Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
As an avid reader of The Jewish Press, I was dismayed by the inclusion of a highly inappropriate joke in Arnold Fine’s “A Bi Gezunt” column last week. I use the word “joke” advisedly, because there was nothing the least bit funny about the joke’s subject matter, and it certainly did not belong on the pages of a family newspaper, frum or otherwise.
Frankly, Mr. Fine should be ashamed of himself for even thinking that anyone would find anything humorous in such a joke, and The Jewish Press should in the future be more vigilant about what its contributors are permitted to write.
Editor’s Response: A number of readers have taken us to task – and rightly so – for the joke referred to by Ms. Bernstein. This obviously was a case of a temporary lapse in judgment on the part of Mr. Fine coupled with a breakdown in editorial oversight. We apologize to all who were offended.
Though I am well past my “teens and twenties” – I guess I would describe myself as a grandmother who likes reading what young people have to say – I always enjoy the “Teens & Twenties Talk” page of The Jewish Press. I’d like to express my admiration for Moshe Kupfer, the young man whose column appeared at the top of that page in the April 28 issue. It is a beautiful and sensitive person who at the time of his wedding can acknowledge and show appreciation to his mother. His bride is fortunate indeed, because a young man who appreciates all that his mother did for him will surely appreciate his wife as well.
And to his mother I say: Well done. I wish you lots of nachat.
While reader Leib Garfinkle may have been “disappointed” by Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s assuming the worst about the young people of Boro Park and minimizing the reports of police overreaction (Letters, April 28), I was not. Call it a case of lowered expectations, but I have become sadly resigned to this type of kowtowing to executive authority on the part of our elected officials – and in this regard Mr. Hikind is far from the worst. Remember when, in the immediate aftermath of the Gidone Busch murder, then-Council member Noach Dear ran around the city defending the officers who treated poor Mr. Busch like a target practice cardboard cutout?
Our Jewish elected representatives suffer from a collective inferiority complex. They appear to view any controversy as an opportunity to curry favor with mayors and governors, and they seem to have a particular fascination with police officials. Perhaps these Jewish politicians subconsciously see themselves as the tummlers and shtadlanim of old, ever eager to let their friends in shul or at the corner grocery know just how many home phone numbers of decision-makers they have in their Rolodexes.
If only these appeasers would take a lesson from African-American politicians.
Fur Flies Over Boteach Piece
I usually enjoy Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s articles in The Jewish Press and find myself in agreement with most of what he writes. But boy do I disagree with his latest (“The Fur Coats of Englewood,” op-ed, April 28). It is one thing to write about excesses in our lives and another to come off sounding like an advertisement for PETA.
On a cold winter’s day (or night), nothing insulates a person like a fur coat. Walking to shul on a freezing Shabbat, a lady in a fur has much to be thankful for as she keeps toasty warm. In fact I don’t think a fur coat is even considered a status symbol anymore, as so many women have them.
If Rabbi Boteach wants to do an “Al Chet” for extravagances, he should do it on his own account and not pick on women who may be giving greater amounts to charity than they spent on their coats.
By the way, I live in Manhattan and don’t own a fur coat. But one doesn’t have to be from Englewood to be annoyed by Rabbi Boteach’s article.
Women wear fur coats because they feel warm and luxurious and look beautiful and fashionable. Further, fur coats are a real value, as they normally last much longer than any cloth coat. Because fur is resilient and lasting, it can by recycled, updated, and restyled time and time again.
And what is wrong with looking and feeling good on Shabbos? Isn’t it a mitzvah to wear our best attire in order to look good and honor the Sabbath?
Jewish women as a group have much responsibility and work very hard. They are usually in charge of keeping our homes, bearing and raising and chauffeuring our children, and, in most cases, helping to financially support the family. Does Rabbi Boteach really want to deprive them if they get some enjoyment from going to shul in a beautiful, warm, stylish fur coat on Shabbos? Perhaps he would have them remove their jewelry also?
