Thursday, October 2, 2014

Another "cool" charismatic teacher arrested for abuse

NY Times   She got to know Mr. Shaynak — “ShayShay” to his favorites — during her sophomore year, when she and a friend went to his classroom at lunch. He tutored them in geometry. He sometimes bought them lunch outside school. He gave one of them cigarettes.

Then, at one point, Sean Shaynak, the hip aerospace teacher in his early 40s with a flight simulator in his classroom, asked the girls if he could take pictures of them in the park, to inspire a nude painting he wanted to do. According to a friend of one of the girls whom she later confided in, they thought the request was weird and put him off, saying they were too busy. They told no one. They thought: Why ruin a teacher’s life? [...]

In interviews on Wednesday with dozens of students, virtually all said they had no knowledge of inappropriate sexual behavior on Mr. Shaynak’s part. But many knew that he was unusually close with some students, often in ways that might alarm parents, including smoking with students and sometimes attending their parties.
But these signs were not so much missed as, apparently, kept private by the only people who really knew Mr. Shaynak — his students, who liked him and saw him as one of their own. In this way, the authorities said, he was able to gain their trust and “groom” the girls he pursued.[...]

Those students who did know Mr. Shaynak were loyal. Two groups in particular — the smokers and the children in his aerospace classes — saw Mr. Shaynak as the rare teacher who talked like a teenager. He made students feel relaxed, told stories about flying and doled out cigarettes and hugs. He was the hip teacher who wore jeans, smoked with older students and drove a Mini Cooper, that is, when he wasn’t riding the B train home to Flatbush. [...]

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Emancipation and individual freedom - destroyed the viability of Beis Din

Justice Menachem Elon (Mishpat Ivri Chapter 41): THE PERIOD OF THE EMANCIPATION

A. Internal-Spiritual and External-Political Changes

A fundamental change in the historic course of Jewish law took place in the eighteenth century with the advent of the Emancipation and the abro­gation of Jewish autonomy. The story of the termination of Jewish auton­omy in general, and of Jewish juridical autonomy in particular, has been widely documented in recent historical studies and need not be repeated here. 1 As already noted.2 two factors supported and explain the persistence of a living and functioning Jewish legal system not withstanding the lack of political sovereignty and of a territorial center. The first factor was the integr­al discipline of traditional Jewish society, which, rooted in religious and national imperatives. felt bound to govern its everyday life by Jewish law. The second factor was the existence of the corporative state; by virtue of its political structure, the state allowed autonomous bodies possessed of jurid­ical authority to exist within its boundaries and, indeed, for various reasons already discussed. even had a positive interest in promoting the existence of such autonomy.

In the eighteenth century, however, both these factors underwent a radical change. From the political perspective, as a result of the movement toward equality before the law for all citizens, including Jews, the European countries, in quick succession, withdrew from their Jewish communities the power, even in civil litigation, to compel Jews to submit to adjudication before Jewish courts. The use of the ban, as well as other methods of en­forcing the judgments of Jewish courts, was also prohibited. Important as the political factor was, however, the primary cause of the progressive dis­use of Jewish law in practical life was the change wrought by the Emanci­pation in the social and spiritual life of the Jewish people, and the conse­quent erosion of the internal discipline that had been largely responsible for the vitality of Jewish law in the everyday life of the community. Up to that time, the Jewish community had regarded Jewish law as the supreme value by which all activities were to be measured; but the Emancipation split the community-some still followed the tradition, but others felt no obligation to do so.

I. See S.w. Baron, The Jewish Community, II, pp. 35 Iff.; Y. Kaufmann, Golah ve-Nekhar [Exile and Estrangement). II, 1930; J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis, eh. XX, pp. 2 I 3ff.; Assaf. Battei ha-Din, pp. 5-6; A.H. Freimann, "Dinei Yisrael be-Erez Yisra'el" [Jewish Law in the Land of Israel). Luah ha-Arez, 1946, pp. I l Off.: S. Ettinger, "Toledol Yisra'el ba-Et ha-Had­ashah" [History of the Jews 'in the Modern Period). in H.H. Ben-Sasson. Toledot Am Yis'ra 'el [History of the Jewish People]. vol. 3, 1970, pp. 17-137.

2. Supra pp. 3-39.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Iran to execute woman accused of killing attempted rapist

 update: Iran postponed execution Tuesday

Fox News    An Iranian woman sentenced to death for killing a man who tried to rape her told her mother goodbye and prepared to die, even as the Islamic republic’s president was meeting with world leaders at the United Nations.

Rayhaneh Jabbari, 26, is set to be executed Tuesday, according to reports from Iran. [...]

==========================Islam requires 4 male witnesses for crime of rape =====
Islam Web

Fatwa No : 156817

A daughter accusing her father of sexual abuse

Fatwa Date : Jumaadaa Al-Aakhir 15, 1432 / 18-5-2011

A 14 yr old girl has accused her father of sexually abuse since the age of 9 and also of rape. The mother of the girl says the father has admitted the abuse but not the rape. The father is now flatly denying that anything happened and says the mother has misunderstood what he said. The girl is still adamant that it all took place and by the way the man is on bail. How would this be dealt with according to Islamic law?


