JTA Is Wrong: Elimelech Meisels Was Not Sued for Sex Assault, But… (from the archives)


A year ago, today, I posted this story. You may want to go back to that original posting for the comments. 

JTA, which bills itself as “The Global Jewish News Source,” first neglected the Meisels story and then blew it. Their August headline, “Orthodox educator Rabbi Elimelech Meisels sued for sexual assault” is wrong. None of the plaintiffs is claiming they or their daughters were sexually assaulted by Meisels. Yet the JTA article starts: “Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, who runs four religious seminaries in Israel for young Orthodox women, is being sued for sexual assault.” The Forward piled on with a subhead, “Lured Teenage Girls to Late-Night Coffee Meetings” Continue reading

Shabbos Goy Hynes Calculates His Take from a Hasidic Fundraiser

Hynes email re expected Ben Barber yield july 2013

From the Frum Follies archives two years ago (8/9/13)

On July 23rd Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes estimated a take of $7,500 from a fundraiser with Hasidim hosted by  Boro Park Hasid, Ben Barber .

It was at this fundraiser on July 29 that he declared himself a “real shabbos goy” meaning someone who could anticipate and deliver prohibited acts to his orthodox constituents without even being asked. Continue reading

My Questions About the Mitzvah of Redeeming a Captive (Pidyon Shvuyim)

From my archives, five years ago in May

The blogger DovBear asks whether Rubashkin is a meshichist (messianist) and if so, does the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim (redeeming captives) extend to his case? Many modern orthodox Jews ask why there are no ultra orthodox campaigns for Gilad Shalit? Unlike Rubashkin who was not siezed for ransom, Shalit is indeed being held by Hamas for ransom under terrible conditions. If the choice of “worthy” prisoners is driven by ideology, in this case, hostility to Zionism, why not also consider the ideological issue of meshichism?

Is it even correct to use the term pidyon shvuyim when talking about a person given due process in a medinah shel chesed? Continue reading

Shiduchim and Yichus in the Book of Ruth

From the Frum Follies archives (5/15/10)

Part I

Once upon a time two young widows were given some good shidduch advice. “Turn back to your mother’s house…[and] find security in the house of a husband.” Orpah took Naomi’s advice and she is lost to history. Ruth ignored the advice and made history.

Ploni almoni was a practical man when it came to shidduchim who didn’t want to be bothered with caring for Ruth. He passed on the opportunity and he too is lost to history.

Boaz was a different sort of man. In him stirred the blood of Judah, a man who took responsibility for his child with Tamar. He was a descendent of Nachshon who stepped forward while other’s hesitated. Where Ploni blew his chance, Boaz took it. His descendents made history. Continue reading

What Chicago Can Learn From the Skvere Rebbe- (From the archives)

Skvere Rebbe on chair

Skvere Rebbe
David Twersky

This post first appeared in January 2014. Since then Frimet Goldberg wrote an excellent description of New Squares shameful handling of sex abuse.  Shulem Deen’s brilliant memoir, “All Who Go Do Not Return” also describes the cult of the Skvere Rebbe.

The Skvere Rebbe, Rabbi David (Dovid) Twersky, will be coming to Chicago on February 20, 2014 to spend a week dispensing his pearls of wisdom and graciously accepting donations. The Rebbe needs this money for himself and his Hasidim because:

The rebbe eats his meals on silver platters with golden utensils, owns a number of latest model Cadillacs for himself and his family, and lights his Hanukkah candles on a massive six-foot-tall sterling silver menorah that community members told me cost tens of thousands of dollars. Most of his followers… rely on food stamps and Section-8 housing vouchers for basic subsistence.

Here are some of the things the Jews of Chicago can learn from him.

HASHGACHAH PROTIS (Detailed Intentional Supervision) and CHESED (Kindness)

Aron Rottenberg

Aron Rottenberg

Chicagoans believe that Catherine O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern and started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which killed over 300 people and left over 100,000 people homeless. In New Square, the legally incorporated village dominated by the Rebbe, there are no such accidents. The Rebbe’s butler (“hois bochur”), 18-year-old Shaul Spitzer attempted to burn down the house of the dissident Rottenberg family, while the family was asleep inside. As a result of the attack, Aron Rottenberg suffered third-degree burns on over 50% of his body. Continue reading

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

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