Sunday, November 27, 2011

My (Second) Starring Role At The Agudah Convention (UPDATED)

Seven years ago, at the Agudas Yisrael Convention, I was honored to be mentioned by Rabbi Uren Reich, in a now-legendary speech. Yesterday, November 26th (my anniversary!), I was honored to be mentioned once again, this time by Rabbi Shimshon Sherer.

He read out from my Jerusalem Post article on Post-Charedism. There wasn't much substantial criticism; he seemed to feel that merely reading out extracts of my article, with expressions of horror, would suffice to show how wrong it was. If only he knew how many people in the audience identified with it!

But his speech misrepresented what I wrote. He asked the audience to "Listen to what he writes!" as he introduced the reasons that I gave for rejecting Charedi ideology. First of all, he entirely omits the first two reasons that I gave, and instead begins with the third reason. And he read out from my article: "When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable." Rachamana litzlan! he added.

When I heard that, I was somewhat taken aback myself. Had I really written such a thing? I went back and checked what I had written. And I found that I hadn't written that! What I had written was:

"When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, and often “handled” by various assistants (emphasis added), abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable."

He had missed out the crucial phrase!

(UPDATE: I subsequently discovered that the edited version of my essay which appeared in Jerusalem Post had placed the emphasized phrase in parentheses. Personally I still don't think that it was justified for Rabbi Sherer to omit the phrase, but I can understand that others might see it differently.)

Does anyone seriously deny that Gedolim are manipulated by askanim? Jonathan Rosenblum even said so explicitly in Mishpachah! Did Leib Tropper not manipulate Gedolim?! Was it not due to manipulation that Lipa Schmeltzer's concert was irredeemably treife one year and suddenly kosher the next year? Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank wrote about how "young writers who frequent the home of the ancient Rav Yitzchak Yeruham Diskin (may his light shine), for this old man is under the influence of young secretaries... they manipulate him whichever way they please and obtain his signature for all their antics." Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler and other Gedolei Torah recently wrote a letter where they admitted to having signed a letter of condemnation due to being manipulated and fed false information! Rav Aharon Feldman, sitting next to Rabbi Sherer, even wrote a letter in which he attested that Rav Elyashiv had said that about various other Gedolim!

But even if one does personally believe that Gedolim are not manipulated - how is it legitimate to allegedly be quoting my words, and yet to omit a crucial phrase?

Rabbi Sherer: You should do the right thing and apologize for falsifying my words.

(Incidentally, he then quotes, with horror, another sentence from my article: "And a siege mentality developed in which any criticism of haredi society, even coming from the inside, was to be fought or silenced." Little does he know that I learned the phrase "siege mentality" about 15 years ago from none other than Rav Aharon Feldman, sitting next to him, who made this precise point in a criticism of the Israeli Yated!)

To my readers: If you would like to register your displeasure with Agudah, please write to convention@agudathisrael.org.

(Follow this link to see the video on YouTube, at the time when he starts speaking about me.)

69 comments:

  1. A recording is online now at http://talklinecommunications.com/broadcasts/media/2011-11-27_talkline_112611.mp3

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  2. I just posted the link to the relevant part of the YouTube video.

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  3. The fact that your writings continue to gain the attention of the Agudah at their greatest functions - 2 Conventions and the Siyum HaShas - speaks volumes. For all of their puffery and chest banging, Agudists knows that you speak for a growing faction within chareidi circles. That Rabbi Sherrer would devote a substantial portion of his address at the keynote to you, is the greatest form of flattery and a testament to the magnitude of the movement that you are a part of.

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  4. Please see the further updates to the post.

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  5. No one corrected him! I wonder what that means....

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  6. Not only does he misquote you, but he asks questions that you specifically answered in the essay! "I don't know what magazine he is referring to." You specified it in the article - Mishpacha!

    Either Sherer is deliberately misquoting you, which is simply a sheker of the worst kind, or he was given this piece to read by others (his "handlers"), which actually proves your point that such handlers cause "abuses of rabbinic power"!

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  7. Rabbi Slifkin, Are you telling us that when you said:"When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, and often “handled” by various assistants, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable."

    You meant that when rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, and not often “handled” by various assistants, abuses of rabbinic power are not inevitable?

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  8. I'll have to give that scenario some thought. But meanwhile, let's focus on what I ACTUALLY wrote.

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  9. "or Sherer was given this piece to read by others (his "handlers"), which actually proves your point that such handlers cause abuses of rabbinic power".
    Dear Hedyot, you are wrong!
    Sherer does not need someone else to read the vernacular to him.
    He is the culprit himself who misleads the E.Y. Rabbonim who don't read english.

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  10. He definitely did not quote it full but I always take supposedly exact quotes with a grain of salt. Everyone should. It happens all the time deliberately and not deliberately.

