Posts Tagged ‘Brighton Beach’
Disbelief and denial are two words that can describe the alcohol and drug problem in the Jewish community, and that is a problem in itself.
Have you given much thought to this issue? Most of us haven’t. It’s not until we are personally affected that we become concerned. We must not let it to get to that point.
As chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, I have been afforded a view of drug and alcohol problems on both a statewide and a local level. In most communities the evidence of drug abuse and overindulgence in alcohol is obvious in criminal activity, emergency room visits, employment statistics and dysfunctional families. To look at those communities is to know that drugs and/or alcohol are an issue. Our community is different; many of those abusing alcohol or drugs are not only functioning well but maintaining either high grades or business success.
Last December, in conjunction with the Orthodox Union, I brought together thirty local rabbanim, social workers, doctors, psychologists, counselors, program directors and attorneys who work with community members experiencing alcohol and drug problems. The roundtable discussion provided the experts with a forum to share information. Such problems as shul-hopping for simchas serving alcohol, excessive drinking at Kiddush Clubs and helping oneself to another family member’s prescription painkillers found in a medicine cabinet were highlighted.
The experts all agreed that there is a growing problem of drug and alcohol abuse in the Jewish community and expressed a collective frustration that there were too few resources to respond. The perception of our community being alcohol- and drug problem-free extends all the way to the halls of the legislature. When I talk to my colleagues, they have trouble believing there is a need for funding prevention and treatment programs in the Jewish community.
Another obstacle to dealing with the alcohol and drug problems head-on is the shame these problems cause in the Jewish community. Whether it’s just embarrassment or the fear of difficulty with a shidduch in the future, drug and alcohol problems are often kept behind closed doors by families, shuls and organizations.
This only serves to exacerbate the problem. There should be no shame in dealing with either an alcohol or drug problem. We must all understand this and come together as a community to provide support for our neighbors dealing with alcohol and drug issues. They need our help. This is important for the individual as well as for the community.
It was because of the unique circumstances surrounding the alcohol and drug problem in the Jewish community that I recently invited Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, who heads the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, to participate in a roundtable discussion, cosponsored by the Orthodox Union. I thought that it was important for our state’s top alcohol and drug official to see and hear firsthand our concerns and needs.
On May 3 the commissioner joined more than twenty practitioners and rabbis from our community at the Young Israel of Midwood. The roundtable participants told the commissioner that the false notion that no alcohol or drug problem exists in the Jewish community often results in individuals with problems not receiving the treatment they need and the community as a whole not getting its fair and needed share of resources for prevention and treatment programs.
“The level of denial still needs to be addressed…it’s tripping us up,” one social worker said, while a program director added that she can “walk down any block in Flatbush and point out houses on each block with a kid or two at risk.”
Commissioner Gonzalez-Sanchez was told about the need for culturally sensitive treatment and prevention programs: “Being an orthodox Jew in recovery is much more than having kosher food.” A drug counselor shared a story of an Orthodox client doing well in an out of town secular drug treatment program who called in distress because she suddenly felt a rekindling of spiritual feelings.
Commissioner Gonzalez-Sanchez understood. “The Office of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Services,” she said, “remains committed to providing quality health care that is comprehensive and sensitive to the specific needs of the individuals we serve. I look forward to continue working closely with Assemblyman Cymbrowitz to address the issues facing the people of this community.”
Following the resignation of State Senator Carl Kruger, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges, voters in Brooklyn’s 27th District, which includes Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Gravesend, Mill Basin and Midwood, are choosing his successor in a special election. Both candidates, City Councilman Lewis A. Fidler, Democrat from Sheepshead Bay, and David Storobin, Republican from Brighton Beach, have not discussed the issues confronting the district, so much as exchanged wild and nasty accusations regarding Storobin’s affiliations with… neo-Nazis.
According to a NY Times report from early February, the Democratic front-runner said his challenger had neo-Nazi ties. Now, mind you, both candidates are Jewish.
Speaking in the middle of a very noisy bar back in January, Councilman Fidler told the assembled (and a tad inebriated) Young Democrats “The Republicans in the State Senate are going to drop a half a million dollars behind some guy who I laid eyes on for the first time tonight – first time, I go to a lot of meetings and [this was the] first time I ever saw David Storobin – a guy who can’t even fess up to what he writes on his web pages anymore and is busy scrubbing what little history he has because he’s embarrassed about his ties to skinheads and neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist groups because the Republicans had no idea who they were putting on the ballot.”
Yeshiva World published a retort by Storobin that went: “From the start of his campaign for State Senate, Lew Fidler has engaged in nasty, vicious and false negative attacks against me. Realizing that he stands against traditional marriage, against vouchers, in favor of abortions, in favor of higher taxes and otherwise out of step with the people of the district, Mr. Fidler knew that he cannot appeal to the voters by discussing issues. As such, his campaign and its supporters resorted to character assassination.
“They said that I was tied to the Nazis. They questioned whether I’m really Jewish. They’ve attacked my profession as an attorney with a false smear. They’ve even repeatedly attacked my mother with words I won’t write here.”
Storobin proceeded to state that he was born in the Soviet Union. “My grandparents were born into frum families,” but the communists robbed the family of its Yiddishkeit. He even inserted a prooftext memoir: “My maternal grandfather Pinchus knew how to be a shohet, but the only thing we knew is that he would buy and prepare the chicken during important events.”
The Times noted that after his videotaped remark had gone a little more viral than he had expected, Fidler sent out a press release asking Storobin to explain “his connection to white supremacist groups” whose websites he had linked to his articles, and to republish the articles themselves, which Fidler claimed had “disappeared from the blog’s archive.”
In the end Fidler revised a bit, saying he should have used the word “links” rather than “ties.” And by links he meant “hyperlinks” on a browser page, rather than, well, ties.
This week the Jewish Press endorsed Lew Fidler For State Senate, saying that “he has ably represented the interests of his Orthodox Jewish constituents and deserves their support.”
Lew Fidler Says Dems Must Win State Senate Campaign To Teach GOP A Lesson
There is a sweetness like no other when people who have been friends for more than sixty years have a chance to get together for a couple of hours and just schmooze and catch up on life.
I recently did just that.
I was in Israel for my husband’s first yahrzeit in December. My friend Sandy arrived a week later for a short stay and that was the perfect opportunity to get together with Libby, who lives in Israel.
We met at a café in Jerusalem one morning and sat enjoying good food, and even better friendship, for about five hours.
Fortunately for us, it was one of those cafes that invite customers to stay as long as they like.
Libby Goldberg (all surnames here are maiden names) and I were born one month apart. Our parents were good friends from the Young Israel and we were wheeled together in our baby carriages on the boardwalk of Brighton Beach. I wonder if our mothers had any idea back then that they were setting in motion an everlasting friendship.
I met Sandy Singer when all of us started first grade at Bais Yaakov of Brighton Beach. After a few weeks my mother transferred me to another school, but by sixth grade I was back and the friendship that started then between the three of us has lasted all these years. My mother had a name for that. She called it a lifelong friendship. And so it is.
We have been there for each other in happy times and in sad ones. We have joined in each other’s simchas and comforted each other in times of sorrow. And then there were all the times in between.
Our old group also included Talya Cohen, who lives in Israel but was on a business trip out of the country at the time, and Lorraine Schwartz, who missed our little reunion by a couple of months.
There is so much to be said for having shared memories of long ago. It isn’t often that all three of us are in the same country at the same time, so when it does happen we try to grab the opportunity to get together.
Having such a good time with these lifetime friends made me stop and think about what makes a friendship so solid that it can last decades, especially when our chances to see each other are few and far between.
Perhaps it is having a shared past history.
Perhaps it is knowing some of each other’s vulnerabilities.
Perhaps it is always remembering everyone’s birthday.
Perhaps it is remembering each other’s parents and grandparents and sisters and brothers when so many of our newer friendships never got to know them at all.
