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Exposing The Boycotters

The Oxfam/SodaStream controversy absolutely “Inadvertently Upends Boycotters’ Claims,” as your headline put it (news story, Feb. 7).


Those who would boycott Israel for supposedly oppressing its Arab population were suddenly faced with the news that Israel has hundreds of factories in its many industrial zones that employ thousands of Arab workers, receiving the same salary as their Jewish counterparts and receiving the same benefits.

In addition to the industrial zone at Ma’aleh Adumim where SodaStream is located, Barkan, in Ariel, another contested city, has 140 factories employing both Arabs and Jews.

Rami Levy, a supermarket owner who employs Arabs and Jews and sells to his mixed-population shoppers, is another example of ground-up efforts for peace. These efforts are totally escaping the politicians who are trying to coerce Israel into suicidal concessions.

It’s time to send the EU, UN and Obama envoys packing. Let the people make it happen, if it is at all possible.

Helen Freedman
Executive Director
Americans for a Safe Israel

The O’Dwyer Brothers

In “New York’s Mayors, Israel’s Defenders” (news story, Feb. 7), mention is made of Mayor William O’Dwyer’s support of Israel at the time it gained independence. O’Dwyer was also head of the War Refugee Board after the tenure of John Pehle. The War Refugee Board saved more tan 250,000 people from the Nazis, about 200,000 of whom were Jews.

When the SS Ben Hecht, a refugee ship bringing Jews to pre-state Israel, was seized by the British and the American crew arrested, members of Congress protested. When the crew members returned to America they were greeted by Mayor O’Dwyer.

William O’Dwyer had a much younger brother, lawyer Paul O’Dwyer. In response to an ad from Ben Hecht, Paul became involved with people supporting the Irgun. In fact, Paul, who would run for mayor in 1965 in the Democratic primary, was a gun-runner for the Irgun.

Reuven Solomon
(Via E-Mail)

Impressed With Legal Brief

I was fascinated by your editorial on the Obamacare case now in the Supreme Court and the brief filed by Orthodox Jewish groups (“Supreme Court Hears from Orthodox Groups in Obamacare Suit,” Feb. 7.)

After reading the editorial online, I linked to the brief and was blown away. As a non-lawyer I didn’t quite understand all of the inside talk about what judges said or meant in the past. But overall, here was an exceptionally well-written document informing the justices of the impact their decision in the case could have on protections for Orthodox Jews.

I also did not realize there was such a level of unity in the Orthodox community as indicated by the diverse organizations listed in the brief as participants. I’m certain that how our community is perceived has a taken a large leap forward.

Stuart Blatt
(Via E-Mail)

Anti-Boycott Legislation

While I respect your arguments in support of the anti-boycott legislation being considered by the New York State Assembly (“The Anti-Boycott Bill in Albany,” editorial, Feb. 7), I do have a problem with your position.

Several weeks ago I read your editorial applauding the college and university heads who had condemned an anti-Israel boycott resolution on the sole grounds that the resolution would tend to restrict the free speech choices of Israeli scholars (“The ASA Boycott and the Gathering Backlash,” Jan. 3).

Since the Albany proposal would restrict the boycotters’ rights to say what they want, support for it comes at the expense of the intellectual high ground.

Lisa Solomon
(Via E-Mail)


The Crisis In Modern Orthodoxy?

Rabbi Weiss And Rabbas

The “visible divide” described by Uriel Heilman (“Tefillin Controversy Latest Sign of Emerging Orthodox Schism,” op-ed, Jan. 31) is not something new. Women have been fighting for their rightful place in Orthodoxy for a long time.

As for the role of “rabba” instituted by Rabbi Avi Weiss, it has actually evolved over time within the parameters of halachic discourse. Rabbi Weiss does not seek to ordain women rabbis; rather, his vision is one of women believing in the divinity of the Torah and at the same time empowering other women to be more involved. Today women are more sophisticated and erudite on all levels, so a position such as rabba gives them greater involvement in spiritual matters.

Rabbi Weiss does not seek to have rabbas compete with rabbis, nor does he seek to have rabbas usurp the position of rabbis. The ugliest part of this parshah is that some Jews appear all too eager to bring someone else down if that person doesn’t think in accordance with them.

Rabbi Weiss, who was a leader in the fight for Soviet Jewry and who is an outspoken advocate for agunot and for the right of Jews to live as Jews wherever they may be, has consistently shown more ahavat Yisrael, love for his fellow Jew, than many of his detractors put together.

Cindy Cohen
Edison, NJ

Conservatives And Shabbat

In his Jan. 31 op-ed article, “Learning from the Conservative Movement’s Mistakes,” Rabbi Berel Wein describes what he considers to be the mistakes made by the Conservative movement in the 1950 teshuvah regarding driving on Shabbat.

It appears that Rabbi Wein is of the opinion that this teshuvah, written by Rabbis Adler, Agus, and Friedman, may their memories be a blessing, was composed on a whim. According to Rabbi Wein, permitting Jews to drive to the nearest shul would lead them to drive to the local golf course as well.

The truth is, the aforementioned rabbis, all of whom were held in the highest esteem, were wrestling with the issue of how to keep Conservative Jews connected to the Sabbath. The concern was how to make synagogue, Shabbat and observance part of Conservative life.

It is very easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and criticize with hindsight the work of those rabbis who in real time were grappling with problems facing their movement. How will the rabbis of our day handle such modern-day issues as the rights of women, gays and lesbians in Judaism? I wonder how people fifty years from now will judge their decisions.

Robert Kimmel
West Bloomfield, MI

Modern Or Minimal Orthodoxy?

I have followed the very erudite portrayals of the issues confronting Modern Orthodoxy as presented on your editorial page and the Jan. 31 op-ed articles by Uriel Heilman and Rabbi Berel Wein, which followed the Jan. 24 front-page essay by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb.

I am reluctant to weigh in on a topic covered so thoroughly by your editors and these learned scholars. However, I believe I can add much to this dialogue by stating the obvious.

The vision of the saintly Rav Soloveitchik, zt”l, implemented by institutions such as Yeshiva University, the Orthodox Union and Young Israel (to name a few), has been usurped and twisted so far out of shape by the proponents of “Open Orthodoxy” as to no longer resemble the classic Modern Orthodoxy many of us still remember.

What is happening now is that every minimization and weakening of compliance with halacha or the spirit of halacha is justified as a furtherance of the concept of Modern Orthodoxy, even though such changes were not even thoughts when the term “Modern Orthodoxy” was first coined and used.

(In fact, one would have thought it more likely that some of the weakening of standards forced on the saintly rabbis of yesteryear by ignorant and unlearned shul officers and trustees would now be rescinded, given the proliferation of yeshiva-educated and knowledgeable shul officers and trustees who know halacha and have no fondness for the leniencies that existed decades ago.)

To create new divergences from halacha and the time-honored customs of Torah Judaism in the name of “Modern Orthodoxy” is an abomination.

Call it what it really is: Minimal Orthodoxy – an attempt to emulate the failed approach of Conservative Judaism.

Judge Joseph A. Schubin (Ret.)
(Via E-Mail)