Volume 55 Number 46
                    Produced: Sun Aug 19  9:52:00 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

High School Adminstrators
         [Joseph Kaplan]
New Life to Traditional Shabbat Nusah
         [Baruch J. Schwartz]
Obligations to the government/was Finances and Judaism
         [David Maslow]
Orthodox don't contribute
         [R E Sternglantz]
Rav Dessler - Nekudas HaBechira
         [Daniel Geretz]
Vaad of Frankfurt
         [S. Wise]


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 21:33:18 -0400
Subject: High School Adminstrators

In some of the discussions about the cost of Jewish day school/high
school tuition, a phrase was used about school administrators --
nuchschleppers -- that, quite frankly, I believe was derogatory and
should not have been allowed.  But since it was, I now have some
specific information about the administrators in my daughter's high
school (where tuition is almost $20,000 a year) which I just received
over Shabbat, that I'd like to share.

First, some information: it is a co-ed high school with over 600
students.  The curriculum is a mixed one; i.e., limudei kodesh (Jewish)
and limudei chol (secular) studies are spread out over the day, so even
teachers who specialize in one or the other (and there are a number who
teach both) can teach a whole day rather than just in the morning or

There is one principal and 5 associate/assistant principals, each of
whom has a specific area of concentration (e.g., director of general
studies, student programming and activities, etc.)  While that might
sound like a lot, it is important to understand that each of the
assistant/associate principals also teaches a number of classes so they
are mainly teachers and only part-time administrators.  There is a
director of admissions (clearly necessary for a school that has hundreds
of applications a year and admits almost 200 students); a director of
college guidance (which, as the parent now of a 4th child going through
the process I can personally testify is an absolute necessity; thinking
it can be adequately replaced by computer research is pure fantasy
unless you go into the process knowing exactly where the child will go
and even then without guidance you might not get your wish); a director
of educational technology (who also teaches); two directors of Israel
guidance (almost 75% of the seniors spend a year studying in a multitude
of Israeli schools and programs; one for boys and one for girls, and
both of whom also are primarily teachers); a dean who is also the head
of guidance (since he has a PhD in psychology and an outside clinical
practice), is in charge of student productions like directing the
student play which takes a tremendous amount of time, mainly after
school (he has decades of professional Broadway theater experience), and
who teaches both Jewish (he also has smicha) and secular subjects; a co-
curricular activities head (who also teaches limudei kodesh); a
librarian (who can no more be replaced by a computer program than a
doctor/technology businessman can); a number of secretaries and
executive assistants who are kept pretty busy with all the programming,
parent communications, college communications, state- mandated
requirements and the normal job of keeping a large organization humming;
business office staff (we're talking about a multi-million dollar
business); and security and maintenance personnel.

Lots of people?  Sure.  Could one or two be cut, or certain jobs
consolidated?  Probably.  But we're not talking about big money savings
here.  Indeed, the glib talk about cutting staff and saving thousands of
dollars in tuition would be nice (it would certainly be quite helpful to
my budget), but if I want to fantasize, I'd choose other things to
fantasize about.

I know many of these people.  They work incredibly hard, often into the
night; they are available to the kids and parents at all hours, are
dedicated and care a great deal about what they do it for.  And to them
goes a great deal of the credit for my children and their classmates
getting a first rate Jewish and secular education that prepared them
extremely well so they could, as they did, excel in their studies in
Israel and college. To call them insulting names is below the standards
of this list.  I believe they deserve an apology.

Joseph Kaplan


From: Baruch J. Schwartz <schwrtz@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2007 10:11:18 +0300
Subject: New Life to Traditional Shabbat Nusah

I would like to congratulate Cantor Sherwood Goffin, whose truly
excellent Nusah program "Be a Baal Tefillah" has just been released by
Davka Software. Cantor Goffin has made yet another enormous contribution
to cultivating and passing on the art of traditional nusah, not as
something for professionals and experts alone but as something for all
worshippers and all shuls to learn and implement.

