OU Still Sponsoring Molester Defender Belsky in Passaic Thanksgiving Talk

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky is notorious for collusion in kidnapping/torture, defending two generations of Kolko family molesters and Lawrence’s sex-abusing Rabbi (sic) Dovid Weinbergerlibeling parents of victims of abuse who report the crimes to the police, and issuing a kosher ruling that benefited his son-in-law, Rechnitz. Nevertheless the OU retains him as a senior posek and is yet again sponsoring a talk in Passaic, NJ at 9:45 on Thursday, November 27. The event is co-sponsored by the Passaic Clifton Community Kollel in the building of the “more modern” of Passaic’s two yeshivas, YBH (aka Hillel).

Belsky passaic and OU talk thurs nov 27 2014A protest is being considered though late notice and the competing demands of the day make it uncertain if it can be pulled off. I will of course post a notice of any scheduled protest. In the meantime, if you object, contact the OU, the community Kollel and the hosting entity, YBH.

More information will follow including phone numbers to contact. Check back. If you make a comment, even a blank one, you can check off a box to get emails for all subsequent comments which will include such information as well as any plans for a protest, if one is formulated.

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58 thoughts on “OU Still Sponsoring Molester Defender Belsky in Passaic Thanksgiving Talk

  1. I wrote to YBH to protest yesterday… my next complaint is to OU. (thanks for letting us know of the OU’s co-sponsor role).

    When you complain to OU, you might want to mention that Belsky, in publicly vilifying the family of Yosef Kolko’s abuse victim, also took an implicit swipe at the OU’s executive vice president, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, technically Belsky’s superior at OU.

    Speaking for the OU, Weinreb had stated that in a case of sex abuse “we’re obligated to go to the authorities.” But Belsky’s venomous diatribe against the Lakewood victim’s family claimed, among other things, that “the law is undisputed that one who [reports a Jewish criminal to police] has no share in the world to come.” So — according to Belsky — either there was no such person as Rabbi Weinreb, or else he and his statements just don’t count to those in the know.

    Now, if the OU objects to this insult to its vice president and the implicit claim that OU’s position on sex abuse reporting is either fraudulent or heretical, why is OU promoting the man responsible?

    By the way, all this is discussed in much more detail in my book… but this should be enough to mention to OU in this connection, if you think the issue worth raising.

    Let’s see what happens.

  2. Strangely, this event does not appear on the OU website. Yet their logo is on the event announcement as a sponsor. i find it hard to believe the event sponsors would have fraudulently listed the OU as a sponsor. Perhaps there was just a goof in the OU website. But perhaps the OU is continuing to distance itself and trying to downplay Belsky’s OU role. Hence the omission. I have sent a query to OU PR and hope to have an answer.

    • At source at the OU confirmed that this event is indeed sponsored by them. I got the sense that it may have been an oversight that led them not to list the event on their website. However, it is also the case that they are not very eager to publicize Belsky because he is toxic for some of their constituencies.

      The OU is in the process of developing relationships with other prominent Haredi poskim to help take Belsky’s place. One important potential candidate is Rabbi Osher Weiss, a highly regarded posek.

  3. My kids attended YBH (as it’s known)…thankfully we have nothing to do with the school anymore, nor do we live in Passaic. Two negatives that certainly equal a positive. When my kids first attended the school it was known as the Hillel Academy- its name for many decades since its founding. The name morphed into Yeshiva Beit Hillel with the acronym of YBH. Now the sephardi pronunciation has been relegated to the toilet in favor of the more Yeshivishly Correct “Yeshivas Beis Hillel”. My sources tell me that it’s not only the school’s spelling that has gone waaay to the right; so have the attitudes and hashkafas of the administration, Rebbeim and parent body. The fact that they’re welcoming Belsky sadly speaks volumes about what the school has become as they sell their proverbial souls to appear “legit” and acceptable to the Yeshivish “veld” that has come to dominate the Passiac/Clifton orthodox community- and will probably always refer to the school derogatorily as “modern” no matter how hard “Yeshivas Beis Hillel” tries to present itself otherwise.

    • The morphing may not be over. Have they debated renaming themselves beis shammai and paskening like shmmaai. Not halachic in most cases. But these days machmir is always considered frummer.

    • We miss you, Fred (I’m a former neighbor). My girls knew the school was going off the deep end when they put opaque plastic on the windows so the girls couldn’t see the boys playing basketball at recess. Girls & boys in the same building (even with the fire alarm door between the two sides) will never be yeshivishly correct, a fact the administration has laughably overlooked. I do think much of YBH’s former target audience has switched to RYNJ, though that school has also slid to the right. I’m also happy to have zero affiliation with the school anymore.

      • Also a neighbor and I know Fred (but he doesn’t know me). Although the school certainly has gone to the right, that is a reflection of the changing demographics of the town. And, yes, those who were more at Hillel’s former speed would be more comfortable at RYNJ today. But this isn’t an issue of religious ideology. Very few people in the school complained and they only are feeling pressure from bad PR. This is ironic because it’s the event that should be controversial, not the publicity.

        • I agree that the issue of having Belsky as a speaker has little to do with YBH’s current orientation. I still live in the area and Passaic is a friendly, convenient place to live. If we’re talking about Passaic’s demographics, however, I do think there is some naivete among chareidi Passaic BTs about the yeshivishe velt. The yeshivishe velt is not a warm and wonderful Torah theme park. It’s a tough place with tough rules and tough penalties for those who violate the rules. If you don’t care about “belonging”, you’re fine; the penalties have no effect. If you want to “belong”, it’s a tough row to hoe.

