Cheryl Kupfer is not only a great columnist, she has a heart of gold. When I recently submitted a piece on a Halachic Organ Donor event written by someone who’d attended, Ms. Kupfer made sure it would be included in your paper, just as she did with an article preceding the event.
I want to thank you for running these important write-ups. The Jewish Press has been particularly sensitive on issues pertaining to kidney transplants. And I am well aware that yours is the only newspaper that offers a reduced rate for those who place ads seeking kidney donors. It’s such a great chesed. Kol Hakavod to all of you.
I myself found my kidney recipient through an ad in The Jewish Press. Another kidney donor with whom I am in touch also saved a life by answering an ad in your paper. Thanks again to Ms. Kupfer and the entire Jewish Press staff for being my partner in saving lives.
Matthew Bielski Update
Since the appearance of my article “An American in the IDF” (front-page essay, Aug. 4), quite a few things have changed for Matthew Bielski.
I began my reporting for the piece in mid-June, just before the soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. At the time I spoke with Matthew, his main concern was whether he should begin his active duty, since he had just completed the requisite full year of paratrooper training, or continue training for an elite commander position, which would take another six months.
Matthew decided on the latter. But soon after he returned to Israel from the U.S., his plans were thrown into flux. He was told he could continue his training, but that he “could be called up at any time,” as he told me over the phone in a recent conversation.
In an e-mail, his mother, Margot, told me she is “hoping for peace.” The fact that several of the soldiers in Matthew’s training unit were killed did nothing to alleviate her fears.
In recent weeks, Margot has organized a fundraising campaign for high-tech boots, kneepads and water packs for Matthew’s unit. The military, Matthew told me, provides the basic equipment, but they recommend certain upgrades, if the soldiers can afford them.
Most soldiers in Matthew’s 28-person unit cannot. So Margot has raised over $2,500 and has already sent custom boots to Matthew and his entire unit. (The website for the fundraiser is www.leorb.com.) Since donors have been generous, the Bielskis are now buying equipment for two other units as well.
New York, NY
Defending Without Offending
Re last week’s Media Monitor column (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”):
Liberals like New York magazine’s Kurt Andersen would be happy to root for Israel if only it did not have to employ nasty instruments of violence – guns, tanks, fighter jets, etc. To liberals like Andersen, the most pressing concern is that Israel defend itself without offending anyone, even those who rain rockets on innocent, defenseless Israeli mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, infants and the infirm.
Predictably, liberal Kurt Andersen sees the latest chapter in the unending war to eliminate the Jews from that tiny, almost invisible, sliver of the vast Middle East as an opportunity for the Jews to show the Arabs how charitable we can be.
Liberal Salute For Bush
Steven Z. Leder is the senior rabbi at the extremely liberal and very Reform Wilshire Boulevard Temple here in Los Angeles. I thought your readers would appreciate some of the thoughts he expressed last week in an open letter to President Bush that ran in the Jewish Journal, an ultra-liberal L.A. weekly:
“While I have not always agreed with you in the past, if someone asked me what I would want the president of the United States of America to say and do during this time when Israel is being threatened by terrorists, I would answer by telling him, ‘Exactly what President Bush is saying and doing.’
“America is unique. You are unique. We are blessed to live in a world where the dominant power is standing with us, rather than against us in the face of terror and hatred. There is little more I can say to you, Mr. President, other than to let you know of my profound gratitude to you for your steadfast friendship to Israel and the Jewish people. I believe that it comes from a place deep within you that transcends politics.
“Thank you for standing with us as we stand against terror, intolerance and hatred. God bless you, Mr. President. And God bless the United States of America.”
I think this gentleman speaks for all Jews who care more about Israel than their precious liberal politics.
Los Angeles, CA
Perils Of Paralegals
The Aug. 4 “Chronicles of Crises” column suggested that couples seeking an uncontested divorce obtain the assistance of a paralegal in preparing and submitting the divorce documents to the court in order to save on attorney’s fees. This advice is wrong and dangerous.
Paralegals are not licensed by the State of New York. Nevertheless, couples with few assets and no children may view a paralegal as the cheapest way to get divorced. But if you have children (and where property is not an issue) a Separation Agreement setting forth the issues of custody, visitation and child support must be submitted to the court and be reflected in the judgment of divorce.
