Looking For A Jewish DeLay

I read with great interest – even fascination – Congressman Tom DeLay’s speech to the Knesset (“Be Not Afraid,” Jewish Press, Aug. 8) We should all be ashamed. There are few (if any) Jewish leaders willing to do what DeLay has done: publicly argue against a Palestinian state unless the Palestinians truly purge terrorism from their ranks.

What impressed me most was not DeLay’s uncompromising insistence that the Palestinians be held to a real, not imaginary, standard of compliance and that America’s triumph over terror is
directly linked to Israel’s success in its fight against Hamas – though those sentiments are certainly welcome.

No, what intrigued me most was that DeLay represents the Christian Right, which shares his views on Israel. If only our own religious leaders and more liberal co-religionists would show the same gumption and all-out support for the Jewish state.

Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a rabbi or Jewish organizational leader making the kind of speech DeLay made. The steadfast faith, the unembarrassed leaning on biblical truth, just isn’t
there. We’re a people that excels at putting on lavish testimonial dinners for money-grubbing businessmen who use their donations to our schools and institutions as tax write-offs. But delivering a clear and ringing declaration of G-d?s Truth is an altogether different proposition. Who’s going to do that? Edgar Bronfman? Joe Lieberman? Abe Foxman?

I’d laugh if I wasn’t crying.

Paul Wasserman
Los Angeles, CA

Defensive Wall

The so-called issue of the wall of defense in Israel is no issue at all. The wall is nothing less than a necessary means for the survival of the Jewish people, surrounded as they are by a
murderous rabble with no agenda other than to launch massacres unseen since the Crusades.

The wall must not only stand but be maintained at all costs. The “Palestinians” claim that as a result of the wall they will be out of work in Israel. Let them wander around the neighboring
states and beg for handouts from their Arab brothers.

Your goyishe buddy down in Dixie.

Mark “Coach” Segura
Athens, GA

Powell Up, Rumsfeld Down?

The gist of your “Ominous Developments” editorial last week was astute and on target.

I re-read President Bush’s June 24, 2002 speech and it leapt right out at me. Bush’s early insistence on the neutralization of Arafat and the disarming of terrorists groups by the PA was
indeed based upon the belief that “there could not be real peace with Arafat in power and terrorists able to wreak havoc.” So it must follow, as day follows night, that there is no logical basis for continuing the road map if Arafat remains in charge and Hamas keeps its guns.

Unfortunately, the Colin Powell wing of the administration seems lately to be on the ascendancy while the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz faction appears to have been stricken silent on this
issue – and that doesn’t portend well for Israel.

Harris Schoenberg
New York, NY

Bush And Israel (I)

Re “Washington May Cut Israel Aid Over Security Fence Dispute” (front page story, Jewish Press, Aug. 8):

As Yogi Berra is supposed to have said, “It’s dej? vu all over again.” How is it possible that in 2003, a president of the United States, especially one with the last name of “Bush,” would go
public with pressure against Israel? It would be one thing to read the riot act to Israel in a backroom session. But to publicly condition U.S. aid on whether Israel follows American wishes at the cost of Israel’s security is not at all helpful.

Compared to Bill Clinton, the first President Bush was not all that bad when it came to Israel, yet he certainly did, as your editorial (“Ominous Developments”) last week noted, gain “the
undying enmity of the Jewish community” for holding back on loan guarantees if Israel proceeded with settlement construction.

I still think this President Bush is better than both his father and Bill Clinton when it comes to Israel, and I suspect the news of the possible cut in aid was a trial balloon floated by the State
Department. If that’s the case, however, Bush should have disavowed it immediately. The president’s heart seems to be in the right place, but he needs to be more consistent.

Louis Billig
(Via E-Mail)

Bush And Israel (II)

I, like many other Jews, am disconcerted by some of the Bush administration’s recent pronouncements on the Middle East. However, I would caution anyone ready to turn his back on the president (a friend of mine told me he’d even vote for Al Sharpton over Bush) that all of the Democrats now running for president – including Sen. Lieberman – heaped scorn and criticism on Bush for two years because he refused to directly involve himself in the Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace process’ a la their hero Bill Clinton.

