Sunday, April 30, 2006


Let's do a little experiment. Over the next couple of days pay attention to your conversations. On the phone, in person. With strangers, friends, your spouse. Start counting how often you use the word "I" or "me."

One of the best books I've ever read (and continue to review) is Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." There are no big chiddushim in his book, but in a self centered world, where everything is "I" and "me" he reminds us that there are others in the world. The key is realizing other people have interests too.

Borrow or better yet, buy it. We're in middle of sefirah. Before you know it the 3 weeks will be upon us, and then Elul. But how can you really ask someone for forgiveness, how can you expect to get along with anyone else, if everything is "I" and "me?"

It's such a great book that, Marc Shapiro, in his latest work, Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox, notes that R. Dessler often used Carnegie's lectures, sometimes word for word, in his mussar shmoozes.

Read it. You'll thank me.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


There's a discussion on Orthomom which you should be reading (especially those in the 5 Towns and School District 15).

School teachers are entrusted with the education of our future, our children. They deserve to be paid more.

Police officers are entrusted with the security and safety of everyone, at the risk of their own lives. They deserve to be paid more.

Firefighters rush into burning buildings, at great risk, to save complete strangers. They deserve to be paid more.

Truck drivers bring everything from food to toothpaste across the country. Without them we couldn't function the way we do. They should be paid more.

Sanitation collectors protect our very health. If garbage piled up in the streets, the stink, not to mention health risks, would be insurmountable. They should be paid more.

The above argument can be used, and has, almost everywhere. But I have yet to see someone pin an actual dollar amount that a teacher should get. They only discuss how much of a raise to give, this time. Never is the end amount, the goal, mentioned.

There's a legal idea that is useful here. A duty to all is a duty to none. When everyone is supposed to be paid more, no one is.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Teitelbaum, Ben-Ari, Yom HaShoah

R. Moshe Teitelbaum, rebbe of Satmar, passed away today (I, II) after leading Satmar for about 26 years. Let's hope the succession fight between his children, Aaron and Zalmen, doesn't spiral further out of control. If it can.

Cross-Currents has a guest post, with interesting comments, on the boro park riots a couple of weeks back. I just got to it, but do read it if you haven't (link).

Uri Ben-Ari, a retired Brigadier General in the IDF, has a new book out, "Betabat Hahenek" [In a Stranglehold]. Ha'aretz discusses the book here. The last few paragraphs are really interesting:

Ben-Ari believes that the world has not internalized the lessons of the Holocaust, "Terrible things still happen in the world and a new Holocaust can emerge now even in Europe and not only against the Jews." He is also concerned by the threats of Iran and Islamic extremists and believes that the Palestinians will never agree to recognize the state of Israel.

About a year ago, Ben-Ari published an article in Haaretz calling for Israel to respond to Qassam missile attacks by bombing Palestinian cities and villages in the Gaza Strip. Does he still think this is an appropriate solution? "I believe in what all the major figures in our country believed for years: If in our own streets, citizens cannot live in peace and quiet, our enemies will have similar living conditions. That was the motto of every proud Jew. That is how every normal people behaves."

Including direct attacks against a civilian population?

"Yes. Only the Palestinian people - no one else - can stop the terror. Only if that people suffers."

Of course, today is Yom HaShoah, where we remember the deaths of six million Jews killed by the Nazis in World War II. Lots more needs to be said and done on that.

Blogging will continue to be light through the middle of May.

McKinney the Fool

Cynthia McKinney, is facing a challenger in her upcoming primary for reelection, an attorney named Hank Johnson. I hope he kicks her butt.

McKinney, if you care to recall, ran into some bad publicity after she assaulted a Capitol Hill police officer. Members of Congress do not need to go through metal detectors upon entering the capitol. Instead, by wearing a pin showing them to be members, they are waved through. McKinney wasn't wearing her pin. The officer didn't recognize her. When he stopped her, he got punched. She's lucky she wasn't shot. Think about it. Terrorist threats and a woman walks around a metal detector and attacks an officer?

After charging racism (McKinney is black, the officer in question was not), she apologized for the escalation on the House floor. She has yet to apologize to the officer, who should be commended for doing his job properly.

From CNN:

Arriving at the Georgia Capitol Monday on the first day of qualifying for the July 18 primary, the outspoken McKinney was all smiles and exuding confidence, telling reporters that "people love me because I tell the truth."

"They know I told the truth about September 11th. They know I told the truth about George Bush's war," she said. "And can you imagine that now, in this election season, we're talking about a nuclear strike on (Iran)?"

Actually, she's more like the National Enquirer. You know, that tabloid on supermarket checkout lines that you look at because you're bored, its a slow news day, and the little old lady in front of you is paying with exact change.

