Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Democrats in Congress to explore creating an expert panel on Trump’s mental health

hree congressional Democrats have asked a psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine to consult with them about forming an expert panel to offer the legislators advice on assessing President Trump’s mental health.
Yale’s Dr. Bandy Lee told STAT that over the last few weeks members of Congress or their staff have asked her to discuss how members might convene psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals “to review the president’s mental health, and review it on a periodic basis.” The closed meeting is expected to take place in September, she said.
The request came from three current congressmen and one former member, she said. She declined to name them, saying they told her they did not wish to be publicly identified yet.
The invitation comes as 27 representatives, all Democrats, have co-sponsored a bill to establish “a commission on presidential capacity.” The commission would carry out a provision of the 25th Amendment, which gives Congress the authority to establish “a body” with the power to declare a president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Under the bill, H.R. 1987, eight of the 11 members of the commission would be physicians, including four psychiatrists.
STAT contacted the sponsors’ offices, which either did not respond or declined to comment.
Trump has not released his medical records beyond a brief summary from his physician last year. He has said he never sought or received a mental health evaluation or therapy.
But since his election and, increasingly, his inauguration, a number of mental health experts have spoken or written about what Trump’s behavior and speech suggest about his cognitive and emotional status, including impulsivity and paranoia, with some offering formal diagnoses, such as narcissistic personality disorder.
In a book scheduled for publication in October that was edited by Lee, 27 experts offer their views of what Lee calls “Trump’s mental symptoms,” including his impulsivity, “extreme present focus,” pathological levels of narcissism, and an apparent lack of trust that is a sign of deep paranoia. The book is based on a small meeting Lee organized at Yale in April on whether psychiatrists have a “duty to warn” about any dangers Trump poses because of his psychological make-up.
If members of Congress form an expert panel like the one Lee has been asked to advise on, psychiatrists who participate would be at risk of violating a decades-old ethics rule imposed by the American Psychiatric Association on its members. Called the Goldwater rule, it prohibits APA members from diagnosing the mental health of public figures whom they have not examined. (Sharing such a diagnosis of someone they have examined would, of course, violate a different ethical rule, on patient confidentiality.)
In March, after growing criticism that the Goldwater rule was essentially a gag order that prevented the public from hearing from experts, the APA not only reaffirmed the rule but extended it. Now, in addition to the prohibition against suggesting that someone might (or might not) have a specific mental disorder, APA members are barred from “render[ing] an opinion about the affect, behavior, speech, or other presentation of an individual that draws on the skills, training, expertise, and/or knowledge inherent in the practice of psychiatry.”
While there is an exception for court-ordered evaluations and for consultations even without personally evaluating someone, there is no explicit exception allowing psychiatrists to tell elected officials, in public or in private, their views of a public figure’s mental state. Last month, the American Psychoanalytic Association, another psychiatrists group, sent an email to its members reiterating that they are not bound by the APA’s rule.

Lee, whose academic research focuses on prison reform, recidivism, and the causes of violence, said she “kept with the Goldwater rule’s original conception of refraining from making diagnoses, but speaking to dangerousness and the need for an evaluation.”

The expert panel that Lee was asked to discuss convening would have several members, she said, but it remains to be worked out who would serve, how and by whom they would be chosen, what their mandate would be, and how and when they would offer their opinions to Congress, should the proposal even get off the ground.
On Friday, Lee and four other psychiatrists sent a letter to all members of the U.S. Senate and House arguing that Trump exhibits “severe emotional impediments that … present a grave threat to international security,” and asking Congress to “take immediate steps to establish a commission to determine his fitness for office.” The letter signers are staunch Trump opponents and believe his presidency should end.
The letter echoed one that Lee and a slightly different group of colleagues sent to Congress in July. The most recent one came in the wake of Trump’s reportedly ad-libbed statement last Tuesday that if North Korea carries through on its nuclear threats, “they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” On Thursday, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un threatened to bomb the American territory of Guam, Trump said, “Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”
Lee and the other signers of the new letter, including Dr. Lance Dodes, recently retired from Harvard Medical School, argue that Trump’s “alarming patterns of impulsive, reckless, and narcissistic behavior — regardless of diagnosis … put the world at risk,” posing an “imminent danger” that psychiatrists are ethically obligated to warn about.
“The role of honor or, rather, perceived humiliation is often overlooked as a powerful stimulant of international violence,” they write, adding that the “president may not have the capacity to consider an array of possible choices, due to his own emotional needs.” They ask Congress to “take immediate steps to establish a commission to determine his fitness for office.”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Israel: No More Fines For Using Another Person’s ‘Rav Kav’

August 8, 2017 10:30 pm

yeshiva world

Since the implementation of the Rav Kav transportation smart card in Israel, the Knesset’s Ombudsman’s Office has received many complaints from people fined for using a Rav Kav that belonged to someone else. That is to say, they paid for their travel, but the card they punched belonged to another person.
It should be pointed out that commuters are aware that regulations prohibit using a smart card that is not one’s own.