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  11. > And he read out from my article: "When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable." Rachamana litzlan! he added.

    The selective quoting aside, that’s still a reasonable statement. Unless, of course, you believe that roshei yeshiva are saintly infallible paragons of virtue imbued with the divine wisdom of daas torah.

    Rachamana litzlan that you could think even for a moment that these great tzadikim are like you and me, and might let the power their chashivus go to their heads! Don’t you know that they are great anavim, and everything they do is l’shaim somayim! That you could suggest that a gadol might abuse his position is mamesh shocking, and shows how krum your thinking has become!

    What do you mean, incredulity and horror are not arguments?

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  12. > Dear Hedyot, you are wrong!
    Sherer does not need someone else to read the vernacular to him.
    He is the culprit himself who misleads the E.Y. Rabbonim who don't read english.


    That was my first option, where I said, "Sherer is deliberately misquoting you."

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  13. "The selective quoting aside, that’s still a reasonable statement."

    What pray tell does being integrated with the "larger society as a whole" have to do with abuse of power?

    Have no worldly politicians ever abused their power? Have no scientists ever abused their power?

    You can be 100% isolated, and as long as your community has open access to what you do and how you do things and you have open access to your community, abuse of power is mostly kept in check.

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  14. G*3 said...
    "Rachamana litzlan that you could think even for a moment that these great tzadikim are like you and me, and might let the power their chashivus go to their heads! Don’t you know that they are great anavim, and everything they do is l’shaim somayim! That you could suggest that a gadol might abuse his position is mamesh shocking, and shows how krum your thinking has become!

    What do you mean, incredulity and horror are not arguments?"

    He wasn't using it to prove a point. It was his point. I could by the same token as your statement say "What do you mean, disdain and mocking are not arguments?" which you would certainly argue to him.

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  15. You have impressed me by your dishonesty, especially when it's there for us all to see! He left out a "crucial" part of the sentence....so crucial that a special place had been reserved for it, smack in the middle of a pair of parentheses! It is entirely reasonable for Rabbi Sherer to assume that words written in a way that is usually meant as an aside (something parentheses are often used for) were exactly thus; as an aside! This is shameful!

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  16. While I totally identify with you and your cause, you need to admit that the phrase “and often 'handled' by various assistants,” was published in parentheses in the Jerusalem Post version, so it is not so dishonest to omit it.
    I think that ignoring the fact that you specified Mishpacha is more dishonest.

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  17. Wow. You touched a nerve!

    A couple of poignant quotes, starting at 13m56s and continuing in part 2...

    "Total subservience to Daas Torah, is not a democratic right - it is Divinely ordained."

    "Our Gedolei Torah... are not lehavdil political candidates open for pundits to spin and opine"

    "We need not explain their Daas Torah positions."


    Rav Sherer articulates it very well actually, and I think it bears taking to heart. The Charedi system is coming from a COMPLETELY different place than the non-Charedi world.

    The Charedi world is NOT a haven for democracy, and all the trappings thereof, such as external and/or self-critique, answering to the desires/needs of the people, listening to their voices. It's a theocracy. The Gedolei Torah are Divine emissaries, not to have their words, wisdom, life, opinions or decrees questioned in any way.

    "Total subservience" is a very, very different paradigm from what most modern thinking Jews (and probably a certain percentage of the Charedi world) are operating from. And from that standpoint we can understand their scathing critique of any insubordination or noncompliance. We can understand their not explaining their positions. R. Sherer makes it perfectly clear! All of this is 100% expected and in line with their philosophy.

    So perhaps a good line of research then would be to look at the legitimacy/exclusivity of this philosophy from a Torah standpoint. For instance, what are the halachic parameters of "Do not veer from what they tell you right or left"?

    If it doesn't match up with the Aguda position, then we have what to argue. But if it does, I think we have to face the fact that in some sense we are parting ways with certain aspects of Torah, a level of non-questioning compliance which we can no longer abide by in life and/or in good conscience.

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  18. you are being dishonest as you know that the comment about handlers are in parenthesis

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  19. I see both sides.

    Agudah is trying to instill pure emunas chachamim and Daas Torah and a love for Torah and Yiddishkeit. However, if you speak about a possible problem of leadership(even one in the past) in an open and two-sided manner, it harms this.

    Furthermore, they feel that there is a lot of Haredi-bashing and Gedolim-bashing on the internet. No doubt Haredi and Gedolim's positions are not potrayed as fairly and as positively as they can be--there is a lot of positive to the Haredi way of life and to the leadership of the Gedolim.

    On the other hand, if you take away people's rationality and for example, you don't quote someone fully and accurately when criticizing him(even if, understandably, you don't want to bring up a can of worms in public), this can harm Emunah as well for more rationalist people.