Oh, and the best part? Not realizing her microphone was still on, she called the aide who arranged an interview a "fool." Then she went back and told the producer that "anything that is captured by your audio, that is captured while I'm not seated in this chair, is off the record and is not permissible to be used. Is that understood?" Who's the fool?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Reality of Dayenu

There has been one change to the seder in the last hundred years. A major one. Not all of us appreciate it, not all of us can. I can't. Those who really can are dwindling in number each year, but for them, its much easier.

Even tinokot shel beit rabban (children in school) know that we have an obligation to feel as if we left Egypt personally, not just our ancestors. That's increasingly hard to do when "liberation" means Florida, take out food, or your cleaning lady scrubbing your floor.

During the second seder, at al achas kamah... after dayenu, my grandfather remarked. "When I was a child, I used to say v'hichnisu l'eretz yisrael. We all did. But we didn't know what it meant. But now, I say it, and I know what it means."

After being turned back by the British, my (paternal) grandfather spent over a year at a displaced person's camp in Cypress. Only in 1948, after the State of Israel was declared, were my grandfather, his brother, and his sister (the survivors of 7 children) able to enter Israel. He served in the Army and stayed in Israel until 1958 or so, before making his way (with my grandmother, father, and uncle) to America via Brazil.

Imagine that! We look at dayenu and its all history, tradition, and stories. The one we relate to most? The Torah, and only because we see what happens without it. Even Israel, could you imagine not having it? But the big deal wasn't having Israel, but being brought into it. The transition of being countryless to having an actual homeland. But he does. He grew up saying the same thing his parents and grandparents said for hundreds of years.

Before 1948 my grandfather said it not knowing what it meant to have Israel. I say it not knowing what it means not to have Israel. Neither of us knew what it meant to get Israel. But he does, and has for nearly 60 years. He was brought into Israel. Not a story. For him, v'hichnisu l'eretz yisrael is reality.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Analysis: Hashkafa & Conclusion

Previous questions were technical. Who will stay and go? Will courses be offered? Can they be offered? Financing? But there's one question, more fundamental, which has yet to be raised.


Rambam and HAFTR have (seemingly) different hashkafos. Coed education and single female teachers are but examples. As I've mentioned earlier, I don't think parents choose between HAFTR and Rambam. The two are too different. Nor would it surprive me if the contingent of students from outside of the five towns hail from different communities and different elementary schools. I know of Brandeis students that have gone to HAFTR, none to Rambam. How many Darchei students have gone to HAFTR?

In essence, HAFTR is more LW than Rambam, with a wider variety of students. In a community which is moving "to the right," this bodes ill for HAFTR (why the community is moving to the right is not for now). In fact, in order to maintain current student levels, they'd need to increase their diversity, which won't help with cohesiveness. Pressure from Northshore doesn't help matters.

Expect HAFTR parents to be very concerned, just as Rambam parents would be if HAFTR administration was running the show instead.

But what hashkafic changes will be brought to HAFTR and Rambam? Provided the schools maintain their own admissions standards, the student bodies shouldn't change greatly. From the student body perspective, we won't see a "Rambamization" of HAFTR or a "HAFTRization" of Rambam. Any attempt to impose hashkafic views which HAFTR parents disapprove of could be disastrous.

But there are plenty of areas which parents won't disagree with. Its my understanding that while Zionism courses are taught at HAFTR, they are focused on seniors. We might see the introduction of those courses at the freshman level, where they'll do more good.

Interestingly, this partnership may arrest the communal move to the right. To paraphrase a friend, the average Chaim is more "religious" than the average "Mike." Additionally, MO adherents are willing to be in a secular world, they face challenges that the UO do not. While a level of religious belief and grounding might suffice for UO, the same level doesn't begin to suffice for MO. The idea of "Torah uMadah" is a hard one for adults. I regularly get into discussions with learned and intellegient people, who just can't understand that science or philosophy provide for a deeper understanding of Torah. Imagine how hard it is for children? As a result, these kids go to yeshivas, where there heads are filled with other views, views which make sense. In the face of no alternative, is it any surprise that many "flip out?" In the long term, this partnership may make it a more serious MO community, instead of a RW community.

To conclude:

Like the other issues, the hashkafic views are more complicated that this single post. But I'm trying to wrap this up before Pesach. Please feel free to bring up additional issues in the comments.

This deal has some upside, but its far from certain that HAFTR and Rambam can pull it off. Financing is an issue, the girls school is an issue. Hashkafa is a huge issue, I'd wager its one larger than most people give it credit for.

If they can't pull it off, the deal will collapse. The schools will remain where they are today. Even if they do pull it off, I can easily see a new school or two opening its doors to cater to parents who feel like HAFTR or Rambam abandoned them? I can also see HAFTR's high school population decreasing in the coming years, so that the two schools are more evenly matched, population wise (especially if an all girls school opens up).

