The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
A Sister’s Despair
I am the younger sister of Dr. David Applebaum and his surviving relative here in Israel. David and I had a very close relationship and both of us were committed to living in Israel.
Upon learning that David was killed in a terror attack along with his daughter, I went into total shock. I’ve lost my most precious family member – the one I always looked up to.
Now I am alone, and I feel very empty without him.
Geela Applebaum Gordon
Avoiding The Deniers
Reader Robert Markowitz writes about ‘the problem of misguided left-wing Orthodox rabbis who join with those of the deviant streams in Lishma [in] theological dialogues [which] not only serve to legitimize these movements, [but] confuse the unlearned and further divide our people’ (‘Legitimizing The Illegitimate,’ Letters, Sept. 24).
Some years ago I challenged Dr. Louis Jacobs, a considerable scholar who founded the English Masorti movement, the equivalent of the Conservatives in the U.S., on their denial of the doctrine of Torah min hashamayim, as traditionally understood, and acceptance of the views of the Higher Bible critics that the Torah is a composite work put together by some later human redactor. I claimed that it made someone espousing this opinion a mumar lekhol haTorah kulah, a denier of the whole basis of the Torah, and Dr. Jacobs responded that the correct term was meshumad (private letter, Aug. 4, 1998) – a term I would have hesitated to use.
With our experience over the ages of ‘dialogue’ with meshumadim, I would have thought that it was obvious that any such theological discussions should be avoided at all costs.
Martin D. Stern
Stands By His Criticism
Amy Wall’s letter to the editor last week (‘Unwarranted Attack’) criticizing my earlier letter about Councilman Simcha Felder’s recent trip to Israel with Mayor Bloomberg is proof positive that I was right.
Ms. Wall chastises me for a “mean-spirited” attack on Felder for traveling to Israel and writing about it: “I think it was very admirable that Mr. Felder accompanied the mayor, and I enjoyed
reading about it.” Ms. Wall totally missed the point of my letter and also apparently reacted to Felder’s article precisely the way he hoped Jewish Press readers would.
I defy Ms. Wall, or anyone else, to point to anything in my letter that was critical of the mayor for going to Israel or of the fact that Felder went along and wrote about it. What I objected to was the servile way he described the mayor’s invitation as “the great privilege of participating in this once in a lifetime experience.” Is this gushy overstatement (and there was much more in Felder’s article, which perhaps Ms. Wall should reread) what someone expects to hear from an elected member of the Council who expects to be taken seriously by the mayor or by his own colleagues? Furthermore, would anyone take seriously someone who describes a reception given him as a “hero’s welcome” by “excited crowds?”
I share Ms. Wall’s, and indeed, Simcha Felder’s, obvious love for Israel. But I rather think it important to point out that such sentiment need not, and should not, be expressed at the cost of the self-respect of our community.
During the week of Sept. 14-20, a shocking number of preventable tragedies befell Israeli Jews. In Israel, they included a six-year-old girl who died after being forgotten for 14 hours in a minibus; a baby who fell to his death from the 11th floor of an apartment building; and an Ethiopian immigrant who committed suicide after shooting and wounding a bailiff. Also, the remains of an Israeli, missing for four years, were found in a mine-strewn ravine in the Golan.
Elsewhere, of tourists from so many Western countries, it was four from tiny Israel that were kidnaped in the jungles of Colombia. The week before, off the coast of Newfoundland, it was not Canadians, Americans or others, but three Israelis who drowned after a hurricane capsized their yacht. In both cases, Israelis needlessly risked their lives in a highly dangerous area or situation.
Last year in Sweden, despite the hazards of that country’s long winters, only 550 people were killed on the roads. Yet the same number were killed last year on the roads of Israel, whose
population is one-third smaller and whose size is one-twentieth of Sweden. One should also mention that an intolerable number of Israeli swimmers drown each year in the Mediterranean.
The Torah prescribes commandments to save lives. The penalty for an owner who knows he has a homicidal beast is stated in Shemot 21:29-31. It is forbidden to stand by idly when someone is in danger of losing his life (Vayikra 19:16). The punishment for preventable accidental killing is set forth in Devarim 19:1-10. The concept of indirect responsibility for murder is learned from the case of the unidentified corpse in Devarim 21:1-9. One is
commanded to protect one’s home from perilous objects and danger (Devarim 22:8).
It is a monstrous scandal that Jewish life is hefker (of no value) in a Jewish country. Israelis should be taught the importance of common sense and critical thinking.
Only Way To End Attacks
Nablus, Ramallah, Gaza and all the so-called West Bank towns that were turned over to Mr. Arafat by Israel as a land for peace deal during the Oslo peace accords should be retaken and/or the terrorist infrastructures in them demolished.
