- Topics and news that are Jewishly outrageous, outrages, or caused by outrages.
Hareidim is another word for Orthodox. Perhaps the article below impact the emotions
you feel when hear the word "Orthodox."
I, personally have had people blow up angrily at me when they see my yarmulka (kipa,
headcovering). "Orthodox?" the man said, "I want no part of any d***n
Orthodox!" I would have liked to respond, "Nice to meet you, too."
Some people go crazy when they hear the word "Orthodox." Yet, if I respond to
the question, "Are you Orthodox?" with "I am personally observant, do you
have a problem with that?" They say, "No, that's great."
Unfortunately, there are those who have been conditioned to start foaming at the mouth
when they hear the word Orthodox. Maybe the following article which appeared in the
Jerusalem Post can help.
All the best,
Rabbi Packouz, Aish Hatorah: http://www.aish.edu
NOT PAGE ONE: Some good words about...Haredim
By SAM ORBAUM
Let's talk about the haredim.
No, wait! I've got some nice things to say.
It is easy to play devil's advocate with the haredim, because for all the justifiable
harsh criticism they earn, there is so much goodness to report. Strictly "Not Page
One" stuff this is, for good news is no news.
Every time a journalist writes a negative piece about them, we hear the same refrain:
"Sure, bash the haredim. Why don't you ever write anything nice about them?"
OK. Here goes.
Their charity, social consciousness, good deeds, communal welfare and human kindness
may be unparalleled among the communities of this country.
From birth through to death, you can be helped by one do-gooding haredi concern or
another. There's a wealth of well-established, nationwide organizations like Yad Sarah,
providing free medical equipment for all who ask. Children with Down's go to Shalva, with
cancer to Zichron Menahem.
My sister was once laid up with a broken leg, and haredim came to her home with cooked
meals. Free, of course - though they gratefully accepted a donation to keep the service
going for others.
The kindly folks at Ezer Mitzion run a fleet of more than 30 ambulances - free, of
course - to transport children suffering from cancer, from anywhere in the country to the
Children's Hospital in Petah Tikva. While undergoing treatment, the patient and his family
can stay at the nearby Ezer Mitzion Convalescent Home.
The list of gemahim - free loan organizations - is endless.
And there are the little people.
Yeshurun, a Habad-affiliated restaurant in Tel Aviv, feeds any beggar who walks in.
Remember Bella Freund? A haredi woman, she leapt into an inflamed lynch mob attacking
an Arab terrorist who had stabbed two boys in Jerusalem a few years ago. For half an hour
she protected him with her own life, physically absorbing the assaults herself, motivated
by her religious convictions.
I'VE had occasion in the last few years to be in a hospital, and that is where the
haredim are most outstanding. Making no noise about it, they simply go about helping
They didn't ask first who I vote for, what shul I go to, or whether I write negative
articles about their community.
Every day, a happy haredi lady from Ezer Mitzion - she's fulfilling a major mitzva,
which is why she looks so happy - goes room to room offering cooked meals to families
attending patients. These ladies do not make a point of reminding their benefactors that
the food is provided by those nasty haredim; they wish you "bon appetit" and
"be healthy," and they're outta there.
Arab patients at Hadassah-Ein Kerem sometimes get upset when Ezer Mitzion passes them
over - but why aren't there Arab gemahim?
Fridays are a favorite day for people scoring mitzva points. A bent old man distributes
little hallot with a mumbled "Gut Shabbos"; someone brings around Shabbat
candles for the women; performing the mitzva of visiting the sick, some haredim just make
the rounds and offer a word of encouragement.
A couple of times I asked what group or sect they represent, and all I got was a shrug
or a smile. Decency for the sake of decency alone.
The highest form of mitzva is giving of yourself anonymously. With not even a thank you
as payment, the reward is knowing you've helped your fellow man.
In my case, I was a fellow man who has been critical of these very people (but we
agreed not to get into that). No matter: They had what I needed.
PRECEEDING my bone-marrow transplant, the hospital requested several dozen donations of
platelets (thrombocites). It's quite an imposition, to find that many people to go all the
way to the hospital, get tested, and then return to be jabbed in each arm and thus kill an
hour or so. Many acquaintances, religious and secular, responded to my need.
As we struggled to fill the quota of donors, word got around, somehow, to haredi
circles. Two carloads of yeshiva students went to the hospital and rolled up their sleeves
I managed to contact one of them, and asked why.
"Oh, we like doing it," he answered cheerily. "We do it all the
The other day, I went to Kupat Holim Meuhedet in Ramot for a blood test.
I was too late; Asher, a haredi man behind the counter, said I should return the next
day, and told me until what time. But he erred, and the following day, I was again too
late, by a few minutes.
It turned out, though, that he was more haredi than mindless pakid:
"Oy," he said, crestfallen, "it's my fault."
He asked the nurse to draw my blood, and - get ready for this - he took the vials,
hurried to his car and drove into town to get my blood to the laboratory in time.
To a religious man, this was the right thing to do.
It was mind-blowing.
There's a common thread that runs through these tales of the unexpected, and it gives
me an idea:
Draft every single haredi, man and woman, old and young. Put them not in the army,
where they're of little use, but in the hospitals.
