Thursday, April 28, 2011

AJN - smut peddler?

Hat tip to an anonymous reader

From the AJN website:

Why are we not shocked? 
No doubt we can look forward to the AJN's authority on all matters related to dreck and the dreckerati, Adam Kamien, to give this muck a rave review.

From another reader:
The same porn advertisement features on the AJN weekly email newsletter.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Exaggeration creates mockery

Guest post by Chosid-Maskil

Like most of my fellow Chabad chassidim I highly respect Rabbi Heschel Greenberg. He is one of the most prominent names in Chabad. Thus I was somewhat disappointed reading his article in the Shabbos Hagadol issue of "The Lamplighter", where, writing about the Rebbe he makes the following statement:

   "...never before in history has one individual impacted the lives of so many diverse people in so many different ways. Never before has one Jewish leader connected directly or indirectly with as many Jews on so many levels..."

This naive and childish observation was reminiscent of the ridiculous ‘accolade’ oft repeated about Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and justifiably blasted on this very blog some time ago.

"Once-in-a-millennium scholar”? Really?

I have noticed over the years that every time Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz gets mentioned in the AJN - whether it be an article or an advertisement we are reminded that the internationally renowned Maven on Torah scholars and rabbis - Time magazine - labelled him as a “once-in-a-millennium scholar”....I am always amazed at the childlike naivety of the average person in accepting and repeating such nonsense. Rabbi Steinsaltz is indeed an extraordinary and notable scholar. But to make and repeat such an absurd statement is mind-boggling. Is he really a greater scholar than the Rambam, Ramban, Rashi, Rosh, Rav Yosef Karo? Or even more recent Gedolim, eg, the Rogatchover, the Chafetz Chaim, the Chazon Ish, etc etc?

Does Rabbi Greenberg expect his readers to believe that the Rebbe ‘impacted’ and ‘connected’ with more Jews than, say, Moshe Rabeinu or Dovid Hamelech or even the Baal Shem Tov!?

Please, I beg my fellow Chassidim, let's not make a mockery of our Rebbe. There was so much true greatness that can be extolled and written about, so, why of why, publish articles that makes us look like naïve and dimwitted adolescents that certainly bring no Kavod to the Rebbe?

(This photo seems to be the Rebbe himself asking the same question...)

! חכמים הזהרו בדבריכם

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wall Street Journal reports on the business of Kashrut

Possibly the most interesting fact in this article is the following sentence:
"These days, more than 1,000 agencies world-wide vie with one another to bestow on products an alphabet soup of kosher insignia."
Over 1,000 agencies - but the 3-4 that we have here in Australia want to swallow up each other and demolish any attempt by a newcomer!                                                    (Hat tip: SBA News list)

When Rabbi Naftali Marrus does his spring cleaning, he doesn't use a mop. He rolls with the Inferno.

The Inferno is a three-and-a-half-foot-long propane torch Rabbi Marrus uses during the critical days before Passover to scour commercial kitchens catering to observant Jews and obliterate the smallest particles of bread and other leavened foods, which are forbidden during the holiday that commemorates the Jews' flight from Egypt.

Marching into the kitchen of My Most Favorite Food, a restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Rabbi Marrus runs his finger along stove tops, pokes his head inside the big industrial ovens, examines the coffee maker and inspects walls and floors. They have been soaked in boiling water and scrubbed clean with soap, detergents, degreasers and ammonia.

No matter. With the restaurant's owners, Doris Schechter and her son-in-law Scott Magram looking on, Rabbi Marrus directs the flames of the Inferno up and down racks of steel rolling trays and deep inside the oven. His assistant will apply the Inferno to the pots and pans. Ms. Schechter takes the drastic cleaning in stride. "To me it is a renewal, you start over again." Rabbi Marrus, 6-feet-3-inches tall and built like a football player, handles the Inferno with care. "You have to be respectful to the blowtorch," he says.

Passover, which starts Monday at sundown and lasts eight days, is the busy season for Rabbi Marrus. As a supervising rabbi for OK Kosher Certification, an agency in Brooklyn, N.Y., he and his colleagues are working 24/6—they don't work on the Sabbath—to ensure that all restaurants, caterers, cafés, industrial kitchens and food manufacturers that want the OK Kosher for Passover label follow strict Jewish food laws.

But keeping kosher isn't just for Passover, and it isn't just for traditional Jewish food. OK gives its kosher blessing to items as varied as Perrier water and Tropicana orange juice.

Getting the kosher seal is a rigorous experience that requires OK's 300-odd part-time rabbis to travel around inspecting plants where food is produced. They study every ingredient that goes into a product to make sure it conforms with religious law. Only then will they allow it to carry their trademark "K" with a circle around it.

