that pervades this society is all over the place, and the Orthodox community, no matter how traditional, is not immune from this,” he told Washington Jewish Week in a story last month about divorce among the Orthodox. “Pornography and its accessibility is wrecking marriages. It’s two keystrokes away. You get on the computer, you hit the button twice and you’re there.” [...] =========================
Washington Post   A prominent modern Orthodox rabbi at a Georgetown synagogue was arrested by D.C. police on Tuesday morning and charged with voyeurism, according to a department spokeswoman.

Barry Freundel, 62, of the Kesher Israel Congregation, was being held in police custody Tuesday and was likely to have an initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday. Within hours, the synagogue’s board of directors suspended him without pay.[...]

Law enforcement authorities said the case involves a hidden camera but gave conflicting accounts of where the alleged voyeurism took place. Both the synagogue bathroom and the mikvah, where ritual bathing takes place, were mentioned.

Freundel is one of the region’s most respected rabbis. Kesher Israel is a modern Orthodox synagogue, part of a denomination that emphasizes Jewish law and tradition while trying to accommodate modern trends such as the rise of women in leadership.[...]

Rav Schochet - prominent Chabad rabbi - bans Telushkin Book For Heresy Content


Chabad Info October 17, 2014

In a scathing letter written by the Av Beis Din of Toronto, Rabbi Gershon Elisha Schochet, he categorizes the Telushkin book as heresy, and demands that the Rabbi who permitted it recant his permission 

collage

In a letter written a few weeks ago, Rabbi Gershon Elisha Schochet, Av Beis Din of Toronto, asks Rabbi YY Shusterman, Rov in Beverly Hills California, if he permitted the reading and disseminating of the Telushkin book.
After a response was not forthcoming, he chose to publish the letter:
I have heard a rumor, that you have supposedly approved the book of Telushkin, and additionally, you have ruled, in your capacity as a Rov More Hora’ah for Chabad, that Shluchim should encourage the distribution of the book.
I am sure you are aware of the Rebbe’s opinion prohibiting the use of books which were written by unscrupulous individuals, even when there is no inherent problem with the content of the book. And the Rebbe held the same regarding books which only referenced such publications.
Also, you are surely aware of the Rebbe’s extensive correspondence regarding the Conservative movement, it’s “Rabbis” and leaders – that the Halacha is they are considered heretics.
You are surely aware of the famous ruling by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, that a Conservative “Rabbi” is not trusted for testimony in Jewish court just by the mere fact that he is affiliated with said movement, and he doesn’t need any prior warning before being disqualified…
Regarding the author, Telushkin – there is no need to do any research, for it is clearly known to anyone who searches the internet that he serves as a “Rabbi” in a Conservative temple, where a woman serves as a “Chazanit” and his assistant “Rabbi” is from the Reform movement,
Although this would have been enough for someone who is a G-d fearing Jew, and even more so for a Chossid of the Rebbe, and even more so for one who presents himself as a Rov who rules according to the directives of the Rebbe – to completely prohibit the above book.
More so, in this case (without even discussing the issue of the author), when many people who are considered G-d fearing Jews, and known around the world as smart people who are busy with spiritual issues (I am not talking about those “leaders” who are well-versed in politics, PR and monetary issues) – have said that the book has some terrible ideas which constitute a Chilul Hashem, so much so that anyone who has any inkling of a connection to the Rebbe, and more so if he has an iota of Hiskashrus, would immediately denounce this book.
I therefore turn to you and ask you, in the name of Anash and their descendants which are here and those that will come, that you please tell me that this rumor is a lie, and there is no inkling of truth in this matter.
If G-d forbid there is some truth to this rumor, I demand you tell me what the reasoning behind your ruling is, and if you made your decision independently or after consulting with other Lubavitcher Rabbonim and Mashpiim, and tell me their names and reasons.
With a blessing for a Ksiva V’chasima Tova,
Rabbi Gershon Elisha Schochet

