Volume 56 Number 59
                   Produced: Tue May 19  5:56:21 EDT 2009

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Advice for place to live in Berlin
        [Morissa Rubin]
bracha on Mail Jewish
        [Irwin Weiss]
Congregational Minhagim and behavior
        [Bernard Raab]
Grave stone question
        [David Ziants]
A plurality of customs
        [Martin Stern]
Schul Minhagim
        [Batya and Yisrael Medad]
Tircha D'tzibura
        [Martin Stern]


From: Morissa Rubin <morissa.rubin@...>
Date: Mon, May 18, 2009 at 2:07 AM
Subject: Advice for place to live in Berlin

Our college age modern orthodox daughter is planning on spending the
fall semester at Humboltd Unviersity in Berlin. We would appreciate any
suggestions regarding shuls, neighborhoods and places to live. She would
consider renting a room from a frum family, or renting with other
religious women.

Morissa Rubin


From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Sun, 17 May 2009 20:34:02 -0400
Subject: bracha on Mail Jewish

my first reaction to seeing the return of Mail Jewish, was that the
appropriate Bracha was "Mechayei HaMeitim"
(sorry about the poor transliteration).
Welcome back, Avi.
Irwin Weiss
Baltimore, MD


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Sun, May 17, 2009 at 2:35 PM
Subject: Congregational Minhagim and behavior

Congregational Minhagim and behavior

The situation described by Martin Stern is astonishing and deplorable.
The idea that a Rav can come to a congregation and do away with
long-established minhagim of the shul without claiming halachic
necessity is regretable.

I am not unfamiliar with similar actions taken by rabbis of
congregations that I have belonged to. I have asked such rabbis if they
did not think that shul minhagim of long-standing deserved some
respect. I almost never had a personal/historical stake in these issues
in the same sense as did Martin, since I have moved around in my life
and have belonged to various shuls with different minhagim, including a
"Yekishe" shul which I grew to respect enormously despite my distictly
eastern European "Galitzianer/chasidishe" background.

This argument almost never prevailed with these rabbis. But these were
not changes designed to change the very nature of the shul. They were
typically singular changes desiged to satisfy the rabbi's unique
perspective on some issue. They seemed not to be troubled by the fact
that the next rabbi could make his own changes in accord with his unique
perspective, and the members are regarded as just a flock of sheep. The
ritual committee might have grumbled a bit, along with some members, but
did not want to defy the rabbi on such a single issue.

Of course we have only heard from one side of the Manchester
controversy.  Nevertheless, the idea that the Rav rejected the authority
of the Bet Din out of hand, and the executive ignored its
decision, signifies that perhaps they do not have a viable defense.

Of course, the "Stern gang-of-eight" could go to civil court with their
complaints, but it is not clear what their cause of action would be, or
that they would prevail. Although, physically barring a member in good
standing from attending services because of a philosophical dispute (if
that is all that it is) is an issue that the court could certainly
address. But somehow I don't think that a reversal of this action alone
would much satisfy Martin and his cohorts.

I feel that their best chance at some justice would be to try to build
on the Bet Din decision, by appealing to the other community
institutions in Manchester, whether rabbinic or congregational. If there
is a Board of Rabbis or some such organization that the Rav belongs to,
or a community organization of synagogues, I would certainly ask them to
review facts and the shul's behavior in this case. They will, of course,
want to avoid such controversy and "circle the wagons", but they can be
forced to confront the issue by public pressure, which may mean airing
the issue in the local Jewish media. In fact, I would be surprised if it
has not been already aired in that way.

Has it?
Bernie R.


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Tue, 19 May 2009 11:06:46 +0300
Subject: Grave stone question

Unfortunately, my dear mother passed away in England a few weeks ago. At
this stage I am, together with my brother and my mother's shul
community, organizing the Stone for the grave (in England).

Although I am in contact with Rabbis in England as well as my family,
concerning the timing etc of the Stone etc, there are a number of issues
that I want to present and ask to this forum so that I can get a better
prospective from different people.

My understanding is that the main purpose of a stone on a grave is to
delimit the grave so that a Cohen does not walk on it. This was
specially relevant in the days when graves were placed on the side of
the road. Thus we want to do the stone as quickly as possible, and in
Israel the general custom is to do it on the shloshim (30th day after
burial), and under exceptional circumstances it has also been done
straight after the shiva (7 days after burial).

A secondary purpose of the Stone is to give memory to the deceased.
Therefore the name is inscribed on the stone with other text including
reference to the living family.

In England, the general Anglo custom (not chareidim there who do as in
Israel) is to do this within the year, and this is also an acceptable
halachic practice.

My first question
a) Is what I stated above a correct perspective?

