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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Education’

When Yeshiva Day School Is No Longer A Viable Option

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

The day school tuition crisis is not new. It has been brewing for years. School costs continue to rise while unemployment and underemployment remain high. And one also needs money to live in a neighborhood with shuls and mikvehs, to buy kosher food, to make proper simchas, to cover Yom Tov expenses, etc.

It seems that somewhere along the line it became mandated that in order to be frum you have to be rich – or at least extremely well off.

And of course you must keep your children in private day schools – or else, we are warned, you are putting your children’s Jewish future at risk.

We are told to sacrifice as much as possible in order to provide a Jewish education for our children. Give up vacations, cars, home renovations. Stop drinking coffee. Don’t send your children to camp. Don’t buy anything. Give all your tzedakah to the schools your children attend.

Give up everything that might bring you joy because there is no joy greater than your children’s Jewish education. This, we are told, will guarantee that our children will remain safely in the Jewish fold.

But what of families who have already sacrificed everything? What of families who are receiving financial assistance from the schools and still have trouble making those monthly payments? What of families forced to decide each month which bills to pay and which to ignore? What of families who risk losing their home to foreclosure or having their car repossessed? What guarantees do they get?

In an ideal world, families in need of tuition assistance would receive it and remain anonymous. In the real world, especially in smaller communities, this is impossible. The scrutinizing, the judging, the criticism of families who receive financial aid is intolerable and should be unacceptable. Those paying full tuition are frequently – and quite publicly – resentful, accusatory and spiteful.

The benefiting families are made to feel like a burden on their community. God forbid someone sees them eating at a restaurant. Heaven help them if someone notices them at the movies on Motzaei Shabbat.

Some parents no longer wish to be a burden. They want to pay bills when they are due without worrying where they’ll find the money for tuition. They want to save something for college or retirement. So they make the difficult decision to remove their children from day school and place them in public school. Other families opt for a Hebrew language charter school.

Here in South Florida, a number of Ben Gamla charter schools have opened in the past few years. The advantage of a Hebrew language charter over the local public school is that Israeli culture is taught alongside the language. So while the children cannot daven at school or study religious texts, they can learn, for example, about Chanukah and how the Maccabees fought and beat the Greeks. Just don’t mention the miracle of the oil.

Far from being ideal for frum families, the Ben Gamla charter schools offer an intermediate solution: free secular education for your children, with the added benefit of Hebrew language and Israeli culture and history, taught by Sherut Leumi (National Service) girls.

But what about Judaics?

You tell yourself you’ll send your children to the local Talmud Torah, but then you learn they no longer exist, at least not anywhere near you. You think you’ll hire a teacher from a local day school to tutor your kids a few afternoons a week – until you discover that not a few day schools have told their teachers not to tutor children who have transferred from day school to public school.

So these wonderful educators, who as it is are underpaid by institutions heralding Torah, mitzvot and midot, are threatened with job loss by those very institutions.

Perhaps the rabbis in the community would like to advise parents on finding tutors? Maybe they would like to facilitate a group-learning opportunity for the many children now in public schools due to the tuition crisis?

Some community rabbis seem to believe the majority of families with children in public school do not care enough about Judaics. I beg to disagree. For families who pull out of yeshiva for financial reasons, the cost of private tutors (if you can find one) is too high. For them, the idea of a communal Hebrew school program, geared specifically toward kids who began life in day school, is an attractive one. Something local, affordable and communal. A program like that will cost less per child, and even if it begins with just a few children the likelihood is it will grow in numbers as people see it working and parents are happy with what is being taught.

Camp Ramah Founder Sylvia Ettenberg, 95

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Sylvia Cuttler Ettenberg, a veteran Jewish educator and founder of Camp Ramah, has died at age 95

Ettenberg was the first female senior administrator at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and was recognized as a dean emerita.

The Brooklyn native was at the forefront of many Conservative Jewish educational initiatives, including the Prozdor Hebrew High School program and the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS.

Ettenberg was best recognized as a founder of Camp Ramah and for incorporating the institution into JTS, a move that helped it grow from a single camp in Wisconsin into a network of a dozen camps and several informal education programs in the United States and Israel.

Teaching Children To Act As Their Own Internet Filters

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Tens of thousands of Jews filled Citi Field in Queens on Sunday and heard from haredi Orthodox leaders that the Internet should be avoided in the home at all costs and used sparingly at work, and then only with a filter blocking content that could be damaging spiritually.

Debate as you will what some may see as draconian edicts to protect the Jewish community from moral corruption. But at the heart of the matter is a question that should concern us all: How do we keep our children safe on the Internet?

We know we cannot work around the Internet. Research from the Pew Foundation indicates that 54 percent of children say they go to Google first when they have a question, as opposed to 26 percent who say they go to a parent and 3 percent to a teacher. Rather, we must figure out how parents and teachers can make this important tool work safely and effectively for our kids.