    For what its worth, Micah Oddenheimer in an article in 2005 in Haaretz("Only in America") quoted anomymous, respected members of the Lakewood community that shows that there were complex issues of "chanoch l'naar al pi darko" involved in the bans of MOAG and R. Slifkin's books:

    "The leadership is aware that it is walking a tightrope," I was told by one Lakewood intellectual, whose shelves hold books on Biblical archaeology and the latest scientific theories. "There are many different layers to the Haredi community. Here in Lakewood you have a community with thousands of people but no TV, no radio, no free press, and no magazines. Some people are very sophisticated intellectually - for them that won't work. But other people need the insularity - they couldn't handle things that might undermine their faith. So how do you balance a sophisticated worldview with the need to keep things under wraps? This balancing act requires a certain amount of control, to protect the general public from harm. One result of this is that you don't have the checks and balances you need. It would be healthy for the Haredi world to have more freedom of press to check the unlimited power of the leadership. But a totally free press - you can't have it. So you have an official line, and reality, and they balance each other out."

    Another Lakewood scholar, who considers himself a moderate, told me that people like him have to learn to express themselves with caution. "There is a certain amount of intimidation. If you get a groundswell of people against you, calling you a kofer (a heretic), it can be a problem."

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  20. Interesting... even with the speaker's edits, he did give voice to at least one of the article's main points, which is that the lack of a venue for criticism.

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  21. how ironic. In this week's Hebrew Mishpacha, Moshe Grylak writes that "When rabbinic authority is ... “handled” by various assistants, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable." Not exactly in this language, but that's his point.

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  22. On one hand, one gets the impression that the higher levels of the Agudah still don't understand the power of the internet. Time was one could malign someone by misquoting him, safe in the knowledge that most of the audience would not make the effort to look up the original and check the veracity of the criticism. Now all it takes is a few mouse clicks yet still they persist in the old tacts.

    On the other hand, they have an e-mail address? Isn't that a wee bit hypocritical?

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  23. "When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, and often “handled” by various assistants, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable." He had missed out the crucial phrase!


    Methinks the Rabbi doth protest too much.

    I suspect many, perhaps you as well, use unnamed “askanim” to deflect criticism from the Gedolim, or, perhaps, to criticize the Gedolim in a safe, socially acceptable manner.

    And, they should be criticized, directly, when they fail to exercise responsible leadership. Being “manipulated” goes hand-in-hand with leadership. (I recall reading stories as a youth of ancient kings walking among their subjects in disguise so as not to be manipulated by their “askanim”.) Supposed “manipulation” does not relieve a leader of his responsibility to be properly informed before acting.

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  24. You have to be impressed that someone is sitting at the Agudah Convention - which is not cheap - taking videos and putting them on YouTube. I know, Mtz"sh was free. But the Rabbi Schorr one was on Thursday, and that session was not open to the public.

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  25. I have to say something about the Jewish Observer to which. R. Sherer refers. First, on the positive side, when they went out of business and realized they were not going to come back, they sent me back many years of unused subscription money. This is noteworthy because I've never had such good middos from any other publisher in other similar situations. I want to really say that this attention to the customer was a kiddush HaShem.

    Something that was actually a chillul HaShem should be corrected in the Agudah world view. Unbeknownst to me, the Slifkin affair was happening. Our family received the most stupendoulsy anti-knowledge, ignorant, and strident edition of any magazine I've ever seen. Article after article, each filled with what I can only say was a "swaggering" display of ignorance about science fundamentals. Your link to R. Uren Reich could have been an abstract for many of these articles.

    I believe R. Sherer says it was NOT the Jewish Observer that pushed people away from the Agudah point of view. But I assure you that it was EXACTLY the Jewish Observer articles that came out at that time that permanently pushed my family away from any interest in Agudah points of view. Of course, we were not Charedi....and were even unaware of what that really meant. But I love learning widely from honest scholars. However, if someone is going to swagger around with pseudoscientific prerequisites or refer to the reality based world in negative terms, they are promoting a chillul HaShem. Let me just say that the Jewish Observer anti-science articles of that time were written by people who prided themselves in their ignorance and were too arrogant to say "no" when asked to explicate a subject upon which they clearly knew nothing relevant.

    Gary Goldwater

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  26. I wish I had something to say that could help. I'm afraid all I can say is not to support the Augudah or their members if they don't stand for what you do. Which means don't ever give them money, don't acknowledge their leaders in your communities, and find ways to expose any ethical violations. They have no power or control over your lives unless you let them.

    Like all political groups, which they are, make no mistake about that. They mainly care about, Control, Power, Money and pushing their agenda. Torah values and truth are way down on the list of important ideals.

