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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘East Coast’

As Long as We’re Guessing at God’s Message…

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

It didn’t take very long for some holy rollers to pop up and tell us why God punished the East Coast with a devastating storm. Not only didn’t it take long, there seemed to be a rush to see who could come up with a reason first. I don’t know who actually won that race. But I do know that there are a lot of people who think they have a direct line to God and know exactly what He was trying to tell us.
Well, I’m glad I now know. Or do I? It seems that not everyone came up with the same reason. There are no fewer than 6 different people who seem to have intimate knowledge of God’s purpose in inflicting damage on America’s East Coast residents. One of them commented right here in a comment thread last Thursday.

Is the Lakewood community still not Frum enough? Was it because New York legalized gay marriage? Perhaps it is because Israel’s depends too much on America? How about an environmental message? Are we ignoring climate change? Is this God’s way of getting us to stop our earth destroying ways? Or maybe it’s Iran’s fault?

I’m sure this will not be the last of it. For example I have yet to hear the classic one about Tznius. I’m sure that is yet to come up from someone.

Needless to say, I think these people all have agendas driving their claims of knowing God’s intended message. But I do not think it helps matters to use a tragedy to push an agenda. It would be far better if these people would just keep quiet and instead do whatever they can to help their fellow man in need. People in distress do not need to be harangued about why they were punished. Especially if such statements are clearly speculation sourced in an agenda.

But now that everyone else is doing it, I thought I may as well join the fray. I have a few thoughts about God’s possible message too. If anyone want’s to accuse me of being agenda driven… go right ahead.

It seems like almost every day there is another report about a religious Jew abusing another human being sexually. Just last week there was a report by Miriam Shaviv in The Times of Israel about yet another prominent Charedi rabbi in England who was accused sexual abuse – some of it apparently shocking!

London’s ultra-Orthodox establishment is investigating one of its most senior rabbis following a barrage of rumors that he engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with a woman, The Times of Israel has learned.

The rabbi wields considerable influence in the city’s Haredi institutions.

Over the past few weeks, he has been accused in blogs and on the street of a variety of sexual misdeeds with at least one woman — for whom he was allegedly acting as a counselor — and possibly with others. The allegations range from serious criminal offenses to actions which, one rabbi said, may be halachically dubious, but “in the non-rabbinical, non-Haredi world, wouldn’t raise eyebrows.”

The rabbi at the center of the rumors did not return a phone call…

One local Haredi rabbi, who like all the British interviewees for this article requested anonymity due to the case’s sensitive nature, said he did not believe the rumors, which “seem incompatible with [the rabbi's] personality.”

Because of the accused rabbi’s senior status and popularity, if the most serious allegations were proven, “it would send shock waves through the community. It would be on par with the chief rabbi being accused of such a thing,” he added.

Shock waves? I have long ago stopped being shocked by such stories. I don’t know if any of these charges are true or even exactly what they are. Or how many victims there are – if any. But it seems the charges are credible enough to have a committee investigating them:

Since mid-October, his London colleagues have met twice to discuss the handling of the case, once in the Orthodox suburb of Golders Green in North West London, and once in the considerably more Haredi Stamford Hill.

Now a prominent London rabbinical authority has appointed a small committee to investigate the claims. The committee apparently includes a mental health professional and a legal professional; at least one of them is Jewish.

As I said such stories are no longer shocking to me. But the relatively common occurrence of this type of thing does not lessen the terrible consequences for the victims. Nor does the continued protection and defense by their communities (including their rabbinic leadership) of accused molesters like Mondrowitz and Weberman help either.

Which is more devastating, Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Weberman? Sandy may have hurt a lot more people. It will be difficult to restore their lives to some semblance of normalcy. It will certainly take time. It will also take a lot of work and help from friends and community. But Hurricane Sandy’s victims will God willing survive and resurrect their lives.

That does not happen for too many victims of sexual abuse. Far too often their lives are permanently damaged. Some to the point of death by their own hand.

Yes my friends there is a lot of Teshuva to do. And a lot of work to do to rid the Torah world of the scourge of sexual abuse in all its manifestations. In all segments of observant Jewry. All over the world. There is also a lot of work to do to try and make whole the lives of victims to the best of our ability.

