Thank you to Shmuel Ben Eliezer and The Jewish Press for covering the return of the Sefer Tehillim from the Ground Zero rescue worker to Rabbi Spira (news story, Feb. 20). This event will live on with my family. My co-worker and the rescue worker spent the rest of the day together and they’ve told me they were extremely inspired, both from the presentation and by the words of Rav Kaufman.
Additional thanks go to Glauber’s Bakery, Appetizing and Catering of Spring Valley for providing cake and Hatzlocha Grocery (also of Spring Valley) for providing beverages and paper goods for this memorable event.
Mordechai Dovid Levine
Spring Valley, NY
Pearl Before Swine
Re ‘Our Uncle Tom’ (Media Monitor, Feb. 20):
While reading the ADL Report yesterday, I came across a photo of Abe Foxman handing Tom Friedman the Daniel Pearl Award for journalism. Pearl was brutally murdered precisely because he was a Jew. It is a desecration of Pearl’s name to hand this award to Friedman.
Decoding Uncle Tom
Jason Maoz wrote with his usual astuteness in describing how New York Times columnist Tom Friedman must temper every article he writes about the Palestinians with an addendum
describing his perception of the sins of Israel and Ariel Sharon. In Mr. Maoz’s words, “It’s as if Friedman’s word processor has a default setting that automatically types out the word ‘settlers’ in any paragraph containing the term ‘suicide bomber.’ “
Right on cue, Mr. Friedman’s February 19 column, “Look Who’s Talking,” described, in Friedman’s usual feel-good language, how democracy is fairly busting out all over the Muslim world, specifically in Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Libya.
Apparently Mr. Friedman is not reading the papers these days, not even the news that appears in his own paper about all the suicide bombings in Muslim countries. In the next-to-last paragraph of the column, he tucks in his usual zinger against Israel. It’s not too hard to find, especially if one is familiar with Mr. Friedman’s writing style, which attempts to camouflage his own anti-Israel prejudices in someone else’s quotes:
“The Lebanese analyst Sahar Baasiri, writing in the leading Lebanese daily An Nahar, said the response of Palestinian officials to two corruption charges – one in a French weekly about millions of dollars reportedly transferred to Yasir Arafat’s wife in Paris and the other an Israeli report about a Palestinian cement factory, owned by a prominent Palestinian family, that is alleged to be secretly providing the cement for the wall Israel is building in the West Bank – was not sufficient. ‘A clear and decisive Palestinian response’ is required, the paper wrote.”
In other words, if a Palestinian family is secretly helping Israel to protect itself from Palestinian terrorists entering Israel to commit mass murder, that, in the Lebanese analyst’s opinion, is
corruption, and that opinion is elliptically shared by Mr. Friedman.
Return The Prize
Shimon Peres, currently head of the Labor Party and the opposition in the Israel Knesset, states that the Palestinian Authority lacks the capabilities but not the will to fight terrorism. This comment and analysis is contradictory to Yasir Arafat’s own statements and those of his fellow leaders in the PA.
Arafat, his two “prime ministers,” other cabinet ministers and prominent personalities within the Palestine Authority have continuously stated they would not arrest and destroy the various
terrorist groups that operate within their jurisdiction – as a matter of principle and not because of lack of ability, thus calling in question the honesty and truth of these public statements.
Mr. Peres should be reminded that he, as foreign minister at the time, along with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat signed the Oslo Accords that called upon Arafat do just that – and all three shared the Nobel Peace Prize for this commitment.
Now Mr. Peres apparently admits that Arafat could not do what he pledged in writing to do. If this is so, Peres admits than the Oslo Accords were signed under false pretensions and the Nobel Peace Prize was improperly awarded. In this case, the honorable thing for Peres to do would be to return the prize with a note to that effect.
Look Eastward For Real Jew-Hatred
Charles Patterson is right to condemn anti-Semitism but wrong to accuse Christians of inventing it (“A Whiff of Auschwitz,” op-ed, Feb. 20). Christians in the past committed unspeakable crimes against Jews, but Jews were enslaved and reviled long before the time of Jesus.
