Beyond The Pale

I resent the language used by columnist Emanuel Winston in last week’s Jewish Press. However one feels about the so-called ‘road map’ for Middle East peace, to imply, as Winston did, that President Bush is knowingly, and with hostile intent, pushing Israel to disaster goes beyond the pale of civilized discourse.

Harvey Lemberg
New York, NY

Editor’s Response: Neither Mr. Winston nor any other columnist appearing in the paper necessarily speaks for The Jewish Press. While we strive to provide a reasonably broad
platform for our regularly featured and op-ed columnists, the only official ‘voice’ of The Jewish Press is that found in our editorials.

All The News They Fit To Print (I)

This passage from The New York Times story on the fraudulent reporter Jayson Blair unintentionally captures the essence of the scandal:

“Two wounded marines lay side by side at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. One of them, Jayson Blair wrote, “questioned the legitimacy of his emotional pain as he
considered his comrade in the next bed, a runner who had lost part of his leg to a land mine in Iraq.” [Italics added.]

“The scene, as described by Mr. Blair in an article that The Times published on April 19, was as false as it was riveting. In fact, it was false from its very first word, its uppercase dateline, which told readers that the reporter was in Bethesda and had witnessed the scene. He had not.

“Still, the image was so compelling, the words so haunting, that The Times featured one of the soldier’s comments as its Quotation of the Day, appearing on Page 2. [Italics added.]

To the cultural leftists who run the Times, anything that casts a bitterly negative light on the United States armed forces under President Bush is so “riveting,” so “compelling,” so “haunting” that naturally they had to feature it prominently – despite the fact that the reporter’s veracity had already been seriously challenged by several Times editors.

So ensconced in their prejudices are the Times’s honchos that even now, as they are bringing this humiliating scandal to light, it doesn’t occur to them that a story about a wounded GI
questioning the “legitimacy of his emotional pain” would not necessarily be so compelling to everyone. They are still like the proverbial New York liberal who couldn’t understand how
Reagan had been elected president because no one he knew had voted for him.

The story on Blair is a revelation of the inner workings of the liberal establishment in which blind animus against Bush (or whoever the conservative demon of the moment happens to be) combined with a religious fervor to advance blacks form a perfect nexus of intellectual corruption.

Laurence Auster
New York, NY

Editor’s Note: Mr. Auster’s commentary (and spirited responses from readers) can be found on the website View From the Right (

All The News (II)

Now that The New York Times has been hoist on its own petard, embarrassed in front of the world over its coddling of Jayson Blair, an African-American reporter whose misreporting and outright lies were overlooked for years, we should ask ourselves how many more Blairs the
Times perchance might still have on its staff.

How can we believe anything we read in a newspaper that retained a reporter whose work routinely required correction? Was it the Times’s obsession with diversity and minority hiring that created the paper’s embarrassing predicament? Or have the Times’s standards for competence and truth fallen to such a low level?

Lisa Bloch
Brooklyn, NY

All The News (III)

Re the Jayson Blair controversy at The New York Times:

It is very sad indeed that it took so long for such deceptive reporting to be curtailed. It shows that there exist very few (if any) checks and balances at the Times with regard to the worthiness of content of “All the News That?s Fit to Print.”

Perhaps now that the Times is compelled to make a public mea culpa and admit to less than accurate reporting from its national desk, the editors will also take a closer look and reevaluate the level of truthfulness and accuracy practiced by their reporters in the international arena, more specifically the journalistic objectivity of their Middle East coverage.

The near daily factual misinformation on the pages of the Times concerning the suffering of the Palestinians – as opposed to the near total lack of coverage of the suffering, and the cause thereof, of Israeli victims of terror – has long marginalized the Times as a reliable source of news to those individuals privy to the facts. It has also eroded any vestiges of honor and esteem the Times may have once enjoyed.

Herschel Friedman
(Via E-Mail)

Lauds Editorial

Your Yom Ha’atzmaut editorial last week (“55 Years Since 1948”) is as eloquent a statement as I’ve seen on the place the State of Israel occupies – or should occupy – in all segments of the Jewish community.

