Hypocritical Times

Jason Maoz’s Media Monitor column, in exposing the unmitigated hypocrisy of the liberal press – most prominently The New York Times – is consistently excellent.

The Times, which tirelessly bombards its readers with letters to the editor, articles and op-ed pieces excoriating President Bush for commencing the Iraq War on “false pretenses,” had the audacity to editorialize, on March 12, immediately after the Spain terrorist bombings: “Most of the hard work [in fighting international terrorism] will be far less dramatic than the successful military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Is it possible that the Times is calling the military campaign in Iraq successful, despite the failure thus far to find WMD?

And on March 8, in a similar vein, a Times editorial stated: “No imminent threat [of WMD] was found. But Iraq’s scientists clearly know how to make these weapons and if continued
chaos leads to a new dictatorship, covert work might resume.” Is this not tantamount to admitting that, in the event of a continuation of Hussein’s dictatorship, development of WMD
would have been a real threat, whether or not stockpiles of such weapons existed at the time of the U.S. invasion?

Do these admissions not constitute the ultimate in journalistic hypocrisy?

Thomas Furst
Great Neck, NY

Whispered Prayers

In her op-ed column on Orthodox feminism (“Orthodox Feminists Must Make A Choice,” March 12), Shoshana Greenwald tells us that Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky has the men whisper “shelo asani isha” when a woman is in attendance at Shachrit “so that the woman should not be humiliated.”

What the article does not mention is that when the rabbi is in attendance the entire congregation only whispers the bracha of “atta chonein l’adam daat.”

Howard J. Finkelstein, Esq.
(Via E-Mail)

Invaluable Reminder

I was greatly moved by the letter (Jewish Press, March 12) from Pastor Dr. Jim Vineyard of Oklahoma City. I couldn’t stop the tears that came while reading his description of the scene after the bomb exploded on the Jerusalem bus on Feb. 22.

My tears quickly turned to anger that I am not as outspoken as the kind Baptist pastor from Oklahoma. What came to mind were the famous words of Hillel: “If I am not for myself, then
who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I, And if not now, when?” In this case, I interpret “myself” as the whole of Judaism and Israel.

Thank you, Dr. Vineyard, for reminding me of who I am; or probably more correctly, who I should be.

Jeff Shilling
Verona, NJ

More Zionist Than Many Jews

The poignant letter from Rev. Vineyard illustrates yet again how foolish Jews are to spurn the support of these unbelievably pro-Israel born-again Christians. Prior to my recent move to New York, I happened to live in a part of the country where Bible-believing Christians are numerous and vocal, and I can say with absolute confidence that such Christians are more enthusiastically and reliably pro-Israel than are most Jews. I know they feel closer to Israel than most Conservative and Reform Jews – the vast majority of whom, according to a plethora of surveys, have never visited Israel even once in their lives.

In fact, I’ll shock some of your more insular readers who rarely venture beyond the five boroughs and Miami Beach by stating that Bible-believing born-again Christians have considerably more love for the State of Israel than all too many yeshivish Jews – many of whom can’t even bring themselves to let the word “Israel” pass their lips, preferring instead the
more neutral and ambiguous “Eretz Yisrael.”

Dovid Kasmarsky
(Via E-Mail)

Reaction To ‘Passion’

As a faithful, conservative Roman Catholic, I wish to lend my support to Rebbetzin Jungreis’s recent remarks regarding the Mel Gibson passion play. I arrived at the theater expecting to have my faith strengthened and ended up repulsed by the cartoonish, classically anti-Semitic representation of certain among the Jewish leaders represented as seeking the execution of Jesus.

I have never been able to understand putative Christians who have anything but love for the Jewish people. My response to having seen the film one recent Sunday on 84th Street in
Manhattan was to walk up Broadway to Westside Judaica and purchase a primer of elementary Hebrew.

Andrew Hale
New York, NY

Yeshiva Finances

While the Orthodox community can breathe a collective sigh of relief over the decision by Federal prosecutors not to file charges against Rabbi Balkany, it is high time we confront a troubling fact: There have been too many scandals in our community where leadership figures have been implicated in questionable financial practices that were sanctioned on the pretext that it was necessary to do so to keep their institutions afloat. Although that may be true, it certainly does not make their actions right.

Compromising ethical values for the sake of perpetuating an institution corrodes the very foundation upon which these yeshivas are supposed to stand. We must emulate the grandfather of modern yeshivas, the Volozhiner Yeshiva, which closed its doors rather than
yield on its position on teaching secular studies. Ethical principles regarding financial matters are no different. The compromising of ethics on financial practices – however well intentioned – may make for a financially viable institution, but it cannot make for a viable yeshiva.

