I appreciate The Jewish Press’s publication of Ed Koch’s op-ed column on the academic lynching of Harvard President Lawrence Summers. The outcry against Summers for raising an issue for thought and debate is very sad. Once again we are witnessing a horrible double standard from the media, the academic Left and supposed women’s rights groups.
As a scientist I’ve worked closely with many women engineers and scientists. From what I’ve read, Summers was not labeling women as lesser beings. Rather, he appeared to be trying to stimulate debate on the causes and issues associated with the lower number of women teaching in certain fields at the university level.
The same Left that vilifies Summers has gone to extremes defending the rights of University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill (of “little Eichmanns” fame). It is almost as if the academic community is run by a Stalinist doctrine of “agree with me and live, disagree with me and off to the gulag.”
Op-ed’s ‘Feminist Agenda’
Wendy Ansellem fails to defend her thesis in “Vashti Reclaimed…” (op-ed, March 25). Her citations from Midrash Esther Rabbah and Tractate Megillah betray superficial and selective research, designed to advocate a feminist agenda.
Esther Rabbah, in particular, focuses on Vashti’s fate. Prologue 12 identifies her as the last descendant of Nebuchadnezzar. Chapter 3 discusses her “good” party, which also celebrated the destruction of the Temple. She, too, displayed the garments of the High Priest (3:9). It was she who influenced Achashverosh to halt its reconstruction, thus carrying on the legacy of her evil ancestor. This is the real reason for her punishment.
Further in Esther Rabbah, her time had come to be killed (3:9). Vashti was condemned on the seventh day, the Sabbath for having mistreated Jewish maidservants and making them work on the Sabbath (3:11).
Yes, she refused to appear before the king, but first with a subtle appeal, then a sharp one (3:14). It was not her modesty (Esther’s trait, which you misread as docility), but her contemptuous attitude, born of royal lineage, that sealed her doom (3:14).
Do your homework, Ms. Ansellem! Suggested reading: Midrash Esther Rabbah Hamevo’ar (English translation).
Hold The Baby Food
I was surprised and delighted to read Wendy Ansellem’s op-ed in The Jewish Press. For too long Orthodox newspapers have been spoon-feeding their readers spiritual baby food. It’s as though the people who run those papers feel their readership is comprised of simpletons who are best off being protected from any ideas that run counter to what their third-grade teachers taught them. Anything that smacks of original thinking is banned, and exposing readers to innovative ways of looking at our holy texts is not even a consideration.
The decision to feature Ms. Ansellem’s article indicates that your paper refuses to be boxed in by those who would plunge Orthodox Jewry into a Dark Age of the intellect. Contrary to the impression one gets from reading the other Orthodox papers, there are Orthodox Jews out here who refuse to check our brains at the door of the beis medrash.
Barred For Remarks, Not Beliefs
I must take issue with Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum’s assertion in the Machberes column of March 25 that Rabbi Abraham Hecht “was barred from Israel for his support of a complete Israel.”
There are countless numbers of American Jews opposed to Oslo and supportive of a “complete Israel” who have never been barred from visiting Israel. Rabbi Hecht was indeed (temporarily) barred, but not for his position on Oslo or his support of a complete Israel. It was because of certain intemperate comments he made in the months prior to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin – comments that were widely interpreted as advocating, or at the very least condoning, the killing of Rabin for his agreeing to cede territory to the Arabs. Whether Rabbi Hecht’s remarks were misinterpreted is not for me to decide, but it was those remarks – and nothing else – that led the Israeli government to refuse him entry.
Praise For Rachel Weiss
Once again Rachel Weiss has enhanced The Jewish Press and uplifted its readers with a holiday-related front-page essay (‘Blissful Laughter … Forever After,’ March 25). Her meditations on the Jewish holidays are an erudite mix of Torah shebichtav, midrash, and historical anecdote. She manages to package substantive insight in a crisp, light writing style, and even the more esoteric elements of her presentation are easily understood by readers of all backgrounds and levels of learning. I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t see a Passover essay from her in a few weeks!
New York, NY
…More Of The Same
Rachel Weiss’s page-one essays seem to have become a Jewish Press Yom Tov/holiday tradition. I just hope she doesn’t run out of things to write about anytime soon.