Although there is progress in how we deal with these things now, we have a long way to go. As long as there are communities that protect their accused molesters and reject the pain of their victims – our job is not complete. By a long shot!

Why did the East Coast where the greatest numbers of religious Jews live get such a terrible blow last week? I don’t know. I am not a Navi. But the sex related issue of Tznius is almost always pointed to by some rabbinic leaders as the cause. I agree that it might be sex related. But not in matters of Tznius. Perhaps it is the way we deal with sex abuse. If there is any message from God in this, perhaps the first thing we ought to look at is how we still fail to recognize just how short we fall in this department.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Nor’easter Headed for the East Coast?

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

According to Fox News, the bad weather may not be over, as the computer that correctly predicted Superstorm Sandy is saying that there’s a good chance that New York and New England may be hit with a nor’easter within the week.

The storm is not expected to be as bad as Sandy, but it may also bring snow, and would certainly hamper cleanup measures. If it happens, winds could reach as high as 40 mph.

 

 

 

All Is Not Well On The Eastern Front

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

By now, many are aware of the tough anti-Israel situations on college campuses. Colleges and universities in California and Canada have earned themselves especially notorious reputations. But what is happening along the East Coast? I’ve been speaking to far too many people who are comfortably numb because they “just don’t feel or see it.” Reality check: The wind is blowing the wrong way on the eastern front, too.

At Columbia University last month, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) tabled and railed against Israeli checkpoints, portraying Israel as a discriminatory aggressor state and conveniently omitting the point that Israeli checkpoints are security measures against Arab-driven terrorism. “SJP had a mock checkpoint where they bound, hit, blindfolded, and taped the mouths of ‘Palestinians.’ It was a new attack on the ‘inhumane’ state of Israel,” said Avi D. Gordon, StandWithUs’s East Coast campus coordinator. “These occurrences were usually saved for West Coast schools such as UC Berkley and Irvine, but now this dramatic rhetoric has shifted east and can be seen all over campuses. A little more than a month ago, University of Pittsburgh’s SJP had a die-in where ‘soldiers’ shoot ‘Palestinians’ and they lay dead on a main street.” Anti-Israel activism at Columbia goes beyond this one incident. Eric Schorr, vice president of Columbia’s pro-Israel committee called LionPAC, said there is “always [anti-Israel activism] in the classroom and on campus, with Israel Apartheid Week.”

The Palestinian Club at Brooklyn College also staged dramatic checkpoint propaganda, just days before Columbia. “Anti-Israel activities at Brooklyn College have become increasingly more frequent, and more dramatic than ever before on campus. The barely one-year-old Palestinian Club has already disturbed many Zionist and Jewish students by creating events solely to delegitimize Israel,” said Batya Reyz, a pro-Israel student activist. “A few weeks ago they had large signs that said ‘checkpoints,’ with members of the Palestinian Club crouched down with their hands tied behind their backs, playing the part of oppressed victims. When students stopped to observe the table, members of the Palestinian Club took the opportunity to ‘educate’ them on what’s happening in the Middle East and Israel.”

At NYU, Rebecca Kadosh noted that, “Pro-Israel students on NYU’s campus are starting to realize just how well-organized and very close anti-Israel activism is. We’ve seen the manipulation of coalitions, with NYU’s pro-Palestinian faction linking up with students across Manhattan, from the New School to Columbia. We need to be just as united in our response.” Binghamton University is having its share, too. Tamar Skolnick, vice president of Bearcats for Israel, said, “Binghamton has had some anti-Israel activity, such as when former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney spoke against Israel while prohibiting Bearcats for Israel to distribute Israel facts outside of the auditorium in which she was speaking – and more recently, tearing down BlueStar Israel posters.”

These are just a few examples proving that East Coast campuses are not being spared from the anti-Israel onslaught. Fortunately, the situation is not as dark and dirty as on the West Coast or in Canada. This translates into one thing: It is prime time for East Coasters to double their efforts to educate fellow students and communities about Israel – before the situation worsens.

