Saturday, November 27, 2010

Censorship at YU

An article, published at the Jewish Star, came out this week about Censorship at Yeshiva University

Students part of a group called Teiqu, an acronym for Torah Exploration of Ideas, Questions and Understandings, invited a controversial Rabbi who runs an egalitarian yeshiva called Machon Hador to speak at YU. The students running the event received an email from YU administrators that the Rabbi would not be allowed to speak on campus.

The email stated, “YU, as a matter of generally accepted policy and tradition, will not have a speaker come to campus who is outside the mainstream of Centrist Orthodox Judaism to discuss any matter relating to halacha or hashkafah."

Qoute from Article about the "Censorship Committee":
"The committee is composed of the upper echelon of Yeshiva University staff: YU President Richard Joel, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future, Victor Schwartz, dean of Students for YU, and Karen Bacon, dean of Stern.
The result of what students have dubbed “censorship” and what administrators called general university policy have set off a heated conversation about the nature of what is and is not allowed in the university that considers itself the heart of Modern Orthodoxy."

Reaction by the left wing segment of YU can be summed up by the following:
“Its very existence demands that the concepts of free speech and open discourse necessary in a ‘university’ will always be forced to bow to the dictate of the ‘yeshiva,’” wrote Stern student Tali Adler in an opinion piece in the Observer.

When I was president of Yeshiva Student Union, YU's central student body government, I had a lot of tough decisions to make. Our student council budget was by far the largest and we basically oversaw all the major clubs and their activities. All the activities were run past the Mashgiach's office. Rav Yosef Blau would guide us by telling us what he thought was appropriate and what was not. The Office of Student Life and the Deans give the students a lot of lee way in deciding what types of events to run, but in the end, they must give their general haskama.

I was approached by a club to run an event where the transgender professor at Stern would lead a panel discussion. After discussing with my board, we quickly shot down this very dangerous idea. The Office of Student Life, although not publicly, agreed very much with my decision, and I am sure would have knocked it down had it gotten that far anyways.

Is there censorship at YU? Absolutely. A makom torah, regardless of the university aspect, should not be trampled upon with all sorts of machshavos zaros under the banner of free speech and the ideology of open mindedness. People shout a lot that Yeshiva University is both a yeshiva AND a university but most forget what comes first in the name!
Candlelight - The Maccabeats

Brand new video out for Chanukah by the YU Maccabeats, Yeshiva University's A Cappella group. Video filmed and edited by Uri Westrich and song based on Taio Cruz's "Dynamite"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Thoughts About "It Gets Better - Gay Orthodox Jews"

I think its very important for gay people at all ages to truly know they they are not alone. The general message of this video spreads a love and acceptance based on hardships that these men had to endure, and the knowledge that the future has been brighter.

I consider Ely, one of the people in the video, a friend, and someone who I have learned a lot about life from. I think its very brave of him and his friends to make this video and share their tough, sometimes brutal experiences with the rest of the world and most importantly with others who are going through what they went through before/after they came out.

Overall I loved the video and couldnt help but be emotionally drawn to the plight of Orthodox homosexuals and the unfortunate circumstances Hashem has made them struggle with.

There are two very important issues I have with the video:

  1. From 4:04 to 5:00 Chaim Levin describes his experience with reparative therapy and then juxtaposes the unsuccessful attempt at therapy to trying to commit suicide. Was the attempted suicide a direct result from his inability to change? Is there a deeper reason and motive for the juxtaposition? Is that his way of saying it doesnt work? I think this juxtaposition of the two is unfair and thereby paints reparative therapy in a bad light just because it didnt work for Chaim! If his suicide is something that was a direct result of reparative therapy he should have said so. If not, it should not have been left so ambiguous since there are those who are still in the process of trying to help themselves to change. --- Did Chaim Levin plan this juxtaposition or was it editied to be that way without his knowledge???