As you pointed out, while Jews have contributed impressively to any and every society they found themselves in, it has been in the Jewish state where Jews have prospered as Jews , under the aegis of a Jewish society.

The Jewish state has also undeniably fostered a burgeoning of Torah study and authentic Jewish living that is unparalleled, even in the United States. I wonder how those who are so quick to voice a fundamental criticism of Zionism can reconcile their position with the undeniable fact that the most intractable halachic questions are regularly referred to Israeli sages.

Nor can I ever understand how the very same people who send their children to study in Israel are often the most vociferous critics of the medina. What exactly are they thinking? As your editorial said so pointedly, the Zionist enterprise has “made possible the flourishing – and ingathering – of Torah learning amidst a sea of fundamentalist Islamic hordes bent on destroying the infidels.”

I recognize that reasonable people differ on the precise biblical script regarding Eretz Yisrael. What I cannot understand is why some of us blind ourselves to what it is that binds all Jews to that holy place.

Zev Meltzer
Cincinnati, OH

Wrong On London Eruv

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum’s article on the North West London eruv (“Machberes,” May 2) contained certain inaccuracies. The most misleading was the assertion, twice repeated, that “Rav Elyashev wrote a letter warning people against using the eruv.”

This is completely untrue. Indeed, HaRav Elyashev shlita issued a statement on 10 Nisan stating (in English translation): “I confirm categorically that at no time have I made any statement or comment concerning the validity of the NW London Eruv.”

The London Beth Din, headed by HaGaon HaRav Chanoch Ehrentreu shlita, has confirmed that the principles upon which the London eruv is based are those applicable to eruvim in all major cities worldwide and the measurements are those of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, as utilized in eruvim across America.

Inspections are made each week by four reliable B’nei Torah who carefully establish the integrity of the eruv before each Shabbos.

The eruv is used by thousands of people in North West London and its implementation has undoubtedly enhanced the kedushas haShabbos of London.

Rabbi J.D. Conway
Eruv Committee
United Synagogue
London, UK

Missing Tallis, Tefillin

If anyone knows the whereabouts of a navy blue tallis bag with the name Eliyahu Shmuel Berman embroidered on it, we would greatly appreciate a phone call. The bag contained both tallis and tefillin. Please call (718) 692-4022 or (718) 851-7728 with any information.

Esther Berman
Brooklyn, NY

Trying To Revitalize School

Our local Jewish school, which not so long ago had as many as a few hundred children enrolled, has shrunk to the pint where it now has barely 50 students. Many Jewish families left the area, choosing fancier homes over a Jewish education.

I am desperately trying to find Jewish parents who would send their children to our school. I am also searching for someone, rabbi or layperson, who could narrate a video we wish to make and send to families in order to convince them that without a good Jewish education, a Jew is vulnerable to the forces of assimilation and intermarriage. (We will gladly reimburse the
person who works with us on this project).

Anyone interested should e-mail us at

Shoshana Harbor
(Via E-Mail)

More On The Debate Over Modern Orthodoxy

Misplaced Concern Over Externals

It seems to me that all of the back and forth regarding Shlomo Mostofsky’s article about Modern Orthodoxy (Jewish Press, April 25) may perhaps be categorized as “missing the forest for the trees.” What I mean by this is that there seems to be a focus on the externals with little consideration of what is behind them. There is a great deal of concern with such things as to whether or not someone wears a hat as opposed to a yarmulke, wears a beard or is clean shaven, wears stockings in the summer, or if the meat he or she uses is “glatt” or not.

Let me deal with just one of these as an example. Rav Dr. Yosef Breuer, zt”l, wrote an
article in 1950 entitled, “Glatt Kosher – Glatt Yoshor” (The article is translated in the book Rav Breuer: His Life and His Legacy on pages 238-239.) He points out that “kosher” is intimately related to “yoshor.”

