In an effort to shore up interest in the Reform Movement among rebellious, teenage boys, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, yesterday urged Reform Jewish leaders to consider promoting annual Nascar trips for teenage youth.
â€œLook, there is this misconception that the Reform Movement is the easy listening jazz movement, but weâ€™re so much more than that!â€ said Rabbi Yoffie. â€œWeâ€™re pluralistic, and that can mean Nascar, or that can mean tzitzithâ€¦whatever new fads the kids are into. There isnâ€™t one way to express your Judaism, and thatâ€™s the real message we are sending through Nascar trips.â€
I have previously questioned whether NCSYâ€™s control of the 170 Jewish â€œStudentâ€ Union clubs operating in the public high school system, and which are used to recruit students to NCSY activities, is understood by parents or the average teen who stumbles in on the pizza party these clubs throw. I apparently underestimated the problem. It appears that the NCSY/JSU relationship is unclear even to students in leadership positions at these clubs.
On the NCSY message board, â€œSheistyfalafelâ€ asked,
â€œIâ€™m president of a JSU at my school. I was wondering the relationship between JSU and NCSY. Is JSU part of NCSY or what? I know a lot of people are interested and donâ€™t get clear responses.â€
â€œRabbi Jackâ€ Abramowitz, NCSY’s director of national programs, answered,
â€œThatâ€™s definitely a question for JSU, which I canâ€™t answer because Iâ€™m not them. But what is it that you would have them write on their page? â€œWe oversee some clubs [editorâ€™s note: MOST] that are run by NCSY and others that are not?â€
See, NCSY wants to disclose this information, they just canâ€™t come up with a way to do so accurately. Let me attempt to help a brother out. How about disclosing the â€œdeanâ€ of JSU is Rabbi Steven Burg, and a little blurb about who he is, including disclosure that he the leader of NCSY as well? How about disclosing the NCSY positions most of the â€œcool advisorsâ€ have outside of the JSUs within the descriptive bios about them that somehow never include this information?
â€œSheistyfalafelâ€ asked, â€œWhy isnâ€™t this information on the JSU page?”
Well, Dean Burg?
(Provided the yeshiva students are from an Orthodox background).
Rabbi Burg, the national director of NCSY, writes in the JTA that,
Thousands of Orthodox students will soon head off for their post-high school year of study at a yeshiva in Israel.
What about those public school students who you send to yeshiva who are not completely Orthodox?
Judging from recent years, many of them will contract what is derisively referred to as Flipping Out Syndrome, or FOS, a troubling malady that pits teenager against parent in a seemingly endless cycle of friction and misjudgment.
Rabbi Burg writes about this phenomenon as if NCSY is against this. In fact, NCSY encourages such behavior even domestically, and has for years. NCSY has long promoted increased religious observance as a form of rebellion.
As Michael Kress wrote in Salon back in 2000,
At a typical NCSY Shabbaton (weekend retreat), the Havdala (a ceremony ending Shabbat) always loomed large. A short celebration involving a multiwicked candle, wine and a spice box, Havdala is usually a quick affair. But at NCSY events, leaders would pass around the candle, asking kids to say something meaningful when the candle was passed to them. The kids’ stories generally involved nonobservant youth who became observant, thanks to the NCSY. And inevitably, those teens and preteens would elaborate on the sacrifices they made for their faith: enduring hostility from their parents; refusing to eat at their parents’ not-kosher-enough home; refusing to spend weekends at their non-Shabbat-observant home.
As disturbing as these narratives might have seemed (they certainly bothered me), the NCSY encouraged them. The organization openly disregarded parental concerns and prided itself on the courage of children who could make a complete lifestyle change overnight — the consequences be damned.
Note that Kressâ€™s primary concern is not already Modern Orthodox Jews who become more religious, but rather, secular/liberal Jews who become Orthodox.
Yet Rabbi Burg does not address those concerns at all, even though he is writing for the JTA, a newswire that services community Jewish newspapers nationally, and those newspapers service a predominantly liberal and secular Jewish readership. But strangely, Rabbi Burg restricts the conflicts to those between already Modern Orthodox Jews and their Orthodox parents.
Let us be clear. The conflicts engendered by NCSYâ€™s recruitment of liberal and secular Jews to haredi baal teshuvah yeshivas â€“ which until recently, were all but the only yeshivas they sent such Jews to, never mind the dominant ones â€“ is hardly limited to a disagreement over a specific vitaminâ€™s kashrut acceptability. In fact, such issues may of very minor concern for most secular Jews overall compared to the larger ones they face.
But what Rabbi Burg did not address is the larger issues facing liberal and secular Jewish parents and their high school graduate teens.