Contrary to Rabbi Boteach’s article, fur coats are not made from exotic species – the fur trade is government regulated to ensure that endangered species are never used. God placed animals on this earth for man’s use (Bereshis 1/26) and God Himself chose garments of skins as His choice for clothing Adam and Eve (Bereshis 3/21).
It is no sin to like and enjoy nice things. Does Rabbi Boteach advocate that residents of Englewood (and Teaneck and Monsey and Boro Park) give up their million-dollar homes and move into more modest housing? Should they give up the new Lexuses or Lincolns in their driveways? It is these very folks who are tremendous baalei tzedakah and support shuls, yeshivot, mikvaot, and many other worthwhile endeavors.
So when Rabbi Boteach sees the women of Englewood walking to shul in their fur coats on a wintry Shabbos morning, he should praise Hashem for the abundance and wealth He has heaped upon His people, and praise the women for being such eishai chayel, for walking to shul in the bitter cold even when they have no chiyuv to daven with a minyan, for their wonderful midos and for their tremendous chesed and tzedakah.
Re the recent debate on evolution in your Letters section:
In considering the scientific findings about the past, it seems to me vitally important to distinguish between the findings themselves and the conclusions that have been drawn from them. It appears that from the very first, Darwinism was associated with social Darwinism. Evolution was said to favor the “fittest,” i.e., (in the eyes of the theorists) the “strongest,” those who would prevail over their fellows in “competition” which was and should be “ruthless.” Thus, removing the inhibitions against ruthlessness would lead to the evolution of the superior human – the “master race.” The Nazis were not the only ones who held these ideas; they were just the most shameless about putting them into practice.
Social Darwinism is not “scientific” in the sense of being a logical conclusion from the evidence. Many have pointed out that survival of a species can depend on many factors, including adjustment to the environment, protection of the young, cooperative behavior – all of which can be hindered, not helped, by competition. We see clearly from the “experimental results” that removal of inhibitions leads only to degeneracy.
But those who set up the theory of evolution against belief in the Creator seem, alas, to have been influenced by the Evil Inclination, which is always on the watch for excuses to believe that “there is no judgment and no judge.” They therefore published their findings as a “refutation” of faith.
Unfortunately, it seems that many people of faith have taken the bait. Instead of recalling the Psalmist’s “A thousand years in Your eyes are but a single day” and “How manifold are Your works,” instead of greeting with awe the revelations of the vast extent and intricacy of creation, they in turn have set up the authority of scripture as a barrier to block out all the vast horizons that have opened up.
The proper approach to “evolution” lies not in trying to discredit the evidence that the early ancestors of humans – in times so remote that the limited human mind cannot grasp how remote they really are – were primitive mammals. What we need to understand is that this in no way refutes Creation.
What this is really about is our relation to time. To have experienced hashgacha pratit (the Hand of Providence) is to realize that while on one level time seems to move forward – with what comes earlier appearing as the “cause” of what takes place later – in reality everything is brought about by God, Who is outside time. From the perspective of hashgacha pratit, what happened earlier may actually have occurred for the sake of what was to come later. When Moshe Rabbeinu saw the bush that burned but was not consumed, he saw that linear time (in which, of course, whatever burns must consume itself) is not the whole story.
Two final notes about the Genesis account: First, God creates the world by means of words – words that name things and express intentions about them. That is the nature of language. Science has not only “discredited” faith, it has also worked to discredit language itself as an instrument for grasping reality. But without language everything reverts to chaos and formlessness. (I am thinking of Helen Keller’s account of how the learning of a single word – “water” – turned a dark and silent chaos into a world.)
Second, is it possible for us to look at this problem, as it were, from God’s point of view? Suppose God wanted to tell us about the world He made and our place and purpose in it. Would it have made the slightest sense for Him to go into all that stuff about the Big Bang and the quarks and natural selection? He’d never have gotten to the mitzvot, and we wouldn’t have understood anyway, just as we don’t really grasp the enormity of His work even today. So He gave us an account we could absorb.
Now that we have a lot of new information about how God went about the business of creation, we must do our best to integrate it into a path of Divine service.
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