Friday, March 31, 2006

Silence, Publicity, and Talk

Those idiots we call politicians are up to it again. In December, the Nevada congressional delegation was informed of plans to detonate a 700 ton explosive device at the Nevada test range. The federal government even obtained all necesarry permits. Now, over three months later, Nevada's congressional delegation wakes up.

Morgan said the site obtained the required state approvals and air quality permits in January. Officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration, which operates the site, alerted the state's congressional delegation and state government in December.

The Nevada Department of Administration responded with a letter stating: "Your proposal is not in conflict with state plans, goals or objectives."

No elected officials responded to the notice until Thursday, Morgan said. The test site is not required to seek public comment, he said.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hectic Schedule

My schedule has been pretty hectic these last two weeks. My other posts have taken a backseat to the Rambam & HAFTR posts. But there are a few in the pipeline, so stick around and I'll try to get one or two up in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Query - LWMO Communities?

Much talk has been made about the "move to the right," specifically within the 5T and Far Rockaway communities. I'm curious...where are the new up and coming LW MO communities? Are there any?

Monday, March 27, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Update

Two things:

1) [Edit: George has informed me that the HAFTR board has not, in fact, ratified anything. As such, I've edited this post]

2) has a cute logo for the new union

Strategic Thinking

MoChassid has a good post on strategic thinking for community organizations (shuls and yeshivas in particular, though there's no reason it can't be expanded to other types). Head over there for what's sure to be an enlightening discussion.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Trust the Experts II

Earlier I posted the "Trust the Experts" argument, we should trust the experts (in this case the boards of Rambam and HAFTR) to make the best decision possible. Talk now might only scuttle the deal, and while a bad deal can always be killed later, a good deal can't be ressurected once poisoned.

The argument is an old one. Should people be trusted to make their own decisions, or should decisions be made for them. Both extremes produce terrible results, anarchy on one end, communism on the other. The trick is finding the balance.

George remarks that directors must place a vote to the shareholders when major decisions arise. Mergers and acquisitions and director election are two examples. But if the analogy were perfect, the shareholders (technically whoever owns the school) would have the right to vote. The parents, who are really the customers, could "vote with their feet" and send their children elsewhere.

Nor does the Board consist of experts, according to George. They are doctors, lawyers, and accountants, but not experts. I have to take issue with that, they were placed on the board by someone, presumably because they know what's going on. You don't need a business degree to be a director of a corporation. But George is right, that other lawyers and doctors have almost as much expertise as the members of the board (though they may lack some information).

Indeed, the "experts" on running the school are probably the administration, or by analogy, the CEO, CFO, etc. Rabbis Friedman and Eliach at Rambam, for example. The directors lay out broad plans, but its the experts who implement them.

The "Trust the Experts" argument doesn't work in this case because the schools themselves have divulged the information. Most everyone would agree that once the plan is laid out it can be discussed. The extreme "Trust the Experts" faction will follow the experts blindly, but I don't believe even H, HC or BM would hold of that. If schools never faced criticism, they would be accountable to no one. So why should it matter if the entire plan is laid out or if the school releases it bit by bit? They've admitted to talks and released details. Should they not be discussed? Should people wait until every i is dotted and every t crossed before analyzing what's in front of them?

If that's the case, if the school is allowing things out piecemeal in the hopes of no discussion, not only are they negligent, but stupid as well. The role of the community becomes even larger, even more important, in vetting the possible "deal."

So, with the information we have, we can discuss. We can look at possibilities and scenarios, wargame them out, see what might work and what might not. Some might say we have a duty, for the education of our children we can do no less.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bat Torah & Mayanot

I've just been informed that Bat Torah will be moving to a new location, down the block from the (relatively) new girls school, Mayanot. Implications? I don't know. But I've had very limited contact with either school, Mayanot opened in my later high school years, and I only came across Bat Torah at debates.

HAFTR & Rambam - Trust the Experts I

H, among others, raises a serious point, one not easily dismissed. The boards of HAFTR and Rambam have the power and job to do what is in the best interests of those schools. We, the laity (in the sense of not being on the board) really should get out of the debate, wait until we see what happens, and not inject our uninformed opinions whenever asked.

Do parents ask teachers for the day by day curriculum of their students? Syllabi are for the student to know what assignments they have and what will be discussed, in very general terms. We trust our teachers. We have to.