There's a lot we still don't know. How will internal administration work, what's the exact power given to each of the personalities, and how will HAFTR's lower and middle school be impacted? I've tried looking at some of the major issues (this last one less than most due to time constraints), but as they say, the devil is in the details.

A-Z Meme

[Updated to include "P" and "V." Thanks CWY]

I'm bored, basically done cleaning, and don't want to do schoolwork. So here goes, thanks to Irina

Accent: I actually had one person ask me if I was from Chicago (not sure why, all my Chicago friends laugh at that), and others who asked where I was from. When involved in a heated discussion, my accent moves towards NY. Otherwise, its pretty neutral.

Booze: I don't really drink. Except wine.

Chore I hate: I'll let you know when I get to them.

Dogs/Cats: Neither. I don't mind either of them, but I'm more a fish person

Essential Electronics: Wow, we can be here for a while. My computers (yes, more than one). No iPod, Blackberry or Palm for me.

Favorite Perfume/Cologne: Irish Spring and that new smell that Head & Shoulders came out with, I think its Citrus...

Gold and Silver: Not really a jewelery person

Hometown: New York

Insomnia: Not really. If I get a long nap Shabbos afternoon it can be a problem. But usually I can just meditate myself to sleep.

Job Title: Student

Kids: None

Living Arrangements: Apartment with a roommate

Most Admired Trait: By who? Me? My friends? The latter would be fixing computers or giving advice. Though advice might be one I pick too. Public speaking? But that's a talent, not a trait.

Number of Sexual Partners: None.

Overnight Hospital Stays: I was born on erev shabbos, so then. Aside from birth? None.

Phobia: Not really sure. If I can stay calm for half a second and not panic I can pretty much handle anything. At least so far.

There are so many to choose from, but here are three random ones:
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King, Jr.

"You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war." --Winston Churchill

"Arrogance is thinking that you're always right and brilliant. Confidence is realizing that you're not always right, that you've got a lot more thinking to do, but that you nevertheless have interesting thoughtful observations to contribute to the discourse. " --Daniel J. Solove

Religion: Judaism

Siblings: One younger brother

Time I usually wake up: Varies greatly

Unusual Talent: Multitasking? Extemp Public Speaking? Typing and having two real conversations at the same time?

Vegtable I Refuse to Eat: Asparagus

Worst Habit: I'll get to this later.

X-Rays: Sure! Plenty of times.

Yummy Foods: Bunch of cakes, kugels, some Hungarian-type dishes.

Zodiac Sign: No clue. The end of March/beginning of April one.

Nephtuli, CWY, LamedZayin, and David


The Fire Dept. is across the street from my backyard. At first I thought it was a false alarm. I looked out the window, into the sun, and didn't see anything. Suddenly, yelling, loud radios, and sounds of glass breaking. Looking outside now there's lots of smoke. Hope they're ok and that its not chametz related

Eilu v'Eilu for Me...None for you

Do we really believe eilu v'eilu? Or shivim panim l'Torah? Its rare for a UO to say that secular education might be a good idea for some. For chareidim in Meah Shearim to say that a kollel life isn't for everyone. Or for an MO to understand the paradigm of chassidus or charedism as being helpful for others.

The Talmud Yerushalimi, in Sanhedrin 22a, mentions that each issue has 49 arguments in favor and 49 against. That's just one of the many examples (another, whose location escapes me, discusses which Rav is more qualified for the Sanhedrin. The winner? The one who could point to more reasons that a tamei sheretz should be tahor) showing that things aren't as simple as they seem.

So? Do we really believe that there are multiple paths? Or do we only believe that multiple paths work when the path is ours?

The Jewish Number Line

[Moved to the top so those not interested in HAFTR don't have to scroll down]

Who would you rather go out with? A girl who wears pants but plans on covering her hair, or a girl who only wears skirts, but won't cover her hair?

The above is one of the hypothetical scenarios that my friends and I like to throw around (the learning/minyan question is another). Most people equate the two, thinking that skirts and hair covering stem from the same source, both are obviously required, and a "good" girl must do both. But the real answer is much more complicated.

Take secular education. Stereotypically, MO types approve of it while UO types do not. But the connection isn't causal, you can be MO and not care about secular education, or UO and a strong proponent.

There are dozens of examples and questions which fit this mold. What's my point?

Everyone talks about religious observance and philosophy as if its a number line. One dimensional. Either the right, the left, or the middle. But they couldn't be more wrong.

Religious observance is more like a 3D (or if you're really feeling adventurous, a 4D) image. You can be on the left for some issues, the right on others, and still the center on more. For each dimension. The possibile combinations are infinite. If more people understood that, we'd all be able to understand each other a little better.