The program is for use with a computer or MP3 player and comes with
onscreen Program Instructions and Siddur text. It is a beautiful
rendition, and will certainly aid many experts and novices, now and in
the future. The precision in the nusah, including the finest points of
musical variation, is unsurpassed, and special praise to Chazzan Goffin
for his unwavering attention to correct accentuation and correct
phrase-division. He proves once again that the Hebrew can be correct
without making the traditional melodies sound the least bit unnatural.

I do not do promotion for Davka Software, but I got my copy by emailing
them (<sales@...>) and ordering it.

Baruch Schwartz


From: David Maslow <maslowd@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2007 14:29:34 -0400
Subject: Obligations to the government/was Finances and Judaism

The postings regarding the financial burden of day school/yeshiva
education while paying taxes that support the community public school
system have ranged from the implication that public schools propagate
opinions that are abhorrent and therefore it would be sinful to help
support them to suggestions that good public schools keep a neighborhood
strong to the claim that we have an obligation to the community in which
we live to pay for communal needs even if we do not personally benefit
from each component.

It would be of interest to hear if there are any halachic discussions on
the obligation of the Jewish community toward the broader civic
community including but not exclusively focused on schools. It would be
best if these were from relatively recent American experience since we
are living in a generally friendly environment as contrasted to 19th and
early 20th century Europe. Should we object equally to the funding of
community centers for teens not frequented by Orthodox youth, to
community swimming pools not used by our community, to Fourth of July
celebrations held on Friday nights, etc.?

This question does not involve a discussion of the politics of
government roles, but simply the obligations of the members of a
halachic Jewish community to the secular government of the political
entity in which they live.

David E. Maslow


From: R E Sternglantz <resternglantz@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Aug 2007 09:38:08 -0400
Subject: RE: Orthodox don't contribute

From: Leah-Perl <leahperl@...>

>> How about this idea?  Take one of these Orthodox communities and get
>> every local school to refuse to provide special needs education and
>> early intervention unless the families foot the entire bill for the
>> cost of the care provided.  Let the conniptions and panic play out in
>> the local Orthodox community when many families realize they now have
>> to come up with anything from an extra $5,000 to $50,000 per year to
>> pay for the education of their most vunerable and needy children.
>I find this offensive and insulting.  Those of us who pay mortgages are
>already paying for the full compliment of services -- the fact that we
>only use them a la carte should not be a mark against us.  Those of us
>who rent are no different than any other renters out there who are
>allowed to educate their children at no personal cost.  AND many
>families are already paying tutions of 5-10K per child, at great
>personal sacrifice.  Finally, it is illegal for local schools to refuse
>to provide special needs education to any child in their district.  Your
>tone is mean-spirited and vindictive -- not a great way to start Chodesh

The quoted poster was NOT truly suggesting that this should be done.
The poster was merely countering the argument that Orthodox Jews who do
not use the public school system should, therefore, get tax credits or
voucher credits equivalent to their input to the system.  His (I believe
it was a man, apologies if it was a woman) point was that Orthodox Jews
get benefits from the public school "purse" even if they don't make use
of the mainstream system, and so the argument that the Orthodox don't
get anything and merely give and give and give is fallacious.

Ruth Sternglantz


From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2007 11:13:56 -0400
Subject: Rav Dessler - Nekudas HaBechira

There was some talk on this list a few months ago about Rav Dessler's
idea of "nekudas habechira" (purview of decision making.)  A number of
books that I have been reading lately also touch upon this idea, or
similar ideas.

To review: The classic understanding (see Boruch Cohen's excellent post
in v54n92; hopefully, he will forgive me for oversimplifying here in my
effort to move on to my main point, below) is that there are aveirot
below, above, and at an individuals nekudas habechira.  Boruch gave the
example of a bank robber, who is so immersed in a life of crime that the
decision to rob/not to rob a bank is above his nekudas habechira and can
therefore be viewed as being "compelled" to rob banks.  However, whether
to shoot and kill the guard or not is at his nekudas habechira, and
therefore he can be held accountable for that decision.

