Bein Adam Lchavero

Bein Adam Lchavairo is a blog dealing with interpersonal relations within the Jewish community and the interactions of the Jewish and Gentile worlds. We're new. Be gentle.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Naming Names.

One of my "rules" for myself in this blog is not to use any names. It doesn't matter of the story is on the front page of the NY Times or the Washington Post. I do this for many reasons, the primary being not wishing to be over the issur of L'Shon Harah. I also do this to keep my own identity anonymous. My quest for anonymity is not brought on by a fear or even by modesty. Rather, if one knows my identity then several of the people I don�t name to avoid L'Shon Harah become obvious and I am over the issur after all.

However, this once I will be breaking the rule to post the bellow letter by Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg, of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center in Cedarhurst, NY. It addresses the recent child abuse charges within the Jewish community and specifically an alleged Psak given regarding such molestations:

Dear Community Members

Over the last few days, a number of people have brought to my
attention an article from a secular publication asserting that a
world-renowned Rosh Hayeshiva issued a halachic ruling regarding child molestation. This alleged ruling � through this publication � has resulted in widespread Chilul Hashem and gross misrepresentation of clear and indisputable Halacha.

The purpose of this letter is not to address the context of the quote, the alleged ruling in question or the specifics of the primary accusations made in the article. This letter is about clarifying the position of halacha with regard to child abuse, to the extent that position has been clouded by these recent events. Moreover, this letter is about urgently disseminating essential halachic facts which -- hopefully -- will serve to mitigate the potential damage and destruction caused by this mischaracterization.

It is incumbent upon all Rabbonim worldwide to unite and unequivocally declare that Orthodox Judaism absolutely forbids child abuse of any kind � sexual and non-sexual. And, as with any other allegation of halachic wrongdoing, the appropriate testimony must be given, and the appropriate proceedings must be convened, in order to establish the truth of any accusations.

Allow me to be among the first to make this declaration, and I speak not only for myself but also for the Rosh Hayeshiva named in this publication, with whom I have consulted:

Sexually abusing a child in any form is a flagrant violation of our Torah. Halacha absolutely prohibits any and all such conduct. No "benchmark" exists to qualify a sexually motivated act as child molestation, and there are no "technical defenses" to justify child abuse. To be crystal clear: the touching of a child in a sexual manner is utterly forbidden by our Torah and by our mesorah.

It is my hope and prayer that this letter will serve to clarify any confusion about the Torah view on these very serious issues.Obviously, this is not a scholarly letter or article -- now is not the time for Talmudic sources, lengthy discussions or intellectual debates. It is simply the time to set the record straight � solely for the purpose of abruptly ending the Chilul Shaim Shomayim facilitated by the dissemination of the supposed Torah viewpoint reported in the article.

Child abuse is forbidden. An issue this easy does not need further clarification. It is my sincere hope that, in consultation with other Rabbonim in our community, we can collectively and effectively formulate appropriate strategies to ensure that the issue of child abuse is dealt with appropriately, proactively and swiftly in our community and beyond.

Good Shabbos.

Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg
Chofetz Chaim Torah Center
Cedarhurst, NY

I am glad to see Rabbonim coming forward publically and dencouncing what I am being Dan L'Kav Z'chut is a misquote. Should it not be, well, it's even better to see it being denounced then.

I hope when this matter is discussed in various shuls this Shabbos, this respons is included.

I wish everyone a Shabbath Shalom/

Thursday, May 18, 2006


For those who don't speak "geek", that was binary. Binary code is a simple language. An object is either 0 (off) or 1 (on)*. There's also something called "Binary Thinking". In this mode, something is either one thing or the other. Black or White, Right or Wrong, Day or Night. Structuralism views Binary Opposition (an object is either1 or 0) as a perfect way to illustrate the fundamental structure of human thought, culture, and language. However, Post-Structuralism disagrees. They see "Binary Thinking" as an outmoded artifact of Western thought.

Derrida went further and called Binary Opposition (as it applies to Philosophy) "Logocentrism". Essentially, this is an implication that one of the two Binary choices is a positive one and the other is a negative one.

What, do you ask, does any of this have to do with Judaism?

A heck of a lot, in my humble opinion.

We've become Binary Thinkers. Somehow, we've become a people of Either/Or. You're either with the Gedolim or against them. You're either for Science or for Torah. You either own a TV or you are frum.

I don't get this. I don't get where it came from. It doesn't make sense. I mean, look at the original examples I gave:

Sometimes things aren't Black or White. There are other colors out there, and there are even shades of white and black. Things may be morally Wrong and legally Right or vice versa. As for it being either Day or Night� what about Twilight?