All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
It is an abominable sin that a father sexually abuses his daughter and it is even more abominable if he rapes her. If he does so with any girl, it is strictly forbidden, let alone him doing so with his own daughter.
However, it is not permissible to accuse the father of rape without evidence. Indeed, the Sharee’ah put some special conditions for proving Zina (fornication or adultery) that are not required in case of other crimes. The crime of Zina is not confirmed except if the fornicator admits it, or with the testimony of four trustworthy men, while the testimony of women is not accepted.
Hence, the statement of this girl or the statement of her mother in itself does not Islamically prove anything against the father, especially that the latter denies it.
Therefore, if this daughter has no evidence to prove that her accusations are true, she should not have claimed that she was raped by her father and she should not have taken him to the court. But if what she says is true, then she has the right to ask for protection from him even by taking him to the court so that he would not continue committing this evil or practice more sinful acts with her. In this case, she would claim his dissoluteness and her fear of his evil so that she will be kept apart from him.
Allaah Knows best.

Evolution and Religion - an update by an evolutionary biologist

NY Times   EVERY year around this time, with the college year starting, I give my students The Talk. It isn’t, as you might expect, about sex, but about evolution and religion, and how they get along. More to the point, how they don’t.

I’m a biologist, in fact an evolutionary biologist, although no biologist, and no biology course, can help being “evolutionary.” My animal behavior class, with 200 undergraduates, is built on a scaffolding of evolutionary biology.

And that’s where The Talk comes in. It’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.

Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students’ growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk.

There are a few ways to talk about evolution and religion, I begin. The least controversial is to suggest that they are in fact compatible. Stephen Jay Gould called them “nonoverlapping magisteria,” noma for short, with the former concerned with facts and the latter with values. He and I disagreed on this (in public and, at least once, rather loudly); he claimed I was aggressively forcing a painful and unnecessary choice, while I maintained that in his eagerness to be accommodating, he was misrepresenting both science and religion.

In some ways, Steve has been winning. Noma is the received wisdom in the scientific establishment, including institutions like the National Center for Science Education, which has done much heavy lifting when it comes to promoting public understanding and acceptance of evolution. According to this expansive view, God might well have used evolution by natural selection to produce his creation.

This is undeniable. If God exists, then he could have employed anything under the sun — or beyond it — to work his will. Hence, there is nothing in evolutionary biology that necessarily precludes religion, save for most religious fundamentalisms (everything that we know about biology and geology proclaims that the Earth was not made in a day).

So far, so comforting for my students. But here’s the turn: These magisteria are not nearly as nonoverlapping as some of them might wish.

As evolutionary science has progressed, the available space for religious faith has narrowed: It has demolished two previously potent pillars of religious faith and undermined belief in an omnipotent and omni-benevolent God.[...]

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rav Herzog: Value of Jewish Law

רב יצחק הרצוג (תחוקה לישראל על פי התורה ג:283): א. על ערך המשפט בישראל. כל הרוצה לעמוד על ערך המשפט בישראל יפתח את ספר טור חושן המשפט ויקרא את הסימן הראשון. אפשר להוסיף על דבריו, אפשר לכתוב ספר שלם על נושא זה על יסוד של כה"ק וספרות התורה שבעל פה, אבל מדברי רבינו בעל הטורים אין לגרוע. כל הסימן הוא מחרוזת של פנינים יקרים מלוקטים ממאמרי רז"ל. לא זו בלבד שהמשפט הוא חלק כ"כ גדול בכמות ובאיכות של התורה שמן השמים, לא זו בלבד שהוא, כדברי המשנה [אבות א:יח], אחד משלשת עמודי העולם, אלא שהוא מהווה דבר יסודי בעצם מושג האלהות של היהדות. הקב"ה הוא שופט כל הארץ. כביכול, השופט העליון, שהשופטים הם בבחינת שלוחיו, ואברהם אבינו מתמה "השופט כל הארץ לא יעשה משפט"? הקב"ה הוא אלהי המשפט, והשופטים נקראים אלהים, ובית הדין נקרא עדת [אל]. בפרשת משפטים מכונים השופטים אלהים לפי מסורת רז"ל [סנהדרין ב:] , ללמדך שהמשפט לאלהים הוא, וכאזהרת המלך האדון יהושפט לשופטים שבימיו [דברי הימים ב יט:ו] . וכשבא מיכה והעמיד את כל התרי"ג מצוות שנתן משה לישראל על שלשה עיקרים מנה את המשפט ביניהם - כי אם עשות משפט ואהבת חסד וגו' [מיכה ו:ח מכות כד.] על עיוות המשפט צועקים מרה כל נביאי ישראל וכולם עומדים ומכריזים שבגללה נגזרה גזירת חורבן על הארץ וגזירת גלות על העם.

New college sex assault rule: Rape is now absence of agreement - not use of force

BBC     California has become the first state to require students on state-funded campuses to receive clear, active consent before all sexual activity.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the "yes means yes" bill, which advocates say will change the perception of rape.

The legislation stipulates that voluntary agreement, rather than lack of resistance, defines consent.[...]

