High On Zion

Sidney Zion’s front-page essay (‘The Palestine Problem: It’s All In A Name,’ Jewish Press, Aug. 1) was one of the most thought-provoking articles I’ve read in a long, long time. Like I’m sure many other Jewish Press readers, I always argued that there’s no such thing as a Palestinian people while at the same time I insisted that Jordan is Palestine.

But as Mr. Zion so brilliantly demonstrated, it’s a self-defeating argument. Jordan is the artificial entity that sits on four-fifths of the land mass known as Palestine. If we – Israelis and American Jews – had only publicized this concept starting thirty and forty years ago, the Middle East might look a whole lot different now.

Harold Nanes
Bellmore, NY

Their Own Words

Hooray for Sidney Zion and his wonderfully enlightening article. In doing some research a while back, I came across two quotes which reinforce Mr. Zion’s argument and demonstrate that there was a time when the Jordanians themselves were openly saying the same thing:

“We here in Jordan, led by our great king, are the government of Palestine, the army of Palestine, and we are the refugees.” – Jordanian Prime Minister Hazza El-Majali, 1959

“Those organizations which seek to differentiate between Palestinians and Jordanians are traitors who help Zionism in its aim of splitting the Arab camp.” – King Hussein, 1965

Betsy Rasmussen
San Diego, CA

Apt Location

I find it interesting that the San Francisco book store selling the vile anti-Israel, anti-Semitic material, as reported by Benjamin Pitt in your Aug. 1 issue, is located on a street named for the late ‘Beat’ writer Jack Kerouac – an anti-Semite whose Jew-baiting statements would make Nixon and Truman blush. It’s true that Kerouac was a friend of the late poet Alan Ginsberg, but the latter was a Jewish apostate and kapo who worshiped at the feet of the
American traitor and Nazi sympathizer Ezra Pound.

Joe Adams
Hillsdale, NJ

Early Marriage

I see plenty of people discussing problems regarding youth in the frum community. Perhaps we should consider that the problems we are facing arise largely from the fact that in the Jewish
community we are marrying as late as we are. Chazal say in many places that a father who is yirat Hashem will see to marrying his daughters off at an early age. Similarly the Gemara discusses quite clearly at what age a bachur should marry. I can’t quite figure out why we have come to the place where we are now, and why no is looking at this as a very clear reason for the problems we have.

Pinhas Hatch

Proud Parents Of Olim

Our younger daughter, her husband and their six children made aliyah with the Nefesh b’Nefesh group last month. Many of our friends have asked us how we feel about it. Of course we will miss them, but we fully support their decision.

They will now be so very far away. Our faces reveal the strain of worrying each day about the safety and security of our children and grandchildren. We have but two daughters – and our older one made aliyah almost fourteen years ago.

Our younger daughter and our son-in-law, together with their six beautiful children, firmly believe that the time is ripe for realizing the biblical dream of living in Israel. Their youthful vigor and unflagging faith in Hashem inspired them to follow their hearts. They left behind not only material comforts, but family, friends and the cumulative experience of many years living in the U.S.

They are undeterred by the staggering problems facing veteran Israelis, let alone new olim. They believe that the destiny of the Jewish people is waiting to be fulfilled in Israel right now. Their decision to make aliyah is a validation of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

As political activists on behalf of Israel, we spend countless hours keeping up with the day-by-day, if not hour-by-hour, events as they unfold in Israel. The continued violence fueled by Arab hatred of Jews imperils every innocent Israeli and has so battered Israel’s economy that one-third of its population lives below the poverty line. Why then are North American Jews like our daughter and her family making aliyah at this point in time?

The answer lies in the dynamic pull of Zionism buttressed by emunah – faith in Hashem. These young Jews are going home. For Eileen, Eric and the Polly children, the dream of fulfilling the
ancient call of b’shana ha-ba’a b’Yerushalayim is about to become a reality.

May Hashem watch over them and over all Israel in these troubled times.

Israel Rubin
Manalapan, NJ

Bike Helmets A Must

Re Lessons in Emunah, July 25:

”The Right Place at the Right Time” needs a very important sub-headline – ”Not All Of Us Are So Lucky.” My brother, a”h, was not. He was killed while riding a bike without a helmet. The author concludes, ”Unfortunately, these situations aren’t entirely avoidable.” True – but we have to do our hishtadlus – wearing a bike helmet is an absolute must.

Everyone who rides a bike, young and old, should wear a helmet – even in the bungalow colony or when riding on a path off the road. Please do it in my brother’s memory (l’zecher nishmas Tzvi Aryeh, z”l, ben Aharon Dov Rosenbaum); his 32nd yahrzeit is 12 Menachem Av.