The Knesset Ombudsman Committee discussed the matter and decided it is absurd for a commuter to receive a 180 shekel fine for using another person’s card when the fare is paid in full. Citizens who were fined and complained to the ombudsman’s office question the justification of the fine when the fare was paid – seeking to understand why it matters who owns the smart card.
In addition, families with many children often do not purchase a card for each child, or at times, and not infrequently, a child loses his/her card so a parent instructs him/her to use a spouse’s card.
Head of the committee, MK Yisrael Eichler, raised the matter in Knesset after receiving hundreds of complaints. In addition, he contacted the Transportation Ministry, seeking to eliminate fines for use of another’s Rav Kav. Eichler succeeded and inspectors are being informed that one is no longer to be fined for using a Rav Kav belonging to another person. There are exceptions, which include a Rav Kav with a monthly ridership (חדשי חופשי) on it and a Rav Kav with reduced fares for the elderly.
In the case of students; if a student uses a card belonging to another student, which is a discounted fare, inspectors have the right to use discretion regarding a fine. If a fine is given, the rider has the right to appeal to the Transportation Ministry and if s/he can prove s/he is a student, the fine will be canceled.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis, Activists Take on Pedophilia in Public Rally


Wed Aug 9, 2017 6:11 am (PDT) . Posted by: 

"Dorron Katzin" dakatzin

*Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis, Activists Take on Pedophilia in Public Rally*

*Religious leaders take on the issue at rare public gathering in Haredi
town of Bnei Brak, dismiss rumors of ‘cult’ hunting children on street*

Aaron Rabinowitz (
795882) Aug 09, 2017 12:55 AM

• Jerusalem men held on suspicion of sexually abusing children -
• Breaking Israel's ultra-Orthodox taboo on discussing sexual abuse -

In a rare gathering that took place Saturday night in Bnei Brak,
ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) rabbis and activists spoke publicly for the first
time on the issue of pedophilia (
israel-news/.premium-1.710150) in the community, providing a glimpse into
how attackers and victims are dealt with.

The assembly was convened following a wave of rumors about a “missionary
cult” that was snatching children, sexually assaulting them, inciting them
against their parents and even threatening to murder them. These rumors
were making local parents hysterical, especially since dozens of children
had complained in recent months about strangers who approached them,
grabbed them and sexually assaulted them. An in-depth examination, however,
showed that the panic was apparently unjustified; although there had been
cases of children being assaulted, these attacks had been perpetrated by
pedophiles acting alone and not as part of any network or cult.

The story is also rooted in cases that took place earlier in Jerusalem. In
2011 a number of suspects were arrested in a series of attacks on children
in the Nahlaot neighborhood. Residents believed there was a wide network of
pedophiles in the area who had attacked dozens of children, but an
intensive police investigation uncovered no evidence of this, although
there had been a few individual instances.

A few years later there were rumors of a similar network operating in the
Jerusalem neighborhood of Sanhedria. In August 2016 police arrested a
number of people suspected of spreading the rumors about a “missionary
cult” and using them to extract hundreds of thousands of shekels from
people who contributed to help stop the imaginary cult.

After similar rumors started in Bnei Brak a few months ago, activists and
rabbis who intervened determined that these were groundless and that a
significant number of the children’s reports could not be proven
sufficiently or were outright lies.

As the Saturday assembly was called to calm frightened parents, the
phenomenon of pedophilia was discussed. At the start of the conference,
however, Rabbi Shlomo Levinstein, who is active in this area because of his
position in the Mishmeret Hakodesh Vehahinukh (“Guardians of Holiness and
Education”) organization, said, “For reasons of modesty, questions to the
rabbis will be allowed only after the gathering on a private basis.”
Teenagers were ordered out of the hall.

During his address, Levinstein said, “When we know who the attacker is,
there is sometimes an option to deal with it in the community. We know how
to do this, either through the Mishmeret Hakodesh or through Rabbi Chananya
Chollak [chairman of the Ezer Mizion aid organization]. We have ways of
sending people for treatment and we do so with a waiver on medical secrecy.
When we don’t know who did it, we call the Israel Police.”

He added, “Our community has all sorts of sensitivities that don’t exist in
other populations. When police are called, the detectives don’t know our
language and can sometimes ask things that a child wouldn’t know what they
want of him. Sometimes we arranged to have children questioned in Rabbi
Chollak’s office, and that’s acceptable to the police. But the first thing
that must be done is to protect the children – that is, to warn them not to
speak to strangers and that you are the sole proprietor over your body.”

