Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, now exhale slowly… That was easy, wasn’t it? Not for everyone…
Upon reading in The Jewish Press (news story, March 19) that an anti-Semitic website is the first result one gets when typing in the word “jew” on Google, the Internet’s number one search engine, I contacted Google and basically got a run-around. I was told that in order for Google to rectify the problem, I would need some sort of petition with at least 50,000 names.
I’ve taken Google at its word and have set up an online petition for people to sign – at www.removejewwatch.com – and express their concern and disapproval. I hope the
readers of The Jewish Press will help us come closer to realizing our goal.
Steven M. Weinstock
I quote from the letter to the editor about yeshiva finances in the March 19 issue of The Jewish Press: “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.”
As a member of the hanhala of a major yeshiva in Brooklyn, I could not agree more. I believe there should be more disclosure – as to what parents are really sacrificing. How many of our parents are going to hotels for Pesach before paying up their full tuition? How much was spent on numerous vacations this winter? How many parents are spending more on one year for their children in Israel or on camps than they spent on four years’ high school tuition combined? How much has been spent for just the party planner for their son?s bar mitzvah?
Out of a school of a few hundred, not even a handful of parents called before Pesach to find out if there are any rebbeim or teachers who could use a little extra help for Pesach or just to pay up what is owed so the yeshiva can pay salaries before the yom tov.
Can you imagine that in the year 2004 there are yeshivas in Brooklyn that are two or three months behind on payroll? That means no check since December. Where is the full disclosure there? It is time for the community to recognize the tremendous efforts and dedication of the rebbeim and teachers who are educating our children – the future of Klal Yisrael.
Rabbi S. David
Tourist Dollars Better Spent In Israel
I read with great sadness the account of the thousands of Jews who recently traveled to Lizhensk, Poland (“Invasion of a Polish Shtetl,” March 26). While I appreciate the beauty and kavod of visiting the kever of the holy Rebbe Elimelech, I can’t help but wonder why these thousands of Jews didn’t instead visit the holiest of lands – Eretz Yisrael.
If they had gone to Israel they could have seen so many more inspirational sites, the resting places of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and, of course, the beautiful and holy city of Jerusalem. Is there any better place for our prayers to be said than at the foot of Har Habayit, the gateway to Heaven?
These thousands of visitors could have injected hundreds of thousands of badly-needed dollars into the Israeli economy. Instead, they visit Poland and put money into the hands of those who have tried to destroy our people.
Politics Trumps Unity
The 9/11 hearings in Washington are diverting attention from the ever-present danger of world terrorism and will not make America safer. Quite the contrary – the revelations are only exposing our vulnerabilities.
We don’t need politicians to tell us that the only way to protect ourselves from terrorists is to get them before they get us. Had we worked with Israel to eliminate the terrorists when they first appeared on the scene in the 1970’s, we would not now be at the brink of world conflagration.
The recent international condemnation of Israel for taking out a leading terrorist clearly demonstrates how far we are from winning this war. This is where our attention needs to be focused, and we should be rallying around President George W. Bush and against those who support our enemies.
Unfortunately, many of our leading politicians and their friends in the media have become so blinded by ambition and power that our survival as a nation is of no consequence. If we are to prevail over those who are bent on our destruction, we will have to unite under the only
leader who has demonstrated the fortitude to face this difficult challenge.
Removing Evil From The World
The killing of Sheikh Yassin has aroused controversy throughout the world. Many question why Israel would target an old man in a wheelchair. But the sheikh was far from innocent. He was directly involved in planning and sanctioning attacks against innocent civilians for many
years. But there is an even more nefarious side to Sheikh Yassin’s life that needs to be stated: In every religion, murder and suicide are two of the worst possible sins. Yet that is exactly what the suicide bomber does – he murders innocent civilians and kills himself in the process.
Even among the emotionally disturbed young men of Hamas, there had to have been some who had doubts, who asked themselves, “Is this really what God wants me to do?” Sheikh Yassin provided moral and spiritual legitimacy to these terrible deeds. He told these young people that they were performing a great mitzvah by blowing themselves up and killing innocents. He intentionally lied, promising them great heavenly reward for their terrible deeds. This in itself is adequate reason to have had him removed from the face of the earth.
