Volume 65 Number 27 
      Produced: Tue, 18 Jan 22 13:53:58 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Moderating team]
Has Novi God, a secular Russian holiday, a place in Israel?  
    [Prof. L. Levine]
Has Reform Judaism failed? (2)
    [Martin Stern  Martin Stern]
Walder protecters 
    [Meir Shinnar]


From: Moderating team
Date: Mon, Jan 17,2022 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Apology

Orrin Tilevitz wrote:

> You changed my post without my permission.  I wrote: "Lack of guilt does not
> imply innocence. "  You changed that to "Lack of guilt does not imply
> (complete) innocence".  That is incorrect.  Lack of guilt does not imply
> innocence at all.  The person who is found "not guilty" is not found
> "Innocent" to any degree.  In fact, he may well be guilt as the proverbial
> sin.  It is merely that justice system has not proven it beyond a reasonable
> doubt.
> Please post something that makes clear that you made this unauthorized change.

We are sorry you found the edit unacceptable. We thought we were making your
point clearer. Perhaps there is a slight difference in nuance between UK and
US English and apologise for any upset caused.


From: Prof. L. Levine <llevine@...>
Date: Fri, Jan 14,2022 at 08:17 AM
Subject: Has Novi God, a secular Russian holiday, a place in Israel? 

Michael Mirsky wrote (MJ 65#26):

> Prof. L. Levine wrote (MJ 65#25):
>> Haaretz reported:
>>> Novy God, the New Year holiday celebrated by immigrants from the former
>>> Soviet Union, is casting off its stigma in Israel as second-generation
>>> Russian speakers embrace its festive trappings
>>> ...
>> Now I ask you "Do these celebrations do anything to strengthen the Jewish
>> character of the State of Israel?"  I think the answer is clearly, "No." Such
>> celebrations IMHO are non-Jewish.
>> Keep in mind that it is precisely for these Russians that the government 
>> wants
>> to change the conversion process so they will be "Jewish." IMHO this is just 
>> one more reason why conversion standards should not be relaxed.
> I ask of him, there is this non-Jewish festival called "Thanksgiving" that
> everyone in the US including many Orthodox Jews  celebrate. Do these
> celebrations do anything to strengthen the Jewish character of the United
> States"?
> Both holidays have religious origins but both have morphed into secular
> non-religious festivals. Should Jews in America ban Thanksgiving because of
> its origin? Poskim in the the US have said no. Same goes for Novi God.

He wrote, "there is this non-Jewish festival called 'Thanksgiving' that everyone
in the US including many Orthodox Jews  celebrate".

This assertion is simply not true! Thanksgiving is not in general celebrated in
the Orthodox circles I am familiar with. Each year the Agudah holds its annual
convention on Thanksgiving weekend, and I assure you that no turkey is served on
the first day of the convention,  which is Thanksgiving day.

I doubt you will find many Satmar Chassidim celebrating Thanksgiving.  The same
for other what you would probably term right-wing Orthodox Jews.

Indeed,  there is a halachic question if Jews are allowed to celebrate
Thanksgiving. See




