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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Modern Orthodoxy’

Title: Judaism’s Encounter With American Sports

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Title: Judaism’s Encounter With American Sports
Author: Jeffrey Gurock



Despite commonly held conceptions that athletic prowess and Jews don’t mix, a Jewish fascination and involvement with the world of sports can be traced back throughout the ages. Today, particularly in America, sports has assumed a central part in the collective identity of the modern Jew. Stories of Jewish boys and girls who beat the odds and made it in the highly competitive world of professional sports typically reflected as much on their religion as their particular feats on the field of play. Yet, considerable strides have been made in recent decades towards making the dreams of young Jewish athletes come true.

It is that growing sense of comfort and acceptance that serves at the center of Judaism’s Encounter with American Sports. This book should not be mistaken as just another book about Jews in professional sports. For readers looking for inspiring tales of how figures like Sandy Koufax placed their religion over their profession, they should be forewarned that this book successfully tackles sports from a far broader perspective.

The title might therefore be slightly misleading, being that the book deals little with popularly held understandings of what is “American Sports” and deals more with American Judaism’s encounter with athletics.

Jeffrey Gurock, a professor of history at Yeshiva University, succeeds in drafting a thorough and often enlightening text of a unique aspect of American Jewish identity. Using sports as a prism with which to better understand the acclimation – if not assimilation – of American Jewry, this book will be of considerable interest even to those who can’t tell the difference between a touchdown and a homerun.

Both a historical and sociological study, the book traces how sport – which in ancient Jewish circles was more associated with Hellenism and material values – slowly became more acceptable even within more traditional circles. Gurock argues that this transition was a combination of accommodation and necessity – accommodation routed in a desire for Jews in modern society to conform with their secular surroundings and necessity based on a growing need for Jews to increase their physical prowess to defend their stature in increasingly hostile environments.

Mostly, the book presents sports as a mode of expression for Jewish immigrants, and more prominently as a vehicle for their children to feel like Americans.

With that desire came considerable challenges to issues of faith and religious observance, which Gurock concedes led some younger athletes to abandon their religious upbringing in favor of the more secular lifestyles that accompanied athletic success. Yet, the book more powerfully argues that religious leaders came to accept sports as a means to reach out to young Jews as a method of keeping them in the community.

Citing the arrival of gymnasiums into the construction plans of modern American synagogues and community centers, the book displays how by the mid-20th century, rabbis and Jewish communal leaders recognized that including sports facilities in their offerings had become a necessary approach to entice younger Jews to embrace religious observance.

In one of the most enlightening sections, reflecting the extensive research which must have been put into constructing this book, Gurock quotes from the European rabbinic luminary Rabbi Israel Mayer Kagan, commonly referred to as the Chofetz Chaim, encouraging his students to take up physical activities and warns them, “Do not study overmuch.” As a professor at Yeshiva University, America’s academic beacon for Modern Orthodoxy, Gurock makes a concerted effort to display how traditionalists like those who fathered his university were some of the more open-minded when it came to introducing athletics into their curricula. While integration took several generations, and in some more traditional communities has yet to occur, this book paints the process as an important manifestation of the desire of Jews in America to fit in with surroundings that place a fair degree of importance on success on the playing field.

Much of the historical narrative explored in the book focuses on Yeshiva University, which, through its underlying conceptual framework of melding traditional Judaism with manifestations of modernity, became the first chance for a Jewish student to retain observance and still “feel collegiate.” Gurock’s overemphasis on the role of Yeshiva in providing a safe haven for Jewish athletes might be criticized by readers who would quickly point out that many Jewish athletes not interested in a yeshiva lifestyle were continuing to face the conflicts between secularism and observance.

Over the course of the 20th century, sports among American Jews became less an issue of identity preservation and an increasing form of entertainment, which even more traditional Jews could fall in love with without concern that it would harm their personal religiosity. This dramatic shift manifested itself to the extent that in 1986, when the New York Mets reached the World Series, observant Jewish fans went so far as to appeal (admittedly in vain) to major league officials to delay a pivotal playoff game scheduled for Yom Kippur. It is this type of anecdote that Gurock uses to colorfully display just how far Jews have come out of the shtetl.

As an award-winning historian and an accomplished athlete, Gurock skillfully uses his writing to both display his academic prowess and his passion as a sports fan. As a highly readable and often captivating book, Judaism’s Encounter with American Sports is sure to leave readers crossing the finish line with a better and more informed understanding of the role of athletics in the development of the American Jew.(JPFS)

Jeremy Wimpfheimer

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

Reckless Talk

The growing incitement against Israeli government officials in response to the disengagement policy must be condemned by all people regardless of their stance regarding that policy. The atmosphere being created is one that should be abhorrent to those who respect the guiding principles of democracy, the very tenets of freedom which we all cherish.

As a member of the religious community, I painfully recall the backlash from the leftists and the irreligious who claimed after Rabin’s assassination that not enough was done or said to admonish a minority of people responsible for the incitement. At times the backlash was so bad that in Tel Aviv simply traveling on a bus while wearing a kippah was problematic. Subsequently there have been forums and much needed mending of the fences between the religious and irreligious. I fear that without a public condemnation by our organizations, community leaders and rabbis, we will not have learned from our past mistake of keeping silent on an issue that necessitates outspokenness.

Incitement against democratically elected officials is unacceptable, period. The free world is presently fighting to restore and protect democracy the world over. For many, this is their first taste of freedom. We have a system in place to voice our concerns and, if necessary, remove government officials from office in a democratic manner. At the same time, the government that we empowered with the right to govern us must take into account, and be more responsive to, the concerns of the citizenry. Let us be an example to these countries that are first experiencing or have yet to experience freedom and democracy.

Seth Friedbauer
(Via E-Mail)

Battling Anti-Semitism

I was thoroughly impressed with Mrs. E. Schonfeld’s response (Letters, Feb. 11) to Shlomo Mostofsky’s front-page essay “Never Again?” (Jan. 21). While Mr. Mostofsky would have us take up arms in self-defense as a means of preventing another Holocaust, chas v’shalom, Mrs. Schonfeld urges Jews to redouble their commitment to the faith.

Some two hundred years after the world’s first holocaust – the Great Flood – a meeting was convened to address the following concerns: The earth had been repopulated, cities had been reestablished, and commerce was flourishing – but all would be for naught should the world once again incur the wrath of Heaven. Rather than legislate against the behaviors which precipitated the earlier devastation, the people decided to build a great fortress they thought would insulate them against Divine punishment.

Obviously their plans were scuttled, but the lesson seems to be lost on our lay leaders. In addition to Mr. Mostofsky’s approach, we have those who would “educate” the world vis-a-vis the Holocaust hoping to stir its conscience; others who look to curry favor with politicians to whom they could turn in times of need; and still others who advocate interfaith dialogue. Now, such hishtadlus has its place, but as Mrs. Schonfeld pointed out, nothing is as important as increased Torah study, intensified prayer and improved middos.

The Mostofskys of the world take the wrong approach to anti-Semitism. Rather than appreciate it as a warning – a wake-up call to teshuvah – they view it as an evil unto itself, divorced from Hashem, which if eliminated would remove any and all dangers. We recall the words of Tehillim – Many are the thoughts of man, but it is the counsel of Hashem which ultimately stands.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Meaningful Bar Mitzvah

Kudos to Chananya Weissman for his op-ed article ”A Real Solution For Extravagant Simchas” (Jan. 21). I have benn saying much the same thing for years.

