Opinion: Mistaken Analysis


japan-bochurimHe’s a student of the publishing industry with hands-on experience running his own book company. He’s a knowledgeable businessman with years of experience in finance. He’s a mathematician comfortable with probability and statistics. He’s a blogger and a published writer. And he’s a rabbi, with expertise in many areas of Torah, including the intricate laws of kosher. And he’s a student – Rabbi Gil Student, the newly hired Managing Editor at OU Press, the Orthodox Union’s foray into book publishing.

In a recent write-up, however, on his website Hirhurim, Rabbi Student, in this writer’s opinion, fails to make the grade in an argument against – of all things – the global effort to assist the three bochurim currently incarcerated in Japan.

“Huh?” you ask. “Against the effort?”

I had the same perplexing question. Given Rabbi Student’s acumen and literary prowess, I was astonished, and so I pondered the issue from all sides. It would appear, though, that his take on the matter is not only erroneous but damaging.

From an emotional standpoint, who hasn’t been touched and saddened by the plight of the three Israeli boys who were conned into taking contraband across the Japanese border? It takes a heart of steel not to be moved by the predicament of these bochurim, who were the victims of a scheme last April perpetrated by a chareidi businessman who convinced an unsuspecting middleman – a family friend of the boys – to recruit them. The three bochurim, from Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak, two under age 20 and one under age 18, were each given an empty suitcase in which to pack their personal belongings. They were led to believe that there were antique artifacts hidden in the bottoms of the suitcases as a deterrent against theft or accidental loss. They were going to transport the antiques from Holland to Japan and were promised an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe to daven at kivrei tzaddikim. They were assured that everything was legal. At Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, however, the false bottoms were detected and broken into by customs officials – who found not antiques, but narcotics.

Rabbi Student used a recent Mishpacha magazine article on the global effort to help the boys as a springboard to express his feelings regarding this matter. He questions statements that have been made referring to the “indisputable innocence” of the boys. He says that issues are presented in “black and white. It’s nauseating.”

Leaving the issue of dan lekaf zechus aside, it is perplexing that he ignores the fact that each of the boys passed court-ordered polygraph tests, scoring 36 out of 36. The probability of error when conducting three polygraph tests is very rare, according to experts. That is in addition to the other indicators of the boys’ innocence which have been highlighted in various articles, including their nonchalant behavior on the flight and in the airport, and the fact that they all approached the same customs person.

This has been confirmed by Dayan Chaim Yosef Dovid Weiss, the Satmar Dayan of Antwerp, who has been leading the effort to assist the boys together with Reb Meilich Bindinger of Antwerp, Rav Aharon Nezri of London, and Rav Yaakov Bleich, chief rabbi of Kiev. These four men have taken on the case for no reason other than to help redeem these innocent, young, naïve boys, who are ensnared in a frightening episode whose verdict could leave them languishing in prison for over a decade. These men have neglected their familial, communal and parnassah commitments to collect evidence, study legal cases, engage in diplomacy and negotiations, amass a legal team – and basically do anything necessary to demonstrate to the Japanese court that the boys’ innocence is not in question. These are selfless individuals, the likes of whom are hard to find.

But Rabbi Student apparently doesn’t feel this way. He takes Mishpacha to task for referring to Dayan Weiss as an “angel in human garb,” and is bothered by a description of the “superhuman bundles of brilliance, knowledge and righteousness” of these men. He calls these descriptions “exaggerations.” He is disturbed by references of their “command of legal nuances” or the “giving freely” of “medical expertise” by members of the four-man team.

Admittedly, I am no big fan of hyperbolic overkill, where journalism becomes more about an interviewer than an interviewee, and more about the accolades and adjectives than the substance. In this case, however, his assessment is off base. Dayan Weiss, who is involved in worldwide askanus and has taken on cases of pidyon shvuim on several continents, is indeed an angel on earth, having given himself over – literally and figuratively – to Yidden in trouble, and in this case to these boys and their parents.

If there was ever a time to utilize superlatives to describe individuals selflessly dedicated to a cause, it is this case. These askanim aren’t being compensated and few even knew of their names until recent reports. Hardly anyone knew the details of their efforts and the personal sacrifices they were making on a daily basis. Their efforts were subdued, at least publically. In fact, when asked by people about the details of the case over the last year, I had said that I felt the lines of communication between those involved in helping the boys and those who have the ability to disseminate accurate and detailed information left much to be desired. But the explanation for that was clear. These men weren’t heading a campaign that thrived on publicity and recognition. They were doing what they thought was what they had to do, with the guidance of Torah leaders. They dedicated themselves to a very real case of pidyon shvuyim for three boys who are indisputably innocent. Yes, innocent, despite Rabbi Student’s uncertainty. I’ll take Dayan Weiss’ word for it.