    Shalom,

    Rabbi Simon

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  27. Rabbi Sherer also expressed unhappiness with a Cross Current article (though in a somewhat-friendly way, by saying "yedidi") for it being said regarding reporting abuse to the police that

    "if your Rav doesn't get it, try to find a new one".

    However, Rabbi Olebaum of Queens said the **exact same thing**, according to a conversation with Tzvi Gluck on 11/20/11 Zev Brenner show(1:14:30, available online on Zev Brenner's archives).

    "For those that say you need to speak to a Rav--no problem. But if your Rav tells you not to report, this is the only time that I'll tell you go find another Rav, and go find another Rav, untill you get a Rav who says to report..."

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  28. When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, and often “handled” by various assistants, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable

    ...

    I wonder if there is a tone issue here. or you are going into hyperbole.

    inevitable is a strong word. are haredi handlers incapabable of being honest. ?

    one does not condemn an orchard for one bad apple or branch.

    the cases you bring do not prove your point that it is invariably so.

    what about:
    abuses of rabbinic power are likely,or have been known to happen

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  29. I must say that I didn't notice that the Jerusalem Post put that phrase in parentheses until now. But while that ever-so-slightly mitigates Rabbi Sherer's crime, it does not remove it.

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  30. I just added the following to the post:
    Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler and other Gedolei Torah recently wrote a letter where they admitted to having signed a letter of condemnation due to being manipulated and fed false information!

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  31. "you are being dishonest as you know that the comment about handlers are in parenthesis "

    Is an article in the Jerusalem Post the Vilna Shas? Since when are parentheses supposed to be omitted?

    Either way, which Daas Torah did Rabbi Sherer listen to when he recounted how he spent a couple of hours watching U2 videos on YouTube so that he could be informed to give his drasha denouncing the Park Easy Synagogue for hosting Bono?

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  32. RNS:

    I hope that you do not take these attacks personally.

    What we have going on in the Charedi world is an age-old tactic of authoritarian regimes.

    Rav Miller's calling you the greatest threat to the Jewish world; AMI magazine's attack on the "imposters among us: RYA's attack on the "Far-Left"

    These are all of a piece.

    To divert attention from corruption and failings in their midst they create an external enemy to attack .

    This is what dictatorial arab government have done with Israel and the US for years and it is what Charedi leaders are doing today.

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  33. Rabbi Slifkin, with all due respect, you have to at minimum issue a correction in your post or possibly rewrite it. When I read "And I found that I hadn't written that!" I immediately jumped over to the Jerusalem Post and Vozisneis versions of your article to see if they indeed had included your comments. In there version it was in parentheses. A parenthetical statement (and indeed an interrupter, which your surrounding commas seemed to denote) is one that can be removed without changing the meaning of a statement.

    If you really would have objected to "When rabbinic authority is vested in yeshiva deans who are isolated from wider society, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable" you should have demanded that your editor change it back to your intended meaning. If they refused to consult you pre-publication, you should have demanded that they take down a piece distorting your words.

    You've accused someone of distorting your words who clearly did not distort your words. This deserves a retraction.

    I think it was a good article, with or without the parentheses, and I still think you can find plenty of Sherer's words to argue with. As it is you're demanding "Rabbi Sherer: You should do the right thing and apologize for falsifying my words," when he should be demanding an apology for misrepresenting his actions.

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  34. "Natan Slifkin said...

    I must say that I didn't notice that the Jerusalem Post put that phrase in parentheses until now. But while that ever-so-slightly mitigates Rabbi Sherer's crime, it does not remove it."

    Crime? If it is a crime I think he did it to avoid the impression of Gedolim being handled. Rabbi Sherer accurately said what you meant unless in light of our above comments to each other by "When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, and often “handled” by various assistants, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable." you meant "When rabbinic authority is invested in yeshivah deans who are isolated from wider society, and at least “handled” by various assistants, abuses of rabbinic power are inevitable and perhaps even when not handled."

    Ok you've made it clear. You are not Chareidi, are on the offensive, are taking no prisoners and any defense by the Chareidi enemy will just be discounted as partisan polemics by benighted foes. You have crossed the Rubicon Rabbi Slifkin. I for one am not happy by the strict lines being drawn up by many of the sides at least including yours.

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  35. ...R Silfkiin wrote: I just added the following to the post: Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler and other Gedolei Torah recently wrote a letter where they admitted to having signed a letter of condemnation due to being manipulated and fed false information!....

    This speaks to the heart of the problem. If these people who many call Gedolim can be so easily manipulated what are they really worth to the community. How in the world can they sign anything knowing the weight their word carries. What happened to a proper investigation, getting evidence and interviewing all sides and making a correct pasak?

    Where in the Torah is "hear say" permissible or their Secretaries word? So called Torah giants don't know better?

