Lessons From Misfits

Pat Robertson declares that Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke was the result of divine wrath for dividing the Holy Land. The ADL’s Abe Foxman tells Robertson that his views are un-Christian. There are a couple of lessons to learn from these two misfits.

The first is that Foxman makes a better Christian than Pat Robertson, and knows less about such essential Jewish concepts as reward and punishment. The second should shame every religious Jew, particularly those who give a hechsher, even theoretically, to the notion of “land for peace.”

I don’t care about Robertson and his distorted motives. What is clear is that this non-Jew is mortified by the very notion of giving up an inch of the Holy Land. The tragedy is that he loves the land of Israel more than most Jews do.

Daniel Fuchs
(Via E-Mail)
Prayers For A `Gibor

In his hour of need I and my friends have prayed and chanted Tehillim 23, 120 and 121 for Ariel Sharon, who never “slept nor slumbered” when we, the Jewish people, were in danger. Over the years he developed the kills of a visionary, and I understand his unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was a visionary move. That’s why he gets along so well with President Bush – they are both visionaries when it comes to protecting their people.

I interviewed Ariel Sharon twice, once right after the Six-Day War when I served as a reporter and nightly newscaster for Radio UPI, and more recently when he headed the opposition Likud party. I have loved Ariel Sharon, this gibor milchama.

Ray Kestenbaum
Rego Park, NY
`Disastrous PM’

I know this will make me seem callous and cold, but I can’t get too worked up over the calamitous state of Ariel Sharon’s health. I certainly didn’t wish this on him, unlike some of the right-wing crazies who’ve been spreading their un-Jewish vile over the Internet. I hope he survives and recovers his basic functions. Obviously he will no longer be a public figure even if he pulls through this, so in that respect we can speak of him in the past tense.

Simply put, Sharon was a disastrous prime minister. A military hero, yes; a man whose military feats saved the lives of countless Jews, as well as the State of Israel itself, yes. But a good prime minister? Most emphatically not.

By giving up Gaza unilaterally, he set a precedent for future Israeli leaders. By permitting terrorists to creep ever closer to Israeli population centers, he endangered the lives of who knows how many civilians. By gutting the democratic process as he rammed through the Gaza pullout, he laid bare the myth that Israel is a democracy in any real sense of the word.

Worst of all, by uprooting thousands of Jews and destroying dozens of flourishing Jewish communities, he showed the world that no Israeli “facts on the ground” are permanent: Sinai 25 years ago, Gaza last year, maybe part of Jerusalem next year when someone like Ehud Olmert is sitting at the negotiating table.

It used to be that only the most far-out leftists acted like guilt-ridden interlopers, eager to give in to Arab demands to avoid being labeled “intransigent” or “aggressor.” Now Sharon, of all people, has given cover to the Left by making the dismantling of the Land of Israel a bipartisan policy. No wonder the leftists who hated him now love him so.

Shlomo Mizrachi
Israel Needs Jewish Leader

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (“Israel Needs A Non-Jewish Prime Minister,” op-ed, Jan. 6) writes that it is time for Israelis to begin to look seriously at having a non-Jewish prime minister. Rabbi Boteach believes no Jew can stand up to the pressures of the non-Jewish world. He suggests an evangelical Christian for prime minister. Why isn’t Rabbi Boteach worried about the support an evangelical might give to missionary work in Israel? Further, why didn’t Rabbi Boteach suggest an observant Jew as prime minister – someone who believes in the territorial integrity of Eretz Yisrael based on the first Rashi inChumash that says Hashem rightfully gave us the Land?

As proof that non-Jews have ruled over Jews in Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Boteach quotes the Gemara in Sota 41a that seemingly shows how the non-Jewish king Agrippa II was so beloved by the Jewish people. What Rabbi Boteach failed to point out is that the Gemara in Sota 41b indicates the Jews had no love for Agrippa – who flouted Jewish law and ruled by force – and flattered him only for reasons of self-preservation.

Rabbi Boteach’s proposal flies in the face of Jewish history and Jewish destiny. Israel needs a proud Jewish leader at its helm, especially in these uncertain times. It is sad to see how

little faith Rabbi Boteach has in our people that he feels we must search elsewhere for a worthy candidate.

Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
Montreal, Canada
Locking Out Science

As I read the responses (Letters, Jan. 6) to the recent letter by David Fass bemoaning the degradation of science in the yeshiva world (Letters, Dec. 30), I couldn’t help but feel regret. This regret was mostly that I had absolutely no idea of the meaning of the scientific jargon being bandied about. My yeshiva science teacher quit in a huff when I was in tenth grade and he was never replaced in the years that followed. The yeshiva’s science lab existed behind locked doors as a storage closet.

That was 20 years ago, so the greatest share of blame I cast on myself for not seeking to achieve a greater understanding of how the natural world works. My experience, I believe, is not the exception, but the rule. Six years ago, I attended a lecture on parenting led by a prominent educator in the yeshiva world. During the question and answer session, a lady raised her hand and asked why her son has so much homework in secular studies. “What do we expect our sons to be, scientists?” she asked.

