web analytics
December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘FFB’

BT Parents/FFB Kids (Part II)

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

In Part I (10-30-09) I responded to a question posed by a ba’al teshuvah (BT) who wanted to ensure that his frum-from-birth (FFB) children become well-integrated, healthy and normal, frumJews.

I discussed the distinctions between a mitzvah, minhag and chumrah, and something that does not fall into any of those categories – but rather is a cultural practice.

Some examples given were:

Putting on tefillin is a daily mitzvah (mandated commandment) incumbent upon all Jewish males above the age of 13.

Refraining from dipping matzah in liquids on Pesach (commonly referred to as gebrokts) is a minhag (a custom only observed in some communities).
Not using an eruv that has been approved by the vast majority of your city’s rabbanim is a chumrah (stringency) that many accept upon themselves.
Wearing a black fedora is a cultural practice prevalent in some communities.

It is of utmost importance that you fully understand the difference between these categories of Jewish practice – in your personal life and especially as you guide your children. It may be helpful to think of these categories as spiritual “needs and wants.” Mitzvos are mandatory practices. Chumros need not be observed, especially when one is first beginning Torah observance.

In reality, the harm caused by blurring the lines between these four components of Torah life is not limited to ba’alei teshuvah. It is something that many FFB parents engage in as well. Here’s an analogy that might shed light on this matter:

Imagine if you were talking about safety with your six-year-old child and you used the same tone of voice to describe the dangers of crossing the street without looking, taking a ride from a stranger, forgetting to brush one’s teeth and eating too many snacks. While you may wish to impart all these values to your child, lumping all four of them together will not give him/her the context necessary to prioritize them.

As noted in Part I, the complexity of these issues only underscores the need to find and maintain contact with a rav who understands you well and can guide your family with wisdom.

Maintain ties with your family: It is very important for the stability of your family life and your level of personal menuchas hanefesh (tranquility) to maintain ties with your non-observant parents and in-laws. I am well aware that there are those who advise ba’alei teshuvah parents to sever their ties with non-observant family members for fear of confusing their children. However, I feel that this thinking is fundamentally flawed in theory and practice.

In theory, what kind of message does it send when you walk away from your parents and siblings once you begin Torah observance? Shouldn’t the Torah teach you an enhanced level of respect for your family members?

In practice, as it relates to your children, severing relationships with your family unnecessarily robs your children of the unconditional love that grandparents have to offer. It will be difficult enough for them to watch their FFB family friends celebrate their simchahs with large extended family members. Why compound the pain by having them feel that they are rootless?

Here is a final point on this subject – one that may not be evident at first glance: When you exhibit tolerance for family members, you are making the profound statement that family bonds run deep and they override any differences that you may have with each other. Over the years, this unspoken lesson will serve your children well and enhance the respect that they will have for you.

You never know how things will turn out with your children. What if one of them decides to take a different path in life than the one you charted for him/her? If you send clear and consistent messages over the years that “family matters,” that child will, in all likelihood, remain close to your family members. However, if you decided that spiritual matters are grounds for severing ties with parents and siblings, how do you know that this logic will not be used against you in a different context one or two decades down the road?

To be sure, there are many challenges that you will face regarding kashrus (kosher food requirements), tzniyus (modesty), and other matters. But they are very manageable, provided that an atmosphere of mutual respect is created and nurtured. Over the years, I have attended hundreds of lifecycle events of ba’alei teshuvah where their non-observant family members were active and respected participants.

Find a community and schools for your children that are tolerant and understanding: It is of the utmost importance that you find a community that will accept you with welcoming arms. That means one where you will not cringe with the “what-will-the-neighbors-think” thought process when your non-observant brother comes to visit. If you feel that way in your community, you may not be in the right one.

As for selecting schools, see to it that the school’s educational philosophy is in general sync with yours. I often get calls from parents who are put off by certain policies (dress codes, media exposure regulations, etc.) that their children’s schools maintain, or the culture of the institution (i.e. what will the rebbe say about Thanksgiving, and does it match how you feel about it?). And equally often, these guidelines were in place when the parents originally enrolled their children. One cannot blame a school for enforcing their stated policies.

Generally speaking, ba’alei teshuvah parents should not enroll their children in Yiddish-teaching yeshivahs. I am aware of the cultural reasons that people are inclined to do so, but in the case of ba’alei teshuvah, I think that this is simply a bad practice – unless you are fluent in Yiddish yourself. It will be difficult enough to do Judaic studies homework with your children as they grow older without compounding matters by adding language barriers that will virtually guarantee that you will not understand what your child is learning – let alone be in a position to help him or her.

In sum, when raising your FFB children – as with all other areas of life – follow the timeless advice of Shlomo HaMelech (King Solomon) and stay on “the golden path” of moderation. It is the quintessential road map for success.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

BT Parents/FFB Kids (Part I)

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Dear Rabbi Horowitz:

What is your advice for ba’alei teshuvah (BT) parents raising frum-from-birth (FFB) children in terms of ensuring that the children are well-integrated, healthy and normal frum Jews? It is sometimes easy for us, as BT parents, to be very strict because of insecurities from our own upbringing and lack of family minhagim. It would be helpful if you offered a few pointers, to be explored with rebbe’im and suited for our family needs.

Thank you.

Dear Parents:

Your excellent question practically answers itself, and leads me to believe that you already have a deep understanding of the opportunities – and challenges – that you face in raising your FFB children. You hit the nail on the head when you noted that you wanted to raise “well-integrated, healthy and normal frum Jews.” That balance is exactly what you ought to be striving to achieve.

If you regularly read my columns, you may know where my suggestions will start. One of my mantras is that most of the issues that we face when raising our children are reflections of our own struggles. In order to raise well-integrated, healthy and normal frum Jewish children, you need to begin with well-integrated, healthy and normal frum Jewish adult parents. That means adhering to the timeless advice of Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) and remain on the golden path of moderation. After all, if you don’t want your children to be raised in an overly strict environment, the best way to achieve that goal is not to go overboard in your personal lives.

Here are some practical tips:

Grow slowly: Many meforshim (commentaries) suggest that the dream of our patriarch Yaakov (see Bereishis 28:12), where he envisioned angels climbing up and down a ladder, is a profound analogy to our spiritual pursuits. The Torah describes how the legs of the ladder were placed on the ground while its top reached the very heavens. The correlation is an insightful one for everyone, but is all the more relevant for ba’alei teshuvah. We ought to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground – all the while reaching for profound spiritual heights.

The reason that the image of a ladder was used in the dream (as opposed to, for example, a road leading to heaven) is that you simply cannot run up a ladder. So, too, spiritual growth needs to be a sustained and steady process.

Find a rav who truly understands ba’alei teshuvah issues: Not all rabbanim have a deep understanding of the complex mix of halachic and social issues where ba’alei teshuvah need individualized direction. Finding a rav who understands those complex issues – and you – will provide your family with an invaluable resource. Similarly, it may be helpful for you to find a ba’al teshuvah couple 10 years or so older than you who can mentor you as your family passes mileposts and lifecycle events. Those include enrolling children in school, bar/bat mitzvah, high school placements, shidduchim, etc.

I recommend checking out http://www.beyondbt.com/ for ba’alei teshuvah men and women. I am proud to serve as one of the rabbinic advisers of the website, and it has provided advice, camaraderie, and spiritual guidance for ba’alei teshuvah around the world over the past few years.

Be yourself: Ba’alei teshuvah may be concerned that they are poor role models for their children since they are following their less-than-perfect Torah and mitzvah observance. I think not. You are setting a wonderful example for your children by seeking to grow spiritually throughout your lives.

I encourage you to read a terrific article (available by running a search for “Kokis” on my website, http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/) by my dear chaver, Rabbi Bentzion Kokis, shlita, titled “Integration: Helping Ba’alei Teshuvah Be Themselves.” Rabbi Kokis is an outstanding talmid chacham with decades of experience guiding ba’alei teshuvah, and his advice is equally outstanding. He advises refraining from jettisoning your personality, hobbies, interests, education, career – and sense of humor – as you embrace Torah and mitzvos.

Distinguish between mitzvah, minhag, chumrah, and culture: In your question, you noted that, “It is sometimes easy for us, as BT parents, to be very strict because of insecurities from our own upbringing and lack of family minhagim.” In order to gain a better understanding of when to be firm and when to be flexible, you must distinguish between a mitzvah, minhag, chumrah, and something that does not fall into any of the three categories – namely a cultural practice. Here are some examples:

*Putting on tefillin is a daily mitzvah (a mandated commandment), incumbent upon all Jewish males above the age of 13.

*Refraining from dipping matzah in liquids on Pesach (commonly referred to as “gebrokts”) is a minhag (a custom only observed in some communities).

*Not using an eiruv that has been approved by the vast majority of your city’s rabbanim is a chumrah (stringency) that many accept upon themselves.

*Wearing a black fedora is a cultural practice prevalent in some communities.

It is extremely important that you fully understand the differences between these categories of Jewish practice – in your personal life and while guiding your children.

More on this issue, with additional practical tips, in my next column.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Letters To The Editor

Friday, August 8th, 2003

Joe On Joe

The June issue of Reader’s Digest featured an interview with actor Harrison Ford. He was asked, “Your father was Roman Catholic, your mother Jewish. Which faith were you raised in?” Ford responded, “I was raised Democratic.” Harrison affirmed that he too shares the
politics of his father, and went on to say that being a Democrat supplied a “complete worldview” for him.

What is most disturbing about these statements is that they demonstrate the tragic phenomenon that has devastated and continues to afflict our whole nation. Scores of Jewish souls have been lost to the Democratic Party and its “worldview,” as have many millions to other political movements that are antithetical to the ways of Torah.

One of the nine Democrats currently seeking the party’s presidential nomination is Joseph Lieberman, a purportly observant Jew who has publicly stated that intermarriage is permitted by Jewish law. Unless Lieberman recants his statement on intermarriage he poses a very serious spiritual threat to us Jews, and any Jew who it is a registered Democrat (a mistake in itself) should vote for anyone but him.

Whether or not one is comfortable with it, the fact is that many Jews look upon Senator Lieberman as a role model. That is precisely why he should be held accountable for any misleading statements he makes.