Rabbi Yakov Lazaros
Payback Is Sweet
I believe that what we witnessed last week was an example of “midah k’neged midah” – or “what goes around comes around.”
Remember Leon Klinghoffer? He was the elderly, wheelchair-bound Jew who was murdered by the Palestinian hijackers of the Achille Lauro. Last week the Israelis took out the elderly, wheelchair- bound Palestinian Muslim who was the “spiritual leader” (read: chief terrorist)
of Hamas. My faith in Hashem has been strengthened.
Barry J. Koppel
Kew Gardens Hills, NY
Non-Jewish Melodies (I)
The outrageous denunciation by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser (Jewish Press, March 19) of melodies not written specifically for Orthodox Jewish purposes smacks of a medieval type of thinking that, unfortunately, characterizes much of today’s right-wing Orthodoxy. To imply that simple musical tunes – nothing more than a combination of musical notes – will in any way have a corrupting influence goes beyond any attempt at rational thinking. (Rabbi Goldwasser had previously gone so far as to state that secular melodies corrupt one’s neshama.)
Now, if he had denounced the often licentious and disgusting lyrics that some modern- day songs contain, I would certainly support his assertions. But instead he issued a blanket condemnation of all non-Jewish melodies, even if they have Orthodox Jewish themes and words as their lyrics.
Maybe Rabbi Goldwasser does not recall that the Lubavitcher Rebbe permitted his chassidim to make the French national anthem into a niggun. The Rebbe stated that by doing so one raises something that is not holy into the realm of holiness.
Anyone who finds himself spiritually corrupted by a secular melody alone – especially one that’s been made into an Orthodox Jewish song – is more likely to suffer from a mental illness than any spiritual threat.
Robert M. Solomon
Non-Jewish Melodies (II)
Rabbi Goldwasser may be a wonderful spiritual leader and a man of great midos, but apparently he’s not up on his history. Torah Jews have been appropriating non-Jewish
melodies for centuries. The melodies of many chassidishe niggunim were adopted from non-Jewish sources – the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Schneur Zalman of Liadi, did this with ‘Napoleon’s March’?; another Chabad favorite, “Niggun Shamil,” was written by an imprisoned Ukrainian peasant who longed for his homeland.
In addition, the melody of the beloved Chanukah song “Maoz Tzur” is actually based on the tune of several 16th-century German folksongs (“Ich weiss ein Meidlein huebsch und fein,” “Van oninck Maximilian,” and “So weiss ich eins”).
New York, NY
Is Modern Orthodoxy Authentic Judaism? Painting With A Broad Brush
Dr. Yaakov Stern (Letters, March 26) cites several examples of statements by individuals who
are identified with “Modern Orthodoxy” that may or certainly do not conform with halacha. He then makes the enormous and lamentable leap by stating, “Modern Orthodoxy is not Judaism.”
If someone would cite actions or statements made by some members of Mr. Stern’s community that violated halacha, would that person be justified in making a similar negative
generalization of that entire community? Obviously not.
I invite Dr. Stern to spend a day in our so-called Modern Orthodox kehilla on the Upper
West Side of Manhattan. He could start the day at 6:15 a.m. at our Daf Yomi group, followed by Shacharit. He could then follow any one of scores of members who then go out into the world to their respective professions and businesses and observe their conduct. At the end of the day I would challenge him to state that what he observed “is not Judaism.”
I would suggest that Dr. Stern, in his quest to improve halachic observance, begin with himself
and his family. He should then look toward his own community. And finally, when he observes
improprieties or inappropriate remarks elsewhere, he should address the issues themselves, rather then make a broad-brush condemnation of a hashkafa that constantly attempts to define itself within a halachic context while participating in the secular world.
The Netziv, in his introduction to Sefer Bereishit in the Haamek Davar, writes that the Bayit Sheni was destroyed because Torah scholars directed causeless hatred at those who conducted themselves in a manner different from themselves and branded them tzedukim or apikorsim (and all this l’shem shamayim). He contrasted that generation with the avot who always pursued ways of peace and maintained a positive stance. He cited Avraham, who prayed for Sodom; Yitzchak, who spoke kindly with Avimelech; and Yaakov, who
maintained relations with Lavan.
The Almighty k’viyachol cries when he sees the internal strife among his people. Let us hope
that, during this period of our celebrating the redemption from our Egyptian bondage, Dr. Stern ad those of like mind will find it within themselves to soften their hearts toward their fellow Jews and thereby bring about the final Redemption, may it be speedily and in our time.
