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Letters To The Editor

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Beren Kiddush Hashem (I)

Nathan Lewin’s inside report on the frum kids from Beren Academy who, because of Shabbat, were ready to default on a basketball tournament slot was the story of a true Kiddush Hashem (“Playing for a Higher Authority,” front-page essay, March 9).

While being able to compete in sporting events is hardly the essence of life, telling a non-Jewish world that puts such great store in sports – and is not all that familiar with the kind of strict Sabbath prohibitions we live by – is very significant. Perhaps most important is that the students declared to all that they will not easily abide religious discrimination. In doing that they hopefully spoke for all of us.

Bravo to Mr. Lewin and the others for assuming the responsibility of standing up to those who would keep Jews out of the mainstream. It is this kind of hishtadlus that will secure our survival as a people. Irving Brecher (Via E-Mail)

Beren Kiddush Hashem (II)

I have mixed feelings about the Beren Academy controversy. I am proud that the students and their parents stood up to what I believe was outright bigotry. The world did not come to an end because the sports association modified its schedule in order to accommodate students. In fact, there didn’t seem to be even one adverse consequence.

Yet I wonder whether the lingering result of this controversy will be an increased identification on the part of the students with sports competition rather than their religious studies – which, after all, is why we send our kids to yeshiva. I also wonder whether risking a negative court decision that could have impacted on the employment rights of religious Jews was wise. David Lazar Los Angeles, CA

Beware A Reelected Obama

“The President and the Prime Minister” (editorial, March 9) captures the essence of the problem our community faces should President Obama be reelected. I believe that Obama desires to change the special relationship between the United States and Israel – a relationship that has allowed Israel to thrive and pursue its national destiny.

When you boil the Obama rhetoric down, it is clear that he ultimately sees America only as the guarantor of Israel’s physical survival but not as a supporter of its ongoing nation-building. Worse still, he seems prepared to join the other side’s efforts to derail it. His dubious risk-taking with the Iranian nuclear threat at Israel’s expense is certainly indicative of what is to come. Nachman Gorman New York, NY

Inebriated Tzedakah Collectors

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb’s front-page essay (“Why I Dread Purim,” March 2) was thorough and poignant. I commend you for giving it the space it deserved.

After spending Purim being harangued by a number of young and drunk collectors, I couldn’t help thinking the following: If tzedakah is what brings these boys to our homes, and if they feel that performing the mitzvah of collecting tzedakah on Purim entitles them to act in a disgusting manner, what is missing in the conversation is the most obvious and simple solution. Simply put, we get the yeshivas and organizations to control their own boys.

How? Hit them where it hurts. If potential donors decide that even seemingly drunk collectors will not be given any money at all, the yeshivas will feel the pinch and take control of the situation.

Just as I do on a daily basis with other collectors whose causes I do not identify with, I will be implementing this solution next year, and hope others will join me. If enough of us take this stand, and the yeshivas know about it ahead of time, there might well be a change in the behavior of the visitors we receive. Eitan Zerykier (Via E-Mail)

Contact Schumer About Pollard

I agree with your March 9 editorial “Jonathan Pollard and the McFarlane Factor.” Anyone who is not deterred from spying by what happened to Pollard will not be deterred by anything. And any information Pollard got hold of is by now out of date. He has been punished enough. As McFarlane says, Pollard’s harsh sentence was motivated in large part by Defense Secretary Weinberger’s anti-Israel feelings.

Jewish Press readers should write to Senator Charles Schumer asking that he urge his good friend President Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence to time served. Your editorial noted the example of Israeli President Shimon Peres, who asked Obama to free Pollard. Let us follow Peres’s example. Reuven Solomon (Via E-Mail)

The Plague Of Divorce

Re Dr. Rachel Levmore’s “Demonstrations and Remonstrations on Agunah Day” (op-ed, March 2):

I think we have missed the boat on this issue, to the great sorrow of many individuals and our community as a whole.

The Torah commands men to marry, as “It is not good for man to be alone.” Many have explained the reference to man and not woman because a woman is instinctively inclined to seek marriage.

According to the Torah, to end a marriage a man must grant his wife a divorce. When Rabbeinu Gershon saw, a thousand years ago, that takanos were necessary, he instituted a widely accepted ruling that a man could not divorce his wife without her consent. This protected the woman from being summarily thrown out on the street and balanced the rights of both.

The value of this takanah was to protect the institution of marriage and make it strong. As we know, havaas shalom bein ish l’ishto is rewarded in this world and in the World to Come.

What has evolved in the secular world, and now unfortunately in the Torah world as well, is the concept of divorce on demand, whereby neither partner bears an obligation to his or her spouse or to children and family and can demand a divorce at will. While there have always been warranted causes for divorce – and men and women in such situations should be helped to end their marriages – the number of divorces far exceeds any reasonable estimate of the frequency of justifiable situations.

It is no longer common for people to live with a marriage that requires one or the other to adjust to and accept situations that are not what one expected. On the advice of parents and concerned friends, couples choose lawyers or, in the beis din, toanim. This just compounds the problem because these advocates have much to gain by drawing out and exacerbating conflict (their fees are often $250 an hour and up). Additionally, each is out to gain as much as possible for his client without regard to justice. Pressure tactics, even agunah protests, just make both sides more rigid.

What can be done?

First, as the mesader kiddushin told my daughter and son-in-law in a pre-marriage meeting and under the chupah, “Your first allegiance is now to each other. If you have any problems, do not go to your parents. Go to a trusted rabbi or mentor, and work on the issues. Marriage is a lifetime endeavor.”

Second, when divorce first became legal in New York State, a two-year wait was necessary between filing for the divorce and its becoming final. If all frum couples seeking divorce were obligated to go for two years of counseling with approved marriage counselors, and to cooperate with their advice, many marriages might be saved.

Finally, not every woman who wants out should be encouraged in her claims of “agunah.” On the contrary, we must, as a community, exert more emphasis on preserving rather than ending marriages. Many may find that unhappiness with self or spouse is more easily ameliorated, in the long run, by working on issues and resolving them.

With prayers that all Jewish homes be filled with happiness,
Esther Klein
(Via E-Mail)

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