Perhaps it is all of these things – plus a shared commitment to the same Torah values. In addition, we agree on so many critical issues of the day. We also all share a strong desire to live in Israel, though only Libby and Talya presently do.
Whatever accounts for it, I am very grateful for the gift of true, lifelong friendships and the occasional opportunities for us to meet and sit together for hours and just pick up where we left off.
What does it matter if our hair is gray now? Or if not all our teeth are our own? Or if aches and pains surface from time to time? We all still feel like those young girls of long ago. And when we look at each other, that is whom we see.
Can anyone say it isn’t so? And just maybe it is the very act of getting together whenever we can that keeps us feeling young. May it continue for many years to come.
Naomi Klass Mauer is associate publisher of The Jewish Press.
I see him now in my mind’s eye. He is sitting at his desk in his office at The Jewish Press, a Gemara open before him, other scholarly tomes on the side, engaged in what he loved best: learning Torah.
An appointment to see the publisher of The Jewish Press – which this week celebrates its 50th anniversary as a national publication – probably took many people by surprise. No matter the purpose of the meeting, it started off with a d’var Torah by the publisher. If the person was learned in Torah, a lively give and take ensued. If the person wasn’t so learned – even if the person wasn’t Jewish – he was nonetheless treated to a Bible story.
That was my father, Rabbi Sholom Klass (whose 10th yahrzeit we just marked), the founder and publisher of The Jewish Press.
But it wasn’t always so simple.
Sholom Klass grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. His father was a tailor and his mother and grandmother ran a grocery store. His grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Epstein, was a Torah scholar who implanted a love of learning in young Sholom, who sat by his side mesmerized by his teachings.
As a student at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, Sholom studied under Reb Shraga Faivel Mendlowitz and eventually came under the influence of Rabbi Dovid Leibowitz. After high school, he had to learn at night and work during the day.
These were the Depression years and his family needed all possible help. Sholom got a job working as a reporter on a small local newssheet and an excitement for this kind of work was born within him.
When his family moved to Brighton Beach, Sholom became a handball champion, bringing in much needed funds by winning tournaments. But on Shabbos he could be found in the Young Israel of Brighton Beach, giving a Gemara shiur to men much older than his 24 years. (He would lead that shiur for more than five decades.)
And it was at the Young Israel that he met my mother, Irene Schreiber. She and her girlfriends were discussing what they hoped to find in a mate. All the girls wanted handsome and prosperous. My mother wanted a Torah scholar.
“In fact,” she said to her friends as she pointed to Sholom, “I want to marry him.” They were married in 1940 and in addition to a Torah scholar, she got a tall and handsome man with bright blue eyes.
With the financial help of his father-in-law, Raphael Schreiber, Sholom realized his dream of owning his own newspaper. Grandfather bought a few linotype machines and the Oceanside News was born – a few pages of local news for the Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach communities.
Sholom and his brothers put the paper together and he and my Mom gave it out door to door.
By the time I was a child, Dad had expanded, launching the Brooklyn Weekly. The type would be set at his office and then brought to a printer. As a young girl I enjoyed going to his shop and having linotype operators print my name out on a metal slug. I particularly enjoyed the stories Arnie Fine would tell me. He had recently come to work for my father, writing many of the articles in the newspaper.
The days were long and the work was hard. Dad worked day and night to make a living. His brothers Albie and Labie and his brother-in-law, Harry Rosenthal, worked alongside him. Many a morning as I was getting ready for school, Dad would come home to daven and then back to work he went. I don’t know when he slept or ate, but he never missed his prayers.
Shabbos was the highlight of the week. That is when my sister Hindy and I had his undivided attention. We sat at the Shabbos table for hours as Dad discussed the parsha and told us stories from the Midrash and tales of the Gaonim. When we finally went off to bed, he took out his precious Gemaras and learned long into the night.