Why? Because they are nothing but towns for terrorist cells. They are used to build bomb factories and hold summer camps to teach children to hate and kill as snipers and suicide bombers. If this is what one calls land for peace, then we are in big trouble if we allow this to continue in the name of the “road map” trap. In truth, it’s just the same old Oslo charade game. Israel turns over some land, gives jobs, money, weapons, security police training, scholarships,
etc., while the Arab terrorists are released from prisons as a goodwill measure. Then, these very same criminals live and walk freely on the streets of Jerusalem to repeat their murderous acts against innocent, hard-working, law-abiding Israeli citizens.
It’s time for some collective punishment, all right, but for the terrorists. Their terrorist cells have to be destroyed, as do all the apartments that harbor terrorists as well. Arabs who want peace
have to disassociate themselves from these terror infrastructures and where they hide. Israel has no other choice but to take back all the land that has been turned into terror bases. That’s the only way you fight terrorism and win. Otherwise, there will be no end to this cycle of attacks. It’s all part of Arafat’s plan to wear down the Israelis. Israel should put them on the defensive and wear them down, not allow terror to have the upper hand.
Also, Arafat should not be held in Ramallah, nor should he be deported or expelled. He should be arrested and tried for war crimes against humanity and for using unconventional weapons of mass destruction – suicide bombers.
Woodland Hills, CA
Non-Orthodox Group Supports Vouchers
In “American Jews and School Choice” (front-page essay, Sept. 3), Steven Plaut points out that with the exception of Orthodox Jewish groups, the organized American Jewish community is nearly universally opposed to school vouchers.
There is, however, one major non-Orthodox group which has been advocating for school vouchers for years – the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). The RJC is a national non-profit organization, with a new office in New York, comprised of thousands of individuals from all streams of Judaism, most of whom are non-Orthodox. Like your readers, the RJC champions an agenda which includes unequivocal support for Israel, faith based initiatives, and of course,
I fully agree with Mr. Plaut’s arguments that vouchers offer an opportunity to advance Jewish continuity and to put choice and decision-making power into the hands of parents and families,
where they belong. We must all work toward this end. Just remember, the secular Jewish community is not only the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League. There is a group out there, the Republican Jewish Coalition, that stands with the readers of your newspaper in the fight for vouchers.
I applaud The Jewish Press for its stalwart attention to this critical issue and I urge all of your readers to contact the RJC – www.rjchq.org – to find out how they can join the fight.
Republican Jewish Coalition
Passionate Responses To ‘Passion’ Op-Eds
As a long-time reader of The Jewish Press who happens to be a fundamental Baptist, I
appreciate the range of articles and opinions you present. Your op-ed column by Tovia Singer on Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” is no exception (‘Will ‘The Passion’ Crucify the Jews?’ Sept. 26).
I agree with Jewish concerns about Mr. Gibson’s family background and his own potential
leanings. You see, we Baptists have suffered horrific persecution for hundreds of years from the Vatican and the Roman church. Entire Baptist communities were wiped out in the Italian
Piedmont, southern France and Spain by Roman church forces (some historians estimate the
number of dead in the millions). Since the Catholic church is expert at rewriting history, it has
completely expunged its exterminations in the Middle Ages of non-Catholic Christians, even as it has tried and been very successful in obfuscating Vatican complicity in the Shoah. (In fact, some smaller Jewish communities in southern Europe were not even on the extermination radar screen while nearby Baptist communities were being put to the sword.)
Even today there is still sporadic persecution of Baptists in some Catholic countries (e.g., Mexico and Philippines).
Singer quotes evangelical ‘leaders’ who have suggested (implied threat?) that Jews prejudging
the movie may have a negative impact on evangelicals. Jews have every right to be concerned
about this movie, and I would suggest that Jewish leaders politely “connect the dots” for their
evangelical friends, whose communities are not under the existential threat that Jews face in most parts of the world. (Even Canada is becoming an increasingly hostile environment for Jews and fundamentalist Christians these days.)
I believe that in the long run this film will feed the fires of anti-Semitism, as Singer and others fear. The world hates Israel and the Jewish people because this is how the enemies of G-d have always behaved toward the Covenant people, long before Christianity was on the scene (e.g., Haman in Persia).
The true believers who love Israel and the Jewish people will never turn on G-d’s Covenant
Chosen people. We love Israel and the Jewish people precisely because the Word of the Living G-d commands us to do so and assures us that the Lord will bless those who bless His people. That has certainly been true in my life.
I for one will not see this movie. As a fundamental, Bible-believing Baptist I eschew movies altogether and this will not be an exception. It cannot possibly edify me and I would not
consider giving the Lord’s money to a movie production that merchandises the Word of G-d and helps enrich blasphemers of many backgrounds.
