Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Seminary Scandal: How to give information to the Israeli Beis Din

There have been false claims on blogs that the Israeli Beis Din is not interested in hearing testimony against the staff members of the four seminaries because they just want to coverup the scandal. I checked with the IBD and got the following answer.

Anyone who has information of any type should contact either Rabbi Malinowitz (0549146311) or Rabbi Gartner(I will try and get his number). However it is important to realize  that all they will do over the phone is to take your name and number and  which school this is about. They will then contact you about coming to the next Bais Din session.
 
It was explained that they will not accept testimony over the phone to one Dayan and in  most cases require the accused present (because they are a beis din not a lynch mob).

Schlesinger Twins: Community President Oskar Deutsch's failure to help Beth

 Update, added Mr Deutsch's response to Ev Meyer's criticism and Beth Alexander's response to Mr. Deutsch letter.

Heute  A 10 head delegation under the leadership of Community President Oskar Deutsch visited Israel on Tuesday; "We are showing the people that they are not alone." Wounded soldiers were wholeheartedly thanked.

It is not my intention to name and shame people, especially not my own fellow Jews but when I saw this article in yesterday´s Austrian press, I felt so outraged at the hypocrisy of it, I felt compelled to voice my deep hurt and offence.

While the soldiers in Israel deserve all our thanks and praise and it is indeed noble of the Viennese Jewish community to fly a delegation out there, I would like to share my personal experiences of the ´compassionate´ President.

I went to see Mr Oskar Deutsch together with the Vice President, Ariel Muzicant. I was in a pretty desperate state and begged them to help my children who continue to suffer every day they are denied their mother in their lives.

I appealed to them as fathers, and Mr Muzicant as a father and grandfather to understand the daily loss from our lives and tried to communicate to them just a fraction of the grief we live with every day of our lives. I pleaded with them to step in and try to resolve the terrible crisis that has played out in their community the past 4 years and try to halt the terrible chillul hashem that has spread all over the world as a result.

Both men seemed sympathetic, Mr Deutsch even more so and while he insisted they could not interfere in the judicial process or change court decisions, they could certainly try to make the visiting arrangements better and 'more Jewish,' they assured me. Mr Deutsch promised to set up a meeting with Mr Schlesinger and at least try to make him keep to my visits and stop cancelling so frequently on a whim. He also said he would certainly try to do something so that I would no longer need to pay an exorbitant cost just to see my boys.

Mr. Deutsch also said he would find me a good lawyer. He suggested the name of one that had already repeatedly rejected my case and one who would bankrupt my family. He didn´t know her personally and wasn´t offering any kind of personal connection - something that´s taken extremely seriously here. Giving me the telephone number of a lawyer he didn´t know personally and whom he could not help me finance was not really the help I was looking for.

After several weeks when I hadn´t heard from Mr Deutsch, I called him up to see what he had done. He dismissively told me he hadn´t managed to set up a meeting with Mr Schlesinger and neither would he be able to do so. When I asked why not, he simply said, ´Mr Schlesinger refuses to come, there´s nothing more I can do´

When I asked him about the cost of my visits, he stingingly said, ´What´s 50 Euro?! You pay your lawyers more than that!´ I didn´t hear anything from him since then. It feels like the community have simply abandoned us.

Mr Deutsch, you may be kind and generous to children of Israelis far away but can I remind you once again about the suffering children crying out for help in your own community, on your own doorstep? You are fully aware of our pain and suffering. Please don´t keep your back turned on us. The whole world has heard about the plight of the Schlesinger twins, Samuel and Benjamin. Please find it in your heart to spare a thought for us too. Perhaps you can bring some of the kindness and compassion that you demonstrated so publicly in Israel home with you to Vienna. You don´t only have to be Jewish in Israel. In fact, here in the diaspora it is those Jewish values we need all the more.


 Ev Meyer wrote the following to Mr. Oskar Deutch

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THE COMMENTS THAT PEOPLE IN THE WORLD COMMUNITY HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT YOU. I WOULD APPRECIATE A RESPONSE AS TO YOUR LACK OF INVOLVEMENT IN THIS CASE OTHERWISE I WILL CONTINUE TO SPREAD THIS INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET. THESE COMMENTS WERE COPY AND PASTED FROM DAAS TORAH WEBSITE WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE CREATOR OF THE SITE.
KIND REGARDS
EV MEYER
concerned Australian well connected Jew

Mr. Deutsch's response to Ev Meyer

Dear All,
I have spoken many times to both . Unfortunately not achieving the desired results. A claim I would not care is simply wrong.
Best Regards
Oskar Deutsch

 Beth Alexander responder to Mr. Deutsch's letter
Dear Mr Deutsch,

Please don't add salt to our wound. To claim you have 'spoken many times to me' is pure fiction and extremely insulting. Enough untruths have been spread around the Jewish community by Mr Schlesinger and his family without more being added by the people that are supposed to be 'neutral mediators.'

Your response to my supporter is extremely disappointing to say the least. Here we have such a caring, compassionate Jew on the other side of the world who doesn't even know me, taking the trouble to contact you about members of your own community because she truly cares and you cannot even form a truthful response, never mind turn to help?

This only confirms everything people around the world are hearing and seeing about the IKG - you have let us down unforgivably.

When will you begin to care? I just hope your own children and grandchildren will never have to suffer like we have in your midst. You remain blind and deaf to our pain.

Beth Alexander  

Schlesinger Twins: Sammy ill, denied his mother

Benji today missing his brother at his side
There is only one thing worse than seeing your little boy ill and watching him suffer; that is not being able to see him and be there for him at a time he needs you most.

Today, the father chose to inflict that agony.

The lady who supervises the handover texted me at 10.30, half an hour before my visit to say the father had messaged her last night to say Sammy was ill and ‘there is a chance only Benji will be able to come.’

Just 2 minutes later she sent another sms that Sammy had fever and would ‘unfortunately not be joining.’

I immediately called her and told her that I would take care of Sammy, he could stay in bed and we would stay at home all day, just let him be with his mummy when he’s poorly. Of course the answer she got back from the father was an adamant ‘no.’ I then asked if we could go together to pick Benji up from the apartment and be able to see Sammy at the same time, just for a few minutes to kiss him and see how he is. Again, I was denied.

The father brought Benji down to the supermarket where he decided the handovers must take place while one of the Filipinos stayed with Sammy. He dropped Benji off without a word and turned to walk away.
‘Michael, how is Sammy? What’s wrong with him? I asked. He heard the worry and anxiety in my voice but just walked away, without even saying goodbye to Benji.
I later sent him an email:
‘I would really like to know how Sammy is. Please could you email me your mobile number.
He replied in German:
Er hat Fieber sonst geht’s ihm gut.  aber wie es ihm wirklich geht werde ich dann sowieso im Internet lesen……‘He has a temperature, otherwise he is well but if I really want to know how he is, I can read it on the internet….’
At 5pm I asked the handover lady if I could speak to Sammy on the phone – just to hear his voice and know how he is. I don’t have the father’s mobile number. She asked the father but said the answer she got was ‘a very firm NO’.

This was a man who was awarded custody on the basis of his ‘bindungstoleranz’ – his supposed willingness to cooperate with me, the mother. This word has been used perversely throughout the proceedings to ‘justify’ the flawed psychologist’s and judges’ decisions. After all, the father is quoted as saying just how ‘kind’ and cooperative he would be should he be awarded custody:

He promised to:
- inform me about all matters concerning the children
- let me see the children ‘whenever I wanted’
- allow me to visit the children in his apartment (when I once tried to do so he called the police)
- take the children on holiday, including ‘extended holidays and trips to England’
 
From the day custody was transferred to the father, he has done everything possible to break the children’s contact with me, deny me access at every opportunity, not inform me about anything, including operations to remove their teeth when they were just 3 years old and be as hostile, uncooperative and antagonistic as possible.
 
Everyone who has studied our case knows that there was never any justification for awarding him custody. The children’s lack of development in his ‘care’ (for him, a ‘burden’ he has relegated to 2 Filipinos) as well as the father’s intolerable and pathological behaviour since then just serve to highlight the injustice of the original decision and prove why returning the children to their rightful home is the only realistic solution and one that is already long overdue.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Former principal of girls' school in Melbourne arrested in Israel on sex assault charges

The Australian    THE former principal of a Melbourne Jewish girls’ school who fled Australia in 2008 after being accused of sexual assault has been arrested in Israel and is facing extradition. 
 
The federal Attorney-General’s Department has confirmed Malka Leifer was taken into custody in Israel after an extradition request from Australian authorities.

The mother of eight left Australia six years ago after she was sacked as principal of the ultra-orthodox Adass Israel School Elsternwick following allegations of improper conduct with students between 2001 — 2008.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Department said Ms Leifer was wanted to face prosecution in Victoria for alleged sexual assault offences.

Seminary Scandal: Rechilus and baloney - time to resolve this mess

guest post by puzzled parent

We have been going round and round on the charges of sexual abuse for several weeks now. Time to organize the facts, and puts the rechilus, rumors and baloney into perspective.

facts

1.We have established that meisels is out of the Seminary business. How do we know that? Both batei din say so, and there were witnesses to the sale. Technicalities of selling a 501 C3 corp do not particularly interest us. We know it can be done.

2.We have established that he has sold the 4 seminaries to Y. Yarmush. A long interview with Yarmush yielded the information that he has a business plan, and contingent financial backing if necessary. We did not get into the details of the sale and the contract. How much does anyone know about the ownership and financial interests in any other seminary in the country? This did not seem necessary. We believe that if Meisels is seen anywhere near any of the seminaries, there were be an immediate major hue and cry.

3. The letter from R. Kahane to 15 girls was amateurish and poorly done.There is no disputing that the letter was disturbing and calls his basic judgement into question. This does not equate to any sexual wrongdoing however.

4. Charges of enabling against administrators have been thrown around at all 4 schools, and Kahane is one of those targeted. None of these have been substantiated. No one has called the police to our knowledge in any country. No one has called Rabbis Feldman or Malinowitz to our knowledge. If Chicago Beis Din has this information, they have not shared it with anyone. Charges in a law suit have not been substantiated. It is a source of great frustration that there has been no proof put on the table that anyone can see. “ Lo raeenu aino rayah.”

If in fact R Kahne acted the way that is described in some of these blogs, we would like to verify it. We will that same day go directly to Yarmush, Rabbi Aaron Feldman, Rabbi Furst and Rabbi Malinowitz ---and Kahane will have to step down. The Rabbis promised us that if there is proof, either from an individual or a therapist, they will act. We will either give you the direct cell phones to the individuals mentioned, or we will call them. Lets have some action. enough unverified talk and baloney.

opinions

1. Many people writing on all of these blogs have no daughter enrolled in a seminary. The ones who do have, for the most part, done their own major investigation and spoke to as many people as they could. The speculation on these sites is really astonishing, uncalled for, does not contribute to any real understanding of what is truly going on, and is counterproductive.


2. Particularly disturbing are posts by “psychologists, professionals and therapists.” Most of those are not written in the style, form and fashion of any professional that we have known over our years in education and psychology. They are also unsigned. Any bone fide professional would not be concerned about signing his/her name. No one has done so. Attempts to reach them have failed. How can anyone expect any credibility to be attached to these claims?

Dilemmas

There are only a few very clear points that need clarification, and the clock is running.

A. Was there enabling by staff and administrators? First hand evidence, or evidence submitted by a therapist would help resolve this. If you have this information, please share it le tovas haklal.

B. Will the schools be safe next year? Y. Yarmush has hired Rebetzin B. Birbaum, currently the “masgiach ruchani” of Bnos Chavah to oversee the 4 schools. We intend talking to her this evening. We have checked into her enough to know that she is excellent and means business.

This has been a very trying time. Lets try to bring this to a clean and proper ending b’ruach Hatorah.

Seminary Scandal: An explanation of why both the CBD and IBD are claiming exclusive jurisdiction

The following is what I have been able to piece together from various sources who have close connections with the IBD and the CBD.

The following information timeline indicates what is the crux of the dispute between the IBD and CBD. It is not that the CBD views that the IBD is not concerned for the victims but only for the seminaries. Or that the victims will be harassed by the IBD. It is not because the victims approached the CBD and not the IBD.  While the CBD views all these as being true - it is not the basis of the dispute.

The real reason is because the CBD is bluntly claiming that the IBD never had any right to be involved in more than a very limited roll that the CBD decided.

In contrast the IBD is claiming that the CBD never had jurisdiction over the seminaries which are located in Jerusalem and that contrary to what the CBD is now claiming - the CBD did in fact ask them to have full jurisdiction in the case. The IBD brings as proof the shtar borerus which was signed by the staff, Meisels and Rav Feldman

The CBD responds that their authority comes from the fact that  Meisels now agrees to abide by their psak as well as the request of the victims for them to deal with the case. The CBD claims that the shtar borerus of the IBD was in fact initiated by them - but only to make changes in the amutah - and nothing else. Therefore the CBD claims the IBD never had more than a peripheral role and that now it has none.
=========================================
A girl from Chicago complained to someone there about the problem. She was told that if she’s the only victim, they won’t listen, she should find others.She reached out to other girls and identified another victim. Chicago Rabbanim are informed that there’s another victim.

May 9-11 At the Torah Umesorah Convention Rav Zev Cohen, representing the CBD, asks Rav Aharon Feldman to act as the victims’ formal representative. He agrees.

R. Gottesman calls Rav Gartner in the name of the CBD to discuss convening a BD in EY to take this over. Rav Gartner proposes the dayanim.

CBD meet with Meisels who admits some inappropriate physical contact.

May 19 -- CBD issues it’s ruling of 7 guidelines that include removing Meisels from involvement in the seminaries and avoiding contact with the students. Therapy is required but there is no requirement to sell. No mention is made of any other staff involved. No warning is issued to the girls and permission is granted for the victims to go the the police if they want to so.

June 12 -- R Gottesman and RZ Cohen fly to Israel on behalf of the  CBD, with Rav Aharon Feldman on behalf of the girls; with R' Gottesman and Rav Zev Cohen present and involved in drafting the shtarei beirurin, Rav Aharaon Feldman, Meisels, and the school representatives sign shtarei beirurin with kabalas kinyan, etc, for IBD to handle the case. Clearly handing the responsibility of the case to the IBD. Rav Feldman agrees to be the representatives of the victims for the IBD as he was for the CBD Shtar Borerus


June 30 – Apparently in light of the lack of cooperation of CBD, IBD sends an email to R Gottesman - as the representative of the CBD - that they are meeting that evening, and if the CBD has something to say, this would be the opportunity to do so.

R' Gottesman sends an email in response to IBD - in the name of the CBD [including Rav Levine] - which makes claims which are severely at variance with the original understanding between the IBD and CBD regarding the respective roles and jurisdiction of the IBD and CBD. It claims that the CBD still has full jurisdiction over the case in all areas including all matters  relating to changes in the seminaries and arranging for compensation of the victims. It also clearly acknowledges that the CBD asked the IBD to be involved in the case but claiming it was only for the purpose of reorganization of the Amutah. It also claims that the shtar borerus was signed at the suggestion of the CBD but only to reorganize the Amutah. He requests that these changes be done quickly so that the CBD will proceed as the sole body to have jurisdiction of the IBD and that they drop out of the picture entirely because they no longer will be needed. Consequently the CBD sees no purpose in further discussion about the role of the IBD is this matter because it has none and that the CBD had notified the IBD of this 4 days before on June 26. Finally that the CBD intends to issue a second psak on the matter which will supersede the one of May 19th. This would explain why there has been no sharing of data by the CBD because they claim - contrary to what Rav Zev Cohen told Rav Feldman - the CBD never intended to share the information.

R' Gottesman also sends a second email that day announcing that the CBD has issued a 2nd psak. While it again acknowledges that it had asked for assitance from the IBD in the Meisels case  but since Meisels now  agrees to abide by the psak of the CBD  - there is no longer any need for the IBD to be involved in the case. [Apparently Meisels had not agreed to abide to their psak previously.]While expressing gratitude for the help they again insist that they have retained full jurisdiction in this case and there is no further role for the IBD. It is not clear whether the CBD authorized R Gottesman to send these letters since they did not send any letters stating such allegations on their letterhead nor did the CBD sign the letters. On the other hand they have never denied that these letters were authorized.

July 3 – IBD sends their response to the CBD and Gottesman’s emails strongly criticizing the emails from Gottesman (CBD).Response of IBD to R Gottesman's letters

July 10 – CBD first public letter stating that the IBD had assumed the case but that they viewed the seminaries as unsafe at the present time and did not recommend girls attending the seminaries

July 13 – IBD first public letter - a month after they had taken on the case. They declare that the CBD had requested through the agency of Rav Feldman ,  Rav Cohen and   R Gottesman to establish a beis din to hear the claims and to make decisions regarding compensation as well as to make changes in the seminary program. That the staff of the seminaries has accepted the IBD's to do such and they have promised to obey all requests. They also declare that the seminareis are now completely safe because of the removal of Meisels  They said they now will start evaluating the actual claims for the purpose of establishing compensation and to recommend changes in the seminaries.

July 14 – CBD letter to HTC not to recognize the seminaries

About July 24 – transfer of schools to Yaakov Yarmish is finalized. An earlier demand by R Gottesman that the seminaries by sold to him had been rejected. Another proposed deal of purchase by Yaakov Yarmish in conjunction with a friend who is associated with Torah U' Mesorah falls through when the friend backs out. The CBD had promised that the warning against the seminaries would be removed if it were sold - but the CBD reneges on its promise without explanation.

July 25 – IBD’s psak post-sale. Some of the points they mare are: That since they have thoroughly questioned the staff  - they have found no basis of concern for students to attend these seminaries. They request that Touro provide college credits for the courses. They ban predatory recruiting. They prohibit slandering the seminaries. They strongly criticize R Gottesman for meddling in this matter

 July 31 – Rav Aharon Feldman's “Chillul Hashem” letter questioning why the IBD had not requested information from the CBD. This assertion is based on what Rav Zev Cohen told Rav Feldman. He questions why Rav Malinowitz had publicly stated that the CBD had refused to share information and notes that he can't believe that Rav Cohen would lie. He also suggests that the IBD and CBD form a joint beis din. 

August 1-2 – IBD strong formal response to Rav Aharon Feldman 

At that point all hell had broken loose...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lessons about happiness & spiritual satisfaction learned from spaghetti sauce - Malcolm Gladwell





הרב שיק: לא לטייח מקרי התעללות בילדים, לפנות למשטרה

Kikar HaShabbbat

הרב אליעזר שלמה יהודה שיק, המכונה "הצדיק מיבניאל" קורא להתלונן במשטרה על תוקפי ילדים ולא לטייח את המקרים. בכך, מצטרף הרב שיק לרבנים נוספים שקראו בשנים האחרונות לפנות לגורמים המוסמכים ולהתלונן על מקרי התעללות במגזר החרדי.

בשאלה שפורסמה באתר האינטרנט של הרב שיק, סופר על קייטנה במהלכה פגע לכאורה נער קטין בילד - בנוכחות אמו של הנער. לדברי אמו של הילד, ששמעה על המקרה, היא ניסתה לברר עמו מה אירע, אולם החליטה לעצור זאת כי ראתה שבנה "נכנס ללחץ", כלשונה.

Discrimination against Chareidim in the workplace by Allan Katz

Here is a short summary of   an   article from The Marker '   dealing with Discrimination against Chareidim in the workplace' and then my response.

My initial reaction to the title of the article describing the difficulty a graduate of the sought after elite Hi- Tec 8200 unit of the Intelligence Corps  to find work because of his Hasidic dress and appearance, was that a man with a chasidishe style dress, uncut beard, pe'yos etc would be at a big disadvantage as people normally don't like to be with people different to the themselves. But the people who complained about discriminationin the article  - just because they are chareidim -  were modern chareidi, no beard or suit, and who had went to the army – and this surprised me. Chareidi women have another obstacle in their path. They are asked when they intend to fall pregnant again. Although the % employment rate for women in Israel is 66.3% and for Chareidi women a close 61.2% we must keep in mind that often they are the sole breadwinners. Other obstacles in the path of Chareidim is the lack of training and qualifications, English and Maths, the degrees or non-academic diplomas  from the Chareidi colleges are not so competitive, and in the case of men they expect higher salaries because they enter the market at an older age and with a big family to support. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has a program to help absorb more Chareidim in the work force by opening employment centers, providing professional development and training, and offering incentives to employers to take on Chareidi workers. The spokeswoman said that employees were afraid of employing Chareidim because of their perceptions of demands for separation between the sexes and kosher food. She was hopeful in the long run as Chareidim become more open to working in a secular environment and employees reap the benefits of serious and dedicated Chareidi workers.[...]

The problem imho is the message conveyed by the politicians – both chareidi and secular. The chareidim would prefer not to work but remain in learning and live on hand outs and not integrate into Israeli life by going to the army etc. . . . So a private employer would ask himself – why support a community that discourages its men to go out to work or make a contribution to the country by going to the army. I think it was before the last elections that a friend of mine - studying in a Kollel and doing hours of she'rut le'umi with the intention of studying dentistry asked a  ' Gimmel ' - Agudah politician the following question. Why they did not join others defending the existing rights that 'she'rut leumi' offered to those who wish to study and enter the workforce.  The politician gave various excuses but when pushed, he said that Agudah cannot be seen to be encouraging young men to leave Kollel and go out into the workplace. The same negative attitude is to employment and parnassa is also expressed in the context of education. A kollel for young men who wanted to work and learn seriously in a Kollel framework was forced to close down.  A school offering kids to graduate in one year and do other courses afterward together with a learning program was severely criticized in the name of ' pure haskafos'.  It seems that issues of poverty have no place in ' hashkofos'.It seems that nothing has changed in the 60 years since Rav Dessler passed away? Rav Dessler had the view and belief ...... that  Yeshivah students should be encouraged to pursue full time learning and be denied the chance to get an academic qualification. Only in this way, could Yeshivas produce a large student body,  needed to  produce  Talmidei Chachamim and Ge'dolei  Yisrael. The negative impact on the lives of those not suitable for full time learning was a worthwhile sacrifice for this goal.The issue now is whether the system would not be better served by altering the single focus to one that allows a multiple tier educational system. [...]

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Seminary Scandal: Joe McCarthy also had a list he wouldn't reveal

The present seminary scandal reminds me of the Joe McCarthy's hunt for communists. As shown below he insisted he had the name of those who had infiltrated sensitive government agencies - but he refused to share the information. I well remember the fear of communists as well as the reliance on rumors or associations - which caused a reign of terror in American in the 1950's. The fear of doing anything which would cause people to make accusations of communism caused people to avoid friends or family members and to allow the bullying of many in the name of patriotism. The rejection of the rule of law, of the right to fair trial, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty - did much damage to the fabric of American society. 

I sense a similar fear in air, there are suspicions everywhere, there are anonymous documents taken for fact, there are rabble rousers who are making accusations based on inferences, erroneous deductions and lies. The guilty need to be found - but the paranoia which has developed and the readiness to assume guilt without any meaningful evidence or the normal rules of a fair trial has to be stopped.

If anyone has evidence of abuse or even suspicions of abuse - they need to contact either the Israel Beis Din or the police. It is not acceptable to simply make comments on blogs - either anonymously or by name. It is not intelligent to make drastic change in plans of seminary or shidduchim or even friendship based on wild rumours. We have means of establishing the truth and protecting the vulnerable - but it needs to be done in a mature, lawful manner to protect the innocent and correctly label the guilty.



Reform Judaism's dilemma - Serve Jewish community or the help the world?

NY Times    Leafy, affluent Park Slope, Brooklyn, embodies the challenge facing modern American Jewry: Though many Jews live there, few are observant. So it was no small feat when Rabbi Andy Bachman took the helm of Congregation Beth Elohim in the neighborhood eight years ago and began attracting a vibrant congregation of Jewish atheists and agnostics, as well as the more traditionally religious.

Drawn by big-name book talks, family-oriented religious classes and the rabbi’s teaching that to be Jewish is to do good in the world, membership in the Reform synagogue doubled to more than a thousand families. It drew young literati like Jonathan Safran Foer and catapulted to national attention as a model for what might bring some of the nation’s millions of Jews who are unaffiliated with synagogues back to the fold.

Recently, however, Rabbi Bachman shocked many in his congregation and in Jewish circles by announcing that he was stepping down from the pulpit and out of Jewish leadership to help New York’s poorest, regardless of their religion. [...]

His decision was deeply personal, but also touched on vexing questions at the center of Judaism’s future in this country as modern Jews — the secular, the unaffiliated, the questioning — grapple with what it means to be Jewish and what role a synagogue should play in that identity. Nationally, synagogue affiliation is falling as American Jews increasingly decide they do not need to live out their Jewishness in a religious context.