It is a fitting quirk of history that the saintly Rav Yoel of Satmar was saved from the ashes of the Holocaust on the Kastner train, a rescue devised by the Aid and Rescue Committee, an organization of committed Zionists. How sad that Satmar has never found room in its collective heart to acknowledge the Zionist role in the Rebbe’s rescue.
Far Rockaway, NY
Stan The Man’s Torah Lesson
The recent death of Stan “the Man” Musial, one of the greatest baseball players ever, reminded me of the following story I was told by a fellow high school student of Musial’s in Donora, Pennsylvania.
There were three Elefant brothers in Donora in the 1930s. Their father served as the rabbi of the town’s only synagogue. These boys and other Jewish teenagers studied in their father’s “yeshiva” three hours a day, four afternoons a week.
Their friend in high school, Stan Musial, inquired as to why they never stayed after school to play ball with the other boys. They explained to him the importance of the religious studies that occupied their afternoons.
Musial was doubtful and asked if one afternoon he could tag along to confirm their tale.
With their father’s permission, Musial sat for three hours that day “absorbing” the ways of the Jews.
Who’s to say that the Almighty didn’t reward Musial for those three hours of Torah with the many records he set as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals?
More than that, to his dying day Musial was acknowledged by all as a true gentleman. I’d like to think that he was a mensch because of the mussar he learned that afternoon.
Rabbi Simcha A. Green
The Day Mayor Koch Spent At YU
It was in the spring of 1983 that the bullets began to rain down on Yeshiva University’s Washington Heights campus. I had just walked by Furst Hall, the main classroom and administrative building, when a drive-by shooter pierced its wide glass door entrance with the first volley of bullets. Other incidents were to follow in and around our urban campus, putting Yeshiva on high alert.
The response by the NYPD was swift and pervasive. Lookout sites were set up and Yeshiva quickly became an armed camp. With calm restored over the ensuing months, the YU community in due course held a special program to thank New York’s finest, and above all its caring and engaged mayor.
As Mayor Koch entered Belfer Commons he was greeted by the senior RIETS rosh yeshiva, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, who in his inimitable way took and held the mayor’s hand and said to him, “I am very proud of you.”
Obviously moved by this rabbinic approbation from a sage who was a last vestige of the great European Jewish communities of the prewar years, Mayor Koch opened his comments to the appreciative audience by first acknowledging the great compliment and honor paid him by this “great rabbi.”
Here was one of many “take charge” situations that became the trademark of Ed Koch’s mayoralty. He didn’t vacillate, waffle or procrastinate. He restored peace to YU’s torn terrain. It was vintage Koch; he was the kind of leader who never hesitated to express his disgust and concern at a societal ill.
Those of us who accompanied Rav Lifshitzback to the bet midrash were a bit surprised to notice that clutched to his side was not the usual sefer he was wont to carry but rather a copy of Ed Koch’s Mayor. No doubt the mayor’s aides carried a few around with them to share with deserving dignitaries and citizens.
We will never know what was inscribed inside or the rosh yeshiva’s thoughts upon reading the spirited chronicle of this politician’s personal and public life. We do know that Rav Dovid read The New York Times from cover to cover each day. I imagine, however, that he more than perused the pages of the mayor’s autobiography in appreciation of Ed Koch’s steadfast efforts not only to protect the YU community but the citizenry of the city in general.
Moreover, we were taught an important lesson from the otherwise unlikely interaction of these two very different leaders who on that occasion, in that shared space, saw their minds meet and meld in a nexus of mutual regard and concern.
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