News Roundup – Thurs. 4/22
[News & Media]
Our esteem for the inestimable Baruch Herzfeld, Williamsburg bike lane advocate and Hasid-Hipster peacemaker, shot up when we read of his penchant for merengue dancing, complete with an article in Tablet magazine showing him with a Dominican dance partner. (Not that we at Unpious know anything about merengue dancing; all we can dance is the hora.) But that pales in comparison to the fact that he took on the great Natan Lewin, an Orthodox constitutional lawyer who regularly argues before the supreme court and has been known to support various Orthodox causes. Lewin apparently produced the above mentioned photo to incriminate Herzfeld during legal proceedings in front of the Beth Din of America, in which Lewin purported to highlight Herzfeld’s less than stellar religious observance. Herzfeld, for his part, seems only to lament that his wife doesn’t enjoy merengue as much as he does, preferring salsa instead.
Another loophole in Jewish law has been found for Orthodox Jews, and this one might actually encourage the notorious bench-pressers to get off their butts and get on a treadmill. Rabbi Moshe Sternbach, a leading figure in Jerusalem’s Edah Charedis organization, ruled that listening to music while exercising is permitted even during the days of sefirah, when music is traditionally abstained from. In the same ruling, however, Sternbach makes clear that other than the above-mentioned exception, even accapella recordings are forbidden during sefirah. So much for all those kosher l’sefirah albums available at your local Judaica store.
The latest buzz in town is about a new restaurant in Williamsburg called “Traif,” an establishment owned by Jason Marcus, a non-Orthodox Jew, who loves pork and shellfish and sells them in his new joint. The provocative name has riled some in the neighboring Hasidic enclave of South Williamsburg. We at Unpious find the story less noteworthy than the reactions of the Yeshiva World News commenters. Sampling: “Pathetic, what ga’avah.” –passion4music. “This must be Obama or the Liberals at work again.” –YonasonW (suspected tongue-in-cheek). “I don’t see this being a sound long-term financial plan.” –mw13.
The Hasidic enclave of New Square in Rockland County has appointed a committee to deal with sex abuse cases within the community. Isaac Breuer, proprietor of Fax Unlimited in nearby Monsey and a member of the committee, told The Jewish Star in an interview that the committee is working with well-respected mental health professionals and following their guidance. But he stopped short when asked about involving law enforcement professionals, claiming that handling these matters internally is the most effective way to deal both with assisting victims and ensuring that predators don’t strike again. Ben Hirsch, president of Survivors for Justice, an advocacy group for Orthodox sex abuse victims, disagrees. “[The committee] serves one purpose, the cover-up of the crime,” said Hirsch. “Usually with catastrophic results, when the pedophile strikes again.”
Kohanim, the class of priestly descendants from the biblical Aaron, are in a bind. Pilgrimage to the grave of the ancient sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the town of Meron, an annual event that draws hundreds of thousands, may now be off limits to them. Additional graves have been discovered scattered around the hills of Meron, which, according to Jewish law, render a kohen impure and unfit for priestly duties when appearing in proximity to them. Those priestly duties include slaughtering oxen on the temple mount, burning animal flesh on the altar, and consuming choice animal parts taken from temple pilgrims, grilled to perfection with barbecue sauce and seasoning raided from the temple’s stores of spices for the ketores offerings.
It’s the battle of the sex abuse victim advocacy groups. Vicki Polin, founder and director of The Awareness Center, doesn’t like Kal Holzcler, who she claims has engaged in deviant sexual practices of his own – although there’s no contention of anything illegal or involving underage children. Holzcler, who runs the organization Voices of Dignity, has been doing work with SOVRI and Ohel, organizations that have been dealing with the problems of sexual abuse within the community, and, according to Polin, use misguided methods. Polin, a longstanding advocate of sexual abuse victims, has been criticized by some for her indiscriminate approach to publishing unsubstantiated allegations and presenting them as fact. Oh, and she once appeared on Oprah claiming that some Jewish families perform incest and then eat the babies. Not all Jewish families, just some. And not all the time, some go years without eating a baby.
News Roundups appear every Thursday (or when our News Roundup writer gets around to it, whichever comes first). Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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