*Nothing new*

Chollak also addressed the gathering, saying, “Unfortunately, assaults on
children are nothing new. Almost every week there’s an incident, in our
community as well, to our great regret. There was a story in Bnei Brak a
while back. Twenty-eight children were assaulted within 10 days, three of
them girls who were hospitalized. I couldn’t sit in my office and I went
out on ambushes with the police.”

Rabbi Yehuda Sillman, a senior rabbinic court judge, told the gathering,
“This story started in the Nahlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem, where there
were evil people who did terrible things and they’re sitting in jail.
There’s no doubt that in various instances you have to go to the
authorities, but in the current case [the rumored missionary cult in Bnei
Brak] it’s clear the story isn’t credible. Hysteria and imagination work
overtime in these cases and cause even worse damage – people who won’t
leave their homes, children who aren’t permitted to play in the park, and

Sillman added, “If there have been cases of assaults on children, they
should be reported to the police, in coordination with the rabbis and
activists to make sure the attackers indeed get punished and that there’s
oversight so that the complaints are checked in a manner suited to the
Haredi community. But there’s no need for exaggerated panic.”

In conclusion, the rabbis instructed the parents to repeatedly tell
children that they shouldn’t approach or talk to strangers, and that they
must explain to them that only they have say over their bodies.

“There are a lot of question marks in this case,” said Eli Schlesinger,
crime reporter for the website Bechadrei Haredim, who has been continuously
covering the issue of sexual assault in the community. “One city resident
collected the information and gave the rabbis a document with 30 instances
of assault. Rabbi Yehuda Sillman investigated but could not find evidence
of a cult operating in the city.”

Yisrael Cohen, a journalist for the Kikar Shabbat website, which divulged
the recordings from the Bnei Brak gathering, told Haaretz, “The rabbis and
the Haredi activists work in cooperation with the police, who in certain
cases look away and allow treatment within the community. The police
understand that the advantages of cooperation with Haredi officials
outweigh the disadvantages.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

US video against PLO state a huge hit in Israel

Mark Langfan's appearance on CBN explaining strategic danger of 'Two-state solution' a viral sensation, with 500,000 views.
by Gil Ronen


A 5.5-minute video in which Middle East strategy analyst Mark Langfan explains the dangers on the "two state solution" has become a viral hit in Israel, more than three years after it originally aired on CBN.
After being featured in November on a Facebook page created by grassroots Zionist activists called Kol Ha'am ("The People's Voice"), the Hebrew-subtitled clip has garnered 367,000 views to date, which – combined with its views elsewhere on social media, puts it at a total of about 500,000 total views, most of them from Israelis.
In terms of views per population, this would be the equivalent of 33 million views for a video targeting the US audience. It is currently shooting up at over 20,000 views per day.
In the video, Langfan, a New York-based attorney, pro-Israel activist and media analyst appears on Erick Stakelbeck's show, "The Watchman", to clarify what could – and probably would – happen, if Israel were ever to allow Palestinian statehood in Judea and Samaria.
Using a three dimensional map of Israel, a few pieces of colored Plexiglas and a lot of old-fashioned common sense – Langfan demonstrates the ease with which Arab control of the mountainous Biblical heartland would place 70% of Israel's Jewish populace and 80% of its industrial base within the range of truck-based chemical weapons of mass destruction.
The clip's success runs counter to commonly held views on social media marketing, according to which the short attention span of the modern audience prescribes that only extremely short and fast-moving videos stand a chance of success. To the contrary, it seems that the Israeli audience appreciates precisely the in-depth, low-snazz analysis that Langfan provides.
Some of viewers' reactions – most of which seem to be from people in their 20s and 30s – compliment the video for showing what Israel's left-leaning educational system and media do not, and for providing a solid, fact-based rationale for rejecting the "two-state solution" that has been accepted by Israel's leadership.
shortened version of the nine-minute segment on Langfan's Youtube account.
Langfan chairs Americans for a Safe Israel and is a regular contributor to Arutz Sheva.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rabbi YY Jacobson: When Religion Becomes Toxic and Full of Lies

Published on Mar 16, 2017

AMUDIM Awareness Event in Forest Hill, Queens, NY, March 4, 2017. This was in response to many an overdose in the Jewish community. This is a "strong" speech in response to the terrible crisis of youths losing their lives to addiction and despair.