So how does anyone build on the moment and make a difference in clearing the air about Israel? Natalie Menaged, national director of Hasbara Fellowships, emphasizes that “the best tactic for preventing this sort of situation is a strong offense that includes building and maintaining key relationships and spreading meaningful messages about Israel.” She adds, “Students, campus professionals, and concerned community members can take proactive measures for Israel, such as educating and engaging the campus community on Israel’s efforts for peace, and the historic lack of a peace partner for Israel, and Israel’s democratic nature. There is a variety of print material, lecturers, talking points, and programming ideas available about these topics, produced by Hasbara and other Israel advocacy organizations.

“Through educating their peers, forming relationships and coalitions with other student groups, engaging the campus media, and conducting quality programming, pro-Israel students can establish a solid base of support over time. This is of primary importance, as the most important goal is to positively engage people about Israel.”

Schorr, from Columbia, highlights the importance of community mobilization to help students on campuses. “LionPAC, along with our fellow Hillel groups, helped coordinate an incredibly successful and positive response to this [SJP checkpoint] farce of a demonstration,” he said. “We mobilized our own students, as well as those around the city from multiple universities, and promoted a theme of discussion and debate grounded in factual information and the true reality of the situation with checkpoints.”

Some, however, are ready for a more direct pro-Israel approach. “With anti-Israel activities on the rise, many pro-Israel students, myself among them, feel that it’s time to take student activism and advocacy to a whole new level,” said Brooklyn College’s Reyz. NYU’s Kadosh urged that, “We need to foster strong and knowledgeable leaders from the Jewish community. This is not a time for passive activism.”

David Kadosh, ZOA’s East Coast campus coordinator, voices similar frustrations. “There’s a disconnect when responding to anti-Israel activism. Israel groups on campus, especially those linked to Hillel, are trying not to be confrontational or explicitly pro-Israel, whereas anti-Israel activists are going at it with as much shock factor as possible,” he said. “Pro-Palestinian students are creating politicized events against Israel, and Israel supporters are meeting it with fluff, not responding with meaningful pro-Israel messages and missing the opportunity because they are scared of a backlash. They are scared to take a stronger stand, but could fluff events match, for example, Norman Finkelstein coming to campus?”

Kadosh also points out the need for “some kind of a support network where students send out an action alert that is broadcasted to other schools, organizations and communities, so people could come out in support. Columbia is one of the few schools who have the resources, and was able to mobilize many people during the mock checkpoint. But what if this happens at a small school like Kingsborough [Community College]? Students need to know that they can send an alert to one active person who can notify and rally many others. Community support is essential. What happens when Finkelstein gets 300 anti-Israel demonstrators, and a pro-Israel event gets 30 people? This sends a strong message to the school.”

While anti-Israel activism is intensifying on campuses, the Jewish student bodies and communities are still in the developing stages. There is an urgent need to reach out to pro-Israel supporters, build up the support network, and get active in meaningful ways. It is critical to go beyond emotional support of Israel and have the facts and messages to communicate while tabling on campus, writing about Israel in the campus newspaper, or engaging fellow students in conversation.

Make sure you know the facts. A good way to start is with JerusalemOnlineU.com’s Israel Inside/Out online course. And be sure to reach out to excellent pro-active groups like the ZOA, Hasbara, Hagshama, and StandWithUs. The resources exist; it is up to each Jewish student on campus to make a difference. Don’t let the East Coast deteriorate to an anti-Israel frenzy zone.

The Thin Line Between Joy and Tragedy

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

“There is a thin line between love and hate,” the saying goes. Two opposite emotions, yet one can so easily transmute into the other.

I have lately come to see that there is also a thin line between joy and tragedy. Joyful and tragic events can converge on the plane of time, emotional ink bleeding across the intersecting lines. Or an experience might transform without warning – a crushing setback unfolding into the greatest triumph, the height of celebration spiraling into heartbreak.

The only way to survive the roller coaster ride is to travel on a cushion of faith.

If this all sounds like a bunch of preachy philosophical pabulum, let me back up a bit.

