Volume 49 Number 76
                    Produced: Fri Aug 26  5:27:39 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Class Assignment--Observing a church service
         [Nitzchia Bat Sela]
Going into a Church
         [Michael Kahn]
Jackets and hats in shul
         [I. Balbin]
Minhag v. Secular Law
         [Michael Kahn]
Post-Dated Checks
         [Tobias Robison]
Revisionist history?
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
Seat Belts
         [Carl A. Singer]
Separation of Church and State (2)
         [David Charlap, Shoshana Ziskind]


From: Nitzchia Bat Sela <petersig@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 00:42:27 -0400
Subject: Class Assignment--Observing a church service

I teach a course on Judaism at a large university in the Eastern U.S. In
submitting my course description for the Introduction to Judaism Class
in Spring 2006, I included the "absolute course requirement" that
students attend a synagogue service. The Department Chair wrote back,
that we can't make them go. I replied that of course we can't *make*
them go, but there could be consequences for ignoring this
requirement. My thought, later, was that cutting the grade in half (an A
to a C, a B to a D), announced ahead of time, would be a suitable
consequence. I also have before, and would again, provide that any
student could be exempt if he or she brought me a signed note by his/her
spiritual advisor letting me know that the student had serious spiritual
concerns about observing a service in a different faith. When I taught
this course in a Catholic University, a few tried this out, and they had
seriously squirmy feelings about going to a synagogue, and didn't know
what it would mean if they wore a kipa during the service, and felt bad
about the teasing of Jews they had done as kids, and were still afraid
of punishment for teasing.

On the other hand, the Department Chair wrote back that "we can't make
them go" referred to the yeshiva kiddies who won't go to observe a
Christian (probably read Catholic, although I'm not sure). My
understanding of the halakha of this, and I'm not talking about custom,
but of halakha, is that 1)based on majority rabbinic opinion starting
from Avoda Zara, Christianity is not avoda zara. The Department Chair
will next ask "What about going to a mosque?" AFAIK, Islam is not A.Z.
either. If not prohibited as A.Z., is observance of their services

If permitted, does it matter whether there are more or less than ten
yeshiva bochers in the Department Chair's class?

If permitted, though it grates on the young men's understanding of
minhag and halakha, are there any suggestions for mitigating their

If permitted, could/should harsh consequences be imposed--cutting grade
in half, for example?

A final note: these young men will be going on to melting-pot medical
schools and internships, or law school, or public administration. Should
they not know *something* about the religions of others? Since observing
a service is akin to "a picture is worth a thousand words," and an
important teaching tool, is there anything else that can take its place?

I've checked the archive, as far as it goes, and not found direct
consideration of this point. So, thanks in advance.

Nitzchia Bat Sela


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 12:10:23 -0500
Subject: Re: Going into a Church

>As an adult, I can go to a church wedding, or Christian funeral. As a
>child, I would have been mortified. I would expect to be turned to a
>pillar of salt.

I always thought it is asur to even walk into a church. Just because you 
don't turn into a pillar of salt proves nothing. 


From: I. Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 15:03:50 +1000
Subject: Re: Jackets and hats in shul

> From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
> I may be causing lots of traffic by this next statement, but I'm
> pretty sure that halachikly your topic has less halachik significance
> than a discussion of most halachkly proper hair covering for married
> women.

I'm not going to buy into the wigs versus tichels debate ...

The two issues (what do people wear and men vs women) are vitally
related. If the norm amongst non-jews in ones city is to wear a form of
head covering when going to houses of prayer, for reasons of
"modesty/appropriate attire" then it is incumbent on a Jewess to do so,
even if she is prior to the age of Bat Mitzvah where that is the
practice amongst non jews.  Similarly, if the non jews in ones city wear
jackets to church, then a Jew must do so as well in Shule! That is, the
Jew cannot do less when it comes to formality of clothing worn out of
modesty/respect for a house of worship than the non-Jew. I don't think
the argument that "we go more often" is relevant halachically. Perhaps
things have changed, but there is a halachic ramification to "Sunday


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 12:00:33 -0500
Subject: Re: Minhag v. Secular Law

>To the best of my understanding, secular law (or probably more
>specifically common law) often recognizes value in a long-term action
>regardless of its original validity (e.g. if people regularly trespass
>through your field for a long enough time, they can continue doing so;
>if someone mows part of your lawn for long enough, with some
>conditions, that part of the lawn becomes theirs).

There is a simmilar concept in the Gemara Baba Basra. It is called
"Maitzar Shehichziku Ba Rabim" which says that if the public regularly
walk through a private field they obtain the right to continue doing so.


From: Tobias Robison <tobyr21@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 12:05:38 -0400
Subject: re: Post-Dated Checks

Anonymous wrote:
> We have many members who cannot pay their full dues when they come due
> in August.  Historically, we've gone with "head checks" -- For
> example, someone who owes, say $400, can write four $100 checks dated
> Aug, Oct, Dec, February and our treasurer deposits them accordingly."

It's worth noting that post-dated checks are actually illegal in some
countries. In the USA, people who propose to receive and hold such
checks bear a special responsibility to guard them with care, because
they can probably be cashed immediately by anyone who gets ahold of

Here's a web page discussing the fact that future dates on checks can
be ignored (and they can be cashed early):

If a person stole post-dated checks from the treasurer and cashed them
at once, would the treasurer be in the same halachic position as a
person who is taking care of my gold pieces that are stolen from him?
I'm curious how halacha views the responsibility of the treasurer, can
anyone comment?