In that altruistic way, even the most anti-Zionist among them could justify serving the
nation; the boiling resentment toward them would be stifled; the savings to the
health-care system would be enormous; the sick would benefit from the world's most
overstaffed, caring, devoted hospitals.
They could replace the legions of foreign workers tending to the frail and infirm. At
no cost. To the benefit of everyone. To the betterment of Israeli society.
Who, then, could say a bad word about the haredim?
by Rabbi Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs, Agudas Yisroel of
It is a fascinating, if bizarre, document. Entitled "Central Conference of
American Rabbis Responsa," the paper, dated 1991, consists of a Reform
"she'elah" and "teshuvah," a legal query and its responsum.
Addressed to the CCAR "Responsa Committee," the query concerns a
"humanistic congregation" seeking membership in the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations, the Reform congregational body. It invokes not Jewish religious texts but
rather the UAHC's mandate and constitution.
The question, in essence: Can "Reform Judaism, an open-ended and variegated
movement historically flexible," in the responsum's words, "accommodate a
congregation of Jews that describes itself as "celebrat[ing] festivals and life cycle
events without the traditional theistic framework."
Without, in other words, acknowledgment of a Creator.
The humanistic "Haggadah" thus answers the question "Who knows
one?" with "One is all the universe," and "Who knows two?" with
"Two people in the Garden of Eden." One shudders to imagine the movement's
version of Shma.
The body of the "teshuvah" weighs things like whether the humanistic
congregation actually precludes belief in the Creator, or merely does not require it; and
whether its "sensitive and poetic meditations" sufficiently qualify it as a
"recognizable form or development of Reform Judaism."
Citing the 1885 and 1935 Reform "Platforms," the movements 1976 Centenary
Perspective and the UAHC constitution, the responsum concludes that the applicant is
simply too far removed from Reform tradition to be welcomed as a Reform congregation. In
the Committee's words, "There are limits."
Indeed there are.
A postscript, however, duly notes that the decision "was not unanimous; three
members of the Committee disagreed." As a matter of fact, a
"counter-responsum" was issued by a Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of
Religion professor who argued, among other things, that the "full autonomy"
provided by the UAHC's constitution would seem to protect its member-congregations from
being compelled to adhere to any set of beliefs.
The UAHC's response to that objection is darkly enlightening. Only constituent
congregations, the Reform congregational body explains, enjoy full religious autonomy, not
congregations applying for membership. Thus, an established Reform congregation presumably
may choose to ignore the Creator, but a candidate-congregation must affirm belief in Him
to gain entry to the movement.
An illustration is provided: "[an] American citizen is free to declare the [U.S.]
Constitution a worthless document, while applicants for citizenship are in a different
class regarding their affirmations. Their admissibility is judged on the basis of that
An interesting logic. Indeed, the model is a good one for demonstrating why it is not
unfair, as some Reform advocates have asserted, to require a convert to accept the Torah's
mitzvos when a born Jew's non-observance does not affect his Jewishness.
In the context of the "responsum," however, it yields a positively grotesque
result: a Reform Jewish congregation in good standing can be avowedly atheistic without
compromising that standing.
Most Jews who belong to Reform congregations are not likely aware of that
denominational "p'sak" (halachic ruling). Perhaps they should be, though. Many
well-meaning "Reform Jews" might then be suitably shocked, and realize something
that has been clear to many for decades but now stands glaringly revealed before all.
Namely, that the movement of their affiliation has, sadly, abandoned any and all pretense
of connection to what the world has always called the Jewish faith.
(Now exposed as slander against the
Note: What follows in this section is a double outrage.
The AP reported an incident that was provided by Yediot Achronot, an Israeli newspaper
. This incident was used by many people to discredit Jewish people and authentic Jewish
Subsequently, this incident was exposed as a hoax. The Yediot Achronot journalist who
originally wrote the article subsequently resigned.
We provide the AP release, our initial response to it, and an Op-Ed from the Jerusalem
Post which eloquently describes our plight as victims of an unscrupulous journalist.
Israel's largest women's group expressed outrage Wednesday over a rabbinical ruling
that an ultra-Orthodox man must divorce his wife, a victim of rape, even though the couple
wants to stay together to raise their nine children.
``Instead of supporting the rape victim who underwent deep trauma, the rabbis are
adding insult to injury,'' said Ofra Friedman, the head of the Naamat women's group.
The Yediot Ahronot daily said the woman, who lives in the religious Tel Aviv suburb of
Bnei Brak, was raped three weeks ago by three men as she left a Jewish ritual bath. The
woman did not report the attack to police.
However, she did tell her husband who bears the last name Cohen, meaning he is a
descendant of the Jewish Temple priests. Under Jewish law, a Cohen - unlike other Jews
has to divorce his wife if she has been raped. The husband can get around the rule
by telling his wife that he doesn't believe her.
However, in the Bnei Brak case, the husband failed to intone the necessary words: ``I
don't believe you.'' Instead, he asked several well-known rabbis for advice, Yediot said.
After several days, the rabbis returned with the answer: the couple must divorce
despite their desire to stay together.
The couple is still trying to find a rabbi who will find a loophole and allow them to
stay married, the newspaper said.
``Naamat finds it hard to believe that in this day and age the question of whether or
not it was rape depends on what the husband says,'' Friedman said in her statement.
