Father And Son

I thoroughly enjoyed Avraham Shmuel Lewin’s interview with Yair Shamir in last week’s Jewish Press. At age 59, Mr. Shamir is still young enough to consider a new career in politics, and weall know how starved Israel is for real leadership.

Speaking of Israeli leadership, many of us took Mr. Shamir’s father for granted when he served as prime minister, while others loudly criticized him for his alleged lack of vision. Yitzhak Shamir may indeed have been a taciturn, uncharismatic, even uninspiring prime minister – but I think in retrospect he stands out as the last of Israel’s sane leaders. After him came the madness of Rabin and Peres and the cult of Oslo; the thoroughly disappointing tenure of Bibi Netanyahu; the surrender-at-all-costs mentality of Ehud Barak; and now the depressing spectacle of a muddled (and quite possibly corrupt) Ariel Sharon careening between one policy and another depending on what day of the week it is.

Run, Yair Shamir, run. The Likud needs you. Israel needs you.

Fred Erlanger
(Via E-Mail)


Boo For Kerry

John Kerry’s blatant lie about his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (Media Monitor, March 5) should be fair warning to anyone who’s even thinking of voting for this man. On Israel, as on a wide range of issues, Kerry has a long record of staking out every position under the sun, only to end up supporting the most liberal option or voting for the most liberal piece of legislation.

There’s a reason why Kerry’s rated – by both liberal and conservative congressional observers – as the most liberal member of the United States Senate. If I may paraphrase Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign slogan, it’s his record, stupid.

Aaron Hammerman
(Via E-Mail)


Yay For Kerry

Are you guys on the payroll of the Republican National Committee? I am dismayed at your continuing support of the Bush administration.

It was bad enough that you endorsed the Republican ticket in 2000 – turning your back on Al Gore, a stalwart friend of Israel, and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who would have been the first Jewish vice president of this country had the Republican justices on the Supreme Court not handed the election to Mr. Bush.

But even worse than your ill-advised endorsement is your blind insistence that this president is a friend of Israel or the Jews. No real friend of Israel would have refused to use his weight and the prestige of his office to try to bring about a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Bill Clinton, whom you love to denigrate, did just that, and he came so close to brokering a solution.

But instead of picking up where Mr. Clinton left off, Mr. Bush chose to marginalize the elected leader of the Palestinians, and he refused to send the message to Israel that while the U.S. is a
friend, sometimes a friend must speak bluntly and take actions that are in the interests of all parties, not just our friends.

It’s on the domestic front, however, that Mr.Bush is anathema to everything most American Jews hold dear – particularly a woman’s right to choose; sensitivity to the needs of minorities,
especially African Americans; respect for religions and lifestyles different from our own; a wall between religion and state; and a far more equitable distribution of wealth.

I am a proud Democrat who believes that the liberal values cherished by the vast majority of Jews in this country are in no way incompatible with Judaism. And you’ll see I’m right this
November, when John Kerry receives at least 70-75 percent of the Jewish vote on his way to the White House.

Sylvia Brecher
New York, NY

Unfair Comparison

It seems that within the past year a certain lifestyle has once again been forced into the public discussion. Unfortunately, instead of having a fair debate, advocates of gay marriage often
describe themselves in such loaded terms as “second-class citizens facing discrimination.”

There are many of us who supported the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s but are opposed to the concept of gay marriage. Rather than being compared to segregationists, we deserve a fair representation in the media’s coverage of this issue.

Sergio Kadinsky
Forest Hills, NY


Reality, Times-Style

Yet another vile item appeared recently in The New York Times, this time in the “Week in Review” section of Sunday, February 29, under the byline of James Bennett. In essence, the story stated that there has been a strong undercurrent of a Palestinian peace movement all
this time waiting to bloom forth (like the olive branch stuck in the hand of the Palestinian woman whose photo appears next to the story, against a backdrop of the Palestinian flag, green stripe in the foreground, red stripe behind). In Mr. Bennett’s words:

“In advocating civil disobedience, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. had a bedrock faith in the essential humanity of their oppressors. As this conflict grinds on, it is tempting to conclude that any chance of glimpsing a shared humanity has been blown away.”

What fools we all have been not to notice, not to see, that these peaceful demonstrators are only advocating civil disobedience against their oppressors!

