The Munkatcher Rebbe Goes to Bat for Charity Thief Willie Rapfogel

Munkatcher Rebbe and Charles Joe Hynes Text: When a Jew is arrested, to whom do you go? On left: With Jewish leaders who act on behalf of the Jewish community. On Right: He helped us, he helps us, and he will help us some more Vote for Charles Hynes for District Attorney, strong-fair, 6 Tishrei, Tuesday Sept. 10

Munkatcher Rebbe and Charles Joe Hynes
Text: When a Jew is arrested, to whom do you go?
On left: With Jewish leaders who act on behalf of the Jewish community.
On Right: He helped us, he helps us, and he will help us some more
Vote for Charles Hynes for District Attorney, strong-fair, 6 Tishrei, Tuesday Sept. 10

The Munkatcher Rebbe (Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Rabinowitz) is the anti-mesirah (snitching) apostle of Boro Park. Where others are content to counsel this practice in private, he goes public thundering about those who commit mesirah and have the chutzpah to think it is a mitzvah (good deed). He declared this is one of the major problems facing Jews in America. A week after that sermon he declared that G-d would take revenge on snitches and they would come to no good end.

You know the Rebbe is up to no good when he writes “I make clear my commitment and the obligation of all to respect the laws of this country.”

The occasion for this letter was a plea for mercy on William (Willie) Rapfogel participated in a scheme which stole nine million dollars while being paid over $410,000 a year to lead the Metropolitan New York Council on Jewish Poverty. A rabbi is supposed to be gravely offended by those who steal charity dollars which belong to the poor.

But the Rebbe, who is thick as thieves with other beneficiaries of Met Council grants, cares more about the money they got than the theft. So he wrote all about his good deeds (as if he was working for free). But the really elegant part of the letter was the closer. Continue reading

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A Kosher for Passover Pesticide!

Pesticide- Certified Kosher for Passover

Pesticide- Certified Kosher for Passover

It is hard to believe but it is true. A pesticide which is not even supposed to be used indoors was certified kosher for passover. I am not just posting this to mock it. I want to ask how did it become OK for the OU to certify toilet cleaners and others to certify pesticides. It makes a mockery of kosher. It exposes kosher agencies as mercenaries willing to sell their stamp for a few bucks even when there is no possible rationale for requiring certification.

When I first spotted the kosher pesticide I wrote on FaceBook, “If anyone got paid for this hashgochah they should be forced to eat it.” I take that back. I really don’t want anyone’s death on my conscience. Continue reading

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Coping with the Sassoon Tragedy

Sassoon 7 children before burialSeven Sassoon children died in a fire which started on a hotplate left unattended on a Friday night. The community was at its best when it came out en masse, here and in Israel, for the funeral and burial. In truth, the words were needless; the tragedy spoke for itself, as did the outpouring of sympathy and sorrow.

Some rabbis just had to start blaming the tragedy on this or that sin. But this was a very observant family from a very observant community. It certainly is a community whose standards of observance are strict and continually getting stricter. But the blamers are like kids with new hammers who keep striking nails well after they are fully set because that is the skill they have mastered. Into that camp I would lump Rabbis Yosef Mizrachi, Zecharia Wallerstein and Lazer Brody. These are rabbis who do kiruv outreach by scaring people and picking at their scars, guilt and superstition. Brody said:

During the time of the Holy Temple, on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, 7 lambs are sacrificed as atonement for the Jewish People. Since we don’t have the Holy Temple, Hashem took the 7 unblemished “lambs” of the Sassoon family instead… People ask what they can do for the Sassoon children – the answer is simple: teshuva.

I have to wonder why no one reflected on the obvious sin connected to innocent children, sexual molestation. It is a sin that causes grievous emotional and spiritual harm to innocent children. It despoils their innocence. It is a sin at the center of the book of Leviticus we just started reading. The various sexual prohibitions are read out loud on Yom Kippur because the aspiration to holiness cannot withstand such sins. It is a sin that harms about a fifth of all children. Continue reading

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New Insane Kosher Certifications – SATIRE

OU Kosher Toilet Bowl CleanerBack in May 2014 I announced my Kosher Madness Contest on FaceBook

We now have kosher certifications on toilet paper, toilet bowl cleaner, and injectible life-saving medicines.

CHALLENGE: come up with the most absurd new terrain for a kosher certifying agency.

I never got around to announcing winners and forgot about the contest. But, now with Passover around the corner, I was reminded of this again when I saw a pesticide certified as kosher for Passover. Then there were the baby wipes because you can never start too soon or fail to cover every angle.

Kosher for Passover Pesticide

Kosher for Passover Pesticide

I returned to the submissions and picked out my favorites, lightly editing the submissions and occasionally taking the liberty of adding in a detail of my own.

Here are some of my favorites in the order in which they were submitted. I came up with 18, an auspicious lifeblood number for all the vampire hucksters hoping to suck some money and life-blood out of the naive. Continue reading

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Training to Confront Authority

Reflecting on his pilot training, Andrew B. McGee writes in today’s New York Times

In the 1960s and ’70s, several crashes were judged primarily a result of pilot error, some stemming from the hierarchical relationship between the captain and the co-pilot. Co-pilots were often afraid to challenge the captain’s decisions, and the results could be disastrous. In training, they played us a cockpit voice recording of a co-pilot timidly telling the captain they were running out of fuel; he didn’t mention it again before the engines flamed out……

My dad told me about a captain he flew with when he was a co-pilot. The guy was known to panic. A baggage truck backed into the plane while it was on the ground. It shook it only a little, but the captain yelled over the intercom, “Everyone evacuate!” Crew members blew the emergency slides, people fell off the wings trying to get out; there were injuries. It was a cautionary tale of how personality can inform a situation.