"We like to say God is our silent partner," remarks Rabbi Chaim Fogelman, an OK veteran.

OK Kosher started in about 1935 as a mom-and-pop shop called Organized Kashrut Laboratories. It's now a multinational player, with rabbis in China, Japan, India, Belgium and Israel who certify nearly 500,000 products from about 3,000 companies. Its headquarters are still in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It operates as a nonprofit. Clients pay from $2,000 to tens of thousands of dollars annually.

 Kosher dietary laws date back to biblical times. Several basic laws come with hundreds, even thousands of regulations or interpretations. Eating pork and shellfish, for example, is banned, while mixing meat and milk is also taboo. There are also intricate rules on how an animal must be slaughtered to produce kosher meat.

Establishments that serve kosher food, including restaurants, cafés, catering halls and butcher shops, need to have a mashgiach on hand, an on-site supervisor, typically a rabbi, assigned to stand around and watch, guarding against treif or unkosher ingredients that could slip in.

The U.S. kosher market is valued at about $12.5 billion. "The iconic brands of America are overwhelmingly kosher," says Menachem Lubinsky, President of Lubicom Marketing Consulting. Familiar brands such as Coca-Cola, Snapple, Philadelphia cream cheese, Coors beer and Tootsie Rolls all have products with a kosher label.

"It is astounding when you figure that Jews are less than 2% of the population," says Sue Fishkoff, author of the book "Kosher Nation." Many non-Jews believe a kosher product is healthier and safer, she says. "Is it? Possibly the Kosher beef is. But certainly not the cereal or the aluminum foil."

 These days, more than 1,000 agencies world-wide vie with one another to bestow on products an alphabet soup of kosher insignia. These include the ubiquitous k with a circle around it favored by OK; there's the OU—a U inside a circle—sign used by the Orthodox Union; while the Rabbinical Council of Chicago is known for its cRc in a triangle stamp.

"There is healthy competition, but we do work for a higher cause," says Rabbi Sholem Fishbane of Chicago's rabbinic agency. "We try to promote kosher."

There are occasional disagreements, and what is kosher to some rabbis may not be to others. Ms. Fishkoff, for instance, recalls how the granddaddy of kosher products—the iconic Hebrew National Kosher Hot Dog—for years wasn't considered sufficiently kosher by some of the key certifying agencies. These days, armed with a kosher seal from Triangle K, a Brooklyn agency, the hot dog has been embraced by Conservative Jews who observe kosher dietary laws.

Some Orthodox agencies such as OK and the Chicago Rabbinical Council still reject it. "It is much better than it used to be," says Rabbi Fishbane, but "it is not certified glatt," he says, referring to an even higher standard of kosher meat certification.

For Hebrew National to be certified as glatt, Rabbi Fogelman says, it would have to use only glatt kosher meat. Glatt certification, he explains, involves checking a cow after slaughter to see how healthy it was—specifically if it had lesions on its lungs. If it had too many lesions, then it won't pass muster as glatt, he says.

Hebrew National, owned by ConAgra Foods, says on its website that its certification by Triangle K comes from an orthodox Jewish agency made up of "the most stringent Jews" that provide rabbinical supervision and make sure its products and ingredients meet the "strictest criteria" for kosher. ConAgra's spokesman says it has no plans to pursue the glatt market.

Then there's the question of how far to push the kosher brand. Rabbi Fogelman of OK says his agency has been asked to certify paper bags as kosher; OK is working on it. OK certifies a dog treat as kosher. Exclusively Pet Inc., in Milwaukee, manufactures dog cookies that carry the little K seal.

These days Evanger's Dog & Cat Food Co. near Chicago sells dog and cat food that, in a manner of speaking, is kosher. They are deemed usable during the Passover holiday, though not kosher for human consumption, and have the endorsement of the venerable Chicago Rabbinical Council. Evanger's website touts its products by showing a photo of a dog wearing a yarmulke.

They are a godsend to Terry Socol of Skokie, Ill. His two cats, Ashley and Coco, don't like Passover because of the limited diet. He called Evanger's and obtained cans of whole mackerel and beef tips with gravy. But he also bought them lox—certified kosher for humans: "Passover is such a hard holiday for them."
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Apologists of J-wire's Chilul Shabbat - please note

To all those comment-writers who denied/defended the Chilul Shabbat e-mails sent regularly by J-Wire with justifications and excuses like:

Milhouse said...
If, as you say, this is a daily mailing that goes out every day on the dot of 3 o'clock, then it's obvious even to blind Freddie's dog that it's an automatic job. No human sends out a message at exactly 3:00:00 every single day. Nor is it in the nature of a news site for someone to type up a single "daily update"; such messages are always an aggregation of whatever stories have been entered in the last 24 hours. If you don't realise this then you have no business commenting on anything that goes on on the net. For you to use this as the basis of an accusation of chilul shabbos is outrageous. You need to substantiate that charge, or withdraw it and apologise. Hotzo'as shem ra is also an aveira.

