Joe On Joe

The June issue of Reader’s Digest featured an interview with actor Harrison Ford. He was asked, “Your father was Roman Catholic, your mother Jewish. Which faith were you raised in?” Ford responded, “I was raised Democratic.” Harrison affirmed that he too shares the
politics of his father, and went on to say that being a Democrat supplied a “complete worldview” for him.

What is most disturbing about these statements is that they demonstrate the tragic phenomenon that has devastated and continues to afflict our whole nation. Scores of Jewish souls have been lost to the Democratic Party and its “worldview,” as have many millions to other political movements that are antithetical to the ways of Torah.

One of the nine Democrats currently seeking the party’s presidential nomination is Joseph Lieberman, a purportly observant Jew who has publicly stated that intermarriage is permitted by Jewish law. Unless Lieberman recants his statement on intermarriage he poses a very serious spiritual threat to us Jews, and any Jew who it is a registered Democrat (a mistake in itself) should vote for anyone but him.

Whether or not one is comfortable with it, the fact is that many Jews look upon Senator Lieberman as a role model. That is precisely why he should be held accountable for any misleading statements he makes.

Joseph Lieberman
Brooklyn, NY

EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer was recently profiled – on the same day – by both The New York Times and New York Sun. In addition to having the same name as the senator, his wife,
like the senator’s wife, is named Hadassah. Brooklyn Joe Lieberman has published a new book, the title of which – ‘Joseph Lieberman is a Pious Liberal (and Other Observations)’ – refers, of course, to Washington Joe Lieberman.

Road Map To Where?

Giving control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority was a serious mistake. This will allow Hamas to regroup, rearm, and plan further attacks. Giving up Bethlehem was even worse because of its proximity to Jerusalem. Releasing terrorists from jail in response to Hamas blackmail is a complete no-brainer.

As a young man Ariel Sharon was a great warrior, but as an old politician he is a complete wimp. Its time to retire Sharon to his farm where he can grow cucumbers and tomatoes. At least there he will be doing something beneficial for the people of Israel.

As for President Bush, we must let him know that we are unhappy with the road map. Evangelical Christians write him thousands of letters every week telling him just that – and we in the Jewish community should certainly be doing the same.

(Rabbi) Yakov Lazaros
Framingham, MA

Don’t Pick On Poor Tom Friedman

Professor Howard Adelson’s focused criticism of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (Jewish Press, July 4), is really most unfair. It is obvious to anyone who ever read Mr. Friedman’s columns that he lives a fantasy existence, ensconced in an ivory tower where
he spends long hours writing imaginary truths. From there, those sacred scripts are rushed to the editors of the ‘world’s greatest newspaper’ whose creed is truth and integrity.

Professor Adelson, I ask you to be more fair and considerate. Stop trying to convince them with facts. Their minds are made up and they become provoked and agitated when contradicted. I also ask you to remember how only a short time ago the exalted Times demonstrated a willingness to live up to the principle of that well-known proverb, “Be sincere … whether you mean it or not.” Did the paper not apologize and fire one of its top writers after years of his plagiarism and contrived falsehoods?

Mr. Friedman and the editors of the Times have a tough enough time maintaining their fantasies on a daily basis. How unfair of you, Professor Adelson, to come, uninvited, with all your evidence to demolish their hard work.

I would like to see you re-direct your remarkable talents toward unlocking one of the great mysteries of our age – why a seemingly savvy and intelligent reading public continues to read The New York Times and Thomas Friedman.

By the way, I almost forgot to thank you.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

Trust And Kashrus

Re the letter to the editor titled ‘Kosher Conundrum’ in the July 4 issue of The Jewish Press:

I do not at all share the author’s concern with products under multiple supervision.

Kosher supervision revolves to a large degree on trust (ne’emunus). When multiple kashrus organizations give a hechsher on a product, they have developed a working relationship, with kosher standards on which they agree and a mashgiach whom they trust to enforce those standards. Having multiple supervisors is economically unfeasible, unpractical, and simply unnecessary.