Joseph Lieberman
Brooklyn, NY

EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer was recently profiled – on the same day – by both The New York Times and New York Sun. In addition to having the same name as the senator, his wife,
like the senator’s wife, is named Hadassah. Brooklyn Joe Lieberman has published a new book, the title of which – ‘Joseph Lieberman is a Pious Liberal (and Other Observations)’ – refers, of course, to Washington Joe Lieberman.

Road Map To Where?

Giving control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority was a serious mistake. This will allow Hamas to regroup, rearm, and plan further attacks. Giving up Bethlehem was even worse because of its proximity to Jerusalem. Releasing terrorists from jail in response to Hamas blackmail is a complete no-brainer.

As a young man Ariel Sharon was a great warrior, but as an old politician he is a complete wimp. Its time to retire Sharon to his farm where he can grow cucumbers and tomatoes. At least there he will be doing something beneficial for the people of Israel.

As for President Bush, we must let him know that we are unhappy with the road map. Evangelical Christians write him thousands of letters every week telling him just that – and we in the Jewish community should certainly be doing the same.

(Rabbi) Yakov Lazaros
Framingham, MA

Don’t Pick On Poor Tom Friedman

Professor Howard Adelson’s focused criticism of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (Jewish Press, July 4), is really most unfair. It is obvious to anyone who ever read Mr. Friedman’s columns that he lives a fantasy existence, ensconced in an ivory tower where
he spends long hours writing imaginary truths. From there, those sacred scripts are rushed to the editors of the ‘world’s greatest newspaper’ whose creed is truth and integrity.

Professor Adelson, I ask you to be more fair and considerate. Stop trying to convince them with facts. Their minds are made up and they become provoked and agitated when contradicted. I also ask you to remember how only a short time ago the exalted Times demonstrated a willingness to live up to the principle of that well-known proverb, “Be sincere … whether you mean it or not.” Did the paper not apologize and fire one of its top writers after years of his plagiarism and contrived falsehoods?

Mr. Friedman and the editors of the Times have a tough enough time maintaining their fantasies on a daily basis. How unfair of you, Professor Adelson, to come, uninvited, with all your evidence to demolish their hard work.

I would like to see you re-direct your remarkable talents toward unlocking one of the great mysteries of our age – why a seemingly savvy and intelligent reading public continues to read The New York Times and Thomas Friedman.

By the way, I almost forgot to thank you.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

Trust And Kashrus

Re the letter to the editor titled ‘Kosher Conundrum’ in the July 4 issue of The Jewish Press:

I do not at all share the author’s concern with products under multiple supervision.

Kosher supervision revolves to a large degree on trust (ne’emunus). When multiple kashrus organizations give a hechsher on a product, they have developed a working relationship, with kosher standards on which they agree and a mashgiach whom they trust to enforce those standards. Having multiple supervisors is economically unfeasible, unpractical, and simply unnecessary.

From my own experience in hashgocha, I have seen food processors use ingredients with kosher supervision from organizations other than the one supervising their particular product. Reliable kashrus organizations are careful in their approval of other kashrus organizations.

Yisroel Friedman
Rochester, NY

Thumbs Up For Passover Vacations

In response to Dr. Yaakov Stern’s comments regarding Passover vacations (Letters, July 4), I would like to say “sour grapes!” This past Passover was the first time my family had an opportunity to go away. Indeed, we were able to perform all of the mitzvot of Passover. There were no “bikini-clad beach bimbos,” nor was our motivation for going away a need for entertainment. At the conclusion of each seder, I was able to walk to our room feeling relaxed. We were able to join with others in learning, davening, and truly appreciating the Passover
holiday in a relaxed and pleasant environment.

I wonder if Dr. Stern has ever participated in the preparations for Passover – the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, the serving? By the time the holiday starts, most women are exhausted – and then come eight long days in the kitchen! Any man who truly cares about his wife would be pleased to take his family away for Passover so that everyone has an opportunity to celebrate the freedom represented by the holiday.

Shoshana Borovetz
Philadelphia, PA

Political Brawl

I must say I was amused by the news that Assemblyman Dov Hikind filed a lawsuit to stop Noach Dear from running to reclaim his (Dear’s) old City Council seat (“Hikind Files Suit To Bar Dear Election Bid,” Jewish Press, July 4).

While I am fully aware that the current holder of Dear’s old seat, Simcha Felder, is, as The Jewish Press politely phrased it, Hikind’s “prot?g?,” I burst out laughing when I read that Hikind, not Felder, was challenging Dear’s candidacy in court with the claim that Dear was “term limited.” Moreover, despite the fact that one cannot get through a week without reading in some Jewish newspaper a joint statement issued by Hikind/ Felder, I did not see a single story about Hikind’s lawsuit in which Felder was quoted. It was Hikind, only Hikind.

And then when I learned later in the week that the lawsuit had been dismissed because it was brought too early, I quite literally had to sit down. Imagine – Dov Hikind acting with undue haste in order to make headlines! Now ain’t that a kick in the head?

Alan Weinberg
Brooklyn, NY

Historical Corrections

In his recent discussion of the history of the Shiff shul and its successor kehilla in the U.S., ‘Machberes’ columnist Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum made several statements that need clarification.

The first rabbi of the Shiff shul in Vienna, Rabbi Solomon Zalman Spitzer, was not only a disciple of the Ktav Sofer, but more importantly he was the son in law of the Chatam Sofer (father of the Ktav Sofer), Rav Moshe Sofer.

As such, this kehilla had a direct connection with the founder of Hungarian Orthodoxy.

Rabbi Tannenbaum stated that the kehilla’s first rav in Brooklyn was Rabbi Yonason Steif, whom he describe as “rosh beth din of Budapest, the highest rabbinical office in Hungary and effectively chief rabbi of Hungary.” This is a highly problematic statement, as Rabbi Steif was officially a senior dayan in Budapest not rosh beth din (See Shem Hagedolim Hashlishi Leretz Hagar, Budapest, 1941). He served as senior dayan together with R. Israel Welcz. The rosh beth din was R. Efraim Fishel Zussman Sofer.

While R. Steif may indeed have assumed the role of rosh bet din as the fateful year of 1944 approached, he was not such for most of his tenure in Pest. The position of rosh bet din was not the position of chief rabbi of Budapest. The last incumbent to hold that office was Rav Koppel Reich, who died in 1929. After his death the position of Orthodox chief rabbi was never filled again. I may note here that the Neolog [non-Orthodox] chief rabbi was Rabbi Dr. Simon Hevesi, the grandfather of New York State Controller Alan Hevesi.

Thus while Rabbi Steif was a leading Hungarian posek and gaon, he was not involved in national Jewish community affairs and was one of a number of senior halachic authorities throughout Hungary. Hence it is an error to refer to him as the de facto Orthodox chief rabbi.

Let me conclude by adding that Rabbi Yeshaya Fuerst survived the war in London. Upon hearing that a number of former congregants had re-created the Shiff shul in Brooklyn, he congratulated them but criticized their choice of name (Khal Adas Yereim – Congregation of
G-d fearers) as implying that the other Jews in Brooklyn were not such. The name of the kehilla in Vienna was Adath Israel.

Zalman Alpert
Reference Librarian
Gottesman Library
Yeshiva University

More On Discrimination Against Baalei Teshuvah, Geirim

Some letter-writers have defended bias against ba’alei teshuvah and geirim in the shidduch scene. Noted rabbis have done the same. That tremendous bias exists is undeniable. That
such bias runs completely counter to Torah ideals is irrefutable, as I shall demonstrate.

The anecdotal evidence in favor of their marriageability – Moshe, Yehoshua, Ruth, Rabbi
Akiva, Shemaya and Avtalyon – is strong, and has already been discussed. Some people choose to deflect this evidence, claiming that these exceptions are “only for the gedolim”  (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Thankfully, there is further evidence that should remove any doubt once and for all.

I refer readers to the following sources:

1) Vayikra Rabba (20:10), also found in the Tanchuma on Parshas Acharei Mos. Rabbi Levi
writes that Nadav and Avihu were arrogant, and this arrogance contributed to their downfall. Many women dreamed of marrying these great leaders, but Nadav and Avihu refused them all. “Our uncle, Moshe, is the king,” they said. “Our father, Aharon, is the kohen gadol, and we are his assistants. What woman is good enough for us?” They never married, and were held accountable for their elitism. Even those with the greatest yichus may not exalt themselves over others.

2) The last Mishna in Masekes Horayos. We are taught that a mamzer who is a talmid chacham takes precedence over a kohen gadol who is an am ha’aretz. Yichus, thus, is only a tiebreaker when midos and chochma are equal (the Rambam in his pirush writes this openly).

3) The fourth perek of Masekes Geirim (and elsewhere). The Torah commands us not to oppress geirim, and the Gemara explains that this refers to reminding them about their past lifestyle. What more poignant reminder is there than the denial of suitable shidduchim?

4) Sefer Chinuch (Mitzva 563). Jews of pure lineage are forbidden to marry converts from the
nation of Edom until the third generation. The Chinuch writes in no uncertain terms that one who refuses to consider marrying a third-generation convert from Edom, either because the nation of Edom caused trouble for the Jews, or simply because he is biased against converts, is in violation of a biblical prohibition. Kal va’chomer, I would submit that those who harbor bias against ba’alei teshuvah, people born with kedushas am Yisrael, are in violation of this commandment. Those who are cling to every publicly observable chumra, who look for things to be concerned about when it comes to kashrus, would do well not to disregard the unambiguous words of this rishon.

In sum, the Torah’s position on ba’alei teshuvah and geirim is clear – they must be given the exact same consideration in the shidduch scene as so-called FFBs. The spirit of the law is also clear – one is simply not allowed to stereotype or generalize. Every person must be given unbiased consideration and judged on his individual merits, his internal merits. To judge someone based on background, externals, or “percentages” might be convenient – but the Torah forbids it.

Only by bravely following Torah principles can we successfully address the disastrous
shidduch scene.

Chananya Weissman
Far Rockaway, NY
Founder, Endthemadness.org

Haredim And Israel: An Emerging Appreciation

Just when I’d lost hope in my generation, a Shabbos in a particular section of New York has
restored my faith in frum GenXers. Let me explain.