Milhouse said...
Moshe, on the contrary AJN watch did not dot or cross anything, and indeed offered weaker evidence than was available. The 3 pm daily e-mail is far from "obvious chilul shabbos"; on the contrary, it is very obviously not chilul shabbos, and anyone who would accuse someone on that basis is a motzi shem ra. Now the evidence from the datelines of the individual stories is disturbing, and does at least indicate a probability that there is chilul shabbos going on, though J-wire should be given a chance to explain it. But that was not the evidence that AJN watch originally presented.  Is it such a great mitzvah to accuse people of averos? Do you know what it means to beg the question?

Emes said...
It's probably an automated email that goes out at a certain time each week/day. Send Henry Benjamin (not Harry, as the previous poster claimed) that he correct this. The solution is simple and it's really no reason to pour scorn on this fellow who is doing a great chesed to the kehillah through his hosting of the site.

mikeybear said...
Have you verified with J-Wire that this is the time they actually posted the message? It is possible that the message had been posted earlier and was delayed by a mail server

AustIsr said...
Cummon AJNWatch, "dan lkaf zchus" - Jwire probably has an automated email program in action and I am sure that the site's manager Henry Benjamin (a thoroughly good bloke) would not intentionally wish to offend members of the kehillah.....I seem to recall posting a comment along the same lines last time you raised the issue of alleged chillul Shabbos at Jwire, but you seem to have ignored this advice...

Really? Huh said...
It is not even against halacha, there are thousands of frum websites and emails running during Shabbes and this issue has been dealt with by many competent Rabbinical authorities. There is no problem there. But apparantly AJN Watch missed that shiur or as usual he is trying to stir up trouble. Move on...nothing to see here folks.

Uncommon Sense said...
Some of you may not know that emails can be sent automatically

We invite the above writers to explain this email which arrived at our "inbox"  today, Wednesday, the 2nd second day of Pesach at 4.32 pm.
Just in case any of the defenders/deniers again tries to claim that the email was/could've posted before Yom Tov, please read it! It reports on the Marrickville Council meeting which took place Tuesday night - a time when all good Jews - observant and traditional - were enjoying the Seder!

And this...
J-Wire reader Jack Pinczewski attended the Marrickville Council meeting. Here is his report….

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hamodia recalls Stalin-loving Mapamniks

The Pesach edition of the Hamodia will for many bring back unpleasant memories of the appalling Mapam party. Mapam was created by a marriage of the Hashomer Hatzair and the Poalei Zion groups. In a sad indictment of Israeli voters, despite Mapam being Stalin-devotees, they garnered enough votes in Israel's first election to get 19 of their schlepper comrades well-paid parliamentarian jobs. In fact they became the 2nd largest party in the first Knesset.

How so many of our ‘am navon vechacham’, who had only recently suffered terribly in the hands of brutal murderers – Hitler and Stalin – could cast their votes for such an execrable rabble is truly beyond our comprehension.

The Mapam’s emotional and ‘heartfelt’ commiseration at the demise of one of history’s worst monsters shows that even before Goldstone we had plenty of disgraceful types in our midst. In addition to their love of Stalin they were also known to be extremist haters of Torah and Torah Jewry. Thankfully over the years they have been flushed down the toilet of history and as one personality was overheard stating that we have been zocheh to witness the fulfillment of “Yemach shemom vezichrom’.

PS: The current edition of Hamodia includes almost half a dozen supplements incorporating a wealth of interesting articles and features. There are heaps of fascinating items - enough to keep all members of the family occupied for hours on end. We highly recommend it as an Oneg Yom Tov treat for all.

And for those who are too young to remember, here's part of their Wikipedia entry which details some of their unlovely views.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mapam (Hebrew: מפ"ם‎, an acronym for Mifleget HaPoalim HaMeuhedet (Hebrew: מפלגת הפועלים המאוחדת‎), lit. United Workers Party, Arabic: حزب العمال الموحد‎, abbreviated 'مبام') was a political party in Israel and is one of the ancestors of the modern-day Meretz party.


