Monday, November 23, 2009

ShidduchVision... What's Right and What's Wrong

It seems that there's been a bit of hoopla over the opening of the first ShidduchVision center in Lakewood. The purpose of ShidduchVision, as stated on its website, is as follows:



(Yes, it's in ALL CAPS).

OK, I grant that there might be a few upsides to this: It allows for a guy/girl who come from out-of-town to see each other first before making a long trip in. Sometimes dates will fizzle just based on looks alone, and this will allow some people to avoid wasting travel time and money on dates that just won't lead anywhere.

I suppose that it might help with a guy/girl who is brand new to dating and nervous about spending a few hours alone (or as alone as you can be in a hotel lobby) with a guy/girl. This might prove to be a less threatening atmosphere by which the two can meet for the first time. Hopefully, after they've broken the ice, s/he will be more comfortable meeting in person.

There may be other positive developments as well. However, when I read the FAQ of ShidduchVision, I get a very uneasy feeling -- one that tells me that despite however well-intentioned this is meant to be, it will end up warping the dating process even more than it is already warped.

Consider the following "features" of the Shidduch Vision system:

In differentiating themselves from simple webcam usage, the SV site states:

With webcams there is no control involved, so singles who ‘date’ via webcam are working outside of the Shidduch system.

Huh? What "controls" are involved? Is there a monitor listening in to the conversation to make sure it doesn't stray from the straight and narrow? I don't believe that to be the case, based on the other FAQs. So then, what sort of "control" is there? And how is doing so "outside the Shidduch system?" If a duly-recognized Shadchan sets up a couple and privately arranged a webcam meeting then that's "outside the Shidduch system?" How is it any worse than if the Shadchan actually sent them on a physical date?

The FAQs also constantly emphasize the "znius" and "kedusha" of the dating system. Of course, if you think about it, considering that the couple are now totally alone in an isolated environment (certainly more isolated than a hotel lobby), perhaps it's possible that something inappropriate might be shown or discussed. The FAQs cover that as well:

Although inappropriate behavior is extremely unlikely, it could possibly happen (as indeed, it could on a traditional face-to-face date). Therefore we have put a reporting system in place so that anyone reported (by the single or Shadchan) to have acted in an inappropriate manner will be have their privileges of using the ShidduchVision™ system revoked permanently, and will be reported to his/her Rebbi/Rebetzin, etc. We will have zero tolerance for such issues.

Of course, if both parties wish to engage in ribaldry, then there is no way to catch them (officially). The system presented above relies on one party to report the other. Since the couple in the Shidduch Vision booth is now *more* isolated than they'd be in a hotel lobby, I would think that this presents more of an opportunity for inappropriate things to be said/seen.

Another concern I have is in the consequences involved for inappropriate behavior. The FAQ states that if one party acts inappropriately, s/he will have his SV privliges revoked and be reported to his/her Rebbi/Rebetzin. I have two major concerns with this:

1. Since when did Loshon Hara and public shaming become permissible -- even if the accusation is true?
2. Considering the fact that the conversation is not recorded and that no one is supposed to be monitoring it, how can anyone's charge be substantiated? Ultimately, it must come down to a he said/she-said. And without any proof at all they're going to embarrass the person in front of their rebbi/rebetzin and quite possibly ruin future shidduch possibilities?

Lastly, I have a concern on how this might become part of the "chumra creep" that is encompassing many of our communities. As I said at the top of the post, there are certain positives about this system and it can serve a useful purpose in a limited set of circumstances. What I am afraid of, however, is that this is going to go from being a useful tool to being the popular, then the norm and finally de rigueur. Do you think that in ten years or so a person will be looked down upon for going on a "physical" date right away without doing Shidduch Vision? I think it's a real possibility. I'm afraid that this will become just another "layer" of dating and another "rule" that singles have to follow, lest they be shunned. And the last thing we need to do is make the shidduch dating even more complicated and cumbersome than it is now.