In this case, perhaps, we can breathe easier, but there have been far too many cases where we’ve had to swallow hard over news of some institutional scandal that has made its way into the tabloids. And even in this case, Rabbi Balkany has to make restitution of $700,000 – a tidy sum that, had it been used properly, would have been of great benefit to the community (a community that has enormous educational expenses).

Too many yeshivas have become the personal fiefdoms of one or several individuals who are not accountable to any effective oversight by an elected board or parent body. How many yeshivas seem to be stocked with faculty who are the friends or relatives of those who run them? An autocratic system without any accountability is bound to buttress those at the helm rather than support the good of the community. Questionable decisions are then made by a few, but the repercussions taint and embarrass us all.

It is time for us, as parents paying tuition with great sacrifice, to these yeshivas to demand more input into their administration and full disclosure as to who is getting what, where and when.

Shlomo Friedman
(Via E-Mail)

Talking Presidential Politics

Fringe Infects The Mainstream

Last week’s op-ed article by Dr. Mordecai Hacohen (‘Strength and Reliability: Why I Support
George W. Bush’) served as a perfect rejoinder to the silly letter from self-proclaimed ‘proud
Democrat’ Sylvia Brecher in the same issue. There is a strong and dangerous strain running through liberal thought these days – a strain that pooh-poohs the need to wage war on terrorists and holds that American foreign policy is responsible for the enmity of Islamic extremists and their Eurotrash enablers. It also treats President Bush – and just about any other Republican, for that matter – with a level of contempt and outright hatred that most liberals never lavished on Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden.

This kind of thinking may have originated on the far fringes of the Left, but it rapidly infected
more mainstream liberal circles once the immediate shock of 9/11 began to wear off. It’s a
strain detectable in the editorials of The New York Times and in the statements of John Kerry (as well as in the statements of most of Kerry’s vanquished Democratic primary opponents). That strain also runs through Ms. Brecher’s letter, and it is particularly foolish coming from any Jew who purports to care about Israel.

Marc Belfer
New York, NY

Proving Baker Right

I’m sure that reader Sylvia Brecher represents all too many of our assimilated, secularized American Jewish brethren (and sistren?) in expressing her contempt for the steadfast friend of Israel we are so fortunate to have in the White House right now.

Professional Democrats like Sheldon Silver may have no choice but to publicly boost their
party’s standard-bearer (not everyone is cut out to cross party lines, a la Dov Hikind, when the future and security of Israel are at stake), but I have no patience or understanding for any Jew who isn’t a professional Democratic politician and still turns his back on President George W. Bush. Unless that Jew is a doctrinaire liberal for whom Israel lags far down on the list of priorities, there’s no excuse for demonstrating such ingratitude to a man whose administration has been more pro-Israel than any of its predecessors.

Former secretary of state James Baker may or may not have made the infamous statement
attributed to him in the early 1990’s – “[Expletive deleted] the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway” – but election after election, Jews just go right on proving the remark’s veracity. If we do so again this year (especially if Kerry is elected president as a result of our shortsightedness), we’ll have no right to complain about the two parties taking us for granted. Why shouldn’t they, when everyone knows the Democrats have us tucked securely in their back pockets and the Republicans can never do enough for us to get our votes?

Moshe Feinman
(Via E-Mail)

Bush A True Friend

Since the days of FDR, Jews in the U.S. have had a knee-jerk inclination to vote for whomever is nominated by the Democratic party. We have been taken in by sweet words that have not been followed by deeds.

Former President Clinton was a favorite of Jewry; he entertained, spoke nicely, but what did
he do? He believed always in negotiation, in standing off to the side. David Halberstam notes in War in a Time of Peace that Clinton preferred to stand aside and not take a stand while the
residents of Kosovo perished. He waited for the rest of the world to take the lead. He never took a strong stand to make terrorist groups in Israel and elsewhere take notice. We saw increasingly aggressive postures taken by Iraq, Iran and North Korea in response to his joking attempts at persuasion.

And Clinton would have brought disaster upon Israel had Arafat accepted his attempt at
brokering a peace deal. Perhaps most embarrassingly, Clinton would have the U.S. take
some responsibility for the events of 9/11, as quoted by David Frum in The Right Man: ”Those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless.” The Democratic party is relativistic – everyone carries some blame.

The ways of Hashem often are not obvious. Consider the 2000 presidential election – a
‘butterfly’ ballot that changed probably 3,000 votes in the pivotal state of Florida, which Bush
carried by only several hundred votes.