  1. From 8:20 to 8:52 Moishy Rabinowitz speaks about “lifting that dark cloud” and “lifting that feeling of hopelessness” I dont know whether its part of the agenda of JQY to get people to come out of the closet but there seems to be a tremendous push and social pressure amongst openly gay people to try and get others to come out of the closet. I understand if the struggle leads to attempted suicide, then something must be done. Once you publicly define your life as homosexual, that means the struggle is over. In what other areas in life do we say the struggle is over and afterwards come out and publicly define ourselves as something that could naturally lead to serious sins? What is wrong with the struggling? Struggle and challenge are daily facets of life that we as Jews have to overcome.In what other areas in life do we say the struggle is over and afterwards come out and publicly define ourselves as something that could naturally lead to serious sins? What is wrong with the struggling? Struggle and challenge are daily facets of life that we as Jews have to overcome. If there are immediate life threatening situations, then something must be done immediately but living with a struggle is not something to be ashamed of no matter how hard it is. Coming out and admitting you are struggling with this issue to a small group of people to have a support network is also very different thing. We all have our family, close friends, and rabbeim who we entrust with issues that we deal with.

I hope that these video will be very successful in spreading the message that there is a bright future ahead and that no matter how bad it may be, there are others who have gone through the same thing and are willing to lift you up. The Jewish people should learn to be more inclusive of everyone who struggles with all different types of issues and make our communities a safe place for people with all different types of backgrounds, lifestyles, and experiences.

Two other influential Jewish bloggers have posted their takes on this video:

Rabbi Harry Maryles at

Dov Bear at

"You can make all the parnassa you want from Rosh Hashana to Rosh Hashana but G-d is the one who decides how much you actually keep!"

- Father of a first year bachur in Netiv Aryeh (a very successful businessman) during a siyum in the yeshiva Thursday night.

Before the siyum he spoke about how his learning makes his business life much easier and really helps puts life’s troubles in perspective. If only we had this outlook on life…maybe our struggles would be a little easier to deal with and overcome.

Strange Facebook Friend Requests

Lets put it out there…. I am friends with a ton of people on facebook. I am a friendly open person, was President of Student Council at YU, camp, NCSY and very into the Jewish music scene.

Most of the times I get strange friend request from your run of the mill tuna beigelswho friend me because I am friends with a lot of the Jewish Music world.

My usual reply to strangers is “Heyyy, do i know you??” Usually this takes care of the weirdos, who by not replying get denied. Sometimes I get a message back saying… “looking to make new friends” or “I love all yidden thought we can be friends”, those also get denied but with a good laugh beforehand!

This time… it was a name that sounded familiar. The person is from my hometown and his last name sounded familiar because I think I was in NCSY with one sibling and in Ida Crown (high school) with another sibling of this person.

After my usual “heyyy do i know you??” I got the following response… THIS ONE TAKES THE CAKE!

“I’m not sure but you look familiar and we have a lot of interesting freinds in common. maybe you know this chick named marry jane? she’s pretty popular, we might have met through her.”

COME ON DUDE…. PATHETIC! Stop smoking pot… and get some real friends in real life!

Does anyone else have an similar funny stories about strange friend requests?

What You Will Find Here

1) Judaism
2) Politics
3) Jewish Music News
4) Funny or inspiring Youtube clips
5) My life experiences and travels
6) The Torah I am learning in Yeshiva

I follow many blogs (Judaism, Politics, Jewish Music, etc) and will be linking to them when I have something to say on the subject.

I am in touch with a lot of people in the Jewish Music Biz and will always keep you up to date with all the current and upcoming new music.

I am in Netiv Aryeh’s afternoon halacha kollel learning for semicha, and would love to share the interesting topics we are covering with you and any other Torah insights that have a profound affect on me.

I look forward to many great discussions and hope that we can all respectfully add thoughtful opinions on any of the different topics. If you ever have any questions or concerns please contact me at and I will always get back to you ASAP.