Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Using Lies and Deception to Make Your Point

Leapa reports that a pashkevil hanging up around Boro Park (pictured at right) states:

The fact is: Eighty percent (80%) of Gitin (Jewish Divorces) .... are products of a computer at home, or a cellphone or i-pod in a pocket.

This is the dry fact. It is attested to by all Rabbonim which do Gitin.

Dear Young Person (Yingerman): If you do not want this device to throw you out of your house, throw it out first!!!

(Note: My Yiddish skills are minimal. The translation is Leapa's. However, from what little I do know, it looks reasonably accurate. If it's not, please let me know and I'll modify the translation accordingly.)

To be perfectly honest, I'm not an expert in the field of divorce, so I'll be the first to admit that I could be wrong. However, I *highly* doubt that 80% of all divorces among Orthodox Jews are because of a computer in the home (it doesn't even mention the Internet), an Ipod or a cellphone. Unless, of course, "being caused by" equates to "owning one," in which case, I'd say that over 99% of all divorces are caused by telephones and electricity.

Now, if someone wants to start a crusade against computers, cellphones and Ipods, I don't have a problem with it (as long as there is no coercion involved). I have no problem with someone asking me to get rid of my computer, my TV or my MP3 player (which isn't an Ipod), as long as they don't get involved in coercion or deception.

It's when people start using deception and make up facts that I start to get annoyed and begin to "push back." The best example from my experience, I suppose, is that I have no beef with Christian missionaries, whereas I have nothing but utter contempt for Jews for Jesus -- specifically because the former is simply advancing their ideas in a straightforward manner and the latter are being deceptive to accomplish their goals.

It's when someone starts to use deception that my sympathies for their goal start to go downhill. For example, a few weeks ago, the President of a shul in my neighborhood got up on Friday night after davening and asked the congregants to contact their representatives (or was it the president?) about Jonathan Pollard. In his little speech, he said that the Pollard incident was "the Dreyfus Affair all over again." Now, we can argue whether or not Pollard deserved his life sentence; we can debate whether or not he should still be in prison; but one thing is clear -- Alfred Dreyfus was framed and innocent of all the charges against him. Jonathan Pollard, on the other hand, broke the law -- a fact that no one denies. Comparing him to Dreyfus completely destroyed his case, in my opinion. I have little tolerance for deception in rhetoric -- and yes, exaggeration is a form of deception. Are there divorces caused by computers (i.e. the Internet)? No doubt there are -- but 80%?

You often here this from members of our community regarding things that they want to do away with. Invariably, someone will get up and state that [fill in the blank] is the "greatest danger to K'lal Yisroel" today. It could be television, movies, cell phones, computers, DVDs, Ipods, mixed seating, college education, or whatever. If I had a dime for every time I heard something was the "greatest danger..., " well, I wouldn't be a millionaire, but I'd probably have at least two bucks. By definition, there can only be one "greatest danger" and yet it shifts every time to be whatever the particular speaker is talking about.

Is it possible to have an argument using just plain old simple facts? If you think that computers, cellphones and Ipods are deleterious to a marriage, then please make a cogent case for it. But don't pull numbers out of thin air. If you think that Pollard should be out of prison, then make a case for it; but don't compare him to an innocent man. And the next time someone thinks that some product or service is bad for the Jewish community, let him say so without shouting that it's the "greatest danger to K'lal Yisroel." Just make a good case using simple facts and reasoning.

The Wolf


The Chainik Hocker said...

It is a well known fact that 76.39% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Seriously. They did studies on this.

A well known Godol Hador stated last week during a mussar shmooze in a prominent Kollel that "false or misleading statistics is the greatest danger facing Klal Yisroel today". It's true. I personally know someone that is related to a neighbor of a person who was at that shiur.

In order to prevent people from disseminating false statistics, all mass communication devices should be banned immediately. Such devices include, but are not limited to, computers with internet, computers without internet, cellphones, iPods, DVD players, televisions, radios, walkie talkies, beepers, pagers, telegraph sets, and flashlights.

Anyone who refuses to immediately comply with this edict will have their children throw out of school, thier shidduch prospects ruined, and their place in line at Kosher Delight taken.

Anonymous said...

You have just made a statement with no facts to back them up. You say Jews for Jesus is deceptive but you don't say how. You are guilty of exactly what you are complaining about.

The best example from my experience, I suppose, is that I have no beef with Christian missionaries, whereas I have nothing but utter contempt for Jews for Jesus -- specifically because the former is simply advancing their ideas in a straightforward manner and the latter are being deceptive to accomplish their goals.

PsychoToddler said...

Well, 100% of divorces are caused by marriage, so if you want to outlaw something, I'd start with that.

BrooklynWolf said...