Following the events of 9/11, Bush proved himself to be a president with vision, declaring war
against terrorism wherever it reared its ugly head. He is a president who leads, who stands up for what he believes in, who knows that Evil is Evil, that right is not relative, that terrorism is wrong and we must fight it. His is the first administration to shut down Muslim charitable organizations shown to support terrorism. He is the first U.S. president to publicly recognize Arafat’s link to terrorists and has kept his promise not to meet with him. He has said the Palestinians will have a state only when the terrorists are disarmed by their leadership. The world is safer with Saddam Hussein gone, and as a result of Bush’s tough stand, Libya and even Iran and North Korea are reexamining their policies.

Meanwhile, John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has said that he would like to
see former presidents Clinton and Carter involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Carter’s
opinion of President Bush: He’s too pro-Israel.

In President Bush – who, ironically, received more support from Arab-Americans than Jewish-Americans in 2000 – Jewry has a true friend. George W. Bush does it because it is right, not because it is popular or politically correct. He deserves our support as a man of principle. He is the right man now and for the next four years.

Paul J. Goodnick, MD
Highland Park, NJ

Orthodox And Anti-Bush

I welcome your publication of the anti-Bush letter to the editor from Sylvia Brecher. I happen
to be a Modern Orthodox Jew who opposes this administration’s regressive policies on the
economy, the environment, women’s and gay rights, and its wholly unnecessary war in Iraq with its enormous costs, financially and in lives lost.

Not all Orthodox Jews share The Jewish Press’s agenda of support for a reactionary
Republican administration and a hard-line, obstructionist Israeli government. Anyone who
cares about peace and justice should ask herself: Wouldn’t things be looking a whole brighter now if Al Gore were the American president and Amram Mitzna the Israeli prime minister? And won’t the chances for a peaceful resolution be increased immeasurably if John Kerry beats Bush this  November, followed soon thereafter by a Labor victory in Israel?

Who said Orthodox Jews have to support the Republican and Likud parties?

Marla Rubenstein
New York, NY

Still More On Rabbi Cohen And The Lower East Side

Critics Don’t Speak For Neighborhood

I would like to add my name to the list of Lower East Side residents embarrassed by the
recent attacks on Rabbi Simcha Cohen made in our community’s name. While Rabbi Cohen is obviously not easily bullied, it would be unfortunate if others were intimidated by the prospect of a letter-writing campaign every time they mentioned “eruv” and “Lower East Side” in the same sentence.

More unfortunate, though, is the way Rabbi Cohen’s critics have tried to distort what Rabbi
Cohen actually wrote in these pages into an attack on Rav Moshe Feinstein so that they could then attack him under cover of protecting a revered posek. In neither his initial article (Halachic Questions, Jewish Press, Feb. 6) nor in his response to Rabbi Romm’s subsequent criticism did Rabbi Cohen attack Rav Moshe or suggest that the Lower East Side should have an eruv. He simply took the position that there is ample authority for ruling that in a “bidi-eved” situation, where a child refuses to continue walking on a public street, one may pick up the child, and that therefore it is not permissible to criticize someone who does so in reliance on that authority.

While the existence of the Manhattan eruv was mentioned by Rabbi Cohen, it was offered only as a secondary basis for his conclusion. Rabbi Romm wrote to respectfully disagree, asserting the primacy and applicability of Rav Moshe’s rulings on the issue (Letters, Feb. 11), and Rabbi Cohen responded in kind (Letters, Feb. 19).

Others, however, took it upon themselves to attack Rabbi Cohen in a most disrespectful and
hostile way. Their attacks, while disguised as righteous defenses of Rav Moshe Feinstein and his honor, were clearly about something else. As Rabbi Romm has already noted, “many great and saintly poskim disputed and continue to dispute Rav Moshe’s halachic conclusion” relating to the possibility of an eruv in Manhattan. These disputes have not diminished Rav Moshe’s stature as a posek and could not conceivably do so.

And Rabbi Cohen did not even directly dispute Rav Moshe’s conclusions, only their
applicability in a particular circumstance (“[o]f interest is how HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, would rule concerning the crying child in the street on Shabbat”).

What must have really inflamed Rabbi Cohen’s critics is therefore not what he wrote, but
rather that he dared to write it using the Lower East Side as an illustration. Sadly, the message
from Mr. Jacob and Mr. Minzer (Letters, Feb. 25 and March 10) could not be clearer ? this is “our” neighborhood and ‘we’ get to decide what halachic issues are discussed and where and how and by whom. As Mr. Jacob so rudely put it, Rabbi Cohen should ‘do all the residents of the Lower East Side a favor and keep his halachic opinions to himself.’