Do voters call up their political representatives for every bill? Except for a few cooks, the answer is no. We (perhaps wrongly) trust them. What happens when the press and laity get involved? Look at the Patriot Act. If ever a law has been demonized, the Patriot Act is one. But how many people have actually read a small part of it? Most of it is highly detailed and technical, a lot of it consists of powers that law enforcement had beforehand (just not consolidated). Yet from the hype you'd wonder if the world ended.

Corporations operate the same way. Stockholders, the owners of the company, get to vote on proposals, but it is the board of directors which makes major decisions. Indeed, the board is allowed to use corporate funds to lobby for what they think is correct. If shareholders want to kick the board out and put in new directors, they are only reimbursed *if they win*. The directors can use corporate funds.

We trust the experts. And we should trust them here too. Let the two schools work out a deal, they know what's going on. We shouldn't pressure them, lest a good deal be scuttled. If the deal is bad, parents will take their children elsewhere. DRS will see a surge in applicants, as will Northshore. And if the deal isn't called off, HAFTR/Rambam will close, a testament to the lack of planning.

Its a very strong argument. We can't live our lives if we are forced to make every small decision, if we don't trust the experts, our doctors, lawyers, and educators.

I'll post a response to this argument a bit later. For now, think about it, regardless of which side you're on.

Friday, March 24, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Summary

[Updated March 26, 2006]
Here are the links to what I have already written on the subject. They are in chronological order.

Issue Analysis - What the proposed merger means, different possibilites on the merger
  1. HAFTR & Rambam Merger - March 12, 2006
  2. HAFTR & Rambam Merger II - March 13, 2006
  3. HAFTR & Rambam Merger III - March 15, 2006
Trust the Experts - Should the boards of Rambam and HAFTR be trusted as "experts" in their field?
  1. Trust the Experts I - Why we should trust the board (March 25, 2006)
  2. Trust the Experts II - The counterargument (March 26, 2006)

Proper Discussion? - Response to comments, and discussion on whether we should even be having this conversation.
  1. HAFTR & Rambam - Response to Comments - March 15, 2006
  2. HAFTR & Rambam - Response to Comments - March 17, 2006
  3. HAFTR & Rambam - Info Request - March 22, 2006
  4. HAFTR & Rambam -The Last 12 Hours - March 23, 2006

Thursday, March 23, 2006

10,000 hits


We've just gotten our 10,000th hit. Keep 'em coming. Welcome to all the new readers, please introduce yourself in the comments.

Massaged Divrei Torah?

Go to a bris, ufruf, sheva brachos, any simcha and you'll see it. How can you miss it? It happens everytime. With every speech, every dvar torah. Consistently. You know what I mean.

Everything connects to the parsha.

Its amazing, isn't it? No matter what the simcha, the names just happen to match up. Their attributes are exactly like the ones in the parsha.

Rabbis do it all the time too. They pick something in the parsha and massage it to bring out their message. I don't mind it, though I usually discount the massage and look at the message. And its a good way to get the attention of your congregants.

Don't get me wrong, its not bad. Its a good way to review the weekly parsha. Not everyone has the skills or knowledge to look in other areas.

Still, I wish people would pick a random parsha, story in Nach or gemara, and discuss that. I'd find it more meaningful. Pick and choose, find the trait you really want to discuss, and actually discuss it. Instead of twisting around the words to match whichever parsha fell out the day the catering hall had an opening.

The Last 12 Hours

The last 12 hours have seen a tremendous spike in the number of referrals to this blog from searches (primarily through Google) related to the Rambam-HAFTR issue. As MoC pointed out, and someone else repeated, the vote was supposed to be held either last night or tonight (Wednesday night). I suppose people are searching, seeking information on the vote and what the plan might be.

If anyone has information on what occured, including details of the plan, please let me know, via email ( or comments. If enough details are known, I'll try to get an initial analysis out before Shabbos.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Response To Comments

Those (HC, Ben Matok, and H) who feel that I'm only out to gossip couldn't be farther from the truth. They can't differentiate between an honest discussion of issues that are about to come up, and gossip. That's a real shame. In this thread, H replied with an interesting comment. Below is his comment, with my reply (a must read) following:

Actually, having been reading these comments and others through the past few weeks, I think HC makes a very valid point. Were Romach, MoChasid and any others at all interested in anything other than the gossip factor, they would not be posting and looking for gossip. They would have endeavored to call and ascertain the facts as they existed and they would have been 'dan l'caf zchut' that those involved are truly operating l'shma and in the interests of the community at large. Having no particular say in the proceedings, but knowing the people involved, I believe that the community in general could benefit from such an alliance - if done the right way. The meddling of the gossip mongers cannot help as it brings things to a boil before it is ready.
My response:
H, there are a number of incorrect assumptions in your comment. What you characterize as "posting and looking for gossip" I, and others, characterize as "looking for information that is already publicly available." Posting really has nothing to do with this, its inherently neutral. If you believe that posting makes it automatically gossip, then we're on totally different pages.

