Saturday, December 31, 2011
But ultra-Orthodox news website Kikar Hashabbat said that the main purpose of the rally had become that of fighting back against "incitement against the ultra-Orthodox public".
During World War II, Jews in Germany and countries occupied by the Nazis were forced to wear yellow stars to identify themselves in public.
Kikar Hashabbat said the wearing of them at Saturday's rally was "an exceptional protest measure".
A witness said that a television news crew had been shoved by protesters but police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there had been no incidents or arrests.
Israeli TV channels have screened images from the town of Beit Shemesh, where hardline residents are waging a sometimes violent gender-segregation campaign. The images showed an ultra-Orthodox man in Beit Shemesh spitting at a woman and others hurling verbal abuse at an eight-year-old schoolgirl.
The scenes have prompted outraged newspaper editorials and vows from politicians to get tough with troublemakers.
"The phenomenon of the exclusion of women from ultra-Orthodox streets is an act of intolerable barbarism," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview published on Friday by Israel's top-selling Yediot Ahronot newspaper.
"It is inconceivable for the state to continue financing those who defy it and for the ultra-Orthodox to continue receiving subsidies, such as free (religious) schooling for their children," he said.
Beit Shemesh, a town of 80,000 near Jerusalem, has witnessed a string of clashes between ultra-Orthodox activists and other residents.
On Thursday night, hundreds of activists torched rubbish bins, blocked streets and stoned police sent to disperse them, police said.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said the attempt by extremists to impose their world view on the majority constituted a struggle for Israel's character. President Shimon Peres, referring to the rise of religious extremism, said, "We are fighting for the soul of the nation and the essence of the state."
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Putting personal business on Twitter for the world to see automatically opens the floodgates for criticism, scrutiny and a whole bunch of questions. And as a popular musician with a wide fan base, Matisyahu should be prepared to deal with the frenzy. It's not like his bald head and new outlook on life would fly under the radar of his 1,374,146 Twitter followers or the vulture-like entertainment media.
To make matters more questionable, the responses we received from Matisyahu -- the interview was done via email as the singer was "on vocal rest" -- were, in a word, curt.
County Grind: Your new single and EP "Miracle" delves more into the realms of pop music than your previous releases. Do you find yourself moving away from the sound of "Smash Lies" and "Got No Water" to a sound that some would say is more mainstream? How do you think fans will react?
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
discourse and disputation that form Judaism's central scripture after
the Torah. It has been around for 1,500 years and is studied every day
by tens of thousands of Jews. But trying to navigate through its coiling labyrinth can be enormously difficult because the one thing this
monumental work lacks is a widely accepted and accessible index.
But now that breach has been filled, or so claims the publisher of HaMafteach, or the Key, a guide to the Talmud, available in English and Hebrew. It
was compiled not by a white-bearded sage, but by a courtly,
clean-shaven, tennis-playing immigration lawyer from the Bronx.
The index's publisher, Feldheim Publishers, predicts it will be snatched up by yeshivas and libraries, but more
important, it will be a tool for inveterate Talmud students — and there
are plenty of those. Feldheim's president, Yitzchak Feldheim, said the
first printing of 2,000 books — a market test — sold out in a few days
here and in Israel. More printings have been ordered.
The index has 6,600 topical entries and 27,000 subtopical entries that
point students to the treatises and pages of text they are seeking.
In these passages, sages analyze matters like whether one can remarry a
former wife after she has been betrothed to another, or how one should
handle a lost object found in a garbage heap. The index guides the
student to significant laws about Sabbath and daily observance, as well
as maxims, parables, commentaries and Talmudic personalities.
The English version costs $29.99, and the Hebrew, $24.99.
The index represents seven years of work, but do not ask Daniel Retter
why he undertook it, unless you have a spare hour. His answers are as
meandering as the Talmud itself, with pathways leading to byways leading to offshoots that sometimes end in cul-de-sacs. Along the way, his
voice sometimes rises and falls in Talmudic singsong, and his eyes
glitter with delight at the saga's oddities.
"My father was a man of letters," he begins, then describes how his
father, Marcus, had been dedicated to Talmud study during an epic life
in which, as a child, he escaped the Nazis on the Kindertransports that
rescued Jewish children from Germany and took them to British havens. He brought his family, including Daniel, to New York from London in 1949.
(With his dry wit, Mr. Retter noted that his father had literally been a man of letters, since a dozen of his had been printed in The New York
Daniel Retter, 66, attended a yeshiva, enrolled at City College at night while studying Talmud in the daytime, then studied at Brooklyn Law
School during the day while digesting Talmud at night.
He married another lawyer, Margie, an advocate for abused women seeking
Jewish divorces; they raised four children and ended up in Riverdale,
where he continued his Talmudic explorations.
"I can't waste a minute," he said in an interview at the Manhattan
offices of his law firm, Herrick, Feinstein. "If I'm on the immigration
line waiting for a client to be called, I study the Talmud."
But a puzzle nagged at him. He and other students sometimes needed help
tracking down a specific passage, law or topic, or the thoughts of sages like Hillel and Shamai. Most of the time the student consults a loftier scholar.