        • I’ll add that I noticed an article in one of the local Jewish magazines obliquely referring to the OTD crisis (I’m paraphrasing: “problems which exist in other communities but didn’t exist here before are now becoming apparent in Passaic”). It gives me no pleasure that people are suffering when their children are not following the path their parents desire for them (although BTs, if anyone, should realize that children do not always blindly accept their parents’ values). What concerns me is that it’s the very things that Michael refers to in another comment that cause these children to be viewed as OTD: talking to the opposite s3x, socializing in the park, and so on. I think most of these kids deeply believe in God and in the Torah, but since they’re not meeting certain standards, they are treated as OTD.

          However, showing kavod for Belsky is still OK.

  4. To Fred, tesyaa (especially): Yes, it’s a sad story. Both my children were at Hillel (as I still think of it) from their first school year until graduation from the 8th grade. I had (and have) great respect for many of the teachers who have worked there.

    What’s saddest to me is not the school’s orientation toward the “right” or “left,” as we too casually use these labels, but the moral vacuum that is sweeping in along with the “rightward” drift, together with all the usual fidgety fustian of holier-than-thou posturing (monkeying with the gym windows, separate dismissal times for boys and girls lest the two genders ever look at one another, dire threats against being seen in Passaic’s public park on Shabbos, etc.)

    For what it’s worth, I’m not particularly committed to the “left” or “right” and certainly don’t condemn a school over such things. I quarreled with Hillel’s Zionist orientation as much as I disagree with an approach to teaching Talmud that ignores contemporary history and textual uncertainties. But high educational standards can coexist with ideological positions I reject, and I’d be a fool, or worse, to expect a school to mirror my preferences on all issues. As Albert Jay Nock wrote, “a second-hand opinion is a very poor possession.” Teachers should challenge — and should pass the ability to challenge on to their students.

    Today’s problem is different. Showcasing Rabbi Belsky via the community kollel isn’t wrong because of ideology, religious or otherwise. And though its description as a concession to the “right” is doubtless accurate, people with their minds and consciences in the right place should take the implication behind it — that if you wear a black hat you just don’t care about slander, supporting criminals or protecting child abusers — as an INSULT to the “right.” The tragedy is that the people involved don’t see it that way; as long as ideological criteria are satisfied, the school is prepared to ignore everything else. That sort of “drift” is deplorable, and we should all say so.

    Fred, we miss you too.

    • My comments about YBH’s ideology were more in response to the debate here over whether the school is “modern” or “chareidi”. I think the school certainly wants to think of itself as chareidi at this point, but given the one building setup it’s unlikely to have great success at attracting truly chareidi customers. I do remember a few things that didn’t affect me much personally but that I found disturbing. (1) the school’s policy is not to provide transcripts for any child applying to a coed high school. This is a strongarming technique which can be easily circumvented but is just not nice. (2) An 8th grade science teacher taught the class that believing in evolution is wrong. I suppose that’s par for the course for a right-wing yeshiva, but there is no way that this can be reconciled with academic standards.

      • So many Passaic comments (I was commenting anonymously above). I had many issues with Hillel but its academics were easily superior to its local competitors and currently all of the 8th grade graduates get into good right-leaning high schools. Again, though, some people many not want that but I believe that is Hillel’s current demographic. Totally agree that some of the locals do not want to realize that there are problems amongst the teenagers in our idyllic community – especially in the Bellmawr section so close to where Fred used to live. They are naive and I only pray that something like that doesn’t happen to my children.

        • The name of the neighborhood near Passaic area is not Bellmawr, but a similar-sounding name. Bellmawr is a borough in Camden county (70 miles or so from Passaic). The comment about Camden was apparently a gentle gibe that the Passaic local got the name wrong.

  5. Speaking of Rabbi Belsky, anyone have any current information on the Wolmark/Epstein case? Seems to be a total blackout for the last few months? Has Wolmark thrown Epstein undar thw bus yet? Has Epstein thrown Walmark under the bus yet?

    • A good number of the underlings have pled guilty but not yet been sentenced. I suspect their sentence will depend on whether they testify at trial. Wolmark and Epstein so far have hung tough and not pleaded. So I am guessing it will come down to a trial. I suspect they will not need either to turn on the other to convict both. But who knows. I am told that not long after the arrest Belsky was summoned for a long interview with the FBI, but I have no separate confirmation. But it makes sense they would interview him given his known involvement with Epstein in the Abraham Rubin kidnapping and torture to secure cooperation in getting a get.

  6. It’s both interesting, and flattering that I’m receiving comments from unknown/anonymous contributers, along with Mike Lesher (who is the polar opposite of anonymous to anyone familiar with his intrepid attempts to right many wrongs in the Jewish community at large…) with whom I share a common viewpoint. You folks may recall the treatment I received on many blogs and community websites when I had th extreme chutzpah to challenge- openly and without the use of a nom de guerre- the extreme attempt by many people in my old neighborhood to turn a Rabbi’s house into a $5 million mega shul complex in the middle of a residential area (NB- they are still trying to do so….) . I opposed the project, and was vilified with the most obscene accusations, baseless arguments, and personal attacks that were disgraceful in every sense of the word. Additionally, all of them were done anonymously, without a single accuser having the temerity to identify themselves by name. It was quite a debacle, at least for me personally, as I have come to realize that many many members of the community have little or no respect for opposing viewpoints, and will, within a nanosecond, resort to personal attacks rather than debating the matter at hand. It seems to me that heirarchies within the Orthodox community have become monolithic, rather than linear processes wherein some diversity-demographic, hashkafic, or otherwise- might have a chance of becoming part of the mechanism. Instead, certain conventions within Orthodoxy have become absolutes unto themselves, and you stand to get your ass kicked if you attempt to challenge them. There are many of these- they’re really better defined as “canons” rather than conventions- but one prime examble is the near infallibity of so-called Rabbinic authority, frequently manifested in the ascerbic retort (that I’ve heard so many times) that, “you can’t argue with a Rav”. And we’re not talking about whether the chicken that went into a milk oven uncovered is Kosher; we are talking about values and ideas and opinions and personal morals- none of which have a basis in Shulchan Oruch, but nonetheless have somehow become subsets of Rabbinic imprimetaur, other opinions to the contrary be damned.

