Whatever Happened To Modesty?

I do not understand what is going on with klal Yisrael. Every few weeks we hear of a new tumult – about Indian hair, bugs in the water, kohanim being on certain roads where there are cemeteries, etc.

Why don’t we hear any tumult about tznius? I walk the streets of Brooklyn every day, I go shopping in Brooklyn stores, and I am sorry to say that the lack of tznius is horrible. Women who are careless about skirt and sleeve lengths; women who favor outfits that are obviously too tight; women who don’t sit tzniusdik in front of other people, especially men; men who openly flirt with married women. Again, why no tumult over this horrible epidemic?

B. Adler
(Via E-Mail)

What Balfour Said

In “Facing Up To Painful Reality” (op-ed, Dec. 24), George Topas claims that “The Balfour Declaration of 1917 recognized the whole of Palestine as a designated ‘National Homeland’ for the Jewish People.”

This would seem to be as contradictory to the facts as could possibly be. The following is the relevant part of the declaration:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

A national home in Palestine, not in the whole of Palestine as Mr Topas wishes us to believe.

Zeev Raphael
Haifa, Israel

Mothers And The Courts

As the co-writer of Dr. Amy Neustein’s From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running From the Family Courts – and What Can Be Done About It, I was gratified to see her article in The Jewish Press (“From ‘Childless Mother’ To Family Court Reformer: My Story,” Jan. 7). It was researching and writing about Dr. Neustein’s personal story that first made me aware of the severity of the problems facing mothers who bring child abuse charges into today’s family courts.

Dr. Neustein and I have studied thousands of cases in which the courts penalized mothers for making such accusations. We hope our book will begin to change the system. But it’s already an important milestone when Dr. Neustein’s story appears in a paper like yours. Thank you.

Michael Lesher, Esq.
(Via E-Mail)

Implications Of Peres’s Return

Re: The Return of Shimon Peres (op-ed, Jan. 7):

I agree with Scott Johnson’s condemnation of the Likud for uniting with Labor in a coalition that will return Shimon Peres to a position of power. I feel compelled, however, to register my disappointment with the understated outrage inherent in his closing sentence: “Sharon’s reliance on Peres to retain power and implement his plan provides powerful evidence that something is sorely amiss here.”

You bet it is! That “something” needs to be exposed and broadcast and amplified and hammered home until everybody gets it. This is not a mere political blunder or bad judgment. This is a nasty and destructive perversion of justice motivated by self-interest. Mr. Johnson said it himself: “The country has never had a public accounting for the utter disaster that was Oslo.” That “disaster” translates into very many Jewish lives lost, families wrecked and peace and tranquility destroyed for the whole country. That “something” is criminal negligence of the highest order.

If the Israeli political power brokers cannot see through Peres and remove him themselves, there is nothing anyone here can say that will divert the impending disaster (chas v’shalom).

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

‘Vapid Pseudo-Religion’

Kudos to Steven Plaut for his hard-hitting article on the hypocrisy of the Reform movement, which is so quick to condemn even the slightest influence or activism on the part of religious conservatives, but at the same time works so hard to press its own liberal agenda on the country (“Religious Coercion, Reform Style,” front-page essay, Dec. 31).

As someone who was raised in a Reform environment, I can personally testify to the liberal activism of Reform rabbis; I must have sat through hundreds of sermons in the 1970’s and 80’s on such burning “Jewish” issues as gay rights, the nuclear freeze, the evils of Ronald Reagan, the suffering of the Palestinians, the greatness of Bill Clinton, the wonders of feminism, blah blah blah.

What was missing was even a hint of spirituality; of an omnipotent Creator who revealed himself to the Nation of Israel; of the countless miracles and mysteries of God’s creation; indeed, of God Himself. If this was “religion” I wanted none of it, and countless others raised Reform felt the same way; the more fortunate among us found our way to Torah Judaism or at least remained committed to the Jewish people by maintaining some level of observance and refusing to marry out. Too many of us, unfortunately, turned our backs entirely on the vapid pseudo-religion of Reform “Judaism” in which we were raised.

Gedalia Waks
(Via E-Mail)

Working Mothers

Re Cheryl Kupfer’s interesting Dec. 31 column “Who’s Watching the Kids?”:

While I share the concern of Ms. Kupfer’s friend Sarah about babysitting choices for working mothers, I wholeheartedly disagree with her assessment that working mothers are mostly wives of full-time learners.

Women are pursuing, and continuing in, careers even after they have babies, whether they’re married to lawyers, doctors or full-time learners. They are doing this for self-fulfillment and for economic reasons. You can call it feminism or you can call it being practical.

