Thursday 31 October 2013


I just read about this movie, premiering in New York City on Nov. 1, and thought that it would be worthwhile for others to hear about it. 

Please see 'Aftermath' Dares to Unearth Terrible Secrets of Poland's Lost Jews' at

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Jewish Tribune: But What Does Jewish Pride Demand Of You?

In my latest Jewish Tribune article, reproduced below, I presented some thoughts on Pew. To see the original on line go to
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But What Does Jewish Pride Demand Of You?

The recent Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews —“A Portrait of Jewish Americans” – has received much attention, not only south of the border but throughout the Jewish world. The results are deemed not only to reflect upon the present picture of American Jewry but also to give us a perception of what possibly to expect in the future. This is not to say that what is being predicted is what will occur; oftentimes in the past, projected results from surveys have been proven wrong (for example , in the fifties, Orthodox Judaism was projected to disappear in America by the end of century). It does, though, inform us of issues that do need to be addressed if we want to ensure that the worse possible conclusions do not actually occur.
The various articles I read about this Pew study thus, obviously, attracted my attention. I was so drawn by the extent of this survey that I felt it best to actually download and read it, all 212 pages of it. However, right at its initial sentence I was immediately struck by what I felt was a most significant statement -- effectively causing me to stop reading. The opening line of the survey reads: “American Jews overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish.” I was hit by the weight of the words.
I thought back to the many discussions I had, over the years, with professionals within the Jewish community about the problems of assimilation and intermarriage. So many of them felt the problem was the absence of Jewish Pride and the need was to re-instill it within our Jewish youth. Their answers were, always, linked to emotion. Just get people to feel pride in their Jewishness and they will want to identify with the Jewish community, want to marry a Jewish spouse.  I contended that it wasn’t enough. This Pew survey would now seem to support me.
More explicitly, later in the survey report, it is declared that no matter how individuals may define themselves as Jews, they are proud to be Jewish. It would thus clearly seem that Jewish pride is not the answer to the growing intermarriage rate. Jewish pride is also not the answer to assimilation as the survey further showed the trend within all the subgroupings within the Jewish community is towards less tradition and involvement. The question is not really whether one feels pride or not. The real question is: what is the effect of this feeling of pride? What does it demand of you?
There are many reasons for why a person may experience an emotion of pride. There are also many reasons why a person would want to experience this emotion. In response, though, we may wonder if the emotion is appropriate – should I feel pride in someone from my home town winning the marathon because we both come from the same place? Our conclusion may be – and this would seem to be the general view within society -- that it doesn’t really matter. If you feel the pride, which is a positive emotion, why not embrace it? The challenge though emerges if there are responsibilities that arise with this pride.
Being Jewish marks you as a member of a certain group no matter how you may then wish to define this group. Feeling pride in being Jewish thus means you feel pride in being part of this group. It is true that if you do not feel pride in being part of this group, there is no way that you will want to identify with this group – and this is what the many communal professionals were indicating when they argued that we had to instill pride in our youth – we had to make them want to be part of the Jewish group. What they missed, though, was this further challenge. This group identification as a Jew must also play a definite role in the existence of a proud Jew. It is not enough to simply feel pride. There is a responsibility that goes with this pride. That is not just a matter of emotion.
This is what the first sentence in the Pew survey conveyed to me. I suppose I implicitly understood this idea when I debated with others about the sole value of emotional pride in the battle of Jewish identity. It just became further articulated in that opening statement in this report. It is fine that Jews, of all stripes, feel pride in being Jewish. Jewishness, however, is not static. It is not something that simply exists to which one can respond (or sadly not). Jewishness is a living, breathing entity that affects existence and thus demands from those who wish to identify within its grouping. It is a pride that is demanding. It is a pride that is imposing. The question is not simply whether you feel pride in being Jewish. The real question is how this pride has made you different and causes you to act differently, to attempt a different path in life – for the good. This must be the follow up question to this Pew survey.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

By the numbers: some thoughts about the Pew study of American Jewry

Guest Blogger
Dougals Aronin, Esq.
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By the numbers: some thoughts about the Pew study of American Jewry

It's a fairly well-known story, but it's worth repeating.  Back in May of 1964, Look magazine published a cover story entitled "The Vanishing American Jew", in which it famously predicted that by the end of the twentieth century, the American Jewish community would disappear.  We all know how that one worked out.  When the century's end arrived, the American Jewish community was still alive and kicking; it was Look magazine that had disappeared.
Look was neither the first nor the last to predict the end of the Jewish people.  Countless times throughout history our demise has been foretold -- in some cases eagerly, in others regretfully.  But each time, to borrow Mark Twain's familiar phrase, reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.  

In a sense, though, the prophets of doom haven't been all wrong.  By the ordinary logic of history, Jews should have disappeared centuries ago.  Our stubborn insistence on surviving has puzzled many, among them the prominent British historian Arnold Toynbee, who referred to us as a living fossil.  We have been defying predictions of our demise for centuries.  We are now what we have always been, what Balaam, one of our earliest enemies, called "a people that dwells apart."  (Num.  23:9)   Our long experience in defying the prophets of doom enables us to overcome despair, even in the face of mounting statistical evidence of impending demographic disaster.

At this point in history, however, despair seems a lesser risk than complacency.  The Jewish future in North America is endangered by a potentially lethal mixture of assimilation, intermarriage and low fertility.  The math is not terribly complex.  If present demographic trends continue unabated, North American Jewry will shrink catastrophically over the course of the coming decades.  The Orthodox community will survive, maybe even thrive, but the rest of American Jewry may find itself in free fall.