When our son became bar mitzvah, it was in our old shul back home in Pennsylvania. It is a shtiebel-type shul which barely manages a minyan many days, has a leaky roof (!), and is my home away from home. Everyone knows everyone’s name there, and to say I miss that shul terribly would be an understatement.

My son’s simcha may well be the last bar mitzvah that 200-year-old shul will ever see, and it was the first one in many decades in that formerly very Jewish, very frum neighborhood.

Did we have a big party the next day? No. All we had was a light meal after Kiddush on Shabbos, and a private family dinner the next night. Could we have afforded more? Yes. Did we want to? No.

I wanted (and so did our son) to have a simple religious, heimishe simcha almost identical to my late father’s bar mitzvah in 1935 in a similarly tiny shul not far from the one my son’s was in.

We are all very happy with our decision. I wish more Yidden would see that the spiritual nature of the simcha is far more important than “what will the neighbors think.”

Chana S. Rovinsky
Blackwood, NJ

Contra Cross Harbor

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (op-ed, Feb. 11) has such great praise for the so-called ”Cross Harbor Freight Program” that one might get the impression that this program’s fulfillment will not only ease truck traffic in Brooklyn but will cure disease and bring about world peace. In fact, it will be excessively expensive, will complicate traffic, disrupt neighborhoods such as Boro Park and Midwood, and bring noise and danger to Brooklyn.

Eight billion dollars is an estimated cost for a tunnel (or tunnels) cutting across New York Harbor going from Jersey City to 65th Street in Brooklyn. Does anyone know of such projects which do not end up with significant overruns? And who will pay? You, of course. New rail beds and tracks will be laid through Sunset Park, Boro Park and Midwood, just at the places where there is already a single track on the Long Island Railroad bypass. Anyone who believes that this can be done without noise, dirt, damage to adjoining structures is ready to buy a well-known bridge at the north of our borough.

And suppose this project is carried through. What will happen when 32 freight trains move back and forth in two-way traffic each day? More noise? More damage to the structural integrity of adjoining structures? Exodus of families living adjacent to these tracks?

The Cross Harbor Program calls for heavy freight traffic cutting across Brooklyn. What kind of freight? Will this include hazardous materials? Will the trains haul garbage on their way back to an initial Brooklyn terminal? And where will the freight be dropped off? If the answer is ”Maspeth, Queens,” then the idea that truck traffic in Brooklyn will be minimized is vitiated. In this case trucking material back in Brooklyn by automotive means will be unavoidable.

So who, one should ask, is interested in a real solution? What are Mr. Nadler’s interests here? What was he thinking when he packed Community Board 14’s hearing on the program with unionized construction workers whose primary concern is the creation of jobs, not the integrity of established neighborhoods and their residents (including many readers of The Jewish Press)?

Charles Evans
(Via E-Mal)

Editor’s Note: Professor Evans is the former chairman of the Philosophy Department at the City College of New York.

Secular Studies A Hopeless Cause?

Fear Of Science

I am very happy that Dr. Yitzchok Levine is tackling the program of secular education in our yeshivas (“Accepting a Challenge,” front-page essay, Feb. 11). Unfortunately, he deals primarily with the mechanics of secular education – such as the lack of proper curriculum and the lack of interest on behalf of yeshiva administrators – but does not present a solution to the core problem. That problem, I would suggest, is that the yeshivas do not accept the basic premise that secular knowledge of God’s world is essential and that we are mandated by our sages to be conversant with the mystical wonders that Hashem has created in this world for our use.

Dr. Levine is spinning his wheels in presenting his insightful and meaningful curriculum when he himself admits that he can’t get even one yeshiva to trail-blaze a sensible secular curriculum. Most yeshiva administrators are deathly afraid of science as a form of apikorsus. The idea that it was our own spiritual giants who said “moh rabu ma’asecha” (how wondrous are Your acts of creation) and “kulan bechochma asisah” (You encouraged the mind of man to fathom the mysteries of Your creation) is quickly dismissed.

The attitude that science is a completing philosophy has led to our abdicating an insightful view of the Creator’s wonderful world to the secular scientists, and therein lies the real tragedy.

Mike Senders
(Via E-Mail)

Blame Modern Orthodoxy’s Decline

The lack of response to Dr. Levine from yeshiva administrators is hardly a surprise. The state of affairs in our yeshivas is symptomatic of the ghettoization of the American Orthodox community – particularly in New York and increasingly so in other large cities.

Whereas as recently as the mid-1970’s it was possible to survey the Orthodox landscape and take pride in the dynamic intellectualism that suffused large parts of Modern Orthodoxy, the situation today could not be more different. For a host of reasons too complex to detail in a letter to a newspaper, Modern Orthodoxy has atrophied over the past couple of decades to the point where a Modern Orthodox group like Edah, whose leadership is comprised of distinguished rabbis and scholars, is viewed by almost every frum Jew I come into contact with as being unrepresentative of Torah Judaism – a fringe phenomenon to be shunned or ignored.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that had an Orthodox Jew been placed in a state of suspended animation in, say, 1968, he would not recognize the Orthodox world if he were to regain consciousness in 2005. That is the problem in a nutshell, and it is the reason why the dumbing down of the community shows no sign of abating. What we now call Modern Orthodoxy – it was viewed as mainstream Torah Judaism when I was growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s – has been on the defensive for years.

The Orthodox public has bought the notion that stricter necessarily means better, that isolation breeds spirituality, and that our sages in centuries past all wore black hats and spent their days searching out every chumra the human mind could conceive. The reality of Torah teachers who made their living in “secular” occupations, of scholars who counseled leniency within the parameters of the Law, of rabbis whose interpretation of Torah stressed understanding and conciliation between Jew and Jew and Jew and non-Jew – that reality is unknown to Orthodox young people today in all but a handful of yeshivas.

Yehuda Biebelberg
New York, NY

Deep Denial

I laud the efforts of The Jewish Press and Dr. Yitzchok Levine in keeping the issue of secular studies in yeshivas on the front burner. However, responding to the challenge of designing a curriculum al regel achas, independently and in a popular Jewish publication, is a non-starter. I do not for one instant deny Dr. Levine’s sincerity, but this matter needs to be approached differently.

Dr. Levine writes that he hasn’t heard from anyone involved in the administration of a yeshiva. “If there is no interest on the part of the hanhala and principals, there is nothing to discuss.” Dorten light der hundt bagroben. You can’t fix a problem and offer solutions if everyone is in denial about the problem existing in the first place.

Unless there is recognition and acceptance by the yeshiva world and the roshei yeshiva that secular subjects are necessary for parnossa, the status quo will not change. These schools will graduate students with minimal language skills, much less knowledge of Western culture. The readings suggested by Dr. Levine are far beyond what many can comprehend.

One of the most delicate and difficult subjects to discuss is the high number of Jewish families existing on welfare checks, food stamps, Section 8 rent subsidies, etc. Surely this is not a condition of which we can be proud. But many are unprepared or unwilling to enter the work force. This should be a priority discussion for the highest levels of Jewish leadership.

We do a disservice to our young people by not giving them the tools to earn a living. If there is acknowledgement and acceptance that secular studies deserve more than minimal pro forma lip service, there are many fine educators from the frum community who would be available to work on an acceptable curriculum. Ayn davar omayd bifnei haratzon.

Dr. Wallace Greene, Chairman
National Board of License of Teachers and Principals
in Jewish Schools in North America
New York, NY

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, May 19th, 2004

Precedent-Setting President

Last week President George W. Bush made more explicit than ever before his belief that the war Israel faces against Arab Islamic terrorism is the same as the war the United States faces. His actual words were:

“The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorist who takes hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali, and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew.”