From my own experience in hashgocha, I have seen food processors use ingredients with kosher supervision from organizations other than the one supervising their particular product. Reliable kashrus organizations are careful in their approval of other kashrus organizations.

Yisroel Friedman
Rochester, NY

Thumbs Up For Passover Vacations

In response to Dr. Yaakov Stern’s comments regarding Passover vacations (Letters, July 4), I would like to say “sour grapes!” This past Passover was the first time my family had an opportunity to go away. Indeed, we were able to perform all of the mitzvot of Passover. There were no “bikini-clad beach bimbos,” nor was our motivation for going away a need for entertainment. At the conclusion of each seder, I was able to walk to our room feeling relaxed. We were able to join with others in learning, davening, and truly appreciating the Passover
holiday in a relaxed and pleasant environment.

I wonder if Dr. Stern has ever participated in the preparations for Passover – the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, the serving? By the time the holiday starts, most women are exhausted – and then come eight long days in the kitchen! Any man who truly cares about his wife would be pleased to take his family away for Passover so that everyone has an opportunity to celebrate the freedom represented by the holiday.

Shoshana Borovetz
Philadelphia, PA

Political Brawl

I must say I was amused by the news that Assemblyman Dov Hikind filed a lawsuit to stop Noach Dear from running to reclaim his (Dear’s) old City Council seat (“Hikind Files Suit To Bar Dear Election Bid,” Jewish Press, July 4).

While I am fully aware that the current holder of Dear’s old seat, Simcha Felder, is, as The Jewish Press politely phrased it, Hikind’s “prot?g?,” I burst out laughing when I read that Hikind, not Felder, was challenging Dear’s candidacy in court with the claim that Dear was “term limited.” Moreover, despite the fact that one cannot get through a week without reading in some Jewish newspaper a joint statement issued by Hikind/ Felder, I did not see a single story about Hikind’s lawsuit in which Felder was quoted. It was Hikind, only Hikind.

And then when I learned later in the week that the lawsuit had been dismissed because it was brought too early, I quite literally had to sit down. Imagine – Dov Hikind acting with undue haste in order to make headlines! Now ain’t that a kick in the head?

Alan Weinberg
Brooklyn, NY

Historical Corrections

In his recent discussion of the history of the Shiff shul and its successor kehilla in the U.S., ‘Machberes’ columnist Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum made several statements that need clarification.

The first rabbi of the Shiff shul in Vienna, Rabbi Solomon Zalman Spitzer, was not only a disciple of the Ktav Sofer, but more importantly he was the son in law of the Chatam Sofer (father of the Ktav Sofer), Rav Moshe Sofer.

As such, this kehilla had a direct connection with the founder of Hungarian Orthodoxy.

Rabbi Tannenbaum stated that the kehilla’s first rav in Brooklyn was Rabbi Yonason Steif, whom he describe as “rosh beth din of Budapest, the highest rabbinical office in Hungary and effectively chief rabbi of Hungary.” This is a highly problematic statement, as Rabbi Steif was officially a senior dayan in Budapest not rosh beth din (See Shem Hagedolim Hashlishi Leretz Hagar, Budapest, 1941). He served as senior dayan together with R. Israel Welcz. The rosh beth din was R. Efraim Fishel Zussman Sofer.

While R. Steif may indeed have assumed the role of rosh bet din as the fateful year of 1944 approached, he was not such for most of his tenure in Pest. The position of rosh bet din was not the position of chief rabbi of Budapest. The last incumbent to hold that office was Rav Koppel Reich, who died in 1929. After his death the position of Orthodox chief rabbi was never filled again. I may note here that the Neolog [non-Orthodox] chief rabbi was Rabbi Dr. Simon Hevesi, the grandfather of New York State Controller Alan Hevesi.