"For the life of me," Mr. Retter said, "I could not understand why the Talmud did not have an index."
One 50-year-old translation of the Talmud, by Soncino Press, has an
index, but its pages do not match those of the standard Aramaic text
used by most students hunched over their dog-eared volumes.
More recent English translations are either not indexed or have not been completed. For three decades, Talmud students have been able to use a
Nexis-like CD search engine, the Responsa Project, created by Bar Ilan
University in Israel, that locates words by frequency and proximity. But like Google, it often produces irrelevant hits. Bar Ilan officials
acknowledged that the CD had one major disadvantage: students cannot get access to it on the Sabbath, when much learning takes place. It also
Mr. Retter said he believed that the Talmud, whose compilation was
completed in the year 540, "was designed to be mysterious, designed to
be locked — I call it the 'book of mystery.' "
"The Talmud was written in exile, and it was the thread that kept Jews
together," he said. "It had no punctuation, no paragraphs; it was a book that was to be transmitted orally from father to son."
Until 1445, the concept of an index was meaningless, since books were
not being printed. But in the 16th century, the first complete editions
of the Talmud were printed by a publisher from Antwerp, Belgium; the
Vilna edition, printed in Lithuania in the 19th century, standardized
pagination. One effort to help students navigate the Talmud, Mesoras
HaShas, provided cross-references alongside the Aramaic text toward
similar ideas elsewhere in the Talmud. But, Mr. Retter wrote in his
introduction, "it was not an index as that word is commonly understood,
because one had to know the location of the initial reference to find
Rabbi Benjamin Blech, professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, said
the rabbis believed that study should not be made too easy. "We want
people to struggle with the text because by figuring it out you will
have a deeper comprehension," he said. "They wanted a living index, not a printed index."
Nothing satisfied Mr. Retter's needs. As he said: "I'm a lawyer, and if I want to know the law, I look it up in an index."
Before he went — Talmudists should pardon the expression — whole hog, he took his wife's advice and sought the approval of great sages so the
work would be credible. HaMafteach includes letters of endorsement from a dozen, including Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of
Israel. Mr. Retter also recruited Rabbi Elchanan Kohn, a recognized
Israeli Talmud scholar, as his editor.
The index's potential market is sure to include the thousands of Jews
who participate in Daf Yomi, the page-a-day cycle in which everyone
studies the same daf — two actual pages — every day for seven and a half years, until all 5,422 pages are completed, when they begin all over
again. Some 90,000 people are expected at the Daf Yomi graduation of
sorts that will be held in August at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
In English, the lyrics mean: "When the rebbe dances, so do all the Hasidim."
This isn't music appreciation or even a class at a synagogue. It's the first semester of Yiddish at Emory University in Atlanta — one of a handful of college programs across the country studying the Germanic-based language of Eastern European Jews.
The language came close to dying out after the Holocaust as millions of Yiddish speakers either perished in Nazi concentration camps or fled to other countries where their native tongue was not welcome. Emory and other universities like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and McGill University in Canada are working to bring the language back, and with it, an appreciation for the rich history of European Jewish culture and art.
"If we want to preserve this, we need to do so actively and consciously," said Miriam Udel, a Yiddish professor at Emory who uses song to teach the language. "The generation that passively knows Yiddish is dying out. There are treasures that need to be preserved because we'll lose access to them if we let Yiddish die."
Experts estimate there are between 1 million and 2 million native Yiddish speakers in the world, but only about 500,000 speak it in the home — mostly orthodox Jews. When YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City began offering summer programs in Yiddish in 1968, they were the only such program in the world.
Now, they compete with summer intensive Yiddish programs in Tel Aviv, Israel; Ottawa, Canada; Indiana and Arizona, said YIVO's dean, Paul Glasser. About 20 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada now offer some Yiddish courses, though just a few of them have degrees in the language.
The interest has grown because of the younger Jewish generation, which doesn't feel their parents' embarrassment that their family spoke Yiddish rather than English, Glasser said.
"Eighteen-year-olds today don't have that," he said. "There's nothing to be embarrassed about. No one can question their American-ness."
Emory junior Matthew Birnbaum said he took Udel's Yiddish class because he feels a personal connection to the language: his grandparents still speak it.
"It's taught me a lot about my own roots and where my people have come from," he said. "It's been a really interesting learning experience, not just from the language perspective but also from the historical perspective."
It's not just college classes where the interest in Yiddish has grown.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
According to the indictment, a number of men assaulted Alisa Coleman, who was helping girls onto a school bus to the religious-Zionist "Orot Banot" elementary school for girls.
According to her attackers she was immodestly dressed.
Coleman, a British immigrant and mother of four whose children are not enrolled at Orot, was so outraged by the protests that she arrived at the school to help escort the children safely onto their buses. The fitness instructor-turned human buffer was spat at and cursed by the protesters. "We cannot allow this to continue," she said, adamantly.
