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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Beth Din’

Stories of Yom Kippur

Friday, September 21st, 2012

On Erev Yom Kippur, the Gaon Rav Atshal of Frankfurt (Tifereth Avraham) would usually permit the eating of every doubtful fowl, which was brought before him to decide. He would make all the doubtful cases kosher.

His Beth Din and his disciples began question his actions.

The gaon replied: “He who makes a kosher fowl treif, incurs the wrath of his fellow man (bein adam l’chavairo), while he who make treif fowl kosher incurs the wrath of G-d (bein adam l’makom). We all know that the sin between man and G-d on the holiday of Yom Kippur will be forgiven but the sins between man and his fellow man, the holiday of Yom Kippur cannot help. Therefore, we have to very careful of our fellow man and not incur his wrath or cause him to lose money, especially before Yom Kippur.”

The Power of Saying Kaddish

The following strange experience is brought down in the sefer Ish Al Hachoma, written by Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld’s grandson who heard it from the rav himself.

In the city of Pressburg there lived a wealthy woman whose husband owned a large estate. Every year, before the High Holy Days the woman would come to the Yeshiva Ksav Sofer and make a large donation requesting that the yeshiva appoint a student to say Kaddish for the orphaned souls who left no heirs. This was also to include the many children who left the religion and did not say Kaddish for their parents. The administration gladly complied.

After a while the woman’s husband died and without his guiding hand the business failed and the creditors took away all of the woman’s possessions. Out of desperation she had to seek employment to support her two daughters. Her daughters were of marriageable age and she needed money to make the wedding and provide for a dowry. But alas she had none, for she barely eked out a living, let alone had any money to spare.

She accepted her bitter lot quietly as she struggled to meet the daily living expenses. But now the holidays were approaching and what aggravated her most was that she could not give any money to the yeshiva, for them to say Kaddish for the orphaned souls.

With a bitter heart she approached the administration, explaining her predicament and pleading with them that they continue the Kaddish even though she couldn’t pay them at the present time. “Somehow, G-d will help and I will be able to give you the money like I used to,” she cried.

The administrators were amazed at the sincerity and piety of this woman and they assured her that Kaddish would continue to be said. With a light heart and a smile on her face the woman thanked them. It appeared as if all her worries were now gone. Forgotten was the fact that she needed a large sum of money to marry off her two daughters and how hard she had to struggle to earn the daily bread. As she walked out of the yeshiva she looked up at the Heavens and exclaimed, “G-d, I did my part, now its Your turn, for You are the Father of orphans and the Protector of poor widows. I have no doubt that You will not let us down!”

Walking out of the yeshiva she suddenly came face to face with an elderly man, with a large snow-white beard, who made a very impressive appearance.

“Pardon me,” he said, as he stopped the poor woman. “Are you the widow of the very wealthy man who died recently?”

“Yes,” she replied, wondering who this man could be.

“I owed your husband money,” he said as he questioned her about her present circumstances.

The woman began to cry as she described her extreme poverty. She explained that creditors had taken how all the money her husband left her away and she didn’t know how she would secure the dowry for her two daughters.

“How much do you need for the dowry and to make the wedding?” he asked.

The woman named a figure in the thousands. The man immediately took out his checkbook and wrote out a check for that sum of money and told the woman to cash it the following morning in the local bank.

Three Cheers For IRF’s Mandating Prenuptial Agreements

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The Orthodox community has recently been rattled by yet another high profile agunah situation – this time in Philadelphia and Washington. This was not the first nor will it be the last such case. We know that genuine halachically viable solutions to the agunah problem are hard to come by and might not even be within our grasp. But we also know the agunah problem can be functionally solved in practice, even if not in theory, and the solution is clear and obvious.

The Beth Din of America prenuptial agreement (which can be found at www.theprenup.org) really does work in almost all the cases actually presented in the United States. Its structure – payment of money until a Get is given – has a proven track record of actually delivering a Get case after case. It is the vaccine against the agunah problem. But, like all vaccines, it has to be used before one has the illness – taking a vaccine after the fact never works.

Indeed, all of us who are genuinely interested in actually solving the agunah problem have been pushing the Beth Din of America prenuptial agreement for years. YU roshei yeshiva have signed public letters backing it and many other halachic authorities have endorsed it as well. There is virtually no halachic controversy about its permissibility to use. The RCA has twice endorsed its use and encouraged its members to use it.

But yet the truth is that for a variety of reasons – nearly all social or political – the use of the Beth Din of America Prenuptial agreement is still uncommon outside of the Modern Orthodox community, and certainly not used 100 percent of the time even within it. Many RCA members do not use it.

