Friedman An ‘Arrogant Windbag’

I greatly appreciated the two op-ed articles castigating Thomas Friedman that appeared in last week’s Jewish Press. Anyone who’s ever had the displeasure of viewing Friedman, either live or on television, knows the man is a windbag of almost incomprehensible arrogance. It’s painfully obvious that this is a man deeply in love with the sound of himself thinking – despite the fact that his views are nothing more than boilerplate foreign-policy establishment groupthink.

Of course, there are Jews who will always be bedazzled by Friedman’s status as a columnist for The New York Times, the error-prone bible of secular Jewry. (Why, it was just a few
years ago that Abe Foxman and the ADL rolled out the red carpet and honored Friedman at their annual dinner – while reacting in typically condescending fashion to anyone who dared voice an objection!) But then, these are the same characters who shared Friedman’s boundless enthusiasm for the Oslo sham and who routinely vilified the realists among us.

Samuel Pilcer
New York, NY

…And A Longtime Palestinian Sympathizer

Re the two excellent appraisals of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman by Dr. Mandell Ganchrow and Ben Shapiro:

David Bar-Illan, in his 1993 book “Eye on the Media,” cited a 1989 article by Prof. Jerold Auerbach in Commentary that exposed Friedman’s pose as a neutral journalist and his lie in
his autobiography From Beirut to Jerusalem that he “experienced something of a personal crisis … the Israel I met on the outskirts of Beirut [during the Israeli excursion into Lebanon] was not the heroic Israel I had been taught to identify with.”

Friedman claimed in his book that, thanks to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, he “lost every illusion I ever held about the Jewish state.”

But Prof. Auerbach revealed that “by the time Friedman graduated from Brandeis University in 1975, he was already expressing sympathy with the Palestinian national cause, offering apologies for PLO terrorism and identifying with Breira, an organization so reflexively critical of Israel that it quickly became a pariah group within the American Jewish community.”

At a later date, Friedman bragged of his close relationship, during the first President Bush’s administration, with Secretary of State James Baker, who accused Prime Minister Shamir of pursuing aggressively a “greater Israel.”

Ellen J. Singer
Hartsdale, NY

Star-Spangled Zion

Incontrovertibly, Israel is the most technologically and militarily/economically powerful country in the Middle East. Nevertheless, for nearly a decade now, six consecutive Israeli governments have cravenly prostrated themselves to smirking, unrepentant, bloody-red Arab terrorists via a bevy of suicidal geopolitical concessions. Euphemistically called confidence
builders, gestures for peace, and now ‘painful concessions.’ all are knowingly made in order to carve a PLO state out of the heartland of Israel.

Such mad appeasement continues despite the already horrific carnage inflicted on Israelis by Arab terrorists. Therefore, the only apparent way for tiny beleaguered Israel to experience real security and realistically terminate the malignant ‘road map’ is for Israelis to officially petition the U.S. Congress for formal recognition as either the 51st state or as an American protectorate like Guam, Puerto Rico, Western Samoa and the Virgin Islands. After all, is
JerUSAlem not closer to Washington, DC, than Honolulu?

Most Israelis love America and its culture. They understand English, wear American clothes, listen to American music, watch American movies and TV shows, conduct real estate transactions in dollars, and eat American cuisine. Meanwhile, many Americans (especially those in Congress) admire Israel for its tenacious struggle for survival against vastly numerically superior enemies and its democratic orientation. Hence, the probability that the U.S. would accept Israel as a state or protectorate as they both battle Islamic terror is quite high. In such an eventuality, American administrations would of course halt their incessant demands for Israeli withdrawals from biblical territories and finally also release Prisoner of Zion Jonathan Pollard. What is good for Israel would simultaneously become intrinsically good for America.

It is therefore imperative that gravely endangered Israelis immediately demand a referendum about confederation with the mighty United States. The best way to safeguard Israel and prevent the establishment of an irredentist PLOstine is for the blue and white Star of David to proudly join the 50 white and blue stars of the American flag.

Henry Moscovic
(Via E-Mail)

Shocking Article

I read Ita Yankovich’s May 16 article (‘Kill the Jew and Score Points’) with much interest and alarm. To realize that this type of product is perfectly legal is both shocking and disappointing. Taking the idea of killing Jews and making it entertaining is perverse. Although Resistance Records may at this point be a fairly small operation, I know it won’t be long before we see an ‘Ethnic Cleansing II’ in stores.

I applaud The Jewish Press for notifying the public about such dangers.