Those were the years when families all lived in one big house, and so it was with us. On the main floor were my parents, Hindy and me. My paternal grandparents lived on the second floor with my Uncle Labie and Aunt Rivie. When Aunt Rivie married Harry Rosenthal, the new couple continued to live upstairs. When their son Josh was born, he was like a little brother to me. I was a teenager when they all moved out and I felt bereft.
In the attic were two rooms where my maternal grandfather and Mom’s sister, Aunt Sylvia, lived.
Mom and Dad took care of everyone and they didn’t see it as a burden. They were so proud they could fulfill the mitzvah of honoring their parents and caring for their families.
For Dad, the same ideal applied to hiring people at the newspaper. He brought in people from the Young Israel. When a friend lost a job and couldn’t find other work, Dad would create a job for him. Even when it was suggested to him that some of those people were perhaps not as productive as they should be, Dad refused to fire them. He was afraid they wouldn’t find other employment. He just worked harder to pick up the slack, and from the time I was a teenager I would go the office to help out.
* * * * *
The Brooklyn Weekly evolved into the Brooklyn Daily and by now Dad had his own printing press. He continued to work extremely hard, but his dream was not complete. What he really wanted was a newspaper with Jewish content – a newspaper with which he could make a difference in the Jewish world. To that end he had begun putting out a small local weekly called The Jewish Press, but his big chance came in 1960.
The Yiddish newspapers that had once played such an important role in the Jewish community were, by the late 1950s, either diminished or defunct. A number of rabbis from the Agudas HaRabonim, led by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Simcha Elberg, called Dad to a meeting and asked him if he would fill the void by publishing a religiously-oriented Yiddish newspaper for Jews across the country.
I remember his discussion with my mother when he came home from that meeting. He recognized this was the opportunity he had dreamed of but said, “I won’t do it in Yiddish. I will publish a weekly newspaper in English that everyone in America will be able to read.”
Mom was swept along with his excitement. She told him to be sure to include in the pages of the newspaper the tales of the Midrash and the Gaonim that he was still telling us each Shabbos.
It was a huge undertaking, but he was not alone. With Mom, my grandfather, and my uncles at his side and the promise of support from his alma mater, Torah Vodaath, he announced, as the lead editorial in the first issue of the reconstituted publication put it, the “emergence of the former New York regional Jewish Press” as “the first national Orthodox English-Jewish weekly in the United States.”
That first issue was dated January 29, 1960 and contained 16 pages. A single copy cost a nickel; a one-year subscription $2.50.
Dad hired Rabbi Chaim Uri Lipshitz from Torah Vodaath to help with content and circulation. Arnie Fine, still with Dad from those very lean early years, soon started his “I Remember When” column. Dad wrote the “Tales of the Gaonim” and “Midrash and Talmud” columns, as Mom had suggested.
He also started a column of Questions and Answers on halachic issues. This became a highly popular feature. He once told me he’d answered many thousands of questions over the years. Dad carefully researched every question and listed the sources for each opinion, answering with the generally accepted point of view.
He favored the lenient approach in halacha, as it says, “koach d’hetera adif” – if a heter is permissible it is preferable.
It was Mom who brought some of the paper’s most popular columnists to The Jewish Press. During a summer at the Pioneer Country Club Mom met the newly married Esther Jungreis. After they spoke for some time, Mom suggested she write a column for The Jewish Press. The young rebbetzin wasn’t quite sure she could do this, but with her husband’s gentle encouragement, she agreed to try.
She started writing that column in the early 1960s and is still going strong all these years later.
It was also at the Pioneer that Mom met Dr. Morris and Shirley Mandel. Mom never went anywhere without The Jewish Press in her bag. She introduced the Mandels to the paper and it didn’t take much convincing for them to agree to write weekly columns, his focusing on psychology and hers on nutrition.
And Mom discovered a young rabbi named Meir Kahane, whose weekly articles and columns would be a mainstay of the paper until his murder in 1990.
In keeping with his desire to help Jews all over the country learn more about their heritage, Dad added more Torah columnists, including one by Rabbi Abraham Stone, a very young man at the time, whose column continues to run today.