    Tesyaa’s observation of how discussion of the theory of evolution being immediately trashcanned by the YBH science teacher is an excellent example of this type of indisputable canon that causes more harm than good. Yet any observant Jew with half a brain knows that 1) the Torah theory of creation is not in conflict with the theory of evolution (see Rashi, and Rav Kook on Bereshite, for example) 2) students need to be challenged-not just in Gemorra, but in everything they learn, and 3) the underlying concern that kids will go OTD due to an academic inquiry is ludicrous.

    While Mike logically disputes the attempt by many to categorize certain hashkafas as “right wing” or “left wing”- I think they serve a convenient adumbration of where a school’s overall attitude is holding in general. On the micro level they may not withstand empirical scrutiny, but they do provide a guage by which to measure it’s posture overall. And very sadly- to me, at least- the process of Rabbinic apotheosis has found a very comfortable environment at the school once known as Yeshiva Beit Hillel. The introduction of insane standards of tznius, the narrowing of parameters of acceptable behaviour and performance (NB- more than a few teachers at YBH suggested my kids needed ADHD drugs), an ongoing retraction of what students learn, read, and discuss in secular classes, and of course, the automatic legitimacy conferred upon any Rabbinic authority, such as Rabbi Belsky in this case, regardless of his numerous historic infractions, well documented and well publicized in both the religious and secular media, all of which were nothing short of a Hillul Hashem- these are all indicia of what we associate with the rightward shift of a school such as YBH.

    • I don’t think the shul in your old neighborhood is going to happen, even with a new City council. Clifton is not Passaic. Note that the congregation has a long-term lease on a Passaic building, so they’re not expecting it to happen anytime soon either.

      • If they are upfront about the potential occupancy, it will never happen. Right now they insist that if occupancy reaches the max of 175 (or whatever), they will turn worshipers away. When a macher hosts a big bar mitzvah – yeah, right, they’re going to turn people away! The disingenuousness is hilarious – even more hilarious that they expect the planning board to roll over now that they “helped” elect the brother of one of its members.

        Maybe the planning board will roll over – I can’t see the future – but it’s still pretty funny.

        • I think most residents wouldn’t even want the 175 maximum occupancy. From what I’ve read, the City council continues to cite the lack of sufficient parking as a sticking point as well. Removing one gadfly from the council is not likely to change that.

          I would like to see more of a focus on how to make that street safer for pedestrians, rather than building a shul. I think that’s an issue that will help all residents, Jewish or not–I’ve seen people walking there every time I’ve driven past.

        • I really hate to conjure the past again and again, but the major problem I encountered as a resident of the neighborhood where the proposed synagogue is to be located was the absolute silence of every Jewish person who opposed it. There were many people who thanked me for my efforts at the time, but not a one allowed joined me in opposition openly by identifying themselves. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not memorializing my experiences as a hagiographic memoir of my fight against “the man”. I only brought this matter up to illustrate the kid glove treatment that’s automatically afforded to certain Rabbinic figures with little or no regard for their often sullied performance record. Such was and is the case with Belsky, who has been deified along with many other Gedolim, some of whom have been completely derelict in their authoritarian roles as supposed leaders of large segments of Orthodox Jews, yet have defiled our collective honor with reckless abandon.

  7. It goes waaay beyong Belsky, but the common threads are still extant for anyone willing to review them. I think that this issue of control ranks very high in the mind of many Rabbi’s and their followers, although this is not necessarily always a negative. Let’s face it – if you control the ablity to dispurse a kid’s transcript if they apply to a co-ed school, then that puts you in the driver’s seat. If the school’s administration decides to forgo singing Hatikvah or the Star Spangled Banner, or mandate separate seating at a school’s annual dinner, as had been done for decades precedent, that represents control mechanisms being instituted that will invariably shape people’s attitudes, for better or worse. But that will happen.

    I had a long conversation a few months ago with a friend who still sends his kids to Hillel. He was very involved in the school for years and still devotes significant time to them. He described how certain books have disappeared form the library, while others have been censored, over the last few years because they are not “acceptable”- surprisingly some dealt with evolution, while other black listed books were guilty of referencing television. I also learned that pressure was exerted from Rabbi’s who don’t teach at the school to eschew, and cancel, certian school projects that also fell into the danger zone of treife haskafos. It goes on and on and on, and the nattering masses who care about this gross violation of both privacy and freedom of thought/expression apparently choose to remain silent.