New York, NY
Too Much Harshness, Too Little Balance
Dr. Yaakov Stern’s letter to the editor, which appeared under the heading “Too Much Modern, Too Little Orthodox” harshly criticizes Modern Orthodoxy. Indeed, Dr. Stern goes so far as to state, “I am now forced to conclude that Modern Orthodoxy is not Judaism.”
Such a blanket statement is, in my opinion, uncalled for and unsubstantiated. Furthermore, I
wonder why Dr. Stern has not turned his critical eye to the rest of the Orthodox world. Let us not kid ourselves – all is not well in the so-called right wing of the Orthodox community either. Here are just a few examples:
The Jewish Press has published a number of letters about people in Brooklyn who for whatever reasons do not greet their fellow Jews with a simple “Good Shabbos.” From time to time we read of this or that member of the right-wing Orthodox camp who is suspected of the misuse of government funds. Some of these people have even been convicted and had to serve time in jail. A former student of mine at Stevens Institute of Technology whose family is not observant once told me, “Every time my father has had business dealings with Orthodox Jews, he felt that they were trying to cheat him.”
We often see a tremendous emphasis on externalities with little concern for substance. The
other day a neighbor of mine was bemoaning what is going on nowadays regarding Pesach. He said, “There is nothing wrong with being machmir; however, one must make sure that one does not become a chamor as a result!”
There are real problems throughout the entire spectrum of the Orthodox world, and one should not single out a particular group and write them off. Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, once said to me, “There is a thin veneer of frumkeit, and underneath it is all rotten.” He was not talking just about Modern Orthodox Jews.
Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Stevens Institute of Technology
Dr. Stern’s Paradoxical Judaism
I fail to see why Dr. Stern should anticipate such a fury regarding his declaration that Modern
Orthodoxy is defunct and irrelevant. I, for one, am delighted that finally there is someone who can confidently tell us what is authentic Judaism; however, like the original Greek Oracle, Dr. Stern is a bit vague as to whom we should ostracize and dismiss for being Modern Orthodox. I wish he would clarify in greater detail who fits under that heretical label.
Should we shun those who support the East Side eruv and gay rights and not those who side
with either one? Or should we – taking our inspiration from Dr. Stern – entirely disassociate
ourselves from all those who describe themselves as Modern Orthodox? It is important to have more specificity, so we may know whom to grimace at and whom to greet joyously on Shabbos morning. I would not want to commit the error of being pleasant to one who is not one of “us.”
For example, I know some people who – bravely, I guess – refer to themselves as Modern
Orthodox but do not support the eruv or gay rights. They are university-educated and subscribe to the Torah Umada system similar to that of Yeshiva University.
They believe, like Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, that the outside world, with all its baleful
influences, inevitably permeates the Jewish people and should be frankly addressed, not ignored. They believe hat meeting the formidable challenges faced by Orthodox Jews sometimes requires creative solutions that would not have been acceptable a generation ago but are necessary now in order to have Orthodoxy thrive – remember, for example, that a rabbi speaking in the vernacular in shul was forbidden by many halachic decisors until the mid-19th century, and that until the 1920’s it was considered heretical for women to receive any
formal Torah education. Do we adopt a holier-than-thou attitude to them as well?
In fact, should we look down on all those who, like Dr. Stern, flaunt the opinion of numerous
rabbonim that entering the confines of a college is prohibited?
As Dr. Stern stated, “Orthodox” is indeed the wrong word to describe his Judaism. “Paradox” would be more accurate.
Dr. Stern is very dismissive of Modern Orthodoxy, characterizing the movement as “not
Judaism” and its members as “spiritually bankrupt.” This elitist attitude of knowing the only
(and presumably correct) interpretation of halachic law is, at best, insensitive to other Jews.
Dr. Stern’s divisive message is not only arrogant but hurtful. We Jews already have enough enemies – why add other Jews to the list? I suggest that Dr. Stern redirect his energies to a
Joseph Shapiro, M.D.
