Sunday, December 31, 2006

Yated's Article on Lakewood Recall

Have any of you read this week’s Yated Ne’eman?

If yes, did you get a chance to read the Lakewood section?

Well, whether you did or didn’t, on page 84 there is a lengthy article by Yitzchok Singer regarding the Recall effort of Committee member Charles Cunliffe.

As I was reading it, I was amazed to see how strikingly similar it was to my post on this issue. Literally, argument after argument seemed to be taken straight out of my post. I have received many emails confirming this observation.

For your information, my post was forwarded, with my permission, to The Lakewood Shopper, and was printed there two weeks ago.

I contacted the one who forwarded it to The Lakewood Shopper, and lo and behold, he forwarded to me an email proving he sent my post to the Yated Ne’eman on the same day that he forwarded it to The Lakewood Shopper.

No, it was apparently not printed in the Yated Ne’eman in its original form, but "mysteriously" surfaced in a lengthier form under someone else’s name.

I guess the bright side is that my opinion is getting out and being heard.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

5,000 Hits, Thank You!

We have reached a milestone.

Late last week my site meter has registered 5,000 hits.

As it has only been six weeks since I have started this blog, I think this is quite a considerable amount, if I may say so myself.

Considering all the effort and time that goes into writing my posts, there would be very little satisfaction without knowing that people are actually reading them.

I would like to express my gratitude to all of you who come to visit, regardless of whether you take the time and effort to actively participate in the discussions, or whether you just read the posts and comments.

All of you encourage me to continue writing.

Thank you!

It would be interesting for me to hear some feedback of what you think of this blog and what brought you to it, what you like, what you don’t, what you think could or should be changed, etc.

I’m looking forward to your replies.

All previous posts are still open for discussion.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


What is it with Tznius?

This is something that has bothered me for quite a while.

So much emphasis is placed on Tznius. Dress codes, rules, speeches, write-ups, etc. From the youngest ages Tznius is taught and encouraged. Yet it is quite painfully clear that the message is not getting through the way it should.

Allow me to be candid and frank. It is quite common to see very Frum ladies wearing clothing that are too tight or too flashy, too clingy or too short. Not to mention the even greater, and considerably more severe, breaches of Tznius which unfortunately are increasing.

And I wonder, why?

How can it be that with so much Tznius education taking place, so many women feel the need to break or bend the rules a bit.

Now, the truth is that there is another relatively widespread problem, albeit a lot less known. Many women have trouble acclimating and adjusting to married life, and all that goes along with it. Many women just can’t bring themselves to take part in perfectly legitimate and Halachikly allowed (or sometimes even encouraged) behavior between themselves and their husbands. Without going into detail, I’ll suffice with saying that this is the cause of much frustration in the private lives of many people.

And again I wonder, why?

After much thought I think I have the answer.

Generally speaking, women have a natural desire to look attractive and pretty, something I will classify as their femininity. Tznius education seems to be directed precisely at this femininity. Girls are taught to crush their femininity in the name of Tznius. In place of learning how to properly channel their femininity, they are being taught to subdue it.

The result of such education is that many girls, once out of school and given the opportunity to express their femininity, will go too far. All along they were fighting a natural part of their personality, so when it comes to making their own decisions or using their own judgment, that repressed part of their personality roars forth.

The other obvious effect of this is that many girls successfully absorb the idea that expressing their femininity is bad, and therefore have considerable trouble in marriage which can lead to much tension and frustration.

I’d like to be very clear in stating that I am not an expert on teaching Tznius. I also have the greatest respect for those who do take upon themselves the important and delicate work of trying to impart the significance and beauty of Tznius to the next generation.

However, with that being said, it appears to me that Tznius education is improperly focused on fighting girls’ natural femininity in place of guiding them on how to properly channel it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Lakewood Recall Effort, Part 2

My most recent post was regarding the recall effort in Lakewood, NJ. This post was submitted, with my permission, to The Lakewood Shopper, and was subsequently printed followed by a response from Ben Weber, a member of the Committee to recall Charles Cunliffe. Ben Weber’s response was also posted in the comments section to my post.

Here is my reply to Ben Weber’s letter.

B.W. takes my issue with my characterization of the recall effort as “mysterious” by pointing out that the recall petition was signed by himself, along with two others, on December 8th, and that this is all public information.

The fact is that the original letter filed at the clerk’s office, was on November 13th, and was signed by three non-Jewish women: Audrey Faust, Janet Heulitt, and Clara Ward.