    I’m reminded of Eric Hoffer’s “True Believer”- an essential book for anyone who seeks to understand mass movements, and I become literally frightened over the zeitgeist that has developed to accept anyone who wears a black hat with little or no regard to their rabid attitudes and actions that in many cases, have ruined other peoples lives. Then again, Belsky isn’t the first black hatter to command an audience in Passaic regardless of his immoral cheshbon. Rabbi Avram Shorr has visited Passaic many times; Shor is no stranger to controversy either- he was one of the primary movers and shakers who pushed to issue a ban on “The Big Event” concert, featuring Lipa Schmeltzer several years ago, resulting in a $600,000 loss to the (orthodox Jewish) promoter, and earning a prominent article in the New York Times; this was a disgraceful example of obnoxious Rabbinic coercion that was based on politics (Lipa is controversial) and self-appointed authority to control the entertainment options of thousands of religious Jews. That the charity that was to benefit from the concert received nothing is a further embarrasment that falls squarly on Rabbi Schor’s shoulders; yet he’s made the the trip to several Passaic shul’s for speaking engagments enough times that he probably no needs a GPS to get there from Brooklyn. Rabbi Schmuel Kaminetsky is also also a regular guest in my old home town. He is also rather prominent for his vilificiation of Rabbi Nathan Slifkin, and a very poorly timed decree that stated that a Rabbi must still be consulted if there is reasonable suspision of child abuse, despite Rabbi Eliasuv’s statement to the contrary. Note that Rabbi Kaminetsky’s directive was issued immediatley following the murder of 8 year old Leiby Kletsky. Again, I believe the alacrity by which the right wing element of Passaic and Clifton confer’s authority on Rabbinic leader’s of the same heritage demonstrates a propensity to adorn one’s self with blinders that not only cloud one’s vision, but their morals and values as well.

    There’s much more to be disussed here, and I thank Yerachmiel for allowing us to post our opinions without (much) contraint. Given Mike Lesher’s literary and investigative accomplishments, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a possible misuse of the term “fustian” as he employed within an earlier post on this topic. I believe he may have meant to use “Faustian” instead; the former term fustian means aged, musty, or old fashioned; Faustian refers to acting on matters somewhat irrationally without regard to future consequences. Unfortnately both definitions are less than sanguine when placed in to the context he was writing about, which give me comfort to realize.

    Furthermore, I’m very aware of the expanding subculture of OTD kids in my old neighborhood, and city where it is located. I don’t think there is a single catylist or impetus that has led so many good kids from good familes (of which there are many in Passiac and Clifton, to be sure), although I’ll mention that most of them who now smoke, text and drive on Shabbos are the progeny of right wing, Charedi tilting familes who attended similar minded Yeshivas/Yeshivot (Disclosure: my kids meets some of these criteria). What went wrong is the subject of much discussion, analysis, and heartache and there are no simple answers, although I believe some of the underlying causes can be culled from the ideas and facts presented in this blog, and others that provide a forum for the exchange of ideas without fear of repercussion, or even concern for what others might come to think.

  8. I apologize if my comments seemed to imply that the terms “left” and “right” have no place in Orthodox education. Like many imprecise terms, they can actually be very useful in the proper contexts; my point was simply that the wrong in inviting Rabbi Belsky to YBH doesn’t turn on ideology. It would be no better if they had invited a rabbi of impeccable modern Orthodox credentials who had slandered abuse victims (and never even apologized).

    Readers of my book will have no doubts about my views on right-wing Orthodox legalism or obscurantism, so I won’t waste any words on the subject here. In this discussion, it may be enough to recall Albert Schweitzer’s wise observation that for any religious person in modern times, there can be no higher value than truth. I assume Schweitzer would have applied the same dictum to earlier periods, but he understood that it has special meaning in an age when the terrain of traditional religious assumptions is constantly being invaded by increasing secular knowledge. It’s one thing to believe the world is only 6,000 years old when there’s no solid evidence to the contrary. To make the same claim today is necessarily to make a conscious decision to reject reason. And that decision is the fulcrum on which religion turns into fanaticism and faith morphs into totalitarianism. Hence Schweitzer’s warning.

    For reasons a little too intricate for a post (but, yes, discussed in my book) I do think there’s a connection between the intellectual dynamic of fanaticism and child abuse cover-ups. But quite apart from that, fanaticism is a scourge in its own right, and if we care about our children we should want to protect them from it. Fortunately, genuine education is usually the best remedy — but then again, that’s why genuine education is often the first target of fanatic campaigns.

    By the way, if you want an entertaining instance of the way the totalitarian religious mind works, I happen to mention one in the book from Belsky himself, who told Ami Magazine a detailed story of how Switzerland decided to prohibit kosher slaughter after legislators spotted a Jewish lawyer — who had argued against the ban — eating in a non-kosher restaurant. As I show there, the story is a complete fabrication. I can remember the widespread ridicule directed at the Ayatollah Khomeini when he confessed he’d never heard of Beethoven; it’s a wonder to me that people don’t collapse in laughter at such silliness from the mouth of a prominent Orthodox rabbi. Presumably they don’t for the same reason other fanatics don’t laugh at THEIR gurus: reality stopped mattering for them a long time ago.

    • I couldn’t agree with this more. I’m a Passaic resident and I discussed this invitation with someone not with Hillel but prominent in the community. He was “not smart enough” to handle the molestation allegations but the gedolim could handle it. He had emunas chochomim and I did not. Everyone in Israel had respect for R’ Belsky and maybe I should not eat OU food because of my disagreement. (But, thanks to G-d he was willing to tell me that he loved me as a Jew and hoped that the moshiach would come soon!) Yadda yadda yadda. He purports himself to be a community leader and I’ve decided not to out him but I admit the irony – idiots like this should be exposed for the idiots they are.

      • Talk about hypocrisy!

