Anti-vaxer Hasidic Jews, lying about vaccination, intensify measles outbreak in New York

April 11, 2019 • 2:00 pm

On the plane from Brussels back to the U.S., a young Orthodox Jewish couple boarded, the man decked out in his black clothes and tallit, the woman wearing a wig. They had a young child, and when I saw it I thought, “That kid doesn’t have a chance.” It will likely grow up either an uneducated but hyper-religious man, or a subservient and perpetually pregnant woman. It will be brainwashed, its options in life severely limited by religion. At that time I didn’t know it might also have had its health endangered by its parents’ faith.

The latest measles outbreak in the U.S., and it’s a serious one, is in Brooklyn, New York, and is largely spread by unvaccinated ultra-Orthodox Jews—Hasidic ones. According to the NYT article below, the virus was carried by American Jews who visited Israel, where there was an outbreak last fall, back to the U.S. Since then most of the 300 cases in New York City have been among the Hasidim.

The main reason for the lack of vaccination among the Haredim is misinformation, spread by those who may know they’re lying. Here are some bogus excuses for not getting kids vaccinated:

a. The vaccinations may not be kosher:

“The Vaccine Safety Handbook” appears innocuous, a slick magazine for parents who want to raise healthy children. But tucked inside its 40 pages are false warnings that vaccines cause autism and contain cells from aborted human fetuses.

“It is our belief that there is no greater threat to public health than vaccines,” the publication concludes, contradicting the scientific consensus that vaccines are generally safe and highly effective.

The handbook, created by a group called Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health, or Peach, is targeted at ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose expanding and insular communities are at the epicenter of one of the largest measles outbreaks in the United States in decades.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn in an effort to contain the spread of measles in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods there. He said unvaccinated individuals would be required to receive the measles vaccine — or be subjected to a fine — as the city escalated its campaign to stem the outbreak.

Peach’s handbook — with letters signed by rabbis and sections like “Halachic Points of Interest” — has become one of the main vehicles for misinformation among ultra-Orthodox groups, including Hasidim. Its message is being shared on hotlines and in group text messages.

“Vaccines contain monkey, rat and pig DNA as well as cow-serum blood, all of which are forbidden for consumption according to kosher dietary law,” Moishe Kahan, a contributing editor for Peach magazine, said in an email.

Vaccines are often grown in a broth of animal cells, but the final product is highly purified. Most prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis agree that vaccines are kosher, and urge observant Jews to be immunized.

b. The vaccinations may be dangerous:

A Hasidic mother who lives in Rockland County and participated in the call told The New York Times that none of her three children were vaccinated, and all of them recently had measles. The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said that she did not report the cases to doctors and that the children recovered in a matter of days.

“The body is not a machine,” she said. “The body is something that reacts to toxins in certain ways. I’ve heard firsthand of cases of SIDS after children getting a vaccine,” she added, referring to sudden infant death syndrome. Many studies have concluded that vaccines do not cause SIDS.

b. Seeking answers in religious scripture:

Yosef Rapaport, a Hasidic journalist in Borough Park who has written about the importance of vaccination, said parents who do not want to immunize their children will seek rabbinical counsel that aligns with their views.

“You make up your mind and then try to find the interpretation in the Talmud,” he said. “You can always find some rabbi who will express doubt.”

c. Fear of the authorities.

Some Hasidim have said that longstanding tension between members of the ultra-Orthodox community and the government have made them wary of officials’ efforts to contain the outbreak.

The past persecution of the Jewish people is still a factor, they said. And more recently, quarrels with secular leaders over a circumcision ritual that has transmitted fatal herpes infections to infants and the government’s oversight of ultra-Orthodox Jewish private schools known as yeshivas have only soured relations.

d. Lack of proper science education. Many Hasidim get almost no formal education, and what they get is largely religious in nature. Many of them don’t accept either evolution or vaccination:

“The lack of a comprehensive secular education has raised a generation of some parents who do not appreciate modern science and do not have trust in the health system,” said Dov Bleich, a Hasidic father of two who lives in Monsey and emphasized that most rabbis are supportive of vaccines.

“It’s leaving them vulnerable to the anti-vaccine crusade.”

e. The claim that measles is not dangerous. 

. . .  opponents of vaccination ardently maintain that diseases like measles are not dangerous.

“The adverse events from getting measles, they’re very, very, very low,” Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, a pediatrician in New York, said on the recent conference call. There have been no reported deaths in New York State linked to the recent outbreak. But measles killed 110,000 people globally in 2017, according to the World Health Organization.

But these Jews put a much larger (and non-Jewish) population at risk, though the risk is attenuated because Hasidic children don’t mingle much with kids from outside the faith. But it doesn’t take much to spread the virus, and there are now fines mandated for parents who won’t vaccinate their kids. In this case, as in Quebec, the interests of the country as a whole supersede adherence to dogma. And an unvaccinated Hasidic child doesn’t have a choice.

To be fair, most Hasids do accept science and do get their kids vaccinated. But it’s clear that what is causing this outbreak is fear bred by religion.

h/r: József

Orthodox Jews force El Al planes to divert and land so they wouldn’t be flying on the Sabbath

November 19, 2018 • 11:45 am

UPDATE: A more recent piece in Tablet reports that some of the assertions in the sources of this article may be incorrect, including the claim that the Haredim were physically and/or verbally abusive to the El Al staff, that the passengers knew the plane was flying to Tel Aviv rather than returning to the gates, and so on. Further, the videos in this piece appear to have been doctored. See my more recent report for a correction.



A regular feature of this site are reports of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish men refusing to sit next to women, often involving kerfuffles and lawsuits.  The lawsuits have been successful, and this is one example of how religious customs that interfere with secular regulations should be put aside, especially during airline flights.

Now, however, according to the Times of Israel (click on screenshot below), there’s another version of the Flying Jew Tsouris:

Two El Al airliners took off from New York last Thursday, bound for Israel. Both, however, were late because of dire weather conditions, which got the Haredim very anxious, for Jewish law dictates that you can’t travel in cars and airplanes on the Sabbath, which happens to start at sundown on Friday.  The Haredim got aggressive, either yelling at or even hitting flight attendants, accusing the airlines of lying to them, and demanding to disembark after the plane was already on the runway.  The two videos below show the anxiety in the flying Haredim:

Amazingly, one of the planes actually landed in Athens to let the Haredim disembark so that Yahweh wouldn’t be mad at them, and the other was going to divert to Rome, but continued on instead to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv because of the medical condition of one woman on the flight—a woman who needed to get to Israel.

