Money Better Spent

As people prepare to fulfill the mitzvah of mishloach manot on Purim, may I remind them that the mitzvah involves sending a gift of two (2) different food items to one (1) friend. I do not believe the mitzvah is to send extravagant $300 baskets to everyone living within a three-mile-radius of one’s home. Wouldn’t that money be better spent by sending it to a worthy organization, such as Tomchei Shabbos or Hatzolah?

By sending money to Tomchei Shabbos, you ensure that needy observant families have the necessary items for a beautiful Shabbos – challah, wine, gefilte fish, and other traditional Shabbos foods. By sending a donation to Hatzolah, you ensure that your friend or neighbor will have immediate medical attention in case of any life-threatening emergency.

Now isn’t that money better spent than sending an overpriced basket containing a small bottle of grape juice, some jelly rings, some cookies, some imported chocolate, and other things that people really do not need in their home four weeks before Pesach?

Barry Koppel
Kew Gardens Hills, NY

Workable Shidduch System

Chananya Weissman in his op-ed article “The Shidduch Crisis – The Case For Natural Meetings” (March 18) asks for any evidence that forbids mixed settings.

The Mishna in Sukkah 5:2, speaks clearly of the “tikkun gadol,” the great improvement, which refers to the balcony made in the Beis Hamikdosh, designed to keep men and women from mingling.

I think the shidduch scene in the U.S. is problematic primarily because it seems to be acceptable for a boy to date more than one girl at a time. Nevertheless, the answer surely is not to disband the system but to make it workable – as it is elsewhere in the world.

Rabbi B. Katz
London, England

C-SPAN Unfiltered

Jason Maoz hit it right on the head with his characterization of how the hosts of C-SPAN’s “Morning Journal” allow the most outrageously anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments from callers to go unchallenged (“C-SPAN Falls Over the Edge,” Media Monitor, March 18).

The argument that the public is intelligent enough to sort out fact from fiction is a demonstrably weak one in light of years of studies and surveys showing that a sizeable percentage of the public is blissfully ignorant of history and current events. By allowing misinformation to routinely be transmitted under its auspices, C-SPAN is guilty of poisoning the public discourse in a far more egregious manner than any of the radio talk shows that liberals love to hate.

Marion Arnold
New York, NY

Columbia’s Moment Of Truth

Columbia University is approaching a decision that will test its civilized thought and rigorous scholarship. The issue is whether the university will continue to welcome as a professor a man who espouses deeply offensive views about Jews.

Joseph Massad is an assistant professor in Columbia’s Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, where students have charged that some instructors enforced anti-Israel views through classroom intimidation. Massad is among those teachers. Citing a “witch hunt,” he has denied the charges, which are being probed by a university committee. He declined an interview.

This is not scholarship. It is an expression of belief that Jews are all but programmed to victimize others; that they are flawed to their essence. The idea has no place at Columbia. Or anywhere else.

Allen Slater
(Via E-Mail)

‘Solomon Plan’ For Social Security

We need to set aside a portion of the Social Security tax and place it in special accounts to benefit our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. That way, the more offspring one has, the greater his/her nest egg will be.

The majority of the Social Security tax revenue collected will, as it currently does, continue paying through the general fund to all who are qualified for its benefits, regardless of whether or not they have children. But let’s allocate a small portion of our Social Security to those who gave us life. Those who have offspring who work and pay taxes will reap additional benefits from the “Fifth Clause” (as in the Fifth Commandment), which will grant them the additional funds.

President Bush, a devout Christian, is pro-life and obviously would recognize that under this plan people would think twice before aborting their innocent babies. This new “Solomon Plan” would create a healthy cycle of more children being born, and after eighteen short years those children’s tax dollars would begin paying for their parents’ retirement cost of living.

As one of the most loyal fans of our brave president, I pray that he continue adhering to the very sound advice that his faithful advisers, men and women of faith, provide him by the grace of God. May Hashem always bless him, his family, and the noble work he is doing for all mankind.

Joseph Lieberman
Brooklyn, NY

Right Wing And Pragmatic? Readers Respond

Refreshing Change

The Jewish Press is to be commended for publishing Joseph Schick’s well-reasoned op-ed “Can One Be Right Wing And Pragmatic?” (March 18). His article represents a refreshing change from the “Israel is about to be destroyed” scenario constantly posited by so many right-wingers here and in Israel.

One can be an unreconstructed hawk on Israel and still be realistic enough to realize that it’s ludicrous at this point in time to be talking about “expelling all the Arabs” or insisting that “there’s no such thing as a Palestinian people” (historically speaking, that’s correct, but we lost that public relations battle years ago).

I admire Mr. Schick for his courage in stating convictions that no doubt will invite derision from extremists, and I thank The Jewish Press for providing a forum for views with which many of its readers undoubtedly disagree.