A particular brand of frumkeit and culture held sway throughout my adolescence and early
20’s, and nearly all of my contemporaries found it irresistible.

Now in their thirties, these GenXers are energetic professionals or businessmen, who retain
for dear life the external icons of their yeshiva youth. Their Hebrew pronunciation still includes
the oy for the cholom that they adopted in high school (as in Ess-roy-g). Now a financial analyst on Wall Street, Laizer (pronounced Lay-zuh) still feels compelled to wear his black hat, and insists on maintaining a sefira beard – shave l’kavod Shabbos? Chas v’shalom! Laizer, you see, if a ben Toy-ra.

But of course Laizer is still very much a GenXer, and partakes in much of the allowable fun
America has to offer: kosher cruises to the Bahamas, SUVs, and shtaty clothes. Laizer’s wife
wears a $3,000 custom sheitel. Laizer often makes it a Blockbuster night.

For Laizer, the challenge of frumkeit and observance is largely a matter of the conflict
between personal pleasure and personal religious duty.

Like many of their gentile contemporaries, frum-GenXers seem to pay little attention to
history. The uniqueness of the time in which we live seems lost to them, as do communal matters.

Or so I thought.

Perhaps it was the events of the last couple of years that have shaken so many of these Laizers
into – are you sitting? – an affinity toward Zionism!

You see, I spent a Shabbos davening in a black hat GenX shul in the New York area. Of the
well over 100 mispallelim (I’m told that half of the members had not yet returned from the Pesach hotels in Florida and elsewhere), maybe five looked over the age of 35. There was little communal singing – certainly no Young Israel-style singing for hotza v’hachnasa. Borsalino hats were hanging on hooks on the wall, and oys and fierce shukling were everywhere.

But, to my astonishment, a mishebayrach was made for chayalei Tzahal, and to my further
amazement, the tefilla for shaloym hamedina – Medinas Yisroyel ? was said! All this, by a
Lakewood-graduate gabbai. Apparently there is even some talk of simultaneous aliyah of several families.

The shul’s rav, who is a staunch advocate of black-hat frumkeit, once remarked to my host –
who had expressed amazement at the former’s unseemly adoption of Zionist-friendly positions – the following gem: “It is not too difficult to love Eretz Yisroel, but I love Medinas Yisroel too.”

Something is afoot here – something that has developed organically, and that has not been
dictated from up on high (i.e., not via Daas Torah). The grassroots has apparently come to value the State of Israel. Having long ago dismissed the B’nai-Akiva route to Zionism as watered-down frumkeit and passe nostalgia for a foreign culture of farming and hora dancing, the frum GenXers have found their own way.

The land and milieu of “Chop a Nosh” and “Mendy the Mezonos Maven” has yet produced

As documented by Yoram Hazony, the 1990’s saw the utter dissolution of secular Zionism. The dogmas, beliefs, and associated culture of a once predominate ideology became the object of scorn. In a similar yet different fashion the next decade will see a major change in haredi beliefs and culture, here in the U.S. and in Israel. It will no longer be a steera to be black-hat/haredi – and to appreciate, support, and contribute to the medina. In fact, it will be a badge of honor.

Shmuel Frankel
(Via E-Mail)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer maintains a blog at Frum Talk (www.frumtalk.blogspot.com).

Four Years Later, Busch Shooting Still Resonates

Believing The Worst

In a letter to the editor last week, reader Michael Steinhart criticized The Jewish Press for
continuing to ask questions about the fatal shooting of Gidone Busch in Boro Park on August
30, 1999. Mr. Steinhart has no doubts about the version of events put forward by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – namely that Mr. Busch was a crazy man lashing out at police with a claw hammer. When pepper spray failed to stop him, officers had no choice but to use lethal force.

If Mr. Steinhart had taken the time to look into this incident, he would have found that numerous eyewitnesses deny that anything like this occurred. As they have described it, it wasn’t Gidone Busch who was out of control; it was the police – the six or more of them (the exact number, like so much else about this case, is in dispute) who backed Mr. Busch into a wall and shot him 12 times.

I am grateful to and proud of The Jewish Press for refusing to forget about Gidone Busch. I
hope you will continue to report on the efforts being made by U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and others to reopen the case. It’s shameful that none of New York’s other Jewish journals seem to care.

Harvey Blume
Cambridge MA

Questions About Case Are Justified

Michael Steinhart’s letter accuses me of “playing the race card” in questioning whether Gidone Busch was given prejudicial treatment by certain Jewish community leaders on account of
his status as a baal teshuvah, and then goes on to parrot the media’s portrayal of the late Mr. Busch as a dangerous and unstable psychopathic menace.

When the story of Gidone Busch’s death first broke, a part of me held out great hope that a
mistake had been made, and that he was still alive and well; for the monster described in the press was not the same Gidone Busch I knew: an astute, witty and personable young man who had been a frequent and familiar visitor to my community and congregation, and who had davened only a few seats away from me a few short weeks before.

Unfortunately, the victim was the same Gidone Busch whose company we had come to enjoy, except that the news media had put an extremely negative slant on his mental condition. Gidone Busch’s name rarely appeared in the press without being accompanied by adjectives such as “mentally disturbed” or “hammer-wielding” (or even, as used in Yated Ne’eman, “mentally deranged.”). While such descriptive words may be true in the strict technical sense, their use in the news stories served to paint a contorted and corrupt image of Gidone Busch. And that played right into the hands of the New York Police Department, for it gave an air of justification to the brutal killing of Gidone.

We should, of course, be very selective in second-guessing our police officers’ on-the-spot line of duty decisions. But in light of some impossible to ignore evidence of a police cover-up that has come out in the Busch family’s lawsuit against the NYPD, the best that can be said about those Jewish leaders who justified the killing of Gidone Busch is that they unwittingly became stooges to further the NYPD’s questionable agenda.

Now, I certainly do not accuse any Jewish leaders who happen to be frum from birth of any
deliberate ill intent towards the baalei teshuvah. But just as Jews born and raised in assimilated
American homes have been ingrained with certain inaccurate and negative images of religious Jews, there can be little doubt that Jews who are frum from birth carry certain biases regarding non- observant Jews, and such biases can exist in ways that their bearers do not realize.

In addition to whatever individual experiences they may have had, baalei teshuvah have received many mixed messages from the local FFB leadership. There was the message that the law enforcement apparatus ought not criminally punish a certain FFB woman who, on account of her suffering from Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, caused the death of her own child, but that the law enforcement apparatus was justified in killing Gidone Busch, a baal teshuvah who also had mental health issues. The same FFB rabbis whose followers have taken to public protest in support of their own causes have forbidden similar protest over the killing a baal teshuvah named Gidone Busch. And, as mentioned previously, the most denigrating adjective used in reporting the Gidone Busch story was printed not in the secular press, but in a decidedly and unabashedly hard-line Orthodox Jewish newspaper.

Given all of this, it is entirely appropriate to ask whether some subconscious bias played a role
in the way certain FFB Jewish leadership handled the Gidone Busch affair. And that is precisely what my prior letter did.

As for Mr. Steinhart’s contention that The Jewish Press is “wrong-headed” to continue reporting developments in the Gidone Busch story: if reprisal of the Gidone Busch story is
“wrong-headed” then it is six million times as wrong-headed to keep dredging up the Holocaust which occurred in Europe over a half century ago. And just as the magic disappearance of all Holocaust articles from the news media would further certain agendas, so too would the disappearance of the Gidone Busch story from the news media.

Mr. Steinhart admonishes that we let Gidone Busch rest in peace. Though Gidone lies buried in the cemetery (I happen to be one of the men who physically carried his casket to the burial), he cannot rest in peace until certain accountability questions regarding the NYPD and the Jewish community are answered.

As The Jewish Press obviously realizes, Gidone Busch’s death is still a very live issue, if only because there is an active lawsuit now moving towards what will likely be a well-watched trial.

Kenneth H. Ryesky (Esq.)
East Northport, NY

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Saturday, July 26th, 2003

’Refreshing Counterpoint’

I moved to New York City in January 2002 and have found The Jewish Press to be a refreshing counterpoint to the daily anti-Semitic propaganda being fostered by the mainstream print and TV media. I buy The Jewish Press faithfully every week and have found your religious Zionist perspective to be spiritually and emotionally uplifting. In particular your stories about the Jewish communities in YESHA have been deeply moving and have strengthened my commitment to religious Zionism.

I am deeply gratified to see that The Jewish Press supported a free Iraq. Your editorials and articles during the American liberation of Iraq made me feel incredibly proud to be Jewish. You reminded me that our Jewish vision is one of universal human freedom, that our quest for
freedom is not only for Israel and the Jewish nation but for all of humanity.

Rabbi David B. Hollander eloquently articulated my reasons for supporting a free Iraq in his June 20 Sedra of the Week column. I share his outrage that the German murderers want to see Saddam inflict the same genocide on the Kurds and Shi’ites that they inflicted on the Jewish nation. Similarly, the French, who are inciting violence against their own Jewish community today, have no business talking about morality in their opposition to a free Iraq.

And the opposition of the Democratic Party here in the U.S. to a liberated Iraq has filled me with such outrage that I am thinking of voting for President Bush in 2004 – even though I am a lifelong Democrat who counted chads for Al Gore in 2000 in Palm Beach County. (This decision will depend upon President Bush’s support of Israel’s war on terrorism, of course.)

Rebecca Witonsky
New York, NY

More Rabbinic Voices Needed

The grassroots efforts to petition Sharon regarding the road map are wonderful. The root of the problem, however, is not Sharon. Sharon’s position is simply representative of that of the general Israeli public. The root of the problem is that the leaders and the society at large are afraid to recognize and proclaim fundamental truths.

We are afraid to proclaim that the Bible really means what it says. We are afraid we will be labeled extremists and fundamentalists. There is, however, a fundamental truth stated over and over in the Bible: that the Holy Land is meant for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob exclusively.

The spiritual leaders of Israel need to cry out proclaiming this fundamental truth. In this we share common ground with fundamentalist Christians.

Robin Ticker
(Via E-Mail)

Knesset Follies

The goings-on in the Knesset are akin to a disorienting, hallucinatory bad dream. Whatever it is that shapes Israel’s laws makes little sense. Why would officials ban reporters from Arutz 7 (an Orthodox pro-settlement radio station) from the Knesset, while permitting the Arab network Al Jazeera’s reporters to have the right of entry?