The next step is obvious. We need to agree, as a community, that every Orthodox wedding has to have a prenuptial agreement addressing the giving and receiving of a Get. When every marriage is vaccinated against the possibility of the woman or man being an agunah, agunah matters will go the way of smallpox – they will functionally disappear as a problem even as we actually have no cure. A potent vaccine is as good as a cure. We all know this – but as is the case with many other communal matters within Orthodoxy, we lack the vision and authority and will to impose our solution on our community, even our own rabbinic community.

Not the International Rabbinic Fellowship. Recently, the IRF passed a resolution stating:

As a requirement of membership, IRF Rabbis may only officiate at a wedding where there is an IRF approved halachic prenuptial agreement, and IRF Rabbis are encouraged to participate ritually only in weddings with halachic prenuptial agreements.

This is obviously the right approach – rabbinical councils throughout America need to mandate the use of prenuptial agreements by all their members and not tolerate deviation on this matter. Marriages without such agreements produce cases of agunahs – no different from children without vaccinations contracting polio – and it is to credit of the IRF that they are the first rabbinic organization to mandate the right solution to the problem.

It is the IRF – and no other organization at this time – that is mandating what the rabbinical leadership at Yeshiva University is insisting is the critical step in purging our community of the distressful problem of the modern-day agunah.

Nobody is right about every matter every time, but the IRF deserves three cheers for getting this one very right. I hope other rabbinic organizations see the light and actually adopt policies with teeth that regulate conduct of their members in this area. We can cry over the problem of the agunah, or we can work to fix it as individual cases arise, or we can mandate that the problem be vaccinated against so it ceases to plague us. I vote for the latter solution as the best now available to us and I think we should mandate that no Orthodox rabbi perform weddings without a BDA prenuptial agreement.

If your rabbi belongs to an organization that does not mandate the use of any prenuptial agreement, ask him why that is the case. If your rabbi does weddings without using a prenuptial agreement, press him to stop doing such weddings and to mandate that no such weddings take place on the synagogue grounds.

Bet Din On The Clock: Nathan Lewin Wants Jewish Courts To Run More Efficiently

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Like other chassidic dynasties, Bobov was not immune to one day experiencing a schism.

When Rabbi Naftali Zvi Halberstam, the fourth Bobover Rebbe, died in 2005, a dispute arose over who would succeed him. Some chassidim sought to appoint his younger half-brother, Rabbi Ben Zion Aryeh Leibish Halberstam, as the next rebbe; and others sought out the fourth rebbe’s sons-in-law: Rabbi Mordechai Dovid Unger as the rebbe, and Rabbi Yehoshua Rubin as the Bobov rav (serving as head of the bet din and as the posek).

The sons-in-law hired noted Supreme Court attorney Nathan Lewin as their lawyer, and the case came before Justice Herbert Kramer in the New York State Supreme Court.

According to Lewin, he was instrumental in successfully moving the case to bet din. That was nearly seven years ago.

The case has been before a unique kind of zabla that entire time. In most zabla cases, the plaintiff chooses one dayan (judge), the defendant a second, and those two dayanim choose the third. In the Bobov case, the two dayanim, with the consent of the litigants, chose three others, creating a five-person bet din.

Lewin – who has not served as his clients’ to’ein (court advocate) and has therefore not been deeply involved in the case since its move to the bet din – said that had he known the case would take so long, he would never have supported sending it to a bet din without conditions that the case be decided in a timely fashion.

“I never anticipated this. I’m disappointed it has taken so long,” Lewin recently said on Zev Brenner’s radio program. On the show, Lewin proposed that a solution to the problem of batei din be consumer-driven.

“If the arbitration clause – the shtar beirurim – says that the case must be arbitrated within six months or a year, [the dayanim] would have to follow it,” he said. “And that could be a recourse [to preventing these kinds of long delays.]”

How often such gruelingly long cases occur in batei din is hard to quantify. Statistics are nearly impossible to come by because no central body enforces rules within batei din or oversees them in any fashion, which is part of the problem, some critics say

“There’s so much less procedural regularity. Nothing prevents to’anim from running away with the case,” Lewin said on the radio show. “I’ve seen dayanim who have answered their cell phones in the middle of a case. In secular court, there’s more respect for the procedures and for the institution.”

But several say that the Bobov case is once-in-a-lifetime exception, and even cases that go on for more than a year or two are a rarity, not the rule.

Rabbi A. Yehuda Warburg, a dayan with the Beth Din of America for the past 12 years, said he’s heard of only one other case taking very long, and that one took over two years.

Rabbi Mendel Epstein, a Brooklyn to’ein for the last 30 years, agreed. He called the Bobov case “a rare exception.”

