Sunday, October 31, 2004

Why Are We Here?

Tzemach Atlas posts:

What are we doing here? Do we strive for recognition, do we seek approval? Do we have a plan to influence the community we live in? Are we just observes of the Jewish chronology? Can we influence the course of our communities? Certainly the "mainstream press" thinks they are interpreting the course of history. They think of themselves as powerful enough to appoint presidents and assign success. What is the place and purpose of the Jewish blogosphere?

Blogging is just another form of communication. We are here for the same reason we talk to friends and strangers. We want to share our experience, teach others, and learn from them. We want to warn people away from danger and recommend good things. It is not the primary purpose of my blogging to morally improve the Jewish people. Just as it is not the purpose of driving to drive safely (to use an illustration of Dennis Prager). You drive to get somewhere. You blog to get somewhere.
The purpose of life and of blogging is to enjoy it (in the best and deepest and most meaningful sense of the word). I wish I had Tom Wolfe's eye for status details but I don't. My obsession is with meaning. I try to unlock and share what is meaningful to improve our lives (and morality is just one aspect, though the most important part, of a good life).
It is not the purpose of marriage to act ethically with each other. Though that is an indispensable part, it is not the end-all and be-all of the relationship. Same with blogging.
If I have a gift as an interviewer and a writer, it is opening people up and getting them to share what is deepest and most important. Moral inspiration is only a part of this process and it is not the part that I do best. I do best trying to reveal reality and to share a few laughs about it. Due to my colorful past and present, I can't help but bring disrepute to any cause I espouse. So I concentrate on telling the stories of our lives and leave the moral inspiration to those who do it better than I.
Here's one technique that I use with trying to understand people who say things that seem impossible.
What do we do as Orthodox Jews when we encounter Jewish text that says things that we can not fathom? That seems wrong. That violates our common sense. Do we dismiss the Torah as wrong? No. If we have texts that conflict, do we say that they were composed in different eras and reflect the differing perspectives of the different strands of Biblical thought? No.
We don't rest until we have reconciled seemingly irreconcilable texts, until we have made sense of texts that seem the opposite of sense.
A similar technique helps one understand and communicate more effectively with those who say things that you are sure are wrong.
If you really want to understand the Torah or another person, assume that what they are saying is true, and then seek ways for understanding how it could be true.
If you do that, you can come to understand almost anyone you want to understand.
If you say you can't understand a particular person or point of view, you are really saying that you don't want to go to the effort of understanding them.
One technique to better understand a blogger who seems outrageous is to ask whether they are being ironic, sarcastic, histrionic or humorous? Have they experienced a different emotional reality in Judaism than you have, things that have shaped the writer to express emotions and thoughts you find incomprehensible?
Now, understanding people is exhausting and time consuming. We only have finite resources to do this and we have to choose with care which persons we truly want to understand. Frankly, I don't try to understand most people I talk to. With the exception of charity cases, work and social obligations, I only want to understand people who are smarter and more learned than I am.

Driving Home When The Lights Are Green

Here's the scoop on the Luke Ford - Shabbat - Halloween experience.

Friday night. I attend special minyan marking the tenth anniversary of rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's passing. The crowd is three times the size of normal. There's excitement in the air. Five guys are on the bima leading the davening. The guy who sits next to me on Shabbos mornings appears in shul on a Friday night for the first time I remember (aside from Yom Kippur).

The singing leads me to book down my book and participate.

Afterwards, a friend asks me if I have a place for Shabbat dinner. I say no. I feel embarrassed. He says he'll fix me up.

I wait with him at the back of the shul feeling clingy. After five minutes, I slip away and go home alone.

The next day, I notice my shul has the pretty security guard. I meet the guy who was going to host me last night before I fled. I read my books. I walk my community. I nap.

Saturday night, I drive an hour to Santa Clarita and the high desert to celebrate Halloween at the home of a Gentile couple who have been very kind to me over the years. Seems to be all locals at the party. Nobody is Jewish. There is a straightforward Mid-Western type of kindness to them. It's a relatively small community and people are friendly and unpretentious.

There are lots of dogs around. My allergies act up. I'm sneezing and wheezing and blowing my nose all night. It's cold. Most people are busy preparing the scary Halloween accountrement.

I feel awkward and out of place. I retreat to a corner and study a book on Monet. I leave at 9:30pm and feel safe only when I am back in my hovel.

The hosts write:

"Thanks again for making the trek all the way out here to attend the party. I am just sorry that I was running behind with things and didn't get to spend more time with you. You did make quite the impression, however, as several of the girls that were there asked who you were and why you hadn't been out before.

"We'll have to repay the favor of you driving all the way up here and head down there and take you out to dinner some time."

An Orthodox friend asks me what is Halloween. I reply: "It is held on October 31st every year and has become the most observed holiday in America after Christmas. Halloween is a combination pagan/Christian holiday that today is 99.9% pagan but still many churches and Christians participate in it for the fun. Children go around to homes in their neighborhood, dressed in costumes that are frequently meant to be scary, and say "trick or treat!" The homes then give them a treat, such as candy, lest they be the recipient of a nasty trick (which almost never happens)."

Sunday morning, I get an extra hour in bed before going to minyan. The Cowboys win 31-21 over Detroit. My headache lifts.

An attractive female friend says she has an extra ticket to tonight's concert (Rich Recht Band from St. Louis and the Moshav Band from a Shlomo Carleback hippie-style commune in Israel) at the University of Judaism.

Twelve years ago I was a goy and living in an isolated part of Northern California (45 minutes drive north of Sacramento). I wanted to be Jewish. I was developing Jewish friends and Jewish practice. I read R. Yosef Blau, Jonathan Sarna, Gary Rosenblatt.

Now I can talk to those guys. I can lead a Jewish life. I live in a town rich with Jewish religion and culture. To be within 30 minutes drive of something called the University of Judaism is awesome.

I'm on the old end of the Young Professionals event. There are lots of young women. I move with them during the concerts. I adore:

* Women with shiny lip gloss
* Women in tight blue jeans
* Persian women with their dark exotic looks and shapely bodies and traditional values
* Women with skirts near the floor
* Women with mini-skirts long enough to cover the essentials while short enough to keep your interest.

Beautiful women are great. I can't get enough of them. Particularly the smart ones.

Occasionally I meet dynamic attractive young women who don't look after themselves. They have dandruff. They're sloppily attired. Their make-up is sloppily applied. They are ten pounds overweight. I don't like this. So I'm no prize. A man can dream, can't he?

I couldn't write like this if I were a Seventh Day Adventist. As a Protestant, you are not supposed to admit to lustful thoughts. Judaism, on the other hand, focuses more on behavior than on motives. That enables me to be more honest about life as I encounter it, and my feelings as I encounter them, while maintaining clarity on what behavior is permissable.

I like to think of myself as a moralist. In many ways, I live a stern life. I'm poor. I sleep on the floor. I don't drink or gamble. My biggest vice is that I enjoy the attention of beautiful women.

The Rick Recht Band has a couple of guys (on bass guitar and drums) who appear to be Gentiles. Rick is short but filled with enthusiasm. He has a good soul. His lyrics are simple and easy. He intermixes pop songs. He says "Y'all."

It feels like Jewish camp. I never had a chance to go to Jewish camp, but this is must be what it is like -- swaying arm-in-arm singing the same song.

In Adventism, dancing is a sin. Though I've shaken off the religion of my childhood, it still affects me in many ways. I've never learned to dance comfortably. I'm awkward. I have no sense of rhythym.

I look at the young women gyrating around the floor and I'm amazed. Perhaps their moves are no big deal to somebody with a more normal upbringing than mine, but to me they are mindblowing. How do they coordinate their arms and legs and bodies like that?

A girl in a white singlet and faded blue jeans gets on stage with Rick and claps and sways and leads us in dancing. She's young. She's hot. She's acrobatic.

She inspires me.

I love the way these young women embrace each other. Totally hot.

This combination of the sensual and the spiritual, without the onerous demands of halacah, is a delightful part of Reform and Conservative.

The one downer in my UJ experience tonight -- my discovery that UJ has unisex bathrooms. Gross. Judaism believes in separation. Now I admit that I like shelving some of those separations at times, but not in this area. What God has put asunder (mens rooms, ladies rooms) let not man put together (to invert a favorite line of my father which he invoked to me about the unity of the Old Testament with the New Testament).

On the drive home, most of the lights are green.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Retreat For Bereaved Parents

Robert and Karen Avrech attended a weekend retreat for bereaved parents at Camp Simcha in the Catskills. Robert writes on Seraphic Secret:

The compassionate psychologist looks around the circle of men, wishes us a good Shabbos and suggests that we introduce ourselves and then say whatever it is we want to say. He nods to the man on his right to begin. I sit directly to the left of the psychologist, which means that I will be last to speak.
Mr. White says: "Gam zu L'tova. Which means that in the end God has a plan and it is for the best. We cannot know this plan, we cannot understand it, but we must have emunah, faith. He says, "My son died when I was in Israel. I feel guilty about this. Could I have done something if I was with him? No, of course not. But still I feel guilty."
Mr. White, in his mid-sixties, a Boro Park businessman, rambles for a good five minutes. He quotes one verse after another. He lectures the one Reform Jew in our group, as if we who are observant have this absolute right. It is condescending and I am embarrassed by this utterly inappropriate behavior. Yet I say nothing because this man's son died and we all go a bit crazy as we live out our lives as orphan fathers. To his credit, the young Reform man, next to speak, is exquisitely polite.

Book Sales For September

Eight copies of The Producers and four copies of XXX-Communicated sold in September.
Total sales:
The Producers: Profiles in Frustration (published in July 2004): 55
XXX-Communicated: A Rebel Without A Shul (published in June 2004): 71

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Does Racial Separation Have A Home In Orthodox Judaism?

Rabbi Mayer Schiller writes in the YU Commentator about his experience with YU.

Many people accuse YU being a close-minded and intolerant institution. But here the YU student paper opens its pages to an advocate of racial separation, one who makes common cause with white supremacist groups. I find Orthodox life far more tolerant of such racial thinking as that blacks are less intelligent, on average, than whites. Other sectors of Jewish life tend to be intolerant of these views.

I suppose that racism is one of those sweet delights that the Almighty allows those who follow his Torah as a partial recompense for the harshness of the Oral law.

I remember when a class from the liberal temple Ohr HaTorah took a class at YULA (Yeshiva University Los Angeles) with a Frum From Birth Monsey-raised rabbi. The rabbi brought up as the most natural analogy to something in the sacred text that some people believe that blacks are less intelligent because of genetics while others believe that they are less intelligent because of the way society has treated them.