He is the first U.S. president to tie the destiny of the Jews and the Jewish state to that of the United States. Prior to the Bush presidency, U.S. presidents of both parties saw Israel as an important ally living in a tough part of the world who would ultimately have to sacrifice a major portion of its territory for the sake of world peace.

George W. Bush is the first president to see that there is no moral equivalence between the Arabs and the Jews, that terrorists do not want peace as democracies generally do. He is the first to support the idea that the Arab world must transform itself politically before a lasting peace can be achieved. He is the first to realize that forcing the Israeli government’s hand in negotiations with terrorists would amount to Israel’s signing a death sentence.

Not bad for someone derided by his enemies as a “stupid cowboy.”

Simon Jacobs
(Via E-Mail)

Retrench … Or Resign

The most important revelation so far of the 9/11 hearings is that Bin Laden discovered America’s Achilles heel when U.S. forces were precipitously withdrawn from Lebanon in 1983. If you recall, a lone Arab terrorist blew himself and 241 Marines to smithereens with a
truck bomb.

President Reagan turned tail and ran. No investigation. No retaliation. Nothing.

That horrendous event was Bin Laden’s wake-up call. He discovered that most awesome (non-nuclear) weapon: the suicide bomber. He also discovered that terror could be spread with impunity.

Did Ariel Sharon learn the lesson that withdrawal in the face of an enemy’s boldness will only bring worse disasters? Apparently he did not. Neither did he learn the lessons of Ehud Barak’s blunder of pulling out of Lebanon – a move that most analysts agree emboldened the Palestinians enough to start the second (and still ongoing) intifada.

Sharon’s planned unilateral withdrawal from Gaza should send shockwaves through Jewish communities all over the world. The uprooting of whole families – women, children, the elderly – reminds me of the nightmarish days when we were taken from our homes by the Nazis.

Arik Sharon! Is this why you were elected by an unprecedented majority? Is it the will of those who voted for you that you turn over Gaza to Hamas? Remember: you were not elected to cede territory. That’s something any incompetent can do.

You, on the other hand, were elected to save Israel from the ravages of Oslo. You can still do so. But if you can’t, then resign. Yes, resign. Resign before you start the catastrophic process of dismantling the Jewish state brick by brick.

Bezalel Fixler
Kew Gardens, NY

Capital Punishment

Many years ago, I would have agreed with Steven Plaut’s op-ed column favoring capital punishment – it’s in the Bible, so it must be right (“Preserving Human Dignity Through Capital Punishment,” Jewish Press, April 9). But that’s a literal reading which just doesn’t mesh with all of the intricacies of the oral Torah. I think we need to remember that our rabbis moved off the Temple Mount specifically to avoid the issue of capital punishment; without the full Sanhedrin
present, capital punishment would not be possible. They too knew that capital punishment is in the Bible, and they opted against it.

In the United States, we have a system of government very much in opposition to the Noahide laws. I’m assuming that the proponents of capital punishment would be less vocal about capital punishment for idol worshipers, adulterers, and those who consume the flesh of a halachically living animal. Even murder in Torah law has an entirely different definition than in civil law. In addition to a Constitution alien to Noahide laws, we have a jury system that has absolutely no
basis in Torah and which, in effect, places life and death judgments in the hands of peers instead of impartial, skilled, qualified judges.

All of which raises the question: In the full absence of any other aspect of Torah/Noahide laws, could one isolated element – capital punishment – be in any way considered biblical? I personally would like to know what our rabbis today have to say on this issue, and if they do unambiguously endorse it as Mr. Plaut suggests. Sources, please!

Miriam Levinson
Philadelphia, PA

Steven Plaut Responds: Yes, the Sanhedrin went out of its way to avoid having to enforce halachic guidelines regarding capital punishment for Jewish transgressors. But what does that have to do with the price of a kosher hot dog? Those Sanhedrin were not living in a time of genocidal terrorism and suicide bombings of Jews by anti-Semites. They were not operating in an age of Al Qaeda and Hamas, of massive and uncontrollable violent crime, of crack houses
and gang wars with automatic weapons.

No one is suggesting the United States implement capital punishment for idol worshippers and extra- marital peccadilloes. Let us recall that the original commandment to implement capital
punishment was for first-degree murder alone, in the Book of Genesis, chapter 9 verse 6: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, his own blood shall be shed by man, for in the image of G-d, He made man.” Throughout the Bible, capital punishment was utilized even other than in cases of first-degree murder (Samuel dispatching the King of the Amalekites, Pinchas’s heroism, the frequent use of it by King David and King Solomon, etc.).

Capital punishment is moral, ethical, and there is enormous evidence that it does indeed deter crime and violence, politically correct agitprop against it notwithstanding. Ms. Levinson forgets that one of the other Noahide commandments is for all nations to establish rules of law and judicial systems for law enforcement. If many states in the United States have decided to realize this Noahide commandment in the form of implementing capital punishment for murderers, there is no Judaic basis for criticizing them for doing so, regardless of whether the due process in these courts follows Torah rules. It is one of Israel’s greatest follies that it has not implemented capital punishment for terrorists.

More On Non-Jewish Melodies (I)

I wish to protest the tremendous chutzpah exhibited by reader Robert M. Solomon in his April 2 letter to the editor responding to Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser’s earlier criticism of non-Jewish music being appropriated by frum Jews.

I have no problem with debating the issue in a respectful manner (see reader Kalman Fischer’s letter in the same issue), but what Mr. Solomon did was to attack a beloved rabbinical figure and insult Daas Torah.

I’m sure that Rabbi Goldwasser in his column was not referring to simple and harmless melodies that our holy tzaddikim and rebbes adopted and to which they added genuine Jewish ruach and taam. What Rabbi Goldwasser was no doubt warning against is the type of rock or rap music distinguished by wild and provocative beats (and whose original lyrics celebrate immorality and sinful lifestyles).

L’havdil bein kodosh l’chol, bein Yisrael l’amim.

Rabbi Moshe Shochet
Brooklyn, NY

More On Non-Jewish Melodies (II)

Re the recent discussion in your news paper regarding non-Jewish songs being utilized for Jewish purposes:

In chassidus it is stated that song is a pen of the soul, meaning that a composer puts his inner essence into the songs he composes. This leads to the logical conclusion that a song composed by a person whose inner essence is unholy will contain that dimension in the song.

In most cases we are not on the spiritual level necessary to discern the negative dimension of a song. It is true that Chabad rebbes have made chassidic songs out of non-Jewish songs. But it is generally accepted in Chabad that the only ones who can do such a thing are rebbes – tzaddikim who, because of their great spiritual powers, can raise the song from the mundane to the holy.

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner
Boulder, CO

The State Of Orthodoxy, Modern And Otherwise

If the Letters Section of the April 2 edition is any indication, I will not be the choice of Jewish
Press readers for American Idol. To my detractors’ credit, their rebuttals of my position vis-?-vis Modern Orthodoxy were, on the whole, quite good. The gist of their remarks was that Modern Orthodoxy should not have been singled out for condemnation as there are individuals within the yeshivish-chassidish community who are likewise guilty of behavior unsanctioned by the Torah. Actually, I tried to forestall this argument with the disclaimer that I was not addressing any particular group.

I was raised Modern Orthodox. When I graduated high school it was with the assumption
that my Torah education was completed. Reader Sol Friedman flippantly derided me a hypocrite for violating the supposed prohibition against attending college. Mr. Friedman, I went to college almost thirty years ago. It was a different world and I was a different person. Would I send my son to college? That’s a thorny issue which I plan to discuss with my rebbeim when the time arrives.

