Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Refreshing comments from Arutz-7 commentators

Normally, if one wants to see lashan hara and motzi shem ra combined with unusual amounts of toxic venom from one Jew to another, the Arutz Sheva web site is the place to go. Not so much the news articles, which I think are pretty accurate, nor even the opinion pieces, which present their strong pro-settlement views unapologetically, but in the talkback comments attached to the news and opinion pieces. Anyone who doesn't agree wholeheartedly with the far right of Israeli politics is fair game.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised by the first 11 comments on their article on the death of the Satmar Rebbe.


Arutz-7 and the Satmar Rebbe z"l could not have been much further apart politically. Yet the comments show the Rebbe z"l the kind of respect he deserves. I don't know if the comments were moderated, or the commentators refrained from the usual destructive rhetoric on their own, but it is appreciated. There will be ample time to discuss politics and hashgafa in the future. For now, we mourn the loss of a great leader of a large part of the Jewish people.

Rushing to press, rushing to judge

Haaretz had a more detailed article as of 7:15am this morning.


It was updated as of "11:43 25/04/2006"

Lets see....11:43am Israel time is 4:43am New York time. The article stated

"Tens of thousands attended the funeral on Tuesday morning"

That was an awfully early funeral....sunrise was 6:03am! This shows what happens when journalists rush and editors fail to edit.

But more depressing were the talkback comments. There were comments that blasted Haaretz for not using the title "Rabbi" at every opportunity to describe the deceased. A justified comment, but most newspapers don't use titles any more. I would not interpret that as anti-Jewish. Worse were the people who tried to slander the Satmar sect by associating them with Neturei Karta or by accusing them of hypocracy by accepting money from the Israeli government despite their anti-Zionist stance. The Satmars I have met are very proud of the fact that they are one of the few sects who refuse to accept money from the Israeli government. And they refuse to have anything to do with NK and other sects that coddle murderous terrorists. (Does ALL the NK pander to the PA? Or just a few nuts?)

UPDATE! Looks like I was wrong -- the funeral was indeed overnight:


Monday, April 24, 2006

Worker exploitation by company employing haredi women?

The following ynetnews article describes a company employing haredi women to work in a "work environment [that] complies with rabbis' instructions":


Nothing wrong with employing frum Jews in frum-friendly environments. But the last paragraph is disturbing:

"To begin with, the company offers the women a compensation of minimum wage plus five percent. Additionally, Matrix receives from the government a grant of NIS 1,000 (about USD 220) for each woman it employs. The cost of employing the women is very low compared to regular high-tech salaries. "

Aren't there halachot regarding paying fair wages? I can't believe that the high-tech labor market in Israel is so glutted that the market rate is barely above minimum wage! Would these women be able to make more in a more conventional company? If so, shouldn't the rabbis insist on a fair wage for their followers?

Something misleading in the article on the Satmar Rebbe's death

One line in the article


is a bit misleading. In describing the Satmar Chasidim, it says, "Married women must keep their heads covered." While this is true, it is also true that the halachah for ALL married Jewish women is to keep their heads covered (or at least, most of their hair covered) almost all the time. (My understanding is that there might be a few exceptions allowed by some halachic authorities such as within ones own home -- but my wife is the expert on that halachah, not me.)

In addition, it says,

"long skirts for women, long black coats, black hats and long beards for men"

Most Orthodox women (yes, including my wife) wear long skirts. And many Orthodox Jewish men, not just Satmar Chasidim, wear long black coats and black hats, and have long beards (not me -- but I do have a neatly trimmed beard). I wish the article had given a less superficial description of the Satmars.

UPDATE : The article seems to have been Associated Press copy. I've now seen the exact article on jpost.com and nytimes.com. All the more reason for the authors to get things right. Sigh.

More on the Satmar Rebbe's death

Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet

Haaretz reports that the Satmar Rabbe, Moshe Teitlebaum, has died after a lengthy illness. May his family and his Chasidim comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Chag kosher v'sameach!

I'm off blogging until after Pesach. To all who celebrate it, chag kosher v'sameach; to all who celebrate Easter, Happy Easter. No need to look here until after April 20.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Another embarassment for the Republican candidate for the US Senate from Maryland

In his Opinion Journal essay on the Maryland US Senate race


James Taranto makes the amazing claim:

"Mr. Steele tells me, and my research confirms, that the state has never sent a conservative Republican to the chamber."

Mr. Steele is the Republican candidate. He got into hot water when he compared stem cell research to the holocaust:


Mr. Steele's handlers forgot to explain that Jews don't have a problem with most stem cell research:


Well, his handlers also neglected to tell him that if you go back far enough, you DO find conservative Republicans representing Maryland in the US Senate. I grew up on Maryland and am old enough to remember J. Glenn Beall, Jr., elected to one term in 1970. His father, J. Glenn Beall, served two terms (initially elected 1952). In addition, John M. Butler served two terms, initially elected 1950 against the equally conservative Millard Tydings thanks in part to a doctored photograph showing Tydings meeting with a communist leader (these were McCarthy Red Scare days).