The issue of exclusion of women and more specifically the treatment of women in Beit Shemesh has become drawn fire from the Israeli political establishment. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz called for the arrest of religious extremists who assault women and girls.
“They are mean psychopaths and belong behind bars,” he said.
Steinitz called on Interior Minister Eli Yishai to demand the immediate removal of signs excluding women from Beit Shemesh’s streets. Steinitz threatened that if the signs were not removed the town’s mayor would be replaced by one appointed by the government.
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat also discussed the exclusion of women in Beit Shemesh. In an interview to Army Radio, Livnat said that “cities completely ultra-orthodox should be allowed to live according to their beliefs. But in cases that not everyone is interested, it should be resisted.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet on Sunday with ultra-Orthodox politicians to ask them to speak out against the segregation of women in public places by extremists in the Haredi community.
Netanyahu will be meeting with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and representatives of United Torah Judaism including MK Moshe Gafni.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said Netanyahu will be speaking over the next two weeks to ministers from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, the chief rabbis and other prominent rabbis. "We will not allow extremist groups to hurt women's rights in the public space, which must remain open to everyone," Netanyahu said on Saturday.
He asked Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to order the police to take firm action against the exclusion of women from the public space.
Netanyahu also asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to determine whether the laws against segregation of women were being enforced by municipalities. He asked Weinstein to examine whether signs in streets instructing women to use the other side of the street were legal. Sources close to Netanyahu said if such signs proved to be illegal they would be taken down.
Sources in Netanyahu's office said the prime minister was "furious" over the recent cases of segregation against women and that he planned to speak out on the matter whenever possible. At the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office last week, he made a point of being photographed with the woman singer who performed there.
The ministerial committee on the status of women last week appointed an interministerial team to examine the recent incidents and submit recommendations within 60 days, including sanctions on municipalities where such segregation occurs.
In the third demonstration in recent weeks in Jerusalem, some 300 people marched on Friday against the segregation of women. The protesters marched from Paris Square near the Prime Minister's Residence to Hamashbir Square in the center of the city.
The march was initiated on Facebook by Liron Shish, a 23-year-old student at Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva. Protesters also called for equal pay for women and against the exploitation of women by employment contractors.
Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv on Friday, hundreds of people, including public figures from across the political spectrum, held a rally at the Cinemateque, initiated by WePower, a women's empowerment group.
"When God said 'it is not good for man to be alone' and made him a helpmeet, this is not what He intended," said Adina Bar-Shalom, daughter of Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
But something went terribly wrong.
Dr. Grobois lost his way during the hike, eventually succumbing to hypothermia and losing his life. His passing is, of course, a tremendous tragedy. But it is also the beginning of a remarkable story of courage, perseverance, and a burning desire to be mekayem rotzon Hashem. The heroes of the story are the niftar’s family, a Chabad Rabbi in Tacoma, Chabad Headquarters in Crown Heights, a local attorney, Gary Torgow of Detroit amongst other noted askanim across the country, and an organization called Chesed Shel Emes. The Doctor’s passing, as unfortunate and heartbreaking as it was, served as a catalyst for a powerful and dramatic tale of hashgacha pratis and Kiddush Hashem.
By all accounts, Dr. Grobois was an experienced and cautious hiker with many years of experience. He had always dreamed of hiking on the awesome and majestic slopes of Mount Rainier, and now, he felt, he finally had his chance. So he bid his hosts goodbye and set off to what he expected to be a thrilling journey. Instead, it turned out to be his last.
When the doctor did not board his flight on Sunday evening, his family began to worry. They contacted his hosts in Washington and learned that he never returned from his Sunday hike. The authorities were called, and soon a massive search and rescue mission was put into motion. By Monday evening, helicopters were able to spot Grobois’ motionless body on the mountain but the terrain was hazardous and the hour was late. The family was notified, and the mission to retrieve the body was put off until Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, the grieving family had the presence of mind to contact Rabbi Zalman Heber, the Chabad Rabbi in Pierce County, Tacoma Washington. Rabbi Heber set up his home as the command center to deal with the authorities in releasing the doctor’s body and his wife, Miriam, cared for their physical and emotional needs. The objective was to retrieve the niftar and bring him to k’vura as quickly and efficiently as possible. They had no idea at the time what a difficult and dramatic process this would turn out to be.
Two National Park rangers, Ken Worstell and Uwe (pronounced U-Vee) Nehring, were involved n the rescue mission. It was no easy feat to recover the body, because of the difficult terrain. But eventually the niftar was flown by a army Chinook helicopter to Madigan Army Hospital in Tacoma. Doctors determined that hypothermia was the likely cause of death and stated that, considering all the circumstances, an autopsy would probably not be necessary. But the Medical Examiner had other plans.
A Formidable Foe
Dr. Thomas Clark, the Pierce County Medical Examiner insisted on performing an autopsy, despite the fact that the family members were obviously adamantly against it. According to Washington state law, the ME is permitted to perform autopsies, even against the will of the next of kin. Dr. Clark indicated that he would begin an autopsy first thing in the morning, ignoring the pleas and the reasonable objections of Rabbi Heber and the distraught family. By now, Rabbi Heber knew he had a big challenge on his hands.
Rabbi Heber understood that this situation needed professional expertise from those who were familiar with circumstances like this one. He also knew that, as American citizens, the niftar’s family had certain rights and were legally able to go to court to defend those rights. So he called Rabbi Kasriel Sudak at Chabad Headquarters in Crown Heights who put him in touch immediately with Chesed Shel Emes. Rabbi Elchonon Zohn of the national association of Chevra Kadisha was also contacted. It was time to call in the heavy hitters.
The Medical Examiner insisted on performing the autopsy because Dr. Grobois was niftar on the property of the National Park Service, and he claimed that that agency requires an autopsy on someone who passes away on their property. Chesed Shel Emes called in Rabbi Zvi Gluck who is their volunteer director of Government Relations to get involved. All-night strategy sessions were discussed. The battle was going to go all the way to court.
“By now, we knew we were up against a formidable foe,” says Rabbi Gluck of Chesed Shel Emes, “And because Chesed Shel Emes has had a lot of experience in this field, we knew that legal action will be required, so we asked Rabbi Heber to hire an attorney who was willing to take this case to court and fight the battle before a judge. We would coach him on how to handle these unusual circumstances.”
The Court Battle
Rabbi Heber asked his friend, Barry Wallis, who is a local expert attorney, to get involved. “Our first move,” he says, “was to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Medical examiner.” But time was clearly of the essence and every moment counted. When the Doctor’s son and Rabbi Heber arrived at the Medical Examiner’s office on Wednesday morning, he told them he was ready to begin the autopsy immediately. All the pleading in the world wasn’t going to stop him.
Legal action had to be taken immediately. Rabbi Heber contacted attorney Wallis to come quickly before it’s too late. Wallis came running with an affidavit to halt the Medical Examiner in his tracks. While the ME read the TRO, they worked swiftly in the other room to get all the proper signatures in place. By what can only be described as pure hashga-cha pratis, the TRO was enacted, and the family was able to buy some precious time.
The primary reasons for performing an autopsy on a body are to establish the cause of death, eliminate the possibility of foul play, or to protect the general public from a possible infectious disease. Neither of these factors was relevant in this case. But the Medical Examiner was relentless in pursuit of his goals. He called in his own attorneys and both sides were scheduled to appear before the court.
Chesed Shel Emes used every possible means available to bolster their case. Rabbi Heber got Attorney General Rob McEnna and other local elected officials to apply pressure. Rabbi A.D. Motzen, an expert in these cases from Agudath Israel, got personally involved. So did renowned attorney Nat Lewin and his daughter, Aliza as well as experienced attorneys Mark Kurzman and John Meningolo all of whom worked through the night to prepare legal briefs for Attorney Wallis to present in court. Attorney Wallis was coached by every leading attorney in this field, and thoroughly briefed on countless legal precedents in similar cases. Rabbi Reuven Fink of Young Israel of New Rochelle, where Dr. Grobois was a member, and many other members of that community were also very instrumental in the success of the mission.
No stone was left unturned in building a case. Rabbi Mayer Berger of Chesed Shel Emes contacted the National Parks Services in Washington DC, explained the entire story to the presiding superintendent, and was told that in this case an autopsy could definitely be waived. Two of the Park Rangers involved in retrieving the body were put in touch with Rabbi Gluck an readily agreed to assist in any way possible. Rabbi Heber somehow managed to acquire the medical records immediately, although it is a process which usually takes five to ten business days at best. The hashgacha pratis in every aspect of the process was amazing. Remarkably, everything fell into place.
On Thursday afternoon, a local judge listened to both sides of the case and ruled in favor of the family. That should have been the end of that, but the ME and his lawyers immediately entered a motion to appeal. Time was of the essence, as all were anxious to bring the niftar to k’vura as quickly as possible. ALl the attorneys on the case cancelled all of their scheduled appointments for Thursday and Friday, as well as scheduled court appearances, and dedicated the entire day and night to prepare the court motions, Rabbi Heber, and the Niftar’s family. Thus did the entire group find themselves once again in court, at nine a.m. on Friday morning. This time they were standing in front of the Supreme Court Justices of the State of Washington.
The Medical Examiner’s attorney tried to show that there was compelling interest in performing an autopsy. But the Grobois family’s case was very solid and well prepared. Testimony from the Park Rangers, from Mrs. Grobois, and from Rabbi Heber was heard. They presented a clear cut and reasonably sound case. Finally, b’chasdei Hashem, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington ruled in favor of the family. The body was ordered to be released on Friday at 3:00 PM, right before Shabbos.
Our story is far from over. As they say, the satan never rests. Upon leaving the courtroom, the ME’s attorney commented that he will appeal this case again and take it, if necessary, all the way to the United States Supreme Court. By now the ME’s obsession with this family’s personal tragedy was becoming absurd. Political pressure was placed upon the highest echelons of Washington state government. The following elected officials were very instrumental in solving his issue, NYS Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Senator Charles Schumer of New York. Senators Pat Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington, as well as other elected officials, personally intervened. They called Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington, asking her to step in on behalf of the Grobois family, whose rights were clearly being violated. The Governor’s office strongly intervened. They called the ME and got him to walk away from the case.
