The Holy Kabbalist and the Dead Cop

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto. By Yaacov Gross (Own work) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Last night the head of the National Fraud Unit of the Israeli Police, Deputy Commissioner Ephraim Bracha, a 55-year-old father of four, shot himself in the head. Bracha was at the center of an investigation involving corrupt Kabbalistic Haredi Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto whom he accused of bribing him back in 2012. You may never have heard of Pinto, but lots of people that you have heard of know exactly who he is. Included among his followers and admirers are many prominent Israeli and American … [Read more...]

Jewish Reaction to Gay Marriage Decision

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So how has the Jewish community responded to the marriage equality decision?My own Facebook page demonstrates 100% approval. But that’s not really so scientific. Nevertheless, it does reflect the actual American Jewish consensus. The last poll of the community indicated that 83% supported marriage equality.The Forward provided a breakdown of Jewish celebrities. We Jews do love bragging about our celebrities. The 83% support of American Jewry combined with Hollywood’s nearly 100% approval … [Read more...]

Sex Tourism, Hasidic Style

The grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Uman, Ukraine.

Today’s post falls under the category of religious morality. The Israeli news site Mako has an investigative report about the tourist activities of Hasidim (and others) who participate in pilgrimages to the city of Uman, Ukraine. Each year thousands of Hasidim and other Jewish spiritual-seekers flood the small town during the fall holidays to pray at the grave of Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, founder of the Breslov Hasidic sect.Bu it turns out that there's more than just prayers ha … [Read more...]

Compassionate Jewish Law: When a Dead Baby Is Returned to Parents in a Cardboard Box


Early in my career, while serving as director and rabbi at a Hillel Jewish student center, I received an emergency call in the middle of the night. This was pretty unusual for a Hillel director. I got to the hospital and discovered that one of my graduate students had suffered a very, very late term miscarriage, a stillbirth really. By the time I arrived, she and her husband were holding their infant for the first and only time. I spent the entire next day trying to convince the local Reform … [Read more...]

Leaving Hasidism


In the genre of “de-conversion” books, there is a Jewish sub-category of “OTD” memoirs. “OTD” is the English acronym for “Off the Derech [the path or the way]” and refers to Orthodox Jews who leave traditional observance behind. Not all of them love that appellation, but it is what’s generally stuck.There have been many fine memoirs from formerly Orthodox Jews, most of them written by people reared in one of the Haredi varieties. One of the best is Leah Vincent’s Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvati … [Read more...]

A New Day In Israeli Politics?

I am a political junkie.  My drug is not domestic, as I prefer to feed my addiction with Israeli politics.  This current round of elections has provided me with a particularly potent dose and it’s one that’s never been concocted before.  Simply put, what’s happening now is unprecedented.Israeli coalition politics has always been a particularly rarefied specimen of the art of compromise.  No party ever accumulates sufficient seats to form a government.  This always makes the search for bedfell … [Read more...]

Crime Wave At The Western Wall

I just returned from Jerusalem to news about the latest round of arrests of Jewish women for the crime of wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) and organizing a women’s prayer service at the Western Wall.I have written before about my antipathy for that place. In my past two visits I haven’t even bothered descending the steps to go see it. This latest appalling arrest is a great example of everything that’s wrong about the site. … [Read more...]

Shas Demeans Russian Jews

For those who say that I have spent too much time here on Haredim, I say, “How can you blame me when they give me such good material?”Just as a bit of background, Israelis are not subject to endless election ads on radio and television because the government allocates chunks of time and what you get is all you get. The ads are also subject to review for racism, incitement and so forth. … [Read more...]

More Drivel From The Great Rav Ovadiah

Rav Ovadiah Yosef, spiritual leader of world Sephardic Jewry, just attacked one of the major bastions of Israeli democracy.  He has labeled the Israeli courts “a court of gentiles.”  That, apparently, is a very bad thing when you are a loyal Torah Jew like his (from Haaretz which has a big ol’ paywall) relates what happened when Yosef was asked about Israeli judges who are Orthodox Jews: … [Read more...]

Haredim Vandalize Ancient Synagogue. Really.

You might think that one place safe from the vitriolic attacks of Haredi fanatics would be an ancient synagogue.  From Ynet:In another case of vandalism at one of Israel's antiquities sites, the mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue in Hamat Tverya National Park was discovered Tuesday morning to have been badly – and intentionally – damaged.Workers at Hamat Tverya arrived Tuesday morning to discover that vandals had broken in overnight and cracked and spray-painted the floor of the oldest B … [Read more...]