Needless to say, at least one of these Reform Jews was offended and never came back. The next week the rabbi apologized for his remark. If he had made it in an Orthodox environment, and I am sure he had, then it would've gone unnoticed.

Different Jewish groups are tolerant and intolerant of different things.

Paul Shaviv on rabbi Schiller:

Most fascinating - and beautifully written - is the article by Mayer Schiller, one of the more interesting and individual characters on the landscape, about his long relationship with YU.

......

From my interview with Dave Deutsch, who teaches at the same high school as rabbi Mayer Schiller:

"There's this one rabbi I know - rabbi Mayer Schiller. You'll find some of his stuff posted on The Third Way page. He reviewed a biography of Strom Thurmond where he mourns the cowardice of Strom Thurmond for giving up segregation. For the loathsomeness of his ideas, at least he can laugh at himself. We get along. I have a high threshold for things so long as the person does not always take himself seriously. Go forth and sin no more.

"The best about Rabbi Schiller is that he sets the standards for misbehavior so high, I feel like nothing I can do will get me into trouble. If I have made some comments about Israel that have got me in trouble, well, Rabbi Schiller is a fellow traveler with the Neturei Karta (anti-Israel ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect)."

..........

From the Forward 4/13/01 on Schiller: A Chasidic Spokesman Espouses Modernity — and Race Separation

Rabbi Schiller, 49, has made common cause with and spoken before a cast of characters and organizations that would send most American Jews running to the Anti- Defamation League: American white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists, Conrad Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and right-wing European nationalists.

In a series of interviews with the Forward, Rabbi Schiller declined to discuss for the record his published views on race. Officials at Yeshiva University High School, also known as MTA, said Rabbi Schiller's silence stems from an agreement that he made with school administrators five years ago, prohibiting Rabbi Schiller from discussing racial issues with students or in any public forum.


.................

Me writes: I believe this is yet another example of a story Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week suppressed.

Pulling My Punches?
3/16/01

Several years ago, for example, when we were looking into the fact that a high school rebbe had published deeply racist views in white supremacist journals, the top administrator at the school where he teaches called to tell me that he knew about the rebbe’s views, but if we published such a story, I would be responsible for the firing of this highly talented and effective rebbe. Why me? I asked. Because, the administrator said, the resulting publicity and outcry would force him to terminate the rebbe, and it would be on my head.

In the end, we held off because we found no proof that the rebbe discussed his views with his students. But I found the phone call, and its logic, deeply disturbing.

I recently went to hear a prominent rabbi give a talk on Torah perspectives on sexual abuse, and he was adamant in asserting that Jewish law was “unequivocal in its condemnation” of various forms of “this terrible crime.” He was insistent that victims be supported and protected, and that perpetrators be held responsible for their crimes because there is “zero tolerance in Jewish law.”

An important message from an important leader. The problem was that he was a key and controversial figure in the Rabbi Lanner story, criticized for not only defending him over the years but for being dismissive of and accusatory toward those victims brave enough to speak out.

The Forward published the story about Schiller a month after this Rosenblatt column. Schiller did not get fired.
The hypocritical rabbi on sexual abuse is rabbi Mordechai Willig, writes Me. "It would be almost another two years before Rosenblatt wrote the story, naming him."

Me writes:

Why would I be suprised that a Rabbi with published racist views is tolerated as a speaker by the Young Israel movement.

This is the same movement that allows a Bukharian Youth organization to bring a known pedophile [R. Ephraim Bryks] into it's synagogues.

Is it against the Torah to advocate racial separation? Certainly the Torah calls on Jews to be a separate people. Separate but equal got a bad rap because of the 1950s US Supreme Court ruling that separate inherently means unequal. But separate does not have to mean unequal. We have separate bathrooms for men and women. I don't think you can make a strong argument from Jewish text that racial separation is against Torah.
Yes, I understand that Jews are not a race. That Jews are composed of all races from black to brown to yellow. But Jewish laws against Jews bathing with non-Jews and all such laws that Kahane advocated for Israel are deeply rooted in Jewish text, which would seem to have some sympathy for rabbi Schiller's views.

A Rabbi's Violent Fantasies

Chicago Orthodox rabbi Jeremy Hershie Worch posts to OBDSM, The Orthodox-Jewish-Bondage-Domination-Sado-Masochism Connection:

From:Chapt-Schleck obdsm@world.net
Date: Fri. Feb 2, 2001 7:18 a.m.
Subject: Epiphanic question time

Y'know Y'All,

I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Dryhump, Kentucky, the day is ove, Let's say I'm a Mashglach for the Star-K or something like that, It's "Yes, Rabbi" this, and "No, Rabbi" that all day long.

His name is Brian, a reddish blonde Shaygetz of the most impossibly alluring sort. Do you know what kind of world it is out there in the interior of America? Do you know how invisible the Jewish World has become since I got into my car at the beginning of the week and drove west by south?

Here I am asked, whyt are the Israelis and Palestinians fighting each other for God's sake, they're all Jews over there aren't they? I tell him, No, Israelis and Palestinians are not the same, one is Jew the other Arab. But I can see he remains
perplexed. Small difference, he mutters. I know for certain that there is not one person in a hundred in this factory who can find Israel on a map of the world.

But back to Brian. He is dressed in starched whites like all workers in this super-sterile environment. Food-grade sterile. My kinda whites, almost transparent, almost fluorescent, I can see the individual vertabrae rippling through his jacket back, almost read the label on his underpants. "Hi Brian," I say. "Oh Rabbi you remembered my name." He smiles and I can smell the feel of the stubble on his cheeks, red and gold.

I want to lock him into one of the two hundred huge stainless steel hoppers which feed whatever it is that gets manufactured here in this plant. I want to hear
him beg me to let him out, I want control. I'm thinking to myself, I might cause an international incident if I were to do any one of the mulitiplicity of violent and kinkily sexual scenarios I have in mind even moderate justice in this sleepy hillbilly town.

I did not take my plastic Star-K numbered sealing tags and bind his wrists to the pipes in the boiler room so that I might rape his mouth. I did not clamp his
hipples with the small electrical clips or the ring widgets or the abrasive tape or the rubber compound coating sealant or the other accoutrements of torture available to Rabbis in strange places. I kashered the inlet nozzles and stuck my seals on bags of feedstuffs for export to Israel. No dismembered 22 year old shaygetz with a smile on his face and strange metal objects in his rectum found his way into my sealed cartons, No food grade quality control Paqid in the Holy Land need fear encountering my gory leftovers next week in Holon or Metullah.

But I cannot still the question asking itself over and over in my mind. What are you going to do, Schleck, with your double triple quadruple identity crisis?

When you giv eyour little D'var Torah'le before Musaf, Schleck, are you going to mention that you yourself, like personally, like deep down where you know yourself, would have been among those who preferred to remain in Egypt than leave to be given a code of living in the wilderness that includes such gems as "Thou shalt not commit adultery." or the ban against taking a woman and her sister or a woman and her
daughter? Should I mention it in passing this Shabbat? This Shabbos?

Should I mention that I have a slave? That I hurt her passionately. Hurt? I torture her quite deliberately. Her name is J and she too is a member of this OBDSM list. I'm the one who brought her to massive orgasms with my savage crocodile clips. Should I mention it in passing at the end of the d'rosho?

When Aish-Hatorah puts me up on their website and Links theirr page to mine for the downloadable Torahs, what would happen if I linked it to my erotic mind-control stories? D'you think the discerning reader would make the connection between my penchant for erotic mind-control and my theosophistical theories about worshipping God, power exchange, 24/7 humiliation and bondage scenes and real abandonment of
the self and the will to God my Higher Power?

Neh! It'll never happen......

Somewhere in all this there has to be a Rav I can ask, a rosh yeshiva I can talk it all through with. And don't you go telling me that I'm it. I want a real
rabbi, one who's never put his hand below his belt in his lifetime, who's never masturbated or fantasized about his wife's sister or thought about going into
the Ladies Shul and taking his pick. I want a rabbi who never went into the dirty washing hamper and tried rubbing his scrotum with his sister's satiny bra and
pants when he was twelve years old, who never peeped and wished and dreamed and longed.

I guess I won't find her on this list.

Love and Pain,
Schleck

I find the "dismembering" part of the above fantasy disturbing and the reveling in doing violence to innocents. Yes, it is only fantasy, but it is fantasy written down and published.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

When Gossip Is Good

YU Commentator editor Zev Nagel asks if blogs are an evil empire:

Even the most high-brow of Jewish blogs - whose bloggers offer self-righteous meanderings and other mind-blowing insights into modern Judaism - are part of the sensationalistic blog culture.

During a past peruse down Jewish blogger lane, the following topics were repeatedly the center of conversation: details of recent scandals involving menacing rabbis who had allegedly sexually exploited women; more comments on indiscretion; rampant Haredi and "Jews-not-like-us" bashing; conversations that were certainly meant to be private were blogged. Last year in particular, one notorious blog carried a fallacious story about a group of unbecoming Yeshiva students, which made its way half way around the world.


For a contrary perspective on lashon hara.

Accurate Lashon hara (harmful though true gossip) has a similarity to free trade. The price paid is obvious and steep to the subject of the lashon hara while the benefits of the lashon hara (a more informed group can make better decisions) are diffused. So those who are the targets of lashon hara, such as rabbis Gafni and Worch, can loudly and eloquently complain that they are victims, while the beneficiaries of this lashon hara, those who make better decisions on the basis of more accurate information, tend to keep quiet.

With free trade, any country that participates in it is better off as a whole. But with free trade, small compact groups are directly and adversely affected, and thus they have an incentive to loudly protest. The beneficiaries of free trade, like the beneficiaries of lashon hara, have no incentive to loudly state their case.

Thus, making the case for lashon hara is a lonely one in Jewish religious life, even though it frequently works for the good of the community.

In my research for my book on Jewish journalism -- Yesterday's News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism -- I found that cries of "lashon hara" by those negatively affected were usually the first refuge of scoundrels. Complaints of "lashon hara" in Jewish life tend to most often come from those who want to protect their privileged place in the community and want to avoid scrutiny and accountability.

Is gossip good? I read every book I could find in various libraries about gossip and put this together.

Let me be clear. I believe, with Judaism, that much of the time it is wrong to spread hurtful though true details about a person. The exception is when the information (gossip) can help the innocent to make better decisions.