On Sunday, the niftar and his very relieved family were on their way to Eretz Yisroel for a proper and b’kovodik k’vurah. Special thanks has to be given to Shomrei Hadspas Chapels of Boro Park, Brooklyn, who went out of their way to facilitate the transport, and made sure that the whole process would go seamlessly. Can we begin to imagine the immeasurable zechus’im of this dedicated wife and children? Can we begin to imagine the unfathomable mitzvah of chesed shel emes that was performed by dozens of yidden on their behalf? It had been a very arduous and challenging journey. But in the end justice prevailed.
Several days after the remarkable events of this story, Rabbi Zvi Gluck received a phone call from Uwe Nehring, the Park Ranger who testified on the family’s behalf. He was in tears and very emotional, and asked Rabbi Gluck for a few moments of his time, and here’s what he said:
“You might not believe what I’m going to tell you now, but I still have to share it with you. Last Tuesday night after I recovered the body of Dr. Grobois I had a dream. I dreamed that I was in Israel, attending a Jewish funeral, and I’m telling you, I was never in Israel, and never at a Jewish funeral, but here’s what I saw, Men were on one side, women on the other. And in the center was a body on a bench. They were eulogizing the person, and suddenly I heard them starting to thank people. And guess what? I heard them thanking me!”
“It’s weird, you know? When I helped bring the body up from the mountain, I was just doing my job. And I had nothing to do with his Jewish burial”
“But when you reached out to me on Thursday to come and testify in court, it clicked. I felt that it was a clear and direct sensational message sent from heaven, and that’s why I felt I needed to act.”
As it turns out, Mr. Nehring’s wife is Jewish, and so are his children. He has already gotten in touch with Rabbi Heber, and they discussed having the family over for a Shabbos and teaching the children about their Jewish heritage. One good deed clearly leads to another.
Meanwhile, Chabad of Pierce County and Attorney Wallis are working to make significant changes in the laws of the state of Washington, so that no other family will have to endure the kind of worry and anxiety that the Grobois family experienced last week.
“This was the goal of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt”l,” says Rabbi Heber, “when he sent out shluchim to the far flung corners of the world. Wherever a Jew finds himself, there will always be a Chabad center nearby ready to assist in any way possible.”
And as for the volunteers of Chesed Shel Emes, they are grateful to Hakodosh Boruch Hu that this unusual and dramatic case was successfully resolved. For over twenty five years they have been dedicated to helping families in their time of bereavement and grief in any way they can. Says Rabbi Berger, “We will stop at nothing and use every resource available to ensure that a meis in klal yisroel is brought to proper k’vura.”
Brian Grobois of New Rochelle, N.Y., died on a solo shoeshoe hike, apparently from hypothermia. His body was recovered Dec. 13.
Three days later, a judge upheld an appeal barring Pierce County’s medical examiner from conducting an autopsy on Grobois’ body because of religious objections from the family.
It’s believed to be the first time that has occurred in Pierce County. The case attracted the interest of County Executive Pat McCarthy, Gov.
Chris Gregoire, Jewish leaders from around the country and even nationally known consumer-rights attorney Erin Brockovich. Grobois was an Orthodox Jew.
Jewish law requires that the body be returned to the earth complete and as quickly as possible so the soul can rest and the family can properly grieve, said Rabbi Zalman Heber, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Pierce County.
Heber said Jewish law also considers autopsies a desecration.
Orthodox Jews adhere to the traditional interpretation of the Torah and its laws.
“This is not a matter of life and death. This is a matter of death and afterlife,” Heber said Friday. He helped the Grobois family and rallied support for their cause across the country.
But Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark said state law clearly empowers him to investigate unnatural deaths.
He determined an autopsy was needed to answer questions that arose in his mind about how Grobois died.
“Their concerns were very real to them,” Clark said in an interview Friday. “But they’re in conflict with Washington law and our charge to accurately determine deaths, and I can’t make everybody happy.”
State law doesn’t allow families to stop autopsies on religious grounds.
Heber said the Jewish community intends to ask state lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session to change the law to accommodate such requests. He said 11 states have similar exemptions.
“This case is a classic example of why this is needed so there is no confusion in the future,” Heber said. “The families shouldn’t have had to go through what they went through.”
Clark said such a change would have significant implications for medical examiners around Washington and could jeopardize the integrity of death investigations. News accounts describe Grobois as an avid outdoorsman in good health who was an expert in tai chi and took weekly hikes.
Before entering private practice as a psychiatrist, he worked at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in New York City. “He was very focused on helping people in an empowering way,”
Rabbi Simkha Weintraub, the organization’s rabbinic director, told The Journal News in New York.
“He truly understood and respected spirituality and religion.” Grobois realized a dream on Dec. 11 when he arrived at Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park for a snowshoe excursion.
Something went amiss. The family called the park the next morning to report him overdue.