Messrs. Jacob and Minzer are entitled to their opinions. To be clear, though, they do not speak for me and I know I am not alone on the Lower East Side in that regard. More importantly, I hope Rabbi Cohen does not mistakenly conclude from a few nasty letters that our entire neighborhood is equally hostile and disrespectful or uninterested in what he has to say. Rabbi Cohen was greeted warmly when he visited our community and that is the impression that should stay with him.

Dov Kleiner
New York, NY

Unfair Attacks

As reader Heshy Jacob felt compelled to respond when the Lower East Side was referred to
in Rabbi Cohen’s column, I too must respond when Mr. Jacob refers to California (Letters, Feb. 27).

I have been davening at Congregation Shaarei Tefila for the past 20 years and am currently president of the shul in which Rabbi Cohen was rav for 18 years. First of all, there is no question that Rabbi Cohen is a talmud chacham, which is why The Jewish Press has him writing a column on halacha. Second, during those 18 years, many rabbis visited our shul and Rabbi Cohen always treated them with the utmost kavod (and vice versa).

I have been to the Lower East Side only a few times and the impression that I had of the area was always the same – old. No, not the age of the people, but the buildings and the atmosphere. Now I can add old thinking to the mix. Mr. Jacob states in his letter that Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, prohibited an eruv more than 50 years ago. It seems that Mr. Jacob and the baalei bayit of the Lower East Side are still living in 1950. They probably believe that
women still love to stay home on Shabbos morning, changing diapers and waiting by the window for their husbands to return from shul so that they can serve them hot cholent.

I firmly believe that achdus was the last thing on Mr. Jacob’s mind when he wrote his letter. Do he and his fellow baalei bayit really believe that Rabbi Cohen would visit a shul and disrespect its members and above all disrespect Rav Moshe Feinstein? Rabbi Cohen was merely writing about a halachic issue based on an incident that he witnessed.

I suggest that the Lower East Side residents, instead of writing letters, put their efforts into
getting an eruv.

Richard H. Katz
President, Cong. Shaarei Tefila
Los Angeles, CA

Issues, Not Vendettas

I am astounded at the facility of certain people to misread halachic articles, provide their own perceptions and then publicly criticize authors for positions never articulated.

I wrote an article about a ”crying child on Shabbat in the street.” My concern was what to do
with this child. I was never asked nor did I presume to state whether the Lower East Side
should have or should not have an eruv. Accordingly, I found the recent letters to the editor
stating that I was going against HaGaon Rav Moshe, zt”l, to be nothing more than simple

To write that I took upon myself the concept of establishing an eruv on the Lower East Side is
false, insulting, and a sham of misleading logic. I was concerned with one question only – namely, the poor child crying in the street. I even questioned what HaGaon Rav Moshe’s position (bedi-eved) would have been regarding a child who, on Shabbat, refused to budge and was hysterically crying.

HaGaon Rav Moshe was a personal friend of my father, a”h. Never, ever would I impinge upon his kavod. Instead of a halachic dialogue based upon halachic principles, some Lower East Side residents presumed that the whole issue was an attempt to set up an eruv and, therefore, rose to the defense of the local gaon hador and left the child still crying in the street.

I am interested in halachic principles, not personal vendettas. I simply cannot understand
why some felt compelled to personally attack me for positions I never espoused. Lo zo derech
HaTorah. Divrei chachamim benachat nishna’im. Hopefully this will put an end to the clamor of
those who still falsely intimate that I wish to personally establish an eruv on the Lower East
Side. That is not my role, nor is it my goal. I relate to ”Halachic Questions,” as the title of my regular column states. I do not proclaim communal policy, nor do I understand the fear of debating halachic concepts.

Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
New York, NY

Warm And Neighborly

The Lower East Side Jewish community is thriving and united despite the recent controversy
about an eruv as recorded in your Letters section. As I don’t assume the qualifications to offer
halachic opinions, I offer my observations as a lifelong resident of the Lower East Side.

During the past decade, we have witnessed a heartwarming revitalization of this once legendary neighborhood. Lower East Siders reflect the wide spectrum that is the Jewish community – more religious, less religious and non-religious. For the most part, there is unquestioning unity and a terrific comfort level between all. People easily relate to their fellow Jews regardless of their level of observance.

I was surprised to read in last week’s Letters section of a reader who felt people would not offer a “Good Shabbos” greeting to him because he was pushing a baby stroller. That struck me as odd, as my experience has been that neighbors offer “Good Shabbos” or “Shabbat Shalom” greetings even to those returning from grocery shopping.

Certainly, it is not the norm for Lower East Siders to ignore their neighbors; I may only presume that the letter writer did not first offer his own greeting and others may not have realized he was Jewish. I know that my friends and I would certainly wish the baby-stroller family a “Good Shabbos” anytime we saw them.

William E. Rapfogel
New York, NY