Poignant Essay

I found the Feb. 4 front-page essay by Nathan Lewin (“Say It Ain’t So…But It Was So”) incredibly moving.

The American Jewish community in the 1940’s lacked three essential elements that we now take for granted:

1. Political power, unity, and influence on a large scale in the national political process.

2. Communication among and to Jews, and communication by the print media to the U.S. population (TV was not yet available and radio did not convey images or the seriousness of the situation faced by Jews.)

3. Systems engineering to integrate communication and information in order to facilitate a unified plan of action supported by American Jewry to pressure the U.S. government to take action.

Yes, there was silence. I never heard anything. My parents and relatives knew nothing and spoke nothing. I learned later what happened by reading about it from a few sources when I was in high school. Even in high school and college, what happened in Europe during the war was never discussed in class. (In college I read transcripts of the Nuremberg trials.)

I recall the perception of the non-Jewish community in the 1950’s was that the Jews went without resistance to the gas chambers. We were viewed as a non-violent, pathetic people. A few church officials even suggested that Jews deserved their fate because they rejected Jesus. The shock to the world came in 1967. Perceptions changed overnight. Jews who fought! To many, it was a new phenomenon.

It is hard to reconcile today’s reality with recent history. Mr. Lewin’s essay is a poignant reminder.

Sidney Krimsky
Brookline, MA

Actions Needed From Abbas

Re the report that Israel will soon release 900 Palestinian Arab prisoners after demands were made by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas:

If Abbas were sincerely committed to peace with Israel, he would not wish to see these prisoners released. Because those involved with terrorism, directly or indirectly, could return to their illicit actions and cause harm to serious peace negotiations. In fact, Abbas should be putting more individuals in prison by capturing, arresting and convicting those involved in terrorism.

But Abbas not only demands release of these prisoners, he refuses to go after terrorists, regularly stating that “I will not use guns against my own Palestinian citizens.” Doesn’t every police force in the world use guns against their own citizens who are criminals or killers?

Until Mr. Abbas finally fulfills the Oslo promises of 11 years ago and the Road Map promises of two years ago by dismantling and disarming the terrorist groups, arresting the terrorists, closing the bomb factories and ending the incitement in the media, schools and mosques, peace will remain elusive. We should heed Winston Churchill’s words: “Those who appease the crocodile will be eaten last.”

Morton A. Klein, President
Zionist Organization of America

Yeshiva Boys And Driving

Lately there have been numerous reports of serious car accidents among yeshiva boys on their way to out-of-town simchas. Years ago, a successful takana (decree) was made by rabbonim and roshei yeshiva for boys under a certain age not to drive in the Catskills during the summer. Baruch Hashem, it worked. It is time, I believe, for roshei yeshiva and rabbonim to once again enact a takana concerning driving.

In order not to miss learning seder, many boys will drive back immediately after a wedding without having had any sleep since the previous morning. Is it any wonder that fatigue sets in? Registered bus companies require their drivers on long-distance trips to rest beforehand. Why is it that our precious children aren’t given the same consideration? Furthermore, the roads in the Northeast can be treacherous in the winter, what with black ice and snow. Often the boys have little experience in highway driving. They may overreact to a situation that an older driver with experience would handle safely. Having said all this, I propose the following:

Being that our children are priceless to us, we should forbid boys from returning from weddings the same evening. Notwithstanding the bittul Torah, the roshei yeshiva cannot allow this situation to continue. Pikuach nefesh is docheh Torah! Only if a chartered bus can be arranged would it be permitted to come back the same night. Only boys 21 years and older with experience of having driven on highways at night would be allowed to drive other boys to and from weddings. Finally, no boys should be driving in winter.

Hopefully, with these takanos in place and with the blessing of rabbonim and roshei yeshiva, there will be a dramatic decline in what we have recently been seeing.

May we only share in one another’s simchas.

Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
(Via E-Mail)

Again And Again

The front-page essay by Shlomo Z. Mostovsky (“Never Again?” Jan. 21) should have been titled “Again and Again and Again,” for the age-old lesson has yet to be learned by us.

The points Mr. Mostovsky makes are well-taken until the end. His final paragraph reads: “I believe we must develop a mechanism to respond with protests wherever and whenever anti-Semites are given a forum. We must mobilize our high-school and college students … speak out whenever we can ….”

Once again the wrong conclusion is drawn. The correct answer is: We must re-commit ourselves to Torah and mitzvos with all our abilities. This is the only thing that will save us. In the previous Holocaust, protests and boycotts were worthless – even counter-productive.