The Wolf

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Important Message From R. Yaakov Horowitz and R. Benzion Twerski About Suicide

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the tragic death of Motti Borger and the factors that presumably led up to what happened to him. Since this is a fairly high profile event in our community, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz and Rabbi Benzion Twerski fear that there may be copycat suicide attempts. As a result, Rabbi Horowitz asked that the following be published:

This essay will appear in next week’s Jewish Press. Generally, as per my arrangement with The Jewish Press, I do not post columns until the issue is on the newsstand. However, due to the nature and timeliness of this subject, The Jewish Press is permitting its release prior to publication as a public service.

Abuse Survivors; Please Do Not Suffer Alone

By: Dr. Benzion Twerski and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

In recent days, reports have circulated in the media and on the Internet about the tragic early passing of yet another young man in our community. Those reports indicate that the trauma of childhood abuse followed him and complicated his adult life to the point that it impinged on the quality of his personal relationships.

It is not the intent of these lines to substantiate these reports nor is it to dismiss them. Rather, we wish to use the opportunity presented by this horrible calamity and the dialogue it has created on the internet and in the street to once again loudly and forcefully reiterate the message we have been projecting for many years to victims of abuse – “Please reach out for help and do not suffer alone.”

For even in the event that the facts as reported in this particular tragedy are not accurate, they are most certainly consistent with the pattern we have unfortunately seen over and over again, where victims of childhood abuse go through unspeakable agony as they attempt to singlehandedly deal with the toxic aftereffects of the trauma they suffered in their formative years. We have each encountered numerous instances where untreated childhood abuse follows victims into adulthood, shredding their marriages and rendering them often incapable of entering into a loving and intimate relationship with their spouses until a trained mental health professional helps them sort things out. We have each been involved with more than a few childhood abuse victims who became addicted to heroin and/or cocaine, in an unsuccessful attempt to wash away the searing pain of their trauma. We have each paid more than a few shiva calls to families of abuse victims, who years and even decades later took their own lives.

There are a number of reasons why abuse victims would not avail themselves of intervention and assistance. Some are understandably reluctant or frightened to share the facts of their abuse with others. Others, who did have the courage to confide in adults in their lives were encouraged or intimidated into remaining silent – especially if the perpetrator is a respected individual or a close family member. This sends a horrible message to the victim – that he or she has done something that cannot see the light of day. The result is a that a never-ending video loop now plays in the mind of the victim, as societal pressure abuses them again and again, by forcing them to remain silent and unsupported.

There are many events that simultaneously involve more than one “system.” For example, when one gets arrested for driving under the influence which caused injuries or death, there are criminal penalties for drunk driving and financial reparations due for the damages caused. However, neither of these tracks deals with the fact that the perpetrator has a drinking problem. Courts realize they cannot treat alcoholism, as revoking licenses, impounding cars, and even jail terms will not prevent recidivism – especially if treatment is warranted but not followed.

Various efforts have been undertaken in recent years – all of which are necessary – in the arenas of prevention, education, training, and the need for reporting. And we both have proudly participated in many of them. However, despite the fact that these initiatives and the awareness they generate are often soothing to past abuse victims, none of these help them regain their footing. Only therapy by a licensed and trained professional can accomplish that.

We are therefore reaching out to anyone who was ever abused or molested in their childhood years and begging you to please do yourself the ultimate favor and get help.

Therapy may not solve all issues in your life, but it will do much to make your future brighter and filled with greater promise. In fact, many survivors thrive and build beautiful lives for themselves and their families following successful treatment.

It may be true that some people are resilient and survive with little apparent damage (apparent is the operative word). However, this is not the norm, and with the dangers involved, we would not recommend that you even risk this small chance. So; for your sake, and for the sake of your spouse and children, please, please get help.

This may mean several things:

  1. Contact a mental health professional who is experienced in counseling trauma victims. (I strongly feel that well-intentioned individuals like me, who do not have professional training in abuse treatment, are not equipped to deal with these issues and should limit our involvement to supporting the efforts of the professionals, and steering those who seek our guidance in these matters directly to them. Y.H.)
  1. Get information about trauma and its effects.
  1. Connect with other victims/survivors. The camaraderie and support are invaluable.

We strongly suggest that you ignore those who inform you, that getting married and starting a family will help you, “Get over it.” Experience has taught us that it will often complicate things rather than heal them.

Please, please do not suffer alone. Reach out for help today.

In closing, we offer you our sincere and heartfelt bracha that Hashem grant you menuchas hanefesh and simchas hachayim (tranquility and joy) in your lives.

© 2009 Dr. Benzion Twerski and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is a regular columnist in The Jewish Press. Dr. Benzion Twerski is a renowned and much sought-after mental health professional who holds a Ph.D. in psychology from University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Twerski has been one of the leading voices in our community on the issue of child abuse for more than a decade. He lives and practices in Brooklyn, N.Y. and can be reached at

The Wolf

So, I Guess Religious Protections In the Workplace are Bad...

VIN has a story about four women who are suing B&H Photo. The women are alleging that they were denied promotion opportunities for "religious reasons."

I don't want to comment on the specifics of the suit because, frankly, I have no idea what went down. I don't know if the suit truly has merit or not.

What I find interesting (and appalling) are some of the comments on the VIN story. There are those who are defending B&H based on rules of tznius. Others maintain that a frum company should be able to hire only Jews. Among the comments:

So a yid who wants to have a business where he can be shomer torah umitzvos can't do it. He must hire women, he must give benefits to gay partners, soon they will claim he discriminates because he doesn't allow the employees to work on Shabes and Yomtov.

let us create business for our people, what's wrong with that, is it too much common sense?

Why is not allowing woman because of religious reasons wrong? we don't discriminate because of "hate" it's because of "moral values".

What I find ironic about all this is that these people would probably be the first ones screaming "discrimination" if they applied for a job and were turned down for "religious reasons." Imagine the (rightful) hue and cry if they were turned down for a job because the owner felt it was "moral" to provide jobs to his fellow Baptists. Or imagine the story that would come about if a MO seforim store owner only provided jobs or promotions to those who were openly Zionist?

I find it just mind-boggling that people can so quickly forget that the laws that protect others from discrimination based on solely religious grounds protect them as well. Everyone loves to tell over the stories about how Jews were hard pressed to keep Shabbos 100 years ago because jobs required them to work on Saturdays. I can't count the number of times I heard stories of Jews who had to find new jobs every week because they would be fired weekly for refusing to show up on Saturday. We've become so "spoiled" by our ability to take off for Yom Tov and leave early on Fridays in the winter and our right to not be discriminated against that we take those freedoms for granted. Perhaps some people need to be reminded that the same laws that protect their ability to maintain both religious practice and the ability to earn a livelihood protect others as well. At the very least the person who made the following comment should be reminded of history.

We don't need anti-discrimination laws, and they have done us far more harm than help. All we need is for the LAW to treat everyone equally, and to leave people alone to do as they please.

Yeah, that's what we need... a throwback to the world where employees have no protection for their religious beliefs at all.

The Wolf

Friday, November 06, 2009

Bad Hebrew Tattoos.

I spent a fair portion of Thursday at the AdTech trade show. While I was there, I saw a person with Hebrew lettering tattooed on his forearm. The tattoo consisted of three words, and while the lettering was clearly Hebrew, I couldn't make out the words.

Then I realized what I was seeing -- the tattoo was backwards!

Once I realized that, I was able to read the first two words -- Elo-(h)-im Shel -- but I still couldn't make out the third word.

You might think that bad Hebrew tattooing doesn't happen very often -- but you'd be wrong. There is, in fact, a blog dedicated to bad Hebrew tattoos -- which includes misspellings, horrible transliterations, backwards words, incorrect (or nonsense) words being used, and all other sorts of possible errors. You'd think that if you were going to go to the trouble of having a foreign word permanently tattooed on your skin -- and (because more often than not when Hebrew is used it has a religious theme) it has some deeper meaning for you, you would double and triple check to make sure that everything is correct.

I considered telling the guy at the show about the tattoo, but then decided against it. I figured that one of the following were probably true:

1. He already knew about it.
2. He didn't know about it, but neither did anyone he hung out with.
3. He didn't know, but since it was done already, there was no point in making him feel bad about the mistake.

The Wolf

UPDATE: A little research has turned up what has to be the worst Hebrew lettered tattoo of all time -- the one belonging to Danielle Lloyd.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Give A Pint... Have Some Dinner... See The Wolf - TONIGHT

I had a nice time by the Tweet-Up last night. I got to meet Shlomo, Heshy, Moshe and Jacob Da Jew for the first time. Nice job putting it together Heshy!

Tonight, a friend of mine is hosting his fourth annual birthday blood drive... and I'll be there dropping off a pint and I hope lots of you come too. Donating blood is a great thing to do. If that's not enough to get you there, how about free food?

So come on by, donate a pint, have some food and say hi to me. I'll be the one with fur and a snout.

The blood drive is at:
Congregation Mayan Yisroel
3307 Avenue N (between East 33 and East 34)
Brooklyn, NY.
5:00 - 9:00 (although I won't be there before 7:00 at the earliest.)

The Wolf

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Wolf Sightings

I'm going to be out and about this week -- so if you want to come meet me,* feel free.

The first event will be on Wednesday, Nov 4. Since I work in the neighborhood, I'll probably stop by at the Jewish Tweetup (they say bloggers are welcome too) at the 92Y Tribeca at 200 Hudson Street. The event is called for 5:30-7:30. I can't be there at the start, but at some point I'll probably swing by and say hello to people.

The second event will be the next day -- Thursday Nov 5. A fellow that I know arranges a blood drive every year for his birthday. I've given a pint for the last few years and I'll be dropping off a pint of W+ (W for Wolf, of course) blood. The event will be at:

Cong. Mayan Yisroel
3307 Avenue N
Thursday, Nov 5
5:00 - 9:00

Come on down and give a pint. I'll be there (although not before 7:00 at the earliest). And if that doesn't get you to come, how about the idea of FREE FOOD! In past years he's had deli sandwiches... and I have no reason to believe that this year will be any different.

The Wolf

* Provided you can identify me, of course.

Monday, November 02, 2009

THE NUMBER and My Irrational (or is it?) Fear...

Eeees and I are now in the process of looking for high schools for our two children (a boy and a girl) who are graduating elementary school this year. That means that next year we will have three high-schoolers at once (including Walter, who is already in high school).

Part of the process that we are going through is attending the open houses that various schools have. We've already pretty much narrowed the prospects down to about two or three schools for each kid. However, as we attend the various open houses and get the information for each school, the thing that strikes the greatest fear into our hearts is the number. You know which number I mean -- THE NUMBER -- the one with a dollar sign in front of it, followed by five digits and then the decimal point. Usually, the first digit is a 1, but sometimes, after transportation and all the other "miscellaneous" extras are added in, that first digit could easily blossom into a 2.

I did a rough, off-the-cuff calculation and figured that, at full tuition, we're looking at about $55-60 thousand dollars next year in tuition. I don't mind telling you that this is *significantly* higher than what we are paying now and there is simply not the room in the budget for it. Short of us winning the lottery, it ain't happening - at least not if we want to keep eating. Perhaps in about two years, after Eeees and I both graduate from grad school such a sum might be possible, but for now? No - it's just too large a sum to include into our budget along with the other required expenses. That being said, we'll be applying for tuition breaks from all three schools (yes, it'll be three different schools).

Have you ever had a fear that was completely irrational -- and yet, you were still afraid? For example, when I was a younger pup, I had a horrible fear of vampires. Eeees and several freinds can vouch for the fact that I didn't do very well when we watched The Lost Boys together many years ago. The fear was completely irrational -- there was a 0% chance of my actually being attacked at any time by a vampire -- but nonetheless, I was terrified.

Well, I have a tuituion fear that is probably irrational, but certainly has a greater chance of happening than being attacked by a vampire. What is that fear? Very simply, the fear is that when we apply for tuition breaks from the schools, they will simply tell us no -- that we should get the other two schools to give us breaks. "Why should we subsidize your sending your other son/daughter to a different school?" is what I'm afraid I'm going to hear. School A will tell me to get a break from B and C -- B will say to ask A and C and C will tell me to go to A & B. In the end, no one reduces their tuition and that's that.

Yeah, I know... in reality they will (hopefully?) take other tuitions into account. But this irrational fear actually sometimes keeps me up at night. Anyone else have any experience in this area? Is my fear truly irrational? Or am I headed for a big heap of financial trouble next year?

The Wolf