Learning From History

In the 1930’s a madman ascended the world stage with a public declaration of his intentions. The world stood by and watched him build up a vast military killing machine. This encouraged him to expand his ambitions to world conquest. That, of course, could not be permitted, so several nations joined together and stopped him – but at the cost of a world war and not before rivers of Jewish blood were spilled.

Today we have the president of Iran and an assortment of militant Islamic groups promoting the annihilation of the Jews. Their ultimate objective is world conquest and we know they are furiously working to build up their own killing machines.

There’s a lot of diplomatic dialogue about restraint, concessions, and disengagement. Where are the emphatic warnings and ultimatums? Where are the allied forces preparing preventive actions?

“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” Theodore Roosevelt advised without the benefit of Torah. Our Torah instructs us in clear language what to do when someone comes to kill us. How many history lessons do we need?

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

Sick Nation

The bloody debacle at Amona is further proof that the body politic of Israel is afflicted with an autoimmune disease. In such an illness, the body’s defense no longer can distinguish between friend and foe. Without expert medical intervention persons with such diseases have a poor prognosis.

The Jewish state no longer differentiates between its own loyal, innocent, Jewish citizens and its brutal Arab enemies. Incredibly, Israel destroys flourishing Jewish communities – initially in the Sinai, then in Gaza, and now in Judea and Samaria.

The March elections in Israel can serve as a life-saving antidote to deadly appeasement – if authentic Jewish leaders are elected instead of tired post-Zionists who have nothing to proffer but “painful concessions.”

Let us mobilize now to help create such a positive political outcome so that we will all speedily merit to see a “new light shine on Zion.”

 Chaim ben Zvi
(Via E-Mail)


Schumer’s Demerits

By his tepid support for the Iraq war; his strong opposition to the Supreme Court nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito; his disgraceful opposition to UN Ambassador John Bolton; his fierce opposition to a ban on partial birth abortion; and his vocal opposition to vouchers, Sen. Charles Schumer has shown himself to be a particularly poor representative of our community.

No one disputes that Roberts and Alito possess brilliant legal minds. Both men are deeply religious. Nathan Lewin, an advocate on behalf of our community, has advised us in the pages of this newspaper that Judge Alito is sensitive to and understands our unique religious needs. Sen. Schumer could not care less.

The UN is totally corrupt, extraordinarily inefficient and a leading center of anti-Semitism. John Bolton, working with Pat Moynihan, was the individual most responsible for leading the successful charge to repeal the UN’s odious resolution equating Zionism with racism. More recently, Bolton confronted Kofi Annan when the latter posed in front of a map that excluded Israel. And yet Sen. Schumer has loudly asserted that by temperament and character Bolton is unfit to serve as U.S. ambassador to the UN.

Schumer is a talented, intelligent and political savvy senator, but his strident ultra-left views have made him a marginal player at best in an era when the presidency and both houses of Congress are in Republican hands.

Yitzchok Schwartz
(Via E-Mail)
‘Paradise’ Revoked?
I wrote “Paradise Lost” (op-ed, Feb. 3) right before it was nominated for an Oscar. Now there’s a petition on the web to revoke the nomination. It can be found at petitiononline.com/060201. And the following is a link for those who wish to send comments to the Oscar voters themselves – the members of the Motion Picture Academy: oscars.org/contact/general.html.
Yitta Halberstam
(Via E-Mail)


Organ Donation

I applaud Shmuel Ben Eliezer’s article on organ donation (“Organ Transplants – the Most Altruistic of Mitzvot,” Feb. 10) and I invite those who want to get a halachic organ donor card to apply at the Halachic Organ Donor Society. I would, however, like to point out that contrary to what was stated in the article, it is currently illegal to pay for organs in Israel (although monetary gifts have occasionally been awarded to families of donors after the act of donation.) Also, the correct URL for the Halachic Organ Donor Society website is www.hods.org.

Robby Berman
Founder & Director
Halachic Organ Donor Society
New York, NY

Olmert & Churchill

“We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God’s good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.”

Winston Churchill, June 4, 1940, speech before the House of Commons

“We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies.”