- tobias d. robison
princeton, NJ USA


From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 11:01:38 -0400
Subject: Revisionist history?

>Let's go back to the good old days, the late 50s and early 60s in Crown
>Heights. I have written about this extensively. Let's just say that the
>wearing of hats was a reaction to the non-wearing of hats by John
>Kennedy....and that's why most guys wear black borsalinos, because hat
>makers generally stopped making hats, and borsolinos and biber hits were
>all that was available in the hat store on B'way in Williamsburgh. That
>and shtreimlach.
>Same is true for colored beanies, jeans and plaid
>shirts. OUT. GONE. Good bye. Everyone had to switch to black or gray
>chinos, jackets and hats, because it was proper and decent, and not
>prust, like by the goyim.  In fact, I think it was Soupy Sales and his
>beanie that put the kaibash on colored triangles in kippot--everyone
>switched to solid black or kippah srugah. In fact, there was even a time
>when EVERYONE wore kippot srugot---only the charedim, who never called
>themselves charedim, wore them in black, like my dad did....and he was
>gung-ho Agudah all the way.

>I just love revisionist history.

I too am of the same age, and I too have a "thing" about the failure of
"frum" history to have an acceptable level of veracity, but really,
now...  Was Crown Heights the center of the universe? The chauvinistic
attitude that Brooklyn "made" world Jewry rankles, especially if you
consider that outside of the chassidic world Chicago probably provided
more Roshei Yeshiva and Torah scholars than Brooklyn.  In the same way,
Brooklyn did not set Jewish dress standards for the world.

In those same years I lived in Minnesota and Illinois, and travelled
extensively to L.A. and Israel.  In all those places black hats were the
standard, and presumably not because of the Williamsburg hat store.
True, Kennedy put hat stores out of business by being the first
president not to wear a hat to his inaugaration.  However, at least the
last few presidents before him wore GREY hats anyway.  The hat makers
stopped making other colored hats because the demand was only for black,
not the other way around.  In fact, Borsalino's were rare, most guys
wearing Stetsons.  Borsalino was exotic, rare, and expensive back then,
and became popular in the US only after the style became to spend time
learning in Israel, where they were the only hats available. In fact,
the old "Chevroners" and "Briskers" will tell you how they used to save
moneyby ordering the hats directly from Italy, getting them sent in
tubes, and having to shape them themselves using a teakettle and a soup
spoon.  It was well into the 70's before Borsalino became common in the
US Jewish market.

The same for jeans- In the late 50's/ early 60's denim color was out of
style.  Nothing to do with "frum", the "beatnik" and later "greaser"
look was black, white, or khaki chino's.  When jeans started to come
back, they were in other colors, mostly black (in the midwest, at

As for kipot serugot, I can say that in all the shuls I was in, across
the country, I cannot remember ever seeing black kipot serugot back
then.  They were usually in vivid colors, and for the most part were
restricted to teenagers.  In the later 60's, it became traditional in
many circles (Bnei Akiva, Skokie, and the like) to achieve status by
having serugies made by a girlfriend,and status was achieved by having
more of them from more girls.

There are many unpleasant things that can be blamed on the "frumming" of
American Jewry, such as the rise in acceptability of white-collar crime,
price-gouging on kosher products, and the like. To blame the frummies
for restricting your choice of hat and kipa colors is like blaming the
fall of the Wiemar republic on the bicycle riders.

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 21:57:35 -0400
Subject: Seat Belts

This was touched upon several weeks ago but seemed to go away without
definitive responses.

1 - Is it halachically permitted to drive without seat belts?   
2 - Has anyone paskened on this?
3 - What is one's responsibility to one's fellow (wo)man re: same -- if
you're  in car with them,  otherwise.

Carl Singer


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 10:32:23 -0400
Subject: Re: Separation of Church and State

Art Sapper wrote:
> Let us also face another fact: The very purpose of public schools was
> and is still just this sort of assimilation.  At first, the purpose of
> public schooling was to de-catholicize Catholic school children; later,
> its purpose included de-judaizing Jewish school children. ...

And the current school system tries to enforce atheism.  There have been
news stories about schoolchildren being suspended for organizing prayers
(without any school-sponsored organization) during supposedly "free"
periods in unused rooms.

In the incidents I've read about, the prayers were Christian, but I'm
certain the schools would do the same thing if Jewish students wanted to
gather for 30 minutes to daven mincha each day.

Is this really any better for the Jewish students than what came before?

-- David

From: Shoshana Ziskind <shosh@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 12:10:38 -0400
Subject: Re: Separation of Church and State

> From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
> Art Werschulz wrote <<< You can only imagine how the Jewish kids felt
> under such circumstances. In fact, the incidents from my childhood
> *still* make me wince with pain. >>>

Not sure what this has to do with the original topic but certainly I was
also effected by my mostly public school upbringing.  I learned to
despise anytime after thanksgiving until January 2nd.  Part of it was
that I wasn't frum so I didn't have Shabbos every week or Shavuous even
for that matter.  For me, my Jewish life was a little bit of Rosh
Hashanah, Yom Kippur, a little Pesach and Chanukah.  I felt threatened.
And it was worse when they put the token Jewish song in at the holiday
pageant since it usually didn't have anything to do with Chanukah.

This says more to me about the importance of sending your children to
day schools or yeshivas than to the separation of church and state.
There are many things I learned in public school that run counter to
Jewish hashkafa and ethics and some of them were secular concepts not

Shoshana Ziskind


End of Volume 49 Issue 76