No, Anon, I'm not guilty of what I'm complaining about. I'm not making stuff up to make my point. Many people agree that J4J engages in deception by purporting that you can believe in Jesus in the Trinitarian sense and remain a good Jew (in halachic terms).

Not every statement needs to be proven (especially when, like this case, it's not central to the point). You'll note that I didn't *prove* that Pollard was guilty, that Dreyfus was innocent or even that the president of the shul made the statement that I attributed to him. That doesn't make it false. What I didn't do, however, is exaggerate or lie.

The Wolf

Michael Koplow said...

Hear hear, Wolf!

Just two questions. First, why is "all" (in "all rabbonim") in quotation marks in the pashkevil? Does it mean they don't really mean "all," or is it a mistake, thinking quotation marks give emphasis? (Sort of those signs that have "'fresh' food.") I actually am asking and not being sarky--my Yiddish is probably even more minimal than yours.

Second, and more importantly, you write that "Many people agree that J4J engages in deception by purporting that you can believe in Jesus in the Trinitarian sense and remain a good Jew (in halachic terms)." Is it true that Jews for Jesus makes any halachic claims at all? If the group doesn't talk in halachic terms, it becomes just a disagreement about what a good Jew is.

Anonymous said...


Just because many people agree on something doesn't mean that it's true. At one time, many people agreed that the world was flat. At one time, the Jewish people agreed that worshipping a golden calf was a good idea. Neither of these proved to be true.

Where is the deception you claim Jews for Jesus uses? It would be deceptive if we told people that they believed in Jesus and we really didn't. Seems you confuse deception with disagreement.

BrooklynWolf said...

Yeesh... I didn't want to turn this into a J4J debate.

Very simply... all major halachic codes agree that the act of deifying a person is forbidden and in the realm of avoda zara. Heck, one of the few things that the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform agree on is that there is no place in Judaism for a belief in Jesus as a part of a triune god.

J4J is an organization that, by deliberately using Judaic terms, icons and the like, by using terms such as "Jesus made me kosher," and the like, they are obfuscating the line between the two religions and giving the impression that you can remain solidly Jewish (in the theological sense) and be a Christian at the same time.

My feelings on the matter have always been thus: If you want to preach Christianity, then by all means, do so. If you want to convince people that Jesus was the Jewish messiah, etc. and that Christianity is correct, then go right ahead -- but do it based on the merits of the Christian faith. Don't disguise it as a form of Judaism.

BTW, you wouldn't happed to be
Chad Elliot, would you?

The Wolf

DAG said...

Wolf..do you think J4J doesn't believe that to be the case? Your Rabbi may believe that Pollard is like Dreyfuss. That may make him wrong, even foolish...but if he believes it, it isn't deception.

Anonymous said...

Pollard did a huge disservice to any Jew who wants to work for the US government, especially in the intelligence services. They are now scrutinized and mistrusted in a way that they were not before.

Calling him a "Dreyfus" is just insulting.

Anonymous said...


You are saying "deception" depends on the intent of the presenter. But indeed it is the receiver of the message being deceived regardless of the speaker's intent. Thus J4J is deceptive. Even if they believe their mistaken points, their actions are deceptive, deceiving people into thinking deifying Jesus is acceptable to Jews in some fashion.

Orthonomics said...

Given the seemingly large increase in frum divorces, I'd like to know what the major causes are.

I believe studies show that American divorce usually happens because of disagreements over money, sex, childrearing, and religion.

I can't imagine that these same issues are prominent in frum marriage (possibly with the exception of religion, but I've seen plenty of nasty behavior regarding differences in hashkafah too).

I don't know what the prominent causes of divorce are in frum circles, but attibuting 80% of cases to technology is just ridiculous!

I know an increasing number of frum divorcees, some married less than a year. I imagine there are cases of mental illness and abuse in many cases. I can only imagine that finances do play a part in adding stress to many households.

I'm no expert in frum divorce, and I'm sure technology plays a role in certain divorcees. But, spouting off "facts" without a comprehensive study, or at least strong anecdotal evidence from Batei Din and counselors that work with this population, is just silly.

BrooklynWolf said...

I didn't really want to turn this into a Jonathan Pollard debate either. It was just an example.

The Wolf

Leah Goodman said...

SL: First, money is a huge issue in the frum community.

Many women come from homes where their parents worked and made a good living and they could have most of what they wanted. To be suddenly told "we can't afford X,Y, and Z" will absolutely put stress on a marriage.

I can't see why sex wouldn't be a problem. First, there are (lo aleinu) frum people who cheat. Secondly, there is a lot of repression in the frum community. Many people have difficulty having a good sex life after such total repression. Plus, even setting that aside, assuming everyone is behaving and doesn't have serious issues, you still have two people with differing physical needs and different hormonal patterns.