The real whiff of Auschwitz isn’t in the movie. The desire to commit genocide is in the hearts of millions in the Middle East today. Israel’s neighbors want to wipe out the Jewish state for no
other reason than because it’s a Jewish state.
American university professors and journalists blame Mel Gibson for anti-Semitism while giving real perpetrators with genocidal intentions a pass. Some might call that a whiff of Auschwitz.
Aliso Viejo, CA
Back in the 1980’s, Rabbi Meir Kahane’s lawyer, a close friend of mine (who was by his side when he was murdered) spoke passionately to me about Rabbi Kahane’s views. At the time, I was busy raising two young children and listened with half an ear. But two years ago, I read a book written by Rabbi Kahane in the 1980’s, Uncomfortable Questions For Comfortable Jews (given to me by that same friend), and couldn’t put it down. It was as if current events were being discussed in its pages. But how can that be? How did Rabbi Kahane know what would transpire years later in Israel?
After much thought, the answer became clear to me. Since Rabbi Kahane was so intensely focused on the survival of the Jewish people, he was able to see the dangers that were swarming all around him. He understood that the real goal of the Arabs was the disappearance of Israel. He was unconcerned with politically correct posturing when Jewish lives hung in the balance. He saw the inherent mistakes in trying to pacify the Israeli Arabs. He was not blinded to the menace of a fifth column living in the midst of Jewish Israel.
In “Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned About Sharon,” his 1989 column reprinted as an op-ed in last week’s Jewish Press, Rabbi Kahane wrote about the oylem golem and warned that if the Jews in Israel persist in worshiping a person because of his perceived stature – no matter the foolish and dangerous paths this person takes – the consequences will be nothing short of catastrophic. It was as though he was calling out to all lovers of Israel to save the Jewish state from a non-Jewish Jewish leadership that is ready to offer up the nation’s soul on the altar of its enemies.
Elmwood Park, NJ
Beyond Mere Numbers
I fully agreed with Victor Davis Hanson’s thorough and insightful analysis of our reasons for invading Iraq, but unfortunately, he opened in a fashion I consider regrettable (“Weapons of Mass Delusion,” front page essay, Feb. 13).
The piece began, “The United States lost fewer than 350 in actual combat…,” and while it may be factually true, it was both misleading and insensitive. In trying to play the numbers game,
Mr. Hanson used the term “in actual combat” to exclude the hundreds of American heroes who have sacrificed their lives in Iraq in other forms of attacks, where “actual combat” didn’t actually take place. In so doing, he seems to be trying to downplay the overall loss, bringing to mind that famous dictum about “lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
Be that as it may, this statistical manipulation is nothing compared to the fact that each of these lives – whether it be 35, 350 or 3,500 – represents a tragic loss, and that loss should not be trivialized by implying that a great cost wasn’t incurred.
Sure, we had to go into Iraq, and that meant that there would be casualties, but as soon as we begin to view the loss of human life as a statistic, we become just like our Arab enemies. Let us continue to mourn for the loss of every single American soldier, to feel rachmanus for their families and to pray that there not be any more casualties and that Hashem usher in an era of ultimate peace with the coming of our Righteous Moshiach.
Agoura Hills, CA
Despite his very good intentions, President Bush is, in my opinion, encouraging terror. He is making decisions based on Western morality, not on terrorist immorality.
In our societies, men protect their women and children. Muslim terrorists place young boys and girls armed with stones in front of men with guns. Muslim terrorists send mothers wearing suicide belts to kill innocent men, women and children.
In our culture, we expect people to be pleased when they’re rewarded. Muslim terrorists take our kindness as a sign of weakness. In the road map ‘peace’ plan, terrorists are offered a
Palestinian state. Doesn’t that send the message that terror pays?
I am a life-long resident of the Lower East Side of Manhattan and am involved in numerous communal organizations. I am proud to live in our community because of the achdus that exists here. Members of the Mizrachi Shul have no trouble davening in the Agudah and vice versa. Individuals donning shtreimels who daven in the Boyaner Kloiz have no problem conversing and being friendly with those who wear small knitted yarmulkes.