In the time of gezeiras Haman, the Jews were saved not by protests or “speaking out” – but by Mordechai’s gathering together all the children to learn Torah. The Jews rededicated themselves to a second kabbolas haTorah, not demonstrations. (See Megillah 16a).

We Jews just don’t get it. The Torah spells out for us in very precise and unambiguous language the punishments that will befall us if we fail to keep the mitzvos, as we pledged to do at Sinai. Every single one of the dire warnings came true time and again, literally and figuratively. (See Parshas Bechukosai and Ki Savo.)

It behooves us to recall the famous parable of the Netziv – Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, of blessed memory: When a man is beating a dog with a stick, what does the dog do? It tries to bite and attack the stick, not realizing it is the man doing the beating, not the stick.

Anti-Semitism, says the Netziv, is Hashem’s stick; no one can harm us without Hashem’s permission, yet we perpetually repeat the same mistake: We react to the stick instead of the One wielding it.

May Hashem put it into the hearts of all of us to return to Him, and bring an end to all our tzaros.

Mrs. E. Schonfeld
(Via E-Mail)

Conservative Judaism Adrift

The true state of the Conservative movement was revealed in an article in The New York Times on Jan. 27. The paper reported that a Conservative female rabbi was censured by the denomination’s Rabbinical Assembly for working at a Reform temple without informing that August body. The censure was based not on theological objections but because the rules which were violated “prevent synagogues from poaching one another’s rabbis.”

It did not seem to concern the Conservative clergy that this woman was performing same-sex marriages. In fact, her lawyer said that “She continues to be completely devoted to the goals and ideals of the Conservative movement.” The article went on to note that the Conservative movement’s position against gay marriage is not binding, “tacitly allowing individual rabbis some discretion.”

This should prove to all what has long been known by the Conservative movement’s critics: The movement stands for very little and is moving ever further away from authentic Jewish belief.

Robert Markowitz
Brooklyn, NY

Gaza Control Too Costly

Much has been said for and against the disengagement plan. The situation here is that it is too costly in all terms for the Israeli government to attempt to control Gaza. Leaving Gaza is just like leaving South Lebanon – the major difference being that in South Lebanon we had an obligation to the Christian Militia that worked with us for 18 years. In Gaza we are dealing with Israeli citizens who were given incentives to move there.

The plan goes wrong with its forcing residents to leave. Those people living in Gaza should be encouraged and assisted in reestablishing elsewhere in Israel if they want to. If not, they should be left with the understanding that they become responsible for living under PA rule with all the risks and/or benefits that go with their decision

Morris Amsel
Moshav Shoresh, Israel

Special Thanks

I would like to publicly thank Mr. C.B. for his patience, time, and assistance in getting my car out of its snowbound parking spot on Tuesday, February 1, on 14th Avenue in Boro Park. He had just finished getting his own car out of his spot when he noticed my van – and without hesitation he backed his car up, borrowed the shovel once again and dug my car out. And he did it with a smile. (Thanks to his passenger as well.)

With much appreciation,

Chevi Greenwald
Brooklyn, NY

Animal Rights Or Wrongs?

Critics Respond To Beverly Barton – And She’s Not Taking It Lightly

‘Rights,’ Not ‘Equality’

Beverly Barton claims that animal rights supporters believe that all species are equal (“Animals Have No Rights,” op-ed, Jan. 21) – a simplistic and patently absurd phrase designed to deceive people into rejection of animal rights philosophy. What AR people do believe is that all species deserve consideration and respect, and have rights to bodily integrity and freedom from torture, as well as the right to live out their lives in their own best interests rather than someone else’s.

Dr. Barton’s opening (mis)quote by Ingrid Newkirk “A pig is a boy is a dog is a rat” is a well-publicized but inaccurate version of the real thing: “A pig is a boy is a dog is a rat when it comes to suffering.” Omitting the final phrase changes the whole meaning of the sentence. Newkirk was trying to make the point that all these species have the physiological capability to suffer.

The so-called Center for Consumer Freedom is a front group for businesses in the restaurant, food production, fast food, tobacco and like industries, whose profits suffer as people learn about their harmful products from consumer advocacy groups. It goes after these organizations – as diverse as PETA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving – using what can only be described as inflammatory, baseless claims and roughshod tactics to achieve its aims.

For Dr. Barton’s information, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has never claimed to be a physicians’ group exclusively. Right on its website it states the group is composed of both doctors and laymen. However, all the research it conducts and papers it publishes are done by doctors, giving them validity and full status.

Dr. Barton finally advances her thesis that animals do not have rights because they are not equal to humans intellectually. But equality has never been used as a basis for awarding rights. Mentally impaired humans, as well as infants and small children, are not “equal” to adult humans and yet are still accorded rights.

The whole concept of “rights” is a relatively recent one in human history, having only been advanced since the 17th century. As a legal creation, “rights” can be applied wherever it is seen fit. For example, corporations, ships and buildings have been declared under the law to be “persons” with “rights” even though such entities are obviously unequal to humans and in fact are creations of them. If ships and buildings can have rights, I don’t see why animals can’t – at least they are alive.

Patricia Panitz
Centerville, MA

The View From PCRM

Beverly Barton offered misleading allegations about the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and our efforts to educate the public about healthful vegetarian and vegan diets.

First, contrary to Barton’s insinuations, PCRM is nonprofit research and health advocacy organization with more than 5,000 physician members, including such noted experts as Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic.

Second, scientific research strongly supports PCRM’s contention that meat-heavy diets increase the risk of health problems ranging from obesity and hypertension to heart disease. In a recent study published in the journal “Diabetes Care,” Harvard researchers found that consumption of meat significantly increased the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Vegetarian diets can be a powerful choice for wellness, which should make meatless eating habits particularly attractive to anyone determined to follow the Torah mandates to preserve our health.

(Ms.) Simon Chaitowitz
Communications Director
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Washington, D.C.

‘Anti-PETA Diatribe’

Beverly Barton makes her living experimenting on animals in laboratories, so it’s hardly surprising to read her vehement anti-PETA diatribe. If she indeed believes that animals have no rights, she should consider eating Rocky, her family collie. Or she could make a nice hat or scarf out of him to go with her fur coat.

If someone had told me 25 years ago that I would be a vegan, I would have said he or she was crazy. But after a few mailings from PETA, I decided to explore how animals are treated on factory farms and at slaughterhouses. What I learned kept me up at night, and led me to a vegan diet. This knowledge also probably saved my life. I’ve never been healthier, and my cholesterol has drop twenty-five percent.

Asked whether he turned vegetarian for his health, Yiddish author and Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer replied, “I didn’t do it for my health, but for the health of the animals.” Why is it we subject these defenseless animals to such atrocities simply for the taste of flesh?

Stewart David
Asheville, NC

Fundamental Misrepresentation?

Beverly Barton fundamentally misrepresented animal rights philosophy. Animal rights advocates do not purport that nonhuman animals are equal to humans in every way. Instead, as per Physiology 101, everyone can agree that humans and animals are alike in that we feel pain and can suffer from it. Cows should not be granted the rights to vote or drive, but only the rights relevant to their species.

By mass-producing animals and raising them for food, we disregard their interests. Dominion does not mean domination or tyranny. On modern factory-farms, kosher and non-kosher animals alike are robbed from their mothers shortly after birth, crammed into tiny spaces where they can hardly move, and have their body parts mutilated without painkillers.

Michael Croland
Pittsburgh, PA

Beverly Barton Responds:

Patricia Panitz has never read any of PETA’s literature. That group, the most prominent of the AR groups today, does purport that all species are equal, hence that quote of Newkirk’s. At the very least, AR purports that humans and other animal species are equals. That is what I maintain is contrary to Torah Judaism. As for all species (vermin too? Ants? Amebas?) deserving consideration, that is called animal welfare, something I wholeheartedly endorse, as does Torah Judaism.

I most certainly did not misquote Newkirk. She also said, in the same interview with Vogue magazine, that even if animal research were to lead to a cure for AIDS, “We’d [meaning PETA] be against it.” If she cared about the suffering of these species, why isn’t she advocating responsible pet ownership, for example, instead of insisting that pet ownership is akin to slavery? In a raid on a laboratory a few years ago, PETA “liberated” some animals post-surgery – and had to euthanize them after it was discovered that PETA had made no provision for the veterinary care of the animals.

Why doesn’t Ms. Panitz admit she’s a front for SourceWatch? She quotes them in toto without attribution. I believe that’s called plagiarism. As for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, here is what she’s writing about, as it appears on the Center for Consumer freedom’s website:

“Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) began with the admirable goal of reducing drunk-driving traffic fatalities by educating the nation about the devastation caused by drunk drivers. For the first 15 years, this strategy paid off: MADD’s public relations campaigns played a key role in changing the nation’s attitude about drunk driving, resulting in a huge drop-off in drunk-driving deaths. But as we point out in a newly released profile of MADD at ActivistCash.com, the group has adopted a new mission, which has nothing to do with drunk driving and everything to do with attacking the responsible consumption of adult beverages. [Go to] www.consumerfreedom.com/ news_detail.cfm/headline/2554 to read our profile, which exposes MADD’s deep-seated belief that any and all drinking before driving should be prohibited – even when it’s done responsibly and legally.”