A helicopter crew found Grobois later that afternoon lying in the snow at the top of the Stevens Creek drainage at an elevation of about 5,400 feet.
He didn’t respond to the arrival of helicopter crew. A park spokeswoman said he likely lost this way, became exhausted, sat down and succumbed to the brutal cold; Paradise reached a low of 14 degrees that Sunday night, and Grobois was not equipped to spend the night outdoors.
Authorities didn’t send a ground crew until the following morning due to the rough terrain and gathering darkness. Grobois was taken by helicopter to Madigan Army Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Attending Madigan doctors wrote on medical records that Grobois died of “hypothermia/cardic arrest,” according to Clark.
Heber said the doctors told him and Grobois’ wife, daughter and son, who had flown in the morning of Dec. 13, that there was no need for an autopsy; they were confident about the cause of death. A chief investigator for the National Park Service told Heber he reached the same conclusion independently, Heber said Friday.
“From all angles, there was no need for an autopsy,” Heber said. Clark reached a different conclusion.
A certified forensic pathologist, he spent more than 20 years in North Carolina’s medical examiner’s office, serving eight years as its deputy chief medical examiner. He was hired as Pierce County’s chief medical examiner 18 months ago.
Washington state law gives medical examiners broad authority to take possession of bodies and investigate their death, including performing autopsies. The circumstances of Grobois’ death gave Thomas plenty of reason to use that authority: He was in good health but died suddenly; he was not known to have any diseases that would lead to death; no one witnessed his death; and, finally, “his body was found dead,” according to court records. The Madigan doctors’ conclusion had no bearing under state law, nor did it preclude Clark from conducting his own investigation. Their determination also had shortcomings in Clark’s mind.
Cardic arrest simply means the heart stopped but offers no evidence about why it stopped. The obvious conclusion of hypothermia was equally problematic to him.
“They wrote the only thing they knew, which is the body was cold,” Clark said. “The body can get cold and cause death, or death can happen for some other reason and then the body can get cold, and they don’t have any basis for telling the difference.”
He also noted the body was covered in bruises, inconsistent with a finding that he wandered lost, fell asleep and died. In consultation with his employees and county policies, Clark determined to go forward with an autopsy. “Our motivation is state law and the charge to correctly certify deaths in Pierce County,” he said Friday.
Heber said the situation put incredible stress on the Grobois family.
Jewish law prevents the family from starting its seven days of mourning until a body is buried. “It was agony for them,” he said. Heber and Grobois’ family strenuously objected to Clark’s decision and secured an emergency temporary restraining order in Pierce County Court on Dec. 14.
Pierce County Court Commissioner Clint Johnson formalized the order the next day. The county appealed, and Pierce County Superior Court Judge Brian Tollefson presided over the hearing Dec. 16.
Heber had garnered support from Jewish leaders on the East Coast to intervene. One of them personally contacted Gregoire, whom she had met years earlier. The governor in turn called McCarthy, the county executive, to inquire about the case, according to spokespeople with the governor and county.
Another call was made to the state attorney general’s office, who alerted the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, attorney general spokesman Dan Sytman said. Erin Brockovich, the consumer advocate who was the subject of a 2000 Oscar-winning movie of the same name, also e-mailed the prosecuting attorney’s office on the family’s behalf, county spokesman Hunter George said.
Clark testified at the hearing. So did Rabbi Heber, as well as Grobois’ wife, Susan, and son, Marshal.
Also testifying was a park investigator and a park ranger who was involved in the recovery. Mount Rainier Park superintendent Randy King said a family representative asked if officials involved in the recovery would testify. He agreed because “it was important to support the family.” “What we did in court was say that for the purposes of our investigation, there was no need for an autopsy based on what our folks saw in the field,” King said Friday.
After a two-hour hearing on Dec. 16, Tollefson signed an order barring the medical examiner’s office from conducting an autopsy. He required that the body be released to the family by 3 p.m. the same day. The judge authorized Clark to draw blood or perform an X-ray or non-invasive imaging.
Clark said he didn’t do either of these things because there wasn’t time. Clark said the judge found that Grobois’ recovery on federal property diminished the county’s standing in the case.
But he maintained there’s been a long-standing practice for the medical examiner’s office to investigate deaths on the 14,411-foot mountain A transcript of the hearing was unavailable Friday.
The court is on holiday recess, and Tollefson couldn’t be reached for comment. A member of Grobois’ family also couldn’t be reached. Clark, in consultation with the prosecuting attorney’s office, decided against another appeal. “We were afraid that if we lost the second level of appeal that would set a precedent that would be dangerous not just for us, but for every other medical examiner system in the state,” he said. He said he wasn’t influenced by calls that the Grobois family and its supporters made to his office and to other officials.
Clark and Heber said this is the first time they’ve been involved in a court case to stop an autopsy based on religious objections. Clark said when he worked in North Carolina, a few families asked that autopsies be conducted quickly for religious reasons so the burial could occur the same day.
The medical examiner’s office released Grobois’ body by the court’s Dec. 16 deadline. The family flew back to New York with his body the following night after their sabbath and flew to Israel the evening of Dec. 18.