Yitzchak Cates
New York, NY

Benefits Of Absolutist Opposition

Although I always appreciate reading Joseph Schick’s thoughtful views on the Middle East, he falls prey to his own arguments in his March 18 op-ed. Schick says he disagrees with Prime Minister Sharon’s “disengagement” plan because he thinks it is a faulty strategy to bring about his (Sharon’s) goals “to retain all of Jerusalem’s Old City, part of the Jordan Valley, and more than the four percent of Judea and Samaria that Israel was left with under the Clinton Plan.”

But he is sharply critical of those opposed to any territorial concessions and who lack a “recognition that Israel will have to give up territory but must fight hard to keep whatever it can.”

“There is no understanding,” he says, “that both Oslo and Barak’s concessions greatly damaged Israel’s negotiating position, and that Sharon’s motivation is to preserve more than the four percent Israel would have kept had Arafat accepted the Clinton Plan.”

Why does Schick think that absolutist opposition at home does not strengthen Sharon’s hand internationally and tend to lead to fewer Israeli concessions over time? Isn’t that the flip side of Schick’s acknowledgment that Oslo and Barak’s unilateral concessions undermined Israel’s negotiating position?

And why does he not explore the consequences of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in terms of it representing a reward for terror, resulting in a boost for Hamas and an undermining of Mahmoud Abbas?

Moreover, doesn’t an uncompromising biblically-based Jewish claim, especially to East Jerusalem, add crucial weight to Israel’s position in the light of the Palestinian rationale of not only nationalism but also religious imperative?

Finally, to me it is not very seemly to criticize as politically naive those who unashamedly take the Five Books of Moses seriously. One man’s naivete is another’s faith. Schick may disagree with their interpretation of Scripture, but the religious Right really does have a point.

Glenn Friedman
New York, NY

Defeatist Attitude?

Joseph Schick seems to suffer from the same defeatist attitude that afflicts many in the Jewish community. No one respects someone who does not stand up for principle. When Arafat rejected the so-called Clinton Plan, it was only because he thought it was a gift so easy to come by that an even better deal was just around the corner. For good reason, he saw Oslo as a ground floor for future negotiations.

Nor has President Bush gone as far as he has because of Israel’s rolling over. Bush’s support is as strong as it is because of Israel’s willingness to take on terror and its refusal to knuckle under to the UN and the Europeans.

Barak’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon made heroes of Hizbullah and did more than anything else to glorify terrorism in the Arab world and encourage Palestinian recalcitrance. How can anyone think that Gaza will be any different? The problem is not that people don’t think that Sharon has a plan to keep as much as possible, but that he does not seem to have learned from recent history.

Leslie Millstein
(Via E-Mail)

Joseph Schick replies:

Yitzchak Cates’s kind words are appreciated. Glenn Friedman asks why I don’t explore the consequences of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. In fact, I have analyzed – in detail – Sharon’s plan in previous Jewish Press columns, and expressed my opposition to the withdrawal based upon such analysis. Those columns are available on the Jewish Press website.

Mr. Friedman believes that “absolutist opposition” will “lead to fewer Israeli concessions over time.” But history suggests the opposite. Prime Minister Shamir’s government was brought down by the far right following Israel’s participation in the 1991 Madrid Conference. Shamir was replaced by Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Oslo Accords and revived the PLO. The National Religious Party caused the collapse of the Netanyahu government following the 1998 Wye River Agreement to transfer 13 percent of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority. When Ehud Barak defeated Netanyahu in the ensuing election, the NRP was the first to join Barak’s new coalition. Barak’s concessions at Camp David and Taba dwarfed anything Netanyahu ever contemplated.

This does not mean that right-wing opposition to Sharon is always inappropriate or ineffective. As I wrote, my views are similar to those of Uzi Landau, who leads the Likud opposition to Sharon. Landau recognizes that territorial compromise will be necessary for real peace, but rejects the Sharon plan. Coherent opposition based upon pragmatic goals is distinct from “absolutist opposition.”

As for the Five Books of Moses, I too take them seriously – along with the rest of Tanach and the Talmud. Religiously, historically and morally, Israel has a right to all of Judea and Samaria. But a strategy that ignores the serious challenges Israel faces will not succeed in retaining disputed territory.

Leslie Millstein calls my attitude “defeatist” but his letter has little to do with my column. The column and previous ones clearly stated my view that Oslo, Ehud Barak’s acceptance of the Clinton Plan and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza were and are mistakes. Mr. Millstein’s failure to distinguish between my political views and goals and those of Barak are a good illustration of my column’s assertion that many on the extreme right have no ability to recognize nuance. Not everyone to the left of Kach is a leftist. Mr. Millstein’s apparent belief that President Bush’s vision for a permanent settlement differs greatly from Clinton’s ignores Bush’s frequent comments that indicate the contrary.