The battle over the display of the Ten Commandments should be a Jewish battle. The Founding Fathers knew that the only way to prevent the authority of an established church state was to guarantee individuals freedom of conscience. They were also aware of the dangers if state law derived from the absolute moral authority of men. Therefore, G-d was acknowledged as the source of our rights, and American civil law was built upon the foundations of the Torah.
The rest was left up to the people, and for this reason America has been blessed and become great, granting us freedom never before realized and tolerance never before seen. If these foundations are removed we will become as all other nations – without a foundation based on rights for all endowed by our Creator.
Jews of faith should stand with Christians. The Ten Commandments do not force Christianity on anyone, but provide a basis for our civil law. Overall, American Christians have been very tolerant of Jews, even though secular Jews often take the lead in vilifying everything we hold
sacred. We still understand Israel’s plight and offer our support
Unmoved By Mayoral Visit
Mayor Bloomberg’s blink-of-an-eye visit to Israel was a very nice photo-op for a politician with a large Jewish constituency (David Dinkins did the same thing when he was mayor during the 1991 Gulf War, and he’s not even Jewish), but what exactly was the point?
The man was wrapped in a cocoon of protective security during the seven or eight hours he spent in Israel (I’ve sat in doctors’ waiting rooms for almost as much time), so I wasn’t exactly impressed with the grandstanding. Oooh, he rode a bus in Jerusalem? Let him do it like
average Israelis who travel without a phalanx of armed bodyguards – that’s impressive.
New York, NY
Dismayed By Rutgers Decision
I always thought of my alma mater, Rutgers University, in a positive light. I loved my college experience there. I am therefore shocked, disgusted and outraged that the governor of New Jersey and university officials are permitting a pro-Palestinian group that refuses to condemn
suicide bombings to hold a conference on the Rutgers campus.
This group is not merely exercising “freedom of speech.” It is encouraging murder and violence against a nation (Israel) and people yearning for peace. How will we ever have peace in the world when educational institutions like Rutgers encourage hate groups by giving them a platform to speak and send dangerous messages to the world?
Plaut Too Harsh On Waskow?
Believing that war has never solved anything (except Nazism, Stalinism, fascism, tyranny, etc.), I may not share Arthur Waskow’s political views and, although I know it exists, I do not read Tikkun magazine. I am, however, appalled at Steven Plaut’s op-ed column “Ideas for Boojoos” (Jewish Press, Aug. 22). Plaut may disagree with Waskow’s political views, but that is no reason to disparage him as a Jew and to ridicule those associated with him.
Interestingly, two recent Jewish Press columns by Rabbi Yaakov Klass relate to this matter. One column, “Sinat Chinam Destroyed Our House,” speaks for itself. Ahavat Yisrael will deliver us from our long exile. Plaut’s attitude will keep us in exile and worse yet, makes it hard
for us to survive.
The other column by Rabbi Klass, “Reincarnation?” refers to “the monumental English work ‘The Dybbuk’ by Gershon Winkler.” Rabbi Winkler is a revered teacher in the very movement criticized by Steven Plaut. Even The Jewish Press itself has acknowledged the religious value of at least one thinker of this movement, though Plaut would have readers believe they are all worthless pot-smoking pagans.
Catholic Silence On Gibson Film
The pope and other Catholic officials have condemned the movie ‘The Magdalene Sisters,’ which exposes and condemns the gruesome Magdalene asylums. These asylums imprisoned Catholic girls found to be ”disreputable” in some way and punished them for a lifetime. The girls would work seven days a week for no pay (while the nuns profited steadily). Inevitably these girls became broken in mind and spirit – all old before their time. Even harder to believe in this expose is the fact that the last asylum closed its doors in 1996! This practice, in Ireland, sanctioned by the church, existed almost to the 21st century.
In sharp contrast, the revival by Mel Gibson’s passion play has received not one word of condemnation from an ”enlightened” and newly ”sensitive” Catholic hierarchy.
Everyone who has ever breathed knows that in Europe these – passion plays, with their depictions of gory and horrific crucifixion scenes, would rile up the locals who would then go out for a bit of ”after-show fun” and kill any number of Jews unfortunate enough to have lived in their midst. During medieval times, this, well, medieval practice was particularly notorious for rape, pillage, and murder of the Jewish populace. The plays (and what followed) were
often, sanctioned by the clergy.
If it is a passion play Gibson wants, I have some 20th century horrors he can depict. Here are just a few:
Dr. Lucas, a physician at Auschwitz, testified in court in his own defense. Lucas told of the time he went on vacation to his native Austria. There, it seems, he confided to the archbishop of Asnabruck that he was injecting carbolic acid into the veins of Jewish children. The archbishop looked at him and said, ”You are merely obeying orders.”