Chana Senter
Teaneck, NJ

Still Talking About ‘Troubles In The Hood’

The Real Sinat Chinam

I just finished reading all the letters to the editor regarding people in Boro Park not saying
‘Good Shabbos’ (Jewish Press, July 25). Most of the letters stated that this is “sinat chinam,” and that as we are in the Three Weeks, we must do something about it.

I’m puzzled. To whose sinat chinam are we referring? To that of the people of Boro Park?
Maybe they’re not polite, maybe they’re rude, but sinat chinam?!

No, the sinat chinam comes from individuals who smear a whole neighborhood and a whole way of life. Is it true that nobody in Boro Park says “Good Shabbos”? Nobody? Not even one person? Or is it sinat chinam that causes the writers to say so?

Do the writers think that people in Tel Aviv (a city that’s neither chassidish nor ultra-Orthodox) all greet each other and say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Shabbos’? Maybe it’s because it’s a big city and everybody becomes anonymous, but I can’t imagine any of the letter-writers complaining about how terrible the people in Tel Aviv are! So why Boro Park? Isn’t that sinat chinam?

Did any of these writers even stop to think of how much ahavat chinam there is in these communities? Have any of them, G-d forbid, found themselves in a hospital and been serviced by the volunteer Bikur Cholim societies?

All a patient has to do is call Satmar Bikur Cholim, and in no time a chassidic lady delivers a
home-cooked meal, even on erev Pesach. They don’t ask if you?re Modern Orthodox, yeshivish, or ultra-Orthodox. All they ask is “What else can I do for you?” And all this is done voluntarily, with no pay-ment expected.

In the same issue of The Jewish Press, readers wrote in about the financial hardship caused by the prohibitive cost of infertility treatments. Well, there exists in Boro Park a terrific organization, run by chassidic women, that helps such people pay their bills. And do they ask
“Who are you? Are you modern? Are you chassidic?” No – you are a Jew in need and they
are there to help you.

I think that ultimately the geulah will come in the merit of all the good people in every community who devote their time to helping their fellow Jews.

Pearl Silberfarb
(Via E-Mail)

To Each His (Her) Own

The “Troubles in the Hood” series in the Letters to the Editor section has addressed two issues that – although they could relate to one another – are separate ones. It all started with a “Cold Neighbors” letter in the July 4 issue, written by a disillusioned neighborhood newcomer, Rochel Frankel.

Aside from her personal grievance, let’s tell it like it is – neighbors are as varied as the styles of
homes they choose to live in. Some neighbors need other neighbors like some require a cup of coffee to get through their mornings. Others prefer to carry on in a private manner without the input or interference of any neighbor. It may just be the differing natures among people, or simply a reflection of their varying lifestyles. Whereas one may be living the easy and social life, with plenty of free time on hand, another could be struggling to get through demanding days, and the last thing he or she has the time or stamina for is the intrusive “friendly neighbor.”

Having said a mouthful, I must admit that a warm smile to a new next-door neighbor should
have been forthcoming and could not possibly have been a burden to the bearer. Yet, one might consider the fact that shyness is often mistaken for snobbiness, and that people whose language and/or culture differs from their general environment may actually be displaying a timidity that can be misread as a rebuff.

Rochel Frankel writes in her letter, “I’d like to address these people directly for a moment.” Perhaps she should have done so – face-to-face. It may have served to bring down the imagined barriers and to break the ice.

Pertaining to the “Silent Streets” controversy, Rabbi Yaakov Silver was kind enough to come to the defense of those taken to task in absentia for their ‘silent treatment.’ I, in turn, would like to give him his due. As a suburbanite, I’ve been consistently subjected to personal greetings on
Shabbosim and Yomim-Tovim. While I respond in kind, I can readily accept not being so greeted on the busy streets of Brooklyn. Like Rabbi Silver explains, it could be cumbersome to greet literally dozens of passersby. And should I be strolling in the company of family members or a friend, we would hardly be getting a word in edgewise to one another. I’d sooner disregard the persons with whom I have no correlation, than to neglect sharing and bonding with loved ones.

(In days of yore, families were fewer, cities were smaller, and one’s grandmother was everyone’s grandmother. Hence, it was accepted practice and proper etiquette to greet one another. Possibly, the small enclaves outside New York City are influenced by a parallel supposition.)

As for when I walk by myself – yes, more often than not, it is a time for contemplation, for
introspection, and for reverie. Truth be told, I’ve frequently been startled by a familiar voice rousing me from my abstraction. Whereas I wouldn’t go so far as to categorize myself as being in a lofty state of mind, my male counterpart has often lamented the intrusion he is subjected to – especially from female origin – on his Shabbosdik spiritual ‘state of awe’ trek home from shul.