Oftentimes, there are early cues of misbehavior whether by pilots, sexual predators, or others abusing their authority. Training for safety has to include training to confront authority as necessary, whether it is the senior pilot, the boss, the teacher, the rabbi or the parent.

Authority is necessary for an orderly society but so too are limits on authority. In theory, if not in practice, soldiers and police officers are supposed to refuse to carry out unlawful orders. Mindful of WW II atrocities, Israel and the reconstituted German state made that an important part of the training of soldiers.

Perhaps it is time to consider the same sort of training for the orthodox world. I heard a story about the first Satmar Rebbe, Joel Teitelbaum. He asked a boy what he would do if the Rebbe ordered him to violate shabbos. The boy said, “If the rebbe orders, I would do it.” The Rebbe whacked the boy and said, “If I order you to violate shabbos, you should hit me.” I don’t approve of the educational method, but the message is sound.

One of the great failings of orthodox education is the inability to even admit that authority figures can be totally wrong, dangerously wrong, even, immorally wrong.

Shannon Orand had the misfortune of relying on Leib Tropper as her conversion mentor. He sexually exploited her. Eventually she completed her conversion with different rabbis. According to the Jerusalem Post

Shannon Orand Conversion Beit Din

Shannon Orand Conversion Beit Din

During the conversion process, [Rabbis Dov] Lior, [Shmuel] Eliyahu and the third rabbi asked Orand if she was not totally disenchanted by the prospect of conversion after her negative experiences. “I told them that I come from Christianity, an idolatrous religious that worships a man as God. Judaism, in contrast, worships God directly. And no man can take that away from me. I am not worshiping a man anymore,” said Orand.

She got it right. We Jews do not and should not worship flesh and blood.

P.S. For an example of someone who knew better from the get-go, see The Convert in the Deli

Posted in Corruption, Leib Tropper, Sex Abuse, Shannon Orand | 2 Comments

Throwback Thursday — When a Leader Sins

From my 2010 archives

When a  nasi (cheftain of a tribe of Israel, i.e., a political leader) sins by doing anything unintentionally which according to G-d’s command should not be done, and he realizes his guilt, or the sin of which he is guilty is brought to his attention, he shall bring  . . . a sin offering (Leviticus/Vayikra 4:22-24).

Notice that the Torah says when, not if. Also notice that a leader is responsible for paying attention when he is told [or reminded] of misdeeds.

The mishnah deals with these issues at length in Horayot. Continue reading

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Who Are You Going to Believe About Mrs. Ullman?

When I was in mesivta (high school) several of us loved reciting this nonsense verse:

One bright day in the middle of the night
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each Hindy Ullman
Took out their knives and shot each other.
One deaf policeman heard the noise…

Being clever yeshiva boys we went to work resolving the inconsistencies. It could be bright during midnight at the North Pole during the longest day in the summer. The dead can get up if resurrected. If resurrected with their heads in the wrong direction, they can face each other, back to back. Guns disguised as knives can shoot. The deaf can “hear” shootings by feeling the vibrations.

But we knew it was a game and the poem was truly full of contradictions. That’s what made it funny. A rabbinic court ruling (psak), laced with contradictions is no laughing matter. Yet that is what we have.

The joint Beis Din ruling on Mrs. Hindy Ullman, principal of the Binas Beis Yaakov Seminary addressed her culpability in Meisels sexual abuse of students. It states:

We are talking about incidents that… occurred 5772 [2011-2012] (the year Binas Beis Yaakov opened) and on… We are talking about a handful of incidents each year

After going through the material before us, it is difficult to shake the feeling that there were red flags and troubling signs, and the administration should have known and sensed what was going on under its own nose… It is difficult to establish that with certainty, and even if you say it is true, how can we know and decide if it was at the level of negligence or near negligence or less than that – but to leave it at nothing is impossible.

Therefore it seems that we must make do with the continuation of the arrangements that were agreed upon by the administration in Kislev of this year. According to [these arrangements], some of the positions and responsibility will be transferred temporarily to another party. As well, supervision and guidance by Mrs. Birnbaum will be increased. These arrangements will be in effect until the start of the school year of 5777 [Fall 2016]. [bolding in the original]

The judges acknowledge multiple episodes of abuse complete with “red flags and troubling signs” that Mrs. Ullman “should have known and sensed” was “going on under” her “own nose.” Yet they dispute that this was negligence. Well actually they kvetch, “how can we know and decide.” I thought deciding was their job.

In the end, they settle on a vague set of sanctions with two parts to last until fall, 2016. Some of Ullman’s “positions and responsibility will be transferred… to another party” and “supervision and guidance by Mrs. Birnbaum will be increased.”

I don’t know about you. I could not certify the safety of a school whose administrator has to be on probation because they were either too stupid or too indifferent to discern, detect and stop multiple episodes of sexual abuse of students by staff. Yet that is what they did when the released the first part of this ruling in December when they wrote, “There is no danger or problem in sending students to study in these seminaries.”

The members of the Chicago Beis Din believe she is under tight control and will eventually be forced out. But is that true? Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn posted a letter on his Daas Torah blog from a mother of student now attending Ullman’s seminary, Binas. She writes:

I periodically ask my daughter if anything has come up this year and she says no.  I ask if Mrs. Ullman is in charge and she says yes.  What that tells me is that if there was a “punishment” it is sure not one that anyone sees and thus would not be effective as such.”

We have students and parents who cannot discern any transfer of Mrs. Ullman’s positions and responsibility.

So who are you going to believe, a Beis Din that promised some sanctions against Mrs. Ullman or parents and students who are convinced that Ullman is faultless and retains full authority?

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