We have no class distinctions on the Lower East Side. Therefore, for Rabbi Simcha Cohen to depict the Lower East Side as a neighborhood whose inhabitants criticize one another because of different levels of religiosity is totally absurd.
Rabbi Cohen spent a Shabbos on the Lower East Side and supposedly witnessed an incident where a small child was crying and the mother refused to pick the child up. However, if he had a resolution which would have helped the mother and child, why didn’t he approach the mother and advise her of that resolution? I myself have witnessed on occasion children not wanting to complete their walk on Shabbos and saw to it that my own children offered to take them by the hand.
Rabbi Cohen, as a guest of Rabbi Zvi Romm, was invited to speak at the Bialystoker Synagogue. When a number of individuals approached him to ask about an eruv, normative courtesy would have been for him to answer that Rabbi Romm, as the rabbi of the shul, is the one to be asked. In fact, that is the halacha. A visiting rabbi should not respond in the presence of the rav of the shul.
I wonder how Rabbi Cohen would have felt if, when he was serving as a rabbi in California, a visiting rabbi had spoken to his congregants and taken a different position than his own.
I respectfully request that Rabbi Cohen do all the residents of the Lower East Side a favor and keep his halachic opinions to himself. Erecting an eruv on the Lower East Side was prohibited by Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, more than 50 years ago, and being that he was our posek and the posek of Klal Yisrael, we stand by his psak.
When we wish to seek Rabbi Cohen’s advice we will contact him, but please don’t have him wait by the phone.
New York, NY
Getting The Message Out
I would like to take a moment to thank you for publishing a most meaningful newspaper with its Torah articles and news of Jewish communities around the world. On a more personal note, your beautiful write-up about the Chabad of the Five Towns mission to Israel and our meeting with the president, the honorable Moshe Katsav, has encouraged many to join us on our next mission to Israel and I have received feedback from as far as California.
I wish The Jewish Press lots of hatzlacha as it continues to spread Torah and Yiddishkeit the world over.
Rabbi Shneur Z. Wolowik
Chabad of the Five Towns
My Trees May Be Crying
I am a Jew; I live in a Jewish house and am raising a Jewish family on Jewish land in the
Jewish community of Gush Katif about a mile from the Mediterranean Sea in what many call the Gaza Strip. I have been living with the same wife in the same house for the past twenty-one years.
I really love my house. When we moved in, there was nothing around it but barren sand dunes. I pretty much designed my house by myself with oversized windows to afford a beautiful view of my soon-to-be garden. I put a lot of time and effort into my garden. It’s not just because it’s the Israeli thing to do, making the desert bloom and all that. It’s much more personal.
My garden is really special to me. I’ve been collecting rocks and stones, laying them out like a
mosaic each time to get it just right. It’s been a twenty-year labor of love, stopping at roadsides, hauling these rocks into the back of my station wagon and sometimes getting strange looks from passers-by, but such is love.
I have some trees in my garden. A couple of them I planted back in 1985. Nineteen years later, I must admit with immodesty that I planned well and that these trees give shade exactly where they’re supposed to. During an Israeli summer you really appreciate something like that.
My sons grew up in those trees, sometimes having fun and sometimes hiding from angry
parents. Another tree of mine is only eight years old. While the older trees may be sentimental, this tree is hard to describe. If I tell you about it, maybe you can help me out with the right word.
When my sister’s son was killed in a car accident eight years ago, she wanted me to plant a
tree in Israel. What better place could there be than in her brother’s own backyard?
I’m our only family member who lives in Israel and therefore the only one with a backyard here. My sister and I speak every so often and she sometimes asks me about ‘her’ tree. I guess I’m the tree’s guardian as well as its planter, but that’s ok – I kind of like special tasks. By the way, it’s doing fine. (Well, as far as I can tell it is.)
I once read that plants (and I presume also trees) have feelings. It hurts them when they’re cut
or abused, and they even respond to music. I wonder if my trees have heard the news. No – no one is planning to do anything bad to them. The problem, you see, is that the prime minister of my country wants to evict me from my house (it’s because I’m a Jew); it’s on the news day and night. The radio is in the kitchen and the tree is just outside the kitchen window.