HAFTR & Rambam - Analysis: Clarifications

I hope to get the rest of my analysis done before Pesach, but for now I'd like to clarify a couple of points:
1) There seems to be some confusion over R. Hochbaum's previous position. I've heard (and read) that he's from HANC, TABC, Yavneh, etc. My research indicates that he's coming from Yavneh, and HANC was one of his previous positions. Not sure where TABC fits in, but hey, that's what rumors are for.

2) A number of people have been commenting in manners that are highly inappropriate. Please keep your arguments on the merits. Saying that you don't think two personalities will/can get along is a merit. Attacking the commenter for observing that is not. If you have something to say, keep it to the topic at hand, not personal attacks on commenters.

Thank you.

Monday, April 10, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Analysis: Administration & Education

When two corporations merge, duplicate positions exist. A corporation need only CEO, one board of directors, one administrative staff, etc. Usually there are savings as duplicate positions are eliminated. But this case is different. Rambam and HAFTR are *not* merging. They're just becoming "partners."

As a result, Hochbaum will be joining Rambam as an Asst. Principal, presumably to take up the slack from the time that Friedman and Eliach must spend on running the whole show. Bajnon isn't mentioned, presumably HAFTR will need a new religious studies principal. Instead of four principals across the two schools, we're now talking about 3 for Rambam (Friedman, Eliach, Hochbaum) and at least two for HAFTR.

Will this partnership save on administrative costs? Probably not. Advertising budgets? They can definitely save money. Newly merged corporations can use size and economies of scale to reduce cost and offer creative products. Can Rambam and HAFTR do the same?

I don't see how. Or, more accurately, not easily. If the schools occupied the same campus, they could get away with offering fewer classes. A class of 10 AP Biology students at Rambam and HAFTR could be merged into a single 20 student class. That saved class period could be used to offer something new.

But now? How can they pull off superior academic offerings? The schools are located on two different campuses, and they aren't across the street from each other. In other words, high
level AP courses would need to be doubled (read; maintained at their current rate).

On the other hand, with the partnership it will be easier for teachers to go between schools. Eliach may give courses on Zionism at HAFTR, which were precluded beforehand, for obvious
reasons. HAFTR, which (probably) offers a wider variety of courses may find some of their courses mirrored at Rambam, if only because its cheaper to get the teacher to teach at Rambam
(its probably cheaper to have a teacher for an extra course than hire a new teacher for an extra course), and therefore financially viable for fewer students.

Leaving the world of economics, there is a very positive intangible (economically) aspect to the deal. Friedman and Eliach bring to HAFTR a vision which they appear to be lacking (if only evidenced by the turnover of top administration in the last few years). That vision can help drive HAFTR during the upcoming years. Additionally, because they're coming in "at the top" they may have more independance that the current HAFTR administration. Indeed with that power, they can give more of a voice the current administration by following the positive policies and directives which may exist.

To summarize, I don't really see how the new partnership can leverage their size and save money. While courses will cross-pollinate (academic courses at Rambam and primarily more Zionism-tinged courses at HAFTR) I don't see it as truly saving money, though whether its more expensive is an open question. But on an intangible level, I think Friedman's vision and drive, as well as that of Eliach, will help HAFTR.

Next: Not sure yet, but probably Hashkafah, the future, and a conclusion.

Haredi Commando Shuts Down Website

Here's something interesting:

A group of ultra-orthodox hackers, shocked by the obscenity of some porn sites, has launched an internet campaign in a bid to cause such sites to crash. The hackers, already named at some internet forums the "ultra-orthodox sex commando," or the "ultra-orthodox electronic underground," focus their efforts at this point on Hebrew sites.
How do they know that they are obscene?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Analysis: Physical Changes

[Throughout my analysis, I will refer to people by their last names, with the exception of an introduction, where I will attempt to use the correct title. Yes, that means Rabbis will be referred to only by their last names. Get over it.]

For the last several years, rumors have swept the Five Towns about a merger between HAFTR and Rambam. Like most, I was skeptical. HAFTR is a coed institution which leans to the left. Rambam is an all boys institution, more to the center. Parents unsure of where to send children for high school had to agonize between DRS (HALB’s boys’ high school) and Rambam. Few probably agonized between DRS/Rambam and HAFTR. The mindsets were just different. Indeed, in my high school days, before DRS, we would joke of a merger between Rambam and SKA (HALB’s girls’ high school). But HAFTR? You’ve gotta be joking.

To be sure, there are many details which need to be worked out. On Friday, Rabbis Friedman and Eliach, the founder/Rosh Mesivta and principal of Rambam, respectively, met with HAFTR high school teachers. At least some expressed reservations. And parents...suffice it to say that I'd be shocked if most of the HAFTR parents (and Rambam parents) reacted negatively to the deal, at least initially. Of course some things would change. That’s only natural. The question is, how much and will the changes be positive?