While commendable that those behind the recall effort have come out into the open on December 8th, it remains to be explained why for almost four weeks they chose to use these three women as a front and hide their true identities.

B.W. takes issue with my writing that the prevailing belief is that these women are being set up by real estate investors and developers by claiming that this is Mr. Cunliffe’s belief only.

I can only write what I hear and see. And yes, that is the prevailing belief amongst the regular people in Lakewood. Is it a fact? I don’t know. But it certainly is the popular assumption. The fact that one of the three signatories to the recall petition is the head of the Lakewood Landlords Association, plays right into this suspicion. The Lakewood Landlords Association was created only recently with their key objective to fight attempts by the Township to crack down on Quality of Life violations. While the overwhelming majority of Lakewood is firmly behind the Township’s efforts to crack down on QOL violations, the LLA is fighting tooth and nail to stymie their efforts.

B.W. points out my mistake in writing that the Master Plan was to establish zoning for the remaining areas of Lakewood, while in actuality it was to decide on changing existing zoning for Lakewood.

However, this is totally irrelevant to our discussion. Whether the Master Plan is establishing zoning or changing existing zoning, either way it calls for the radical urbanization of Lakewood, something the overwhelming majority of residents strongly oppose. The Master Plan was pushed through by the efforts of developers, builders, and engineers, without any regard whatsoever for the average person’s position on the issue. If Mr. Cunliffe is being recalled due to his rejection of the Master Plan’s recommendations, then it is an effort driven by power-brokers and not in the interest of the average Lakewood resident.

B.W. writes that it is amusing how Mr. Cunliffe, who appointed most of the Master Plan Committee, is now openly criticizing it.

I have to agree that this is a strange backpedal on his part, but his final conclusion is consistent with the majority of Lakewood’s residents who oppose the recommendations of the Master Plan.

B.W. counters my allegations of antagonizing elements in the non-Jewish community by writing that a Hispanic individual signed on the official recall petition, and that many seniors support it too.

All I can say is that if this is really the case the Recall Committee is in dire need of some serious public-relations assistance. Everyone, from other Township Committee members, to the media, to the members of the Frum community, all seem to think this a mostly an effort by a faction in the Frum community. If I am wrong, so be it. But more must be done to counter this widespread impression.

B.W. concurs with my astonishment that the Lakewood Va’ad endorsed this particular Committee member even though a Frum member of the community was running against him. He even goes further by writing “Are you aware that he actually beat Mr. Cunliffe in the rest of Lakewood? It was only due to a last minute push in Yeshivah, which put Cunliffe over the top. The rest of town was shocked that these 'power-brokers' endorsed him.”

From this statement it seems quite clear that B.W. understands and opposes the threat to the Frum community from self-serving power-brokers, a position seemingly at odds with his alignment with the LLA.
Also, if Mr. Cunliffe is the only one willing to stand up to them, why should he be recalled?

B.W. then lists three “misdeeds” of Mr. Cunliffe.
1 – He delayed the mailing of the tax reassessment, which caused most of Lakewood’s taxes to increase significantly, until after he was re-elected.
2 – He appointed the members of the Master Plan Advisory Committee and then rejected their recommendations.
3 – There is immense overspending of Township funds.

I must say that, in my opinion, all of the above do not qualify as legitimate and sufficient grounds for a recall. And I will reply in order.

1 - The tax assessment was carried out with the full knowledge and support of the Lakewood Va’ad. Even if Mr. Cunliffe delayed the mailing until after the election, that is merely a detail in a much larger picture. The people ultimately responsible for the tax assessment are the ones who allowed it to take place, and even supported it. That includes the other Township Committee members, the Lakewood Va’ad, and all of the other self-serving power-brokers. Regarding this specific issue Mr. Cunliffe may be guilty, but no guiltier than all of the others involved. If this is the motivation of the Recall Committee, they should be focusing on restructuring or abolishing the Lakewood Va’ad. Let us not forget that the Va’ad knew what the tax assessment was all about and still supported Mr. Cunliffe in the face of a challenge from a Frum member of the community! Quite an unconscionable act!

2 - The fact that Mr. Cunliffe appointed the members of the Master Plan Advisory Committee and then rejected their recommendations, I responded before that although this seems somewhat strange, at least in the end he took the position of the majority of Lakewood residents.