I’m amazed that El Al actually diverted one of its flights to allow its Orthodox passengers to disembark, which was nice of them (although an annoyance for the passengers whose God didn’t mind them flying), and almost diverted the other flight. But it’s simply ridiculous that this happened in the first place. If the Haredim in New York thought that the delay would put them in the air on Friday sundown, they didn’t have to get on the flight (note: some of them claim that El Al assured them they’d get to Israel before sundown).

The truth here may be a bit hazy, but surely a decent G-d would forgive a Jew flying on the Sabbath if it resulted from a snowstorm. After all, G-d made the snowstorm—and could have stopped it! The Haredim need to chill.


h/t: Mole at the counter

More dumb antievolution statements from Jews

November 2, 2018 • 1:00 pm

I suppose that, as a secular Jew (yes, Dave Silverman, they exist!), I am biased, but it really rankles me a lot when Jews come out against evolution. We’re supposed to be down with science, for crying out loud, and a Jew who opposes evolution seems like a lion who opposes carnivory.

But apparently the pages of The Jewish Press a major Jewish website, has been having a debate about whether “a frum [very pious] Jew can – or should – accept the theory of evolution considering that it doesn’t easily fit the text of Parshas Bereishis [Genesis, Chapter 1]”. That’s like debating whether a pious Jew can accept a spherical earth given that Scripture implies that the earth is flat.

I haven’t followed this debate, but the final contribution to the “discourse” is the piece below, written by Josh Greenberger, identified as “author of Fossil Discoveries Disprove Evolution Beyond A Doubt.” He also wrote a previous and similar creationist piece for this “newspaper,” “No, evolution is not a scientific fact,” which was handily taken apart by the Sensuous Curmudgeon.

Well, read the link below and weep, and weep harder if you’re a Jew, for one of your own has shown himself to be irredeemably stupid—or willfully ignorant in the service of G-d, which is suppose is the same thing.

A few quotes (indented) and my brief and my ascerbic responserew (flush left):sarrfrrr

Charles Darwin, the “father” of evolution, was neither a scientist nor an authority in any endeavor that might have made him an authority on biological life.

The profession of “scientist” wasn’t as established in the mid-19th century as it is today, but of course Darwin was a scientist, as he practiced what everyone would recognize as science. And as for his qualifications, he studied biology in school and throughout his entire life as an autodidact. Do note that Mendel, whom Greenberger much prefers to Darwin, wasn’t a scientist in that sense, either: he was a monk.

But let’s proceed:

Upon observing many life forms and some fossils, Darwin concluded that all species of organisms develop via small incremental changes and the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the organism’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce. But Darwin never ran any experiments or discovered any empirical evidence to support his beliefs. Basically, his theory was based on pure imagination.

This is complete hogwash, or muttonwash if you need a kosher metaphor. Of course Darwin did experiments, and, more important, larded his books, including the seminal Origin of Species, with empirical information: information about embryology, morphology, biogeography, development, and artificial selection, all of this evidence so strong that within a decade virtually all rational people accepted the idea of evolution and common descent (acceptance of natural selection took longer).

Darwin himself remarked: “the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great.” The fossil record, though, shows life forms appearing fully formed – a “serious” difficulty in Darwin’s eyes.

The fossil record was indeed scanty in Darwin’s time, but now, as I show in Why Evolution is True, we have innumerable fossilized transitional forms between “kinds,” including between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and mammals, reptiles and birds, and, of course, between our earlier ancestors and modern humans. Darwin’s difficult is no longer an issue.

Gregor Mendel, a contemporary of Darwin – and much more qualified to opine on biological life – challenged Darwin’s views. Darwin assumed there were no limits to biological variation and that, given enough time, a fish could eventually evolve into a human being. Mendel challenged this assumption, claiming evolution was restricted to within “kinds.” A drastic development, such as a fish evolving into a human being, could never happen no matter how much time was allowed, he said.

Mendel carefully designed and meticulously executed experiments involving nearly 30,000 pea plants followed over eight generations. However, the importance of his work only gained wide understanding in the 1890s, after his death, when other scientists working on similar problems rediscovered his research.

Mendel was wrong about evolution not occurring between “kinds”, no matter how you define them. As I said above, we have evidence from fossils, genes, and development for common ancestry of what are surely different “kinds”, like reptiles and birds. And Mendel didn’t ever study evolution: he studied genetics and never published a comprehensive theory of evolution.

Greenberger then recounts the experiments of Rich Lenski, wrongly characterizing them as showing that laboratory evolution aways produces the same result over and over again. But it didn’t!

More than a century later, experiments by evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski of Michigan State University, showed that Mendel was right and Darwin was wrong. In experiments that began in 1988 and continued for at least 20 years, Lenski demonstrated very clearly that speciation is the result of underlying genetic design, not chaos and randomness.

Lenski didn’t study speciation: he studied evolutionary change within a species: the bacterium E. coli. And he showed that different lines responded to selection in different ways: just what you’d expect if evolution depends on unpredictable (“random”) mutations that occur regardless of their adaptive value.

Lenski’s experiments demonstrated that Darwin’s notion that there were no limits to biological variation was false, and that beneficial biological changes are the result of a genetic predisposition that allows for very specific, predefined forms of life. A good analogy might be: If you hit balls on a pool table at random, they will fall into random pockets. But they can only fall into pockets prepared by the pool table manufacturer; the balls cannot drill new pockets on their own. In the same way, the evolution of life is only “random” in that it can choose, perhaps randomly, from a list of predefined organisms.

Lenski did no such thing—he showed that random mutation in some lines of the bacterium could enable them to adapt to a novel substrate, and different lines responded in different ways. That is evolution, and it’s evolution by natural selection. Those are two of the major points in Darwin’s “theory” of evolution. To buttress his Jewish faith, Greenberger is simply distorting what Lenski showed.