The conflicts created from teens adopting the ideologies of the haredi institutions NCSY guides them to include (but are not limited to): A rejection of scientific method, in accordance with the haredi leaders they report to; a postponement of college indefinitely; a rejection of secular education as a worthy goal in itself; a rejection of full-time secular college; a preference for maximum halachic (Jewish Law) compliance (hardly restricted to kashrut); acceptance of stringencies not recognized as halacha outside of the ultra-Orthodox; anti-Americanism; encouragement of restrictive haredi garb; a rejection of friends and even family members who arenâ€™t Orthodox; a contempt for Modern Orthodoxy; a belief that haredi leaders are near-infallible, an acceptance of inferior status within the ultra-Orthodox because of their niddah conception and non-Orthodox background.
It is unfortunate that Rabbi Burg did not address these concerns of secular and liberal Jewish parents. He is certainly aware of them. NCSY and the Orthodox Union have taken tremendous pride in recruiting their children to haredi yeshivas and seminaries. And NCSY has expanded the public school population they serve tremendously. They control over 170 clubs in our public schools. Rabbi Burg is the â€œdeanâ€ of the Jewish â€œStudentâ€ Union.
But perhaps that isn’t the point. Those parental concerns arenâ€™t really any more valid now than they ever were for NCSY. Because they arenâ€™t Orthodox.
At least Modern Orthodox Jewish parents have some leverage over NCSY. After all, the parent organization is the Orthodox Union, a right-wing Modern Orthodox organization, even if its youth group leans haredi. NCSY has been careful to offer already Modern Orthodox teens Modern Orthodox options because Modern Orthodox parents insisted on that.
But secular and liberal Jewish parents have no representation, and no voice. Additionally, they usually do not understand the difference between Modern Orthodoxy and ultra-Orthodoxy. Jewish parents think it is their kid, their kidâ€™s specific baal teshuvah yeshiva/seminary, their kidâ€™s specific rabbi.
NCSY has taken advantage of their naivety and trust consistently and effectively. The concerns come after the fact, not before. They don’t require addressing. At that point, NCSY already got what they wanted.
Even in this attempt to appear moderate in a Jewish newswire that primarily services secular and liberal Jewry, NCSY’s leader utterly ignores the concerns of secular and liberal Jewry.
Excuse me for feigning shock and surprise.
Earlier: Is NCSY appropriate for our public schools?
As some of you may be aware, all is not well in Frumville. At least, not for the Modern Orthodox. Their women suffer bleaching; they suffer stoning for not holding by the shabbos zmanim of Chassidim from Poland, as they have the strange idea that shabbos ends when the sun goes in down wherever they happen to be, even if that place is the Land of Israel; and they are forced into segregation and haredi standards of dress they do not want.
Sometimes Modern Orthodox women resist being forced to sit at the back of the segregated buses. The haredim don’t like it when they perceive that to be happening. And now, yet another incident of an Orthodox woman being assaulted by haredim has occurred. This one a true threat to tznius (modesty, the numero uno mitzvah for women according to the right-wing ultra-Orthodox), a seventy year old grandmother trying to help seat her grandchild.
Emes Ve-Emunah reports,
“This is from an Areivim list member and it so important that it needs to get wider exposure. It happened yesterday.”
Sorry to bring up an old topic; but it hit close to home this time. This is addressed at all those readers who don’t believe that this happens without provocation:An hour ago my brother left my parents in Ramat Bet Shemesh and got on a Mehadrin bus with 2 of his kids – and my Mother came on behind him with the baby, intending to put the baby down and get off before the bus leaves.
A Kanoi [zealot] jumped up and pushed my 70 year old mother (holding a baby) backward and pinned her to the front of the bus, yelling at her to get off, ignoring her explanation of why she was on the men’s side. Of course she couldn’t get off because she was being pinned against the front of the bus.
Her arms are aching so badly so can hardly function; and the only person who intervened on a full bus of Frum Yidden was the Arab bus driver!!!!
Haredi apologists will rush to note that â€œdaas Torahâ€ does not approve of violence to achieve their goal of bus segregation. They will insist we should not condemn the many for the actions of the few.
It may be the actions of a few, but it is the inaction of quite a few more, because they are implementing the will of the haredi leaders and their masses . These assaults are happening because of the goal of achieving compliance of this new chumrah (stringency).
As Rabbi Harry Maryles notes,
The condemning posters in Ramat Bet Shemesh B put up by the Edah HaCharedis have been pointed to as evidence that the rabbinic leadership is strongly opposed to violent protest. But those posters in the same breath endorsed the very goals sought by those violent demonstrators.
In a recent post on Jewschool, I explained the issue of Ben Niddah (Jews whose souls are considered by the ultra-Orthodox to be defiled by menstrual blood. Such a category includes the vast majority of liberal and secular Jewry) in the baal teshuvah world, and why this encourages and justifies discrimination against Jews from liberal and secular Jewish backgrounds who join the ultra-Orthodox ranks.