So what if a few misguided Palestinians have been in the habit of throwing stones at Israelis, or that a few Israeli buses (supposedly with oppressive passengers inside) were blown up along the way on the road to peace? After all, what’s a little bus bombing between would-be friends?

Peace-loving Palestinians are just around the corner, waiting to embrace like-thinking Israelis. Let the Israelis grab on to that olive branch, tell that mean old warmonger Sharon to put away those nasty tanks, take down that oppressive wall, and let’s all be friends.

Saul Grossman
Flushing, NY


Not Exactly ‘Vindication’

I was greatly troubled by the characterization in last week’s Machberes column of the disposition of Rabbi Yehoshua Balkany’s case as a “vindication.” The fact that federal prosecutors decided they would not seek to put him jail for the misappropriation of $700,000
in federal funds – but would require restitution and his abstaining from future grantsmanship and contact with certain federal agencies – hardly qualifies as a “vindication.”

I say this even though I believe that Rabbi Balkany’s reputation for helping others and contributions to Jewish education weighed heavily on the prosecutors.

I would agree, however, with your editorial on the subject which noted the field day the media had with the original charges filed against Rabbi Balkany. As it turns out, far from pocketing the money, he applied it to educational purposes – albeit not in the way intended by the grant
through which he got the money.

In that sense, then, there was a “vindication” of sorts, in this narrow, if important aspect. But it is misleading to suggest that Rabbi Balkany was absolved of any wrongdoing.

Tuvia Schlesinger
(Via E-Mail)


Counterproductive Claim

I predict that the next time some smart lawyer tries to persuade prosecutors to go easy on their errant client/rabbi because of all of his good works, Exhibit A against it will be last week’s Machberes column.

I cannot imagine anything more counterproductive than to portray, under the circumstances of the case against Rabbi Balkany, a compassionate decision by prosecutors as a “vindication.”

Norman Schoenberg
New York, NY

Concern Over Cuts

Bravo to The Jewish Press for calling attention to probable New York Federation cuts in support of Jewish education. While I saw this concern articulated nowhere else, I think the Federation letter you excerpted in your editorial makes it quite clear that such cuts are in the works.

Linda Faber
Brooklyn, NY

The Scandal Of ‘Kiddush Clubs’

The publication of Shlomo Mostofsky’s fine piece on “Drinking In Our Community” (Jewish Press, March 5) brings the problem home. The fact that measures need to be taken in order to preserve the true simcha quality of our smachot, while keeping the festive air, is obvious to readers of this timely analysis. Some of Mr. Mostofsky’s suggestions should become basic policy in our shuls.

I am especially intrigued with the idea of zero tolerance for underage drinking. A zero tolerance policy for underage drinking, smoking, and other undesirable vices would help reduce the burgeoning problem of “the Shikkur is a Yid.”

But why the soft peddling of the “kiddush club?” When it comes to this egregious chilul Hashem, Mr. Mostofsky writes,”The institution of kiddush clubs deserves a long, hard look and reevaluation. For the present, shuls with kiddush clubs must insure that no underage youth
are permitted to attend, let alone drink.”

Why does the shanda of the kiddush club need a long hard look and reevaluation by anyone other than the people who perpetrate this sin on our community? Who among those attending kiddush clubs is a responsible enough adult to insure that “youth” don’t attend? Why doesn’t Mr. Mostofsky call for a zero tolerance policy for kiddush clubs?

Groups of people that walk out on krias haTorah, the haftorah, or any other part of davening in order to drink and eat are sending a  powerfully negative message to our youth. They are saying that drinking is more important than Torah or tefilla. And it is not only our youth that
suffer from this shameful, disgraceful behavior. Not only is a kiddush club a blight on a shul’s kedusha, it actually makes a mockery of the tefilla.

Do the people who walk out of a makom kadosh realize that the prayers they utter are blemished by their own misbehavior? Many of these same individuals would readily proclaim their care and concern for the welfare of our brothers and sisters in Israel. Yet, when
they have the opportunity to support our brethren in the Holy Land with the one unifying medium at our disposal, through Torah and prayer, they don’t seize the moment.

So, not only do our youth get the wrong message, but our fellow  Jews in Israel are deprived of the right message – the message to Avinu Shebashamayim that we beseech Him through our tefillot for the welfare of our people.