So, Ms. Panitz, can we as Orthodox Jews let MADD take away the ritual use of wine? “Baseless and roughshod?” I think not.

Next, Ms. Panitz tells us that “PCRM has never claimed to be a physicians’ group exclusively….” If so, the organization’s name should not be Physicians for Responsible Medicine but something like People for Responsible Medicine. Same initials. The word “physician” is used purposely to mislead folks into thinking this is a group of MD’s. It is not. What research? A search on the National Institute of Medicine’s library database does not turn up any peer-reviewed research by PCRM. Self-published research? Non-reviewed research? Enlighten me.

Re Ms. Panitz’s concluding paragraph: Does she really think ships and buildings and other types of inanimate objects have rights? How did the ship claim its rights? I want to meet its lawyer – I could use a good one.

My point is about humans vs. animals, not humans vs. humans. As it happens, Pete Singer, the philosophy professor who is a major guru for PETA and the AR movement in general, does not believe that all humans should have equal rights. He’s published statements to the effect that mentally impaired infants be euthanized (see the URL below), and a couple of years ago, while a professor at Princeton University, he stated unequivocally – in the classroom, mind you – that bestiality is permissible (this may have led to his abrupt departure from that esteemed university). In fact, he has begun an anti-Christianity campaign (see http://www.dogchurch.org/discus/messages/5/151.html?1104778051).

Legal declarations can be overturned tomorrow; the examples Ms. Panitz cites (without references to actual case law, I note) are neither truths nor accepted norms, but legal constructs for the sake of a courtroom argument.

Ms. Simon Chaitowitz neglects to say where exactly in my article I wrote that PCRM is a for-profit group. Dr. Esselstyn was a consultant – and is not a faculty member or an attending physician for the Cleveland Clinic. A search of its website produced no Dr. Esselstyn currently on staff. In fact, it looks like he ended his relationship with the clinic in 1999.

The causes of type 2 diabetes are many, and the article cited by Ms. Chaitowitz pointed to one aspect; I could show dozens if not hundreds of articles pointing to a relationship between obesity and type 2 diabetes, between leptin and type 2 diabetes, between genetics and type 2 diabetes. This is a complex disease and Ms. Chaitowitz does a public disservice by broadcasting a simplistic answer from a single study (wasn’t it funded by PCRM? – I smell a conflict of interest here).

Vegetarianism, Ms. Chaitowitz, is not the only way to preserve health; anyway, there is no non-animal source for vitamin B12. Can’t preserve health without that B12.

Stewart David notes, with apparent disapproval, that “Beverly Barton makes her living experimenting on animals in laboratories.” Yes, Mr. David, I am a biomedical researcher searching for a cure for the number-two cancer killer of men, prostate cancer. You, of course, can decide not to accept life-saving measures because they were developed through animal research. Were you vaccinated? Do you take any medications? The true vegan and AR adherent really should do neither, you know.

As to Mr. David’s other concerns: (A) Animals for kosher slaughter are not factory-farmed. (B) Kashrut is most certainly in keeping with animal welfare. © Bashevis Singer, although raised in an observant household, chose to leave the derech. He may have been a great writer, but a teacher of Jewish observance he wasn’t.

Frankly, I’m fascinated by Mr. David’s personal testimony. He changed his whole life after reading PETA’s mailings? Had he sent away for them (and was therefore open to PETA’s solicitations)? Did he investigate them? If not, why not?

Finally we come to Michael Croland. Yes, Mr. Croland, animal rights activists do purport what I have said. Read their literature sometime. They are against pet ownership (they call it slavery), and would have us live with tens of millions of feral dogs and cats instead. A truly horrifying prospect.

It would have been helpful, Mr. Croland, if you’d have provided a reference for your statement about animals “hav[ing] their body parts removed without painkillers.” Are you referring to castration? Well, why aren’t you decrying circumcision, which is done on eight-day-old human males without anesthesia? Or childbirth? Most of us women are expected to give birth without anesthesia. And it is not always by choice, either. There are types of surgeries to remove brain tumors that are done without anesthesia. Did you know that? And did you know that for the removal of plaque from their teeth, dogs are anesthetized? Will your dentist do that for you? If the answer is yes, I’m switching to your dentist!