In an essay in the Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Shafran seeks to minimize the problems of baal teshuvahs marrying into haredi families, even as he calls for an increase of such marriages. That is, unless the haredi family doesnâ€™t want to, which just happens to usually be the case. He writes of an anecdotal case where a baal teshuvah (a person from a non-Orthodox religious background becomes haredi) named David marries into an ultra-Orthodox family. This is offered as a situation where a boy meets a girl, nothing more. But we should immediately have some questions even to this singular anecdote. Does the girlâ€™s family have any known converts or baal teshuvahs in her lineage? Is â€œDavidâ€ from an exceptionally wealthy family? If the answer is yes to either situation, this story is useless even as an anecdotal case, as in the former situation, the lineage of the ultra-Orthodox family is marred in the eyes of other ultra-Orthodox Jews, and in the latter case, the drawback issue of Ben Niddah was literally compensated for by a tangible positive–wealth, which is rare in the ultra-Orthodox world, particularly in Israel.
Rabbi Shafran writes,
David’s new in-laws were enamored of both him and his parents, and overjoyed at their daughter’s marriage. They hoped, moreover, that their example might perhaps, in a small way, inspire other traditional Orthodox Jews to entertain the possibility of such matches from outside their own community.
Thatâ€™s very sweet, but it is also a concession that it does not happen very often.
The importance of “family” – i.e. the “pedigree” of a current and well-established Orthodox background – is an understandable concern for many, to be sure; and there are other Halacha-related issues that also come into play in such cases. To some, such concerns may even be paramount, and that stance is their prerogative.
This is an allusion to the Ben Niddah issue.
At the same time, though, it cannot be denied that there is something real and valuable that is gained, too, when an observant Orthodox Jew from an Orthodox family marries an equally observant Orthodox Jew from a different background – gained by the latter, by the former and by the Jewish people as a whole.
Some haredim might in fact deny that the observant Orthodox Jew from an Orthodox family gains anything valuable. But even if they do, what they will more likely be concerned about is whether or not said â€œbenefitâ€ is worth the cost and the risk of bringing in an outsider from a foreign background. Clearly, most do not believe this to be a compelling tradeoff.
“They had hardly been the first “ultra-Orthodox” Jews to welcome a baal teshuva and his family into their own.â€
They were not the first. And just as those before them did not change the norm, so too this family will not change the norm. And Iâ€™m not saying that this should be the norm. I donâ€™t believe that it is usually appropriate for Jews from liberal and secular backgrounds to marry Jews from insular ultra-Orthodox ones. But then, I donâ€™t believe ultra-Orthodoxy is appropriate for most Jews from liberal and secular backgrounds to start with. However, I certainly accept their choice, as well as the ultra-Orthodox right to recruit adults (as opposed to recruiting underage Jews under false pretenses), provided it is done candidly, and without deception, and they understand issues such as Ben Niddah going into haredism. Which they usually donâ€™t. As I noted previously, the issue of Ben Niddah is not revealed until the recruit is far into the haredi â€œteshuvahâ€ process. It is concealed, and even here, Rabbi Shafran does not directly address the issue of Ben Niddah, a status that justifies discrimination against and bolsters negative stereotypes about baal teshuvahs. And it is precisely why most haredim from normative haredi backgrounds will never feel a need to eliminate a general negative bias towards baal teshuvahs. All else is wishful thinking, an exception that proves the rule.
If Rabbi Shafran felt this was not such a difficult problem, he would not have been afraid to address the Ben Niddah issue directly. Well, defending a quasi-caste system to liberal and secular company based on the premise that a soul is tarnished by congenital defiled menstrual blood is certainly an undesirable task. But not addressing it directly is really no defense at all.
It should be understood that the issue of Ben Niddah is not pragmatically an issue in the Modern Orthodox world. Since it is not halachically binding, the Modern Orthodox world has little use for casting aspersions upon the masses of Jewry today. This is an ultra-Orthodox outlook, and generally the further right-wing one goes, the more intense the theologically based aversion to â€œbâ€™nai niddahâ€ becomes.
Never the less, all haredi outreach organizations seeking to craft haredim out of Jews from secular and liberal Jewish backgrounds are concomitantly creating â€œbâ€™nai niddah.â€
The concept of a Jewish quasi-caste system surely seems something foreign and far away to the mainstream secular and religiously liberal Jewish community, which increasingly is giving a nod to the more visible success of instilling Jewish identity and Jewish engagement to teens that the Orthodox outreach groups offer.
But is Ben Niddahism really that far away?
