Volume 10 Number 10
                       Produced: Sat Nov 20 19:54:45 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

A modest proposal re: Archiving (Abolish it)
         [Joe Abeles]
Gedolim prior to and during the Shoah
         [Dr. Moshe Koppel]
Shailos on the Net
         [Freda Birnbaum]


From: Joe Abeles <joe_abeles@...>
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 93 03:30:34 -0500
Subject: A modest proposal re: Archiving (Abolish it)

While at first it seemed to me a convenience that mail.jewish was being
archived,  I have in recent times realized there are excellent reasons not to

One of the problems is that the degree of formality of mail.jewish has become
very blurred.  On one hand, it is not an academic forum in which material is
edited and peer-reviewed.   Nobody has suggested that it should be, and anyway
that never was the intent of the founding participants.  On the other hand, it
is now a forum in which everything is archived.*  

The public archiving of mail.jewish on nysernet has these pros and cons:  

* The archive gives an impression to others that something
  tangible is being accomplished by, particularly,
  the most active participants in mail.jewish.  
* Old articles are in principle available to anyone.
* A record of the individual opinions is recorded
  for future sociologists and historians to analyze and
  write PhD. theses or publish articles about.  
* Duplication of similar topics can be, in principle, 
  avoided by referring to old postings. 
* You can't stop people from saving old articles and 
 this way they don't have to do so. 

* Archiving give an impression of weightiness of the
  subjects we discuss and suggests that, in the absence
  of any reply to the contrary, statements proffered
  in the "annals" of mail.jewish are authoritative --
  anyway, they stand for all time.
* Answering new issues raised by referring an individual
  to an archived posting tends to stifle discussions which
  would lead to new understandings and perspectives.
* Archiving gives the impression that we are very
  self-impressed (gaivadik) with our own writings.
* Archiving increases the likelihood that people
  will turn to mail.jewish for answers to jewish questions
  rather than to their rabbi, as required by jewish law.
* Mail.jewish postings are not authoritative in any case
  and assembling a reference source (i.e., the archived
  postings) based on mail.jewish is misleading and 
  in some instances could become dangerous.
* Archiving creates a permanent record of postings which
  taken out-of-context of the times may later be subject
  to misinterpretation.
* Individuals may suppress their thoughts knowing that
  their words are available not only to subscribers
  to mail.jewish but to anyone with access to internet
  anywhere in the world at any time.
* Participants who gain access to mail.jewish through
  their employers may not wish their employers to have
  convenient access to files documenting, all in one place,
  a long-term use of company-provided resources for
  non-business purposes.
* People who have honestly expressed an opinion at one time
  and legitimately change that opinion may not appreciate having
  others interpret them according to their outdated statements
  still available years later in the archives of m.j.
* Archiving may set limits on volume and length of mailings.
* Otherwise unnecessary effort is required to archive.
* Otherwise unnecessary effort is required to index.

I personally serve as an editor of an archival journal.  The effort involved in
editing articles is significant compared to what it would be to merely screen
them for anti-orthodox-jewish content -- and screening for this was the
motivating factor for which this mailing list was originally taken off USENET.

Mail.jewish is not, nor should it become, an archival document.  It is not, nor
should it become, a "serious" literary or academic forum.


*What confuses matters further is that the present moderator appears to perform
his own personal "peer" review, combining submissions, changing subject lines,
freely commenting before others have a chance using the [Mod.] brackets, and
unilaterally rejecting submissions (which you the reader never hear about).


From: <koppel@...> (Dr. Moshe Koppel)
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 93 01:59:44 +0200
Subject: Gedolim prior to and during the Shoah

 The topic of the leadership exhibited by various Gedolim (and alleged
Gedolim) prior to and during the Shoah is a painful one which I would
quite frankly prefer not to discuss in this forum. Moreover it is
presumptuous and arrogant to judge others (and especially those held in
high esteem by many people) who were forced to make decisions under
circumstances most of us can hardly fathom. Nevertheless, several recent
claims concerning the Rebbes of Satmar and Belz were so outrageously
false that it would be criminal to allow them to pass without comment.