Mr. Steele should hire some handlers who read more than Republican propaganda sheets -- and Mr. Taranto should get himself new researchers.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Shay Doron, New Jewish Basketball Star!

Two generations ago, it was very common to see Jews playing at the highest levels of
basketball, both in amateur and professional competition. Dolph Schayes was probably the
greatest Jewish player of all time; when he retired, he was the leading scorer in NBA
history. But after his son, Danny Schayes, retired after playing more games than anyone
in the history of the NBA, there were no Jewish players in the NBA despite the presence
of a number of coaches and owners.

Tonight I flew from New York to San Diego for a two day trip to a professional conference.
I had never flown JetBlue before, and found to my surprise that the airline offers
television at every seat (at least on this flight). I had already completed the day's Daf
Yomi, so I decided to check out this novel invention that I never watch anymore.

Well, it turned out that the first station to pop up was ESPN, and they were doing the
pre-game show of the NCAA Women's basketball tournament final (Maryland vs. Duke). I
used to attend basketball games a lot when I lived in Connecticut, but hadn't been
following things this year and didn't know much about the two teams involved. (Women's
basketball is just as big as men's basketball in that state.) So the first
feature they do is about an Israel-born player for Maryland, Shay Doron, whose parents
were both athletes and whose father served in the Israeli Navy. She had attended a Catholic
High School in Queens, Christ the King, known as a basketball factory! (Both Shay and her
father mentioned that it was a bit unusual for a Jewish girl to go to a Catholic school,
but her father said that it was "never a problem".) I had actually seen an Israeli
player, Limor Mizrachi, play professionally in Connecticut, and decided to see how my
fellow Jew did tonight.

So I watched the game on the in-flight television. Ms. Doron's team won in overtime, and
she scored 16 points including two critical baskets in the overtime period -- despite taking a nasty spill near the end of regulation.





The game was broadcast live in Israel and I'm sure more than a few folks there must be happy. In the post-game interview, she said in a loud, excited voice, "I love Israel! This one's for Israel!"

She is a star in my book. I was proud to be a Jew and proud of Israel.

Universal Health Insurance -- Finally!

The Massachusetts legislature has just mandated universal health insurance. What is amazing is that they did it with only the barest of employer mandates, and with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans -- including the conservative Republican governor who is running for President:


I am sure that the free marketers will object, but frankly, I can't see what there is to object to. Most states require car insurance -- it is a matter of personal responsibility. People without health insurance DO get care -- just substandard care, subsidized by those of us whose employers pay our premiums. It won't solve all of America's health care problems, but it is a step in the right direction.

Monday, April 03, 2006

We aren't as successful as we think

Dr. Marvin Schick has an insightful article about Jewish education on his site:


The article appears in this weeks Jewish Press.

Rabbi Harry Maryles responds on his blog:


I'd like to comment on somehthing both Dr. Schick and Rabbi Maryles noted. First, Dr. Schick:

“Is it any wonder that today there are more defections from Orthodoxy than there are those whom we are attracting through kiruv?”

Rabbi Maryles responds:

'If this is true, it is an astonishing fact. With all the Kiruv that goes on in the Jewish world, to say that more people are opting “out” then are opting “in” is frightening. '

My response:

If you believe the National Jewish Population Survey, that fact is not just true, but it is overwhelmingly true:

In both the 1971 and 2001 National Jewish Population Surveys, the fraction of Jews who self-identified as Orthodox was 11% -- and the population of Jews declined during that time. The 2001 survey reported a total of 529,000 (205,000 children). The latter figure is close to Dr. Schick's estimate from his survey of enrollment in Jewish schools. And consider these statistics of adult Jews taken from the 2001 survey:


Raised Orthodox and currently Jewish: 587,000
Currently Orthodox: 240,000
Currently non-Orthodox: 347,000

Raised Jewish and currently Orthodox: 297,000
Raised Orthodox: 240,000
Raised non-Orthodox: 57,000

You will note that the number of "Raised Jewish and currently Orthodox" does not equal the total number of Orthodox adults; my guess is that the missing 27,000 might be people not raised Jewish (halachic converts?). But in any case, the survey shows that about six times as many formerly Orthodox Jews have gone "off the derech" than the number Jews who have become Orthodox. Even worse, the large majority of adult Jews raised Orthodox are no longer Orthodox today. Perhaps we Orthodox should not be so smug about how successful we are.

It is possible that the study is flawed, but it is unlikely that its conclusions would be so far off that we don't have to worry. I would suggest that our Orthodox leadership might want to invest some resources into determining what is causing this huge loss.