Re “Memphis, Tennessee: The Jerusalem of the South” (Contemporary Jewish Kehilla, Jan. 26):
My family and I moved to Memphis after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. We came with literally two days’ worth of clothing after evacuating New Orleans. The community here welcomed us, fed, and treated us like long-lost family. Our children were taken into the Margolin Hebrew Academy and have adjusted without complaint. Every resource was mobilized to assist us in adjusting. I cannot think of a better place to raise a Jewish family.
Will they never learn? Some self-styled “pro-Israel” groups are now doing their best to push Israel into a diplomatic corner. Included are some of the usual suspects: Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom.
More disturbing, a recent news report stated that “a top Reconstructionist rabbi and a top Reform rabbi, joined in a personal capacity by the executive vice president of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, have called on Secretary of State Rice “to press Israel and the Palestinians into making peace.”
Can that really happen? It’s hard to imagine a less propitious time for Israeli Palestinian negotiations. So what, in fact, will these rabbis actually accomplish? Well, they’ll certainly get that press – on Israel, that is, for unwise, possibly calamitous, concessions. Is that really what they want? While undoubtedly wishing Israel well, they do it only ill. Why can’t they get that?
Richard D. Wilkins
Reader Brooke Rose (Letters, Feb. 2) will forgive my impertinence, but how, pray tell, does one find eyewitnesses to adultery? I read Mr. Farbstein’s letter (Jan. 26) and he certainly was not passing sentence on wayward women. Instead, he was articulating a well warranted concern that instead of following halacha, which mandates divorce in these cases, well-meaning but misguided individuals will simply direct adulterers to seek counseling as a means of resolving their inner conflicts.
While I am not a posek, and neither, I assume, is Mr. Farbstein, we do know enough to aver that the woman in question must consult with competent rebbeim. If in fact they’ve crossed a point of no return, so be it. It’s far better to take one’s medicine in this world than face Divine Wrath when called before the Heavenly Tribunal.
Dr. Yaakov Stern
The ‘S’ Word (I)
Yasher koach for publishing “Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s “The ‘S’ Word has No Place In A Religious Jew’s Vocabulary” (op-ed, Feb. 2). I find it a shanda that Jews (religious and non-religious) would use a term like “shvartza” when referring to blacks.
The Torah forbids us from using names that hurt people. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names do hurt, and much worse.
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Don’t judge the book by the cover – read the contents.
David N. Rodgers
The ‘S’ Word (II)
I suggest Rabbi Boteach consult a Yiddish dictionary and look up the term “shvartza,” which is not racist but merely a translation of “black.” Many African-Americans refer to themselves as “black.” AOL even has a “Black Voices” online category, and recently a forum of black leaders, headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, discussed “black issues” and referred to themselves as “black.”
I don’t see how a translation of “black” into Yiddish or any other language can be “racist” or “offensive.” Jews have been among the greatest supporters of civil rights for blacks – in fact, Jewish civil rights activists Goodman and Schwerner gave up their lives for the cause. Why castigate Jews as “racist” simply because they use the word of their mother tongue?
Last week C-Span aired the appearance by Jimmy Carter at Brandeis University. During the course of his presentation, Mr. Carter challenged the student body and faculty to organize a group of ten representatives to visit the West Bank, meet with the people there, and draw their own conclusions. This “commission” would report back their findings, which presumably would support Mr. Carter’s assertions as to the situation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obviously, his suggestion lacked a fundamental, absolutely necessary component – that of speaking with Israelis as well. Such a mission must also necessarily include visiting the families of terror victims, those still in hospitals and forever maimed and affected by homicide bombers, as well as Israelis on the street. Our own judicial system does not accept the word of one party without the benefit of hearing from the other side. Why would Mr. Carter propose an ill-conceived, one-sided method to evaluate such a critical, challenging situation?
The student body, faculty and alumni of Brandeis should take him up on his challenge, appoint a small commission and conduct a fair assessment of the situation. Brandeis has a unique opportunity to accept this challenge and inject some reality and fair-mindedness into this critical debate.
Daniel Kaskel, Esq.
Boca Raton, FL
Listen To Your Teens
Thank you for running the Missing Persons notice last week. Unfortunately, we have learned that the police have posted an update: both girls, r”n, were found dead; the scene suggested suicide. We must not allow these two teens to pass in vain. There is a vital lesson all parents must learn and apply, immediately, before it is too late – again.
We don’t know the worries of these two precious girls, or whether they could be reached. Our hearts go out to their parents, families and friends. But it is evident that Rachel Crites, Rachel Smith, and too many other teens see no hope for happiness.
Teenagers go through the toughest times in life. There is great pressure to conform to peers to gain their respect, and to be part of a group. It is all about self-worth. Parental pressures, in the form of control issues, compound matters, as do parents’ foolish vicarious wishes, teens’ obligations in the home, sibling rivalries, and jealousies. Combine a teen’s need for self-esteem and popularity with parents who don’t offer any and you’ve got a lethal mixture.
Are parents eliciting their children’s deepest concerns? Are they sensitive enough to read their children’s faces, their moods, behaviors, and warning signs? Do they sit their child down – even against their will – swallow their roles as superiors, and play the needed role of helper? Parents must initiate conversations, or find someone with whom their teens will open to, even paying them to take on a support and mentoring role.
Teens don’t have any answers, just questions and deep concerns. We must make ourselves available to them in an easy and a clearly genuine demeanor. They must have someone safe in their daily lives to turn to when life gets rough – and we see how rough it gets. For if they have no one to turn to, they turn on themselves. Many times teens are forced to either give up, or teach those who oppress them a hurtful, terminal “lesson” – the last lesson they teach anyone.
We don’t know what’s best for our children simply because they have our last names. We aren’t fit parents simply because we bore these children. To help prevent similar tragedies, all parents must be educated on basics in child and teen psychology. Shuls, yeshivas, and community leaders must organize mandatory adult sessions where experienced professionals teach rules of engagement, education of teens, etc., citing cases and offering solutions.
And schools must incorporate a mandatory class where students may voice social and familial issues. In such a forum, those teens with problems will feel comfort in the knowledge that others also share similar fears and worries. Feeling less ashamed, they will vocalize issues so that those issues can be learned by adults and addressed – instead of swelling to the point of implosion. And those students who don’t yet have these concerns will be educated on what they are and how to properly handle them, as they inevitably will arise.
Although adults must work tirelessly as the breadwinners, children must take priority over business and social agendas. Money can always be earned, and we can always socialize at the next affair. But we cannot postpone a child’s development.
Our children’s secure and happy development will happen with us. Without us, there may be no development at all.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Eli Chomsky writes (“For Israeli-Syrian Talks, op-ed, Jan. 26) that with Syria signaling a willingness to negotiate, President Bush should test Bashar Assad’s intentions and commence a peace process between Israel and Syria.
Mr. Chomsky includes several preconditions to negotiations, including Syria’s full withdrawal from Lebanon, the closing of Syria’s border with Iraq, an end to Syria’s manufacture or acquisition of long-range missiles, and the dismantling of terror groups supported by Syria. Mr. Chomsky suggests that pursuant to a peace agreement, Israel would cede sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but that the Golan would immediately be leased back to Israel so that no Israeli withdrawal would be required.
While Mr. Chomsky’s proposals sound fine on a newspaper page, the notion that Israel could retain the Golan as part of a peace agreement – or that even before negotiations commence, Syria would dismantle Hizbullah and stop its own military buildup – has no relation to reality.
It is axiomatic that peace with Syria would require a complete withdrawal from the Golan, with negotiations relating to ancillary issues such as the exact location to which Israel would withdraw (particularly the international border or the less favorable 1967 border) and the timing of withdrawal. To the extent Syrian concessions concerning terror groups, demilitarization zones and Iraq can be gained, those concessions would be implemented – if ever – only upon the completion of an agreement.
There may be a basis for Israeli-Syrian talks, but policies based on pie-in-the-sky hopes are exactly what has gotten Israel into a situation in which Hizbullah and Hamas are ascendant. Israel and the U.S. share a dire need not for myopic proposals but for the kind of sober and rational analysis usually submitted by Mr. Chomsky in his valuable contributions to The Jewish Press.
Kew Gardens Hills, NY