Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who Funds Aaron Feinhandler's Computer-Smashing Machane Yisrael Yeshiva?

I don't know how many people have seen the footage of this "ceremony" that took place at the Machane Yisrael Yeshiva (ישיבת מחנה ישראל) in the Beit Yisrael section of Jerusalem.

Yeah, that's right, the Rabbi, Aaron Feinhandler (אהרן פינהנדלר), is (with protective eyewear) smashing a perfectly functional PC, after which the yeshiva students all jump on it to further destroy it beyond repair in a ritual seeming like a cross between drunken frat boy antics and a good, old-fashioned book-burning. The yeshiva is oriented towards ba'al teshuvas (those born Jewish but not born/raised Orthodox/ultra-Orthodox who have embraced that lifestyle). He is talking about how computers are in general not kosher, and how the destruction is intended to be some kind of a healing process for the treyf of the computer that had belonged to one of the ba'al teshuvas.

And lest people think that this was just a stunt pulled in the spirit of Purim and the month of Adar, Vos iz Neias contacted Rabbi Feinhandler and, in an exceedingly disturbing interview, he makes it clear that it was done entirely in earnest and that computers are pure evil.

Some choice excerpts:

On the Internet you see women without their hair covered ... The reason we send our children to chareidi chinuch (education) is because we want to keep out everything that is out there. ... This is the 3rd time we've shattered a computer. The first computer we broke was a $1,000 computer ... Our boys visit homes voluntarily to try to get people to remove their computers

Perhaps the most twisted part was about the guy who had owned the computer being smashed in the video.

The computer we broke this time belonged to a photographer. He used his computer to develop his pictures, but then he realized it was causing him to fall spiritually. He decided he's better off taking pictures with a camera and then he'll develop the film in a photo shop.

Note to the rabbi. You cannot remove the 'untzius' elements that may have gotten into your photo if you "develop the film in a photo shop". But you can do that easily with Photoshop.

Needless to say, 'unkosher' cellphones and home computers are prohibited for anyone attending the yeshiva, and they will not marry off anyone who doesn't promise not to use computers.

He gave an interesting answer to "computers for work" question:

They need to work on the Internet for their parnossa? It's better to clean streets and dirty your body than to work on the Internet and dirty your soul.

Of course, few to no Haredim do those jobs either. Feinhandler certainly doesn't. Which leads to the question: Where does he get his funding from?

From the American government (via tax-exempt status), for one:

An article from Aish HaTorah's website, somewhat ironically, gives more details about who may be enabling this terrible yeshiva with funding, by providing addresses for "charitable donations" both in the U.S. and Canada.

Machane Yisrael.
9 Leib Str.
P.O Box 5666,
Beit Yisrael,
Jerusalem, Israel.
Tel: 972-2-537-0290
Fax: 972-2-537-4224

For charitable Donations:


Press Foundation
P.O. Box 19
Station T,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


To: American Friends of Machane Israel,
c/o: Gotlieb,
4901 - 18th Ave, Brooklyn NY, 11204.
Tel: 718 - 436 7826

I'm going to do some searching and post another post (which I'll link to) once I've found out more.


Lionessofgd said...

As Rabbi Aharon Feinhandler's secular niece, I have to say that your attack on my uncle and his yeshiva students - who, btw, aren't forced to take part in this; it's their own choice - and the way they choose to live their life is really uncalled for. Fine, so you want to use the computer and Internet. Fantastic. I for one know that it's not against halacha and hell I work in the web industry. I know that there are barriers and ways to make it 'kosher.' Nonetheless, these students and this great, respected Rabbi choose to live a life without them.

In his wife's seminary, a woman who works in the technology sector as well is completely allowed to have her computer with her. Because these schools, Yeshiva Mahane Israel and Midrasha Ohel Israel, are for hozrim b'teshuva, the Rabbi and Rabbanit do allow for some exceptions that other hassidic/hareidi yeshivot would not. However, it varies on the individual and what the individual needs to get to the level that they desire.

My point is, that if you don't agree with their lifestyle, fine. But bash the idea, not the person. His choices and the choices of his students are really none of your concern; it is their own personal life and, so long as they're not doing anybody physical harm (which I can pretty much guarantee that they're not part of that crazy group), what does it really matter?

This clip went viral because, yes, it is like a book burning mixed with frat ritual against technology. But before you criticize Rabbi Aharon Feinhandler, you need to know that this amazing man and his wife have taken kids of drugs, prostitution and other crimes and given them a home, love and family.

PS - Rabbi Aharon's brother, Rabbi Israel Pesach zt"l, was a hareidi posek halacha and writer. He had at least 3 laptops, 2 computers and was an avid user of the latest technology.

Meir said...

Ariella (if that's not what Lionessofgd refers to, my apologies),

He indeed has every right to encourage his yeshiva students to ditch computers.

However, (as you must be aware as an Israeli), there's a lack-of-work/employment skills problem in the Haredi community in Israel (particularly among the men); I feel that if left unchecked, it spells disaster.

So I have every right to criticize him for encouraging this among hozrim b'teshuva, and to complain that donations to such a yeshiva are tax-exempt under U.S. law.