To Err Is Human

Please allow me to use this space to apologize to readers for my faux pas in my Purim front-page essay (“Purim: Agony and Ecstasy,” March 10). The Hebrew year as appears in the opening feature of the essay should have read 5583 rather than 5183 (making it 1823 instead of 1423); likewise, later on in the story the year 5253 should have read 5653 (making it 1893 instead of 1493). A typo led to a miscalculation down the line that went unnoticed.

In the spirit of Purim and v’nahapochu – even though I hadn’t yet uncorked my favorite Chardonnay at the time – I hope to be forgiven.

Rachel Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

Holding Rogers Accountable

Kudos to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for once again standing up for our community and demanding that architect Lord Richard Rogers be barred from the redesign of the Jacob Javits Center if Rogers’s architectural firm was indeed aiding the Arab boycott of Israel (“The Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘Paradise Now,’ and Lord Rogers,” editorial, March 10). Rogers has now disavowed any pro-boycott activity, but he never would have had to answer for offering a space to anti-Israel advocates without Speaker Silver’s insistence.

At a time when the Bush Administration was prepared to turn over our ports to a Dubai company that refuses to move goods from Israeli companies, the speaker’s renewed focus on the vast economic tentacles of the boycott movement is particularly welcome. With endless mergers and corporate consolidations, local and state governments must make sure that we are not doing business with those who participate in an illegal and immoral boycott of Israel.

Anti-boycott laws have been on the books for decades, but the internationalization of commerce demands increased oversight on compliance by public contractors.

Ryan Scott Karben
State Assemblyman
95th District of New York

Mum On Imam

The widespread apologias and free speech defenses offered up on behalf of Imam Umar Abdul-Jalil of New York City’s Department of Corrections shows just how much on the money your March 10 editorial was – and, indeed, how right you’ve been in your frequent comments on the differing standards applied to the treatment of religious groups. In today’s politically correct climate, Islam and Muslims are to be handled with the softest of kid gloves, while evangelical Christians, traditional Roman Catholics and, of course, Jews (particularly Orthodox Jews) are fair game for criticism and subject to all manner of denigration.

The imam – he’s actually the senior clergyman in the Corrections Department – in addition to making the outrageous statements that the White House is run by terrorists and that Muslims were tortured in Manhattan prisons after the World Trade Center attack, urged Muslims in America not to allow “the Zionists of the media to dictate what Islam is to us.”

Just imagine the reaction from our liberal politicians and journalists if the imam had included in his diatribe negative comments about homosexuals or feminists – or, on the flip side, imagine the response from his fellow Muslims if he’d condemned the Muslim militias that are targeting the hapless blacks of Darfur.

Michael Belfer
Cincinnati, OH

Self-Inflicted Woes

Will the Israeli electorate be mislead again by defeatist politicians? While tired Israeli officials tirelessly invoke the specter of Arab demography to justify their incremental surrender of the Promised Land to unrepentant terrorists, they conspicuously ignore their duties to boost and ensure a Jewish majority.

Specifically, these individuals refuse to outlaw wholesale abortions, which tragically destroy approximately 50,000 precious Jewish fetuses annually. Neither will they banish missionaries who have deceptively ensnared thousands of innocent and uninformed Jews. Nor have they been able to significantly decrease the vehicular slaughter on Israeli roads which has cumulatively caused more deaths than all the wars and terror attacks combined. Moreover, the absence of effective programs to reduce smoking and drug traffic among Israel’s youth and the rise of violent crime are further examples of serious policy omissions.

Undoubtedly, if the next government swiftly enacts programs to help remedy the above-mentioned problems, Israel’s current 76 percent Jewish majority will increase and many more Diaspora Jews will be attracted to make aliyah.

As Theodor Herzl proclaimed, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Israelis must vote accordingly.

Henry Moscovic
Flushing NY

Talking To Oneself

I read Jo Finkel’s March 3 “In Your Corner” column and must tell you I liked it very much. I too talk like that to myself and can tell you that I’ve succeeded so far. I guess that’s the way God talks to us, through our achievements here on earth, and of course He only wants the best for us all.

I am not a Jew but do respect and read a lot about your culture.