    Mind Blowing.

    Shalom,

    Rabbi Simon

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  36. "For those that say you need to speak to a Rav--no problem. But if your Rav tells you not to report, this is the only time that I'll tell you go find another Rav, and go find another Rav, untill you get a Rav who says to report..."

    What kind of idiotic nonsense is this - look for a rabbi so he can tell you what you already know?? Truly, this fetish they preach about constantly running to professional rabbis has now reached once-unthinkable heights of stupidity.

    I wish someone can enlighten me, because I truly dont get it. What on earth are they doing that they must go to a rabbi so often? I'm a pretty normal, frum, yeshiva product the son of a yeshivah product, and I've maybe had two shailos in ten years. And I dont remember ever seeing or hearing my father go to our rabbi. And we dont "hate" rabbis, have no agendas, we are simply normal ballebattishe people. Somebody please tell me: what kind of lives are people leading that they must speak to their rabbis so often? Who are these people? Are they all ballei teshuvah?

    I think this goes to what David Meir said earlier. Only its not in the future, its already here. If Shimshin Sherer represents the view of agudah - because in truth, I doubt most agudists would agree with him, but if he does - then we've already become two separate people. This man thinks mindless obedience is the hallmark of an observant Jew. Wow! Its scary how this man, a rabbi yet!, is not embarassed to say something so stupid.

    The REAL Yisroel Sabba

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  37. Dishonesty and intimidation in the name of daas Torah?!

    These well-meaning people are making a huge chillul Hashem.

    I am a charedi, but these people do not speak for me, and unfortunately though they think they are doing the opposite, they are degrading Torah and dragging it down

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  38. S., I think the hired videographer uploaded the video to youtube.

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  39. After watching the youtube clip I second Menachem Lipkin's want.

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  40. I emailed a complaint to the Agudah (convention@agudathisrael.org). I encourage others to do the same.

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  41. For example:
    Slifkin said...
    I must say that I didn't notice that the Jerusalem Post put that phrase in parentheses until now. But while that ever-so-slightly mitigates Rabbi Sherer's crime, it does not remove it.

    Crime? The only "crime" here is rabbi slifkins pathetic attempt to hide behind his nefarious attempt to sidestep Rabbi sherer's valid criticism.
    There was clearly no attempt by R' sherer to misquote the JP article. On the contrary, had r' slifken actually listened to the full speech he would have heard the example articulated by R' sherer, showing Rav aron kotler's ztl refusal to accept a newspapers accusation that Gedolim were manipulated by their handlers ,perfectly refuting R' slifkens absurd hypothesis.
    After hearing the whole speech it is clear and obvious why R' slifken panicked and tried to muddy the speech by R' sherer.
    R' Sherer called him out for the disgraceful treatment he heaped upon gedolim And if anyone it is R' slifken who committed a crime. Now that I'm thinking about, it is R' slifken who owes R' sherer and all of the yeshiva deans he so tragically libel's, an apology.

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  42. Quite amusing, though Rabbi Perlow looks pretty bored or pained. I don't understand the dynamics of the Agudah, and why Rabbi Perlow can't stop him from speaking. The last time I was at one of their siyum hashas's, shortly after Rabbi Perlow gave a long (English) speech about unity in the frum community, Elya Svei gave one of his signature rants (in Yiddish), and Rabbi Metzger hesitated a few times in translation, almost embarrassed.

    At least I have a new pshat in "vhi she'amdah."

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  43. Ameteur said...
    > What pray tell does being integrated with the "larger society as a whole" have to do with abuse of power?

    Nothing in particular. But as they say, power corrupts…

    YA said...
    > He wasn't using it to prove a point. It was his point.

    Then I must admit that I didn’t quite get his point. The point seems to be that R’ Slifkin writes horrible things, and he read the quote as an example. But simply reading a quote with a horrified expression doesn’t show that what is quoted is horrible.

    > I could by the same token as your statement say "What do you mean, disdain and mocking are not arguments?"

    But I wasn’t making an argument. I was expressing my disdain by mocking, something which is juvenile but uniquely satisfying. I wasn’t attempting to demonstrate that R’ Sherer is wrong. R’ Sherer, on the other hand, seems to be trying to use the quote to demonstrate that R’ Slifikin writes horrible things.

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  44. The retraction letter is a forgery call Reb Malkiel to verify for yourself.

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  45. It seems.... significant.... that Rabbi Sherer doesn't present a counterargument to the claims in the Jerusalem Post article, but rather quotes them indignantly as if he views their recitation as an ipso facto refutation.

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  46. Wingate,

    R. Sherer DOES state a refutation. He says you can't argue against "Daas Torah" - i.e. you can't point out what's wrong with the Charedi world or choose to leave it. I'll quote him again:

    "Total subservience to Daas Torah, is not a democratic right - it is Divinely ordained."