Thus while Rabbi Steif was a leading Hungarian posek and gaon, he was not involved in national Jewish community affairs and was one of a number of senior halachic authorities throughout Hungary. Hence it is an error to refer to him as the de facto Orthodox chief rabbi.

Let me conclude by adding that Rabbi Yeshaya Fuerst survived the war in London. Upon hearing that a number of former congregants had re-created the Shiff shul in Brooklyn, he congratulated them but criticized their choice of name (Khal Adas Yereim – Congregation of
G-d fearers) as implying that the other Jews in Brooklyn were not such. The name of the kehilla in Vienna was Adath Israel.

Zalman Alpert
Reference Librarian
Gottesman Library
Yeshiva University

More On Discrimination Against Baalei Teshuvah, Geirim

Some letter-writers have defended bias against ba’alei teshuvah and geirim in the shidduch scene. Noted rabbis have done the same. That tremendous bias exists is undeniable. That
such bias runs completely counter to Torah ideals is irrefutable, as I shall demonstrate.

The anecdotal evidence in favor of their marriageability – Moshe, Yehoshua, Ruth, Rabbi
Akiva, Shemaya and Avtalyon – is strong, and has already been discussed. Some people choose to deflect this evidence, claiming that these exceptions are “only for the gedolim”  (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Thankfully, there is further evidence that should remove any doubt once and for all.

I refer readers to the following sources:

1) Vayikra Rabba (20:10), also found in the Tanchuma on Parshas Acharei Mos. Rabbi Levi
writes that Nadav and Avihu were arrogant, and this arrogance contributed to their downfall. Many women dreamed of marrying these great leaders, but Nadav and Avihu refused them all. “Our uncle, Moshe, is the king,” they said. “Our father, Aharon, is the kohen gadol, and we are his assistants. What woman is good enough for us?” They never married, and were held accountable for their elitism. Even those with the greatest yichus may not exalt themselves over others.

2) The last Mishna in Masekes Horayos. We are taught that a mamzer who is a talmid chacham takes precedence over a kohen gadol who is an am ha’aretz. Yichus, thus, is only a tiebreaker when midos and chochma are equal (the Rambam in his pirush writes this openly).

3) The fourth perek of Masekes Geirim (and elsewhere). The Torah commands us not to oppress geirim, and the Gemara explains that this refers to reminding them about their past lifestyle. What more poignant reminder is there than the denial of suitable shidduchim?

4) Sefer Chinuch (Mitzva 563). Jews of pure lineage are forbidden to marry converts from the
nation of Edom until the third generation. The Chinuch writes in no uncertain terms that one who refuses to consider marrying a third-generation convert from Edom, either because the nation of Edom caused trouble for the Jews, or simply because he is biased against converts, is in violation of a biblical prohibition. Kal va’chomer, I would submit that those who harbor bias against ba’alei teshuvah, people born with kedushas am Yisrael, are in violation of this commandment. Those who are cling to every publicly observable chumra, who look for things to be concerned about when it comes to kashrus, would do well not to disregard the unambiguous words of this rishon.

In sum, the Torah’s position on ba’alei teshuvah and geirim is clear – they must be given the exact same consideration in the shidduch scene as so-called FFBs. The spirit of the law is also clear – one is simply not allowed to stereotype or generalize. Every person must be given unbiased consideration and judged on his individual merits, his internal merits. To judge someone based on background, externals, or “percentages” might be convenient – but the Torah forbids it.

Only by bravely following Torah principles can we successfully address the disastrous
shidduch scene.

Chananya Weissman
Far Rockaway, NY

Haredim And Israel: An Emerging Appreciation

Just when I’d lost hope in my generation, a Shabbos in a particular section of New York has
restored my faith in frum GenXers. Let me explain.

A particular brand of frumkeit and culture held sway throughout my adolescence and early
20’s, and nearly all of my contemporaries found it irresistible.

