Latest update: May 30th, 2012
Interesting Picture By now you must realize the picture in last week’s My Machberes column of the Satmar Rebbe and the Belzer Rebbe meeting was not authentic. While I understand that there have been overtures between their chassidim, this meeting has not as yet taken place. But as I looked at the picture I thought, what a nice dream. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all branches of Torah Judaism maintained respectful and peaceful relations with one another? Nechama Levy (Via E-Mail) Editor’s Reply: As noted in this week’s My Machberes column, we regret the lack of oversight that resulted in the photo’s being published.
Whither Derech Eretz? I am responding to two articles in the Jan. 27 issue. One, an op-ed by an educator writing under a pseudonym, discussed the lack of derech eretz and the generally abysmal behavior in classrooms during secular studies in a right-wing yeshiva. The other, a column by Cheryl Kupfer, discussed the violence perpetrated against Jews who do not live up to the standards of the fanatics among us. Both articles were right on target. Where does it all begin? How do children learn to be so chutzpadik? The answer seems obvious. They learn it from the adults, and from all the entitlements adults provide to their children. That includes taking things for granted, not teaching hakarat hatov, and not imposing consequences for bad behavior. Add to that the closed mentality of the school administration toward secular studies, and the type of students described in the article become the norm. Why aren’t secular studies taken seriously in a “black hat” yeshiva? No matter how much one devotes oneself to Torah learning, there is still a need to function in the everyday world. That means knowing how to read and write coherently. It means knowing basic math. It means knowing about the world around you. It also means exposure to a bit of the outside world, without the fear that one will be eaten alive by it. Someday these students may have to rely on themselves for parnassah, as mommy and daddy might run out of funds. Ms. Kupfer in her column described events that are equally as appalling, and in a way tie into the first article. The so-called haredim who attack innocent people are undoubtedly uneducated and simple-minded individuals who seem to be taking out their own personal vendettas against others, particularly women and girls. A truly religious person does not impose his or her judgments on another. A truly religious person does not use violence. If these so called haredi Jews are so afraid they will be negatively affected by some eight year old walking to school in a shorter skirt than meets their standards, they truly need the benefits of therapy – which only an educated person can provide. Hindy Borenstein East Brunswick, NJ
Halachic Consensus I’m not sure I understand Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt’s ‘s point last week in his op-ed article “Men and Temptation: Beyond the Bus.” The central issue in the Beit Shemesh and related controversies is whether there is a halachic imperative in the mix. Speaking about “extremists” and “temptations” is a distraction. Likewise, what is behind halachic action or inaction is irrelevant. If there is no halachic consensus, there can be no imposition of the rulings by true believers on others. Michael Feinman Jerusalem
PA Will Pay Re “The Sound of Silence” (editorial, Jan. 27): I wonder how long the Palestinian leadership thinks it will get away with ignoring the anti-Jewish incitements of clerics employed by the PA and broadcast on the radio and TV outlets it controls. The recent rant by the Jerusalem mufti is a case in point. True, the Obama administration has yet to comment and that has to be a source of encouragement to Palestinian leaders. But Obama is not a free agent and Congress is sure to make them pay when the time comes. Mordechai Deutsch (Via E-Mail)
Gay And Frum Watershed Moment Thank you so much for publishing the piece by Chaim Levin (“Surviving Bullying, Silencing and Torment for Being Gay in the Frum Community,” Family Issues section, Jan. 27). As Jews, we’ve been harassed, beaten, and tortured by others just for being who we are. It’s was good to see The Jewish Press publishing a first-hand account of someone within our own community who has survived ordeals from both inside and outside the Jewish world just for being who he is. The Jewish Press is a standard-bearer for what’s newsworthy in the frum world. The fact that you published this young man’s article makes this a watershed moment in the frum world’s understanding of “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la’zeh.” Dana Friedman New York, NY
Important, Amazing Story I want to commend The Jewish Press for sharing Chaim Levin’s important and amazing personal story. It took strength, courage, bravery and tremendous heart to allow this story to be heard. You deserve credit for publishing it. I know so many gay and lesbian youth growing up in the frum world. There are a few in my extended family alone. Whatever you think about some private actions being halachically problematic, the only message should be We love you, we want you, and there is nothing shameful about who you are. I am so saddened that some in the Orthodox world have pressured our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into dangerous pseudo-therapies that send negative messages to those most vulnerable. Hashem should forgive us. It is we, the frum community, that should do teshuvah for not being kind to those who need us most. Again, yasher koach to The Jewish Press for helping us all be a true Ohr Lagoyim Mordechai Levovitz Lawrence, NY
Sorry For Chaim’s Pain I’m just someone’s mother sitting at my desk crying after reading Chaim Levin’s article. No one’s child should ever have to live through what he and so many others have. The way I see it, when judgmental, unkind, and ignorant people are able to look in the mirror and tell themselves they truly believe they are perfect in every way, only then do they have the right to voice an opinion. Until then, they should just stop with the uneducated psychobabble. I am not the most educated person as far as halacha goes, but there are so many more halachot about not embarrassing one’s fellow humans and dealing with grace and kindness than the one issur everyone is so obsessed with. I am so sorry for Chaim’s pain and for the pain of all others who were created b’tzelem Elokim and have to live with hateful people who are so unable to see past their own tiny worlds that they can cause such harm. I don’t usually write letters in response to articles I’ve read. I just want to wish Chaim well. There’s nothing else I can do other than be angry and feel helpless and wish that he will live in peace. Ricky Holder Adler (Via E-Mail)
Painful And Upsetting Although I’ve never before responded to an opinion piece, I felt compelled to do so after reading Chaim Levin’s article. As a therapist who works with LGBT youth, it was painful and upsetting to read about Chaim’s experience with reparative therapy. I have been a longtime opponent of this dangerous and damaging form of “therapy.” His story is one more example of blaming and shaming for being different. It is sad that there are those in the frum community who choose to follow a narrow path of acceptance and stand in judgment of others. I commend Chaim for speaking out on behalf of himself and for those who are silenced by their fear and shame. I’d like to thank Chaim for his courage in sharing his story, which was so beautifully written. It truly touched me. Randi Adler, LCSW Program Director, LGBT Services Jewish Community Services of South Florida
Dealing With The Deck You’re Dealt
I was very troubled by Chaim Levin’s article in which he criticizes those in the Jewish community whose attitude toward his homosexuality has caused him a great deal of anguish. He says he is homosexual not by his choice but God’s and that his orientation is not changeable. So why, he asks, can’t he be accepted as he is?
I wonder why he thinks the bullying and other indignities he says he suffers are more significant than what those with physical handicaps – which involves no choice whatsoever – experience? Why won’t he take a lesson from the many handicapped who resolve to leave no stone unturned to overcome their disability and live fruitful Jewish lives?
Why doesn’t he spend every waking hour trying to overcome his tendencies? Why does he instead choose to play the role of victim and limit himself to blaming others for the consequences of his disability? Everyone has to deal with the deck he or she was dealt. Surely the homosexual is better positioned than the physically handicapped in this regard. Of course it is laudable that he claims not to engage in prohibited sexual activity. But he cannot be seriously suggesting that his orientation – even if he doesn’t act on it – is something the Torah considers in a positive light.
Homosexuality has come of age in the modern world and is supported by a very effective lobbying movement. But let’s not confuse the concept of everyone being equal before the secular law with seeking a pass in the frum community for something the Torah considers unnatural.
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