That frightening scenario would seem to be the most straightforward reading of the results of the Pew Research Center's recent demographic survey of the American Jewish community.  Pew has long been the gold standard when it comes to the sociology of American religion, so it is hardly surprising that the results of its survey are receiving considerable attention.  Pew's survey is the first attempt at a comprehensive national survey of American Jewry since the National Jewish Population Survey of 2000-01, and its status as the work of competent outsiders with no ideological ax to grind will no doubt be seen as further evidence of its reliability.

Pew's full report of the survey results, available on line (, is lengthy and complex, and a comprehensive analysis of those results is well beyond what could be contained in a post of reasonable -- or even slightly unreasonable -- length.  There are, however, some issues raised by the Pew report and some of its critics that are worth some attention.   The threshold issue is the accuracy of the survey data itself.  Pew is a well-respected professional outfit, and I have no reason to doubt the competence or integrity of its researchers. But mass surveys of this kind should always be viewed with some skepticism. How representative the respondents are of the entire sample is difficult to know, particularly where, as here, responding to the survey required a significant time commitment, as opposed to, say, a thirty second poll expressing a preference in a pending election campaign.  I'm no statistician, but I know that, all other things being equal, the smaller the sample, the higher the likelihood of inaccuracy. In this survey,the sample size as a whole was large enough to give some comfort as to its accuracy, but some of the correlations may have been too small to be reliable.

There is also the question of how accurately respondents answer the questions posed. It's well established, for example, that surveys asking about the frequency of attendance at religious services generally result in an over report of attendance.  Survey professionals adjust for such biases, of course, but these adjustments themselves are based on assumptions that may not be the same from one population to another.   

For the most part, these caveats are theoretical, but there is one factor in the survey that raises more concrete concerns. The report stated that 5% of the Jews surveyed were born in the former Soviet Union, while an additional 5% had at least one parent born there, somewhat higher than I would have expected.  (I live in Forest Hills, where the number from the FSU is much higher, but obviously that's atypical.)  The  survey interviews were conducted in either English or Russian, which may have encouraged native Russian speakers to respond. There are, however, American Jews who are native speakers of other languages (Hebrew, Yiddish and Farsi come to mind) and who may have been discouraged from participating for reasons of language.  This is particularly true of Yiddish, whose native speakers today are mostly chasidim, who are probably under counted in any event.  

Whenever a new study of American Jewry, or some geographical subset thereof,  comes out, its findings on intermarriage usually receive the most attention.  In the case of the Pew survey, however, though the intermarriage figures have generated significant interest, they seem to have been upstaged by another finding: 22% of those Americans who identify as Jews claim to have no religion. Headlines in both the Jewish Week ("Fast-Growing Jewish 'Nones' Seen Reshaping Community")   and the Forward ("New Study Finds Jews Fleeing Faith Traditions"), the headlines focused on that finding.  The number of identified Jews of no religion, moreover, is significantly larger in younger age cohorts than in older ones.  Only 7% of those born in or before 1927 identified themselves in this manner, compared with 19% of baby boomers (those born from 1946 through 1964)  and 32% of those born after 1980.  The Pew study points out that these figures are consistent with the figures for Americans as a whole; 20% of American adults -- and 32% of those born after 1980 -- assert that they have no religion.   

In trying to make sense of this data, it's important to bear in mind the difference between a study, like Pew's, that seeks to depict a snapshot of the population being studied at a particular point in time, and a longitudinal study that follows a random sample of the target population over the course of years.  Pew's division of the respondents into age cohorts creates the impression that the differences are generational; those born during a specified period of history are more likely to share certain attitudes or beliefs than those born in other historical periods.  That may well be true, but at least part of the difference may also reflect changes in some individuals' attitudes as they get older.  It is not uncommon for individuals to make religion a bigger part of their lives as they get older -- a phenomenon that I have sometimes heard labeled as "cramming for the final."   I find the growing number of identified Jews with no religion less surprising than the professed shock with which it has been greeted. The widespread secularism of American Jews should surprise no one. Virtually every study of American Jewry in recent decades has served to confirm what anyone with a practical knowledge of the Jewish community knows instinctively: that Jews are, by almost any conventional measure, among the most secular of Americans.  They are less likely than other Americans to believe in God,less likely to attend worship services at least weekly, and less likely to assert that religion is important or very important in their lives.  In all these respects, the Pew study provides additional support for familiar trends.   

What is intriguing about the 22% of American Jews who profess to  have no religion -- a proportion similar to that of Americans as a whole -- is not their rejection of religion, but the fact that, despite that rejection, so many of them continue to identify themselves as Jews. That 22%, moreover, do not include those who did not identify as Jews but merely claimed to have Jewish ancestry; those were shifted to another branch of the survey.  Of those who identified themselves as Jews but claimed to have no religion, 83% said that they were proud to be Jewish.  (Among Jews by religion, the corresponding figure was 97%.)  This combination raises the obvious question: what is the nature of the Jewish identity in which they take pride?   Are more Jews today prepared to profess a secular Jewish identity than in the past?  Some critics argue that flaws in past surveys make such comparisons unreliable, and Pew itself warns about the hazards of comparing the current surveys results with figures from prior surveys.  Even if there has been a significant increase, moreover, that change may be more a matter of semantics than of substance.  In terms of behavior and attitudes, the bulk of American Jewry has long been resolutely secular.  The willingness of many, particularly in the youngest age cohort, to call their Jewish identity what it has long been may simply reflect American society's greater comfort both with ethnic identity and with spirituality divorced from institutional religion.   

