Latest update: July 2nd, 2013
Jewish Press Forum
Kudos to The Jewish Press for sponsoring the recent New York City Mayoral Candidate Forum at the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center.
All of the Democratic candidates were present, and Jewish Press staffers were very professional, treating all the candidates with equal respect and courtesy. Jewish Press editors asked the candidates questions pertinent to the Jewish community and it was quite educational to observe all the candidates up close and to compare their views and personalities.
Residents of the beachfront community of Southern Brooklyn – which is frequently bypassed in favor of other Jewish neighborhoods – were deeply appreciative that The Jewish Press held the forum here.
I look forward to attending more of these Jewish Press forums.
Authors Looking For Stories
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We invite Jewish Press readers to share such stories with us. The stories we have in mind would involve experiences where people obtained information through any means that defies logical explanation; paying attention or acting on such information may have even changed, or saved, their lives.
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What The Midrash Says
I would like to point out to reader Dr. Yaakov Stern (Letters, May 31) that the Midrash that Rashi refers to does not say the world was created “for” (bishvil) Israel. The Midrash states the world was created “in the merit of” (b’zechut) Israel (Vayikra Rabbah 36:4).
I assume Dr. Stern appreciates the enormous difference between bishvil and b’zechut.
This should also clarify similar midrashim quoted by many: “The world was created for Torah,” “for challah,” “for maaser,” “for bikurim” – in all these midrashim the word is b’zechut, not bishvil (see Bereishis Rabbah 1:6).
Kew Gardens, NY
Susan Rice is President Obama’s choice for national security adviser. She does not have to go through Senate confirmation for that position and thus will not have to face questioning about her five Sunday morning TV appearances where she explained that the attack in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous protest against a video rather than a planned terrorist attack.
She can, however, be subpoenaed to go before a House Committee – hopefully.
Gay Groups And The Celebrate Israel Parade
When Did The Rules Change?
In the Letters section of June 7, readers Daniel Weintraub and Tova Ross supported the right of openly gay groups to march in the Celebrate Israel Parade.
For the past year, I tried to get Orthodox groups to leave the parade rather than march together with Jewish Queer Youth. The precedent for this was set in 1993, when the gay/lesbian synagogue Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) sought to march.
Led by Rav Aaron Soloveichik, zt”l, and other rabbanim, the yeshivas declared they would not participate in the parade if CBST were allowed to march. The parade backed down, and for many years the synagogue did not march or marched without signage that mentioned homosexuality.
In 2012, with the parade having been taken over by the Jewish Community Relations Council, there was a policy change, and Jewish Queer Youth was permitted to march, despite the fact that its very name indicates that it promotes behavior antithetical to Torah.
The JCRC went to great lengths to disguise JQY’s participation. Indeed, until several weeks ago, many participating yeshivas were unaware that JQY had marched last year and that the guidelines agreed to in 1993 had been breached.
I can disclose that high-level meetings occurred in a number of contexts during the weeks immediately preceding this year’s parade, with numerous rabbanim maintaining that yeshivas should not march this year. In the end, the yeshivas did march (although some rebbeim and teachers stayed home), with JQY having been warned to avoid provocative signage. (Among last year’s signs: “We are in every yeshiva.”)
Daniel Weintraub noted that “there are many groups comprised of people who violate the Torah that participate in the parade.” As a gay man, he therefore “felt unfairly singled out” by a group of rabbanim who forbade their followers from marching or viewing the parade if JQY were included. However, there is a great difference between, say, a Reform group marching and an openly gay group marching. The Reform groups do not bear signs that state, “Eaters of treif for Israel.”
Tova Ross wrote that support of Israel is not a “one-size-fits-all type of deal.” She is correct, but Orthodox groups must be very careful not to appear to grant legitimacy to immoral behavior. By marching alongside Jewish Queer Youth, the yeshivas and other Orthodox Jewish groups did precisely that.
In 1993, when the controversy over CBST was at its height, one rabbi argued against its inclusion. He wrote, in part, “I cannot legitimize deviant sexual behavior even if I forgive it.” He added: “It is one thing to protect the deviant. It is another matter when the deviant seeks to change the values system.” This writer was Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, nobody’s idea of a right wing, fire-breathing traditionalist.
Now that the parade is over and there is ample time to consider next year’s event, let us ask: Has the Torah changed since 1993? Is what was forbidden then permissible now? I call upon Orthodox groups to unite in an unconditional declaration that they will not march next year unless groups that promote sin are excluded.
Simultaneously, I wish to assure Daniel Weintraub that we harbor no hatred toward him. He and other gays have the same right to march as any of us, as long as they do so in a manner that does not promote sin.
Far Rockaway, NY
On June 2, some national Orthodox Jewish organizations as well as many Modern Orthodox yeshivas marched in the Celebrate Israel Parade despite the fact that this parade included for the first time a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender group marching under a banner indicating explicitly what they represent.
I think it was wrong for the Orthodox groups to march with this group, because it at least implicitly implies validation of their agenda. In truth, I think it has been a mistake for Orthodox groups to march in a parade in which groups representing the Reform and Conservative movements march under banners representing their movements. This lends credence to the “three branches of Judaism” propaganda that no Torah-true Jew should subscribe to.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s approach to dealing with Jewish groups that deviate from Torah Judaism was austritt (separation). I think it is the correct approach to such issues. No Orthodox Jew or organization should do anything that even implicitly recognizes the validity of non-observant groups as being acceptable to Torah-true Judaism.
I am convinced that if all of the Orthodox organizations that participated in the parade this year would refuse in the future to march in a Celebrate Israel Parade in which banners of non-Torah organizations are displayed, those behind the parade would have to give in and not allow such organizations to march with such banners. From news reports it is apparent that the overwhelming majority of participants in the parade were from Orthodox institutions. Without them, it seems, participation in the parade would drop considerably, maybe even to the point that having it would not be viable.
Let me add for clarification that I am not opposed to Orthodox organizations marching with non-observant Jews. It is the banners – and the implied stamp of approval of what they stand for by Orthodox Jews – that I feel is inappropriate.
Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Editor’s Note: Dr. Levine writes the popular Glimpses Into American Jewish History feature that appears the first issue of each month in The Jewish Press.
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