First, the facts. The Belzer Rebbe was saved from the Nazis on numerous
occasions through the efforts of his followers. Finally in 1943 he
arrived in Budapest which was not yet under Nazi occupation. He remained
there until January of 1944, only months before the occupation. At the
time of his departure he instructed his brother to explain to the Jews
of Budapest why they were leaving. He explained that it was NOT a
panicked escape from imminent danger because in fact no harm would
befall the community. Rather, they were leaving out of a great desire to
reach Eretz Yisrael.
  There is no point disputing these facts. I have in front of me a
photostat of the critical portions of the speech as printed in February
1944 in Budapest in a pamphlet called 'Haderech' which was circulated by
followers of the Rebbe. The original can be seen at the National Library
on Givat Ram and portions are reprinted with background and commentary
in the book 'Chassidut Polin.." by Mendel Piekarz . It is noteworthy
that in books printed by the Belzer community after the war, this speech
is reprinted verbatim with the critical lines about 'no harm befalling
the community' omitted.
  Piekarz also cites a note found in a bottle buried under the
crematoria, which is relevant to the story. The note is an eyewitness
account of a statement made by the Rebbetzin of Stropkov as she was
going to the gas chambers. The following is a verbatim translation:
 ''I see the end of Hungarian Jewry.  The government made possible the
escape of many segments of the Jewish communities. People sought the
advice of Rebbes' and they [the Rebbes] always calmed them. The Rebbe of
Belz said that Hungary would escape with but a 'tremble'. And then the
bitter hour arrived when the Jews could no longer save themselves. It is
true that Heaven hid [the truth] from them, but they themselves escaped
to Eretz Yisrael at the last moment; they saved themselves and abandoned
the people like sheep to the slaughter. Master of the Universe! During
my last moments I beg you to forgive them for the Chillul Hashem."
  These words are painful to read particularly in the name of the
Rebbetzin of Stropkov. Nevertheless I would like to be 'melamed zchus'
on the great Belzer Rebbe based on discussions with my grandmother. My
grandmother went to see the Rebbe in Budapest in 1943. The Rebbe asked
her about her father who was a confidant of his before the war. When
told that her father had escaped to America, the Rebbe said "Thank God ,
Velvele has been saved." But when told that her husband (my grandfather)
had been deported, the Rebbe said, "Don't worry, he will come back." He
didn't. My grandmother bears the Rebbe no ill will; on the contrary she
was grateful that he gave her encouragement at a very difficult time.
She tells me that nobody there at the time would have stayed if they had
the chance to leave so that the Rebbe's words were taken in exactly the
spirit in which they were said, namely as encouragement but not as a
realistic assessment of the situation or as a recommendation of a course
of action.
  In conclusion, with regard to this particular instance, I don't think
any conclusive statement can be made with regard to Gedolim giving good
or bad advice.  As far as the story of the Satmar Rebbe the claim made
by one poster that the Rebbe "spent the war in Bergen-Belsen until he
was liberated at the end of the war" is a piece of revisionist fantasy
that demands a response. The Rebbe was in the ghetto in Kloizenberg from
March 1944 until July 1944. He then boarded the train, which by
arrangement between the Jewisg Agency representative Rudolph Kastner
with Eichmann (yemach shmoi), was bound for Zurich via Bergen-Belsen.
(Not everone who wanted to could board that train; my grandmother and
mother, for example, were turned away.) The Rebbe was detained in
Bergen-Belsen until 21 Kislev (well before the end of the war) when he
did finally arrive in Switzerland. To be sure, Kastner was no tzaddik;
he kept to himself information regarding planned Nazi actions in order
to protect his privileged relationship with Eichmann. Thus if the Rebbe
did not see fit to be grateful to him, I have no quarrel with him. But
please let's not rewrite history.
  From this case too, no conclusion can be drawn regarding the
fallibility of Rebbes regarding political matters.
  Consider, however, the following. When the Litvishe yeshiva bochurim
had an opportunity to leave via Japan on the basis of visas to Curacao,
many Roshei Yeshiva encouraged them not to do so. (To his credit, Rav
Finkel, who had already escaped, encouraged his talmidim to do so which
is why the Mirrers were saved.) Tragically, there were those talmidim
who had succeeded in obtaining visas and tore them up based on the
advice of these Roshei Yeshiva. A very short time later, those who
followed this advice were murdered. Those who left for Japan were saved.
   I wish to reemphasize that I do not presume to judge any decision
made by anybody under those circumstances. Surely nobody could know what
the right course of action was, even the greatest Rabbanim. Which is
exactly the point...