Grobois was buried in Jerusalem on Monday, in accordance with his wishes. Heber said the family is confident that Grobois died of hypothermia doing what he loved. “They’re totally at peace with it,” he said. The case ended with no such certainty for Clark and his office. On Grobois’ death certificate, it listed his cause and manner of death as “undetermined.” Another line gives the reason: “Examination prohibited by court order 11-2-16652-5.”
Friday, December 23, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Kimmel then told the audience he too met with Pinto, and he showed a video of himself in a car talking with an individual dressed in Jewish religious clothing and speaking in a different language.
In fact, Kimmel never spoke with Pinto. The footage of the conversation was assembled using a video of Kimmel in his car spliced together with footage of the plaintiff, Brooklyn, New York's David Sondik, taken from a series of YouTube videos showing Sondik greeting people on the street and talking animatedly. The videos refer to Sondik as the "flying rabbi."
Sondik, described as a "neighborhood character" by his attorney Robert Tolchin, objected to the show's use of his image. He sued in December 2010 accusing the Kimmel show of falsely presenting him as Pinto and failing to seek his permission before turning him into the butt of the joke.
Because "Jimmy Kimmel Live" is produced and filmed in California, Sondik sued under California law -- which recognizes a common-law right to sue based on an invasion of a person's right to privacy.
But in a ruling December 14, Justice David Schmidt disagreed and dismissed the suit, holding that it must be brought under New York law because Sondik lives in New York and the alleged injury took place in the state. New York law does not recognize common-law actions based on violations of privacy or publicity rights, Schmidt noted.
In his ruling Schmidt also said New York law allows unauthorized use of an individual's image for "newsworthy events or matters of public interest."
" review of the DVD of the segment supplied by defendants demonstrates that the clip of plaintiff at issue was used as a part of a comedic (or at least an attempted comedic) or satiric parody of Lebron James' meeting with Rabbi Pinto, itself undoubtedly an event that was newsworthy or of public interest," Schmidt wrote.
The judge also dismissed Sondik's claims of defamation against Kimmel.
"Even though plaintiff is not a public figure, there is no allegation in the complaint or inference that can be drawn from the DVD suggesting that the use of plaintiff's clip was mean-spirited or intended to injure such that its use would be excluded from First Amendment protection," Schmidt wrote.
Tolchin said his client intended to appeal the ruling that Kimmel's use was protected by the "newsworthiness" of the James story.
"A story about LeBron James and Rabbi Pinto is perfectly valid, you can put that on the news," Tolchin told Reuters in an interview. "But my client is a private citizen. Jimmy Kimmel took my client's image and said it was Rabbi Pinto, which he isn't. That's a lie."
"My client was the butt of the joke and made to look like a fool in front of millions of people," Tolchin said.
Calls to an attorney and a network representative for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" were not immediately returned Wednesday.
the rabbi's charity's missing millions as it reported on Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto: "The rabbi's close followers are disclosing what they say is the source of many of his troubles. They said they told federal investigators that the rabbi had been the victim of a bizarre embezzlement and extortion
plot that was carried out by two former members of his inner circle, who stole his congregation's money and tried to frame him."
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
So on Tuesday, the first night of the holiday, the center will present Cirque de Hanukkah. A troupe of professional acrobats is flying into Anchorage to perform feats including using their bodies to create a living menorah—the traditional candelabra lighted during the eight nights of the holiday. There will be carnival games, and kids will be invited to take whacks at a piñata shaped like a dreidel.
"I know it's not directly Hanukkah-ish, but we're going to make it Hanukkah-ish," Rabbi Greenberg says. Any congregation that hopes to stay relevant to modern American Jews "has to do a big Hanukkah," he adds. "That's the key."
For years, many American Jews have treated Hanukkah as a low-key holiday celebration, giving children gifts, inviting friends over to light the menorah and decorating with blue-and-white lights. But now, all across the nation, Hanukkah celebrations have shifted into overdrive.
Young adults are hosting "vodka and latkes" parties where the alcohol is served along with traditional potato pancakes. Hip-to-Hanukkah musicians are updating the holiday's slim repertoire of songs in genres like heavy metal, reggae, hip-hop and rap.
And then there are the Schlep Sisters, two burlesque dancers who have booked the 400-seat Highline Ballroom in Manhattan for their Menorah Horah show, a striptease shot through with Hanukkah history. The Sisters have been performing the act for five years, to ever-bigger crowds, on the theory that Hanukkah needs to be more fun.
"It's not like Yom Kippur, where you sit in synagogue and fast," says one of the Schlep Sisters, who goes by the stage name Minnie Tonka and says she has a master's degree in Jewish education.
Even the stodgy dreidel, the little wooden top which children traditionally spin for chocolate coins at Hanukkah, has gotten an update. An outfit called Major League Dreidel sponsors spinning tournaments across the country, held on game boards called, of course, Spinagogues.
All this would make Rabbi Benjamin Blech weep, except, he says, "it is almost hysterically funny."