    "We need not explain their Daas Torah positions. And certainly we do not, and should not, apologize for Daas Torah that comes out of Agudas Yisroel."


    So IN PRINCIPLE, he does not have to, and "should not", answer R. Slifkin's critiques of Charedi leadership, ideas, rulings, positions, etc.

    Again, I think the way to approach this is to study the very principle R. Sherer (and presumably many/most of his contemporaries) is operating from. For instance:

    1. How is "Daas Torah" defined, either in halachic terms or otherwise?

    2. Who qualifies as "Divinely ordained" to issue Daas Torah?

    3. What does "total subservience" mean? Are there limitations on this, exceptions?

    4. What happens if the "Daas Torah" of one community/group/organization differs with another?

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  47. I am sure you remember the endorsment R.Elyashiv signed for Lior Chen.
    The family then claimed that R.Elyashiv was manipulated into signing it.

    http://www.kikarhashabat.co.il/%D7%90%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A8-%D7%97%D7%9F-2.html

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  48. There mere fact that Agudah chooses to criticize R Slifkin means that they still see him as part of orthodox community. If he is really a heretic than who cares that he is not charedi. It seems that by attacking him for not being pro charedi, Agudah "approved" his science and torah positions. Almost - open rebuke and hidden love - by Agudah of R Slifkin. I do not think Agudah criticizes conservative Jews for being anti charedi.

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  49. "G*3 said...
    YA said...
    > He wasn't using it to prove a point. It was his point.

    Then I must admit that I didn’t quite get his point. The point seems to be that R’ Slifkin writes horrible things, and he read the quote as an example. But simply reading a quote with a horrified expression doesn’t show that what is quoted is horrible."

    True but he wasn't claiming his horrified expression was proof that what was quoted was horrible. He was doing the same as when say an environmentalist expresses horror without expressing detail at abuse of the environment.

    "> I could by the same token as your statement say "What do you mean, disdain and mocking are not arguments?"

    But I wasn’t making an argument. I was expressing my disdain by mocking, something which is juvenile but uniquely satisfying. I wasn’t attempting to demonstrate that R’ Sherer is wrong. R’ Sherer, on the other hand, seems to be trying to use the quote to demonstrate that R’ Slifikin writes horrible things."

    Yeah the quote was quoted to show that Rabbi Slifkin wrote something horrible from a theological perspective but his horrified expression was not meant as the proof he was right. If I read a quote say that all people of a different race are to use separate facilities and express my disdain for that recommendation I am not claiming my disdain is proof. I am certainly making a statement that the quote is proof of something I disapprove of as being wrong to a greater degree than the thought of me eating borscht:).

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  50. Your statement is true and important with or without the part about "handlers" (and whether its in parenthesis or not). What I find interesting is the fact that he davka did not include that part of the quote when he read it. Forget about misquoting - the meaning of what you wrote wasn't really distorted and I don't think he was trying to distort what you said. I think the much bigger issue is why did he not want to mention that part of it in the setting he was in? IMO it hits a bit too close to home perhaps. IOW there's a subconscious motivation for why that part is not said. Hint: handlers were also in attendance

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  51. Unfortunately, you, Rabbi Slifkin are taking a lot of hits for the rest of us. You and your writing have unintentionally stirred up the pot of Charedi/Yeshivish discontent. But with or without you there is that discontent. And it is wide spread.
    I was a bit surprised by your request to lodge a complaint with Agudah. I don't see them as representing me anymore. I don't think my complaint would make any difference to them. They understand what they are doing and do not intend to stop.
    The best protest against this sort of thing is to continue the open dialogue in Torah study and social, and spiritual issues. More and more people are joining this dialogue and people like you and the rest of your readers are helping the pendulum swing back to the rational center.

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  52. "For those that say you need to speak to a Rav--no problem. But if your Rav tells you not to report, this is the only time that I'll tell you go find another Rav, and go find another Rav, untill you get a Rav who says to report..."

    What kind of idiotic nonsense is this - look for a rabbi so he can tell you what you already know?? Truly, this fetish they preach about constantly running to professional rabbis has now reached once-unthinkable heights of stupidity.


    From context I think he was speaking tongue-in-cheek: "Don't bother with the Rabbi; but if you think you must, make sure and find one who will tell you to do the obvious."

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  53. Steve (how come yeshivish guys always use an English name online?)

    "On the contrary, had r' slifken actually listened to the full speech he would have heard the example articulated by R' sherer, showing Rav aron kotler's ztl refusal to accept a newspapers accusation that Gedolim were manipulated by their handlers ,perfectly refuting R' slifkens absurd hypothesis."