Apply the same observational logic to my latter examples within Judaism and they fall apart as well.

If I hold by one Gadol, why must I hold by them all? Does holding by them mean I must exalt them to a level that they are more than human? Do I not accept that my Possek may not be someone else's? In fact, might my Possek give someone else a different P'sak if his situation was different than mine? And if one Gadol, does something wrong or someone does it in his name, does that invalidate all the good that Gadol has done in the past? Does it invalidate the good other Gadolim do/have done?

Why do I have to pick between Science or Torah? My grandparents had PhDs and were frum Jews. My father and an uncle have both Smicha and a Doctorate. One does not, in my experience, preclude the other. In fact, didn't the late Lubavitcher Rebbe z'l have a degree (from where is apparently a whole �nother machloket)? If I come across something in Science that I think contradicts Torah or something in the Torah that contradicts Science, why would I throw one out? Instead, should I not study both harder and try to figure out what the contradiction means?

As for the TV point, well, I think I've hammered my point home enough by now.

Binary Thinking has a place, I'm sure. I just don't see that place as being in Religion.

*[which is why most of your electronic devices around your house have that 1 in an 0 design on the power switch].

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I Went to Work Naked Today.

Okay, not literally. It just felt like it.


I was raised to wear a hat in public. Be it a baseball cap, newsboy hat or a borce, you just wore a hat outside. And I don't think I'm the only Jew who does this. I once jokes to my wife that if you are walking down a NY street and you see a guy in dress slacks, a nice button down shirt and a ballcap, odds are you've just spotted a fellow Jew.

I don't know what my parent's reasoning was exactly but I know what mine was for continuing to do it:

Chilul HaShem.

Now, bear with me here. I'm not saying that wearing a ballcap automatically frees me from the restrictions of not making a Chilul HaShem. I'm saying should I Chas v'Sholom do something that causes a passerby to judge me harshly, the first thought will be "What a bum. Shameful." instead of "Look at that Jew. Shameful.". With the hat I'm only representing myself and possibly the fans of the team whose logo graces it. With an exposed yarmulka, I'm saying I represent the Chosen People.

Which is probably the best argument why I should not wear a cap.

A story, by way of illustration:
A non-Frum friend of mine was giving me a lift to Brooklyn once. This friend doesn't keep Shabbos or wear a yarmulka of any sort. I don't know if he keeps Kosher and I doubt it. He does, however, have a kind and giving soul. While we were driving in I felt a little uncomfortable by his... aggressive driving. Worried about a Chilul HaShem. I began to pocket my kippah.

"What are you doing! Put that back on! You're a Frum Jew and you should be proud of it. If you think my driving will cause anti-Semites to have fuel, tell me. Don't hide."

He's a smart man. I'm not, so it took some time for the lesson he was trying to teach me to sink in: That's exactly what I was doing. Hiding my yidishkite. Trying to blend in with the rest of the world.

I'm trying to change that aspect of my personality. It's hard. I now live in a largely Jewish area and I still carry a hat with me. If it's sunny I wear it. If I'm going through an area where I think Tzakonot Nafashot might apply I put it on. However, when we go out as a family I try to leave it in my bag.

Go team HaShem!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why should I care?

I was born on April 19/ 26 Nissan 1982, but my Birthday is on December 1/17 Kislev 2004.

Before you label me a loony, let me explain.

On Motzai Shabboss (Saturday night), December 1, 2004 I was in a suicide bomb attack in Israel. I had just finished helping my friends who had a band. They were called the Havdalah Band. They used to play on Motzai Shabbos on Ben Yehuda Street. First they would make a public Havdallah (a prayer to glorify the separation between Shabboss and the rest of the week), then they would play Jewish music, much to the enjoyment of all who would be near.

This time they were also being judged as too whether or not they would get a permit to play.

At about 11:30 pm a lady who lived in a 2nd floor apartment on Ben Yehuda Street asked us to stop playing, she was trying to sleep. For most the reaction would have been to say " how can you expect to go to sleep so early on a Saturday night? And in the Heart of "town" too! The Nerve!" and most would have played on anyway.

We stopped.

We then went to Cafe Rimon for some food. It was only 30 feet away from where we were playing. Now for those of you who are not familiar with Cafe Rimon, they have a dairy side as well as a meaty side. we went to the meaty side which was also closer to where we played. They also have an outdoor cafe area that becomes "dairy only" at about 1:00 am. When my friends and I used to go we would always sit in the outdoor area on the meaty side. For some unknown reason they decided to switch to "dairy only" at 11:00 pm. No problem we were willing to eat dairy as long as we got our table which was situated on the outdoor "meaty" side which was now a dairy side do to a switch in table cloth. Our table was taken. We ended up sitting in the doorway of the meaty side, this way we would still get fresh air. We moved our table pretty much outside - only the tall glass doors which opened outward was next to our table, one on each side.