Hagai Seri-Levi, Arutz 7’s reporter, was removed from a meeting of the Knesset on the grounds that Arutz 7 is an illegal station. Arutz 7 operates from international waters and consequently is not an illegal station. Why the selective harassment? For years other radio stations, such as the left-wing Abie Nathan’s “Voice of Peace, ” operated from international waters without being hassled by the Israeli government. Nor has Israel shut down the truly illegal Arab media, which advocates death to innocent Israelis.

The paragons of Israeli politics are committing an outrage which may very well haunt them in the future. Arutz Sheva may represent a minority in Israel. But it is a minority of an estimated half million or more listeners. Labeling Arutz 7 illegitimate can only serve to undermine the very foundation of the Jewish state.

Ben Eliahou
Manalapan, NJ

‘Purim In Summer’

The news from Israel is so incredible that I am beginning to believe this must be a rare “Purim in Summer” – that Israel is in some intoxicated state wherein she cannot discern between Haman and Mordecai.

While homicide bombers are blowing up innocent Israeli civilians, the Israeli government considers Jewish settlers the real and dangerous “enemy” and uproots them from the land, instead of uprooting the real enemy – Palestinians – who have no other goal but to make Israel another Auschwitz in the Middle East, exterminating all of the Jews, G-d forbid. In fact, on the same day that a homicide bomber murdered an innocent Israeli, Jewish settlers were being torn from their land by Israeli soldiers.

So this must be Purim, because today’s Haman, the Palestinian terrorists, are being placated via the “road map” while Jewish people are being brutally ripped from their cherished land – by other Jews.

I wept as I watched Israeli soldiers fighting settlers while suicide bombers murdered innocent Jews. Has Israel gone mad?

Chaya Blitzer
(Via E-mail)

‘Settlers’ Really ‘Returnees’

While the battle rages in Israel over ‘settlements’ as the Arabs and Americans call it, it is a battle of futility. The terminology is totally incorrect, and therefore an agreement cannot be reached. It’s like one side is talking about apples and the other about bananas.

Here is an explanation and a clarification of the misunderstood word ‘settlements.’ The Jewish people have returned to the biblical homeland. They claim nobody’s land but their own, their only homeland. The Hebrew word is mitnachalim – returnees.

The problem is that the Jews are soft-hearted and did not drive out the squatters, the Arabs, which by universal precedent, they should have done.

The Arabs have 22 countries and they are on the verse of swallowing up two or three more European countries…

Even the land knows who its rightful owners are. Where the Jews live the land is verdant, even the land which originally was beach sand. Is green with grass and fruit bearing trees – a land of
abundance, blessed by the G-d of Israel.

Sylvia Mandelbaum
Neve Dekalim, Israel

Defending Passover Getaways

In a letter to the editor in last week’s Jewish Press, Samuel Messinger of Miami Beach deplored the alleged excess manifested by vacationing families at kosher-for-Passover holiday programs in hotels and resorts.

Dear Mr. Messinger: where and when I and my family take our vacation is our own affair. Tens of thousands of Jews now go away for Passover each year, in what has indeed become a significant phenomenon on the American scene.

It is a wonderful time as far-flung family members come together, at the height of the spring season, for eight or more days of fun and fellowship.

Back in ‘the good old days’ your mother or grandmother may have done all the cooking and cleaning, but our family believes in freeing the slaves! No more does mom have to be a slave in the kitchen cooking all day, and we’re able to spend our holidays in wonderful locales that our forebears could only dream about.

Most of the kosher tour operators are quite careful with food preparation, and in most instances the extra food is donated for charitable use. And don’t feel sorry for the kitchen help – they’re very well paid these days.

Art Altman
Brooklyn, NY

More On BTs, FFBs, Shidduchim And Status

Stop Whining, Already

Re the recent letters to the editor from converts and baalei teshuva whining about their difficulties in being fully accepted into the Jewish community: that’s not what I’ve seen. The
congregation I attend in Brooklyn has many geirim and newly-observant of diverse races. They are welcomed with open arms and are afforded complete respect. I am proud of them and consider them my brothers and sisters. And many of them find marriage partners.

I can’t help but wonder whether those who complain that they can’t find a shidduch aren’t using their newly-acquired Jewishness or frumkeit as an excuse. Perhaps there are other reasons for their problems, such as personality flaws. Whatever the reason, the difficulty of finding a shidduch is something one hears from singles throughout the Jewish community, no matter their backgrounds.

Sherine Levine
Brooklyn, NY

Valid Concerns

To the reader who claimed he is unable to get dates with frum-from-birth singles who are
wrongfully rejecting him for merely being a baal teshuvah:

As someone who has had much contact with baalei teshuvah, and who admires their deep
commitment and sacrifice in making the difficult choice to become observant, I’ve seen some who’ve teetered back and forth between being observant and reverting to their original lack of observance. Some need years to find their “comfort level” of frumkeit, which is understandable. Many do become fully observant, but others fall backward.

For a baal teshuvah to say to an FFB, “Take me for who I am now, respect me for making the
commitment to becoming frum, and forget all your fears and concerns,” is just not realistic for many FFB singles. I am of the strong opinion that baalei teshuvah should not begin dating seriously until they have been frum for a number of years, to ensure that they know exactly where they are religiously, and where they will stay.

In any case, good luck to all those seeking their zivugim. It is all in the hands of Shamayim;
you must only do your hishtadlus and trust in Hashem to bring you the right zivug at the right

E.R. Frankel
Brooklyn, NY

Knowing Who We Are

Re the baal teshuvah who’s having great difficulty dating in right-wing frum circles because
many frum-from-birth Jews (FFBs) will not go out with him:

The implication is that since he isn’t being set up with FFBs he can’t get married. I would suggest that he go out with a baalas teshuvah. There are quite a few wonderful, talented, fine, attractive, and frum baalas teshuvah. Why should he feel so dejected when there are so many nice frum girls who have a background similar to his whom he could be dating?

Turning to Chananya Weissman’s letter to the editor on shidduchim which appeared in the issue of June 13 and contained some good points: Rabbi Weissman mentions that some of our great leaders married converts such as Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua. He mentions that Yehoshua married a convert who according to several commentaries was a harlot. I’d like to elaborate on this.

Yehoshua led the children of Israel into the Holy Land. The woman he married was named
Rachav. Obviously, her past was a result of her upbringing. However, when the situation
materialized she risked her life for the benefit of the Jewish people. She put herself in mortal
danger when she hid the spies and helped them escape from the city of Yericho. Furthermore, If Yehoshua married her we can be sure that she was a special righteous woman.

Moshe Rabbeinu married his wife, the daughter of Yisro, before the Torah was given. She
also was a very special and righteous woman as our great rabbis have taught us.

In a similar vein, Rabbi Akiva’s wife must have been a very special, intelligent and righteous
woman. To have the foresight to see that such a person as this simple shepherd Akiva could totally transform himself and become what he became is something most of us don’t have. Furthermore, she acted on this conviction and gave up everything – her money, her social standing, and all the physical comforts the wealthy take for granted.

We have to know who we are and realize we are not on the level of these tzaddikim. However, when we look for a shidduch we should be aware that there is something such as character. Character doesn’t necessarily mean that the shidduch prospect is the most popular in the class. It’s not necessarily reflected by how much money someone is earning, or whether he wears Armani suits or she wears the most expensive and trendy dresses, or even by the degree of status one had achieved in his or her shul or community.

Mordy Wolfson
Brooklyn, NY

‘Coke-Can Ritualism’

The contempt for baalei teshuvah that comes through some of the recent letters you’ve published corresponds with the sentiments I’ve experienced since becoming Torah observant some nineteeen years ago. There’s a caste system in the frum community that rivals anything seen in India, with emphasis placed not on a person’s inner traits, his spirituality, his middot, but on which yeshiva he attended and who his great-grandfather was.

Frankly, I’ve met an alarmingly small number of frum-from-birth Jews who come close to
exhibiting the sincerity, the kavanah, the beauty of soul, that I see in baalei teshuvah. For too many FFBs, Judaism is simply a lifestyle they were born into, and putting on tefillin or going to minyan is simply an ingrained habit done with little reflection and even less sanctification – no different, l’havdil, from putting on one’s shoes in the morning or brushing one’s teeth after a meal.

Years ago I heard a prominent rabbi warn a group of mostly FFB youngsters against being
complacent in their frumkeit, pointing out to them that the only reason they were frum was because their parents were, and that if their parents worshiped a can of Coke, that is exactly what they would be worshiping. I know all too many frum adults whose Judaism is no deeper than the Coke-can ritualism described by the rabbi, yet they wear their FFB status as some badge of honor and are quick to deride and denigrate baalei teshuvah.

Before patting themselves on the back for their great wisdom in choosing to be born into frum
families – thereby confusing an accident of birth with some praiseworthy achievement – FFBs
should ask themselves why it is that one rarely finds a baal teshuvah implicated in any of the
embezzling, stealing, money-laundering and similar such crimes that have given Orthodox Jews
such an ugly image in the outside world. It seems to be very much an FFB phenomenon, this
epidemic of white-collar crime, and I would suggest that one of the reasons for this is the sick, unholy emphasis on externals and material gain that has overtaken large swaths of the Orthodox world.

Frankly, given the obsession with gashmius and status among FFBs, I would prefer that my
children, when they reach marriagable age in a few years (G-d willing), marry baalei teshuvah even though they themselves have been frum from birth. I didn’t become frum in order to have children and in-laws whose frumkeit consists of little more than the rote observance of folk rituals ingrained from birth.

Gershon Holtzman
(Via E-Mail)

What If Gidone Busch Had Been A FFB?

Your June 20 editorial supporting the call by Congressman Nadler for a new investigation into
the death of Gidone Busch appeared on the page immediately facing some letters to the editor
regarding the bias in the frum community against baalei teshuvah when arranging shidduchim.

You will recall that immediately after Gidone Busch was shot to death in Boro Park by New York City police officers, several Jewish community leaders, including Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz (a VP from Agudath Israel) and former councilman Noach Dear, held a news conference, jointly with the NYPD, at which Dear and the others gave the NYPD strong backing.