Childrearing is certainly an issue in every family that has even one child. There is always one member of the couple who wants to be stricter, one who is more safety-conscious, one who gets angry more easily, etc.

As for religion, I've seen couples fight over whether it's appropriate to eat machine-made shmura matza (as opposed to hand-made). My husband and I have had arguments about how much of my elbow/hair needs to be covered. We're not talking about a huge gap, but even small differences can become points of contention.

I just don't see any reason why the problems in the religious community are any different.

I've seen people use the internet to exacerbate existing problems - for example by using the anonymity to flirt online when they are unlikely to do so in public. However, the flirting is a symptom and exacerbation of an existing problem. If the marriage were perfect, the spouse wouldn't be online looking for "intrigue."

As for cell phones... My husband's cell phone has certainly annoyed me quite a lot (especially when I was in the ER, and he was handling some work issue while I was in pain and worried about my pregnancy.) The problem there isn't the cell phone, though. It's his inability to say "Sorry, I'm in the ER with my wife. I'll have to handle this later."

I do, btw, know a few frum couples who got divorced b/c one member of the couple mistook the other one and/or the kids for a punching bag.

Maybe 83.2% of marriages are broken up by the lack of a punching bag in the home...

Anonymous said...

Although I agree with the point that hubby is making..I can just hear the Rabbi now:

"The greatest danger to Klal Yisroel is (fill in the blank)...however, I really wanted to talk about (fill in the blank with another topic), and so I will now call (TOPIC #2) the "greatest danger" so as to maintain the interest of the listeners.."

smoo said...

PsychoToddler said...
"Well, 100% of divorces are caused by marriage, so if you want to outlaw something, I'd start with that."

Brilliant! Thanks for the laugh.

Jack Steiner said...

Is it possible to have an argument using just plain old simple facts?

Nope, it is not. Just look around the world and we can see that facts are inconvenient for most people.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I do happen to be Chad Elliott.

It's curious that you should talk about Jews for Jesus "giving the impression that you can remain solidly Jewish (in the theological sense)," since as an organization we're pretty clear that we do not consider ourselves to be practicing the religion of Judaism. If we were claiming to be practicing the religion of Judaism we might call ourselves Jews for Judaism ... oh wait, someone took that name :-)

We're born Jews, and nothing can change that, so there is simply no deception in us saying we are Jews. Similarly, as Jews of course we are going to use Judaic terms and icons. Again, it seems that the issue is not deception, but disagreement over whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

BrooklynWolf said...


Thank you for your reply.

You are, of course, correct in that a person who is born from a Jewish mother is Jewish - regardless of whatever religion (or lack thereof) they practice. Nothing that a person does will change that. As such, if you were born from a Jewish mother, you are unquestioningly Jewish.

Perhaps because you are inside the organization, it is clear to you that you do not claim that Rabbinic Judaism (to use that another J4Jer used in an email with me, although it is not a term that I particularly like) is not compatible with a belief in the Trinity; but to those outside the organization, it is certainly not so clear. If you are telling me that this is not the policy of the organization, then I stand up and congratulate on your forthrightness, but you really should make that message much more clear. Because to me, the casual observer, it seems to me that you are telling people that you can remain Jewish (i.e. a Jew in "good standing" as is commonly understood) while still believing in the divinity of Jesus. By purposely using Judaic icons and terms such as "Jesus made me kosher" and the like, it seems to the casual outsider that you are blurring the lines between the religions. Furthermore, when I talk to your "people on the street," there are times that I have been told that I can remain an Orthodox Jew in good standing while accepting the divinity of Jesus. Clearly, we both know that this is not true. Now, it's certainly possible that the people I've been speaking to are not aware of the official position of the organization and are simply mistaken; but if that's the case, then your organization needs to do a much better job of clarifying it's position both *inside* the organization and to the outside public.

The argument is not simply over whether or not Jesus was the Jewish messiah -- I can have that friendly argument with almost any Christian and there is no issue of ambiguity regarding which religion each of us is representing. That does not seem to be the case with your organization.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...


Right after I hit "submit," I realized that while your blog is linked to on the J4J site, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have any official connection to the organization.

(Of course, the fact that they highlight your blog also indicates that you're not completely an outsider either... but I just wanted to clarify the point). :)

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

Accuracy of statistics aside, Dave Ramsey says 80% of divorces are due to financial problems. Since the frum world just loves living the high life (fancy shaitls, big houses, exotic vacations, huge yeshivah tuitions), and abhors teaching children any way to make money other than welfare and tatti's gelt, I think you can just as easily blame the yeshivah system for causing divorce as you can computers and cell phones. Interesting how most paranassah today requires using a computer and a cell phone, just the things that have be assured.