Hail To The Chief

I enjoyed reading William Rapfogel’s account of receiving a personal check from President Bush for the work of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (‘An Envelope From Texas,’ op-ed, Jan. 9).

I?ve always had a warm feeling for President Bush. He seems very down to earth, sincere, and he sure makes the right enemies. I also appreciate his strong support for Israel, and I’d like to second a statement I read a few months ago from another reader:

Yes, unfortunately, there are Jews who are so passionate about their hard-line views on Israel that they really do believe that an American president who has any kind of disagreement with an Israeli prime minister, or who doesn’t support every nuance of Israeli policy, is ipso facto anti-Israel and perhaps even anti-Semitic.

I suggest that those who hold to such views move to Israel, where they can vote for a prime minister whose primary obligation is to the Jewish state. An American president has a lot more to worry about than pleasing Jewish hard-liners, and this current president is about as pro-Israel as we have the right to expect any American president to be.

Barry Loerber
(Via E-Mail)

Jail To The Chief?

It’s all well and good that President Bush sends a check to a Jewish charity, but of far greater concern to me are the criminal activities engaged in by this administration.

People, do you realize how our civil liberties are being eroded by the Patriot Act and other frightening legislation foisted on an unsuspecting public by the Bush White House?

What about the treatment of Muslims in this country who are arrested and whisked away to who knows where, held on trumped-up charges or no charges at all?

What about the refusal of this president to actively push Israelis and Palestinians to make concessions and stop killing each other? What about his sowing even greater hatred for the U.S. in the Arab world by his disrespectful treatment of the elected Palestinian leader, Mr. Arafat, and his unprovoked invasion of Iraq?

Will we ever find out what Bush knew about 9/11 and when he knew it? How come nobody talks about Enron anymore? Why was Saddam Hussein ‘found’ just when Bush needed a boost in the polls? Why aren’t more of you frightened about where this country’s heading?

Joan Borenstein
New York, NY

One Columnist To Another

Prof. Steven Plaut always writes with extraordinary skill and insight, but his recent “Chanukah Among The Hellenists” offered a singularly lucid distillation of what is now undermining Israel’s survival.

The Jewish Press is very fortunate to have Steven’s finely-honed writings, and I am honored personally by the association with my fellow Princetonian.

Louis Rene Beres
(Via E-Mail)

Editor’s Note: The writer is a Jewish Press columnist and professor of international law at Purdue University.

Schick On Sharon (I)

I agree wholeheartedly with Joseph Schick’s observation that Sharon’s ‘disengagement plan should be understood and assessed as a partial retreat to avoid a much more dangerous return to the 1967 borders’ (‘Understanding Sharon’s Plan,’ Jan. 9).

I am amazed, however, that someone so obviously sophisticated could write that “Israel should withstand U.S. pressure related to the disengagement plan.” The sum and substance of the situation is that without U.S. support, Israel would stand all alone in a very lonely, very cold and very desolate place.

Richard Mandelbaum
(Via E-Mail)

Schick On Sharon (II)

Re Joseph Schick’s compelling cover essay:

I believe Sharon fears that ultimately Israel will never be allowed to keep any part of Yehuda and Shomron or East Jerusalem. But he also knows there will be stiff opposition in Israel to any uprooting of settlements. So he came upon a middle plan of relatively minor uprootings as a seemingly benign way of beginning the inevitable process.

Yocheved Alpert

Schick On Sharon (III)

I find Joseph Schick’s articles very enlightening, and I appreciate the lawyer-like way he marshals his arguments. But I wonder whether the overwhelmingly elected leader of a sovereign nation – a leader about to make a series of agonizing decisions – really needs to be chided that settlers who are to be subject to forced evacuation should not be used as political pawns and should immediately be fully informed, now.

Ariel Sharon is not a lone ranger at the helm of his country. Nor is he a dunce. Nor is he running a candy store. It’s time we all understood this.

Gilbert Handler
Brooklyn, NY

More Debate On ‘True Zionists’

Recommended For Students

I thought Bezalel Fixler’s ‘Who Is a True Zionist?’ (Jewish Press, Jan. 2) was excellent. The
points should be taught in all yeshivas and Bais Yaakovs (if they would talk about it).