To these Democrats, a president who isn’t intimately involved (code words for pressuring Israel) in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations is, ipso facto, a president who isn’t doing his job. So, my friends, rather than discounting the solid support Bush has given Israel over the past two and a half years, and before pledging your support to a Joe Lieberman or a Howard Dean,
remember that whenever Bush displays a more even-handed approach or appears to press Israel to be more accommodating, he’s doing exactly what the Democrats have been clamoring for him to do!

And don’t forget that a Democratic president will not be beholden to the powerful and staunchly pro-Israel Christian Right, whose members vote Republican in overwhelming numbers. Tom DeLay, Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed – these gentlemen and millions of their fellow Zionist Christians will have zero leverage on a Democratic president. But an assortment of left-wing special interest groups will. Frankly, that scares me more than just about any other scenario.

Eliezer Kraft
New York, NY

Belzec Concerns Valid, But…

I read last week’s story about the controversy over the Belzec memorial with great interest. While I believe Rabbi Avi Weiss raises some legitimate concerns about the possible disturbing of human remains, I am troubled by the fact that he continues his protests with a clamor wholly out of place, particularly since approval for the project has been voiced by rabbinic leaders,
including the former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, and the Israeli foreign ministry.

I am certainly not encouraged by the fact that Rabbi Weiss has brought a lawsuit to halt work on the project. Asking a New York State Supreme Court Judge to stop a project in Poland with which the Polish government is involved seems to me to be showboating of the worst kind. And it’s especially disconcerting given the Holocaust atrocities that are the backdrop to this unfortunate dispute.

(Dr.) Warren Kose
Brooklyn, NY

‘Veritable Circus’?

I hope that Rabbi Weiss’s histrionics do not obscure the issue at hand, as well as what appears to be hard evidence that human remains are indeed being disturbed by the construction of the Belzec memorial. It is important that the truth about their existence not take second place to the public relations campaign that is now going forward.

This is an issue that needs to be dealt with soberly and with a great deal of tact and reason. That it’s become a veritable circus does not speak well of those whose hunger for publicity trumps all else.

June Leventhal
New York, NY

Troubles In The ‘Hood Just Won’t Go Away

Saying ‘Good Shabbos’ An Honor

I was shocked and dismayed by Rachel Weiss’s lengthy letter about the ongoing ‘Troubles
in the Hood’ (Jewish Press, Aug. 8). It’s a pity that a “suburbanite” like Weiss says she’s been
“consistently subjected” to Shabbos and Yom Tov greetings and would rather “share and bond with loved ones” and “disregard the persons” with whom she has “no correlation.”

To add insult to injury, Weiss mentioned that her “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.”

I can’t believe that, only decades after six million Jews perished in the Shoah and with world anti-Semitism now on the rise, there are Jews today who are annoyed at the kindness of
fellow Jews. It’s a miracle that we are all here.

Weiss then went off on a tangent of lashon hara at the Jewish community, stating how the
“younger and more vulnerable single generation” is “creating enough havoc and harm in our society today” and that her previous neighbors were “overtly nosy and irksome.”

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to say ‘Good Shabbos’ to you, Ms. Weiss!

While reading her letter, I pictured the Lubavitcher Rebbe who would stand for countless
hours every Sunday to greet, listen to and bless countless people from all walks of life and
countries. When the Rebbe was asked how he could stand for so many long hours at his ripe old age, he responded that he never tired of counting “diamonds.”

I believe it says in Mesechta Shabbos that all yidden are royalty. So even if you believe that
there is “no need to overdo the friendly bit” and that saying ‘Good Shabbos’ is not everyone’s “cup of tea,” you should feel honored that the Ribono Shel Olam sends yidden to pass you on your walk home.

Each Jew we meet represents an opportunity sent to us by Hashem. And as my rabbi once told me, “Your face is not for you – it’s for others, because others see it.”

Devora Leogrande
West Hartford, CT

Men Speaking With Women

After reading Rachel Weiss’s letter, I can see why our sages in their wisdom never allowed
women to become rabbis. She cites many halachic sources for why a man should not have a
conversation with a woman. However only a competent rav can interpret these sources as far
as practical halacha is concerned.

To illustrate the point, let me relate a true story from my past. Forty-six years ago, when I was 14, my mother and I spent an entire summer at a hotel in Bethlehem, New Hampshire upon
orders from my doctor. I was suffering from severe allergies and asthma. My father had to remain in the city to work and could not accompany us. It was a very memorable experience because I had the good fortune to spend an entire summer with none other than Harav Hagaon Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, who was with us at the hotel, together with many other gedolim, both chassidish and Litvish.

