Pope A Lamed-Vavnik?

I bear no ill will toward the late Pope John Paul II, but I found myself wincing at the statements put out after his death by our Jewish leaders and organizations, each of whom sought to outdo the others in praising the pontiff in language they seldom if ever use upon the passing of our rabbinical giants. Yes, the pope in many respects deserved our gratitude on a number of issues – but how can we whitewash his warm embrace of the likes of Yasir Arafat and Kurt Waldheim, or his push to have Pope Pius XII made a saint?

The most disgusting example of this shameless pandering came from Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue. Appearing on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Schneier told Mr. King that the pope, in his opinion, was a lamed-vavnik, and then proceeded to explain to the television audience what the term means.

Sorry, rabbi, but a lamed vavnik would not have conferred knighthood on Mr. Waldheim, or spoken of the nobility of Arafat when the master terrorist finally died, or sat without comment as the Syrian dictator Bashir Assad vilified the Jews to his face during a lengthy tirade.

I am, by the way, a convert to Judaism from Catholicism.

Avraham (John) Forcella
(Via E-Mail)

No Friend Of Ed’s

I protest your honoring Ed Koch by occasionally publishing his op-ed articles in your paper. For those of us who followed the dictates of the great tzaddikim of the past generation to battle Mr. Koch and his radical designs on family and kedusha, this seems plain wrong.

Mr. Koch broke the standards of kedusha by forcing the police department to integrate men and women in patrol cars, which resulted in many divorces, and by instituting gay rights with a high hand. The Skulener Rebbe, zt”l, despite his many afflictions, risked his life to fight Mayor Koch’s radical political program.

When the Democratic Party in New York City pushed him aside and nominated David Dinkins for mayor, Mr. Koch suddenly became a “conservative” on certain key issues. He may have became a hero to the secular Right, but he is not a hero to Torah Jews. He is one of those who helped instigate the decline of the family. The Jewish Press should not publish his remarks, and we in the frum community should not forget the terrible things he did and still believes in.

Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn
(Via E-Mail)

Enjoyable Lesson

I enjoyed the first installment of Dr. Yitzchok Levine’s new monthly series, “Glimpses Into American History.” The letters he found from Jewish soldiers during the Civil War were enlightening and not a little eerie.

Despite all the years that have passed since then, and the many technological advances that make the 1860’s seem as ancient as the time of the Pharaohs, the sentiments, concerns and desires expressed by those soldiers could easily have been e-mailed home by Jewish soldiers serving today in Iraq.

If this article was any indication, the series will prove to be a dynamic and enjoyable learning experience – precisely of the sort urged by Dr. Levine himself in his Jewish Press articles urging yeshivas to strengthen their secular curricula.

Paul Samuelson
Cincinnati, OH

Heed Schiavo Case

As the events surrounding the Terri Schiavo case have shown us, it is vitally important for individuals to create a Living Will and/or Health Care Proxy to ensure that healthcare decisions are made according to their personal wishes.

In the State of New York there are two common legal documents which can be used. A Living Will provides explicit instructions to physicians concerning the health-care choices and treatments that one may or may not want to receive. A Health Care Proxy authorizes another person to make health-care decisions for an individual if he/she becomes unable to do so. As a public service, the New York Legal Assistance Group provides both of these forms on
our website at: www.nylag.org/public-forms/.

Our office regularly recommends that individuals prepare both a living will and a health care proxy for the most comprehensive coverage.

Yisroel Schulman, Esq.
Executive Director
New York Legal Assistance Group
New York, NY

To Pray – Or Not – For Israeli Soldiers

Support Israel’s Defenders

I found Bezalel Fixler’s April 1 front-page essay, “Prayers for the Czar – But Not for Israeli Soldiers” to be on target and a much-needed reminder of why we should continue to support Israel.

Personally, I believe that whether or not we support the government of Israel, or even Zionism in general, we must always pray and support the residents and defenders of Israel. Without them, the tombs of our patriarchs would remain in ruins; Jerusalem wouldn’t be the large city it is today; the country would be desolate; and it would be even more difficult to unite our people.

With Israel, our people have a homeland that is always there for us to visit, move to, and gain inspiration from. Without the soldiers, none of this would be possible. Without the Zionists in control of Jerusalem, how would their Satmar critics be able to pray at the Kotel? I doubt Mr. Fixler’s essay would sway them to support Israel, but it sure inspired me.

Mr. Fixler writes as a survivor of the Transnistria death camp. My great-uncle, Israel ben Tzvi (HaCohen) Vaysbukh, zt”l, died in Transnistria. I was named after him. Compared to Auschwitz, little is written about Transnistria, where much of the killing was carried out by Ukrainian, Cossack, and Romanian collaborators, may their names be erased.

As the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E Day, May 9) approaches, I am also eternally thankful to my grandfather, who helped defeat fascism and passed the memory of his martyred brother on to me. We both pray for the defenders of Israel, knowing that they are continuing his task of defending the Jews against any enemy who tries to destroy us.

Sergey Kadinsky
President, CCNY Hillel
Forest Hills, NY

Hashem’s Gift

I wish to take note of the superb and extremely important front-page essay by Mr. Fixler. His article represents The Jewish Press I have come to know and love.

I have maintained for years that your unabashed championing of the State of Israel and its institutions will merit for you a very special place in Hashem’s graces. All the more so because many of your readers (and at least one or two of your regular columnists) still do not appreciate the incredible gift which Hashem gave to us in the form of the State of Israel.

The truth is that Hashem greatly favors those who are at the forefront of the cause of Eretz Yisrael, as it says at the beginning of Lech Lecha. For example, it is probably no coincidence that the United States, the best friend Israel has ever had, is by far the most powerful country in the world, with not even a close second. Similarly, the Wall Street Journal, one of the best journalistic friends Israel has, is also by far the most respected and powerful financial publication in the world, with no close second.

And so, too, is it the case with The Jewish Press, which unabashedly and regularly takes up the cause of the State of Israel. There is no doubt in my mind that your publication of Mr. Fixler’s article has gained for you tremendous merit.

Keep up your excellent work.

Tom Furst
Great Neck, NY

No Prayer For Political State

I am one of those Jews Bezalel Fixler doubtless had in mind in his essay. No, I do not – and will not – make a politically correct misheberach for members of the IDF. The matter, however, is not as simple as he suggests.

I cannot speak for all who similarly abstain, but hear me out. I freely acknowledge that the young men of the IDF protect Jewish lives and guard against the Arab hordes who take great delight in shedding Jewish blood. So of course I am thankful in my heart for what these soldiers do. But what does that have to do with a public prayer that has inevitable political overtones?

I sincerely believe that the State of Israel is the product of a political nationalism called Zionism, and it is that political nationalism which I refuse to support. Mr. Fixler chooses to simply ignore the point that a public, official-sounding prayer for members of the army of the State of Israel endorses the political movement that created it.

Ironically, the examples offered up by Mr. Fixler only support my view. Does he really think that the public prayers said for the despicable rulers of those countries in which Jews were persecuted and murdered were anything other than efforts to avoid governmental mistreatment or worse?

Forgive me, but I believe the Ribbono Shel Olam’s promise to us of Eretz Yisrael will come to fruition only with the coming of Moshiach and not before. The State of Israel as it now exists may protect Jews and make a lot of things possible for our people, but we must never forget that this secular, political state of Herzl and Ben Gurion is not the Redemption – or even a shadow of the Redemption – for which our ancestors have prayed for so long.

Leibel Feldman
New York, NY

Venomous Debate

I suspect that Bezalel Fixler will only reinforce the views of those who already agreed with him and not make any new converts. He certainly makes a compelling case for saying the Misheberach prayer for Israeli soldiers, and I myself have always believed as he does. What is missing from Mr. Fixler’s piece, though, is any discussion of the rationale of those who disagree with us.

There are many God-fearing Jews who do not accept religious Zionism and they are not all from the lunatic fringe represented by Neturei Karta. There are sober thinkers – such as the previous Satmar Rebbe, zt”l – whose view is that there must be strict adherence to time-honored interpretations of the process by which Jews regain Eretz Yisrael. I think the widespread, deeply insulting attacks on the previous Satmar Rebbe for his espousal of that view is proof of the essentially political nature of the Zionist movement. What other issue in our history, in terms of halacha, has resulted in such venom?

Rabbi Zev Wohl
(Via E-Mail)