The archbishop of Insburg once gave a similar answer to the commandment of Buchenwald concentration camp. When the commandment confessed that he had killed Jews – including many Jewish children – the reply was ”You are only doing your duty.”
During the Eichmann trial in the early 1960’s, a Canadian missionary who had lived in Jerusalem for thirty years stated that had the Nazi ‘accepted’ Jesus, he would have gone straight to paradise.
When it was pointed out to him that Eichmann had played such a major role in the murder of six million people, the missionary replied that it didn’t matter – Eichmann would go to Heaven if he professed faith in Jesus. That he died an unrepentant Nazi should, I suppose, make us all feel better.
The church, by being evenhanded and fair – by condemning what needs to be condemned, by uncovering the lies and deceptions instead of fostering them, by admitting to wrongs perpetrated and by atoning for them – will gain back some of what it has lost.
At any rate, recent horrors like the Holocaust, the Magdalene asylums, church pedophiles, and Mel Gibson’s passion play all need to be dealt with honestly and openly. Only then can the healing begin.
Still Troubled In The ‘Hood
I am saddened that Rachel Weiss misconstrued my letter to the editor on the continuing issue of “Troubles in the Hood.” And it was unbecoming of Ms. Weiss as a fellow Jew to make a snide remark about my last name, along with her other colorful comments (Letters, Aug. 22).
Ms. Weiss, I did not respond to your recent letter in order to verbally attack you, but rather to
be outspoken about a most basic principle of our Torah – ahavat Yisrael, loving our fellow Jew.
Everyone who has taken the time to write to The Jewish Press about this issue of saying ‘gut
Shabbos’ to passersby on the holiest day of the week – you coldly dismissed them as “all those
who are overly preoccupied and obsessed with the ‘greeting’ issue” – simply yearn for ahavat
Yisrael and unity.
Recently, I attended a women’s Torah class in Boro Park and one of the teachers taught that
if you do not say hello to someone you pass by whom you know (or know of) it is as if you have stolen or robbed that person of a greeting that had been expected. Ms. Weiss, we are not ‘obsessed with the greeting issue'; we simply want to connect with our fellow Jews – and that includes you.
You mentioned that “stresses and strains of today’s world and personal circumstance can lead
some, at times, to behave out of character.” Understood – but previous generations had
plenty of stress, some of which we can never fathom in our worst nightmares.
As for your interpretation of Sol Zeller’s beautiful letter, Mr. Zeller was not, chas v’shalom,
arguing that we should “compare ourselves to our gedolim, such as Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l.” I believe Mr. Zeller’s point was that we must strive to follow in their footsteps.
We are now in the month of Elul, when the King is in the field, and it is a golden opportunity
for each and every Jew around the world to strive to emulate our gedolim ? and that includes
trying to say ?gut Shabbos? to fellow Jews.
On that note, Ms. Weiss, I wish you a gut Shabbos and chodesh tov.
West Hartford, CT
What’s In A Name?
I was outraged at the insensitivity exhibited by Rachel Weiss in trying to make an issue out of
the name of a reader whose views she disagreed with. What’s wrong with the name ‘Leogrande,’ Ms. Weiss? Are you comfortable only with people named Schwartz or Goldberg? Do you know anything about the reader whose name you felt merited such churlish mention? Maybe she’s a convert. Perhaps she’s a ba’alat teshuvah who was married to a non-Jew. Or, quite possibly, she’s from a non-Ashkenazic background and so the name sounds exotic to Ashkenazi ears.
All I know is that when I compare Ms. Leogrande’s letter with those of Ms. Weiss’s that The Jewish Press has seen fit to publish, there is no question in my mind that Ms. Leogrande is the
type of person any sincere Jew would proudly call a friend and role model.
Because of the time of year, I’ll refrain from describing the type of person that Ms. Weiss
comes across as.
Look Under Your Own Hood
In reading the recent letters to the editor regarding the lack of friendliness displayed by those who do not greet everyone they see on the street with a hearty ‘Good Shabbos,’ I came to
the following conclusion.
We all know the principle of dan l’kaf zechus, judging everyone favorably, giving the benefit of
the doubt. Rav Yitzchok Hutner, zt’l, explained that this means that instead of finding faults in
others, we should find excuses for their behavior. We should seek positive explanations for their actions. In this particular instance, it is fairly easy. The neighborhood in question has one of the largest concentrations of religious Jews in the world. It is highly impractical (and monotonous) to say ‘Good Shabbos’ to everyone one passes on the street.