Interestingly, not one letter thus far has addressed the halachic issue of women greeting men and vice-versa. Many are unaware that it is totally improper for a woman or man to greet a
male/female stranger (or to initiate chitchat). ‘Ein shoalim b’shalom isha klal… afilu al yedei shliach v’afilu baala issur l’shalom lah divrei shlomim…’; ‘One is not to convey greeting to a woman whatsoever… even through a messenger and even through her husband it is forbidden to send words of greeting…’ – Shulchan Aruch, Eben Haezer, Siman 21; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 152; Gemara Kiddushin, Daf 70.

As for the younger and more vulnerable (single) generation, the Internet chat rooms and other inappropriate meeting places are creating enough havoc and harm in our society today. Is it
necessary to additionally impart to them the message that it is ethically permissible to make
overtures to strangers in the guise of being friendly?

A personal observation on the ‘neighbor’ topic, if I may; Though I found some of my neighbors in my previous Brooklyn neighborhood to be overtly nosy and irksome, those where I currently reside are graciously there when you need them, yet considerately respectful of one’s
privacy – which is one’s right.

So, in conclusion, as with so many other things in life, moderation may be the key and common sense the order of the day. No rhyme or reason for coldness (female to female/male to male), and no need to overdo the friendly bit. For while it may be your cup of tea, it may not be your neighbor’s.

Rachel Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

Derech Eretz And Torah

At first I thought I might take offense at the boorish letter of Rabbi Yaakov Silver regarding the issue of saying ‘Good Shabbos’ to fellow Jews. However, I then realized that this lack of social etiquette is to be expected from someone like him. After all, one learns proper social behavior through exposure to, and interaction, with the larger society within which one lives.

Given that elements of the right-wing yeshiva world are almost literally walling themselves off
from society, where would they have the opportunity to learn appropriate social graces? The
behaviors that are stressed are almost exclusively ‘external’ – wearing an oversized, wide brimmed black hat, a white on white shirt, no shoes with laces on Shabbos, etc.

As for Rabbi Silver’s claim to be in such awe – please, sir, don’t compound your boorishness
with an outright fabrication. Remember, if there is no derech eretz there is no Torah.

Robert Solomon
Brooklyn, NY

Letters Making Impact

I have been following the exchange of letters in The Jewish Press about kindness and civility in
our community with great interest. I would first like to report that since this exchange started not too long ago, my friends and I have been detecting changes as far as people being friendlier to one another and saying ‘Good Shabbos.’

In addition, I chanced upon a website devoted to this issue which I thought might be of interest to other readers. The site, Operation Refuah (www.operationrefuah.org), was founded as a practical effort to spread Ahavas Yisrael in response to the tragedies and illnesses hitting Jewish communities.

Shira Glazer
Brooklyn, NY

On Holding Back Criticism

After perusing the July 25 issue of The Jewish Press, I experienced an epiphany, for I was the
stereotypical ultra-fervent, bigoted, black-hatted, Brooklyn Jew who, as your readers astutely noted, would never exchange Shabbos greetings with those of a lesser pedigree.

Not saying “Gut Shabbos” was the least egregious of my iniquities. If I saw someone not properly attired, or, even worse, wearing a kippah serugah, I would mutter imprecations, and if I found myself within an eiruv deemed kosher by my rebbe, the heiliger Shpielkuntzener, I was not above hurling stones with malicious intent. And the saddest part: I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, because all my friends were similarly inclined, products of an intolerant yeshiva system, brainwashed by our parents to look askance at any Jew cut from a different mold.

But after reading the letters, I recognized how shameful my actions were. I realized that I was
hurting fellow Jews and this divisiveness was largely responsible for detaining Moshiach. I made immediate and drastic changes.

Abandoning my shtiebel I went to a Young Israel last Shabbos and – can you believe it? –
was called to read the prayer for the State of Israel, in English no less! I’m a new man and it’s
all… a complete put-on.

The depiction of a Brooklyn yeshiva world that produces dogmatic automatons seems to be
gaining momentum, and it must be categorically refuted. Undeniably, there are Jews who fit this description, but they are dwarfed in their numbers by those who practice innumerable and
immeasurable acts of chesed with no regard for one’s religious affiliation. These facts go
unmentioned, because those who impugn have an agenda: they disdain the Torah world and this latest charge is simply a pretext to release their venom.

If the criticism was meant to be constructive, it should have been couched as follows: “My
dearest brothers, we have the utmost respect and admiration for your mesiras nefesh in learning and performing mitzvos, but there is an area which could be improved – Ahavas Yisroel. You’re likely unaware that our feelings have been ruffled, but a friendly smile breaks down walls of mistrust.”

Of late a number of horrific tragedies have befallen our community. Rather than publicizing
flaws and creating Heavenly accusers, we must look for ways to judge our fellow Jews favorably. The Gemara relates an occasion where Rabbi Akiva’s prayers were accepted over his colleagues’ and explains that the tanna was maavir es midosov – he overlooked insults.