One morning my symptoms were very severe, and when I failed to appear for Shachris minyan, Rav Moshe came over to my mother and initiated a conversation with her inquiring as to my health. (Please bear in mind that my mother was a Modern Orthodox woman who did not put on a sheitel until much later in her life.) I am positive that Rav Moshe knew all the sources quoted by Rachel Weiss in her letter, as well as many more that she did not. Yet by his own conduct, we can plainly see that he did not agree with her interpretation, and permitted conversation with a woman. Indeed he made it a point to greet each and every Jew, frum or not, in the most kind and gentle manner possible.

I would like to add that as a result of that conversation, Rav Moshe came to me later that day and gave me a beracha that I should get well. His blessing was fulfilled and I was cured of my
chronic condition. The sooner we all abandon this “holier than thou” mentality and realize that the same Source that gave us the mitzvos of beyn adam lamakom also gave us the mitzvos of beyn adam lechavero – namely the Ribono Shel Olam Himself ? we will merit the coming of Moshiach.

Sol Zeller
Monsey, NY

Painful Truth?

I am finding the exchange in The Jewish Press Letters section about civility and courtesy very amusing. I didn’t realize that there actually are people willing to go on at great length in an
attempt to justify or explain the lack of social graces unfortunately found in some of our
communities. And then there are those who try to make the case that there are only a few who are guilty of such boorish behavior.

Really. Where were these people brought up? And whom do they think they’re kidding? Anyone who lives or has spent time in some of the neighborhoods in question knows all too well that incivility abounds.

Ruth Scherman
(Via E-Mail)

Easier Said Than Done

To all of those letter-writers on sinat chinam with their earnest and oh so meticulous halachic
discourses: Chill and get a life. It’s not such a big deal. Remember Pirkei Avot and those mishnayot which talk about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and greeting everyone with a pleasant countenance. Or words to that effect.

It’s rather simple.

Brad Popiel
New York, NY

Haredi Chesed Unmatched

I daresay that the widespread impression that the haredi world is driven in varying degrees by a fundamental anti-Zionism also feeds the perception that they are very insular and unfriendly. Yet it is an objective fact, as a couple of other readers have pointed out, that virtually
all of the broad-based voluntary chesed organizations have been formed and are being
operated by haredim – particularly chassidim.

Is there anyone who has had to stay in a New York area hospital over Shabbos or Yom Tov who has not been exposed to a chassidic bikur cholim? What about the great numbers of gemachs? And the food programs for the needy? And the group homes for the impaired? And religious Zionists may hate to admit it, but Satmar leads the pack.

Pick your issues. But real sinat chinam is ignoring what people regularly give of themselves
to others.

Menachem Samuels
Brooklyn, NY

Homowack Fire Brought Out The Best

I was zoche to spend Shabbos Nachamu this past weekend at the Homowack. I say that
without irony, as I was privileged to witness a remarkable scene.

We were roused early Shabbos morning to shouts of “fire” and the shrill of the alarm.
Volunteers went from room to room to evacuate all of the guests. People seemed to take it in stride as they were herded to the front lawn in their pajamas or robes. Although we had to wait a few hours to be admitted back into the building, I did not hear any complaints. This amazes me, considering that few people had time to relieve themselves before going outside.

The instructions of the fire marshals were pretty well followed, and I did not hear anyone
express resentment at being kept out for so long. Nor did I see anyone insisting that he or she be allowed back in to get anything unless it was life threatening.

As always, the Hatzolah volunteers were quickly on the scene, and did an amazing job of
ensuring public safety. They also coordinated the distribution of relief supplies, said to have come from Satmar. They were very complimentary of the manner in which everyone conducted themselves during the crisis. The local fire departments of Mamakating and other responders also did a fabulous job of fighting the fire and containing the damage to just the offices and kitchen.

What moved me most was the spontaneous organization of two minyanim in the outdoor
hockey rink, one each for Ashkenaz and Sefard. Many men did not have their taleisim, and four or five people would share the same siddur. As it happened, while the Torahs were not in the danger zone, we could not enter the building to retrieve them for this impromptu service. That meant that everyone came to hear the laining together after the “all clear” order was given.