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
Kew Gardens, NY

Religious Yearners For Zion

What’s all the fuss about? Bezalel Fixler graced the front page of The Jewish Press with his
beautiful, thought-provoking and inspirational piece that includes fascinating details of our
history – and conjoins them to substantiate the true essence of Zionism. Is the truth so difficult to acknowledge?

Simply stated, the word “Zionism” is derived from the word “Zion” – or Tzion – which is a
direct reference to the dwelling place of Hashem, the Bais Hamikdash. While the secular Zionists are mainly concerned and preoccupied with the land of Israel in a physical sense, the Orthodox Jew anxiously awaits the return of the Shechina to its original and holy abode in Jerusalem.

Love of the Holy Land is very commendable, but a life lived therein devoid of the teachings of
the Torah is meaningless. Contrary to secular belief, religion for a Jew is not an option. It is a
way of life. It is the shomrei Torah u’mitzvos who pay proper homage to our King and who obey His laws and commandments. It is the religious Jew who expresses his yearning in daily tefilos (prayers) to witness the return of the holy Shechina to Tzion.

So who coined the term “Zionism” to depict a people who had no sense of the true meaning of the word? An assimilated Jew by the name of Nathan Birnbaum – who subsequently became a baal teshuvah and an anti-Zionist. (Theodor Herzl, who is referred to as the father of the Zionist movement, would have happily established a Jewish homeland anywhere, even in Uganda – just as long as anti-Semitism could be evaded. To that end, he once proposed that all Jews convert to Christianity.)

With all due respect to Bezalel Fixler, I humbly suggest that the True Zionist be characterized as a ben Tzion to avoid confusion and to distinguish the one who walks with G-d from the
commonplace land dweller who has dubbed himself a Zionist.

Rachel Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

Pertinent Article

Mr. Fixler’s essay is one of the best articles I’ve recently read in The Jewish Press. The subject is very pertinent in our Iranian Jewish community here in Los Angeles, where many have substituted support of Israel for observance of Jewish religious practices.

Michael Naim
Los Angeles, CA

Appreciating True Heroes

I couldn’t agree more with Bezalel Fixler. Unfortunately, many yeshivishe-type people are
brainwashed into thinking that anyone who, for instance, cherishes and supports the settlers of
Chevron (whom I consider the true heroes and Zionists of our day) is a Zionist kofer.

One of the many gedolim whom Mr. Fixler could have included in the article was Reb
Chatzkel Levenshtein, zt”l, who called the Six-Day War a great miracle from Hashem and derided those who were pushing ‘land for peace.’ And of course there are the rabbonim of the Ruzhiner dynasty, whose love of Eretz Yisrael is quite legendary.

Yoel Weisberger
Lakewood, NJ

Misunderstanding Fixler’s Message

Bezalel Fixler writes beautifully, and his article on Zionism actually brought tears to my eyes. I’m afraid that the readers who took issue with him in last week’s letters failed to understand
his message. The way I understand it, he was saying that it’s unfair and inaccurate to
characterize as ‘anti-Zionist’ those Orthodox Jews who through the decades have refused to allow their love of Eretz Yisrael to be defined by a secular political movement that appropriated for itself the name ‘Zionist.’ Many Orthodox Jews may have opposed the movement that took the word Zion for its name, but rest assured they never ceased being
lovers of Zion.

Frieda Deutsch
Brooklyn, NY

Terminology And Then Some

I think those readers who shared their thoughts last week about Bezalel Fixler’s article missed his point. Contrary to what their letters assumed, Mr. Fixler was focusing on the total absence of a religious content to the secular Zionist drive for a national homeland for the Jews. He was
not talking about the obvious roles of secular Zionists in establishing the present day state of

Both Rabbi Wasserman and Dr. Hacohen further muddled the issues of opposition to secular
Zionism and the tragically bad advice some Orthodox leaders gave to Jews who wished to leave Europe. The latter was fundamentally a question of misreading what was about to occur. Jews were told not to leave Europe not because Israel was treif but because there was no appreciation of the urgency of the need to run anywhere.