The difficulty is that even the simple solutions are incredibly complicated. Powerful filters can block illicit images and material, but those filters often block out the good with the bad and limit far too much useful information. This solution has been discussed and debated on our own campus concerning Internet access in dormitories.

Some yeshivot have considered avoiding technology altogether and sticking with books and blackboards. But that would leave students without the digital competence required to succeed academically in college and beyond, not to mention that it would rob teachers of increasingly exciting and effective educational tools.

The only real answer is that as parents and teachers, we must instill in our children a strong value system based on Jewish morals and traditions that allows our children to become their own filters when exploring the Internet. That would be far more powerful than any protective software.

The onus is clearly on us because it seems children will listen to our rules, at least when it comes to the Internet. Only three in 10 young people reported to a Kaiser Foundation survey that they are given clear rules about how much time they may spend using a computer, watching TV or playing video games. The average child with no rules spends more than three hours per day on such media. Those who are given rules spend considerably less time.

Yeshiva high school students said they would be receptive to rules. More than half of those surveyed by researcher Debbie Fox, director of the Aleinu Family Resource Center, a program of the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, said that they would welcome more guidance from parents regarding Internet use.

These same students, in fact, said they would be far stricter with their own future adolescent children regarding responsible Internet use than their parents, and would monitor their children much more closely.

The dangers of the Internet are not limited to challenging content. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that about half of students in grades seven through 12 said they do their homework with media open that do not pertain to their task at hand. In other words, about 50 percent of middle and high school students are doing homework with divided attention. And while some kids may believe they are being more efficient, multitasking has been proven in adults to cause higher levels of stress and lower levels of efficiency.

While some kids can multitask well, it’s up to parents to actively determine if their children work more efficiently while doing so or while focusing on their work without interruption. Parents should collaborate with their children to test whether they are more efficient when not being interrupted or distracted, and then meter their background activity accordingly.

The greatest challenge of all, however, may be making sure that our kids completely separate from the Internet at times. According to the Pew Foundation, 75 percent of American teens prefer texting to in-person contact with friends. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that this generation’s empathy levels among adolescents are significantly lower than those of previous generations.

It may seem that adolescents in every generation feel isolated and tuned out at some point or another. But it turns out that their computer habits may be compounding the problem. Parents need to teach children that some of their relationships must include direct face-to-face interaction without the distraction of text messages and cell phone calls.

Torah Academy Of Boca Raton Dedicates New Computer Lab

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Torah Academy of Boca Raton recently dedicated its new computer lab. The lab and software were made possible by a generous donation by CIJE, the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education. Jason Curry and Joel Beritz, president and vice-president of the Gruss Life Monument Fund, Torah Academy faculty, staff and upper grade students all attended the dedication.

The centerpiece of the yeshiva’s new computer lab is the Pearson Education SuccessMaker software. This software assesses each student’s level of instruction and then engages the student in an immersive, multimedia lesson tailored specifically to individual abilities and level of mastery of math and language arts.

Computer lab dedication ceremony at Torah Academy.

Rabbi Reuven Feinberg, dean of Torah Academy, remarked, “We are privileged to host Mr. Curry and Mr. Beritz. The Gruss Life Monument Fund and CIJE have changed the face of Jewish Education. The programs and initiatives that that have been implemented with their help, guidance and support have touched the lives of tens of thousands of young people throughout the world and particularly here at Torah Academy in Boca Raton.”

The Torah Academy of Boca Raton is located at 447 NE Spanish River Blvd, Boca Raton, Florida. The school includes early childhood through sixth grade. Seventh grade will be added next year eighth grade the following year.

The school’s goals include promoting a lifelong commitment to and passion for Torah study and ethical growth, providing an outstanding Judaic and secular studies curriculum, and inspiring a love and commitment of the land of Israel.  For more information, call 561-347-1821.

The Founding of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from “A Follow Up Study of the Graduates of One of the Oldest Existing American Jewish Day Schools: the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School” by Irving I. Pinsky, thesis (Ed.D.), Ferkauf Graduate School of Education, Yeshiva University.

“In 1901 a few individuals who wished to give their own children an intensive Jewish Talmudical education, engaged one Hebrew teacher and one English teacher, and opened a school under the name Beth Sefer Tifereth Jerusalem (Glory of Jerusalem School). It was organized because ‘the ordinary Talmud Torah was unable to give a complete mastery of the history, literature and the precepts of our religion’ and because ‘there was no school in which a complete secular education could be given, without reducing the time needed for religious training.’”

