Volume 31 Number 64
                 Produced: Fri Feb 18  5:32:00 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Dealing with sexual abuse
         [Stuart Wise]
Feeling Invisible (2)
         [Anonymous, Carl Singer]
Invisibility and Funeral Customs
         [Sam Gamoran]
Molesters in Frum Community
Reading Someone Else's Email Messages.
         [Immanuel Burton]
Tzedaka and Israeli Welfare Laws
         [Reuven Miller]
Women pray w/minyan vs w/o minyan
         [Chaim Mateh]


From: Stuart Wise <swise@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 11:36:30 -0800
Subject: Re: Dealing with sexual abuse

>  If the Orthodox community fails to respond internally then there is
> ample halachic justification to go the the secular authorities.  When an
> individual's actions are dangerous to many and the Jewish community is
> incapable of controlling him there is no prohibition of mesira to go
> state agencies and the police.
>  Because this is an embarrassment, our leadership has been reluctant to
> acknowledge the problem and it will take broad demand to create a
> systemic process to reduce future suffering.
>  Sincerely ,
> (Rabbi) Yosef Blau

I hate to sound cynical, but given the way the Orthodox community deals
with agunos and gittin, I'm not sure it will do a better job dealing
with this issue.  I have heard, as I am sure others have, of how the
beis din has not been exactly objective or even understanding of the
complainants, and side with the accused.

Sorry, but even frum people end up resorting to agencies that they feel
more certain will respond to their problem.  Years ago I heard of a
first-grade rebbe who believed in corporal punishment, much to the
objections of the parents.  That rebbe is still teaching, and I guess
people don't want to speak lashon harah, but he shouldn't be teaching.


From: Anonymous
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 23:46:15 -0500
Subject: Feeling Invisible

A brief story:

The community that I come from has two major Orthodox shuls on Shabbat.
One was connected to a yeshiva (elementary school, high school, and some
post-high school) and tended to be more "black hat." The other, which my
family and I attended, was considered more "modern." The men's section
was the front half of the shul, while the women's section was the rear
half. The mechitza separating the two was about 7-8 feet high, with a
lower half that was completely opaque and an upper half made of
overlapping wooden slats, that left perhaps 40% of that area open so
that people behind it could see the bimah and hear what was going on in
the men's section.

One Shabbos morning, my father and I began walking to our shul and
crossed paths with an elderly woman who was walking to services at the
"black hat" shul. We exchanged pleasantries, and each of us continued on
our separate ways. About 30 minutes later, we were surprised to see her
enter our own shul. Afterwards, we asked her what had caused her to make
the longer trek up a hill in order to come to a shul which she had
rarely attended before. She explained to us that upon entering the
"black hat" shul, she noticed that the-powers-that-be there had decided
to place a thick curtain over the top half of the mechitza, most likely
in the name of modesty. Since she could no longer hear or see what was
going on in shul, she felt as though she had become excluded from taking
part in services and decided to leave. I should also mention that this
woman had contributed graciously to the shul and yeshiva in question
over the years and had most likely been going there for much of her
adult life.

First, Joseph Geretz wrote:
> Is that how you imagine Orthodox women feel behind the Mechitza
> (partition)?  That they 'steel' themselves to feel invisible? Perhaps
> they welcome the modesty which their 'invisibility' behind the Mechitza
> affords them.

Then, Ellen Krischer wrote:
> Nice try, Joseph.  But with all due respect, I don't
> "imagine" that some Orthodox women sometimes
> feel invisible behind a Mechitza.  I *know for a fact*
> that some do.

And Joseph responded:
> I'm sure. I'm also sure that there are men who feel left out when it is
> their wives who have the priviledge of lighting the candles to usher in
> the Shabbos every Friday evening, while they stand by 'feeling
> invisible'. What does that say?

I've got to admit that I'm quite astonished by the exchange above.
Joseph, I doubt that you have experienced standing on the other side of
the mechitza for your entire life. Despite this, your original words
(i.e. "imagine") indicate that you don't believe that many women feel
this way. When Ellen mentions personal experience (from speaking to
others, I assume), you have simply given a poor analogy rather than just
admitting that, yes, many Orthodox women don't like the feeling of
invisibility that the shul has conferred on them.