        You say idiots like him desrve to be exposed but you’ve decided not to do so!

    • Ok, so we’re all on the same page here. Belsky can evade scrutiny when a story attributed to him in Ami magazine is proved fraudulent. The same publication also knowingly censored a picture of Obama’s inner circle watching the assault on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in real time. Through the use of rudimentary Photoshopping, the “editors” removed the visage of the Secretary of State, aka Hillary Clinton, who suffered the ignoble audacity of being a female (some may argue otherwise) and thereby being in conflict with the magazine’s editorial policy of not publishing any images of women. The same magazine ran a cover story on the attorney representing Nechemya Weberman, and the lawyer’s “quest for justice” on behalf of the accused sex offender; that Weberman was found guilty- also a form of “justice” in the context of legal processes we are all subject to – earned not an iota of column space from that same magazine. Sadly, so sadly, these instances of applying what Mike calls “the intellectual dynamic of fanaticism” are as numerous (to those who care about such infractions) as they are damaging- and ultimately censorious. And they are not limited any particular intellectual venue, be it the school where we used to send our kids, the frum publications that are treated as sacrosanct, the shul some of us attend, and so on. I suppose this is the reason blogs and public forums, such as Frum Follies and others like it, been targeted so frequently and with such vitriol from the podium of the annual Agudat Yisroel convention, and the various Rabbonim who populate that organization. For the fanatic, it’s much more efficient to attack the venue where contrarian ideas are being discussed, than to confront the real possibility that your philosophy hasn’t been swallowed whole by the masses to whom you preach and purport to represent.

      • No kol isha, no images of women (Ami), bit farther north geographically and women must walk on segregated sidewalks. This is Judaism? This is talibanim.
        How have the rebbeim managed to subjugate women to such an extent, turning them into breeding sheeple. Charedi women (or the Orthodox right, pretty much the same thing nowadays? ) might consider boycotting these mysoginists. Let the holy men clone themselves for one generation. Not much of a stretch for those active in the mikveh.
        My apologies for intruding banalities into the very serious intellectual issues being discussed.

        • They won’t eat their hearts out under any circumstances. What should be a source of pride to all Jews will unfortunately become cannon fodder when the Charedim seek to justify or rationalize some major event that has befallen the state of Israel. How long did it take for some “Gadol” to connect the Har Nof terrorist slaughter with the practice of some more Zionist oriented Jews who have gone up to the Temple Mount recently? For additional insight, see my comments above regarding the invective directed against the internet and bloggers, that was a major topic from several speakers at the most recent Agudah convention. According to these Rebbeim, its a far greater transgression to frequent a blog that publicizes sexual abuse within the Orthodox community than to engage in this criminal practice.

        • Fred @11:45:
          How absurd and purely ignorant of me to suggest……but, l’maan ha’emet, (really), I thought that the the Har Nof massacre was Hakadoshbaruchhu’s retribution due to some eight year old child wearing a blouse one inch above her elbow, in Beit Shemesh. Or, perhaps, the four Kedoshim were the gilgul (reincarnation) of the generation of the egel hazahav (golden calf)?

  9. Hahaha you guys are a bunch of laydigayer loosers. No one was protesting anything. Yerachmiel you have your soapbox here and your ghenim will be with soap. There are 7 activists in Passaic who jump up and down about it. They have little to no real Torah background and base their opinions on complete and utter shtuyot. When someone points out their hashkafik errors they begin acting like a bunch of petulant babies having a temper tantrum.

    • Joe, I am just curious why the organizers were so anxious that they hired about 5 security guards. Which real godol needs such protection. I also hear they avoided the royal front entrance and Belsky come in through the back. I hear everyone knows that Yosef Kolko is indeed convicted and serving a 15 year sentence (-2.5 for good behavior) but Belsky still supports him. Hashkafah aheen aher, the real questions are emes and giluy aroiyois. I also hear Krause and Gold are trying to figure out ways to pressure the 3-4 who showed up on their own initiative though no demonstration was announced just because Belsky is too disgusting for them to ignore him.

      BTW, I hope you realize that the 13-14 rabbonim who cancelled Torah Vodaas in the 5T because of Belsky did it with the backing of the Novominsker Rebbe and R. Shmuel Kaminetzky. Don’t believe me, call those rabbonim. R. Shmuel is of course the son of a real godol, R. Yaakov Kaminetzky and he has some real knowledge of the Belsky history.

      While you are busy doing the rounds of daas torah, contact people in the know in Lakewood about the talmid chochom he was mevazer with false claims that he was a molester. Moreover, Belsky claimed the talmid chochom in question was acting without approval of a posek. In fact there is a psak endorsing reporting Yosef Kolko to the police to protect children. It was written by Av Beis Din of the Eidah Charedis, R. Moshe Sternbuch. Joe Klein, I just hope you never have children who are abused because of your willfully ignoring the gravity of this issue.

      I hope you enjoyed the lox and everything else buffet and the shmooze about brochos on your favorite snack foods. Just remember, there is no free lunch or a free breakfast. Many children will pay the price for the fressing.

    • I’m not closely involved with the Kolko case, but either way, I’m aware of Rav Belsky’s position.

      It’s awful when activists are so often attack just for actually CARING about sexual abuse and the like. This comment was awful and u should be ashamed of yourself.
      True, maybe those activists are rlly nt experts in Torah knowledge…but who CARES. Abuse has nothing to do with being a Talmid Chacham.

      I shed tears reading comments like yours. Like YL said…just wait til YOUR CHILD (chas v’shalom) is sexually abused. Well see how long u can keep your mouth shut.

