Rather Lame Apology

It’s ironic that Dan Rather’s mea culpa concerning the forged memos has come amidst the aseret yemei teshuva. But when one considers Mr. Rather’s admission of guilt, one crucial component was strikingly absent – no apology was given to President Bush.

Halacha is unequivocal: anyone who wishes to repent after committing a sin against his fellow man must first seek forgiveness from the victim. This is brought down as an undisputed opinion in the Talmud and codified in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch. The concept is not just a Jewish ideal but a universal truism.

Mr. Rather’s display of contrition was carefully worded to salvage his journalistic integrity in the eyes of his ever-shrinking viewership. That he failed to recognize the wrong he committed against another human being leaves his apology far from adequate. Journalists at all levels of media must realize that their responsibility lies not only in feeding the public accurate information, but also in saving the subjects of their stories from the damage propagated by
fallacious accusations.

Mr. Rather closed his public apology with the forthright statement, “I want to say personally and directly, ‘I’m sorry.’ – But until he personally directs his apology to the president, his words will do very little to rectify the harm he has caused.

Yossi Azose
West Hempstead, NY

Dangerous Approach?

In her front-page essay ‘Forever in Awe’ (Sept. 17), Rachel Weiss cited a Rosh Hashanah machzor to support her contention that “Neither the guidance of Vice President Cheney nor the fervor of President Bush topples evil dictators in faraway lands. They but carry out the will of G-d.”

Couldn’t precisely the same logic be used to justify Hitler’s extermination of the Jews?

Notwithstanding her good intentions, Ms. Weiss’s approach to international relations strikes me as dangerous and, more than that, antithetical to the Jewish tradition as a whole which, as best as I can tell, accentuates the deeds of men over the (ultimately unknowable) will of God.

Much less morally ambiguous to me is the injunction of R. Abbahu to be “rather of the
persecuted than of the persecutors.” But perhaps he was a “left liberal” too?

Deborah Diamond
(Via E-Mail)

In Awe Of Ms. Weiss

I was thrilled to see the work of Rachel Weiss once again grace the front and back pages of The Jewish Press. Her beautiful article on Rosh Hashanah was appropriate, insightful and enlightening, as are all her articles on the yom tovim.

With words eloquent and deep, she described this holy day in a manner that made me proud to belong to such a great nation as Klal Yisrael. I would like to wish Ms. Weiss and her family a g’mar chasima tova. She is a true asset to The Jewish Press, and I am “Forever in Awe.” Keep the articles coming.

Rose Bernath
(Via E-Mail)

Dems Reward Bigotry

Re the pro-Kerry op-ed column by Richard Schwartz (The Case for Kerry, – Sept. 10):

There is an old parable about a horse who was told he’d be given a million dollars if he allowed his head to be chopped off. To this the horse replied, ‘If you cut off my head, what will I do with a million dollars?’

John Kerry and the Democrats honored Al Sharpton, the bigot best known for his role in the
Tawana Brawley hoax and the Crown Heights pogrom. What good is any of the items mentioned by Mr. Schwartz when stacked up against the rewarding of bigotry?

When Rudy Giuliani was mayor, he never recognized Sharpton. Giuliani is a true man of
principle. Kerry, in contrast, will do or say whatever he thinks is beneficial to his political career.

The Lercher Family
Brooklyn, NY

In Defense Of Bush

Richard Schwartz claims that President Bush’s positions are ‘inconsistent with basic Jewish values and interests.’ He starts off saying that Jews are partners with Hashem when it comes to taking care of the environment. But aren’t Kerry’s pro-choice and pro-gay rights positions more inconsistent with Torah values than Bush’s stance on the environment?

Professor Schwartz goes on to write that Judaism stresses that wise people consider the effect their actions will have on future generations, and that President Bush has ignored global climate changes that may pose future threats to humanity. But why should President Bush be bothered with something that may or may not come to pass hundreds or even thousands of years from now, when the threat of terrorism is so real in out own time. Perhaps we should take care of that threat first in order to ensure that there are future generations.

Professor Schwartz claims we converted universal support into unprecedented hatred and mistrust by invading Iraq. This point is easily refuted by the number of allies fighting with us.

Professor Schwartz also attacks the loss of jobs during the Bush presidency. But Bush inherited a recession that began while Clinton was still in office, and of course the 9/11 attacks delivered a further blow to the economy.

Toward the end of his piece, Professor Schwartz says the Democratic platform is extremely supportive of Israel. But in his acceptance speech at his party’s convention, Kerry did not even mention Israel. Bush, in his acceptance speech, referred to ‘our good friend Israel.’

The next time Professor Schwartz decides to write a political article he should check his facts first, so that a seventeen year old doesn’t have to correct him.

Rachel Diskind
Brooklyn, NY

Slandering The Settlers

In his Daily News column of September 19 (‘Under Fire’), Zev Chafets described Jews opposed to the withdrawal plan as “Al Qaeda in yarmulkes.” This strongly shook me because it crossed the line from constructive criticism to ignorant smear tactics.

He justified his claim by stating that these young settlers wish to “replace Israeli democracy with theocracy,” in the style of Al Qaeda. This is untrue. While the settlers certainly wish to see a Third Temple ultimately built and a theocratic society of kohanim ushered in, at this time their goals are not as lofty. Right now, their only realistic goal is that of saving their beloved homes from being demolished by Sharon and his undemocratic plan.

Most of the settlers I’ve met believe in democracy and don’t fit the media’s portrayal of violent,
uneducated brutes – the kind of stereotype Chafets and Sharon continue to promote.

Sergio Kadinsky
Forest Hills, NY

Open Letter To The Boro Park Jewish Community

As this is a time for introspection, I am asking you to think seriously about the following scenario.

You have a neighbor who lives a few doors down, whom you see occasionally. You don’t know his/her name but since he/she is an obvious landsman and lives on your block, you occasionally wave. You have never spoken to this individual and it is not likely you ever will, and you will most assuredly not have him/her over for a Shabbat meal.

What if I tell you that this individual was murdered by a thug right outside his/her home? Shot in cold blood with no justification? What would you do? I presume you would go to the police. You probably would organize a block watch. You would collectively offer a reward to catch the perpetrator. The rabbinical community would meet with politicians to discuss this tragedy. The lay leaders would strut in the street denouncing the violence. You would, as a community, attempt to locate any witnesses to this heinous crime.

I think all of the above are viable and logical approaches to take.


On August 30, 1999, a young man by the name of Gary (Gidone) Busch was shot dead in cold blood by the NYPD in Boro Park. He was, in fact, shot 12 times at close range. What did you do? What did the Boro Park Jewish community do?

We know what you did not do. You did not go to the police hierarchy. You did not organize a
block watch to see what could be done. You did not collectively offer money to the family to assist them through the expensive trial and hearings. The rabbinical community did not meet with politicians to discuss the tragedy. In fact, the rabbinical body thwarted any response by its own lack of response. The lay leaders did not strut in the street denouncing the violence. To add further insult to injury, witnesses either had to be subpoenaed or ran away to Lakewood. What happened to the Torah verse of ”Lo samod al dam rayecha”?

Gary (Gidone) Busch was murdered a number of times that day. First by the police, then again by a smear campaign, and lastly by the Jewish community of Boro Park which let him and his
family hang out to dry.

Well, I am done browbeating. I apologize if I have offended anyone.

As this is a month conducive to teshuva, G-d has given us another chance.

Last November, the police and the city were vindicated of any wrongdoing. But on September 9, only a couple of weeks ago, an honorable judge granted a new trial. In his words ”permitting the verdict to stand would result in a miscarriage of justice.”

This time, I hope the community does the right thing. I hope that instead of putting its
communal head in the sand, it stretches its neck to find ways to help the family and all who seek justice.

Rabbis, leaders, politicians, fellow Yidden: Gevald! A Yid was murdered. Don’t waste any
more time. Locate the witnesses and force them to testify. Let the police know that we are not stupid cattle. Go to the trial and make your presence felt. Organize a memorial for this man. Do what you can.

Finally, I believe the entire community owes the family an apology for the apathy that was
rampant. I would like to publicly thank Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Representative
Jerrold Nadler for doing the right thing.

In case you are curious as to the origin of my passion, I am the Busch family rabbi, and I have
lived with their pain close to my heart since Gidone’s murder.

A gut yor.

Rabbi Yackov Saacks
Dix Hills, NY

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