The more of the community that's involved in these conversations the better. So let's email our friends, tell them to show up, and put in their 2 cents. We'll all be better off for it.

Before getting to the educational aspects, let’s deal with the physical changes. Machon HaTorah (MH) plans on building a sports complex and a beis medrash. Despite rumors (months old) that the sports complex will be built on a vacant piece of land behind Costco, that appears not to be the case. Aside from the difficulty in getting there (its centally located outside of the Five Towns, and not within walking distance for anyone), a sports complex in the middle of nowhere won’t help with the cohesiveness of the Five Towns or the MH “campus.” But, should the complex actually be built, the change it could have for the community would be tremendous.
Why? There’s always talk about using the public school buildings for their gym. There is a JCC but no one uses it, and it lacks the facilities. A new modern sports complex could alleviate that. Championship and playoff games could be had in the complex, with seating for fans. In an expanded role, the sports complex could even become the focal point for night leagues amongst students and parents (midnight basketball writ large) in the community.

Onto the Beis Medrash. Where? Well, Rambam has land that can be used, though zoning and parking permits would be issues. But, not more than a couple of blocks away, centrally located between Rambam and HAFTR high school is a lot which used to house the Nassau Herald. Empty after a fire, the location would be prime real estate for a new beis medrash. Again, it may only serve the school, but as the press releases and emails have hinted at, it can serve the community too. As it is, there are few places for people to go and learn at night. Shor Yoshuv is around and available, and many make use of it. But if something is closer, people would go there too. Not to mention community shiurim and talks.

There is also the opening of an all-girls division (names anyone?). George faults MH for concentrating on the sports complex before the girls school. But, as I pointed out in my reply, building a beis medrash and sports complex is less time intensive (from the board and administrative point of view) than opening up an all girls school. They’d need to hire a principal and teachers, set up curricula, register with NYS and find a building. But more on MH’s all girls division later.

In short, from a capital expenditure point, the expansion plans may turn MH from schools into the community centers that the community sorely needs.

Next: Educational Changes

Friday, April 07, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam - Comments Thread

Let's try and keep the comments in one place (for now). So go read the three posts, and comment here.

[Update: Those interested can find the Table of Contents for the pre-deal discussions here]

HAFTR & Rambam - Quick Summary

Here's a quick summary of the partnership plan. I'll try to get some analysis out before Shabbos, but don't wait for me to start commenting. On the surface it appears a very interesting plan, one accomplished without the creation of too much additional beauracracy. Anyway, for my summary:


-The partnership will be called "Machon HaTorah - The Torah Institute" (MH)

Divisions: MH will start with two divisions, one centered on Rambam and the other on HAFTR. Rambam will be an "advanced yeshiva program for boys," HAFTR will offer "boys and girls a rigorous Limudei Kodesh and college prepeatory program" and a an all girls "advanced yeshiva program" will open up on a third campus in the future.

New Buildings:
-A modern Beit Medrash will be established for both in school and after school learning programs, for students and the community at large.
-A new Sports center will be built somewhere in the area, with close proximity to the various campuses. The facility should be open by the beginning of the 2008-2009 year.

Rosh Yeshiva: Rabbi Friedman
Principal: Rabbi Eliach
HAFTR Administrators: Blumenstein, Levenbrown, Kadosh, Parmett, Oppen will provide leadership at HAFTR (the Yachad Division).
R' Peretz Hochbaum: Formerly Dean of the Yavneh Academy and Principal of HANC (Plainview) will focus on the Rambam division and hold the title of Associate Principal.
R' David Liebtag: Liason between MH and HAFTR's lower/middle school divisions.

Secular Education:
"The Machon will offer a broader array of AP courses, elective courses, extra-curricular activities and clubs than either of the two schools could offer separately."

Torah and Zionism
-The partnership is about raising young men and women who believe and adhere to Torah values, and have a clear sense of their national history and identity. That's why we want our students to understand and appreciate the profound miracle represented by the re-establishment of the State of Israel." -R. Eliach

Advisory Board: There will be an advisory board, separate and distinct from the HAFTR Bd. of Directors which will advice and support "the educational leadership." Rabbis Friedman and Eliach will have control over all educational aspects of the Machon.

At first glance, the girls division, advisory board, and leadership of Rabbis Friedman and Eliach seem like the most important additions. But why ruin my analysis? More to come later. Meanwhile, let's start talking.

HAFTR & Rambam - Email to Parents

The following is an email sent to the parents at Rambam and HAFTR:

Are HAFTR and Rambam Merging?