Now in their thirties, these GenXers are energetic professionals or businessmen, who retain
for dear life the external icons of their yeshiva youth. Their Hebrew pronunciation still includes
the oy for the cholom that they adopted in high school (as in Ess-roy-g). Now a financial analyst on Wall Street, Laizer (pronounced Lay-zuh) still feels compelled to wear his black hat, and insists on maintaining a sefira beard – shave l’kavod Shabbos? Chas v’shalom! Laizer, you see, if a ben Toy-ra.

But of course Laizer is still very much a GenXer, and partakes in much of the allowable fun
America has to offer: kosher cruises to the Bahamas, SUVs, and shtaty clothes. Laizer’s wife
wears a $3,000 custom sheitel. Laizer often makes it a Blockbuster night.

For Laizer, the challenge of frumkeit and observance is largely a matter of the conflict
between personal pleasure and personal religious duty.

Like many of their gentile contemporaries, frum-GenXers seem to pay little attention to
history. The uniqueness of the time in which we live seems lost to them, as do communal matters.

Or so I thought.

Perhaps it was the events of the last couple of years that have shaken so many of these Laizers
into – are you sitting? – an affinity toward Zionism!

You see, I spent a Shabbos davening in a black hat GenX shul in the New York area. Of the
well over 100 mispallelim (I’m told that half of the members had not yet returned from the Pesach hotels in Florida and elsewhere), maybe five looked over the age of 35. There was little communal singing – certainly no Young Israel-style singing for hotza v’hachnasa. Borsalino hats were hanging on hooks on the wall, and oys and fierce shukling were everywhere.

But, to my astonishment, a mishebayrach was made for chayalei Tzahal, and to my further
amazement, the tefilla for shaloym hamedina – Medinas Yisroyel ? was said! All this, by a
Lakewood-graduate gabbai. Apparently there is even some talk of simultaneous aliyah of several families.

The shul’s rav, who is a staunch advocate of black-hat frumkeit, once remarked to my host –
who had expressed amazement at the former’s unseemly adoption of Zionist-friendly positions – the following gem: “It is not too difficult to love Eretz Yisroel, but I love Medinas Yisroel too.”

Something is afoot here – something that has developed organically, and that has not been
dictated from up on high (i.e., not via Daas Torah). The grassroots has apparently come to value the State of Israel. Having long ago dismissed the B’nai-Akiva route to Zionism as watered-down frumkeit and passe nostalgia for a foreign culture of farming and hora dancing, the frum GenXers have found their own way.

The land and milieu of “Chop a Nosh” and “Mendy the Mezonos Maven” has yet produced

As documented by Yoram Hazony, the 1990’s saw the utter dissolution of secular Zionism. The dogmas, beliefs, and associated culture of a once predominate ideology became the object of scorn. In a similar yet different fashion the next decade will see a major change in haredi beliefs and culture, here in the U.S. and in Israel. It will no longer be a steera to be black-hat/haredi – and to appreciate, support, and contribute to the medina. In fact, it will be a badge of honor.

Shmuel Frankel
(Via E-Mail)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer maintains a blog at Frum Talk (

Four Years Later, Busch Shooting Still Resonates

Believing The Worst

In a letter to the editor last week, reader Michael Steinhart criticized The Jewish Press for
continuing to ask questions about the fatal shooting of Gidone Busch in Boro Park on August
30, 1999. Mr. Steinhart has no doubts about the version of events put forward by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – namely that Mr. Busch was a crazy man lashing out at police with a claw hammer. When pepper spray failed to stop him, officers had no choice but to use lethal force.

If Mr. Steinhart had taken the time to look into this incident, he would have found that numerous eyewitnesses deny that anything like this occurred. As they have described it, it wasn’t Gidone Busch who was out of control; it was the police – the six or more of them (the exact number, like so much else about this case, is in dispute) who backed Mr. Busch into a wall and shot him 12 times.