Asked to choose the best of three options to complete the sentence "Being Jewish is mainly a matter of ...", 55% of Jews by religion and 83% of Jews with no religion said "ancestry and culture" while 17% and 6% respectively said religion and 26% and 11% responded both.  In case that's not confusing enough, the survey asked the respondents, with respect to nine specified activities, whether they were an essential part of what being Jewish means to them. Of the nine, "Remembering the Holocaust"  ranked first, being considered essential by 76% of Jews by religion and 60% of Jews of no religion.  Leading an ethical and moral life was a close second, considered essential by 73% and 55% respectively and "Working for justice/equality," was third, so ranked by 60% and 46% respectively .   "Observing Jewish law", by contrast" was next to last, chosen by only 23% of Jews by religion and 7% of Jews with no religion, and barely edging out eating traditional Jewish foods, which was the choice of 16% and 9% respectively.  

The importance that American Jews attach to the Holocaust is hardly shocking.  It is noteworthy, that this response was fairly consistent across all age cohorts.  The Holocaust looms large as an essential component of American Jewish identity, it appears, even among the youngest American Jews.  

When respondents were asked whether any of four specified beliefs or actions were compatible with being Jewish, overwhelming majorities of both Jews by religion and Jews of no religion answered in the affirmative with respect to both working on the Sabbath and being highly critical of Israel.  Two thirds of Jews by religion and three quarters of Jews with no religion agreed that non-belief in God was compatible with Jewishness, yet 65% of Jews by religion and 45% of Jews with no religion asserted that belief that Jesus was the messiah is not compatible with being Jewish.  For a significant majority of Jews, it appears, it is acceptable -- or at least tolerable -- for Jews to violate Shabbat, harshly criticize Israel and reject any belief in God, as long as they don't believe that Jesus was the messiah.  

The survey inquired about the respondents' attendance at religious services and their observance of five religious rituals: attending a Seder, fasting on Yom Kippur, lighting Shabbat candles, keeping a kosher home and not handling money on Shabbat.  Seventy-eight percent of Jews by religion responded that they had participated in a Seder last year, and 62% said that they fasted on Yom Kippur.  The other three rituals were observed by fewer than 30% of the respondents, as was attendance at religious services at least monthly.  (I find it surprising that the specified rituals did not include lighting Chanukah candles, which, past surveys have found, generally ranked second only to Seder attendance in the frequency of its practice.)  None of the responses to these questions was at all surprising.  They represent a slight erosion in observance over time, but not a dramatic change.

Though the intermarriage-related results of the Pew survey have, as stated above, been upstaged to some extent, they have still received much attention, as they should.  In the long run, intermarriage is probably the greatest threat to a viable American Jewish future.  Those who insist that American Jewish leaders pay too much attention to intermarriage can often be heard to say that that intermarriage is merely a symptom of a larger malady, which is the alienation of so many Jews from Jewish life.  That proposition may be true, but it's also beside the point; as any doctor can attest, you can die of a symptom.  

The basic patterns of intermarriage as extrapolated from the Pew report are consistent with prior statistical as well as anecdotal evidence. Of those identified Jews (whether by religion or not) who were married at the time of the survey,  56% were married to Jewish spouses. Of those currently married  respondents who married before 1970, 83% were married to Jews. At the other end of the age/longevity spectrum -- those married in or after 2005 -- only 42% were married to Jews.  Overall, 64% of married Jews by religion have a Jewish spouse, but among Jews of no religion the in-married percentage is 21%.   

In the narrative accompanying the survey results on intermarriage, Pew is cautious in drawing conclusions.  It points out that the survey inquired only about currently intact marriages and thus provides no information about marriages previously terminated, whether by divorce or death of the spouse.  There is research, Pew notes, indicating that in-marriages "tend to be more durable than intermarriages; if this is the case, then the percentage of intermarriages in the 1970s and 1980s may have been higher than it appears from looking only at intact marriages today."  The narrative also notes that "[t]here are too few married Jews of no religion in the current sample to permit separate analysis of intermarriage rates by year of marriage for Jews of no religion alone."  

The survey's findings as to the effect of intermarriage on how Jewishly the children are raised are likewise hardly surprising. Among those Jewish respondents (whether by religion or with no religion) who are the parents of minor children, 59% are raising their children as exclusively Jewish by religion, 14% as partly Jewish by religion and 8% as Jewish with no religion.    The effect of intermarriage on the Jewish identity of the next generation appears to be dramatic.  Among those presently married to a Jewish spouse, 96% are raising their children as exclusively Jewish by religion. Among those presently intermarried, the corresponding number to 20%, while among  those not presently married it is 45%.  If that figure is accurate, then the central argument of the intermarriage apologists -- that intermarriage is not necessarily a net loss Jewishly -- is demonstrably false.  

The Pew report touches on other facets of American Jewish life as well. It examines, among other things, voting patterns, attitudes toward Israel and denominational affiliations.  Its findings in these and other areas illustrate the growing chasm separating Orthodox Jews from those of other denominations. A more detailed discussion of these issues will have to await a later post.  

It is human nature to resist significant changes to our perspective on the world.  Confronted with facts that challenge our fundamental assumptions, our instinctive reaction is to  explain them away.  It could hardly be otherwise; if we had to re-examine first principles every time we were faced with a decision, we could not function.  But some people carry that instinct to extremes, impairing their ability to adapt to new circumstances as they arise. J.J. Goldberg's column in the Forward of October 18, 2013 is a prime example of this phenomenon.    To put that column in perspective, we need to keep in mind that J.J. Goldberg, a regular columnist and former editor-in-chief of the Forward, has been attacking Jewish demographic studies for as long as there have been Jewish demographic studies to attack.  (OK, maybe he's not quite old enough for that, and it only seems that long.)   