Dinner At Cathy Seipp's Home

After fighting through traffic for an hour, I was grumpy and questioning whether it was all worth it by the time I set foot inside Cathy's home at 7:10 pm Tuesday.
"Do you see Matt Welch much?" I asked Cathy.
"Now and then," she replied. "Why? He lives just down the street. If you want me to drop something off to him..."
"Yeah, here's the hardcopy edition of my new book," I say quietly, but filled with pride inside.
"Did you bring me one?" asked Cathy.
"No," I said. "Only those who wrote something for the book."
I asked Cathy to write a foreword but she didn't. Frankly, she's shown minimal interest in my whole Jewish journalism project.
Frankly, most of my friends have shown minimal interest, if not downright hostility, to my last three books. It's a big mistake to write books to impress friends and family. It rarely works. Certainly hasn't in my case.
I could write the number one book on a certain topic and many of those closest to me would still be convinced I was an idiot who needed to be bossed around.
I'm listening to the book A BEAUTIFUL MIND on tape. John Nash reminds me of me without the genius.
I sit in the kitchen as Cathy puts the final touches on tonight's bean casserole. I drink Cecile du Bois' lemonade.
"You shouldn't have dressed up for me," I say.
Cathy wears faded bluejeans and an indifferent (though plunging) long-sleeved green top.
"What?" she says. "What's wrong with this?"
"It's very nice, Cathy. I don't want you to think that I don't appreciate it.
"I do remember the days when you always put on a fresh dress and some make-up before I came over. You'd greet me in high heels [and a black whip]."
Yesterday seems so far away.
Cathy's bean casserole is delicious. She points out how it is superior to the bean dishes I grew up with. She's competitive in everything, even her beans.
Over dinner, I show my book Yesterday's News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism to Cathy's father Harvey. He's fascinated. He starts paging through it. This gets Cathy's attention. It's the most she's ever paid to my last project.
I read her sections where she is quoted or discussed. This rivets her.
Cathy wants to know if there's an index so she can check which pages she's mentioned on.
"I will give you a copy, Cathy, if you will read it and write about it on your blog."
She agrees.
I run to my car. There's a six-foot torrent of water, about two-inches deep flowing down Cathy's street. I'm soaked as the rain pours down.
I bring her back her book.
We sit in the living room. I want us to read to each our favorite selections from Yesterday's News Tomorrow but Cathy insists that our entire conversation must not revolve around me.
Cathy's dog Linda licks our plates clean. That is the custom in the Seipp home. If you eat there, I encourage you to bring your own dishes.
Cecile takes a bath and goes to bed. Cathy gets annoyed that Cecile did not leave the water in the tub so she could bathe too.
Ewww!
Another Seipp family custom.
I sit back and take great pleasure in watching Harvey enjoy my book. He wants to buy four copies. He asks me for a discount.

What Should a Man Do When He is Softening?

I fear that I am softening. For a number of weeks now, certain stern moral positions that I have maintained throughout my journey before God have been twisted into hitherto unrecognizable shapes by the physical positions She-Woman has imposed on me. I feel that I am on the cusp of sin so great that only a Moses or a Spielberg could get away with it in the eyes of those whose respect I covet. I turn to my friends for help, and get none. Cathy, why hast thou forsaken thy Luke in his hour of moral weakness? If only you had sought to fix me up with one of your brainy Jewish friends, I would today be a contented man, bound by laws both Oral and Written to my challah. And what of you, Chaim, why dost thou seek to counsel Luke into temptation?

I am softening. What should I do?

Every Sperm Is Sacred

American Reform responsa on masturbation:

There are Jews in the world, there are Buddhists,
There are Hindus and Mormons and then,
There are those that follow Mohammed,
But I've never been one of them...

I'm a Roman Catholic, and have been since the day I was born,
And the one thing they say about Catholics,
Is they'll take you as soon as you're warm...

You don't have to be a six-footer,
You don't have to have a great brain,
You don't have to have any clothes on -
You're a Catholic the moment dad came...

because...

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great,
If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great,
If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.

Let the heathen spill theirs, on the dusty ground,
God shall make them pay for each sperm that can't be found

Every sperm is wanted, every sperm is good,
Every sperm is needed in your neighbourhood.

Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,
Spill thiers just anywhere,
But God loves those who treat their
Semen with more care.

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great,
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Every sperm is sacred,
Every sperm is good,
Every sperm is needed,
In your neighbourhood.

Every sperm is useful, every sperm is fine,
God needs everybody's,
Mine
And mine
And mine

Let the Pagan spill theirs,
O'er mountain, hill and plain,
God shall strike them down for
Each sperm that's spilt in vain.

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is good,
Every sperm is needed in your neighbourhood.

Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great,
If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A Beautiful Mind

I was talking to this girl who graduated Stern (Orthodox college for women in Manhattan) a few years ago. She told some amusing stories about walking with her girlfriends to a comedy club on Shabbos and telling the guard they couldn't pay because they couldn't touch money on Shabbos.
Eventually the black Wayan brothers blew through and took the girls with them.
My friend ended up in the hotel room sitting in a corner, she wasn't as attractive then as she is now, watching the Wayans go to town on her friends on the holy Shabbat.
Anyway, my friend has been sick for a week. She's been watching TV and movies. I told her she should listen to books on tape. I said I was listening to A BEAUTIFUL MIND about John Nash. She told me that was gay. What if I listened to a book called A BEAUTIFUL ***? She said that would be even more gay. Luckily, I am secure with who I am and what I study, that I have not been deterred from my pursuit of intellectual growth.

Chaim's Case Against George W. Bush

While I am busy at Protocols obsessing over the doings of a tiny and obscure group of people, Chaim Amalek is nailing his indictment of George Bush all over the web:

1. He has failed to re-establish control over our border with Mexico, thereby permitting millions of persons unknown to infiltrate our country. Bush just does not care.
2. He has yet to articulate any sort of a plan to meaningfully reduce our deadly dependence upon foreign oil.
3. He chose to invade a country - Iraq - that we did not need to invade, and with increasingly dire consequences.
4. He has been spending money like a democrat on crack, running up $500,000,000,000 budget deficits.
5. He has done nothing to defend American businesses against foreign competition. The result? $400,000,000,000 trade deficits.
6. He cares not that our industrial might is going overseas or to the third world, and our wealth with it.
7. He is nowhere to be found on the issue of CEO pay. Corporate CEOs, working under the cover of compliant boards, are looting their companies, paying themselves 400 times what their average employee is earning. Not a peep from Bush about putting an end to this rot.
8. He has failed to reverse the Clinton era cutbacks in our military manpower, with terrible results in Iraq.
9. He has not a clue how to reduce the bill we pay for medical care in this country.
10. He simply isn't up to the demands of this moment in our history.

I've Got Hair Growing Out Of My Ears

I've got hair growing out of my ears. What do I do? What does the Torah say? Would plucking the hairs be acting like a woman?
It's really all Janine Zecharia's fault. She of The New Republic, The Jerusalem Report fame.
I was sitting home all alone Sunday night with my gemara when a vision of Janine's long silky black hair passed before my eyes, just as I was dealing with a particularly notty matter on Bava Metzia 47A. And as I found myself entranced by Janine's hair, my own hair started to grow, but out of my ears. It's sticking out about three inches, but not in an attractive way.
My mother said I kept enough dirt back there to grow potatoes. So perhaps it is not Janine's fault after all.
I think I'll email Alana Newhouse, culture czar at the Forward and HAFTR princess. She would know what to do about these pressing matters of personal grooming.
Travis writes: "Luke, this is private. So I know you won't post it. I don't think you will be very successful bedding the woman with your current strategy."
Trav, have no fear. When Janine reads this, she'll melt into my cyber-arms.

I'm Blogging On Protocols

I'm doing most of my blogging on Protocols.

How About Some Moral Leadering?

The Luke Ford Fan Blog complains:

When I decided to hitch my wagon to Luke Ford's serial killer van, I did so in the expectation that soon I would be zooming toward fame, fortune, and moral enlightenment in Our Moral Leader's slipstream.
Yet here I sit one year later and I swear we haven't gone anywhere. No fame, no fortune, and no moral enlightenment.
...[W]hat we get are countless stories about the sexual transgressions of rabbis. Why? Voyeurism can't be the answer. Obviously not! Our Moral Leader isn't that kind of dude. I suppose his posts are intended as moral uplift by way of demonstration of what not to do. Yet the probability that I will convert to Judaism, become a rabbi, and start having sex with 12 year olds is, at best, 50:50.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving

David Horowitz writes in the Foreword to Ben Johnson's new book "57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving":

Teresa Heinz Kerry, all by herself, presides over greater assets involved in the funding of shadow political activities than the three chief conservative foundations – Scaife, Olin and Bradley – combined. While, these conservative foundations have combined assets of $809 million, the three Heinz Endowments, in whose boardrooms Teresa Heinz Kerry speaks with a voice louder than all others, have total assets of $1.2 billion. Mrs. Kerry also sits on the board of the Carnegie Corporation, which as this report reveals is also an active funder of the political left and which has assets of $1.6 billion. In other words, Mrs. Kerry has a say in the disposition of funds earmarked for the left which are more than three times greater than the celebrated funders of the right combined.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Responsa for the Confused

A recent blog entry counseled single women against keeping cats, unless a rodent problem was in evidence. Of course, it did not occur to me that any woman would consider sleeping with a cat, until I received the following fairly horrifying response from a dear friend who I shall not name here:
"What if she's a divorced or widowed woman? What if the dog sleeps on the bed and the cat sleeps on a chair in the kitchen? Is that OK with you, Luke? (Or should I say, "Link?")"

The thought of a woman sleeping with a dog is a horror that I had not considered in drafting my responsa. A dog is an unclean animal, both to Judaism and to Islam (our cousin faith). Consider that no dog has ever mastered the art of wiping itself clean with toilet paper after canine defecation. This means that the dog that sleeps in bed with you brings with it exposed fecal particles that must inevitably soil the bed. And the uncleanliness does not end there. We all know that dogs like to slobber. Revulsion prevents me from delving deeper into this, but it should suffice to say that nothing good can come from a lonely woman sleeping with a dog. So great is this horror that if she must choose between sleeping with a cat and sleeping with a dog, a single woman may sleep with the cat, but only if the alternative is that she will be sleeping with dogs.

Better that she sleep with a good man and raise his children.

Recently Married Man Ready To Start Dating Again

Recently Married Man Ready To Start Dating Again

"This past year has been an incredible drain on my time, energy, and emotions," Diehl said. "Now that Karen and I have unwrapped all the gifts, opened a joint checking account, and bought a house, I finally have some time to focus on me—on what I want. And what I want right now is hot, attachment-free sex with young, good-looking women."

A Timely Reminder to My Female Readers

Unless she has a rodent problem, the single woman should not keep cats. It is too easy for the single woman to curl up at night with her cat, when it is the Will of HaShem (God) that she go to bed with a man.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Rabbi Hershie Worch In Uganda

Shabbes Cholent in Uganda?
By Rabbi J. Hershy Worch

(Worch, a Lubavitch rabbi living in Australia, visited the Abayudaya in Uganda last August. Following, in Part II, are excerpts from his writings. Part I , describing his discovery of a 70-year-old mikveh, appeared in the previous newsletter.)