Ehud Olmert, June 9, 2005, speech to Israel Policy Forum in New York

Howard Blum
(Via E-Mail)

Financial Accountability

Some thoughts on last week’s letter to the editor from J. Feldheim on Jewish education and communal responsibility:

Having been actively involved in community life for more than 30 years, I have seen many wealthy Jews withhold donations to yeshivas because they perceive a lack of financial integrity; they worry that donated funds would be misappropriated and misdirected. If all yeshivas and Jewish schools would make their finances publicly accessible, the real deficits would be absorbed by many of our noble Jewish philanthropists.

The UJA Federation must be commended for forcing the change in the way rebbes and teachers are paid, especially the inclusion of health insurance, pensions, and death benefits. When my brother-in-law, Rabbi Mendel Weiss, zt”l, an eminent scholar and dedicated rebbe at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, passed away more than 25 years ago, the only institution that came forward and assisted the bereaved and suddenly needy family was the Federation, in admirable conjunction with the Joseph and Caroline Gruss Foundation. The Federation has since exerted pressure on yeshivas to take rebbes and teachers off cash payrolls and put them “on the books” with compensation packages.

We must eradicate the perception that yeshivas and Jewish schools are run by individuals who are gaining personally from donations and contributions from the Jewish public. Let us work together to ensure the integrity of our yeshivas and that they meet high standards of financial accountability.

Mark Mayer Appel
New York, NY

Thoughts On Orthodox Factionalism

 Mutual Respect Our Only Hope

Re David Mandel’s Feb. 10 front-page essay “Reflections on Jewish Factionalism”:

As a people, we segregate ourselves into tight, self-imposed communities. We justify our actions as a way of separating ourselves from the temptations of the world that lead us to assimilate. As a consequence, however, we also end up separating ourselves not only from our fellow Jews but also from our fellow observant Jews.

The U.S. is the only country I know of where there is no chief rabbi, where one bet din does not recognize another, where kashruth agencies compete instead of agreeing on a common standard.

Like our Israeli brothers, many American Orthodox Jews create “settlements” – in this case suburbs and neighborhoods where the only hats you see are black, if not furry; towns where conformity is the rule, where the entire worldview is within the borders of the town’s eruv, where beards are required, where Zionism is cursed at, and where the only non-Jews seen are house cleaners and restaurant workers.

Currently I live in Albany, where the Orthodox community is too small to be fragmented. Some wear their tzitzit in, others out. Some have techeilet, others do not. Not only do we pray under the same roof, we also eat together. I’ve met a number of families where one partner is born frum while the other is a baal teshuvah.

I feel blessed to have been raised in a shul where the hats, clothing, background, and level of Jewish education is diverse. As long as there is mutual respect among Jews, there still is hope for a strong future for Am Yisrael.

Sergey Kadinsky
Albany, NY

Orthodox Superficiality
I was delighted to read David Mandel’s essay on how the color of one’s hat has come to define one’s religiosity. I would just add an extra thought in the name of my rav in London, Rabbi David Cooper shlita, who is a talmid muvhak of Rav Dessler, zt”l, and Dayan Abramsky, zt”l, l among others. He told me a number of times that in the heim the basic question which determined the religious status of any individual was, “Is he an ehrliche Yid (an honest and upright Jew)?”
This question gets to the heart of the matter and is void of all the superficiality that fills our vocabulary as Orthodox Jews today. I know many ehrliche Jews who may not be so “religious” in their practice, whereas, unfortunately, we have all read of supposedly religious people who are really not ehrlich at all. This characteristic surely would be more revealing in the case of potential shidduchim than, say, whether the tablecloth on Shabbos is covered with plastic or if the family carries out certain strange practices in the name of religion which are not even remotely connected to simple decency.
Rabbi Ian Shaffer
Fair Lawn NJ


Tired Of Labels

I wish people would stop caring about how a Jew looks and concentrate instead on how a Jew conducts his or her life. I am so tired of labels in our klal, especially when it comes to shidduchim. I am a divorced single mom raising a 15-year-old son, and have been in contact with shadchanim and various Jewish Internet dating sites. Those sites invariably ask you to define your hashkafa level, and everyone is hung up on only dating people in their own little categories.

Whatever happened to the Judaism I grew up with? Now we have all these subgroups fighting with each other and judging one another. To paraphrase Mr. Mandel, labels belong on food, clothing, and medicine – not people.

Gisele Strauch
Brooklyn, NY