Huntington Beach, CA
Judging Many On Actions Of Few
How amusing to read that Dr. Stern has seen fit to excommunicate Modern Orthodoxy from
Judaism because of some recent untoward opinions put forth by several letter writers. He surely cannot believe that they are representative of the community any more than I can believe that the spate of instances of chillul Hashem caused by the parade of “Torah Jews” being charged with white-collar crimes is representative of the haredi world – 99-plus percent of which lives l’shem u’letiferet.
Forest Hills, NY
Christian Zionist Pastors Visit Israel
On March 11, I left for Israel along with 38 other Baptist pastors and retired brig. Gen. Heinie
Aderholt. We returned on March 19. I had called a friend of mine and asked him to provide the money to pay these gentlemen’s way to Israel. Why? I wanted to influence them to get in the corner of Israel. He did! We went!
We didn’t take your typical “Christian-Zionist” trip, which is to go visit the “sights important to Christians” – although we did see some of them.
In Samaria at Peduel we visited Jakob Felman, a settler. We listened to his account. We
visited professor Yisrael Hanukoglu at the Judea-Samaria College in Ariel. We stopped at the
museum of Katzrin. We saw the movie “Gamla Shall Not Fall Again.” We toured the talmudic
excavations at the Katzrin archeological park.
We also visited Rabbi Shugarman at Yeshivat HaGolan. He spoke to us and we took up a fairly good offering for his yeshiva.
Some of our pastors got a bit antsy about going to Hebron. They were worried. Their wives
back home were concerned for their safety. Their church people were concerned for their safety. What did I do? I chewed them out. I told them, “Everyone has to die somewhere. I have prayed for God’s protection for all of us on this trip. I believe that God can protect us. But if it’s God’s plan that I die in Hebron, I hope He’ll let me do it with my hands on a Palestinian.” None chickened out. They all went.
We arrived in Hebron in an armor-plated bus. We saw the settlements. We saw the angry
Palestinians. We visited with Simcha Hochberg and viewed the bullet holes in his house. We took up a good offering there for Simcha and his family. We saw the Jewish quarter in Hebron and visited the Cave of the Patriarchs.
We went to Gush Katif in Gaza, where we saw the Kfar Darom Institute of the Torah. Dror
Vanunu, a settler leader, briefed us. We heard the settlers’ humble stories of courage.
We went to a Merkava tank unit and visited with the young crew. We sang to them. Utilizing
my military background, I explained the attributes of the Merkava to my fellow preachers. The crew wanted me to come up on the tank to be photographed with them. I did. They put on a show for us with the tank – a mighty impressive show, I might add.
We also visited Netzer Hazani, where Dr. Anita Tucker, who made aliyah from America,
briefed us on hothouse technology. What a stirring time we had. That was on the video we showed members of our church when we returned home.
We were briefed on security matters by Ami Shaked, the security officer of the Katif Council.
My, oh my, what a challenge it is for these dear Jews just to live in Gush Katif.
All together we made 23 hours of video. We are making copies for all 38 pastors who went
along. Most of them are already planning to make trips to Israel with their churches. They will tour the sites. They will visit the settlements. They will encourage the people there. We are doing our part to help the dear Jews of Israel.
Why am I writing all this? Because I want to encourage every American Jew I can to write to
Prime Minister Sharon (firstname.lastname@example.org) to tell him not to withdraw one inch from the settlements in Gaza or anywhere else. That land belongs to the Jews. God gave it to you. To withdraw is to bring on defeat. It will only whet the mad-dog appetite of Arafat and his ilk.
Tell Sharon that your Christian-Zionist yedids in America – some 40 million voters – would
applaud his giving a six-hour notice for all women and children to leave Ramallah, and then dropping a missile on Arafat’s murderous head. The BBC, CNN, and whoever else sides with the Palestinians would have a fit. The UN and the European Union would go ballistic. So what? The blood of many Americans and more Israelis is on his hands. He is no better than the late blind sheikh in Gaza. He is no better than Osama bin Laden.
I am an American. I am a man. I am a veteran. I am a Christian. Yes, God loves all people
– Jews, Arabs, those of us who call ourselves gentiles. I, too, love all people – Jews as well as
Arabs. But I’m not going to stick my head in the sand on this issue. Someone will say, Pastor
Vineyard, there are two sides to the Palestinian-Jewish conflict. Yes, I know there are.
I just happen to be on the right side.
Jim Vineyard, Pastor
Windsor Hills Baptist Church
Oklahoma City, OK
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