Indeed, if I had called (and who is to say I didn't), odds are the administration would not divulge information. Even if they had previously related that information to the student body.

You can't point out one instance where I said or implied that the members of the HAFTR or Rambam yeshivas were not operating with the most honorable of intentions. That assumption, one which characterizes comments from HC, Ben Matok and you, is totally off. You can agree that people are acting honorably, yet disagree on whether it is a good idea. Good intentions do not translate to good ideas.

I have no particular say in the proceedings either, and, like you, I know the people involved. I have no doubt they believe such an alliance is a good idea.

I agree with you insofar that you think an alliance, done in the right way, could benefit the community. But, a priori, I don't see a large window for it to be done the right way. The schools are just too different. That's not a bad thing, or a good thing, its just the facts on the ground.

Note that you also leave open the possibility that the alliance will not be good for the greater community. How is that different than my posts? Except that while I outlined my reasons to think the alliance wouldn't work, you've kept yours secret.

HAFTR & Rambam - Info Request

If anyone knows what happend at the meeting last night regarding the Rambam and HAFTR merger, please email me ( I'm curious what the actual plan is. Emails sent to the parents can be sent too.


Another Nail in the Coffin

From R' Harry's latest piece, on the new "ban" of MOAG.

So now we have it again. Rav Kaminetsky’s book has been banned again. And people wonder why I think we have no leadership today. Sure, Rav Elyashiv is a Gadol. But as a man in his nineties he is too easily manipulated by others. His Gadlus is not providing true leadership. Yet all other rabbinic figures jump on any chance they get to sign on to a ban that has Rav Elyashiv’s name on it even when they don’t know what they are signing!
Read the whole thing, as they say.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bars, Billiards, Bowling and Dates

Motzei shabbos, after my friend's ufruf, a few of us wanted to go to a billiards hall to shoot some pool with him, just to hang out for the night.

Another friend didn't want to go. He didn't feel it was an appropriate place to go to. Good yeshiva boys just don't go to billard halls.

I first went to a billiards place and felt the same way, a little guilty. Face it, its a place where people smoke and drink. Its low lit. Its far from a museum. Billiards have a reputation, like bars, to be a low class, low life, place.

Things have changed. In NY you can't smoke inside bars or billiard halls. Every time I've gone to shoot pool some couple has been there on a (n obviously shidduch) date.

Still, the stigma remains.

Billiards are no differnet than bowling. Some think of bowling as a low class event too. But pool takes more skill, was more smoke filled, and had a lot more alcohol, to the point that some places only allowed you in once you were over 18. People grow up bowling, so its normal to them. Rarely does someone grow up playing pool. So the feel its wrong.

But they're really the same thing.

Professional Responsibility

Professional Responsibility, the class that all law students take. Also known as legal ethics, it discusses the laws which govern how attorneys act, solicit clients, etc.

My professor for that class is decidedly left of center. Indeed, she's made many jokes and comments, at least one or two per class. Today she said "I hope that no one is offended by my political statements."

I couldn't leave well enough alone. After class I walked over and said, a grin on my face, "Don't worry Professor, we're all used to these comments." She was thrilled. Finally! Someone who disagreed with her! We got into a nice ten minute chat about politics and law.

She commented, "I usually don't make these remarks in class, but this administration is just so extreme, and done so many things which are blatantly illegal." I replied "On that we'll have to disagree." She further observed that I might change my mind once we only had a single branch of government left.

Here was the kicker. In response to something I said, she replied "I don't think [Justices] Souter or Ginsburg are leftists. They're centrists. There's no left wing party in this country. There are only Republicans and Republicrats. A real left wing party is in France, where they have communists and socialists."

Ginsburg? Souter? Not leftists? As Nephtuli remarked, that's like saying there's no right wing party because the Republicans are centrists compared to Nazis.

The next class is Wednesday. Fireworks next class? I'll bet yes. Can't wait for her to call on me. Only question is how many people will support me and how many will hiss.

Monday, March 20, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - This Week

According to MoC, a tentative alliance between Rambam and HAFTR will be put before the HAFTR board this week, perhaps even Tuesday night. Once we have that information, and the plan details, we'll be able to start a more detailed analysis.

