Regular Alerts Needed

The Jewish Press is to be commended for its editorial last week urging parents to be proactive in the care of their children and not just react to particular threats. I suggest The Jewish Press undertake to regularly issue an alert to parents to be more careful about the freedom of movement they give their young children and the responsibilities they give their children for the care of their younger siblings. Our community has a very short attention span and frequent reminders may help avert tragedy.

Pearl Garelsky
(Via E-Mail)
Expect The Worst
Your call for vigilance in the Jewish community was unfortunately very timely. At this point, it certainly looks like our neighborhoods are being singled out by predators. While these incidents may be coincidental and the work of a few deranged individuals, it still behooves us to always expect the worst and prepare for it. It’s difficult to continue on heightened alert for a sustained period of time, but we really have no choice.
Chaim Faberstein
New York, NY
‘Rabbinic Arrogance’
As I see it, the controversies swirling around the issues of conversions and “non-judgmental” rabbis can be traced to two phenomena. For one thing, we do not have universally accepted religious authority. By this I do not mean one central authority, but rather respected authority with differing views.
At one time the various Orthodox communities had universally acclaimed giants to rely upon even though we didn’t all necessarily follow the same path. Today, too many rabbis look only to themselves for halachic decision-making regardless of the implications for the community.
Coupled with this is the growing tendency to view halacha not as a set of Divine imperatives for people to obey, sometimes at great pain and cost, but rather as a collection of indefinite general principles intended to be interpreted over time, subject to and in order to accommodate human needs and frailties.
In sum, there seems to be a pandemic of rabbinic arrogance and a merging of lines between the separate and distinct responsibilities of the rabbi as religious leader and as pastor.
Tuvia Goldschmidt
Brooklyn, NY
Torah And Democracy
It was amusing to see reader David Ferster (Letters, May 5) use Meir Kahane as a source for his disagreement with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. (I’ll take Rabbi Riskin.)
I am not clear on where the Torah “opposes” Western-style democracy. I don’t believe the Torah weighed in on the issue. The idea of a king comes from Nevi’im. (The idea of monarchy, lest we forget, was not especially well regarded by Shmuel, who resented having to set the whole thing up.)
The question is, Which system of government will best leave us in a position to uphold the Torah’s values? It is not a question of whether the two are compatible, though those who argue that democracy is a derivative of Judaism are probably engaging in some wishful thinking. No system of government is “compatible” with the Torah; it would devalue the Torah to make such a pronouncement.
In a democracy we are free to practice the Torah and to try to persuade those who disagree with us. The way of the Torah is not closed to us in a democracy. There is no such assurance in a dictatorship, and certainly not one run by someone like Meir Kahane.
The policies of Sweden and Norway are red herrings in this discussion. (For the record, the anti-shechita laws in these countries are very old, and though the laws are unfortunate, they do not prevent one from being a Torah-observant Jew in those countries.) They certainly do not prove that dictatorship is preferable to democracy.
Michael Brenner
Woodmere, NY

The Right Girl

As I read Cheryl Kupfer’s April 28 On Our Own column (“If My Son Is Treif So Is His Money”), I sympathized with Ms. Kupfer’s friend’s feelings of anguish. Rest assured, there are girls who are looking for boys who are frum, solid, independent young men. Though it seems they are a very small minority, they do still exist.

My oldest child, a daughter, is not yet dating, but I look around my neighborhood and wonder who she’ll be going out with in another year or two. All of my neighbors are marrying their girls off to boys who are sitting and learning, and their boys are marrying girls who will work to support them in learning. Nine out of ten engagements I hear of are couples who will be going to Lakewood or Eretz Yisrael for an indefinite number of years.

This is not the way I was raised. My husband, father, father-in-law and brothers-in-law (with one exception) all work full time and make learning their priority on nights and weekends. They are well-respected members of their community and they support many Torah institutions, and we are raising our children with those same values. But young people like the men in my family are few and far between these days.

Nevertheless, Ms. Kupfer should tell her friend’s son not to lose hope; there are girls out there with the same ideals and hashkafah that he has. I am sure that, with Hashem’s help, he will find the right one soon.

Aviva Jacob
(Via E-Mail)

Where Readers Stand On Nicholas Berg

Tragic And Heroic

This is a letter of thanks to Rabbi Don Well for writing such a powerful and inspiring tribute to Nicholas Berg, and an equally big thank you to The Jewish Press for publishing it (“Nicholas Berg: In the Sacred Place Where He Stands,” front-page essay, May 5).

