Rush To Judgment?

I was disappointed by Dov Hikind’s op-ed article on the Boro Park disturbance (“Boro Park’s Night of Shame and Disgrace,” April 14). The assemblyman seems to assume the worst about our community and the best about the police. He wasn’t there during the incident, so how can he possibly know that the police were blameless and the Jews of Boro Park guilty?

As you pointed out in your excellent editorial the same week, the reports of excessive force by some police officers and overreaction by some community members both cried out for further inquiry. They did not warrant Hikind’s summary conclusions condemning an entire neighborhood.

Leib Garfinkle
(Via E-Mail)
Balanced View

The Jewish Press is to be commended for never missing an opportunity to remind the Jewish community of the circumstances of the tragic – and I believe unnecessary – death of Gidone Busch at the hands of police officers. You were also right to draw attention in your editorial to the problems with the obvious “us versus them” culture so prevalent in the NYPD even as you acknowledged that there probably is no finer police organization in the world. We need more such balanced reasoning in our community.

Alan Stone
New York, NY
Mum’s The Word

I noticed several weeks ago that The Jewish Press came in for some sharp criticism on the Internet after you reported that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel was rejecting some conversions certified by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, the av bet din of the Rabbinical Council of America and the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

I have been following this matter closely and find it instructive that I have yet to see a denial or clarification on the RCA website from Rabbi Schwartz, the RCA or the CRC. I would have thought that on such a serious matter they would all have made haste to set the record straight. Their collective silence speaks volumes.

Chaim Swerdlow
(Via E-Mail)

Voting Down Torah

Rabbi Barry Leff’s description of a committee that votes on which Torah laws to overturn is a sad commentary on Conservative Judaism (Letters, April 21). How do they interpret the Torah’s declaration that anyone who claims that even one law of the Torah has been abrogated or a new one added is a false prophet – a declaration that makes it very clear that every law in the Torah is timeless and immutable? Or have they already overturned this one?

What I find amazing is the delusional arrogance of his comparison between this committee and the great sages Hillel and Shammai, who debated in the interest of defining and expounding Torah laws, not overturning them. I wonder if this ridiculous committee has already voted on the commandment “I am your God.” If they overturn that one, it would pretty much do away with the need for any more of their insane proceedings.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Work Of Our Enemies

I read with disgust Rabbi Barry Leff’s letter to the editor about the Conservative movement’s committee that meets to vote down Torah laws. In the time of the Holocaust, the Spanish Inquisition, the Roman persecutions – throughout history, in fact – Jews sacrificed their lives because they refused to give up Torah laws. Here, Rabbi Leff has a committee to try to do what some of our worst enemies could not – relieve us of the yoke of Hashem’s commandments. And he writes with such smugness.

If he wants to compare his committee with prominent historical personalities, I suggest that instead of Hillel and Shammai he try Korach.

Bernie Duetch
Brooklyn, NY
Amalek In Our Time

At the moment, I am struggling with the concept of Amalek. Amalekites are people who deprecated the Jews and our God at the time of the Exodus. I extend the concept of Amalek to include all people who deprecate us and our God, even though they may not be actual descendents of Amalek. Hamas clearly fits this concept of being Amalekites.

Two of the 613 commandments refer specifically to the Amalekites. One is to remember the Amalekites. The other is to destroy them. It is clear that to consider negotiations with the latter-day Amalekites, or to dream about “peace negotiations” with them, is to go against the commandments given to the Jews. What is required at this point is to give a strong warning to Hamas that any violence will be responded to with massive retaliation.

The Israeli public must be prepared and united for an eventual brutal war, with many casualties. It will occur, and better sooner than later. To think otherwise is to perpetuate a foolish dream. Putting up defensive fences – the walls of Jerusalem, the Maginot line, the Siegfried line, the Bar-Lev line, etc. – never prevented an enemy from eventually penetrating and overcoming the supposed barrier.

In a few years George Bush, a supporter of Israel, will be gone. And what if the next American president is less well disposed toward Israel? There is a call out to the Jews of Israel for unity and consistency in actions. Unfortunately, although the decibel rating is high, our ears are not tuned to the celestial frequencies that are sending out this message.

A. Milgram
San Jose, CA

White House Boy Wonder

I suppose I should join in the gushing reaction to the news that 22-year-old Jay Zeidman has been appointed the White House’s Jewish liaison (news story, April 14). It is certainly a feather in his cap and he is obviously very bright with a great future ahead of him. I find it difficult to believe, however, that he will have any significant say given his age and inexperience. The White House is a place that chews up and spits out even grizzled veterans. And, as they say, Washington is one tough town.