A factor that comes up in England with respect to the timing of the
Stone Setting, is the season and weather. The Stone cannot be placed in
the winter because the ground is wet and not settled. Thus the community
schedules Stone Settings accordingly. Because in my family's community
in England the Stone is imported from India, time has also to be set
aside for the Stone to be ordered and shipped.

Because, in England there is a long break anyway for the stone to be
brought, and the logistics of laying the Stone in the ground, usually
the "Stone Setting" ceremony is actually the unveiling of the
inscription on the stone, the Stone having been put on the grave a
little while before.

So we have the following procedure:

a) Importing and inscribing the Stone.

b) Putting the Stone on the grave by professional staff (under auspices
of the community officials) when the weather allows.

c) Bringing family and friends together and unveiling of the inscription.

d) Saying Kaddish, by the children, at the grave as well as hespedim.

[e) Giving refreshments to people who travelled a long way to be there. ]

 From my understanding (see above), the main aspect of everything is
stage b, even though no ceremonies are attached (at least I am not
expected to be there at the time). I was told that they do not do this
at the "last minute", although I am sure that they try and not have a
too long a break either before c.

My questions:
b) Has the time gap between b and c any halachic (or kaballistic)
For example, b for logistic reasons has to be done before beginning of
November, but it is easier for us the family (who live a long distance
away) if c is done in middle of November.

c) Is there any religious significance (aside from giving honour to the
deceased by bringing the family together) to the actual unveiling?

d) Sometimes, in English, the ceremony with the family is called
"consecration of the stone". "Consecration" to my ears sounds like
"making something holy" - in Hebrew lehakdish, i.e to set aside.
Although we give honour to the dead, and to the grave, is this Stone
really holy, or am I missing something here?
This is relevant for how I might want to word the notices that will be
sent out.

e) Concerning e - the refreshments bit - how important is this really. I
do not know whether they allow this in the vicinity of the burial
grounds. Can we suggest to our family and friends to bring their own
food and drink for the journey, as my brother and I do not have any
living accommodation in the city, and we ourselves might decide to spend
the night in a hotel . (The hotel is not Jewish so does not seem
practical to involve them with this)?

Many thanks in advance for feedback here, and we should have to discuss
only happy things.

David Ziants

Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 17, 2009 at 11:04 AM
Subject: A plurality of customs

Thu, May 14, 2009 at 1:50 PM, Russell Hendel <RHendel@...> wrote:

> For example AFTER throwing Martin out did the synagogue refund his
> membership for the year....a simple question showing lack of
> consistency between our BELIEFS and ACTIONS.

Initially, they simply sent the letter I quoted previously and dumped
the contents of my desk in the porch of my home. They did not give any
specific reason for suspending my membership and I cannot think of
anything I had done apart from disagreeing with the way changes were
being imposed without consultation. That I was one of the signatories to
the letter of protest cannot be the reason since none of the others were
treated the same way.

In view of the ruling of the BD, such objections were allowed by the
constitution and could not have been used as a pretext for what they had

I replied to the initial letter of suspension as follows:

"Many thanks for your kind letter of 11 May '06. Having referred to the
shul's constitution, I notice that it states under paragraph 11, Loss of
membership, that 'If a member in the opinion of the Executive no longer
adheres to item two and three of this Constitution he can be excluded
from the Congregation. The referred person has the right to request an
appeal and arbitration.'

"As I am not aware of any deviation from either item two or three, I
would be most grateful if you would inform me of any such that may be
suspected. I would further request that, in the event that your threat
of suspension is not revoked, the matter should go to arbitration."

I also mentioned verbally that I had paid a year's subscription and
that, if I were suspended, I was entitled to a refund. On the advice of
several senior rabbanim in Manchester I ignored the expulsion and
continued to daven there on a daily basis.

The shul executive did not respond to my request for arbitration but,
instead, wrote on 20 June in even stronger terms that my membership was
"suspended indefinitely" and enclosed a cheque "for the proportion of
membership charges paid in advance".

This letter arrived on the day of our departure for a grandson's bar
mitzvah but was prompted, as one executive member admitted, by an
imminent AGM and their fear that, should I attend, I would embarrass
them by receiving considerable support from the "silent majority". In
the event, I was in Israel and could not have done so, but they had been
unaware of my travel arrangements.

On my return, I was deemed to have insulted them by benching gomeil
though I had tried to minimise friction by doing so from my seat rather
than going up to the bimah where I feared I might have been subjected to
physical assault.

Shortly after, I received a poison pen letter accusing me of killing a
prominent member by using my ayin hara, a ridiculous claim since, if I
had such powers, I could have eliminated the main instigators of my
persecution rather than an innocent bystander.

Eventually they must have decided that intimidation was not working and
they posted a notice on the shul notice board stating:

"It has been brought to our attention that Martin D. Stern who was
excluded from Shul membership in Sivan last year, has been distributing
material designed to denigrate our rav and the Shul.