New book reveals that Eichman was truly evil - not banal

update Oct 14, 2014  of the controversy from Jewish Review of Books

"Richard Wolin’s review of Bettina Stangneth’s newly translated book about Adolf Eichmann caused a stir, mainly about Hannah Arendt and the banality (or not) of evil. Yale Professor Seyla Benhabib responded in a New York Times piece, others blogged, and Wolin responded in an essay on our website. Now Professor Benhabib has rejoined the debate and Professor Wolin has replied a final time. Here's a guide to the exchange from the original review to its last installment."
 ---------------------------------------------------
NY Times  [See also Jewish Review of Books]  Ever since his capture in the early 1960s, Otto Adolf Eichmann, who was in charge of Jewish affairs during the Third Reich, has been the subject of unsettled and passionate controversy — centered, above all, on Hannah Arendt’s portrait of him at his 1961 trial. Her “Eichmann in Jerusalem” in many ways mirrored Eichmann’s own self-presentation. She insisted that, contrary to expectations, the man in the dock was not some kind of demonic Nazi sadist but a thoughtless, relatively anonymous, nonideological bureaucrat dutifully executing orders for the emigration, deportation and murder of European Jewry. Arendt’s insights — that genocide and bureaucratic banality are not necessarily opposed, that fanatical anti-Semitism (or for that matter, any ideological predisposition) is not a sufficient precondition for mass murder — remain pertinent.

Yet as Bettina Stangneth demonstrates in “Eichmann Before Jerusalem,” her critical — albeit respectful — dialogue with Arendt, these insights most certainly do not apply to Eichmann himself. Throughout his post-1945 exile he remained a passionate, ideologically convinced National Socialist. He proudly signed photos with the title ­“Adolf Eichmann — SS-­Obersturmbannführer (retired)” and, quite unlike a plodding functionary, boasted of his “creative” work. At one point he described the mass deportation of more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews as his innovative masterpiece: “It was actually an achievement that was never matched before or since.”

The enduring image of Eichmann as faceless and order-obeying, Stangneth argues, is the result of his uncanny ability to tailor his narrative to the desires and fantasies of his listeners. Arendt was not the only one to be taken in, and Stangneth, an independent philosopher living in Hamburg, is able to present a more rounded picture on the basis of previously unmined archival sources, particularly Eichmann’s own compulsive notes and jottings made in exile, in conjunction with the elusive series of taped conversations known as the Sassen interviews. These were exchanges organized in Argentina by the Dutch Nazi journalist Wilhelm Sassen and attended by a small group of old Nazis and their sympathizers. [...]

It is in these interviews and Eichmann’s own notes that he gave uninhibited vent to his version of the Holocaust and his involvement. Since he had a penchant for tailoring his endless chatting and voluminous writings to what he believed his audience desired, it may not be immediately evident why his statements in Buenos Aires should be considered more authentic than the “little man” portrait he painted in Jerusalem. The answer lies in the stance he took against what his Nazi and radical-right audience wanted to hear. For they were intent on either denying the Holocaust altogether, or outlandishly regarding it as either a Zionist plot to obtain a Jewish state or a conspiracy of the Gestapo (not the SS) working against Hitler and without his knowledge. Eichmann dashed these expectations. Not only did he affirm that the horrific events had indeed taken place; he attested to his decisive role in them. Hardly anonymous, he insisted on his reputation as the great mover behind Jewish policy, which became part of the fear, the mystique of power, surrounding him. As Stangneth observes: “He dispatched, decreed, allowed, took steps, issued orders and gave audiences.”

Like many Nazi mass murderers, he possessed a puritanical petit-bourgeois sense of family and social propriety, indignantly denying that he indulged in extramarital relations or that he profited personally from his duties, and yet he lived quite comfortably with the mass killing of Jews. This was so, Stangneth argues, because Eichmann was far from a thoughtless functionary simply performing his duty. He proceeded quite intentionally from a set of tenaciously held Nazi beliefs (hardly consonant with Arendt’s puzzling contention that he “never realized what he was doing”). His was a consciously wrought racial “ethics,” one that pitted as an ultimate value the survival of one’s own blood against that of one’s enemies. He defined “sacred law” as what “benefits my people.” Morality was thus not universal or, as Eichmann put it, “international.” How could it be, given that the Jewish enemy was an international one, propounding precisely those universal values? [...]

Former student confronts her alleged abuser – a trusted gym teacher and coach



Saturday, October 18, 2014

My father, locked in his body but soaring free

In 2011 Ronnie Cahana suffered a severe stroke that left him with locked-in syndrome: completely paralyzed except for his eyes. While this might shatter a normal person’s mental state, Cahana found peace in “dimming down the external chatter,” and “fell in love with life and body anew.” In a somber, emotional talk, his daughter Kitra shares how she documented her father's spiritual experience, as he helped guide others even in a state of seeming helplessness. 
 ========================

Three years ago, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana suffered a rare brain stem stroke that left him fully conscious, yet his entire body paralyzed. It’s a condition known as “locked-in syndrome.”

Last month, TED Fellow Kitra Cahana spoke of her father’s experience at TEDMED (watch her talk, “My father, locked in his body but soaring free”), revealing how her family cocooned Rabbi Cahana in love, and how a system of blinking, in response to the alphabet, patiently allowed him to dictate poems, sermons and letters to his loved ones and to his congregation.

Kitra began documenting her father’s recovery in photographs and video, creating layered images that — in contrast to her photojournalistic work — are more abstract and emotional. “I wanted to try to find a way to take photographs that reflected the mystical things that were happening in the hospital room,” she says. “How do I explain, in a photograph, the power that another human being has to either add or detract from the healing of another person? I started a process of trying to tell a story in images.”

As Rabbi Cahana began to regain his ability to speak, Kitra started recording his voice. She is now in the process of developing this body of work for an exhibition to help raise support for his ongoing care and rehabilitation.

Below, see Kitra’s stunning images — accompanied by her father’s poems — and hear more about the thoughts behind them. But first, a Q&A with Rabbi Cahana himself, in which he describes his own experience.[...]


The Beggars of Lakewood - New York Times

NY Times    Once a year, Elimelech Ehrlich travels from Jerusalem to Lakewood, N.J., with a cash box and a wireless credit-card machine. During the three weeks he typically spends in town, Ehrlich — a white-bearded, black-suited, black-skullcapped, wisecracking 51-year-old — haunts the many local yeshivas, schools where Jewish men, mostly in their 20s, study the Talmud and other texts. Sometimes he loiters around the condominium complexes where students live with their young wives and growing families. Some days he hires a driver to take him to the houses of local ashirim, rich men. Throughout town, he greets old friends, asking after marriages made since his last visit and new babies. And at every stop along the way, he asks for money.[...]

The yeshiva students may not give much, but nearly all of them give — and there are so many of them. Between 1990 and 2010, Lakewood’s population doubled to about 92,000 residents, largely because of the growth of its ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Conveniently located equidistant from New York City and Philadelphia, Lakewood is home to Beth Medrash Govoha, the nation’s largest yeshiva. The school, founded in 1943 by the refugee Rabbi Aharon Kotler, has seen its student body swell to about 6,500, making it just smaller than Harvard College. The growing Orthodox movement encourages young men to forgo or postpone higher education for religious study, and the yeshiva has benefited from that. Other schools have followed suit, setting up shop in Lakewood. Most students are married, and families with five or 10 children are common.[...]

Lakewood is becoming a medium-size city, but in many ways, it’s a pre-World War II European village, right down to the Yiddish and, to an extent, the clothes. The spiritual ecology of the town revolves around the Torah, which obliges that all Jews, even those who are in need themselves, give to charity. And so Lakewood — full of broke students, most likely at the peak of their adherence to Jewish law — has given full expression to the generous tendency of small, diasporic communities, which can be amplified when they find a little piece of the world to call their own.

It’s not that Lakewood residents enjoy having their doorbells rung two, three or four times a day to hear a hard-luck story. But while other towns may criminalize beggars or tell them to move along, Lakewood has an obligation to fulfill — Jews are literally family, according to the Torah. So the town came up with a modern solution to an ancient problem: paperwork. Beggars are registered and licensed in Lakewood, as a means of preserving trust in this community that aspires to be a village but is outgrowing that label.[...]