I assume MoC will blog about it. I'll link to his analysis and offer my own thoughts here and on his blog.


The new edition of MOAG has been banned. Thanks to Gil for the info.
[No, I don't think this will be as big as Slifkin. This war was already fought years ago]

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Question for the ladies

You have a choice. A guy who davens shacharis with a minyan regularly or a guy who has a chavrusa regularly. Which do you choose and why?
(Guys may comment as well on which they think is more important)

[Update: I've conducted an informal survey offline. Two guys and a girl. The guys both said they would choose learning over minyan, but thought the girls would choose minyan. The girl wanted a guy who went to minyan, but couldn't offer a sound reason.]

Nutjobs at it again

Apparently the bird flu is God's punishment for the Disengagement (link)
I was wondering when someone would come out with this.

Chazzanus...Take it Outside

I can't stand chazzanus. Don't get me wrong, if that's your thing, go for it. Throw concerts, sing at halls. But not in shul. Not on Friday night. There is NO excuse why kabbalas shabbos should take close to an hour because the chazzan decided to sing some mizmorim out loud in toto.

Ba'alei tefilah are good, but not chazzanim. Why? The job of a shliach tzibur is to lead the kehilla (congregation). They should help inspire us and move us. Chazzanus doesn't do that for me, for many of my friends, or from this last shabbos, for most of the congregation.

It turns davening into a one man show, a performance. Not the good one, where everyone joins in, but one where the performer is just showing off, and everyone's falling asleep.

Friday, March 17, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Response To Comments II

As I was finishing up my reply to Halakhically Concerned's latest comments, I saw that Ben Matok had posted his as well. That sorta ruined most of my reply to HC, but I'm glad BM posted. I had wondered what it was that he said which caused MoC to take down his posts on the subject.

First, I freely admit that there was little difference between MoC's initial take on the subject and my first post. There were some slight differences, and there may have been some deeper
divisions, but for the most part, we were saying the same thing. Since I had corroborated what MoC said through other sources, I felt it worth of its own post. And since I'd have further thoughts on the matter, I figure I'd start off now. I'm approaching it from a point of view that is slightly more than theoretical (given the rumors and acknowledgements from the yeshivas involved) yet far from practical.

HC and BM make a comparison to marriage. Surely, one would not publicly discuss family issues of third parties on their blog, even if it were public knowledge, and they're right. Of course, this rule is not absolute. We routinely advertise, publicly discuss, embaress, and condemn those who don't give their wives a get. (Though one can disagree with this, and thus make the rule absolute).

I think a closer analogy would be the functioning of a beis din, of a Rav or community leader abusing their positions of power, or a shul's negotiations with a contractor to expand. In all of
those cases, the community has a vested interest, indeed a requirement, to get involved, and to discuss the issues.

BM and I have a disagreement, but not a fundamental one. "I...don't think that the topic - in of itself - is worthy of discussion at the present moment. (emphasis added)" Presumably, once the actual plan is on the table, the time for discussion would begin. Or, alternatively, if no discussions were being held, someone could come forth with a plan (as often happens in the corporate world) to merge the two, and discuss the consequences (as often happens int he academic world). What he appears to be saying is that since there are rumors floating around, rumors which have happend year after year, this discussion falls under loshon hara and idle gossip. I don't think that rumors take a discussion occuring in a separate vein and turn them
into idle gossip. Otherwise, a purely theoretical discussion, where we called the schools "X" and "Y" would be equally gossipy.

Nonetheless, BM has a very valid point, one which I continue to struggle with. Sensitive negotiations can often be derailed by ill timed stories, be they newspapers, bloggers, or word of mouth. So how do you decide what to post and what not to post?

First, it should be recognize that this is not out of the blue. Both HAFTR and Rambam have made ambiguous statements (and in at least one case, have changed their story from a denial to the ambiguous statement). Had it been totally secret I would not have written about it. I wouldn't be surprised if both schools have feelers out, listening to responses, to gauge support and gather new ideas.

Second, once this is not secret, I can, and do, reasonably assume that the trustees, board members, and administrators of both schools are ready for parental feedback. Indeed, neither school has taken any strong affirmative steps to maintain secrecy.

