Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Autistic Speaks (or Writes)

Although I obviously don't have much time to devote to my blog, it is nevertheless still up and running. And people still find and read my posts. my site meter tells me this.

My posts also get numerous comments a day. Almost all of them are spam comments that are mass generated and ID as "Anonymous". 

Well, yesterday, for the first time in quite a while, I received a comment to an existing post - a three year old post, actually - that seemed to be genuine albeit a bit "heretical" and disturbing. The commenter identified himself (I assume it is a male) as Collin Merenoff and called himself "an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own". He was commenting  to one of the posts I had written advocating the "writings" of the "chareidi" autistics using a technique known as Facilitated Communication (FC). 

You can see the post and the comments with my response HERE.

For those who did not check out the link, I will reprint both his comment and my response in this post.

Since this person identifies himself as an autistic, it seems he has some authority on the mind of an autistic and the authenticity of FC. So here is his comment:

Collin Merenoff said... 
That last poster is absolutely right about FC. I'm an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own. Many of my family members have/had some aspects of autism. I have grown up with the wisdom of an agnostic grandmother from Vilnau, and a religious and Kabbalistic grandfather from Chorzhel, who got along perfectly despite their differences, because they were each autistic in their own way, and they shared the wisdom of autistic Judaism. And that wisdom would be total anathema to any cult, for my grandparents (y'hei shalama raba...), my parents, and I all agree that the Torah is deeply flawed, that Halacha is mostly irrelevant, and that the real word of G-d is in secular ethics and scientific truth.
JUNE 19, 2012 1:09 AM
This comment has taught me many things. The main thing is that even autistics have bechira and they can choose for themselves whether to be a maamin or not. This one prides himself on a long yichus of skeptics all of whom were blessed with a variant of autism. 

Another thing that I learned is that there is a brand of Judaism called "autistic Judaism" that has a special "wisdom". I also learned that this "autisitc Judaism" with its own brand of wisdom cannot be considered a "cult" because its hahkafos are "total anathema to any cult". Only those who believe in FC are branded (by an earlier commenter and confirmed by this one) as a "cult".

As for the authenticity of FC, this commenter is not specific in any way. He just seconds the opinions of the previuos poster. He probably did not see my subsequent post (available HERE) where I took on his challenge head on. One important point I made in the beginning of that post is that FC is used for autistics who cannot commnicate by themselves and thus we cannot gage FC based on autistics like Collin who can.

So now, I wish to present the response that I wrote to my friend Collin:

To Collin 

Thank you for your comment. 

>>I'm an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own.  

It seems to me that most people in the blogosphere are autistic [Jews] who can speak and type on their own. 

>>my parents, and I all agree that the Torah is deeply flawed 

You are implying that if it was up to you, you could produce a "flawless" Torah. The Torah is a constitution, or a set of rules for a vibrant society. Society is made up of Human beings with many Human shortcomings (including autism). Humans are full of "differences" and "flaws" and any constitution that can effectively regulate a society of Humans is beyond flawless. It is remarkable and magnificent.
From all known constitutions and religious dogma, the Torah has the best track record for viability and vibrance, bar none. 

>>that Halacha is mostly irrelevant 

Perhaps. But recent polls in Eretz Yisrael have established that the members of society who adhere to Halacha (hareidim in particular but not exclusively) have considered themselves to be "happy with their lives" to a percentage greater than any other sub-community.  

>>and that the real word of G-d is in secular ethics and scientific truth 

Yes, indeed. Both "secular ethics" and "scientific truth (???)" have made themselves into religions of their own. And so, those who stray after them see them as the "real word of G-d". "Secular Ethics" has brought us Naziism, socialism and communism and pro-abortion and homosexual marriage. If this is the word of G-d then you and I are definitely worshiping 2 different "G-ds".

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Accepting Kids or Excepting Kids – Phishing for a Psak

I wrote in my book that there are basically two “grades” of chareidim: the Rabi Shimon ben Yochai grade and the Rabi Yishmael grade. 

In general, the two grades interact rather well but on some issues there may need a bit of arbitration. Here is how I wrote it in the book: 

The inevitable result is the emergence of two main categories of chareidim – the [Rabbi] Shimonists and the [Rabbi] Yishmaelists. These two strains co-exist within every chareidi community and often within chareidi households. In most aspects, there are no substantial adverse effects to this phenomenon. The Yishmaelists admire the Shimonists for maintaining a higher standard and the Shimonists appreciate that the Yishmaelists are ‘doing their job’. Essentially, they carry out a teamwork program (in the spirit of the Yissachar – Zevulun partnership) as, typically, both groups gain from the achievements of the other. 

Problems do arise when Rabbi Shimonist chareidim expect or demand other chareidim who may lean toward the Yishmaelist school of thought to maintain their stricter standards. These problems tend to flare up in relation to community issues which collectively affect all of the chareidim in a community and where a common policy must be adopted. Here, these two conflicting schools of thought make it difficult to determine a single policy to serve the entire spectrum. In some cases, a rift within the community is unavoidable. This occurs mostly within the education system as that is one crux of the initial debate – should young chareidim be educated exclusively toward the higher Shimonist standard or not? Does the presence of the Yishmaelists make those standards harder to achieve? On occasion this disparity comes to the fore in family relations, mostly between fathers and sons (though sometimes even between husbands and wives or in-laws), sometimes with tragic consequences. This issue demands further study which I hope to provide. 

To rephrase the question: Is it justified for a “high class” chareidi educational establishment to except potential students who do not fully fit their preferred profile, or are they beholden to accept them? 

Well, listen to the opinion of one of the finest arbitrators in the business, L’orach yamim v’shanim tovim.

In the ensuing video, two school officials from Beit Shemesh are consulting with the "Rosh Yeshiva" Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlit"a. It seems that a local Beit Shemesh man is on the verge of remarrying to a widow from Bnei Brak who has two sons. As they are looking to settle in Beit shemesh, they want to enroll the two boys in this particular Talmud Torah.

The officials of the TT somehow feel that this widow is too "open minded" for their tastes and are seeking the Rosh Yeshiva's approval to not except accept the two boys.

The Rosh Yeshiva will have none of it! And he says so in no uncertain terms.
Oh, and pardon the English.

(Note - For email recipients who do not get the embedded video, you may access it HERE)

Note - Although this video was just recently published on YouTube, I am told that this incident occurred over a year ago.