At 11:45 pm a short 15 minutes after we "closed shop" there was a double suicide attack. One of the bombers stood exactly in the spot we occupied when playing. Our table outside - the one that was taken -had no survivors. Every piece of glass in a 300 foot radius shattered - exept those two glass doors. I still remember the nuts, bolts, and screws embedded in the glass. Those doors saved our lives. 18 people were killed. Some were more than 50 feet away. No-one from our group was physically injured. I say physically because the image in our minds will always be there, the memory will always be close.

Why did I tell you this story?

The reason we were saved was because we cared about the feeling of one person who seemingly "had no right" to ask us to stop playing so she can go to sleep.

How many people really care? how many say "Why should I care" so they can continue having fun?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Another Problem We Should Be Talking About.

There's an article being linked to on the JBlogsphere that has me a little angry at them moment. It's about allegations of sex abuse leveled against a former HS Rebbe. One thing people seem shocked at is that such serial molesters could exist in the Rabinate.

I'm angry because I'm not.

People need to remember that for many sexual predators the pleasure comes from the power over their victims, not the actual sex act. As such, predators often seek out positions of power and trust. That's why there seem to be so many more cases involving teachers and clergy. There really aren't any more than there used to be. The difference is that now victims are stepping forward.

Another thing people need to remember is that like a predator in the wild, the sexual predator is attracted to the weakest of the flock. The ones who stand the best chance of being caught with the least amount of effort. The ones who's parents won't listen or who will blame themselves. Not the sort of person who will have the will to resist them and report it. Which, in my opinion, is why sexual molestation should be like murder and not subject to a Stature of Limitations. In some way, it's even more devastating to the victims than murder: a victim of molestation has to live with the memory of the violation.

I have a former classmate who was abused by a family member. I do not know this because he told me. In fact, we have not been in touch in several years. I know because another family member contacted me, asking me to approach the victim and ask him to seek reconciliation with his molester. The relative included letters my classmate had sent them expressing the betrayal he felt. I declined to get involved at the time, feeling uncomfortable. I still feel that I did the right thing, but now I'm thinking it's time to get in touch with him just to get in touch with him and see how he is.

That was my first exposure to the world of sex abuse in the Jewish community. Later, thanks to family and a certain national youth organization, I got to learn more.

While I wish I had remained ignorant, one thing I want to make people aware of is a continuation of what I said last week: talk about this. If you have children, discuss this with them. Let them know that no-one, no matter how much "authority" they have over them, should be touching them beneath their clothes. Explain how there are sick people out there and the sick people are the ones at fault, not them. Let them know that they can come to you and tell you and you WILL believe them and you WILL protect them because they are your child and you love them.

Don't wait until after the fact.

Do we really care?

I would like to request that before reading my blog everyone should please read Typo Lad's blog titled "Was Douglas Adams Right?". It is something that I feel is neglected by too many people, in all circles. It is very hard to post a blog right after a blog as strong and true as "Was Douglas Adams Right?", however, I feel there a point to be added to it. Please do not let this detract from the power and strength of "Was Douglas Adams Right?"

I was walking down the street when I stopped to speak to someone I knew. After speaking with him a few minutes someone (we will call him Yankel) came up to me and said "Do you know that man?"

After telling him that I did Yankel told me that a few years ago my friend saved his life.

This is the story he told me:

Yankel didn't have any friends, was always picked on and had nothing going for him. This led to a deep depression, which eventually led to the decision to commit suicide.

As he was walking to his car, in order to drive to the George Washington Bridge my friend walked up to him.

At this point in the story Yankel told me that he prepared for a verbal assault, after all why else would anyone come to him? What he did hear, however, was the following:

"Hello, how are you? I couldn't help noticing that you looked kind of depressed. I understand that you probably don't want to talk about it right now but please know that I am willing to listen when you do."

At that point my friend wrote down his cell phone number for Yankel and told him "my phone is always on, it is never too late to call."

Today, Yankel is married with a few kids.

Why am I telling you this story? What am I trying to get across?

We all say that we care. We all say that we are good people.

How many of us would have noticed that a stranger is depressed?
How many of us would have stopped to find out why?
How many of us would have actually listened and offered to help?
If it was one of us walking by, would Yankel be alive today?

Would we have said Hello?

It is something to think about, as well as something to work on, for me at least.