Beautify The Shrines
   This is the time of year when we, the Jewish people, visit our holy places in Israel. Having just visited Kever Rachel, I am appalled by what has happened to it. It has become a prison. Its foreboding look and entrance are beyond belief. I know this has happened because the Muslim community is bent on the destruction of all Jewish holy sites and wishes to eradicate any and all of our ties to our holy and precious land.
   A suggestion: The Jewish National Fund, which is dedicated to revitalizing our land, could plant beautiful flower-bearing vines all across the ugly walls. It could landscape areas near the kever, even planting flowers with an intoxicating perfume that would enhance the memory of Mother Rachel who pleads for the children of Israel to come back to their homeland.

Toby Willig



Clinton’s Record

   Re Bill Clinton’s claim that he fought terrorism in the 1990’s:
   Remember how Clinton congratulated and shook the hand of a known and evil terrorist, Yasir Arafat, who was responsible for the killing of hundreds of innocent victims, including Americans? Arafat admitted to being directly involved in terrorism and to directing other terrorists to carry out their terrible acts. But Clinton still said that Arafat was a man of peace and repeatedly welcomed him here with open arms.
   And Clinton really thinks he fought terrorism when he was president?

Catherine French

Los Alamos, NM


Communal Action On Kashrus

   Ary Kempler’s letter last week on the Monsey kashrus scandal is Exhibit A as to how something so shocking can occur – and why it probably will occur again. As your editorial on the subject argued, we as a community cannot be primarily concerned with the personal consequences that arise for a particular rav hamachshir as a result of his mistakes. Nor is it a question of whether he personally acted in accordance with halacha (except in terms of the level of credence henceforth given his certification).
   No, the concern must be how we as a community can fix an obviously broken system. Whatever the validity of the old practice of relying on the integrity of the merchant, this approach is, at the very least, problematic in today’s world.
   And no, this is not a non-Orthodox approach – i.e., changing halacha to conform with newly emergent realities. No one ever said that reliance on the merchant was halachically required, only that it was acceptable. This is no different from the common plaint one hears from Orthodox leaders that, given the times we live in, special precautions must be taken in many areas of life. If the profit motive has become such an important factor, we must react accordingly.

Pinchas Hammerman

(Via E-Mail)


Myth Of Haredi Anti-Zionism

   I was pleased, though somewhat surprised, to see Reuven Lesher’s letter to the editor on “Haredim and Israel” in last week’s issue. Since Lesher debunks the widespread notion that the haredi world is opposed to the State of Israel, one might have thought that The Jewish Press, with its longstanding and well-known position that modern Israel is part of the fulfillment of the Divine plan for the rebuilding of biblical Eretz Yisrael, would hesitate to expose its readers to a well-thought-out rejoinder to the Religious Zionist argument. That you gave reader Lesher a platform is commendable.
   Actually, I think you performed quite a public service. While I believe Mr. Lesher glossed over the fundamental antagonism of European haredi leadership to any Jewish state arising before the advent of Moshiach, he is eminently correct in pointing out that today there is scant opposition, in practical terms, to the current state, for the reasons he gives.
   Other than those on the Neturei Karta fringe, no one in the Orthodox world actually and actively wishes the Jewish state ill.

Rabbi Zvi Herman


On The Other Hand
   Forget all the sophistry. Haredim will never accept a Jewish state that is not brought about by Moshiach. You can talk all you want about frum Jews sending their kids to learn in Israel and about the Tehillim they recite in shul, but the bottom line for them is that without Moshiach, the Jewish state is inconsistent with halacha and it would have been better had it never been established. That’s the emes, once you strip away the current-day politically correct expressions of support.

Heshy Hartstein

(Via E-mail)


Ramp Of Kindness


   This year, for the first time, I led Yamim Nora’im (High Holy Day) services at a major Jewish hospital. A clergy member pointed out to me that there were fewer people this year than last. I responded, “Baruch Hashem. That means there are less people who are sick!” It’s probably the only kind of minyan about which one can say the less, the better.

   I noticed something I had not seen in any other shul I’d ever been in. There was a ramp leading up to the bimah to enable those in wheelchairs and on IV’s to get an aliyah. It reminded me of the Beis HaMikdash and the Mishkan which had a ramp leading up to the Mizbayach (altar).
   I prayed that just as the sacrifices on the Mizbayach brought aboutkappara, atonement, so too should the effort made to enable the sick to get an aliyah procure an atonement for us and for all of Klal Yisrael.
   The word for ramp in Hebrew, “kevesh,” is comprised of same letters as the verb “kavash,” which means to suppress. This word is used in both the Machzor and Siddur. After recounting the story of the Binding of Yitzchak, we recite: “Just as Avraham suppressed his mercy from his only son…so may Your mercy suppress Your anger from upon us.”
   What better symbol than a ramp to ask Hashem to suppress His midas hadin, His attribute of harsh judgment, with His midas harachamim, His attribute of mercy, during these fateful times we live in?