“G-d’s Torah,” he wrote, “not only demands of us to love our neighbor in that we concern
ourselves with his welfare and property, but it insists further on a conduct of uncompromising
straightness (‘yoshor’) which is inspired not only by the letter of the law but is guided by the ethical principle of honesty which, then, would deserve the honorable title of ‘yeshurun.’ We would welcome a campaign to link a drive for ‘Glatt Kosher’ with an equally intensive one for ‘Glatt Yosher.’ “

Rav Breuer points out that we are to concern ourselves with our neighbor’s welfare and property. He does not say that we are to be concerned with the kind of tzitzis he wears, whether he uses only shmura matzah on Pesach, etc. Indeed, Rav Yisroel Salanter said, “A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow man’s soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries about his own soul and his fellow man’s stomach.”

In another essay written in 1954 (see pages 227 to 228 of the book Rav Breuer: His Life and His Legacy for more) Rav Breuer wrote, “One should not confuse Chassiduth with the so-called Chassidic movement which began in Poland in the 18th century…. General Chassidic Jewishness strives for Chassiduth which is a lofty achievement on the ethical ladder which the Yehudi must attempt to climb…. Accordingly, a Chassid is a Jew who gives himself in limitless love to the Divine Will and its realization and to whom the welfare of his fellow men constitutes the highest source of satisfaction.”

A person, he continued, “does not deserve the title (of Chassid) if he is particular regarding the
Kashruth of his food but fails to apply the precepts of conscientiousness and honesty to his business dealings. He does not deserve this title if his social life is not permeated by love and the deep interest in the welfare of his fellow man…. Certainly the mere exhibition of a certain type of clothing or the type of beard worn or even the adornment of long sideburns do not entitle the bearer to the title of honor – Chassid. These may be marks of distinction – but they must be earned to be deserved.”

It seems to me that the statements quoted above from Reb Yisroel Salanter and Rav Yosef
Breuer transcend all labeling. Indeed, they make me wonder if the charge of “spiritual bankruptcy” that was made by one writer about Modern Orthodoxy perhaps can be made against all segments of observant Jewry. We are supposed to be the Am Hashem that shows the world the way to the truth. When others, both Jews and gentiles, deal with observant Jews they should come away with the impression that they have dealt with a person who is in some way special and that this specialness stems from his or her religious commitment to the Torah. It behooves all of us (myself included) to keep this in mind in all that we do.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Brooklyn, NY

Going To Extremes

I believe the following quote from Victor Hugo sums up the problem with what is called “Right
Wing Orthodoxy”:

“To be ultra is to go beyond. It is to attack the scepter in the name of the throne. It is to maltreat the thing that you support. It is to insult by excess of respect; it is to find in the pope too little papistry, in the king too little royalty, and too much light in the night. It is to be dissatisfied with the snow, with the swan, and the lily in the name of whiteness; it is to be the partisan of things to the point of becoming their enemy; it is to be so very pro, that you are con.”

Robert M. Solomon
Brooklyn, NY

Battered By His Critics, Dr. Stern Responds

So much hate mail, so little time (Letters to the Editor, May 9). Those who condemned my
religious polemic made a number of unassailable points. I share their opprobrium for those who flagrantly flaunt the law. I abhor the ostentation displayed by many of the right wing persuasion. I renounce the elitism that has created a de facto caste system in the name of piety. Does this mean that I’m capitulating? No way, Jose.

If we hearken back to the letter which created this firestorm, I defined Modern Orthodoxy as a spiritually challenged movement. Under this rubric, those in the yeshivish-chassidic community whose lives revolve around material accumulation would be deemed Modern Orthodox, while a Long Island Y.U. boy who learns diligently and faithfully deserves the highest encomiums.

But, some will argue, such classifications are unwieldy and ambiguous, and again I would agree; as I stated on an earlier occasion, the term ‘Orthodox’ should be superseded by ‘Torah Jew.’

Hoping to portray me as a religious bigot, one of my detractors, Rabbi Avi Inger, quoted the
Mishna’s declaration that “All Jews have a share in the World to Come.” It’s worth noting that we begin our weekly Pirkei Avos study with this dictum and then proceed to the middos-refining lessons contained therein. This begs the question, If we already have our ticket to Paradise, why go any further?

A while back I overheard the following, during what was supposed to be Mincha services: “I heard you got a new car. What did you buy, a Lexus?”

“No, a ’98 Chevy Lumina.”

“Really? But you can do better than that.”

What drives people to constantly better themselves? Generally it’s the desire for kavod (respect). We want to impress those around us, and in so doing develop our own self-worth. So let’s present a kal v’chomer. If we expend such time, energy and expense for a chance to garner fleeting fame, shouldn’t we at least make the same effort to secure our best possible ultimate future?

But too many of us don’t seem to understand this, and that’s why I felt compelled to write. And that’s why I have such disdain for those who, rather than acknowledge and work on their
religious shortcomings, promote a “user friendly” Judaism that appeals to various elements of the population.

Ruth Krieger, in her brilliant letter, quite correctly labeled such individuals Conservadox –
Orthodox in practice, Conservative at heart. Yes, these are difficult times to maintain a Torah
perspective. We are inundated with gashmius, so much so that it has even permeated our religious practices (Pesach in Hawaii and human hair sheitels immediately come to mind).

Dissenting voices are need. Someone must remind the people that the values of the Torah are
immutable and it is we who have strayed from them.

I apologize for both the strident tone and ambiguity which marked the previous missive. We
are now within the sefira period and we recall the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva who died because they did not accord each other their due respect. I have the utmost affection and admiration for any Jew who pursues the truths of the Torah, no matter his particular affiliation. There is room within our faith for individuality, but we must all work toward the same goal; sanctification of Hashem’s name through rededication to His mitzvos.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

‘Needlessly Divisive’ Kashrut Standards?

Though The Jewish Press, in its recent criticism of Jeff Wiesenfeld, is correct in stating that the kosher laws were overturned on grounds that they impermissibly endorsed an Orthodox standard, it is misleading for you not to recognize Mr. Wiesenfeld’s main point, which is that the suit challenging the law never would have been brought had those in charge of its enforcement not exceeded their authority by targeting non-shomer Shabbos owners.

Contrary to many other judicial systems, where courts can undertake review of legislation at
their own discretion, our system requires someone to actually challenge laws as unconstitutional. Though the impetus for such challenges are often ideological and not based on any particular incident, it is safe to say that in this case, the First Amendment legal reasoning of the lawyers was secondary to the basic grievance of the Commack butcher, which was that the law was not fairly enforced as it had been for many years. This suit would likely never have been brought if certain elements in the Orthodox community had not tried
to force their divisive brand of ultra-Orthodoxy on others through enforcement of the Kosher Law that went far beyond the law’s actual requirements.

Those living in the Five Towns know very well the similar turmoil many of us went through when the Vaad of the Five Towns merged with the Vaad of Far Rockaway a few years ago, and suddenly the observance level of the owners and the manner in which waitresses were dressed became elements of kashrut.

It is not for nothing that among many people across the observance spectrum, Rabbi Rubin and his ideological allies in certain Vaads have come to be known as the “Kosher Nostra.” Recently, at a forum on the lawsuit held at Fordham Law School organized by its Jewish Law Students Association, attorney Nathan Lewin suggested the real intention of some of those defending the law when he said that the questionnaire system that he has proposed to replace the old law should be accompanied by a two-tiered system of kashrut which would allow, depending on the answers given to the roster of questions distributed by the state, for applicants to be certified as kosher-Conservative and kosher-Orthodox (as opposed to simply “kosher”).

Let us accept Mr. Lewin’s questionnaire system as a viable new paradigm for enforcement
of the new Kosher Laws when they are promulgated, but let us not accept a needlessly
divisive two-tiered standard of kashrut that works to shame people in the Jewish community for things that have nothing whatsoever to do with kashrut. At times like these, we can ill afford to let such pettiness distract us from the far more important issues that require our unity as a community and a people.

