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Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Historishe Asifa

I was not able to attend the Asifa, but Dov Bear apparently has some inside info. Will whomever sent him the reports send them to me, too?

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Grand Gathering, Parts Deux and Trois

Okay - word has finally hit that there will be two additional "grand gatherings" -- one for men and one for women -- and held in English, to boot.

R' Matisyahu Salomon is going to be speaking to men on Tuesday, and women the following Sunday. There will be some other speakers, too, but I don't recognize or remember their names.

The Rov of my shul, Rabbi Erblich, presented the news and urged us all to attend. He was remarkably even-handed about it, in my opinion. He classified an all-out ban on the Internet as a "גזרה שאין רב הציבור יכולים לעמוד בה" - a decree that most of the community cannot abide by. However, there's no question that there are dangers inherent in using and possibly abusing the privilege, especially for children and young adults.

So, R' Erblich said, we don't know what the answer is, and the issue seems impossible to address, but we must try regardless. "A Jew tries to reach the unreachable," he said. And if rabbonim and community leaders are suggesting a massive gathering, he concluded, we should feel obligated to participate. Coming together to address the question is a good idea.

So now I feel, both for my own edification and for my intrepid readers, that I should go. But I have some very pressing deadlines this week, plus two Bnai Mitzva who are hitting the home stretch, so I may have to score the tape.

Later in the day, in talking with a neighbor, I learned what Yeshiva Darchei Noam's policy is - and it's quite similar to the policy I outlined in my initial post.
1. Install filters.
2. Keep the machine in a public area of the house, NOT in the child's room.
3. Supervise the child at all times.

Except for the last item, which may not always be feasible, I think this is a perfectly reasonable policy to put in place for yeshiva kids. Kudos to R' Horowitz for putting it together.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Anti-Internet Gathering in Stealth Mode

I may have sounded the Internet ban alarm too quickly. The hype and buildup I reported on earlier has, apparently, already culminated in a grand gathering - an אסיפה רבתי.

Only nobody knew about it.

It happened Monday evening, according to the Community Connections (CC). This week's CC ran three pages of photos and a one-page write-up of the event (see the photo at right). But it's all in Yiddish. I'll be happy to scan and e-mail the relevant page if someone wants to volunteer to translate it in full.

The Front Page--Monsey's newest English-language ad book--has no mention of it.

The photos in the CC show a room full of black-hatted, chasidishe men. I can make out one non-chasidish man at the dais, so identified by his wearing a jacket and tie. The caption - repeated on each page - simply says "Historical grand gathering at the Atrium Plaza to construct the fences and stand in the breach [of] the danger of the Internet." Funnily enough, the banner behind the dais says "Historical Grand Gathering" - in case anyone forgot it was historical.

Here's some of what I can make out from the Yiddish - take it with a grain of salt, because it has no byline and is rather overweening in its effusiveness:

* There were nearly 1,500 attendees, including nearly 100 rabbis and roshei yeshiva.
* R' Moshe Green cried bitterly about the situation - bemoaning the the destruction and spiritual pollution that has afflicted the victims of this evil trap.
* R' Yudel Wolf spoke about some horrifying stories that he's witnessed.
* The Viener Rov said the community must adopt strict takanos - decrees - to prevent any further destruction, and these should spread from Monsey to the entire Jewish people.

Now it's already late, the writer reports, and the hundreds of attendees have been sitting for more than three hours listening to the speeches. Then he spends a paragraph praising the fellow who took care of the sound system.

Next graf says something about how the victims come from good and not-so-good families, young and old, men and women.

R' Abba Chiya Tauber gave the closing remarks, and he said the danger is so immediate and real, we must enact takanos promptly.

Last graf says everyone went home--after four hours--enthused and encouraged to rid their homes and neighborhoods of this horrible menace. "Not to allow the destroyer to enter your homes" -- a play on a verse in פרשת בא.

So apparently the chasidishe population has come together to address the dangers of the Internet, but if they have any advice or instruction for the English-speaking, 'litvish' population of Monsey, they're not announcing anything just yet. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


My Zeydi

I know I promised to blog about my grandfather, Aron Moshe ben R' Shmuel Zanvil, ZTL, a year ago. And I didn't. It's been hard to gather my thoughts and create a coherent picture.

Today--Yom Hazikaron--is his first yahrzeit, and we gathered last night to remember a little and celebrate a little and cry a little. My father did most of the talking, offering memories and anecdotes. Rabbi Seplowitz spoke about Zeydi's inspiring acts of kindness and dedication at Fountainview. My aunt Martha mentioned that Zeydi's pre-yomtov phone calls always came at the worst possible time, but always 'made yomtov' for her.

I have 31 years of memories to sort through. I'm compiling a list and I don't want to rush things. But one thing I want to emphasize is Zeydi's unique simchas hachaim - joi de vive - joy of life. I've never met anyone else quite like him. Even in his 70s and 80s, he played ball, rode bikes, jumped rope, sunbathed, learned, shmoozed, and just did everything with joy and gratitude to Hashem and constant good cheer. He was always upbeat. When he was recovering from heart surgery and starting to walk again, he said, "I'm just walking down the hall, and with every single step I'm singing 'odeh la'kel' - 'thanks to God.'"