It was more than three hours past midnight on a Friday night. I am in Africa, a few minutes north of the Equator, close to the source of the River Nile. I am sitting on a wicker chair with my friends the Bayudaya. As I told a story, all around me on the red earthen floor they were taut with listening. The oldest and youngest of the group snored softly on their bamboo mats. I finished my story.
The dark was overwhelming, palpable; I could not make out a hand in front of my face. It was time for us to retire, to rest, to sleep. But we were much too excited.
"Shall we dance?" I asked. For an answer there came a swish, a rustling of clothing, shuffling feet, and we were dancing. Mine were the only feet in shoes that night as we all danced and danced.
I began singing a simple melody I remembered from my childhood. I had heard it from the Sekulener Rebbe 30, maybe more, years ago. We held hands and stomped our feet, singing quietly, "U'Vyoim Ha'Shabbes, Shabbes Koidesh, Sissu V'Simchu...."
A little to one side stood the women, Mamma Debra, Mamma Naom, Mamma Erina and other intrepid mothers of the tribe, swaying, listening, humming, with their fingers interlaced, their heads nodding.
These women, the tribal mothers, fast too much. If one has a bad dream she declares a fast. When prayers must be answered -- a child is sick, a crop is failing -- they fast, days and weeks. And perhaps I am too judgmental, but I gave them a rabbinical ruling: Fasts may be subsumed by cash. A few shillings donated to charity is equal to one day of fasting.
I had thought of telling them about the popular European Jewish sublimation, "chai" the number "18", but I stopped myself just in time. There are nearly one thousand Ugandan Shillings to the dollar, but 18 is much too much to suggest as a pidyon (redemption) to these holy women who survive by subsistence-farming.
Eventually we slept. In the morning we prayed and I read the Torah. They asked me to speak yet again after davening, but I had already explained the Torah readings as I had gone through them. "Any rabbi," quipped I, "can speechify at the drop of a hat. But only a truly great rabbi knows when to be quiet."

XXX-Communicated Review

Shayne Shiksa writes about my memoir Rebel Without A Shul:

So, wow, your book is intense. You lay yourself bare. Naked. It's full on. You are willing to look at yourself with the same scrutiny with which you focus on others. It's a compulsive desire.

Funny, sad, curious. Is sarcasm contagious? I will keep an eye on it.

Luke, Luke, Luke. I didn't realise you were as much a slut as I, masquerading behind a facade of morality. I've nearly met my match.

Now I must surround myself with wholesome goodness to reclaim my sense of happiness and contentment.

You're funny with the hovel and car thing. You like to test. I've met others who do this. Sometimes the testing never ends. New barriers are erected and the challenge posed: "We'll see if you still like me like this."

Come Dance At My Wedding

This is a surprise announcement that we have been holding back for some time.

Vicki Polin and I are getting married next month at Ner Israel in Baltimore. We want you all to come dance at our chupah. Applying our philosophy of forgive-and-forget, we're having rabbi Mordecai Gafni oversee our nuptials, and rabbis Joseph Telushkin and Saul Berman sign our ketuba, and I want cantor Michael Segelstein to render the chazzanut. Put Sunday, November 14, at 7 pm on your calendars, and God bless you in all of your legitimate endeavors.

Free childcare will be provided by rabbi Ephraim Bryks.

Vicki writes:

We are having a despute over the cantor and melodies.
Should we have Shlomo Carlebach music or not?
We also have the following cantors to choose from, I'm really not into Chabad, and Segelstein is a chabadnik:
Case of Cantor Joel Gordon
Case of Cantor Stuart Friedman (Halifax, Canada-Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles, Baltimore)
Case of Cantor Phillip Wittlin
Case of Cantor Stanley Rosenfeld - Warkwick, RI
But to be honest Howard Nevision is supposed to have the most beautiful voice of them all. I think he [was featured in "The Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust," in April 1994, becoming the first cantor to sing in the Vatican.] Wouldn't he be the best choice of them all? Or am I getting him confused with someone else?
Luke what do you think of Rabbi Benyamin Fleischman - Photographer (Baltimore, MD) take our photo's? We can't forget to have video too.
Someone asked me if you are really marrying the "ME" poster on the blog. I wonder if ME is male or female? Ever see the movie Victor/Victoria? hmmm, maybe he/she really is me?
You'll only know for sure when you lift the veil at our wedding. . . . the saga continues...

Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg will look after the pre-teen girls.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Orthodox BDSM Investigation

My always-growing profile of Chicago Orthodox rabbi Jeremy Hershie Worch.

Based on my sources and my knowledge of my subject, I believe that at least one of the posters defending Worch on Protocols is R. Worch.

He's now started a Yahoo club: Have you been abused by Vicki Polin (of The Awareness Center).

I've read postings by "ScrawnyBuddha" [using the posting name of hydrargirium] on R. Worch-related BDSM sites. I contacted "ScrawnyBuddha" and this is part of what "ScrawnyBuddha" emailed me back:

Just to clear the ground from misconceptions, since my spiritual standing seems to have been mistaken in several instances. I am not a Jew, I am not a Christian and I am not a Muslim, was raised as none, and the link you sent me brought me to places that remind me of the reason why I stand in so much abhorrence of the Religions of the Book. Groups who appear to be only concerned with themselves, deaf to all but
their own language. Like I said once to the object of your inquiry, your language is not inclusive but exclusive, and even when you are an apostate you (Jews, Christians, Muslims) are and remain the followers of a jealous god, bound by chains.

I find myself uncomfortable with people who define themselves by a creed or a nationality and define the entire universe consequently. I find myself uncomfortable with people who belong too much, because I have seen it be cause of the worst that Man can do, to himself and others.

This said...

I am an analytical psychologist and my province is the care of souls in the manner of personal dialogue. This implies the opposite of group therapies of any kind, which seems much to be what is happening here.

I was contacted, because of my opinions on hypnosis and especially on the use of hypnosis in BDSM.

My acquaintance with Mr. Worch is limited. We had some exchanges starting with our disagreement on hypnosis and then about mystical things, not to great results as it is likely between people who speak really different tongues. I never met him and never spoke to him, and what I know of his life and practices is only what I read on his LJ journal and on his website, plus what some of his friends said about him. Nothing of what I know can be called sexual abuse; the use of hypnosis as a toy is in my view an irresponsible act, but one for which both parties bear the blame
unless the hypnotizee's suggestibility is one of the symptoms of mental illness.

It seems to me that this matter, as is presented, is an issue among Jews and of Jews, about the unorthodox teachings of what you call an Orthodox rabbi. Sexual (mis)conduct in this context certainly has a different meaning than for most other people, straight or kinky. But aliens cannot be invited to have a say, because they might well question the very tenets of your Weltanschauung.

I asked BDSM expert Ira Levine aka Ernest Greene (husband of Nina Hartley) what he thought about the practices imputed to R. Hershie Worch. He replied:

Wow. I thought I'd seen it all. Guess that's never a safe assumption. None
of this stuff looks familiar to me, although some standard BDSM culture
language is appropriated, weirdly indeed, along with religious terminology.
It's strange enough that one warped mind could figure out how to reconcile
all these contradictions, but the fact that this guy appears to have some
kind of following truly amazing. Body-modification and Talmudic Law? I don't
think so.

I suppose I have run onto some variation of the hynotism-sex thing. We had
one very odd client who used to come into a pro-dom club where I worked as a
manager when I first got out here. He used to pay girls to dress up like his
mother and pretend to hypnotize him and order him to masturbate. Some sort
of cripto-Freudian do-it-yourself-therapy kind of thing. Needless to say,
not a lot of the girls would do him. Creepy to be sure, but harmless enough,
and unlikely to inspire imitation.

I don't know, Luke. This is definitely a visit to an alternative universe
where I wouldn't want to spend much time.

The type of behavior you describe is exaclty the opposite of what's considered normal in the BDSM world. The leather community's entire ethic is built on informed consent. No situation in which an individual is drugged, hypnotized, coerced or otherwise made incapable of granting such consent and then subjected to sexual abuse is considered anything but criminal by any community standard.

Criminality of this kind is rare among BDSM people, who tend to be wary and alert with strangers and quick to call out what they regard as inappropriate conduct. This is supported by a close-knit social culture in which secretive activity is difficult. BDSM players don't tolerate predators and don't make good victims.

Not to evade your direct question, however, I think the kind of fantasy you're talking about is extremely rare, but not inconceivable. A younger generation of BDSM players in particular seems to enjoy some fantasy input from Clive Barker, et al, as a feature of their more goth-leaning conception of kinky eroticism. I have to say I don't get it myself, and I suspect some of it is affected for shock-value, but there is some overlap between the younger kinksters and gore-hounds.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Luke Ford Made Me Cry

The Luke Ford Fan Blog has the first review of my new book:

A reader not familiar with the Luke Ford Ĺ“uvre may wonder what he got for his $35.95 (hardcover), $25.95 (softcover) or $6 (eBook) after reading comments like: "I don't understand what you are doing here. Who's your publisher?" (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach), or "Dear Mr. Ford: I do not wish to be included in your book. If there is anything negative about me or my family in your book you will hear from my attorney” (Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman).

Such opening remarks don't inspire a lot of confidence in Mr Ford's stature as a player in the world of Jewish journalism. But they're not nearly as damning as Robert Avrech and Matt Welch's Forewords, which are brutal -- totally, absolutely, heartbreakingly brutal. Poor Mr Ford, I thought. These are your friends and yet they write terrible things about you...

A Political Platform for America

(All-thanks to Chaim Amalek for his hard work in cobbling this together. I suggest you print this out and carefully consider where the two major candidates stand on each of these issues.)

1. America is not Mexico. Re-establish our borders with Mexico (and Latin America) by sealing them off against illegal immigration. Use our soldiers in Korea for this purpose, if need be. How could this be done? By offering an award of $1,000 for information leading to the deportation of each and every illegal alien in the United States, with the idea of deporting ALL the illegals from the United States, and by fining CEOs ten thousand dollars for every illegal found to be working for him.

2. Severely restrict legal immigration. With almost 300,000,000 people here that we know about, this country is now FULL, and we really don't need millions of Muslims from the failed civilization of Islam coming here. Let them go to France if they have their heart set on living in a society that was established by Christians.

3. No more outsourcing work that Americans want to do. To begin with, we should alter the tax code to severely punish CEOs who ship jobs that pay more than the median wage (jobs that by definition, Americans want to do) to foreign lands.