      I hope you have the courage to take back what you wrote.

  10. Actually, I’m pleased that “joe klein” posted his comment, for two separate reasons. First, his comment illustrates, better than I could have done, the kind of support Rabbi Belsky really has in the Orthodox rank and file. Second, I’m encouraged by confirmation that at least seven people — just in Passaic — were sufficiently upset about Belsky’s appearance to consider some sort of action.

    I’d like to preserve some of that energy, if possible. Anyone interested in setting up a meeting to talk about how best to respond to this (and perhaps related topics) is invited to contact me, preferably by email at michaellesher@optonline.net. We can get together at my house or wherever proves convenient. I appreciate the discourse established by blogs like this one — but for some purposes face-to-face discussion is still best.

    One word more. Insults sometimes reveal more than they intend, and joe’s post clearly exposes the commonplace put-downs of principled critics like Yerachmiel as the exact opposite of the truth. No one here has indulged in vicious personal attacks; Belsky and his myrmidons have done that all along. No one in this discussion wrote anything that wasn’t amply supported by the facts; joe’s comments are fabrications from beginning to end. No one here, as far as I know, surrounds himself with guards and sneaks in through back doors to protect himself from people he’s maligned; Belsky and his ilk flee (to borrow the famous Biblical phrase) even though none pursues.

    They are the ones who hide in darkness. I would much rather stand in the light.

    • Just to clarify the above: when I say “the kind of support Rabbi Belsky really has in the Orthodox rank and file,” I mean to stress the quality of the people supporting him, something I suspect joe’s comment illustrates all too well. Thoughtful people are not lauding this man. Those who do can’t help but reveal their own spiteful priorities.

      • I slightly disagree, in that I think that earnest BTs (such as many are in Passaic) and gerim are split on this. Some (including the protesters) are being mocked in this thread as lacking Torah knowledge. Many more chareidi BTs, I believe, follow the party line that it’s forbidden to question “gedolim” and therefore continue to give kavod to people like Belsky. Naturally, a lot of these people are concerned about acceptance and shidduchim; what I find interesting is that even those who are normally immune to this kind of pressure, such as hedge fund millionaires, fall into the follower camp. Not coincidentally, they also follow the party line voting “letters” propogated by “committees” in both municipalities.

        A chareidi non-BT acquaintance of mine openly mocked these types of “vetting committees” and letters, and while the topic of Belsky didn’t come up, I found it refreshing that there are people who don’t fall prey to the kind of nonsense that exists in Passaic and other “chareidi” communities.

        I believe the BT followers are earnest, goodhearted people trying to do the right thing (or at least they started out that way), but have either become corrupted by flattery (the multimillionaires) or by fear.

        • Nice summary and good explaining of the unfortunate “blind-following” which is so characteristic of many chareidi communities. I think this may be one of the biggest flaws/ dangers of Judiasm today. It can create cult-like communities and only further seperates Klal Yisroel of each sect (among many more issues).

  11. People may not want to come forward because while Passaic is not Lakewood, many people are fearful of running afoul of “The Institution.” You insult Uncle Gary, or you run on the wrong side of the Hirth’s and you are outcasts.

    • That’s just paranoid fantasy. This town doesn’t work that way.

      Politicians will not do you any favors if you insult them, just like everywhere else on earth. But no one is made an outcast for disagreeing with them (especially the municipal government, who really cares???), and many, including the PCCK and YBH that people have been bashing here, as well multiple shuls, are unconcerned with “the Hirth’s” [sic].

      Over time, a few people have alienated themselves through their own choice and/or idiocy — again like everywhere else on earth. How comforting to pin that on The Man rather than acknowledge one’s own failings. Others are just repeating nonsense because it sounds good to them.

      I’m not writing in support of R’ Belsky. I’m writing in response to the gratuitous and unfounded slander of others that’s been going on in these comments.

      • Astounding! You accuse others of “gratuitous and unfounded slander” after characterizing a whole group of individuals by saying, “Over time, a few people have alienated themselves through their own choice and/or idiocy — again like everywhere else on earth. How comforting to pin that on The Man rather than acknowledge one’s own failings. Others are just repeating nonsense because it sounds good to them.”

        You are Exhibit A for the argument that sadly the Talmud’s method of arguing is lost on you. In your version of the talmud, our rabbis would have dismissed each other with character assasination instead of defending their views with arguments based on texts, facts and reasoning. You have an incredibly un-Torah-like mentality.

        Please do a self-check before you accuse anyone else of “gratuitous and unfounded slander.”

        • I thought I was finished contributing to these comments, but your line of reasoning is precisely the problem that alienates people in a community, rather than anything that remotely resembles a solution. First you categorize as “slander” any comments or even criticisms that have been directed at certain people- Belsky, Hirth, Scher, et.al. First of all: grow up. I count Gary as a friend, and I know all of the Hirths well; one attended my wedding and made Sheva Brochas for us. Mere mention of these people, even in a critical context isn’t slander. If anything it represents frustrations that are extant in a community that has grown in certain aspects but has also become increasingly intolerant of many folks who haven’t followed the zeitgeist of the many charedi families who’ve moved there. Your other reference to challenging “The Man” – a phrase I used in an earlier post, is an insipid attempt to relegate honest dissent to personal inadequacies and hang ups rather than acknowledge the validity of opinions that fall outside the mainstream. You may recall the fight to preserve Lateri Park (unless you moved to the area after that event; if so, this makes your statements even more asinine)- that was a DIRECT challenge to the municipal government of Clifton, who attempted to put an 1800 student middle school there. Every single religious Jew in that area was opposed to it (along with many non-Jews) and the measure was defeated through much community wide cooperation. So you can be damn sure the local municipality cared. The double standard and hypocrisy of the many Jews who opposed an out of proportion school in Lateri Park but supported, or at best remained apathetic to an equivalent plan to build a mega shul in the same neighborhood by virtue of the fact that the latter was “Jewish” (and therefore virtually immune from criticism) was and is a disgrace. Anyone who has the courage to challenge Orthodox “groupthink” – including protesting Belsky, in this instance- should be supported and encouraged. Like Yerachmiel notes, this is what gives Talmudic dicta its driving intellectual force and spirit.