And he loved everyone - and gave of himself so freely. Just walking down the street, he'd greet every passerby, usually by name, but always with love.

Only a few hours before he passed away, he greeted one of the ER doctors with a warm "sholom aleichem." It was hard-coded into his system to be outgoing and friendly. It was his autopilot.

My mother-in-law said, "He's the happiest man I've ever met."

He was very active, far more than his peers, I think. When I was 7 or 8, and he was 67 or 68, he taught me how to climb a tree. A year or two later, he took me sledding for the first time. He played softball with me. He loved to sing, even though his pitch wasn't 100% perfect. He loved to learn, and he moved heaven and earth, literally, to travel to Washington Heights every week to hear R' Perlow's parsha shiur. He would love to hear divrei torah, from me, from my siblings and cousins. He loved to daven with us. He loved to 'shep nachas' from us. We were his tachshitim - his adornments. His dividends.

I could go on and on. I could talk about all the hurt, needy people--adults and children--he counseled and helped. I could talk about all the other kids who considered him their Zeydi. And I haven't even mentioned my grandmother, AH, yet. {sigh}

What's there to say? Maybe I should write a book. Or a lengthier essay. I don't know. I just know that he's not here, and we miss him.

May his memory be a blessing. May he advocate for us all. And may we all merit to see him again, when death is consumed forever and Hashem wipes the tears off every face.


Internet Ban: Not just for Lakewood anymore!

Over the last couple of weeks, signs and 2-page-spread ads (in Hebrew and Yiddish) have been appearing around Monsey and its various publications.

The text was a play on a verse in Tehillim (psalms) 144: Our oxen are loaded; there is no breaking in nor going out and no crying in our streets.

Editor's note: The word for oxen - alufeinu - can also mean 'leaders,' and the word for 'loaded' can also mean 'patient' or 'accepted.'

The verse is essentially coming to describe a tranquil and discord-free lifestyle.

The ads parse the verse into phrases and put question marks after each. Our leaders are accepted? There is no breaking? There is no going out? There are no cries in our streets?

The implication being, there are plenty of problems in our community. And there's going to be a "grand gathering" of great Rabbis to address these pressing issues.

The ads don't say what the pressing issues are. Nor do they say when this grand gathering is going to happen. They just say, "Details to come."

About two weeks later, the same ads appeared, only this time with a logo that depicts a computer in the universal "no" circle, and in small Hebrew print, the text around the circle reads, "To save our children from the dangers of the 'Net."

And there it is. The Thought Police: Now playing at a neighborhood near you.

But first, a question: What's gained by all this secrecy? What's accomplished by this long-term tease? I'm not sure. Building suspense? What for? If it's such a danger, act fast!

Also, I am disappointed. I mean, I was excited at first, because I thought the grand gathering would discuss some of the serious problems plaguing Monsey - kids going off the derech, rampant dishonesty, baseless hatred, rabbinic scandals, you name it. Monsey has plenty of problems. But no. They're circling the wagons and blaming the problems on "the 'Net."

This week, large signs - probably 3' by 4' - are plastered on the bus stops on Maple and 306. (I haven't seen them anyplace else.) They say, in Yiddish, "Would you set a trap for your own children?!" The graphic is a computer mouse in a mousetrap. The text below reads: "A trap from which they will never escape, G-d forbid?!"

And again, that's the entire text of the sign.

I wish they'd just come out and say it: We're going to bring the narrow-minded and short-sighted idiocy of Lakewood home to Monsey, and we're just upset that they did it first.

The grand gathering, I assume, is going to feature chasidish rabbis at first, I'm sure, preaching to the choir. The 'askonim' involved may try to rope in some slightly more moderate school principals, starting with Beis Dovid and Beis Mikra and perhaps attempting to include Yeshiva of Spring Valley. They're not going to get much further, I don't think. And they'll try to institute the same, or worse, punishments for violating the ban: Immediate expulsion of your children from Yeshiva.

It is my sincere hope that parents and somewhat moderate rabbinical leaders and educators (including but not limited to R' Horowitz, R' Fink, R' Rudinsky, R' Gottlieb, etc.) come out in force and state their opposition to this nonsense vocally.

Am I saying the Internet is a wonderful thing and children should have complete and unrestricted access thereto? Of course not. But I'm saying that it's an essential tool that must be used with care. And decreeing that our kids can't see it or use it, on pain of expulsion, hobbles their education and guarantees that they will be unable to compete in the workplace.

I recommend comprehensive education for parents! Teach them how to install and use monitoring software. Teach children how to use the Internet safely. Go into it with open eyes and clear understanding of halacha. But don't criminalize it, villify the 'others' who use it, and push the potential violators even further into the shadows. It's a recipe for disaster, and I'm not interested in seeing it play out in my backyard.

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