4. In 1980 the average Fortune 500 CEO paid himself about 12 - 40 times the pay of the median employee under his command. Now he (or she, as in the case of HP) pays himself about 450 times the median employee salary. This means that money is going where it isn't needed, instead of to R&D, marketing, manufacture, and other more productive activities. Establish a commission to regulate the salary of all CEOs.

5. Tax the very rich to death.

6. And speaking of death, we need an inheritance tax that will put an end to the political power of both the Bush and the Kennedy clans.

7. Tax gasoline so that tiny women in the suburbs stop driving really big trucks (SUVs) that burn both gasoline and the blood of American heroes in Iraq.

8. And speaking of Iraq, we ought not sacrifice any of our fine young sons and daughters to bring the blessings of democracy to any Arab or Muslim people. If they want this on their own that's fine - maybe we can send them some books on the topic - but as for imposing this on them, that is out of the question. Let's just buy their oil and leave it at that.

9. A bigger military, in case we need to destroy some other nation.

10. A draft to staff same, if needed. This would not include women who belong at home raising babies.

11. Means testing for ALL government programs, beginning with social security and strict Medicare tests.

12. Greatly increasing taxes on casino winnings and revenues in the event 13 proves unfeasible.

13. National health care of some sort for American CITIZENS.

14. More and better nuclear power. We have to generate power by means other than burning coal and other hydrocarbon. Let's get this done today, not tomorrow.

15. More diverse supplies of vaccines. We could do this by guaranteeing to purchase all the stock a company makes up to some reasonable level based on actual need, if not demand. Where estimated need = demand, this would cost nothing to implement.

16. Tort reform so that no lawyer can become rich by suing others.

17. Vouchers for every kid (whose parents make less than the top 30%) who is stuck in a school that is below average.

18. Use the bully pulpit to encourage the strengthening of unions in the private sector.

19. Tariffs on imports to protect strategically important industries.

20. Get us out of NAFTA NOW. No normal human being wants to hear a giant sucking sound from south of the border.

21. Return copyrights to the twenty years or so they used to be. Screw Disney. And while we are at it, encourage downloading music off the internet as a means of defunding our cultural elites.

22. Forbid both lawyers and investment bankers from working more than 40 hours a week, and watch America breath a sigh of relief.

23. Everyone else may work more than 40 hours a week, but would have to be paid double time for it.

24. A space program worthy of our nation. I propose the resurrection of Apollo, going to the moon, and establishing fuel depots there to make further exploration less expensive. All without international cooperation (except, maybe, from the British). This would be paid for by new taxes on rich people, casinos, alcohol, and tobacco.

25. Ban abortions based on gender, ban late term abortions (unless the mother is sure to die otherwise), otherwise leave abortion law as is.

26. Start a real national discussion on our drugs laws. Acknowledge that perhaps some drugs ought to be legalized.

27. Affirmative action for the smart poor, no matter their race.

28. No gay marriage, unless we permit polygamy as well.

29. Salary caps of $1,000,000/year on athletes and other entertainers. Before we bring the pain of socialism to the masses, let's visit it on our coddled elites.

30. Withdraw our troops from Korea. The Republic of Korea is so many times wealthier and stronger than North Korea that they ought to be able to stand on their own two feet. And if they refuse to and fall to the North Koreans, well, that's so much less competition for our industries.

31. Whatever form of trade is most beneficial to America, free trade or not. No trade with China unless it is balanced or in our favor.



That's my start. I am pretty damn sure that most of America would go along with most of this, and I'm equally sure that neither Bush nor Kerry would agree with more than one or two things on this list. Your comments would be most appreciated. Send them off to chaimamalek@yahoo.com.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

'Whatever You Are Seeking...'

It is common for me after publishing a book or some other accomplishment to hear from acquaintances that they hope I find "whatever you are seeking."

Is it not obvious that all I seek is to do God's will, to be a blessing to Jews and to the world, and to lead a quiet humble existence with a wife and kids and mortgage?

The Return Of Rabbi Jeremy Hershy Worch

Rabbi Jeremy Hershy Worch has re-opened his Kaballah blog:

If only a fraction of the anecdotal evidence is to be credited I am endowed with awesome hypnotic powers that cause women to tear their clothes off and force me to take cold showers... I'm only sorry they never greatly affected either my previous landlords or employers, and have had precious little effect on either of my ex-wives.

If at first you aren't heard...

By the Judy in the Mordecai Gafni story:

The overwhelming exhaustion that has washed over me from existing as a victim for the past eighteen years has ultimately been my silencer. Any remaining strength is channeled into the necessary tasks of parenting and daily survival. I will no longer be a victim.

The better part of my childhood was spent lost and invisible. My earliest recollections are of pleading to an unnamed supreme being.

“Please,” I’d say, “I’ll do anything, anything at all if you’ll let her find me. I know she must be looking for me.”

I’d scream and cry into my pillow at night. I remember waiting at the door. Anger was not an issue. If I was angry with anyone, it was the other “she”, the one who had taken me away. That was how my childhood psyche worked. Adoption was not a warm fuzzy word defined by “we really wanted you”. I read it as; the one person who truly mattered didn’t, couldn’t or was convinced not to.

So, I kept searching for my mother, for someone to love me the way I needed to be loved.

Along came Judaism, JPSY and Mordechai Winiarz.

At that time, my family was in constant turmoil. My father had brushed with death far too many times. In 1985 he underwent his second open-heart surgery – a quadruple by-pass. I hit puberty and my emotions, hormones and home-life were in shambles.

Mordechai Winiarz paid attention to me. He told me how intelligent and special I was. I spent many Shabbat lunches with him and his wife feeling like I had finally found a family. I began keeping kosher and abiding by the laws of modesty.

Mordechai had awarded me JPSYer of the Year. My sadness and isolation at home had me frustrated and doing poorly academically. I asked Mordechai if I could live with him and his wife. At the time I was hoping for a more permanent arrangement, but we agreed on taking things one week at a time. I had just turned sixteen when I moved in with them the first time.

The week went by rather uneventfully with one exception. I awoke one evening from a disturbing dream. It was maybe midnight and I heard someone awake upstairs. I decided to get some milk and try and relax and think. I soon realized it was Mordechai who was awake. He heard me in the kitchen and asked me to talk to him. When I approached the study, Mordechai was in his robe, preparing a shiur on something.

“Why are you still awake?” he asked me. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing” I said. “I just needed a drink.”

“I can tell there is something wrong, talk to me.”

“Really, it’s O.K.; I just had a bad dream. I am going back to sleep.”

“You’ll never be able to sleep if you don’t tell me.”

He wouldn’t give up. I felt trapped. Not physically mind you, but emotionally. I enjoyed talking and sharing with him because he listened, but the dream I had was strange, it involved me as a young child and the typical scenario of walking in on your parents’ lovemaking (in the dream he and his wife were my parents). I had had general dreams involving them as my parents previously. I didn’t want to share it. I wanted time to think about it. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. When I finally described my dream to him, he interpreted it as my being sexually attracted to him. I felt he was completely off base. I quickly changed the topic and was able to return to bed.

After the agreed upon weeks’ stay came to a close, my parents insisted I come back. So, much to my chagrin, I returned home. Things there went from bad to worse when my mother fell at work and was hospitalized with a broken hip. Now my mother was hospitalized and my father was trying to recoup from open-heart surgery. I felt helpless and lost. I couldn’t cope. I had no siblings and no family lived nearby. So off I ran – back to Mordechai, his wife, and the warmth and safety I felt there.

This time however, it was very different. It was Tuesday evening after at school when he made his first trip into what was then my bedroom - the basement. It was very late and I had already been asleep when the door opened. From the door, he said, “You look like you need a hug”. I pretended to remain asleep. He approached the bed and repeated himself. I still did not answer and conveniently I was turned away from him. My mind was racing. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to say. I was shomeret negiah (abiding by the stringent Jewish laws prohibiting premarital touch). Why was he in my bedroom? Why was he asking to touch me at all? I knew it was wrong. He knew it was wrong – didn’t he? Certainly I needed a hug, I always needed a hug, but a hug from him was wrong. Wasn’t it? If it were so wrong, why would he have offered it? I could not keep up with the fears and questions flying around inside my brain.

Before I could process them, react or respond he was sitting on my bed. I sat up to tell him “No, it’s O.K. I don’t need a hug. And why are you even offering?” when he put his arms around me. For a brief moment it felt good - like I was a little kid and my daddy was giving me a hug. Then I realized this was not right I tried to pull away but he held onto me and fell on top of me. He began touching me under my nightclothes. I said “No.” and tried to move his hand away. He kept fondling me. I said “No.” again and he stopped, abruptly stopped. It was the most bizarre thing. He rose from the bed, told me not to say anything about what happened because no one would understand. He promised me it wouldn’t happen again. And I believed him. I had to.

Thursday was an early release day from school. I was emotionally exhausted and went straight downstairs for a nap. Mordechai was at the house. I thought that was odd – why was he not working? He tried to stop me, to talk again. I told him to leave me alone – I was tired and I needed rest. I had been asleep no longer than 30 minutes when Mordechai arrived in my room once again. Now he was in robe. He didn’t bother to knock. He stood at the door and said something to wake me. I startled. He arrogantly stated, “You know what you want.”

“What?” I asked. I truly had no clue what he was talking about and why the hell was he in his robe in the middle of the day?

“You know what you want. I will go out of this room and come back in. You just give me a sign.” He stepped out and closed the door.

The shaking started again. What the hell should I do? What did he say? I was half asleep. I sat up in bed. I was fully clothed, under a thick blanket, warm and uncomfortable. I had layered my clothes so that my elbows would be covered. I removed one layer, completely covered myself up to my neck with the comforter and turned to stare at the wall hoping that he’d just not come back. I felt like such a child. I wanted him to love me, but not like this. I wanted to be their child, just start over with a new family who paid attention, cared and understood.

Then he was there in my room, standing over me at my bedside in only his underwear. I had not even heard him come in the door. He lay down next to me and began touching me again, like he had previously. I said, “Mordechai, no, this is wrong.” It was as if he didn’t even hear me. I just shut down and let him do what he was going to do. He continued fondling me, took off all of my clothes and his. He positioned himself on top of me ready for intercourse.

“When did you get your last period?” he asked. What a weird question. I wasn’t sure of the answer. I just made something up. “That’s no good.” He replied. “You know I could get you pregnant.” He seemed disappointed as he lay beside me. Mordechai took my hand and forced me to help him climax. I had never done anything like that before. I had never even seen a man naked. He ejaculated all over me. I felt horrible. When he was finished he stood abruptly.