          Finally, that you lack the courage to use a nom de guerre, or God forbid your real name, rather than hide below the shadows of the moniker of “Anonymous”, speaks volumes about the culture of acquiescence that makes me very glad to have left my old neighborhood.

  12. There was no choice. It was a city wide referendum that was being pushed very hard by the school board, the teachers, and everyone involved on that side of the argument

    • My point is – maybe the school wouldn’t have been so bad, and maybe the shul won’t be so bad either.

  13. I too would prefer not to prolong the discussion needlessly — but I think I should endorse Fred’s comments, noting too that the underlying shortcomings of much of the hareidi “discourse” we’ve encountered include the personalization of issues that are not personal, the (related) vilification of dissent as if it were a form of character assassination, and the application of a double standard — one for Orthodox Jews and another for the rest of the world.

    I must say I feel stupid now, not having played a role in the shul-building controversy to which Fred and others devoted themselves with what was obviously real commitment. Funny how my immersion in larger-scale cover-up issues has made me in some ways a stranger to my own community and its local problems. My fault, no doubt.

    But I’ll belatedly say this: the main question, as I see it, is not so much whether this synagogue complex will or won’t be a bad thing as whether the issue has been honestly presented to the community — and I mean the WHOLE community — and whether the questions raised have been handled according to Hoyle. My years living in Monsey taught me that in some Orthodox circles, at least where the rabbis have amassed sufficient political clout, these indicia of procedural fairness are just unheard of — they might as well belong to a language spoken on some other planet. I do not want to see Passaic travel a similar road. And not just because of what it means for particular building projects, important as they may be. I also worry that the erosion of honesty and “fair play” in one area may take a toll on all aspects of a culture, something no religious society should take lightly.

    • Whatever. There is no likelihood of Clifton turning into East Ramapo. As for the shul, the planning board is in full possession of the facts – yes, thanks to those working to oppose it. II have confidence that the planning board will make an appropriate decision. The shul has high-priced lawyers, so what? So does every project requesting a variance, Jewish or not. The project will succeed or fail on the merits.

      I don’t agree with the notion that those who opposed the school are now obligated to actively oppose the shul. I now regret opposing the school. It was a classic case of NIMBY with some racist overtones.

      The bigger issue, which Fred mentioned, is the idea that if one is to remain a member in good standing of the frum community, one must support the shul. That’s obviously ridiculous. Calls for “achdus” and a “united community” are just guilt trips from private individuals (who are NOT leaders) with an edifice complex. If someone doesn’t realize that there’s no halachic or hashkafic reason to support the pet projects of private individuals, that’s due to their own ignorance.

      • Don’t get me wrong. I don’t support the project. I just don’t think I have a moral obligation to oppose it. And I do believe that we who led the fight against the school are partially responsible today’s climate, by introducing the ideas of vetting candidates and of bloc voting (even registering and recruiting voters who did not live in the immediate vicinity).

      • This is all ridiculously small potatoes in comparison to Belsky’s infractions, and compared to East Ramapo, where big-time operators have the governor quaking in his boots. Has no one has ever attempted to build a gigantic house of worship in a residential area, over the objections of the neighbors? See the Bogomilsky case.

        • Agreed on that point- the Belsky issue has much more serious and far reaching ramifications for all of us. I guess what hit home on a personal level is the suffering that Belsky caused the families of several abuse victims who suffered his wrath. This, combined with the presumed level of automatic acceptance that any Psak from a Rav Belsky’s stature is supposed to receive. It boils down to the presence of supposedly great Rabbis demonstrating terrible moral judgement and even worse middos. What a drag; some world we live in.

  14. Sorry- wrong on both counts. The school would have ruined the entire neighborhood with incredible traffic, potential drainage and flooding problems, safety issues due to inability of fire vehicle to navigate the narrow streets, and the loss of a major park. 1800 students plus faculty, staff, vehicles, would have been a nightmare, and don’t forget the increased cost that would have increased property and school taxes.

    Regarding the shul- I reviewed all of the plans for the proposed construction, parking, drainage, elevation, and so on. As I contractor I can read plans better than the average person and I’ll compare my mechanical aptitude to anyone else who lived in the area. Aside from the lies and deceit that the shul has presented- a chillul hashem of enormous magnitude- the construction will radically alter the entire flavor of the neighborhood and ail present the same group of problems -albeit on a smaller but proportional scale nonetheless- as the proposed middle school. I’m so glad to be out of there that it’s personally upsetting to even reminisce about this nightmare; it’s also upsetting that your last quote displays the generally apathetic attitude that characterizes most of my former neighbors and friends from the area. To them, any project that compromises Jewish life needs to be challenged, such as the public school. But a project that is Jewish in origin is by definition, Kosher, and any challenges to it will be damned (and called anti-Semitic within a nanosecond). How would the beautiful people of your neighborhood react if, instead of a shul, the proposed construction would be for a church, or a a mosque, for that matter? People would be tearing kris and screaming. But a shul carries an imprimatur that inoculates and insulates it from any critique. At least that’s the assumption. That non-Jews and non-religious Jews in the area will also be impacted makes no difference to anyone. To quote a famous philosopher (footnoted in an essay by Mike Lesher): The religious care only about themselves. Good luck with whatever happens in the old hood. I look forward to my memories of that place becoming more and more distant.