If that explanation is not acceptable, then consider that Chazal also say “Kol ha’posel, pasul.” In simple terms this means that one who finds a defect in another possesses the same fault,
which is why s/he was able to identify the fault and dwell on it to such an extent.
So, if you still are finding “trouble in the ‘hood,” you might want to take a moment, lift up
your own ‘hood’ and take a serious look!
The problem of discourtesy comes from both directions. It doesn’t matter if you’re too much to the left or the right for a particular community.
There are those on the so-called Modern Orthodox left who are quite discourteous to
“yeshivish” Jews. When I first moved to Washington, DC, a woman who is very well known
in Democratic circles suggested to me that I would prefer living “among my own kind” in Silver
While I know some fantastic people in Georgetown, I was very badly treated by those members of the community who follow their rabbi who has publicly expressed contempt for
“right-wingers.” It wasn’t until later that I realized that while that community called itself
‘Modern Orthodox,’ it doesn’t really fit that category.
A truly Modern Orthodox community, such as the one in which I lived in Matawan, New
Jersey, treats fellow Jews exactly the same as a truly chassidic community, in accordance to the Torah. It is a fallacy that discourtesy and contempt comes from only one direction. It must
be stopped at the source from the left, too.
Dr. Laura’s Rejection Of Orthodoxy
Might The Fault Be Ours?
I think well of both Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Dr. Laura Schlesinger, but was turned off by
the rabbi’s dismissal of her recent apparent disappointment with Orthodoxy (‘Dr. Laura: Fair-
Weather Jew,’ Jewish Press op-ed, Aug. 29).
It’s interesting that Rabbi Boteach has bent over backwards to avoid labeling as anti-Semitic
Oxford professors such as Andrew Wilkie, who hates Israel with a passion, but is quick to
denounce Dr. Laura as a shallow, fair-weather Jew. I would have thought he’d be more
empathetic towards her feeling that Orthodox Jews have been very unsupportive (whereas
Christians have been supportive).
Frankly, I think Orthodoxy should be grateful to have had her on its side in the public debate about Israel, morality, family values, the gay agenda, and thus we should feel regret, not
contempt, that something has seriously turned her off.
Could that turnoff stem from the very phenomenon that readers and columnists have been addressing in The Jewish Press these past few months – namely, the sad lack of warmth,
respect, camaraderie and derech eretz on the part of Orthodox Jews in their interaction with other Jews, perhaps converts especially?
I was shocked to learn that Dr. Laura Schlesinger a) has given up on observant life, b)
felt little in return for her keeping of mitzvas, and c) at the expense of Jews praised her Christian friends for what she described as their loving relationship with G-d.
Yet, while I admire Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, I have to question his criticism of Dr. Laura.
Rabbi Boteach says that our relationship with Hashem is not based on feeling spiritual and
fulfilled. Why put down Dr. Laura – someone who wants to be close to G-d – if that’s what she needs? Different people connect to Hashem in different ways and the reality in today’s stressful world is that there are many people like her. A more useful article would have suggested means for Dr. Laura and others to find the inspiration they seek.
Dr. Laura claims she was hurt by not getting enough positive feedback from Jewish supporters. If this is true, isn’t it another example of some Jews treating others poorly, as in the
long-running discussion in The Jewish Press about Shabbos greetings?
Dr. Laura extolled morality to millions of people in the name of Judaism and G-d. Perhaps
she would feel differently today had she received hakaras hatov through a few simple e-mails and faxes – and newspaper articles.
Conversion, Materialism And Mitzvos
While Rabbi Boteach correctly took Dr. Laura to task, perhaps there is a larger issue to be addressed: unwarranted conversions. The principles of conversion are derived from Megillas
Ruth. When Naomi’s daughters-in-law indicated their willingness to accompany her back to Israel, she discouraged them. Orpah returned to her roots, but Ruth remained steadfast and became the prototype of the ger (giyores) tzedek. This became our model – dissuade at first, but embrace if we recognize sincerity.
The inherent difficulty is that there are no definable standards which a rabbi can employ to
determine whether one’s conversion is sincere. Basically the rabbi is required to give an honest
presentation of the religion and explain the responsibilities should the prospective candidate
decide to take the plunge (literally). Those rabbis who have taken upon themselves this task must be yirei shamayim, because once a gentile has converted there is no turning back.
Rabbi Boteach quite properly explained that Judaism is not a faith which makes pie in the sky
promises. Many tzaddikim have suffered and many reshaim have prospered in this world. This
does not trouble the true believer who understands that Hashem is the true Judge and
rewards the deserving in Olam Haba.