“Get cleaned up and come upstairs,” he ordered and left the room.

I was now shaking so fiercely I could barely follow the instructions. When I finally ascended from the basement, he was waiting in the living room, in his typical starched white shirt and dark dress pants. “We are going for a walk,” he said.

We walked around Flatbush for the better part of an hour. First he attempted to make me think that nothing ever happened; that it was all a figment of my imagination. When that didn’t work he tried to convince me that I would never be believed because he was a Rabbi and I was just a kid. Who was more credible? He asked rhetorically. He was still unsure that I was buying his argument so he moved on to threats. He would destroy my life. I would never learn in yeshiva, never get married, on and on. Now he had my attention. What was he capable of? I couldn’t be certain. But I knew one thing - I was scared. Emotionally destroyed, hating myself, and hating him, just wanted to disappear.

He left me there at the house and headed toward Manhattan. I was alone in every sense of the word. I knew his wife would be home from work soon. I went to the kitchen, found the sharpest knife I could find and sat on the dining room floor screaming, crying and trying desperately to break the skin of my wrist with the blade. I had just made a few superficial cuts when his wife walked in.

My gut instinct was that he had already told her some crazy story about me. She saw me there curled in ball on the floor crying. She didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Maybe she couldn’t. She just walked by and went into their bedroom. I knew I needed to tell someone. I called Susan (a JPSY advisor and friend) three or four times before I reached her. I went to school the next day in shock. I was due at Susan’s house for Shabbat later that evening. The evening before, I had told her briefly what had occurred. When I returned to his home after school to pack for Shabbat he was there. Again, he insisted I not tell anyone. He made me promise not to.

The train ride to Susan’s house was surreal. I was crying and shaking all the way from Brooklyn to Queens. I had never been so confused. I desperately wanted to tell Susan everything that had happened but I was afraid. I felt like I was drowning, like I could barely breathe.

There were other girls there that Shabbat and I could not find the privacy necessary to continue discussing what had happened. I fell asleep crying, hoping that things could just go back to the way they had been only days before. When Motzei Shabbat arrived one of the other girls left and only one other JPSY teenager and I remained. I talked Susan’s ear off about nonsense until the other girl nodded off, and then I told her the details of what happened with Mordechai. I was shaking like a leaf.

It was then that Susan told me that she had already heard from Mordechai. He had called her prior to Shabbat “warning” her about my “delusional” stories, my emotional instability and attempting to compel her into allegiance. Susan diligently listened to the facts, my fears, and unequivocally assured me of her loyalty and confidence in my credibility. She told me that he had made inappropriate advances to her in the past.

Susan was there for me through what would be the remaining eighteen months of hell. We were kids trying to figure out how to handle this trauma with no help or support from our parents or the community. I don’t remember much after that conversation.

I do remember telling my parents with Susan by my side what had occurred.

I remember how they blamed me since it was I who left the house to begin with. I remember the next year and a half of harassment and mental games. I clearly recollect the “camps” of people who believed what really happened and those who refused to. I remember the telephone calls at all hours of the evening – the hang-ups, the heavy breathing. Then the photos of naked men arriving at our home because Mordechai had taken out a personal add in a gay men’s magazine using our P.O. Box address as the return. I remember the Rabbis telling us to “let things go” and “move on”: Kenneth Hain, Yitzchok Adler, and Sholomo Riskin. I remember the ridiculous meeting held at Yeshiva University at which I had to bare my soul to men I had neither previously met nor trusted.

People keep telling me that times are different now. People will listen. Things will change. I don’t know. I want to believe that. I want to believe that he will be stopped. That he will no longer hurt anyone. All the talking, emails and articles seem very empty to me.

I am placing the truth out into the world once more and putting it formally into print. If this gives other young people the courage to speak out when they are betrayed, hurt or violated by an adult maybe something good will come out of this. Maybe others perpetrators will be stopped. Maybe community leaders will learn to take a stand on crucial issues before victims accumulate in silence, erupting unpredictably later in life with unified inner-strength and piercingly powerful voices. I won’t be silenced again. I’m no longer a victim, I have a voice.

Rob Eshman Thinks You're A Moron

"You're getting quite chummy with Rob Eshman," a pleased Cathy Seipp said to me over dinner Saturday night.

Well, access to greatness, Cathy, has not compromised my ability to speak truth to power.

Rob writes in his latest column in the Oct. 15 Jewish Journal of Los Angeles: "If it wasn't for the fact that Americans can't chew gum and hold an election at the same time..."

Why is it that whenever I read these sentiments, they come from leftists rather than rights by two-to-one?

I wonder which countries Eshman thinks can hold elections and chew gum at the same time? Israel? France? Sweden?

Eshman devotes his column to analyzing Bush's roadmap to peace and Israel's security. Rob has no comparative advantage in writing this stuff. It's already done better in The NYT. He should be writing about what he knows -- Jewish Los Angeles.

The cover of the October 15, 2004 issue of the Jewish Journal was a repetition of a theme played out endlessly at the left-of-center paper -- violence bad, peace good, Arab-Israeli cooperation good.

The cover read: "A Brutal Attack on a Symbol of Peace May Lead to More Israeli-Arab Cooperation."

Then there's the useless article by Janine Zacharia: "The vice president links Israel terror reduction to Saddam's removal."

If Janine (a beautiful and fascinating woman) wants to be truly happy, she should marry me, move into the hovel, and have my babies. Then she could exercise her influence on international relations in the kitchen and the bedroom (in my hovel, everything is the same room) as God and nature intended (credit for that pungent thought goes to Chaim Amalek).

I don't want to go this entire post without praising something in the Journal. There is a picture of a cute dog on the back.

Luke Launches Triumphant Anti-Inter-Dating Lecture Tour

I have experienced first-hand the damage to the yiddishe neshama (Jewish soul) that flows from dating a tall blonde sweet kind loving buxom Gentile beauty. Within a few days, I was no longer wrapping tefillin. I started eating vegetarian in non-kosher restaurants and began watching R-rated movies.
I am sure I am not alone. Energized by my experience to combat this threat to Jewish continuity, I am launching a lecture tour around North America to speak out against inter-dating. Thank you to Young Israel and Aish HaTorah for sponsoring me. Book me into your shul now. Due to the severity of this crisis, I'm willing to speak in non-Orthodox synagogues.
When you see me, please don't just offer your hand. Why shouldn't we have a hug?
"It all begins with a date."

The Luke Ford Family of Blogs has grown so large that, in light of my obligations as a Jew, I have chosen to farm out some of the work from time to time. In the case of this blog, much of the political commentary is provided by others. (In particular, Rabbi Gadol is the one who drafted the political platform, a platform that I heartily endorse - although I do not loath George Bush as much as he, and likely will vote for Bush.) However, my writings on personal matters remain personal to me, and your responses here do count, if you meet the base-line criteria I set forth. Please note that these criteria are mandated by the Torah, lest I find myself spilling seed where it cannot possibly do me or the Jewish people any good.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Legends of the Fall

When I came to Los Angeles in March 1994, I began hitting hard on women. I hooked up with a girl who'd been on my dorm floor in UCLA in 1988. It was the culmination of a six-year longing.

I got around but I was scared and lonely in the big city.

I dated on-and-off this classy good beautiful Gentile women ten years older than me. I took her to temple a few times and to the movies. She wouldn't sleep with me.

One Sunday afternoon, I took her to Legends of the Fall. I cried through the last half of the movie -- after the beautiful young mother died. I don't think any movie has moved me so much. It indicates how lost and lonely I was. I was still snivelling an hour after the end of the movie. The movie touched on some of my core issues.

I never did sleep with the woman.

Tears are not an effective way of seducing women.

In January of 2004, I went to see Big Fish with a woman I had dated on and off. I loved the movie and cried at the end. She was not moved by the movie. She wouldn't sleep with me that night.

It was the last time we went out.

I saw Legends of the Fall on video. It was only my second viewing. I barely cried.

This week, I rented Big Fish. I watched a bit Thursday over lunch on my TV screen. Then I watched the last 40 minutes over lunch today. I interrupted it to take a long phone call. I ate my lunch. But when the movie culminated, and I had put my salad aside, the tears streamed down my face. I was more moved than ever. The funeral scene dissolved me.

I think it helps to have a troubled relationship with your father to appreciate Big Fish.

Part of me aches to believe my father's stories are true.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Maariv Profiles Mordecai Gafni

Four years ago, in their Friday weekend magazine, they profiled me. Now they profile Mordecai.

I suspect it is the same mocking tone but I can't read Hebrew well enough to know.

Maariv article is out on Mordecai Gafni. It makes him look bad. The reporter Sari Makover is clearly creeped out by him.

She starts the article with Judy's complaint (from the Gary Rosenblatt article). She says how old she was (below the age of consent) when he walked in and did various things to her.

When Sari Makover visited Gafni's house, there were five women sitting on the floor barefoot meditating. She hestitatingly sticks out her hand to shake his hand. He says, 'Why have a handshake when we can have a hug?'

Gafni says that he believes it is good for people to marry and divorce. He used to deny he was married three times. After being corrected numerous times, he's turned divorce into a mitzvah.

It's good to fall in love. It's good to marry. It's good to divorce. Different souls are for different people at different times. He quotes Rebbe Nahum of Bretslav -- sometimes love is right for a minute. I'm sure the good rebbe had Mordecai Gafni in mind when he said that.

Mordecai says Rabbi Blau has a vendetta against him and his critics are jealous of him.

The article says rabbi Mordecai Gafni is trying to be a media star and has political ambitions but now has to face sexual harassment stories from his past. One of his defenses is that he likes to take chances for love. Therefore, he's going to hug people and do whatever he needs to do, because he's taking chances for love.

It appears that Mordecai has developed a theology of eros to defend his sexual indiscretions. Reminds me of Jacob Frank.

Maariv article says that Mordecai Gafni's third wife, his present wife, lives in San Francisco. It sounds like a marriage of convenience.

Gafni says that R. Blau and Vicki Polin are traveling around the country saying bad things about him. I believe R. Blau and Vicki have met only once.

...........

A translation of the opening of the Maariv article on Mordecai Gafni:

Ways of Pleasantness

Charismatic, Media-Savvy and Original, he Loathes the Religious Establishment and is the leader of the "New Home" Congregation. He is Unabashedly Politically Ambitious. He is also a great advocate of petting and touching, all out of brotherly love, of course. For the first time, Rabbi Mordechai Gafni steps up to address the many unresolved episodes from his past that attribute him with sexual abuse and sexual harassment, from which he has managed to escape uncharged but not unhurt. "I believe that every person should decide where to take risks. And I prefer to take risks
with love."

