Monday, July 14, 2008

How I Won a Five Hundred Dollar Challenge and Helped Project YES

Jewish Philosopher is a Haredi blog which operates according to the apologetical methodology of the late Rabbi Avigdor Miller. This methodology is built around the following premises; firstly that the truth of Judaism is so patently obvious that no one but someone who is foolish, insane or wicked would ever deny it. Secondly that there is a war against “God, his Torah and his people” being waged by the majority of the world, who are foolish, insane or just plain wicked. The most prominent example of this is the modern scientific establishment, which seeks to advance an atheistic agenda under the cover of scientific objectivity. This is has mainly been conducted through the advocation of such patiently false claims as the theory of evolution. The obvious conclusion arising from these two premises is that Orthodox Jews, particular Haredi Jews, are morally superior to everyone else.

In this spirit, Jewish Philosopher, recently put up a post, Who is like your people Israel, a unique nation on Earth; it was a YouTube clip of a person talking about being sexually abused by his father. Jewish Philosopher challenged his readers: “Can anyone familiar with us imagine a father in the Orthodox Jewish community treating his sons the way the father described in this video clip (5:38 point) treated his sons?” To which a number of readers responded with: yes they could imagine Orthodox Jews abusing their children. In response, Jewish Philosopher put out a challenge: “give [him] the name of one American Orthodox Jew ever convicted of murder, forcible rape or armed robbery and you win $500.”

This seemed to me to be a pretty foolish challenge and I assumed that he was just talking hot air, but I thought it would be fun to call him on it. I just happen to be close to the Isaacs, an Orthodox couple in Columbus, who both work for the Ohio Department of Corrections. So I asked them if they could name someone. They came up with the name of an Orthodox Jew from Cleveland, who served time from 1985 – 2003 for “accidentally” shooting his father-in-law seven times in “self defense.” I presented this to Jewish Philosopher. At first he was skeptical that this person was an Orthodox Jew at the time that he committed his crime so he contacted the Isaacs and then he even got in touch with the person.

To my surprise, not only did Jewish Philosopher concede that I had successfully fulfilled the requirements of his challenge, but he also offered to pay up the $500 he had wagered. Instead of taking the money, I suggested that he donate it to Project YES, an organization that works with at-risk teens in the Orthodox community. The head of this organization, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, has been a leader in discussing problems within the Orthodox community, particularly abuse. He is the sort of person that if Jewish Philosopher had bothered to read he might not have made the sort of outlandish claims that got him into this situation in the first place.

Jewish Philosopher made the donation and even posted the reply from the website.I must say, though, that I was really impressed that Jewish Philosopher actually kept his word and paid, not many people would. Of course not many people would have gotten themselves into such trouble in the first place by making the sort of claims that he did. In a sense Jewish Philosopher is a very good representative of the Haredi world. He is personally honest even if he is intellectually very dishonest. He may live in a fantasy-land, but he seems to be a good person.


Anonymous said...

Izgad, I would like to know under what halachic premise it's permissible for you to publicize the name of the convict from Cleveland. Yes, I know it's public information - nevertheless, you are in violation of the laws of Lashon Hara and Rechilus by posting this information on a public forum.

Izgad said...

The fact that this information is in the public record is one thing. Also, considering the nature of the issue, it is a clear benefit to anyone to whom this man is not just a random name.
I would also add that this over obsession with lashon hara and richilos is a major reason why this the Rabbi Avigdor Miller tactic of saying that Orthodox Jews are just wonderful came into being. Since I believe that this is harmful to Judaism, as I see it, one has a duty, in this day and age, to point out such black marks on the Orthodox community.

Anonymous said...

I can see the reasoning in your logic, however, this is still not halachically permissible.

I object to your term "over obsession" with lashon hara and rechilus. There are specific halachos relating to lashon hara, so there is no issue of obsession, just like there's no such thing as over obsession with hilchos kashrus. I'm not talking chumras here - I'm talking straight halacha.

I also don't see the connection between saying "all Jews are wonderful" and being observant of hilchos lashon hara, especially relating lashon hara in a very public forum.

Izgad said...

"I also don't see the connection between saying "all Jews are wonderful" and being observant of hilchos lashon hara, especially relating lashon hara in a very public forum."

The whole concept of lashon hara ceases to exist the moment that there is a clearly defined public good at hand, such as fixing the damage done to Judaism by Rabbi Avigdor Miller style apologetics.
Many of the problems facing the Orthodox community could have been handled in time if Orthodoxy had something more than a cheerleader press. Journalists may say things that in a normal context may sound like lashon hara, but this is necessary for the public good. Therefore journalists, and bloggers, need to be given a lot of room to maneuver when it comes to lashon hara.

While I had originally posted the name of the person, I have decided to take the name down since it is not needed for the purpose of the post. I still stand by my argument that I was justified in posting the name.

Anonymous said...

What I'm trying to say is that one can not determine on his/her own what's OK and what's not when it comes to halacha. That is why we have halachos. And in halacha, sometimes there just isn't "a lot of room to maneuver."

I also challenge what you call "public good" when it comes to what you consider damage caused by certain individuals. You definitely have a right to your opinion, however halacha doesn't allow for lashon hara about a particular individual just because you don't like his style or what he has written. I don't think it's so "clearly defined"...

Finally, I commend you for taking down the name of the person at hand. You did the right thing.