‘From The Heart’ Letter Still Drawing Reader Response
Re the letter to the editor from Mr. Ben Joseph (“From the Heart,” March 4):
As someone who has been involved in setting up and running a community-based, not-for-profit shidduch organization for several years, I can fully relate to the pain and frustration expressed by the writer.
The shidduch crisis is out of control and Klal Yisrael is suffering the fallout. The loneliness and depression of those who remaining single, the unborn neshomos, the problems with parnassa, marital abuse etc. – these are all very real issues, which the haredi community in particular has difficulty confronting.
It’s not that we don’t acknowledge that this is happening, rather it’s the pervasive feeling that nothing can be done to change the situation, and therefore no real attempts are made to try.
However, before one can attempt to fix something, one needs to identify what, in fact, is broken. Is it the lack of leadership, the educational system, the dearth of parnassa possibilities, our societal values? The list of theories goes on and on.
Having dealt with this problem day in and day out for several years now and given it much thought, I would like to propose the following:
A website should be established under the auspices of an umbrella group representing a cross-section of the frum community – Agudah, OU, Young Israel, etc. The purpose of the website would be to collect information. The information sought would be in the form of a questionnaire put together by frum professionals (e.g. sociologists) with guidelines and subject to the approval from the above organizations and their rabbinical leadership.
All individuals (professional and layman alike) who care about how the Orthodox community is evolving would be invited to respond in confidence or anonymously to the questionnaire. The website would be advertised and promoted in the Jewish media throughout North America, and perhaps the organizations would also actively encourage their members to respond. If those in other countries wished to participate, they would be encouraged to do so.
The incoming data would be analyzed, and a comprehensive report published within a year of the website’s launch. The report would identify common areas of concern (with facts and figures and not generalizations), root causes, and recommendations would be made as to how they could be rectified. It would then be up to the rabbonim and community leaders to implement the recommendations to the best of their ability.
Unfortunately, it may be unrealistic to hope that there exists sufficient achdus in Klal Yisrael for the various organizations to work together for their common good. If such is the case, I pray that some concerned individuals or charitable foundation will take the initiative to ask the questions that will provide the answers in order to alleviate the crisis before it becomes irreversible.
If readers think my proposal has merit, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions on how to improve on or implement it. If there is enough of a grass roots movement for action, then with siyata dishmaya it may indeed possible to effect changes to the current critical situation.
I hope it’s not too late to comment on Ben Joseph’s remarkable letter to the editor. I agree with him wholeheartedly on the nature of the problems that afflict us, and I know that his complaints are shard by many baalei bayit who voice their views to their wives, their friends at minyan, etc. – but clam up in the presence of a rav or rosh yeshiva.
How can we expect the situation to change if we don’t take direct action? We must make it clear to these men – whose salaries are paid by us, the frum public – that we are not satisfied with the derech they are teaching our sons; that we demand accountability and are prepared to find other, more suitable candidates to teach our students and lead our shuls; and that just because someone has the title of “rabbi” in front of his name does not mean he’s entitled to unquestioning reverence (anyway, it’s not exactly a secret that in many cases that title would not survive a careful background check – just look at all the people listed in the Brooklyn phone book as “rabbi”).
New York, NY
Parents Share Blame
Mr. Joseph’s letter was right on target. Only the best of the best should be devoting their time fully to Torah, while the rest can certainly learn before and after work, as well as help support those learning full time. My brother puts in a long day at work, and when he comes home he puts in several hours learning and going to shiurim. Not only that, he has also published more than one sefer halacha. Now how many men learning in kollel full time have put out seforim?
I would only like to add one point to Mr. Joseph’s arguments. I believe that the roshei yeshiva and rabbeim are responsible for a big part of how these boys act, but what about their parents? They also have had a hand in showing their sons what is right and what is acceptable. They allow their sons to continue learning, without any backup plans or real guidance for the future. And what about principals of girls’ schools who insist that all good girls must marry boys who learn? As it is today, families are struggling to pay for living expenses, tuition, etc. The big question is: how much longer will our society be able to support the majority of our children in learning?
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