Rabbi Student states that the “entire story was taken from these activists working on behalf of the accused.” He asks, “Was there any effort made to verify their accounts? Was there any fact-checking done at all?”

As mentioned, the team of askanim has left no rock unturned in their quest for the truth. In their opinion, the boys are irrefutably innocent. They have gathered evidence to prove this. Whether the Japanese legal system will find this to be adequate to exonerate the boys is a separate question. But the investigations, analyses and legal work have been all-encompassing.  My question is, has Rabbi Student done any fact-checking himself? Or is he satisfied to throw questions against the wall, hoping they’ll stick and thereby place the effort to help the boys seem incomplete and sloppy?

The most bothersome portion of Rabbi Student’s recent article is his claim of the negative consequences of fighting on behalf of these boys.

He admits that “these kids stumbled into this mess by making some naive but not terribly malicious decisions” and concedes that “it makes sense to me that their friends and relatives should be trying to free them from a very long and difficult jail sentence over these crimes. And if their friends and relatives cannot do this, then other members of their communities (i.e. other Jews) should step in.”

However, he says, “when you make this a global crusade, when you organize prayer rallies and publicize it widely…you are sending two bad messages.”

The first message to our children and ourselves, he says, is that “we are glorifying the accused as heroes and demonizing the Japanese justice system as evil.”

The assertion is patently absurd. No one, in their right mind, ever deduced from the effort to help the boys that drug trafficking is now something that is acceptable or glorified.

Likewise, the boys have not been made into heroes for the act they committed. To support his argument, Rabbi Student craftily titled his piece, “The Three Heroic Drug Smugglers,” suggesting that the frum community has somehow made the boys into heroes for committing the act for which they were arrested. He later says that the “kids are stupid and they committed crimes, and the Japanese police caught them smuggling drugs and are trying them accordingly. The kids did everything wrong.” He says that “their suffering should not be incommensurate with their crimes – hence the efforts to free them – but they are certainly not heroes.”

Rabbi Student is confusing the compassion and care being demonstrated for the boys with the recognition of the heroics of the askanim involved, which we mentioned before, as well as the incredible behavior of the boys ever since they were imprisoned. Their commitment to shemiras hamitzvos, their devotion to limud haTorah, and their unwavering emunah have all been astounding, to say the least. That’s the heroism that has been lauded. But please, don’t make it sound as if their initial act which they were fooled into carrying out is somehow being glorified in our communities. That is not only unfair to the boys, but it is an unjust accusation toward our kehillos, making it sound like we have such skewed morals as to place the committal of this crime on some kind of pedestal.

As for the claim that the global effort has resulted in “demonizing the Japanese justice system as evil,” there may be some truth to that, but mainly amongst those who know nothing of the proceedings of the case. The danger of distorting the truth and spreading false rumors about the adverse conditions the bochurim find themselves in at the Chiba detention center (not the much more severe and frightening Chiba Prison, which is indeed a terrifying possibility should the boys lose their case) is indeed harmful. As Rabbi Shmuel Bloom wrote in these pages several weeks ago, “A fundamental principle in hishtadlus is that the self-esteem of the party we are trying to persuade must always be kept intact. We must be careful not to exaggerate the plight of these young men, precisely because the other party is almost certainly aware of what is being said about them.”

Rabbi Bloom explained that we have an obligation to be responsible in everything that we write and say. The better part of valor would be to keep intact the kavod of the Japanese government and to respect their need for a zero-tolerance policy in the war against drugs. At the same time, we should delicately point out to them the innocent nature of what these young men thought they were doing.

But to state that the global effort is a mistake because of the demonizing of the Japanese justice system as evil, which Rabbi Student suggests, is mistaken.

The second “bad message” in waging a full global effort to help the boys, he says, is that, “We are telling the world that we, the Jewish community, are in favor of drug smugglers. We are turning a chillul Hashem into a massive chillul Hashem. We, as a community, will stand by other Jews even when they commit crimes that negatively impact the world, such as drug smuggling.”