For an example of something below the nekudas habechira, consider, for
example, the prohibition against murder.  I think (hope) it is safe to
say that none of us struggles with this prohibition on a daily basis,
and therefore, the decision to murder/not murder is below our nekudas
habechira.  Therefore, it is no big deal to hold someone up as a tzaddik
for not being a murderer, since the individual most likely is not
confronting that issue at his/her nekudas habechira.

I spent a lot of time this week in the car on a long drive with my
17-year-old daughter and we spent a few hours discussing quantum
physics, the meaning of time and reality, Schrodinger's cat, and a
number of other interesting topics.  Based on my conversation with my
daughter, I want to propose a different dimension of understanding
R. Dessler's idea of nekudas habechira.  Going back and reading Boruch
Cohen's post, I think he may have alluded to this understanding, as
well.  I want to put this out on the list in the hopes that maybe
someone else has seen this somewhere and can comment on its validity.

The underlying idea is that life can be viewed as a series of decisions
that we make, one by one.  Each decision is based on our perception of
the past (and how we perceive the past is also a decision that we make)
and hopefully using halacha as a decision-making tool.  Each future
decision with which we will be presented is contingent on the decision
that we are making now.

Rav Dessler's idea of nekudas habechira might be viewed as:

Below our nekudas habechira: Something that occurred in the past, a
decision that we have already made, becomes part of our past experience
and we cannot directly access it to make a different decision anymore.

Above our nekudas habechira: Something that might occur in the future.
Attempting to make a decision about something that might occur in the
future is largely pointless, since there are a large number (approaching
infinity) of possible futures that are largely contingent on the
decisions being made between now and then.

At our nekudas habechira: Something that is occurring now, in the
present, over which we have decision-making authority and are able to
affect an outcome based on our decision.  As observant Jews, hopefully,
we use halacha to inform our decisions at our nekudas habechira.

I think that one can find support for this view both in classical
halachic literature, as well as current pop culture.

For an example of classical halachic literature that supports this idea,
see mishna 9:3 in masechet berachot. (my loose translation based on
Gemara understanding of the mishna) "... One is obligated to acknowledge
a short-term negative outcome, regardless of the future potential for it
to turn into a positive outcome.  So, too, one is obligated to
acknowledge a short-term positive outcome, regardless of the future
potential for it to turn into a negative outcome.  Someone who prays to
change past events - his prayers are worthless... (goes on to give

For an example of pop culture that supports this idea, see (one of my
favorite movies) Apollo 13.  One of the scenes has Swigert (Bacon)
freaking out about lack of a re-entry plan: "Listen, listen, they gave
us too much delta vee, they had us burn too long. At this rate, we're
going to skip right out of the atmosphere and we're never going to get
home."  After some discussion, Lovell (Hanks) replies: "All right,
there's a thousand things that have to happen in order. We are on number
eight. You're talking about number six hundred and ninety-two."  I think
that Lovell's statement sums up the idea of "nekudas habechira" quite

In particular, it is also interesting that we were discussing this issue
on Rosh Chodesh Elul, and that this understanding of nekudas habechira
is particularly "Elul-dik."  The idea of vidui and teshuva - being able
to acknowledge the past for what it is and accept it - and using lessons
from the past to make decisions in the present that will affect our
future - is very tightly bound up in this discussion.

Danny Geretz


From: <smwise3@...> (S. Wise)
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 11:48:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Vaad of Frankfurt

Once again this year my family and I are flying to Eretz Yisroel for
Sukoos on Lufthansa. The airline staff is very courteous, but our
concern is the kashrus of the food. It's under the Vaad of Frankfurt,
and I would like to know if there is anyone out there who can vouch for
its reliability. My concern is not only the kashrus, but the message we
send to the staff when we refuse to partake of the special food the
airline goes to the trouble of providing.

Many thanks


End of Volume 55 Issue 46