Support For Lapid
Although I generally support the right-wing parties here in Israel, I was one of those fed up Israelis who voted for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party in last week’s election (“Likud Leads, but Rise of Yesh Atid, Jewish Home Bode Bumpy Road for Netanyahu,” front page news story, Jan. 25).
I feel Lapid is a welcome change from the professional politicians and careerist rabbis in Likud, Labor, Shas, etc. And the fact that Lapid packed his electoral list with such an eclectic list of personalities – religious and secular, liberal and conservative – was impressive in its own right.
I know I speak for many Israelis of all ideological viewpoints when I say the country badly needs real change and a dynamic spark in our tired and compromised leadership.
I read Lessons in Emunah every week and particularly enjoyed the Jan. 25 column by Rachel Weiss, “A Miracle in Monsey.” It was well written and riveting. And I love a happy ending. Thanks for providing us with a new one on a weekly basis.
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel
Rush To Judgment? (I)
I was astonished by Jeff Helmreich’s “Rush To Judgment” (op-ed, Jan. 25). Does Mr. Helmreich really believe the allegations against Mr. Weberman are false, or is he just playing devil’s advocate?
While it is true that a false accusation can ruin a person’s life, in cases where there is smoke there is usually fire.
East Brunswick, NJ
Rush To Judgment? (II)
I found myself agreeing with all the points raised by Jeff Helmreich in his provocative op-ed on anonymous allegations of sexual abuse – until he chose to include a convicted predator like Weberman as another example of a “rush to judgment.”
Weberman was convicted by a jury of his peers; the other individuals cited by Helmreich have not had their day in court and, at the moment at least, face mere allegations decades after the fact. That’s quite a difference.
Religious Choice In Israel
While Israelis may be conservative (with a lower case c) in their religious attitudes, it is highly unlikely that the claim by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at the 2012 convention of the Rabbinical Assembly in Atlanta that “the majority of Israelis are actually Conservative” (in a denominational sense) is true. They may well find the bureaucratic procedures of the Israeli Rabbinate over marriage and divorce irritating but I very much doubt if they want to see the chaotic free-for-all that characterizes the current situation in the U.S.
However, despite being ultra-Orthodox myself (or perhaps because of it) I would welcome the recognition of the Reform and Conservative movements as religious denominations in Israel, similar to the way the state recognizes the various Christian denominations. This would enable them to set up their own systems for conversion, marriage and divorce in accord with their own religious ideologies.
Once they are autonomous, they will no longer be able to petition the Israeli Supreme Court to interfere on their behalf in the religious rulings of the Orthodox Rabbinate.
The only downside would be that membership in their religious communities would not necessarily be recognized by the Orthodox as determining one’s Jewishness, but that is the case in the U.S. and everywhere else.
If implemented, this would give Israelis the freedom to choose their denominational allegiance but, more important, it would free the Orthodox Rabbinate from the interference of the secular courts.
Martin D. Stern
The Lubavitch Influence
There is no doubt that Orthodox Judaism has grown in the United States since the 1940s due in part to the influx of religious Holocaust survivors, the influence of dynamic rabbis both in the chassidic and in the Lithuanian tradition, and partially because of the attitudes and laws in this country that promote diversity both in the workplace and in society.
Nonetheless, in his Dec. 28 front-page essay “The Enduring Power of Orthodoxy,” William Helmreich neglected to mention one force that has helped make this all possible: Chabad-Lubavitch.In 1928 the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, came to visit America and was shocked by the lack of Yiddishkeit. He started yeshivas and day schools all over the U.S., in most cases handing over the administration of these institutions to local rabbinical authorities.
By the early 1960s, Rabbi Schneerson’s son-in law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, had created Chabad Houses where non-religious and religious Jews could gather for prayer, learning, and partaking in Shabbos and Yom Tov meals. Today there are Chabad Houses all over America.
The Chabad Houses sparked incredible activity. New shuls were built and kosher food became available even in the most remote cities and towns of America.
A frum Jew today can travel from Alaska to Wyoming and he will find a minyan and kosher food. I doubt that would be the case had it not been for the vision of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, his son-in law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and their followers.
Brooklyn College Outrage
In my thirteen years as a trustee of CUNY, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe the intellectual corruption and anti-Semitism of many in America’s academic elite. I hear about it from trustees in colleges and universities across America and it’s become more common at CUNY, with Brooklyn College as an unexpected hotbed. The current plans for an anti-Israel BDS conference with the school’s co-sponsorship via the political science department raise new questions.
If an individual professor engages in selective hatred of Israel and the resulting intimidation of Jewish students, or if branches of the MSA (Muslim Students Association) is involved, that is bad enough.
I cannot, however, be silent about the official co-sponsorship of an entire academic department of a Nuremberg-like conference on a CUNY campus. This is a misuse of tax-levy funds. This is not an academic conference in any sense. Furthermore, how do we know that every professor in that department supports this drivel?
These BDS advocates single out Israel as a cover for rank anti-Semitism. It is not about saving Palestinians (who mostly need to be saved from themselves and their leaders); rather, it is about delegitimizing and destroying Israel. They do not want a two-state solution. To them Tel Aviv and Haifa are “occupied territories” as much as Gaza, long vacated by Israel and now one of the world’s most prominent terrorist launching points. They deny – as anti-Semites do – the eternal connection of the Jewish people with their land.
I call on taxpayers to draw a line here and make it known: taxpayer dollars should not fund racist and anti-Semitic activities by any academic department. Those of us who care about Israel would do no less if others were similarly treated. Additionally, academic administrators should be reminded that Jewish students are no less entitled – under applicable federal law – than other students to an educational environment free of intimidation and prejudice.
Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld
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