No. HAFTR and Rambam are pooling their educational resources for the benefit of their students. Thus, HAFTR students will get the benefit of the educational leadership of Rabbis Friedman and Eliach, while Rambam students will get the benefit of the Beit Medrash and sports center being built by HAFTR as well as access to HAFTR’s full-time teachers and expanded academic course selection. This pooling of resources will also allow for the establishment of a new, advanced yeshiva program for girls. It is a win- win for the parents and students of both schools as well as for the community at large. Graduates of the Machon will receive, in addition to Machon diplomas, diplomas from their respective schools.

What changes will occur at Rambam?

Actually, very few changes are expected occur. Rambam Division students of the Machon will continue to study in the Rambam building. The size, composition and quality of the student body will remain unchanged, both currently and in the future, although a select number of existing and incoming HAFTR students who meet Rambam’s merit-based admission criteria and are seeking an advanced yeshiva program may elect to transfer over. The rebbeim in the YU Kollel program at HAFTR are expected to become actively involved with the Rambam Division’s Beit Medrash and other programs. Through these young, dynamic YU Kollel rebbeim, the Rambam Division will also be able to offer a larger after-school learning program for students and parents. Rambam students, particularly juniors and seniors, will also be able to select from a broader menu of AP courses and other academic electives. In the longer term, Rambam Division students will be able to enjoy use of an expanded Beit Medrash as well as a new, state-of-the-art sports center, that is targeted to open in time for the 2008-9 academic year. The Machon will also open an all-girls advanced yeshiva division at a separate campus location.

What changes will occur at HAFTR?

As participants in the Machon’s Yachad division, HAFTR high school students will continue to study in the Central Avenue building. The student body will remain essentially unchanged. HAFTR’s senior administrators – Mr. Blumenstein, Mrs. Levenbrown, Mrs. Kadosh and Rabbi Oppen – will remain as part of the Yachad Division. The main changes are expected to be qualitative. Both Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Eliach are proven educators who are known to place tough demands on both students and staff while, at the same time, providing a dynamic and enriching educational experience. But even the best educators do not have a secret supply of “pixie dust”, so while some impact of their efforts is likely to be felt in the short order, the full effect is likely first to be felt after a number of years of the Machon’s operations. Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Eliach plan to coordinate their efforts closely with the administrative and educational leadership of HAFTR’s elementary school, so as to ensure that HAFTR’s lower school students are properly prepared for the Machon’s new environment.

Will Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Eliach be able to handle the demands of running both Machon divisions?

The Rambam administration is being bolstered by the addition of Rabbi Peretz Hochbaum who is an experienced educational administrator. An additional administrator is currently being recruited. They are expected to relieve Rabbis Friedman and Eliach from many of the mundane administrative chores that currently occupy a significant portion of their time at Rambam. The Yachad Division has a group of proven administrators in place to oversee the core administrative needs of that division. Therefore, although Rabbis Friedman and Eliach will be spending time at the Rambam and Yachad campuses, because of the reduced need for their involvement in mundane matters, they will have significantly more “quality time” that can be devoted to personal interaction with the teaching staff and students at each of the Machon’s divisions.

Who will be in control of the Machon?

Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Eliach will have control over all educational aspects of the Machon. A Machon board of lay representatives from both Rambam and HAFTR has been established to support and advise the educational leadership.

What will happen to my tuition and tuition assistance?

The program of tuition and tuition assistance at the respective schools will continue to apply at the Machon’s respective divisions for all existing and incoming students.

In the future, will the Machon primarily service HAFTR lower school students?

All divisions of the Machon will have a merit-based admissions policy. All graduates of HAFTR’s middle school who meet the Machon’s admission standards will be admitted to the Machon, however the Machon welcomes students from other schools and communities who satisfy its admission standards. Indeed, the Machon’s initial freshman class will be comprised of students from over a dozen schools (other than HAFTR).

How can I learn more?

There will be a special “town meeting” for parents (including parents of incoming students) that will be held after Pesach at which there will be an opportunity to hear more about the Machon and to ask questions of Rabbis Friedman and Eliach. Otherwise, whether you are a Rambam or HAFTR parent, please feel free to call Rabbis Friedman or Eliach at 516-371-5824 extension 105 (for Rabbi Friedman) or 103 (for Rabbi Eliach). They will be happy to speak or meet with you.

HAFTR & Rambam - Press Release

The following is a press release from HAFTR & Rambam - or as they'll know be known "Machon HaTorah"

The Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) and the Rambam Mesivta are pleased to announce that they have agreed to combine their educational resources and talents to form a unique educational partnership that will be called "Machon HaTorah – The Torah Institute". The goal of the Machon is to offer a broad range of outstanding high school educational opportunities for the New York Torah community. The Machon will begin its operations with the commencement of the 2006-07 academic year.