Once again, this is faulty on a number of counts. The first, of course, is that in no way does any effort to help the boys suggest that we are in favor of breaking the law and passing contraband across borders. Frankly, that’s like saying that if we launch a global campaign to treat smokers who have contracted lung cancer, we are condoning cigarette smoking. Better yet, because in this case the boys were completely oblivious to what they had been duped into doing, it is like saying that treating children who have mistakenly swallowed bleach somehow suggests that we approve – and even glorify – the act of ingesting harmful substances.

Rabbi Student is making the assumption that those outside the frum community who read and learn about the case will ignore the very glaring details regarding the innocence of these boys. They will disregard the incontrovertible evidence demonstrating that there was no way that these boys purposely broke the law. According to him, it would seem, we’d be better off keeping the issue quiet and allowing either the secular Israeli media or the mainstream press to take over in reporting this story – whether they have the facts or not. That would surely result in a more positive portrayal of the goings-on of this case, wouldn’t it? Of course it wouldn’t. If anything, the global effort by dedicated, ehrliche askanim brings to light – across the world – the true nature of this case, painting a picture of the sheltered and insular environments in which the boys were raised, which allowed them to be so easily tricked into doing what they did, and how, as a community, we, frum Jews, stand by other Jews, not when they commit crimes that negatively impact the world, as Rabbi Student says, but when they are taken for a ride and hoodwinked into committing a misdeed that they had never even heard of – transporting a substance that they didn’t even know existed.

But Rabbi Student doesn’t conclude his tirade just yet. He adds: “How about keeping things on the down low and working behind the scenes? Why would we want to publicize the issue? We should be embarrassed about these boys and hang our heads in shame over them. Keep up the good work in helping them attain the best defense possible, and also work to transfer those convicted to Israeli prisons where they will be able to serve their terms with full religious freedom. But why turn this into a communal crusade?”

Firstly, no, we are not ashamed of these boys. Our hearts are pained and our souls are crying, but we are not humiliated. We are not embarrassed of the three boys who were deceived. We are embarrassed of the shofech domim who designed this heinous plot, knowing that he was setting up young, innocent boys, at the prime of their lives, for serious trouble. But we are not ashamed by the naïveté and simple nature of the boys, who knew nothing of the world outside the Torah enclaves in which they were raised.

And as for keeping things on the “down low and working behind the scenes,” as he says, several possibilities come to mind. Firstly, the astronomical cost of the legal effort has to be covered in some way. A million dollars has already been spent, and the askanim, reports Mishpacha, state that another half million is required to fund the efforts through the trial. Publicity is necessary to raise such an exorbitant sum.

More important are the tens of thousands of tefillos that ascend to Heaven each day for Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava, Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yosef ben Ita Rivka. The global effort has raised awareness of the case and brought many to understand how much their tefillos are needed. And to keep people praying fervently, it is necessary to have the story remain in the forefront of their minds by informing them of updates and achievements, of efforts being made and channels being explored.          

So while Rabbi Student seems to have a litany of questions and complaints regarding the effort to help three fellow Yidden in a case of contemporary pidyon shvuyim, I sit here and think of the three boys, who have not seen each other since last April and face a sentence in excess of ten years in a prison that has been described as nothing less than brutal. I think of their families, whose pain cannot be described in words. I think of the outpouring of love and support from Jews the world over, of every type and stripe, who have taken a personal interest in the case, desperate to hear something positive about the boys’ fate – an update, a good word from askanim, anything.

And I sit here envious – in a kinas sofrim sort of way – of the eternal reward awaiting the four special people who have shown why we are a nation like no other, bound by a love for each other and steadfast trust in the One Above.

 {This article was authored by Rabbi Yitzchok Hisiger and was originally published in Yated Ne’eman.}

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  1. I’m still puzzled. The boys were told to conceal the “antiques” from the customs people. In other words, concealing “antiques” from legal customs duties is OK? The law of the land isn’t the law? Why did these boys placidly accept this kind of dishonesty in regard to government authorities?

    This worries me. Is there a tendency in some circles in Eretz Yisroel to accept that it’s fine to cheat the government? A non-Jewish government? Anybody at all? If the boys aren’t learning “medavar sheker tirchak” in the yeshiva, what is the yeshiva teaching?

  2. While it seems like Gil Student’s ideas are not necessarily crazy, not everything that you think in your mind has to be said.
    There may be a proper time to complain about “yeshivishe hyperbole”. A lot of the publicity (tznius asifas! etc.) regarding the trial was nauseating, but there is no way to point that out in an inoffensive manner while the boys are still in prison. (Well, at least not until Gil provided the backdrop. Now, I just did it!)

