Influence Of The Press
It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since the passing of Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, thanks to whom a good friend of mine got started on the road to Torah.
Back in 1964, this friend was serving time in a California penitentiary for armed robbery. With so many empty hours to reflect on his predicament, the mistakes he’d made, and the lack of spirituality in his life, he decided to explore his Jewish heritage.
He began reading The Jewish Press, complimentary copies of which were available at the prison library. Immediately he started keeping whatever mitzvos he could in that environment. Eventually my friend wrote a letter to Rabbi Klass, informing him of his progress. Rabbi Klass responded with a letter full of encouragement and insight.
When he was released in 1973, my friend found a rabbi with whom he studied. Within a few years he was married and the father of two girls. Not many people in his community were aware of his past, but to those of us in whom he confided, he never stopped expressing his gratitude to Hashem for guiding him to a life of Torah via copies of The Jewish Press – in, of all places, a desolate and depressing prison where he often thought of taking his own life.
My friend died last year, and I can’t help but think that the first thing he did in Olam Haba was search out Rabbi Klass in order to introduce himself.
From Father To Daughter
How refreshing it was to read the sensitive, loving reflections of Naomi Klass Mauer on the occasion of the seventh yahrzeit of her father, HaRav HaGoan Reb Shalom Klass, zt”l (Jewish Press, January 26). It is rare to hear American-born children (even those who may be grandparents in their own right) vividly manifest such awe and deep respect for their parents.
In addition to his many other accomplishments, Rav Klass – a gaon in Torah, a baki b’Shas and a brilliant publisher – imbued in his daughter a legacy of warm, loving memories that to this day inspires the life mission of her family.
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
West Palm Beach, FL
Re your February 9 editorial “Where in the World is Abe Foxman?”:
France was one of the first countries to lay down three clear principles for dialogue with any Palestinian government: the renunciation of violence, recognition of the State of Israel and recognition of the agreements signed in the past by Israel and the PLO.
On January 26, 2006, the day after the Palestinian elections, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy declared: “It is essential, today, for the government which is going to emerge from the polls very clearly, explicitly and publicly to renounce violence and declare that it recognizes the existence of the State of Israel and its right to live in peace and security, and, above all, that it recognizes all the agreements between the State of Israel and the PLO signed in the past.”
These principles are now prerequisites in the Quartet’s peace efforts.
Regarding the threat of a nuclear Iran, President Chirac reiterated on February 1 that France cannot accept the prospect of an Iran with nuclear weapons and is asking Iran to comply with its commitments under the NPT. Together with the international community, France has demanded that Iran, which has not proved that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, implement the IAEA and UN resolutions.
Such a serious matter, on which the commitment of France and President Chirac is constant, cannot be the subject of a war of words.
French Consul General
New York, NY
Jonathan Tobin (“Who Will Speak for the Jews?” op-ed, Feb. 9) claims the Zionist Organization of America has lost popularity due to its positions against Oslo and the Gaza withdrawal. In fact, ZOA’s support has improved dramatically, as evidenced by, among other developments, a seven-fold increase in our budget over the past few years.
The Wall Street Journalhas referred to ZOA “the most credible advocate for Israel in America,” while the Israeli daily Maariv has called ZOA “the most influential group in America.”
ZOA’s national dinners regularly attract more than 1,000 people, with recent honorees including such giants of the Jewish communal world as Mortimer Zuckerman, James Tisch and Ronald Lauder – all former chairmen of the Presidents Conference.
No wonder the new EncyclopediaJudaica, which has two listings on Mort Klein and ZOA, states that Mr. Klein “revived a moribund organization and brought ZOA to prominence … making it one of the most visible Jewish groups in America.”
Rabbi Albert Gabbai
Rabbi Fred Kazan
Members, ZOA Board
Still More On The ‘S’ Word
Banish The Word
Re Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s “The ‘S’ Word Has No Place In A Religious Jew’s Vocabulary” (op-ed, Feb. 2):
This was a long overdue article, but well worth the wait. The lack of voices speaking out against such an inherently offensive term as “shvartza” not only makes a horrible impression on non-Jews (and certainly the term does its part to increase anti-Semitism within the black community), it also serves to alienate black Jews.
According to members of the organization Ayecha, young Jews of color go “off the derech” at a far higher rate than their counterparts of European descent. One common reason given by these kids is that they could not deal with being called “shvartza” on a regular basis.
This term is one of the most offensive in the Yiddish language and its usage – along with racist conduct in general – has never been becoming for religious Jews. It should be banished from our vocabulary.
A Great Chillul Hashem
I am a regular Jewish Press reader who wishes to strongly endorse and give a hearty yasher koach to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for his article on the “S” word.
For many years I have taken the position with toddlers (yes, three-year-old children hear it at home and repeat it), teens, and my own contemporaries that the very derogatory and offensive “S” word is completely unacceptable. When I was growing up, we were the only family I knew in which the word “shvartza” was understood to be taboo. And when I raised my now adult children, it was clear to them and anyone who came into our home that this word was not to be uttered.
I challenge anyone who uses this word to rethink his or her actions and choose another term when referring to people of color. We must recognize the use of this word as the great chillul Hashem it is.
About 20 years ago, I stood up and walked out on a lecture by a world-renowned speaker visiting our community when she used that word. Several friends accompanied me and later, to her credit, the speaker issued a private apology.
Let’s be conscious of the fact that words often reveal much about our values and sensitivities. We are taught from the time we’re children that words have great power. We can all do better.
Selma H. Elzas
I could not believe reader Chaya Blitzer’s defense of the “S” word (Letters, Feb. 9).
First, her claim that “shvartza” is merely the Yiddish equivalent of “black” is completely disingenuous. The Yiddish term for “black” is “shvartz.” But who ever heard of someone referring to a black person as a “shvartz“? Adding the vowel “a” (or “e”) to “shvartz” turns the word into something demeaning, like “blackie.” It’s no longer a strict translation of “black.” Besides, just listen to the tone of voice that’s used the next time you hear someone say “shvartza.” It’s usually not very respectful or admiring, to say the least.
And then Ms. Blitzer tries to justify the use of “shvartza” by making the claim that no group was more supportive of the civil rights movement than Jews. That’s a strange thing to say since Rabbi Boteach was addressing himself primarily to Orthodox Jews – who, sad to say, played an almost negligible role in the fight for black civil rights.
As an Orthodox Jew it pains me to write this, but Orthodox rabbis (like Saul Berman) who went down South to march for civil rights at risk of life and limb were few and far between. As any serious student of history knows, it was the Conservative rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Reform rabbi Joachim Prinz who were routinely photographed as they accompanied Martin Luther King on his marches in the South and on his trips to Washington. Can anyone name even one prominent Orthodox rabbi who was similarly involved?
It’s The Context
When I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, we knew better than to call a person of color a “nigger” – that was a pejorative term which we did not use. The term “negro,” however, was considered respectful.
That seems to have changed, though I can’t see why. I have a problem being referred to as a “honky” or a “kike,” but I have no objection to being referred to as a “Caucasian.” There’s nothing insulting about that. Why should people of color have a problem being referred to as “negroes”?
I don’t like the term African-American. It is too imprecise. Not all people of color stem from lineage that goes back to Africa. I would not want to be referred to as a European-American, though both my parents did come from Europe.
The moniker “black” was chosen by people of color themselves, and it’s a good one, I think. For people speaking Yiddish, “shvartza” is an exact translation, and, in my opinion, totally acceptable. It’s not the term itself that’s objectionable, as Rabbi Boteach suggests, but whether it’s used in a disparaging context. Then it becomes completely unacceptable.