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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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Letters To The Editor

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Thumbs Down On Endorsement (I)

Re your endorsement of Bill de Blasio for mayor of New York (editorial, Nov. 1):

Since when does The Jewish Press stand with supporters of the Sandinistas and Cuban Communists? How is it good policy to tax the rich and redistribute the wealth for our community, or any community? The wealthy who support yeshivas and social services will flee the city and support those in their new community.

You write that the public in the past had been well served by Republican candidate Joe Lhota’s fiscal responsibility and know-how but that he didn’t really connect with the voters as de Blasio has. You say de Blasio has a quick mind and profound sensitivity. But in electing a mayor we choose a man who can run the city, not one who gives everyone and every group what they want.

“Connecting” with the voters does not necessarily make for a good leader, as we can see with our president.

The end of Stop and Frisk (Lhota is not for ending it) is just the tip of the social-justice iceberg the city faces. Get ready to dust off your car’s “No Radio” signs.

Sara Springer and Michael Ackerman

(Via E-Mail)

Thumbs Down On Endorsement (II)

I was surprised by your endorsement of Bill de Blasio – surprised and disappointed. You seem to have implicitly conceded that heretofore he fell far short of what you would want to see in a mayor, but rationalized that he is too bright and too perceptive to mean what he had long been saying.

The man really has a disturbing approach to what government is all about, yet you essentially pooh-poohed his many statements and actions over the years.

From what he has said, he believes government involvement in the lives of ordinary citizens is the rule rather than the exception. He thinks individuals are primarily the victims of their circumstances and therefore deserve every break from the law. He believes in an America not as a land of opportunity but as a land of entitlement. He thinks that because wealthy people have more money than the less fortunate, the former have a duty to subsidize the latter.

But this is not what made America great. And your prior editorials tell me you understand this as well.

No, I don’t subscribe to the argument that the city will fall apart under Bill de Blasio. I do feel, though, that it’s just wrong to ignore what people themselves say and base everything on the hope that they didn’t really mean what they said.

Allan Friedberg

(Via E-Mail)

Releasing Terrorists

My last stop before arriving at Ben Gurion Airport last Monday night was to join the massive rally at Ofer prison protesting the release of 26 more Arab terrorists. Speaker after speaker spoke of the brutal murder or maiming of a loved one.

Another 52 are to be released in the near future. All this is simply to get the Arabs to the table to negotiate.

And what gestures are the Arabs making? Continued terrorism. Continued calls for the destruction of Israel. Continued preaching of hatred, particularly to children. Continued glorification of martyrdom. The reality of the situation is revealed by the emblems of every Arab organization: a map showing all of Israel as the future state of Palestine.

The only result of this insane action on Israel’s part will be more terror against Jews. Why wouldn’t a jihadist be encouraged to commit more terrorist acts? What would he be risking if he knows that even if he is captured he will eventually be released from prison as a “gesture for peace”?

Charlie Bernhaut

New York, NY

Trusting Iran

George W. Bush was right on the mark when he said Iran cannot be trusted when it claims its nuclear program is not weapons oriented (“Bush, Praising Israel, Tells Presidents Conference Iraq Can’t Be Trusted,” news story, Oct. 25). Nothing in the West’s dealings with Iran would suggest otherwise.

I would go even further and say the current infatuation with the new Iranian president and the renewed faith in negotiations are both dangerously foolish. It should be clear to any rational person that Iran is just stalling for time while it continues to pursue a nuclear weapons capacity. This is a prescription for possible nuclear confrontation.

Marvin Sommers

(Via E-Mail)

The PA And International Law

I always enjoy reading Professor Louis Rene Beres’s articles in The Jewish Press. They are invariably literate and informative. “Why Oslo Failed” (front-page essay, Oct. 25) did not disappoint. However, while it is true that the Palestinian Authority violates international criminal law in failing to rein in and prosecute terrorists, that is a symptom of the problem rather than the cause.