Throughout the years, wherever I’ve traveled, I’ve met people who tell me they became religious through the pages of The Jewish Press. Others, who came from small communities devoid of a large Orthodox presence, have told me that as children they waited by their rural mailbox on Thursdays for The Jewish Press. What they learned from the paper was worth more to them than the teachings of the tutors their parents had engaged.
* * * * *
Almost from the beginning, a visit to The Jewish Press became a must for politicians seeking election. And when issues arose that threatened the Orthodox community, there was now a voice to fight back.
Over the years there were several attempts to outlaw shechita. Each time a new effort reared its head, The Jewish Press took a strong editorial position and worked with politicians and other public officials to beat it down.
Blue laws were another nemesis, and with the help of The Jewish Press, Sabbath observers were eventually allowed to keep their business open on Sundays.
The Jewish Press fought off attacks on yeshivas, championed the right of men to wear yarmulkes in the workplace, worked for legislation to limit autopsies on Orthodox Jews and helped Sabbath observers overcome job discrimination.
The New York State Division of Kosher Law Enforcement was instituted thanks in large part to The Jewish Press. The paper raised the issue of Soviet Jewry and kept at it years before it became a popular cause. More recently The Jewish Press was instrumental in the passage of the New York State Silver Get Law. Dad was personally involved in freeing a number of agunot.
For many years The Jewish Press was the lone English-language newspaper fighting for Torah Jewry. And it was the example and success of The Jewish Press that inspired others to publish English-language newspapers catering to religious readers.
Dad was a staunch supporter of Israel. He leaned to the right politically and was particularly happy when he had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Menachem Begin. My persuasive father even got him to write a column for The Jewish Press.
(Another columnist was Ronald Reagan. After Reagan was elected president, he invited Dad to meet with him at the White House. Dad brought along a copy of The Jewish Press that contained an article my mother had written about Nancy Reagan.)
After the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, Dad devoted hundreds of articles and editorials to the folly of that policy. It pained him deeply to see Israel go down what he perceived – correctly, it turned out – such a ruinous path.
* * * * *
As The Jewish Press continued to grow, Dad’s life settled into a pattern. He would spend the first part of his day in his study at home immersed in learning and researching answers to the halachic questions that continued to pour in. At 3 p.m. he would leave for the office where he would work late into the night.
In due time Dad published three volumes of his Questions and Answers and one each of Tales of the Gaonim and Tales from the Midrash. Throughout those years he continued to give his Shabbos Gemara shiur at the Young Israel of Brighton Beach.
As The Jewish Press grew, so did our family. I married and gave my parents their first grandchildren. My sister Hindy married Jerry Greenwald and they too gave my parents the nachas of grandchildren.
Oh, how my father loved to sit with his grandsons and learn with them. And he was a stickler for chapter, page and verse. “Where is it written?” – avu shtayt? – he would challenge them. I saw my own boys carefully memorize sources when they went to learn with him.
Whenever his granddaughters came into his house his face lit up and his eyes shone with love. All the grandchildren basked in the love of their grandparents and wanted to make them proud.
Most of my children live in Israel and Dad was very proud of that. Most of my sister’s children are working at The Jewish Press. All of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are shomrei mitzvos and all are carrying on his legacy of living a life of Torah and helping the Jewish people.
Ten years have passed since Dad’s death. We at The Jewish Press have worked hard to maintain the traditions he set forth. We continue to be a voice for Torah Jewry and on behalf of Israel. Those who remember the paper from its beginnings know that while many things have changed, many others have remained the same.
The 50th anniversary of the paper’s becoming the first truly national Orthodox periodical is a good time to thank our loyal readers, columnists, advertisers and all those who work behind the scenes. You’ve helped make The Jewish Press the nation’s largest independent Jewish weekly. We look forward to the next 50 years (and beyond) with the help of God and your continued support.
I picture my father now, at his table in the Yeshiva Shel Maalah (the heavenly yeshiva), learning Torah with his grandfather, his father, his brothers and his many friends. And when he looks down upon us, I hope he is proud and filled with nachas.