The Machon's program will initially have two divisions: A Rambam Division and a Yachad Division. The Rambam Division will be an advanced yeshiva program for boys that will be a continuation of Rambam's highly acclaimed yeshiva high school program and will be housed in Rambam's existing facility. The Yachad Division, housed at HAFTR High School, long recognized as one of the leading Modern Orthodox Yeshivot in the nation, will offer boys and girls a rigorous Limudei Kodesh and college preparatory program. The Machon expects to open an advanced yeshiva program for girls that will be located on a third campus.

The Machon's program will be based upon a core curriculum for Limudei Kodesh (Torah She'Bichtav – Chumash and Nach, in-depth Talmud study, Halakha and Hashkafa) and a superior college preparatory program. The Machon's Limudei Kodesh curriculum will be designed to imbue its students with a genuine appreciation of Torah values and an abiding commitment to a Torah-true life. It will emphasize the values of Ahavat Yisrael (caring for all Jews , Ahavat Eretz Yisrael (Religious Zionism), Yosher (personal integrity), Tzniut (personal modesty), Kavod HaBriyot (recognition of the fundamental human dignity in all persons) and Hakarat HaTov (showing appreciation to family, friends and country).

The Machon's college preparatory course will offer an unparalleled array of required, elective and advanced placement courses, and unique programs focused on developing study skills, special research programs in the sciences, literature and the arts, and top college placement resources. An emphasis on Hebrew language development and special courses on Jewish history and Zionism will also be hallmarks of the Machon. The Machon will also offer a diversified program of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, including team sports and competitions and activism on behalf of Jewish and democratic causes that will impart important educational and life lessons that are best conveyed outside of the typical classroom framework.

The Machon also intends to undertake certain major capital programs, including establishing a modern Beit Medrash facility to provide an accommodating setting and resources for both school and after-school learning programs by students as well as by the community at large. Construction of a new state-of- the-art student sports center will also be undertaken within close proximity to the Machon's various campuses. The sports center is targeted to be available to Machon students by the commencement of the 2008-09 academic year.

The Machon will be headed by Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman and Rabbi Yotav Eliach, who will serve as its Rosh HaYeshiva (Head of School) and Principal, respectively. Rabbi Friedman and Rabbi Eliach are currently the Dean and Principal, respectively, of Rambam, and have long-established reputations as premier Torah educators and Jewish leaders. HAFTR administrators, Mr. Stanley Blumenstein, Ms. Naomi Levenbrown, Aliza Kadosh, and Joan Parmett, and Rabbi Gedaliah Oppen, will continue to provide proven guidance and leadership at the Machon's Yachad Division.

The Machon will also be adding Rabbi Peretz Hochbaum to its professional staff. Rabbi Hochbaum, who is formerly the Dean of the Yavneh Academy in Paramus, New Jersey and Principal of HANC's school in Plainview, will be joining the Machon as Associate Principal and will focus on the Rambam Division. Rabbi Hochbaum lives in West Hempstead.

Rabbi David Leibtag, HAFTR's Educational Director, will serve as liaison between the Machon and HAFTR's lower and middle school divisions. "The goals and objectives that have been articulated by Rabbis Friedman and Eliach are consistent with our vision for HAFTR's elementary and middle schools," he says. "I look forward to collaborating with them to ensure the successful integration of our students into this new and challenging environment."

"We want our students to view Torah as a mission to the world, and to see themselves as the bearers of that mantle," says Rabbi Friedman "These Torah values are not just something that are studied on an intellectual basis in a classroom; they must be lived, in school, at home, with friends – everywhere. We view the Machon as a means to impart this message to our parents and student body alike."

Academic discipline and intellectual rigor will be hallmarks of the Machon. Both HAFTR and Rambam have outstanding academic track records, and the Machon will offer each school's students the best elements of the other's programs. For example, the Machon will offer a broader array of AP courses, elective courses, extra-curricular activities and clubs than either of the two schools could offer separately.

"We believe that Chinuch is a partnership between parents and educators that goes far beyond monitoring report cards and test scores," says Rabbi Eliach. "The partnership is about raising young men and women who believe and adhere to Torah values, and have a clear sense of their national history and identity. That's why we want our students to understand and appreciate the profound miracle represented by the re-establishment of the State of Israel."

Machon HaTorah's goal is to produce Torah observant, modern Orthodox Jews who integrate Torah study and values into their daily lives, future professions and community activities. The leaderships of the Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and Rockaway and the Rambam Mesivta look forward to sharing the sacred mission of educating the next generation of Jewish leaders in the exciting new collaboration known as Machon HaTorah.

HAFTR & Rambam

Now the fun begins. With the approval of the partnership between the two schools, and the release of the details, we can begin analyzing what this means for jewish education. I hope that all of the commenters, including those who were opposed to this conversation beforehand (Ben Matok, Halachically Concerned, H, etc) join in.

