Sunday, 6 January 2013

With Frands like these...

Open Letter from "yankel"
Dear Mr Frand,
Firstly, let me introduce myself. I'm just an average Golders Greener, have only eaten Kedassia meat for the last 40 plus years, used to daven in Halpern shuls, but still daven in very right wing shuls (no eiruv carriers) send my kids to the most frum schools in NW, and try and do whats right in the eyes of Hashem. I go to work everyday, schvitzing to make a living to enable me to bring up my kids frum and correctly. Oy and 1 more thing I almost forgot to mention - I try to respect what my Rabonim and magid shiurim have to say. Your letter throws all this to the wind!
What message are you sending out to me? I can't trust my rabonim I've learnt from and davened with for all these decades? I may as well send my kids to Christ College; they will probably end up being better guided knowing right from wrong! (Will save a fortune in school fees too!)
I am thoroughly appalled by your recent announcement naming 3 rabbis who will be coming to 'investigate' this serious matter. So is everyone else that I met today on the road.
It just simply does not make sense to import rabbis, whose ultimate decision will only be as good as the info (or lack of it) they are provided. 3 cheder yingelich could do the same job, but you obviously think that we in NW are a bunch of goons and importing rabbis from B'nai Brak will tip the scales. Mr Frand get real!
Here in NW London, ALL our rabonim have already THOROUGHLY investigated and have come to their conclusion. What right do you have to issue such a letter? A complete azus to our esteemed Rabonim who are NOT echod bepeh and echod belev, unlike your cronies!
Back off from NW because you are just going to make matters far worse. There are 3 possibilities that will come out this 'new investigation':-
1. They find CH guilty.
2. They find him innocent.
3. They find him somewhere in between.
The outcome resulting from the above findings, as per the above numbering:-
1. Much worse for CH and his whole family. Probably lose everything he has and will be publicly kicked out of town.
2. All out war between the 2 camps. Major breakup of the kehilla. Vast majority of NW will still respect the findings of the GD and all the verbal instruction we have received from our Rabonim. Kedassia sales will take a massive hit in NW. (Do you really think the average Golders Greener will allow our NW Rabonim to end up with egg on their face? I for one will not!)
3. We are where we are currently - no progress. Union just confirming what our NW rabonim confirmed weeks ago. Union looking again stupid. Probably distancing more people from Kedassia/Union.
Frand get honest & real. There is only one thing the Union should now be doing and that is to save what is left before the cooky crumbles completely. The Union should be working alongside our NW Rabonim to sort this out, NOT against them. I know this will not suit Halperns PLC but ask yourself whats more important long term, pacifying the Halperns or a strong unified kehilla? You know the answer to this as well as everyone else. Time is running out. It's late - very late, but not too late.
Please do the right thing or the demise of the Union is in the making.
Yours truly,
A sincere friend.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Courting Trouble