Mr. Gibson may or may not be an anti-Semite, but he is a blasphemer according to the Word of the Living G-d, notwithstanding the passing grade he has received from some evangelical Christian “leaders.”
Lapin Tells It Like It Is
A major thank you to The Jewish Press for publishing the op-ed article by Rabbi Daniel Lapin
about the Mel Gibson film ‘The Passion’ (‘Protesting Gibson’s ‘Passion’ Will Lead To No
Good,’ Sept. 26).
This was the first truly intelligent analysis I’ve seen of the ongoing controversy this film has
provoked and should be required reading by all thinking Jews. Lapin’s points about our
relationship with the Christian world, especially those Christians who have been such stalwart
supporters of Israel during these trying times, is what true cheshbon hanefesh is made of. And what an appropriate time for such a concept!
Robert M. Solomon
Ephraim Katz’s invaluable Film Encyclopedia provides a brief summary of Mr. Gibson’s career which began in 1977. The highlight of his career was the 1995 film “Braveheart,” for which he received ten Academy Award nominations. He took home Oscars for best film and best director.
Gibson’s religious beliefs may not be mainstream, but to suggest that he is a fanatical Jew-hater is to jump to a really remarkable conclusion. If true, it means that the many brilliant and successful Jews in the film industry chose to overlook the anti-Semitic vibes that no doubt would have emanated from Mr. Gibson for the past 26 years. Such a notion is highly unlikely,
to say the least.
San Diego, CA
Ben Noach’s Lament
As a former convert to Catholicism who is now a practicing Ben Noach, I am no friend of any form of Catholicism – left-wing or right-wing. However, your editorial endorsement of Vatican Council II as something positive is extremely shortsighted. True, one outcome of the council was a lessening of the Church’s anti-Semitism. However, this solitary jewel was buried in a mountain of dung.
Vatican Council II was a triumph for liberal Catholics who subscribed to the “new age” doctrines of Teilhard de Chardin and to the notorious German Protestant higher criticism of
the Torah. One reason I left my new “home” in the Catholic Church for Nochut was the post-Vatican II Church’s irreverent attitude toward the Torah, which it believes is the work of “redactors” who spliced together a number of Mesopotamian and Canaanite myths.
Needless to say, liberal Catholics (for all their “philo-Semitism”) do not believe that Hashem
actually commanded the extermination of the Seven Nations of Canaan, but that the bloodthirsty, primitive Jews merely “thought” He did. Liberal Catholics, you see, believe in
“progressive revelation,” that G-d is “a work in progress.”
I simply do not understand why Torah Jews are such enthusiastic supporters and defenders of
liberal Christians. Is “tolerance” so important that it trumps the universal prohibition of idolatry? Is Hashem so unimportant that it matters not whether non-Jews acknowledge Him so long as
they are “tolerant” of the Jewish people? Or perhaps Hashem only wants the Jewish people to
believe in Him and desires all other people to be atheists?
I am tired of Torah Judaism’s utterly false image of being more liberal, rational, and humanistic than Christianity. I left Christianity because it is all those things and Judaism is not.
Most non-Jews may be unaware of just how fundamentalist Torah Judaism is, but I am not. I
am aware that every letter (including the sizes, shapes, names, and even the spaces) were dictated to Moshe by Hashem, yitbarach shemo. I am aware that there were precisely ten generations from Adam to Noach, ten generations from Noach to Avraham, and six generations from Noach to Moshe (as well as that the number 26 is the numeric value of Hashem’s Name). I know that it is a mitzvah to exterminate the nations of Canaan and Amalek and that the Holy Temple must be rebuilt and the animal sacrifices (how do you explain those away?) must be reinstituted.
As an observant Ben Noach, I wish non-Jews would forsake false religions and embrace
Hashem’s demands of them, the Seven Laws of the Sons of Noah. Yet what do Jews do? Do they teach us about Hashem? Do they teach us about the Torah? No. They remain absolutely silent about mankind’s duties to Hashem and instead celebrate and endorse liberal Christians who blaspheme Hashem and His Torah, all because of their “tolerance!” I am disgusted.
For two hundred years Jewish leadership has embraced a doctrine of “pluralism” and “tolerance” that is contrary to Torah and which Yehoshua Bin Nun would never recognize. All that the “tolerance” has done is get B’nei Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael branded as hypocrites every time they have attempted to defend themselves. Torah Judaism cannot coexist with the philosophy that erects “museums of tolerance” and which rewards liberal Christians for blaspheming the Holy Torah. Tear down those museums (or else change them to museums of Hashem, Torah, or likud ha’aretz) and instead build the Beit Hamikdash and create the Torah society mandated by Hashem.
