Our Own Worst Enemy

My mother works in accounts receivables for an auto-parts company in Tel Aviv. Recently, one of the company’s Arab customers from Hebron bounced a check. After a few weeks my mother finally got hold of him and he apologized for the bounced check, explaining that due to all the closures on the Arabs in the West Bank and the crippled economy, he didn’t know when he will be able to send her a check that would not bounce.

My mother, who’s known the man for twenty years, wondered out loud to him whether the Arabs weren’t much better off before 1987, when the first uprising started. Was business not in fact thriving before Arafat got control over your areas? she asked. He replied that yes, of course, everyone knows that. Whereupon my mother asked him why the people just don’t get rid of Arafat. She was shocked at his response.

‘You Israelis brought Arafat here – you get rid of him,’ the Arab told her.

What could my mother say to that? She had no response. All she was able to tell the client was that when things get better he should send her a new check.

The passage “Aval ashaimim anachnu” (It is all our fault) comes to mind.

Al Zahavi
Brooklyn, NY

Don’t Buy Into Media’s Depiction

I’m a long-time subscriber to The Jewish Press who lives in California. I’ve been volunteering and traveling here in Israel for the past 6 weeks. I can assure your readers it is quite safe here ? armed Jewish soldiers, police, and civilians are everywhere to protect their fellow Jews.

It’s true, however, that Arafat is winning the war on tourism, as it is down 90% with ripple effects throughout the economy. Jews: please don’t go by what you see and hear in the media; the situation is not at all one of total chaos – quite the opposite, in fact.

If you can’t come here, start a fund for those who can. Look, if your number is up, it doesn’t matter where you are. Show some faith in Hashem. Shalom.

Marc Schwartzman
(Via E-Mail)

Congenital Liar

So Yasir Arafat told American officials at Camp David in the summer of 2000 that the Beit Hamikdash was really in Nablus and not in Jerusalem (news story, May 24). This certainly must have come to as quite a surprise to the millions of Jews and non-Jews who have visited the Western Wall and the Temple Mount all these years. It should also be a sobering thought to ponder when Arafat is spoken of as someone with whom to negotiate peace. Not only has he demonstrated over and over that he cannot be trusted to keep his word – but he has now confirmed that he makes up things as he goes along as well.

Hindy Lazar
(Via E-mail)

Not The Flatbush I Know

I was really taken aback by Mr. Weissbrodt’s letter (Jewish Press, May 17) in which he described the cool reception he received as he walked the streets of Flatbush on Shabbos.

I have lived in Flatbush all my life and have always been greeted by others whenever I pass them while taking a Shabbos walk. I myself have always greeted others with a ‘Good Shabbos’ (or ‘Good Yom Tov’) and have found that most people respond not only with a ‘Good Shabbos’ but often with a smile as well. I have always enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere and sense of camaraderie with my fellow Jews while taking a walk on Shabbos afternoon.

If Mr. Weissbrodt felt that some of the responses he got were lukewarm then maybe he should remember the mitzvah of giving a fellow Jew the benefit of the doubt. If a person is in the middle of a conversation with someone else and only gives a lukewarm Good Shabbos, it does not necessarily indicate coldness or insensitivity.

Yaffa Nussbaum
Brooklyn, NY

Chilly Reception In The Windy City

Eli Weissbrodt came to Flatbush for one day and managed to judge all of us!

Mr. Weissbrodt, what block were you on? I live in Flatbush, and everybody on my block says ‘Good Shabbos.’ Furthermore, when I walk around the neighborhood I get a completely different reaction from people than you say you did. So maybe you just have an attitude problem?

By the way, I was in Chicago for a wedding a few months ago.

Nobody from Chicago came over to welcome or greet me. Know whom I spoke with all night? The guests who were there from Flatbush!

A. Horowitz
Brooklyn, NY

Don’t Cry For Shas

I for one will not shed a tear if Shas stays out of the Sharon government (news story, May 7). I am not happy that poor families would suffer under the proposed Sharon budget, but it was the silence of a bought and paid for Shas Party that allowed Rabin, Peres and Barak to foist the suicidal ‘peace process’ on Israel in the first place.

Shas has demonstrated time and again that it cannot be relied upon to say it like it is and as it has to be said. Their whole educational and social service infrastructure is dependent on the public dole and they simply are not up to showing any independence from the party in power except when their financial stake is threatened.