Brooklyn, NY - My Message For Tisha Ba'v: Judge Ruchie Freier: Reflections From The Bench On Judging Our Children

Published on: Yesterday 11:45 PM
By: Ruchie Freier

Brooklyn, NY -  I remember seven years ago when I first met 14 year old Malky Klein a”h.  She was sitting across me in the Seforim Room in my home.  She pensive yet pretty, wearing a long skirt and dressed B’Tznius.  Malky was wearing the uniform of the school that had expelled her because she was hurt and ashamed and did not want anyone to know that she had no school. 
Her parents were worried as she was experiencing challenges; no high school wanted to accept her.  Since Malky’s passing, many people are coming forward attacking the “system” and warning us of the dire consequences.  What people don’t know is the missing piece to this story.  
During the early years of my community service, I began advocating for kids at risk and formed B’Derech focusing on adolescent Youth at Risk, primarily boys in the Chassidish Community. 
My previous articles appeard here on VIN share my early experience. 
One night, in late 2010, my aunt, Miriam Schwartz, called me.  “Ruchie, you must help me get my good friend Rifka Klein’s daughter into high school.”  My aunt explained that she knows this girl and her family for years and they were wonderful people. She explained there was a meeting tonight at a certain high school that Mrs. Klein was afraid to attend because if the other mothers see her, they would protest.
After meeting with Malky and her parents, I had several conversations with their Rav, the Krulla Rebbe of Williamsburg.  He was concerned and supportive and offered to assist me in helping the Klein family with whom he was close with. 
I pleaded with the principal, a kindhearted and righteous person, who was opening a new high school to accept Malky.  She was reluctant because there was negative information out there.  
I advocated and ultimately the principal acquiesced.  But, it was only after she quietly told me that several mothers were calling her exclaiming that if Malky Klein is accepted, they will take their daughters out of the school.  
In fact, the principal said that one of the mothers explained that she was related to the Kleins and thus had first hand information of what transpires in their home and strongly urged the Rebbetzin not to accept Malky.  This required my investigation which revealed that no such cousin existed.  This is merely one example of the exaggerated and/or false reports that were made by mothers in the class.
While Malky was truly grateful to be accepted into the school, she longed to be with her friends and dreamed of joining them.    When Malky completed 9th grade, she was still hopeful that if she worked with tutors and tried harder, and got better grades in 10th grade, she would be able to transfer for 11th grade.  
Malky personally wrote letters to other school principals and begged to be given the chance, all to no avail.  Alas, despite all her efforts she cried to her parents “What it takes girls in my class seconds to learn, takes me hours. If this is what it means to be a good girl, it’s not for me!” And that was the beginning of the tragic end for Malky.  A sweet girl, who was so misunderstood and hurt, despite the unconditional love of her wonderful parents.
As we reject more children, the death rate goes up.  The Chazon Ish said that a decision to expel a child is Dinei Nefoshos and halachically requires a Bais Din of 23 members.  
The Torah relates that a Bais Din that killed once in 70 years was considered a Bais Din of murderers.  Yet our system has resulted in approximately 70 deaths in less than one year due to rejection, despite the fact that so many sources do not support this policy.  
In the Gemara, Bava Basra (21a) R’ Shmuel Bar Shilas, an Amoira who was an educator in his time, stated that the student who does not study or behave appropriately, should not be tortured or expelled.  Rather, he should be kept together with the other students for ultimately he will turn around.  
The Rishonim, such as Nimokei Yosef, use even stronger language saying that it is prohibited to send off such a student, even on the possibility that it will set his heart in the right place.  The Maharsha (in Ruach HaKodesh) writes that keeping the child where he is, will be a big benefit for the other students. 
The Michtav Eliyahu by HaRav Dessler, asks why Noach did not send his wayward son, Chom, during the mabul, to check what is happening outside?  Why did Noach send a bird?  He answers that when there is a mabul raging outside you do not throw someone out even if he behaves badly.  So what happened in our community; why have so many of our children been cast away – thrown overboard into dangerous and troubled waters? see full articleHERE 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Some example fan mail

"I was dismayed to hear that you didn't die from your most recent stroke. You are an awful human being and are going to burn in hell for an eternity for"

A Quick Response To Chillul Hashem


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Levaya For Miriam Zidele - Tuesday 11:30 pm

Levaya For Miriam Zidele To Take Place Tonight July 25, 2017 At 11:30
TRAGEDY: 7-Year-Old Miriam Zidele Niftar After Drowing In Pomona Last Week

YWN regrets to inform you of the tragic Petira of 7-year-old Miriam Zidele A”H, who was pulled from a swimming pool in Pomona, NY.
Miriam remained in critical condition at Westchester Hospital until her Petira on Tuesday afternoon.

The levaya will be tonight (Tuesday) at 11:30pm in Monsey at the corner of Brick Church Rd and Route 306 in the Monsey Bais Hachayim.
As the world recited Tehillim around-the-clock (for Miriam bas Shoshana), Miriam’s parents, Shaya and Shani Zidele spearheaded efforts to build a new women’s Mikva in the Pomona community. The growing kehilla currently has 150 families, which presents an obvious need for this most important endeavor. They have started a campaign on The Chesed Fund to raise funds. Incredibly, in just 6 days, 2,150 people donated close to $130,000.
Please donate to the campaign as a Zechus for her Neshama.
You can view the campaign and donate HERE
Boruch Dayan HaEmmes…
(Charles Gross – YWN)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chinuch must be fun R Shmuel Kaminetsky

I recently met a member of  the Kaminetsky clan

Yes, Not all are aware of The big issue.