Rabbi Blech, who teaches Talmud at Yeshiva University in New York, says Hanukkah commemorates a clash in about 165 B.C. between a pious Jewish community and the rather raucous Greeks who had conquered much of the Middle East. The Jewish group, led by the ragtag Maccabee army, beat back the Hellenist hedonists. Then they purified a defiled temple by lighting a sacred flame—which miraculously remained lighted for eight days, though there was only enough oil for one night.
Hanukkah should be about Jews standing proudly apart from mainstream culture, resisting frivolity and assimilation, Rabbi Blech argues. For Jews today to celebrate Hanukkah with carnivals, rowdy parties—even piles of presents—"means not only losing the rationale for the holiday, but distorting it in a very dangerous way," he says.
Jennie Rivlin Roberts, an Atlanta psychologist, begs to differ. She runs a website, ModernTribe.com, that sells all manner of Hanukkah knickknacks, including menorah-shaped cookie cutters. She also created a game that combines traditional tops with poker: No Limit Texas Dreidel.
December "is a very difficult time for Jewish families in the U.S. because Christmas is ubiquitous," Dr. Rivlin Roberts says, describing questions from her 7-year-old daughter about Santa's dominance. Decorating the house with blue and white lights doesn't fully compensate, she says—which is why she's all about making the holiday more fun.
"We're OK with embracing Hanukkah 100%," she says.
So is Daniel Flaster Siskin of Long Beach, Calif., who invented a vengeance-themed board game called "Operation: Maccabee" in which players use a dreidel to defeat Nazis during World War II. He has big plans for the humble top: "Why not a million dreidel games?" he asks.
Of course, some elements of Hanukkah are easier to amp up than others. The heavy metal band Gods of Fire struggled trying to write a hard-driving song about potato pancakes for their 2009 album "Hanukkah Gone Metal."
"What's metal about frying latkes in oil? Nothing," says Seth Diamond, who plays keyboard and guitar. The group finally decided to write about a mythical quest to procure a precious supply of latke oil that was guarded by a fierce dragon.
"We made it into a 'Lord of the Rings'-style epic," Mr. Diamond says.
He sees his album as its own sort of epic quest—to make Hanukkah "more relevant, modern, fresh and fun," especially for young adults who have outgrown the sheer joy of getting presents eight nights in a row.
Hanukkah is actually a minor holiday on the Jewish religious calendar. But enterprising entrepreneurs have long seen its potential.
Back in the 1870s, when Christmas was just starting to come into its own as a mass-market cultural phenomenon in the U.S., two Cincinnati rabbis looking for a way to cheer up Jewish kids who felt left out—and bring more young families into synagogue—launched the first big Hanukkah festivals, with games, music and plenty of good food. The concept was wildly popular and soon spread across the country, says Dianne Ashton, a religious scholar and author of the coming book "Hanukkah in America."
Today's Hanukkah promoters share the goals of the Cincinnati rabbis: Making the winter season fun for Santa-deprived kids; giving Jews a reason to reconnect; and boosting the holiday's profile among the general public.
So Jews in Metairie, La., will celebrate this year with a "latkes on roller skates" party at a skating rink. In Dallas, Rabbi Zvi Drizin has requested approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fashion a celestial-scale menorah by beaming searchlights into the night sky on each night of the holiday.
And in Boulder, Colo., a vodka-and-latkes party for young adults will feature presentations on topics ranging from roller derby to gender roles to racier fare. The hosts expect all 200 tickets to sell out, as the event did when first held last year.
"There are not a lot of Jewish events that people talk about," says Joel Wishkovsky, who is helping to organize the party. "People are talking about this."
Friday, December 16, 2011
Borough Park, Brooklyn, the characters encourage interest in television, and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish families who make up her clientele do not watch television. More important, those toys might also teach lessons Hasidic parents don't want their children to learn
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
"With the understanding that these amendments will be passed, I approve these bills," Cuomo wrote. The bill prohibiting insurers from requiring policy-holders to use mail-order pharmacies generated months of heated debate in the Legislature.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
New York City-based Hasidic reggae superstar Matisyahu (ma-tis-YAH’-hoo) is on a new religious path, but it’s unclear which one.
The Jewish singer shaved off his beard and posted the bare-faced photos Tuesday on Twitter. He says on his website he once felt the need for lots of religious rules so he wouldn’t fall apart. Now he says he’s reclaiming himself.
But it’s unclear whether he’s leaving Orthodoxy. He says he’s still going to synagogue each day.
His spokeswoman says he isn’t giving interviews.
Matisyahu was a musical curiosity who became a mainstream star after his 2004 debut, “Shake Off The Dust ... Arise.” He sported the bushy beard, flat-brimmed black hat, black pants and white shirt worn by Hasidic men.
His biggest single, “King Without a Crown,” was a crossover hit.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Lawmaker Anastassia Michaeli insists her proposal isn't aimed at silencing the Muslim call to prayer for religious or political reasons but for environmental reasons: it's too loud.
thousands of mosques is proving more complicated and expensive.