*    *   *

One evening in February, my husband and I were relaxing in our living room. The Olympics hummed along on TV, my husband the weather-buff was devouring online updates on the unfolding East Coast snowstorm, and I was holding our baby daughter in my arms, feeding her a bottle. Our little boy was asleep in his room. One minute, a tranquil family tableau. The next minute, panic! Baby turning blue, her body stiff, her life hanging in the balance. I don’t know exactly how long she wasn’t breathing – a minute or two that seemed like 20 – but they were positively the most terrifying moments of my life.

By the grace of Hashem (and with the help of fast-responding Hatzolah volunteers, kind neighbors, and a top-notch ER) everything was fine. Tonight we are back here relaxing in the living room, enjoying the gift of another evening together.

*   *   *

Now, allow me to take you back a little further to when the learning really started.

After a progression of fertility troubles culminating in a bleak prognosis, my husband and I were at a very low point. Windows closing, the limitations of medical science laid bare.

Thus, we felt incredibly blessed approximately one year ago to learn we were expecting a second child.

Our jubilation turned to disbelief when initial tests put the viability of the pregnancy in question. But things progressed. The months of sickness that followed seemed a small price to pay. We were buoyant, if anxious.

A little past the halfway mark, the pregnancy became high-risk when I was diagnosed with a serious complication. Up and down, up and down. Where was this road going to take us?

At just 29 weeks, our daughter was delivered by emergency c-section. She weighed a little over 2½ pounds. The doctors whisked her away before I could even blink.

Right away, the confluence of joy and sadness struck me. Our daughter had arrived on Simchas Torah. The holiday of rejoicing with the Torah – Hashem’s greatest, everlasting gift to us – singing and dancing and celebrating our good fortune as its recipients. And here we were, my husband and I, in a hospital room, trying to digest our frightening new reality.

That first night, on Motzaei Yom Tov, my parents came to see me. “Mazal Tov!” bellowed my father, ever the optimist. The words rang strange in my ears. Yes, the birth of a child is always a blessing. But this new life was yet so tenuous, her prognosis then so uncertain. How could I celebrate when my baby lay tethered to machines, her tiny body utterly unready for the tasks of living?

For two months, the NICU was our baby’s home and our second home. Day by day, she made progress and showed a strong spirit. I was proud to see her batting her arms and legs, but I learned that all that movement wastes precious energy needed for growth.

Two steps forward, one step back is the rhythm of the place.

There were highs: the first time I held her (it was several weeks before that was possible), every clean test result, the day I finally saw her sweet face without any tubes or apparatuses. And lows: saying goodbye each day (often she’d finally open her eyes just when I had to go), having to ask permission for everything and defer to the judgment of others regarding her care, the night she contracted an infection and almost died.

We were at home sleeping when that crisis hit, blissfully oblivious until an unexpected morning phone call. Two days earlier, our baby had graduated into one of the “going home” rooms – those that house the bigger, stronger babies who are on their way toward discharge.

Perhaps the hardest part of those eight weeks was feeling torn between my child at home and the one in the hospital. Call it a severe case of Mother’s Guilt: the feeling that no matter what I did or where I was, I was shortchanging someone.

My mother has a dear cousin in Israel who is a chesed powerhouse. Among her wise expressions is, “In life you have to be where you’re needed the most.” I thought about that a lot during my NICU experience, and kept asking myself: Who needs me more right now?

On one hand, my son, then just shy of two and a half, sorely missed me when I wasn’t there. He was, in a word, confused. Children crave routine, and his had been quite upended. After my weeks of bedrest when he had been heard to chant in a singsong voice, “What happened to Mommy? What happened to Mommy?” I had disappeared into the hospital. But I didn’t come back with a baby in tow like in the big brother books we had read together. And he wasn’t allowed to visit the NICU, so he couldn’t see this “baby sister” he had been told about. The best I could do for him was to simply Be There. That meant cutting my time in the hospital short (or so it always felt).

Did the baby sense my absence? Not consciously, of course. But what about that subconscious-unconscious-visceral need that all newborns have to bond with their parents? Would she be scarred for life – not just because of the hours I couldn’t be there but because of all the cuddling she missed out on lying in an Isolette with wires and tubes and beeping noises and invasive procedures regardless of whether one of us was there?