> One of the interesting aspects of being American and living in the 'Medina
> shel Chessed' is dealing with secular holidays. A day off from work, more
> time to learn, and suspended Alternate Side parking rules are always
> appreciated. Of these holidays, Thanksgiving is by far the most popular among
> Yidden, with many keeping some semblance of observance, generally as a way of
> saying 'Thank You' and showing a form of Hakaras HaTov to our host country.
> Although all agree that showing Hakaras HaTov is prudent, on the other hand,
> it is well known that many contemporary poskim were very wary of any form of
> actual Thanksgiving observance. This article sets out to explore the history
> and halachic issues of this very American holiday.
> ...
> On the other hand, other contemporary authorities disagree [about the
> appropriateness of celebrating Thanksgiving]. Rav Yitzchok Hutner is quoted
> as maintaining that the establishment of Thanksgiving as an annual holiday
> that is based on the Christian calendar is, at the very least, closely
> associated with Avodah Zarah and therefore prohibited. He explains that its
> annual observance classifies it as a 'holiday' and celebrating Gentile holidays
> is obviously not permitted. It is well known that Rav Avigdor Miller was a
> strong proponent of this view as well, as Thanksgiving's origins belay that
> it was actually established as a religious holiday.
> Similarly, Rav Menashe Klein ruled that it is a prohibited to celebrate
> Thanksgiving. Aside for citing the Gr"a's opinion, which would prohibit any
> such celebration, he mentions that although the Thanksgiving holiday was
> originally established by (Pilgrims) rejoicing over their own survival, that
> they didn't starve due to their finding the turkey, and might not be
> considered Chukos HaGoyim, nevertheless there is another prohibition
> involved. In Yoreh De'ah (148, 7), the Shulchan Aruch, based on a Mishna in
> Maseches Avodah Zara (8a), rules that if an idolater makes a personal holiday
> for various reasons (birthday, was let out of jail, etc.) and at that party
> he thanks his gods, it is prohibited to join in that celebration. Rav Klein
> posits that the same would apply to Thanksgiving, as it commemorates the
> original Pilgrim Thanksgiving, thanking G-d for the turkey and their
> survival, and would be certainly prohibited, and possibly even biblically.
> An analogous ruling was given by Rav Dovid Cohen (of Gevul Ya'avetz), and Rav
> Feivel Cohen (author of the Badei HaShulchan), albeit for different reasons.
> Rav Feivel Cohen takes a seemingly extreme position, maintaining that not
> only is it forbidden for a Jew to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is even
> prohibited for a Gentile to do so as well[20]! Rav Dovid Cohen, on the other
> hand, writes that for a Jew to eat turkey on Thanksgiving expressly for the
> sake of the holiday should be prohibited by the rule of Tosafos, as it would
> be deemed following an irrational rule of theirs that is improper to follow.
> Yet, he concedes that it is not prohibited for a family to get together on a
> day off from work and eat turkey together, as long as they do so not to
> celebrate Thanksgiving, but rather because they like turkey. Even so, he
> concludes that it is still preferable not to do so.

So again, your statement that "there is this non-Jewish festival called
'Thanksgiving' that everyone in the US including many Orthodox Jews  celebrate."
is simply not true. Indeed,  Jews celebrating Thanksgiving is questionable
halachically. The same is true for Jewish Russians celebrating Novi God.

Professor Yitzchok Levine


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Jan 13,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Has Reform Judaism failed?

Leah Gordon wrote (MJ 65#26):

> ...
> Furthermore, I think this is directly related to something else that Yitzchok
> posted recently on (MJ 65#16):
>> If these predictions are true,  then this will have huge implications for
>> the secular population of Israel. The article refers only to the
>> ultra-orthodox, Presumably there will also be many Jews who are observant
>> but are not considered ultra-Orthodox.
>> Is it possible that Israel will eventually end up a Torah state?
> To my surprise, Martin Stern (MJ 65#17) expressed support for this "Torah
> state" idea.
> I suggest that people be extremely cautious when advocating for theocracy at
> any time before the coming of the moshiach.  Modern theocracy is only possible
> with outrageous violence.  And lest anyone think, "Oh, only the Leah Gordons
> of this list (a term which I embrace despite its derisive origin) will have to
> worry about flogging or beheading," one should think carefully about whether
> it's realistic that only his/her personal definition of "Torah" will be
> enforced, and how that might be enforced.

In fact I simply made the remark (MJ 65#17) "Halevai!", meaning "If only!",
which implies a general hope rather than support for any practical
implementation. Yet Leah would appear to be attributing to Prof Levine and me
the wish to impose the observance of mitzvot on a largely unwilling secular
population by force on the model of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This could not
be further from the truth.

What I meant by hoping that "Israel will eventually end up a Torah state" is
the fulfilment of our prayer in Aleinu that HKBH will "rectify the world ...
[when] all [the inhabitants of the world] accept the yoke of [His] kingdom".

I therefore reiterate the hope that "Israel will eventually end up a Torah
state" with the coming of Mashiach b"b - not through political chicanery but
through the universal realisation that the Torah is the best system for
running the world.

While I cannot speak for Professor Levine, that was my understanding of his

Martin Stern

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Jan 13,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Has Reform Judaism failed?

Leah Gordon wrote (MJ 65#26):
> Before proclaiming the "failure" of Reform Judaism, one needs to define what
> "success" would be.  If one defines the success of a religion to be that
> people's children join the same shul and attend in the same way and have the
> same ritual practices as the parents, for an arbitrary number of generations,
> then it may be that Reform Judaism does not meet that standard.
> HOWEVER, this is only how we have traditionally defined "success" for a
> shtetl, and I don't think Reform Jews define their success thus.

This is a valid point but does not preclude Prof Levine (MJ 65#19) from
considering Reform to have failed from his personal perspective nor, for that
matter, for it to have failed from an objective standpoint. However that was not
my main problem with what she wrote. She continued:
> If someone defines spiritual success for their descendents, instead, as:
> [inter alia] ...
> 2. religious self-affiliation (even if some Jews don't accept offspring as
> Jewish), or ...

I cannot understand the connection between 'self-affiliation' and the
expectation that 'some Jews', presumably Orthodox, won't 'accept offspring
as Jewish'.

Does she mean that they are happy if they no longer affiliate with Reform
Judaism so long as they have some religious affiliation? Are there any
limits to what they consider an acceptable religious affiliation? Would they
be happy for their children to become Satmar chassidim? Or right wing
religious Zionist settlers? Or Jews for J? Somehow I feel that the average
Reform member would be aghast at any of these.

Perhaps Leah could explain which religious affiliations she means and the
connection with recognition of their offspring as Jew.

Martin Stern


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 16,2022 at 11:17 PM
Subject: Walder protecters

Coming late to the Walder discussion, I want to broaden the discussion in one way.

There seems general consensus here (with some possible exceptions) that
molestattion is a real issue, but the question is how to deal with it.

I would broaden it as to how do we deal with those who knowingly protect the
molesters.  After all, it is the protection that they get that both encourages
the molesters - and discourages the molested from trying to achieve justice. 
Don't we have an obligation to act against those leaders who have abused their
position to defend evil??

Let me give a real example without names - although many may recognize the case.

A day school rebbe molested a child, member of a hared family, in a haredi
institution (given statistics, probably more than just that child, but we have
hard evidence only for that one).  The family of the child went to the secular
police. There is good evidence that the rebbe was guilty -  he pled guilty in court.

The rebbe's former rosh yeshiva - a prominent rosh yeshiva and paskens for a
major kashrut organization, wrote a letter to the community of the child, trying
to arrange persecution of the family for daring to to go to the police. (BTW, it
is my understanding that that rosh yeshiva had paskened publicly in other cases
that in cases of child molestation one may go directly to the secular police -
and other rabbanim involved have also paskened this way).

This scheme was found out, the rosh yeshiva was threatened with prosecution, but
was able to avoid trial with a public apology.

It is almost certain that the episode makes other molested individuals reluctant
to come forward against a rav. In the Walder case, there is evidence that the
defense of Walder by prominent rabbinic leaders led to at least 1 suicide.  We
do not know about it in this particular case, but from survivors of abuse we
know that such commmunal response is highly damaging.

The rosh yeshiva who tried to attack a molested child and his family remained as
a rosh yeshiva.  The prominent kashrut organization retained his as a posek, and
the other rabbanim  and poskim in the organization defended him.  When he died,
he was eulogized as a tzaddik (with one mistake).

How should one behave towards that rosh yeshiva's yeshiva, the community and the
kashrut organization, and the rabbanim involved??  I would argue that they too
have substantial guilt.  May one belong or contribute to such an organization or
to any of the people involved?

Meir Shinnar


End of Volume 65 Issue 27