The person most instrumental in the founding of this yeshiva was Russian-born Rabbi Shmuel Yitzchok Andron. He had received a thorough Jewish and secular education in his native country. Indeed, he was noted for his broad Jewish scholarship, “had taught French and German in Russian schools, had published a book on pedagogy in Russian, and had written for many Hebrew periodicals.”   He served as president of the yeshiva from its inception until 1914.
“When Rabbi Jacob Joseph, [the Chief Rabbi of New York City] died in 1902, Rabbi Andron assembled Jewish laymen and community leaders and won support for expansion and for change of the yeshiva name to perpetuate the memory of Rabbi Jacob Joseph.”
Setting The Pattern For Future Yeshivas 
The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School was unique in that it was the first elementary parochial school that taught basic Jewish studies as well as Talmud. Yeshiva Etz Chaim, founded in 1886, was an intermediate school that enrolled boys at least nine years old who already were somewhat proficient in Chumash and Rashi. Yeshiva Etz Chaim’s goal was to give its students a thorough grounding in Gemara and Shulchan Aruch. In addition, it provided some limited secular studies in the late afternoon.
The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School was different in that in addition to providing a first rate religious education, it sought to provide its students with an excellent secular education at least equivalent to that offered by the public schools of the time.
Nonetheless, limudei chol (secular or “English” studies) was considered much less important than limudei kodesh (religious studies), and this attitude was clearly displayed in the constitution of the school. It required that there be two principals, one for each department.
While the duties of the menahel (Hebrew studies principal) occupy fully twenty-two lines in the constitution, the duties of the English school principal take up only five and provide only a minimal amount of detail. The founders of the RJJ School felt it was sufficient that the secular department meet the standards set up by the New York City Board of Education, and left it at that.
The Curriculum
Limudei kodesh (religious studies) consisted of the material covered in Eastern European yeshivas at the time. The language of instruction was Yiddish.

There was emphasis on Talmud with the goal of producing Talmudic scholars. Beginners were taught to read the Rashit Da’at, the Siddur, and then began the study of the Bible. The Sedra or weekly Bible portion was studied in the upper grades together with the classical Rashi commentary. The Kitzur Shulhan Aruk was studied weekly.

Study of Gemara began in the sixth grade for boys who were 10 or 11 years old.

No formal attempt was made to teach Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the other important Prophets. Courses in Jewish history were not included in the curriculum. The attitude of both board members and faculty was that these subjects were relatively simple in comparison with Talmud and required no formal instruction. They felt that the student could master such subjects by himself after attaining proficiency in Talmud.

The secular curriculum was essentially the same as that given in the public schools, save that certain subjects that were considered “unnecessary” were not taught. All secular instruction was in English. Most of the secular teachers were young men who taught in the public schools until 3 p.m. Secular instruction took place between 4 and 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Thus a total of 15 hours per week were set aside for instruction in secular subjects.
The first part of the school day, from 9until about 3, was devoted to limudei kodesh and the rest of the day to acquiring basic skills in English language, history, mathematics, and science. The decision to devote the first part of the day to religious studies was motivated by the idea that the children were “at their best” during this time. In addition, the decision to put secular studies in the afternoon permitted the use of public school teachers as instructors.

During the 1920′s the Religious department was divided into two sections — a Hebrew and a Yiddish section. From interviews and talks with individuals, it would seem that gradually a demand developed on the part of younger parents to have their children learn more Hebrew. It is probable that Hebrew-taught classes started slowly and developed into a separate but parallel department through the elementary grades. The parents insisting on a Hebrew education for their children seem to have been more Zionist in outlook. By introducing Hebrew as a language of instruction, the school adapted some of the methods of the Heder Methukkan (the improved school). For this purpose, teachers with a thorough knowledge of Hebrew, language, grammar, and pedagogy were needed. This tendency was interpreted by some educators as the Haskalah (age of enlightenment) influence upon the Yeshiva curriculum. However, the teachers who were engaged were all orthodox men devoted to Torah and Mitzvot.

The curriculum of the yeshiva expanded rapidly and changed to fit the needs of the Jewish community. Every new term brought changes and modification. Often the school board and administration worked on a trial and error basis, for no guiding principles or precedents in Yeshiva education on the American scene were available to them.
A Successful Endeavor
The educational approach taken by the directors of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School met with considerable success. By 1910 there were 500 boys enrolled in the school. The great majority of pupils were immigrant children who previous to coming to America had received religious instruction in Russia and Poland.
Many of the students traveled a considerable distance to get to the Lower East Side, where the school was located.  Carfare was provided for some of them. A “kitchen fund” was established by the Ladies Auxiliary associated with the school so that those in need were provided with breakfast and lunch.
Those daring men who pioneered this bold experiment in Jewish education felt that through a thorough grounding in Judaism supplemented by a good secular education, they would produce students who, while remaining true to Torah Judaism, would be able to function well in American society. Time has proven how right they were.
(Dr. Levine expresses his thanks to Ms. Elinor Grumet of the Stern College Library for providing him with the material from Irving Pinsky’s thesis used in this article.)

[1]  “Jewish Education in New York City” by Alexander M. Dushkin, The Bureau of Jewish Education, New York, 1918, page 75.


[1] “RABBI S.I. ANDRON DIES IN PALESTINE,” The New York Times, February 27, 1930, page 18.