Parents know, teachers know, students know, and not because those involved in negotiations kept quiet. So now that the cat is out of the bag, or rather, a cat is out of some bag, what do we do? We can be quiet. In a world where gossip is king, that would be the prudent thing to do, as HC and BM suggest. Luckily, Haloscan allows me to moderate and edit comments. So no mudslinging here. Or, we can try and have a civil conversation, looking at the contours of different plans, different possibilities, assessing their strengths and weaknesses. That's what I'd like to do. It should be noted that, since our covnersations are largely theoretical, while this lays the groundwork, much of it can be deemed irrelevant if the plan turns out to be very different.

Of course, any conversation comes against the backdrop of MoC, whose posts were taken down. I'd ask my readers and commenters to look past that. We have the ability to help guide our Yeshivot through a process whose impact will be felt in 5T education for the next decade, or longer. We should not take that responsibility lightly, nor should we abdicate it.

(Interestingly, my posts are not nearly as popular as MoC's were. That's probably generally true of my posts, but I hope its also an indication that people know not to make idle gossip comments, or don't like reading such long posts. According to one of the letters sent out, either Rambam or HAFTR should be announcing something right before/after Pesach. This thread should die down soon, I only have one more post on my thoughts, which are for Jewish education generally, but can be applied in the present situation as well.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Megillah Meme

CWY tagged me with the megillah meme. So here's what I thought about during no particular order:

1) Why, in Esther 10:2, does it switch from "Paras uMadai" to "Madai uParas?"

2) I wish they only banged at the first and last Haman like the shul I was in last year

3) That sounded like a, he brought a shofar to blow during Haman...that's ingenuity.

4) As DB pointed out, 4:13-14 are just spectacular. Not because Mordechai is unsure (though he may be about Esther's ascension to the throne) but because he's so sure that deliverance will come from somewhere. Even if you know that you'll be saved, you still need to do whatever you can to effectuate it.

5) What shevet was Esther from? We know Mordechai is her uncle, and is from Binyamin, but what about her? (This took on added significant during the purim seudah when someone showed word similarities between Shaul and Esther, implying that Purim was finishing up what Shaul/shevet Binyamin messed up)

6) The Artscroll/Mesorah softcover english/hebrew megillah really makes things seem longer.

7) Did I just miss a word? No, I don't think so. Maybe...ok, just catch up and hope for the best.

I tag ADDeRabbi, Krum, MoC, and Ezzie

Madai uParas

At the end of the Megillah, the pasuk changes to "Madai uParas" instead of the usual "Paras uMadai." Someone at the Purim seudah I attended mentioned that someone wrote something about this. Any ideas where it might be? Or what the reason is?

HAFTR & Rambam - Response To Comments

I feel the need to respond to Halakhically Concerned comments, if only to explain myself and set the record straight. You can read the complete comment here, I'll be putting my responses through the comments:
It's rather startling how ostensibly Torah-observant Jews blow off rather strict Halakhic proscriptions regarding Lashon HaRa, Motzi Shem Rah or, particularly in this case, lo teylech rachil b'Amecha. Attempting to rationalize it by one's motives ("I have nothing against HAFTR or Rambam") is irrelevant to the Halakhic analysis.
I agree that we see a lot of rationalization amongst Jews who try to get around halachic obligations. I haven't done so. My comment about having nothing against HAFTR or Rambam (I have close family that have attended both, and I myself attended one of the institutions and have only the best of memories) was not an attempt at rationalization. MoC took down his post, and said, in part '"[I] have a lot of ill feelings towards HAFTR (for personal reasons) and I have let those feelings run amok." I only wrote the above sentance to inform readers that I feel like I can approach it in a more objective manner, as I have no ill feelings towards either school.
Put rather simply, Torah Jews do not engage in idle gossip. Are parents, students, supporters of institutions proscribed from discussing a merger of these institutions when they may be affected by it - of course not, but those discussions should be conducted carefully and only for a legitimate purpose (which might well be to either support or defeat a proposed merger). Mere by-standers have nothing to add to this discussion and should say nothing.
The assumption in the above paragraph should be obvious, that my discussion of the potential merger is either not being conducted carefully or is not for a legitimate purpose. I take exception to both. I've done much thinking about the merger, both pro and con. The legitimate purpose is to have the best possible result, whether that results in one, two, or three institutions, catering to coed or single sex education.

To an extent, all discussions involve mere bystanders who have nothing to add to the conversation. First, where you draw the line as to who constitutes a "bystander" with "nothing to add"? What you consider a bystander, I may not. Should it be confined to those in the 5T only? What about newly married couples, who, at the very least, won't have children in the school system for 4-5 years? Parents who donate to the schools? Older individuals who want the community to remain in a certain state, but who don't have children directly in the school system?