On the other hand, the Orthodox opposition both men refer to was essentially an expression of a negative view of the irreligious enterprise of Herzl, Achad Ha’am, Pinsker, Lilienblum, Nordau, Jabotinsky, et al, which many saw as another step in the secularization of Judaism.

Toby Solomon correctly sees the issue as one of terminology – Mr. Fixler believes Zionism only has meaning in a religious context, while others also identify it with a secular national home for the Jews. But even she errs in failing to understand that the early Orthodox opponents of Zionism could not have foreseen any rise of religious influence in a wholly secular project. She is wrong as well to label those who are deeply offended by the secular Zionist antagonism toward religion as critics of Eretz Yisrael.

I applaud The Jewish Press for providing a forum for this very important discussion, if only for
providing an opportunity for many people to be exposed to Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld’s stirring blessing of some irreligious Israeli youth: “May G-d multiply you a thousand fold and bless you.” How could those words have been uttered by someone who does not have a reasonable vision – albeit not necessarily a secular Zionist one – of a Jewish state?

Avraham Gittleman
New York, NY

Credit Where Credit’s Due

The Jewish Press has again outdone itself in publishing articles and letters to the editor which
are the absolute truth, yet not necessarily popular or politically correct.

Rabbi Chaim Wasserman and Dr. Mordechai Hacohen have presented the reality of the
chassidish/ Eastern European/frum approach to Israel in the years prior to World War II. The facts are indisputable that the Agudah, chassidic rebbes and the frum establishment in Europe actively discouraged the emigration of Jews to Israel. Sad to say, many of those who heeded that advice perished in the Holocaust because they stayed on the European continent.

The admirable present-day situation – frum families buying primary residences, second homes
and investment property in Israel and thousands of frum boys learning in Eretz Yisrael with the
support of the frum and yeshivish establishments – does not negate the fact that fifty years ago the position taken by the yeshivish and chassidish world was quite the contrary.

We should not detract from the sacrifice and vision of the non-frum Jews who called themselves Zionists and who fought and died in the swamps of pre-state Eretz Yisrael so that we could have an independent Jewish nation. Frum Jews enjoy the present-day Eretz Yisrael because of the blood spilled and by non-frum Jews.

While we frum Jews should be proud of what we are accomplishing today with our children,
friends and relatives, providing kedusha to Eretz Yisrael, we should never forget that it was secular Jews who, with Hashem’s help, made it possible for frum Jews to go there afterward and establish our yeshivas and institutions.

Joseph A. Schubin, Esq.
Brooklyn, NY

Setting The Record Straight

I am a member of the Committee of Concerned Jews for an Agunah which had taken out an ad dealing with the plight of a particular agunah. Baruch Hashem, the bet din in question
wrote back to us, and I share with the readers of The Jewish Press their reply:

‘We are acutely sensitive to the plight of agunot, and worked strenuously for three years to
ensure that the woman in question would not be an agunah.

‘She was first in touch with the Beth Din in 1999 and she indicated to us that she had been
waiting close to ten years then for a Get. We were glad to have been of substantial assistance in arranging for the get in September of 2002.

‘At that time, the parties and their attorneys all agree that the p’tur will be held until the civil
divorce was granted. This was done so as to insure that the woman’s attorney would file the needed paperwork to insure that the parties would be civilly divorced. This was explicitly agreed to by all the parties, and was an integral part of the agreement that lead to the get at that time. This type of an agreement is also consistent with the general practice of batai din in the United States who hold the p’tur until the completion of the civil divorce.

‘Certainly, in a case where both parties agreed for the p’tur to be given at such time it is
appropriate to honor this practice. We urge the parties to remain in touch with their attorneys to check on the status of the civil divorce. Once it is completed, please be sure to contact us. Please be assured that you are not an agunah, and that we are verbally prepared to confirm this to any person whom you authorize to call the Beth Din.’

This letter was signed by the director of the Beth Din in question and I have independently
confirmed the correctness of the facts of the case through numerous phone, e-mail and direct
conversations. Thus, it seems that the conduct of the Beth Din in this case is proper.

Thank you to The Jewish Press which, with Hashem’s help, clarified a serious matter and
reaffirmed our faith in batai din to do the rightthing.

Rabbi Pinchus Yama
Brooklyn, NY