      • For those of us who don’t know you, Fred, where did you move after Passaic? I’m curious as to what is out there.

        Tesyaa: way off point, but fwiw Rabbi Bogomilsky’s shul would be on a couple of acres, and given the typical lot sizes and the expense of the town, the shul will never draw much of a crowd.

        • I don’t think it’s fair to say that the residents of Millburn aren’t qualified to make the subjective judgment of whether the Bogomilsky shul will ruin their neighborhood. If they think that the shul will change the quality of their neighborhood (which they chose for its open space, unlike P-C which is basically an urban zone with a few suburbanish enclaves), they’re probably right.

        • I live in Allentown, PA in the Lehigh Valley. One Orthodox shul, 1 Chabad, a day school, a few supermarkets with kosher food available, nice mikvah, a Kosher cafeteria at Muhlenberg college, and a much more relaxed and economical lifestyle. The shul has one minyan, 3 times per day- and that’s it. The area is quite beautiful with farmland 10 minutes away, If you’re looking for an out of town yeshivish community- forget Allentown. If you have a more relaxed, less up-tight attitude toward most all things Jewish- than it’s a great place. I fall into the latter category, with somewhat of a vengeance.

        • I think most people who have chosen to reside in suburban areas share a common interest in simply being left alone to enjoy whatever lifestyle their neighborhood affords them. Whether it’s a neighbor who parks in front of other peoples houses, or blasts loud music (both relatively minor) to others who attempt to build gargantuan structures within residential areas (major issues) – it’s upsetting to the existing group of homeowners. I agree that Rabbi Bogomilsky’s shul is a matter that the people of Millburn can determine for themselves- but as an outside observer, his planned structure looks pretty similar to Shomrei Torah’s planned construction- that is, in terms of magnitude and size relative to the homes that already exist. The Millburn matter has been gurgling in the courts since at least 2010; the P-C shul project for almost as long. You cannot imagine the cost of these proceedings;the financial expenditure is gigantic, and in both cases, they have pretty much gone nowhere, to varying degrees, except to make attorneys and engineers much more wealthy and to drain each town of additional legal costs as well. Regardless of how fair and balanced the reporting on each issue, the public/media portrayal of this type of internecine discord doesn’t bode well for the Jewish side of the argument.

          Robert Heinlein wrote a book many years ago titled “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Although it was a novel of science fiction, the title itself is very accurated summary of the place Jews-particularly the Orthodox types- occupy in secular society (and a close varient of Abraham Avinu’s declaration “Ger Toshav anochi imahem”) We’ve had our collective and existential “Galut” status drilled into our heads ad nauseum from the time we all wore diapers, and my opinion is that is is a fair worldview to incorporate into our conduct in both America and the towns we actually live in. We are also rightfully concerned about both regnant and emergent anti-Semitism, despite the enormous chessed and largesse the United States has given to the Jewish people. All of these ideas taken together support my personal philosophy (which has been re-stated, and also embraced by some of our most influential religious leaders) that we Jews are guests in this country, and despite all of our rights and freedoms and opportunities-none of which should be taken for granted nor subjected to reflexive compromise for purposes of simply assimilating into the societal mainstream- we should still be quite cautious about “thumbing our noses at the goyim”, and avoiding at all costs the very real possiblity of making a chillul hashem without any intent whatsoever to do so. In short, we both live in Galut, and the era in which we live is the Galut as well- and this reality requres we be careful and be extremely judicious in our public conduct. This is a long conversation, but there must be recognition of the absolute value of appearing to be part of secular society rather than departing from it.

          For both Rabbi Bogomilsky in Millburn, Sharre Torah in Clifton in particular (and there are innumerable other examples of territorial agression in other Jewish communities in New York and NJ, etc) both parties have been fighting for years, and neither of them have made a single effort to conduct any “kiruv” for their cause (not for their religion) by attempting appeal to the public at large, rather than drive the public away wherein they join the opposition. For both planned shuls: four years of court battles, enormous costs or both sides, expanding the potential wrath of the neighbors and neighborhood- with nothing to show for the costs and efforts, combined with zero attempt to compromise on the proposed construction at each location-perhaps moderate or modify the enormity of the project so it will be less obtrusive and less invasive to the area where they will be located. You know a little compromise -which can go a long way toward making friends and influencing people. But, the stalwart attitude driving each project (and other similar expansions alluded to) – which is really a seige mentality on display to outside observers- is, to me, a direct contradiction,indeed a complete usurpation, of the responsibilities and requirements of living in Galut, including the very real possibility of causing a chillul Hashem in the process. It seems to me that certain realities that will help insure our survival, including recoginizing not only who we are, but also where we are, get thrown under the bus when they inconveniently block certain materialisitic agendas and futile attempts to triumph in the courts, but ultimately fail in the court of public opinion.

  15. And again, with a hat tip to Tesyaa- the bigger issue and greater concern is the original subject of this post- Belsky being hosted by a community kollel and Yeshiva, regardless of his history of aiding and abetting abusers.

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