So even as I sat playing with my son at home, or chasing him in the park outside, I felt conflicted. Delighted to see my son happy and carefree despite the upheaval in his routine, yet aching inside for my baby to come home, for our family to be whole.

Where does sadness end and happiness begin? Must the bitter overpower the sweet, or can it exist side by side, like two rivers flowing into the same heart? Hashem’s world is complex, and we are tasked with making peace out of the many pieces of our lives.

Throughout our journey, the jumble of emotions I felt led me many times to the brink of doubt. Each time we had to hold our breath again, I begged to understand: Why is Hashem doing this? Could we possibly have come so far only to lose it all? How can we bear to climb so high only to sink so low?

Will our baby make it? Will we?

But at least I had Someone to whom I could direct these questions. How, I wonder, can anyone get through such an experience without God? Whom do they call out to in the darkest moments? Just as I’ve always wondered how non-Jews and non-frum Jews handle the stresses of the week without Shabbos, I cannot fathom how one can get through a medical crisis without the succor of faith.

My husband and I are ordinary people. Our faith is imperfect. But I don’t think we could have survived our ordeal without it. From the very first night we learned of my pregnancy – and were warned that it might not last – we began a nightly Tehillim ritual of five perakim followed by a special Yehi Ratzon prayer from my Tefillas Chana siddur. The ritual continued while our daughter was in the hospital. It helped us connect with Hashem and feel that we were rallying the heavenly minions to our cause.

He heeded our prayers – and those of many others davening for us with hearts more pure. Our miracle daughter, the one all the nurses had labeled “feisty,” came home ahead of schedule.

*  *  *

This last year has been a roller coaster ride for our family. It’s made me realize more than ever how fragile our existence is, how unpredictable our lives. Not just from year to year, but from moment to moment. Why Hashem chooses to run the world this way I cannot claim to know. But I suspect that perhaps the unpredictability of life is supposed to motivate us toward continued prayer and dialogue with Him. It’s not enough to pray for something; once we have it, we have to pray to hold on to it.

Tanach is replete with examples of great individuals whom God drew to the brink of deprivation in order to elicit their deepest cries of prayer. Hashem wants to hear from us in good times and bad, in the throes of confusion and moments of clarity.

Unfortunately, not everyone manages to daven formally every day from a siddur (I admit I am among them). But as we go about each day, words that form in the heart and are whispered aloud – expressions of thanks, appeals for help – keep the conversation with the Almighty going.

When davening for our children, we typically focus on beseeching Hashem to grant them X or let them grow up to become Y. But that’s missing a step. Every parent must thank Hashem every day for the fact that he or she has a child at all. The same goes for spouses and parents. Because nothing is guaranteed; Hashem gives at His Mercy. The line between joy and tragedy is razor thin.

A neighbor of mine recently lost her father; a few weeks later she made a bar mitzvah. This type of predicament is, unfortunately, all too common. And yet, the show must go on. I know a girl who lost her father three weeks before her wedding. Yes, the wedding went on as scheduled. Not only is that undoubtedly what her father would have wanted, but it’s what our rabbonim advise. It is surely not an easy course. I can only imagine how much inner strength one must muster to make a simcha while still in mourning.

Regardless of the circumstances, undiluted simcha is rare in this world. There is almost always a sting, a yearning for the loved ones not there to share it. And don’t we make a point at every chuppah of tempering our joy with a remembrance of the churban? In galus, our joy is never complete.

*   *   *

We celebrated Pesach a few weeks ago, and Purim just before that. Each of these holidays illustrates the commingling of joy and tragedy in a different way.

Purim is the story of “V’nahapoch Hu” – disaster transformed into jubilation. Hashem is in control; it is never too late for Him to save us. In the Megillah, the very tools that were to do us in became instruments in our salvation: Achashverosh’s royal seal, the gallows Haman erected to hang Mordechai. Indeed, Haman unknowingly selected, through his lottery, a date for our destruction which is now forever enshrined on the Jewish calendar as one of rejoicing. And Esther’s ascent to the throne, which appeared at first as a grave misfortune, turned out to be the key to our enemies’ undoing.

