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Livni’s ‘Balance’

Israel has rejected the statement of UN representative John Holmes who, upon visiting Sderot, decried the “cycle of violence,” as if to equate Israel’s reactions to Hamas’s acts.


Such balancing is not new, however, and has unfortunately been voiced by some of Israel’s leaders. When Shas minister and MK Eli Yishai urged Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to suspend talks with the PA, whose wing had just perpetrated the Dimona bombing, her response was astonishing, if not obscene. She was quoted as saying that the PA did not suspend talks when Israel was building in Har Homa, so Israel should not suspend them in the aftermath of Dimona.

The foreign minister of the State of Israel is buying into the moral equivalence rubbish. How shocking and distressing to hear her compare bombs and bodies to buildings.

Howard I. Rhine, Esq.
New York, NY

Minding Our Own Prayers

I do not understand why the ADL or any other Jewish organization would be telling members of another faith how to conduct their prayer services or what they should or should not believe (“Criticizing the Pope,” editorial, Feb. 15).

The people at the ADL have obviously spent a great deal of time studying the Catholic prayer book. When was the last time they opened a Siddur to study our own prayers? What the Catholics say in their Good Friday services is, frankly, none of our business.

If the Catholic Church or some evangelical Protestant denomination believes that Jews are destined for eternal damnation because we do not accept their Messiah, so be it. As Jews, we must have our own beliefs and we must be comfortable with them.

Remember, every morning we say the prayer “Shelo asani goy,” in which we thank Hashem that we were not created as gentiles. Should we expect the gentiles of the world to be happy with that?

Barry Koppel
Kew Gardens Hills, NY

Where’s The Beef?

Yes, Senator Barack Obama has tremendous appeal, but I am not hoodwinked for a moment by his lack of specifics. Why has he avoided speaking about the Middle East conflict? Is it because he knows that if he did go into detail, it would doom his chances for the White House?

He goes on and on with the sort of mindless sloganeering that appeals to young people and the disenfranchised – “Yes we can,” “Change we can believe in,” etc.

What does he want to change – the Washington bureaucracy or the American tradition and the Constitution? He hasn’t specified, but our impressionable youth have been eating whatever he’s serving.

I am amazed at our country’s impressionable youth and how they are so easily taken in by someone with charisma.

Ray Kestenbaum
Rego Park, NY

Positive Image

I live in a retirement community in Arizona where we’re fortunate to have a local community college learning center. I’m enrolled in a course called “Rediscovering the Spark.” An assignment was given by the instructor asking the class to watch the media for a week specifically looking for the representation of old people in a negative way. I didn’t find anything negative in the media, but what I did find was Livia Bitton Jackson’s Jan. 25 column, “Dr. Rose Bilbool: A Living Legend.”

I admire tremendously this 98-year-old woman and her miraculous accomplishments – those papaya preparations that have healed skin diseases. It was heartwarming to read that Dr. Bilbool still maintains her lab and papaya grove in Jericho.

Of course I was proud to read parts of the article to my peers in the class. It was wonderful to share with my contemporaries how The Jewish Press presented a senior in such a positive light.

Reva Luxenberg
Sun Lakes, AZ

Good Reading

The Jewish Press is my Friday night reading. Last week’s issue was full of so many great articles. And the “L’Chaim” magazine supplement was phenomenal. I read it cover to cover. And it was great that it was in a magazine format, so that it can be saved and won’t yellow like a newspaper.

Vivian Miltz
(Vie E-Mail)

Profaning God’s House

The purpose of this letter, to quote Rabbi Heshy Kleinman from page 254 of his excellent book Praying With Fire: “is not meant to criticize any member of the Jewish people; it is a heartfelt attempt to help overcome an unfortunate reality.”

It is my hope that some of you will read this and become inspired to pray better “so that we can truly unleash the awesome power if prayer, for the sake of every individual as well as for the Jewish nation as a whole.”

Our Haftorah on Saturday, February 2, Shevat 26, was Mishpatim, which deals with the plight of Judea. The situation was critical. Babylon was poised to overrun Judea. The Israelites were in violation of God’s commandment to free the Jews the ruling classes owned as bondsmen.

Just as Judea was about to be overrun, its residents finally agreed to free their Jewish bondsmen as required by God and His Torah. They held a public ceremony to mark their covenant with God, and they freed their servants. As soon as the crisis passed, though, they changed their minds and recaptured the recently freed servants. In effect, they made it a point to openly and publicly defy God, as is said in Jeremiah 34:16 “ye turned and profaned My name”

Today, Iran is threatening the existence of Israel and is developing nuclear weapons; southern Israel is under daily rocket, missile and mortar fire from Gaza; and Syria is engaging in saber rattling. The UN allies itself with terrorists who attack Israel. Throughout the world, Jews face a rising tide of anti-Jewish sentiment.

We have only one weapon that can us save us: our prayers for God’s protection in this time of national peril. And what do we do? We openly and publicly profane God’s name. We go to His house (our shuls and temples) and we gossip. We talk lashon hora during our prayer services to Him. On Shabbos, God’s given day of rest, we talk about business when we are supposed to be praying. When the Torah is read, we talk to our friends about sports and our social lives.

We go to God’s house and we publicly show our contempt for Him. We profane His name, just as Judea did, and my fear is that we will receive His justice, just as Judea did.

Gary Konecky
Fair Lawn, NJ

Reaching Out

The great tragedy of the Jewish people today is not the threat to Israel or anti-Semitism but massive assimilation and intermarriage. Perhaps only 6-8% of world Jewry keeps the Torah. The intermarriage rate in the U.S. approaches 50% and perhaps 30% are not connected to any Jewish organization. One in three young Jews no longer identifies as a Jew. Although we live our Orthodox lives and largely have Orthodox friends and relatives, we seem not to be aware, or sometimes not to even care, about the thousands of non-religious Jews within our reach.

This Purim, send Shalach Manos to non-religious Jews – a neighbor, a co-worker, a relative – reminding them that Judaism is about caring, mutual responsibility, brotherhood, unity, and redemption. Perhaps even invite them to your Purim seudah.

The story of Purim is a historical account of what happened to the Jewish people when we assimilated within the Persian empire. The decree to kill all the Jews was given by Haman and the king, but the invisible strings of history were pulled from the One Above. Queen Esther understood that this edict came from the One who supervises the world. When the Jewish people do not keep the Torah, we are punished by the nations.

Queen Esther told Mordechai to assemble all the Jews to fast, pray and repent. The Talmud (Shabbos 88a) tells us that the entire Jewish people repented and accepted the Torah anew – even more joyously than they had at Mount Sinai. Only because the entire Jewish people returned to the Torah were the Jews saved from death.

We are commanded to do whatever we can to help bring Jews back to Torah. If we can simply befriend our fellow Jews who happen to be non-religious – inviting them to a Shabbos meal or a Pesach seder, teaching them some sweet words of Torah, giving them a glimpse of our moral values, spiritual perspective, and satisfying way of life – perhaps we can influence them to join us.

Martin Polack
Teaneck, NJ