Rabbi Epstein added, “In the secular courts, the judges can say you have five days to present all arguments. But in beis din, it’s different, because if a person says he’s not finished, then the halacha is that you can’t stop him. You have to let him fully present his case.”

“You have to remember,” he added, “that they are judging over hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate, and it’ll affect thousands of [families].” A case with such magnitude takes time.

Another factor in the Bobov Case, Rabbi Epstein said, is the fact that there are five dayanim, as opposed to the usual three. “That alone will cause you an extra amount of extra time – you need all five to be there, and one of the judges lives in Manchester, so he has to adjust his schedule [to come over for hearings].”

Likewise, Rabbi Warburg said, “They picked three more judges than usual – that is surely one of the reasons that this is taking so long.”

“Five automatically creates a bureaucratic problem. Everything has to be resolved with the other three who are sitting there.”

One person who has thought about why the Bobov case has taken so long – and has witnessed many of the hearings – is Moishe Zvi Reicher, an adjunct professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bobov chassid who has advised Rabbi Unger and Rabbi Rubin in the dispute.

(The side that supports Rabbi Unger and Rabbi Rubin is known as Bobov 45, since they’ve set up batei midrash, yeshivas and other buildings mostly on 45th Street in Boro Park. The other side is known as Bobov 48, since they’ve maintained control of nearly all of the Bobov possessions from the previous rebbe – located mostly on 48th Street – which are in dispute before the current zabla.)

Dealing With The Agunah Quandary For 9/11 Widows

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

When unthinkable disaster struck a decade ago and close to 3,000 people were murdered at the World Trade Center, the scale of destruction created a unique challenge for victims’ families: identification of the dead.

With only fragmented human remains and degraded DNA left in the wake of 9/11, that task became, in the words of the National Institute of Justice, “the greatest forensic challenge ever undertaken in this country.”

For the families of Jewish victims, this problem was particularly thorny. According to Jewish law, a woman cannot remarry unless she has definitive proof of her husband’s death, lest she inadvertently enter into an adulterous relationship. Jewish law dictates that death can be proven in three ways: physical evidence, eyewitness testimony of the death and certain confirmation that the person had been in a situation in which survival was essentially impossible.

Absent such proof, this would leave Jewish wives of those killed at the World Trade Center in the position of classic agunot – “chained” women, left in a legal marriage with one who most likely was dead.

For decades, such cases had been few and far between. In centuries past, however, this Jewish law was a reference point for the wives of sailors who had disappeared, soldiers who had failed to return home from battle and traveling merchants who had vanished along the way.

The consequences of being unable to identify the dead do not represent a uniquely Jewish problem. Declaring individuals dead simply because they are likely to be dead can cause terrible complications. For example, during World War II, former president Jimmy Carter’s uncle, Tom Gordy, was declared dead by U.S. officials after being taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese, and his wife remarried during the war. But when the war ended, Gordy returned home as a liberated POW to discover, tragically, that his wife was married to another.

Under Jewish law, Gordy would most likely not have been declared dead, and his wife would not have remarried. The disappearance of a person and the passage of time alone are not generally deemed enough, under Jewish law, to declare the person dead.

However, the circumstances of someone’s disappearance, in some situations, can support a presumption of death. Two illustrations commonly discussed in Jewish literature are the man who falls into a deep furnace and the man who drowns in a body of water that has visible boundaries, such as a lake or a pond.

Of the first scenario, our sages wrote that a man who is seen falling into a deep furnace may be presumed dead because he had no means of escape and is sure to have perished. Of the second, they wrote that a man who is seen drowning in a body of water with visible boundaries may be presumed to be dead because he surely would have been seen or found on shore had he survived.

It was this line of reasoning that allowed the Beth Din of America to pronounce many 9/11 victims dead in the absence of conclusive physical evidence.

When the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York concluded its investigation, more than 1,100 victims of 9/11 remained unidentified. Even with respect to the nearly 1,600 victims who were identified, the identifications could not automatically be presumed to meet the standards set by Jewish law.

In its quest to confirm the fate of the victims, the Beth Din of America had to determine whether and which modern methods of identification would comply with Jewish evidentiary standards. What would satisfy the physical evidence requirement – DNA evidence? What about dental records? What about the recognition of clothes or limbs? The Beth Din also posed an additional question: In the event a determination required reliance upon eyewitness testimony, what person could provide such testimony?

In searching for answers, we studied the literature of prior tragedies, finding Jewish legal discussions of husbands who disappeared in the sinking of the Titanic, in the collapse of bridges in Rome, in avalanches in the Alps, in artillery bombardments in World War I, and in the sinking of the Israeli submarine Dakar. We also looked at the cases of Israeli soldiers who had disappeared during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and, of course, at agunah cases related to the Holocaust.