Aaron Kotler, who hosted me one night this summer in Lakewood, is the president of Beth Medrash Govoha and the grandson of its founder. He dresses in banker’s pinstripes, is an avid cyclist and, seemingly alone among the middle-aged men of Lakewood, speaks without a trace of Yiddish singsong. He has been instrumental in bringing real estate investors to town to feed the growing need for housing. I asked Kotler what he thought of the culture of begging. “I think that people of quality want to live in a place that has a flavor of doing chesed,” or kindness, he said. He questioned whether the door-to-door begging was “the most effective way to raise money,” but ultimately he looked on it favorably. [...]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: First time together in a Sukkah

On today's visit with my darling boys, I took them to the community Sukkah. Since I have not been allowed to spend ONE chag with them the entire THREE YEARS they have been in their father's custody, today was extremely poignant and emotional. 

Everyone warmly welcomed us and made us feel so at home. The shamesh kindly shook the lulav and etrog with the boys and they made the bracha together. I was so proud of them - it was the first time I have seen them do it. The boys so enjoyed themselves!

'We love Mama's sukkah!' they said! Is SO big! Can we come again?' they asked in a mixture of confused German/ English.

'With all my heart, I would love to bring you again my angels, but of course it's not possible,' I had to tell them.


I applied to have the children on Simchat Torah this year. The father refused point blank. Since my overnight visit anyway falls on Sunday, I applied for the weekend so that I could take the boys to shul. On Simchat Torah two years ago I discovered them hidden away with 2 Filipino carers in a darkened apartment in the most shocking state while their father partied without them in the Chabad shul.

Knowing the history of this, judge Susanne Gottichler still denied me the weekend visit even though she granted his application when the children were in my care and he only had fully supervised access at the time! 


In a further blow this week, the appeal court also rejected my parent's application for grandparent's visitation rights.


Dearest Sammy and Benji, I hope this year you will be in shul on Simchat Torah and will enjoy all the fun with all the other children. I won't have the pleasure of sharing the joy with you but know as always how much I love you and will be there with you in spirit. You are never ever out of my thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Conservative rabbi is supported by congregation after announcing he is gay and divorcing his wife of 20 years

Washington Post   The leader of one of the Washington region’s most prominent synagogues on Monday came out as gay, telling his thousands of congregants in a brutally personal e-mail that a lifelong effort to deny his sexuality was over and that he and his wife of 20 years would be divorcing. [...]

In his letter to the congregation of 1,420 households, and then in an interview, Steinlauf described an in­cred­ibly close relationship with his wife, whom he met in rabbinical school. The pair, he told The Washington Post, spent the past three years “desperately looking at one another, thinking, how can we hold onto this marriage, because we love one another so much?” And concluding that a reality he’d walled off since he was a boy wasn’t going away. [...]

Washington Post  The full text of an e-mail from Rabbi Gil Steinlauf to the Adas Israel congregation:
Dear Friends,
I am writing to share with you that after twenty years of marriage, my wife Batya and I have decided to divorce. We have arrived at this heartbreaking decision because I have come to understand that I am gay. These are great upheavals in my personal life, as in Batya’s and that of our children. But it is plain to all of us that because of my position as Rabbi of Adas Israel, this private matter may also have a public aspect. We recognize that you may well need a period of reflection to absorb this sudden news. I am most grateful for the support Adas’ lay leaders and clergy have provided my family and me in the short time since I brought this matter to their attention. That support makes it possible for us to prepare for this new chapter in our lives, and for me in my ongoing service as Rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation. [...]

A text I’ve sat with for years is from the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 72b) and states, “Rabbah said, any scholar whose inside does not match his outside is no scholar. Abaye, and some say Ravah bar Ulah, said [one whose inside does not match his outside] is called an abomination.” Ultimately, the dissonance between my inside and my outside became undeniable, then unwise, and finally intolerable. With much pain and tears, together with my beloved wife, I have come to understand that I could walk my path with the greatest strength, with the greatest peace in my heart, with the greatest healing and wholeness, when I finally acknowledged that I am a gay man. Sadly, for us this means that Batya and I can no longer remain married, despite our fidelity throughout our marriage and our abiding friendship and love. As our divorce is not born of rancor, we pray that together with our children we will remain bound by a brit mishpachah, a covenant of family. [...]