Arthur Krassner
Baltimore, MD
Guess Who Came To Shiur?
More Reaction To Cardinals
Learning Torah At YCT

Disturbing Trend

Two weeks ago, The Jewish Press (“Warm and Fuzzy Halacha,” editorial, April 14) criticized the recent visit by Catholic cardinals to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT). This incident did not occur in a vacuum:

* “The guests of the yeshiva [YCT] included Rabbi David Ellinson, the President of Hebrew Union College, Rabbi Joseph Brody, the Vice President for Student Affairs at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Saul Berman of Edah. All three danced together with students, faculty and other guests…” (Page 8, YCT Newsletter 2004, detailing YCT semicha graduation.)

* “During my first year at Hillel, I devoted some time to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender programming on campus. We created a meaningful Haggadah for the GLBT community, which spoke to their understanding of what it means to be liberated…” (Page 7, YCT Newsletter 2005, by YCT graduate serving as campus Hillel rabbi.)

* ‘Should we be bending the halakhah to conform to our modern notions of egalitarianism?’ is a reasonable question to ask and a hard one to answer.” (Rabbi Dov Linzer, YCT rosh yeshiva, in conclusion of article about Noahide laws, page 36 of Milin Havivin/YCT Torah Journal.)

A perusal of YCT’s activities and program indicates that the school is not just espousing a more liberal form of Modern Orthodoxy. In fact, it is pursuing an agenda of extreme pluralism that compromises any association with Orthodoxy.

Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer
New York, NY

What Would The Rav Do?

The Rabbinical Council of America touts itself as following the teachings of the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveichik. It is well known that Rabbi Soloveichik ruled it impermissible for Orthodox Jews to discuss religious topics with non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jews.

How is it then possible that the RCA is now considering accrediting Rabbi Avi Weiss’s Yeshiva Chovevei Torah? As The Jewish Press and others have reported, seven Cardinals of the Catholic Church, in full ecclesiastical uniform, recently learned Talmud with YCT students – by invitation of the yeshiva – in the YCT beis medrash. Would Rav Soloveichik have approved?

Shlomo Herman

By What Halachic Authority?

As someone who was around in the 1930’s I remember that the survival of Orthodox Judaism was very much in doubt at the time. It was truly miraculous that those who urged a loosening or abandonment here in America of the traditional standards that held sway in Europe did not succeed in displacing Orthodoxy with the compromised and watered-down breakaway denominations we call Conservative and Reform.

I was therefore shocked by the news that Rabbi Avi Weiss, who is quite well known to me as a Jewish activist, heads a yeshiva that recently hosted Catholic cardinals at a Torah learning session with its senior students in its beis medrash. Such an occurrence should be unthinkable within Orthodoxy and I cannot help but wonder by what halachic authority Rabbi Weiss decided upon this dramatic departure from established Orthodox practice. I fear that there was no such reliance and am concerned about Rabbi Weiss’s next departures from Orthodox norms and where they will end.

Pearl Kleinman
(Via E-Mail)

Yeshiva For Boys Needing ‘A Little More Attention’

Rabbi Joseph Salamon is correct in reiterating the enormous debt that the Jewish community, the day school movement in particular, owes Dr. Marvin Schick. Rabbi Salamon is also correct in noting the overuse and most often inappropriate use of the term “at risk.” Most important of all is Rabbi Salamon’s point out how our current mainstream system of chinuch is shortchanging many of our young students.

Rabbi Salamon is incorrect, however, in his claim that his is the “only independent yeshiva dedicated to helping boys who need a little more attention.” Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer, founded by Rabbi Shlomo Milstein over thirteen years ago, is a yeshiva that does just that. Testament to our success are our many graduates who have gone on to earn college degrees, spent time learning in yeshivas in Israel and America, and most noteworthy of all, taken their rightful places as productive members of their respective communities.

Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer’s reputation for accepting boys who most often have been rejected by other yeshivas and whose only recourse would otherwise be to register in public school, as well as its dedication to turning no student away for his inability to pay, has transformed the lives of many.

No matter how long it may take, Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer maintains the policy of working with each student and not even considering final expulsion unless he is a danger to others.

What is most baffling to me, as well as to the highly qualified and dedicated individuals who make up our professional staff of rebbeim and teachers, is how the great work that Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer and other schools like it are doing is not supported by the foundations and institutions who would rather steer their funding toward the “fancier” and more mainstream schools.

It certainly is time for those at the helm of these foundations and organizations – and those in charge of managing the funding and deciding the direction in which it is funneled – to heed the warning of Dr. Schick and to face the realization that schools such as ours are rescuing the students who have been rejected by the very institutions that are beneficiaries of most of their financial support.

Unfair, unjust, and poor business, to say the least!

Sharon D. Hagler, Principal
Yeshiva Ohr Eliezer
Brooklyn, NY