There is much every Jew can learn from this tragic though incredibly heroic account of Mr. Berg’s fate. My wife and I read it together and were both deeply moved. We would like to express our sorrow to Nick’s parents for the pain of the loss of their beloved son. We share the pride they must feel for his commitment and heroism.

It never ceases to amaze us to note how Hashem works in such mysterious ways. Rabbi Well poignantly describes how Nick’s horrible death precipitated a change in his parents’ attitude toward their Judaism. This speaks well for them.

It is our wish that they will utilize their awakening awareness to motivate and stimulate a search for the knowledge, wisdom, and beauty of their Jewish heritage. My wife and I made this choice in 1977. It was the best decision we ever made. We would be happy to share information and encouragement with the Bergs.

Finally, a personal greeting to Rabbi Well, who was with the Skokie Yeshiva when our son, Baruch Zalman, graduated from high school.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY
The Enemy We Face

I very much appreciated Rabbi Well’s front-page essay on the tragic death of Nicholas Berg. In many respects the grisly way he died is a symbol of the inhumanity of the real enemy we face in Iraq: fundamentalist madmen who think the ends they seek justify any means at hand. Rabbi Well’s article also painted a very human picture of Mr. Berg’s life and his fascinating intellectual and religious odyssey.
Carl Turner
(Via E-Mail)
Not So Sure

At the risk of sounding insensitive, I was put off by Rabbi Well’s obvious, if well-meaning, straining to paint Nicholas Berg as someone killed al Kiddush Hashem. I have no argument with the accuracy of Rabbi Well’s facts, but there is scant evidence that Nick Berg’s Jewishness was a factor in his murder. Even Rabbi Well does not seem so sure.

Indeed, there have been a number of non-Jews murdered in the same way by the same group. This does not diminish Mr. Berg or his life in any way. He stood up for principle and was cut down for it. However, it adds nothing to his nobility or memory to suggest something that is not all that clear.

Yitzchak Birnbaum
Ramat Gan, Israel
Ahmadinejad Was Right

In his recent letter to President George W. Bush, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated, “Throughout history, many countries have been occupied, but I think the establishment of a new country with a new people is a new phenomenon that is exclusive to our times.”

He was referring to Israel, of course, but otherwise Ahmadinejad was 100 percent correct.

There never was an independent state of “Palestine.” In its modern usage, that term was a fabrication of the Arab League after the 1948 re-establishment of the State of Israel. After the first Arab war against Israel, the identity retained by the great majority of Arab refugees was not as “Palestinians” but rather as inhabitants of Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, and other towns and villages from which they came. There was no sense of a separate “Palestinian Arab” nationality or identity.

Under the British Mandate of Palestine, the “Palestinians” included Arabs, Jews, Samaritans, the Druze, and Circassians. None of these peoples could correctly claim to be “the” Palestinians. In fact during World War II, the Palestinian Jews who fought with Allied forces were regarded more as Palestinians than any other group.

This concept of a separate Arab Palestinian people and a separate Arab Palestinian state was created by the Arab states and propagandized, financed, and otherwise supported by Arab countries all through the 1950’s, with its leading advocate being Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

It was at Nasser’s bidding that the first Arab Summit conference was held in Egypt in January 1964, where a “Palestine Liberation Organization” was created. That was a full three and a half years before the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Israeli acquisition of the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Palestinian Arabs never had or claimed to have a “Palestinian” homeland until after the 1967 war.

The Arab Palestinians are not a distinct people. Palestinian Arabs speak the same dialect of Arabic, share the same Islamic faith, have the same family structure, customs, dress, food, music and social values as are found in Jordan and Syria.

In March 1921, the British partitioned the Mandate of Palestine, the first partition of Palestine. They cut away 76.9% of its territory and created an Arab state, at first called Trans-Jordan and later renamed Jordan. Its first king, Abdullah I, wanted to call it the Arab Kingdom of Palestine, but his British advisers recommended otherwise since it carried an imperialist connotation. Jordan’s population today is over 70 percent Palestinian.

The Arab people already have self-determination as expressed in 21 sovereign states. Now they insist on a 22nd state – a second “Palestinian” state. Throughout the history of the conflict the majority of Arabs and Muslims have not tolerated and will not accept – let alone live in peace with – one Jewish state in the Middle East.

Yes, Ahmadinejad was correct – he just got the name of the country in question wrong.
Dr. Steve Carol
Prof. of History (retired)
Senior Fellow,
Center for Advanced Middle East Studies
Official Historian,
Middle East Radio Forum
Scottsdale, AZ