3 – The massive overspending of Township funds is indicative of a culture of corruption that permeates the Lakewood Township. Even if, arguably, Mr. Cunliffe is more corrupt than the others, all the others are also guilty. As I wrote in my original post, one member of the Township Committee can not hijack its resources. If massive amounts of money are missing, all members are guilty.

B.W. reminds us that America is a country "by the people and for the people", therefore we have the right to recall someone who doesn’t represent our interests.

As I touched on in my original post, that may be law of the land. But Chazal are replete with warnings not to be Misgareh B’Umos. Since even according to B.W. Mr. Cunliffe represents no danger to the Frum community, I fail to see the pressing need for one to be actively involved in antagonizing the non-Jewish residents. Especially in light of the above, as we have established that Mr. Cunliffe may possibly be no worse than any other Committee Member.

B.W. writes that if we wait for the next election, “we risk the ‘power-brokers’ once again being behind him and the Hamon Am not realizing who or what they are voting for.”

I take issue with this point too. If the power-brokers will support him in the next election, they will probably endorse “one of their own” to take Mr. Cunliffe’s place in the event that he is successfully recalled. I fail to see how the Recall Committee is getting to root of the problem, namely removing the influence of these power-brokers from the political sphere entirely.

I would like to conclude by stating that I have no connection whatsoever, in any way, to Mr. Cunliffe. I never even saw the man. For all I know he may be a terrible person. However, as an objective observer I fail to grasp the motivation of those trying to recall him.

Perhaps there exists a complete misunderstanding between myself and B.W.
I am contemplating calling him in person to discuss the issue, especially if the readership of this blog thinks it would be worthwhile to pursue.


B.W. begins his letter by questioning my decision to remain anonymous.

Anyone familiar with the unfortunate reality of the world we live in understands the answer to that question. It needs no further elaboration.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lakewood Recall Effort

A lot of talk has been expended over the mysterious effort in Lakewood, NJ to recall one of the non-Jewish Committee members on the Lakewood Township Committee.

For those who may be unfamiliar; here is a synopsis of the story.

In Lakewood there are five Township Committee members, two of whom are Frum, who decide all issues of the town.

A recall petition has been filed by three non-Jewish women, who have admitted to being used as a front for people in the Frum community, to recall one of the non-Jewish Committee members. As of yet, no one has stepped forward to admit to being behind the recall effort, and why it was launched.

Now here is my “independent Frum thinking” opinion on the matter.

The prevailing belief is that these women are being set-up by real estate investors and developers who are upset with this Committee member’s recent crackdown on quality of life violations, and for not automatically supporting the “Master Plan” for Lakewood.

To those unfamiliar with the dynamics of Lakewood, there are a plethora of homes rented out by Frum people to all kinds of drug addicts, lawbreakers, and violent people. This has reached crisis proportions, with people being assaulted, robbed, and hissed at in broad daylight with total impunity. A public outcry ensued, resulting in the Township Committee finally cracking down on Quality Of Life violations. Many landlords are bearing the brunt of this crackdown, since their slum-like homes are being targeted by QOL enforcement agents.

The Master Plan was an initiative to decide on the zoning for the remaining areas of Lakewood not yet officially zoned. The committee chosen to study the issue proposed allowing all thirty five remaining areas to be zoned for high-density building. Not a surprising conclusion from a committee comprised mostly of developers, builders, and engineers. There has been much public outcry against the radical urbanization called for in the Master Plan, and some of the proposals have been rejected.

Understandably, some developers and power-brokers are incensed with the two aforementioned happenings, especially in a town that was always known to be “in the pocket” of developers and builders.

If these are the reasons behind the recall effort, I strongly oppose it.

The average person in Lakewood, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, strongly supports the aggressive targeting of QOL violators, and also strongly oppose the total and complete urbanization of their community.

Also, if these are the reasons, why should they take out all their angst on this particular Committee member? After all, he is only one of five decision makers. No decision can be taken alone, so in any particular issue he must have had support from other Committee member’s to pass his initiative.

From a Frum perspective too I strongly oppose this move. The age-old mode of behavior for Jews in Galus was to keep as low a profile as possible, and certainly not to overtly antagonize the Goyim. Although this approach is sadly becoming less and less adhered to, (perhaps the subject of a future post), nevertheless it still remains the traditional Frum way of life as practiced for two thousand years. To organize a recall of a politician, not on grounds of public safety or the like, is stepping way over the line. Why can’t they just wait until the next election and endorse another candidate? What is the pressing need to antagonize elements of the non-Jewish community to such a degree?