By Sherri Makover-Balikov

Rabbi Mordechai Gafni, the God-fearing leader of the "Bayit Hadash" (New Home) Movement, receives me in his bohemian-elegant beit midrash in Jaffa,; he sits ensconced among colorful embroidered cushions, barefoot, meditating young ladies and crystals. I greet him modestly with "shalom" and tentatively extend my hand. Gafni the altruist is deeply offended. "Why shake hands, sweetie? Come, give me a hug," he says, and embraces me with great emotion, drawing me to him in paroxysms of affection.
From deep among the folds of the ADMOR (term used for Chassidic leader - here it is used cynically) Gafni's vest, I wonder: What is better, a hidden Tzaddik who speaks to women from behind a curtain, or a cheerful blue-eyed rabbi who gives out hugs for the sake of heaven?
We sit opposite one another, across an antique wood table laden with Chassidic tracts brimming with spiritual insight. But even from a distance the pious rabbi makes sure that I feel comfortable, so from time to time he places a hand on my shoulder. How fortunate I am - he even occasionally pats my head, which is humbly engrossed in my paper (for writing).
SMB: "With all due respect - this is not the way a rabbi behaves."
MG: "According to Halacha, hugging a woman without sexual intent is a legitimate option. Not all rabbis agree with me but modesty is always an interesting subject for debate. In my opinion, when a woman wears close-fitting charedi (ultra orthodox) garb, and her dress clings perfectly to her ass, it's as if the woman is broadcasting "fuck me" - despite her modest dress. On the other hand, a man can hug a woman according to halacha if his sexuality emanates from a deep pure place and flows naturally."
SMB: "Halacha allows hugging women?"
MG:"I know with 100% certainty that there are orthodox rabbis who shake hands with women, even in Israel. I won't name names, I will only say that they are among the greatest rabbis. I have seen some of them give hugs to women. I hug all men and women in my community, and I communicate the same love for an old woman of 97 as I would for a young lady of 18. I am not prepared to live in a world without hugs.
"In the charedi world all sexual energy is illegitimate. All erotic meaning is unacceptable. However even the Chassidic masters said that swaying during prayer is a mating gesture, a sexual gesture. Is it chutzpah to say this? The Baal Shem Tov himself said that prayer is mating. I am not saying that prayer is sex, I am only saying that prayer is an experience of complete presence, one that can only be achieved via the act of love. Both in prayer and in making love one achieves a situation of being completely inside and feels the other. [The individual can] leave narrow egocentrism and love another."
SMB: "That is how you feel when you pray?"
MG My entire congregation feels this way when they pray. We sit in pairs, men across from women, with no regard for marital status, and we start to read the words of the prayers. Then we look deep into each other's eyes and we feel great love. This is not a sexual act. It is an act of love between a man and a woman in prayer. In Bayit Chadash prayer is an erotic experience.
"I am not saying that you should get carried away. Even by us there are limits. I have heard of a religious movement that has nude cross gender mikvah bathing. This won't happen in our community. We all remain clothed, and all physical touch is a caress of love."
SMB: "Even this small (touch) is foreign and strange to the orthodox world."
MG: "I know, I know. But I believe everyone needs to decide where he will take
his risks. I prefer to take risks in love."
Why Are People Telling Stories about Him?
Perhaps Rabbi Gafni has taken his risks for love too far, for indeed, the reason for our meeting is the recent wave of persistent publicity tying him to harassment of a sexual nature. It should be said at the outset that two of the central episodes occurred around twenty years ago, and according to Gafni's statements and documents, they may well be the result of persecution by a group of people who envy his success. But it is very hard to justify (or, clear) the Rabbi who so gushes with love when his most pronounced behaviors are characterized by hugging and touching and his main topics of conversation revolve around sex, eros and erotica. In any case, as Gafni's successful Torah community expands, these episodes have emerged, and today they have began to bob to the surface once again, threatening to sully the
reputation of the man whose students consider him a great scholar of Torah and Halacha.
"There are people who say, 'Gafni has gone too far in loving his fellow man,'" says the blushing young leader of the community, bubbling over with sorrow and rustling documents that attest to his innocence. "There are those who try to invalidate me out of jealously and pettiness, and because you can't invalidate a person for their ideas, they say 'Rabbi Gafni is an egomaniac, there are stories about him and sexual abuse.' In order to destroy the Bayit Hadash Congregation and distance me from he Rabbinate, they dredge up these old episodes all over and each time add new, piquant
details."
"We have no problem whatsoever with Rabbi Mordechai Gafni's success," says one Rabbi who presently resides in the U.S. (the name is withheld by the editor). "We have a very serious problem with the testimony of women who have been hurt by him. I have known Gafni for over thirty years, and we were once friends. Even when he was very young, all sorts of rumors surrounded him involving women, and especially young girls upon whom he put his rabbinic authority to ill use, harassing and abusing them sexually, but there was never any proof. Every complaint was explained away by documents Gafni presented to testify to his innocence.
"Several years ago, it became public knowledge that Rabbi Baruch Lanner, who was until that point considered a highly successful figure on the New York educational scene and who had worked with youth, had in fact been harassing girls for thirty years. A Jewish Week reporter succeeded in interviewing several of Lanner's victims and exposing this serial abuser. Lanner was fired, formal complaints were lodged with the police, and Rabbi Lanner is presently in prison. Immediately after this case came into the public eye, women were empowered, and began talking openly about other rabbis who abuse women. The first on the list was Rabbi Gafni.
"Three women approached Vicki Polin, an activist in the Baltimore Jewish community who assist charedi victims of rape and sexual assault, and lodged complaints against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni. Polin sought out Rabbi Yosef Blau, Mashgiach Ruchani at Yeshiva University, and we all spoke to these young women and helped them in their recovery. At the end of the process, we all understood that Rabbi Gafni had destroyed their lives.
"After this, I kept my distance from Gafni. Earlier, I had asked to meet with him and speak to him. We sat together for five hours. Gafni had begun to establish himself in Israel and maintained contacts with many women and girls as a Torah authority. I was afraid for them. But Gafni insisted that Vicki Polin is crazy, and that the girls who complained were in love with him and turned against him because he had rebuffed their advances. He went so far as to compare himself to our forefather Joseph the Tzadik who withstood the enticement of Potiphar's wife. He carried on al along, shouting at the top of his lungs that everyone was jealous of him and his success in Israel.
"I said to him, 'Mordechai, listen. There are a lot of rabbis who are successful in Israel and people are not jealous of them. Why is that only about you there are these ugly stories?' He had no response. At one point in our conversation, I looked at him and said, 'Gafni, you need help. You are a sick person.' He, of course, did not accept what I said, so I backed away from him and disengaged."
The first episode took place 23 years ago, when Gafni was 20 years old. "I fell in love with a 14 year old girl," he reconstructs. "There was an incredible spiritual connection between us. She wrote me a letter describing her gentle and beautiful love. We were young and did nothing wrong except for a little fooling around. You know, some kissing and tits. We broke up after a year. I was not yet a rabbi then, and I never heard from that girl again.
"Five years ago, when the Bayit Hadash Congregation began to develop and gain public recognition, suddenly I was told that the girl was spreading lies about me, saying that I took advantage of her sexually when she was underage. A group of people who don't care for my ideology and the (spiritual) path of Bayit Hadash is publicizing these stories. When I was asked to respond, I said that to the best of memory, I was young and foolish and in love, and she was old beyond her years, and still I didn't do anything bad to her, and I have never in my life assaulted a woman, not sexually or in any other way."
"I was 13 and Gafni was 20," says the girl in a phone conversation from New York. "I was a little girl and didn't understand much. Gafni offered to help me with Talmud studies. Then he began to tell me that I am very special and he likes me. He also warned me not to tell anyone about his love, because they would all think that I am crazy and imagining things.
"One month later, he asked my parents' permission to sleep at our house. He said he wanted to go to a shul in the neighborhood. At night, he came into my room and woke me. He began to touch me and forced me to touch him. I started to cry and pushed him away, but he was much stronger than me. He said that if I told anyone he would hurt me and my parents.
"He did it every week for eight months. And every Shabbat morning he would pray intently and tell me that I should repent for what we did at night, because he also had prayed and repented. He didn't have sex with me because he was afraid I would get pregnant. At a certain point he was offered various shiduchim (arranged marriages) and he told me he was going to get married and all his problems would be over. Then he left me. Only years later I found the strength to tell some of my friends what had happened to me. With their help, I wrote a letter to a well-known rabbi who was friendly with Gafni in Israeland told him what had happened. But the rabbi has not answered my letter to this day."

Me writes:

A very interesting article in the Sofshavua (end of week) magazine supplement of the Friday Maariv. It seems Gafni intitiated this article to tell his side of the story. He does not come off well at all.

He basically claims everyone is jealous of his success.

Includes 2 huge giant color pictures (one is a 2 page photo spread, the other is the cover) that Gani posed for specifically for the story. I'm not sure what look Gafni was going for in these pictures. The cover has sitting in a chair arms and legs crossed with just a plain light bulb hanging from a wire in a completely empty blue room. He's wearing a white shirt and vest. He's not smiling. The 2 page spread has the same picture from his left side (no light bulb).

I don't know what he was going for, an intellectual look or the scary cult-leader in a blue prison cell look. I think he achieved the 2nd very well.

I would point out, as no one else has, that Gafni is also on the cover of the Friday Maariv (both the Israeli and international editions), he's right centre on the top cover under the Maariv header. With a caption for the article in the Sofshavua (end of week) magazine.

see:
http://www.nrg.co.il/images/general_maariv/iton15-OCT-04.jpg

Caption:

The Fondler
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni loves to hug and touch his flock.

Do I Care?

I'm getting questions from friendly and unfriendly persons about why I write so much about rabbinic sex abuse. Friends want assurance that I have noble motives. That I am doing it because I care so much about the victims or because I wish to further a particular Jewish value or because I want to better the Jewish community.

I don't like to claim noble motives. Most journalists don't. We're not good at explaining why we do what we do. We say our work should speak for itself.

A major purpose for journalism is that people make better decisions if they have better information. That's why we have a First Amendment.

Just because I do not phrase my motivations in noble terms does not mean I am not doing good. Let my actions speak. Motives are murky. I have been a journalist for more than 20 years. Whether I care for the victims and if that can even be measured is esoteric. I like to tell to people's stories. I prefer that they be compelling and important. Thus I seek out compelling and important stories, many of which revolve around sex and Orthodox Judaism.

Rabbi Yosef Blau On Mordecai Gafni

I speak by phone October 12, 2004, with rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University.