Goldberg has raised different issues with respect to different  surveys, but his underlying concern has been essentially the same.  He doesn't like the priorities created by intense concern about assimilation and intermarriage.  When the second National Jewish Population Study, which came out in 1990, found an intermarriage rate of 52%, he attacked, justifiably, the accuracy of that finding but ignored the underlying reality. Even assuming that he and other critics of that NJPS, who were correct in claiming that the 52% figure  was too high, had also been correct in asserting that the correct figure was about 38% (which was actually too low), so what?   A technical adjustment of the intermarriage rate couldn't negate the underlying reality that the actual rate was high  enough to be a threat to the future of American Jewry.  Even if Goldberg's position had been completely correct, intermarriage would still have been potentially life-threatening to the American Jewish body politic; it would merely  add a few years to our anticipated lifespan.  

Why has Goldberg been so desperate to discredit the intermarriage data?  in a column published in the Forward in January of 2011, he was unusually candid:  " Impending disaster brings out the conservative in all of us. The institutions of American Judaism have been on emergency footing for decades, through foul weather and fair, because of mounting alarm about vanishing American Jews."  Later in the column, he summed up his motivation succinctly: "If Jews are in decline, conservatives are ascendant and liberals are on the defensive."

Goldberg's reaction to the Pew survey results has been similarly divorced from the facts.  His column  on the Pew study was entitled "A Reading of Pew that Will Make You Smile." (It did, but not for the reason he had in mind.) He begins by quoting the New York Times summary of Pew's results as showing "a significant rise in those who are not religious, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish."  Perhaps on the premise that the best defense is a good offense, he immediately goes on the attack: "There's one more thing you need to know.  It's not true.  None of it....No, not wrong as in 'I think there's a better way to interpret these numbers.' Wrong as in incorrect. Erroneous.  Whoops."    

Goldberg does not take issue with any of Pew's raw survey data, or, indeed, with any of the compiled results.  When you get down to it, Goldberg bases his entire column on comparisons between the Pew results and those of earlier studies.  He neglects to mention that Pew's report itself cautions against such comparisons because of different methodologies. Even if Goldberg's critique were correct, moreover, it could not justify his peremptory dismissal of the survey results.  Those results are alarming by themselves without reference to how much worse the state of American Jewry is today than it was than ten or twenty years ago.   So where does this leave us?  There is much in the Pew report that should be of interest to anyone who cares about the future of American Jewry; my comments above have barely scratched the surface. 

Goldberg is an extreme example, to be sure, but he is an extreme example of a fairly common phenomenon, a naive optimism that seeks to minimize the bad news so as to make the challenge of overcoming it seem less daunting.    I had the privilege, early in the week, of hearing a lecture delivered by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs, who recently retired as Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom.  Rabbi Sachs spoke on a different subject, but in the course of his lecture made a comment about the difference between optimism and hope that goes to the heart of how we should react to the results of the Pew survey.  Though people often confuse two, Rabbi Sachs said, optimism and hope are very different.  "Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better.  Hope is the belief that if we work hard enough together, we can make things better."   J.J. Goldberg is an optimist.  He excuses himself from seeking solutions by denying the existence of the problems.  Those of us who view the Pew survey results more realistically cannot share his optimism -- but neither can we afford to give up hope.  

Douglas Aronin    

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 29 October 2013

K'vod Tzibbur

I'm following a Mishnah B'rurah Yomit Seder ...

See SA O"Ch 128:34 re: Duchening by a koton....

M"B 122
Sha'ar Hatziyyun 95 citing Rashi

Loose Translation:
SA: A minor should not duchen alone MB: even occasionally because it's not "K'vod Tzibbur" to be beholden to a blessing of a minor.

Any "search" on K'vod Tzibbur should include this case.

Kol Tuv,

16th Century - Who is a Jew? The Spanish Inquisition and Martin Luther

The Sixteenth Century Journal © 1987 The Sixteenth Century Journal

The sixteenth century witnessed the transition of medieval religious anti-Judaism into a racial antisemitism laying the foundation for modern hatred of Jews. This change resulted from the institution of the "pure blood laws" by the Spanish courts of Inquisition to determine who was and who was not Jewish. Such racial definitions were necessary because hundreds of thousands of Jews voluntarily converted to Christianity, indeed, even attempted to make religious contributions to their new religion, as the efforts of St. Theresa, Alphonso and Juan de Valdes, Luis Vives, Luis de Leon, and the Jesuits Salmeron and Laynez and Juan Alonso de Polanco, among many many others, must demonstrate. Indeed, even Protestant learning of Hebrew was predicated upon the efforts of Jewish converts such as Matthew Adrian, Cornelius Adelkind, and others. It was precisely this wholesale swallowing of former Jews and much Jewish linguistic and exegetical expertise that brought about Christian revulsion against "Jewish contamination" and the use of a biological standard for determining religious identification. This process was complicated by the active complicity of New Christian authorities, wishing to distance themselves from their former co-religionists, in the development of racial categories. While generations of historians have sought to explain Luther's antisemitism resulting from a frustration with Jewish unwillingness to convert to Christianity, all the evidence points in the other direction. Luther and others developed a more defined sense of antisemitism precisely because they believed they saw "Jewish"-i.e. New Christian, -influence, everywhere about them.

JSTOR: The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring, 1987), pp. 3-30

Kol Tuv,

Monday 28 October 2013

Huffington Post: The Self-Illusion of Good

Many recent news stories led me to think about how people, even as they do wrong, think of themselves. In this regard, I invite you to take a look at my latest Huffington Post blog: The Self-Illusion of Good

Please feel free to comment here or there.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding

«FFEU is proud to have become the international address in Muslim-Jewish Relations. Our signature program is the Weekend of Twinning. We have also held delegations and conferences of Muslim and Jewish Leadership including the National Summit of Imams and Rabbis, three Muslim-Jewish Conferences in Europe, the Delegation of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders to New York and Washington D.C. and the Delegation of Latin American Muslim and Jewish Leaders to D.C. In June 2013, the FFEU will host the Delegation of Muslim and Jewish Leaders from the Southern Hemisphere,»

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 27 October 2013

How to Spot Spurious or Flawed Arguments using CBT - Intro

Since Rabbis, Attorneys, and others are engaged in arguments, it can be really useful to spot a flawed or distorted argument.
There are books written about this very topic. An Easy approach is to use modern Coginitive-Behavioral Therapy principles and to apply them as a litmus test for proper reason and argumentation
So here are 10 distortions common to depressed and anxious people, that also show up with debaters, especially when they suffer from neuroses or very low self-esteem.