[1] “It is simply not accurate to say that all of the Judaic teachers were Orthodox men, etc.  When I attended the yeshiva in the 1940s there were several who definitely fit into the Haskalah category.” Personal communication from Dr. Marvin Schick, 11/26/07.


Dr. Yitzchok Levine is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. “Glimpses Into American Jewish History” appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

The Beginnings Of Jewish Education In New York

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

   “Jewish communities from time immemorial have recognized educational institutions as the bedrock of Jewish continuity. The first Jews to settle in the New World brought this lesson with them when developing their community in Brazil. Embedded into the framework of this community was a school to instruct the community’s children.”[i]
      “The history of Jewish education in New York, prior to 1840, is the story of one school, that of the Portuguese Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel. Because of the inhospitable treatment which the Jews were accorded in New Amsterdam, their educational activities were carried on during the first seventy-five years of their sojourn in America in the privacy of their own homes. But with the building of the first synagogue on Mill Street, in 1729-1730, the question of the Jewish education of the children became the concern of the entire congregation. We find that one year after the dedication of the synagogue, the first Jewish school in America was established.”[ii]
      It was through the generosity of Jacob Mendes da Costa of London that Yeshivah [Yeshibat] Minhat Areb was consecrated on the 7th day of Pesach, 1731 “for the use of the Congregation Sheerit Israel and as a Bet Hamidras for the pupils. Notwithstanding the name Yeshibah, which usually denotes a Talmudic academy, in practice the building was used for meetings and the general purposes of the congregation, and for the children’s school rather than for adult and advanced Hebrew study.”[iii]
      The characteristics of Yeshiva Minhat Areb from its founding until 1801 were those of the usual American colonial school in that “it was conducted entirely under religious auspices. The Hazan (praecentor, rabbi, or reader) acted as school teacher, and the Parnassim (trustees) served as school inspectors.”[iv]

      At first the curriculum was confined to Hebrew language. Indeed, when David Mendes Machado took office as Hazan in 1737, it was clearly specified that he was promising and obliging himself to keep a publick school in due form for teaching the Hebrew language, either the whole morning or afternoon as he shall think proper, and any poor that shall be thought unable to pay for their children’s learning they shall be taught gratis.[v]


      In 1747 the hours of instruction were specified to be from nine to twelve in the morning and on Thursdays from two to five. A Parnas or one of the adjuntos of the congregation visited the school weekly to check on the progress of the students. Hazan Machado received eight shillings a quarter and a load of wood yearly for every paying pupil.
      The school soon became a parochial school in which both secular and religious subjects were taught. In 1755, the Hazan was instructed to teach “the Hebrew, Spanish, English, writting & Arithmetick.” Twenty pounds per annum were to be added to his salary on condition that the school met in his home every day of the week except for Friday afternoons, religious holidays and fast days. The hours of instruction were daily from 9 to noon and from 2 to 5. In 1762 Spanish was dropped from the curriculum, and the school was called a “publickschool.”
      As the congregation grew it became impossible for one man to serve as both hazan and schoolteacher. In 1760 the Parnassim and Elders of the synagogue wrote to England seeking a qualified teacher. However, until 1800 the teacher was expected, when necessary, to serve as hazan as well as shammos.
      Yeshiva Minhat Areb was supported partly by the tuition fees paid by the parents of the students and partly by the congregation. Tuition fees were paid both in cash and in goods. Provision was made for children who came from poor homes; the teacher was required to teach them gratis.
      During the stormy days of the Revolution virtually the entire membership of Shearith Israel left New York for Philadelphia, and the school was temporarily discontinued. When the war ended, most of the congregation returned to New York, the yeshiva was reopened and “the school had to be organized anew. In the winter of 1785-86, and again in 1792, the congregation was looking for someone both capable and ready to conduct its school in the Hebra building. In September, 1793, Simeon Levy applied for and was given the position. He agreed to teach for half a day all children under thirteen years of age, the pupils providing the necessary books and other school supplies. He was expected to pay ‘strict attention to the morals as well as the religious duties of all the youths that shall be committed to his care.’ At synagogue services all the school children were to be under his watchful direction.”[vi]
Polonies Talmud Torah[vii]
      When Myer Polony, a native of Poland, died in New York in 1801 he “bequeathed to the Congregation [Shearith Israel] the sum of $900; the interest to be applied towards the establishing a Hebrew School. This sum the trustees invested in 8% stock of the United States, and they applied the interest toward the maintenance of ‘a charity school’ to be called the Polonies Talmud Torah, for teaching the Hebrew language.”[viii] Thus Yeshiva Minhat Areb was reorganized as Polonies Talmud Torah. A school with this name is still in existence today. (See www.shearithisrael.org/folder/general_info_ptts_new.html.)
      The school was housed in the Hebra building adjoining the synagogue and classes met for three hours on weekday afternoons and on Sunday mornings. In 1812 the curriculum still consisted of English, reading, writing, arithmetic and Hebrew. Later, geography was included as a subject in the curriculum. It is of interest to note that in June 1808 enrollment consisted of four students whose families paid no tuition, and sixteen boys and six girls each paying $6.25 a quarter. Thus girls attended Polonies Talmud Torah at a time when organized Jewish education for girls was essentially unheard of in the rest of the Jewish world.
      “The only reference to special method consisted in stipulating that the ‘translation of the Hebrew and the instruction of the service of the synagogue is to be according to the order of the Portuguese Jews’ (1821), which means, in accordance with the Sephardic (Spanish) ritual. As for school equipment, the teacher was ‘to provide the necessary stationery and fuel,’ and ‘the parents and guardians of the children to provide reading and spelling books’ (1812), since the trustees had refused to ‘furnish scholars with any article of stationery except ink’ (1808). One of the interesting duties imposed upon the teacher, was not to permit his scholars ‘to riot or make a noise in the synagogue yard, or about the premises, or in any manner to disturb the neighbors’ (1822).
      “The Polonies Talmud Torah was not particularly successful. It was frequently disbanded and again reorganized. At one time there were only ‘one paid scholar and five free scholars’ (1821). One of the teachers during this time was informed that ‘no disposition exists on the part of families to send their children to the school under his superintendence’ (1821). There were several reasons for this lack of success. Because of the stationary size of the congregation, the religious school was naturally also small. Besides this normal limitation the custom prevailed among the wealthier members of the congregation of sending their children to be educated by private teachers or in the existing Jewish boarding schools. On the whole, this school did not play a significant part in the development of Jewish education.”[ix]
      As the movement for the establishment of public schools developed in the early part of the nineteenth century, the character of the school changed. Slowly it evolved from a general parochial school that gave Hebrew instruction into a supplementary school that gave religious instruction only.
      Dr. Yitzchok Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

