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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Letters To The Editor

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Actions Speak Louder…

Re “What Does It Mean to Be Pro-Israel?” (op-ed, March 23):

While many individuals and organizations claim to be pro-Israel, their actions belie that stance. M. J. Rosenberg, one of the writers mentioned by author Jonathan Tobin, has for many years now been launching virulent attacks against Israel, first with a syndicated weekly column and more recently with the liberal organization Media Matters.

Unfortunately, false pro-Israel claims are not limited to individuals but are also made by organizations such as Peace Now, J Street, and the New Israel Fund (among numerous others). Either they are self-delusional in their claims of being pro-Israel or they are deliberately downplaying their hostility to Israel. Nelson Marans Silver Spring, MD

Obama’s New Approach

One would have to be irredeemably credulous and naive to believe that Obama’s “new and more restrained approach” to Israel’s valid security imperatives stems from anything other than the urgent need to regain support of Jewish voters and especially donors in his reelection campaign (“New Focus on Obama and Israel,” editorial, March 23).

It is surely axiomatic that actions speak louder than words – even a carefully crafted speech to AIPAC – and it is surely a given that Obama’s animus toward Israel will resurface if he is reelected. Fay Dicker Lakewood, NJ

The Lesson From Egypt

The lower Parliament of Egypt unanimously voted that “Egypt will never be the friend or ally of the Zionist entity which we consider the first enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation.”

The Parliament also called upon the government “to revise all its relations and agreements with that enemy” and further declared that Egypt should pull its ambassador from Tel Aviv and immediately end natural gas exports to Israel.

This is not the final word from Egypt. The upper Parliament can refuse to follow the lower Parliament’s vote.

Unfortunately, Israel can only watch and wait to see whether the other shoe will drop to virtually end its “peace” with Egypt. Israel will also have to adjust its defensive and offensive postures pertaining to Egypt.

This vote demonstrates that an agreement with a Muslim country’s secular government can be a worthless document if Islamists take control of the country.

This is an inkling of what could happen to any agreement between Israel and a secular Palestinian entity. William K. Langfan Palm Beach, FL

Laws Regarding Modesty

In response to reader Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs (Letters, March 16):

Although women have “thoughts” too, there is one major difference between the genders that I don’t need to spell out here; let’s just say it can cause a man to commit what according to halacha is a very serious transgression.

What is incomprehensible to me, however, is that you would pit your human intellect against your omniscient Creator, who mandated the laws of tznius, mechitza, and kol isha. Did it ever occur to you that maybe He knows something you don’t?

Your Creator is obligating you and all Jewish women to exercise restraint in those areas, and if you fail to comply with His directives because you feel inconvenienced, restricted and burdened then you are the one who has a serious problem, and that is very sad.

Men are required to avoid situations that could compromise the purity of their eyes and thoughts, but women are required to avoid behaviors that could cause Jewish men to stumble.

Having said that, I believe the men in Beit Shemesh were totally out of line and their behavior was not condoned by the rabbis. Chavi Hornig Brooklyn, NY

One Big Jewish Family

On Thursday, February 16, I witnessed something absolutely beautiful. The previous day I had received a phone call from a young man asking if he could bring a group of twenty teenaged boys to Kesher Israel Congregation – Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Orthodox synagogue – on Thursday.

He explained that they were touring in the area, and while they could recite their morning prayers in their nearby hotel, they wanted to stop by in order to have a late-morning Thursday Torah reading. I told the caller our shul would gladly welcome his group.

When the group arrived, everything fell into place. The boys were all members of Panama’s Jewish community. While touring America for close to three weeks, they were on their way to Baltimore. After enjoying the previous afternoon on the slopes of a nearby skiing facility, they had spent the night in a nearby hotel.

The boys were all very respectful, well behaved, and got a real kick out of Blackie (our secretary’s trusty dog – a fixture in the shul’s weekday lobby). The group was of Sephardic origin, and I really enjoyed watching them take out and read from the Torah according to their customs. Our Torah was soon returned to the ark amid calls of “chazak u’baruch!” and “gracias!” I shared a short d’var Torah with the group, and they left in good spirits to tour Hershey’s Chocolate World.

Over a thousand years ago the great Jewish scholar and thinker Saadia Gaon famously said that “The Jewish people are a nation only by virtue of its Torah.” That morning I had a chance to see just how correct Saadia Gaon was. As I shook the hands of those smiling Spanish-speaking Jewish-Panamanian teenage boys, I thought about what it was that we had in common.

After all, we did not speak the same language, many of our customs differed, and our familial histories could not have been more different. Nonetheless, upon walking through the doors of our Ashkenazic shul those wonderful Jewish boys felt right at home. What was our common denominator? I believe it was exactly what Saadia Gaon expressed: our Torah. Our shared Torah unites us far more than all the details that might seem to set us apart.

Historically, one of the first sayings Jewish children are taught is “Torah tziva lanu Moshe morasha kehillas Yaacov” – “Moses taught us the Torah which is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.” Our Torah has the ability to enhance the life of every single Jew and bring us all together as one family. It was so nice seeing this happen at our Harrisburg shul.
Rabbi Akiva Males
Harrisburg, PA

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