It is truly ironic that the cuts Shas so vehemently opposes should be required to deal with the lost revenue and military expenditures that were the direct result of Shas’s shameful acquiescence in the sham of a ‘peace process.’

Arthur Dean
New York, NY

A Little Consistency, Please

Two weeks ago The Jewish Press printed my letter (‘Do As I Say, Not As I Do,’ May 17) in which I challenged Assemblyman Dov Hikind to insist that Governor George Pataki refuse the endorsement of President George W. Bush for the same reason Hikind had urged gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Cuomo to renounce the endorsement of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Jackson was one of 21 members of Congress to have voted against the recent pro-Israel resolution and he explained that he did so only because President Bush had said that the resolution would not be helpful. Hikind’s rejoinder was, ‘I’m curious to know how often Jesse Jackson Jr. follows the lead of the Republican president.’

I have no quarrel with President Bush’s policies regarding Israel – far from it. I just thought that in this case Hikind saw a political opportunity and took an easy shot.

Now I read in the New York Post that another Pataki ally is none other than Lenora Fulani, who has had some not very nice things to say about Jews in the past. According to the Post story, it seems that Fulani was called upon by Pataki operatives to take some unusual action against two candidates – one from the state Democratic party and one from the state Conservative party – who were seeking support from Fulani’s party.

The Post notes that some ‘suspect a link between the Fulani/Pataki alliance and the recent $10 million interest-free taxpayer supported bond arranged by the Pataki administration for a Fulani-controlled organization.’

So my question to Assemblyman Hikind is: Will you insist that Governor Pataki refuse Fulani’s support as a condition for yours?

Marilyn Steinberg
(Via E-Mail)

Troubled By Agudah’s Stance On Agunot

Ahuva Goldener was right on the money in her courageous letter to the editor (‘Agudah And The Agunah,’ May 24). Agudah has always claimed to be the only authentic representative of Torah Judaism. I wonder, then, how it is that it has been so silent on the issue of Agunot except when challenging what others are attempting?

I certainly accept that Agudah may have principled halachic objections to some of the remedies proposed by others. What I cannot understand is why the issue itself is not on Agudah’s active agenda and constantly in its sights.

Agudah seems to have positions and programs relating to just about every other issue facing the Jewish community – why not this one? Lest anyone forget, Agunot must live with their problem every minute of every day.

Agudah should not limit itself to throwing stones at the sincere efforts of others whom they believe to be in error. Those stones can just as easily be turned into building blocks.

Fern Warner
Chicago, IL

A Refreshing Success Story

I was pleasantly surprised by the article about the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (news story, May 24). I consider myself pretty well read about what’s going on in the Jewish community, and although I seem to have once read something about it, I certainly am not aware that the story of its work has been on the Jewish community’s radar screen before.

How refreshing it is to learn that a Jewish organization could actually have gone about its work for more than 30 years without the usual self-glorifying press releases and self-congratulatory dinners and conventions. Moreover, from what I can see, the Foundation’s program has underwritten an important expansion of knowledge about Jews and Jewish learning.

Arlene Stromberg
Brooklyn, NY

Our Error

The syndicated filler item you carried in your May 24 issue titled “Coping With the Death of a Loved One” has no place in a Jewish publication, especially The Jewish Press. It is apparent that the article was not meant for the Jewish community as it laced information on death and burial specific to Jewish practice.

In fact, the piece mentioned practices that are contrary to Halacha and Minhag including embalming, open casket at the funeral and cremation. The appearance of this piece in The Jewish Press does not serve the interest of the Jewish community, as it contains information that could mislead the unenlightened Jewish reader.

Reuvein Shimon Ascher
Manalapan, NJ

EDITOR’S REPLY: Reader Ascher is absolutely right, of course. Jewish law emphasizes the necessity of maintaining the integrity of the body of the deceased. The offending passages in the article escaped our notice, and we apologize.

Agudah Pro And Con: The Letters Just Keep On Coming

Satan’s Happy

After reading Mr. Rosov’s acerbic response in last week’s Jewish Press to my letter which appeared in the May 17 edition, I realize how wrong I was. The Agudah is totally out of line for shunning Israel in its time of crisis. We must now recognize that the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah is composed of individuals who are to be ignored at best, excoriated at worst.

Yes, I mean to be sarcastic. Look, the point of my letter was simply that it is against Halacha to challenge our Gedolim. This point is unequivocal, but if you will argue that we have a right to question, I would aver that making slanderous remarks about men whose every fibre is devoted to Klal Yisrael is not the way to gather insight. Quoting earlier rulings is entirely irrelevant. Every situation is unique and is to be handled by those who bear the mantle of Daas Torah. If this is not accepted then we’ll fall into disarray as Daas Rabim will dictate our course of action.

