The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Pot Takes a Break

An important issue has compelled me to revisit my long-dormant blog (I had recently tried coming back to focus on a specific issue but I have been hopelessly busy and it just wasn't happening).

What could that big issue be?

The Pot, of course.

The galus wing of the MoChassid family (most of us, sadly) has just decided to visit, en masse, OOS, his lovely wife, and the rest of his beautiful Israel-based brood for Pesach.  This was brought about in a moment of inspiration by yours truly, MoC himself.  Mrs. MoC (a/k/a MHW), the grounded half of this 31-year-old union, after questioning my sanity, humored me and went along.  The rest of the children, not surprisingly, were thrilled.

But then, late the other night, I had a terrible thought.  A knot grew in my stomach.  

What about The Pot?

We would be abandoning the Pot!  We, who have never gone away for Pesach (except to parents and in-laws and not even that for many, many years) have relied on the Pot for so many years.   It looks forward to it's one day in the sun (ok, under the lights) for 364 days a year.  How could we do this to the Pot? 

But then I thought, perhaps the Pot would be happy for us knowing that we will have the rare opportunity to spend Pesach together in the Land of Our Fathers.  Maybe it even needed a year off.  Perhaps it will appreciate Pesach that much more next year when we return.

I am comforted.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Circling the Wagon's Doesn't Work

As the recent Jerry Sandusky and Catholic leadership cases demonstate, if nothing else, institutions pay a high price for circling the wagons around their child molesters.  It may take years, or even decades, but, eventually, they are done in by protecting these people or trying to sweep their deeds under the carpet.  The Catholic Church has paid out millions of dollars in claims and Penn State University is facing similar liability.  (To say nothing of the irreperable damage done to their reputations).  The same fate awaits those Jewish institutions that are currently engaged in stonewalling.  It is just a matter of time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Live Blogging Another Nail Biter

I just turned on the England - Italy Euro Cup semi-final. 0-0 after 115 minutes. There is simply nothing as exciting as watching two teams do nothing for almost 2 hours! Wow. What a great sport. I can't believe that it hasn't caught on as a spectator sport in the U.S. We must be so much less sophisticated than the Europeans as to not understand the "Beautiful Game". It is true that the fans dress up just as stupidly as NFL fans but they sing songs like nobody's business. I can't wait for the World Cup!

Friday, June 22, 2012

"Murdering the Souls of Children"

From the Wall Street Journal:

PHILADELPHIA—A former senior Roman Catholic Church official accused of failing to protect children from alleged molestation by priests was convicted of one count of child endangerment and acquitted of two other charges.

Amid the priest sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church over the past decade, Monsignor William Lynn is the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to be convicted of criminal charges. He served as secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, a job that included handling allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

The monsignor was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of children and with conspiracy with another priest to endanger the welfare of children. Msgr. Lynn wasn't accused of sexual abuse. He now faces a possible 3½ to 7 years in prison.

The jury wasn't able to reach a verdict in the case of another priest who was overseen by Msgr. Lynn and also on trial, James Brennan. He faced charges of attempted rape and endangering the welfare of a child, in connection with allegations that he abused a teenage boy at his apartment in suburban Philadelphia in 1996. He has pleaded not guilty.

The trial opened a window on how one of the nation's largest Catholic dioceses grappled with the scandal as it shook the broader church in the U.S. and elsewhere. The case has underscored both the success and the shortcomings of the church's handling of abuse allegations.

The Philadelphia district attorney's office credited the diocese with referring some of the allegations at issue in the trial to prosecutors, under strengthened reporting policies the diocese adopted in the past decade.

But a grand-jury report last year blasted the diocese for allowing 37 priests to remain in active ministry despite having "credible" abuse allegations lodged against them. The diocese later placed a majority of the priests on leave as it investigated the allegations, and recently deemed some of them unsuitable for ministry. Msgr. Lynn also was placed on leave from his post as a parish pastor after he was charged last year.

Jurors heard nearly 10 weeks of testimony from more than 60 witnesses, including Msgr. Lynn and alleged abuse victims, and saw hundreds of confidential church documents.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Msgr. Lynn, 61 years old, learned in the 1990s of allegations that Father Brennan and another priest had engaged in inappropriate conduct with minors but failed to keep them out of assignments involving contact with children or to inform parishioners of the allegations. The two priests later sexually abused two boys in separate incidents, prosecutors contend.