Rabbi Boteach did not mention baalei teshuvah, but I would like to expand on his words. Many who embrace Torah Judaism are attracted by a seemingly idyllic lifestyle. Those who never experienced a real Shabbos are overwhelmed by Shabbatons and resolve to similarly invite guests to their homes. Baruch Hashem, there is much in the Torah that is appealing, but adopting halachic practices is not a guarantee of fame and fortune. (Rebbetzin Jungreis in her columns regularly fields questions from those troubled by the suffering of the righteous.)
Further ,there are baalei teshuvah and geirim who are turned off by the obsession with
materialism that has corrupted the frum community. Yes, there is room for improvement in the Torah world, but each Jew must recognize that, as we say in the Amidah (‘G-d of Abraham,
G-d of Isaac and G-d of Jacob’ ), He is also our personal G-d and no person, place or thing can affect this relationship.
Rabbi Boteach noted that Dr. Laura no longer felt connected to the mitzvas; they had
become encumbrances which she looked to shed. Sadly, this attitude is becoming commonplace. Preparing for Passover now means purchasing kosher for Pesach sunscreen. And there are more subtle forms of our disinterest in mitzvas. It’s Elul, and I recall as a child going to shul for the first Selichos at 1 a.m. on motzei Shabbos. Now many shuls have changed to the more family-friendly 10 p.m. The argument given is that we’re made of less sterner stuff than previous generations, so allowances have to be made. This leads to a chicken vs. egg question: How much of our religious laxity is attributable to our physical
weakness and how much is due to our obsession with gashmius?
My rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zelig Friedman, shlita, uses the following mashal to combat religious ennui. Imagine you are a White House intern looking to make a name for yourself. You
overhear President Bush speaking of his fondness for strawberries and cream. If strawberries were out of season, you wouldn’t be deterred. No, you would make whatever calls were necessary to curry the boss’s favor. Mitzvas must be viewed not as burdens but as opportunities that the King of the World has given us to draw closer to Him.
Rabbi Boteach noted that many people find davening a bore. How can that be if we consider
that three times a day Hashem, so to speak, puts aside all His affairs to listen His children’s
concerns? It’s a different approach to be sure, but if we keep such thoughts in mind we will be
properly prepared as the yamim noraim approach.
Dr. Yaakov Stern
What Price ‘Unity’?
Ignoring The Real Problems
Re “Judaism Menu Style” (editorial, August 29):
I commend The Jewish Press for once again standing alone with the courage to challenge Jewish denominationism. Orthodox Jewish organizations such as the Agudah as well as the
“yeshivishe” newspapers maintain their silence in the face of the creeping legitimation of the
Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements as alternatives to shmiras Torah
Just let an authentic and respected Torah scholar write an honest book about the human side of revered gedolim, and the Agudah and its house organs go berserk and virtually ban the work on pain of excommunication. But a conference based on the premise that there are
many acceptable paths to Hashem – including those that eschew the idea of mitzvas and even,
incongruously, a Supreme Being – draws not even a yawn or a mention.
Our dor needs help with the real, hard problems we face, not with the manufactured ones.
Down Side Of ‘Unity’
At long last, the “Unity” mantra has been exposed for what it is. Whoever said that working
for the unity of as many Jews as possible is the Jewish ideal? Is it a positive thing for purportedly Orthodox public figures to paper over their allies’ systematic disavowal of fundamental religious precepts?
No Halachic Authority
After reading your editorial “A Day of Traditional and Untraditional Learning,” I was intrigued enough to go on the Internet to find out more about the subject. I was astonished to learn that there was not a recognized halachic/talmudic scholar or personality in the lot of participants or
presenters. Is this all just a cry for relevance from some wannabe leaders?
New York, NY
Spiritual Leaders – Or Social Activists?
It should not come as a surprise that certain rabbis occupying Orthodox pulpits would be part
of a communal “learn-in.” A good percentage of today’s so-called Jewish religious leaders are
really very much like Al Sharpton in that they use ordination as a credential to engage in the social activism that is closest to their heart. They do not see themselves as halachic decisors and resources for spiritual guidance for their flock as much as advocates for social change.
For example, I do not doubt the sincerity of Rabbi Avi Weiss’s activism – although some of
his ramparts-climbing does get to be a bit much sometimes – but I do doubt that he is someone many Jews think of when they need help with understanding an elusive theme in the Talmud or a difficult Rambam.
When a religious leader directs his focus on social change, it is but a short step to making
religious common cause with – and to accord religious legitimacy to – those who share an
interest in such change but who deny the very basis of halacha.
(Rabbi) Pinchas Minzer
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