  3. You see. The problem is that these boys aren’t affiliated with the State of Israel. If these boys had been cought spying for the State of Israel, just as Pollard has been, then they would have all the support from the OU and other Jewish (non Charedi) organizations. They would be considered innocent. If they would be soldiers of the state of Israel captured by terrorists, these organization would be involved 24-7 to have them freed. (P.S. The case of Pollard is heart breaking, I feel terrible for him. My point is that the only reason these organizations are involved with him is not for the Mitzva of Pidyon Shvuyim, but rather for Zionistic motives. The proof is that they don’t really get so actively involved if it’s not related to the State of Israel. Where is The Young Israel when it comes to these three boys?)

  4. R’ Student said :It makes sense to me that their friends and relatives should be trying to free them from a very long and difficult jail sentence over these crimes. And if their friends and relatives cannot do this, then other members of their communities (i.e. other Jews) should step in.

    But when you make this a global crusade, when you organize prayer rallies and publicize it widely, when you give frequent updates to popular frum news websites (link), you are sending two bad messages:

    1) To our children and ourselves, we are glorifying the accused as heroes and demonizing the Japanese justice system as evil. They aren’t. The kids are stupid and they committed crimes, and the Japanese police caught them smuggling drugs and are trying them accordingly. The kids did everything wrong. Again, I agree that their suffering should not be incommensurate with their crimes — hence the efforts to free them — but they are certainly not heroes.

    2) We are telling the world that we, the Jewish community, are in favor of drug smugglers. We are turning a Chillul Hashem into a massive Chillul Hashem. We, as a community, will stand by other Jews even when they commit crimes that negatively impact the world, such as drug smuggling.

    How about keeping things on the down low and working behind the scenes?

    How exactly does that translate into your summary of: , Rabbi Student, in this writer’s opinion, fails to make the grade in an argument against – of all things – the global effort to assist the three bochurim currently incarcerated in Japan.


  5. Thank you for this magnificent article. You’ve gracefully contested each horribly distorted point.

    Of course, this article is not meant to personally attack any single jew but rather the messages that were publicized need to be publicly corrected.

    In “Selected Speeches” by Rav Shimon Schwab ZT”L, “He who loves does not hate” Rav Schwab warns that although it is imperative that we oppose anti-Torah ideas (coming from within), we must do so “without hate , without anger and with great humility”.

    May we be zocheh to see the three bochurim redeemed quickly and the whole Klal yisrael with the coming of Mashiach.

  6. Welcome to the OU and their better than though or whatever psychological inferences to make about them in regard to Chareidi Jewery. They have a penchant for trying to ease their own conscience or reputation as to why THEY are not leading the crusade

  7. To commenter #2: What’s super about tearing any person to shreds?

    While I agree with some of Rabbi Student’s points (ridiculous overuse of hyperbolic verbiage that is commonly employed by some frum publications), I also agree with Rabbi Hisiger that the project to help these boys is a laudable one. I think, perhaps, what was missing from the original article was a strong condemnation of (a)the individual who initiated the crime and (b) the imprudent behavior of the boys in taking anything for anyone that was deliberately concealed (for any reason). I wholeheartedly agree with commenter Rachel R. that the message comes across that it is okay to conceal things from the law. The fact that the boys were offered an all-expense-paid trip should have tipped them off to the impropriety of the “favor”. The most obvious question they should have investigated was – What’s the catch?

  8. Rabbi Gil Student is asking valuable questions that are left unanswered.
    Prime QUESTION:
    1. Were these bochurim aware that they were bringing antiques into Japan? YES or NO
    2. Were they aware that they/messenger MIGHT have to pay customs for these concealed items?

    BTW these two questions have been answered by all three bochurim as YES when investigated and asked privately and independently.

  9. Rochel R. needs to pay more attention to the information when she reads. They were told that the antiques were being conceales as a security measure so they would not be stolen. (ever hear of a baggage handler that might check out the goods?) The trip would certainly require the bags be left at times and this extra measure would be waranted

  10. Rabbi Student, I am sure you don’t shave at all, because I don’t think you can face yourself in the mirror.

  11. “So while Rabbi Student seems to have a litany of questions and complaints regarding the effort to help three fellow Yidden in a case of contemporary pidyon shvuyim”

    I doubt that this is a case of pidyon shvuyim.

    Three men were caught in an illegal action in a democratic country with an independent justice system. The justice system of the country takes care of the case. Where is your pidyon shevuim.

  12. The best line of the article:

    We are not embarrassed of the three boys who were deceived. We are embarrassed of the shofech domim who designed this heinous plot, knowing that he was setting up young, innocent boys, at the prime of their lives, for serious trouble.

  13. Rachel R consistently raises good points ..

    to go a bit further ..

    are we raising a generation of “Bnei Torah” that treat all governmental authority – foreign or local – police in yerushalayim / Customs agent in japan – with equal disdain & lack of respect ??????

  14. ALL THE PEOPLE LIKE just wondering and rachel r., DID YOU READ THE ARTICLE HERE???!!! Obviously you didn’t because you missed the point completely. the author says clearly that we don’tt condone illeghal activity.

  15. “Ruth” – I’m not sure where you are coming from. Pidyon Shevuyim is a mitzvah to redeem jews who are in captivity. Whether they are innocent or not may not even play a role. In this case they are surely innocent and at the very least not deservant of the punishment of the Japanese Judicial system.

  16. What a bunch of leitzanim!

    R’ Student wrote that while efforts must continue, this public defense of their actions excuses the inexcusable.

    The entire article is really about an author who doesn’t want to believe his kehillah has fundamental problems that need serious work.


  17. These boys were caught doing something illegal, IE smugling whether it was drugs or antiques they broke the law. By working so hard and making them out to be innocent victims it sends the wrong message to our childern that you can break the law and if caught we will come to your aid and call you innocent. The mailing by kupat hair was embarasing. Although an effort should be made to help them serve their terms in the best posible way lets not loose focus of what happened, they all knowingly broke the law.

  18. All,
    It’s completely out of place for us to pass judgement on the suffering bochurim. What is the benefit of this? Whether they are right or wrong is totally irrelevant.

    This is a gzeirah mishamyim and as all happenings, this tragedy is meant for us to understand Hashem’s message that we must all repent and seek salvation.

    Suffice it to say that nobody commenting above would prefer to swap places with the bochurim.

    Let’s do what we can rather than pointlessly debating on the boys’ innocence or not.

    What we can do is show more ahavas yisrael, work on our own personal shortcomings, daven more and more.

  19. SHLOMO, you are barking up a wrong tree!!

    Will these four volunteers now spend the next few months, raising $$$, speaking, imploring govts & organizations to redeem Gilad Shalit from prison. People have always helped their own people, a reality check….

    BTW are the families of these bochurim interested in the Israeli govt putting their nose in this case? Is that what their kehilla desires? BTW the KNESSET (the impure one) has passed a bill to allow these boys to fulfill their prison sentence in Israel, so I guess they are somewhat involved.

  20. R. Hisiger is a new columnist at the Yoseid, and relatively young, just got married I believe. He just moved up from Kashrus newsletters to a regular Yoseid column. So maybe he exhibited some ‘youthful exuberance’ while writing that. Hopefully in the future he will be more careful. Among the problems with what he wrote, is how he personalized it into an attack on R. Student. Why was it necessary to give a whole background on RGS at the beginning of the article? Other sneering remarks in it are also out of place.

    As an aside, I want to know if R. Hisiger and the Yoseid are also advocating for Bernie M. Are they going to start a campaign for the Spinka Rebbe too? Maybe they can start a whole new regular section for ‘pidyon shvuyim’ of all these ‘tzadikkim’.

    In general, I would like the Yoseid and R. Hisiger to address the issue of what exactly pidyon shvuyim means. It is a term that is over and mis-used and applied today by certain people. It’s called pidyon shvuyim for a reason – in the old days people were captured by highwaymen and marauders, and held, and were not given a fair trial. Nowadays when criminals do wrong and seek help by throwing around that expression, it is a horse of a different barn. They are not shvuyim (shvuyim=people captured and held illegally, not as a result of a fair legal process) Let us remember, it is called pidyon shvuyim, not pidyon ganovim.

  21. Hi micha,

    You see what you want to see. For some of these commentors, a little reading comprehension would go a long way.

  22. to attack is out of order:
    rabbi Hisiger never wrote kashrus newsletters- his father, rabbi yisroel hisiger, is involved in kashrus and i believe is also on the chinuch
    roundtable column in yated
    rabbi yizchak hisiger doesn’t have a regular column in the yated. he is a writer/editor for the newspaper. he used to be or is an author or editor of the halacha berurah newsletters. he lives in lakewood.

  23. Why can’t we just have rachmonis. Nebach on these boys & their families. The unbearable tzaar they are going through. Ma hu rachum, af ata rachum. Hashem yirachem!! Bring them home!

  24. who cares if the author is “young”? if he knows how to write, he knows how to write. why is the age of the suthor an issue?

  25. To “attack is out of order” that is a great line “Let us remember, it is called pidyon shvuyim, not pidyon ganovim.” How unfortunately true it is that the term Pidyon Shevuyim is being thrown around for every ganif and criminal in our society. What happened to good judgement and right and wrong?

  26. Its amazing to see how the Great Torah personalities of previous generations went out of their way to save kids like these in Japan (or even worse than these) from jail.

    But alas, some people think they are smarter than the Gedolim.

    If you study the life of the Chofetz Chaim you will see how to live your life and how to think correctly–what does Hashem want from us in this situation.

    But if you don’t have the right role models, and you adapt to the hashokfos of the goyim, then nebach you get a distorted view of what the Torah wants from us. Very sad.

    I judge these boys from Japan favorably. I hope them get release from jail asap.

  27. to Honestly Frum,

    r u really honestly frum? oh, never mind. I meant to ask, DO YOU HAVE A HEART? perhaps one made out of stone.

  28. PS: I think their best defense strategy – and the only one worthy of a truly religious jew – would have been to say from the beginning:
    We are happy that you caught us. We did not know that we were bringing drugs into the country, but we would rather go to jail than have them circulated in the japanese population.

    I suppose that this would have earned them some respect. Whereas all this cursing of the japanese justice system just makes things worse.

    By the way: they fell for a very old trick by the drug mafia, it was already used years ago, for example in these two cases. And guess what? The Australian courts were not more leninent than the japanese ones, on the same issues.



  29. Kidding me, presumably the Yated approves all the articles. Ads may slip in but it would be completely inconsistent with the mission of the Yated not to completely stand behind its articles.

  30. Pidyan shivuim doesn;t apply to these boys. They were not arrested for being jews. They were arested for drugs. As a result this halachah doesn;t apply to them.

    With that said we still have a collective obligation to help them in any way we can. Unfortunately they were dooped and as jews with hearts we must do what we can.

    What I want to know is where is the eidah chareidus in all of this? They need to deliver the guy that dooped them to Japan with a Ribon around his neck and in Chains.


  32. So many of these comments are simply embarrassing. These are fellow Jews speaking?!

    Hashem is watching, so perhaps some of you should get off your mighty high horses and contribute something to this cause. Your attempt to denigrate this cause and rationaLIES your aloofness is nauseating.

    Your sickening bluff of “chilul Hashem” and fake lshem Shomayim verbiage is coming from a black heart, one very, very far from the purity and holiness of l’shem Shomayim.


  33. Did Rabbi Hisiger extend the courtesy of conferring with Rabbi Student in order to afford him the opportunity to clarify his position before he wrote the article?

  34. Mr. Al Gore,
    Firstly, maybe R’ Hisiger did contact Rabbi Student. I don’t know.

    But let me ask you:
    Did Rabbi Gil Student confer with the askanim representing the boys before he wrote his piece blasting them? DId he call the people involved before he criticized their effort to help the boys?

    I think you know know the answer.

    So drop the argument that Rabbi Hisiger should have contacted him. It misses the point, and detracts from the important points made in this article.

    Yosef Chananya Wilhelm

  35. I have always respected matzav by the fact that it really censors its comments and articles. It is far superior than all the other sites in this regard.

    However, to my dismay, i noticed in this post a number of comments belittling Rabbi Hissiger. Rabbi Hissiger is a hero to have written such a wonderful peice and have the courage to stand behind it and print his name.

    I believe matzav should be a bit more sensitive to Rabbi Hissigers feelings and not post the comments that are belittling him personally, either by his age or other points made against him. He may very well read these comments and be hurt. You should use better judgment and think about hurting somebodies feelings especially such a heroes.

  36. Rabbi Hisiger wrote phenomenally.
    Straight forward and to the point, and put this guy in his place. Great article, great point, and the OU should reconsider the appointment of this individual, who is obviously lacking the intelligence to make proper decisions and represent anyone or anything in this prestigious organization. H e should work on the midah of feeling another’s tza’ar, and will perhaps see the light and the greatness of k’lal yisroel who are leaving no stone unturned in obataining the release of these naive, innocent, yes, innocent boys.

  37. To Yid with a heart, I have a heart, but I also have a brain and sense of right and wrong, kiddush hashem v chillul hashem. Right is being a good citizen, following the law and paying my taxes without trying to “game” the system to see if I can get away with it. Wrong is cheating on ones taxes and advocating to as such, stealing, smugling, breaking the law and trying to “game the system” to see if I can get away with it. The bottom line is that these boys knew that they were doing something wrong they just hoped that they would not get caught, now that they were caught it turns out the crime they actually committed was worse than the one they were trying to commit, but they set out in the first place to break the law and smuggle, that is wrong anyway you look at it. It is unfortunate that they now have to suffer in prison but what do you expect to happen if you get caught breaking a law?

  38. YC: You asked, Did Rabbi Gil Student confer with the askanim representing the boys before he wrote his piece blasting them?

    I don’t think Rabbi Student was blasting the askanim as much as blasting the portrayal of the situation by the magazine in the “original” article.

    Also, I’m not sure what the OU has to do with any of this or why Rabbi Student has become the representative of LW MO Jews. I’m quite confident that he didn’t intend to represent either when he expressed his opinions on his blog.

  39. Al Gore, did you confer with Al Gore in order to give him the opportunity to give you permission to use his name before you did so?


    The esteemed editor of Mishpacha, Rabbi Moshe Grylak, in his first editorial after the imprisonment of the 3 bochurim said, how this act of smuggling brings a stain to yeshiva bochurim.
    Why was he not ‘burned over the charcoal’ as Rabbi Student is now? Can Rabbi Hisgler explain why one person’s opinion is illegitimate and the other is ignorable? Yated, why do you FEAR two reputable points of view on a subject matter? Isn’t klal yisroel mature enough to deal with it?

  41. Kupat Hair of Bnei Brak recently ran an ad boasting of someone who was illegally bringing cash into Israel, was about to get caught, and was saved when he mentally pledged money to the Kupah if he would avoid getting caught.

    Don’t tell me that there isn’t a problem in the charedi community with this sort of thing, if a tzedakah organization can BOAST about Hashem helping a smuggling operation.

  42. Where are the gedolom on this? Why are they not sending the person who is responsible for all of this to Japan. Unfortunately that is the only way these inncoent boys are gonna get out of Jail. The OU, Aggufah and whatever organization you want to refer to won’t be that affective. We need to find the person who gave them the drugs.

  43. forget about the article
    get r’ hisiger to sing
    he’s a big time baal emnagein and baal tefillah
    forget about the writing,
    grab a mike
    sing some real tachlisdike stuff

    The bottom line is that these boys knew that they were doing something wrong they just hoped that they would not get caught,

    many of the people here obviously are gil student readers who came to matzav to defend him for something on which he is so so wrong
    rabbi student missed the boat totally on this one, and his defenders fabricate things to boot, such as saying “The bottom line is that these boys knew that they were doing something wrong they just hoped that they would not get caught,”
    they repeat the lies unti9l people believe them.
    AND BY THE WAY, i wonder, if the boys had been wearing kipot serugot, rather than black hats, and they were conned by a family friend, if Rabbi STUDENT AND HIS COHORTS would have the same ridiculous outlook on this.

  45. A few quick points:

    I don’t think Rabbi Student is “against” the effort. It is rhetorically disingenuous to say that if you don’t agree with the position 100%, you are against it.

    He is essentially making two points.

    1. The 3 boys committed a crime. The law does not differentiate as to whether there is knowledge. So to say that they are innocent of the crime under the law is simply not emes. There is no reason that we should not be truthful, even if it was not their fault.

    2. I don’t think he takes issue with the efforts per se, in fact, I think he respects the mesiras nefesh of those involved. However, he disagrees with the approach they take and believe that their significant efforts should be geared in another direction – working quietly. I think it’s important that there not be a perception in Japan and the world, based on statements made publicly in newspapers and mailings that Jews do not respect the rule of law. As stated above, the bottom line is, even though they were tricked into it, they committed a crime. Making negative statements about the legal and penal systems of other countries publicly could add fuel to the fire of anti-semites who believe that Jews think they should get special treatment and this could backfire when Jews come to other countries to seek assistance. We need to be very mindful of the perception we create in the world. We are not in the ghetto anymore and the world is small with communications the way it is.

    Thus, I think Rabbi Hisiger’s article was completely off the mark and gratuitously denigrates someone who is a talmid chacham and marbitz Torah.

  46. Really, must everyone be yelling at each other? Is this the Torah way? Notwithstanding a few posters who wish them well in jail, most of us agree that they are entitled to and deserve the best defense possible. This can be done without hyperbole about them or those leading the cause. There is no doubt that the fact that these are hareidi youth inspires more sympathy within the haredi community than those not favorably disposed toward that community and that haredi leaders are not at the forefront for similarly situated MO or secular Jews. This should not be, but is. Also, if the boys really believed 100% that this was OK and were not suspicious enough to inquire of friends or family (or esp. in their community their Rebbe), then I think it is safe to say that their moral education was lacking (unless they have a learning disability that is not being publicized). It is possible to be misled, but most people intuit that something is amiss.

    Still, they deserve assistance just like any criminal defendant. It would help if the mastermind testified on their behalf (typically in exchange for some limited immunity or sentence reduction) but it is not realistic to expect this community to forcibly hand him over to the Japanese.

    The ad hominem personal attacks on R Student by the article’s author and commenters (and the attacks on the author) are, imho, motzi shem ra and inappropriate for self-described frum Jews.

  47. SC & Anon, thank you.

    YES – the boys did not know.
    YES – they had no idea
    YES – they were bring in anything (they were bringing in something)
    YES/NO – Antiques are not illegal to bring into a country YET you must PAY CUSTOMS for them. The boys were told if they are stopped, a messenger will pay the MONEY DUE.

    For instance, if you go to Eretz Yisroel and bring in 2 new digital cameras to sell, you are not bringing in an ILLEGAL item rather you are doing an ILLEGAL ACT IF you do not declare and pay the customs. Should you be prosecuted and sent to high-security jail for 10 years? NO Should high profile volunteers help to release you? SURE, is it Pidyon Shevuim? I do not have the background to answer that.

  48. I would find the frum community’s efforts to save these boys a lot more morally convincing, if they had lifted a single finger to have Gilad Shalit freed. He is imprisoned for risking his life to save Jews. These 3 are in prison for drug smuggling.

    Guess who gets the support of the frum community? And guess why?

    It’s because they wear black, not green.

  49. First, why is noone talking about the so-called chareidi businessman who conned the kids into smuggling drugs? If he was arrested without argument, it would make it logical to fight for the kids release. But if the chareidi community is against his arrest, it casts doubt on everything.

    Second, anyone who thinks these kids are so innocent, whatever they thought, should learn lulav hagazul.

    Third, Bnei Noach are chayav in dinim. Putting drug smugglers in jail is a great example of dinim that all frum Jews should support. Any argument trying to get the kids out has to acknowledge that it makes perfect sense for them to be arrested until proven to have been innocent.

  50. Gil’s limited horizons and the one-sidedness of his sources speak for an unhealthy outlook with a lack of ahavas yisroel. Pinchas acted zealously, and as Eliyahu again he zealously rebuked and scorned his people. it was l’shem shamayim, no doubt, but G-d decided that the only way to balance this fiery, “correct them” attidtude was to implant the ultimate ahavas yisroel in him, by making him 1) at every bris, and 2) mvaser moshiach. It is uhealthy in this day and age to operate from a position in which you publicly and with the semblance of authority criticize your brothers. I don’t see how it is possible not to support at the least, the extradition to Jewish courts, in a country where they are citizens… The Rambam speaks of a select few individuals who abandon their share in the world to come(hilchos Tshuva) and will remain in gehinnom. One of these is one who would give over a Jew to non-jewish authorities. I don’t believe Gil is in violation of this edict, however, when taking the yoke of being the “thorn in the side” of israel, your rewards, and punishments are no doubt increased, exponentially.

  51. It is quite clear that the Charedi media has grossly distorted the situation. An Israel TV story, complete with interviews with the Israeli police and official testimony, told a far different story.

    1)The boys knew that they were smuggling and that they were breaking the law. They thought it was antiquities and were being paid ($15, 000 each) to help the owner evade the customs duty. Their mistake, aside from not knowing it was drugs, was that they thought that if they were caught, it would be no big deal, just as it is no big deal in Israel. They even had alibis prepared in the event that they were caught.

    2)They had no problem bragging about the above to their friends in yeshiva, before they left. Their friends had no problem admiring them.

    3)All that being said, the punishment in Japan’s prisons is without Rachmunos and the sentences are far beyond what a western country would give for the same crime, under the same circumstances.

  52. I would add to my comment above, that, from what I recall from the Israel TV story, the Japanese interrogation records show that they had coordinated their alibis beforehand, as they were separated after arrest.

    The writer here mentions their passing the lie detector tests. That might very well be true, but what questions did they “pass”?

    Was it, “Were you aware that you were engaged in smuggling?’ or was it, “Were you aware that the item you were smuggling was drugs?”

  53. I should add once again, of course, that every effort should be made to help these boys, given the extent of the punishment.


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