Who said in a long talk with rav Shmuel who insisted that it is critical that chinuch be fun.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Lack of activity due to recovery from major stroke.
Please daven for the refuah shelima of:
Daniel Reuven ben Esther 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Allegations that Nunes lies about his sources in an attempt to defend Trump against congressional investigation he is conducting

A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Mr. Nunes then discussed with Mr. Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

It is the latest twist of a bizarre Washington drama that began after dark on March 21, when Mr. Nunes got a call from a person he has described only as a source. The call came as he was riding across town in an Uber car, and he quickly diverted to the White House. The next day, Mr. Nunes gave a hastily arranged news conference before going to brief Mr. Trump on what he had learned the night before from — as it turns out — White House officials.

The chain of events — and who helped provide the intelligence to Mr. Nunes — was detailed to The New York Times by four American officials.

Since disclosing the existence of the intelligence reports, Mr. Nunes has refused to identify his sources, saying he needed to protect them so others would feel safe going to the committee with sensitive information. In his public comments, he has described his sources as whistle-blowers trying to expose wrongdoing at great risk to themselves.

That does not appear to be the case. Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and was previously counsel to Mr. Nunes’s committee. Though neither has been accused of breaking any laws, they do appear to have sought to use intelligence to advance the political goals of the Trump administration.

Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, refused to confirm or deny at his daily briefing that Mr. Ellis and Mr. Cohen-Watnick were Mr. Nunes’s sources. The administration’s concern was the substance of the intelligence reports, not how they ended up in Mr. Nunes’s hands, Mr. Spicer said.
The “obsession with who talked to whom, and when, is not the answer,” Mr. Spicer said. “It should be the substance.”

Jack Langer, a spokesman for Mr. Nunes, said in a statement, “As he’s stated many times, Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his source’s identity, and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources.”

Mr. Cohen-Watnick, 30, is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who served on the Trump transition team and was originally brought to the White House by Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.

He was nearly pushed out of his job this month by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who replaced Mr. Flynn as national security adviser, but survived after the intervention of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.

The officials who detailed the newly disclosed White House role said that this month, shortly after Mr. Trump claimed on Twitter that he was wiretapped during the campaign on the orders of President Barack Obama, Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials.

There were conflicting accounts of what prompted Mr. Cohen-Watnick to dig into the intelligence. One official with direct knowledge of the events said Mr. Cohen-Watnick began combing through intelligence reports this month in an effort to find evidence that would justify Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts about wiretapping.

But another person who was briefed on the events said Mr. Cohen-Watnick came upon the information as he was reviewing how widely intelligence reports on intercepts were shared within the American spy agencies. He then alerted the N.S.C. general counsel, but the official said Mr. Cohen-Watnick was not the person who showed the reports to Mr. Nunes.

That person and a third official said it was then Mr. Ellis who allowed Mr. Nunes to view the material. [...]

The High Price of Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Life

On Thursdays, the nonprofit organization Footsteps hosts a drop-in group for its membership of formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews, who mostly refer to themselves as “off the derech.” “Derech” means “path” in Hebrew, and “off the derech,” or O.T.D. for short, is how their ultra-Orthodox families and friends refer to them when they break away from these tight-knit, impermeable communities, as in: “Did you hear that Shaindel’s daughter Rivkie is off the derech? I heard she has a smartphone and has been going to museums.” So even though the term is burdened with the yoke of the very thing they are trying to flee, members remain huddled together under “O.T.D.” on their blogs and in their Facebook groups, where their favored hashtag is #itgetsbesser — besser meaning “better” in Yiddish. Sometimes someone will pop up on a message board or in an email group and say, “Shouldn’t we decide to call ourselves something else?” But it never takes. Reclamations are messy.

At the drop-in session I attended, 10 men and women in their 20s and 30s sat around a coffee table. Some of them were dressed like me, in jeans and American casualwear, and others wore the clothing of their upbringings: long skirts and high-collared shirts for women; black velvet skullcaps and long, virgin beards and payot (untrimmed side locks) for men. Half of them had extricated themselves from their communities and were navigating new, secular lives. But half still lived among their Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox sects in areas of New York City, New Jersey and the Hudson Valley and were secretly dipping their toes into the secular world — attending these meetings, but also doing things as simple as walking down the street without head coverings, or trying on pants in a clothing store, or eating a nonkosher doughnut, or using the internet. They had families at home who believed they were in evening Torah learning sessions, or out for a walk, or at synagogue for evening prayers. On the coffee table were two pizzas, one kosher, one nonkosher. The kosher pizza tasted better, but only a couple of people ate it.