It’s rather ironic that a rally purported to engender unity has sown such seeds of discord. I’m sure that Satan is quite pleased by the nastiness displayed in so many of the letters written on the subject. We would all do well to gain some perspective before lashing out at those who are safeguarding our future.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Facts Speak For Themselves

I would like to respond to the following two questions posed by Jewish Press readers in the Letters section of the May 24 issue:

1) “I would like to know why the Agudah couldn’t organize its Tehillim rally during chodesh Nissan, when suicide bombings were occurring daily and so many more yeshiva bochrim were home. Why was it organized only after the Washington rally?”

2) “Why is it that, almost without exception, it’s the non-haredi shuls in which you’ll hear rabbis giving sermons about the ongoing terror in Israel?”

The Agudah held a Tehillim rally in Boro Park on Chol Hamoed Succos 2000 ? less than three weeks after the beginning of the current intifada ? when many yeshiva bochrim were home. Similarly, the Agudah has called for several Yom Kippur Koton services in the last year and a half, the most recent of which was just this past Erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan.

The large shul that I attend is indisputably recognized as being in the haredi camp, and during the aforementioned period we, along with our educational institutions, have had several sermons dealing with the ongoing terror, as well as Yom Kippur Koton services.

Y. Levi
(Via E-Mail)

Not The Proper Forum

I’ve read with interest the exchange of letters over the controversy surrounding the Agudah’s decision not to officially endorse the Washington rally. As I am not interested in perpetuating an issue that I believe has already gone too far, I will briefly outline 3 points that I would like our brethren to consider:

1. Although some of us may disagree with the Agudah’s decision – which was based, of course, on asking Daas Torah – we should not be using the public media as a forum in which to take our Gedolim to task. his is both disrespectful and non-productive. After all, the Agudah represents the opinion of many great rabbonim and torah leaders. Those really interested in understanding the Agudah’s point of view should speak to them directly and not publish their concerns in the newspaper.

2. For thousands of years, there have been different views expressed by our sages on Torah issues. Nevertheless, there is a fundamental belief that “eilu v’eilu divrei elokim chaim” and we have to respect these differing views, as long as they are l’sheim shamaim as expressed by Gedolei Yisroel.

3. Ultimately, it is Hashem Who decides and controls our destiny. With this in mind, we would all do well to bring an end to this public exchange that only perpetuates divisiveness and instead work on achdus ? the midah that will ultimately bring the geulah b’mheira b’yameinu, amen.

Shlome Schwartz
Brooklyn, NY

Just Another ‘Political Action Committee’

I was fascinated by Rabbi Menachem Porush’s column, ’90 Years of Agudath Israel’s Existence’ (Jewish Press, May 24). I am not sure I would agree that his list of Agudah’s accomplishments over the years accurately reflects what Agudah actually did bring about. However, given the controversy swirling around the Agudah these days, I think he is a better historian than a commentator on current events.

The establishment of Agudah was certainly a remarkable event in the history of the Jewish community. Still, it is very sad that Agudah has become a finely tuned political action committee with a voracious financial appetite, both of which have necessarily dimmed the standing in many people’s eyes of the great Torah leaders constituting the Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah that Agudah claims to scrupulously follow.

Robert Viner
Boston, MA

Questions Columnist’s Objectivity

I cannot believe that your columnist Rabbi Menachem Porush reads The Jewish Press. If he does, I don’t see how he could have written what he did last week. For him to have gone on and on about the Agudah of yesteryear without even hinting at the almost universal condemnation of Agudah over its non-support of the Washington rally perhaps reflects a sincere admiration for the past, but also betrays a definite naivete about the present. I also wonder whether the fact that Rabbi Porush served for many years as a member of Knesset from Agudath Israel colors his views just the slightest.

Shimon Braverman
(Via E-Mail)

Agudah’s Selective Cooperation

As someone who was prepared to take Agudah at its word regarding the recent Washington rally flap, I felt betrayed by what I read in ‘Room For All At Memorial Foundation’ (news story, Jewish Press, May 24). Apparently, Agudah has no problem cooperating with representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements when it comes to cutting up a pile of Jewish communal cash – but not when it comes to joining together in support of Israel.