We also heard the haftora together. Nachamu, nachamu ami…. Baruch Hashem, nobody was hurt. It could have been so much worse, as this was also visiting day weekend, plus a Young Israel weekend, and the singles weekend – certainly the largest crowd of the summer, if
not of the entire year.

This minor inconvenience was overcome and things were pretty much back on schedule by
lunchtime thanks to a very dedicated hotel management and staff. Regardless, they decided
to reduce everyone’s bill, without even being asked. Personally I do not feel I can keep it, so I
plan to donate the discounted amount to the local fire departments that responded, Catskills
Hatzolah and Satmar, b’li neder. Perhaps other guests feel the same way and will consider doing likewise.

I treasure the inspiration I received last weekend, and would gladly do it again if given the

Victor Shine
Brooklyn, NY

Do Holocaust Organizations Ignore Jewish Concerns?

Treif Survivors’ Gathering

Re Malkah Kaplan’s letter to the editor (‘Something’s Not Kosher About Survivors’ Gathering,’ Aug. 8):

I felt the same way upon receiving the invitation to this event. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Kaplan. It was so upsetting to learn the event isn’t kosher. How could that be? At first I
thought I hadn’t read it correctly because it just didn’t make sense.

My mother is a Holocaust survivor and I do not feel it would be respectful to her family and
loved ones, who perished in Poland under the Nazi murderers, to attend a treif dinner which is
supposed to commemorate this tragedy.

I appreciate Ms. Kaplan’s going a step further and making contact with Ben Meed, although it did not get her anywhere. I was devastated to read Meed’s excuse that kosher is “too expensive.” There indeed is something very unkosher about this. Once again, we are our own
worst enemies.

I would like to thank Ms. Kaplan for the wonderful way she expressed her feelings (and
mine, too). It’s good to know she took a stand and let her beliefs be known, in honor of our beloved families and for all those who died al kiddush Hashem.

Rochelle Brodsky
(Via E-Mail)

Hitler And Kashruth

I was not at all surprised by Malkah Kaplan’s letter last week about the failure of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors to provide a kosher menu for its upcoming event. It is a very sad fact that preservation of our exclusively Jewish traditions – which set us apart and made us particular targets of the Nazis – is not an important concern of a good number of those involved in trying to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust never be forgotten.

I salute people like Ben Meed who devote their lives to this effort and I would never demean
the suffering of any of the victims of the Holocaust, or indeed, their sincerity. However, I do believe that any public gathering of Jews to mark history’s signal effort to destroy the Jewish
people must be characterized by what the world invariably associates with the Jew. As far as I’m concerned, this is one case where I would be concerned about what non-Jews say.

As for this matter of kashruth, we should never forget that Hitler’s very first decree as
Chancellor of Germany required the humane slaughter of animals, which, of course, was
defined in a way to exclude shechita.

Gail Lapides
Miami Beach, FL

Secularist Mindset

Malkah Kaplan should not have been surprised by Mr. Meed’s callous disregard for kashruth-observing Jews. I have dealt with a number of Holocaust-related concerns over the years, and have found the organizations ostensibly representing Holocaust survivors and their heirs to be totally unconcerned with the religious aspects of Jewish life.

On top of that, they’re staffed by cold bureaucrats who, with some exceptions, generally care not a whit for the people on whose behalf they supposedly labor. Now, I don’t know Mr.
Meed, so I can’t accuse him of being cold and uncaring, but I’m very familiar with the secularist mindset that permeates survivor and Holocaust-related organizations.

Don’t these people realize that without Torah, there won?t be any Jewish survivors a hundred years from now?

Avraham Bronstein
New York, NY

No Marker For Mass Graves

My family and I lived in Poland. My parents, brothers, sisters and all my relatives were tortured and murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust; I myself barely survived a death camp.

My family and the millions of other Jews who were murdered by the Nazis do not even have a
Jewish marker on the mass graves where they perished. For the past five years I have been
writing to all the Holocaust institutions and Jewish organizations in the United States about
this. Unfortunately, I’ve never received a response from any of them.

Now I can understand better the Holocaust and the murder millions of Jews. Jewish and
Holocaust organizations in the U.S. have collected billions of dollars as a result of what happened in Europe, but won’t even place a Jewish monument on the mass graves.

Israel Turk
Tarzana, CA