10 common cognitive distortions & what to do about them - Forums at Psych Central
Here are the basic distortions. They aren't a "therapy" to use and then forget... but habits of thinking that we need to "check' ourselves on for "life." Following this is a list of how to "untwist" such thinking. Good wishes!

1) You see things in black or white categories. If your effort or performance falls short of "perfect" you see yourself as a total failure. This "either-or" thinking habit may result in self-recrimination or anxiety.
2) You view a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. For example, you think that a friends' inconsiderate response means that there is no caring for you, even when there have been other examples of consideration.
3) You pick out single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your perception becomes distorted. For example, a person focuses on one negative comment and ignores any of more neutral or positive feedback.
4) You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or another. In this way, you maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences. For instance, you don't believe a compliment because you think it is said just to be nice.
5) You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts to support your conclusion.
a.) MIND READING You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and don't bother to check it out. "I just know he/she thought I was an idiot." even though he/she acted nicely.
b) THE FORTUNE TELLER ERROR: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel that, "I just know I am not going to get the job I want."
6) You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement) or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desireable qualities or the other person's imperfections.)
7) You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."
8) You try to motivate yourself with "should" and "shouldn't" , as if you have to be whippped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also issues. The emotional result is feeling guilty.
9) This is an extreme example of over-generalization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser."
10.) You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which in fact you were not primarily responsible.

Kol Tuv,

Man Who Saved Over 600 Kids From Nazis Gets a Touching Surprise - Heartwarming Video

«Man Who Saved Over 600 Kids From Nazis Gets a Touching Surprise

Over 50 years after saving 669 kids from Nazi death camps, Sir Nicholas Winton gets a tearful surprise on TV. Everyone in the audience was one of those children he saved, all grown up. This man is an Angel on Earth.»

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 26 October 2013

Mussar: Growth Through Torah

Is Torah something we master when young, and perpetually re-confirm as we grow older?

Or does our Torah evolve as we evolve? Do we get new insights, more precise definitions, more enlightened understandings?

Consider L'Havdil Greek Philosophy -

«From a Stoic standpoint, Socrates is our best approximate model of what goodness looks like, and he points out that virtue is wisdom, and what wisdom looks like is an openness to updating our beliefs about things, and maintaining this openness under all circumstances rather than arriving at fixed ideas about what The Truth is.

One of the most common failure modes of virtue that I observe in everyday life is people who spend all their time reaffirming their own fixed, calcified ideas of right and wrong.»

Is this our goal in Torah Learning? To continually see things from our original perspective?

Kol Tuv,

Friday 25 October 2013

Mystics and Rationalists in Conflict

«The Dor Daim consider(ed) the Kabbalists to be irrational, anti-scientific, and anti-progressive in attitude and felt that they were thereby contributing to a decline in the social and economic status of the Yemenite Jews. The above-mentioned issues led Rabbi Yiḥyah Qafiḥ to spearhead the Dor Daim movement. Among its goals was the revival and protection of what it saw as the original form of Judaism as codified by the Sanhedrin during the 1st through 3rd centuries.

The movement was not well received by some scholars in Yemen and Israel. Especially controversial were the views of the Dor Daim on the most popularized book of Kabbalah known as the Zohar. These views are put forth in a book called Milhamoth Hashem (Wars of the Lord).[6] A group of Jerusalem rabbis published an attack on Rabbi Qafiḥ under the title of Emunat Hashem (Faith of the Lord), and measures were taken to ostracize members of the movement.»
Dor Daim - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 24 October 2013

Bill Mazer, a Sports Fixture of New York Radio and TV, Dies at 92

«He ranged beyond sports occasionally in radio interview programs with figures from all walks of life, but sports was his passion and had been since he was growing up in Brooklyn. For a time, while attending a yeshiva, he envisioned becoming a rabbi.

But he also played punchball and made Ebbets Field his second home. Sports won out. As he put it long afterward, unearthing the memory of a Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher of the 1930s with a terrific fastball and a musical name: "I was paying more attention to Van Lingle Mungo than I was to Moses."»

Bill Mazer, a Sports Fixture of New York Radio and TV, Dies at 92 -

Kol Tuv,

Roots of the U.S.-Israel Relationship

«If one were forced to reduce the explanation for the unique relationship between the United States and Israel to one sentence, it was probably best expressed by Lyndon Johnson who, when asked by Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin why the U.S. supported Israel when there are 80 million Arabs and only three million Israelis, the President replied simply: "Because it is right."»
Roots of the U.S.-Israel Relationship | Jewish Virtual Library
Jewish Influence in Early America

Also see -

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 23 October 2013

The strange case of Dr. Eduard Bloch

«In fact, there has never been any mystery about Dr. Eduard Bloch. He was repeatedly interviewed by the Office of Strategic Services or OSS after his arrival in the US in 1940 and also published an autobiography in Collier's Weekly in 1941. This information has been out there for generations, but so far no one has dared touch it.»

"Dr. Bloch," said Hitler, "is an Edeljude - a noble Jew. If all Jews were like him, there would be no Jewish question."
Hitler's favorite Jew: The strange case of Dr. Eduard Bloch - Alan Nothnagle - Open Salon

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Rav Eliyahu Safran: Teaching Students, Not Subjects

«Walking into Bnos Yisroel in Baltimore, one sees a sign that reads, "Teaching Students, not Subjects."

 When the Baltimore Jewish Times reported on the school, they found that the school did much more than simply pay lip service to a sentiment many educators would be quick to say they support.  Rabbi Amster noted that at Bnos, that sense "permeates everything that we do…»

Teaching Students, Not Subjects - Judaism - Israel National News

Kol Tuv,

The Pew, the Few, and the Many: Rav Soloveitchik on Jewish Numbers

«There is a deeper meaning in this passage. First of all, we must recall that Beruriah's life under Roman persecution was filled with suffering and tragedy. She was the daughter of R. Chananiah b. Tradyon, the Tanna executed while wrapped in a Sefer Torah (Avodah Zarah 18a). Her mother too was killed. Her only sister was forcibly taken to a life of harlotry in Rome (Avodah Zarah 17b). Her brother became a violent outlaw (Eichah Rabbah 3:16). Her two young sons died as children (Mishlei Rabbah 31:1). Throughout, she accepted God's Will without question. Notably, the Sifri to Deut. 32:4 demonstrates the ultimate acceptance of God's ways by quoting her and her family members. They recited "ha-Tzur tamim po'alo, the Rock, His work is perfect" when Chananiah was martyred; "ki chol derachav mishpat, for all His ways are justice" when her sister was taken; "Keil emunah ve-ein avel, a God of faithfulness and without iniquity" when the brother rebelled; and "tzaddik ve-yashar Hu, just and right is He" on the death of her two children.

God chose us precisely because we were the smallest nation, and He wanted us to remain that way (until the time of Mashiach)»

Kol Tuv,

Monday 21 October 2013

R Arie Folger's Article on Psalm 46

Rabbi Arie Folger's article on Psalm 46 is Now Downloadable | Mikolot Mayim Rabbim

Kol Tuv,

The spiritual education of Cory Booker - The Bergen Record

«As Cory stood sheepishly in the corner of the crowded room searching out his elusive rendezvous, my wife, Debbie, walked over to him and asked if he wanted to sit down. Being a gentleman he could not refuse and was placed in the "hot-seat," right next to the rabbi. A few hours later Cory and I were dancing on the tables together with the Torah scrolls till the wee hours. The next day he returned to talk, and we began what would become near-daily Torah study that brought in many of the other students to our "Kosher Soul Food" meetings in my home. By the next year he had become so popular among our Jewish and non-Jewish members that he was elected to what might be the first ever non-Jewish head of a major Jewish organization.»
Opinion: The spiritual education of Cory Booker : page all -

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 20 October 2013

How Liberalism Destroyed The American Jew

«The question is: what identity? Granted, it's a bit complicated. A Jew thinks of himself in both ethnic and religious terms. Or, at least he used to. Today, most American Jews believe culture  is central to identity than any of the Old Testament's many – many – commandments. »
How Liberalism Destroyed The American Jew | The Federalist

Kol Tuv,

Kofin Oto, The Dangers of Dogma

«It never ceases to amaze me how people, even men of the cloth, can convince themselves that doing what is clearly Evil by their own religious standards, is somehow justified by dogma.»
ABA Journal

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 19 October 2013

Mussar: Rambam Tum'at Tzo'ra-at

Mussar Selected from:Sefer Hoq L'YIsroel P. Vayeira Day 3

הלכות טומאת צרעת פרק טז
יג  [י] הצרעת--הוא שם האמור בשותפות, כולל עניינים הרבה שאין דומין זה לזה:  שהרי לובן עור האדם, קרוי צרעת; ונפילת מקצת שיער הראש או הזקן, קרוי צרעת; ושינוי עין הבגדים או הבתים, קרוי צרעת.  וזה השינוי האמור בבגדים ובבתים שקראה אותו תורה צרעת בשותפות השם--אינו ממנהגו של עולם, אלא אות ופלא היה בישראל כדי להזהירן מלשון הרע.
יד  שהמספר בלשון הרע, משתנות קירות ביתו.  אם חזר בו, יטהר הבית; ואם עמד ברשעו עד שהותץ הבית--משתנין כלי העור שבביתו, שהוא יושב ושוכב עליהן.  אם חזר בו, יטהרו; ואם עמד ברשעו עד שיישרפו, משתנין הבגדים שעליו.  אם חזר בו, יטהרו; ואם עמד ברשעו עד שיישרפו--משתנה עורו ויצטרע, ויהיה מובדל ומפורסם לבדו, עד שלא יתעסק בשיחת רשעים, שהיא הליצות ולשון הרע.
טו  ועל עניין זה הוא מזהיר בתורה ואומר "הישמר בנגע הצרעת . . . זכור, את אשר עשה ה' אלוהיך למרים, בדרך" (דברים כד,ח-ט):  הרי הוא אומר התבוננו מה אירע למרים הנביאה, שדיברה באחיה שהיא גדולה ממנו בשנים, וגידלה אותו על ברכיה, וסיכנה בעצמה להצילו מן הים; והיא לא דיברה בגנותו, אלא טעת שהשוות אותו לשאר נביאים.  והוא לא היה מקפיד על כל אלו הדברים, שנאמר "והאיש משה, עניו מאוד" (במדבר יב,ג).  ואף על פי כן, מיד נענשה בצרעת.
טז  קל וחומר לבני אדם הרשעים הטיפשים, שמרבים לדבר גדולות ונפלאות; לפיכך ראוי למי שרצה לכוון אורחיו, להתרחק מישיבתן ומלדבר עימהן, כדי שלא ייתפס אדם, ברשת רשעים וסכלותם.
יז  וזה הוא דרך ישיבת הלצים הרשעים:  בתחילה מרבין בדברי הבאי, כעניין שנאמר "וקול כסיל, ברוב דברים" (קוהלת ה,ב); ומתוך כך באין לספר בגנות הצדיקים, כעניין שנאמר "תיאלמנה, שפתי שקר:  הדוברות על צדיק, עתק" (תהילים לא,יט); ומתוך כך יהיה להן הרגל לדבר בנביאים וליתן דופי בדבריהם, כעניין שנאמר "ויהיו מלעיבים, במלאכי האלוהים, ובוזים דבריו, ומיתעתעים בנביאיו" (דברי הימים ב לו,טז); ומתוך כך באין לדבר באלוהים וכופרין בעיקר, כעניין שנאמר "ויחפאו בני ישראל, דברים אשר לא כן, על ה', אלוהיהם" (מלכים ב יז,ט).
יח  והרי הוא אומר "שתו בשמיים, פיהם; ולשונם, תיהלך בארץ" (תהילים עג,ט).  מי גרם להם לשית בשמיים פיהם, לשונם שהלכה תחילה בארץ.  זו היא שיחת הרשעים שגורמת להן ישיבת קרנות, וישיבת כנסייות של עמי הארץ, וישיבת בתי משתאות עם שותי שיכר.
יט  אבל שיחת כשרי ישראל וצדיקיהם אינה אלא בדברי תורה, ודברי חכמה; ולפיכך הקדוש ברוך הוא עוזר על ידן, ומזכה אותן בה--שנאמר "אז נדברו יראי ה', איש אל ריעהו; ויקשב ה', וישמע, וייכתב ספר זיכרון לפניו ליראי ה', ולחושבי שמו" (מלאכי ג,טז).