[i]Hebrew Printing in America 1735-1926, A History and Annotated Bibliography, by Yosef Goldman, YG Books, 2006, page 257.


[ii]Jewish Education in New York City, by Alexander M. Dushkin, The Bureau of Jewish Education, New York, 1918, pages 39-40.


[iii]An Old Faith in the New World, by David and Tamar de Sola Pool, Columbia University Press, New York, 1955, page 228.


[iv]Jewish Education in New York City, page 40.


[v]Ibid., page 449.


[vi]An Old Faith in the New World, page 214.


[vii]This section is based in part on The Polonies Talmud Torah of New York, by Jacob I. Hartstein, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, 1937, 34.


[viii]An Old Faith in the New World, page 214.


[ix]Jewish Education in New York City, pages 43-44.

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday, April 21st, 2004

Responding To Alarm Bells

Michael Freund’s alarming op-ed of March 12 (“Anti-Semitism Not The Main Threat To Europe’s Jews”) is disturbing because what he describes is readily apparent to anyone who bothers to learn and understand what is happening – the trend and statistics he presents have been ongoing for years. Our rapid downward slide continues in the face of disgraceful apathy and indifference.

Mr. Freund points out that “this is a disastrous situation that should be raising alarm bells throughout the Jewish world.” To me, “alarm bells” are concerned Jewish voices crying out in unison and with fervor to break out of our destructive apathy. We must remind ourselves that we are being tested just as our predecessors were. History teaches us many painful lessons. Anti-Semitism is one of them. We know that anti-Semitism is an overwhelming problem for us and beyond the ability of the Jewish people to control or conquer. Only Hashem can lift that yoke off our necks, but first He wants something from us, and that is why we are being tested. I am certain every Jew knows the answer.

A good start would be an avalanche of letters to the editor of The Jewish Press crying out for Jewish unity. We must raise our voices full strength if we hope to rise above those ominous
alarm bells.

“Naaseh v’nishma” - ring a bell?

Norman Shine
Brooklyn, NY

No ‘Spiritual Leader’

If a gang of murderers began terrorizing one of our towns, we would want our police to do whatever was necessary to ensure our safety. No one would worry about what the gang members thought of us, or whether they would retaliate.

It is, therefore, difficult to understand the reaction of many to the decisive action of the Israeli government which dealt justice to Ahmed Yassin, an arch-terrorist responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians, including many women and children.

And why is that a mass murderer referred to as a “spiritual leader?” Is that an attempt to cloak him with some semblance of respectability? I know of no other “spiritual leader” who advocates murder and mayhem in this manner

Avi Kuperberg
Fair Lawn, NJ

They Loved Yassin

Israel’s elimination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin shows how widespread support for terrorism really is. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians decrying Israel’s execution of a chief terrorist doesn’t say much for people who claim they want peaceful relations with anyone, let alone Israel.

Even here in New York, the Arab-Americans who were interviewed seemed to see no justice in the elimination of a master terrorist; they condemned Israel! Are these the same Arab-Americans who after 9/11 cried “discrimination,” and who claimed they were just a bunch of peace-loving Americans?

People who feel sympathy for a vicious murderer do not belong among civilized human beings.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Too Much Modern, Too Little Orthodox?