The group was facilitated by a Footsteps social worker, Jesse Pietroniro, soft-spoken and kind, who had told me that he had his own conflicted religious upbringing. He allowed the attendees to democratically settle on a loose theme for the evening. One woman in her early 20s brought up sexuality. She had started to date and wasn’t quite sure what the norms were. A young man talked about how hard it was for him to interact with women casually outside his community, since he was taught that sexual desire outside the intent to procreate means that one is a sexual predator, so anytime he was attracted to someone, he worried he was going to do something untoward, or that he was a kind of monster. The young woman who had suggested the theme said she didn’t know when exactly to submit to kissing — the first date? The second? Is she a slut if she kisses at all? Is it still bad nowadays to be a slut? She’d heard girls talking on the subway and calling each other sluts, and they were laughing. Are there rules for this? A few of them made sex jokes. The O.T.D.ers, newly alive in a world of puns and innuendo, love a junior-high-grade sex joke. The social worker narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips and tapped a finger to his chin and nodded and opened the question up to the group. (I was allowed to document the meeting on the condition that I wouldn’t publish anyone’s name or descriptive information.)

Another woman in her early 20s, sitting on the sofa in jeans with one leg slung over its arm, told us she had spent most of her life being molested by her father. She told the group that recently she had taken to advertising online, saying she followed the laws of family purity — going to a ritual bath after menstruation, not having sex during her “unclean” week — and that she was available for sex in exchange for money. Ultra-Orthodox men visited her at all hours, and they cheated on their wives, having sex with this ritually pure young woman in her apartment. When the men finished, they told her what a shame it was that she was off the derech, that she seemed nice, that she should try again at a religious life.

A man, 30ish, still with a beard that he now trimmed closely to his face, talked about staying with his religious wife, who knew he was no longer religious but wouldn’t join him on the other side. He knew the marriage should be over, but he wouldn’t leave, and he couldn’t bring himself to cheat on her, and he wanted to know if he was unable to cheat on her because he was bound up by his religious values or because he was innately a good person. Another married man said that you don’t need to be taught in a religious context not to cheat on your wife — it’s a tenet of secular marriage as well, and what the whole operation often depends on.

“I guess I just don’t know if I’m a good person because I’m a good person,” said the guy who wanted to cheat but might not, “or if I’m a good person because I was taught to be a good person.”

They went around in circles for many minutes, most of them summoning scriptural sources on whether morality is inherent, then other sources to make or disprove that point, then laughing at the fact that they’d summoned Scripture. The married man who was deciding if he should have sex outside his marriage put his head in his hands, then through his hair and made a great, guttural noise of frustration.[...]

Footsteps was started in 2003 by a college student named Malkie Schwartz, who grew up in the Lubavitch sect in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and who knew after high school that she wanted to step off the community’s moving walkway to marriage and motherhood. She moved in with a grandmother who wasn’t religious and enrolled at Hunter College on the Upper East Side.

But just because she left her community didn’t mean that she felt part of the secular one. She started Footsteps as a drop-in group right there at Hunter and told a couple of formerly religious friends what she was doing. About 20 people showed up to the first meeting. Soon they had a G.E.D. study group — and a human-sexuality-and-relationships group, so that they could learn about sex education, which was normally taught to the ultra-Orthodox only in the days leading up to their weddings. Footsteps became a chrysalis for them through which they would leap into their new lives, just as soon as they figured out exactly how to live them.

Schwartz eventually left the organization in the hands of nonprofit professionals — Footsteps was a chrysalis for her, too — and went to law school. Today, Footsteps is a 501(c)(3) with an executive director, social workers, scholarships, court-companion programs and special events like fashion nights, at which members learn about modern style outside the realm of black-and-white dresses and suits and hats. Ultra-Orthodox communities, whose leaders stand vigil against outside influences, know about Footsteps; about half the people I met in Footsteps first heard of it when they were accused by someone in their family of being a member.

It’s hard to talk about O.T.D.ers as a group, because like the rest of us, like ultra-Orthodox people, too, they are individuals. No two people who practice religion do it exactly the same way, despite how much it seems to the secular world that they rally around sameness; and no one who leaves it leaves the same way, either. In the region of New York City, New Jersey, and the Hudson Valley that Footsteps serves, 546,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews live in one of about five different sects. With a few exceptions, like the Skver sect in New Square, N.Y., which has actual boundaries and operates its own schools, the ultra-Orthodox live not in cloistered neighborhoods, but among secular America in Crown Heights, Flatbush and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and beyond. Perhaps it’s easiest to think of them as living in a different dimension — occupying the same space but speaking a different language (Yiddish, for the most part), attending different schools, seeing their own doctors, handling judicial issues among themselves and eating their own food from their own markets.

So once they leave, if they leave, they learn how ill equipped they are for survival outside their home neighborhoods, and that has a lot to do with the ways that ultra-Orthodox communities are valuable and good: the daily cycle of prayer and school and learning; how people share goals about family and values; how neighbors support one another during times of need. Once that’s gone, and all a person has is her mostly Judaic-studies education and little familial support and no real skills, life gets scary. For those who leave and are married with children, the community tends to embrace the spouse left behind and help raise funds for legal support to help that person retain custody of the children. You could be someone with a spouse and children one day and find yourself completely alone the next.

I learned about Footsteps in 2015, after the very public suicide of one of its young members. Her name was Faigy Mayer, and on a hot night in July, she went to the top of 230 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron district, where there’s a rooftop bar, and jumped. In death, she became something of a brief symbol (and also a lightning rod) for the O.T.D. movement, with her story plastered across local papers, many illustrated by a Facebook image of her holding a paintbrush and standing in front of a newly painted mural that said “Life is Beautiful.”[...]

Feeling sad is ‘new normal’ in Trump’s America, therapists say

Jewish mental health professionals like Rubenstein say they have seen an unprecedented increase in stress, sadness and other negative feelings that clients are directly tying to the election and its aftermath.

Their testimonies speak to a larger trend: A January study by the American Psychological Association found that more than half of all Americans cited the political climate as a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

Elections usually lead to discontent from the losing side, but not anxiety and depression, said Sam Menahem, a psychologist based in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

“Every election people might talk about it a little bit, they don’t like the candidate that won, but it doesn’t make them more anxious or depressed,” said Menahem, who has been practicing psychology for 44 years. “They didn’t get their way, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, but I’ve never seen anything like this — never.”

He estimated that 60% of his patients were “experiencing exacerbation or worsening of symptoms after the election.”

Indeed, the APA survey found that the average stress level saw its first “statistically significant increase” since it was first conducted a decade ago: from 4.8 to 5.1 on a 1-10 scale in the period of August 2016-January 2017.

Much of the anxiety can be traced to the surprise victory of an unusually polarizing candidate over the apparent front-runner and more conventional politician, Hillary Clinton. Jewish voters supported Clinton over Trump by a margin of 3-1. Consequently, they are overrepresented among people disappointed by Trump’s victory.

As to the degree of that disappointment, mental health professionals and patients point to all the things that make Trump unconventional: his impulsive tweets, his thin skin, his embrace of various conspiracy theories, his lack of political experience and the apparent chaos surrounding his inner circle in his first months in office, to name a few.[...]

Political polarization has spilled into people’s personal lives, threatening to tear apart close relationships, said Nancy Kislin, a social worker in Chatham, New Jersey.

Kislin said that she had clients who had ended romantic relationships based on disagreements over Trump.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Kislin, noting that she had worked in private practice for 13 years, during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Seth Grobman, a clinical psychologist in Davie, Florida, said patients have ended relationships with family members and friends due to post-election political disagreements. To be sure, political polarization isn’t the only factor in play, he said, noting that widespread social media use was also to blame.[...]

Thursday, March 30, 2017

IDF threatens to punish soldiers who protest co-ed combat units

Arutz 7

The IDF is taking a surprisingly strident, and even threatening, tone against soldiers who, on their off-time, protest the army's increasing integration of women in combat units.

Hesder yeshiva soldiers have begun distributing literature explaining the dangers of mixed-gender combat units, and of women in combat roles altogether.

The Hesder soldiers are generally considered the army's best, and their campaign has taken off over just the past few days.
"In the face of all logic," the distributed pamphlets state, "and "ignoring expert opinions and research, the IDF is undergoing a transformation that harms its female soldiers, impairs its combat abilities, and detracts from the safety of all of us. It is not logical, it is not moral, it is not humane."
The name of the new campaign: "Saving the IDF."
The IDF, which has now set as one of its primary objectives the full integration of women throughout the military, responded harshly. The IDF Spokesman's Office even compared the new campaign with that of the extremist haredi group that says one must be killed rather than register for the draft: "The call to 'Save the IDF' is similar to the calls coming from the extremists in the haredi community that oppose enlistment in the IDF and the fulfillment of the laws of the country."

That is, the IDF Spokesman's Office compares the mass protests and campaign to oppose at all costs even registering with the IDF, on the one hand, to those who seek to warn, from within, against dangers in the IDF, and advocate a short delay, at most, in enlisting in the IDF.
The Spokesman's statement continues: "The IDF views with gravity, and condemns any attempt at any form of refusal. Calls for division with the IDF and insults to the honor of people must be opposed and uprooted. Everything must be done to continue to defend the State of Israel by all those who serve, from all sectors of Israeli society. Participation in this act is forbidden to IDF soldiers, and the subject will be intensively investigated and treated with severity."
The campaign against mixed combat units also cites the physiological differences between men and women, and the consequent differences in the way in which they are trained. While men must run with two canteens and five bullet cartridges in order to qualify as a combat soldier, females need run with only one canteen and two bullet cartridges to qualify for the same.
In addition, men must jump and climb over a wall, while women are permitted to stand on a bench in order to qualify for the wall-climbing test.