Mapam was formed by a January 1948 merger of the Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party and Ahdut HaAvoda Poale Zion Movement. The party was originally Marxist-Zionist in its outlook and represented the left-wing Kibbutz Artzi movement. It also took over the Hashomer Hatzair-affiliated newspaper Al HaMishmar.
1950s Mapam May Day meeting.
 Slogan reads '1st of May for Peace and Brotherhood of the Peoples.
In the elections for the first Knesset, Mapam took 19 seats, making it the second largest party after Mapai. As the party did not allow Israeli Arabs to be members at the time, it had also set up an Arab list, the Popular Arab Bloc, to contest the elections (a tactic also used by Mapai, with whom the Democratic List of Nazareth were affiliated). However, the Arab list failed to cross the 1% electoral threshold.

The party's pro-Soviet views did not endear them to Ben-Gurion, and they were not included in the governing coalition. During the session they gained one seat when Eliezer Preminger joined after leaving Maki and then setting up his own party, the Hebrew Communists.

In the 1951 elections the party dropped to 15 seats and again were not included in the coalition. However, they did become the first Zionist party to have an Israeli Arab, Rostam Bastuni, representing them in the Knesset.

From Mapam's point of view, the most important event of the second Knesset were the Prague Trials of 1953, which severely shook the party's faith in the Soviet Union. The show trials in which mostly Jewish leaders of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia were purged, falsely implicated Mapam's envoy in Prague, Mordechai Oren, as part of a Zionist conspiracy. After the Prague Trials and later, Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech at the 20th Party Congress in the Soviet Union, Mapam moved away from some of their more radical left wing positions, and towards social democracy.

This created a split in the party. Avraham Berman, Rostam Bastuni and Moshe Sneh left the party and set up the Left Faction, whilst Hannah Lamdan and David Livschitz created Faction independent of Ahdut HaAvoda. Although Bastuni later returned to the party, Berman and Sneh eventually joined Maki and Lamdan and Livschitz joined Mapai. Four other party members left to recreate Ahdut HaAvoda, though the Knesset speaker did not recognise the group as an independent party during the Knesset session. It also displeased the USSR. /SNIP

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Matzah Wars

If our readers think that it is only here in Australia that the rabbis are squabbling over the Kashrut of Matza, let us assure them that there are far bigger battles going on in other parts of the Jewish world. The two major Chassidic groups, Satmar and Chabad, are split internally over the manufacture of Matzot under supervision of their respective rabbis.

The Satmar Chassidim – followers of Rav Aharon Teitelbaum of Kiryas Joel have for a number of years been producing Matza with flour made from Arizona wheat. This does not have the approval of the other Satmar Chassidim who follow his brother, Rav Zalman Leib Teitelbaum – who have made a number of claims about the inappropriateness of Arizonian wheat.
Both sides have published articles, rabbinical letters and booklets proving their POV (and have probably not convinced anyone from the other side to change their mind…)

Anyone wanting to delve into this controversy may start by looking here, here, here, here and here.

Meanwhile an recently introduced innovation re kneading the dough has caused ructions in the Chabad rabbinical world, again with letters and booklets etc – and as it seems also not getting anyone to change their minds.
Meanwhile we have received a fair bit of correspondece and commentary regarding the Australian version of ‘soft’ Matza. Due to the harsh and unforgiving language used by the protagonists (and antagonists) on both sides, we are withholding from publishing their materials on our site – at this time. Maybe at some later stage we’ll again take a look at this controversy and try to make some sense of it.

And here is an advertisement published in Israel offering ALL possible versions of Matzot - hand, machine and soft laffa-style - produced under a variety of hashgachot:

Meanwhile, our advice to all is, when considering Matza and all other products that you will be using over Pesach, follow the advice a knowledgeable Rav – one who has no personal ‘conflict of interest’ in any aspect of the product.

And, of course, you will not go wrong by following the Mesorah (traditions) of your parents and grandparents.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

J-Wire - Mechalel Shabbat with Rabbi's Message!

We have previously commented that the J-Wire daily email is often Mechalel Shabbat. (See here and here.)

But a new low has been reached by today's publishing/forwarding the weekly message of Rabbi Michoel Gourarie 'be'etzem Yom HaShabbat". We strongly doubt that Rabbi Gourarie knows about this (and if he is a follower of this blog). He will no doubt appreciate if one of our readers in Sydney informs him about this public Shabbat desecration. 
According to all reports, Rabbi Gourarie is one of Australia's most popular, active and respected Rabbanim and being used as a 'partner' in Chillul Shabbat and Chillul Hashem (and Chillul Lubavitch) should horrify him.