"He has been asked privately to refrain from coming to Shul, a request
he has chosen to ignore.

"After much deliberation bekoved rosh and al pi da'as torah, we are
forced as a last resort lema'an kevod hatorah ukhevod harav to take the
rare and unfortunate step of publicly announcing that MARTIN D STERN
should be denied access to our Shul Adass Yeshurun as a PERSONA NON
GRATA and anyone assisting him is machzik bemachlokes and mesayaei'a
yedei ovrei aveirah."

This was followed up by posting guards at the door to prevent my entry.
Parenthetically, I must rebut their implication that I was simply acting
out of pig-headedness since I took advice throughout from leading

I was therefore forced to call them to a Din Torah where my claims were:

1. I was expelled without any precise reason being given (arbitrary
action by a 'kangaroo court').

2. When I pointed out the constitutional position that I was entitled to an
appeal and, if that failed to resolve the matter, it should go to
arbitration, they did not reply but merely repeated their previous
expulsion (lack of due process).

3. In addition, their refusal to co-operate with the BD, and constant
delay and prevarication, in resolving the matter was unacceptable,
(effectively 'innui hadin') though this is more a slight to the BD than
to me personally.

As I have written previously, a meeting of the BD eventually took place
but the rabbi chose to disown its authority when the preliminary ruling
went against him.

Is there nothing one can do short of taking the matter before the civil
courts with the consequent Chillul Hashem?

Martin Stern


From: Batya and Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, 18 May 2009 21:25:00 +0300
Subject: Schul Minhagim

Re: Adath Jeshuron (or Adat Yeshuron) in Manchester, if, as I seem to be
able to figure out, the situation revolves around 30 members of so, with
between 8-15 leaving/being felt they are forced to leave, allow me to
leave you to your travails.  For that amount of people, I don't think
its worth all the aggravation.  I fully understand the anguish of lost
customs, Dachau notwithstanding, but I think I understand that the new
Rav seems to be working to increase the number of members by altering
the minhagim in conjunction with a new majority that he hopes will
develop.  Maybe that will save the schul.



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 17, 2009 at 3:20 PM
Subject: Re: Tircha D'tzibura

On Wed, May 13, 2009, David Ansbacher <dansbacher@...> wrote:

Subject: Tircha D'tzibura

> As a former member of the shul which I think Martin Stern (30th April)
> is refering to, I would like to set the record straight. The fact that
> the rabbi who was appointed some three and a half years ago insists
> that the tzibur wait for him after every chapter of Pesukei D'zimro is
> not the only reason for about fifteen regular members leaving the
> shul.

David's letter might seem a bit obscure to those who had not seen my
original one in the (London) Jewish Tribune which I append below. I had
carefully constructed it so that it would have wide application and it
should not be immediately obvious which shul I had in mind because, like
many chareidi papers it is very carefully vetted for ideological
deviation.  In fact I was surprised that mine actually got through the
net! I have written several times in various papers on the problems
caused by those who daven at an inordinate length (relative to the
shul), especially on weekdays when many people have to get away in time.

Letter in the Jewish Tribune, 30 April:

When he deplores that "all too often we rattle through our tefiloh with
one eye on the clock", Rabbi Rubin (Conversations with Hashem. 23rd
Apr.) at least "accepts this with good grace". He obviously realises
that many of his ba'alei battim have to be at work at a fixed time and
do not have the chance to commune with the Al-mighty at as great length
as himself.

I wrote an article on this, "When the davening finished too late",
originally published in the Federation of Synagogues' journal, HaMa'or
in 1997, which is included in my forthcoming book "A Time to Speak".

In it I discuss the almost insoluble problem of reconciling the need to
daven with proper kavanah and the need to finish in time, and propose
some possible ways to overcome it.

While it is customary in many shuls to wait for the Rov complete
davening certain tefilos such as Shema and Shemoneh Esrei, this can
exacerbate the conflict of interest since the Rov is usually not quite
as constrained as are other people by the need to be in the office by a
certain time.

Different rabbonim solve this problem in various ways. Some waive the
need to wait so that they can daven at a more leisurely rate without
inconveniencing the tzibbur, as I presume Rabbi Rubin implies. Others
try to daven faster than they would like omitting, for example, Elokai
netsor in order not to finish too late. Such laudable concern for bein
adam lechaveiro will, no doubt, be taken into account by HKBH.

The problem arises with those who insist on their prerogatives and even
expect the tzibbur to follow their leisurely style by waiting for them
at other times - such as each mizmor in pesukei dezimra etc. - as well,
which can, in extreme cases, add up to 30 per cent to the davening
time. The result will be that many ba'alei battim will be forced to
daven elsewhere, as happened in one shul of which I am aware where
attendances on weekday mornings was halved. Whether this is a desirable
situation is open to debate.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 56 Issue 59