The other priest, Edward Avery, pleaded guilty before the trial to charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and was sentenced to 2½ years to five years in prison. Mr. Avery, who has since been defrocked, was accused of engaging in oral sex with a 10-year-old altar boy at a Philadelphia parish in the late 1990s.

Father Brennan didn't testify during the trial but jurors were read his testimony from a 2008 church canonical trial in which he denied sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy. In his testimony, he did say he allowed the boy to view pornography on the priest's computer and that they slept overnight in the same bed. Father Brennan's attorney questioned the accuser's credibility and motives.

Defense attorneys for Msgr. Lynn argued that the charges against him were baseless because he didn't have authority to remove or transfer accused priests in most cases. Prosecutors countered that his failure to restrict the priests' behavior led directly to the alleged abuse of the boys.

Msgr. Lynn testified last month that he did his best to investigate allegations and recommend restrictions on the duties of accused priests. He acknowledged he never called police but that only his superior, the archbishop of Philadelphia, had the authority to remove or transfer priests. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who was the archbishop during most of Msgr. Lynn's tenure as secretary for clergy, wasn't charged. He died in January.

Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington told jurors that the monsignor was the "point man" for carrying out a plan by the Philadelphia diocese to keep in ministry priests accused of sexually abusing children, and to keep the public in the dark about the allegations.

"He and everyone else that protected those pedophile priests were murdering the souls of children," he said in closing arguments.

Msgr. Lynn's attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, told jurors in his closing argument that Msgr. Lynn attempted to improve the diocese's handling of sex-abuse allegations, and did more than his predecessors. "This man, who never touched a child but yet who documented the evil other men did, [prosecutors] want you to convict him for their sins," he said.

So, Where DO We Start?

A few groundrules:

This thread is not about Chareidi bashing.  It is designed to address a specific problem in our tribe.  (It is foolish to believe that, even with the progress the MO world has made, the issue of abuse does not effect that world.  Guess what?  It does).

Consequently, if the conversation degenerates into Chareidi bashing, I will take my marbles and go home.  I am hoping to have a positive, meaningful discussion in which ideas are exchanged and solutions (or at least partial solutions) are sought.

With that as background, I asked a young family therapist I know and respect who deals with these issues where he thought we should start. 

He noted, first, that the blog will attract like minded people and I will likely end up merely preaching to the choir.  He warned me not to aim to high:  The institutional issues are, at least in the short and medium term, intractable.  If I focus on those issues, this will become a screed.

He suggested that the first place I may consider taking the discussion is a focus on the responsibilities that we have as parents. "Parents are the only ones in the entire world whose sole consideration [vis a vis their children] is the well being of their children.  They need to internalize the uncomfortable truth that even the people whom we respect do not have our children's safety at the same level on their priority list".  Unless this fundamental point is digested and believed, it will be difficult to get anything done.

How to do this is the challenge, especially in sectors of our society where there is a very significant reliance on the leadership and where spreading that word would almost necessarily require the cooperation of leadership.

Riding for Fun and Money

Last fall, on the first day of my seventh charity bike ride for ALYN Hospital, I had an epiphany as I was climbing up Kochav HaYarden (Belvoir), the second of two back-to-back monsters. This one was a 3.5 miler with an average grade of 8%. It followed a 6.5 mile climb where the average grade was only 4%. The thought that went through my head was, “Why am I doing this? Is this really fun?” (Ironically, I was riding very well and it wasn’t an issue of my not being able to do the climbs).

At that point, I resolved that I was done. I would not do this again. By “this”, I mean train like a maniac so that I could climb maniacal hills for 5 days in a row.

On the other hand, I felt a responsibility. I have been able to raise between $25K and $33K for most of those rides. That’s not a small chunk of change and I found it hard to walk away from that.

That’s why I decided to do the Bike4Chai ride this year. While it is no walk in the park, the 150 miles over two days seemed manageable. I would be able to moderate my training while still doing the ride.

Then, while I wasn’t looking, they increased the mileage to 185 miles over two days, including 113 miles on the first day.

Moreover, the guys I’ve started riding with on Sundays who are also training for Bike4Chai are every bit as insane as the ALYN Challenge riders. They are also considerably younger and it’s sometimes hard to deal with their macho talk.

Yesterday, I took off a day off from work and rode with MHW up on the North Shore. It was her first real ride on her new road bike (and she's a natural; given a little time, she will be an amazing rider). I know I must be getting soft, but I enjoyed that ride more than just about any ride I’ve had in a long time, even though my heart rate wasn’t 90% of max and we were riding a couple of miles per hour slower than what I’m used to.