Ironically, in the last election, a Frum member of the community was running against this particular Committee member, on a popular platform calling for bringing wasteful spending under control. Although many assumed that the Lakewood Va’ad (a group of business leaders who set policy for the Frum community) would endorse the Frum candidate, they strangely endorsed this particular Committee member instead. This is quite a bizarre twist, considering that the Lakewood Va’ad is basically comprised of developers and builders.

And finally, why are the ones behind the recall effort remaining in the shadows? If they have legitimate concerns with this particular Committee member, let them come out in the open and explain themselves. Such cowardly behavior does not lend one to believe that there are justifiable issues at stake.

Feel free to comment away, whether you live in Lakewood or not.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Misguided Kindness?

As was widely reported in the press, the residents of a well-known Chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) city in Israel donated thousands of dollars in medical equipment to its neighboring Arab village.

When I first read the report, I was shocked and surprised.

Anyone familiar with the recent economic situation in Israel is painfully aware that there are thousands upon thousands of Jewish families living in utter poverty. The community with the highest percentage of poor families is the Chareidi community itself. One simple call to Chasdei Ne’omi, the Israeli equivalent of Tomchei Shabbos, can confirm this unfortunate fact.

It is also common knowledge that during this summer’s war with Hezbollah, thousands of Israelis lost their homes and all of their possessions, leaving them penniless.

Understandably so, I could not believe that an all Chareidi town, known for its own widespread poverty, would actually raise funds, not to feed its own poor, not to support Chareidi causes, and not for Jewish or Israeli causes in general, but rather to help the neighboring Arab village.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not a racist, nor am I oblivious to the obvious need for Kiddush Hashem. But in light of the above, shouldn’t that money have been better donated towards a Jewish charity? Shouldn’t donating desperately needed medical equipment for Zaka or Magen Dovid Adom, take priority over donating them to an Arab village?

Even amongst ourselves, there is a clear-cut Halachah of Aniyei Ircha Kodmim; the poor of one’s town take precendence over the poor of another town. Certainly the poor amongst us Yidden take precedence over the poor amongst others.

The only plausible justification for this bizarre story is that the residents of the Jewish city are afraid of terrorism and crime emanating from the neighboring Arab village, and therefore felt it was a worth-while investment to donate medical equipment, thereby fostering goodwill and better relations, which will hopefully help them in the long run.

However, barring the above rationale, it would seem like the self-destructive attitude of the radical left-wing is seeping into our community, even at the expense of Jewish lives & Halachah.

A troubling phenomenon indeed.

An interesting postscript to this story is that when Hamas leaders learned of the Arab mayor accepting Jewish donations, they immediately had him deposed and replaced by a Hamas loyalist.

One wonders if after the next targeted assassination by Israel, will we see wounded Hamas terrorists being whisked away in an ambulance donated by Jews. How ironic.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Popular Frum Blog Destroyed

As some of you may have noticed, I removed my link to a blog called “Vos Iz Neias” for a few days and only today added it back on.

The reason for my doing so, was that a few days ago whenever I clicked on that particular link, I was re-routed to something else entirely. The new webpage would start installing a virus on my computer, which luckily I was always able to fight off.

This seemed very strange to me, considering that this was a very popular blog of news briefs relevant to the Frum community, with no controversial commentary or opinion.

Yesterday I came across this letter from the operator of that blog:

We got hacked, and our work from the last few years is history, but we will be back and even better. We will not be intimidated by terror.
I'm out of town on a family vacation, so it might take some time until we will be back to the same level, also all our group email lists have also been hacked, just the ones we have a back up in the new system could get this.
Our new site will be if u have any news any time send it to this new email address.

So there you have it. His blog was hacked, and apparently with malicious intent.

I have heard various rumors as to who may have been behind the virtual attack and what their motives may have been. However, since I was unable to verify any one of them with certainty, I will not relate them.

Please be aware that although my link still says “Vos Iz Neias”, in reality by clicking it you will be redirected to their new site, which appears safe for now.

Please pass on this information to any blog linking to the “Vos Iz Neias” old webpage, to save visitors from downloading harmful viruses to their computers.

Anyone willing to share additional information regarding this is welcome to do so.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Naming Streets For Women

Recently a letter was printed in a publication named “The Lakewood Voice”, complaining about the new fad that Frum builders name streets with women’s names.

In the blog world I have seen much mockery made of this letter, so I’d like to share my Independent Frum Thinking opinion on the matter.

In essence I don’t see anything wrong with naming a street Devorah Drive or Rivkah Road. Although I fail to see the pressing need for these builders not to assign normal, American sounding names, nevertheless it seems harmless to me.

However, there is one exception to the rule, and that is naming streets for LIVE KNOWN FRUM WOMEN.

Yes, one builder named a street after his wife and another after his daughter.

THIS, in my opinion is inappropriate and in bad taste.

Perhaps to one who doesn’t know these women it might seem odd to complain about it. But wouldn’t you agree that having the whole neighborhood talking about Leah Lane being named after your seminary-aged daughter is inappropriate? Would you honestly want everyone to know that Dina Ct. was named for your wife who walks the streets of that neighborhood?

Has old-fashioned Kol Kvuda Bas Melech Pnima completely disappeared?

I don’t know what that letter-writer’s intention was, but this is my take on the matter.

Please note that all old posts are still open for discussion.

Friday, December 1, 2006

The Latest Meat Saga

I received some inquiries regarding the most recent meat scandal, but I resisted posting anything until the facts emerged.

Someone bought a piece of Meal-Mart meat, which apparently had Cheilev (forbidden fats) on it. He showed the meat to a number of Rabbonim, who initially believed it may have been Cheilev. The ramifications of such a Psak were enormous. It would mean that countless people ate Treife r"l, and would necessitate Kashering of kitchens and utensils on a massive scale. Hence, the tremendous consternation and outcry.

However, after further research it was clarified that the questionable fat found was not Cheilev, rather fat which the accepted custom (Minhag) is to remove.

There are three levels to forbidden fats.
1 - Forbidden by the Torah.
2 - Forbidden by Rabbinic law.
3 - Accepted custom to remove, so as not to come close or confuse with the above two levels, which are inherently forbidden.

The fat in question was initially thought to be from level 1 or 2, but in reality was from level 3. Although it wasn't inherently forbidden, and therefore no Kashering is necessary, it still showed a laxity in the Nikkur (removal of forbidden fats) process, by not removing something which the custom is to refrain from eating.

Apparently, a Menaker was fired, and the issue is considered closed.

I do have one interesting observation. R’ Teitelbaum writes in his letter that the Nikkur process being used is the one specified by the Eidah HaChareidis in Yerushalaim.

People should be aware that there are different customs as to how much fat must be cut away so as not to confuse with levels 1 and 2.

For many decades, the custom in Chutz La’aretz was generally more stringent than the custom in Eretz Yisroel.

Accordingly, one should ideally ask his Rov if the standards of the Eidah HaChareidis’s Nikkur meet the accepted age-old Chutz La’aretz standards.

Agudah Convention & Blogs

A few posts back, I wondered why the Agudah was making such a fuss over weblogs. After all, are they really that powerful? And does the Agudah really feel that they are undermining Da'as Torah?

After some research, it has become clear to me, so naturally I'm sharing it with you.

The entire anti-blog offensive was more or less against one specific blog.

It seems that there exists a certain blog dedicated exclusively to defaming, humiliating, and disparaging Rabbonim. This blog has generated over one million visits in the course of two years or so!

It wields tremendous power due to the fact that it always seems to have the confidential "inside scoop". In essence, it is an "insider" exposing his contemporaries, and that is always more problematic than an outsider's ramblings.

Although some of what is written there is patently false, it does expose some true issues and problems too, making it extremely hard to dismiss out-of-hand.

The blog writer's rationale for his ranting, aside from his obvious hatred of Rabbonim, is that in the Frum community most problems are just swept under the carpet. If one listens to R' Solomon's Agudah Convention speach, it is clear he was answering to this in particular when he insisted that the Torah way of dealing with problems is to do so quietly with maximum respect for human dignity, and one shouldn't think issues are being swept under carpet, rather they are being dealt with quietly in a behind-the-scenes fashion.

This was also the point of R' Solomon surprisingly insisting it is okay to question, and even disagree, with positions taken by Rabbonim, as long as it is done respectfully and not in a disparaging way.

Since I strongly disagree with much of what is written on that blog, not to mention the obvious concern for Lashon Harah, Motzie Shem Rah, and Rechilus, I am deliberately not mentioning the name of this blog. However, I wanted to share my findings with the readership of my blog.