Would Dear, Lefkowitz, et al, have been so quick to carry the NYPD’s water if Gidone Busch had been frum from birth instead of a child of assimilated Long Island suburbia?

The question is not whether there is bias in the frum community against baalei teshuvah. The
question is whether such discrimination and bias is limited only to the shidduch scene.

Kenneth H. Ryesky (Esq.)
East Northport, NY

What Bush Did And Didn’t Say

I was intrigued by Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s column in last week’s Jewish Press (“Road Map Rage”) in which he savages President Bush for his promotion of the “road map.” While Hikind makes several points I agree with, I think it’s important to point out several problems in his presentation.

First, Hikind writes that “President Bush found it necessary to harshly scold Israel for the
targeted attempt on Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi” (emphasis added) but then incongruously relates what Mr. Bush actually said: “I regret the loss of innocent life… I’m concerned that the attacks will make it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to fight off terrorist attacks. I also don’t believe the attacks help Israeli security.”

Expressing “regret” for the Palestinian civilians inadvertently hit in the attack on Rantisi and his ilk, “concern” for the effect the attacks will have on the Palestinian Authority, and “belief”
that the attacks will not help Israeli security hardly constitutes a “harsh” presidential rebuke.
Moreover, a couple of days later – and well before Hikind’s article appeared – the president went out of his way to clear the air and give Prime Minister Sharon a “green light” to go after “ticking bombs.” Can anyone now honestly say that America does not accept Israel’s right to defend itself – as Hikind suggests is the case?

In a second example of misleading hyperbole, Hikind goes on to say: “President Bush, asked
recently who his favorite leader is in the Middle East, stunned reporters when he cited Crown
Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.”

Yet here is how the Washington Post reported the incident to which Hikind refers: “Aides [to
President Bush] said the one leader in the region who has earned Bush’s respect is Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.”

So, contrary to Hikind’s distorted version, what was reported was someone’s secondhand,
subjective impression of the president’s feelings, not a “stunning” direct statement from the
president himself. Note also the difference between Hikind’s claim that the president cited Abdullah as ‘his favorite leader’ in the Middle East and the actual, far less incendiary observation made by Bush’s aides that Abdullah is ‘the one leader in the region who has earned Bush’s respect.’

One wonders how Hikind would compare Mr. Bush with Bill Clinton as far as the Middle East is concerned. Hikind is silent on this, but keep in mind that he publicly toyed with the idea – almost up to Election Day – of endorsing Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate in 2000 despite her public support for her husband’s disastrous Mideast policy and despite her infamous embrace of Suha Arafat just after the latter made several scathingly anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic comments. (In the end Hikind endorsed neither Clinton nor her Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio.)

Perhaps Hikind, being a consummate politician, is taking seriously reports that Hillary
Clinton may soon run for president and Bill Clinton even sooner for mayor of New York.

David Schneiderman
New York, NY

Israeli Haredim And Government Subsidies

This month’s Jewish Observer has an article lamenting the fact that budgetary cuts by the
Israeli government have been heavily weighted against the Torah community. The article
describes the paralyzing sacrifices that Kollel families will now have to shoulder.

This is indeed very sad. In an economy that has been so adversely affected by intolerable acts
of bloodshed, the Israeli government has been forced to make some difficult decisions.

But I must protest the myopia of those who so bitterly decry the present situation. Do they not
see the error of their own ways in all of this? Where was the hakaras hatov during all the “good” years? I never heard any expression of gratitude to the Israeli government for supporting Torah institutions. Huge sums of money were allocated for use by the haredi community with nary a thank you in return – in fact, the response was mostly bitter criticism.

Is it any wonder that these budgetary cuts seem to be geared toward haredim? Whom, after
all, did the electorate choose to be in the government, United Torah Judaism? No, it was
Shinui, a new secular party that was swept into power, and their representatives are merely
following through on their campaign promises.

The great question is, how did the frum olam in Eretz Yisrael get into this mess? Could it be we were too reliant on the government? Could it be that we were too indiscriminate in who and how many people we allowed into the kollel system?

Maybe it’s time to reassess our priorities and re-evaluate our goals. Not every yeshiva student
should seek a lifetime in kollel. There should be programs that encourage some of the yeshivaleit to take simultaneous programs in career training.

To be sure, klal Yisrael needs gedolim as well as other klei kodesh. But we need to insure that the right people are learning full time in order to achieve the great heights in learning necessary to become gedolim. These are the people who should be supported with available government funds.

There are far too many people learning full time who come to realize in their 20s or 30s that
learning full time wasn’t really meant for them. Meanwhile, they’ve received tremendous financial support from the State of Israel. So, after numerous years of being supported, and at a time when they already have large families, they start entering the job market ill equipped for decent employment.

Our rabbinic leadership has been enormously successful in creating the system of learning Torah l’shma, which is so necessary for our continued existence. But in the process, bnei Torah have become a dependency class. Avreichim who might have chosen a path more suitable for themselves have instead been encouraged to follow the singular path of learning full time.

If there are 20,000 people learning full time in Israeli yeshivas, at least 25 percent should
probably be doing something else. If this population were reduced by 5000 people there
would be more than enough government funds available for the rest. And the 15,000 remaining yungeleit would be the ones who deserve the stipends.

I want to make one thing clear: I encourage anyone who desires to do so to continue
unencumbered learning a year or two after marriage. But for some avreichim there should
have been a dual program prior to their marriage where work or professional skills were learned. Training should begin after two or three years of learning full time post-high school and divided between learning Torah and learning a parnassa.

One may ask, what about late bloomers? Wouldn’t they be discouraged by being steered into
a parnassa? No. If one goes to college at night he is still learning quite a bit the rest of the day, and a late bloomer will still blossom.

Learning a parnassa is not an impediment to gadlus.

Following this approach would lessen the burden on society and provide motivated baalei
battim who would be able to provide additional support for those klei kodesh who have the
potential to become leaders and teachers for all of klal Yisrael.

Harry Maryles
Chicago, IL

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Friday, July 4th, 2003

Road Map To Jordan

Originally, today’s “Palestinians” were nomadic, itinerant laborers who were imported into the Jordan River region by the Ottoman Turks in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Ottomans tried to settle these nomads into this area as a source of cheap labor. Today, the population of Jordan is approximately 65 percent Palestinian. This must be recognized in any road map to peace if the present roadblocks are to be removed.

All roads from Israel to Jordan should be opened to one-way traffic for all the “Palestinians.” Jordan should be renamed “Palestine” to represent the true nature of its population. This road map to “Palestine and Peace” should inspire the emigration to Jordan-Palestine of Palestinians from all over the world. This could finally create peace in the Middle East – as long as Jordan’s king doesn’t massacre thousands of Palestinians as his late father did in September 1970.

Harry Grunstein
Montreal, Canada

Peace Mirage

There never will be peace between the Jews in Israel and the Arabs in (so-called) Palestine until the Arabs: 1) Stop teaching their children to hate and kill Jews; 2) stop glorifying the suicide bombers as holy martyrs while presenting their families with big financial rewards; 3) stop the constant propaganda in their media and death sentences to the “infidels” in their mosques; and 4) be prepared to go through a bloody civil war to completely wipe out Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim, Force 17, Al Aqsa Brigades, Hizbullah and all the other terrorist crazies (including Arafat and his PLO) once and for all.

You can have the best of intentions and draw up all the “road maps” (the few clear thinkers among us call them “road traps”) you want, but no tangible, lasting peace will result until the Arabs do what they have to; eventually, our leaders (including President Bush in America and Prime Minister Sharon in Israel) will come to this realization. Until then, peace in the Middle East is strictly a mirage.

L. Bloom
Baltimore, MD

Fear Of ‘Activists’

“The Lemrick Nelson Verdict” (editorial, May 30) points to something that has plagued the Jewish community for years. Most everyone seems to look over his or her shoulder before
taking a position on any issue for fear of not being politically correct. G-d forbid that someone will not take the most radical position on an issue for fear of being targeted by “activists.”

This is true with regard to both domestic and international issues. Even someone with the record of Ariel Sharon is not immune. I happen to disagree with what I believe to be his overly conciliatory policies. But, contrary to what is being said by some of our more ‘activist’ brethren, I would hardly put him in the category of a Neville Chamberlain.

Sharon Wilder
New York, NY

Soft On Bush?

I was disappointed with last week’s editorial “Abu Mazen Now On Notice.” To my mind The Jewish Press puts far too much stock in President Bush. I will grant that Israel is lucky that Al Gore lost the 2000 election, but you seem to think that George W. Bush is the answer to Israel’s prayers. Apparently you even believe that President Bush’s strong personal commitment to the “road map” will somehow intimidate the Palestinians to the extent that they’ll put a stop to the con games they’ve been playing since the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993 – simply out of a fear of angering this no-nonsense president.

Your editorial also tried, with your speculation that there are secret understandings Sharon may have with Bush, to explain away some of the serious concessions the prime minster already agreed to even before sitting down to negotiate.

I happen to think the road map is a prescription for disaster. It was not something conceived by President Bush because of its potential for furthering Israel’s security interests, but rather as
a payback to British Prime Minster Tony Blair for his key support in the war against Iraq.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the road map – leaving aside its specific provisions – is that by setting arbitrary timelines it repeats the error of Oslo with a message of inevitability that is nothing short of an invitation to continued Palestinian duplicity.

Moreover, it sadly appears that the only one who has been put on notice has been Prime Minister Sharon. If anything, Abu Mazen continues to fear Yasir Arafat much more than he does George W. Bush.

Menashe Selidiker
(via E-Mail)

Arik, We Hardly Knew Ye

Arik Sharon is still remembered by people over 45 as a courageous war hero. Some of those people find it hard to believe that Sharon has become a wimp and is so quick to give in to
foreign pressure.

We, on the other hand, are not so surprised. We remember him as the executive director of the destruction of the Jewish city Yamit and the man who gave sanctuary to Arafat and his band of terrorists in Beirut (and later in Ramallah).

Sharon was given the opportunity to go down in history as the greatest Jewish leader of modern times. The people of Israel gave him full support to wipe out Arab terror, but instead he has given in to all of the Arabs’ demands and received nothing but dead Jews in return.