I know that there are those in the modern Orthodox community who like to portray the
yeshiva world as being saddled with a Medieval mindset. Sorry to burst your bubble. The majority of those who devote their lives to Torah do so from strength, not because of any intellectual deficit. Forgive my digression, but I am acutely aware of the tepidity of my religious practice in the years before I discovered the joy of devoting oneself to Hashem and His Torah. Those who do not actively pursue spiritual advancement will find themselves on the slippery slope. Unfortunately, most are blind to their flaws and it is to that end that I write – while acknowledging that my particular level of observance has tremendous room for improvement.

The thinking Jew should formulate the following kal v’chomer: If a young Muslim can forfeit his life in the most horrific manner for the empty promise of sensual bliss, then we who are
guaranteed olam haba if we live in accord with the Torah should certainly devote ourselves to a life of spirituality.

But do we? Let’s see now: increasingly exotic Pesach vacations, summer homes, luxury cars. We are all too familiar with the stranglehold that materialism has on us. And it follows that if we are consumed with living it up in olam hazeh, we make certain religious compromises. So we call for unwarranted eiruvim, demand “equal rights” for women, etc.

Consider the singles crisis. Much has been written and much has been done, yet little has
been accomplished because the root cause is not addressed. Young men and women (and some who are not so young) present themselves as observant while their aspirations mimic the mainstream culture. And we can apply the same principle to the burgeoning population of “children at risk.” My son’s tales from yeshiva are about family vacations, new cars, expensive toys.

We read in the Haggadah that “those who expand the recounting of yetsias Mitzrayim deserve
to be praised.” Rabbi Dovid Feinstein explains that people talk about what is important to them. For far too many Orthodox Jews, Torah has become an afterthought. Hashem does not expect us to live a monastic existence, but we have gone far beyond the pale. So let’s drop the Modern Orthodoxy tag, because this phenomenon is all-encompassing.

The truth is that those who devote their lives to materialism do so more for others than themselves. They want the respect of family, friends and peers. But is this worth losing the
ultimate reward – recognition of a life spent in avodas Hashem?

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, April 28th, 2004

Google Protest

Upon reading in The Jewish Press (news story, March 19) that an anti-Semitic website is the first result one gets when typing in the word “jew” on Google, the Internet’s number one search engine, I contacted Google and basically got a run-around. I was told that in order for Google to rectify the problem, I would need some sort of petition with at least 50,000 names.

I’ve taken Google at its word and have set up an online petition for people to sign – at www.removejewwatch.com – and express their concern and disapproval. I hope the
readers of The Jewish Press will help us come closer to realizing our goal.

Steven M. Weinstock
(Via E-Mail)

Real Disclosure

I quote from the letter to the editor about yeshiva finances in the March 19 issue of The Jewish Press: “It is time for us, as parents paying tuition with great sacrifice to these yeshivas, to demand more input into their administration and full disclosure as to who is getting what, where and when.”

As a member of the hanhala of a major yeshiva in Brooklyn, I could not agree more. I believe there should be more disclosure – as to what parents are really sacrificing. How many of our parents are going to hotels for Pesach before paying up their full tuition? How much was spent on numerous vacations this winter? How many parents are spending more on one year for their children in Israel or on camps than they spent on four years’ high school tuition combined? How much has been spent for just the party planner for their son?s bar mitzvah?

Out of a school of a few hundred, not even a handful of parents called before Pesach to find out if there are any rebbeim or teachers who could use a little extra help for Pesach or just to pay up what is owed so the yeshiva can pay salaries before the yom tov.

Can you imagine that in the year 2004 there are yeshivas in Brooklyn that are two or three months behind on payroll? That means no check since December. Where is the full disclosure there? It is time for the community to recognize the tremendous efforts and dedication of the rebbeim and teachers who are educating our children – the future of Klal Yisrael.

Rabbi S. David
Brooklyn, NY

Tourist Dollars Better Spent In Israel

I read with great sadness the account of the thousands of Jews who recently traveled to Lizhensk, Poland (“Invasion of a Polish Shtetl,” March 26). While I appreciate the beauty and kavod of visiting the kever of the holy Rebbe Elimelech, I can’t help but wonder why these thousands of Jews didn’t instead visit the holiest of lands – Eretz Yisrael.

If they had gone to Israel they could have seen so many more inspirational sites, the resting places of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and, of course, the beautiful and holy city of Jerusalem. Is there any better place for our prayers to be said than at the foot of Har Habayit, the gateway to Heaven?

These thousands of visitors could have injected hundreds of thousands of badly-needed dollars into the Israeli economy. Instead, they visit Poland and put money into the hands of those who have tried to destroy our people.

Miriam Mehlman
Flushing, NY

Politics Trumps Unity

The 9/11 hearings in Washington are diverting attention from the ever-present danger of world terrorism and will not make America safer. Quite the contrary – the revelations are only exposing our vulnerabilities.

We don’t need politicians to tell us that the only way to protect ourselves from terrorists is to get them before they get us. Had we worked with Israel to eliminate the terrorists when they first appeared on the scene in the 1970’s, we would not now be at the brink of world conflagration.

The recent international condemnation of Israel for taking out a leading terrorist clearly demonstrates how far we are from winning this war. This is where our attention needs to be focused, and we should be rallying around President George W. Bush and against those who support our enemies.

Unfortunately, many of our leading politicians and their friends in the media have become so blinded by ambition and power that our survival as a nation is of no consequence. If we are to prevail over those who are bent on our destruction, we will have to unite under the only
leader who has demonstrated the fortitude to face this difficult challenge.

Israel Teitelbaum
Morristown, NJ

Removing Evil From The World

The killing of Sheikh Yassin has aroused controversy throughout the world. Many question why Israel would target an old man in a wheelchair. But the sheikh was far from innocent. He was directly involved in planning and sanctioning attacks against innocent civilians for many
years. But there is an even more nefarious side to Sheikh Yassin’s life that needs to be stated: In every religion, murder and suicide are two of the worst possible sins. Yet that is exactly what the suicide bomber does – he murders innocent civilians and kills himself in the process.

Even among the emotionally disturbed young men of Hamas, there had to have been some who had doubts, who asked themselves, “Is this really what God wants me to do?” Sheikh Yassin provided moral and spiritual legitimacy to these terrible deeds. He told these young people that they were performing a great mitzvah by blowing themselves up and killing innocents. He intentionally lied, promising them great heavenly reward for their terrible deeds. This in itself is adequate reason to have had him removed from the face of the earth.

Rabbi Yakov Lazaros
Framingham, MA

Payback Is Sweet

I believe that what we witnessed last week was an example of “midah k’neged midah” – or “what goes around comes around.”

Remember Leon Klinghoffer? He was the elderly, wheelchair-bound Jew who was murdered by the Palestinian hijackers of the Achille Lauro. Last week the Israelis took out the elderly, wheelchair- bound Palestinian Muslim who was the “spiritual leader” (read: chief terrorist)
of Hamas. My faith in Hashem has been strengthened.

Barry J. Koppel
Kew Gardens Hills, NY

Non-Jewish Melodies (I)

The outrageous denunciation by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser (Jewish Press, March 19) of melodies not written specifically for Orthodox Jewish purposes smacks of a medieval type of thinking that, unfortunately, characterizes much of today’s right-wing Orthodoxy. To imply that simple musical tunes – nothing more than a combination of musical notes – will in any way have a corrupting influence goes beyond any attempt at rational thinking. (Rabbi Goldwasser had previously gone so far as to state that secular melodies corrupt one’s neshama.)

Now, if he had denounced the often licentious and disgusting lyrics that some modern- day songs contain, I would certainly support his assertions. But instead he issued a blanket condemnation of all non-Jewish melodies, even if they have Orthodox Jewish themes and words as their lyrics.

Maybe Rabbi Goldwasser does not recall that the Lubavitcher Rebbe permitted his chassidim to make the French national anthem into a niggun. The Rebbe stated that by doing so one raises something that is not holy into the realm of holiness.

Anyone who finds himself spiritually corrupted by a secular melody alone – especially one that’s been made into an Orthodox Jewish song – is more likely to suffer from a mental illness than any spiritual threat.

Robert M. Solomon
Brooklyn, NY

Non-Jewish Melodies (II)

Rabbi Goldwasser may be a wonderful spiritual leader and a man of great midos, but apparently he’s not up on his history. Torah Jews have been appropriating non-Jewish
melodies for centuries. The melodies of many chassidishe niggunim were adopted from non-Jewish sources – the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Schneur Zalman of Liadi, did this with ‘Napoleon’s March’?; another Chabad favorite, “Niggun Shamil,” was written by an imprisoned Ukrainian peasant who longed for his homeland.

In addition, the melody of the beloved Chanukah song “Maoz Tzur” is actually based on the tune of several 16th-century German folksongs (“Ich weiss ein Meidlein huebsch und fein,” “Van oninck Maximilian,” and “So weiss ich eins”).

Kalman Fischer
New York, NY

Is Modern Orthodoxy Authentic Judaism? Painting With A Broad Brush

Dr. Yaakov Stern (Letters, March 26) cites several examples of statements by individuals who
are identified with “Modern Orthodoxy” that may or certainly do not conform with halacha. He then makes the enormous and lamentable leap by stating, “Modern Orthodoxy is not Judaism.”

If someone would cite actions or statements made by some members of Mr. Stern’s community that violated halacha, would that person be justified in making a similar negative
generalization of that entire community? Obviously not.

I invite Dr. Stern to spend a day in our so-called Modern Orthodox kehilla on the Upper
West Side of Manhattan. He could start the day at 6:15 a.m. at our Daf Yomi group, followed by Shacharit. He could then follow any one of scores of members who then go out into the world to their respective professions and businesses and observe their conduct. At the end of the day I would challenge him to state that what he observed “is not Judaism.”

I would suggest that Dr. Stern, in his quest to improve halachic observance, begin with himself
and his family. He should then look toward his own community. And finally, when he observes
improprieties or inappropriate remarks elsewhere, he should address the issues themselves, rather then make a broad-brush condemnation of a hashkafa that constantly attempts to define itself within a halachic context while participating in the secular world.

The Netziv, in his introduction to Sefer Bereishit in the Haamek Davar, writes that the Bayit Sheni was destroyed because Torah scholars directed causeless hatred at those who conducted themselves in a manner different from themselves and branded them tzedukim or apikorsim (and all this l’shem shamayim). He contrasted that generation with the avot who always pursued ways of peace and maintained a positive stance. He cited Avraham, who prayed for Sodom; Yitzchak, who spoke kindly with Avimelech; and Yaakov, who
maintained relations with Lavan.

The Almighty k’viyachol cries when he sees the internal strife among his people. Let us hope
that, during this period of our celebrating the redemption from our Egyptian bondage, Dr. Stern ad those of like mind will find it within themselves to soften their hearts toward their fellow Jews and thereby bring about the final Redemption, may it be speedily and in our time.

Fred Ehrman
New York, NY

Too Much Harshness, Too Little Balance

Dr. Yaakov Stern’s letter to the editor, which appeared under the heading “Too Much Modern, Too Little Orthodox” harshly criticizes Modern Orthodoxy. Indeed, Dr. Stern goes so far as to state, “I am now forced to conclude that Modern Orthodoxy is not Judaism.”

Such a blanket statement is, in my opinion, uncalled for and unsubstantiated. Furthermore, I
wonder why Dr. Stern has not turned his critical eye to the rest of the Orthodox world. Let us not kid ourselves – all is not well in the so-called right wing of the Orthodox community either. Here are just a few examples:

The Jewish Press has published a number of letters about people in Brooklyn who for whatever reasons do not greet their fellow Jews with a simple “Good Shabbos.” From time to time we read of this or that member of the right-wing Orthodox camp who is suspected of the misuse of government funds. Some of these people have even been convicted and had to serve time in jail. A former student of mine at Stevens Institute of Technology whose family is not observant once told me, “Every time my father has had business dealings with Orthodox Jews, he felt that they were trying to cheat him.”

We often see a tremendous emphasis on externalities with little concern for substance. The
other day a neighbor of mine was bemoaning what is going on nowadays regarding Pesach. He said, “There is nothing wrong with being machmir; however, one must make sure that one does not become a chamor as a result!”

There are real problems throughout the entire spectrum of the Orthodox world, and one should not single out a particular group and write them off. Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, once said to me, “There is a thin veneer of frumkeit, and underneath it is all rotten.” He was not talking just about Modern Orthodox Jews.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ

Dr. Stern’s Paradoxical Judaism

I fail to see why Dr. Stern should anticipate such a fury regarding his declaration that Modern
Orthodoxy is defunct and irrelevant. I, for one, am delighted that finally there is someone who can confidently tell us what is authentic Judaism; however, like the original Greek Oracle, Dr. Stern is a bit vague as to whom we should ostracize and dismiss for being Modern Orthodox. I wish he would clarify in greater detail who fits under that heretical label.

Should we shun those who support the East Side eruv and gay rights and not those who side
with either one? Or should we – taking our inspiration from Dr. Stern – entirely disassociate
ourselves from all those who describe themselves as Modern Orthodox? It is important to have more specificity, so we may know whom to grimace at and whom to greet joyously on Shabbos morning. I would not want to commit the error of being pleasant to one who is not one of “us.”

For example, I know some people who – bravely, I guess – refer to themselves as Modern
Orthodox but do not support the eruv or gay rights. They are university-educated and subscribe to the Torah Umada system similar to that of Yeshiva University.

They believe, like Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, that the outside world, with all its baleful
influences, inevitably permeates the Jewish people and should be frankly addressed, not ignored. They believe hat meeting the formidable challenges faced by Orthodox Jews sometimes requires creative solutions that would not have been acceptable a generation ago but are necessary now in order to have Orthodoxy thrive – remember, for example, that a rabbi speaking in the vernacular in shul was forbidden by many halachic decisors until the mid-19th century, and that until the 1920’s it was considered heretical for women to receive any
formal Torah education. Do we adopt a holier-than-thou attitude to them as well?

In fact, should we look down on all those who, like Dr. Stern, flaunt the opinion of numerous
rabbonim that entering the confines of a college is prohibited?

As Dr. Stern stated, “Orthodox” is indeed the wrong word to describe his Judaism. “Paradox” would be more accurate.

Sol Friedman
Brooklyn, NY

Divisive Message

Dr. Stern is very dismissive of Modern Orthodoxy, characterizing the movement as “not
Judaism” and its members as “spiritually bankrupt.” This elitist attitude of knowing the only
(and presumably correct) interpretation of halachic law is, at best, insensitive to other Jews.

Dr. Stern’s divisive message is not only arrogant but hurtful. We Jews already have enough enemies – why add other Jews to the list? I suggest that Dr. Stern redirect his energies to a
better cause.

Joseph Shapiro, M.D.
Huntington Beach, CA

Judging Many On Actions Of Few

How amusing to read that Dr. Stern has seen fit to excommunicate Modern Orthodoxy from
Judaism because of some recent untoward opinions put forth by several letter writers. He surely cannot believe that they are representative of the community any more than I can believe that the spate of instances of chillul Hashem caused by the parade of “Torah Jews” being charged with white-collar crimes is representative of the haredi world – 99-plus percent of which lives l’shem u’letiferet.

Ellen Kaufman
Forest Hills, NY

Christian Zionist Pastors Visit Israel

On March 11, I left for Israel along with 38 other Baptist pastors and retired brig. Gen. Heinie
Aderholt. We returned on March 19. I had called a friend of mine and asked him to provide the money to pay these gentlemen’s way to Israel. Why? I wanted to influence them to get in the corner of Israel. He did! We went!

We didn’t take your typical “Christian-Zionist” trip, which is to go visit the “sights important to Christians” – although we did see some of them.

In Samaria at Peduel we visited Jakob Felman, a settler. We listened to his account. We
visited professor Yisrael Hanukoglu at the Judea-Samaria College in Ariel. We stopped at the
museum of Katzrin. We saw the movie “Gamla Shall Not Fall Again.” We toured the talmudic
excavations at the Katzrin archeological park.

We also visited Rabbi Shugarman at Yeshivat HaGolan. He spoke to us and we took up a fairly good offering for his yeshiva.

Some of our pastors got a bit antsy about going to Hebron. They were worried. Their wives
back home were concerned for their safety. Their church people were concerned for their safety. What did I do? I chewed them out. I told them, “Everyone has to die somewhere. I have prayed for God’s protection for all of us on this trip. I believe that God can protect us. But if it’s God’s plan that I die in Hebron, I hope He’ll let me do it with my hands on a Palestinian.” None chickened out. They all went.

We arrived in Hebron in an armor-plated bus. We saw the settlements. We saw the angry
Palestinians. We visited with Simcha Hochberg and viewed the bullet holes in his house. We took up a good offering there for Simcha and his family. We saw the Jewish quarter in Hebron and visited the Cave of the Patriarchs.

We went to Gush Katif in Gaza, where we saw the Kfar Darom Institute of the Torah. Dror
Vanunu, a settler leader, briefed us. We heard the settlers’ humble stories of courage.

We went to a Merkava tank unit and visited with the young crew. We sang to them. Utilizing
my military background, I explained the attributes of the Merkava to my fellow preachers. The crew wanted me to come up on the tank to be photographed with them. I did. They put on a show for us with the tank – a mighty impressive show, I might add.

We also visited Netzer Hazani, where Dr. Anita Tucker, who made aliyah from America,
briefed us on hothouse technology. What a stirring time we had. That was on the video we showed members of our church when we returned home.

We were briefed on security matters by Ami Shaked, the security officer of the Katif Council.
My, oh my, what a challenge it is for these dear Jews just to live in Gush Katif.

All together we made 23 hours of video. We are making copies for all 38 pastors who went
along. Most of them are already planning to make trips to Israel with their churches. They will tour the sites. They will visit the settlements. They will encourage the people there. We are doing our part to help the dear Jews of Israel.

Why am I writing all this? Because I want to encourage every American Jew I can to write to
Prime Minister Sharon (pm_eng@pmo.gov.il) to tell him not to withdraw one inch from the settlements in Gaza or anywhere else. That land belongs to the Jews. God gave it to you. To withdraw is to bring on defeat. It will only whet the mad-dog appetite of Arafat and his ilk.

Tell Sharon that your Christian-Zionist yedids in America – some 40 million voters – would
applaud his giving a six-hour notice for all women and children to leave Ramallah, and then dropping a missile on Arafat’s murderous head. The BBC, CNN, and whoever else sides with the Palestinians would have a fit. The UN and the European Union would go ballistic. So what? The blood of many Americans and more Israelis is on his hands. He is no better than the late blind sheikh in Gaza. He is no better than Osama bin Laden.

I am an American. I am a man. I am a veteran. I am a Christian. Yes, God loves all people
– Jews, Arabs, those of us who call ourselves gentiles. I, too, love all people – Jews as well as
Arabs. But I’m not going to stick my head in the sand on this issue. Someone will say, Pastor
Vineyard, there are two sides to the Palestinian-Jewish conflict. Yes, I know there are.
I just happen to be on the right side.

Jim Vineyard, Pastor
Windsor Hills Baptist Church
Oklahoma City, OK

Letters to the Editor

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.)

Letters to the Editor

Letters To The Editor

Friday, June 27th, 2003

Friedman An ‘Arrogant Windbag’

I greatly appreciated the two op-ed articles castigating Thomas Friedman that appeared in last week’s Jewish Press. Anyone who’s ever had the displeasure of viewing Friedman, either live or on television, knows the man is a windbag of almost incomprehensible arrogance. It’s painfully obvious that this is a man deeply in love with the sound of himself thinking – despite the fact that his views are nothing more than boilerplate foreign-policy establishment groupthink.

Of course, there are Jews who will always be bedazzled by Friedman’s status as a columnist for The New York Times, the error-prone bible of secular Jewry. (Why, it was just a few
years ago that Abe Foxman and the ADL rolled out the red carpet and honored Friedman at their annual dinner – while reacting in typically condescending fashion to anyone who dared voice an objection!) But then, these are the same characters who shared Friedman’s boundless enthusiasm for the Oslo sham and who routinely vilified the realists among us.

Samuel Pilcer
New York, NY

…And A Longtime Palestinian Sympathizer

Re the two excellent appraisals of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman by Dr. Mandell Ganchrow and Ben Shapiro:

David Bar-Illan, in his 1993 book “Eye on the Media,” cited a 1989 article by Prof. Jerold Auerbach in Commentary that exposed Friedman’s pose as a neutral journalist and his lie in
his autobiography From Beirut to Jerusalem that he “experienced something of a personal crisis … the Israel I met on the outskirts of Beirut [during the Israeli excursion into Lebanon] was not the heroic Israel I had been taught to identify with.”

Friedman claimed in his book that, thanks to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, he “lost every illusion I ever held about the Jewish state.”

But Prof. Auerbach revealed that “by the time Friedman graduated from Brandeis University in 1975, he was already expressing sympathy with the Palestinian national cause, offering apologies for PLO terrorism and identifying with Breira, an organization so reflexively critical of Israel that it quickly became a pariah group within the American Jewish community.”

At a later date, Friedman bragged of his close relationship, during the first President Bush’s administration, with Secretary of State James Baker, who accused Prime Minister Shamir of pursuing aggressively a “greater Israel.”

Ellen J. Singer
Hartsdale, NY

Star-Spangled Zion

Incontrovertibly, Israel is the most technologically and militarily/economically powerful country in the Middle East. Nevertheless, for nearly a decade now, six consecutive Israeli governments have cravenly prostrated themselves to smirking, unrepentant, bloody-red Arab terrorists via a bevy of suicidal geopolitical concessions. Euphemistically called confidence
builders, gestures for peace, and now ‘painful concessions.’ all are knowingly made in order to carve a PLO state out of the heartland of Israel.

Such mad appeasement continues despite the already horrific carnage inflicted on Israelis by Arab terrorists. Therefore, the only apparent way for tiny beleaguered Israel to experience real security and realistically terminate the malignant ‘road map’ is for Israelis to officially petition the U.S. Congress for formal recognition as either the 51st state or as an American protectorate like Guam, Puerto Rico, Western Samoa and the Virgin Islands. After all, is
JerUSAlem not closer to Washington, DC, than Honolulu?

