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August 23, 2014 / 27 Av, 5774
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Letters To The Editor


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Kerry’s Pressure

Secretary of State Kerry is pressing Israel to accept the two-state surrender solution. However, Mr. Kerry surely knows that two states for two people effectively existed from 1949 to 1967. The Arabs had total sovereignty over every inch of East Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and the Golan. Instead of peacefully living side by side with Israel, they launched hundreds of murderous attacks against innocent Israelis.

Kerry also knows that presently a twenty-two state solution exists: 21 Arab states surrounding one tiny Jewish state. Despite such a disproportionate situation the Arabs refuse to live in peace with Israel. So to pilfer Israel’s heartland to create yet another Arab state is insane.

Rather, Kerry should proffer Israel the option of becoming an American protectorate, or the 51st state. Such a pact would leave the Arabs scant alternatives but to finally halt their belligerence.

Henry J. Moscovic
Flushing, NY

Pushing Girls To Marry Non-Earners (I)

Re Ari Lapin’s “What Were We Thinking?” (op-ed, Jan. 17):

I think schools that discourage boys from seeking a profession and encourage girls to marry non-working boys are doing a terrible disservice to these young people. What happens if they have special-needs children, and the mother can’t continue working, or if she herself gets sick or has childbirth complications?

I don’t understand how any self-respecting young man can sit and learn all day while his wife works and then comes home to a full-time job there as well. Who is taking care of the kids?

Bonnie Gleicher Farkas
Montreal, Canada

Pushing Girls To Marry Non-Earners (II)

Some words from the Rambam on Pirkei Avot:

Anyone who decides to be engaged in Torah [study] and not to work, and will be supported by tzedakah – this person desecrates God’s name, degrades the Torah, extinguishes the light of our faith, brings evil upon himself and forfeits life in olam haba since it is forbidden to derive benefit from the words of Torah in this world. (Avot 4:5)

They further commanded and said (Avot 4:5): Do not make them [the words of Torah] a crown to magnify yourself or an axe with which to chop.

They further commanded, saying (Avot 1:10): Love work and despise positions of power.

And (Avot 2:2): Any Torah not accompanied by work will eventually be nullified and lead to sin.

Mindy Schaper
Memphis, TN

Remembering Ariel Sharon

I had the opportunity to be with Ariel Sharon on two occasions. The first was at an Israel Bonds rabbinic cabinet mission to Israel in January 1992 and the other as part of a United Jewish Communities National Mission a decade later. In the first instance he was minister of housing and I asked him a question about the settlement blocs. His response was to immediately instruct one of his assistants to provide all of us with maps to better illustrate the answer he was about to give. This was typical Sharon. As a military strategist he lived his life in large measure according to his maps. He always traveled with multiple sets, especially when speaking to the press or visiting delegations like ours.

On the second occasion he was prime minister and addressed a special session of the mission participants at Kiryat Moriah, the educational compound of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. When I asked on that occasion what message he would like us to take back to our children in the United States, his immediate and seemingly natural response was: “Tell them to study the Bible.”

Ariel Sharon’s life very much reflected the confluence of our Land and our Lore – on the one hand he dispensing maps and on the other he encouraging the study of Tanach.

Some would say he was a man of many, even gross, contradictions. As a family we lived in Israel during the two years that saw the “hitnatkut” (Gaza withdrawal) proposed and then implemented, with all the national convulsions it wrought. That failed effort, intended to preserve the Jewish nature of the county and avoid a demographic threat, will haunt his legacy.

But one cannot have met this man and heard his message without feeling his unwavering, visceral commitment to the preservation of the Land and People, their safety and security.

Rabbi Lawrence S. Zierler
Teaneck, NJ

Journalism As Religion

Re the op-ed article “A Shameful Post” and the accompanying editorial in the Jan. 10 Jewish Press:

There is no question that the New York Post headline about the Stark murder was reprehensible. But I think it is important to understand how newspapers and journalists work.

For starters, the New York Post is in deep financial difficulty and lurid headlines sell newspapers. Several other people got killed in the city the same day as Stark. If they didn’t stand out in some way – famous or infamous, rich, slumlords, politicians, child abuse victims, or a chassid in a shtreimel – they didn’t make the headlines, or the paper at all.

Second, reporters and headline writers are typically two separate people who have different skills. A top-notch headline writer is a more valuable commodity to a paper like the Post than a good reporter.

Third, if you get past the tragedy of a brutal murder, the headline was, to a certain extent, true. As a former teacher, I’m comfortable saying that, in some sense, on given days lots of students wanted me dead – students I failed, or even those assigned a heavy dose of homework. Did they really consider taking a gun? I’m sure not. There are also thousands who have said they want the president of the United States dead. Again, not people with guns – just people who in some sense of the word want to see the president disappear.

That’s all the Post actually said. There may be many people who possibly wanted him dead – and the police need to check them out. I’ve yet to see anybody disagree with that claim.

Finally and most importantly, I think one needs to understand that to many practitioners, journalism is, in some sense, a religion. For many journalists, publishing the facts is (lehavdil) their version of halacha. If someone suffers, so be it. Look at stories written years after the fact about secret Washington fights to suppress certain news out of national security concerns. Journalists don’t give into those concerns very easily.

A nice-sized section of most secular newspapers is devoted to reviews – book reviews, theatre reviews, restaurant reviews. And the reviewer/journalist considers it his job to write an honest review. If the food wasn’t good or the service was slow, it’s part of the review. If the critic didn’t enjoy the Broadway show, it’s in the next day’s review.

The Broadway show will close and investors will lose tens of millions of dollars; that’s irrelevant to journalists. The restaurant will close and the waiters will be unemployed; that’s also irrelevant. Nobody will buy the book that an author spent three years of his life researching and writing; that too is irrelevant. The critic’s job is to separate good shows, restaurants, and books from bad ones – to tell the potential consumer what to see or read and where to eat. Let the chips fall where they may.

Contrast that with principles of lashon hara – which is why you typically don’t see reviews, let alone bad reviews, in most Orthodox newspapers.

The insistence on following principles applies to all religions. Consider a ba’al teshuvah who dies and whose non-observant family wants an autopsy, which the Orthodox rabbi prevents, even though the grieving family wants to know how their loved one died. A couple wishes to marry, but it turns out that a kohen can’t marry a divorcee. They plead to the rabbi, but it violates halacha. When Jewish courts had power, there were Jews sentenced to lashes. How would a mother or wife feel watching her son get lashes? I’m not aware that halacha takes that into account.

None of this is to excuse the disgusting headline in the New York Post. It is though, I think, useful to understand why such headlines and stories get written.

Harold Marks
(Via E-Mail)

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