Even bystanders (who HC erroneously describes as those with nothing to add, as opposed to those not impacted) come up with ideas and present novel concepts. As an alum, I may not have a direct interest, but I can surely conduct an analysis and offer an idea or two. But yes, if we go with HC's definition, he's right. People with nothing to add and no impact should spend their time more productively instead of just spewing.

Perhaps I'm projecting, but I'm not sure HC would make the same comments if the story was in the Nassau Herald, 5T Jewish Times, or another local paper. Blogs are a new medium, one which many are uncomfortable with, but which have the singular ability to reach more people than any medium in recent history. With power comes responsibility, but it should be realized that just because you don't like the result doesn't mean I've abdicated my responsibility.
Even potentially impacted parties should wait to speak until the specifics of the proposed matter are revealed. To put it bluntly, purveyors of gossip are, Halakhically, distributors of a prohibited substance, one which is destructive to our community and personally destructive to the pusher. We all slip in our shmirat haLashon - I'm no holier than thou - but to do so in the face of express warnings about the Halakhic implications and in the wake of the brave and Torah-true decision of another blogger to desist from this conduct, is simply unforgiveable.
Go re-read why MoC pulled down his posts. That doesn't mean that his action is the only "Torah-true" decision (although, if you're bent on nothing being posted about it, I can see why you might say that taking it down is the only Torah-true approach). And the comments here haven't bogged down into Rambam or HAFTR bashing.

HC is both right and wrong. If you come across sensitive information, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it to publish? If the information might damage national security, do you sit on it, or not? There is no black and white answer. The downside (or upside) of all this talk might be the failure of a deal between Rambam and HAFTR. That's not a responsibility to bear lightly.
But specifics are shaped by discussion. The boards of HAFTR and Rambam may well be reading these blogs, listening to reader and teacher feedback, students and parental remarks. From all that, a new, better deal might arise, or a disaster may be averted. Indeed, if parents and others waited until the actual single proposal was on the table, they may miss the opportunity to suggest changes. Once both schools have locked into a choice, they may be unwilling to change.

Much scholarship is based on theory. On situations, cases, and proposals which have yet to arise. Does that mean we ignore it? Or do we analyze it, see the possible ups and downs, prepare a framework for discussion, so that when the actual plan is released, we're not blindsided? I'm all for the former.
All I can say to Romach is, please use your blog to spread useful and productive thought to our community, not gossip.
I don't see it as being gossip. First, analysis in and of itself is not gossip. What the plans are, what the possibilities are, do not fall under gossip either. Let's also remember, both HAFTR and Rambam have sent out emails confirming that some sort of discussion is underway. In addition, the only ones who could have "leaked" the information are those who were entrusted with its secrecy. One could argue they've waived the secrecy by telling the secret (I know, I know, its not a great argument).

In short, there's nothing wrong with discussing the ideas of a possible merger, along with what different possibilites are. That is far different from idle gossip. "X would be a bad idea and here's why" is different than "They're doing X, and I know this because my dog's former owner's son went to Rambam."

I fail to see how this falls under idle gossip, I also fail to see how this falls under loshon hara (granted, I don't know the laws of LH that well. Then again, I don't know how well HC knows it either).

HAFTR & Rambam Merger III

I've received copies of MoC's posts, as well as emails and sent by both Rambam and HAFR to their respective parent bodies/trustees, etc.

I won't repost MoC's posts, that's not for me to do. But if people are interested in seeing the emails, I'll post thenm. The latest is a letter to the Bd. of Ed. and Bd. of Trustees of HAFTR, dated March 8, 2006.

Do people want these posted?

Monday, March 13, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam Merger II

MoC has taken down his posts on the HAFTR-Rambam merger.

I have a lot of ill feelings towards HAFTR (for personal reasons) and I have let those feelings run amok. I only hope that whatever decisions the two schools make are made carefully and with seichel.

Comments have generally been supportive of his decision. Its not easy for someone to admit having gone overboard.

Fortunately, I harbor no ill will towards HAFTR, or Rambam. I also see no reason to remove my post. While one commentator states that this can only lead to more loshon hara, that is true of almost everything. We must have faith in our commenters and commentators, and those that go overboard or violate halacha lend themselves at risk for moderation.

The strongest reason I can think of for removing my post is secrecy. Secret negotiations, when they become public, can often have devastating results. Especially on such an issue of this.

