Archive for June, 2012

Sexual Abuse in the Chasidic Community on CNN

CNN’s Anderson Cooper explores the epidemic of sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s chasidic community  — possibly as high as 1 in 5 children — as well as the backlash from the community and allegations that local politicians are protecting abusers: Abuse in the Chasidic Community on CNN

“It was only a matter of time. The national media has picked up the most important story in the orthodox Jewish community of our day. Nothing compares to this. Not Internet bans or Siyum celebrations or kosher hot dogs. This is THE issue of our time.” -Rabbi Eliyahu Fink,


Seeing the Good with the Bad

Many of you, I’m sure, remember Irv Kroll. He was a man who came to worship here 365 days of the year – and he used to say to me from time to time, “Rabbi, come on. I listen to your eulogies and all your plaque dedications. You’re always saying how this one is special and that one’s outstanding and this one is unique … everybody’s so great. Come on, Rabbi, get off of it!” And I would always reply to him, “Don’t worry, Irv. When it comes your turn, I’ll lie about you, too!”

Well, when it came Irv’s turn I didn’t lie about him. I told the truth … he was one of my all-time favorite congregants. And I have to tell you, whenever it is that I say something nice about a person – no matter who they are – it’s not because I’m lying. It’s because I take to heart the words Moses expressed to the 12 spies who went to scout the land of Israel. And because of his words, today I have something nice to say about Queen Elizabeth. READ MORE

BT High School Graduation Address: Make Time for Your People

While I alone stand here, I do not stand alone. I would not be standing here if not for Morty Macks and Haron Dahan. To date they are the ones who gave me the most, yes! But more important, to date they are the ones who taught me the most. I am a Dean and much more because of them. I thank them from the bottom of my heart!

Most every commencement address has two things in common: one, it’s very long and two, it’s very boring. As you will see for yourself, I’m going to take care of the very long part! But to make sure I’m not boring, I decided not to depend on my own words, but on the words that three others who have spoken at commencement addresses.

The first was spoken by the popular writer, Anna Quindlen, whose memoir is now a bestseller. She describes how she once stood up before a graduating class and after looking out at the graduates, her first words were, “Five minutes ago I was you.” I’m not sure all of you will understand what Ms. Quindlen meant, but I can assure you that you will in 50 years! READ MORE

First time, shame on you…

There are some folks who think the Jewish people are nuts! And I am beginning to wonder if they are not right!

Albert Einstein was considered the greatest mind of the 20th century, although it is reported that his wife, in speaking of him, would say: “What does he know?” But he knew a lot! And he came up with a definition of insanity that has become immortalized. It was Einstein who reportedly said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” By that definition, there are people who must think the Jews are insane!

One of them is Thomas Friedman. Thomas Friedman is one of the world’s leading political columnists. His books and his column on the editorial page in the NY Times are read and taken into consideration world-wide by leaders of public and international policy. There are some Jews who consider Mr. Friedman an enemy of Israel. And the truth is, he has written things about Israel that were nasty, inappropriate and downright wrong. But I, for one, do not consider him an enemy of Israel. His first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, is a classic. Anyone interested in the Middle East should read it. Mr. Friedman grew up with a Zionist background, and I think he genuinely cares about the state of Israel, while having a dislike for many of its policies and leaders. He is no fan of Prime Minister Netanyahu. But with Mr. Netanyahu now having control over 96 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, last month Mr. Friedman – feeling that Netanyahu can now do anything he wants – gave him some advice in what to do help reach a settlement with the Palestinians. Friedman’s advice? Don’t wait for the Palestinians to come to the table … Israel should unilaterally pull back from areas in the West Bank that will someday be given over to a Palestinian state. Friedman referred to a peace plan that was advocated a month earlier in an op-ed in the NY Times by two former Israeli security officials. Israel, on its own, should stop all settlement building, pull back to behind its security fence in the West Bank and start to build housing for 100,000 Jewish settlers who would have to be relocated. In return for which, the Palestinians would agree to …? To nothing! It would be a unilateral act on Israel’s part. READ MORE

Presents … and Presence

Our own Rabbi Lerner struck a responsive chord in a sermon he delivered to us last month. In speaking about how he had recently celebrated his wedding anniversary, he pointed out that last year he had taken his wife to Kosher Bite to celebrate their anniversary. She had asked for something a bit more upscale and expensive this year, so for their anniversary Rabbi Lerner took Alison to the Exxon station!

Finding the right gift is not as simple as it sounds, as seen in today’s Torah portion. Today’s Torah portion, Naso, is the longest of all Torah portions, made so because it describes in minute detail the gifts the leaders of each of the twelve tribes brought for the dedication of the Tabernacle. If you look at the gifts you cannot help but notice that they all brought the exact same things: silver dish, silver basin – both filled with flour and oil – a golden pan filled with incense, oxen and goats and lambs. Now it’s true that when you’re in the wilderness your options are limited. There is no bridal registry to look at … no gift cards to make life easier. But you know what? A gift card may be the easiest gift to give, but it’s certainly not the best! You think a bride and groom will think of you when they cash it in? No, for a bride and groom I would recommend a carving board. Yes, a carving board … just like this one! My father-in-law had a friend named Al Robeson, and that is what he gave Sherry and me when we got married. And here it is 47 years later and we’re still using it, and we still recall his name. READ MORE