Mr. Sharon and his Likud party have a lot of explaining to do. Can someone please tell us why these guys have been wasting so much public money to win elections against the left-wing Labor and Meretz – and then when they’re voted in they execute the same or worse policies against the State, the Land, the People and the G-d of Israel?

G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and no one has the right to give it away. The Jewish settlers didn’t come to settle the land because of Sharon and they will not leave the land
because of him.

It is time to show support to the Jews who are loyal to our heritage and birthright and question the authority of those who are willing to give all of that away.

If all the Arabs put down their guns there will be no more war.

If all the Jews put down their guns there will be no more Jews.

David Ha’ivri
Kfar Tapuach
Shomron, Israel

Anti-Gentile Bigotry

I was appalled at the level of outright bigotry displayed in a couple of letters from readers recently featured in Rebbetzin Jungreis’s series of columns on ‘missing’ parents.

One letter-writer was not really worried that the parent isn’t home or that the nanny doesn’t speak English and therefore may not of much help in an emergency. Rather, she trembles at the idea that the nanny, a non-Jew, may have to be called to pick up the child and take her home in the event of an emergency.

In another letter, the writer draws the conclusion that the non-Jewish person babysitting the young boy fed him a sandwich of salami/ bologna and butter “on purpose.” On what did she base this conclusion? Did she have any evidence that the caretaker knew that this combination was forbidden? No. If the caretaker had been intent on having a Jewish child eat forbidden food, she could have just as easily given him a ham sandwich, or a sandwich of non-kosher salami which would have easily gone undetected.

The ignorant, malicious, type of thinking displayed in these letters may be seen in certain circles as some sort of higher level of piety, but in reality it is no different from accusations that all Jews are thieves and cheats. The distorted thinking displayed by the writers of these letters is of the same nature and should be offensive to all. Then again, certain elements in the haredi community spout the same mindless condemnations of their Modern Orthodox co-religionists, so should I be surprised at the outright bigotry displayed toward others not of their ilk?

Robert M. Solomon
Brooklyn, NY

Heed Rabbi Porush’s Warning

Rabbi Menachem Porush’s columns in the May 23 and May 30 issues of The Jewish Press were probably the most urgent he’s written in all the years he’s been enlightening your readers
with his Torah perspective on Israeli politics. I sincerely hope that his plea for support to save Torah education and financial aid to destitute families elicits an overwhelming response from
Jewish Press readers.

There is a famous story that when the Chofetz Chaim was told of the death of Soviet dictator Lenin (may his name be obliterated), he responded, “Are Jewish children learning Torah in Russia?”

Today, we can proudly answer that yes, Jewish children are most definitely learning Torah in Russia, the United States, and in other areas of the Diaspora. But thousands of other children’s
chinuch in our own Holy Land is in dire jeopardy.

The Zohar states that before the Final Redemption, Israel will be ruled by the airev rav (the mixed multitude). Let us not be deceived by Prime Minister Sharon and the Likud’s past record of showing a sympathetic attitude toward religious Jews. His alliance with the Shinui party – which blatantly proclaims that it seeks to uproot every vestige of Jewish religious life from the state – shows that he will not stop at anything to retain political power. Even the Labor party, which had threatened to rescind many of the agreements with religious parties going back to Israel’s creation, never actually carried out these evil “gezairos.”

The Sharon-Shinui regime is cutting the flow of money to yeshivas and stipends to large families at a record pace. A rav of a community in Israel has already directed his followers to
put plans in place asking the parents to take turns teaching in the cheder. It has reached the point where the end of funding to yeshivas is sadly becoming an inescapable reality.

I have no answer except that the same measures taken by this rav to perpetuate Torah learning in his community must be taken by all Torah communities in Israel. Torah and
Judaism are synonymous. Without Torah we cannot survive as a people.

As individuals we must speak up. All Torah-true organizations, regardless of their political or religious viewpoints, must unite and do everything in their power to stop the internal enemies of the Jewish people from destroying us from within.

Yisroel Friedman
Rochester, NY

FFB’s, BT’s And Dating

Jacob Snyder, a baal teshuvah (BT), writes poignantly of his hardships in getting Frum-From-Birth (FFB) dates (Letters, May 23). In Mr. Snyder’s view this is evidence of anti-BT “discrimination” and is unfair. He says, “I would even hazard to say that perhaps the reason G-d has afflicted the frum world with … a dating crisis has a lot to do with the way the FFB world is treating baalei teshuvah in the dating domain.”

I do feel sorry for all those – BT and FFB – who are having trouble finding their life-mates, but I think Mr. Snyder is himself being unfair. Mr. Snyder asks the FFB world to recognize the sacrifices BT-people make in becoming religious. Fair enough, but two points come to mind:

First, FFB’s and their ancestors have made the same type of sacrifices, and they did so long before the days of Kosher Delight, no-work Saturdays, and Torah Umesorah day schools.
My own great grandfather, during the Great Depression, lost his job every Monday because he was absent from work each Saturday. Yes, in a sense I’m riding on his coattails, but
wouldn’t Mr. Snyder want his own offspring to ride on his coattails?

Second, Mr. Snyder seems to assume that it is the FFB community’s duty to reward his personal sacrifices by letting him marry its daughters. I think that we are all better off leaving reward and punishment to G-d Himself. That said, the FFB community is to blame for not being honest enough with the BT’s it brings into the fold. Kiruv workers should give full disclosure: Yes, we want to teach you about Torah and frumkeit, but as a BT you might have a limited dating pool, and – rightly or wrongly – FFB’s are often elitist and focused on pedigree. Indeed, it is interesting that the faction that one often hears boasting of its own exclusive commitment to kiruv – the yeshivish – are, according to Mr. Snyder, the least willing to marry BT’s.

Mr. Snyder’s letter is required reading for all kiruv workers. Perhaps if he had been better informed from the get-go, he would have been spared his disappointment, and we FFB’s
would have been spared his “increasing rage” at us. Mr. Snyder, may Hashem reveal your basherteh soon.

Chaim Steinberg
(Via E-Mail)

Dr. Stern Fan Club Called To Order

Think This Reader’s Angry?

How dare Dr. Yaakov Stern portray “the furor over Agudath Israel’s non-participation in the
Washington rally for Israel” as part of what he terms “the contretemps between Modern
Orthodoxy and Torah Jewry?”

For one thing, it is idiotic – yes, idiotic – to exclude from the ranks of “Torah Jewry” all of
those thousands of shomrei Torah and Mitzvot who studied Torah at RIETS and heard shiurim from the incomparable gaon Rav Joseph B. Soloveichik, zt”l, and other gedolim and who identify with Modern Orthodoxy.

For another, Dr. Stern’s sophomoric suggestion that adherence to the Agudah line on the Washington rally determines whether one or is not part of “Torah Jewry” shows just how clueless he really is. In fact, I saw many participants at the rally I knew to be card-carrying members of the Agudah. Also, is it possible that Dr. Stern is ignorant of the fact that even several members of the Agudah’s Moetzet argued for such participation, though they were ultimately outvoted?

What chutzpah for Dr. Stern to have concluded his mindless vituperation with mussar: “In a world so fraught with peril, is it sensible for us to cast aspersions on each other? With so much
to rectify, it’s time to turn introspective.”

Physician, heal thyself.

Yitzchak Reiles
New York, NY

…This One’s Even Angrier

Dr. Yaakov Stern – in my opinion a classic example of the type of Orthodox Jew who so turns
off our non-Orthodox brothers and sisters – must have broad shoulders to have taken it upon himself “to set the record straight” about the dismay voiced by some readers over the direction that gedolim gave to European Jewry “during the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

According to Dr. Stern, “While Jabotinsky called on the masses to flee, our great leaders knew that Divine wrath is inescapable and urged the people to do teshuvah.”

Here’s the problem, Doc: Since prophecy ceased with the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash,
even the most learned rabbi cannot know for a certainty if and when Hashem will choose to
unleash His Divine wrath. Urging people to do teshuvah is a wonderful thing, but dead Jews can’t do teshuvah, nor can they observe Hashem’s Torah.

I really don’t like raising the painful issue of the gedolim and the Holocaust, but since Dr. Stern
already did, I will point out that most of the European gedolim were wholly unprepared – and
hence unable to prepare their followers – for the Deluge that was clearly on the horizon.

Not only did many gedolim fail to comprehend the enormity of what was coming, but there were all too many who actively opposed the efforts of those Jews who did comprehend and who attempted to sound the alarm.

Let’s also recall that the Nazis assumed power in 1933 but by nearly all historical accounts
did not settle on an official policy of outright extermination until 1941. In other words, the
Nazis had a full eight years in power during which time they steadily, and in full view of the world, increased their brutal persecution of any Jews unfortunate enough to fall under their purview – and still there were rabbis in Europe who urged Jews to stay put, who warned Jews that fleeing to Palestine or America was not the proper solution. Those who listened, unfortunately, sufferd the final solution.

I would offer further comment on Dr. Stern’s letter, but I have no idea what he meant by his
closing statement, which I quote in full: “As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, said, it’s best to do teshuva while eating a watermelon – i.e., when things are going well. It’s sobering to think that these may be the good old days.”


Leonard Herschman
(Via E-Mail)

Vastly Unimpressed

In his latest attack on non-haredi Orthodox Jews disguised as a letter to the editor, Dr. Stern
seemed bent on making a full-blown doctrinal defense of the haredi philosophy rather than
addressing the specifics of what reader Mike Senders had to say in his earlier letter.

Nor did I find Dr. Stern’s imperious declarations particularly illuminating, especially given the breadth and depth of the assignment he arrogated to himself.

I was reminded of an old aphorism that I will paraphrase: vast questions are sometimes tackled with half-vast efforts.

Isadore Zorelnig
Loa Angeles, CA

Stick To Your Day Job, Dr. Stern

I wonder why Dr. Stern persists in his folly of speaking up against Modern Orthodoxy almost
every week in the Letters section of The Jewish Press. Would he have been among even the third tier of the pupils of the intellectual fount of Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveichik, zt”l? Who exactly is Dr. Stern to presume to voice a personal opinion in a field occupied by one of the greatest Talmudic minds of the 20th century, and someone, as reader William Farkash observed last week, characterized by a “relentless search for halachic truth and … uncompromising personal piety.”

Dr. Stern may think it productive to champion what he believes to be the views of gedolim of this and other eras. But from what I’ve read of his efforts, he should leave that role to others.

Ira Kramer
Forest Hills, NY

What The Chofetz Chaim Said

Dr. Stern claims he is setting the record straight regarding the response of gedolim to the winds of war in Europe – and in two sentences, no less! Dr. Stern recounted the comments the
Chofetz Chaim made in 1930 foreseeing a war that would exceed in tragedy and toll even the
First World War.

I believe Dr. Stern misreads the Chofetz Chaim’s portents. Three years later, Hitler had
taken power and declared his intent to wipe out European Jewry. In 1933, when asked by the rav of Ponevezh, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, zt”l, what the fate of Eastern European Jewry would be, the Chofetz Chaim responded by quoting the pasuk from Bereishis regarding
Yaakov and Eisav’s impending confrontation and noted that no one had ever succeeded in
destroying our entire people. “One camp” would survive.

Asked which camp would escape if, G-d forbid, European Jewry was destroyed, the Chofetz Chaim quoted the pasuk from Ovadiah, “Uvhar Tzion tihyeh pleytah vehayah kodesh” (On Mount Zion there will be refuge, and it will be holy). The Chofetz Chaim recognized that
those Jews fortunate enough to escape to Eretz Yisrael would survive.

Had Hashem chosen to reveal to the Chofetz Chaim the full extent of what was to occur in
Europe, does Dr. Stern really think the Chofetz Chaim would have merely counseled that since Divine wrath is inescapable, the people should just do teshuvah? Unfortunately, Hashem saw fit to deny the Chofetz Chaim knowledge of the full extent of what was to be.

When faced with an illness, an individual does not have the sole option of retiring to his bed, Tehillim in hand. One is obligated to seek and avail oneself of medical care, and then, with
the requisite introspection and tefilah, hope that a cure is sent by Hashem via a doctor. Can any less be true on a national level? Is teshuvah the only recourse a believing Jew has to imminent disaster? That seems to be Dr. Stern’s understanding.

Does one not have an obligation to remove oneself from danger? While Divine wrath, if so
designed, is inescapable, no one – gedolei Yisrael included – knows that a calamity is
attributable to inescapable Divine wrath while that calamity is occurring. Consequently,
preemptive action, when and wherever possible is mandated. It is only decades later, through the privilege of hindsight, that we recognize the Holocaust to have been an event that transcended the natural historical process and that, all human efforts notwithstanding, could not have been prevented.

Finally, Dr. Stern feels that Jabotinsky’s call for mass immigration to Israel as a means of survival was diametrically at odds with the Chofetz Chaim’s call for teshuvah in the years
leading up to the war. While their ideology was certainly not the same, given the pasuk that the
Chofetz Chaim is recounted as quoting, I would conclude that Jabotinsky was tragically
prophetic. Unfortunately, Dr. Stern, has once again, allowed his feelings vis-a-vis non-observant Jews to cloud the truth.

Brad Herman, M.D.
Fair Lawn, NJ

Stands By Substance, If Not Tone, Of Letter

This past Shabbos a friend came up to me and said, “Mike, are you happy with the letter you
wrote to The Jewish Press?” [Editor’s note: Mr. Senders’s letter appeared in our issue of May 23 and was followed a week later by several irate responses.]

I paused for a moment. I wasn’t sure what he was driving at. You see, my friend is one who takes me to task on religious issues but rarely questions my sincerity. My answer to him, however, came quickly. For in truth my answer wasn’t really dependent on figuring out his motive for asking. I responded that “it wasn’t what I said that was wrong, it was the language I used in saying what I said that was wrong.”

My use in my earlier letter of the term ‘Cereal Rav’ was an unfortunate choice of words – and
since I used those words in a public forum, it is important that I use the same forum to express my full regrets for having expressed them.

What I meant to say was that the rav who compiled the detailed list of the different cereals
was the same rav who evaluated the wearing of a baseball cap on Shabbos through the halachic principle of ohel (tent). I in no way wish to impugn his Torah knowledge or cast aspersion on his kavod.

Our rabbis caution us to be careful with our words and I therefore also wish to clarify my words regarding the reciting of brachot.I still think there is a serious problem facing young children, and perhaps adults, when they recite a bracha – whether on cereal or, for that matter, a candy bar. Even after one has ingested one of these items and satisfied every halachic nuance regarding the source of its contents, something, I believe, is still missing – that ‘something’ being what Rav Soloveichik, zt”l, calls an awareness of Divine intervention in nature. He suggests that the creation of fruit or other natural produce is a miracle of G-d’s yeshuah and is therefore symbolic of our dependence on His chesed.

My point is that unless we incorporate into the teaching of brachot the idea that a child should
be saying, “Gee thanks, Hashem, for this delicious candy bar,” we may have fulfilled halacha and yet not conveyed to the child (or to ourselves) an emotional or spiritual charge of hakoras hatov to Hashem. At best, then, the child will say, “Boy! I can now eat this cereal cause I have fulfilled every aspect of halacha.” This may be satisfactory to some readers but certainly not to me.

Having said this, I remain firm in my opinion that Modern Orthodoxy has its own agenda and
stands on its own hashkafah as delineated in my original letter.

Chag Sameach to all of you.

Mike Senders
Cleveland, OH

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Friday, June 20th, 2003

Gesture Of Brotherhood

In honor of last month’s Holocaust Remembrance Day and in exceeding gratitude and love for the contributions Jewish people have given humanity, please find attached a manuscript copy of an article I would like your newspaper to add to its archives and to distribute to interested colleagues and groups.

The manuscript is titled “The Nuremberg Trials: The Death of the Rule of Law.” I am happy to report that I have recently accepted a publication offer from Loyola Law Review (Louisiana), which will publish this work later this year.

This manuscript has recently been added to the collections at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, The George Bush Presidential Library, Yad Vashem Library, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Jewish Agency, The Jerusalem Report and Jews for Judaism; and it is under archive consideration at The Simon Wiesenthal Center, The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and many other respected venues.

As a black man and a Christian, I have been a lover and a friend of the Jewish people and their culture for many years Long ago I made a vow to G-d to dedicate my legal career and writings to proclaiming truth to the law academy and to society based on the Judeo- Christian tradition. I am honored to make this small contribution to bringing the light of truth to a very dark and ignominious chapter of Jewish history.

Ellis Washington, J.D.
(Via E-Mail)

Coach Knows Best

In the ugly light of the latest atrocities in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, on this dark night comes breaking news from Israel about more bombings, more dead and more worthless excuses from some spokesperson from “Palestine.” It seems obvious that the “road map to peace” will be painted in Jewish blood. What will it take for the United States to comprehend the fact that Israel is our lone ally in a desolate zone of hatred and fanaticism and that “Palestine” is little more than a junkyard for casbah cutthroats whose claims to a ‘state’ are as legitimate as drunken hillbillies squatting in an antebellum mansion?

Your goyishe buddy down in Dixie,

Mark “Coach” Segura
Athens, GA

He’s Ba-a-a-ck

It was reported this week that Israel’s Labor Party is about to appoint Shimon Peres as temporary leader. How can anyone restrain himself from responding to this absurdity? It pains me that the idea alone made me laugh, because the reality is far too dangerous to be funny.

Peres is demanding that his temporary term last two years so that he has time to establish order and chart a positive direction! Peres led the Labor Party on several previous occasions in the only direction he knows – circular. On second thought, perhaps he should be given another chance. I reason that he is dizzy from running in circles. There is another direction he can take, and he will never know the difference – downward, and he can take the whole Labor Party with him.

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

Plaudits For Eidelberg, Adelson

Your columnists Professor Paul Eidelberg and Professor Howard L. Adelson wrote a pair of gems in the April 18 issue, and I extend my thanks.

Egypt’s state-controlled media are undoubtedly the world center of Jew-hatred, and they preach incessantly that Jews are a curse upon the world and that the killing of Jews is sacred and laudatory. Just as Israeli aircraft took down the Iraqi nuclear reactor, the same therapy must be applied to the Egyptian facility that contaminates the world with its incessant preachments on the desirability and the sacredness of exterminating Jews.

As for the McLaughlin program and Patrick Buchanan, there is a readily available and effective therapy. John McLaughlin is an experienced and ruthless hater from way back. He makes Buchanan’s appearance on the program possible and serves as Buchanan’s master of ceremonies. ‘The McLaughlin Group’ is carried in many areas by the Public Broadcasting Service, a well-known Israel-bashing media outlet. These worthies are nourished by public contributions. Our Jewish brethren, and all people of goodwill, should adopt a determined and iron-clad principle – no financial contributions to and no moral support of the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.

Jacob Shapera
Vernon-Rockville, CT

Summit A Success Despite Absence Of AIPAC, Others

This past Sunday I attended the Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit in Washington, along with members of both the Zionist Organization of America and the Christian Coalition. Concerning the latter, the genuine and staunch support from these Christians was astounding. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Many of these people flew in from across the country to demonstrate in no uncertain terms (no wishy-washy feelings here) their
unequivocal support for Israel.

Much was accomplished at the conference as attendees considered strategies for stopping the “Road map/Trap.” However, it was glaringly obvious (and very disturbing and depressing to see as a Jewish Zionist) that all the other major Jewish groups, especially AIPAC with all its clout, were absent from this conference. Obviously, they are all under the delusion that we can still appease the terrorists by offering them a state of their own.

Despite this, I especially want to thank all the wonderful supporters and speakers (I know I will forget to include a few and for that I apologize). Thank you to Morton Klein, Daniel Pipes, Arnold Soloway, Richard Hellman, Frank Gaffney, Gary Bauer, Tom Neumann, Jan William Van Der Hoeven, (a righteous gentile par excellence) Michael Ledeen, Helen
Freedman, Rev. William Sutter, Ambassador Alan Keyes, Dr. Charles Jacobs and Dr. Alex Safian.

Here’s to the hope that this horrific “Road map/Trap” never comes to fruition.

Adina Kutnicki
(Via E-Mail)

No Justice For Yankel

The Bible is clear: “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” We are further enjoined, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life.” While the Oral Law interprets this as being monetary damages rather than the actual taking of another’s eye, tooth or life, nevertheless the message is clear. The perpetrator must pay. He must not be permitted to get away scot-free.

The mother of Lemrick Nelson, whose comments and gestures suggested that of a religious person, should have been quite familiar with G-d’s version of justice. Does the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” apply to all humankind except her son? He is an admitted murderer, and by all indications totally unrepentant.

We were quite upset to watch her on TV at the conclusion of her son’s third trial. She was clearly annoyed, saying that she’d had enough of trials. The implicit suggestion was that the Rosenbaum family should put the murder of their son behind them. I wonder how she would feel if it were her son who was murdered? Her son was given three trials, all at great public expense. Yankel Rosenbaum was deprived of even one trial.

We now have an admitted murderer – someone who should be locked up forever, someone who has not only gotten away with murder, but will soon be set free by our justice system. What a travesty. What a disgrace to the morality and ethics of civilized society. What a mockery and embarrassment to the principles of justice.

Mr. and Mrs. Ben Eliahou
Manalapan, NJ

Baalei Teshuvah Unworthy Marriage Material?

I’ve read many excellent articles in your newspaper about the dating crisis in the frum world, but none that specifically addressed the treatment of baalei teshuvah.

Having personally become frum 14 years ago and having dated that whole time, I can attest that there is a tremendous level of discrimination among ‘Frum From Birth’ (FFB) Jews when it comes to dating baalei teshuvah. I have been turned down by an almost countless number of FFB women for the primary reason that I was not raised religious.

I just spoke with a shadchanit who despaired of setting up a 28-year-old baalas teshuvah – in this case a woman who’s been frum since 15 – with any FFB guys. I even had a similar conversation with a rabbi who happens to be a baal teshuvah but has a difficult time getting dates. The problem is particularly acute in the more yeshivish parts of the community, as the Modern Orthodox tend to be more flexible. Nevertheless, as the community as a whole moves to the right (something I wholeheart-edly support), the problem only continues to grow, especially since baalei teshuvah tend to lean more toward the yeshivish world.

I had a rebbetzin tell me last week that I should just grit my teeth and deal with the fact that my ‘dating pool’ is much smaller because of the lack of FFB women willing to date me. And everyone says I should just have more emunah. But for myself and my peers, I feel only increasing rage at an FFB world that is only too willing to let us remain single and childless for years on end because FFBs must have frum in-laws and a ‘fully yeshivish-learned’ husband or wife.

Does the FFB world have any idea of the sacrifices people like me make to become religious, and of how many perfectly eligible but secular Jewish women I gave up as potential marriage partners in doing so? I would even hazard to say that perhaps the reason G-d has afflicted the frum world with such a dating crisis has a lot to do with the way the FFB world is treating baalei teshuvah in the dating domain.

Jacob Snyder
(Via E-Mail)

Disappointed In Dr. Mandel

I have admired Dr. Morris Mandel for the sage advice and wisdom he has given over many years. For this reason I was especially disappointed and distressed by the advice he gave in his April 25 Human Emotions column to a young man who had suffered emotional and physical abuse by his father (his mother also was treated in the same fashion).

I must be candid here: In general, I am rather skeptical of advice given by anyone through a newspaper column. It is difficult enough to analyze a person’s problem even after spending extensive time with the person. People are indeed complex organisms and often there are two or more sides to a story. There is no way one can offer advice with confidence from reading about a problem in a letter and not meeting the person face to face.

Parenthood comes with responsibility. The father of this fellow was an abuser. The damage he caused is a worse crime than if another person would have caused it. The abuse came from his father – someone who is supposed to be a model to a child over many years. If the abuse had been reported to the proper authorities, the son might have been forcibly removed from the house and the father prosecuted.

I have personally heard stories from children who have been abused – emotionally, physically, and sexually – by parents. Their side must be not only heard but studied and given the empathy they duly deserve.

Dr. Mandel admits openly that he sees only one side. A mental health professional must be able to fully comprehend both sides of a problem and offer objective advice. The great tzaddikim were able to feel the pain of those who came to them for advice.

Due to the seriousness of the problem, I suggest that this fellow seek the advice of a competent rav, someone knowledgeable in these delicate issues, who can offer proper halachic directives while taking into consideration the psychological state of the individual involved.

Yisroel Friedman
Rochester, NY

Mostofsky Article A Weak Defense Of Modern Orthodoxy

It seems that the main thrust of Shlomo Mostofsky’s position is that Modern Orthodox really never had an independent value system (‘Modern Orthodoxy In a Changing World,’ April 25). It was a holding position. It survived the 50’s and 60’s by maintaining a minimal adherence to
the basic halachic aspects of Shabbat and kashrut, allowing some other issues like mixed dancing and mixed swimming to blur our religious mandates. He feels we were essentially survivalist, lost in the woods and hanging on.

Today, he suggests, with the many changes in the socio-cultural environment and a stronger
Jewish educational system available to our children, we, meaning the Modern Orthodox, have
simply “evolved” into a more committed Torah lifestyle. Furthermore, he states that “even among our so-called ultra-Orthodox younger generation there are those that have televisions, VCR’s in their homes, who attend the movies, etc.” He tells us that in the work place he meets many ultra-Orthodox attorneys, accountants and businessmen. What he seems to be saying is that today there is a movement for stronger Torah observance on the part of Modern Orthodoxy while on the other hand there is a growing relaxation of the narrower Torah observance on the part of the ultra-Orthodox. In effect he seems to feel that the differences in Torah observance will slowly create a sense of shared Torah values between the Modern Orthodox and the ultra-Orthodox.

As a past president of Young Israel of Cleveland, I must take issue with his oversimplified view of the total value system of Torah life. I think he sees a Torah lifestyle as one that is limited to a halachic dimension of observance and that the only goal in life is the halachic dimension of Torah values.

Modern Orthodoxy in my mind first sees Hashem as Boreh Olam. To me the basic premise of
a meaningful Torah lifestyle is embedded in a balance between the need to see ourselves as the chosen people, abiding by the will of Hashem and His Torah, while at the same time being ever-cognizant of Hashem as Boreh Olam. It is interesting to note that when the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea, the angels wanted to sing shira but Hashem rebuked them. Hashem didn’t tell them to pull out the Mishneh Brurah for a p’sak, nor did He refer them to Daas Torah. He chastised them by saying “My creations are drowning and you want to sing shira, How can you forget that I am Boreh Olam!

Modern Orthodoxy attempts to create a balance between the need for growth in Hashem’s
Torah and awareness of ‘lesakain olam’ – the command to perfect the universe through the
Almighty’s sovereignty. This principle is what separates Modern Orthodoxy from the ultra-
Orthodox. (I do not mean to be demeaning or insulting to the ultra-Orthodox, but only wish to
send a message to Mr. Mostofsky that he apparently never understood the quintessential
principles of Modern Orthodoxy.)

Our children should be encouraged to attend college not only to help them find a dignified job,
but because we are mandated to understand that “yesh chochmoh ba’goyim.” This is implicit in the prayer “atah chonen l’adom daas.”

If parents are afraid of non-Jewish influence, let me strongly suggest that they, the parents,
along with the yeshivot, are responsible to prepare their children with a meaningful hashkafa. Listen to the Medrash Shmuel (Rabbi Samuel deOzeda) on Ve’da Mah She’toshuv Lapikoros (Avot 2): “…meaning know what to answer the non-believer.” He says that studying these matters is esteemed by Hashem as equal to the study of the Torah and the performance of the mitzvot!

The second cardinal principal of Modern Orthodoxy , in my view, is that we are mandated to
be m’eurov eem Habrios – to share our Jewish values with mankind including non-Jews. Every
day in our tefillos we read ‘sapru bagoyim kevodo,’ which stresses the importance of sharing our Torah values with all of the mankind. We are mandated to be a “light unto the nations.”

Lately, however, we have been passing off many chumrot as halacha in our daily lives. A local
rav here in Cleveland has compiled a list of all the kosher cereals. He goes into great detail about which cereals are produced from wheat, which from corn, which from oats, which from fruits, etc., in order for people to ascertain whether a mezonos or she’hakol should be made over the cereal. Now, there is almost no chance that an adult (and absolutely no chance that a child) will stop and review this list whenever he eats his cereal. And there is no way that any serious-minded person reciting a bracha can be makir Hashem as Boreh Olam under these circumstances.

This same ‘Cereal Rav’ has denounced the wearing of baseball caps on Shabbat, stating that
the measurement of the caps’ visors could possibly fall under the halachic limits of ohel (creating a tent ).

Shabbat should reflect our recognition of Hashem as Boreh Olam, and we certainly should
dress in a dignified fashion. However, if we tell the world, including our children, that His greatness is based on a legalistic discourse of ohel, we do a disservice to the image of Hashem — and the spirit of atah kadosh ve’shimcha kadosh is lost in the shuffle of legality. It seems to me that this principle should temper the increasingly frequent application of esoterica to practical halacha that we see in the ultra-Orthodox community. I believe that Beit Hillel in its debates with Beit Shammai understood this, and so does Modern Orthodoxy.

Finally, Modern Orthodoxy sees the concept of Am Yisrael b’Eretz Yisrael as a fundamental aspect of our hashkafa. It is difficult to understand how so many haredim can be citizens of Israel while refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the state. Haredim complain when educational funds for their institutions are cut back – and as citizens they probably are entitled to complain – yet how can they be citizens of a country they don’t recognize?

I believe the rabbis of Agudas Yisrael should fully recognize the hypocrisy of this position and
issue an edict recognizing the state of Israel. Whether or not they do so, we Modern Orthodox will continue to proudly support Medinat Yisrael.

No, Mr. Mostofsky, Modern Orthodoxy is not changing, although it may be faltering. We have been overwhelmed by a misreading of the total value system of “Torah living.” The ultra-Orthodox camp is selling the concept of learning Torah as the highest priority. We must, of course, see Hashem as nosain Hatorah and as a result spread his message by studying Torah. But we must never forget that He is first Boreh Olam. Just as we must study His ethical ways by studying Torah, so must we live in His world and study His world in order to fathom His character and midot.

Mike Senders
Cleveland, OH

Letters to the Editor

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-14/2003/06/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: