The ecumenical nature of the social services provided by the Catholic Church actually would be a wonderful model for the JNF to emulate. Catholic Charities is the largest private network of social service organizations in the United States. It works to support families, reduce poverty, and build communities regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. They alleviate suffering and provide assistance to people in need in nearly 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality.
It is time for the JNF to root out any of its remaining discriminatory policies rather than celebrating them.
Director of Israel Programs
Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
Sandy: The Religious Message
It’s easy to say God was trying to tell us something with Hurricane Sandy. I believe that. But what? Who knows? Each person can put his own spin on it.
It’s been reported that Rabbi Shteinman, shlita, said the observance of Shabbos was key. OK. I’m willing to accept what he said. Our Shabbos observance is off. I’ll make some guesses as to how it’s off, knowing that 99 percent of the observant world will disagree with me.
Maybe the Almighty is punishing us, or at least sending a very strong message, because of one or several of these factors:
● Chassidim are starting Shabbos too late.
● Yeshivish people are keeping Shabbos too long on Saturday night.
● Many people, especially the rich, and those who want to appear rich, are spending huge amounts of money on Shabbos – while others are going hungry.
● Shabbos kiddushim are growing too big and too expensive, forcing people to spend more than they have. (Let’s not talk about people – including teens and even children – getting drunk.) Whatever happened to a cold kiddush of cake and soda?
● Too many words are being repeated during Shabbos davening. Or maybe we’re being too strict by not allowing people to enjoy the chazzanus that requires repeating words.
● Too many people don’t say “Good Shabbos” to members of the opposite sex. Or maybe God is punishing us because there are people who do say “Good Shabbos” to members of the opposite sex.
Actually, I’m told Rabbi Shteinman was much more specific about the message of Hurricane Sandy. He said it had to do with eruvim and Shabbos. That was the Almighty’s message. This also makes sense to me. But how are we to understand the specifics?
● Eruvim, in some sense, allow mothers to go to shul. So maybe we need to be less strict about eruvim. Then again, maybe mothers and their little kids make noise and are a distraction in shul. So we need to be more strict.
● Maybe God is telling us we need to be more knowledgeable and involved in the outside world. An eruv would allow everyone to acquire a newspaper on Shabbos.
● Maybe God is sending a very specific message: One may not use electric power lines as part of an eruv. That’s why so many were downed in the storm. Then again, maybe the Almighty is telling us we should use more existing wires.
All these suggestions are within what is presumably the (extremely) broad range of Orthodoxy. So how does one determine the true message?