My sister has already bought her ticket to come to the bar mitzvah of one of my sons in the
fall. Of course she’ll want to see her son’s tree. What do I tell her, what do I tell her tree? To tell you the truth, I’ve never spoken with a tree. I love gardening, but I’m not eccentric.
I’ve never come across any information about plants or trees communicating with one another. I really hope it’s true. That’s because I have yet another tree that I don’t know how to describe, let alone deal with. If it has gotten wind of our prime minister’s plan, I’ll really be at a loss.
You see, when my friend and next-door neighbor was murdered by Arabs (he had his throat slit back in the days before another prime minister handed out guns to the Arabs, but that’s
another story) I planted a tree in his memory.
Like I said, I’m not an eccentric. But I love my house. I love my garden. And mostly I love my trees. I don’t want to leave them.
Priorities Vs. Morality
I have been following with great interest the debate engendered by Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s
opinion piece “Orthodox Hellenism 5764″ (Jewish Press, Dec. 26). The Jewish Press is to be
commended for forcing out of the closet the issue of Torah Jewry’s reaction (or non-reaction) to the increasing threat represented by the homosexual agenda.
One point becomes clearer from every letter reader Leib Stone writes: if this is the best defense that a clearly partisan Agudah supporter can render, than those who choose to rest easy secure that Agudah is adequately addressing the morality problem, are in big denial, big trouble or both.
In opposing the stance of Rabbis Yehuda Levin and William Handler, reader Leib Stone
writes that “unquestionably that majority of gedolim whose guidance was sought on these
issues by our community did not agree that the morality issue was the most critical issue facing
Define the words “our community,” Mr. Stone. Does it mean general communal bnei Torah,
unaffiliated rabbonim, simple laypeople – or does it mean employees of Agudath Israel? There is an underlying arrogance in the assumption that “our community” consists of either Agudah members or bureaucrats.
What about Yidden like Rabbis Levin and Handler who asked these questions directly to
gedolim but didn’t have the baggage of all those other “issues” they have to weigh and balance
against the “priority” of the declining standard of morality? Maybe they received stronger and more precise instructions from the gedolim because of the uncompromising way they asked the questions.
Why doesn’t Mr. Stone cite us chapter and verse of who specifically asked which gadol, what
the answers were, and who in Agudah was and is responsible for drawing inferences from their responses. I ask this because both Rabbi Levin and Rabbi Handler’s have made precise reference to written statements and what they personally heard from the gedolim a generation before ours.
Responding to a comment made by reader Shlomo Winter, Mr. Stone insists that it’s nothing
but ‘conjecture’ to assume that a greater emphasis on moral issues would have stopped the spread of moral decay in our society. “Even if he were right, it is beside the point,” writes Mr. Stone. “What is important is that our gedolim decided that other issues such as Jewish education were of a higher priority and that is where we should concentrate our efforts and have our successes.”
Gevald. Countless Maimorei Chazal indicate that even earthquakes in far-away lands which are Jewless relate to our Torah, our avodah, and our “priorities. Yet Mr. Stone dismisses this Alef-Bais of our hashkafa with a cavalier “Even if he were right, it is beside the point.”
No, it is the point Mr. Stone! With homosexual marriages in the daily headlines and annual homosexual parades in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, it’s obvious that the Torah community
didn’t do enough from a spiritual perspective to show Hakodesh Boruch Hu that we cared to slow down the movement.
Mr. Stone tells us that “Jewish education [is] of a higher priority and that is where we should
concentrate our efforts and have our successes.” So it all comes down to money for yeshivas; money trumps everything. In your next obfuscatory letter, Mr. Stone, now that you have determined what the priority is (and with apologies to George Bernard Shaw), why don’t you give us a fact for a change in your pace?
Tell us about your monetary “success in Jewish education.” What is the breakdown per child for our having turned the other cheek to the agents of immorality? We now have a group that
calls itself Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Yeshivas and Day Schools. Maybe Hashem allows something like this to happen because we felt we had to honor some politicians who helped get us another $35 a year per child for textbooks, Mr. Stone.
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