Finally, Greenberger has to deal with the question of why so many scientists accept evolution if there’s no evidence for it. His answer is the usual one, but again he’s wrong:

If there’s so much solid scientific evidence against Darwinian evolution, why do people embrace it? In my opinion, they do so because it allows them to believe in a universe without God. But for those to whom scientific truth and honesty mean something, there’s no getting around the fact that Mendel and Lenski demonstrated undeniable design in what appears to be genetic chaos and biological randomness. If that means there must be a God, so be it.

In fact, more than half of American scientists claim some kind of religious belief, so why would religious scientists like, say, Francis Collins and Ken Miller embrace evolution? Those two men are, respectively, an evangelical Christian and a Catholic. It’s risible, bogus, and reprehensible to say that scientists accept evolution because it buttresses their atheism. The fact that most scientists are not atheists is sufficient to refute this.

I have no words to describe how infuriating stuff like this is. Greenberger is obviously not insane, but he looks that way because he’s marinated in his faith. But, as I mention in Faith versus Fact, a 2006 poll of randomly-selected Americans showed that 64% of them would reject a scientific fact if it went against the tenets of their belief. Evolution is one of those facts, and Greenberger is one of the rejectors.

h/t: reader Mark

Critic of Israel denied chance to study in that country

October 11, 2018 • 8:00 am

Several readers, perhaps assuming I’d be taking Israel’s side, sent me article about an incident that happened about a week ago. As CNN reports, Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American student of Palestinian descent, flew to Israel with a visa, intending to study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She never made it out of the airport, and as of yesterday she’d been detained there for a week. Why? Because the Israelis discovered that Alqasem was active in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As CNN report,

The Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which handles BDS cases, called Alqasem a “prominent activist” who met the criteria of being refused entry into Israel.

In a statement to CNN, Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan said: “Israel, like every democracy, has the right to prevent the entry of foreign nationals, especially those working to harm the country. Therefore we work to prevent the entry of those who promote the anti-Semitic BDS campaign, which calls for Israel’s destruction.”

The ministry added that Alqasem is free to return to the United States anytime. Bechor said her client still hopes to attend the university and wants to fight the ministry’s decision in Israel, not as a BDS protest, but because she can’t afford to fly back and forth while the case continues.

To their credit, the faculty senate of Hebrew University has condemned Alqasem’s detention and called for her release into Israel. Her case is being heard today by an Israeli court.

As you can guess from what I wrote already, I think the detention of Alqasem is wrong, and that she should be allowed to study in Israel. Yes, she is an apparent supporter of a movement meant to pressure Israel by boycotting its products and visits to the country, and yes, BDS’s aim is clearly the elimination of the state of Israel, although they keep that under wraps. (Their cry, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is obviously a call for Israel to be eliminated.) But there are already plenty of vociferous critics of Israel who are residents of the country, so what does it matter if they let in a young woman who will join their ranks for a while before returning to the U.S.?

I know that Israel has the right to refuse entry to anyone, as does any country, and that countries like the UK or France often refuse entry to critics. But Alqasem is not a terrorist or someone who poses an immediate danger to Israel. Israel is supposed to be a secular and liberal state, and it’s unseemly to detail Alqasem for a week before deciding whether to let her in. Just let her in, already! It would be a generous gesture, and one that would speak to Israel’s professed freedom of thought and speech.

I agree, then, with the op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times written by Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss (Weiss’s critics will be flummoxed by this one). Click on the screenshot to see it:

Two excerpts from the piece:

Israelis have good reason to see the B.D.S. campaign as a thinly veiled form of bigotry. Boycotts of Jewish businesses have a particularly foul pedigree in Nazi Germany. And the same activists who obsessively seek to punish and isolate Israel for its occupation of the West Bank rarely if ever display the same passion for protesting against China for its occupation of Tibet, or Russia for its occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

It’s also true that Students for Justice in Palestine has received funding and other assistance from a group called American Muslims for Palestine, some of whose leaders have links to groups flagged by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for their ties to the terrorist group Hamas. The group seeks to end Israel’s “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” along with “promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes” — language that has long been code for dismantling the Jewish state.

Israel, like all countries, has a right to protect its borders and to determine who is allowed in and out. But Israel is also a state that prides itself on being a liberal democracy — a fact that goes far to explain the longstanding support for Israel among American Jews and non-Jews alike. If liberalism is about anything, it’s about deep tolerance for opinions we find foolish, dangerous and antithetical to our own.

The case for such liberalism today is both pragmatic and principled. In practice, expelling visitors who favor the B.D.S. movement does little if anything to make Israel more secure. But it powerfully reinforces the prejudice of those visitors (along with their supporters) that Israel is a discriminatory police state.

. . . Societies that shun or expel their critics aren’t protecting themselves. They are advertising their weakness.

Stephens and Weiss conclude that critics of Israel should not only be tolerated, but invited to visit the country. Perhaps they’ll change their minds; most likely they won’t. But what does the country have to hide by refusing entry to a student who adheres to BDS? And, as Weiss says, it just makes Israel look illiberal and bad.

h/t: Simon

Tel Aviv’s new natural history museum (built to look like Noah’s Ark) deliberately omits mentioning evolution

August 8, 2018 • 8:30 am

I’ve previously written about two natural history museums in Israel that either didn’t mention evolution or covered up the evolution exhibits with curtains when school groups of creationist Haredis (hyper-orthodox Jews) were visiting (see here and here). The two were the Museum of Natural History and the Biblical Museum of Natural History, both in Jerusalem.

Now a reader has visited a new natural history museum in Tel Aviv, the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, and again the museum omits almost all mention of evolution. The word, in fact, appears only once in the whole panoply of exhibits. Here’s what my reader reports:

I’m writing to draw your attention to something that I believe is of interest to you.

I just completed a careful tour of the new museum of natural history in Tel Aviv University. Celebrated as the only natural history museum in the Middle East [JAC: well, that’s not exactly accurate], it turned out to also be the only natural history museum in the world where the topic of evolution is deliberately avoided as to not to offend religious people.

In the whole museum I could find only one sign that included the word ‘evolved’ (or any other derivation of it) and one sign with a phylogenetic tree; neither included any further explanation. One or two signs mentioned ‘million of years’ again without any explanation. In one sign they used ‘developed’ where it should have been ‘evolved’.