No one should justify boorish behavior, but those who rise above the fray are viewed most
favorably On High. When you get right down to it, isn’t that what life for a Jew is all about?

(Dr.) Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Something’s Not Kosher About Survivors’ Gathering

In an age where the absurd and illogical are commonplace, there are events and experiences
that shout out at you and make you stop. Several weeks ago I had such an experience.

It started out innocently enough. I receive a newspaper called Together, printed by the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. On the back was an announcement of an event scheduled to take place at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., this November. The ad read, ”Under the auspices of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the occasion of the opening of the Museum and remembering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. The reunion of a special family.”

Since my mother, Hadasa Lesman, was in the ghetto, my husband and I were interested in
attending. I called the American Gathering and spoke to Mr. Ben Meed. We had several
conversations from January until May about what the itinerary for the memorial would be. My last conversation with Mr. Meed left me upset and disturbed.

Mr. Meed said there was a dinner planned as part of the event. When I asked if it would be
kosher, I was given an emphatic ‘NO.’ Mr. Meed went on to tell me that it was too expensive. He said there would be dairy food and vegetables. If I wanted a kosher dinner, he informed me, I could order one in advance, like an airline dinner.

I could hardly believe my ears. I questioned him further, and he was adamant about it being
‘too expensive.’ ‘

Mr. Meed informed me his parents were religious and that he knows about kosher food. He
then asked me if I were Lubavitch or had something to sell. The conversation went on a
while longer, but with no resolution.

I believe it’s a serious problem when an organization claiming to represent a ”Jewish” cause knowingly and without shame has a function that goes against Jewish law.

Holocaust survivors have always been a beacon of strength and pride in our community. Many of them came from observant homes. They raised good, upstanding children, many of whom
have become communal leaders. However, there is something wrong about these same leaders and survivors disregarding Jewish law – and not even on moral or theological grounds, but because ”it’s too much money.”

I believe the leadership of the Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors has to do some deep
soul-searching about what they are all about. It’s not enough to preserve the ”memory” of the event while forgetting that the goal of the Nazis was the destruction of our people and our way of life.

In order for this gathering to feel like it is a ”reunion for a special family,” we all need to be
able to come the table and feel welcome.

Malkah Kaplan
(Via E-Mail)

So You Want Divestment, Do You?

This is addressed to all those who are advocating a divestment of ties with Israel and a boycott of Israeli products. Most Israeli exports are in the high-tech and agricultural fields. Boycotting sardines, wine, and oranges is easy and may have an impact on the Israeli small businessman and farmer. It’s not so easy, however, to identify the technologies exported. But if divestment proponents are really serious, it’s important to look at those major exports.

Israel has the largest concentration of high technology firms in the world outside of Silicon
Valley. Tremendous research and product development is generated. As a start to the divestment campaign, I believe it necessary for you advocates to begin at home by changing your lifestyle. Divest yourselves of the technological exports from Israel. Only then can you develop the credibility to call on others to join this boycott.

First, discard your cell phones; he technology was developed by Motorola Israel. Make sure you don’t use Pentium MMX or Windows NT technology. You will need to disable your Internet chat capability, which originated with AOL Instant Messenger, developed in Israel. This shouldn’t be too much of a burden on you because you can go back to old-fashioned phone calls and letters. Unfortunately, you will also have to disable your computerized telephone messaging capability, another technology developed in Israel. You can, however, go back to using cassette tape recorders.

Your personal divestment campaign becomes more complicated if you have to go to the hospital. What will you do about all the medical technology developed in Israel? Make sure you tell the staff not to use the capsule-encased video camera for internal probes. You’ll have to go back to the old way of uncomfortable and undignified probes. And make sure your doctors don’t use the computerized system for the administration of medications or non-radiation diagnosis techniques for breast cancer. You will also have to work closely with your
doctors to avoid many of the heart disease treatments that were developed in Israel.

Prepare to be inconvenienced and deprived in other areas as well, such as buying produce. I’m not talking of produce from Israel but fruits, vegetables and flowers produced with Israeli-
developed technology such as drip irrigation and the raising of crops under plastic as a means of conserving water. If your divestment campaign takes hold in this area, your water bills will
skyrocket – but, hey, it’s only money. The real difficulty will arise when you try to trace which
foods in your local supermarket were grown with this water-conserving Israeli technology.

Solar-powered hot water is also an Israeli technology, but you can always still heat your
water with electricity produced by coal or oil.

Bear in mind that the above is only a partial inventory; it does not include Israeli technologies
used in other areas such as the military, airport security and satellite imaging.

I’m simply asking that you divestment types start changing your individual lifestyles
accordingly if you want credibility in enforcing such a boycott. Of course, you can always try to find similar technologies developed in Arab nations. Unfortunately, you’ll find such a quest
quite difficult.

William Barker
Arlington, VA