Misguided Endorsement

Your endorsement of George W. Bush for a second term is misguided.

Have you forgotten that from the beginning of 2001, the administration has taken a laissez faire position with regard to Israel? This exacerbated the tension of September 2000 when Sharon went to the wall and Arafat began his Intifada while the attention of the American public was focused on the election that November.

Now you endorse George W. Bush. Well, “W” is wrong. He is a theocrat who has no plan to address the central issues of Islamic violence other than to assert American influence in the region while doing nothing more than establishing laissez faire inattention – a de-facto result of his lack of a strategy to ensure security in Iraq.

Is this due to the guidance he receives from his higher power? We hold that America is built upon Judeo-Christian foundations. I do not see “Judeo” amongst the values that this president espouses.

Douglas Paul Mendel
Atlanta, GA

Fears Another Bush Term

If you want to endorse George Bush, that is certainly your right. But to distort John Kerry’s positions in doing so is beneath contempt. Furthermore, the religious right’s “love” of Israel has nothing to do with God’s promise to us, but what they see as their inheritance as “completed Jews.”

I am no less a Zionist than you. Very possibly more so. Yet I do not fear for Israel’s safety and security under a Kerry administration. I do fear for my personal safety, and liberties, under a continued Bush administration. Identity cards. Guilty until proven innocent. An attorney general who believes all non-saved are going to hell and has no problem imposing his religious beliefs on the country as a whole. Their version of the Ten Commandments in the schools and government buildings. Their “Sabbath” day kept holy. Their rules about termination of pregnancy made the law of the land, in direct contradiction of halacha.

You know what? It may be your right to endorse Bush, but that you would do so, and claim he is a better choice for Jews and for Israel, takes chutzpah to a new level.

Deborah Levinson
(Via E-Mail)

Bad Bush

Shame on you for endorsing George W. Bush. He is by no means a “friend to Israel” and has only served to further alienate it from the rest of the world. His foreign policies have directly contributed to the rise of anti-Semitism, and in turn, anti-Israel sentiments. He has failed to put the necessary pressure on the Israeli government needed for continuing the peace process. He has failed to curb Saudi support for Palestinian terror. His ultra-conservative domestic policies have gone against progressive Jewish ideology.

Dan J. Berger
New York, NY

Kerry Unfit For Presidency

Reader Richard Schwartz tries to convince us to view John Kerry through his eyes and support Kerry’s run for the presidency (Letters, Oct. 22).

“Bush misled us into a dangerous quagmire in Iraq,” he writes. Really? Mr. Schwartz, Saddam Hussein is safely quagmired in our prison and his sadistic, bloodthirsty sons are dead and no longer a threat to Israel or anyone else. The Iraqi people are liberated with an opportunity to build a free society. Beats me how you can interpret those important developments as Bush misleading us.

As for Mr. Schwartz’s concern for the increased cost of hiring additional police and other security forces, common sense tells us that the preferred solution is the aggressive pursuit and elimination of the terrorist menace. The nature of our enemies is one of total, uncivilized savagery, Mr. Schwartz – and like it or not, there is no other way to deal with them, whatever it costs. Fortunately, this president understands that and is dealing with it.

Mr. Schwartz does not mention any of Kerry’s accomplishments (because there aren’t any). Curious, isn’t it, how someone can favor a man of unproven, even doubtful, character and no accomplishments and trust him with the awesome task of the presidency.

Mr. Schwartz contents himself with issuing dire warnings that reelecting Bush will bring about the extinction of many species of wildlife, destroy the tropical rain forests, and pollute the water and soil, and any other absurdity he can imagine.

I recommend that Mr. Schwartz read (or read again) the Oct. 22 Jewish Press editorial endorsement of George Bush, and then carefully and seriously reconsider his position.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

Hated Because He Does Right

As a conservative Christian, I was so happy to see you supporting President Bush for reelection. You are right. John Kerry will not be a friend of Israel. He will also not be a friend of conservatives, particularly Christian evangelicals.

I hope all your readers will vote for President Bush. Never in American history has a president been so hated. You have to ask yourselves why. I’ll tell you why – it’s because he stands up for what is right and he supports Israel.

Deborah Porter
Worthington, OH

Kerry’s ‘Shatnez Jews’

In the 1930’s, Zeev Jabotinsky referred to socialist Zionists as ‘shatnez Jews.’ He correctly realized that the attempt to blend the two ideologies would, in the end, present a dilemma for the socialist Zionist, especially when the agenda of socialism clashed with the needs of Zionism. The socialist Zionist would have to make a decision as where his loyalty lay, and unfortunately the decision would not always be the interest of Zion.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. I was recently sitting at a Shabbat table with three other frum Jews. When the discussion turned to the upcoming election and I opined that we should vote for the candidate who is best for Israel, I was accused by one person of being a ‘one-issue voter.’ Another declared, “We are living in the United States; there are other issues.”