Pesach, on the other hand, is an example of wondrous and unfortunate events occurring contemporaneously. In the first place, we are told that only one-fifth of the Jews made it out of Egypt. If just that small percentage numbered six hundred thousand souls – the headcount at the time of the redemption – how many millions of Yidden were lost during the centuries of enslavement? That is a tragedy of staggering proportions.

Moreover, the makkos wrought tremendous suffering and destruction, culminating in the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Yam Suf. While it may seem odd to mourn those losses, Chazal made acknowledging the Egyptians’ misfortune part of the Seder (removing drops of wine from our cups) and of the Pesach liturgy (saying only partial Hallel on the intermediate and final days of the chag). We ever so slightly mitigate our celebration because our redemption came at a great human cost. The moral lesson: We do not rejoice at another’s pain (even if it comes as due punishment).

We would all love to live in a world without pain. Some people seem, on the outside, to have a “charmed life,” but that can only be an illusion. There’s no such thing as a pain-free existence. That’s why it often strikes me at a shiva house when fellow condolence callers wish the mourners that they “should know no further tza’ar.” Well-intended and benign as the thought may be, it doesn’t reflect reality.

Hashem could have created a world without suffering where everyone lives forever in peace and vitality. God willing, we will experience such a world one day, may it come soon. But in the meantime, we are challenged to strengthen our emunah through the rough and tumble of life’s vicissitudes. (By this I do not mean to make light of anyone’s suffering. The recent trials of my own that I have chosen to share here pale in comparison to the horrors others have had to endure.)

*   *   *

Our little girl has, thank God, been growing by leaps and bounds. She will continue to be closely monitored – being a “preemie” doesn’t end when you leave the hospital – but we are optimistic. Most of all, we are profoundly grateful for our blessings. I hope that we maintain that awe and awareness as time goes by.

“Wonders happen if we can succeed / in passing through the harshest danger,” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote. Better yet, the words of David Hamelech: “Ha’zorim b’dimah b’rinah yiktzoru” – may those who sow through tribulation reap a thousandfold in joy.

The Latest In Kosher Food

Friday, July 26th, 2002

On The Road To The Perfect Snack

In honor of the beginning of summer, we decided to take the search for the perfect snack on the road and see what we could find along the East Coast.

We began our journey in the beautiful state of Massachusetts, more specifically in Hyannis. There we came across the world famous Cape Cod Potato Chip Co. Most of their products are under Kof-K supervision and are parve, but please check the labels to verify. Among the varieties we tried and loved were Sea Salt and Vinegar, Golden Russet and the Lighthouse pretzels. We took home two bags of the reduced fat varieties and have to say that no one believed they were low fat. They were truly incredible.

From there we traveled until we reached the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Among the many wonderful products originating in that historical area is Stroehmann's bread. Available in a number of varieties including Dutch Country Potato and Whole Wheat, we found them to be soft, with a nice crust and good flavor. Perfect with peanut butter and jelly or for a Sunday French toast brunch with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup.

We continued traveling through Upstate New York, where, in a city called Marion, we found an incredible snack ? apple chips. Produced by Seneca Foods Corporation, these delicious chips are under the Kof-K and are nearly all parve. They are amazing. We brought home a number of flavors for the office and everyone loved them. Most people came back for seconds, asking where they could be purchased. Our favorite flavors were pink lady and golden delicious.

We ended our trip back in Brooklyn were we found a number of products produced by a company called BBM Chocolate. Amongst their huge selection we found the world famous Alprose Chocolates ? which taste just as incredible as the really expensive chocolate for a fraction of the price. They also manufacture the L'Chaim cereal bars ? the only coated cereal bars that we have found that are parve. They come in three flavors ? peach, strawberry and raspberry. If you are looking for a quick and healthy treat, pick up a box and try them. The last product we tried there was a L'Chaim bar. For those of you Cholov Yisrael eaters who long for a Three Muskateers bar ? get to a store and try one of these. You won't be able to tell the difference.

That's all for now ? next month look for more bread, BBQ sauces and dressings.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/food/jewish-fress/the-latest-in-kosher-food-2/2002/07/26/

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