Incidents of sexual assault are usually hushed up in the Orthodox community, and are
rarely reported in the secular media.
Former religious minister Uzi Baram said the case served to widen the rift between
Israel's religious and secular.
``This type of incident, when it occurs, deals a blow to the secular who believe it is
possible to bridge the contradictions with the rabbinical world,'' Baram said.
Our reaction to this AP report:
A family committed itself to live within the framework of the Torah. A tragedy
Those who are knowledgeable about the Torah are determining what the Torah says
the family must do.
People are blaming the framework. People are blaming the experts.
I need not say that those who publicly exploit this tragedy for their own
agendas are committing a crime which in some ways is far greater than the rape which cause
this in the first place.
Verbal attacks against the Torah are not going to help this couple.
Maintaining a consistent level of adherence to any way of life, Torah or not,
can be costly. Throughout the history of Mankind, people have lost fortunes, family, and
their lives for countless ideologies and causes. This is our nature.
The Torah itself encourages people to consider both the costs and the benefits
of Torah observance.
The press is full of sensational statements. They focus on the cost but they
ignore the benefits.
I ask those who have an objective perspective to look at this family's story in
another light. Ask yourselves the following question. What benefit does this family see in
maintaining loyalty to Torah observance to the degree that they are ready to make such a
sacrifice? I encourage you to investigate this for your own benefit.
Instead of supporting the rape victim who underwent deep trauma, groups are
adding insult to injury by condemning the creed of life that this family sincerely
believes in. This is very shameful and discrediting.
The press reports of politicians who are using this case to widen the rift
between Israel's religious and secular. This is very shameful and discrediting.
This family needs support, both emotional and financial. I call on you to
condemn these groups and politicians. I call on you to open both your heart and even your
pocketbook for this family.
The Hoax Exposed
An op-ed piece from the Jerusalem Post, Friday March 13, 1998 by Jonathan Rosenblum.
A TRAGEDY THAT WASN'T
Two weeks ago, the tragic story of a hareidi (religious) mother of nine raped by three
Romanian workers gripped the country. Because her husband is a kohen (priest) -- or so the
story went -- the couple was required to divorce.
On the basis of that tale, first reported in Yediot Aharonot and subsequently
disseminated widely, a number of womens organizations staged a noisy demonstration in
front of the Tel Aviv Chief Rabbinate.
Only one little problem: the story was fabricated out of whole cloth by veteran Yediot
Aharonot reporter Moshe Suissa, the self-styled rav of Meretz. When the fraud became
known, Suissa was forced to resign.
So all's well that ends well. The guilty have been punished, and the press has
successfully regulated itself.
Well, not quite so fast. The press did not exactly cover itself in glory. No Bernsteins
and Woodwards uncovered the fraud. The mainstream press bought the story hook, line and
sinker, though the Yediot story was totally lacking in corroborating details.
Suissa's overactive imagination only came to light because Dudi Zilbershlag, a hareidi
public relations consultant, was so pained by the story that he went to talk with leading
rabbinic figures in Jerusalem. Believing that he had a halachic solution for the couple,
he set out to contact them via Suissa. When Suissa, for obvious reasons, refused to help
him, he contacted all the batei din in the Tel Aviv area. Only when he drew a complete
blank, did he realize that no such incident had occurred.
What could have led a journalist, safely ensconced at the country's largest paper, to
concoct such a story? Surely Suissa knew that exposure could end his career. He obviously
felt that the reward for breaking such a scoop would be very great and the chance of
On the reward side, he recognized that haredi-bashing is a favorite national sport, for
which successful practitioners are rewarded with fame and fortune. As for the chance of
getting caught, Suissa had good reason to believe that credulous colleagues, eager for
juicy stories depicting haredim in a negative light, would not check too closely. And
voila -- the scoop that wasn't.
Suissa's scoop is not the first such forgery to have been revealed, and one can only
wonder how many other such cases have gone undetected. The authors of such fables follow
in a ignoble lineage from the Jewish apostates of the Middle Ages who so often instigated
disputations between Jews and Christians and supplied the Church with choice quotes from
the Talmud ripped out of context.
The lazy follow-up by other papers must certainly have encouraged Suissa's confidence
that he would get away with it. That sloppiness extended to treatment of the relevant
Halacha as well. The news item in this paper, for example, was replete with halachic
errors, including the ridiculous suggestion that the Halacha imputes culpability to the
rape victim. The Kohen Gadol, for instance, is forbidden to marry a widow -- and not
because we suspect she murdered her first husband.
The Post article went on to quote various feminists to the effect that only the
callousness of the rabbis involved prevented them from finding a solution to the problem.
Now, it is clearly ridiculous to discuss how imaginary rabbis in a made up case should
have acted differently. But Dudi Zilbershlag's initiative itself shows how eager the
rabbis always are to mitigate individual suffering. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the leading
recent halachic authority, provides, in his published responsa, a solution for many such
cases that does not vitiate the Halacha.
The damage done by the Yediot story is not removed by an apology buried on page
nineteen. Readers of the Washington Post and Detroit News who read the denunciation of the
barbarity of the Halacha by the president of Naamat Women's Organization will never know
that the case was fabricated.
A powerful story or visual image -- like the faked PLO photo of a little girl with her
arms blown off from the 1982 Peace for Galillee Operation -- remains even after exposed as
false. Long after memory of Suissa's fraud has faded, the impression of the cruel Halacha
We have repeatedly seen how lies told about religious Jews develop a powerful momentum
of their own. Last year the Los Angeles Times carried the headline, ``Non-Orthodox Not
Jews, Rabbis Group to Claim.'' And to this day, leading American newspapers continue to
cite that view as an authentic expression of Halacha, even though no Orthodox rabbi or
group ever made any such statement -- a point made by Orthodox spokesmen until they are
blue in the face. The patent falsehood contained in the headline proved too useful in the
Jewish religious wars for proponents to stop peddling it.
When I heard that the Yediot story was a fabrication, I felt a degree of relief and joy
that I have not known in a long time -- something akin to awakening from a terrible
nightmare and realizing that it was only a dream. That same intense emotional involvement
with the fictional couple was felt by everyone I know, many ``cruel'' rabbis among them.
But what about all those who demonstrated against the Chief Rabbinate, purportedly out
of solicitude for the fictional wife. Did they experience a similar relief? Or was their
reaction one of frustration at the loss of a powerful club to beat over the head of the
Torah and the rabbis?
From: entov [SMTP:email@example.com]
Sent: 16 November 1997 22:46
To: firstname.lastname@example.org (BBC News Online)
I wonder why the BBC has not reported the following very important news
from the Middle East. The following article on this issue has been published in a
respectable Israeli English language newspaper "Jerusalem Post" and it has been
reportedly discussed by Mr. Netanyahu and the British officials during Mr. Netanyahu's
recent visit to London [see Appendix 1 - ME].
What kind of selectivity can justify omitting such an important piece of
news dealing with terrorism from your broadcasts? This looks like an absolutely clear bias
especially in the light of the fact that as recently as on Oct. 27, 1997 the BBC
broadcasted a report that Israel has freed a Jewish extremist [see Appendix 2 - ME].
I suggest that the BBC immediately informs its viewers, listeners and
readers that the Palestinian Authority has let wanted Hamas leader Makadmeh return to his
home in Gaza. Otherwise the reputation of the BBC as a provider of timely and
unbiased coverage of the events in the Middle East will suffer another serious damage.
Here is the original article from the "Jerusalem Post" (Nov.
PA Lets Wanted Hamas Leader Makadmeh Return
By MOHAMMED NAJIB and news agencies
GAZA CITY (November 16) - A Hamas leader wanted by both Israel and the
Palestinian Authority has been allowed by the PA to return to his Gaza home after
disappearing for several months, Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahhar announced yesterday.
"The Palestinian Authority promised to drop the arrest warrant for
Ibrahim Makadmeh after talks with the police chief," Zahhar told Reuters. He did not
say why the warrant was cancelled.
Senior Hamas official Abdul-Aziz Rantisi told The Jerusalem Post yesterday
that he had played "an important role" in getting the PA to drop charges against
Makadmeh, 45, who he said "has no link" with the March suicide bombing at Tel
Aviv's Apropo cafe that killed three women.
"Yesterday Makadmeh came to my home," said Rantisi, "and I
went with him to Brig.-Gen. Ghazi Jabali, the head of the Palestinian Police in Gaza.
Jabali closed his file and he returned to his home in the Bureij refugee camp."
The warrant was issued in March following a Gaza rally hours after the
Hamas bombing in Tel Aviv.
Makadmeh had told the rally that only bombs could stop Israel's settlement
"To allow a terrorist leader like Makadmeh to remain free is to make
a mockery of all claims by the Palestinian Authority that it is cracking down on the
terrorist infrastructure," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's communication's chief,
David Bar-Illan, said.
Makadmeh had been out of a Palestinian jail for less than a week when the
warrant was issued and he went into hiding. He had been imprisoned in a clampdown in 1996
after a wave of suicide bombings killed 59 people in Israel.
"We expect Makadmeh... to continue his role as one of the known
leaders of Hamas," Zahhar said.
"Pursuing persons such as Makadmeh is an error that must be
corrected," said Rantisi, "and the PA corrected its error, which means a
From: entov [SMTP:email@example.com]
Sent: 16 November 1997 23:10
I wonder why the BBC has not reported the following very important news
from the Middle East. This piece of news has been published in a respectable Israeli
English language newspaper "Jerusalem Post" and supposedly was a subject in the
discussions between Mr. Netanyahu and the British officials during Mr. Netanyahu's recent
visit to London [see Appendix 2 - ME].
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (News Online)
To: entov@leland.Stanford.EDU (entov)
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 14:07:02 GMT
Subject: RE: Complaints.
This may have been reported by our Arabic service or World Service, but
I*ve no record of it on our online site, which does not currently have the same resources
as the rest of the BBC.
From: email@example.com (News Online)
To: entov@leland.Stanford.EDU (entov)
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 14:00:36 GMT
Subject: RE: Suggestions.
You're right, we didn't have this story on the site, we do hope to
gradually expand our Middle East coverage, including providing news in Arabic, but at the
moment our resources are limited.
From: Michael Entov [SMTP:entov@klein.Stanford.EDU]
Sent: 18 November 1997 23:35
To: News Online
Subject: to Mr.Nuttall (was: Suggestions/Complaints)
Dear Mr. Nuttall,
Thank you for your attention to my message but I am completely unsatisfied
with your response. My complaint had nothing to do with the scope of the BBC Middle East
coverage on your website or with your limited resources or with providing news in Arabic.