Young working mothers can be found in Lakewood, Queens, Teaneck and many other Jewish communities. Why blame full-time learners for this phenomenon in society?

Raising well-adjusted healthy children requires a lot of davening, hard work, and mazel, whether the mother works outside the home or inside the home. While it may not be ideal, it seems that more young mothers are working outside the home than ever before. Perhaps Jewish mothers of all types should add a new personal bakasha to their daily prayers: “Hashem, please help us find caring and compassionate babysitters for our children and grandchildren.”

Penina Israel
Monsey, NY

Health, Diet, Environment

I want to commend Rabbi Menachem Genack and the Orthodox Union for their swift movement to correct the situation at the Postville, Iowa glatt kosher slaughterhouse and for their laudable public commitment to do all that is halachically acceptable to ensure the most humane slaughter conditions possible in all plants that it certifies (“Setting The Record Straight On Kosher Slaughter,” op-ed, Dec. 31).

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, however, I wish to point out that since, as Rabbi Genack reminds us, “any slaughterhouse, whether kosher or non-kosher, is by definition a disconcerting, blood-filled and gruesome place,” we should consider that its products are having devastating effects on the health of Jews and others and on the environment.

We should also consider the many violations of Jewish teachings related to animal-based diets and modern intensive livestock agriculture.

When Judaism mandates that we treat animals with compassion, can we ignore the cruel treatment of animals on factory farms, where they are raised in cramped, confined spaces without sunlight, fresh air, or opportunities to fulfil their natural instincts?

When Judaism stresses that we must diligently protect our health, can we ignore that animal-based diets are major contributors to the epidemic of heart disease, many forms of cancer, and other killer diseases and ailments afflicting the Jewish community and others?

When Judaism mandates that we be partners with God in protecting the environment, can we ignore the significant contributions of animal-centered agriculture to air, water, and land pollution, species extinction, deforestation, global climate change, water shortages, and many other environmental threats?

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
College of Staten Island
Staten Island, NY

Remember The Christian Zionists

The following are excerpts from a letter written to President Bush during my stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem:

“Yesterday I spent the entire day with opponents of the road map disengagement peace plan. The news media declare that most Israelis favor disengagement from Gaza. (The same news media, sir, that according to their exit polls had you losing all day long on Nov. 2.) It would appear to them that the only opposition to this road map-disengagement plan comes from the 8,000 Jewish settlers who will be uprooted from their homes, a handful of Israeli ‘right-wing extremists,’ and a few Christian Zionists in America.

“Mr. President, most of these so-called settlers I was among yesterday are religious, idealistic young families struggling to make ends meet. They live quietly and peacefully. They haven’t smuggled any weapons, blown up buses or hotel lobbies, or launched rockets against their neighbors. (Nor have they cut anyone’s throats and drunk their blood – as Islamists did in the Ivory Coast where our son is a missionary.)

“Mr. President, those ‘few Christian Zionists’ are 40 million of we folk who say we are ‘born again’ Christians. And, sir, it is time you remember our ‘political capital’ in your reelection and listen to the concerns we have about this little nation of Israel, the physical inheritors of this land, according to the God of the Bible, the God of Israel whom you and I and these other 39,999,998 Christian Zionists in America worship.

“Day before yesterday, a leftist news media type questioned me. ‘Don’t you want to see the end of the cycle of violence by the renewal of the peace process?’ My reply was, ‘The peace process has very little to do with peace for Israel.’ To the news media, the road map disengagement plan means Arabs killing Jews and Israel doing nothing to stop them.

“Sir, if nothing happens to prevent it, your road map peace plan will take them to exactly that spot. Contrary to the belief of the news media and the politicians, the Gaza Strip is not ‘Palestinian land.’ Most of the Arabs living there are not indigenous. From 1948 to 1967 Egypt illegally occupied Gaza and used it to stage terrorist attacks against Israel. Those 19 years are the only period in history when Jews were completely barred from living there.

“The ‘peace-loving Palestinians’ say that as soon as the ‘Israeli occupation’ ends, Gaza will become a peaceful, secure democratic Palestinian state. Mr. President, there is not a single democratic state in the entire Arab word! Why will this one be different?

“Hamas will take over control of Gaza when the Israelis leave, sir. And then ‘Gaza-hamas-stan’ will become the largest protected terrorist camp in the world. Innocent Israeli women and children will continue to die. Why? Because the Islamists (who attacked us on 9/11 with Arafat’s favorite choice of weapon – hijacked airplanes) are not one bit interested in ending the so-called cycle of violence – not their part of the cycle, anyway.”

Pastor Jim Vineyard
Windsor Hills Baptist Church
Oklahoma City, OK