I take being called a ‘one-issue voter’ as a compliment. But the discussion made me think. Has Judaism and our practice of it become nothing more than mindless activity and hypocrisy? Do we now take the existence of Israel for granted?

For two thousand years we cried ‘Im lo aaleh et Yerushalayim al rosh simchati’ (If I do not raise up Jerusalem over my greatest joy…). Yet here were three religious Jews who put other agendas above Yerushalayim, and here I was, trying to convince them of the need to choose a candidate based on his backing of Israel. The fact that the overwhelming majority of Jews vote Democrat only makes Bush’s actions more commendable. Whatever happened to the mitzvah of hakarot hatov?

Jews readily understand when other minorities vote for their own agendas. Blacks who don’t vote the black agenda are called Uncle Toms; Jews understand that. Muslim- Americans are going to vote their agenda as ‘one-issue voters,’ and I can guarantee you their agenda is not ours.

The United States can survive four or even eight years with a bad president, but can Israel tolerate a hostile president in the White House? Why have many Jews placed affiliation to the Democratic Party above Yerushalayim? Unfortunately, shatnez Jews still exist.

Aaron Kinsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Duty To Support Bush

Back in August I had the opportunity to attend the Republican National Convention. I met numerous politicians including Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, and former Mayor Ed Koch. I wore my yarmulke and figured it would be a kiddush Hashem. I got more than I bargained for when Utah Senator Orrin Hatch came over to express his support for Israel and even showed me a mezuzah he wears around his neck.

At the Democratic convention there was barely a mention of Israel, or of Kerry’s plan for ‘peace.’ If John Kerry is elected president, Israel will lose a tremendous amount. Kerry has made it clear that he will not act internationally without the express consent of the United Nations.

This will be one of the most significant presidential elections in U.S. history. We as Jews must support Israel, and therefore it is our duty and responsibility to support George W. Bush.

Shmuel Ungar
Far Rockaway, NY

Liberal Thinking

I recently spoke with an old friend who is an ardent Zionist – albeit one who lives in the United States. He is a liberal Jewish Democrat and I am sure his thinking is a good barometer of what’s on the mind of other Jewish Democrats.

“So, for whom are you voting?” he asked me, an American who’s lived in Israel for 12 years. I thought the question was a little absurd.

“Bush of course.” I said.

“What!” was the answer I received followed by an expletive. I tried to explain over his protests but since it seemed to me that what I was saying was going in one ear and out the other, I put it in terms as simply as I could.

“George Bush has allowed us to fight the terrorists in the best way possible, by going after them on their own turf. Also, we’ve built a wall almost to completion, ending the daily attacks on our civilians. As a matter of fact, incidents of terror today are few and far between.”

“But Joe” he said, “Bush has destroyed any credibility as an even-handed arbiter and has allowed the destruction of the peace process by giving Sharon a free hand in the territories.”

Now I understood. Israel shouldn’t have carte blanche to do what it feels is necessary to protect its citizens from being slaughtered in cold blood – in the hope that the United States will gain the good graces of the Palestinians. It is a ridiculous argument, one I had heard many times before, though not from a fellow Jew. Most of the people who propagate this idea are European leftists who are no friends of Israel.

Think about the reasoning behind it. One man in history jumps to mind. Neville Chamberlain, prime minister of Great Britain, bargained away Czechoslovakia to Hitler thinking it would bring “peace in our time.” It didn’t. Have we learned nothing?

Joseph Yudin
(Via E-Mail)

Editor’s Note: Mr. Yudin is an occasional op-ed contributor to The Jewish Press.

Kerry’s Abortion Stance

Reader Moshe Resnick accuses John Kerry of straddling the fence on the abortion issue. (Letters, Oct. 22). On the one hand, says Mr. Resnick, Kerry is a practicing Catholic who believes that abortion is morally wrong. On the other hand, Kerry believes in legalized abortion, saying, “I can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn’t share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever.”

Mr. Resnick asserts that Kerry has forgotten about the commandment ‘Thou shalt not murder,’ and that he ignores the fact that the Ten Commandments were given to the Jewish people. Mr. Resnick thus assumes that Judaism considers abortion murder. Furthermore, he implies that a pro-choice public policy is inconsistent with Judaism. Finally, he believes that one cannot hold a personal moral opinion while simultaneously supporting public policy that conflicts with that opinion.

Mr. Resnick is wrong on all of these counts. Judaism does not categorize abortion as murder. While generally proscribing abortion, Jewish law is considerably more liberal than Catholicism on the matter. The fact that Judaism demands abortion in the case of danger to the mother’s life, while Catholic doctrine opposes abortion in that instance, should in itself lead Jewish anti-choicers to reconsider their position. However, halacha does not necessarily limit the right to abortion to such an extreme case. With the proviso that every case must be submitted to a competent Orthodox rabbi for consideration, I will cite two instances where leading rabbis permitted abortion absent a danger to the mother’s life.

Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, in his responsa work Tzitzis Eliezer, rules that if a fetus is ill with Tay-Sachs, abortion would be permitted even in the seventh month of pregnancy. In a much earlier ruling, Rabbi Yaakov Emden held that abortion might be allowed as late as the fifth month when the pregnancy resulted from an adulterous union. He reasoned that the adverse psychological impact that the birth would have had upon the mother was sufficient reason to permit an abortion.

In neither of these cases was the mother’s life in danger. It is quite evident that if abortion were tantamount to murder, one could not contemplate destroying a fetus afflicted with Tay-Sachs. The same is true of a fetus conceived by an act of adultery.

I believe that Jews would not be well-served if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Even within Judaism itself, there are many opinions. Do we want the government to tell us when abortion is permitted and when it is forbidden? Would Mr. Resnick risk the possibility that the Catholic view will hold sway, so that a Jewish woman needing a life-saving abortion would be unable to procure one legally? I am unwilling to take that risk.

In light of the above, John Kerry is absolutely correct in splitting his private beliefs from his public stance on abortion. Our moral laws are founded upon the principles of Judaism and Christianity, and where there is broad accord, we have the right to legislate based upon that consensus. For example, all major religious streams concur that theft is wrong, and it is proper to create laws that make theft illegal. However, there is no consensus when it comes to abortion, and we are best served by laws that leave this weighty decision to individuals, not to government.

Avi Goldstein
Far Rockaway, NY

U.T.J. And Gay Clergy: A Clarification

We were saddened by your negative editorial response to the position taken by the Union for Traditional Judaism on ending our support of a shul we had nurtured from inception (‘The Jewish Week and Homosexual Clergy,’ Oct. 8). The editorial quoted heavily from an article in the Jewish Week that had a definite subjective slant to it, and we’d like to respond to that article and your editorial.

Controversy was the last thing we wanted a week before Rosh Hashanah. But it was only then that the Union for Traditional Judaism learned secondhand that a congregation we had founded, funded, nurtured and guided had invited an outspoken advocate of homosexuality to occupy its High Holiday pulpit. We were stunned. For us, this was not a matter of gender issues. It was a question of fidelity to Jewish law. Had the congregation invited an activist on behalf of interfaith marriage or eating on Yom Kippur we would have been no less shocked.

We refer, of course, to the recent incident involving the Montauk Minyan in Brooklyn, New York that invited well known gay activist Rabbi Steven Greenberg, an Orthodox musmach, (ordained rabbi), to serve as guest rabbi for Rosh Hashanah.

The U.T.J. found itself propelled into a hapless quandary. Our desire to avoid embarrassing any individual or community was now in conflict with our responsibility to defend the integrity of Jewish law. Since the minyan did not feel it could rescind the invitation, it was with heartache that we dissolved the relationship we had lovingly created with them.

While some may charge that our decision was politically incorrect, we believe that it was true to Jewish tradition. We remained consistent in our loyalty to religious and moral integrity as well as ahavat Yisrael (love of our fellow Jews). As stated in the U.T.J.’s Declaration of Principles (see www.utj.org) “Both as it pertains to our relationship with God and to our relationship with others, halacha is binding upon us even when it conflicts with popular trends in contemporary society.”

We believe that all Jews, regardless of their personal lifestyles, should be welcome in synagogues to pray, learn, and come closer to God and Torah. Our issue with the Montauk Minyan was its choice of a rabbi who had publicly broken with halacha in print and on screen. We would have made the same decision had the rabbi they had chosen openly supported defying any Jewish law.

There are those who might argue that advocates of intermarriage or other ritual infractions are not the same as advocates of homosexuality in that the other religious breaches are matters of convenience, conviction or appetite, whereas homosexuality is genetically locked-in. They believe that some people are simply born gay and, accordingly, have no more choice in determining their sexual practice than they do in selecting their eye color.

Judaism would disagree. It recognizes that some people may be more strenuously challenged by certain kinds of impulses than are other people, but it believes that human beings are ultimately able to meet those challenges and control such drives (Genesis 4:7). No one underestimates the difficulty of doing so, but the Torah is based on the conviction that when it comes to behavior, God has invested us with the ability to choose (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Science concurs. Genetics do not fully explain homosexual drives. There are other contributing factors. Moreover, no evidence indicates that people with such impulses are less capable of controlling them than those with strong heterosexual drives who do not find a mate. It is a painful struggle. But no one has the right to declare the forbidden permitted and then expect to occupy a traditional pulpit. A person who falls short of keeping core Torah values may still be seen in the broader context of the good things he does, but he forfeits the privilege of speaking on behalf of halachic Judaism.

The U.T.J. did not seek a conflict over homosexuality and the pulpit. We would have preferred to handle this incident discreetly in order to limit embarrassment to anyone. But having been swept into a difficult set of circumstances, we have done the best we can and hope that all parties concerned will come to understand and respect our decision.

Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg, President
Rabbi Ronald D. Price, Executive Vice President
The Union for Traditional Judaism