Friday, May 18, 2007

Distortion for the Sake of Practice

I believe in honesty.

Perhaps more importantly, I believe in trust.

I think that one of the most important qualities to develop with children, parents and friends is that of trust. Trust is based in truth. Trust means that I will tell you the truth and you will tell me the truth, that you will not play me or lie to me, even if you think it is for my own good. Trust means that you will not betray me. Trust means that I can respect you because you are honest with me and I am honest with you. Trust means that I will not manipulate you and you will not manipulate me.

This is trust.

The hardest thing to forgive another is a breach of trust. How can you forgive that? You thought that person was someone you could respect and who respected you, someone who would keep his promises and his word, who would not betray you. And now he has. How can you return to where you were?

My father once mentioned that those people who grew up in a situation where they could not trust their parents- for whatever reason- it does not have to mean that their parents were cruel, but perhaps they played "jokes" at the children's expense, they made promises they never intended to keep- have a much harder time when it comes to connecting to God. It makes sense. A child believes what you tell him. A child believes you. You have an awesome amount of responsibility and power; if you lie to a child, he will remember, and he will learn not to trust you. I know this for myself and I especially know it because of my siblings.

My parents have never lied to us. They never make a promise that they do not keep; in fact, they try not to promise at all. We have some relatives who once came here and told my siblings that they were "going to take them to Disneyworld" and would "buy them a car when they grew up." My siblings took it very seriously and my parents were upset with the relatives. My parents don't like lies or promises that are not fulfilled.

In terms of the religious world, trust and honesty is extremely important. The person who is worthy is a person who is truthful, not a person who lies. And this brings us to the idea of distortion for the sake of practice.

I did not realize this before, but distortion for the sake of practice occurs on both sides of the religious spectrum. To wit, we have websites like:

1. Frumteens. The Frumteens Moderator is an extremely "Orthodox" Jew who perverts, misquotes and misuses Torah in an attempt to convert everyone over to his position and point of view. He is very sneaky and very misleading because oftentimes his proofs are correct but they are quotes taken out of context or they completely ignore the validity or existence of other opinions. He also censors the content on the website; if anyone tries to put up a post in which they describe the validity of other opinions, he does not allow it. This leaves teenagers with the impression that nobody has the ability to argue with the Frumteens Moderator and his opinion is the last word on the subject.

Frumteens distorts Torah for the sake of practice. He wants children to follow the Torah and more specifically to follow it in a certain way; it is for that reason that he distorts it and misleads others. He means it for the good. He means it in order to bring others closer to Judaism and to following the laws in the way which he sees as being halakhically right. It is for this reason that he deliberately makes no reference to many other valid opinions.

2. This is a new website put out by the OU and NCSY in order to promote abstinence among Jewish teenagers. The problem is that the site is an exercise in scare tactics. There are frightening stories about people who have had sex as teenagers and regretted the experience, the various ways in which having sex as teenagers can mess you up and spoil you and hurt you. This site features such gems as:
    And no form of birth control protects against the non-physical effects of sexual activity. Guilt, worry, regret, shame, depression and other emotional consequences remain the same, regardless of any contraceptives that may be used. (source)
So...having sex makes you miserable. I see.

Rabbi Josh Yuter has an excellent analysis of the site on a whole (and includes links to other posts and bloggers who have pointed out reasons as to why the site is problematic.) Read it.

People somehow feel justified in distorting the truth in order to get results, in our world, for the sake of having more people conform to the Orthodox ideology and movement.

I can understand the desire to have people do the "right thing." I can understand that if you believe premarital sex to be a sin, you won't want teenagers to engage in it. I can understand that if you believe Modern Orthodoxy to be one of the prime contenders for the most evil faction in the universe, you'd stress all its negatives and forget to bring the positives to the form. I can understand all of that, and I see why people do what they do, why they distort and mislead and even lie- all of this is meant to ensure results.

All of this is meant to manipulate and con people into doing what you want them to do.

I don't believe in this misinformation. Firstly, I think it is morally wrong. Secondly, I think that the people who engage in it underestimate the intelligence of a teenager. We have the internet, the world at our fingertips. We can look up the sources, we can look up the alternatives; we probably know lots of people who engage in premarital sex and are quite pleased with their lives. So I would argue that this doesn't even help others.

But the core issue is that of trust.

If I know that you are lying to me in an attempt to manipulate me, that you are falsely presenting information or at the very least concentrating upon one side of the story to the utter exclusion of the other side of the story, why would I have any respect for you? Why would I respect your organization or the ideals you stand for? I wouldn't. Because I don't trust you anymore.