Eliezer Borg
Brooklyn, NY

Hostile Or Not…

Harvey Lemberg (Letters to the Editor, May 16) may well be right that President Bush does not have hostile intent in pushing Israel to accept the road map, but certainly Bush bears his share of responsibility for acquiescing to the wishes of the other Quartet partners. As long as people such as EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Solana continue supporting Arafat, there can be no hope that Arafat will surrender authority to Prime Minister Abbas on security matters. If that is what happens, President Bush and his secretary of state will have to bear full responsibility. It is they who have allowed themselves to drift from the president’s clear dictats in his June 24, 2002 speech.

Peter Simpson
Middlesex, UK

Destructive Talk

In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi teaches us to be as diligent with regard to lenient commands as we are with more severe ones. He could not have foreseen, however, that our
galut experience would warp our intelligence and morality to the point where today’s customs take precedence over the severest of G-d’s commandments – as, for example, in the case of a man who revels in relegating his wife to the status of aguna but would never tie his right shoelace before his left.

Who can count the reams of paper, the gallons of ink and the weight of quills which have been put to service in the attempt to stress the severity of lashon hara (unjustified malicious gossip). Lashon hara, we are taught, kills three – the slanderer, the slandered, and he who listens. Our rabbis taught us that the essential reason for the division of the empire between King Rechavam, son of King Shlomo, and his rival Yeravam ben Nevat was lashon hara.

I am appalled that the unbridled tongues of slanderers are again churning out their poison, and this time aimed at a Torah personality whose knowledge spans vast areas of Torah; a man gifted with the ability not only to understand but also with that rare talent to elucidate the most subtle ideas to others.

If the perpetrators of this lashon hara have proof to substantiate their allegations, let them bring it before an accredited beit din. But if they themselves are being sustained through lashon hara of others, let them kneel before this man and beg forgiveness.

This matter should be of paramount concern to every one of us in the Torah community. There should be a concerted educational program to stamp out this behavior, if not in the name of Torah and justice then in defense of oneself – for today the subject is rabbi ploni, but tomorrow it might be you.

HaRav Nachman Kahana

Reject Feeling Rejected

Re Jacob Snyder’s May 23 letter to the editor (‘Baalei Teshuvah Unworthy Marriage Material?’):

I am a frum, yeshiva-oriented Jewess originally from a Southern city. My husband and I are blessed with yeshiva-educated sons and grandchildren who attend yeshivas and Bais Yaakov schools in Brooklyn.

From my background, I can appreciate the writer’s dilemma. Though my husband and I also felt the perceived stigmas for our sons when they were involved in the dating scene in the 1980’s, we learned to understand and respect the reasons why some may have wanted to limit their children’s choices.

It sounds like the writer feels rejected for not being included in their world. We have found the opposite to be true. We learned from great rabbis to first do, then learn why. From this knowledge we finally acquired a level of understanding to travel life’s road with bitachon. In fact, one of our sons married an FFB; the other married one raised with a Bais Yaakov

Our wonderful frum world takes care of its own. There are many outstanding people and organizations just waiting to help. Don’t compromise or reject being frum, even if you perceive it has limited your choices. Instead of feeling rejection, open yourself up to all options.

I hope that one of your next “dates” will elicit a mazel tov.

Marsha S. Shine
(Via E-Mail)

Letter Sparks Further Debate On Modern Orthodoxy

Potshots At Those Who Raised The Bar

The contratemps between Modern Orthodoxy and Torah Jewry in the Letters section of The
Jewish Press is now more than one year old, dating to the furor over Agudath Israel’s non-participation in the Washington rally for Israel.

I am framing the debate in this manner because the term Orthodox, along with its cognomens, should be discarded by those who strive to curry Hashem’s favor. Reader Mike Senders is the latest (Letters, May 23) to proclaim the virtues of Modern Orthodoxy, Zionism, secular
education, “chumra-free” Judaism, etc. Sadly, Mr. Senders – as have those who preceded him – feels obliged to take potshots at individuals and communities who have raised the halachic bar, mocking a rav from his community whom he derisively labels “Cereal Rav” and attacking the entire rabbinic body of Agudath Israel.

While Mr. Senders sees fit to snipe at our present-day leaders, other readers have been so
bold as to insinuate that the gedolim were asleep at the wheel during the years leading to the
Holocaust. Let’s set the record straight. Not long before Hitler’s rise to power, the Chofetz Chaim issued an ominous warning. He quoted the pasuk “ain bayis asher ain bo mais” (there is no house without death), for he saw European Jewish youth succumbing to the “isms” of the times. While Jabotinsky called on the masses to flee, our great leaders knew that Divine wrath is inescapable and urged the people to do teshuvah.

In a world so fraught with peril, is it sensible for us to cast aspersions on each other? With so
much to rectify, it’s time to turn introspective.

As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, said, it’s best to do teshuvah while eating a watermelon – i.e. when things are going well. It’s sobering to think that these may be the good old days.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Knowing Hashem Through Mitzvot

Shame on Mr. Mike Senders for his letter to the editor about Modern Orthodoxy. His philosophy of what Modern Orthodoxy represents is outside the realm of any type of Orthodox Judaism.