There should be a zero tolerance policy in all our shuls for kiddush clubs. The rabbis, who I am certain cringe when some of the p’nai ha’ir depart the sanctuary to have their momentary olam hazeh, need to be supported in their valiant efforts to rid our communities of this shamefulness. Shul presidents, chairmen of boards, and anyone else who is active in shul welfare and administration should adopt this zero tolerance policy. This will go a long way toward reducing the drinking problem in our midst.

The prayers offered by the shul members who adopt this policy, and implement it, would surely benefit all of Klal Yisrael.
Rabbi Moshe Snow
Young Israel Beth El Of Borough Park
Brooklyn, NY

One Hundred Jewish Press Subscriptions For My Church

Dr. Louis Rene Beres, professor of international law at Purdue University and a columnist for your fine paper, introduced me to The Jewish Press. I am a Baptist pastor in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where I have had the privilege of leading a flock of more than one thousand fine
Christian people for the past 27 years.

Because of the teaching of Genesis 12:3 – “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee” – our position has, is, and always will be that of supporting G-d’s chosen people, the Jews, and the nation of Israel.

Several years ago a delegation of Israelis visited Oklahoma City. The (then) editor of the Daily Oklahoman, Mr. Patrick Mcguigan, told them, “You need to meet Dr. Jim Vineyard, pastor of Windsor Hills Baptist Church, who is truly a friend to Israel.” That started a relationship with Mr. Benny Kashriel, the fine mayor of Maale Adumim.

This past October I had the privilege of visiting Israel. A few days ago I was there again, for the prime minister’s third international conference on tourism. G-d willing, I will be leaving on March 11, along with 38 other pastors, for another trip to Israel.

We have meetings planned with, among others, Rabbi Benny Elon; Mr. Uzi Landau; Rabbi Eliezer Waldman; Colonel (ret.) Yoash Tsiddon and his dear wife Raissa; Dr. Arieh Stav of the Ariel Policy Research Center; Dr. Israel Hanukoglu of Judea and Samaria College; and Dr. Gadi Eshel, noted professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

We are doing this because we believe that, just like in 1936 when Orde Wingate landed in Israel and became known as “hayedid,” the little nation of Israel needs “yedids” to demonstrate their support.

One of the ways we hope to benefit American Christian Zionists is by introducing them to The Jewish Press. I thoroughly enjoy your paper and believe that it belongs in the homes of all American Christian Zionists. The Jews need us, and we need the blessings of G-d by being yedids to the Jews.

I was in the Citadel Hotel Sunday morning, February 22, when 23-year-old Mohammad Za’al, an Islamic murderer from outside Bethlehem, exploded his backpack bomb on bus 14a. We went to the scene. There we saw the bombed bus. There we saw pieces of human bodies all over the bus and all around the bus – hands, feet, arms and other body parts. The scene
was like a slaughterhouse. There were the body bags and the injured. There was the catapulted body of the sandwich maker Yehuda Haim lying on the street. There were the cell phones of the dead and wounded, ringing unceasingly. The smell of death and explosives filled the air.

Just imagine your husbands and wives there. Just imagine your sons and daughters there. Just imagine your grandchildren there. A bloodied book of Psalms lay amid the destruction, as did a notebook with Bugs Bunny on the cover and a civic text entitled “To Be a Citizen in Israel”
(probably belonging to a Jew who just recently made aliyah).

When I returned to Oklahoma City, I had our Sunday School children come up on the platform, and I told our folks to “just imagine these dear innocents there.” Poor, innocent people. Not politicians! Not soldiers! Not great persons in grand abstractions of our time. Just innocents in their stage of living. Just innocent people. Lives snuffed out. Wounded horribly. I
shall never forget that.

I shall never stop taking this message to American Christian Zionists. And, to do so, we are purchasing 100 subscriptions to The Jewish Press for our church. We want the message of your paper to be read by our people. And we will be encouraging Christians all over America to subscribe to The Jewish Press.

May the G-d of Israel extend his richest blessings to each of you who is a son or daughter of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I am, sincerely, your yedid and haver.

Jim Vineyard, Pastor
Windsor Hills Baptist Church
Oklahoma City, OK

More On The Lower East Side Eruv

The ‘Disrespect’ Was Not Mine

In last week’s Letters to the Editor section, Mr. Nachum Myers characterized my Feb. 27 open letter to Rabbi Simcha Cohen as disrespectful. He noted that I had identified myself as a resident of the Lower East Side. Let me state, however, that not only am I a resident of the Lower East Side but also a spokesman on communal issues in my capacity as the chairman of the United Jewish Council of the Lower East Side.