Last year I created a firestorm in this section by deriding Modern Orthodoxy, labeling the movement spiritually bankrupt and essentially irrelevant. In light of what I’ve read of late in The Jewish Press, I would like to amend my earlier statements. I am now forced to conclude that Modern Orthodoxy is not Judaism.

As exhibit A we present Marla Rubinstein, who describes herself as a Modern Orthodox supporter of John Kerry (Letters, March 19). Actually, she doesn’t so much support Sen Kerry as she reviles President Bush. Among the charges she levels at the president is that he is anti-gay. Ms. Rubinstein, the last time I checked the Torah calls homosexuality an abomination. But then, you’re Modern Orthodox, so I guess you have a modern, updated version of the Bible which deletes phrases that people like you consider offensive.

Then we have the feminists and their lackeys, such as Rabbi
Yosef Kanefsky of Los Angeles, who advises his congregants to
whisper the bracha ‘Shelo Asani Isha’ when there is a woman
in attendance.

And then there’s the recent to-do over the permissibility of a Lower East Side eruv, which featured a letter from a Lower East Side resident who wrote that he uses the eruv despite the
glares of his neighbors. Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, stated – and his sons Rav Dovid and Rav Reuven uphold this – that there is no eruv on the Lower East Side. By flouting this p’sak, one
demonstrates callous disregard of our chachomim – and in many ways this is worse than an act of chillul Shabbos.

I could cite many other examples, but suffice to say that an attitude has crept into Modern Orthodoxy that halacha must be adapted to suit the masses. In the good old days, those who
were non-observant at least owned up to it; now they hide under the guise of Orthodoxy. (I should make it clear that my remarks are not aimed at Jews of any particular locale – the concept that the Torah should not hinder one’s lifestyle can be found across the Jewish spectrum.)

It would be best if we consider the following from Rav Mordechai Gifter, zt”l: ‘Orthodox is a Greek word. I am a Torah Jew.’ Torah Jews abide by the dictates of the Creator as
expounded by our chachomim. They do not capriciously call for changes to suit their needs and desires.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

More Involvement Needed

There are many organizations and individuals providing support, counseling, job training, and various programs to help teens at risk and their families. Those who work in this field are deserving of a hearty yasher koach, to say the least, for their efforts. It is work which requires
much patience and I am sure that they must have to deal with many frustrating and disappointing situations.

These organizations cater basically to families and teens who come to them for help. But there are many teens at risk out in the street who are suspicious of those they see as ‘professionals.’ They do not want to deal with someone whose career is focused on “saving youth.” They do
not perceive these people as truly caring and they do not feel they need salvation.

What is needed is a network of caring individuals who devote their time to maintaining contact and relationships with these youth by reaching out to them. Currently there is a very small group of these “street outreach workers.” But their resources are limited and, therefore, they cannot reach out to all the lost youth.

Volunteers are needed to be trained and strategically placed in areas where teens “hang out” -  street corners, kosher eateries, etc. It is no small task and it requires exceptionally caring and gifted people. The rewards, however, are enormous. What mitzvah is greater than saving
Jewish neshamas?

This problem not only involves teens at risk. It affects their parents, siblings, and the entire community. We cannot ignore it, for if we do, it constitutes a major chillul Hashem.

Yisroel Friedman
Rochester, NY

UJA-Fed: Not Cutting, Maximizing

We at UJA-Federation of New York recognize the significance of Jewish education to the continuity of the Jewish people, and thus we welcome the opportunity to respond to recent Jewish Press editorials and to concerns about the Fund for Jewish Education.

UJA-Federation has a 24-year-old partnership with Gruss Life Monument Funds through The Fund for Jewish Education. The fund’s distribution of more than $100 million in support of Jewish education throughout the New York area is a major achievement. It should be noted
that this fund represents only a portion of our commitment to and allocations on behalf of Jewish education. We are constantly seeking out ways to advocate for and insure quality day school education for Jewish children and to address the needs and concerns of day school students and professionals.

During the past 24 years, the fund’s distribution system has been formula-driven. We have no intention of cutting the overall level of funding to Jewish day schools, but we have every intention of reevaluating the process to make sure we maximize every dollar committed to this Jewish educational priority.

UJA-Federation recognizes this is a sacred partnership and funding decisions will be made jointly with our partners at Gruss Life Monument Funds. We are grateful to our partners and have every reason to believe that future allocations to the Fund for Jewish Education will be every bit as meaningful as when Joseph Gruss, z”l, began this remarkable undertaking.

Alisa Rubin Kurshan, Ph.D.
Vice President
Strategic Planning and
Organizational Resources
UJA-Federation of New York

Lower East Side Eruv: The Conversation Continues

Benefits Of An Eruv

I’ve been following the eruv letters for the past few weeks and feel it’s important to say something publicly. I have lived on the Lower East Side my entire life and daven in the Bialystoker shul. My children are old enough to walk now, so an eruv for me personally is of little consequence. However, I have watched as young people moved into this neighborhood and moved out once their children were born. When I’d ask, they would tell me that the primary reason was that they did not want to feel trapped without an eruv.

