Charedi Education in Israel: Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai (link) is absolutely correct that Charedim in Israel educate their students towards ignorance — they don’t teach basic math, science or language. And the Charedi critics are correct that Israeli public schools are pretty lousy about these subjects anyway and terrible when it comes to Jewish culture. Fix them both. Certainly claiming that learning Torah is an academic degree (link) is not a solution, nor is claiming that mixed-gender office settings are religiously untenable (link).
Rubashkin: I don’t think the sentence recommendations by the prosecution — life and now reduced to 25 years — are reasonable. But why hasn’t he apologized for his crimes? In the apology reported in the news (link), he doesn’t mention the crimes for which he was convicted. I’m no legal expert but isn’t that standard fare for someone begging for judicial mercy?
Siyum Mishnayos: I went to the event described here (link). The report is blatantly false. The boys were uncontrollable — constantly talking and walking around. Whenever the video camera captured images of boys, which was sent to large screens throughout the room, the boys would stand on their chairs and wave even though there were rabbis addressing them. The speakers were repeteadly asking the boys to sit down and be quiet, frequently drawing raffles and saying that prizes would not be given to boys who are standing. It’s understandable because the elementary school age boys were on a trip without parents (generally, although I was there with my son) and it was an opportunity for them to be a little wild. And it was only a (sizable) minority who were wild. And their wildness was not violent, just disrespectful. At one point, a speaker yelled at the boys on the balcony not to throw things down and while the Novominsker Rebbe was speaking, R. Fishel Schachter interrupted him to yell at the boys to be quiet (it didn’t work). It isn’t even worth mentioning except that the portrayal in this news story of “mesmerizing the boys with his amazing storytelling and keeping his listeners at the edge of their seats with suspense” is laughable. Probably half the boys were mesmerized by R. Fishel Shachter’s truly amazing story-telling ability. But even he could not overcome the opportunity for a youthful chaos. And “kavod haTorah was evident as Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker rebbe and rosh Agudas Yisroel, entered the large hall to the spirited singing of ‘Yomim al yemai melech'” is also funny because R. Fishel Shachter started the singing and kept it going for a while until a few other people joined in. Kavod Ha-Torah was, in general, not evident among this group of boys.