After 9/11, in some cases the only evidence for placing someone in the World Trade Center at the time of the attack was circumstantial – phone calls made or emails sent from within an office, swipe cards indicating entry but no exit, and so on. In certain cases, investigators identified remains through the modern technology of DNA analysis.

After a rigorous analysis of Jewish legal precedents, the Beth Din of America determined that DNA evidence could be marshaled for identification purposes, certainly when coupled with other circumstantial evidence of an individual’s death. In the few cases where investigators had found no direct physical evidence, the Beth Din relied on the third standard of proof: placing a husband, with certainty, in a situation in which no one could realistically be expected to survive.

More than 90 percent of the casualties of 9/11 were located at or above the point where the planes hit the towers, particularly in the North Tower. With no escape and facing almost certain death, those people were akin to the man who falls into a furnace. Often, phone calls or e-mails were enough to place the missing person in his office at a certain time, after which escape would have been impossible. Together with other evidence, the Beth Din could rely on time stamps and statistics in order to pronounce the missing person dead.

For such a pronouncement to be made, it was not automatically sufficient to know a person worked at the World Trade Center or attended a meeting there if no additional evidence proved he was there on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Why withhold judgment under circumstances in which an individual’s disappearance so clearly indicates death? One unfortunate reason is because some people use tragedy as an opportunity for fraud and manipulation, or perhaps as a way to make a fresh start. The chaos of 9/11 opened the floodgates to a number of fraudulent insurance claims and other crimes.

Another sad reality is that sometimes, in the throes of despair, mistakes are made. In the decades after the Holocaust, people long thought to be dead were discovered to be alive and well and raising new families in other parts of the world, in cases similar to the story of Jimmy Carter’s uncle.

With time, the Beth Din of America found sufficient evidence to make a declaration of death in each of the cases before it. In making those determinations, the Beth Din released each agunah according to the principles of Jewish law and enabled the victims’ loved ones to mourn for those lost and to begin to rebuild their shattered lives.

Ultimately, the halachic process provided a time-honored framework for honoring the dignity of those who had died, while creating a sense of direction for the spouses who had loved them.
(JTA)

Rabbi Michael J. Broyde is a professor of law at Emory University. Rabbi Yona Reiss is dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University. Both are members of the Beth Din of America. This was adapted from their contributions to “Contending with Catastrophe: Jewish Perspectives on September 11th,” released last month by the Beth Din of America Press and K’hal Publishing.

Q & A: Birkat Sefirat HaOmer

Wednesday, May 12th, 2004
QUESTION: What if one counted the Omer but forgot to utter the blessing – has the obligation been fulfilled? Why do we recite a blessing for this counting, when we find that for the zayin nekiyim – the seven clean days – there is no such blessing? Is the counting not similar?
M. Goldman
Miami Beach, FL
ANSWER: If one counted the Omer - but did not utter the blessing - he would indeed have fulfilled his obligation. The Gemara in the second perek of Berachot (15a) derives a similar conclusion in the case of a cheresh – one who speaks but does not hear – who is instructed not to separate the teruma since he will not hear his own blessing, a clear requirement we infer from the Mishna (supra).The Gemara responds that in this situation the mitzva will nevertheless be fulfilled, since the beracha is only rabbinical. The Rabbis did not make the fulfillment of the mitzva dependent on the beracha. Thus the rule in halacha is that ‘ein beracha me’akevet.’

Pnei Yehoshua (ad loc.) argues that even had the blessings been Biblical they would still not invalidate a mitzva that is performed without uttering the blessing. The only reason the Gemara states that the blessing is rabbinical is to give an additional reason, but in actuality biblically required blessings would also not invalidate the mitzva.

Regarding the mitzva of Sefirat HaOmer, the Mechaber states (Orach Chayyim 489:7) that if one forgot to bless [and obviously to count as well] all evening long, he is to count during the daytime [hours that follow] without a blessing.

This is so, even though, as the Mishna Berura (ad loc.) notes, there are many poskim who rule that the time to count is in the evening only; nevertheless this would not be considered an interruption of the counting continuity and one then goes on to count each evening with a blessing.

As for your second question, we had a similar query a number of years ago. That correspondent compared the Omer to the Jubilee Year. Because of your question’s timeliness, we will review that discussion.