Any errors committed by the paralegal may cause either party to the divorce irreparable harm. Even when parties approach me about mediation with an experienced mediator, I urge them to show any agreement that is reached to at least one attorney. The same holds true when a bet din issues a p’sak or obtains a settlement and has an attorney of the bet din‘s choosing draft an agreement on behalf of both parties. Another attorney should review the document to insure that the agreement is well drafted.
While paralegals and the author may disagree with the above, the many clients who have paid me thousands of dollars to undo agreements and court papers drafted by inexperienced mediators and batei din would wholeheartedly agree with my position. Needless to say, papers drafted by paralegals do not even rise to the level of the papers drafted by mediators or attorneys chosen by a bet din.
Those tempted to take the paralegal route should ask themselves whether they would permit a dental assistant to perform a root canal.
Steven Z. Mostofsky
Editor’s Note: Mr. Mostofsky is an attorney.
Our Actions And World Events
Cause And Effect
Reader David Fass, in his Aug. 11 response to my letter (Aug. 4) exhorting Jews to speak out against the proposed gay celebrations in Israel, misquotes a Gemara and completely ignores our entire history.
The Gemara that says not to castigate someone in the moment of his suffering refers, I believe, to an individual, not a community or a nation. Our history is full of admonitions during and after difficult times.
Our suffering under the hands of Haman was, according to our Sages, the result of our participation in a forbidden celebration. Had the Jews not eventually recognized this and instead attributed their troubles to Haman, the Purim story might, God forbid, not have ended as happily as it did.
The Jews of that era fasted, did teshuvah and rededicated themselves to the Torah. Of course, they also dealt with the matter on a physical level. That is a far cry from what we’re doing today.
Our rabbis taught (Yoma 9b) that the destruction of the first Temple was caused by idolatry, licentiousness, and bloodshed. The destruction of the second Temple was brought about by hatred among Jews. And our mourning on Tisha b’Av is rooted not only in those events but also in the spies’ lashon hora against the Land of Israel.
These are all reasons for our calamities, as openly stressed by our Sages. The scriptural principle that a person doesn’t hurt his little finger unless it’s decreed Above is common knowledge. To “not speculate” about the cause of a tragedy has consistently led to even greater tragedies.
Finally, I’d like to commend The Jewish Press for urging our rabbis to fight the gay abomination in the Holy Land.
Fulfilling The Covenant
David Fass is correct on two counts. Yes, it is the Arabs, not Hashem, who bear the blame for the current Middle East crisis. And certainly we have no license to even speculate as to why people face hardships. There is, however, a third point made by Mr. Fass that must be rebutted – to wit, God does not punish the Jewish nation because of its sins.
The Gemara states that if one is beset with problems he must turn introspective and rectify those areas that need improvement. I would not definitively state that missiles are raining down on Israel because of a proposed gay rally, but the Torah clearly defines homosexuality as anathema, so why incite our Father in Heaven? I don’t know if Israelis are dying because of widespread Shabbos desecration, but why not recommit to sanctifying the Shabbos? And I can’t aver that Israelis are now confined to bomb shelters because of sexual promiscuity, but let’s discontinue these shameful practices.
For thirteen unlucky years, Israeli leaders have made painful concessions hoping to secure a peace treaty with their hostile, intransigent neighbors. Some 3,400 years ago we were given the true Covenant of Peace. It behooves every Jew to fulfill our part of the bargain.
Dr. Yaakov Stern
Not So Silly
David Fass’s understanding of the planned Israeli gay march as just a “silly parade” can be applied to just about every Torah commandment – like lighting a “silly match” on the Sabbath or eating a “silly piece of chometz” on Passover. I guess that commandments which have no known reason – chukim – must really seem silly to Mr. Fass.
From a Torah perspective, desecrating the Sabbath and Passover and celebrating the gay lifestyle are serious offenses. But you really have to believe in something (the Torah) to take all this seriously. Individuals who quote Gemara and other scripture in the guise of being Torah Jews, yet spew forth thoughts completely antithetical to Torah values, are, in my opinion, some of the most destructive among us.
Torah laws are not subject to anyone’s validation and approval. It takes utter arrogance and a serious lack of intelligence to sit in the midst of a world created by the same God who gave us the Torah and haphazardly critique His laws.
New York, NY