Latest update: September 4th, 2012
I am happy you sounded a note of caution in your analysis of the Beit Shemesh controversy and urged great care that Torah values are not demeaned because the actions of a lunatic fringe gets the most media attention (“The Violence in Beit Shemesh,” editorial, Dec. 30).
There continues to be no lack of exuberant and furious critics of those who spit at little girls, but the defenders of Torah values are far and few between.
Michael Guttman (Via E-Mail)
Silence On Paul
Last week’s editorial “Ron Paul, Israel, And The Other GOP Candidates” makes an extremely important observation. If Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Bachmann feel so strongly in favor of Israel, how is it that they have not called Ron Paul out on his virulent attacks on the Jewish state? I think the reason lies not in their lack of commitment but in the dynamics of their constituencies.
There are many Americans who generally want to see massive cutbacks in foreign aid and the projection of U.S. power overseas and while most people who hold that view are not particularly focused on Israel, the fact is that Israel would definitely be impacted. Fear of alienating that segment of voters may have a lot to do with the silence of the GOP candidates on the issue.
Isaac Rich (Via E-Mail)
Friedman’s Ugly Slur
The unmitigated gall New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman must have toward our government is nothing short of alarming.
As Jason Maoz (Media Monitor) and Jonathan Tobin (op-ed column) noted in the Dec. 23 issue of The Jewish Press, Friedman recently suggested that U.S. Congress “was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” when it gave Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu several standing ovations.
To be sure, this statement is consistent with Friedman’s usual anti-Israel sentiment. Why would an educated journalist make such a rash statement? Even a blind man can see the reason Congress repeatedly stood up for Netanyahu is because the lawmakers were showing support for a country that espouses the same values and ideals we do.
Netanyahu was greeted with applause and shouts of approval because Israel and the United States have been longstanding allies sharing mutual admiration for one another.
Judge Norman Ciment (Via E-Mail)
Editor’s Note: Mr. Ciment is a former mayor of Miami Beach.
Danger To Democracy?
We have heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many others that various episodes of “inequality” in Israel represent a danger to Israeli democracy.
In America, the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was first proposed in 1923. It was endorsed by President Eisenhower in 1953. The pressure built up in the 1970s when thirty-five of America’s fifty states ratified the ERA, but then five of those states later rescinded their ratification. It never did become the law of the land. Does this mean America is like Saudi Arabia or Iran?
A generation back America’s Ivy League universities were exclusively male, with the “Seven Sister” colleges as female counterparts. Oxford and Cambridge had separate colleges for males and females. Top independent schools and many state grammar schools were single sex in the UK and the U.S. Did that make us like Saudi Arabia or Iran?
Joseph Feld London, England
Orthodox Students In A Secular Academic Environment
Rather than a lesson in education, Karen Greenberg’s article “A Lesson in Education” (Jewish Press Teen Section, Dec. 16) highlighted the lack of education being provided in yeshivas these days.
There is no reason that someone graduating yeshiva high school plus one year of yeshiva in Israel should feel threatened by poetry extolling agnosticism. Furthermore, as stated in the article, this concept is being put forth as a “theory.” It would be a poor professor who would teach it as a definite fact and demand that one must question the belief in a divinity. Just because a professor explains the rationale of a theory does not pose a demand that anyone accept the theory. It simply raises a question for people to ponder – should they wish to ponder it.
All a professor can demand is that the student be able to explain the theory and the support for it, but he cannot demand its acceptance. As such, an approximately 20-year-old well educated yeshiva student should not be experiencing the shock and dismay expressed by Ms. Greenberg.
I clearly recall the course in Classics I took in college where we discussed in depth the Greek and Roman gods. I never felt threatened, intellectually or religiously, by these discussions. The same was true for the other courses in which issues touching on religion arose. I knew my position and was able to hear a differing point of view and even explain it in detail – and still walk away with my own belief intact.
As for the suggestion that one simply avoid classes that are controversial, this is just another example of how frum individuals choose to put their heads in the sand rather than equip themselves to deal with controversy. Avoidance, like living in a ghetto, does not an answer provide. Orthodox Jews have got to stop trying to avoid that which calls our beliefs into question and instead start to grapple with these issues.
Dr. Robert Solomon Brooklyn, NY
Karen Greenberg Responds: I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Solomon that students in these classes should not feel threatened by material that contradicts Torah Judaism. I am merely suggesting that students should enter university aware of what lies ahead and be prepared to actively filter through the material presented to them, using Torah as a guide.
My article comes from personal experience, and so I clearly am confident enough in the value of madda as well as the strength of my yeshiva education to remain in these classes. Furthermore, I would not say I feel “threatened” – I am simply thinking critically about what is being presented to me. Based on this experience, I have concluded that it is advisable for Orthodox students to immerse themselves in such material only after careful consideration of what the consequences may be regarding their Judaism.
The Power Of An Idea
Not too long ago a few of our shul members were discussing what to do to bring a little excitement back to our synagogue.
You see, our shul – Etz Chaim of Flatbush, located on East 13th Street between Avenue P and Kings Highway and which for decades was a vibrant, growing force in the community – has been the unfortunate victim of a shifting Jewish population. Over the past 20 years or so, many of the younger generation have moved on to other areas – Marine Park, New Jersey, Eretz Yisrael, etc.
During our discussion, the concept of an Oneg Shabbos came up. Some members said, “Why bother? It will never work.” Others said, “Let’s try it and see.”
We tried it, and we’ve all been shocked.
Seven weeks ago we had our first Oneg Shabbos and drew about 20 people. The following week we had 30. Each week we would have about 5 to 10 more people than the week before. Last Friday, December 30, Parshas Vayigash, we had close to 70 people.
We come together, have nice conversations, younger people play chess or checkers. We serve food, have a speaker, and generally are amazed at how nicely we all get along. We actually look forward to the Oneg Shabbos.
So don’t let anyone tell you an idea isn’t worth pursuing. With a little preparation and some work, we can make things happen.
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