Each year we lose families and we’re not getting new replacements. The neighborhood is experiencing a rejuvenation, but one that does not include young Jewish families. This, I believe, is because of our stance on the eruv (and the lack of quality schools.) I am unable to argue halacha, as I am wholly unqualified, but I would just like to see this issue brought up in a public forum. There has to be some reason for the various eruvim throughout Manhattan, but we hear nothing from our rabbinate.

There are many people down here who are interested in discussing the topic – if only it were
open for conversation. The Lower East Side is a great neighborhood to live in, and people are
generally accepted. I believe that there is so much more potential in this area, but by not opening up the conversation, and by taking a hard-line approach, we risk the future of our Jewish community.

Malki Cohen
New York, NY

Rav Moshe’s P’sak

I was blessed to have known Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l. I can still feel the warmth of his smile, his gentle voice always filling me with care and concern for others. Recognized by the world as
a gadol (in a world that understood the meaning of true gadlus), Rav Moshe’s decision in halachic laws truly ”stood against the secular world.”

There was no one who questioned his word because he was the posek hador. As a posek he proved his love for everyone in Klal Yisrael - indeed, when one speaks about ahavas Yisrael, one immediately remembers the love Rav Moshe had for everyone who came in his daled amos. A posek literally puts his olam habah on the line when he gives his p’sak, because, as we all know, in the olam ha-emes we will say ”We asked and did as we were allowed.” The posek will bear the responsibility and, chas v’shalom, the punishment if his p’sak was not halachically correct – so you must love others to take such a risk.

Rav Moshe was known as a mekel who was easy in his decisions – one who was able to be a
”makil” because he knew halacha so well and because he always tried to make one’s life easier so that one could serve Hashem with a lighter heart. Even if there was no heter or a negative response to a question, Rav Moshe took the time to research (even though he knew the answer) and to explain so that each person knew of the personal involvement and concern the rav had for all.

In view of this, I find it difficult to listen to people discuss Rav Moshe’s decisions as though
they knew more or care more than he did.

Rav Moshe’s decision that an eruv was not permissible on the Lower East Side (a neighborhood I am proud to live in) was not decided on a whim; on the contrary, Rav Moshe
always tried to bring comfort to all. Nothing has changed, no walls have come up, to make Rav Moshe’s decision invalid. I cannot help but wonder whether any of those who disagree with Rav Moshe’s p’sak has the background in learning to ”discuss” his decision. I tend to think they do not.

To state that we on the Lower East Side are more stringent might be considered a compliment
- if it were true. We are in fact only doing what is halachically correct according to the p?sak of the gadol hador. The Lower East Side is a truly beautiful community and to say that people will not move here because there is no eruv is insulting to all of us. We have a lot more to offer than many communities, and if the walk to shul with a carriage on Shabbos, or being able to walk to a friend on Shabbos afternoon, is all someone is interested in, then I can only say: Come and see that we are much more.

Sarah Fein
New York, NY

Two Paths

During the past few weeks numerous letters to the editor have gone back and forth regarding
the halachic feasibility of erecting an eruv on the Lower East side of Manhattan, and whether or not an acceptable one may already exist.

The prohibition against making any eruv in the borough of Manhattan was signed on the
eighteenth day of Sivan, 1962, by Rabbis Aaron Kotler, Moshe Feinstein, Yaakov Kaminetsky, Chaim Bick and Gedalya Shorr, zt”l. These were the original signers at the first meeting; many other leading rabbonim eventually signed the prohibition which clearly states that one is ‘considered a mechalel Shabbos’ if one carries in Manhattan.

I wish to rest my case by stating that there are two paths an individual can choose. One path is
to follow the Torah by accepting the prohibition against an eruv as signed by Torah leaders. The other path is to follow those rabbis, no matter who they are, who now want to allow an eruv.

I wish everybody a good Shabbos and a chag kasher v’sameach.

Heshy Jacob
New York, NY

In Praise Of The Lower East Side

As a female member (recently arrived) of the Lower East Side community, I am compelled to
write you in response to Richard Katz’s letter of March 19. The baal habayit of our house, my
wonderful husband, Sol Wenig (a lifelong Lower East Sider), is the one who prepares and serves me the hot chulent each week. He also does the laundry while I purchase the flowers for Shabbos. When we were married three years ago this month, he was secure enough with himself to be com- fortable with me keeping my name. I wouldn’t call any of this “old thinking,” would you?

I am sorry to hear that Mr. Katz did not have a pleasant experience upon visiting the Lower East Side, and I invite him and his family to stay in our spacious “tenement” the next time he’s in town. You find what you seek in life, or as my aunt says, “The chulent is only as good as the company.” I am thankful that I am surrounded by warm and loving people in this great community and proudly boast that I have friends from ages three to ninety three.