Distortion for the sake of practice is wrong. You will not gain people and have them join your cause if you lie to them. You mean well- that is clear. But lying gains you nothing.

How would I organize such a site? Obviously, I have much more respect for the mind of a teenager. I believe in giving people information. So I would work through the halakhot involved (objectively, not with an obvious slant) in a clear and logical manner. I would also quote all the statistics (not selectively chosen ones- I don't mean to intimate that theirs are, only that all of theirs focus on the negative effects). In effect, I would dedicate a website to information and then allow people to make their own choice.

That is because I believe it is the morally and intellectually honest way to go about it. You cannot lie to people. To quote, if you don't want kids to have sex before marriage "don’t lie and tell them that the reason they shouldn’t is because condoms are ineffective. You’re spreading dangerously false information that can actually increase the likelihood of Jewish kids contracting sexually transmitted diseases, which can pose a serious risk to their lives."

It comes down to halakha. The reason that we do not have sex before marriage is halakhic in nature. All these other reasons that are offered are feel-good reasons (don't have sex because it will mess with your brain, you're more likely to commit suicide, and so on and so forth). But that's not the reason. The reason is halakhic.

And that is what we ought to teach.

It's the same reason I despise the kiruv movement that advocates for Shabbos by describing its feel-good nature (Shabbos is a wonderful time to rest, to have fun with friends, to hold get-togethers, to relax, etc.) This feel-good reasoning would not have worked for my grandfather, who came to the United State and would have to had quit his job every week because he would not work on Saturday. The reason we rest on Shabbos is halakhic. It has nothing to do with how it makes you feel.

You may, if you wish, provide reasons in addition to halakha. You may say that Shabbos has a side-effect, as it were, of allowing peace and relaxation. But that is not the core reason and to suggest that it is (as many do) is distortion for the sake of practice. It is what I saw at my first highschool, at Templars, where all things were distorted so that we would practice them, where information was deliberately withheld or manipulated so that we would follow. Where the attitude was that "more than one opinion [on the matter] is confusing for a teenager." That's the justification, you see, that they're helping you by lying to you and manipulating you.

It is strange to realize that such distortion is not confined to the ultra-Orthodox world, as I had initially thought, but rises in the Modern Orthodox world as well. It is like the Rabbi who redefines the meaning of shomer negiah in order to ensure that his students will keep something. I was not there and don't know how he explained the matter. If he did claim that his suggestion that a girl "shouldn't put herself out there" and shouldn't "touch for the first couple months" constitutes halakha, I would be appalled.

People respect the truth; they don't respect lies. I believe that it is far better to explain the halakhic nature of prohibitions and allow people to understand the logic behind them than to incorporate lots of imaginary reasons into why we act as we do. Of course, the problem then arises- we need people to have a respect for halakha. After all, if they don't respect halakha to begin with, knowing what the laws are makes no difference.

How does one cultivate a respect for halakha? That is an important question. As far as I know, this can only be achieved through study and exposure to a true Judaism. What to do about people who are not raised with the opportunity or desire for such study? I don't know. I only know that trying to scare them into obedience is not the answer.

I believe this is demonstrated by the following quote from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik:
    The problem with the American Jew is that he is not sensitive to Torah values. He must understand that human happiness does not depend upon comfort. The American Jew follows a philosophy which equates religion with making Jewish life more comfortable and convenient. It enables the Jew to have more pleasure in life. This deemphasizes Judaism's spiritual values. What the rabbi should do is to somehow expose the Jew to proper Torah Judaism. This cannot be accomplished by preaching and sermonizing. Many times, as I know from my own experience, they accomplish precisely the opposite. [emph mine]

    However, by exposing the American Jew to Torah Judaism you will touch his heart. Once he is sensitized, the American Jew is brave enough to respond to the moral challenge. The American Jew has heroic attributes and is much more courageous than the Lithuanian or Polish Jews were. The American Jew will have the courage to seek the proper alternative once he understands the demands of Torah and mitzvot. That is the meaning of the passage in the Amidah: "Restore us, our Father, to Thy Torah; draw us near, our King, to Thy service" [Daily Prayer Book, trans. Phillip Birnbuam, p. 86.]