Kol Tuv,

Friday 18 October 2013

JTA: Non-Jews in Struggling Jewish day schools

«"The Torah, and also the Bible, tells us how to live right, how to get right and how to stay right," he says.

This might be a typical scene in any Jewish day school except for one thing: The boy isn't Jewish.
Fifth-grader Seth Pope is one of 58 non-Jewish students at the Lippman School, Akron's only Jewish day school.

Four years ago, the school — then known as the Jerome Lippman Jewish Community Day School — was teetering. Enrollment had tumbled to 63 students, 33 of them Jews, and it was unclear whether the school could survive in this Rust Belt city 40 miles south of Cleveland.

Like a number of day schools in Jewish communities with dwindling populations, Lippman for years had been accepting a few non-Jewish students, but without any modifications to the Jewish-focused curriculum.»
New hope for struggling Jewish day schools: Non-Jews | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 16 October 2013

New Poll on Psak

Check out our new poll on Psak.

Add your answer in the column to the right.

Most Ashkenazi Jews are genetically Europeans, surprising study finds

«The genetics suggest many of the founding Ashkenazi women were actually converts from local European populations.

"The simplest explanation was that it was mainly women who converted and they married with men who'd come from the Near East," Richards told LiveScience.»
Most Ashkenazi Jews are genetically Europeans, surprising study finds - NBC

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 15 October 2013

New Chaplaincy Program at the Barkai Center for Rabbinic Training

«Barkai is very pleased to announce a major grant that we have received to endow the Chaplaincy Training Program, which is commencing this fall. The generous gift was received from Lew Pell, and the program will now be known as the Pell Family Chaplaincy Training Program.

Barkai, as part of its mission to produce better rabbis, will be partnering with Life's Door/Tishkofet to provide Barkai fellows with Certified Pastoral Education. The program will certify graduates to offer spiritual counseling in public institutions such as hospitals, schools and jails. It will also enable graduates to better serve congregants struggling with personal difficulties, illness and end-of-life situations. »

Barkai Center for Rabbinic Training - Lewis C. Pell Chaplaincy Training Program

Kol Tuv,

OU Kosher Coming to schools, yeshivas, seminaries .....‏

Kashrut Q  A.jpg

Fundamentalism: Pros and Cons

«On the one hand, it could be argued that religious values -- charity, generosity, honesty, hospitality, and forgiveness -- establish the universal ideal to which we humans should all strive. Also, faith begets hope, and hope makes possible the survival of experiences that would otherwise crush us into oblivion.

On the other hand, why is religious faith so often perverted for purposes of separation, oppression, and/or domination? And why is it that my agnostic and atheist friends have moral compasses that are almost unfailingly true, so much truer than that of the average believer?»
God and Not God

Kol Tuv,

Monday 14 October 2013

New Rabbinics Resource
Kol Tuv,

Rabbinic Violence

«Kohelet was right three thousand years ago when he said "And money covers up everything."

Torah is supposed to be pure, enlightening and reviving, says the Book of Psalms. But this makes Torah out to be unfair and discriminatory. »
Rabbinic Violence | Jewish & Israel News

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 13 October 2013

On Wimpels

Wimpel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

«The wimpel is created shortly after the brit milah using the swaddling cloth that was used at that ceremony. The cloth is cleaned, cut into strips and sewn into a sash measuring six or seven inches wide and ten or twelve feet long. The child's Hebrew name and date of birth are painted or embroidered onto the cloth, usually by the mother or grandmother,[3] along with the traditional blessing:

ה' יגדלהו לתורה ולחופה ולמעשים טובים אמן
"...may God raise him up to [a life of] Torah, a successful marriage, and good deeds, Amen."»

Kol Tuv,

Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka make history in the Vatican

«The rabbi and the pope (Vatican Insider) An Argentinian rabbi came to the Vatican and spent some serious time over Sukkot with his close friend, the pope.»
Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka make history in the Vatican - Vatican Insider

Maybe the time has come for the New World [North and South America] to begin erasing the stubborn prejudices associated with Europe and the Old World.

