Return To Cafe Hillel

After sitting shiva for my brother, Dr. David Applebaum, my family and I returned twice to the very spot where he and his daughter were blown up by a suicide bomber in Cafe Hillel. With tears in our eyes we lit two yahrzeit candles.

Within three months we again visited Cafe Hillel, this time on the occasion of its grand reopening. The place was packed wall to wall; it was as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened.

When my family entered the cafe, we asked to speak to the manager, and I explained who we were. They couldn’t have been nicer, told us how sorry they were, and gave us dessert on the house.

Some people may wonder why go back to Cafe Hillel after my brother and my niece were killed there. I want to show the terrorists that I am not afraid. I enjoy sitting in cafes and restaurants with family and friends; besides, that?s what my brother would want us to do – and enjoy doing it.

Geela Applebaum Gordon

Tears For AHeart Unhinged

Re: ‘My Heart Unhinged’ by Robert J. Avrech (front-page essay, July 16):

As I write this, I have not stopped crying. I cry in sympathy for the Avrechs and in gratitude that my 29-year-old (Yeshivah of Flatbush grad) son was blessed to recover from his open heart surgery at three years of age.

I pray that Hashem gives the Avrechs comfort and strength and that they continue to bless their Ariel’s memory with their openness and mitzvot. I, thank G-d, cannot imagine the grief that the Avrech family feels but my heart cries out for them and my prayers are with them.

Mary Ann Shakarchi
Brooklyn, NY

Tears (II)

Thank you for the beautifully written, haunting cover essay by Robert Avrech. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had tears in my eyes as first I read the article – and again when I read it a second time a day later. My heart goes out to the Avrech family, and I hope that the emunah that comes through Mr. Avrech’s writing will be strong enough to overcome any feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Michael Alexander
New York, NY

Palestinian Idea Of Democracy

If the proposed Palestinian state is to be democratic, why do Palestinian leaders insist on expelling Jewish settlers? A real democracy does not expel people on account of ethnicity or nationality, but welcomes all. A real democracy does not demolish homes of peaceful families, it gives them rights and protection under the law.

If Arabs can participate in the Knesset, why can’t Jews participate in a future Palestinian parliament? How can you have a real democracy in Palestine when the Palestinians propose want a population of zero Jews? We taught them democracy, gave them jobs, roads, schools – and now we are being betrayed in a most undemocratic manner.

Sergio Kadinsky,
Forest Hills, NY

Fence Is Not Enough

The Israeli security fence, though helpful in the short-term, is not enough. Allowed to operate in freedom anywhere in the world, let alone on the other side of a fence, terrorists will figure out ways to perpetrate their horrendous acts despite passive defensive measures.

The Bush Administration has largely understood that it is necessary to destroy the regimes that support terrorism, not just selectively target individual terrorists (as Israel has done). But despite President Bush’s refusal to deal with Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat, U.S. officials continue to view the PA as a legitimate body, albeit one that is not always sufficiently vigorous in its efforts against terrorism.

The refusal of the U.S. to treat the PA as the terrorist organization it is detracts from the overall U.S. effort against terrorism. What is more puzzling is the refusal of Israel itself to focus on the PA as a terrorist entity. Instead, Israel contents itself with isolating Arafat while pretending that the rest of the PA is a viable future peace partner, if only it would shake off its leader.

The Oslo Accords have established a terrorist entity on Israel’s borders. The longer Israel denies that reality, the more Israelis will be massacred and the longer it will take to reach a true peace. In the meantime, Israel can expect little international sympathy for its fence as long as Israeli leaders continue to maintain that the defensive measures they take are against mere terrorist gangs – rather than against a sustained terror war conducted by their neighbor.

Aharon J. Friedman
Brooklyn, NY

The Whole Story

In the West Coast section in your July 2 issue, it was mentioned that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines brochures contained information about kosher food certified under the OU. Your correspondent further stated that the food in fact is not certified by the OU.

That is not, however, the whole story. Yes, the statement was correct about the food not being certified by the OU – but it is certified by the Star-K of Baltimore. By omitting this information, you may have caused readers to believe that the kosher food offered by Royal Caribbean is not really kosher.

As an Orthodox newspaper, it is important for you to be sensitive to such matters, whether it be about cruise line food or kosher restaurants.

Seymour Litwin
Beverly Hills, CA

July 4, 1776

Not to take anything away from Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz’s trenchant critique of the slippery slope from colonial American liberty to modern American license (op-ed, July 2, ‘Why Was The Vilna Gaon Fasting on July 4, 1776?’), but some clarification is needed. Accuracy and emes are important virtues, too.

While it would appear that there is a confluence of dates at work here (17 Tammuz and July 4), in fact this may not be so.

The Gregorian calendar, which added some 10 days to dates throughout the British Empire when adopted in the mid-18th century, was put into effect at different times in different places. Best known, perhaps is the fact that Russia converted to this system only after World War I, which is why the October Revolution actually took place in November. Less known is the fact that Britain was well behind the curve, with some European states, notably the Italian provinces, adopting that calendar nearly two centuries earlier.

Now, although Poland, along with those Italian provinces mentioned above, adopted the new system in 1585 – i.e., well before the time of the Gaon – it is unclear whether Lita did the same. The fact remains that Lithuania, not always independent, was part of several different states in its history, some of which did not adopt that calendar until long after the Gaon lived. Officially, at least, Lithuania and other Baltic states did not take on the new calendar until the period between 1915 and 1918.

This makes it very likely that the equivalent secular date in Lithuania on 17 Tammuz 5536 (America’s July 4, 1776) was, in Lithuania, a date in late June 1776.

Again, this does not detract from Rabbi Seplowitz’s thesis, which used the dates as a springboard. But readers should be cognizant of the difference between pshat (plain meaning) and remez (allusion) in divrei Torah.

Myron B. Chaitovsky
Teaneck, NJ

Rabbi Seplowitz responds: Mr. Chaitovsky may very well be correct that “17 Tammuz 5536 (America’s July 4, 1776) was, in Lithuania, a date in late June 1776.” However, that is not relevant to my point. My point was that the Declaration of Independence was adopted in Philadelphia on a day when Jews throughout the world, from Vilna to Pressburg to Baghdad to Jerusalem, were fasting.

The Jewish calendar is universally consistent. (The last major calendar debate, Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon vs. Rabbi Aharon ben Meir, took place over a thousand years ago. At that time, their argument led to a two-day discrepancy as to when Rosh Hashanah, etc. came out.) With the obvious exception of time zone differences and the halachic monkey wrench known as the International Dateline, the entire Jewish world commemorates all holidays and fasts at the same time. Jews in every country have the same Rosh Hashanah, the same Yom Kippur, and the same 17th of Tammuz.

On 17 Tammuz 5536, Jews throughout the world were fasting. Whether they lived in Philadelphia, Vilna, or Beijing, they all fasted that day. Another thing that happened that day is that the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia adopted the Declaration of Independence. That day, the local calendar in Philadelphia, London, and Rome read: “July 4.” The local calendar in Vilna, on that same day, may have read: “June 23.”

Philadelphia called 17 Tammuz “July 4.” Vilna called 17 Tammuz “June 23.” It was the same day.

Responding To WOW’s Critics

I was disappointed but not surprised to read the three letters published last week in response to my report (Letters, July 2) about sinat chinam at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. All three seemed to share an unfortunate common denominator: that bad behavior is excusable and even encouraged in the service of certain goals, dubious though they may be.

Regarding Arthur Greebler’s letter: One wonders what he would have said of Sarah Schenirer and the Bais Ya’akov movement, which encountered a great deal of opposition in their time but are taken for granted today as sterling examples of frumkeit. I suggest he study the halachic literature on women’s tefillah groups, which contains a great deal of research and food for thought. Once he has done so, perhaps he will be moved to ask pertinent questions. As it is, his innuendoes about the marital status, prayer habits and private domestic arrangements of members of Women of the Wall are plainly meant not as respectful inquiry but as insult and offense, to which the only appropriate response can be: For shame, sir. How dare you?!

Devora Papelow and Naomi Zupnik raise the possibility that the women who rioted at the Kotel were acting like Pinchas, who is known for the zeal with which he killed a member of Klal Yisrael who acted in a blatantly improper manner. Do they then believe that the members of Women of the Wall deserve a similar fate for praying in a manner that has halachic support, even if they disagree with specific opinions? I would point out to them that the behavior of the women who rioted at the Kotel was characteristic not of mature women but of unruly kindergarten pupils, and the hatred in their eyes was unmistakable. I have seen eight-year-old girls protest with more eloquence and better manners, while the behavior of these women completely lacked the modesty and refinement Jewish women are supposed to exemplify.

Finally, Shira Leibowitz Schmidt’s letter conveniently fails to mention her role in instigating the disturbance. One would think that such a well-educated woman has better things to do with her energies than to waste them on an ill-conceived, unhealthy obsession – whether her own or others’ – about Women of the Wall.

Regrettably, it appears that far too many members of Klal Yisrael are willing to countenance all sorts of bad behavior in order to attain a given goal – in this case, preventing Jewish women from praying as a group and reading Torah at our holiest accessible site. It saddens me that otherwise educated Jews are so narrow-minded and fearful regarding women’s tefillah. I thank the Holy One that Jewish law rises far above such pettiness, and I wish all of us the intellectual honesty to distinguish between personal emotion and halacha.

Rahel Jaskow
(Via E-Mail)