Anselmo de Oliveira
(Via E-Mail)
Conservatives And Gays

The true colors of the movement falsely labeled “Conservative” Judaism (there’s nothing conservative about it – it’s simply a more cautious, less honest version of Reform) were on full display last week when its so-called halacha committee delayed a vote on whether to lift the movement’s ban on gay clergy and same-sex marriage ceremonies.

According to news reports, the committee members are grappling with how to deal with the biblical passage that says, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.”

Indeed. The Torah couldn’t be more straightforward. It’ll be most interesting to see how the bright minds of the movement rationalize away the Torah’s clear position on homosexuality – not just the stark prohibition of the Bible, but the interpretations of that prohibition by rabbinical scholars down through the ages.

This isn’t a matter of reinterpreting, purely for the sake of convenience so that their congregants can drive to synagogue on Saturday, the traditional rabbinic understanding of Shabbos prohibitions. This cuts much deeper to the very heart of the Torah’s blueprint for human behavior, for personal sanctity, for the fulfillment of God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve – “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Moshe Bartelstein
Credit Where Due

When an American has an unsatisfactory experience in Israel, it is not unusual to find the complaint in American-Jewish newspapers. My wife and I recently completed a wonderful experience in Israel in the purchase and refurbishing of a condominium in Mevasseret Tzion, a suburb just to the west of Jerusalem. It’s a brief story worth reporting.

Because we do not speak Hebrew, we had the good sense and good fortune to hire as our home consultant and manager one Vered Mor, a fluent bilingual real estate manager, consultant, designer and jill-of-all trades.

Mrs. Mor’s expertise, dedication to our best interests, and unceasing hard work turned the usual, almost unavoidable nightmare of purchasing and making a second home in a foreign land into a dream come true.

Find a good lawyer and real estate agent, of course. But, dear reader, if it’s a home in Israel that’s on your agenda, find yourself a Vered Mor first.

Robert M. Bleiweiss
Calabasas, CA
Mevasseret Tzion, Israel
Censoring Evolution

I am the one who inadvertently ignited the firestorm in The Jewish Press about evolution; it was not even the main point of my original letter but for some inexplicable reason that is what readers seized upon (Letters, Nov. 25).

At first I was flattered at all the attention and bemused that so many otherwise intelligent people could brush aside mountains of evidence and deny one of the most robust and fructifying theories of science.

The theory of evolution needs no defense in The Jewish Press; it is the cornerstone of modern biology. As all roads lead to Rome, all biological roads lead to evolution. The Jewish Press is not the proper venue to challenge scientific ideas; that is done in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and before one’s colleagues at scientific meetings. None of the readers who’ve assailed evolution in The Jewish Press have published or presented in this way.

The dates and locations of meetings of societies such as the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are a Google search away for critics of evolution – if the Internet is not yet banned in their homes. And that is what should be aired in The Jewish Press.

Bemusement soon gave way to sadness and anger when I did a Google search and quickly found that I was in very good company. Rabbi Natan Slifkin in Israel had written several books showing with impeccable Torah sources that there is room in Torah for acceptance of modern science, and he was hung out to dry by a Who’s Who of haredi Torah authority in both America and Israel.

Apparently many (but by no means all) so-called gedolim are so small-minded and insecure that any idea that seems to pose the slightest challenge to their view of the world is to be suppressed, and anybody holding such views, no matter how learned, is to be branded an apikoros (heretic) and subjected to the most reprehensible vilification and character assassination. Gentiles in the academic world behave better than that toward colleagues with whom they disagree.

Many of those who signed on to the ban never read the books – and could not because they do not understand English! Nevertheless, they see fit to hold Torah up to the ridicule of the civilized world, which will now see us in the same vein as the Flat Earth Society, and to alienate inquisitive bright young Jews from Torah.

These men have drawn a line in the sand and dared us to cross. For the sake of Torah, we must shed our inferiority complex and cross it. Government in America derives its authority from the consent of the governed, and I for one do not consent to be governed by the signatories to or endorsers of the Slifkin ban and their censoring, book-banning crew – at least one of whom actually had the evolution chapters torn out of biology textbooks in his yeshiva in Brooklyn.

We have been too deferential to them for too long. We will not allow such people to enclose our minds in ghetto walls and send us back to the Dark Ages. With the guidance of American-born, English-speaking, college-educated Torah scholars, we will forge ahead, carrying Torah proudly into a world of intellectual freedom in which we participate fully.

Zev Stern, Ph.D.
Brooklyn NY