    ~Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik from The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, volume 2, page 18

If we want to effect any change, it starts with honesty and with truth. It starts with understanding. It does not start with lying or manipulation or confusion or misleading others in an attempt to con them into keeping the mitzvos. It does not start with scaring people away from sex or alternatively scaring them away from boys or indeed, scaring them away from anything. People will realize, one day, that you lied to them. They will have friends who have sex and who are fine and who laugh at the horror stories you have fed them. The first time they sin, when the lightning strike does not come, they will realize that you were lying and dismiss anything else you have to say because of that.

No. It is much harder than this. It is all much harder. Truth is always harder.

You must cultivate trust, and trust means that you do not lie.

The Judaic leaders and teachers I respect do not lie to me or try to utilize feel-good arguments to get me to keep something (tznius, for instance- apparently tznius has the ability to make you feel amazing, did you know?) They do not distort the truth for the sake of practice. They rely on truth and believe that practice will follow once those listening have achieved a true understanding.

That is the approach that I respect and try to follow.


Looking Forward said...

Channa, since it is eruv shabbos I do not have time to get in to the particulars now (and doubtlessly you will dissagree with me, as is usual) But there are things that you had not considered, and some things that in your youthful zeal I do not think that you are able to notice quite yet.

You are right, it does not pay to lie, and what these schools do is unforgivable, but it is not limited even to judaism, everone in the whole wide world, except for very, very rare exceptions, lies for the sake of making a point. This is the way people live there lives, and the way that they convince themselves of the rightness of their opinions, and you are right, in the end it does us no favors. All we learn is that you lied to us, and then we begin to wonder if perhaps you did not lie to us in other matters, before long the entire castle comes falling down from it's foundation.

But I will get to some of the things you have left out after shabbos, although if you have time over shabbos I'd suggest you pick up a developmental psych text book and study the section on teenagers to see some of what I mean. (A good encycolpedia will probably also yeild such information if you look up adolescence, or possibly cognition, or for that matter possible "development" or "psychology". It would depend entirely on the particular encyclopedia.

Anonymous said...

My mother taught me that waiting for marriage before having sex would make me a happier person when I do get married. My father taught me that a person cannot ever advance his soul spiritually unless he first learns to master the sexual impulses that try to dominate us physically. What I have also have been taught and which I fully agree with is that sex is something that only two soul who are meant for each other are allowed to have. All other forms of sex between to souls that do not love each other is a desacration of something spirtually very high and holy.

The book below is very cheap and it outlines in great detail why it is the duty of all people to keep sex as holy act for only two right souls (male and female):

Shabbat Shalom!

Anonymous said...

Chana I agree with 99% of what you wrote and you articulate in a very intelligent manner.

A simply way to teach abstinence:

Sex before marriage is like eating treff meat. I can't image a single observant jew who would not cringe at the thought of eating treff meat or buying meat with a broken kashrut seal. In fact even the suggestion or doubt about a piece of meat in a supermarket not being kosher would make a huge scandal. One such scandal already occured in Monsey, NY. All that hubub about a dead piece of meat, I mean it's not like anyone every died from eating a single piece of non-kosher meat.

Yet, why is there a double standard when we are talking about a living piece of meat or more respectfully a human being. Everyone turns a blind eye. Where are the scandals in the community when a girl's kashrut seal is permanently broken by an unkosher 'observant' jewish man outside of marriage. Why do frum teenagers/adults not respect their sacred God given living bodies as much as they do the seal on a dead piece of meat? (Deuteronomy 22:13-19)

Guys who keep kosher but who do not practice sexual kashrut (abstinence) before marriage are in my mind not keeping kosher at all. I have more respect for a pork eating jewish man who is abstinent.

Looking Forward said...

last anon, personaly I find your comparison between a girls purity and her kasherus frankly disturbing and rather insulting. A girl is a valid worthwhile human being regardless of whether or not she has made some indescretions in her past. Everyone makes mistakes, especialy of that kind, and I do not think that it is quite fair for you to just toss her out for it, especialy without tossing him out in the same breath as well.

Now, to the topic of teenagers. Psych research has turned up a number of interesting quirks that nearly all teenagers have. It turns out that the last part of the brain to fully mature is the pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of our brain responsible for decision making, weighing potential consequences, and for generaly thinking logicaly in the face of intense emotional feelings and rushes. The results of this lack of maturity in the adolescent (it normaly doesn't mature untill about 20 something, possibly as old as 25) yeild a number of different "fables" that almost all adolescents suffer from. These are all under the catagory of "adolescent egocentrism" meaning that these children percieve themselves as being uniquely special, and that somehow they are centerstage and different than everyone else.

firstly is the "invincibility fable" because of this fault in their reasoning, adolescents show a tendancy to discount potential negative outcomes. This is the "I never thought it would happen to me" idea that you hear from so many adolescents when bad things come there way. Personaly I have heard it from adolscents who engaged in unprotected intimacy. They get pregnant and they exclaim how "how did this happen to me" ignoring the obvious fact that they did the deed and are now paying the price. One hears the same words with regards to drinking and driving, or many other risk taking activities. The potential consequences are so remote to the adolescent that they lack the capacity to properly gauge their actions, and as a result do many very risky things.