Most Israelis love America and its culture. They understand English, wear American clothes, listen to American music, watch American movies and TV shows, conduct real estate transactions in dollars, and eat American cuisine. Meanwhile, many Americans (especially those in Congress) admire Israel for its tenacious struggle for survival against vastly numerically superior enemies and its democratic orientation. Hence, the probability that the U.S. would accept Israel as a state or protectorate as they both battle Islamic terror is quite high. In such an eventuality, American administrations would of course halt their incessant demands for Israeli withdrawals from biblical territories and finally also release Prisoner of Zion Jonathan Pollard. What is good for Israel would simultaneously become intrinsically good for America.

It is therefore imperative that gravely endangered Israelis immediately demand a referendum about confederation with the mighty United States. The best way to safeguard Israel and prevent the establishment of an irredentist PLOstine is for the blue and white Star of David to proudly join the 50 white and blue stars of the American flag.

Henry Moscovic
(Via E-Mail)

Shocking Article

I read Ita Yankovich’s May 16 article (‘Kill the Jew and Score Points’) with much interest and alarm. To realize that this type of product is perfectly legal is both shocking and disappointing. Taking the idea of killing Jews and making it entertaining is perverse. Although Resistance Records may at this point be a fairly small operation, I know it won’t be long before we see an ‘Ethnic Cleansing II’ in stores.

I applaud The Jewish Press for notifying the public about such dangers.

Eliezer Borg
Brooklyn, NY

Hostile Or Not…

Harvey Lemberg (Letters to the Editor, May 16) may well be right that President Bush does not have hostile intent in pushing Israel to accept the road map, but certainly Bush bears his share of responsibility for acquiescing to the wishes of the other Quartet partners. As long as people such as EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Solana continue supporting Arafat, there can be no hope that Arafat will surrender authority to Prime Minister Abbas on security matters. If that is what happens, President Bush and his secretary of state will have to bear full responsibility. It is they who have allowed themselves to drift from the president’s clear dictats in his June 24, 2002 speech.

Peter Simpson
Middlesex, UK

Destructive Talk

In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi teaches us to be as diligent with regard to lenient commands as we are with more severe ones. He could not have foreseen, however, that our
galut experience would warp our intelligence and morality to the point where today’s customs take precedence over the severest of G-d’s commandments – as, for example, in the case of a man who revels in relegating his wife to the status of aguna but would never tie his right shoelace before his left.

Who can count the reams of paper, the gallons of ink and the weight of quills which have been put to service in the attempt to stress the severity of lashon hara (unjustified malicious gossip). Lashon hara, we are taught, kills three – the slanderer, the slandered, and he who listens. Our rabbis taught us that the essential reason for the division of the empire between King Rechavam, son of King Shlomo, and his rival Yeravam ben Nevat was lashon hara.

I am appalled that the unbridled tongues of slanderers are again churning out their poison, and this time aimed at a Torah personality whose knowledge spans vast areas of Torah; a man gifted with the ability not only to understand but also with that rare talent to elucidate the most subtle ideas to others.

If the perpetrators of this lashon hara have proof to substantiate their allegations, let them bring it before an accredited beit din. But if they themselves are being sustained through lashon hara of others, let them kneel before this man and beg forgiveness.

This matter should be of paramount concern to every one of us in the Torah community. There should be a concerted educational program to stamp out this behavior, if not in the name of Torah and justice then in defense of oneself – for today the subject is rabbi ploni, but tomorrow it might be you.

HaRav Nachman Kahana

Reject Feeling Rejected

Re Jacob Snyder’s May 23 letter to the editor (‘Baalei Teshuvah Unworthy Marriage Material?’):

I am a frum, yeshiva-oriented Jewess originally from a Southern city. My husband and I are blessed with yeshiva-educated sons and grandchildren who attend yeshivas and Bais Yaakov schools in Brooklyn.

From my background, I can appreciate the writer’s dilemma. Though my husband and I also felt the perceived stigmas for our sons when they were involved in the dating scene in the 1980’s, we learned to understand and respect the reasons why some may have wanted to limit their children’s choices.

It sounds like the writer feels rejected for not being included in their world. We have found the opposite to be true. We learned from great rabbis to first do, then learn why. From this knowledge we finally acquired a level of understanding to travel life’s road with bitachon. In fact, one of our sons married an FFB; the other married one raised with a Bais Yaakov

Our wonderful frum world takes care of its own. There are many outstanding people and organizations just waiting to help. Don’t compromise or reject being frum, even if you perceive it has limited your choices. Instead of feeling rejection, open yourself up to all options.

I hope that one of your next “dates” will elicit a mazel tov.

Marsha S. Shine
(Via E-Mail)

Letter Sparks Further Debate On Modern Orthodoxy

Potshots At Those Who Raised The Bar

The contratemps between Modern Orthodoxy and Torah Jewry in the Letters section of The
Jewish Press is now more than one year old, dating to the furor over Agudath Israel’s non-participation in the Washington rally for Israel.

I am framing the debate in this manner because the term Orthodox, along with its cognomens, should be discarded by those who strive to curry Hashem’s favor. Reader Mike Senders is the latest (Letters, May 23) to proclaim the virtues of Modern Orthodoxy, Zionism, secular
education, “chumra-free” Judaism, etc. Sadly, Mr. Senders – as have those who preceded him – feels obliged to take potshots at individuals and communities who have raised the halachic bar, mocking a rav from his community whom he derisively labels “Cereal Rav” and attacking the entire rabbinic body of Agudath Israel.

While Mr. Senders sees fit to snipe at our present-day leaders, other readers have been so
bold as to insinuate that the gedolim were asleep at the wheel during the years leading to the
Holocaust. Let’s set the record straight. Not long before Hitler’s rise to power, the Chofetz Chaim issued an ominous warning. He quoted the pasuk “ain bayis asher ain bo mais” (there is no house without death), for he saw European Jewish youth succumbing to the “isms” of the times. While Jabotinsky called on the masses to flee, our great leaders knew that Divine wrath is inescapable and urged the people to do teshuvah.

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.

As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, said, it’s best to do teshuvah while eating a watermelon – i.e. when things are going well. It’s sobering to think that these may be the good old days.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Knowing Hashem Through Mitzvot

Shame on Mr. Mike Senders for his letter to the editor about Modern Orthodoxy. His philosophy of what Modern Orthodoxy represents is outside the realm of any type of Orthodox Judaism.

In addition, his public attack on an accomplished, renowned talmid chochom in Cleveland by derogatorily referring to him as “the Cereal Rav” is simply beyond the pale.

Saying that he only needs to know that Hashem is the Boreh Olom, Mr. Senders dispenses
with the intricacies of knowing the proper brachot to make. Torah study in his view is secondary to knowing that Hashem is Boreh Olom.

Well, once I know that Hashem is the Boreh Olom, I don’t need brachot at all, nor do I need
Shabbat or kashrut either. If all Modern Orthodoxy requires, according to Mr. Senders, is that Hashem is the Boreh Olom, then as long as I keep this piece of information in my heart and mind, I don’t need any mitzvot at all! This is not any kind of Orthodoxy that I am familiar with.

Mr. Senders has it completely backwards. The reason for Torah study and doing mitzvot brings us to really know that Hashem is the Boreh Olom.

Studying and knowing the intricacies of Torah, including the proper brachot to make on Cheerios (mezonot) and Kix (shehakol) develops within us the proper gratitude and realization that there is a Boreh Olom. The concept of Boreh Olom is not the starting point but rather takes a lifetime of Torah study and mitzvot to truly know that Hashem runs the universe.

Does Modern Orthodoxy condone Mr. Senders’s publicly embarrassing a Young Israel rav
who is known as a worldwide halachic expert? If Mr. Senders represents Modern Orthodoxy in his disdain for Torah scholars and his thinking that Torah study is secondary, then Modern Orthodoxy is not “faltering,” as he said, but it has failed.

Dr. Louis Malcmacher
Bay Village, OH

Taking Time For Proper Brachot

I do not, by this response to Mr. Senders’s letter to the editor, wish to enter the arena of
debating the survival or non-survival of the Modern Orthodox sector of Judaism. I will leave
this issue to those more knowledgeable and eloquent. However, I do want to present two points.

First, I beg to differ with Mr. Senders’s interpretation of the phrase being a “light unto the
nations.” He maintains that in order to do this, we are “mandated to be m’erov im habrios.” I feel that this is not the case. In order to be a “light unto the nations,” we must provide the correct role model by living exemplary lives based on Torah ideals and values. It is not necessary for us to enter their world in order to show them how to live a life that is worthy of emulating.

The second point Mr. Senders presents is that of our need to be “ever cognizant of Hashem as
Boreh Olam.” And yet he objects to the rav in Cleveland who takes the time and effort to
research the ingredients of cereals in order to determine the correct bracha to make on each
cereal. Mr. Senders claims that 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.’ Let me assure Mr. Senders that in my home there is such a list taped to the cereal cabinet door, and each adult and child who goes to take cereal takes but a moment to check on the correct bracha to make. Some people have similar charts of calories and fat contents on their kitchen cabinets. We feel that as Torah Jews it is more important for us to know the correct bracha as
mandated by halacha.

Does Mr. Senders imply that it really doesn’t matter which bracha you make, or that it is too
cumbersome and time-consuming to be bothered with such minutiae?

As an Orthodox Jew, modern or otherwise, we are bound by halacha, and there is no room for equivocation or debate on this. It is surprising to me, therefore, that The Jewish Press even
published Mr. Senders’s letter. It frightens me to think that people might read this letter and be
nichshol in this very basic precept of halacha. Please clarify this to your readers so that, chas
v’shalom, this will not occur.

Anne Klein
Lawrence, NY

Not The Rav’s Approach

Reader Mike Senders’s point last week was contained in one paragraph of his long letter; the
rest was commentary. He said, in reference to the April 25 article on Modern Orthodoxy by Shlomo Mostofsky, “As a past president of Young Israel of Cleveland, I must take issue with [Mostofsky’s] 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.”

To the contrary, claims Mr. Senders. “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.”

Senders then goes on to mock efforts to alert Jews to little-appreciated possibilities for chillul
Shabbos and violation of the rules governing brachot as “passing off many chumrot as halacha
in our daily lives,” concluding that “we have been overwhelmed by a misreading of the total value system of ‘Torah living.'”

I have no desire to enter the great debate spawned by Shlomo Mostofsky’s article, but do
freely acknowledge that changing the world for the good is a laudable goal, as Mr. Senders eloquently argues. However, what defines Jews as a people is a lifelong mission to determine and then act in accordance with Divine Will.

How Mr. Senders’s comments square with this fundamental tenet of our faith eludes me. Indeed, he seems to suggest that halacha can actually get in the way of what Jewish life is really all about. This is akin to the currently popular oxymoronic notion of broad religious license to draw people to observance.

Mr. Senders’s view of Modern Orthodoxy bears no resemblance to the relentless search for
halachic truth and the uncompromising personal piety that characterized the intellectual progenitor of Modern Orthodoxy himself, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveichik, zt”l.

William Farkash
(Via E-Mail)

Editor’s Note: The Letters to the Editor section of The Jewish Press is intended to be a forum for the broadest spectrum of public opinion on significant issues. We trust that Anne Klein’s concerns were at least somewhat allayed by the vociferous reader response (of which we’ve published just a representative sampling) to Mr. Senders’s letter of last week.

Contrary View On Iraq

I am amazed at the certainty with which the Orthodox establishment embraced the war on Iraq.

For example, Dr. Mandell Ganchrow wrote that “Jews must support this war on geo-political,
moral and theological grounds? (Jewish Press, April 4). Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, referring to the Orthodox Union’s support of the war, said that this was “one of the easiest positions we’ve had to take” (Jewish Press, April 11).

Each of us who has beat the Bushian war drums ought to ask himself the following questions: Would I have advocated war if Iraq didn’t happen to be an arch-enemy of Israel? Would
I have supported the war if I thought I’d be required to make any real sacrifice? Am I running
out to enlist in the United States armed forces or sending my children to do so? Do I really care if 20 million Iraqis were “liberated”?

Since, as I suspect, the answer for most of us to most or all of these questions would probably be “no,” we have a credibility problem as war advocates. Much has been made in the media of the influence of the so-called “neo-conservatives” (code word for Jewish conservatives) on President Bush’s foreign policy. While the extent of this influence is probably grossly exaggerated, we don’t help our image by publicly supporting a war when our support
is apparently motivated by self-interest as opposed to principles.

In response, one may argue that regardless of our own credibility gap, we had (or have,
depending on whether you consider the war over or not) an obligation to support the war because it is a just war. But is it really? In support of the war, Dr. Ganchrow refers to the Talmudic edict, “He who comes to kill you, arise first and kill him.” As far as I know, however, Iraq did not attack the United States nor was it threatening to do so before the
United States invaded. As a matter of fact, Iraq had not attacked anybody outside its borders in the last dozen years.

The threat from Iraq may not have been imminent, concede the hawks on this issue, but its
government was developing “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) in violation of United Nations resolutions and constituted a serious future threat. Leaving aside the question of whether our beloved UN has the moral authority to dictate which states have the right to possess WMD and which don’t (remember, Israel also violates UN resolutions), just where are these WMD? Simply because Saddam Hussein couldn’t prove their non-existence does not mean that they do exist. The UN inspectors couldn’t find them, Iraq didn’t use them even as it was attacked by the U.S., and the U.S. military hasn’t been able to find them during its
attempted clean-up of the decimated country.

What makes the WMD theory particularly suspect as a justification for the war is that just as
about the war was about to start, President Bush changed the stated #1 reason for the war from WMD to “regime change.” Granted the Saddam Hussein regime was brutal to its people, but does that justify a foreign invasion? By that logic, why not take military action to topple all the totalitarian regimes throughout the world? And based on the chaos and looting that is erupting in Iraq in the aftermath of the regime destruction, it is unclear as to whether the Americans have actually done the people of Iraq any favors.

Even from our perspective as supporters of Israel, the benefits of this war are not all that
clear. Saddam Hussein may be gone, but who’s to say he won’t be replaced by an even worse
“Pharaoh?” Perhaps the next Iraqi leader will be less interested in building palaces for himself and more interested in world conquest. And to compensate the Arabs for its destruction of one of their regimes, the United States will have to throw them a bone. And guess who that bone will be?

Hopefully, under Hashem’s plan, the destruction of the Hussein regime will ultimately be a positive thing for Israel and the olam. But I, as a common Yid, do not know the specifics of this plan. I do know that there are legitimate questions about the morality and justness of the war (and I’ve only touched a few and haven’t gotten into other issues like the war-related financial interests of some of the president’s cronies).

The enthusiasm with which many Orthodox Jews have embraced the war against Iraq leads me to believe either that their moral judgment is being clouded by their political crush on George W. Bush or that they are privy to secret and classified data (either concerning Hashem’s divine plan, or, l’havdil, concerning WMD) to which I am not.

Zachary M. Berman
Bronx, NY

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

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