The haredi organizations that attempt to assimilate baal teshuvahs into communities which view them as Bâ€™nai Niddah include (but by no means are limited to): Aish HaTorah Jerusalem (at least all branches in Israel), Ohr Somayach (all branches including Neve Yerushalayim), and Kol Yaakov.
NCSY directs secular and liberal American teenagers to all of these haredi organizations, and does not inform them or their parents about the issue of Ben Niddah, and how they wouldn’t assume such a status in a Modern Orthodox community. The Ben Niddah issue is just one of many problems that a baal teshuvah faces in joining an ultra-Orthodox community, but does not face when joining a Modern Orthodox community. There are so many others…the haredi rejection of scientific method, the haredi preference for maximum halachic (Jewish Law) compliance, the oppressive haredi garb (both for men and for women), haredi hostility to higher western culture, and socio-economic downward mobility. In the right-wing of the ultra-Orthodox world, who dominate the Israeli haredim and correspondingly comprise a large percentage of Israel’s baal teshuvah movement and its institutions, the work ethic itself is rejected.
Under its ecumenical front, the Jewish Student Union, NCSY is now operating in over 170 public schools. The primary youth group beneficiary of their work to whom students are directed is (no surprise), NCSY proper.
NCSYâ€™s public school outreach organization, the Jewish â€œStudentâ€ Union, is increasingly funded by Jewish Federations throughout the country.
Although NCSY has been quickly creating and bolstering right-wing Modern Orthodox options to counter recent criticism that it has favored predominantly haredi options for their alumni from liberal and secular backgrounds, NCSY has declined to break their ties with these haredi organizations that offer a Ben Niddah status (and all the other problems) to their students upon successful integration into a haredi community.
It is ironic that a liberal and secular Jewish community that prides itself on its disproportionate role in the Civil Rights Movement apparently has no qualms about funding and facilitating a quasi-caste system for its own teenagers. Defenders will note that only a portion of the teens NCSY works with ever go to NCSYâ€™s haredi partner institutions after high school. But what if a Jewish organization recruited black teens, and the most interested 5% of them were to become second-class citizens because of their birth status? Would that be okay? After all, itâ€™s only 5%â€¦the other 95% donâ€™t have that problem, and they get so much out of it.
It is inconceivable that the mainstream Jewish community would greet such am operation with anything less than outraged protest. But apparently, not for our own. Not because we don’t care about our own, but because we simply don’t understand how real this stuff is to the haredim, or that NCSY directs our teens to these haredi institutions, or that the Jewish Student Union is NCSY controlled.
The liberal and secular Jewish community should demand that NCSY either break its ties with its haredi partners, or lose all Federation support, both monetary, and the rampant corresponding puff pieces in the Federation controlled Jewish weeklies.
NCSY is burning the candle at both ends. They are rapidly infiltrating our public school system, even as they continue to work with organizations and direct their alumni to haredi organizations that recruit Jews into haredi Bâ€™nai Niddahism.
NCSY has to choose one or the other. Or the mainstream Jewish community must make that choice for them.
Rabbi Furman established a â€œvery successfulâ€ branch of Ohr Somayach (a quiescent fundamentalist outreach organization) in Johannesburg, South Africa, and was the head of Ohr Somayach Savoy until the shit hit the fan.
The Times (of South Africa) reports,
Amid a growing scandal, Rabbi Lewis Furman of Johannesburg, who was also a family counsellor and international speaker, is believed to have left South Africa for Israel where he is undergoing â€œrehabilitationâ€.
Furman â€” who is alleged by congregants to have been a â€œserial philandererâ€ â€” was forced to resign his position in South Africa and will not practise as a rabbi in this country again.
Of course, the haredi powers that be have insisted it is forbidden to talk about this scandal, and the Jewish newspapers in South Africa have so far declined to discuss this story. Butâ€¦
â€œoutraged members of the Jewish community, speaking on condition of anonymity, have accused the Rabbinate of â€œsweeping the matter under the carpetâ€ and failing to be â€œtransparentâ€ about it.
They say Furman had a reputation as a â€œserial philandererâ€ who was caught out when he mistakenly sent an incriminating SMS to the wrong person.
Furman was apparently then confronted and assaulted by a cuckolded husband.
Still, the important things it that Rabbi Furman has the right hashkafas (philosophical and political outlooks). Thatâ€™s why his tapes are still available from Ohr Somayach. Like this one on â€œYetzer Hara – Friend or Foe?â€
Update: Failed Messiah connects the dots — South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein who dismissed allegations as “unfounded speculation,” and attempted to silence discussion within the South African Jewish community (but still negotiated Furman’s exit) worked for Ohr Somayach.
Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon is finished and now screening â€œCut,â€ a provocative new documentary film about a traditional Jew from an Orthodox background rethinking circumcision. The film is respectful in questioning this most sacred held tradition, and Eliyahu explained at yesterdayâ€™s screening at Realbirth in Manhattan that he wanted to â€œallow people from different perspectives to feel comfortable watching the film.â€
As is demonstrated in “Cut” through the mental gymnastics of some of the pro-circ members, an anti-circ (intact) position is often an extremely difficult, even painful, idea to most Jews. In fact, it is the more fundamentalist who appear the most honest about the disconnect between modern thinking and this ancient rite, in no small part because Ungar-Sargon made sure to have the Orthodox put their most â€œsophisticated foot forward.â€
The personal change in the dynamics between Ungar-Sargon and his Modern Orthodox father over this issue seems an important resource as well, as it demonstrates that what appears impossible to so many Jews can perhaps, over time, evolve into greater understanding towards such a choice.
For gentiles, or at least liberal and secular Christians, this must seem like a strange and unnecessary debate. But it is different for the Jews. On the one hand, we have a foundation mitzvah, a mitzvah that was used against us throughout the ages, perhaps similar to how many Africans feel FGM is used against them today by westerners. On the other, we have, as the perennial protester Dan Strandjord points out, the issue of â€œbasic human rights. Nothing fancy, just basic human rights.â€
The release date for the film is still being â€œworked out.â€
There are many aspects of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox, as opposed to Modern Orthodox) baal teshuvahs experience that aren’t properly understood by the recruits of the movement. One of the many considerations that need to be understood better and earlier in the teshuvah process is the status of ben niddah, or child of impure menstrual blood. This is a child born to a woman who had not immersed herself in the mikvah, or ritual bath, prior to sexual relations, as is commanded by Jewish law.
Of course, the vast majority of liberal and secular Jewish women do not go to the mikvah prior to resuming sexual relations, and therefore most children of liberal and secular Jewish backgrounds are designated as “b’nai niddah.” In fact, the term BT (baal teshuvah) is today essentially synonymous with “ben niddah,” and this may be why the term baal teshuvah is employed more frequently in the haredi world for designating a newly observant member of the community than in the Modern Orthodox world. A BT does not just come from a different background as a haredi FFB (“frum,” or observant, from birth), but is also of a different status than an FFB. This is because there are negative personality characteristics associated with such a classification according to many ancient rabbinical commentaries.
Bnai Niddah are “corrupt and sinners.” They have a genetic disposition to do evil. They are prone to brazenness and rebelliousness, and do not treat great rabbis with the proper respect they deserve. Baal teshuvahs are not properly deferential towards great rabbis just because they were brought up with and retain vestiges of a liberal democratic approach to life and society. It is because their mother did not immerse in the mikvah, or at least, the BT’s unfortunate world view is exacerbated by the unclean bloodstains of menstruation on their souls.
These are considerations for haredim to not only refrain from marrying BTs, but also to refrain from marrying their children, as such a pagam (defect) is considered to be hereditary. Among other issues, there is enough of a discrimination problem that Beyond BT, a support website for established baal teshuvahs, openly discusses whether or not a baal teshuvah should hide his liberal/secular background.
So how does the haredi world continue to gain BTs who must accept his/her defective position in this quasi-caste system?
First of all, the b’nai niddah issue is delayed in terms of its explanation and understanding to haredi recruits. A BT is usually already well on his way into haredism before his status as a ben niddah is revealed to him. At that time, dismissive disclaimers from the “gedolim” about the status of b’nai niddah that are offered to the Baal Teshuvah to soften the blow. These disclaimers are offered every time the issue of ben niddah is brought up.
But are they truly dismissive?
As Mayim Rabim notes,
The majority of gedolim in my circle have dismissed the ben niddah concern nowadays. But the reasons they have come up with for doing so seem so strained. To paraphrase some examples from the same article:
The Steipler Gaon: The concern regarding a ben niddah’s character is merely statistical. If an individual shows good character, he is obviously an exception and the warning can be ignored.
Another opinion cited by the Steipler Gaon: The blemish of ben niddah is hereditary for an infinite number of generations, not just one, and in fact all of us are likely to have it (or some other blemish) somewhere back in our lineage. So we’re all on equal ground and have no reason not to marry each other.
Rav Moshe Feinstein: In many cases we can’t be certain the mother was truly a niddah mide’oraita, because maybe she went swimming after her period in a body of water that qualifies as a mikvah, and thereby became tehorah. (Rav Moshe does not discuss the fact that she would most likely have been wearing a tight-fitting bathing suit at the time.)
But how many exceptions are there? And how many women happen to go skinny dipping at just the right time? And are most haredim really willing to claim that somewhere along their yichus (lineage) something probably went wrong somewhere? Publicly, through marriage of a child to a ben/bas niddah? Even according to many who feel this is an issue that can be worked through, each subsequent generation will have to do so. Ben Niddah is the gift that keeps on giving.