The problem is that the Palestinian leadership has not yet decided to make peace with Israel, and the failure to deal with the anti-Israel terrorists as criminals is a consequence of that.

Edward Plummer

(Via E-Mail)

Being Different

I found Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss’s Nov. 1 column quite surprising. Quoting from the Chazon Ish, he says the first commandment is not to be different. Rabbi Weiss then brings other quotes from distinguished sources to make his point.

The problem is obvious: Different from what? To say Jews shouldn’t be different is to say they should be like the overwhelming majority of people in this country and the Western world. It is the argument of every assimilationist. To say they should not be different from other Jews would unfortunately mean telling Orthodox Jews to become Reform. After all, the overwhelming majority of affiliated American Jews are, tragically, Reform.

By leaving Charan, by seeking converts, by digging wells, by fighting powerful kings, even by sending a large dowry with his servant, much of what Avraham Avinu did involved being different.

A story is told about Rav Pam walking down the street with one of his students. From across the street, some non-Jewish teenagers started to taunt them. The student got upset, but Rav Pam smiled. When questioned, Rav Pam’s response was very direct: “People are supposed to know Jews are different.”

Rabbi Weiss writes that “The Rambam paskens emphatically, ‘Al tifrash min ha’tzibur.’ ” I would respectfully suggest that in Brooklyn (and maybe even in Staten Island) there is no tzibur – or there are a hundred of them, which is the same thing. I would also point out that the Rambam was very controversial in his time – he clearly stood out.

I sometimes daven in a Modern Orthodox shul. But on occasion – typically a Friday night – one or two lost souls show up in shul wearing chassidic garb. Is Rabbi Weiss telling them to change into a suit and tie before coming to that shul? On Shabbos morning, a distinct minority, including the rabbi, put their talleisim on their heads for much of davening. Again, is Rabbi Weiss suggesting they not do so? After all, they shouldn’t be different.

Even Rabbi Weiss’s story about the girl in the drugstore with a tongue ring is not so obvious. In some neighborhoods of New York she would no longer stand out. Is Rabbi Weiss suggesting that if enough girls wear tongue rings he will direct his daughters to also start wearing them?

His comment about the man who stands for davening is particularly troubling. I’m reminded of the story of the Yom Kippur afternoon when suddenly, in a frenzy, the rabbi starts beating on his chest and moaning aloud, “God, I am nothing.” And next to him the cantor starts beating on his chest and saying, “God, I am nothing.” After a minute or two an old, not terribly observant Jew in the back can be heard yelling “God, I am nothing.” And the rabbi turns to the cantor and says “Look who thinks he’s nothing.”

If the man standing throughout davening were the rabbi or a local rosh yeshiva, would Rabbi Weiss still say he should sit down? I doubt it.

Rabbi Weiss points out that “the boy who has purple hair…[is] begging to be noticed.” Yes, he is – and in a way that is not acceptable in the Orthodox community. But so is most everyone else in the world begging to be noticed, including the student who raises his hand in class, the man who gets up to lead the davening, the rabbi who stands up to speak, the person who writes a newspaper column, and even the guy who writes a letter to the editor of The Jewish Press. Certainly the girl looking for a shidduch and the person looking for a raise or promotion at work are looking to be noticed. That is human nature.

I fear Rabbi Weiss is really preaching that we shouldn’t be different from his norms. But every chassidic sect, every shul, every student of a given rosh yeshiva, every child of given parents – indeed every person – has his own norms, his own derech in avodas Hashem.

Put slightly differently, the Chazon Ish simply would not have been the Chazon Ish if he hadn’t been different from us – if he’d have had to sink to our mediocre level.

In my modern shul, I would have no problem telling someone he can’t daven for the amud in a hat or gartel, or with a tallis over his head, since that is not minhag hamakom, but saner voices stop me from doing so.

Harold Marks

(Via E-Mail)

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