Here are some of the photos, one showing the mention of evolution.

Lots of mention of process and adaptation, but nothing of evolution (click on all photos to enlarge):

“Transition” and “development” used instead of “evolution”:

Once more the word “develop” is used instead of of “evolve”. That conflation will of course be confusing, as “development” can refer to what happens during the lifetime of a single individual:

Phylogeny without any mention of evolution. How are students supposed to understand this?


Note how the word “evolution” is avoided in the explanation below; the euphemism used is “developed over millions of years through a process determined by heredity.” That’s bogus and even wrong: evolution isn’t determined by heredity: processes like natural selection also play a role. The avoidance of “evolution” is painfully obvious.

Finally, the only use of the word “evolution” or “evolve” that my correspondent could find in the whole museum (my emphasis):

From the Museum’s webpage, we learn that the building itself is meant to reflect in part Noah’s ark:

The museum can be found at 12 Klausner Street, Tel Aviv. The building architecture itself is a mix between a treasure chest and Noah’s arch [sic], representing the large range of biodiversity found inside.

Here’s the building, and yes, it’s boat-shaped:

Seriously? Yes, I know the statement is taken from a quip from J. B. S. Haldane, but of course he was an atheist.

It’s unbelievable that a natural history museum in one of Israel’s best universities can almost completely omit mention of evolution—the process that produced the diversity of flora and fauna on display. It’s especially embarrassing to me because I’m sure this was a deliberate omission, made to satisfy those Orthodox Jews who don’t accept evolution. As a secular nonbelieving Jew with genetic ties to these people, and as an evolutionary biologist, I find this deliberate ignorance on the part of the Museum—and the religiously based creationism of the Orthodox to which the Museum caters—appalling.

Here’s a video about the Museum (notice that they refer to it as an “ark”), again omitting all mention of evolution. Founding benefactor Michael Steinhardt (his wife Judy was co-benefactor) remarks at the end, “The natural history museum here in Israel will do more for the next generations of young people than just about any other institution I could envisage.” NOT IF THEY LEAVE OUT EVOLUTION!—the great lesson that underlies the whole exhibit.

The Museum Chair, shown in the video above, is Professor Tamar Dayan (see other officers here and the scientific staff here). The page listing donors and partners also notes that “The museum operates under the auspices of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.” SERIOUSLY? The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities? Are they aware of the quasi-creationist enterprise they’re sponsoring?

Contact information for Professor Dayan, also the Curator of Terrestrial Vertebrates and a Professor at the University of Tel Aviv, can be found here, and I have emailed her the following:

Dear Professor Dayan,

As an evolutionary biologist (and secular Jew), I’m appalled to find that Tel Aviv’s new Steinhardt Museum of Natural History omits all mention of evolution except a single time, confusingly referring to it as “development.” I firmly believe, and have heard, that this omission was deliberate, designed to avoid offending those Orthodox Jews who don’t accept evolution.

It is insupportable for a major natural history museum like yours to have a huge building and many exhibits devoted to evolution while deliberately obscuring the process that produced the organisms on display.  I was also disturbed to find that the Museum operates under the auspices of the Israel Academy of Science and Humanities.

There is no credible explanation for the lack of mention of evolution in your Museum save as a concession to creationists. If you have another explanation, I will be glad to hear it. In the meantime I have posted about your museum on my website, “Why Evolution is True,” which has 56,000 readers; my post is here:   .

I will also contact some Israeli newspapers.

I implore you and your scientific staff to put evolution in its proper place in your museum. As Theodosius Dobzhansky (my academic grandfather) said, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” I hope you can fix your museum so it can make sense to the many people who visit.

Jerry Coyne

Professor Emeritus
Department of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago

Here we go again: El Al complies with the desire of Orthodox Jews to not sit next to women

June 24, 2018 • 10:00 am

The Haredim comprise a number of sects of ultra-Orthodox Jews who adhere strictly to a religious code of conduct. The Haredi code happens to prohibit tactile contact of any sort between men and women. And so it happens that Haredim often refuse to sit next to women on planes. They might accidentally touch them! And get cooties!

As a secular Jew, I am especially embarrassed and revulsed when Jews engage in this type of ridiculous behavior. But of course few religions are exempt from irrationality. I’ve posted before on men of the Haredim refusing to sit next to women on planes, and how the airlines (including El Al, the Israeli national carrier) try to accommodate them.

What those airlines should be doing is to either heave the buggers off the plane (calling security if they have to), or require the Haredim to purchase an empty seat next to them beforehand, or sit together. El Al’s refusal to do any of this has led to successful lawsuits, like the suit by Renee Rabinowitz against El Al last year. As I reported, Rabinowitz, who was unwillingly moved at the request of a Haredi man, won a suit that got her not only money, but a promise from El Al. As I noted at the time (my emphasis):

Rabinowitz asked for 50,000 shekels (about $14,000 US) in damages, and was represented by the Israeli Religious Action Center, a legal and reform organization run by progressive Jews. El Al defended itself by saying it wasn’t discriminating against women because it would also ask a man to move if seated next to an Orthodox woman who objected to male cooties. But that’s still gender discrimination, and the judge awarded Rabinowitz 6500 shekels ($1800). More important, because El Al was found to violate Israel anti-discrimination laws, the airline agreed to never again ask a passenger to move seats based on a request that involved gender.

Well, here we go again: Reader Alex called my attention to this article on Ynet (click on screenshot).

A passenger, Khen Rotem, wrote about it on his Facebook page (in Hebrew); the partial translation is below (my emphasis again):

“The planned takeoff time: Six in the evening. Everyone boards, sits down, waits. Then the commotion starts. Four Haredim who boarded the flight refuse to sit next to women.”

Rotem said one of the Haredi men, “particularly zealot and ascetic, boarded the plane with his eyes shut tight, led by the hand by his friend, and remained that way throughout the entire flight.”

“The flight crew tries to resolve the matter, but it isn’t working. The flight attendants male [sic] way to the authoritative men on board—the customer service manager and someone who appeared to be the head of the crew—who try to resolve the crisis. The Haredim were unwilling to speak with—or look at—the female flight attendants. All of the men on the flight crew, apart from the captain, were now focused solely on this, instead of preparing for takeoff and serving the passengers. The Haredim won’t blink first. One crew member threatens: ‘If you don’t sit down, you can get off the plane now.'”