Most people are completely ignorant of authentic Judaism which clashes so radically with the public image Judaism as a modern, rational, humanistic, and above all ‘tolerant’ religion. I
cannot help but believe that Torah hashkafa has been compromised in the minds of many observant Jews who have been living as fundamentalists within the minyan and liberals outside it.
I beg you to consider the honor of Hashem and His Torah along with your concern for bigotry
against the Jewish people.
Roy Neal Grissom
‘Protecting’ Young People From Tashlich
After close to a 20-year hiatus I returned to the Forest Hills area this past Rosh Hashanah. On
Sunday afternoon I proceeded to walk to Tashlich at the lake between Forest Hills and Kew Gardens Hills (part of Flushing Meadows Park). I had visions of a substantial increase in the 5,000-7,000 people (Police Department estimates) that had been the norm back in the 1980’s.
I was therefore dumbfounded when I arrived at around 4 p.m. to find only a handful of people at the popular locations – and even more surprised that the total number maybe approached 500 during the two hours I remained there.
Evidence of governmental cooperation with the Jewish community for Tashlich that has become routine during the past thirty or so years – the police presence at the intersections, the
cutting of the grass by the Parks Department, the closing of various entrances and exits to the Grand Central Parkway and Van Wyck Expressway – were all in place. What was missing was people.
Talking to some of those who were there, I learned that attendance at Tashlich – particularly
the attendance of younger people – has been decreasing for the past 10 or 15 years. This came as a surprise to me, since there had been over the years many shidduchim that came about as a result of the “social aspects” of Tashlich.
I heard many excuses as to why more people don’t go. The weather is bad, it’s too far to walk, I can go during the week (when I can drive), its only a “custom,” it’s really not important, no one else is going, etc.
But the excuse I found most upsetting was the one given by three yeshiva boys in their early 20’s whom I passed on my walk to the lake and who were still “hanging out” when I returned some two hours later. In response to my asking them why they weren’t going to Tashlich, they said their rebbe – at what will remain an unnamed yeshiva – considered it unimportant, and that since it was a very public gathering he instructed them not to go, even to the point of disregarding parental direction.
After some additional prodding they finally admitted that the real reason their rebbe had instructed them not to go was precisely because he wanted them to avoid the ‘social aspects’ of Tashlich. (After all, who knows – there might very well be some nice Jewish girls at Tashlich!)
I don’t know if this situation is unique to Queens, but it would be interesting to see comments on the subject from other readers.
On Sunday, September 14, the Jewish Community Center of Western Monmouth County,
New Jersey held a charity walk for Israel and the victims of the terror that has so plagued that
struggling nation striving to fortify its tiny slice of this earth to enjoy freedom in peace.
Like all of the attendees, I was handed a button with a face on it. But this button wasn’t the
typical button with some gleaming politician’s face on it. This was a haunting, chilling button, with the picture of a two-year-old girl sucking a pacifier and staring downward vacantly, as if somehow, she knew her fate – a fate guaranteed by the world’s inexplicable and shocking standards.
My button contained the face of Hemda Schlijveschuurder. Every day, I read in the paper
of the number of victims of terrorism, and the number of people killed in retaliation. Numbers.
When I look at my button, the only two numbers I see are “aged 2″ and “killed 8-9-01.” Hemda was killed just 33 days before the morning that woke up America. But what stands out on this button are not these numbers. What stands out on this button is this two-year-old girl, far more pensive than a two year old should be, sucking a pacifier.
Who knows what Hemda might have done with her life? Perhaps she would have been a gymnast, a great soccer player, the prime minister, a curer of disease. Maybe Hemda would have been the person capable of bringing peace to this region 40 years from now. We will never know.
I don’t believe there are more than a hundred people in the world who know that Hemda was the victim of terrorists. There was no protest. There were not thousands of people in the streets vowing to avenge the harm that came to her. There was no resolution at the United Nations.
When Israel threatened Arafat last month, the world stood at attention. For a terrorist, for a
murderer, for the man who singlehandedly devalued the Nobel Peace Prize, for a man who
everyone knows will be written in the Great Book in the column reserved for history’s evil mass murderers, the world stood at attention and said he should not be harmed.
Who will speak for Hemda? Who will speak for the two-year-old girl or five-year-old boy who will be next week’s target?
For thousands of years we have struggled to define the differences between good and evil -
something that should be so simple. Will we ever get it right? Sitting here in New Jersey today,
wondering who will be the next victim of the man the world seeks to protect, I am not so sure.
At the bottom of Hemda’s button are the words “We will never forget you.” I hope that’s
true, Hemda Schijveschuurder.
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