In regards to the analogy you use, I feel that you are comparing apples
and oranges. Men are not forbidden from lighting Shabbat candles, and in
fact one of my roommates does this every Friday afternoon since we are
all single males. In addition, Shabbat candles are something which
involves a family, while davening with a minyan [praying with a quorum
of ten men] is understood to be the preferred, communal, method of
prayer. I have been taught that if the wife is unable to light for some
reason, the obligation passes to her husband. This is completely unlike
the rules of Minyan.

Finally, I can confirm Ellen's statement that many women do not appreciate
the feeling that they are invisible within a shul. Many of my Orthodox
female friends -- who would never consider davening anywhere but an
Orthodox shul -- have told me so.

  > I was raised Orthodox in a large family of 10 siblings, B'li Ayin Hara,
  > 5 boys and 5 girls. I never heard any of my grandmothers, aunts, mother,
  > sisters, cousins or nieces complain about davening behind the Mechitza.
  > Never. We were not raised in a 'ghetto' atmosphere, we were raised
  > out-of-town, very aware of the world around us. Yet I never heard any
  > complaint from any of my female relatives in this regard. Perhaps, if
  > there are women who feel slighted or degraded, by Orthodox institutions
  > which are part of our Mesora, then it is the subjective viewpoints of
  > these women which are off the mark, rather than the institutions of
  > Orthodoxy themseleves. 

I don't dispute the idea that Hashem created men and women with
different roles; believe it or not, most feminists are quite aware that
there are some major physical differences between us. I'm also not
suggesting a service can be both Orthodox and egalitarian.

What I am trying to point out here is that you ignore the feelings of
50% of the members of your shul at your peril. Alienating large numbers
of people by dismissing their feelings as silly and groundless won't get
you very far or win many converts to your viewpoint. Keep in mind that
the vast majority of Jews who attend shul at all do not attend shuls
with mechitzas.  If your response to them would be as you have written
above, I would ask you to stay out of the kiruv [outreach] business.

I do firmly believe that a satisfactory answer can be found within
Orthodox halakha, but we first need to admit that many women are made to
feel quite uncomfortable as a result of not being able to see, hear, or
be counted as an important component of a shul.

From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 09:10:45 EST
Subject: Re: Feeling Invisible

<<  I'm sure. I'm also sure that there are men who feel left out when it is
 their wives who have the privilege of lighting the candles to usher in
 the Shabbos every Friday evening, while they stand by 'feeling
 invisible'. What does that say? >>

Perhaps that's a social add-on to the halachik reason for a man charring
the wicks before licht benching.  In some homes, everything comes to a
halt and the family gathers around to participate (light or watch) -- in
others I've seen the wife and daughters light while the rest of the
house is oblivious -- gathering coats to go to shule, etc.  I guess it's
fairly clear which I think is preferable.

Carl Singer


From: Sam Gamoran <gamoran@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 14:48:23 +0200
Subject: Invisibility and Funeral Customs

Unfortunately, the past year has had its share of sorrows and a number
of our neighbors and acquaintances have passed away.  This has given me
an opportunity to observe funeral practices in various cemeteries around
central Israel.

There are a few basic rules concerning funerals that all Jewish funeral
rites hold in common: 
- tahara or ritual washing of the deceased
- use of shrouds and/or simple coffins
- burial in the ground
- as quickly as possible (except when a delay will bring greater honor
	to the deceased) 
- cohanim do not attend except for immediate relatives
- tearing kriyah as a sign of mourning and saying the blessing Baruch
	Dayan Emet (Blessed is the true judge) [whose judgement we 
	accept, both 'good' and 'bad'].

Beyond the basics there is a whole myriad of funeral customs that vary
and even contradict one another. 
- in some customs a child isn't allowed to attend the graveside burial
	of a father or mother or either 
- in some funerals flowers and wreaths are laid (in Chu"l - outside of
	Israel this was considered very goyishe) 
- the matzeva (monument) may be set anytime from 7 days to 12 months
	after the funeral 
- at one funeral I went to the widow requested that women refrain from
	approaching the gravesite 

My conclusion from all this is that elu v'elu divrei elokim haim (all of
these are the word o the living G-d) and anything which brings honor to
the deceased and comforts to the mourners is allowed.

Some phenomenon that I seen trouble me greatly: Sometimes the Hevra
Kadisha (burial society) director does something against the wishes of
the family.  I have seen family members almost come to blows (fist
fights, threats) because the Hevra Kadisha says "in minhag ploni we
don't do it that way".