So for the masses of haredim, the status of a “ben niddah” is a reality, even if it is not quite halachically mandated in terms of prohibition of union. They may be technically allowed to marry baal teshuvahs, but it is hardly advised. The relatively left-wing ultra-Orthodox and candid Rabbi Homnick once told a group of us how a child whose mother went to the mikvah was much more desirable to haredim even in terms of adoption.
It appears that The Gedolim (rabbinical leaders of the non-Chassidic haredi world) are not really dismissing the status of b’nai niddah, but only downplaying its role in the public discourse, which since the haredim are heavily in the recruiting business, makes a lot of sense strategically. A separate, lower class of Jew is still being created, but the lines are blurred just enough that its exact role and meaning can be obscured if one wants to see it through such a myopic lens, both in terms of the baal teshuvas themselves, and for normative haredim who seek marriage with them or their offspring (the latter situation arises more frequently than the former).
It is important that the issue of ben niddah is understood by liberal and secular Jews and their families when they are entering or considering entering haredism, not after the fact. They need to understand that in the eyes of many, they are not only second class citizens (forever) because they grew up in a secular or liberal environment, but that this status is justified by the circumstances of their creation, and should not be assuaged by the facile non-dismissals of the status of the baal teshuvah/ben niddah by select haredi leaders which many kiruv professionals, most of whom are haredi, will offer when pressed on the issue.
These are the best responses they have to offer.
Failed Messiah has uncovered some interesting news on the career of Rabbi Matt Tropp, who lied to the court, attacked Lannerâ€™s accusers, and pulled all sorts of foylashtick in order to protect his boss at the Orthodox Unionâ€™s NCSY becauseâ€¦well, we know why. Because Baruch Lanner — who abused girls and kneed boys in the groin FOR DECADES — made kids Orthodox.
So where does such a person go? Well, obviously, he stays in kiruv! If it ainâ€™t broke, why fix it? And one guess where.
“[Rabbi Tropp] works for Aish HaTorah in NYC (where he teaches outreach skills) and he speaks for the OU, and he recently shared a platform with major OU leaders, including Rabbi Herschel Schachter.”
Rabbi Tropp is also the director of Project Inspire, a site so silly and lowest common denominator that only Big Aish could come up with it. But hey â€“ at least the Orthodox Union knew better than to get involved with that, and with Rabbi Tropp again.
We Jews rarely agree on anything. But you know what we apparently almost all agree on? We agree that achieving energy independence is important.
Thatâ€™s according to a recent American Jewish Committee poll.
I mention this, because any Jewish organization that isnâ€™t pushing for energy independence is acting against the will of the Jewish people.
99% (of Jews!) agree. Of that, only 18% say it is â€œsomewhatâ€ important. The remaining say it is VERY important.
It is very important. Our survival is imperiled by our addiction to oil. And if you think I sound all Lefty calling this an addiction, please see the American Jewish Committeeâ€™s own essay on the subject, â€œOver a Barrel,â€ which calls it an addiction as well. That’s the AJC — not exactly big hippies, right?
But we all agree on this one. Now letâ€™s do something about it! Actually, we need to do lots of things about it.
What do you think we should do?
Via: The Forward
Since I began my investigation of NCSY back in September, my primary concern has been that Americaâ€™s foremost after school youth program for Jewish teens is advocating haredism (ultra-Orthodoxy) to secular Jews under the guise of Modern Orthodoxy. In fact, in a two and even three step program, NCSY is proselytizing under an ecumenical veneer, recruiting non-Orthodox Jewish teens to their programs directly from the public school system, through the Jewish Student Union (JSU).
The mission of Jewish Student Union is to get more Jewish teens attending public high schools to do something Jewish! That’s it! It’s that simple!!!
Some of the JSUâ€™s activities are in school, and some of them are after school. JSU has pizza parties, and during school hours, is open to anybody. NCSY’s JSU works with faculty and even has begun partnering with non-Orthodox groups, such as BBYO.
But JSU is ultimately controlled from the top by NCSY. Even the “dean” of the Jewish Student Union is the national director of NCSY, Rabbi Stephen Burg, though he is listed only on the JSU site as a â€œcool advisor,â€ without his title, not even of â€œrabbi,â€ and like many of its Orthodox advisory staff, without an actual photo. The relationship between JSU and NCSY is not revealed clearly, and by failing to disclose this information NCSY may be seen as attempting to disguise both their control of the program and its goals.