HAFTR+Rambam=Done Deal

According to George, HAFTR's board approved the deal. Now we just await the details. Anyone?

Hagaddah - *Three* Sons

[Edit: Sorry, made a mistake. Its not the Toras Chaim haggadah, that was in front of me as I wrote the post. Its actually the Goldschmidt hagadah]

The Four Sons. Probably one of the most talked about parts of the Hagaddah.
I never got it. I'm not a grammarian, but to me it seems that the rasha (evil) and chacham (good) sons are saying the same thing. Every year I asked the same question, no one could answer it. But, thanks to the Goldschmidt hagadah from Mossad Bialik Yerushalayim , I've found that there are other girsayos (texts) of the Four Sons. And they seem to make more sense. Especially the Yerushalmi. I don't have the hagaddah handy, but when I do (Sunday) I'll post the different girsa.

Oh, right. The title of the post. One last thing. You can have a child who is a rasha and a chacham. Who says they have to be opposite? It's not good and evil, its wise/intelligent/smart and evil. The most devilish people are usually the wisest and most intelligent. (Yes, the other two sons aren't opposites either, but everyone seems to contrast the chacham and rasha).

Pesach Prep Printing

I'll be at my grandparents for the first days of Pesach. While my grandmother is a fantastic cook, it promises to be a long three days. Luckily, I've remembered to prepare. I've just printed up articles from Alei Etzion, as well as blog posts on subjects that interest me (AddeRabbi and GH for the most part. Haven't gone through all the blogs yet). Current total? About 120 pages, but I'm a fast reader.

A couple of blocks away live my cousins' cousins (perhaps they should be called cousins-in-law?). Of the more yeshivish bent, they don't believe in college (the kids, the parents do believe in it) and last time I stopped by we had a nice large discussion on the merits of various things, secular education, college, science, philosophy. You name it, we discussed it. It was usually me on one side, the older generation nodding, but for the most part quiet, and the kids, trying to pin me to a wall. For over an hour.

A long pesach? Yes. But a fun one I hope.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Boro Park "Excuses"

Orthomom posted a letter by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, where he castigates those involved in the Boro Park riots. Read it.

Regardless of whose story you believe, the correct answer is not rioting. First, why punish a whole precinct for the acts of one or two officers? Should we throw all Jews in jail because one or two have embezzled money? What's the difference?

Forget the fact that the cops are generally good. Forget the service they provide for us on a daily basis. Forget that they risk and give up their lives to help total strangers.

What should they have done? Simple. Call the Mayor. Call the press. If every news station and paper published a story on how cops "beat up" a 75 year old man you can be sure there will be an investigation. Now the investigation should be of the rioters.

But here's the important question.
Where are the Rabbonim of Boro Park? Where are the letters? Or are they speaking up within the community? Why do we have to hear publicly only from a menahel in Monsey?!

Shtika k'hoda'ah (silence is agreement) - Do your job as community leaders and speak up.

Another Nail in the I.D. Coffin

I was going through the evolution vs. intellegient design arguments with my brother. He mentioned something startling, which I haven't really seen much in the blogosphere. Yes, there are gaps in the fossil record. But those gaps continually grow smaller and smaller. I.D. has to continually revamp their arguments. Before a gap of 100 million years was significant enough to warrant their theory, and then 90, 80, etc.

When you're dealing with hundreds of millions of years and you have a gap of 1-2 or 10-20 million, does that really matter? Also gaps in the fossil record are a problem for I.D. advocates as well. Why bother with the previous species if every hundred years God "snaps his fingers" and creates new species a la Darwin's Radio).

Well, the gap just got smaller. A lot smaller. (I, II).

What say you now, I.D. advocates?

Monday, April 03, 2006

I.D. vs. Evolution - TB

Cute Doonesbury comic (link)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Kill Everyone with Ebola

[Spoiler Alert: For those who enjoy Tom Clancy, but have yet to read Debt of Honor or Rainbow Six.]

In Debt of Honor, Tom Clancy lays out a scenario which culminates in the suicide attack of a plane into Congress, wiping out the House and Senate, Supreme Court, and Cabinet members. Essentially, the entire US government is killed with the exception of just-confirmed Vice President Jack Ryan. Needless to say, after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Clancy seemed prescient.

Now, a University of Texas evolutionary ecoologist, Dr. Eric Pianka [check out the pic, the guy has some beard], has taken a page from another Clancy thriller, Rainbow Six. Pianka advocates wiping out 90% of humanity, by using Ebola, else planet Earth will be destroyed. Unfortunately, because the "general public is not yet ready to hear what he was about to tell us," Pianka's horrid presentation was not videotaped.

Where to begin...