But are these talks secret? Rambam and HAFTR have sent out communications which strongly point to talks. Whether its a merger or alliance, confederation or partnership, we all know that *something* is in the works. They might fall through, they might not.

If Rambam and HAFTR had wanted the talks kept secret they should have done more.

Can increased community attention sink the deal? Sure, but that might not be a bad thing. Parents, students, bloggers, administrators, and teachers, all bring different perspectives. Indeed, I believe that a full fledged discussion, free of animosity, can only help the state of yeshiva education in the 5T.

If anyone has more information on the merger, please feel free to email me at I hope to repost one or two of my comments on MoC's blog here, along with an more in depth analysis of the situation.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Richard Joel Speaks

Better late than never...

Richard Joel spent Shabbos in Washington Heights two shabbosim ago. It was quite the scene. Drew has a pretty good summary of the shabbos.

On the subject of Birthright, Joel said something very interesting. Yiddish, he said, was important because it gave Jews everywhere a shared story, something which we are missing today. Something else has to take its place, and part of that was Birthright. It gave people who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to participate in their story, a chance to do so.

I'll share one quick story he told, which was very moving. On the first night of the first ever Birthright trip to Israel, a number of students asked Joel what they should feel when they went to the kotel (Western Wall) the next morning.

[Disclaimer: This may be a little off, so please correct me if needed.]

He replied: You may not feel anything. Different people are touched by different things. I can't tell you how to feel, but I can tell you this; Our great-grandparents almost assuredly didn't know each other. They lived in different shtetls, eeked out a living in different ways and spoke different dialects of Yiddish. But, there were two things that they had in common. They yearned to go to the Kotel. And they knew they never would. And tomorrow, at 930am, you will.

HAFTR & Rambam Merger

MoChassid (who I have yet to meet) has been commenting (Rumor Mill, More from the Rumor Mill, MoC's take, HAFTR responds) on the recent rumors that HAFTR and Rambam Mesivta will be merging in the upcoming school year. Though my family lives in the 5T, I don't. I attended high school there and was unaware of the impending merger until a guest told me Friday night.

So I did some digging. What MoChassid is saying appears to be essentially correct. Through connections with parents and others in the neighborhood, I've come up with the following:

There are two plans.

The first would involve a two division school, coed (HAFTR) and all-boys (Rambam). HAFTR boys would have the opportunity to go to Rambam for (their stronger) limudei kodesh while attending secular classes at HAFTR. Scheduling will need to change, as HAFTR (to my knowledge) has limudei kodesh interspersed throughout the day.
The second plan would involve the creation of an all-girls division also. That would involve the purchase/lease of another building, but the idea is the same. Provide a single sex educational environment for girls.

But what do they gain? Students would need to be bused across down at the beginning of the afternoon, for secular classes, HAFTR doesn't have the space for Rambam to move into.
It would help enrollment. Both HAFTR and Rambam would have a stronger marketing position. Rambam has maintained a good reputation in the 15 or so years they've been open. As MoChassid pointed out, they also have a reputation for being well run. Then again, how many DRS students will now choose to go to Rambam/HAFTR?

How does this affect the teachers? HAFTR has a teacher's union, and they're not exactly on great terms with the school. Rumors of a strike earlier this year which never materialized, faculty protesting by not cooperating in certain areas, the constant changing of principals, the place is in shambles.
On the other hand, Rambam hasn't had many female teachers. I have many friends (not in HAFTR) who are single, female, and teach in other schools. I don't know if Rambam ever had an unmarried female teacher, or what the administration would think of that.
In addition, a number of HAFTR teachers supplement their income by teaching at Rambam. Would they need to be unionized there too now? How will Rambam's relationship with their teachers change?

If it remains just a limudei kodesh option, then neither Rambam nor HAFTR will need to change their secular hiring practices. They'd be pooling advertising resources and name recognition, but little else. Teachers might get upset that they teach more in the afternoon, and they might be upset that they're finding out from emails to the parent body and blogs, and not through the school itself. You know how bad egos can be.

There will be either three principles with one person overseeing everyone, or two-three "vice-principals," one for each division. Surely the need to buy new plaques for door titles will damage an ego or two. Some administrative positions would be eliminated, though if the schools are on new campuses I can't imagine who that would be, aside from payroll.

My Thoughts:
I'm skeptical. HAFTR's board and administration is in sorry shape. But R. Friedman is a pretty smart guy. In a short time he brought Rambam to the forefront of 5T education. DRS was even modeled on Rambam, not on HAFTR. He must see a purpose for this, and have something planned. If I recall correctly, he taught at HAFTR a couple of decades back, before he opened Ramabm.