I previously questioned whether NCSY was providing a gateway to ultra-Orthodoxy, and not just restricted to the fun and educational Modern Orthodox activities for secular Jewish teenagers it presents itself as.Â Since then, it has become clear that not only does NCSY allow promotion of full-timeÂ studies at ultra-Orthodox institutions as an option to our teens in NCSY, but NCSY staff at least sometimes actively facilitates their recruitment to these ultra-Orthodox institutions, because full-time Jewish studies are often considered by NCSY to be the ideal program for NCSY teenagers immediately following high school, and theyâ€™re what are most readily available.Â
The Orthodox Union’s publication (the Orthodox Union is the parent organization of NCSY), the Jewish Advocate, actually boasts of their role in Charedi recruitment of a secular Jew in their fall issue. Within a feature of a former NCSY teenager featured in “KeepingÂ the Faith in Iraq,” the Jewish Advocate notes,
“Rabbi Dave presented him with a full scholarship to attend Ohr Somayach’s Derech Institute for Torah Studies in Jerusalem.”
Who is Rabbi Dave?
Rabbi David (“Rabbi Dave”) Felsenthal was “then-New Jersey NCSY’s director of recruitment and [is] currently director of NCSY alumni.”
How often is this happening?Â
Is NCSY a gateway to haredism?
This morning, beyondbt.com, a website for newly Orthodox Jews of varying stages, strains, and sects, published an article I wrote decrying the lack of Modern Orthodox options for post-high school secular Jews interested in traditional Judaism.
Their choice to publish an article by a â€œharedi-basherâ€ like me was an interesting one on their part, though I did agree to avoid haredi-bashing in my post.Â But stillâ€¦I am writing a book with Failed MessiahÂ examining the challenges of those recruited by the Orthodox â€œkiruvâ€ (outreach) worldâ€”a world which is dominated by the haredim, and some of the stories we have received so far (we need more, contact us! SUBMISSIONS_ AT_ KIRUVSTORIES.COM) have been less than flattering to the methods and goals employed by ultra-Orthodox institutions. Not so shockingly, they do not all end up as happy or satisfied as those in Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatzâ€™s book of anecdotes of the â€œteshuva revolution,â€ â€œAnatomy of a Search.â€
The fact that beyondbt.com never the less published my call for a Modern Orthodox alternative approach to traditional Judaism for the newly Orthodox suggests that there are at least some in the kiruv world itself who are concerned that the Orthodox outreach infrastructure is dominated by haredim.Â
Additionally, there have been encouraging developments in the right-wing Modern Orthodox camp that suggest many have grown quite weary of attempting to appease the haredim, and no longer seek their acceptance.Â
But there are also some troubling disconnects emanating from the Modern Orthodox camp.
The post-high school Orthodox kiruv world is dominated by haredim.Â And the Orthodox Union, which houses NCSYÂ (an Orthodox recruitment program for secular and liberal Jewish teenagers), does not have institutions and programs like the haredi world does for high school graduates.
Why not? And what does this mean?
Up, Up, and …Oy Veh
If Iâ€™ve said it once, Iâ€™ve said it a thousand times. Donâ€™t davenÂ shachris until the plane is in the air! You are setting yourself up for disappointment.Â Especially so close to the anniversary of 9/11!
VOS IZ NEIAS reports,
Some fellow passengers are questioning why an Orthodox Jewish man was removed from an Air Canada Jazz flight from Montreal to New York City for praying.
The airplane was heading towards the runway at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport when eyewitnesses said the Orthodox man began to pray.Â “He was clearly a Hasidic Jew,” said Yves Faguy, a passenger seated nearby. “He had some sort of cover over his head. He was reading from a book. “He wasn’t exactly praying out loud but he was lurching back and forth,” Faguy added.
The action didn’t seem to bother anyone, Faguy said, but a flight attendant approached the man and told him his praying was making other passengers nervous. “The attendant actually recognized out loud that he wasn’t a Muslim and that she was sorry for the situation but they had to ask him to leave,” Faguy said.
Rabosaiâ€¦pleaseâ€¦for the next few days, for the sake of your fellow passengers, keep shuckeling to a minimum while on all transportation vehicles.Â Everyone is on edge.Â Itâ€™s nothing personal.
In his article in the Jerusalem Post, Ariel Beery takes aimÂ at the â€œNew Jews.â€
The bad news for the Jewish state and people is that this generation of American Jews have taken from their education that acting Jewish means doing justice without regard to nationality or peoplehood.
While it feels good to support all peoples and all victims, the nature of the world in which we live in – where Hizbullah amassed thousands of rockets and attacked Israel; where Iran edges towards nuclear weapons; and where over a third of Israelâ€™s Jews, and, surprisingly, 20 percent of New York Jews live under or close to the poverty line – makes an ethics of universalism simply irresponsible at the moment[...]It is time for the Jewish community to realize that the next generation will be what we teach it, and that the emphasis on universalistic social justice, while appealing, is no more than junk-food Jewish education: It feels good, the kids love it, and it won’t hurt on occasion – but without the particularism of peoplehood the Jewish community will soon find itself undernourished and unable to survive.