Eventually, Rotem wrote, “after many minutes of negotiations, the crew gave in. And then a prolonged diplomatic process began of moving female passengers from their seats to clear a row of seats for the four Haredim.

“After a lot of twists and turns, shouting and maneuvering, two women (one American around 70 years old and the other a young Israeli woman) agreed—because of time constraints among other things—to switch seats, and the crisis was resolved.”

This infuriates me. It’s bad enough that the men won’t sit next to women, but it’s compounded when they won’t even talk to or look at female flight attendants. What Jewish law dictates that women shouldn’t be recognized as human beings?

The article notes that other Jews on the plane, including religious ones, were rightfully disgusted by the behavior of the Haredim, that the flight was delayed for an hour and a quarter by their behavior, and that the women who were displaced weren’t even offered upgrades. The least that should have been done is put those women in first class.

And El Al’s response to Rotem is hardly satisfactory:

“Hello Khen. We apologize if any inconvenience was caused. Any discrimination of passengers is strictly forbidden. El Al’s flight attendants do all they can to provide service to a wide variety of passengers and fulfill a variety of different requests, trying to assist as much as they can. All of this is done in order to take off on time and bring the passengers to their destination according to schedule.”

This masterpiece of equivocation violates El Al’s settlement with Renee Rabinowitz, and I’ve told El Al so in two ways, via Tweet . .

(feel free to tweet to El Al USA if you have a Twitter account).

. . . and by an email to El Al customer relations in New York (

Dear El Al airlines:

I have read in Ynet an article describing how, on an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv, a group of Haredi men refused to be seated next to women, and, ultimately, your staff accommodated these men by making women move. And you didn’t even offer to upgrade the women!

This is an unconscionable action on the part of your airline, which is complicit in sex discrimination. Not only that, but it violates what your airline promised when you were sued by Renee Rabinowitz, who was likewise forced to move. Besides having to pay 6500 shekels, your airline, because it was found to violate Israeli anti-discrimination laws, “ agreed to never again ask a passenger to move seats based on a request that involved gender.”

Well, you did move seats based on a request that violates gender. The proper move on your part would have told the Haredim to either sit in their assigned seats or be kicked off the plane. Instead, you did your best to accommodate that sexist request, resulting in a flight delay of 1.25 hours.  Do you not know how to call security to have people removed from a plane?

I am appalled by the behavior of your airline and by the actions of your staff that allowed the Haredim to discriminate against women. I would like to know if you intend to do this again. Your response to Khen Rotem was a masterpiece of dissimulation, explaining that you try to “fulfill a variety of requests” and to “bring passengers to their destination according to schedule.” No you don’t; you broke the law and your own agreement, and enabled bias and discrimination against women. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

I would appreciate a response to this email.

Yours sincerely,
Jerry Coyne
Professor Emeritus
The University of Chicago

They have received the email:

By all means write to the address above if you feel so inclined. I have a feeling that if many people write to El Al, they’ll start taking this seriously. You are free to use my own email as a template.



Pushback from Israeli museums who don’t like my stand on censoring evolution exhibits

May 2, 2018 • 9:15 am

As I noted the other day, I had strong objections to a practice at Jerusalem’s Natural History Museum described in the Times of Israel (click on screenshot below). When the Haredi schoolchildren (ultra-Orthodox Jews) visit, the Museum, which is funded by Israeli taxpayers, covers up its evolution exhibit, as evolution is contrary to their religious beliefs and would offend (and maybe enlighten!) them. Further, other people are in the Museum at that time, and they, too, don’t get to see the evolution exhibit.

This disturbs me on the grounds that Israel is a secular country (though not as secular as the U.S.); that no religious group can dictate, on the grounds of its beliefs, what is shown in a science museum; and that blocking the exhibit for non-Haredis is an unwarranted incursion on their rights.

I wrote to the head of the Museum (the letter is at the top link), and although I didn’t hear back from him, several Israeli newspapers and websites covered this fracas, mentioning my letter. And I did hear from the head of another museum, the non-publicly-funded and religious Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh. 

At any rate, the ultra-left Israeli newspaper Haaretz covered the kerfuffle after the fact:

They mention my letter to the Museum director:

Biology Professor Jerry Coyne from the University of Chicago, who specializes in evolution, read about the affair and sent the museum a letter in which he criticized their decision to cover the exhibit. “As an evolutionary biologist of Jewish ancestry, I am deeply offended at your practice of covering up the human evolution exhibit lest it offend the Haredi Jews who go to your museum. Why would a museum hide the truth, even if it’s offensive to some religious believers? Is this proper in a largely secular state like Israel?”

He also published the letter on his blog “Evolution is True.” Coyne called on his readers to send their own letters to the museum. “I hope you realize that by literally hiding the evidence for human evolution, you are misleading people: in effect, lying by omission. The truth is the truth, regardless of whether some people are offended because it goes against their upbringing; and by catering to the false beliefs of creationists, you are, in effect, censoring whatever science that some people find unpleasant. This kind of behavior makes me ashamed of my Jewish background.”

but also gives the Museum’s defense of its practice (my emphasis):

. . . Since the beginning of the school year, 12 groups from Haredi schools have visited the Natural History Museum as part of the city’s “Jerusalem Advantage” educational program. This is the first year such visits to the museum have been subsidized by the city.

The museum’s educational director, Dr. Evgeny Roznitsky, says schools made their visits conditional on the exhibit being covered up, and he decided to agree to their request. “The agreement is that when such a group arrives we close the curtain and the guide does not explain about those parts. When they leave we open the curtain,” he told Haaretz.

“It has happened 12 times and we would be happy for more – before this year there were no Haredi groups at all, only in a few private frameworks. This year groups come from [Haredi] schools in an organized manner, so I still think this is an achievement,” said Roznitsky.