In addition, his public attack on an accomplished, renowned talmid chochom in Cleveland by derogatorily referring to him as “the Cereal Rav” is simply beyond the pale.

Saying that he only needs to know that Hashem is the Boreh Olom, Mr. Senders dispenses
with the intricacies of knowing the proper brachot to make. Torah study in his view is secondary to knowing that Hashem is Boreh Olom.

Well, once I know that Hashem is the Boreh Olom, I don’t need brachot at all, nor do I need
Shabbat or kashrut either. If all Modern Orthodoxy requires, according to Mr. Senders, is that Hashem is the Boreh Olom, then as long as I keep this piece of information in my heart and mind, I don’t need any mitzvot at all! This is not any kind of Orthodoxy that I am familiar with.

Mr. Senders has it completely backwards. The reason for Torah study and doing mitzvot brings us to really know that Hashem is the Boreh Olom.

Studying and knowing the intricacies of Torah, including the proper brachot to make on Cheerios (mezonot) and Kix (shehakol) develops within us the proper gratitude and realization that there is a Boreh Olom. The concept of Boreh Olom is not the starting point but rather takes a lifetime of Torah study and mitzvot to truly know that Hashem runs the universe.

Does Modern Orthodoxy condone Mr. Senders’s publicly embarrassing a Young Israel rav
who is known as a worldwide halachic expert? If Mr. Senders represents Modern Orthodoxy in his disdain for Torah scholars and his thinking that Torah study is secondary, then Modern Orthodoxy is not “faltering,” as he said, but it has failed.

Dr. Louis Malcmacher
Bay Village, OH

Taking Time For Proper Brachot

I do not, by this response to Mr. Senders’s letter to the editor, wish to enter the arena of
debating the survival or non-survival of the Modern Orthodox sector of Judaism. I will leave
this issue to those more knowledgeable and eloquent. However, I do want to present two points.

First, I beg to differ with Mr. Senders’s interpretation of the phrase being a “light unto the
nations.” He maintains that in order to do this, we are “mandated to be m’erov im habrios.” I feel that this is not the case. In order to be a “light unto the nations,” we must provide the correct role model by living exemplary lives based on Torah ideals and values. It is not necessary for us to enter their world in order to show them how to live a life that is worthy of emulating.

The second point Mr. Senders presents is that of our need to be “ever cognizant of Hashem as
Boreh Olam.” And yet he objects to the rav in Cleveland who takes the time and effort to
research the ingredients of cereals in order to determine the correct bracha to make on each
cereal. Mr. Senders claims that there ‘is almost no chance that an adult (and absolutely no chance that a child) will stop and review this list whenever he eats his cereal.’ Let me assure Mr. Senders that in my home there is such a list taped to the cereal cabinet door, and each adult and child who goes to take cereal takes but a moment to check on the correct bracha to make. Some people have similar charts of calories and fat contents on their kitchen cabinets. We feel that as Torah Jews it is more important for us to know the correct bracha as
mandated by halacha.

Does Mr. Senders imply that it really doesn’t matter which bracha you make, or that it is too
cumbersome and time-consuming to be bothered with such minutiae?

As an Orthodox Jew, modern or otherwise, we are bound by halacha, and there is no room for equivocation or debate on this. It is surprising to me, therefore, that The Jewish Press even
published Mr. Senders’s letter. It frightens me to think that people might read this letter and be
nichshol in this very basic precept of halacha. Please clarify this to your readers so that, chas
v’shalom, this will not occur.

Anne Klein
Lawrence, NY

Not The Rav’s Approach

Reader Mike Senders’s point last week was contained in one paragraph of his long letter; the
rest was commentary. He said, in reference to the April 25 article on Modern Orthodoxy by Shlomo Mostofsky, “As a past president of Young Israel of Cleveland, I must take issue with [Mostofsky’s] oversimplified view of the total value system of Torah life. I think he sees a Torah lifestyle as one that is limited to a halachic dimension of observance and that the only goal in life is the halachic dimension of Torah values.”

To the contrary, claims Mr. Senders. “Modern Orthodoxy attempts to create a balance between the need for growth in Hashem’s Torah and awareness of “lesakain olam” – the command to perfect the universe through the Almighty’s sovereignty. This principle is what separates Modern Orthodoxy from the ultra-Orthodox.”

Senders then goes on to mock efforts to alert Jews to little-appreciated possibilities for chillul
Shabbos and violation of the rules governing brachot as “passing off many chumrot as halacha
in our daily lives,” concluding that “we have been overwhelmed by a misreading of the total value system of ‘Torah living.'”