Agudah’s spokesman, Rabbi Avi Shafran, has been going around town saying Agudah could not join the Washington rally because the non-Orthodox were involved and there could be no guarantee of what they would say there. Well, from what I can tell, the Memorial Foundation has given a lot of money to Orthodox religious and educational causes, but it has also given a lot to Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist ones, too. How then could Agudah sit around the table and be a part of this?

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with Agudah participating in the Memorial Foundation. I just wonder how Rabbi Shafran would explain it.

In the last analysis, I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised. In Israel, Agudah MKs have sat around the table wheeling and dealing with the likes of Yossi Sarid, Yossi Beilin and Shulamit Aloni for years without any difficulty. Perhaps the organization’s motto should be ‘Show me the money.’

Henry Grossman
(Via E-Mail)

Shafran Fails To Sway Him

Agudah’s Avi Shafran continues to mischaracterize the controversy over the organization’s non-participation in the Washington rally. I read in last week’s Forward that he is still talking about a supposed ‘longstanding policy … our gedolim have put in place’ against participation in public events over which Agudah has no control.

It really is amazing, but, once again Rabbi Shafran simply declined to address the 1974 statement of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, a’h, which was reproduced in The Jewish Press. In that statement, issued following a mass rally opposing a UN invitation to the PLO to address the UN, the then-executive head of the Agudah declared that it was the policy of Agudah to publicly demonstrate its solidarity with all other Jews in support of Israel, but to disassociate, in advance, from any particular elements with which it disagreed.

In all of the weeks since Rabbi Sherer’s statement appeared in The Jewish Press, Shafran has never confronted its implications, or even acknowledged it ever existed.

What Rabbi Shafran did do, however, was once again speak in contradictory terms. After referring to the supposed ‘longstanding’ policy against participation, he said that the organization did not discourage those whose local rabbis or consciences led them to participate in the Washington rally.

If the Gedolim determined that participation was wrong, how could individuals be left to the decisions of local rabbis or individual consciences?

Menashe Kravitz
Brooklyn, NY

Legitimate Authority Or Convenient Shield?

When I first read Rabbi Moshe Shochet’s letter last week (‘Agudah Rabbis Care Deeply About Eretz Yisrael’), I dismissed it out of hand. After all, it was Agudah that separated itself from virtually all of Klal Yisrael by refusing to join in the Washington rally, and yet Rabbi Shochet begins his letter with the question, ‘Why does The Jewish Press have to create disunity among Klal Yisrael by printing letters that are anti-Agudah?’

Rabbi Shochet also said this: ‘The Shabbos before the Washington rally I happened to be by a kiddush at a shul where a lot of askanim for Klal Yisrael daven. I was appalled at their impudence when they announced that they were going to this rally regardless of what Agudah and the gedolim say! Overheard: ‘We’re not going to wait around until the gedolim make a decision!’ We’re da’as Torah!’

Upon reflection, I came to realize that Rabbi Shochet’s letter epitomizes what can only be described as an almost childlike hyper-sentimentalism of the sort found in many of the other letters in The Jewish Press in support of Agudah. It seems that Agudah, by urging unquestioning deference to its rabbinic authority in all aspects of life – not simply in matters pertaining to Halacha and ritual – provides a refuge for those unable or afraid to confront life’s complexities. It also provides Agudah with a convenient shield against any and all criticism of its actions as an organization.

I firmly believe that the views of every generation’s Gedolim are important to the well-being of the Jewish people. However, no human being, even one recognized as a religious authority, is infallible. Not in our religion, anyway.

Yisroel Duberstein
(Via E-Mail)

Please, Everybody: A Little Achdus

In the recent debate about rallies and their participants in Washington, prayer vigils and their content in New York, and the halachic status of the State of Israel, most people are missing the point. The Jews who are living in Eretz Yisrael are daily at great risk of losing their lives!

(To those who may cling to political correctness, my point is just as poignant when worded: The people who are living in Eretz Yisrael are daily at great risk of losing their lives!)

Whether on religious or humanitarian grounds, we must realize that supporting the people who are defending the lives of civilians is of utmost importance. Any Jew with any respect for Eretz Yisrael – and all Jews and many Gentiles acknowledge that the land is Eretz Yisrael regardless of one’s feelings about the State of Israel – must know that wholesale slaughter of people in such a holy land is wrong and must be stopped.

I am calling on all Jews to put aside the pretext of differing religious and humanitarian views, and to realize that we must stand united against terror and the wanton destruction of life.

Shraig Zisman
Brooklyn, NY