The Much Appreciated Dr. Adelson

I know it’s rather late, but I just found out that your columnist Dr. Howard L. Adelson, who was my professor at City University of New York, passed away last year.

I am an American Indian and a Christian who loves Israel. Dr. Adelson made himself available to set me straight (graciously) on Jewish culture and beliefs. He was always available to discuss issues facing Israel and Jews around the world. I really appreciated his wisdom and tried to stay in contact with him over the years. I gave him a World War I Bible from England as a “thank you” for all the time and encouragement he gave me. I now hold an M.A. in Religion (specializing on Old Testament and Native American early tradition).

Dr. Adelson was a decent human being who loved his people very much. He was a wonderful ambassador for Israel. It grieves me that he is no longer with us.

Shalom, Howard.

Robert W. Felix
Serials Coordinator
EBSCO Publishing
Ipswich, MA

The Very Embarrassing Edgar Bronfman

Edgar Bronfman’s appointment of a “proud” homosexual, Stephen Herbits, as the top administrator of the World Jewish Congress is an absolute disgrace to the people that organization is supposed to represent (“Edgar Bronfman and the Elevation of Stephen Herbits,” editorial, Dec. 31). If his hope is that this “will create a lot of conversation on the part of thinking Jews, about what we’re not doing which we should be doing,” as he stated with regard to his ridiculous push for intermarriage, he’s a little late.

Over the years, there have been many “conversations on the part of thinking” Jewish scholars and rabbis, and they all came to the same conclusion – homosexuality is condemned by the Torah in no uncertain terms. It is no different from incest or any other act considered immoral by the Torah. Neither Bronfman nor any other “thinking” Jew has the authority to change this.

That someone with Bronfman’s convictions can rise to the top of a Jewish organization, to, of all things, encourage the dissolution of Jewish laws and promote a lifestyle antithetical to Jewish teachings, is nothing short of an embarrassment. Somehow, I don’t think this is the spirit in which the Bible mandated that we be a “light onto the nations.” The nations do not need us to show them how to organize gay parades and lesbian luaus. And we have no need Jewish “leaders” who have no knowledge, affinity or respect for our culture and traditions.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Money Better Spent

In their column Im Yirtzeh Hashem By You, C.S. Yisraeli and L. Cohen write of their support for the Star-K’s recently launched program that will pay a $2,000 bounty to anyone who successfully arranges a shidduch for a woman in the Baltimore community over the age of 22 years and 2 months.

On the one hand, we should applaud the Star-K for taking action and trying to alleviate the shidduch crisis. Too many individuals and organizations talk about the problem of Jewish singles; it’s gratifying to see an organization that’s willing to spend a significant amount of money in a tangible way to help create more shidduchim.

I think, however, that the program is flawed for a couple of reasons:

1) The difficulty, if not impossibility, of managing it. The rules concerning eligibility and who actually is the shadchan are hard to prove and fraught with problems. And paying someone $2,000 for arranging a marriage encourages those people who may not have met through a shadchan to look for a phantom shadchan after the fact in order to collect the reward. Other means of deception are also possible, with few controls built in to identify who is actually telling the truth. I think the Star-K will find that maintaining kashrus standards is easy compared to the monitoring that will be required for this program.

2) The shadchan industry is already unregulated and replete with horror stories, making it difficult for the many honest and reliable shadchanim to do their job. Paying a shadchan an extra $2,000 for setting up a marriage will create even more unqualified shadchanim who are not sensitive to the personal needs and confidentiality requirements of singles. While we certainly need to focus on increasing the number of successful marriages, we also need to make sure that shadchanim assist singles in a caring and professional manner, without just the end goal in mind.

Perhaps a better way for the Star-K to spend its money is to create quality programs for singles at shuls and yeshivas. Admission would be free, since the costs would be covered by the Star-K. This way, thousands of young men and women of marriageable age could meet and mingle in a normal, healthy, and halachically acceptable environment. I strongly believe that these programs, if run properly and encouraged by our rabbis, would create many more successful shidduchim than the Star-K’s current program – without any of the associated problems.

Michael Feldstein
Stamford, CT

Literal Or Allegorical?

The interesting article “Chana and Her Seven Sons” (Dec. 10), concerning the reputed burial place of the famous woman whose seven children died rather than bow to an idol, contains assertions that are open to question.

Writer Chana Katz states: “According to Tractate Gittin, Antiochus asked each son to bow down to avoda zara (idol worship).” Actually, the sourced Gemara (Gittin 57b) makes no mention of Antiochus; rather, it mentions a caesar, and the context clearly ascribes the story to the era of the destruction of the Second Temple. Other sources that record the story also place it during the first century of the Common Era, 200 years after the Chanukah miracle occurred. In Eliyahu Rabbah, the villain of the piece is the Emperor Hadrian.

