Note to Readers: A letter appeared in last week’s issue purporting to be from a “Rabbi Rick Probstein.” We have since learned that the letter was not from someone named Rick Probstein. Though we make every effort to verify the identity of readers who submit letters for publication, the system obviously failed in this instance. We apologize for the error.
Thank you to Professor Paul Kengor for a wonderful and informative piece on President Reagan’s fight for Soviet Jewry (“The Liberator,” front-page essay, March 16). Like the Russian immigrant and his grandson mentioned in the article, I too had the honor of running into Mr. Reagan on one of his walks near his Los Angeles office.
It was a sunny March day in 1995, and Mr. Reagan, who recently had told the country of his Alzheimer’s in a letter released to the media by his wife Nancy, appeared slightly unsteady.
I asked one of the men walking with Mr. Reagan if I could approach the former president. He looked at me for a couple of seconds and nodded. I shook Mr. Reagan’s hand and told him how much I admired him. I happened to be wearing a yarmulke, and he pointed at it and slowly said, “I know what that stands for. God above us.”
I thanked him again for everything he’d done for the country. The entire encounter lasted maybe a minute, but it was one of the most memorable experiences in my life.
Connecting The Dots
With all the brouhaha enveloping the World Jewish Congress over its firing of Israel Singer, the casual observer may well be missing a more important story.
The attempt by WJC Grand Pooh-bah Edgar Bronfman to install Oded Eran, Israel’s current ambassador to the EU, as WJC Israel branch director is an ominous sign – and one I don’t believe to be incidental to the surrounding controversy.
For some time there have been worrying signals emanating out of “high places” in Israel’s political establishment regarding clandestine negotiations between Israeli emissaries and the Vatican, which, we know, has been biding its time for many years in order to gain ownership of some of Judaism’s holiest sites.
Bronfman has often served as an emissary for Israeli officials on various “sensitive” issues. As czar of a leading Jewish umbrella group, Bronfman has positioned himself as something of a bridgehead between the religions in interfaith dialogue.
Enter Oded Eran. Installing Eran as head of WJC’s Israel branch would, given his access to EU officials, put him a position of being the point man on many issues involving Israel and Europe – including the explosive issue of the Vatican’s claims on Jewish holy sites.
Could it be the WJC will soon be cozying up to Europe and the Vatican at the expense of our Jewish homeland?
Elmwood Park, NJ
Selective Freedom Of Speech?
Carol D. Saal’s offensive letter to the editor (March 23) claims that Ben-Gurion University officials champion pluralism and free speech. Oh, really? Then why have they never spoken out against BGU faculty member Neve Gordon’s misusing the Israeli court system to harass the prolific writer (and Jewish Press columnist) Steven Plaut in an ugly attempt at silencing him?
Are BGU officials of the opinion that Gordon’s writings – carried on a number of neo-Nazi and pro-Palestinian websites – are deserving of freedom of speech while Plaut’s criticisms of those writings are not? Evidently, BGU officials feel their own donors are not the only people undeserving of freedom of speech and the right to criticize.
Readers Debate ‘The End Of Innocence’
‘Dirty Little Secret’
The Jewish Press is to be commended for its courage in shining a spotlight on the dirty little secret of abuse in the Orthodox community (“The End of Innocence,” special report, Feb. 16).
It’s a subject many of our religious leaders do not want publicized, because acknowledgment of the problem’s existence would lead to all kinds of uncomfortable questions – not the least of them being, where have these esteemed rabbis been all these years as the problem festered and grew?
For too long we’ve blinded ourselves to the reality that there are sick predators in our midst who prey on our children with relative impunity. Because of our tradition of deference to religious authority, we are reluctant to question the operation of our religious institutions. This has to stop. If we know about the problem and do nothing, how can we defend ourselves against the charge that we are complicit in these crimes against our children?
I blame the rising levels of abuse in our communities on those who presume to lead us: our rabbis. (By the way, speaking of scandals, exactly how many of these rabbis have authentic s’micha? Look at the phone book – it seems like every third Jew in Boro Park and Midwood is listed as “rabbi.” Imagine how ridiculous it would seem if you looked at a phone book for Bay Ridge and found name after name listed there with “Father” or “Reverend” attached to it.)
We’ve swallowed the false assurances, given us by our comfortable, don’t-rock-the-boat, kavod-driven rabbis and Orthodox functionaries, that there is no real problem, and that whatever isolated instances do exist are firmly under control thanks to their fearless and peerless leadership.
And let’s not leave ourselves off the hook – we parents who are so obsessed with shidduchim that we are willing to perpetuate the see-no-evil mentality in the community because God forbid 10 or 12 years from now a potential zivig or mechutan finds out our son or daughter was molested as an 8 year old by some pervert – as if that somehow renders the victim damaged goods or an unfit husband or wife.
How ignorant we must seem to the outside world.
‘Comprehensive And Unblinking’
By publishing Shlomo Greenwald’s “The End of Innocence,” The Jewish Press proved itself to be the only responsible Orthodox Jewish publication out there. While I realize your paper constantly focuses on problems in the frum community, including the various forms of abuse, I do wonder why it took you so long to put the issue so squarely out front like this, giving it the attention it deserves in such a comprehensive and unblinking manner.
That, I’ll admit, is a rather minor quibble considering the breadth and length of Mr. Greenwald’s article and your willingness to open yourselves to criticism from those in our community who prefer to go through life with eyes and ears firmly covered.
New York, NY
Help In Rockland County
Thank you so much for publishing the “The End of Innocence.” Unfortunately, domestic violence and sexual abuse in the Orthodox community do exist, as they do in any community. It is time we acknowledge and accept this fact and work together on solutions.
I’d like to mention that Project Tikvah is a program under the umbrella of the Rockland Family Shelter dedicated to serving families in the Orthodox community. We provide counseling, a 24-hour hotline, rabbinical referrals, legal and court advocacy, and weekly support groups for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. We also hold informative meetings in the community dealing with community issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Please feel free to call us at 845-634-3344. We are always sensitive to halacha.
New City, NY
Where’s The Beef?
As an Orthodox Jew, I welcomed Mr. Greenwald’s article on confronting sexual abuse, if only because of its potential to stimulate serious interest in, and discussion of, this very serious issue.
Unfortunately, the article failed to provide any hard facts – there were no statistics or figures offered to bolster the claim that we indeed have a growing problem on our hands. In the end, we have to trust the word of “professionals,” based almost entirely on anecdotal evidence rather than cold numbers.
The rabbis, therapists and educators interviewed by Mr. Greenwald seem to go by the theorem of “vi ed Christalzich, Yiddelstich” – that is, when something is present in the non-Jewish world, rest assured it’s present in the Jewish world too. Nice bit of folk wisdom, but one would think that people the caliber of those quoted in the article would have some data at their fingertips.
Rabbi Zvi Brecher
Why Focus On The Orthodox?
I’m concerned by the exclusive focus in Mr. Greenwald’s article on Orthodox Jews. Can we not assume that the problem exists with at least equal virulence among Reform and Conservative Jews? Actually, it’s probably a bigger problem in those circles, simply because, in terms of sheer numbers, there’s more of them than us.
The Jewish Week and the Forward have the market cornered on presenting the Orthodox community in the worst possible light. Please don’t lower yourselves to that level.