I have no desire to enter the great debate spawned by Shlomo Mostofsky’s article, but do
freely acknowledge that changing the world for the good is a laudable goal, as Mr. Senders eloquently argues. However, what defines Jews as a people is a lifelong mission to determine and then act in accordance with Divine Will.

How Mr. Senders’s comments square with this fundamental tenet of our faith eludes me. Indeed, he seems to suggest that halacha can actually get in the way of what Jewish life is really all about. This is akin to the currently popular oxymoronic notion of broad religious license to draw people to observance.

Mr. Senders’s view of Modern Orthodoxy bears no resemblance to the relentless search for
halachic truth and the uncompromising personal piety that characterized the intellectual progenitor of Modern Orthodoxy himself, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveichik, zt”l.

William Farkash
(Via E-Mail)

Editor’s Note: The Letters to the Editor section of The Jewish Press is intended to be a forum for the broadest spectrum of public opinion on significant issues. We trust that Anne Klein’s concerns were at least somewhat allayed by the vociferous reader response (of which we’ve published just a representative sampling) to Mr. Senders’s letter of last week.

Contrary View On Iraq

I am amazed at the certainty with which the Orthodox establishment embraced the war on Iraq.

For example, Dr. Mandell Ganchrow wrote that “Jews must support this war on geo-political,
moral and theological grounds? (Jewish Press, April 4). Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, referring to the Orthodox Union’s support of the war, said that this was “one of the easiest positions we’ve had to take” (Jewish Press, April 11).

Each of us who has beat the Bushian war drums ought to ask himself the following questions: Would I have advocated war if Iraq didn’t happen to be an arch-enemy of Israel? Would
I have supported the war if I thought I’d be required to make any real sacrifice? Am I running
out to enlist in the United States armed forces or sending my children to do so? Do I really care if 20 million Iraqis were “liberated”?

Since, as I suspect, the answer for most of us to most or all of these questions would probably be “no,” we have a credibility problem as war advocates. Much has been made in the media of the influence of the so-called “neo-conservatives” (code word for Jewish conservatives) on President Bush’s foreign policy. While the extent of this influence is probably grossly exaggerated, we don’t help our image by publicly supporting a war when our support
is apparently motivated by self-interest as opposed to principles.

In response, one may argue that regardless of our own credibility gap, we had (or have,
depending on whether you consider the war over or not) an obligation to support the war because it is a just war. But is it really? In support of the war, Dr. Ganchrow refers to the Talmudic edict, “He who comes to kill you, arise first and kill him.” As far as I know, however, Iraq did not attack the United States nor was it threatening to do so before the
United States invaded. As a matter of fact, Iraq had not attacked anybody outside its borders in the last dozen years.

The threat from Iraq may not have been imminent, concede the hawks on this issue, but its
government was developing “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) in violation of United Nations resolutions and constituted a serious future threat. Leaving aside the question of whether our beloved UN has the moral authority to dictate which states have the right to possess WMD and which don’t (remember, Israel also violates UN resolutions), just where are these WMD? Simply because Saddam Hussein couldn’t prove their non-existence does not mean that they do exist. The UN inspectors couldn’t find them, Iraq didn’t use them even as it was attacked by the U.S., and the U.S. military hasn’t been able to find them during its
attempted clean-up of the decimated country.

What makes the WMD theory particularly suspect as a justification for the war is that just as
about the war was about to start, President Bush changed the stated #1 reason for the war from WMD to “regime change.” Granted the Saddam Hussein regime was brutal to its people, but does that justify a foreign invasion? By that logic, why not take military action to topple all the totalitarian regimes throughout the world? And based on the chaos and looting that is erupting in Iraq in the aftermath of the regime destruction, it is unclear as to whether the Americans have actually done the people of Iraq any favors.

Even from our perspective as supporters of Israel, the benefits of this war are not all that
clear. Saddam Hussein may be gone, but who’s to say he won’t be replaced by an even worse
“Pharaoh?” Perhaps the next Iraqi leader will be less interested in building palaces for himself and more interested in world conquest. And to compensate the Arabs for its destruction of one of their regimes, the United States will have to throw them a bone. And guess who that bone will be?

Hopefully, under Hashem’s plan, the destruction of the Hussein regime will ultimately be a positive thing for Israel and the olam. But I, as a common Yid, do not know the specifics of this plan. I do know that there are legitimate questions about the morality and justness of the war (and I’ve only touched a few and haven’t gotten into other issues like the war-related financial interests of some of the president’s cronies).

The enthusiasm with which many Orthodox Jews have embraced the war against Iraq leads me to believe either that their moral judgment is being clouded by their political crush on George W. Bush or that they are privy to secret and classified data (either concerning Hashem’s divine plan, or, l’havdil, concerning WMD) to which I am not.

Zachary M. Berman
Bronx, NY