Former IDF Generals Yiftach Ron-Tal and Avigdor Kahalani are quoted in opposing the IDF's new gender-integration policies.

Monday, March 27, 2017

רשת השתקה למעשים חמורים במגזר: 22 חשודים חרדים נעצרו

. המשטרה פשטה על בתיהם של 22 חרדים החשודים בעבירות חמורות בירושלים, בית שמש, ביתר ובני ברק לאחר חקירה סמויה וממושכת בה נחשפה רשת שעל פי החשד סייעה להשתקה ומסמוס תלונות על מעשים קשים 

עם סיומה של חקירה סמויה יצא לפועל הבוקר (שני) מבצע מעצרים וחיפוש ממוקד במהלכו נעצרו 22 תושבי ירושלים, בית שמש, בית"ר עלית ובני ברק בחשד לביצוע עבירות חמורות בילדים ובנשים שלא דווחו למשטרה ולרשויות הרווחה.

הבוקר, עם סיום איסוף הממצאים וכשבידי השוטרים צווי מעצר וחיפוש שהוצאו ע"י בית המשפט כנגד 22 חשודים, פשטה המשטרה על בתיהם, ביצעה חיפוש ועצרה אותם. כלל החשודים הובאו לחקירה ביחידה המרכזית של המשטרה ונחקרים בגין חשד לביצוע עבירות חמורות בילדים, נערים צעירים ונשים במהלך השנתיים האחרונות.  

ראשיתה של החקירה באיסוף מידע ממוקד שהצביע על פעילות שביצעו גורמים במגזר החרדי שפעלו למען 'טוהר המגזר'. הגורמים הללו פעלו, על פי החשד, באישור ובהסכמת מנהיגי הפלגים והזרמים השונים במגזר, קיבלו ואספו מידע אודות אנשים שתקפו ועשו מעשים חמורים, וניהלו נגדם הליך פנימי שבסופו קבעו והחליטו מה יהיה על החשודים לעשות על מנת שהאירוע ייסגר ולא יועבר לטיפול המשטרה. ברוב הפעמים הורו לחשודים לקבל טיפול כזה או אחר אצל גורמים בקהילה,
כל זאת ניהלו תוך רישום האירועים ופרטי המעורבים בעשרות פנקסים שנתפסו ע"י המשטרה.

בשיטה זו נהגו, עפ"י החשד, כלפי עשרות אנשים שתקפו אחרים, חלקם במספר הזדמנויות ובמספר רב של קורבנות, בהם ילדים וקטינים - כל זאת מבלי שהועבר דיווח לגורמי רווחה ולמשטרה.

כאמור החל משעות הבוקר המוקדמות עצרה המשטרה 22 חשודים בגילאי 20-60 שלכל אחד מהם מיוחסות פגיעות ועבירות חמורות באירועים שונים במהלך השנתיים האחרונות. עם כניסת הכוחות לביצוע המעצרים בירושלים החלה התגודדות של חרדים סביבם, כשחלקם ניסו לשבש את ביצוע המעצרים - יודו לעברם אבנים, הושלכו חפצים וקראו לעברם בקריאות גנאי. שני חלונות של ניידות נופצו מאבנים שיודו במקום. כאמור, כלל החשודים נחקרים במשטרה בסיומה יובאו מי מהם בפני בית המשפט לדיון בעניינם.  


In a raid conducted by Israeli Police forces early Monday morning, 22 Charedim were arrested on suspicion of sexual crimes against women and children over the past two years. The suspects had undergone internal proceedings conducted by a Charedi organization called “Tohar Hamachane” (also known as the Tznius police), who ‘treat’ the offenders but do not alert the police or child protective services.

The police raided the 22 Charedi residents of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, and Beitar Illit with a search and arrest warrant based on an investigation. The investigation was launched after the police seized notebooks from Tohar Hamachane which included lists of victims and their crimes. Tohar Hamachane is a central body which works together with various faction leaders of the communities.

The suspects were arrested on suspicions of sexual offenses against women, minors and small children. The victims received no treatment by the Charedi authorities, according to police investigators.

During the arrest, surrounding Charedim mobilized in attempt to disrupt the police, shouting slurs and hurling stones and objects, which broke two windows of the police vehicles.

The suspects were not subjected to any punishment by the internal Charedi authorities, instead being allowed psychological and psychiatric treatment towards rehabilitation. The Charedi faction leaders submit offenders in their congregations to the Charedi authorities in exchange for said authorities agreeing not to report the crimes to the police.

“This exposure will first and foremost stop these offenders from abusing any further victims,” said the police in a statement. “At the same time, the police are working to make the suspects stand trial in court and mete justice upon them for any crimes to which they are connected.”

According to an army radio report, there are over 100 known victims and some of the suspects have already confessed to the police.