A few months ago I saw two funerals occuring simultaneously - at the
other one women were standing at the gravesite, at "ours" the women were
banned and a male relative was arguing, to no avail, that the wife and
daughter wished to be present.

Last week I attended the funeral of a neighbor who had been prominent in
several organizations.  During the graveside eulogies a woman
representative of one of the groups asked to speak - and was told in an
abrupt and offensive manner "women don't eulogize".  Several men with
more tenuous connections to the deceased did speak.

Finally, at the end of the funeral there is the custom of forming shurot
(two rows) through which the mourners pass to receive the first comfort.
At one funeral, the women wanted to form rows to comfort the female
mourners.  The funeral director actively prevented it.

Aren't these all ways of making women feel "invisible"?  Aren't they the
opposite of nichum aveilim (comforting the mourners)?


From: Anonymous
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 14:47:04 +0200
Subject: Molesters in Frum Community

Anonymous writes:
> When we realized what was happening, we spoke to our children and moved
> out as soon as possible. But we also learned that he was a well-known
> problem in the community but no one wanted to deal with it. Later, when
> we learned another couple with young children had rented the apartment,
> my husband did speak to a rabbi associated with the Telshe Yeshiva.  We
> know that this rabbi spoke to the butcher and threatened to disclose his
> activities if he approached the children. But, looking back, there
> should have been rabbinic pressure on him to stop renting the
> apartment. I don't believe that these kind of sick people are capable of
> controlling themselves -- other people have to take action to keep them
> from harming our children.

While I am in total agreement with you that many of these people are
sick and incapable of controlling themselves, I'm not sure that Rabbinic
pressure on the butcher to stop renting the apartment would have been
any more effective than threatening to disclose his activities. I do
think that potential tenants should have been warned of his propensities
by someone in the community.

I recently came across someone "frum" who had been run out of two large
American Jewish activities for child molesting. Each time he was
discovered, he ran someplace else. He is still telling the same story
regarding his background that he told in the first city (I checked his
references there, which is how I know the story), although he now has a
new "profession."


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 10:02:00 +0000
Subject: Reading Someone Else's Email Messages.

Does reading someone else's email messages without their consent fall
under the same category as reading normal mail about which Rabbeinu
Gershon (I believe) applied a Cherem?  Would there be any difference if
the person knew that his email messages could and were likely to be read
against his wishes?

 Immanuel M. Burton                     |    Tel: +44 (0)20-8802 9736 x0250
 I.T. Manager                           |    Fax: +44 (0)20-8802 9774
 Better Properties Limited              | 
 129 Stamford Hill, London N16 5TW, UK  |  Email: <iburton@...>


From: Reuven Miller <millerr@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 00:10:28 +0200
Subject: Tzedaka and Israeli Welfare Laws

Can anyone recommend articles or books (in Hebrew or English) that
discuss or compare hilchot tzedaka with the present day social welfare
laws in Israel.

reuven miller


From: Chaim Mateh <chaimm@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 23:24:22 +0200
Subject: Women pray w/minyan vs w/o minyan

The agenda for the Conference on Feminism and Orthodoxy, mentions that
for Shacharis (morning prayers) "There will be a Women's Tefilla as well
as a mechitza minyan available.". And for Mincha (afternoon prayers), it
mentions "Tefillat Mincha; (mechitza minyan available)".

All this means that there will be women's tfilla groups for the women,
and also if any women want to daven in a mechitza minyan (i.e., the
"regular" way, with a minyan of men on one side of the mechitza, and
women on the other side), this too is available.

This raised the following in my mind.  It is known that it is better to
daven with a minyan than without a minyan.  It's known that Hashem
listens to our prayers better when a minyan is davening than when
individuals are davening.  Needless to say that "minyan" in this context
means 10 (or more) men.

Women are also required to daven (at least once a day, short tfilla if
they are busy with the kids, or longer if not).

The question arises as to whether the "better to daven with a minyan"
applies to women too.  IOW, if a woman has a choice of (1) davening by
herself, (2) davening with 50 other women, or (3) davening with a minyan
(of 10 men), which is the Hallachically and hashkafatilly preferable
thing to do?

Kol Tuv,


End of Volume 31 Issue 64