Maybe religions can both differ and get along with each other.

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 12 October 2013

Mussar: מזוזה מביאה לידי יראת שמים

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu Z"L

מזוזה מביאה לידי יראת שמים

ובפ"ו שם הלכה י"ג כתב:
"חייב אדם להזהר במזוזה מפני שהיא חובת הכל תמיד. וכל זמן שיכנס ויצא יפגע ביחוד השם שמו של הקב"ה ויזכור אהבתו ויעור משנתו ושגיותיו בהבלי הזמן וידע שאין דבר העומד לעולם ולעולמי עולמים אלא ידיעת צור העולם, ומיד הוא חוזר לדעתו והולך בדרכי מישרים. אמרו חכמים הראשונים כל מי שיש לו תפילין בראשו ובזרועו, וציצית בבגדו, ומזוזה בפתחו, מוחזק הוא שלא יחטא שהרי יש לו מזכירין רבים והן הם המלאכים שמצילין אותו מלחטוא שנאמר 'חונה מלאך ה' סביב ליראיו ויחלצם',
בריך רחמנא דסייען".
Kol Tuv,

Friday 11 October 2013

Hesped Mar for Hacham Yosef A"H

By R Marc Sevy

ויהי בנסע הארון
הרב מרדכי צבי

נצחו אראלים את המצוקים ונשבה ארון הקדש. ספר תורה חי ומשמש בקדש. קראו רבו במרחשון בשלישי לחדש. מרן הנערץ בישיבה של מעלה נתבקש. הורם הנזר והוסרה העטרה. איש אשכולות שר התורה. אשר עמד איתן כחומה בצורה. החזיר את נשמתו הטהורה ליוצרה. הי חסיד ! הי עניו! תלמידו של עזרא. וי לארעא דישראל ולעולם דחסרא האי גברא רבה. תלמיד חכם שמת אין לו תמורה.  בישראל גדל שמו אב המון.ושמעו הולך בכל המדינות כשמן אפרסמון. על דא ודאי יתבי יתבינן וברוכי מברכינן. ברוך דיין האמת. אל אמונה ואין עול שופט צדק ואמת.
עת כל העם געה בבכיה ונאמרו הסליחות. איש האמונה אבד ועזבנו לאנחות. עיני כל עם ישראל דמעו והלב החסיר פעימה. בשורת האיוב הגיעה ופלחה את לב האומה. השמים קדרו לבשו שק ואור השמש הועם. אור הלבנה לא נראה והכוכבים אספו נגהם. מנהיג דגול וגדול המורם מעם. האיש אשר הנהיג רבבות מהעם. אביר הרועים שעל פיו כל דבר יישק. דבריו אשר נשמעו למרחק. חד בדורו מעלה ומוריד מוליך ומביא. חכם ובקי עדיף מנביא. אומה זועקת אבי אבי. כבה נר מערבי.
נתייתם הדור והעני. ואיך נפרוט המעות כשהלך השולחני. איה מונה איה שוקל איה סופר את המגדלים. ענק שבענקים שאי אפשר לתאר במלים. היה כואב את כאב העם כקטנים כגדולים. מיום שעמד על דעתו. יומם ולילה הגה בתורתו. משחר נעוריו באהלו אשר נטע לשבת. לכל אחד נטה אוזן קשבת. ביתו היה לתלפיות. מקום שאליו כל העינים פונות. לכל פונה אליו באיזו שאלה או קושיא. היה פותר בנחת בעיצה ותושיה. פיו מגרסא לא חדל. ולא ניכר שוע בפני דל. פנו אליו מנהיגים וגדולי עולם. נדרש לעסוק בסוגיות ובנושאים חובקי עולם. ומלמוד התורה לא פסק מעולם. בגישה פשוטה ובגרסה בהירה. הביא לכל שכבות העם את דברי התורה. היה תמיד במרכז המערכה. כל מי שהכירו אליו הביע הערכה. במסירות נפש למד ולימד תורה לתלמידיו. אשרי אדם ראה פניו. רכב ישראל ופרשיו. רבי רבבות העם והמוני המוניו. שחרו לפתחו ושמעו את שיעוריו. והולכי אורחות ציטטו מאמריו. היה קשור לעם בכל לבו . שמח את שמחתו וכאב את כאבו.
תמצאנו ב"פורת יוסף" ב"יזדים"  בכפר או בעיר. תמצאנו מלמד תורה לאסירים או כדיין בקהיר. תמצאנו לפני חיילים בחולות סיני. מלמד תורה כנתינה בהר סיני. הוא ידע את ערך הזמן וערכה של כל דקה. משנתו וכתיבתו היתה כקטורת זכה. כדי לקיים מצוה דקה מן הדקה. שיחת חולין שלו היתה צריכה לימוד. בה תיבל פסוקי תורה ומאמרי תלמוד.  מרשימה ומרתקת היתה לרבנו מסכת החיים.  כפורש ממנו כפורש מן החיים.  הלב כואב היד רועדת והעין דומעת  ומביטה. אוי לה לספינה שאבד קברניטה.
אותיות פורחות וגוילים נכתבים ונשארים. צאצאיו וממשיכי דרכו היקרים .למליץ יושר במרומים יהיה לנו מורנו. לדורות הבאים אורו יאיר את דרכנו. לבני המשפחה היקרים ולראשון לציון נביע מלות תנחומים. שחכמינו קבעו בדורות הקודמים. מן השמים תנוחמו.  ועוד נוסיף עליכם ברכות שמים. ותראו בנחמת ציון וירושלים.

Kol Tuv,