The news that I referred to was neither on your website nor in the
"World Service" radio broadcasts in English although the article from the
"Jerusalem Post" was easily accessible - especially to the BBC correspondent in
Jerusalem (not to mention the Internet). It is hard for me to believe that the BBC
resources are THAT limited - especially taking into account the importance of this piece
of news for the Israeli-Palestinian relations and the fact that it was discussed by Mr.
Netanyahu and the British officials [see Appendix 1 below - ME]. At the same time, with
the same resources, the BBC somehow managed to report (in English, not in Arabic) that
Israel has freed a Jewish extremist [see Appendix 2 below - ME]. The problem is as simple
as that. If this does not qualify as a bias (although, I think, it does) then one should
question the competence of the BBC staff responsible for the coverage of Israel and the
I believe that this is a very serious matter and I would really like to
see an answer to this complaint from the BBC.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (News Online)
To: entov@klein.Stanford.EDU (Michael Entov)
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 14:32:22 GMT
Subject: RE: to Mr.Nuttall (was: Suggestions/Complaints)
I am afraid I cannot speak for the rest of the BBC on this story, but I am
forwarding your e-mails to our Jerusalem office, which may be able to provide a
BBC News Online
From entov@hopf.Stanford.EDU Thu Jan 8 18:04:11 1998
Date: Thu, 8 Jan 1998 18:04:10 -0800 (PST)
From: Michael Entov <entov@hopf.Stanford.EDU>
To: News Online <email@example.com>
Subject: to Mr.Nuttall
Dear Mr. Nuttall,
About two months ago I wrote a complaint regarding to bias (or
incompetence?!) in the BBC coverage of Israel. You wrote to me that you forwarded my
complaint to the BBC Jerusalem office. I don't have their e-mail address so I am writing
this to you: after almost two months of waiting I still have not received any response
from this office or from other BBC representatives although the case is clearly
outrageous. I guess this is how the BBC deals with complaints of its listeners and
I am going to send a copy of this and previous letters on the subject to
various media watch organizations and to publicize this case as much as I can.
Two men were conversing. One asked the other if he ever thought he would convince an
Orthodox Jew to compromise on eating milk and meat together. "Of course not,"
said the man. The rabbi then asked, "If you don't think you could get the Orthodox to
compromise on eating milk with meat which is a Talmudic explanation of a verse in the
Torah, how do you expect them to compromise on the Talmudic definition of who is a
convert? Which do you think is more important to the Orthodox -- the food laws or the
definition of the Jewish people?" (Rabbi K. P.)
In mid June 1997, two Orthodox rabbis were arrested for laundering drug money
in New York. If in truth they did these deeds, there is no justification for their
actions; they were wrong; they deserve punishment in this world and the next world.
In Hebrew this is called a chillul HaShem, a desecration of G-d's name. It is
the worst of transgressions. It shames the Jewish people and it shames the name of the
The Jewish people have a covenant with the Almighty and a responsibility to be
a "light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6) The Torah teaches us that we have a
mission -- we are supposed to live righteously and through our example, the rest of the
nations would want to emulate us and come close to the Almighty.
If you are like me, you are saying, "They are Orthodox. They should have
known better, and they shouldn't have done that!" I ask you, "What difference
does it make? Any of us should have known better and not have done that." Why do we
hold them to a higher standard just because they are Orthodox?
And I answer you, "They profess to believe in G-d and that G-d commanded
them to keep commandments; they should be consistent with their beliefs." The Talmud
teaches us that a person only transgresses when there enters into him a spirit of
temporary insanity. So, they were either insane or hypocrites. However, if they were not
Orthodox, would they be any less insane or less hypocritical?
Besides their reprehensible acts, there are two problems: 1) We tend to
extrapolate and paint all Orthodox as two-faced hypocrites and paint Orthodoxy as
hypocritical. 2) We tend to place ourselves as "holier than thou" -- and tell
ourselves, "I have a higher moral standard than they do. I'd never do such a
In a calmer moment it is plain to see that all Orthodox are not hypocrites,
just as all Jews are not thieves if a Jewish thief (even if he is not Orthodox...) is
caught. Orthodoxy is the bearer of the 3,300 year tradition we received at Mt. Sinai and
from which all other Movements have drawn their values.
Regarding the second point, it is important for every human being to think of
himself as a moral person and to shore himself up for moral dilemmas. We all have the
ability to rationalize and justify our actions. The Torah, in Pirke Avot, Ethics of the
Fathers (found in the back of most prayer books), teaches us "do not trust in
yourself (in your ability to counter temptation) until the day you die." I guarantee
you that in the minds of the accused money launderers, they were righteous men; they
"only used their profits for the betterment of humanity". Wrong! No excuse. We
must know what our values are and strengthen ourselves against temptation.
Here is a "sign of the times" which I think is uniquely appropriate
to the above discussion:
- Watch your thoughts, they become your words
- Watch your words, they become your actions
- Watch your actions, they become your habits
- Watch your habits, they become your character
- Watch your character, it determines your thoughts ... and becomes your eternity.
Written by Rabbi Kalman Packouz, executive director of Aish HaTorah Jerusalem's office in Miami Beach, Florida.
Also from Rabbi Packouz:
There are many fears and misconceptions about the Orthodox.
There is also a fascination about them -- the closeness of family life, low divorce rate,
happy kids, integrated lifestyle. I think it will be helpful to address some of the
misconceptions people have about the Orthodox.
1) "Orthodox judge me. They look down upon me. They don't
consider me to be Jewish." THE TRUTH: There will always be individuals who are
judgmental and negative; however, the Torah teaches that G-d is the one Who judges, not
us. Ultimately, at the end of one's life, it is between the individual and his Maker to
determine how he led his life. This is what Orthodox Jews believe. There is widespread
confusion that Orthodox Jews look upon anyone who is not Orthodox as not being Jewish.
Untrue! If one is born of a Jewish mother or converted according to the Shulchan Aruch,
Code of Jewish Law, one is Jewish -- even if he espouses Hinduism, Atheism, Christianity
or any other 'ism'."
2) "It's all or nothing. I either have to do all the
commandments or none." THE TRUTH: No one, no matter how observant, is able to fulfill
all of the mitzvot. Fulfilling all of the commandments is a goal and a means to perfecting
oneself and this world. If one finds a diamond mine, he may want every last diamond in it,
but he won't refuse to dig because he cannot have them all.
3) "Orthodoxy takes away all joy in life. My life is
restricted as to what I can do, eat and enjoy." THE TRUTH: Just like parents want us
to have everything that is good, the Almighty, our Father in Heaven, wants the same for us
-- to get as much pleasure as possible. It takes wisdom to know true pleasure and to
understand the value of restrictions. The Torah is the instruction book for life. It
teaches how to obtain real pleasure from life!
4) "Being Orthodox is an escape from the real world. You
don't have to think anymore." THE TRUTH:It is interesting that one can make that
statement and in the same breath lambaste Orthodox for their "Talmudic point of
view" -- turning over a point 100 different ways. The Almighty made us personally
responsible to seek truth and know truth. That is why a Jew is always answering a question
with a question. We are taught not to blindly accept assumptions. (To answer a question in
the manner it is asked, means that you accept the assumptions it is predicated upon.) The
Almighty also commands us in the Torah to take responsibility for the whole world -- Tikun
Olom -- to take care of it, improve it and to care for our fellow human beings. This is
what the Torah teaches, the Orthodox believe and what they have given to the world.
Orthodoxy is the wellspring of our 3,300 year tradition. It is
worth knowing our roots and the wisdom of our heritage. After all, so many other religions
have drawn from it to form their own, it must have something of value to add to our own
"Last night I cried."
Last night I went to the wedding of a close friend and cried. My tears were not
of joy, but of sorrow and pain. Oh no, don't misunderstand, it was a beautiful wedding and
they are a lovely couple.
Now you may wonder, why else would I cry at a wedding? Perhaps it's the
incident at the Wall, where some of my Jewish brothers acted in a despicable way and
undermined the very outreach work that I do? That's not it. Maybe it's the "Who Is A
Jew" issue that has Jews of all stripes up in arms? No again. What about the
"religious" Jews who are accused of laundering money for drug traffickers in NY?
That's not it either. Well, then maybe it's the fact that more than 50% of my brothers and
sisters are intermarrying? Sorry. What then could it be?
I sat next to a very nice gentile man at this wedding who was recently in
Israel. When sharing the highlights of his trip with me he said, "You Jews are in
trouble -- and it isn't the Arabs. It's the fact that you're not at peace with your fellow
Jews. You're at each other's throats!" When I heard that, I cried.
Yes, our dirty laundry is hanging on the line for all to see and we have no one
to blame, but ourselves. All of the issues above bother me terribly, but hearing this
point from a non-Jew was the straw that broke the camel's back. It's gotten so out of hand
that the non Jews are wagging their fingers at us. It's hard to be a light unto the
nations when you're not shining. We're not and we should be ashamed. You ask, ' What can I
do? ' A lot. 1) Try to love all Jews, especially the ones you disagree with. Realize that
you're either part of the solution or part of the problem. If you don't learn to recognize
and appreciate the virtues in all Jews, you're part of the problem. Period. It's easier to
feel closer to other Jews when you focus on the values that we have in common. There are
so many. 2) Stop accusing. It takes two to tango and the blame lies on all sides. Try to
understand where "they" are coming from. Ask yourself: "If I were born into
a non observant / observant (or right of center / left of center) home, how would I feel
about this issue?" It's not necessary to change your views, but it is necessary to
respect the rights of other people to have their own views. 3) Study Torah. The Torah has
been our guide for over 3,000 years. As the great philosopher, Rav Saadiah Gaon, said:
"our nation is a nation because of the Torah." If you're not fluent in Torah
study, ask your rabbi to explain what the Torah says about these complex issues. If you
don't have a rabbi, now is a great time to find one.
We've overcome so many obstacles over the millennium and accomplished so much,
we can't let ourselves self-destruct now. We must stop this family feud."
Letter from Rabbi Yitz Greeman, Director of the Aish HaTorah New York
Branch to Rabbi Kalman Packouz, executive director of Aish
HaTorah Jerusalem's office in Miami Beach, Florida.
Rabbi Avi Shafran
Director of Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
The fracas this past Shevuot at the Western Wall, in which a
group of Conservative worshipers became the target of epithets and projectiles cast by a
group of out-of-control Orthodox Jews, prompted a number of non-Orthodox leaders to hurl
some words of their own.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, in the Baltimore Jewish Times,
compared the Orthodox with Esau, "the older, rougher, tougher, hairier brother"
of Jacob, who, as the "milder, younger, less certain of the self that is
aborning" sibling, represents the non-Orthodox movements.
Writing in The Forward, Leonard Fein, director of the
Reform movements Commission on Social Action, calls on his readers to stop
supporting charedi (ardently Orthodox) institutions, labeling Orthodoxys
position on the historic definition of Judiasm an "offensive doctrine".
In the Long Island Jewish World, Jacob Stein, past
president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judiasm, describes that same Orthodox
stance as "apartheid", asserting that "it appears we [non-Orthodox Jews]
cannot worship at the Kotel without the risk of physical attack."
A Vexing Question
What is perplexing to some (and should be to all) non-Orthodox
Jews, though, is just how jarringly different are, on the one hand, the image of the
Orthodox in press accounts and punditry and, on the other, the flesh-and -blood Orthodox
Jews with whom they are personally acquainted.
Many thousands of charedim, of course, were present that Shavuot
morning, and the overwhelming majority did not partake in any violence, verbal or
otherwise, and simply ignored the pointed flouting of traditional Jewish ritual norms at
what they regard as the holiest site in the world. Indeed, though it went largely
unreported, Orthodox Jews even came to the defense of the besieged worshipers. The Jerusalem
Post, quoting a Reform rabbinical student present, reported that an Orthodox woman
"admonished those around he that the [non-Orthodox] worshipers were Jews, and a[n
used his own handkerchief to wipe the spittle off someones
In Israel, moreover, as here in the United States, Orthodox Jews
daily reach out to their non-Orthodox brithers and sisters with unconditional love.
Largely as a result of such outreach, 515,000 Israeli Jews, according to a recent survey,
have become more religiously observant over the past six years. Most American Jews, too,
know at least several others who, though born into non-Orthodox or entirely secular
families, have come to adopt an Orthodox religious life-style, a choice that could
scarcely be imaginable had there not been caring, supportive Orthodox role models all
along the way.
In fact, day in and day out, Orthodox chesed , or
"kindness", institutions minister to the needs of hospitalized, impoverished or
homebound Jews regardless of their affiliations or degree of Jewish observance, providing
their services happily and wholeheartedly, with love and respect.
So what gives? Who are the real Orthodox Jews, the
spitters and shouters or the quiet, caring others?
An Answer Obscured
The non-Orthodox leaderships know the answer but their
organizational interests lie in concealing, even obscuring, it.
They know that the epithet-shouters are no more representative
of Orthodox Jews than the "in-your-face" flouters of halacha and
tradition are of non-Orthodox ones.
They know, too, that non-Orthodox Jews are fully welcome by all charedim
to pray at the Kotel as all Jews have for thirty years in accordance with halacha
and time-honored Jewish tradition.
But what the non-Orthodox leaders also know is that they cannot
possibly win the was they have loudly declared over the issue of "Jewish religious
pluralism" in Israel through any conventional means.
The Unorthodox Quandary
For neither Jewish history nor recent Jewish experience supports
the wisdom of granting the non-Orthodox movements parity with halachic Judiasm in
By all accounts, what is today called "Orthodox
Judiasm" preserved the Jewish people over the millennia. And the acceptance of
"multiple Judiasms" here in the United Stated has only facilitated the
widespread intermarriage, assimilation and religious ennui that have blighted the Jewish
landscaped; multiple standards for conversion, marriage and divorce, moreover, are
creating a Jewish sociological nightmare, the emergence of a plethora of American
And in Israel at present, there is precious little interest in
"Jewish religious pluralism", something Israelis regard as a quintessentially
American way of being both religious and non-observant of ones religion
The Way Out
And so, with history, experience and the Israeli vox populi
arrayed against them, the non-Orthodox leaders have resorted to the only weapon that might
possible help them achieve their goal: vilification of "the other" in
this case, the Orthodox.
Thus the increasing employment by those leaders of words like
"diabolical", "fanatic" and "ruthless" to describe Orthodox
Jews and institutions. Thus one leaders contention that the Orthodox are not even
"authentic" Jews, others repeated insinuations that Yitzchak Rabins
assassination is representative of the Orthodox community, and the chorus of official
voices identifying Orthodox Jews with ventures of ill-will rather than with protectors and
embracers of their fellow Jews.
As a result, sadly, the tear in the fabric of Klal Yisroel
is only being widened, perhaps irreparably.
We Orthodox pray that the non-Orthodox laity chooses to reject
its leaders ire.
We pray for the wider recognition that hotheads and vandals are
no more characteristic of the Orthodox than Conservative or reform agents provocateurs are
of the well-meaning Jews in their own groups.
And we pray that all of our Jewish brothers and sisters take the
step of exploring the wide and welcoming world of Orthodox outreach programs, synagogue
classes and yeshivos and thereby begin to discover just who we Orthodox really are.
Also from Rabbi Shafran:
Sheker, falsehood, has no "feet," our sages assure us; it is transparent
and transient. All the same, though, untruth can be quite widely disseminated at times.
Perusers of both Jewish and general circulation newspapers have been informed of
late by a series of advertisements that Israel's democratic system is "being
threatened," that its government is "underground an ultra-Orthodox conversion to
a theocracy," that Israeli Jews are subject to "religious coercion, denied
religious freedom" and "told how to practice religion."
A reader from another planet (or, unfortunately, all too many on our own) could not
be faulted for concluding that the Jewish State had suddenly decided to force its Jewish
populace to circumcise baby boys, observe Shabbos and eat only kosher food. All too few
readers would ever guess that the eye-catching ads, sponsored by the New Israel Fund,
refer to the decidedly less-than-sinister fact that, 50 years ago, Israel decided to
respect the standards of halacha with regard to things like marriage, divorce and
The State of Israel's founders pointedly established that "religious status
quo," choosing the standards of all Jews' ancestors regarding issues of personal
status, rather than others from among the assortment of novel ones promoted by the
"neo-Judaisms" that had appeared over recent decades. Even to the hardly
"Orthodox" first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, it was clear (as he
articulated in a 1947 letter to the World Agudah) that multiple standards in such matters
would inexorably yield a sociological nightmare: multiple Jewish peoples. No such concern,
though, from the New Israel Fund.
Of Democracy and Hipocracy
The Fund, however, is not only shortsighted. And not only unconcerned with the
Torah's laws. It is hypocritical.
For its ads appeal to American Jews' "tradition of democracy," imploring
them to "work together with Israelis in [the] struggle for religious freedom."
An intriguing proposition, considering the inconvenient facts that a clear majority of
Israelis a) do not see themselves in any such struggle, and b) have, through their freely
elected public representatives, strongly supported the "religious status quo"
that has defined the role of halacha in the Jewish State since its creation.
Which means, of course, that democracy in Israel is precisely what has yielded the
maintenance of halachic standards in personal status issues; the New Israel Fund's
invocation of the democratic ideal in its quest to import American-style "Jewish
religious pluralism" to Israel is something well beyond simple cynicism.
The Fund, though, remains unfazed by its own chutzpah. It digs itself even further
into inconsistency, asserting, for instance, that the small number of "Conservative
and Reform rabbis in Israel represent the vast majority of world Jewry," a
characterization that might most charitably be described as specious.
For "traditional" but not strictly observant Jews are not, of course, for
their lack of observance, automatic followers of the non-Orthodox clergies "by
default." (Though the Conservative movement in Israel has cleverly tried to co-opt
such "traditional" Jewish Israelis by calling itself the "Masorti"
movement "masorti" being the modern Hebrew word for such
less-than-fully-observant Jews who nevertheless unabashedly subscribe to the validity of
halacha as interpreted by Orthodoxy.) Secular Israelis, of course, are precisely that:
secular, not Reform or Conservative.
Likewise, an all too tragically large proportion of American Jew is unaffiliated
with any Jewish movement whatsoever. And even a large number of those who do identify
themselves as Reform or Conservative have little if any idea what the claims mean; their
"affiliation" is simply a way of acknowledging the dearth of Jewish religious
observance in their lives. The head of the (Reform) Union of American Hebrew
Congregations, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, honestly admitted as much at his movement's recent
convention, asserting that Reform Jews "for whom the vision of the sacred has all but
died in their soul are the majority, even in our synagogues."
That sad fact and the critical issues of the Jewish mandate and Jewish unity aside,
though, why in the world should world Jewry be invoked in the first place to attempt to
dictate Israeli policy? Why, indeed, is the loud and truculent campaign to revoke Israel's
religious status quo an entirely "manufactured in America" phenomenon?
Are Israelis incapable of acting in their own enlightened best interest? In other
words, is the New Israel Fund in favor of democracy or against it? Or does it depend
somehow on the democracy's convictions?
Something Darker Still
Perhaps most tragic of all about the New Israel Fund, though, is neither its
awe-inspiring inconsistency, nor its sociological shortsightedness, but something darker
For by misportraying principled Orthodox Jews as sinister forces bent on undermining
a sovereign society, as a dire threat to be vanquished, poisoners of the wells of
democracy and freedom, the Fund demonstrates a singular and deeply repugnant sort of
For what it is attacking, in the end, is not "coercion" and not
"denial of freedom" but other Jews, Jews who cherish the life-giving mesorah
(Torah tradition) that lies at all Jews' roots.
Also from Rabbi Shafran:
|Non-Orthodox Jewish religious movements are illegal in Israel
||Israeli Jews face no impediments on the path of affiliating with
Reform or Conservative congregations, a number of which have been established in recent
|If the Israeli Orthodox have their way, Reform and Conservative
converts will be unable to become Israeli citizens.
||Anyone can apply for Israeli citizenship. (1)
|Orthodox rabbis consider Reform and Conservative Jews to be less
Jewish than those of their own movement.
||Orthodox authorities consider non-Orthodox Jews to be every bit as
Jewish as themselves. It is only when non-Jews wish to become Jews or Jews marry non-Jews
that the question of standards comes into play. The Orthodox, by the very definition of
their belief, consider the standards of halacha, or Jewish religious law, to be