This is also what makes young adults so vulnerable to getting adicted to drugs. They may hear a statistic that half of people can smoke a single cigerette and not get addicted. They do not even hear that for every one person that gets away one gets addicted, and are certain that they are going to be that person who gets off free. When they do get addicted (and many who try do because they figure if they didn't get addicted the first time they wouldn't the second time either) they wonder how this happened to them, or lament "I did not think it could happen to me".

Next is the personal fable. Adolescents have a tendancy to see themselves as special, unique, and even heroic. This is the issue that frequently causes teenagers to tell their parents "how would you know, you've never been in love!" (something that I have heard teenagers say, verbatum, to their parents when they are trying to give them words of wisdom in the dating arena.) These children grossly exadurate their skills and knowledge against others and therefore consider themselves special and unique, something worthy of notice. The discount others points of view, because they automaticaly assume that they know more than they. This is the issue that leads children to say "my parents (teachers) are stupid" and to act as is if they actualy are. They truly believe that they are so special that they can solve all these problems in the world.

The last one is the imaginary audience. This flaw in their thinking causes adolescents to beleive that they are as much the center of everyone elses attention as much as they are of their own. Naturaly most adolescents are so self absorbed that they ignore everyone around them, but that doesn't exactly compute. This feeds directly from their belief that they are unique and special, more so than everyone else, and which means that if they are so unique, then of course everyone wants to know everything about them.

These problems aflict almost all teens, especialy all normal teens. They cause them to make poor, rash decisions, and to do things that are exceedingly stupid. It is out of misguided concern for the adolescents genuine lack of decision making abilitiy, or at least a lack of ability to actualy judge the factors in a decision. No adolescents are not "stupid" but they do many stupid things all the time. I went to public school and I saw it literaly everyday.

I you should know was not lucky enough to have these issues with my thinking, and am, essentialy, a poster child for the kinds of problems that not going through this stage can cause for someone. If adolescents do not feel this way It seems plain to me from my personal experience that they will never accomplish what they would have otherwise. If one is capable of realizing the potential for failure, you will be to scared to take the risks necessary to truly reach dizzying heights. You will not develop every single potential you have, and you will not have been able to acheive what you could have otherwise acheived, because you would become to affraid of the consequences of failure.

As I said I am a poster child for this. Are adolescents stupid? no. But they are not fully cognitively mature yet, and they have to be protected from tbeir own lack of maturity. Should they do this by lying to you or distorting the truth? No. How should they do it? I do not know. That is one reason why I do not plan to teach higschool.

Then y

Anonymous said...

I think the information should have been presented objectively. Absolutely no subjective stuff at all including testimonials. Halachic and medical facts. Each presented by the appropriate named authority. With contact info for that Rav and Health Professional. Period. And I do teach teenagers and I also root for NCSY's success. I am not happy about how they did what they did. Chana, please write to them. Let them hear the backlash if possible.

DK said...

"It is strange to realize that such distortion is not confined to the ultra-Orthodox world, as I had initially thought, but rises in the Modern Orthodox world as well."

You may have been referring ot Templars, and I have no idea what they are, but to be fair to the Modern Orthodox. NCSY is not Modern Orthodox.

Also, NCSy's page on wikipedia is locked down, because NCSY is in an edit war because they don't want information about Baruch Lanner to appear on their site. Cuase it's not a "kiddush Hashem," the mnadate of Wikipedia. And whe they say "kiddush Hashem," they mean flattering to NCSY organizationally.

Chana said...


"but it is not limited even to judaism, everone in the whole wide world, except for very, very rare exceptions, lies for the sake of making a point."

I am not interested in the world. I am interested in Orthodox Judaism, in Judaism itself, a religion which is supposed to stand for the truth. Knowing that others lie does not excuse what people within this religion do.


I'm glad that the arguments presented to you/ philosophy you were taught worked for you. However, it sounds as though what you were taught was already encased within the thought system where you respected your parents' opinions and/or listened to halakha, which means it does not necessarily influence the matter at hand.


I don't agree with your simple way to teach abstinence. Your way only works if you are teaching abstinence to those who already respect halakha and are Orthodox Jews (that is, those who would not be eating unkosher meat, for instance.) Even then I don't necessarily see it as optimal. More importantly, it does not work for those who grow up unaffiliated or Conservadox or affiliated with Reform/ Conservative sects, which is the target audience of NCSY.


I agree with your conclusion, assuming this research you cite is correct. (Although I don't believe every adolescent follows this pattern and I happen to know a good number of teenagesr who are quite good when it comes to decision-making processes.) "As I said I am a poster child for this. Are adolescents stupid? no. But they are not fully cognitively mature yet, and they have to be protected from tbeir own lack of maturity. Should they do this by lying to you or distorting the truth? No. How should they do it? I do not know. That is one reason why I do not plan to teach higschool." My point is that we obviously do need to find a method that works; distorting information is not optimal.


To whom would you recommend my addressing such a letter? I don't think they would listen to me, but I could try...


Let's please leave your personal definition of NCSY out of this. According to nearly everyone and according to my standards, NCSY is Modern Orthodox, and I believe that their programs are generally meant for the good. I simply find this one problematic. Rabbi Baruch Lanner was one man; yes he did terrible things- his existence does not discredit the entire organization.

the apple said...

I like your point about understanding that the halachic reason for things we do as Jews is primary and that the feelings that accompany mitzvot etc. are secondary. In a post I wrote about tznius, someone commented that her school only taught the girl about the hashkafa behind tznius, and not the actual halachot, since teaching halacha would be too difficult for the girls to understand. What an insult to people's intelligence! And this sends the message that hashkafa comes before the halacha (or that it goes on its own) - not true - they go hand in hand: you can't have one without the other.

Why do I feel like this post is reminiscent of a conversation we had this semester about a certain class we took together?

Chana said...


It is actually not my point; it is Rabbi Soloveitchik's point. As stated in "The Common Sense Rebellion" from Reflections of the Rav:

It is Chapter XIII, titled 'The "Common-Sense" Rebellion Against Torah Authority,' and it discusses the rebellion of Korah. Korach was a brilliant man, learned and well-versed in the Torah. He is famous for making certain arguments about halakhos and mitzvot in the Torah. For example, he argued about the tekheles. "Does a garment that is entirely blue require tzitzit or is it exempt?" Moshe responded that it still required tzitzit. Korach answered "A robe of any other color fulfills the tzitzit requirement merely by having one of its threads blue. Surely a garment which is entirely blue should not require an additional blue thread!" (Rashi, Num 16:1)The Midrash adds another argument. He asked, "Does a house which is filled with Torah scrolls still require a mezuzah on the doorpost?" Moses answered yes. Korach said, "If one brief section of the Torah placed inside the mezuzah satisfies the mitzvah requirement, most certainly a multitude of scrolls which contain many portions should!"

Now I come to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's analysis-

"Korah's appeal to common sense in Judaism was basically a claim that only da'at, and not hokhmah, is involved in the application of Halakhah. He conceded that the legal aspect in the practice of Halakha require expertise, techincal and academic. But he mantained that there is also a pschological and emotional aspect in the practice of Halakha and the observence of mitzvot. In judging the utility, relevance, and beneficial effects of the mitzvot, all intelligent people are qualified to render judgment on the basis of close and informed observation. For this aspect, he argued, common sense, human experience, and basic judgment are the criteria. And on this basis he challenged the authority of Moses.

"Korah was committed to the doctrine of religious subjectivism, which regards one's personal feelings as primary in the religious experience. God requires the heart, Rahmana liba ba'i (Sanh. 106b), and it is in the mysterious recesses of his personality that man meets his Maker. The mitzvot, by contrast, are physical acts which reflect the inner quest, the hidden feelings of religous emotion. The mitzvah is an external form of a spiritual experience; each inner experience has its external correlate in the form of particular mitzvah performances.

"On the basis of Korah's theory, the mitzvah would have to correspond to the mood that prompts it. The value of the mitzvah is to be found not in its performance, but in its subjective impact upon the person, its ability to arouse a devotional state of mind. Tefillin would be justified, according to Korah's theory, only for their elevating and inspirational quality.....If these mitzvot ceased having this impact upon people, their observance would be open to question and new rituals, more responsive to changing sensitivities, should perhaps be enacted. What follows from his reasoning is that hte mitzvah may be modified according to changing times or even according to the individual temperaments of different people. That is, to him, no inherent redemptive power in the mitzvah beyond its therapeutic effects, it capacity to evoke a subjective experience."

In Halakha, the Rav goes on to say, "we do not regard the qualitative and subjective experience as primary. RAther, the objective act of performing the mitzvah is our starting point. The mitzvah does not depend on the emotion, rather, it induces the emotion."

He then asks, "Why does the Halakha refuse to give primacy to the emotions, to the inner feelings? Why.....

"First, the religious emotion is volatile, ever-changing, and unstable, even within one individual. To correlate the outward act to the inner emotion would require regular adjustments. The mitzvah would continually have to be modified and, at times, nullified in favor of new symbolic acts that would correspond to the person's emotional state. The format and identity of the mitzvah would be destroyed and no continuity of identifiable performance would be possible."

(Pages 139-144)

As for that class we took, yes, this is the same situation. Feel-good reasons (or alternatively, scare tactics) are simply bad when they are made to seem primary.

Anonymous said...

There are some nutcases out there who are disturbed because they choose to ignore what is written.

For the record, it is out of deep love and respect for women that I posted my earlier comment. I mentioned both men and women there because they are both equally guilty.

It is insulting that there are people out there who devaluate sex
to a simple unconscious mistake.

Then, they try to conceal their shame by claiming that "everyone" makes such simple careless mistakes. Even more egregious is the attempt to use science which can skewed to make any argument or prove any point of view to in order to discredit others and to exonerate such a person from any personal responsibility and their lack of will. From my point of view, those who devaluate and make sex so cheap are blatantly trying to conceal their weaknesses by imposing their mistakes on others and bringing down people all around them. Let us not forget who the Jewish people are that are responsible for promoting a mass culture that is anti-bible, anti-Torah/Tanach:
Jewish Liberal Democratic Hollywood and Broadway - 80 % of all Jews in America.

When was the last movie about virtue and abstinence in the teenage years? Where is the show about the happy marriage filled with love and everything moral?

Certainly everyone makes mistakes, but in every mistake there was a choice, and often it was a moral choice. And also in that choice, the person chose to ignore his/her conscience. The personal conscience is the final judge/the gate keeper of all choices in life and it is above all teachings and values given to use by others. And often people are so distracted by the glitter of the world that they ignore that quiet voice.

Genesis 3
Proverbs 2:17
Proverbs 11:16
Proverbs 30:20

Sex does not just happen as a mistake, it is a conscious, willful choice. I knew of people who seek it actively and for them it is quite difficult, no 'lucky' 'mistake' is occurring in their lives. And of those who succeeded, it did not happen overnight, it happened after many months/years of cultivating the relationship/circumstances to produce that outcome. It is easy to blame guys but in every one of these cases, it was the girl who was responsible for provoking the guy. As I also know of many guys who have gotten nowhere after many years because the woman was strong and did not yield to temptation.
In every case where sex happens, it is because the woman wants to put a 'claim' on the guy and make the relationship permanent. Because once a guy falls into the trap he becomes responsible. Usually a girl will loose her virginity acting out of fear, not out of love; that fear is the fear of losing the relationship/friendship with the guy.

Looking Forward said...

anon, have you no mercy? Is there not even a small amount sympathy in your entire body for the difficulties adolescents go through? Do you not remember what it was like when you where an adolescent and faced with such feelings?

I do not speak as one tainted in this regard. I was in public school and passed the nisayon with flying colors coming out unscathed from the experience.

Can you say the same before you cast your stones? If not, for the sake of adolescents everywhere, please shut up because you are dangerously out of touch with the feelings and thoughts that those adolescents have. I speak from personal observation and experience.

Anonymous said...

"I don't agree with your simple way to teach abstinence. Your way only works if you are teaching abstinence to those who already respect halakha and are Orthodox Jews...More importantly, it does not work for those who grow up unaffiliated or Conservadox or affiliated with Reform/ Conservative sects, which is the target audience of NCSY."

Is this the Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men" argument? i.e. "You can't handle the truth." You don't like scare tactics and I agree. You don't like subterfuge with emotional "reasons" why it is important to keep the Mitzvos and I agree. But, you don't want to educate these kids about the Halacha because they aren't interested or because they come from another denomination? How disingenuous is that? Is this an Orthodox organization or not? Are we not to be true to that in presenting information? Obviously, I am not saying that NCSY run workshops about this or conduct classes, but on a website designed to desseminate information, how could they not?

When you are working in an Orthodox outreach program it is your responsibility to educate about the Halacha behind our actions in all areas of life. We present the rules, Halachot regarding Kashrut, Shabbat...why not intimacy. The problem is that Halacha can have different interpretations depending on the Rav, but, like I said, get a Rav to officially contribute to the site and publicize that it is incumbent on an Orthodox Jew to get one for himself/herself. That way you have presented truthfully, but allowed for the possibility that another will have a different interpretation. Regarding medical facts/health statistics, I think we are in agreement that a health professional be the authority who will then cite the most recent statistics.
Concerning the letter, I just think they need to hear it from people who can articulate the concerns well, like Yuter and you. I am not a big fan of the passivity of most of these blogs--no offense.

DK, Lanner was an aberration in a national organization that does a very good job of exposing teens to Judaism and giving them opportunities to socialize with each other. I understand that the system failed and for that, your frustration/outrage is warranted, but you undermine another argument that you make about the "bait and switch" by overfocusing on Lanner. It makes your motives and arguments suspect and emotionally biased. Like I said before, channel your negative energy into something positive. You were honest about that being difficult. I encourage you to keep at it. It is way too easy and unproductive to constantly make these overarching comments about NCSY on all the blogs.

Anonymous said...

Truth yes-but as you know halachically it is tempered with shalom.One has to reach individuals 'ba;asher hu shom'-where they are.Halacha represents deep emotional truths in our deepest unconscious level.Deeper than those who rationalize their sexual behavior. I think you are being too harsh on NCSY.

DK said...

I simply don't understand why you think NCSY is MO. The leaders are not that. "Rabbi Jack" denies scientific method by rejecting the Evolution Theory, in contrast to Rabbi Weinreb. Rabbi Felsenthal is tied in to Aish HaTorah. Aish's leader, Rabbi Weinberg, is Left-Wing Ultra-Orthodox. Now you may like that, but it ain't MO. And NCSY's program the JSU is presents a deceptive ecumenical front for kiruv purposes. That's not NO. Do you think B'nai Akiva would pull tricks like that?

Chana said...


"But, you don't want to educate these kids about the Halacha because they aren't interested or because they come from another denomination? How disingenuous is that?"

Not at ALL. I think you absolutely should educate kids about Halakha. I am simply saying I don't think it will make much of an impact and the question at hand is of efficacy. Isn't it? That's the impression I had.

Anonymous said...

As I mentioned earlier, I teach teenagers and what they want most is factual information from a person that knows his/her stuff. In addition to that, halfnutcase's descriptions of adolescents are very true. They do engage in risk taking behavior, they do see themselves as invincible, they do feel as if they are on a stage and they do exhibit a "hero" know-all mentality. So, practically speaking, they will do what they want in the end, but if they respect you, if you earn their respect with knowledge and concern, they will be less likely to disappoint you. Our responsibility as educators and youth leaders of all kinds is to educate and to care. What happens next is up to them, but again, don't underestimate them. You cannot turn off a teenager with objective knowledge (Halacha or secular), caring, and concern.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, what concerned me among other things, what struck me as something that might turn off the teenagers and have the opposite effect of that which was intended was the testimonial of Sara. The shame and humiliation she mentioned about her past upset me. I know some teenagers feel this way, but--as you said, Chana--not all do. Some are okay with their decisions. I feel that there is too much mention of regret, Teshuva, shame. I know why the authors of the site did it. I understand that they don't want teens to think that it's too late, but somehow it all felt too heavyhanded. Too much subjectivity.

Anonymous said...

I have no mercy for BS because I personally survived all this - All the hardship and all the choices. I faced tougher difficulties than anyone else out there. Yes, I faced difficult feelings but God gave me the strength to overcome them because I was seeking truth. I went to public school, I am still a virgin, shomer negiah, I never kissed anyone in an intimate way, I never had a friend, I never held a person's hand. The reason I am still single (not married) is because I could not find a clean Jewish person. Those of the opposite sex of my generation were all rotten. I still cannot find any clean Jewish person. I do believe that they exist and that there are many out there seeking someone like me, but they will never find me because who they get to meet is all controlled by the Rabbis or their narrow minded falsely religious parents.

I am much older - when you get to my age with the same results then you will have the right to judge the value of my experience. I don't throw stones, I tell the truth, there is a difference. You are quoting John 8:7 of the New Testament bible.

I think the way to remedy the problem for all teens is to teach non-religious morality in school and for adults to stop bad behavior in public schools (such as intimate kissing and hugging). I think a more conservative dress code can help but I am against uniforms. But, ultimately it is the fault of parents who were raised in the 60's/70's culture of woodstock. They have no sense of morality or religious/spiritual values and they have passed that on to their children. Finally, I think it's time the TV be banned and that non-adults not be encouraged to use the internet. The internet is breeding a whole slough of new problems for teenagers and the adult world has been very slow to react and is still fast asleep. I think though more and more children are awaking to the truth and many are finding the strength themselves to make better choices.

"If not, for the sake of adolescents everywhere, please shut up because you are dangerously out of touch with the feelings and thoughts that those adolescents have." I think you should apply your wisdom for yourself. I find your aggressive attitude offensive. I am well in touch with what is going on and I have lived throught it myself. I think it's time for people to listen to my experiences rather than blow it off. It is stupid people like you who don't have the guts to tell the truth that cause most of these problems and most of all it is a product of the stupid narrow minded materialistic spiritually dead ASHKENAZIC CULTURE.

Halfnutcase said...
anon, have you no mercy? Is there not even a small amount sympathy in your entire body for the difficulties adolescents go through? Do you not remember what it was like when you where an adolescent and faced with such feelings?

I do not speak as one tainted in this regard. I was in public school and passed the nisayon with flying colors coming out unscathed from the experience.

Can you say the same before you cast your stones? If not, for the sake of adolescents everywhere, please shut up because you are dangerously out of touch with the feelings and thoughts that those adolescents have. I speak from personal observation and experience.
May 20, 2007 7:12 AM

Looking Forward said...

anon, actualy it comes from much older sources than the new testiment.

The sources for those who have passed and succeeded comes from the jewish tradition that the witnesses do the stoning.

I have born witness, and I refuse to stone.

Anonymous said...


Your words were a direct quote of the New Testament verse. I am well aware that much in the New Testament is redacted material taken from the Tanach. Some of it is original and much is also fairy tale fantasy, fictional, or purely delusional. Some of it is both original and very deep stuff that has power and substance.

"I have born witness, and I refuse to stone." May I ask what you have born witness to?

haKiruv said...

Good points on the post, Chana. Someone should write a productive email and tell them ways to improve the site.

Lurker said...

Chana: Rabbi Baruch Lanner was one man; yes he did terrible things- his existence does not discredit the entire organization.

Anonymous: Lanner was an aberration in a national organization that does a very good job of exposing teens to Judaism and giving them opportunities to socialize with each other.

From your remarks, I'm not sure either of you understand what the NCSY Lanner phenomenon was all about. To begin with, it was not just "one man"; it was the enormous personality cult that surrounded the man, and a twisted culture that he and his followers created -- a culture that, to a great degree, continues to thrive. And it was a monolithic establishment in which everyone -- especially those in authority -- knew all about Lanner's behavior, condoned it, and protected it.

Lanner's ongoing abusive behavior was common knowledge among hundreds of NCSY members (including myself), and it was reported over and over again to the OU/NCSY leadership, over a period of thirty years. The NCSY leaders, however, chose instead to reward and promote Lanner, allowing him to continue his abuse with impunity. All the victims who complained were disdainfully rebuffed, and sometimes even reprimanded, threatened, and punished. NCSY cared nothing about the irreparable trauma that they were inflicting on countless Jewish children, nor about the grave halachic violations that they were sanctioning.

The crux of the problem wasn't Lanner. Lanner himself was just a rabid dog, with no control over his sickness or his actions. The real problem was the organization -- the leaders who protected him, defended him, and sicked him knowingly upon thousands of innocent, unsuspecting kids.

Furthermore, by dismissing the OU's handling of Baruch Lanner as "an abberation" or a phenomenon involving "one man", you are missing another critical point. Through their treatment of Lanner, the OU demonstrated the nature of their core values: If a senior NCSY official had been going around eating treif, or being mechalel Shabbat b'farhesia, there can be no doubt that the OU would have dismissed him forthwith. Even the most rudimentary understanding of the MO establishment is sufficient to recognize that it would be inconceivable for the OU to do anything else. But in Lanner's case, the activity involved the transgression of halachot regarding forbidden sexual behavior. By ignoring Lanner's actions -- particularly his public behavior -- and rebuffing those who raised concerns, the OU made it clear that in the scheme of things, the halachot of sexual behavior are not really such a big deal. (And I'm not even getting into the issue of the permanent psychological trauma that was inflicted.) And after demonstrating for thirty years that they don't see halachot such as negiah as being all that important, it's incredibly hypocritical for the OU/NCSY to launch a program that lectures kids specifically on that very topic.