The mitzva to count the Omer is incumbent upon all men (women are exempt since it is in the category of mitzvat aseh she’hazeman gerama, a positive precept dependent upon time). We are commanded in Parashat Emor (Vayikra 23:15), “U’sefartem lachem mi’mochorat hashabbat miyom havi’achem et omer hatenufa, sheva shabbatot temimot tih’yena – You shall count from the morrow after the Sabbath (i.e., the first day of Passover), from the day when you bring the omer of the wave offering, seven complete weeks shall there be.”

The Mechaber (R. Yosef Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch) states (Orach Chayyim 489:1) : … [I]t is incumbent (it is a mitzva) upon each and everyone to count by himself; he has to count while standing; he has to recite a blessing before the counting; and he has to count the days as well as the weeks.

The Taz adds that the counting of the Omer is different from the counting toward the Jubilee Year, which is stated in Parashat Behar (Vayikra 25:8), “Vesafarta lecha sheva shabtot shanim, sheva shanim sheva pe’amim … – You shall count [for yourself] seven cycles of sabbatical years, seven years seven times …” The counting of the Omer is also different from the counting of the days toward purification by a person who has become contaminated due to an impure discharge, as stated in Parashat Metzora (ibid. 15:13), “Vechi yit’har hazav mizovo vesafar lo shiv’at yamim letohorato … – When the person … is cleansed, he shall count seven days for his purification …” In these two cases the purpose of the counting is to attain the conclusion of a finite period of time, whereas in Sefirat HaOmer the act of counting itself is a mitzva, and therefore it requires a beracha.

The Magen Avraham notes that we derive that counting the Omer is an obligation incumbent upon each individual from the fact that is is stated, “U’sefartem lachem,” similar to the language used for the commandment to take the Four Species on Sukkot, “U’lekachtem lachem”  (Vayikra 23:40).

The Talmud (Menachot 65b) discusses the two verses in Parashat Emor that deal with the counting of the Omer: “You shall count from the morrow after the Sabbath … seven complete weeks shall there be” (Vayikra 23:15), and the verse immediately following (23:16), “Until the morrow of the seventh week shall you count fifty days …” The Gemara concludes that the first verse, using the phrase “seven complete weeks,” refers to the case when the first day of Passover happens to fall on a Sabbath, with the result that the weeks counted are seven full weeks, each starting on a Sunday; whereas the second verse indicates that the counting of the fifty days starts on the second day of Passover - “the morrow after the Sabbath,” meaning the morrow after the [first] day [of rest] of the Festival of Passover - no matter what day it falls on, and the Festival of Shavuot thus occurs when fifty days have been counted. This, indeed, is how we proceed with the counting of the Omer.

The Talmud (ibid.) also cites the pasuk in Parashat Re’eh (Devarim 16:9), “Shiv’a shavuot tispor lach, me’hachel chermesh bakama tachel lispor shiv’a shavuot - Seven weeks shall you count; from such time that the sickle is put to the standing crop shall you begin counting seven weeks.” The Gemara notes that this verse teaches us that the counting depends on [the decision of] the Beth Din. Rashi explains that the Beth Din determines when the holiday is to occur (depending on when the New Moon is seen and attested to before the Beth Din), and we must of necessity ask when Passover begins in order to be able to start counting the Omer on the morrow of the first day of Passover.

How do we arrive at the different interpretations and uses of these pesukim? The answer is to be found in the text itself. Whenever we find the term lachem, the plural form of “you,” the implication is an obligation incumbent upon every individual (and the requirement of a beracha). Whenever the word lach, the singular form of “you,” is used, this indicates that the Beth Din is involved. In the latter case there is thus no specific command of counting. This reasoning applies to counting for the Yovel (where lach is used), since it is the Beth Din’s function to designate the Jubilee Year. As regards the person who has an impure discharge (Vayikra 15:13), counting the days toward purification obviously cannot be the function of the Beth Din (although the singular pronoun lo – or lah  – is used) but must be the responsibility of the individual. However, Tosafot (loc. cit, s.v. U’sefartem) point out that since the entire process of counting toward purification can be overturned whenever one sees a fresh discharge, there is no possibility to recite a beracha.

On the other hand, the term lachem refers to the obligation incumbent upon each individual. The Magen Avraham (supra, op.cit.) therefore compares Sefirat HaOmer (U’sefartem lachem) to the mitzva of lulav and etrog on Sukkot, when we are commanded (Vayikra 23:40), “U’lekachtem lachem bayom harishon pri etz hadar … – You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a citron tree …” Each and every one has to fulfill this mitzva.

Letters to the Editor

Friday, February 13th, 2004

Hail To The Chief

I enjoyed reading William Rapfogel’s account of receiving a personal check from President Bush for the work of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (‘An Envelope From Texas,’ op-ed, Jan. 9).

I?ve always had a warm feeling for President Bush. He seems very down to earth, sincere, and he sure makes the right enemies. I also appreciate his strong support for Israel, and I’d like to second a statement I read a few months ago from another reader:

Yes, unfortunately, there are Jews who are so passionate about their hard-line views on Israel that they really do believe that an American president who has any kind of disagreement with an Israeli prime minister, or who doesn’t support every nuance of Israeli policy, is ipso facto anti-Israel and perhaps even anti-Semitic.

I suggest that those who hold to such views move to Israel, where they can vote for a prime minister whose primary obligation is to the Jewish state. An American president has a lot more to worry about than pleasing Jewish hard-liners, and this current president is about as pro-Israel as we have the right to expect any American president to be.

Barry Loerber
(Via E-Mail)


Jail To The Chief?

It’s all well and good that President Bush sends a check to a Jewish charity, but of far greater concern to me are the criminal activities engaged in by this administration.

People, do you realize how our civil liberties are being eroded by the Patriot Act and other frightening legislation foisted on an unsuspecting public by the Bush White House?

What about the treatment of Muslims in this country who are arrested and whisked away to who knows where, held on trumped-up charges or no charges at all?

What about the refusal of this president to actively push Israelis and Palestinians to make concessions and stop killing each other? What about his sowing even greater hatred for the U.S. in the Arab world by his disrespectful treatment of the elected Palestinian leader, Mr. Arafat, and his unprovoked invasion of Iraq?

Will we ever find out what Bush knew about 9/11 and when he knew it? How come nobody talks about Enron anymore? Why was Saddam Hussein ‘found’ just when Bush needed a boost in the polls? Why aren’t more of you frightened about where this country’s heading?

Joan Borenstein
New York, NY



One Columnist To Another

Prof. Steven Plaut always writes with extraordinary skill and insight, but his recent “Chanukah Among The Hellenists” offered a singularly lucid distillation of what is now undermining Israel’s survival.

The Jewish Press is very fortunate to have Steven’s finely-honed writings, and I am honored personally by the association with my fellow Princetonian.

Louis Rene Beres
(Via E-Mail)

Editor’s Note: The writer is a Jewish Press columnist and professor of international law at Purdue University.


Schick On Sharon (I)

I agree wholeheartedly with Joseph Schick’s observation that Sharon’s ‘disengagement plan should be understood and assessed as a partial retreat to avoid a much more dangerous return to the 1967 borders’ (‘Understanding Sharon’s Plan,’ Jan. 9).

I am amazed, however, that someone so obviously sophisticated could write that “Israel should withstand U.S. pressure related to the disengagement plan.” The sum and substance of the situation is that without U.S. support, Israel would stand all alone in a very lonely, very cold and very desolate place.

Richard Mandelbaum
(Via E-Mail)


Schick On Sharon (II)

Re Joseph Schick’s compelling cover essay:

I believe Sharon fears that ultimately Israel will never be allowed to keep any part of Yehuda and Shomron or East Jerusalem. But he also knows there will be stiff opposition in Israel to any uprooting of settlements. So he came upon a middle plan of relatively minor uprootings as a seemingly benign way of beginning the inevitable process.

Yocheved Alpert
Jerusalem


Schick On Sharon (III)

I find Joseph Schick’s articles very enlightening, and I appreciate the lawyer-like way he marshals his arguments. But I wonder whether the overwhelmingly elected leader of a sovereign nation – a leader about to make a series of agonizing decisions - really needs to be chided that settlers who are to be subject to forced evacuation should not be used as political pawns and should immediately be fully informed, now.

Ariel Sharon is not a lone ranger at the helm of his country. Nor is he a dunce. Nor is he running a candy store. It’s time we all understood this.

Gilbert Handler
Brooklyn, NY




More Debate On ‘True Zionists’

Recommended For Students

I thought Bezalel Fixler’s ‘Who Is a True Zionist?’ (Jewish Press, Jan. 2) was excellent. The
points should be taught in all yeshivas and Bais Yaakovs (if they would talk about it).

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
Kew Gardens, NY


Religious Yearners For Zion

What’s all the fuss about? Bezalel Fixler graced the front page of The Jewish Press with his
beautiful, thought-provoking and inspirational piece that includes fascinating details of our
history - and conjoins them to substantiate the true essence of Zionism. Is the truth so difficult to acknowledge?

Simply stated, the word “Zionism” is derived from the word “Zion” - or Tzion – which is a
direct reference to the dwelling place of Hashem, the Bais Hamikdash. While the secular Zionists are mainly concerned and preoccupied with the land of Israel in a physical sense, the Orthodox Jew anxiously awaits the return of the Shechina to its original and holy abode in Jerusalem.

Love of the Holy Land is very commendable, but a life lived therein devoid of the teachings of
the Torah is meaningless. Contrary to secular belief, religion for a Jew is not an option. It is a
way of life. It is the shomrei Torah u’mitzvos who pay proper homage to our King and who obey His laws and commandments. It is the religious Jew who expresses his yearning in daily tefilos (prayers) to witness the return of the holy Shechina to Tzion.

So who coined the term “Zionism” to depict a people who had no sense of the true meaning of the word? An assimilated Jew by the name of Nathan Birnbaum – who subsequently became a baal teshuvah and an anti-Zionist. (Theodor Herzl, who is referred to as the father of the Zionist movement, would have happily established a Jewish homeland anywhere, even in Uganda – just as long as anti-Semitism could be evaded. To that end, he once proposed that all Jews convert to Christianity.)

With all due respect to Bezalel Fixler, I humbly suggest that the True Zionist be characterized as a ben Tzion to avoid confusion and to distinguish the one who walks with G-d from the
commonplace land dweller who has dubbed himself a Zionist.

Rachel Weiss
(Via E-Mail)



Pertinent Article

Mr. Fixler’s essay is one of the best articles I’ve recently read in The Jewish Press. The subject is very pertinent in our Iranian Jewish community here in Los Angeles, where many have substituted support of Israel for observance of Jewish religious practices.

Michael Naim
Los Angeles, CA



Appreciating True Heroes

I couldn’t agree more with Bezalel Fixler. Unfortunately, many yeshivishe-type people are
brainwashed into thinking that anyone who, for instance, cherishes and supports the settlers of
Chevron (whom I consider the true heroes and Zionists of our day) is a Zionist kofer.

One of the many gedolim whom Mr. Fixler could have included in the article was Reb
Chatzkel Levenshtein, zt”l, who called the Six-Day War a great miracle from Hashem and derided those who were pushing ‘land for peace.’ And of course there are the rabbonim of the Ruzhiner dynasty, whose love of Eretz Yisrael is quite legendary.

Yoel Weisberger
Lakewood, NJ



Misunderstanding Fixler’s Message

Bezalel Fixler writes beautifully, and his article on Zionism actually brought tears to my eyes. I’m afraid that the readers who took issue with him in last week’s letters failed to understand
his message. The way I understand it, he was saying that it’s unfair and inaccurate to
characterize as ‘anti-Zionist’ those Orthodox Jews who through the decades have refused to allow their love of Eretz Yisrael to be defined by a secular political movement that appropriated for itself the name ‘Zionist.’ Many Orthodox Jews may have opposed the movement that took the word Zion for its name, but rest assured they never ceased being
lovers of Zion.

Frieda Deutsch
Brooklyn, NY



Terminology And Then Some

I think those readers who shared their thoughts last week about Bezalel Fixler’s article missed his point. Contrary to what their letters assumed, Mr. Fixler was focusing on the total absence of a religious content to the secular Zionist drive for a national homeland for the Jews. He was
not talking about the obvious roles of secular Zionists in establishing the present day state of
Israel.

Both Rabbi Wasserman and Dr. Hacohen further muddled the issues of opposition to secular
Zionism and the tragically bad advice some Orthodox leaders gave to Jews who wished to leave Europe. The latter was fundamentally a question of misreading what was about to occur. Jews were told not to leave Europe not because Israel was treif but because there was no appreciation of the urgency of the need to run anywhere.

On the other hand, the Orthodox opposition both men refer to was essentially an expression of a negative view of the irreligious enterprise of Herzl, Achad Ha’am, Pinsker, Lilienblum, Nordau, Jabotinsky, et al, which many saw as another step in the secularization of Judaism.

Toby Solomon correctly sees the issue as one of terminology - Mr. Fixler believes Zionism only has meaning in a religious context, while others also identify it with a secular national home for the Jews. But even she errs in failing to understand that the early Orthodox opponents of Zionism could not have foreseen any rise of religious influence in a wholly secular project. She is wrong as well to label those who are deeply offended by the secular Zionist antagonism toward religion as critics of Eretz Yisrael.

I applaud The Jewish Press for providing a forum for this very important discussion, if only for
providing an opportunity for many people to be exposed to Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld’s stirring blessing of some irreligious Israeli youth: “May G-d multiply you a thousand fold and bless you.” How could those words have been uttered by someone who does not have a reasonable vision – albeit not necessarily a secular Zionist one – of a Jewish state?

Avraham Gittleman
New York, NY



Credit Where Credit’s Due

The Jewish Press has again outdone itself in publishing articles and letters to the editor which
are the absolute truth, yet not necessarily popular or politically correct.

Rabbi Chaim Wasserman and Dr. Mordechai Hacohen have presented the reality of the
chassidish/ Eastern European/frum approach to Israel in the years prior to World War II. The facts are indisputable that the Agudah, chassidic rebbes and the frum establishment in Europe actively discouraged the emigration of Jews to Israel. Sad to say, many of those who heeded that advice perished in the Holocaust because they stayed on the European continent.

The admirable present-day situation - frum families buying primary residences, second homes
and investment property in Israel and thousands of frum boys learning in Eretz Yisrael with the
support of the frum and yeshivish establishments - does not negate the fact that fifty years ago the position taken by the yeshivish and chassidish world was quite the contrary.

We should not detract from the sacrifice and vision of the non-frum Jews who called themselves Zionists and who fought and died in the swamps of pre-state Eretz Yisrael so that we could have an independent Jewish nation. Frum Jews enjoy the present-day Eretz Yisrael because of the blood spilled and by non-frum Jews.

While we frum Jews should be proud of what we are accomplishing today with our children,
friends and relatives, providing kedusha to Eretz Yisrael, we should never forget that it was secular Jews who, with Hashem’s help, made it possible for frum Jews to go there afterward and establish our yeshivas and institutions.

Joseph A. Schubin, Esq.
Brooklyn, NY



Setting The Record Straight

I am a member of the Committee of Concerned Jews for an Agunah which had taken out an ad dealing with the plight of a particular agunah. Baruch Hashem, the bet din in question
wrote back to us, and I share with the readers of The Jewish Press their reply:

‘We are acutely sensitive to the plight of agunot, and worked strenuously for three years to
ensure that the woman in question would not be an agunah.

‘She was first in touch with the Beth Din in 1999 and she indicated to us that she had been
waiting close to ten years then for a Get. We were glad to have been of substantial assistance in arranging for the get in September of 2002.

‘At that time, the parties and their attorneys all agree that the p’tur will be held until the civil
divorce was granted. This was done so as to insure that the woman’s attorney would file the needed paperwork to insure that the parties would be civilly divorced. This was explicitly agreed to by all the parties, and was an integral part of the agreement that lead to the get at that time. This type of an agreement is also consistent with the general practice of batai din in the United States who hold the p’tur until the completion of the civil divorce.

‘Certainly, in a case where both parties agreed for the p’tur to be given at such time it is
appropriate to honor this practice. We urge the parties to remain in touch with their attorneys to check on the status of the civil divorce. Once it is completed, please be sure to contact us. Please be assured that you are not an agunah, and that we are verbally prepared to confirm this to any person whom you authorize to call the Beth Din.’

This letter was signed by the director of the Beth Din in question and I have independently
confirmed the correctness of the facts of the case through numerous phone, e-mail and direct
conversations. Thus, it seems that the conduct of the Beth Din in this case is proper.

Thank you to The Jewish Press which, with Hashem’s help, clarified a serious matter and
reaffirmed our faith in batai din to do the rightthing.

Rabbi Pinchus Yama
Brooklyn, NY

The Jewish Week And Allegations Of Abuse

Friday, June 13th, 2003

The Jewish Press’ continuing coverage, in our Family Matters section, of students’ claims of abuse at the hands of unidentified teachers in our yeshivos, attests to the significance we attach to the problem. Yet we are constrained to note our serious reservations about how the issue has been treated in The Jewish Week.

For the past two weeks, that publication has carried extraordinarily long stories, beginning on its front page, concerning allegations against a prominent Rosh Yeshiva which are being brought before a rabbinic panel that will determine whether a full-blown Beth Din should be convened. Although at this point there have been no findings, both stories treat the accusations as fact and contain the grossest of descriptive language and salacious imagery.

The stories are strikingly similar in content – along the lines of: this is what will transpire at the panel meeting/this is what did take place. They also contain, as a central theme, the idea that nobody is doing anything about the problem.

Given their repetitiveness and patently gratuitous graphic descriptions, one suspects that a conscious effort is being made to sensationalize and, yes, to bash, in addition to merely informing the public.

Moreover, fact that The Jewish Week was reporting on the convening of the investigative rabbinic panel concerning the assertions, surely belies the notion that nobody is interested in dealing with the issue of abuse.

It seems to us that there is reason enough to pursue possible abuse of our young by those in sensitive positions and able to do great harm without, at the same time, seeking to further a separate agenda. Indeed, as we have pointed out in the past, The Jewish Week regularly has given short shrift to even admitted adultery and proven murder when committed by non-Orthodox leaders, who were not even so identified.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/editorial/the-jewish-week-and-allegations-of-abuse/2003/06/13/

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