Rabbi Mordechai Bulua

Montreal, Canada


British Perfidy


   Dvora Waysman’s “Still the People of the Book?” (op-ed, Sept. 22), was most certainly timely for this period of the year. Although being essentially contemporary, it recalled the past as it impacts our lives today.
   The subject of the British and Palestine is vast and extends well beyond their cruelty to the Jews. While there are many books on the subject, the writing of Elie Kedourie is particularly lucid and comprehensive. In 1970, Kedourie published a collection of his essays under the title The Chatham House Version and Other Middle East Studies. It was Chatham House, a British think tank, that exercised a profound influence on UK policy in the Middle East from the 1920’s through the 1950’s.
   The centerpiece of Kedourie’s discussion is his questioning of the negligent manner in which the British broke up the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. To Kedourie, the guilt generated by liberalism drove the British to retreat from their imperial commitments, leaving behind what he described as “a wilderness of tigers.”
   Loss of will led to misinterpretation of the Arab and Muslim society, to mistaken judgments and broken promises. In effect this meant an abdication of responsibility to those the British once ruled. Kedourie foresaw what we are now experiencing: in one Arab country after another, and beyond in the Third World, independence has brought tyranny, not freedom, to people in no position to defend themselves.
   Who can forget British prime minister Harold Macmillan proclaiming “the winds of change”? Apparently neither the U.S. State Department nor the EU has derived any lessons from the errors of the past as both trot out “New World Orders” and “Road Maps” that are in fact the same dead bones in different clothing.

Alex Rose

Bet Shemesh, Israel


Magazine Section

   The Magazine section of The Jewish Press is a very helpful resource for readers dealing with all manner of family difficulties. On behalf of other single divorced moms, I would like to thank you for providing advice and information about special organizations that help us deal with the after-effects of divorce. I find the columnists to be helpful, informative, supportive and non-judgmental. May Hashem reward them for their chesed and you for making this section available.
   Thanks for caring, and I hope the section will continue to endure and help all those who need it.

Gisele Strauch

Brooklyn, NY





Arnold Fine’s Fantasyland


      I don’t know which Lower East Side Arnold Fine visited and wrote about in his Sept. 22 “I Remember When” column, but it surely wasn’t the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the year 2006.
      Of course there are no longer 500,000 Jews living in teeming tenements. But there are 30,000 Jews living in the community board (Manhattan #3) a number far greater than the 7,000 or 8,000 that Mr. Fine seems to have plucked out of thin air.
      Mr. Fine refers to public housing and – amazingly – totally ignores the 4,400 units of cooperative apartments along Grand Street and East Broadway, the heart of the Jewish community. These apartments are now selling at upwards of $500 a square foot (for example, a one-bedroom of 800 square feet in size selling for $450,000). Poor Jews?
      Mr. Fine reminisces about Bernstein’s on Essex Street. – I confess we all do. But from reading “I Remember When” it sounds like there are no longer any kosher establishments on the Lower East Side. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Fine makes no mention of 41 Essex Street, Noah’s Ark, East Side Glatt, the Sholom Chai pizza store, Kossar’s Bialys, M and M Dairy, Gus’s Pickles, the Pickle Guys, Gertel’s Bakery, Moishe’s Bakery, East Broadway Bakery, and other kosher establishments all alive and well on the East Side.
      Of course the Lower East Side has poor people; what neighborhood doesn’t? But the latest Jewish population census data actually records that the percentage of poor on the Lower East Side is no greater than that on the Upper East Side.
      And there are so many young families on the Lower East Side. We boast yeshivas such as Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim, Bais Yaakov of the Lower East Side, and many families send their children uptown to Manhattan Day School, Yeshiva Ketana and Ramaz. Check out the many baby carriages being wheeled on a typical day on the Lower East Side.
      In addition, the column contained not a mention of the leadership of the worldwide Jewish community residing on the Lower East Side, including Harav Hagaon Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, shlita; Harav Hagaon Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, shlita; the speaker of the New York State Assembly, the Hon. Sheldon Silver; our judges – Justice Richard Price, Justice Martin Shulman, Judge Shlomo Hagler, Judge David Cohen; communal leaders Heshie Jacob, president of Hatzolah, and Willie Rapfogel, executive director of Met Council; and the famous radio host Nachum Segal, among others.
      I’m afraid Mr. Fine is living in some fantasy world and has brought everyone along with him. But he has not checked out the reality, nor visited or picked up the phone to anyone living here.
      I would love to give him a tour of the very vibrant community we call the Lower East Side.

Joel Kaplan, Esq.

Executive Director

United Jewish Council of the East Side