I grew up in a shul where Ph.D.’s outnumbered lawyers and doctors. These were men who valued intellect. They were baalei chesed andmidos who were leaders in the community. Of my peers, and I include the dozens or perhaps hundreds of yeshiva students I knew in high school, beis medrash, and college, I know only one who earned a Ph.D., and I have great respect for his thirst for knowledge and for his tremendous personal and intellectual integrity. Those who disparage David Fass would do well to heed his advice instead.

This letter is submitted via the Internet from Monsey, where chickens haven’t turned to monkeys – but the fish have been known to speak.

David Barg
Wesley Hills, NY
Missing Midah

In her interview with Jason Maoz, Abigail Pogrebin says that she found that most of the well-known people she interviewed for her book were, to her surprise, non-observant (“Not Such ‘Stars of David,'” Dec. 30. She found this noteworthy and worth discussing. Many frum Jews can tell Ms. Pogrebin the main reason this is so: most Jewish celebrities, especially in the entertainment industry, are lacking a basic midah which keeps most of us out of the worldwide, or even the nationwide, public eye – the midah of tzniut (modesty).

Avi Schwarzmer
Fairfield, CT
Disturbing Ad

I was shocked and dismayed at the full-page add in your newspaper last week regarding the issue of metzizah b’peh. Unfortunately, a group claiming to be upholding the mesorah ofKlal Yisrael is engaging in reckless behavior and causing a chilul Hashem.

1. While it is difficult to quantify the actual risk of metzizah b’peh, there are several series of cases which have been unquestionably traced to this practice.

2. Neonatal herpes is a devastating illness and there have been fatalities reported.

3. Private warnings to leaders in segments of the community where this is widely practiced were issued several years ago.

4. The bet din the health department consulted failed to act.

5. The health department and commissioner have a legal obligation to protect the welfare of all residents of New York. This obligation is heightened for infants and children.

6. The health commissioner’s letter to all physicians was similar to the letter distributed to members of the Orthodox community. It alerted health care professionals to the signs and symptoms of neonatal herpes. Additionally, the obligation and public health requirement of reporting any infectious disease to the health department was included.

7. While the health commissioner has the legal right and obligation to ban dangerous procedures on newborns, the health department has issued advisories hoping that mohelim and community leaders would discourage the practice ofmetzizah b’peh.

8. The inability of rabbonim to modify the practice of metzizah in view of thesafek sakanah nefashot posed to babies is shocking. Unfortunately, we are a generation of orphans when it comes to Jewish leadership.

9. Amazingly, none of the cases currently being reported involved inappropriate behavior of mohelim. This is a testimony of the tahara of our mohelim.

10. The true enemies of Israel will seize the opportunity to ban not onlymetzizah but milah and shechita. Let’s not give them ammunition.

Tod J. Rothschild, MD
Oceanside, NY
Barney Ross’s Example

It was inspiring to read, in your Dec. 30 issue, that Jewish boxing champ Dimitry Salita has volunteered to take part in the upcoming Flatbush Park Jewish Center event to raise funds for the seven year-old Crown Heights yeshiva student who needs a third liver transplant.

As the niece of 1930s’ boxing champion Barney Ross, I was struck by a comment that Mr. Salita made in a recent public appearance. He said that “his role models are the greats of Jewish boxing before World War II, especially Barney Ross, for how they behaved inside and outside the ring.” I agree that my uncle Barney’s accomplishments outside the ring were as important as the boxing skills that won him the junior welterweight, welterweight, and lightweight championships.

In response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barney, though well past draft age (he was 32), enlisted in the U.S. army. In the famous battle of Guadalcanal, he was seriously wounded while rescuing injured comrades from a Japanese ambush. His heroism under fire earned him a Silver Star.

Thanks to research by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, we know that upon Uncle Barney’s return to the United States in 1944, he became active in the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, also known as the Bergson group. The Emergency Committee used full-page newspaper ads, public rallies, and Capitol Hill lobbying to pressure the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jews from Hitler.

Uncle Barney was also active in another of the Bergson committees, the American League for a Free Palestine, which sought to rally American support for the creation of a Jewish state. He spoke at its rallies and chaired its George Washington Legion, which recruited American volunteers to aid the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish underground militia (headed by Menachem Begin) that was fighting the British in Mandatory Palestine. The Legion was patterned on the famous Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which had recruited Americans to fight against Franco in the 1930’s Spanish Civil War.

One of the Bergson group’s newspaper ads featured a photo of Uncle Barney with this message from the boxing champ: “There is no such thing as a former fighter. We must all continue the fight.”

Barney Ross fought the good fight, inside and outside the ring. He fought for America in World War II, and he fought for the Jewish people in his efforts on behalf of Holocaust rescue and Jewish statehood. That is a powerful and inspiring example for today’s Jewish athletes to follow.

Audrey Cantor
Chicago, IL