I am looking forward to the Bike4Chai ride. At the end of the day, I know it will be fun and I will raise a lot of money. But I won’t be sad when it’s over so that I can go back to riding when I want, how long I want, and how hard I want.

By the way, if you are interested in sponsoring me, click here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where Do We Start?

Like many people I know, I am paradoxically very structured and organized yet, at the same time, very sloppy. Nowhere is this more evident than in my office at work (and, sadly for MHW, my office at home as well). There are piles and piles of paper, journals, trade magazines, pens, pencils, and sticky notes all over my desk. Every so often, when it begins to bother even me, I decide it's time to clean up. But when I assess the situation, I'm usually paralyzed by the thought, "where do I start?". The situation is so out of control that it seems useless to even try since, at best, all I can do is make a dent in the mess. That is basically the situation confronting us with respect to abuse in the Chareidi community. There are so many institutional issues in the way of a solution, from insularity to concerns about shidduchim to a fundamental distrust of outsiders to the influence of kanoim (zealots) to widespread cognitive dissonance (it can't happen here), that one doesn't know where to start. This can easily result in the paralysis I experience when I contemplate cleaning up my hopelessly messy office. Since I don't know where to start, I often don't start. So, the queestion is, "where do we start"? I have been giving that issue some thought and I will try to post some ideas in the near future.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Great Use of Taxpayer Money

While I'm here I might as well vent.  Can somebody explain why the U.S. government felt compelled to prosecute Roger Clemens for perjury on the basis of the testimony of a serial liar?  The incompetence of the prosecution was of biblical proportions.  I have no use for Clemens, but please, use some judgment!  And those who would argue that the only reason he got off the hook was that he could afford to lawyer-up with the top of the line, remember that the amount of money and resources the U.S. Attorney can bring to bear is essentially limitless. 

The Toothpaste is Out of the Tube

Unspeakable - But it must be spoken

I spoke this morning with my first cousin, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz (Yankie, to me).  Yankie suggested that I imagine that the leaders of Woodmere decided that they no longer needed the services of the Nassau County police.  Instead, they would self-police, with the leadership of the town making all final decisions.  Imagine that you are a member of the town and your home was broken into repeatedly.  You called on the Woodmere leadership and they either ignored you or, worse, told you not to complain as publicity about home breakins would be bad for the community and lead to lower property values.  Imagine you finally got fed up after a couple more breakins and went to the police and the police caught the perp.  Imagine that you discovered that your neighbors, who could present evidence against the perp, were being intimidated by the Woodmere leaders not to testify.  Imagine that you discovered that your children were not being accepted to summer camp and could not find a high school that would take them in.

This is more or less the outrageous situation that prevails in many ultra-chareidi neighborhoods.  But the crime isn't house break ins.  It is far, far worse.  It is widespread child abuse.  (The numbers are not important; indeed they are a distraction and I won't be drawn into that discussion.  Anyone who knows anything will admit that the issue is real and the the problem is profound).

MHW and I have been foster parents for 14 years.  We have seen the lasting damage on children that even verbal abuse or neglect can do, to say nothing of sexual abuse.  There is a churban going on and we are at an inflection point.  Courageous people are beginning to force this issue into the open and the least we can do is support them.  The chareidi community must finally be forced to deal with the abusers and the enablers who are murdering our childrens' souls.  They are rotzchim, plain and simple and they must be stopped.  There is no difference between the abusers and the enablers.  They are all murderers.  We cannot be enablers.

Read the following posts.

Here and here
I'm Back for Now

On my way to work this morning I decided to temporarily return to my blog for a very limited purpose.  It's been so long, I didn't even remember my password.  My decision to retire was the right one.  I have been incredibly busy at work and did not have the luxury of tending to this space.  Moreover, MHW was never particularly happy with this blog so walking away from it made her happy.  I am returning for one purpose and one purpose only.  I am not naive as to believe that it will matter (after all my readership was never huge) but I feel that I simply can't stand by on the sidelines when courageous people are raising an issue of huge importance to Klal Yisrael.  It is a time to act and I hope that whatever little I can do will move the ball forward.  My next post will explain what I'm referring to.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm Done - Again

After six years, 1800 posts and two previous "retirements", I am calling it a day.

Because of my present circumstances, I can't really write what I want to write about and, anyway, don't really have the time. In any event, it's not like this space has been much good for a long time.

Most importantly, it will make MHW, who was never particularly comfortable with this, very happy.

I may continue to write, elsewhere, but only about biking.

It's been fun.