The rule defines consent as "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity."

Lawmakers say, however, that consent can be non-verbal, if it is unambiguous.[...]

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: Beth's Rosh Hashanna Prayer for her sons

Rosh Hashonnah Prayer

My precious little boys Sammy and Benji,

While other families prepare for the New Year, we are once again separated. I cannot be with you on the holiest day of the year, cannot buy you new clothes and shoes for shul like other mothers or even kiss you good Yom Tov. I won't be able to hold you in my arms again and bless you until after Rosh Hashonnah by which time our fate for the coming year will already have been decided. While everyone fills the river with their sins, we could flood it with our tears. 

Luckily, there is another court, a higher court than the one here on earth that has caused us so much unnecessary hurt and pain. On Rosh Hashonnah, Hashem, the real judge will sit in Court and the angels will help Him decide what will happen in the coming year. Surely we have been tested enough and better times lie ahead.  

There is not a day, an hour or a moment that goes by when I am not thinking about you both and willing all my motherly love and positive energy towards you, hoping and praying that you feel me there beside you, reaching out and holding your soft warm hands. You are never alone.

On Rosh Hashonnah, I will daven for you all the more. I wish so much that you will finally be able to enjoy your childhood and be allowed to grow up peacefully, healthily and most of all, feeling loved and secure. 

I, your Mama, am here for you. I will never ever desert you and I will never be far away. 

Shana tova umetukah my darling baby boys. I love you so so much. 

With you always in spirit even if you cannot see me. 

Your Mummy forever

Schlesinger Twins: The Lubavitcher Rebbe held strongly that the mother should get custody

I just received the following letter from a well known Lubavitcher posek who wishes to remain anonymous. It is obviously very significant. I would suggest emailing this to Rabbi Biderman and other members of the Vienna Chabad community. Rabbi Jacob Bideman

I am not getting involved in the details, but I think it would be appropriate to post the following, it's an answer from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, where the Rebbe writes that the benefit of the child is that the child should stay with the mother [...]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Objecting to the term "Filipino" being used to refer to nannies or personal care aides

I received the following email and received permission to post it anonymously. In Israel the term Filipino is widely used to refer to someone who is an aide or personal care-worker - because in fact most people employed in this capacity are from the Philippines. 

However I have not heard it used as a pejorative term but simply as a fact that when one needs help with an elderly parent, handicapped or retarded child as well as domestic help - one needs a fillipino.

However it clearly has irritated my correspondent - who does not want to get into an on line discussion. Do careworkers from the Phillipines resent the term "fillipino"? What would be the preferred alternative?

The following is a list of ethnic slurs (ethnophaulisms) that are, or have been, used as insinuations or allegations about members of a given ethnicity or to refer to them in a derogatory (critical or disrespectful), pejorative (disapproving or contemptuous), or insulting manner in the English-speaking world. For the purposes of this list, an ethnic slur is a term designed to insult others on the basis of race, ethnicity, or nationality. Each term is listed followed by its country or region of usage, a definition, and a reference to that term.
However the complexity of the issue of the listing and usage of such terms needs to be noted. For instance, many of the terms listed below (such as "Gringo", "Yank", etc.) are used by large numbers of human beings in many parts of the world as part of their ordinary speech or thinking without any intention of causing offence, and with little or no evidence that such usage does in fact cause much or indeed any offence, while the implicit or explicit labeling of such large numbers of people as racists (or similar terms such as prejudiced, bigoted, ethnophobic, xenophobic, etc.), simply because they use some words on the list below, can itself be deeply unfair and insensitive and can thus cause deep offence.


I read your blog post about your twins this morning and feel for your situation.

That being said, I wanted to flag a section of your post referring to 'the Filipinos'. If your children's nannies are from the Philippines, does this one fact lead you to label them with contempt or indifference? Surely you would not want to be to referred to as 'the Jew' if someone left their child on their care? You may not have meant any offence to this, but of you replace 'the x' with any race, gender or religion, then you may realise you are subtly commenting on a group of people that are not at fault in your predicament.

Kind regards,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: Michael cancels visit again with short notice

Sammy and Benji at yesterday's visit
Beth Alexander reports:

Michael Schlesinger has once again cancelled my visit with the children at short notice. I was called by the handover lady at 6.50pm this evening who said that the children are 'ill' and Michael will not let me see them tomorrow. I cannot even speak to them on the phone. I do not know what's the matter with them.

Will Michael take the day off work tomorrow or will the Filipinos care for my baby boys?  Two days before Rosh Hashonnah and he shows no sign of compassion or feeling for his children who desperately need their Mama.

I had the boys yesterday (Sunday) and they were perfectly healthy when I dropped them off at kindergarten this morning. 

Rav Triebitz:Chol HaMoed Sukkos - What is Beis Din?

Rav Triebitz will be speaking this chol haMoed Succos regarding the nature of beis din. What is the authority of beis din  in the absence of semicha and community authority? What is the relationship of beis din to secular courts and what should it be?

The Jewish community is faced with many challenges and problems which require a source of authority - is that the beis din and if not what are the alternatives?

Those who are interested in joining this discussion Jerusalem - please contact me at