"Mordecai Winiarz was a student [in the mid '70s] of rabbi Shlomo Riskin in his high school in Riverdale, Queens -- Ohr Hatorah AKA Manhattan Hebrew High School (MHS). Rabbi Riskin also operated a girls high school. My wife was principal of the girls high school - Dr. Rivkah Blau.

"Mordecai was close to rabbi Riskin.

"I first recall him seriously when he was running JPSY (circa 1983). My wife was now principal of a different school -- Shevach. He called her and asked her to take a girl [Judy] from JPSY who had been staying at his home. My wife took the girl into the school. Clearly, the young woman had issues. She arranged for the woman to see an Orthodox psychologist in Queens. The psychologist told my wife the story about what happened between Mordecai and herself. The psychologist reported to my wife that he believed the girls story.

"I recall a conversation from that time with another psychologist who had a child who was an advisor to JPSY. He had Judy stay at his home for Shabbos a couple of times. I discovered that he was aware of the story and that he believed the girl.

"My wife was very upset about the story.

"During this time, I received a call from Susan, who told me about the incident she described to you.

"At some point, I became aware of problems in his first marriage. I knew his first wife. She came from a small town in Maine. She was sweet and naive. He was a sharp operator. It did not seem like a good match.

"I know loads of people tried to convince the woman who became his second wife not to marry him.

"At one point, Mordecai came into my office and told me he'd get my wife. I was stern with him. He was threatening. That obviously solidified my concerns.

"JPSY came apart. The official story was that one of the major funders of the organization had economic reversals in the real estate market. There was resentment that Mordecai managed to protect himself financially but left others unpaid.

"He managed to get himself into an advanced kollel at Yeshiva University. I was perturbed about it. I realized that this was a troubled fellow who seemed to cause trouble for other people.

"Rabbi Riskin had a beis medresh. He was the only one to get semicha [rabbinic ordination] under that system. He studied under Riskin. Mordecai did not get semicha from YU.

"There is one rabbi who has repeated over the years that he won't give anybody semicha. He gave it once and regretted it eversince. It is thought that he is referring to Mordecai.

"Mordecai ingratiates himself with people. For two weeks, he was a star teacher at JSS (James Streir School, a school for baalei teshuva [returnees to Judaism] at YU. The kids were enamored with him. He made a wonderful first impression. And then it disintegrated. He didn't last the term.

"I know the administrator (with a background in psychology and social work) who made sure that Mordecai had nothing to do with YU anymore.

"Mordecai spent a short time in the rabbinate in a couple of different places. He was in Stamford, Connecticut, in-and-out quickly. He was in Boca Raton for a few months. He came into my office at YU one day to say that he was doing wonderful things at Boca and taking over the world and he is going into politics and he will become a senator from Florida. He is always grandiose. He was going to prove to me the enemy...

"Then something went wrong in Boca and he left suddenly. There were rumors of scandal.

"Recently, I called two people from the community. One said everything was fine. There was a difference of opinion on some issues. The second one was so apprehensive that before he would speak to me, he asked me a question about when I first met rabbi Kenneth Brander, the current rabbi of the Boca Raton Orthodox shul, and his wife. Rabbi Brander's wife was a student of my wife at MHS. So then he was fine.

"I asked him why he did this. He said I had no idea how powerful Mordecai is. How dangerous he is. He was nervous that maybe I was an agent for Mordecai. I couldn't get from him what happened except that Mordecai was evil.

"Mordecai moved to Israel and moved to Israel and changed his name. He was still married to his second wife. People would inform me of things. Mordecai applied to the Chief Rabbinate. Someone called me and asked me to speak to the Chief Rabbinate. I did.

"One night [circa 1995] Mordecai showed up at the Beis Medresh at YU. He walked over to me and said, 'I'm coming back. And when I'm back, I'm going to get you.'

[Circa 1999] I got a phone call from a private investigator in Israel. He said he was hired by a foundation which was considering giving Mordecai money for a television program. The head of the foundation is suspicious of him and wants me to do an investigation. He said he was coming to New York in two weeks.

"Sure enough, two weeks later, I got a phone call from the man. I went to meet him at his New York hotel. He takes out a volume of all the stuff he has. I said to him, why do you want to talk to me if you have all this material? He said, 'Because I have to be complete, and Mordecai had mentioned your name as going on a vendetta against him. And that he said your wife has always been jealous that he is rabbi Riskin's favorite and not him.'

"I said, that is absurd. She ran a school for rabbi Riskin for six years.

"I have the investigator's name -- Meir Palevsky of AMN Investigation Services in Tel Aviv. I have his card in my wallet. I have told people over the years to call the investigator in Israel. I've seen the man's name in the Israeli media.

"Meir told me two things. One, he was wasting his time because the daughter of the man who ran the foundation was enamored with Mordecai and he will get the money anyway. Two, he had an employee interview Mordecai. After Mordecai gave his version of the story -- that Judy propositioned him -- and that if he hugged her, it was only because he felt sorry for her. Mordecai then made some vulgar comment about the girl's anatomy.

"Over the years, people in Israel have sent people to talk to me about Mordecai. He keeps changing jobs and organizations.

"During this entire time [until circa 2001], he was still Orthodox. Saying that certain Orthodox people are opposed to him because he is no longer Orthodox is nonsense. Rabbi Billet was his teacher in high school. If you say people have a vendetta against him, it's an old one.

"Mordecai would reinvent himself. He was Carlebachian for a while. Then he became New Age. Periodically, people would show me articles he wrote. He managed to get his name in all kinds of publications. A number of the articles revolved around eros. Doing sins for God's sake. There was always a sexual component.

"My connection with the thing in The Jewish Week started several years ago. For the 50th anniversary of Israel, there was a special supplement and Mordecai came across as this new religious personality who was beyond everything else, was going to impact on the country. I was upset. I contacted Gary Rosenblatt [a longtime friend of R. Blau's] and said, you are giving such a troubled person a free ride.

"I called the late J.J. Greenberg [son of rabbi Yitz Greenberg]. He had worked for JPSY. 'J.J., nobody is going to accuse you of being right-wing Orthodox. Could you explain about Mordecai?' He said, everybody knew about Mordecai. This is not a secret. Unfortunately, J.J. was subsequently riding a bicycle and hit by a car and killed in Israel.

"After the Lanner scandal broke, several people contacted Gary Rosenblatt and said, why don't you write about Mordecai Gafni.

"Over the past year, I've spoken to the unnamed woman in Gary's article [who says that Gafni raped her]. The story was totally new to me.

"Someone from the Jewish Renewal movement contacted me a couple of years. He'd known Mordecai from Israel. He said this dangerous man is moving into the Renewal movement. I need to do something about it.

"Rabbi Siegal [from the Renewal movement] called me. I directed him to the private investigator in Israel. He said the people were taken with him but his son had come back from hearing him and said, there is something wrong with this guy.

"Rabbi Gafni applied for a job at Pardes. Rabbi Danny Landes liked him. He defended him in Gary's article. The three [Israeli] women rabbi Landes spoke to are different women from the three [Gary's article talks about]. There were and are teachers at Pardes who were upset [when Gafni came in to teach] because they knew his story. A friend of one of my son's who was teaching at Pardes quit over this.

"Mordecai came to American and spoke at some Hillel conferences. They weren't interested in him. Richard Joel [now president of YU, formerly head of Hillel, a Jewish organization on college campuses] says Mordecai came in and complained -- they're telling lies about me. Richard said, 'I have no idea what stories are true or not true. But I heard you speak and you said "I" 35 times and "God" no times. We're not interested.'

"At one point, Mordecai was going to have an article in a symposium in Tradition magazine. A YU student who had heard him at Hillel, and knew something about him, saw Mordecai's article and contacted me. I spoke out. The comment that came back from the editor was -- I knew about Mordecai Winiarz. I didn't know it was the same person. Mordecai's article didn't appear.

"Then I heard Mordecai was involved in Jewish-Buddhist things in Israel. Then Bayit-Chadash came.

"Over the past six months, I've had numerous telephone conversations with the three women [in Gary's article]. Most of it was me listening to them. You never know what affects people's lives. In two of the three cases, it has had a dramatically negative affect on their Jewishness and their other things. They're still traumatized and petrified.

"Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh from the Renewal movement contacted me. She spoke to one of the women. I was not taken by her. She complained about The Awareness Center and other things. She never called me back. I got an email from someone else in the Renewal movement who heard there was a controversy. I responded. I never heard back.

"Last year, rabbi Saul Berman came to see me. We're old friends. We had a long conversation. We are clearly not on the same page. I can't explain other people's attitudes. I told him about the women. I gave him the name of the private investigator.

"My wife and I went to a lecture given by rabbi Joseph Telushkin. We are close to the head of the organization that hosted the lecture. After the lecture, rabbi Telushkin came over and wanted to talk to me and my wife about Mordecai. What do we have against him? My wife did most of the speaking because she has known Mordecai longer and better than I. Afterwards, she thought he had understood. I said, no, he didn't. Unfortunately, I was right.

"They [rabbis Telushkin, Berman and Tirzah Firestone] said they did some kind of investigation. Rabbi Berman did speak to Judy. She thought that he understood her, but again, probably not. One of the other women called him a number of times and he didn't respond. To the best of my knowledge, rabbi Telushkin has spoken to none of these three. They are not the only ones. I don't have an investigative agency.

"My sense of Mordecai is that he is a profoundly troubled person who can be very dangerous. I have no reason to believe he's done teshuva. Every time he has to deal with a real case, he basically says, I didn't do it. He says he's changed. He's done teshuva. But for what? He says he's never done anything wrong.

"There are the same common patterns between Mordecai Gafni's situation and that of Baruch Lanner. Admitting a little bit one time and that you've stopped. The next time saying you've never admitted it. In the first article [The Jewish Week], he says: 'I don’t work with kids, I don’t counsel men or women and I don’t meet alone with women.' In the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles article, it is as though he did nothing wrong. His story changes. Arthur Green's letter says that he did terrible things 20 years but he's done teshuva. How would Arthur Green know aside from what Mordecai tells him? In the letter from rabbi Berman and Telushkin, it seems that he never did anything bad. This is classic pattern. Admit it when you have to. Deny it later.

"I've never fully understood the fear of Mordecai, but clearly many people see him as very powerful. When he threatened me, I didn't take it seriously. To take something seriously, you have to find it credible.

"Mordecai is good at bouncing back. He is not going to go away."

What did you think of Gary's article?

"Gary is a friend of mine. I've known him forever. We worked together on the Baruch Lanner thing. I would've preferred a stronger article.

"Most of these people bury themselves. Same thing with the article on Mattis Weinberg. It was the quote from R. Weinberg that was devastating. The arrogance of these people gets them. And they're all arrogant. It's part of what makes them what they are."