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Gil Student Regrets Becoming a Rabbi

Gil StudentThe Klal Perspectives Jounal is always a treasure of ancient wisdom, repackaged, with its expiration date carefully erased and rewritten. The Fall 2015 issue is no exception.

I find it funny that the editor found this issue to hot to handle himself instead inviting Dr. David Pelcovitz to be the guest editor. The explanation for this guest editorship is as follows: “In light of the particularly profound psychological repercussions of internet use, Dr. David Pelcovitz was invited to serve as Guest Editor of this issue, and he graciously agreed. Dr. Pelcovitz is widely considered to be the Orthodox community’s leading expert in applying academic scholarship to the various social and psychological challenges of our time.” It’s funny because the discussion about internet usage in the frum community is no more a psychological issue than any of the previous topics handled in The Klal Perspectives Journal, if anything it is less so: I think the topic of the frum community’s response to the emergence of the internet is more of a sociological and anthropological discussion than anything else and that’s what this is all about, after all.

Anyway, Pelcovitz aside, the issue is a sociological goldmine of rabbis and other professional hand-wringers trying to figure out how to keep the frum in the dark – there’s information out there and the people of the book have too many reasons to fear information.  [click to continue…]


Elya Ber WachfogelA few weeks ago I wanted to do chazara on the sugya of mesirah, specifically in cases of frum child molesters, because it’s inyana d’yoima here in the Catskills; Elya Ber Wachtfogel is deep in the middle of trying to ruin a family’s lives over their reporting one of his yungeleit to the authorities for allegedly molesting their son. Since Wachtfogel is such a big tzadik I imagine he’s doing this sordid work in the name of halacha and hashkafa – and mesirah is basically the only excuse gedoilim and ketanim like Wachtfogel can find as a justification.

So I started with the question: what is molestation according to halacha, anyway? I hadn’t learned masechtes nidah in a few years and I couldn’t be sure my memory was right so I started by relearning the first blatt of perek kol hayad and I saw that I was right – the gemara doesn’t seem to be too concerned about child molestation at all – it merely says that raping a young boy is mishkav zachar, having oral sex or masturbating off a boy isn’t a nice thing, it’s zerah l’vatala after all, while raping a young girl isn’t much of a problem altogether, it just delays the coming of moshiach – just like geirim do.

I thought to myself, “ok, at least Elya Ber is in good company, the amora’im seem to agree with him that child molestation isn’t something to lose much sleep over”. But then I remembered that his yungerman is accused of raping the boy anally after having oral sex – so Elya Ber should give the man skila for his mishkav zachar – why is he, instead, bailing him out of jail at a cost of $250,000 and raising tens of thousands more for his legal defense? The least he could do is leave the yungerman in prison until the trial and let the legal system take its course without interfering.

Upon reflection I had another kasha on Wachtfogel: if he’s relying on the issur of mesira when he put the victim and his family in cherem and tried getting the kid’s father fired from his job then why didn’t he just kill the kid like real yidden do to moisrim?

I’m left thinking that Wachtfogel must either be a dreadful am ha’aretz or there’s so much more torah I still need to learn that I should go back to yeshiva for another 12 years. Maybe Yeshiva Gedolah Zichron Moshe of South Fallsburg will take me in.

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Abandoning Paradise

Agudah's new HQ

Agudah’s new HQ

Last week Agudas Yisroel took a cue from none other than the prestigious Partido Comunista de Cuba. Five years ago in the vaunted halls of Edificio del Comité Central, the Cuban leadership called a monumental assembly to discuss the troubling trend of Cubans deserting the Paradise of Communism abandoning their heritage to wallow in the lowly Earthly temptations of South Miami.  Communist critics at the time (who lived outside Cuba, of course) ridiculed the event: how could they ever tackle the issue of desertion of the bliss of communism without actually soliciting the opinions of those who left?! After all, they can teach us something about South Florida and why people are flocking there. But the Partido Comunista wanted nothing to do with it. Absurd! They cried. How much sense could those people have if they willfully abandoned the greatest paradise on Earth?! And for what?! To compromise their integrity and convictions for the materialistic civilization of the Western World?! [click to continue…]


Saul Spitzer, he's not a criminalLike all frum communities, New Square assures the world that it takes crime seriously – if only there was any crime inside it’s borders, but there isn’t any, as is proven by the latest release of it’s latest prisoner.

Normally when a kid is molested and the surrounding community did all it can to keep the victim quiet and protect the molester one can accuse that community of not caring about its children, or only caring about its image (chilul hashem, anyone?) But when a community, like Skver (or Satmar with its latest campaign to have its most famous molester, Nechemya Weberman, released,) truly believes that by being a member in good standing you are ipso facto incapable of committing a crime then what does it do to make sense of this? Simple! It fights with all its might to condemn the victim and exonerate the perpetrator.

Saul Spitzer may indeed, as New Square’s in-house attorney, Kenneth Gribetz, argued, be remorseful for what he did, and he may indeed have been “youthful” at 18 when he committed the crime (although if he had gotten married instead of going to jail no one would have thought that a rash, youthful act, but whatever) but what about his victim Aron Rottenberg? While New Square threw money at the rebbe’s former haus bucher, what has it done to apologize to Rottenberg? Once again, if you’re convinced there’s no crime, there cannot be a victim. In the Skver state of mind Rottenberg burned himself on 50% of his body, he should apologize to himself. Or maybe it was an act of God, the rebbe has powers that way.


The following is a response to Rabbi Avi Shafran’s Op-Ed piece about why B’allei Teshuvah in the Chareidi Community have not published their own counterpoint stories to the now multitude of ‘off-the-derech’ memoirs. His article, “Where’s The Orthodox Counterpoint To All These OTD Books” was published online last week on Forward.com

I very distinctly recall one of the rare instances when my B’al Teshuvah father openly criticized and took a shot at his traditional, Long Island Jewish parents. It was something along the lines of them not being accommodating enough to his very rigid religious lifestyle, which he began exploring quite suddenly at the age of eighteen.

This very rare occurrence took place several months ago, in a very emotionally- jarring disagreement which I had with my dad about the fact that I was seeing a non-Jewish girl at the time whom I met in a cultural anthropology class at community college. He had kicked me to the curb because of her, and I very tearfully challenged him over the phone about why he was so unlike his parents, who for the most part, made every compromise and adjustment in the book to always graciously accommodate the various special needs and restrictions of their son and daughter-in-law’s ultra-orthodox lifestyle. [click to continue…]


Why Aren’t There Any OTD Memoirs?

baal teshuvaIt’s chol hamoed and the Agudah offices are closed, so Ignorant Avi has too much time on his hands. When Ignorant Avi has too much time on his hands does he read books? No. Does he do research? No. He engages in ignorant polemics against non-Orthodox Jews. See, Agudah doesn’t really give him any vacation days, he has to work even when the office is closed.

So Ignorant Avi wrote a piece called “Where’s the Orthodox Counterpoint to All Those OTD Books?” Where he argues that the fact that OTDers are writing books while BTs aren’t means that OTDers write books to settle scores and express pointless negativity, while BTs are precluded from doing so because Judaism isn’t keen on settling scores or expressing pain – Ignorant Avi frames it this way: BTs have no need to revisit their childhood pain, Orthodoxy solves all their problems. (“they’re just happy to be home”)

We could, of course, point out the many flaws and factual inaccuracies in Ignorant Avi’s latest Forward piece.

We could point to the fact that there are plenty of BT memoirs.

  1. From Central Park to Sinai
  2. Anatomy of a Search
  3. The Road Back: A Discovery Of Judaism
  4. Waking Up Jewish

We could point to the fact that BTs do everything they can to hide their past – not because “they’re just happy to be home” but because the ultimate tool of frum control – the shidduch market – doesn’t favor BTs, so minimizing your past and focusing on integrating is a full-time occupation for BTs in the loving embrace of the frum community.

But facts don’t matter, conjecture doesn’t matter, opinions don’t matter. Ignorance is the key to being a good bully pundit like Ignorant Avi. So let’s do it his way.


Ok. Put your two thumbs inside your ears, let you index and middle fingers cover your eyes, put pressure on your two nostrils with your pinkies, make sure nothing from the real world seeps through and let’s go: [click to continue…]



You’ve  accidentally laughed out loud at a Dvar Torah someone was saying.

You know what “The Patriarchy” is.

Your once keen interest in national geographic magazine has all but disappeared.
[click to continue…]

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