Beis Din

Reb Tickle’s Swan Song: Part I – On Rabbis and Rabble

The time has come to bow out of Towelgate. I shan't refer to it as the 'Painful Saga' as those who coined that name had in mind only the pain of the poor accused and his 'distinguished family'. But not a word was heard from those quarters to acknowledge even the existence of victims and never mind a kind word for their pain.
It's a propitious time of year for reckoning so as we move on from the winter of discontent that has rocked our community it wouldn't be a bad idea to stand back and reflect. The basic facts hardly need repeating and the outcome is still far from certain. The reverberations will be felt for some time to come and there will be ample opportunity to analyse the causes and effects, exposures and cover ups, successes and setbacks, and winners and losers. On balance, however, I think we as a community have plenty to be proud of.
We have shown that rabbis too can be responsive when the weight of public anger is brought to bear down on them. Despite a hesitant start, those rabbis who acted showed resolve and courage in taking a stand to stamp out abuse in our midst. This was then followed by a dignified silence despite many provocations. One rabbi went even further by targeting those harbouring abusers and covering up for them. They were all in unchartered territory in respect of a scandal of this magnitude, concerning allegations this heinous, regarding a rabbi this senior in a community this frum. Yet act they did. While it is legitimate to criticise the manner they went about it, their fortitude in what they did must never be forgotten.
And seeing how such scandals have been dealt with in other parts of the world we can hold our heads even higher. What has transpired is truly unprecedented in a chareidi community where cover ups and denials are the order of the day. It has unfortunately been shown time and again that the more frum the community the more tolerant it tends to be of its sexual deviants and the more unable and unwilling it is to make difficult decisions. Perversely, this apparent inability turns to complete paralysis when the victims are themselves members of these same communities.
It is inconceivable that in Israel a group of chareidi rabbis would take on one of their own in this manner over sexual allegations. Over the excavating of non-existent graves, possibly. Over wig lengths and lycra content in women's tops, probably. Over political affiliations and fratricidal succession battles, definitely. But over touching up some women? We don't do such things and certainly not our rabbis, and anyway they're only women. Over there they call hospital heads 'Mengele' for the crime of rescuing a child from its deranged mother and burn rubbish on the streets when a father is arrested on suspicion (subsequently convicted) of murdering his own son.
Even in the USA where the civil authorities are less indulgent, no rabbi publicly condemned the convert specialist who sold Judaism for a song, or, to be more precise, a blow. Nor have I heard a single, sane voice from a senior chareidi figure in the furore following the conviction of Weberman on 59 charges relating to molestation. Here in London by contrast, a group of rabbis, some as chareidi as they come, condemned one of their own as unfit for purpose. This, my friends, is progress. It will no doubt in the course of time be pointed to as a turning point in the treatment of these issues in our communities and for this they deserve our unreserved gratitude.
Make no mistake, however. There are still plenty of dark forces out there desperate to turn the clock back. To them the corollary of the accused being innocent until proven guilty and permitted to retain his public role despite the relentless rumours and numerous allegations is that the victims are guilty until proven innocent. And if they're not guilty, they're mad, which indeed they must be to take on this dangerous lot.
Yet even this camp was relatively restrained. The letter from the Stamford Hill rabbis was moderate by their usual standards. They did not resort to ad-hominem attacks on the opposing side as is their wont and they condescended to provide reasons for their dissention which is rather gracious. This too is progress.
It has often appeared in recent times that rabbis have forgotten how to disagree on substantive issues. Whereas in days bygone disputes would be conducted by exchanges of responsa where the authors set out their respective positions, in recent years almost everything is sorted by a phone call to this or that godol following which all dissent is silenced. And on those occasions when differences do arise it is usually related to territorial or succession battles which often turn to violence. There has been little or no violence in this dispute and while ordinarily that is hardly something to be proud of, the reality of dispute handling in the chareidi world is such that this is also a form of progress. Even the invective unleashed in the comments is tame compared to what passes for a low key affair in Brooklyn or Bnei Brak.
Turning now to us Joe public, something this affair has revealed is the absence of a forum for UK, particularly London, frum Jews to talk and debate. I am an accidental askan in all of this and I was happy to host it only because no alternative existed.
Setting up a forum does not require a large initial outlay but simply a format that people take to and some TLC from the moderators. Many of the sites like vosizneias and YWN Coffee Room in the US or JDN, Ladaat and that unsavoury site, Behadrei Hareidim in Israel arose from humble beginnings but evolved to become primary news sites and talking shops for their respective communities. Less than a year ago there was established a Yiddish forums site, Kave Shtiebel, and it has already clocked up 10s of thousands of comments.
So I say to anyone out there who wishes to continue the conversation: go for it. It is not difficult to set up a site for forums and the demand is there. We have shown ourselves to possess far more intelligence, articulacy and maturity than our leaders and press credit us with and it would be a shame not to capitalise on the momentum.
To be continued…

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Rabbis and Rumours

Harav Wosner's T'Shuvah, Highlights
By ‘Moish’
Much of the confusion in the recent case has been due to the fact that there is so little by way of precedent in terms of how to deal with rabbis who are alleged to have acted 'improperly'. Within the Charedi world, although such issues have surely arisen, they have been dealt with (if at all) so furtively as to leave barely a smidgen of record in the halachic literature. Precedents from the Modern Orthodox community are easier to find, but, well, they're modern anyway so what do you expect?
The one recent case that does spring to mind is that of Rabbi Mordechai Tendler of Monsey. Without going into details, the rabbi concerned was expelled from the American RCA on account of his alleged misbehaviour with women in a counselling context (ring any bells?) and a group of his local colleagues took it upon themselves to examine the evidence against him and proceeded to publicise their verdict.
Whilst the parallels are far from exact, many of the technical issues that have been raised in our case, such as the admissibility of women's testimony and the propriety of local rabbis taking a public stand, were dealt with in a responsum by Rabbi Benzion Wosner, also of Monsey.
The full text of the responsum is reproduced above, with relevant quotes highlighted. (Due to Scribd’s rendering of Hebrew it may be necessary to download the document first.)
See here for an English summary:

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Another One Fights the Lust

Leil Yud Tes Teves 5763 [1 January 2013]
The Union may not be responsible for the alleged misbehaviour of one its Dayonim. However its lack of willingness or ability to deal with the matter in any way is perceived to be unacceptable and is a matter of great embarrassment.
As a result we have been put in an impossible position where our Shul has fallen victim to the situation just by virtue of our official association with the Union.
We must do all that we can to protect the Shul and its membership from this. The internal equilibrium and stability of our kehilla is far more important than with whom our Shul is affiliated.
I am therefore fully behind the Executives decision to call this meeting, in order to examine and explore our options. We must take into account all the ramifications of any decision we make.
We need to enlist Hakodosh Boruch Hu’s help to make the correct decision, and many more tefillos to invoke His rachamim that this terribly destructive geziroh Ro’oh is quickly brought to an end.
Please note: My North West London Union Colleagues & I retain full confidence in the activities and supervision of Kedassia to include food production, The Mikvoos, Shaatnez etc. . The kehilla need have no doubts in this matter.
Many thank to several readers who typed it up.