    Uh, that doesn't refute it. R. Aharon Kotler didn't accept that he (or others) were being manipulated by handlers? What the heck does that prove? And besides, he is gone 49 years. What was or wasn't happening then doesn't tell us what is or isn't happening now.

    You can't answer the charge that Daas Torah is phony by saying "Daas Torah says it isn't!"

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  54. Wrestling: you are right on.
    These Agudah people will have to wrestle with much more than a couple of orthodox "rationalists" in the near future.
    The internet opened a real flood gate of info.
    This will eventually take to task this Agudah-made new fangled concept of "Daas Torah". This idea was originally introduced in the 20th century by the "Jewish Observer" of blessed memory.
    In previous times, each Rov of a small city had a set of Shulchan Oruch & paskened according to his talmudic wisdom.
    Shaalos of Agunos were sent to the Rov of the large city.
    Now a card carrying Agudah member needs "Daas Torah" for naming one's baby.

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  55. I find it very interesting that he lacked the guts to name Mishpacha by name. I guess there's only so many open-minded frum people you are allowed to antagonize in any speech.

    As a side point, that is not really side point, I remember almost 20 years ago, as a (then) rightward leaning YU student, talking about visiting the Agudah convention with my peers. There were gedolim there who had what to say and we found it compelling. Looking at this year's poster, I was surprised (Not really) at how few true Gedolim are left and how few meaningful topics are left. Thank G-d for you R'Natan or no one would be talking about their convention at all.

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  56. To Professor Kaplan,
    You wrote on a previous post, outraged that people were attacking R' Slifkin, and you indicated that you thought these people MUST not have clicked on the links. Why are you not back trumpeting your disapproval of 56 (!!) comments only a small handful of which actually seemed to have clicked on the link and noticed the misrepresentation! Might I suggest you are somewhat biased sir?

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  57. Is anyone else struck by the irony, in a speech that talks about "isms", that Rabbi Sherer repeatedly refers to himself as an "Agudist?" Not to mention the irony of the name of the organization itself, since Chazal interpreted "lo tigodedu" as "lo ta'asu agudot agudot." I guess the response is, one Agudah?

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  58. Bob: Where did I express outrage? To th contrary, I said that although R. Slifkin was certainly not guilty of plagiarism and he did link twice to Dr. Lebovits' aritlce, he mght have done better to explicitly state that he was playing off it.

    I ma imnpresse how R. Slikin modifies his psots in response to ciritcim unlike most of his critics, not to mention most of the Haredi world. But then, evidently, it would be a violation of Daas Torah to do so.

    By the way, the defenders of Rabbi Sherer have not addressed his supposedly not knowing the msgazine R. Slifkin was referring to, when in all versions of the article mishpachah is mentioned.

    Also, I do not know if it has been metioned that among other illegitimate ideologies, along with Reform, Conservatism, etc., R. Sherer mentioned "Centrist Orthodoxy" So now YU is treif!

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  59. I do not think Agudah criticizes conservative Jews for being anti charedi.

    Wrestling - Well, then you haven't read much Agudah literature over the past 30 years, or heard many Agudah speeches. The Agudah spent the better part of 50 years criticizing the Conservative for everything they could, including (but not limited to) being Anti-Charedi, not strictly adhering to the mitzvah of tying one's shoes properly, and other important issues. (In fact, there was some study done in the 1950’s which predicted that Conservative Judaism would be the strongest faction in the next 50-100 years, and Orthodoxy would die out. The Agudah (and all of Orthodoxy) felt understandably threatened by this, and the Agudah never let up their criticism of the Conservative movement, until even recently, when it was very clear to all observers that Conservative Judaism is a dying faction and Orthodoxy has far surpassed it in numbers.)

    I think Rabbi Sherer's taking the time to criticize Rabbi Slifkin (and his writing) at the Agudah Convention demonstrates the obvious - that they feel threatened by Rabbi Slifkin, or more importantly, that they feel threatened by what they perceive Rabbi Slifkin to represent - a fast growing number of Chareidi adults who are finding themselves more and more discontented and disenchanted with Chareidi Judaism (and Yeshivish life and Yeshivish leadership).

    I agree with Chayim about Rabbi Slifkin taking the hit for the rest of us. Rabbi Slifkin has a name and address which can be targeted. When they get up there and scream terrible things about anonymous bloggers, it lacks a punch, and doesn't bother or hurt anyone. And more importantly there is then no real Enemy to gang up against. Rabbi Slifkin provides a face and a name so that an enemy can be identified.