Janet L. Riesel
New York, NY

Jews And The U.S. Military

I feel compelled to share with your readers some positive experiences I’ve had as an active
duty Orthodox soldier in the U.S. Army. I have been on active duty for over four years, having served the first three and a half at the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) located at Fort Stewart, just outside of Savannah, Georgia.

My experience has been nothing but positive and inspiring, due largely to the general level of
respect for my Orthodox lifestyle that other soldiers, both enlisted and officers, have
demonstrated. From my initial officer training at Fort Lee in Petersburg, Virginia and the Judge
Advocate General School in Charlottesville, the Army offered ‘reasonable accommodations,’ which is really all it is required to do.

I was excused from one formal activity that occurred on Shabbat (a field trip to a Civil War site that I was disappointed to miss), and walked to a couple of other events where my mere appearance was necessary. We had one training event on a Friday night, but I received permission so that I wouldn’t have to carry anything (being outside an eruv) or take notes. In advance of a social function, the organizers asked me what ingredients they could use for a non-alcoholic ‘grog’ – basically a repulsive punch concoction traditionally imbibed at
Army formal occasions.

I was told by more experienced officers during my training that if my Jewish practices, either for Shabbat or otherwise, would conflict with my responsibilities, I should respectfully approach a supervising officer to discuss what arrangements could be made, in advance of the activity. I have utilized this advice repeatedly, with much success.

Once I arrived at Fort Stewart, my colleagues and superiors were nothing but supportive and
respectful. Whenever I had on-call duty over a weekend, my colleagues agreed to cover Shabbat for me without any resistance or expectation of reciprocation, even though I always offered to cover two days for every day they covered for me.

As well, when I was sent to an emergency response training exercise that I was told would
end on Saturday, a lieutenant colonel responsible for overseeing my participation explained to me that he completely understood the concept of Shabbat because as a devout Roman Catholic he did not work on Sundays. I offered to sleep over at the meeting location and also to walk to the event, but he excused me from activities on Shabbat, adding that if anyone gave me any grief, he would handle it.

On multiple occasions I received generous support from a Protestant chaplain who is a Special Forces-trained colonel with service includes time in Vietnam, among other wars. He in
particular was very supportive in helping me get time off for Jewish holidays.

This colonel tried to encourage me to stay in because he feels the Army needs more Orthodox
Jewish officers, as I have also been told by a high-ranking Orthodox Jew who works in the Pentagon.

On many occasions I have developed instantaneous kinship with other devout, G-d-fearing soldiers and civilians due to our shared values. Various soldiers, civilians, veterans and their families have exuded a welcoming warmth that has reassured me as to the state of tolerance
and respect for Torah-based Judaism as viewed by greater American society.

I believe, therefore, that it is imperative that Orthodox and affiliated Jews become more involved with the U.S. military; in the Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard and Department of Defense civilian contexts. There is a great need for doctors, lawyers, budget planners, social workers, psychologists, nurses, chaplains, administrators, computer programmers and civil and public affairs officers. While Jewish communal employment opportunities, particularly in kiruv, are scarce and job losses due to outsourcing are growing nationally, the military offers great work experience opportunities along with excellent education, health care, housing, travel and retirement benefits.

Torah-based Jews are needed to interact with gentiles as well as other Jewish soldiers who may not have had a formal Jewish education. Many of the Jews I encountered came rom assimilated or intermarried homes, but their thirst for Jewish life and knowledge was inspiring, as they arranged to take time out from their busy training schedules in order to attend Jewish social functions. I have helped them locate Passover kosher food, hosted them for Shabbat and chaggim, counseled them on religious accommodation requests, invited them for Purim megillah readings and even helped build a sukkah on the Army installation. Some eventually
became shomer Shabbat and kashrut-observant.

Consequently, I founded the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists Military
Bar Committee (MBC), which is devoted to facilitating discussions, lectures and field trips in
the process of learning about current and historical military participation by Jewish soldiers.
Moreover, the MBC periodically visits hospitals and assisted living facilities to comfort present and past Jewish military servicemen and women. Finally, the MBC organizes visits to Jewish
schools, community centers and synagogues to educate and inspire the next generation of Jewish military servicemen and women.

I believe that through the patriotic contributions of Torah values by Orthodox and affiliated Jews – and by our willingness to interact with the greater American society in a military community context – American Jews and the nation are strengthened for the better.

Captain Yosefi Seltzer
Silver Spring, MD

Editor’s Note: Captain Seltzer is Active Duty Judge Advocate in the United States Army Legal Services Agency. He and his wife live in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland and are members of the Woodside Synagogue where Rav Yitzchak Breitowitz is the spiritual leader. Captain Seltzer is the founder and president of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists Military Bar Committee. For more information, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JewishMilitaryBar/ (He can be reached daytime at 703-696-1663 or at night at 301-920-0938.)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-58/2004/04/21/

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