Now while Ariel hasÂ made some important points here,Â he has only addressed the most recent manifestation of the continued recession of liberal Jewish commitment in the Diaspora.
Jewish nationalism in the Diaspora was always based on the Jewish religion.Â When that changed, we began basing our nationalism on victimology, instead of just using victimology to enhance it.
As Jews are beginning to perceive themselves less as victims (no matter how many Museums of Death or ADL press releases to the contrary), this nationalism is slipping, as is support for Israel, which is so frequently defended by employing a similar victimology.Â
If Ariel really wants to alleviate the problems affecting Jewish nationalism, he should address the root causes of the condition, and demand that instead of Jews supporting Holocaustism and liberalism (even liberal Zionism, Ariel), they should instead return to wrestling with Judaism.Â Traditional Judaism, notÂ Judaism through the filter of hilchos Newsweek.Â AndÂ we should accept that Judaism is not always universal, and not always progressive.Â But that it is never the less valuable, and why we bother.
For the alternatives are not only die-ins and fundraisers for those in Hezbollah-land, but ultimately widespread disinterest.
The â€œjunk-foodâ€ education did not begin with universal social justice, but with the rejection of the Torah and a classical Jewish education.Â Â
Everything else will prove an unsatisfying substitute in the end, as â€œjunk-foodâ€ always is.Â Â
It is a known fact that more and more household goods are coming under organized kashrut supervision, including paper goods and even water.Â Now, yet another item is apparently moving into the category ofÂ hechshered goods: Marijuana.
The Reading Eagle reports,
Federal agents arrested about a half-dozen people and seized 700 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $1 million at a kosher poultry processing plant in Exeter Township, authorities said Thursday.
The raid at G&G Poultry Inc. at 1100 Lincoln Road occurred Wednesday about 5:30 p.m., according to Exeter police, who assisted several federal agencies in the operation.
Now, the problem here is obvious.Â If you are not eating the marijuana, it absolutely doesnâ€™t need a hechsher, as long as you check it for bugs before smoking.Â
How long are we going to allow this unnecessary continued expansion of the kashrut industry?
Hat tip: Failed Messiah
[Editorâ€™s note: Kelseyâ€™s opinion does not reflect Jewschoolâ€™s policy on kashrut or on kashrut supervision.Â Please check with your local
Conservative post-denominational rabbi before smoking marijuana without a hechsher.]
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Dear Friends of the Resistance to the Occupation,
As some of you may be aware, Jews willing to
take a group nap simulate death are bravely demonstrating against the Israeli occupation, risking nothing having their names put on list or something.
However, while we applaud these efforts, we feel compelled to note that we believe that they donâ€™t go far enough.
Zionist oppression did not begin â€œ58 yearsâ€ ago with the nod of the U.S., as the apologist Jews of Conscience are claiming.
Zionist oppression began thousands of years ago, and expanded dramatically under the white male capitalist regimes of Kings Saul, David, and Solomon, who disenfranchised many indigenous gods.Â These Zionist leaders changed everything, and exacerbated discord.Â It was tragically much like todayâ€™s situation. Even after the land was liberated by the environmentally responsible Chaldeans, Zionist oppression was enabled to reorganize under Persia, for whom the second Zionist Entity was a client state (sound familiar?!?).Â Attempts by the Greeks at instituting a multi-cultural curriculum were met with massive hate crimes by the Zionists, who after victory resumed gross violations of animal rights in their capital.Â
Eventually, the Romans defeated the Zionists, although the bosses inspired dreadful anti-Union outbreaks to stop government regulated public works programs, which cost many Roman lives.
Despite their ostensible acceptance of â€œexile,â€ the Zionists continued to harbor colonialist aspirations, and preached their intentions on a communal level in daily sacrificial prayers and weddings as well as with continued â€œpilgrimagesâ€ to The Land of the Zionists.Â There is evidence that there were always Zionists in Palestine who were attempting to seize this land for their own, even if not always on a massive level, but through privatization.
This is what we are up against.
So as the true Jews of Conscience, we will not be satisfied by calling all of this land in its entirety â€œPalestine.â€
True Jews of Conscience will not rest until the proper name, Canaan (after its real indigenous population), is restored.Â Â
We donâ€™t seek to criticize our fellow progressive Jews who are, it is true, attempting to address the root cause of
all many problems in â€œthe Middle East and beyond.â€Â But recognizing 1948 instead of 1967 as the starting point is hardly significant progress; not when the ancient history of Zionist aggression is considered in full.
Let us continue to show solidarity for anyone and everyone â€“ except our own. Unless we can blame the United States of Aggression.Â Thatâ€™s better still.
Jews of Super-Conscience