Michael L. Brenner
(Student, Fordham School of Law)
New York, NY

Editor’s Response: Mr. Brenner echoes Jeff Wiesenfeld’s unsupported – and unsupportable – allegation that Rabbi Rubin enforced his own notion of kashrut and thereby triggered a lawsuit by put-upon victims.

As we’ve noted, the law as it existed on Rabbi Rubin’s watch called for adherence to “Orthodox Hebrew requirements” by those offering their food products to the public as “kosher.” Mr. Brenner’s attempt to tie Rabbi Rubin to some supposed excesses of certain Vaads – for whom, in Mr. Brenner’s words, “the observance level and the manner in which the waitresses were dressed became elements of kashrut” – is unbecoming when advanced by someone of his obvious intelligence.

And Mr. Brenner’s cute “Kosher Nostra” remark – “It is not for nothing that among many people across the observance spectrum, Rabbi Rubin and his ideological allies in certain Vaads have come to be known as the “Kosher Nostra”” – does not quite meet any rule of evidence with which we are familiar.

Mr. Brenner apparently misperceives the problem that Nat Lewin and others are attempting to grapple with. The reference to “Orthodox Hebrew requirements” in the law was designed to afford protection to all consumers relying on the representation of a product as “kosher.” If non-Orthodox standards were, in fact, being followed in a particular instance, a “kosher” designation, standing alone, would not inform and therefore not protect the Orthodox consumer. But the reverse would not be true.

It follows, then, that requiring disclosure of the standards being followed is not, as Mr. Brenner claims, “a needlessly divisive two-tiered standard of kashrut that works to shame people in the Jewish community for things that have nothing whatsoever to do with kashrut.”
What it really does is provide consumers with just the information they are entitled to have.

In sum, we ask Mr. Brenner, “Where’s the (kosher) beef?”

The Rav’s 100th

An exciting and unprecedented initiative has been launched by several Orthodox organizations.
This year, 5763 (2003), marks the tenth yahrzeit and 100th birthday of Rabbi Joseph B.
Soloveitchik, zt”l. To mark the occasion, the Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute in Brookline, Mass., has mounted an international commemoration to appropriately remember the Rav. The goal of this effort is to enable communities across North America and beyond to
mark this year through study, lectures and programs devoted to the teachings and legacy of
our great rebbe and teacher.

The Rabbi Soloveitchik Institute in Boston is leading this effort through the publication of
program material that will enable synagogues, communities and day schools, large and small,
metropolitan and rural, to fashion programs about the Rav unique to their constituency.

These materials will include a biography of Rabbi Soloveitchik, study guides on his major
essays, program ideas, a roster of available speakers and topics, and resources for planning a
commemoration, including audio and video presentations. The Institute is also preparing a
traveling exhibit highlighting the life and legacy of the Rav, as well as a special commemorative

Many institutions have already joined in this effort by sponsoring programs that have include
lectures and shiurim, adult education classes, community-wide yemmei iyyun and family
programs, or special Shabbatot focusing on the Rav’s life and teaching. Many more are planning programs that will take place in the next weeks and months.

In addition, all participating organizations – AMIT, Emunah of America, National Council of
Young Israel, Orthodox Union, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Rabbinical
Council of America, Religious Zionists of America, and Association of Modern Orthodox Day Schools and Yeshiva High Schools – have devoted or are planning to devote at least one session during their 2002-2003 annual conventions to the heritage of the Rav.

We are honored to be spearheading this endeavor that will bring communities together from all across the country in celebration of the Rav and his lasting legacy.

We encourage Jewish Press readers to join the nationwide effort. For more information on the
project, please call 888-6-THE-RAV or e-mail

Together we will perpetuate the Rav’s memory and insure the continued transmission of
his teachings into the 21st century.

Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, Dean
The Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute