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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘health care’

Expressing Ourselves Inside And Outside The Walls

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Editor’s Note: In our July 13 front-page essay, “Birth of a Leather-Kippah Jew,” Mordecai Bienstock described his personal journey on the path to becoming what he called a “Leather Kippah Jew.” Here he elaborates on that vision.

Two centuries ago Napoleon’s armies swept through Europe, tearing down ghetto walls along their way. A river of Jewish souls flowed out, washed out to sea in the roiling waters of enlightenment and assimilation.

Today we have rebuilt those walls. They stand strong. From the simple brick of Brooklyn and Lakewood to the gold and platinum of Long Island and Northern New Jersey, the new ghetto walls provide not only shelter from the excesses of modern society but also space for us to develop, create, and express our own values.

Life within the walls is a model of modesty, virtue and justice.

But all of us travel, in one way or another, outside of those walls. We vote, we pay taxes, we earn our daily bread. We read the newspapers, travel the buses and drive the highways. We search the Internet.

Some of us find ourselves, entirely by accident, walking alone and late at night outside of the walls’ protection. Others willingly seek the world outside, feeling trapped by the walls around them.

On the other hand, many millions of Jews live entirely outside the walls, with no means of understanding or accessing the wonders within. In a generation, these millions will be entirely lost to the Jewish people.

I do not propose that we change the world within the walls. The opposite is true. I propose that we channel the same zeal and dedication that has invigorated our lives within these walls to shine brightly to the world without, so that it infuses our broader relationships with society.

I do not propose that we reduce the role of Torah in the world. I propose that we expand it, using established Torah models to express our values as citizens and members of society.

Orthodox Judaism it today triply blessed.

First, we have created extraordinary institutions of Torah study and observance. The depth of Torah learning and quality of Torah observance in the frum community is unprecedented on this continent.

Second, we live in a unique period of history in which Orthodox Jews are unusually welcome to participate fully in American society. Orthodox Jews have served as leaders across every avenue of society – including as a vice-presidential candidate and a White House chief of staff.

They hold these positions not because of their religious identity and not despite it, but rather because of the kind of people their religious identity has enabled them to be.

Thus, the second pillar is that, as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught, living a life of Torah and mitzvahs can create Jews who are the greatest of citizens; Jews who participate in society at the highest levels.

Third, we live in a period in which Orthodox Jews are free to pursue professions and trades and interests that are particular to their own identities. We can be truly ourselves in all of our pursuits, expressing the wonderful individualistic neshamahs Hashem has granted us through the application of our special natures in the physical world, what the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples discovered as the basis for avodah b’gashmiyut.

In other words, we live in a world where one can combine the learning and diligence of the Lithuanian yeshiva with the social consciousness of the German-Jewish tradition and the spiritual intensity of chassidus. We can be Litvish chassidish Yekkes.

We live, as the Chinese curse has it, in interesting times. A technological revolution is increasingly bringing the world outside to us, even as challenging economic conditions are forcing us back out into the world.

We live in danger of discovering one day that our walls are not really built of bricks or stone or precious metals at all; they are only virtual walls. No army will be needed to breach them – only a few clicks on a smart phone or some suddenly insolvent fathers-in-law.

As the walls are threatened, it may perhaps be useful to have at our disposal a more fully developed model for expressing our Torah values as part of society, not only apart from it. That, in my view, is the role of the Leather-Kippah Jew.

Birth Of A Leather-Kippah Jew

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

“Let me be honest with you,” the rosh yeshiva began.

It was not a good sign. I was sitting for a farher, an entrance interview, with the rosh yeshiva of a well-known yeshiva in Jerusalem, and it was about to go very badly.

I was, to be fair, a very unusual applicant. I had just graduated from law school. My classmates and friends were headed off to prestigious clerkships or to seek their fortunes. I had other plans. My secular learning had now outpaced my Torah learning, and it was time, I believed, to catch up.

So I applied to a yeshiva renowned for its commitment and the dedication of its students. I prepared thoroughly and was sure my learning – my scholarship – was up to par.

I hadn’t gotten the look down quite right, I knew. My suit was too blue; my shoes too un-scuffed; my black hat somehow at the wrong angle. But surely, I told myself, these things didn’t matter; my commitment, my dedication and my ability were what mattered most.

The rosh yeshiva was about to disabuse me of my innocence. Time seemed to slow down. I took a deep breath, glanced at the magnificent golden Jerusalem stone outside, and leaned in to hear the unpleasant truth.

“You’ve been to university, no?” the rosh yeshiva said, more statement than question.

“Acutally, law school,” I responded confidently. That couldn’t be a problem.

“Ah, law school,” he nodded back. “Noch besser. We don’t take students here who have gone to university.”

I sat there, stunned. I wasn’t getting in. My ability and my commitment weren’t what mattered after all. I was of the wrong caste. I was unsuitable.

But I had traveled a long way and sacrificed a great deal to be in that room, so I wasn’t going to give up so easily. A note of desperation crept into my voice. I nearly begged: “But I’ll follow all the rules. I’ll keep all the sedarim!”

“No, no, no!” came his excited reply. “That would be worse!”

He grew animated, as earnest in his convictions as I was in mine.

“You see,” he continued, his voice rising, “we teach our students that university is chazer treyf. Chazer treyf! If you kept the sedarim, if you followed the rules, that would just become confusing to our students. I’m sorry, but it’s out of the question; you cannot come to this yeshiva.”

The interview over, I shuffled out of the room, passing by the beis medrash to which I had just been denied entrance. I glanced in and recognized some old friends. That was when the realization really hit me. It was me he was rejecting. My old friends sitting in that beis medrashhad also gone to college.

* * * * *

With hindsight, I was able to decipher what the rosh yeshiva was saying, what it was about me in particular he wouldn’t – couldn’t – allow in. He was telling me I was “modern.” He was telling me that, unlike the other college graduates, when I went to law school I hadn’t just learned a trade – I had also absorbed its values.

The rosh yeshiva was right. In three years of law school I had come to believe that Washington and Lincoln were important men; that the American Revolution and the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement were important events; and that free speech, democracy and tolerance were important ideals. They weren’t Torah, to be sure. But the values of Madison and Jefferson and Hamilton had become my values as well, and those values were “modern.”

The problem was I didn’t want to be “modern.” I had shown up at that yeshiva’s doorstep because I had, in my earlier yeshiva days, developed a great love for the life of the yeshiva. The modern world seemed devoid of spirituality while the world of the yeshiva provided a wonderful spirit, from the simple activities of its daily life to the fiery passion of Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur.

The modern world seemed barren of ethics; the yeshiva provided access to a life of ethical purity. The modern world seemed lacking in intellectual honesty; the yeshiva was committed to the purest, most honest of intellectual activities.

Chief Justice Roberts Saves Obamacare

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Democrat-appointed justices on the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s healthcare program.

The court ruled 5-4 that Congress has the power to impose the healthcare mandate under its power to levy taxes. “This is sufficient to sustain it,” the court ruled.

Read the decision here.

The court also ruled that Congress acted within the boundaries of the constitution in expanding Medicaid under the act, but decided that it would be unconstitutional for the government to withhold Medicaid funds for non-compliance with the expansion provisions, which it threatened to do under the legislation.

“Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the (Affordable Care Act) to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

According to SCOTUSblog, Justice Ginsburg made it clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax. Her opinion, for herself and Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, joins the key section of Roberts opinion on that point. She would go further and uphold the mandate under the Commerce Clause, which Roberts wouldn’t. Her opinion on Commerce does not control.

Teams from Faith and Action and the National Prolife Center actively prayed in front of the Court the entire time the arguments were being heard. The day before the decision they encircled the Court with prayer, placing 3300 flowers on the sidewalks around the Court as a reminder of the number of innocent babies killed every year in America as a result of abortion on demand.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said that “in upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court has shown that, even at a time when Washington seems to have reached a new level of dysfunction, there remains a respect for the rule of law, for precedent, and for the ability of Congress to legislate on matters that affect the American people.”

Nadler was pleased to note that “by not caving in to the most craven political calls, it appears the Court has stood by more than 70 years of legal precedent to ensure that: some 32 million Americans will have access to health insurance; we stop the unnecessary deaths of 42,000 Americans annually who die simply because they lack health insurance; insurers can no longer deny a child health care because of pre-existing conditions; millions of young adults receive coverage on their parents’ plans until age 26; insurers can no longer impose lifetime limits on coverage; millions of Americans receive free preventive care; and, seniors save billions of dollars on prescription drugs.”

The Fat Nanny State

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

http://sultanknish.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/fat-nanny-state.html

It’s easy to dismiss New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s latest nanny state hiccup as the control-freak antics of a powerful man –but that would be missing the point. Bloomberg did not come up with the idea of banning sodas during a spa session on his private island. His implementation of it may be more overtly obnoxious, but the idea that there is a national health crisis that can only be solved by getting people to stop eating sugary foods, is ubiquitous among social policy wonks and national experts on telling people what to do.

In 2007, a conference on obesity was held at George Washington University, sponsored by the Stop Obesity Alliance and the Obesity Association. The Stop Obesity Alliance may sound like a silly afterthought of a group, but its steering committee members include AHIP, the trade group for the health insurance industry; AMGA, the trade association for health care groups; SEIU, one of the largest unions in the country; and NBGH, a business health group representing major companies like Apple, FedEx, Kellogg, Unilever and Walmart.

It was no wonder then that virtually every Democratic and Republican candidate running for office either showed up in person, or sent a proxy to explain how their administration was going to fight obesity.

“The next president must commit to fighting America’s obesity problem and possess the experience to win the fight,” Governor Bill Richardson said, and vowed to make fighting obesity one of his top priorities.

You might be laughing, but don’t. The obesity epidemic buzzword has penetrated every major company, as well as every level of government and academia. That translates into a policy bulldozer with private-public partnerships that will control every aspect of your life.

When think-tanks convince corporations that they’re losing money because of obesity, they sponsor trade associations that invite politicians down to explain what they’re going to do about it. Health insurance companies have crunched the numbers and decided that they can save billions if the government manages to make people lose weight. Corporations that employ a lot of people and pay for their health insurance think they can save a fortune on health insurance if employee obesity is cut. They have their own employee incentives, but mostly they want the government to do something about it.

Why do you think the 2012 election came down to a race between ObamaCare and RomneyCare? Because the power players agree that we need national health care; they only disagree over what kind of national health care we need. Just like they agree that we need “immigration reform,” tolerance for Islam, and a War on Terror that doesn’t disrupt international trade. We don’t need those things, but they do, and they are determined to force them down our throats.

To understand the genesis of Bloomberg’s lunacy, you have to go back to groups like the Stop Obesity Alliance. And it’s not the only such group. There’s the Campaign to End Obesity, whose board includes executives from major health companies and non-profits, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Humana. Every time you hear another talking head going on about the dangers of obesity to America, he’s repeating talking points lifted from “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future”, a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the country’s largest health care foundation, which doles out 400 million dollars a year in grants. Its primary focus… obesity.

“F as in Fat” includes extensive material on government legislation, everything from soda taxes to menu labeling to “complete streets programs,” which New Yorkers will recognize as the melange of bike lanes that squeeze out cars; what they don’t know is that it is used to fight obesity. HR 1780: The Safe and Complete Streets Act is a congressional bill that would turn every city into the same nightmare of snarled traffic and no parking.

Around the same time that policy men and women were telling the Stop Obesity Alliance what they would do about fat people, there were warnings in the U.K. that obesity would bankrupt the NHS, and Australia’s Labor Party vowed to tackle the “national obesity crisis” as a study claimed that 95 percent of Australians were “unfit.” The hysteria is worldwide.

I Will Keep Dancing…

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

I’m learning to walk again. Every step is painful. I go with a walker. There is a security belt wrapped around my waist which the physical therapist watches carefully so that in case I stumble she will be able to catch me. As I make my way, the nurses and other health care personnel smile and congratulate me: “You’re doing wonderful! You’re doing great!”

I wonder what on earth they are talking about, yet they continue to cheer me on. There is something familiar about the words “You’re doing great – step by step.” Aren’t these the very same words I used with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren when they started to walk? I would smile for them, clap for them, and say “hurrah.” And when they stumbled and fell I would say, “Come on, you can do it – come to Bubbe.”

Now it’s Bubbe who’s being cheered at each tentative step. The roles have reversed, from Bubbe to baby, from baby to Bubbe. How strange life is. You never know what tomorrow will bring. I remember my beloved great-aunt of blessed memory whom we all adoringly called Tante Miriam. She would say, “Esther, gedenek azoyvee dee musik shpilt, azoy darfem tancen – the way the music plays, so we have to dance.” Her words keep replaying in my mind.

So, I say to myself, I have to learn a new song, a new tune, a new dance. I make my way down the long corridor – which in reality is short but to me so very long. I ponder Tante’s sage advice given to me decades ago when I had to grapple with my new life in the U.S. following the war. Coming to this country following life in the concentration and DP camps I had to face new challenges, learn a new language and find friends even though I was regarded as a “greener.” This was not an easy task, but I had a gem of wisdom to fortify me – my Tante’s teaching. The way the music played, so I would have to dance – and having no choice, dance I did.

I hear one of the nurses say, “Rebbetzin [though they are not Jewish, they all learned to pronounce “rebbetzin” correctly], you look like a prima ballerina.” I wonder, are they mocking me; are they laughing? How at this time can I possibly look like a prima ballerina? Of course I doubt they are laughing at me – they are too respectful, treating me with such reverence and kindness.

Those of you who know me can testify that I’m always careful to appear in public properly dressed – to have my sheitel on and for my clothing to be in order. Now I’m wearing a hospital gown, robe, socks, and tichel – turban. So, again, why are they calling me a prima ballerina? Could this be a message from Hashem to me? Once again, my Tante’s wise words come to mind. “The way the music plays, so we have to dance.”

And then it hit me. Ballerinas have to learn not only to dance but how to skip and hop, leap and stretch; how to be in control and how to let go. Should they fall, they have to quickly stand up and continue to dance.

I am on a new journey. I too have to learn how to skip and hop, leap and stretch; how to be in control and how to let go. Ballerinas have to continuously practice or they regress. They have to be disciplined.

Sometimes we are in a valley and it is so difficult to reach the heights of the mountains. But the ballerina has to learn to make that leap and when she’s on top of the mountain she has to leap to the bottom and quickly stand up – the music is playing and she has to continue to dance.

Might this be the message Hashem is sending me? Might He be telling me, “Esther Jungreis, learn to leap and hop. Yes, now you may be in a valley but you must skip your way to the mountaintop. Hold on, don’t lose control. Swallow your tears and keep going – practice and practice again and keep fit. Remember who you are – you are a prima ballerina.”

Suddenly, I have clarity. The cajoling and encouraging sounds make sense. Now it is the young ones – the nurses – reaching out to Bubbe in a loving voice saying, “You’re doing great. How wonderful – you can do it.” I feel strengthened. Yes, I will make the leap.

As I write this, another memory comes to mind. My father, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avrohom HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, would often tell us, “When difficult days come upon you, always remember that if G-d gave you those challenges it is so that you should help others find their way when they are confronted with their own struggles and life’s tests.”

Halachic Will Conference In Queens

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

The medical world and the laws associated with it are changing rapidly, and the focus is on the quality of life. More and more frequently, patients and their families are encouraged to forgo “excessive” or “unnecessary” treatments and therapies so as to maintain a greater quality of life. New York State laws exist that require doctors to inform patients of their right to refuse rigorous courses of action in order to sustain life. They can choose palliative care, which will manage their pain and keep them comfortable as they naturally succumb to the progressive illness. Who will make these decisions for you if you are incapable of doing so? Will those around you know and agree with what your wishes might be?

There is also a serious halachic component to these decisions that cannot be ignored. These are often questions with life and death implications. Who will guide the decisions as to the appropriate religious requirements at this sad, difficult and stressful time? You need to designate an agent – a health-care proxy and a rabbi who will guide that agent. Agudath Israel of America and the RCA have made such forms available. The National Association of Chevra Kadisha (NASCK) has also created the Emergency Medical Instructions (EMES) card, which attaches to your license and will be found in times of emergency. This card is also valuable as an objection to autopsy in cases of sudden death. It is also a valuable tool to help reduce the incidence of Jewish people who are cremated. You must be well-informed about this real and unavoidable subject.

On Sunday, March 18, the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills will host a forum on how to make a living will the halachic way. Using a halachic medical directive ensures that all medical and post death decisions will be made in accordance with your wishes and halacha. Staff from the National Association of Chevra Kadisha will be available to answer questions and help fill out forms and the EMES card to keep in your wallet. Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, rav of Congregation Shaaray Tefila of Lawrence; Dr. Edward Burns, executive dean at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Mordechai Serle, esq., associate at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; and Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, director of the Chevra Kadisha Vaad Harabonim of Queens will all speak at this important program.

Feisty Jewish Former Congressman Alan Grayson Runs Red Light, Injures Two

Monday, March 12th, 2012

The Jewish Congressman who became the darling of the left wing of the Democratic party but not so much with his district (he served only one term), who, in 2009, defined the Republican’s idea of health care plan as, “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly,” may require some serious health care himself.

According to WESH-TV2, last Saturday in Orlando, Fla., the former Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson ran a red light with his car, a Mercedes (now, is that a car a nice Jewish boy should be driving?) and smashed into a public transit bus. Two people were injured.

Grayson, who lost his bid for a second term in the House of Representatives to Republican Daniel Webster, is trying his luck again this year, and, in fact, was on his way to a $1,000-per-plate lunch with guest Robert F. Kennedy Jr. when that bus got in his way.

Back in 2010, Grayson called his opponent Webster a “draft-dodger” for receiving student deferments and a draft classification as medically unfit for service, and “Taliban Dan” because the Republican was, supposedly part of a trend of “Religious fanatics” who “try to take away our freedom, in Afghanistan, in Iran and right here in Central Florida.” At the time, Columnist George Will called Grayson “America’s worst politician.”

But one thing must be said in Alan Grayson’s favor, regardless of his dubious driving skills: he has always been a friend of Israel and a 100% supporter of AIPAC – to the point where Max Blumenthal derided him in an article titled “Gutsy progressive congressman Alan Grayson leads a double life.” Blumenthal wanted to know how the Congressman who was so adamant against the Iraq war was still supportive of Israel.

Because Grayson is from Florida, maybe?

Israel’s Five-Day Nationwide Strike Ends

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

The Finance Ministry and leaders of Israel’s main labor union, the Histadrut, reached a deal that ended a five-day nationwide strike that crippled Israel’s finance, transportation, health care, and municipal sectors.

The Histadrut was protesting the conditions of contract workers in the public and private sectors, and, under the agreement ending the walkout Sunday, contract workers will now receive pay raises and improved benefits.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israels-five-day-nationwide-strike-ends/2012/02/12/

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