. . . It is preferable to expose the students to the rest of the worlds the museum has to offer than to refuse their request and have them cancel completely, he says. “My dilemma was either not to close [the curtain] and not agree to the request, and then not to receive this public and not to expose them to the beauty of the other exhibits, or to temporarily close something that is 0.3 percent of all the museum’s space and expose them to the rest: The environment, nature, environmental quality. We have animals in the garden zoo, a beautiful garden. These are children who have never seen an animal in their lives. So I expose them to an entire world. So on behalf of pluralism and education I close this curtain,” said Roznitsky. He completely denies that a visitor who criticized the curtain was told she could leave. [JAC: note that the exhibit is closed to all visitors when the Haredi visit; they don’t have exclusive access to the whole museum.]

. . .The Jerusalem municipality said: “The city’s Educational Administration initiated the ‘Jerusalem Advantage’ program in which all the city’s students from all communities are entitled to visit a wide variety of museums in the city within the framework of their studies. Within this program, thousands of students visited the Natural History Museum in the city and enjoyed the exhibitions and exhibits there. As opposed to what has been claimed, the aforementioned exhibit is open regularly to all groups visiting the museum.”

The city said that out of a desire to attract groups from the Haredi community, too, it was decided to agree to the request from Haredi schools and cover a specific exhibit during the visits. “So far, 12 groups from Haredi schools have visited the museum. The Educational Administration will continue to make cultural institutions and enrichment activities accessible to all the city’s students from a viewpoint of tolerance and equal opportunity for everyone.”

The same defense—that it’s better to give the Haredi kids some exposure to the outside world even if it means censoring evolution—was offered by Rabbi Nathan Slifkin, head of the Biblical Museum of Natural History on his website, in a post called “The skeleton in my closet.” Slifkin also wrote me personally along the same lines and posted a comment on my own site (here), to which you are welcome to respond (be civil!).

Finally, the Times of Israel published a second piece also mentioning my letter (click on screenshot):

This article reaffirms that the exhibit is covered when Haredis visit, even if other people are there at the same time, and the evolution exhibit was also covered twice by mistake when no Haredis are visiting, ostensibly due to “lack of manpower” (seriously; how hard is it to take down a curtain?). So everyone gets denied the science when Haredis are visiting; religious rights trump the right of non-Haredis to learn about human evolution.

The article also says that the Museum is sticking by its guns:

The Natural History Museum in Jerusalem has vowed to continue its policy of hiding an evolution exhibit from view, along with other displays on dinosaurs and the human body, during visits by ultra-Orthodox groups in order to avoid offending their religious beliefs. The announcement came despite an outrage caused in Israel and abroad by its decision to self-censor displays on evolution, dinosaurs and the human body.

“Of course,” the museum’s educational director, Dr. Evgeny Reznitsky, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday when asked whether he will carry on with the practice, citing the institution’s dire financial situation and saying it was better to have ultra-Orthodox schoolkids visit on their terms than have them not come at all.

As people protested outside the building with a megaphone and demanded that the museum reject the demands set by Haredi schools, Reznitsky said he would only reconsider his position if ordered to stop by municipal authorities.

Yes, there were protests!

Meanwhile, outside the museum, several protesters gathered Tuesday morning for a demonstration, carrying signs and shouting slogans such as “The curtain won’t hide the truth on the wall,” “Evolution is for all,” and “Don’t leave the skeletons in the closet.”

They argued heatedly with a museum employee who vehemently defended the practice as respecting the museum’s visitors and as a needed step in light of its financial woes.

“We don’t accept this,” said protester Yaki Hertz. “Science is not custom made. Whoever wants to learn science will do so using all the findings we have today.”

These pieces, plus a new one in Newsweek, also mention that the need for money keep the Natural History Museum catering to the Haredis:

Jerry Coyne, who is an evolution professor at the University of Chicago complained in an open letter that the museum was guilty of “lying by omission.”

“Your blatant censorship offends me…but of course you’d prefer to offend scientists and truth-seekers than those who harbor religious superstitions,” he wrote on his website.

But museum employee Uzi Danon told the Times of Israel that the lack of funds meant that it needed the revenue from Haredim visitors.

“We want the public to be here. Had the museum received funds we would immediately tell the Haredi groups ‘Bye-bye, go home, we don’t need you.’”

“We want to continue operating, they want to close the place down,” he added.

Finally, I received two private emails from Israelis, approving of the Museum’s practice and saying that I simply don’t understand the Haredi culture in Israel. But I think I know enough to weigh in. I know that this group doesn’t accept evolution and that they largely insulate themselves and their kids from secular society.  And I know that this issue isn’t a no-brainer. On one side we have the hope that some exposure to science will enlighten the Haredi kids, and perhaps even get them to think for themselves and maybe, just maybe, accept evolution, even if it’s censored at the Museum. They might even abandon their smothering faith, instilled in them via indoctrination.

Against that we have to weigh the fact that Israeli taxpayers are funding an exhibit that gets covered up when it offends a particular religious group; that it may not help Haredi kids much to see a lion or plant if they don’t also learn how they got here; that Israel is a nominally secular state that still favors particular religions on occasions like this, and that the evolution exhibit gets censored when other people who are not Haredi, and who could learn from the evolution exhibit, can’t see it during Haredi visits. To my mind, this outweighs the small number of Haredi children who have been exposed to the non-evolution parts of the exhibit (12 groups in total). It would be lovely if readers would weigh in below with their own take on whether the evolution exhibit should be censored during Haredi visits, and why. 

Museum of Natural History, take down that curtain!


A contribution from reader Pliny the in Between:


David Berlinski makes a pompous fool of himself again about science and evolution

April 30, 2018 • 9:15 am

I’m not sure how David Berlinski manages to make a living, but he does live in Paris, which ain’t cheap. Although he’s a Senior Fellow with the ID Creationist Discovery Institute, that can’t pay much, and his science books, including A Tour of the Calculus (1995), The Advent of the Algorithm (2000), Newton’s Gift (2000), and Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics (2005), can’t bring in that much dosh. (As Wikipedia notes, “Berlinski’s books have received mixed reviews.”) However, his 2009 book The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions remains at #41 on Amazon, a remarkable spot, but explained of course by those believers hungry to find problems with atheism. And he’s also written fiction, including several detective novels, so perhaps that’s what keeps him in croissants and fancy suits.

Berlinski, as he does in this video, claims he’s a secular Jew, therefore making him the only creationist I know (or anti-evolutionist, if you want to be charitable) who isn’t religious. I’ll take him at his word, but one overweening trait, which simply exudes from this 30-minute interview on Fox News with Mark Levin, is pomposity.

If you want to see just the juicy bits, where he makes the most ridiculous pronouncements with his characteristic hauteur and insouciance, just watch the first 14 minutes. During that time he makes these points:

  • Atheism has replaced a “forbearing and tolerant agnosticism” that has led to derision of religion, which is 5,000 years old and deeply revered by many. (He apparently thinks this derision is a bad thing. But of course slavery was also practiced and justified for equally as long. Duration and acceptance do not mandate respect.)
  • Science has no answers to “The Big Questions” like “why is there something instead of nothing?” (the answer that “it was an accident” is fobbed off by Berlinski as “failing to meet people’s intellectual needs”, which of course is not an answer but a statement about confirmation bias); “where did the Universe come from?”; “how did life originate?”; “what are we doing here?”, “what is our purpose?”, and so on.

Apparently Berlinski doesn’t like “we don’t know” as an answer, but as a nonbeliever I’d like to know his answer! He has none; all he does is carp about science’s ignorance.

  • Berlinski apparently agrees with Levin that there’s no substantive evidence for anthropogenic global warming. Instead, he imputes the scientific consensus to the desire of scientists to get federal money.

The evolution bit begins at 9:40, and here Berlinski says these things:

  • Darwin’s view that species can change into other species is analogous to alchemy: a form of transformation for which there’s no evidence. He uses the stretching of the giraffe’s neck, a Lamarckian principle, as one that still characterizes Darwinism. That’s just wrong.
  • Darwinism is a “secular doctrine comparable to the Book of Genesis” and an “ideology”. Darwinism, he says, “is not a scientific theory but a collection of anecdotes.”

What ignorant statements to make! Anecdotes? Has he read my book? True, Darwinism can’t answer the question, “Why don’t cats rule the world?” or “Why aren’t women born with tails like cats?” (yes, he asks these questions to denigrate evolution), but just because we can’t answer why evolution did this and didn’t do that does NOT mean that there’s no evidence for evolution or natural selection. Just read my damn book, which is not a “series of anecdotes”. Evolution can predict things that have been found (intermediate forms existing at certain times; presence of mammalian fossils on Antarctica, dead genes in the genomes, etc.)

Here Berlinski, by saying that Darwinism is a “myth” that either makes up stories or can’t answer everything, simply misunderstands the nature of the field. Is evolution an “ideology”? No more than “quantum mechanics” or “organic chemistry” are ideologies.

After the 14 minutes, he goes on to denigrate atheism, evolution, and “the academy” for its antitheistic attitudes, and then takes a whack at progressivism.  He also claims that there’s a qualitative gap between human beings on one side and “the rest of the animal kingdom on the other.” In the end, his views of human exceptionalism and the supposed inadequacies of Darwinism leave me with the question, “What is Berlinski’s own explanation for the questions he raises?” If he says, “I don’t have one,” then why does he criticize scientists for saying, “I don’t know”? He argues that he’s an agnostic because he can’t prove that God does not exist, but yet I suspect that Berlinski wouldn’t be agnostic about Santa Claus, for which there’s equally little evidence. What even makes him think there’s the possibility of a God? The fact that there’s something instead of nothing? In that case his suspicion that there could be a God simply comes from questions that science hasn’t yet answered.

Finally, at 30:24, he lumps me in with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins as “windbags”. Well, so be it, but I maintain that I’ve expelled a lot less wind than Berlinski!

As a secular Jew, his schtick is to kvetch and kvetch, which, combined with his Buckley-ian imperious attitudes and mannerisms, are taken by ignoramuses as “wisdom.”

h/t: Dave

Natural history museum in Jerusalem covers exhibit on evolution to avoid offending ultra-Orthodox Jews

April 28, 2018 • 12:30 pm


A kind reader sent me the email for the Natural History Museum,, and if you want to write to them about this, feel free. Here’s my email:


To whom it may concern:

As an evolutionary biologist of Jewish ancestry, I am deeply offended at your practice of covering up the human evolution exhibit lest it offend the Haredi Jews who go to your museum. Why would a museum hide the truth, even if it’s offensive to some religious believers? Is this proper in a largely secular state like Israel?

I hope you realize that by literally hiding the evidence for human evolution, you are misleading people: in effect, lying by omission. The truth is the truth, regardless of whether some people are offended because it goes against their upbringing; and by catering to the false beliefs of creationists, you are, in effect, censoring whatever science that some people find unpleasant. This kind of behavior makes me ashamed of my Jewish background.

I have written about your Museum’s activities on my website, which has 55,000 readers:

Natural history museum in Jerusalem covers exhibit on evolution to avoid offending ultra-Orthodox Jews

I hope that in the future you can just present the plain scientific truth about human origins and not worry about who it offends. Your blatant censorship offends me–and has offended many others–but of course you’d prefer to offend scientists and truth-seekers than those who harbor religious superstitions.

Jerry Coyne
Emeritus Professor
Department of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago


From the Times of Israel we have this article (click on screenshot) showing three things: not all Jews accept science; that the ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim)—a reclusive, fundamentalist, and extremist branch of the faith—are creationists; and finally that the largely secular character of the Israel government will nevertheless censor real science to cater to this group.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Natural History Museum in Jerusalem has been keeping an exhibit on human evolution covered under a sheet to avoid offending ultra-Orthodox visitors, and a staff member earlier this month asked a customer to leave when she inquired why the museum was censoring the display.

“I was saddened by it and rather shocked,” the visitor, Chaya David, told The Times of Israel following the incident. “It’s unwarranted and illegal.”

The Hebrew-language display, titled “The beginning of human evolution and culture,” details the stages of the gradual transformation from apes to the modern homo sapiens [sic], complete with various skulls, models and ancient hunting tools along with written explanations.

It is kept under a pink sheet that blocks it from visitors’ view.

Here’s that sheet:

Photo: Michael Bachner/Times of Israel


Here are two photos of what’s behind the sheet. The article describes the exhibit as outmoded—not updated for decades—so it will surely be wrong. But despite that, it still describes the key fact of human evolution over millions of years (both photos by Michael Bachner), something that the faithful must come to terms with:

What’s equally offensive is that the local government approved this covering (the Jerusalem Haredi Education Division) and that the exhibit is funded by Israeli taxpayers:

The museum said it had received approval from municipal authorities to hide the exhibit, along with two other displays on dinosaurs and on the human body and sexuality, during visits by ultra-Orthodox groups.

. . . [A] 31-year-old mother of two visited the museum during the Passover festival earlier this month with her three-year-old son.

“Why are they covering this? It’s totally inappropriate,” she said. “And then it dawned on me: I realized it was probably being covered due to some sort of social and political agenda.”

An employee that she asked told her that “Haredim don’t like to see these things,” David recollected.

“I was totally shocked because there weren’t any Haredim there to be offended. It wasn’t making anyone upset at the time,” she charged. “You can’t just choose one exhibit you think might offend someone and self-censor in that manner. It’s sad and unwarranted, and it’s also illegal.”

The employee then recommended that she leave.

The excuse the Museum gave is pathetic: they don’t want to offend the Haredis and doing so would reduce Museum attendance:

When a Times of Israel reporter visited the museum almost a week later, the exhibit was still covered by the sheet.

“The curtain is closed only when there is a Haredi group that reserves an activity ahead of time,” the museum said. “Due to shortage of manpower, the curtain was mistakenly not opened [afterward].

How much “manpower” does it take to open a curtain, for crying out loud?

“The Natural History Museum has existed for 60 years and serves all populations in the city,” the museum added. “We are interested in attracting as many visitors as possible.”

Well, that’s not excuse for a state that’s modern, science-friendly, and largely secular. Scientific truth is scientific truth, and shouldn’t be hidden from the public by the government because it offends religion. Such censorship would never stand in the U.S.

It’s as if the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. covered up its evolution exhibit permanently (or eliminated it) because 39% of Americans are young-earth creationists. A religious museum can promulgate whatever lies it wants (viz., the Creation Museum in Kentucky), but a public museum in a secular state can neither lie to the public nor censor exhibits (lying by omission) because they go against the religious dictates of any sect.

I tried to find the email address of the Museum so I could protest, but the site is in Hebrew and also seems to lack email contact information. If you can find it, please let me know.

h/t: Diane G.

In America, Yeshiva bochers don’t get educated

April 10, 2018 • 1:30 pm

In case you don’t know the Yiddish, a “yeshiva bocher” is a Jewish student at an Orthodox religious school (a “yeshiva”) who is a “bocher” (male student, usually unmarried). And what this article points out—one of the open secrets of Judaism—is that yeshivas are the American equivalent of Islamic madrassas: schools where you study religion—and nothing else. That means that the students wind up largely unsuited to enter society at large or hold down many jobs, with many of these going on welfare deliberately, aiming to spend their entire lives studying the Torah. In fact, because of the brainwashing they get from their parents, they don’t want to enter society at large, but prefer to remain in their insulated communities. That is their right. But it’s not their right to neglect state educational requirements.

In the U.S., there are educational standards that all students have to meet, regardless of their school, but these are largely ignored for yeshiva students, many of whom live in New York. As the following New York Times piece reports (click on the screenshot), the cultural and actual illiteracy of yeshiva students (most of them ultra-Orthodox) is staggering. Further, a state senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, who represents many of these Jews, is campaigning to get a legal exemption for yeshiva students from the state’s educational standards.

The piece’s author, Shulem Deen, was a Hasidic Jew who left his community at age 33, and still considers himself “educationally handicapped” even though he got his high school equivalency degree. Having left the Hasidic community, he lost custody of his sons.

The education problem is worse for men than for women, as Jewish girls aren’t required to study the Torah and so, says Deen, receive a “decent secular education.” But, later destined for marriage and strictly bound to the home, they can’t use it in jobs.

Just a few facts from the piece:

When I was in my 20s, already a father of three, I had no marketable skills, despite 18 years of schooling. I could rely only on an ill-paid position as a teacher of religious studies at the local boys’ yeshiva, which required no special training or certification. As our family grew steadily — birth control, or even basic sexual education, wasn’t part of the curriculum — my then-wife and I struggled, even with food stamps, Medicaid and Section 8 housing vouchers, which are officially factored into the budgets of many of New York’s Hasidic families.

I remember feeling both shame and anger. Shame for being unable to provide for those who relied on me. Anger at those responsible for educating me who had failed me so colossally.

A woman I know works as a physician at Maimonides Medical Center, in heavily Hasidic Borough Park in Brooklyn, and often sees adult male patients who can barely communicate to her what ails them. “It’s not just that they’re like immigrants, barely able to speak the language,” she told me. “It’s also a lack of knowledge of basic physiology. They can barely name their own body parts.”

. . . Across the state, there are dozens of Hasidic yeshivas, with tens of thousands of students — nearly 60,000 in New York City alone — whose education is being atrociously neglected. These schools receive hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding, through federal programs like Title I and Head Start and state programs like Academic Intervention Services and universal pre-K. For New York City’s yeshivas, $120 million comes from the state-funded, city-run Child Care and Development Block Grant subsidy program: nearly a quarter of the allocation to the entire city.

The result: millions of taxpayer dollars spent to provide welfare for those who, because of religion, are denied a proper education:

According to a report by Yaffed, or Young Advocates for Fair Education, an organization that advocates for improved general studies in Hasidic yeshivas, an estimated 59 percent of Hasidic households are poor or near-poor. According to United States Census figures, the all-Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, an hour north of New York City, is the poorest in the country, with median family income less than $18,000.

One heavily Hasidic district of Brooklyn, South Williamsburg, has, over the last decade, shown dramatic increases in using public income support such as cash assistance, Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.

This is insupportable, and a terrible waste of young minds—minds doomed to endlessly pore over ancient scripts and argue about their meaning, yearning for the return of the Messiah.

Yes, the religious have a right to their craziness, but when it interferes with civil requirements—like getting a good secular education—religion has to take a back seat.  I weep to think of all those boys who, had they not been born into Orthodox families, would have the freedom to do and study what they want, some achieving great things. The endless scrutinizing and exposition of the Torah is not a great thing; it’s nonsense. And Felder is a reprehensible man for furthering this nonsense.