I am grateful to and proud of The Jewish Press for refusing to forget about Gidone Busch. I
hope you will continue to report on the efforts being made by U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and others to reopen the case. It’s shameful that none of New York’s other Jewish journals seem to care.

Harvey Blume
Cambridge MA

Questions About Case Are Justified

Michael Steinhart’s letter accuses me of “playing the race card” in questioning whether Gidone Busch was given prejudicial treatment by certain Jewish community leaders on account of
his status as a baal teshuvah, and then goes on to parrot the media’s portrayal of the late Mr. Busch as a dangerous and unstable psychopathic menace.

When the story of Gidone Busch’s death first broke, a part of me held out great hope that a
mistake had been made, and that he was still alive and well; for the monster described in the press was not the same Gidone Busch I knew: an astute, witty and personable young man who had been a frequent and familiar visitor to my community and congregation, and who had davened only a few seats away from me a few short weeks before.

Unfortunately, the victim was the same Gidone Busch whose company we had come to enjoy, except that the news media had put an extremely negative slant on his mental condition. Gidone Busch’s name rarely appeared in the press without being accompanied by adjectives such as “mentally disturbed” or “hammer-wielding” (or even, as used in Yated Ne’eman, “mentally deranged.”). While such descriptive words may be true in the strict technical sense, their use in the news stories served to paint a contorted and corrupt image of Gidone Busch. And that played right into the hands of the New York Police Department, for it gave an air of justification to the brutal killing of Gidone.

We should, of course, be very selective in second-guessing our police officers’ on-the-spot line of duty decisions. But in light of some impossible to ignore evidence of a police cover-up that has come out in the Busch family’s lawsuit against the NYPD, the best that can be said about those Jewish leaders who justified the killing of Gidone Busch is that they unwittingly became stooges to further the NYPD’s questionable agenda.

Now, I certainly do not accuse any Jewish leaders who happen to be frum from birth of any
deliberate ill intent towards the baalei teshuvah. But just as Jews born and raised in assimilated
American homes have been ingrained with certain inaccurate and negative images of religious Jews, there can be little doubt that Jews who are frum from birth carry certain biases regarding non- observant Jews, and such biases can exist in ways that their bearers do not realize.

In addition to whatever individual experiences they may have had, baalei teshuvah have received many mixed messages from the local FFB leadership. There was the message that the law enforcement apparatus ought not criminally punish a certain FFB woman who, on account of her suffering from Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, caused the death of her own child, but that the law enforcement apparatus was justified in killing Gidone Busch, a baal teshuvah who also had mental health issues. The same FFB rabbis whose followers have taken to public protest in support of their own causes have forbidden similar protest over the killing a baal teshuvah named Gidone Busch. And, as mentioned previously, the most denigrating adjective used in reporting the Gidone Busch story was printed not in the secular press, but in a decidedly and unabashedly hard-line Orthodox Jewish newspaper.

Given all of this, it is entirely appropriate to ask whether some subconscious bias played a role
in the way certain FFB Jewish leadership handled the Gidone Busch affair. And that is precisely what my prior letter did.

As for Mr. Steinhart’s contention that The Jewish Press is “wrong-headed” to continue reporting developments in the Gidone Busch story: if reprisal of the Gidone Busch story is
“wrong-headed” then it is six million times as wrong-headed to keep dredging up the Holocaust which occurred in Europe over a half century ago. And just as the magic disappearance of all Holocaust articles from the news media would further certain agendas, so too would the disappearance of the Gidone Busch story from the news media.

Mr. Steinhart admonishes that we let Gidone Busch rest in peace. Though Gidone lies buried in the cemetery (I happen to be one of the men who physically carried his casket to the burial), he cannot rest in peace until certain accountability questions regarding the NYPD and the Jewish community are answered.

As The Jewish Press obviously realizes, Gidone Busch’s death is still a very live issue, if only because there is an active lawsuit now moving towards what will likely be a well-watched trial.

Kenneth H. Ryesky (Esq.)
East Northport, NY