Rambam should have merged with SKA 10 years back. There were always jokes that SKA was Rambam's sister school. Siblings went to Rambam and SKA. But then DRS opened, and Rambam lost their opportunity. I see a merger between two schools with wide differences in hashkafa as being very hard to implement.

And what's the new name? HAFTRR? RAFTR? Perhaps with a yearly rafting trip.

More later...

Monday, March 06, 2006

From the Front Desk

Life's been a bit tiring, so here's what I'm working on:
1) I hope to blog about Richard Joel's speech at Mt. Sinai this past Shabbos
2) Today I had the honor to hear R. Glickman of YU speak. It was a very interesting discussion, and I hope to post some thoughts on it.
3) Mazal Tov to fellow blogger Nephtuli upon his engagement.

The Road to Lakewood...

Blogs have been awash with posts and comments on the recent visit of three charedi rabbonim to Teaneck, New Jersey. Gil put up a guest post, as did Godol Hador (I, II, his thoughts). While most have billed this as an "achdus building" event, GH has been more skeptical.

GH wants reciprocity. He wants R' Shechter, R' Willig, R' Rosensweig, etc to be invited to speak in Lakewood. That would show their generosity, that it is truly an achdus building event. Why?

As it stands, all we have are Charedi rabbonim speaking in MO institutions. If your goal was to convert or proselytize, would you really allow the other side to speak to your congregants? I should hope not. You seek the advantage, that you can speak without being spoken to. Imagine walking into a Yeshiva and giving a shiur on the intricacies of Torah and Science, history, etc. How literary structure can be used in Tanach or Gemara (especially aggadita). And then, the talmidim walk over to their rebbe, who for years has told them this stuff is shtus, and ask why they can't learn it. I think that's what GH is really afraid of. We're giving them a forum, without demanding one back. There's no quid pro quo. He may be right, or overly alarmist.

I for one hope its an achdus building event. It may take time for reciprocity. Even if it were true that the organizers and speakers were "just out to get us," by them speaking it opens the door. Just a crack. That's how diplomacy works.

This was a big event. And hopefully the beginning of a new era.

[Update: R' Harry's thoughts here.]

Friday, March 03, 2006

Parroting Politicians

Ha'aretz headline: "Mofaz: Middle East axis of evil wants to destroy Israel"

I'm all for people reusing other's phrases. But enough is enough. Not a week goes by where somewhere, in Israel or elsewhere, uses the "axis of evil" phrase made recently famous by President Bush in a State of the Union address.

Do politicians realize how dumb they sound when they parrot phrases over and over? No, I don't think Bush's phrase was dumb, it was on par with Reagan's "Evil Empire." But that doesn't mean every politician, at every opportunity, should be using it. It makes them sound like idiots.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Superficiality II

Wow. So for the last two days, I've been defending the theory I came up with. Online and off. Its been...interesting.

Of all the comments, I think Shira raises the best question. If, as a general rule, and not just within the Orthodox community, men care more about looks than women, my theory fails. Nephtuli then pointed out that this need not be true. All that would be required is a different set of circumstances which has the same effect as questioning does in the Orthodox community. While true, I think that is far fetched, that so many communities have such issues that its become ingrained. It seems more likely that its just natural.

[As an aside, I asked a number of non-Orthodox people, both Jewish and not, and the replies were pretty well scattered, some saying men cared more about looks, some saying women, and others saying it was equal.]

I strongly disagree that women can adapt to the lack of good looks on men if they like his personality, but men can't. There are many ugly men with pretty women, and vice versa. I know some of them. We may be judging beauty differently, for a girl it would be his smile, for a man, her figure. I feel that in those situations, looks fall by the wayside and attraction increases as time goes on. They may be friends for a while before dating, or they may date, but the relationship stagnates for some time.

So, the theory I proposed, is it right? Definitely not in all aspects. And of course, we have no data to back up either "conventional" wisdom, though the fact that its conventional wisdom should be enough to make us question it. On the other hand, if Shira's incorrect, and it is confined (or more confined) to the OJ community, then perhaps it is correct. Either way, I think its interesting.

Peronally, I do think that girls are superficial when it comes to looks, and if not as much as guys, its pretty close. Again, we may define looks differently. But what each side considers looks they do so superficially. Conventional wisdom may only shed light on the fact that guys are more honest about it.