I should also note that I have been involved in every aspect of communal life on the Lower East Side for the past 35 years. It is not my desire to list all of my credentials, but suffice it to say that insofar as community issues affecting the Lower East Side are concerned, I am not an intermeddler as Mr. Myers suggests.

For the honor of Torah, my letter should have been much more strident. When Rabbi Cohen decided to move to Manhattan a year ago, he purchased an apartment on the Upper East Side. If he had given advice to the rabbis of the Upper East Side, where some residents
use the eruv and some don’t, I would have said nothing. But all of the pulpit rabbis on the Lower East Side – twelve in number, with whom Rabbi Cohen disagreed – adhere firmly to the halachic position of HaRav HaGaon Moshe Feinstein, zt’l.

Furthermore, Reb Moshe’s two sons, Reb Dovid and Reb Reuven, shlita, who currently reside on the Lower East Side and are leading poskim in their own right, have regularly applied their father’s p’sak in this regard.

Equally as important, perhaps, over the course of more than a half a century, such great geonim as Rav Eliyahu Henkin, zt”l, the Kopiczhnitzer Rebbe, zt”l, the Boyaner Rebbe, zt”l, the Matesdorfer Rav, zt”l, Rav Tuvia Goldstein, zt”l and all of the illustrious roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef resided on the Lower East Side and not a single one questioned the validity or applicability of Rav Moshe’s p’sak.

To reiterate, Rabbi Cohen, as a guest on the Lower East Side for a Shabbos, was not asked by any pulpit rabbi to speak about the subject of eruv and, in any event, he ought not to have intervened where great poskim had already definitively decided the issue.

Where is Rabbi Cohen’s and Mr. Myers’s respect for the late gadol hador and his world-renowned sons as well as for the pulpit rabbinate of the Lower East Side and for the above mentioned gedolim? I agree with Mr. Meyers that disrespect was shown, but it was shown by
Rabbi Cohen and those who advocate on his behalf, not by me.

Heshy Jacob
New York, NY

Thank You, Rabbi Cohen

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen for addressing an issue that impacts my life. I live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and hold by the local eruv. I go to shul every Shabbos and, weather permitting, I bring my 18-month-old son by stroller. I wish many people a ‘Good Shabbos’ on the way to shul and at times do not get a response. During those moments I am disappointed by the intolerance that seems to linger in the minds of
some individuals in this neighborhood.

I was raised in a traditional neighborhood in Montreal, Canada. Although my family was not Orthodox, I attended Yeshiva University, became religious, and now lead a Modern Orthodox life. My experiences along the spectrum of religious observance have sensitized me to the issues surrounding tolerance within the Jewish community.

Rabbi Cohen’s article relayed the message that we should not judge or criticize the religious practices of others in our kehilah. There are many ways to interpret a scenario that one views from the outside. Rabbi Cohen, thank you for emphasizing the importance of respecting each other enough to realize that.

I believe that the Lower East Side ‘s Orthodox community has to take a long look at itself. I know that many people who live down here feel too threatened to voice a dissenting opinion. They fear reactions from the ‘established community’ similar to the letter to the editor by Mr. Heshy Jacob (Jewish Press, Feb. 27). I believe this community needs to embrace the open discussion of halacha in the effort to learn and to grow.

I look forward to learning more from Rabbi Cohen. I am grateful, and will listen with a full and open heart.

Jonathan Shore
New York, NY

Eruv Could Draw Young Couples

If the Lower East Side religious community has any thought of attracting young marrieds they should think long and hard about the benefits of an eruv. For all of reader Heshy Jacob’s righteous anger at Rabbi Cohen’s presumption, people tend to move to places they find conducive to their needs.

Mindy Goldstein
Brooklyn, NY

The Real Chutzpah

Nachum Myers’s rebuke of Heshy Jacob’s criticism of Rabbi Jack Simcha Cohen was way off the mark (Letters, March 5). The “chutzpah” he attributes to Jacob pales into insignificance when compared with that of Rabbi Cohen, who took it upon himself, while a guest, to pontificate on a halachic issue in the home community of the universally renowned gaon Horav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l – and on an issue about which Rav Moshe had spoken and on which local rabbis have more recently addressed.

Chaim Minzer
(Via E-Mail)