It is true that in the Book of the Maccabees II the wicked king is Antiochus (although the story there has the family refusing to eat swine rather than refusing to bow to an idol). Nonetheless, the more authoritative Talmudic version calls into question the suggestion by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh that “perhaps the story of Chana and her sons who refused to bow to Antiochus is the very basis” of Chanukah. (In any event, his suggestion is quite radical; the reasons for Chanukah are quite clearly stated in Jewish law.)

Moreover, the Talmud does not record the name of the mother. The Midrash Eichah says that her name was Miriam, daughter of Tanchum. The appellation “Chana” was attached to her only in medieval times, an apparent reference to Chana, mother of the Prophet Shmuel, who is the paradigm of a woman longing for children. (See Encyclopedia Judaica under the entry “Hannah and Her Seven Sons,” which notes the association with the verse in I Samuel 2:5: “the barren woman has borne seven, and she who has many sons has become wretched.”

As with many stories cited by our Sages, it is hard to know where literal truth ends and allegory begins. It is not unreasonable to suggest that this tragic story, rather than being a literal retelling, is meant to invoke the countless times Jews have sacrificed themselves for the sake of God.

Avi Goldstein
Far Rockaway, NY

Our Uncle Tom

In his New York Times column of Dec. 16, Thomas L. Friedman lamented the Bush administration’s rejection of the third Arab Human Development Report, which contained a critique by Arab economists, social scientists and other scholars of Arab governments on the lagging state of governance in the Arab world. Mr. Friedman was so disturbed by the administration’s decision that he exclaimed, “It makes you weep.”

It makes him weep?! What makes me weep is the carnage being perpetrated by suicide bombers in the name of Islam. It makes me weep that the primary reason Arab governments criticize the United States is because the U.S. supports the only democracy in the Middle East.

Mr. Friedman lauds the report for “tackling the supersensitive issue of how Islam and its current spiritual leaders may be holding back modern education.”

Modern education? Is this the problem? What about the fact that they indoctrinate in their children hatred of Jews as well as America because of its support of Israel? It makes me weep that they refuse to change an educational system that produces hate-filled suicide bombers.

Such documents are not only meaningless but counter-productive. There is no reforming an Arab government without eliminating the radical and irrational hatred being taught at every age and every level to Islamic students. Is a more modern form of government the goal even if it continues to preach virulent hatred? I think not. And the Bush administration knows that, thank God.

It makes me weep, though, that Mr. Friedman doesn’t seem to realize it.

Rabbi Harry Maryles
Chicago, IL

PETA’s Position

We at PETA agree with Rabbi Menachem Genack that shechita, done correctly, is less cruel than other slaughter methods in the U.S. (“Setting the Record Straight on Kosher Slaughter,” op-ed, Dec. 31). This is precisely our point in stating that what was happening at AgriProcessors, for years, is not properly conducted shechita, as is clear to anyone who reviews our investigation documents and video.

To echo the words of Rabbi Barry Schwartz of the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Task Force on Kashrut, “The suffering of these animals during slaughter is sickening. Death is neither quick nor merciful. If this is kosher, then we have a big problem.”

Over the seven weeks that our investigator worked at AgriProcessors, one-quarter of the animals in our sample were still conscious after they were dumped from the restraint, roughly one minute after their throats were cut. Extrapolated to the 18,000 animals killed during this time, any statistician will tell you that thousands of AgriProcessors’ animals during this brief period suffered the same fate.

AgriProcessors has not been able to find one scientist, animal welfare expert, or veterinarian willing to defend the shoddy slaughter practices we documented. To reiterate: One hundred percent of animal welfare scientists, veterinarians, and animal welfare experts who have reviewed this investigation have condemned AgriProcessors for cruelty.

As just two examples: Dr. Temple Grandin, consultant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Meat Institute, stated, “[I]t was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen.” Dr. Lester Friedlander, a former USDA kosher slaughter inspector, wrote, “The footage captured by PETA represents the most egregious violation of the USDA Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) I have ever witnessed.”

A growing number of rabbis are also weighing in, including the president of the Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, who wrote, “When a company purporting to be kosher violates the prohibition against tza’ar ba’alei hayyim, causing pain to one of God’s living creatures, that company must answer to the Jewish community, and ultimately, to God.”

Yes, AgriProcessors has made some improvements. We are encouraged by these changes. However, they only prove our claim: AgriProcessors can do shechita correctly, but chose not to.

In order to ensure that AgriProcessors and other OU and KAJ certified plants are operating at the laudable levels of commitment of these organization, comprehensive and publicly available guidelines should be implemented and enforced. Working with scientists, rather than against them, seems the wisest course for any person or organization dedicated to ensuring the kindest treatment possible.

We encourage readers to learn more about our investigation, watch the video, and read our full replies to AgriProcessors and the OU at our website, For information on Judaism and vegetarianism, please visit the website run by the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, at

Benjamin Goldsmith
Campaign Coordinator
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, VA