From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 93 13:11 EDT
Subject: Shailos on the Net

Fresh from the administrivia post re not cross-posting to
soc.culture.jewish, I recently saw something on BALTUVA that seemed so
germane to some recent discussions on mail-jewish that I asked the
poster for permission to post excerpts to mail-jewish, which he
graciously gave, including the permission to use his name.

In private discussions I've had with some individuals following some
recent postings, I've been made very much aware of some of the issues
this post addresses.  BALTUVA has some knowledgeable people but probably
has a larger proportion of not-brought-up-and-educated frum folks than
mail-jewish does.  Nevertheless, I know that there are numbers of people
on mail-jewish to whom some of the following will be quite resonant.
And it backs up what Avi has been saying about the importance of

So, without further delay...:

This is excerpted from a recent post to BALTUVA by Kalman Laudon
(<klaudon@...>) :

(begin excerpted material):

There are usually MANY answers to a shailo, especially when the one
asking is a new BT, or one yet to be.  To receive the entire spectrum of
opinion can be very confusing, and possibly misleading.  I still
maintain that this is a risk that we here are exposing ourselves to.
This forum is not the same as a beis medrash, or yeshiva cafeteria, or
shul (NOT during davening!), where a free-for-all discussion among
relative laypeople usually does not get TOO far in influencing someone's
actual derech (path) in yiddishkeit, without the nearest rabbi being
roped in to provide an AUTHORITATIVE, or at least, "official", answer.
What is more, the admonition of our sages in the mishnah, Al Tifrosh min
haTzibbur (do not separate yourself from the community), helps us in
that the person who asks the problem IS identified to his/her friends,
and we thereby are aware that one of our bretheren has a question,
problem, issue, or need.  We thereby become obligated to help, if we are

And of course, when we know that person as a real individual, we are
able to determine what sort of help REALLY may be needed.  A shailo
regarding whether or not one can take a certain kind of medicine on
Shabbos (like the asthma inhalers many of us have to use) may be in
reality be a different sort of question entirely, such as a GENERAL
kvetch about keeping Shabbos, or being lonely or overwhelmed by it, or
overworked so that one's asthma is acting up unnecessarily.  Perhaps it
is just a way to establish contact with others, and the appropriate
teshuvah (answer) is not only the relevant halacha, but an invitation to
a shabbos shiur, or to be a chevrusa. Maybe that person just needs to
learn more in general, and you are the person who can make a difference.
I'm not trying to be overdramatic with this, only just trying to
illustrate the point.

I have found that MANY of the folks who show up and participate in BT or
kiruv-oriented forums, whether electronic or live, have other issues
going on which are not immediately apparent in person, and may NEVER
become apparent on the Internet.  And these are issues which may be VERY
important to know about when answering.  Not everyone reading here may
be shomer shabbat and mitzvos.  Some may have already made the
committment and are trying to get there.  Some may have not yet
committed but are considering it.  Some people may not even be
halachically Jewish, and are wrestling with how to deal with that issue
(and may be married to a Jew and want to stay that way). Some may have
r"l other status problems.  You NEVER know.

[This was the part that really stood out for me -- fb]:

A mature man, considering becoming frum but not yet committed, who
thinks he may be a Kohen because of some maase (story) his grandmother
ONCE told him about her husband, who now inquires of the group about who
can a Kohen marry, because he thinks he'd like to get married, needs
special treatment! If someone asked me this in person, and people have,
I would NOT give them any sort of an answer!  I would immediately refer
them, and in fact, dial the number and hand them the phone, with an
APPOINTMENT with someone who can deal with this.  The halachically
correct 1-liner out of Mishnah Brurah or Shulchan Aruch haRav, or other,
may be so devastating to this person at his stage, that he runs out of
the yeshivah, shul, Chabad house, etc., and writes off becoming frum
then and there.  Problems with gerus, non-observant divorcees who did
not know about gittin, and their children who now wish to marry, etc.
all need VERY special screening before any confusing info is presented.
Only a very qualified rov can screen out some of the red herrings, and
can determine the halachic validity of the information, and whether or
not there is EVEN an issue.  Many chazakos (assumptions) apply regarding
family matters of the older generation, that do not apply today, and
that only a rov knows how to apply.

(end excerpted material)

Freda Birnbaum, <fbbirnbaum@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks)


End of Volume 10 Issue 10