    Anyway, they are fighting a losing battle if they think that all the dangers are coming from the outside, or from Rabbi Slifkin. They need to look in the mirror, and see and admit to their mistakes. Then they need to fix those mistakes very quickly. Rabbi Slifkin is not the enemy; he is an Orthodox Jew and he is pointing out the obvious. At the end of the day there are hundreds of young boys and girls from excellent Yeshivish (American Chareidi) families who are going off the derech in staggering numbers. Neither Rabbi Slifkin nor any bloggers are leading them there; obviously something is causing them to leave, or turning them off from staying in the fold. And it's not an article, or even a (gasp!) blog.

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  60. ever wonder why there are only pro-slifkin comments here? That's because he deletes all others.

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  61. "Michapeset said...

    I do not think Agudah criticizes conservative Jews for being anti charedi.

    Wrestling - Well, then you haven't read much Agudah literature over the past 30 years, or heard many Agudah speeches. The Agudah spent the better part of 50 years criticizing the Conservative for everything they could, including (but not limited to) being Anti-Charedi, not strictly adhering to the mitzvah of tying one's shoes properly, and other important issues."

    I guatrantee you they didn't spend 50 years talking about shoes. Viewing it that way is anachronistic and contradictory if you are then to note with others a shift to the right. You can't on one hand say the Chareidim are guilty of emphasizing things that they innovated and simultaneously have them fighting the Conservative over every little thing as if Boro Park in the 1950s would be spared. How can one condemn the Conservative for supposed laxity on the level you describe when it took a while to get the Chareidi world on the level of emphasizing chumra on a scale you identify? Even a few decades ago learning in Kollel was not the Litvish Chareidi thing everyone did if they could. In Boro Park stores were open on Shabbos in the 1950s and Jews and Italians shared Boro Park. There were other challenges then than learning to tie shoes which many Chareidim I doubt check.

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  62. Also, I do not know if it has been metioned that among other illegitimate ideologies, along with Reform, Conservatism, etc., R. Sherer mentioned "Centrist Orthodoxy" So now YU is treif!

    Not just treif but "omdim aleinu l'chaloseinu"!!

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  63. YA – You may have missed the humor intended in my referring to the tying of shoes. The point was “The Agudah spent the better part of 50 years criticizing the Conservative for everything they could”. The tying the shoes reference was the humor used to illustrate that the relentless criticism the Agudah voiced towards the Conservative was for every little thing they could possibly come up with.

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  64. "Michapeset said...

    YA – You may have missed the humor intended in my referring to the tying of shoes. The point was “The Agudah spent the better part of 50 years criticizing the Conservative for everything they could”. The tying the shoes reference was the humor used to illustrate that the relentless criticism the Agudah voiced towards the Conservative was for every little thing they could possibly come up with."

    I did see you were using it as a humorous metaphor. My point was they were not just hurling anything at the Conservatibves. Also the Conserevatives were guilty of a lot of AntiOrthodox and AntiChareidi bashing, scapegoating for the problems in their midst. As long as the people went to synagogue that was enough for the leadership of the movement. Their first scapegoat for the resultant ignorance, assimilation and intermarriage? Their own congregants. There was no top to down leadership in the movement and now its paying the price in an era in which there are not enough immigrants to replace those leaving.

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  65. Professor Kaplan you wrote on the blog entitled Bat responsa revisited:
    Anonymous said...
    Did the people criticizing R. Slifkin actually link to the quotes he provides?

    Lawrence Kaplan

    Why are you so biased as to not ask the same question here?! (btw are you the professor Lawrence Kaplan who translated "Halachik Man" among others? )

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  66. Bob: Anonymous Nov. 29, 12:02 am, was I. I thought you were referring to my response to Dr. Lebovits.

    In the Bat article people criticized R. Slifkin for mocking the Rabbis and scholars he referred to, when had they checked the links he provided, they would have seen that he was almost verbatim citing their own words.

    Here if one clicks on the link in "My (Second) Starring Role" what comes up is R. Slifkin's own article on "The Making of Post-Charedism." Only if one will then click on the link in THAT article to the Jerslam Post version of the article and carefully check it, will one find out that the phrase about handlers in the JP version was placed in parentheses.

    Personally, on the issue of R. Sherer's speech I think R. Slifkin overreacted. The question as to how accurately R. Slifkin was quoted or not is a side show. The real issue is R. Sherer's extreme doctrine of Daas Torah, and his "'Shut up!' he explained" philosophy.


    I am, indeed, the translator of Ish ha-Halakhah.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  67. Why does anyone care what Shimshie Sherer has to say.
    He is in no way Daas Torah nor does he represent it.

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  68. Michapeset said...

    I do not think Agudah criticizes conservative jews for being anti haredi, it criticizes them for not being orthodox. I am just assuming. I never heard any Agudah speech except for R Sherer. So I assumed that by attacking him for being post charedi, they imply that he is still orthodox, otherwise they should have attacked him for being a heretic.

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